Archive for November 13th, 2008

Okay… so maybe we’re not really bringing sexy back, per se.  Because as we all know, in the immortal words of Prince, sexy never left.  That’s right, it’s Sexiest Man Alive time again—People magazine will announce their choice on November 21st.  Which begs the question:  what makes a man sexy?  Confidence?  A great sense of humor?  That certain je ne sais quois?  (Thank you, thank you, eight years of French class, for finally coming in handy!)

When Fatin first asked me to blog about my novel, Just the Sexiest Man Alive, I panicked.  (“What? Blog?  Me?  But what will I say?)  This is my first time blogging, so, well, apologies in advance if it stinks.  I guess I’ll start by telling you a little bit about the book.  Wait, maybe I should talk about me first.  Boy, I’m screwing this up already…

So the scoop on me is that I’m a former trial lawyer.  I worked with a large law firm in Chicago and specialized in employment discrimination cases.  While practicing law, I began writing screenplays—romantic comedies and thrillers— and after Hollywood producers optioned two of my scripts, I decided to leave my firm and start writing full-time.  (Okay, there was a LOT more angst involved in that decision than I just made it sound, but in the interest of brevity I’m sparing you the gory details.)  After finishing my fifth screenplay I was trying to decide what I wanted to write about next and my film agent suggested that I turn my first script into a book.  That script, titled The Andrews Project, is what became my debut novel, Just the Sexiest Man Alive.

Now what’s the book about, you say?  (Or maybe you don’t say.  Maybe you’ve already stopped reading or maybe you’re skimming ahead to the part about free books.  Or maybe the only reason you started reading this blog is because you’re a big Diana Holquist fan and you could care less about this Julie James person who wants to talk to you about her book, blah, blah, blah.)

So for the two of you still reading, here’s the deal:  Just the Sexiest Man Alive is about a lawyer from Chicago named Taylor Donovan who is sent by her firm out to Los Angeles for a sexual harassment trial against the EEOC.  While she’s out there, her firm asks her to coach the biggest movie star in Hollywood who’s about to play a trial lawyer in an upcoming legal thriller.  The problem is that the movie star, Jason Andrews, is a little… arrogant.  Okay, maybe a lot arrogant.  He blows off his first two appointments with Taylor and gets caught on camera gallivanting in Las Vegas, and when he finally does show up he just can’t understand why Taylor isn’t falling for his undeniable charms.  (He is People’s only three-time Sexiest Man Alive after all.)  It’s that classic Hollywood love story we all love: boy meets girl, boy has an enormously over-inflated ego and insults girl on national television, girl tells boy off, boy finds this refreshingly charming.  The proverbial high jinks ensue.

When writing the book, I had a lot of fun getting into the head of the hero.  I asked myself, what would it really be like to be the Sexiest Man Alive?  Diana Holquist also tackles this in her novel, Sexiest Man Alive.   Between the two of us, we’ve given a lot of thought to what makes a man the Sexiest Man Alive, or just plain sexy in general. Hey, there are definitely worse things to muse over…

So to help you all get in the mood for the announcement of People’s 2008 Sexiest Man Alive, Diana and I have teamed up to throw a contest:  who do YOU think will be the winner this year?  Visit our website blogs at www.dianaholquist.com and www.juliejamesbooks.com and vote for who you think it will be.  Diana and I are each giving away five signed copies of our books to people who vote for the winner.  Johnny Depp appears to be the early favorite… but is it finally McDreamy’s year?  Or the new James Bond, Daniel Craig?  Or will People break form, like they did fifteen years ago, and make this year a Sexiest Couple ala Brad & Angelina?   I guess we’ll have to wait with baited breath to see…

So tell us in the comments what you think— what makes a man the Sexiest Man Alive?  And thanks again for having me here at Romance Readers at Heart!

Happy reading! (and voting)


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A man holding fast to grief and a woman who lets go of love too easily—it will take all the magic of old diaries and a children’s story to heal these two.

Caught in grief and guilt over his wife’s death, English professor Alan Francini is determined never to feel that much pain again. He avoids new relationships and keeps even his best friend at arm’s length. His major solace is his family’s ranch south of Denver.

Children’s book editor Kathy Jamison has learned through a lifetime of separations and a broken engagement that letting go is easier than hanging on. Then she meets Alan, and for once, begins to believe a lasting relationship is possible.

But Alan panics and pushes her away—into the arms of his best friend.

Now the emotions of three people are at stake as they struggle to find a way to transform their broken dreams into a foundation for a more hopeful future.

A mountain lake, so clear and still, it mirrors its surroundings like a second reality. With a splash of a stone, ripples spread until all is once again still.


The velvet tickle of a horse lipping a carrot off my hand.

The wind in my face, and the easy movement of a Paso Fino, hooves tapping a staccato beat, neck arched as if it knows how beautiful it is. The whole world somehow bigger from horseback than from the ground.


Sun setting…perched for a moment on a mountain peak, a light-limned cloud on its shoulder, and everything going gold and pink and quiet.

The smell of pine on a hot day. Spicy, pungent, clean.

A Japanese garden. The serenity of black water, gray stone, and an infinitude of green.


All of these are experiences woven into the fabric of my life. And like a deep well or, perhaps at times, a packrat’s closet, these bits and pieces are there ready to be pulled out, brushed off, and inserted into my stories.

But the stories themselves always begin with a question–a what if…? or perhaps a why is it…? Such wonderments are often prompted by something I’ve read, an interaction with a friend, or the intriguing glimpse of a stranger.

In Dreams for Stones I wrote about a character who has suffered an unbearable loss. How does one go on afterward? I wondered. The question intrigues, perhaps because, in life, loss is inevitable. Sometimes such losses kill and sometimes they elevate.

Alan Francini’s initial response to his loss is perhaps a common one. He closes his heart, determined never to love enough to hurt this badly again. But as I wrote about Alan, what I (and he) discovered is that choosing not to love brings its own pain.

When I finished Dreams for Stones, I had no idea there was going to be a sequel, until one of my critique partners asked me how Alan and Kathy were managing as a couple (yes characters do come to seem very real). I started to write that story but instead found I was writing more about Charles Larimore, Alan’s best friend.

When Charles first appears in Dreams for Stones, he and Alan have a brief conversation about horses, an important aspect of Alan’s life, as his family raises and trains Paso Finos, a wonderful gaited breed originally brought to the New World by Christopher Columbus. But Charles doesn’t just dislike horses, he’s afraid of them. I didn’t know why I was giving him that characteristic until I was deep into Persistence of Dreams and discovered it was the key to both Charles’s character and to the story.

It is that sort of unexpected story “magic” that has hooked me on writing.

Like fragments of color in a kaleidoscope, storytelling is a meld of experience and imagination. One twist and a pattern forms–Dreams for Stones – Alan and Kathy’s story. Another twist and the pattern changes to Persistence of Dreams – Charles and Luz’s story. The two fitting together in ways I never imagined when I started writing.


To find a whole-hearted love, they had to lose everything

Sequel to Dreams for Stones

Luz Montalvo was a carefree college student until her parents died in a car crash. Frantic not to lose her younger siblings to foster care, Luz took them on the run. After nearly a year scraping by as an apartment manager, she’s just beginning to feel safe when she discovers her newest tenant is her worst nightmare.

Charles Larimore, a Denver district attorney, has been shaped by losses that left him wary of everyone and everything. Including love. After losing all he owns in a suspicious fire, he moves into a lonely apartment with the only possession he has left. An empty heart.

Luz tries desperately not to fall in love with a man who is part of the system that can tear her family apart. At first, Charles convinces himself his feelings for the prickly Luz are merely protective instincts. And there’s something going on beneath her determination to avoid him.

Secrets and seven year olds are a volatile mix, so it isn’t long before he learns that Luz is hiding from the authorities. Charles must choose: say nothing and risk his integrity, or turn her in and lose the only woman who could make his heart whole.

*****Leave a comment for the chance to win DREAMS FOR STONES & PERSISTENCE OF DREAMS. Good Luck! 🙂

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