Today I have one of my favorite people and authors in the whole world visiting, Sandy Blair, author of five historical Scottish novels and three novellas. Sandy took a leap of faith last year and e published The King’s Mistress. I love Geneen and her brawny Scot, Brit so much. He tends to make her crazy and she him. Want to know how Sandy writes these heroes so well? She lives with one! So here’s Sandy to give you a glimpse on life with a brawny Scot!
Tales from the Caves #1: The Scot’s and mine
There’s a 6 foot, 4 ½ inch Scot living in the basement. When we moved into this home last year I expected him to take over the bright, airy second floor office. After all, he’s the primary breadwinner around here. But he declined, saying “I like the idea of working in a dank, dark hole by the sea.”
This sudden desire for a man-caveshouldn’t have come as a surprise given the coal dust (the Ayrshire Blairs) and salt water (the Appin Stewarts) running in his veins, but it did.
A week after moving into his cave, the Scot announced he was going out of town on a three week business trip. Before he’d pack a bag I was on the phone to our contractor. Before you can say “Sunshine!” I had lovely double windows and banks of can lights installed in the cave. (Hey, I couldn’t stand the thought of living with a pale blue Scottish bat.) I then did my best to turn his brawny-man chaos into tasteful, color-coordinated order.
And his reaction upon his return? He took one look, and gave me a big squishy hug, saying, “Thank you, love.” And I’m still allowed down there—with adequate advanced notice—in order to vacuum and dust–but only for ten minutes. I cannot– under penalty of imprisonment—touch any pile of paper, or God forbid, rearrange a photo on his helter-skelter pegboard, or touch a badger or raccoon hair on his fly-making workbench or in any way alter his altars to boutique hotel management, family memorabilia and fly fishing.
When we married I was well aware the Scot was gregarious, possessed a quick dry wit, and was hell on wheels when it came to money. His mother assured me he’d prove loyal, honest and hardworking, which he has. What she neglected to mention—and I suspect deliberately—was that he also lacked moderation, that he was to his marrow a “waste not, want not” kind of Scot.
Think I exaggerate? I point to Exhibit A: The Raccoon.
Last summer I had errands to run and shouted down the staircase, “I’m off to the food store then to the drycleaners to pick up your shirts! Do you need anything?”
From the man-cave I hear, “Nope. I’m good. Thanks.”
A few seconds later, I jump into my SUV and immediately start gagging. I scramble out, and hands over my mouth, peer under the car looking for a dead body.
“Uhmmm,” he says, suddenly appearing at my side, “I meant to warn you.”
“Oh my God, what–?”
“Uhmm, ya. Well, when I went fishing this morning I passed a dead raccoon in the road. I figured if it was still there on my way back, it was meant to be.”
“Meant to be what?”
“Turned into flies, of course. You know…lures. So,” he says, warming to his subject, “it was still there just waiting for me as I headed home, so I pulled over, took out my knife and tried to cut off its tail, but the damn thing wouldn’t break off.” He shrugs. “I couldn’t just leave it there–”
“Oh yes, you could have!”
“Woman, an ordinary Raccoon tail cost $20.00 and this was a thumper.” He huffs as if I were the greatest spendthrift on earth. “So thinking my coping saw would take it off, I threw the beast in my minnow bucket and head home. Only the stench nearly killed me on the way, even with all the windows down, so when I got here I just threw it in the trash can…which I wouldn’t be using for a bit if I were you.”
By this point I’m gaping at him. And true to his nature, he finally notices.
And that’s when he put that wicked gonna-getcha gleam in his eye–the one he knows usually turns my knees to butter–and starts slowly closing in. Grinning, he says, “I did try to air out the car, love…and I sprayed it with Glade.”
“Oh no you don’t.” I raise a straight arm and scurry back. In the kitchen I’m hunting down his keys and muttering, “All to save a few bucks on raccoon tail!” when his arms slip around my waist.
“And to make flies,” he reminds me, “which would’ve saved even more. Seriously, love. The tackle shop charges two bucks for just one Wooley Bugger. I could have made hundreds...”
Yup, yup…Welcome to my world.
To celebrate the June 5th print edition of The King’s Mistress, my 1285 Scotland-set historical based
It’s an exciting month in the lair! Not only do we have some fabulous guests chatting alongside some fabulous banditas – we also have a launch party! Trish will be introducing another in her Teagues of Texas series on May 4th. Doesn’t this cover just make you smile ?
Don’t forget to check out the contests offered for May at the bottom of the post. Prizes, prizes everywhere!
On Wednesday, 2nd May, we have great Aussie authors Ros Baxter and Ali Ahearn visiting the lair as Anna Campbell’s guests. Ros is a debut author and Ali is better known to the Banditas and Bandita Buddies under her Medical Romance persona Amy Andrews. (www.amyandrews.com.au <http://www.amyandrews.com.au> ) Ros and Ali are sisters and they’ve written a wonderful book together called SISTER PACT.
On May 3, Anna Destefano chats with Nancy about Anna’s new release from Entangled Publishing, HER FORGETTEN BETRAYAL.
Don’t forget Trish will be launching THE COWBOY SHERIFF on the 4th.
May 5th – We have the lovely Cara Elliott launching the second book in her “Lords of Midnight” trilogy, TOO TEMPTING TO RESIST!
May 6th – Prepare to have laugh. Kristin Higgins is joining us with SOMEBODY TO LOVE.
May 7th – Have you ever had the urge to travel back in time? How about forward in time? Karyn Gerrard joins us to talk about her unique time travel, TIMELESS LOVE.
MAY 16th – What’s a girl to do when she gets kicked out of hell and only has a week to steal a soul? Easy, she heads straight for the delicious corruptible looking cowboy sitting at the bar and all hell breaks loose. USA Today Bestseller, Karen Kelly is in the lair with WHERE THERE’S SMOKE. (and that cover is sure smoking )
May 18th – Casey Daniels is back! Can’t wait to see what she’s working on this time. It’s bound to be fun.
On May 21st Superromance author Ellen Hartman joins us to discuss her latest release THE LONG SHOT!
May 28th – JA London joins us with a debut YA paranormal DARKNESS BEFORE DAWN, The first novel in the Darkness Before Dawn Trilogy
May 31st – What a way to wrap up a month. Sandy Blair joins us with her print release of her book THE KING’S MISTRESS. (Another gorgeous cover!)
We do give a monthly prize of books selected from our newslettersubscribers. Be sure to sign up so you won’t miss out!
To celebrate the release of her novelette, “The Chinese Bed”, in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST ROMANCE which is available on 7th June, Anna Campbell is giving away THREE copies of this wonderful anthology to lucky readers. All you need to do is email Anna on anna @ annacampbell.info(remove the spaces)with the name of the hero and heroine of “The Chinese Bed.” Just a hint – you might find the answer here: http://annacampbell.info/chinesebed.html The contest closes 30th June, 2012, and entry is open internationally. For more information, please check out Anna’s website at: http://annacampbell.info/contest.html
To celebrate the June release of THE CASANOVA CODE, Donna MacMeans is choosing a name from her newsletter list to receive a cherry blossom pendant necklace from the Smithsonian Institute(cherry blossoms play a role in the book). To see the necklace and to enter, go to www.DonnaMacMeans.com and sign up. A winner will be chosen for both May and June.
Dear Banditas and Bandit Buddies, usually the 28th of the month is my day to blog, however today, I am sharing my day and am so excited to be welcoming back my very good friend to the Lair, Sandy Blair, author of witty Highland historicals, to talk about her newest release, THE KING’S MISTRESS.
Suz: Sandy, pull up a seat here at the bar and we’ll have a drink, Merlot for you, a Bellini Martini for me! Can you give us a brief description of THE KING’S MISTRESS?
Sandy: Sure, and it’s so very nice to be here again. Thank you for the invitation!
THE KING’S MISTRESS, featuring captain of the king’s guard Britt MacKinnon and identical twin Geneen Armstrong, begins one week before the real events on which this story are based–when Britt is ordered to fetch back to Edinburgh the king’s favorite paramour. Intent on protecting her pregnant twin, on making the court think she and her sister are one in the same, Geneen doesn’t tell Britt he’s escorting the wrong woman to the king. Lies build upon lies at break neck speed as readers enter the perilous world of Scotland’s early medieval court, where intrigue, murder and deception rule. To a time and place where live and loves were won and lost while Scotland’s destiny hung in the balance.
Suz: How did you come up with the idea for this story?
Sandy: Truthfully, I read non-fiction histories before bed in hopes of triggering my muse into a “What if…?” moment, and happened upon several confusing accounts about Alexander III’s widow following his death, his heir’s sudden (and yet to be explained) death and the resultant political chaos that followed. Thus The King’s Mistress was born.
Suz: How are the sisters Geneen and Greer different?
Sandy: Greer, a graceful beauty and song bird, is all about Greer. Quick to laugh and entertain, she took full advantage of her role as a lady-in-waiting, loving the attention and life found at court, but is now paying a hefty price.
Frank in speech, Geneen’s gifts for husbandry and archery serve her well. She’s been able to keep a roof over their heads and her sister in gowns. Although equal in beauty, she’s never seen herself as such. Being the younger of the two and awkward, she has always idolizes her twin and was content to remain at their holding, tending to their cattle and crops until that dreadful day when her twin came home pregnant with the king’s bastard.
Suz: How does Britt react when he realizes he doesn’t have the right sister?
Sandy:You sneaky devil. I can’t tell folks that! If I do they’ll have no reason to read the story.
Suz: This is your first foray into e-book publishing, how have you enjoyed the process?
Sandy: Overall, I found the process surprisingly enjoyable. I loved having input into my title and cover art. I’ll admit doing copyedits in e-format was initially intimidating but I eventually figured out the system. Best yet , my editor responds immediately to questions and maintains a Yahoo group just for her authors. Great fun!
Suz: That’s a great cover you chose for your book. Is there anything new in your life that you’d like to share your readers?
Sandy:As a matter of fact, there is. We recently moved from hot-as-hell Texas to coastal New Hampshire, where lovely beaches, in-laws and out-laws are now only minutes away. We’re hoping their close proximity will eventually blunt the loneliness we’re experiencing missing our Dallas friends. (I can’t tell you how wonderful it was seeing so many DARA friends—and in particular Suzy–at RWA National.)
Suz: She didn’t mention the foot of snowfall every day she had this past winter, did she? Me thinks the hot-as-hell-Texas wasn’t looking so bad back in January and February!
Sandy: Suzie, come a little closer so I can smack you!
We’ve been in the house 4 months now, still have pictures to hang and window treatments to buy, but did manage to put in our first-ever veggie garden. When squash and beans started flowering, I, jubilant, began waxing poetic about 3-bean casseroles, zucchini loaves and stuffed tomatoes. Scott wasn’t so impressed. A dye-in-the-wool carnivore, he immediately took up surf fishing since clamming season is over. Unfortunately for him, the fish have yet to cooperate. Healthy life-style here we come.
Below is the film trailer one of Sandy’s good friends and a major fan, made for her:
So, since Sandy has moved, where do you think we should meet for some BFF time? I’d love someplace new, exciting, (Scottish) to go visit. Sandy will be giving away a signed copy of THE KING’S MISTRESS to one commenter.
Banditas and Bandit Buddies we have one of my all time favorite authors, and my very good friend, Sandy Blair in the Lair today to talk about her novella Her MacKinnon, featured in the Mommoth Book of Scottish Romances. Please pull up a chair and help me welcome Sandy!
Sandy:Hi Suzanne. Thanks for inviting me to blog with your wonderful Bandits again. I really enjoy the site and usually only lurk when a favorite author is on.
Suz:Her MacKinnon in the Mammoth Book of Scottish Romance is your second novella for the Mammoth book series. What makes this such an appealing market for your stories?
Sandy: The Mammoth books provide readers a broad spectrum of plots and author voices under one cover. They also provide authors with an opportunity to stretch while reaching a broad audience. (I.e. Time-travels are a hard sell in today’s market. Mammoth provides me with an outlet to write and sell yet another subgenre I love.)
Suz: In Her MacKinnon, you have a ghost, a modern day heir and a modern day heroine. How did you bring these three characters together?
Sandy: Through a little magic. ?
Suz: Your first novel A Man In A Kilt had a ghost as the hero, too. Are you intrigued with ghosts? Or do you just think Scottish tales are a good vehicle for them?
Sandy: Thanks to its turbulent history I suspect Scotland is littered with many a ghost and I’ll admit to being fascinated by them but my incorporating a ghost into a Man In A Kilt came about as a flight of pure fancy. I was staring at my hubby’s ancestral Highland home Castle Stalker, wondering what our lives might be like if he’d inherited the island bound fortress instead of some distant cousin , one thought lead to another and then I wondered, “What if it came with a ghost?” Her MacKinnon came about over dinner when my son pondered the possibilities of inanimate objects being possessed by spirits. Grinning, I ran with the premise.
Suz: You do quite a bit of research for your books. What special research did you do for Her MacKinnon?
Sandy: After becoming reacquainted with the clan’s history, I had to become familiar with the isle’s current look, (i.e. roadways and buildings.) As I pumped a Scottish born friend for brand names (i.e. an inexpensive car, brand of shampoo) for this contemporary ghost story I was surprised to learn many items mentioned would be American brands. (The world is indeed getting smaller which takes some of the “romance” out of travelling.)
Suz: I know you have a lovely new tale, titled “The King’s Mistress“. Where did you get the idea for that story and what is it about?
Sandy: Thanks. I’d been researching another tale when I came across several odd details related to King Alexander III’s life and death. I found myself wondering if things really happened as reported or if the facts supplied to historians were simply a means of covering up jealousy and murder?.and so this new story took shape. I hope to see this tale released shortly.
Suz: So do I! I adore the hero and heroine in that story! Any other news you’d like to share with our Banditas and our Bandit Buddies?
Sandy: Oh yeah. Scott and I have recently left our comfort zones and best friends to be near more family. We’re currently living in New Hampshire with my daughter and her family as we wait for our new home to be finished. Which will hopefully be soon. I seriously miss my desk-top computer and bed. (I’ve discovered I’m definitely not a lap-top kinda gal. Become all thumbs and random cursers.)
Suz: I have to confess I “stole” these pictures from Sandy’s website. www.sandyblair.netThat’s Skibo Castle just above and that’s Sandy on the staircase inside Skibo! The other castle is Castle Stalker, the Castle for the insipiration of A Man In A Kilt.
So, readers, have YOU ever been to a castle? Which one and where? Ever met a ghost? Tell us about it!
Suz:MAC DUFF’S SECRET is the third time travel romance you’ve written. What is it about time travel romances that you like?
Sandy: The possibility-the fantasy–of time travel fascinates me and I often find myself wondering how I’d react if thrown back or forward in time.
Would I-or a particular character–be intimidated by the lack of modern conveniences or become inventive in an effort to reestablish creature comforts? (I.e. try to make toilet paper.) Would I be brave enough to confront injustice or those displaying prejudices we now find appalling? If my hero knew from a modern perspective that something terrible was about to happen would he dare try to change history, knowing there’d be a domino effect, that everything-good and bad–from that point forward would also change? If throw forward in time how would I cope with learning everyone I held dear had died in some horrible fashion? These are the things I find myself thinking about when staring at the ceiling at 3:00AM.
Suz: Are there any unique challenges to time travel romances?
Sandy: Yes. The first challenge is crafting a fresh situation in which the possibility of time-travel is in some way believable. (Standing stones and fairy rings have been done repeatedly.)
The second challenge depends on where the protagonist (s) is heading-whether back in time, forward to the present, or into the future. The author may have to “world build” or do in-depth research into a particular time period (s) and in some cases, do both.
The last hurdle is making a protagonist’s reactions to a “new reality” ring true for the reader, which often requires some soul searching on the author’s part.
Suz:MAC DUFF’S SECRET is also your second novella. I think you do these very well. What do you like about writing for anthologies? And what do you see as the unique challenges to writing them?
Sandy: Thank you for the compliment. To be truthful I must admit to having an ambivalent relationship with anthologies. I love getting “the call.” There’s no rejection. The editor has come to me. Yahoo! Better yet, I don’t have to come up with a High Concept. The editor has given it to me. Yahoo x 2! Riding high on these thoughts, I always say, “Yes! I’d love to do a novella for this anthology.”
The minute I hang up the phone that’s when the hate part-the panic–kicks in. My mind starts screeching, “They only want how many pages?!? How can anyone write a story worth reading using so few words? You can’t even say hello in under 50, you idiot! And you promised to deliver in 90 days?! What were you thinking? What?!”
A few glasses of wine later I’ve usually settled down, have a Universal theme and “What if?” scenario in mind, am ready to bounce these off my trusty Cp (Bless you!) and get down to the hard work of making these characters empathetic/believable. And somehow it all comes together on time.
Suz: So, give us a quick peek at MAC DUFF’S SECRET without giving away too much, since it is a novella.
Sandy: Would love to.
“How bad could it be?” That’s all Sarah Colbert thought when she agreed to chaperone her private school’s sixth grade field trip through Edinburgh. She’s about to find out when she and her students find themselves trapped in a Highland glen that time forgot with a battle-scarred warrior they’ll never forget.
Suz: Are you working on anything new that we can look forward to reading?
Sandy: I currently working on three novels; two light-hearted Scotland-set historical Romances and my first historical (biographical) fiction, which is generating loads of personal angst and anticipation. After that, who knows? I may start working on the Gothic Romance I’ve had simmering on the back burner for two years. (He’s delicious…in a dark and brooding sort of way. )
Okay…so weigh in readers…Do you like time travels? What is your favorite part of them? And do you like big anthology books like the Mamoth books?
Sandy will be giving away a copy of her anthology MAC DUFF’S SECERET in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF TIME TRAVEL ROMANCES to one lucky commentor.
No, I’m not asking for your best Internet forward joke…although I have a great one best told in a bar with an Irish accent. What I want, what I’m craving is a funny book to read. A light-hearted fare or one where there are brilliant moments of comic relief.
The first Susan Elizabeth Phillips (SEP) book I ever read was NOBODY‘S BABY, BUT MINE. Now, this wasn’t a slap-stick funny book. But when she removes all the marshmallows from the cereal box to make it more healthy for him and he says, “I’ve married a cereal killer!”, I cracked up! When she insists on driving up the North Carolina mountain in a storm to have her baby, yep, got me laughing out loud! And it also had me back at the bookstore the next day buying everyone of SEP’s back list.
My friend, Jo Davis,(author of TRIAL BY FIRE, UNDER FIRE and HIDDEN FIRE), who reads mostly suspense, claims AIN’T SHE SWEET was the funniest book she can remember reading. One of her favorite parts? When the dog in the front seat beside the heroine farts at her. The heroine thinks, “yep, even the dog hates me.
Another author who mixes great characters, good story telling, some suspense and comic relief is Julie Garwood. In SAVING GRACE , two clans are trying to live on the same land under the same laird, only they refuse to merge into one clan. Many funny episodes occur as the heroine uses quiet defiance and even tosses shattered crockery to get her point across. I chuckle my way through that book every time I read it. (28 at a last reading.)
Another dear friend, Sandy Blair, (author of A MAN IN A KILT, A ROUGE IN A KILT, A THIEF IN A KILT and A HIGHLANDER FOR CHRISTMAS) says the funniest book she can remember was Garwood’s THE GIFT. What makes it so funny? Sandy says it’s knowing what’s coming next from the heroine’s POV and the hero’s exasperated reaction to what he perceives as illogical. Garwood sprinkles these gems throughout all her books. One of the reasons she’s one of our favorite feel-good authors.
Addison Fox, (author of WARRIOR ASCENDED: The Sons of the Zodiac, coming in March 2010), couldn’t pinpoint a specific book by Nora Roberts, but says one of her favorite reasons to read Nora’s books is her ability to have witty dialogue that relieves some of the suspense and have her readers chuckling in different places throughout her books.
One of the funniest books I’ve ever read was Linda Howard’s TO DIE FOR. This book works in so many ways. First it is in first person, (not my usual cup of tea), and because we’re mostly in the heroine’s head we understand why she does the things she does, even if she admits they’re stupid. We also get to see the hero’s frustrations at her actions, he’s banging his head on his desk. This is also a different kind of suspense for Ms. Howard, totally at odds with her usual dark fare. When I was reading it, Rocky-the-wonder-dog was parked on the bed beside me. I laughed so hard the bed shook and he gave me that irritated male dog look (very reminiscent of irritated male human look). I had to stop reading long enough to stop laughing in order to read some more!
Jane Graves, a romantic comedy author, (HOT WHEELS AND HIGH HEELS, TALL TALES AND WEDDING VEILS), points to any book by Jennifer Crusie. Jane says, “I always feel a special sense of delight at her word choice, her sentence structure, and especially her dialogue. Her books are just flat-out fun to read, sentence after sentence, page after page. They’re not funny in a laugh-out-loud way, at least not to me. They’re just…fun. She’s one of the few authors out there who can entertain me with almost every sentence she writes.” My daughter, Alison, agrees whole heartily.
In fact, the idea for this blog originally titled, “where have all the funny books gone?”, came from my daughter. She was going through a pregnancy, was home on maternity leave a few weeks early and was looking for books to read. She asked me, “Mom, I’m tired of reading serious, dark books. I want to laugh. I need a funny book, do you know of any?”
So, I need some help.
Who would you like to read? What writer makes you laugh? Who do you read when you want a good chuckle or to relieve some of the stress in your own life?
Have you ever read a book and just loved it so much you gave your copy to every person you knew so they could read it too? Well, I used to do that. In fact, I did it so much, I was my own lending library! But then I started writing, hanging out with other writers and learning about the business of publishing from my published author friends.
Guess what I learned? While passing around a book might flatter the author and give our friends a good read, it does little to help the author’s sales numbers. Why should we as readers care about the author’s sales? Because, unless they’re a household name with a regular spot on the NYT bestseller list, each author’s next contract depends on the percentage of sale-through their last book had. In other words, if they had a print-run of 30,000 books, they needed to sell a large percentage of those books to get offered another contract. Each time we give that brand new book we just read to someone else whom we know would just love it, we’ve taken a sale away from that author.
So what do we do? We want to get that author’s book to as many people who read as we can. We want to make sure that author has lots of sales so she/he can give us more great stories to read. The answer is simple. Word of mouth.
I no longer hand out my copies of books to people. I show them the cover, give them my glowing verbal review, tell them where they can buy the book. Sometimes I buy them a copy and mail them off. Whenever my critique partner, Sandy Blair, has a new book out, I buy five copies. One for me to read, one for my mom, one for each of my girls and one for my two aunts, (they live in the same house so they share). Recently, Sandy’s newest book, A Highlander For Christmas, came out and I was actually a character in the book! Needless to say, I not only bought my five copies, but challenged everyone I work with to buy the book and try to find me. It’s been great fun having them not only tell me how much they loved her book, but that “Yep, I found you!”
Last year at National, Anna Campbell’s Claiming The Courtesan had just come out a few months before. I’d read it before going to the conference, so when she was in the Avon signing, I took the time to stand a few feet off and recommend to everyone who came in that they needed to get a copy from her. These books didn’t give Anna sales, but they did give her lots of new fans, whom are happily reading Untouched and salivating for her next regency noir!
I got Julie Garwood’s newest book,Shadow Music, for Christmas. I read it over four days, (stretching it out because I knew it would be a while before I got another new book by her). I loved the story. Have recommended it to everyone on my e-mail list who reads. And today I went to Amazon.com and ordered another copy to send to my mom. She’ll love it and it repays her for that copy of Julie’s book,The Gift, that I “borrowed” years ago and never returned. It also helps my favorite author’s sales numbers! Because I want to read more of her books for years to come.
So here’s my list of books I’d like you to buy: Untouched by Anna Campell Shadow Music by Julie Garwood Warrior by Kinley MacGregor Hot Wheels And High Heels by Jane Graves The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritson Does She Dare by Tawny Weber Just Wicked Enough by Lorraine Heath **the perfect romance novel** Lover Unbound by J.R. Ward A Highlander For Christmas by Sandy Blair **let me know if you find me!** The Education of Mrs. Brimley by Donna MacMeans Scandal’s Daughter by Christine Wells Texas Princess by Jodi Thomas Touch Of Texas by Tracy Garrett Every Night I’m Yours by Christie Kelley If you could give me a book to read to hook me on an author, new or established, what one would it be? Who would you buy books for to hook them on reading romances? One lucky commenter will receive a signed copy of A Highlander For Christmas!
Disclaimer: Our guests run the gamut from personal friends, to interesting authors who've asked to appear, to authors whose books we love. We have not always read our guests' books before hosting them here. Some of them provide us with free books though most do not. We do receive a commission from Amazon for every book purchased through links on our site. For purposes of making purchasing decisions, visitors should assume the bandit sponsoring the guest has a personal connection of some kind to her guest and may have received a free copy of the guest's book.