Posts tagged with: friends

The last Bandita…


“Build it…and they will come”, this quote from one of my favorite movies, A Field of Dreams, always makes me think of the Romance Bandits.

May, 2007 … a group of very nervous new authors stepped onto the web. We’d banded together to try and make our mark on the world. We were going to start a blog.

What if no one read us? What if they did? What if no one wanted to hear what we had to say? What if they did? Would it be a waste of time? Or would it be that safe place to launch our careers?

We had a few rules:

1. Be positive. We’d see blogs where people were snarky to the point of rudeness. We wanted the Lair to be a fun, positive place for readers to come and chat with us.

2. Answer each person’s comment on your day to blog. We figured if you took the time to respond, we should do the same.

3. Be real. We could talk about books, men, food, men, tuck nuts, men, embarassing moments, men…uhm…you get the idea, but we had to be open, honest…ourselves.

Then the coolest thing happened…

YOU guys!

Who knew that opening ourselves, our writing journeys, our lives to readers such as you would garner us such wonderful friends! I feel like I know so many of you like we’ve been friends for such a long time. You’ve supported us through those tenuous first days, through our first book releases, debuts for each and everyone of us…and become people we talk to daily…even if you’re half way around the world! We’ve bonded through stories about truck nuts, the Golden Rooster’s secret revealing blog, various parties, food wars, holidays, language barriers (okay, just the oddities in the English–British/American/Australian variations of it). Some of us have shared having new grandbabies together. Some of us have shared the heartbreak of losing a loved one. You’ve been the first people we share exciting new covers and wonderful news with. Changes in our lives as we’ve gone through the journey to publication.

Laughter. Tears. Hearts.goodbye

And now, it’s like the last episode of one of my favorite shows. M*A*S*H. Everyone has left the camp. BJ has driven Hawkeye to the helicopter pad on his motorcycle. Hawkeye climbs on board and BJ speeds off down the hill. And there is this:

But it really isn’t goodbye. In fact, I’ll be back next month to do a release party for Turner’s Vision. Others will pop in to let you know when they have new books out.

Some of you already follow me on FB and Twitter, but in case you don’t, but want to catch up with me, the Jazzman and Rusty Puppy, here’s some links:






I’m Not Weird…My Mother Had Me Tested

laugh in


ZERO….ZERO…ZERO. 009 do you read me?

Gales of laughter.

What’s so funny, you’re asking? Well to three 14 year old girls circa…a while ago…it was hilarious. A secret world constructed by friends for no apparent reason other than it was funny. FUNNY because it was spoken into a lipstick.


Ahem. So, I’d been thinking about the types of “things” that develop among friends. Secret codes, references, memories, bric a brac that only that one friend or group of friends “gets.” Mention any of them, and it’ll take you all collectively back to a time with less stress, more fun or just goofiness.

I started early. With these same friends, Mary and Diana we concocted lots of events. The earliest provided courtesy of my new tape recorder. MARVELOUS invention that. We proceeded to tape our own rendition of Laugh In only we called it “Flush In” (cue toilet) We told corny jokes and imitated a character made famous on the original version by Ruth Buzzi “Hiiiiiiii, I’m Sassy!) Seriously, I just giggled at that.

Then flash forward a few more years and a gloomy, rainy day in Diana’s basement.  A whole scenario of playing hospital. Hmmm…maybe 11 at the time. Thus came about the role of Dr. Romaro and Nurse Klondike. Mary  was Romaro and I of course was Nurse Klondike. Diana? Well, she was in possession of the “patient” a certain Mr. Peanut doll. Poor Mr. Peanut had a whole range of ailments from being roasted to problems with his….

Hey! We were just figuring things out. 😀 But Mary and I still refer each other as Romaro and Klondike…esp. when a medical question is involved.

Onward to high school and long rides on the bus. A random discussion of  Dragnet brought out scenes acted out by Joe Friday (Mary), Bill Gannon (me) and…well….Diana ended up being the stalwart intern Sam Quartet.


I know ya’ll aren’t laughing like I am but we all have shared experiences with out closest friends. Minute things that you elaborate on, crack up at, understand with one word or mention of something (Mr. Peanut!) that brings back a host of fond memories.

It doesn’t end with adulthood.

A few weeks ago, at RWA Nationals, Susan Sey and I shared a room. We were talking about my cat (I so rarely do) and she played a comedy bit she’d heard on NPR by my new favorite comedian Mike Birbiglia.

It was called Of Mice and Men. I was unable to locate a recording of it but here is the transcript.

I, uh– I think that my favorite thing about being married is actually that you can share jokes with your wife or husband that are funny to you and that person and no one else other than maybe your cat. Because when you have a cat, your barometer for humor, poof, out the window.

Last summer, my wife and I went on a trip to Massachusetts. And I called it Cats-achusetts– which is not funny, but in our house was the joke of the year. I was like, we’re going to Cats-achusetts. My wife is like, ahh! I was like, ahh! Our cat was like, ahh!

Everyone loves a good pun when you have a cat. And so we drive to Cats-achusetts. And when we arrive, my wife has a headache. And she asks me if I’ll acclimate Ivan– that’s our cat– to the bedroom, because you can’t just put an indoor cat into a house, because he’ll explode.

And so I bring him in the bedroom. But I’m so tired from the drive that I fall asleep, which is the only thing you cannot do when acclimating an indoor cat to a house. And so I wake up an hour later. Ivan is gone. He got out.

And so now I’m running around the house. I’m like, my cat’s going to explode. I wake up my wife. I was like, Clo– her name’s Jen– I say, Mr. Fantastic is gone– his name’s Ivan. And Clo gave me a look that I can only describe as “divorce eyes.”

Because before that, point I was convinced that we would be married forever. And then once I saw the divorce eyes, I was like, oh, I guess this could end. And if it ended, it would look a lot like that.

And so now the two of us are running around the house. I’m like, my marriage is falling apart. My cat’s going to explode. And we find Ivan, but we had another major problem in the house, which is that there were mice in the house.

It was actually worse than that, because they were parasitic mice. They have what’s called toxoplasmosis, which means they have a– yeah, you might know what this is. They have a parasite in them, and as a result they’re unafraid of cats, and they’re unafraid of people.

And the way we discovered this was that my wife was watching TV, and she looked next to her. And there was a mouse. And he was watching TV also. And she screamed!

And he just looked up at her like Stuart Little– like, hey, what’s going on? I don’t like this show either. I don’t know why all those women would want to marry that one guy.

And then she pushed him off the couch. And he didn’t even run away. He didn’t even scurry, which is a verb invented for mice. He just walked into the kitchen, like a roommate– like, fine! I’ll go in the other room! I just think you’re overreacting.

And then he did a confessional into the Mouse Cam in the kitchen. He was like, I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to win. I was here before they came. I’ll be here when they’re gone. I’m a mouse.



That’s from “Real Mouse-wives of Cats-achusetts.” That night, I’m sound asleep, and my wife wakes me up by grabbing my face. She says, Mo– my name’s Mike– Mr. Fantastic found the mouse. You need to get the mouse.

And I sit up, and I say Clo, we have a cat. We do everything for the cat. We gave him food. We give him an apartment that he thinks is the world. We set aside an area in the apartment for him to poop in that we clean more often than the area where we poop.

We have a gentleman’s agreement that in the unlikely event that a mouse should walk in that door (A LA MARLON BRANDO) that he will kill that mouse and we will never speak of that mouse again. And he will be protected. (NORMAL VOICE) That’s from “Cat-father.”



My wife says, Mo, get the mouse. And I sit up, and I see what may be the strangest tableau I will ever witness in my entire life. Ivan’s smacking the mouse. The mouse flies in the air, lands, gets up, walks back towards Ivan.

Ivan smacks the mouse, flies in the air, lands, gets up, walks back towards Ivan. Ivan is thrilled! His toy is alive!

I have a serious sleepwalking disorder. So as I am watching this, I’m not even really sure it’s happening. I’m thinking, I’ve had this dream before.

My wife says, Mo, get the mouse. And she hands me a cup.

I sit up. I walk towards the mouse. And the mouse walks towards me. I put the cup over the mouse. I put a magazine under the cup. I take the cup into the backyard, and I put the mouse into the forest, where I can only assume that he walked into the mouth of a wolf.

And from that day forward, we have called it Mouse-achusetts.



I want to point out something really special that happened there at the end. A few minutes ago, I prefaced this story with a Massachusetts-based pun, Cats-achusetts, which we all agreed as a group is not funny.

Just moments ago, I concluded the story with another Massachusetts-based pun that was nearly identical. And that was Mouse-achusetts. And we applauded.



Which means, in a way, it’s like we’re married.

ROFLMAO. So here we were, two grown women, in our PJ’s, reveling in each other’s company after a LONG day of travel cracking up! And so began our unique take on the conference.

For the rest of the week, we referred to each other as Mo and Clo. Susan had to be Mo, I mean she had Mo written all over her. We sent each other texts in the vernacular of the comedy routine, made up scenarios involving Mr. Fantastic 😀 The best occurred at dinner one night. We were separated at a long table. Texting ensued. ME: So, Mo. Ya miss me? SUSAN: Of course, Clo. Where’s Mr. Fantastic? ME: Oh, he’s under my chair. SUSAN: Be careful that he doesn’t explode.



Anyway, tell us about you and your friends, family or Framily 😀 Do you all have any secret shared stories, goofy made up language? Is there a Mr. Fantastic in your life? 😀  Have you ever been to…wait for it…MOUSE-achuessets?

Mr Fantastic

Did you see that mouse?


Out On The Deck

I love summer.  Y’all know this if you’ve been in the Bandit lair for long.  I love the green leaves, the flowers, the warm breezes. 

Lights2 croppedAnd I love the long evenings. 

I sit at a computer a lot, and every now and then I have to get away from it or I’ll go a little crazy.

Tonight we had a special treat.  We got invited to the home of our friends, Adam and Josh, for dinner on their back deck.

It’s one of my favorite ways to spend an evening.  I love to sit on the deck or patio with a glass of wine, some candlelight, and good friends.  And tonight got me thinking about decks and patios, how they’re used, and what makes them a good place to spend an evening, because Adam and Josh had something I’d forgotten about.

 When I was a little girl, we didn’t have a deck.  We had a front porch.  It was mostly bare except for a wooden “loveseat” rocker, and a couple of wooden chairs, but we hardly ever sat up there on the porch.  Most of the outdoor sittin’ was done out in the grass in the lawn chairs.   Cheap, fold-up aluminum frames covered with nylon Lights C7lantern-red_lgwebbing.  When the webbing wore out, my dad got more webbing from the hardware store and redid the chairs.  

Just every now and then we’d sit on the porch if it was sprinkling rain, or if Mama was canning and had to stay close to the house so she could hear the relief valve  on the pressure cooker jiggle.  But otherwise, even if we were breaking beans or hulling peas, we’d be out in the lawn chairs under the shade trees.

In the long evenings I’d sit outside in those chairs with Daddy, watching the lightning bugs flicker to life in the field across the road, picking out constellations, or watching the  summer heat lightning putting on a show on the horizon to the south.  The porch was mostly a place to leave your outside shoes, a place to hang the thermometer, and a roof to keep the straw broom out of the weather and the rain off of the front door. 

 Things have changed.  I still want to watch the stars, see the lightning bugs flicker, and watch the thunderstorms build up in the distance, but these days I sit outside in a chair on the lawn only if there’s a fire in the fiFurniture floppedre pit.  I’ve gotten old and soft I guess, because if I’m going to be outside in the evenings, I like being on a patio or deck.

Steve (my husband) and I have had a deck on the back of our house for only a year.  For any of you who haven’t seen my blogs about it, we’re restoring a house that’s 164 years old.  It’s a long-term project, and for the past few years, getting in through the back door has involved a few strategically placed concrete blocks.  But now there is a deck. 

Okay, the deck is still sitting on concrete blocks, getting ready for permanent installation, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying it just the same.

Lights GrapeClusters-green_alt

When we got the deck last year, we got a set of deck furniture with squishy cushions, and an umbrella.  Our grill is on the deck, and nine months of each year, I grill most every night instead of cooking inside.

But what we don’t have–what I’d forgotten about until tonight’s dinner–is a string of fun party lights..the ones I used to see only around RV canopies at the KOA campground.  They come in all shapes and sizes now.  Look at these gorgeous grape clusters on the left. 

Lights Bass_z1

I haven’t been fishing in a long time, but I could make a guess and say that one on the right is a large-mouth bass.  

And I’m not entirely sure how the licensing went down for this, but yes, that looks for all the world like the Pillsbury Doughboy. 

Lights Doughboys_lgI have some solar landscape lights scattered around the flower beds and walk, and candles in Mason jars for when we have company.  This time of year, the candlelight needs to include a citronella scent to keep the mosquitos away, and even then, here in Southern KY, you might be spraying on repellent.  But  as of yet, there are no electric lights on our deck.

Now I’ll fess up.  I’ve done wedding and event planning for some high-end events, where nothing would do for the candle holders but Waterford or Baccarat crystal.  It was beautiful.  I can turn into a Martha Stewart Mini-Me if I’m not careful, and  I could get a serious jones for these higher-end Lights fancyvintage-style lights with their amber-yellowed globes and little copper rain guards.

But the bottom line is that when I look at strings of fun party lights, I smile.  I feel festive.  I relax.

I don’t know why, but even a string of white, mini Christmas lights run around the top of a porch ceiling make me feel a little lighter.  I think these glowing seashells on the right are great, but the truth is that string lights run  the spectrum from pretty and understated, to over-the-top tacky. 

And even when I see the tacky ones like the fish or the dougboy, I Lights--Shellscan’t stop myself from grinning.

Our friends, Adam and Josh, have their deck out back too, surrounded by trees and complete with their own grill and table with cushy chairs.  And they just got their first beautiful, red patio umbrella.  But they didn’t stop there.

They strung the edges of their umbrella with fun novelty lights—  It was so pretty and  cheerful, I made Josh take pictures with his phone so I could use them on the blog today.

Lights 3 cropped


We had a great meal, sipped our wine, and had good conversation.  I arrived at their house all stressed out, but I left there smiling.

Our deck is two levels, and I’m already making plans to add on because I want more room.  I want a screened porch, too.  And  now that I’ve been reminded, around the top of it I want fun lights. 

Lights Cocktails_altMaybe pumpkins  or skulls at Halloween.  Icicles at Christmas.  White mini-lights all summer long.

So tell me, Bandits and Buddies..

Do you spend time outdoors in the warm months?

Do you have a patio, deck or balcony where you hang out –or the ultimate warm-weather retreat–a screened porch?

Is there permanent outdoor furniture?  Or do you have the fold-up portable chairs like the ones I use around the fire pit? Lights Labs_z1

Or….do you prefer to sit out on the lawn, under the trees or the open sky? 

What cool-shaped novelty lights have you seen? 

Do youLights Flamingos_z1 remember these from your childhood–or do you own any now–and if so, are they hung up to enjoy?  Or are they packed away?

I can’t quite get into the duck retrieving dogs, but I definitely need some pink flamingos. 

Am I the only one, or do YOU feel the urge to grin when you see fun, festive party lights?

Hall of Fame

I know I’ve talked in the past about how my high school has been turned into…well…something else.  All that is left of Greenhills High School is a room of memorabilia in the community center.  However, all GHS memory roomthose decades of students haven’t forgotten their high school days and the alumni association is still active.  Every year they have a dinner and induct new member into their Hall of Fame – which is actually a wall in the said room of memorabilia.  

Last September I attended a football game at University of Cincinnati where my brother was honored as a retired Major General in the Army reserve.  I figured if a University would recognize his military accomplishments, maybe a high school would as well.  So as soon as I got home I wrote a few paragraphs to nominate my brother Dennis for a place on the Greenhills High School Hall of Fame .  That’s his military photo down a bit on the right. 

Anyway, I received a phone call a couple of weeks ago from the head of the nomination committee.  He said the board unamimously agreed to accept Dennis’s nomination.  He asked, “did you tell your brother that he’d been nominated?”

Me – “No.  What would I say if you didn’t accept him.  ‘Hey Bro – I nominated you for the Hall of Fame and you got rejected’?”   😆 cam maj gen

So they called him in New York and left a message as he and his wife were traveling across country visiting kids and grandkids.  I knew the day they got home as I got this  email.  

Dennis:  “I just got a letter from the Greenhills Alumni Association (didn’t know there was such a thing). 

cam - Dennis

 They want to induct me into the Greenhills High School Hall of Fame.  The ceremony is in July.  I am thinking I might accept (not often one gets inducted into a Hall of Fame, especially one from a school that hasn’t been a high school in quite some time).  So we might be coming back down to Cincinnati in July.”  

That was the first email.  I got one about an hour later that said something like – “What!  You nominated me?”  LOL .  I reminded him that before he got a swelled head that he’d still be staying in my basement on an oncoming visit.  (I do have a finished basement with a separate bath and a comfortable sofa bed – just so you know I wasn’t tossing him in a dungeon).  

The photo to the left is Dennis when he was 13 -14 ish.

My brother and his wife were just here this weekend after traveling home from an out-of-town wedding.  He thanked me for the nomination and was genuinely pleased, which in turn pleased me as it was such a simple thing to write a couple of paragraphs and send them on.  One of the things we talked about while he was here was how you lose friends and even family members if you don’t make the effort to keep in touch and visit every now and then.  People drift off, become swamped by their own lives and soon – you lose connections.  It’s one of the reasons we ask everyone to join our members only group so we can touch base and keep our connections.  Heaven knows – we don’t want to lose you. 😮

So today I thought I’d give you all an opportunity to nominate someone for your own personal Hall of Fame.  It can be a friend or family member.  Just tell us why they shouldCasanova Code have their photo up on your wall of fame.  If your nominee is a romance reader, let me know and I’ll pick one and send them a copy of The Casanova Code.  You too, if you like.



Real friends help friends…babysit?

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

“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?”

“Yeth, dammit!”

“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 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 expl
osive 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.

Confessions Of A Dish Whore

By Cassondra Murray

Hi. I’m Cassondra and I am a dish whore.

I know, I know. Those of you who have come to know me in all of my black-wearing, firearm-and-knife-wielding, suspense-writing glory will find this difficult to assimilate. But it’s true.

It doesn’t matter much where the dishes originated. It could be delicate Lenox or sturdy Pfaltzgraff, $30-per-set Gibson from Target or $30-per-teacup Prince Albert porcelain from England. When I see a pretty set of dishes, I immediately start building a table setting around it. Then I start building my fantasy life around it.

I compare it to what I already have, and think about which placemats, tablecloth, chargers and stemware I could combine to make something eclectic. Something different. Something stunning.
And then I start wanting it.

I can spend hours in the housewares department. I imagine MY table set with that, MY house perfectly clean and neat, and all my friends around me, sipping good wine, laughing and having a grand time while I finish dinner and we prepare to sit around that gorgeous table.

My husband, Steve, will come in and give me a kiss and hand me the flowers he brought, then he’ll stir the Bolognese sauce while I greet the first guests for the evening.
If only I had those dishes, you see, all else in my life would fall into perfect alignment. Just like a magazine ad.

Yes. It’s a disease.

And yes, I do need a 12-step program for this.

Or some sort of therapeutic intervention. Or, perhaps, service for 12 of the Lenox Holiday pattern china. I’ve always wanted that set….

Help me.

I’ve been doing better recently. I swear.

Last year I gave away three whole sets of dishes.

It was the summer of 2009. After 8 years of living in this old house, I was finally unpacking everything that remained in my garage. And in so doing, I took stock of all of my dishes. I had to do this because I was trying to find places in the kitchen to store the boxes and boxes of fragile emotional crutches I’d been hoarding. I considered storing dishes under the bed for about twenty seconds, but nixed that idea. I don’t want to have to clean around them, and it’s bad Feng Shui.

You see, I’ve made this asinine rule about bringing more stuff into the house. If I bring anything in, something else has to go out. It’s a hard-ass approach to an unendurable clutter issue. I’m determined I’m going to create a Zen environment, one in which I can actually focus to…you know…write.

So in that summer of 2009, I took inventory. In all, I had eight complete sets of china. I had one service for 36. All matching.

That’s right. I could have served a sit-down dinner for 36 people all on matching dishes.

Now, let’s stop, for just a moment, and consider my actual life.

My dining room—or perhaps we should call it a “nook”– is 12’X12’.

I’m presently sitting at the round oak dining table, with my laptop propped up on a copy of Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love’s BLOOD TRINITY as I write this. The rest of the table is covered with stacks of paper of all kinds. Bills, manuscripts, week-old mail, magazines, receipts I need for tax prep, and stuff to be filed. I shoved the paper back to make room for the laptop so I could type this blog. I’m trying to plan time in my schedule to get a dishwasher installed in the (very small) kitchen. Am I seriously going to do a sit-down dinner for 36?



In my next life. Where I come back as Cosmic Empress of the Universe.

You know…the life when I have a staff of fifteen and three Five-Star commercial ranges in the kitchen. The kitchen which tastefully combines primitive pie safes and an antique butcher block island with granite countertops, two sinks and two Subzero refrigerators.

Yeah. That life.

On top of that, I don’t KNOW 36 people who I would bring in for a sit-down dinner all at once, unless I had all the cabana boys, the gladiators, the Bandits, and most of the Buddies over at the same time (Sorry, Ermingarde, but you won’t fit through the doorway). And besides, we’ve got the main hall of the Lair for those big parties.

Ah, but I had these visions of round tables draped with festive linens OUTSIDE you see, for a summer party on the lawn by the waterfall.

I can see the audience lean forward, and hear the question vibrating across the ether…..”You have a waterfall?”

No. I don’t. But I’d like to have one. And when I get my waterfall, I’ll sure-as-shootin’ have the dishes to support the darn thing.

See? It’s part of the fantasy.

It’s not that I’ve spent a lot of money on these dishes. I haven’t. My complete service for 36 was on clearance at Target. I paid $27 for all of it. Six sets of six. That’s less than a dollar per place setting!

Who could resist a deal like that?

And it was beautiful. Folk art representations of a village in all of the four seasons painted on the dishes. One season on each piece. I could just see it juxtaposed on a sage-green tablecloth with woven, mustard-yellow placemats and deep Aztec-red napkins, with a rich centerpiece made of red apples, golden pears, and jewel-tone turban squash, with autumn leaves scattered across the table. I’d weave in some gold-glitter-coated dried flower stems and gold-paint coated giant acorns, Then I’d set out some votives in deep red cut glass holders. My emerald-green stems with gold rims would be perfect. I’d turn the lights down and light the oil lamps and the table would glow.

Wouldn’t you like to eat a meal with good friends at a table like that?

I am a Goth, Martha-Stewart Mini-Me. I love all things beautiful and tasteful. I just happen to love them while I’m wearing black.

And I think pretty table settings are one of life’s most complete sensual experiences.

Think about it. Nobody serves Kraft mac & cheese on fine china. If the good stuff is laid out, you’re gonna get a home-cooked—or at least a home-catered—meal. And you’re going to sit down to that meal at a table laid out and decorated in a way that makes you stop and savor it.

I am hopeless.

I have dishes I’ve inherited. Some of them fairly valuable, though I’d have no idea how to sell such things. Some of them are quite ordinary, but hold fond memories because my grandmother served “dinner” (lunch for you city folk who don’t understand these things) to work hands on those dishes. Some of them are odd pieces of what I know to be collectible china, and some are 100-year-old pieces that I just think are beautiful. Platters, gravy boats, vegetable bowls and footed cake plates.

Jeanne’s post about decorating the Lair yesterday set this off. It’s her fault. And the Christmas season makes it worse, yaknow….All the parties…all the opportunities to use that Lenox Holdiay china….

Let’s talk punch bowls for just a minute here.

When we did our First-Ever Bandit Bash in San Francisco in 2008, I created a wine punch recipe and then contacted our West-Coast Bandits, asking who had a punch bowl we could use for the Bash.

Not one.

That’s right. There are no punch bowls in California.

Apparently, people on the West Coast do not drink punch at baby showers.

I live in the south. I cannot comprehend this.

I called Jeanne, who lives in Maryland, but grew up in North Carolina, which is technically the Upper South.

“Do you have a punch bowl?” I said.

“Yes,” she said. “I have two.”

Ha! I was vindicated.

I have not one, but TWO punch bowls of my own. No matter that I use them only once every three years. I have one large cut-crystal punch bowl, complete with cut-crystal cups hanging on little s-hooks around its rim, which used to belong to my mom. And I have one smaller, blown-glass, footed punch bowl I earned as a bonus when I was a crystal dealer. It’s magical. Faeries would drink punch out of this bowl.

Yes. I was once a crystal dealer. Not only am I a dish whore, I was once a dish pimp.

I did a presentation to a group of ladies when I was a dish pimp, and have never forgotten the words of one woman, as she was moved to the point of poetry by the sparkle of the lights glinting off of the 24 percent lead crystal, and said, ”my lips LOVE to drink out of pretty glasses.”

Mmmmmm. Mine too.

Yesterday I stopped by a little consignment store at a corner I pass on my way into town. They had two pedestal punch bowls, complete with complete sets of matching cups. Dirt cheap. I very nearly came home with one.

I resisted. Just barely.

I have a deep disdain for paper plates. Even at picnics. I tolerate them only to experience the awesome food heaped upon them, and to be polite to the people I love.

But honestly? I want the picnic sets with the porcelain-like, hard plastic plates and the real silverware, all nestled in a pretty chintz-fabric-lined, lidded basket.

It’s not that I’m uber-formal. I’m not. I hate snobbery, and dislike formality as a rule.
One time I was in a five-star restaurant in Florida. You could have heard a pin drop in that place. (Totally NOT a fit for my personality) There was a little girl at the next table. The lace on her skirt was so stiff it cracked every time she moved. She had to speak in a whisper and looked about to cry. Absolutely miserable. I felt so bad for her.

The little guy who filled the iced tea was pestering the bejeebers out of me, filling it up every time I took a drink and messing up my sacred tea/sugar ratio. (It’s a sin to have to sweeten one’s own tea anyhow, especially in the South. What were they thinking?) I pointed to a spot low on my glass. I gave him my most threatening squint. “When the tea gets down to here,” I said, “you can come back. But not before that.”

His eyes got wide. He didn’t come back for a long time. I was way too loud for that restaurant.
I am not Miss Formal. Honest. I just like dishes.

No. I LOVE dishes. And pretty table settings. I love eating at a beautiful table.

I grew up on a farm in the country, eating on mismatched plates. I don’t know where this came from.

Seriously. I need professional help. Something is wrong with me.

Am I the only one?

Is there another Buddy out there who will raise your hand and say, “Yes, I am a dish whore!” along with me?

Or are y’all the paper-plate –for-dinner types?

I recognize that you paper plate types are, truly, the practical ones. It’s not that I can’t accept, intellectually, that you’re right.

I just don’t understand you.

I can’t relate.

Is there anybody out there like me? Do you love pretty dishes?

Do you stop and stare when you pass the Macy’s housewares window?

Do you covet the Lenox Holiday set, even though you’d only use it one month out of the year?

Be honest. You know you want it.

Don’t you?

Do you like sitting at a beautifully-laid table?

Or are you just as happy with paper plates and cups, and serving out of Tupperware?

Am I the only Dish Whore in the Bandit Lair?

Say it ain’t so.

Friends and Festivities

by Anna Campbell

Firstly, some news for Aussie and New Zealand readers! The local edition of CAPTIVE OF SIN should be in a bookstore near you any day now, including all the usual places like Big W, Target and KMart. The trade paperback looks truly spectacular in the flesh. Keep an eye out for it!

The writing life is a very strange one. It’s lots and lots of time by yourself to write the books. Sadly, sitting on your bottom at a keyboard in front of computer screen is the only way you meet deadlines and get those books out there. Then in between, there’s all this wildly social excitement like the various conventions and conferences and just catching up on all the getting together with people that you miss out on when you’re at home writing.

Just lately, I’ve had a hugely social time. I’m just back from a few days in Brisbane seeing my oldest friend and her family. We had huge fun, saw a big art exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery, drank lots, ate lots, floated around in her pool – although with all I ate, I’m not quite sure that the physics of that makes sense. I think I should have sunk right to the bottom.

I also had a lovely day in town Christmas shopping and catching up with some of the local authors for a Christmas buffet. The fabulous Christine Wells (who has just been nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for her wonderful WICKED LITTLE GAME, congratulations, Christine!) was there. It’s always a buzz to catch up with a Bandita and distance means Christine is usually my Bandit on the spot!

One of the treats of visiting my friend Amanda is getting the chance to cuddle her beautiful Burmese kitten Toby. Well, he’s supposed to be a kitten but I think he’s just small. But he’s beautifully formed and he loves to be adored. And I’m perfectly happy to adore him. He rather likes me as there’s no hard spots on my body – in fact, I’ve started calling my tummy the cat Hilton because it’s so comfortable and he likes to nestle there. See? All that eating and drinking comes in useful for someone!

This is a picture of Toby on the prowl. He’s slightly darker now – more caramel than cream. He’s a gorgeous creature – and doesn’t he just know it?

November was full of visitors coming to my house to stay too, mostly writing people. Seriously, I think my liver is going to pack up its suitcase and move interstate!

The next photos are all courtesy of my good friend, Sharon Archer, who writes for Mills and Boon Medicals. Her debut SINGLE FATHER: WIFE AND MOTHER WANTED came out this year to great acclaim. I wish I’d been sober…um, smart enough to drag out the camera for my other visitors!

First up, I had the fabulous Christine Wells and Denise Rossetti, who writes sensual romantic fantasy for Berkley, to stay for the weekend. We had a lovely time floating around in the pool and eating. Oh, and talking. There’s always plenty to say when we get together.

Then it was Sharon’s turn to come up for a few days. Sharon escaped a heatwave where she lives in Victoria to hit one at my place. Temperatures definitely over where they should be. Again, we floated around in the pool – as you can see from this picture of a bathing beauty! Snork!

My final writing visitor for November was the wonderful Amy Andrews who also writes Medicals for Mills and Boons. Trish Morey, who writes for Harlequin Presents (her sheikhs are to die for if you’re in the mood for something passionate and sexy and romantic), was up staying with some friends at Noosa. So Amy, Robyn Grady and I all drove up there from the southern end of the Sunshine Coast where I live. And yeah, drink a bit more. You can see why my liver is considering emigration. Robyn writes for Desire and Harlequin Presents – lots of writerly discussion. I think – I’m a bit hazy on the details, frankly!


Anyway, after that rash of socializing, I’m hoping to attack my new story which is currently sitting at a pathetic two chapters. Oh, and get ready for Christmas. It’s always such a busy time of year.

So enough name dropping for now! And I’ve foresworn the demon grape at least until sunset!

Are you planning on getting together with anyone special before Christmas? Any social plans that are outside your normal activities?

This is my last regular blog for the year so I’d like to raise my glass (oh, dear, that sunset rule didn’t last too long, did it?) to the Banditas and our buddies! You’ve been absolutely fantastic and I love the fact that we’ve all hooked up together to drink…um, talk SERIOUS writing business!

Happy Christmas, everyone! And may Santa bring you exactly what you want. I’m hanging out for a life-size Richard Armitage but I’m not sure I’ve been good enough to qualify!

Laeti Congregamur

by Nancy

No, that’s not gibberish in the title. It’s how the first line of the hymn “We Gather Together,” my Thanksgiving favorite, translates into Latin. My high school Latin teacher provided translations of that hymn along with “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Ruldolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I no longer remember the rest of it, but there’s a full Latin translation of the lyrics here.

This is all a lead-in, of course, to the fact that it’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a time when many Americans “gather together” with family and friends to commemorate the things and people for which we’re grateful. Our blog community gathers daily, and I hope some of you will pop in today to join me and the gladiators and the cabana boys and maybe take the rooster home for a visit. Sometimes we’re thoughtful, sometimes we have fun, and sometimes we mix our moods. No matter what feeling rules a particular day, I’m grateful for the Lair and its denizens, actual and virtual (because, really, there’s power in imagination), and for all our buddies.

Just FYI, Sven and Demetrius are currently squabbling over who gets to carve the turkey, with Demetrius maintaining that his sword will do much better than that “dinky little knife” Sven is holding (it’s a carving knife, actually, “dinky” only in relation to a sword). I’m just keeping my head down, trying to be invisible. They’re the last two I want to referee between, and asking the rooster to help would be like throwing thermite on a fire.

When I was growing up, my mom worked at the college I later attended. Her secretarial position in the registrar’s office let her get to know a lot of students. Those who lived too far away to go home for Thanksgiving often wound up at our dining room table. While I didn’t always appreciate that at the time, I’m now thankful for the way those guests broadened my perspective on holidays and taught me to look beyond my immediate circle on such occasions.

Some of the students Mom befriended became friends of our family, too. I recently saw a couple of them at a gathering of the women in my college class. We go to the beach for a weekend every year, whoever can turn up. Even though there were comparatively few women in our class, I didn’t know most of them well. I transferred in as a sophomore and so missed the orientation that would’ve brought me into contact with them.

I’m pleased to have made, after all these years, friends among the women I missed getting to know the first time around. So I’m grateful to Sue M. and Ann “Wicked” for pushing me to go the first time and for all the women who’ve participated during the years for weekends of camaraderie and memory. And to Van for posing with me and the Silver Surfer in the photo at the bottom of the blog (with only minimal wine involved).

My high school friends have started a community on Facebook to connect those of us who used to live near each other but have since scattered. I appreciate the ability to keep in touch with old friends and our collective past even though the level of activity on Facebook sometimes makes my mind go “tilt.”

Reading comic books ignited my imagination. If a couple of guys from Cleveland, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, hadn’t invented Superman, the superhero from whom all others flowed, I wouldn’t have had that stimulus. So I give thanks for the creators of the many imaginary worlds I love and for the friends I’ve made through fandom and writing.

I’m grateful for the education that made me an insatiable history geek and for scholars and hobbyists who feed that interest. And for the dh’s willingness to carry home suitcases full of books. As we had brunch on our honeymoon in San Francisco, on the first full day of our married life, we looked down from the glass-sided restaurant atop a hotel and were jointly thrilled to discover a bookstore a few blocks over. We went there immediately afterward and added to the total weight of our luggage. We spent our first New Year’s together with him building and staining bookshelves in our living room because our joint book collection kept growing.

A few years later, as we walked through Gatwick Airport to catch our flight home, he had to stop every few feet and renew his grip on the suitcase. The woman behind him said, in a friendly voice, “What are you carrying–bricks?” He said, “No. Books.” And sort of forced a smile. If he wishes the customs agent hadn’t shared the news that books were duty free (at least then–except for dealers, I think–but that may have changed), he sweetly keeps that to himself.

And of course I’m grateful to have the dh and the boy (who once replied to a question about what he wanted to do when he grew up by thinking a moment and then saying, “I’d like to be someone who doesn’t get arrested,” a goal his father and I heartily support and for which we are thankful). The boy is taller than I am now and never loses an opportunity to remind me.

Our lives are enriched by our friends and extended families, who’re also celebrating at their homes today. And, foolish as this may sound to some of you, by our yellow lab, the latest in the string of dogs who discovered they could be bosses of us.

We’re having dinner with friends, who are contributing fabulous brownies for dessert. Since I’m utterly incapable of creating such a thing “from scratch,” I’m grateful for people who can and for the warmth this family’s presence will add to our table.

What are you doing today? Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving memory? A holiday that seemed bound for disaster but turned out well after all, or vice-versa? Have you made a friend later in life that you missed out on the first time around?

Do you love the Silver Surfer? Do you remember the name of his girlfriend, whom he never stopped missing? Do you have a friend who’d be willing to join you and the Surfer in a photo?

I have SFF samplers from DragonCon for two commenters today. To kick off the holiday season, I’m also including below the recipe for the dh’s holiday favorite. Every year, his late mother made her Aunt Lillian’s [Cringe-Proof] Fruitcake (as adapted, so it doesn’t feed a battalion, by the dh’s sister and brother-in-law).

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Aunt Lillian’s Fruit Cake (Cringe-Proof, according to Nancy’s dh)
his makes a spice cake with candied fruit and nuts in it.

Be sure to check ingredient list and adapt for any allergies. We use one large loaf pan and two small ones, filling them a couple of inches each, per batch. This cake does not rise.

Warning: Requires very large bowl to mix

Overnight, soak the following in inexpensive brandy:
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 and 1/2 cups candied fruit (often sold as fruit cake mixture)
1/4 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
1 tsp. grated orange peel

Mix the following and cream well:
1/2 cup shortening (butter)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar

2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 and 1/3 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder

Mix well, then drain the brandy-soaked fruit and add it;

Mix well, then put into greased and paper-lined pans (use either parchment paper or brown paper);
Bake for about 3 hours at 275 degrees (Fahrenheit);
Test doneness with a toothpick–cake should not be doughy;
When cool, remove from pan and wrap in brandy-soaked dish towel (optional). Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until serving, sprinkling brandy on the cake every few days if desired.


The Friend Phenomenon

By Christie Kelley

Confession time: I have been sucked into Facebook. It really wasn’t my fault. All I did was sign up one day because one of my friends thought I should join all the other writers doing it.
Suddenly I have new friends popping up all over the place. Every time I check my emails, there is another person (usually I don’t know) wanting to be friends with me.

And the weird thing is I’m really enjoying it!

I am not the extrovert type. I like a small circle of close friends and my bandita buddies. Maybe that’s why I like Facebook so much. I can quickly see what my friends are doing and make a quick comment if I have the time. If I’m busy, I can skip logging on that day. It’s my decision.

I’d always thought Facebook was a high school and college thing. Something has happened over the past few years and now it’s just become a cool place to hang out and find old friends and new ones too. Every day, I have to go and find out what everyone is up to at that moment. I get drawn in to crazy things like posting 21 things about myself or answering 48 strange questions. And if I wasn’t on deadline I probably would have finished those questions!

I promise once I turn this manuscript into my editor, I will answer those questions and tag people for their responses.

My husband also just got on Facebook and he complained and whined about it for the first week. Now, he comes into my office every day to tell me about another person who friended him on Facebook. Someone he hasn’t talked to in years. He’s loving it.

So how about you? Have you been sucked into Facebook too? Or maybe Myspace is your thing? Do you love it? Hate it? Let me know. And while you’re thinking about, friend me! Write on my wall. I’ll write back, promise!

Okay, it might be after March 1st when the deadline book is finished but I will do it! And by the way, my 16 year old son won’t friend me.

Guest Blogger Tina Ferraro Buzzes About YA and MORE!

posted by Aunty Cindy

Your old Aunty has been writer-buddies with the WONDERFUL Tina Ferraro for *ahem* some years now. Matter of fact, Tina and I were ‘roomies’ at RWA National in Reno in 2005. Tina got to wear her pink First Sale Ribbon and Aunty introduced her to the addictive TV series “Lost.” Whereupon we immediately became perpetual fans of our mutual lust object Sawyer/Josh Holloway. But I digress… Tina’s young adult novel, “Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress” came out earlier this year to rave reviews. Her next YA novel, “How to Hook a Hottie” will be out early in 2008 and is sure to be equally well-received!

Tina regularly blogs with a group of six other YA authors (including 06 Packer Heather Davis!) at Books, Boys, Buzz ( Check it out! And now give Tina a BIG BANDIT WELCOME as she answers all kinds of questions from your old Aunty!

AC: Please tell us a little about your current release, “Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress” and your soon to be released, “How to Hook a Hottie.”

TINA: All my recent ideas have started with titles. TOP TEN USES FOR AN UNWORN PROM DRESS came to me when I saw a nonfiction book called something like 101 THINGS TO DO WITH A BRIDESMAID DRESS. My brain came alive with what-if’s: “What if it was a prom dress? An unworn prom dress because her date dumped her two days before the prom. And what if her mom–in an attempt to help her heal–started a list of 101, no, no, 10 silly things to do with it…” A week later, I pitched it to my agent, Nadia Cornier, and she gushed, “Oh, I could sell that on the title.” Okay, it didn’t exactly happen that way, but I loved her enthusiasm!

The title, HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE, came to me while brainstorming with my teenaged daughter, but oddly enough, by the time I submitted the proposal, I’d changed it to something slightly different. When Nadia called to say they wanted to buy it and told me what they’d proposed as a title, I laughed, realizing I’d actually gotten it “right” the first time. And I’m very happy we went back with that because it encouraged me to come up with “how to tips”, including a Six Point Plan, a hexagon for hooking hotties! (And how could THAT go wrong???) The basic idea is that kids at school hire 17 year-old Kate to help them hook their secret crushes, assuming she’s got some insider info on the ways of the heart because how else could such a no-nonsense girl like her have hooked the hottest guy in the school? (“Thanks a lot, people!”)

AC: Aunty knows that once-upon-a-time you wrote contemporary romantic suspense (and won some contests with your efforts). What made you decide to switch to YA? Any advice for other writers thinking of trying to break into the YA market?

TINA: I am also a Confession short story author, and over the years, have sold as many teen stories as I have adult. So the teen voice has always been with me. But I had always heard to “write what you love” and romantic suspense what was I loved to read, so when my youngest went to kindergarten and I joined the RWA with serious aspirations of selling a novel, I set my sights on romantic suspense. And yes, I did have some success with writing contests, but the truth was, I had trouble bringing a good idea or a good first few chapters to a good 300 page conclusion.

I knew that first person writing (the tense used for Confessions) was my natural voice. So when a couple of the Harlequin/Silhouette lines started accepting first person, I gave them a try, and found I was suddenly writing better books. Meanwhile, a friend had told me about the Dorchester YA “Smooch” line. After hitting a bump in my professional life, and then one in my personal, I decided to throw caution to the wind and try writing a “Smooch”. My daughter was a high school freshman at the time, and she read all the chapters to make sure I didn’t sound like a grown-up pretending to be a teen, and when I’d finished, I could honestly say it was the best thing I’d ever written. Too bad it didn’t sell, huh? But it got me my agent, and she sold the next one!

For those interested in writing YA, you will probably hear the advice to pay attention to the teen market. Read the books, watch the movies, go hang at Starbucks and listen to them talk. I completely agree. But here’s something you may not hear: do not feel you have to be a representation of today’s teen. Be yourself, just tap back to the teen you were, or the teen you wished you were. Write a book that the teenaged you would have wanted to read, and you’ll have a much better chance of selling it. (Just make sure your heroine has a cell phone and calls her best friend her BFF!)

AC: Please give us a few highlights of your “Rocky (or not so) Road to Publication.”

TINA: Highlights! Okay, at age 23, I sold my first story to True Love magazine, and still write for them today (when time permits). About 5 years later, I had the Big Boss at my job come into my office to tell me I’d been nominated for a special performance evaluation, all the while a first draft a romance novel gleamed behind me on my computer screen. It gets better: months later, he returned to tell me I’d won and hand me a check, and guess what was on my screen again? Yep. Jump ahead some more years, and I’ve joined the RWA, am finaling in writing contests. I made the switch to YA in 2004, signed later that year with Nadia Cornier, sold first book in 2005, second in 2006, third and fourth in 2007.

That’s all the good stuff! Just know that in and around those highlights, there were numerous days and weeks and years when there were no advancements, and I wasn’t even sure I believed in myself. But the simple truth is I love writing. I love being in-the-zone. I love looking back on the good pages and thinking, “I did that”. And it makes all the other stuff fade in comparison.

AC: What is on the horizon for you (and your readers)?

TINA: In addition to HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE, my January, 2008 release, I have two more books contracted with Delacorte Press (Random House) for Spring 2009 and Spring 2010.

The Spring 2009 book has the very silly title of THE ABC’S OF KISSING BOYS, and will have 26 chapters, each with a heading featuring a fun-fact about kissing. The premise is that high school junior Parker Stanhope watched her JV soccer team get promoted to Varsity without her…and she and her brother devise this crazy-but-just-might-work plan to get her on Varsity, which includes giving the prom king a kiss he’ll never forget at the sports fair kissing booth. But first she has to learn everything there is to know about the art of kissing…

The next book has a crazy-ass title and premise, but until it’s been formally approved, I need to keep my lips zipped!

Also, both TOP TEN USES FOR AN UNWORN PROM DRESS and HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE have been optioned for film/tv rights, and I’m presently working with producers to get those projects rolling…

(AC falls over in a swoon at the thought of her buddy Tina writing a TV series or movie! Tina obligingly slaps AC with a wet cloth and murmurs something about hunks to bring her round and finish the Q&A.)

AC: What piece of advice or life-lesson has helped you most in your writing career? And any pearls of wisdom you’d care to pass along to us AYUs (As Yet Unpublished)?

TINA: Well, I have long lived by the belief that everything I have written–no matter how awful–was a step in the right direction. It’s all about staying in the game. I’m also a huge believer in networking. Many doors have opened for me out of the kindness of others, and I try to “give back” whenever I can, by making introductions I hope are helpful, doing contest coordinating and judging, etc. I see other authors as friends or potential friends, and there’s always room for more at the table.

AC: Finally, you didn’t think Aunty would let you out of here without mentioning your connection of one of the GREATEST Bandit Icons of all time, Clint Eastwood. What has Cousin-In-Law Clint been up to lately?

TINA: LOL–you’ve “outed” me, Aunty Cindy! Yes, my cousin, Dina Ruiz Eastwood, is married to Clint, which makes for some very interesting family reunions! My favorite memory is from a pool party. He was telling my husband how great a particular movie was. My husband said, “We were going to rent it, but Tina thinks it’s going to be too violent for her.” Clint turns to me and explains it’s more a drama, not all that violent, etc., and all the while, I’m biting my tongue from saying, “Excuse me! Consider the source here! You’re Dirty Harry!” But to be fair, we later rented it, and it was great. He was right. Imagine that!

I can also tell you that it’s really hard to talk to him on the phone without giggling because he does this dead-on Clint Eastwood imitation…

As to what he’s up to, we saw them a few weeks ago at a family reunion, and I heard talk about a new movie he’s filming in LA this fall. And as a side note, Dina told me she bought every copy of my book they had in her local store, and gave them to teen girls in her neighborhood. Generous and kind–that sums the two of them up perfectly!

Thank you SOOO MUCH, Tina for hanging out here in the Bandit lair today and answering our questions and (as Foanna and Christine like to say) giving us the GOSS! Aunty happens to think Dina and Clint aren’t the ONLY kind and generous people in your family. 😉 And not that we needed more convincing after her wonderful and insightful answers, but Tina will give away an autographed copy of her novel, “Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress” to one of our commentors (winner chosen by AC’s handy-dandy random number generator)!

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