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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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Monday, November 28, 2011

The Best of Iain MacKinnon


While we’re all enduring the countdown to the release of the author’s cut of Surrender, I thought I would share with you my favorite quotes from the story.

Sometimes when I’m writing, I find myself putting words on the page that make me laugh or touch me or that seem like the kind of think readers will remember even after they finished the book. And then I wonder if readers actually do notice and appreciate the things I think are special in a story.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share with you my 10 favorite quotes from Surrender. Those of you who’ve read the book can tell me whether they resonate with your favorite quotes, while those of you who haven’t can just endure the torment of being teased in tiny tidbits.

I’ve excluded favorite quotes that would give away plot, so there are other quotes not included here. Also, in a couple of instances, I’ve had to include the set-up so that Iain’s words are presented in context and make sense.

Ready?

Here are my favorite quotes from Iain MacKinnon in the order they appear in the story:


“Your men will no’ strike him again, or I’ll show you just how much barbarian blood runs in my veins!”

~~~


“Kickin’ a man in the stones is a strange way to thank him for savin’ your life, lass.”

~~~

“’Tis a remedy made by the old grannies of the Muhheconneok people. Try though I might to get those old women to yield their secrets, they tell me I am only a man and that I should fetch more meat and ask fewer questions.”

~~~

“If they didna shoot us outright, they’d have taken us prisoner and interrogated us both. If their captain were an honorable man, he’d have protected you from his men until you could be traded back to the redcoats for a French prisoner. If no’, I suspect they’d have passed you around like a flask of rum. After that, lass, I dinnae think it would much have mattered.”

~~~


“When a man looks into a woman’s eyes, lass, he doesna want to see the horrors he has kent written there. He wants to see joy and warmth and some measure of innocence. ’Tis the natural duty and desire of a man to protect his woman and children from the world’s bitterness.”

~~~

“You’d tempt a saint, lass. But I am no’ a saint.”


~~~

“I ken why they died!” Iain’s temper snapped. “I will live wi’ that anguish for the rest of my life. But you were no’ there. You didna see her spill out of the forest at my feet. You didna watch her fightin’ wi’ all she had to stay alive. If I’d have left her to be raped and murdered, I’d no’ be able to live wi’ myself.”

[And a couple of lines later]

“Dinnae try to tell me the cost of war, pretty wee prince! While you sit in here wi’ your brandy and warm fire, my men and I live and breathe war. Hang me if you wish. Flay the skin off my back. But I could no more have left her to be murdered than I could have killed her myself.”

~~~

“You tell them I’ll slit any man who dishonors her from brow to balls, and that includes Wentworth. While she is here, she is under my protection.”

~~~


Iain spoke to his men, a grin on his face. “Morn’, boys. I heard you had a bit of a collieshangie in the night. Sorry to wake you so early.”


~~~


“You are far more than your maidenhead, Annie, but you dinnae need to explain. I have nothin’ to offer a woman, and you deserve the love and protection of a husband. I wouldna send you to your marriage bed feelin’ shame.”

~~~


"That’s the sixth kiss you’ve stolen from me!”

“So you’re keepin’ a tally, are you, lass?” Iain grinned. “Forgi’e me for sayin’ so, but it seems to me you stole that one right back. Or was that someone else’s tongue in my mouth?”

~~~


“Nay, Annie. You’re right about me. I am a barbarian. If you stay, ’tis only a matter of time before I come to your bed and steal far more than a kiss. You ken it as well as I. Aye, I can feel it in the way your heart is beatin’. If you stay here, you and I will lie together — as sure as the sun rises.”

~~~

She reached up, held his face between her palms. "How can I help but fret? You live wi' death on your heels."


"For your sake, lass, I promise to stay one step ahead.”

~~~

“Forgi’e me, Father, for I’m about to sin.”

~~~

“You think to judge me, MacKinnon? I’ve littered the ground wi’ the corpses of men like you.”

Iain raised his blade and smiled. “You’ve never met a man like me.”


For me, that last line has always summed up Iain and his brothers — that new breed of men created by life on the frontier. Born in Scotland, raised to manhood among the Mahican, they are a mix of Highlander and Indian warrior. I’ve loved writing this series, and I’m so glad so many of you have loved it, too.

I hope you enjoyed the quotes!

Only 9 days until Iain and Annie story starts again!
Friday, November 25, 2011

Lady Anne's World — A MacKinnon’s Rangers special

With the reissue of Surrender only 12 days away, I thought I would share with you a little bit about the world of Lady Anne, the book’s heroine. She's one of my favorite heroines, in part because of how strong she is and how determined she is to survive. So here’s a look at the world of Lady Anne.... Enjoy!

Lady Anne Burness Campbell was born in 1740 to the Earl of Rothesay and his wife, Lady Mara, in her father’s halls in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute in Scotland. The youngest child and only daughter born into the family she endured the loss of her father and brothers — Robert, William and Charles — at a young age when they were slain fighting for the British against Jacobites at the Battle of Prestonpans.


She and her bereaved mother were taken in by her father’s elder brother, Lord Bute. Lady Anne grew up amidst comforts, pampered by her uncle, living in her uncle’s halls as if she were his own daughter. Surrounded by the beauty of Bute and the Firth of Clyde, she has as happy, though she misses her brothers and father.



But the events of a single night change everything. Lady Anne, with the help of her lady’s maid, Betsy, dresses in servant’s clothing steals away, fleeing for her life, desperate to reach Glasgow to seek the help of her father’s old factor.

She never makes it.


Placed in a rat-infested cell in the gaol at Inverary and accused by her uncle of thievery, she waits in the dark for help that never comes, surrounded by the stench, screams, and suffering of others prisoners.



Innocent but forsaken, Lady Anne faces branding and a long journey over the sea on a convict ship to America, where she will be sold into fourteen years indentured servitude to a frontier family.


But Lady Anne is stronger than she knows. She will meet horrors she never could have imagined, and she will conquer her fears. And she won't do it alone.

In her future is a man like no man she’s ever known before. Armed with a claymore like the ones that killed her brothers and father, with the combined fighting skill of his Highland ancestors and the American Indians who adopted him, Iain MacKinnon will find her at her darkest moment, and nothing in her life will be the same.



The author’s cut of Surrender hits bookstores on Dec. 6!

Click here for an excerpt.

Those of you who’ve read the story have extra scenes and an extended scene to look forward to, while those of you who are new to the MacKinnon’s Rangers have a second chance to get in at the beginning of the series.

To get warmed up for the reissue of Surrender and Untamed, let’s have a contest. Just post below, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Surrender!
Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Menu

Rockwell’s idea of Thanksgiving

Somehow it’s November, and Thanksgiving is exactly one week away. As is typical for me, I have done nothing to plan or prepare for this event, even though it looks like I’ll be so lucky as to have both of my sons, Alec and Benjamin, home for the holiday.

Benjy arrives on Sunday, which just happens to be his birthday. He’ll be 22. So we have that to celebrate.

But when it comes to Thanksgiving, plans are still in the works.

Although I love a traditional Thanksgiving spread, I’ve started to change what I’m cooking based on — wait for it — what we actually eat. Whoa! What a concept!

I used to get a 12-pound turkey for the three of us. We would fight over the breast meat and then kind of work our way through the rest. Rather than buy a whole turkey, I started buying just a turkey breast. It eliminates waste and leaves more room in the fridge. The only trouble with this is that most turkey breasts are about 7 pounds, and part of that is bone. That doesn’t leave much in the way of leftovers.

I thought I’d be clever this year and order a big, fat turkey breast, but the woman at the butcher shop told me that turkey breasts only come in 7- to 8-pound sizes. Frustrated, I explained the situation to her, and she came up with this groundbreaking solution: buy TWO!

My family at Thanksgiving when I was about 9 years old.

So this year, I’m going to buy and brine two turkey breasts so that we’ll have lots of leftovers. Here’s what’s on the rest of our menu:

Tray of munchables, like olives, radishes, celery sticks, Italian peppers — This keeps hungry young men from bugging the cook.

Mashed potatoes — Greatest food invention ever.

Stuffing — Not inside the bird, obviously. With potatoes, we don’t really need it, but what is Thanksgiving without stuffing?

Some kind of squash — I have acorn and delicatta left from my garden. I steam delicatta but bake acorn squash.

Green Beans — I usually just steam them but this year I might mix them with steamed golden beats.

Broccoli or Brussel sprouts — We love both in this house, and I saw a cool recipe for oven roasting Brussel sprout halves after stirring them in a mix of apple cider vinegar, olive oil and spices.

Cranberry sauce — Nothing from a can, thank you. I make my own from fresh berries. It’s easy and tastes so much better. Plus, you can cut back on the sugar.

And for the grand finale, a homemade Pecan Pie and my first attempt ever at Maple Cream Pie, something Benjy learned to love from his years in college in upstate New York.

I’m going to be back, probably this weekend, to discuss pie-making with Natalie Benoit McBride — the heroine from Breaking Point. This is her first Thanksgiving as a married woman, and she’s pulling out the stops to make it special and romantic for herself and her husband, Zach McBride. They definitely have a lot to be thankful for this year. I had hoped to bring Dessert Diva in from the newspaper to make pies with Natalie, but that never worked out, so you’re stuck with me.

Speaking of Breaking Point, it was named one of the top 10 romances both under books and Kindle romance of 2011 by Amazon.com — a huge honor and a thrill. Right now, you can vote for Breaking Point in the Goodreads Choice Awards, where it has made the semifinal rounds and faces some amazing competition. Click here to vote, and thank you so much for your support!
Tuesday, November 15, 2011

10 Things I Love About Writing Colonial History




This year, it’s a Colonial Christmas for me. Not only is Surrender being reissued a few weeks before Christmas, but I’ll be finishing Defiant right around the holiday. I’ll do a post soon about Colonial Christmas traditions. But for today, I thought I’d share with you why I love writing Colonial American romance.

And I do love it.

Although I do intend to try my hand at a few other periods of history, the one I enjoy most is America’s colonial history. Here’s are 10 reasons why:

10. There was no television. People turned to one another for entertainment, reading aloud, telling stories from memory, playing music, singing songs together at night.



9. It was the Age of Reason, the Enlightenment, with science supplanting religious hatreds, Church control and medievalism. People were free to think for themselves, challenge old institutions, and create new ones.



8. The romance of old technology was still there — the chandler, the cheeser, the seamstress, the vintner, the milliner, the butcher, the rope maker, the sawyer, the blacksmith, the baker, the fish monger, the cooper, the poulterer and on and on.



7. The mix of cultures is fascinating, though often tragic. I’m not just talking about American Indians and whites. I’m also talking about the mix of Europeans, too — English, Scottish, Scots-Irish, German, French, Scandinavian, Dutch and so on. They had their own religions, their own customs. And somehow this mix of Europeans — often enemies back in the old country — managed to create communities and, eventually, build a nation.



6. The class conflict. That’s a strange thing to like, I guess, but that’s always something I include in my writing. Despite how it may seem in Romancelandia, most people were not nobility. Lords and ladies made up a tiny segment of society. The stratification was very strong in Europe. It was strong, too, in the Colonies, but the frontier eroded those boundaries, including the boundaries between men and women.

5. The clothes. They weren’t as absurd as the clothing from earlier in the 18th century, nor as ridiculous and comical as 17th-century attire. There’s something about a man with a queue and a tricorn that I find really sexy. Women’s gowns ranged from functional to works of art.



4. The women were strong, brave and skilled. They had to make clothing, cook, can, garden, treat all sicknesses — and give birth to many children at home, often without help.



3. The men were tough, skilled, and strong. They had to farm, care for animals, chop firewood, hunt and fight to keep their families alive.



2. The landscape was true wilderness, giving my characters something else to overcome besides the machinations of mere mortals. The wilderness is like another character in the story.


1. Men with muskets! Need I say more?


Only 21 days till MacKinnon’s Rangers muster once again and Surrender is back on bookshelves!
Sunday, November 13, 2011

WHISPERING ROCK by Robyn Carr

Whispering Rock (Virgin River, #3)Whispering Rock by Robyn Carr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I hate it when I buy a book and then discover I already have it. Such was the case with Robyn Carr's WHISPERING ROCK. I owned it — and then spent $23+ to buy it for my iPod. Oh, well. I should check Goodreads more often to see what I already own. But I digress...

WHISPERING ROCK was a delight and helped me make it through a difficult weekend when I need escape more than anything else. As I told my mother, the VIRGIN RIVER SERIES is “comfort romance” at its best, featuring a town of heroic men and women who are thoughtful, resourceful and care about others more than themselves.

This is the third book in the series and tells the story of Brie, a tough assistant district attorney, who has just been the victim of a brutal rape, and Mike (Miguel), a friend of Brie's older brother Jack and retired cop who is himself a survivor of violent crime — and deeply attracted to Brie.

As with all the Virgin River books, readers are brought up to date on the other characters' lives. Carr has a gift for involving us in multiple story lines involving primary, secondary and even tertiary characters without losing the readers' interest. This gives Virgin River the feeling of being a real town (though I have to say its residents are a lot nicer than the residents of my town).

While Jack and Mel and Paige and Preacher — characters from the first two books — deal with their own challenges, Mike slowly helps Brie back from the brink, offering her an understanding that no one else can. Having been shot and almost killed, he knows what it's like to survive trauma. Because one of the bullets struck his groin, robbing him of his ability to get an erection, he also understands what it is to be robbed of one's sexuality, something that's very real for Brie in the wake of this terrible rape.

As a rape survivor, I guess I'm drawn to stories about healing from sexual assault because it resonates. Mike was a true hero for Brie, putting her needs before his own on every single page. And although a few times — the initial sex scene between them, for example — I felt Brie's healing was a little too miraculous, lacking the darker edges of reality, I realize there's only so much an author or a reader wants to dwell on that in a novel with a happy ending.

Overall, I felt Carr did an amazing job of crafting a trauma victim's sense of reality, showing the way post-traumatic stress takes over a person's life. (I dealt with that for five long horrible years.) In one scene, Brie faces her first night in a house alone, and I felt every moment of it with her. I have lived that night many, many times — holding the gun, staying awake almost all night long, heart racing, stomach sick, every noise making me jump. Even the thoughts Brie had were familiar to me. Carr really did her research here — or perhaps has had experiences of her own.

Fortunately for Brie, there is Mike, who provides her with the healing that many rape victims never receive. The result is a poignant, beautiful romance that left me smiling.

For those who love babies in romance, the Virgin River series delivers... no pun intended. I happen to love babies and have a real interest in midwifery and home birth, so I love it.

It's the third book in the series, and I've enjoyed them all so far. Listening to it on audiobook as opposed to reading it forced me to slow down and appreciate Carr's use of language more. She has a very smooth, silky style that seems very simple but which, in truth, requires some serious skill.

When it comes to steam, I was satisfied. I'm more interested in story than sex. I'd rather feel connected to the characters than watch them do gymnastics on the bed. There is romantic, touching sex in this story, and I think most readers of contemporary romance will enjoy it.

As a P.S., just let me add that Audible.com really ought to make certain that its narrators and voice actors can actually speak the languages they’re speaking. Mike is Latino and spoke Spanish as his first language. The narrator, bless her heart, couldn’t speak Spanish at all, and her abysmal accent made me, a multi-lingual person, cringe.



View all my reviews
Friday, November 04, 2011

Countdown to SURRENDER


Time flies when you’re writing a novel. Now, suddenly, summer is over. Several inches of snow lie on the ground outside, with more snow on the way. Breaking Point is six months behind me, and Defiant is 10 chapters plus an epilogue away from being done.

And suddenly, without any warning, I find myself a month away from the reissue of Surrender, the first book in the MacKinnon’s Rangers series. How can that be? Surrender wasn’t slated for release until...

December 6!

Well, now that’s just a month away.

I haven’t had a historical romance out since Untamed was released in 2008. My historical readers — bless them! — are the most patient people in the world. They’ve put up with this long wait while I’ve worked on I-Team books. And now finally they’re going to get some attention.

So here’s a big ((((((((((((Hug)))))))))))) from me to those of you who consider yourselves to be fans primarily of my historical novels. Sorry to have kept you waiting for so long! Thank you so much for your patience!

For those of you who’ve never read one of my historical novels, let me introduce you to the MacKinnon's Rangers series:

Set in far upstate Colonial New York during the tumult of the French and Indian War, it tells the stories of three brothers — Iain, Morgan and Connor — exiled from the Scottish Highlands as adolescent boys who grew up alongside the Mahican Indians. Forced by an unscrupulous British officer, Lord William Wentworth, to fight in the French and Indian War against the French, who are the traditional allies of the Catholic Scottish Highlanders, they forge a new breed of warrior.

The series grew out of research I did for the third Blakewell/Kenleigh book, Ride the Fire. I had come across references to Robert Rogers and Rogers' Rangers in the course of my work on that novel, and I decided to dig deeper. Robert Rogers is considered to be the father of the U.S. Army Rangers. He combined American Indian woodcraft and fighting techniques with European techniques and created a new kind of warfare Without him — without his contributions — the French might have well won the French and Indian War.

Rogers created this new kind of warfare, establishing what was the first special forces. The Rangers were the special ops teams of their day. They fought by rules that other units knew nothing about, accomplishing deeds wearing wool, carrying awkward tumpline packs and heavy rifled muskets, and using nothing but compasses and the stars to guide them that would push today’s special forces equipped with polypro, GPS, sat phones, and modern weaponry. You’ll find no greater fans of the Rangers than among U.S. Army Rangers, who revere them.

I found this fascinating and thought I would create a series out of this concept. I love the time period and the history, so it really came together for me as a writer. I have loved writing MacKinnon’s Rangers series.

The first book in the series is titled Surrender. It sets up the series and tells the story of the eldest brother, Iain, and Lady Anne Burness Campbell, who is betrayed by her uncle and sold into indentured servitude in the Colonies. Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

A hand-picked cadre of warriors, they had the fierce courage of their Scots forefathers, combined with the stealth and cunning of the Indians who lived beside them in the wilderness. Battling the French in no-holds-barred combat, they forged a new brand of honor, became a new breed of men…

MacKinnon’s Rangers

Iain MacKinnon had been forced to serve the British crown, but compassion urged him to save the lovely lass facing certain death at the hands of the Abenaki. He’d defied his orders, endangered his brothers, his men and his mission, all for a woman. But when he held Annie’s sweet body in his arms, he could feel no regret. Though he sensed she was hiding something from him, it was too late to hold back his heart. In love and war, there are times when the only course of action is… Surrender.


The first time Surrender was released, it had a gawdawful cover. The initial rejected version (at top) showed a guy who looked like Daniel Boone standing in the distance in front of a village of tipis. There are no Native cultures in New York that lived in Plains Indian-style tipis. And what’s with those mountains? Is this the Alps? It’s certainly not the Adirondacks.



The version that was part of the books first release, above, features the same image, but with the model’s shirt removed — and his sexy chesticles hidden behind what I call a modesty plaid. Why in the world did the publisher do this? I believe the distributor was pushing them to create “family values” covers or some other nonsense. Sadly, the tipis remained. It was a terrible cover, and a lot of readers bypassed the book for that reason, which left me very sad.

The book might not have captured the attention of readers who didn’t know my name, but it did get fantastic reviews and was a RITA Finalist, which was very exciting. This inspired the initial publisher to reissue the book with a new and improved cover (below).

This version was released just before Untamed, Morgan’s book, came out. Ride the Fire was reissued at the same time with a similar cover.

But then the publisher started having trouble. Before I could start the third book in the series, Connor’s story, my editor left, and the publisher quit publishing books in print. Which meant no book for Connor. I was so afraid the series was dead, and that broke my heart.

Fortunately, my editor at Penguin, which publishes my I-Team series, was pleased enough with the I-Team to be curious about my historicals. She read them and decided she wanted the series. Keep in mind that it’s almost unheard of for a publishing company to buy a series mid-stream. But that’s what Penguin did.

Rather than just putting out Connor’s book, which is titled Defiant, they decided to buy the rights to the entire series and start over. This past summer I got the chance to so something an author rarely gets a chance to do — revisit a story and make changes.

I gave Surrender a fresh edit, changing the way some parts were written to improve them. I also added some new scenes. A few of them are events that happened “off stage” in the original version of the story but now happen on stage where the reader can experience the full scene and not just a brief recap. One of the scenes is from scratch and shares a key Lord William moment toward the end of the book.



The new cover is historically accurate in every detail — the leggings, the rifled musket, the Mahican lodge, the New York forest, the strip of MacKinnon plaid, the hero’s hair. Does it scream romance? No. But I hope it’s appealing.

I like the shiny, gold medallion that screams, “Includes New Material.”

I want to make it clear that this is a reissue, so if you’ve read Surrender, you know what happens in this book. The plot doesn’t change. But the writing is re-edited, and there are a handful of new scenes. A reader emailed to ask me whether I felt the new scenes made the new book worth buying. I can’t answer that question.

But for those of you who didn’t catch MacKinnon’s Rangers the first time around, now is your chance to get in on the ground floor before Untamed comes out in January and Defiant, Connor’s book is finally, finally released in July 2012.

Only one month to go before Iain and Annie’s story is available again!

So which version of the cover do you all like the most?

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"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."
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—Jane Austen

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