Posts tagged with: Nightkeepers

Jessica Andersen & The Nightkeepers’ Last Stand

Today is an exciting day and also a sad one.  Having Jessica Andersen in the Lair is always a pleasure, but she’s here to talk about Spellfire, the last book in the her wonderful Nightkeepers paranormal romance series.  I love these books, as many of you know, and while I’ll be glad to see the Nightkeepers triumph (at least, I hope they will!), I’ll miss knowing there’s another book ahead.  Spellfire is a Romantic Times Top Pick, with a 4.5-star rating, so the series is ending on a high note.

Welcome, Jessica!  How did you feel when you turned in the manuscript for Spellfire, knowing it was the last Nightkeepers book?

Sad. Drained. Giddy. In dire need of a pool boy bearing a scorpion bowl … yet elated at the same time, because I’m really, proud of this series and how it came around to (in my opinion, anyway) a really satisfying conclusion. 

 It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing these books since 2006 (the launch book, Nightkeepers, came out in June of 2008). So much has happened, both in the world at large and in my own small corner of it, that it boggles the mind. Not the least that the first book acknowledged my fiancé, the last book is dedicated to my amazing husband, and they’re most definitely not the same guy!

I’m love how this last book of the series brings it home. And whenever I get sad, knowing I won’t be writing another Nightkeeper book, I look over at my shelf. It helps knowing that I can visit them any time, both on the page and in my head. That’s the awesome thing about books!

I know I’ll be visiting them on the page again.  Please tell us a bit about Spellfire.

 This is Rabbit and Myrinne’s story … It had to be, really, because even though Rabbit wasn’t in the original outline, the eight-book series wound up not just being about the Nightkeepers’ war to save mankind from the 2012 doomsday, but also about Rabbit growing up (and blowing stuff up).

 He started out as a snotty teenager who just appeared out of nowhere in one of the first few scenes, and tried his darnedest to steal every book along the way. Now he’s all grown up (and then some, rwor!), and his love of self-destruction has the potential for some very big consequences.

 As for Myrinne … well, I know lots of readers aren’t so sure about her as Rabbit’s heroine (I wasn’t either, until I got to know her better), but she’s come a long way, too, baby. She’s finally got the magic and power she’s always wanted, only to find that it comes with responsibilities she never even dreamed of. And where the Nightkeepers are almost always stronger together than apart, it seems impossible to believe that she and Rabbit can put the pieces of their relationship back together before the end date … or that they should even try.

What has writing the Nightkeepers you learned about writing a series?

Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Okay, not really, because there’s nothing simple or stupid about these books. However, I did learn the importance of focusing the camera lens on the moments that are most important to the main characters of the current book. Yes, everyone’s lives are marching forward as time passes, and yes, it’s important for me to know what’s going on in the other characters’ lives, but in books as long and complex as the Nightkeeper books, it can’t all fit on the page.

 Also in terms of simplifying, I’m currently working on a trio of books that are set in the same story world as each other, but don’t really have overarching plot connections. Partly it’s because that’s the way these books are writing, and partly it’s because I want readers to pick up one of these new books having never read the prior ones, and be able to dive right in. Which isn’t necessarily true for the Nightkeepers.

While writing this series, you’ve also written the terrific Bear Claw Crime Lab books. How did you juggle these projects so successfully?

Aw, thanks for saying I’ve been successful at it! It was a struggle sometimes, I’ll admit, especially given that I alternated writing the two series.

 Usually I would stop in the middle of writing a Nightkeeper book to write the outline and first three chapters of a Bear Claw book, submit that for approval to Harlequin, finish up the Nightkeeper first draft, submit that to NAL, write the rest of the Bear Claw book, and submit it just in time to do the first round of revisions on the Nightkeeper book. It was crazy!

I think I’ve said it here before, but I’ll say it again: Fonts are my friend. I always wrote the Nightkeepers in Times New Roman and the Bear Claw books in Courier New. It was a visual cue that helped tell my brain whether I was writing a paranormal or a romantic suspense. That, as much as anything, helped me keep things straight!

That’s a cool idea!  Does not having another Nightkeepers book ahead feel strange? 

Everything feels strange right now, but in a good way. After years of writing four to six books a year while also running a small horse farm and freelancing as a science editor—and basically sleeping six hours a night and never taking a day off—I’ve dropped back to writing two books a year, doing a bit more editing, living in a great little house with my hubby and a couple of cats, and taking nights and weekends off to mountain bike and do family stuff. Which is just …weird. But good weird, you know?

 As for writing-weird, yes and no. It’s strange not to be in the Nightkeepers’ world anymore, but at the same time, I’m in such a different mental space than I was when I started writing these books. The writing I’m doing now is better for who I am now, if that makes any sense.

Besides, if and when I feel the urge to cause some literary mayhem, Mayan-style, the new opportunities in e- and self-publishing might give me an outlet to write, say, the stories of Patience and Brandt’s twin boys, all grown up in a near-future storyline …

Is there anything in particular you would like readers to take away from this series?

This is definitely one of those ‘you can see the author in the stories’ deals, as each of the books deals, in one way or another, with the concepts of being an outsider and finding your place in your community, family, and/or relationship.

 It’s something I’ve struggled with most of my life, and something I think lots of us can relate to. I can’t say that I’ve come up with any great take-home on the topic, but if my last few years are anything to go by, I can say this: huge, tremendous, die-for-you love—the kind that we write about and read about—exists, even for an outsider. And you don’t have to be a magic user to find it.

 What are you working on now?

 Ahh, that’s the question, isn’t it? Well, I guess I can ‘fess up now, because there’s an excerpt of the new book at the end of SPELLFIRE.

 I am … wait for it … going West! Yep, writing as Jesse Hayworth, I’m going to be doing contemporary Western romances about a Wyoming cattle station-turned-dude ranch, the three-generation family that runs the place, and the guests that come through. The first book, SUMMER AT MUSTANG RIDGE, is in production for a June release from Signet.

Although it’s a departure from the Nightkeepers and Intrigues, I think some of the same voice comes through in the strong heroes and heroines. In this case, though, they’re working on their own little corners of the world rather than trying to save the whole thing. 

Thanks as always for the opportunity to celebrate the new release with the Banditas!

 For more about Jessica and her work, visit her website.

Jessica is giving away a copy of Spellfire to one commenter today.  So tell us, what series have you enjoyed, and what did you find satisfying about their conclusions?  If you read westerns, either contemporary or historical, which ones do you like, and why? 

 

 

A Storm Kissed Wedding

posted by Nancy
Jessica Andersen joins us today the release of Storm Kissed, the sixth book in her wonderful, hot Nightkeepers paranormal romance series. For those of you who’re new to the Lair, Jessica’s debut Harlequin Intrigue was an RT Top Pick. Her Intrigues have made category bestseller lists and have been nominated for the RITA Award. Welcome back, Jessica!

Ahoy, Banditas! I’m thrilled to be visiting here today to talk about STORM KISSED, which hits shelves today—I couldn’t think of any other group I’d rather hang with for the launch of Dez and Reese’s story. In fact, this is one of only two blogs I’m doing for this book—I’ve kept the appearances trimmed way back because I’m otherwise deep in revisions and other chaos … and it’s that other chaos I’d like to talk about today.

But first, the blurb:

Dark forces stand poised to crush mankind beneath a vicious rule of terror and blood sacrifice. Our only hope rests with a group living in secret among us: modern magic wielders called the Nightkeepers.

Dez is no angel. The former gang leader spent years in jail and alienated the love of his life, Reese Montana. Now he has a second chance to join forces with the Nightkeepers and master the Triad magic. Even better, Reese is back—taken on as the Nightkeepers’ sexy bounty hunter. But this time the stakes are even higher for Dez and Reese.

The sexual electricity between them is still alive, but when Dez goes rogue on a hunt for a powerful artifact, Reese can’t help wondering if he’s been playing her again all this time … What will become of the Nightkeepers with a potential traitor on the run?

Dez and Reese’s book has some of my favorite storylines in it—the bad boy magic-wielding hero who comes back from the dead a changed man; the bounty-hunting heroine he once betrayed, who now kicks butt on her own terms; and stakes that are getting higher by the day as we get closer and closer to the 2012 end date predicted by the Mayan calendar.

Not only that, but STORM KISSED contains the first wedding in the Nightkeepers’ series. So I’d like to hear some of your thoughts on fictional weddings.

Personally, I like weddings that are true to the characters and maybe even continue to advance their story. Oddly, one of my favorite fictional weddings happened off-screen (unless I missed a story, which I don’t think I did): Eve and Roarke. For me the important part for these characters was the lead-up to the wedding, and the two of them working through their fears and getting the pieces in place. The ceremony was icing, and while I can imagine its fabulousness (it would have to be fabulous, of course … this is Roarke we’re talking about), I didn’t feel like I needed to be there.

Another fictional wedding that stands out for me, albeit a TV/movie one was Carrie and Big from Sex and the City. Now, disclaimer time, I’ve only seen probably twenty episodes plus the first movie, so I’m far from an expert. But I appreciated how we saw the way a wedding can take on a life of its own, until it turns into something very different from how the bride and/or groom envisioned … and I liked how in the end it was down to the two of them, their peeps, and a courtroom ceremony.

I’m not going to talk about what happens in STORM KISSED—hello, spoilers—but I hope you’ll check out Dez and Reese’s story, which includes a wedding that I think is exactly right for the characters involved.

Now, though, I’d like to hear what you guys think about fictional weddings. Love them? Hate them? Have a favorite you’d like to give a shout-out to, or something you wish authors would avoid? Let’s hear it!

One random poster will be selected to receive a signed copy of STORM KISSED. So let’s talk!

For more about Jessica and her books, check out her website.

On the Hunt for a Crystal Skull

posted by Nancy
I’m happy to have bestselling author Jessica Andersen back in the Lair. Jessica is the author of the hot, enthralling paranormal romance Nightkeeper series. She has also written more than twenty category romantic suspense novels, which have been nominated for the RITA award and RT Reviewers Choice award.

Today she’ll tell us about her Nightkeepers-related novella, CRYSTAL SKULL, in the new On the Hunt anthology.

Welcome, Jessica!

Hey, Banditas, and thanks for having me out again to talk about running, screaming, sex, the end of the world, Mayan archaeology, and more sex ;-) This week I’m celebrating the release of CRYSTAL SKULL, the first (and only) novella in the Nightkeepers’ series, which is part of ON THE HUNT, a fabulous anthology with stories also from Gena Showalter, Shannon K Butcher and Deidre Knight.

Without further ado, on to the questions!

Who are the Nightkeepers, and how does this story fit within their continuity?

The Nightkeepers are the last survivors of an ancient race of magi sworn to protect us from the doomsday foretold for 12/21/2012. But as we get closer and closer to the end date and the danger ramps up, the Nightkeepers are desperate for reinforcements.

CRYSTAL SKULL falls outside the main storylines of the Nightkeeper books, but it feeds into the next big book, STORM KISSED, which will be out in June 2011. So if you’ve never read a Nightkeeper book before, you can totally pick up CRYSTAL SKULL without missing anything … but if you’re a Nightkeeper fan, you’ll get a couple of the inside jokes.

What’s your personal grounding in Mayan culture?

When I was an annoyingly bright little kid (you know, the kind who finished the year’s work in the first few weeks, got bored, and started disrupting class), the school was more than happy for my parents to take me away for a few weeks every spring, down to the Yucatan. I kept a journal and did a presentation when I got back, and each year I got to talk about a different set of ruins we’d been to. Those experiences have always stuck with me, and I try to bring the sense of wonder I felt back then to the books as I write them now.

Who are the hero and heroine?

The hero, JT, is both a protector and a loner. He’s been down in the rainforests of the former Mayan Empire for years, fighting vampire demons who are coming through one specific ruin. When gorgeous lady archaeologist named Natalie rolls into town, JT convinces the locals to let her team excavate, hoping to find the hellmouth the vamps are coming through. He never expects to fall for her, though … or to discover that they’re connected by far more than scorching chemistry.

Can we see an excerpt?

Sure thing!! Here goes …

The instincts Natalie had been ignoring suddenly lashed at her, through her, bringing images of jaguars and the recent livestock kills in the area. She was a woman alone, unarmed. Stupid move, Nat. Her heart lurched into her throat as she lunged for the Jeep, and the weapon within it.

She was a few paces short of the vehicle when a dark blur erupted from the greenery and slammed into her, sending her crashing into the side of the Jeep and then down. High-pitched squeals battered her eardrums, making her head ring, and she screamed as a dark-furred, red-eyed creature leaned over her, its batlike face splitting into a three-cornered leer of moist, inhuman hunger that she had seen before, carved in stone.


Camazotz
!

Instead of arms, it had elongated wings with tattered sails and wickedly barbed claws at the ends of the bony struts. Its dark brown, almost black skin was covered with patches of mismatching fur, and it smelled terrible, like a rotting animal carcass. The miasma brought tears, though not before she saw up close and personal that it was male.

Panicked, she tried to worm her way under the Jeep, screaming, “Help me!”

A pair of claws hooked her arm, dragged her out. Pain slashed through her. Terror. Sobbing, she kicked at the creature, but caught only air as it hauled her upright, screeching almost above the level of her hearing.

Its mouth split wide, revealing a black cavern of a throat framed by long, curved teeth.

“Help!” Natalie thrashed against the creature’s hold. She was all alone, in the middle of nowhere, JT wasn’t home, and—

Automatic gunfire slammed out of the nearby forest and into the bat creature.

The bullets ripped into the thing’s upper body, blowing back a spray of blackish blood and chunks. The creature reeled and dropped her. But incredibly, horribly, it spun toward the new threat as black ichor rained down from its wounds.

Seeing the flash of a weapon and the curve of a man’s shoulder in the forest, Natalie scrambled up and screamed, “Kill it!”

“Get down!”

She flung herself flat as a heavy thump split the air and a fist-size missile caught the creature in the midsection and then detonated. Hot, oily black sprayed and the thing flew backward and went down in a limp mass.

“Oh, God. Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God.” Natalie lurched to her feet as her rescuer emerged from the rain forest, cradling a big double-barrel across his body.

On one level she recognized JT; she knew his voice, knew the way he moved. On another level, though, the man who stepped out of the shadows and into the fading sunlight was a stranger.

The JT she knew was clean shaven, well dressed, a strangely urbane oasis in the middle of the tropical wilderness. The JT who faced her now shared the same powerful five-ten frame, skull trim, and cool gray eyes. But he wore several days’ worth of scruff and hard-used bush clothes, and his body was strung bandolier-style with an arsenal of weapons and ammo. He carried himself with the tough purpose of a soldier, moving on the soundless feet of a hunter. And he had just saved her butt.

He once told her the guns in his foyer were for hunting the occasional man-eater among the big cats in the area. Now she knew different.

“Chan camazotz,” she whispered the nickname the villagers used for him. Death-bat killer. She had thought it was a metaphor.

Apparently not.

His eyes were hard and hot, almost feral. “Did he get you?”

A harsh, ugly sob ripped itself from her chest. “That was . . . It was . . . Oh, JT!” She flung herself at him.

He caught her, his arms banding around her with crushing force. Relief poured through her as she burrowed into him, feeling the solid strength of his muscles and the way her body fit against his. His warmth surrounded her, and his voice rasped as he said her name, over and over again, into her hair. At first she thought she was shaking with fear and shock. Then she realized she wasn’t the one shaking.

“JT?” She pulled away a little so she could look up at him. “What—”

He interrupted her with a kiss.

There was nothing soft or urbane about his lips on hers this time, nothing civilized about the way he crushed her mouth with his, the way he gripped her. But she was suddenly hanging onto him just as hard.

What’s up next for the Nightkeepers?

STORM KISSED is next up—it’s the story of the strongest and toughest of the magi to date: big, bad Snake Mendez, who prefers to be called Dez and may or may be a new man since his release from prison and selection as a super-powerful Triad mage. He’s got one soft spot, though, in the form of former bounty hunter Reese Montana, who was his first and only love … and was responsible for his incarceration. These two have some serious chemistry going for them, along with some major issues. And can you say hot? Wheee….

Anyway, thanks so much for having me on today, Banditas! Best of luck rooster hunting, and I’ll see you in the comments!

We love having you! Wow, that looks hot! And the cover is red, in keeping with our theme this month. How handy . *g*

Jessica is giving away one copy of ON THE HUNT, signed by her but not the other authors, and a copy of: 2012 End of the World Calendar. This is the description she sent me of the calendar:

The Last Calendar You Will Ever Own


A 23.97 month calendar packed with digital artwork from all over the world. Features a countdown to the End of the World, prophecies, and information regarding December 21, 2012. Any theories or predictions you may have heard are explained here: Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, Time Wave Zero, Webbot, Pole Shift, World War III, The Bible, Solar Flares, Gamma Ray Bursts, Global Warming, Cataclysm, Planet X, Hopi Prophecy, Dead Sea Scrolls, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Rapture, and much more.

This calendar is HUGE! There are 52 pages total and it measures 12×12 which opens up to 12×24. Ironically printed on Eco Friendly paper, and coated with Matte Aqueous (AQ) Coating for protection. There is no other calendar out there quite like this. It’s the perfect holiday gift for any 2012 enthusiast.

So tell us, would you go searching the jungle for a rare artifact, or would you rather search via Google? Who’s your favorite fictional archaeologist? Who’s your favorite Nightkeeper or winnikin? Feel free to ask Jessica any questions that come to mind, too.

Don’t forget to check out the Healthy Heart tip and free book opportunity below.

The healthy heart tip for February 2 is: Quality time is one of the most meaningful gifts. Bundle up and plan an active outing such as sledding, ice skating, gathering wood for a fire, or if you’re feeling adventurous, visit an indoor rock wall.

Go Red for Women on February 4

Romance Writers of America and the American Heart Association have partnered to raise awareness of heart disease in women and encourage you to join us in wearing red on February 4, National Wear Red Day®. Visit http://www.goredforwomen.org/ to learn how to fight heart disease.

And just in case you missed it….

Sign Up for the Go Red BetterU Program and Receive Two Free Romance Novel E-Books

From Feb. 1 through May 31, 2011, receive one free romance novel e-book when you sign up for the American Heart Association’s BetterU Program and one after you complete week six of the program. And look for the Eat Smart for Your Heart limited-edition magazine (that features this offer) on newsstands and in a grocery store near you.

To sign up for the BetterU program, visit http://www.goredforwomen.org/betteru/index.aspx.
(Go Red For Women is trademarked by the American Heart Association, Inc. Romance novel downloads provided by Belle Books.)

Surprise Nightkeeper Booty!

Surprise!

Jessica is giving away one signed copy of Blood Spells today, and it goes to . . . Cath’s Chatter!

Cath, please send your snail mail info to me (by November 10) via the link on the blog, with “for Nancy” in the subject line. Congratulations!

Thank you to everyone who stopped by today.

After the Happily Ever After

A familiar face joins us today as Jessica Andersen celebrates the release of the fifth book in her wonderful, hot Nightkeepers paranormal romance series. For those of you who’re new to the Lair, Jessica’s debut Harlequin Intrigue was an RT Top Pick. Her Intrigues have made category bestseller lists and have been nominated for the RITA Award. Welcome, Jessica!

Hi Banditas! It’s great to be back—thanks to Nancy for setting this up, and to you for joining me to celebrate the release week of the fifth Nightkeeper novel, BLOOD SPELLS ☺.

First, the blurb:

Mayan lore and modern science warn that 12/21/2012 will bring a global cataclysm, and dark forces stand poised to crush mankind. Our only hope rests with a secret group of modern magic-wielders called Nightkeepers, who gain their full powers by finding and winning their destined mates. But what happens when the mated bond unravels?

Patience and Brandt were both living in the human world when they met, married, and had twin sons … but when the Nightkeepers are recalled to duty, cracks appear in a marriage founded on secrecy and lies. Now, with their sons sent into hiding and the demonic threat kicking into high gear, they’re living separate lives, unable to reconnect … and not sure they want to.

They’re forced to team up once more when an ancient Aztec god-king arises, threatening the very fabric of the earth. But as they race to prevent their powerful enemy from enacting a terrible ritual, the danger turns personal, becoming a deadly test of their powers … and the love they once shared.

Yep, the romance centers on a married couple who have lost the spark in a big way. More, it’s the story of them trying to build a second happily ever after when the first one stops working because of how much they have grown and changed.

For the record, when I first outlined the Nightkeeper novels, I thought Brandt would die rather horribly at the end of the first book, with the guilt split between Patience and the man who would become her hero (and no, I’m not telling who, because the stories sooo didn’t write that way).

But when I wrote scenes in Patience’s and Brandt’s POVs in the first book (NIGHTKEEPERS), both characters really gelled for me … and I realized there was a far more interesting story there to tell, about a marriage that was based on lies, and two people who go from being normal parents to superheroes, and lose track of each other in the process.

I’m not always a fan of revisiting characters who are already paired off, especially if that revisitation (Hm. Spell check tells me that’s not a word … but it really ought to be) involves breaking them up and putting them back together. I think the author needs to be very cautious, or else I’m going to question whether this second HEA is the one that’s going to stick.

Suz Brockmann’s Tom and Kelly are together at the end of their book, but it takes several more books (and a fairly black moment) for them to get married. Similarly, JR Ward put us back in Wrath’s POV to look at how his failing sight tests his and Beth’s bond, but their love triumphs in the end.

For me, these stories worked because I never felt like the hero and heroine stopped loving each other despite their challenges, and the second happy ending for each couple felt like a continuation of their original romance.

In a very few other cases, however, I’ve watched favorite relationships decompress so thoroughly in a later book that it sours the original happy ending and leaves me worried that they’re not going to be okay after “The End.”

Thus, because the entirety of BLOOD SPELLS is technically Patience and Brandt’s ‘after the happily ever after,’ I wanted to make very sure that their conflict didn’t devalue the six years they’ve already been married. Their first happily ever after was perfect for the people they were back then. Now, though, they need to figure out whether their Nightkeepers selves can be together for real, and how to renegotiate some things that they—okay, mostly Brandt—thought were set in stone.

So tell me … do you like revisiting prior h/h couples, not just as a flyby at a garden party (Ooh, look! They’re so perfect together! And what a cute baby!), but as subplots with conflict and a black moment? Can you recommend some stories where this works? Are there situations where you wouldn’t want to see a couple again? Do you like seeing couples who have a history before the story opens, even if it happened off-page? Let’s talk about what happens after the HEA!

Clinton and Stacy go to the Demons

posted by Nancy

Jessica Andersen, a bestselling RITA and RT nominee and the author of more than 20 Intrigues and Nightkeeper novels, returns to the Lair with her latest hot Nightkeepers installment, Demonkeepers! I particularly like this hero, Lucius. He started out as a somewhat fanatical grad student, a scholar with an archaeological bent, as Jessica will explain in more detail. In this book, he comes into his own as a man of action, someone capable of taking the lead, not just taking direction, and finds the love of his life. Welcome, Jessica! Tell us about Lucius.

The other day on Smart Bitches, an emailer asked for help finding the author and title of a certain book that included an ‘ugly duckling leaves town, grows into a swan, and comes back years later to win the team captain’ plotline.

The request spawned a debate in the comment trail, with some posters admitting to a deep and abiding love for makeover plots, while others gagged at the thought of trying to relive high school or argued that team captains tended to age badly (paraphrasing- lol).

I thought the debate was interesting, not the least because my new release, Demonkeepers, is in part a male makeover story, paranormal-style. So I figured I would bring the discussion over here to the Banditas. (Thanks for having me here today, Nancy and company!)

In the first three Nightkeeper books, we see Lucius as a too-tall, somewhat awkward guy who wants to be more than his human self, and regularly makes his Mayan-studies coworkers do eyerolls over his belief that the 2012 doomsday—and mankind’s mythical Nightkeeper protectors—are real.

In Nightkeepers, he falls under the influence of a Mayan demon that spurs him to betray his mentor and steal an ancient scroll. This demonic weakness plagues him, causing him to do Very Bad Things until the demon is finally exorcised in Skykeepers.

During this exorcism, Lucius gains magic and acquires most of the mass and strength of a Nightkeeper male (i.e. check out the drool-worthy cover at the bottom!), becoming the beefy hunk he’s always wanted to be. But when he’s paired with Jade, the magic-wielding one-night stand he never forgot, he quickly figures out that a paranormal makeover didn’t solve his problems … in fact, it created a few new ones.

While I’ll confess to having a certain weakness for Biggest Loser and What Not To Wear, I’m not usually all that big on makeover stories, and the whole ‘ugly duckling returns home a swan and wins the team captain she always had a crush on’ thing typically makes me twitch. Trust me, when most of the guys in my graduating class friended me on Facebook the day I posted my (heavily Photoshopped) author photo—after having ignored and/or tormented my awkward nerdling self throughout high school—my life didn’t change noticeably.

So when Lucius’s story started gelling on the page, I thought long and hard before I went in the direction he was taking me. But then I started writing and an interesting thing happened: The old, extremely brave yet occasionally awkward Lucius started coming through stronger and stronger as the story progressed. Eventually, I realized that Demonkeepers wasn’t really about his makeover, it was about him and Jade learning to trust each other again while coping with change, pressure, expectations … and the threat that the world will go dark if they don’t break the sun god out of the underworld.

So I guess that’s my take-home: I can get behind the makeover plotline if the character’s growth doesn’t happen simply because he or she looks better and is more confident. Which isn’t to say I have anything against looking good (whatever your definition of the term!) and being confident … it’s that I want the physical improvements to be the cherry on my romantic sundae, not the banana on the bottom.

Er … so to speak. LOL.

Here’s a prequel:

Last night

“It’s just not working. He can’t do it by himself.” Strike’s voice on the phone was digital-clear. Still, it took Jade a moment to pull her brain out of I’m-studying-hieroglyphs mode and put it into I’m-a-Nightkeeper mode.

Especially since, despite her ancestry, the whole magic-wielding-warrior thing had never fit her all that well.

As her brain processed Strike’s words, the walls of her borrowed office in the university’s Mayan Studies department got a little closer and the clay figurine she’d been working on seemed to stare at her a little harder, as if wondering what the hell she was going to do next.

Good question.

“I’ll do it.” For a second she thought Strike had said the words. Then she realized she had. Gulp.

The Nightkeepers’ leader seemed to catch her inner oh, crap. “You don’t have to.” But he didn’t say they would think of something else. The magi had already tried everything else, and they were running out of time.

If Lucius was going to connect to the magic, it needed to happen tomorrow. And since the magi had tried every spell, sacrifice, and uplink known to Nightkeeper-kind, they were down to their last real option: sex magic.

“Don’t worry about me. I can handle it.” The churn low in her stomach suggested otherwise, but she ignored it. “Been there, done him.”

Not that her and Lucius’s previous wham-bam was making this conversation any easier—exactly the opposite, in fact. But she wasn’t about to mention that part to Strike. The Nightkeepers needed what they needed … and so did she.

“If you’re sure …”

“I’m sure. Period, end of sentence.”

“Then I’ll pick you up tomorrow afternoon.”

“It’s a date.” Which was true, except that her date didn’t have a clue she was coming.
Jade disconnected and dropped the phone back down beside the clay figurine, which now seemed to be wearing a look of are you sure this is a good idea?

“It’ll be fine,” she said, not sure if she was talking to herself or the little clay person. “It’s just sex magic.” Or in this case, friends-with-benefits magic.
What could go wrong?

… To find out how much does go wrong, pick up Demonkeepers from Signet Eclipse!

So tell me … where do you stand on makeover books, particularly paranormals? Got one you’d like to recommend?

All comments are entered to win a signed copy of Demonkeepers today on Romance Bandits! I’ll be checking in throughout the day, so stop by and say ‘hey’!

For more information on Demonkeepers and the other Nightkeeper novels, please check out www.JessicaAndersen.com

Demonkeepers is in stores now! Woot ☺ (I’m never sure how to punctuate happy faces … should there be a period after that?)

Sexy Alpha Heroes, Demons and Chocolate (oh, my!)

Today we welcome award-winning author and 2009 RITA finalist Jessica Andersen back to the Lair. The third book in her Nightkeepers paranormal romance series is out (the books stand alone, in case anyone’s worried about starting later, though we completists like to read from the beginning *g*). Skykeepers is fabulous, with a dark, tormented hero, a determined heroine, and lots of action. And chocolate, of course. Jessica will talk to us about all those things today. Welcome, Jessica!

Hello, and thanks to Nancy and the Banditas for offering to host me on the official release day of SKYKEEPERS: A NOVEL OF THE FINAL PROPHECY!

Okay, typo alert – I just typed that as ‘A NOVEL OF THE VINYL PROPHECY.’ Hm. I think that’s a different concept entirely, and probably a sign that I need more (or maybe less?) caffeine this morning. [As a note: I just tried to Google a fun link for men’s vinyl clothing to use as a joke here … and now I need to go bleach my eyeballs.]

Two randomly selected commenters will win a signed copy of NIGHTKEEPERS or DAWNKEEPERS, which are the first two books in this sexy series of paranormal thrillers. And, of course, SKYKEEPERS is in a bookstore near you as of today!

Here’s the blurb:

Ancient prophecy holds that 12/21/2012 will bring a global cataclysm. Mankind’s only hope lies with the Nightkeepers, modern magic-wielding warriors who must find their destined mates and fulfill the legends to defeat the rise of terrible Mayan demons.

In Skykeepers, Michael Stone is a man with a dark secret that has skewed his magical abilities dangerously toward the underworld. Seeking redemption, he sets out on a perilous mission to save the daughter of Ambrose Ledbetter, a renowned Mayanist who died before he could reveal the location of a hidden library. The Nightkeepers must find the library before their enemies gain access to its valuable cache of spells and prophecies.

Sasha Ledbetter grew up hearing heroic tales of an ancient group of powerful magi who were destined to save the world from destruction. She never expected that her bedtime stories would come to life in the form of Nightkeeper Michael Stone, or that she’d hold the key to the warrior’s survival. As Sasha and Michael join forces to prevent the imminent battle, sparks of attraction ignite between them, and they’re forced to confront the unexpected passion that brings them together … and also tears them apart.


And here’s the cover. How sexy is that?? Phew! (Fans self.) During an early cover art discussion with my editors, I mentioned that Michael is darkest and most sensual of the Nightkeeper heroes so far … and the art department took it from there (chops to them!!). But it’s not just Michael who is highly sensual in this story; the heroine, Sasha, is also very attuned to her senses, though in a different way. Although her father pushed her toward med school, she rebelled (on many levels) and became a chef. She experiences the world through its flavors, and has a definite sweet tooth, though Michael is far from sweet when they first start striking sparks off each other.

In particular, Sasha is attracted to chocolate … and as she finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into the Nightkeepers’ world—and their magic—she learns that chocolate was sacred to the Nightkeepers and Maya. In fact, the consumption of chocolate arose in Mesoamerica among the Maya around 200 CE (Common Era, aka AD), and was among the New World ‘wonders’ the Spanish conquistadors brought back to Europe.

The Maya cultivated cacao and harvested the seeds. Some were used as currency; others were fermented, dried, and ground into powder. The ground cacao could be applied for medicinal uses, combined with copal (sacred incense) and burned as an offering, or mixed into a variety of chocolate drinks that included a variety of other flavoring elements, such as maize, chili peppers, etc. (the Maya only rarely sweetened their chocolate, instead primarily using it as a savory). The drink could then be poured from one vessel to another until a heady froth built up. Voila: early latte!

In the moist regions of the Maya territories, where cacao trees grew wild (or later, were purpose-bred and cultivated) beneath the rainforest canopy, chocolate was widely consumed. In the distant city-states of the empire, however, laboriously transported chocolate was a prized commodity, often reserved for the upper classes and the most sacred of ceremonies. As Sasha begins to accept the reality of the Nightkeepers’ magic, and grasps that she has a special magic of her own, her former life as a chef becomes intertwined with her new life as a mage, and she brings the magic of chocolate rituals back to the Nightkeepers, as we see in the following short (and exclusive to Romance Bandits!) excerpt.

He awoke near midnight, almost at the threshold of the solstice day. Even before he was fully conscious, he was aware of an aching hum of magic in the air, one that stirred his blood. He turned to Sasha, only to find her side of the bed empty and cool to the touch.

Unease stirred. He told himself to roll over and go back to sleep, that she was safe within the warded compound. But something had been off about her that night, a discord in their vibe, a wrong note or two over the course of the evening. She’d said it was nothing, that she was just keyed up for the solstice, and the planned ambush, which was still on the table, with contingency plans atop contingency plans, none of which completely satisfied any of them. And yeah, she had every right to be jacked up about that. Except he didn’t think that was what she was really worried about. He was pretty sure it was something to do with him, with them.

Twenty minutes of staring at the ceiling later, he rose, pulled on dark track pants and a white tee, shoved his feet in a pair of rope sandals, and padded off in search of her. He found her, not surprisingly, in the main kitchen at the center of the mansion. The air was heavy with the scents of chocolate and dark spices, bringing a long, low tug of hunger that was more for the woman than the food.

He’d thought he’d steeled himself for the familiar kick of attraction, the lust that hadn’t faded with their becoming lovers. But need hit him hard the moment he saw her stretched on her tiptoes to return a bowl to a high shelf, her midriff-cropped tee riding up, yoga pants riding down, the two exposing a strip of her taut, strong abdomen, with the soft lines of muscle on either side of her navel, where a trio of freckles drew his eye.

She turned slowly, and when she met his eyes, he saw a reflection of the burning heat that churned in his gut. “Well?” she said softly.

His body moved almost without conscious volition around the pass-through and into the kitchen, where he stopped close enough to catch her light scent over the cooking smells, close enough to distinguish the heat of her body from that of the stove. “What’s cooking?”

She handed over the mug she’d been sipping from. “It’s something I’ve been playing with.”

He knew she had magic in the kitchen, knew she wielded flavors with the deftness of a trained chef and the inspiration of a mage, but still he was unprepared for what hit his taste buds the moment he took a sip. Sensations exploded across his neurons in a blaze of heat, texture, and taste that had him sucking in a breath. There was chocolate, yes, but it was more savory than sweet, taken away from the realm of dessert by a mix of peppers and salt, and things he wouldn’t even begin to match with chocolate, but that somehow matched perfectly. He sucked in a breath. “Holy crap.” Took another sip and rolled it around in his mouth, closing his eyes briefly as the flavors changed subtly, the peppers mellowing to something else. “Nice,” he said, and this time his tone was one of reverence. “Very nice.”

“That,” she said with evident satisfaction, “was exactly what I was going for.”

Eyes still closed, he felt her trying to take the mug back, and tightened his fingers on it. “Leave it,” he said. “I’m at your mercy. Anything you want. Just ask.”

He’d said it partly in play, but also because he remembered what she’d told him back in the beginning, on her first day at Skywatch. I cook when I’m happy or sad, when I’m celebrating with friends or all alone with my thoughts. Which of those things applied now?

He felt the air shift, felt her indrawn breath as his own, but instead of “we need to talk” or any of the female warning signs experience had taught him to expect, she surprised him by leaning in and touching her lips to his.

The kiss was as unexpected as the hint of pepper and spice he tasted amidst the chocolate on her lips, in her mouth. Setting aside his mug, he deepened the kiss, relieved to let it be easy even though a small part of him said it shouldn’t be so easy, that he was skimming the surface of something he needed to be diving into. But then she shifted her hands, sliding them up his chest to link behind his neck and tug him closer, pressing her body to his, and the vibe went true, singing inside his skull with the warm sparkle of red-gold magic.

“Come back to bed,” he said against her mouth. “We’ve got a few more hours to burn.”

For more info on the history of chocolate, its importance in Maya culture, and the value of free trade cacao in modern-day development and reforestation efforts, check out the ‘References’ section on my website, www.JessicaAndersen.com, which also offers excerpts, extras, and a whole lot more.

For now, though, I’d like to hear from you. As you might have guessed, I’m a huge chocoholic, and I’m always looking for new chocolate options. Some of my current favorites can be found at http://www.yachanagourmet.com/. So tell me … what chocolates do you love? Or, if you’re not a chocolate fan, what is your food indulgence? Remember, all comments are entered to win one of two signed backlist books!

Countdown to the End Time

by Nancy

Two or three times a year, I discover a new author whose work captivates me. I love finding new books to enjoy, new sequels to await, and never mind what this does to the TBR pile. Much rarer, though is the experience of reading a new author and being totally blown away by the world that author creates. I had this experience last year with author Jessica Andersen‘s The Nightkeepers, the first in her adventure-packed, hot Novels of the Final Prophecy. Fellow bandita Anna Sugden put us in touch with each other. I’m delighted to have Jessica join us today and celebrate the release of the series’ second book, The Dawnkeepers.

Jessica has a Ph.D. in genetics and did research on glaucoma before launching her writing career with Harlequin Intrigue. Her medical-themed books for this line have earned her RITA and Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award nominations. While researching a book, she came across the Mayan prophecies about 2012. Following up on them inspired the Nightkeepers.

Welcome, Jessica! Tell us about the Nightkeepers series so far.

I’m happy to!


The long-count calendar of the ancient Maya ends December 21, 2012, on the day of a potentially dire astrological conjunction. The NOVELS OF THE FINAL PROPHECY tell of the ancient myths that come to life in the years leading up to the end-date, and their opposition by the Nightkeepers, descendants of an ancient race sworn to protect mankind from the apocalypse.

In NIGHTKEEPERS (June 08, Signet), the Nightkeepers’ last king is forced to team up with a sexy female narcotics detective in order to reunite his scattered warriors and fight the demons of the Mayan underworld, Xibalba. Wielding ancestral magic based on bloodletting and sex, the king must choose between duty and his love for the human woman who is the gods’ destined sacrifice.

In DAWNKEEPERS (Jan 09, Signet), Nightkeeper Nate Blackhawk isn’t about to let the gods determine his destiny- especially when it comes to his feelings for Alexis Gray, his ex-lover and nemesis. But when they’re forced to work together, racing to recover seven antiquities before the demons get their claws on the vital artifacts, Nate and Alexis will have to face their feelings- and their past- in order to defeat an ancient enemy.

Would you like to share an excerpt from one of the books?

Absolutely!! From DAWNKEEPERS:

As Alexis walked to the throne, she knew she was alone yet not alone. He was here, too – the lover of her dreams, the one who was Nate yet not, the one who loved her like he had, but didn’t break her heart. That was how she had always known it was a dream before. Now, though, she wasn’t sure what to call it. She’d touched the statuette and been transported into a dark, formless corner of the barrier, yet now she was back on earth- she knew it from the taste of the air, and the strong sense of being underground.

When she reached the end of the arcade, the pathway she was on curved and widened, forming a platform in front of the throne. There, in the center of the flat space, she saw shadowy footprints in the dust, those of bare human feet, standing facing the throne.

Almost without conscious volition, acting as she had done in the dream, she toed off her shoes and stepped into the footprints. They fit perfectly, as they had in her fantasies. The certainty that she had been in this chamber before, that she’d done this before, was overwhelming, as was the knowledge that the moment she blooded herself, placed her hands on the altar and said his name, he would be there with her.

The certainty – and the nerves – had her hesitating. Then, knowing she didn’t have a choice, not really, she pulled a ceremonial knife she didn’t recognize from a weapons belt she didn’t remember putting on, and drew the blade sharply across her palm. She hissed against the pain, and blood flowed, dark crimson in the amber torchlight. Then she reversed hands and cut her other palm. Her bloodied fingers slipping on the haft of the knife as she set it aside.

“Gods,” she whispered, hope and fear spiraling up within her. “Help me to be worthy.” More, she prayed for the gods to help her understand what the dreams were telling her- about her mother. About herself, and the man who wore the hawk medallion.

Knowing there was no other way, she closed her eyes and pressed her bloodstained palms to the altar, and said the words that had come to her in a dream, though she was no seer: “Tzakaw muwan.” Summon the hawk.

A detonation rocked the room. Water splashed the walls and the footpath, and the sound of ripples turned to thin screams coming from the carved onlookers, who hadn’t moved, yet somehow seemed to gape in awe.

She turned, knowing what she would see.

He stood opposite her, at the edge where the stone and the water met. His eyes bored into hers, hard and intense and no-nonsense. He wore combat gear, with his black shirt unbuttoned at the top to show a glint of gold. He was Nate, yet not, just as she was Alexis, yet not.

She was the smoke and he was the hawk. And that was all that really mattered as his eyes darkened and he strode toward her, his intent as clear as the need inside her…

How did you become interested in Mayan mythology?

That goes back to when my parents used to take me down to the Yucatan and go ruin ratting. That was just before Cancun really became a tourist destination, so it wasn’t too expensive. It was also back before many of the big ruins were closed to the public, so I got to climb up inside El Castillo at Chichen Itza, dangle my toes over the edge of the sacrificial cenote, and generally immerse myself in the ruins. Those experiences stuck with me for a long time, although my occasional ‘gee, I’d like to be an archaeologist’ thoughts got lost amidst my other interests. Then one day I stumbled on a reference to the Maya long count calendar, and how it would end on 12/21/2012. That totally reawakened my early interest in the Maya, and became a series proposal!

How closely do you adhere to the myths, and how much do you embroider?

Because I needed to be able to deviate from the historical record in places, and because the Maya are a living culture, I conceived the Nightkeepers as the remnants of an older, magic-wielding culture that lived with the ancient Egyptians, then the ancient Maya (accounting for some of the apparent cultural similarities between the two groups). Thus, while the Nightkeepers’ myths aren’t exactly the same as those of the Maya, they’re largely parallel and consistent in feel. Both groups worship their ancestors, use blood sacrifice and sex as channels to reach their gods, and revere sacred foods such as chocolate and maize. However, the Nightkeepers’ religion places far more emphasis on the power of mated pairs- and the magic inherent in lovemaking- than the Maya did.

Our regular visitors know I really love super-heroes, and your Nightkeeper magi seem to be in that tradition. Did you make conscious choices to make them that way, or did they just sort of evolve?

I’d say the answer to that is “yes” and “yes.” LOL! I’m a sucker for a super-hero, too, particularly the ones that start off as everyday people. I wanted to write about people like you and me who got ‘that call’… you know, the one where your (adopted) parent says, “Um, you know those stories I told you when you were a kid? Well, they’re true, you’re one of the people in them, and you’ve got four years to save the world.” So in that way, yes, I set out to write about a group of super-heroes. But in so many other ways, the stories evolved out of the Maya tradition, and the momentum that the characters themselves built as I started writing.


Which heroine and heroine would you say have the darkest romantic conflict?

I’d say that each of the characters and their romantic conflicts have some very dark aspects. Because balance is an important part of the Maya tradition, each of the mated pairs is a complex mix of light and dark that balances out when they come together despite their obstacles. Of the books that are finished so far, SKYKEEPERS (coming August 09) is easily the darkest, due to the nature of the hero’s past, and the sacrifices he’s asked to make. But I know for certain that at least one, maybe two of the future books will take it even further than that as we get closer to 2012 and things start spiraling.

Which character do you think has the hardest road to travel, if you can tell us that without giving anything away?

I’d like to think that each of the characters has, for them, the hardest road to travel. When dealing with a nine-book story arc, with each book focusing on a different hero and heroine, I think it’s important that although the larger stakes need to increase from book to book, the stakes for each hero/heroine pair have to be the absolute highest for them, personally, in their book. And that means giving them the hardest decisions possible for their personal circumstances.

The Final Prophecy series is very different from your other books, Harlequin Intrigues. Tell us about those.

Glad to! My Intrigues are almost always science-based, either medical suspense or forensic procedural, often inspired by my own lab experiences. Because I’m the sort of reader who loves coming away from a book feeling as though I’ve learned something, I generally explore a cool aspect of science in each Intrigue. I try not to lecture – and my editors make sure I don’t! – but I also try to include interesting details that the reader might not have known going into the story.

What are you working on now, and what are your long-range plans?

I’m working on the fourth ‘Keeper book as we speak. Signet just bought books four through six- yay! And assuming sales are good enough for them to continue with the series (fingers crossed), there will be three more after that, bringing us up to the final battle at the end of 2012!

Do you have any upcoming signings where our visitors might meet you?

My upcoming signings are: Feb 7, Farmington, CT; Feb 14, Millbury, MA; and Mar 28, Framingham, MA, as part of a major multi-author signing run in conjunction with the New England RWA conference. More deets on all of the above are on my website: www.JessicaAndersen.com/.

Readers, what’s your favorite kind of epic tale? Do you expect an apocalypse, as so many cultures foretell, or not? If you were going to visit the world of a particular culture’s myths, which culture would you choose?

Jessica’s giving a signed copy of Dawnkeepers to a randomly chosen commenter!

Don’t forget, the Romance Bandits are blogging on RNTV all week! We’ve written vignettes and are giving away prizes. After you comment here, pop over and join us.