Friday, December 04, 2009

Guest Blogger: Julie Miller

Today, the Playground is pleased to welcome Julie Miller! When I had questions about Intrigue and Blaze, she was more than helpful and when I saw her newest release - Beauty and the Badge - was coming out in December, I knew we had to invite her over to play. Give her a warm playground welcome!

Intrigue-ing Themes

Thanks for inviting me to come play on the Playground this week—it’s great to be here!
In November, Harlequin Intrigue Senior Editor Denise Zaza hosted an Intrigue Pitch contest on . And while the winners have been chosen (all the finalists were invited to submit their mss, btw!), the Intrigue Authors Blog and boards there are still buzzing with questions and discussions about writing for the line.

We’ve been chatting a lot about writing for Harlequin Intrigue—some of the qualities that are unique to the line, like fast pacing, larger-than-life heroes, ending scenes with hooks, heroines who are smart/scrappy/strong, villains who demand the best and more from our hero/ine, sexual tension and deep emotions, how much sex to have in the book, the differences between Intrigue and Silhouette Romantic Suspense, and so on. And as we were discussing what kinds of stories work well for an Intrigue, I got the idea for my blog post here.

Traditional romance storylines.

Yep. Amidst all the shoot-em ups and explosions and clues and daring escapes, the most popular storylines for Intrigue are ones that feature traditional romance story hooks. Of course, with Intrigue, we take that familiar story and twist it up with danger and heart-stopping passion and villainous show-downs. That traditional story of a woman with amnesia, a hero in uniform, a Cinderella tale, friends becoming lovers, cowboys and on and on are all storylines that sell really well in Intrigues.

Take my December 09 Intrigue, BEAUTY AND THE BADGE. Hmm… Any clue what that storyline will be about? I’ve taken a romance classic—the Beauty & the Beast fairy tale—and turned it into an Intrigue. I made my hero, Detective Kevin Grove, a “beast”. He’s big, he’s bad, he’s scarred inside and out, and you guessed it, he’s not handsome. But, ooh, does he ooze masculinity. And he’s got a protective streak in him that runs straight down to his bones. Both traits that make him a perfect Intrigue hero. My heroine is the beauty who wakens him in the middle of the night, needing his protection. She’s also the one woman who can break the spell of mistrust that encases his heart. She’s stumbled upon murder and conspiracy at the company she works for, and has nowhere else to turn. There’s even a wise grandmother/fairy godmother who plays matchmaker. He’s gruff—she’s stubborn. He’s sexy—she notices. When he falls, he falls hard, knowing he’ll probably wind up with a broken heart—but she’s the one with the magic, remember? It’s her love that ultimately saves him. After they get the bad guys and he saves her life, of course.

I thought it’d be fun to turn some traditional romance story themes into something Intrigue-ing today. I challenge you to put your own suspenseful twist on a favorite romance storyline of yours. What’s something you’d like to see in an Intrigue?

Here are some examples:

Plain Jane—spinsterish secretary sees her boss get murdered. Her boss’s handsome son, a cop, comes to her, demanding answers to the murder. When he sees that the killer has his eyes on her, too, the cop steps up as her personal bodyguard—keeping the witness safe. What he doesn’t count on is how close quarters with the surprisingly sexy secretary not only fuels his passion, but soothes his grief and awakens his heart as well.

Cinderella—another secretary takes her boss’s place at a charity ball, dressing in jewels and a gown. She even dances with a mysterious Prince Charming. But, terrorists attack at midnight. Mistaking her for her boss, the terrorists kidnap her and other wealthy patrons, holding them for ransom, intending to kill them off one by one until their demands are met. But Prince Charming turns out to be a government agent. The two of them use all their skills to free the hostages and escape themselves. She loses her shoe in the chase and spends most of the story barefoot. At the end, realizing how well they work together, and how well they love together, the hero presents her with a new pair of shoes… and an engagement ring.

Get the idea? You don’t have to be as detailed as I’ve been. I tend to be long-winded.
I’ll give away a copy of my brand new release, BEAUTY AND THE BADGE, to one lucky poster. You can see all my books on my website at

Have fun. And good luck!
Julie Miller

Ooh, fun - a challenge! Thanks, Julie. Everyone, be sure to comment, even if it's just to share your favorite themes and check back in Saturday for our lucky list of winners!


Playground Monitor said...

I know how exciting it is to final in an eHarlequin pitch contest (I did in a Special Edition one last year) so congrats to them!

Hmmm... how about Snow White but instead of dwarves, the heroine has a houseful of foster kids, one of whom witnesses a crime, and the cop sent to protect them all just happens to be a hardened guy who hates kids?

Welcome to the Playground. Sorry it had to turn so cold and threaten snow for your visit.

Minna said...

My favorite has always been Beauty & the Beast.

Jane said...

One of my favorite plots involves stranded strangers who eventually fall in love. They crash land into the jungle and must run for their lives from smugglers.

Laurie said...

I never tire of these story lines:

"The Fugitive"- on the run for a crime they haven't committed, they get help from an unexpected source and fall in love.

"Lost"- after an accident or an attack they don't know who they are and are in need of protection. Fall in love with their rescuer.

"Orphan Annie"- alone in the world, becomes successful but has trouble committing to one person until the "Right One" comes along

I SPY Thrillers- cat & mouse, one up manship like Mr & Mrs Smith or Mission Impossible or the Bourne series.

Smarty Pants said...

I've been waiting to write this one - Sleeping Beauty. Not sure if its an Intrigue plot so much, but the heroine is a narcoleptic. Maybe to get away from the bad guys she drives, which she almost never does (for obvious reasons) and falls asleep, running over or crashing into the hero, who just happens to be a fabulously sexy and strong detective that was tailing her because he's investigating the bad guys. I'm sure at some point I'll have him kiss her to wake her up.

Smarty Pants said...

I wonder if I could use a Pinochio theme as an excuse to write a book with a hero that's a ventriloquist. (I know, but I REALLY want to... and Instigator double dog dared me to.)

Julie Miller said...

Good morning, everyone! Thanks for having me here. Yes, I did have to bundle up to go out on the playground today. But that's what scarves and mittens and winter coats are for ;)

Julie Miller said...

Ooh! I love the Snow White story idea.

Hmm...I'm seeing a whole series of Intrigue "fairy tales" in the works. Great ideas!

And yes, absolutely--just share your favorite story themes. You don't have to go into detail if that isn't your thing. During my last Book GiveAway contest on my website, I asked entrants to answer a survey about what their favorite storylines were in an Intrigue. The results were very informal, of course.

These were the Top 10:
1. Cinderella
2. Paranormal (all kinds grouped here)
3. Plain Janes
4. Men in Uniform
5. Cowboys
6. Reunions
7. Girl/Boy Next Door
8. Amnesia
9. Secret Agent/Special Ops hero
10. Forced Proximity (being on the run or in hiding together)

Julie Miller said...

Ah, Minna--you're a reader after my own heart. Beauty & the Beast is my favorite storyline, in almost any genre.

Julie Miller said...

Jane--Your scenario sounds like an exciting book or movie. Certainly one I'd love to get my hands on! I love the extra thrill of survival in addition to being pursued by the bad guys.

I did something very similar to that in my second paranormal that I wrote for Dorchester Books, SHADOW OF THE HAWK. Worst cover ever, but I thought the story was a lot of fun to write.

They didn't crash land, but the bad guys left the hero/ine and her archaeology dig students in the middle of the jungle to die. They had living and dead bad guys after them.

Julie Miller said...

Great suggestions, Laurie! THE FUGITIVE is one of my favorite movies, ever! Tommy Lee Jones's Sam Girard character is what made the movie for me. But I can see how being the Richard Kimble/Harrison Ford part would play much better in an Intrigue.

I love your Orphan Annie suggestion, too. Hadn't thought of that as an Intrigue, but now my brain is percolating ideas on how that definitely could work!

Instigator said...

Great to see you here, Julie!

I've always been partial to Romeo and Juliet. There's just something about a doomed romance...although ours would have to have a happy ending.


Julie Miller said...

Smarty Pants--hmm, I think I see how you got your nickname. ;)

I'm not sure the Pinnochio one would work in Intrigue, though I do remember reading an early Intrigue back in the 80's called The Puppet Master. And yes, puppets were involved.

I love the Sleeping Beauty idea. What a terrible conflict for the heroine to have to deal with when bad guys are in pursuit. Falling asleep at the worst possible moments really makes that tender, caring, protective hero that much more important--to have her back when her guard is down. That'd require an enormous amount of trust. (sigh) Good stuff!

Julie Miller said...

Instigator--absolutely--happy endings are a must!

But Romeo & Juliet has such great conflict. It's truly them against the world.

Good to "see" you, too. Thanks for inviting me over to play today.

Angel said...

What awesome ideas floating around today!!! Just the thing to get the creative juices flowing.

Personally, I love a story about psychics. Like Linda Howard's Dream Man. Psychic woman who needs protection from the strong, sexy cop. You know, maybe we could change it around and have the hero be the psychic. And the heroine be the person he had the vision of, and he steps in to protect her, even though she doesn't believe she needs protecting. Ooohh! Like that. I call it! (we say that in our brainstorming sessions when someone comes up with an idea the primary person doesn't want.) :)

Also, good twin/bad twin... My GH finalling book had a version of that in it, and it didn't even make my twin mad. As a writer herself, I guess she understood creative liberties and also understood I wasn't writing about her. :)

Glad to have you hear, Julie!


Anonymous said...

I think Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves would be good. The heroine could find a stolen bank shipment and the robbers would be after her.


Sherry Werth said...

Hi Julie and welcome!

Ok, all this talk about story ideas has my brain buzzing and I'm at work. Darn. :(
Great post Julie. Kinda like an online plotting party!
I love Beauty and the Beast. I remember never missing an episode of the TV series with Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman.

PS: Nice website! And thanks for the download of Bravo Tango. I will be reading that or no work. :D

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Julie! I'm a Beauty and the Beast girl all the way. And those are the sorts of stories I write for Harlequin Presents. My hero is always deeply wounded, etc. Love, love, love it!

I love Intrigues! I wanted to write them, but ended up in Presents instead. LOL! I love the danger and passion, and I totally love military heroes. That's what I was writing before I sold. :)

Smarty Pants said...

Ok, what if the heroine was a ventriloquist? And someone has stolen (or kidnapped) her most famous dummy to keep her from testifying or something? Sending her creepy puppet fingers in the mail with threatening notes? And the hero works for a protection company hired to keep her safe until she does testify?

No? Too much? *sigh*

Angel said...

Sorry, SP, but anything with dolls or dummies creeps me out. Which is saying a lot, since I'm the resident horror movie watcher around here.

Of course, I never thought you'd pull off a kleptomaniac either, and I LOVED that book. :)


Julie Miller said...

Angel--I LOVE Linda Howard's DREAM MAN! Drat. You called it. :) Why not write that puppy up? Sounds like the kind of story I'd love to read.

Glad to hear your twin is a good sport. So which one of you is the evil twin? (vbg)

Julie Miller said...

Michelle--I can see a modern rendition of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves working very well in Intrigue. Good idea!

Julie Miller said...

You're welcome, Sherry! I hope you enjoy BRAVO TANGO.

Sorry about the whole distraction at work thing. ;) I'm getting ready to go teach this afternoon, but you guys have definitely got my mind focused on creating story ideas.

Julie Miller said...

Hey, Lynn Raye--good to "see" you here. Maybe you'll get an Intrigue in there one day. But you're on a roll with Presents right now--Congrats!

BTW, everyone, did you know that Lynn Raye Harris will be one of the stellar authors joining me at the Romantic Times conference in April, 2010 on the Series Romance panel?

Kimberly Lang, Debra Webb, Brenda Jackson, Lisa Childs, Kimberly Kaye Terry, Donna Hill and Anne Calhoun are some other Harlequin/Silhouette authors who'll be speaking on the Series panels, as well, that you may know. Hope to see you in Columbus, Ohio next April!

Julie Miller said...

You, know, Smarty Pants, that's certainly an original idea. And it definitely incorporates a threat to the heroine and a hero to protect her--two must-haves in an Intrigue.

If you don't make it too humorous, that's an idea that could really work.

Of course, I can see it with a humorous bent to it, too. Then it wouldn't work for Intrigue--but it's sounds like a fun story I'd love to read!

Anonymous said...

I'm a 'cinderella' kind of girl...have loved that story since childhood.


catslady said...

I pretty much like them all lol. What I like about Intrigues is that they are great when I want a quick read and they usually keep me turning pages until I'm finished :)

Julie Miller said...

catslady--that's one of the things I love best about Intrigues, too. (I don't just write them--I read a lot of them!) I'm a huge romantic suspense fan, and I can get an Intrigue read fairly quickly, yet still feel that complete mainstream rs story experience.

Julie Miller said...

karenk--Cinderella is just pure magic, I think. That the hero may not notice you until that "princess" makeover--but ultimately, he falls in love with the real you. sigh. good stuff. ;)

chey said...

My favourite is Beauty and the Beast.

Julie Miller said...

chey--ah, a reader after my own heart. I've love B&B stories since I was a little girl reading fairy tales from the library. I love applying those same themes to more grown up books now.

Liza said...

Beauty and the Beast or Snow White would be my favorites.

Virginia said...

I am a big Cingerella buff myself. I love the rags to riches type of stories. So anything on those lines work well for me.

Julie Miller said...

Liza and Virginia--thanks for stopping by! Sounds like fairy tales are popular themes for romantic suspense stories. There have been some "intrigue"ing suggestions here today.

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