Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Anne Mallory Guest Blogging Tomorrow!

Anna C Blogging on Title Wave today!

Mountains or Beach?

    by Jeanne Pickering Adams

    You've all heard people say it, I know I have. It's either "I love the beach!" or "Ugh, I hate the beach, let's go to the mountains." It seems that everyone has their favorite and the opposite is to be vilified and despised. I'm a mountain girl, through and through. Alas, I'm currently at the beach.

    Among the many reasons I'm not a "beach girl" are that I'm fair skinned and burn easily, and the heat (WHY are we here in late July?) just disables me for days if I stay out too long and, last but not least, I'm a tenderfoot, so walking on the sand littered with crunchy shells and seaweed is pretty much torture.

    So you might well ask why the heck I'm at the beach. Well, it's all about love. My husband and sons are beach lovers. So are their cousins and my brother and sister-in-law. Since I love them, I'm steadily, year by year, working on loving the beach experience. :> They are ecstatically surfing/boogie boarding and soaking in the rays. I'm in an Internet cafe talking to you. Trust me, we're all happier that way. Thankfully, the Delaware town in which we're staying, namely Bethany Beach, HAS an Internet cafe. (There's no phone or internet at the newly-renovated house in which we're staying.) This way I'm connected to my writing pals, my friends and family, so despite the heat and the "beachness" of it all, I'm content.

    In fact, for all that I really dislike the beach, I can find a lot about which to be happy. This is one of the great times of year where I get to hang out with my husband for extended periods of time. My brother and sister-in-law will watch our boys and let us go for a walk or catch a movie without it costing us $100. (Babysitters and movie tickets are expensive in DC) The boys are in heaven because they get to play with their cousins, act macho, run wild, scream, yell, chase gulls, and eat BBQ from the grill. We grill at home, but somehow, it's just better at the beach, according to my sons. Then there's the ice cream.

    It's a family tradition that every night we all walk to a specific ice cream place and eat a variety of weird flavors or sprinkles. Just because. To my joy, my sons are building memories of shared fun, creating relationships with their cousins who live far enough away that we don't see them often, and growing wiser and stronger every day.

    My eldest son is learning to boogie board, tutored by his proud and knowing older cousins. My younger son is enthralled with the ability to dig large, messy holes in the sand without getting fussed at for ruining a flower bed or anything else. He's in heaven. My husband doesn't have to do anything but play with his sons, take walks with me, and finish leftover ice cream cones the boys can't manage. No pesky work. He's in heaven too.

    So, even though I'm at the (ugh) beach, even though I wilt in the heat and don't leave the house much except after dark, I'm in heaven too. Watching them explore, hearing about their exploits - which they proudly recount in great detail - makes the experience magical.

    What are some of your magic moments? Are you a beach or mountain gal/guy? Did you ever vacation with your family and extended family, and if so, where? What did YOU do on your summer vacation?
    Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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Grace Sun, I love you.

Yuppie comment of the week.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Shameless Request for Bene's Blog

Hanging Art

Sunday, July 29, 2007

High School and Other Painful Pursuits

    Someone recently began a discussion arc on the six- packers’ loop about being a geek in high school. Many banditas chimed in, confessing to geek-hoodness, listing clubs they were in or activities they had joined in high school. We have a significant number of band and choir geeks, Latin Club geeks (raising my hand here), speech and drama geeks, National Honor Society geeks, and student government geeks.

    Most banditas confessed to being good students. I'm not surprised because writers by default must be good readers, lovers of the written word, and shapers of gripping characters and the worlds they occupy. They must be moderately well organized and superbly disciplined, all traits that make for good students.

    When I was thirty-seven, I flew back to Virginia to attend Hopewell High School’s twentieth class reunion (go Cougars!!!). Like many of you, in high school I was in that undetermined class between the “cool” kids (we had Greek letter fraternities and sororities on our campus – so NOT cool) and what we called the “hoods,” students who regularly got into trouble, ditching school, smoking on campus, or flunking tests on a regular basis.

    Our little tweener clique consisted of the scholars, the smart kids, not exactly fitting in with the jocks and cheer leaders, but respected because, well, we were the top graduates, we got the scholarships, and we helped the others through their trig and physics classes.

    Life is such an amazing leveler. At my twentieth class reunion, I was so surprised to find that I was the cool kid! I was one of the few college graduates, the one who could still fit into her wedding dress, the one who had a respectable job, and the one who had miraculously transformed from a skinny girl with no boobs or hips into a moderately attractive woman, albeit with no boobs. There's a name for us girls: we’re called late bloomers.

    I have three daughters, all of whom are gorgeous and tall and slender (this from their Dad), but they bloomed “late.” My husband always said a late-blooming daughter was God’s blessing to worried parents. Somehow their common sense anchors them until their beauty takes over.

    I’ve been teaching adolescents for over twenty years and I know this for sure: I’ve NEVER met a beautiful, talented girl who felt extremely confident. There seems to be in most of us that little unsure girl who’s positive she’s not as pretty as everyone says, who’s fat even though she weighs less than my jeans, who can’t see her creamy complexion for the zit worming its way to the surface.

    I had a student a few years ago who lives in Las Logos, a very pricey gated community near where I live. To give you an idea, Eddie Murphy (yes, that one!) just sold his $10 million house – estate is more appropriate – out there. I was helping my student write her college application essay and we began talking about girly-stuff. Here is this beautiful (really), talented (really, really), smart (triple really), little cheerleader whose life is very hard. She cooks and cleans for her entire family (mom and dad off making money), she maintains a 3.9 grade-point average, and she is universally liked. I have no compunction about eavesdropping on teenage conversations, so I know this for a fact.

    I just hugged her and told her how much better life would be in a few years. She’s a mental late-bloomer and doesn’t even know it.

    So my question to you, gentle readers, is: What’s the most poignant event YOU can recall about high school – good or bad? Lay it all on the line. And then think, like my granddaughter golfer in the picture above: What a long way you’ve come, baby!

    Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Celebrating the Steps

    by Tawny Weber

    We've Bandita's have had a lot to celebrate lately. Golden Heart wins & finals, Contest successes, and the big whohoooo's -- Sales!

    I'm going to guess there have been celebrations for those biggies. I used to go out to dinner and have a margarita for every contest win, I kept all my certificates from finals and scrapbooked them (as well as my GH ribbons for each final, along with a picture of the big screen), and not only did I have a huge family celebration when I sold (complete with a trip to Build A Bear Workshop... really!) I had a fun party to celebrate my debut. I'm all about the celebrations.

    But what about those steps, those events that aren't exactly champagne and roses worthy (and really... aren't they???)? The finishing a manuscript - whether it's your first or tenth? Contest finals, editor or agent requests? Getting a good review, hearing from readers, sending in a proposal? Each of these are steps on the path to success. But sometimes these steps are easy to ignore, to shrug off.

    I think part of it, at least for me, ends up being my avid goal setting. Yes, the little steps count, but I'm always eyeing that goal - the next sale, the next review, the next event. But a year or so ago, right after I'd sold, a very smart lady in my local chapter asked me what I'd done to celebrate my last unpublished contest final. I shrugged and replied, nothing. I'd finaled before, I was more excited about the sale. She pointed out that the finals, the little steps, all helped me reach that sale, and that I should be celebrating every single step.

    She's right. Whether it's writing, raising kids, our education... anything. All the big moments are made up of the little steps.

    So - how about you? What are your biggies and how do you celebrate the little steps toward achieving them? Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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Have a wonderful weekend.


    By Suzanne Welsh

    Recently I made two discoveries that have thrilled me both as a reader and a book collector.

    For years I’ve been searching for a copy of a book I read in my early high school years. It’s titled “Black Horse Tavern”, by Janet Louise Roberts. I adored this book. I’m a re-reader—meaning that if a book captures me, I’ll happily read it over and over and over again. That’s the reason I have two copies of Julie Garwood’s “Saving Grace”. So when I had my original copy of “Black Horse Tavern”, I literally wore it out.

    It’s a great story about a girl who lives in her creepy stepfather’s tavern during the Revolutionary War. Only she knows there’s a secret exit from the tavern, and uses it to spy on the redcoats and her stepfather. Then she gives the information she learns to the Sons of Liberty and the hero of the story.

    As an American history buff even at the age of 15, I loved this whole book, but somehow lost my copy. Then I couldn’t remember the author’s name. About four years ago I managed to learn the author’s name through some sleuth work and a few good google sites. Finally, last week I found a copy on line in good condition and bought it! When I got home from the RWA National conference with 3 bags of books, my old favorite was waiting in a mailer for me.

    The other find was a complete surprise to me. The week before the RWA National conference I always clean out my to be read (TBR) pile and my already finished pile (AFP) of books, this year to the tune of $35 at the half-priced bookstore nearby. But while going through the mountain of books I found a 1989 copy of “The Copeland Bride”, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. You know, the book she and her friend wrote before SEP went solo and became a NYT’s best seller. Imagine my amazement! I truly had no idea that book was in my possession. When I googled out of print books, I discovered that little paperback is now worth $50!

    So, tell me, what books are on your keeper shelf? Any rare or out of print books? Is there one book you'll read over and over, maybe as a yearly ritual?

    Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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Friday, July 27, 2007

And The Winnah Is...

    posted by Aunty Cindy

    CONGRATS to Sonja Faust! You are the winner of Tina's current release Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress. Please send Aunty your snail mail info to cindymm18 at gmail dot com.

    And I predict you will LOVE THE BOOK!

    Thanx again to Tina for being a GREAT GUEST!

    Please, everyone be sure to check back into the Bandit lair OFTEN for more great giveaways and surprises! Remember, on August 1st Anne Mallory will be our guest blogger, and TWO lucky winners will receive copies of her book.Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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Nick Love

Nick welcomes friends into his home.

Nick is environment friendly.

Nick grows beards.

    When we were little, Nick admitted to Lucy and me that he never washed his body. "I just figure the shampoo kind of drips down," he told us, unphased. Fifteen years later, he has thankfully turned into a bit more of a metrosexual. He likes to use a straight razor, as terrifying as that sounds; and for his birthday, I got him a haircut and shave from Freemans Sporting Club. I think he'd enjoy these products from Sharps Barber. P.S. He can also grow a mean beard. Here are four shots of Nick rocking varying stages of caveman style.Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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Guest Blogger Tina Ferraro Buzzes About YA and MORE!

    posted by Aunty Cindy

    Your old Aunty has been writer-buddies with the WONDERFUL Tina Ferraro for *ahem* some years now. Matter of fact, Tina and I were 'roomies' at RWA National in Reno in 2005. Tina got to wear her pink First Sale Ribbon and Aunty introduced her to the addictive TV series "Lost." Whereupon we immediately became perpetual fans of our mutual lust object Sawyer/Josh Holloway. But I digress... Tina's young adult novel, "Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress" came out earlier this year to rave reviews. Her next YA novel, "How to Hook a Hottie" will be out early in 2008 and is sure to be equally well-received!

    Tina regularly blogs with a group of six other YA authors (including 06 Packer Heather Davis!) at Books, Boys, Buzz (http://yawriters.blogspot.com).
    Check it out! And now give Tina a BIG BANDIT WELCOME as she answers all kinds of questions from your old Aunty!

    AC: Please tell us a little about your current release, "Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress" and your soon to be released, "How to Hook a Hottie."

    TINA: All my recent ideas have started with titles. TOP TEN USES FOR AN UNWORN PROM DRESS came to me when I saw a nonfiction book called something like 101 THINGS TO DO WITH A BRIDESMAID DRESS. My brain came alive with what-if's: "What if it was a prom dress? An unworn prom dress because her date dumped her two days before the prom. And what if her mom--in an attempt to help her heal--started a list of 101, no, no, 10 silly things to do with it..." A week later, I pitched it to my agent, Nadia Cornier, and she gushed, "Oh, I could sell that on the title." Okay, it didn't exactly happen that way, but I loved her enthusiasm!

    The title, HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE, came to me while brainstorming with my teenaged daughter, but oddly enough, by the time I submitted the proposal, I'd changed it to something slightly different. When Nadia called to say they wanted to buy it and told me what they'd proposed as a title, I laughed, realizing I'd actually gotten it "right" the first time. And I'm very happy we went back with that because it encouraged me to come up with "how to tips", including a Six Point Plan, a hexagon for hooking hotties! (And how could THAT go wrong???) The basic idea is that kids at school hire 17 year-old Kate to help them hook their secret crushes, assuming she's got some insider info on the ways of the heart because how else could such a no-nonsense girl like her have hooked the hottest guy in the school? ("Thanks a lot, people!")

    AC: Aunty knows that once-upon-a-time you wrote contemporary romantic suspense (and won some contests with your efforts). What made you decide to switch to YA? Any advice for other writers thinking of trying to break into the YA market?

    TINA: I am also a Confession short story author, and over the years, have sold as many teen stories as I have adult. So the teen voice has always been with me. But I had always heard to "write what you love" and romantic suspense what was I loved to read, so when my youngest went to kindergarten and I joined the RWA with serious aspirations of selling a novel, I set my sights on romantic suspense. And yes, I did have some success with writing contests, but the truth was, I had trouble bringing a good idea or a good first few chapters to a good 300 page conclusion.

    I knew that first person writing (the tense used for Confessions) was my natural voice. So when a couple of the Harlequin/Silhouette lines started accepting first person, I gave them a try, and found I was suddenly writing better books. Meanwhile, a friend had told me about the Dorchester YA "Smooch" line. After hitting a bump in my professional life, and then one in my personal, I decided to throw caution to the wind and try writing a "Smooch". My daughter was a high school freshman at the time, and she read all the chapters to make sure I didn't sound like a grown-up pretending to be a teen, and when I'd finished, I could honestly say it was the best thing I'd ever written. Too bad it didn't sell, huh? But it got me my agent, and she sold the next one!

    For those interested in writing YA, you will probably hear the advice to pay attention to the teen market. Read the books, watch the movies, go hang at Starbucks and listen to them talk. I completely agree. But here's something you may not hear: do not feel you have to be a representation of today's teen. Be yourself, just tap back to the teen you were, or the teen you wished you were. Write a book that the teenaged you would have wanted to read, and you'll have a much better chance of selling it. (Just make sure your heroine has a cell phone and calls her best friend her BFF!)

    AC: Please give us a few highlights of your "Rocky (or not so) Road to Publication."

    TINA: Highlights! Okay, at age 23, I sold my first story to True Love magazine, and still write for them today (when time permits). About 5 years later, I had the Big Boss at my job come into my office to tell me I'd been nominated for a special performance evaluation, all the while a first draft a romance novel gleamed behind me on my computer screen. It gets better: months later, he returned to tell me I'd won and hand me a check, and guess what was on my screen again? Yep. Jump ahead some more years, and I've joined the RWA, am finaling in writing contests. I made the switch to YA in 2004, signed later that year with Nadia Cornier, sold first book in 2005, second in 2006, third and fourth in 2007.

    That's all the good stuff! Just know that in and around those highlights, there were numerous days and weeks and years when there were no advancements, and I wasn't even sure I believed in myself. But the simple truth is I love writing. I love being in-the-zone. I love looking back on the good pages and thinking, "I did that". And it makes all the other stuff fade in comparison.

    AC: What is on the horizon for you (and your readers)?

    TINA: In addition to HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE, my January, 2008 release, I have two more books contracted with Delacorte Press (Random House) for Spring 2009 and Spring 2010.

    The Spring 2009 book has the very silly title of THE ABC'S OF KISSING BOYS, and will have 26 chapters, each with a heading featuring a fun-fact about kissing. The premise is that high school junior Parker Stanhope watched her JV soccer team get promoted to Varsity without her...and she and her brother devise this crazy-but-just-might-work plan to get her on Varsity, which includes giving the prom king a kiss he'll never forget at the sports fair kissing booth. But first she has to learn everything there is to know about the art of kissing...

    The next book has a crazy-ass title and premise, but until it's been formally approved, I need to keep my lips zipped!

    Also, both TOP TEN USES FOR AN UNWORN PROM DRESS and HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE have been optioned for film/tv rights, and I'm presently working with producers to get those projects rolling...

    (AC falls over in a swoon at the thought of her buddy Tina writing a TV series or movie! Tina obligingly slaps AC with a wet cloth and murmurs something about hunks to bring her round and finish the Q&A.)

    AC: What piece of advice or life-lesson has helped you most in your writing career? And any pearls of wisdom you'd care to pass along to us AYUs (As Yet Unpublished)?

    TINA: Well, I have long lived by the belief that everything I have written--no matter how awful--was a step in the right direction. It's all about staying in the game. I'm also a huge believer in networking. Many doors have opened for me out of the kindness of others, and I try to "give back" whenever I can, by making introductions I hope are helpful, doing contest coordinating and judging, etc. I see other authors as friends or potential friends, and there's always room for more at the table.

    AC: Finally, you didn't think Aunty would let you out of here without mentioning your connection of one of the GREATEST Bandit Icons of all time, Clint Eastwood. What has Cousin-In-Law Clint been up to lately?

    TINA: LOL--you've "outed" me, Aunty Cindy! Yes, my cousin, Dina Ruiz Eastwood, is married to Clint, which makes for some very interesting family reunions! My favorite memory is from a pool party. He was telling my husband how great a particular movie was. My husband said, "We were going to rent it, but Tina thinks it's going to be too violent for her." Clint turns to me and explains it's more a drama, not all that violent, etc., and all the while, I'm biting my tongue from saying, "Excuse me! Consider the source here! You're Dirty Harry!" But to be fair, we later rented it, and it was great. He was right. Imagine that!

    I can also tell you that it's really hard to talk to him on the phone without giggling because he does this dead-on Clint Eastwood imitation...

    As to what he's up to, we saw them a few weeks ago at a family reunion, and I heard talk about a new movie he's filming in LA this fall. And as a side note, Dina told me she bought every copy of my book they had in her local store, and gave them to teen girls in her neighborhood. Generous and kind--that sums the two of them up perfectly!

    Thank you SOOO MUCH, Tina for hanging out here in the Bandit lair today and answering our questions and (as Foanna and Christine like to say) giving us the GOSS! Aunty happens to think Dina and Clint aren't the ONLY kind and generous people in your family. ;-) And not that we needed more convincing after her wonderful and insightful answers, but Tina will give away an autographed copy of her novel, "Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress" to one of our commentors (winner chosen by AC's handy-dandy random number generator)! Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Nick grew up in the suburbs.

Nick will buy necklaces for his future wife.

    Although Nick rides motorcycles and belongs to a watch club, he is also a true romantic. I can imagine Nick giving this necklace to his future wife. Linked to a battery by a silver thread, this glowing necklace would surely delight the kind of quirky lovable girl that Nick will betroth.Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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A writer's dream come true

    By Trish Milburn

    Yesterday morning at around 10:20, while sleeping because I was suffering from a sinus infection and a fever, I got The Call. My agent called to tell me I'd sold my first two books, young adult titles, to Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin. How did this fabulous event come about? Here's the skinny.

    Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away...

    Okay, so it was really the 1990s, and I was in Kentucky, but whatever. I began writing my first romance manuscript when I was in college at good ol' Murray State University in Western Kentucky. It wasn't an everyday kind of endeavor at that point because, well, I had a lot of studying to do and typically held two jobs while I was at it. I continued to piddle after I graduated in 1993 and started my first job as a newspaper reporter while the hubby did the grad school thing. The piddling continued when we moved to Tennessee in 1995 and I began working in the marketing department of an insurance company.

    But in 1996, my local RWA chapter formed,I became a member of RWA, and I started learning more about the business and craft of writing. I continued to write when I left the insurance company and went back to journalism as a writer and editor at a magazine. I left that job 2 1/2 years ago to freelance write and edit, believing I was on the verge of sale (one of those that fell through.) Now, 11 years after beginning to submit to publishing houses, I finally have sold my first two books. Not the first two I wrote. Those are safely tucked away in the deep recesses of my computer and on floppy disks (yep, floppy disks). I've written 18 full manuscripts since beginning to submit to editors, and there have definitely been days when I got rejections or felt I was "thisclose" to selling only to have it fall through that the thought of just chucking it all occurred to me. I'm so glad I didn't. I will forevermore be the queen of preaching perseverance to other writers. After a point, if you are getting good critiques and finaling in or winning contests, you've got the grasp on craft you need to be published. You just have to find the right editor at the right time with the right project while continually studying the business side of the industry and endeavoring to always push your writing to the next level.

    I'm, of course, not the only writer who has taken the long and winding road to getting published. My good friend Merrillee Whren, who writes for Silhouette Love Inspired, wrote for 15 years before getting published. Super YA and paranormal author Stephanie Rowe, like me, wrote 18 manuscripts before selling, and now she's a multi RITA finalist. I owe Stephanie a lot because she encouraged me to write young adult books, and that's what got me my agent and, three years later, my first sale. She also nearly hyperventilated on the phone when I called to tell her and sent me these beautiful flowers today.

    I have so many friends who are in the boat I was in two days ago -- they're super talented, they've finaled in and won lots of contests, and they've completed lots of books. I'll do whatever I can to help them climb from that boat into this new boat. I'm hoping they get that wonderful, unbelievable call very soon.Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Some Travellers' Tales from Anna Campbell

    Hi Banditas and Buddies!

    Just popping in to say that my good friend Nicola Cornick has put up a diary of our trip around the stately homes of the West Country (currently being inundated!) on her website, if you want to check it out.
    Regency Writers On the Loose!

    Anna (who couldn't possibly have eaten that many cream teas. Um, just looked in the mirror, maybe I did!)Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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Nick has a quirky sense of humor.

Nick gets telegrams.

    When we were little, we were spending the summer in Cornwall, so my dad sent Nick a telegram for his birthday. It was so exciting and old-fashioned! Now telegrams have been officially discontinued, but perhaps Nick would like this stationery, inspired by a 1920s British telegram.Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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Guests Galore in the Lair!

    posted by Aunty Cindy

    We LOVE having guest bloggers drop by the Bandit Lair, and judging from recent comments and stats from Google Analytics, YOU our wonderful readers, love them too! Well, Aunty is thrilled to announce that we are going to have a "Guest Blogger Blow OUT" for the next few weeks! We have some GREAT authors who have agreed to visit:
    • July 27th (yes, this Friday), my good friend and SUPER YA author Tina Ferraro will do a Q&A (with a few fun surprises) and give away a copy of her current release "Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress."
    • August 1st Anne Mallory, whose Regency romances come with a "...mysterious twist," will guest blog about her August release "What Isabella Desires." And not one but TWO lucky winners will receive autographed copies.
    • August 6th erotica novelist, Collette Gale will chat about "seducing the classics" and the release of her retelling of the Phantom of the Opera in "Unmasqued". And yes indeed, an autographed copy will be given away to an erotica reader.
    • August 9th Janet Mullany will be here just in time for us to help her celebrate the release of her "chicklit Regency" "The Rules of Gentility" and a lucky commentor will receive a free copy.
    • Then on August 10th Julie Cohen will leap "across the pond" to hang out with us, do a little Q&A and give away a copy of her latest US release "McAllister's Baby."
    • August 16th the incomparable Sabrina Jefferies will talk about her latest book in the School for Heiresses series and her new Mossy Creek anthology. Of course there will be a giveaway!
    • August 27th best-selling super-star Lorraine Heath will join us to celebrate her latest release "Just Wicked Enough" with a free copy up for grabs. Lorraine will tell us about her historicals and her foray into YA!
    YOWZA! I hope I haven't forgotten anybody! We are going to be busy Busy BUSY here in the Bandit Lair so be sure you VISIT OFTEN!
    Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Nick is as tall as treetops.

Nick looks good in Euro clothes.

A Swat At Mediocrity

    by Cassondra Murray

    A few weeks ago I walked into my office…uh…Starbucks…and was greeted by one of the Baristas.

    “How’s your writing going?” she asked.

    It’s my job as a writer (or my excuse?) to notice people, and I’d first noticed this woman months before she worked at my office (Starbucks), when she was, like me, still just a customer. She’s a memorable person because she’s tall and beautiful and so obviously an artist of some kind. She exudes that “I do art” persona—from her gorgeous haircut that I could never wear, to her lovely, un-made-up, yet open and naturally beautiful face. The artsy tote bags she carries and the individual way she puts together clothing—cool but funky—made an impression on me the first time I saw her.

    But to be honest, since most of my “co-workers” (Starbucks employees) know that I’m a writer (I compose new material at the corner table by the outlet in Starbucks—just me and my Dana word processor, a big bank of windows and a cup of something hot and steamy) I didn’t actually remember speaking with her specifically about my writing.

    I told her it was my weekly outing to relax and that I’d been to a wine tasting. I love wine. Everything about it. The anthropology. The history of people who grew grapes and the places it was grown. How it's evolved yet remained the same mashed grapes. I’ve been studying wine for about three years, and can’t get enough of it. It’s my diversion. She asked if I’d seen the film Sideways, which centers around wine lovers and wine itself.

    "Well yes," I said, "I have seen it."

    I guess I looked sort of glum as I waited for my one-shot decaf grande’ iced hazelnut latte, because she said, “you didn’t like it?”

    “Well,” I said, “I think it was very well made, and I suppose it ended appropriately for the film that it was.” I drummed my fingers on the table as I thought about it.

    “But?” she prodded.

    “I like happy endings,” I said. “I write romantic suspense. There’s a high body count, and plenty of angst, but I like my films the way I like my books. Ones that have a ‘happily ever after’. Guaranteed.”

    “Really?” She looked a bit quizzical. “What’s realistic about that?”

    I shrugged. “Well, I dunno.” I shrugged again. “But I have a slight clinical depression. Reality is overrated. I live in it every day. I don’t want to pay anyone eight to twelve dollars to make me sad. If I go and pay for entertainment, or spend my time on it, I want to feel better at the end.”

    “I hear you girl!” She nodded in understanding at the clinical depression comment. She stirred the milk into my latte. “But what about film or works that call attention to the mediocrity of life?” She handed me my drink.
    I pushed out my lips a bit as I considered this and poked my straw at the X cut-out in the top of the cup.

    “I think they do a good job of showcasing the filmmaker’s talents,” I said. “I think they have their place…I guess.” I drummed my fingers again. “I appreciate the artistry that’s involved in making them.” I smacked my hand on the counter a bit. “But I don’t want to watch them.”

    She nodded, and took me for what I was, and was thinking about it as I left, I could tell.

    And I’ve been thinking about that ever since.

    All of us—the elfreda ica—we specialize in happy—or at least hopeful--endings. It’s our stock in trade. We don’t do it because it’s popular, or because that’s what our publishers demand. I think we do it because inside, that’s who we are. Believers in the happily ever after. Now some of my Bandita sisters may have deep thoughts with which to chime in here, and I hope they do so because I’m a bit perplexed.

    Honestly, is there a person out there who NEEDS to be notified that life is generally mediocre? That no matter how hard we try, we may end up just exactly where we are right now? That the efforts of any one individual could be (I don’t believe this BTW) useless, wasted energy, and that all things devolve into the same mundane least common denominator?

    How does that lift the human spirit?

    And if it’s art, SHOULD IT necessarily lift the human spirit? What do you think?

    I consider the works of Michelangelo, the paintings of Monet that I referenced in a blog a few months ago, and the amazing cathedrals I’ve seen, all testaments to the human spirit and its yearning for things heavenly—things higher. Stuff that inspires, that says “go for it….you are more than flesh…you can make a difference.” I think of the films that make me laugh out loud—the episodes of I Love Lucy and Andy Griffith that are perennially popular, and how good I feel when I watch even the reruns. And then I think of those critically acclaimed films and works of literary fiction that, almost inevitably, end in subtle tones of quiet desperation, leaving me with the sense that all effort is, in the end, useless, and I think, why?

    Why would people need to view this?

    I taught a class with one of my critique partners, a professor of literature and education, last January at the local university, and one of the points I made over and over to the students was that, in modern genre fiction, the point was for the writer to disappear, to become invisible, so that the reader can become so immersed in the story that it becomes real, and they can live and breathe and experience with the characters.

    With that as my writing philosophy, it’s obvious how it was in direct conflict with the idea of drawing attention to the mediocrity of life. For in these films and books, most often it’s the brilliant filmmaking that is spoken of by the critics. The powerful writing style. The seductive cinematography. The concise editing that brings the hopeless, desperate tone to the work.

    Well, goody.

    All that work, all to call attention to how good the filmmaker or the writer is?

    I genuinely would love to know what you all—the writers and the readers—think of this. Are there really people out there who need to be reminded that there probably is no hope? No point to it all?

    Or is this self-serving on the part of the artists?

    Is it not a higher goal to lift the human spirit? To leave the reader/watcher with renewed faith and hope that it really is worth not just existing through life, but LIVING it to its fullest?

    The belief in happily ever after keeps me going at the end of some very long days. Am I the only one?

    What do you think?Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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Monday, July 23, 2007

Happy birthday, Nick!

    This week of posts is dedicated to my little brother, Nick, who turns 25 today! He has a quirky sense of humor and a great appreciation of the way things work. He especially enjoys watches, biking, environmental friendliness, traveling, European style and cool ladies.

    This week, we will get inside Nick's head and see what it's like to be him. I will choose photography and design that I think he'd like. Nick can let me know how well I do, and Sarah Wilson will hopefully weigh in, too, since she often knows Nick better than he knows himself.

    Happy birthday, Nick! You are the best little brother ever!Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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Where do ideas come from?

    by Donna MacMeans

    Inevitably, at some point in a conversation with a wide-eyed reader, the question will arise "Where do you get your ideas?"
    And I struggle for an answer because the process never seems to be the same. I just have to trust that the inspiration for a new story will be there when I need it. (I PRAY that the inspiration will be there when I need it).
    Stephen King suggests that story are ideas are buried in the ground just waiting for the author to unearth them. Jennifer Crusie credits the "girls in the basement" for sending up ideas when you need them - you just have to listen. A workshop last week in Dallas told authors to look to music and movie titles for inspiration. So I'm wondering - where do you find inspiration for a novel?
    The Education for Mrs. Brimley was inspired a few years ago by Lori Foster's contest. She encouraged entrants to submit a sexy scene in either a contemporary or historical setting. The weekly winner's entry would go to an editor. Several novellas were purchased through that contest. My idea for a strip tease was ripe with sexual tension, but the scenario was hardly unique in a contemporary venue. So I decided to place it in a Victorian setting as those ladies wore enough clothes to make a striptease a weeklong event. Now I needed motivation for my characters, both hero and heroine. As I thought about it, an idea started to form that begged to be written. I never entered Lori's contest because the desire to work on my Victorian striptease took over.
    My next book, The Trouble with Moonlight, was inspired by the recent preponderance of TV shows and heroines with supernatural powers. That, coupled with the story of the headless horseman, led to my fun story of an invisible (Victorian) heroine.
    My current work in process was inspired in part by the historical homes in Newport, Rhode Island. Discovering the charm gates in New Orleans brought about a partially written time-travel that still sits on my computer. A talk show featuring a cardiologist specializing in heart transplants inspired an earlier romantic suspense.
    TV shows, vacation spots, movies, and contests...it sure would be nice if the process was consistent so I'd know where to turn when a story idea is needed. Especially as deadlines loom.
    Share the source of your inspiration, or the process you use to discover your story and I'll reward the best suggestion with a bandit mask and a Jane Austen action figure.
    Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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Sunday, July 22, 2007


    by Anna Sugden

    Cost of Nationals Conference … $325
    Return plane ticket to Dallas … $300
    Room and board … $700

    Seeing your writing buddies and getting to hang out with them … priceless!

    Earlier this year, I was in the doldrums. A big rejection. Stuck in my work. Writing going nowhere. My chances of finalling in the GH were, I thought, slim to none given my heroine wakes up in bed with the hero because she had too much to drink the night before (not exactly home and hearth category!). I said to my husband that I was debating not going to Dallas. What was the point? I could order the CD’s and save a heap of money.
    He smiled patiently at me and said “But the main reason you go is to meet up with all your writing pals.”

    He’s right. It is without a doubt the best part.

    I’m glad I changed my mind and went. Writing can be such a solitary occupation. How authors managed it in the days before internet, I don’t know. I’d be lost and have given up long, long ago without my online pals.

    The same friends who will critique a synopsis at the drop of a hat, will find a safety pin to hold you together when the top button of your skirt pops. They have band-aids for your blisters and ideas for your stalled plot. They cheer with you for the highs and hug you during the lows. They’ll stick voodoo pins in those who reject you and stick by you when you’re nervous before an appointment or workshop you’re giving. They understand the trials and tribulations of life and they get what being a writer involves. (Really, who else gets the voices, the way characters wrest control from you, the ideas that pop into your head at the strangest and often most inopportune moments?)

    I’m so glad I followed my husband’s advice and went to Dallas. Not just because I had a great time and helped my writing career inch forward another step. But because that week in Dallas was filled with special moments with my friends.

    The one who picked me up at the airport and gave me a bag of emergency goodies (water, cookies and crisps etc) for the week. The one who quietly mentioned me to her agent - I didn’t know until her agent told me! The gang who gave up workshops to sit with me and brainstorm how to strengthen my hero in time for my editor pitch. And the one who handed me a beer after I’d spent a couple of hours being 'line nazi' for the check-out line at the Literacy Signing.

    These are just a few of the special moments, and there are more I can’t mention publicly, but for which I’m eternally grateful. All these moments prove that your writing friends are simply priceless.

    So, tell us about some of the sweet and caring things your friends did for you in Dallas. Or any other conference.
    Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Big Day for Imagination

    by Nancy Northcott

    I’m the newest bandita, and I’m excited to join the group! An ardent Anglophile, I love history, adventure, action, mystery and fantasy, so it’s pretty easy to find books I like. I live in the Piedmont (a fancy name for foothills) area of North Carolina, where the biggest city is Charlotte. When it comes to writing, I’m part pantser, with ideas coming as either the first scene or one of the last, and part plotter, spinning a synopsis out of that initial concept so I have a roadmap for the journey.

    Today, of course, is Harry Potter day. We read the books aloud as a family, which is why I’m posting this in the wee hours. My husband will be going out to pick up a copy early in the morning, and we’ll embark on a family reading marathon. We just saw and enjoyed the fifth movie, so we’re well primed.

    There are a lot of theories to explain the popularity of this series, which draws on many currents of literary tradition. At the bottom line, though, the explanations all seem to boil down to J. K. Rowling’s imagination. She took elements from literature, fantasy, and classicism and synthesized them with endearing and/or intriguing characters to hook the world. There’s power for you!

    The weather here makes reading even more appealing than usual. This week hasn’t been so bad, but we’ve been promised a return to temperatures in the 90s and high humidity. Of course, we can escape the heat by visiting some fine area museums or walking in the shady woods at a raptor center, where injured birds of prey receive medical care and, if they can’t survive in the wild, a home. They’re all great places to visit, but I suspect a lot of people here will be curled up with a big, fat book for the next few days.

    Thanks for reading along on my first bandita blog. I hope you all have a great weekend. By the time you read this, I’ll probably be off in the company of wizards.Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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Friday, July 20, 2007

Diary of a Conference

    Well, after five days, I think I'm finally caught up *g* I'm soooo glad to be back with my fellow Banditas!! I missed you all!!

    Thank you all so much for your congrats! I'm still in shock *g* Congratulations to Trish on her GH win and to KJ and Jo on their Daphne Wins!

    Here's a quick rundown of my conference experience:

    Roomed with three wonderful friends, Tammy Johnson (05 gh finalist) Janice Lynn (Harlequin Author) Lindsey Brookes (07 gh finalist, American Title III finalist, Winner of Harlequin's American contest) I've never laughed as much as I did last week!

    Survived my trip on the Elevator of Doom which took me to the Tower of Terror (I prefer my restaurants DON'T rotate, thanks all the same)

    Got to witness my CP and best buddy Tawny and our lovely Anna C sign their books at the Lit signing! (I was so proud *g*)

    Had breakfast with Rita Nominee Stephanie Rowe, a wonderful and sweet lady *g*

    Had a book signed by one of my favorite authors, Virginia Kantra, who is always so kind and funny.

    Attended some awesome workshops including the TGN retreat (hosted so fabulously by Jeanne) the PRO retreat (put on by Trish -- great job!) a YA workshop and a workshop on developing the romance in your romance novel by Virginia Kantra (I hope she didn't think I was stalking her *g*)

    Moderated (for the first time ever) Tawny's Standing out from the Slushpile workshop (it was a huge success -- standing room only!)

    Met with an editor from Silhouette to discuss which story to submit to them next

    Had a terrific date to the RITA/GH ceremony (that's me and Tawny, all dolled up for the night *g*) Loved the awards ceremony this year and the chance to cheer for so many friends up for awards!

    Spoke in front of over 1,900 people and lived to talk about it (even if it did take me an hour to stop shaking *g*)

    Finally got the chance to wear the tiara Tawny sent to me (after I whined one too many times that I wanted to be Queen of the World -- or at least my little corner of it) I was the dork in the bar Saturday night in the flip flops, black sweat pants, AC/DC shirt and Tiara ;-)

    Coming Home to the poster my kids made me and receiving beautiful roses from some dear friends!

    The best part of conference? Seeing old friends, meeting new ones and getting to spend time with some of the most wonderful women I know!! Can't wait for next year :-)

    What was your favorite part of conference? Anyone else have any 'Firsts' in Dallas? (Those you can publicly share, anyway? *ggg*)Source URL: http://yourrighthandthief.blogspot.com/2007/07/
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*Have a lovely weekend*

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