Thursday, January 29, 2009


If any of you have read many of my blogs in the past, you’re familiar with how much I enjoy research. To me, it's a chance to experience a little bit about the lives other people live and the careers in which they work. Kind of like playing pretend in real life, if you will. ;) The specific detail and fresh way of looking at things that come from real life research provides grist for the imagination mill and enables a fiction writer to draw readers in to their characters’ world.

The photo to the left is from one of my experiences in my local fire department citizen's academy. I'm prying apart a car using a giant spreading tool. You know, the jaws of life. Let me tell you, that sucker was heavy!

Although most writers I know believe in researching the books they write, all writers don’t feel the same way. Here’s a humorous look at a writer who doesn’t believe in research in a fabulous old radio bit from comedians Bob and Ray.

Oops! The audio clip won't upload. Wouldn't you know. If you want to hear it, you'll have to go here. It's a political blog, but the audio clip itself isn't political. It is, however, pretty amusing.

After all my trouble with the audio clip, I almost forgot to ask my question. If you could choose one career to live for a day, what would it be?

***Just to let you know, eHarlequin is doing a big ebook giveaway today to celebrate their 60th anniversary. Free ebooks. Really. Click here to check it out. They're going to be having a lot of special events this year, so you might want to keep an eye on eHarlequin. And we'll try to pass the news along to you here, too. Happy reading!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Southern Snow Day!

Ahh, the glorious feeling. You wake up in the morning and turn on the television to see names scrolling across the bottom of the screen. You watch in breathless anticipation…searching for your school. When you see it, it’s wonderful. That feeling of respite. No school today! You turn off your alarm and roll over to snooze for a few more minutes. And you’re not even a student….you’re a parent.

It's a snow day. Or if you live in Dallas, an ice day. We have no idea how to drive on that stuff down here. Ice just bamboozles us Texans. Fearful of our driving skills, school administrators wisely close school house doors at the drop of a hat— or in this case, a slight freezing mist. It was somewhat unexpected for me this time. I hadn't been paying much attention to the weather reports.

But I must say the expression on my son’s face was something I won’t soon forget when he woke up and wandered into my office at 7:30 am. Normally I have him up quite a bit earlier.
“Mom, why didn’t you get me up? I’m gonna be late for school.”
I got to be the bearer of very glad tidings.
“School is cancelled.”
First there was a look of disbelief, then pure joy, then a loud “Yes!” as he pumped the air with his fist, jumped up and down and even gave me a big hug and a smacking kiss on the cheek.

This is a surprise holiday. And you folks up north are laughing at me, I know. But we get snow and ice so infrequently, it’s quite an event and perfectly okay to roll your eyes at our antics! Because I’m only talking about the one-day "happenings” (two max), not the horrific weeklong storms you have to endure or the huge mess that's sweeping across the midwest as I type.

I see snow so rarely, southern "snow days" are etched in my memory— making snow ice cream, snow angels, sledding, building the one snowman I’ve made in my lifetime. Since it’s only misting ice instead of snow this time, we’ll be inside most of the day. Sitting in front of the fire, we'll watch movies and hopefully play some board games. Probably eat junk food that’s terrible for us. And I won’t get much work done. By tomorrow my kids will be back in school.

I look forward to these days almost as much as my children do.

So what about you? What’s your favorite “snow day” memory or what’s your favorite thing to do on a "snow day" when you get to stay home?

4 ½ stars Romantic Times ~ 5 stars Cataromance

Monday, January 26, 2009

Spring Cleaning Prizes for you!

And the winner is lastnerve!!!
Contact me to claim your prize.

I'm inspired! All this talk about spring cleaning is making me look at my office and all the BOOKS I have in it. I'm ready for a little spring cleaning of my own, and that means chances to win for you! All you have to do is jump over to my website and tell em which one of my heroines you like best and why in a comment on this blog and you'll be entered in a contest to win the prize package shown. One catch? You have to come back to the blog to see if you won and let me know if you did so I can get an address to send it to you!
Yes, you'd be surprised at the number of unclaimed prizes... So jump to my site at and come right back with your comments!

Oh, and check out my April Book cover for Baby Bling! Love a sexy cowboy holding a baby? Me too!

Friday, January 23, 2009


Ah spring. Ah--choo! (Yep, it's from an old TV commercial.)

But it's also how I feel about spring. Here in Mississippi, spring is yellow pine pollen all over cars, roofs, roads, and me, rain, allergies, and oh yeah, beautiful blooking plants and trees. Did I mention spring is not my favorite season?

Okay, enough complaining.

This year I am looking forward to spring, because I'm on a campaign to clean out, clear out, scale back and simplify. I've warned my husband--he knows to stay out of my way when I'm berserker-cleaning (his word.)

Currently, I'm putting bags of clothes, books, et al into the garage. For me, our garage is a way station for items that are leaving the house. I have a very hard time throwing things away, but if I can get them to the garage, I've got a better than 50-50 chance of successfully ejecting them from there.

Attacking all the junk in my house is helping me with another kind of clearing out. I'm working on clearing out all the clutter in my brain as well as in my home. Old worries, resentments, hurts, even a few regrets--those things that can't be changed--I'm slowly ejecting those too.

A dear friend of mine, when she was 85, told me "I'm getting rid of all the clutter in my life. I don't have time for clutter." She then went on to name issues, problems, and people that she was no longer allowing to waste her time. Fortunately for me, she didn't consider me clutter :) so I remained her friend until she died a few years ago.

But I'm just now understanding what she meant. Life IS too short for clutter. There's barely enough time to enjoy the new growth of spring, the miracle of the hot hot summer sun, the beautiful colors of autumn and the crisp smell of winter. There's barely enough time to appreciate the people who enrich our lives, to marvel in the changes we've witnessed in the world during our short lives, to indulge in the joy of being alive.

This past year has made me realize that I've taken for granted the wonderful days I've had, the remarkable people I've known, and the exceptionally fortunate life I live. I hope I can enjoy each wonderful hour to its fullest--even those hours I spend on spring cleaning.

Any of you who are about to embark on spring cleaning--good luck. If you have any war stories, I'd love to hear about them.

Mallory Kane
If you're looking for a hero...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Great Expectations

When we pick up a romance we expect a happy ending. That’s the agreement the author has made with the potential reader. For that matter, when we go to see a comedy film, we expect to laugh and feel that all is well at the end of the story, right?

Imagine my shock when I discovered that a certain movie promoted by a funny trailer featuring a silly dog, did not, in fact have a happy ending. In fact, it was just the opposite.

Call me crazy, but when movie-goers buy their tickets they, too, have expectations about the story they’re about to see. They’ve invested a fair amount of money—$10 here in Seattle—to sit through two hours of entertainment. When they leave, they have nothing to show for it, no book to re-read because it was so good, and quite possibly they might have indigestion from eating a bucket of popcorn.

Just as romances make an agreement with readers to deliver a happy ending, shouldn’t movie trailers reveal what the movie is about in such a way that people won’t be blindsided or frustrated? When I spotted a mom buying tickets for the above-mentioned dog movie, and standing beside her were two little kids, I wanted to shout – “Don’t do it!” But, alas, it’s not my place.

I figure my job is to provide thrilling and engaging entertainment that allows you to escape, and warms your heart with its happy ending. So there! I’m off my soapbox.

I must post this before the Oscar nominations are announced, but I’d love to know…do you have any favorites? Which ones and why?


Pat White

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Happy Ending

When I talk about books in public, I try to stick to the ones I like. But I’ve just finished a “guy book” that upset me a lot. So I want to discuss it a little. I won’t tell you the name of the book. But it was about a woman lawyer whose husband was accused of murder. She loved him and defended him at his trial. During the course of the book, I got to know and like the heroine. Several times during the story, she questioned whether her husband was really innocent. But each time, she regained her faith in him. She won an acquittal, and they joyfully went home again. Then the author had the brilliant idea of having her find out that the guy was really guilty. Not just guilty, but a psychopath. When she confronted him, he tried to kill her. And she ended up shooting him in self-defense.

What fun! Not!.

I’d gone through a deeply emotional experience with the heroine. I rooted for her to win the court case–in the face of a hostile judge and a lot of dirty tricks from the prosecution. Not only that, during the trial, she almost gets fired from her job. But she triumphed over all of that.

What was her reward? Her life was destroyed. Why? Because it was a neat twist for the end of the book?

As I read, I started suspecting that the author was going to pull a zinger at the end. But I kept hoping for the best and I kept going because I liked the heroine and wanted her to win–and walk away happy. I was involved with the story, but now I’m really upset with investing so much time and emotional energy in the plot–and the characters.

There is no way I’d ever write a story like that. I put my hero and heroine through terrible trials. I test their resolve and their character and their love for each other. But I end the story with them happy together. Because that’s what I want to read. And write. There’s enough bad stuff going on in the world without inventing more.

So what do you think? Do you hate being jerked around by an author who gets you hooked, then pulls the rug out from under you?

Rebecca York

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Beginnings

Today as our country transfers power to a new president, I’m thinking about beginnings. The beginning of the Obama administration. The beginning of a new era where our presidents no long have to physically resemble our founding fathers, but can still carry forth the ideals on which the country was built. And the beginning of my work-in-progress.

Sure the last one isn’t as important and sweeping as the first two. But for me, right this minute, as I’m replotting and rewriting the mess that is my current book, it’s the one that occupies my mind the most. You see, this book is not working...yet. It’s not even close. And all of my problems start with the beginning.

There are many different ways to begin a book, but for me, there’s one way I like best. Fast. Intense. Urgent from page one. I’ve kicked off books in different ways, but the thriller-style beginning is my favorite to read and to write. My problem is that this story doesn’t lend itself to that kind of start. It has a little bit more of a cat-and-mouse plot. The tension is there, but it needs to linger, build, then explode, instead of exploding on page one.

So while I’m trying to get a feel for this story so I can finish it, I have a question for all of you. What kind of beginnings do you love in a story? Do you like your breathtaking romantic suspense to start with a bang? Or do you like it to begin with the time bomb ticking under the table and the characters unsure from where the danger might come? What are some of your favorite beginnings in the books you’ve read?

--Ann Voss Peterson

Monday, January 19, 2009

What I Did on My Christmas Break

For the first time in ages, I actually took the entire month of December off, and boy did I have fun. Of course, now I'm ready to get back to work, but here are some of the things I did:

--I read 8 books

--spent lots of time with my family, including several days at Harrah's Casino

--Saw three movies--The Day the Earth Stood Still (ugh), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (love it!), Valkyrie (wow, lots and lots of suspense and I'm not a Tom Cruise fan)

--ate way too much, including two meals at Buffalo Wild Wings, my son's favorite place

--watched all the Top Chef episodes I'd miss

--discovered a new favorite tea--Darjeeling First Flush Tea. (First Flush means the tea is from the first harvest of the year)

--shopped on ebay with Christmas money

So, what were some of your favorite things you did over the holiday break?


Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Waiting Game

Back when I was unpublished, I spent a lot of time on eHarlequin's forums, specifically in the Submission Care thread, where a lot of aspiring (and, eventually, published) writers found kindred souls in the submission process at Harlequin/Silhouette.

One of the most frequently-asked questions was "How long do you normally have to wait after submitting your manuscript before you hear back from the editor?" And the answer, naturally, was "Who knows?"

Some of us heard fairly quickly, especially if the answer was a flat, "Thanks but no thanks." Others had submissions that took months, even years, to get an answer. The response time depended on a lot of variables, from how you queried, when you queried, whether you submitted after a contest win and editor request, etc. But I think most of us unpubs figured that once we got published, the waiting game would finally be over.

But that's not necessarily so.

My first few books, I'll admit, had pretty good turnaround. My last book, in fact, took only a week from my submission to the editor's call. However, as I learned over the past few months, that's not always the case, even when you have a few books to your name.

I sent my first two-book proposal (that turned into a three book proposal before it was over) to my editor last July. I finally heard from her this week with good news--though not yet a formal offer--for two of the books. That's a six month wait, my longest ever, even as an unpublished author.

There are plenty of reasons why it took so long for the editor to get back to me. She has a lot of other writers, for one thing, all producing and requiring her attention. For a while last year, between the senior editor's maternity leave and the assistant editor leaving for another job, the Intrigue editors were short-staffed. Plus, around the time I sent my manuscript, my editor was winging off to San Francisco for the RWA national convention. So, she got behind. It happens.

The problem was, I really didn't know what to do with myself during the wait. Since I'd had fits working up the two proposals, which didn't want to cooperate with me at all, I foolishly allowed myself to take a month's break from writing. Which turned into two months. Then three. Then, when I realized I had to get back into the writing game, I wasn't sure what to do next. Work on the proposals I'd sent, not even knowing if the editor would want to buy them? Or should I start something new? And if I started something new, should I write it as part of the series the other proposals were part of, or should I look at something new?

Eventually, I wrote something that was part of the Cooper Family series I'd already proposed, but I wrote it so that it could easily stand alone if she didn't like the other books. I managed to get that book proposal to her back in the fall while she was still considering the other two proposals, and it ended up being one of the two she chose to pitch to her senior editor.

So here's what I learned from the experience.

1 ) A short break from writing is fine, but be tough with yourself. Fix a time to get back to it and stick to the schedule, even if you don't have a book in the pipeline yet. Start working on the next one.

2 ) Be patient but also check back in with your editor. Editors are busy people, and I think a reminder now and then that you're still waiting to hear from them is appropriate, as long as you don't become a nag.

3 ) Manage your time wisely, and make reasonable judgment calls. Because my editor expressed approval on the two books she finally pitched, I decided to go ahead with working in the first book of the two in order to get ahead, even though the senior editor hadn't made the final go ahead for the buy. This way, maybe I'll be finished in time to get the book in for 2009. And even if I don't, I'll be that much ahead for the next book.

4 ) Always be thinking ahead to the next book. Even if it's nothing more than making notes or keeping a list of research links, always look ahead. For me, it includes setting aside time one day a week, at minimum, to brainstorm and work on the new ideas I have. This way, when my contract books are done, I'll have something else ready to send to my editor to keep things rolling.

I'd like to hear from other writers, published or unpublished--what are your strategies for handling the wait times? And for published writers, how do you handle keeping proposals in the pipeline with your editor, even when you're struggling to meet contract deadlines?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Easily Distracted By Bright Shiny Objects

New beginnings. I love the New Year and making New Year’s resolutions. Well, sort of. About two weeks into the New Year it seems I become…distracted. I fall off the wagon on my diet or exercise regime. I quit cleaning out that closet I swore I would get to this year. And I just can’t seem to follow through and finish those household chores.

I’ve tried various methodologies to stay on track. A shelf or a drawer a week, but I get…um…well. For Christmas my husband gave me a bumper sticker that pretty much describes my state of mind in regard to resolutions:

Easily Distracted By Bright Shiny Objects.

Obviously, he knows me well.

So you may ask, how in the world do I ever finish a book? Well, that’s a good question considering my sweetie offices out of the house and his voice can carry through the air vents into my office space as if he were sitting next to me cheering for his favorite pro cyclist in Le Tour de France! (We’re not huge football fans…unusual, I realize living in Texas.)

I was recently asked in an interview. “How do you shut out distractions?”

Ummm…Not real well.

When I’m working, I shut the door to my office and I sometimes turn on the A/C fan as a white noise. It’s interesting though. I can write at Starbucks and not be bothered at all by the noise around me. I think it’s the familiar that distracts me. If I overhear my family talking in the next room and start wondering what they’re doing, I’ll want to be hanging out with them instead of in my office.

I think it depends on what I’m working on. If I’m caught up in the story I’m writing, the smoke alarm can go off and I won’t hear it. If I’m stuck, I’m much more easily distracted.

Now, lest you think I’m totally scatterbrained — When I’m really into the story, I’ll become so involved in the writing and my characters, I won’t eat or sleep. My kids can knock on the office door and while I’ll hear them, I won’t be wild about answering, unless there’s the proverbial blood or smoke. However, if I’m answering email or doing some kind of non-story work, I can usually be dragged away from the computer fairly easily. Depending on the time of day, too, it can be a battle for me to stay focused and awake, especially in the afternoons. Naps always sound so appealing.

So how do you fight distractions to get your work done – be it at the computer or elsewhere? Notice, I didn’t even bring up the distraction of surfing the Internet — facebook, myspace or reading blogs. (That’s a whole other post.) But I’m always interested in new strategies for becoming more productive. Any suggestions?


Kay Thomas /
Better Than Bulletproof ~ in stores now!
4 ½ stars ~ Romantic Times

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jan. Intrigues Hit the Shelves TODAY

My Jan. Intrigue, BRANDED BY THE SHERIFF, officially hits shelves today. YAY!!! Yes, it's been available at eharlequin for over a month now, but I still get a rush when I walk into Walmart or a bookstore and see one of my books there. I honestly don't think that'll ever get old.

BRANDED is a Romeo and Juliet sort of story (with a happy ending, of course). The hero, Beck Tanner, has been at odds with the heroine, Faith, and her family for nearly a decade, and it doesn't please either family when Beck and Faith fall hard for each other. I've wanted to write this type of story for a while, and once Beck popped into my head, I knew this would finally be my star-crossed lovers plot.

What about you--do you have a favorite type of tried and true plot? Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella (rags to riches), Friends to Lovers, Forbidden Love, Stranded, Masquerade, Bad Boy....? What type of plot will you always grab off the shelves?


Monday, January 12, 2009

Coming Attractions

Tomorrow the January 2009 Intrigue novels will officially hit bookstore shelves, kicking off a special year for the line, as Intrigue will celebrate its 25th Anniversary later this year!

Here's a sneak peak at what you can look forward to the first half of the year leading up to the big event:

January 2009
#1107. Familiar Vows - Caroline Burnes
#1108. Secrets in Four Corners - Debra Webb
#1109. The Night in Question - Kelsey Roberts
#1110. Branded by the Sheriff - Delores Fossen
#1111. A Voice in the Dark - Jenna Ryan
#1112. Better Than Bulletproof - Kay Thomas

February 2009
#1113. Undercover Stranger - Pat White
#1114. Profile Durango - Carla Cassidy
#1115. Platinum Cowboy - Rita Herron
#1116. Expecting Trouble - Delores Fossen
#1117. Circumstantial Memories - Carol Ericson
#1118. The High Country Rancher - Jan Hambright

March 2009
#1119. Renegade Soldier - Pat White
#1120. Snowed In with the Boss - Jessica Andersen
#1121. Desert Ice Daddy - Dana Marton
#1122. Secret Delivery - Delores Fossen
#1123. Cowboy Commando - Joanna Wayne
#1124. Multiples Mystery - Alice Sharpe

April 2009
#1125. Shotgun Bride - B.J. Daniels
#1126. Criminally Handsome - Cassie Miles
#1127. Baby Bling - Elle James
#1128. Rescuing the Virgin - Patricia Rosemoor
#1129. A Stranger's Baby - Kerry Connor
#1130. Bulletproof Texas - Kay Thomas

May 2009
#1131. Hunting Down the Horseman - B.J. Daniels
#1132. Collecting Evidence - Rita Herron
#1133. Priceless Newborn Prince - Ann Voss Peterson
#1134. Interrogating the Bride - Carla Cassidy
#1135. Kissing the Key Witness - Jenna Ryan
#1136. Saved by the Monarch - Dana Marton

June 2009
#1137. Big Sky Dynasty - B.J. Daniels
#1138. Pulling the Trigger - Julie Miller
#1139. Midnight Investigation - Sheryl Lynn
#1140. Heiress Recon - Carla Cassidy
#1141. The Phantom of Black's Cove - Jan Hambright
#1142. Royal Protocol - Dana Marton

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Intrigue's Latest Continuity

Harlequin Intrigue's latest continuity launched this month. Look for
the Kenner Country Crime Unit books that run from January all the way
through September. Here are the titles and authors:

Secrets in Four Corners --Debra Webb (January)

Profile Durango, Carla Cassidy (February)

Snowed in with the Boss, Jessica Andersen (March)

Criminally Handsome, Cassie Miles (April)

Collecting Evidence, Rita Herron (May)

Pulling the Trigger, Julie Miller (June)

She's Positive, Delores Fossen (July)

Captive Hearts, eharl online read, Delores Fossen (August)

Final Analysis, Elle James (September)

So, tell me. Do you read continuities, or do you prefer regular

Delores Fossen

Friday, January 9, 2009

Teapots and teacups

Meet the latest addition to my collection of teapots and teacups. It was a Christmas gift and the first I've added in a long time. I LOVE it. Very art deco, and because of all the gold trim, it goes so well with a lot of my other pieces.

When I was stationed in England in the 80s I used to take five pounds (about $7.50) to the market several times a month, and I'd always come back with a teapot or a cup or two. It was so much fun, and when I unwrapped this cup and saucer, it was like shopping in Cambridge, England, all over again.

So, what about you--is there something you collect?


Thursday, January 8, 2009


Those that can, do...those that can't, teach. You've heard that, right?

I beg to differ.

Some say one of the insanities that many successful working writers get involved in is to teach others to replace them. I guess I'm insane because I've been doing it in various ways ever since I was first published twenty-five years ago-by giving workshops, then running adult ed classes and private classes.

For the past twelve years, I've teacher_clipart_1taught credit classes-Writing Popular Fiction and Suspense-Thriller Writing-for students at both undergraduate and graduate levels at Columbia College Chicago-a college noted for visual, performing, media and communication arts. Columbia hires working writers, filmmakers, television directors, artists, theater people and many, many others to bring up the next generation of creatives.

So why do I do it?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


As I was staring at my laptop screen, contemplating the next action scene in my WIP, I was startled by a burst of laughter. When I looked up inquiringly, my husband handed me the front page of THE BALTIMORE SUN. The headline said, “Laurel Man an Iraqi Spy.”

An Iraqi spy in the town of Laurel, Maryland, made famous by the 1972 shooting of George Wallace? Yeah. From my husband’s reaction, I was pretty sure who it had to be. The grandfatherly guy who owned Gourmet Shish Kebab, the restaurant where we sometimes stopped for lunch or dinner. The place was decorated with artificial flowers and plastic hanging plants. The tables and chairs would have been at home in a VFW hall. Service was cafeteria-style from an open counter. But what the place lacked in ambiance, it made up with the food. Since we’re on a low-carb diet, Mr. Al-Dellemy, the proprietor, would obligingly fix us a plate of mixed kebabs–with cabbage and salad instead of rice and pita bread. He called it his “protein special.”

Gourmet Shish Kebab attracted quite a mix of people. Soldiers from nearby Fort Meade. Defense Department types from NSA. Moslem families. And groups of Middle Eastern men who turned out to be from the Iraqi Intelligence Service, stopping by for the hummus and the sensitive information collected by the proprietor, code name Adam. According to the SUN article, he’d been spying for the Iraqi government since 1989. Now he could spend five years in jail.

Adam, who always sat behind the cash register, was good at his job. Starting with the nicely spiced kebabs and the easy conversation. He knew how to chat you up. To find out what you did for a living. And where you lived. He said he had a PhD in psychology. So why was he running a kebab joint? That should have been a clue there was something funny in kebab land.

Did I tell him anything he could pass on to Baghdad? Probably not–unless Saddam Hussein wanted my recipe for low-carb Key Lime Pie.

Maybe you’re thinking it’s ironic that the author of more than fifty suspense novels couldn’t recognize a real life spymaster when she stumbled over him. I’ll go with--his disguise was so perfect. He was the last guy I’d expect to be funneling information to a foreign power. Yet he must have been using his customers from Fort Meade and NSA as sources of information.

After reading the newspaper account of his activities, I was tempted to stop by and see how Adam is doing. Is he still sitting behind the counter, next to the cooler with the Cokes and bottled iced tea? On second thought, maybe I don’t need to have my picture snapped by the FBI agents in the parking lot.

Instead, I’m going to turn the tables and make use of the old spymaster. Of course, his name will be changed.. From Adam to Arnie? But how about a restaurant owner in one of my books who charms state secrets out of his patrons and passes them on to a hostile government halfway around the world. Will you believe it when you read it? Or will you say–that could never happen?

And now about the Key Lime Pie. It’s one of my favorite desserts. And if you’d like to try my low-carb version, I’ve put it on my Web site ( under “About Ruth” then “Cookbooks.” If you don’t cook much, you probably don’t realize that one of the main flavor ingredients, in addition to key lime juice, is condensed milk, which is very high in sugar. I figured out that I could get the same taste with evaporated milk and whipped cream. Unfortunately, I’m making myself hungry now, so I may be running out of the house soon to get a bottle of key lime juice.

Rebecca York

Monday, January 5, 2009

2nd Annual Holiday Blog Blitz Wrap-up and Newsletter Note and Public Speaking Faux pas!

Wow--that title is a mouthful.  But an excellent articulation exercise if you say it out loud (that's the speech teacher in me ;)

Happy New Year!

I had originally signed up to post today because I'm the keeper of the list of award winners for the blog, and had planned to post a final list of all the reader winners from December's blog blitz.  But, with the new format here on the blog, we've been able to post the daily winners as we go along.  So, CONGRATULATIONS!! to all the winners who'll be receiving (or have already received) their prize books!  But I won't bore you with another list ;)

Instead, I'm here to make a deal with you...

Since the site was down for 4 days during the blog blitz, due to technical difficulties, we missed 4 days of possible winners.  So, if there's anyone out there who didn't get his/her name drawn during December, post a question or comment to today's blog.  The first 4 commenters (whose names aren't listed in the lefthand margin already) will get to choose a book from my backlist and I'll send you the prize!  With a few exceptions, I have copies of all the titles listed at my website.  Once I know who the 4 winners are, we can work out the titles you'd like to read.

Everyone is welcome to comment, of course.  By next Monday, if we don't have 4 new names, I'll open it up to repeat winners.

But the gist of today's blog is--there are 4 more books to give away!!
Need something to blog about?  How about sharing your favorite tongue twister or proudest/scariest public speaking moment.  Trust me, in all my years of teaching speech/theater and directing plays, I've got some doozies.

I could tell you about locking my hands on the podium and not being able to sit down when I was finished with my persuasive speech (embarrassing to have the professor come up and pry your hands open and whisper to come see her in her office for some tips on speech anxiety--that meeting was a blessing! made me always incorporate ways to deal with public speaking stress as part of my curriculum when I became a teacher)

Or, the football player who fainted giving a speech--this guy was so big, he had to duck and turn sideways to get through the doorway.  But yep, he was nervous enough to pass out.  You could see the color draining from his face before he slumped.  And then, boom!  He made a big noise when he hit the floor.  We tried our best, but he was too big to catch--and too macho to take the suggestion that he lie down and put his feet up.

Or, there was the time when I was in the middle of a "fight" scene onstage--my costume broke.  In order to continue the scene, I ripped off the skirt that wouldn't stay up and continued wrestling with "Helen Keller" in my pantaloons!
And, on a side note, for those of you who've asked me (and anyone else who might be interested), my monthly newsletter is now posted on my website at  It's updated the first of every month.  So you don't have to sign up to receive anything, you can just go check it out whenever you want!  Thanks.

Julie Miller

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Ahhh, love

Ahhhh, love is in the air.

No, I'm not just talking about books, even though my Jan. Intrigue, BRANDED BY THE SHERIFF, definitely has a love story. I'm also talking about a wedding. My son, who's a lieutenant in the Air Force, popped the question to his girlfriend, and they're now engaged. Yay!

The proposal was a surprise to his girlfriend--first he gave her a Christmas ornament with a gawdy fake ring in a glass box. He told her next year they could put it on their first Christmas tree. (Paraphrasing here) She asked--we'll have our first tree next year? And he said--we will if you'll marry me.


So,tell me your favorite proposal story, and to celebrate all this love in the air, I'll give away a copy of my Intrigue, SECURITY BLANKET.


Friday, January 2, 2009

The Secret of Imagination According to Ann Voss Peterson

I love action figures. It probably stems from my love of making up stories. From the time I could remember, I loved inventing my own stories, and action figures were the perfect way to act those stories out.

When I was a kid, female action figures didn’t exist. My brother had G.I. Joes. You know, the good twelve-inch-tall G.I. Joes with Kung-Foo grip and life-like hair. His were peace-loving former soldiers who belonged to the Adventure Team (since Vietnam had made military toys no longer politically correct at that time). G.I. Joes could do a lot of fun things. For me, the biggies were shooting guns and riding horses. Barbie could do neither of those things. Her hands couldn’t hold a gun, and she couldn’t sit astride one of my many model horses. Those deficiencies in Barbie left me playing with G.I. Joes and wishing for a day when female dolls could do everything the male dolls could.

Flash ahead a few years–
Before I sold my first novel, I was a professional window washer. Kind of an odd choice for a job, I’ll grant you. But I was a creative writing major in college and needed to make a living. There were many dirty windows in the world in need of washing, so my brother and I started a business to answer the demand. One of our regular clients was a former NFL quarterback, and he had a collection of memorabilia in his office that included an action figure of himself in uniform. Well, I thought that was just about the coolest thing ever. Just think of it! An action figure of yourself! What could be more bizarre and fun than that?

Flash ahead a few years–
I am a published novelist writing stories for a living. But I still haven’t gotten over my love for action figures. Only now there are female action figures in stores. I can collect my favorite strong, female fictional characters and use them to decorate my office. Super heroines like Batgirl, Hawkgirl, The Huntress, Wonder Woman and The Invisible Woman. Villains like and Harley Quinn (because I write for Harlequin, don’t you know). And my favorite movie characters - so far I have Eowyn from Lord of the Rings, Elizabeth Swan from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Princess Leia from Star Wars and Marion Ravenwood from Indiana Jones.

I have a few odds and ends, too. The head Ringwraith is here so Eowyn can kill him (no man can kill him, after all). And I have a Cairo bad guy for Marion to hit over the head with a frying pan (above). And there’s my newest addition that my brother gave me for Christmas, the Barack Obama action figure (“an action figure we can believe in,” it says on the box). He also bid on a John McCain, in the interest of bipartisanship, but wasn’t able to win him on Ebay.

Although I’ve realized my childhood dream of gender equality in plastic action figure form, I cannot forget the yen for an action figure of myself. What would she do? Slay a bad guy with a pen? Bash a villain over the head with a laptop? Or would she be sucked into the world of her books, having to duke it out on the page with serial killers while being mistakenly chased by the law and falling in love with a cowboy?

Well, I may not ever have a little plastic me to play with, but inspired by a November interview I did at the Writers At Play blog, I discovered something close. An animated me! And so here I am, dressed in something I might wear to a winter writer’s conference.

I’m a little wacked, I know. I suppose when you make up stuff for a living, some wackiness is bound to rub off. Or maybe I’ve just always been this way. But I’ll tell you a secret. It’s a boat load of fun. And if you haven't figured it out, that is what I believe is the secret of imagination. Fun. Play. So why not let your imagination loose to celebrate the new year? What were your favorite toys as a kid? And do you still get the urge to play with them now?