Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Embracing the Journey

A few months ago I blogged about my then-upcoming move.  I’m happy to report it’s now been completed.  It’s been a crazy few months as I moved from one side of the country to the other, crossing the nation by car and plane several times, but I’m finally settled.  New city.  New apartment.  New possibilities.  It’s not just my traveling over the past several months, but my overall journey, that’s brought me to this point, this place.  This move is something I’ve want to do and have been working toward for a long time, something that sometimes seemed like it would never happen.  Now that it has, I’m hopeful and excited to see what comes next. 

Pondering my own journey and how I got here, it occurred to me how romance, and romantic suspense, is really all about the journey, too.  As readers and writers, we know the destination we want, we expect, to reach: the happy ending.  What really matters, what makes the story special and interesting, is the journey there, the journey that takes the characters to the truth, to justice, to growth, to peace, to love.  It may not be easy.  There may be missteps made and unfortunate detours taken along the way.  But eventually we will get there, and it will be worth everything it took to make it.

I found myself thinking about this as I was considering what to say about my latest Intrigue, TRUSTING A STRANGER, which is now officially available in stores.  I’m really excited to have it out there, because I’m particularly fond of this story.  In fact, of my four books that have been released so far, I think this might be my favorite. One reason I love writing--and reading--romance is for the emotion, and this book, perhaps more than any of mine released to date, is heavily focused on the emotional journey the characters experience over the course of the story.  It had to be. 

This is my attempt at a marriage-of-convenience story, a premise that’s not always easy to pull off in a contemporary.  In this case, the hero marries the heroine to prevent her from being deported to her home country, where there’s nowhere she can hide from the villain, a powerful man with limitless resources who’s out for revenge.  The hero and heroine enter the marriage with the understanding that when the threat to her life is over, they will end it.  Naturally, ending a romance novel with the characters getting divorced and going their separate ways isn’t going to be most people’s (or my!) idea of a happy ending.  So I knew from the start that by the end of the book, when the danger is over, they had to be at the point where they would decide to continue the marriage, which basically meant they had to be in love and admitting it openly.  I couldn’t have them still relatively at the beginning of their journey, having found each other and ready to see what happens next, as I have in several of my earlier books.  Naturally their story, their lives, will continue beyond the end of the book, but I had a definite route marker, so to speak, I had to get them to in a believable way by the end.

This was particularly challenging because, as the title indicates, these are two complete strangers who don’t entirely trust each other at the beginning of the book, with only the word of the mutual friend who brought them together to give them any reason to do so.  Throw in the fact that this a self-contained hero who’s already lost too much and refuses to feel anything as a means of survival, and a heroine who has been betrayed by her first husband and will not accept anything less than full openness, and these two are in conflict from the start.  Not to mention that preventing the heroine from being deported only results in bringing the danger stateside, sending them on the run. 

So these two people are not just on a physical journey as they try to elude their pursuers, but a huge emotional one as their feelings evolve over the course of the book in that grand Intrigue tradition, from wariness to trust, then beyond to something deeper.  I really loved these characters, and even knowing where I intended for them to go, their journey surprised me at times.  In the end, I'm pleased with how it turned out. 

I hope any reader who decides to take the journey with them will enjoy it, and wish you the best on your own journey, wherever it takes you.

Kerry Connor

Sunday, October 18, 2009

So...What Do You Do?

It's the question that almost immediately comes up whenever we meet new people for the first time, an easy way to get an idea who this person is (and to fill any uncomfortable silences <g>).  After all, what we do for a living often says something about who we are as people.  That’s definitely as true for fictional people as for real ones, and one of the most interesting parts of a book can be reading about what the hero and heroine—and even secondary characters—do for a living.

When it comes to Intrigue, and romantic suspense in general, protagonists in law enforcement tend to be fairly common, which certainly makes sense.  Police officers, federal agents and investigators are more likely to be drawn into criminal matters or dangerous situations than the average citizen.  But there are plenty of Intrigues that don't involve characters in law enforcement.  From cat burglars to dream researchers, rock stars to toymakers, illusionists to cartoonists, Intrigue heroes and heroines have been a varied group over the years.  That's certainly true for my books. Personally, I tend to lean toward the type of romantic suspense where the main characters aren’t involved in law enforcement.  I love the added tension of two people without any investigative or protective training thrust into circumstances beyond their experience, usually for very personal reasons.  As a reader, I was probably influenced by the fact that that was more the case when I started reading Intrigue way back when, as you were more likely to find two regular people caught up in a mystery.  (Anyone remember when heroes in law enforcement were rare enough in Intrigue that there was a Lawman promotion one year to point out books that had them?)  Plus, I’ve always enjoyed reading about interesting and atypical careers and learning more about them.  As a writer, I wanted to write a wide variety of story types, and characters with a wide variety of careers are a natural extension of that. 

The hero of my first book was a bounty hunter.  Since then I’ve had a doctor hero and business executive heroine in BEAUTIFUL STRANGER, followed by a pro football player hero and writer heroine in A STRANGER’S BABY.  My latest Intrigue, November’s TRUSTING A STRANGER, features a hero who’s a corporate attorney and a heroine who's an interior decorator.  And yes, each of their careers—and why they chose them—says a great deal about who they are.  That’s not to say I wouldn't—or won't—write about characters in law enforcement, anymore than I wouldn't read one.  Actually, I just submitted a proposal with a hero who's a homicide detective.  I'm working on a few more proposals as well, each of which involves characters with completely different careers from any of the above. 

What about you?  What are some of the careers you enjoy reading about in Intrigues?  Can’t get enough of those cops, secret agents and bodyguards?  Are there some interesting careers you'd like to see more of?  Or what are some careers you've read about that were interesting, in Intrigue or otherwise?  Anything you might not have thought you’d want to read about beforehand that turned out to be fascinating?  

Technically, I’m supposed to be blogging Monday, but I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to get online, so I’ve decided to turn this into a two-day extravaganza.  One commenter will win a choice of BEAUTIFUL STRANGER or A STRANGER’S BABY, featuring characters with the careers mentioned above.  The winner will be drawn and announced late Monday.

Kerry Connor

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How did I pick my genre?

Recently, someone asked me where my weird ideas come from. I guess she meant, why are you so into paranormal? Why do you write about werewolves and demons and monsters from another time continuum?

When I was in elementary school, the D.C. Public Library sent a “book basket” to every classroom every month. In fifth grade, when the teacher put RED PLANET, by Robert Heinlein, up on the eraser ledge, the cover illustration made me want to read the book. So I rushed up to get it before anyone else could.

Thus began a lifelong interest in science fiction and fantasy. They were a big part of my recreational reading for years, with adventure and mystery thrown in.

In the early sixties, I didn’t have a television set. I got a TV for one reason–so I could watch a cool new program that my friends were talking about--Star Trek.

So I come by my interest in the paranormal honestly. The first novel I wrote was a kids' SF story, THE INVASION OF THE BLUE LIGHTS, about a bad alien and a good alien that land in the woods across the street from my house. (Only I gave the house to a 12-year-old boy who was a lot like my son.) In the 80's, the big romance boom started, and a friend asked if I’d like to write one. When I told her I hadn’t read any, she brought me shopping bags full. And I discovered they were all about the subplot that I’d loved in the science fiction and adventure novels I read–the development of a relationship between a man and a woman.

At first, I wrote straight romances. Then I figured out I was better at romantic suspense. And after a few romantic suspense novels, I began incorporating SF and fantasy elements into my stories. At first I wrote what I called stealth paranormals. There’s a ghost in my third Intrigue, WHISPERED IN THE NIGHT. And the hero of PRINCE OF TIME is a space alien. But the reader doesn’t find that out until she’s gotten a chance to know and love him. Now I’m fortunate that Intrigue lets me write books that are frankly paranormal. Like my latest, MORE THAN A MAN. The hero, Noah Fielding, has lived for hundreds of years, although he doesn’t know why. Then a dying millionaire discovers his secret and will do anything to find out the reason for his long life–even kill the woman Noah loves. It’s a fast, emotion-packed story that was a lot of fun to write.

What kind of Intrigues do you like best? And how do you like paranormal elements in them?


Friday, September 25, 2009

Playing Favorites

When I was trying to think of something to blog about, I started to make a list of possible topics, which then led me to think about lists in general. I love lists. I love to make them, love to categorize and organize things, whether it's to-do lists or Christmas lists or lists of places I want to visit before I'm too old and tired to travel.

So then I thought, hey, it's a blog for romance readers and writers, so how about a list addressing one of our favorite topics?


We all love heroes, or we wouldn't be reading romance. And we all have our favorite kinds of heroes, don't we? Whether it's the urbane and powerful billionaire, the hard-bodied Special Forces soldier or the football-loving guy next door, romance heroes are always a fun topic to discuss. And since this is a blog with comments, and therefore interactive, how about we all make lists?

Name your five favorite kinds of heroes, and if you can, list a real life or fictional example of that type of hero.

I'll start:

1) BAD BOY LOOKING FOR REDEMPTION. I love a good redemption story, and I also love a bad boy as long as he really wants to be a good boy (to a certain point). Sawyer on LOST is a great example--he started out as a darned-near irredeemable bad guy but over time, he grew and matured as a character until last season, he was actually the hero of the series. Still, even though he grew emotionally, he never really lost his edge. Fictional heroes don't have to.

2) HERO WITH A TROUBLED PAST COME BACK TO HAUNT HIM. Consider this the sequel to the redeemable bad boy: the full blown hero forced to face the consequences of his past sins. One example of this kind of hero is Mel Gibson's Benjamin Martin in THE PATRIOT. A peaceful farmer with a family to raise, he's trying to put the violence of his past behind him. But the Revolutionary War requires men with war experience, and Martin has to face down the specter of his earlier savagery and try to find a new path, somewhere between the brutality of his past and the false idyll of his present in order to forge a better future.

3) THE CHARMING ROGUE. I'm a sucker for a sexy, sarcastic-tongued devil. I like a guy who knows how to face danger with a witty quip and who isn't afraid to laugh at himself--and others. A guy who loves women and doesn't apologize for flirting his way through a whole bunch of them. Of course, in romances, the fun of this kind of hero is taming him and turning him into a charming rogue who only has eyes for you. From TV's Rick Castle of CASTLE, Tony DiNozzo of NCIS and Sean Spencer of PSYCH to saucy movie pirate Jack Sparrow of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies, charming rogues are always fun to fantasize about. Especially if that witty tongue is also a defense mechanism, hiding a hero's secret pain...

4) MY FAVORITE GEEK. I think I've blogged before about my penchant for a brainy, nerdy guy. I love them, especially in fiction. Because usually, behind the pocket protector beats the heart of a tiger, both in terms of courage and sexual attraction. Some of my favorite TV heroes are a bit nerdy, like Chuck of CHUCK, McGee of NCIS, and Gus of PSYCH. I also think that behind the stiff cravat and shiny Hessians, Mr. Darcy might have just been a bit of a Pointdexter himself--he was socially inept, romantically inarticulate and hung out with people like Bingley. Come ON.

5) THE PROTECTOR. It's almost a romantic suspense cliche--the cop, the bodyguard, the FBI agent, the soldier--but I love the protector anyway. I especially like one who gets sucked into protecting someone without quite knowing how it happened. The hero of my third book, Maddox Heller of FORBIDDEN TOUCH, is just such a hero. He's hiding from the world in the Caribbean, determined not to be anybody's hero ever again, since it went so badly the last time. But when Iris Browning literally stumbles into his life with a mystery to solve, and it becomes clear that Iris herself might be in danger, Maddox learns that old hero habits die hard.

So, there are my favorites. What are yours?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Let's Get Wild!

As an animal lover, I always look forward to putting animals front and center in my Intrigues. I’ve written quite a few Intrigues with horses, but I’ve written about other animals, as well. Two of the McKenna books featured wolves—NEVER CRY WOLF (book 4) and WOLF MOON (book 8). Note that WOLF MOON not only had wolves but werewolves, as well.

Before writing NEVER CRY WOLF, I took a weekend wolf ecology workshop from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. The workshop was at a camp (indoors, thankfully, though we had to bring sleeping bags for bedding) an hour north of Stevens Point. So while it was “almost” Spring, there was plenty of deep snow and plenty of cold.

A couple of the workshop leaders were real outdoorsmen. They wore buckskin outfits, knee high mocassins and coyote headgear. Those weren’t just hats made of the skins, they were the coyote heads with skin flaps. Hum, how could I resist modeling my heroes after these guys?

As part of the workshop, we learned to cast and duplicate wolf prints—I still have mine—and then to go out in teams looking for prints and wolf scat. Since the snow was probably 3-4 feet deep, we had to learn to use both snowshoes and cross country skis. Our team found prints and scat that one of the workshop leaders confirmed as coming from a wolf. High excitement! Too bad we didn’t spot the actual wolf. We also learned how biologists tracked wolves by capturing, collaring and releasing them. It gave them the information necessary to see how packs moved through the state.

We learned a lot about wolf migration back into Wisconsin and Michigan from Canada and Minnesota. The emphasis of the group giving the workshop was on educating the public so the public wouldn’t shoot the wolves on sight. Did you know a single wolf pack (perhaps 6-8 wolves) needs a 100 square mile territory? Or that one wolf is only responsible for eating 8 deer in a whole year? Or that wolf pups are raised by all members of the pack? Or that only the alpha male and female mate and have pups?

My weekend in Wisconsin was one of the most fascinating research trips ever.

Some of the future McKenna books are sure to have more animals. But what kind of animals--domestic or wild--do you think would be fun to read about?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Living a Hero's Life

As a writer, I often venture into unfamiliar territory to make a story ring true. It’s part of my job. There are times when the Internet is invaluable for research. There are times when interviewing a source can give me what I need. But the best times are when I get out of my comfort zone to do personal research and nail the details I can’t get any other way.

Since this is Harlequin Intrigue’s 25th Anniversary, I’ve been doing a series of blogs, memories of books I’ve written over the years. Ten years ago, I sold a ranch trilogy to Intrigue.

The Sons of Silver Springs was set in New Mexico, one of my favorite places to visit. Rather, I had visited Albuquerque, Santa Fe and the small towns and pueblos in the area several times before. What I hadn’t done was spend any time on a ranch. I got on the Internet and found a ranch near Las Vegas, NM, that took paying guests. Of course that was in the summer and this was the winter holiday season. Nevertheless, the owner said they had guest quarters in their basement if we wanted to come out and stay there. I agreed.

Heart Of A Lawman (Sons Of Silver Springs) (Intrigue, 559)Lone Wolf'S Child (Sons Of Silver Springs) (Harlequin Intrigue) Sons of Silver Springs (Harlequin Intrigue, No. 567)

I used to ride horses on a regular basis—anywhere from one to three times a week—for ten years. And I used to spend time on a dude ranch for adults in Michigan where the ranch hands took the advanced riders on hair-raising excursions. But at the time we landed at the New Mexican ranch, I had a deteriorating knee and hadn’t ridden in eight years. Getting back on a horse (via an old tractor tire as a mounting block) was like riding a bicycle. All the instincts kicked in, which was great since our first ride was New Years Day night and I got the retired lead horse who made me work hard to keep up with the others.

The idea of going to the ranch was to learn to “move cows” across the river the next day. I asked that the owners keep the night ride short (so I could get back on a horse in the morning!). They took us all over the property, including a couple of locations that made it into the books. One was a wash made by the river when the rains came. I never realized it would be so deep, like giant tire treads made when the earth was wet. In one of the books, my hero and heroine hid in the wash when the villain was shooting at them. The other location was a cave up on the hillside. The rancher’s wife thought I might be able to use it for a love scene. In fact, I used it for the love scene in all three books. My little joke with her. Three and a half hours later, we were back at the ranch. They invited us to use the cowboy hot tub on the front porch. Um, it was 20 degrees outside, so we declined.

The next day, I did get back up on that stubborn horse and found that once he saw the cows he got a couple hands taller. His ears went up, he pranced a bit, then he charged. Those cows took one look at him and ran for their lives. Right across the river. Taking down the fence. We didn’t get to cross them after all—they crossed themselves.

We’d driven through a snowstorm to get to the ranch, first crossing several other ranches, getting in and out of the SUV to open and close gates. We were given a truck tour of the property and of the herds—horse and cows. I distinctly remember the pop of breaking wood as we drove over the bridge, and the owner telling us they were constantly repairing it. I remember the grandeur of the place and thinking “this must have been what the old West was like.” When we rode out that night, I felt like I’d landed in the old tv show Bonanza. Which was ironic, because when I saw my cover for book 2—The Lone Wolf’s Child—I would have sworn Hoss Cartwright himself posed for it.

All those physical details are things I never would have gotten from the Internet or from books. Nor were the personal things the owners shared. How difficult it was to keep the ranch going. How the ranch had been much bigger but was split among brothers decades ago (those ranches we crossed to get in). How the owner had two absent siblings who co-owned but didn’t want to run the ranch. He had to send them money each month. Their share. His share was $600 a month and he worked 7 days a week to make it. The only way they kept going financially was because the wife drove into Las Vegas, NM, to work as a nurse at a hospital. Her income helped keep their dream alive.

The things I learned in three days filled three books with details that I never would have imagined on my own. I was able to live a different life in my head and the stories are richer for it.

Have you ever had the chance to try something different, something that let you imagine doing or being someone else? Comment for a chance at winning one of the Sons of Silver Springs books.

Patricia Rosemoor
Harlequin Intrigue: STEALING THUNDER
Intrigue's 25th Anniversary

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My Exciting Life

Over the years, I’ve made a point of seeking out danger. Partly so I can write about the emotions of my Intrigue heroes and heroines when they’re in a tight spot. And partly to try out perils that may end up in my books.

About four years ago I ended up in the passenger seat of a two-person glider, being towed into the air by a small, single-engine plane. FYI, the passenger seat is in the front. The guy who’s steering the glider is in the back. These babies are smaller than a World War II fighter, and there’s no engine. The little plane took us four thousand feet into the air. Then the pilot asks me to turn the lever that cuts us loose. I did, and we glided free in the sky above Santa Ynez, California, then over the former Reagan ranch. The worst part was being dragged along behind that little plane. Every time it tipped to the left or right, we also tipped, and I held onto the sides of the cockpit with white knuckles. But once we were on our own, it was like floating on a cloud. Or it would have been, if there had been any clouds in that perfectly blue sky.

At the other research extreme, about twelve years ago, I went down to the edge of the Atlantic shelf in a submarine, off the coast of Grand Cayman Island. It was a small sub, but unlike on the tiny glider, there were 29 other passengers lined up at seats along the hull, each with a viewing window. Before we dove, each of us was handed a kind of mask. The pilot told us that it was a “rebreather.” He went on to say, “If we get stuck for any reason, you can breathe through this thing for up to four hours.” Oh great, I thought. If I get stuck in this tin can with 29 other passengers, I’ll go stark raving mad and forget how to breathe at all.

When I go out on a research trip, I don’t always know how I’m going to use the experience in a book. Or if I will. I haven’t glided any heroes or heroines into enemy territory yet, but my submarine mission was perfect for my August Intrigue, MORE THAN A MAN. Only I made it ten times worse for my hero, Noah Fielding. As the book opens, Noah’s been stuck in a small, experimental sub off Grand Cayman. (Big coincidence, right?) The mother ship has hauled the sub up, and everybody except Noah is dead. The cops think he lived because he hogged the oxygen. The real reason Noah survives is that he was born 700 years ago in a little English village. He doesn’t know why he’s lived so long. But dying millionaire Jarred Bainbridge reads about the incident and is determined to capture Noah and discover his secret.

I love to use my research in my books. If I’ve “been there,” the experience is all the more real when I write about it.

Do you like to travel? What are some of your most memorable experiences? I’ll be sending a copy of my RT Top Pick Intrigue, CHRISTMAS SPIRIT, to one reader who posts responses.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Going Places

Naturally, a large part of the process will involve going through the many books I've accumulated and deciding which to keep and which not to.  Some of the books I need to part with are my own, as I have a few more copies on hand than I know what to do with.  So for today's blog, I’m giving away five copies of my second book, BEAUTIFUL STRANGER.  It begins with the heroine planning a "move" of her own.  Having been imprisoned in a mental institution, she's been plotting her escape, something she manages to do with the unwitting help of the hero.  (I suspect--and hope--my own move will be less dramatic! Laughing )
All you have to do is enter is tell me about one of the favorite places you’ve lived, or would like to live, or why you love where you live now.  I won't be online much this weekend, but I'll be back on Monday to draw the five winners--and look forward to reading about the places you have called--or would like to call--home!

Kerry Connor

Thursday, August 6, 2009

It's a Mystery

One of the great things about Harlequin Intrigue is the wide variety of mystery and suspense stories available in the line.  From intricate puzzles to action-filled chases, gothics to police procedurals, murder mysteries to secret agent stories, just about any type of suspense tale you can think of can be found in Intrigue, and always with that added emotional element of a great romance and the guaranteed happy ending.  That variety is something I loved (and still do) about the line as a reader, and I definitely love the opportunities it offers me as a writer.

As originally planned, each of my STRANGER books was intended to be my take on one of my favorite mystery or suspense storylines.  STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT was my attempt at a cross-country chase, with the hero and heroine on the run--and on the road--with the bad guys in hot pursuit.  I've always loved gaslighting stories, and decided to try one of my own, which led to BEAUTIFUL STRANGER.  

The third book was originally intended to be a mystery with a group of characters trapped in an isolated location with a killer among them, while the fourth was going to be an international adventure, both of which are story types I really enjoy.  For various reasons, I couldn't get the stories to work within the STRANGER series and had to come up with new ideas, though I'd still like to write those stories as unrelated books someday.  In the meantime, I used my interest in writing a creepy cult story to come up with A STRANGER'S BABY (which went through so many changes it ended up not being about a cult at all!), and while book four isn't an international adventure, I did take my interest in international elements, Washington, D.C., and intrigue involving diplomats/embassies to develop TRUSTING A STRANGER, coming in November. (I just got the cover--what do you think?)
The book I’m working on now, the final STRANGER book, is a combination of the small town murder mystery, a spooky old house story, and a decades-old unsolved crime, all themes I greatly enjoy.

And after that?  Who knows?  The possibilities are virtually endless.  I can’t wait to find out myself!

What about you?  What are your favorite types of mystery and suspense plots and themes, especially for romantic suspense?  Let me know, and one commenter who posts today (August 6) will win a copy of one book of their choice from my backlist.

Kerry Connor

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Blog blitz

We've moved the blog to eHarlequin -- and all month we're having a blog blitz, giving away a book a day. Come join us...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Credit Where Credit is Due

The Romance Writers of America's RITA awards were announced this past Saturday night.  I was fortunate enough to have my first book, STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT, be a finalist in two categories.  Of course, the downside of being a double finalist is having two chances to lose, which is exactly what happened. Laughing      
Thankfully I didn't get my hopes up too high and really didn't expect to win, though I did prepare something for my editor to read if it happened, since I couldn't be at the ceremony.  As nice as it would have been to win, what would have meant the most to me would have been the chance to acknowledge some people who truly deserved it for their part in making the book what it was.  But of course, I don't need an award to do that.  If there's one thing I've learned, it's how important it is to express gratitude for those who've helped us along the way when we have the chance.  To that end, here's the speech that went unused on Saturday night:       
STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT is a book I honestly didn’t think would ever be published, let alone recognized in any way, so having it be acknowledged really is beyond anything I ever imagined.  Thank you to RWA and the judges for this honor.  I’d like to thank my editor, Sean Mackiewicz, for pulling my query from the slush and thinking this story might be worth something, and for absolutely everything that followed.  Thank you to everybody at Intrigue and at Harlequin for their enthusiasm, support and hard work on the book’s behalf.  Special thanks to Vicki in the proofreading department for her keen eye.    

I’d like to thank my friends who’ve always been encouraging about my writing even when I really didn’t believe them, and the Intrigue authors past and present whose books made me dream of joining their ranks and who have been so welcoming once I finally did.

And finally, thank you to my grandmother, who used to pick up the Intrigues for me every month back before I could buy them for myself, who bought me that first ream of paper when I started my own attempt on an old typewriter, and who died suddenly just before the book came out and who never got to see it.  

Thank you.  
I hope you'll join me in congratulating the winners, as well as take the time to remember and thank those who've helped you in your own journey.  If there's anyone who hasn't read it but would like to, I have a Larger Print copy of STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT to give away.  One winner will be chosen late tomorrow.  All you have to do to enter is make a comment.

Kerry Connor

Friday, July 17, 2009

Are you a plotter or a the kitchen?

When it comes to writing, I'm a plotter. Oh, I went through a romantic phase where I thought I was a pantser, floating along with the flow of my story and letting my characters do all the driving. Problem was, I never managed to finish anything because my characters apparently have Attention Deficit Disorder and would drive us in circles chasing butterflies or unicorns or somesuch. Only when I became a plotter could I actually be productive. So, for me, that answers that eternal question.

In the kitchen, however, I'm a pantser, as I recently discovered after joining Weight Watchers® Online. I've never been much of a cook, since I've worked outside the home since I graduated from college, and I've generally had only myself to cook for. But when I joined Weight Watchers® earlier this year, I committed to cooking more of my own food. Which was quite the interesting commitment, since I didn't actually know that much about cooking. But I did some quick study. Read recipes, watched a lot of Food Network, frequented food blogs—I guess in that aspect, I was acting like the plotter that I am.

But when it came to actually cooking, I found that I wasn't the sort to follow a recipe. I like playing around with spices, or throwing in a twist to recipes to make something new. Instead of sweet French Toast, I tried making a savory version of the egg-coated bread dish, mixing red peppers and onions into the egg mixture and sandwiching a slice of fat free cheese and a sprinkle of feta cheese in the middle to make a sort of weird French Toast Grilled Cheese Sandwich. (For the record, it was delicious). I don't plan these meals out until I open the fridge to see what's inside to work with. So I guess I'll have to cop to being a pantser at the stove.

What about you? Are you a plotter or a pantser in the kitchen? How about when it comes to home decorating--go by a carefully plotted out floor plan or just mess around with furnishings and decor until you get it like you like it? Do you find you're consistently a plotter or a pantser in all things or, like me, that you're sometimes one and sometimes the other?

And what, if anything, does that tell us about our own personalities?

Monday, July 13, 2009

25 Years and Counting

This year, Harlequin Intrigue is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary. I’ve been writing for the line nearly that long. I sold my first Intrigue in 1985–DOUBLE IMAGES, published in February 1986.

Since I was invited to write one of the August anniversary books—STEALING THUNDER—I thought I would take a look back at some of the Intrigues I’ve written over the years.

When I wrote DOUBLE IMAGES—a story about a music video producer—I was Supervisor of Television Production at a community college. I also had a background in film. For my 25th birthday, my then boyfriend wrote a song for me called “Our Favorite Game.” So I used my film background to create a music video before music videos existed. I did it for fun, for artistic challenge. And when I decided to try writing an Intrigue, I went with something I knew. My heroine was a director of music videos hired to film a top band.

Even though I’d already sold two romances on my own and a couple with a writing partner, I wrote the entire novel. The senior editor at Intrigue really liked the story, but asked for some revisions. For example, I dressed my hero in a Superman costume for the big finish (I mean, he was supposed to be a hero, right?), and the editor suggested it was a bit too much. So I revised. And sold my first Intrigue.

Look for more of my “stories behind the stories” in August—I’ll be blogging several times. Is there a particular Intrigue you’d like to know more about?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Coming Attractions

In January, we let you know what books were coming out from Intrigue in the first half of 2009. Here's what's coming up the rest of the year:

July 2009
#1143. Showdown In West Texas - Amanda Stevens
#1144. She's Positive - Delores Fossen
#1145. Small-Town Secrets - Debra Webb
#1146. Pregnesia - Carla Cassidy
#1147. Mountain Investigation - Jessica Andersen
#1148. Captive Of The Desert King - Donna Young

August 2009
#1149. Stealing Thunder - Patricia Rosemoor
#1150. More Than A Man - Rebecca York
#1151. The Bride's Secrets - Debra Webb
#1152. Cowboy To The Core - Joanna Wayne
#1153. Familiar Showdown - Caroline Burnes
#1154. Navajo Courage - Aimee Thurlo

September 2009
#1155. Smokin' Six Shooter - B.J. Daniels
#1156. An Unexpected Clue - Elle James
#1157. His Secret Life - Debra Webb
#1158. His Best Friend's Baby - Mallory Kane
#1159. Peek-A-Boo Protector - Rita Herron
#1160. Covert Cootchie-Cootchie-Coo - Ann Voss Peterson

October 2009
#1161. One Hot Forty-Five - B.J. Daniels
#1162. The Sharpshooter's Secret Son - Mallory Kane
#1163. Christmas Guardian - Delores Fossen
#1164. Internal Affairs - Jessica Andersen
#1165. Colorado Abduction - Cassie Miles
#1166. Agent Daddy - Alice Sharpe

November 2009
#1167. Bravo Tango Cowboy - Joanna Wayne
#1168. The Colonel's Widow? - Mallory Kane
#1169. Magnum Force Man - Amanda Stevens
#1170. Trusting A Stranger - Kerry Connor
#1171. Bodyguard Under The Mistletoe - Cassie Miles
#1172. Operation XOXO - Elle James

December 2009
#1173. First Night - Debra Webb
#1174. His Secret Christmas Baby - Rita Herron
#1175. Scene Of The Crime: Bridgewater, Texas - Carla Cassidy
#1176. Beauty And The Badge - Julie Miller
#1177. Secluded With The Cowboy - Cassie Miles
#1178. Police Protector - Dani Sinclair

Monday, June 29, 2009

'Tis the Season

No, not that season. It's now officially summer. Hopefully everyone’s already made their plans for what, if anything, they’re going to be doing this summer. I know I have: I’m going to be ignoring the fact that it’s summer. :D

You see, I’m currently working on a book that’s all about darkness and creepy atmosphere. Think a chill in the air—and down your spine. A spooky old house full of unsettling drafts and ominous shadows. Needless to say, dealing with endless sunlight and the fresh arrival of sweltering heat this weekend really hasn’t been helping me get in the mood. Kind of hard to think “chilling” when it’s in the 90s and you don’t have air conditioning.

But then, summer's always been my least favorite season. Heat's just not my thing. As you can probably guess, I love autumn, when it gets cooler, and grows darker ever earlier. When I lived in colder climes, I always loved winter, especially the snow, no matter the inconvenience. And I love spring: the feeling of new beginnings, the world seeming to come alive again, the sun starting to stick around longer without overstaying its welcome. Compared to them, summer definitely comes in a distant fourth for me.

Of course, my most recent book, A STRANGER'S BABY, takes place in August, but that's because the heroine got pregnant in December, the holiday season being part of the circumstances that led to the one-night stand that, in turn, led to her pregnancy. Plus, I tried to place each of the STRANGER books in a different season to give a sense of the passing of time. You might be able to tell it’s summer based on how scantily clad the hero and heroine are on the cover. See, they don't like the heat either. :D

Fortunately, the story I'm working on now is one I particularly love, one I've been waiting to write forever and I'm glad to finally be doing so, even if it is in this heat. Somehow I'll just have to make myself get in that "chilling" mindset. And I have some vacation plans for later in the summer that will hopefully make it more tolerable until autumn finally arrives. :)

What about you? Do you have a favorite season? Any big summer plans? Or are you just waiting for it to be over, too? ;)

Kerry Connor

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Would You Believe?

When I saw the cover of MORE THAN A MAN, my August Intrigue, I did a double take. The great-looking guy on the cover is the spitting image of my son. Did the art department find a picture of him? Or is it just an accident? The skin tone’s off. My son’s got more olive coloration. And his hair is shorter. But that’s HIM. And if he ever sees this post, he’ll probably come after me with an ax for telling you about my reaction to the cover. I know he doesn’t see himself as the hero of a romance novel. (He once did a sarcastic review of one of my books for a literature class he was taking at the University of Maryland, where he pointed out that the brand of car my heroine drove changed in the middle of the book.)

On the other hand, he’s obviously a danger junky. He’s a State Department Foreign Service Officer, and his assignments are mostly in places I don’t want to visit, like Albania and Kazakhstan. The exception was a posting to Moscow a few years ago. Right now he’s in Afghanistan, on a Provincial Reconstruction Team. And he’s volunteered to stay another year, this time at Kandahar Air Base. Where I can worry about him some more.

He’s due to come home for a brief vacation in–wait for it–July, right around RWA. But his home base is DC, so I hope to see him during the conference. Maybe I can even persuade him to stop in at the Marriott so everybody can compare him to the MORE THAN A MAN cover. If I break away from the conference for a few hours, you’ll know it was to have some time with him. I’d love to rent a beach house for a week while he’s here and get the family together. But I don’t know if it’s going to happen, since he hasn’t answered my questions about when exactly he’ll be in town. How’s that for a cliff-hanger?


Friday, June 19, 2009


I’m struggling to see the computer monitor today. My eyes feel like they’re full of sand. Why, you ask? Well, last night my boys and husband went to the video store armed with a rental coupon, and they came back with Marley and Me.

Now I love dog movies. We have a one-year-old Border collie named Speed (above) who is a sweet, energetic, brilliant little dog-boy. He loves to play with the kids, keeps my husband on his toes and takes long de-stressing walks with me. He’s healthy and happy and radiates his joy to the world. But I lost my 14 year-old Border collie, Mick (below), only a year ago, and a movie like Marley and Me cuts way too close to the bone for any hope of me watching with dry eyes.

So I cried last night. Not just a little, mind you. I sobbed, the kind that wrack your whole body. And this morning, my eyes look like I’m about to die of some horrible allergy.

It’s funny. I used to judge how good a movie was by how much it made me cry. Old Yeller comes to mind, another dog movie. In school we used to watch this old movie called The Nine Lives of Tomasina, about a cat who dies and comes back to life. I could never hold it together for that movie, even though I risked looking stupid in front of my friends. But lately, with the exception of Bridge to Terabithia, I haven’t bawled at a movie. Cried, yes. Tears stream down my face at touching commercials, for crying out loud. My name is Ann, and I am, most definitely, a crier.

Of course, in my youth, books were always worse. I remember sobbing at the end of The Hobbit, when one of my favorite characters met his demise. Jane Eyre had me in tears throughout. And The Black Stallion’s Ghost left me a blubbering pre-teen mess, among many, many others novels of all kinds. More recently, tears have been more scarce, as have books that have sucked me in so completely (the price of being a writer who analyzes every word). But I cried while reading Tess Gerritsen’s The Sinner, and last summer Marcus Sakey’s At the City’s Edge had me weeping twice. But the biggest cry inducer has to be romance. I can’t even name the number of romance novels that left me in tears. Good tears, of course.

So how about you? Are you a crier? Which movies get you? How about books? Do you like tear inducing entertainment, or do you avoid it at all costs?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Intrigue Covers--25 years and counting

Since we're celebrating our 25th anniversary this year, I thought it'd be fun to share some Intrigue covers, and show how the look of our beloved romantic suspense novels have changed over the years.

Here's where it all started, with THE KEY by Rebecca Flanders.

Then we went through a "white" period--I discovered 43 Light Street in this phase--read bunches of the white covers in college.

You may have notice Tess Gerritsen's name on that cover. She's not the only NY Times Bestselling author to write for Harlequin Intrigue. I fell in love with Suzanne Brockmann's heroes elsewhere before I knew she'd been an Intriguer. How about this cover? Still white, but now they're tweaking the background.

Then we went into a "color" phase. I loved the rich colors and background details of the covers, though the pictures were tiny--and I do love to see a nice shot of a hunky


Here's Patricia Rosemoor's TORCH JOB--it has one of my favorite lines ever in an Intrigue. You'll have to read it to see what the hero says to the heroine at the end.

We also had a cartoonish phase that featured a lot of drawings--not my personal favorite--but the titles and author names were certainly clear.

Then we get into the signature "purple" era, when I started publishing with Intrigue. Here's an example. The "thumb print" was added later as the covers evolved. And more recently, the art department has started to "bleed" the cover art beyond the square on the lower 2/3 of the picture--that gives me a full shot of those nice heroes I love. See? We can do tender and romantic (one of those brief moments when our characters are catching their breaths between dangerous encounters in our books)

Intrigue covers went through an experimental phase--trying a mainstream look that really played up the suspense. Some of their best stories ever, but not great for sales. Maybe because readers couldn't identify them as Intrigues? Or, again, they wanted to see those heroes. But it was an interesting experiment.

And did I mention I like a good shot of the hero? How about this sizzler?

And finally, one of my favorite features of Intrigue covers (and from what I hear it's a favorite with readers,

too) is when we have an "Intrigue's Ultimate Heroes" month,

featuring nothing but the best in men--cops, military men, sheriffs, cowboys, spies, you name it--on the covers. You can see all 6 covers for this month's Ultimate Heroes. And I have to give kudos to Harlequin's art department. I think my cover this month is one of my best ever--I'd get lost in the mountains with a man like that any day.

So what are some of your favorite Intrigue covers? Which style do you like? What would you like to see more of? Let's dish and reminisce.

Julie Miller

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Trash Vortex

Ask any writer, and s/he'll tell you that movies are a constant source of inspiration. Not, of course, to plagiarize, but to give you That Feeling that you need to write. Need the inspiration to write an action scene? Pop in The Bourne Identity. How about an intensely romantic scene? Last of the Mohicans, anyone? A funny scene? When Harry Met Sally, for sure. Sometimes, though, inspiration can even come from those so-bad-they're-good films.

In a highly amusing blog entry on, writer Chris Nashawaty talks about bad movies that pull you in while you’re channel surfing … and then you get sucked into what he hilariously called the “trash vortex” and can’t stop watching.

His top trashy pick was Into the Blue, that craptacular undersea treasure hunt flick starring Paul Walker and Jessica Alba, who, to quote Dorothy Parker, runs the gamut of emotions from A to B in every film she’s in.

Which, of course, started me thinking about my own personal trash vortex….

Now even though I watched Into the Blue once, at the encouragement of my brother and trash-vortex connoisseur, Troy (see our American Idol blogs below), I can safely turn it on the television and find the willpower to back away slowly and turn it off again. Jessica Alba is my own personal TV-watching kryptonite. But like most people, I have haplessly run into other movies that have the power to make reaching for the remote an impossibility. And with that kind of love, of course they have to inspire.

Enter ... Tracy Montoya's Trash Vortex

Bloodsport: I can’t even count the number of times I've caught this martial arts Jean-Claude Van Damme classic (and I use that term really loosely) on cable in the ‘90s. Even now, the magic of JCVD delivering that flying split-kick thing he does is still an unstoppable siren call on a rainy Sunday afternoon. In fact, just the other night when the title popped up on our Tivo guide, my husband and I got into a frothing-at-the-mouth wrestling match over the remote. He wanted to watch some scintillating show about green home design on HGTV, and I, of course, wanted to watch the flying split-kick thing. Tragically, Jose won. Still bitter.

The Cutting Edge: I hate to call this one “trash,” because it remains one of my favorite romantic comedies ever in the history of ever, but since movie critics back in the day unanimously punched it in the face, turned it upside down, and stole its lunch money, I will refer to it as such, just this once.

Truly funny banter, lots of romantic tension, and figure skating—is there any more perfect combination? (Other than Copeland, Summers, and Sting, of course.) I love this movie so much, I want to write it creepy fan mail, then move to Hollywood and stalk it. Even though I OWN THE DVD, I still drop everything and watch when it’s on. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the two sequels, which make my head want to explode. This is the go-to movie if you need to get in the mood to write some sparks-flying banter.

That Lifetime Movie Where Connie Seleca is Flying an Airplane and the Ceiling Rips Off Mid-Flight (also known as The Holy Grail of My Trash Vortex): I started watching this one day and was forced to stop before it ended—and as this was B.T. (before Tivo), I didn’t have any blank VCR tapes lying around to record the end. Being that it was a Lifetime movie, I figured it would be on ad nauseum, ad infinitum, and I’d easily be able to catch the ending. But noooooo, I’ve never been able to find it, and it has left an emptiness in my psyche that nothing else can fill. My soul will not rest until I find out what happened to the stewardess who was crawling around on all fours clinging to footrests and screaming, “WE’RE GONNA MAKE IT!!!!”

Did she make it? Did she? Was anyone in the restroom, and did the restroom remain with the bottom of the plane or rip off with the top? (Because really, what an awful way to go.) Can you successfully land a plane that doesn't have a ceiling? Will it flip over or eventually blow up? What happened to the little kids on the plane since there were no oxygen masks up there? Sometimes it keeps me awake at night, wondering.

The Saint: It has four different endings, a horrendously convoluted suspense plot, and a cartoonish villain (although the villain’s son is nicely creepy). But I love this movie so much, I don't care about any of it. Most of my undying devotion is probably due to the fact that Val Kilmer is so smoking hot in this film, I think I once had a moment where I wanted to chuck it all and become a mindless, zombie celebrity stalker. It causes me actual, physical pain to see how puffy-looking and stringy-haired he’s become. Which reminds me ...

Dear Val,

You’re an actor—your job is to LOOK PRETTY. The fact that you cannot live up to your end of the fame bargain makes me feel my mortality in a way that is not pleasant. Please step away from the Cheetos and go get a haircut and a foil, stat. That is all.



Made of Honor: One of the great mysteries of my life is why I love this movie so much. I don’t have a raging crush on Patrick Dempsey (although there’s a definite appreciation there), it has a fairly predictable plot, and there are far more hilarious and poignant romantic comedies out there (see The Cutting Edge above). But for some reason, I love this one. And now it’s on TV ALL THE TIME, which is Not Good.

Cocktail: This is probably the most infallible of all my trash vortex picks. I shouldn’t even admit this in public for safety reasons, but its pull is so strong that if someone wanted to rob me blind, all s/he’d have to do is turn on Cocktail, and I’d be mesmerized for a good two hours. As long as they didn’t haul off the television and cable box and managed to get in and out in between commercial breaks, I wouldn’t even notice.

Center Stage: Other than Peter Gallagher and Zoe Saldana, the actors in this film are so horrifyingly bad, it makes me want to reach inside my TV and start scratching at their faces to see if they’re really cleverly disguised androids. But even a romantic lead (who much later turns out to be a jerk) with an adam's apple the size of a small bus doesn't deter me from watching every time this comes on the small screen. Never underestimate the power of a feel-good dance movie with a triumphant ending number to suck you in like the entertainment black hole of death that it is.

Major League: It’s thoroughly sexist, utterly juvenile, and did I mention really, really sexist? But I am a SUCKER for a triumph-of-the-human-spirit sports movie, and even the repeated sexual harrassment/assault of a life-sized naked paper doll can’t wake my inner feminist up enough to force me to change the channel. Once I hear “Wild Thing” blaring out of my television speakers, it’s all over.

Dirty Dancing: Right up there with Cocktail, this movie grabs me like a drowning adolescent every time I channel surf past it, and I cannot look away. At this point, I could probably recite the entire script, sing all of the songs by heart, and flawlessly execute the darn dance at the end, and yet I STILL keep watching.

“Sylvia! … Yes, Mickey? … How do you call your loverboy? …”

"...COME HERE, Loverboy!"

(Please, someone, make it stop.)

Hope Floats: This movie has a dead floating DOG in it, and yet I’m still sucked in by it every time. I’m going to blame it on Harry Connick Jr.’s insane charm, because otherwise, the world just doesn’t make sense.

The Replacements: Ah, Keanu. Such a lovely face. So very, very painful when he opens his mouth (see Much Ado About Nothing and Dangerous Liaisons, in which his every line of dialogue is a human record-player needle ripping across the grooves of a lovely classical album).

Fortunately, Keanu’s Shane Falco is a man of few words, so you can just sit back and watch him look pretty while enjoying this goofball sports flick for what it is. And I have enjoyed it. Again and again and again.

“Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory … lives forever.”

Infomercials: I am now the proud owner of an Eco-Canteen, regularly use Leeza Gibbons' Sheer Cover mineral make-up, and recently caught the Firm Wave. Once I almost bought a Blooming Onion, AND I HATE ONIONS! And I am totally embarrassed to admit that back in the '90s, I did, indeed, pay good money for a ThighMaster. There is no trash vortex more powerful. Infomercials are the devil.

What's on YOUR trash vortex?

Tracy Montoya
I'll Be Watching You--Daphne Finalist and 2008 Romantic Times
Reviewers' Choice Award Nominee for Best Intrigue!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

If you were stranded on a deserted island...

We're doing our spring cleaning at home a little late in the season, in order to turn a basement den into a small apartment for my sister. Unfortunately for me, the basement den is where I've stored about half my books, so now I have to find room for them upstairs. Except, if there were room upstairs for the books, they'd have already been up here. So you know what that means: it's time to cull.

Culling out books is hard for me. I'm a collector by nature, and many of these books I've had since childhood. But as I go through the books, I'm finding that many books that once meant a lot to me I can now get rid of without much pain.

Writing books have been some of the more obvious casualties, now that I'm published and know more about what it takes to be a writer. The books that were once so valuable to me for their information and support are now headed to charity or the local library in hopes that they educate and inspire other aspiring writers still reaching for the brass ring of publication. Also gone are the piles of romances and other novels I bought over the years as I tried to find my niche as a writer. Not all of them, of course; the ones that spoke to me, that helped me find my genre and my voice, stay on my shelves in an honored place.

I have books I bought as reference material for a specific novel that I'm now getting rid of because the novel is written, or the reference book turned out to be useless. I have books that I'm getting rid of because they're literally falling apart at the seams or they duplicate, in some way, other books I have. (I have a large Shakespeare compendium I bought in college that's in wonderful shape; what's the point in holding onto those little paperback versions of specific plays?)

The classics stay, even if I didn't enjoy them, because I have nieces in grammar school who aren't too far from needing those books for their studies. I have books that I seldom read but keep for sentimental reasons, like the books written by a writer friend who passed away tragically early from cancer. I kept my college textbooks forever, but I'm finally letting some of them go--Algebra, Trigonometry--while I hold onto others--Zoology, Spanish, all my English textbooks--because I think they might be useful to me yet. Who knows when I might write about a hunky biologist and a sassy English professor who end up on the run in South America? (...jotting that idea down in the idea file...)

I've often played along with the old game, "If you were stranded on a deserted island, what's the one book you'd want to have with you?" It's fun to speculate. It's not so much fun, however, to have to reduce your book collection by nearly half. I can attest to that personally.

However, I do think I could probably come up with a list of five books I'd have to have with me: The Bible, Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE, THE STAND by Stephen King and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. (But I sure would miss ROBERT FROST'S POEMS, PERSUASION, JANE EYRE, the Harry Potter books and THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN).

So, what about you? If you had to trim your book collection drastically, what would go? What would stay? Or is this a subject too horrifying to contemplate?

Paula Graves
Cooper Justice, coming in 2010
from Harlequin Intrigue