Friday, April 30, 2010

Margo's Winner!

Thanks, everyone, for a great day in the lair on Thursday! Margo has chosen her winner and it's:


Eva, you've won your choice of either WILD or TAKEN BY THE LAIRD. Congratulations! Please email Margo on margomaguire @ (no spaces) with your snail mail details and she'll get your book off to you!

Deep Fried and Delicious

by Jo Robertson

Okay, here’s the thing. I just lost ten pounds on Weight Watchers, and I’m feeling a tad smug and a bit self-righteous.

Almost wanna do the Nanna, Nanna Dance.

So I've been thinking of healthy foods even as I crave all kinds of sweets and fried goodies.

Last weekend the city of Stockton, California, held its annual Asparagus Festival. Since I live in the luscious San Joaquin Valley with its rich agricultural bounties, we have a lot of festivals: the Strawberry Festival (a favorite of mine), the Garlic Festival (I kid you not), and the Asparagus Festival among them.

I watched the news about the Asparagus Festival on television, learned it was touted by Sunset Magazine as the best festival ever.

Jeopardy even had a question about it:

"Stockton, California, doesn't have a festival for Britney Spears, but it does for one of these green spears." Would you have guessed correctly?

The TV segment showed thousands of volunteers dipping this beautiful, lovely asparagus into a batter and then deep frying it. Now I love asparagus. Cold or hot, it’s a delicious and healthy vegetable.

But deep-fried? OMG! I admit it’s probably very tasty, but why take a lovely, good-for-you veggie and make it unhealthy?

Now I can see deep-fried Twinkies. They’re unhealthy from the get go, so why not? But veggies deep-fried.

That’s just plain evil.

While surfing the Net I found other deep fried anomalies.

Like Deep Fried Pickles. And Deep Fried Coke.

I was really interested in that one (momentarily forgetting all about Weight Watchers) because I figured I could substitute Pepsi for the Coke, right? There's no sugar in the batter -- they figure the can of coke has enough -- but the final fried ball is rolled in cinnamon and dusted with powdered sugar, then drizzled with -- yep, you guessed it -- Coke syrup!

What about you? Come across any unusual foods (with or without the deep frying)? What’s your favorite unhealthy snack? Okay, and in the name of national health, what’s your fave HEALTHY snack?

What does this have to do with writing, you say? I changed a recent Advanced Placement Language question to fit our romance readers.

"Write about a novel in which a food or banquet scene plays an important role in the book."

The AP folks intended the students to write about the banquet scene in Hamlet or the one in Macbeth where Banquo's ghost appears, but I tweaked the question to fit our romance readers.

Can you think of a food or banquet scene from a romance novel that plays an important part in the book?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Margo Maguire Makes Mayhem!

by Anna Campbell

It's my great pleasure to welcome back to the lair a wonderful fellow Avon historical writer Margo Maguire.
Margo's going to be talking about her great new release THE ROGUE PRINCE. Romantic Times called THE ROGUE PRINCE "a love story that reaches the heart with its inherent tenderness and pure romance."

Margo has just revamped her website so check it out for news and excerpts and contests! Sign up for her newsletter and you go in the drawing to win a signed copy of THE ROGUE PRINCE!

Welcome back to the Bandita lair, Margo. Your latest Avon release is THE ROGUE PRINCE which sounds absolutely delicious. Lovely cover, by the way! Can you tell us about this book?

That’s exactly what I’d call it – delicious – a tale you can sink your teeth into! To a large extent, it’s the hero’s conflicts that drive this story. Tom Thorne is a tortured young man who was transported at a young age to a penal colony for a crime he didn’t commit. He lives through the brutal years of his imprisonment by planning his revenge against the two young noblemen who set him up. When he comes into a vast fortune, he’s able to execute those plans. Tom comes home to England as the “Prince of Sabedoria,” with the intention of destroying his two accusers and their families, just as he and his own family were destroyed.

The heroine is Maggie Danvers, Lady Blackmore, an innocent bystander who is intimately connected to the two young scoundrels who falsely accused Tom. She’s the widow of one and step-sister of the other, but when she meets Tom, she doesn’t know him as anyone but the amazingly potent foreign prince. Maggie is a young, naïve mother of two little children, and when she learns how badly her husband and brother have duped her over the years, she decides to embark upon an affair of her own – with the prince who seems so interested in her. Little does she know that she plays a huge part in Tom’s schemes for vengeance.

What were the inspirations behind this story? It seems to me to have a touch of THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO about it? Or is that purely coincidental?

Ahhh… funny you should ask! Yes, I’ve always loved THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO (the book as well as the movie), and wished there was more romance (of course!)and I always wished it wasn’t quite so dark. And that the imprisonment part wasn’t quite so long, and that Edmond’s father didn’t die before he got out of the Chateau d’If … er, you get the idea, right? So THE ROGUE PRINCE begins a few years after Tom’s imprisonment, within days of his arrival in England. And the heroine has a character arc of her own – her late husband was her step-brother’s flunky who had no real talents of his own, which directly caused the downfall of the Blackmore estate.

It’s up to Maggie to try to salvage the estate for her little son, the heir. She must learn and grow …

I’ve noticed a bit of a trend toward royal heroes lately (Harlequins are awash with princes and kings!). What do you think is the appeal of a royal story?

I think it’s part of the fantasy, or the fairy tale, if you will. The characters are larger than life. I made Thomas so wealthy, his bank statement would make Bill Gates envious. With Tom’s money, any physical thing is within his reach. But there are emotional hurtles to overcome, and as we read about this kind of guy, we want to see him grow and risk it all because of a higher purpose.

What’s coming up next for Margo Maguire?

I’m working on a novel that will be out in March 2011, called SEDUCTION OF THE GOVERNESS. The heroine is a young woman who learns she was adopted by the straitlaced couple she always thought of as her true parents. My hero is a wounded Waterloo officer – a youngest son who never expected to inherit his father’s earldom and the guardianship of his little niece. The two are total misfits who come together in his old, ancestral hall in the Lake District, and find themselves facing a perilous situation.

Can you give us a glimpse into your writing day?

A good day or a bad day?

We’ll go with the good… I used to walk my dogs 2-3 miles every morning to get some exercise while I cleared my head for a day of writing, but when I injured my knee I had to stop. So my current routine is to ride my stationary bike for 40 minutes and then lift weights for another 15. I grab a quick shower after that, and I’m usually at my laptop by 8 am. I go through email and take care of other business for an hour or so, then get down to the creative stuff. I rehash yesterday’s writing – making corrections as I read. Then I get on with it, pushing the story forward (I’m a totally linear writer). After a couple of hours, I get restless, so I have some lunch, then pack up my laptop and head for my home away from home – Starbuck’s. I’m there practically every afternoon, so they know me well – and take great care of me! My Starbuck's “co-workers” are very protective of their resident author.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I am the worst possible person to answer this question, and I’ll tell you why at the end of my sage counsel, but don’t read my punch line until you check out my three points …

The first thing I think an aspiring writer should do is to read like mad. Read everything, but especially the genre you think you want to write. I believe osmosis has a lot to do with how we learn to write. As you read, you get an unconscious “feel” for the genre and it will come out in your own settings, characters and voice.

Next, decide whether you want to write popular, saleable fiction. If you do, you have to see what kinds of books the current market supports, and not get hung up on a story that will only appeal to a limited audience. (Like certain Indie films – they get produced, and might be really good for what they are, but only 37 people go to see them).

Third, try not to let “experts” tell you how to do it. You have to learn your own process and follow it, and not get bogged down or discouraged because you think you’re doing it “wrong.”

And now for the punch line (and you’ll probably want to punch me!): I sold the first book I ever wrote, in 10 days from the moment I put the manuscript into the mailbox until I got “the call.” I never had to go through the uncertainty that most writers experience, never understood what it was like to receive a bunch of rejection letters. That came later, lol, when I was submitting proposals to my editors for subsequent books. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I hadn’t sold that first book, I’d have said, “Oh, well, I tried. I love my nursing career, and so that’s what I’ll be doing until they pry my white duty shoes from my cold, stiff feet!” Honestly, I was so naïve, I didn’t know how fortunate I was, not until I found out about RWA and all the active online author groups out there.

Wow, I'm guessing you have a few people gunning for you when you share that tidbit! Congratulations! Now, Margo, is there anything you want to ask our Bandits and Buddies?

I wonder what you think is the best writing advice you ever got. Did you hear your best advice at a conference workshop? Read it in a writing craft book? Or was it something one of your writing buddies said that just happened to resonate? Inquiring minds want to know!

Margo is offering one lucky commenter their choice from her backlist books WILD or TAKEN BY THE LAIRD (I'm rather taken by that cover, personally!). So get commenting, people, and good luck!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The End

by Suzanne
Here in the Lair, we often talk about the beginning of books and movies. How they grab us and suck us in, keep us turning pages or on the edges of our seats, wanting to know what's going to happen next.

The Bourne Identity was one of these books for me. I couldn't read it fast enough. It also sucked me into Robert Ludlum's world of espionage and suspense. After reading the Bourne Identity, I raided my local bookstore and read his whole back list and following books, each one more page-turning than the last. (I also discovered for my own sanity, it was best to not read more than two of his books in a weekend or I'd think my phone was tapped and people were chasing me!) While the movie was barely recognizable as the original book, Matt Damon's portrayal of Jason Bourne fit my mental image of how the character would look and act.

Another book where the beginning drew me in from page one was Sherrilyn Kenyon's Night Pleasures. It might surprise y'all, but I'm not really into vampire love stories. What grabbed me was the heroine in peril waking up to find herself chained to this big imposing man, who acts like a vampire, you know all I'll-die-if-I'm-out-in-the-sun, has fangs and appears to be imortal, but he wasn't a vampire. Instead he was a hunter, a Dark Hunter, one she'll need to keep her safe. Add to that Kenyon's unique premise that vampires were actually cursed children of the Greek god, Apollo and I was hooked! Involving the Greek mythology and really BIG men, yep, couldn't turn the pages fast enough!

For movies, Speed, was the same for me. Suck me in, make want to know what's happening to these courageous bomb experts. Who wants to blow them up, etc. Add a ticking clock er bus and Sandra Bullock? Yep, I'm staying through to the end. Another movie for me was Pirates of the Carribean. How could you not love a movie with that kind of fantasy beginning of pirates and Black Jack Sparrow? It made you root for the characters from the start all the way to the end. (ah, but we're not at the end yet!)

Sometimes, in the Lair, we talk about the characters, themselves. Those we loved from the moment they stepped onto the pages or onto the big screen. Those that make us wish we were the heroine or hero, falling in love, kicking butt, or solving the mystery. Okay, in the lair we mostly talk about the sexy heroes, but let me give you some of my favorites of both sexes.

Kate and Luc from French Kiss are two of my favorite movie characters. At the beginning of the movie there's the neurotic romantic who despite her fear of flying bravely climbs aboard a plane bound across the Atlantic to get her true love. Except, we find out her true love is nothing but a soundrel, while the scoundrel, Luc--good hearted jewel thief who wants to buy a vinyeard near his home, seated next to her, irritating the snot out of her all the way to France, well, I'd hate to give away the ending, so let's just say he's hero worthy.

Rhett and Scarlet. From her first utterance of fiddle-dee-dee, she didn't come across as a kind, loving heroine. No, she wasn't loveable, but she was strong. Her world and family was changing, and only the strong were going to survive. THAT is what he loved about her. And him? Was he a Southern gentleman? Uh, no. A Privateer. A man who would make a profit from the war, eventually takes a side and joins the war, but his love of her made him loveable. (We'll talk about their ending later.)

Gabriel and Johanna from Julie Garwood's Saving Grace (yeah, like y'all didn't see this one coming). If you haven't taken the time in the past 3 years to read this book, as much as I've raved about it, I'm about to spoil the beginning for you. The heroine is informed her husband has been killed and she rushes to the chapel.

Not to pray for his soul, but to thank God. Now, don't you want to know more?

The hero is a bastard, literally. His father and his clan disowned him, until the time came for someone to lead the father's clan after his death. In the meantime, the hero has formed his own clan with ragtag outcasts from other clans. So what's he supposed to do? He tried to lead both clans side by side, because that's what an honorable man does. Then an Englishman brings his half sister for the hero to marry, to keep her out of the reach of the king of England. He marries her without question. She agrees to the marriage only after she hears his name, Gabriel, the patron saint and protector of women and children.

Sigh...You really have to read this book!

So, what haven't we talked about when it comes to books?

Yep, the beginning may hook you or your reader or your editor, but it's the ending that sells the next book. At least that's a saying heard often repeated from one RWA member to another.

We all know the ending of Gone With The Wind. Rhett storms out, swearing, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Scarlett watches him disappear into the mist and says, "Tara! Home. I'll go home. And I'll think of some way to get him back. After all... tomorrow is another day." It may not be the HEA we all wanted, but the prospect of a future is there in her determination and I'd like to think she finally learned what love truly is about and will win back her man.

In French Kiss, Kate has saved Luc's bacon and is once again aboard a plane to fly home. Luc has learned how she tricked him, but knows she did it out of love. He slips into the seat next to her and says, "I want you..." She says, "You want me?" and he says, with love and unshed tears in his eyes, "I want you, that is all." Sigh. That is a HEA I could go for every time.

In the end of the first Pirates movie, Elizabeth and Will are in love and they take the chance to rescue their friend, Black Jack Sparrow. He's a loveable scoundrel and we really don't want to see him die. We also want to see more of his antics on the high seas!
At the end of the Bourne Identity, (the book version), Jason learns the truth about who he is and how he came to be a trained assassin. He cleans out Treadstone's bad members and gets the girl. And it made every page turning scene worthwhile.

I want endings that make me sigh. Make me know my journey with the characters has been worth my effort. I want the mystery solved, the bad guys dead or in prison, the HEA for my heros and heroines, or at least the promise of a HEA.

So, endings are important. They are so important to me, I even write THE END when I finish a book. Another writer acquaintance asked me why? I said, why not? It's an accomplishment. The story has been told, it may need tweaking or editing, but the ending has been written.

And a few weeks ago I posted the last chapter of REFUGE on my online blogsite, Everytime I've read it, I get tears in my eyes and that sense of Ahhhhhhhhh. I hope my readers did, too. If you haven't read it, take a chance, but go to the sidebar and start at the beginning. I'd love to hear if the HEA worked for you!

So, tell me, what books or movies gave you that Ahhhhhhhh moment? Which ones made you cry or laugh? Which ones did you hate?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Your Baby Makes Me Cry

by Susan Sey

A baby was baptized this Sunday at church & I wept like a proud grandma.

I am, however, not this child's grandma. I am not her mom, her auntie, or even her cousin. Her mother is a Facebook friend. An acquaintance, really. I've only seen the kid once or twice--just enough to know that she got a double scoop of cute and that she's wicked fast on her tiny little feet.

But that's not why I cried.

I cried because I'm a sucker for ceremony.

I cried because I think it's gorgeous and touching and extravagantly optimistic to make a deep and private emotion into a public promise.

I cried because watching a community of people embrace a new member touches me.

Hearing that community pledge with one strong voice to guide, shelter and love a child all but wrecks me.

And the welcoming hymn? That powerful, unified voice raised in song?

Forget it. By then I'm a bawling mess. ("I Was There To Hear Your Borning Cry" puts me over the edge faster than "Child of Promise" but they both slay me.)

And it's not just baptisms. It's weddings, too. Funerals. I'm a non-denominational crier. I cry at graduations. Dance recitals. Band concerts. Anything where a community welcomes, celebrates, recognizes or loses one of its members.

It's thrilling, isn't it? When people crack open that window into their truest hearts? When they try their hardest, perform their hearts out, bring their beloved child into the larger community or simply muster up the courage to declare their love?

I think that's why I love romance novels. For me, the payoff is that moment of pure vulnerability that comes with saying "I love you" to somebody who might not say it back. It's bearing witness when somebody pledges their heart. It's foolish, bold and gorgeous, that kind of risk. And it brings tears to my eyes every single time.

So what about you? What is it about romance that trips your trigger? Do you like a good cry, or are you more a witty repartee kinda gal? Is it the sexual tension, or the alpha male with a tender streak? Why do you love this genre?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sometimes There's Magic

by Nancy

Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote, "Some enchanted evening, you will meet a stranger . . . across a crowded room." I think that song's popularity endures because it speaks to people--to the magic of that instant of connection that didn't exist before, to the "what if" that is the hope of finding true love, sometimes where we least expect it.

There are many kinds of magic in stories. There's the magic of an idea that springs forth, fully formed, in one of those fabulous, brain-buzzing, "aha" moments. It can be one that gives birth to a book or film or one that gives the plot a new and terrific twist or one that adds new depth to the characters. There's the magic of a hero and heroine who meet, whether or not for the first time, and realize life has changed forever. We'll come back to them after we look at other kinds of magic moments.

The bigger and harder the change, the more I love the story. I also love reading along and suddenly realizing, "Oooh. That's what that little, insignificant thing back there was setting up. Wow!" That kind of twist is magical to me, whether I'm creating it or reading or seeing it on a screen.

Then there's the magic of Merlin and his ilk, paranormal power that bursts through the world's regular rules and changes something for good or evil. Sort of magical "boom." Y'all know I have a weakness for the Arthurian legends, right? A major, serious weakness. I stood on the cliffs at Tintagel and heard the concussive thunder of the sea pounding the cave mouths below and imagined the tide out, the caves damp, the waves silver with moonlight, and Merlin waiting in the gloom for Uther to descend from the fortress above. Their joint deceit, at poor Ygraine's expense, brought forth England's greatest legend, one "brief, shining moment" that still calls to people across the centuries.

Standing on the crest of South Cadbury hill, looking through afternoon haze to Glastonbury Tor, I could almost see the landscape under moonlight, the hillside below me parting, and the Knights of the Round Table riding forth on midsummer night. To me, Camelot abounds with possibility, and therein lies both its magic and its power. The landscape evokes it, but the idea comes from books like The Once and Future King. Or the Lerner & Loewe musical Camelot.

Music has its own uniquely evocative power. I can't hear a Star Trek theme (original TV show or films) without feeling tingly, especially if I'm sitting in a theater and the lights are down. I get genuine goosebumps, as though the music, alone, were a call to adventure. When I hear "When the Saints Go Marching In," I'm back in the bleachers on a Friday night, tasting a clarinet reed and plastic mouthpiece as I play, sweating a bit in my wool uniform in the humid warmth of a Carolina August night. I can see the bugs rising from the football field illuminated by floodlights, can almost smell the chalk from the freshly lined field. The memory lasts only a moment, but a moment that's real and compelling. That's magic, too.

The summer I went to England, I traveled a lot with a particular group. This was before cars had CD players, but this one had a cassette player. Someone in the group had Janis Joplin's greatest hits and one of Linda Ronstadt's albums. We played them a lot. I can't hear "Bobby McGee" or "Love is a Rose" without flashing on that summer and those people, sitting for an instant of memory in a Ford Fiesta straight-drive on a narrow British road. It's sort of time travel, however fleeting.

When the boy was little, he loved Alan Jackson's "Chattahoochee" and the water-skiing video that accompanied it on the old Nashville Network. I'll never again hear that song without thinking of the boy standing in the living room at age two, rocking his knees--the toddler equivalent of dancing--to that song or lying in my arms as a baby, almost, almost asleep, so close to dropping off after a bout of colic, only to have his eyes pop open as though the lids were spring-loaded when that video came on TV. That song lyric is a collection of memories, not really a narrative, but it feels like one.

Magic moments come along in life, in music, and in fiction. The meetings of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy, of Frederica Merriville and the Marquis of Alverstoke, of Richard Castle and Kate Beckett, of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. The reunion of Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca.

Other moments than meetings can hold that magic, moments like turning points or payoffs. In Australia, Nicole Kidman looks up and sees Hugh Jackman standing in the doorway at the ball and knows she doesn't have to sell her land. In Music & Lyrics, Drew Barrymore is walking out of the concert but realizes Hugh Grant's song is directed at her, begging for her forgiveness from the stage. In Beauty & the Beast, Belle decides she'll stay with Beast. In Romancing the Stone, Kathleen Turner walks down the street to find Michael Douglas on his boat waiting for her. In The Mask of Zorro, Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones duel in the barn and exchange their hearts with their ripostes.

The horns of Rohan echo off Mt. Mindolluin's sides just when the inhabitants of Minas Tirith think all is lost. Arthur pulls the sword from the stone and sets his feet on the path of "might for right." Luke Skywalker risks everything on his untried use of the Force and blows up the Death Star, saving the rebellion.

All these moments are magic to me. What's magic to you? What romance fiction or movie couple do you think has the most powerful magical moment, and why? What other moments in books or films or life are magic to you? Is there music involved? Does a particular place evoke something for you?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Love Books? Kiss a Librarian!

By Kate

I was a born reader. Weren't we all?

I think my love of reading was honed by the fact that my family moved every few years. We always moved in June, after school was out, so for the first three months in a new house in a new town, I had no friends.

But that was okay, because the first thing I would do in a new neighborhood was scope out the closest library. I would ride my bike there almost every day, check out three to five books and read them that day. The next day, I would return and pick up three to five more. I was a voracious, if lonely, reader for many years.

Now that I'm writing the Bibliophile Mysteries, I meet librarians everywhere I go. They are the personification of the word bibliophile. (Bibliophile: A lover of books. A collector of books.) Many of them, like my protagonist, Brooklyn Wainwright, also have an interest in bookbinding, both as an art as well as a survival mechanism. Think about it. Because of budget cuts, librarians often have to repair or rebind their own books, just to make them last longer. So if you love books (and who here doesn't?), think about donating to your local library or joining your library's Friends of the Library group. Librarians everywhere will love you!

We interrupt this blog to announce that Romance is in the Air!!

It's my first Silhouette Desire cover! Isn't he--er, it--beautiful? I love him!!! Er, the cover. I love it!

The Millionaire Meets His Match will be out in July, but you can pre-order it now! Just click the cover. :-)

Ahem. We now return to our regularly scheduled blog.

Everyone here is a book lover, so how did it happen? Do you remember your favorite book growing up? Do you have a library you love? Tell me about your favorite librarian or your favorite book. How did you become the voracious reader you are today?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Two Faces to Fiction

by KJ Howe

Let's call this post a mission in research. Everyone who drops by is an avid reader, so it is the perfect place to ask these two questions. I've recently been working on a profile about David Morrell (NYT Bestseller and creator of Rambo). David has had an illustrious career spanning 40 years, an incredible feat given the innate challenges of the publishing industry. Unlike many authors today, David has never really created a series character. Instead, he writes stand-alone novels that encompass several different genres, from thrillers to horror to speculative fiction.

Most publishers insist that authors find a niche (specific genre, style of book) and stick with it so they are easier to market. I can understand this preference as it makes business sense to be able to "brand" and market an author's niche. Sometimes publishers ask authors to change their name and brand if they are writing a new style of book. For example, Joe Konrath wrote the Jack Daniels mystery series under his name, then started writing in a different genre as Jack Killborn.

As a reader, do you want to reach for a book by X author and know that it will be a certain style and type of novel, or do you like to be surprised by the genre/storyline knowing that you will enjoy the book no matter what because of the author's voice and talent?

Another question that piques my interest is whether readers enjoy the variety of stand-alones more or less than the comfort of a series character novel? I would be so appreciative if you could share your thoughts on these two issues!

Coming out of the Closet

by Donna MacMeans

A good friend recently took me on a tour of her renovated house. When the kids
moved out, she changed things the way she'd always dreamed they could be. She expanded the kitchen, changed the light fixtures and paint, and turned one entire bedroom into her very own clothes closet, complete with a handbag wardrobe. My practical self thought this rather extreme...but then another part of me thought this a splendid idea.

You see - this is always an awkward time of year...cold in the mornings, warming up to shorts temps by afternoon. Attempting to dress for the day is similar to planning a day long strip-tease. The layers come off as the sun rises, only to reverse the process as it sets.

Undoubtedly, in a few weeks I'll be able to pack up all the long jeans and winter clothes in big plastic tubs, and cart them off to the basement to summer alongside the tubs of Christmas decorations. When Ohio experienced record high temps earlier in the month, I brought up one of the summer tubs so I could at least have access to short sleeve tops. Now my closet and drawers are crammed with winter clothing and my bedroom floor cluttered with summer clothes. I have an incredible urge to toss everything into a bag for Goodwill just so I can once again see the carpet.

But I won't.

I get attached to clothes. Memories reside in the patterns and textures. I still have some outfits that have been too small for something like twenty years now. I keep thinking that if I lose enough weight...I'll wear them again. Maybe monster shoulder pads will come back in style. Maybe I could just remove the pads and the jacket will still fit correctly. (Yeah, right)

Years ago I cranked out some nice maternity dresses for the office on my sewing machine because you just couldn't find professional looking maternity clothes in the early 80s. I KNOW I won't wear those again, yet they're still in my back closet. I have a fisherman-knit sweater that my mother handknit for me. She misread the pattern and kept increasing the sleeve width. The sleeves bell out at the elbow before reducing to the wrist. I'm not sure I ever wore that sweater - it's not exactly flattering - but I just can't part with it. It's still in the back closet.

Then there are the shirts, skirts, and dresses that I bought because I loved the print pattern, or the color, or the event to which I wore it a long time ago. My closet is jammed full of clothes I no longer wear, and weaning out items to donate to charity is painful.
My writing is sometimes like that. I'll write passages that on reflection I know I'll never use. I can only cut them from my manuscript, by moving them to another "closet," a file called "edit cuts." Simply discarding the passages would be too painful. My manuscript is improved by the reduction and I suspect my closets would be too.
So how can I do it? How can I rid myself of the old memories invested in the clothes? How do you do it? Am I the only one that holds on to these things long past their wearability expiration date? Maybe I should just turn my son's bedroom into a massive closet - what do you think?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Desert Island Dilemma

by Anna Sugden

I apologise in advance for the brevity of this post. I've been laid low for nearly a fortnight with the cold from you-know-where. The darn thing shows no sign of abating (note to self - buy shares in Kleenex, cough medicine and decongestants!) and has seriously fuzzed my brain.

I know a number of you are suffering from seasonal allergies, so I'm sure you'll understand!

Thus, in lieu of a witty, imaginative and beatifully crafted post (hey, we all love a bit of romantic fiction!) I've had to resort to simple, short and sweet ... okay, so I'm making you all do the work *g*.

Your dilemma is this:

You've been stranded on a desert island.

In the morning tides, a bag washes up on the shore.

Inside is an iPod loaded with one book, one movie, one album, one TV series and one application (and, of course, there is a solar charger *g*). There is also one other item in the bag.

Which book, movie, album, TV series and application do you hope are on the iPod? What is the item in the bag?

[Note from Anna: This blog has been liberally sprayed with Lysol to protect readers from my nasty germs!]

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Reunion With Danger

posted by Nancy

Dee Davis, whose romantic comedies have entertained us, returns to the Lair with her new foray into romantic suspense, the A-Tac team in Dark Deceptions. Dee's many contest wins and placements include winning the Booksellers Best, Golden Leaf, Texas Gold and Prism awards and being nominated for the National Readers Choice Award, the Holt Medallion and two RT Reviewers Choice Awards. I've always loved her romantic suspense and am delighted to see her publishing in that sub-genre again.

Welcome, Dee! Your last visit, we chatted about Set-Up in Soho. I gather that the A-Tac team will be very different in tone from The Matchmaker Chronicles. Tell us about it.

Romantic Suspense has always been my first love. And after a brief departure into romantic comedy, it's great to back writing thrillers. A-Tac is an elite CIA unit masquerading as faculty at an Ivy League college. Brilliant, badass, and seemingly bulletproof, the members of A-Tac are assigned to the riskiest missions and the most elusive targets.

For more on A-Tac check out the microsite at

Who are the heroine and heroine of Dark Deceptions?

Nash Brennon

Physical Profile: 6'2". Wavy brown hair. Brown eyes. Muscular build. Identifying scars on torso.

Psychological profile: Independent, almost to the point of being a loner. Questions authority. Dislikes technology, especially computers. Loyal to other A-Tac members, particularly Tyler Hanson and Avery Solomon. Popular with students. Past history with ex-CIA operative Annie Gallagher should be noted.

Background: Long term CIA operative with exemplary record. Original posting in Eastern Europe. Recruited to A-Tac by Avery Solomon. Born in Austin, Texas. Graduate of University of Texas. No living relatives.

Present position: A-Tac's second in command. Covert operations expert. Recognized political historian. Chairman of the history department at Sunderland.

Annie Gallagher

Reason for interest: Possible terrorist threat involving American Ambassador.

Physical profile: 5'6". Long, dark red hair. Hazel eyes. Wiry, good physical shape. No current stats.

Psychological Profile: Loner. Comfortable in her own skin. Not a team player. Thoughtful hunter. Has the ability to out wait and therefore outmaneuver opponents.

Background: Ex- CIA. Trained as a sharp-shooter. One of a handful of the best in the country at time of disappearance. Betrayed her partner (Nash Brennon) and then dropped off the grid after an operation gone bad. No abnormal activity until recent intel indicating her involvement in assassination plot.

What's the biggest threat they face, and what's the biggest obstacle to their romance?

He thinks she's a traitor and betrayed him years ago. She believes he chose his career over a relationship with her. Theirs is a dance with a history that threatens to destroy them.

Ooh, I love that phrase- "a dance with a history that threatens to destroy them!" Would you like to share an excerpt?

"We were good together, and you know it." The minute the words came out, she regretted them.

"You don't have to remind me, angel," he said, taking a step closer, his gaze colliding with hers.

She swallowed, steeling herself against the onslaught of memories. "I was talking about our business relationship."

"I wasn't." He moved closer, his breath warm against her cheek.

"Nash, I-"

His lips crushed down on hers. She opened her mouth, welcoming him inside, reveling in the feel of his tongue. It was take-no-prisoners contact. As much a battle of wills as an expression of emotion.

The power of his touch was almost more than she could bear . . .

For a longer excerpt go to

Are there other books in this series?

Currently there are six books scheduled in the A-Tac series. The second, Dangerous Desires, will be out in July. And the third, Dangerous Deeds will be out in August. Book two features Drake Flynn. And book three, Tyler Hanson. Books four, five and six will be out in 2011 and 2012.

Any more Matchmaker books in the offing?

After her adventures with Andi, Althea is taking a well-deserved break. I think somewhere in the south of France with her mother, Harriet. But sooner or later she's bound to come home, and who knows what mischief she'll be up to next?

For more about Dee and her various books, visit her website.

Dee is giving away one copy of Dark Deceptions to a commenter today, so tell us one or more of these things--what's your favorite action team? Do you prefer spies or police/FBI or military adventure? US settings or international intrigue? Who are your favorite lovers with a painful history at the start of their book? Dive in and let us know!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Falling For Those Anti-Heroes

by Beth

One of the best things I've ever done is get a subscription to Netflix. Not only does it have loads of movies and TV shows available, but it also has the feature where you can watch certain movies/TV shows instantly on your computer or, if you have a Netflix ready device, you can stream them directly to your TV (we use our Xbox live account).

It's because of this wonderful device that I now have a new addiction:

Leverage. (It's a TV show on TNT *g*)

Now, believe me, I could go on and on about how much I love this show. The acting. The character arcs. The story lines. But I won't. For today, I'm going to concentrate on one of the main reasons I am so crazy about this show:

The men!

The three male characters are all sexy, smart, funny and have that certain edge about them that makes them dangerous - and appealing (in a purely fantasy sort of way *g*)

Nate Ford, played by Timothy Hutton, is an ex-insurance investigator who is now the leader of a band of thieves who help their clients go up against everyone from dirty politicians to corrupt businessmen to mobsters. Nate is clever and devious and can usually outsmart just about any adversary. He's also cynical, battling alcoholism (a battle he usually loses) and filled with bitterness over the death of his young son.

Alec Hardison, played by Aldis Hodge, is an expert computer hacker. Well, calling Hardison simply a computer hacker doesn't exactly do his skills justice, not when he can break any code, create new identities or even alter surveillance video. He's proud of his geekiness, freaks out at violence and at times, has let his team down (like when he missed a mission because he was up all night playing video games).

Eliot Spencer, played by Christian Kane, is what the show calls a Retrieval Specialist, but really, he's the firm's muscle. He can take out an entire gang of bad guys all with just his fists. He hates guns, is soft spoken and is an excellent cook. Oh, and did I mention that he totally kicks ass?

Now, on paper, these guys don't exactly come across as 'hero' material but that's only if you haven't watched the show. Because if you have seen even just one episode, you'd know that Nate may be lost and angry at the world but his sense of justice, his desire to help those in need is stronger than his desire to self-destruct.

Hardison may make mistakes, but he always makes it up to his team and he takes his job of gathering the Intel the team will need to work their cons seriously. He may complain and get cold feet sometimes, but he always pulls through in the end.

Eliot keeps his emotions bottled up but he has a soft spot for his ex-girlfriend and horses (not necessarily in that order *g*). He may get knocked down, but he always gets back up.

So, we have three men who are less than perfect and yet, they're growing and changing, turning into better men right before our eyes. And isn't that what some of the best heroes do? :-)

Who are some of your favorite anti-heroes in film, TV or books? What TV shows are you currently loving? Are there any other Leverage fans out there?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bandita Booty!

Congratulations to the winner of a signed copy of Something Scandalous:

Kim from Hawaii!

I already have your address so I will send it along to you!


Hard Magic, Tough Choices

posted by Nancy

Our regulars may remember Laura Anne Gilman from last fall, when she made her debut in the Lair with Flesh and Fire, the first book in the Vineart Wars. She joins us again today with a new series, and here's a brief bio.

Laura Anne started her professional life as a book editor for a major NYC house, fitting her writing into the remaining available hours. In 2004 she switched that around, becoming a full-time writer and freelance editor for Carina Press. Laura Anne is the author of the popular Cosa Nostradamus books for Luna (the "Retrievers" and "Paranormal Scene Investigations" urban fantasy series), and the award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy from Pocket. She is a member of the on-line writers consortium BookView Cafe, and continues to write and sell short fiction. She also writes paranormal romances as Anna Leonard.

Today, she's going to tell us about Hard Magic, the first book in the Paranormal Scene Investigations series. It's set in the world of the Cosa Nostradamus that so captivated Jeanne and me via the Retrievers series. Welcome, Laura Anne!

The title for Hard Magic, unlike most of my books, came without any problem whatsoever, and not only because the main plot is about making magic -- that ephemeral, seemingly mystical energy into a scientific tool, a "hard science." It was also because this book -- indeed, this series -- is about hard lessons.

Unlike The Wren, whom many of you met in the Retrievers series, Bonnie Torres is just starting out, a smart, eager young Talent, fresh out of college and ready to take the world on... except she has no idea what she wants to do, or who she wants to become. In other words, she's very much like most 21-year-olds, with or without magic. So when she's handed what looks like the opportunity of a lifetime -- to become part of a group that will turn magic from an excuse to behave badly into a way to track down those who behave badly, and prove their responsibility -- she falls on it with both hands...

and then discovers that every gift comes with a cost. In Bonnie's case, the cost that she is very much attracted to a man -- that, in fact, they have a connection that brings them together -- emotionally, sexually, magically.

The only problem is, he's her boss. And both of them love their job too much to risk screwing with that, quite literally. Bonnie is a passionate woman, but her passion extends to work, and justice, as much as it does her personal life. And the potential man in her life, Benjamin Venec, is exactly the same - with an added dose of caution, because he's older, and in a position of responsibility. They respect each other, and what they have as a team, too much to risk it.

So how do you balance the career chance of a lifetime, the hard knocks that come with being out in the real world, on your own, for the first time, and an overpowering urge to be with the one person you really can't be with?

In short, what I'm playing with in this book - in the entire series, actually - is the dual 'real world' problems of career vs personal life, and the romantic fantasy trope of "a destined or fated love." What happens when you tell Fate/Destiny to go to hell?

(now you begin to understand why my beta-readers often refer to me as "you evil woman")

In a romance, the reader would know the answer at the beginning. The joy (and, I admit, the evil glee) of writing romantic fantasy is that you-the-reader (and even me-the-writer) have no such assurance. The only thing we know is that Bonnie and Venec are going to have to fight it out, honestly and fairly, because that's the only way they know how to do it.

(And if any of you are starting to wonder if I was influenced at all by the Lord Peter/Harriet Vane love story... 'at's a fair cop.)

So what's your favorite story that deals realistically with "romantic" standbys like forbidden or fated love?

A copy of either Staying Dead or Hard Magic (winner's choice) will go to one commenter today.

For more information about Laura Anne Gilman and her work, visit her website, which also includes an excerpt from Hard Magic.