Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End the year with a Bang!

It's the last day of the year and I haven't finished remodeling my kitchen! One of my goals was to be done by now. Ack! So today, I've set a more attainable goal of sanding the last 7 doors of the cabinets I'm refinishing. If I get that done, I'll feel good. But that leaves a whole lot of goals for the new year.

sand laundry room cabinets
sand bathroom cabinets
stain and varnish doors and cabinets
tile backsplash

And all this before I can get back to my writing! I had a little set back though that put it all in perspective. My father had a mild heart attack on Christmas Eve and was in the hospital until Sunday. I can skip a few days of refinishing my kitchen for family. I think I'm the luckiest girl in the world to have my dad as a father. He's the best. Hero-worthy. The strong silent type that has a gentle hand and a gentle heart. I'd like to keep the man around forever. The picture is of my parents getting ready for the prom over 50 years ago. Cute aren't they?

So in honor of the my hero (Dad) I'm giving away 7 books today. One for every decade of his life. All you have to do is jump out to my website at www. and tell me which hero you like best in one of my books in a comment. I'll choose the winners later this evening if I'm not passed out from sanding doors all day!

And I want to wish you all a Happy, Healthy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Winter and writing in Montana

It has snowed almost a foot in the last couple of days and has been cold now for weeks. It's beautiful, no doubt about it. And it should help with the book I'm working on since One Hot Forty-Five is set in December 2009.

But enough is enough. My husband keeps saying, It's a normal winter, get used to it.

That's just it. We haven't had much winter in our part of Montana since we moved here and I was okay with it. I liked global warming. It would snow but then the sun would come out and it would melt. My kind of winter.

As I sit here wearing my winter snowpacks from my hike to the office, I'm dreaming of warm weather so it's hard to write about my heroes and heroines slogging through the snow. I know it sounds crazy, but I hate seeing them out in the cold because I know how they feel.

This morning the Billings Gazette didn't arrive in our small town either because 1) the road south blew in with snowdrifts or 2)the driver went off the road in the 200 miles from there to here. Residents are advised to stay home if at all possible and if you have to venture out, you're to tell someone where you're going and when you expect to get there just in case you don't make it.

I love living this far from civilization most of the time. I love setting my Whitehorse series here because it is so isolated and life here is interesting because of it. But this latest blizzard is too much like the plot of One Hot Forty-Five. The road out of here is glazed with ice. Seriously, you can see your face in it. And the gravel roads are blown in with drifts.

But as my feet start warming up, I know I have to get back to the Corbett brothers, Lantry in particular, and get him and the heroine out of that snowdrift they've ended up in during the blizzard and on with the story. After all it's a Christmas book and I can't let them miss Christmas at the Trails West Ranch where there's something good cooking and there's a warm fire waiting for them.

The Corbett brothers arrive in Whitehorse, Montana in April with Shotgun Bride, May is Hunting Down the Horseman, June Big Sky Dynasty, September Smokin' Six-Shooter and of course December with One Hot Forty-Five. See you at the ranch.

In the meantime, stay warm and close to the fire.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Read any good books lately?

So it’s the end of the year and I’m taking stock of the past 12 months. Thinking about New Year’s resolutions and definitely procrastinating about those closets I didn’t clean last year. In the midst of all this preparation for January 1st I’ve been thinking over the books I’ve read the past year. And I was wondering...

1) What's the best book you've read in the past 12 months?
2) Why?
3) How has it affected your thinking (or your writing)?

This can be fiction or non-fiction.
I asked a group of friends these questions last year about this time. It was fascinating to hear their answers. I’m curious to hear your answers, too, as I’m always looking for new authors to try!

I was very surprised to find that the book I’d started the year with, I’m ending the year with as well. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I read it last year over the Christmas break on the recommendations of both a friend and a family member. It was quite wonderful. Gothic in tone, it reminded me of my favorite book growing up—Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. This year, I don’t believe I’ve read anything that’s topped it. This has made my "top ten best of all time."

Ms. Setterfield really knows her way around sentence structure. The way she wove the words together painted such incredible pictures in my mind. It was a pleasure. I felt I was “bathing” in the language. Sometimes, I get somewhat impatient with that, but not here.

I think more than anything, I didn't analyze the writing, I just enjoyed it. It was the first time in a great while that's happened for me.

As to how it's effected my writing...Certainly it has encouraged me to stretch myself more in describing things. In writing suspense I tended to get very sparse in the interest of tension. Looking back at what I learned from Setterfield, I rediscovered the beauty you can have in meaty language, even in the suspenseful, tension-filled scenes. The importance of wrapping a few more words around the action and painting more visceral pictures.

How about ya'll? What have been your great reads this year?

A commenter will be chosen randomly to receive a copy of my debut January release, Better Than Bulletproof. I’ll post the winner tomorrow morning along with our grand Free Rice total. (See "Vegging on the Internet?..." December 10th post) If you've been keeping track- include your Free Rice number, too. (ex. FR 3340)

Hmm, reading is so much more fun than cleaning out closets!

Merry New Year!

Kay Thomas (FR 3340)
Better Than Bulletproof ~ January 13, 2009

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Blessings!

What an amazing time of year. The holiday season is always filled with such hope, beauty and love.

This is the perfect time to consider all the wonderful blessings we’ve experienced this past year. I’m especially thankful we decided to stay in Seattle and not visit family in Chicago. Oh, I miss them, sure, but if we’d tried to get out this year, I would have been writing this from Sea-Tac airport. We got hit with am amazing amount of snow for our part of the country (Seattle). And yes, I’m blessed with owning a four-wheel drive vehicle ☺.

This year has been one of people blessings. I’ve made some new friends and have learned tons from others. At the top of my blessings list are the “Eastside Radicals” -- a screenwriting critique group I joined last fall. It’s me and three talented, and dedicated writers who inspire and encourage each other twice a month. Finding a supportive writing group is a true gift. There are other writers in my life who have taught me so much including friends at the Northwest Screenwriters Guild, and my new writing partner, Heather Davis, who I’ll be writing a movie with next year.

Being able to share my stories with readers is at the top of my blessings list! Next Harlequin Intrigue will release The Girl Next Door series in February and March. These books were so much fun to write. They’re set out here in Seattle--my favorite city in the world!

I’d love to hear your special blessings of 2008. Care to share them?
Sorry this is coming to you so late in the day, but we had to say good-bye to our beloved Golden Retriever earlier today. He was a family pet for 12 glorious years, so even though we feel the pain of missing him, we were blessed with many years of joy.
Wishing you a wonderful, joyous holiday season.
Pat White

Saturday, December 27, 2008

New Covers and Christmas Presents

Part 1: here are the covers for my Jan. Feb. and March Intrigues. All the stories are part of my Texas Paternity series, and the stand-alone books feature single Texas dads. Personally, I like the guy in the middle the best. :) Do you have a favorite?

Part 2: now that you've opened all your presents, I want to know--what's the favorite thing you got? My favorite gift is an English Sadler teapot. I collect teapots, but it's been ages since I've added one to my collection, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE Sadler pottery.

I'll pick a winner for those who post, and the winner will be able to choose from any of the four books I had out in 2008: Newborn Conspiracy, The Horseman's Son, Questioning the Heiress or Security Blanket.


Friday, December 26, 2008

After Christmas Sales!

What's your favorite part about the day after Christmas? Is it taking down the Christmas tree? Eating leftovers? Cleaning up the paper wrappings from the frenzy of Christmas morning? Or are you sitting in an eating-induced coma wishing you hadn't had that last bite of pumpkin pie ( in my case-sweet potato pie)?

Or is it getting to go home after spending Christmas with the in-laws? Or watching movies you got as gifts? How many of you got duplicate movies? I've watched my traditional White Christmas and Holiday Inn. Still haven't made it to Miracle on 34th or It's a Wonderful Life.

I've was busy sanding cabinets in my kitchen up until the 23rd. I'm still not done with my remodeling. My husband got my sink reconnected on Dec 24th about 6pm (thank goodness!) So we were able to have Christmas dinner.

Instead of finishing my sanding and cabinet doors, what do I plan to do the day after Christmas? Drum roll please....

I'm going shopping! It'll be even better than the day after Thanksgiving. The bargains are going to be there. I'll be armed with gift cards and ready to SHOP!

What will you be doing? Leave a post about your plans for a chance to win NICK OF TIME.
Nick is so cute, isn't he?

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dana Marton-- Warning: Reading can be hazardous to your health!

Hope everyone is having a fantastic holiday! My favorite gift this year is a book: READING WOMEN. Wonderful pictures and thought-provoking commentary. It starts in history when women were first forbidden then discouraged from reading. Here are some of my favorite quotes...

Johann Adam Bergk in 1799 said that reading caused a "senseless extravagance, insurmountable reluctance to undertake any effort, boundless love of luxury, supression of the voice of conscience, becoming tired of life, and an early death..." ---Yikes!-----

Better yet is (teacher) Karl G. Bauer who wrote in 1791 that reading leads to "slackness, mucous congestion, flatulence, and constipation of the inner organs, which, as is well known, particularly in the female sex, actually affects the sexual parts..."

Don't say you weren't warned. LOL.

Apparently, when reading first became very popular in Paris, men and women often walking around with a book in their pockets, the moral authority thought it a psychological disorder and called it "reading mania."

I used to think how nice it must have been to live in a different time in history with a slower pace of life and all that. I take it all back. I could live without my electric appliances, but I'd be very grumpy without my books.

Hope you all got some fabulous books for Christmas!

Happy Holidays again,


Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I can't help it! It's Christmas Eve and it's warm (ick!) but that's okay, and I've cooked a lot of candy and my nieces are cooking Christmas dinner and I didn't have to buy Christmas presents for anyone but the little kids and........


This year I found Grownup coloring books for the 6 year olds... okay not for them. For me. I bought 4 and there are only 2 six-year-olds. I've almost finished coloring the fairy tale one. I'm giving The Night Before Christmas to one of the girls, even though I really really wanted to keep it.

The place that has the coloring books also has paper dolls. Did I mention I'm a nut about paper? It's called Dover Publications, and I could live there!

Dover Sampler Homepage

If you like coloring, cutting, folding, stacking, tearing, touching, or drawing on paper, this is the place for you. The two coloring books were part of my Christmas gift to myself, but I'm thinking I need a birthday gift (December 30,) and a New Years gift and a Valentine's gift. I am rediscovering my love of coloring books this year.

I hope each and every one of you rediscover something that you love to do this Christmas. Any special rediscovered loves (of any kind) you want to share?

Mallory Kane

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Memorable Christmas Performances

How about that? I managed to get some form of memory in my blog post title to go along with my upcoming Feb. Intrigue, Circumstantial Memories. But that's not really what my post is all about.

To counter Tracy’s bah humbug, albeit very funny, posts about the worst Christmas songs ever, I thought I’d open the discussion to the best Christmas performances ever. You’ll come to see that I mean “performances” in a very loose way.

I think my favorite performance of the Christmas season is The Nutcracker ballet. I grew up in northern California, and my dad took me and my sisters to see The Nutcracker performed by the San Francisco Ballet at the War Memorial Opera House several times. I loved it – the colors, the costumes, the ginormous Christmas tree, the music! Now that I live in southern California, I still try to catch performances of The Nutcracker here and there. I have two boys, and I took them to see it last year. Despite several smirks and sniggers about men in tights, I think they liked it. They were already familiar with the music since I play it a lot during the Christmas season – I even break out in dance now and then – talk about smirks and sniggers!

Another Christmas performance I enjoy during the season is the Glory of Christmas at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, replete with live animals and angels flying above on wires. The music is wonderful and the Crystal Cathedral itself is amazing (picture on the right).

On a much smaller scale, my older son’s middle school choir (he insists he’s only in it for the easy A and all the girls – at least there are no tights involved) performed at a church along with the high school choir. Since I used to be in performing choir in high school, it brought back fond memories. It was also a sing-along. The words to some of the Christmas carols were projected on a screen, so I was in heaven singing carols in between the choirs’ performances.

OK, so that’s music and dance. There are tons of great Christmas movies and TV shows. I watched one of my favorite Christmas movies the other day – Love Actually. If you haven’t seen it, it’s made up of about ten different stories about couples and wannabe couples during Christmas. My favorites are the one with Hugh Grant as the Prime Minister and the story with Colin Firth as a jilted lover, who heads to the south of France to write after the break-up with his girlfriend (he writes murder mysteries!). The scene where the Prime Minister is going door to door on Christmas Eve in a “dodgy” part of town looking for a former employee is classic Hugh Grant. And when the Colin Firth character returns to find his housekeeper at a restaurant with her family and almost the entire town following him it is both hilarious and heart-warming – brings tears to my eyes every time. I also enjoyed Fred Claus last year and Elf and all the oldies.

I don’t often see one of my favorite Christmas TV specials from when I was a kid. It’s A Christmas Carol, but it’s the cartoon version with Mr. Magoo as Scrooge. It was scary and funny and made quite an impression on me when I was a kid. Please tell me someone else remembers that version!

The best Christmas show ever though has to be the one I performed on my own. I think I was about 11 or 12, and I played a few Christmas songs on my flute, recited "‘Twas the Night Before Christmas," and sang some Christmas carols. I performed in the living room of our house for my family…and I charged them something like a dollar each for admission! One of my sisters refused to pay because she wasn’t interested in seeing the show, but my dad paid for her and made her watch. LOL It was very dramatic as I performed in front of the lighted Christmas tree. Hmm, I wonder if my siblings remember that and if it ranks among their favorite Christmas performances ever.

So what are some of your favorite performances for the season? Mine pretty much range from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Don’t forget, I’ll choose one poster to receive an autographed copy of either The Stranger and I or A Doctor-Nurse Encounter or if you want to wait until Feb., you can receive a copy of Circumstantial Memories, or heck, if you're looking for a red hot Christmas you can request one of my Mia Varano titles.
Happy Holidays!

Carol Ericson

Monday, December 22, 2008


Imagine my surprise, when, upon finishing my blog for tomorrow, I realized it was for today...sorry, sorry, and surely someone will comment...

I’m not sure how I lucked out–or whether or not I am lucky–but I’ve managed to “write Christmas” for three out of the last four years—RED CARPET CHRISTMAS, WOLF MOON AND CHRISTMAS DELIVERY. And one of my first Intrigues published twenty years ago was CRIMSON HOLIDAY followed by its sequel CRIMSON NIGHTMARE a few years later.

Of course, being that these are all Harlequin Intrigues, ornaments aren’t the only red things in these books. So how does an author who writes romantic suspense approach a novel set at Christmas? How—and why—is combining love and murder during the holidays appealing?

I approached both of the CRIMSON books with a little tongue in cheek—hey, what if I killed Santa Claus? Could I use a little humor, kill him cleverly? Now you might think I have something against Santa, or against Christmas, but I don’t. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday (Halloween running a close second), and Santa is such a great, colorful icon, it actually gave me the giggles to kill him twice for those two romantic mysteries.

As Intrigue matured, writers were asked to put more emphasis on the romance and therefore on the emotions between the couples. And Christmas can be a very emotional time when meeting with loved ones, especially when those loved ones have been parted for years. I actually didn’t think of that connection when sitting down to write this blog, but all three other books–RED CARPET CHRISTMAS, WOLF MOON, CHRISTMAS DELIVERY–have that theme of reuniting loved ones.

I hope you have all our Christmas offerings stacked to read by the fire during the holidays. Whether or not you do, why do you like reading stories that combine crime and Christmas?

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good romantic suspense novel tonight...

Patricia Rosemoor

If you haven't seen the trailer for A Holiday Mystery at Jenkins Cove, which includes Rebecca York's and Ann Voss Peterson's books in addition to CHRISTMAS DELIVERY, check it out!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

MORE Worst. Christmas Carols. Ever. (2008 version)

As anyone who read my December 9th post on this blog will recall, my brother Tom and I have made an annual tradition of venting about musical artists who mangle beloved Christmas carols--or just create really bad ones in the first place. As promised, here's our all-new Christmas Carol Hall of Shame for 2008. Enjoy!

TOM: My first pick this year is Extreme, “Christmas Time Again.” I don’t even know where this one came from. I have no clue why Extreme thought that they needed to make a Christmas song. It is dripping with sap, complete with the piano. You guys got one break with “More Than Words,” but this takes it over the top. Since these guys are from Massachusetts, I will give this song a "Wicked Awful." Plus, no matter what anyone says, Gary Cherone was NEVER in Van Halen.

TRACY: Ooooooooh. I hadn’t heard that one yet, so I just went and checked it out on iTunes. Ow. And why do some songwriters automatically think that if the lyrics rhyme, they’re all brilliantly high-brow? This one sounds like a Hallmark “Just How I Feel” card set to music. Can somebody pass the insulin?

“In the morning, I see you smile. It only lasts a little while."

This song I would really like to file. In a great big, nasty, steaming pile….

Extreme, if you want to make a comeback (I know—not bloody likely, but let’s pretend a Christmas miracle is pending.), butchering Christmas music isn’t the way to do it. Ay.

My first pick for the year is Michael Bolton, “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland.” Nothing fills me with the urge to drop a CD in my driveway and run it over repeatedly with my car like hearing Michael Bolton’s affected voice squeezing Every! Last! Drop! Of! Drama! from the world’s most beloved holiday carols. This year’s debacle is “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland,” with its pseudo-jazz whiny saxophones and those constipated swoops this guy does with his voice.

I loathe Michael Bolton. And this song! This song is so overwrought, it sounds like he’s singing about walkin’ in a winter wonderland with cancer, right after someone killed his puppy and ran off with his girlfriend. Mr. Bolton, meet Mr. Connick Jr., who so totally SCHOOLS you, you ought to just hang up your sheet music in shame and go sing vacuum cleaner jingles on local access cable. Seriously, stop, dude. Just stop.

TOM: At least we can snicker at the fact that he thought he was relevant again by re-hooking up with Nicolette Sheridan and then realizing that people think that she looks like a man and bailing on that. Moo hoo.

TRACY: Mean! Poor Nicolette Sheridan! On behalf of my brother, I apologize to every woman who ever lived. And aged.

TOM: Next is “O Come O Come Emmanuel” by Enya. Help! I am trapped in Narnia! Either that, or I am in a slow-motion sequence in one of the Lord of the Rings movies.

I feel like I should be scared listening to this. I like haunting Christmas carols, but this one gives me the willies. Plus, Enya sounds like a pump organ in this. Or is that a real pump organ?

TRACY: I like Enya! But I agree, this one is a little on the weird side. Second for me is “Mary Did You Know?” by anyone. This song is so cloying. But that’s not my biggest beef with it. That would be lyrics like this one: “Mary, did you know that your baby boy is lord of all creation?”

I’m just taking a stab here, but after receiving a prediction from her cousin Elizabeth, a VISIT from an ARCHANGEL, a giant star floating over her head for days on end, three kings visiting her in a freaking stable, and a heavenly choir of cherubim and seraphim singing in the sky shortly after she gave birth, I’m guessing that she does, Captain Obvious.

TOM: Yes! Totally agree! The version by Clay Aiken is especially bad. I don't know if he sings it or not, but Michael W. Smith would also make this a love-to-hate song. I don't want to listen to a Christmas carol from a guy that makes me feel that I am going to hell because I don't thrust my arm up in church and show everyone how hard I pray.

TRACY: But if you thrust your arms up and sway in a church where no one else EVER does that, it means you’re holier than the rest of the heathens surrounding you. Surely you knew that? (Mom is going to kill us for that one, because she'll know exactly who we're talking about. Sorry, Mom!)

TOM: “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” by Jimmy Boyd. An alleged classic …

TRACY: Totally alleged.

TOM: … this song makes me want to stick chopsticks into my ears as far as possible and start scrambling. I am sure (at least I hope) that Jimmy was a young lad when he made this, but he sounds like a cross of a Munchkin, the leprechaun, and that old lady that you used to do yard work for and she would give you two quarters for five hours of work. Plus, I just hate this song overall. Is mommy having an affair with Santa? Does mommy have some sick ... wait, I will stop there. This is probably a PG site.

TRACY: As I noted last year with “Santa Baby,” sexualizing Santa is just nasty. Plus, you KNOW that child is scarred for life, and that totally kills the holiday spirit.

Hmmmm. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, and It Turned Me Into a Serial Killer.” Has an intriguing (Pun alert!) ring to it. It’d HAVE to be better than the original!

How about “Please Come Home for Christmas” by the Eagles? Probably the single most narcoleptic holiday song in existence today. The relentless rimshot on EVERY fourth beat. The endless funeral dirge of a melody. The sleepy hoarseness of Don Henley’s voice. It all makes me want to—zzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Get this off my car radio before I accidentally lapse into a coma, run off the road, and haplessly plunge into a retention pond. And for all of those die-hard Eagles fans out there, I hate “Hotel California” with the white-hot fiery passion of a thousand suns, too, so feel free to go to the comments and BRING IT.

TOM: Nothing says Christmas like a bunch of guys who hate each other with a white-hot fiery passion singing about Christmas. I think that zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oops--I just fell asleep thinking about it.

TRACY: Speaking of funeral dirges, who was the genius who came up with “The 12 Days of Christmas?” I swear, just hearing that relentlessly cheerful holiday-death-march of a song gives me a migraine. Trying to sing it would probably land me in the hospital.

TOM: “You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch” by Manheim Steamroller. I like the original song …

TRACY: Boris Karloff, baby!

TOM: … and I like Manheim Steamroller, but these should not go together. Hey, I like peanut butter and I like chocolate, but they shouldn't ... oh wait. Anyway, this song to me is the equivalent of dancing on someone's grave--you just don't go there.

TRACY: I feel like I’ve entered Electronica Hell every time I hear it. My three-year-old Marin likes to turn to me whenever she has a slightly controversial action plan in her head (i.e. swan diving off the couch or smacking her sister in the head) and say, “Good idea, or bad idea?” I would have to say, “BAD IDEA, MANHEIM STEAMROLLER! VERY BAD IDEA!”

Oh, and I can’t forget Bob Seger’s version of “Little Drummer Boy.” I am such a sap that generally, hearing just the first few seconds of “The Little Drummer Boy” is enough to make me choke up and get all farklempt. (“He played his little drum! It was all he had! He did his best! *SOB!*” ) But when I heard Bob Seger’s version the other day, I started to cry for a whole new reason. Absolutely purgatorial.

Seger could give Michael Bolton a few lessons in musical melodrama. “RRRRRRAH-pah-pum-PUUUUUEEEEEUUUUUEEEEEUUUUMMMMM!” At least he added an electric guitar for originality, although that still didn’t save this mess.

Honestly, if Mr. Seger isn’t singing about taking those old records off his shelf, I have no time for him.

TOM: I totally get a great visual of Bob cutting this in the studio in July. He has his arm slightly extended in front of him, hand balled into a fist, eyes closed, neck straining. He finishes the song and there is silence in the room. Bob falls to his knees, the producer rushes in and tells him how touched he was by that. Hork!

Right there the producer should have really said what he thought: “Sorry, Bob, just sing songs about trucking. By the way, I put my pants on the same as you. The only difference is once my pants are on, I make gold records! You are going to want that cowbell in there!"

TRACY: That, ladies and gentlemen, is an obscure Saturday Night Live reference—the cowbell/Blue Oyster Cult skit featuring Christopher Walken. Tommy and I have a ton of these. In fact, we use them so often as verbal shorthand, I think SNL is our own language of twins. Except we’re not actually twins.

TOM: “Silver Bells” by Kenny G.

TRACY: UGH! Anything by Kenny G.! Is he really playing the saxophone, or did he just figure out how to force an air horn to make music?

TOM: I always think of the good byes on SNL when I hear this song. "I had fun hosting Saturday Night Live! Thanks to the cast! The crew! Special thanks to musical guest No Doubt!" And Kenny G's hair. Ugh.

TRACY: Total ugh. Tell you what. You grab his saxophone and bury it at sea, and I’ll put a metal bucket on his head and clang it with a spoon until the urge to make “music” and inflict it on the masses leaves him.

TOM: I guess this is good to listen to when I am waiting at the dentist's office or in a 25- person line at the post office to mail boxes to Florida. Good times!

TRACY: Yay! Presents for me! Anyway, next up: Carrie Underwood, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” Actually, it’s HORK, the Herald Angels’ Eardrums Bleed When They Hear You Sing This Song, Carrie Underwood!

Now I like Carrie Underwood. She seems like a very nice girl who isn’t busy flashing the free world or running from bar to bar w ith cocaine goobers in her nose. Great, great voice, too. She wants to sing about dragging her key on the side of some jerk’s pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive, I’m totally there.

But her version of this song blows. In fact, let the record show that any Christmas carol with a country twang just needs to be thrown into a supercollider and spun into protons and electrons that can float freely away.

Christmas carol + country twang = Tracy taking a screwdriver and a tire iron to her radio.

TOM: I am going to say that I like this song because I know that you and our brother Troy hate her. Yes, I voted for her on American Idol and I stick by my pick! You sing, Carrie! You sing and don't let the detractors get to you!

TRACY: I don’t hate her! I just liked Bo Bice better on that particular season of American Idol, but she’s really stepped up her stage presence, which was her biggest weakness back in the day. You just like to brag because you got that Idol winner right, Mr. “But I LIKE Anwar!”

TOM: Boney M., “Mary's Boy Child/Oh My Lord.” This wins the award for Biggest Train Wreck of the Holiday Season. Where do I start with them? First, these guys are from West Germany, but this is a calypso song. What?!

Next, their really lame band name. Are you supposed to wonder if it stands for Boney Maroney or something else? Are they trying to be hip with the shorthand or something? Do I really care?


BTW, they also have another one called “Hooray! Hooray! It’s Holi- Holi-day!” that is perhaps even worse. Not only is it set to a horrifying calypso beat, but then they insert a veritable plethora of “heidi-heidi-hos” in there. Which are both annoying and deeply insulting to anyone named Heidi.

In the name of all that is holy, these people need to be stopped. Where’s Ironman when you need him?

I know I carped about it last year, but this one is so bad, it deserves a repeat: “Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey” by Lou Monte. It’s been a year since I last heard it, and I have to say, this one still sucks more than any single piece of music in the history of the planet. I dare you to listen to this and not be going “Da-da-dat-dat! HEEEEEEE-awwwwwww! HEEEEEE-awwwwww!” through your nose for the rest of the day.

Not only is this not a productive use of my time, it’s also almost enough to make me run screaming to the doctor to beg for some lobotomizing drug that will make it all go away. This song is the devil.

TOM: I came up with a sequel! Dominic becomes Elmer's Glue! Sorry to my friends in PETA, but I can't handle this.

TRACY: Poor Dominic! He didn’t ask to have an abysmal song dedicated in his honor. How do I know that? Because donkeys can’t talk, that’s how!

TOM: Well, how about Lou Monte becomes Elmer's Glue?

TRACY: I can live with that.

TOM: Finally, I pick the new Christmas Album by Tony Bennett. It is over Tony. You had a great resurgence thanks to Unplugged back in the 90s and parlayed that into some great casino gigs, but now it is time to fade away.

TRACY: HEY! I love Tony Bennett! You can’t do that! Picking on Tony Bennett is sick and wrong!

TOM: Well, I am probably harboring some ill will from the last time I saw him. He was performing in Minneapolis at the sales conference of my previously employer--also known as "The big-box bullseye retailer who must not be named." Anyway, he starts saying "I love this town. Every time I come to this town, I enjoy myself. I love the people, the food. What a great town that you live in." And I wanted to scream "What town is it? Do you know where you are?! Minneapolis! Minneapolis, dammit!”

Where's Padme? Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

TRACY: We are so totally having words when I get up to Minneapolis for Christmas. I was going to let you finish us off, but I’m going to have to pick another trainwreck song, because I can’t let this end by lambasting a LIVING LEGEND who HAPPENS TO BE EIGHTY-TWO and so should be excused for forgetting where he is. At least he remembered the lyrics. And he still sounds awesome.

Anyway, my final picks are: Bruce Springsteen singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." This song just sounds like the Boss is having digestive issues. I'm surprised the E Street Band actually played through this mess without stopping to offer him a Pepto Bismol or at least a cold cloth for his forehead. Honestly, I always think he's about to burst a blood vessel.

And last and least is Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.” I’m not a big Mariah Carey fan. She acts like the crazy hootchie at the PTA meetings who dresses in skirts with inappropriate hemlines and throws herself at your husband when she thinks you’re not looking. I can’t seem to separate her from her music, so I hate this song.

Yes, I know, it’s #1 on iTunes. You people are all insane.

TOM: This song being number 1 on iTunes reinforces my opinion that people should be more carefully screened before they can drive, vote, and have children.


TOM: Although, she was also one of the top TRL moments of all time for her meltdown. I can put up with the awful Christmas music if we keep getting the train wrecks. Ms. Spears! You are up next!

TRACY: But she had to go and “get better” on us. Sheesh.

Although Jayne on eHarlequin just told me Jessica Simpson has a new Christmas album called “Rejoyce.” And as Jayne so brilliantly asked, “Who is Joyce?” I think we’ll have to give it a listen for next year.

Also, JV on eHarlequin sent me this little gem on YouTube, called “I F-rted on Santa’s Lap.” Which is so revolting, I think all mall Santas across the country should be given legal permission by the Supreme Court to drop kick any child OFF their laps whose manners are this bad. And then open up a can of Dr. Phil on any parents who condone this sort of behavior with their egregious lack of discipline and refusal to instill consequences for public rudeness. UGH!

There’s also some talk on about some kids singing about wanting a hippo for Christmas, but I decided we should save that one until next year, too, because I just can’t take anymore of this.

Until then, may your radio deejays have the wherewithal to not inflict you with these abominations this holiday season!

P.S. If you'd like proof that Tom and I actually really, secretly love Christmas music, we posted the 2008 version of our Best. Christmas Carols. Evah. on eHarlequin. (I won't be blogging anymore in December, hence the link.) Happy holiday!

Tracy Montoya
I'LL BE WATCHING YOU, 2008 nominee for Romantic Times Best Intrigue

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Traditions? Well...

Someone recently asked me if my family had any Christmas traditions. I wanted so badly to say yes, but the truth is, we really don't. It's odd, really, given that my family is pretty traditional. Conservative, even. But when it came to celebrations, we just weren't that good at them.

Looking back, I think there were probably several factors that contributed to our lack of celebratory skills. My parents grew up in the Depression, in rural Alabama. Both came from large families who had to struggle to make ends meet, my mother's side even more than my father's side. Celebrations may have seemed like luxuries to them, financially speaking. Also, my parents were both largely homebodies. They didn't get a lot out of parties and socializing, so we just didn't do much of it, even as a family. Birthdays were noted, we generally received presents, but other than a party or two when we were kids, we didn't do much to celebrate, other than buy a cake and have a piece after dinner.

Christmas was probably our biggest celebration of the year, for a lot of reasons. My family is religious, so the spiritual aspect of the day was important to us. And as kids, of course, we loved the presents. But we didn't have a real ritual to the season, like putting up the Christmas tree at the same time every year, or visiting the same relatives every year, or anything that structured. How we celebrated Christmas often depended on what kind of mood we were in that year. So rather than a string of Christmas traditions, I have a string of Christmas memories instead, disjointed, often distant, yet nevertheless experiences that have stuck with me over the span of time.

One of my most lasting Christmas memories happened when I was fifteen. My father was the kind of man who didn't let things like laws get in the way of saving a few bucks. Rather than going to a Christmas tree farm that year, he decided to procure the tree from the roadside somewhere. So in he and my brother came, dragging something that would have made Charlie Brown's Christmas tree look classy in comparison. It was basically a sapling, best I can tell, with short, sharp needles spiking every branch. It was four times as tall as it was wide, so spindly that my mother had to sew the top of the tree to the curtains to keep it standing upright. My mother, my sister and I laughed at that tree so much it probably had a complex.

But the tree got the last laugh. For long after the tree was gone, we were stepping on those short, piercing needles it had shed into the carpet, and no amount of vacuuming could spare us.

I've had prettier Christmas trees. I've had much bigger ones. But that pitiful little Christmas tree is the one I'll remember for the rest of my life.

Come to think of it, we do tell that tree story every year around Christmas time. So maybe we do have a tradition after all.

Paula Graves

Friday, December 19, 2008

'Twas the Night Before an Intrigue Xmas

OK, so it's actually several nights before Christmas, but since it's not my day to blog on the 24th, I'm subjecting you to my poetry today.

Yes, poetry.

Let me warn you all, I am, quite possibly, the world’s worst poet. It pains me greatly that one of my "poems" actually appeared in my college literary magazine in all it’s bitter, purple, deep-and-misunderstood glory. Copies of it are still Out There, and sometimes I imagine my old classmates digging copies of it out of dusty old boxes, then turning in my direction and pointing and laughing. Hard.

But even terrible poets have their moments sometimes. To help us get into the holiday spirit, I’m sharing a poem I wrote awhile back that isn't all bad, with assistance from and major apologies to the late Clement Moore.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

’Twas the night before Christmas,
And all through the house,
Not a page got written;
Didn’t even touch my mouse.

My journal was placed
By the table with care,
But I don’t care to open it,
So it’s just sitting there.

My opening is weak,
My love scene is sap,
So instead of revising,
I’m taking a nap.

When out by my mailbox
There arose such a clatter,
I turned off Oprah
And rose to see what was the matter.

Away to the doorway
I flew in a flash,
Jammed a cap on my bedhead and called,
"I’m sorry! I’ll give you cash!"

The mailman was sitting
In the new-fallen snow,
My dog Zelda chewing on his ankle,
While he shrieked, "Dear God, no!"

When what to my wondering
Eyes should appear,
But a letter from Harlequin
About my proposal so dear.

And the papers inside
Made it thin and not thick;
I knew in a moment
It would make me quite sick.

The rejection, more rapid than eagles it came,
And I screamed, and I stomped,
And called the editor a bad name.

"Darn opening lines! Darn characters!
Darn plots I keep fixin’!
Blast scene-and-sequel! Darn fonts!
Oh, that editor is a vixen!

"To the top of the stairs!
Throw my computer from the wall!
Shred my manuscript, toss my journal,
Kick my monitor down the hall!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the housetop in my bathrobe I flew,
With my hard drive, my printer, and my new scanner, too.

And then in a twinkling,
They all bounced off the roof,
And landed on the ground
In a sad little poof.

As I came down the stairs
And was turning around,
Down the sidewalk little Zelda
Came with a bound.

With snow in her fur,
From her head to her foot,
And my letter in her mouth
Covered with doggie drool and soot.

The mailman in haste
Had flung on his pack,
And was running in terror
Without looking back.

Zelda’s eyes, how they twinkled!
Her fangs grinning, how merry!
I took the envelope from her mouth,
And she went to chew on my neighbor Terry.

I unfolded the letter,
Read the contents below,
And my face must’ve looked
Just as white as the snow.

"Dear Tracy," I read as I gritted my teeth.
"How I loved your proposal!
The book to us you must bequeath!

"Your three chapters were perfect,
Your synopsis better than the telly.
I would rather read your book
Than eat chocolate, peanut butter, or jelly."

My novel was gone,
The disks thrown off the shelf.
And I laughed bitterly at my new junk pile,
In spite of myself.

I spoke not a word,
But went straight to my work,
And swept up the pieces
While calling myself a jerk.

And keeping keeping my eyes
Focused firmly on my toes,
I tried to keep from crying
And blowing my nose.

I trudged up the porch steps,
To Zelda gave a whistle,
And she ran to me,
With a disk in her mouth, like a missile.

I exclaimed and I clapped
When the label was in sight. ...

It was the last copy of my novel.
And the disk was all right.

Tracy Montoya
I'LL BE WATCHING YOU --2008 Romantic Times nominee for Best Intrigue

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I'm sick as a dog so instead of trying to come up with a blurry-eyed post that you, believe me, wouldn't want to read, I decided to post an excerpt of my Dec. release, TALL, DARK & LETHAL. Hope everyone is ducking all the winter bugs with more success than I am. Anyone affected by the snow storms? Have a wonderful, healthy day! --Dana Marton

He would kill a man before the day was out. And— God help him—Cade Palmer hoped this would be the last time.

He'd done the job before and didn't like the strange heaviness that settled on him. Not guilt or second thoughts—he'd been a soldier too long for that. But still, something grim and somber that made little sense, especially today. He'd been waiting for this moment for months. Today he would put an old nightmare to rest and fulfill a promise.

In an hour, Abhi would hand him information on David Smith's whereabouts, and there was no place on earth he couldn't reach by the end of the day. He'd hire a private jet if he had to. Whatever it took. Before the sun comes up tomorrow, David Smith will be gone.

He headed up the stairs to his cell phone as it rang on his nightstand. Wiping the last of the gun oil on his worn jeans, he crossed into his bedroom. He was about to reach for the phone when he caught sight of the unmarked van parked across the road from his house.

The van hadn't been there thirty minutes ago. Nor had he seen it before. He made it his business to pay attention to things like that. At six in the morning on Saturday, his new suburban Pennsylvania neighborhood was still asleep, the small, uniform yards deserted. Nothing was out of place—except the van, which made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

The only handgun he kept inside the house—a SIG P228—was downstairs on the kitchen table in pieces, half-cleaned. He swore. Trouble had found him once again—par for the course in his line of work. Just because he was willing to let go of his old enemies—except David Smith—didn't mean they were willing to let go of him.

"Happy blasted retirement," he said under his breath as he turned to get the rifle he kept in the hallway closet. From the corner of his eye, he caught movement. The rear door of the van inched open, and with a sick sense of dread, he knew what he was going to see a split second before the man in the back was revealed, lifting a grenade launcher to his shoulder.

Instinct and experience. Cade had plenty of both and put them to good use, shoving the still-ringing phone into his back pocket as he lunged for the hallway.

Had he been alone in the house, his plan would have been simple: get out and make those bastards rue the day they were born. But he wasn't alone, which meant he had to alter his battle plan to include grabbing the most obnoxious woman in the universe—aka his neighbor, who lived in the other half of his duplex— and dragging her from the kill zone.

He darted through his bare guest bedroom and busted open the door that led to the small balcony in the back, crashing out into the muggy August morning. Heat, humidity and birdsong.

At least the birds in the jungle knew when danger was afoot. These twittered on, clueless. Proximity to civilization dulled their instincts. And his. He should have known that trouble was coming before it got here. Should have removed himself to some cabin in the woods, someplace with a warning system set up and an arsenal at his fingertips, a battleground where civilians wouldn't have been endangered. But he was where he was, so he turned his thoughts to escape and evasion as he moved forward.

Bailey Preston's half of the house was the mirror image of his, except that she used the back room for her bedroom. Cade vaulted over her balcony, kicked her new French door open and zeroed in on the tufts of cinnamon hair sticking out from under a pink, flowered sheet on a bed that took up most of her hot-pink bedroom. Beneath the mess of hair, a pair of blue-violet eyes were struggling to come into focus. She blinked at him like a hungover turtle. Her mouth fell open but no sound came out. Definitely a first.

He strode forward without pause.

"What are you doing here? Get away from me!"

She'd woken up in that split second it took him to reach her bed and was fairly shrieking. She was good at that—she'd been a thorn in his side since he'd moved in. She was pulling the sheet to her chin, scampering away from him, flailing in the tangled covers. "Don't you touch me. You, you—"

He unwrapped her with one smooth move and picked her up, ignoring the pale-purple silk shorts and tank top. So Miss Clang-and-Bang had a soft side. Who knew?

"Don't get your hopes up. I'm just getting you out."

She weighed next to nothing but still managed to be an armful. Smelled like sleep and sawdust, with a faint hint of varnish thrown in. Her odd scent appealed to him more than any coy, flowery perfume could have. Not that he was in any position to enjoy it. He tried in vain to duck the small fists pounding his shoulders and head, and gave thanks to God that her nephew, who'd been vacationing with her for the first part of summer, had gone back to wherever he'd come from. Dealing with her was all he could handle.

"Are you completely crazy?" She was actually trying to poke his eyes out. "I'm calling the police. I'm calling the police right now!"

She was possibly more than he could handle, although that macho sense of vanity that lived deep down in every man made it hard for him to admit that, even as her fingers jabbed dangerously close to his irises in some freakish self-defense move she must have seen on TV.

"You might want to hang on." He was already out of the room. Less than ten seconds had passed since he'd seen the guy in the van. "And try to be quiet." He stepped up to the creaking balcony railing and jumped before it could give way under their combined weight.

She screamed all the way down and then some, giving no consideration to his eardrums whatsoever. Once upon a time, he'd worked with explosives on a regular basis. He knew loud. She was it.

He swore at the pain that shot up his legs as they crashed to the ground, but he was already pushing away with her over his shoulder and running for cover in the maze of Willow Glen duplexes in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.

Unarmed. In the middle of freaking combat.

He didn't feel fear—just unease. He was better than this. He'd always had a sixth sense that let him know when his enemies were closing in. It wasn't like him to get lulled into complacency.

"Are you trying to kill us? Are you on drugs? Listen. To. Me. Try to focus." She grabbed his chin and turned his face to hers. "I am your neighbor."

He kept the house between him and the tangos in the van, checking for any indication of danger waiting for them ahead. No movement on the rooftops. If there was a sniper, he was lying low. Cade scanned the grass for wire trips first, then for anything he could use as a makeshift weapon. He came up with nada.

"Put me down!" She fought him as best she could, a hundred and twenty pounds of wriggling fury. "Don't do this! Whatever you think you are doing, I know you are going to regret it."

He did already.

"Are you crazy?"

He could get there in a hurry. He put his free hand on her shapely behind to hold her in place. Smooth skin, lean limbs, dangerous curves. He tried not to grope more than was absolutely necessary. Yeah, she could probably make him do a couple of crazy things without half trying. But they had to get out of the kill zone first.

"Let me go! Listen, let me—"

They were only a dozen or so feet from the nearest duplex when his home—and hers—finally blew.

That shut her up.

He dove forward, into the cover of the neighbor's garden shed. They went down hard, and he rolled on top of her, protecting her from the blast, careful to keep most of his weight off. The second explosion came right on the heels of the first. It shook the whole neighborhood.

That would be the C4 he kept in the safe in his garage.


"What—was—that?" Her blue-violet eyes stared up at him, her voice trembling, her face the color of lemon sherbet.

There were days when she looked like a garden fairy in her flyaway, flower-patterned clothes with a mess of cinnamon hair, petite but well-rounded body, big violet eyes and the cutest pixie nose he'd ever seen on a woman. She had no business being wrapped in silk in his arms, looking like a frightened sex kitten as he lay on top of her.

Her fear quickly turned to rage, unfortunately.

"What did you do?" Her tone was a good reminder that even when she did look like a fairy, she wasn't the "flit from flower to flower" kind found in children's books. She was more like the angry fairies in Irish folktales, the kind that throw thunderbolts from their eyes and put wicked curses on men.

Just like her to blame him for the slightest thing that went wrong around the house. She had blamed him for the molehills the week before. Supposedly, he'd used the kind of lawn fertilizer that attracted the little bastards.

"You blew up the house?" Her full mouth really did lose all attractiveness when it went tight with anger. A shame.Okay, so he did have a small collection of explosives left over from previous missions. Not that he was going to mention the C4 to her just now. Or ever. She was about the least understanding person he knew, with a tendency to harp on people's mistakes. His, anyway.

And he hadn't made any mistakes here, dammit. The C4 had been secured. He was retired at a secret location—or so he thought. The last thing he'd expected was a grenade blasting through his house.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Things to get done before Christmas

Most people have a list of things to get done by Christmas that include some of the following:
Buy a present for Mom
Buy a present for spouse
Hang the stockings
Decorate the tree
Hang the outside lights
Make fudge
Bake cookies
Distribute cookies to neighbors and friends

You get the idea.

I asked for a new kitchen for Christmas so my list of things to get done before Christmas looks more like this:

Empty all the drawers and cabinets
Pick up gift cards for the in-laws on way to Lowe's for sandpaper, varnish and stain
Remove all the drawers and doors
Stop by granite place and order countertops
sand base cabinets
Buy gifts for daughter's family stationed in Guam
sand doors and drawers (24 more doors to go!)
Go to post office to mail gifts to Guam on way to Lowes for tile for backsplash
Order appliances
Install appliances
Remind self to get gifts for youngest daughter and son
rip out old counters
remind self to get gifts for youngest daughter and son
install granite (still waiting for the granite people)
Icy weather stalls sanding of doors for cabinets (Still 24 to go...)
Christmas is really soon and I don't have gifts for Mom and Dad, daughter and son
Tree is NOT up and won't be
House is a disaster and son is coming on Christmas Eve.
Haven't written a page in over a month!

What was I thinking? Remodeling my kitchen at Christmas? Insane!

What was the craziest thing you've filled your time with at Christmas? Share with me and I'll pick a winner from one of the lucky commenters!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


When you write romantic suspense, you want the reader to fall in love with the hero. He has to be sexy and appealing. Not necessarily wildly handsome. But he’s got to have something that will connect strongly with the reader.

The other major male character in the story is often the villain. And you’ve got more leeway with him. He can be handsome or downright ugly. He can be charming or grating. He can be outwardly friendly to the h/h or outwardly hostile.

But you’re walking a fine line with this guy. (Usually he IS male, although you can have some very compelling female villains.) If you make him pure evil, then he’s going to be less interesting to the reader. Still, you want the reader to be rooting for his downfall.

I try to give my villains a background that helps the reader understand how they got so bad. I think one of the best examples of this is the killer in Thomas Harris’s RED DRAGON. He had a harelip and a speech impediment, so the kids made fun of him when he was little. And he was raised by (I think) a grandmother who was absolutely horrible to him. In the middle of the book, when he has a love affair with an innocent woman, you’re half hoping that he can go away and have a happy life with her, even when you know that’s going to be impossible.

Right now, I’m writing a Berkley book with a powerful bad guy who had a miserable childhood which makes you understand exactly why he turned out the way he did. The hard part here is that–um–how can I say this without giving away the secret of this book? He’s going to be the hero of another book. So I’m walking a fine line with him. He has to be bad enough to make a formidable enemy now. Then the reader has to understand how he gets rehabilitated. It’s an interesting challenge.

Which brings me to the question–what do you want to see in a villain? And how do you feel about a villain ending up being the hero of another book?


Monday, December 15, 2008

Looking Back, Looking Forward

I received an early Christmas present last week when I learned my first Intrigue, STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT, has been nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for Best First Series Romance. To celebrate, today's winner will receive a copy of the book. All you have to do is comment to be entered to win. (And a big THANK YOU to everyone who's already taken the time to read it and/or my second Intrigue, BEAUTIFUL STRANGER.)

The nomination was a nice way to close what’s been an interesting year, with its share of highs and lows, triumphs and struggles. Of course, the year’s not entirely over—a good thing considering I have another deadline coming up! As exciting as it was to see my first two books published in 2008, next year promises even more excitement ahead. I’m currently scheduled to have three more books out, as Intrigue publishes the final three stories in the Stranger series.

In April, an unexpected pregnancy turns a woman into a target in A STRANGER'S BABY.

In July, a man marries a stranger to keep her safe, and they find themselves on the run with only each other to turn to in TRUSTING A STRANGER.

And finally, in October, a woman finds herself drawn to a mysterious drifter, and into a twenty-five-year-old murder mystery in STRANGER IN A SMALL TOWN.

I'll have more details to share when the release dates come closer. In the meantime, I'm hard at work finishing the books. (Hmmm...hope I'm not tempting fate and just asking to be hit by a bus before they're done by mentioning them ahead of time!). As a result, my brain is pretty fried and incapable of thinking of anything else, including a good blog topic for today, for which I apologize. In any case, thank you again to all the readers who've taken the time to read my books. I hope I've lived up to what you're looking for in an Intrigue and have the opportunity to do so again in the future. And to anyone who hasn't gotten to try one of my books and would like to, here's your chance.

Happy holidays, everybody!

Kerry Connor

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Creative inexpensive Christmas gift ideas

My daughter got the neatest Christmas gift from her nephews last night at our family Christmas get together. The boys had added pictures of themselves with neat sayings to pages inside a recipe book. Examples of sayings were: "Can you cook fish?" taped to a picture of one of them fishing on a page with a recipe for fried fish. The gift was the hit of the evening and they'd only used about two dozen snapshots scattered throughout the book.

Who else has a great idea for a creative, inexpensive gift?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Worst Christmas Gifts--EVER

No, I'm not talking about my new cover for my Jan. Intrigue. I LOVE it! But Tracy did a worst Christmas song list, and that got me thinking about other Christmas things--like gifts. I remember a friend saying one Christmas she'd once gotten a mop bucket filled with a plunger and clean-up rags from her father. He'd apparently heard her talk about some plumbing problems in her new apartment, and he thought this was the perfect gift. A year or two later, he gave her that tire inflater goo in a can.

So, I asked more friends--what's the worst Christmas gift you've ever
received, and here are some of the answers:

-measuring tape (my friend was a teenager at the time)
-brown and yellow argyle socks
-Zit cream
-panty hose (the friend is a guy)
-Cuticle Cutter
-Hot Water Heater
-nose hair clipper
-liquor decanter (given to a Baptist minister who doesn't drink)
-really gawdy fake diamond ring
-a size xxx-large robe for a petite woman who wears a small
-a vase that my friend had given as a gift the year before (in the
bottom on the box, it still had the original to and from gift tag)
-a jar of dirt collected from a vacation
-cheap perfume: while under the tree and still wrapped, it spilled and stank up all the other presents

So, what about you? Fess up. What's the worst gift you've ever received?

Friday, December 12, 2008

When Things Go Wrong

Last Friday, I hurt my knee. At the time I didn't know how bad it was—it had buckled a little Friday morning but I was able to get around without much pain, and since I have some arthritis in my knees, I'm used to a little pain. I got through Saturday without too much trouble as well.

By Sunday morning, however, it was clear that this was more serious than I thought. I could barely put any weight on the leg. The pain was excruciating. The whole joint was tight and swollen. Staying off work Monday, I got my doctor to work me in for an appointment.
As I waited for the appointment time to arrive, I went into my typical "worst case scenario" mode. What if something was broken? They'd have to do surgery and I'd be off work for weeks at a terrible time to be off work. I might even lose my job or something. Panic, panic, panic!

It was a great relief when my doctor reassured me that the knee seemed stable, which made him doubt anything was broken. He suggested staying off the leg for a week, applying moist heat and doing non-weight-bearing exercises. He also prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug to help bring the swelling down and give the knee room to heal.

It's now Friday, and I'm a lot better. The knee still hurts, but I can actually walk again. I think I'll be okay to go back to work on Monday. Crisis averted!

So what does that have to do with Harlequin Intrigues, you ask?

Well, as a writer, when something goes wrong in the book I'm writing, when it's a fine hot mess and I can't see my way out of the muck I've created, it doesn't take much to put me into full bore panic mode. I begin to doubt I'll ever be able to write a book again. I worry that I won't make deadline. I worry that even if I make deadline, it'll be such unmitigated crap that my editor will summarily dismiss me from her list.

But as it was with my knee, the worst case scenario really doesn't happen that often. Most of the time, the problem is a lot more manageable. And sometimes, when you work your way through the mess, you find newer, better solutions to the problems that have nagged you for a while. Now that I see how well my pain and swelling responded to the anti-inflammatory drug the doctor gave me, I'm thinking about asking him to add it to my list of prescription medicines to help alleviate some of my arthritis pain. I might not have discovered that particular solution if I hadn't sprained my knee in the first place.

In the same way, sometimes when we slow down, do the "therapeutic" things we need to do to deal with our writing messes, we learn how not only to fix the existing problem but to avoid other, more nagging problems with our writing. It could be as simple as finding a brainstorming trick to make better use of your planning time. Or finding a really good book that inspires you to think about your writing challenges from a different perspective.

So look at your next problem as a challenge, not a disaster, and see what you can learn from the experience.

Paula Graves

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Top 10 Excuses NOT to Write:

10. My cat wants me to play with her.
9. My friends want me to play with them.

8. I have to clean my house (heh-heh).
7. It's a gray day, and I need sun to be inspired.

6. I have a bunch of errands to run-and, oh, yeah, I need to work out.
5. I got a bad review and must do something fun first to get in the mood.
4. I really should catch up on promotion and update my website and blog-that's all writing, isn
't it?
3. I need to do my BlogMistress thing for Ninc-I'll schedule and launch a bunch of industry guest blogs that just arrived and do all the clean up work and then I'll be free to write. Right?
2. I need a nap-then I'll write.
1. I have writer's block.

Okay, I admit it. I never believed in writer's block, and I figured if I didn't believe in it, I wouldn't ever get it. If I got stuck, I would write a scene-any scene coming up-that came to me, just to get page count for the day. That always seemed to work. My brain would somehow fill in the missing pieces. Eventually. But slowly, the pressure of writing book after book (this is number 85), year after year, no let up for twenty-five years, has caught up to me and I find more and more excuses why I can't write on a particular day.

Though I've never been happy writing so fast, I have been known to complete a book in two months when I was really pressured because I got behind on another deadline or something unexpected came up in my personal life. I've now had two months on my current work in progress and barely have a hundred pages to show for it. Talk about frustrating. I have about six weeks to finish the other two thirds of the book and I'm trying not to panic. I actually like this book, but every time I start to work on it, I write a few pages and then blank out.

My former writing partner has a different take on my situation. She doesn't think it's true writer's block. She says that when things came crashing down in my life (usually meaning money issues that made me panic), I always had trouble writing. Well, aren't we all in a financial mess? Books are making less money for most of us. The financial markets crashed (there went my inheritance/retirement fund). And I just received notice that as of January, my health insurance will be $20,000. for 2009. 20K for one person! What a bite! Yes, I am stressed. Yes, I need some ME time.

Once I finish this manuscript, I'm determined to take my first real break from writing in twenty-five years. A break that I've promised myself for several years now. I'll teach my suspense-thriller class and hopefully become a student (if chosen) for the Master Gardener program. Whatever happens, for a couple of months, I will concentrate on anything else and hope that my muse will lure me back to happy and productive writing.

In the meantime, I need to deal with my current situation so I can turn in the best manuscript I can. I have to let go of the doom and gloom umbrella and let the sunshine and a sense of humor about it all come in. I'm brain-tired and need a break, so it's harder than usual to kickstart myself, but I do know the drill.

Top 10 Ideas for Beating Writer's Block:

10. Exercise-okay, I already do th
at, but I could add another day or two to my schedule.
9. Research to find plot points-hmm, considering how much of that I do, maybe that should go on the first list...

8. Have a talk with my characters to find out where they're at-so what if they refuse to talk back?
7. Add some fun activities to my life-well, that's part of the problem-I accomplish more when I eliminate everything but writing and need to make that my priority until I'm back on tr
ack-so what if it's the holidays?
6. Write scenes out of order-they may bring up plot points I need when I least expect it.

5. Brainstorm with writer friends whether or not I think my brain is ca
pable of responding-surely something will stick.
4. Change my writing location-I could renew my relationship with my local Starbu
3. Get off the computer-the Alphasmart Neo doesn't let me check my email or go off on those time-sucking research jags.

2. Write forward and get another couple chapters written before worrying about whether or not they work-I can always revise or rewrite.

1. Accept that the angst I've been experiencing has become part of my process-the getting ready to write-and believe that I'm about to step over the threshold and actually make it happen.

Posted by
Patricia Rosemoor

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Vegging on the Internet? Add a starch...

Hi Everyone,

My name is Kay Thomas and I’m a new author with Intrigue. My debut novel is being released next month and I’m very excited to be here. I hope everyone’s December is going well and that in the crazy, frenetic pace of the season you are able to slow down and relax a bit. In the interest of giving you a little break, I thought I’d introduce you to my favorite online game. I like it because it’s one with a worthy purpose and actually donates food to others as you play. It’s called Free Rice.

You may have seen this on the news a while back. It's a vocabulary game developed by an engineer helping his son study for the SAT. The UN receives donations of rice from site sponsors to feed the hungry for every word you define correctly. (20 grains of rice for every right answer) So…grab a cup of coffee, put your feet up and come play Free Rice with me. Let’s feed the world while improving our vocabulary.

Just click here:

Yes, it’s addictive. But you’re doing something positive with your down time, plus you’re improving your mind and….your heart! You can link to the Free Rice game on your website, blog, myspace or facebook page, too. Get other folks playing as well. The more people who play, the more rice that’s donated and the more people who are fed.

So come play and let’s see how much rice we can donate by the end of the month. It’s more challenging than it looks! You can set various options at the site that keep you building on the work you’ve done before. It also will pronounce the words for you. Very cool for a girl originally from Mississippi.

And for the rest of December, I thought we could have a little friendly competition. If you like, put your Free Rice total in your comments each day between now and the end of the month. (ex. FR 300) Let’s see how much rice we can donate in our…um…down time on the Internet. I’m blogging here on the 29th – so be sure to comment that day for another chance at a copy of BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF & post your final Free Rice totals.

Now for today I’m giving away the first copy of my debut release, BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF. Just tell me about your favorite guilty pleasure while you surf the Internet…Is it browsing eBay, playing on Facebook, spider solitaire? What do you do on the Internet when you need a break from work? Comeon, tell. No one else has to know…just us!

Tonight, I’ll randomly pick from the comments and post the winner.

Happy defining and Merry Christmas, y’all!

P.S. In the interest of giving you one more place to unwind from all the holiday busyness—We’re having a party! Tomorrow evening, December 11th, several Intrigue Authors are chatting live at’s Open House Holiday Chat from 9-10 pm EST. I’ve never been before, but I hear it is one wild time with door prizes and giveaways. So if you’re out and about Thursday night, drop by and say hello. We’re gonna have a blast. The address is:

posted by
Kay Thomas (FR 300)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Worst. Christmas Carols. Ever.

The past few Christmas seasons have birthed a new holiday tradition in my family. Back in 2006, I posted a short list of my favorite Christmas carols on my personal blog, and this prompted a passionate response by my brother Tom, who is generally quite Zen about everything in the universe BUT Christmas carols. Politicians have come and gone in his home state of Minnesota—home to the Larry Craig bathroom scandal, former WWE wrestler Jesse (the Body) Ventura turned Jesse (the Governor) Ventura, the Franken-Coleman recount, and so on. Does Tom get worked up about any of that? No. Tom gets worked up over what Christmas carols are on rotation on Sirius satellite radio. Yes, folks, he even writes them a letter annually to complain. It took one too many rounds of "Santa Baby" to turn my brother into an activist.

So long story short, when I posted my innocuous little list of holiday favorites back in 2006, Tom immediately fired off a lengthy email rebuttal lambasting me for my "egregious" omissions. In the spirit of family harmony, I posted his favorites to the blog that year, and the whole sorry deal turned into an annual tradition. Which immediately devolved into an annual blogging snarkfest over our least-favorite holiday carols, as well as our favorites.

Since we’re rather hilarious on my planet, and since this year’s edition isn’t out yet, I’m treating you to our "Best of the Worst" list of our least-favorite Christmas carols from the past couple of years. Enjoy!

TOM SAYS: My first and all-time top pick is "All I want for Christmas is You" by Vince Vance and the Valiants. What a train wreck. This one gets me worked up the minute I see the name flash on my Sirius screen. First of all, who are these idiots? I actually looked them up on Wikipedia and found out that they are a "party band." If you ask me, they are a bunch of "no talent @$$ clowns." (thanks Office Space!) Plus, that name is so lame. And, their two other 'hits' according to Wikipedia were "Bomb Iran" and "Bomb Iraq." Niiiiiiice.

To me this is THE number one most annoying song played at Christmas.

TRACY SAYS: Mine would have to be "Santa Baby," any version, but especially Madonna's. This song creeps me out. I don't care if it's a song about a woman in love with her significant other, who happens to be dressed in a Santa suit at the moment. You simply Do. Not. Sexualize. Santa. It's wrong. So very, very wrong. And any female who sings or talks in baby talk after exiting her teenage years needs to be repeatedly pelted with copies of Ms. Magazine and The Feminist Mystique until she stops. Seriously.

TOM SAYS: Next up for me is "Christmas Shoes" by New Song.

TRACY: Word!

TOM: It is one of those songs where the person writing it is just trying to gain attention as the "Aw, isn't that sweet" song. Well, it isn't. It is a manufactured, try-too-hard holiday song. Big ups to the Lean Left blog, which said:

"If you haven’t heard it, it’s a song about a boy who’s scraping together money to buy a pretty pair of shoes for his mom, who’s dying. He wants to buy them because 'I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight.' Oy. The only way to make the song even remotely tolerable is to do something Kevin found Googling up the song: Imagine the kid is a grifter, his mom is waiting in the car, and they’ve been pulling this scam at every store in town, with plans to return the shoes for cash two days after Christmas."

TRACY: And that sums it up quite nicely.

Here’s a bad one: "Jingle Bells," by the Jingle Dogs. What kind of tin-eared freak thought it would be a good idea to have DOGS barking once-beloved Christmas carols in their entirety? I want to tie him up and make him listen to dogs barking every Clay Aiken song in existence. Accompanied by Kenny G.

TOM: My next one is "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney. It is just a terrible, terrible song. It almost sounds like something Dana Carvey would have done as Paul McCartney on Saturday Night Live. I wish that Heather Mills would receive this song as part of the divorce settlement so that it does not have to be associated with Sir Paul anymore.

TRACY: :::snicker::: (That Heather Mills line was genius. High five!) My first pick is Anything by Josh Groban. The whole world seems to love Josh Groban except me, including Oprah who once gave his Christmas CD away during her favorite things episode. For all I know, he may be a very nice boy. And I'm hardly a classical music purist, owning a CD by a duo called the "OperaBabes." I apologize profusely to all the Josh Groban fans whom I am about to alienate, but for some reason, whenever homeboy opens his mouth to sing, he just bugs. And that "You Raise Me Up" song? All you raise up, Groban, is my middle finger. Can't. Take. Anymore. I want this CD to take a flying leap off my universe.

TOM: "White Christmas" by Michael Bolton: How about all Michael Bolton? I cannot believe that he had the audacity to remake this classic. The whole Michael Bolton-is-back trip is just sad right now. Last year he had a choir show on NBC? Lord help us through these trying times.

TRACY: Amen, brother. To make it a matched set, I also nominate "Blue Christmas" by Michael Bolton. As you imply, Tom, any Christmas carol "sung" in Michael Bolton's constipated alto should just be banned. Find the master tapes, crush them into tiny pieces with a sledgehammer, and rain the shards down on the terrorists. Or perhaps PLAYING Michael Bolton to the terrorists would be a better wartime tactic.... Like Tommy has said in the past, the King and ONLY the King should sing this song.

TOM: "Step into Christmas" by Sir Elton John: Anyone knighted should never make Christmas songs. What does this one even mean? It is like someone said, "Let’s take 'Crocodile Rock' and add in the word 'Christmas.'"

TRACY: "I remember when rock was young ... CHRISTMAS. Me and Suzie had so much fun ... CHRISTMAS...." Yeah, that sucks.

Anyway, my first pick probably should have been "Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey" by Lou Monte. I heard exactly fifteen seconds of this song for the first time while driving one day last year and nearly hurt myself in my zeal to change the station. Horrible. Just horrible. My brother Tom hadn't heard it yet, so I treated him to the sample snippet from iTunes, but he didn't quite make it through the whole thing before the F-bombs started flying. Do yourself a favor--if the words "Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey" flash onto your car radio screen at any point, put the car in park and run away.

TOM: Amen to "Dominic the Donkey." What the heck is that? It is just plain stupid. I honestly cannot get through more than 15 seconds of it.

TRACY: And then there's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" by Band-Aid 20. Like the Highlander movies, there should have been only one. This song was never a masterpiece, and the lyrics are condescending and weird. But there's something just so eighties kitsch about the original that makes me love it in all its melodr ama and political incorrectness in spite of myself. (FEEEEEEEEEEED THE WOOOOOOOORRRRRLD!!!!) Remaking the song in the 21st century with the no-talent likes of Natasha Bedingfield and Will Young and inserting a horrible, horrible rap in the middle was not only a bad idea, it makes me want to jab out my ear drums with a pencil. The fact that the Sirius Holiday Channel INSISTS on only playing the new version makes me want to hunt down the programmers and jab THEM with pencils until they come to their senses.

TOM: The Band Aid thing is tough for me. I agree with Tracy that the new one should never be played. EVER! However, the inaccuracies of the original are also troubling. The way that Africa is generalized is just bizarre. Today, we have the Internet to easily refute the accuracy of the lyrics (Where "no rain or river flows?" Really? Too bad about that pesky Nile). However, back in 1984 when I was playing Lazer Tag and watching 5 channels on a TV with a spinning dial, we didn’t know any better.

TRACY: You love it; you know it. I have proof--you put the original on a holiday mix CD you made me a few years ago. And as you say, we didn't know any better in the '80s, and neither does our nostalgia. So I say on with the original, death to Bandaid 20 albums everywhere!

TOM: Finally, anything by Mariah Carey. Do I really need to spell this one out?

TRACY: I'll spell it out--she is awful. Maybe once Mariah stops plucking her eyebrows within a millimeter of their lives and dressing like the hootchie 40-something all the other PTA moms talk about, I will consider removing her from this list. Until then, the original PopWreck is BANNED from my household!

I have two more to add. Number one: Any KidzBop carol. Note to the creator--just because you spell "kids" with a Z does not make you cool. Kidzbop--a Disney franchise where they take perfectly good songs and have a "choir" (and I use that term loosely) of loud, shrieking children (aka "kidz") belt them out at full voice while trying some ridiculously age-inappropriate runs and swoops and other vocal atrocities--is simply an abomination. To turn said children on holiday carols crosses a line that never, never should have been crossed.

My last pick is "I'm Getting Nuttin' for Christmas," by anyone. The word is nothing. NOTHING! NOTHING, damn you!

We do have our favorites, too—I’ll post those next time I’m up. But for now, what are your least favorite carols?

Tracy Montoya, author of I'LL BE WATCHING YOU.