Monday, December 31, 2007

Interview with Author Stacey Kayne

    by Jo Robertson

    Hi, readers and fellow Bandidas, give a big, warm Bandit Lair welcome to our guest Stacey Kayne, four-time Golden Heart finalist and author of amazing western historicals. Her debut novel Mustang Wild - which currently is a contender for Best Western Romance of 2007 at Love Western Romance - sold to Harlequin Historical in July 2006, followed shortly by Bride of Shadow Canyon. Stacey resides on two blogs; you can catch her on Petticoats & Pistols, a western blog, and Writers At Play.

    Stacey is a fellow chapter mate of mine, and for those who don’t know her, she’s one of the kindest, most generous persons you’ll ever meet. Learn more about her at

    Stacey, thanks so much for joining us in the Lair!

    Happy New Year’s, All! Thank you Jo and Banditas for inviting me over. Wishing y’all a wildly fun and successful 2008!! The release of Maverick Wild is a fun way to start the New Year. With any luck, I’ll see the completion of my Wild Trilogy by the end of '08.

    Stacey, we love call stories here in the Bandit Lair. Would you mind sharing yours with us?

    It comes when you least expect it. It was two days before I had to board a plane to RWA National in 2006…and I was at an all-time low. I had promised my hubby I wouldn’t attend National unless I’d sold a book – I hadn’t, but I was a double Golden Heart finalist — I HAD to go.

    Guilt was running high and funds were running low as I slogged out of bed and dropped into the chair in front of my computer. I hit my email and thought to myself, “You are such a pathetic loser.” And then I saw it. The subject MUSTANG WILD, the sender a Harlequin editor I’d sent two westerns to just a few weeks before.

    (A friend/contest-rival of mine, Lyn Randal, had just sold to Harlequin Historical and mentioned to her editor that she had a friend who wrote westerns. Her editor asked if she could look at them, and I thought, "Why not?" They weren’t doing anything but gathering dust. I hadn’t looked at the files in nearly two years — I didn’t even open them, I just attached them to the email and hit send.)

    My next thought on this suddenly-eventful morning was, "No way!" I read the first line. "We’re interested in MUSTANG WILD and have contacted your agent. We would like to discuss this with you before you leave for National…." I ran down the hall, glanced at my hubby who’d just poured his morning coffee and shouted, "Holy shit!" Then I turned and ran back to the computer with him chasing after me shouting, "Holy shit, what?"

    LOL. Sounds like the kind of language and excitement that run amok in the Lair!

    I emailed back that I was home and awake, pulled the phone cord from my computer and my phone rang — that fast! I answered and heard the words I’d waited nearly five years to hear while my hubby sniffled behind me. Of course he wasn’t crying *wink, wink*.

    Packing my suitcase was a lot more fun after that phone call and National was a blast. A couple weeks later I sold Bride of Shadow Canyon.

    Oh my gosh, Stacey, chills run down my spine just hearing your call story. I remember how ecstatic you were at National that year! And it just keeps getting better! You’ve sold the second books in each of the above-mentioned western series. Tell us about Maverick Wild, just released, and The Gunslinger's Untamed Bride, due July 2008.

    Maverick Wild is the second book in my WILD Trilogy and is out TODAY! YAY!!! It’s been two years since the Morgans arrived in Wyoming, and Chance Morgan, Tucker Morgan's straight-faced twin brother, is our hero this time around. Chance is doing all he can to avoid the snares of marriage-minded women looking to capture a husband.

    When a woman from his past arrives at his ranch, his resolve to stay single is weakened. Cora Mae Tindale owns a foothold into the emotions he’s kept under tight rein for most his life. A distracting array of curls and curves, she hardly resembles the mischievous spitfire from his youth, but her eyes hold the shadows of a painful past, and a passion she struggles to conceal. When Chance gives in to his own desires, he discovers something he’s never faced—she doesn’t want him.

    Cora Mae’s indifference entices Chance in a way blatant flirtation never could. He yearns to discover the truth she hides, and as their pasts catch up to them, rekindled love becomes their greatest protection.

    Sounds great! There's nothing like an alpha-male turned on his ear to pique my interest!

    The Gunslinger's Untamed Bride, second in my BRIDE series, will be out in July, and features the young gunfighter adopted by Jed and Rachell at the end of Bride Of Shadow Canyon. I’m really excited about this book — it was a blast to write. The plot and characters were conducive to the amount of action I like to experience in a western.

    Juniper Barns has grown into a hunky man who’s having a hard time shedding the violence of his past. She vows to kill him....he'll risk everything protect her!

    Lily Carrington sees the name of an infamous killer on the payroll of her new lumber company and leaves her cushy San Francisco office to journey into the untamed wilderness and avenge her father’s death. Unprepared for the turmoil of a lumber camp torn apart by financial strain, Lily finds herself at the mercy of lumberjacks willing to do anything to get their pay. A handsome stranger determined to keep the peace becomes her sole protector—the very man she’s sworn to kill.

    Juniper Barns has sought out a secluded life to escape the ghosts of his past, men seeking revenge for those he'd killed during his youth as a gunfighter. Realizing his new pretty boss has come with vengeful intentions, Juniper knows his troubles have just begun. As they work together to bring the lumber camp under control, their mutual desire becomes a new threat.

    Can they overcome a past built on vengeance to find love in their future?

    I hear you have some exciting news about a four-book contract! Give us the 411 on that.

    I dropped into bed after finishing GUNSLINGER, relieved to finally be deadline free for the first time in over a year. I figured I'd take a little break before working up any new western proposals...sometime before Christmas maybe...*g* Well, I woke up six hours later to a message from my agent - my editors at Harlequin sent us an offer for FOUR more westerns — no proposals or anything =:-O I was stunned, and excited to say the least. After some pleasant negotiations and working out deadlines that didn't give me chest pain *g*, we accepted the offer :)

    The first of the four will be the third book in my Wild series, where Garret Daines gets his shot at love — during the Wyoming blizzard of 1886. I’ll be taking part in a Spring Bride Anthology with Jillian Hart and Judith Stacy, due out in June ’09 — and two more full-length westerns will fall somewhere in between.

    You’re the mother of two teenaged boys, which is a huge challenge all by itself. How do you manage such a prolific writing career with parenting teenagers?

    I rely on my laptop and spend a lot of time writing in my truck. We live nearly ten miles from town, so once I leave my casa, it’s not time or gas effective to go home until all activities are done. Every weekday from 2:30 – 5:30 I’m sitting in the parking lot of the school or the tutor, writing on my laptop. Over the summer my boys had drum camp and water polo practice, and the heat drove me to the local library, where I searched out a quiet corner to keep cool and pump out pages in between events ;-) .

    The great thing about having teens is they can work a microwave, dig through the laundry pile and be understanding when mom needs to get caught up on her page count after driving them to and fro.

    The Banditas were just talking about keeping risqué clench covers away from inquiring young eyes and minds. What do your boys think of your writing? Do they read your books? Do you get teased by their friends?

    When a new cover comes in, it’s quite the excitement in my house. It usually starts with a squeal when I see the attachment in the inbox and the family gathers round to watch my dial-up deliver the jpeg in tiny increments. My boys (hubby included) prefer the cowgirl on MUSTANG WILD over the cowboy on MAVERICK WILD.

    My hubby’s first comment about MAVERICK was, "Hey, they forgot to button his shirt!" My fourteen year old said, "What’s that guy going to do, challenge a cowboy to a posing contest?" Me, I just grinned *g*. The men in my life are very supportive of my writing.

    I don’t allow my sons to read my books because of the love scenes, but they tell me quite a few of their junior high friends have read their parents’ copies, certain chapters at any rate — which embarrassed me, but surprisingly made my boys all the more proud. I’ve had young readers attend my book signing with their parents who’ve told me all of them are reading my series — and that’s pretty neat. Considering I was nearly thirty when I read my first romance, I still blush.

    You also write romantic suspense, which was a surprise to me. That’s a genre near to my heart. Tell us about your romantic suspense books. I know you believe in stock-piling completed manuscripts. Are those books part of your stockpile LOL?

    I do have a few contemporary manuscripts in my stockpile. You can’t fight the market. That’s just fact. The 2002 RWA conference was my first, and the big buzz around conference that year was WESTERNS ARE DEAD. Not exactly what a budding western writer wants to hear. But I stuck to my guns, finished a few more westerns--had a few bites from editors. After two years of NEARLY selling westerns my agent told me I had two options…wait out the market or try something new. I’m not so good at the waiting thing, so I decided to try my hand at a contemporary western with a splash of suspense—before I knew it I had another pile of manuscripts and contests wins.

    My RS manuscripts have been waiting patiently on the backburner while I settle into my western digs, and hopefully will find their own home in the next year or so. Trying to keep it fresh, I’m currently working on a hit man series, which I’m anxious to get in front of editors.

    Which did you start writing first – romantic suspense or western historicals – and why did you become so prolific with the westerns? How much research do you do for them?

    I started with western historicals. I finished my first western the day before the 2002 Golden Heart deadline, dropped a hundred bucks to overnight Bride Of Shadow Canyon to RWA, then mailed it to an agent, who signed me three weeks later. Characters are always talking to me, and I was in the midst of writing two more westerns when, to my sheer astonishment, BRIDE finaled in the Golden Heart. I wrote five westerns before I made the jump to Contemporaries in 2004.

    I love researching a new historical. I have a fetish for old maps and love reading pioneer journals and pouring over history books. My first few westerns started with old maps and plotting a course I wanted my characters to take, and then I figured out the catalyst for getting them from point A to point B and all the calamity they’d find along the way.

    While writing Bride Of Shadow Canyon I was taking American History night classes, which helped to fuel the backstory of my characters. My personal library is now bursting with books and encyclopedias on the old west, Native Americans, railroads, horses, logging camps, western slang, trade and trappers, cooking and housekeeping in the 1800’s—lots of interesting tidbits!

    I know you’re something of a contest diva (in the Lair, we usually say Contest Ho). Tell us how you’ve run the contest gamut and your feelings about contests.

    *LOL* Uh, yeah. I’ve entered a few contests. *g* For me, contesting was a wonderful motivator to keep plugging on, to start the next book and make those next contest deadlines. I also met some of my very best friends on the contest circuit. Writers At Play is a new blog founded by all my partners in crime (including a few Banditas), a group of unpublished contest divas who banded together to make the journey to publication a lot more fun!

    When I decided to write a book, it wasn’t about craft or a love of words or writing (I’d never written anything beyond a term paper) or even being a reader (I’d read two romance novels ever) — I was a mother of two boys who’d just started school and I was looking for a job.

    A daydream spawned in an American History night class during a documentary on Sitting Bull was the start of my first manuscript — it’s where Jed Doulan was born *g*. When I sat down at my computer that night, the characters just poured out of me and I had a hundred pages by sunup. But I didn’t know what to do with it. I tend to be a tad obsessive compulsive, and over the next month or so I read about 200 romance novels. I weeded out my favorite authors and tried to figure out their rhythm between prose and dialogue.

    A few months later I figured I needed to test the waters, to see if I really had a shot at writing, because if not, I’d have to keep my daydreams in my head instead of on paper and put all my focus on getting my teaching credentials. An Internet search yielded writing contests, and I entered the first chapters of two different stories (I write in pairs; a quirk of having a short attention span *g*). I entered them in three contests. I didn’t final, but I ranked in the top ten, and for me that was huge - it gave me some validation that as a total beginner who didn’t know her GMC from her POV, I had promise.

    I pored over those pages with every ounce of standard formatting information I could gather, finished the first book about six months later—sent out my first submission, and signed with an agent (proof that it DOESN’T take contest finals to snag an agent), and just a couple weeks later I began to final in contests consistently…and so started my slo-o-ow journey to publication *g*. Further proof that a truckload of contest wins isn’t a guaranteed sale. Sometimes it just takes TIME to hit that right combo of the right editor in the right mood on the right day, in the right house…persistence is the key.

    My advice to contest entrants is to always enter in groups of three. I listened to people who liked my work, connected with my characters and gave positive feedback along with suggestions. For those who didn’t like my stuff—and there were many; some even called my heroes names, in red ink!—I figured they were prejudice against cowboys, and tossed them in the trash. Personally, I don’t regret a single contest entry—but they were merely one of many tools at a writer’s disposal.

    Who is your favorite hero in your historical westerns? I must confess to being partial to Jed in Bride Of Shadow Canyon.

    Thanks, Jo! Jed was great fun to write. I really enjoyed the complexity of his backstory, and the strength of his integrity. He has a few cameos in my upcoming BRIDE books. I love each new hero—every one is interesting in his own way and has something new to teach me about writing and relationships.

    I have many more questions, but I’ll leave some for our readers. Now’s YOUR turn, readers, to ask Stacey anything you’d like, from juggling deadlines to how she crafts her stories and characters. Check out Stacey's website at for more information about upcoming releases.

    We’ll have random drawings for TWO lucky winners: The first will win an autographed copy of Stacey's newest western Maverick Wild, and (my favorite) the second will receive Bride Of Shadow Canyon. Be sure to post a comment even if you don’t have a question!Source URL:
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Sunday, December 30, 2007

The End ~ 2007 Version

    by Nancy Northcott

    Well, here we are at the end of the year. Some people see December 31 as a time to look back on the previous 364 days, count successes and shortcomings, and devise a plan for what they hope to do in the next 365. Other people will shrug their shoulders, label this just another day, and move on into the New Year. Some people will stay up to watch the ball drop in Times Square while others will dive into bed early, pull the covers over their heads, and say, "Go on, already, 2007! You're outta here!" before they drop off to sleep.

    December 31 wasn't always the last day of the year, of course. According to various books and websites I've checked, the new year once started on March 15 and then was set as March 25 to coincide with the date the Catholic Church commemorated as that of the Annunciation. The switch to the Julian (named after Caesar) calendar set the New Year as beginninng on January 1, a change not accepted in England until the 18th century. Various religions still count their church years as beginning on particular dates not coinciding with January 1.

    For me, the last day of the year is an occasion to look back, think of where I've been, and see where I am relative to where I'd like to go. This year saw a couple of difficult and interlocked family situations come to a close. I'm looking forward to starting a year with those receding in the rear view mirror instead of floating overhead. I've read some fabulous books but have a TBR pile that, well, teeters dangerously, so I hope to whittle it down this year. I used to read more. I'd like to slide back into that. There were some wonderful developments, not least being my association with the banditas and the renewal of ties with old writing buddies. Of course, there were also a couple of things I wish had turned out better. As my golfing cousin might say, however, "you play it where it lies," so I'll be shooting for more landings in favorable territory in 2008. As far as goals go, I'd like to write my first short story in about 15 years, whether or not it sells, write "The End" on book-length manuscripts twice, and build the content on my website. Of course I have the usual resolutions about exercise and better eating, but I prefer to think of all such things as plans. "Resolution" sounds so . . . fragile at times, despite the word's firm meaning.

    Tonight is party time for a lot the world, some of whom won't be in the best shape tomorrow, depending on how enthusiastically they party. A lot of people will haul themselves out early to mop up the last of December and launch the new year. Many people will watch football games. I've included the dh's recipe for a great dish to take to buffets. It travels well, though its density means it doesn't reheat especially well in a microwave.

    Are you a party-goer or a homebody on New Year's Eve? What do you like and dislike about the holiday? What are you most looking forward to in 2008? If you have resolutions or goals you'd like to share, feel free!

    I'm giving away a $15.00 Borders gift card to one commenter chosen at random. I'd like to thank all our visitors, commenting and not, for stopping by and to wish each of you health, happiness and success in 2008!

    Stuffed Shells Florentine


    1 pkg. jumbo pasta shells (12 oz.)
    2 cups pasta sauce (bought or made; can be with or without meat)
    1 can sliced mushrooms (4 oz.)
    1 pkg. chopped, frozen spinach (10 oz.)
    1 pkg. ricotta cheese (15 oz.)
    1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
    1 cup grated mozarella cheese
    1 large egg
    nutmeg, garlic powder or garlic salt, dried oregano, salt, pepper


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    Boil pasta shells in large pot, stirring often so they don't stick to the bottom, for about 15 min.
    Drain shells and set aside.
    Beat the egg and mix with the ricotta cheese until well blended.
    Add the parmesan cheese to the ricotta mixture and blend well.
    Add 1/2 cup of the grated mozzarella (reserve the other 1/2 cup) to the ricotta combination and mix well.
    Prepare frozen spinach according to package directions; drain any excess moisture.
    Add spinach to the cheese mixture and blend well.
    Drain mushrooms and mix into the cheeses.
    Season mixture with dash of nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, and 1 tsp. dried oregano.
    Add salt and pepper to taste.
    Cover the bottom of a 13"x9" baking dish with pasta sauce (about 1 cup).
    Fill each pasta shell with 1 tablespoon of ricotta mixture and arrange shells in dish.
    Pour remaining sauce over shells.
    Sprinkle remaining grated mozzarella cheese over shells.
    Bake at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour.

    Makes 7-8 servings as an entree. As a buffet side dish, serves about twice as many.Source URL:
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Holiday Booty Bonanza!!

    We've got winners!!!

    For commenting on Christmas day, Gillian is the winner of my $25 gift certificate! Way to go, Gillian! Contact me at and I'll email you your prize!

    Anna's Boxing Day prize of a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card goes to P226!! P226, if you'll send your snail mail info to Anna at, she'll send the card straight away.

    And the lucky winner of Tawny's goal-setting basket is Jane!! Congratulations, Jane!! Just send your snail mail info to and she'll ship it out to you.

    Thanks to all our friends for stopping by the Bandita Lair! Happy holidays! Source URL:
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Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Bucket List

    by Jo Robertson

    There’s a Rob Reiner movie out this holiday season in which the characters – terminally-ill patients in a health-care facility – make a list of the things they want to do before they die.

    They call it the BUCKET LIST because, well, they’re ready to kick the bucket.

    I’ve been thinking about that concept recently and asked myself, what haven’t I done that I’d REALLY like to do before I die? I've been lucky, so there's not much left.

    I wanted to have a career – teaching – a happy marriage and a family. Mission accomplished. I've traveled and lived in a foreign country.

    I was fortunate enough to “have it all,” although certainly not at the same time! I'm a firm believer in doing everything, just not at once :-D!

    But I made a Bucket List anyway.

    These are things I'd love to do before I kick the bucket!

    1. See my book in print -- my name, my real name on an actual book cover so I could salivate over the luxurious art work and show it off to all my friends and family.

    This could still happen. Maybe. I hope.

    2. Bungee jump -- not from Bloukrans River Bridge in South Africa, a height of over 700 feet, but from the Golden Gate Bridge, far enough up that I’d feel the thrill of tumbling down, down, down and then being caught and cradled by that great rubber band while I watched the beautiful San Francisco Bay and the mighty Pacific Ocean.

    Yeah, like they’d ever let me do that. But still . . .

    3. Tap dance -- a la Gene Kelly – with style and rhythm and panache.

    This is a big-deal item on my list because I have absolutely no sense of rhythm or coordination in my body. Still, in my head I'm as graceful as Anna Pavlova.

    4. Compose a musical tribute to my grandchildren and play it on the guitar -- Mind, I know about three chords and never got the knack of hardening my fingertips!

    Oh, and with the strumming, there’s that whole rhythm thing I was born without.

    5. Care for a new-born baby again -- I’d like once more – just one more time – to feel the sweet, sweaty weight of an infant's body on my chest. I imagine Annalise's plump softness with such poignant memory.

    I do love the babies. And this could happen! Maybe.

    The New Year is right around the corner. The sound of 2008 has a certain promising ring to it, don’t you think? I see baby New Year dressed in a diaper, toddling toward us with all his ripe promise, and crickety Old Year hobbling off toward the horizon.

    Welcome, 2008!! I have a good feeling about you!

    In the spirit of resolutions and new beginnings, of derring-do and untried adventure, what would you write on your Bucket List, readers?

    List five things you want to do before YOU kick the bucket!
    Be sure to stop by on January 1 for my interview with western historical writer Stacey Kayne, who's giving away TWO of her books!
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Friday, December 28, 2007

A Sit Down with our very own Tawny Weber!

    by Beth Andrews

    As one of Tawny's Critique Partners, I'm lucky to be able to have a front row seat to her creative process. Tawny and I have been through good and bad together - rejections, Golden Heart finals and wins and best of all, SALES. *g* I interviewed Tawny to celebrate the release of Tawny's second awesome Harlequin Blaze, Does She Dare? (though its release date is Jan 2008, Does She Dare? has already been spotted in stores across the country. Well, what are you waiting for? Run out and get your copy today *g*)

    Beth: Hey, the end of the year is the perfect time to take a stroll down memory lane. Can you believe it's been over a year since you started brainstorming/writing Does She Dare? Remember the original title?

    Tawny: I can't believe a whole year has gone already! Time flies when you're freaking out, huh? I do remember my original title - The Man Plan. I love that title LOL, and kept it in the story. I even have a Man Plan chat going at eHarlequin the week of January 7th, I loved it that much!

    Beth: Ahh...but you freak out so well. *g* And the results are worth it! I loved The Man Plan too and am so glad you were able to keep that part in the story. You know, I think the story behind DSD is so cool. In the original, first version of Double Dare (Tawny's excellent Blaze Debut - still available online) there was no Isabel. I'll put on my interview hat and ask how she came into being?

    Tawny: Ooooh, Isabel's inception. My editor told me to add her LOL. Audra had two very, well, naughty friends. Brenda (my editor) thought Audra was so bad herself, she needed a balance, more of a conscience (picture Jiminy Cricket, only a gal in hot shoes). In Double Dare, Isabel was both Audra's conscience and her project as she learned a few bad girl ways and found herself in trouble (Isabel, that is. Audra was always trouble). Isabel was the perfect contrast for Audra, because she helped the readers see how dedicated Audra was to success, despite her bad-girl persona. And Audra gave Isabel that edge that let her be the kind of gal who'd write a fantasy list and call it a Man Plan :-)

    Beth: I'm so glad Brenda suggested that Audra needed a Jiminy Cricket. *g* Audra and Isabel make a great team, and like you say, they balance each other out (hey, sort of like us, huh? I'm the sweet one for those who don't know us *ggg*) And you gave Isabel the PERFECT hero for her in Does She Dare?! Dante is such a bad boy -- but oh so good for Isabel ;-)

    Tawny:HAHAHHAHAH... oh, you were serious about you being the sweet one? Hmmm...Yeah, I really think Audra and Isabel were a great balance - just like their heroes were. Jesse saw that sweet side of Audra, and Dante definitely brings out Isabel's naughtiness. I looooove Dante. I think he's my favorite hero so far, he's just so real and earthy and, well, hot. Very very hot.

    Beth: LOL - yes, Dante is hot and really, it's so cool that Isabel gets her Fantasy Guy, the one guy she crushed on so much that she's never forgotten him. But it's the way she goes about - making The Man Plan, following her self-imposed rules - that sets her apart. *g* She's a when it comes to goal setting. She even color coordinates (just like someone else I know *g*).

    Tawny: Hey now, color coding is a GOOD thing! It makes finding stuff easier, and is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. But... yeah, maybe Isabel is a LITTLE rigid. She's a control freak, and so goal oriented that when things start spinning out of her control, she gets just a little upset.

    Beth: We've been critique partners for a long time and I've been lucky enough to read everything you've written (including synopses, proposals, articles and yes, even To-Do lists *ggg*) and aside from being CPs, we're also good buddies :-) So I like to think I know you pretty well (Yes, I know the REAL Tawny Weber. If anyone wants the good info, I can be bought. Cheap. *g*) For instance, before you wrote Does She Dare?, I knew you weren't a morning person, but I didn't get a first hand experience of just how much you LOATHE mornings until I, along with our dear CP Sheila Raye, called you one morning to brainstorm some ideas for Isabel's character. Talk about an experience that opened my eyes *g*

    Tawny: So, you all read it here first... Beth's cheap. I'm just naughty, but I'm really expensive! Heeheehee... kidding. I'm pretty sure it was the hero you all had figured out for me, wasn't it? Something brilliant and insightful that immediately fixed all the character issues I was having. At least that's what you tried to tell me later, when I was actually awake enough to understand our conversation. As for that early morning grumpiness.... c'mon, I'm a nightowl. What did you expect other than grunts, growls and swear words? Thank you, though, for the brilliant insights that fixed my character issues ;-)

    Beth: There were many grunts. Actually, it was sort of sexy - in a cave-man, incomprehensive way ;-) I'm just glad we were able to help out with Dante (I think you're right about it being him and not Isabel)

    Tawny: You paid me back later, though when you called to tell me you'd sold and I didn't wake up to go find a phone. Now I'm paranoid and keep one right next to the bed, so I can immediately celebrate your next deal!

    Beth: You know I'm calling you bright and early, right? And this time I'm going to keep calling until you answer the phone. *vbg*

    Tawny: That's what I love about you, your refusal to let me sleep.... I mean, your refusal to take no for an answer!

    Beth: Aww...that's sweet -- I think. Okay, enough of this love-fest. *g* Let's get back to Does She Dare? and those very...inventive love scenes. *g* Without giving too much away, let me just tell our readers that they're in for one wild ride with this story ;-)

    Tawny: Oooooh yeah. Dante is an outdoor kind of guy, so you can imagine that a lot of the love scenes take place under the stars. The cover of Does She Dare depicts my favorite love scene in the story though... just look at it and let your imagination go!!!

    Beth: Hmm...actually this brings to mind the time I critiqued a certain scene in Does She Dare? that takes place late in the book when Dante forgets to pull his pants up. Remember? When I pointed it out you wrote back that, no, he wasn't going to pull them up. He was just going to get on his Harley and ride away with his willie flapping in the breeze :-)

    Tawny: ROFL... oh yeah. That would have been a problem, wouldn't it? I'm so glad I have you to, um, catch things like that!

    Beth: Hey, that's what I'm here for! Someone's gotta keep any eye out for those flapping parts

    And with that little Behind The Scenes tid-bit, I just want to thank Tawny for taking the time to answer my questions and to encourage everyone who likes Sassy, Sexy reads with a whole lot of Attitude to pick up or order a copy of Does She Dare?!! You won't be disappointed. :-)

    Oh, and I want to let everyone know Tawny and I are doing a two-week, online workshop for From The Heart Romance Writers! It's titled Dreams to Reality and its all about Goals, resolutions and vows of success.Check it out!

    Since Tawny's first two books are all about dares, we want to know: Are you daring? What's your wildest dare? One lucky commenter will win a copy of both Double Dare and Does She Dare?!
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Thursday, December 27, 2007


    by Suzanne Welsh
    About this time last year a group of us were chatting on the 2006 Golden Heart Loop about our careers and lives since becoming finalists in the Golden Heart contest. We celebrated in the sales of a few of our numbers--Anna Campbell, Donna McMeans, Tawny Weber, and Christine Wells. A few of us had ventured into the cyberspace realm of Public Relations with websites, myspace pages and personal blogs.

    I can't remember who exactly first posted about blogs on the loop, but suddenly many of us were asking how to start a blog. Then the conversation turned to suggestions that maybe we should start a blog for writers and readers. Then on March 2nd, Aunty Cindy took the big step and formed a blog for the '06 Packers to practice blogging on. Those who wanted to participate started a separate loop to discuss the process and play with this blog. We knew there were 18 of us who acitvely wanted to form this blog and were willing to put ourselves out there and test the water.

    Claiming The Courtesan
    About this time, Anna's Claiming the Courtesan, hit the book shelves. We officially had a book to promote with our blog!

    Next the discussion turned to what sort of image we wanted. The name elfreda ica popped up, after a few really bad ones! With the group being in agreement, we talked about the way we wanted the site to look. Classy, but unique. Since my daughter Lyndsey is a concept artist, (she takes people's ideas for pictures and transforms them into actual images), I volunteered her to make us a banner for the site. It would need to meet the approval of 18 people. Quite a feat! When I gave Lyndsey the idea so she could make up a mock banner, she excitedly let me know she'd found "Pirate Font" to write the word BANDIT. The mask and rose were added, and with a bit of tweaking, the top of our blog was created and approved! We were off to a grand start.

    We decided to take the colors from the banner and find someone to finish the look. Trish contacted Dawn with Austin DesignWorks, who created the rest of our page design. It's had a few tweaks along the way, like adding new pictures and the "Bandit News" wanted posts, but hey we're a work in progress.

    By now we were getting used to taking turns posting to the blog and posting comments. We also had some private discussion regarding finances. One of our banditas volunteered to be treasurer. On May 4th, we officially went public with Caren's post featuring a large picture of Anthonio! (We think of ourselves in a cross between pirates and masked avengers like Zorro.)

    Double DareThis was followed by our second Bandita book to hit the shelves, Tawny's Double Dare.

    As we morphed into this group of bloggers, we made a few tentative requests of our published friends that they come and be "Guest bloggers". Amazingly, they said, "Heck yes!" We gave away prizes, another popular feature. We started to have regular commenters, many of whom have become great friends.

    Then we geared up for Nationals. We came up with the idea of business cards and buttons, using a variation of our banner, to hand out to promote the Bandits. At the National RWA convention, Bandit buttons were a hit! One of the buzz items making the rounds at National was, Romance Bandit blog. Everywhere we turned there was someone asking us about the Bandit blog. And to top the conference off: both Beth and Trish won their categories in the Golden Heart!

    After Nationals we rounded out our numbers to include two new members, Susan and Nancy for a final total of 20 Banditas. We figured that was just the perfect number.

    Since then, we've had more books hit the shelves: Christine's Scandal's Daughter, Donna's The Education of Mrs. Brimley and Anna's second book Untouched.

    We've had new sales among our Bandits: Christie, Beth, Jeanne, Cindy, Trish, Kate, and Kirsten.

    And somewhere along the way we gained a mascot, The Golden Rooster, thanks to our loyal friend and poster, Doglady! The prize for the first commenter of each day. It became a challenge for those of us in the States or Canada to beat the Aussie contingent for the coveted gilded fowl!

    We finished the year off with Trish being a contestant in the American Title IV contest, Joan a finalist in the Suzannah, and today I bought my copy of Tawny's second book, Does She Dare?

    So, now we look forward to 2008. Wonder what great changes it will bring for the Banditas? We're wishing for more sales to our published members and new sales for those As Yet Unpublished ones. Some contest wins? Maybe a spot on a "Best Sellers" list or two?

    What would you like to see on our blog? Any ideas? Any requests?Source URL:
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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It's That Time Again...

    by Tawny Weber

    The New Year is upon us once again (where DID the time go?) and that brings us to the ever-frustrating experience of setting New Year’s resolutions.

    Me, I’m not so much into the resolution gig. I’m more of a goal setting gal, myself. The difference? I always think of resolutions as those things we decide to quit or avoid (lose weight, quit smoking, cut back on caffeine--of which the latter always baffles me... no caffeine? Ack) while goals are things to work toward. It’s really just semantics, but years as a hypnotherapist showed me over and over again the success of phrasing something as positively as possible. A goal is active, a resolution is more static. Goals can be broken into easily focused-on steps, resolutions seem to rely on willpower (of which I have diddly, as evidenced by the fact that all the homemade almond rocca is gone already).

    But I have to admit, I can’t escape the lure of the New Year. The last week of December, I always find myself setting next year’s goals. Some little, some big, all adjustable to life’s whims. Maybe it’s the lingering warm fuzzy feeling of the holidays, but I always use this time to count my blessings. In the rush to pen a list of changes we expect ourselves to make, it’s easy to forget the things we want to hold on to. So I’ll sit with my husband and kids and we’ll reflect on all the great things we did over the last year, or the fun changes we’ve experienced. I had so many in 2007, including the release of Double Dare last May and Does She Dare?, which is hitting the shelves right about now.

    Celebrating Does She Dare? is even more fun right now since the heroine, Isabel, is as much of a goal setter as I am – she even color codes her lists (including the one she calls The Man Plan, which leads to all kinds of naughty fun!). Hey , it worked for her.

    How about you? As this last week of 2007 winds down, will you be reflecting on your blessings, crafting a resolution list or ignoring the whole thing? And just for fun , if you share one thing you’re grateful for, one goal/resolution you’ll be focusing on I'll toss your name in the hat to win a goal setting basket filled with goodies, including the ever-important markers for color coding!!Source URL:
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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Boxing Day!!

    by Anna Sugden

    Boxing Day? What is it? For many it is a great sporting day, for others a time to hit the shops for the best bargains, and for the rest of us, it's another day of eating and relaxing (and maybe some sport on the telly - Go Manchester United and Exeter City!)

    In the UK and other Commonwealth countries, the day after Christmas (also known as St Stephen's Day) is a national holiday, called Boxing Day. There are a number of explanations as to how it got its name - but the most popular/well-known is that is the day when people would give a 'Christmas box' or gift to those who worked for them.

    In feudal times, it was when the lord of the manor would hand out the equivalent of a Christmas bonus to his serfs and tenants. It was usually a box of practical goods like food and cloth, maybe even some tools.

    I believe that later, anyone who had servants, would either give 'boxed-up' left-overs from Christmas lunch to those servants to eat the following day or they would even cook for their household.

    Over time, it evolved into employers giving either money (the basis for the Christmas bonus) or a gift. In many towns and villages, it was also the day when the church donation boxes were opened and the contents shared out among the poor of the locality.

    Today, there are still many who give presents or bonuses to people like the milkmen, postmen, dustbin men, paper boys etc on Boxing Day.

    Wherever you are and whatever you are doing today - I hope you are having a wonderful Boxing Day. May you be happy and healthy and ... totally stuffed from all the holiday goodies! And may your favourite teams win (unless they're playing against mine!).

    For those of you who have been following our recipes, here is my recipe for Boxing Day Soup (aka what to do with all the Christmas left-overs!)

    2 pints of chicken or turkey stock (we usually boil up the turkey carcasse and make our own)
    2 or 3 large leeks
    1 large onion
    1 large chunk of butter
    A big bowl leftover turkey meat (we use the dark meat and save the white meat for sandwiches or other dishes)
    Left-over roast potatoes
    Left-over roasted root vegetables eg parsnips, carrots etc
    Left-over bread sauce and stuffing and gravy
    (NB do not include any left-over brussel sprouts or other green vegetables - they'll add a bitter taste!)

    1. Melt butter in a large, heavy saucepan
    2. Chop onion and leeks and cook until they become translucent
    3. Add chopped turkey meat
    4. Chop roast potatoes and root vegetables into chunks and add to the saucepan.
    5. Add the stock and stir while bringing the stock up to a simmer.
    6. Stir in the left-over gravy, bread sauce and stuffing.
    7. Let the soup simmer on the stove until it has a thick and hearty consistency.
    8. Serve and enjoy. As a little extra touch, I like to add a large spoonful of sour cream.

    So, what are you up to on this Boxing Day? If you're watching sport, who are you supporting?
    As a special Boxing Day prize, I'm giving away a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card.Source URL:
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Merry Christmas to All!!

    First, I want to wish all my Bandita friends and families a joyous Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

    And now … I thought I'd share some random thoughts and photos taken from my own family’s Christmas celebration.

    We're a cozy group this year, just eight of us. Two of my brothers and their wives, my nephew, the DH and I, and mom. We're staying together at my mother’s big house in Palm Desert, California. Our first night together, we ate chicken tacos and watched that heartwarming, traditional Christmas film, Die Hard.

    Here's a photo of Satina the reindeer. I think my mom's had this little creature since before I was born. Anyway, maybe it was the full moon, or maybe the desert heat made her thirsty, but Satina couldn’t stop staring at my brother’s martini (vodka, extra dry, shaken of course).

    And now, revealed to the world at last, my mother’s super secret chocolate chip cookie recipe. I think you can all imagine the sense of betrayal I felt when I saw this. It took six cookies and half a bottle of champagne to overcome it.

    One of the danger signs that you’ve passed over the threshold into middle age is when you get together with the family at Christmas and the first thing you do is compare surgery scars. Let me assure you this is not a family member but merely a demonstration of what you might expect to see at a Christmas celebration sometime in the future. I'm just sayin'...

    Here's something a little bit cuter...or not. You be the judge. It's the jolly snowman on mom's coffee table.

    On Christmas Eve we ate a lovely beef tenderloin (with apologies to our tofurkey fans, we named it Igor) and then watched one of my favorite Christmas movies, Love Actually.

    And what about presents? Books, of course. Here are two mysteries I can't wait to read -- Tasha Alexander’s And Only To Deceive and Cara Black’s Murder in Montmartre.

    An Ipod for Kate. Sweaters for everyone. Lots of gift cards for mom because she always returns regular gifts.
    And a merry time was had by all!!

    And finally, here’s the family recipe for Spicy Mixed Nuts. Be careful – they’re addictive! They’re perfect for a party and only take 5 minutes to make, plus 20 minutes baking time.

    ¼ cup butter
    2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
    1 tsp each: seasoned salt, celery salt and garlic powder
    ½ tsp ground cumin
    ¼ tsp. each cayenne pepper and pepper
    1 c. shelled walnuts
    1 cup pecan halves
    1 cup whole almonds, lightly toasted

    Preheat oven to 325 F. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add Worcestershire sauce and seasonings. Simmer over low heat for several minutes for flavors to blend. Stir in nuts and transfer to a shallow baking pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    Makes 3 cups. (Great with cocktails. And they can also be tossed on salads.)


    Any random thoughts out there? What’s going on at your house this Christmas? KJ wrote from Africa yesterday. I’m celebrating in the Southern California desert today. Where else are our Banditas, friends and families spending the holidays? I'm giving away a $25 gift certificate to one lucky person, just for taking the time to come by and comment on Christmas Day!
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Monday, December 24, 2007

Bandit Booty

    And the winner of the $15 Amazon gift card for the story about her favorite Christmas gift is...

    Helen and her story about getting a puppy!! Congratulations, Helen *g* Please drop me a line at: (that's: bethandrews91 AT gmail DOT com) with your email info and I'll get your gift card right out to you :-)

    Thank you all for commenting about your favorite and most memorable gifts!
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Sunday, December 23, 2007

KJ's Christmas in Africa!

    Happy Holidays Everyone!!!

    Thank you to Jeanne for posting my blog today. I’m sorry I’m not here to personally wish you all a happy holiday, but I’m incommunicado in the middle of the African bush. Definitely a green Christmas for me. I’m visiting South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana on safari. Today, I’m in Botswana playing (maybe the wrong word choice) with semi-habituated elephants. Wish me luck!

    Spending Christmas in Africa makes me think about celebrating the holidays in an unusual way. What is customary in one country is unusual in another. I’d love to hear about your holiday traditions, the more unusual, the better!

    In the meantime, here is a little more info about the holidays in Africa, including a special South African recipe.

    In Africa, there is not so much the giving of presents, but the giving of presence. Most people cannot afford to buy gifts. Besides, in the middle of the bush, there aren’t many stores. Instead, many Africans celebrate with a special meal, enjoying one of their treasured livestock over an open fire.

    Definitely different than Canada, but one thing remains constant across the globe. Africans celebrate Christmas like everyone else in the world—as a celebratory time for family and friends to come together, eat, drink, and rejoice in the fact that they have each other. It’s all about the people in our lives.

    In South Africa, Christmas comes in the middle of the summer. Can you say HOT? Snow would last about thirty seconds! So, what do South Africans do today? After a large Christmas lunch, families visit the homes of friends to ask for and receive a "Christmas box" which usually has food inside.

    There are eleven languages in South Africa. Here are the five most common ways of saying "Merry Christmas"!
    Merry Christmas: English;

    Geseënde Kersfees: Afrikaans

    Sinifisela Ukhisimusi Omuhle: Zulu

    Sinifisela Khisimusi Lomuhle: Swazi

    Matswalo a Morena a Mabotse: Sotho

    Whatever you are doing today, I hope you are happy and well. And keep in mind—Christmas is a time of celebration in Africa—that is, unless you are a goat, a chicken, or a cow!

    Recipe for traditional yeast-baked rusk!

    This is a traditional dish great for dunking in your tea or coffee early in the morning when you watch the sun rise as the boer trekkers did every morning when they traveled from the Cape to the Transavaal. If the rusks are to be kept for a long time, do not substitute margarine for the butter.

    Yeast-Baked Rusks

    375g (1-3/4 c) butter
    500g (2-1/4 c.) sugar
    2 extra large eggs
    1.5kg (3 lb, 4 oz) self-raising flour
    30ml (2 tablespoons) baking powder
    500ml (2 cups) buttermilk or plain drinking yogurt

    Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Cream the butter and sugar together very well. Add the eggs, one at a time. Sift the flour and baking powder together, and add this to the creamed mixture, using a fork to mix. Add the buttermilk or yogurt, using a little milk to rinse out the carton.

    Mix well with a fork and then knead lightly. Pack lightly rolled, golf ball sized buns of the dough into the greased bread pans close together, and bake for 45-55 minutes. Place the pans in the middle of the oven, with a sheet of brown paper on the top shelf to protect the buns from becoming browned too quickly.

    Remove the paper after the buns are well risen and cooked through, to brown the tops. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Turn out the buns on to cake racks, cool them and separate them, using 2 forks. Pack them on wire racks or on cooled oven racks—air must circulate. Place them in the cool oven, leaving the door ajar, for 4-5 hours, or overnight, to dry out. If no buttermilk or yogurt is available, use fresh milk curdled with lemon juice or white vinegar.
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Christmas Eve Bandita Booty!

    by Anna Sugden

    Lots of Bandita Booty to give away!!

    RaeAnne is giving four lucky winners their choice of book. Either a copy of THE DADDY MAKEOVER or HIS SECOND CHANCE FAMILY.

    Her four year old played draw-master and picked the following names out of the hat:





    Congratulations!!!! Please email RaeAnne at rthayne AT xmission DOT com and let her know which book you would like to receive ... and your snail mail address.

    And my cats have drawn the following lucky winner out of the catnip bag:


    Congratulations!! You win a copy of the Christmas Anthology It's a Wonderful Christmas. Please send your snail mail address to anna AT annasugden DOT com.Source URL:
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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cookie Anatomy

    By Donna MacMeans

    Christmas cookies have some sensual benefits not always anticipated.

    A while back, Cassondra and I were comparing some baking stories (which if you know Cassondra, these are rare stories, indeed). On an earlier blog, Cassondra shared how creative frosting of a candlestick sugar cookie led to an eye-opening discussion of the birds & bees. You might recall her posting was part of a dare from Anna and I. Now I’m obligated to follow through with my story – another lesson in anatomy inspired by cookie dough.

    A number of years ago, our beloved next door neighbors moved (sniff, sniff). They were the perfect neighbors in that their children were precisely the same ages as my two. The agonizing months of curiosity about possible new neighbors followed, until November when a “sold” sign replaced the more familiar one on the lawn.

    The new neighbors moved in and, wonder of wonders, they had a daughter the same age as my son. She was even placed in his kindergarten class. “Mary” (not her real name) would often come over to play with my son and on this particular afternoon, I was making cookies while the kids were playing.

    I like to make gingerbread cookies – not to eat – but to decorate a wreath that I hang on the fireplace. The heat from the chimney scents the air with the rich scent of ginger and spice. I’d decided to use a new shape for my cookies that year – Gingerbears.

    The process is simple – first, make up a batch of gingerbread, whatever recipe you can find. Now the fun begins. Make a series of dough balls – 1 medium, 5 little, 3 tiny little balls. The medium will become the bear’s belly, one little will become the head, the others will be arms and legs. The tiny ones will make a nose and two ears. No need to smush them down – they’ll bond in the baking. Here’s a couple of the ones I made to demonstrate. Unfortunately one was the victim of an unfortunate icing accident, thus the unseemly red birthmark.

    Let me share a baking secret – parchment paper. If you put the raw dough on parchment paper there’s no need to grease the cookie sheets. Plus you can lay out the cookies on paper on the countertop and then slide them onto a cookie sheet and into the oven with ease. But now, back to my story -

    Little Mary sees me assembling these bears and looks at me with big brown eyes and says “Can I help?”

    Who could refuse? I had her wash her hands, tied a frilly little apron around her child’s body, and suggested she make up some balls.

    “No,” she said. “I don’t want to do that.”

    She screwed up her little face then picked up some dough – rolling it between her fingers so it became long and thin like a snake.

    “I’ll make the dangley parts,” she said before she slapped her creation between my bear’s stubby little legs!

    Now all sorts of questions are forming in my mind about the new neighbors. But first, I quickly remove the “boy parts” explaining that all the bears were girls, which seemed to satisfy her – though she was no longer interested in helping with the cookies.

    Afterwards I spoke with her mother and learned that Mary has an older brother whom she has “surprised” on occasion. My new neighbors turned out to be as wonderful as the old ones, even with the mischievous Mary (who has since graduated from Notre Dame).

    So my question is - have any fun or bonding experiences occurred while making cookies? Are you finished with your Christmas shopping? Baking? Decorating? Not long to go -- Share your comments and I’ll select one for a copy of The Education of Mrs. Brimley.

    Oh, and Happy Festivus (for the rest of us) Day!

    Here’s my Christmas treat for you - an intoxicating pecan pie. You’ll want to slurp up any pie filling remains with a straw – it’s that good.

    Donna’s Pecan Pie

    1 pie crust
    1 cup brown sugar
    5 tablespoons flour
    ¼ teaspoon salt
    4 eggs
    1 ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 1/3 cups light karo syrup
    ¼ cup bourbon
    5 oz melted butter (one stick & 3 tablespoons)
    2 cups pecan halves

    Preheat the over to 400 degrees

    Mix by hand all the above ingredients except crust and pecans
    Pour mixture into the pie crust
    Put pecans on top in concentric circles.
    Bake 10 minutes.
    Reduce heat to 350 degrees
    Bake 45 –55 minutes more.
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