Posts tagged with: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Fast Five Favorite Heroes

We love our heroes here in the Lair, don’t we? 🙂 So I’m going to share with you some of my favorites.

download (1)1. Gabriel  MacBain. Okay, if you know me then you know SAVING GRACE by Julie Garwood is my all time favorite Romance Novel. There is so much to love about this book, but one of the best parts is the hero, Gabriel. The heroine is a widow. Her former husband beat her, often on the advice of his Bishop. She doesn’t want to marry again, but for her safety sake, she must. Her step brother, an Englishman brings her to Scotland to the fiercest, most honorable man he knows. Johanna is still fearful, especially after she meets the large brawny Scot. Then she hears his name. Gabriel, the same name as the patron saint for protection of women and children. And it simply gets better from there!


2. Hawkeye. I have to tell you this is one of those instances when I loved the movie more than the book. LAST OF THE MOHICANS by James Fenimore Cooper is a classic novel of the American Frontier during the French and Indian Wars. The language is old and the telling very old. But when you see Daniel Day Lewis play Hawkeye. Oh My! And when he takes Clara’s face in his hands and tells her “Stay alive. I will find you!” Oh. Yeah!!

97803129924223. Vane Kattalakis. The very first wolf shape-shifter hero I ever fell head over heels for. Why? Because he loves Bridie McTierney, a plus-size woman with a heart of gold. 🙂 He loves her, he woos her. She’s his mate for life. Vane is the leader of his clan and he protects what’s his, especially Bridie! Yummo! Trust me when I tell you Sherrilyn Kenyon’s NIGHT PLAY is one of my favorite books and Vane is one of my favorite heroes! I’ve loved the were-hunter books because of him. 


4. Mr. Darcy, of Jane Austin’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Of course. Is there a romance reader who hasn’t fallen for him? I loved him in the book. I loved him in the movie. I loved him in a car. I loved him in a bar…okay, so I’m channeling a little Dr. Seuss here, but let’s face it. I love Mr. Darcy ANYWHERE! My favorite video incarnation is Colin Firth, but I’d take Matthew MacFadyn’s version, too! 

428995. Wrath. The Blind Vampire King from JR Ward’s DARK LOVER and THE KING. Yes, a hero worthy of not just one book, but two! While all the heroes of the Black Dagger Brotherhood are pretty drool worthy, Wrath has held my attention throughout the series. Because of his heroine Beth, he does the one thing he never thought he would, ascends to the throne that is his birthright. Because of her, he fights to keep it. Even when his eyesight leaves him completely, because of her faith in him. Sigh.

 Okay, so these are my five favorite literary heroes. Who are yours? Do you lean more contemporary or historical? Got any vamps or shape-shifters on your list? A movie you watch anytime it’s on, just because HE is the hero?

Real friends help friends…babysit?

by Cassondra Murray
With two very special guests

I’m just cleaning up the bar—the center for parties and activity in the lair—putting the last glasses away as the huge grandfather clock in the front room begins to chime. I’ve been burning the late-night oil the past few nights, coming up with a new signature cocktail for the lair.

Okay, truth. I’m stuck on my latest story and when I’m stuck, this is what I do. I clean. I decorate. I mix drinks. Anything but sit and stare at that blank page.

The clock finishes its chiming.


Well, almost midnight. The darn thing is always running ten minutes fast. I suppose I could fix that. Use up a little more of the time I’m NOT writing on my uncooperative story.

I go out to the oversized front foyer and stare up at the clock face, two feet higher than I can reach. Where’s one of Joanie’s gladiators when you need one?

I turn to get a ladder when my phone bleeps with a text. Probably Jeanne in the writing caves, asking where the heck I am and why the heck I’m not down there, staring at my going-nowhere story and typing words. Can’t fix a blank page. I can just hear her saying it. *sigh* I won’t be able to hide forever. I pull the phone out of my pocket.

Not Jeanne. It’s Dianna Love.

Where r u? it reads.

In the lair. Goofing off. I type. Where r u? I hit send and head for the closet in the kitchen.

Bleeeeep. At the front door. Let us in.

What? Dianna is at the door to the lair—this late? She’s the one who gets up at 4:00 in the morning—about the time I’m usually heading to bed. And who is “us”?

I glance at the time on my phone to make sure I haven’t fallen through some time portal. Yup. Eight minutes to 12.

I lift the heavy bar, flip the big metal deadbolts and swing open the door to see Dianna on the front porch. “What’s going on? Why didn’t you knock or ring the bell?”

“I didn’t want to wake up everybody else,” she says, glancing around with a nervous look. “Where are those gladiators?”

“Not to worry,” I say. “Ermingarde’s asleep.”

“What ith ermmy-gah?”

I look down toward the source of the gruff little voice. “Oh, hi Feenix!”

I can’t help but grin at the leathery little guy. Feenix is a two-foot-tall gargoyle with big yellow-orange eyes and EVL TOO printed on his shirt. His shirt says that because he belongs to someone who rides a GSX-R —or Jixxer, for short– and has EVL ONE on her motorcycle tag. He grins back, showing off his two fangs. I explain, “Ermingarde is the lair’s dragon.”

“What ith dwagon?” This question also from Feenix.

Dianna breaks in as she steps over the lair’s threshold and Feenix follows, thumping along on his fat, four-toed feet. She tells him, “A dragon is something you don’t want to meet right now, Feenix.”

I glance at the grandfather clock, then at my phone again. Something is definitely off here. “Uh, Dianna, it’s almost midnight. You don’t do midnight.”

“No kidding, “she says. “But you do. That’s why I’m here. I need you to help me babysit¸ remember?”

I squint at Dianna as though she has three heads. “You’re serious? Now? First off, I don’t have a maternal bone in my body….and second…I thought last month when you mentioned babysitting Feenix, that it meant a couple of hours maybe. This afternoon…outside.”

“As if I inherited any mothering genes?” Dianna gives me a wry grin. “ I have fish and motorcycles. And yeah, I thought this would be day gig, too, but Evalle came over in a panic an hour ago. She was out taking Feenix for a ride near my house when she got a RED V 2 text and had to take off for VIPER headquarters. She had no time to take Feenix home, so she swung by my house, and reminded me that Feenix is my responsibility, too, sort of like a godparent I guess.”

Evalle Kincaid is an Alterant—half Belador, half unknown. VIPER is a multinational coalition of all types of unusual beings and powerful entities created to protect the world from supernatural predators.

As one of the Belador warriors who support VIPER, Evalle works in the southeastern region—more specifically in Atlanta– protecting humans. Dianna became fascinated by this secret group about seven years ago when she realized most humans don’t know they exist, and she decided to chronicle their activities. Since then, she teamed up with #1 NYT best selling author Sherrilyn Kenyon to co-write what is believed to be a fictitious series on the Beladors.

The first Belador novel, BLOOD TRINITY, came out in 2010 and debuted on the New York Times list. If only people knew the truth behind this series…

Then again… better that they think it’s fiction. Otherwise there could be widespread panic.

Evalle is one of three main characters in the series. The other two are Evalle’s best friends, Tzader Burke and Vladimir Quinn. All three keep Dianna and Sherrilyn busy documenting Belador activities.

The text Evalle received tonight—RED V 2— was a Code Red to drop whatever she was doing and go straight to VIPER headquarters in the north Georgia mountains, and that’s how Dianna—a definite daywalker—has ended up on a midnight ride all the way to the lair for babysitting help from an admitted vampire like me.

“Looks like we’ll be up for a bit,” I say as I turn down the lights in the front foyer. “A bunch of Bandits are down in the writing caves, on deadlines, so I bet Sven has coffee going in the kitchen.”

I ask Dianna, “what’s up with the VIPER team? Some kind of emergency?”

“Apparently there’s been an increase in demon activity in downtown Atlanta. Evalle couldn’t say much. Just that she wasn’t able to ask Tzader or Quinn to take Feenix home because they were called out, too.” Tzader is the North American Belador Maistir (translation – head Belador badass) and Quinn has a rare gift—he can mind lock–plus he’s the investment genius who oversees Belador finances.

I glance behind Dianna as I shut the door, to find her vermillion BMW F-650-GS motorcycle parked just at the bottom of the flight of steps leading to the front porch.
“You’re on the bike?”

“Yeah. Feenix rides all the time with Evalle, so I figured it would be easier and more familiar for him than riding in a car. And I thought this way I might actually keep my leather car upholstery intact.” She casts a look at the sharp claws on Feenix’s short fingers.

“What ith upothery?” Feenix blinks up at both of us, looking from one to the other. I grin as I shut the door and Dianna tries to describe a car seat to someone who has only recently learned how to count to ten. Evalle rescued Feenix from a demented sorcerer and the little guy is just learning to talk.

I turn back around just as a gladiator walks into the room on his regular midnight security patrol through the lair. He stops in his tracks, holding a silver-colored training shield at his side.

Feenix starts to flap his wings and dances from side to side on his pudgy little feet. “Peetha!”

Dianna takes one look at the gorgeous man and grabs Feenix’s four-fingered hand. “Ah, shoot. The shield,” she says. Feenix is stronger than he looks, and tugs Dianna forward, heading toward the metal-clad warrior, saying, “Peetha. Peetha. Peetha.”

“No, Feenix,” Dianna says, struggling to hold him back. “That’s not a pizza. You can’t eat the shield.”

“Bran,” I say, trying to keep my voice calm, “you and the other gladiators might want to lose the metal shields and armor just for tonight.” Bran frowns at me. “Oh, and if you could grab one of the other guys, y’all should hide that suit of armor at the door to the back hallway.” Bran’s frown deepens, and I explain. “Feenix loves anything silver…he eats metal. He thinks your shield is a silver pizza.”

Dianna is trying to distract Feenix when a streak of yellow feathers darts into the room. The rooster takes one look at Feenix and starts to flap and sqwawk.

Feenix beats his bat-like wings in the air wildly, lifting off the floor, and makes a honking cry sound. His eyes glow bright orange and smoke curls from his nose. Dianna tells him, “Calm down, Feenix. The Golden Rooster won’t hurt anyone. Promise.”

“That crazy rooster was at Jane’s place in New York until a few minutes ago,” Bran says. “I don’t know how he got back in here without my knowing it.” Bran takes off up the curving staircase after the GR, and Feenix finally settles back to the floor, eyes rounded in worry. “Roother?”

“Yes,” Dianna soothes. “Nice rooster.”

Well, that “nice” part is debatable, but Feenix has managed to not blow fire out his nose and burn down the lair or make rooster crispies, so with the little gargoyle calmed down, we make our way to the kitchen. I can smell the coffee as soon as we open the door.

As we walk in, Sven is coming through the back with a small stainless steel bucket full of shiny, silver-colored lug nuts. He glances up, taking in Dianna and Feenix. “They’re here already?”

He sets the bucket on the table and grins at Feenix. It’s hard not to grin at Feenix if you’ve read BLOOD TRINITY, the first book in the Belador series, and I’d given Sven a copy last October when the book was released. Sven nudges the bucket forward. “I got him some treats.”

“Sven, this is why we love you,” I say. Sven tosses one of the lug nuts to me, but before I can catch it, Feenix leaps up, flapping, and snags it out of the air with his tongue.

“Yeah, but I had an ulterior motive,” Sven says, and runs his hand lovingly across the giant Viking commercial range—all silver-toned stainless steel. “My appliances are sacred. I also got him a bean bag chair.” Sven points toward the corner of the kitchen at an enormous, bright green bean bag.

“Wow,” I say. “That’s ugly.”

“Yeah,” Dianna says, “but Feenix will love it.” As if to prove her right, Feenix toddles over to the bean bag and pokes at it. Then he drags it across the room toward us.

“Nathcar,” he says.

“Coming right up,” Sven says, and reaches for the remote. He clicks the tv above the refrigerator to the appropriate channel. He obviously paid attention when he read BLOOD TRINITY.

“So,” I say, and raise one eyebrow at Dianna, “what does one do when one babysits?”

Dianna frowns at me. “Don’t ask me. I like to fish and ride motorcycles. You never babysat?”

“Twice,” I say. “In emergency situations like this one. I promised to keep them alive, and that’s what I did. I did not promise fun, and we didn’t have much. All my children have fur or feathers. I have no clue what to do with a ba—uh….a two-foot gargoyle”

“He seems to be doing just fine,” Sven says, and nods toward Feenix, who is happily cuddling his stuffed alligator, watching NASCAR® and sucking on the steel lug nut like a lifesaver candy. “Hey, Feenix, I thought you had an art contest going on. Got the finalists yet?”

Feenix looks at Sven, then around at Dianna, “Where’th my picthur?”

Dianna sighs. “I would have thought Evalle had explained this to him by now. The finalists will be announced on September 19th at

“That’s next week,” I explain, when Feenix looks confused. He makes a happy grunting noise and goes back to his NASCAR® show.

I pull up one of the old kitchen chairs around the heavy wooden table. Dianna chooses another chair as Sven sets out human snacks and pours coffee for himself and the two of us. Clearly, he recognizes two incompetent gargoyle-sitters when he sees them, and plans to stand guard over his beloved appliances. “Hey,” I say to Dianna, “Why don’t you tell everybody how this has turned into The Year of Feenix?

“It really has,” Dianna says, and grabs a carrot stick from Sven’s tray. “And I wish I’d planned it, but it was all fate. I’d intended to draw Feenix last winter, then hit on the idea of the art contest, because of having been an artist before I started writing. We set it up so that high school and adult artists could create images of Feenix for prizes—money, art supplies, and books for the artists and for school art departments and libraries. And we scheduled the announcement of finalists for September 19th.”

Feenix makes happy sounds and flutters his leathery wings as the cars in the pre-recorded race scream around the track. Dianna keeps one eye on Feenix and smiles as she sips black coffee.

“But then the next book release got moved up, right?” I munch broccoli spears with Sven’s homemade ranch dressing, and watch Sven refill cups and start another pot of coffee.

“Yeah,” Dianna continues around a bite of carrot. “ALTERANT, book 2 in the Belador series, was originally scheduled to be released in November, but Pocket (the publisher) changed the date. They set it for September 27, just two weeks after the My Feenix™ Art Contest Finalists are announced. And ALTERANT starts with Feenix—so that was a really cool kind of kharma we couldn’t have planned if we’d thought of it.”

“And,” I say as I point at Dianna with a piece of celery. “You’ve got a Belador story coming out as a free e-book in the next couple of days, right?”

“Right. This week, we’ll release the free story FIRE BOUND—and Feenix has a big role in that too.” Feenix looks over at Dianna and grins. “So this is definitely your year, isn’t it, Feenix?”

“Yeth, dammit!”

“Feenix!” Dianna and I say at the same time. Sven turns toward the sink and snorts back a laugh. Evalle accidentally cursed in front of Feenix just once, and he picked right up on it. She’s been trying to undo that ever since.

Feenix blinks his yellow eyes and shifts around on his bean bag. “What ith year?” He flutters his wings and Dianna rolls her eyes.

“I’ll announce the release of the free story this week on my facebook page,” Dianna says. So everybody be watching for that. Also, you can check my website for the news, too. It’s And, you can read an excerpt of ALTERANT there as well.”

“Looks like we’ve got a long night ahead of us,” I say. “Sven, keep the coffee coming, and make it strong.”

Here’s the blurb for ALTERANT.

In this expl
osive new world of betrayals and shaky alliances, the only Alterant not incarcerated faces an impossible task — recapture three dangerous, escaped creatures before they slaughter more humans…or her.

The way Evalle Kincaid sees it, saving mankind from total destruction should have cleared her name. But when words uttered in the heat of combat are twisted against her, she’s blamed for the prison break of three dangerous Alterants. She has one chance to clear the cloud of suspicion hanging over her…for good. All she has to do is recapture the escapees. But deals with gods and goddesses are tricky at best, and now the lives of all Beladors, and the safety of innocent humans, rides on Evalle’s success. The only person she can ask for help wants to see her dead.

So, Bandits and Buddies….have you ever had to babysit?

A lot of you are moms and dads, but before that, what was your first experience caring for a little one?

Did you babysit for money, or was it your younger brothers and sisters you had to care for?

Are you like Dianna and me? Did you have to work at the whole “caregiver to kids” thing? Or did it come naturally to you?

We’re going to need lots of help tonight, cuz we’re both clueless about babysitting a two-foot-tall gargoyle who can fly and breathe fire. At least Sven has lots of treats on hand. So tell us, what would you do to entertain Feenix?
(And no, letting him barbecue the Golden Rooster is not an option.)

Give us your best babysitting tips and advice, for a chance at a free book Dianna will give away as her thanks to you for staying up with us and helping babysit Feenix.

Dianna is expecting her early copies of ALTERANT any day now. So she’ll give away a copy to one person who helps us out tonight and tomorrow.

Sven, your free copy is already set aside.

LAUNCH PARTY!!!! WOOT! T-minus 6 days..5..

by Jeanne Adams



And yes, I AM shouting. Grins. I’m going to apologize right up front for shouting and happy dancing, and being just a liiiittttle bit immodest.

This would be the reason: Deadly Little Lies was the book that almost wasn’t. It was written during one of the darker periods in my life as my father’s health was failing, and I had a difficult time getting it completed.

(BTW, Thank you again, to all the Banditas and BB’s who helped me through all that. Ya’ll quite simply rock!)

Of course, once I got it done, I had to edit all the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth out of it before I turned it in. There was a LOT of that. I mean, a LOT.

And, ya’know, heroes in modern stories just shouldn’t gnash their teeth. Really. Bad for their teeth, right? Grins. And my hero, Davros, called Dav, my dashing Greek shipping magnate, has beautiful teeth. I couldn’t endanger those pearly whites!

Then in edits, I had to be sure I had the timeline straight (Oy!) and, when I made Dav, and Carrie, the heroine, go down some dark, spooky and very forgotten tunnels, I had to be sure I brought them back out the SAME WAY. (EEK!)

I actually had to make a map of the tunnels so that I was sure I had done it right. Good thing I like to draw because MAN was that complicated! Yikes!

For those of you who write, I know you feel my pain, right? Right? Please say you do, and if you don’t lie, and make me feel better, okay?

For those readers who aren’t also writers, this is how it goes sometimes. You feel like you’re pulling the book out of your imagination a struggling word at a time. Ex-haust-ing.

Then you turn it in. And you wait. And you get nervous. And you decide it’s the absolute worst book you ever wrote and you’re going to die of mortification when it comes out and bombs and….and…and….

My only comfort was the memory of hearing La Nora (Roberts) say that sometimes, in the middle of the book, she’ll call a friend and complain that she’s never written such terrible schlock in her life, and it’s the worst pile of (expletive deleted) she’s ever seen.

Yeah, but she’s La Nora, my errant thoughts would remind me. So I would resume my pacing.


Nervous Wreck.

I considered taking up serious drinking as a contact sport.

Grins. But I really like to drink to CELEBRATE, so…..

Much to my (immense) delight, and relief, DEADLY LITTLE LIES received a TOP PICK from Romantic Times Magazine. The reviewer wrote:

“Non -stop action and heart-stopping danger make this book unputdownable!”

Now, I don’t know about you, but unputdownable sounds pretty darn good. I don’t know if it’s a real word, but I don’t care. Now you can understand my relief. Other reviewers have said they stayed up late to finish it in one gulp.

WHEW!!! Thank heavens.

But my insomnia had actually started early on, in the production stage, after the “get the timeline straight” call from my editor. Did you know that authors do cover quotes? I’m sure you read those. At least all of us newer authors HOPE you read them. If you don’t read them, please don’t tell me.

If you do….what do you think of them? Do you ever take a look at a book based on the cover quote?

Oh, and to give you further insight into my insecurity, you realize that those much-more-famous-than-me authors actually have to read the book, ahead of time, and quote on it?

As I approached that stage, I was all but ready to throw in the writing towel. I was sure my colleagues would laugh…or worse, pity my poor efforts. I was a flat, wrung out mess.

One of my all-time favorite NYTimes Bestselling authors, Dianna Love, is going to here in the Lair in a week or so. She’s written innumerable fabulous books, both on her own and with Sherrilyn Kenyon. One of my all-time favorites of hers is Blood Trinity, the first in the Belador Series.

So you can imagine that I nearly keeled over and died when she gave me a quote for the cover of Deadly Little Lies, calling it: “…an edge of your seat read.”

(That’s Dianna in one of her fabulous Blood Trinity t-shirts, with a fan)

Oh, lawdy, where’s my celebratory cocktail? Really, really, relieved. Grateful, and relieved. You see, I had the worst time re-reading this book for edits. Terrible. Usually I sail through all of that. Not. This. Time. So I had to send this book to my colleagues before I gave it a last edit.


So, imagine my even greater surprise when the 2011 RWA Lifetime Achievement Winner, the inestimable Sharon Sala offered to give me a quote. I felt like both the book and I were a hot mess, but Sharon said I was worried about nothing. She said there was “…sizzle on every page.”

SO, now, more than with any other book, I’m in the mood to really celebrate a LAUNCH DAY!!!

Sven! Bring the special Hurricane Earthquake Punch!!! (Hey, we have to also celebrate the fact that the power stayed on in the Lair, in the Writing Caves, and at my house because several of us have Sept. 1 deadlines! And no earthquake damage!)

Paolo!! Bring the hors d’oeuvres! We need sustenance for our Launch Partying.

Demetrius!! Bring the torches! Someone needs to light up these caves….which leads me to giving you a little excerpt. Grins. Dav, the hero, is claustrophobic. His enemy had locked him, and his lady-love in an underground cell. They have to figure a way out….they find a door and…

Dav took a deep breath and started into the tunnel. The light wobbled, then steadied and he could feel the warmth of Carrie’s presence at his back. Two steps in, she wrapped her fingers in the loop of his belt. Somehow, the contact was reassuring, bracing. The palpable connection made the dark less horrifying.

Much later, they’re both despairing….

“I want to keep going, she insisted. What if there’s a way out, just beyond this?” She stopped suddenly and he heard her draw in a shaky breath. “Oh, my God, Dav, what if it’s a dead end?”

“Carrie,” he kept his voice firm in the face of her rising panic. “I will not allow you to die. I have told you this, yes?” We will find a way out. Now, come and sit down, rest. You can tell me your secrets and I will tell you mine.”

In spite of his own fears, Dav makes sure Carrie feels safe. He’s really a wonderful hero, without being “too perfect to live” like some heroes are. He gets hurt, bruised, banged up, has a panic attack about being underground (his father used to lock him up as punishment – something to panic about!), and yet, he keeps himself level for her sake. He’s kind of like a 21st Century, Greek Indiana Jones in a way.

Although, he’s really more Thomas Crown than a McGyver type, but he’s smart and he can figure it out.

Carrie on the other hand, is more like McGyver. She’s the one with the pocket knife that has 27 tools. She’s the one who figures out an alternative exit.

She’s more like Annie Walker on Covert Affairs, without being a spy. Or maybe a bit more like the Julia Roberts character, Maggie Carpenter, in Runaway Bride, she is capable, competent, and mechanically inclined, but she’s got some scars that keep her wary.

If you read DEADLY LITTLE SECRETS last year, you’ll have already met both Davros “Dav” Gianakopulos and Carrie McCray. I hope you liked them and will want to read their story in DEADLY LITTLE LIES.

In my regular form and fashion, things blow up. There’s a fairly high body count. Grins. Oh, and did I mention a LOT of twists and turns?

This would be why you need the torches. Ha!

So, grab a flashlight, pen light, mag light or torch, get a Bloody Mary, or a Margarita, or a glass of milk and some of Sven’s famous chocolate chip cookies (He stole the recipe from Joanie T – YUM!!!!), and grab a chair and start reading.

Then….riddle me this, spelunkers….

Are you more like Bond or McGyver? Annie Walker (Covert Affairs) or Maggie Carpenter (Runaway Bride)?

What about your Significant Other? Or if you don’t have one at the moment, which type do you prefer? The polished, lethal weapon-type like Bond, or the rougher-hewn, all-purpose, get-you-out-of-any-jam like McGyver?

Or in more recent vernacular, are you more like Michael Weston (plan it, execute it) from Burn Notice, or Hank (use what’s at hand, make it work) from Royal Pains? And which do you prefer?

Don’t even get me started on Neil, the guy from White Collar…..whew!!!

Let’s get this party STARRRRRRRTED!!!! Music! Lights!!! Cookies!!! Drinks!!!

Dianna Love’s Romantic Thrillers

by Cassondra Murray

Dianna Love stops by the lair regularly to comment and say hello, but it’s been two years since she made an official visit. In that time she’s added New York Times Bestselling Author to her resume.

If you spend any time with Dianna, you can’t miss that she stretches every boundary to be her absolute best.

That determination and a whole bunch of talent earned her a coveted Rita award for her first published novel, Worth Every Risk. I was lucky enough to be there that night to see her receive that award. Scroll down a little and you can see Dianna with her Rita statue on the night she won her category.

Like any award-winning novelist, she pulls out all the stops to give readers a fast-paced, page-turning story, combined with powerful characters and unexpected story twists.

But she and Sherrilyn Kenyon are stretching the boundaries of the romantic suspense genre with the down and dirty agents of the BAD Agency—Bureau of American Defense—and their cutting edge stories. In fact, Dianna now refers to the books not as romantic suspense, but as romantic thrillers.

First of all, welcome back Dianna!

Thanks! It’s great to be here again.

I’d like to focus on that shift to what you call romantic thriller. What is that, how is it different from a romantic suspense, and how did you end up going this direction?

I came to writing romantic thrillers because of my love of romantic suspense and thrillers. But there was a time the term “thriller” wasn’t being used even in mainstream.

I think of romantic suspense as an action story where the central plot is a romance and the secondary plot is the suspense about something the hero and heroine are trying to recapture or protect, but the two plot lines are wrapped so tightly together one will not stand without the other.

In a romantic thriller the main plot is also a romance, but the secondary plot has several layers that encompass a larger scope of what is at risk – generally very high stakes and it could affect a larger group of people (a city, an international organization, a world threat, etc).

I’d have to agree that these books are bigger than the ordinary suspense. In fact, there’s an edge-of-your-seat quality to these stories that I have not seen elsewhere in romance fiction.

You and Sherrilyn were good friends before you started writing together, right? Will you tell us how the collaboration happened?

Sherri and I met while on the road at conferences. It was the beginning of 2005 when my first book was out. I had a busy travel schedule. Sherri on the other hand was being asked to speak everywhere – and still is, especially with hitting #1 on the New York Times list nine times in just over a year.

Okay that’s definitly worth a pause to give a very loud and rowdy WOOHOOO to Sherri for that amazing accomplishment…..ahem…now back to Dianna’s story….

We’d both arrive at a conference a day early to spend a quiet day writing and would run into each other at lunch. By the third conference in three weeks, we were watching for each other.

Over the next few years we toured together when she had a hardback out, went to Germany for a reader convention, hid in the mountains at a cabin to write and became very close friends. We approach marketing with very similar views and we did a lot of brainstorming on how to promote books.

One night late – early, actually, since it was 2:00 am – we were just back to some hotel room from a signing and talking about books she had coming up. We hit on the BAD (Bureau of American Defense) agency series and started talking about her next one. I love to brainstorm so I started throwing out ideas and an hour later she said, “Why don’t we do this together?”

We decided to do it and had absolutely no plan other than we had two months to turn it in.

So the BAD agency was already created when you came on board, right? How did the writing partnership change the direction for this series and bring it into the realm of romantic thriller?

When I agreed to collaborate on the BAD Agency series, the first full novel was a fun romantic suspense. I suggested we kick it up to a romantic thriller, which Sherri and our editor went for.

The difference is that in the new books in this series there is a major threat to our national security and this threat could affect the entire world. The villains are the Fratelli de il Sovrano (Italian for Sovereign Brotherhood) with international resources and a new world plan that is unfolding as the series develops.

These are multi-layer plots woven tightly with the romance and they have threads that continue to finger into future stories.

Readers are obviously loving this direction for the series. But what is it that has drawn you to this shift? Is this something that’s happened as an organic part of your growth as a writer?

I think for me it has been both part of my growth and what I’m happiest doing. My nature is to complicate whatever I work on. When I was learning to sew in school I wasn’t happy to sew a simple pattern. I sewed a man’s sport coat. When I painted large murals for companies like Coca-Cola I was happiest when it was a complex piece of artwork with many different parts.

When it comes to writing I always want to create different dimensions within the story to give the characters a large playing field with multiple possibilities. One of my favorite movies is the Italian Job – a “who’s zooming who” story. I like the twists and turns of complex stories.

The BAD Agency series has a lot of those twists and turns. I’ve heard you say that you like puzzles, and your story worlds would absolutely qualify as puzzles in my view—and yet you manage to pull the twisted threads together and have it make perfect sense at the end. It’s a wild ride, but such a satisfying ending. How do you make that happen?

I’m a plotter and Sherri is a pantser (seat-of-the-pants writer). After we brainstorm the story, I start the first chapter because it’s normally a black ops type opening and I really like to write openings. Then I start working through the plot threads and seeing where they will go or how they would be stopped or if there’s another way to go from X to Y.

I do love puzzles and think that’s the base for my thinking in writing. I want to hide a surprise or set up a twist that is not going to turn out like the character expects and hopefully the reader will be surprised. I love to read a story that surprises me. Nothing makes me happier than watching a movie or reading a book and thinking, “Had no idea that was going to happen.”

As to how I manage to keep those threads straight and pulled together, I’ve taught the Break Into Fiction® program that Mary Buckham and I created so many times I have a short check list of what I need to keep an eye out for to stay on track. The problem that happens sometimes in suspense is not so much that the threads don’t tie up as it is that some just get dropped or the character’s motivation falls apart so the reader stops following the thread.

You’ve written three BAD agency novels and a novella with Sherrilyn. By now you’ve probably seen a pattern to the men and women who save the world in this series. Tell us a little about what it takes to be a BAD agent. And among those you’ve been a part of writing, who is your favorite hero, and why?

BAD agents are operatives the other alphabet agencies wouldn’t consider taking on, but those other agencies aren’t expected to send their people into no-win situations with orders to succeed or don’t come home.

Choosing one agent as a favorite would be like picking your favorite child when you have ten. I love different things about each one, but above all I love that the men are honorable no matter how dark their past, and the women have a core of steel beneath their flaws and fears.

Nathan Drake (PHANTOM IN THE NIGHT) had no reason to ever care for another person after what he lost, but he’s a wounded soul who cares too deeply.

Carlos Delgado (WHISPERED LIES) may look sexy and whisper sweet nothings with a wicked accent, but he’s as deadly as they come and his loyalty knows no limits. When he was a teen in South America, he held the young woman he loved as she died in his arms then walked away from everything he’d ever known to protect others he cared for.

Hunter (SILENT TRUTH)appears to have it all. But looks are deceiving when you dig beneath the façade and find deep scars. He does everything to the extreme, including love, which means he won’t risk someone being close to his life as a BAD agent or around when he faces off with an assassin.

Speaking of SILENT TRUTH—it’ll be out in just a few weeks—April 23rd. Will you tell us more about Hunter and Abbie and their story?

Hunter Wesley Thornton-Payne…the third. Doesn’t that just sound like a roaring pain-in-the-butt type of guy who’s a legend in his own mind?

Sherri named him a long time ago. I kept watching him as we worked on the series and thought – who would sympathize with a man whose family is one of the wealthiest in the world, who is very attractive and brilliant and knows it, who does not bond with other teammates?

Remember the part about “I like complex puzzles?” We laid his soul bare in the opening chapter and didn’t let up on him until the last page. His depth of character surprised me once we pushed him into some unholy situations.

Abbie was the one woman for him. I love that she comes from a simple background, but one full of secrets that multiply at the worst times. She’s a fighter, loyal, and refuses to let anything stop her from trying to save someone she loves from dying.

Oh, and the central villain in SILENT TRUTH is part of the Fratelli organization, but he’s an unusual assassin who enjoys puzzles as much as I do.

Okay I’m gonna admit it. I’ve read SILENT TRUTH, and it’s the most nail-biting, emotionally poignant story I’ve seen in years. Having the “OMG what happens next?” factor and that level of powerful romance in one read is unusual. And yes, I have to say that Hunter…well…he’s a really, really hot guy.

You can read an excerpt of Hunter and Abbie’s story by clicking on this link: http//

Thanks so much, Dianna, for being our guest here in the Bandit lair!

Thanks for having me here, but you’re not getting away that easily. I’ve got some questions for the Bandits and Buddies. I’ll answer anything else you ask, but I want to know something.

What is it that you enjoy most about a romantic suspense series?

Do you return book after book for the characters alone or is it the setting, the team cohesion or the situations they get into?

Do you like exotic locations? Are there areas you’ve not seen in books that you’d like to read about?

What type of hero is your favorite?

How long have you been reading romantic suspense?

And THANK YOU for being a reader – you allow me and other authors to do what we love most.

Dianna is giving away an awesome prize package. Autographed copies of all three BAD Agency novels, an “I’m In A BAD Mood” t-shirt, and other goodies all tucked inside a monogrammed “I’m In A BAD Mood” tote bag.

Leave an answer to Dianna’s questions to be entered in the drawing. We’ll draw a name on Wednesday.

The Trouble With Books…

by Suzanne

This Romance Bandit gig is a very cool thing. One of the benefits, at least for me, is that when I do an interview with a guest, I get to read a new release about a month ahead of anyone else. (And being the restrained person that I am, I NEVER rub it in to friends that I got to read a favorite author before them…Yeah, RIGHT!) This is very necessary for me in order to pull out interesting questions, so you, our readers get to learn about the books, without giving away any twists.

So, in preparation for Lorraine Heath’s return to the blog in June, I asked her to send me an ARC or a synopsis of the newest release, SURRENDER TO THE DEVIL, so she and I could get her blog post done ahead of time. Since I have a new grandson due around June 1st, I didn’t want to get behind on things. (It’s a grandma thing.)

Lorraine happily complied with my needs and sent me the book. Now here’s where I made my mistake. I opened it. Sigh. Lorraine is what I call a beginning to end author for me. What you say is a beginning to end author? Well, here’s my way of categorizing authors or books:

1. TRY AND SEE: Usually a debut author or someone who has been recommended to me by a friend as someone whose books I should try. I usually start these early in the afternoon or evening, or even during a slow period at work. If life or work interrupts, well that’s okay, I don’t mind. If it’s pretty good I’ll come back to the book. If it’s not one that holds my interest, then I figure I haven’t wasted too much time on it.

2. READ IN SPURTS: Anthologies and fairly good books that don’t grab me and hold me deep in the story. Anthologies are good for this, because I can usually read one of the stories in about an hour. And in an anthology, usually two stories are good. (By the way have you ever noticed that in a 3-story anthology, usually one story is really good, one is pretty good and well, the other is meh?) So I can invest time in short bursts, still have time to get the ironing or cooking done and not feel guilty about mid-afternoon reading.

3. CRITIQUES: These are those lovely stories my critique partners, (Sandy Blair and Jo Davis), send me–usually in big chunks and across the computer. I try to read them as quickly as possible so I can get any changes or ideas back to them ASAP. Also, luckily for me I love their writing and characters, so this is not a hardship for me!

4. BEGINNING TO ENDERS: These are the auto buys. The favorites. Those authors who I know will deliver a story that takes me away to a world beyond my four walls, to lives and loves I know I’ll be bereft over when they’re finished. (Julie Garwood, JAK, SEP, Suzanne Brockmann, Sherrilyn Kenyon, JR Ward, and of course, Lorraine Heath.) These are the books I plan on spending the day or evening/night reading. They are my dirty little passions…and I do not want to be interrupted reading them.

So, the moment I opened Lorraine’s newest book, I knew I was in trouble. I had to be up early for a chapter board meeting. I needed to sleep. Did I go to bed? Did I act responsibly? Nope, I indulged. AND I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF IT!! (I’d tell you more about SURRENDER TO THE DEVIL…but that’s for June’s blog…hehehe)

So, how do you categorize your books? Do you have BEGINNING TO ENDERS? Do you set aside a whole day or evening/night to read?


by Suzanne Welsh

My husband is out of town this week, so I’ve got the house all to myself. While I miss his company immensely, I love being alone.

Mind you, I didn’t say I like being lonely. In fact, I rarely feel lonely. Between the internet which allows me to chat with all the Banditas; my AOL chats with my sister, mother and at least two of my kids; and the phone which rings constantly with people worried about the state of my estate, my FHA loan rate and my need for exotic vacations in places no one has ever heard of, I’d say I have plenty of contact with people. In fact, at my work people leave their nice warm comfy beds just to come to see me…patients because of their labor and doctors because I took the time to call them! And then there is the gaggle of nurses, who love to chat into the wee hours of the night! All these interactions with others is good and provides fodder for both story ideas and characterizations.

No, I’m rarely lonely, but I do enjoy having time for me and my thoughts. I enjoy putzing around the house in my pajamas with no one home to wonder if I’m “getting dressed” today. Rocky, the wonder dog, doesn’t mind at all! He knows that jammies mean one of two things. Either I’m writing all day or we’re heading back to bed for a long nap at some point.

When I’m home during the daytime the television is never on. The CD player on the other hand is. I enjoy listening to mood music while I write. In an action scene? Usually you’ll hear some ZZTop or Lynard Skynard pounding out in my office. A sexy scene? Some Sade or Alison Krauss.

Having alone time in the evenings allows me some freedom to catch up on reruns of The Closer, NCIS (a very cool, underrated show in my opinion) or any CSI, and the latest Project Runway (did y’all see last nights outfits?!)…I already have my hopeful finalists picked out!

And then there’s the reading!! OMG…let’s see I just finished Sherrilyn Kenyon’s ACHERON,(absolutely loved it) and am reading Sophie Jordan’s TOO WICKED TO TAME, (very good so far!). SLAVE by Cheryl Brooks is next on my list.

One other project I’m starting this week is a scrapbook for a Christmas present for one of my daughters. (can’t tell you which one since they occasionally read this blog!)
So do you enjoy having alone time? When you do, what do you indulge in?

Goth Turns Golden

by Cassondra Murray

A few years ago I joined a local chapter of RWA and met its published authors. Among those authors was a lady memorable because of her long red hair, clear Celtic complexion and her awesome offbeat black outfits. But most memorable was her sense of genuine care and consideration for me as a new member, my writing, my career as a writer– her kindness.

It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t know WHO SHE WAS at the time. I might have been intimidated. Granted, she hadn’t quite become an international phenomenon (I love saying that) but she was well on her way.

Now she is one. She and her Dark Hunters have a worldwide following that obliterates boundaries that normally separate readers–boundaries like age, gender and genre preference. Yet, she’s still that same encouraging, generous person I met at my first local meeting. And in spite of her long list of accomplishments, that’s what still impresses me most about this woman.

Since that first meeting, Sherrilyn Kenyon has gone on to become a #1 NYT Bestseller, with more than 15 million books in print, and is poised to blow those numbers out of the water with her next release.

She’s in the middle of her next project for St. Martin’s Press, but she was kind enough to visit us in the lair, and answer some questions posed by the Banditas and their friends.

If you’ve been to her website, or heard her keynote speeches, you know that Sherri has had her share, and a lot more, of overcoming the odds to make her life and her career work.

She’s walked through the fire of financial devastation, markets turned cold to her writing, illness and hospitalization with her pregnancies, death of beloved family members, and nearly losing her newborn child.

When you hear her story, you aren’t left with a lot of excuses for not following your dream. She’ll tell you she’s not one for looking back. She’s about moving forward. Still, I’ve wondered what sustained her through all of that. I asked her how she’s managed to hold on to her “self”—that woman I met at my first RWA meeting. I think I’d be a jaded, hard and unfeeling person by now. But Sherri isn’t.

“The thing that kept me going was my family,” she said, “and my characters’ unwillingness to let go until their story was told.”

Sherri has written stuff other than romance, but she’s made her mark writing about relationships—in particular relationships that lead to redemption—for those who “shouldn’t” have it according to traditional standards. How did such a multi-faceted writer come to focus on love and happily-ever-after? Honestly, how did a Goth chick from Georgia end up writing some of the most powerful love stories of our generation? Other than the obvious roof over her head, what do these love stories do for Sherri Kenyon?

“ I’ve had to overcome a lot of heartache and loss in my life,” Sherri said. “Especially in my childhood. My friend Kim let me borrow one of her romance novels and I was forever changed. The characters had bad things happen to them in their lives and you know what? They got to live HAPPILY EVER AFTER! That showed me that in life, you can have many trials. Sometimes, even things you wouldn’t believe you’d live through, but in the end, you can have a HAPPILY EVER AFTER like the characters.”

Sherri is adamant about this.

“I believe in romance as a reality, not a fairy tale, and it’s the believing that characters and people are worthy of having someone to love and someone to love them in return that is the basis for my stories, and sharing that with the fans is a joy.”

It’s clear that Sherri honestly appreciates each one of those fans. I once got to hear her talk about the business of writing during a university class, where she said, “I know how hard it is to earn seven dollars, or fifteen dollars, and this person has chosen to take that hard-earned money and spend it on my book. I will never take that for granted.” Sherri has always said the most gratifying moments for her are those when a fan says her books have touched them in some way.

Author Dianna Love spent a good part of 2007 with Sherri on a whirlwind book tour, and got to see the writer-fan interactions up close and personal.

“I was impressed by her sincere interest in every person who walked up to her at a signing,” Dianna said. “In the lobby of a hotel, at the airports (when we are normally run hard after being in a different city every day for several weeks), in a restaurant – wherever. She has the nicest fans. They will arrive hours in advance of a signing – numbering over 150 at each of last year’s stops so I expect even more this year. They visit with each other, laughing as they share stories or are excited to meet someone in person they only knew by an online name. 40% of Sherri’s readers are men. Many couples come together,bringing their children. Sherri brings lots of things to give away and everyone is given a free raffle ticket so we can give away special items. Our goal is that signings are always an event. And she is just as real and caring as what everyone sees at the signings.”

This is a big year for Sherrilyn Kenyon. The Dream Hunter release, Upon The Midnight Clear hit #1 on the NYT in November 2007.

Dream-Chaser hit #1 on the NYT in Feb 2008.

On top of that, she’s just released Phantom In The Night, a collaboration with Dianna Love. Sherri talked a little about what it was like to work with another writer.

“The B.A.D. Agency collaboration was tremendous fun. Dianna and I worked well together and she’s an amazing writer.”

I’ve heard Dianna and Sherri joke about their time together living moment to moment trying to make the next book signing as they toured around the country, and about their crazy back and forth dialogues as they worked on Phantom through it all. But what came out was a really interesting blend of the two voices. I’ve read Sherri’s books, and of course, Dianna’s, but this didn’t sound like either—and yet it sounded like both. Almost a whole new “writer” formed from two.

” We became close friends long before we ever considered working together,” Dianna said. ” Sherri…would never intentionally hurt someone’s feelings and neither would I, which is why we had to have a very honest conversation about writing together. We both believe a successful collaboration depends on honesty and agreed on “no sacred cows” – that anyone’s words were up for editing – because the most important thing to both of us was the final story. We laughed a lot. I think a similarity between us is to not take ourselves too seriously, which made discussing ideas and changes easy. “

“It’s like fitting a puzzle together.” Sherri said. “Dianna has certain strengths and I have certain strengths and together they just sort of fit. ”

“We spent some time discussing the difference in our styles–” Dianna said, “with her trademark humor and I write dark/edgy – to assure we could create a strong story while not damaging our friendship. It takes a great deal of trust to work together. Neither of us had any idea what it would be like to collaborate, no plan, no guidelines. We just went for it. We both wrote through every page to give the story a seamless feel. We were both invested in only one thing – to write the best story we could. “

Of course, we’d laugh at each other and disagree just like any team,” Sherri said, “but in the end I believe we’ve forged a great partnership.”

And a successful one. Phantom In The Night hit the NYT list on June 19th, and it’s remained there for the past two weeks.

There’s a bit of a crackle in the air right now—it’s the anticipation—so thick you can taste it. This is it.

The Year of Acheron.

There’s a counter on Sherri’s website, counting down the days, minutes, and even milli-seconds until the release of Acheron. Fans have waited a long time for Ash to get his story. We’ve hurt with him, ached for him as we saw him through the stories of the Dark Hunters. This is a pivotal book in the series. Knowing how Sherri feels about her characters—that they’re real—alive—I had to wonder if this was a particularly emotional story for her to tell. Was it difficult for her to approach?

“Definitely,” Sherri said. “Acheron’s story is an emotional one. It was hard to write because I’ve had him to myself for so long, nurturing him and now he’s going out into the big, bad world. I hope the readers experience the emotions I went through while telling the story of his life.”

Sherri has said that characters have often gotten in her way and demanded their own stories, not in the order she’d intended. Was Ash cooperative with his story when the time came to write it?

“Yes, he was. I’ve had the bulk of it written for many years before I sat down to put the pieces together. There were a few moments when I felt like I was being put through the ringer right there with him, but in the end it felt liberating to get it all out.”

I asked Sherri what’s different about Acheron’s book from the others in the series. I’d read that it’s a longer book, but I sensed, from Sherri’s demeanor, that this is an unveiling of sorts—a revealing of something powerful and close to her heart. There’s an intensity about Sherri when she speaks of Acheron.

“Acheron’s book is an epic tale. It’s HIS story,” she said. “Of course you have the romance as well, but Acheron’s story holds true to his title. The fans will know everything there is to know about Ash when they’ve finished reading.”

I’ve seen a little of Sherri’s schedule and gotten a sense of the crazy, hectic life-on-tour she’s leading as a hit writer on a roll. It’s clear she appreciates the opportunities she’s earned, but I have to wonder how she does it. It’s the Fourth of July week as I’m writing this. A time for most people to relax and enjoy family. But for Sherrilyn Kenyon, the Year Of Acheron is about to kick into high gear. She was in the middle of a manuscript when she paused to give this interview.

I asked Sherri if there was such a thing as a break for her nowadays. She laughed out loud.

“It’s going to be wild for the next couple of months with the tour, K-Con, Comic-Con, just to name a few. I pretty much work around the clock. Luckily, I get to work a lot from home so I can see my family.” She smiled when she spoke of her kids. “Sometimes when I’m traveling I can take my children with me so I don’t have to miss them. But yes, I do stay busy.”

Sherri is on the road a LOT. A writing career—any career—with kids is a tough thing to juggle, and a lot of writers know those struggles well. But she’s managed to nudge a growing writing career into an exploding one, all while juggling a young family, including a son with autism. I wondered if the special needs of her child’s autism had changed her. Has it made her a different person—a different WRITER even—than she would have otherwise been?

“ I understand and have always understood what its like to overcome adversity,” she said. “I’ve had to do it and my son has to live with it on a daily basis. So that could be why I put my characters through so much.” She laughed as she said that, then she grew thoughtful. “I think that any parent with a special needs child learns patience and how truly important it is to love your child for who they are and not who society expects them to be. I am truly blessed to have him in my life.”

On top of all that, Sherrilyn Kenyon, one of the most prolific, fastest writers I know, has dyslexia. When I asked her if she ever got frustrated she laughed again.

“Well,” she said, “I love spellcheck.”

Sherri has to be able to write anywhere, under almost any conditions because she has to keep up the pace for herself, her publishers, and her readers. I asked her how she connects with her “voices” and preserves her creative flow when things were going nuts around her.

“It’s hard,” she said, and nodded. “But once I sink into my world and get into the zone, I’m there. The world could possibly fall down around me and I’m still there living with my characters and telling their story.”

Bandita Suz had a couple of questions for Sherri. Suz wondered about the difficulties inherent in writing a long-standing series while still staying true to your vision as an author. Does Sherri ever find the two at cross-purposes? Has she ever felt the temptation to cave to please readers, or go in a direction she hadn’t planned with characters or plot? (And Cassondra adds, knowing Sherri’s characters, would they ever LET her do this?)

“No. I’ve always done exactly what the characters have told me to do. I think its important as a writer to stay true to them.”

Sherri is one of the most brilliant promoters I’ve ever encountered. Everything from her merchandise for signings to her websites and the emblems she uses for branding. Suz also had a question about those websites. She’s used them to great advantage, and Suz wondered if Sherri credits those websites with helping to build her fan base to what it is today, and does she believe good use of a website can help a writer sell?

“Yes, the websites helped to get the word out,” Sherri said. “I don’t know if there’s an exact way to help a writer sell. It’s just so different for every writer. When I pitched my series and told them I had a website already, some of the editors thought I was nuts. So, it’s just different for everyone.”

Sherri’s bottom line was this.

“Never give up. If you give up, your dreams will never become a reality.”

For my last question to Sherri, I saved the one sent by my husband, Steve, who also happens to be one of Sherrilyn’s fans. Since Sherri writes about things that go bump in the night, Steve asks, “What scares Sherrilyn Kenyon?”

Sherri said, “The color pink.”

So, Bandita friends, What scares YOU?

Are you afraid of the dark?

Do you believe in angels, demons, and their ilk?

Have you ever slept with the light on? (I have.)

Do you have a favorite Sherrilyn Kenyon story? Does one of her Dark Hunters haunt your dreams?

Do you keep the lights on after reading her books? Or do you sleep better believing the Dark Hunters are stalking the night in your defense?

Coming Attractions: July

Welcome to another month of the Romance Bandits’ usual works of staggering genius! In addition to our usual lineup of vastly amusing & edifying blogs, we’ve also scheduled scads of fabulous interviews & guest bloggers this month. Please join us in welcoming the following folks to the Lair!

July 2: Cassondra Murray reports on her chat with the amazing Sherrilyn Kenyon! And it’s rumored that Dianna Love Snell may swing by the Lair as well…

July 7: Terri Garey is in the Lairy (sorry, couldn’t help it. It rhymed.) Courtesy of Beth Andrews! Terri, a double RITA finalist, takes a lighthearted look at the dark side with her fabulous series about Nicki Styx, a former Goth girlwho becomes an unwilling ghoulfriend to the dead. Her most recent release, A Match Made In Hell is currently available.

July 16: Nancy Northcott brings us Patricia Rice. They’ll chat about her 45th (!) book, a paranormal historical called Mystic Rider. Patricia’s a bestseller, a multiple RT award winner (as well as other awards) and a 3-time RITA nominee.

July 17th: Aunt Cindy (aka Loucinda McGary) will chat with Deb Werksman, her fabulous editor at Sourcebooks!

July 21: Suzanne Welsh hosts the fiery Jo Davis!

July 22nd: Caren Crane chats with the elusive Liz Carlyle! Those of you who are fans of Ms. Carlyle’s NYT-bestselling dark, steamy historical romances may realize she is rather a hermit and creeps out only under duress. Caren, it is reported, jumped her as she left Whole Foods and sat on her organic kumquats until she agreed to appear in the Lair. In addition to being, you know, HERE, she may also talk about her much-anticipated July release Never Romance a Rake. Oh, my!

Now as many of you know, RWA is hosting its annual conference in San Francisco this year, July 30 – August 2. Many of the Romance Bandits will be there, which means you in the Lair will have a front row seat as we stalk editors, agents & our favorite authors in their natural habitats. During this time, we may find ourselves temporarily unable to create your traditional, well-thought-out & properly punctuated blogs, complete with lovely photos. In its place, however, we’ll do our absolute best to supply you all with breaking news, delicious gossip & incriminating photos. Bookmark this page & stay tuned…

Happy July!

Rita Winner Dianna Love Snell is in da Lair!

by Cassondra Murray

Get inspired by a fearless, fast-track writer, and enter to win one of three awesome prizes!

It was just about this time of year, two years ago, when Dianna Love Snell emailed me to ask if I’d sent in my Golden Heart entry.

“Well,” I typed, “I entered last year and finished in the bottom quarter. I wasn’t going to enter again.” I hit send. It took about two seconds for this email to pop into my inbox.

“You never stop putting your pages in front of them. Never.”

I griped my way to FedEx and sent my entry. I finaled. And the world shifted a little. I’ve believed in my writing a LOT more since then, and it’s because one lady took the time to push me when I needed it. It’s my honor and great pleasure to welcome that lady to the Bandit lair for the first time. Dianna, thanks for joining us.

Thanks for asking me to blog on this great site! I’m really a newbie at blogging – this is my first guest appearance, so thank YOU. I hear about the Romance Bandits all over the place. Yes, as Cassondra said, I get pushy when it comes to seeing any of you miss a chance to get your pages in front of an editor. Everything you do is a step forward no matter how large or small, so you have to keep taking those steps.

Dianna, you didn’t come into the world with pen (or keyboard) in hand. It was a paintbrush wasn’t it? You’ve built a phenomenal career creating specialty art projects. Will you tell us about your journey to writing award-winning Romantic Suspense?

I often joke that I fell out of the womb an artist. I won an art competition in third grade. I’ve had a love affair with pen and paper my whole life. I enjoyed writing in school, but it wasn’t my goal as a teen. My passion – to sketch and paint photo-realistic portraits – led to the businesses I built starting at age seventeen when I was faced with living alone and supporting myself. Small signs were okay, but I gravitated to painting walls 100’ long and murals.

People in outdoor advertising needed someone who could paint lifelike faces 15’ tall on billboards, and would climb two-hundred feet in the air to do it. Over the years, I created several companies and sold all of them except the one I now have, where I create large marketing projects that are three dimensional or Electronic.

After years of hanging hundreds of feet in the air alone, I started to amuse myself by creating stories. I’d gotten to the point I could paint and do something else mentally at the same time. Once I shifted gears in business to producing
projects that required neon bending, sign fabricating, steel workers, electricians, engineers and cranes, I had huge chunks of time when I wasn’t physically doing the work myself.

It’s not possible for a Type-A to be dormant. My husband says I’m like a shark, always moving.

I’d built and installed three 25’ tall fiberglass Coca-Cola bottles for Fenway Park (Congrats to the Red Sox winning the World Series this year!) in the late 90s. In 2001, during flights back and forth from Atlanta to Boston for another Fenway Park project, I started writing down ideas I planned to give to a “real” writer.

I caught the bug and couldn’t stop – the result of that beginning was WORTH EVERY RISK (Silhouette 2005). It didn’t take long before I had every bit as much passion for writing as I’d always had for art and could not get enough when it came to learning the craft.

Of course, that publishing success didn’t happen overnight. Dianna writes kick-butt heroines, but for me, she is the model of the tough yet tender lady we’d all like to emulate. Note the gorgeous Harley in the photo below.

Side note—she and her hottie husband, Karl, do bike trips across the US for fun. On separate motorcycles, thank you very much. That bike is her baby and you better not mess with it…… .uh….. .ahem…oh yes, I did have a point….

Dianna, I’ve noticed something consistent about the way you do almost everything. You decide what you want, and then you go and get it no matter the odds. Your drive is almost a tactile thing, like a ramrod that, once you’ve headed in a given direction, seems to clear the way for you. Were you born with that inner drive?

I’d have to say I was born with a drive I can’t tamp down. I do believe you can increase your drive or decrease it – based on your positive or negative mindset, the people you allow (and I do mean allow) in your inner circle and the value you place on your time. I place far more value on time than I do on anything else in this world with the exception of my husband and family. I follow my passion.

That hasn’t always come easy has it? I’ve learned bits and pieces of your story over the years. Will you share some of your background here?

I started my first job in the ‘70s in a steno pool at a large corporation and knew I’d never be happy working at a desk. People thought I had lost my mind when I handed in my notice because that was an era when you stayed at a job, especially at a big company.

People I had covered work for, celebrated their weddings and child births, had gotten to be “friends” with turned their backs on me and would not speak. It was amazingly hostile. They said I’d never amount to anything because I was leaving a job after a year.

I worked two restaurant jobs (one at night during the week and one all weekend) because they fed me a meal, the money was good and I liked the work. Customers came in and offered me office work. When I said no, they’d say, “Don’t you want a job with some prestige?” I told them I couldn’t eat or pay rent with prestige. The only place that would rent an apartment to a single woman (they thought you were a prostitute if you were living alone at my age) was over a bar. I had to nail the window shut at night because it opened to the walkway.

Looking back, I realize my “live on my terms” attitude threatened many of them who maybe wanted to leave, but were terrified of the possibility that they might never work for a company that big again, with all those benefits.

My mother died at 42, two weeks after I graduated from high school and on the first vacation we’d ever taken. The way I saw it, there were no guarantees about how long we get to do what we want here.

And that’s your point, isn’t it? You followed your heart against the odds, and your business and career grew from there? I’ve heard you speak of this before—that if you’re not passionate about it, you just don’t do it.

I will always go back to passion when searching for the drive to accomplish a task or reach a goal. Here’s the secret – “If you truly want to do something, you will find a way.” I have never known where life would lead me, but figured if I followed my passion I would at least be happy during the journey. It hasn’t always been an easy journey, but it has always been a satisfying one. I find it much easier to get up in the morning and face a long day working at something I love than something I tolerate.

You’ve hit upon one of the reasons I wanted you to be our guest. You once said to me, “Don’t play their games…you take what you can use and you walk away and let the rest slide off.” Whether that’s a judge’s irrational comments, an editor or agent’s rejection, the loss of a coveted contract, promotion, or anything else in life, can you tell us how you use that to keep your head and heart on your own true path?

I do believe we drive our lives either in a productive way, a destructive way, a boring way, a strong way…not just in a good or bad way.

I needed money to buy paper when I was in middle school because we had a large family and a notebook was for school work only. Things like a blank sheet of white paper were frivolous. I drew charcoal portraits for supply money to feed my art habit.

People stood over my shoulder when I drew, which will make or break you when it comes to putting your work out in the world for criticism. 99% of the walls and murals I painted were done in front of the client and the world. So by the time I started writing, I had been through much worse as a teen than being told someone didn’t like my character or there wasn’t enough conflict.

When I started my business in Tampa it was frowned upon for a female to work out in a “labor” type environment. Men did not want women in the sign business – it was the ‘70s after all. Once you’ve walked into twenty-five businesses a day for weeks on end to be told, “We don’t want a girl painting our sign,” you have to decide to fade away or buck up and prove them wrong. I decided that if I proved I could paint as good – or better – than their male painters, they could not afford to turn me away.

I focused on becoming the best in my field. I was the only female doing that work in the ‘80s, and eventually I was the lead contractor in some of largest outdoor companies in the country.

You think life got simpler then? Nope. Five different times other painters sabotaged my work so I’d have to repaint the art, and some stole my equipment.

Eventually, the small minded people always fall away because they focus on the wrong things.

So you see, my philosophy is still the same – follow my passion, work at my craft to be the best that I can, act professionally and be good to others. That’s why in writing I try to help anyone I can.

Creative endeavors are not just hard work, but to create is to make a withdrawal from your muse bank. It’s easy to overdraw and think you are going to be bankrupt once in a while. That’s when you may need a helping hand from a friend.

Your passion for writing is paying off. I was thrilled to be up front, in the audience as a GH finalist when, in 2006, you won a Rita for Best Long Contemporary for your first book, Worth Every Risk, a Silhouette Intimate Moments. Did that change you or your writing?

To win in my category – Long Contemporary – was really a shock.
I can not tell you how much the cheers that
night meant to me. Even typing now it touches my heart to think about how many people wished me well.

I want that for every one of you.

As for what winning did for my writing – my agent started banking the award as soon as she got home—using it for leverage on submitted projects. We sold a novella not long after that. I don’t think an editor will buy a book because of an award, but I have had quite a few editors and agents come up to speak to me since winning, so the RITA – like the Golden Heart – definitely brings your name and face to the attention of the industry.

The first Worth Every Risk book out of my box of early copies and RITA, as Karl calls her, sit on our mantel and reminds me every day that anything is within my grasp if I’m willing to reach for it.

You have exciting things on the horizon—A novella, MIDNIGHT KISS GOODBYE, is scheduled for release in October 2008 as part of a St. Martin’s Press anthology DEAD AFTER DARK. This would suggest your writing has taken a paranormal turn, but you’ve included paranormal elements from early on, right?

I’m really flattered to be included in this anthology. Lead author is NYT best seller Sherrilyn Kenyon (who just hit #1 on the NYT list!) plus two more NYT best sellers – J. R. Ward and Susan Squires – then me.

I’ve had this strange paranormal series for a while, but didn’t let my agent take it out during the onslaught of Vampire and Werewolf submissions and releases because I don’t write those and no one wanted anything else. There are plenty of great authors already producing top Vamp and Were stories.

I’ve always had a keen interest in the paranormal, but the stories that came to me were a bit different. In fact, two editors have been interested in them, but when they pitched the stories at editorial meetings they were told marketing didn’t know how to market them. (Sidebar – Sherrilyn tells me she heard much the same thing about her now famous Dark-Hunter series, building an inch thick file of rejections on this series during the year before the first Dark-Hunter book sold.) The big thing about creating in a different subgenre is that I haven’t changed the core of my writing – I still write romantic suspense.

As authors, we will always be faced with morphing what we create to follow the change reflected in society and what readers want, but in my opinion this doesn’t mean to write whatever the latest hot streak is. I had one editor suggest if I changed my paranormal into a vampire story she’d take it. Hard offer to pass on, right? Not really. If it’s not what I write, then it will show in my story no matter how hard I try. Yes, I might get a “contract,” but if the story is not what I do best then will I build a reader base? Will I enjoy continuing the series?

A contract does not guarantee that you’ll continue with a house. Readers buying your book is the best guarantee. I’ve seen several new authors jump to change their stories to something they really don’t write only to have poor sell throughs, which ended in going out of contract. The next publishing house always wants to see your numbers. So there’s a lot more at stake than just getting a contract if you plan to build a career. Give serious thought to every opportunity.

I want readers to feel what I feel when I’m writing. If done appropriately and for the right reasons, passing on a project is not going to end your relationship with an editor. I’m still in dialogue with this editor on other things. The novella I sold is a taste of my paranormal series and I give kudos to Monique Patterson at St. Martin’s Press, for publishing something a bit strange. She’s an incredibly sharp editor. I’m excited about all four of the stories in the anthology and feel privileged to be included in such talented company.

Another release, waiting in the wings, is creating quite a buzz. You and Sherrilyn are co-writing the next B.A.D. Agency book for Pocket (June 2008). Will you tell us how you and Sherrilyn came to work together on this book?

Sherri asked me to tour with her the first time in 2006. I agreed because she had become a good friend who needed help so that she could give her best to her fans at each stop.

Touring 101 – with us – is hitting a city in mid afternoon, rushing to the hotel (“if” there is time to do that first) to change clothes, then racing to make the signing. Eating and sleeping are not optional and not generally part of the schedule most days. Somehow, we both manage to walk in on time. That’s when it’s all worthwhile.

Sherri draws over 150 fans at signings and many will have been sitting there for hours waiting. Some will have driven 6 hours or flown in. They bring friends and family. Sherri talks and does a Q&A until they are ready to sign then she takes her time with each one, chatting as she signs their stacks of books.

What amazes me is that Sherri knows so many by their names. We’ve turned these signings into fan events and the time spent from entering until we collapse in the car is exhilarating. I’ve learned a great deal by touring with someone like Sherri. I’ve also become better known by booksellers and readers due to Sherri’s generous nature – she always takes the time to introduce me as an author. Along the way, we became better friends ( touring like this will make or break a friendship, and don’t even think about doing it with a spouse).

It was on this last trip that we started discussing her next book for the B.A.D. Agency series. When she told me the blurb for the story, I naturally started suggesting things that could happen, then the two of us were brainstorming like mad.

Sherri’s reaction was “wow, that is so cool, why don’t we write this together?” What was my answer? Well, let’s just say my momma drowned all her stupid kids.

This collaboration is a contemporary romantic action/suspense. Can you give us a taste of Phantom In The Night?

On loan to the New Orleans police department, Terri Mitchell is working undercover for the Bureau of American Defense. The B.A.D. Agency suspects a drug kingpin of funding terrorism. When bizarre rumors begin to surface of a ghost interrogating members of that ring, she becomes suspicious. She doesn’t believe in the paranormal, but an eerie encounter with someone in a dark house leaves her shaken. Could he be a phantom?

Most of all, the encounter leaves her beguiled and intrigued. She has to get to the bottom of an investigation that takes a deadly turn at every corner. Is this phantom really a spirit conjured up from the depth of the bayou, or a man set on a course of vengeance? The search for that answer puts her life in jeopardy when faced with exposing the worlds and plans of powerful people behind an unconscionable attack against innocent citizens.

To succeed, Terri will have to also reveal her phantom’s secrets that will destroy him…and any future with a man who has captured her heart and soul with his dark passion.

The deadline looms for that June release, right along with holiday madness, and I know you’ve been holed up in the writing cave. I’m so pleased you were able to join us in spite of all that. Is there anything else you’d like to say to writers or readers about how you’ve tackled the ups and downs of the writing life so successfully?

Yes, speaking of deadlines…. All of you have a deadline of some sort right now. If it isn’t at home or in your day job, then it’s your own personal writing deadline.

Right now, many of you face finishing your Golden Heart submission in time to ship. I wish for all of you to have understanding and supportive families, but I bet there are some who catch grief while trying to finish their book so they can get into this prestigious contest. It’s hard to explain why you aren’t cooking a meal, visiting a friend, watching television with your significant other, making a ball game or why you are just plain grouchy from burnout when there isn’t a book deal on the line.

That’s why I am always confused by authors writing on contract who go on and on bemoaning a deadline.

Well, duh. Wasn’t that the point in going after a book contract? I’ve been around some very prolific authors who are on perpetual deadline and never utter a word about it. It’s their job, what they agreed to do.

Yes, I am in my writing cave this week typing furiously…and thrilled to have a deadline looming. Selling books and having a deadline is the good news that should be celebrated. It’s much more difficult for an unpublished author to forgo things they’d really like to do to finish a book and do revisions with no guarantee of a contract. I definitely know what that is like and empathize with those of you still waiting.

Get those manuscripts out there so that you can have a contract and deadline. When you do, remember to celebrate reaching your dream.

Everyone has a different journey on the way to reaching goals. Is there a time you’ve gone against the grain, stood up against the odds? Or would you LIKE to do that?

What home, family or writing deadline are you facing at the moment? And how do you handle the pressure when deadlines loom and stress levels mount?

And inquiring minds want to know….Is there chocolate involved?

All who comment will be entered to win one of the following three great giveaways:

1) An autographed copy of Worth Every Risk! (no longer available except through those in the know—ahem….that would be YOU, Bandita friends (grin) )

2) A five-page manuscript critique—in time for the Golden Heart if you’re entering!

3)A certificate for an autographed copy of Phantom In The Night—signed by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love Snell, to be delivered as soon as the book is out!