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

Monday, June 1, 2009

Blogalicious Celebration

I'll keep it short and sweet today...

Just wanted to invite all our regular readers here over to the Harlequin website at where today (June 1st) Harlequin is launching our Intrigue Authors Group Blog on their site.

In honor of Intrigue celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2009--check out the 1984 cover for the very first Intrigue, THE KEY, by Rebecca Flanders--Harlequin is launching a brand new blog. Several authors from the line--from Intrigue veterans to our newest author, HelenKay Dimon--will be posting there 3 times a week.

As far as I know, we'll be keeping this blog here on blogspot for a while... but when your publisher invites you to a big, black-tie event like the new blog, we wanted to be there to be a part of it. And we hope you'll be a part of it, too.

Please click over to eHarlequin today and check us out. To celebrate the big event, I'll be giving away a copy of one of my Intrigues.

Hope to see you there.

And back here... I'll be back to blog here on June 10th.

Happy Reading,
Julie Miller