Wednesday, March 31, 2010

APRIL's Bandit Agenda is NO JOKE!

    by April blog mommy: Suz

    It's April 1st.

    The special day for all those people who are practical jokers to stand up and do their thing. Over the years I've been the recipient of a lot of those kinds of jokes from enthusiastic, but definitely demented coworkers.

    Sigh.

    I am not a big fan of practical jokes. Actually, I loathe them!! So, luckily for y'all, you can believe me when I tell you you're in for a great month of good-natured fun, laughter and debut books with the Banditas in the Bandit Lair! Trust me! Really, trust me!




    Friday, April 2: Up first, Kay Thomas www.kaythomas.net returns to the Lair in an interview with Suz about the third book in her Bulletproof series: BULLETPROOF BODYGUARD, which is also a Harlequin Intrigue Bodyguard of the Month release.








    Monday, April 5: IT'S PARTY TIME in the Lair as Bandita, Christy Kelley celebrates the release of her newest book, SOMETHING SCANDALOUS. Be sure to join the Banditas, Sven, the gladiators, cabana boys and hockey hunks as we show how to have a good time!!







    Wednesday, April 7: Lair favorite Barbara Monajem chats with Bandita, Nancy about her debut paranormal, Sunrise in a Garden of Love and Evil.







    Thursday, April 8: RITA nominee Jessica Andersen returns to the Lair with Demonkeepers, the newest installment in her dynamite Nightkeepers series. We'll chat about the transformation of its hero, Lucius, from a quiet scholar working in the background to a man of action on the front lines.







    On Saturday, April 10: Anna Campbell www.annacampbell.info is giving away an ARC of her June release MY RECKLESS SURRENDER. Come and play some reckless games and hey, you might win a book!






    Monday, April 12: women's fiction author Kim Wright makes her first appearance in the lair with her debut women's fiction novel Love in Mid Air. A chance encounter on an airplane leads her heroine, Elyse, to question her marriage and her life. Kim will chat with Nancy about that.








    On Friday, April 16: one of our favorites in the lair, Annie West www.annie-west.com is back! She’s talking about her new release FORGOTTEN MISTRESS, SECRET LOVE-CHILD and giving away some books! Come and join in the fun!





    Monday, April 19: Laura Anne Gilman returns to the world of the Cosa Nostradamus with Hard Magic from Luna. She'll visit us on April 19 to talk about this latest book set in the world of her Retrievers series.






    Wednesday, April 21: One of my favorite authors, romantic suspense author, Dee Davis returns with Dark Deception, the action-packed first book in her new series.








    On Thursday, April 29: historical author Margo Maguire www.margomaguire is back to talk about her new release THE ROGUE PRINCE. Giveaways!






    APRIL CONTESTS:


    Anna Campbell's latest contest offers one lucky reader the chance to win an ARC of MY RECKLESS SURRENDER, her June 2010 release. All you have to do is email Anna on anna@annacampbell.info and answer a simple question. In the excerpt on the Books Page (http://www.annacampbell.info/recklesssurrender.html )for MY RECKLESS SURRENDER, Diana the heroine quotes an old proverb to the hero Lord Ashcroft. What is that proverb? Here's a hint -- it's for the birds! Good luck! The contest closes April 30, 2010.

    Nancy Northcott's website has a new look, complete with excerpts and updated graphics. Stop by www.nancynorthcott.com, take a look, and enter the contest she's holding to celebrate. Details on the site.Source URL: http://afrenchkitchengardenweekend.blogspot.com/2010/03/
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Wednesday Giveaway!

Eddie Griffin State Theatre Tickets

    Edward James "Eddie" Griffin, Jr. will be performing at the State Theatre in Minneapolis this Saturday at 8:30pm. Eddie was ranked at #62 on Comedy Central's list of 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time and has starred in numerous films and television shows. Ticket King currently has some great Eddie Griffin State Theatre tickets for sale starting at just $55 each. If you would like to see one of America's top comedians for a very affordable price, get your tickets now before they're gone- Eddie doesn't come here too often!
    Source URL: http://afrenchkitchengardenweekend.blogspot.com/2010/03/
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Espresso maker print

Inexpensive Twins Exhibition Game Tickets

    Great news Twins fans!! My boss just advised me that he recently lowered prices on our entire stock of Minnesota Twins exhibition game tickets! If you haven't purchased yours yet, now is your chance to get an excellent deal on them! With prices starting at just $40 per ticket and various locations to choose from, you're guaranteed to find something you like. The very first exhibition game is in just two days on Friday, April 2nd at 5:10pm and the second is the following Saturday, April 3rd at 1:10pm. Get them now while you can! GO TWINS!!Source URL: http://afrenchkitchengardenweekend.blogspot.com/2010/03/
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Baby profiles

    German photographer Bettina von Zwehl took this photo series of one-year-old babies at an instant of total (rare) concentration. Aren't they gorgeous? Von Zwehl used toys, dvds and eye contact to get the little guys to stay still. "They sat on a table, looking at me, and I took the picture with a long cable release," she says. Since many of the babes were still too wriggly to photograph, it took more than a year to get six final portraits. And the goal of the project? "I was hoping to present each baby as an intelligent human being," she says.

    P.S. Baby mouths are so adorable.
    Source URL: http://afrenchkitchengardenweekend.blogspot.com/2010/03/
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Thanks For Taking My Advice!

    A little over a year ago on this very blog in my typical restrained and understated fashion I reasonably and calmly called for Hollywood to take one of the most infamous unproduced screenplays - "F--- Buddies" - gallivanting about their town and put it into production with the incomparable Billy Crudup and the magnificent Amy Ryan as the leads.

    Hollywood listened! Well, sort of.

    They have put the unproduced screenplay - authored by Liz Meriweather - into production, renamed it "Friends With Benefits" (a given), tapped (gulp) Ivan "This Movie Could Really Use Some Pirates" Reitman as director, and cast Natalie Portman and (double gulp) Ashton Kutcher.

    You suck, Hollywood.Source URL: http://afrenchkitchengardenweekend.blogspot.com/2010/03/
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Bon Jovi Xcel Energy Center Tickets

    Bon Jovi will be in Saint Paul in exactly a week from today for his first of two shows at the Xcel Energy Center. Wednesday, April 7th and Thursday, April 8th, Bon Jovi will perform a show each night at 7:30pm. If you haven't had a chance to see him live before, now you can get a GREAT deal on Bon Jovi Xcel Energy Center tickets! Ticket King has tickets BELOW face value, starting at just $40 each for upper level seats. If you haven't purchased your tickets yet you'd better buy them now before they're gone! Deals like this don't last long!Source URL: http://afrenchkitchengardenweekend.blogspot.com/2010/03/
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I'm Somebody!

    by Susan Sey

    Remember that scene in The Jerk when Steve Martin finds his name in the phone book for the first time? He's overjoyed. That's him, right there in print. It's official! He's somebody! Yahoo!

    I had a moment like that this morning.

    You see, I've been working on it for ages but I finally launched my very first website. And now, when you type in http://www.susansey.com I turn up. Officially. That's my name, my face and my book cover right there!

    I'm somebody!

    Now before anybody asks, I didn't do it myself. I considered it, then realized how very attached I am to my sanity and made the excellent decision to outsource this job to professionals. I'm a big fan of all things locally grown, though, so I didn't go very far when seeking out talented people to put together something that would represent me and my writing in cyberspace.

    First, I tapped my friend Noah from church. Like me, he stays home with his daughter (whom my daughters happen to adore.) Also like me, he's doing a little something with all that 'spare time' stay at homes have in such abundance. (Careful, that's a lot of sarcasm there.)

    He doesn't write romance novels (though I've recommended it as loads of fun) but instead has chosen to build a little company called AugmentJ that designs and hosts websites. But he doesn't just design websites. No, either his child is better behaved than mine are or he's just smarter than I am because he's also developed his own Content Management System called Fruitful.

    Now, like many of you, when I thought about building my own website, I toyed with the idea of doing something in Wordpress. I decided to go with Fruitful instead for a couple of reasons.

    First, Fruitful allows me to get into the nuts and bolts of my webpages and update things whenever I feel like it. I don't have to wait for my web designer to do a monthly update for me, but (very big but here) I don't have to be a programmer to figure it all out, either.

    I hear that Wordpress is user friendly after a fashion but after a bunch of comparison shopping, Fruitful won out. It struck me as far more intuitive, & that's important to me. I can't horse around figuring out a website because I'm a terribly slow writer. I need to devote all the time I can get to my WIP.

    Second advantage of Fruitful? Noah taught me how to use it in person. I came to his house after school one day and our kids had a wild rumpus in his living room while he gave me the run down on updating my site. A software lesson AND entertainment for the kiddoes? I defy you to find a web guy who'll do that for you.

    And whenever I have a question about why something works or doesn't work, I know I'm going to get an answer ASAP. Because if Noah doesn't get back to me, I'll see him at church on Sunday. On the other hand, if I fail to send him a check promptly, he'll see me on Sunday, too. It works both ways & I like it that way. I know exactly who I'm paying to do this for me--somebody just like me. A person with a passion for what he does, splitting the difference between pursuing that passion and being at home with the little ones.

    It works for me, and I'm thrilled with the results.

    The other awesome thing Noah did for me? Pointed me toward the designer who put together my banner, my colors, created my logo, etc. I sat down with this poor woman (the very talented Sarah Hellestrom Hoehn, also right here in Minneapolis) over coffee & said, "I'm rotten at colors, so I'm just going to tell you how I feel about my writing & what I want people to feel when they're reading my books. Can you translate that into color and design?"

    She said she could, and she did. Did she ever. I was thrilled and amazed at what she was able to pull out of my unfocused and largely incoherent thoughts on my work. If you're looking for a designer, I'd recommend her without reservation. I'll be happy to share her info privately if anybody wants it.

    But there are drawbacks. I'm Noah's first writer client, so we're learning together how Fruitful lends itself to a writer's unique needs. There are a few things that need tweaking. For example, I don't have the capacity to allow comments on my blog right now. That communication will be a one-way street for a while but I'm okay with that. Readers will hopefully want to interact with me at some point in the future, and when the time comes I'll work with Noah to develop something that'll fit the bill.

    Until then, I'll make do with Fruitful's awesome ability to create gorgeous e-newsletters, run contests and collect user info in a little database that'll come in right handy when I decide to mail out postcards for my first book signing. :-)

    Having a website designed was a big decision. Besides being the biggest writing related expense I've encountered aside from attending RWA's annual conference, a website is probably also the most important link between a new author and her potential audience. I really wanted to get it right, and have been so glad that keeping things close to home worked out.

    How about you? Do you have a website? A DIY job, or outsourced? Any lessons learned you'd be willing to share? Source URL: http://afrenchkitchengardenweekend.blogspot.com/2010/03/
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Justin Bieber Oracle Arena Tickets

    Hey Justin Bieber fans!! If you live near the Oakland area, you'll appreciate this. The one-and-only Justin Bieber will be performing at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California on Saturday, July 17th at 7 pm. If you haven't bought your Justin Bieber tickets for this show yet, Ticket King has some awesome lower level seats left but they're going quick! If you'd like to attend, I'd recommend getting yours now before they're gone! I know this show will sell out!Source URL: http://afrenchkitchengardenweekend.blogspot.com/2010/03/
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Fig wedding cake

Nursery inspiration photos

    These days, nurseries are looking so amazing! I've been flagging inspirational images, such as the nursery of J. Crew creative director Jenna Lyon's baby, above. Aren't the yellow stripes amazing, and who would think to paint a nursery wall black? (Classic crib from Oeuf; and orange Junior Panton chair from DWR.)
    A polaroid heart from a grown-up bedroom in Paris...
    And sweet details, like the knit blocks in the fireplace, love pillow and teeny yellow boots!
    The giant giraffe is amazing, but my eye was immediately drawn to those red frames. What a great way to showcase artwork.
    Decorating with maps = inexpensive and inspiring.
    This photo is from Moomah's playspace. The white frames mimic a gallery wall, and that friendly bear print is totally amazing. (Does anyone know where to find it? Update: The Moomah bear print is by Jacqueline Schmidt of Screech Owl Design. Thank you, Sarah!)
    The shades of blue in this room are lovely and calming, and the Tord Boontje hanging lamp looks magical. What nursery colors or special touches do you like? I'd love to hear... xoxo

    (Photos from Domino Magazine, Cookie Magazine, Living Etc., Moomah, and others)Source URL: http://afrenchkitchengardenweekend.blogspot.com/2010/03/
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Three Days Grace Tickets Roy Wilkins Auditorium

Trouble the Water

    I used to make gleeful fun of those moments in disaster movies when the hero's faithful, panting dog would appear to be right at death's door - swallowed by a ball of flames, burned alive in lava, etc. - only to escape at the last possible second. Never again. The reason? There is a moment in the astounding, almost impossible-to-watch documentary "Trouble the Water" when our primary subjects, Kimberly and Scott Roberts, have returned to the destroyed ghost town of the New Orleans Ninth Ward that is their home in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the faithful, panting dog we had seen earlier, whom they had presumed dead, turns up. Woah.

    With the powerful Katrina taking aim at New Orleans, Kimberly Roberts fired up a small video camera and took to the streets of her neighborhood, documenting the calm before the storm and how next to no one in the Ninth Ward was able to get out because, as Roberts herself says, evacuation is "luxury we can't afford." The filmmakers, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, who had originally come to make a documentary about the Louisiana National Guard just back from Iraq to find the devastation, whom Roberts would encounter afterwards and who agreed to take a look at her footage before joining forces to frame Roberts' amateur footage with footage you have probably seen before - like that of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin advising he hopes everyone leaves the city, while a screen title tells us no efforts were made to use public transit for those with no means to evacuate.

    Much of Roberts' storm footage is rather simple but that simpleness gives it a directness that most of the more artful takes on this awful subject have been unable to capture. The wind picks up. The rain starts to fall. She sends a friend home with a few groceries, his umbrella offering protection in the early snippets of what will soon transform into a 165 mph gale. Homes flood. The Roberts family moves to its attic. Outside begins to resemble the "ocean". In one of the more difficult-to-digest passages flood ravaged footage is countered by 911 calls from stranded residents told no rescues can me made at this time. My God, listening to a person plead "I'm gonna die....hello?" followed by a 911 Operator flatly saying "Yeah?" as if discussing a credit card late charge is disturbing in a way that should not, at any time or in any place, apply to real life.

    The inevitable moments crop up - shots of former President George W. Bush "reassuring" the American people and the lily-livered Michael Brown squinting into the camera as if news reporters are speaking to him in Icelandic and the brief tale of a Navy base set to be closed down that refuses to allow now homeless citizens in because they have to "protect the government's interests" or some such nonsense. But these are not the places where Lessin and Deal dwell. "Trouble the Water" is not a political story, it is a story of survival, which makes it ten times more powerful.

    And through it all Roberts cuts a decidedly heroic, ordinary, and occassionally outlandish heroine who for all the biblical abonimations she faces seems so wonderfully and defiantly joyous. After the hurricane she and her husband encounter an addict who had been living in a church-run shelter and invite him along for help and friendship. They are evacuated north and then try to find new lives in Memphis before returning to New Orleans because despite the devastation it is still their home. Oh, and she's a rapper to boot. Did I mention that? In the scene that apparently brought the house down at Sundance Roberts raps directly into the camera - "You don't have to tell me I'm amazing" - a song she wrote that somehow would seem to summarize how most of the community felt after the levees failed. No, it's not quite Chuck D. and "Welcome to the Terrordome" but maybe that's okay because the world isn't always just about terror and/or wars on it.

    Stephen Colbert ain't America. Kimberly Roberts is.Source URL: http://afrenchkitchengardenweekend.blogspot.com/2010/03/
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Monday, March 29, 2010

Dianna Love's Romantic Thrillers

    by Cassondra Murray

    Dianna Love stops by the lair regularly to comment and say hello, but it’s been two years since she made an official visit. In that time she’s added New York Times Bestselling Author to her resume.


    If you spend any time with Dianna, you can’t miss that she stretches every boundary to be her absolute best.

    That determination and a whole bunch of talent earned her a coveted Rita award for her first published novel, Worth Every Risk. I was lucky enough to be there that night to see her receive that award. Scroll down a little and you can see Dianna with her Rita statue on the night she won her category.

    Like any award-winning novelist, she pulls out all the stops to give readers a fast-paced, page-turning story, combined with powerful characters and unexpected story twists.

    But she and Sherrilyn Kenyon are stretching the boundaries of the romantic suspense genre with the down and dirty agents of the BAD Agency—Bureau of American Defense—and their cutting edge stories. In fact, Dianna now refers to the books not as romantic suspense, but as romantic thrillers.


    First of all, welcome back Dianna!



    Thanks! It’s great to be here again.


    I’d like to focus on that shift to what you call romantic thriller. What is that, how is it different from a romantic suspense, and how did you end up going this direction?



    I came to writing romantic thrillers because of my love of romantic suspense and thrillers. But there was a time the term “thriller” wasn’t being used even in mainstream.


    I think of romantic suspense as an action story where the central plot is a romance and the secondary plot is the suspense about something the hero and heroine are trying to recapture or protect, but the two plot lines are wrapped so tightly together one will not stand without the other.





    In a romantic thriller the main plot is also a romance, but the secondary plot has several layers that encompass a larger scope of what is at risk – generally very high stakes and it could affect a larger group of people (a city, an international organization, a world threat, etc).

    I'd have to agree that these books are bigger than the ordinary suspense. In fact, there's an edge-of-your-seat quality to these stories that I have not seen elsewhere in romance fiction.

    You and Sherrilyn were good friends before you started writing together, right? Will you tell us how the collaboration happened?


    Sherri and I met while on the road at conferences. It was the beginning of 2005 when my first book was out. I had a busy travel schedule. Sherri on the other hand was being asked to speak everywhere – and still is, especially with hitting #1 on the New York Times list nine times in just over a year.



    Okay that's definitly worth a pause to give a very loud and rowdy WOOHOOO to Sherri for that amazing accomplishment.....ahem...now back to Dianna's story....


    We’d both arrive at a conference a day early to spend a quiet day writing and would run into each other at lunch. By the third conference in three weeks, we were watching for each other.

    Over the next few years we toured together when she had a hardback out, went to Germany for a reader convention, hid in the mountains at a cabin to write and became very close friends. We approach marketing with very similar views and we did a lot of brainstorming on how to promote books.


    One night late – early, actually, since it was 2:00 am – we were just back to some hotel room from a signing and talking about books she had coming up. We hit on the BAD (Bureau of American Defense) agency series and started talking about her next one. I love to brainstorm so I started throwing out ideas and an hour later she said, “Why don’t we do this together?”


    We decided to do it and had absolutely no plan other than we had two months to turn it in.



    So the BAD agency was already created when you came on board, right? How did the writing partnership change the direction for this series and bring it into the realm of romantic thriller?


    When I agreed to collaborate on the BAD Agency series, the first full novel was a fun romantic suspense. I suggested we kick it up to a romantic thriller, which Sherri and our editor went for.

    The difference is that in the new books in this series there is a major threat to our national security and this threat could affect the entire world. The villains are the Fratelli de il Sovrano (Italian for Sovereign Brotherhood) with international resources and a new world plan that is unfolding as the series develops.

    These are multi-layer plots woven tightly with the romance and they have threads that continue to finger into future stories.



    Readers are obviously loving this direction for the series. But what is it that has drawn you to this shift? Is this something that’s happened as an organic part of your growth as a writer?


    I think for me it has been both part of my growth and what I’m happiest doing. My nature is to complicate whatever I work on. When I was learning to sew in school I wasn’t happy to sew a simple pattern. I sewed a man’s sport coat. When I painted large murals for companies like Coca-Cola I was happiest when it was a complex piece of artwork with many different parts.


    When it comes to writing I always want to create different dimensions within the story to give the characters a large playing field with multiple possibilities. One of my favorite movies is the Italian Job – a “who’s zooming who” story. I like the twists and turns of complex stories.

    The BAD Agency series has a lot of those twists and turns. I’ve heard you say that you like puzzles, and your story worlds would absolutely qualify as puzzles in my view—and yet you manage to pull the twisted threads together and have it make perfect sense at the end. It’s a wild ride, but such a satisfying ending. How do you make that happen?

    I’m a plotter and Sherri is a pantser (seat-of-the-pants writer). After we brainstorm the story, I start the first chapter because it’s normally a black ops type opening and I really like to write openings. Then I start working through the plot threads and seeing where they will go or how they would be stopped or if there’s another way to go from X to Y.

    I do love puzzles and think that’s the base for my thinking in writing. I want to hide a surprise or set up a twist that is not going to turn out like the character expects and hopefully the reader will be surprised. I love to read a story that surprises me. Nothing makes me happier than watching a movie or reading a book and thinking, “Had no idea that was going to happen.”


    As to how I manage to keep those threads straight and pulled together, I’ve taught the Break Into Fiction® program that Mary Buckham and I created so many times I have a short check list of what I need to keep an eye out for to stay on track. The problem that happens sometimes in suspense is not so much that the threads don’t tie up as it is that some just get dropped or the character’s motivation falls apart so the reader stops following the thread.


    You’ve written three BAD agency novels and a novella with Sherrilyn. By now you’ve probably seen a pattern to the men and women who save the world in this series. Tell us a little about what it takes to be a BAD agent. And among those you’ve been a part of writing, who is your favorite hero, and why?

    BAD agents are operatives the other alphabet agencies wouldn’t consider taking on, but those other agencies aren’t expected to send their people into no-win situations with orders to succeed or don’t come home.

    Choosing one agent as a favorite would be like picking your favorite child when you have ten. I love different things about each one, but above all I love that the men are honorable no matter how dark their past, and the women have a core of steel beneath their flaws and fears.



    Nathan Drake (PHANTOM IN THE NIGHT) had no reason to ever care for another person after what he lost, but he's a wounded soul who cares too deeply.



    Carlos Delgado (WHISPERED LIES) may look sexy and whisper sweet nothings with a wicked accent, but he’s as deadly as they come and his loyalty knows no limits. When he was a teen in South America, he held the young woman he loved as she died in his arms then walked away from everything he’d ever known to protect others he cared for.


    Hunter (SILENT TRUTH)appears to have it all. But looks are deceiving when you dig beneath the façade and find deep scars. He does everything to the extreme, including love, which means he won’t risk someone being close to his life as a BAD agent or around when he faces off with an assassin.


    Speaking of SILENT TRUTH—it’ll be out in just a few weeks—April 23rd. Will you tell us more about Hunter and Abbie and their story?


    Hunter Wesley Thornton-Payne…the third. Doesn’t that just sound like a roaring pain-in-the-butt type of guy who’s a legend in his own mind?


    Sherri named him a long time ago. I kept watching him as we worked on the series and thought – who would sympathize with a man whose family is one of the wealthiest in the world, who is very attractive and brilliant and knows it, who does not bond with other teammates?




    Remember the part about “I like complex puzzles?” We laid his soul bare in the opening chapter and didn’t let up on him until the last page. His depth of character surprised me once we pushed him into some unholy situations.



    Abbie was the one woman for him. I love that she comes from a simple background, but one full of secrets that multiply at the worst times. She’s a fighter, loyal, and refuses to let anything stop her from trying to save someone she loves from dying.



    Oh, and the central villain in SILENT TRUTH is part of the Fratelli organization, but he’s an unusual assassin who enjoys puzzles as much as I do.



    Okay I'm gonna admit it. I've read SILENT TRUTH, and it's the most nail-biting, emotionally poignant story I've seen in years. Having the "OMG what happens next?" factor and that level of powerful romance in one read is unusual. And yes, I have to say that Hunter...well...he's a really, really hot guy.

    You can read an excerpt of Hunter and Abbie’s story by clicking on this link: http//www.authordiannalove.com/books/silenttruth.html



    Thanks so much, Dianna, for being our guest here in the Bandit lair!

    Thanks for having me here, but you’re not getting away that easily. I’ve got some questions for the Bandits and Buddies. I’ll answer anything else you ask, but I want to know something.

    What is it that you enjoy most about a romantic suspense series?



    Do you return book after book for the characters alone or is it the setting, the team cohesion or the situations they get into?



    Do you like exotic locations? Are there areas you’ve not seen in books that you’d like to read about?



    What type of hero is your favorite?

    How long have you been reading romantic suspense?



    And THANK YOU for being a reader – you allow me and other authors to do what we love most.

    Dianna is giving away an awesome prize package. Autographed copies of all three BAD Agency novels, an “I’m In A BAD Mood” t-shirt, and other goodies all tucked inside a monogrammed “I’m In A BAD Mood” tote bag.


    Leave an answer to Dianna’s questions to be entered in the drawing. We’ll draw a name on Wednesday.Source URL: http://afrenchkitchengardenweekend.blogspot.com/2010/03/
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A little love note.

    Have you told bedtime stories lately? Pregnancy has made me super sleepy, and I've been conking out really early. So a little tradition has started, where Alex will put me to bed. After I brush my teeth, he'll say, “Ready for bed, baby?” and then come into the bedroom, lie down next to me (and my maternity pillow) and tell me funny stories about his childhood, early days in New York or old friends. I don't know how he comes up with them all (every single night!), but it's so cozy falling asleep listening to his deep voice and trying to stay awake to hear the ending. I love you, Alex.

    (Photo by Max Wanger)Source URL: http://afrenchkitchengardenweekend.blogspot.com/2010/03/
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Tandem tee

Greenberg

    Midway through the latest film from Noah Baumbach, one of my favorite screenwriters, there is a line of dialogue that is both wonderful and unlike typical Baumbach wonderfulness. Ben Stiller's 40 year old title character is having dinner with his friend and former bandmate Ivan (Rhys Ifans, fantastic) and says: "Aging is weird. I mean, what the f--- is going on?" It's unusual because in a Baumbach movie you expect someone who says "Aging is weird" to then explain this sentiment by making a pithy witticism of some sort and instead Stiller's Roger Greenberg just erupts. But it's still wonderful because, well, it's accurate. I'm not 40, of course, but I am still beginning to feel the effects of the aging process and when yet another weekend has flown by in what feels like 11 minutes and you wake up on Monday morning still as tired as you were Friday morning all you can think is, "What the f--- is going on?"

    Baumbach made the brilliant "Kicking and Screaming" which was a movie about people who communicated endlessly because they couldn't communicate. Now here is "Greenberg" which is a film about people who don't really communicate because they can't communicate. Baumbach has never made such a quiet film. Sure, there's still talking and still quite a few droll put-downs and the like, but listen to the people in this movie. They all sound so tired, so exhausted. They look tired and exhausted. Ifans' Ivan has just separated from his wife and every time he turns up, well, he looks like a guy who has just separated from his wife.

    Roger Greenberg, after an apparent stint in a mental hospital, has come to live in his brother's mansion while he and his family are away in Vietnam for a couple months. In his early 20's Greenberg's band was set to get a recording contract, which he rejected, for reasons that still wrankle his bandmates, a fact which he still can't seem to understand. Now he is a carpenter, though he claims he is just trying to "do nothing for awhile." He is painfully self absorbed and he always seems shrouded in an invisible security blanket.

    Also on hand is his brother's family's personal assitant Florence (Greta Garwig), 25 years old, apparently with "Annie Hall"-esque aspirations to be a singer. Garwig is, shall we say, the Julie Christie of the Mumblecore movement, and her line readings here maintain that origin. The annunciation isn't always clear and her train of thought is rarely concise - or, to say it another way, she kind of talks like a real person. In fact, her breathtaking monologue describing her and her friend acting like people they weren't with two guys they didn't apparently like is the Linklater version of "Annie Hall's" famed narcoleptic uncle/free turkey speech. This is the same speech that angers Greenberg so much he curses her out and storms out of the apartment. Ouch.

    Oh, Greenberg, despite his age is the immature male stuck in a cycle which he cannot or refuses to break. It's why he broke up the band, it's why he broke the heart of the woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Baumbach's wife, who co-concocted this story) he was seeing at the same time, and it's why he keeps blaming Florence for wanting to date him even though he's the one who instigated this whole awkward courtship between the two in the first place.

    Perhaps it goes without saying that the courtship is a strange one. Why does Florence keep seeing Greenberg despite his incessant cruelty? Well, in a line straight from therapy, she says something to a friend about his attitude being his "defense", that kinda hooey, and this apparently intrigues her. It's questionable why she would continue putting up with him. I do think her decidedly sincere personality would work to allow someone like Greenberg to draw closer than he would ever think possible but occasionally this still feels like the one area where Baumbach's writing needs to get more assured - characters need to gravitate to one another because they want to, not because the filmmakers want them to. A few on-the-nose lines here and there can't cover this up. The device of the family dog becoming ill helps in this regard, and in the regard of Greenberg having to man up and prove he can take care of something, to some degree but not quite enough.

    Baumbach has always like open endings and in the wake of seeing the film I have read a few reviews that have cited the vague ending to "Greenberg" but I am not entirely convinced of the vagueness. You have to go all the way back to the aforementioned "Kicking and Screaming". Without giving it away I'll say that a choice made by the protagonist of "Kicking and Screaming" is rather identical to a choice made by Greenberg, though in both instances that choice does not pan out. The key, however, is the reason the choice doesn't work out. In the former it is beyond the protagonist's control. In the latter Greenberg makes his own decision. That may come across as a mighty small stepping stone but in the world of these dour, hesitant Baumbach males it could not be any bigger.Source URL: http://afrenchkitchengardenweekend.blogspot.com/2010/03/
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Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Delicious Dilemma

    posted by Nancy

    Lisa Shearin returns to the Lair to share her heroine's current dilemma with us. Those of you who've read Raine Benares' adventures know Raine is involved with two hunky guys, goblin duke Tam and paladin mage Mychael. Those of you who haven't yet made their acquaintance are in for a new treat.

    We're going to do something a little different today, but I'll let Lisa explain. Welcome, Lisa! Tell us what you have planned.

    My fourth Raine Benares adventure--Bewitched & Betrayed--will hit bookstore shelves on Tuesday, April 27. Here’s a teaser from the book’s back cover: “My name is Raine Benares. I’m a seeker. I find lost things and missing people – usually alive. Finding the specters of six evil sorcerers who escaped the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone of unlimited power, was easy. Stopping them before they unleash Hell of earth just may be the death of me.”

    Once again, Raine is up to her pointy elven ears in trouble of the worst kind. But our girl also finds her way into trouble of the steamy kind with Mychael Eiliesor, the elven paladin and commander of the Conclave Guardians, as well as Tamnais Nathrach, goblin duke and former chief mage to the goblin queen.

    To give you a taste of Raine’s romantic quandary, I’ve brought along two snippets from Bewitched & Betrayed with Raine and the two the men in her life.
    And naturally, I wouldn’t come to visit the Banditas without prizes.

    Read the snippets below and make your choice.Who should Raine choose and why (or heck, which guy would you choose and why)? Post the answer in a comment on today’s post and you’ll be entered to win. Two commenters will be selected at random to each receive a Raine Benares Prize Pack: a copy of Bewitched & Betrayed with additional book goodies (postcards and bookmarks from all four of my books, plus a fridge magnet from Bewitched & Betrayed) – all signed and personalized.

    So read the snippets and make your choice!


    Bewitched & Betrayed snippet featuring Raine and Tam

    A Fencing Lesson


    Tam was waiting for me. He was wearing sleek, dark fencing clothes with his black hair pulled back in a long goblin battle braid. His strong hands were bare, and a pair of steel-mesh dueling goggles dangled from his long fingers.

    Like most goblins, Tam was tall and leanly muscled, and as I’d experienced on more than one occasion, Tam was also lightning quick. His pale gray skin set off what was a goblin’s most distinctive feature—a pair of fangs that weren’t for decorative use only. A goblin wouldn’t hesitate to use them if a fight turned dirty. Tam wouldn’t hesitate to use them if I got within nibbling range.

    Tam’s black eyes gleamed in the club’s dim lighting, lighting he wasn’t going to turn up for our lesson. Sarad Nukpana’s goblin eyes were at their best in this kind of light. Either I learned to adapt or I learned to be dead.

    Goblin swords were both stabbing and slashing weapons. Goblins used two blades as naturally as breathing, like extensions of their arms. They were taught from an early age. Elf children played with building blocks; goblins learned to spin blades.
    Tam stood facing me, his hands by his side, his blades angled toward the floor. He looked relaxed. I knew better. When Tam had swords in his hands, relaxed meant ready.

    In our lessons, Tam always made the first move.

    Change is good. Dirty is better.

    I sauntered toward him like I was just getting into position to go on guard. Then I lunged, my blades dropped to block his, and my heel came down hard on his instep. Tam hissed and I pivoted sharply to the right, intending to pommel strike his ribs and dart the hell out of range.

    Darting didn’t happen. Neither did the pommel strike.

    Tam’s leather-clad arms pinned my arms—and swords—to my sides. His blades were up and crossed entirely too close to my face for any kind of comfort.

    So much for darting and striking.

    “Well, shit,” I said mildly. “That could have worked better.”

    “My foot thinks it worked quite well.” I heard the pained grimace in his voice. “Nicely done.” Leather creaked as his arms tightened around me, and his voice lowered to a teasing purr. “The rest of me agrees. This is more than pleasant. Now how do you propose to get away from me?”

    “What?”

    Vegard was here, so I knew Tam wouldn’t actually try anything, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t play with me like a mouse.

    Sarad Nukpana would do the same thing.

    Tam was right. He couldn’t let me go.

    “You chose the game, darling. I didn’t.” His lips were near the tip of my ear. “Escape from me, and feel free to do whatever you have to.”

    Whew! Okay, that's Raine and Tam. Next . . .


    Bewitched & Betrayed snippet featuring Raine and Mychael

    Plotting & Planning

    “What about the guards?” I asked. “If everyone’s supposed to believe we’re in the citadel and then Markus’s men see us, guess what? Cover blown.”

    “We won’t be seeing the guards and they won’t see us,” Mychael replied.

    “Then what—”

    “If you can’t control a situation, you have to know every detail, don’t you?”

    “What’s wrong with that?”

    Mychael’s eyes twinkled from under the brim of his hat. “I’ll bet you don’t like surprises for your birthday, either.”

    “No, I don’t. And what the hell does that have to do with anything?”

    He leaned in close with a conspiratorial whisper. “Not all surprises are bad.”

    Mychael took my face in his hands and those blue eyes gazed down into mine. There was no question reflected there, no uncertainty, and he sure as hell wasn’t asking my permission. Those eyes told me what he wanted.

    He kissed me.

    His lips didn’t demand, they simply took. With delicious slowness. His fingers of one hand ran lightly up the curve of my ear, lingering for a breath-catching caress at the tip before sliding down to my throat, leaving a trail of tingle-inducing heat in their wake. By the time his hand slipped around the back of my neck and pressed me to him, my hands were on him, sliding up to his chest and around his neck. My hands didn’t ask my permission, either. Traitorous hands.
    Mychael’s kiss turned into a tantalizing nibble, gently pulling my bottom lip between his teeth, sucking, nibbling, teasing.

    I opened my eyes and was met with twin pools of deep ocean blue, gleaming with mischief as he released my lips and planted light kisses on my nose and forehead. His lips lingered there, the warmth of his breath and body doing a fine job of banishing the night cold—or at least giving me something better to think about. His lips had released mine, but his arms were wrapped firmly around my waist and didn’t seem to be in a rush to let me go.

    “What was that for?” I found myself short of breath.

    “Hopefully, a pleasant surprise.”

    I looked up at him, a slow smile spreading across my face. “Eh, I’ve had worse.”

    Mychael grinned and his fingers found that ticklish place on my ribs and I squealed before I could stop myself. His lips instantly covered my mouth, muffling the sound. He took his sweet time muffling.

    “See, not all surprises are bad,” his lips murmured against mine. “And some are more enjoyable than you’ll admit.”

    “Was that a distraction to keep me from stabbing Markus?”

    “That depends. Did it work?”

    “As a distraction, it was first-rate.”

    “My lips humbly thank you.”

    “As a deterrent . . . sorry, no dice.”

    Mychael pressed his lips together. I actually think he was trying not to laugh—at me. I narrowed my eyes and glared at him.

    “That sounds like a challenge to me,” he said. “I’ll have to make every effort to do better next time.”

    Again, whew!


    Okay, everyone, hit the comment link and let us know which of these two smokin' guys you'd choose if you were Raine or which one you'd choose for you--and why. Remember, Lisa is giving away the Raine Benares prize packs described above.

    For more about Lisa and her books, visit her website.

    For those who want to catch up with Raine from the beginning, I've inserted at right the cover (with link) of her first adventure, Magic Lost, Trouble Found.








    Source URL: http://afrenchkitchengardenweekend.blogspot.com/2010/03/
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Look at the size of those panties.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"AND WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?"

    by Suzanne

    Remember when you were a kid and your parents would say things to you like, "If your friends jumped off a cliff would you do it too?" (That depends on why my friends are jumping off cliffs), or "Eat all your vegetables, because kids in China are starving." (Would me eating my vegetables actually stop them from starving?) or "Close the door, were you born in a barn? (I don't know, you were the adult in the room, not me--yes I was a sarcastic child and paid dearly for it). Those are the phrases we heard over and over, that made us swear we'd never say those things to our kids when we got around to having them.

    Thankfully, I tried not to quote these to my kids. I did however, come up with a few of my own, some of which they say they can't wait to use on my poor grandbabies.

    1. "Mom, can you make me a sandwich?"
    Me: "Poof, you're a PB&J sandwich."
    Them: "Awww, Mom, that's not what I meant."

    2. Them, whining: "I'm hungry"
    Me: "Hi, Hungry, my name's Mom, glad to meet you."
    Them: "Awww, Mom, that's not what I meant."

    3. Them, "You make me do chores just cause you're mean."
    Me: "My job is to teach you how to be a functional human being when you leave my home. Being mean is a side benefit."
    Them: "Awww, Mom."

    (Aren't you glad I wasn't YOUR mother?)

    Yes, my poor grandbabies will have to deal with all these questions and comments.

    When my son was in middle school he did something stupid. Have no idea what it was, just typical teenage stuff to get into trouble, but not too dangerous. When I sat him down the next day to give him a lecture about it, he said, "Yeah, I know" in that slightly insolent way young teens have when they know they've done wrong, but don't really want to admit it. I thought a moment about how to get the point across so that he'd really listen. (That's him with his niece below.)

    Me: "Yes, I know you know how stupid this was and I'd rather be cleaning the oven than dealing with your behavior, but see, I'm required to give you this lecture."
    Him: "Required? By who?"
    Me: "It's listed in the mother's handbook, page 35."
    Him: "Mother's handbook? I've never seen it."
    Me: "It's an invisible book of LIFE LESSONS, given to new mother's on the day they have their kids. Each stupid thing you do or are thinking of doing is required a certain lecture. Today's lecture is on page 35."
    (I think we're up to page 260 by now and in the chapter on finances.)

    And then there's my favorite parental comment. "And what have we learned?"

    This is for those times when I want to see what they think of their behavior. If it was something good or bad. Did their actions give them the results they were looking for or end in some sort of disaster? Uhm, coming from me, I expect them to realize the decision they'd made probably wasn't a good one and not worth repeating. Their answer is usually prefaced with a deep sigh and a great deal of eye-rolling. (They are my kids after all.)

    Unfortunately for my coworkers, the occasional doctor or patient, this comment gets repeated at work, too! Mostly getting laughter as the response.

    So what does this have to do with writing?

    In a good book, the main characters have to grow and change throughout their journey. They shouldn't be the same at the end of the book as they were at the beginning. In mysteries, they should've increased their deductive and observation skills to solve the mystery. In an adventure tale, the hero should have discovered he has more abilities than he'd ever thought in order to make the journey and save the day. In a romance, the hero AND heroine must change and grow in order to allow love into their world and gain their HEA.

    So dear friends, what have we learned? What hero or heroine have you read recently that has learned a great life lesson and achieved their goal? Have you ever had to take a step back and evaluate your own behavior or decision making ability and learn from a certain situation? Got any good parenting lines you'd like to share?Source URL: http://afrenchkitchengardenweekend.blogspot.com/2010/03/
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