I’m delighted today to welcome new Montlake author Sandra Owens to the lair. Sandra’s new release is CRAZY FOR HER, the first in the K2 Special Services series:
When his best friend and fellow Navy SEAL, Evan Prescott, died in his arms on the battlefield, Logan Kincaid gave his word to watch over Evan’s widow. But for two years he kept his distance…torn between honoring his solemn vow and succumbing to his secret love for his fallen comrade’s wife. But when Dani Prescott desperately reaches out to Logan for the help only he can give, he rushes to her side—determined to fight for her safety as fiercely as he fights against his own buried desire.
Someone claiming to be her husband is stalking Dani and her infant daughter, making them virtually prisoners in their remote country home. Logan’s elite military training and high-risk security expertise have outmatched more dangerous enemies. But the real challenge will be the burning temptation that threatens to overcome Logan whenever Dani is near…especially when she reveals her own hidden passion.
Sandra, welcome to the Bandita lair! Can you please tell us about your latest release CRAZY FOR HER?
I’m thrilled to be a guest on Romance Bandits! I’m excited about CRAZY FOR HER, a 2013 Golden Heart finalist. The official release date is September 1st. I say “official” as Montlake Romance, my new publisher, chose CRAZY FOR HER as one of four books for the August Kindle First, meaning the ebook version was released early, and it’s on sale until September 1st. The print and audio will be available 1st September.
CRAZY FOR HER is a contemporary romantic suspense, the first in a five book series of the men of K2 special services, all ex-SEALs. In CRAZY FOR HER, my hero, Logan, is secretly in love with the heroine, who was married to his best friend. He has another secret, one that shocks my heroine, Dani, when she learns of it.
What were the inspirations behind this book?
The seed for the story was planted when I watched a documentary about a SEAL team during their time in Afghanistan. I thought, these guys are tough, and honorable, and dedicated to their calling. They are true heroes. Then I started wondering what life for them was like then they left the military. It would have to be a hard adjustment as they are men used to living on the edge. Logan Kincaid took shape in my mind, a man with dark secrets who was a true hero for his country, but doesn’t believe he deserved happiness. A lot of “what ifs” followed, and it went from there.
CRAZY FOR HER is the first in the K2 Special Services series. Can you give us a peek at what’s coming next?
Next is SOMEONE LIKE HER, scheduled for an early 2015 release date. My hero, Jake, another ex-SEAL and known to his friends as Romeo, falls for the sister of his boss, Logan Kincaid. The last thing the boss wants is for his sister, Maria, to fall for a man the team nicknamed Romeo. Jake tries to stay away from her, he really does. I have to laugh here because we all know how well that’s going to work for him, right?
What else is coming up for you?
The last three books of the series are next. The third one is back from my critique partners, and after this last revision, it will go to my agent. Saint, my hero in book three, doesn’t cuss or drink, and is very discriminating in his few affairs. He was interesting, yet strangely, the hardest to write. I’ve always written alpha males, and Saint was my first gamma, a type of hero between a beta and an alpha. I found it funny thatI had to work at not allowing him to have a potty mouth like his teammates.
I’m about five chapters into book four. The heroine in that one is a stunt plane pilot, so I’m having great fun with that. (And yes, I have flown upside down in a stunt plane, so know how thrilling it is.) Book five has a rough outline, and my hero will be a dog lover, the heroine will have cats. I do expect the fur to fly for those two!
After I finish this series, I have the next one in mind. I sent a series synopsis for it to my agent who emailed me back and said, “YOU HAVE TO WRITE THIS!!!” So, I guess I will.
Your first two books (THE LETTER and THE TRAINING OF A MARQUESS) were historicals. What differences did you find in writing the two genres? Are there more historicals on the way?
Oh, goodness, the contemporaries are so much easier to write! I’m not spending hours researching clothing, or checking to see if certain words were in use, or hundreds of other things one needs to research when writing historicals. Having said that, my favorite genre to read is historical, which is why I started out writing them. But I also love the freedom of writing contemporaries. Will I write more historicals? Probably. Hopefully. I recently finished a historical novella that will be a part of an anthology my Embracing Romance co-authors are planning. It was so much fun to write.
Can you tell us a bit about what you get up to when you’re not writing?
Writing is a full-time job for me, and the majority of my days are spent doing just that. I’m also a voracious reader of historical (especially Regencies) and contemporary romances, so if I’m not writing, I’m usually reading. My husband and I have an RV, and we like to take long trips and explore this beautiful country of ours. The great thing about that is, I can easily write on the road. My laptop goes everywhere with me. My favorite place to write is an RV park not far from home where we go for long weekends. I get myself set up by the creek, and I never want to leave!
Sounds idyllic! Thanks for the great interview, Sandra. We wish you all the best with your new series. Do you have a question for the Bandits and Bandita buddies to get the conversation rolling?
I love to read almost anything – romances (especially historical and contemporary), horror…it would actually be a shorter list to tell you what genres I don’t like to read. My question is one I know authors are always interested in hearing the answer. As a reader, what genres do you prefer? Are you devoted to just one, or do you cross genre lines?
Sandra has very generously offered one commenter today a signed copy of CRAZY FOR HER (international) so get commenting, people! Good luck!
We’re all readers here so I’m sure I’m not going to be alone when I confess to being slightly obsessed with a particular author. It happens to all of us!
I seem to have developed an insatiable appetite for books by Nora Roberts. Rarely a week goes by when I’m not reading one and usually more books by the master (I can’t call her the mistress!).
Obviously like most of us, I’ve read Nora’s books for many years. I think my introduction to her work was the Gallaghers of Ardmore trilogy. Isolde Martyn brought JEWELS OF THE SUN back from the 2000 RWA conference in Washington D.C. where she was the first Australian to win a RITA® Award for her wonderful historical THE MAIDEN AND THE UNICORN.
I think my favorite of those early reads was the Chesapeake Bay Quartet – amazing emotional punch in those stories and great romances. Stupidly I lent those to a friend and they never came back. Grrr.
I tried the J.D. Robb books – perhaps it was the mood I was in at the time, but while I enjoyed NAKED IN DEATH, I didn’t have a burning desire to read more in the series.
No, it seems I’m a classic Nora in her original incarnation girl.
Luckily she’s got a huge backlist! I’m in awe of her productivity and I have no idea how she manages to keep the quality up the way she does. Her books are never less than a good read and more often than not, they’re a fantastic read. Perhaps she has an army of little elves wearing Turn the Page Bookstore T-shirts in her basement!
I really feel that there’s nobody better for a certain style of emotional contemporary romance.The characters are real – you can imagine most of them living next door, even the witchy ones. The dilemmas they face are intriguing. The love scenes are lyrical and sexy. And she does setting brilliantly. You really feel that you’ve been to the wild Monterey Coast with the Donovans or County Mayo with the Cousins O’Dwyer or a rocky island off the Maine coast with the three wyrd sisters.
The more I read, the more I appreciate her work. In the last six months, I’ve read the Three Sisters Trilogy, the Donovan Legacy Quartet, the first two books in the Cousins O’Dwyer set, BLUE DAHLIA (and I’ve ordered the next two in that set!), WHISKEY BEACH, NORTHERN LIGHTS and THE WITNESS.
Two particular faves are NORTHERN LIGHTS and THE WITNESS. Both feature really interesting central characters, burnt-out city detective Nate Burke who takes a posting as police chief in Lunacy, Alaska (NL) and Abigail Lowery, on the run from the Russian Mafia after she witnessed a murder as a teenager (TW).
Both are stand-alones and have a strong mystery/suspense plot. Both are longer than her series books that I’ve read. But my goodness, they’re fabulous stories. I couldn’t put down either when I started them. And given they’re both over 500 pages, that was a lot of hermit time! I wrote a detailed review of NORTHERN LIGHTS for our friends at the Romance Dish back in January: http://www.theromancedish.com/2014/01/mighty-lights.html
It suddenly struck me last week why I had such a reader crush on Nora at the moment – aside from the obvious quality of the books she writes. And what a lightbulb moment that was!
One of the things I loved about JEWELS OF THE SUN is that it’s about a woman who takes a chance and reaps the benefits. Frances Jude Murray leaves her dead-end job in America to live in her grandmother’s cottage in Ireland and to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a writer. This single act of courage leads to a fulfilling new career and a lifelong love.
This theme of the main character seeking a new life and finding love and renewed purpose in his or her altered circumstances is central to so many of Nora’s books.
Right now I’m in the process of packing up the home my parents lived in for their last years. I’ve lived here for ten years since my mother passed away in 2006. It’s a lovely house but it’s never really been suitable for a groovy singleton (ahem!) and I’ve finally got up the oomph to tackle moving. So the next year or so is going to have a lot of changes for me too. Some large, some small. But all a little daunting in the still watches of the night!
Nora’s message of courage finding its own rewards and a new start offering a whole fresh look on life is just what I need at the moment. Clearly I need it, given the number of her books I’m ordering from the Book Depository!
So are you glomming any particular author at the moment? Is it an old favorite or someone who’s a fairly new discovery? Is there a reason this particular author is striking a chord for you? And what books of Nora’s do you recommend I turn to after I finish the In the Garden trilogy?
Frequent visitors know that one of my dearest writing pals is the fabulous Deb Marlowe. I am so excited to have her back with us in the Lair today, even though I must away to the Dreaded Day Job! Deb packed a bag full of of her trademark warmth and wisdom to bring to the Lair, though, and even Sven was impressed with the cookie tray she brought. Deb never does things by halves, which is why I find it so intriguing that her wonderful new Regency-set adventurous romances are the Half Moon House series. Why not the full moon, hm? (Although I have to say, the half-moon fanlight featured both above Hestia Wright’s door and in the series logo is pretty awesome.)
Without further ado, please help me welcome back Lair favorite, Deb Marlowe!
Hi, everyone! Caren, thanks for inviting me back to talk about why I adore series so much and what I’m trying to accomplish with Half Moon House in particular. But first, some background. When I was a kid there was a group of commercials for Calgon bath products which always showed a harried woman, frazzled from all the many busy facets of her life, begging, “Calgon, take me away!” Do you guys remember that one?
I certainly do, Deb!
It was amusing and memorable as a kid, but now I’m that frenzied woman in the commercial and suddenly I’m all empathy instead of amusement. :-) And while I do adore a dip in the hot tub as a stress reliever, sometimes it takes a little more.
For me, that often looks like a bottle of merlot and a platter of cookies. Hm.
That’s when I turn to a good series. Nothing takes me away like a good, long, richly developed story. One I can come back to again and again with the same, comforting feeling like coming home.
It can be any format. TV—Downton Abbey anyone? Sherlock? Or movies—Star Trek franchise or Lord of the Rings? Books too—Caren and I share a deep and abiding love for The Dragonriders of Pern, Game of Thrones and the Amelia Peabody series. And in Romance? I’ve enjoyed so many I can barely count them.
Deb is a woman of impeccable taste. There is a reason we are such good friends!
A friend asked me not long ago: “Are you writing a series, like everyone else?” It was asked in a slightly derogatory tone, which made me happy to explain. Yes, I’m writing a series! And there a great many reasons why a writer loves to lose herself in a juicy continuation, just like a reader or a viewer.
World building. I love the chance to really paint and develop settings, rules and locales. Regency lovers are familiar with the rules of that society, it’s one of the big attractions—reading a new story in a familiar construct. And setting—the house is such a fixture for Downton Abbey it’s practically one of the characters. The world of Westeros in Game of Thrones is huge and fascinating. Getting the chance to build up my own world? Layering and expanding it with each book? It’s like setting a kid loose in a candy store.
Characters. In a series I can develop main characters in rich depth, allowing the reader to grow to know them through several books. Amelia Peabody fans: look at how the character of Sethos changed over time, yes? I can revisit them after their main story is told, sharing a glimpse of their HEA, deepening the story of their romance. Even secondary characters can be developed further. Liz Carlyle’s Kemble, anyone? They can step in and out of the series, popping up like old friends.
Theme. Every author has a theme or perhaps several that speak to him/her and emerge from their soul through their fingers. George R. R. Martin is exploring many themes in A Song of Ice and Fire. I’m paying particular attention to honor, identity, moral ambiguity and feminism. In a series I can explore one theme from different angles or even weave several together to represent something important to me.
I’m playing with all of this and more in my Half Moon House series and I’m having a blast. There’s an over-arching story of Hestia Wright, a baron’s daughter ruined by an evil man and her own young and foolish bad judgment. Cast off by Society, she becomes a world famous courtesan, until coming back to England to open Half Moon House, a place where any woman can come for help. Set against the backdrop of her battle with her oldest enemy is group of adventurous romances that take us from England’s highest society, to London’s lowest stews and even beyond to the Continent.
Book one: The Love List is available, as well as An Unexpected Encounter, a connected novella. Book Two and two more novellas are coming in the next few months. And right now I have a FREE short story available. A Slight Miscalculation is a short, sweet taste of the goings-on at Half Moon House.
Y’all need to snap up A Slight Miscalculation while it’s available as a freebie download. Warning: you will be sucked in and want more right away!
So tell me: Do you love to escape into a big series when real life wears you down? Which one gives you that happy, glow-y feeling of coming home? Share a favorite with us and I’ll offer a copy of The Love List to a randomly selected commenter!
And what could be better in early 2014 than a debut author! Introducing Julie Brannagh whose first book for Avon Impulse, BLITZING EMILY, is out TODAY! Huzzah!
Here’s the blurb:
Emily Hamilton is a rising opera diva whose career has been sidetracked by a cheating ex-boyfriend. Brandon McKenna is the aging defensive star of the Seattle Sharks football team. He has a large public relations problem.
After a misunderstanding, Emily and Brandon believe the best solution is to get engaged for thirty days. Their decision improves both their careers immediately. Even better, sparks are flying.
Will Brandon and Emily discover that the greatest career success means nothing without each other?
Julie, welcome to the Bandita lair! Congratulations on the release of your debut book from Avon Impulse, BLITZING EMILY. Can you tell us about this story?
Hello, everyone! I’m thrilled to be here!
Emily Hamilton doesn’t trust men. She’s much more comfortable playing the romantic lead in front of a packed house onstage than in her own life. So when NFL star and alluring ladies’ man Brandon McKenna acts as her personal white knight, she has no illusions that he’ll stick around. However, a misunderstanding with the press throws them together in a fake engagement that yields unexpected (and breathtaking) benefits.
The shorter version: BLITZING EMILY is La Boheme meets the NFL!
Wow, great pitch! What were the inspirations behind this book?
One of the better things about being an author is writing about things (and people!) we love. I love football, and I love Seattle, my hometown. This book also had a fairly interesting start. Susan Elizabeth Phillips (queen of contemporary sports romance!) had a message board for her fans for several years. She asked those posting on her board to write a 1500-word “cute meet”. I wrote those 1500 words and kept on writing!
Love SEP! I notice there are two more books coming out in the Love and Football series. We’d love to hear more about those! Can you tell us?
I’d love to! RUSHING AMY (formerly titled LOVE AND FOOTBALL) is out on February 9th. It features Amy Hamilton, Emily’s younger sister. She meets her hero, former Sharks player turned game analyst Matt Stephens, an hour after her sister’s wedding. Amy is busy with the flower shop she owns, and even the drop-dead handsome Matt can’t distract her. Matt is determined to get one (or more!) dates with a stunning florist whose stubborn streak matches his own. Will Matt have to send flowers to every woman he’s ever met before Amy finally agrees to a date? Will Amy fall in love with the irresistible Matt?
CATCHING CAMERON will be out in May, 2014. Zach Anderson plays for the Sharks. Cameron Ondine is a game sideline reporter for Pro Football Network. They’ve avoided each other for the past ten years as a result of a pretty big secret: Zach and Cameron were once married. For three days. Zach thought he was over Cameron a long time ago. It turns out he wasn’t, and he wants another chance. Will he convince Cameron to try it again?
Both sound great. What else is coming up for Julie Brannagh?
Two words: More books! I submitted CATCHING CAMERON to my editor this morning, and we’re talking about upcoming novels featuring the Sharks!
Here in the lair, we love call stories. Could you please share yours with us?
My call story is a little different, but here goes! BLITZING EMILY was out on submission. My agent (the wonderful Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency) told me it might be as much as a month before we heard from any of the editors she’d submitted the book to. I got an e-mail from her a couple of weeks later asking if she could give me a call. I took several deep breaths before I answered the phone that morning. If I had even one offer, I’d be thrilled.
There wasn’t one offer. We had several, including a three-book offer from the publishing house I dreamed of writing for. I was so stunned I didn’t know what to say besides “Thank you.” Sarah told me to take a little time to think over my options. I accepted the offer from my dream house, Avon, one week later.
My new editor was out of town, so I couldn’t tell anyone but my husband for almost three weeks!
Congratulations! What a great story. Sports romances are such a hot topic at the moment. Why do you think there’s such a proliferation of heroes who are elite athletes?
Ladies love alpha males, and elite athletes fit the bill! Elite athletes are full of confidence, can be a bit cocky at times, and will compete for her heart as fiercely as he would on a field or a court. Plus, let’s face it – what red-blooded woman doesn’t love a six-pack?
Well, I’d hate to say I wasn’t red-blooded! Julie, do you have a question for the Bandits and Bandita buddies to get the conversation rolling?
I’d love to hear about some of YOUR favourite sports romance heroes! What do you believe makes them irresistible?
Get commenting, people. Julie has very generously offered a download (international) of BLITZING EMILY for someone who leaves a comment today. Good luck!
Ooh, color me excited! In fact, color me excited and write it in fireworks and tell the UN!
A couple of years ago, thanks to my fabulous critique partner Annie West, I discovered a writer who has since become one of my all-time favorites. I’m not at all surprised that this particular writer has since won back-to-back RITA awards. Clearly everybody agrees with me that she’s an exceptional talent.
So we have a wonderful author. And we have someone making a lair debut. And we have a Christmas romance – I’m always a sucker for a Christmas romance.
You can see why I’m jumping around like a…jumping thing.
The brilliant Sarah Morgan is here all the way from the U.K. to tell us about her first full-length contemporary romance SLEIGH BELLS IN THE SNOW. Here’s the blurb:
Once upon a time, Christmas was Kayla Green’s favorite time of year. Now all the workaholic wants for Christmas is for it to be over—as fast as possible! So when duty calls her to snowy Vermont to close a deal with a new client, Kayla is grateful for an excuse to avoid the holidays for another year.
Jackson O’Neil left a thriving business behind to return home and salvage his family’s resort—it’s in his blood, and he can’t let it fail. Now that he’s got marketing whiz Kayla Green working with him to put Snow Crystal on the map, success is on the horizon. The fact they strike enough sparks off each other to power all the Christmas lights in Vermont is just an added bonus.
Kayla might be an expert at her job, but she’s out of her depth with Jackson—he makes her crave the happy-ever-after she once dreamed of, and it’s terrifying. As the snowflakes continue to swirl, will the woman who doesn’t believe in the magic of Christmas finally fall under its spell?
SLEIGH BELLS is already creating a lot of buzz. RT Book Reviews called it “a Holiday hit” in a 4.5 star review. Publishers Weekly gave this book a starred review and said, “This touching Christmas tale will draw tears of sorrow and joy, remaining a reader favorite for years to come.”
Sarah, welcome to the Bandita lair! I’m so excited about your full-length Christmas romance SLEIGH BELLS IN THE SNOW. Can you tell us about this book?
Thank you for inviting me to the lair, Anna! It feels like a warm, cosy place to be, especially as SLEIGH BELLS is a winter story! I’m so excited to be here. And I’m excited about my first mainstream novel. I’m driving everyone around me crazy so it’s good to inflict my excitement on someone else for a change. SLEIGH BELLS is a holiday romance. My heroine Kayla hates Christmas. Every year, she buries herself in work and just waits for it all to be over so when she is invited to Vermont by a new client (my super sexy hero, Jackson O’Neil) she thinks it will be the perfect place to escape. A secluded log cabin in a snowy forest away from civilization sounds like the perfect place to pass what is, for her, the worst time of the year. But things don’t go the way she has planned!
Sounds great! What were the inspirations behind this book?
Last Christmas my family and I broke with tradition and instead of staying at home, we rented a log cabin near a lake. It was snowy and perfect but I realised that although for us it was a wonderful place to spend the holidays, it would equally be perfect for someone who found Christmas a difficult time of year and wanted to avoid the craziness of the holiday season.
A month earlier I’d had a conversation with Dianne Moggy at Harlequin, and she’d been telling me about her miniature poodle Maple. She entertained me with stories of Maple’s antics (hilarious!) and I thought it would be perfect to make Maple part of my story, but I wanted to make sure that the dog wasn’t just window dressing but central to the story and Kayla’s development as a character.
At that point I knew I wanted to write a mainstream romance, but I hadn’t decided on the setting. It was while I was talking to Dianne that I thought – Maple – Maple syrup – Vermont (this is how a writer’s brain works as you well know!) So now I had my setting and a heroine who wanted to avoid Christmas.
Because we writers are supposed to torture our characters I then had to make her face the one thing she dreaded most – so I surrounded her with a big, noisy happy family. I confess that I love fish out of water stories and there is an element of that in this book. Kayla is a city girl and finding herself in snowy Vermont is a culture shock! And that’s before she starts trying to do business with the O’Neil family who are nothing like her usual clients. I had so much fun with this story.
Noodling around your website, I notice that we have two more books in the O’Neil Brothers series following SLEIGH BELLS IN THE SNOW. Can you give us a sneak peak of what’s to come in the series?
I wanted to write about a big, loving, interfering family so the first thing I did for my hero, Jackson, was give him two brothers. Jackson’s twin brother Sean is an orthopedic surgeon. His story, SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER, will be out July 2014. Younger brother Tyler is a gold medal winning downhill skier who retired from the circuit after a serious accident. He’s the bad boy of the three! His story will be out November 2014. The three O’Neil men share a close bond, but they’re very different and they each face different issues and challenges. I had fun finding the right heroine for each of them!
Yum! I notice you have a novella out toward the end of November to tempt us. I’d love to hear more about RIPPED.
RIPPED is part of the new Cosmo Red Hot Reads programme, which is a joint venture between Harlequin and Cosmopolitan. These novellas are fun, super sexy stories featuring strong, independent heroines (my favourite type!). The heroine of RIPPED, Hayley, is an engineer. She’s the reluctant bridesmaid at the wedding of her ex and suffers a major wardrobe malfunction. She’s rescued by the best man, sexy Italian Nico Rossi, a buttoned up lawyer who she believes has always disapproved of her. This story takes place a few days before Christmas and wrapping paper isn’t the only thing to be ripped in this book! I had so much fun writing it. I laughed the whole time. I hope it makes a few readers laugh too!
What else is coming up for Sarah Morgan?
I’m in the middle of writing the second Cosmo story, BURNED, about Hayley’s sister. Then I’m moving on to the last book in my O’Neil Brothers series, which is Tyler’s story. I’m really looking forward to writing this one. There will be a few surprises from Tyler’s past and some issues I can’t wait to explore and I love the O’Neil family (especially Grandma Alice and Grandpa Walter!), so I’m looking forward to being with them for another story. And puppy Maple of course. She will be a year older, but still jumping no doubt!
As this is your first visit to the lair, we’d love to hear about your writing journey.
I always loved writing (I wrote my first story when I was eight) but I didn’t think it was something that could be a career, so I wrote alongside other jobs for many years. I trained as a nurse so when I started writing seriously it seemed logical to me to write a Medical Romance. As well as writing the love story, I loved being able to control what happened to the patient. I wrote 35 medical romances for Harlequin and because my heroes were so often alpha they suggested I write for Presents, which I did and I loved it! I’ve wanted to write a longer length contemporary for a while so when Harlequin offered me the opportunity to do that I was thrilled. So at the moment I’m playing with different story lengths, novella, category at 50,000 and full length, mainstream (100,000 words) contemporaries. Each demands something different from the writer and I love the variety. Hopefully readers will too.
One of the things I love about your books is that you take the classic Harlequin Presents/Sexy/Modern style and give it a really contemporary twist. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what constitutes a classic Presents and also on how you give your own particular spin to the stories.
Presents is known for its international settings, the glamour, the sophistication and, of course, the alpha hero. For me, it’s important to match just the right heroine with the hero for the story to work. The alpha hero is strong (although not a bully. The hero’s actions should always be well motivated, even when he appears ‘hard’ to the reader). He is the leader of the pack (by virtue of his skills and attributes, not his ability to lose his temper) and winning his heart won’t be easy. I love finding the woman who can do that. I always write strong heroines, but my heroine may not be strong in the same areas as the hero, in fact she probably isn’t but her strengths will compliment his and in the end they will be perfect for each other.
Sarah, huge congratulations on your latest releases. I love that I’ve got so many new books from you to look forward to. Do you have a question for the Banditas and Bandita Buddies to get the conversation going?
What is the one gift you’d like to find under the Christmas tree this year? (I want your golden rooster – would he like to come and live with me for a while?)
Take him! He’s yours!
OK, people, get commenting! Sarah has very generously offered an international prize of a copy of SLEIGH BELLS IN THE SNOW! Now, that’s going to brighten up any Christmas season!
I’m thrilled to be hosting a couple of dear friends in the Lair today. Both should be well known to you by now, since both have guested with us before! Regan Black and I met eons ago, back when we still had young children and life was hectic and somewhat crazed. Regan and Debra met a couple of years later and gradually the circle closed until we were all chums. I admire both of them so very much and seriously love their books. Today they’re talking about something that happens often in writing circles but is rarely discussed with readers: mentoring. Debra and Regan both write suspense (though Regan’s tends toward the paranormal) and Debra sort of took Regan under her very experienced wing. Showed her how to do what she already did even better. Now Regan is here to talk about this mentor relationship and what it does for both of them. Deb will probably be popping in to answer comments, as well. Settle in, pull up a chair, grab a cold beverage and a warm canape and listen in.
Thanks so much, Caren, for having us back in the lair today! Deb and I always have such fun here.
Mentors are people we look up to, people we admire for their various skills and expertise. They are the people we’d like to resemble when we grow up. Debra Webb, one of the top names in romantic suspense, has been that person for me for the majority of my career. She’s driven, prolific, and quick with a plot twist if you find yourself in need of one.
We first met at a Smoky Mountain Romance Writer’s conference ages ago (but miraculously, neither of us has aged a day since). Her advice from those sessions carried me in good stead (and still does). Though our publishing paths differed, Deb has always been a tremendous source of support and encouragement in my career.
Deb gave me my first cover quote for Justice Incarnate. She taught me how to write a synopsis (a feat my critique partners greatly appreciated). She helped me sort out the editorial language of revision letters. In 2011, she introduced me to the editor of the Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance, who purchased an original Shadows of Justicenovella for that anthology.
But let’s fast-forward to August of 2012.
With Deb’s stunning success early in 2012 self-publishing Obsession and Impulse, the first two books in her acclaimed Faces of Evil series, Grand Central picked up the series. Just as her books were about to be re-launched in ebook and paperback, Deb called to check on me.
Seriously. Yeah, she’s good like that.
My year wasn’t going nearly as well as Deb’s. In fact, I was sure my career was going down in flames. I had the obituary written (it was some of my best work), but Deb refused to believe it. More importantly she refused to let me believe it.
That phone call last year was a tremendous change-up. I took pages of notes while she efficiently dissected my career circumstances, listened to my goals and ideas, assessed my strengths and productivity, and laid out a plan to move me forward.
Deb always has a plan.
BULLETPROOF, the first book in a new paranormal romantic suspense series, is the big next step in that plan. Deb brought these characters from vague concepts to three-dimensional with in-depth brainstorming and “Oh! What if…” phone sessions. She kept me motivated with hard release dates, promotional schedules, and killer advice for the cover art concepts.
A soldier is nothing without his honor.
To avoid a dishonorable end to his decorated military career, John Noble made a deal with the devil. He gave up his name, endured harrowing training, and accepted every mission thrown at him for one purpose: redemption.
An ambitious reporter, Amelia Bennett, is about to break the story of her career, if she lives long enough to tell it. Caving to her boss’s demand, she hires a bodyguard and soon it is obvious John Noble is the only obstacle standing between her and certain death.
Just when John believes he has found someone he can trust and love, who loves him unconditionally for who and what he has become, his orders are amended: Amelia Bennett is to be terminated.
Introducing Unknown Identities: an alternative for elite soldiers and spies facing criminal charges… if they can survive the program. Don’t miss Double Vision, the next installment of this sizzling, action packed series.
Available October 17, BULLETPROOF has enough of a paranormal edge to keep my muse happy, but still this venture often feels like a giant step into a new genre for me. When I start to freak out, Deb pipes up with the familiar ‘don’t worry’ refrain. (Sing it with me!)
It’s a blessing to relax in her utter confidence. And she should know whether or not I need to freak out. Not only is she one of the best in the business when it comes to romantic suspense, she was the editor-in-chief for BULLETPROOF.
Deb’s philosophy of mentoring is rooted in the theory that authors need to work together for mutual success. While our writing styles are different, we can still brainstorm, evaluate, and share experiences (or nightmares) from marketing to formatting to tangled plots in order to help each other stay productive.
Some days that involves listening to the natural highs and lows of working in the weird, non-linear publishing industry. Other days it means a swift kick in the creative pants to get ourselves back to the keyboard and into the next wonderful tale that wants to be told.
To celebrate this new book and the Unknown Identities series, Deb and I would like to give one lucky winner a $10 gift card to Amazon or B&N along with a signed BULLETPROOF tote bag. To enter, just leave a comment about your experience being mentored or being a mentor.
Good luck everyone!
Live the adventure,
Okay, y’all know what to do. Tell us about your adventures in either being mentored or being a mentor!
It’s always a delight to host the wonderful Miranda Neville in the lair, especially if she’s here to tell us about one of her delicious new releases.
I love Miranda’s books and I’m so looking forward to reading her latest, THE RUIN OF A ROGUE(from that cover, it looks to me like he’s having a very nice time being ruined – and she doesn’t look like she’s complaining either!). RT Book Reviews loved TROAR, saying, “Neville’s heiress vs. fortune hunter plot has enough clever twists and witty repartée to be unpredictable and delightful. Driven by dialogue and well-motivated, smart characters, here’s a romance to spark both imaginations and emotions.”
Here’s the blurb:
Charm, wit, and nerves of steel have helped Marcus Lithgow gamble his way across the Continent. But when his heart is at stake, all bets are off for this most perfect of rogues…
Anne Brotherton is tired of being an heiress. Why can’t men like her for her sharp mind and kind heart rather than her impressive dowry? When she meets Marcus Lithgow she thinks she’s found the right man, until she learns he’s nothing but an unscrupulous fortune hunter.
It’s been years since Marcus set foot in England—why toy with the ton when he can fleece wealthy fools in Paris and Rome? Everything changes when he inherits a ramshackle estate. Marcus’s first and only chance at a respectable life needs funding…the kind Anne Brotherton can provide. Such a wallflower should be ripe for the picking. So why does Marcus feel like he’s the one hanging by a thread?
She nearly falls for Marcus’s smooth seduction. But when Anne realizes she’s being strung along, a lust for revenge empowers her like never before. Two can play at the game of deception. The game of love, however, has its own rules…
Miranda, welcome back to the lair! We love it when you visit us!
Thanks so much for inviting me back to the lair, Anna. As always I have my bathing suit and suntan lotion, plus a hard hat for when things get wild, as they most likely will.
The cabana boys are already excited! Miranda, huge congratulations on your new release from Avon, THE RUIN OF A ROGUE, book 2 of the Wild Quartet. Can you tell us about your story?
The hero, Marcus Lithgow is a very bad boy. In my previous book, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING WICKED, he was very bad indeed, trying to nick a friend’s Titian. But Marcus has a big problem: a professional gambler, he has mysteriously lost his luck and is flat broke. Marriage to super-heiress Anne Brotherton is the only answer. Anne is a very good girl. She is sick of fortune hunters but finds Lord Lithgow exceedingly attractive, especially since he shares her obsession with Roman history. Anne is no dummy though; she soon figures Marcus out and plots revenge. Stuff happens (as we professional writers say in our synopses) and we learn the answers to several important questions. Will Anne ever get to dig up a ruin? (The title contains a hint.) Do heiresses make good housemaids? Can Marcus milk a cow? Will he be reformed? (And how much reform do we want to see?) Would you rather read a love scene set in a ruin, a folly, or both?
Hmm, all of the above? What were the inspirations behind this book?
I love bringing apparent opposites together and proving to myself – and hopefully my readers – that a mismatched pair are made for each other. The joy of a badly flawed hero is seeing how the heroine helps him change, and vice versa. Anne has always felt defined by her money, an accident of birth with nothing to do with her as an individual. In foiling Marcus’s schemes and then falling in love with the better man he becomes, Anne defies her heritage and her upbringing. Marcus journeys from outright rogue to respectable gentleman while Anne makes the trip in the other direction. In a way they meet in the middle.
The Roman villa that Anne discovers gave me an opportunity for the kind of historical research I always enjoy. I found a 1786 monograph in the British Library describing a Roman excavation in Northamptonshire and used it as inspiration. I moved it to Wiltshire, however, so that Marcus and Anne could visit Fonthill Abbey, the home of the eccentric millionaire William Beckford. Their visit is based on an account of Beckford’s entertainment of Nelson and Lady Hamilton at Fonthill.
What nefarious plans does Miranda Neville have for the rest of the Wild Quartet?
I’m just finishing up Book 3 now but the title’s under the hatches until it’s official. The Earl of Windermere returns from a diplomatic mission to Persia, intending to make up with his estranged wife, Cynthia. But London is full of rumors that she is having an affair with the Duke of Denford, who just happens to be his former best friend. After that (spoiler alert!) it’s Denford’s book. He has some trouble in his background that will come back and bite him in the series finale.
Sounds yummy! Our spies on the Regency ground tell us that you recently had a novella out as part of what looks like a delicious anthology, AT THE DUKE’S WEDDING.Can you tell us about this story?
The anthology is a co-production with Maya Rodale,Caroline Linden, and Katharine Ashe with four stories set during a wedding house party. Though each novella is self-contained, our characters pop into other stories, and we have several common threads. P.S. I LOVE YOU is my take on Cyrano de Bergerac. Inarticulate Frank Newnham asks for his cousin Christian’s help when he woos Rosanne Lacy by letter. Rosanne falls for Frank’s delicious prose, but when they meet in person at the duke’s wedding party, Rosanne can’t understand why Frank seems so dull. Instead she is drawn to the brooding Earl of Bruton, with his scarred face and air of melancholy. I loved writing the story, and working on the whole project with three really amazing friends and writers. By the way, grottos (as well as ruins and follies) are great locations for kisses.
And now for the most important question – as you know, Ernie, your rather obstreperous kitty, has quite a fan club (I’m a lifetime member). Can you give us life according to Ernie as it stands today?
Poor, poor Ernie. His life has been ruined by the introduction of Emma, my daughter’s impertinent female tabby. I tried to persuade him to make another book trailer, but he flatly refused to do it with Emma as a co-star. I’m working on him, however. With a combination of threats and bribery they may yet make it to You Tube.
For anyone who missed it or who wants to see it again, Ernie’s brilliance is CAT-tured in celuloid here:
We love hearing about your travels here in the lair. Been anywhere interesting lately? Any exciting trips in the pipeline?
I’m off to England later this month, mostly to see family but I’m definitely going to Bath. My daughter is coming with me and she has never been there. I’ve been kind of a homebody this year – too many deadlines. I’m really looking forward to the RT Convention in New Orleans next year. I love that city! Hopefully I shall see some of the Banditas and their readers.
You should definitely trip over a Bandita or two. Thanks so much, Miranda. Do you have a question for the Banditas and Bandita Buddies today?
New Orleans makes me think of food. One of my guilty pleasures is cooking competitions on TV and my latest discovery is MASTERCHEF UK, PROFESSIONAL EDITION. Michel Roux Jr. is the hottest TV chef ever. I could go on for hours about his beautiful hands and the twinkle in his eye.
So let’s dish about TV cooking shows. Which ones do you like? What do you think of Gordon Ramsey and Tom Colicchio? If you’re not a cooking show fan, what’s your favorite TV guilty pleasure?
Miranda has very generously offered a copy of THE RUIN OF A ROGUE (print or e-book international) to someone who comments today. So good luck, people!
It’s always a pleasure to host historical romance star Nicola Cornick in the lair. Today Nicola is back with us to tell us about her latest book THE LADY AND THE LAIRD (oh, yummy, Scotsmen ahoy!) and also about some of her recent travels. If I’m good as this life, I think I’ll come back as Nicola’s suitcase. She always goes to the most wonderful places!
THE LADY AND THE LAIRD is making friends all over. Publishers Weekly recommended the book as one of the second chance at love romances to watch out for this year and RT Book Reviews said: “There are many delicious moments in the first of Cornick’s Scottish Brides series. The lively dialogue and sexy cat-and-mouse games (a little touch of Cyrano de Bergerac!) combine with poignancy and tenderness so readers become invested in the characters and their love story.”
Nicola, welcome back to the lair. Congratulations on your new release for HQN, THE LADY AND THE LAIRD. Can you tell us about this story?
Thank you so much! It’s great to be back in the Bandits’ lair. THE LADY AND THE LAIRD is the first book in my new Scottish Brides series. I’m thrilled about the series because it’s set in the Regency period in the Highlands of Scotland, thus combining two of my favourite things!
Lady Lucy MacMorlan is the very proper daughter of a Duke but she has a very improper hobby; she writes erotic love letters on behalf of her brother Lachlan and his friends. When Lachlan elopes with the Marquis of Methven’s bride, Lucy is in big trouble because Robert Methven guesses that she is the real author of the letters and threatens to expose her secret and ruin her reputation.
Robert is also in trouble. He has to marry and beget an heir or his ancestral estates will be lost. Worse, a royal decree means that he can only marry a lady descended from a rival clan. Lucy is the obvious candidate but even though there is a chemistry between her and Robert from the start, she has sworn never to marry after losing her fiancé years before. Robert’s courtship of Lucy isn’t exactly conventional; there is a lot of the rugged highland laird in him and Lucy frequently points out to him that he needs to learn some refinement. I really enjoyed showing this ill-matched pair starting to recognise and respect each other’s strengths and falling in love.
Rugged Highland laird? Let me at him! What were the inspirations behind this book?
I’ve always wanted to write Regencies set in Scotland and I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long! As you know, I love the Scottish scenery. I love the wildness of it, and the way you can reflect that in the characters and their story. Lucy in particular is a very well brought up and proper Regency young lady but there is another side to her, a wild side that she has never acknowledged before. Robert makes her confront that.
I was also hugely inspired by the tumultuous history of Fair Isle, an island off the north coast of Scotland. I drew on that a lot for the book.
Love the photos of Fair Isle you sent for the blog. What’s coming up next for you?
Book 2 in the Scottish Brides series, ONE NIGHT WITH A LAIRD, is out at the end of November. It’s the story of Lucy’s sister Mairi and Robert’s wicked cousin Jack. I’m currently writing book 3 CLAIMED BY THE LAIRD, which will be out next summer.
Scotsmen abound in Romancelandia (even from Sassenach writers like your good self). What do you think is the enduring appeal of a Scottish setting?
I’ve thought about this a lot (It’s no hardship to think long and deeply about men in kilts!) and talked to a lot of people about it. The Scottish hero is masculine and powerful, a real alpha, but he has a loyalty to his clan, his people, and that demonstrates that he also has a protective side. He possesses other qualities we admire in our heroes too – honour, resourcefulness, independence, determination. He’s usually very physical and shows this through fighting for a cause he believes in. He’s the whole sexy, swashbuckling package!
In addition, there’s the appeal of the clan as family. In Scots Gaelic if you ask someone “where are you from?” the actual translation is: “Who are your people?” This goes to the heart of the whole idea of kinship for me. I think the Scottish set romance is all about loyalty and belonging, about fighting for what is important to you and protecting your kin. I think that is a very appealing concept.
Are you noticing any particular trends in historical romance right now?
There’s been a lot of talk recently that the historical romance genre is either dying or already dead. I think this is an over-exaggeration and there are still some fabulous historical romances about and some great authors putting their unique twist on the genre. At the same time it feels as though the time is right for the genre to develop in new directions. Sometimes it can be difficult for authors to push change through. Established authors may want to try something different and take a few risks, but get vetoed by publishers who want to stick with tried and tested success. New authors may come up with fabulously fresh ideas, but then find it difficult to sell them.
I think it’s actually an exciting time. I’ve lots of fresh ideas I’m keen to explore in my writing and I’m also keen to see the direction others writers are going to take in the genre.
We love to hear about your travels here in the lair. It’s a little while since you last ventured into the Bandita cave – can you tell us about some of the interesting places you’ve visited lately?
Well, I went to Fair Isle last year to research the background for THE LADY AND THE LAIRD. When I say that it is the most remote inhabited island in the UK that sounds pretty tame – I mean just how remote can the UK be? But in fact we’re talking miles off the north coast of Scotland sort of remote. You have to take three flights to get there with the planes getting smaller and smaller until you’re in one so small you’re in the co-pilot’s seat. Our pilot was an ex-RAF Biggles type who was frightfully re-assuring to me as a nervous flyer. His pre-flight checks consisted of tugging on the wings to make sure they didn’t come off and kicking the wheels to make sure they weren’t flat. Then we were off and I swear he threw in some aerobatics just for fun.
Fair Isle feels like the end of the world – in a good way. It’s the most beautiful place, with huge cliffs and white sand beaches and masses of history from the Vikings to the wreck of a Spanish Armada ship to sea battles against French privateers during the Napoleonic Wars. I was in history heaven! And as if that wasn’t enough, there were ceilidhs in the evening where we enjoyed some fine Scottish dancing. I even came away with a genuine Fair Isle sweater. It was an amazing trip.
Lucky duck, visiting Fair Isle. It’s been on my list for a long time. Do you have a question for our Bandits and Bandita Buddies?
When it was time for us to leave Fair Isle a storm blew in, the planes were grounded and we were marooned for several days. Where would you like to be marooned – and with whom?
Thanks, Nicola, and all the best with THE LADY AND THE LAIRD.
Get commenting, people. Nicola has very generously offered a copy of THE LADY AND THE LAIRD to one of our visitors today (international). Good luck!
I’ve recently been devouring a lot of contemporary romance series, both paranormal and…well..not…and I was thinking yesterday about why I’m so taken with those books.
I’ve read a bunch of different series books by different authors, but in particular, I’ve just about foundered myself on the Lucky Harbor, Animal Magnetism and Sky High Air series by Jill Shalvis.
These are not what I write. They’re actually the opposite of what I’m working on now. They’re not particularly big plots. There is no big world threat. With a few notable exceptions, they’re not dark or overbearingly angsty, even when there is a suspense threat or the characters have something bad–like abuse– in their pasts.
Yet despite all the things that are “not typically me” about Jill Shalvis books, I slurp up her series like an alcoholic guzzles smooth, top-shelf Bourbon.
Way more than I oughta drink.
I have threatened to take the books to a testing lab, to find out if maybe she’s impregnated the pages with crack cocaine, because I finish one, then immediately go looking for the next.
So after considering this for a while, I think I’ve figured it out.
It’s the relationships.
No, not the romance. Of course, I want to see that romance be born and develop and mature and I want to see the couple get their HEA. But even if her characters have a certain zing that is her distinctive way of writing, the truth is, I can get the romance from a bazillion books on the market. That’s not the reason I constantly reach for her books over so many others.
I choose those books because of the friends of the heroes and heroines. The relationships that exist between the characters. The communities of people in which Shalvis sets her characters. She’s brilliant at making those communities come to life, but particularly, she hits her stride with trilogies of friends, and in particular, male friends.
In the first three Lucky Harbor books it was Jax, Ford and Sawyer, who (if I remember right) are not actually related but best friends from the same small town.
In Animal Magnetism it was Brady, Dell and Adam. Dell and Adam are actual brothers, and were together with Brady in a foster home.
In Sky High Air, Noah, Shayne and Brody met when they were all in trouble at school, and bonded over a love of planes and the allure of flying.
The men in each of these trilogies know one another in that way that says, “I’ll call you an asshole to your face, but nobody else better mess with you or I’ll pound them into the dirt.”
It is a bond that goes deep, and lasts a lifetime.
I live with a man who was once a Special Forces soldier, and almost all of his buddies are either still in the military, are military contractors, or work for the security of our country in other ways.
But even before I met him, I’d spent most of my life working in male-dominated fields, with mostly men, sometimes to the point that I was almost…almost…one of them. They never completely forgot I was female, or that there was a female among them, and they would never get as raunchy with me there as they would when it was all males, but they trusted me to not go all girly or get them in trouble, and they didn’t hold back much.
I know how men behave toward one another when (almost) no women are around. Shalvis’s friendships in these books read as real to me. And it is those relationships that suck me into her story worlds and won’t let me go.
Lexi George, who’ll be my guest next month, also builds a camaraderie between her heroes, but she does an especially brilliant job with the women in her books-the heroines who break the stoic, emotionless facades of the hunky Dalvahni Demon Hunters. In the first book we meet Addie Corwin and Evie Douglas, best friends forever, and it’s often “them against the world.”
The first book is Addie’s but the way Lexi builds the friendship and the caring for Addie’s friend, Evie, is masterful. I couldn’t wait for Evie’s book, and because I already loved her, it was even more satisfying.
The friendships—and sometimes the angst–between these women make the stories rich and full.
As I do my final rewrite on my own first release, I’m striving to create the kind of real-feeling friendships and relationships that make me fall so in love with series like the ones I’ve mentioned—the ones I love to read. Many authors do it well, but some are just masters of this craft.
Suzanne Brockmann first won me to her SEALs—this was years ago– back when she was writing for Harlequin/Silhouette–by so clearly showing the brotherhood that exists between these elite warriors. Okay, yes, I’ll be honest…she got the weapons right, which is a big deal for me, and that was the first time I gave a fist pump of any kind to a romance novel, but that’s a whole nuther story.
Anyway, that’s the original cover on the left, of the first Brockmann book I ever read. Prince Joe. It’s still on my keeper shelf as one of the best books ever.
Most recently my amazing friend, Dianna Love, has sealed my devotion to the Slye Temp Black Ops teams by the way she develops the friendships between the operatives. They don’t always like each other, but even when they don’t want to, they care about the other members of the team. It’s never more evident than in her latest release, Book 3 of the Slye Temp series, Honeymoon to Die For.
And that right there—illustrated so powerfully in her latest book–is the crux of it for me. That book is Ryder and Bianca’s story. But the role of the other operatives—the role of theteam—in this novel, is a major part of why I love it so much.
There is something powerful about bruised, battered hearts finding love that brings them closer to whole.
When they also find a group of people who support them—a community—it wraps the story in a way that binds me to the characters. Makes me want to live in that world.
Makes me go to the Kindle store and immediately hit “Buy” for the next book in the series.
Makes me yell “NOOOOOOOOO” when I reach THE END and the next one isn’t released yet.
I fall so in love with the other team members that when Dianna says, “I may make XXX’s book a novella,” I go “NOOOOOOOO! I love him! He has to have a full book!!!!”
She just laughs at me.
But my heart is invested. And with each book where the familiar friends play a role, I become more and more invested in each character’s happy ending.
I want that for my own books.
Yes, of course, I want to hook you, the reader, and yes, I want you to wait eagerly for the next book in the series. But the real dream, for me, is that I will be able to write the story world so that you’ll want to return over and over again. So that it’s so real to you that you begin to believe it is a real place. That those characters walk and breathe the same as you do, and that they are having their happy endings-and that their friends are going to get happy endings too.
So help me, Bandits and Buddies.
Most readers I know love series. Do you?
I want to know who does wonderful “friends” in books. What author does amazing groups of friends, or teams of people with relationships so real that you believe those characters actually walk on the earth in flesh and blood?
Which authors build the best story world—communities of people like Jill Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor, where we, as readers, worry—even between books–about the nosey little old ladies who post inappropriate and should-be-private things on the Lucky Harbor facebook page?
Which story worlds do you live in when you lie down to sleep at night, and wake up thinking about them in the morning?
Who are your favorite series writers, and what are your favorite series built around groups of friends or a team of people?
And what is it, exactly, that makes them seem so real to you?
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.