Friday, July 31, 2009

Marie Force's Bandit Booty

OOPS! Can't forget to announce the winners from Marie Force's guest blog on Monday! All those things we can't, or prefer NOT to do.

So without further adieu, I'll let Marie announce her winners!

Karen Olson gets a copy of Line of Scrimmage because we each had a tow rope-astrophy on a ski slope and that makes us friends for life. Never, ever let go... Because if you do, you might prove to be a human domino who takes out the whole row behind you... I'm just saying... Don't let go!
Lunatic Cafe gets Love at First Flight because I love her screen name and she's as much of a freak show flier as I am, so she NEEDS this book about a couple who form a bond on an airplane!

ALL RIGHT! Winners, please email Marie at marie AT marieforce DOT com to claim your prizes.

The Pit of Despair

by Susan Sey

I wouldn't feel right about leading anybody on, so I'm going to say right up front that this is not a Princess Bride blog. Sorry, fans.

In spite of the title, there will be no ROUSes (Rodents of Unusal Size), no Six Fingered Men, & no love in the Fire Swamp. There will also be no more rhyming, & I mean it. (Though I will give props & bonus points to the first person to successfully finish off that quote. It's my mom's favorite.)

No, the Pit of Despair I'm talking about (hereafter referred to as the PoD) is a writerly phenomenon. It's not an underground torture chamber, exactly, though there are similarities. It's more a state of mind.

A realization.

A moment of clarity.

It's the place you end up when you must reconcile three ugly realities:

1) You have reached the limits of your talent.

Seriously. You have taken every workshop, tried every technique, read every craft book & worked your tail off. You have dug deep, you have summoned up your courage & honesty, & you have put your heart on the page. On lots of pages. Maybe a book or two (or three or four) worth of pages.

2) You have put your work out there.

You've queried every editor, every agent. You're written a kick-ass query letter, your synopsis rocks. You've endured the sound & fury of the contest circuit, & flung yourself on the mercy of every person even remotely interested in critiquing you. You've even (saints preserve you) pitched in person. Maybe you have an agent. Or even a contract. But you're doing the work. You're out there.

3) It isn't enough.

Your contest scores blow. Or maybe they don't. Maybe you're winning contests, but not getting requests from editors. Or maybe you are. Maybe you're getting full requests, but getting form rejections that get your name wrong. Or maybe that agent you sweated blood for just blew you off. Or maybe your long awaited publication date just got pushed back. Again. Or maybe book two on your contract just got shredded by your editor & you're pretty sure you only had one decent book in you.

Welcome to the PoD.

Good news, though. You're in good company. Hell, you're in great company. NYT best-selling company. And how do I (not remotely a NYT best-seller) know this?

Easy. I heard Janet Evanovich speak at the RWA conference a few weeks ago. And of course, she told us her Call Story. Now keep in mind, it's been something like 15 years & several millions of dollars since she got The Call. But between the part where she wrote & failed & wrote & failed for ten years, & the part where her husband & son tracked her down at a roller rink so they could tell her her editor had called--her editor!--she had to stop.

She got choked up & had to stop to collect herself so she could go on. Fifteen years after the fact, fifteen years in which presumably she's gained a certain amount of confidence in her talent, she still remembered so vividly what it was like to live in the PoD--and how it felt to be so miraculously released--it could move her to tears. I don't think there was a person in the audience who wasn't moved by that. Or inspired.

I know I was. Because while I don't have the faintest clue what it must feel like to see your name on the NYT best-seller list, I sure as hell know what it feels like to reach the limits of your talent, & see that big gap between where it ends & your dream begins. I know what the PoD feels like, & I know what it feels like to live there long enough to write a book or two. Or three. Or four.

So when I find myself in total despair (like when I read anything by SEP or Kristin Higgins & realize I will never write anything that witty or charming), I like to reframe things. Because what if the PoD isn't a death sentence? What if it's a prerequisite? Because here's something I know:

Maybe not everybody who lives in the PoD winds up on the NYT best-seller list. But every single writer who hits the NYT list has lived in the PoD. They all served their time.

And if they can go on to own the list, why can't we?

So, tell us. Spent any time in the PoD lately? What--or who--pulls you out when you fall in? Share!

Winners in the Lair!

posted by Jo Robertson

The winners of Brenda Novak's fan pack, the first three books in her Last Stand series, go to

Laurie and Maureen!

Congratulations, ladies! Please send your snail mail addy to and I'll forward the addresses to Brenda.

And the winners of Delilah Dawson's books go to

Janga and Pink Peony!

Send your snail mail information to jo (dot) lewisrobertson (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Thanks for commenting both days, everyone! And thanks to our guests Brenda Novak and Delilah Dawson for their generosity.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Delilah Dawson's in the Lair!

by Jo Robertson

I’d like to welcome my good friend and former chapter mate, Delilah Dawson, to the Lair!

Hi, Delila
h, thanks for joining us today. I’ve been waiting a long time to lure you into the Lair, ply you with some drinks and a cabana boy or two, and probe your mind about writing erotic romance.

DELILAH: Thank you, Jo! Love what you've done with the place! Keep the drinks coming, and the cabana boys fanning me, and you can probe my mind all you like. :D

JO: Hmmmm, probe your . . . mind, Delilah? Are you getting naughty on us straight off? Wheee, here comes another cabana boy with a long, tall drink.

Now that the boys are hard at their tasks (oh my, is this double entendre thing catching?) why don’t you tell us a little something about your journey to writing? I remember that you’d just sold your erotic romance TRUTH OR DARE when we became friends on our way to RWA National in 2006. How many books have you sold since then?

DELILAH: Actually, I'd sold two erotic books (Ebony Butterfly I & II) years earlier, but it was to a small press and it didn't get a lot of publicity. Truth or Dare was my first mass market sale with a well-known publisher (St. Martin's Press). Since then I've sold five books to them. They've been supportive of my writing, and I'm blessed with a wonderful editor, Monique Patterson.

JO: St. Martin's is a great press. Your Orchid Soul trilogy is excellent and amazingly sexy! Can you tell us something about the three books and their stories and characters?

DELILAH: The trilogy is based around Orchid Soul, an online dating service where the compatibility is determined by the participant's sexual fantasies.

The owner, Eileen, decides to do some final testing before she opens it up for business, so she recruits some of her friends to do "anonymous" testing. But, of course, to the user's panicked surprise, they soon find out that the system is flawed, their deepest sexual fantasies are being sent to whomever they were matched up to, and their identities are not "anonymous" as promised. A further complication is that Eileen is nowhere to be found to fix the mess!

JO: I j
ust love that idea of matching up couples according to their fantasies. And what a delicious “problem” for your characters to have!

DELILAH: I really enjoyed writing these books because I wanted to show that although it is an incredible escape to reveal their deepest, wildest fantasies, in the end, passion is only a part of who my characters are. The sex is erotic and steamy (and maybe quirky) but the trick was to make the characters’ fantasies work within the realities of their day-to-day world, and to find love in the process.

In Up All Night, we have Natasha, a lawyer who feels stuck in a daily rut, and Logan, a renegade who knows a good thing when he sees it. Although they initially seem like polar opposites who enjoy sex, they find that they have similar values, and a blooming respect for one another that leads to love.

In Better On Top, we have Toni, a struggling single mother with an autistic child, and Nick, an army veteran who has been changed by war. They are both 'broken' people, dealing wit
h tragic events in their lives, and Orchid Soul offers a much needed sexual escape. Through this, they learn to trust and believe in love again.

In Wanting It (not released yet), we have Jenna, a feisty, small-town florist, and Troy, a man trying to enjoy a well-deserved vacation. For them, their sexual fantasies are tangled up with what they do for a living, but they learn that gambling on love is worthwhile.

JO: Better On Top and Up All Night are currently available. Check Delilah's website ( for the release of Wanting It.

You write under a pseudonym and are very private about your personal life. Can you tell us about how you came to writing in this very, very hot genre?

DELILAH: LOL! All I will say on the subject is that I lost a bet to my husband (there may or may not have been a few glasses of wine involved at the time). He dared me to submit my first erotic short story for publication, and that eventually led to my first book deal. We chuckle about it now, but prior to that I was writing multicultural mainstream romances that I'd been trying to sell. I still have those in cobwebbed boxes somewhere in my garage.

JO: Ah, ha, so Truth or Dare may have some grounding in reality!

Are you interested in writing other genres or have you found your naughty niche, so to speak?

DELILAH: I am definitely interested in writing other genres because it lets me give my 'naughty' muse a break, and refreshes my imagination. At the moment, I'm in a futuristic and paranormal state-of-mind, and have a few short stories brewing in my head. Who knows where those will lead?

JO: Every time my husband reads one of my “naughty bits,” as we call those hot scenes in the Lair, he gets embarrassed. How does your husband respond to your books?

DELILAH: He's a typical male in the sense that he gets amorous, wants to dim the lights and put on some mood music. But he also understands that I write fiction, and my characters can sometimes be vastly different from who I really am.

JO: I know that you’re a very beautiful woman. Without revealing anything too personal, can you tell us a little
about yourself?

DELILAH: Shucks, Jo! I'm so glad you don't get your eyes checked often (hee hee). I'd like to think I'm the kind of person you pass on a busy street and not think twice about. I'm a wife, mother, and a daughter. I daydream a lot, I'm optimistic by nature, and I love anything to do with art, or creative things. I feel very lucky to be an author, and am always thrilled when I get fan mail, proving that a complete stranger read my work and enjoyed it enough to write me about it. Amazing!

JO: What excitement! I think that’s the best part of writing, to have someone else enjoy these characters you’ve created out of your own imagination.

You have a full-time job as well as a family. How do you manage to juggle all these constraints on your time?

DELILAH: It's difficult. I love to spend time with my family, and my full-time day job is a necessity. I've slipped into the habit of doing my writing late at night, when I get fewer interruptions and can spend more time with my stories.

JO: And now, readers, it’s your turn. Ask Delilah anything you want about writing or reading. She’s glad to share her considerable knowledge. Plus, she’s giving away copies of her latest releases UP ALL NIGHT, and BETTER ON TOP to one random commenter.

And just to get the conversation started, Delilah would like to ask YOU a question: The "Orchid Soul" theme is about couples confessing their deepest fantasies when they think no one will read them.

Have you ever told anyone your deepest erotic fantasy?

Come on, readers, ‘fess up. What’s said in the Lair stays in the Lair. Be sure to use euphemisms so we can keep our blog PG-13!

Or if you're not inclined to share intimacies, what about fantasies in general? I must confess that mine include a bubble bath and a long massage, which may or may not include a happy ending!

You can read more about Delilah Dawson’s books and read excerpts of them at

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Welcome Brenda Novak!

Today I'm so happy to welcome back my good friend Brenda Novak! Whether you're a reader or writer, a fan or an Auction junky, Brenda always finds time to support and mentor the people in her life.

New York Times Best-selling Author Brenda Novak has three novels coming out this summer—THE PERFECT COUPLE, THE PERFECT LIAR, and THE PERFECT MURDER, all part of her popular Last Stand Series. She also runs an annual on-line auction for diabetes research every May at To date, she’s raised over $770,000. Brenda considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life.

Please say hi to Brenda today as she talks about a universal problem most women experience -- how to manage your time more productively. Today she's giving away two fan packs containing the first three books in the Last Stand series, so be sure to comment and share your ideas on time management (or in my case, the lack thereof :-D).


Time Management is something I struggle with on a daily basis. Why? Because one thing I don’t plan into my day is time to relax and just “hang,” and that’s so important to relationships. Just being available to people is a great way to build stronger ties, but being available requires flexibility which is difficult for me and other workaholics to manage.

If my kids want to go somewhere or create something, I can put it on the calendar and make it happen. But what about those times when certain subjects wouldn’t come up if you weren’t just puttering around the house together, cooking or cleaning or shooting the breeze? My weakness in this area is why I don’t consider myself an expert on this subject.

I think I’m great at getting stuff done. People ask me all the time, “How do you do it all?” But time management shouldn’t be about accomplishing the most in the least amount of time. It should be about balance, about nurturing those around us while we accomplish a reasonable amount.

So now that you know my greatest weakness (I’ve actually had to set goals to stop what I’m doing and let the rest go until tomorrow—LOL), I’ll tell you how I manage to write three books (and one novella) a year, travel, speak and promote my books, run a major charity fundraiser and raise five kids.

First of all, I do it by taking care of myself. Sometimes the hour I take out of my day for exercise seems like a waste. There are so many other things I want to do with that time. But I remind myself that if I’m healthy and have energy, I will be able to accomplish more in less time. And it’s true. If I get enough rest and exercise, I feel strong and capable, and it makes a big difference in my daily output.

Another sure-fire trick is to prioritize what must be done each day and to do the most important things first. That may sound like a no-brainer, and yet it’s so easy to let ourselves get diverted. If exercising every day is your goal, do it first thing in th
e morning. But if it’s more important for you to write ten pages a day, start with that instead. That way, when the unexpected intrudes as the hours progress, and the day begins to get away from you, you’ll still accomplish those things that are most important to you.

Keeping myself on an even emotional keel is another thing that really increases my productivity. This isn’t always easy, of course. Problems crop up, sorrows intrude, accidents happen. But developing some type of inner peace helps you withstand the emotional
buffeting that goes along with the bumps of life.

Some people use meditation. Others read an inspiring story. Still others keep a gratitude journal. All of these are great techniques. I simply close my eyes, take a deep breath, and think, “Be still and know that I am God.” This usually brings me right back to my center, and if it doesn’t, I begin counting my blessings—taking a look at what I’ve got instead of what I don’t have.

And who doesn’t like killing two birds with one stone? I print out pages from my current WIP and edit while I ride my Exercycle. I listen to research programs on True Crime TV while I clean house. I read my latest manuscript to my husband whenever he has to drive somewhere for work. And, prob
ably the best thing I’ve done to date, I’ve hired an assistant. I thought this was something I shouldn’t allow myself—being raised by a frugal mother I felt as if I couldn’t justify such a luxury—but I’ve been able to extend my reach on so many fronts, thanks to this decision.

How do you increase your productivity? Do you agree that time management is more about balance than it is about working every minute? How do you make yourself take time out?

JO: What great tips, Brenda. Thanks for the advice and thanks for joining us today.

Whether we're writers or readers, we all need to be reminded of how best to manage the hours we have. When I was a young mother, I made sure to nurse my babies (at a time when it wasn't so popular) because that way I got to read to my toddler at the same time. Or I watched TV with some sort of handwork, embroidery or mending.
What about you? What tips can you share with us. Or if you're like ME, what disasters? Come on, we all need a laugh and some of my most hilarious moments are trying to save time and failing miserably.
Be sure to leave a comment for the chance to win a fan pack!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


by Suzanne

We got to talking on someone's post the other day or week about first loves. This got me to thinking about my first crush. No, not the lastest media-blitzed boytoy made to appear all american or rebellious for the thrill of young girls. I mean that first guy who makes your heart do little flips every time you're near him? The one you have a secret crush on but would DIE if he ever found out, especially if he didn't think of you as anything more than a buddy or little sister. (That's Gidget over there with the big crush on Moon Doggy!)

See, I have great experience being everyone's little sister. I have a brother older than me by just a little over 2 years. Our yard was one alley, one neighbor's yard and a non-busy street from the local playground/park. AND we had a basketball hoop at the end of our large driveway and a yard big enough to play a pick up game of whiffleball. My brother played baseball, basketball, football, and had a slew of friends. Great, right? All the cute boys hung out at our house.

Unfortunately. They all considered me everyone's little sister. BIG SIGH.

(In Empire Records, Live Tyler's character has a crush on a teen heartthrob from her mother's era trying to make a comeback.)

But in the seventh grade I met Greg. He was my age, just moved to our city and his family had just started attending our church. He didn't know I was everyone's little sister and we actually just talked.....a lot. Now, most girls would've used this as an opportunity to flirt. EXCEPT, remember, I was everyone's little sister. I was as straightforward and direct in my conversations with guys (still am) and had no idea how to flirt. (Goodness this would make a great YA romance, wouldn't it?)

So as my heart would do little flips whenever we'd talk in person or on the phone, I slowly came to realize that Greg thought of me as a buddy. (More teen angst.) This to a teenaged girl is worse than being the little sister. In movies, the geeky buddy type girl transforms into this cute or raving beauty and the hero suddenly sees her as something different. In real life, they never see you as more than the buddy. (Trust me.)

But, back to my crush. This was no quick, meet him, know him, over him in a few weeks crush. It went on for years. My secret hope that got me through the bad times of middle and high school years. That special boy that I knew and few of my school friends knew, since he and I didn't attend the same schools, just the same church. BIG SIGH.

(That's Mary Stuart Masterson in Some Kind Of Love, the buddy with a crush on Eric Stoltz' character.)

We did church plays together. He was the drummer in the teen choir/band that put on performances in our church and others...I was the lead soprano. We did Vacation Bible School together...EVERY YEAR. We hung out on Sunday morning, Sunday nights, Wednesday nights and once a month on Fridays when the teen groups got together. I knew his plans for after graduation, he knew mine.

Slowly, over time, (as I seem to be a slow learner in the matters of the heart), my attraction for him dimmed and I realized we would never be more than friends. We moved on. We both found mates, married, had kids and lost touch with each other.

But to this day, when I think back to my teen years, my crush on Greg always plays a happy part of my memories. He was the first boy to break my heart, (even if he didn't know it), the first that let me NOT be the little sister, but a friend. The first to let me feel what it was like to love someone not related to me.

I've added some pictures of my favorite teen-crush movies. What are yours? Do you have a favorite teen-crush book? Did YOU have a secret crush? Tell us all about it, (first names only!)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Marie Force Reveals What She Can't Do

posted by Marie Force with an assist from Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

Thanks so much to my dear friend (and evil twin) Aunty Cindy and all the Banditas for having me back to the lair again. And thank you all for the lovely gathering in Washington, D.C. during the RWA conference. It was great to meet most of you in person after reading your blog the last couple of years. What a fun, dynamic, and successful bunch of women! I’m delighted to be in your presence today.

This is the last stop on my blog tour for my second book, Love at First Flight, which was released on July 1. (Can you hear me huffing and puffing as I reach the finish line?) And yes, I saved the best stop for last!

I’ve had the idea for this blog running around in my head all month after a comment a friend made recently. Lisa, a CPA, said, “I can’t believe you write books. I can’t write a letter.” Ahh, but my dear friend, you would not want me doing your taxes. Trust me on that.

I get this comment quite often, and I’m sure many of you do, too. People simply can’t believe they know someone who has the ability to write books. I can’t speak for the rest of you Banditas, but the writing gig is all I’ve got. There’s nothing else. To prove this, I thought it would be fun to make a list of all the things I can’t do . . . You might want to settle in with a cup of coffee and a snack as the list is rather long. Here we go:

I can’t:

  • Do any kind of math. I have never balanced my checkbook, which the accountants I work for can’t bear to hear. They get hives and twitches when this subject comes up. Despite this lack of accountability, I’ve only ever bounced one check—sadly, the first mortgage check I ever wrote but that was my husband’s fault. We discovered that he can’t make a simple deposit correctly. My boss and I have a deal—I write for him, he does the math for me. It’s just better that way as I’ve proven it is possible to actually add incorrectly when using an Excel spreadsheet. I’m sure there’s some sort of class for that, but I lack the attention span to attend.
  • Run in flip flops in the rain. This is a recent discovery learned the hard way when I hit a shiny painted crosswalk and went flying into the intersection as my horrified and mortified teenaged daughter looked on. After a moment of debate, which I saw on her face, she came back to pull me to my feet. But she didn’t want to.
  • Do any sport that involves defying gravity. The list includes skiing (disastrous—generating the kind of stories that are told for a lifetime), ice skating (see skiing), rollerblading (see skiing), bike riding (a category unto itself), surfing (LOL, as if I’ve even tried it), and windsurfing (twenty years later, the ex-boyfriend no doubt still talks about trying to teach me).
  • Garden. I am the killer of green things that most usually can’t be killed. Want it dead? Bring it to me. My brother-in-law, the professional horticulturist, has begged me to stop. Just stop. Please.
  • Cook. A girl has one or three oven fires in a year, and suddenly she has a reputation. . . Somehow, my family manages to stay fed but the scream of the smoke detector is a more common occurrence than it probably should be. When the kids hear it, they yell, “Dinner’s ready!”
  • Sing. This is a subject of some major controversy in my house. We’ve been talking about forming a garage band with my son playing his two chords on the guitar, my daughter on trombone, my husband on the drums, and me on vocals. My voice, I say, is my instrument. They have the nerve to mock me! I envision myself in Stevie Nicks-like flowing gowns playing air tambourine, but they deny me my dream. I have, however, recently come to the conclusion that I don’t actually sing well enough to have qualified for American Idol were it not for that pesky age requirement. (Don’t tell my family I said that as I hope to one day prevail on the garage band argument.)
  • Drive. I hit things. Often. So far I’ve only almost hit one person, but that was her fault not mine. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. The car I recently traded in lacked paint on all four corners. I’m not entirely sure how that happened, but since the car was mostly mine, I probably had something to do with it. But just try to prove it . . .
  • Fix anything. As my husband likes to remind me, I’m a mechanic’s daughter but can’t turn a wrench. The way I see it why should I? That’s why I have him.
  • Paint. After I ruined the dining room carpet in our old house, I’m no longer allowed to use a roller. I love when he gets bossy with me and forbids me from doing something I hate to do anyway. Ohhh, scare me! Did you see that episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond?” The one where Ray teaches Robert that if you screw something up often enough your wife won’t ask you to do it anymore? Well, the same strategy applies to husbands. I’m not saying I messed up the carpet on purpose. I’m just saying I don’t have to paint anymore. You do the math—it’s not my thing. I tried sponge painting once. My cousin asked who’d been shot. I don’t do that anymore, either.
  • Diet. I once told the same cousin that my goal in life was to get so thin people would worry about me. He suggested I get a more attainable goal. Yes, I still speak to the fink but only because he’s my son’s godfather.
  • Arts and crafts. Other women sew, they make scrapbooks, they cross-stitch, etc. My idea of a scrapbook is keeping huge, overflowing boxes of certificates and keepsakes for my kids. Someday I’ll do something with all of it. I swear. And besides, my husband sews so why do I need to? I went through a cross-stitching phase in which I started a baby blanket for my godchild. The kid is now 12. The blanket remains unfinished. It might make a nice high school graduation gift. Don’t you think? (Note to self: pay someone to finish blanket in next six years.)
  • Clean. When you have two full-time jobs something has to give, right? I have my priorities. My husband and I like to say that it’s a good thing we have company once in a while otherwise the Board of Health might be interested in making a stop at our house.

So, as you can see from this list, it’s a good thing I can write somewhat passably. The rest of my life is a certifiable disaster!

Are any of you like me? What can’t you do? I bet my list will get longer when I hear some of your disaster stories. I’ll be saying, “Yup, me too!” I’ll give copies of Line of Scrimmage and Love at First Flight to two different people, so let me hear from you! While you comment, I’ll be seeking therapy as this list turned out to be quite a bit longer than even I expected it to be.

Finally, I suppose I should end my blog tour with a plug for Love at First Flight: When Michael and Juliana meet in the airport on their way to a weekend in Florida, he’s engaged to Paige, and Juliana has been living with Jeremy for four of the ten years they’ve been together. Michael and Juliana are in committed relationships that they expect will go the distance. Neither can imagine on that Friday night how dramatically their lives are about to change. Over the course of the weekend, both relationships hit major speed bumps. So when Michael and Juliana meet up again on the flight back to Baltimore on Sunday evening, both are reeling and trying to process what’s happened. Over the course of that return flight, they strike up an unlikely friendship that later leads to love!

Thanks again for having me! I look forward to chatting with you all today.

Aunty here, FESS UP everyone! What do you do really badly? Or not at all? Don't worry, what's said in the Lair, stays in the Lair!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bunches of Booty

I have winners for the book packages I picked up at RWA!

Package One is for comments on last Sunday's blog, "The Vision Thing." The package contains the following books: Outcast by Joan Johnston, Mystic Rider (signed) by Patricia Rice, Undressed by Kristina Cook, and the combined edition of Traitor's Kiss, and Lover's Kiss, by Mary Blayney.

This package goes to Joder.

Package Two is for comments on today's blog, "Somebody Save Me." It contains Heart of the Wolf by Terry Spear, Don't Bargain With the Devil by Sabrina Jeffries, Too Good to be True by Kristan Higgins, and Warrior's Bride (signed) by Gerri Russell.

This package goes to Lynz Pickles.

Congratulations, y'all, and thanks to everyone for stopping by!

If the winners will email me their contact information via the Romance Bandits link on the blog page, I'll get those right out to them.

Conference prep also put me behind on a couple of other winner posts, so I'll have more booty news tomorrow.

Somebody Save Me

by Nancy

We all love a good rescue, don't we? Many of us in the Lair especially like rescues involving massive boom. Most rescues, though, are a lot quieter. Even when there's boom in a romance novel rescue, the more important salvation comes when the hero and heroine free each other from their baggage--when love lets them finally shed the ghosts, scars, and fears of their pasts and make a new life together.

This blog was inspired by the Remy Zero song "Save Me," which happens to be the theme song for Smallville. The chorus, which is the part in the credits, starts, "Somebody save me, let your warm hands break right through me." (At least I think "me" is the last word in that line. It's hard to tell, and I found competing versions on the net.)

Think for a minute about all the saviors in the novels and movies you love--from "everyday" heroes who find it within themselves to step up when needed to firefighters and police and soldiers and Navy SEALs and BAD agency and other covert operatives and Dark-Hunters and vampires and wizards and super-heroes. Genre fiction abounds with them. There's something innately appealing about a character dedicated to saving people.

In Tears of the Sun, a gritty, violent but moving film, Bruce Willis as Lt. Waters leads a SEAL team taking refugees out of a war zone. They come across a village where residents are being brutalized by rebel forces, and Waters tells his guys they're going in. One of his men says, "Rules of engagement, LT?" They've been told by their commander that their rules of engagement, their code of conduct, is to fire if fired upon. Waters looks at him and says, "We're already engaged." By compassion and simple humanity. And I have to say watching the SEALs take out the bad guys was a thing of beauty, if a bit gory.

In Acheron, we finally take a complete look at a character who has spent millennia saving humanity. At last, we have all the pieces of this hero's story, all the pain and humiliation he had to overcome, and see the damage his youth did to his soul. The first half of the book makes for difficult reading because it's so full of pain. Luckily, all that leads to redemption.

One of Acheron's friends tells Soteria, Ash's true love, to remember how hard it is for someone who has known neither kindness nor compassion to show them to others. As Ash and the Dark-Hunters have saved others from agonizing deaths, Tori rescues him from the humiliation and pain of his past. It isn't easy. The biggest obstacles to the rescue are his shame and, despite all the marvelous things he's done and has the ability to do, his lack of self-esteem and lack of faith in his own resourcefulness. In the end, Tori's love for Ash forces him to be the man she sees him as and gives him a bright future.

Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, dramatically risks life and limb to save his love, Kat Boleyn. It's a dramatic, fabulous rescue, but it doesn't resolve their larger problem. Sebastian has extraordinary physical gifts, money, and a brilliant mind, but he can't convince Kat a lord and an actress can build a life together. She unshakably believes marriage to her would isolate him socially and ultimately make them both unhappy.

In a later book, a tragic secret comes to light. I'm not spoiling it, but I will say I hoped someone would rescue one of the characters from the resulting grief and pain. Looks like that'll be in a future book. I hope.

On Smallville, Clark Kent goes into tunnels full of Kryptonite to save his arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor. The tunnels are also wired with explosives, on detonators that are running. With the Kryptonite down there, Clark is in as much danger from a bomb blast as anyone else. His friend and confidante Chloe Sullivan tries to discourage him, but Clark won't be swayed. At last, she grudgingly concedes, "I get it. You don't get to choose who you save. Not if you're Clark Kent."

Acheron and Sebastian and Willis's Lt. Waters and Superman and their ilk inspire those around them and, by extension, their readers or viewers, to look to their better angels. How cool is that?

I've been watching a lot of Smallville lately. Comic book geek that I am, I watched the first couple of seasons, but I'd been out of high school so long that a show focusing on high school angst, even with super-powers, just didn't grab me. I drifted away from it, watching an episode occasionally if I remembered it was on. While I wasn't looking, it got interesting. Lois Lane brought a dose of attitude and a fondness for verbal sparring with Clark to Smallville. What really got me to pay attention again, though, was a rescue.

I happened to tune in to an episode last year in which Clark had no powers and was working as slave labor somewhere in the former USSR. Finally, someone showed up to rescue him--Oliver "Green Arrow" Queen, the world's greatest archer. Oliver and Clark didn't fight their way out of the situation in quite the usual way, though they did throw some punches. Oliver mostly talked and bought their way out, preserving Clark's cover and his own.

Note what Clark says to Oliver at the end of that clip, "What took you so long?" He knew his friends would find him. Counted on their doing so, and don't we count on our friends to help when we need them? In the previous season (Season 7 for DVD-ites), Clark and Oliver teamed up with a posse of super-heroes to rescue people with powers from becoming Luthorcorp's lab rats, a mission that played a big role in forcing Clark to take a wider view, to look to all the world's problems and not just those right around him.

The Chloe character mentioned above irritated me hugely at first because she wasn't in the Superman mythos I grew up with, but I've come to like her. I've also come to view Lex Luthor differently. Thanks to the writers and to Michael Rosenbaum's nuanced portrayal, Lex was a much more complex character than the comic books gave us. (The character has since departed.) Lex actually saved Clark in one episode. Watching a bunch of episodes back to back, as I've been doing, reveals a pattern of Lex being desperate for love. In fact, Chloe tries to explain Lex to Clark by saying, "Total absence of love. Someone once said that's the definition of evil." Yet every time Lex had a shot at love, his Machiavellian dealings torpedoed it, just as the fears and scars and ghosts of so many characters' pasts in romance novels torpedo their shots. Until the right lover comes along to save them.

Five for Fighting's Superman album contains a song called "It's Not Easy" that actually is about the Man of Steel and contains the lines, "Even heroes have a right to bleed" and "Even heroes have a right to dream." Sure, they do. But they often put their own pain and their own hopes and their own dreams aside to save the lives and wellbeing of others. That's part of what makes them heroes. It isn't always simple, though. As Oliver says to Clark in one episode, "I know you want to save everyone, but sooner or later, you'll have to make the hard choices. That's what heroes do."

In a romance, heroes and heroines who sacrifice their hopes and dreams for each other usually somehow attain them anyway or end up with something even better. If only things were that way in real life.

Some of you may remember that I have a weakness for ensembles. The quality of a hero's or heroine's friends can say a lot about the lead character. Even loners usually have someone who helps or supports them. Nicholas Brisbane and Sebastian St. Cyr are loners but have people who help them. Brisbane has his assistant and his former mistress. Sebastian has Tom, his light-fingered tiger, and the magistrate, Jarvis. Holmes had Watson and, at times, Inspector Lestrade. Frodo had the Fellowship of the Ring and the gift of Galadriel. Acheron had Jaden and Simi and Appollymi and Savitar and, for a time, Nick.

Chloe and Oliver and Lana and Lois (one of the few "good guys" in the Smallville universe not in on Clark's secret) and the love of Martha and Jonathan Kent all make Clark who he is. Clark is lucky to be surrounded by people who care about him and keep his secret, but Oliver Queen pushes him to step up to what his powers can do, which is why I used his picture so many times on the blog. (I also think he has a way cool costume, pictured at right.) Coming from someone who also sacrifices to save others, as Oliver does, the advice seems to have more punch for Clark than it would coming from an ordinary person. All the people in Clark's life help him remain true to the best in himself.

Isn't that part of what our own friends and loved ones do best, keep us true the best in ourselves? Save us from our darker angels?

For more about Smallville and its fandom, click here. New episodes return in September.

What's your favorite book or movie rescue (with or without boom)? Which hero or heroine do you think made the most heart-wrenching sacrifice, and why did you choose that particular one?

A mystery package of books from RWA (which have now arrived, so I'll be posting winners tonight) will go to one commenter.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Literacy, Chocolate ... and a Winner!

By Kate

For the first time ever, I attended the RWA Literacy Signing last week – as an author! I signed lots of books, gave away lots of chocolate (Ghirardelli, of course, because my protagonist in Homicide in Hardcover lives in San Francisco), and had an absolute blast!

(Hey, I just got this photo of me taken by my friend Maureen Child! Thanks, Maureen!)

But before the day arrived, I must admit I worried. There are hundreds of authors signing at this event. What if I sat next to a weirdo? What if my neighbors thought I was a weirdo? What if nobody wanted my book? As a reader, I've often walked down those long aisles past the hundreds of waiting authors and I avoided eye contact with them. I felt sorry for the ones who had no one buying their books. I felt guilty that I wasn’t buying their book.

Guess what? It's okay to make eye contact. Nobody expects you to buy their books--but it's fabulous when you do. And really, it didn't matter if no one bought my book because I was having too much fun to care. Because, as luck would have it, I was seated next to this hot chick!

That’s right, I sat right next to none other than the incredible Anna Campbell! Who, by the way, was handing out full boxes of Tim Tams to everyone who bought a book from her. The secret to her success? I'm not giving anything away. But suffice to say, the chocolate was flying--literally and figuratively. I mean, the woman knows how to work the room. Chocolate talks, if you know what I mean. La Campbell had a line of fans a mile long. Some of them even wanted her books!

Another thing going on during the Literacy signing was the annual Bandita Scavenger Hunt! It was a big success! Here’s how it works: readers are handed a contest card while waiting in that mile-long line. Once they're inside, they hunt down all the Banditas who are signing and have us stamp their card. When they get the entire card stamped, they're given a blue ticket.

Later, a name is drawn--and that's our winner! Our prizes this year include Chocolate, Wine Charms for Book Lovers, two signed Bandita books, a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate and your very own Golden Rooster!!

So ... we drew the winning ticket and the name on that ticket is …

Violet Northey!!

Violet, contact me at and send me your snail mail address. I’ll rush your winnings out ASAP!!

Next year, we're hoping even more Banditas will publish and be able to sign for Literacy. Let the chanting begin!

Were you at the RWA Literacy Signing? Did you discover any new, exciting authors? Did you see any favorites? Which author's line did you stand in the longest?