Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Monster in My Backyard

There was a monster in my backyard where I grew up.

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 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 trailer

Chat about Kiss Me Deadly

Hi, I'm chatting Friday June 29th at 9pm at the Galleria about
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:

Susan Kearney

Monday, June 25, 2007

Susan Kearney--Kiss Me Deadly

Hi Everyone,
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 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?

Susan Kearney

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.

Julie Miller

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Dollmaker Theme

If you've been around in the synth scene for a while, you've probably heard of the German band Placebo Effect. In 1999, frontman Axel Machens started a new project, Breathe.

I've been using the title track of their cd The Laughing Dolls on my blog, which is how I happened to 'meet' Axel. I've been a long time fan, so imagine how thrilled I was when he sent me an email, thanking me for using their music. We've been corresponding ever since.

And it gets even better because he's now written a theme song for The Dollmaker, a beautiful, haunting piece that is perfect for the story. I can actually picture the credits rolling for a Dollmaker movie when I hear it! lol. You can give it a listen below and also check out their music on MySpace and on their Website.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Contest Time of Year?

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.

Julie Miller

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? :-)

Dana (

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Precinct: Vice Squad covers

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?

Julie Miller

Saturday, June 9, 2007

First Lines

Since you brought up the subject, Amanda, I loved the first line of your book, The Doll Maker: "Travis McSwain wasn't a man easily spooked, but the doll was getting to him."

And the cover was soooo spooky.

Joanna Wayne
24 Karat Ammunition, first book in the Four Brothers of Colts Run series, coming in July.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Hook Me

I’m a patient reader. I don’t necessarily need for a book to start off with a bang. If it’s done right, I savor a slow build. Sometimes that build-up can take a few paragraphs or even a few chapters. As long as the story is enjoyable, the characters interesting and the pay-off satisfactory, I’m a happy reader. However, I do love a great first line, a hook that is so compelling or intriguing or hilarious, it draws me in with delicious anticipation.

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 Sensualist
Barbara Hodgson

The small boys came early to the hanging.
The Pillars of the Earth
Ken Follett

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
George Orwell

It was the day my grandmother exploded.
The Crow Road
Iain Banks

Where's Pa going with that ax?
Charlotte’s Web
E. B. White

Anyone else have a favorite first line?

Amanda Stevens

Monday, June 4, 2007

Back from BEA

Here I am autographing ROYAL LOCKDOWN at the Harlequin Booth at BEA. The Book Expo was a lot of fun. But for some reason, the Javits Center forgot to turn on the air conditioning the first day. So it was really HOT. And even when they turned it on, it was still pretty uncomfortable. I had bought a jacket to wear to the book signing. But I decided I'd be better off wearing a shirt instead of a jacket.

We spent a lot of time looking at the exhibits. The Ellora's Cave booth was one of the more interesting. They'd driven their bus into the Javits Center and used it as the backdrop for their tables. They were giving away decks of cards and some of the fake "lollipops" and "matchbooks" you may have seen at RT. At another booth we got cute animal bookmarks for the grandkids. And we stood in line to get books from authors like Dave Barry, E. L. Konigsburg, Lisa Jackson, Martin Cruz Smith, and David Balducci. And, of course, I got a lot of books from the other Harlequin and Silhouette authors.

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.

Rebecca York

Friday, June 1, 2007


In my exhaustive search for the best southern name ever for a continuing character I plan to introduce in my next thriller, I ran across an article called “Namestorming” by Lisa Tribolo. It’s a great article and it reinforces the importance of choosing the right name for your characters. Like naming a baby, the moniker will follow that character for the rest of his or her life. But what I really loved was the whole concept of namestorming—brainstorming for the perfect name. Because let's face it, names do make an impression. A great name affects the reader on both a conscious and subconscious level. Even changing the spelling of a common name (like Emily, Emilie, Emilee) can create a completely different perception of the character.

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?

Amanda Stevens