Friday, February 17, 2012

JO ROBERTSON: Becoming Banana Bread

Mocha Banana Bread--see Recipe Page

My guest is award winning author of romantic thrillers, Jo Robertson  She’s also a member of one my favorite groups, The Romance Bandits. 

Every morning I eat a banana. 

Not because I really like bananas at all; I'd much prefer a juicy peach or ripe pear, grapes or strawberries.  But I eat the banana instead. 

Actually, it's not so much a whole banana as what I call a "banana stub." Every morning my husband eats a banana, but since he doesn't want a whole one, he leaves me the stub. Mind you, if I don't eat that stub, it'll be there the next day anyway, and there'll be two banana stubs to eat or throw away. I can't stand waste, so I eat the stub.

My husband and I have completely different ways of buying bananas. I prefer them yellow with no bruised spots, but even if they turn a bit brown, they're still very edible to me. My husband buys them green and calculates exactly how many he needs to buy at a time to eat his daily banana portion and leave me the stub.

I figure a banana should never be thrown away. Why?

You guessed it.

Banana Bread.

In fact, when I frequent my local 7-11 store, I'm often delighted to see there are only bruised and slightly brown bananas. I see a banana bread loaf or banana pudding (another favorite of mine) looming in my future.

Sometimes when you start out wanting one thing, you just end up with something else. And often, in my experience, that something else is quite unexpectedly delicious and delightful.

I don't know about other writers, but my writing "well" is a lot like that. What I had envisioned as a simple piece of fruit ends up as a dessert, with all its varied ingredients – walnuts, sugar, vanilla, eggs – and all its varied layers – vanilla wafers, pudding, sliced bananas and whipped cream.

At least that's what I hope happens.  My ideas start small.  I don't think there's a large idea in my head (okay, maybe a lot of tiny marbles rolling around like Buckyballs, those tiny magnetic balls that were all the rage at Christmas).  Check it out here  But, like those magnetic beads, I hope I can twist and shape and create something quite beautiful out of those small kernels of imagination.

My characters also are like that. I'll see a feisty, ambitious, perhaps obsessively-driven woman. Lots of energy (of course, because you can't have the other traits if you're chronically tired) to deal with what drives her. I probably don't even know what drives her, but I suspect it borders on the edge of mania.

She can't rest, can't relax, can't love – until she solves the dilemma. At this point I'm not sure what the dilemma is, but I know the hero will be her Selexa. The one who helps her ground herself, center her soul so that she can accomplish her mission (should she choose to accept it and – of course! she will – this is a romance story at  heart).

I know the hero's a pretty solid, stand-up guy although he carries a bit of baggage from his past; however, he doesn't let that past define his future. He's an optimist and he sees in my slightly pessimistic heroine the woman who will complement him, although at the get-go he's sure she's completely insane.  Or trouble with a capital T.

What begins as something pea-sized in my head can flourish in my imagination into something quite large. And it always astounds me!

It's the same with my cooking. I often begin with onion, pepper, and garlic in olive oil. But what I add next is a mystery to me – a little meat, some beans, veggies, spices (who knows which ones) until the "smell" is just right. Yeah, I cook by odor. Then I taste.

I think I write a lot like that.

Readers, have ever embarked on what you thought was a small sojourn that ended up being a wild, wacky journey?  Started one project that ended up being something else?  Walked down one road to find yourself somewhere entirely different from what you'd imagined?

What about you, writers?  Do you find that a tiny kernel of an idea is the starting point for your story?  Or do your stories come in full-blown Technicolor?

I'm offering a free download of any one of my trilogy – "TheWatcher," The Avenger," OR "The Traitor" – to one lucky, random commenter!

THE AVENGER Jo  Robertson
A clandestine government organization called Invictus "recruits" outstanding athletes for secret projects. But their top agent Jackson Holt has special, almost preternatural, qualities not even the Organization can explain.

Olivia Gant, professor of Ancient Studies at a private college in California, was once Jack's childhood sweetheart. But when he deserted her, he left her alone to combat her stepfather's drunken attentions and her mother's careless neglect.

Nearly twenty years later, their paths cross in a mission to fight a bizarre religious serial killer whose methods include crucifixion and burial alive. Olivia and Jack battle for happiness against years of secrecy and distance as they use Olivia's expertise in Latin and Jack's special gifts to track a brutal killer.

Can Olivia forgive Jack for his long-ago betrayal?

Can Jack allow Olivia to witness the terrible Change that makes him such an effective killing machine? Excerpt (you can read the first couple of chapters on Amazon)



Jo Robertson, a former high school English teacher, lives in northern California, near the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills. She enjoys reading, scrapbooking, and discussing the latest in books, movies, and television shows. Any "spare" time she has is spent enjoying her seven children and grandchildren.
When her Advanced Placement English students challenged her to quit talking about writing and "just do it," she wrote her first completed manuscript, "The Watcher," which won Romance Writers of American's Golden Heart Award for romantic suspense in 2006. The second book in the loosely-connected trilogy is "The Avenger," which won the 2007 Daphne du Maurier Overall Award for Excellence. "The Traitor is the third book in the series."
Jo's books are romantic thrillers, which means they straddle the line between mainstream thriller-suspense and romance. She feels that a strong relationship in a book makes the danger more intense. Readers have commented that they especially enjoy her complex, three-dimensional villains

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Reading For Pleasure

Aaah, February...

February is the month of icky snow, icy cold, and the bloodthirsty desire to hunt down those blasted snow fairies.  No wait, this is supposed to be a positive view of February.

Positive...good things…don’t look at the six inches of new snow covering your blooming Daffodils, Sia…

Ah, yes, back on track. It’s the month of love, sweethearts, candy hearts, flowers, and romance in the air (providing you’re inside, where it’s warm and not outside freezing your tush off—which is probably why this is the month of love).

Anyway, I digress. So, find your favorite comfy seat, a nice snuggling blanket, grab something hot to warm you (not the hot guy on the side, ladies); I was thinking coffee, hot chocolate, or tea.

My assistants are searching high and low for list of reads that are sure to pleaseI sure enjoyed them! These were books I read for pleasure. I don't get a chance to do that as often as I like.


The wisdom of faith. The power of science. The evil of man.

In the U.N. building in New York City, a U.S. Ambassador contracts an unknown virus after opening a threatening letter. In a slum near Paris, a rogue geneticist is found dead, tortured and defiled. His last message, a desperate plea for help, was sent to an old friend and fellow outcast, the ex-CIA agent and former mercenary named Hawker. His final legacy appears to be the fingerprints he left all over the letter to the Ambassador.

Consumed by thoughts of revenge but fighting to see the truth, Hawker teams up with NRI operative Danielle Laidlaw on a quest to find the killers and track down the secrets his dead friend may have lost or sold.

From the streets of Paris to an underground auction in the catacombs of Beirut to the merciless deserts of Iran, Hawker and Danielle find themselves hunting a murderous cult leader whose scientific arsenal could lead humanity to a new Eden—or unleash hell on the Earth itself.

The Turning Of Anne Merrick   A tale of love and espionage. Christine Blevins

She spies for General Washington, betrays the Redcoats and battles for America's independence...
It's 1777, and a fledgling country wages an almost hopeless struggle against the might of the British Empire. Brought together by a fateful kiss, Anne Merrick and Jack Hampton are devoted to each other and to their Patriot cause. As part of Washington's daring network of spies, they are ready and willing to pay even the ultimate price for freedom.

From battlefields raging along the Hudson, to the desperate winter encampment at Valley Forge and through the dangerous intrigue of British-occupied Philadelphia, Anne and Jack brave the trials of separation, the ravages of war and an unyielding enemy growing ever more ruthless.

For love and for country, all is put at risk-and together the pair must call upon their every ounce of courage and cunning in order to survive.

CassaFire Alex Cavanaugh 

CassaStar was only the beginning… 

The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend - to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it’s a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.

The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren's civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan's technology and strange mental abilities. 

To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves, the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

Shadow Highlander: A Dark Sword Novel DonnaGrant 


Sent on a dangerous mission into the shadowy world of the Druids, Galen must find a powerful ancient relic to defeat the enemies of Castle MacLeod. But what he discovers is far more powerful—and far more dangerous. A Druid lass whose beauty is as spellbinding as any magic…


Reaghan is the most enchanting woman Galen has even met—and the most enigmatic. She alone is immune to his mind-reading gifts. He alone makes her feel safe and secure. But Reaghan holds a secret power deep inside her that could destroy them both. And if Galen hopes to hold this captivating woman in his arms every night, he must defeat the darkness that draws closer around her every day….

What am I reading right now? Kathleen and Michael Gear's Searing Wind—I've been reading their books since they first published them. I'll let you know my thoughts when I finish it.

Oh, and if you see that blasted Snow Fairy? Kick her winged self far north, would you? 


Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday Musings: From The House Of My Faddah

This is on my newest coffee cup.

I was born, yonder, in the house of my Faddah. Wait, wrong origins. Sorry, I was channeling Tony Curtis’ character Myles, in The Black Shield of Falworth.

Still, it’s not too far removed from my origins as a storyteller. My father was a fabulous storyteller, as many Celtics can be. He would have made an excellent warrior bard. He entertained his children and wife with stories on many an evening. Hot summer nights we’d sit outside and do round robin stories with each of us taking turns. The story might have started as a dream Dad had, or something he saw from his travels, and he’d embellish it with details. Dad told his stories in installments. While Dad worked he’s be thinking up the next installment for us. We loved it.

The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. As kids, my brothers and I would also make up stories to act out in—‘let’s pretend’. We took turns making up adventures to play pretend and they, too, lasted days. A living adventure series. We couldn’t wait to get outside for the next adventure—which worked great for mama because we had to do our chores before we were free to play. Ah, waiting was agony for us!

My parents encouraged the free reign of imagination. There were many times Dad and Mom would get rid of the TV set, entirely—not a TV to be found at our house. Instead we were encourage to listen to or play music and we had tons of books to read, we are all good artists and crafters, great singers, and good conversationalists. And, we all can tell stories. J  

As long as I can remember, I’ve told stories. My mom still has some drawing from when I was 4 and 5—think comic book style—of stories I made up. Then came Barbies and more stories, only Barbie was rarely allowed to be a princess, mostly, she and the GI Joes (Gads, do you remember how wimpy looking Ken was?), were taking part in some kick ass adventure of discovery and danger.

I don’t think I consciously thought of writing as a career, but I did win contests as a kid for poetry and stories I did and some were even published. Any project I had in school had as much time spent on the creative words as the nuts and bolts of the project. I had teachers who encouraged me to develop my skills, but painting pictures with words was as natural as breathing for me. I figured everyone could do it and why were they making such big deal about it—until I got older.

College was the first time I actually considered writing. That was about the time I was taking some clinical psych courses that involved detailed journal entries of children and adults I dealt with. I always got A’s on that, not only for the applied technical content but also for telling a compelling story on each of my clients. Always, there had to be a story at the heart. My professors would always add on the comment page that I should really consider writing because I could paint pictures with words. About that time I was also working part-time with radio and newspapers writing up articles and in radio doing the scripts for commercials. Every job I’ve had used my writing skills. It’s something I’m good at.

I have various notebooks filled with stories and several complete novels written. They were fun to write—it was always something I did on the side and it fed my creative side just as much as music and art do. Frankly, my life was so full I simply didn’t have time to pursue publication for fiction. I had a demanding high power job that consumed most of my time and utilized much of my creativity. I hardly had any inspiration left over, although I still wrote fiction. 

I moved from the San Francisco area, settled in Missouri, to be near my family. I left behind the corporate world for a different sort of life. Fulfilling dreams of being a mom and ranching, raising hay, vegetables, creating flower gardens, horses and Great Danes.  My life is still full, fulfilling, but in a different way. Much of my storytelling was channeled towards my son, but still...I found myself thinking much more about my writing.  There are a lot of stories out here beyond the back forty.

Friends and a few family members who had read my stories urged (okay, browbeat) me to move forward with it. Finally, I decided to enter one of my stories in a contest a few years ago (2007). I placed at the top 25%. I decided to query them. Got some positive feedback and joined a writing group which I’m still part of. All this showed me just how much I didn’t know about this business of writing. For me, that was unacceptable. The need to know has always a driving force for me. Knowledge of a path always gives me confidence to continue to walk it and if I get knocked down, the ability to dust off the dirt of the pratfall, stick a bandage on the boo-boos and move on.

I’ve spent the last few years learning about my craft. I’ve read and reviewed books to learn current market expectations, did judging gigs, experiment with various promotion platforms, and gained name recognition. In 2009 I created my blog. For me, it’s never been a race for followers (although I love them) but sharing other writers’ journeys, what they’ve faced and overcome. What they’re still overcoming despite their successes.

What’s next? That’s still work in progress and is still evolving. Definitely more writing, and the editing what I’ve already written and more querying.

From the house of my father to who I am today has been a living story. I’ve enjoyed it all.