Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I'm Somebody!

by Susan Sey

Remember that scene in The Jerk when Steve Martin finds his name in the phone book for the first time? He's overjoyed. That's him, right there in print. It's official! He's somebody! Yahoo!

I had a moment like that this morning.

You see, I've been working on it for ages but I finally launched my very first website. And now, when you type in I turn up. Officially. That's my name, my face and my book cover right there!

I'm somebody!

Now before anybody asks, I didn't do it myself. I considered it, then realized how very attached I am to my sanity and made the excellent decision to outsource this job to professionals. I'm a big fan of all things locally grown, though, so I didn't go very far when seeking out talented people to put together something that would represent me and my writing in cyberspace.

First, I tapped my friend Noah from church. Like me, he stays home with his daughter (whom my daughters happen to adore.) Also like me, he's doing a little something with all that 'spare time' stay at homes have in such abundance. (Careful, that's a lot of sarcasm there.)

He doesn't write romance novels (though I've recommended it as loads of fun) but instead has chosen to build a little company called AugmentJ that designs and hosts websites. But he doesn't just design websites. No, either his child is better behaved than mine are or he's just smarter than I am because he's also developed his own Content Management System called Fruitful.

Now, like many of you, when I thought about building my own website, I toyed with the idea of doing something in Wordpress. I decided to go with Fruitful instead for a couple of reasons.

First, Fruitful allows me to get into the nuts and bolts of my webpages and update things whenever I feel like it. I don't have to wait for my web designer to do a monthly update for me, but (very big but here) I don't have to be a programmer to figure it all out, either.

I hear that Wordpress is user friendly after a fashion but after a bunch of comparison shopping, Fruitful won out. It struck me as far more intuitive, & that's important to me. I can't horse around figuring out a website because I'm a terribly slow writer. I need to devote all the time I can get to my WIP.

Second advantage of Fruitful? Noah taught me how to use it in person. I came to his house after school one day and our kids had a wild rumpus in his living room while he gave me the run down on updating my site. A software lesson AND entertainment for the kiddoes? I defy you to find a web guy who'll do that for you.

And whenever I have a question about why something works or doesn't work, I know I'm going to get an answer ASAP. Because if Noah doesn't get back to me, I'll see him at church on Sunday. On the other hand, if I fail to send him a check promptly, he'll see me on Sunday, too. It works both ways & I like it that way. I know exactly who I'm paying to do this for me--somebody just like me. A person with a passion for what he does, splitting the difference between pursuing that passion and being at home with the little ones.

It works for me, and I'm thrilled with the results.

The other awesome thing Noah did for me? Pointed me toward the designer who put together my banner, my colors, created my logo, etc. I sat down with this poor woman (the very talented Sarah Hellestrom Hoehn, also right here in Minneapolis) over coffee & said, "I'm rotten at colors, so I'm just going to tell you how I feel about my writing & what I want people to feel when they're reading my books. Can you translate that into color and design?"

She said she could, and she did. Did she ever. I was thrilled and amazed at what she was able to pull out of my unfocused and largely incoherent thoughts on my work. If you're looking for a designer, I'd recommend her without reservation. I'll be happy to share her info privately if anybody wants it.

But there are drawbacks. I'm Noah's first writer client, so we're learning together how Fruitful lends itself to a writer's unique needs. There are a few things that need tweaking. For example, I don't have the capacity to allow comments on my blog right now. That communication will be a one-way street for a while but I'm okay with that. Readers will hopefully want to interact with me at some point in the future, and when the time comes I'll work with Noah to develop something that'll fit the bill.

Until then, I'll make do with Fruitful's awesome ability to create gorgeous e-newsletters, run contests and collect user info in a little database that'll come in right handy when I decide to mail out postcards for my first book signing. :-)

Having a website designed was a big decision. Besides being the biggest writing related expense I've encountered aside from attending RWA's annual conference, a website is probably also the most important link between a new author and her potential audience. I really wanted to get it right, and have been so glad that keeping things close to home worked out.

How about you? Do you have a website? A DIY job, or outsourced? Any lessons learned you'd be willing to share?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dianna Love's Romantic Thrillers

by Cassondra Murray

Dianna Love stops by the lair regularly to comment and say hello, but it’s been two years since she made an official visit. In that time she’s added New York Times Bestselling Author to her resume.

If you spend any time with Dianna, you can’t miss that she stretches every boundary to be her absolute best.

That determination and a whole bunch of talent earned her a coveted Rita award for her first published novel, Worth Every Risk. I was lucky enough to be there that night to see her receive that award. Scroll down a little and you can see Dianna with her Rita statue on the night she won her category.

Like any award-winning novelist, she pulls out all the stops to give readers a fast-paced, page-turning story, combined with powerful characters and unexpected story twists.

But she and Sherrilyn Kenyon are stretching the boundaries of the romantic suspense genre with the down and dirty agents of the BAD Agency—Bureau of American Defense—and their cutting edge stories. In fact, Dianna now refers to the books not as romantic suspense, but as romantic thrillers.

First of all, welcome back Dianna!

Thanks! It’s great to be here again.

I’d like to focus on that shift to what you call romantic thriller. What is that, how is it different from a romantic suspense, and how did you end up going this direction?

I came to writing romantic thrillers because of my love of romantic suspense and thrillers. But there was a time the term “thriller” wasn’t being used even in mainstream.

I think of romantic suspense as an action story where the central plot is a romance and the secondary plot is the suspense about something the hero and heroine are trying to recapture or protect, but the two plot lines are wrapped so tightly together one will not stand without the other.

In a romantic thriller the main plot is also a romance, but the secondary plot has several layers that encompass a larger scope of what is at risk – generally very high stakes and it could affect a larger group of people (a city, an international organization, a world threat, etc).

I'd have to agree that these books are bigger than the ordinary suspense. In fact, there's an edge-of-your-seat quality to these stories that I have not seen elsewhere in romance fiction.

You and Sherrilyn were good friends before you started writing together, right? Will you tell us how the collaboration happened?

Sherri and I met while on the road at conferences. It was the beginning of 2005 when my first book was out. I had a busy travel schedule. Sherri on the other hand was being asked to speak everywhere – and still is, especially with hitting #1 on the New York Times list nine times in just over a year.

Okay that's definitly worth a pause to give a very loud and rowdy WOOHOOO to Sherri for that amazing back to Dianna's story....

We’d both arrive at a conference a day early to spend a quiet day writing and would run into each other at lunch. By the third conference in three weeks, we were watching for each other.

Over the next few years we toured together when she had a hardback out, went to Germany for a reader convention, hid in the mountains at a cabin to write and became very close friends. We approach marketing with very similar views and we did a lot of brainstorming on how to promote books.

One night late – early, actually, since it was 2:00 am – we were just back to some hotel room from a signing and talking about books she had coming up. We hit on the BAD (Bureau of American Defense) agency series and started talking about her next one. I love to brainstorm so I started throwing out ideas and an hour later she said, “Why don’t we do this together?”

We decided to do it and had absolutely no plan other than we had two months to turn it in.

So the BAD agency was already created when you came on board, right? How did the writing partnership change the direction for this series and bring it into the realm of romantic thriller?

When I agreed to collaborate on the BAD Agency series, the first full novel was a fun romantic suspense. I suggested we kick it up to a romantic thriller, which Sherri and our editor went for.

The difference is that in the new books in this series there is a major threat to our national security and this threat could affect the entire world. The villains are the Fratelli de il Sovrano (Italian for Sovereign Brotherhood) with international resources and a new world plan that is unfolding as the series develops.

These are multi-layer plots woven tightly with the romance and they have threads that continue to finger into future stories.

Readers are obviously loving this direction for the series. But what is it that has drawn you to this shift? Is this something that’s happened as an organic part of your growth as a writer?

I think for me it has been both part of my growth and what I’m happiest doing. My nature is to complicate whatever I work on. When I was learning to sew in school I wasn’t happy to sew a simple pattern. I sewed a man’s sport coat. When I painted large murals for companies like Coca-Cola I was happiest when it was a complex piece of artwork with many different parts.

When it comes to writing I always want to create different dimensions within the story to give the characters a large playing field with multiple possibilities. One of my favorite movies is the Italian Job – a “who’s zooming who” story. I like the twists and turns of complex stories.

The BAD Agency series has a lot of those twists and turns. I’ve heard you say that you like puzzles, and your story worlds would absolutely qualify as puzzles in my view—and yet you manage to pull the twisted threads together and have it make perfect sense at the end. It’s a wild ride, but such a satisfying ending. How do you make that happen?

I’m a plotter and Sherri is a pantser (seat-of-the-pants writer). After we brainstorm the story, I start the first chapter because it’s normally a black ops type opening and I really like to write openings. Then I start working through the plot threads and seeing where they will go or how they would be stopped or if there’s another way to go from X to Y.

I do love puzzles and think that’s the base for my thinking in writing. I want to hide a surprise or set up a twist that is not going to turn out like the character expects and hopefully the reader will be surprised. I love to read a story that surprises me. Nothing makes me happier than watching a movie or reading a book and thinking, “Had no idea that was going to happen.”

As to how I manage to keep those threads straight and pulled together, I’ve taught the Break Into Fiction® program that Mary Buckham and I created so many times I have a short check list of what I need to keep an eye out for to stay on track. The problem that happens sometimes in suspense is not so much that the threads don’t tie up as it is that some just get dropped or the character’s motivation falls apart so the reader stops following the thread.

You’ve written three BAD agency novels and a novella with Sherrilyn. By now you’ve probably seen a pattern to the men and women who save the world in this series. Tell us a little about what it takes to be a BAD agent. And among those you’ve been a part of writing, who is your favorite hero, and why?

BAD agents are operatives the other alphabet agencies wouldn’t consider taking on, but those other agencies aren’t expected to send their people into no-win situations with orders to succeed or don’t come home.

Choosing one agent as a favorite would be like picking your favorite child when you have ten. I love different things about each one, but above all I love that the men are honorable no matter how dark their past, and the women have a core of steel beneath their flaws and fears.

Nathan Drake (PHANTOM IN THE NIGHT) had no reason to ever care for another person after what he lost, but he's a wounded soul who cares too deeply.

Carlos Delgado (WHISPERED LIES) may look sexy and whisper sweet nothings with a wicked accent, but he’s as deadly as they come and his loyalty knows no limits. When he was a teen in South America, he held the young woman he loved as she died in his arms then walked away from everything he’d ever known to protect others he cared for.

Hunter (SILENT TRUTH)appears to have it all. But looks are deceiving when you dig beneath the façade and find deep scars. He does everything to the extreme, including love, which means he won’t risk someone being close to his life as a BAD agent or around when he faces off with an assassin.

Speaking of SILENT TRUTH—it’ll be out in just a few weeks—April 23rd. Will you tell us more about Hunter and Abbie and their story?

Hunter Wesley Thornton-Payne…the third. Doesn’t that just sound like a roaring pain-in-the-butt type of guy who’s a legend in his own mind?

Sherri named him a long time ago. I kept watching him as we worked on the series and thought – who would sympathize with a man whose family is one of the wealthiest in the world, who is very attractive and brilliant and knows it, who does not bond with other teammates?

Remember the part about “I like complex puzzles?” We laid his soul bare in the opening chapter and didn’t let up on him until the last page. His depth of character surprised me once we pushed him into some unholy situations.

Abbie was the one woman for him. I love that she comes from a simple background, but one full of secrets that multiply at the worst times. She’s a fighter, loyal, and refuses to let anything stop her from trying to save someone she loves from dying.

Oh, and the central villain in SILENT TRUTH is part of the Fratelli organization, but he’s an unusual assassin who enjoys puzzles as much as I do.

Okay I'm gonna admit it. I've read SILENT TRUTH, and it's the most nail-biting, emotionally poignant story I've seen in years. Having the "OMG what happens next?" factor and that level of powerful romance in one read is unusual. And yes, I have to say that Hunter...well...he's a really, really hot guy.

You can read an excerpt of Hunter and Abbie’s story by clicking on this link: http//

Thanks so much, Dianna, for being our guest here in the Bandit lair!

Thanks for having me here, but you’re not getting away that easily. I’ve got some questions for the Bandits and Buddies. I’ll answer anything else you ask, but I want to know something.

What is it that you enjoy most about a romantic suspense series?

Do you return book after book for the characters alone or is it the setting, the team cohesion or the situations they get into?

Do you like exotic locations? Are there areas you’ve not seen in books that you’d like to read about?

What type of hero is your favorite?

How long have you been reading romantic suspense?

And THANK YOU for being a reader – you allow me and other authors to do what we love most.

Dianna is giving away an awesome prize package. Autographed copies of all three BAD Agency novels, an “I’m In A BAD Mood” t-shirt, and other goodies all tucked inside a monogrammed “I’m In A BAD Mood” tote bag.

Leave an answer to Dianna’s questions to be entered in the drawing. We’ll draw a name on Wednesday.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Delicious Dilemma

posted by Nancy

Lisa Shearin returns to the Lair to share her heroine's current dilemma with us. Those of you who've read Raine Benares' adventures know Raine is involved with two hunky guys, goblin duke Tam and paladin mage Mychael. Those of you who haven't yet made their acquaintance are in for a new treat.

We're going to do something a little different today, but I'll let Lisa explain. Welcome, Lisa! Tell us what you have planned.

My fourth Raine Benares adventure--Bewitched & Betrayed--will hit bookstore shelves on Tuesday, April 27. Here’s a teaser from the book’s back cover: “My name is Raine Benares. I’m a seeker. I find lost things and missing people – usually alive. Finding the specters of six evil sorcerers who escaped the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone of unlimited power, was easy. Stopping them before they unleash Hell of earth just may be the death of me.”

Once again, Raine is up to her pointy elven ears in trouble of the worst kind. But our girl also finds her way into trouble of the steamy kind with Mychael Eiliesor, the elven paladin and commander of the Conclave Guardians, as well as Tamnais Nathrach, goblin duke and former chief mage to the goblin queen.

To give you a taste of Raine’s romantic quandary, I’ve brought along two snippets from Bewitched & Betrayed with Raine and the two the men in her life.
And naturally, I wouldn’t come to visit the Banditas without prizes.

Read the snippets below and make your choice.Who should Raine choose and why (or heck, which guy would you choose and why)? Post the answer in a comment on today’s post and you’ll be entered to win. Two commenters will be selected at random to each receive a Raine Benares Prize Pack: a copy of Bewitched & Betrayed with additional book goodies (postcards and bookmarks from all four of my books, plus a fridge magnet from Bewitched & Betrayed) – all signed and personalized.

So read the snippets and make your choice!

Bewitched & Betrayed snippet featuring Raine and Tam

A Fencing Lesson

Tam was waiting for me. He was wearing sleek, dark fencing clothes with his black hair pulled back in a long goblin battle braid. His strong hands were bare, and a pair of steel-mesh dueling goggles dangled from his long fingers.

Like most goblins, Tam was tall and leanly muscled, and as I’d experienced on more than one occasion, Tam was also lightning quick. His pale gray skin set off what was a goblin’s most distinctive feature—a pair of fangs that weren’t for decorative use only. A goblin wouldn’t hesitate to use them if a fight turned dirty. Tam wouldn’t hesitate to use them if I got within nibbling range.

Tam’s black eyes gleamed in the club’s dim lighting, lighting he wasn’t going to turn up for our lesson. Sarad Nukpana’s goblin eyes were at their best in this kind of light. Either I learned to adapt or I learned to be dead.

Goblin swords were both stabbing and slashing weapons. Goblins used two blades as naturally as breathing, like extensions of their arms. They were taught from an early age. Elf children played with building blocks; goblins learned to spin blades.
Tam stood facing me, his hands by his side, his blades angled toward the floor. He looked relaxed. I knew better. When Tam had swords in his hands, relaxed meant ready.

In our lessons, Tam always made the first move.

Change is good. Dirty is better.

I sauntered toward him like I was just getting into position to go on guard. Then I lunged, my blades dropped to block his, and my heel came down hard on his instep. Tam hissed and I pivoted sharply to the right, intending to pommel strike his ribs and dart the hell out of range.

Darting didn’t happen. Neither did the pommel strike.

Tam’s leather-clad arms pinned my arms—and swords—to my sides. His blades were up and crossed entirely too close to my face for any kind of comfort.

So much for darting and striking.

“Well, shit,” I said mildly. “That could have worked better.”

“My foot thinks it worked quite well.” I heard the pained grimace in his voice. “Nicely done.” Leather creaked as his arms tightened around me, and his voice lowered to a teasing purr. “The rest of me agrees. This is more than pleasant. Now how do you propose to get away from me?”


Vegard was here, so I knew Tam wouldn’t actually try anything, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t play with me like a mouse.

Sarad Nukpana would do the same thing.

Tam was right. He couldn’t let me go.

“You chose the game, darling. I didn’t.” His lips were near the tip of my ear. “Escape from me, and feel free to do whatever you have to.”

Whew! Okay, that's Raine and Tam. Next . . .

Bewitched & Betrayed snippet featuring Raine and Mychael

Plotting & Planning

“What about the guards?” I asked. “If everyone’s supposed to believe we’re in the citadel and then Markus’s men see us, guess what? Cover blown.”

“We won’t be seeing the guards and they won’t see us,” Mychael replied.

“Then what—”

“If you can’t control a situation, you have to know every detail, don’t you?”

“What’s wrong with that?”

Mychael’s eyes twinkled from under the brim of his hat. “I’ll bet you don’t like surprises for your birthday, either.”

“No, I don’t. And what the hell does that have to do with anything?”

He leaned in close with a conspiratorial whisper. “Not all surprises are bad.”

Mychael took my face in his hands and those blue eyes gazed down into mine. There was no question reflected there, no uncertainty, and he sure as hell wasn’t asking my permission. Those eyes told me what he wanted.

He kissed me.

His lips didn’t demand, they simply took. With delicious slowness. His fingers of one hand ran lightly up the curve of my ear, lingering for a breath-catching caress at the tip before sliding down to my throat, leaving a trail of tingle-inducing heat in their wake. By the time his hand slipped around the back of my neck and pressed me to him, my hands were on him, sliding up to his chest and around his neck. My hands didn’t ask my permission, either. Traitorous hands.
Mychael’s kiss turned into a tantalizing nibble, gently pulling my bottom lip between his teeth, sucking, nibbling, teasing.

I opened my eyes and was met with twin pools of deep ocean blue, gleaming with mischief as he released my lips and planted light kisses on my nose and forehead. His lips lingered there, the warmth of his breath and body doing a fine job of banishing the night cold—or at least giving me something better to think about. His lips had released mine, but his arms were wrapped firmly around my waist and didn’t seem to be in a rush to let me go.

“What was that for?” I found myself short of breath.

“Hopefully, a pleasant surprise.”

I looked up at him, a slow smile spreading across my face. “Eh, I’ve had worse.”

Mychael grinned and his fingers found that ticklish place on my ribs and I squealed before I could stop myself. His lips instantly covered my mouth, muffling the sound. He took his sweet time muffling.

“See, not all surprises are bad,” his lips murmured against mine. “And some are more enjoyable than you’ll admit.”

“Was that a distraction to keep me from stabbing Markus?”

“That depends. Did it work?”

“As a distraction, it was first-rate.”

“My lips humbly thank you.”

“As a deterrent . . . sorry, no dice.”

Mychael pressed his lips together. I actually think he was trying not to laugh—at me. I narrowed my eyes and glared at him.

“That sounds like a challenge to me,” he said. “I’ll have to make every effort to do better next time.”

Again, whew!

Okay, everyone, hit the comment link and let us know which of these two smokin' guys you'd choose if you were Raine or which one you'd choose for you--and why. Remember, Lisa is giving away the Raine Benares prize packs described above.

For more about Lisa and her books, visit her website.

For those who want to catch up with Raine from the beginning, I've inserted at right the cover (with link) of her first adventure, Magic Lost, Trouble Found.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


by Suzanne

Remember when you were a kid and your parents would say things to you like, "If your friends jumped off a cliff would you do it too?" (That depends on why my friends are jumping off cliffs), or "Eat all your vegetables, because kids in China are starving." (Would me eating my vegetables actually stop them from starving?) or "Close the door, were you born in a barn? (I don't know, you were the adult in the room, not me--yes I was a sarcastic child and paid dearly for it). Those are the phrases we heard over and over, that made us swear we'd never say those things to our kids when we got around to having them.

Thankfully, I tried not to quote these to my kids. I did however, come up with a few of my own, some of which they say they can't wait to use on my poor grandbabies.

1. "Mom, can you make me a sandwich?"
Me: "Poof, you're a PB&J sandwich."
Them: "Awww, Mom, that's not what I meant."

2. Them, whining: "I'm hungry"
Me: "Hi, Hungry, my name's Mom, glad to meet you."
Them: "Awww, Mom, that's not what I meant."

3. Them, "You make me do chores just cause you're mean."
Me: "My job is to teach you how to be a functional human being when you leave my home. Being mean is a side benefit."
Them: "Awww, Mom."

(Aren't you glad I wasn't YOUR mother?)

Yes, my poor grandbabies will have to deal with all these questions and comments.

When my son was in middle school he did something stupid. Have no idea what it was, just typical teenage stuff to get into trouble, but not too dangerous. When I sat him down the next day to give him a lecture about it, he said, "Yeah, I know" in that slightly insolent way young teens have when they know they've done wrong, but don't really want to admit it. I thought a moment about how to get the point across so that he'd really listen. (That's him with his niece below.)

Me: "Yes, I know you know how stupid this was and I'd rather be cleaning the oven than dealing with your behavior, but see, I'm required to give you this lecture."
Him: "Required? By who?"
Me: "It's listed in the mother's handbook, page 35."
Him: "Mother's handbook? I've never seen it."
Me: "It's an invisible book of LIFE LESSONS, given to new mother's on the day they have their kids. Each stupid thing you do or are thinking of doing is required a certain lecture. Today's lecture is on page 35."
(I think we're up to page 260 by now and in the chapter on finances.)

And then there's my favorite parental comment. "And what have we learned?"

This is for those times when I want to see what they think of their behavior. If it was something good or bad. Did their actions give them the results they were looking for or end in some sort of disaster? Uhm, coming from me, I expect them to realize the decision they'd made probably wasn't a good one and not worth repeating. Their answer is usually prefaced with a deep sigh and a great deal of eye-rolling. (They are my kids after all.)

Unfortunately for my coworkers, the occasional doctor or patient, this comment gets repeated at work, too! Mostly getting laughter as the response.

So what does this have to do with writing?

In a good book, the main characters have to grow and change throughout their journey. They shouldn't be the same at the end of the book as they were at the beginning. In mysteries, they should've increased their deductive and observation skills to solve the mystery. In an adventure tale, the hero should have discovered he has more abilities than he'd ever thought in order to make the journey and save the day. In a romance, the hero AND heroine must change and grow in order to allow love into their world and gain their HEA.

So dear friends, what have we learned? What hero or heroine have you read recently that has learned a great life lesson and achieved their goal? Have you ever had to take a step back and evaluate your own behavior or decision making ability and learn from a certain situation? Got any good parenting lines you'd like to share?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tattoo Booty!!

Karen E. Olson has chosen a random winner from her blog last week! The winner of a copy of The Missing Ink, the first book in her fabulous Tattoo Shop mysteries, is ...


Congratulations, Laurie!! Please send your snail mail address directly to Karen at and she'll ship the book out to you!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to comment and offer all those brilliant drag queen names. We had a blast!!!

Pretty Boys and Rugged Men

by Jo Robertson

In the world of Hollywood there used to be a standard for the leading man in film. Straight nose, high cheekbones, thick hair of whatever color, and sculpted mouth. Think Alan Ladd, who by all accounts was so short (a measly five foot six inches) that he wore lifts and often had to perform on raised platforms to appear taller than many of his leading ladies.

Then the standard for good looking men turned to the rugged, skewed looks, a tad off from perfection. Often the separate features of these men are odd, too large noses, crooked smiles, too angular jaws. But there’s an appeal about them, nevertheless.

Take Nathan Fillion of ABC’s Castle. Now, that man has a nose. Really, it nearly takes over the man’s face! His eyes are droopy at the corners and his lips are rather thin. Yet thrown together as they are, his features are appealing, interesting, captivating. At least to me.

As you may know, my husband, Dr. Big, is a large man – six foot, four inches. But more than height, he has big features. His head is leonine. When we shop for hats we can never find one in a size large enough to fit his head. His hands are huge, easily twice the size of mine (and mine aren’t dainty by any means). There’s nothing perfect about his facial features. And yet, for a man his age, the features all work together to form a rather nice-looking gentleman.
Besides, he has a lovely head of hair which has always been my main weakness in a man.

Consider Eric Bano, Aunty Cindy’s personal favorite. The man has Dumbo ears! I'm sorry, AC, but it's true. Look!

And while no one could reasonably argue against Orlando Bloom's looks, isn’t he just a little too pretty?

Some men, like fine wine, get better with age. George Clooney, anyone?

Richard Armitage, FoAnna’s not-so-secret love is movie star handsome, but he does have a rather sharp nose and thin lips. I suppose that’s why he plays Sir Guy Gibson on Robin Hood so well.

And what about heroines? Too many blonde-haired blue-eyed cuties? Dark-haired, green-eyed vixens? Do we prefer the heroine whose features are untraditionally attractive? Or the classic looks we normally read about in books and see in movies? Cute classical or interesting?

I’ve been wondering about this a lot because the standard set by Hollywood, for example, is realistically impossible. Regular men and women simply don’t look like that!

What about you readers? What do you like in your leading men or women? Pretty boys or rugged men? Sleek attractiveness or next-door-neighbor prettiness? Examples, please.
When you read about heroes who set your hearts thumping, who do you picture?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Chloe Harris's Booty

Chloe Harris, via her alter ego Noelle Henderson, has chosen her winner. A copy of Secrets of Sin goes to . . .


Congratulations, Gigi. Please send your contact information to

Thanks to everyone who stopped by!

Obsession in the Air

by Nancy

Obsession is not just a perfume to me. It's more like a hobby. A lifelong hobby, in fact, though I haven't been actively obsessed by any one thing all this time. I've engaged more in something like serial obsessions. The dh noticed this not long after we were married and commented, "When you get into something, you really get into it, don't you?"

He said this with remarkable good humor, considering that the obsession of the time was Richard III and that it caused him to visit way more battlefields and castles than he cared anything about (which would be next nothing, the level of his caring about such things, especially battlefields). But he bore it with the best of good will, just as he carted home from London the many books I'd purchased as fuel. Pictured at left is the statue of Richard III in Castle Gardens, Leicester. Just finding it was a bit of an adventure, but that's a blog for another day.

Eventually, however, I'd read everything I could find that seemed to add anything new and not support the traditional wicked uncle image. The Richard III Society offered a number of primary source documents for sale, some of which would've been useful for general medieval research though many were outside my price range. I particularly liked Bertram Fields' Royal Blood, which lays out a compelling case for the king's good reputation--as well it should, considering that Fields is a prominent attorney. At that point, the Richard III obsession dropped back to the more normal level of an ongoing interest. However, I do still keep an eye out for any novels not espousing the traditional view. I have a small collection of them.

I also have a collection of Arthuriana, having gone through a similar period of fanaticism about the Arthurian legends. The movie Camelot came out as I hit an idealistic phase. I loved it--the costumes, the ideas like might for right and the highly unrealistic but still inspiring view of chivalry and knightly honor. Regardless of its level of accuracy or lack thereof, it ignited my imagination. I visited Tintagel as a college student and was disappointed, though not entirely surprised, to find that there was no evidence of its having been any sort of warlord's stronghold. When the dh and I went back with the boy (himself in the midst of an Arthurian binge) some years later, though, we learned lightning had caused a big peat fire on the promontory, burning away several layers of soil and exposing--oh, yes!--ruins consistent with a warlord's stronghold of the Arthurian age.

Just as an aside, I think most of us here would agree that Clive Owen made a pretty rockin' King Arthur. Richard Harris, in his day, was a pretty decent one, too. So was Nigel Terry in John Boorman's lavish Excalibur.

The first of these serial obsessions hit when I was in second grade, though I didn't realize what was happening at the time. When I was seven, I discovered Superman and his astounding universe, including the Legion of Super-Heroes. The four-color world totally captivated me and ignited my imagination. I read everything I could get my hands on, and I'm convinced my engagement with comic books fed directly into my love of science fiction and fantasy. I was active in fandom for almost 20 years and did write a fair bit of fan fiction, some of which the dh claims would be book-length if it were in real manuscript format.

One of the earliest stories I remember was one in which Saturn Girl, the telepath, discovered that one Legionnaire was fated to die protecting Earth from invasion, so she stole the election for Leader, kicked out everyone else, and went out to meet the foe alone. However, Lightning Lad (whose power is what you might think from the name) disobeyed orders, went after her, and died protecting her. The Legion vowed to revive him, eventually succeeding, and Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad became the great love affair of the Silver Age Legion of Super-Heroes.

At one time, I could list the code names, real names, planets of origin, powers, and weaknesses of all the Legionnaires AND all their enemies. Really. I happened to think of this when the boy went through his Pokemon phase and could name all the stages of the various dozens of pokemon, the means by which they evolved, their powers at each stage, and which pokemon could effectively battle which others. I know nothing about pokemon, but I could probably still make a fair stab at the trivia for the Legion I loved.

I got older, which I refuse to call growing up, and my interests broadened, but I still love those heroes of my childhood and the ideals they inspired. The comic books have changed, re-doing the characters from Superman on down, including my beloved Legion, and the new versions don't grab me the way the old ones did--maybe because I'm no longer seven years old? I don't totally love the Legion's incarnation on Smallville, but I'm now totally hooked on Smallville itself, as some of you may remember from last summer.

The current obsession, even now winding down to a mild level of interest, is a movie I happened to see on HBO. I'm not going to say which movie it is because, much as I enjoy some parts of it and much as they intrigue me, I think it has serious problems with story and I don't want to diss it. It fits my pattern, though--intense interest that eventually settles into something more casual. I did like this movie enough to buy it.

So what about you? Do you have obsessions with particular subjects--time periods, musicians, books, movies? Do you have longstanding obsessions or are you, too, given to serial obsession? Or do you content yourself with more normal levels of interest?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Today's the Day ...

By Kate

As you already know by now (thanks to Donna’s blog from Tuesday!), today is the official RITA and Golden Heart contest call day.

Somebody out there is going to get THE CALL!!!

If it's you, we want to know! Leave us a comment and we'll celebrate with you!!

But meanwhile, here in the Lair, we Banditas are on edge. Even if we don't have an entry in the contest, we know someone—make that many someones—who do. So you’ll forgive us if our nerves are showing!

Will the phone ever ring??

Forget trying to concentrate on blogging today. As Donna mentioned, most of us are still contest whor--uh, divas! Yes, we all still love to enter contests. And can you blame us? After all, it was just three short years ago that we Banditas first met after we each received the call telling us that our entry had finaled in the prestigious Golden Heart contest. (Really? Only three years ago? Seems like a lifetime!) So yes, contests--especially the RITA and Golden Heart--are near and dear to our hearts. And no, there won’t be much concentrating on important topics today. We’re all just going to sit around giggling and shrieking together. Please join us. Share your news!

Wait! Was that the phone???


No, sorry, that was the cat. Sorry, kitty.

Anyway, do come into the Lair and share your news! Piero, Sebastian and Travis, our cabana boys for the day, will be around to offer you a lovely glass of champagne. We’re toasting to all the good news.

And don’t miss the three-tiered deluxe warm and gooey chocolate fountain. It’s always the best place to drown your sorrows should the need arise. Don’t feel bad. We’ve all been there.

But we prefer to think positive thoughts. :-)

Good luck, everyone!!!

So while we’re all waiting for the phone to ring, here’s a subject I’ve been thinking about lately. I spent the last few days with some author friends and most of the talk centered around big contemporary romance. Is it making a comeback? I hope so! What about you? Love it? Hate it? Why? Why not? Who are your favorites? I’ll start the list with Susan Mallery (can’t wait for her Fool’s Gold series to begin!), Lisa Kleypas (loved Smooth Talking Stranger) and Kristan Higgins (I’ve read Catch of the Day at least three times already). How about you?

Whoa—did I just hear a phone ringing??

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Word of Mouth

by KJ Howe

When I read THE END of a phenomenal book, the first thing I want to do is share my find with friends, family, and like-minded people. From the transformational abilities of self-help books to the powerful escapism of fiction, a good book can change our lives. Word of mouth is one of the fastest ways for a book to hit the bestseller lists (other than being featured on Oprah!). Just think of the success of TWILIGHT or THE CELESTINE PROPHECY. Both books inspired a loyal following and people kept spreading the word.

I recently read THE SEVEN LEVELS OF INTIMACY by Matthew Kelly, an incredible book about our relationships with ourselves and others. It definitely transformed my way of thinking about intimacy in all relationships--and I hope if you give it a read, you will also be changed in a positive way.

What are some of the books you would like to recommend to the Banditas and crew? Have you ever been deeply disappointed by a friend's recommendation? I'd love to hear about your experiences and maybe we'll all get a few great reads out of this post!

Thanks! KJ

The Winning Season...

by Donna MacMeans

Everyone has been a little high strung in the lair this week.

You might recall that a contest, RWA's 2006 Golden Heart contest, brought us all together so many years ago.
Now, one usually doesn't enter the Golden Heart without having had som
e success at smaller regional contests. Consequently you could say that the banditas are a collection of successful contest sluts.

I'm afraid the sluttiness doesn't go away once one becomes published. There's a whole array of regional contests for published authors. While the prize in an unpublished contest is often an editor read - for the published author, it's just another credential to add to their biography (and sometimes a framable certificate or plaque). But the grand prize remains RWA's RITA contest which earns the author, besides bragging rights, a
golden statuette.

So why are we antsy in the lair? Thursday is the day the finalists in the Golden Heart/RITA contest are announced. First the finalists receive a phone call, then the names go up on the contest website and the congratulations begin flying. This year the winners of the Golden Heart and RITA contests will be announced in late July at the RWA convention in Nashville. Of cour
se, we'll announce any bandita finalists here and post their good news on the scroll. For more information on the RWA convention, follow this link:

The nice thing about the Golden Heart/RITA contest is that much like the Academy awards, the contest is judged by peers. For the Golden Heart, scores are collected from five RWA member judges to determine the finalists. A panel of editors determine the winner. For the RITA, scores are collected from five other published author judges to determine the finalists. Then another panel of author judges chose the winner.

But while we wait for Thursday's announcement, I thought I'd explain some of the differences between the big published author contests.

Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Awards - Every year the reviewers at Romantic Times Book reviews magazine nominate various books/authors for a variety of awards. The reviewers choose the winner in each category and announce the winners at their convention (which this
year will be in Columbus, Ohio) in late April. The nice thing about this contest is that there is no entry fee or submission process. If you've published a book in the past year, you are
automatically entered. This year we have three banditas as finalists: Christine Wells/ Wicked Little Games, Anna Campbell/Tempt the Devil and Kate Carlisle/Homicide in Hard Cover. As I'll be at the RT Convention next month, I'll be cheering loudly for my fellow banditas to win. For more information on the RT convention, check out this link:

RomCon - This is the first year for this contest, but the prizes are simply amazing. This is the only contest with a significant financial award for the winner, but it is an expensive contest to enter and, unlike the RT award, one must enter. Like many of the smaller regional contests, the judges are screened readers. The finalists will be announced next month on April 30th. The winners will be announced at the RomCon convention in early July in Denver. For more information, check out this link.

So my question for you is - do contest wins or finals make a difference to you as a reader? Not everyone enters their books into contests due to cost factors. We banditas enjoy the validation that a contest win or final can bring. Are you a contest slut? How about in another venue? Before I started writing I used to enter my paintings in local art shows. I guess once a slut, always a slut (grins). So what do you think?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Starring as me ...

by Anna Sugden

I was watching American Gangster the other night (hubby's choice and surprisingly good) and got to thinking about what it must be like to have a movie made of your life.

Reading the extra booklet that came with the DVD (yes, I'm a geek when it comes to those DVD extras!) I saw that Denzel Washington had actually met Frank Lucas - the gangster of the title - and that Russell Crowe had met the cop who brings Lucas down.

Which got my brain working - what must it be like as an actor to meet the person you're portraying? What must it be like to have someone making a movie of your life ... while you're still alive! I reckon it would be really interesting to see how someone viewed your life and your achievements, as well as what you're like. And, what fun to see someone playing you - especially if you got script approval and casting approval *g*.

Then, I read an interview with my favourite hockey player (for those of you who watched the gold medal hockey game - he's the Team USA player who scored the goal with seconds left to take the game to over-time - that's my boy! *g*) and he was asked who he'd like to play him in the movie of his life. He replied Denzel Washington, because he was a good actor, which made everyone laugh. Then, he said "Yeah, I know he's much taller than me." which brought the house down! (You can see why!)

Anyway, I wondered who I'd like to play me in the movie of my life. The answer that sprang to mind immediately was Audrey Hepburn. She'd be perfect ... if you squint you could see a vague resemblance LOL. Okay, so she's far too gorgeous and elegant and poised, but work with me here *g*.

The other person who would be good would be Julia Roberts - I used to have long hair like that and she used to be quite curvy.

Or perhaps Susan Sarandon. I think she'd be able to do the whole under-stated English thing (southern style *g*).

Or maybe Mariska Hargitay or Stana Katic - they could do the exotic look.

I asked my lovely hubby and he suggested Marisa Tomei (He's loved her since My Cousin Vinny!)

So, who do you think should play you in the movie of your life? Any suggestions about who should play me? What about any of the other Banditas - who could play them?