Posts tagged with: Tiara Wars

March Coming Attractions

Finally March!  Can spring be far behind?  I sure hope not!

Welcome to the first month of the new, laid-back Lair.  As you can see, we’ll be around from time to time, and we’ll also have guests on occasion.

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Bandita Jeanne Adams will be in the Lair on March 8th to talk about Spring Books, Springboks, Reeboks and Heading Into Bloom Time (just kidding about the Springboks.  Wanted to see if you were paying attention!)  She’ll also be giving away a copy of her WWII Novella, Behind Enemy Lines.

 

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On March 17, celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the Lair.  We’ll have Sven’s special canapés along with other yummy treats and, of course, the traditional green beer.  Rumor has it that the cabana boys will all join in the wearin’ o’ the green.

We’re also celebrating the launch of a new anthology, Tiny Treats 2: A St. Patrick’s Day Collection, which features micro-stories that are great for the occasion. Some of the authors will be dropping in. So come join the party!

 

 

Dangerous SecretsCaroline Warfield will be back in the lair on March 24th to talk about sex (Heavens!) and her new release.

As Donna MacMeans will be on the road on March 23rd (at least she’s headed someplace warm and sunny) she’ll be blogging on March 25th instead.

Nancy Northcott will be in the Lair on March 26 to chat about books under the bed and other unfinished projects.

 

 

 

SALE NEWS!!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00004]Caren Crane is taking part in a special IDES OF MARCH sale by some of the Red Door Reads authors! To get you in the spirit (or spirits?) of the Ides Of March, the authors at Red Door Reads have put titles on sale for only 99 cents! Caren’s TIARA WARS is part of this sale. Check out a list of all the sale titles at www.CarenCrane.com. (And while you are there, please sign up for my newsletter! 😮 )

 

If you want a reminder when we’re here and chatting, remember that you can sign up for the RSS feed.  If you have any problem with that, email romance bandits AT gmail DOT come (no spaces) and let us know.

What’s your favorite thing about the month of March?

So Long! Farewell! Auf Wiedersehen! Adieu!

Well, kids, it’s my last regular blog day here in the Lair. Somehow, though, it doesn’t feel like it. I fully intend to come back and harass you guys from time to time. You know, new releases. Special events. I will probably also host guests and just come by to say hello.

Red Door Reads profile picY’all know we are moving lots of our activity to our Romance Bandits Facebook page, right? Well, I am usually terrible about posting things to Facebook, but since Red Door Reads and now Romance Bandits are using it so heavily, I am trying—slowly, painfully—to change my slothful habits and hang out there more. Really!

killLarry2dThe Red Door Reads chicks have kicked my behind long enough and hard enough that I actually have a NEW novella coming out in April. It is called CROSS SPRINGS SCANDAL and it is the story of what really happened to Katie Warren’s husband Larry. Larry has been dead for a year when Tiara Wars begins. We know Larry had a massive coronary, but we only get some sketchy details about what brought it on. Cross Springs Scandal will give you the rest of the story, told from the viewpoint of a certain Other Woman. Sounds super fun, huh? Cross Springs Scandal is available ONLY as part of the novella anthology 50 Ways To Kill Your Larry. It is available for pre-order now from all major e-tailers for only 99 cents! But the anthology of 10 novellas is a limited time release and won’t be for sale long, only a few weeks. Snatch it up while you can! All pre-order links are available at the Red Door Reads website.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00004]If you haven’t yet read Tiara Wars, shame on you! Just kidding. You will have the chance to buy it ON SALE in March. Keep your eyes peeled and on those Facebook pages! I will also be announcing it in our Romance Bandits newsletter, so be sure to sign up here! And to keep up with what I am doing, sign up for my newsletter here!

In case you haven’t sensed it yet, there is a theme here. Sign up for things! Like things! Subscribe to the Romance Bandits RSS feed on our comments page! Stay notified! I am, selfishly, glad not to be forced to blog several days every month. But I am going to be forced to post to Facebook and to update my lamentably neglected website. So hang onto your hats, Bandita Buddies, ’cause things be changing and we very ancient Banditas be changing with them!

Okay, that was BORING! Now, tell me what you are changing this year. Not whatever you resolved for the New Year and promptly forgot, but what you are really changing. I am moving my fat butt around more this year. I have been doing a pretty good job of that so far. Now your turn!

Book Launch Booty!

BanditBooty Thanks to everyone for swinging by to celebrate my (sort of) double book launch! I’m happy to announce the winners are two of my favorite Bandita Buddies:

 

AMY CONLEY and LOUISA CORNELL!!  Amy and Louisa, please drop me a line to carencrane AT gmail DOT com and let me know whether you want a copy of BABY STEPS or TIARA WARS  and what ebook format you prefer. 

Congratulations and thanks again for being such awesome wonder-Buddies!

Caren’s Double Book Launch Blowout!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00004]I hope no one got their hopes up at that title. Really. I am the worst party hostess in the history of partying AND also terribly lazy. So, this won’t be like one of Tawny’s lovely book launch parties, where there are 12 kinds of appetizers and Pablo is circulating with both white and red wine. BUT, it is a serious celebration of the launch of my two newest books, TIARA WARS and (albeit belatedly) BABY STEPS.

Settle in and help yourself to whatever you can find. I told Sven to set out bowls of Fritos and French onion dip and to have platters of cookies and a sundae bar. Oh, and alcohol. I have no idea what he has done with those orders, which likely sent him straight to the medicine cabinet for anti-anxiety meds. Anyway, let’s talk about the books.

Baby Steps large coverBABY STEPS is the second novel in my Cross Springs series. In it, our hardworking, career-oriented heroine, Connie Burns, has decided to have a baby. And she’s about to turn 39. And she has lupus. Everyone, including her husband, thinks this is a terrible idea. But Connie is a force of nature, as anyone who read KICK START or CROSS SPRINGS IN BLOOM knows. She will not be denied. Happily, her husband Tim knows her inside and out and understands exactly how to…er…sway Connie to his way of thinking. (I hate to use the word manipulate – so many negative connotations!) Connie agrees to proceed with the plans to foster a child, which they had set aside when she was diagnosed with lupus. Once the foster-parent wheels are set in motion, Connie’s world is turned completely upside down. And you get to read about the fallout! It’s great stuff, I promise. You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll laugh some more!

If you completely missed the publication of this book in late June, that’s because I basically did NOTHING to promote it. I didn’t even have a launch party here! So I decided to let Connie horn in on Katie’s launch party for TIARA WARS. Fortunately, the two are BFFs now, so Katie won’t mind.

Kick StartKatie Warren is the heroine of my third Cross Springs novel, TIARA WARSThose who read KICK START may be surprised at Katie’s transformation from interfering busybody in the first novel to sympathetic, soul-searching heroine in the third. It’s been a long, tough journey for Katie. It’s tough to feel much sympathy for someone who was basically born with a silver spoon in her mouth and who has been showered with attention, awards and admiration her entire life, but poor Katie has been through some stuff when TIARA WARS opens.

A year previously, Katie learned her husband Larry had had an extra-marital affair. Before she could even get the truth from him about the affair, he had a massive coronary and died. To say she is conflicted is mild, indeed. But Connie, Cross Springs and good old circumstances force Katie to shake off her stupor of grief and disbelief and work toward getting some closure on her marriage and Larry’s untimely death. It also leaves her no choice but to decide who she was, who she is and who she wants to be. Poor Katie!

Cross Springs In Bloom coverIn both these books, I put the heroines through some serious soul-searching and emotional turbulence. But I also packed in the crazy people of Cross Springs, some really funny scenes, and the sort of “this could really happen” stuff that is too rarely seen in fiction. Connie and Katie’s stories are not unique. We all know women who have had a midlife crisis, changed their minds about strongly-held choices, dealt with grief and handled the gobsmacking wallop of marital betrayal. Connie and Katie are you and me, our sisters, our moms, our friends and co-workers. What makes them special is how their pain speaks to ours. And what makes it fun to read is that their traumas, like ours, are only one facet of their very full lives.

So have Pablo pour you another drink, grab some Fritos and cookies, and let’s have a lovely chat here at the (VERY CASUAL) party in the Lair today!

BanditBootyTo break the conversational ice (while Sven whips up more French onion dip and has a small nervous breakdown), tell me about someone you know who is like Connie (career-focused, goal-oriented, loyal and a super-fun aunt!) or Katie (a natural leader, the queen bee and a serious people-pleaser). Has anything changed this person’s mind or attitude? Have you changed yours when life got crazy? I’ll share some of my own stories today, as well. I’ll also give away an e-book copy (format of your choice) of BABY STEPS and also one of TIARA WARS (one each) to two lucky commenters!

September Fun in the Lair!

I don’t know about all of you, but I can’t believe it’s September already. Before you know it, shops will be stocking up for Christmas! At least those of you in North America have Halloween and Thanksgiving to keep those retailers occupied. Here in England, we’ve seen tinsel and twinkling lights as early as the beginning of October. *shakes head*

 

A SEAL's Fantasy coverAnyway, the weather may be cooling in the northern hemisphere, as summer fades into fall, but here in the Lair, the fun is heating up – rather like the weather for our friends Down Under! As usual, we have a month packed with great Bandita books and lots of fabulous guests. I can hear my TBR mountain groaning already!

Duke very low resTawny Weber’s latest Sexy SEAL hits the shelves this month with A SEAL’s Fantasy.  The title really says it all.

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00004]Also, don’t forget Caren Crane’s Tiara Wars (launch party coming on September 21!) and Anna Campbell’s What a Duke Dares.

 

DamasoWe kick off the month in style tomorrow, with the return of a Lair favourite,  as the lovely Annie West stops by to talk about her latest book, Damaso Claims his Heir. Damaso garnered a Top Pick from RT Book Reviews and it’s a doozy of a read so check it out.

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Donna will be interviewing Caroline Warfield about her debut historical novel, Dangeorous Works, on Sept 4.

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On September 5th, debut author Patience Griffin makes her first visit to the Bandit Lair with her book To Scotland With Love, the first in her Quilts & Kilts series.

 

More fun on Sept 7th, when Nancy and Trish report on this year’s Dragon*Con adventures.

 

Duke low res*Launch party alert* On 10th September, the fabulous Anna Campbell  is holding one of the lair’s infamous launch parties to send her What a Duke Dares, book 3 in her Sons of Sin series, into the world with a bang. Swing by for a glass of ducal champagne and giveaways!

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On Sept 12th, Barbara Lohr joins Donna to talk about her new release, Her Favorite Honeymoon. Barbara will be comparing a warmly familiar setting such as a small town series to a pulse-speeding read in faraway places or times, and asking which you prefer.

 

Vexing_The_Viscount_(eBook)A familiar and beloved face returns to the Lair on Sept 16th, as Christie Kelley joins Nancy to talk about her latest releases, Vexing the Viscount.

 

On Sept 17 Trish hosts Pam Mantovani to discuss The Cowboy on her Doorstep, her debut novel. 

 

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More cowboys on September 18th, when Julie Benson returns to chat with Suz about her latest Harlequin American book, A Cowboy In The Making!

 

 

Don’t forget to check out this month’s Bandita contests!

Anna Campbell’s RT Book Reviews Top Pick, What a Duke Dares, is out in the UK at the end of October so she’s celebrating this momentous occasion by having a cup of tea and giving two entrants in her current website contest a chance to win a signed print edition of the beautiful Mills and Boon edition of the book. To enter just email her on anna @ annacampbell.info (no spaces) with the names of the other full-length novels in the Sons of Sin series. There are two of them and you might find the answer here. The contest closes 31st October, 2014, and entry is open internationally.

Tawny’s giving away a free digital compilation of Hot Kisses to anyone joining her newsletter this month. To join and get your copy, just click here.

Do you have anything special that you’re looking forward to this September?

By the way, don’t forget you can buy most of these books quickly and easily by clicking on the covers!

Exclusive Excerpt from TIARA WARS

Hi, Bandita Buddies! Here is a seriously most-exclusive excerpt from my upcoming release in the Cross Springs series, TIARA WARS. This book features Katie Warren, who was kind of…horrible to my heroine, Linda, in KICK START. Well, as we’ll find out, Katie isn’t all bad. She’s simply lived under a burden of Great Expectations from her mother and the good people of Cross Springs. Here is how TIARA WARS starts.

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00004]Chapter 1

 

Blog entry from Cross Springs CrossTalk:

 

When Will Our Katie Come Back?

 

Watch out, Cross Springs! After a year in mourning, Katie Warren should be recovering enough to resume her duties as Cross Springs’ resident Queen Bee any moment now. All the Wannabes should be happy to have her climb back up on her throne! The Women’s League silent auction for the Old Fashioned Fourth of July celebration is rumored to be a sad, sorry mess. Only Katie’s purportedly magic touch can set things right. But will she shed her widow’s weeds and jump back in the social saddle in time to spare the Leaguers certain embarrassment? Or will she remain in seclusion, a shadow of her former glorious self?

 

My husband Larry haunted my garden. Well, his feet did, anyway.

Even as the North Carolina June suffocated me like a magnolia-scented blanket, I could almost see his grass-stained Topsiders and office-white lawyer’s ankles peering at me from behind the rose hedge.

Most would look around my garden and see serious Southern Living center spread potential. But even after a year, the memory of Larry’s dead legs sucked the joy right out of my once-sacred retreat. Added more fuel to my slow-burning anger at him.

The anger was secret and would remain so. My Mother and the Women’s League of Cross Springs would never countenance display of such an unsavory emotion. Or any other emotion, really.

A sudden burst of Für Elise jarred me from my gloomy thoughts. I fished the cell phone from my pocket.

“Mom,” my daughter Callista barked. “Where are you? I’ve been waiting fifteen minutes already.”

I swiped an arm across my damp forehead. “What time is it? I thought you worked until three today.”

“Mom, it’s 3:15.” She hurled the words with that particular level of disdain only available to teenage girls.

Since this was standard issue Callie these days, I ignored it and glanced at the phone display. She was right. It was later than I had thought. My keen sense of timing had fallen prey to days with no structure.

“Sorry, sweetie. I’ll get there as soon as I can.”

I rushed into the mudroom behind my kitchen and scrubbed the bulk of dirt from my hands. No hope for the garden clogs, which I left on the ceramic tile by the kitchen door. I slipped into the old, comfortable sandals waiting just inside the kitchen.

Sandals I would never have worn in public last summer. But lots of things had changed since then.

I slid on sunglasses in the car and, as a nod to the beauty queen I had been, applied sheer pink lipstick. I still looked awful, but as Mother would say, “Dark glasses and lipstick cover a multitude of sins.” She should know.

I used to care about my appearance. No, scratch that. I had always been obsessed with how I looked. Part and parcel of living on the pageant circuit my entire youth, then spending my adult life being properly put together, Women’s League of Cross Springs style. My current negligence was evidence of how far down the hill I had slid since Larry died. I couldn’t seem to care anymore.

Callie was nowhere to be seen when I pulled into the parking lot of the renovated shopping “village” housing String ‘Em Up. It’s a bead store, not a lynching parlor, no matter what the name seems to imply. Callie and a couple of girls from her youth group had worked there the past three summers.

Teenagers manned cash registers, bussed tables and peddled muffins in the quaint brick shops that made up Farmsworth Village. It served as the heart of historic Cross Springs, North Carolina. My church, Cross Springs Methodist, was old as the town itself and sat in squat splendor right across the road.

A block away was the pseudo-historic train station. “Pseudo” because the original had been a tiny wooden shack they had torn down ages ago. The new one was brick and housed the drivers license office inside and, on weekends, the local Farmers’ Market in the parking lot. “Picturesque” was what the Chamber of Commerce liked to call Cross Springs. “Bourgeois” my real estate agent friend Connie—an official transplanted Yankee—liked to call it.

Für Elise summoned me again. “Katie,” said a voice, sliding into my ear like sun-soaked molasses, “I’m so glad I caught you.”

Uh-oh. It was definitely trouble when the senior pastor called. Kind of eerie, too, since I sat right across the street from the church. But I didn’t think he was stalking me or any such thing—not then. “Willis, what a surprise. Whatever can I do for you?”

“I wanted to ask you a favor.” Double uh-oh. “There’s a project I’m trying to get off the ground and it needs strong leadership. A special touch. The kind I know you could bring.”

My stomached bottomed out. Nobody ever said “no” to Rev. Willis Toms and made it stick. I, however, had made a habit of saying no since Larry died. “What sort of project?”

“It’s a new evangelism course called Genesis that we’re going to host, starting this fall.”

Evangelism? The hair on the back of my neck stood up and gave a parade wave. “That sounds…interesting.” Like a root canal. “And what did you want me to do, exactly?”

“I would like you to lead the course and serve as administrator. There’s a lot of preparation to be done, lots of planning, recruiting, training. It will take someone with enthusiasm and focus. I know you’ve been on hiatus since Larry passed, but naturally, I thought of you.”

Delegate, delegate! I was firmly out of the run-everything-for-everybody business. I sifted through my mental Rolodex. “What about Sandra Holmes? She’s the first person I would have considered.”

As a matter of fact, it was suspicious that Sandra had not been his first choice, since she practically leapt out of her pew as soon as anyone sent out a plea for help in our church.

“Sandra isn’t able to take on anything else right now, I’m afraid.” He cleared his throat in a significant way.

Wonder what that’s about?

“No, you are definitely the best choice, Katie. The church Council agreed with me. What do you say?”

Just say no. Say it! “I…have to think about it. When do you need an answer?”

“Well,” he shifted into business mode, “there’s a training conference on Thursday, so I’ll need to know by Tuesday whether you’re going.”

“But that’s tomorrow—”

“And we need to know by then who will represent the church. I look forward to hearing from you.”

The phone clicked off and a volley of knuckles whapped the window beside my head. I jumped, risked a look and stifled a groan. Angela Kehoe. Of all the parking lots in all the strip malls in town, she had to pull into mine.

I powered down the window and said nothing, hiding behind my dark glasses. I did not smile.

“Why Katie! However are you?”

Saccharine sweet as always, the horrible harpy.

“We’ve missed you so at WLCS.”

That is, the Women’s League of Cross Springs, as previously mentioned. An institution Angela only breached due to the hefty influence of her mother-in-law, the formidable Estelle Kehoe. The standards of the WLCS have declined since the invasion of the Yankees and granola types from the west coast, according to Mother.

“When will you come back to meetings? The plans for our silent auction at the Old Fashioned Fourth have stalled without you riding herd on us to get it done. It really is time for you to get back out in the world, Katie, and figure out what you’ll do without Larry.”

The woman was beyond crass. I couldn’t believe she had the gall to act like she hadn’t ruined my life. She was something far beyond shrewish, but I didn’t know a term for it. Scum-sucking life destroyer, maybe?

I managed a semblance of a smile that probably looked as ghastly as it felt. “Angela. I wasn’t aware we had anything to say to each other.”

Her mouth hung open in an unattractive way, showing lots of capped teeth. She had no class when we were in elementary school together, always smacking gum, laughing too loudly and showing far too much emotion. Some things never change. “I wanted to tell you our good news. Alan was promoted to partner!”

My ears tingled and the top of my head burned. High blood pressure, I was sure. Angela Kehoe was going to kick off an embolism and deprive Callie of her remaining parent if I didn’t get a grip.

Angela babbled on. “We’re taking a trip to Fiji to celebrate. Isn’t it too much?”

Thank goodness the passenger door opened then. It kept me from lurching out the window and grabbing Angela by her stringy neck. Alan was a partner because Larry died and left that corner office open. And it was all Angela’s fault.

“Hey, Ms. Kehoe,” my well-trained daughter said. “Nice tan.”

Yes, if you liked the crispy-fried leather look. Callie didn’t. She was merely practicing the sort of honey-coated backslap she had witnessed her entire life. I am a bit ashamed to say I enjoyed watching her deliver it.

“I needed a base tan,” Angela trilled. “We’re going to—”

I powered up the window and cut off her gleeful “Fiji!”, threw the car in gear and backed out—startlingly close to Angela’s French-manicured toenails.

I felt Callie staring at me, but she did not mention the incident. Not yet. My baby possessed the keen sense of timing that had apparently deserted me these days.

“You used to freak out if my seatbelt wasn’t buckled when you put the car in gear,” she said.

No censure, but lots of curiosity. After all, I hadn’t reacted this strongly to anything since my last conversation with Angela—the day before Larry died.

“You’re practically grown now—seventeen. I trust you to strap yourself in these days. Anyway, you should be driving yourself around, not waiting on me.”

She stared out the window. “I’m not ready to drive.”

“You’ll have to get ready, Callie. Next year is it. Then you’ll be in college and need a car.”

She lifted a shoulder and her silky blonde ponytail slid over it. “Most schools don’t let you have a car on campus when you’re a freshman, anyway.”

“How will you get home when you want to visit?”

She shot me the cocky grin I almost never saw anymore. “You’ll come get me.”

I gave her a rare smile of my own. “Of course I will.”

The smile didn’t hold, though. I owed it to Willis to consider his request, even if every fiber of my being screamed at me not to do it. But my mind raced with visions of that wretched Angela Kehoe frolicking on the white sands of Fiji with her pasty lump of a husband. The one who now occupied Larry’s office.

Since I was still so angry at Larry, the vehemence of my fury at the Kehoes surprised me. Nothing like a writhing bundle of inner turmoil to interfere with rational thought.

“So, why did you almost run over Ms. Kehoe anyway?”

Ah, there it was at last. But this was not a conversation I planned to have with Callie. I arched an eyebrow at her. “Trust me, you really don’t want to know.” Callie had heard enough dirt during my years of WLCS committee work to believe it. “Sorry I was late, sweetie. I was in the garden.”

She gave me a head-to-toe, taking in my scraped back hair, dirt-caked fingernails, and grass stained toes. “You don’t say.”

“Give me a break. I didn’t have time to primp.”

She looked disgusted. “You never take time to look nice anymore. It’s like you don’t even care. Even though you never really go anywhere, people notice, Mom.”

I had no defense. I didn’t care what I looked like anymore.

Callie snorted in disgust. “You have all those stupid tiaras and stuff from a million pageants. I’d think you would care a little bit.”

“I’m doing the best I can.” My latest lie hung in the air, unbudged by the blast of arctic air blowing from the vents between us.

I rolled into our neighborhood, past the purely-for-show gatehouse, not seeing the manicured lawns and seasonal flags. Callie waved at the stay-at-home moms and retirees. With effort, I managed to give them a chin nod. I had lived in Cross Springs most of my life. Larry and I had lived in the lofty confines of Moss Rose Farms for twenty years. Larry chose the house. I got used to it.

At this point, it is worth noting that:

1. I do not live in the wealthiest neighborhood in Cross Springs—those are populated mainly by Yankees and nouveau riche techie types living in what my friend Connie terms “McMansions.”

2. Living in Moss Rose Farms was a choice Larry and I (sort of) made, despite the fact that we could afford a lovely old Victorian home in the more exclusive downtown area (where I grew up).

3. Living in Moss Rose Farms ensured we rubbed elbows with persons who had no live-in help at all.

4. We had no live-in help at all, at Larry’s insistence.

As I said, I had gotten used to it.

I paused next to my mailbox and Callie powered down the window to fetch the mail. “Wow, tons of cards again today.”

I swallowed a sigh. “Just put them in the kitchen with the others.”

I fished out my keys as I neared the door and heard the distinct click of doggy toenails on the tiled path, rounding the corner of my house from the patio. A horse-sized dog hurtled toward me and Callie, a stream of drool trailing behind him.

“Tuck!” Connie yelled.

I should have expected Connie to show up. Somehow, the quiet life I had worked hard to construct the past year had gotten really loud today—and crowded.

A few points about Connie Burns:

1. She is not Women’s League material—never was, never will be.

2. She does not care.

3. She is sleek, career-oriented, a Yankee and disturbingly frank.

4. My WLCS friends do not know what to make of Connie or our friendship.

Life had thrown me and Connie together four years ago when she decided to adopt her daughter Desi and I had, for the first time ever, defied Larry and foiled the sale of a house he owned. A house dear to my heart that he cared about only for the money. Connie and I had been friends ever since, despite our vast differences.

“Hello, Con.”

She sauntered around up the path, clicking her lime green stilettos in a more genteel way than her dog’s nails had. Stilettos, to walk the dog.  

“Decide to drop in unannounced?” I asked.

She knew how I felt about such things—not kindly—and gave me a cheeky grin. “Just walking Tuck and thought I would pop by. I know how you adore company.”

I knew better than to comment on her walking the dog in those shoes. I unlocked the door. “Come in. But Tuck has to—”

“Stay outside, I know. Come on, monster dog!”

“I’ll take him to the patio, Ms. Connie,” Callie said. She had a soft spot for dogs. Larry could never abide them. Neither could Mother. Therefore, we had never owned one, though Callie had begged for years.

Callie handed me the stack of mail and raced off with Tuck. Connie followed me into the too-cold kitchen. “Good Lord, it’s like a meat locker in here!”

I shrugged. “I know. We wear sweaters. I need to figure out how to change the settings on the thermostats, but…” Another shrug.    

I tossed the stack of mail on the island. A slow landslide of pastel envelopes headed for the edge of the stainless steel surface.

“Cripes, Katie. What is all this?”

“Cards.”

“No, really?” She gave me her big-eyed, dumb bimbo look. She’s really good at it. Which is extra scary considering how wickedly smart she is.

“Sarcasm is quite unbecoming, Constance.” I drifted toward the sink. “It was a year ago today, you know. I suppose people remembered and thought to send cards.”

“And you think everyone remembered that? I can barely keep up with major holidays.”

I shrugged. “How else do you explain it?”

“Cross Springs CrossTalk. I guarantee they posted a reminder on the blog.”

“Not that again. I haven’t checked that thing in ages.”

“Well, you didn’t need to, did you? But I’d say that pile of cards is telling you something.” She sifted through the pile. “Nice of people to send cards, though. I suppose it’s another one of those things I never learned. Like at cotillion or whatever. Why haven’t you opened any of them?”

I grabbed a cloth and swiped at an imaginary stain on the counter. “Imaginary” because Inez had been here earlier today for our twice-weekly cleaning. I said no “live-in” help, recall, not no help at all. I had learned to cook and do light cleaning but was not inclined to scrub toilets. “I haven’t gotten around to it yet.”

“Cause you’re so busy, right?”

“There’s no need to be nasty, Constance. I am as busy as I care to be.”

She shook cards at me. “People are trying to be nice to you. Why? I have no idea, since you’ve kept yourself totally secluded for the past year. Not only that, you’ve hardly been civil. You don’t return phone calls—even from me—you ignore invitations and can’t even bring yourself to wave at the neighbors.”

I scrubbed harder and tried to ignore the guilt crowding my brain. No good. I threw the cloth down and leaned against the counter, arms crossed. “I’m in mourning, Con.”

“You’re in something, but I’m not sure it’s that.”

“Explain yourself.”

Her eyebrows climbed. “Like you don’t know? Come on, don’t you look in the mirror anymore?”

Heat rose in my cheeks. “I know I’ve let myself go a little—”

“A little?” She dropped the cards and began pacing and ticking things off on her fingers. “You quit every group, club and committee you belonged to—a substantial list, might I add—you stopped going to any social events, you never show up for anything at church. Worst of all, you’ve completely let yourself go. Your skin, your nails, your clothes. Look at those sandals! Even your hair.”

She spoke like it was a cardinal sin. For a woman like me, it was. Connie was no cotillion-weaned belle, but she dressed well. Flashier than the WLCS could stomach, but she knew what a dyed-in-the-wool Leaguer should look like. I swallowed the lump in my throat and raised a self-conscious hand to my dry, sun-bleached hair.

“People have noticed all that, Katie. Big time. And you know they have. Let’s not be coy. You were kind of the queen bee of the social hive in Cross Springs.”

Guilt again, stronger than ever. Guilt truly is an unpleasant emotion. “But I thought everyone would get over it. They didn’t need me, they simply thought they did. Anything I ever did, someone else could have done just as well.”

She stopped in front of me and shook her head. “Not just as well. Not even close, in some cases. I heard about the silent auction for the Fourth. Sounds horrible. No one even approached my firm about making a donation and you know we’re always on the list since Bob Newsome’s wife Carol is in WLCS.”

I leaned toward her. “I’m not irreplaceable, Con.”

She leaned toward me until we looked like those boxers I had glimpsed at one of Larry’s sporting event viewings with his lawyer friends. “Yes, you are. Nobody else is you, Katie. You’re a freaking paragon around this town.”

“No, I’m not.”

She grabbed my upper arms and gave me a little shake. “I’m not going to fight with you. You know why you have that mountain of cards and I do, too. People want you to snap out of this funk you’re in and pull your shit together.”

I pulled back and leaned against the counter again. “I almost ran over Angela Kehoe’s toes a little while ago.”

She frowned at the non sequitur. “The Key ‘Ho?” Connie’s rude nickname for Angela, one of her most difficult clients ever. “Any particular reason?”

My heart pounded. I had to tell her—had to tell someone. The weight of suppressed emotion overwhelmed me. “Yes, actually, there is a reason I almost ran over her unfortunate pedicure. There’s also a reason I’ve let myself go and that I feel like I’m completely replaceable.”

The clock ticked. My heart pounded. My pride packed it in and left town in a hurry.

“A year ago, the day before he died, Angela Kehoe told me Larry was cheating on me.”

Ripped From Real Life

People who know I write and know me in some other role—friend, co-worker, etc.—tend to believe that all my heroines are…well…me. I understand why they would think that, especially when my heroine appears to have quite a lot in common with me.

Kick StartFor instance, Linda (the heroine in Kick Start) has a lot in common with me. She’s from the same hometown I’m from. She shares my taste in music. She has kids of the same gender and relative ages of my own children. She lives in a town quite similar to the one I live in (or the way it was about 20 years ago). She attends a similar sort of church and her kids are involved in many of the same activities mine were at those ages. That’s not because Linda is me, however. That’s because I was using what I knew at the time I wrote the book. Poor Linda is actually not really much like me at all, though, once you scratch the surface. She married a good ole boy, while I would have none of that. She was a stay-at-home mom, whereas the very thought of such gave me the willies. I can see how people might think she is me, but I hope they see the differences between us.

I have been editing the next book in my Cross Springs series, Tiara Wars, this week. I noticed that the heroine of that book, Katie, also has a few things in common with me. Less of it is surface stuff, though. Superficially, Katie and I could not be more different. She was raised a politician’s daughter and a queen of the pageant circuit. She went to cotillion and always knows what to say and do in any social situation. Like I said, we could not be more different! And yet…when I got to the really meaty part of the story, the part where she has to come to grips with who and what she really is, I realized that Katie and I shared a deep and profound commonality. Deep down, Katie learns she enjoys being admired and she enjoys being in charge. She likes competition and she likes winning. That rang true to me when I wrote it and true when I read it this week. Katie and I are not alike, but she has aspects of me deep inside her.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00004]Which made me reflect that, in all honesty, ALL my characters have aspects of me. Or at least of someone I know really well. How could they not? In order to write a character, you really have to get inside her or his head. The only way I can see people is through the filter of my own experience. So, in essence, all characters are kind-of, sort-of, a little bit like me (or someone I know and love dearly). I also found that in writing male characters, I tend to give them aspects of my husband or father or brother or son. Again, we write what we know. Oh, and all those mean girls and awful neighbors and things? Yes, I know those people, too. 😀

So this week, my only profound thought has been that the old “write what you know” really is the best advice anyone can give a writer. Only sometimes, what you know is buried in layers of what seems like fun and what other people are like and what you just saw on TV last week or on vacation last year. Just know that whenever you are reading a really well-developed character wrestling with deep issues, there may just be a little bit of reality in there somewhere. Only the writer will ever know, though, which parts are real and which are the products of an incredibly overactive imagination.

JDRobbOne of my favorite games is guessing which heroine in  a romance author’s bibliography is most like her. I think Nora Roberts is probably more like Eve Dallas (in her J.D. Robb ‘In Death’ series) than any of her other heroines. So play my game with me. Tell me a favorite romance writer of yours and which of her heroines you think is most like her. Don’t be afraid to call out a Romance Bandit author, either. Everyone is fair game and it’s open season! 🙂 

Oh, and I meant to tell you that KICK START will be available as a print book very soon. So, one lucky commenter will get a print copy of KICK START!