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


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:

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!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tracy Garrett: Spurs, Boots and Good Men

by Suzanne Welsh
Tracy Garrett loves a good man, especially one wearing boots and spurs. In fact, she loves those strong heroes so much, she writes about them in her historical western romances. So naturally while sitting on her balcony overlooking the atumn changes around The Lake of the Ozarks, our conversation turns to her newest book, TOUCHED BY LOVE.

Tracy, TOUCHED BY LOVE is your second Historical Western romance. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

I'll let the back cover blurb do the talking:


Jaret Walker is a loner, a gun for hire with a heart of ice. He's never had anyone to call his own, and he likes it that way. But when a promise made to a friend leads him on a ride through the desert and to remote Two Roses Ranch where he meets Isabel Bennett, the woman he's supposed to protect, all he can think of is making her his. She's the kind of woman a rough-riding cowboy like him can never have. But her hot gaze tempts him like no other woman has before...

The moment Isabel Bennett lays eyes on Jaret Walker, she remembers the dreams she's denied for so long. She's sworn never to marry. It's the only way to protect her ranch. But when Walker rides into her life, she decides to let herself taste what she's giving up-a passion that burns through her with each kiss-and a desire that won't be denied...

Touched by Love, coming November 4, 2008, from Zebra Historical Romance.

In the beginning of TOUCHED BY LOVE there's an interesting opening scene centered around a Mexican prison. Was this a real place?

Perote Prison was a real place. Originally a castle, it was built by the Viceroy of Mexico in the late 1700s 7000 feet up the mountains overlooking the port of Vera Cruz. It was intended as an ammunition storage facility and a military training school, and as a second line of defense for Vera Cruz. The Mexican Army used the huge fortress to keep both military and political prisoners. Texans captured during three disastrous expeditions against Mexico were incarcerated and died within its walls. The shell of the building still remains, but photos are allowed only by special permit. [Photo by J. J. McGrath & Walace Hawkins, "Perote Fort- Where Texans Were Imprisoned", Volume 48, Number 3, Southwestern Historical Quarterly Online]

When I needed a place for Isabel's brother to be taken, I began searching for prisons in Mexico and found this place. The location was ideal-and it has two macabre stone figures guarding the bridge.

Jaret Walker (big sigh!) is my idea of a cowboy hero. In fact I envisioned the early John Wayne character while reading this. Was there anyone you had in mind as you wrote it?

I never have a specific actor in mind when I write, but Jaret has a lot of the stubborn honor that John Wayne's characters always showed, with a liberal dose of Clint Eastwood tough-guy thrown in. Mmmm...Clint....

The women who helped settle the American West were made of strong stuff and in TOUCHED BY LOVE, Isabel is the backbone of her ranch. What made her so determined to hold on to it?

Isabel takes the legacy of the ranch very seriously. The land has been passed from mother to daughter through several generations, and she believes it is her responsibility to maintain it for the next generation. Besides, she loves the rough, harsh land-it's a part of her soul.

Even though western historical romances have been quiet for a few years, they're starting to make a comeback in the market place. What about the western do you think appeals to romance readers?

There is something about a loner-a man who lives and works alone for weeks or months at a time-that seems to tug at our protective instincts. A cowboy, lawman, gunslinger-it doesn't seem to matter what they do, we love the dark, handsome heroes. The resurgence of westerns at the movies and on TV is evidence. Deadwood, 3:10 to Yuma, Seraphim Falls, Tombstone, Missing. I've seen the trailers for Appaloosa and it's on my must-see-soon list! Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen in boots and spurs? Be still my heart.

Do you think these heroes translate in to contemporary characters? How?

Absolutely, whether the setting is "western" or not. I think the qualities of honor, duty and good-guys-win are timeless. The romance hero always has a strong sense of right & wrong, does what is necessary despite personal insult or injury, and looks darn good in a cowboy hat. lol

Before we head out on the boat to tour the Lake, I have one more question. Is there another western in your future?

I certainly hope so! I'm in the middle of writing Wolf's story [he was the tracker in Touch of Texas who was searching for his kidnapped children]. And I have several other characters standing around in my office waiting for a turn to tell their stories.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

by Suzanne Welsh
Hey readers, I’m out to lunch today with my dear friend and critique partner, Jo Davis. Jo is a 2004 Golden Heart finalist who left teaching to successfully launch her career as a romance author. We’ve been planning our trip to San Francisco next week over margaritas, (the beverage of choice at our monthly lunches) and getting ready for the debut of Jo’s Firefighters of Station Five series with her first book, TRIAL BY FIRE, which releases from Signet Eclipse on August 5.

Nibbling on the Southwestern spring rolls, yet another lunch staple, I fix Jo with a twinkle in my eyes.

Suz: So tell me again how you came up with the idea for this series of sexy firefighters?

Jo [taking a sip of her margarita]: The idea was born from two factors, the first being simple necessity. I needed a big, hero-driven series concept nobody else was writing about. Cops, FBI agents, and Navy SEALS? Forget it. Done, done, and done. The second factor was that the series must be exciting for me to write. One day in the spring of 2006, I was sitting in my office, frustrated, mulling over these two factors. I looked around at the scores of romance novels sitting on my shelves and forced myself to categorize the romantic suspense books objectively. What was I seeing? Um, cops, FBI, and Navy SEALS. More importantly, what was I NOT seeing? The answer smacked me in the head like a baseball bat—FIREFIGHTERS! Hot damn!! My God, they are the poster boys for the American Hero! Who doesn’t love a man who’ll rush into a burning building or pry apart the twisted metal of a mangled car to rescue you and me?

Suz [smiling and nodding in agreement]: Very true! So, did the series sell right away?

Jo: No, nothing happens fast in the publishing industry. First, I had to research firefighters. I had to make contacts, learn about their jobs, the equipment, the dangers. I did months of study before I could even write the series proposal. When I finally sent the proposal to my agent, I told her, “This is the one!” The series sold to NAL nine months later.

The waiter returns and takes our orders for salads, (I did say we were going to conference next week, didn’t I?) As the waiter leaves, a commotion starts near the restaurant’s entrance. A group of firefighters, complete with jump pants and boots approaches.

Their leader is six feet six inches of pure muscle and short brown spiky hair, bleached blond on the tips. Watching his confident swagger, I feel like I’m on fire and quickly down half my margarita.

Suz [drooling]: Oh, my! Who is that?!

Jo [waving a spring roll at the hunk]: That, dear friend, is Lieutenant Howard “Six-Pack” Paxton, the hero of TRIAL BY FIRE. Scrumptious, isn’t he?

Suz: And, look! He brought all of his friends!

Following Six-Pack is a beautiful black woman who’s whipcord lean and looks like she can handle her own in a fire or against any one of these guys. She’s laughing with the sexiest dark haired geek I think I’ve ever seen. Behind those glasses lurks the heart and soul of a lover, I’m just sure of it.

Jo: That’s Eve Marshall and Zack Knight, her best friend on A-shift. Zack is the FAO—the fire apparatus operator or engine driver—and he’s the hero of UNDER FIRE, which releases in May 2009. Behind them are Tommy Skyler, the youngest guy on A-shift, and Julian Salvatore, the team’s horn dog and all-around pain in the butt.

Staring at Tommy, my jaw is hanging open. With blond hair and pale blue eyes, he has to be the most unnaturally beautiful young man I’ve ever seen. Like Brad Pitt ten years ago, only way better! And bringing up the rear is the epitome of a sexy Latino lover and he knows it. Julian catches my eye with a smile and a wink. Yep, there goes the last of my margarita!

Jo [frowning]: There’s one missing—

Suz: They’re coming straight over here! Did you invite them?

Jo stops searching for the missing team member and grins at me. Why, that stinker set me up!

Jo: Surprise!

Quickly, I brush at stray crumbs of spring roll and give the guys and Eve a welcoming smile. They invade our table like a category five hurricane, laughing and poking each other, pulling over extra chairs, and generally causing a ruckus as other diners stare at the spectacle.

Julian [to Zack, wedging a chair between Suz and Jo]: Move over, geek. I’ve got ladies to satisfy.

Zack [rolling his eyes]: Actually, what you’ve got requires a good therapist.

Tommy [snatching the last spring roll]: Oh, dude, I love these things! Can we order more?

Eve [slapping the munchie out his hand]: Those aren’t yours.

Tommy: Ow! Hey, it was just sitting there…

Eve and Tommy start arguing loudly over the food while Julian starts whispering sweet Spanish nothings in my ear, making me giggle. He’s certainly earned his reputation, for heaven’s sake! Six-Pack pops Julian on the back of the head, then slaps a hand on the table to get everyone’s attention. Just as I thought, this big man is clearly the leader of the group.

Six-Pack [setting his hand-held radio unit on the table]: Knock it off! Jo invited us to meet Suz and you nimrods are gonna get us kicked out. Sorry, ladies. Suz, it’s nice to meet you.

Suz [blushing]: Well, it’s great to meet you all! Are you on break?

Zack: In between calls. We just worked a messy traffic accident, but the victims are okay. Before that, we had an accident in the home and a man who forgot to take his insulin. Busy day.

Suz: What about fires? Don’t you get a lot of calls to those?

Eve [glancing at Six-Pack in concern]: No. Well, not normally. Thanks to fire prevention awareness programs, only about 3% of our calls relate to fires. The rest consist mostly of home and traffic accidents, and an odd assortment of emergencies.

Suz: What do you mean, not normally?

Six-Pack [looking away, mouth tight]: We’re having a problem with an arsonist/murderer torching victims in our sector. It’s getting personal.

Tommy: But the cops are gonna catch this sicko, dude. Not to worry.

Eve [making an obvious attempt to divert the topic]: Stop saying dude or I’ll smack you again, kid.

Tommy [arching a blond brow]: Baby, I’ve got your kid right he—

Jo: Watch it, Skyler. This is a family audience. [Tommy looks contrite] Six-Pack, where’s Sean Tanner?

Everyone looks to Six-Pack. He’s their rock, and the respect this team has for him is plain. The lieutenant chooses his words very carefully.

Six-Pack [brown eyes sad]: The captain called in sick today. Twenty-four hour bug or something.

Jo and I exchange knowing looks while everyone else squirms uncomfortably. We all know Six-Pack’s best friend doesn’t have an illness you can treat with medicine, and that it’s going to take a lot more than one shift off to heal Sean’s grief from his tragic loss. True to form, the oh-so-scrumptious Julian provides a distraction, putting each of his arms around me and Jo and grinning like the rogue he is.

Julian: So, queridas, I’m off tomorrow night. What do you say, want burn up the town with me?

Suz [laughing]: Hate to break it to you, but we’re taken. Sorry!

Julian [pouting]: I’m wounded. Alas, I may never recover from the rejection.

Jo [dryly]: Oh, I’m sure you’ll find solace somewhere.

Eve: Where doesn’t he find solace? Ah, the teaming masses of femininity—

Six-Pack’s radio squawks an interruption—a call to assist a child who’s head is stuck through a…toilet seat? A couple of the guys snicker and Six-Pack shakes his head with a killer half-smile as they all push out of their chairs.

Six-Pack: Another day in the jungle. Sorry, ladies, we’ve gotta run but we’ll see you around, huh?

Jo [winking]: Not if I see you first.

Suz: This was such a cool surprise! Thanks for stopping by, and take care.

Jo and I watch them leave with a sigh of appreciation. There’s nothing finer than seeing a firefighter in action, rushing to the rescue!

Suz: I can see why you love those guys so much! They’re adorable.

Jo [finishing her margarita]: Aren’t they? And I get to spend every single day with them.

Suz: Oh, hush! So, tell me what’s next? Do you have any other books coming out besides the firefighter series?

Jo: Yes, I do. I have two erotic suspense/thrillers coming from NAL HEAT. The first one is titled WHEN ALEX WAS BAD and will be released in August 2009. It’s about a wife who grants her lonely husband seven occasions of sinful pleasure with any lover he chooses, provided he confesses to each liaison in detail and agrees to accept whatever punishment she doles out. Too bad the bargain comes with a deadly price…

Suz: Ooh, that sounds fantastic! Now that you mention the story, I’ve heard a whisper through the grapevine of something exciting on the horizon involving ALEX. Do tell!

Jo [blinking innocently]: Why, I can’t imagine what you mean. How about another margarita?

Suz: Uh-huh. Nice diversion.

Jo: I’m so glad we did this today! I had fun.

Suz [signaling the waiter for another margarita]: Me, too! And thanks for bringing the whole gang by today. When I read their story in TRIAL BY FIRE, it felt as if they were the coolest group of close-knit firefighter-heroes I'd want to spend more time with. By the way...uhm...tell your readers what kind of heroine Six-pack falls for? Perhaps a cute brunette OB nurse? [hint, hint]

Jo: Patience, dear. You already know you’ll have to wait for Zack’s story, UNDER FIRE, for your nurse heroine! Kat McKenna is a spunky, curvaceous first grade teacher who literally falls into Six-Packs arms at the scene of a fire.

Suz: Ooh, I can’t wait for TRIAL BY FIRE hit the shelves—only two more weeks!

Jo: It’s been a long time coming, girlfriend. I’ll drink to that!

Suz: So dear reader we have a question for you. Have you ever been up close and personal with a firefighter, as in had one come to your rescue? Tell us all about it and Jo will have an autographed copy of TRIAL BY FIRE for one poster. Trust me when I tell you this is one HOT read!! You can watch the trailer at Jo's website @ And if you wish to order a copy from Amazon, just click on the book in this blog.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

by Suzanne Welsh

I first met Lorraine Heath through her book TEXAS DESTINY. The story of Houston and Amelia won my heart and had me looking for anything and everything by Ms. Heath. When I moved to Texas, imagine my surprise to discover she was a member of my local chapter. Over the years we've become friends, and I've gotten to enjoy more and more of her wonderful books.

Lorraine, welcome back to the Lair. We're always delighted when you come visit us. Pull up a chair and tell us about your newest book, IN BED WITH THE DEVIL, book one of The Scoundrels of St. James series.

Thanks so much. I'm thrilled to be here again. Love you Bandits.

"The Devil Earl", as Lucian Langdon is known, came into his title in a rather odd manner. Can you give us some details?

I'm not sure I can explain it better than Lucian does himself.

"They say my parents were murdered in the London streets by a gang of ruffians. I have no memory of it, yet it has always seemed to me that I should. After all, I was supposedly there, but only if I truly am who the world recognizes me to be. The Earl of Claybourne.

It's my eyes that convinced the old gent who called himself my grandfather that I was indeed his grandson. "You've got the Claybourne eyes," he'd said with conviction.

And I readily admit that looking into his was very much like looking into a mirror at my own, but still it seemed a rather trite thing upon which to base so grand a decision. I was fourteen at the time. Awaiting trial for committing murder. I must confess it was a rather fortuitous moment to be declared a future lord of the realm, as the judicial system was not opposed to hanging young lads who were considered troublesome."

Lucian is released into the old gent's care and his life changes dramatically, even though he doesn't believe he's the true heir.

You know I love gutsy heroines and Lady Catherine Mabry was such a strong foil against Lucian. She approaches Lucian with an unusual request. How does this surprise him, and how does he respond?

She is the only lady among the aristocracy who ever had the courage to hold his gaze, so when she shows up in his library, he's convinced she's come to seduce him. When he discovers she wants him to do away with someone, he's angry. He's spent years struggling with what he did at 14, and her request brings all his self-loathing to the forefront. He tells her, "Nothing that would cause me to kill a man simply because you wish him dead." Of course, when he discovers he needs help acquiring the one thing he wants most-Frannie Darling's hand in marriage-and Catherine can help him acquire it, a bargain is struck and Lady Catherine finds herself in bed with the devil on several levels. It's the reason I loved the title for this book. It works on different levels.

This book had many unique secondary characters, some of which may be familiar to readers from the Dickens novel, OLIVER TWIST. What made you decide to base IN BED WITH THE DEVIL on this classic?

I woke up one morning at 4 with these street scamps in my head wanting me to tell their stories. I went to my computer and wrote the prologue, very little of which has changed from the initial writing. As I began researching children and crime, I discovered that Charles Dickens lived near the rookeries and is believed to have spied on a Fagan-type character and his child thieves. I thought it would be fun to make my characters the ones upon whom Oliver Twist was based. I did a timeline to put them in the rookeries at the time that Dickens was working on Oliver Twist. His work is an incredible documentary of the rookery and criminal life.

Don't you just hate it when characters disturb a good night's sleep? (grinning) Are there plans to show more of these characters' stories to your readers?

Oh absolutely. BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND DESIRE, the second in The Scoundrels of St. James series, which will hit the stores in late December, is Jack Dodger's story. And Jack, of course, would be the Artful Dodger. During this time period, it was very easy to change identities. If you were caught for a crime, you just moved over to the next neighborhood and changed your name, so I had fun naming my characters. Jack's story is an Oliver Twist/Great Expectations combo in that he has an anonymous benefactor who is largely responsible for his success. The story I'm writing now is Frannie Darling's.

I'll be watching for BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND DESIRE. (Must remind kids to stuff my stocking with gift cards!) Jack will be a difficult hero to redeem, but as a good friend pointed out to me, if anyone can redeem the unredeemable, it's you. Was it difficult to find a heroine for him?

Bless your good friend! It was hard to find the right heroine for Jack. His story actually went through about three phases. Originally I thought the woman for him was someone down on her luck who came to his Gentlemen's Club willing to sell herself-and I saw him teaching her the ways of men and falling in love with her, determined to keep her for himself. Then I saw her as a reformer set on exposing his establishment and him for his wicked ways. But then as things go, I started writing his prologue-and when I got to the end of it, I realized money motivates Jack and he will do anything to acquire it. And the proper lady for him has never sinned in her life-but when fate has him moving into her house much to her objection, she'll discover that between the devil and desire the only choice is surrender.

You mentioned Dickens and his affinity for accurately displaying the rookeries and crime element in his writing. (lifting eyebrows in a questioning manner) Will he make an appearance in one of these books?

I won't promise, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised. ?

You also write young adult and have a new release hitting the stores June 10. Can you tell us about it?

Under the name Rachel Hawthorne, I write romances for young adults. LABOR OF LOVE is the story of some teenagers who go to New Orleans to help with the rebuilding efforts. Our heroine, Dawn, had her heart broken by her cheating boyfriend and she wants a summer without boys. She and her friends go to see a psychic and her reading is:

"I hear hammering. You're trying to rebuild something. But be careful with the tools. You might get distracted and hurt yourself-more than hitting your thumb with a hammer. You could get very badly hurt. And worse, you could hurt others. Lots of people are around. It's hot and dirty. There's a guy . . . a red and white baseball cap. The cap has a logo on it. Chiefs. Kansas City Chiefs. I don't get a name, but he has a nice smile."

Of interest about this reading is that I was struggling with the story, thought it was boring, it wasn't going anywhere. I contacted my friend Nancy Haddock, author of La Vida Vampire, and said, "I'm thinking of sending my character to a psychic. How would a psychic reading go?" And Nancy said, "Just snatches of images, something like this," and she gave me the above. Suddenly everything fell into place. I chunked the whole story, opened it with the psychic reading and it pretty much wrote itself. It's wonderful to have friends who are writers and don't think any question is too odd to ask. But I also realized that it's important for writers to experience as much as possible. The past couple of years, I've thought more than once about getting a psychic reading, just for the fun of it. Who knew I'd ever want to use it in a book?

Oh, that sounds intriguing. Those glimpses can be interpreted in more than one way. Does your heroine end up questioning her actions throughout the story?

Absolutely. Her two friends also got a psychic reading and as things happen in the story, they're trying to determine if that was what the cryptic messages meant. And when things happen, it's like "Oh, no! That's what the psychic predicted." It was just fun to write.

Okay, this question is purely for my own nosiness. You write fairly different genres under different names, and have contracts with tight deadlines. Do you ever sleep? (I know you're often awake at the same middle-of-the-night hours I am.)

Sleep? What is this thing you call sleep? Seriously, butt in chair. If I write at least 10 pages a day, I can make my deadlines. Also, the boys are no longer at home; hubby works long hours plus he takes care of the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping (amazing how the hint of possible early retirement will motivate a man). Besides, right now there isn't anything I'd rather be doing. When I get into the story I get a little obsessed with finishing it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jane Graves is in the house!

Jane's Tall Tales blog

Jane, welcome back to the Bandit Lair, pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable. As you can see we've done a bit of remodeling since your last visit. Over there is the Golden Rooster's nest, and those gentleman bearing trays of drinks and decadant chocolate deserts are our Vri-anna's hockey hunks and Joanie T's Roman gladiators, aka the cabana boys.

Thanks for the welcome. Nice remodeling job. Send one of those cabana boys my way.

Your newest book, Tall Tales And Wedding Veils, was just released on May 27th. It's your second contemporary romance for Grand Central Publishing. Can you tell us a little bit about this story?

Heather's a straight-laced woman who never met a detail she didn't like. Tony's a sexy charmer who never met a woman he couldn't seduce. After a chance meeting in Vegas, she ends up helping him win the $20,000 he needs to buy the business of his dreams. They wake up the next morning with hangovers from hell and their names together on a marriage license.

Through a crazy turn of events, they're forced to stay married for a month pretending to be happy newlyweds when nothing could be further from the truth. But it isn't long before the playboy and the plain-Jane begin to see each other in an entirely new light!

We first met the hero, Tony McCaffrey, as the skirt-chasing lethario of the repo shop in Hot Wheels And High Heels. How has his life changed since we last saw him?

He's decided to go into business for himself by buying a bar & grill. He figures it's a helluva deal. He can do what he's best at-drinking, chasing women, and being the life of the party-and get paid for it at the same time. But he's going to figure out really fast that there's a big difference between sitting on a stool in front of a bar and working behind it.

The heroine of Tall Tales And Wedding Veils is an accountant, Heather Montgomery. She doesn't seem like the kind of woman Tony would be attracted to. Why did you choose to match her with him?

Simple answer. Conflict. That's what you read for, isn't it? You don't want a story about a hero and heroine being nicey-nice to each other. That's a bore. And as an author, the easiest way to shake things up is to put two vastly different people on the page together and watch the fireworks.

But the thing is, when you have two people so incredibly mismatched, the challenge is to come up with a way to keep them together long enough for each of them to see the value in the other and ultimately to fall in love. In Tall Tales, it begins with the "oops" wedding in Vegas and goes from there.

Tall Tales and Wedding Veils is a fun romantic romp. One of your reviews for it compared it to a Jennifer Cruise book. Do you think romantic comedies are making a comeback in the market?

If they are, it's not nearly fast enough for me. Doesn't anybody want to LAUGH anymore?

Seriously, I'm not sure. There was a time in the late 1990s that romantic comedy was king. But these days, those of us who write comedy are getting nudged aside in favor of romantic suspense and paranormal authors. Why is the market saturated right now with dark and dangerous stories instead of light and fun ones? If anybody has an opinion, I'd love to hear it!

Since you were last in the Bandit Lair you've taken on a new PR project. Care to give us any hints about it?

Sure. My daughter and are are starting an online promotion business, part of which will include author promotion. We're making widgets.

Exactly what is a widget?

Our widgets are small, portable, multimedia presentations packed with information that can be picked up and put anywhere on the web. Because a widget streams from a single source to multiple sites (like a television signal streams from a single source to multiple sites) it means a widget isn't stuck at one web address. Instead, it can be in hundreds or even thousands of places at once.

And here's the good part. With only a few clicks, anyone can add an author's widget to their website, blog, or social networking site, or email it to anyone they choose, which gives a widget the kind of viral capacity authors have only dreamed of up to now. Click "get or share" on my Tall Tales widgets below and email it to a friend to see just how easy it is to share:

And be sure to keep an eye on those widgets. They're alive! If you're a reader who has embedded one of our author's widgets, whenever they have a new book out or the content of the widget changes in any way, your copy of the widget changes, too, and you don't have to do a thing.

As cool as they are, widgets are only a part of what we have planned for author promotion. If you're an author and you want to get in on the ground floor of the hottest trend ever in Internet marketing and drastically increase your presence on the web, send me an email at and we'll let you know when we're open for business.

Another project you've been involved in for the past three years is the annual Richardson, Texas "Buns And Roses Tea". This is your second year as chairman for the tea. Can you fill our readers in on details for this year's tea and what the proceeds support?

Buns & Roses is back, bigger and better than ever! We're thrilled that Sherrilyn Kenyon is joining us as keynote speaker, as well as thirty three fabulous romance authors as table hosts.

Widgets aren't just for author promotion. They're for event promotion, too, or for anything else you need to get the word out about! Here's one we just launched that tells you everything you need to know about Buns & Roses:

Thanks so much for inviting me into the lair. As always, it's been a blast!