Book Releases

Barely Breathing (A Colorado High Country Novel) — Look for the first book in my new Colorado High Country series on May 10! This new contemporary series is set in the small mountain community of Scarlet Springs and focuses on the lives and adventures of members of an alpine search and rescue team. It will be available in print and ebook, with audiobook coming sometime this fall.


Soul Deep out in audiobook! — Jack West, widower, rancher and former Army Ranger, gets his own love story in this special I-Team novella, which was picked by readers at Grave Tells as the Best Contemporary Romance of 2015. It will be out in audiobook any day now.


Seduction Game is out in paperback, (I-Team #7) — Holly and Nick’s story is out in all formats — ebook, audiobook, and paperback. Look for it in Wal-Mart, the Kroger chain of stores, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookseller.


Dead By Midnight: An I-Team Christmas is out! — The grand finale of the I-Team series finds all the couples you love brought together when terrorists attack holiday festivities at a historica hotel in downtown Denver. It’s bad news for the terrorists. They have no clue what they’ve done when they take Marc Hunter and his friends hostage. Featuring cameos by the men of New York Times bestselling author Kaylea Cross’s Hostage Rescue Team series. Available in ebook and paperback.

About Me

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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

Monday, December 26, 2011

Untamed Reissue — EXCERPT

Out on January 2

The year 2011 is coming to a close — yes, another year has whizzed by — and I’m going to spend every waking moment between now and Jan. 1 finishing Defiant. Then I’ll ring in the New Year by celebrating the reissue of Untamed on Jan. 2.

As far as Defiant goes, I’ve got 30 chapters written — about 390 manuscript pages — and have about two chapters plus the epilogue left to write. That’s about 9,000 more words or so, depending on how quickly I can wrap it up. I hate to rush endings, so it might be more than that.

I was on such a roll the other night but had to stop because it was 3 AM, and I needed to pick my younger son up at the airport. So I had to stop writing because driving is dangerous with your eyes closed. But before I stopped, I wrote a two-page sketch of all the remaining scenes in the story.

Wish me luck! I am excited to finish the story, after which I hope to take a bit of time off. There are a lot of things I want to change about myself and my life, and I need to put some focus on that as the new year begins. I have high hopes for 2012 — I will, after all, turn 12, or, rather, celebrate my 12th real birthday. It seems there ought to be something especially lucky about turning 12 in 2012.

In the meantime, I believe I promised you the original first chapter of Untamed — and by original I mean “as written.” As followers of this blog know, about twenty-five manuscript pages were cut from the story before it was published the first time. It is being reissued with all of the original material intact, including a major plot change in how the villain is dispatched.

When I get author copies, we’ll have a fresh round of contests to get copies of Morgan’s story in your hot little hands.

While I finish Defiant, I’ll leave you with a taste of the restored first chapter of Untamed.

Enjoy!

Chapter 1

April 19, 1759
Ticonderoga
New York frontier


Major Morgan MacKinnon lay on his belly, looking down from the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain to the French fort at Ticonderoga below. He held up his brother Iain’s spying glass—nay, it was now his spying glass—and watched as French soldiers unloaded kegs of gunpowder from the hold of a small ship.

Clearly, Bourlamaque was preparing to defend the fort again. But if Morgan and his men succeeded in their mission tonight, that powder would never see the inside of a French musket.

Connor stretched out beside him and spoke in a whisper. “I cannae look down upon this place without thinkin’ of that bastard Abercrombie and the good men we lost.”

Morgan lowered the spying glass and met his younger brother’s gaze. “Nor can I, but we didna come here to grieve.”

“Nay.” Connor’s gaze hardened. “We’ve come for vengeance.”

Last summer, they’d had no choice but to follow Abercrombie—or Nanny Crombie as the men had called him—to a terrible defeat. An arrogant bastard who paid no heed to the counsel of mere provincials, Abercrombie had ignored their warnings that Ticonderoga could not be taken without artillery. He hadn’t believed that the hastily built abatis—the barrier of felled trees and branches that had been piled afore the walls—could hinder trained British Regulars and had ordered his men against the French breastworks with naught but muskets. Soldiers had become ensnared like rabbits, cut down by French marksmen afore they could reach the walls, victims of their own loyalty and Abercrombie’s overweening pride.

On that terrible day, the Rangers, then under the command of Morgan’s older brother Iain, had taken position to the northwest together with Captain Joseph’s Muhheconneok warriors and had fired endlessly at the French marksmen, trying to dislodge them. But the French had turned cannon upon them and pounded them into the ground. So many had been lost—good men and true, men with families, men who’d fought beside them from the beginning.

’Twas here they’d lost Cam—and dozens more. Dead for naught.

When Abercrombie had finally sounded the retreat and the smoke had cleared, the fort had stood just as it had afore.

Never had Morgan seen such senseless death—and at the age of seven and twenty he’d seen death enough to sicken a man’s soul. For nigh on four years, he and his brothers had lived and breathed war. Forced by that whoreson Wentworth to choose between fighting for Britain or being hanged for a crime they had not committed, they’d taken up arms against the French and their Indian allies, harrying them with ambuscades, seizing their supplies, fighting them in forest and fen. They’d slain fellow Catholic and heathen alike, burying their own dead along the way.

Morgan had never imagined that he, as a MacKinnon, would fight the French, traditional allies of all Scotsmen still faithful to Church and Crown. During the Forty- Five, the French had aided the Highland clans, including Morgan’s grandfather—Iain Og MacKinnon, laird of Clan MacKinnon—in their vain struggle to drive the German Protestant from the throne. Then, after the disastrous defeat at Culloden, the French had given refuge to many an exiled Scot, saving countless lives from the wrath of Cumberland.

Even now France sheltered the rightful heir to the throne, bonnie Charles Stuart. Every true Scotsman owed the French a debt. Aye, it was a devil’s bargain that had spared Morgan and his brothers the gallows. Father Delavay, the French priest Iain had kidnapped last year when he’d had need of a priest to marry him and Annie, said the sin was not theirs but Wentworth’s. And yet absolution stuck in Morgan’s throat, for it was not bloody Wentworth who pulled the trigger on his rifle, but he himself. If anything gave him peace, it was knowing that Iain was now out of the fray, settled on the MacKinnon farm with Annie and little Iain, the firstborn of a new generation of MacKinnons.

Wentworth had released Iain from service, not because he’d wished to spare Iain, but because he was besotted with Annie. Whatever the cause for Wentworth’s mercy, Morgan was grateful. He’d never have found the courage to face Annie had Iain been slain in battle—or worse—taken captive.

Morgan saw something move in the dark forest below, heard the slow click of rifles being cocked around him, and felt a warm swell of pride. He rarely needed to give orders. Having fought side by side for so long, the Rangers thought and moved as one. There were no better fighters in the colonies, no men better suited to the hardship of this war. ’Twas an honor to lead them, as Iain had done afore him.

Morgan closed the spying glass, raised his rifle, cocked it. But it was not French scouts who emerged from the green wall of forest, but Captain Joseph’s warriors, eighty men in black and white war paint moving swiftly and silently through the shadows.

They’d been watching the Rangers’ west flank on the long march northward and had gone on to scout out the French sentries while Morgan and his men surveyed the fort from above.

Morgan lowered his rifle and whispered to Joseph in the Muhheconneok tongue. “You thrash about like a randy bull moose. We heard you coming from a league away. You might have been shot.”

Joseph grinned. “There is more to fear in a bee’s sting than in your muskets. My blind granny has better aim.”

Bonded by blood to Morgan and his brothers, Joseph Aupauteunk was the son of a Muhheconneok chief and a fearsome warrior. He and his father had come to the MacKinnon farm, bringing gifts of dried corn and venison that had helped Morgan and his family survive their first bitter winter of exile in the colonies.

Though Morgan’s mother—God rest her soul—had at first been terrified of Indians, a lasting friendship had grown between Morgan’s family and the Mahicans of Stockbridge. ’Twas Joseph and his uncles who’d taught Morgan and his brothers to track, to fight, to survive in the wild. As for what Joseph’s sisters had taught them, Morgan was too much of a gentleman to say—without a gill or two of whiskey in his belly.

Morgan switched to English so that those amongst his men who did not speak Muhheconneok could understand. “What does Bourlamaque have waitin’ for us?”

It was time to plan their strategy.

# # #

Amalie picked at her dinner, her appetite lost to talk of war. She did her best to listen politely, no matter how dismayed she felt at the thought of another British attack. Monsieur de Bourlamaque was commander of a garrison in the midst of conflict. It was right that he and his trusted officers should discuss the war as they dined. She did not wish to distract them with childish sentiments, nor was she so selfish that she required diversion.

And if, at times, she wished her guardian would ask to hear her thoughts . . .

Her father was the only person who’d ever done that, and he was gone. And so Amalie passed the meal in silence much as she’d done at the abbey.

“We must not let last summer’s victory lull us into becoming overconfident.” Bourlamaque dabbed his lips with a white linen serviette. His blue uniform, with its decorations and the red sash, set him apart from his officers, who wore gray. “Amherst is not a fool like Abercrombie. He would never have attacked without artillery.”

Lieutenant Fouchet looked doubtful. “Surely he will think twice before attempting to take us again. The British lost so many men!”

Amalie had heard that British losses exceeded fifteen hundred men. She could not imagine so many deaths. In all, the French had lost a hundred with another three hundred wounded, and that had seemed devastating. And yet, Amalie had overheard Bourlamaque call those casualties light.

Lieutenant Durand took a sip of wine. “How can they dare to plan another attack after having been defeated so resoundingly?”

“That resounding defeat is exactly why Amherst will attack.” Bourlamaque fixed both Fouchet and Durand with a grave eye. “For the sake of British pride, he will try to capture the fort this summer.”

Lieutenant Rillieux leaned back in his chair, his face a wide grin. Alone amongst the younger officers, who favored their natural hair, he wore a powdered wig, the white a marked contrast to his olive skin and dark brows. “Let him do his worst.”

Amalie stifled a gasp. How could he tempt fate in such a way when it meant the deaths of his own men? He’d do far better to pray for peace!

But Lieutenant Rillieux didn’t seem to realize he’d said something thoughtless. “We shall drive Amherst back into the forest just as we did his predecessor. My men are ready.”

“Were they ready when MacKinnon and his men attacked that last supply train?” Bourlamaque raised an eyebrow in clear disapproval. “We lost a fortune in rifled muskets—not to mention several cases of my favorite wine. No matter how well you prepare, the Rangers seem to stay one step ahead of you.”

Amalie’s belly knotted, as it did anytime she heard mention of MacKinnon’s Rangers. They seemed to be everywhere and nowhere, these men who had killed her father. Although Papa had reassured her that there was no such thing as chi bai, she’d begun to wonder if her cousins were right. Perhaps the Rangers weren’t men after all.

Lieutenant Rillieux’s nostrils flared, and he bowed his head in apology. “My regrets once more for your loss, monsieur. The MacKinnon brothers are formidable adversaries, but we will break them.”

“Let us hope so. Perhaps now that the eldest MacKinnon has been released from service, the Rangers will fall under poor leadership.”

“I doubt that, monsieur. Morgan MacKinnon is every bit the woodsman, marksman, and leader that Iain MacKinnon was. It would be foolish to underestimate him. But arrangements have been made. As I said, my men are ready.

Amalie wasn’t ready. She hadn’t forgotten last summer’s battle and feared the prospect of renewed bloodshed. Her grief for her father was still keen, her dreams filled with musket fire and the cries of dying men.

If only the accursed war would end! Life would be free to blossom again in New France. Sails would fill the harbors, bringing not soldiers but men and women who wanted to build homes and raise families here. The towns would bustle with hay wagons and apple carts instead of cannon and marching soldiers.

Farmers would return to their fields and orchards, trappers to their forest trails, wives to their gardens and their weaving.

And what will you do, Amalie? Where will you go when the war is won?

Bourlamaque, who was now her guardian, believed that it was past time for her either to take vows and serve Christ or to marry and serve a husband.

“I would see you safely settled,” he often reminded her. “It is my duty to your father, whom I greatly admired, despite his politics.”

But Amalie had no desire to return to the dreary life of the abbey. It seemed to her that she’d drawn her first real breath when, after sixteen years, she’d left its walls. There she’d felt listless, as if some part of her were trapped in slumber. Here at Fort Carillon, in her father’s company, she’d been truly happy. She’d felt alive.

She supposed she ought to marry, and yet in her grief she had not the heart for it. Bourlamaque assured her that a husband and children were the answer to her sorrow, and she knew he believed a swift marriage would be best for her. Still, she had hoped to make a love match as her parents had done. Women were expected to perform certain duties in marriage—to lie near their husbands and to bear their children—and Amalie knew from Sister Marie Louise, who’d taken vows after her husband and children had died of smallpox, that these wifely duties—did a man really mount his wife as a ram mounted a ewe?—were onerous even when one felt affection for one’s mate. To hear the good sister speak of it, childbirth was akin to the tortures of hell.

“I’d rather spend my life kneeling on a cold stone floor than suffer such agony again,” she’d whispered one afternoon as they’d tended the herb garden together. “God demands far less of a woman than does a husband.”

What little Amalie knew of birth seemed to prove Sister Marie Louise’s words true. It was not uncommon for a young girl to be left at the convent to bear a child in shame, and more than once Amalie had been awoken by the piteous cries that marked the throes of labor. Hadn’t her own mother perished in childbed? If Amalie were ever to suffer so, it would be on behalf of a man she loved. She wanted a husband who cherished her and whom she cherished in return, a man who, like her father, would value her opinions more than her obedience, who would see her as more than a helpmeet and the mother of his children, who would truly see her.

Certainly, Lieutenant Rillieux, while possessed of many admirable qualities, was not such a man. After her father’s death, he had begun to show an interest in her, pressing his suit with her guardian despite her insistence that she did not wish to be his wife. He did not seem to understand that his disregard for her opinions was the very proof she needed that they would not make a suitable match. And so she had pleaded bereavement, feigning confusion over which path to take—that of a novice or that of a wife—and Bourlamaque had relented in his efforts to find her a husband.

Yet she knew her reprieve wouldn’t last. Neither Monsieur le Marquis de Montcalm nor Monsieur de Bourlamaque wished her to remain at Fort Carillon any longer than was necessary, insisting that the frontier was no place for a woman without a husband.

If it hadn’t been for MacKinnon’s Rangers, whose lurking presence made the forest around Fort Carillon perilous, Bourlamaque would have sent her back to Trois Rivières when Montcalm had traveled north to Montréal. But the destruction of several supply trains and the loss of almost thirty soldiers to the horrid Scotsmen had convinced him that she was safer for the moment staying at the fort.

What will you do if the British prevail and the war is lost, Amalie?

She could not journey to France, for she knew no one there.

Nor would she seek out her mother’s kin, whose customs and language were strange to her. From two different worlds, she seemed to belong in neither.

The thought doused her last spark of appetite. She set her silverware aside.

“You haven’t eaten a bite, Amalie.” Bourlamaque frowned. “Are you feeling ill?”

Amalie had come to feel affection for Bourlamaque, the sort of affection one might feel for a favorite uncle. She did not wish to seem spiteful. “I fear talk of another battle has ruined my appetite, monsieur. Forgive me.”

“There is nothing to forgive.” He smiled indulgently. “We soldiers must do better to govern our tongues in your company.”

Lieutenant Rillieux took her hand, stroked his thumb over her knuckles. “You have nothing to fear, mademoiselle. There is not a soldier at Fort Carillon who would not fight to protect you. Is that not true, messieurs?”

“But of course!” Fouchet and Durand insisted, almost in unison.

Amalie pulled her hand free, tucked it in her lap. “I am not afraid for myself, messieurs, but for the soldiers. Almost two hundred have perished since I arrived last spring. I would hate to see more crosses planted in the earth.”

Lieutenant Rillieux chuckled. “Your concern is to be commended, Amalie, but they were soldiers. It was their honor and privilege to die for France.”

Amalie felt heat rush into her face, and the words were out before she could stop them. “That does not mean France should be wasteful with their lives.”

Lieutenant Rillieux’s smile faded, his gaze boring through her. “And what can a young mademoiselle who was raised in an abbey tell us about the complexities of war? Do go on, for I am most eager to hear.”

She lifted her chin, was about to speak, when Bourlamaque held up his hand.

“Your point is well taken, mon cher lieutenant,” he said, “but let us speak of something else. In Paris, we would never be forgiven if we were to persist in speaking of so dismal a topic in the presence of ladies.”

Lieutenant Rillieux bowed his head again. “Ah, quite right, monsieur. I do apologize.”

But Amalie did not miss the flush beneath his olive skin, or the angry press of his lips.

It was Bourlamaque who spoke next. “Père François tells me the medicinal herbs you planted in the garden are thriving, Amalie.”

And so they passed the remainder of the meal in polite but forced conversation, Amalie regretting her temper if not the words themselves. Bourlamaque, Fouchet, and Durand spoke on topics they seemed to think might interest a woman—the uses of herbs, the new vestments Amalie had sewn for Père François, the weather—while Lieutenant Rillieux looked bored. The last course had just been cleared away when she heard it.

The sharp retort of musket fire.

Then the front door flew open and a young sergeant dashed inside, a look of excitement on his face. He stopped when he saw Bourlamaque and saluted smartly. “It is MacKinnon’s Rangers, monsieur! We have them!”

# # #

Morgan knew it was a trap the moment the first powder keg failed to explode.

He’d waited until it was dark. Then with Connor and Joseph to guard the retreat, he’d crept along the riverbank with a small force of Rangers to fi re upon the kegs and ignite them. But, though he knew for certain he’d hit his mark and the others theirs, not a single keg had gone up. Now the French were alerted to their presence, and with no explosions or fire to distract them, they would come after the Rangers with their full strength.

“Fall back!”

Even as he shouted the command, the French opened fire—but not only from the walls. At least twenty infantrymen stood on the deck of the ship moored behind them, muskets aimed at the pier below. ’Twas like shooting ducks on a pond.

Morgan and his men were trapped in a cross fire.

“To the river!” He drew his pistol, felt a ball whiz past his cheek, crouched down to make himself a smaller target, peering through the darkness to account for his men.

Killy. McHugh. Brendan. Forbes. All running back to the riverbank.

Where was Dougie?

Then the forest behind them erupted with musket fire as the combined forces of the Rangers and the Muhheconneok—almost two hundred men—returned fire. They staggered their fire, giving the enemy no chance to breathe, sowing panic amongst the French, particularly those on the ship who seemed to realize all at once that they were far outside the fort’s walls.

That’s the way, boys!

Morgan took cover behind a battered hogshead, aimed his rifle at one of the soldiers on the ship, and fired, watching out of the corner of his eye as, one by one, his men reached the riverbank and dropped out of sight, Killy cursing all the way.

“Bastard sons of whores!”

But where was Dougie?

And then he saw.

Dougie lay on his back near the stack of kegs, reloading his rifle, a strip of white tied around his thigh. “Go on! Go!”

But Morgan wasn’t about to leave without him. He’d led his men into this trap. He would bloody well get them out— all of them.

He glanced toward the riverbank, saw McHugh, Killy, Brendan, and Forbes nose their rifles over the top of the bank and take aim, ready to cover him. He hurled his rifle, his claidheamh mòr, and his tumpline pack to Killy and got ready to run.

And then it came—the Muhheconneok war cry. It rose out of the forest, primal and raw, terrifying the French, turning their attention away from the pier and giving Morgan the chance he needed.

Blood thrumming, he drew in a breath, dashed out from behind the hogshead, and ran a jagged path toward Dougie, barely feeling the ball that burnt a path across his forearm or the one that creased his hip.

“A fine time to get shot this is!”

But Dougie was ready for him, crouching on one knee, his injured leg stretched out beside him. “You’re daft, MacKinnon!”

Morgan dropped down, took Dougie onto his back, and forced himself to his feet. “Och, you’re heavy as an ox! And you stink!”

His gaze fixed on the riverbank a hundred feet away, Morgan ran, Dougie’s added weight pounding through the straining muscles of his thighs to the soles of his moccasins, his heart slamming in his chest.

“You run like a lass!” Dougie shouted in his ear. “Can you no’ go faster?”

But Morgan didn’t have the breath to do more than curse. “Mac-dìolain!” Whoreson!

Sixty feet. Fifty. Forty.

A roar of cannon erupted behind him, the French firing their twelve-pounders at the forest just as they had last summer, trying to turn the shelter of the trees into a charnel pit. Jeers coming from the trees told him balls had fallen short of the mark—this time.

Thirty feet. Twenty. Ten.

Morgan sucked breath into his aching lungs, drove himself forward, hurling both of them over the edge. They tumbled, arse over elbow, down the embankment to the sand below. No sooner had they landed than McHugh and Forbes took Dougie between them and hurried him along the river toward the forest beyond.

Young Brendan clasped Morgan’s forearm, helped him back to his feet, then hurried after McHugh and Forbes, already reloading.

Killy held out Morgan’s rifle and his pack, a smile on his scarred Irish face. “You bloody daft Scot.”

Another blast of cannon.

Morgan slipped the tumpline over his head, tucked his sword into place, grabbed his rifle, and then began to reload, shouting over the din. “Help McHugh and Forbes! I’ll cover our backs in case those bastards on the ship try to follow!”

“Aye.” Killy turned and was gone.

Morgan got into position, peeked over the edge of the riverbank, picked a target on the darkened deck of the ship, and fired.

Reloading quickly, he kept up a rapid fi re, glancing over to watch his men’s progress until they disappeared amongst the trees.

Then, feeling a rush of relief, he cast one last glance at the fort walls— and felt something strike him in the right shoulder. Instantly, his right arm went numb, falling useless to his side. Something warm and wet trickled down his chest.
Blood.

He’d been shot.

It was then the pain struck, forcing the breath from his lungs, driving him to his knees. He heard a shout of victory and looked up to see a French soldier high in the ship’s rigging, musket raised over his head.

So this is how it ends.


The thought ran through Morgan’s mind, detached from any fear.

But no’ just yet.

Unable to load and fi re his heavy rifle with one hand, he dropped it to the sand, withdrew his pistol, aimed, and fi red, ending the soldier’s celebration. But several other soldiers had climbed and before Morgan could take cover, they fired.

A ball ripped through his right thigh, the shock of it like fire and ice.

And Morgan knew it was over.

He fell onto his side, forced himself onto his belly, and tried to crawl for cover, gritting his teeth against the pain.

“Morgan!”

He recognized Connor’s voice and saw his brother emerge from the forest at a run, Killy, Forbes, and McHugh behind him.

“No, Connor! Stop!” From somewhere nearby Morgan heard the tromp of hundreds of boots and knew the gates of the fort had been thrown open. Were the French planning a counterattack? “I am lost already! Get the men out of here!”

Even in the dark, he could see the anguish and horror on his brother’s face as Connor realized he would not be able to reach him in time to keep him from the swarming French.

His strength all but spent, Morgan met Connor’s tormented gaze, his chest swelling with regret, grief, love. So long they’d been together, the four of them— Morgan, Iain, Connor, Joseph.
And now . . .

Gathering all his breath, Morgan shouted. “Beannachd leat!

Blessings go with you, brother!  And dinnae mourn me overlong. Tell little Iain—

But Morgan never finished the thought.

The last thing he heard before darkness claimed him was Connor’s anguished cry.

(C) Copyright 2011 Pamela Clare
Thursday, December 22, 2011

Decorating Christmas Cookies with the I-Team Guys


The snow is falling outside. There’s a warm fire in the woodstove and wood piled high outside the door. And Christmas is only a few days away.

Believe it or not, I haven’t done one bit of shopping this year so far. Nothing. Nada. I’ve been working so hard to get Defiant done before the holiday that there really hasn’t been time for anything else.

I haven’t done any baking either, and holiday treats are one of the things that makes Christmas special.

At my house, there are a few things that we have only during the holidays. Natalie helped me with the pecan pie. But we also have fudge, and we have Christmas cookies. And those cookies are really a very dear Christmas tradition.

Since I’ve fallen behind, I decided to get some help and decided to bring in the best emergency team I know — the I-Team guys.

I think that’s them at the door now...

Pamela: Hey! Come on in! I really appreciate you coming out tonight. I know the roads are pretty bad.

Gabe: [Shrugs, then gives me a kiss on the cheek (not the lips! Dang!)] The roads aren’t that bad.  Just a bunch of out-of-state drivers who freak out when they see a flake. They ought to require snow driving classes before giving a driver’s license to flatlanders.

Marc: You sound like a grumpy old man, Rossiter.  [Kicks the snow off his boots, hugs me, gives me a kiss on the cheek. I try not to let go.] We heard you needed us. A few inches of white stuff isn’t going to stop us.

Julian:  [Gives me a big hug. Again, I cling, smelling man and leather.] How you been? We heard things have been pretty tough lately.  Tessa sends her love.

Zach:  Good to see you, Pamela. [Gives me a hug, lifting me almost off my feet. I feel hard body. Damn.]  So what’s going on?

Reece: [Kicks the snow off his boots, brushes it off his wool coat.]  Hey, sweetheart. Kara says to say hello. She hopes the writing is going well.

I shut the door and take their coats, then gather them in the living room.

Pamela:  Here’s the deal. I’ve been working really hard on a book and have gotten very behind on all the holiday stuff — decorating, baking, shopping. I was hoping you could help me.

Gabe:  So you want some lights on the house? The roof will be a little slick, but I think I can handle it.

Marc: [Rolls eyes.] You just want an excuse to play in the snow, Rossiter.

Pamela:  I was actually hoping you all would help me decorate Christmas cookies.

Five men stare at me with blank faces.  Julian raises one dark eyebrow, and Reece grins.

 Zach:  [Laughs] You called us over because you want help decorating Christmas cookies?

Pamela: [I shrug, smile.] When it’s December 21 and you haven’t done a single thing for Christmas but are trying to catch up, doesn’t that qualify as a special operation?

Marc:  In Candyland, maybe.

Julian: [Nods.] Sure, yeah — at the North Pole.

Reece:  Come on, guys, or are you all afraid of the Gingerbread Man?

Gabe:  Seriously, I can get some strands of lights up on your house in no time.  You got outdoor lights somewhere?

Julian: I’ll help.

Marc: You got a problem with your hearing? She wants help decorating cookies. Put on an apron, Dickangelo, and get your ass in the kitchen.

I lead the guys into my kitchen, where baked and cooled cookies sit on a tray, bowls of homemade butter cream frosting in blue, green, red and blue sitting on the table. Little bottles of red and green sparkles, cinnamon red-hots, silver sugar balls, and multi-colored sprinkles stand here and there. I ask them all to wash their hands — this is food we’ll be handling, after all — and then I sit at one of the six chairs at my table and demonstrate.

Pamela: So you take a cookie, choose what color frosting you want it to have, spread the frosting on and then decorate it with this stuff. [Point to bottles of decorations.]

For a moment, they stand there looking at the table and everything on it as if they’ve never seen or heard of Christmas cookies before.  Then Reece sits, followed by Julian, Marc and Gabe. They each take up a cookie, Marc and Julian both reaching for the bowl of blue frosting.

Julian: Tessa’s about to have a boy, so I should get to use blue first.

Marc: Well, I sure as hell am not using pink.

Reece:  Guys, we’re decorating cookies, not putting your masculinity to the test.

Julian: Your dick won’t fall off, Hunter. Go with it. Express your pinkness.

Marc glares at Julian, reaches for green, which Gabe is already spreading on a Christmas tree-shaped cookie.

Zach remains standing, and I know why. He hasn’t decorated cookies since he was a little boy, and it makes him think of his mother, who died some years past. I reach out, take his hand and give it a squeeze.

Pamela: Holidays are hard sometimes, aren’t they?

Zach: [Nods, sits.] Yeah.

I try to keep the topic light. I grab a star-shaped cookie and begin to paint it blue, dropping a silver sugar ball on each of its points.

Pamela: So what's been going on? It’s been a while since I checked in with you all.

Gabe: Kat and I are getting ready to head to the rez. She’s due in three weeks. As you probably know, if the baby isn’t born on the reservation, it won’t be eligible for membership in the Navajo nation.

Pamela: Yes, I’ve heard that. Do you know whether it’s a boy or a girl yet?

Gabe: [Shakes his head.] Kat wants to be surprised.

Julian:  How about you, McBride?  You and Natalie planning on starting a brood?

Zach: [Concentrating on putting red hots as eyes on a snowman cookie]. Nope. I’m not ready to share yet.  I want more time with her before we do the family thing.

Marc: How does Natalie feel about that?

Zach: She’s fine with waiting. She started writing a book — a romance novel. She says she’s seen and heard too many unhappy things and wants to just write happy things now.

Marc: [Grins.] You going to help her with the research for the sex scenes?

Zach grins.

Zach: You better damned well believe it.

Gabe: Hunter, what the hell ... ?

Julian: [Looks over at what Marc is doing.] Dude, you are sick. That’s just wrong.

Pamela: You put a dick and silver balls on Santa — and sprinkle pubes? [I look Marc straight in the eye.]

Marc: [Shrugs.] What?

Reece: You know, high school was a couple of decades ago, buddy.

Pamela: My kids are going to be eating these. And their grandparents.

Marc pops the cookie in his mouth and chews, a strange expression coming over his face.

Marc: Damn, that frosting is good!

 All of the guys take one of the cookies they decorated and eat them.

Gabe:  Got milk?

They all laugh.

Pamela: [Stands, goes to fridge, gets out the milk and goes to the cupboard for five glasses.] Okay, you can each have two. The frosting recipe is one that I learned from my mother. Actually, there’s no recipe. We just do it by taste. My kids love it. Their friends love it. Their friends even remember it from birthdays and such. It’s basically just a butter cream frosting.

Julian:  You taking notes, Hunter? You can start your own TV chef show — Cooking with an Ex-Con. [Chuckles.]

Pamela: [Ignoring them.] You take a stick of softened butter, not margarine, and mix it with powdered sugar, a 1/2 teaspoon or so of vanilla and a little bit of milk. I usually put about a half a bag of powdered sugar in to start, mix it in, add a tiny bit of milk and the vanilla and then see how that is. If the balance of the taste is too buttery, I add more powdered sugar. If I want it to be chocolate, I add a bit of cocoa powder. It’s really the best frosting ever.

Marc: Can you email that to Sophie?

Pamela: Don’t you ever do the cooking, Marc?

Marc: [Looking kind of sheepish.] No, not really. I mean... if she's sick or just had a baby or something... Sure.

Julian: You’re such a Neanderthal, Hunter.

Zach: He’s probably doing her a favor by not cooking. Aw, damn! This one broke. Guess I better eat it, too. I’d hate to see it go to waste. [Pops cookie in mouth, chews.]

We work our way through the pile, with the guys catching me up on their lives. Reece and Kara’s oldest wants a mountain bike for Christmas, but Reece isn’t excited about the broken bones that will go with it. Julian, Reece, and Marc talk about how fun it is to experience Christmas through their kids' eyes. Zach tells us it’s his first Christmas as a married man and the first Christmas he’ll have spent with his father in more than a decade. And slowly the cookies are decorated.

I do notice, however, that a high percentage of them seem to break and require immediate eating.

Then the frosting is gone, and the cookies are done.

Gabe takes Marc aside for a moment, the guys seem to share a glance, and the next thing I know they’re in my garage.

Pamela: Uh... guys?  Thanks for your help on the cookies. They look great.

Gabe: [Grins and grabs a ladder] You’re welcome.

Each of them offers some variation on that, but they’re very busy now, dragging out extension cords, a timer, and long strands of white lights. Zach is working a bulb tester like he’s diffusing bombs or something.

I know what they’re doing, and it leaves me feeling deeply touched. I make a pot of hot cocoa and some real whipped cream (not the canned stuff), checking periodically, the footsteps I hear on my roof definitely not reindeer.

Julian opens the door, ducks his head inside and tells me to get my coat.

I pour hot cocoa into six cups, put a dollop of whipped cream on top, then grab my coat and head outside into the snowy night.

Gabe’s voice comes from somewhere on the side of the house: Ready?

And the house lights up, looking beautiful.

Pamela: Thanks, guys. Really. You all know what’s been going on in my life. I wasn’t expecting much of a holiday this year. You’ve really made it bright.

They each take a cup of cocoa, and we stand there and appreciate the sight.

Then it’s time for them to go. They carry their mugs inside, each sneaking a cookie or two. One by one, they give me hugs and wish me a Merry Christmas.

Zach is last, staying behind to shovel my walk.

Zach: Merry Christmas, Pamela. It’s going to be a fantastic new year.























Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Hanukkah!


Happy Hanukkah!

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, a holiday I’ve celebrated with Jewish friends. When my kids were little, we often went to Hanukkah celebrations or even lit a menorah at home. Why? Because of what the holiday celebrates — religious freedom.

I’m not the church-going type. But I strongly support tolerance and freedom of religion, which is at the heart of the Hanukkah story.

So Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends and readers. And please share with us your family’s Hanukkah traditions!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Countdown to UNTAMED

Coming on Jan. 2



We’re 16 days away from the reissue of the second book in the MacKinnon’s Ranger series, Untamed. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the series, it tells Morgan’s story. The middle son of the three exiled MacKinnon brothers, Morgan has always felt his duty was to serve his older brother, who, by rights, would be The MacKinnon if the family hadn’t been sent into exile.

Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

In the tradition of The Last of the Mohicans... and honoring the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Ticonderoga...

The sequel to
SurrenderUntamed

MacKinnon’s Rangers

They were a band of brothers, their loyalty to one another forged by hardship and battle, the bond between these Highland warriors, rugged colonials, and fierce Native Americans stronger even than blood ties.
Untamed

Though forced to fight for the hated British, Morgan MacKinnon would no more betray the men he leads than slit his own throat—not even when he was captured by the French and threatened with an agonizing death by fire at the hands of their Abenaki allies. Only the look of innocent longing in the eyes of a convent-bred French lass could make him question his vow to escape and return to the Rangers. And soon the sweet passion he awoke in Amalie had him cursing the war that forced him to choose between upholding his honor and pledging himself to the woman he loves.


The cool thing about the book’s original release was that it happened during the 250th anniversary year of the Battle of Ticonderoga, which is the battle that ends Surrender and serves as the genesis for Untamed. I felt that very keenly as I wrote the story.

Here I am standing at the gate at Fort Ticonderoga.

I was lucky enough to pay a visit to Fort Ti shortly after completing the story and was given a very personalize tour by the curator of the museum there, where I got to see real Ranger gear including Robert Rogers’ powderhorn, which made me burst into tears. (Rather embarrassing.) Rogers was the father of the Rangers. Though there were other Ranger units, he codified their method of warfare into Rogers Rules of Ranging, which are still standing orders (slightly modified) for the U.S. Army Rangers today. The Rangers were the original special operations forces in North America.

I love the cover of the new version of Untamed, and I thought I’d share with you what’s different. With Surrender, I added new scenes, decompressing the book somewhat, but the plot didn’t change. That’s not the case with Untamed.

When I originally finished writing the book, I got the news that the original publisher had AGAIN decreased the maximum page size of their novels. They wanted to cut 100 pages. I told them they couldn’t do that. Period. No. So they played with fonts and page design and told me that I had to cut 25 pages.

A chunk was cut from the beginning of the first chapter.  A chunk was cut from the epilogue. There were other bits and pieces sliced out. And then the final confrontation between Morgan, our hero, and the villain of the story was also cut.

In the version of Untamed that all of you have read, the villain dies in different way that what I originally wrote. That’s a huge change, in my opinion, because readers (and authors!) look forward to the villain getting his comeuppance. When it happens in an unsatisfactory way, well, it’s just not as fulfilling.

The whittled version of the story still received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which was nice. Given how popular Surrender had been, I was horribly afraid of disappointing readers. (I’m feeling the same way about Defiant now.) But I really hated the changes, especially given that they weren’t part of an effort to improve the storytelling, but an effort to trim expenses.

The reissued version of Untamed not only includes the best historical cover I’ve ever had, with a bit of Fort Ti in the background, but it also has all the cut scenes restored including the original villain death scene.

Some people have said the cover isn’t romantic enough. I think the man’s body makes it pretty sexy. But you all secretly suspect that deep inside I’m a historical fiction author — and it’s true. To have the actual site depicted on the cover, to have a hero wearing period attire, carrying a musket... I love it. I really love it.

There’s so much more I could say about this story and the history behind it. The period of the French and Indian War is a deep passion for me. I could sit and talk with you about it for hours non-stop, as the poor curator from Fort Ti discovered, after I asked questions for probably four or five hours.

There is so much drama, so much conflict in this period that it’s a fiction writer’s dream.

But for today I wanted to share with you what’s new in the story. Unlike Surrender, there is one major plot change in Untamed 2.0 — the way the villain dies. You’ll enjoy this a hell of a lot more!

Have a great weekend, everyone! I’m staying offline to battle my way through the ending of Defiant. I want it done by Christmas.

OK, so to make this fun, I’ll give away a signed copy of Surrender to one commenter. To be entered for the drawing, post below and tell me the your most hated romance villain ever.

Coming soon:

The restored prologue and first chapter of Untamed
Decorating Christmas cookies with the I-Team guys

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Baking holiday pies with Natalie Benoit McBride



 Today, I’m excited to have a special guest visiting us. Natalie Benoit McBride and I have been trying for quite a while to get together to talk about baking pies, but we haven’t been able to work it out until today. But finally we’ve managed it, and she’s going to share a recipe with us.

As you all know, Natalie left the I-Team and stayed home, hoping to help build stability into her life as a newlywed, rather than having two people with stressful jobs coming home exhausted and hungry five days a week. Part of what she wanted to do was to bake pies. I thought we’d look in on Natalie and see how she’s doing and what she’s baking for Christmas this year.

Pamela: It’s been a long time since we last spoke. How are you doing? How is married life these days?

Natalie: I’m doing really well, thank you. It was a bit of an adjustment to leave the paper, but it’s working out well for us. We have good days and bad days, but when I think about what Zach and I have been through together, I’m just grateful for every moment, even the tough ones. 

Overall, we’re very happy. Zach is loving his new job with the U.S. Marshal’s office in Denver, and I’ve learned so much about managing a household. I’ve developed a whole new level of respect for stay-at-home moms. I’m busy all day every day, and I don’t have kids.

Pamela: Are you and Zach thinking of starting a family soon?

Natalie: Not yet. We’re really enjoying what we have right now — time for each other, time for friends, time for new experiences in our lives. Parenthood can wait for a while.

[Back door opens. Zach walks in wearing jeans, a black sports jacket, and a gray T-shirt, beneath which I can see body armor. I can tell he's wearing a sidearm in a shoulder holster, too. And those jeans look good on him. He walks to Natalie, kisses her on the cheek.]

Zach: Hey, angel. Hey, Pamela. Good to see you!
Pamela: Good to see you, too.

[Zach walks off to change out of his work clothes.]

Natalie:  You were staring at my husband’s ass.

Pamela:  You bet I was. Okay, so let’s talk pies.

Natalie: I’m going to be baking a pecan pie for Christmas Eve. My mother always made a pecan pie during the holiday season, and it was my favorite. But I think I’ve improved upon my mother’s pecan pie.

Pamela: Did you add maple syrup to the pecan mixture?

Natalie: I bet that would taste delicious, but, no, that’s not what I did. During the months that I’ve been learning about baking, I got tired of those prefabricated pie crusts you find at the supermarket. I’m not too wild about most pie crusts in general. Rather than being part of what’s delicious, they seem like they’re just there to hold the pie’s innards together.

Pamela: I certainly agree about the pre-fab pie crusts. I think those are made of flour and Elmer’s glue.

Natalie: I bet you’re right. So what I did was stop using those entirely and begin using shortbread crust. It’s delicious all by itself and it’s very easy to make. Plus, if you use a shortbread crust with a pecan pie, all the yummy pecan goo kind of bakes into the crust. It’s perfect.

Pamela: What recipe do you use for a shortbread crust?

Natalie: It’s so easy! You just cream a cup of softened butter — don’t substitute margarine — together with one half cup of powdered sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Stir two cups of all-purpose flour together with one-quarter teaspoon baking powder, then stir that into the butter/sugar mixture. There’s no kneading or rolling it out. You just take this mixture — it will be very soft — and press it into a deep dish pie plate. I say deep dish because this recipe makes a lot of crust and you want to leave room for the pie filling.

Just press this evenly into the pie plate, remembering to press it against the sides. It won’t look sexy, but it will taste delicious.

If you’re using the shortbread crust for a no-bake pie, like a maple cream pie, you’ll need to bake it in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for about 12 to 15 minutes. I sometimes take it out halfway through and press the crust down again, because it tends to rise a bit.

But with a pecan pie, the pie itself has to bake. So once the shortbread mixture is in the deep-dish pie plate, I make the pecan mixture and pour it straight into the crust. Then I bake it according to the directions for the pecan pie recipe. The crust bakes with the pie.

I’ve tried making it with whole wheat, and you can do that, but it will be drier and more difficult to work with.

Pamela: I think it’s a great idea. You turn the crust into something worth eating by itself. Who doesn’t love shortbread? But what about the pecan part? 

Natalie: There are lots of different recipes for the pecan filling. It’s pretty simple to make. Here’s the one I use.

Ingredients
    •    3 eggs
    •    1 cup brown sugar
    •    1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
    •    1 cup corn syrup
    •    2 tablespoons butter
    •    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    •    1-1/2 cups pecans
    •    1 (9 inch) unbaked pie shell (Ick! Use these as litter boxes if you want, but don’t bake with them.)
Directions
    1.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place pie shell in a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. (A regular pie pan can do in a pinch.)
    2.    In a medium bowl, gently beat eggs. Stir in sugar and flour, then the syrup, butter and vanilla. Fold in pecans. Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. A knife inserted in center of pie should come out clean.

Pamela: Thanks for sharing that, Natalie. It looks delicious!

Natalie: It is! I got to test the recipe for Thanksgiving. I loved it, and so did the rest of the gang. I made two pies, thinking that would be enough, together with the pumpkin pies Kara brought and the apple pie Sophie brought. But every crumb, every sliver of pecan, was gone.

Pamela: So you got everyone together for Thanksgiving?
Natalie: Not everyone. Tom wasn’t here. Syd wasn’t here. Matt and his wife went to her parents’ place for the holiday. But Kara and Reece, and Marc and Sophie, and Julian and Tessa were here, along with Kat and Gabe. They all brought their kids. Holly came, too, and Joaquin. It was a full house, but lots of fun.

Pamela: What are your plans for Christmas? Isn’t this your first Christmas together?

Natalie: Yes, it is. We’re having Zach’s father over for dinner and gift-giving on Christmas Eve, then it will just be the two of us for Christmas Day. Gabe wanted to get us all into the mountains for a bit of skiing that weekend, but we’re staying home. I’m really excited for the chance to start our own traditions.

[Zach walks into the kitchen wearing jeans — and nothing else.]

Zach: So are you making pies or just talking pies? ’Cause I’m hungry.

Natalie: We’re talking about them. Go put on a shirt.

Zach:  What? Why?

Natalie: Because our guest can’t quit staring at you.
Zach: [Shrugs] Hasn’t she seen it all already?

Natalie: No, of course she hasn’t!  Go put on a shirt.

[Zach grabs a beer from the fridge and leaves the room.]

Natalie: You haven't seen it all, have you?  When you wrote those scenes, you didn't describe—

Pamela: No, no, I didn’t. Ahem.  Well, um, thanks for having me over. I know I’m dying to try this recipe for pecs... er, pecan pie. If we get time, maybe I’ll share with you the recipe I’ve used for almost 30 years for Christmas cookies. My kids and I decorate them together each year, and then we fight over them.

Natalie: I would love that! And you’re welcome! It was good to see you again.

Pamela: It’s good to see the two of you, too. I’ve missed you.

Okay, there you have it. I highly recommend you try this recipe. The shortbread crust is delicious!
























Monday, December 12, 2011

Meanwhile in France...


I'm in the home stretch on Defiant — good news for those of you who’ve been waiting since 2008 for Connor’s story.  I need to make myself a bit scarce online so that I can use that time and mental energy to write.

But I did want to share some fun news.

It seems my historicals are become very popular in France. What you see at the top is a bookstore shelf crammed with copies of the French translations of Sweet Release, Carnal Gift and Ride the Fire. Here's the cool news: Those three books have spent a combined 402 days in the top 100 on Amazon.fr.



Ride the Fire was No. 1 on Amazon.fr for romantic fiction for a couple of weeks. It’s now No. 6 and has been in the top 100 for 114 days.




Carnal Gift is No. 26 and has been in the top 100 for 26 days.





Sweet Release is now No. 30 and has been in the top 100 for 163 days.

I asked a French friend why these books might have done so much better in France than in the U.S., and she pointed to the covers. She doesn’t think the original clinch covers would have sold well at all in France. But I wonder if it isn’t a greater interest in history. Or whether French woman, not having gone to grade school in the U.S., aren’t sick of U.S. history like some American readers.

If any of my French readers are reading this, feel free to post your thoughts, even if you have to do it in French.

What’s kind of funny is that the MacKinnon’s Rangers series was published there first. It did very well and so the publisher came back for this series. When Defiant comes out, I’m guessing the French publisher will be very interested. 

And that is very good news!

Have a lovely Monday!


Coming soon:
—Baking holiday pies with Natalie Benoit
—More Surrender giveaways
—A look at what’s new in Untamed





Thursday, December 08, 2011

What is it about Scottish heroes?


While doing research for Defiant, book three in my MacKinnon’s Rangers series, I came across this historic cartoon, a drawing someone made and published long ago, decrying women’s curiosity about what is under a Scotsman’s kilt.

After laughing out loud, I thought, “Not much has changed in the past 200 years.”

It’s almost 2012, and “what’s under the kilt?” is still a question women ask — at least when speaking with one another or perhaps a solitary, kilted Scotsman, which most of us are not fortunate enough to encounter.

But here’s another thing about Scottish men that never got as much attention as it should have. A worldwide survey was done in which men were asked how much time they devoted to foreplay — a stupid term which seems to suggest that foreplay and sex are two different things. Guess which group of men reported spending the most time titillating their women? And who lasts longest when they do eventually get around to coitus?

Scotsmen.

It must be the romantic side of their culture. But add the kilt, a broadsword, a bit of swagger, and the accent — which I’ve always said renders foreplay unnecessary — and you have a man who is very near irresistible.

Maybe that’s why they play such a dominant role in romantic fiction.

So what do you like about Scottish heroes — particularly those Hielan’ men, aye?

Answer that question, and you could win a signed copy of Surrender.

Thanks to all of you who tweeted, posted on Facebook and otherwise helped spread the word about the reissue of the book. I really appreciate it! And here’s a wee excerpt of a favorite scene from Surrender to celebrate.

From Surrender:

Iain tried to ignore the ache he felt at the thought of leaving her and watched her as she went about the wifely duty of shaving him.  It stirred him in a way he could not describe, the tender intimacy of this act, and he felt a kind of satisfaction he’d rarely known to think there would be other mornings like this—the scent of breakfast in the air, the fire burned to embers, perhaps a bairn or two sitting sleepy-eyed on the bearskin.  And Annie.

Her brow was knit with attentiveness.  Her breasts swayed enticingly beneath her shift, their crests dark against the white cloth.  Her hair hung to her hips, a river of silk and sunlight.  Unable to resist, he reached out, cupped a soft breast through linen, and brushed her nipple with his thumb.  He heard her breath catch, felt her nipple tighten, saw the pulse at her throat leap.

Her hands stilled.  “The sun is already up, Iain.  We cannae—no’ now.”

“Is that so?”  He did not relent, flicking the eager bud, shaping her breast, feeling it grow heavy in his hand.

He could tell she was trying to ignore her body’s response.  She lifted his chin, shaved the right side of his throat, one stroke at a time, stopping to rinse the blade in a bowl of hot water.  But her breathing was unsteady, and when he shifted his hand to cup her other breast, her lashes drifted to her cheeks, her head fell back and the razor clattered to the table.

His face still half-covered with shaving soap, his blood burning, Iain pulled her against him and closed his mouth over hers.  She pressed herself hard against him, her hot little tongue twisting with his, her fingers curling in his hair.  When at long last he broke the kiss, he couldn’t help but chuckle.  She had shaving soap on her face.

She smiled and wiped the soap away with the back of her hand, her laughter like the sweet fall of water.  “So it’s my beard you’ll be shavin’ now?  You daftie!”

    The idea struck him hard, made his blood run thick and hot.  For a moment, all he could do was look down at her, staggered by the thrum of his own lust.  Ignoring her surprised gasp, he lifted her, turned her, laid her back on the table, following her down to kiss a trail along the soft skin of her throat.  Drawing up her shift in impatient fistfuls, his tore his lips from her skin, lifted the vexing garment over her head, and tossed it onto the bed behind him.  Then he stood between her thighs, parting them, forcing her knees to bend.

    She opened for him like a flower, her sex rosy, her scent wild and sweet—a blushing musk rose wreathed in golden curls.  He savored the sight of her, the scent of her, his cock painfully hard and pushing eagerly against the leather of his breeches.

“Iain, wh-what—?

  “I find I want you even more when the sun is up, a leannan.” 

Annie felt his big hands close over hers, felt him draw her hands to her own thighs, forcing her to hold them back and apart.  Heat suffused her cheeks as his gaze fixed upon her most intimate flesh and his eyes grew dark.  His fingers ran lightly over her, parting her, brushing her most sensitive spot, the tip of one slipping inside her, making her moan. 

Then he reached for the shaving soap.   

    It was then she realized what he was about.  It shocked her to her soul, drove the breath from her lungs, excited her beyond reason.  “Nay, Iain!  You cannae mean to—!”

    “Aye, I do.”  

-----

And, as those of you who’ve read the book know, he does.

If anyone knows Patti P who posted an won a copy of Surrender last week, I haven’t heard from her. I’d hate for her to miss her prize.

Have a great day, everyone!



Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Remembering the original 9/11 — Pearl Harbor


Uncle Joe Conner

Lillian Conner



Thanks so all of you who helped celebrate the reissue of Surrender yesterday.  There will be more chances to win. Lady Jayne’s Reading Den is holding its own international drawing for the book. Click here to go there.

I'd like to invite you all today to join me at SOS Aloha, where I am guest blogging and remember America's original 9/11 — Pearl Harbor — from a very personal point of view.  

Just click here.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

SURRENDER 2.0 is out today!



Today is the day!  Iain and Annie are back!


After thinking the MacKinnon’s Rangers series was dead, lost to the chaos of the publishing industry, I am so happy that Surrender is available again.


A couple of you have asked me in emails what it was like to get a second chance to write a book I’d already written, and one person was afraid I had changed the book so much that it would no longer be the story she loved.


I will say that working on a book was published in 2006 was strange at first. My first objective was to decompress parts of it by taking scenes out of memories or flashbacks and making them real and present scenes. That was actually harder to do than I imagined. If thinking back to something that happened earlier in the day had been woven into Annie’s or Iain’s thoughts in a scene, and I removed that and put it in the present tense on stage, then what happened to the original scene?


I gained an appreciation for how tightly written the story was. Still, I found ways to make it work that I really liked and which solved a couple of problems that had been there before.


As for changing the story too much, I am not George Lucas. I did not take Surrender and fill it with stuff that just didn't need to be there. (I am so a fan of the original Star Wars films and so not a fan of the redone ones with their endless unnecessary CG creatures.) No CG creatures in Surrender!


It is the same story with the same plot. The only difference is that there are a few new scenes, an extended scene — and the entire thing has been re-edited. I’m a better writer than I was today. When I found ways to make the prose tighter or to eliminate a repetitive word or change something that could have sounded better, then I did it.


One big change, from my perspective, was changing the name of the fort from Fort Elizabeth, which it was in the original published edition, to Fort Edward, the name of the real fort where the Rangers, the country’s original special ops team, encamped. 

Fort Edward is now a town, and the good people of Fort Edward were less than enthusiastic about their town disappearing from its own history. I can’t blame them. The third largest city in the Colonies during the French & Indian War, it is now a very tiny town the significance of which is almost forgotten. I didn’t want to be a part of helping the nation to forget Fort Edward. So now it’s Fort Edward and Ranger Island. (See recent blog post for sat images of both.)


Rather than sharing an excerpt, which I’ve already done, I wanted to share the dedication and acknowledgments because they’re really important this time around. 



DEDICATION


With love for my sons, Alec and Benjamin. You will always be the best and most important thing I have ever done.
 



AKNOWLEDGEMENTS

With special thanks to Catrìona Mary Mac Kirnan for giving Iain and his brothers their Scottish Gaelic voice; Gary Zaboly for his meticulous drawings and research; Eileen Hannay for answering ten thousand questions and sharing the magic of Rogers Island with me; and Timothy Todish for his work on Robert Rogers’ journals. This series would not be the same without you.

I’d like to thank Natasha Kern for her tireless support, and Cindy Hwang, my editor, for giving me the chance to revisit this series and breathe new life into its pages. I truly couldn’t bear to leave these characters behind, and because of you, I don’t have to. Additional thanks go to Leis Pederson for her kindness and help through the years.

I’d also like to offer heartfelt and lasting thanks to you, my readers, who’ve clamored to see the MacKinnon’s Rangers series continue. Your enthusiasm for Iain, Morgan, Connor and the men—yes, even Lord William—means so very much to me.

Personal thanks to: Michelle White, Mary White, Sue Zimmerman, Kristi Ross, Libby Murphy, Ronlyn Howe, Jennifer Johnson, Suzanne Warren, Sara Megibow, and the wild women of RBL Romantica and Rebel Writers Refuge.

Thanks most of all to Robert Rogers and his Rangers, men who did the impossible back when doing the impossible was harder than it is today. They suffered unimaginable hardship on behalf of a people who have largely forgotten them.

To learn more about Robert Rogers and Rogers Rangers, visit the Rogers Island Visitor Center at www.rogersisland.org, or visit Rogers Island (Ranger Island) in Fort Edward, N.Y., a forgotten historical treasure.





So happy re-issue day to all of us who have supported and loved this series! To celebrate I’m giving away three copies of the book! To be entered, comment below and tell me what period of history is your favorite.






Sunday, December 04, 2011

Behind the scenes at the cover photo shoot


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I’m probably going to get in trouble for this, but what’s life without a little risk?

I thought I’d share with you this fun and scrumptious photo from the photo shoot for the covers of Surrender and Untamed. I know from reading comments in Amazon.com’s discussion forums that not everyone loves the new covers for these two books. Some say they don’t look enough like romance. But that doesn’t really bother me because we know they’re romance.

Call me a geek, but what I love is the effort Penguin put into creating historically accurate art. In that very sexy man’s hands is a real musket. That’s a powderhorn over his shoulder. He’s got moccasins on his feet, breeches and the appearance of leggings — think of them as 18th-century leather leg warmers meant to protect your legs and your clothes from being scratched and torn by branches. The shirt... well, they’ve taken liberties with that for the sake of our viewing pleasure.

And what pleasure it is!

I don’t know who the model is, but they used photos from this shoot for both Surrender and Untamed. You’ll recognize what he’s wearing in this shot — there were hundreds — on the cover of Untamed, which is my fave of the series so far.



I haven’t gotten my author copies yet, so my three prize-winners are still waiting for me to make that trek to the post office. But don’t worry, Elizabeth, Landin and Patti! It will happen. In the meantime, there are only two days until Surrender is out and 29 days until Untamed is out again. There will be more contests and more fun.

And then the countdown to Defiant — due for release on July 3 — begins!



Saturday, December 03, 2011

Countdown to SURRENDER — Four days!




We’re now four measly days away from the reissue of Surrender, the first book in the MacKinnon’s Rangers series. I’m so happy the story is going to be back in print. That means no more emails from people asking me when it’s going to be available again.

I’ve had a number of emails from readers wanting to know what new material exists in the story. I don’t want to run any of the new stuff as excerpts because that really gives it away. For readers who are familiar with the story, that ruins the fun.

But I will say there are a few new scenes that were originally presented as past-tense recollections in order to save room. The original publisher had very strict and ever-shrinking maximum page sizes for their books, and I kept pushing right up against that. I’d had 100 pages cut out of Carnal Gift, and I didn’t want to go through that again. As a result, I kept finding ways to take parts of the story and cram them into the characters’ memories, rather than having the action of those scenes appear “on stage.”

When I re-edited Surrender for this reissue, I scooped out the most important of those scenes and actually wrote them out, rather than having them just be brief recollections. I also added something that had never been in the book before involving Lord William, and extended a few scenes. The result is a re-edited, decompressed version of the story.

Writers should never have to spend their writing time trying to think of how not to write the scenes they need to write, you know?

About Ride the Fire: This week someone asked me when it will be in ebook format again. That’s up to Penguin, which owns the rights to the story now. Eventually — I wish it were tomorrow — the book will be reissued like Surrender and Untamed, with new material. In this case, it will be the epilogue. But I have no control over when that will happen!

Surrender, however, and Untamed are almost out again. Surrender will be available on Tuesday, Dec. 6. Untamed will be out one month later, on Jan. 2.



And then we’ll begin the countdown to Defiant.

I’m off to write. Have a lovely weekend, everyone! Join me on Monday and Tuesday for some release day celebrating, including contests and giveaways!
Thursday, December 01, 2011

A Tour of Ranger Island — CONTEST! UPDATED


Who wants to go with me to visit Fort Elizabeth/Fort Edward and Ranger Island? Grab your soft drinks and Doritos because today we’re taking a MacKinnon’s Rangers road trip!

OK, really we’re just taking advantage of Google Earth. I wanted to share with you a bird’s eye view of this part of New York that has become so special to me through the years — Fort Edward and Rogers Island. It occurs to me that this is kind of silly because I have actually on-the-ground images of all of these things taken from my trips to Fort Edward. But somehow it felt like I was taking you there with me when I discovered last night that I could actually look at Rogers Island via Google.

In the original published versions of Surrender and Untamed, I changed their names to Fort Elizabeth and Ranger Island. In the new author’s cut of Surrender and UntamedSurrender is out in five days!!! — I’ve changed Fort Elizabeth to Fort Edward but left Ranger Island because then everyone just wonders who Rogers is (a good thing to wonder, by the way). This made some folks in Fort Edward happy, because they live in one of the most important historic places in the United States — and no one has ever heard of them. And then a novelist writes a story about them, but calls them something else...

You can see how they might not like that so very much.

Without further ado, let’s rev the engine and hit the highway.

At top, you get a good overview of Ranger Island/Rogers Island. It sits in the middle of the Hudson River near the Great Carrying Place where Native people had to get out of their canoes and portage for a time. Fort Edward stood to the right of Rogers Island. The whole area is now the town of Fort Edward, but the fort itself stood not where the red dot is, but more where Highway 4 jogs to the right across from the island.

Think of the fort with a wide open plain in front of it used for drills. Beyond that on all sides is forest. Off to the left of the island and to the northeast stood a royal block house, completed in 1758 — I am winging the history, by the way, but I think that’s right — which made this spot the most heavily fortified British military position in North America.

In other words, what you are looking at is arguably the most important spot for the British during the French and Indian War. (Fort Pitt, featured in Ride the Fire, and Fort Detroit were also important).

But let’s move in closer and let the veil of history rise, giving us a peek back at the world of Iain, Morgan and Connor MacKinnon, and their adversary, Lord William Wentworth...



We come in from Albany, a port city that until recently belonged to the Dutch. We see mighty Fort Edward standing near that dark patch (center right) with the Union Flag flying from one of the fort’s bastions. There, in the river we see a long, narrow island, Ranger Island, that bustles with activity.





Ranger Island is connected to the fort by a bateau bridge that stands about in the middle of the photo there. Made of small boats, or bateaux, that have been lashed together and covered with planks that are also lashed together, it gives the Rangers a way to get to the plain north of the fort to practice shooting at marks, which they do frequently.

In the winter, ice floes sometimes clog the Hudson, and the bridge would have been relatively easy to remove to prevent the floes from crushing it or damming the river and flooding the island (which happened often anyway).

Let’s move in closer...


Here you can see the actual site of the Rangers’ encampment. The three white squares are excavated Ranger cabins that would have been used by enlisted men. They stood in rows, sharing walls with one another. The two larger white squares are covered excavations of officers’ cabins. In one, a brass compass was found. I have a replica of that compass, which I purchased at the Rogers Island Visitor Center.

If you look to the upper left, you'll see a square marked out with a low wall of stone. That is a cemetery for fallen Rangers.

A moment of silence please...



Let’s take a walk south, past fields where Rangers grew their food, great piles of wood used for cooking and heating, and pens and paddocks of animals used for food to a sad place, a place where there is much suffering — the smallpox hospital. It is believed to have stood near that pine tree in the center of the image.

Smallpox was still a deadly scourge in those days with very few people being inoculated against it, inoculation being something relatively new and deadly in and of itself at times.

Soldiers from the fort and Rangers found to have smallpox were placed in the smallpox hospital, isolated from the rest of the fort — except that their friends could come and visit. Not exactly quarantine by modern standards, which demonstrates a lack of understanding when it comes to infection control.


Here’s one last glimpse down at Ranger camp. The whipping post stood on the western edge of the island, toward your left, not far from the cabins. The small parade where the rangers mustered must have been near the cemetery. The officers’ necessaries were on the eastern edge of the island, the enlisted men’s on the right.

Think about this for a moment. Think 253 years ago when this would have been one of the most dangerous places on earth.

Now imagine rows of cabins, men busy repairing and caring for their gear, a great forest all around them. Tomorrow they leave on a mission. Major Iain MacKinnon is leading them northward to spy on Fort Carillon and see what Montcalm is doing. The men, all sons of Culloden or stubborn Irish, trust him. They’ve fought with him since ’55 when Wentworth forced him to choose between being hanged or fighting for Britain.

They know from experience that anything could happen — ambuscade, sickness, injury, dangerous shifts in the weather. Some will not return alive.

On the way back, something unexpected will happen that will change Iain MacKinnon’s life forever.


EXCITING UPDATE: Eileen Hannay of the Rogers Island Visitor Center posted a link on my Facebook page. I encourage everyone to read this. You’ll get a quick overview of the real history of this site as well as some very exciting news pertaining to archaeological excavations on the island. Click here to read all about it, and come back and chat with me.


To see images from the ground, look for the In Search of MacKinnon’s Rangers slide show on my blog down on the right-hand side.

Now for the contest:

Comment below on my blog and your name will be entered to win a signed copy of the new reissued version of Surrender, in stores on Tuesday. And if you care to share any Ranger lore, please feel free! I’ll be giving away two books on Friday. (The author copies aren’t actually here yet, but I’ll save your addresses until they are. Not my fault!)

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

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