Friday, July 27, 2007
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Now that I’ve had a chance to see the new Bond in action, here’s my take...Clive, who? Hugh Jack-what?
Monday, July 16, 2007
I received some terrific news from Dallas last week. It seems my Harlequin Intrigue, VOW TO PROTECT, won the Daphne du Maurier Award for series romantic suspense!
Now this is very cool for many reasons. The competition. is very tough. I know, I've read many of the books mine was up against. It's judged by people who know and love romantic suspense, members of the nearly 1000 strong Kiss of Death Chapter of RWA. I've reached the finals four times, and this is my first win. But one of the very coolest parts about winning this award is that if I hadn't read Daphne du Maurier's REBECCA in my formative years, I probably wouldn't be writing romantic suspense now.
It might sound a little dramatic, but it's true. REBECCA was the novel that first introduced me to that delicious interplay of romance and suspense. It stuck with me during my college years while I was trying my hand at literary short stories. It nagged at the back of my mind during the brief time I wrote fairly pitiful screenplays. And when I sat down to write my first novel, the story was REBECCA set in the world of Quarter Horse shows (no, I never submitted that story to anyone...nor will I).
That story continues to influence what I write, and I've read it more times than I can count. And the award will have a proud place on my wall.
What are some of the books that have influenced you (in writing, in life, in...whatever)?
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Wow! Things have definitely been quiet in here lately. But then, this week is the week of both the Romance Writers of America conference in Dallas, and the Thrillerfest conference in NYC--and many of the Intrigue authors are attending one of the other.
I'm at home this week, hunkering down with my writing during the day, and enjoying some family time with my son this week (his band commitments were scheduled long before I was sure of the dates for either conference, and besides, he's going to be a senior this year and I don't want to miss helping with and attending any of these last big events he has before he graduates!).
From other loops I've been on, it sounds as though some of our other Intrigue friends are doing well at both conferences! Winning awards (I'll let them share the details about their good news!), meeting with editors and publishers, presenting workshops, selling books and more! So that's something to look forward to.
In the meantime, if you need a fix of Intrigue, check out the two discussions going on at the Harlequin website at www.eHarlequin.com. Under the column, Simply Series, you'll find two ongoing discussions--one on reading Intrigue books, and one on writing them.
Hope to see you there!
(only a week left on my summer book giveaway contest at www.juliemiller.org!)
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY! To all our American friends. And I hope all our readers around the world have a splendid fourth of July wherever they are. Every day should be a good day, right?
I've been a longtime reader of Harlequin Intrigue, even before I became a writer for the line. And July marks the release of the 1000th book from Intrigue! So that's another reason to celebrate!
What are some of your favorite memories of Intrigues over the years? Either as a reader or writer. I remember back when the very first Intrigue came out--THE KEY by Rebecca Flanders. I was in college, looking for a quick, satisfying (affordable!) read to supplement my mystery and romance obsession, and to give me a break from studying and academic reading. I picked up THE KEY, thinking it sounded like a really good idea to read a romantic suspense book from Harlequin. And by the time I was done, I KNEW it was a great idea. I was hooked. No way have I read 1000 Intrigues, but I've read a good number of them, and I love how the line has evolved and stayed current with topics, fresh with new writers, and reliable with many of my author and mini-series favorites.
Happy 1000th, Intrigue!
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Okay, not literally in my backyard, but only a few miles away in the White River, a murky waterway that meanders through the swampy bottomland of northeast Arkansas. Tales of monsters and bizarre events have been a part of that area's folklore for centuries, but when I was a kid, a rash of sightings propelled the White River Monster—or "Whitey" as he's sometimes affectionately called—into the national spotlight.
The monster pump was primed, so to speak, a few months earlier with the release of the low-budget, pseudo-documentary film called The Legend of Boggy Creek. The subject of the movie was the Fouke Monster, a hairy, ape-like creature that supposedly harassed families living outside the small town of Fouke, Arkansas, near Texarkana. Most of the cast consisted of local residents, many of whom reenacted their encounters with the monster for the cameras.
So when "Whitey" began rearing his ugly head again that summer, we all prepared for our close-ups. And sure enough, a Japanese filmmaker arrived with the intention of bringing our version of the Loch Ness monster to the big screen. Hundreds of media interviews were staged, CBS sent a news crew, and the story was picked up by The London Daily News. Local merchants began to cash in on the hype by offering monster sidewalk sales and restaurants even added "Monsterburgers" to their menus.
At least seven sightings of the monster were recorded and one witness offered a blurred Polaroid snapshot he'd taken of the elusive creature. "As big as a boxcar and thirty feet long...gray all over...with fins," one excited witness reported. Others described the creature as being sea-serpent-like with a spiny backbone.Although the Japanese movie never came to pass (more's the pity...how cool would that have been?), the attention put our little neck of the woods on the map. The monster was so widely accepted that in 1973, the Arkansas Legislature passed a resolution declaring a section of the White River a "refuge" for the creature and banned anyone from "molesting, killing, trampling or harming" the creature in any way.
In 1991, I wrote Nighttime Guardian, a book which featured the White River monster.
That's one of the cool things about being a writer. You never know what will inspire you.
Friday, June 29, 2007
Kiss Me Deadly. If you've never been. there, it's really cool. You have to
download their program so do it early. Then you get to choose what
person you look like and walk around in the room. Come have some fun
and you might win a door prize. Winner gets their choice of my Tor
Here's the link:
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
I haven't written for Intrigue in a while but I hope you;ll be happy to know I'm still writing romantic suspense for Tor. KISS ME DEADLY will be out is stores this week. You can watch my book trailer at www.susankearney.com and/ or read an excert there, too.
Here's the blurb:
Mandy Newman won the biggest lottery in history...
She and her coworkers picked the right numbers, and hit the jackpot—and then someone stole the ticket.
Now Mandy's fellow winners are being murdered one by one—and an attempted drowning convinces Mandy she's next on the killer's hit list. She needs help to recover the ticket, and protection from the murderer—and she finds both, wrapped in the sexy form of DEA agent Zachary Taylor.
But Zack abandoned Mandy once before, so relying on him doesn't come easy. If she's going to trust him, he needs to start telling her the truth. Yet, she must do the same—since Mandy has a secret that could devastate them both. While on the run, Mandy and Zack struggle between sparking sensuality and latent distrust. But can they overcome the past as a killer attempts to destroy their future?
Friday, June 22, 2007
Oy. This can be a painful subject--or a joyous one. I always try to take reviews with a grain of salt, but sometimes they feel like salt being rubbed into an open wound. I had an educational psych professor in college who said something like, you have to hear 7 affirmations about yourself and your work to negate the effect of 1 negative comment. He was talking about interacting with students, of course, but I think the same philosophy applies when talking about how readers evaluate our books.
I've gotten a couple of really hurtful reviews on some of my older books on Amazon from readers. Personal attacks more than criticism of the books. I've gone through the gamut of emotional reactions--that first knee-jerk defensive reaction. Anger. Blame--as in clearly s/he doesn't know what s/he is talking about (and in some instances, they don't, but you can't go online and correct their mistakes or oversights or else you give them status and possibly something more to argue about). Self-doubt (questioning whether what I wrote was the garbage they say--and I'm the loser they claim). And hurt. Definitely hurt. Writing a book is like opening a vein and pouring out my own blood. Or giving birth and raising a child and then sending her out in the world. Or putting your heart and thoughts on paper. You've heard the metaphors, I'm sure. It isn't an easy job.
Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion, and like my career on the stage, if I'm not willing to take the inevitable judgment that comes when you put your creative self out there, then I need to get into another business. But whatever happened to the old adage of, "If you can't say something nice, then..." Or even, "You draw more flies with honey than with vinegar." Or just plain ol' knowing how to say things in a nice way. Disagreeing is fine. Inevitable. But there are ways to state an opposing opinion or criticism to help someone learn and improve their work-instead of emblazoning harsh words on someone's psyche so that they need to hear 7 positive comments about something they do right before the pain lessens.
Don't get me wrong, I've had some fabulous reviews from professionals and readers that make me blush--and make me wonder at the opposite end of things--am I as good as they say? I'm grateful to them. Humbled by them. And enormously appreciative of the kind words and helpful comments. I'd like to think those readers "get" me and my stories. Maybe the others don't--after all, there are thousands of authors out there, and not all of them appeal to every reader. Or maybe they just like their moment in the spotlight and see the opportunity to sound off as their chance to put themselves out there.
I don't know how many readers read reviews, or have purchases and book check-outs influenced by those reviews. But I know many authors read them. Even if you don't like a book, please be kind. It's an old-fashioned notion. But it has been around a long time for a reason.
Any other words of wisdom about reviews out there? Great stories or heart-breaking ones?
Now I'm off to get back to my family and my writing--and put those hurtful reviews behind me.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Friday, June 15, 2007
I hope all our visitors here to the Intrigue Writers blog are taking the opportunity to enter our book giveaway contest. Be sure to check out the link above the authors list.
It seems a lot of people I know are running book contests now. The basket of Intrigues we're giving away here; my own summer book giveaway contest; my local chapter; book baskets at the RWA conference and more.
I know some readers are concerned about the rising cost of books--Intrigues have stayed the same for several years, btw--so taking a chance on getting the free gift is a definite boon to the wallet. It's a great way to check out new authors or to try authors you haven't had a chance to read yet. Sometimes, it's a way to get your hands on an out-of-print book, or one earlier in a series or by an author you now love that you missed that is now hard to find. Besides, winning stuff is just cool!
For the authors, certainly it's a way to draw readers to their site, to introduce themselves to new readers--and to clear a little space on our bookshelves!
From my own perspective, one of the first contest winners I ever had was a lovely woman who lives in North Carolina. After I sent her that first book, she and I started a correspondence that has lasted for several years. It's a thrill to me to see how much she appreciates books--we talk about more than my own books. Unfortunately, she's dealing with some health issues now, so even reading is difficult for her. But certainly that long-distance friendship came about as the result of a simple book giveaway. And I'm grateful.
What are some great books or authors or friendships or adventures you discovered through a contest or book giveaway?
Share your stories.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I love your new covers, Julie!! And, of course, I just can't resist sharing my own :-) Can't say they are accurate to the story, but I like the hot heroes :-) The pictures do convey the sense of passion and suspense, though.
These will be the last two books in the MISSION:REDEMPTION series. Now I'll have to come up with a new mini series. I love playing around with new ideas.
And... talking about covers... I couldn't help but notice that there are some half-naked guy covers for July. And a guy in a wet T-shirt cover for June. Is this a sign that summer is here? :-)
Sunday, June 10, 2007
I just wanted to see my covers together side-by-side for my upcoming Intrigue mini-series, The Precinct: Vice Squad, featuring detectives Seth Cartwright and Cooper Bellamy. Cool! (Now if I could just figure out how to do that on my computer at home-vbg)
I love the heroes on both covers--love the fiery action on the first one, love the more subtly protective mood on the second one.
Okay, so the heroine's hand on UP AGAINST THE WALL looks a little distorted to me--almost like 5 fingers with no thumb. But that might be a perspective thing because of the huge man's ring she's wearing on her middle finger (that's key to the story!). I'm pleased to see Harlequin's art department got the details right. Cooper Bellamy, the hero in the second book, is completely bald! (with good reason) I'm so glad to see that cap on him.
For the most part, I think Intrigues have had some great covers lately--conveying clear moods that cover a wide range of suspense elements. Besides my own (I particularly love NINE-MONTH PROTECTOR), I've really liked Delores Fossen's UNDERCOVER DADDY (you can see it here on another post), the abs on the wet T-shirt hero on Paula Graves' FORBIDDEN TEMPTATION, the gorgeous regal princess on Rebecca York's ROYAL LOCKDOWN (it's here, too), the steamy sexual tension on Dana Marton's SECRET CONTRACT, the cowboy on Rita Herron's JUSTICE FOR A RANGER and more. Hopefully, the art department at Harlequin will continue to get things right.
What have been some favorite Intrigue covers of yours recently or over the years? And what do you like to see on a cover? What kind of cover makes you pick up a book off the shelves?
Saturday, June 9, 2007
And the cover was soooo spooky.
24 Karat Ammunition, first book in the Four Brothers of Colts Run series, coming in July.
Friday, June 8, 2007
Here are some of my favorite first lines:
Helen woke up in the middle of the night wearing someone else's breasts. Not her own insignificant, almost nonexistent bumps, but huge pendulous, full ones.
The small boys came early to the hanging.
The Pillars of the Earth
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
It was the day my grandmother exploded.
The Crow Road
Where's Pa going with that ax?
E. B. White
Anyone else have a favorite first line?
Monday, June 4, 2007
I've been going to BEA off and on for years. And I've watched it change. Years ago, they used to discourage publishers from having book signings at their booths. Now it's part of the fun and advertised in the BEA directory everyone gets at registration.
I also brought back about fifteen different kinds of cloth bookbags to give to friends.
There was a huge cafeteria in the basement with various companies selling food. We got lunch at a Greek stand, and the food was surprisingly good. And upstairs at the sides of the exhibit floor, you could get drinks and ice cream.
For lunch on Friday, we went out to a German/Austrian restaurant with my Intrigue editor and her assistant. It was fun getting together with them and a nice relaxing interlude in the middle of the BEA madness.
Friday, June 1, 2007
Think of some of your favorite continuing characters and how their names help you perceive them. Could James Lee Burke’s alcoholic Cajun detective be called anything but Dave Robicheaux? You can almost smell the bayou when you say his name aloud. Or how about Amelia Peabody, the Victorian-era spinster daughter of a reclusive scholar created by Elizabeth Peters? Can you not picture Amelia serving tea in the drawing room of an English country estate (whilst secretly daydreaming about her next trip to Egypt)? The name suits her perfectly. As does Nina Zero, the ex-con, celebrity-paparazza protagonist in Robert M. Eversz's stylish noir punk series by the same name.
That’s why I’m agonizing long and hard over the name I give my continuing character because it’s my hope she’ll be around for a while. And I want my readers to remember her long after they finish the book.
What are some of your favorite character names?
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Are you guys familiar with the hero archetypes? Chief, Warrior, Best Friend, Professor, Swashbuckler, Charmer, Lost Soul? (there may be others, but that's what I remember off the top of my head)
I think that the best heroes are usually a combination of a couple of archetypes--I mean, a pure Chief could be an absolute bully, and a pure Charmer would be undependable, for example--and neither bullying or being undependable are traits I want in real life or in my stories.
There are certain times when it is awfully nice to have a guy take charge and ensure protection when facing danger (like in an Intrigue). But I like the idea of the Chief emerging when called upon to get the job done, but then being able to let other, more palatable traits surface at other times so that he is more well-rounded and, frankly, a better catch for the heroine.
When I first started plotting out my Taylor Clan books, I didn't know about the archetypes--but as the series went along, I realized each hero fit into one of the archetype categories (not entirely--again, I like a well-rounded man--or at least one who can rediscover other facets of his personality or learn new ones, so he's not so one-dimensional). I was just looking for variety in setting up the family, and variety in my writing so I didn't feel I was writing the same book each time. Who knew?
Because they were cops, and because they stepped up to the plate to face dangerous situations and protect the people they loved, they all had some degree of alpha in them (don't think I could write a true beta), so they all have some degree of Warrior. But they had aspects of other archetypes in them. I think I ended up with...
ONE GOOD MAN--Mitch was a Chief w/ some Lost Soul in him
SUDDEN ENGAGEMENT--Brett was a Best Friend w/ some Chief in him
IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE--Mac was a Professor w/ some Lost Soul in him
THE ROOKIE--Josh was a Charmer w/ some Swashbuckler in him
KANSAS CITY'S BRAVEST--Gideon was a Best Friend w/ some Warrior in him
UNSANCTIONED MEMORIES--Sam was a Warrior w/ some Bad Boy in him
LAST MAN STANDING--Cole was a Bad Boy w/ some Lost Soul in him
Hmm... I see lots of Lost Souls (man, I love those tortured types! )
Now, I'm analyzing other stories to see what I've done, and what other authors have done in some of my favorite books. This is a great "lesson" to help me procrastinate from my writing.
What are some of your favorite hero archetypes to find in an Intrigue?
(watch for my summer contest, starting June 21!)
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I'm in the final stretch of my current book, tentatively titled NO ORDINARY SHEIK. The book is due on June 1st. Yikes! I have the whole manuscript printed so I can reread it one more time. My opinion changes with every read. On one read, "oh, it's the worst I've ever written, the editor will send it back," then I read it again, and I think, "oh, it's fabulous. I'm sooo gooood." :-) I lose all perspective by this stage of the writing process.
Thank you to everyone who wrote about IRONCLAD COVER book 2 of my MISSION REDEMPTION series that started with SECRET CONTRACT last month. (These are my Charlie's Angels meet The Dirty Dozen books.) For a great trailer made by a husband that I appreciate more than words can say and excerpts, please visit www.danamarton.com.
What is everyone reading these days? I'm rereading some old Sidney Sheldon favorites.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
I'd like to tell you about the Intrigue I've got coming out in June. It's
ROYAL LOCKDOWN (ISBN: 0373692617, Harlequin Intrigue), the first book in the Lights Out series, takes place during a night of panic in Boston. At a glittering international reception at the top of the John Hancock Tower, Princess Ariana of Beau Pays and security expert Shane Peters are mesmerized by each other. Then terrorists invade the reception, capturing the guests and threatening to kill them one by one, starting with Princess Ariana, if they don't turn over the vice president of the United States (who has hidden in a closet).
Shane and Ariana escape, only to find themselves on the run from a man who will stop at nothing to kill them both. And at the same time, the passion smoldering between them reaches flash point. But is it possible for these two very different people to forge a meaningful relationship?
I loved getting into Ariana’s head. She was so up tight at the beginning of the story that she wouldn’t even dance with Shane. By the end of the book, she’s making love in the back of a limo.
I also loved researching the Boston locations for this book-from Copley Square to the undercroft of Trinity Church to the beautiful residential neighborhoods of the Back Bay.
I think Ariana looks beautiful on the cover. I'm a little worried about Shane. To me, he looks like he just escaped from Starfleet Academy.
I'll be signing ROYAL LOCKDOWN at the Harlequin booth at BEA this coming Saturday from 2-2:45. If you're at the convention, I'd love to see you.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Back in the eighties when I first began to seriously consider a professional writing career, music was a huge influence on me. My first book was inspired by the Echo and the Bunnymen song, "The Killing Moon." It's still one of my favorite songs, and after more than twenty years, I'm afraid it's held up better than my book.
So without further ado, I present the very eighties-looking cover of my first book, and the still fabulous video of "The Killing Moon".
Friday, May 25, 2007
The idea for Another Woman's Baby came from my wanting to rent a house at the beach instead of a condo when my husband and I used to spend the month of November at Orange Beach in Alabama. I knew I'd be fine as long as he was around, but when he had to make a trip back to New Orleans on business, I'd be alone in a big house on a deserted beach in the winter. So I had to use that fear in a book.
And one week on a ranch in south Texas was all it took for me to fall in love with cowboys. 24-Karat Ammunition is the lead book for my new western series, Four Brothers of Colts Run Cross. The series is about the Collingsworths, a family similar to the Ewings in the TV series Dallas in that they have a large ranch and an oil company. But the Collingsworth men have scruples and as you can see from the picture above, they are extremely sexy. 24 Karat Ammunition comes out in July.
It would be great to hear from some readers on this post. Anyone like cowboys???
About ten years ago, our electricity went off, and I was looking for a flashlight. I miscalculated where the hall was and ended up pitching all the way down the basement stairs head first. Also in slow motion. I really am lucky that I didn't break my neck. It's all how you land. And I landed on my shoulder. I dislocated the shoulder and broke the bone at the top of my arm. I use THAT experience when I want to write about PAIN.
So what about you? If you're a writer, how does you life creep into your books?
Thursday, May 24, 2007
When you think of cowboys, do you think mostly of Texas, Montana, or Wyoming?
In COWBOY SANCTUARY, my setting is a ranch in Colorado. What better setting is there than the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains?
What's your favorite location for cowboys?
(I won't list all of them. I know there are cowboys in all the states)
Or do you prefer your cowboys in the Outback of Australia or maybe in South America or Canada or Mexico?
Let's hear from you! What's your favorite setting for cowboys?
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Mallory Kane here--
JUROR NO. 7 is my new Intrigue out this month (May). To celebrate the release, I'm giving away one of my backlist books to one lucky reader.
My heroine in JUROR No. 7 is trying to do the right thing by voting to convict a mob hitman, even though her life is threatened. And the man who's assigned to lean on her is an undercover cop, so he can't tell her he's one of the good guys.
Have you ever served on a jury? Do you have a weird or funny story about your experience? Tell us about it and I'll put your name in the drawing for the book!
Looking forward to hearing your stories...
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Okay, I'm making my list (and checking it twice), but I need some help. I LOVE the summer movies and books, but I always try to write a list so I don't miss something good. Here's what I have so far.
Pirates of the Caribbean
The Bourne Ultimatum
High Noon, Nora Roberts
The Husband, Dean Koontz
Lean Mean Thirteen, Janet Evanovich
Up Close and Dangerous, Linda Howard
Obviously, those lists are waaaaaay too short, so please help me add to them. What movies and books are musts for you this summer?
Oh, and while you're thinking, check out the cover for my latest Intrigue. :)
Monday, May 21, 2007
I had to laugh when I found out that was my assignment. My specialty IS plot. So the panel forced me to think about how I make plot work with the other elements in a book.
I used to cringe when people would ask,” is your book plot driven or character driven?” If you write romances the plot is SUPPOSED to be character driven. Yes, my Intrigues are plot driven. Bad things happen. The villain comes at the h/h with a knife or a gun. Electric wires fray. Bridges collapse. Children are kidnapped. But the most important thing about each event is how the characters react. Really, you can’t separate plot and character. They must function together to make your book work. It’s like pie a la mode. The ice cream melts into the pie, and you can’t separate them once they are fused.
You can write an exciting scene where the hero is hanging off a cliff clinging to a fraying rope. But what gives the scene heart pounding suspense is the heroine’s fear for the hero as she tries frantically to save him. And making the romance jack up the emotions is the icing on the cake, to use another food metaphor. These people are falling in love against a background of suspense and danger, and they know they may die tomorrow.
If you’re reading this, you must be a fan of romantic suspense.
What do you love about this kind of book?
Hey, gang! I just wanted to share the cover for my August 07 Intrigue, UP AGAINST THE WALL. This book is the first of a 2-book mini-series called The Precinct: Vice Squad, a spin-off from my regular Precinct books because these two share a story, as well as familiar faces from my Taylor Clan and Precinct books.
Be sure to check my website
Actually, the contest is a fun way for me to make the most out of a mistake that was printed in my last Intrigue, BEAST IN THE TOWER. Bwa-ha-ha! (that's my fun evil laugh)
I see that Amanda talked about the Romantic Times conference. I had a great time, too--it's always cool to meet readers and reconnect with writing buddies. Though I must say, my travel down to the Houston conference was more of an adventure than I was hoping for. I did some sightseeing with my friend, author Sherry James, too, while we were there. Let me just say that for a Nebraska girl, I think I know Houston's streets and highways pretty darn well now. We never got lost--we just had the wrong address for something we were looking for. (sigh) I know there's a story there.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
But what happens when the writer becomes a little too emotionally involved with his/her own characters?
Thursday, May 10, 2007
I had such a great experience in my local citizen’s police academy (see my previous blog entry), I signed up for the fire department citizen’s academy. And what an adventure I had!
Week One: Intro, Tour and Turn-Out Gear.
We started with trucks and ended with fashion. After a presentation by the chief, we took a tour of the fire station, including a peek inside all those trucks. The array of equipment is really quite amazing, including ladder trucks, pumper trucks and even an ATV. Then the fashion show began. We each were issued turn out gear! Yep, the pants and coats, the boots and helmets, not to mention gloves and face masks. As you can see from the photos, I’m ready to strut down the runway.
Week Two: Search and Rescue!
This week we had to put those fancy duds to use. We started by learning how to use SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus–just like SCUBA, without the underwater part). Then we practiced searching for downed victims. In two person teams, we started with a dark apartment to get the techniques down, then moved to an apartment filled with so much smoke, we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces. At the end of the night, we entered the same room using thermal imaging cameras, and I can tell you, they make search and rescue a breeze. No fire department should be without them! I ended up with bruised and blistered knees and a healthy appreciation for the amazing obstacles firefighters must overcome.
Week Three: Fire Investigation
A wealth of information for a writer! We started by learning about how fires burn and the clues they leave behind. Then we had to put our new knowledge into practice. After splitting into two teams, we were each given a burned room to process, making notes of our observations, taking pictures of the evidence and interviewing firefighters posing as residents. Once we compiled all of our evidence, we had to explain how the fire started and whether it was accidental or a possible arson.
Week Four: Extrication (AKA Destroying Cars) You didn’t know a firefighter’s job includes destroying cars? Well, it does if someone is trapped inside. This week we used hydraulic cutting and spreading tools to remove doors, roll back dashboards and cut off roofs. I truly never thought I’d enjoy destroying cars, but it was a blast. Also a lot of work. I was sore for days. The tools are powerful but heavy.
Week Five: Firefighter Skills
Firefighter training camp. This night, we moved from station to station, learning some of the different skills firefighters must master in order to do their jobs. I jumped on the chance to repel down the hose tower. But once clinging to the platform looking down at the concrete floor below, my body decided it didn’t want to let go and hang on that flimsy little rope. I’m happy to say I conquered my fear, and then repelled down the tower as many times as I could. Some of the other skills we practiced were: using fire extinguishers, handling hoses, ventilating a roof with an axe, climbing ladders and entering the second floor of a house in full gear, and forcible entry and exit. We also learned how portable tanks are used to hold water to fight rural fires.
Week Six: A Visit with the Police
As we visited the fire department as part of the police academy, we visited the police department as part of the fire academy. It was fun to see old friends, and even though I’d toured the police station before, I still learned many new details my readers will see in upcoming books!
Week Seven: Ice Rescue
Since we have many lakes and ponds in the area, my local fire department must be prepared to rescue people who have fallen through ice. But I had no idea how much specialized equipment was involved in ice rescue. We donned watertight rubber suits and learned to paddle an lightweight pontoon raft to a victim, secure the victim to the raft, and signal the rest of the crew to pull us to shore. Afterwards we rode the aerial ladder and practiced with our SCBA gear to prepare for the final week.
Week Eight: The Big Burn (AKA Trial By Fire)
I have to admit, I was pretty nervous about trying out my training in a live fire situation. But once we started, I felt thoroughly prepared for everything we faced. After touring the live burn training structure, we sat in a room with a wood and paper fire while the chief demonstrated fire rollover and smoke stratification. Then we took turns damping down the fire by spraying the hose on the ceiling above. It was a good thing we wore all that gear and our SCBA since the temperature in the room soared over 700 degrees!
Once the entire three-story structure was hot and filled with smoke, we practiced our search and rescue techniques on the upper floors. This time we wore knee pads, but my knees were still a bit scorched from the heat. The experience was intensely hot and challenging, and one I will never forget. A fitting culmination to an amazing adventure!
If you'd like to check out more pics, click over to my website, http://www.annvosspeterson.com!
Friday, May 4, 2007
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Ever ask yourself why people are so drawn to intrigue stories? Leading box office films last weekend were intrigue-related including: DISTURBIA, THE INVISIBLE, NEXT and FRACTURED.
I think one reason we love our intrigues is because we like to figure out the puzzle along with the characters. Think about how powerful THE SIXTH SENSE was when you finally got to the end and said, “Ah-ha, it all makes sense now!”
Suspense also takes us on a wild ride. Although you know in a romance everything will turn out fine, the tension builds throughout the book and there’s always that question in your mind: will the hero and heroine make it out alive and in love?
Why do you enjoy reading Intrigues? Share your thoughts and I’ll enter your name in a contest to win a copy of my February release, THE ENGLISH DETECTIVE AND THE ROOKIE AGENT.
On Tuesday afternoon, I headed downtown to meet up with two of my favorite writing buddies, B. J. Daniels and Joanna Wayne, to brainstorm our workshop "Killers to Die For", which we presented on Friday afternoon. I always get a little wound up before public speaking engagements, but the atmosphere was very casual and we had a lot of audience participation. The presentation actually went really well and we had a lot of fun, despite the fact that I inadvertently gave away the ending of THE DOLLMAKER. Doh! Turned out okay, though, because several members of the audience showed up at the huge book signing the next day and bought my book anyway. So it was all good.
And speaking of the book signing, one reader came by (Hi Pat!) who had brought over four hundred Intrigues with her. I was thrilled to sign my books for her, but the best part was getting to meet face-to-face such a devoted Intrigue fan.
The conference was great and I loved catching up with all my friends and meeting new ones, but as always, I was very glad to get home and get back to my writing routine. I'm working on my second thriller for MIRA Books, THE DEVIL'S FOOTPRINTS, and I just got a sneak peek at the cover. I won't say much about it at this point except that it is very eerie and creepy and the concept is awesome. I love it.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
I'm in research mode this month, it seems. So in that vein, I thought I'd share some of the fun explorations I've been doing for my books.
I do a lot of the research for my romantic thrillers in the library and the internet. But there’s no substitute for personal experience. So when I got the opportunity to sign up for my city’s citizen’s police academy last year, I jumped! I and ten other citizens covered a lot in ten weeks. Here’s a brief overview.
Week One: Orientation of the Police Department and a tour. This week was great for scoping out all those little details that make stories come alive. From the way officer’s shifts are split up to the color of the walls in the holding cells to the crammed pseudo-organization of the evidence room, these are details you can’t find in a library book. Details that make a story feel real.
Week Two: Traffic Enforcement. Maybe most of us have been pulled over for a traffic ticket or warning at some time in our lives, but recreating a stop in the pages of a story is a different matter. Especially when you’re writing it from an officer’s point-of-view. And how much do you know about the way Radar works? Maybe I’m just slow, but I had no idea. I do now!
Week Three: Defense and Arrest Tactics. This was a meat-and-potatoes week for a fiction writer. We learned how officers approach and control a situation, the use of holds, strikes, kicks and weapons such as pepper spray, baton and taser. The officers even staged an arrest with me playing a dangerous bad guy. I wasted no time putting my experience to use in VOW TO PROTECT, Harlequin Intrigue, 8/06!
Week Four: Fire Department. We visited our city’s fire department this week. After touring the facility and vehicles, I put out a fire with an extinguisher, knocked down cones with the fire hose, rode the aerial ladder and dressed up in all the gear, climbed up on a small roof and chopped ventilation holes with an axe. Now my subconscious is hard at work coming up with a firefighter story!
Week Five: Emergency Vehicle Operation Course. That’s right, we drove cop cars! Backing and serpentining and evasive driving and braking. And I discovered it’s nearly impossible to use the radio while pursuing another car through an obstacle course with lights flashing and siren blaring.
Week Six: Investigations. Probably my favorite week of the whole academy (a tough call). After a presentation about a local homicide investigation, we broke up into small groups and visited three different stations. In the first station, we learned about crime scene photography and made a plaster cast of a footprint. In the second, we lifted fingerprints off a coffee mug. The final station was a mock homicide. We had to examine the evidence, make conclusions and interview a detective posing as the victim’s mother. These experiences will be showing up in my books for a long time.
Week Seven: EMS. A very informative week including Adult CPR training and AED training. I have an EMS scene planned in an upcoming book. Talk about life-and-death drama!
Week Eight: Firearms Training. Prior to this my firearms experience was limited to shooting a black powder Civil War era revolver about twelve years ago, so this was a big week for me. After I learned to lean forward and put my thumb in the right place to avoid getting nailed by the Glock’s slide, I did pretty well. We started with oval-shaped targets, then moved to a photo of a man holding a gun. When they dimmed the lights and forced us to shoot with night sights and only a flashing police light bar for illumination, things got interesting!
We spent the second part of the night working with the virtual Firearms Training System (FATS). We had to interact with different scenarios an officer might face projected on a movie screen, making split second decisions about whether or not to fire our weapons. The weapons themselves registered hits and misses on the screen, forcing us to justify our decisions and own up to poor marksmanship. It truly is amazing the number of split-second judgements a police officer has to make.
Week Nine: Police-School Liaison Officer, community policing, drug enforcement. Learning about all the roles the police fill in my local community as well as facts about illegal drugs will certainly be useful for upcoming stories.
Ride Along and dispatch observation: During the course, each member of the academy was required to observe in dispatch for an hour and ride along with a patrol officer for several hours. I had a very fun an informative night, although the rain kept the drama to a minimum. Fine with me. I like my violence pretend.
Week Ten: Graduation! Along with my certificate for graduation I won two awards. My team won best footprint casting (see week six), and I won the special “bronze notebook award” for taking the most notes. Truthfully I was kind of a shoe-in, since I was the only one taking notes, but...
The Citizen’s Police Academy was an experience that I not only will not forget, but I will use in many books. If you’re interested in doing something like this, call your local police department and find out if they offer the program. If not, maybe they’ll take the suggestion and start one up!
And if you'd like to see more pictures of my adventures, check out my website, annvosspeterson.com!
Ann Voss Peterson
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Back in the late 90’s, my guilty viewing pleasure was Ally McBeal, a show and character I loathed to the extreme, but couldn’t seem to stop watching. In Episode Seventeen, “Theme of Life”, Ally goes to see a therapist (played by the fabulous Tracy Ullman) who tells her she needs a theme song. “Something you can play in your head to make you feel better.” Hers was, appropriately, “Tracy” by The Cuff Links.
Ally thought the advice was nuts, but I actually quite liked the idea, mainly because I already had a theme song – “Rock the Casbah” by the Clash. No political motives intended, I just loved hearing the song.
Does anyone else have a theme song they'd care to share? No? Just me? Okay then.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Like Law & Order, whose stories are "ripped from the headlines," I often use news events as a springboards for my fiction. Many authors do. We read a news report or see a television documentary that inspires us to start playing "what if" games in our minds. Suddenly, we have the makings of a whole new fictional world. It's a common way stories are born.
But it's the times when that process works (coincidentally) in reverse that can be a little creepy.
Currently I’m researching mass murderers for story I’m working on. In addition, I’m trading emails with a police officer who is graciously answering my questions about police procedure for dealing with an active shooter in a school setting.
I have to admit I was a little freaked out when the real life tragedy at Virginia Tech started unfolding.
It’s happened to me before. In late August of 2001, I was writing a series with two fabulous authors, Cassie Miles and Adrianne Lee. Our series focused on terrorism, and in the first book, terrorists hijacked a jet and planned to fly it into the White House. The editor we were working with had some misgivings. She thought the scenario was too unrealistic.
Two weeks later, it no longer seemed that way.
After 9/11, I and the other authors found we didn’t want to write the story anymore. All three of us really had a hard time working our way back into believing what we were penning was fiction. So what did we do? We took a week or two off. We changed the storyline somewhat. We made ourselves move on. I was the lucky one, since my story focused more on home-grown environmental terrorists than radical Islamists and airplanes. But with our editor's help, the three of us eventually reworked the series and convinced ourselves we were writing fiction again.
And what will I do this time?
I’m going to focus on the reason I love to write and read crime stories in the first place. I want to make things right. I want justice. I want the innocent to be saved and the guilty punished. It doesn’t always work out that way in real life. But it does in my books.
And that’s the power of fiction.
Ann Voss Peterson
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
What a GREAT weekend! I got to show off my town to friend Suz Brockmann and her hubby, Ed Gaffney. Seattle is a beautiful city, but when I called Suz's hotel and asked what she wanted to do on day #2 she said, "I want to see mountains!" Well, we have some of those too ;-). The pic is from our booksigning featuring me, Suz, Ed and my friend, Mary Ellen.
We also hosted a booksigning at the fabulous McDonald's Book Exchange in Redmond, Washington. Fans came from Canada to see Suz!
My other highlight of the weekend was my #1 movie pick (reviewed on my website): DISTURBIA. I'm calling it Hitchcock for teenagers
What movies have you seen lately? Anyone excited about HOT FUZZ?
Cheers from the land of lattes and pine trees!
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Here's to egg hunts, chocolate bunnies and...movies! What? Well, I've been fortunate enough to see two excellent movies in the past few days so I thought I'd share...
First, a movie called THE LOOKOUT blew me away. It's a psychological thriller about a young man struggling to get his life back after one bad decision leaves him brain damaged. Excellent performances all the way around. What really impressed me was the script, written by Scott Frank. As a writer, I really enjoyed the foreshadowing, symbolism and twists and turns that kept me guessing. A+ Scott! Next, I saw THE NAMESAKE which is about an Indian family (Bengali) and their son's struggle with self-identity. Very tender and engaging film.
What have you seen lately that you can recommend? A film that you keep thinking about days later? Share!
Here's to sunshine and great movies!
Friday, April 6, 2007
If you’ve been writing professionally for any length of time, you’ve probably amassed a nice little rejection folder. In some cases...maybe not so little. Now, thanks to a company in Raleigh, North Carolina, there’s a perfect way to put those rejection letters behind you...by printing them onto rolls of customized toilet paper (facial quality, but not two-ply). At ninety bucks a roll and a minimum order of four rolls, the price of revenge is not exactly cheap.
Here is a response that might work better for you:
And because misery loves company:
"I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.” Editor of The San Francisco Examiner to Rudyard Kipling.
“The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.” A letter rejecting The Diary of Anne Frank.
“An endless nightmare. I do not believe it would ‘take’...I think the verdict would be ‘Oh, don’t read that horrid book’.” A rejection received by H. G. Wells for The War of the Worlds.
To William Faulkner: “If the book had a plot and structure, we might suggest shortening and revising, but it is so diffuse that I don’t think this would be of any use. My chief objection is that you don’t have any story to tell.” Two years later, he received this one: “Good God, I can’t publish this!”
How about you? Care to share with the world your most memorable rejection?
I’ll start. This one came from an editor at Harlequin Intrigue who shall remain nameless because a) contrary to some of my actions at the national conference, I’m not stupid; b) it was a long time ago (twenty years!) and the editor is no longer with Harlequin; and c) I’m getting old and can’t remember her name anyway.
“We love your title! Unfortunately, the rest of the story doesn’t quite work for us.”
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
It's April in Seattle, which means bi-polar weather. Now, you'd think it would mean constant rain, right? Not so! Last Sunday it went from hail balls to sunshine to drizzle back to sunshine. Which makes it hard to focus on writing since every time the sun shines you want to stop what you're doing and run outside! Quick -- catch the sun while it's passing by! ;-) The great thing about rain are the rainbows that follow, right?
Now, if you're stuck inside this spring due to rain, pick up a book or two, or rent some movies. I've started a "movie review" section on my website so you can check that out for recommendations. I don't slam movies because I respect the time and talent that's needed to make even a bad movie. But I'm sharing some of my favorites in theatres and on DVD. This week I've posted a review on 300, which I've blogged about before, and Music & Lyrics, a sweet romantic comedy. I'll check in again next week with some new reviews.
Have you seen anything you'd like to recommend?
Here's to rainbows!
Monday, March 26, 2007
I confess: my motivation in writing Miss Fairmont and the Gentleman Investigator (which takes place in the Highlands of Scotland) was to relive my amazing trip to Scotland that we took nine years ago. Wow, has it been that long? The countryside was even more beautiful than I imagined.
Of course, we had our one mishap when, after an afternoon search for the Loch Ness Monster, hubby decided to take a shortcut back to our B & B. Uh... it's pitch black, we're on a narrow (one lane) farm road, and I sensed water bordered us on either side. Yep, a bit scary. I kept thinking, "No one knows where we are and we're going to end up in Loch Ness and get eaten by Nessie!"
What about your vacation adventures? Got any good ones? I could use a vacation right about now...
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
So for those of you who like your romance a little on the quirky side, may I suggest Undertaking Betty?
Full disclosure: a large part of the appeal of this movie for me is my undying love and admiration for Christopher Walken (I mean, come on! Look at the guy's hair? What's not to love?). I also have a strange fascination for the funeral home business (don't ask). Nevertheless, the film revolves around a rather sweet (and sometimes hilarious) story of unrequited love.
Here is the Amazon synopsis:
"Undertaking Betty" (also known as Plots with a View and/or Plotz with a View)revolves around the competitive world of undertaking in the Welsh countryside. One of the most respected names in the biz -- Plotz Funeral Homes -- is directed by Boris Plotz (Alfred Molina), whose youthful dreams consisted of two decidedly cheerier concepts than the embalming process: dancing and marrying his childhood crush, Betty Rhys-Jones (Brenda Blethyn). Unfortunately, the pressure to take over the family business became too much for Boris to resist, particularly after Betty, despite being secretly in love with Boris, was married off to a known gold digger. Both Betty and Boris' lives remain firmly status quo until the death of Betty's mother-in-law, whose funeral arrangements throw the unsatisfied couple back together. While the spark between Betty and Boris is reignited, rival funeral director Frank Featherbed (Christopher Walken) grows increasingly angry; the American funeral director desperately wants to revolutionize the U.K. undertaking business with his unique "theme" funerals. Ultimately, Boris and Betty resort to desperate measures -- since the only thing keeping him away from Betty is her two-timing husband, they decide to stage Betty's demise and elope somewhere far away from the death business."
I highly recommend you go watch this trailer now!
Cross-posted at Blasphemous Rumours.