Wednesday, December 31, 2008

January 2009 Coming Attractions

    HAPPY NEW YEAR 2009!

    We have an exciting list of guests and special blog topics from our Banditas for this month. Let’s start the year off with a bang!

    Tomorrow, January 2, Bandita Suzanne guests Harlequin Intrigue writer Kay Thomas whose debut book BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF got a 4 ½ star rating from Romantic Times.

    Join us on January 6 for Bandita Kate’s guest Maureen Child to celebrate her release of BEDEVILED. (Check out that HOT cover!) We'll party hearty and discuss her ultra HOT Fae Warriors and the women who love them!



    RITA-nominated author Pamela Clare, Joan’s guest on January 13, will talk about her new historical release UNTAMED. Join us to hear about this historical set in a different time period.



    On January 19, we welcome my guest Misa Ramirez, to celebrate the release of her debut book LIVING THE VIDA LOCA. Misa also hosts "Chasing Heroes," which you can check out at http://www.chasingheroes.com/.




    Aunty Cindy welcomes guest writer Tina Ferraro on January 21 to discuss her new YA release, THE ABC'S OF KISSING BOYS.


    January 27 brings to the Lair another of Trish’s guests, Helen Scott Taylor. Helen celebrates the release of her American Title Contest-winning paranormal romance THE MAGIC KNOT.



    On January 29 Jeanne hosts guest Heidi Betts whose contemporary debut TANGLED IN LOVE, a "funny, sexy yarn," releases this month.

    And on the last day of the month, January 31, Kirsten's guest, New York Times best-selling author Angela Fox, joins us to discuss her Accidental Demon Slayer series.


    In addition, the Banditas will visit RNTV the week of January 26-30. Join us and our hosts Romance Novel Television for a great week of Bandita Banter. Last time we invaded, the party was so loud, they had to call the authorities! Let's make it even bigger this time round!



    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2008/
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    BANDIT BOOTY!!!!
    We forgot to announce the winner for the Bandit Booty for December 24th - one of the Fab-O 12 days of Bandit Christmas.
    Drum roll please.....The winnah is.....P 226!!!
    Email me at Jeanne AT JeanneAdams DOT com and give me your snail mail addy so I can send you da prize. It's really cool...
    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2008/
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ask not for whom the Ball Drops...

    by Jeanne Adams

    It drops for thee! Grins.

    Are you partying tonight? Are you getting dressed up and going out? Having people in? My house is going to fill up today with family. My brothers-in-law and their wives and sons will be arriving today to spend New Years with us. It will be loud - perhaps not quite as loud as Times Square where Bandita Jo is tonight! - but it's gonna be raucous.

    Tomorrow, we'll have a huge meal, much like Thanksgiving or Christmas with steak and pototoes and all that yummy stuff. Its wonderful because my family is in North Carolina so we travel there for Thanksgiving. No leftovers. Ahhhh, but Christmas and New Years...LEFTOVERS!!! WOOHOOO! Its amazing how much I love 'em.

    So that's all to say that we are totally BORING up here in DC. (After all, there's a big party only a couple weeks away on inauguration, can't get a sitter for both nights, right?) It's been a long time since we dressed up and went out to party. I vaguely rememer it being a total blast.

    Do you have any traditions? What do you do at New Years? I looked up a bunch of things on Wikipedia. Did you know they officially kick of New Years in Sydney, Australia? *Waving at our darling Aus Banditas* I'm sure they knew that, but for us non-Aus-ers, they do fireworks over the Sydney Harbour bridge.

    In fact they do fireworks almost everywhere, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and India. Even in China, where they celebrate their Lunar New Year later, they blast off New Year Fireworks on "our" New Year.

    Wiki says the Italians wear red underwear at New Years, but doesn't explain it. Anyone know why? (Not that I don't like red unmentionables, but I'm curious...) In Japan they clean. Okay, I don't want to spend New Years in Japan. :> Seriously it's the time to clear the temples and prepare to welcome the god of the New Year. (I still don't want to clean) In New Zealand, evidently the Black Caps cricket team play a New Years One Day game. Seems they've outlawed liquor in some places due to those rowdy Kiwis going beyond the reckless and into the vandalous.

    Another odd one from Wiki is Mexico. Again with the red undies - for those who wish to find love - and get this...YELLOW undies for luck with money. (The guy to the left is the closest to yellow undies I could find, but he does look LUCKY...right?) I wonder if stripes gets you both? Oh and in Peru, there's the whole yellow-for-luck-undies, plus if you walk around the block with a suitcase, you'll get the trip of your dreams in the new year. In both countries, they eat a grape for every strike of the clock at midnight and make a wish for each grape. I like that one. I'm going to use it tonight! Grapes, I have.

    Do you make resolutions? If so, how many - one or a hundred? Something in between? Do you make family resolutions? I have a friend who gets her husband and kids together on New Years Eve and they make family resolutions for the year. Its pretty cool. They also have a 1/2 New Years in June, to check and see how they're doing on their resolutions!

    Now I know Tawny's one of our Major List Makers - I'm betting she makes resolutions right along with her goals - and I know there were quite a number of Bandita Buddies who confessed to being inveterate list makers as well.

    So, fess up. Do you make 'em? Do you check on 'em half-way through the year? Do you keep 'em till the next turn of the Year?

    And another time for confession....is one of your goals this year to finish the D*mn BOOK? Grins.

    So ready the fireworks, get the undies on, pick up a suitcase (writing's a journey, after all!) and let's celebrate a FABULOUS new year. It's the countdown to the Ball Drop, the countdown to the Queen's Speech (Denmark and the UK), countdown to some wonderful resolutions.

    Let's hear 'em, Ladies and Gentlemen!Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2008/
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Monday, December 29, 2008

Who was that Masked Man?

    Or woman...

    by Anna Campbell

    Honestly, I've gone gray waiting for the 30th December to arrive. And now it has come!

    The Day is Here!!!!!!

    Just in case you have never visited this blog before or haven't had any contact whatsoever with Anna Campbell in the last six months, the 30th December is the day TEMPT THE DEVIL hits bookstores in America!

    So what are you doing here, reading this blog?


    Get out there! Buy the book! Buy 50 copies of the book!

    Well, all right, maybe I'm getting above myself here...

    But once you've actually braved the cold to make this highly significant purchase, I'm afraid you're not allowed to curl up with Julian and Olivia and their bumpy road to love. Or not right away anyway.

    No, you've got to get all dressed up and come to...

    A MASKED BALL TO CELEBRATE THE RELEASE OF MY THIRD BOOK!

    Huzzah! Hip hip hooray! Bewdy, cobber!

    Yes, in the great tradition of launch parties in the lair, we're out to give you a really good time! You get to play with gladiators and cabana boys and inebriated romance novelists! You get to swing from chandeliers and drink champagne from Richard Armitage's slipper and have as many margaritas as you want!

    How can you resist?

    OK, my questions are:

    What is your costume?

    Who is your partner?

    What are the THREE things you definitely MUST do at the ball?


    Remember, because this is a SPECIAL ball, there's no hangover, there's no paparazzi, nobody will ever know what you got up to and there will be no ill effects.

    So let your imaginations go wild!

    Actually, forget your imaginations, just let yourself go wild!

    My favorite three answers win signed copies of the book that started all the mayhem TEMPT THE DEVIL!

    So to start the ball rolling (pun intended), what's my costume? I think I want to wear the dress that Olivia wears to the big ball scene in TEMPT THE DEVIL! It's gorgeous! It's sophisticated! It needs a slender body to carry it off but hey, I even get that at my launch party. And it goes beautifully with rubies...

    So who's MY partner at this bash?

    Why, Bryan Ferry about 30 years ago! Hey, I told you time travel was allowed, didn't I? Monsieur Ferry in all his gorgeousness was the model for what the hero of TEMPT THE DEVIL looks like. Rakish. Lounge lizardy. Decadent. Jaded. Sophisticated. Sexy. Yummy.

    My three things are:

    1. I want to find out what gladiators wear under their kilts!

    2. I want Bryan to sing Let's Stick Together to me - and mean it!

    3. I want Daniel Craig and Richard Armitage to get into a fight over who gets the last waltz on my dance card. I'm assuming one of your girls will invite them, of course!
    So get dancing, people! Let's get this partay started! Cabana boys, open that tequila! And don't forget to be creative with your answers and you just might win a copy of TEMPT THE DEVIL! Good luck!
    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2008/
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Tim Tam Limerick winners!!

    by Suzanne Welsh

    Okay, y'all were so great with the limericks, I decided to give away TWO packages of Tim Tams. So, the winners are:

    Virginia for best use of iambic pentameter
    and Gannon for her best use of Hugh Jackman in a limerick!

    Ladies, send me your snail-mail addy to swwelsh2001 at yahoo dot com and I'll see that those Tim Tams are on their way to your homes! And thanks for playin the limerick game!!Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2008/
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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lorraine Heath returns to the Lair!

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

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

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

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

    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2008/
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Christmas Booty!!

    Thank you to everyone who visited the Lair on Christmas Day. It was lovely to hear how you all spent your day, your travel plans, the feasts, the gifts both given and received, the quiet moments, the merriment, and of course, the Christmas stories you love best.

    Our random number generator chose a winner of the Bountiful Bandita Basket, and that winner is ...

    BUFFIE!!

    Congratulations, Buffie!! When you have a moment, please send your snail mail address to me at katecarlisle99@yahoo.com and I will send the basket and all the goodies inside straight to you!

    Thanks again to one and all for sharing Christmas memories with the Banditas!!
    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2008/
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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Our Second Year Together

    by Suzanne Welsh
    Wow, we've been together for another whole year! This time last year, we'd had 4 books reach the book shelves. Now, we have sales by more than half of our Banditas with 14 books on the shelves and 5 more coming out by April of next year...and more to follow!

    At the RWA National Conference in San Francisco this past July, for the first time ever, 19 of the Banditas made it to the conference at once. Believe me, the Banditas took the place by storm and created our own kind of special commotion. And even the Golden Rooster was out and about in SF!

    Speaking of the GR, it was just after the first of the year that the wily bird made his first appearance in the Lair. He's been back and forth between the hemispheres and continents so much he should have enough frequent flyer miles for a trip to the space station. When he took over the blog one day we discovered he is a fowl spy who is bent on not only infiltrating the lair, but revealing many of the Banditas' secrets as well. I wonder what other antics he'll be up for in the coming year?

    We've had many guest bloggers this year. NYT Bestselling authors, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Eloisa James and Lorraine Heath all drew lots of attention. We've had editors from Source Books and NAL. Michelle Buonfiglio from Lifetime.com visited, too. We were invaded by firemen, knights, dukes and ladies...we even got a masseuse named Swen!!

    And the Bandits raided RomanceNovelTV for an entire fortnight, (er, two weeks for those not into British historical time periods). What great fun that was! Rumor has it another raid may be in the planning for next year. Stay tuned for details.


    Another thing the Bandits have become involved with is raffle baskets. These are packed full of Bandit booty, including signed copies of the Bandit books. The proceeds from these have gone to various charities or readers/commentors. Here are some of the places you might have seen them: Dreamin In Dallas conference, Buns & Roses Tea for adult literacy, Brenda Novak's auction for Diabetes research, the Heart of Dixie Readers Luncheon, Washington Romance Writers, RWA National Conference for literacy, RT, Lori Foster's reader event, Lora Leigh's RAW, COFW's conference, the Jo Leigh Fundraiser, and of course, our Christmas one just given away by Kate!

    Here are some individual achievements by the Banditas this past year:

    Jeanne:
    Dark and Dangerous, June 2008 and second book DARK AND DEADLY, June 2009 with two more books sold to Kensington in 2008. Dark and Dangerous, A Romantic Times TOP PICK (4.5 Stars!), Just nominated for an RT Reviewer's Choice Award! Acquired an agent. And a new member of the family...Diver, the Irish Water Spaniel!

    Beth: Sold 2 books to Harlequin Superromance Not Without Her Family came out in June. NWHF finaled in the Golden Leaf contest. Acquired an agent.

    Anna C:Best New Author of 2007 in the All About Romance Annual Reader Poll.

    Claiming the Courtesan:* Finalist, Mainstream Category, 2008 Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year Award * Finalist, Best Regency Historical Romance, 2008 Romance Writers of America RITA Awards * Best Debut of 2007, Michelle Buonfiglio's Lifetime TV Romance: B(u)y the Book * Book of the Year 2007, Michelle Buonfiglio's Lifetime TV Romance: B(u)y the Book * Best First Single Title Romance of 2007 (Debut Author) in the Single Titles.com Readers Choice poll * Winner of Best First Historical Romance in the Romantic Times Book Reviews Reviewers' Choice Awards 2007 * Best Long Historical Romance, Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America 2008 Booksellers' Best Awards.

    Untouched: * Romantic Times Top Pick and winner of January 2008 K.I.S.S. (Knight in Shining Silver) Award * Finalist, Best Regency Historical Romance, 2008 Romance Writers of America RITA Awards * Realms Shooting Star Award for a book "that changed our universe" from Realms on our Bookshelves

    Tempt the Devil: * Romantic Times Top Pick and winner of January 2009 K.I.S.S. (Knight in Shining Silver) Award

    First two short stories published this year. Lady Kate's Scoundrel was in the Australian Women's Weekly in April and The Return which was in the Woman's Day in November.

    Kate: HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER: A Bibliophile Mystery, NAL, February 2009...just received a 4 1/2 star review from RT, and she recently sold to Silhouette Desire. Be watching for her books to come!

    Caren: Won Indiana's Golden Opportunity and the Golden Pen and finaled in the Heart Of the Rockies.

    KJ: 2008 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, Unpublished Division:Romantic Mystery/Suspense The Matador - First Place

    Joan: Her Romans continued taking honors with The Patrician's Fortune winning The Suzannah and placing 3rd in The Maggies! Whoot, Joanie!!!

    Christie: Every Night I'm Yours 2/08, debut release. Won NJ Golden Leaf in the Historical Category. Contracted for 3 more books with Kensington. Finished her whole house remodel and of course, acquired a Siberian Cat!

    Jo: Had another granddaughter and that makes the count 15 grandbabies for our JoMama!! When she isn't busy getting her baby fix, Jo is currently submitting her Romantic Suspense and Historical Suspense books and anticipating a sale.

    Donna: THE EDUCATION OF MRS. BRIMLEY won the More than Magic contest, earned a certificate of merit from the Holt medallion contest, and was a finalist in the Golden Quill contest all for Best First Book. It tied for second place in the Barclay Gold and finaled in the Maggies for Best Historical. It was a finalist in the 2008 RT award for Best First Historical and was featured by Gina Bernal in her RNTV video.

    THE TROUBLE WITH MOONLIGHT came out in 2008 to a 4.5 TOP PICK review in Romantic Times Bookreviews. Just recently it was nominated for 2009 Romantic Times award for Historical Love and Laughter (Winners to be announced in April).

    Cindy: Debut release "The Wild Sight" came out in Oct. and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. THE WILD SIGHT is nominated for a "Cupid and Psyche Award" (CAPA) by The Romance Studio. Sold two more romantic suspenses to Sourcebooks, one is her 2006 Golden Heart final. Tentative release dates are Fall, 2009 and Spring, 2010.

    Trish: first book (A Firefighter in the Family, Harlequin American) came out in September. Sold two more to H.A. in November. Yippee, Trish!

    Cassondra: While working on some secret plans in the Lair, she also changed jobs in her non-writing career and adopted a new family member, Thor...a four-year-old, African Pied Crow, whom y'all met earlier this month on the blog!

    Nancy: Won the Maggie and finaled in the Daphne and the Orange Rose. Had a feature article in the UNC-Charlotte magazine, Exchange.

    Kirsten: Spent 2008 hard at work editing her YA book (scheduled for publication in winter 2009) and is currently starting on the second book in the two-book series. She's also got several works in progress in adult romance and is dreaming of sales in 2009!

    Susan: Won the Golden Heart for for Best Contemporary Single Title Romance with "Money, Honey". Sold two books, including Money, Honey to Berkeley. Release dates yet to be announced.

    Anna S: Had manuscripts place second in the Fab Five and Touch of Magic contests. Alas, she also moved home to England. (Missed greatly in the states by the Bandits!)

    Tawny: Our spiciest pubbed author so far, has sold 9 books now, this time last year it was 6. Her 3rd Blaze, Risque Business garnered 4 1/2 stars from RT. Her first Blaze, Double Dare took 3rd place in the Laurel Wreath contest. Look for more sexy fun from her this year!!

    Christine: Her second book THE DANGEROUS DUKE hit the shelves to widespread acclaim (it's Anna here pretending to be Christine so I'm allowed to say that!). She handed in her next book WICKED LITTLE GAME and was contracted to write three more historical romances for Berkley Sensation! Huzzah! Christine made it to her first RWA conference, met all her Bandita sisters, flirted with the GR and generally had a ball!

    Suz: As for me? I became a grandmother!! Managed to survive being President of Dallas Area Romance Authors, (DARA) and my first Erotica finaled in the Unpublished Beacon contest.

    It's been quite a year!

    In fact, this year we not only talked about a special treat from Australia, Tim Tam's and had them at the Bandit bash, BUT the Pepperridge Farms company has sent us some Tim Tam's as a thank you for all the talk about them by us and our Bandit Buddies. In celebration of our fantastic year, the Bandits would like to give them to one of our commenters today!!

    So, in honor of such a momentous give away, write us a limerick as to what the Bandits and their blog mean to you. Include Tim Tams somewhere in the poem!
    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2008/
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Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday Babies

    by Susan Sey

    So my dad's birthday is the day after Christmas. I realize this isn't ideal timing, from a kid's perspective. The gift budget has just been blown & nobody has the appetite for another celebration. Plus all your friends are out of town visiting Grandma & Grandpa, & nobody could come to a party even if you were able to have one.

    In recent years, however, this bummer birthday has transformed itself.

    Now my dad is a grandpa & so are all his friends. Now the grandbabies (and the sons & daughters who are responsible for them) come to him for the holidays. And his birthday has become the biggest celebration of the year in our family.

    Everybody's here, the presents have been opened, the holiday celebrated. Everybody has the extra day off work, his friends no longer have Grandma/Grandpa obligations. Now they are the grandmas & grandpas, & they're all looking for a way to extend the holiday mood.

    What better way to do that than at a birthday party?

    In years past, we've had nearly a hundred people cycle through this party. Everybody from long-long relatives to friends from three neighborhoods ago have turned up to have a slice of cake & toast my dad into another year.

    It's a miracle of sorts, isn't it? An immense disappointment has turned into a joyful celebration, transformed by nothing but the power of time & patience.

    What about you? Have you ever been transformed by time or patience? Had your endurance rewarded with a fresh, healing perspective? Looked with new eyes on an old hurt & found something new?

    Oh & before I forget--Happy birthday, Dad. You're the best. xoxoxoSource URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2008/
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Kind of Hush

    by Nancy

    Some 40 years or so ago, a group of British musicians "invaded" the American music scene. Exactly 40 years ago yesterday (I'm writing this on Christmas Day), Apollo 8 orbited the moon with guidance systems more primitive than the computer on my desk. And somehow, the news coverage this week has drawn them together for me.

    The title of this post was inspired by a song one of those invading British musicians, an extremely cute young man named Peter but known as Herman, made famous. The refrain was There's a kind of hush/ All over the world tonight . . . and went on to talk about lovers in love. There's a hush in my neighborhood right now, the hush that comes on major holidays when everyone's inside, at gatherings that mark romantic and filial and friendly love.

    Not all of these holidays are Christian, of course. The world's Christian population is somewhere between 20 and 33 percent, depending on which sources you consult. Which means the rest of the world follows creeds (or nonreligious ethical systems) other than ones based on Jesus's teachings. In the United States, Christianity (and thus, Christmas) is a dominant cultural force, but that's not so in other parts of the world, where Jews, Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists dominate. In those parts of the world, I assume, shops are open, streets are bustling with whatever traffic is usual, and people are going about their daily business. Yet all of the major religions and ethical systems have at least a couple of things in common--a belief in kindness or charity to the rest of humanity and a desire for peace among peoples (I except the militant religious splinter groups from this statement and hope we can avoid discussing them. For me, at least, today is a day to think of peace on Earth).

    Which brings me, at last, to Apollo 8 and its crew, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders (who took the famous picture at left). They noted that there are no boundaries or divisions on the planet in that photo or in the view from space. Subsequent astronauts have said the same thing, that after a few days in space, they stopped thinking about their own parts of the world and saw it as a whole. The Earth is, of course, still fraught with war, genocide, famine, and plague. The hush in my neighborhood doesn't extend nearly far enough. I hope, though, that it will someday.

    In the meantime, I'm grateful for my family and our friends and neighbors and our peaceful morning. I'm also grateful for all the Christmases past that I shared with family and friends who've moved away or passed away. A good friend of ours made our beautiful tree skirt, came over with her husband to help decorate the tree every year until they moved to Arizona, gave us ornaments and beautiful, cross-stitched art, and reveled in all things Christmas except the holiday itself. They're Jewish, you see, and she didn't feel right about putting up a tree of her own.

    One year, when I was about 7, I got the Barbie Dream House for Christmas. The adults in my life didn't realize it came with Massive Assembly Required (all the furniture--think tab A and slot B--which was then cardboard). I don't think, personally, that could possibly have been as bad as tiny decals for Gundams and Power Rangers, but I could be wrong. Anyway, the adults were so distracted by furniture assembly that they forgot to open the chimney flue. Until the smoke from burning wrapping paper poured into our living room to remind them. We had to evacuate the house until they got the situation straightened out, and then we froze with the windows open for a couple of hours. My grandfather lived with us, so our house was jammed with aunts and uncles and cousins on Christmas Day. And all us kids were in the yard together that morning, freezing. I cherish the memory of that day. All the adults are gone now, and the kids have kids of our own, and the cyle of life moves on.

    I hope you've had wonderful memories of this day or other holidays your family celebrates. Will you share them? What's your favorite holiday, and what does it make you think about?Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2008/
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas To All!!

    By Kate

    It's Christmas Day, at last. I can finally relax ... I think ...

    Has this year’s holiday season been a particularly crazy time for everyone? It's not just me, right? Some say it’s because Thanksgiving was late so that gave us one less week to prepare for the next big holiday. But I think it’s just been a difficult year in general and the holiday rush tends to add to the anxiety.

    Oh, but let’s not talk about anxiety and craziness today! It’s Christmas, and that means quality family time, wonderful traditions, special gifts, and peace on earth and good will to all.

    Yesterday, when all the shopping was done, all the cards had been mailed and the last packages had been delivered, I looked around and realized I actually had an evening with nothing to do! I poured myself a glass of champagne--hey, I was celebrating!--then picked up one of my favorite old Christmas romances, curled up on the couch and read for a few hours. I haven’t done that in months!

    Some of my favorite Christmas romances are short stories, like Linda Howard’s Bluebird Winter and Nora Roberts’ All I Want For Christmas. Last night I re-read Susan Mallery’s The Sheik and the Christmas Bride. Talk about a guilty pleasure, I love Susan’s sheik books! Two more favorites of mine are JD Robb’s Holiday in Death (I love that in between all the murder and mayhem, Eve is so flummoxed by the gift giving!) and Maureen Child’s Some Kind of Wonderful (she finds a real baby in the manger! It’s such a sweet, funny story, so classically Maureen Child).

    What are some of your favorite Christmas romances?

    And because it’s Christmas Day and because we Banditas love to give away goodies, one lucky random commenter will win our fabulous Bandita Christmas Basket!! It’s filled with wonderful goodies, such as:

    * Dark and Dangerous and a bookmark from Jeanne
    * Not Without Her Family and a bookmark and magnet from Beth
    * The Wild Sight from Aunty Cindy, along with a flower notepad, bath salts, a lovely Turkish woven bookmark and a josh hasrey pin
    * Every Night I'm Yours and a bookmark from Christie
    * A cuddly josh hasrey teddy bear from Anna Sugden
    * Risque Business, post-its, a magnet and more goodies from Tawny
    * Claiming the Courtesan and a bookmark and postcard from Anna Campbell
    * A josh hasrey spiral notebook from Caren
    * A Firefighter in the Family and a bookmark and picture frame from Trish
    * A $10 gift card from Barnes & Noble from KJ
    * The Trouble with Moonlight, pens and a bookmark from Donna
    * The Dangerous Duke and a bookmark and postcard from Christine
    * A $10 Borders gift card from Jo
    * A josh hasrey mouse pad from Joanie
    * Homicide in Hardcover ARC, a bookmark and postcard from Kate, along with Sees Candy suckers and a $10 Starbucks gift certificate
    * A notebook from Nancy
    * And more!

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all our Bandita friends!!
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