Thursday, September 30, 2010


by Jo Robertson

I’m very envious of those male bonding stories. You know the ones -- those about soldiers during battle, Jack Kerouac wanna-be’s, motorcycling across America or backpacking through Europe,or motocycle gangs like the fictional Sons of Anarchy on FX.

Even men gathered around a wide-screen plasma TV on Super Bowl Sunday foster feelinga of envy in me.

You see, I’m convinced that men are by far the SIMPLE sex. They rose out of that primordial sludge with the single-minde
d focus of hunting prey. They tuned out the wails of infants, cast off the chills of winter, and set aside the circling of buzzards to either kill the animal they stalked or escape the one stalking them.

This fall football dominates television and the men in my family watch with avid interest. Nothing detracts them from the kickoff or the run to the end zone on that HD wide-screen TV.

It’s the same thing during basketball or baseball season, of course. The same basic instinct that allowed the strongest of mankind to survive
their caveman era keeps their minds focused on the basketball game, oblivious to any sensory stimuli outside their narrow circle.

But the nifty thing about men is they get to give those really cool speeches like St. Crispin Day’s Speech from Henry V – “we happy, happy few, we band of brothers.” And they get to pat each other on the ass and sling an arm around a brother’s neck in manly affection.
I love that speech where Henry V, against overwhelming odds leads his soldiers "once more into the breach," where he talks about how those not there will consider themselves "accursed" not to have been part of that lucky group, the "band of brothers" who fought that day. "He who shares his blood with me this day shall be my brother." Gives me chills!

And here’s the real thing I’m jealous of: men's bonds, almost entirely nonverbal, can be the most powerful ties that bind people together. They transcend love and family, careers and religion.

the stories, the really great ones, portray those bonds. Shakespeare scholars call it “manly love.” They get to go to war and watch sports events.

Medical science has pretty much determined that women are the stronger sex, regardless of the antiquated notions of many people. Women outlive men; fewer female infants die than male ones. In some villages that still practice the outmoded notion of female infanticide, they have to import brides for their sons. Yeah, women are pretty hardy.

Psychological and sociological studies regarding men and women are interesting, particularly one such study that involved recordings in which the subjects were presented with three separate, unfamiliar stories read aloud simultaneously. They found that the men quickly focused on one of the stories and shut the other two out. The women, however, tried to listen to and comprehend all three stories at the same time. Resulting, as you may imagine, in a lot of headaches for the women!

I mention this because it underscores one of the great differences between men and women and one, I believe, which leads to a great source of contention between the sexes.

When men are engrossed in a project, large or small, their focus is immutable, much like their primordial ancestors hunting prey. If they’re watching football on television and you stomp angrily by three or four times, hoping to get their attention with your not-so-subtle annoyance, they really DON’T notice.

Women, on the other hand, really CAN talk on the telephone, cook dinner, and know precisely the exact moment when a toddler is on the brink of grave mischief.

The crux of romance stories is the relationship, conflict, and reconciliation between a man and a woman. Often the characters appear horribly unsuited to one another or have some basic differences that make their coming together seem nearly impossible. While we may not have such conflicts in our real romance lives, my experience has shown me that there's plenty of drama between men and women, often because of the way they think, approach situations, or react to them.

Do you like male bonding stories? If so, what's one of your favorites?

What's your favorite male-female conflict in a story? What kinds of romance stories do you like best? Least?
Do you think the relationships between men are less or more complicated than female friends have?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Buried Alive!

by Susan Sey

So I broke up with my old gym. We'd been happy together for two years or more but things had gotten stale. Boring. Expensive. It wasn't any one thing but sometimes you grow apart, you know? It's not you, it's me. These things happen. Maybe we should take a break.

I decided to have a look around, see if there was an option that fit my life a bit better. As it happens, there was. The Community Center.

The Community Center has a pool. My old gym did, too, but this pool is a zero-depth-entry, chock-full-of-slides-and-toys, warmer-than-bathwater type pool. Much better for my skinny children whose lips turn blue when they so much as stroll past the beach.

The Community Center also has an indoor playground, access to which comes free with membership. A nice bennie when you live in The Land That Summer Forgot. Snow'll be flying up here pretty soon--an indoor playground will be nice to have.

The Community Center is also next door to the library (this family's idea of nirvana), has a preschool (which my youngest attends), and costs less than half what my old gym did.


However, the CC (as it will henceforth be known because I am a lazy typist) lacks one thing. TVs on the cardio equipment. Our old gym had TVs on all the treadmills & elliptical machines. You just plugged in your headphones, picked a station & off you went for your sweaty twenty minutes or whatever.

At the CC, there's a bank of TVs hung on the wall & you have to tune your personal radio (who the heck has a RADIO anymore??) to the FM band indicated on the wall under each TV. That's the only way you can listen to the audio. Otherwise, you have to read the closed captioning they've conveniently turned on.

Now this isn't a problem for me. I'm happy to read the screen. My husband feels this is a crime against fitness but that's a different blog. No, what I want to talk about today is the joy of being forced out of my usual TV watching rut.

See, running isn't fun. When I run indoors, I need to be diverted. I need to be absorbed or I spend too much time thinking about how very unpleasant running is & wondering if it's over yet. (It's not.)

So I need some gripping TV, & I'm not interested in taking a chance on an unknown quantity. I like shows I *know* I like: reality shows where talented people work under time & material pressure--Top Chef or Project Runway. I like a good soapy drama--Dawson's Creek is a big favorite. Or something clever and quick--That 70's Show still kills me. (I have a friend Kitty Foreman only wishes she were.) The West Wing is a good one, too.

But at the CC now I have a whole smorgasbord of shows on at once & none of them are what I usually watch. It's talk shows (Ellen Degeneres), trashy talk shows (Maury Povich, I think), and soap operas.

I went with the soap. Now I haven't followed a soap opera since I used to watch the Bold & the Beautiful in college and I have to say, it's nice to see they're still burying people alive. (And putting them in comas and having secret babies, all of which happened in the time it took me to log four miles.)

My favorite was the buried alive story line. They'd sealed this woman (an exquisitely groomed sixty-something) into a crypt with a cell phone & a security camera. This allowed her to both see and rail against the idiotic young things who wandered by for some crypt-side musing, and have vitriolic chats with the villain who'd buried her.

Watching a grande dame shriek, "I'M IN THE CRYPT, YOU STUPID COW!" at a clueless mourner remarking on the unlikeliness of her sudden death was awesome, too. We don't get enough scenery chewing from Women Of A Certain Age. I'm all for more of that. I wish they'd bring back the turban as a hairstyle, too, now that I'm thinking of it. Liz Taylor rocked the turban. More turbans!

I think I'm going to like my new gym.

So how about you? Do you follow any soaps--now or ever? What's your favorite storyline? Secret babies? Long lost lovers? Premature burial? Back-from-the-dead lovers? Evil twins? Do you watch TV while you work out? What do you watch? And if they brought turbans back, would you wear one?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Miranda's Winners!

Thanks, everyone, for a fabulous day in the lair yesterday. Didn't we all have fun? I'm still snickering about poor St. Sebastian! And that Nigel No Friends is really NIGEL NO FRIENDS!!!

Miranda Neville very generously offered us TWO prizes. So without more ado, here are our winners!

Congratulations, SHEREE! You won a signed copy of Miranda's latest release THE DANGEROUS VISCOUNT!

Congratulations, PINK PEONY (JEN)! You won a signed copy of the first book in the Burgundy Club series, THE WILD MARQUIS!

Please email Miranda at miranda @ (no spaces) with your snail mail details and she'll get your books out to you! Happy reading!

Cool Autumn

by Suzanne

Warning, I'm just letting my mind and fingers wander over some cool stuff about my favorite season today.

Yesterday morning I walked out of the hospital in the morning, the weather was beautiful and cool! After five months of greater than 90 degrees, AETHER, the primal god of shining blue sky was in his element and decided to give me a beautiful 55 degree morning to drive home in. I'd finished my fourth 12 hour night shift, feet dragging, eyes drooping, and I got to drive home with the windows down, the air conditioner off and the radio up LOUD!

Dark sunglasses, wind whipping through my hair, me singing slightly off key harmonies to ZZ Top...ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh yeah! The people in the cars next to me were just getting their days started. One man looked at me from the seat of his Mercedes SUV and smiled, (I think he had his window down and caught some off key singing;) Dressed in suits and business clothes, sipping their cups of over priced coffees and lattes, I felt so sorry for them. They had to spend this beautiful morning trapped inside, working.


Yeah, cruising down the road... Cool!!

And when I got home, Rocky-the-wonder-dog and I sat out on the back porch watching the birds and squirrels. Blue sky and crisp air, me drinking a cup of warm tea. Days like this make all those months of heat and air conditioning worth it! I love the contrast of the seasons, but mostly the relief from the oppressive sun and heat that cooler weather brings.

I adore autumn. In October or early November I usually travel to Ohio to see my family. Not just to see my parents, but to enjoy the cool weather, the color changes of the trees, the rainy drizzle days that invariably fill autumn in the Ohio valley. Alas, this year I am not going to get home. Work and life are keeping me home, but I can close my eyes and imagine I'm there.

After sleeping like the dead...(I did mention that we're having a massive baby-boom at my hospital and I'm working HARD each night, right?), I opened every window in the house and turned on the attic fan to suck out the stale air and pull in some glorious cool autumn air. mmmmmmmm

So, besides cool weather and colorful trees, you know what else is cool about autumn? Chili and baking! Yep, we spend all summer grilling. It keeps the heat in the house down and we have a great built-in gas grill, so why not? Actually, we grill all year round, but way more in the summer than the rest of the year. So, when the weather turns cooler I get the bug to bake. And make big pots of soup or chili.

Now, I make a mean pot of chili. I must, the girls at work beg me to bring in some every time I make it. My son-in-law snatches a bowl when he picks the grandbabies up on the day I babysit, and my dh and son gobble up bowls every day until the pot is empty. We're not purists in our chili eating, we add things like cheese, sour cream to it, and some even mash up buttered Ritz crackers. But we do love our chili. As for baking, Ginger snaps are always a are apple pies and crisps, cakes...and oh yeah the last blackberry cobbler of the season!

Another thing that happens in autumn in our house is cleaning out the pantry and closets. Clothing gets donated to the local Good Will, while cans of food that are outdated or boxes of food that are past their expiration have to be tossed out. There is something just therapeutic about cleaning out the pantry and closet.

Another great thing about autumn is walking in the mornings. This lets my brain fix any problems in my MIP (Mess In Progress) or sparks new ideas for more stories. This is probably a trained reaction to autumn because of the beginning of school always coincides with it... a Pavlovian reaction which triggers the desire to create. you find Autumn cool? What is your favorite part? Do you have a favorite food to cook or bake this time of year? What songs do you like to sing to with the windows down?

***Check throughout the day for some of my favorite fall recipes!***

Monday, September 27, 2010

Miranda Neville Noodles on Names!

by Anna Campbell

It is with immense pleasure that I bring back a lair favorite, the fabulous Miranda Neville, who is here today to talk to us about her wonderful new historical romance just out from Avon THE DANGEROUS VISCOUNT.

I adored THE WILD MARQUIS, the first book in her Burgundy Club series about a series of aristocratic book collectors in Regency London. And Miranda had me at hello when she told me that this book featured a nerd as the hero. I love it when nerds discover their inner Tarzan!

Here's the blurb for THE DANGEROUS VISCOUNT:

She is determined to find a husband ... now!

Diana Fanshawe's impeccable bloodline doesn't stop society from laughing at the antics of her eccentric family. She knows the right marriage is her one chance to make her way in the world--which is precisely why she will Marry Lord Blakeney. But then she's kissed by the brilliant ansd unconventional Sebastian Iverley, and her well-laid plans tumble into disarray.

Sebastian wants absolutely nothing to do with love or marriage. He likes his books, his male friends in the Burgundy Club, and he avoids women. But when he arrives at his hated cousin Blakeney's house party, he's smitten by the tantalizing Diana.

Should the lady follow her heart and try to win Iverley's, though it seems hardened against her–or should she sacrifice love for respectability?

Sounds delicious, doesn't it? You can read an excerpt here.

By the way, I take no responsibility for the very disrespectful attitude taken to some great works of Western art in this blog. Although I must say I snorted a cup of tea all over my keyboard when Miranda sent me the illustrations for her visit!

Anyway, without more ado, HEEEEEERRRREEEEE'SSSS MIRANDA!!!!

MIRANDA: Hello, my dear Ms. Campbell and all you wonderful Banditas. I love partying with you guys because you are, quite simply the best. (Yes, I say that to all the blogs but I really really mean it this time). Thank you for letting me ramble.

HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTESS (UM, THAT WOULD BE ME!): Ramble away, my dear, especially if compliments are involved. Here, have a cabana boy. Make sure that when you lift him by the love handles, you raise your pinky. We're very refined here!

MIRANDA: The first time I read a blurb for Anna’s MY RECKLESS SURRENDER (damn good book – read it if you haven’t, or read it again) (HWTM: Why thank you, my dear!) I nearly fell off my chair. Now Anna and I do from time to time exchange emails, but on such important topics as the weather, classical music and what we are cooking for dinner. If we should mention our Works In Progress the conversation tends to include vocabulary unsuitable for a family audience on the subject of Work, Progress and lack thereof. We don’t get into details like our characters’ names. So imagine my shock when I read about Diana and Tarquin. I was just winding up a book with a heroine named Diana and about to start one with a Tarquin hero.

Coincidence or some sinister Aussie plot? I’ll let you be the judge. (Sinister Aussie going BWAHAHAHA here!)

Diana at least is a normal kind of name, but I don’t recall another Tarquin. My Tarquin has been with me a long time. He was the hero’s best friend in my first manuscript. When that book didn’t sell, I transferred Tarquin, whom I loved, over to a new series.

HWTM: Actually I've worked out I got Tarquin from Laurence Olivier's son - my mum had a lifelong crush on Sir Larry. I had thought he was an Etruscan King, Tarquinius Superbus, but it turns out TS was the last king of Rome. Oh, well, still like the name although in Australia, he'd be beaten up in the playground.

M: Have you noticed how sometimes there seems to be a trend for a certain name? Suddenly it will crop up in half a dozen books and you can bet the farm the writers didn’t get together and say “I know, let’s all name our heroine Joanna this year.” That first MS of mine had a hero named Marcus and I swear I couldn’t find a book that year without a Marcus. It must have been something in the air.

The hero of THE DANGEROUS VISCOUNT is Sebastian. Now there have been many, many great Sebastians. Off the top of my head I’m thinking of LORD OF SCOUNDRELS by Loretta Chase, Verlaine in Patricia Gaffney’s TO HAVE AND TO HOLD, St. Vincent in Lisa Kleypas’s THE DEVIL IN WINTER, the sinister Bastien in Anne Stuart’s BLACK ICE and Julia Quinn’s adorable Sebastian Gray in TEN THINGS I LOVE ABOUT YOU.

HWTM: Not to mention the wonderful Sebastian, the hero of Christine Wells's Golden Heart winning debut SCANDAL'S DAUGHTER.

M: My Sebastian is absolutely nothing like any of these. Frankly, he’s a nerd. He collects books, dresses badly and has no social graces. He wears glasses and he hates women --will have nothing to do with them. And I mean nothing.

HWTM: Yup, had me at hello!

M: But Sebastian takes one look at Diana (actually her leg, revealed as she adjusts her stirrup) and falls hard. In love for the first time, he gets a rude awakening when he learns she’s using him to attract his detestable cousin. To get revenge and make her fall for him, he gets an extreme makeover with the help of his friends Cain (from The WILD MARQUIS) and Tarquin (remember him?).

I must say my Sebastian cleaned up beautifully and though he has a few lessons to learn along the way (don’t they all?) he ends up an all round adorable hottie. Diana, who as a widow is the experienced one in this relationship, is charming, chic, light-hearted and determined to marry a duke. However she’s not as sophisticated as she thinks she is and she and Sebastian manage to get themselves into quite a muddle.

The naming of Diana is a story in itself. Originally she was named Marianne, after my eldest sister. Trouble is, she is nothing like my sister and as I wrote it started to bother me. I scribbled a list names on a yellow pad and Diana stuck. Her younger sister had been named Arabella but I decided to go with the goddess theme and changed her to Minerva. After I finished the book, I reread Jenny Crusie’s Bet Me, one of my favorite books. Good Lord. Min and Di. I’d never once thought of it. Had I been channeling Crusie? I shrugged and decided there are far worse people to channel.

HWTM: My Diana was originally Antonia but the hero was Ashcroft so we started to look like an ad for AAA Insurance. My next heroine is Antonia - another name I've always liked. Naming characters is one of the fun bits of writing.

M: I must admit there are names I’m not so fond off. Personally I have a hard time with heroes named Jeremy or Nigel. I think they are wimp names. Not that I haven’t enjoyed books with those names but I’d never choose them myself.

HWTM: I rather like Jeremy - I like J names! Julian, Justin, etc. Nigel, nah. Ian's the one I can't cope with! So Miranda, do you have a question for our Bandits and Buddies?

M: Can you think of any hero and/or heroine names that seem to come up a lot? Do you have any favorites or least favorites? And why?

Fascinating topic, Miranda! Get commenting, people. Miranda is offering not one, but TWO PRIZES, one each to a commenter! A signed copy of THE WILD MARQUIS (great read - I told you that already!) and THE DANGEROUS VISCOUNT. Good luck!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Worlds Enough and Time

by Nancy

The poet Andrew Marvell coined that phrase, "worlds enough and time," in the poem "To His Coy Mistress," in which the narrator urges the lady to join him in seizing their pleasures like "amorous birds of prey." I admit I had to look up the phrase to see where it came from and was surprised by the context. I've often heard it but not applied to affairs of the heart. It often strikes me in places like Michaels. Or Home Depot. Or Idea Island. I can wander around any of those places for hours.

I'm not skilled at crafts, as many of the banditas are. I have about as much experience with a glue gun as with a howitzer, which is to say none, and the thought of handling either makes me vaguely nervous. At least with the hotwitzer, I could presumably blow up something. Maybe even whatever I was trying to hit. The glue gun, I fear, would result only in a mess. Still, I'm happy to wander the aisles of Michaels. When I take the boy there to buy material for school projects, I drift through the store admiring colored paper and silk flowers and fake gemstones and canvases and paints and frames and think what pretty things could be made with them. By someone else.

I last visited Michaels to buy cellophane wrap and a basket for the Lair's offering in the RWA raffle. They had no baskets that were both large and pretty. I called Cassondra since she had volunteered to take what I found and arrange the various contributions in an artistic and appealing manner, as Beth did last year.

"Try the storage boxes," she said.

"They're all tiny," I told her.

"No, no, in another part of the store. Look in keepsakes."

Between me and the keepsakes section were lots of fake flowers, pretty vases, jewelry kits, etc., all very appealing. I'm sure Cassondra learned way more than she cared to know about that particular store's offerings. I did eventually find the boxes, but we decided they weren't big enough. The pubbed banditas have many, many books among them and contributed quite a few to the raffle. (For those who care, I eventually found a suitable basket at Tuesday Morning, which did not have project supplies but did have bargains, always appealing to those of us of Scots-Irish descent.)

There's just so much potential in Michaels. It ignites my imagination. I can just see those lovely craft projects all finished, gracing a sideboard or a bookcase in our house. Only my awareness of the steps between vision and completion, and of my ineptness therewith, restrains me.

Someday, when I have worlds enough and time, I'm going to become good at crafts. I am. It would be very satisfying. In junior high and high school, I made a lot of my clothes, and I loved doing it. Fabric stores were every bit as enthralling as Michaels, and I knew what I was doing with the sewing thing. I could set in a sleeve and make a zipper lie flat. The last garment I made was a bridesmaid dress with ruffles at neck and hem, eight yards of fabric in the skirt, and a sheer overdress. It was pretty, it turned out well, if I do say so, and I was proud to wear it down the aisle.

Of course, I used to say I was going to become a really good cook someday, and then I married the dh, who not only already was a really good cook but enjoyed it. He still does. I do not enjoy it. Unless it's baking and chocolate is involved (and the Evil Soft Ball Stage is not).

Then there's Home Depot, another wellspring of imagination-igniting potential. I'm pretty decent with a saw, a hammer, and a tape measure. I know how to use a level. My father had only daughters, and he saw no reason we should not assist with his various projects. Plus I love the opportunities for redecorating, the idea of replacing, say, the cheapo sink unit in the boy's bathroom with something nicer (but still prefab since none of us has the skills to make such a thing). Budget's the issue there, rather than time, but we'll get to it one of these days. We've put home improvements on hold in favor of tuition, but that bathroom's at least going to be painted before he leaves home.

Then there's Idea Island, the place writer brains go when a story idea strikes. I have more ideas than I have time to write. Lots of writers do. Believe it or not, I even have some ideas that do not involving anything blowing up. But I have to step back from them, write down just enough to preserve them, and keep my focus, or I'd never get anything done.

Yet those ideas tend to spin a web at idle moments--when I'm washing dishes or folding laundry or waiting in a checkout line. And some of them pop up again, insistently, when I'm stuck on the wip. And sometimes they fit. Those are truly great moments. Like putting on, for the first time, a finished garment you've made. Or finishing the clasp on a necklace you've created (I imagine) or driving the last nail into something you've built.

I would love to do all those things. Had I but worlds enough and time.

What would you learn to do (or return to doing) if you had worlds enough and time?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Guest Author Dana Marton: Passion + Action = Paction (and Giveaway!)

I'm so happy to welcome author Dana Marton to the Lair! Dana Marton is the award-winning author of twenty-three books with Harlequin Intrigue. The latest is The Spy Who Saved Christmas, more of a Die Hard kind of Christmas story than It’s a Wonderful Life. High stakes, instead of fruitcakes. Dana is known for her fast-paced action and sexy, emotional romance. Dangerous men, thrilling women. Connect with Dana online at and

Thank you for the warm welcome, Kate!

I read a wide variety of books. My favorites are romance novels, of course. Specifically, romantic suspense, the kind of story I also write, like this month’s The Spy Who Saved Christmas. But even when I read outside of the romance genre, the stories I like best are those that include a love story.

Love is a part of every human story. In fact, love is what makes us human, and the search for love is what makes our characters relatable.

In a good romantic suspense novel, the passion and the action are inextricable. Paction, you might say.

The romance is the motivation for the suspense. The hero and heroine love each other – even before they admit it – so they put their lives on the line in order to keep the other safe. They throw themselves into the path of danger on each other’s behalf.

Here are a few movies that adeptly combined passion and action in such a way that one would not exist without the other. Paction movies.

  • Avatar – The hero entered a new world and fell in love. If he hadn’t fallen in love, he would likely have succumbed to the pressure to leave that world behind. But because he loved his heroine, he fell in love with her world, so much so that he was willing to fight to the death to save it.

  • Casino Royale – First, let’s get this out of the way: Daniel Craig is H-O-T. Can I hear an “Amen”? Now, about the movie… In past James Bond movies, there was always a romantic interest, but we knew that she wouldn’t hold his interest for long. But in Casino Royale, the prequel, James found true love, and the loss of that love explained why he would never let himself feel that deeply again.

  • True Lies – This is an old movie but not old enough to be cool. However, I’m naming it anyway because it’s one of my favorites. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a mild-mannered salesman, or so his wife believes. But in truth, he’s a spy whose frequent trips are actually dangerous missions. When his restless wife gets pulled into one of those missions, the stakes rise, and the hero will do anything to save the woman he loves. And she puts herself in danger’s path to save him, too.

When I write a Harlequin Intrigue, I write a paction story. The romance and the action are inextricably combined. In The Spy Who Saved Christmas, Reid Graham and Lara Jordan share one night of passion, and then Reid is killed in a mysterious fire, leaving Lara pregnant and alone.

Reid is an undercover spy, and he had no idea Lara was pregnant when he allowed her to believe he had died two years ago. Now he’s about to break the biggest case of his career, and Lara reappears in his life at the worst possible moment. For the first time, Reid has something to lose – the twin sons he’s never met, and the one woman he could never forget. With bullets flying and enemies hot on their heels, Reid and Lara have to work together to bring their babies home by Christmas.


Do you love paction books and movies as much as I do? What are some of your favorites?

Contest: Each time I reach another 100 people who “Like” my Facebook page (, I’ll select a random fan to win an e-gift certificate. Please come to my page and click “Like” for your chance to win.

Also, one lucky commenter on today’s blog will win a free copy of a book from my backlist.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


by KJ Howe

When I first read that title, my mind kept playing the Tina Turner song by the same name that was a blockbuster hit! Well, today our guest Shane Gericke is going to rock the house with his blog about two of my favorite things: love and bullets. Here is Shane with his first typewriter, and the man he developed into as a result of that gift! Please welcome Shane to the lair.

Love is in the air.

Along with a few thousand bullets.

Those are the two things that define my thriller novels. Love. And bullets.

Love coming first.

Sounds strange for a crime thriller, I know: love, not blood, ruling the roost.

But it’s true. My books are heavily caffeinated: Bullets fly. Buildings collapse. Cars race. Thunder crackles. Bombs explode. Knives flash, and blood is spilled, often in crimson jets. Bad guys are cruel. Good guys are heroic. Both fight to the very edges of their existences to get what they want.

But without love, it’s just another boring Hollywood actioner with a high body count of who–cares.

I think more of my readers than that. So I take great care to make my characters people you care about deeply. Men and women to whom you relate. People that could be your friends.

For that to happen, I need to infuse them with rich, human qualities. Otherwise, they’re mere cartoons, not to be taken seriously. So my characters are tough, but not unafraid. They’re strong, but falter. They love deeply, but not without bumps and bruises and bitching and balking.

In other words, they’re us.

And love is what makes them successful.

By “love,” I don’t mean sex. Sex is part of it, of course—my good guys dig each other in all the fun ways that make the world go around. But sex isn’t all of it. Or even most of it. To me, love means you respect and honor and cherish people. You care about what they think. Worry that they’re all right. Hope you’re doing your best for them. Feel your heart skip when they get home. Trust them in any situation. Share them freely with others, without jealousy or fear, knowing they always, always, consider you No. 1 in their lives.

Let me share some examples of what I mean from my new thriller, TORN APART. It’s the third in my national bestselling crime series starring Chicago suburban police officers Emily Thompson, Martin Benedetti, Annie Bates, Hercules Branch, and Kendall Cross. This chapter is near the beginning of the book, as a storm of ruthless killers (symbolized by the real thunderstorm crackling outside) gathers to invade these cops’ lives:




“Uh, sorry, ma’am,” Marty murmured as he drew back.

“Honey, it’s okay,” Emily said, interlocking her long, slender fingers with what Marty called his “knockwurst with nails.” She paused to let the thunder echo out. “It happens.”

“Not to me.”

Emily studied Marty’s cupped hand. What it held looked so sad. So drained of possibilities. She reached up, gently pushed the tip to the side.

No response.

“Emptied that bad boy faster than we thought,” she said.

“Yeh,” he said.

A string of thunder claps walked her mother’s tortoise-shell comb and brush set across her triple dresser. Wet wind howled through the open windows. Her hair blew across her face. She finger-combed it into place, opened the emerald sheets.

“You’re still full, though, right?” she said with an arch of the thin white scar that would forever bisect her left eyebrow.

Marty grinned.

Slapped the empty can of whipped cream onto the lamp table.

Dove into bed.

Sheets tangled. Pillows flew. Squeals erupted.

Phone warbled.

“Go away,” Emily groaned.

“Can’t,” Marty said. “You asked her to call.” He checked the number, picked up.


“Nice technique on those stairs,” Marty said. “You learn that in ninja school?” (Note: Annie is head of the SWAT team. She fell off a flight of stairs during a raid earlier that evening. Emily rescued her, and the bad guys were captured.)

“Shut up,” Annie said.

“I would, but I’m too busy laughing,” Marty said. “How are your eyes?”

“Terrible,” Annie said. (Her gas mask failed during the raid and she was engulfed in a tear gas cloud, which is why she fell off the stairs.) “They won’t stop itching.”

Marty sympathized, having swallowed his own share of gas over the years. Raids were the very definition of “Man plans; God laughs.” “They reformulated that brand. Sticks to your eyeballs something fierce now. But I know a cure.”

“Really? I’ll pay anything . . .”

“Go wash your head in grape juice.”

“Say . . . what?”

“Grape juice,” he repeated. “Sounds weird, but it works. Use a gallon or so, and work it in real good. As cold as you can stand it. Get the girls to help you scrub. Don’t rinse, just go to sleep with your hair wet.”

“Huh. And that really works?”

“Well, no,” Marty said. “But thinking about you doing it makes me all smiley inside.”

Annie’s reply was pointed.

“Guinness record for cuss words in one breath,” Marty said, laughing. “Seriously, get a good night’s sleep. That’ll take care of it.”

Annie slowed for the turn into her subdivision. “I’m glad we nailed those creeps, Marty,” she said. “Reminds me why I got into this business.”

Marty nodded at the phone, recalling his undercover infiltration of a violent biker gang. It was a soul-sucking job in which he’d been forced to beat a young man to death or be killed himself. But it ended with twelve whack jobs in maximum security and thirty million dollars of cocaine seized. Ten years later, he still got death threats from their pals. He pinned them on the bulletin board outside his office to his colleagues could vote for the most deranged.

“I know Em was unhappy to be sent home early,” Annie continued. “But Chief Cross was right to get that gas off her skin.”

Marty looked at Emily, whose freshly scrubbed body, backlit by the lamp, slid softly against her emerald silk nightgown. He felt himself stir for the umpteenth time. “Couldn’t agree more,” he said. “And with that I’ll sign off—”

“Wait, wait. I need her one more time.”

Marty gurgled.

“Only a minute, I promise,” Annie said, grinning at the phone. “Oh, and not that you care, but don’t eat too much fat and sugar while you’re gone.” (Marty and Branch will head out around dawn for their annual week in Wisconsin hunting deer.)

“You’re right,” Marty said. “I don’t care.”

He heard her laughing as he handed the phone back to Emily.

“Nice work with that thermal imager,” Annie said. “You handled it like a pro. Keep it up and I’ll put you on SWAT permanently.”

“Cool,” Emily said, knowing her best friend was really saying, Thank you for pulling my ass out of that fire.

“See you in a few hours,” Annie said.

They groaned simultaneously, and then hung up.

“So, my little commando,” Marty said. “Need to get some sleep?”

Emily pulled the gown over her head and held out her arms.

“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” Marty said.


Oh, and did I mention I love humor? It’s the most human of emotions, so I dose my books liberally with it.

In fiction as in life, love is not just boy-girl. There’s friend-friend, as between Marty, Emily and Annie in the passage above. There’s the love of work partners. And there’s the deep love of fathers for their children, as in this scene between Sergeant “Hawk” Hawkins and his daughter Samantha, whom Hawk is trying to keep from dying from a rare cancer:


Hawk wrapped his freckled arm around his daughter’s shoulders, fingers lightly brushing her hip. Its emerging boniness alarmed him, but he made sure not to show that in his hug.

“I love you, Ladybug,” he said.

She whispered, “I love you more.”

“You more,” he said, tickling her belly.

“No fair, Daddy,” she shrieked through high-pitched giggles. “I can’t breathe through the tickles to talk.”

He stopped.

You more,” she said. “That means I win. Yay!”

“Yes, you do,” he said.

He kissed Samantha’s scalp, breathing in her soapy scent. She sang the Alphabet Song backward, to show she knew how. It was only a little out of key. He told her a bedtime story, which started with the Brothers Grimm but tumbled into wizards, soccer, joke-telling vampires, and Barbie going to prom. She squealed when Barbie smeared orange lipstick on Ken.

Thunder shook the house. Sammy clapped her ears, cringing. Hawk shook a knotted fist, warned the storm that this very special 7-year-old was under his protection so scram, and furthermore he’d spank any monsters that came in from the rain. Relieved, Sammy settled back into his chest. Her breathing slowed. Her eyelids fluttered, then closed.

Hawk felt his tension leak away.

This was the time he loved most. Just father and daughter. No doctors. No disease. No runaway mom. Just a long black ponytail that smelled of peaches. Not the canned kind with stale metallic perfume. Fresh peaches, sodden with juice, snapped off the drooping tree in Grandpa’s backyard and broken into clumps by a delighted little girl as Grandma spooned maple ice cream from the hand churn . . .

“Daddy?” she murmured from somewhere near dreamland.

“Yes, baby?” Hawk said.

“Will I’ll be dead by Christmas?”


And finally, lest you think my thrillers are entirely love and tenderness and emotion and understanding, read this passage, in which a Wisconsin sheriff’s sergeant is under attack by four ruthless criminals armed with an Uzi submachinegun:


Abbott pulled the trigger of his pistol, sending flame-geyers at the gunmen. They wheeled and ducked, and the hollowpoints thocked uselessly into the grille of their van. Abbott sprinted for the assault rifle in the trunk of his patrol cruiser, which would shift the momentum back to him. The Uzi acquired him, belched fire and smoke. He barely heard the gun go off. Silencer, his lizard brain screamed.

He jinked like a Green Bay receiver. Most of the slugs flew side. But one smashed into his belt, sending his key ring into the river below. Another whacked into his bulletproof vest. The shock wave sucked out his momentum. He lurched now rather than ran.

The Uzi fired . . .

Three bullets stitched his vest, breaking ribs underneath. The crushing pain made his brain clicky.

The Uzi fired . . .

He tripped on a pothole, smashed face-first into the bridge deck. Bullets buzzed just over his head. He rolled like dervish, blood sputtering from his broken nose. Bullets pinged off the pavement the moment he left it. He reached the back of the cruiser, where he was relatively protected. He fumbled for his keys. Looked down when he couldn’t find them. Shot away, he realized. He couldn’t unlock the trunk to get to the rifle.

Bullets closed in on him.

He returned fire one-handed, the other fumbling for the panic button on the radio. His numbed index finger dropped it like a one-putt. He bared his teeth. No matter what happened to him, his brothers would blow so many holes in these bastards they’d look like a Swiss fuckin’ cheese—

He heard a clatter. Looked down again. Went cold. The panic button had fallen off the radio, along with the faceplate and battery. One of the bullets had shattered his two-way.

Did the signal get off in time . . .


Thanks so much for reading. It’s a pleasure talking with you.

Great job, Shane! Thanks for joining us today. I'd love to hear which passages people like and why. Also, another intriguing question I've always wondered is if men write love scenes in a different manner than women. Can you tell Shane is a guy from his passages? I'd pay big money to hear your thoughts on that one!

Shane Gericke is the national bestselling author of TORN APART and other thriller novels. His work, published by Kensington, is in translation worldwide, and his debut, BLOWN AWAY, won the Debut Mystery of the Year award from Romantic Times. He’s a past chairman of ThrillerFest, a founding member of International Thriller Writers, and belongs to Mystery Writers of America and the Society of Midland Authors. A senior editor at the Chicago Sun-Times before switching to thrillers, Shane lives in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, where his series is set and is also the home of famous crime-fighter Dick Tracy. See more about Shane, whose last name is pronounced YER-kee, at

More Booty

Sorry I'm a little late on this one. It's been crazy at home lately. The winner from my blog on noise is....


Congratulations!! You won a copy of Scandal of the Season!!

Please email me at christie @ christiekelley . com and send me your address.

The Last Hurrah of Summer

by Donna MacMeans

By the time you read this, I'll be stretched out on a beach in Key West. The Golden Rooster told me it was the best place to go to celebrate the last days of summer. Actually GR has relatives there. I'm told feral chickens and roosters roam the island and roost in the trees at night. Not sure how that's going to work for a night owl like me. Sounds like we'll be hitting the beach pretty early!

I'm planning on taking a haunted ghost tour that covers the several Victorian houses and historic cemetaries. Several ghosts make their home on Key West. While I've never seen a ghost, I know several people who have. A writer friend I know experienced a ghostly intervention in the hotel at Lora Leigh's reader event. I'm told some people are more
suspectable to such incidents. I wish I was one, but alas, I'm afraid my accountant sensibilities have a way to explain such visions away. Still I plan to do the tour. One never knows when a spector will appear in my Victorian romances.

Of course, the most famous resident of Key West was Ernest Hemingway. We'll visit his house which is now a museum in homage to the great writer.
I understand the house is also home to sixty rather unusual cats. While most cats have five front toes and four back toes, these cats are polydactyl which means they have extra toes on their front or back paws - the famous six toed cats. The maintenance and care of the cats is part of the museum's normal expenses. The cat to the left is named Sophia Loren. Sounds like the unusual cats have it better than the chickens and roosters.

This trip is something of a "spur-of-the-moment" trip. We're heading down to Florida for my niece's wedding, but decided to stay an extra week to explore parts of Florida that we hadn't visited before.

So while I'm not sure I'll have internet access to respond to comments, I have a nice prize to give to those that leave a comment (and I'll try my best to respond).

Tell me if you could have a spur-of-the-moment trip, where would you go? I'm always looking for new places to explore. Have you had any close encounters with ghosts or things that go bump in the night? Do you think I'm crazy for hoping I do? I have a tote bag autographed by some of the authors present at Lora Leigh's reader event - complete with some promo material and a couple of books. It's all yours for the best quick destination or best ghost story.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bandit booty

The winner of a signed copy of your choice of Addison Fox's Warrior Ascended or Warrior Avenged is SINN!! CONGRATULATIONS SINN!!

Please send me your choice of books and snail-mail address to swwelsh2001 AT yahoo DOT com (yes, 2 w's in that addy) and I'll see that Addison gets that prize to you ASAP!

Also, Laurie, please contact me at the above addy for your prize from Jo Davis earlier this month. (Someone really should remind me I have 2001 in my e-mail...this isn't the first time I've goofed. So sorry!)

Bring on the Bling!

by Anna Sugden

My name is Anna Sugden ... and I LOVE winning bling!

There's nothing better to make you feel on top of the world than winning something nice and shiny for your efforts.

Whether it's medals for taking part in a run for charity

Or plaques for winning writing contests

I love them all.
I have my bling scattered around my office - on one shelf there is the trophy I won at a sales conference in Amsterdam for being the best shot in a clay pigeon shooting contest (and I was one of only two women!).

Hanging off a bookcase is my conference name badge covered in lovely pins and ornaments for winning writing contests - including my two lovely pins for being a Golden Heart finalist.

I love to see my friends winning bling too - didn't we all get a tear in our eyes when our lovely Beth won the RITA earlier this year?

In amongst my hockey memorabilia is a framed pic of me with the ultimate trophy in hockey - The Stanley Cup - I was allowed to pose with it because my team, The New Jersey Devils, had just won it. Well, we fans deserve some bling too!

I can't wait for the ultimate bit of bling - a nice shiny contract for a book. I'm sure I can find the perfect little spot for it in my office.

So, do you like winning bling? Tell us about your successes and what you got for them. Do you have your bling in a special place or is it hidden away in a drawer?

Have you got a piece of bling that is your pride and joy?

Have you ever seen/held one of the famous sporting trophies?