Posts tagged with: art

Random Access Memory

IMG_7976I have always liked the idea of RAM.  It’s a computer thing, some particular type of storage.  (RAM = Random Access Memory.)  I don’t know what this means, not exactly, but I’m charmed by the idea of randomly accessing my memories.

Like many of us, I’ve abandoned photo albums since the advent of the camera phone.  I don’t even print my photos out.  There’s no writing a madcap note on the back (“Wanda & Me At The Beach with Lobster Boy!”) to remind myself who, what, where or when.  No, when I scroll through my pictures these days, I’m lucky if I can remember what the photo is of, let alone why I took it.

IMG_7982All I have is the photo itself, a random image of a moment in time that leaves me wondering why I recorded it.

I actually enjoy this little game.  I call it, “Now what do you suppose THIS is?”

Sometimes it’s easy.  The first photo, for example, was my favorite meal at the state fair this summer:  Pretzel curds, blarney fries & a good Irish beer.

IMG_7871I picked up photo #2 at the 4H building (also at the fair), proof of a fabulous fact that some kid picked up while doing research on…I don’t even know.  Pole vaulting?  Transportation in the middle ages?  The origin of Olympic sports?  I have no idea.  But I know a bit more about the origins of pole vaulting now, & am kind of sad that we’re moved on to cars & bikes & buses & such.

IMG_8059#3 is obviously a guinea pig’s 2nd birthday party.  There were treats involved made out of sunflower seeds & peanut butter. The party hat was homemade.  Of course.

#4, however, still puzzles me.  This is a sculpture I saw at an outdoor art park that was chock-full of weird stuff.  Seriously weird stuff.  But this…I want to call it a deer mobile?…took the cake.  I can’t imagine what the artist’s intent was.  All I can tell you for sure is that it scared the crap out of my sister’s dog.

IMG_8063#5, though?  #5 I remember.  I don’t recall what it was actually called, but my sister (seen smiling here) & I rechristened it “The A-hole” because it’s obviously a big hole with the capital letter A inside it.  And once you see that, you’ll never un-see it.  It’s the A-hole forever.  Because we’re mature like that.

How about you?  Is your phone your photo album these days?  Or do you still print your pictures & put them in albums?  How do you organize your memories?


A Book Of Another Cover

I’ve got a long-time Bandit friend and surprise guest in the lair today–AND I’ve got something really cool to show off.  Y’all get to see it first!

But before that, can I say that I really miss having covers on the books I read? 

Yeah. I do.

KindleIt’s because I’ve caught the e-Reader craze. 

Until I started reading on a Kindle, I never realized just how often I’d pause at a poignant moment in the story, and flip the front of the paperback book closed to see the cover.    I’d picture the setting just as the author painted it, seeing the characters in the scene.  I’d see the expressions shift on their faces, the hurt in their eyes. I felt the pain, the fear, the want, the longing, right along with those people who had become so real to me.

Granted, my connection with the cover models was a little easier if they …you know… actually had heads. And given the recent tendency for publishers to cut off the heads of the  models, covers with heads have been getting harder and harder to find.

But even without heads–even if I supplied their appearance from my own imagination and the author’s description, that full-color cover still added immensely to my experience of the book. It was part of the pleasure of reading for me.  letter

Then  I got the Kindle.   It was the black & white kind, like that one up there on the left.  I fell hard,  like a teenage girl in the presence of a rock star. I immediately LOVED my Kindle.  I still do.  I love how light it is. I love that the battery lasts dang-near forever.  The color ones are much heavier and the batteries need recharging WAY more often.  My Kindle was a gift, and you can get it away from me  if you can pry it from my cold, dead fingers.  Just sayin.

But bottom line?  The covers on the black and white Kindles are the size of a postage stamp.

Afte190_PhotoThe_Laird_Cover_Artr I got the Kindle, it was a long time before I quit missing the pretty covers.  Nowadays I prefer reading on my Kindle, but  I still miss those images. 

 Exactly a month ago, long-time Bandit Buddy and lair favorite Sandy Blair was here to announce that she’d re-released one of her series independently  with…drum roll please…new covers.  Covers that better reflected what the stories were about.

On Saturday’s fabulous blog by Bandita Caren Crane about likes and dislikes in covers, it was clear that covers matter to some of you as much as they do to me.   

  So I want to ask you a few more questions about that.

Y’all know Dianna Love is one of my closest friends, and some of you know that I work with her.  In May, we were in the middle of a phone conversation when she dropped a little bombshell on me.  It went something like this:

Dianna:  “I’m thinking about changing the covers for the Slye Temp series.”

Me:  *Head snaps up as I stop pacing through the kitchen.  I squint at the wall and push my Bluetooth earpiece Love-Last Chance To Runtighter against my ear.*  “What?  You worked hard to get those covers just the way you wanted.”

Dianna:  “I know.  But I don’t think they tell the story of what the book is about.  I think they look too much like mainstream thrillers and not enough like romantic suspense.  I don’t think I’m doing right by the readers.”

I considered this as I started pacing again.  That cover for Last Chance To Run on the right?   It was exactly what Dianna had wanted at the time, and I think it’s beautiful.

But  in my heart I knew she was right. 

 I went to Google and typed in “Romance Book Covers” and clicked on “images,”  and almost to a one, the covers included people.  Dianna had hit on an important point.   That Google page  said loud and clear that the books were about the people–the relationships.  And although her Slye Temp books contain a lot of big suspense and fast-paced action, anybody who’s read them will tell you that they are  one-hundred-percent romance from start to finish.  

Her covers alone would not tell a reader that the Slye Temp series was romance.  

She notified her artist that she was going to make a change,  and over the next couple of months she searched for images of couples. 

Two weeks ago we were together at an event in Savannah, Georgia, and between panels, Dianna was online with the artist.  When the covers finally appeared, here is what we saw.  

3 Slye covers 01

I couldn’t stop staring at them.   I wanted to frame them and hang them on my wall because they were so damn pretty.  And the angst, the longing and the “almost” between the couples was so thick you could cut it.  

It was three shots of pure romance, 100 proof.

Me: “Hey can I do the cover reveal in the lair?”

Dianna:  *Squints at me for a minute* “Yeah, that would be cool!”

Love-Nowhere SafeWhen I put them side by side with the originals which you can see here on the left, it’s clear what Dianna was talking about.  

But no way can you look at the new covers without knowing they’re mostly about a relationship.   They whisper intimate to me. 

 Campbell--tempt the devil

By now you realize that I’m a cover ‘ho.    I will admit to pulling Anna Campbell’s  Tempt The Devil off the shelf every now and then, just to stare at it.  *Fans self*

Love-HoneymoontodieforTo be successful, a cover has to draw me in.  And it needs to tell me what the book is about.

With the help of amazing artists like Dianna’s— Kim Killion at Hot Damn Designs– and Bandita Suz’s gifted daughter Lyndsey Lewellen, who’s done so many of the beautiful Bandit covers, authors can try something, and if it doesn’t work, they can shift gears and try something else, all for the benefit of the readers.

Bandits and Buddies, how do you feel about that?

Do you expect your books to deliver what the covers promise?

Do you want your romance covers to say “romance” right up front?

Dianna will be here to talk with us off and on during the day, so ask her anything about how and why she chose to remake her covers.  BUT….If you didn’t know what Dianna wrote, and you looked at the original covers, would you know they were romance?

Lots of authors have more than one cover for the same book.  Have you, or anyone you know, loved a book enough to collect all the versions with all the different covers? 

And since Caren didn’t ask in her Saturday blog…

Where do you fall on the “heads vs no heads” question?  Do you prefer to use your own imagination about the character’s appearance? (I’m sure that’s what the publishers are thinking–either that or they couldn’t afford a model with a handsome face) Or do you want the full cover art, sans decapitation?

When you see nekkid people on a cover, do you automatically think it’s erotica?

Dianna is giving away three books today.  She is offering one copy  each of the three books-with the new covers–and each book will go to a different winner. 

So THREE winners today–leave a comment, and let us know which book you’d like.  Watch the blog in the upcoming days for an announcement of the winners of Dianna’s books, and since I’ve been out of town, I still have to give away books from Lexi George’s guest blog on the 9th!  I’ll announce both at the same time.


**FYI…Awesome reviewers Miranda and Joy from Joyfully Reviewed are also giving Dianna’s new covers some love today.  And later in the week, Dianna will be on the Simply Ali blog, with more giveaways!




The Art Gallery Walk…in my home

Welcome to my home! As many of you know both my daughters are artists.Today I’d like to show you what my family and I get to enjoy on a daily basis. It means, lucky me, my home is filled with rather unique artwork.(Please excuse all flashes from my camera.)

The first thing I want to show you is the wonderful presents I got for Christmas. On the left is the framed poster of HUNTED’s cover and on the right is KIDNAPPED. Lyndsey made these for me. You can’t read them, but scattered over the covers are quotes from the reviews both books received on Amazon. In fact, right above HUNTED on the right side of the picture is one from someone you all know, our own HELEN! How cool is this. Both of these are going to hang in my office where I can see them every time I enter the room. Talk about inspiration. (The photos don’t do them justcie, they are HUGE.)



Next is the lovely picture my older daughter, Alison made me for Christmas. It’s a couple in a romantic pose, surrounded by my favorite flowers, tulips. This is going in my dining room along with some lovely black and white pictures of my two granddaughters as babies. Alison did both of these, too.

Here’s another wall in my dining room. The three collages you see here were done by Lyndsey. Each picture represents one of us connected by the colors and designs on the background. The one on the left is Lyndsey, represented by her favorite flower, the daisy. I’m in the middle represented by my tulips. And Alison is on the right. Her signature flower? The rose. These were another Christmas present and I adore them!




Now let’s move into the living room. Here is an African gazelle. Isn’t it striking? Know why I love this so much? No, I don’t have a thing for long-horned goat/deer creatures. 

 This particular piece of art was made entirely with dots. I made a close up so you could see. No lines, just dots, even the background. This piece has fascinated me for years. A school project, Lyndsey even coerced her brother and best friend into helping her fill in the background dots the night before this was due. I know for a fact that buried in the background of dots are my now son-in-law’s name and the name of a boy her best friend adored back then. Haven’t been able to find them…yet!


 Also in the living room you will see this piece that Alison did. The native

 American woman gives a nod to my dual heritage, (Cherokee on both sides from my parents who lived in Tennessee). I also thought the strength and determination in her pose quite moving. This piece sits on my mantel except at Christmas.








And hanging next to the mantle is this piece of cross stitch I did years ago. It’s the only kind of art work I can manage, but it reminds me of the lovely Grandmother’s Garden quilts my own grandmother had.





Next you can see what hangs in the guest bedroom. This picture on the left was another assignment for Lyndsey. She had to take an everyday object and use it in three different ways. This was a candle and the woman, who given Lyndsey’s love of comics is a superhero, is using it as a weapon. The comic art graphics of this appeals to me and I just had to hang it.







Next to it in the same room is this piece that Lyndsey did for an art show in downtown Dallas. Again, a woman with superpowers, you can see her forming a protective shield with her hand. Her daddy loved it so much he bought it. I keep trying to get her to make me another one to go with it…but she’s a little busy these days. 🙂






 Back in my office, I thought I’d show you a couple of more pieces. This one is a poster we had Lyndsey make for a DARA function. We wanted to educate the people attending the seminar and the book signing about the important role Romances make in the publishing market place. With RWA’s permission we used facts and quotes on the poster…but in the lower left corner, that couple ALMOST touching? I use that to remind me of how sexual tension should feel. That’s from one of Lyndsey’s favorite comics, X-men. She drew her interpretation of two characters in a sensual stance…almost touching, almost kissing. Do you know which characters?





Hanging  so I can see it from my desk chair is this picture. Isn’t it beautiful? It’s a self-portrait that Lyndsey did of herself when she was about 16 or 17.  How you look into a mirror and draw yourself AND make it look exactly like you…amazes me. I have it up there to remind me, that if you concentrate long enough and hard enough you can achieve something masterful. That, and it’s just beautiful to look at!



Here are those two black ink drawings Alison did for me from when my granddaughters were babies. (I’m still waiting for the ones for my grandsons!) Now that I have that lovely couple in tulips picture to balance it out, I can get these up in my dining room. Aren’t they sweet?










And this isn’t going in my house, but was just too precious not to share. This is Alison’s daughter from a photo Lyndsey took of her coloring at my dining room table. Lyndsey drew it onto paper then with the suggestions from her own daughter added the imagination that comes from art. She even let her help color it. This was Lyndsey’s gift to her sister for Christmas. It rendered Alison speechless.


So, that’s the art gallery walk in my house. I still have a few rooms those two can fill with their collective work. I might even go through their old portfolio’s one day and find some more treasures to hang. 


How about you? Got any special photos or art pieces you love? Tell me about them. Got any special wall hangings, quilts, cross stitch pieces? Are you an artist?


The Importance of Being Miranda Neville

I’m always delighted to host the sparkling Miranda Neville in the lair – not only because she’s darn good company and a wonderful guest, but also because it means she’s got another one of her wonderful books for me to read. Even better, today’s book THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING WICKED launches a new series based around some art-loving and very scandalous aristocrats.

This story is already creating great buzz around Romancelandia – for example, RT Book Reviews called it “deliciously wicked” and Publishers Weekly chose this book as one of their top 10 romances of the Fall.

Here’s the blurb:

The rules of society don’t apply to Caro and her coterie of bold men and daring women. But when passions flare, even the strongest will surrender to the law of love….

Thomas, Duke of Castleton, has every intention of wedding a prim and proper heiress. That is, until he sets eyes on the heiress’s cousin, easily the least proper woman he’s ever met. His devotion to family duty is no defense against the red-headed vixen whose greatest asset seems to be a talent for trouble…

Caroline Townsend has no patience for the oh-so-suitable (and boring) men of the ton. So when the handsome but stuffy duke arrives at her doorstep, she decides to put him to the test. But her scandalous exploits awaken a desire in Thomas he never knew he had.  Suddenly Caro finds herself falling for this most proper duke…while Thomas discovers there’s a great deal of fun in a little bit of wickedness.

You can read an except of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING WICKED on Miranda’s website.

Miranda, absolutely lovely to have you back again! You’re a favorite in the lair.

Thanks, Anna. A day with the Bandits is always a highlight of any blog tour.

Congratulations on THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING WICKED which is out TODAY!  Can you tell us about this story?

This is the tale of two people who instantly fancy each other like mad but appear to be totally unsuited. Thomas, Duke of Castleton is an aggressively conventional man. He wants to marry an heiress, both because that’s what dukes do (amazingly they aren’t that anxious to wed courtesans and governesses) and because he’s suffering a temporary cash flow problem. His designated heiress is staying in London with her Cousin Caro, a wild widow on the edge of financial ruin. Neither is at all pleased by their mutual attraction. Gradually Thomas learns to loosen up and Caro leans to appreciate a reliable guy. I have to let myself gush a little about Thomas. Against his better judgment he lets Caro lead him into doing all sorts of naughty things–and thoroughly enjoys himself. But he never loses his inner compass and in my humble opinion is just adorable: the kind of guy we should all have as a husband (as well as being incredibly hawt).

What were the inspirations behind this book?

My previous books were set in the late Regency. I wanted to go back to the aftermath of the French Revolution, which had huge repercussions on English life and politics. The transitional period between Georgian and Regency is also a bit socially looser and the ground hasn’t been covered so extensively in historical romance. Also, I love the clothes. The 1790s are about big hair and big hats, giving way to the high-waisted look that came over from France. Caro favors particularly skimpy examples of the new styles. THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING WICKED is set in 1800, a date I picked because of a specific historical event that’s coming up in book two of the series.

I notice your latest series, The Wild Quartet, is built around art collectors. I love that theme. Can you tell us a little bit about the forthcoming books?

It’s a bit complicated to explain (evidently I have no understanding of High Concept). Four young men met at Oxford and were thrown out of the university. They went on a tear around England the Continent, gaining bad reputations and worse habits. Caro’s first husband, Robert, was one of the four and the others are the heroes of the next three books. But The Wild Quartet isn’t a happy group-of-friends series. Their relationships are complex and not always cordial and the resolution of their issues is part of the story arc as they grow up and find their heroines.

One of the things that drew the quartet together was an interest in art. The eighteenth century nobility had an unquenchable lust for art and antiquities which spread to the middle classes. All sort of aesthetic theories were bandied about and London was full of artists. Caro keeps a kind of salon for young artists and you can imagine what her stuffy duke thinks of that! Robert gave her a Titian for a wedding present and she has it stashed away to hide it from her creditors. Thomas is more of a horse and dog man when it comes to paintings.

Horse and dog man? Love it! What’s next for The Wild Quartet?

Art will play a part in subsequent books, not so much in the second book of the series, AN IDEAL SCOUNDREL. I won’t say much about it because it’s not quite finished–it’s due in about ten minutes. It features Caro’s heiress cousin Anne and Marcus Lithgow, who shows himself to be a very bad boy in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING WICKED.

Any chance of your art collectors and the bibliophiles from your marvellous Burgundy Club series crossing paths?

Not unless we meet them as children! If I can find a role for him, I may introduce Lord Hugo Hartley, an elderly connoisseur who has appeared in several of my books.

A treat for readers, a delicious novella appeared in October to launch this series. Can you tell us about THE SECOND SEDUCTION OF A LADY?

Set seven years earlier, the novella introduces Caro when she’s falling in love with Robert (who later dies). But the story is about Robert’s guardian Max Quinton and the woman he loved and lost. Eleanor dumped him when she learned he’d taken part in a bet over her with friends, but when they meet again by chance, Max is determined not to let her get away again. This is my first shot at the reunited lovers trope, but it won’t be my last.

I’m intrigued to know whether you see any particular trends in historical romance at the moment (apart from luscious, romantic covers!).

I think it’s a very exciting time to be writing historical romance. Scandalous, sinful, seductive Regency dukes aren’t going away (neither would I wish them to!) but we’re seeing more variety. Although nineteenth-century England and Scotland are still the most popular settings, we’re seeing more characters from different classes and greater scope for quirky stories and characters. While the self-publishing movement hasn’t yet affected historicals as much as it has some other subgenres, I feel a kind of buoyancy and sense of possibility among authors, a willingness to experiment. I’d be very curious to know if other writers agree–and if readers are finding and enjoying new kinds of stories.

I had so much fun researching the art background to this book. Surfing the internet for paintings is my idea of a good time. (Visiting museums with Anna Campbell is even more fun, but darn it she lives too far away!) What kind of art do you enjoy? Do you have favorite artists or art galleries?

Ah, Miranda, I still have fond memories of the guards at the National Gallery of Art wanting to throw us out because we were being too naughty. Too long since we’ve done that!

OK, everyone, Miranda has very kindly offered TWO prizes today (international). Print editions of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING WICKED and THE SECOND SEDUCTION OF A LADY. Yum! Get commenting!

My Favourite Picture

Have you ever had that moment when you see a picture and it calls out to you? Really speaks to you.

I’ve never been a great one for paintings. Not that I don’t like paintings, but I’ve been inspired other things. As a student, I was more likely to have black and white photos of film stars on my wall, than prints of famous art. A moody shot of a smoking Marlene Dietrich or a classic shot of Audrey Hepburn at her most elegant.

My first experience of art speaking to me was when I visited the Tate Gallery in London, on a school trip, and saw my first Dali. It was an painting of the Crucifixion from above and was so striking I stood staring at it for hours. It was one of those paintings that the more you looked at it, the more you saw. Something true of most Dali paintings and indeed of the best Surrealists.

My tastes are eclectic. I know what I like and it’s always something that speaks to me – whether it’s a piece of vintage ephemera turned into a piece of art like this old book-cover, a modern art print or fashion print by Atsuko Okamoto or a pen and ink caricature by Hirschfeld. (Isn’t this Audrey Hepburn stunning?)

So what is my favourite painting? It’s called “Afterjam” by Mark Keller. I first saw it in a gallery in Charleston, South Carolina. Instantly, I wanted to know more about the musician. What was his story? Where had he been playing and where was he going? I was thrilled when my lovely hubby got me the painting for a birthday present and it hangs proudly in my office – alongside the kids on the deckchairs and the Audrey Hepburn by Hirschfeld! (and a signed photo of my favourite hockey player *g*). How’s that for eclectic?!

What is your favourite painting? How does it speak to you?

One Mom’s Encouragement–Dianna Love Passes It On

by Cassondra Murray with Dianna Love

Y’all pull up a bar stool and put in your order for a glass of wine or one of Sven’s fabulous cocktails. I’ve poured myself a glass of California Cabernet, and I want to celebrate a new–and very different–project by lair favorite–and my long-time friend, Dianna Love. She’s just launched something that’s *cue valley girl squeal* totally awesome, and I want her to share it with you, and the reasons behind it.

If you’re a lair regular, you know by now that Dianna’s first book won a Rita Award, and she’s gone on to co-author two successful series with #1 NYT Bestseller, Sherrilyn Kenyon. The first was Sherrilyn’s original BAD Agency series. The lastest is Dianna’s brainchild–the rockin’ Belador urban fantasy series.

Many of you have read my interviews with Dianna in the past, and been inspired by her drive, determination, and what seems like a bottomless well of energy, which she draws on when pursuing something she cares about. I recently learned that she gives her mom a lot of the credit for encouraging Dianna to go for her dreams and follow her heart–first into art–and later into her newest passion, fiction writing.

As we head into the weeks before Mother’s Day, I asked Dianna if she’d share a little about her mom, what that encouragement meant to her, and how that’s led to her sponsoring a national art contest based around her latest book.

Welcome Dianna!

Dianna: *lifts her glass of Australian Shiraz* Thanks! It’s always great to be back here in the lair!

Cassondra: You’re an inspiration to a lot of people because you’ve basically had two very successful careers. Many of the Bandits and Buddies know that you were an artist before you were a writer. But that’s key to your latest project, so for those new to the lair, will you tell us briefly about your “past life?”

Dianna: Sure. My life revolved around art pretty much from the first time I picked up a crayon. I was blessed with the ability to draw photo-realistic art and by the time I was in middle school, I was selling detailed pencil portraits for $5 each to earn money for art supplies. My parents had five kids and no extra money for frivolous use of school supplies like paper and pencils. I have never forgotten an uncle who worked in a paper mill and brought me a ream of paper once when he came to visit. The memory of that gift has stayed with me since grade school.

Cassondra: What a great gift for a budding artist.

Dianna: *nods* Over the next few years as I grew into my teens and on into adulthood, I went from drawing portraits on 18” paper to painting them 20 feet tall way up above the ground. When I was first living alone at seventeen, I used my art to do side jobs between three “regular” jobs I held during the week. By age twenty, I was building a business in painting signs and murals. Over the next thirty years, I expanded to creating massive three-dimensional objects for unusual marketing projects and eventually created unusual high-tech advertising pieces for events like the Olympics and companies such as Coca-Cola.

(Cassondra interjects: That Coca Cola sign on the left is in downtown Atlanta–it’s an example of the kind of projects Dianna’s company built.)

Cassondra: I’ve known you for a long time, but only recently came to understand the roles your mom, and her encouragement, played in your art career. We’re coming up on Mother’s Day, and we’ve got a lot of moms in the lair with us today. I think they’d love to hear a little about your childhood and your mom. I especially love the story about the tv station interview. Will you tell that one?

Dianna: *takes a sip of Shiraz* Yes. My mother was no wallflower, but she was a wife during an era when the man had the last say in a house. With five children, there was no doting on any one, but I remember my mom coming to first grade just to see something I’d drawn. I thought I was in big trouble *grin* – that was the only reason a parent was asked to come to the school back then — but I’d used my newsprint sheet of paper–anyone remember drawing on newsprint?–(*cassondra raises hand*) to draw an involved series of the Billy Goat’s Gruff cartoon, and I guess my teacher was impressed, because she called my mom in to see it.

By the time I reached sixth grade, my mom had gone through years of having me draw at the kitchen table and on anything I could get my hands on, plus I’d won some art contests by then.

Cassondra: But in sixth grade something pivotal happened?

Dianna: Yes. We had two six-week sessions of art that year. I was in heaven. Free art materials and time to draw–but more about that later.

My art teacher entered a batik I created in a national contest, which I knew nothing about until they announced in home room that I’d placed 3rd…and that I was to be interviewed on television. They might as well have said I was expected to travel on the next moon flight.

Now back to that “time to draw” in class thing….My dad had grown up during hard times and expected us to only study in school—and that didn’t mean drawing or painting. Art was a waste of time and money to him, so when I told them about the television interview, he said no.

I had never heard my mom naysay him, but she said yes. She dressed me up and drove me to that interview. The first and second place winners were seniors who t
hey also interviewed. Everyone was very nice, going over questions with me before they started rolling.
That was a memorable experience to be sure.

But more than anything it made me realize that my art did count because my mom said so. Never underestimate the power of believing in your child.

Cassondra: How did you use that belief and encouragement—how did you transfer it into something concrete as you moved through your teens and into your adult life?

Dianna: My mom would do anything for her children for the short time we had her (she had a heart attack and died when I was seventeen). She patiently listened to every story, helped with everyone’s homework and cut no one slack when it came to being a good person and the best you could be at anything.

Because of her encouragement and pride in what I’d created, I never considered giving up my art. But my father told me I couldn’t depend on it to make a living. I believed that as a teen, and took mechanical drawing in school to appease him. Being a strange right brain/left brain artist who loves math, I aced the class, but one thing it did was show me that I hated the idea of engineering or architecture.

I never walked around thinking I’d be the next Rembrandt painting portraits all day, but neither did I enjoy working in an office, so I gravitated to painting signs and murals. Living alone at seventeen is a two-sided blade of positive and negative. Every day was a struggle to survive back then, but the positive is that the only voice I heard was my own and that one told me to follow my heart.

I have always felt as though my mom is nearby watching over me and I still feel her spirit with me in everything I accomplish.

Cassondra: *swirls wine in glass* I want to talk for a minute about passing on the encouragement your mom gave you. I’ve seen you sit down with new writers and help them through tough spots in the writing–or in the business–more times than I can count. But your encouragement of others didn’t start when you started writing. Once you had your own sign business and your own shop, you helped other young artists get started and taught them how to do what you did. Your consistent willingness to teach others and share the work and success might seem counter-intuitive to some people. Will you talk about why doing that fits your basic philosophy of encouraging others?

Dianna: It goes back to my mom’s influence. She would stop to help any child anywhere. I remember her saying that she hoped someone would help her children when they needed it if she wasn’t around to do it at some point. She was the original “pass it up the line” person who helped others because that’s who she was.

I’ve never thought about how often I do it, because helping others is just a natural part of my being. I never considered my competitors in business or art to be my opponents or enemies, and I feel the same way about writing.

My philosophy is that the better job we all do in whatever field we’re in, the more successful we all will be and when it’s writing, that’s good for readers and the business. On top of all that, it makes me very happy to see others succeed, so I benefit too.

Cassondra: When you made the switch from painting to writing, did it feel as though you were giving up one dream to pursue another? Did you have any moments when you wondered if it was the right thing to do? If so, how did you make your decision?

Dianna: I loved painting, but I’d spent so many years away from home working, in everything from cold to suffocating heat, that my urge to write came at a good time for me. I’d been making up stories in my head, so when I reduced the amount of time I was climbing to paint and build, I started writing these stories down in between times I spent painting in my home studio.

But the writing really captured me. My husband kept telling me I couldn’t continue to paint huge walls and write books, because the schedule was killing me. I work every day, but my writing was demanding so much I couldn’t keep up the pace. So I finally made the decision to go full time into writing. It was a difficult decision because I’d spent my life building a business in art, but this is where I refer back to the question about helping others–back to what I learned from my mom.

I had so many friends in the sign business by that point that I was able to place all my clients in good hands and help my friends at the same time. My husband still oversees two large sign maintenance contracts we have, but I’m rarely involved in that now.

Cassondra: You’ve shared how art competitions played a role in your development as a young artist. When did you first get the idea of sponsoring a national art contest, and what’s your purpose in doing that? And why the focus on high schools in particular?

I kept thinking I wanted to create an image of Feenix, our sweetheart gargoyle in the Belador series, and started sketching on it when it hit me that this would make a fun art contest.

I had the opportunity to enter art contests from 3rd grade on, and those played a part in building my confidence in a field everyone considered a waste of time. I can’t tell you how often you hear that you can’t make a living in that field – I proved them all wrong. *grin* I think confidence-building is especially important for young artists who might let naysayers talk them out of pursuing a dream.

When I came up with the My Feenix Art Contest, I wanted everyone to be invited whether they hand -drew pictures, created on the computer or made stuffed animals, so the contest has three categories– Flat Art, 3-D and Digital– for each of the two division–the High School Student division and the Adult division.

Cassondra: You’ve spoken before, here in the lair, about your dogged determination to remain true to whatever you’re passionate about. I’ve heard you say “A bad day painting was better than a good day doing anything else.” How does this art contest play into that, and how do you see it encouraging others to follow their passion?

Dianna: I do believe following your passion should be at the core of what you do if you want to be happy in life. I think just entering an art contest is a big step for many artists who are timid about submitting their art to a professional group.

The contest has no entry fee and all of the initial submissions are sent as jpgs. There’s a category for digital art, but even the hand-drawn and three-dimensional art is submitted as photos for the first round. We did this to make it as easy as possible for anyone to submit.

Sometimes just the act of doing one thing to move your craft forward is all it takes to get you thinking more seriously about your art–and that’s true of writing too–of whatever your art is.

Cassondra: Our Bandit Buddies run the gamut from late teens to parents to grandmothers, and everything in between. What would you say to our visitors in the lair today about pursuing their dreams at any age, and how would you suggest they encourage others in their lives to do the same?

Dianna: That’s a great question, and I have a story about how important that is.

Years back, I attended a social event at the home of a female business associate. I commented on the beautiful still life and landscape paintings in her home by one particular artist whose name I couldn’t decipher.

Her mother, who had come to live with her that year, was from Puerto Rico and spoke no English, but the woman loved to watch Bob Ross’s Joy of Painting television shows where he gave art classes. Her mother was in her mid 80s when she picked up a paintbrush for the first time in her life and shocked everyone with her talent. It been a secret passion of hers forever, but she never had the opportunity to try. Now her family has these amazing paintings to remember her by.

A lot of people have those secret yearnings.

I think we have to stop once in a while and ask the people closest to us, “Is there anything you’ve ever wanted to do that you haven’t and you’d like to do now?” Or just listen—pay attention– when we hear that new or different sound in their voice when they’re telling us about something that has caught their attention.

Have an open mind about listening. That’s all it takes sometimes to encourage someone to pursue a dream.

*Bandits and Buddies shift to make room as Sven and Paulo set trays of snacks on the tables and bar*

If someone is an artist—or KNOWS an artist—who might like to enter the My Feenix Art Contest, how do they get more info?

You can
go to and find out everything you need to know. The instructions and entry forms are there on the site. Top prize in each adult category is $1000. Top prize for students is an iPad, plus money for school art departments and books for school libraries.

Help me spread the word–and pass on the encouragement. It’s never too early–or too late–to go for your dream.

Cassondra: Feenix first appeared in BLOOD TRINITY, first book in the Belador series, which was released last October. The second book in the series, ALTERANT is scheduled for release September 27th. You can read an excerpt of BLOOD TRINITY, see the blurb for ALTERANT, and meet the Beladors at

What about you Bandits and Buddies?

It’s not always a mom who plays the role of encourager. Has anyone ever encouraged you at a low moment? What did they say?

Have you gone for something that scared you, and been encouraged in doing so by either watching someone else, or having someone tell you to go for it?

What have you gone for “against the odds,” or what are you going for right now?

Have you taken a moment to encourage someone else in the pursuit of an important dream or goal? Who was it? Your child? Brother or sister? Critique Partner? Friend?

Who has made a difference in your life with a touch, a card or phone call or a word when you most needed it?

Sven is passing another round of drinks, so eat, drink, and tell us how you’ve helped spread the encouragement, or been encouraged at just the right moment.

Oh…and tell us what drink Sven is mixing/pouring for you. *grin*

Dianna is giving away two signed copies of BLOOD TRINITY and one of the coveted Belador t-shirts!

Same But Different

by Suzanne Welsh
As a mother I’ve said to my kids I love you the same, but different. (How many of us have said that?) Well it’s true. Take my girls for example. Both my daughters are singers, artists and readers. I take great pride in all this, but swear I had little do with their development other than pass on some genes. While they’re similar in their talents, a fact that still amazes their father and me, they are unique in their styles.

Music: Both girls have been soloists in school and church groups since elementary school. Alison is the soprano who loves blues and rock-a-billy these days. I think the mournful guitar riffs of the blues speak to that deep part of her soul, while the other is just plain fun. Lyndsey loves Christian Rock and punk. The girl can sing soprano and alto and has an ear for harmonies like you wouldn’t believe. As their mother, I could listen to both of them sing forever. And given the chance they still perform for audiences in blues bars or churches.

Art: Since they drew their first crayon compositions on their bedroom walls, they’ve always been drawing. As they’ve grown their art has evolved into their own styles.

Alison’s is very realistic. As you can see by these examples, she likes to draw people in their quieter, more introspective selves. She works with inkings and pastels on large sheets of drawing papers. I love the intensity, the raw emotions they touch inside. Alison is all self taught, well except for that one semester in college. And recently has been showing her work in galleries in the Deep Ellum Art district.

Lyndsey is a lover of the manga style of art. A very vibrant and fun style, full of surprises. She’s had more classes to develop her understanding of art, but her style is strictly her own. She sketches on paper, scans it into the computer, then does the coloring by computer. Which given the details and special effects, you can see aren’t easy. Each and every picture she develops amazes me and makes me smile. The one above of the girl with the glowing shield uses special light effects. The one below with the hands was a painting she did for a charity. And currently she’s working with a Christmas Card company doing fun cards.

Books: Here is where I had a little influence in their tastes. Well, okay maybe a lot. From the moment they were born, I read to them, and they always saw me reading. I encouraged them to read, took them to the bookstore on a regular basis. And when I started writing, they learned how much I love the romance genre. Alison is all over the spectrum with her reading choices, Ann Rand, Sylvia Plath, Sherrylin Kenyon, Elizabeth Lowell, and anything with fantasy, Tolkein and J K Rowling. Lyndsey loves sweeter romances, such as Debbie Macomber; Kinley MacGregor, especially the old Pirate books; and fantasy books such as Gena Showalter and Cathy Spangler.

So what does all this have to do with a romance writing blog? Simple, just as I love my daughters the same but different, so do I love the many subgenres of romance. I love to be whisked off to a new dimension with space heroes and vampires. Give me a good psychic contemporary suspense to read late at night when the house is creepy silent. Give me a historical that makes me yearn for years gone by. Make me laugh, make me cry, make me go YUMMO at the heroes.

And sadly, I write the same way. I love to step back in time and create my version of history. I love creating the American contemporary small town and all the zany characters. I love to have the good guys defeat the bad guys and get the girl. Perhaps someday I’ll find my one niche, but for now, I love them all…the same, but different.

So how about you? Is there anything you’re so passionate about you can’t see any other style? Or are you like me, a bit of a smorgasbord reader/writer?