Thursday, April 30, 2009

Brenda Novak GuestBlog: The Online Auction For Diabetes Begins Today!

***$1 BUY IT NOW HINTS!!! The $1 Buy it Now items are hidden on the Novak Auction site now! Ask Brenda questions she can answer w/ a YES or NO for hints where they might be! $23K already's been raised for Diabetes research today! You go, BN!***

From Brenda Novak: I’m SO excited! My 5th Annual Online Auction for Diabetes Research begins today, May 1st (at and it has over 2,000 fabulous items, many of which you can’t get anywhere else.

I started this fundraiser in 2005 and have made it an annual event in an attempt to help my twelve-year-old son (diagnosed at 5) and the many, many others who struggle with diabetes. The need is there, and thanks to my many, many generous donors (including Michelle and the Bellas!), we’re doing what we can to help.

Last year we managed to raise over $250,000. In 2009 we’re shooting for $300,000. And judging by the increase in donations and web traffic, I think we’ll get there. Not only do I offer fabulous items like original paintings, handmade quilts, trips and stays and autographed books and baskets from Big Name authors, I offer fabulous opportunities. How would you like to have lunch with one of your favorite authors, maybe Barry Eisler or Janet Evanovich? Or name a character in John Lescroart’s next hardcover? Or own a quilt made by NYTimes Best-selling Author Anne Stuart? Or take a trip to Seattle to see Bestselling Author Jane Porter? Or visit the Tuscan countryside for one week courtesy of Author Tom Gabby? If those items don’t grab you, maybe you’d like to bid on the baseball autographed by President Obama. Actually, there are too many items to list here, but I know the Bellas won’t want to miss the RBTB & Friends offerings, which can also be found on the auction. So hop over and check it out.

For those of you who have never participated in an online auction, don’t worry--it’s easy (just like E-Bay). And the person who places the highest number of bids over all, even if that person doesn’t win a single item, will be awarded an amazing prize package that includes a brand new giant touch screen Hewlett Packard computer (the one where they’ve done away with the tower and is completely wireless), as well as an Advanced Reading Copy of my new book, THE PERFECT COUPLE, due out July 28th.

We also have something new this year. I’m going to be posting random $1 Buy it Now items (in no particular category). Some of these items will be extremely valuable, but after I post one, if you’re the first to find it, you’ll get to buy it for a buck! For aspiring writers, these will include evaluations by top agents and editors (one by my own agent, Kim Whalen at Trident Media Group). But there will be $1 Buy it Now items that should appeal to everyone. It’ll be like going on an Easter Egg hunt. I’m all for making you feel like a kid again.

One other thing I should mention. To help promote the auction, I’m currently holding a drawing for a fabulous Trip for 2 to Sonoma, California (wine country). This trip includes airfare and hotel stay. To enter, visit and click on the Contest link.

Here’s hoping I see you at the auction!

***Brenda returns to RBTB May29 with an Auction update and last-minute Auction News!***

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tawny Weber GuestBlog: Blazing Hawt Heroes

From Michelle: Tawny Weber's current "Coming on Strong," and next month's "Going Down Hard" are examples of sexy contemporary contemporary romance at its best. Women who pretty much know what they want and are on their way to getting it get the men they deserve in the sexy wrapper that is the Blaze category romance. Please welcome Tawny with your warmest "What great 'gammas'" Bella buongiorno...

From Tawny: I absolutely love writing for romances Harlequin Blaze. I’m a lifelong romance reader, and have been reading Blaze from its beginning. Like many romances, it covers all of my favorite reading requirements: sexy stories, a variety of plots, strong heroines and hunky heroes. These are just such fun books to write, mostly because they are such fun books to read. It’s great to read the journey of two people coming together, overcoming conflicts and falling in love with each other. And, of course, I’m a sucker for happy endings.

Did I mention the hunky heroes? Yeah, that’d definitely be one of the main reasons I love to read romances. Of course there’s also the setting and the type of romance – contemporary or historical, paranormal or suspense.

Have you noticed that, at least for me, it always comes back to the hero.

Whether the hero is a powerful CEO in a suit, a hunky cowboy in a Stetson or a soldier in uniform, they all appeal in different ways. I have to admit, I’m probably the biggest fan of gamma heroes, but I wouldn’t say no to an alpha hero. Of course, I’ve read quite a few betas I’d be happy to read again, too. If the hero has those qualities that make him sexy in my mind, he’s a winner. To me, sexy is a strong man with a lot of talent... (hmmm, where did everyone’s mind just go?) A hero who’s good at what he does, who makes the heroine hot and shows her that she’s the most amazing woman in the world.

So my question to you – what is your favorite kind of hero? Has your taste in heroes changed lately? Do you always fall for the bad boy? Or is it the soldier boy that does it for you? From what I hear, the Bellas have the best taste in heroes...

Note from Michelle: Check out Tawny's items at Brenda Novak's Online Auction for Diabetes in the RBTB & Friends section! Grazie, Tawny!
Friday: Brenda Novak visits to kick off her Online Auction for Diabetes Research.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Romance (un)Defined

A B& community member asked me to define romance, so I happily and somewhat irresponsibly do so today at "Unabashedly Bookish" in the Book Clubs section at B& Click the pic and join the convo.

Remember: 1. Sign in to B/, then 2.sign in to the Book Clubs section. I swear, it's easy. Don't go havin' myLifetime flashbacks.
Tomorrow: Tawny Weber visits tomorrow! Her current and upcoming Blaze erotic reads, "Coming on Strong," and "Going Down Hard," [giggle if you must, cheeky Bellas] are super! She'll talk tomorrow bout a hero I've never heard of. Maybe you have...
Friday: Brenda Novak joins us to kick off her Online Auction for Diabetes Research. Her hot new book, "The Perfect Couple" is out July 30. Check out her site for info about freaky 3D glasses and trailer.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Julian Salvatore On The Prowl: Bad Boy Unwrapped (+ Exclusive Excerpt From His 12.09 FS5 Book)

CONTEST TODAY!!! One commenter scores "Under Fire!" Rainy, you're last week's winner! Email MB w/your snail mail, please!
From Jo Davis: You’ve met guys like Julian Salvatore. He has only one speed—Mach 5. He tries a little too hard, feels a little too much. His few friends and even his closest family don’t get him. He’s a shot of fine tequila—fast, lethal, and may produce a giant lapse in your judgment.

And that sexy, infuriating bravado might even mask a dangerous secret or three that could prove hazardous to a woman’s health.

He’s bad to the bone. Tamper with the lid on his Pandora’s Box at your own risk. And when you do—because he’s too much a temptation to resist—brace yourself for impact.

Exclusive ADULTS-ONLY Excerpt From HIDDEN FIRE:

Grace kissed him. Gently at first, because it was the only thing she could think of to take away his anguish. Then deeper, more demanding. Because she couldn’t stop.
She had to taste him, savor him. He met her exploration, tangling his tongue with hers, stroking. The tension in his shoulders gradually dissolved and he buried a hand in her hair, taking charge.

The woman in her thrilled at the shift of power even as the steadfast lawyer quivered at giving it over to him. But, oh, had anything ever felt so wonderful as the slide of his palms down her back? Had any man ever smelled so masculine, so potent, his hard, muscular body fitting to hers perfectly?

Nimble fingers inched under the edge of her shirt, skimmed her side, eased upward. Searching. They caressed the swell of her breasts and she arched into his touch.

“Julian . . . ”

Reason fled when he plucked one nipple through the sheer fabric of her bra, sending mini-bolts of pleasure to every nerve ending. She gasped as he rolled the peak between his thumb and forefinger, pinching, skirting the edge of pain, shredding her resistance.

He nibbled along the curve of her jaw and pushed up her shirt, treating the other nipple to the same attention. “Tell me what you want.”

What she wanted? Her brain could form only one word.

“More,” she breathed.

His throaty laugh sent tendrils of heat curling through her insides. “Your wish ...”

You see? I warned you. But in spite of my advice, you dove right in, didn’t you? Just couldn’t resist a teensy taste of a man as rich on your tongue as creamy chocolate, as smooth as fine wine. Now you’ll have to grab a handful and hang on, ‘cause sisters, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. In more ways than one.

Love him or hate him, Julian Salvatore’s the All-America Bad Boy…and only a special woman will be able to save him from himself. Something tells me Grace is up to task. Who knew bad could be so damned good?

Ask Jo and Julian anything you’d like about Julian’s story, or dish about your favorite Bad Boy, either real-life or fictional.
NEXT Monday: "Under Fire" Day B4 Drop Day Partay with chances to win lots o prizes plus trio of signed FS5 romances from Jo and copy of "Under Fire!"
Encore! Read a 5-Alarm Exclusive Excerpt from "Under Fire" here!
Encore Due! Check out the RBTB Feature Review (FR) of "Under Fire" here.
Encore Tre! Get intimate with Lt. Howard Paxton's story, "Trial by Fire!" FR here.
Please join Michelle TOMORROW, MAY 28 (and every Tuesday) to talk romance @ "Unabashedly Bookish" in's Book Clubs section!
Authors: Wanna be a FOB? Link RBTB from your site/blog and send me your url @ I'll link you up on the Friends of Bellas page!

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Read a hot -- would Jo give us any other kind? -- excerpt from December FS5 read, "Hidden Fire," starring Julian Salvatore!
*Julian: Sizzling hot and spicy in Spanish, Italian or any language.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Light 'O Love

Hey! Check out my new weekly romance fiction column at's new Book Clubs blog, 'Unabashedly Bookish' here! And please visit me there every Tuesday. Unfortunately, your still stuck with me here as well. Too bad; so sad, as my daughter says.

Since you couldn't be with me at the Princeton Romance Scholarship Conference in the flesh -- although you most decidedly were in spirit -- below you'll find the text of my presentation during the "Romance Reads the Academy" panel. Grazie mille to everyone who sent suggestions and well wishes. Please understand that my being there was all about you, and couldn't have been w/out you. Hope you enjoy, or can at least tolerate it...

If I may, I want to share with you a cool announcement. As of today, I’m bringing romance to another major digital platform as BarnesAndNoble dot com’s, romance expert on their new Book Clubs blog, “Unabashedly Bookish.” If you pop online today, you’ll see my first post, “Re-reading the Romance” in which I dish a little about this conference, the state of romance scholarship, and a topic Mary Bly discussed yesterday, shame among romance lovers, albeit from a different angle. I hope you’ll join me every Tuesday at Barnes and Noble,com to help me support romance fiction.

This conference is a victory for nerd girls and boys everywhere -- we who strong-armed our ways into the front-row seats of English and Lit classes, yet at some point were enticed by the other love that dare not speak its name – the love of romance fiction.

I’m not so presumptuous as to thank you on behalf of all romance readers. But on behalf of my online community of readers – from those who didn’t make it through high school to the doctoral candidates and everyone in between – I thank you for welcoming to Princeton and acknowledging as important the books about which we care deeply.

My viewers – The Bellas – have sent with me many messages of gratitude today, as well many suggestions of topics they’d like you to consider taking a crack at. Just a few: First, A study of how romance fiction is used to help women recover their sexualities after sexual abuse; Second, how female empowerment in heterosexual romance isn’t about a woman *needing* a man to feel complete, but choosing a man because she's happier with’m than w/out him;

Third -- and Gwendolyn Pough and Esi Sogah addressed this earlier, thanks, please study why there seems to be a large crossover audience of African-American romance readers who read books written by all ethnicities, but we don’t seem to see the reverse unless it’s by established authors like Beverly Jenkins and Brenda Jackson; And, finally, my favorite: the reader who’d like someone to study “the proliferation of headless heroines and heroes on romance covers” which she said she prefers, so she can plug in her vision of the characters. She describes this as “a sort of visual Derridean gap. lol.” You see why I love my Bellas.

No other medium of communication since telephony has had a greater impact upon the landscape of American culture than the Internet. It allows real-time connectivity -- and with WEB TWO DOT OH’s emphasis on creating a digital commonwealth, anyone with an Inet connection hooks up instantly with tons of folks they may never meet -- to talk about things they've never seen, books they've never read... Because of the Internet’s “long tail,” we can find sites where the nichiest topics will find life even with just a few viewers. But relevance is created when we build – as I and others have – what Tania Modleski yesterday referred to as an Intimate Public – a group we speak to w/the assumption they feel as we do.

How many of you use the Internet to communicate? Well, you know then that the beauty of the Internet is its being a conduit for First Amendment-type discourse at its “freest.” The Internet’s also ugly for that same reason. Most of us wouldn’t give up the former to eradicate the latter, and as scholars I’d imagine the Internet’s made your jobs by turns easier and more challenging.

As someone whose job is working IN Internet – as opposed to hanging around ON the Internet -- I may bring a different perspective to the value of the online romance reader and community to romance scholarship – and why the way you choose to build relationships with the Intimate Public actually can make your research among online readers more efficient – and affect positively the online community.

While some readers hang online at romance blogs and sites, the larger portion does not. And in general, we make romance more relevant online when we regularly present it outside the romance community on platforms whose viewership includes non-romance readers.

But for the small portion of romance readers online, the immediacy with which we access information and content at romance sites can give us the impression that what’s being written about is a) true, and b) important.

Which is why – especially in the online romance community – we’ve noted the phenomenon of “Perception as Reality.” Basically, the Internet user who isn’t media savvy believes mostly that if it’s written online it must be true. That includes content written by anybody with the impressive skill it takes to register for and own a url -- and even User Generated Content (UGC), otherwise known as blog comments.

As academics, you know to take everything with a grain of salt, right? But that doesn’t mean you don’t fall prey to the biggest trip-up folks face when looking online for information – and even entertainment, which sometimes passes for information – the brutal problem of not being able to separate the heat from the light.

For instance, in online romance commentary, what gets the juices flowing of a small group of the small group of romance readers who hang online, probably won’t get you much viable research product, since it flashes, crashes, then burns after it’s bounced from blog to blog, been ranted and screamed about, then forgotten once something – or someone else – comes along to get riled up about.

What’s that worth, all that unbridled, uncontained sound and fury? Well, you tell me what sound and fury signify...

All that heat and no light to be found, let alone the illumination we strive for as scholars and lovers of erudition. And speaking of love, if, as belle hooks says, it’s the practice of freedom, and in loving we move away from oppression? Then dayum, why is it that reading books about love – reading romance – seems to piss people off so much and makes em end up trying to oppress readers and authors online, cyber-bullying folks about perfect-right choices like how much sexual aggression they dig in a love scene, or whether a book is the worst or next-to-worst book of the year.

Yeah, I sed it! When those who gather romance communities nurture heat, they invite and instigate their viewers to reactionary, inflammatory commentary that doesn’t just ‘feel bad’ to a lot of people, it literally reduces the commentary’s relevance.

Because in Internet, we want content that's search-engine friendly and interests more people for a longer period. High-impact, topically short lived content – especially tempests in teapots more about the emotional needs of the community gatherer than anything else -- doesn’t interest many folks in the long term. So fewer people interested in romance information are gonna search for it repeatedly – and fewer eyeballs’ll see your ads if your monetized.

And for researchers, it means you’ve gotta dig through the heat to get to the meat of any romance discourse you might want to study.

All’s I’m saying is this: In the online romance community, there’s room for dissent, there’s room for having fun by mixing it up. But there’s also room for civility that doesn’t muck up the information that we want and need and would be silly keeping readers from giving us for any reason.

What if we were to encourage readers to work through the light toward illumination? Well, here’s how it works @ Romance: B(u)y the Book. It’s meant wooing readers who love romance, but feared commenting about their knowledge cause they’d seen the digital carnage elsewhere. To woo them, I earned their trust by letting them see me respect those who did comment.

I showed them how I gently redirected commenters who tried to rile others up – or suggested simple language to folks who wanted to disagree with comments, but didn’t know how to do it in a constructive way or any way at all. Those who wanted to learn and play, stayed. Those who were disappointed they couldn’t get a good bitch on were happily welcome to leave and take their mean spirits with them.

But rather than my self-aggrandizing, what I want you to understand is what I got from the tricky, arduous practice of empowering viewers and giving them ownership in the digital commonwealth that is RBTB: I struck flippin’ illumination pay dirt. And I got big gigs with major companies, bringing romance every day to a broad audience that includes non-romance readers, not just members of the choir. I like to think of that as Pollyanna’s revenge.

Seriously. What I have is a digital record of thoughtful commentary about romance fiction and related topics without miles of vitriol and anger to wade through to get to the gems of reason and respectful dissent and thoughtful counterargument.

If we nurture the heat, we instill fear in online readers and they don’t comment. They fear being jumped ugly on. And we lose viewers and the opportunity to build trust and learn what they had to teach us.

When we go to the heat to study or research, we miss the illuminated, considered information of romance readers who’ve been nurtured and given language so they can offer you invaluable information about the romance genre that might take you years to learn otherwise. Because often, these folks have been reading and considering romance longer than us, and some longer than we’ve been alive!

You know, the first fan letter I got after RBTB went online was from a woman who apparently never met either Strunk or White. But she was eager to let me know she appreciated having a place to go online where she could talk about romance without anyone making her feel embarrassed – especially not other romance readers. She told me how much she learns from romance novels, and how she works that into dinner conversations with her romance-eschewing family.

This woman whom some might deem ‘limited,’ considered romance novels in a literate way, and had more to say about them when we began exchanging emails. She knew way more than I.

I learn every day from my viewers, yet they call me the expert. In fact, we generally think of illumination as private property of ‘the learned.’ But I challenge you: The next time you go close to the ground to research, check out the light and look to sites where the readers say things with simplicity and dignity. I challenge you: When you interact with your viewers, try giving them the tools to move through the heat toward illumination.

You may find the thought of doing so unappealing and woefully naïve. Still, in the words of the heroine of one of the best works of romance fiction, Loretta Chase’s “Lord of Scoundrels,” --

“I should like to see you try.”

(The recorded version of this will differ because of errors in my presentation).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sophomor(ic Lack Of) Class

Pton update below PLUS NEWS: Beginning today -- and every Tuesday after -- visit me at's cool new Book Clubs blog, "Unabashedly Bookish," where I'll dish all things romance! Hee hee; another place for us to play online with readers who care about romance books!
Follow #romcon on twitter for conference updates!

Hand ta gawd, I'm here at Princeton, I'm workin' hard, I'm on my best behavior and I haven't once on these hallowed grounds uttered the c word (within audible range of anyone who looks like they wouldn't benefit from it). But Ann Herendeen's arriving soon, so I'm hoping to make up for lost c-word time by getting her to dish about her upcoming bisexual Regency -- the one she spilled 'bout on RBTB back in '06, "Pride/Prejudice."

Anyways, since you'll agree that all scholarship and no play makes Michelle a dull Bella, I came up with a fun (to me) little list for both your edification and mortification. Bellas and Bellos, I give you the

Top Five Things You Probably Won't Hear Uttered at the Princeton Romance Scholarship Conference (But Would if I Were in Charge...)

5. Hey, Crusie! Let's bag the feminism panel and hang at the pub with those hunky beasts from the rugby team.

4. Hi. Is this the registration table for the Mr. RomanceScholar Wet Boxer-Briefs contest?

3. Sheesh! What's a chick gotta do to score a little boy on boy 'round here?! Oh, my. Bill? Eric? I was talking about erotic romance books. But you two sure know how to fix a girl a delicious sammich...

2. Do you think Buonfiglio'll get funding for her new Male Gender Studies Program, "The Princeton Manhood Project?"

And the #1 thing you probably won't hear at the Princeton Romance Scholarship Conference:

1. Does this dissertation make my ass look fat?

Do you always say what's on your mind? Or do you have a working "social filter" that keeps you from blurting out the first comments that pop into your brain and sometimes can be, well, maybe a tad inappropriate? -- and --
What message from you would you like me to give the folks at Princeton who sponsored the romance conference to thank them for respectfully bringing the books we love to the Ivies?

Thursday Nite Update: I've gotta run to get ready, but I want you to know that Ann Herendeen says hi, as well as Beverly Jenkins, both of whom I spent time with solving all the ills of the world. If only folks listened to us.

I also met a pair of smarty pantses -- one black, one white, both wonderful -- who write HEA, multicultural chicklit. They're going to visit us soon, cause they have so much to say about the new face of America and the stories that can and hopefully will be told – and they deserve for more folks to know about them.

Bill Gleason also sends his best and is a marvelous host for the conference and, I think, pleased as punch to welcome romance to Princeton.

Last night’s panel kicked off the conference fabulously with Eloisa James bringing the house down, talking about feeling shame about reading and writing romance as the daughter of an academic and a tenured prof.

Jennie Cruisie followed by declaring “I have no shame.” She spoke off the cuff about her experience with fellow academics trying to get her to agree that romance is “trash,” and not in the good way we know it to be, but she wouldn't give away her power. She also told the SRO crowd of students (go them!), scholars, readers and admin that romance is feminist and ticks folks off because it’s subversive in putting chicks at the center of the story, empowering them and allowing them HEA (which Cruisie terms Optimistic Endings, though to me that refers to some but not all romances and scares me cause it reminds me of Women’s Fiction, and that always makes me shudder when I remember how much I read in past– kind of in the same way I do when I remember those rainbow gauchos I wore in middle school). But we know what she means.

Tania Modleski gave a fascinating presentation and w/in spoke of a term which would seem oxymoronic, yet I would apply to our online community, the Intimate Public. It’s a group of individuals we speak to – or write to – assuming they think as we do. It totally resonates with me because of what we do here, and what I’m lucky enough to do with you every day.

And Stephanie Coontz -- historian and author of "Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage a book everyone's agog over. She's a huge fan of detective fiction as her escapist fantasy of choice, but read several romances to prepare her presentation -- and gave one of the best 'talks' I've seen, detailing the history of marriage and how it differs from our idea of romantic love matches. She spoke with an empathy for romance fiction readers, as well as those of us who adore the bastardly hero who's hot on the page, but not so hot IRL. She challenged authors to find a way to 'eroticize equality' of power in sexual relationships, which I later told her I believe often is evidenced in erotic romance fiction which strives to maintain sexual tension in ways other than the turn on of many types of 'fear,' not for safety, but for our emotions. Can you tell I adored her?
(Apologies for missing shades of meaning of speakers' presntns. as my note taking can be inadequate).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Which Way To Princeton, Young Man?

No, I certainly could not resist posting this earnest young man's piccie yet again. It is, after all, in the name of science! Well, if not exactly science, then the exacting study of letters, as it were, since I'm getting ready to head to the Garden State for Thursday's and Friday's conference on romance fiction at Princeton U, "Love as the Practice of Freedom? Romance Fiction and American Culture."

Funny, one doesn't always associate Jersey with Princeton, do one? But I'm a Jersey lover, my Bellas, having begun there my illustrious college career (Say it with me, "'s OK, Michelle. There are lots of folks who take 11 years to get degrees: they're called doctors").

Anyways, you can't believe the response I'm getting from your community mates and fellow Bellas as they answer my query 'bout what I should address the smarty pantses about at the Princeton conference. From how romances empower women and help some recover from sexual abuse -- to calls encouraging scholars to study the down-n-dirty, decadent escapist romance that's the lifeblood of romance fiction -- the suggestions are astute, considered and show how much you all know about romance novels.

Keep your suggestions coming. And in the meantime, let me know what you're reading! I just chatted with Emma Holly whose kickoff novel to her new Fitz Clare Chronicles series, "Kissing Midnight," (exerpt here) has me hot, bothered and dying (DYING!) for the next installment! Emma'll be visiting RBTB soon, and you can look forward to an RBTB exclusive excerpt from Bella Emma!
WINNERS: Leslie, you've won the "NEW Firefighters Cookbook" from Sean Tanner's GuestBlog Monday! -- and -- Caffey, you won the "Midnight Cravings" copy from the Ladies of Midnight! Send me your snail mail addies at, Bellas!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Station Five Heats Up The Kitchen: Captain Sean Tanner Dishes On The Boys’ Tasty Delights

CONTEST TODAY!!! One Lucky Commenting Bella wins a copy of Jo Davis' "Under Fire," courtesy of Signet Eclipse! Manda, you're last Monday's FS5 UF winner! 2nd Cntst Below...
From Michelle:
Each Mon. through 5.4, a different Station 5 dude visits RBTB to get up close/personal with U -- and gives you a chance to score a copy of Jo's wicked fine May 5 release, "Under Fire." FS5's resident Mr. Dark n' Broody's in today for Jo. When he finally lets go, he's gonna do love big n' bad n' -- a girl can only hope -- remarkably rough. Please welcome Sean Tanner with your warmest, "Please, let me kiss/make you better!" Bella Buongiorno...
From Captain Sean Tanner: When I spoke with Jo and she told me Michelle and the Bellas might like to know how my boys create orgasmic sighs in the kitchen, I’ll admit I laughed. The woman does have a dirty little mind. Then she explained, and well, I was skeptical. Paula Dean we’re not. But then I figured, what the hell.

It’s true. Firefighters are great in the kitchen. We wield a mean spatula—well, except for Tommy. (Sorry, kid.) He’s learning. Anyway, it’s not some amazing phenomenon, it’s a matter of necessity. We work hard and we need lots of fuel. If we don’t eat well, a twenty-four hour shift can get really, really long. A tired, hungry, cranky firefighter is useless to everyone, especially to the next victim that will need our help.

So, we shop together for our groceries. Have you ever seen a fire engine parked at the grocery store? That’s us. Give us a wave when you see us inside, buying our grub. Making sure we’re fit, fed, and happy so we’ll be at our best the next time you call on us.

Most everyone likes to eat, my team in particular. Carbs? No problem. We get plenty of exercise and burn off what we consume. We love food, period. In the spirit of tantalizing your taste buds, here are three of Station Five’s all-time favorite dishes:

Tommy’s Big Hot Weenie Wraps
(Ok, not really. But the kid wanted to contribute and we didn’t want to hurt his feelings).

1 package weenies
1 can crescent rolls

Preheat oven to 350°. Open package and eat 2 weenies, ‘cause there’s 10 weenies and only 8 crescent rolls. (how dumb is that?) Open can of crescent rolls and separate dough into 8 triangles. Roll up weenies inside the crescent rolls, starting with the pointy end. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove and chow down.

Six-Pack’s Chicken Lasagna Alfredo Roll-Ups
1 chicken, cooked, boned, and shredded
1 package lasagna noodles (12 ct.)
1 cup mozzarella cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese
32 oz. container ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
Garlic, to taste

For Alfredo Sauce:
1/2 cup butter
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 cups milk
6 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
(*double if you prefer more sauce)

Preheat oven to 375°. Cook chicken, bone and shred, then set aside. Boil lasagna noodles according to directions on package and drain; set aside. To make Alfredo sauce, melt butter in non-stick saucepan over medium heat. Add cream cheese and garlic powder, stirring until smooth. Add milk gradually, whisking to stir out lumps. Stir in parmesan and pepper. Remove from heat when sauce reaches desires consistency.
Next, In medium bowl, combine parmesan, ricotta, egg, basil, and oregano. Lay lasagna noodles flat and spread each with ricotta mixture. Next, spread shredded chicken over the ricotta mixture, then roll each lasagna noodle into a pinwheel. Place each pinwheel flat in a 9x13 dish, then top with Alfredo sauce and mozzarella . Cover with foil and bake for 40-50 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with salad and garlic bread. Feeds 4-6 people.

Julian’s Easy Stroganoff (no pun intended…)
2 lbs stew meat, diced
1 can each cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, and cream of celery soup

Turn crock pot on low setting. Dump the 3 cans of soup into crock pot and stir together. Next, dump diced stew meat into pot, stir in with soup, and cook all day, stirring occasionally. (approx. 8 hours, while the aroma drives you crazy). Serve over rice or noodles and enjoy! **Note: Do NOT add water. Trust me. Juices from the meat will combine with soup to make a savory stroganoff sauce of just the right consistency.

So, ladies, that’s some of our tasty treats. Do you have a mouth-watering recipe you’d like to share? Inquiring firefighters want to know. Or maybe you have a question you’d like to ask me, Sean, or Jo? Bring it.
Join us May 4 for the Day B4 Drop Day Partay with chances to win lots o prizes plus trio of signed FS5 romances from Jo and copy of "Under Fire!"
Encore! Read a 5-Alarm Exclusive Excerpt from "Under Fire" here!
Encore Due! Check out the RBTB Feature Review (FR) of "Under Fire" here.
Encore Tre! Get intimate with Lt. Howard Paxton's story, "Trial by Fire!" FR here.
Authors: Wanna be a FOB? Link RBTB from your site/blog and send me your url @ I'll link you up on the Friends of Bellas page!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Them's Good Eats

One LCB wins a copy of "Under Fire." Offer up your fave recipe fit for a bunch o' hungry FS5 firefighters, and you could win a copy of John Senano's famous "New Firefighter's Cookbook!"

Friday, April 17, 2009

There Goes The Neighborhood

You really deserve some credit, because you're the readers who inspired Eric Murphy Selinger of DePaul University, RomanceScholar listserv and, and William A. Gleason of Princeton University to gather scholars from around the world to take part in

Love as the Practice of Freedom?:
Romance Fiction and American Culture,
a first-of-its-kind, two-day conference on romance
scholarship to be held April 23 and 24, 2009 at Princeton University!
You can attend! Check out this link to score the deets!

Yep. Romance novels are goin' to the Ivies, my Bellas, and YOU helped make it happen.

You may remember Eric and Bill from fall 2006 during RBTB "Back to School Week: Scholars on Romance." Click on their names to read their posts. The guys were part of a group of academics or, as they're technically called, smarty pantses, who came to RBTB to talk about how important romance novels really are.

A few months later, Bill brought his Princeton "American Best Sellers" class to RBTB for a day in which you - and scores of romance writers, scholars and industry folks - chatted with young students of literature who wanted to know "the truth" about romance fiction. We all were really jazzed to find so much common ground - and that these young, open minds would have new, correct info and food for thought about the genre we love so much.

Turns out, Bill Gleason and Eric Selinger have known each other since grad school, so Eric enlisted (some might say, "shamelessly coerced") Bill to help him propose to Princeton U a conference gathering scholars in many disciplines to talk about their research on romance fiction. The result of the proposal is next week's, "Love as the Practice of Freedom, etc."

Five Princeton departments are sponsoring "Love as the Practice of Freedom? Romance Fiction and American Culture" -- The Department of English, the Program in American Studies, The Center for African American Studies, the Program in the Study of Women and Gender and the Center for the Study of Religion. According to Selinger and Gleason, "the first half of our conference title is borrowed from the influential 1994 essay of the same name by African American scholar, poet, and activist bell hooks.

"As hooks-a self-acknowledged romance novel reader...explains in the essay's concluding paragraph: ‘The moment we choose to love we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others. That action is the testimony of love as the practice of freedom.'

"Our conference not only hopes to examine the ways in which romance fiction might be understood to resist rather than perpetuate oppression (a view in contrast to the stereotypical assumption that the genre is racist and sexist), but also seeks to liberate romance scholarship from some of the critical bonds of its own past."

See how sweet them smarty pantses say stuff?

You can see a full list of all the scholars, authors and industry folks who'll present, as well as a list of the days' events at the conference website.

As for me, I'm feeling puh-rit-ty full of moi-self, considering Mssrs. Selinger and Gleason kindly invited me to sit on the closing panel of the conference, "Romance Reads the Academy."

I, of course, take this as a green light to prepare a pithy little treatise expounding upon the importance of acknowledging as integral to the continuation of the romance genre the bastardly alpha male in all his lengthy/girthy glory.

That's because Bill and Eric nixed my original idea of making me the Official Romance Hostess of the Princeton U Romance Dance Partay. So sue me, but I'm not so sure those brainiacs wouldn't enjoy my showering them with anatomically correct chocolates and a couple Ellora's Cave condom pops apiece.

Actually, I suggested Princeton cutiegrad David "Wm. Carlos Wms. Spoofer" Duchovny and I act as co-hosts, but we still haven't heard back from Duchovny's peeps. Apparently he's not sure he's on-board with my idea of his modeling for the weekend the "Practice the Freedom: Practice Safe Lovin'" boxer briefs I've designed as the official attendee gift of the '09 Princeton conference.

Seriously -- as Bella amyskf would say -- about which subjects would you like me to address the Academy? You're familiar enough with the romance scholars who hang online, and many of you have some questions and opinions about the scholarship movement. Any thoughts? Messages? Requests? Ideas for subjects you think could be studied? Bones to pick? Kudos to offer?

Um, it's not like I'd quote all your 'user-generated commentary' in my presentation instead of actually writing one. That'd be so unlike me...

Of course, much of this post originally was published in a post at

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Midnight Cravings" GuestBlog: The (Sexy) Beast Within

CONTEST TODAY!!! One Lucky Commenting Bella (LCB) wins a copy of "Midnight Cravings" courtesy of the Ladies of Midnight!

From Michelle:
Please welcome with your wildest Bella buongiorno Bella friends "old," Michele, Vivi and Lori, and new! I love this anthology. If'n you're thinkin' on trying on some paras for size, this is a good place to start. Ladies? Please take the stage...

From the Ladies of Midnight: In the mood for sexy, paranormal heroes? For the first time in print, six Nocturne Bites stories have been gathered into the "Midnight Cravings" anthology. We’ve got werewolves, garms, shapeshifters, and more to fascinate and titillate you. Here’s a bit on each of the stories:

Racing The Moon” by Michele Hauf: I had a weird dream one night, about a werewolf stranded in the middle of nowhere, who is rescued by a cat-shifting familiar. The only thing weird about that dream is that, at the time, I did not like werewolves. But to pair a wolf with a cat? Fun, right? And sexy, and decidedly dangerous if the only way to keep the werewolf at bay is through sexual healing. But what's that I hear about familiars? When a familiar has sex she brings demons to this realm? Ok, so that makes sex a little...risky. But if the hero doesn't have sex before the full moon, he's going to wolf out, and in that form, let me tell you, he does not like cats one bit. I fell in love with werewolves writing this short interlude. Go, hairy dudes!

Mate of the Wolf” by Karen Whiddon. I always swore I'd never write a vampire. No, I told my agent. Definitely not, I swore to my friends. Then, when I was working on the synopsis for Mate of the Wolf, and wrote the scene where the heroine meets the hero, turned out he was a vampire. And so sexy, I didn't resist writing him at all. In my shape-shifter, Pack world, I never thought about that kind of inter-species relationship. Human and shifter, definitely. I'd had vamps for minor characters before, walk-ons, mostly. But this was different. I'd love to hear what readers think.

Captured” by Lori Devoti: When I first heard about the Nocturne Bites, I knew immediately whosestory I wanted to tell. In my first Nocturne, "Unbound," the hero, Risk, had a son that he hadn't known about. Both Risk and his son, Venge, thought the mother was dead, but I knew she wasn't. I knew the witch, Lusse, who had owned her had seen her as expendable and sold her off. I'd had this in my mind all along, but her story didn't seem to fit for a full length novel. So, the Bite was perfect. In "Captured," we meet Leve and see what happened to her. We also see that she is much stronger than the witch who sold her gave her credit, but understandably Leve's view of the world is not a trusting one. She needed a very special hero, and I think Gray is perfect for her. He is strong and alpha, like all my hellhound heros, but he also has an almost mystical side. He has learned to control the basic hellhound urges that people like Lusse and Leve's new owners use against hellhounds. Together they find a new strength and manage to escape a hell no one before them has.

Dreamcatcher” by Anna Leonard. "And then the prince saved the princess...and she saved him right back."
It's one of my favorite endings, and I knew when I started to write my story for Nocturne that even though my hero was the one with the supernatural background, my heroine was going to be the strong one, the moving force of the story. A woman who doesn't know the depths of her own ability, matched with a man who needs sex, and yet fears it... oh yes. That had definite possibilities. The idea that sex would be both strength and weakness intrigued me, and once I had the folklore that explained it, the story took a life of its own....

Mahina’s Storm” by Vivi Anna: When asked to write a short for the BITE program, a story from my Valorian Chronicles, the first character I thought of was police captain Mahina Garner. She’s a tough as nails lycan and I really wanted to explore her character. At first I had no idea who to match her up with. Who in the OCU could keep up with her? No one came to mind, not immediately anyway. Then I thought about a very minor character in "Blood Secrets," a cop named Ren Calder. It comes out that he and Mahina had worked together and I knew then that I found my hero. Two lycans, both cops, both hard-headed and tough—perfect situation for a lot of chemistry.

Broken Souls” by Bonnie Vanak: Destined mates are common as fangs in paranormal romance. But what happens to those who lose their destined mates? Are they doomed to live without love? That’s why I wrote Broken Souls. Baylor and Katia's destined mates were killed in childhood. I tossed in the pack loyalty of werewolves, evil Morphs that can shapeshift into any animal or insect form, and gave Baylor and Katia obstacles to keep them apart. Yet in the end, they find true happiness, because nothing, not even the forces of evil, can separate those determined to make their own destiny by sharing their lives and their love.

So let’s talk paranormal heroes and heroines! What’s your favorite? Werewolves? Dragons? Wild slinky cats? Vampires? Incubuses? And which sexy silver screen hero is your fav? Hugh as Wolverine? Michael Sheen as Lucien? Gary Oldman as Dracula?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tommy Skylar GuestBlog: Here's The Beef

CONTEST TODAY!!! One Lucky Commenting Bella wins a copy of Jo Davis' "Under Fire," courtesy of Signet Eclipse! Orannia, you're last Monday's FS5 UF winner!

From Michelle: Each Monday through May 4, a different firefighter from Station Five visits RBTB to get up close and personal with you -- and gives you a chance to score a copy of Jo's wicked fine May 5 release, "Under Fire." Please welcome Jo Davis -- and the hero who's gonna be at the top of my 20?? Hero of the Year list -- with your warmest, "I SO can get with the Brad Pitt/Jon Bon Jovi conception visuals!" Bella Buongiorno...

From Jo: Last week, my darling hubby took me out to lunch at a trendy new Mexican restaurant near our house. The place boasted yummy chips and salsa, first-class margaritas, and two wide-screen televisions playing CNN. Say what? Ladies, you probably already know where this is going. Yep, hubby’s eyes immediately fixed on the screen behind my head and throughout the entire meal my futile attempts at conversation were met with, yeah, uh-huh, and mmm. Grrr.

Not to worry. Afterward, he took me to Home Depot where I gleefully purchased new granite kitchen countertops and burned a hole in his wallet the size of Jupiter. Paybacks are a bitch.

But I digress. The point is, I was fresh from this date with my hubby the day before, waiting in the bar at BJ’s for my latest Station Five hottie to arrive for his interview, when in strolls the blond Adonis himself. And ladies, I do mean stroll. Lean hips swaying, mile-long legs carrying that lanky, but oh-so-well-muscled young body straight to my table. His crystal-blue eyes found mine, a big white smile spread across his stunning mug and…

Holy DNA, Batman! If Jon Bon Jovi and Brad Pitt had a baby, this man would be the result.

Stand back, sisters. This is a job for a Mature Woman.

I stood to greet Tommy and when he wrapped me in a warm hug, I easily forgot this man is 20 years my junior. Poof, gone. Didn’t matter. Because, damn he smelled heavenly and was so frigging strong. This was no kid. At all. And it didn’t escape my notice that as he released me and we took our seats across from one another, his eyes barely strayed to the multitude of wide-screen televisions around the sports bar before he gave me his undivided attention.

Repeat twenty-three times: I am a married woman!

Tommy: Hey, Jo! How’s it going?
Jo: Well, my taxes are done, I’ve got a new deadline, and I’m having lunch with a gorgeous guy. I say life is pretty darned good. Yourself?
Tommy (dimpling at the “gorgeous guy” comment): Well, my taxes aren’t done, but work is good and I’m here with a pretty lady. I’ve got no complaints.

Charmer. The man knows how to work it, for sure. I’m already putty.

Jo: Why don’t you tell me, Michelle, and the Bellas about your role at the station?
Tommy: Well, I’m the low man on the totem pole, so to speak. I’ve only been a firefighter for a couple of years, and I just graduated from EMT to paramedic status a few months ago.
Jo: What’s the difference between an EMT and a paramedic? I sometimes read those 2 terms in fiction books as though they’re interchangeable, or mean the same thing, but they don’t, do they?
Tommy (growing serious, warming to his subject): No, they aren’t the same at all. An EMT has limited clearance to treat a victim at a scene—he or she can only treat superficial wounds, set bones, stuff like that. An EMT is not allowed, for example, to administer meds to a vic or perform invasive procedures. A paramedic, on the other hand, has more training and can take whatever action necessary to treat a victim until arrival at the ER.
Jo: That’s interesting to know. And congrats on earning your new status!
Tommy: Thanks. (he pauses, picks at a napkin) It’s not exactly what I envisioned myself doing a few years ago, but I love my job.

Now we’re getting somewhere. There is more to this young man than a pretty face. He has a story, and I want to know what it is.

Jo: What did you envision yourself doing?
Tommy (give me a wistful smile): In college, I was a quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Had all sorts of scouts looking at me to go pro. But then…my older brother was killed in Iraq and I came home. My family sort of…fell apart. I never went back to Alabama.
He might be young, but at this moment, his eyes are old. Haunted.
Jo: I’m so sorry for your loss. I didn’t mean to bring up something so terribly painful.
Tommy (pasting on a smile): Hey, it’s okay. We’re surviving, one day at a time. And if I’d gone back, I never would’ve met the girl of my dreams. Only she sees me as a kid, and refuses to think of me as anything but a friend. For the moment, anyway.

The sparkle is back, my insides melt at his smile, and I wonder what’s wrong with this girl.

Jo: What’s her name?
Tommy: Shea Ford. She’s an ER nurse at Sterling, and has the prettiest curly brown hair. She has a dry sense of humor, and she makes me laugh. I don’t think she has any idea how beautiful she is to me.

Yep, 100% pure man. Miss Shea had better wake up and smell the testosterone.

Jo: Tell me and the Bellas, how did you two meet?
Tommy: Well, I don’t want to give away too much of Zack’s story, ‘cause that’s his gig, but we met when the gang gathered at the Waterin’ Hole one night. She’s the best friend of Zack’s new squeeze, Cori, so she came along. I put on all my best moves, and she shot me down in flames. For now. (he waggles his brows)
Jo (laughing): I can tell you’re not going quit until you make her believe. Go after your woman, my friend! Don’t let her get away.
Tommy: I’ll do my best, you can count on it.
Jo: In the meantime, something tells me you have quite an adventure ahead, and that the road is not going to be smooth for a while. But don’t worry, things always work out the way they’re meant to.
Tommy (hopeful): Promise?
Jo (lips curving into a knowing smile): I promise. Thanks for joining me, Tommy. It’s wonderful to see you again. Now, why don’t we open the floor to Michelle and the Bellas?

*Bellas, ask Tommy anything you’d like and/or share your story of how you won over your significant other. Or vice-versa! How did your honey win you over?
Join us May 4 for the Day B4 Drop Day Partay with chances to win lots o prizes plus trio of signed FS5 romances from Jo and copy of "Under Fire!"

Encore! Read a 5-Alarm Exclusive Excerpt from "Under Fire" here!
Encore Due! Check out the RBTB Feature Review (FR) of "Under Fire" here.
Encore Tre! Get intimate with Lt. Howard Paxton's story, "Trial by Fire!" FR here.
Sign up here with a click or in the sidebar for the NEW RBTB newsletter by 4.30 for a chance 2 win a $25 Barnes & Noble card!
Authors: Wanna be a FOB? Link RBTB from your site/blog and send me your url @ I'll link you up on the Friends of Bellas page!