Saturday, October 31, 2009

Verrrrrrry Scarrrrrry....

by Jeanne Adams


Did I scare you? BWAH-Ha-Ha-HA!!! It's Halloween! Tonight is Trick or Treat! Tomorrow, All Soul's Day...Are you ready?



All of you know, by now that I ADORE Halloween. Almost every year we have an annual Addams Family Halloween party - in hiatus this year because I was on deadline, alas.

*huge, long-standing pout*

However, it is an event like no other. We've had up to 65 people in our house and garden for this affair. One year, early on while it was still just "Jeanne's Annual Halloween Party" (i.e. Pre-DH) I did a scary movie fest.

That was a strange one - not that they all don't have their strange character! - but this one struck me as odd because half the group was in the family room of my then-condo watching the scary movies, devouring popcorn, beer, and cupcakes with the same abandon as the monster on the screen devoured people.

The other half were in my miniscule kitchen talking as loudly as they could so as not to hear the scary noises or gasps of the populace from the TV screen.

Hmmm. I drew a frightening conclusion. Some people are really frightened by scary movies! Imagine that!

Did I mention that I'm REALLY missing the party this year? Can you tell? So I thought we could have a Virtual Halloween Party here.

Let's talk about Scary Movies! And Scary Books, Shaaaaall we?

The scariest movie I ever saw (nightmare producing scare and I was an adult!) was Aliens II. The one on the ship. *shudder* Something about that one just gave me the flat out willies. I literally did have fall out of the bed nightmares after that one. Could'a been the cold medicine too, but jumpin' heebie jeebies, Batman! That one was a doozy.

Second to that one in the "gives Jeanne the collywobbles" category is American Werewolf in London. Now before you go all Hollywood Critique on me and tell me it's a parody, I'll say that yes, I do know that. Doesn't matter. That scene, where the werewolves are dressed as Nazis and bust in the house? Huh-uh, oh no you dinnna!?! I truly did walk out of the theater. Well, run on wobbly legs might be a more writerly description. Ha!

Others that were on the "Sleep Disturbing" list are : Jagged Edge; Body Heat; and Wait Until Dark.

Alien (the first one) didn't get me. The Halloween movies didn't bother me. Neither did any of the Elm Street movies. Frankly if you are boneheaded flat out stupid peabrained enough to get yourself IN to that situation? Damn if you don't deserve to get dead. Snork!! And hey, Jamie Lee Curtis? If you go in the house to get something, come back out and the car doors are locked and the windows fogged?

GET. THE. HECK. OUT. OF. THERE. Yeeesh. Too Stupid to Live. Seriously.

What really seems to get me are not the slasher/gore movies. No, it's the pscyological ones. Hitchcock. The Birds.

I still have an unnatural fear of things that flap.

Gaslight. Are you mad, or are you being "gaslighted?" Grins.

Then there's the books and movies-from-books like The Exorcist and The Omen and Rosemary's Baby. Oh, and all the Anne Rice books.

Ohhhh yeah. Scarwy.

So I knew what scared me. I figured I'd ask some of the Banditas.

For Suz, it's the old school thriller - Rear Window; Midnight Lace; Charade; and the aforementioned Gaslight.

For our own AC, The Talented Mr. Ripley made her shiver, along with the end of the world flick 28 Days.

Nancy says Wait Until Dark had her covering her eyes. She also cited Dead Again and Terminator as among the collywobble films. (Now, with passing time, she's decided Michael Beign made all the Terminator fear worth it.)

Joan, despite her love of blood thirsty Romans, assures me she does NOT watch scary movies. Of course, she went on to list three....Exorcist (the mere discussion of it had her worried); Jurrassic Park (especially the part with the raptors in the kitchen...but you know, she doesn't watch scary movies); and What Lies Beneath. I'm sure she saw this for Harrison Ford, never THINKING it was a scary movie. Right JT? Grins.

Our own Anna says the first Halloween scared her to death, along with The Shining. "Daddy's home!" *shudder!* Anna likes thrillers. Movies like Fatal Attraction, Dressed to Kill, Sleeping with the Enemy, Seven, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and Suspect. Suspect's one of my favorites, but Anna says Notorious is one of the best.

Tawny too refuses to see the scary ones, but says her kids think the REAL scary movies are: Dead Alive, Sixth Sense, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Quarantine, The Grudge and the Evil Dead.

So what about you? What's YOUR scary movie?

Any of them give you nightmares?

Do you get more frightened by the psychological stuff - Jagged Edge, Mr. Ripley, Gaslight, and so on - or the blood guts and gore, like Saw, and Halloween and Elm Street?

What about books?

Lisa Gardner's Say Goodbye had me seeing spiders everywhere. *shiver!!* and I certainly wouldn't want to meet any of Linda Howard, Karen Rose Smith or Lisa Jackson's villains in MY town!

Last but not least...I always buy at least three new Halloween books for my children each year. This year, the best is:

Tell Me Another Scary Story by Carl Reiner
Now....last but not least, for all my Pagan Pals...

Blessed Be and HAPPY SAMHAIN!!!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Tricks and Costumes

by Jo Robertson

Halloween isn’t really an official “holiday,” but you wouldn’t know that by the antics of high school and elementary students during the week of the big event. They come to school dressed in all kinds of getups and engage in all sorts of antics as they prepare for the Big Day.

I always got a kick out of my seniors getting in the spirit. Since they were high on some kind of pre-Halloween candy anyway, I figured I’d try to turn the holiday into a learning lesson.

Orson Welles’ classic radio broadcast of HG Wells' “War of the Worlds” went over like a lead balloon.

Tron-Gen Kids don't believe that people actually committed suicide or took to the hills with their cars loaded with emergenc
y supplies because they believed aliens from another world had landed on earth. I mean, listen to those special effects sounds. Pretty hokey compared to what today’s whiz masters can produce.

I tried using Alfred Hitchcock’s film “The Birds” based on a Daphne du Maurier short story as a writing springboard. The movie terrified me as a college student. Probably because someone let loose a frightened bird into the dome-ceilinged old theater and scared us all nearly to death. Talk about crying "fire" in a crowded room! I passed birds very gingerly for a long time after that.

What worked fairly well happened during the years I taught drama in addition to English and had a stand-alone classroom that literally had no windows. I could close the doors and create utter darkness. Mawhahaha, so conducive to Halloween antics!

I held a flashlight under my chin to give my face an eerie cast in the pitch black room. Then I read Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” all the while fingering several squishy, wet, seeping items on a covered plate on the desk in front of me.

At the end, with the narrator’s words, “'Tis the beating of his hideous heart!” I flung off the cover and lifted several pounds of raw liver into the air.

Oh yeah, that should’ve gotten me fired.

But my favorite part of Halloween is the costumes!

One of the most interesting costumes I’ve seen was when my daughter and her husband dressed as golf balls (right). How clever!

Children are cute no matter what costumes their parents put them in.

Power Rangers Sydney and Max rule! They jumped off a balcony and pretended they died!

One year, Annie was a butterfly and Max was Ash from Pokemon. Tweenie Corinna decided rhinestone cowgirls are fun. Or maybe she's Brittany Spears!

Cutest cheerleader ever!

Of course, Darth Vader (Jake) is popular any time.

This year's most popular Halloween costumes, according to those in the know, are dead celebrities, kinda macabre, but I'll bet we'll see a lot of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett costumes.

The spike (pun intended) in interest in vampires with Twilight, True Blood, and The Vampire Diaries should give us a lot of child and adult vampire costumes this year.

It's always so much fun to wear those pointy incisors, you know!

What about you? What's the most interesting or favorite costume you've ever worn? Or favorite Halloween trick or experience?

A $15 Border's gift certificate goes to the person with the most original sounding costume, scariest or funniest Halloween experience, or best Halloween trick.

Mwahhhhhhhaaaaaa, and let the games begin!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lucky Winners

Thanks to Berta Platas, we have three books to give away to commenters on her blog, Life, Love, and the Lottery.

One copy of Lucky Chica goes to Eilis Flynn, and one copy goes to Joan Kayse!

The lone copy of Berta's rare debut book, now out of print, Miami Heat, goes to p226!

Please email Nancy via the link on the blog page and put "Berta's winner" in the subject line.

Congratulations to the winners and thanks to everyone who stopped by.

Mystic Winners

We have booty to give away! The winners of one copy (each) of Patricia Rice's Mystic Warrior goes to Blodeuedd and Ms. Hellion!

Please email Patricia directly:

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

Cleaning up the Confetti!

Wow, what an incredible day in the lair! I've been sweeping up confetti and streamers all day. But I've managed to tear myself away to draw the winners.

And guess what - clearly I drank too much because instead of three winners, there seem to be FOUR WINNERS!!!! Yes, for over 200 comments, I threw in another copy of CAPTIVE OF SIN!

So the lucky wedding guests are:

Eva S




Congratulations to all of you! Please email me on with your snail mail details and I'll get your books off to you.

Seriously, I couldn't have asked for a better launch party. Thank you to everyone who commented! There's one seriously touched writer down in Oz!

Top Three Signs Your Manuscript May Be Possessed/Undead/A Zombie/In Terrible Trouble:

by Susan Sey

1) Your plot bursts into flame when touched by daylight.

Not good. Your characters should be taking your plot out to play at least once every couple of chapters. It should NOT be hanging upside down in the cellar all day while the hero and heroine exchange witty quips, drink coffee and compliment each other's shoes.

2) Your villain is far and away the most sympathetic character in the book.

This is especially troubling if your villain is a vain, selfish predator who lures underaged girls into (ahem) inappropriate activities. (If you made him a hottie, though, you had to know you were asking for it. Where's your CP? Kindly request a forehead slap and an "oh, honey, no.")

3) Your best idea for revisions involves a wooden stake, a crucifix and a spritz of holy water.

You thought about shooting it with a silver bullet, too, but oh, that's for werewolves. Still, shooting something is appealing. Understandably so. But consider the mess. 400 pages of confetti. And who's in charge of vacuuming? Exactly. Don't make more work for yourself--there's plenty on your plate already from the looks of this zombie manuscript of yours.

So, what to do?

1) Inform the family that, as of this moment, they are on their own in terms of laundry, food, housekeeping and transportation. The little ones will cry ("But mommy I can't reach the washing machine!") but wah, wah, wah. This is war.

2) List all the character traits that make your villain really fascinating and three-dimensional. Now give them to your hero. Evidently you forgot to give him any redeeming qualities of his own, & your villain will need to share. Consider doing the same thing over in the Motivation department. Can't hurt.

3) More sex. (For your characters, not you. You don't have time to fool around. Nose to the grindstone, you.) Why more sex? Because if your plot blows and your villain's outcharming your hero, your readers deserve something. They could probably use a distraction at the very least. Throw them a (heh) bone.

So, any advice for raising a manuscript from the dead? What's your favorite jump-start? Any Dr. Frankensteins out there willing to share? And be honest--can really great sex redeem an otherwise ho-hum book?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


by Suzanne Welsh

We love to visit with repeat our favorite return guests, so please pull up a chair, pillow or cabana boy and get comfortable as we welcome NYT bestselling author and my dear friend, Lorraine Heath back in the Lair to discuss her newest release, MIDNIGHT PLEASURES WITH A SCOUNDREL, which just recieved 4 stars from Romantic Times magazine!

Suz: MIDNIGHT PLEASURES WITH A SCOUNDREL is the fourth in your Scoundrels of St. James series. While each is a stand alone book, each one has built upon the first and gives us a glimpse into the lives of Feagan's kids. In this story we get to see the life of James Swindler, the famed detective of Scotland Yard. (And one of my favorites.) Can you tell us about James and what he brings to the book that's different from his brothers and sister?

Lorraine: While Luke, Jack, and Frannie were favorites of Feagan's and spent a good deal of their youth under his care, James was a little bit older when he was brought into the fold and he skirted the edges of Feagan's world, never really feeling as though he belonged. He never embraced Feagan as the father figure that the others did because he had quite a strong father figure in his childhood, who we catch glimpses of during the telling of his tale. He considered leaving Feagan's den of thieves, but he'd fallen instantly in love with Frannie and couldn't bear the thought of never being in her company. Of course, as readers learned in Surrender to the Devil, Frannie was not his destined love.

Here is an introduction to Swindler and how he came to be part of Feagan's brood:

From the Journal of James Swindler
A darkness hovers inside me. It was born the day I watched my father hanged. A public hanging, with a festive air in the streets, as though I alone understood the loss, as though the object stolen was worth destroying both his life and mine.
I had been born a mere eight years earlier, and with my arrival had come my mother's parting from this world. So it was that with my father's death, I became an orphan with nowhere to go and no one to take me in.

Within the jubilant crowd of curious onlookers were two lads who recognized my plight-the tears streaming down my dirty face while others jeered and laughed no doubt telling my story. My father had told me to be strong. He'd even winked at me before they placed the black hood over his head. As though his standing on the gallows were a prank, a bit of good fun, something we would laugh about later.
But it wasn't a prank, and if my father is laughing now, it is only the devil who hears.

I was not strong that day. But I have shown strength ever since.

The lads comforted me as boys are wont to do: with a slug on the arm and "stiff upper lip, mate." They invited me to tag along with them. Jack was the older, his swagger one of confidence. Luke was wide-eyed, and I suspected it was the first hanging he'd ever witnessed. As we made our way through the teeming throng, their nimble fingers pilfered many a coin purse and handkerchief.

When darkness descended, they led me through the warren of the rookeries to the door of a kidsman who went by the name of Feagan. He had little use for the likes of me until he'd gathered the precious booty from his workers. Children all. Only one girl among them. A girl with vibrant red hair and gentle green eyes. Her name was Frannie. Once I realized that Jack and Luke had brought me to a den of thievery, I lost all enthusiasm to stay. I had no desire to belong to a place that was certain to lead me straight to the gallows. But I had a stronger desire not to lose sight of the young girl. So I remained.

I became very skilled at ferreting out information, helping to set up swindles. I wasn't as talented when it came to thievery. I was caught on more than one occasion and took my punishment as my father had taught me-with stoicism and a wink.
As a result, I became far too familiar with the fact that the legal system was not fair, and often innocence was the cost. I began to pay close attention when justice was meted out. Why was one boy given ten lashes for snitching a silk handkerchief while another was transported to a prison colony in New Zealand? How was evidence obtained? How did one determine guilt? More importantly, how did one prove innocence?

In time I began to work secretly for the Metropolitan Police. I did not fear the shadows or the darker side of London. Even when I worked openly for Scotland Yard, I traveled where others had no desire to tread.

I drew comfort in knowing I never arrested an innocent. Depending on the severity of the crime, I often sent the culprit on his way with a mere slap on the wrist and a warning that I was watching, always watching. Of what importance is a stolen bit of silk frippery when a man might have lost his life in the street? I was far more concerned with-and fascinated by-the grisly crimes.

They appealed to the darkness hovering inside me, and so it was that they garnered my ardent attention . . .

And eventually led me to her.

Suz: Mmmm...I love a hero who has his own sense of honor and justice! (See why he's my favorite?) What kind of heroine did you choose for Swindler? Why?

Lorraine: Ah, you give me far too much credit. I don't choose the characters; they choose me. For Swindler, I simply saw a particular scene (which readers will probably identify when they read it) and knew that the woman reflected in it belonged to Swindler. She worked for him because her strength was not always readily apparent, but more because neither was her goodness. She was complicated and it took someone with Swindler's skills at deduction and mystery-solving to figure her out.

Suz: Swindler and Eleanor both know the other isn't being honest with them, yet without confronting each other on this fact, they still manage to fall in love with the other. Why do you think this worked for them?

Lorraine: Because their hearts were honest with each other. And while each one was deceiving the other in order to gain something, or to further a goal, what they saw in the other person was a soul mate, a kindred spirit. What I loved about this story was the challenge it presented to me as a writer to show that the deceptions were only on the surface while the attraction was true and deep. It couldn't be ignored, even as each character fought it, knowing that it would in all likelihood lead to his or her downfall.

Suz: In MIDNIGHT PLEASURES James takes the time to show Eleanor the sites of Victorian London. Which was your favorite part of his courtship?

Lorraine: I enjoyed all of his courtship, although my favorite moment wasn't exactly courtship. It was when he was standing outside in the streets, watching as she brushed her hair in the window. Did she know he was there? Did her seduction begin at that moment? I think perhaps it did. Although I also enjoyed the balloon ascent. Not that I would ever travel through the air in a wicker basket.

Suz: I loved both those scenes, too! There is one member of Feagan's kids who hasn't had his story yet, William Graves. Will there be one for him, or is MIDNIGHT PLEASURES the last of the Scoundrel of St. James series?

Lorraine: Unfortunately, William Graves is still a bit of a mystery so when I pitched his story to my editor, it wasn't very compelling and another group of characters snatched her attention so I'm writing their stories now. However, because the new trilogy is set in the same time period, William Graves will continue to make the occasional appearance (as will the other scoundrels) as I continue to work out his true story. I know that it gets frustrating for readers when a character is left behind, but it's very difficult to write a story for a character when I don't know what that character's story is. James Swindler was much more complicated than I'd imagined but I always knew the most defining moment of his life was when his father was hanged. I'm not yet sure what defined William Graves, although I have begun seeing snatches of his story so I'm hopeful that it won't be too far in the future.

Suz: What is next for your historicals?

Lorraine: I am writing the stories of three brothers, and I'll leave it at that for now until I get book 1 finished, except to say that it is another Victorian set series. Because the brothers' widowed mother was married twice and provided each husband with an heir, the oldest brother is an impoverished earl, the middle brother, as the second son to her first husband, has no title but is a soldier returning from the Crimean War, and the youngest brother is an immensely powerful and wealthy duke. So the hierarchy in the family is slightly skewed, which creates undercurrents for devotion and resentment. It's a very complicated but intriguing-at least to me-family dynamic. They are extremely competitive and their playing field is the boudoir, where title, wealth, and position have little influence. They are judged solely on their ability to pleasure the ladies, and each has the goal of gaining a reputation as London's greatest lover. Okay, guess I didn't leave it at that, did I?

The first 2 books, presently untitled, will be released in October/November 2010.

Also an anthology that I contributed to in 2006, My Heroes Will Always Be Cowboys, was originally released in trade, but will be released in mass market paperback in February. My contribution, "The Reluctant Hero," was nominated for a RITA so I'm thrilled the story will be available again.

Suz: A competition in the budoir? Now that's my kind of competition! Can't wait to read about these three brothers. As our readers know, you also write under the pseudonym Rachel Hawthorne. What's going on in your YA world right now?

Lorraine: The 4th Dark Guardian novel-SHADOW OF THE MOON-will be released March 23, 2010. The heroine, Hayden, is new to readers. Because of her ability to experience other Shifters' emotions, she's run away to a winter resort populated only with humans, but the elders send Daniel, who was introduced in FULL MOON, to find her and bring her home because her full moon is approaching and she can't face it alone. Daniel is new to her pack, and no one knows much about him. He confuses her because she can't feel his emotions-and for the first time in her life, as she begins falling in love with him, she wants to know what someone else is feeling. But as their lives are threatened by an ancient enemy, she will begin to suspect that Daniel isn't all that he seems. Unlike the others, this story takes place during the winter so it provides a little different setting and it also brings more of the Dark Guardian history to the forefront. While books 1-3 dealt with the Shifters battling the worst of mankind, the Dark Guardians have always been in existence to protect against ancient paranormal enemies. In this story, we get a glimpse of one.

It's been interesting to see how much email I'm receiving from adult readers who are really enjoying the series. It's definitely targeted for an older teen and is a bit sensual (although how can it not be when Shifters can't transform while wearing clothes ) but it appeals to adult readers as well, which has been very satisfying to realize. For more on the Dark Guardians, readers can visit

Suz, (with a wink and knowing smile): Any other news on the Lorraine Heath front?

Lorraine: I'm celebrating the fact the Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel is my 25th novel-not counting any anthologies or YA novels. To celebrate that achievement here with the Romance Bandits, I'm giving away a $25 gift certificate to amazon, Borders, or B&N-winners' choice-to one of today's lucky blog posters. And for a chance to win another gift certificate, enter the contest at my website It closes Oct. 31, with the drawing held Nov. 1.

Suz: CONGRATULATIONS on this mile stone! We're always happy to have you here and enjoy celebrating your good news.

So, dear readers and friends, Lorraine and I want to know, of all the stories you've ever read by any author, which character are you still waiting--hoping--the author will one day write a story about?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Captivating Launch!

by Anna Campbell



What? You didn't know?

Today is the day CAPTIVE OF SIN is released.

Hmm, that sentence looks rather odd. Now he's released, can he still be a captive?

Aaaaarrrggghhh! It's all too much to think about!

When we've got a...WEDDING to plan!

More about that to come. Hmm, I must be excited. I seem to be restricted to one-sentence paragraphs! Always a sign of rising agitation in a writer.

First, here's the blurb for CAPTIVE OF SIN:

He pledged his honor to keep her safe . . .

Returning home to Cornwall after unspeakable tragedy, Sir Gideon Trevithick comes upon a defiant beauty in danger, and vows to protect her whatever the cost. He’s dismayed to discover that she’s none other than Lady Charis Weston, England’s wealthiest heiress—and that the only way to save her from the violent stepbrothers determined to steal her fortune is to wed her himself! Now Gideon must hide the dark secrets of his life from the bride he desires more with every heartbeat.
She promised to show him how to love—and desire--again . . .

Charis has heard all about Gideon, the dangerously handsome hero with the mysterious past. She’s grateful for his help, but utterly unwilling to endure a marriage of convenience—especially to a man whose touch leaves her breathless. Desperate to drive him mad with passion, she would do anything to make Gideon lose control—and fall captive to irresistible, undeniable sin.

Here's a link to an excerpt:

There's already been a couple of great reviews. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY said: "Luscious love scenes. Readers will cheer for these lovable and well-crafted characters." ROMANTIC TIMES gave CAPTIVE OF SIN a Top Pick and a 4.5 star rating. They also gave Gideon a K.I.S.S. (Knight in Shining Silver) Award. Their wonderful review included these lovely words: "Campbell holds readers captive with her highly intense, emotional, sizzling and dark romances... a romantic, deep-sigh tale."

So I thought, how best to celebrate this momentous occasion in Gideon and Charis's (not to mention Anna Campbell's) life.

As you'll gather, this is my first marriage of convenience story. I suspect it won't be my last. That's just such a fun theme to play with.

Gideon and Charis elope to Jersey in the Channel Isles where she's legally able to marry without the permission of her guardians even though she's under 21. Prior to the Marriage Act of 1822, the Channel Islands operated as a de facto Gretna Green for people in the south of England. You could marry there without the restrictions that applied on the mainland.
Actually this part of the research was really fun - although quite hard to do. In the end, I had to write to a library in Jersey and get them to help me with details like where the marriages took place and whether there was a residency requirement before the ceremony. The answer was that the marriages, like Charis's and Gideon's, usually took place in the inns and hotels that did a roaring business out of the runaway couples and you could make your vows the moment you set foot on the island. So eternal thanks to the Library of the Société Jersiaise in St. Helier.

Speaking of things that are fun, I had a great time finding pictures for this blog. If you google, weddings, you get the most amazing selection of drool-worthy images.

I've now decided I want to get married in Barbados.

Um, or Costa Rica.

Or Fiji.

Or why not go for a classic like a castle in the Scottish Highlands? That picture really did make my heart beat faster with excitement. Although I supsect the weather in Barbados, Costa Rica and Fiji might be a bit more reliable!

Anyway, back to Gideon and Charis. After all, this is their day!

Of course, this brief ceremony in an inn parlor isn't any girl's dream wedding. Charis is wearing shabby borrowed clothing and she knows her groom doesn't love her.

Hmm, could she be wrong, my friends?

Nonetheless, I feel Charis and Gideon deserve something a little more spectacular. So I've lined up the cabana boys. Sven has given up massaging and has promised to be an usher. The Banditas will make wonderful bridesmaids. We have tubs of margaritas out the back ready to go. I feel perhaps I should step in as mother of the bride!

All is set for a fairytale wedding.

Um, except where? How? What fabulous celebration shall we throw to celebrate the joining of Lady Charis Weston and the very gorgeous Sir Gideon Trevithick, national hero and baronet?

Well, Banditas and Buddies, that's up to you!

Tell me about the wedding you'd put together for Charis and Gideon. My favorite three answers win signed copies of CAPTIVE OF SIN! Good luck, my wonderful wedding planners! May the best cake win!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Life, Love, and the Lottery

Today we have a guest who’s familiar and yet not. Berta Platas, better known in the Lair as half of Gillian Summers, makes her first solo appearance today. We’ll chat about writing and life and her St. Martins release, Lucky Chica, which is about life, love, and winning the lottery. Welcome, Berta!

Thanks for inviting me! I love you guys. Can’t wait to see who gets the rooster this time.

As you know, we love call stories. We’ve had Gillian’s. I think. What’s Berta’s?

I had written a thriller set in Miami, thinking to submit it to Kensington for their multicultural line after talking to Kate Duffy at a conference. She said that they planned to start a Latina fiction line, and it would probably be just like Arabesque, their popular African-American books. So I wrote 90,000 words. Then Kate got back to me – they’d finalized the plans for the line. It would be 50,000 words, because they planned to publish them English/Spanish, back to back. I was stuck with this monster (to me!) book. I was disheartened, to say the least.

Then Nancy Knight, one of the founders of Georgia Romance Writers and a good friend of mine told me to bring the project to our March Workshop and she’d do surgery on it. That was a rare offer – Nancy never reads work outside of judging contests, and I jumped at the chance. In March she took a red pen to my manuscript, slashing out all of the mystery and thrills, and what I had left was a pamphlet – and the basis for a strong love story. I edited, added scenes, and sent it off in August of 1998. Three days after I sent it Fed Ex to Kensington I got a call from the editor with an offer! I was at work, front desk at a small city hall, and everyone was out to lunch. Neither my family or husband answered their phones. This was way before everyone was in constant contact with cell phones, so I ran up and down the halls, yahooing, looking for someone to tell. I ended up telling a mildly shocked paramedic at the fire station next door, and a totally disinterested prostitute who was washing police cars as “community service,” still wearing her working clothes from the night before, when she was arrested. Later, I got a more gratifying response from my family!

How cool. A paramedic and a prostitute--I think that combination may be a "first" for the Lair! You have an unusual background that contributed to your writing for Encanto. Tell us a bit about it.

I was born in Cuba and came to the U.S. with my family in 1961. Yes, that makes me older than dirt. My first book was actually a Regency. I adore historicals, but I wrote it before I joined GRW and had no clue about how to format a manuscript or who to send it to. I did pretty well to get the rejection I got! I should have gotten a Potter-style Howler. By the time I joined GRW and learned everything I was doing wrong, multicultural fiction was getting a lot of attention, so I started writing the thriller that would become Miami Heat, my first published book. Writing a contemporary about a construction company’s female Cuban-American owner was fun. It’s strongly flavored by sights and sounds I experienced in Miami, for which my family has never forgiven me. They bring it up at every family event. With love.

I’ve lived a varied life, and have tons to draw from for stories. For instance, during my college years I would help my father research his dissertation between classes, then go to my work study job in the Foreign Language Department, where the department head (a diva in purple named Dr. Kuntz) would send me back to the library to research her latest book. The research librarians must have thought I had an impossible work load. In the morning, I’d ask for books about Spanish poets of the Golden Age, in the afternoon, it was 14th century Jewish philosophers in France.

And there’s science fiction and fantasy fandom, which I’ve been involved in since my high school years. That’s enough material for a hundred books.

Who are the hero and heroine of Lucky Chica, and what’s their problem?

Lucky Chica is the story of Rosie Caballero, an independent girl who lives and works not far from my old job in Chamblee, Georgia. She’s got a serious crush on movie star Brad Merritt, and she buys a lottery ticket once a week. Just one ticket, at the same place, every week. She gets to meet Brad when her weekly ticket hits the big one, $650 million dollars, and she lives her dream of traveling and spending lots of money. Brad thinks she’s different, and remembers her when they meet again. Unfortunately, the tabloids come between them, and Rosie discovers that a long distance relationship is even harder to maintain when your boyfriend is reportedly getting serious with his costar. Then Rosie and her grandmother and cousin (the only family she has) discover that they’ve been scammed, and have lost everything.

Can we have a peek in side the book?

Sure! This is a scene where Rosie accompanies her crazy cousin Cheeto (nicknamed thusly because of his favorite snack food) to look at houses. She’s sharing her winnings with Cheeto and their grandmother, who they call Abuela, which means Grandmother in Spanish:

“What would you do with this much room?” She craned her head back, looking up at a vaulted ceiling that had to be two stories tall. “Normal furniture would look puny in here.”

No way she’d buy one of these monsters, especially the ones that had just enough grass around each house that it could be mown with a weed eater. Maybe the houses were so close together so that their owners could impress each other with their cars and stuff.

Everyone around here was crazy about golf, too, and she didn’t get it. Hitting a ball with a stick was best done with something meatier, like a baseball bat. Rosie added Braves skybox seats and season tickets to her want list. Heck, she could have season tickets to every major league team. That would make her popular with the guys.

“Why would anyone need a wine room on each floor?” Her voice echoed against the tall ceilings of the sixth house they’d seen.

“Some people really love their wine.”

“Right.” She’d ask Dr. Sloane later. Rosie stared at the anatomically correct cherubs painted on the ceiling. Dave the real estate agent had skipped on to the next room, talking as if they were right behind him. He treated Cheeto and Rosie as if they were his own kids, left over from when he used to be a doorman at the hotel where Abuela worked.

“If you have to have lots of wine bottles on each floor of your house, you have a problem,” Rosie said.

“I can see the wine rooms,” Cheeto answered. “But a remote control for your sock drawer? A dry-cleaning rack? That I don’t understand.”

“Okay, now you’re talking heaven,” Rosie said. “I wanted to live in that closet..”

Dave the real estate agent was starting to look a little worn around the edges. “It’s a good party house.”

“That it is.” Cheeto had discovered the cupids and was craning his head to get a closer view.

“Eight thousand square feet?” Rosie “It’s warehouse huge, and the outside looks like a public library.”

“But in here it’s all shiny.”

He was right. Inside, the place gleamed. Every surface was either black and white polished marble, or gilded.

Cheeto’s mouth hung open as he walked into the next room.

“A ballroom? For what, a big screen TV and stadium seating?” Rosie wished she’d brought sunglasses. It was sunny outside and glare from the the pool and tennis court tour had given her a headache.

“I might want to throw a party.” Cheeto floated through the room, entranced. “I’m picturing one now.”

“The front gate has dual control,” Dave said, sensing a deal. “Excellent for parties, when you have security at the front gate and the valet parking staff needs access.”

It was the mermaid in the basement that clinched it. The basement held a home theater, with a stage and raked floor, a hot tub room and spa, and a huge indoor swimming pool, made to look like a stone grotto. They walked through the poolside collonade.

Rosie could hear water gently splashing. Sort of pleasant, until she turned the corner and saw the source of the water.

A life-sized stone mermaid of voluptuous proportions was frozen in mid-writhe at one end of the pool, her hands holding out Pamela Anderson-sized breasts from which twin streams of water arced and tinkled into the pool.

Rosie finally found her voice. “The lactating fish chick has got to go.”

“I understand,” Dave said, although he looked disappointed. Having a beautiful longhaired girl holding her breasts up for a man’s bathing pleasure was probably high in the pantheon of male wet dream fantasies.

“Maybe you can sell her,” she said. She hoped that she sounded sympathetic and not grossed out.

“Over my dead body.” Cheeto seemed fascinated. “Lactating fish chick stays. Draw up the papers, Dave. This house is so mine.”

Dave grinned and looked around for a place to put down his folder.

Cheeto flipped open his cell phone and dialed. “Rock walls with orchids growing out of it,” he said into it. “And little tiny mosaics like in Roman days, and a naked mermaid at the head of the pool. She is so awesome. Reminds me of you.”

She didn’t know who he was talking to, but she knew one thing. If a photo got out, the tabloids would love the mermaid, too.

No one in the Lair knows (or knew until now, rather) you and I actually met when a friend referred me to you for advice about clothing my historical characters. You’ve competed (internationally) as a costumer. What’s that like?

So. Much. Fun. Geek fun, that is, for the period-clothing-obsessed. Imagine a hotel where the elevator dilemma is not how slow they are, but how many crinolines and towering headgear fit in at one time. (For your info – four 18th century French court panniers, carefully parked, or three squished mid 1860’s hoopskirts.) There are contests where the entries are backed by carefully researched and footnoted papers. Every button and seam, color and thread choice is supported in the paper, and the judges come to your room to root through the costume, turning it inside out and scrutinizing the seams and cut. At night, the second part of the contest is where you wear it (or your model wears it) in a show.

Besides the contests, everyone packs multiple changes of clothing to wear in the halls and to your events. You wear your 1890’s bathing costumes to the hot tub, and it’s not unusual to see ladies at breakfast in nightgowns, wrappers, and lace caps. Showoffs. There’s plenty of opportunity to wear tea gowns, ball gowns with fancy dance slippers and walking ensembles. My friends and I entered a group competition and won our division as well as best in show! It was thrilling. We wore Regency garb, and I made everything, from my slippers to the lace cap I wore under my bonnet. A blue print gown, corded stays, a petticoat and a dark red woolen Spencer. I researched the print pattern on the gown, made the stays from an original pattern which I had to resize beyond belief, and even made the little white buttons on the gown, since the type of threaded white button I needed no longer exists. A lot of work for an evening of fun. I learned a lot from my costuming obsession, but there are only so many hours in the day. These days I prefer to write. Except for that Gibson girl blouse and fitted jacket that I’m making for a steampunk outfit. Oh, and the 16th century Venetian gown that I’m planning for Ren faires in the spring. Hmm… don’t seem to have shed that obsession.

What’s next for you, individually and in your shared alter-ego?

Berta is editing another romantic comedy, this one about a woman who stumbles into running her best friends tarot-reading shop and becomes the (fake) psychic to the stars, although she keeps arguing that tarot cards have nothing to do with psychics.

I’m also writing a paranormal that has no title, although I call it The Werewolf’s Secret Baby. My critique group calls it Booty Call of the Wild. Don’t tell my agent. I’ll be mortified if it ends up on the book shelves with that title.

Gillian is working on book five of the Faire Folk Series. We’re several chapters into it and hope to have a first draft by the end of November before the holiday craziness sets in.

For more about Berta, check out her website.

Berta's giving away two copies of Lucky Chica as well as a copy of her first book, the now-rare Miami Heat, which contains both the English and Spanish versions of the book.

So tell us: What unusual detail in your background would you draw on if you were creating a character? If you were to have a costume from any era, which era would you choose, and why? Do you ever play the lottery? Have you ever won?