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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.

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Seductive Musings

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

One day left to vote for NAKED EDGE / CONTEST


If you haven't already voted in the Goodreads Choice Awards, there's still time. Voting doesn't end till tomorrow.

Naked Edge was selected by Goodreads to be among the novels readers vote on for Best Romance of 2010. It's a thrill to make that cut because Goodreads based their list of nominees on reader traffic, reviews and reader interest, as determined by hits and such. And Naked Edge finds itself it top-notch company in a group of books by very successful authors.

To vote, click here. And please spread the word!

As my way of saying thanks, I'll give away a signed copy of Naked Edge to someone who voted for it. Just post below and tell me you voted, and your name goes in the hat for the drawing. I'll post a winner on New Year's Eve.

If you voted earlier this month, that's fine. Anyone who voted for the book is eligible to win.

And thank you for your support!
Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!




Merry Christmas to all!

Peace on Earth. Good will to humans.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Review — A VIRGIN RIVER CHRISTMAS (updated)


Sorry to have disappeared. I’ve been busy getting ready for Christmas. And I’ve been reading, as well as listening to a book on my iPod.

I just finished A Virgin River Christmas. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read — my first e-book, actually. I read it on my computer using Kindle for Mac. Because I just don't spend enough time with my computer, you know?

This book tells the story of Ian Buchanan, an emotionally scarred former Marine, and Marcie Sullivan, widow of Ian's best friend, who died from injuries sustained while at war despite Ian's attempt to save him. Set in the snowy mountains above Virgin River, it brings together so many things that make the Virgin River series so enjoyable — the remote mountain setting, the sense of community, and the strong men and women who make up that community.

Marcie has been searching for Ian, feeling that there is unfinished business between them. As her husband's best friend, Ian should have been there during the three years her husband lingered between life and death. Instead, Ian had vanished. Marcie wants to know why — and she wants to give him her husband's baseball card collection. Truth is, she's not sure why she's searching for him. She is driven by needs she doesn't completely understand.

The man she meets is not the man she remembers. With a heavy beard and a nasty temper, Ian has been hiding in a cabin in the mountains, living an unadorned life as a hermit — no ties, no toilet, no contact with the outside world. Ian knows who Marcie is — he met her at one point when he came back from the war while her husband was in a long-term care facility — but he wants nothing to do with her. He does his best to drive her away and acting a bit nuts in the process.

But Marcie becomes ill, and Ian has no choice but to take care of her. The ten days that follow as she regains her health transform both of them. Watching Marcie and Ian face their shared pain together, finding love and healing in each other’s arms, was wonderful, even if Marcie at times seemed a little too perfect.

The love story is sweet, as are the love scenes. The emotion feels genuine. I found myself forgiving Marcie's PITA older sister, Erin, as I learned why she was a PITA. It was great to see the other characters again — Mel and Jack; Paige and Preacher; Doc, etc. (I haven't read Brie and Mark Venezuela's story yet, but it’s in my TBR.)

The sense of community that permeates these stories is so addictive. Who wouldn't want to live in a town where everyone cared about everyone else? Heck, I'd pack my junk tomorrow if I knew of such a place. It's pretty far removed from the world I know, I must say.

I love to read Christmas-themed romances, but most often I read historicals. There's something about the Christmas season that makes historicals particularly enjoyable. This is the first contemporary romance I've read with a Christmas theme, and I enjoyed it. I still prefer Christmas historicals, but then historicals are what I love to read most anyway.

For those who haven't read the Virgin River series or who’ve read only a few, this book stands alone. I think a person could read it and then go back and pick up at the beginning.

Over all, a very enjoyable and satisfying read. I did something atypical and downloaded Lisa Kleypas’ Devil in Winter, which I’m listening to on my iPod. Though I don’t typical get into Regency romances, I’m enjoying this one.

As of 5 p.m. today, I started a week of real vacation — no novel to write, no deadline to meet, no paper to put out. I intend to savor it, because waiting for me already are copy edits on Breaking Point, due Jan. 5, as well as research for Connor’s book. The work is going to have to wait. I’ve worked hard enough this year and plan to enjoy the days I have to spend with my kids.

Yes, Benjy is home. And Alec, my older son, is only 45 minutes up the highway. We’re having one of Benjy’s friend spend the holiday with us, too. In the Army, he found himself stranded and alone for the holiday, something we couldn’t allow. He’s been Benjy's friend since third grade, and we’re delighted to have him with us. So far, our dinner discussion has involved topics common to young men in their early 20s — guns, the Zompocalypse, chicks. It’s all good.



The tree is up. My father and Benjy put lights on the house, and it looks absolutely lovely. But there are still cookies to make and a turkey to brine. And there are lots of slow, quiet moments to savor.

Anyone have any really great Christmas historicals to recommend? I’m on a reading roll.

(I just updated this with a photo of our house, both while Benjamin was hanging lights — and the lovely result.)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

NAKED EDGE nominated for 2010 Readers Choice award


Naked Edge has been nominated by Goodreads for a Reader’s Choice Award for 2010. To win, I just need you to vote!

Here's the e-mail I got this afternoon from Goodreads:

Congratulations! Naked Edge (I-Team, #4) is nominated for a 2010 Goodreads Choice Award for Romance. The polls are open to all readers throughout the month of December, and the winners will be announced in our January 2011 newsletter. Spread the word to your fans and encourage them to vote! http://www.goodreads.com/award/choice/2010

ABOUT YOUR NOMINATION
The Goodreads Choice Awards reflect what readers like. There were no secret committees. We did not defer to experts or look at book sales or previous awards. Goodreads nominated 15 books in 23 categories by analyzing statistics about books read by our members from the 47 million books added, rated, and reviewed on the site in 2010. Official nominees were selected based on a book's popularity and average rating among Goodreads members, so a nomination is truly an honor because it comes from your readers!

HOW YOU CAN WIN!
With over 80,000 votes already cast, readers are flocking to the polls to support their favorite books! Unlike other book awards, the Goodreads Choice Awards gives readers a voice, which means that you can do your part to make sure your book gets the votes it deserves! Now is the time for you to get your community to the polls!


Very exciting!

If you're already a member of Goodreads.com, just click here and vote for Naked Edge. Copy and paste this link to help spread the word: http://www.goodreads.com/award/choice#41649-Romance

If you're not a member of Goodreads.com, it’s easy to join, and it’s one of the most fun places on the Net for readers and authors to talk about books. Check it out.

Everything you can do to spread the word will help. Post on Facebook, Twitter, your blogs, your loops. Share the link.

Show rock-jock Gabe how much you love him!

And thank you!
Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Help Me Save Lives

A newborn baby at the Teso Safe Motherhood Project in Soroti, Uganda

You’re nine months pregnant. You live with other women and children in a hut with a dirt floor. You spend your days digging for firewood — using sticks to dig in the deforested earth for dead, dry tree roots — and growing food in a small garden. It’s not enough to feed you and your other children, let alone sustain a pregnancy, but that’s what you have.

Around you danger is very real. You know of women who’ve disappeared, had their children stolen or been raped when they went to dig for firewood. You, yourself, are as likely as not a victim of rape. And that baby in your belly? It’s going to be born onto the dirt floor of your hut while other mothers in your same situation attend you. None of them have medical training. They don’t necessarily even know to wash their hands.

You’re afraid, though you don’t talk about it. You know women who died giving birth. You remember their faces. Maybe you even remember their screams as they labored for three days without help, without any hope of relief, before they bled to death. You don’t want to die like that. Nor do you want your baby to die, but so many babies do.

Childbirth isn’t the only risk you’re facing. Malaria is one mosquito bite away. In the camps, tuberculosis is rampant. And HIV? You pray that you’re not part of the 25 percent of the population suffering from that terrible disease.

Who are you?

You’re a woman living in a camp for internally displaced persons in Uganda. And this is your life today, tomorrow and tomorrow.

Into this bleak picture came an enterprising group of Colorado women, led by Jennifer Braun, a midwife. Braun created a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization called International Midwife Assistance (IMA) the purpose of which is bringing midwifery care to women in parts of the world where pregnancy is often a death sentence.

An IMA midwife meets with women in a village to talk about health during pregnancy.

IMA first went into Afghanistan, where women were dying in droves. After the horror of Taliban rule, which prohibited women from becoming educated and even prevented women from coming to hospitals, there were vast stretches of the country that lacked birth attendants. Women knew nothing about their own bodies or how to safely give birth. Maternal and infant mortality rates were staggering.

Braun and IMA worked with the new Afghan government to create a midwifery school in Bamiyan, training young women to be skilled birth attendants, visiting villages to talk to women about reproductive health and delivering hundreds of babies safely. Low on supplies, unable even to take a warm bath, Braun spent months in Afghanistan.


Sadly, IMA had to leave Afghanistan because the Taliban reasserted itself in many places, often killing midwives (none from IMA, thank God!) because they believed they were handing out condoms.

So IMA diverted its energies to Uganda.

Jennifer Braun (fifth from left) near the clinic in Uganda.

Working with the Ugandan government, Braun and IMA helped to establish and fund a clinic where women from the surrounding community and the neighboring IDP camps can give birth safely. Women and their children also receive basic health care from vaccinations to drugs to fight HIV and malaria.

So that's what they do every day now — they save lives. Women walk sometimes for three days to reach the clinic. With the recent addition of motorbikes, women in labor can now ride on the back of a motorcycle and reach the clinic much more quickly. This has enhanced the clinic's outreach substantially.

Women labor among the trees of an orange grove beside the clinic, then come indoors to push their babies out. They’re able to stay for the immediate postpartum recovery period so that the midwives can make sure they don’t hemorrhage. While there, they'll be tested for HIV and given other necessary medical help.

A happy mother and her new baby sit near one of the recovery beds at the clinic.


Those who need emergency C-sections are taken to a nearby hospital, but the midwives at the clinic handle vaginal deliveries that many doctors here would not — breech births, for example, and twins. Many times twins are a surprise because many women who come to the clinic have had no prenatal care.

Braun and the other midwives take turns working in Uganda together with Ugandan nurses, providing prenatal care, delivery, basic medical care, basic family planning and postpartum care. Braun coordinates the program out of her home — a normal single-family home not far from mine. I’ve seen her office. Last time I was there, a pair of scissors for cutting umbilical cords was sitting on her kitchen counter, left over from a recent birth she’d attended in Boulder. I thought that was funny. Dirty coffee cups, saucers, umbilical cord scissors...

Many of the women Braun and the others care for are victims of rape. Many have lost children to the violence that has devastated Uganda. A great many are raising children alone.

Kids, pigs and piglets — a scene from one of the IDP camps.

The camps themselves present severe challenges for hygiene, as animals and people crowd into close quarters without clean, running water or sewer systems or any of the things you and I take for granted.

Beyond the camps are remote villages where there are no doctors, no nurses, no clinics. The residents there simply live — and die — without medical care. Braun and other health-care providers from the clinic began doing outreach, taking medical supplies to remove areas, where literally hundreds of people would gather, waiting for hours to be seen and treated. Ear infections, appendicitis, skin rashes, TB, HIV — you name it, they see it. And they treat it.


People gather to receive medical treatment on one of the clinic's outreach excursions.

I was one of the first journalists — perhaps the first? — to report on IMA’s work in Afghanistan. Having given birth to two babies, I cannot imagine the horror of dying in labor. The pain of a normal labor is excruciating. To spend three or four days in unceasing agony before dying — no one in the world deserves that. But pregnancy truly is a death sentence far too often.

Over the years, I’ve watched as IMA moved to Uganda, expanding its program as its resources allowed, and I’ve done my best to support Braun’s efforts. But I want to do more.

So I’m asking those of you who’d like to help to join me in putting our money together to support IMA. I will donate $100 and am looking for 1,000 romance readers — those of us who believe in happy endings — to likewise donate $100, or 10,000 to donate $10 each — so that together we can make a $10,000 donation to IMA. That’s 10 percent of its annual budget.

All of the money they raise goes to their programs. All of the midwives who participate are volunteers. No one is sitting on a fat salary. IMA is a true blue nonprofit designed for one purpose — to save the lives of women and their babies. So those of you who are afraid to donate because you think most of it’s going to go for commercials or swag or some fat cat in a suit needn’t fear. Because I reported on IMA, I know where the money is going.

Here’s how it works:

1. I will donate $100.
2. Those who can afford it also donate $100.
3. Others decide how much they can afford and gather a group of friends together so that their group’s total donation equals $100. So two friends could donate $50 each. Or four could donate $25 each or 10 could donate $10 each. Donate online by clicking here.
4. E-mail me and tell me how much you/your group donated.
5. Help me spread the word via blogs, Twitter, etc., until the total donation value from all individuals and groups equals $10,000.
5. We sit back and know that we helped to save lives. No maybes about it. We saved lives.

I will blog about those who contribute, and I will give away some unknown number of copies of Breaking Point as random prizes for those who’ve contributed. Also, I’ll hold a phone chat with any readers group that donates together, calling you and chatting on the phone at my own expense. I wish I could offer big prizes, but I can’t. Maybe next year, I’ll organize an auction with other authors. But for now, this is what I have.

So get the women in your readers group together. Or call a group of friend at your church. Then donate online and tell me what you did. I’ll keep records and help track our progress at reaching that $10,000 mark.

It’s rare in the world of today’s corporate nonprofits to be able to donate and make such a direct contribution to saving the lives of others. From HIV meds to prenatal care to catching babies, IMA makes a difference in real women’s lives. At a time of year when many of us are celebrating the birth of a child, this nonprofit feels like the perfect fit.

To read more about their operation and to see more photographs, click here for their website.

And from the bottom of my heart, thank you!
Friday, December 03, 2010

BREAKING POINT is done! Here's an EXCERPT

It is done.

Today, Dec. 2, at about 4 AM, I finished my 10th novel. Without getting any sleep, I went to work. Then at about 11 AM, I sent it to my editor in New York, and have been trying not to get too worried or depressed since then.

I always have a bit of post-partum depression when I let a book go. I've spent so much time with the characters, been in their heads 24/7 for days and weeks and months — and then they're gone. It leaves an empty feeling. I’m terribly fond of Zach and Natalie and the whole I-Team gang.

It sounds crazy, I know. But it’s true.

I feel like the story turned out pretty well. It is absolutely the most action-packed I-Team book to date, and perhaps the scariest.

I hope with all my heart that you enjoy it and find it worth the wait.

To celebrate finishing the book — and to celebrate the fact that it's my 10th novel — I'm sharing an excerpt with you.

Here you go:

From Breaking Point, an I-Team Novel

Natalie took a sip of coffee, studying Zach over the top of her porcelain cup as he devoured what was left of his breakfast. Most of the time when she interviewed someone, she had a good sense of whether that person was telling her the truth. Today, however, her intuition seemed to be taking a vacation.

Maybe the stakes were too high this time. Maybe she was too caught up in her own emotions and too close to the situation to focus clearly. Or maybe Zach was just harder to read than most people.

If only he would put on a shirt!

It wasn’t right for any man to be so dangerous and so sexy at the same time. Her adrenal glands and her ovaries were locked in a shouting match now, the former insisting she needed to run away fast, the latter wishing he’d kiss her again.

And that’s why you need to think with your brain.

She set her cup down. “How did you get shot? I’ve seen the scar.”

“A man aimed an AK-47 at my back and fired.” He shoveled the last bite of hash browns into his mouth and chewed.

Okay, so he wasn’t going to answer that one.

“What’s your last name?”

He set down his fork and napkin. “Smith. No, Jones. No, wait — it’s Black. I like that better. Zach Black. It rhymes.”

He wasn’t going to answer that one either.

“If you didn’t steal the cocaine, Zach Black, why didn’t you just tell me that right away? Why let me believe you’re some kind of criminal if you’re not?”

“I was afraid you’d start asking a lot of questions, like you always do, and we both had more important things to deal with.” His plate clean, he reached for his coffee, then leaned back in his chair, his long legs stretched out in front of him, his pants riding low enough on his hips to expose a trail of dark hair that disappeared behind his zipper. “Besides, it’s not like you were going to say, ‘Please leave me with the Zetas.’”

He took a sip.

“Why did the Zetas think you’d stolen the drugs if you didn’t?”

He seemed to think about this, as if deciding whether or not to answer. “The person I believe stole the shipment drugged me, then handed me over to them and told them I’d stolen it, making me the scapegoat for her actions.”

A woman? “She drugged you?”

He nodded. “She called, asked me to meet her at a bar in Ju├írez, and the next thing I knew, I was a guest in Hotel Zeta.”

Hotel Zeta?

More like Hell on Earth.

Natalie couldn’t fathom how he could make light about his captivity after what he’d been through. “Didn’t she care what they would do to you?”

“I guess she cared more about money.” He took another sip.

“That’s terrible.”

Proof of how much he’d suffered was still visible on his body—from the dark purple bruise on his ribcage to the faint pink electrical burns on his chest and belly to the gauze bandages on his raw, blistered wrists. If what he’d said was true, this person had turned him over to the Zetas, knowing full well he would be tortured and killed.

How could any woman be so heartless?

The next question that popped out of Natalie’s mouth was not the one she’d been about to ask. “Was she your lover?”

How incredibly rude! That’s none of your business, girl!

Zach didn’t answer right away, his lips curving in a smile. “Now why, oh, why would you ask me that, Ms. Benoit?”

“No reason.” She felt herself blush. “Just curious.”

“Ah, I see.” He set his coffee cup down on the tray, the amused expression on his face telling her that he did see—right through her. “No, she wasn’t my lover—though not for lack of trying on her part.”

So Zach didn’t sleep with every woman who threw herself at him. That was good to hear. “Are you married?”

He shook his head. “No.”

Natalie couldn’t seem to stop herself. “Divorced?”

“No!”

“Gay?”

He came face to face with her in one smooth motion, so close that she could see flecks of gold in the gray of his irises, the spicy-clean scent of his skin filling her lungs. “Oh, angel, I think you know the answer to that one, but if you need proof… ”

A big hand slid into her hair, cradling the back of her skull, angling her face upward. Pulse tripping, she found herself looking into his eyes, wondering if he would was really going to do it, if he was really going to kiss her.

And then he did kiss her.

Slowly.

He brushed his lips over hers, the mere whisper of a touch sending shudders through her, making her breath catch. Then he slipped his other arm around her and drew her against his bare chest, the hard feel of his body making her go weak. But still he didn’t kiss her full on, teasing her mouth with his, nipping her lips, tracing their outline with his tongue, until her lips tingled and ached and she was trembling.

She shouldn’t let him do this. Zach was a dangerous man, a killer. She knew next to nothing about him, not even his last name. All she had was his promise that he wasn’t a criminal. But it had been so long since a man had touched her, so long since she’d wanted a man to touch her.

She slid her arms around his neck, arched into him, desperate for more.

He groaned, and the hand in her hair became a fist. And in a heartbeat the kiss transformed, his lips pressing hard and hot against hers, his tongue thrusting deep.

Oh, my stars!

Heat lanced through her, striking deep in her belly. With a whimper, she kissed him back, welcoming his tongue with her own, breathing in the male scent of him, her insides going liquid as his hand moved slowly down her spine.


Mark your calendars. The book will be released on May 3! That’s two months earlier than we all expected because someone — that’s me — has missed more night’s sleep than you can imagine trying to meet that deadline. The story is already available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

Time to rest for a while.

And then, we'll be takin' a journey through time back to Fort Elizabeth, where Connor MacKinnon is in a world of trouble...

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Favorite Writing Quotes


"I am an artist. I am here to live out loud."
—Emile Zola

"I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day."
—James Joyce

"Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery."
—Jane Austen

"Writers are those for whom writing is more difficult that it is for others."
—Ernest Hemingway

"When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth."
—Kurt Vonnegut

"The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar is the test of their power."
—Toni Morrison

"No tears in the author, no tears in the reader."
—Robert Frost.

"I'm a writer. I give the truth scope."
—the character of Chaucer in
A Knight's Tale