Posted by Cassondra Murray Sep 8 2013, 11:30 pm in Bandit Booty, Cassondra, dianna Love, Lexi George
Bandit Booty winners for Cassondra’s August guests are as follows..
From Lexi George’s blog, a signed copy of Demon Hunting In a Dive Bar goes to three winners…
From Dianna Love’s Slye Temp Cover Reveal blog, the winners are…
Last Chance To Run–Jane
Nowhere Safe—Pat Cochran
Honeymoon To Die For--Dianna (aka Hrdwkdmom)
Y’all email me at Cassondra AT AuthorDiannaLove.com to let me know your snail mail info
Posted by Cassondra Murray Aug 27 2013, 2:08 am in art, book covers, Cassondra, Cassondra's blogs, dianna Love, Imagery, imagination, Romance Covers, Romantic suspense
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.
It’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.
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.
After 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 tighter 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.
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!”
When 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.
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*
To 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!
Posted by Jeanne Adams Jul 21 2013, 12:32 am in #RWA13, #RWA2013, Addison Fox, Bruce Kelly, Claudia Dain, Dee Davis, dianna Love, Golden Heart Awards, Jeanne Adams, Jill Shalvis, Kristin Higgins, Laura Griffin, Leslie Kelly, Mr. Marriott, Nancy Northcott, Nora Roberts, purses, Red Carpet, Rhonda Nelson, Rita Awards, roxanne st. claire, Sharon Wray, Shoes
Hello from HOTLANTA!!!
This is your roving Romance Bandits Reporter, coming to you (somewhat) live from the awesome, major, fabulous Rita and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony!! WOOHOOOO!!!!
There are Bandits in full force here, from the awesome Nancy Northcott to Donna MacMeans, Suz Ferrell and Susan Sey to…well a LOT of Banditas! Many of our favorite guests are here too, and all are decked out in their finery for one of Romance Writing’s finest hours. (This is, from L to R, Gerri Russell, a frequent Guest; board member and outstanding writer Dee Davis; “Mr. Marriott” – the hotel’s Atlanta Ambassador!; Bandita Nancy, and frequent Guest, TICD, AKA Claudia Dain!)
Nominees are nervous, former winners are more relaxed, even though they’re giving awards out, and more and more people fill the ballroom. As with any Red Carpet Event, it’s about the gorgeous dresses and the fabulous shoes. So here’s an amazing selection…I didn’t get all my subject’s names, but I asked them to come on the blog and identify themselves, or their purses and shoes!!
Much as I wanted to, I didn’t list Golden Heart finalists and winners because their books are not yet available. :> But some of these shoes and dresses belong to finalists!!
RITA Finalists include: (Winner marked with asterisks!)
Contemporary Single Title:
About Last Night by Ruthie Knox
Barefoot in the Sand by Roxie St. Claire – one of our guests! – (pictured to the left in coral with her editor, Micki Nuding!
(1) Forever and a Day; (2) Lucky in Love by Jill Shalvis
Melt into You by Roni Loren
Sugar Springs by Kim Law
**The Way Back home by Barbara Freethy
Zoe’s Muster by Barbara Hannay
Beauty and the Bounty Hunter by Lori Austin
Bride by Mistake by Anne Gracie – another of our frequent guests!!
Defiant by Pamela Clare
A Lady Never Surrenders by frequent guest Sabrina Jeffries
The Recruit by Monica McCarty
**A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean
(Just so you know, Pride and Prejudice over there on the right, is a PURSE!!)
Too Dangerous to Desire by Cara Elliott
Wedded in Sin by Jade Lee
(To the left is me with the elegant Sharon Wray whom I know from Washington Romance Writers!)
**Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden
Betrayal by Robin Lee Hatcher
An Heiress at Heart by Jennifer Delamere
A House Full of Hope by Missy Tippens (Missy finaled in the Golden Heart with us in 2006!)
My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade
Naomi’s Christmas by Marta Perry
The Soldier’s Wife by Cheryl Reavis
The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck (Gorgeous cover on this one!!)
(To the right is Laura Griffin who won the Romantic Suspense category, holding her lovely, lovely RITA!)
A Cold Creek Noel by RaeAnne Thayne
From Father to Son; and Making Her Way Home by Janice Kay Johnson
**A Gift for All Seasons by Karen Templeton (now a member of the prestigious Honor Roll!)
A Life Rebuilt; and A Texas Chance by Jean Brashear
No Ordinary Joe by Michelle Celmer
Out of the Depths by Pamela Hearon
(The ever-popular-on-the-Bandit-Blog-Guest, Dianna Love, who was a presenter, looking FABULOUS, dahling!)
Novel with Strong Romantic Elements:
The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Le Huber (Also up for BEST FIRST BOOK)
Before and Ever Since by Sharla Lovelace
Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris
A Girl Like You by Maria Geraci
**The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James (Also Won BEST FIRST BOOK)
Time’s Echo by Pamela Hartshorne
The Welcome Committee of Butternut Creek by Jane Myers Perrine
(Check out that AB-FAB fascinator!! Hope this lovely lady will come on the blog and give a shout out!)
Angel in Chains by Cynthia Eden
Edge of Oblivion by J.T. Geissinger
Immortally Yours by Angie Fox
(1) Lothaire; and (2) ** Shadow’s Claim by Kresley Cole
(With this win, Kresley is ALSO now a member of the prestigious RWA Honor Roll after tonight!!)
Mark of the Witch by Maggie Shayne
Moonglow by Kristen Callihan
Rogue Rider by Larissa Ione
(The totally cool purse on the left is currently Bandita Nancy’s but Cassondra and I both covet it….beware, Nancy, beware!)
Breathless by Sophie Jordan
The Duchess of Love by Sally MacKenzie
Room at the Inn by Ruthie Knox
**Seduced by a Pirate by Eloisa James
(Check out these AMAZING dresses and fascinators to the right!! LOVE it! Ladies, I hope you’ll come on the blog and say hellow and identify yourselves!!)
Sleeping with a Beauty by my good friend Leslie Kelly
The Valentine’s Curse by Jodi Thomas
Celebrity in Death by JD Robb (Remember, Nora Roberts Writing Institute in two weeks….Grins)
Dead Heat by Bronwyn Parry
Don’t Cry for Me by the fabulous Sharon Sala
Forged in Fire by Trish McCallan
Last Man Standing by Cindy Gerard
(1) **Scorched; and (2) Twisted by Laura Griffin (See the picture above of Laura with her lovely RITA!)
Vortex by Cherry Adair
(To the left here, check out the lovely Rita Nominee Leslie Kelly and her handsome hubby!!)
Short Contemporary Romance Series:
Becoming Dante by Day Leclaire
Cowboy in the Crossfire by Robin Perini
The Last Single Maverick by Christine Rimmer
(Those totally hot shoes are red suede at the back and a black harlequin pattern across the front strap! GORGEOUS!!)
A Marriage Worth Fighting For by Lillian Darcy
**A Night of No Return by Sarah Morgan
Surgeon Sheik’s Rescue by my dear friend, Loreth Anne White
The Tycoon’s Secret Daughter by Susan Meier
We’ll Always Have Paris by Jessica Hart
(The ever-popular Guest, Addison Fox to the left there, was gorgeous in an off the shoulder number. Go, Addison!!)
And last but never least, Young Adult Romance!
Bound by Erica O’Rourke
**The Farm by Emily McKay
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry (Also up for BEST FIRST BOOK)
(To the left, check out the wonderfully funny ladies, Jill Shalvis (front) and photobomber Kristin Higgins!!)
Several up for BEST FIRST BOOK which did not final in a category:
Crazy Little Thing by Tracy Brogan
Firelight by Kristen Callihan
Forged in Fire by Trish McCallan
Ghost Planet by Sharon Lynn Fisher
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
That’s a great list of books! (Winners are marked with a double asterisk!)
(Just so you know, The Haunting of Maddy Clare won BEST FIRST BOOK!)
So, Banditas and Buddies….
What’s your favorite of these Red Carpet looks this evening?
And for you, do you go for Basic Black?
Or are you a color-all-the-way gal?
Have you read any of the finalists’ books?
Any great recommendations from either the finalist list or winners?
(All of the photos are mine, and taken with everyone’s permission. This totally cool purse on the right is a champagne bottle in a champagne bucket, but it’s a PURSE! Totally COOL!! I wish I could have used ALL the pictures I took!!)
Posted by Cassondra Murray Jul 12 2013, 3:07 am in Black Ops, Cassondra Murray, Cassondra's blogs, contemporary romance, dianna Love, Friendships, Jill Shalvis, Lexi George, series, Story worlds, teams
I’ve recently been devouring a lot of contemporary romance series, both paranormal and…well..not…and I was thinking yesterday about why I’m so taken with those books.
I’ve read a bunch of different series books by different authors, but in particular, I’ve just about foundered myself on the Lucky Harbor, Animal Magnetism and Sky High Air series by Jill Shalvis.
These are not what I write. They’re actually the opposite of what I’m working on now. They’re not particularly big plots. There is no big world threat. With a few notable exceptions, they’re not dark or overbearingly angsty, even when there is a suspense threat or the characters have something bad–like abuse– in their pasts.
Yet despite all the things that are “not typically me” about Jill Shalvis books, I slurp up her series like an alcoholic guzzles smooth, top-shelf Bourbon.
Way more than I oughta drink.
I have threatened to take the books to a testing lab, to find out if maybe she’s impregnated the pages with crack cocaine, because I finish one, then immediately go looking for the next.
So after considering this for a while, I think I’ve figured it out.
It’s the relationships.
No, not the romance. Of course, I want to see that romance be born and develop and mature and I want to see the couple get their HEA. But even if her characters have a certain zing that is her distinctive way of writing, the truth is, I can get the romance from a bazillion books on the market. That’s not the reason I constantly reach for her books over so many others.
I choose those books because of the friends of the heroes and heroines. The relationships that exist between the characters. The communities of people in which Shalvis sets her characters. She’s brilliant at making those communities come to life, but particularly, she hits her stride with trilogies of friends, and in particular, male friends.
In the first three Lucky Harbor books it was Jax, Ford and Sawyer, who (if I remember right) are not actually related but best friends from the same small town.
In Animal Magnetism it was Brady, Dell and Adam. Dell and Adam are actual brothers, and were together with Brady in a foster home.
In Sky High Air, Noah, Shayne and Brody met when they were all in trouble at school, and bonded over a love of planes and the allure of flying.
The men in each of these trilogies know one another in that way that says, “I’ll call you an asshole to your face, but nobody else better mess with you or I’ll pound them into the dirt.”
It is a bond that goes deep, and lasts a lifetime.
I live with a man who was once a Special Forces soldier, and almost all of his buddies are either still in the military, are military contractors, or work for the security of our country in other ways.
But even before I met him, I’d spent most of my life working in male-dominated fields, with mostly men, sometimes to the point that I was almost…almost…one of them. They never completely forgot I was female, or that there was a female among them, and they would never get as raunchy with me there as they would when it was all males, but they trusted me to not go all girly or get them in trouble, and they didn’t hold back much.
I know how men behave toward one another when (almost) no women are around. Shalvis’s friendships in these books read as real to me. And it is those relationships that suck me into her story worlds and won’t let me go.
Lexi George, who’ll be my guest next month, also builds a camaraderie between her heroes, but she does an especially brilliant job with the women in her books-the heroines who break the stoic, emotionless facades of the hunky Dalvahni Demon Hunters. In the first book we meet Addie Corwin and Evie Douglas, best friends forever, and it’s often “them against the world.”
The first book is Addie’s but the way Lexi builds the friendship and the caring for Addie’s friend, Evie, is masterful. I couldn’t wait for Evie’s book, and because I already loved her, it was even more satisfying.
The friendships—and sometimes the angst–between these women make the stories rich and full.
As I do my final rewrite on my own first release, I’m striving to create the kind of real-feeling friendships and relationships that make me fall so in love with series like the ones I’ve mentioned—the ones I love to read. Many authors do it well, but some are just masters of this craft.
Suzanne Brockmann first won me to her SEALs—this was years ago– back when she was writing for Harlequin/Silhouette–by so clearly showing the brotherhood that exists between these elite warriors. Okay, yes, I’ll be honest…she got the weapons right, which is a big deal for me, and that was the first time I gave a fist pump of any kind to a romance novel, but that’s a whole nuther story.
Anyway, that’s the original cover on the left, of the first Brockmann book I ever read. Prince Joe. It’s still on my keeper shelf as one of the best books ever.
Most recently my amazing friend, Dianna Love, has sealed my devotion to the Slye Temp Black Ops teams by the way she develops the friendships between the operatives. They don’t always like each other, but even when they don’t want to, they care about the other members of the team. It’s never more evident than in her latest release, Book 3 of the Slye Temp series, Honeymoon to Die For.
And that right there—illustrated so powerfully in her latest book–is the crux of it for me. That book is Ryder and Bianca’s story. But the role of the other operatives—the role of the team—in this novel, is a major part of why I love it so much.
There is something powerful about bruised, battered hearts finding love that brings them closer to whole.
When they also find a group of people who support them—a community—it wraps the story in a way that binds me to the characters. Makes me want to live in that world.
Makes me go to the Kindle store and immediately hit “Buy” for the next book in the series.
Makes me yell “NOOOOOOOOO” when I reach THE END and the next one isn’t released yet.
I fall so in love with the other team members that when Dianna says, “I may make XXX’s book a novella,” I go “NOOOOOOOO! I love him! He has to have a full book!!!!”
She just laughs at me.
But my heart is invested. And with each book where the familiar friends play a role, I become more and more invested in each character’s happy ending.
I want that for my own books.
Yes, of course, I want to hook you, the reader, and yes, I want you to wait eagerly for the next book in the series. But the real dream, for me, is that I will be able to write the story world so that you’ll want to return over and over again. So that it’s so real to you that you begin to believe it is a real place. That those characters walk and breathe the same as you do, and that they are having their happy endings-and that their friends are going to get happy endings too.
So help me, Bandits and Buddies.
Most readers I know love series. Do you?
I want to know who does wonderful “friends” in books. What author does amazing groups of friends, or teams of people with relationships so real that you believe those characters actually walk on the earth in flesh and blood?
Which authors build the best story world—communities of people like Jill Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor, where we, as readers, worry—even between books–about the nosey little old ladies who post inappropriate and should-be-private things on the Lucky Harbor facebook page?
Which story worlds do you live in when you lie down to sleep at night, and wake up thinking about them in the morning?
Who are your favorite series writers, and what are your favorite series built around groups of friends or a team of people?
And what is it, exactly, that makes them seem so real to you?
Posted by Jeanne Adams May 9 2013, 2:27 am in Allison Leota, Barbara Vey, Beyond Her Book, dianna Love, Eloisa James, James Rollins, Jeanne Adams, Sabrina Jeffries, Sharon Sala
In April, for the second year in a row, Publisher’s Weekly blogger, Barbara Vey held a fabulous Reader Appreciation Luncheon. Now, ya’ll may not know Barbara’s story, but she’s a reader. A BIGTIME Reader, just like most of us.
I’m probably not telling the story exactly right, but a few years ago, Avid Reader Barbara went on a Reader/Writer cruise. She ended up sitting next to an exec from Publisher’s Weekly – also known as PW, one of the biggest reviewing magazines/websites in the nation. (Barbara thought the gal was an editor)
When the woman engaged her in conversation, Barbara ended up telling her exactly what she thought was wrong with publishing. The woman was so enamored of Barbara’s style, she contacted her a few weeks later and asked her to do a genre fiction blog for PW. After asking her son what a blog was, Barbara agreed and the rest is history.
Grins. Yeah, try writing that into a book and see if your editor lets it pass! I can hear it now…”That wouldn’t happen in real life…”
So, the fabulous blog, Beyond Her Book was born. You can check it out here, at http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/beyondherbook/
Then, Barbara, reader gal extraordinaire decided she wanted to acknowledge the READERS. Yep. Another great idea came into being. The inaugural year of the Barbara Vey Reader Appreciation Luncheon - 2012 – featured Heather Graham as the keynote. (Fabulous speech, btw) Barbara, in her modest way, figured it would garner about 50 readers.
More than one hundred showed up. (On the right is Bandit Favorite, Dianna Love, with Barbara’s Sisters!)
This year, James Rollins was the keynote (pictured at the beginning with Barbara Vey herself), and TWO hundred people showed up. There were door prizes for readers, and book-swag from authors. Every table featured an author, including yours truly. :> (Bandita Trish Milburn was there last year as well.) Frequent Bandit Guest Authors were in the audience both last year and this – Dianna Love, Sharon Sala, Jana Oliver, Sabrina Jeffries, Lori Handeland, Angie Fox, Eloisa James, Diane Kelly, Cherry Adair and many more – and I’m sure the competition for those tables (by authors) and seats at the tables of favorite authors (by readers) will be in high demand next year as well.
Next year, in the lovely month of April, in the fascinating city of Milwaukee, Barbara will hold her third annual Reader Appreciation Luncheon. The very special Debbie Macomber will be the keynote.
Hopefully, new pals of mine, like Liz Lincoln, Allison Leota, Eileen Dryer, Maggie May Gallagher, Denise Swanson, Jerol Anderson, A.Y. Stratton and others will be there again, because I had an absolute BLAST getting to know the readers and some of my fellow authors as well!
Y’know, we have such a great time here on the Romance Bandits Blog, and I hope we never forget to thank YOU, our readers, for reading and having fun not only with the blog itself, but with our books. Every chance we get to meet you, from the Buns and Roses Tea, to things like Barbara’s Reader Luncheon, to Romantic Times’ RT Convention, to RWAustralia, to the Literacy Signing at the National RWA Conference, is a chance to thank you for being interested in what we write.
The stories we tell have meaning because you enjoy them, you buy them, you pass the word to friends and fellow readers that a book is fabulous, a great read, or something you won on the Romance Bandits blog and never expected to enjoy….but did!
So, Thanks. A LOT.
And if you just happen to be in Milwaukee next April, I hope you’ll come sit at MY table, have a great lunch and enjoy hearing Debbie Macomber talk. I hope you win door prizes galore. Ha! (Even MORE that you win here!)
I promise, if you sit at my table, not only will we have fun, there WILL be great swag from me too. Snork!!
So Bandit Buddies, do you like these kinds of events?
Have you ever been to a literacy signing, or a book signing at a book store?
Do you like your books autographed, or do you prefer to keep them pristine?
If you use a Nook, Kindle, or read on your computer, do you like the Keeper Kase Cards that both Nancy and I offer, along with Dianna Love and several other authors? (These are signed postcards that you can keep like you would keep an old-fashioned autograph collection!)
I signed several Kindles and Kindle covers, as well as a Nook or two. Would you ever have your favorite author sign your e-reader?
(Photos are all by me or used with permission from Barbara Vey Reader Luncheon Photos)
Posted by Cassondra Murray Mar 19 2013, 2:21 am in Cassondra Murray, Cassondra's blogs, dianna Love, Riley Walker novels, suspense, television news, Thrillers, tv journalism, Wes Sarginson
Cassondra: My mom says I was too young, and that I shouldn’t be able to remember, but I do.
I can just barely remember Walter Cronkite reporting the first moon landing because it was such a big deal that my parents stayed up late. They never stayed up late. I was a tiny little thing.
That’s my first memory of television news, and it made an impression.
I went on to study journalism, and to admire people who reported the news with integrity and earned the trust of the audience.
Today I’m pleased to welcome to the Bandit lair a man with that kind of track record.
I met former NBC anchor Wes Sarginson two years ago in Atlanta. It was clear immediately why this man has been so successful in his life’s work. He obviously enjoys people and the tales of their lives. I could have listened to his stories all night, and I knew right then that I wanted to introduce him to all of you here.
Wes’s career in tv journalism spans four decades, and before he retired, he was behind the news desks in Montgomery, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Tampa and Atlanta.
He’s just launched his fiction debut, so it’s the perfect opportunity to bring him for a visit. Even better, his new thriller, Justifiable, is a collaboration with a long-time friend of the Bandits, Dianna Love.
Sven is behind the bar slinging drinks, so everybody get comfortable and please join me in the usual rowdy fashion as we overwhelm…uh….I mean…welcome… Wes Sarginson.
Cassondra: Wes, we’re all curious about your days as an anchorman. I know your first job as a teenager was in broadcasting, but did you have dreams of reporting the news when you were a little kid?
Wes: No, I didn’t plan to be a journalist. I was working my way through Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, and got a call from NBC news in New York.
Cassondra: This was in the early-mid 1960s, right?
Wes: (nodding yes) They wanted someone to go to Selma before the big march to Montgomery and asked if I would do it. I asked “how much will you pay?” They gave me their fee schedule. I asked if they would pay mileage for my car. They said they would pay ten cents a mile. I jumped on it. When I got there it seemed pretty exciting and I was hooked. After a few radio interviews NBC sent a stringer photog and I got a couple of tv stories on the air before the regular reporters arrived. I covered many civil rights stories after that.
Cassondra: And that led to your interview with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at what would become a pivotal moment in history. What was that like for you?
Wes: I think Dr. King took pity on me. I was very young and had no idea what to ask him but he was a pro and if I didn’t ask the right questions he gave me the answers he wanted on the air. He led me in the right direction. It was a good thing that I have always been naturally curious because I listened to his answers and quickly developed a conversational routine of questions. Some reporters come prepared with a list and when they ask their list they often forget to do follow ups. After that first interview with Dr.King he would spot me at other events and often come over to talk. That was a real break for a young reporter.
Cassondra: You went on to report many high-profile stories over the years, but you’re perhaps best known for your Wes Side Story segments, which were inspirational news items that often called attention to a person or organization that needed help. Where did you get the idea for those segments?
Wes: *shakes head* It really wasn’t my idea.I had a general manager at the Tampa station, Jim Zimmerman, who was a former Marine. He called me in and said,”I like the way you write. Some of your stories make people react, even cry. I want you to do one every day. We’ll call them Wes Side Stories…”.
I told him, “I don’t like the name Wes Side Story.”
He answered, “I don’t really care what you like, that’s the name, and I want one every day at the end of your show.”
That’s the way it started. In ten years at that station, I think I missed having a Wes Side three times. On those days huge stories broke and I did my part of the show live in the location of those stories.
Cassondra: You published your first book in 1982 about Fast Eddie Watkins, a famous bank robber. The book is out of print now, but readers who are interested can still find it from second-market vendors like Amazon. A brief snippet from that book reads, “Eddie held up 61 banks and never harmed a soul. The 46-year career of Fast Eddie Watkins had begun for a man who would soon become the only man listed on both the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Men list and Dun & Bradstreet’s list of up-and-coming business executives at the same time.”
How did you get interested in Fast Eddie?
Wes: I was co-anchoring with Monica Kaufman on channel two in Atlanta at the time. We were having a rash of robberies and I was asked to do a series,so I talked with a top FBI bank robbery specialist. He said, “You can’t do a bank robbery series without interviewing E.O.Watkins.”
Watkins just happened to be at the federal pen in Atlanta. I knew the warden from stories earlier in Michigan when he was a warden up there, so I had access. Watkins was a charmer and talked me into writing the book.
Cassondra: And it did well.
Wes: I think it made it up to number three on the NY Times Bestseller list. It was good enough to get a movie deal, but the movie company went bankrupt. I look back at that book and wish I had written it better…
Cassondra: Ah, the curse of all writers. Wishing we could pull it back and fix it. And nobody feels that more than fiction writers. In January you launched your fiction debut. It’s a mainstream thriller in collaboration with Dianna Love. Here’s the back cover blurb from that book:
Children are missing, adults are being murdered and a city is on the brink of exploding.
The key to saving lives is a secret whispered in confession.
Once a beloved, award-winning investigative journalist, Riley Walker now anchors for a television station rated the worst in Philadelphia. That’s how it works when a top newsman makes an epic mistake in front of the whole world. The busier Riley stays, the less he thinks about the one decision that will haunt him forever. His vow? Never get involved again. That works until a killer uses Riley’s past against him, and targets a child the world has forgotten. Riley is the only one who can save him, but when Riley digs deep for the truth, he uncovers evidence fingering a powerful player no one will believe is guilty. Dangerous politics pit Riley against a serial killer, and threaten all he’s fought to regain
To save the life of a child and stop a killer on a savage murder spree, Riley must fight an enemy far greater than the tide of public anger rolling against him. He’ll have to face his own demons, and the horror of the child who died because the last time…Riley was wrong.
Cassondra: The hero in this book is a tv news anchor, just like you. Why did you want to tell Riley’s story?
Wes: I know there are time and money constraints, but if you just tell the obvious facts, television news will stay as boring as it is now. I don’t think many reporters or anchors take the time to get into the people behind the stories. I took the time to do that with Wes Side Stories…I always felt I had to go behind the obvious…and I wanted to write about an anchorman who did that.
Cassondra: So you talked about it to Dianna Love.
Wes: Dianna pushed me to get this done … Dianna is the driving force behind all of this, and I hope she thinks it was worthwhile. I know I do.
Cassondra: I absolutely love this book. The characters in this story are rich and interesting and I fell in love with them. Readers in the lair will want to know that this is a mainstream thriller and NOT a romance, but there are certainly romantic elements, and a budding relationship between Riley and DA Investigator Kirsten Willingham Massey. Of course, Kirsten and Riley are pitted against one another, and…well…that’s all I’ll say about that conflict.
Of all thesupporting characters in this book, though, I particularly love Biddy. Ron “Biddy” Bidowski is a former Navy SEAL turned cameraman, and Riley’s sidekick in this series. Wes, I read that Biddy was a conglomerate of several cameramen you’ve worked with over the years.
Wes: I had three great cameramen and one female shooter. The four of them always had my back. Once we got in a confrontation with the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. The female camera operator unlimbered her heavy film camera and sort of hit him with it . We both denied that later to save her job. It was so long ago I think I can talk about it now.
Cassondra: Wow. I absolutely get the sense of that from reading Justifiable. The spirit of it and the watching each others’ backs in tense situations. That’s in there. Amazing.
Wes: I also had a huge teammate in Tampa. The newsroom called us Jumbo and Dumbo. He was six-five. I’m six-two, so guess who was Dumbo?
Then there was the former submariner…if there ever was a fight where we were outnumbered and clearly the underdogs, I would want Richard by my side. I shouldn’t give you his last name. It was Crabbe. He was often Crabby, but I love that man to this very day.
Cassondra: You’ve spent your life telling stories, and with the Riley Walker novels, you’re still doing that. How is reporting the news similar to writing fiction?
Wes: In both you are telling stories. In tv you just have to do it in under a minute and a half… in tv everything is quick…but if Dianna wasn’t the driving force behind the Riley Walker stories they would all be a thousand pages long. You would need a forklift to move a case of books from one place to the next. Story telling is the same in long or short form. If you tell it well it will sell. If you don’t it will grow mold.
Y’all can read an excerpt of Justifiable at Wes’s website, or Dianna’s website. Wes and Dianna will give away a signed copy of Justifiable to one commenter today, so tell us, Bandits and Buddies..
Did your family watch tv news when you were little?
Or did you listen to the radio? Or did you get your news from the newspaper?
What’s your first memory of the news on television?
Do you remember any particular news reporters?
What’s the first major event you remember sitting down to watch, waiting for the reporters to find out and tell you what was happening?
Do you still watch the news on tv?
Or do you get your news from the internet?
Wes will be here today, and Dianna Love will be stopping in to visit too. Do you have any questions for Wes or for Dianna?
Have you ever read a novel about a television reporter?
Selma-Montgomery march image is in public domain.
Posted by crocodesigns Sep 12 2011, 4:49 am in Atlanta, Belador, Cassondra Murray, Cassondra's blogs, demons, dianna Love, FEENIX, friends, Midnight, My Feenix Art Contest, procrastination, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Sven, urban fantasy
by Cassondra Murray
With two very special guests
I’m just cleaning up the bar—the center for parties and activity in the lair—putting the last glasses away as the huge grandfather clock in the front room begins to chime. I’ve been burning the late-night oil the past few nights, coming up with a new signature cocktail for the lair.
Okay, truth. I’m stuck on my latest story and when I’m stuck, this is what I do. I clean. I decorate. I mix drinks. Anything but sit and stare at that blank page.
The clock finishes its chiming.
Well, almost midnight. The darn thing is always running ten minutes fast. I suppose I could fix that. Use up a little more of the time I’m NOT writing on my uncooperative story.
I go out to the oversized front foyer and stare up at the clock face, two feet higher than I can reach. Where’s one of Joanie’s gladiators when you need one?
I turn to get a ladder when my phone bleeps with a text. Probably Jeanne in the writing caves, asking where the heck I am and why the heck I’m not down there, staring at my going-nowhere story and typing words. Can’t fix a blank page. I can just hear her saying it. *sigh* I won’t be able to hide forever. I pull the phone out of my pocket.
Not Jeanne. It’s Dianna Love.
Where r u? it reads.
In the lair. Goofing off. I type. Where r u? I hit send and head for the closet in the kitchen.
Bleeeeep. At the front door. Let us in.
What? Dianna is at the door to the lair—this late? She’s the one who gets up at 4:00 in the morning—about the time I’m usually heading to bed. And who is “us”?
I glance at the time on my phone to make sure I haven’t fallen through some time portal. Yup. Eight minutes to 12.
I lift the heavy bar, flip the big metal deadbolts and swing open the door to see Dianna on the front porch. “What’s going on? Why didn’t you knock or ring the bell?”
“I didn’t want to wake up everybody else,” she says, glancing around with a nervous look. “Where are those gladiators?”
“Not to worry,” I say. “Ermingarde’s asleep.”
“What ith ermmy-gah?”
I look down toward the source of the gruff little voice. “Oh, hi Feenix!”
I can’t help but grin at the leathery little guy. Feenix is a two-foot-tall gargoyle with big yellow-orange eyes and EVL TOO printed on his shirt. His shirt says that because he belongs to someone who rides a GSX-R —or Jixxer, for short– and has EVL ONE on her motorcycle tag. He grins back, showing off his two fangs. I explain, “Ermingarde is the lair’s dragon.”
“What ith dwagon?” This question also from Feenix.
Dianna breaks in as she steps over the lair’s threshold and Feenix follows, thumping along on his fat, four-toed feet. She tells him, “A dragon is something you don’t want to meet right now, Feenix.”
I glance at the grandfather clock, then at my phone again. Something is definitely off here. “Uh, Dianna, it’s almost midnight. You don’t do midnight.”
“No kidding, “she says. “But you do. That’s why I’m here. I need you to help me babysit¸ remember?”
I squint at Dianna as though she has three heads. “You’re serious? Now? First off, I don’t have a maternal bone in my body….and second…I thought last month when you mentioned babysitting Feenix, that it meant a couple of hours maybe. This afternoon…outside.”
“As if I inherited any mothering genes?” Dianna gives me a wry grin. “ I have fish and motorcycles. And yeah, I thought this would be day gig, too, but Evalle came over in a panic an hour ago. She was out taking Feenix for a ride near my house when she got a RED V 2 text and had to take off for VIPER headquarters. She had no time to take Feenix home, so she swung by my house, and reminded me that Feenix is my responsibility, too, sort of like a godparent I guess.”
Evalle Kincaid is an Alterant—half Belador, half unknown. VIPER is a multinational coalition of all types of unusual beings and powerful entities created to protect the world from supernatural predators.
As one of the Belador warriors who support VIPER, Evalle works in the southeastern region—more specifically in Atlanta– protecting humans. Dianna became fascinated by this secret group about seven years ago when she realized most humans don’t know they exist, and she decided to chronicle their activities. Since then, she teamed up with #1 NYT best selling author Sherrilyn Kenyon to co-write what is believed to be a fictitious series on the Beladors.
The first Belador novel, BLOOD TRINITY, came out in 2010 and debuted on the New York Times list. If only people knew the truth behind this series…
Then again… better that they think it’s fiction. Otherwise there could be widespread panic.
Evalle is one of three main characters in the series. The other two are Evalle’s best friends, Tzader Burke and Vladimir Quinn. All three keep Dianna and Sherrilyn busy documenting Belador activities.
The text Evalle received tonight—RED V 2— was a Code Red to drop whatever she was doing and go straight to VIPER headquarters in the north Georgia mountains, and that’s how Dianna—a definite daywalker—has ended up on a midnight ride all the way to the lair for babysitting help from an admitted vampire like me.
“Looks like we’ll be up for a bit,” I say as I turn down the lights in the front foyer. “A bunch of Bandits are down in the writing caves, on deadlines, so I bet Sven has coffee going in the kitchen.”
I ask Dianna, “what’s up with the VIPER team? Some kind of emergency?”
“Apparently there’s been an increase in demon activity in downtown Atlanta. Evalle couldn’t say much. Just that she wasn’t able to ask Tzader or Quinn to take Feenix home because they were called out, too.” Tzader is the North American Belador Maistir (translation – head Belador badass) and Quinn has a rare gift—he can mind lock–plus he’s the investment genius who oversees Belador finances.
I glance behind Dianna as I shut the door, to find her vermillion BMW F-650-GS motorcycle parked just at the bottom of the flight of steps leading to the front porch.
“You’re on the bike?”
“Yeah. Feenix rides all the time with Evalle, so I figured it would be easier and more familiar for him than riding in a car. And I thought this way I might actually keep my leather car upholstery intact.” She casts a look at the sharp claws on Feenix’s short fingers.
“What ith upothery?” Feenix blinks up at both of us, looking from one to the other. I grin as I shut the door and Dianna tries to describe a car seat to someone who has only recently learned how to count to ten. Evalle rescued Feenix from a demented sorcerer and the little guy is just learning to talk.
I turn back around just as a gladiator walks into the room on his regular midnight security patrol through the lair. He stops in his tracks, holding a silver-colored training shield at his side.
Feenix starts to flap his wings and dances from side to side on his pudgy little feet. “Peetha!”
Dianna takes one look at the gorgeous man and grabs Feenix’s four-fingered hand. “Ah, shoot. The shield,” she says. Feenix is stronger than he looks, and tugs Dianna forward, heading toward the metal-clad warrior, saying, “Peetha. Peetha. Peetha.”
“No, Feenix,” Dianna says, struggling to hold him back. “That’s not a pizza. You can’t eat the shield.”
“Bran,” I say, trying to keep my voice calm, “you and the other gladiators might want to lose the metal shields and armor just for tonight.” Bran frowns at me. “Oh, and if you could grab one of the other guys, y’all should hide that suit of armor at the door to the back hallway.” Bran’s frown deepens, and I explain. “Feenix loves anything silver…he eats metal. He thinks your shield is a silver pizza.”
Dianna is trying to distract Feenix when a streak of yellow feathers darts into the room. The rooster takes one look at Feenix and starts to flap and sqwawk.
Feenix beats his bat-like wings in the air wildly, lifting off the floor, and makes a honking cry sound. His eyes glow bright orange and smoke curls from his nose. Dianna tells him, “Calm down, Feenix. The Golden Rooster won’t hurt anyone. Promise.”
“That crazy rooster was at Jane’s place in New York until a few minutes ago,” Bran says. “I don’t know how he got back in here without my knowing it.” Bran takes off up the curving staircase after the GR, and Feenix finally settles back to the floor, eyes rounded in worry. “Roother?”
“Yes,” Dianna soothes. “Nice rooster.”
Well, that “nice” part is debatable, but Feenix has managed to not blow fire out his nose and burn down the lair or make rooster crispies, so with the little gargoyle calmed down, we make our way to the kitchen. I can smell the coffee as soon as we open the door.
As we walk in, Sven is coming through the back with a small stainless steel bucket full of shiny, silver-colored lug nuts. He glances up, taking in Dianna and Feenix. “They’re here already?”
He sets the bucket on the table and grins at Feenix. It’s hard not to grin at Feenix if you’ve read BLOOD TRINITY, the first book in the Belador series, and I’d given Sven a copy last October when the book was released. Sven nudges the bucket forward. “I got him some treats.”
“Sven, this is why we love you,” I say. Sven tosses one of the lug nuts to me, but before I can catch it, Feenix leaps up, flapping, and snags it out of the air with his tongue.
“Yeah, but I had an ulterior motive,” Sven says, and runs his hand lovingly across the giant Viking commercial range—all silver-toned stainless steel. “My appliances are sacred. I also got him a bean bag chair.” Sven points toward the corner of the kitchen at an enormous, bright green bean bag.
“Wow,” I say. “That’s ugly.”
“Yeah,” Dianna says, “but Feenix will love it.” As if to prove her right, Feenix toddles over to the bean bag and pokes at it. Then he drags it across the room toward us.
“Nathcar,” he says.
“Coming right up,” Sven says, and reaches for the remote. He clicks the tv above the refrigerator to the appropriate channel. He obviously paid attention when he read BLOOD TRINITY.
“So,” I say, and raise one eyebrow at Dianna, “what does one do when one babysits?”
Dianna frowns at me. “Don’t ask me. I like to fish and ride motorcycles. You never babysat?”
“Twice,” I say. “In emergency situations like this one. I promised to keep them alive, and that’s what I did. I did not promise fun, and we didn’t have much. All my children have fur or feathers. I have no clue what to do with a ba—uh….a two-foot gargoyle”
“He seems to be doing just fine,” Sven says, and nods toward Feenix, who is happily cuddling his stuffed alligator, watching NASCAR® and sucking on the steel lug nut like a lifesaver candy. “Hey, Feenix, I thought you had an art contest going on. Got the finalists yet?”
Feenix looks at Sven, then around at Dianna, “Where’th my picthur?”
Dianna sighs. “I would have thought Evalle had explained this to him by now. The finalists will be announced on September 19th at www.MyFeenix.com.”
“That’s next week,” I explain, when Feenix looks confused. He makes a happy grunting noise and goes back to his NASCAR® show.
I pull up one of the old kitchen chairs around the heavy wooden table. Dianna chooses another chair as Sven sets out human snacks and pours coffee for himself and the two of us. Clearly, he recognizes two incompetent gargoyle-sitters when he sees them, and plans to stand guard over his beloved appliances. “Hey,” I say to Dianna, “Why don’t you tell everybody how this has turned into The Year of Feenix?
“It really has,” Dianna says, and grabs a carrot stick from Sven’s tray. “And I wish I’d planned it, but it was all fate. I’d intended to draw Feenix last winter, then hit on the idea of the art contest, because of having been an artist before I started writing. We set it up so that high school and adult artists could create images of Feenix for prizes—money, art supplies, and books for the artists and for school art departments and libraries. And we scheduled the announcement of finalists for September 19th.”
Feenix makes happy sounds and flutters his leathery wings as the cars in the pre-recorded race scream around the track. Dianna keeps one eye on Feenix and smiles as she sips black coffee.
“But then the next book release got moved up, right?” I munch broccoli spears with Sven’s homemade ranch dressing, and watch Sven refill cups and start another pot of coffee.
“Yeah,” Dianna continues around a bite of carrot. “ALTERANT, book 2 in the Belador series, was originally scheduled to be released in November, but Pocket (the publisher) changed the date. They set it for September 27, just two weeks after the My Feenix™ Art Contest Finalists are announced. And ALTERANT starts with Feenix—so that was a really cool kind of kharma we couldn’t have planned if we’d thought of it.”
“And,” I say as I point at Dianna with a piece of celery. “You’ve got a Belador story coming out as a free e-book in the next couple of days, right?”
“Right. This week, we’ll release the free story FIRE BOUND—and Feenix has a big role in that too.” Feenix looks over at Dianna and grins. “So this is definitely your year, isn’t it, Feenix?”
“Feenix!” Dianna and I say at the same time. Sven turns toward the sink and snorts back a laugh. Evalle accidentally cursed in front of Feenix just once, and he picked right up on it. She’s been trying to undo that ever since.
Feenix blinks his yellow eyes and shifts around on his bean bag. “What ith year?” He flutters his wings and Dianna rolls her eyes.
“I’ll announce the release of the free story this week on my facebook page,” Dianna says. So everybody be watching for that. Also, you can check my website for the news, too. It’s www.AuthorDiannaLove.com. And, you can read an excerpt of ALTERANT there as well.”
“Looks like we’ve got a long night ahead of us,” I say. “Sven, keep the coffee coming, and make it strong.”
Here’s the blurb for ALTERANT.
In this explosive new world of betrayals and shaky alliances, the only Alterant not incarcerated faces an impossible task — recapture three dangerous, escaped creatures before they slaughter more humans…or her.
The way Evalle Kincaid sees it, saving mankind from total destruction should have cleared her name. But when words uttered in the heat of combat are twisted against her, she’s blamed for the prison break of three dangerous Alterants. She has one chance to clear the cloud of suspicion hanging over her…for good. All she has to do is recapture the escapees. But deals with gods and goddesses are tricky at best, and now the lives of all Beladors, and the safety of innocent humans, rides on Evalle’s success. The only person she can ask for help wants to see her dead.
So, Bandits and Buddies….have you ever had to babysit?
A lot of you are moms and dads, but before that, what was your first experience caring for a little one?
Did you babysit for money, or was it your younger brothers and sisters you had to care for?
Are you like Dianna and me? Did you have to work at the whole “caregiver to kids” thing? Or did it come naturally to you?
We’re going to need lots of help tonight, cuz we’re both clueless about babysitting a two-foot-tall gargoyle who can fly and breathe fire. At least Sven has lots of treats on hand. So tell us, what would you do to entertain Feenix?
(And no, letting him barbecue the Golden Rooster is not an option.)
Give us your best babysitting tips and advice, for a chance at a free book Dianna will give away as her thanks to you for staying up with us and helping babysit Feenix.
Dianna is expecting her early copies of ALTERANT any day now. So she’ll give away a copy to one person who helps us out tonight and tomorrow.
Sven, your free copy is already set aside.
Posted by Jeanne Adams Aug 31 2011, 4:01 am in Deadly Little Lies, dianna Love, James Bond, Jeanne Adams, McGyver, Runaway Bride, Sharon Sala, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Thomas Crown
by Jeanne Adams
<It’s LAUNCH DAY for DEADLY LITTLE LIES!!!
And yes, I AM shouting. Grins. I’m going to apologize right up front for shouting and happy dancing, and being just a liiiittttle bit immodest.
This would be the reason: Deadly Little Lies was the book that almost wasn’t. It was written during one of the darker periods in my life as my father’s health was failing, and I had a difficult time getting it completed.
(BTW, Thank you again, to all the Banditas and BB’s who helped me through all that. Ya’ll quite simply rock!)
Of course, once I got it done, I had to edit all the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth out of it before I turned it in. There was a LOT of that. I mean, a LOT.
And, ya’know, heroes in modern stories just shouldn’t gnash their teeth. Really. Bad for their teeth, right? Grins. And my hero, Davros, called Dav, my dashing Greek shipping magnate, has beautiful teeth. I couldn’t endanger those pearly whites!
Then in edits, I had to be sure I had the timeline straight (Oy!) and, when I made Dav, and Carrie, the heroine, go down some dark, spooky and very forgotten tunnels, I had to be sure I brought them back out the SAME WAY. (EEK!)
I actually had to make a map of the tunnels so that I was sure I had done it right. Good thing I like to draw because MAN was that complicated! Yikes!
For those of you who write, I know you feel my pain, right? Right? Please say you do, and if you don’t lie, and make me feel better, okay?
For those readers who aren’t also writers, this is how it goes sometimes. You feel like you’re pulling the book out of your imagination a struggling word at a time. Ex-haust-ing.
Then you turn it in. And you wait. And you get nervous. And you decide it’s the absolute worst book you ever wrote and you’re going to die of mortification when it comes out and bombs and….and…and….
My only comfort was the memory of hearing La Nora (Roberts) say that sometimes, in the middle of the book, she’ll call a friend and complain that she’s never written such terrible schlock in her life, and it’s the worst pile of (expletive deleted) she’s ever seen.
Yeah, but she’s La Nora, my errant thoughts would remind me. So I would resume my pacing.
I considered taking up serious drinking as a contact sport.
Grins. But I really like to drink to CELEBRATE, so…..
Much to my (immense) delight, and relief, DEADLY LITTLE LIES received a TOP PICK from Romantic Times Magazine. The reviewer wrote:
“Non -stop action and heart-stopping danger make this book unputdownable!”
Now, I don’t know about you, but unputdownable sounds pretty darn good. I don’t know if it’s a real word, but I don’t care. Now you can understand my relief. Other reviewers have said they stayed up late to finish it in one gulp.
WHEW!!! Thank heavens.
But my insomnia had actually started early on, in the production stage, after the “get the timeline straight” call from my editor. Did you know that authors do cover quotes? I’m sure you read those. At least all of us newer authors HOPE you read them. If you don’t read them, please don’t tell me.
If you do….what do you think of them? Do you ever take a look at a book based on the cover quote?
Oh, and to give you further insight into my insecurity, you realize that those much-more-famous-than-me authors actually have to read the book, ahead of time, and quote on it?
As I approached that stage, I was all but ready to throw in the writing towel. I was sure my colleagues would laugh…or worse, pity my poor efforts. I was a flat, wrung out mess.
One of my all-time favorite NYTimes Bestselling authors, Dianna Love, is going to here in the Lair in a week or so. She’s written innumerable fabulous books, both on her own and with Sherrilyn Kenyon. One of my all-time favorites of hers is Blood Trinity, the first in the Belador Series.
So you can imagine that I nearly keeled over and died when she gave me a quote for the cover of Deadly Little Lies, calling it: “…an edge of your seat read.”
(That’s Dianna in one of her fabulous Blood Trinity t-shirts, with a fan)
Oh, lawdy, where’s my celebratory cocktail? Really, really, relieved. Grateful, and relieved. You see, I had the worst time re-reading this book for edits. Terrible. Usually I sail through all of that. Not. This. Time. So I had to send this book to my colleagues before I gave it a last edit.
So, imagine my even greater surprise when the 2011 RWA Lifetime Achievement Winner, the inestimable Sharon Sala offered to give me a quote. I felt like both the book and I were a hot mess, but Sharon said I was worried about nothing. She said there was “…sizzle on every page.”
SO, now, more than with any other book, I’m in the mood to really celebrate a LAUNCH DAY!!!
Sven! Bring the special Hurricane Earthquake Punch!!! (Hey, we have to also celebrate the fact that the power stayed on in the Lair, in the Writing Caves, and at my house because several of us have Sept. 1 deadlines! And no earthquake damage!)
Paolo!! Bring the hors d’oeuvres! We need sustenance for our Launch Partying.
Demetrius!! Bring the torches! Someone needs to light up these caves….which leads me to giving you a little excerpt. Grins. Dav, the hero, is claustrophobic. His enemy had locked him, and his lady-love in an underground cell. They have to figure a way out….they find a door and…
Dav took a deep breath and started into the tunnel. The light wobbled, then steadied and he could feel the warmth of Carrie’s presence at his back. Two steps in, she wrapped her fingers in the loop of his belt. Somehow, the contact was reassuring, bracing. The palpable connection made the dark less horrifying.
Much later, they’re both despairing….
“I want to keep going, she insisted. What if there’s a way out, just beyond this?” She stopped suddenly and he heard her draw in a shaky breath. “Oh, my God, Dav, what if it’s a dead end?”
“Carrie,” he kept his voice firm in the face of her rising panic. “I will not allow you to die. I have told you this, yes?” We will find a way out. Now, come and sit down, rest. You can tell me your secrets and I will tell you mine.”
In spite of his own fears, Dav makes sure Carrie feels safe. He’s really a wonderful hero, without being “too perfect to live” like some heroes are. He gets hurt, bruised, banged up, has a panic attack about being underground (his father used to lock him up as punishment – something to panic about!), and yet, he keeps himself level for her sake. He’s kind of like a 21st Century, Greek Indiana Jones in a way.
Although, he’s really more Thomas Crown than a McGyver type, but he’s smart and he can figure it out.
Carrie on the other hand, is more like McGyver. She’s the one with the pocket knife that has 27 tools. She’s the one who figures out an alternative exit.
She’s more like Annie Walker on Covert Affairs, without being a spy. Or maybe a bit more like the Julia Roberts character, Maggie Carpenter, in Runaway Bride, she is capable, competent, and mechanically inclined, but she’s got some scars that keep her wary.
If you read DEADLY LITTLE SECRETS last year, you’ll have already met both Davros “Dav” Gianakopulos and Carrie McCray. I hope you liked them and will want to read their story in DEADLY LITTLE LIES.
In my regular form and fashion, things blow up. There’s a fairly high body count. Grins. Oh, and did I mention a LOT of twists and turns?
This would be why you need the torches. Ha!
So, grab a flashlight, pen light, mag light or torch, get a Bloody Mary, or a Margarita, or a glass of milk and some of Sven’s famous chocolate chip cookies (He stole the recipe from Joanie T – YUM!!!!), and grab a chair and start reading.
Then….riddle me this, spelunkers….
Are you more like Bond or McGyver? Annie Walker (Covert Affairs) or Maggie Carpenter (Runaway Bride)?
What about your Significant Other? Or if you don’t have one at the moment, which type do you prefer? The polished, lethal weapon-type like Bond, or the rougher-hewn, all-purpose, get-you-out-of-any-jam like McGyver?
Or in more recent vernacular, are you more like Michael Weston (plan it, execute it) from Burn Notice, or Hank (use what’s at hand, make it work) from Royal Pains? And which do you prefer?
Don’t even get me started on Neil, the guy from White Collar…..whew!!!
Let’s get this party STARRRRRRRTED!!!! Music! Lights!!! Cookies!!! Drinks!!!
Posted by Cassondra Murray Apr 19 2011, 4:14 am in art, Belador, Cassondra Murray, Cassondra's blogs, dianna Love, Encouragement, Mother's Day, Mothers, My Feenix Art Contest
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.
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 they 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?
Dianna: 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*
Cassondra: 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?
Dianna: You can go to www.myfeenix.com 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 www.authordiannalove.com
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!
Posted by Nancy Northcott Apr 7 2010, 4:36 am in BAD agency, Bandit Booty, dianna Love, Lisa Shearin, Raine Benares
We have winners from Dianna Love’s blog of March 30 (yes, Cassondra is embarrassed to show her face in the Lair) and Lisa Shearin’s blog of March 29 (and Nancy also is skulking).
Dianna’s winners are:
One copy of Whispered Lies to Virginia–Whee!
One copy of Phantom in the Night to Pat Cochran–Whooo!
One copy of Whispered Lies to Denise –Wheeoo!
Grand prize of autographed copies of all three BAD Agency novels, an “I’m in a BAD Mood” t-shirt, and other goodies, all tucked inside a monogrammed “I’m in a BAD Mood” totebag, goe to Chey–whoot! whoot!
Email Cassondra via the Romance Bandits link on the blog with your snail mail contact info. Chey, your t-shirt choices are large or extra-large, so specify which you want.
Lisa’s winners, each receiving a Raine Benares prize package, including a copy of Bewitched & Betrayed with additional book goodies (postcards and bookmarks from all four of Lisa’s books, plus a fridge magnet from Bewitched & Betrayed) – all signed and personalized are:
Cybercliper and Bookie–Yippee!
Email your contact info to lisa AT lisashearin DOT com.
Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks for stopping by.