Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Prepare to be...Seduced By Shadows

Interview by Kirsten Scott

Hey Banditas and Bandita Buddies -- I am thrilled to welcome a fantastic debut author who is certain to be on the NY Times list before you can blink an eye. Her name is Jessa Slade, and she's a local chapter mate of mine from the Rose City Romance Writers! So...onto the interview!

KIRSTEN: Hey Jessa, welcome to the Romance Bandits! I am thrilled to introduce you to all the BBs (Bandita Buddies) and my fellow Banditas -- and keep your eyes out for Sven the masseuse -- he can really ease that writer's cramp. Oh, and one of the cabana boys will be along shortly with your drink. What would you like?

JESSA: I’m not ashamed to say I prefer girlie drinks: Sweet and frothy. (The secret of girlie drinks is, of course, most of them deliver a stiletto-heel kick that’ll leave your head buzzing, which is why men can’t drink them.) Since my story is set in the chill of Chicago in November, I’ll take a girlie coffee drink, a BFK. That’s Bailey’s, Frangelico and Kahlua. In a fine establishment like this (i.e. surrounded by romance writers and readers) I’m sure you don’t mind if I switch out the coffee for hot cocoa. And get a swirl of whipped cream on top. Plus a few chocolate sprinkles. Ah yes, now we can get started.

KIRSTEN: Lovely! I’ll have one of those myself! Cabana boy – fetch us two BFKs! Now, tell us all about your fabulous debut, Seduced by Shadows.

JESSA: SEDUCED BY SHADOWS is the first in a new urban fantasy romance series, The Marked Souls, from Signet Eclipse, out October 6 (finally!). Repentant demons, seeking to earn their redemption, possess vulnerable souls to wage an unending battle against the forces of evil in our world. These teshuva demons and their talyan men think they’ve seen everything in their immortal lives… until the first female warrior arrives.

From the back cover:

The war between good and evil has raged for millennia, but now evil is winning and the Marked Souls are caught in the middle.

After an accident left her near death, Sera Littlejohn is struggling to piece together her life. But when a violet-eyed stranger reveals a supernatural battle veiled in the shadows, Sera is tempted to the edge of madness by a dangerous desire.

Ferris Archer takes Sera under his wing now that she is talyan, possessed by a repentant demon with hellish powers. Archer and his league of warriors have long risked their demon-shattered souls to stop darker spirits from wreaking havoc, but they've never fought beside a female talya before -- and never in all his centuries has Archer found a woman who captivates him like Sera.

With the balance shifting between good and evil, passion and possession, Sera and Archer must defy the darkness and dare to embrace a love that will mark them forever.

KIRSTEN: Wow (hushed silence). That sounds intense.

JESSA: The monsters are on the intense side, and the hero and heroine have a few shadows in their pasts, but who doesn’t have darkness, monsters, and shadows on their heels, right? And I’ve always loved that saying: Only when it’s dark do we finally see the on-rushing headlights of our doom. No, wait, that’s not the saying. The saying is: Only when it’s dark do we see the stars. We only learn our true character under pressure, which the dark side provides in spades.

KIRSTEN: You've built an incredibly detailed world for your books. How do you go about the writing process? What comes first -- world-building, plot, or characters? Or a mix of all three? And where did you come up with all those cool words you've coined? Did you dream up a whole new language, like Tolkien?

JESSA: Ooh, you referenced me and Tolkien in the same paragraph! Fangirl shriek moment! I can only dream of some day writing with Tolkien’s vibrant complexity (and scoring Peter Jackson as director for the movie!) and—since I’m dreaming—Frank Herbert’s vivid depth. I re-read THE HOBBIT and DUNE regularly, and every time, I’m blown away by the worlds they’ve created and the characters that move through their stories. (Although both stories need more heroines, agreed?)

I, tragically, am a hack. I stole my words from mythologies and religions around the world. At least I’m an unbiased thief. The reason why I borrowed so widely is I’m fascinated with the way every culture attempts to explain good and evil. From the Brothers Grimm to Mao’s little book, from the earliest Babylonian creation tales to the latest Joss Whedon, we’re constantly parsing good from evil. From a scientific angle, you could say it must be hard-wired into our brain to seek to understand why bad things happen to good people and why good people do bad things. But from a more liberal arts perspective, you have to wonder WHY we need to understand. Could it be BECAUSE evil truly exists, and not in some metaphoric sense either, but in a very literal sense? But what if good and evil can’t be separated out so neatly? What if we’re all good AND evil?

From that question—If we all have a bit of evil in us, does that make us evil?—was born the Marked Souls.

KIRSTEN: Jessa, I want to read this book more with every word you speak! Now, putting aside these questions of good and evil, let’s get down to details: I know a lot of our readers love a bad-boy. Can you tell us about your hero, Archer? He's enough to make a girl's spine tingle...

JESSA: Oh, yes, spine. That’s what’s tingling ;) Ferris Archer is a bad boy by necessity, not by choice. He was raised a farmer’s son, and he had a simple plan laid out for him: Sunlight, growing things, a walk down the lane with some quiet girl. But life—and death, and good and evil, and fate, and love—targeted him for something more.

Archer cultivates his bad boy qualities—the sharp edges in his personality and his blade, more than a touch of danger, not to mention the black trench coat—to hide his regret at forgetting something so dear to him as the scent of honeysuckle. Sera, the heroine, brings that back but also forces him to remember things he’d rather stayed forgotten, like, oh, his humanity. Oops.

My favorite, decidedly non-PC parts of a bad boy work well in a Marked Soul. All that arrogance and violence are harnessed for the power of good. Well, and for the heroine, of course :) She better be ready for the responsibility of handling his, er, weapon.

KIRSTEN: So now that we’re all panting to read this book can you tell about your path to publication? Was this the first story you’ve written?

JESSA: Oh, thanks for making me choke on my BFK! Sold my first story. Snork. Almost a hundred rejections over more than ten years on nearly a million final draft words. The math isn’t exact (Damn it, Jim, I’m a writer, not a mathematician) but if you round to the nearest heartache, that’s how long it took me to get here. Never let it be said I took the easy way to anything. At least the slow and steady pace gave me an ulcer… I mean, gave me a chance not only to learn the craft of writing but to discover more about the business and the mindset of being an author. Still, I think I’d advocate the overnight success route if you have the opportunity.

KIRSTEN: Any advice for your fellow writers, now that you've hit the big time?

JESSA: Well, I’m still small-time, but I think I could give you the advice that the big boys and girls would: Keep writing. With every failure and every success, keep writing. You are a writer when you are writing. Let everything else fall by the wayside when you set that blinking cursor to blank page and write.

Will it be easy? Never has been for me. But whatever. Keep writing. I consider writing a painful chore, slogging away at the keyboard, day after day. But in the striving, I do see something I guess I’d call sublime. There’s a sacred calling in the telling of story.

KIRSTEN: What beautiful words – a real inspiration. Thanks so much for being here today.

JESSA: Thank YOU for inviting me! I’ll be stopping back throughout the day, so if anybody has any questions or wants to debate fantasy casting for Bilbo Baggins in the remaking of The Hobbit, ask away!

Please, feel free to pepper Jessa with questions, offer your suggestions for recasting The Hobbit, or even add your philosophical musings -- is there good and bad in everything? Is that why we love those bad boy heros so much -- because we can't help but want to redeem them?

Jessa will be giving away a copy of her debut, SEDUCED BY SHADOWS to one lucky commentor, so get cracking!!

The Enemy

by Susan Sey
When I was in high school, I was an avid athlete. Not gifted, sadly--no sports scholarships for me, much to my father's chagrin--but I was an enthusiastic joiner nonetheless. I loved being part of a team. Loved the routine of practice, the high of competition & the comfort of sharing a loss (or, on rarer occasions, celebrating a win) with comrades.

When I graduated from high school & moved on to college, there wasn't really an avenue for me to continue playing sports. I went to a Big Ten school and didn't have the talent (or the size) to qualify for any of their sports programs. There was the intramural sports option, I guess, but it was expensive, and I was a shy kid. I didn't know nearly enough people to put together a team, & hadn't the first clue how to wangle my way onto an existing one.

So like a lot of young adults, I stopped playing sports. I graduated, traveled, got married, graduated again, had babies. I didn't have time to miss it for several years there. But recently I got an invitation I couldn't refuse.


Yep, kickball. Like third graders play. On the play ground. With a red rubber bouncy ball. My husband and I were invited to join a summer kickball league for adults, & we accepted. I thought, sure. I'll play. It's kickball, right? It's ridiculous. Too ridiculous to be taken seriously. It'll be a fun way to get to know other post-sporty people & enjoy the summer.

And then I played. And it was fun. It is fun. Kicking the crap out of one of those red rubber balls is just as satisfying as it always was. But I was startled to find it was more than just fun. It was also surprisingly...cathartic.

Because team sports provide something far more important than exercise & camaraderie. They provide an outlet. For what, you ask? For all the aggression & anger produced by dealing with normal life. Life is so often frustrating & unwieldy & disappointing. Sometimes I swear people (cashiers, my children, other drivers) thwart me just for the heck of it.

But I, unlike my two year old, am not allowed to pitch a fit in the produce aisle & get it out of my system. No, I have to shove it aside, smile through my teeth & make nice anyway, because that's what grownups do.

The exception to this, I've discovered, is sports.

Not that we allow or condone poor sportsmanship. We don't cheat or yell, hurt one another or behave at all unpleasantly on the field. But for the space of one hour, we are free to hate the people on the other team.

Okay, hate is too strong a word. But for the space of that game, those people are the enemy. The other. It's us against them & we get to try like hell to beat them silly. It's harmless, it's all in fun but it's also deeply satisfying. To be part of an US that's united in an effort to conquer THEM. It speaks to a deeply rooted human drive to belong & to triumph, I think. A drive that's often out of place in a modern world where battles are fought via keyboards & soundbites.

Kickball gave me an outlet to indulge that primal urge without suffering any real world consequences, & it's been good for me. I'm happier, more relaxed, & aside from barking my shin during an accidental slide into second, pretty healthy, too. I'm already dreading the end of the season because it means another long, dark winter full of things that want to thwart me (balky car engines, slick highways, children who resist mittens) with no social appropriate outlet for my anger.

Thank god we've been asked to join the dodgeball team.

So how about you? Did you ever give up something you loved, only to rediscover it later in life? When it comes to sports, are you a player or a fan? Or are sports just not your thing, & you have other ways to deal with life's little frustrations? Let's hear about them!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bandit Booty!

We have some SINFUL booty to give away tonight!

Copies of Kathryn Caskie's To Sin with a Stranger go to Julia Smith, Lynz Pickles and Linda Henderson, who should email Kim Castillo via kimscastilloATmsnDOTcom.

Congrats to the winners, and thanks to everyone who stopped by!


Interview with Suzanne

Suz: Welcome to the Bandit, Lair, Wendy. Pull up a barstool and we'll have one of the cabana boys fetch us a margarita. So congratulations on the debut of I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM, the first in your cozy mystery series. Please tell everyone what the book is about.

Wendy: Cocktails! Fantastic! Had I known we were having snacks, I would have brought along some of Tally's avocado gelato. Maybe next time ...

I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM is about Tally Jones, proprietor of Dalliance, Texas's ice cream parlor, Remember the A-la-mode. With a struggling business, a crumbling historic home, and a motley assortment of family members depending on her, Tally swallows her pride and agrees to provide ice cream for her ex-husband's company luau. But when her ex's arm-candy girlfriend drops dead, Tally finds herself scooping for her life, hoping to find a murderer before she finds herself locked in the hoosegow.

Thankfully, Tally's cousin Bree, Bree's daughter Alice, and Tally's high school beau Finn Harper are all on hand to help her out.

Suz: I've been looking forward to this book since you first announced it at one of our chapter meetings. How did you come up with the concept?

Wendy: Funny you should ask. Normally, I start with a very vivid scene, and the characters and plot flow from that. For I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM, though, I started with the hook: ice cream. My agent and I had a brainstorming session, trying to think of ideas for a cozy series, something that I knew about and was passionate about and that people would find relatable. Well, friends, this girl knows food. Cooking it, eating it, reading about it, dreaming about it ... I {puffy heart} food. And the mother of all foods, in my opinion, is ice cream.

As soon as I said the words aloud, Kim and I knew it was the perfect hook for me. And it has been. My husband jokes that he can always tell when I've been writing "ice cream procedural," the passages where Tally is making or eating ice cream, because I get all keyed up and he can't drag me away from the computer.

Suz: Tallulah, "Tally" Jones is the star of this series. She has a lot to overcome, but doesn't come off perfect. How did she first make her appearance to you?

Wendy: Ice cream equals indulgence. It's sensual and luscious and fattening as heck. I wanted a character whose life was the opposite of that. And thus Tally Jones was born. She's all about duty and responsibility and being a good girl and not making a scene. At least on the outside. She's got ice cream in her soul, though, and getting down to that vibrant, raw, passionate person is going to be tons of fun.

Suz: The secondary characters in I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM are a hoot. How do they play a part in Tally's life?

Wendy: Wow. You get right to the heart of the matter, huh?

That's a big theme in the book, how we define ourselves relative to the people around us. My extended family lives in a small town, and everyone is defined by their relationships to one another: "Roberta's boy," or "Junior's ex." We moved around a lot when I was growing up, so for me, those sorts of relationships were largely impermanent; I didn't have a place in some vast interpersonal web, but was mostly floating free. As a result, that small town feel intrigues me.

In this book, I play a lot with that notion of being defined by the people around you, both your relationships to them and their expectations of you. On the one hand, I find that sort of belonging seductive. On the other, I can see how it could be stifling, oppressive. For Tally, it's both.

Gee. Didn't mean to get all heavy, but you really touched on one of the more emotional themes of the book. And while I love to laugh--and hopefully make others laugh, too--I want Tally's story to touch people's hearts, too.

Suz: Speaking of Finn Harper, is there a future romance in the works between him and Tally?

Wendy: LOL! Yes, one of the most delicious threads of the story (to me) is Tally's struggle to define her relationship with her high school boyfriend Finn. When the book begins, she hasn't seen him in nearly two decades, not since she broke his heart in the Tasty-Swirl parking lot on the eve of their high school graduation. When he comes back to town and into her life, he stirs up all sorts of feelings she'd rather not examine too closely.

Do they have a future? Hmmmm. Maybe. Finn and Tally have a lot of past to overcome before they can start thinking about happily ever after. And, well, there might be a competitor for Tally's affections just around the corner .....

Suz: So what's next in the MYSTERY A LA MODE series?

Wendy: SCOOP TO KILL is slated for a July 2010 release. Tally's precocious niece Alice is finishing up her first year at Dickerson College, and when the annual Honor's Day festivities turn bloody, Alice enlists her Aunt Tally's help in solving an ivory tower murder.

Suz: At the end of I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM you have a delicious recipe for "Tally's Tropical Sundaes", which sounds delicious by the way, is this going to be something you do with each book? If so, I can see one dear husband wanting me to buy more books!

Wendy: Trust me, that ginger-lime-coconut sauce is highly addictive (great for dressing up carrot cake, too!). There will be recipes for ice cream goodies in every book, all using store-bought ice cream and all designed so even "can't boil water" cooks can craft something company-worthy.

So dear readers, what is your favorite ice cream and/or toppings? Wendy is going to give away a signed copy of I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM to one lucky commenter.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Writer Most Wicked...Kathryn Caskie is in the Lair

posted by Christine Wells

The Most Wicked of Sins (Avon, Sept. 29) is the title of the second book in my sexy and wickedly fun Seven Deadly Sins series (and it goes on sale on Tuesday, September 29th--and the crowd roars...). It's about envy, which really is a wicked sin. I mean, come on. You could conceivably have a little fun committing the other six sin-but not envy. No way.

Is Envy the most wicked of sins?

Let me tell you a little more about each of the Seven Deadly Sins, and then you tell me which is the most wicked of sins. (PRIZES-The three most thoughtful or creative comments win signed copies of To Sin With a Stranger, the debut book of the series.)

Now, the Seven Deadly Sins are: Greed, Envy, Sloth, Gluttony, Lust, Wrath and Pride. Okay, I can think of worse sins, but hey, a Pope came up with these as the top seven about a thousand years ago. 'Nuf said, right?

Greed: Perfect example~ my teetering To Be Read pile(s). I have more books than I can possibly read, more books than anyone can possibly read, and yet I can't leave the bookstore without half a dozen more. I have so many books that I am thinking of building a green house out of recycled romances. Think I can get a tax credit for that?

Envy:. I named the heroine Ivy in The Most Wicked of Sins after an Envy incident in my neighborhood years ago. A woman down the street had the most amazing garden, and yet I never saw her do any more than water it. One day, the flowers were lying all over the front yard and my neighbor was busy raking up the mess. She guessed some kids had torn up the garden at night as a prank-but wished she could thank them for pulling up all of the poison ivy too. Now she could work in her garden again. A couple days later, I saw the woman who lived next door to her with a horrible red rash all over her arms and face. True story.

Sloth: It's 8 a.m., kids are off to school. I am going write to ten pages -right after I check my email. Wow, is it noon already? Okay, eat lunch, then off to write ten pages...after I check out that one site. Crap. Dinner time? (Meant to buy some groceries.) Lazy slug.

Gluttony: There is only so much a human needs to eat, right? Beyond that, it's excess and after a while, Lycra becomes a way of life. Believe me, I know. (Though, the woman who invented SPANX is up for sainthood. Yup, pretty sure it's true.)

Lust: Oh, come on. How is this a sin?

Wrath: Okay, you race into a grocery store for some milk, but some guy is blocking the aisle with his cart while he taps on his Blackberry creating a shopper back up (the term for this is Blackberry Jam, I think). Excuse me, please. He doesn't hear you. Tap, tap, tap. Would you mind if I just squeezed by? Tappity tap. Grr. You are about two seconds from yanking that thing out of his hand and chucking it and him in the lobster tank. That's wrath.

Pride: Pride is supposed to be the worst sin. I don't mean like taking pride in your work, or your school, or your team. We're really talking arrogance, right? Pride as in Pride and Prejudice. Oh Mr. Darcy. You lovely sinner, you.

There you have it. The Seven Deadly Sins.

So which is the most wicked of sins? Prizes for the most wickedly funny comments/stories (trying to appeal to Greed here).



Saturday, September 26, 2009

Summer's End

It's that time of year again in the northern hemisphere. Summer's over. Kids are going back to school, there's a faint hint of coolness in the night air, and the fireflies are gone. If only the mosquitos would go with them.

After Labor Day, people tend to stop wandering, focus on business, and call an end to playtime. This is the time of year when we used to have to write school essays called some variation of "What I Did on my Summer Vacation." Remember those? Mine used to be about swimming, since we did a lot of that in the summer, and about trips to Florida to see my cousins on my father's side. There were always short trips to see my mom's siblings and their families, too. And a week at the beach, where my dad would take one day to go out fishing on a boat. We built sand castles, and he taught me to swim out beyond the breakers. He'd grown up in Manila, in the Philippine Islands, and had served in the Navy, so he was comfortable in the water.

In August, we used to put down a blanket in the front yard and watch the Perseid meteor shower. The ambient light in our small town was so minimal that it didn't blot out the stars. On other summer nights, my parents sat in the front yard in lawn chairs, with empty ones beside them so whoever wandered down the street could sit and chat.

My dad made peach ice cream in a hand-crank freezer. The ice packed into it came from the same place that had supplied ice blocks for my grandparents' ice boxes, forerunners of refrigerators. When he finished, we got to scrape ice cream off the paddles. He also liked to peel and slice peaches, add sugar, and freeze them. I remember eating slushy, crunchy, sweet, half-thawed peaches for dessert.

My mom grew tomatoes, so tomato sandwiches were a staple, along with sliced tomatoes for meals. The tastes of summer were tomatoes, peaches, and watermelon. And, when I was deemed old enough at last, sweet iced tea.

Now my summers tend to be about preparing for fall. We took a family vacation, and I went to RWA, but I had projects to complete. Summer is no longer a time for being lazy in whatever way presents itself. We played catch-up, though not with particular success, and I tried to whittle the TBR pile. Alas, but it keeps growing despite my efforts. The dh did yard work and minor household repairs. The boy practiced his guitar and art lessons and spent some time with his girlfriend. The dog thought up new ways to mooch.

I did make it to Atlanta a couple of times and bought peaches on the way, along the same stretch of highway where my dad liked to buy them. It's not quite the same, but it'll do. And when we stopped on Labor Day, coming home from DragonCon, for our last fresh peaches of the season, the stand where we bought them was also selling homemade peach ice cream. Not as good as my dad's, but it was tasty.

The dh hates the summer heat and mugginess but loves spring and fall. He grew up in the Colorado Front Range, where spring and fall are brief and the summer air is light, and went to college in New Hampshire, where winter lasts a long time. Come winter, he won't wear a sweater because "it's not cold here." Compared to the Front Range in winter, probably not. He likes to poke around in the yard in the spring and fall--which is the only reason anything blooms in our yard, considering that the thing I do best for plants is kill them--savoring the seasons. If he can, he likes to put in a garden. We had green beans into November one mild year.

Now fall is officially here. We're all back at school in our various capacities. NC apples will show up in the markets. The trees will turn, life will settle into a routine, and we'll soon be digging out sweaters. Before we know it, Halloween will be upon us, then Thanksgiving and the rush leading into Christmas and the lull before New Year's, and then we'll be in the depth of winter again, looking forward to another summer.

We're traveling today, leaving home early to go to a wedding in one of the heavily flooded counties of northern Georgia. But I'll be back late this afternoon. Meanwhile, please send good wishes toward a young bride and groom looking for a dry place to say "I do" since the flooding torpedoed their plans and tell us--

How was your summer vacation? What foods or activities do you associate with summer? What's your favorite season, and why?

Friday, September 25, 2009

If Books Could Kill - Sneak Preview!

I'm thrilled to reveal--to my close personal friends in the Lair only!--my new cover for book two of the Bibliophile Mystery series, IF BOOKS COULD KILL!

Isn’t it fun? There’s a cat, of course. And there are books and various bookbinder's tools and instruments of destruction. There's a book fair going on outside the window. And there's blood on the bookbinder's hammer.

And yeah, that's a really BIG cat. Uhh ... don't look now, but I think it got bigger when I wasn't looking.

Hmm. Anyway, here's the back cover blurb ………..

A haunted city, a forbidden masterpiece, and a deadly threat are all in a day’s work in the life of this brilliant bookbinder….

Book restoration expert Brooklyn Wainwright is happy to be attending the world-renowned Edinburgh Book Fair. But then her ex, Kyle McVee, shows up with a bombshell. He has an original copy of a scandalous text that could change history—and humiliate the beloved British monarchy.

Trying to get Kyle’s story out of her mind, Brooklyn takes a nighttime ghost tour of the city. Unfortunately, the first landmark contains a real dead body…Kyle’s. The police are convinced Brooklyn’s the culprit, but with an entire convention of suspects, Brooklyn begins conducting her own investigation. Before she can crack the case, she’ll have to find out if the motive for murder was a 200-year-old secret—or something much more personal…

Cool, huh? IF BOOKS COULD KILL won't be out until February, 2010, but I couldn't resist sharing it with y'all now. Let me know what you think!

So if it wasn't obvious to everyone, I love mysteries! My favorites are the traditional series featuring an amateur sleuth and a hunky hero type who tangles with her as she tries to solve the crime. After all, who doesn't like a little romance with their mystery? Here are two of my newest favorites ...

SECONDHAND SPIRITS, a witchcraft mystery, by Juliet Blackwell. I love Juliet Blackwell! (She also writes as Hailey Lind and her Art Lover's mysteries are not to be missed.) This series features a witch who's recently moved to San Francisco and must deal with murder and child kidnapping as well as a gorgeous and powerful male witch named Aiden and a hunky "myth buster" named Max. The blend of mystery, romance and a touch of paranormal is awesome and her witchy details are fantastic.

Judi McCoy, a name that should be familiar to romance readers, has a new mystery series featuring a New York City dog walker who can actually hear what her canine clientele are saying. The first book in the series is HOUNDING THE PAYMENT and protagonist Ellie and her doggy clients must solve the crime before another dog is stolen and Ellie becomes the victim of a ruthless killer. Oh, and never fear, there's a very hot detective watching Ellie's every move. Yum!

There are so many other great series out there, I wish I had enough room to talk about all of them. But I can highly recommend Kate Collins's Flower Shop mysteries, Victoria Laurie's Psychic Eye mysteries, Lorna Barrett's Booktown mysteries, and Rosemary Harris's Gardening mysteries. And I'm really looking forward to Wendy Lyn Watson's first book in her new Mystery a la Mode series (something tells me she'll be stopping by the Lair sometime soon!).
Have you read any good mysteries lately? Do you like them with a touch of romance? Yup, me, too! I have a special mystery basket to give away to one lucky commenter today that includes goodies and books from all the above authors!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Misty Mystery of History

by KJ Howe

Vienna, Austria. That’s where I'm writing from today as I travel through Austria, Hungary, Germany, and Czech. During a walking tour of Prague, the guide, a philosophical man, pondered whether we could all benefit from studying the past. "If more people studied history, perhaps they could come to a greater understanding of what went wrong in the past and live differently as a result." Maybe this is true. Let’s take a look at two examples:

Vienna was the seat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that was also known as the Holy Roman Empire, a conglomeration of many different countries with different languages and cultures, all striving toward the same goals with all the parties fiercely loyal to the Habsburg Monarchy. Despite having such varied people from Austria, Hungary, Czech, Italy, Slovenia, and more, they thrived together as a single political unit for centuries. There are many lessons to be learned here about how everyone worked together that could be well-applied in our world today.

But the individual stories of how people lived can teach us as much as stories of empires. For example, Empress Elizabeth, wife of Franz Josef, was consumed by concerns about her appearance. A stunning woman, she worked out and dieted obsessively to maintain her twenty-inch waist. Every morning, her hairdresser spent an hour brushing out her hair (her personal hairdresser made more money than a university professor!). She didn't allow any photos or portraits after she passed age 40 (she was murdered at 61) because she always wanted to be remembered as a young and beautiful woman. Overly conscious of imperfect teeth, she carried a fan around with her and used it to block her face in all public forums. Imagine all the work and worry involved with this level of obsession about appearance. Perhaps this could be a good example for young women, teach them the pitfalls of caring about appearance more than substance? Empress Elizabeth's story reminds me somehow of Princess Diana's tragic tale.

I'd love to hear if you feel that there are lessons we could all learn from history? Have you been shaped by what you've learned from history?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Saints and Sinners

by Donna MacMeans

I have a dilemma.

I'm leaving Friday for Lora Leigh's reader event in Huntington WV known as RAW (Readers Appreciation Weekend). The event has a theme of Sinners and Saints complete with a costume dance on Saturday night.

I have no costume.

Part of the problem (beyond the obvious procrastination) is that I wasn't sure what I wanted to be -- a sinner or a saint... wings or a devil's horns...what would you choose?

Now I have to admit a certain affinity toward a sinner costume. It's a well accepted assumption that bad girls have more fun, right? Quite honestly, I've never been a bad girl and I'm running out of time to try (grin).

However, all the sinner costumes show more skin than costume and, quite frankly, God created some bodies to be covered. Such a body is mine (sigh).

I thought about reviving my pink corset, and using that to promote the sort of bad girl image necessary for a proper sinner. (You may recall that corset inspired the observation from my daughter as she tightened the laces, "Mom - it's like you have a butt crack that goes right up your back!")

However, I'm a little concerned about the potential for a wardrobe malfunction. I love to dance. Once the music starts, it'll be hard to keep me off the floor. It's difficult enough to breathe in that corset much less dance. If the girls escape ... well... just the thought is enough to nix the corset.

So maybe I should go as a saint (though I'm not sure anyone would actually buy that). I've certainly seen enough angel wings on sale and I imagine a halo wouldn't be too difficult to construct out of tin foil. I have enough years of crafting kid's costumes to let such a small thing as a halo deter me. But wings are something of a pain when you're dancing. They have a mind of their own. Hmmm...not sure an angel costume will work.

So what about some other sort of Saint.

Val Kilmer played a thief known as The Saint in a movie by the same name. I don't think I could make a costume to resemble Val Kilmer - but I liked the idea of having an excuse to use his photo.

I found a group known as SAINT for Saving Animals In Need Together. I think I could make a convincing old dog.

Would God strike me dead it I went as this guy (minus the beard, of course)?
So help me out? Any ideas out there to save me from being excluded from the fun? If you're going to RAW - what are you going as? If you're not going to RAW - what would you go as if you could?
If you leave a comment, you've a chance to win a copy of Tracy Spear's Heart of the Wolf or Suzanne Enoch's Before The Scandal. So help a poor sinner...saint...out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What's Your Favourite?

by Anna Sugden

Social occasions can bring up the strangest topics for small talk. There are the usual sports, music, cars, traffic and weather conversations, but also things like 'Which mythical creature is most likely to exist?'. And, of course, gossip *g*.

At a wedding recently, I noticed the overwhelming theme for most conversations was food: choices, preferences, likes and dislikes, allergies. Everywhere I went, I overheard conversations about food. Luckily, waitresses were circulating with yummy appetisers, or I'd have passed out from hunger before the reception dinner!

Not only were there lots of conversations, but some of them were pretty heated! You haven't lived until you've seen two blokes nearly coming to blows over the best chips/snacks to have with beer. LOL.

So, for a fun Tuesday, I thought I'd get you all discussing food too (no laughing, Fedora!) What are your favourites? Which do you prefer?

1. Chocolate - white, dark or milk?

2. Hot dog or burger?

3. Popcorn - butter, cheese, sweet?

4. Eggs - best way to have them cooked?

5. Favourite vegetable?

6. Tea or coffee? How do you take it?

7. Strawberries or raspberries?

8. Favourite drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic)?

9. Favourite sandwich filling?

And, of course .... the best chips or snack to have with beer?

Monday, September 21, 2009


interviewed by Suzanne

Bandits and readers let me introduce you to my friend, Celya Bowers. Welcome to the Lair Ceyla, pull up a cushy chair and I'm sure we can find a cabana boy around here to bring us some refreshments!

ANYTHING BUT LOVE is one of my favorite Celya Bowers books. Can you give us a little look into the story?

Celya: ANYTHING BUT LOVE is a contemporary romance about two very A-type personalities who don’t want to date, but end up doing just that. Kendall Matthews is a very talented doctor in a prestigious hospital. Her world get turned upside down when her past comes back to greet her. Coletrane Highpoint was her first love and now he was back in town. He hadn’t noticed Kendall when she 16, but he notices her now at the tender age of 40.

Suz: Your heroine and hero have a past history. How did that mold them into the people they are now? And how does it affect their relationships both together and with other people?

Celya: Kendall always carried the hurt of Cole’s dismissive attitude toward her all these years. It formed her into the very focused woman she is now. She’s determined not to let another hurt her again. At first Cole can’t understand why Kendall has such an attitude about him, but when he realizes she was still harboring ill feelings from the past. He tries to rectify it.

Suz: Both characters have strong family ties. Is this important to you to show that part of their lives?

Celya: I’m very close to my family. I couldn’t imagine not speaking to someone in my family at least weekly. There’s such negative images of the African-American family, I’d like to show the world that there are still solid families on this earth. All my books have strong family ties.

Suz: Your secondary characters also have a second parallel love story. Do you feel that adds to the richness of the main story?

Celya: Yes, I do. I think it helps adds a much needed layer to a romance. Nothing is worse than being so focused on someone else’s romance you don’t realize you’ve fallen in love yourself.

Suz: So what's next for Celya Bowers?

Celya: My latest release is a Celya Bowers book and is called 2 GOOD.

2 GOOD features a plus size heroine, Madisyn O'Riley and wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, Aidan Coles. Madisyn is tired of playa-playas and wants to find just one good man. She's had her fill of two legged dogs. When she volunteers at Aidan's charity, she can't believe that he's actually interested in her. Aidan is immediately attracted to Madisyn because she's not swayed by his wealth. Is she 2 Good to be true? When her security is threatened by an ex-lover, Aidan jumps at the chance to show her how much he wants her. Madisyn had begun to think men like Aidan didn't exist anymore, but is so glad she was wrong.

Suz: Can't wait to read 2 GOOD. I love football players as heroes! You also write as Kennedy Shaw. What’s up next for her?

Celya: The next book by Kennedy Shaw is called TOUR OF DUTY, and
will be released December 2009. This is a romantic suspense and is concerning unauthorized military testing with our troops in Iraq. It features high school sweethearts Mikerra Stone and Drake Harrington. This story is set in Wright City, Texas. Mikerra has a secret. She's been living in New York working as an editor, and seeing a married man. Now that man wants her dead. Mikerra returns to her hometown for safety. She never dreamed she'd run into Drake. He still habors bad feelings toward her for the break-up. Drake is a an army ranger, home on leave after a tour in Iraq. Unfortunately, he's been suffering from headaches since his return from the desert. The one person who holds the key to his headaches is the same person who broke his heart all those years ago. Can he put his hurt aside and listen to Mikerra?

Suz: Why do you write as two different pseudonyms? What is the advantage in doing that?

Celya: Kennedy Shaw’s story are usually set in the fictious city of Wright City, Texas. Every now and then Kennedy Shaw will have something different.

I wanted to keep those stories separate from Celya Bowers.

When you write totally different stories, it’s best to do it under a different name, so your loyal readers won’t be offended.

Suz: What do you see as the advantages of being a romance writer who happens to be African American? The disadvantages?

Celya: When I first started writing, there weren’t many African American romances out there. Now there’s more opportunities for writers of color, which I’m so grateful for. I try to write uplifting stories that give a reader hope. That’s why they’re paying to read my book. Escapism, but with the thought “hey, this could be me.”

To me the biggest disadvantage is that most mainstream readers think the minute they see AA on the cover, it’s going to be a story about the hood, drug dealers, and so on. I don’t write those kind of stories, because frankly, I don’t know that life style. I don’t write about baby mama drama, baby daddy drama. That’s just not my cup of tea. I write from my heart and things that occur around me. None of my friends are doing drugs, so I can’t write about that.

I guess I would like people to see my books as just romances. I don’t want it labeled a black romance just because of the color of the characters.

Suz: So dear readers, do you read books by authors who write under more than one pseudonym? Do you like when the authors use different names to differentiate which type of book you'll be reading? Celya will be giving away a signed copy of one of her books to one lucky commenter today!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Workin' For A Living

by Beth

We've been spending quite a bit of time at my house discussing careers. My son just started his senior year of high school (sob!) and is looking at colleges which means he's also trying to decide what the heck he wants to do with his life.

Luckily, he has some working experience as over the summer he held three part time jobs. He mowed three lawns, worked as a busboy/counter guy/dishwasher/some-time cook at a local restaurant and is a Dietary Aide at our hospital (which is a fancy way of saying he washes dishes and fills food trays :-)

His job experience had me thinking of the jobs I've held over the years. My first job was counting and wrapping change at a bank downtown. Really. They had this little room with a huge change sorter/wrapper where I'd work for a few hours a week. I had to cut open the bags of loose change (already sorted, thank goodness) pour them into the machine and then load the wrapped coins onto metal trays. The trays were then stacked in the safe.

My next job was at the same bank but as a teller. I held this position twice: once the summer after high school and then later right after I got married until I had my son.

I didn't go back to work until my son was a few months old. I put my cosmetologist license to good use and worked in a hair salon for all of three weeks before deciding my true calling was that of a stay-at-home mother.

When my kids were little, I worked for my father and two brothers in the office of their contracting firm. And let me just say that as much as I love my family, and though I stayed at that job for years, there is no way I'd ever work for them again. 'Nuff said *g*

Luckily, by that time I knew what I really wanted to be when I grew up: A Romance Writer! Today I'm blessed to be able to do what I love for a living and I hope to have this job for many, many, MANY years to come ;-)

So let's talk jobs! Here's my husband's list:

Hardest job - lawn care at a local cemetery. The mowing wasn't so bad but he had to trim around the 100+ headstones. And since this was before weed whackers, he had do to them all by hand *g*

Weirdest job - growing crystals that were cut in to wafers to make the chips for integrated circuits.

Shortest amount of time he held a job - 30 minutes. That's right. He'd just started a new job when he got the call letting him know he had a better offer at a different place :-)

What was your hardest job? Your weirdest? Most fun? And can anyone beat my husband's record for shortest time employed?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Awesomeness of Dragon*Con

By Banditas Nancy and Trish along with guest Tanya Michna

At this time last week, Nancy and I, along with our good friend (and my roomie for the weekend) Tanya Michna (aka Tanya Michaels), were embracing our inner geekitude along with 40,000 other sci fi, fantasy and pop culture fans at the annual Dragon*Con conference in Atlanta. This was my second year to attend, and it lived up to the fun I had last year. Tanya and I were part of different panels on the Writer Track, and we also attended the Supernatural fan discussion and handed out business cards for the Supernatural Sisters blog (where we're two of the five contributing writers). I know Nancy had a lot of great experiences with big-name writers this year.

So, the three of us decided to share some highlights with you, complete with lots of piccies.


My favorite things: Sitting in a giant ballroom with a horde of Star Trek fans watching Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner do riffs off each other. I've been a Classic Trek fan since high school. I'd seen Nimoy but not Shatner, who never did many conventions. This is a highlight of my fannish life, ranking right up there with meeting my favorite Superman artist, the late Curt Swan, at a local con years ago and taking writing classes from A.C. Crispin.

Meeting Lois McMaster Bujold, author of the Vorkosigan Chronicles, the Sharing Knife series, and a fantasy series starting with The Curse of Chalion. She's very friendly and very thoughtful. I just wish I'd had less of an awe factor going; it tends to generate conversational clumsiness.

Hearing Laura Anne Gilman, author of Luna's Retrievers series, which Jeanne and I love, read from her forthcoming fantasy, The Vineart Wars. I also got to chat with her while we all waited in the hall for someone to unlock the door to the room where she was to read. She'll join us Oct. 16 to discuss that series, which has less romance than the Retrievers but lots of action.

Listening to Michael Biehn (the original, and still best, Kyle Reese in Terminator) discuss his career and getting to ask him a question, thanks to Cassondra and Steve. And he said "Hi" to me, as I think I may have mentioned one or two or six times already since then.

Seeing GRW friends and writer buddies I don't get to see anywhere else and going to dinner with my online sff critique group. Our teacher, A.C. Crispin, goes every year, and Lois McMaster Bujold and Julie Kenner joined us this year.

Seeing the wonderfully inventive costumes, especially for the Steampunk (Victorian era science fiction fans).

What I did not get to do: Hear Bujold read. I was like a distractable kid this year, unable to keep up with what what was going on despite having circled things (many, many things) on the program grid. She was reading from the forthcoming Miles Vorkosigan adventure, the first in several years, and I HATE that I missed it!

I also missed Catherine Asaro's reading and panel appearances, and I love her Skolian Empire series.

I did not get to the Cybersecurity panel on the Science track, something I thought might be useful for a future project. I didn't see the panel on surviving the apocalypse, which also had research potential for a future project, on the Apocalypse Rising track.

I didn't see Kate Mulgrew or Patrick Stewart. Simply couldn't stomach the lines.

I missed the parade. I was having breakfast with friends, and the time got away from me. I love the parade, which the dh calls "the extroverted half of the con performing for the introverted half." And the boy and his girlfriend marched in the anime crowd, along with the son of some friends. The dh watched, though, and he didn't see any of them in the mob of costumed anime fans marching down Peachtree Street. I wanted to cheer on the Stargate contingent (I'm a member of Stargate Atlanta), too. And to see the massive Star Wars group, complete with a big unit of the 501st Stormtrooper Legion. Oh, well--next year!

I didn't get to see Trish and Tanya except for about thirty seconds outside the Writer Track room. With 40,000+ people there, running into your friends becomes unlikely. Maybe next year for that, too.


This was my fourth DragonCon, but I don't think you can ever really "get used to" the convention! The spectacle of the crowds and costumes never fails to awe (and occasionally overwhelm.)

My favorite moments from this year: After missing all of the Battlestar Galactica panels last year ('cuz they seemed to conflict with the Firefly stuff--or at least the three hours I was spending in the Firefly lines), I was thrilled to go to a BSG panel this year, now that we all know who the final Cylons were and could discuss it. It cracked me up when the Galactica "chief" Aaron Douglas crashed the panel!

I also really enjoyed the Buffyverse panel including the fabulous Felicia Day, the gorgeous Charisma Carpenter and Julie Benz (neither of whom have aged in like a decade--what is up with that?) and Buffy "1.0" Kristie Swanson, although there were a few awkward moments because everyone else had recurring roles on Buffy and/or Angel and she, though in the original Buffy movie, admitted to never even watching the show.

Even though there were only fans and no stars (sigh), I loved the Supernatural panel--much fun discussing where we think the show is going in the newly kicked off season 5!

On Saturday, I got to attend the "An Hour with Draco Malfoy" panel with Tom Felton, who was hilarious and really gracious (even in the face of some slightly crazed fans with inappropriate questions. Eesh, people).

Then there was the rockin' Cruxshadows concert, worth both the line AND being up past 2 a.m. Sunday was a favorite moment of different kind, because I actually got to participate on a panel with some really impressive writers. I was honored to be up there with them!

I had wanted to go to the Twilight panel, but gave it up to go to a YA panel that included Tricia Mills (yay!) and Diana Peterfreund, author of Rampant (which I am reading now.) I also missed the parade (the line for BSG was already forming). But I've actually missed that every single year I've gone, so it's becoming like a tradition!

A first for this year: I came in costume! I was Tonks, echoing her purple-haired look from the Order of the Phoenix movie. It wasn't 100% accurate, but total strangers guessed who I was and even asked for my picture so we'll call it a success. I'm already brainstorming costume ideas for next year. After all...only 355 days 'til the next Dragon*Con! (Photo: Trish as Alice Cullen from Twilight and Tanya as Tonks from Harry Potter)


Like Tanya, I was all about the Firefly stuff last year since Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Jewel Staite and Morena Baccarin were in attendance, and thus missed all the Battlestar Galactica stuff. Not so this year! The BSG panel was great, and you could just tell all these people loved working together. There were a lot of BSG cast members in attendance: Michael Hogan (Col. Tigh), Kate Vernon (Ellen Tigh), Mary McDonnell (President Laura Roslin), Michael Trucco (Sam Anders), Alessandro Juliani (Felix Gaeda), Luciana Carro (Kat), Aaron Douglas (Chief Tyrol) and Kandyse McClure (Dualla).

That same camaraderie existed among the members of my other favorite panel -- for Stargate. There were two SG1 panelists (Gary Jones and Colin Cunningham), but I was most excited to see the four Stargate Atlantis cast members: Joe Flanigan (John Sheppard), Paul McGillion (Dr. Carson Beckett), Rachel Luttrell (Teyla Emmagan) and Jason Momoa (Ronon Dex). I'm a big fan of Atlantis and hate that it was canceled. I'm hoping there will be some Atlantis movies in the future like there has been for SG1.

While I attended some other panels, did a little shopping in the dealer rooms (got two new Firefly T-shirts as well as a model of the Serenity and some little Firefly action figures), and attended the Cruxshadows concert, a lot of my time was taken up with getting my photo taken with stars. I went a little crazy with it this year, but my favorites were with the Stargate and BSG cast members. And the one with John Schneider. Yes, he was a great Jonathon Kent on Smallville, but I have liked him since the Dukes of Hazzard days. If I could go back and tell my 12-year-old self that I'd meet "Bo Duke" one day, I wouldn't have believed it.

Here I am with Joe Flanigan and Paul McGillion (pulling a Zoolander pose), who autographed the photo.

And next I'm pictured with Michael Trucco, Kandyse McClure and Mary McDonnell (who I also loved in Dances with Wolves).

And perhaps the coolest thing to happen to me at the conference was when I was in the Walk of Fame room where the stars meet fans and sign autographs. I was going to have my photo taken with Michael Hogan and Kate Vernon from BSG. While I was waiting, I got to talking to one of their assistants. He saw my guest name badge and said my name looked familiar. I was taken aback, but we got to talking about how I'm an author. Then he told Kate. Even though the fans were supposed to stay on the front side of the tables, Kate told me to come around to the back and while we waited for Michael to finish talking to someone else, we talked about my YA novel. Totally surreal moment, and they are both so incredibly nice. Here's the photo the assistant snapped.

Part of the fun of Dragon*Con is just checking out all the costumes. Some people go all out and probably spend a fortune on their costumes.

Dr. Horrible (with Tanya)

Fray (from the Buffyverse)

Some Lycans from the Underworld movies. You can't see all the people dressed in the vampire armor from Underworld Evolution.

And Captain Mal, River Tam and Jayne Cobb from Firefly/Serenity (with me stuck in the middle)

The things I didn't make it to that I regret missing: the parade, a session with Diana Gabaldon (it totally slipped my mind!), the Twilight panel with Peter Facinelli and Justin Chon (though I did have my photo taken with them), the Tom Felton presentation, and some workshops on costuming that looked interesting.