Rebecca York

About Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.  View website

Welcome to San Francisco

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When Dick Gregory died last month, I stared at obit pictures of him, seeing a scruffy guy with a long white beard and gaunt face. He didn’t look much like the comedian I had seen perform at the Hungry I in San Francisco years ago.


Bob Fitch Photography Archive

Back then he was clean-shaven, on the portly side with short dark hair, and wearing a business suit.

That was in June of 1962, the year before my husband and I wed.  One of his sisters was getting married in his hometown of Santa Barbara, and my grandmother paid my way from D.C. to L.A. so I could be in the wedding.

We took a cheap cross-country red-eye flight, a prop-driven plane that stopped twice—in Chicago and Denver.  O’Hare had just been built, and it was a labyrinth of an airport.  I know because there were no meals on our flight, and we decided to fortify ourselves with sandwiches. We had to run through endless corridors to get to a concourse where we could buy food—then sprint back so we wouldn’t get left behind. We should have waited until Denver which was a tiny rural airport about the size of my high school auditorium.

The wedding in Santa Barbara was on a Sunday, and Norman and I were staying an extra week in California. We wanted to drive up to San Francisco together, but I could see his mom was uncomfortable about an unmarried couple going off alone. So we decided to take his youngest sister with us.

She was only fifteen, but mature for her age. Could we waltz her into some of the clubs we wanted to visit?

She’d brought along a fancy dress, and I helped her put on a lot of makeup. Then we took her to the Hungry I where we sat at small table, a few yards from the stage.

Dick Gregory came out and did a comedy routine, and I can only remember a couple of jokes. He talked about what it was like to be a black man who had moved into a formerly all-white suburb.  One day when he was mowing his lawn, a neighbor came over and asked, “What do you charge for yard work.”  Gregory replied, “I get to sleep with the woman who lives here.”

Another quip was, “I never believed in Santa Claus because I knew no old white guy would come to my neighborhood at night.”

Those were pretty daring commentaries for the time.

Then there was our next stop. Norman insisted on taking us into a club where we could see the ladies room—wallpapered with pages from the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. (Side note: My dad was a psychiatrist, and that book was on the shelves of our den. I’d already read it.)

After that, the trip was a little more mundane. Good food is always high on Norman’s list.  We got ice cream at Blum’s (a San Francisco landmark long since closed), ate at a prime rib restaurant and drove up Telegraph Hill.

Back then I hadn’t written any books, but I think it’s my novelist’s mind that remembers all those details years later.

Rebecca York’s latest Decorah Security novel is Boxed In.

Rebecca York
NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
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Finally, a Book Where I Can Use My Experience

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No, it’s not the murder I got away with.  (Just kidding.) It’s the sexual advice column I ghosted for three years. (Not kidding.)

I have a five-alarm romance, Bedroom Therapy, in the Love on Fire collection on preorder now.  ( http://a.co/7uFNSgi ) It’s about a psychologist, Amanda O’Neal, who is tapped to write a sexual advice column under the pseudonym of the previous author—after the woman is murdered. A detective, Zack, is investigating the murder, and since this is a steamy romance, he and Amanda are wildly attracted to each other and get into some very heated and, um, kinky scenarios together.

The book starts with a letter from a reader —

Dear Esther,

I have a problem, and there’s no one I can talk to about it. My husband is in the Navy, and he’s on a three-month cruise. Sometimes I get so lonely that I don’t know what to do. And sometimes I get so hot for him that it pushes me over the edge. I mean, I have to make myself come. It feels good when I do it, and I always pretend he’s making love to me. But afterwards I feel guilty. What should I do?

Sincerely,
Lonely and Hot in Norfolk

I made that letter up, but long ago, when I wrote mostly nonfiction, I got the job of ghosting a sexual advice column in a national women’s magazine. Since it wasn’t under my name, I can’t tell you which magazine. But every month the author and I would get together to read letters asking for advice. She’d sketch in answers, and I’d write them up. After I’d finished, I’d give them back to her so she could make any corrections.

Obviously this was quite an education for me. And I still do remember some of the letters all these years later. Actually, I paraphrased one of them in Bedroom Therapy.  You may think this monthly assignment was a fun job, but nothing stays fun when you have to do it on a regular basis. For one thing, a lot of readers had similar questions. How many times can you say that it’s okay to have an orgasm with your partner by manual stimulation or that a big penis doesn’t make a guy a good lover? At first, we worked around this problem by answering some letters from guys. But the magazine editor decided that since this was a women’s magazine, we could only take questions from females.

And then there was the month when the columnist had a dispute with the editor and refused to answer any letters.  I jumped in to write an essay on contraceptive methods—which my boss was willing to read and approve.

One thing we learned quickly was that readers were asking questions about one-night stands and brief affairs. My boss tried to teach them that sex should be in the context of a relationship. They absorbed the message, and we’d get letters that started off, “I had a relationship with a guy last night. . .”

Back then, I never thought my advice-columnist experience would be the basis for a novel. But when I was looking for a Love on Fire topic, I decided it was a natural.

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Rebecca York
NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
 View website
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Grounding Research Is Vital for the Paranormal

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Writing paranormal romantic suspense gives me a lot of leeway. I can make up all sorts of things like dragon shifters who come from another planet or werewolf shifters who have to intone an ancient chant to change from man to wolf.

But the only way to make the fantastic parts of my writing believable is to ground the rest of the story in reality. And that means research.

Take my novella Wyatt, for example. It’s part of a three-book serial that Patricia Rosemoor, Ann Voss Peterson and I have on preorder right now at most eretailers.  In our stories, an old gypsy woman has cursed three young men because their fathers helped convict her son of a crime she knows he didn’t commit.

My story is the first one in the set. For police detective hero, Wyatt Boudreaux, the gypsy psychic chose blindness as his punishment.  And after she leveled the curse, he was shot in the head in the line of duty.

I thought it would be cool having a blind hero trying to discover whether the gypsy woman’s son was really guilty—and at the same time winning back the woman he lost because the old gypsy crone was her guardian.

But how was I going to make you believe the reality of my hero’s situation?  Luckily for me, the National Federation of the Blind is in Baltimore, and I was able to contact them for information. They have a series of booklets written by blind people, telling about their lives. And the details helped me understand how Wyatt would function. Also, I was also able to interview a blind married couple and see how they managed in their own home.

Something as simple as keeping the house neat and putting everything in its place is important, so they don’t trip over anything.  I had my hero do this—and also use their cooking methods.  To chop vegetables, he uses a tray to keep pieces from escaping. His stove has special markings on the dials, so he can tell the temperature. Cans have Braille labels. For trips outside the house, he folds his money in different ways to tell which bill is which. And because he lives in a small town, he has to get around using the services of an unreliable taxi driver.

An important point he mentions in the story—if you’re blind, you can’t know if someone is looking at you, which kept him from sneaking into the heroine’s bedroom at night when guests are in the house.

One other thing I also decided with a blind hero or heroine. I’m never going to try to write a person who was blind from birth. In Wyatt, I needed my hero to remember what things looked like—so he could recall them and give me visual touchstones to add detail to the story.

For example, he hasn’t seen the woman he loves in five years because the whole gypsy community hates him for his father’s role in the murder conviction. But he’s able to vividly recall her features.

I’ve always loved learning details that make my stories more authentic for readers.

What makes a story feel real for you?

Rebecca York
NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
 View website
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Weaving Reality into Fantasy

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I may write about psychotic killers and telepathic powers, but my books are always grounded in reality.

Yeah, sure.

Take Preying Game, my latest Decorah Security novel.  It all started when we attended a wedding in Chestertown, Maryland. It was a three-day extravaganza, held at a stately Georgian mansion with beautifully manicured gardens, located on a multi-acre estate along the Chester River.  The place was so cool that almost as soon as I got there, I started thinking about using it for the setting of a book.

I admit to sneaking in a few changes.  We were there for a wedding, but I wanted to make it the home of a guy who kidnapped and held women in an underground complex that I invented next to the main building.  But why was he holding them, and what was his plan for them?

Since I write romantic suspense, I didn’t want him doing anything yucky like making them sexual slaves. (Although I did pull that off in Dark Moon.) I decided he was forcing them to get into top physical shape so that he could make them worthy prey for his “big game” hunts on the estate. Yeah, he was a real nice guy.

And I did have to make a few changes to the environment as I went along.  My hero, Jonah Ranger, is telepathic, and he picks up my heroine’s distress call on the radio of an old car he’s fixing.  Alice Davenport has sent out a desperate plea for help, and against all odds, Jonah picks it up.

My first change was the name of the town.  I have a rule that if I’m going to say something awful about a place, I choose a different name.  So Chestertown became Carvertown.

Jonah strengthens his telepathic connection with Alice and manages to project himself to her prison. But since she’s in an underground complex, she can’t give him any clues to where she’s being held.  Finally Jonah, in his telepathic form, gets upstairs.  And because I needed him to see something out the window that would guide him to her location, I invented a rock formation that doesn’t exist in the Chester River.  But it is in my Carver River—a big boulder that looks like a giant upside-down boot.

My friends who hosted the Chestertown wedding loved that I’d used their venue for my story. In their honor, I came back full circle. After the bad guy gets what he deserves, one of his relatives takes over his property—and turns it into a location for weddings and other big celebrations.

I love weaving real details into my paranormal stories. And in this case, I had to choose those details carefully to hide a big secret from the reader.  Because the guy is a hunter, I researched rifles and decided on a Mauser for his weapon of choice. I also needed a topic for him and Alice to talk about when he forced her to have a lunch with him. He initiates a literary discussion on Thomas Hardy and Hemingway that comes from my own college classes on English and American literature.

I include those real details to bolster the world I’ve created. What makes you believe the paranormal elements in a story? Or are there books where you never buy into the weird premise?

Rebecca York
NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
 View website
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Make Your Own Christmas Tree Ornaments

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There are so many ways to decorate a Christmas tree.  When I was a kid, long drippy strands of tinsel, rounded balls, and lights with two-inch bulbs were in fashion.

Over the years, I’ve tried to create my own fashion statement with our trees.  When my kids were young, we made a lot of felt ornaments because they wouldn’t break when our cats climbed the branches.  Later, I got into blowing the contents out of eggs and turning them into ornaments with lace and paint. Then I discovered baked cookie ornaments. (Not edible cookies, but ones made from a mixture of flour, salt and water which the kids and I baked and painted.)

Another year, I adorned a ficus tree with an earring I wasn’t wearing.

ornament-161107-2-400wFor a few years after the kids grew up, I had no tree.  Then I figured, why not enjoy a decorated tree all year long? I decided to use the living Norfolk pine at the window behind the sofa.  Since I was worried that ornaments hanging from the branches might damage the tree, I wanted to make them as light as possible.  Which is how I began using cardboard.  And because I like cats, all of my decorations are flat cardboard cats.

I’ve got a couple of basic designs, which I embellish with a variety of items—including decorative pipe cleaners (which I also use for hangers), sequins, packaged colored glitter, glitter glue, colored feathers, decorative wire strands, and the like. Sometimes I make collages with layers of colored papers.  Other times I use paint.  Sometimes I draw the cats’ eyes. Other times I use sequins.

If you prowl around seasonal sales at variety stores, you can get a lot of suitable decorations cheap. (Some of my pipe cleaners are from a sale chain of circles that I took apart.) Or try walking up and down the aisles of a craft shop.

ornament-161107-1-400wPeople have asked me if I buy scrapbook papers for the basic shapes. The answer is no.  I use cardboard from any box that takes my fancy. The easiest to use are tissue boxes because they have an all-over pattern. But I also use tea boxes, cereal boxes, rice boxes and anything else around the house.  By the time you add glitter to these, you can’t read the advertising.  I was at a conference in Florida where housekeeping provided coffee packets every day.  I took a lot of those home and used them for my cats.

Many of my felines are standing up. Others are smaller and sitting down. For those, I might use the kings, queens, and jacks of old playing cards.

I like making cats.  But you can use any shapes you like.  Dogs, stars, flowers, fish, geometric designs. Go wild.

Do you make ornaments or other holiday decorations?  What do you like to create?

Rebecca York
NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
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Why I Chose My Title for “Love, Christmas” – White Christmas by Rebecca York #mgtab

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whitechristmas-400x600My story for the Love, Christmas collection is White Christmas, and I’ve been dreaming of lovely snow-covered holiday scenes since I was a little kid. In fact, because I knew I was going to start my story with my heroine in a snowstorm, White Christmas was the perfect title.

My family didn’t have to travel over the river and through the woods in a sleigh to my grandma’s house.  But we did have to drive from Washington, DC, to Baltimore for big holiday dinners.  When I was young, that journey wasn’t trivial.  In the early days, we had to take Route 1, one of the most dangerous highways in the U.S.  Later we could we could switch to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, a marvel in its time.

Sometimes we’d drive through falling snow. Other times we’d just arrive in the winter dark.  But inside grandma’s house, the holiday meal was always the same when we gathered around the huge dining room table.  A nod to salad was provided by a relish dish of celery and carrots.  But everyone was more interested in the main events: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes (which I hated as a kid but learned to love when I grew up).  Sorry, I can’t remember if we had any other vegetables.  The poultry and stuffing were the highlight of the dinner. For me, that was always a turkey leg.  I still like dark meat.  As far as I’m concerned, turkey white meat is boring.

As a child, I didn’t understood why one bowl of stuffing was “wet,” and the other “dry,” but I definitely preferred the dry one.

I’m going to date myself horribly by telling you that the first Christmas tree I remember was during World War II.  With wartime shortages, you couldn’t buy tinsel.  And it was hard to get any other holiday decorations.  But my grandfather owned a florist shop, and my grandma fashioned decorations out of florist ribbon.  She made them into bows and wound them around cardboard rollers, then used florist wire to fix everything to a small tree which she put on a little red table.

One of my perennial disappointments as a kid was never having lights on our Christmas tree. I envied my friends who had them, but my mom was afraid lights might start a fire, so they were banished from our house.  Guess what I bought first when I got married and finally had my own tree?

I also continued my grandma’s idea of making ornaments.  When my kids were little, we made a lot of them out of felt, glitter, pipe cleaners, and sequins, because we had cats who would climb our Christmas tree and knock traditional glass balls to the floor where they shattered into glittery shards.

And for the past five or six years, I’ve used the Norfolk pine in my living room as a permanent “Christmas tree.”  I keep small lights and homemade ornaments on it all year round.  I hope people grin when they see it on a dark winter night.  I’ve included a picture of some of my ornaments hanging on my library catalogue so you can see them better than on the tree.

cat-ornament-1

What are your favorite Christmas traditions, and how are you going to honor them this year?

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Rebecca York
NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
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Late Summer in the Garden

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What I love about August in the garden:
blog3The late summer flowers like the tall phlox and the black-eyed Susans are in their glory. The annuals I plant in pots are at their showy best. But the weeds have calmed down, which means there are fewer invaders to pull. I can enjoy the lush surroundings without doing much work. The weather is not so hot, which means it’s pleasant to sit out in the morning and the late afternoon with my laptop—and a cat—working on a novel. When I look up, there’s a lot of wildlife to see because I’ve tried to make the garden nature friendly.

Right now I have butterflies visiting the phlox. Goldfinches are enjoying the black-eyed Susans. Lots of birds including blue jays, cardinals, robins, catbirds, and sparrows come to the birdbaths and the pond to drink. They are some of the same birds that flock around my two feeders—where squirrels and chipmunks compete for the seeds on the ground.

blog4Too bad, the wildlife includes mosquitoes and those nasty little varmints called no-see-ums. Really, I never do see them, but hours after I’ve been out pulling weeds, I find itchy bites on my legs. They’ve taught me to wear long pants or spray on repellent.

What I’ve learned over the years is that I love planting greenery and flowers and watching them grow. I also love cooking—either creating new recipes or making old favorites. When I’m not writing my own books or reading, I’m likely to be in the kitchen or the garden.

I have my comfort zone here at home. These simple things make me happy—as much as coming up with a great story idea and getting it into the computer.

On the other hand, I’m married to a man who likes to travel, and we’ve had some amazing adventures around the world. I feel lucky to have done some of them before the terrorist era. We had a wonderful time in Turkey three years ago—even though our hotel turned out to be in the middle of a riot zone. Now I wouldn’t go back to Turkey or Egypt. Do we ever get to see Morocco? And would I return to Belgium or France? My husband says the chances of running into terrorists are slim. But maybe we played it safe by going to London this summer—where there was a knife attack very close to one of the places we walked. (It happened right after we got home.)

What makes you happy? And what would you like to try if you had the chance?

Rebecca York’s FOUND MISSING, a novel in her Decorah Security series, will be out September 1 and is up for preorder now.

Rebecca York
NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
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Watergate Saga

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Probably you think authors make a lot of money.  Only a few can support themselves on their writing income.  But there’s one perquisite of being a writer that you probably haven’t considered.  You get to collect experiences and use them as tax deductions. Among other things, I’ve gone down in a submarine, flown in a glider plane, traveled to India, crossed a long, swaying suspension bridge over a rocky gorge, attended receptions at many of the DC embassies, visited a medicine woman in Sedona, Arizona, and toured Mayan ruins in Guatemala, Belize and Honduras.  All of those experiences have ended up in my books.

Sometimes I travel to a location because I know I’m going to set part of a book there. And sometimes I travel to see if I want to use the setting.

watergate

When I saw in the Washington Post this week that the iconic Watergate Hotel is opening again, I flashed back to when I slept there.  It was in 2007, when I was writing one of my Berkley werewolf novels, Shadow of the Moon.  Of course, everybody has heard of The Watergate. It became famous after Richard Nixon’s bunglers [sic] broke into the DNC offices there—and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein spent months tracking down the real story. (The episode is so famous that subsequent scandals are often referred to as “gate.”)

ShadowOfMoon-310w

Since I live in the DC area, I’d often driven by The Watergate Hotel, and I’d always wanted to stay there.  So why not plot part of the book to take advantage of the location?  In the story, the heroine’s sister has escaped from an S and M club at the edge of Rock Creek Park and has fallen over a cliff, seriously injuring herself. The heroine has come to town to investigate what happened and runs into the werewolf hero while he is hunting at night in the park.  At first the heroine doesn’t know he’s the wolf who rescued her from security men guarding the club, but she does know that, in his human form, he’s a private investigator who may be able to help her figure out what happened to her sister.  When he suggests booking a room at The Watergate, where she can easily visit her sister at The George Washington University Hospital, she agrees.  They had a very satisfying night together at the hotel—in the very room where DH and I spent the night. What I remember about the hotel is that the room was large and luxurious with bookshelves along one wall.  We had a spectacular view of the Potomac River—all the way down to Georgetown University. In the morning the light made the river scene seem like a French Impressionist painting. The downside is that there wasn’t much to eat in the hotel. We came back late from a meeting and had to settle for dinner at the restaurant across from the Kennedy Center where we often ate before performances.  I say “ate” because the restaurant closed several years ago. It was supposed to be refurbished and open under new management, but after a couple of years, it’s still not back.  However, an upscale pizza parlor did move in next door. I read in the Washington Post article that the new management of the hotel has made 80 rooms smaller.  I hope they haven’t diluted the experience too much.  But I do intend to come up with an excuse to go back and find out.  Maybe I’ll use it in a Decorah Security novel.

Here’s my latest Decorah Security werewolf novel:

HuntingMoon-300w

It’s set in New York City and a national wilderness area in upstate New York.

Is the setting of a novel important to you? What settings do you like? I use Washington, DC, a lot because I think it has cachet—and I know the city.

Rebecca York
NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
 View website
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