Nina Bangs’ Forever Wicked

Forever Wicked is the eighth installment in Nina Bang’s Castle of Dark Dreams series, but even if you’ve missed the earlier Wicked books, you can jump right into this one and enjoy it. If you are a long-time fan of cosmic troublemakers Ganymede and Sparkle Stardust, you’ll find some old friends here, but Forever Wicked is Ganymede and Sparkle’s story, as they deal with memories from the past, enemies and dangers in the present, and hopes for the future.

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Forever WickedGanymede has problems. He’s dodging the Big Boss, but he knows a confrontation is coming—his latest, frustration-spurred round of cosmic mayhem has attracted too much attention. His attempt to reach his creator, revenge in mind, backfires, and he finds himself saddled with a brand-new untrained cosmic troublemaker. He’s beginning to feel sorry for the humans who get caught up in the mayhem he causes. Perhaps worst of all, he’s on the outs with “that woman,” Sparkle Stardust, his companion for much of his long immortal existence.

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Sparkle isn’t ready to give up on Mede. She’s on the road looking for him (attracting his attention with Facebook posts). Her trouble-making talent involves creating sexual chaos, but somehow she’s lost control of her own love life, and she wants Mede back. After all, it was just a stupid argument. And what power, cosmic or otherwise, can keep Sparkle from going after what she wants?

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Even Sparkle is surprised when she tracks Ganymede to a beautiful (but haunted, and very hard to find) house in Cape May, New Jersey, a long way from the Castle of Dark Dreams, her home (in her adult theme park) in Galveston. She’s even more surprised at Ganymede’s collection of adolescent troublemakers. Are Sparkle and Mede really cut out to train them?

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But they will need the help of the children, along with some of their old friends (and frenemies) to face the confrontation that awaits them back at the Castle—almost as much as they need each other. Sometimes even cosmic troublemakers find themselves in cosmic trouble!

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I don’t want to give away the twists and turns of Sparkle and Ganymede’s adventures as they deal with enemies and dangers that threaten far more than their own lives and happiness, but let me just say that Forever Wicked is exciting, romantic, and often very funny.

I didn’t buy a single book today.

Of course that doesn’t mean I came home from the West Houston RWA chapter meeting without one.   I was lucky enough to win a copy of Real Vampires Don’t Wear Size Six, the latest book in Gerry Bartlett’s delightful Glory St. Clair series, the book I would have bought if Gerry hadn’t brought me a signed copy.  Glory was a bit overweight when she became a vampire a few centuries ago, and she’s been stuck with those extra pounds ever since.  Been there, done that?  As Nina Bangs describes her, “Glory is Everywoman with fangs.”

Gerry and Nina, both best-selling authors, are members of West Houston RWA, and they were our speakers today, telling us “What We’ve Learned Along the Way.”  They definitely have the experience to share, starting as critique partners and Golden Heart finalists in the 1990s.  Gerry published romantic suspense with Precious Gems and historical romance with Dorchester before finding herself the mistress of vampire humor with the Real Vampires series for Berkley.  Size Six is the seventh in the series.  Nina once thought she wanted to write contemporary series romance for Harlequin, until she sold a paranormal called An Original Sin to Dorchester.  That book came out in 1999; since then she’s written paranormal romance for Dorchester, Berkley and Avon.  Her latest release is Eternal Prey from Avon.

Members like Gerry and Nina, willing to share their experience and knowledge with others, make Romance Writers of America® and its local chapters such a wonderful resource for writers.  My own loyalty to the group overcame my instincts for self-preservation last month when West Houston was having a hard time finding someone to volunteer to be chapter president next year.  (Election of officers in the chapters I belong to generally involves sweet-talking enough people to fill the slate into volunteering.  Any actual voting is pretty much a formality.)  I told the current president, Karen Burns, that I would take the job if no one else stepped forward.  Well, that cat slipped out of the bag, and–surprise–one volunteer was plenty.

So I’ll have another job on my schedule come 2012.  In the meantime, I’ve got the contest urge again.  Time to send Bathtub Jinn out into the world, so I’ve spent the last week or two plotting the rest of the book.  Now all I have to do is write the (dreaded) synopsis and send the entries off.  By Monday evening.

 

I’m home from New York without a Golden Heart,

but my friend Jo Anne Banker brought home the Golden Heart (which is a very pretty gold charm on a necklace) in her category, Contemporary Series Romance.  It was a very exciting evening.

I managed to pack in several workshops on Friday, beginning with “Sex Through History,” at 8:30 in the morning.  When I mentioned this in an email to my critique group, Carl wanted to know if there were handouts with pictures.  No, but there were little packets of phallic candy and a very interesting Power Point presentation.  Workshop presenter Delilah Marvelle posts her research in this area once a month on her blog, A Bit o’ Muslin.

Then I attended a workshop on “The One-Page Plot,” given by multi-published author  Christie Ridgway.  If there’s anything we’re all searching for, it’s a magic formula for plotting.  Christie’s involves dividing a sheet of paper into boxes, one per chapter, and sketching in the story, with attention to turning points at measured intervals.  Very interesting.

After a stop for a granola bar (no group luncheon on Friday, alas) and a rehearsal for the awards ceremony, I went to a workshop given by Harlequin authors Donna Alward and Fiona Harper and Harlequin editor Bryony Green, on keeping emotion and sexual tension high in books with less graphic sexual content.  Do you see a trend here?  Actually, there were eight or ten workshops in every time slot, and only a few of them were about sex.  However, it was a romance conference . . .

My last workshop was on promotion through social media, and most of it went right over my head.  I slipped out when I realized I had no clue what the presenters were talking about.  I’ve gotten the hang of blogging, but Twitter and Facebook are still mysteries to me.  One of these days . . .

When I got back to our room at 4:15, I found half a pizza waiting for me, bless Jo Anne.  After I’d devoured that (the man from room service had insisted that Jo Anne eat hers hot, but mine was still delicious warm) and we’d dressed in our ceremonial finery, we joined our friends from West Houston RWA for a pre-awards drink (diet coke, as the producer of the show had begged us at the rehearsal to show up sober for the ceremony), and then met our “dates,” Gerry Bartlett and Nina Bangs, at the VIP entrance.  Gerry and Nina were Golden Heart finalists together in 1997 and are now multi-published authors; Jo Anne and I are hoping some of their talent will rub off on us if we feed them enough chocolate.  Also at our table were our other West Houston RWA finalist, Sarah Andre, and her husband Scott.

Although Sarah and I remain Golden Heart Finalists (and we’re thrilled about that), Jo Anne is now a Golden Heart Winner.  (For the full list of GH and Rita® winners, visit RWA here.)  Being completely surprised, being a Texan by choice, and mostly being herself, Jo Anne’s opening words to the crowd of more than two thousand were, “Hot damn, ain’t this fun?”  The crowd loved her.

Drinks after the ceremony were not restricted to diet soda.