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...