Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My Family Tree Is Full of Nuts

I must admit that I've never really been too interested in finding out much about my family's genealogy; it was enough to know that my family tree was full of nuts, and leave it at that.  :)  My grandfather was a bootlegger who left North Carolina under a cloud of moonshine fumes (he was one step ahead of "them thar revenuers"), and my great-grandmother used to run a boarding house (at least, I always hoped it was a "boarding" house, but being young and naive, I might've misheard - "board" is a word that could've rhymed with something else, if you get my drift).  I knew I had a passle of cousins on both sides (including one named Bubba), but I'd only met a handful of them. With both my parents gone, I figured I knew all I was ever going to know.

But then, last week, my uncle (who is a lovable nut himself, and the lone repository for information of this kind), asked my sisters and me if we remembered any specifics he could use to track down some old addresses.  Being a former Information Systems Analyst and all around Internet Info Geek, I decided to dip my toe into the waters of, and guess what I found?

Meet my great great grandfather, Simon Spencer Bohannon, born in 1835.  He was a Captain in the Confederate army, and spent four years as a prisoner of war in a Union camp in Hilton Head, SC. 

According to census records, he owned land in Fall Creek, a fairly remote area in Yadkin County, North Carolina, where he married and raised at least five children, including twin girls, Martha and Minnie.

(Twins in my family... who knew?)

Here's a picture of Simon on his front porch sometime in the mid 1870s, with his wife, parents, and four of his children.

The boy on the bottom step (right) is my great grandfather, Henry, and what I find absolutely amazing is that he is the spitting image of my brother Jon at that age:

When you consider the fact that back in those days, people did not smile for their photographs, the impish expression on Henry's face tells me a great deal.  I think that perhaps my brother Jon's nut didn't fall too far from the tree, if you know what I mean.  Jonny was the biggest nut who ever lived, and I really regret I can't show him this picture.  I think he would've gotten a real kick out of seeing this pic of Great Granddaddy Henry, and knowing that some of those wild oats he sowed so freely were actually in his blood all along, perhaps planted in the fertile soil of Fall Creek, Yadkin County, South Carolina.

Monday, July 18, 2011

To Hell and Back (Maybe...)

Ah, summertime... heat, vacations, maybe a little rest and relaxation by the pool, huh?  Or maybe you're the adventurous sort, preferring travel to exotic locations, checking out little known hot spots and boldly going where angels fear to tread. 

I hope so.

Just in case you're stuck at home at the moment, I thought it would be huge fun to take you to the hottest supernatural hot spot of them all, and give you a guided tour of Sheol from my main character's perspective -- that of His Infernal Majesty, Sammy Divine. Pack your bags, grab some bottled water (you're going to need it), and step into Sammy's world. Don't worry if he seems a bit cranky at first... he'll warm up to you.  :)


Hasn’t your mother ever warned you not to play with fire?

And yet here you are, asking for a guided tour of Sheol, Kingdom of the Damned.

Be warned: even though my hair isn’t as black as pitch, and I have neither a goatee or a pitchfork, I’m nonetheless a devil. THE Devil, if truth be told, but I rarely make a habit of telling the truth. The road to Hell may be paved with good intentions, but you’ll find none of that nonsense here.

Yes, I know quite well that the cover of DEVIL WITHOUT A CAUSE looks intriguing, but looks can be deceiving…. do you trust me to take you to Hell and back?

Very well. If you’d like a glimpse inside the world of Samael the Fallen, Lord High Prince of Darkness, then take my hand, and come with me.

You might expect our tour to begin with the River Styx, and its taciturn ferryman, Charon, but I’m afraid that the name “Styx” holds some bitter memories for me these days. I prefer to avoid it, and shall instead take you directly to the opposite bank to show you the handiwork of my friend Ariadne, the Weaver, in the Forest of Forgetting. It’s peaceful here, is it not? Yes, the trees are stunted and mishapen, but listen to the wind… it speaks of dreams and nothingness, of flowing water and endless skies, of oblivion and absolution. All lies, of course; lies designed to lure you into the trees, where you’ll find a myriad of spiderwebs, sticky traps for the foolish and unwary. For there is no such thing as forgetting, once you’ve entered Sheol. Here, you’ll find an eternity to remember past mistakes, a fact I know all too well, for I have made many, and have had eons to reflect upon them and wish things had turned out differently…

But enough about me—let’s move on, shall we? Next is a place where I’ve spent many an hour, listening to the song of the Nereids. Strange creatures, the Nereids: half woman, half octopus, singing the songs that the Sea of Sorrows moves them to sing for a captive audience, the lingering shades of regret who wander the shoreline. Not your average beach, I’ll grant you, for there are no colors here, merely shades of gray. Don’t let those wisps of guilt and shame touch you, lest you be trapped here with them forever. It’s all too easy linger here, thinking of what might have been had you only been honest with those you loved, and let them love you in return. All too easy to wonder how your life might have turned out had you made different choices… whether the touch of a loved one’s hand was worth more than you traded for it, whether their laughter could’ve banished the shadows within your soul…

Bah, enough of this place. The Nereid’s maudlin caterwauling has begun to effect even me.

I know! I shall show you true splendor, and take you to my audience chamber, which is papered in red velvet and hung with Swarovski-crystal chandeliers. Thirty-eight columns of pure gold line the vaulted chamber, which I fondly refer to as my Unholiest of Holies. The cries of the damned echo here, a mere reflection of the damnation I suffer every single day, all for one simple mistake, that of being tempted by a woman. Oh yes, my dears, I was the one made to suffer for introducing sin to mankind, while it was mankind, and their lust for the flesh, who tempted me.

Ah, well. Water under the bridge, I suppose.

Finding the audience chamber too gaudy for your tastes? We could always visit the edge of the Abyss and watch the fire imps at work, or stop by the Canyons of Despair, where the moaning of the wind sounds like millions of voices, lost in misery and anguish. The imps are ugly creatures, but a necessary evil, for there are so many souls to torture, and so little time. Don’t give me that look; contrary to popular belief, I’m not responsible for how people end up here. Mankind creates more more than enough cruelty and chaos to destroy itself, with little help from me. I’m merely doing my job—my thankless, never-ending job. Others get to laugh, and love, and live out their days in the sunshine, while I, I am condemned to the Darkness. Have you heard the old saying, “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven?” I should let you try for yourself and see if it’s true.

Shall I tell you a secret? I loved a woman once. Not that seductress in the Garden, for that was merely sex, not love. (How was I, an angel, innocent of the ways of the flesh, supposed to resist her, by the way?)

No, I loved another, with brown eyes full of kindness and laughter, streaks of pink in her dark hair. Her name was Nicki Styx, and she chose another over me. I wish I could hate her for it, but I don’t. In all these eons, she alone knew me for what I was, and forgave me anyway. She alone touched my blackened heart, and lifted it to heights I’d long forgotten, earthbound and damned as I currently am. If I let you go, will you perhaps go check on her? You can read all about her, and the lost spirits she helps, over at

Yes, my darlings, I said “if” I let you go, not “when” I let you go. Don’t look so surprised… I warned you in the beginning not to trust me, didn’t I? These days, I’m a devil without a cause, and everyone knows that idle hands are the Devil’s workshop. I have plenty of work for you to do… would you like to borrow a pitchfork?

Oh, very well. I’ll let you go on one condition: watch this video about my latest book, and listen to one of my favorite songs, “Devils” by The 69 Eyes. Their lead singer is a friend of mine (in a way), for he, too, finds inspiration in the dark side…

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Want A Chance To Win Your Own Paranormal Library?

My fellow HarperCollins buds over in the Supernatural Underground not only share a group blog, but we decided to share a bunch of books, too - in honor of some awesome new releases in June and July, we're giving away TWO huge prize packets of nearly 20 books apiece (plus some miscellaneous goodies)! Get on over there and leave a comment for a chance to win!

1. ASCENSION by Sable Grace
2. HUNGER UNTAMED—2 copies—by Pamela Palmer
5. BLOOD OF THE WICKED by Karina Cooper
6. FEAST—2 copies—by Merrie Destefano
7. BURN THE NIGHT by Jocelynn Drake
9. ARC of ENTHRALLED edited by Melissa Marr and Kelly Armstrong
10. GRAVEMINDER toe-tag from Melissa Marr
11. SECRET ONES by Nicole Murphy
12. NEON GRAVEYARD by Vicki Pettersson
13. NIGHTSPELL by Leah Cypess
14. DEVIL WITHOUT A CAUSE—2 copies and assorted bookmarks—by Terri Garey
15. VAMPIRE MINE—2 copies—by Kerrelyn Sparks
16. DIAMOND EYES—2 copies—by A.A. Bell

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Riding the Whirlwind - Romance Writers of America 2011 Conference

I just got back from an action-packed, fun-filled, craaazy week in New York City, where I attended the 2011 Romance Writers of America conference. This button, my favorite souvenir of the conference, pretty much says it all, as it was five full days of mingling, meetings, workshops, sightseeing, eating, drinking and general overall socializing, as well as talking business, business, business.  For a writer who spends most of her time alone with her thoughts and her computer, it was hella nuts, and there were days where I was glad to remember my own name, much less someone else's!  :)

Anyway, I thought I'd share a few of the highlights while they were still fresh in my mind, beginning with the view from my room overlooking Times Square.  Now technically, while I do not prefer to glance out my window and see gigantic women in their underwear, I had to admit it was quite an experience!  Bright as day, 24 hours a day, and always, always full of people. (I loved it, but found myself very grateful for the blackout curtains.)  Monday was a day of catching up with old friends and doing some sightseeing, as I walked to (and got lost in) Bloomingdales, roamed past Rockefeller Center, Radio City, ABC Studios, the Rainbow Room, and even accidentally found myself outside my publisher's building! 

That night, I joined eight of my fellow authors and blogmates from the Supernatural Underground for a wonderful Italian dinner, and while there were lots of pictures, I particularly like this one of me in between Colleen Gleason and Vicki Pettersson.  (A blonde, a brunette, and a redhead who are all smart, funny, and write books that go bump in the night... what more could you want?)  There with us were Pamela Palmer, Juliana Stone, Karina Cooper, Amanda Arista, Amanda Alvarez and Amanda Vynes (a/k/a the Three Amandas).

Knowing the way around town came in useful the next morning when I joined about 40 of my fellow HarperCollins authors at a "Digital Day" presentation led by Carolyn Pittis, Senior VP of Global Marketing and Operations.  We were fed great food and fabulous information regarding recent, sweeping changes within the publishing industry, and what HarperCollins is doing to keep up with them.  It was all very interesting and innovative, so much so that if I told you, I'd have to kill you, so I'll just keep those industry secrets to myself!  :) 

After that came more sightseeing, and then a quiet meeting with my fabulous editor, Erika Tsang, during which we chatted about life and future story ideas.  (Btw, if you like my books, you have this woman to thank, both for giving me the chance to publish them and for helping keep me on track when my writerly brain goes off on tangents.)  Afterward, Erika and I fought our way through the unbelievable crowd that had gathered in front of our hotel for the red carpet premiere of Transformers 3 (I took this shot while pinned in place right next to the stage.  Can you say "claustrophobia"?!)

That night, I took part in a giant Literacy for Life signing with over 400 authors  and hundreds upon hundreds of book lovers at the Marriott Marquis - it was a total mob scene, and tons of fun!  Afterward, for a late dinner, I went back to the Italian place (What can I say? I like Italian!) with frabjulous New York Times bestsellers Jeaniene Frost and Pamela Palmer, where we solved the publishing world's problems over pasta and conversation.

Wednesday I met with my literary agent, Christina Hogrebe, and attended a fascinating panel discussion on the current state of the industry with literary agents Steve Axelrod and Bob Gottlieb, and publishing VPs Liate Stehlik of HarperCollins and Matthew Shear of St. Martin's Press.  During the day, I had a little time to catch up with old friends like Deanna Raybourne, Kate Carlisle, Janice Lynn, Kathleen Long and a host of others.

Before I knew it, it was time to run off and get ready for the Avon Cocktail Party at the Central Park Boathouse.  It was a beautiful venue in the heart of Central Park, complete with great food, champagne, and great company.
Here I am giggling away on the outside patio with authors Colleen Gleason and Kerrelyn Sparks, along with bookseller extraordinaire, Maureen Downey, who had us in stitches!  I met so many people that night that I couldn't begin to list them, but want to say a special thank you to Pam Spengler-Jaffee for organizing such a great evening!

Exhausted just reading this far, aren't you? :) 

Well, too bad, because now you've got to follow me to an 8:30am workshop on Light vs. Dark Paranormal fiction with fellow authors Karina Cooper, Pam Palmer and Kerry Sparks, where we talked for over an hour about plot, characterization, tone, and setting to a surprisingly large group of aspiring paranormal authors. 

We barely had time to put down the microphones before darting down two floors to take part in the Avon Open House signing, where we chatted and signed, then signed some more!  More mingling, lunch, and the rest of the day was a bit of a blur.

On Friday, I attended a panel discussion with head book buyers from Books-A-Million (Margaret Terwey), Borders (Ellen Clark) and Barnes&Noble (Jules Herbert), where they talked about what's selling and what's not (and why), and the importance of covers, titles and store placement, among other things.  Somehow I still found time to go the very cool Pompeii exhibit at the Discovery Museum, and played kid again at the giant Times Square Toys R' Us, which was so big it has a ferris wheel inside.

Then, that evening, the conference culminated in the glittering RITA and Golden Heart Award dinner and ceremony.  (I don't normally post pictures of my husband, but he looked so handsome that night that I can't resist!)  :)  Some of my dearest friends were up for Golden Heart necklaces and golden RITA statues, so many that I found it hard to know who to cheer for, as some of them were competing with each other in the same categories!  Our emcee for the evening was NYT best-selling author of The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot, who was an absolute riot, and quite glamorous besides!

At any rate, I ended the evening with some wonderful pictures with some of my best buds, Janice Lynn and Anna Sugden.  (Do I have gorgeous friends, or what??)  There are many more, but I don't have them all developed yet.

And, of course, we did not forget the traditional shoe pic.  :)  Extra points if you can pick mine out of the lineup!

All in all, it was exhausting, fun, fabulous and already seems too long ago.  I can hardly wait for next year's conference in Anaheim, California to do it all again!

So, what were you up to while I was gone?  :)