Saturday, January 23, 2010

interview with Suz

We're welcoming my very good friend, Jo Davis, back to the Lair today, not to talk about firefighters, but SPIES! I've been looking forward to the debut of this book and bringing Jo here to give us the details. Be prepared dear readers, you'll need a fan and the air conditioning to help you get through reading this erotic suspense series!

Suz:With your latest foray into the world of Erotic Suspense you've delivered a new series for our readers to devour. Care to give us a look into the world of sexy spies?

Jo: The idea for the SHADO Agency series resulted from my love of spy thrillers. I'm a fan of James Bond and the BOURNE thrillers, and just about any spy story out there. When faced with creating a new series, I thought what fun it would be to write a spy series, and seriously turn up the sexual heat to scorching levels?and the SHADO Agency was born. My visit this previous summer to the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. fueled my imagination even more. What an intriguing world of disguise, subterfuge, and danger! There was no way I could resist.


The mission: Seduce…and Eliminate.

Jude St. Laurent is a former assassin for SHADO, a covert homeland security agency. After a mysterious accident causes gaping holes in his memory, he embraces his career as an artist, pouring vibrant, colorful life into his erotic paintings, and he often seeks solace in the arms of his subjects. But when he’s haunted by visions of the past, he turns to his new personal assistant for help—and she knows just how to make him forget.

Lily Vale is not what she seems. An agent as deadly as St. Laurent , she uses sex to manipulate her targets—and always gets her man. When she’s sent on a mission to kill Jude, she’s startled—and aroused—to find that he’s not the monster she expects. As Lily succumbs to Jude’s decadent sexual lifestyle, one wicked sin at a time, she realizes that there’s more to this case than meets the eye—and if she’s going to save them both, she’ll have to found out who’s pulling the strings.


Suz: The book starts off with a bang:

Prologue

“Sweet Christ.”

Elbows on the ratty desk, John Sandborn dropped his face into his hands. In the wake of this terrible exercise of connect the dots, he’d be goddamned lucky if he didn’t wind up at the bottom of the Atlantic. In five different oil drums.

Because a traitorous, murdering bastard was coming for him. No doubt about it.

If he had a whisper of a prayer of avoiding a grisly fate, he had to work fast.

Clicking the X in the top right corner of the laptop’s screen, he closed the classified file and opened another. Fingers flying, he activated a program he’d hoped never to use, but was damned glad he’d put into place. Next, he composed a simple coded message a ten-year-old couldn’t decipher, yet not so difficult a trusted operative couldn’t, either.

“Okay . . . got it.” He blew out a deep breath. It wasn’t perfect, but would have to do.

Last, he opened his e-mail and hit Send. He waited, every muscle tense, while the new files, along with the classified one, shot to six different destinations and burrowed into six different hard drives. A high-tech worm that would make any hacker cream in his shorts—and just might save his ass.

Action complete.

Sandborn attacked the keyboard again, clicking rapidly. His instincts screamed Get out, but he didn’t dare leave the last two tasks undone.

Precious seconds were whittled away, scraping his nerves raw, as he accessed the script file he’d written to initiate the virus that would destroy his hard drive. The final box popped onto the screen, and he executed his CTRL+F+U command.

Sandborn gave a grim chuckle at the double entendre in his chosen three-finger salute and wiped the sweat from his brow. Time to make like a ghost.

The door to his motel room burst open, hitting the inside wall like a gunshot. Sandborn spun, the SIG from the desktop already in hand, arm leveling at the leader of the traitor’s cleanup crew.

Too late. A pop split the air, and pain blossomed in his chest. He stumbled backward, managing to get off a shot, the explosion deafening in the tiny space. The leader went down with a grunt as Sandborn trained his gun on the second man, tried to squeeze the trigger. And couldn’t. His arm fell limp and useless to his side.

The second man crossed the room, a smirk on his ugly, pockmarked face. Cold overtook the pain, spreading from Sandborn’s chest to his limbs. Numbing every muscle. Looking down, he stared in fascinated horror at the dart embedded in his left pectoral.

He swayed, speaking quickly. His life depended on it. “Tell your boss I know everything. I put safeguards in place, and he’ll never find them without me,” he rasped, the drug freezing his vocal cords, fast. “If I die . . . the whole world will know . . . what he’s done.”

Sandborn’s legs buckled and he slumped to the floor, completely nerveless. Aware, but paralyzed, along for the ride and at their mercy. A nightmare.

A pair of heavy-soled leather boots appeared in his line of vision as the second man paused, obviously peering at the laptop. “You smart-ass sonofabitch,” Crater Face hissed.

John Sandborn’s last image was a snapshot of the man’s right shitkicker rocketing toward his face.



Suz: WOW! Jude St. Laurent, the hero of I SPY A WICKED SIN, is a very damaged hero. What is it that makes wounded men so sexy and how did you come about giving him the flaws in this story?


Jo: I think there's something about a tortured or damaged hero that brings out the caring and nurturing side of a woman. At least that's true for me. I want to fix it, make it all better-but not before he's put through the wringer. With Jude, I knew from the beginning he was blind and had holes in his memory due to the villain having his mind swept. (Think Bourne Identity) I said to myself, "I blind former assassin/spy? Are you nuts? He'll be such a difficult hero to write!" But it didn't matter. Jude was what he was, period. As with all my heroes, once he introduced himself to me, that was it. And on top of memory loss, can you imagine having one of your most relied-upon senses denied you, while becoming increasingly aware that you're not what you believed and that your life is in terrible danger? The challenge was too much fun to resist.


Suz: In I SPY A WICKED SIN Lily Vale is a very beautiful operative of SHADO. What is her area of expertise?

Jo: Like Jude, Lily is an assassin, and she's posing as Jude's new personal assistant. Her job in this case is to locate computer files that Jude hid regarding the theft of a weapon of mass destruction, a theft he was supposedly instrumental in pulling off. Then she'll eliminate him. Lily uses her sex appeal to bring down her targets in a much more?hands on manner than most agents. In particular, she's very proficient in using poisons that don't leave a trace?


Suz: A Jo Davis erotica wouldn't be complete without a ménage. Liam O'Neil is the third member of this trio. Is he also a spy for SHADO?

Jo: No, our sweet Liam is Jude's in-house chef, companion, and sometime lover. He's a young man with a big, open heart and almost stole the story from my clutches before I quite knew what happened. I adore Liam, and completely balked at a suggestion while writing the book that I kill him off! SO not happening! I hope readers love him as much as I do.

Suz: Since I SPY A WICKED SIN is the first of this series, will we be seeing these characters in the other books?

Jo: The two characters that will carry over from the beginning of the three-book series are handsome SHADO leader Michael Ross and the villain, ex-SHADO right-hand man and traitor Robert Dietz. The first two books in the series will have a conclusion, but Michael and Dietz will have their final showdown in the last book. Also, book two will introduce someone very important to Michael's story.

Suz: And I can't have Jo Davis in the lair without asking? WHEN will we be seeing the next firefighter book?

Jo: I'm so glad you asked! Tommy Skyler's story, LINE OF FIRE, will be released on May 4, 2010! The team's youngest hottie will get his story, and it sets up an explosive plot for the final book, RIDE THE FIRE, Captain Sean Tanner's story coming in December! In Tommy's story, lives will be irrevocably changed. Think of these last two books in the series as dominos falling, setting off a chain reaction?

Suz: Jo, thanks for being here today. We love having you with us. Do you have a closing question for our readers?

Jo: Sure do, Which type of action hero is your favorite in books, TV, or movies (cop, firefighter, Navy SEAL/other military, spy, etc.) and who is your favorite action hero of all time?


Monday, September 14, 2009

Wendy Watson

Interview with Suzanne

Suz: Welcome to the Bandit, Lair, Wendy. Pull up a barstool and we'll have one of the cabana boys fetch us a margarita. So congratulations on the debut of I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM, the first in your cozy mystery series. Please tell everyone what the book is about.

Wendy: Cocktails! Fantastic! Had I known we were having snacks, I would have brought along some of Tally's avocado gelato. Maybe next time ...

I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM is about Tally Jones, proprietor of Dalliance, Texas's ice cream parlor, Remember the A-la-mode. With a struggling business, a crumbling historic home, and a motley assortment of family members depending on her, Tally swallows her pride and agrees to provide ice cream for her ex-husband's company luau. But when her ex's arm-candy girlfriend drops dead, Tally finds herself scooping for her life, hoping to find a murderer before she finds herself locked in the hoosegow.

Thankfully, Tally's cousin Bree, Bree's daughter Alice, and Tally's high school beau Finn Harper are all on hand to help her out.

Suz: I've been looking forward to this book since you first announced it at one of our chapter meetings. How did you come up with the concept?

Wendy: Funny you should ask. Normally, I start with a very vivid scene, and the characters and plot flow from that. For I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM, though, I started with the hook: ice cream. My agent and I had a brainstorming session, trying to think of ideas for a cozy series, something that I knew about and was passionate about and that people would find relatable. Well, friends, this girl knows food. Cooking it, eating it, reading about it, dreaming about it ... I {puffy heart} food. And the mother of all foods, in my opinion, is ice cream.

As soon as I said the words aloud, Kim and I knew it was the perfect hook for me. And it has been. My husband jokes that he can always tell when I've been writing "ice cream procedural," the passages where Tally is making or eating ice cream, because I get all keyed up and he can't drag me away from the computer.


Suz: Tallulah, "Tally" Jones is the star of this series. She has a lot to overcome, but doesn't come off perfect. How did she first make her appearance to you?

Wendy: Ice cream equals indulgence. It's sensual and luscious and fattening as heck. I wanted a character whose life was the opposite of that. And thus Tally Jones was born. She's all about duty and responsibility and being a good girl and not making a scene. At least on the outside. She's got ice cream in her soul, though, and getting down to that vibrant, raw, passionate person is going to be tons of fun.

Suz: The secondary characters in I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM are a hoot. How do they play a part in Tally's life?

Wendy: Wow. You get right to the heart of the matter, huh?

That's a big theme in the book, how we define ourselves relative to the people around us. My extended family lives in a small town, and everyone is defined by their relationships to one another: "Roberta's boy," or "Junior's ex." We moved around a lot when I was growing up, so for me, those sorts of relationships were largely impermanent; I didn't have a place in some vast interpersonal web, but was mostly floating free. As a result, that small town feel intrigues me.

In this book, I play a lot with that notion of being defined by the people around you, both your relationships to them and their expectations of you. On the one hand, I find that sort of belonging seductive. On the other, I can see how it could be stifling, oppressive. For Tally, it's both.

Gee. Didn't mean to get all heavy, but you really touched on one of the more emotional themes of the book. And while I love to laugh--and hopefully make others laugh, too--I want Tally's story to touch people's hearts, too.

Suz: Speaking of Finn Harper, is there a future romance in the works between him and Tally?

Wendy: LOL! Yes, one of the most delicious threads of the story (to me) is Tally's struggle to define her relationship with her high school boyfriend Finn. When the book begins, she hasn't seen him in nearly two decades, not since she broke his heart in the Tasty-Swirl parking lot on the eve of their high school graduation. When he comes back to town and into her life, he stirs up all sorts of feelings she'd rather not examine too closely.

Do they have a future? Hmmmm. Maybe. Finn and Tally have a lot of past to overcome before they can start thinking about happily ever after. And, well, there might be a competitor for Tally's affections just around the corner .....

Suz: So what's next in the MYSTERY A LA MODE series?

Wendy: SCOOP TO KILL is slated for a July 2010 release. Tally's precocious niece Alice is finishing up her first year at Dickerson College, and when the annual Honor's Day festivities turn bloody, Alice enlists her Aunt Tally's help in solving an ivory tower murder.



Suz: At the end of I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM you have a delicious recipe for "Tally's Tropical Sundaes", which sounds delicious by the way, is this going to be something you do with each book? If so, I can see one dear husband wanting me to buy more books!

Wendy: Trust me, that ginger-lime-coconut sauce is highly addictive (great for dressing up carrot cake, too!). There will be recipes for ice cream goodies in every book, all using store-bought ice cream and all designed so even "can't boil water" cooks can craft something company-worthy.

So dear readers...what is your favorite ice cream and/or toppings?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

interviewed by Suzanne

Bandits and readers let me introduce you to my friend, Celya Bowers. Welcome to the Lair Celya, pull up a cushy chair and I'm sure we can find a cabana boy around here to bring us some refreshments!

Suz:
ANYTHING BUT LOVE is one of my favorite Celya Bowers books. Can you give us a little look into the story?

Celya: ANYTHING BUT LOVE is a contemporary romance about two very A-type personalities who don’t want to date, but end up doing just that. Kendall Matthews is a very talented doctor in a prestigious hospital. Her world get turned upside down when her past comes back to greet her. Coletrane Highpoint was her first love and now he was back in town. He hadn’t noticed Kendall when she 16, but he notices her now at the tender age of 40.



Suz: Your heroine and hero have a past history. How did that mold them into the people they are now? And how does it affect their relationships both together and with other people?

Celya: Kendall always carried the hurt of Cole’s dismissive attitude toward her all these years. It formed her into the very focused woman she is now. She’s determined not to let another hurt her again. At first Cole can’t understand why Kendall has such an attitude about him, but when he realizes she was still harboring ill feelings from the past. He tries to rectify it.

Suz: Both characters have strong family ties. Is this important to you to show that part of their lives?

Celya: I’m very close to my family. I couldn’t imagine not speaking to someone in my family at least weekly. There’s such negative images of the African-American family, I’d like to show the world that there are still solid families on this earth. All my books have strong family ties.

Suz: Your secondary characters also have a second parallel love story. Do you feel that adds to the richness of the main story?

Celya: Yes, I do. I think it helps adds a much needed layer to a romance. Nothing is worse than being so focused on someone else’s romance you don’t realize you’ve fallen in love yourself.

Suz: So what's next for Celya Bowers?


Celya: My latest release is a Celya Bowers book and is called 2 GOOD.

2 GOOD features a plus size heroine, Madisyn O'Riley and wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, Aidan Coles. Madisyn is tired of playa-playas and wants to find just one good man. She's had her fill of two legged dogs. When she volunteers at Aidan's charity, she can't believe that he's actually interested in her. Aidan is immediately attracted to Madisyn because she's not swayed by his wealth. Is she 2 Good to be true? When her security is threatened by an ex-lover, Aidan jumps at the chance to show her how much he wants her. Madisyn had begun to think men like Aidan didn't exist anymore, but is so glad she was wrong.

Suz: Can't wait to read 2 GOOD. I love football players as heroes! You also write as Kennedy Shaw. What’s up next for her?

Celya: The next book by Kennedy Shaw is called TOUR OF DUTY, and
will be released December 2009. This is a romantic suspense and is concerning unauthorized military testing with our troops in Iraq. It features high school sweethearts Mikerra Stone and Drake Harrington. This story is set in Wright City, Texas. Mikerra has a secret. She's been living in New York working as an editor, and seeing a married man. Now that man wants her dead. Mikerra returns to her hometown for safety. She never dreamed she'd run into Drake. He still habors bad feelings toward her for the break-up. Drake is a an army ranger, home on leave after a tour in Iraq. Unfortunately, he's been suffering from headaches since his return from the desert. The one person who holds the key to his headaches is the same person who broke his heart all those years ago. Can he put his hurt aside and listen to Mikerra?

Suz: Why do you write as two different pseudonyms? What is the advantage in doing that?

Celya: Kennedy Shaw’s story are usually set in the fictious city of Wright City, Texas. Every now and then Kennedy Shaw will have something different.

I wanted to keep those stories separate from Celya Bowers.

When you write totally different stories, it’s best to do it under a different name, so your loyal readers won’t be offended.

Suz: What do you see as the advantages of being a romance writer who happens to be African American? The disadvantages?

Celya: When I first started writing, there weren’t many African American romances out there. Now there’s more opportunities for writers of color, which I’m so grateful for. I try to write uplifting stories that give a reader hope. That’s why they’re paying to read my book. Escapism, but with the thought “hey, this could be me.”

To me the biggest disadvantage is that most mainstream readers think the minute they see AA on the cover, it’s going to be a story about the hood, drug dealers, and so on. I don’t write those kind of stories, because frankly, I don’t know that life style. I don’t write about baby mama drama, baby daddy drama. That’s just not my cup of tea. I write from my heart and things that occur around me. None of my friends are doing drugs, so I can’t write about that.

I guess I would like people to see my books as just romances. I don’t want it labeled a black romance just because of the color of the characters.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

by Suzanne
Oh hey, y'all! Give me a second to finish putting on my Kevlar vest. There! Now I'm ready to sit and chat with my good friend, Kay Thomas, who once again has brought us another intriguing book with bullets flying.

Suz: Kay, welcome back to the Lair. BULLETPROOF TEXAS is your second novel for Harlequin Intrigue and this is set, of course, in the Hill Country of Texas. Tell us a little bit about this book.

Kay, eyeing the vest: Sure, Suz. Thanks so much to you and the Banditas for having me back in "the Lair" today.

The bulletproof action continues when a pharmaceutical research scientist and a brooding caving guide are forced to work together extracting cancer-eating bacteria from a flooding Texas Hill Country cave. As the sparks fly and passions rise, so do the dangers when a competitor decides this potential cure shouldn't see the light of day--and is willing to kill anyone who gets in the way.

Suz: Can you tell us how you came up with the idea for BULLETPROOF TEXAS?

Kay: My family and I were in Carlsbad Caverns a couple of years ago for Spring break. I was listening to an audio tour that talked about cancer-eating bacteria found in Lechuguilla, another nearby cave. This bacteria is showing promise for cancer treatment in the research world. From the moment I heard the details of the discovery, I was fascinated with the idea of setting a romantic suspense novel against a cavern backdrop. I'd just finished a manuscript with a biomedical edge and a pharmaceutical company's machinations as part of the plot that would later be my debut novel, BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF (Harlequin Intrigue, January 2009). This new idea seemed the perfect fit for a sequel.

Suz: Your hero in BULLETPROOF TEXAS, Zach Douglas is a Park Ranger with a fascinating background. Can you tell us how you used it in the book?

Kay: Zach is the twin brother of Tammy Douglas from BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF. In the opening scene of BULLETPROOF TEXAS he makes the discovery of a lifetime (Devil's Hollow Cavern) and gets the news of Tammy's murder, both within moments of each other. The next scene takes place three months later. He's quit his job with the park service and is now a free-lance caving guide for the heroine, Maxine (Max) O'Neil.

Suz: Maxine O'Neil isn't your typical research scientist. How has she had to prove herself in her field and why?

Kay: Max is a woman with the body of a "Hooter's girl" and the brain of a rocket scientist. On the surface she appears to have it all. But her success has come at a huge price and her personal life is a wreck. She's just left her unfaithful fiance' at home in New York.

As a top pharmaceutical researcher in her field, her looks have been a handicap and she isn't always taken seriously in this "boys club" because of her stunning appearance. Over the years she's developed a very "hard case" personna. From the moment she and Zach first interact, there are fireworks.

Suz: The relationship between Max and Zach sizzles on the pages, are you finding it harder or easier to pack both steamy romance and plot into the category size books?

Kay: In this case it was easier to write because these characters just couldn't keep their hands off each other. Their relationship is more intense from the beginning and their personalities dictate a more physical relationship from the start.

Zach is angry with himself that he's attracted to a woman who infuriates, yet fascinates him at the same time. What he feels for Max breaks through the wall he has put up since his sister's death.

Max is drawn to Zach despite all her best intentions to keep him at arm's length. She's very aware of her responsibilities on this project and being in charge at Devil's Hollow, plus she's just broken off her engagement. She doesn't feel she's in a good place for a relationship or a casual fling because of how it would look to the others on her research team. But all those objections fall away once she and Zach start spending time together. Their chemistry is unstoppable.

Suz, grinning at Kay: Okay, since we're good friends, I know you did some interesting research for BULLETPROOF TEXAS. Want to tell our readers how far you went to be authentic in your story?

Kay, rolling her eyes at Suz: Oooh, I knew you were going to ask me this. : )

Much of the book's action takes place in a cave and since I'm too claustrophobic and too chicken to try actual "on-my-belly-in-the-mud" caving, my husband and I went to a rock climbing gym for the climbing part of the research. I was determined to feel my rear end in the rappelling gear, to feel the exhilaration of sliding down that rope and to get great pictures for my website. (For the record, my agent begged me not to do this! She thought I might get hurt. I assured her I would be fine! Note to self. Always listen to your agent.)

After the initial stomach churning experience of climbing to the top of the thirty-foot wall, (Did I mention I have this thing about heights, too?), I was having a fabulous time. Once I got over the nausea and rappelled down a couple of times, I was feeling very proud of myself...quite accomplished. What had I ever been afraid of? My husband was "on belay." He does lots of this kind of stuff a lot, so I wasn't worried.

A few minutes later, on my last climb of the afternoon we had a major "equipment malfunction." I was about twelve feet from the ground and my rope kinked. The ascender thingie (that keeps you from falling) jammed and I plummeted straight down. Flat on my back. The earth moved. Some of you may have felt it there in Australia. I scared those teenagers running the place half to death. Not to mention my sweetheart. It wasn't pretty.

After an MRI and multiple hours on a massage therapist's table, the doctor decided I did not have a compression fracture and cleared me to travel. For a month I had been planning (and packing) for a big writers' conference in San Francisco that started a few days after my umm...tumble. The doctor gave me a raft of muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories and pain-killers to get me through RWA National. This conference is always a wonderful and wild time, but a backache in high heels, even when you haven't fallen on your rear the week before.

Suz glances over the rim of her glasses in that omnipotent way of hers: And what did you ultimately learn from this adventure?

Kay, laughs: Well, this could be a whole other blog post about how I learned not to be stupid while researching.

Number one. About my agent.
Always listen to your agent. After I fell, the first thing that ran through my head (as I was lying flat on my back and trying to breath again) was: "My agent told me not to do this. I should've listened."

Number two. About my research.
Always, always in these kinds of situations rent the "how to DVD" and
interview the hot athlete. Have your picture made with him for your website (The photo of my behind in that sling is something that will never see the light of day!)

Number three. About my husband.
When I've had an MRI because my husband thinks he dropped me, I can buy as many pairs of shoes as I want and he won't say a word. In fact, he may ask if I want to buy a purse to go with them! However, I do not recommend this as a path to Jimmy Choo.

Number four. About myself.
I am a writer. I do not necessarily have to experience things to write about them. (I know, not exactly an epiphany, but apparently I need to be reminded of this "truth" from time to time!)

Suz: BULLETPROOF TEXAS is Kay Thomas's second novel from Harlequin Intrigue and is on US store shelves this week. Romantic Times gave BULLETPROOF TEXAS 4 stars calling it "taut, tricky and worth the read." Cataromance gave it 4 ½ stars calling it "non-stop action, nail-biting suspense and fiery passion." Her debut novel BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF was released in the US in January and in Australia in March. For excerpts, to enter Kay's April contest, and more please visit www.KayThomas.net.

Kay: So, readers, what’s the silliest thing you’ve ever done against good advice? Or if you really don’t want to share that particular experience ‘cause trust me, I know we’ve all had some “never-want-to-think-about-it-again” adventures. What’s the best thing you ever did against good advice?

You’ve already heard about one of my sillier moments. Now for the best thing I ever did against good advice….I got married! I’d only known my husband seven weeks when he proposed. Some friends thought we’d lost our minds. But I knew this was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Twenty-one years later—we’re still together and ridiculously happy. Not listening to those friends was the best thing I ever did against good advice!

So…your turn…best thing you’ve done against good advice or silliest mistake made against good advice? One random commenter will get a copy of my new Harlequin Intrigue, BULLETPROOF TEXAS.

video

Thursday, February 19, 2009

By Suzanne Welsh

As many of you know I'm the resident vampire of the Lair. Not so much because I drink blood, but because I work at night, which means I also prowl the Lair at all hours in the dark. So it seems rather appropriate that I invite my friend Jaye Wells to the Lair after hours to discuss her Urban Fantasy series.

Suz (offering Jaye a glass of Merlot):Welcome to the Lair, Jaye. Have a seat here near the fireplace. Please excuse the sleeping cabana boys and poor Sven the masseuse over there. They've had a hard day taking care of our Banditas and Bandit buddies. RED-HEADED STEPCHILD is your first book. We love "call stories" in the Bandit Lair. Care to tell us yours?

Jaye:(takes a long swig of wine and settles in) Thanks, Suz. Okay, I love telling this story. My husband left for Japan the week my book went on submission. At the time, we laughed about what would happen if I sold while he was gone. So funny, we thought. Little did we know.

Fast forward eight days. I'm sitting in a play area with my son. We were cutting snowflakes out of construction paper when my cell rang. Now, I'd convinced myself that if The Call was coming it would happen before noon. I don't recall why I thought this. So when my phone rang at like five on a Wednesday evening and I saw it was my agent, I was convinced he was calling with bad news. I figured he was letting me know we'd gotten the first rejection.

So I pick up and he says, "Are you sitting down?" I sighed, still thinking it was bad news, and went to sit on a stool that was literally a foot off the ground (kid's area, remember?). So I'm squatting there, waiting for the bad news, when my agent informs me that he's gotten an offer for a three book deal.

I leapt off the stool and screamed "OH MY GOD!" Then I promptly burst into tears. Remember: I'm in the middle of a play area surrounded by tired mothers and toddlers. I'm sure they thought I was insane.

After I'd calmed down a little and assured my son that I was crying because I was happy, my agent drops the next bomb. Since this was the first response we'd received, he needed to call the other editors. Then he said words I never thought I'd hear, "We'll probably go to auction."

Well, sure enough two days later, my poor tired husband gets off a plane from Japan. I literally walked in the door from picking him up and got on the phone. The next several hours flew by with me pacing around the house as I fielded phone calls from my agent. Toward the late afternoon, he called to tell me Orbit had preempted. So at 5:30, ten days after my book went on submission, I had myself a three-book deal. And my husband made it home just in time to drink champagne with me.

Suz: What a great story! I've read Paranormal Romances for years, what is the difference between and Urban Fantasy and a Paranormal Romance? Also, how is an Urban Fantasy different from Sci-fi or Epic Fantasies (ala Lord of The Rings)?

Jaye: To me, the main difference between paranormal romance and urban fantasy to be one of focus. In paranormal romance the plot centers around a budding relationship and usually ends in a happily ever after. In urban fantasy, the central plot revolves around one character's goals--be that defeating the bad guy, saving the world or what have you. You often find romantic elements in urban fantasy but you're much less likely to get a happily ever. But all this flies out the window when books get into bookstores. A lot of books I'd consider UF are being shelved in romance right now.

As far as UF versus science fiction or epic fantasy, the biggest difference for me is world building. Science fiction and fantasy don't occur in "our" world. Generally the author creates a unique world--another country or planet or galaxy. But in UF, the world is more like an alternate reality where vampires, werewolves or what have you actually exist in our modern world.

It's difficult though because there are exceptions to both these answers. Urban fantasy is really such a blending of genres that there aren't a lot of hard and fast rules or formulas--just generalities.

Suz: What sparked your interest in Urban Fantasies?

Jaye: There's a swagger to Urban Fantasy, a bit of rebelliousness that appeals to me. I love the blending of genres and the challenge of world building and the sense that I'm going on a journey with the characters.

Suz (reaching for the wine bottle and topping off both glasses): I had the pleasure of reading a copy of RED-HEADED STEPCHILD. In it, your heroine, Sabina Kane, is an assassin for the Vampire race. That's not a typical career choice for heroines. How did you make her sympathetic to the readers and did you find that hard to do?


Jaye: That's a good question. Honestly, some readers won't find Sabina sympathetic. She's foul-mouthed, has anger issues and is really good at self-deception. She's also got no qualms about violence. With a character like that, the goal isn't sympathy--it's empathy. You aren't supposed to feel sorry for Sabina, but you do need to understand why she does what she does. And that is achieved by showing her motivations and how her situation affects the choices available to her.

Suz: You did some "other world" building in RED-HEADED STEPCHILD. Can you tell us about the world you created? Was it difficult coming up with unique characters for all the worlds?

Jaye: When I sat down to create Sabina's world, it was important for me to understand where the dark races came from. So I started at the very beginning--literally. The dark races--vampires, mages, etc.--all started with one important event. According to some Jewish traditions, Eve wasn't Adam's first wife. Instead, a female named Lilith was created from dust just like Adam. When she demanded Adam let her be on top during sex, she left him and went to go consort with demons at the Red Sea.

I basically took this folklore and reworked it so the affairs Lilith had after she left Adam resulted in the creation of the dark races. Everything else just kind of came together from that, including the changes I made to the vampire mythos. For example, there's a direct connection between the fact Lilith left the Garden of Eden before the fateful forbidden fruit incident, and the fact apples can rob vampires of their mortality.

Coming up with main characters was pretty easy. Some of it comes from instinct based on the needs of the story, and other times they just pop up while I'm working. Vinca, who is Sabina's nymph roommate in the book, is an example of a character who just appeared. She ended up being one of my favorite characters.

Suz: Without giving anything away, you have a romantic interest in the book for Sabina. Do you want to tell us about him and will he continue to play an important role in the other books?

Jaye: Adam is a mage who initially causes a lot of trouble for Sabina. But he ends up being an ally and mentor of sorts, who helps Sabina get in touch with her magical side. Yes, there's also some sexual tension, but their relationship is far from a romance at this point. He will continue to play an important role in the overall story, but whether he and Sabina will end up together? Well, I'll just say there's a lot of story left to tell and you never know what might happen.

Suz: Are you planning more stories for Sabina?

Jaye: Absolutely. Right now I'm contracted for three book in the series. The second book, MAGE IN BLACK, is scheduled for release in January 2010. Plus, short story prequel of sorts will appear in the Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance, vol. 2 this winter.

Question for the readers: If you were a character in an Urban Fantasy novel, would you rather be a mage or a vampire?

Jaye is giving away an autographed copy of
RED-HEADED STEPCHILD to one lucky commentor.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Kay Thomas guest blog

by Suzanne Welsh


Today is champagne day in the Lair. Why? Because I get to welcome one of my closest and sweetest friends, Kay Thomas, to the Lair. I'm also celebrating with Kay and all of you the release of Kay's very first book, BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF!

Suz: Welcome to the Bandit Lair, Kay. Here's your champagne and please have a seat. First, the Bandits love call stories. Care to share yours with us?

Kay: Last year in mid-January, I was packing my family to get ready for a trip to visit my Dad for his 81st birthday. The phone rang and it was my wonderful agent Helen Breitwieser. She usually emails so I knew this was momentous news. She said Harlequin Intrigue really liked my story but it was too long for their line and would I be willing to cut my single title story to a category length. (This meant cutting about 80 pages of the manuscript.)

Was I willing to do that?

"Of course I can."


"Okay, let me call them back. I'll email you, it will probably be tomorrow before we hear anything."

Well, after that awesome call I had to get in the car and drive 8 hours to my parents' house. And let me tell you, it was a good thing we were almost packed because I don't think I could have remembered to pack underwear or shoes or anything, I was so excited.

We didn't really have a deal yet. Just a "Gee, we're interested." And I didn't know if they'd want me to do all that cutting first and see it before they made the offer or after. And I had a long drive to think about that, too. A very long drive.

When we got to my parent's house it was 2 am, and everyone was wiped out from the drive, so I didn't want to get into the news just yet. But my Dad has always been such a cheerleader for my writing. Growing up he always told me I could do whatever I set my mind to. When I went to tell my parents good night after the kids were finally in bed, I just had to tell my folks that I thought I "might" be about to sell my book. The looks on their faces were priceless.

I couldn't sleep after all that and I had to go online to see if there was any news. I really wasn't expecting any until much later that day. It was now about 3:30 in the morning and everyone was fast asleep but yes, there was the email from Helen! Harlequin had made an offer. I was shouting on the inside but I couldn't go wake anyone up to say it was finally real.

They'd all just gotten to sleep. But oh, that evening we got to celebrate my Dad's birthday with the rest of my extended family and my book sale. I don't think I could have given my Dad a greater birthday gift than telling him about my dream come true in person.

Suz: BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF is your debut novel being released later this month. Could you tell us the premise behind the story?



Kay: Sure, BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF is about a woman who gets caught up in the vaccine autism controversy when her sister disappears and leaves behind her autistic son. Gina Rodgers is an ad executive with no idea how to care for her nephew Adam and his overwhelming needs. She finds an unlikely ally in Adam's play therapist, Harlan Jeffries. He's a former Marine sniper looking for redemption in working with special needs children.

Suz: Your hero in BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF is Harlan Jeffries. He's my favorite kind of hero-big, strong, buff, with both a tender heart and a secret. Can you tell us more about what makes him tick?

Kay: Harlan is yummy, isn’t he? I had great time creating him. He is a Marine home on medical leave after being injured in Iraq. Haunted by all he’s seen and done there, he’s also trying to figure out what he’s going to do with his life now. While he’s working through all this, he’s working with Adam doing floortime. A type of play therapy for autistic kids that lay people can do. (Not a lot of special training required. You just have to like to play!) Yes, he does have a secret, but I hate to give that away here today.

Suz: What did you like best about Harlan? What drove you crazy about him?

Kay: Oooh, there were lots of things I like about him. He isn't perfect and even though he's very alpha, he doesn't necessarily have a big ego. In fact he's struggling with figuring out if he makes a difference anymore. He's sustained a terrible back injury and doesn't feel like a hero at all. He loves kids and he's very driven to help people. And of course, Gina doesn't want to be helped or saved in any way.

I really enjoyed showing him how much of a difference he could make in Gina's and Adam's lives just by being present, not necessarily by doing the physical things that he would normally consider heroic. Gina and Adam are the perfect people to show Harlan that he doesn't have to do anything special to make himself a hero. That whole idea of being loved for who you are, not for what you can do for someone.

Suz: Gina Rodgers, the heroine in BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF sees herself as a "screwup". How do you see her?

Kay: I see Gina as a woman who has struggled in the past to become independent from her family. She's now a competent and successful businesswoman, but thrown into the difficult situation of caring for an autistic five-year-old. While dealing with the emotional ramifications of that and looking for her missing sister, Gina feels all her old insecurities rising again. She has no idea how to care for her nephew. She needs help and she hates that she has to rely on Harlan for it.

She's also falling hard for Harlan whom she's not entirely sure she can trust. But she has to trust him because he's the only one who can help her when bullets start flying and it's obvious someone is after her and Adam. The situation pushes all her 'competency buttons' simultaneously so that she feels like she's losing control on every level.

Suz: Gina's nephew in BETTER THAN BULLTETPROOF has autism. It's a condition you are intimately associated with. Would you care to fill our readers in on that?

Kay: Yes, as you can probably tell from my answers above I'm rather passionate about this. Eight years ago my son was diagnosed with autism and we immediately dove into an intensive array of biomedical and traditional therapies for him. He worked hard and responded amazingly well. I will be forever grateful to a multitude of people that I can never repay for giving me back my son. People who worked with him, played with him, prayed for him and for my family. Incredibly generous parents I've met through autism groups online but never met in person who shared their hard won knowledge and advice when we got stuck in various stages of treatment. Doctors, teachers, therapists, and friends who gave so much over the years. It's a very long list.

Even with exceptional treatment, you don't always get the kind of results we did. It's been an extraordinarily humbling and overwhelming experience. Today I look at my son when he's yakking away (a miracle in itself), and I think about where we were 9 years ago. I'm completely awed.

Suz: If someone wanted to learn more about autism or become involved in helping where would recommend they start?

Kay: I'm so glad you asked. There are many great autism resources on the Internet now.

My favorite is www.nationalautismassociation.org

1-877-NAA-AUTISM

Their motto is "Think Autism. Think Cure."

They have fabulous resources for treatment options, conferences, and the latest news in the autism world. Practically every reputable autism site on the web is listed at NAA--Autism Research Institute, Talk About Curing Autism, Generation Rescue, Autism One. Please check them out.

And if you lose the address or can't remember it when you're chatting with someone, I have a list of autism resources on my website under links. NAA is at the top of the list.
Here's an article for more information:
http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/childrens-health/2008/12/11/a-parents-guide-to-managing-vaccinations.html

Suz: Was there any special reason you wanted to write BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF?

Kay: BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF is very much the “book of my heart” because the subject matter is so steeped in autism and treatment. I struggled not to “tell too much” as I wrote and to stay focused on the characters—not getting too carried away on a topic which is so close to home. It’s my greatest hope that readers can enjoy Harlan and Gina’s story and be entertained by it as well as learn a bit about autism—an epidemic that is sweeping the country and stealing away some of the brightest children of a generation.


Suz: This is your first book for Harlequin INTRIGUE. Do you have any other up and coming books with them?

Kay: Yes! I have an April Intrigue titled BULLETPROOF TEXAS. The release date is April 14, 2009 and I had a blast writing it. BULLETPROOF TEXAS pulls in some of the characters from BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF.

Suz: Oooo, I love series books where secondary characters get to pop again! Can you give us a hint about it? When will it be released?

Kay: It's a romantic suspense thriller about a pharmaceutical research scientist and a brooding caving guide who are forced to work together extracting a cancer-eating bacteria from a flooding Texas Hill Country cave. As the sparks fly and the sexual tension increases, so do the dangers when a competitor decides this potential cure shouldn't see the light of day--and is willing to kill anyone who gets in the way.

Kay:Suz, thanks so much for having me here in the lair today. 2008 was a remarkable and exciting year for me. I can hardly wait to see what happens in 2009. I was wondering what you and your readers are most looking forward to in the New Year? What is it about January and new beginnings that you most enjoy?

Kay is giving away an autographed copy of BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF to one commentor today.



(By the way, Kay loves boston terriors, so this one came to drink champagne with us today! Isn't he cute?)

Friday, December 26, 2008

by Suzanne Welsh

One of our favorite guests is back in the Bandit Lair with us today, NYT Bestselling author, Lorraine Heath. Lorraine, pull up a barstool and let's talk about your newest release. (By the way there's Tim Tam's in the Lair today!)

Suz: BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND DESIRE is the second in the Scoundrels of St. James series. Can you tell us about the story?

Lorraine, nibbling on a TimTam while giving a quick wave to the Bandits: The story involves Jack Dodger, the owner of a notorious gentleman's club. One of his patrons-the Duke of Lovingdon-bequeaths Jack his London residence in exchange for which Jack is to serve as guardian of the duke's 5-year-old son. Needless to say, the young widow is outraged that this scoundrel is charged with leading her son into manhood. And Jack, who trusts no good fortune, is working hard to discover why the duke would want him to be guardian. Yet, he can't deny that he's intrigued by the young widow.

Suz, eyes twinkling: Mmmm, we met Jack Dodger in your last book, IN BED WITH THE DEVIL. Jack's a scoundrel of the first order and quite happy in that state. What made you want to bring him change? And how did you achieve that?





Lorraine: Jack has had a very rough life. All of his role models have been the dregs of society, quite honestly, and yet there is a core element of goodness in him that he doesn't want to acknowledge and that few see. He's had to fight to survive and on the surface he always puts himself first. In IN BED WITH THE DEVIL, Jim tells Luke that he would follow him into hell without ever asking him why they were going. None of the scoundrels would do that for Jack because they'd think he was going for his own gain. Yet, in truth, there isn't anything that he wouldn't do for them. He might grumble about it, be unhappy about it, but he'd do it.

So in BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND DESIRE I matched Jack against a woman who has never even fantasized about doing anything improper. I put him in a situation where he has to behave. Suddenly a 5-year-old boy is looking to him for guidance, and all Jack knows is how to be a scoundrel. He doesn't want this lad to grow up to be like him and he has to change his ways in order to be what the boy-and eventually his mother-deserve.

There is nothing Jack won't do to earn a coin. To earn what Lovingdon has left, he must change. And in the changing, he acquires more than he ever thought possible.

Suz: What is it about the heroine, Olivia, the Duchess of Lovingdon, that intrigues Jack the most in your mind?

Lorraine: Good question. What intrigues him the most, I think, is the very thing that irritates him the most: she's so blasted proper. She believes in following rules, honoring duty, and never straying from the righteous path. She represents everything he abhors, but her conviction in what she believes to be right fascinates him.


Suz: There are at least three more members of Feagan's kids who have been featured in the first two books in this series. Any plans for them?

Lorraine: Oh, yes. Frannie's book, Surrender to the Devil, will be released in July 2009. The one thing Frannie never wanted was to be part of the aristocracy so, naturally, there is a duke in her future. Jim's story, Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel, will be released January 2010. Jim's story has been the most challenging to write so far.

Suz, leaning in to whisper: Which of the scoundrels do you like the best?

Lorraine, laughs: Whichever one I'm writing a story about. I like them all for different reasons. Luke was so tormented; Jack is such a scamp; Frannie is the glue that holds them all together; Jim is the one who truly loved Frannie; and Bill . . . well, he's a bit of a mystery.

Suz: I'm not sure if our readers are all aware, but you also write YA under two different names, Rachel Hawthorne and Jade Parker. Care to tell us what's going on in that world?

Lorraine: After 3 consecutive months of releases in the summer of 2008, Making a Splash: Rob
yn; Making a Splash: Caitlin; Making a Splash: Whitney; Jade doesn't have anything on the horizon. Rachel, however, has been a very busy girl. Suite Dreams hit the bookstores Dec. 23. It's the story of an Aussie who comes to the States for holiday and ends up sleeping on the couch in the heroine's dorm room and sweet dreams ensue. Bandit Anna Campbell (hi, Anna!) was a tremendous help with the story, helping me to create a character who didn't sound quite so American. It was a lot of fun having Anna answer my questions, because she has such a lovely accent even when she's writing. (And I can't wait to get my little fingers on Tempt the Devil. You, Bandits, are all on my "to read" list-you are quite a talented group.)

Then beginning in March, the Dark Guardian series-which involves werewolves who live among us, unknown to us-will begin hitting the stores. Moonlight in March, Full Moon in May, Dark of the Moon in July. They were very different from anything I've written before. A little darker, and just a bit sexier (how can shapeshifters not be sexy?) than the beach and winter reads I've written for teens up until now. Each story involves a different girl striving to find her place within the pack and with her destined mate while their existence is threatened by a research company who wants to discover what makes them a unique species (and somehow market it). My personal tagline for the series is-Each girl will be asked: What price will you pay for love?

Lorraine: And while that would be a great question to leave you with-what price would you pay-we're so close to New Year's Eve and since my New Year's resolution is to read more in 2009 what reads do you recommend?

Lorraine will be giving away a gift card to the one lucky winner's choice of Borders, Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com!!