The I-Team — Now available in Audiobook format! Find them on Audible.com!
Skin Deep — Now in trade paperback! Find it on CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com! And coming in audiobook format on April 29! Ride the Fire, Kenleigh/Blakewell Family Saga #3 — Reissues with new material, including the never-before-published epilogue!
Sweet Release and Carnal Gift — Now in trade paperback! Find them on CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com!
Striking Distance(I-Team #6) — Available in paperback, ebook, audiobook — Nov. 5
I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.
Lately, I've been getting the same questions a dozen times a day, so I thought I'd post some answers here and perhaps alleviate some confusion.
Q: I loved Defiant. Do you plan to write more books in the MacKinnon's Rangers series?
A: I do plan to give Lord William and Captain Joseph their own stories, though I’m not sure when they will be released or what the titles will be.
Q. Do you plan to write more I-Team books?
A: Absolutely. I am working on Striking Distance, the sixth book in the series, right now and hope to have it done in time for a May 2013 release. Watch my blog for updates and excerpts. I know a lot of you love Holly — I do, too — but I'm saving Horny Holly for last.
In addition, I plan to continue the series of spinoff novellas I'm calling the I-Team After Hours series to help readers through the long wait between books. Skin Deep, the first I-Team After Hours novella, came out in May. It tells the story of Marc Hunter’s younger sister, Megan, and Nate West, the scarred veteran who helps Megan face her past.
Q. Why do you go so long between books?
A. I write two different sub-genres, plus I’m a very picky writer and try very hard to write the best book I possibly can. I’d rather make people wait than churn out junk. In the end, it’s the quality of the story that counts, not how fast I wrote it.
I got a very touching letter recently from a young woman who was inspired in part by reading Hard Evidence to take on the issue of human trafficking through her college chapter of Amnesty International. It’s a huge issue, a terrible problem, and, for those tragically caught up in it, a nightmare. It means so much to me that reading one of my novels helped to inspire this.
I’ve tried hard to include real issues and real topics in my novels. Yes, I know that many women turn to romance novels to escape, but I’ve always felt that there’s room for substance in romantic fiction. I don’t read fluff, and I try not to write fluff. Readers who want lighter stories probably don’t read my books, and that’s okay. To each her own, I say.
How fun it would be to share this letter with the people here in Colorado who know me only as a journalist. Repeatedly I am asked, “Why do you want to leave journalism to write romance novels?” The tone of their voices makes it clear that they find my choice unbelievable and strange, as if I were tossing aside the Holy Grail to drink from a paper cup.
One of them summed it up this way: “But if you write romance novels, you’ll no longer be contributing anything to the world.”
At the time, I laughed. I told this person of the letters and e-mails I had received from people who’d gotten hours of enjoyment from my books. I told her of the recent e-mail from a woman who’d read through my historicals while caring for her dying mother and how my books had offered this woman a reprieve from grief and worry.
But, hey, I’m contributing nothing, right?
I’ve always believed that each of us has a role to play. I think of human history as a tapestry with each person being a thread in the overall picture. Each of us is called to do something, and if we follow that calling, the big picture is much richer for it. Whether you’re a nurse, a receptionist, a flight attendant, a stay-at-home mom, a lawyer, a journalist or an author, you have the chance, as each of us does, to make the world a better place.
I’ve been in journalism for... 17 years? I’ve tried to make those years count for something by taking on issues that other journalists ignore. But I have always wanted to write romantic fiction, that’s what I'm going to do. I firmly believe that a person can make as much of a difference writing fiction as she can reporting the news. I try to make each book about something, but I don’t try to ram my views down anyone’s throat. It’s enough to explore the problem in the story. Readers reach their own conclusions.
So to that college chapter of Amnesty International in Louisiana, I say thanks and hats off to you! And to those who say romantic fiction doesn’t contribute in a meaningful way to our world, I say only this: Obviously, you’ve never read a romance novel.
Things that happened today done in the style of SNL’s video short "Like a Boss" (If you haven't seen it, it’s utterly offensive and wonderful):
Went to an organic farm / Froze my fingers off / Held a chicken / Took some photos / Called a guy a douche-bag / Read some press releases / Tossed them in the recycle / Got free spatula (WTF?) / Wrote an article / Copyedited flats... And now I'm home.
In the middle of that, I got a phone call from my editor at Penguin.
Yes, today was a day for good news. But let me back up for a moment...
After Extreme Exposure was released, I was invited to be part of an anthology called Catch of the Day. My agent called and told me what the deadline was and suggested I consider the anthology as a way of getting my name out there. I would be the least-known author in the anthology, and tagging along with bigger names would bring new readers to my writing. Or that was the theory, anyway.
I didn’t think I could pull it off. Firstly, the anthology was supposed to be humorous. Me, humorous? Not really. My books veer toward the dark side and include things like torture. There's nothing humorous about that.
Plus I was overwhelmed with deadlines. Writing books in two genres means keeping two publishing houses happy. Doing that while raising a son by yourself and working full time as the editor-in-chief of a newspaper? You’d have to be out of your mind to try it. (Which tells you something about me.)
I had my cell phone in my hand and was dialing my agent’s number to tell her that I just couldn’t do it, when the idea for an I-Team novella fell more or less fully formed into my head. Clunk. Just like that. I took that as a sign that I could do it, and should do it, so when she answered, I told her I would sign on.
Writing ”Heaven Can’t Wait” took about five weekends, and it was both stressful and a lot of fun. I laughed out loud while writing it — yes, there is humor in it — and then I fell so in love with Lissy and Will that I wished they’d gotten a full novel.
Sadly, the anthology didn’t do well, and most readers probably don’t know there’s an I-Team novella out there. I always felt bad about that because I liked the story, personally, and some of my readers who did manage to find it said they thought it was both fun and ultra-sexy (not surprising, I suppose, given that it’s a story about two people who love each other trying not to have sex before their wedding).
But several months ago I got an idea. I called my editor at Penguin and asked her why in the age of electronic publishing they couldn’t release "Heaven Can’t Wait” as a stand-alone novella-length e-book and make it available in a bunch of different e-book formats — Sony, Kindle, etc.
Today when I spoke to her she said they were doing just that. Right now the story is being converted to e-book formats and they expect it to be available in a few months.
So those of you who are I-Team fans are going to get an extra bit of reading this year. ”Heaven Can’t Wait” is set chronologically between Extreme Exposure and Hard Evidence, and the I-Team characters that existed at that time, including Tessa, Sophie and Horny Holly, are part of the story.
Will, the hero, is a former college football star who is working as a sports reporter, while Lissy is the newspaper’s fashion editor. If the names sound familiar, it’s probably because you read a little about them in Hard Evidence.
This must have been a day for news, because there were also some developments with regard to my MacKinnon’s Rangers series and Connor’s book, but I can’t share that news yet. But trust me — it’s good news.
And now, just for fun, an excerpt from ”Heaven Can’t Wait”:
Lissy lay with her head against Will’s sweat-slick chest, running her fingers absentmindedly through his chest hair, her body limp and glowing from their most recent round of crazed sex. She loved these nights when she had him to herself.
An unpleasant flutter in her stomach drew her mind back to what she’d spent all evening trying to forget — her mother’s call. Her mother was still trying to get her to postpone the wedding until Will signed a prenup, dangling cash in her face as if she could be bought. Hadn’t she proved long ago that she didn’t give a damn about her parents’ money?
But it wasn’t the usual discussion about divorce and assets that had bothered her; it was her mother’s comment about sex and love. Her mother had quoted some study showing that couples who’d lived together before getting married had a higher divorce rate than those who waited to have sex until after marriage.
Lissy had argued that the study, like most, was skewed from the beginning, as people who waited until after marriage to have sex tended to be people who also opposed divorce. Statistics never told the whole story. Any good journalist knew that.
You wouldn’t be the first woman to confuse a man’s sexual attention with love, Melisande. Just wait till he gets his fill of you and the hormones wear off. Men like him marry for two things: sex and money.
Not her Will. No way.
“Do you realize that a hundred or even fifty years ago, we’d both be virgins?” She didn’t know she’d spoken until she heard her own voice.
His fingers stroked the hollow above her hip. “Good thing it’s not a hundred or even fifty years ago. My balls would have burst by now.”
“But don’t you think things were more romantic then? Sex would have been a great mystery for us.”
“I doubt it would have been that much of a mystery. We’d probably both have grown up in the country and seen our share of farm-animal lovin’.”
“The point I’m trying to make is that neither of us would have any personal experience with sex until our wedding night.”
“That’s assuming that I hadn’t already charmed my way into your bloomers or found some ‘loose woman’ willing to let me defile her.” His voice dropped to a dark, velvet purr. “I can be very persuasive.”
Lissy sat up, trying not to laugh, and glared at him. “You’re ruining my fantasy.”
He grinned, stretched, and folded his muscular arms behind his head. “Oh. Sorry. Go on. I’m listening.”
“After the reception, we’d go the bridal chamber, where everything would be roses and candles. There’d be a fire in the hearth—”
“—if it were winter.”
She ignored him. “You’d undress me first and then yourself. I’d probably never have seen a naked man before, so I’d be shy and afraid—”
“—but you would soothe me and assure me that everything was going to be fine. Then you’d undress yourself, carry me to the bed and make passionate love to me.”
He reached out, ran his fingers down her hair. “Are you sure that’s how it would go? I think you’ve read too many novels. If it were a hundred years ago and we were both virgins, I think it would go more like this.”
“We’d have been raised to see nudity as shameful, so the room would be dark, and you would have changed from your wedding gown to a proper white nightgown and gotten into bed before I entered the room. I’d come in, wearing my nightshirt, and crawl into bed with you. You’d be worried that it was going to hurt, and I’d be worried that my dick might not work. I’d lift your gown up to your hips, spread your legs, and it would be over in a minute. You’d hate it, and you’d get pregnant — with the first of my twelve children.”
She fought back a giggle. “Thank you for that enchanting vision of romance.”
“You’re welcome.” His knuckles grazed a nipple, sent heat skittering into her belly.
She batted his hand away. “You’re just afraid you can’t do it.”
He frowned. “Do what?”
He raised a dark eyebrow, raked her with his gaze. “It’s a bit too late for that, isn’t it?”
And then it came to her. “Not if we start over.”
“You know — wait until our wedding night to have sex again.”
The look on his handsome face almost made her laugh out loud, but there was something about this that felt important to her.
Then he sat up and brushed a strand of hair from her cheek, the humor gone from his eyes. “This is about something your mother said, isn’t it?”
She hated that he was able to see through her so clearly. “I just think it would add to the romance if we held back a little bit, made ourselves wait. It’s only two weeks. Unless you don’t think you can hack it.”
Will was tempted to end this conversation by pulling her beneath him and showing her just what she’d be giving up, but something told him saying the wrong thing just now would be a bad idea. Besides, he wasn’t one to turn down a challenge.
“If you want to wait until after the wedding to have sex again, that’s fine.”
The surprise on her face mirrored the astonishment he felt.
What the hell did you just say, Fraser? Are you an idiot?
Her eyes narrowed. “You really think you can do it?”
Her long hair hung about her heart-shaped face, tangled from a night of repeated lovemaking. Her nipples peeked out from between the strands, just begging to be licked and sucked. Her lips were swollen from kissing, and her cheeks were still rosy from her last orgasm, when she’d ridden him to within an inch of his life. Her green eyes shone with a mix of intelligence and feminine allure. And he was agreeing not to fuck her?
“Of course I can do it. I’m not some eighteen-year-old college student.”
She sat up on her heels. “Then how about we make a bet?”
He leaned back on his elbows, suddenly feeling competitive. “You name it.”
“Okay. We agree not to have sex again until our wedding night, and whoever gives in and asks for it first loses.”
That sounded easy enough—two weeks, no sex. “Fine. It’s a deal.”
“But there has to be some penalty.” She hopped out of bed, walked the length of the room, forcing him to stare first at the bare curves of her scrumptious ass, and then at the auburn curls of her muff. “If you lose, you and your groomsmen have to wear the mauve cummerbunds I wanted.”
He gave a snort, lifted his gaze to her face. “In that case, there is no way I’m going to lose. I’m not wearing pink.”
She crawled back into bed, smiling. “We’ll see.”
“And what about you, Miss Lissy? What price will you pay if you come begging for it?” And then he had it. “I know. You’ll have to promise to love, honor and obey me.”
Her mouth fell open in outrage. “No way! Absolutely not!”
He couldn’t help but chuckle. “Okay, then. How about this? If you lose, you have to wear the slutty gown.”
“The Oleg Cassini?”
He had no idea what the designer’s name was, but he’d loved the way she’d looked in that dress — ultra-feminine and sexy as hell — and had been disappointed when she’d decided to go with something else. “The one that’s skin-tight and has the crystals on the straps.”
She gaped at him. “The Badgley Mischka! I’m fashion editor of the paper, Will. I can’t walk down the aisle half naked!”
“Then I guess the bet is off.” A part of him — the part located about six inches below his navel — heaved a sigh of relief. He reached over and turned off the bedside lamp.
Sorry to have fallen off the face of the earth. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, and not necessarily in a good way. I’ve been busy dodging bullets. Allow me to explain...
I grew up in Boulder, Colo., and spent most weekend of my childhood hiking in the mountains or noodling around among the grass, chokecherry bushes and prickly pear cactus while my dad bouldered or practiced rappeling. It was a great way to grow up, and I learned to love the mountains. Imagine waking every morning to the scent of ponderosa pine and seeing the Flatirons (above) every day of your life.
Back then, no one talked about sunscreen, and I got sunburned — a lot. I had a permanent sunburn on my nose as a child, and I got two blistering sunburns. In fact, I seem to remember being sunburned a lot.
When I was 35 I was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma on my face. It was kind of a surprise because I figured old people got skin cancer.
Since then I’ve gone to the dermatologist twice a year for exams to check for skin cancer. Having one kind puts one at higher risk of getting something serious, and I don’t want that to happen.
My last exam was on Dec. 21. The derm took a couple of biopsies, one of which was of concern to her and one of which I asked her to remove because I thought the mole was growing. She said she expected them to come back as nothing. That was reassuring.
Christmas came and went. New Year's passed. I hadn’t heard anything, so I thought I was in the clear.
Then the dermatologist called to say that the mole I had thought was growing had come back as a serious and rare form of pre-cancer, something she’d never actually seen before. I read about it online, which only upset me more. (Note to self: Never seek medical information online.)
Since then, I’ve had surgery to excise what was left of the mole and all the surrounding tissue. The biopsy results came back Thursday, and the good news is that they got all of it.
The not-great news is that now I have to have additional tests to make sure there are no more of these on me. If there are, I’ll have to have each and every one excised and go through this again. Not really on my list of things I want to do.
On the other hand, I’m very glad this was caught before the prefix ”pre-” no longer applied. I’m very glad I’ve taken the time to go in for these checkups. If I had let this go, things could have been ugly.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but when something like this happens, I lose any desire to do anything but curl up and sleep. I lost my writing mojo and couldn’t even read while I was waiting this out. I’ve watched a lot of Star Trek, but I haven’t finished the proposal for Natalie’s book yet. I hope to be back in the swing soon.
The moral to this story: Wear sunscreen!
And don’t hesitate to tell your doctor exactly what you want her to do. If I hadn’t insisted my derm biopsy that mole, it would still be on me now, growing. The thought gives me shivers.
I had lots of fun ideas for 2010 for my blog, so let’s hope I’m back to being my busy self soon.
Like a habitual offender, I found myself behind bars again.
Today, I went to the state’s women’s prison to interview pregnant inmates. As anyone who’s read Unlawful Contact knows, women in prison has been a topic of interest for me for a very long time.
Back in 1997, I spent 24 hours as an inmate in the county jail in an effort to learn more about the experience women face while incarcerated. You can read all about that here.
Since then, I’ve covered incarcerated women's issues from lots of different viewpoints, including reporting on a woman who lost her baby after guards neglected her when she went into labor. (Unlawful Contact is dedicated to the memory of her baby.)
This time, my focus was strictly on the health care pregnant women receive while in state prison. (Note: "Prison" and "jail" are not interchangeable terms. Prisons are run by the federal government or the state, while jails are run by cities and counties. Long sentences are served in prison, while minor sentences are served in jails, generally speaking. Lifers go to prison, not jail.)
When I first arrived, the guard at the front desk didn’t have me listed in his computer as being approved for a visit — a mistake that took about 20 minutes to correct. I know from experience what to bring and what not to bring to prison, so they searched my purse and had to remove nothing. Then I was escorted back to the medical unit, which was very busy.
While there, I was able to interview several pregnant inmates — one who is only three weeks away from her due date — and an inmate who gave birth to a little boy last Thursday.
Most of the women I spoke with were in prison for drug offenses — possession and use of illegal drugs, including meth. One was there for having gone joy riding in a stolen car after a drinking binge with friends. Yeah, not a good decision.
For all of them, the worst part of having a baby in prison was (or will be) having to give up the baby shortly after birth. The woman who'd had her baby last week got to hold her son for five hours and was then taken down to a locked ward, where she stayed overnight. The next day she was brought back to prison. She hasn't seen her baby since the day he was born.
Personally, I can’t imagine enduring that. I could barely let go of my babies when they were newborn, even to let their grandparents hold them. Having to give them up... Well, that’s one good reason to stay out of prison.
One of the pregnant women hoped to give her baby into the care of a community of Mennonites, who have taken on the very selfless and loving task of raising the children of female inmates while the children’s mothers do time. State law allows people to seek to adopt children who are in foster care for more than a year, so a woman with kids who is sentenced to a few years behind bars is probably going to lose custody of her kids forever — a situation that causes extreme depression and heartache for these women. The Mennonites, however, take these babies and children into their families, raise them as their own, bring them to visit their mothers and do everything they can to support bonding between mothers and children. They even help mothers get jobs and help them transition into parenting.
God bless the Mennonites!
But for all the difficulties and discomfort, there are sometimes positive aspects to being pregnant in prison. For women who's lives are in shambles, prison can be a shelter from the more horrible aspects of their lives — drugs, prostitution, boyfriends and husbands who abuse them and so on. One pregnant mother told me that she'd used drugs during a previous pregnancy but that because she was in prison, she's been clean and feels for the first time that she's bonding with her baby.
The practitioners I met — nurses, assistants, and others — were extremely caring and kind. It reminded me why some woman inmates deliberately try to find reasons to go to the medical unit — they feel cared for there.
Any time I interview offenders or visit a prison or jail, I am amazed at how off-track some people’s lives can get. The lives of women in prison are a mix of tragedies and very bad choices. A night of drinking. Hooking up with the wrong boyfriend. Turning to drugs to deal with the pain of past violence. The inability or unwillingness to see to take responsibility for one’s life.
You'd be surprised — astonished, really — to see the connection between childhood violence, including incest and sexual assault, and criminality in women. There’s also a big connection between women’s boyfriends/husbands and criminality. Men tend to drag the women in their lives into their criminal actions. For example, a man might beat someone up on a drug deal gone bad while his girlfriend sits in the car... And then she’s also charged.
Wow, I'm really rambling here, aren’t I?
All of the interviews today are going to be part of an article focused on pregnant women in prison. I still have additional interviews to do, but after months (and months) of trying to schedule this prison visit, I’m happy to have gotten this far.
I had intended to interview Kathleen Givens about this book, but fate interfered tragically with those plans. So here is my long-overdue review of Rivals for the Crown.
Some of us love historical ROMANCE. Others love HISTORICAL romance. And others just love history with a touch of romance.
Kathleen Givens' book Rivals for the Crown is the perfect read for those of us who find ourselves in the latter two categories, as well as anyone who appreciates beautiful writing and engaging storytelling.
The story opens in 1290, when the 7-year-old Queen of Scotland dies on her long journey to her coronation. The story that follows has elements that are familiar to anyone versed in the highlights Scottish history or who considers herself to be a Braveheart fan. Scottish nobles vie for the crown, while King Edward I of England has his own agenda. The story spans much of this period, including the rise of William Wallace.
Against this historical backdrop, we follow the stories of Rachel of Anjou, a young girl who, together with the rest of her family, is expelled from London by Kind Edward along with all other Jews. Wrenched from the embrace of her friend Isabel de Burke, she and her family take refuge in a Scottish border town. There, Rachel and her family try to start a new life in great hardship. Still subject to the anti-Semitism of their time, they face a threat of an entirely different kind when Kieran MacDonald, a hielan’ Scot both tall and dark, sets his gaze on Rachel.
Meanwhile, Isabel is appointed lady-in-waiting to Queen Eleanor and must thread her way through the perils of the English court, where showing mercy or friendship toward Jews is enough to get a person in serious trouble. Isabel's beauty and innocence attract the attention of several men, including Henry de Boyer, one of Edward’s nights, and Rory MacGannon, Kieran’s cousin and son of the hero and heroine of On a Highland Shore.
The two women are reunited but as the conflict between Scotland and England reaches a fevered pitch, each will struggle to find her place in the world.
I don’t want to post any spoilers so I’ll stop recounting the plot there.
I had saved this book on my TBR for months and months, planning to read it as soon as I finished writing Naked Edge. When I finally had time to sit down with the book, it was heaven. I got lost in the story, cheered for Isabel and Rachel and found it almost impossible to set the story aside.
The storytelling goes back and forth between the two friends, but also shares the two heroes’ points of view, too. In a way, it’s kind of like a double love story, and at 409 pages, there’s plenty of room to tell these interwoven tales.
For those who read On a Highland Shore, it’s bittersweet to check in with the hero and heroine of that story as their surviving children reach adulthood and head out into an unsettled world.
One thing I love about Kathleen’s writing is the sympathy with which she always endowed her characters. I came to admire and adore Rachel and Isabel and their respective men. I wanted so desperately for everything to work out for the four of them despite the obstacles of war, court treachery, and mindless bigotry.
But it’s the way Kathleen was able to weave real history seamlessly into her stories. There are plenty of romance readers who don’t care about history. I’m not one of those. History itself is what sparks my imagination when I write my books, so I appreciate the deft way Kathleen dealt with real people and real events in this story. It’s not a book to read if what matters to you is hot sex; love scenes do not dominate the story. But if you love a good historical story well told, you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did.
I don’t know if Kathleen had any other completed manuscripts before she died or whether we’ll be treated to her talent again. But if you haven’t read her stories, I recommend them highly.
Whatever I imagined the topic my first blog of 2010 might be, I hadn't imagined it would be this.
I spent the weekend out of town, ringing in the new year with friends, and was catching up on my Facebook posts and email when I learned that Kathleen Givens, whose books I cherish, died suddenly this past weekend.
I was just getting to know Kathleen on a personal level, but I've been a fan of her books since she was brought to my attention with a RITA win for Best Historical some years back. I love the depth of her historical research and her sympathetic characters. The quality of her writing was such that she quickly became one of my very favorites.
After reading On a Highland Shore, I emailed her to tell her I loved it (it is one of very few keepers on my shelves). When she wrote back, I reacted with a fangirl squeal worthy of a teenage girl at a Twilight screening. She and I wrote back and forth several times. Not long ago, I sent her a copy of Ride the Fire — I don't know if she read it — and told her that I would be reading Rivals for the Crown (also a keeper), which I did.
I'd been planning on running an interview with her about Rivals, which is sitting next to my computer, where I put it when I finished reading it a few weeks back. Now that will never happen.
Her family and close friends will miss her horribly and must be completely heartbroken. My deepest sympathies go out to them.
I will miss the person I was coming to know, and I, like her other readers, will miss the wonderful stories she will never write.
Life is short.
A new year has begun.
You owe it to yourself and those you love to live it well.