Vanessa Barneveld’s Winner!

BanditBootyThanks to everyone who swung by yesterday to turn my friend Vanessa Barneveld’s launch of her debut YA THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE into such a party. I’m delighted now to announce the winner:


Donna, please email Vanessa on ness @ (no spaces) with your preferred ebook format and the address where you’d like Vanessa to send both your Amazon $20 gift card and your download of THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE. Happy reading!

This Is Vanessa Barneveld!

v1I’m delighted to host for the very first time in the lair, my very dear friend Vanessa Barneveld, a triple Golden Heart finalist. Vanessa’s debut young adult romance THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE comes out from Bloomsbury Spark today!

Vanessa and I met some years ago, working as captioners on television programs for the Deaf. We bonded over a mutual love for romance and a shared dream to be published romance writers. I’m so happy for Vanessa that her dream has come true in such style!

Here’s the blurb for THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE:

When the one boy you crushed on in life can’t seem to stay away in death, it’s hard to be a normal teen when you’re a teen paranormal.

Sixteen-year-old Keira Nolan has finally got what she wanted—the captain of the football team in her bedroom. Problem is he’s not in the flesh. He’s a ghost and she’s the only one who can see him.

v2Keira’s determined to do anything to find Jimmy’s killer. Even it if means teaming up with his prickly-yet-dangerously-attractive brother, Dan, also Keira’s ex-best-friend. Keira finds that her childish crush is fading, but her feelings for Dan are just starting to heat up, and as the story of Jimmy’s murder unfolds, anyone could be a suspect.

You can find out more about Vanessa and her books on her website:

By the way, I love the ‘ghostly’ pics Vanessa sent to accompany this article. The cemetery ones are from Camperdown in Sydney – and of course every paranormal writer needs cats, especially black ones!

Check out the great trailer Vanessa made for her book. That Dan’s a bit of all right, isn’t he?

Vanessa, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to host you at the Romance Bandits to celebrate the release of your first book THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE. Can you tell us something about this story?

v3Anna, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be in the Lair as a debut author! You and the Banditas have been so good to me over the years. (Waving to the Golden Rooster and the trusty cabana boys!) THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE was a finalist in this year’s Golden Heart YA category. It’s a paranormal that brings new meaning to “teen spirit.”

Sounds great! What were the inspirations behind this story?

The idea of ghosts is endlessly fascinating to me. As a child, I fed my imagination with a UK series of magazines called THE UNEXPLAINED, which was chock-full of paranormal phenomena. So it’s no surprise that this led me to writing ghost stories!

V 5As with most of my books, it was the title that came first. I don’t remember the exact moment it hit me, but from then on, characters started “talking” to me. Jimmy, the dead guy, had looks, talent and his own fan club. The world was at his feet, but it was ripped from under him in one terrible moment. My heroine, Keira, is clairvoyant. That means she sees dead people. Her character is loosely based on a member of my husband’s family who was psychic and helped police with investigations many years ago. Keira was a card-carrying member of Jimmy’s fan club. “What bugs me is that I’ve been invisible to Jimmy for years. Now that he’s dead, he finally sees me. There is no justice in the world,” she says.

V 6Oh, no wonder Keira’s a bit annoyed! What’s coming up next?

I’m partying for the next week – literally! I’ve got a stellar line-up of YA authors sharing spooky stories on my blog. Once the paranormal party’s over, it’s back to work on my follow-up book, AFTERLIFE GOES ON. I may or may not be traveling to Amsterdam to research that story. I’m partway through a UFO abduction book. It’s a ton of fun! I may or may not be traveling to another galaxy to research that story. Next year, I hope to continue my master’s degree in writing.

We love, love, love call stories in the lair. Can you please tell us yours?

With pleasure! I’ve been writing with the aim of publication since 1997 and have written eight or nine paranormal and contemporary YA manuscripts since then. In 2007, after facing more than 100 agent rejections on three different books, I signed with Writers House. (Third time lucky!) Then we proceeded to rack up so many rejections I was sure I’d make the GUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS. The rejections were rarely about the writing—that was comforting!

V 7THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE was the fourth of my books to be shopped. Rejections galore, which I had come to expect. My agent submitted to Bloomsbury’s New York office in July 2013. A few days later, my sister and I went to London and we kept drifting toward the Bloomsbury area. Just by accident, but I thought it was a nice omen.

In March this year, my agent emailed me when I was at the day job and said she wanted to call me. I immediately thought, “Maybe she wants to drop me!” I quickly emailed a very wise and trusted friend who told me I was a total loon. (Not in so many words.)

As it turns out, my agent had the best news of all — an offer from Bloomsbury Spark! My workmates managed to find a bottle of champagne at 10 o’clock in the morning and we had a little celebration. The book received a Golden Heart nomination a few weeks after that.

v 8Great story! Young adult books are huge in the market right now, with all ages. What do you think is the appeal of the genre for the general reader?

I can speak for myself in that teen fiction allows me to see the world through a younger person’s filter. I like seeing how teen characters react against the problems they face and choices they have to make. It brings back great (and not-so-great!) memories of firsts – first kisses, first dates, first time you felt like you were growing into your identity.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Simplest advice? Read! Study the masters of your genre. I recommend reading out of your genre for a fresh perspective, too. If there’s one thing I know about writing it’s that I don’t know enough about writing! So whatever level you’re at, keep learning through workshops or craft books and blogs. Join an organisation for writers (e.g. RWA) where you can find a critique group, learn from others, and importantly, share what you’ve learned. And one last thing—just write. It doesn’t have to be Pulitzer Prize-winning prose, not in the first draft, anyway! Good luck! 🙂

Great advice, Vanessa. Do you have a question for the Bandits and Bandita Buddies to get conversation going?

If you could have a paranormal power, what would it be and why?

BanditBootyGet commenting, people! Vanessa has very generously offered a download of THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE along with a $20 Amazon giftcard for someone who leaves us a message today. Good luck!

Stefanie London’s Winner!

1BanditBootyThank you so much for the lovely warm welcome you gave debut Aussie author Stefanie London yesterday. We wish her all the best with her first book ONLY THE BRAVE TRY BALLET.

The winner of the signed copy of OTBTB is:


Congratulations, Louisa. Please email Stef on stefanie @ spaces) with your snail mail details and she’ll get your book off to you. Happy reading!


Meet Debut Author Stefanie London!

stef 1

Oh, we do love a debut author in the lair!

I first met the delightful Stefanie London at a Melbourne Romance Writers Guild retreat in May 2013 on the coast just outside Melbourne. Annie West and I ran a half-day workshop on characterization. I was immediately impressed with Stef’s talent and professional approach to a writing career. At that stage, she’d received encouraging responses to her submissions to Harlequin Mills and Boon and I wasn’t at all surprised when shortly afterwards, Stef went public with the news that she’d had a book accepted in the KISS line.

Here’s the blurb for her first book, ONLY THE BRAVE TRY BALLET:

Step up, Grant Farley…not your typical ballet student!

stef 2Football pro Grant Farley is nursing an injury and needs to get back into shape—fast. Ballet wouldn’t be his first or even his last choice, but he’s desperate. Enter tantalizingly prim teacher Jasmine Bell—one disapproving arch of her eyebrow and Grant knows he’ll enjoy getting her tutu in a flutter!

But it’s not only Grant’s flexibility that Jasmine’s pushing to the limit! He knows she feels the heat between them, so why won’t she give in to it? Time to convince Jasmine that if she’s brave enough to dance en pointe she can certainly handle a fling with him!

ONLY THE BRAVE TRY BALLET is a July release in North America, the United Kingdom and Australia.

You can find out more about Stefanie and her sparkling romances at her website:

stefStef, welcome to the lair! Firstly, can you please tell us about your debut for Harlequin Mills and Boon, ONLY THE BRAVE TRY BALLET?

ONLY THE BRAVE TRY BALLET is a story about two people who’ve worked hard at their dream, only to have it crumble around them. Jasmine Bell is a former professional ballerina who can no longer dance en pointe and Grant Farley is an AFL player trying to shake off his wild-child past. On the surface they seem like complete opposites, but deep down they’re both passionate, hard-working people who find it difficult to trust. They have to learn what it means to be brave in order to regain passion in their lives.

Sounds yummy! What were the inspirations behind this book?

Well, I always wanted to be a ballerina when I was growing up and I studied it for over ten years. But the idea actually sparked when I read an article about football players who took ballet lessons to improve flexibility and prevent injuries. I wondered how they would feel (as professional athletes used to being at the top of their game) being plunged into a completely foreign activity. Would they fight against it? Would they grow from the experience and learn to appreciate what an art ballet is? Our hero, Grant, experiences the frustrations of many new ballet students: sore calves, steps that seem impossible, a lack of balance. Luckily for Grant, his ballet teacher is right there to help him every step of the way.

stef 3What is coming up for Stefanie London?

In October my second book with Harlequin Mills & Boon will be out. BREAKING THE BRO CODE is linked to my debut. This time it’s Elise Johnson, the owner of the ballet studio, who’s mixing business and pleasure.

I’m also making an exciting personal move. My husband and I are setting off to live in Canada, which is a long way from home in Melbourne! But we’re very excited at the prospect of being able to travel and explore what looks to be an absolutely beautiful country.

mrwg retreatGood luck with the move! By the way, Stef is centre front in the picture from the retreat to the left. Stef, we love call stories in the lair. Can you please give us yours?

Absolutely! ONLY THE BRAVE TRY BALLET is the first book I’ve ever written, so I really had no idea how to submit a manuscript or get published. Luckily, I found a competition online which was being run by the wonderful editors of Harlequin KISS. They wanted entrants to pitch their story in a single paragraph, no easy task!

stef 4While my pitch wasn’t selected as a winner, the editors were interested in the premise and wanted to see my manuscript. I was so excited that I accidentally deleted the email and had to trawl through my trash file to find it again! I sent my manuscript off, not thinking it would go anywhere, and after three rounds of revisions (and about eight months) I got a call from the Mills & Boon office in London with an offer of a two book contract. I actually cried when I got off the phone, I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited in my whole life.

Congratulations! Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

There’s so many wonderful pieces of advice that I’ve come across, but these are my top three:

stef 5– Get a support network – writing is tough, it takes a lot of time and sometimes it makes you crazy. You need people around you who will help when things aren’t going well and who will cheer when you do something great.
– Read, read, read – it seems obvious, but it’s so true. Read far and wide, devour your genre like you’ve discovered it for the first time, read outside your genre, read non-fiction. Reading helps to refill the ‘creative well’ and I always write better when I’m reading regularly.
– Look for opportunities – I owe my success to a writing competition, these are a great way to get your work discovered. Getting a request from an editor means skipping the slush pile. Also, look out for editors on Twitter and Facebook, they often write about the things they’re looking for in submission.

That’s great advice, Stef. Do you have a question for the Bandits and Bandita Buddies to get conversation rolling?

Part of writing ONLY THE BRAVE TRY BALLET was fulfilling my childhood dream of being a ballerina. What did you want to be when you were growing up?

1BanditBootyStef has very generously offered a print copy of ONLY THE BRAVE TRY BALLET (international) for a commenter today. So good luck, people!

Blitzing Julie!

Julie 2Happy New Year, Bandits and Bandita Buddies!

And what could be better in early 2014 than a debut author! Introducing Julie Brannagh whose first book for Avon Impulse, BLITZING EMILY, is out TODAY! Huzzah!

Here’s the blurb:

Emily Hamilton is a rising opera diva whose career has been sidetracked by a cheating ex-boyfriend. Brandon McKenna is the aging defensive star of the Seattle Sharks football team. He has a large public relations problem.

After a misunderstanding, Emily and Brandon believe the best solution is to get engaged for thirty days. Their decision improves both their careers immediately. Even better, sparks are flying.

Will Brandon and Emily discover that the greatest career success means nothing without each other?

You can find out more about Julie on her website:

Julie, welcome to the Bandita lair! Congratulations on the release of your debut book from Avon Impulse,  BLITZING EMILY. Can you tell us about this story?  

Julie 1Hello, everyone! I’m thrilled to be here!

Emily Hamilton doesn’t trust men. She’s much more comfortable playing the romantic lead in front of a packed house onstage than in her own life. So when NFL star and alluring ladies’ man Brandon McKenna acts as her personal white knight, she has no illusions that he’ll stick around. However, a misunderstanding with the press throws them together in a fake engagement that yields unexpected (and breathtaking) benefits.

The shorter version: BLITZING EMILY is La Boheme meets the NFL!

Wow, great pitch! What were the inspirations behind this book?

One of the better things about being an author is writing about things (and people!) we love. I love football, and I love Seattle, my hometown.  This book also had a fairly interesting start. Susan Elizabeth Phillips (queen of contemporary sports romance!) had a message board for her fans for several years. She asked those posting on her board to write a 1500-word “cute meet”. I wrote those 1500 words and kept on writing!

Love SEP! I notice there are two more books coming out in the Love and Football series. We’d love to hear more about those! Can you tell us?

Julie 3I’d love to! RUSHING AMY (formerly titled LOVE AND FOOTBALL) is out on February 9th. It features Amy Hamilton, Emily’s younger sister. She meets her hero, former Sharks player turned game analyst Matt Stephens, an hour after her sister’s wedding. Amy is busy with the flower shop she owns, and even the drop-dead handsome Matt can’t distract her. Matt is determined to get one (or more!) dates with a stunning florist whose stubborn streak matches his own. Will Matt have to send flowers to every woman he’s ever met before Amy finally agrees to a date? Will Amy fall in love with the irresistible Matt?

CATCHING CAMERON will be out in May, 2014. Zach Anderson plays for the Sharks. Cameron Ondine is a game sideline reporter for Pro Football Network. They’ve avoided each other for the past ten years as a result of a pretty big secret: Zach and Cameron were once married. For three days. Zach thought he was over Cameron a long time ago. It turns out he wasn’t, and he wants another chance. Will he convince Cameron to try it again?

Both sound great. What else is coming up for Julie Brannagh?

Two words: More books! I submitted CATCHING CAMERON to my editor this morning, and we’re talking about upcoming novels featuring the Sharks!

julie 4Here in the lair, we love call stories. Could you please share yours with us?

My call story is a little different, but here goes! BLITZING EMILY was out on submission. My agent (the wonderful Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency) told me it might be as much as a month before we heard from any of the editors she’d submitted the book to. I got an e-mail from her a couple of weeks later asking if she could give me a call. I took several deep breaths before I answered the phone that morning. If I had even one offer, I’d be thrilled.

julie 5There wasn’t one offer. We had several, including a three-book offer from the publishing house I dreamed of writing for. I was so stunned I didn’t know what to say besides “Thank you.” Sarah told me to take a little time to think over my options. I accepted the offer from my dream house, Avon, one week later.

My new editor was out of town, so I couldn’t tell anyone but my husband for almost three weeks!

Congratulations! What a great story. Sports romances are such a hot topic at the moment. Why do you think there’s such a proliferation of heroes who are elite athletes?

Ladies love alpha males, and elite athletes fit the bill! Elite athletes are full of confidence, can be a bit cocky at times, and will compete for her heart as fiercely as he would on a field or a court. Plus, let’s face it – what red-blooded woman doesn’t love a six-pack?

Well, I’d hate to say I wasn’t red-blooded! Julie, do you have a question for the Bandits and Bandita buddies to get the conversation rolling?

BanditBootyI’d love to hear about some of YOUR favourite sports romance heroes! What do you believe makes them irresistible?

Get commenting, people. Julie has very generously offered a download (international) of BLITZING EMILY for someone who leaves a comment today. Good luck!

Dakota Harrison’s Winners!

BanditBootyWow, wasn’t it fun to have debut Aussie author Dakota Harrison in the lair? Thanks to everyone who swung by to make Dakota feel welcome.

She felt SOOOOO welcome in fact, she threw in another copy of her book as a prize so I have two winners to announce today! So the winners of the download of EXHALE are:



Congratulations, Pat and Jodi. Could you please contact Dakota on elven_scribbles @ (no spaces) and let her know what email address you’d like your books sent to and what e-reader platform you’d like her to use for your prize. Happy reading!


Dakota Harrison Makes Us Breathless!

Michelle 2It’s always exciting for me to host a friend in the lair. Doubly exciting when it’s an Aussie friend. And triply exciting when that Aussie friend is launching their debut romance.

Today, I’m delighted to introduce you to Dakota Harrison who lives in the beautiful Granite Belt region in Queensland. Beautiful and cold – it’s renowned as the coldest place in our subtropical state and they even get snow! Wow!

Dakota is here to tell us about her debut romance for Samhain, EXHALE. Here’s the blurb:

Takeshi is finishing up a brutal double shift in the ER when a familiar—and bloody—face erases all thought of heading home. The broken body of the woman fighting for her life belongs to Gabby, his best friend’s mother. A woman he’s loved since he turned nineteen, when he foolishly declared his love for her.

 She’s not dying today. Not on his watch. And not with a promise left unfulfilled.

Gabby has never forgotten the taste of the kiss Taka gave her under the mistletoe all those years ago. Or the silly promise that surely by now he’s forgotten. She’s wrong. Taka remembers. And she melts as he uses every trick in his highly trained surgeon’s hands to heal her—and rekindle the heat between them.

Michelle 1But there’s a secret lurking in Gabby’s past. And when it follows her all the way to Seattle, it threatens to drag the one man she loves into the nightmare she thought she’d left behind.

You can find out more about Dakota and her books on her website:

Welcome to the lair, Dakota!

Hi Anna! Thank you so much for inviting me into the lair! It’s a real thrill.

Dakota, huge congratulations on the release of your debut from Samhain. Can you tell us about EXHALE?

EXHALE is about one woman’s wish for happiness after enduring a life marred by terrible grief and loss. Gabby longs for safety and steadfast love, but she’s almost too afraid to want it. Where her heart lies is with a man who she believes she has no right to. No right to want him, no right to now ask for what he would have freely given her, many years before. And now he’s taken.

Taka’s achieved most of what he set out to do by the time he hits thirty years old. Career-wise, he’s on the fast-track to becoming one of the best surgeons in his field, but he can’t let go of the thought of Gabby. Her love. Her promise to him years earlier. The thought that maybe if he laid his heart on the line and asked one more time…

Michelle 6Wow, sounds intense and sexy and really emotional. What were the inspirations behind this book?

Well, I could say it came out of nowhere, but to be honest, we had my adult nephew living with us for a couple of years when we first moved into our new house. He was twenty, and he had a couple of good friends who used to visit. One in particular was quite flirty, even though we both knew he was just playing. That got the ‘what if’ bug flying around my head – what if the nephew wasn’t her nephew? What if he was her son? Why would she have a son so old and her so young? What if the friend wasn’t playing around? What if it was real?

So it led from there. He’s actually quite impressed he inspired me to write a book!

I bet he is! What’s coming up next for Dakota Harrison?

I have a second release coming out in October, BREATHLESS, a story of a woman who makes some bad decisions which lead to the destruction of her entire life. To get away from the all-encompassing guilt and pain, she flees to a tiny town in the U,S. to start a new life where no one knows her, or what she’s done. Plus, I’m almost finished the sequel to EXHALE, which stars Taka’s yakuza cousin, Shin, who we meet in the final chapter of the book. It’s set in the glittering city of Tokyo.

michelleThey sound great. We love call stories in the lair. Can you give us yours?

Of course! It’s a funny one, actually. In January and February last year I sent of a *heap* of submissions for my fantasy romance manuscript. Some were requested, some slush. It had won and placed in many contests, so I was confident it might find a home – somewhere. Well, roll on four months later, and I kept getting “We love it, love your writing, but I/marketing don’t know where to place it. I’m going to have to pass.” This happened so many times I could almost print a novel with the rejections. I’d sent it to so many different places, I’d actually lost track of where I’d sent it (this particular character trait is something that drives my best friend, Kylie Griffin, nuts! She’s always trying to get me to make a spreadsheet. I’m like, a spread-what?!?).

Anyway, late one Sunday evening in May, I received a particularly wonderful email from an editor at Samhain, stating how very much she loved the story, etc, but unfortunately fantasy wasn’t what they were after at present – but – did I have anything else I could send her? In particular, contemporary romance? She’d noticed in my cover note that I’d recently won a contest with one – the RWA Valerie Parv Award. I wrote back and said, “Yes, of course, I’d love you to have a look at it, and also, would you like to see the one that just finaled in the RWA Emerald, too?” So, off I sent both of them once she’d asked, and promptly relegated the excitement to the back of my mind. I thought, “This will take months, like the first submission.”

Michelle 3I was up early the next morning, for a change, when I received her email. She loved it. She wanted it. Can she please buy it! She’d skimmed the first few pages to gauge if it was up her alley, then loved it so much she sat down to read the whole thing in five hours! I was in shock. I thought I was reading the email wrong. I sent it to someone, just to make sure it said what I thought it said! Then I rang my husband and squeed! Then I felt sick. This made it real. That elusive contract offer was right there. And for a genre I wrote for pleasure for myself, not for publication. My contemporary stories were always that – written because I loved the characters who popped into my head. I’d always thought my fantasy and scifi would be the ones that would sell.

Michelle 4That’s a great story. And congratulations again. You were a contest queen here in Australia. I remember seeing your name over and over in Romance Writers of Australia finals listings. How do you think contests benefited your career and writing?

Anna, the contests were pure gold. My very first one, I came second last. The judge was so kind, told me all the things I was doing wrong that newbies seem to do (and was I green!), and gently explained how to fix it. So I did. I took the feedback and sifted through it, and most of it was 100% right, then I applied it and read up on why the suggestions were made, trying to understand where/why I’d made those mistakes. I re-entered the rewritten partial into a RWNZ contest – and came second. From there I wrote and wrote and entered everything I could that offered feedback. Some judges in one or two contests were so acidic that the judging sheet almost shriveled in front of my eyes on the screen; then I’d get the two other judges in the same contest who loved it and scored me the highest mark there. I seem to split them fair down the middle. It was good practice getting such varied feedback, as not everyone will like what you’ve written, and some will hate it. It helped toughen me up.

Michelle 7Contests are invaluable if you use them as a tool to strengthen and improve your writing. If you’re looking for ego-stroking, you won’t get it there, you have to be prepared to take the hard comments with the good. But I believe those four years in national and international contests have helped me tighten my work to a standard that may have taken me many years to accomplish on my own. And it helped lead me to the very best friends I have ever met. I can’t recommend contests enough, although they did keep me poor! I never only entered one manuscript. If there was a limit, I’d enter to the limit. If there was no limit, I’d enter everything I had!

Michelle 5That’s so true about contests toughening you up! It’s a great lesson. I know you live in one of the prettiest spots in my home state Queensland. Can you tell us about your corner of the world?

Yes! We have what they call ‘Brass Monkey Season’, it’s our tourism slogan – where it gets so cold it could freeze the balls of a brass monkey! The council even had a statue made. The term’s origin is a little hazy; some say it came from a war name for the structure they sat cannon balls on, which was made of brass and called a ‘monkey’ (which is where many locals believe the term came from); others state it’s from during the 19th and 20th centuries, when small monkeys cast from the alloy brass were common tourist souvenirs from Asia. The Three Wise Monkeys. These monkeys were often cast with all three in a single piece of brass. In other sets they were made singly. Although three was the usual number, some sets of monkeys added a fourth, with its hand covering its genitals. Old brass monkeys of this type are collectors’ items.

I prefer to believe the former option – it’s a little more colorful!

In summer we have lovely mid 20s to mid 30s temperatures, and autumn is glorious with all the fruit and ornamental trees turning to fabulous colors. And no humidity! That’s the best part 😉

BanditBootyWhat about you? What’s your favorite season, and where? It can be anywhere in the world! Even somewhere you haven’t been yet, but desperately wish to go. What makes a particular area special for you?

 Get commenting, people! Dakota has very kindly offered up a download of EXHALE (international) for one of our visitors today. Good luck!

Kissing Steel with Bec McMaster

by Anna Campbell

I love having debut authors visit us in the lair and today I’m delighted to introduce Bec McMaster, an Aussie contest queen whose first steampunk romance, KISS OF STEEL (Book 1 in the London Steampunk series from SourceBooks), is out this month.

You can find out more about Bec and her books on her website:

Bec, welcome to the lair! Congratulations on the release of your debut, KISS OF STEEL, the first in the London Steampunk series. Can you tell us about this story?

Thank you so much, Anna! I’m very excited about the release. Here’s a little blurb:

In the steam-fuelled world of Victorian London, Whitechapel is the last bastion of safety for those that fear the rule of the aristocratic Echelon. With their puppet Queen, army of metal drones and their blood taxes, the Echelon crush any and all who oppose them. The only man they don’t dare touch is Blade, master of the rookeries and one of their own…

On the run from a dangerous duke, Honoria Todd is forced to accept the protection of the ruthless master of the rookeries. Infected with the craving virus that makes the Echelon what they are, Blade has dedicated himself to destroying the duke. Honoria could be his perfect revenge…or the salvation he never dared dream of.

But when a monster starts to haunt the rookeries, Blade must let his darker side emerge to save the woman he loves – even if it means he may lose her forever.

Sounds great! What were the inspirations behind this book?

Everything inspires me, to be honest. I collect images and stray thoughts every day and somehow my sub-conscious percolates them for a few months – or even years – then spits them out as fully formed worlds and characters.

Basically, this world has been calling to me for a while. I had this idea of a vampiric aristocracy that played off the origins of the ton; the Echelon. Of course, as it is set in Victorian times, women were not offered the Blood Rites, for fear that the driving hungers of the craving virus would overwhelm them. Being such delicate flowers and all.  Thus they were sentenced to life as thralls – or blood-servants – to the blue bloods of the Echelon. Every debutante desires to make a good thrall contract, or if she is lucky enough, to become a blue blood’s consort.

Can you tell us about the London Steampunk series as a whole?

It’s a dark, dangerous world with heroes and heroines who must fight to achieve their happy ending. KISS OF STEEL is Blade and Honoria’s story and sets up the entire world, exploring the gritty confines of the rookeries and what lurks beneath the streets of London. As a series writer, I have always felt that each book must explore a different aspect of that world in order to progress, so HEART OF IRON (which is book two) is set firmly in the glittering, deadly world of the Echelon; of silk, steel and blood-letting.

I can’t say a lot about book three, though ultimately I am building toward a confrontation. Each book is a step in that direction – though some of the steps may surprise you.  

I’d love your take on defining Steampunk. Any thoughts?

When most people hear the word steampunk they’re immediately thinking of dirigibles and goggles, corsets and mechanical monsters. The whole spirit of adventure, of exploring the unknown. When science didn’t have so many strictures, because so many things were considered possible. That’s what steampunk is to me; exploring those possibilities as if they could have been reality.

I love the word ‘steampunk’. Break it down, and it essentially describes the entire genre. ‘Steam’ of course, refers to the driving technology of the story (mainly Victorian times though it can feature in alternate or futuristic worlds) though the ‘punk’ part is often left out of the equation. Basically, it refers to an anti-establishment thread woven into the story, a message or commentary on society. That’s why I love playing with the Victorian era so much; there was so much change occurring, and some of it was desperately needed.

We love call stories in the lair. Can you give us yours?

Of course. Though where to start…

Once upon a time, a young woman was battling away at her computer when she was hit by an idea, a world so richly embellished that she couldn’t resist exploring it. This time may – or may not – have been around October 2010.

She started to write it all down – or possibly the story wrote itself, it was that clear. And when she was nearly a third of the way through, she started entering it in contests because her critique partner had done the same and said it was easy. Having nothing else on hand, she entered it in RWA’s Emerald award. Christmas came, preventing her from much writing for almost a month and then the results flooded in. She had finalled. Could they please have the full manuscript? In a week.

Cursing her critique partner (who was also in the same boat), she drank four hundred cups of tea, pounded out the last third of the book and sent it in. At the same time, she turned her eye toward foreign contests. The US, to be particular.

Results came back – people actually liked this book. She finalled in several contests, including the Valley Forge Sheila Contest, where the final judge was Leah Hultenschmidt of Sourcebooks. Coming first, she was asked to send the full manuscript to the editor.

After a brief polish, she sent it in. It was a Tuesday. Figuring she wouldn’t hear back for weeks, possibly months, she settled back into normal life and forgot all about it.

On Thursday night at 11p.m. the phone rang, jolting her out of sleep. Peering through bleary eyes she saw the area code. America. Her heart started pounding. She’d been waiting on results from another contest and sometimes they rang. Boyfriend lifted his head off the pillow curiously.


“Hi, it’s Leah Hultenschmidt from Sourcebooks. I’d like to buy your book.”

Complete brain meltdown. Some incoherency later (boyfriend notes she babbled like a hysterical chicken) she asked for some time to notify some of the agents she’d already queried and said she would get back to editor in a week.

Ensue wild leaping around house. Entire gymnastic floor routines. Then hysteria. She needed an agent!

The previous week she’d queried five agents. Dashing off an update email, she swiftly heard back from several of them. More lack of sleep, tough choices and late night phone calls until she signed with the awesome Jessica Faust of Bookends.

The contracts came through. Author wandered around in a bemused daze for several weeks. She had finally found her very own happily ever after!

Cool! What’s next for you?

HEART OF IRON (aka book two) is the follow up to KISS OF STEEL and features Honoria’s younger sister Lena, and Will Carver, the rough lieutenant that serves as Blade’s right hand. I’ve already had a few requests for Will’s story, so I’m very excited to say that its just as action-packed as KISS OF STEEL and will throw the pair right into the heart of the conflict.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Do not enter a full manuscript contest when you haven’t finished writing the darned thing.

No, seriously, the reason I wrote the extended version of my call story above, was to show that contests can be a way to a publishing career. To start with, they’re excellent for providing feedback on your darling. Granted, some of that feedback can hurt, but as an author we’re going to need a tough skin somewhere down the line and where better to start nurturing it? The honest truth is, someone, somewhere, is not going to like your book or your writing. And that’s okay.

Secondly, they’re a way to get at editors without going through an agent. I made a list of all the editors who might like KISS OF STEEL and then I entered every contest where they were the final judge.

Thirdly, love what you do. Enjoy the smaller moments and celebrate the large ones in style. Then, when times are tough you can look back on those moments and remember just what inspired you to get into this business.

Great advice, Bec. Now, do you have a question for the Banditas and Bandita Buddies to get conversation going?

Thanks so much for having me, Banditas! Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the brief tour into the gas-lit streets of my alternate London. My question to you all is this; what element of steampunk appeals to you? Is it the gorgeous dresses, corsets and bustles? Gentlemen in their bowler hats and waistcoats? Goggles, pocket watches and steam-powered pistols? Or do you prefer the more adventurous side – dirigibles, horseless carriages, gyrocopters or dreadnoughts (steam-powered ships)? Science, in all its mad professor glory?

Get commenting, people. Bec has very kindly offered an international giveaway of KISS OF STEEL (paperback) to one visitor to the lair today.

Swan Like!

by Anna Campbell

It’s always fun to host debut authors in the lair and lately we’ve had a clutch of them! There must be some good writing mojo out there that we’ve got all these great new authors hitting the shelves.

Today, I’m delighted to bring you Joan Swan, whose debut romantic suspense with paranormal elements FEVER is creating enormous buzz in Romancelandia. New York Times bestseller Larissa Ione said, “Swan’s gutsy, jaw-dropping style will have readers talking!” Joan is a triple RWA Golden Heart finalist – as you know, theBandits all met through the Golden Heart contest so we love to hear of GH gals who make good!

You can find out more about Joan and her books on her website:

You can also find Joan at Facebook on and on Twitter at!/joanswan

Here’s the blurb for FEVER:

Dr. Alyssa Foster will admit to a bad boy fetish…

But when she finds herself face to face with a convicted murderer with determination for freedom and an eye on her as his get out of jail free card, Alyssa knows she’s in deep trouble…. Not just because Teague Creek is a prisoner desperate for freedom, but because his every touch makes her desperate for more.

A man with a life sentence has nothing to lose…

Teague Creek has one shot at freedom, but his plan to escape with a hostage develops a fatal flaw: Alyssa. On the run from both the law and deadly undercover operatives who know of his strange abilities, he needs to avoid trouble, but every heated kiss tells him the fire between them could be just as devastating as the flames that changed him forever.

Joan, welcome to the lair! Congratulations on the release of your debut, FEVER, the first in the Phoenix Rising series. Can you tell us about this story?

Thanks so much for having me here!  I’ve been a Romance Bandit (and Anna Campbell) fan for a long time.

FEVER is about a man with unusual powers whose been convicted of a murder he didn’t commit and imprisoned for life.  He has lost the daughter he lived for, the career as a firefighter he loved and been denied an appeal.  With no hope left, he plans an escape.  But his plan goes wrong when the woman he kidnaps as leverage to get his daughter back turns out to be someone else.  And this woman quickly clues into the abilities he tries to hide, creating a bond neither can afford while they’re on the run from both the cops and undercover operatives who want Teague silenced.  This time, permanently.

Hey, thanks for the compliment! What were the inspirations behind this book?

Bad, bad, bad boys!  And way too much time around them!

I’ve been a sonographer for twenty years and one of the hospitals where I worked gained a huge prisoner clientele over a year’s time span.  I went from scanning two or three prisoners a week to scanning five to eight prisoners every single morning.  I spent half my day surrounded by guards and inmates and it didn’t take long to wonder, “What if a prisoner took someone hostage in an escape attempt?”

Can you tell us about the Phoenix Rising series as a whole?

A mysterious explosion at a military warehouse injuries a team of seven hazmat firefighters, killing one.  The contents of the building, extremely confidential and dangerous radioactive chemicals used by the Department of Defense in secretive scientific experiments, have inflicted the team with various paranormal abilities.  Abilities the government wants to study covertly.  Abilities the team wants to understand and expose.  With military advancement and national power at risk on one side and personal health and freedom at stake on the other, each group is fighting for precious stakes.

Your next book, BLAZE, is coming out next October. Can you tell us about this story?

In BLAZE two of the firefighters on the team whose relationship suffered physical, mental and emotional trauma from the warehouse fire, come back together, united as stronger individuals for the good of the team and find their love for one another, one that never died, is as strong as ever.  But they face an even darker conspiracy than expected, one that will push their bond to the limit.

We love call stories in the lair. Can you give us yours?

It’s been quite a while now – nearly two years ago.  But I got the call on my drive to work.  I work in San Francisco and park in an underground garage, so I remember having to pull over and stop so I could keep my cell connection with my agent to discuss everything.  I remember thinking, “Crap, I’m going to be late.” Then in the next second thinking, “What the hell do I care?  Oh, my God.  They want to buy my book!”

Cool! What’s next for you?

Hopefully, INFERNO, book 3 in the Phoenix Rising series, with Kensington!  My editor currently has the option proposal and I hope to hear about it soon.

I also have an Indie book releasing in April.  INTIMATE ENEMIES is a romantic suspense manuscript that finalled twice in the RWA Golden Heart and I’m thrilled I’ll be able to share it with readers.

Ooh, sounds great! Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Learn your craft.

Read a lot.

Trust your gut.

Let your writing be authentically you.

Be patient.  Quality takes time to cultivate.

There are no magic beans. (I swear! I’ve turned over every freaking rock out there!)

Learn to take and apply criticism from trusted sources of those equally or more experienced and successful.

Thanks, Joan. Do you have a question for the Bandits and Bandita Buddies?

Tips for success cut across all professions and life goals.  What advice would you give to someone on succeeding at a large, long-term goal?

Get commenting, people! Joan is giving away a print copy of FEVER to one lucky person who leaves a comment today (U.S. and Canada only). Everyone who comments will also be eligible to enter the draw for a COLOR NOOK or a KINDLE FIRE. For details, see: Good luck!

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