WINNER #1 -- 9:18 A.M. PST -- the winner of the first prize package, as chosen by my mystic randomizing macro -- is MAYA!! She wins books by Lorraine Heath, Anne Mallory, Sharie Kohler, Tessa Dare, Pam Rosenthal, and me!
WINNER #2, 11:45 A.M. PST: LAURA T!! She wins signed books by Eloisa James, Lisa Gardner, Sophie Jordan, Pamela Palmer, Toni Blake, and Debra Mullins! WOO HOO, Laura!!
WINNER #3, 3:30 P.M. PST -- JAMIE!! hurrah for Jamie!! She wins books by Pam Rosenthal, Jenna Petersen, Miranda Neville, Caroline Linden, Tessa Dare and Courtney Milan (book of excerpts!), and Anna Campbell!! Good job, Jamie!!
GRAND PRIZE WINNER #4, 6:30 PM PST --Lynn!! BRAVO, Lynn, my dear - the mystic macro chose you as the Grand Prize Winner, so you take home the gorgeous earrings from the Since the Surrender collection at Circe Designs, and books by our guest Andrew Gross, Laura Lee Guhrke, Meredith Duran, Christine Wells, and moi!!
Welcome to the SINCE THE SURRENDER Pleasure Dome, my doves, home of today's Cocktail Party!! I’m so delighted you could come help me celebrate the third book in the Pennyroyal Green series, SINCE THE SURRENDER, the story of war hero Captain Chase Eversea, Rosalind March, a wicked indiscretion, a disappearing sister, a sinister museum, a puppet phobia, a busty angel painting, and an explosive, long-denied passion...see, now you have to read the book. ;) Which I’m sure you all will RUN OUT AND BUY TODAY, yes, my dears? (Or are already holding in your sweet little hands, since I hear Amazon has been merrily shipping them for about a week now. Darling Amazon.) Today, we celebrate at our very own FANTASY cocktail party, where you can wear spike heels with no painful consequences, where the Sexy Psychic Cyber Waiters (make sure you choose yours here! And keep him busy all day!) will see to your every, every need, including foot massages and drink fetching and compliment-murmuring, where all your favorite bands will play live sets in special rooms set aside just for that, and the DJ’s never deny a request, where the chairs are plentiful and sinfully comfortable, the snacks are decadent and calorie-free and replenished at intervals throughout the day, and where startling little things will take place for your entertainment. :) Do make requests—for food, drink, and entertainment! The waiters know your every desire, of course, practically befre you even voice it, but I recommend the smoked salmon canapes, the pigs-n-blankets, the truffles (never too early for truffles!), or an exploration of our many ethnic food buffets. Your wish is my command. :) The drink of the day is the SINCE THE SURRENDER, a sparkly gold, foaming concoction that makes everything seem really, really funny and really, really beautiful. Feel free to drink a lot of them. And of course, at random intervals throughout the the day, I'll be giving away prize packages of signed book and a grand prize of gorgeous earrings AND signed books.
Why are we having a cyber cocktail party? Well, see the photo over there? If you thought to yourself, “Huh. That looks like a man standing next to Julie” —well, I always knew you guys were clever. We have a VERY SPECIAL guest today. I first stumbled across this guy at the Avon cocktail party at the RWA Conference in Washington, D.C.. Now, if you’ve ever been to an RWA conference—essentially summer camp for grown women—a vast, vast sea of women, in fact—you’ll know how startling it isto see a man there at all. In fact, any man who happens to stumble upon an RWA conference probably feels a bit the way Charlton Heston did in the Planet of the Apes. (Not to imply that any of us ladies at the conference resembled apes in any way, mind you. I would be willing to wager that not one of us had a single wayward hair left on our bodies by the time we reached D.C., such is the pre-conference groom-athon).
Anyway, I gingerly approached this guy and held out my hand for him to sniff so as not to frighten him. And then I named him Bright Eyes and—
Kidding! (that was a Planet of the Apes joke, btw). His name is Andrew Gross. You might have heard of him. You've probably heard of him. As it turns out, I hadn’t. So far, he shows no indication of ever letting me live this down. Fortunately Bright Ey—er, Andy—has a sense of humor. Because it turns out HE’S co-written six (SIX!!) NUMBER ONE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERS with the one and only JAMES (freaking) PATTERSON. Of whom I'm sure you've heard. AND several bestsellers of his own, including THE DARK TIDE, nominated for Thriller of the Year. Andrew Gross has a reputation for writing strong and sexy female characters and heroes, which is how he caught James Patterson's eye in the first place, and which could have a lot to do with why Harper brought him to RWA and why he managed to survive it with his limbs and marbles intact, if not his dignity. And heck, since everyone seems to be inviting Andrew places these days, I thought I'd invite him to our party today, too...and not just because we shared an unnerving experience at the Avon cocktail party.
What happened, you ask? Well, if you noticed the glazed looks in our eyes in that photo, it’s because we were cornered by a loony paparazzo-reporter who leaped out from behind a potted plant and grilled us about underwear, violence, bumping people off, heroes and vertical sex, among other things—all ingredients for the best Regency-set romances AND thrillers, of course—before we managed to escape her. Below is a transcript of that encounter, captured on my Blackberry voice recorder, and you might learn from it a few things you never wanted to know about either of us...and some that might haunt your dreams. You're welcome, and our apologies. Here it is:
AVON COCKTAIL PARTY, Washington, D.C., JULY 17TH, 2009
Three Mai-Tai's past 8:00 P.M
JULIE ANNE LONG and ANDREW GROSS are mingling politely, really behaving very nicely, in fact, when a woman leaps out from behind a potted plant wielding a camera.
Julie, Andy, my sweeties, my doves, BABS WILTERS, here! I need a photo! Julie, give me that Paris-pose! Ouch, I said Paris, sweet pea, not deer-in-the-headlights, but if that’s the best you can do...<CLICK> I know everyone out there wants to know from Julie Anne Long and Andrew Gross: What’s the importance of boxers vs. briefs in contemporary thrillers vs. historical regencies?
JAL (agog, blinking from flash): Who are you? What are you? Where did you come from?? Did...she just ask us a question about underwear? [Turns to Andrew beseechingly, but turns out he’s too polite—or too full of wine—not to gleefully start talking about underwear. Perhaps he thinks this sort of thing is customary at RWA conferences and is merely trying to humor the natives.]
AG: Oh, we're talking major importance, Babs. This actually nails the central dramatic arc of my books on the head! But now that I think of it, my series character, Ty Hauck, head of detectives in Greenwich Ct, a self-reliant, athletic, smart, sort of hunky guy, he would be boxers I think. (I mean, it is Greenwich!) Never thought about it before. Me, briefs. (TMI, I assume.) Now some of my heroines, even the older ones—hey, they’re yoga moms and pretty hot—thongs!
JAL. Um...Babs...well, underwear is a rich and controversial topic in Regencies. And God knows there’s nothing BRIEF about Regency underwear. But whether or not it plays any sort of starring role in a scene depends on the needs of a scene. It might become a delicious, even dangerous hindrance, like in the scene in THE PERILS OF PLEASURE, where Colin and Madeleine need to be dead silent and are confronted with raging desire and the potential of dangerously creaking stays. Sometimes the issue is skirted altogether by putting a heroine in a nightdress (see steamy scene in LIKE NO OTHER LOVER). Voila! No grappling with undergarments. It’s a pleasure to make garters and stockings a feature of seduction…
Seriously, why on earth are we talking about underwear with this person?? I need a Mai Tai…(cranes head toward bar). Will you exc—
BABS WILTERS: Oh, relax, Julie! Everyone wants to know about underwear! Don’t suppose you’d tell us about yours? Andrew just told us about his! No? Maybe you’ll like this question better. What’s the difference between a romance hero and a suspense hero? Besides the underwear?
AG: (still gamely) Well, as for me, I don’t go for the over the top Laura Croft or Ja mes Bond type. I go for smart, strong, committed people who are thrust into crisis and measure up. People you know and would root for. Many of my “heroes” are women. To me there is nothing sexier than a woman providing the central heroic act of the book. And I always try to make them just a little smarter than the man. At least, wiser. And I love the element of someone overcoming fear, of measuring up to what’s needed. It’s more a female than a male pattern. Even my guy, Ty Hauck, steadfast, an uncomplicated view of right and wrong, a guy you would want in your foxho le, is really a white knight who goes on quests. For women in distress. So there is a romantic quality to it. Still, he has to look inside himself and question, Am I the man to do this? Do I have what it takes to take this on? So far, the answer is always, yes. But that questioning of bravery, virtue, balanced against doubt, that’s what makes it thrilling.
JAL: Well, since Andy's feeling garrulous [hisses under breath to AG: "Don't encourage this woman!"], I’ll answer your question, too. I think there’s a lot of latitude in what constitutes a hero in both genres. I like to play with the definition of “hero” in my books—unlike Andrew’s Ty, my heroes aren’t necessarily White Knights from the beginning, that’s for sure. I like to challenge my guys to become heroes through the circumstances they’re thrust into—I want them to be inspired to heroic acts for the women they come to love, to become the men they were meant to be because of the heroine. There’s Colin Eversea, from THE PERILS OF PLEASURE, who is an unrepentant, cheerful, reckless—if romantic—rake who become a real man through experiencing genuine peril and being thrown together with a strong woman he admires and wants to love and protect—not just seduce. In SINCE THE SURRENDER, Captain Chase Eversea was a bona-fide war hero with a very strict code of personal honor—and then he nearly lost his life for his country, and found himself betraying his own code of honor for one particularly irresitible, unforgettable woman, and when we first meet him he’s living with the aftermath of that, and he’s a bit of a mess. He rediscovers his purpose when Rosalind returns to his life. [whispers to AG:] This woman is making me nervous, Andy. Can I have a—[doesn’t wait for Andrew’s answer; takes his wine out of his hand and takes a big gulp.]
JAL: You would, wouldn't you, Babs? Well, nothing would give me more pleasure than knocking off a bad guy in a Regency. Well, OK, a foot massage from Simon Baker might. The words “#1 New York Times Bestseller” at the tippy top of my book covers might also do the trick. But in your typical Regency—and I would love to hear from readers if they know or believe otherwise—an excess of blood and death, and other, shall we say, gritty things, like oh, let’s say the sound of cartilage snapping or torture by cigarette burns—is generally frowned upon. We’re creating a fantasy world for women to escape into, and much of this fantasy involves luxury and comfort and privilege, not…cartilage.
That said: a little grit provides the perfect contrast for luxury. And part of a romantic fantasy involves deepening romantic intimacy, and one vivid way to convey real intimacy is in earthily sensual and sometimes poignantly intimate details. Sweat, for instance. Men sweat (and in the throes of passion, if they’re doing the job right, they might sweat a LOT. And get slippery. And then…but I digress.) They don’t always smell fabulous. (But they taste fabulous. Kidding. But I’ve tasted my heroes in my imagination, and I assure you, they’re all delicious. Feel free to do the same in your imaginations.) One of my favorite challenges as a writer is to make the love story feel real, to insert the reader into the story to the point where she is the heroine, and feels not only passion but also real love and affection for the hero. E.g., in the second book in the Pennyroyal Green series, LIKE NO OTHER LOVER, Cynthia Brightly notices a place where Miles Redmond missed a row of whiskers shaving underneath his jaw, and it’s somehow incredibly vivid and poignant to her. In SINCE THE SURRENDER, the formidable Captain Eversea looks like hell toward the end of the book (understandably, perhaps, given he’s just been tremendously heroic): tired, a little pale, unshaven, looking every one of his years (the advanced age of 30-something), and he’s never seemed more gorgeous to Rosalind March. It’s the moments when men are at their heroic best that make us want them; it’s the imperfections, the vulnerabilities, that make us love them. Little things become precious. I’m betting that’s true no matter the genre.
Still wouldn’t mind bumping someone off in a Regency big time, one day.
AG: Get a load of that—get a little wine in her—my wine— and now Julie’s writing homicidal Regencies! Look, I do thrillers, Babs. Not romance. Knocking people off is what I do. The real issue is what’s at stake by their deaths. And no, darts, not unless we’re in the Brazilian rain forest or an Agatha Christie study, don’t cut it in my world. Generally, I’m not into gore. It’s not about exotic ways to kill someone, but the deaths characters earn by their deeds. (Jeez, sounds sort of Talmudic!) My bad guys, my real bad guys, are usually influential, successful guys who hire someone to do their dirty work. But I did have a hooker blow someone’s brains out during sex. And I had a dad withhold an insulin treatment from his daughter. (What a dad!!! She lives.) And I just threw someone under an Amtrak train in the book I’m working on. In fact, I’ve killed a few people on the Metro-North. And in THE DARK TIDE, I did have a touching scene where they find someone lowered off a boat in the Caribbean wrapped in chains. My stock and trade!
BABS WILTERS: Hmm...so what you're saying is that the two of you are into sweat and chains and man-tasting [scribbles in notebook while Andrew and Julie look on nervously]. I know everyone is anxiously awaiting the answer to this question. You both write some steamy scenes. What do you do when your hero and heroine need to get it on but there's not a bed nearby?
AG: Walls work! What’s hotter than a hot wall-scene where they can’t mak e it to the bed? The book I’m just turning in has a pretty sexy scene in a wine cellar. Still waiting for that to happen to me!!! (Which is why I got into wine in the first place!) THE BLUE ZONE has a pretty nice shower scene. And my wife recently suggested elevators in a power loss would do the trick for her. Funny what you learn after 20 years. I’ve been in an f-ing elevator with her ten thousand times....
JAL: Wait—who’s waiting anxiously for the answer to this question?? But since when has the absence of a bed been a hindrance? Frankly, the absence of a bed is more like an inspiration. Nothing I like better than the proverbial vertical challenge (or horizontal challenge, as the case may be). ;) For me, for some reason, inspiration is all location, location, location. Pitch dark barn lofts (THE PERILS OF PLEASURE), statue galleries (go figure, but that’s what happens in THE SECRET TO SEDUCTION), and wait until you find out where it all takes place in SINCE THE SURRENDER—in one particular instance, a really delicious ultimate fantasy-place (for me, anyway—not to mention for our heroine, Mrs. Rosalind March). But then fantasies are many-splendored and ever-shifting things, which is what makes writing romance so fun. When two people want each other, any place can become charged and romantic.
[looks yearningly at buffet table] Can we go now? They’re running out of those little hot dog thingies…
BABS WILTER: OK, you two. Who writes sex in a freer way—guys or gals?
AG: No contest. Gals. Guys are uptight. We’re fundamentally chaste at heart. We don’t want women to think badly of us. I’m always stumbling with reservations on whether I should throw Ty in bed. Women—they just let it rip! My view is, why should I let my character have more sex than I do???? Oh, maybe to sell more—I’ll think about that!
JAL: I suspect Andy’s quite right. Also, we girls pay attention to—dissect, even—all those little moments that lead up to the BIG moment, and so it’s easier for us to write about it, because we’ve thought and thought about it well before it happens.
BABS WILTERS: I seeeeee. [scribbles in notebook] "JAL...has…sex…on…the….brain...and...Andy...is...uptight...in...bed..."
JAL: What!? Wait—!
BABS WILTER: Is it true that you're teaming up to write a contemporary/historical titled The Time Traveler's Concubine's Secret Baby?
JAL: That does it. Andy, do you see a bouncer? (Rotates head wildly, looking for escape...)
AG: I thought that’s why I was invited to this thing!
[SOUNDS OF SCUFFLING; END OF TRANSCRIPT]
Hee! Just like being there, isn't it?
Anyway, to give you all a sense for what it was like to stumble into the Avon cocktail party at RWA (all right, the Avon ladies didn’t stumble in—we all glided in. Like swans. After a bus ride courtesy of the splendid Suzanne Enoch. We may, however, have stumbled out…courtesy of the Mai Tai’s), Andrew's going to hang with us off and on today, so if you have a question for him, pipe up. He’s not shy. So he says. ;)
I’m of course giving away prize packages to random commenters and random intervals known only to ME all day long—four sets of signed books from incredible authors like New York Times bestseller thriller writer Lisa Gardner; Andy Gross himself (The Dark Tide, nominated for Thriller of the Year); ME!! (The Perils of Pleasure); two from this year’s Romance Writers of America Rita Award winner for Best Historical, Pam Rosenthal (The Edge of Impropriety and The Slightest Provocation), Lorraine Heath (Surrender to the Devil), Sophie Jordan (Surrender to Me); Eloisa James (An Affair Before Christmas); Toni Blake (One Reckless Summer); Jenna Petersen (Lessons from a Courtesan); Pamela Palmer (Desire Untamed), Miranda Neville (Never Resist Temptation); Anne Mallory (For the Earl's Pleasure); Sharie Kohler (Kiss of a Dark Moon); Caroline Linden; Anna Campbell (Tempt the Devil) ; Christine Wells (The Dangerous Duke); Tesssa Dare (Goddess of the Hunt); The Dangerous Book of Excerpts (Courtney Milan and Tessa Dare); Debra Mullins (To Ruin the Duke); Meredith Duran (Written on Your Skin); Laura Lee Guhrke,
Plus a grand prize including the incredibly gorgeous pair of garnet, citrine, 22k gold vermeil earrings from the the Since the Surrender collection at Circe Designs ! See the image below! They're seriously stunning and opulent. You can wear them while you carry around your copy of SINCE THE SURRENDER, since they match perfectly.
As I said, I'll choose winners randomly throughout the day and post them at the top of the blog, so pay attention, cookies!
So come in, tell us what you’re wearing to our cocktail party—are you in sequins? in sweats?— how your weather is, how life is going, which snack or drink do you prefer, what we can do to make your life pleasant this morning—and I'll instantly give away a signed copy of LNOL to the first the person who can tell me the second-to-the-last word in SINCE THE SURRENDER!! Hee!! (Exempting those to whom I gave a rare copy at the conference. Ahem. )