Book Releases

Holding On (Colorado High Country #6) —
The Colorado High Country series returns with Conrad and Kenzie's story.

A hero barely holding on…

Harrison Conrad returned to Scarlet Springs from Nepal, the sole survivor of a freak accident on Mt. Everest. Shattered and grieving for his friends, he vows never to climb again and retreats into a bottle of whiskey—until Kenzie Morgan shows up at his door with a tiny puppy asking for his help. He’s the last person in the world she should ask to foster this little furball. He’s barely capable of managing his own life right now, let alone caring for a helpless, adorable, fluffy puppy. But Conrad has always had a thing for Kenzie with her bright smile and sweet curves. One look into her pleading blue eyes, and he can’t say no.

The woman who won’t let him fall…

Kenzie Morgan’s life went to the dogs years ago. A successful search dog trainer and kennel owner, she gets her fill of adventure volunteering for the Rocky Mountain Search & Rescue Team. The only thing missing from her busy life is love. It’s not easy finding Mr. Right in a small mountain town, especially when she’s unwilling to date climbers. She long ago swore never again to fall for a guy who might one day leave her for a rock. When Conrad returns from a climbing trip haunted by the catastrophe that killed his best friend, Kenzie can see he’s hurting and wants to help. She just might have the perfect way to bring him back to the world of the living. But friendship quickly turns into something more—and now she’s risking her heart to heal his.

In ebook and soon in print!

About Me

My photo
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.


Seductive Musings

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How I Met Your Mother — historicals

I adore my two boys, and not just because they're my boys and are smart and funny and cute. I've been writing since Alec, my oldest, was 9 and Benjy, now 17, was 6. When they were little, I just hoped they wouldn't fight or break something, allowing me a few precious hours of writing on the weekend. I was naive enough to promise them that I'd take them to Disney World once I sold my first book. Oh, what an idiot I was!

They're old enough now that they probably have zero interest in Disney World, but fortunately they don't seem to hold the fact that we never made it against me. In fact, they go out of their way to help. Alec is away at college now, so I don't see him all that often. Still, he checks up every weekend to see how my writing is going, and he's read a few of the novels, sharing them with his girlfriend, Anna, who loves romance and thinks I am the shit.

Ben is 17 and still lives with me, and the kid is a hero. He does all the yard work — mowing, weeding my enormous rose garden, raking, etc. — as well as all the house work, apart from laundry. He mops, cleans the bathroom, dusts, takes out the trash and vacuums every weekend to give me time to write. He takes care of our pet bunny, Wubbit, makes grocery shopping lists and goes shopping with me to make it speedier. He does the dishes on the week nights when I cook and does the cooking (and often the dishes as well) on the nights when I'm writing.

Yes, chicks, he rocks.

The other night as I was working on Untamed he turned to me and said, "You know, I think romance novel characters must have the most interesting 'how I met your mother' stories" Then he pretended to be Morgan MacKinnon and started talking about the day he and Amalie met, as if he were talking to their children. In a matter of seconds I was laughing my butt off. It sounded like such a fun idea that I found myself wanting to spend an entire blog sharing the stories of "How I Met Your Mother."

So here we go.... (((SPOILERS — if you haven't read the books parts of them may be ruined for you... You have been warned....)

Sweet Release

Alec Kenleigh: "My brother had just betrayed me and had me beaten to within an inch of my life. He sent overseas with false papers as a convict. I must say I can't remember the first moment your mother and I met because I was out of my mind with fever. But your mother took pity upon me — and bought my false indenture, thinking at least to let me die with dignity. But when I came to myself again a fortnight later, I'm afraid I treated her rather poorly, thinking her to blame in some fashion for my ordeal."

Cassie: "As I recall, you threatened to break my neck."

Young Nicholas, wide-eyed: "But, father, you say a man must never harm a woman."

Alec (clearing throat): "Aye, well, that was not my finest moment."

Carnal Gift

Jamie Blakewell: "I was visting Ireland, hoping to persuade and old friend to joing me in pressing Parliament to declare war on France in the Americas. We were out hunting one afternoon and rode into a clearing where a group of Irishmen and women had gathered for funeral. In the middle of it all stood your mother, the most beautiful creature I'd ever seen."

"And did you love him at first sight, Mama?"

Bríghid (looking intensely at her sewing): "Well, he was an Englishman, wasn't he? I was afraid of him."

Children (laughing): "You were afraid of father?"

Uncle Ruaidhrí (guffaws): "Aye, and what else could she be? Your father's friend took her prisoner and gave her to your father to be his—”

Jamie interjects: "Skullery maid!"

Bríghid (giving Ruaidhrí a dark look): "Aye, his skullery maid."

Jamie (glaring at Ruaidhrí): "I tried to help your mother escape, but then your Uncle Ruaidhrí ran me through the chest with his sword, didn't you, my brother-by-marriage?"

Children stare at their uncle, mouths wide.

Ruaidhrí (going red in the face): "How was I to know?"

Ride the Fire

Nicholas: "I was in the sixth year of my self-imposed exile in the wilderness, when two French soldiers attacked me. I found myself in dire need and alone. Then I heard a gunshot and followed it until I came across the cabin where your mother was living alone. I persuaded her to help me."

Bethie: "Was it your charm that won over, love — or was it the pistol you pointed at my head?"

Belle and Little Nicholas gape at their father and gasp.

Nicholas (frowning): "I'd never have pulled the trigger."

Bethie (smiling): "Though I thought him at first a filthy oaf, your father proved his affection by seeing me and my new baby girl—

Belle smiles: "Me!"

Bethie: "Aye, you—safely to Fort Pitt. And all I had to do to tame his wild nature was to bind him till he'd learnt his manners."

Belle and Little Nicholas break into giggles.

Nicholas (looks meaningfully at Bethie and raises a single, dark eyebrow): "If my manners fail me, will you promise to tie me up again?"


Iain: "Och, I was out on a scout wi' your uncles and the men, when we heard the sounds of gunfire. We rushed in, and what did I see but a sweet and innocent lass fightin' for her life against fifteen—

Annie: "Six."

Iain (ignoring her): "—or twenty ferocious French and Abenaki warriors."

Iain Cameron (sitting, wide-eyed): "What did you do, da'?"

Uncle Morgan: "Why, naturally, your father fought them off and saved her."

Uncle Connor: "And got himself flayed for it."

Iain Cameron: "Is that how you got the scars on your back, da'?"

Iain: "Aye, but your mother was well worth the sufferin'."

Iain Cameron: "And she loved you from that day on!"

Captain Joseph gives a snort. He and Connor start to laugh. Then he, Connor and Morgan leave the room, guffawing all the way.

Iain Cameron: "Why are they laughin', da'?

Iain (glaring after his brothers and shouting after them): "Because they're stinkin' louts wi' no more sense than God gave a turnip!"

Annie (smiling and setting aside her stitching): "Come, Iain Cameron. Enough stories. It's time for bed. But, aye, your father is a dashie man and brave, and I loved him from that day on."
Monday, July 23, 2007

RWA wrap up

From left to right: Erin from Dorchester, my agent Natasha Kern, Brooke Borneman from Dorchester, me and my mother waiting for our table at our pre-RITAs dinner.

Yes, RWA is officially long past, apart from the blogging and photo swapping. I got some shots from my mother this afternoon that I thought I'd share.

Below, my mother is standing across the street from the bit of unlikely highway geography that, thanks to cold-blooded murder, has become a sort of national landmark — The Grassy Knoll. Rising up behind her is the book depository from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired his shots at President John Kennedy (depending upon whose conspiracy theory you're going by). We visited the museum inside the depository and left thoroughly depressed with just hours before dinner and the RITAs. Something precious about America died that day, and when you stand there, you feel it.

And if you still haven't had enough of Dallas and the RITAs, check out this link, passed on to me by Kristie J:

This features interviews with RITA winners, but my friends and I play supporting roles. Unbeknownst to us, we were the background against which many of these clips were shot. Bonnie Vanak and Jennifer Ashley are featured here, together with Su and Leiha from RBL romantica. (Su gets a big smile, but only a bit of Leiha's head is showing.) Kris Alice Hohls of Germany's Loveletter magazine wanders into the frame and I give her a goodbye hug. Too funny!

Never have I seen better shots of the back of my own head. :-)

I'm sure more photos will trickle in, but my next blog is going to be something completely different based on a crazy idea my son had that made me laugh my head off.
Thursday, July 19, 2007

More RWA musings... and an excerpt from Untamed

Debbie H and I share a photo opportunity at the RWA literacy signing.

Did I say it's hard coming back the real world? That's a bloody understatement! It's close to intolerable! One minute you're hanging with your author friends — some of the best friends you'll have in your life — and the next you're back at work where no one knows what a RITA is or even cares. That's life I guess.

But I don't have to like it.

I met a lot of great people this year. As Emma Holly said on the RBL Board, so much happened at RWA that it will take time to remember it all. Well said, Emma. But here's a quick list of some things I might have left out or glossed over...

Debbie H.— She drove three hours from Oklahoma City with her friend Amie to be at RWA on Wednesday night, the night of the humongous literary signing. She walked up to me as I was sitting at my table, and I was thrilled at last to be able to put a face with the name. Debbie has been such a support these past months. She has a real mothering side to her, which has been very soothing at times. God knows, writing Unlawful Contact wasn't easy, and if it hadn't been for my online romance friends, I don't know what I would have done.

Renee Bernard— Yo, Renee! You freakin' crack me up! I met Renee at the bar in the Adam's Mark where I was drinking with Bonnie Vanak after the Daphne ceremony on Thursday night, and fell in love. Instant click. We discovered by providence — what else could it be? — that we hate the exact same book! It's not published recently, but it's by a HUGE author — and we both hate it. She mentioned hating a book and said a few small things about it, but not enough to give it away. I was pretty tipsy, and found myself telling her about a book by author X that I hated for these 10 reasons. And it was the same book. My only regret was that we got to the bar only about a half an hour before last call.

Renee, you and Bonnie and I need to hit another bar and soon!

Kristie J. — Kristie flew in from Canada. I first met her via email after she read Ride the Fire and fell in love with my Nicholas. You can Google Ride the Fire, and you'll find her name everywhere. I found her to be sweet and very sincere, and I enjoyed exchanging emails with her. She's been through some very hard times, and it was such a pleasure to be able to deliver a real, human hug to her in person.

Catherine Spangler — Cathy and I wrote for Dorchester together for a time. Now we're writing for Berkley together. The last time I saw her was in Dallas in 2003, so it was fun to spend some time with ther. I was in the middle of reading her book, Touched by Darkness when some scumbag stole it, together with the Nora Roberts autograph I had tucked inside. Can you say pissed? Sure you can.

If you see a book that looks like this, it's mine!

Then, of course, I was thrilled to meet the lovely Emma Holly in person. A very smart, classy and sophisticated woman. Yes, you may rightly ask yourself, "Why was she hanging out with Pamela?" (Renee is asking that question.) I don't know. I'm just lucky, I guess.

From left to right: Emma Holly, Amie, Gennita Low, me and Debbie H. after nearly starving to death outside this restaurant. If they'd have offered us dog food, I might have taken it. The others were ready to rob the place of chicken. Fortunately all were fed.

I met some very Smart Bitches and Sybil, too. A thrill for me!

For now it's time to return to the real world and to turn my mind to... Upstate New York.

The year is 1759, and it's springtime...

Major Morgan MacKinnon has just left the family farm where his brother Iain, released from His Majesty's service, is starting life anew with his beautiful wife Annie and his new son Iain Cameron. Leading MacKinnon's Rangers, Morgan makes his way north to the Ticonderoga Penninsula where summer last so many good men died, their blood staining the soil red. Thanks to Iain's leadership and the support of Captain Joseph's Muheconneok warriors, the three MacKinnon brothers survived the slaughter, along with most of their men. The Rangers' mission this time is simple: Observe the strength of the enemy and harry them at every turn.

But more lies in wait for Morgan and his men than he can know. And this time, the Rangers will lose their dearest blood...

For this war is brutal and the men who fight it are utterly Untamed...

Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga)
New France
July 8, 1758

Amalie Chauvenet straightened the gold braid on her father’s gray uniform, trying to hide her fear. “I will be fine, Papa. You’ve no need to trouble yourself on my behalf.”

In the distance she could hear the dull thud of marching feet and the scrape of metal against metal as thousands of British soldiers surrounded the fort’s landward side and prepared to attack. Certain les Anglaise would capture the fort in a matter of hours, her father had come to escort her to the little chapel where he felt she’d be safest.

“If the fort should fall, stay close to Père François.” Papa’s dear face was lined with worry. “I will come to you if I can. If aught should befall me, Père François will take you to Montcalm or de Bourlamaque. They will keep you safe.”

“Nothing will happen to you, Papa!” Her words sounded childish even to her own ears—a measure of her fear for him.

It had become the custom in this accursed war for both sides to shoot officers first in hopes of leaving the enemy leaderless and confused. But Amalie could not abide the thought of her father in harm’s way, a mere target in some British soldier’s sights.

Papa lifted her chin, forced her to meet his gaze. “Listen to me! You are an officer’s daughter, Amalie, but in the rush of victory, even disciplined soldiers are wont to rape and pillage. Do not allow yourself to be found alone!”

She heard her father’s words—and understood the unspoken message beneath them. She was an officer’s daughter, but she was also Métis, her blood a mix of French and Abenaki. Though most French accepted her, the British were not so kind. In their eyes, a woman of mixed blood was little better than a dog—or so she’d been told. If the fort should fall, her standing as a captain’s daughter likely would not keep her safe without a high-ranking officer’s protection.

Oui, Papa.” Dread spread like ice through her belly. “Is there no chance that we will prevail?”

“The British General Abercrombie commands a force of at least fifteen thousand, easily double our number—and MacKinnon’s Rangers are with him.”

Amalie’s dread grew. Everyone knew of MacKinnon’s Rangers. There were no fiercer fighters, no warriors more feared or reviled throughout New France than this band of barbaric Scotsmen. Unmatched at woodcraft and shooting marks, they had once crossed leagues of untamed forest in the dead of winter to destroy her grandmother’s village, ruthlessly killing most of the men, burning the lodges and leaving the women and children to starve. The French had put a bounty on the MacKinnon brothers’ scalps—but the Abenaki wanted them alive so they could exact vengeance in blood and pain.

Some among her mother’s people said MacKinnon’s Rangers could fly. Others claimed to have seen them take the forms of wolves or bears. Still others claimed they feasted upon the flesh of their dead. The stories about them were so incredible that some believed these MacKinnon men weren’t men at all, but powerful chi bai—spirits.

But there were other rumors, stories of Rangers sparing women and children, tales of priests and nuns whom they’d shielded from British regulars with their own bodies, accounts of mercy shown French soldiers and enemy Indians alike.

But which stories were true?

Amalie did not wish to find out.

“Why did you not stay at the convent?” Her father’s brow folded into a frown. “At least there you would be safe.”

She smoothed a stray curl on his gray wig. “I came because you needed me, Papa.”

She’d journeyed all the way from Trois Rivières in April to care for him when he’d fallen ill with fever. He was her only true family. Though she had cousins and aunts among the Abenaki, she barely knew them. Her mother had died in childbed when Amalie was not yet two, and her father had parted ways with his wife’s kin, preferring to shelter his only child among the Ursulines than in the wild. And although Amalie was grateful for the care she’d received at the abbey, she had long chaffed at the strict rules and rigid routine that shaped convent life, longing to see the world beyond the abbey’s protective—and often stifling—walls.

“Beware of seeking adventure,” the Abbesse had warned her when Amalie had announced she was leaving. “You might not be prepared when it finds you.”

Amalie’d had no idea what the Abbesse had meant—until yesterday when a flotilla of British boats had landed to the south disgorging countless soldiers dressed in blood-red. Now battle was imminent, and only God knew what the next hours would bring.

Yet, despite the peril, she did not regret her decision to come to the frontier. She’d never spent more than a few weeks at a time with her father, and the months she’d lived by his side were among the happiest and most exciting she could remember. She’d found joy in nursing him back to health, in cooking and cleaning for him, in mending his uniform, heating his bath and filling his pipe, as any devoted daughter would do.

But there was more.

They’d laughed together, read Voltaire and Rousseau, discussed the latest ideas of the day, notions about society and liberty she’d not encountered at the abbey. Her father had let her speak her mind, even encouraged her to do so, never chastising her for asking questions as the Abbesse had so often done. She’d come to know him as a father, to admire him as a man, to respect him as an officer. She’d come to love him.

She could not bear to lose him.

She pressed her palm to his cheek. “If the strength of our army should fail, it will not be long before the British reach Trois Rivières and Montréal. Then abbey walls will make little difference. I would not trade these months with you for something so small as safety.”

His gaze softened. “Ah, my sweet Amalie, I do need you. You have brought such sunshine to my life. If I had but considered it, I would have taken you from the abbey long ago. But if the breastworks cannot withstand Abercrombie’s artillery… ”

His voice trailed off. Then he smiled and drew her close, surrounding her with his reassuring strength and his familiar scent—pipe smoke, starched linen, and spicy cologne. “It is in God’s hands, ma petite chou.”

My little cabbage.

And so Amalie went to await the outcome of the battle in the chapel, swallowing her tears and forcing herself to smile when her father took his leave of her and returned to his duties at the walls.

“Be safe, Papa,” she whispered as he walked away, so smart in his gray uniform.

She knelt down with her rosary beside Père François and had just begun to pray when the battle exploded. Like thunder it seemed to shake the very ground, the din of cannon, musket fire and men’s shouts almost deafening. She’d never been near a battlefield before, and her hands trembled as she worked her way through each bead, fighting to remember the words, her thoughts on Papa—and what might happen to all of them should the fort fall.

The soldiers would be imprisoned. Her father and the other officers would be interrogated and traded for British captives.

And the women…

In the rush of victory, even disciplined soldiers are wont to rape and pillage.

“Notre Père, qui es aux cieu …” Our Father, who art in heaven…

She hadn’t been kneeling long when Père François was summoned to the hospital to comfort the wounded and anoint the dying. Impatient to help and mindful of her father’s warning, Amalie, who’d tended sick and injured women at the convent, asked to come with him.

“Are you certain, Amalie?” Père François looked down at her, doubt clouding his green eyes. “This is war. It will be gruesome.”

She nodded, braiding her long hair and binding the plait into a thick knot at her nape. “Oui, Father, I am certain. I have seen death before.”

But she’d never seen anything like what awaited them at the hospital.

The dead were so numerous that there was no room for them inside. Their bodies lay without dignity in the hot sunshine, moved hastily aside to make way for those still living. The wounded lay on beds, on the floor, against the walls. They muttered snatches of prayer, groaned through gritted teeth, cried out in agony, waiting for someone to ease their suffering. The surgeon and his men worked as swiftly as they could, but there were so many. And everywhere, there was blood, the air thick with the stench of gunpowder and death.

Surely, this was Hell.

Amalie thrust aside her emotions, donned an apron and set to work, doing what the surgeon asked of her. Outside, the battle seemed to come in waves, building until she feared the very sky should fall, then fading to silence, only to begin anew.

A soldier clutched at her skirts with bloody fingers. She took his hand, sat beside him, and knew the moment she saw the wound in his chest that he would perish. If only she could give him laudanum, ease the pain of his passing, but there was not enough. She’d been told to save it for those who at least stood a chance of survival.
He seemed about to speak, struggled for breath.

And then he was gone.

About her age, he’d died before she could utter a word of comfort, before Père François could offer him Last Rites, before the surgeon could tend him. She swallowed the hard lump in her throat, muttered a prayer, then drew soldier’s eyes closed.

Another blast of cannon shook the walls of the little log hospital, making Amalie gasp.

“Those are French guns, mademoiselle.” The soldier in the next bed spoke, his voice tight with pain. “Do not be afraid. As long as they fire, we know the breastworks stand.”

Ashamed of her fear, Amalie covered the dead soldier with a blanket, a signal to the surgeon’s attendants to remove his body. How could she, who was safe behind the fort’s walls, allow herself to cower at the mere sound of war when all around her lay men who had braved the full violence of the battlefield?

“It is I who should be offering you comfort, monsieur.” She moved to sit beside him and checked beneath the blood-stained bandage on his right arm. The musket ball had passed through, but it had broken bone. “Are you thirsty?”

“You are the daughter of Capitaine Chauvenet, are you not?”


“You are just as beautiful as the men say.” He smiled, his skin pallid. “I hope you take no offense at my boldness, but I have never seen such long hair.”

Though she’d been at Fort Carillon for more than three months, she still hadn’t grown accustomed to the attentions of men. Uncertain how to respond, she reached for her plait, which had somehow slipped free of its knot, its thick end touching the floor when she sat. Quickly, she bound it up again, lest it trail through the blood that was tracked across the floorboards.
Then she pulled the water bucket close, drew out the ladle, and lifted it to the soldier’s lips.


The wounded soldier had just taken his first swallow, when there came a commotion at the door and Montcalm’s young aide-de-camp, Capitaine de Bougainville, was brought inside, bleeding from what looked to be a minor wound.

“How goes the battle?” someone called.

An expectant hush fell over the room.

De Bougainville sat with a grimace, his white wig slightly askew. “We are prevailing.”

Murmurs of astonishment and relief passed through the crowded hospital like a breeze, and Amalie met the injured soldier’s gaze, her own surprise reflected in his eyes.

“For whatever reason, Abercrombie hasn’t brought up his artillery.” De Bougainville gritted his teeth as a soldier helped him out of his jacket. “We are cutting down the enemy as swiftly as they appear, and their losses are grievous. Four times we have repulsed them. None have even passed the abatis to reach our breastworks.”

“Abercrombie is a fool!” one of the soldiers exclaimed to harsh laughter.

But de Bougainville did not smile. “That may well be—and thank God for it!—but his marksmen are laying down a most murderous fire upon us from the cover of the trees. We have pounded them with cannon, but we cannot root them out.”

“MacKinnon and his men?”

Oui. Their Mahican allies are beside them.” De Bougainville wiped sweat and gunpowder from his brow with a linen handkerchief. “The lot of them shift from tree to tree like ghosts and will not relent.”

“And they call themselves Catholic!” The soldier who’d spoken spat on the floor.

But de Bougainville held up his hand for silence. “Listen! They are retreating again.”

The sound of shooting died away, replaced first by the distant beating of drums and then by an oppressive, sullen stillness.

So many times now the battle had ceased, only to begin again. Amalie dared not hope, and yet…

Barely able to breath, she bent her mind back to her work. Whether the battle was over or not, these men needed her help. She bound the soldier’s wound in fresh linen, gave him laudanum, prayed with him, then moved to the next bed and the next. She’d gone to the back room to fetch more linen strips for bandages when she heard the drums beat afresh.

Her stomach sank, and her step faltered.

“Curse them!” a soldier shouted. “Do they not know when to withdraw?”

There came a roar of cannon, and again the battle raged.

More dead. More wounded.

But not Papa. Not Papa.

Holding onto that hope, Amalie went where she was needed. She carried water to the injured men who lay on the bare earth outside, cleaned and bandaged their lesser wounds, offered what solace she could. She did not notice the sweat trickling between her breasts or the rumbling of her empty stomach or her own thirst.

Then the cadence of the British drums changed again, and once more the battle fell silent. And then—was she imagining it?—cheers. The sound swelled, grew stronger, and all heads turned toward the northwest, where soldiers stood upon the walls, their muskets raised overhead, their gazes on the breastworks and the battlefield beyond.

A soldier ran toward them, his face split by a wide smile. “They are retreating! The British are fleeing! The day is won!”

Relief swept through Amalie, leaving her dizzy. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, felt a gentle squeeze from the soldier who’s hand she was holding.

“C’est fini, mademoiselle!” he said, a smile on his bruised face. It’s over.

Amalie opened her eyes, smiled back. “Oui, c’est fini.”

But even as she said it, she knew it wasn’t true. For the men who lay here and those inside, the fight was far from over, life and death still hanging in the balance. She threw herself into their care with renewed strength, refreshed by the knowledge that no more need die today and grateful beyond words that her father did not lie among the injured or the slain.

But if she’d expected the end of the battle to stem the tide of wounded and dead, she’d been mistaken. Carried on litters or hobbling, they arrived by the dozens, some scarcely scathed, some terribly wounded, some already beyond all but God’s help. Most had been hit by musket fire, holes torn into their flesh by cruel lead. Others had been pierced by wooden splinters or burned by powder.

“Be thankful they never had the chance to use their bayonets or their artillery,” said a young soldier when she gasped at the terrible wound in his shoulder. “Have you ever seen a man with his entrails—”

“That is quite enough, sergeant.”

Amalie recognized Lieutenant Rillieux’s voice and glanced back to find him standing behind her, his tricorne in his hand, his face smeared with gunpowder, sweat and blood. One of her father’s officers and a tall man, he towered over her where she knelt on the ground.

He bowed stiffly.

“I pray you are not wounded, monsieur.” She stood, wiping her fingers on her blood-stained apron.

It was then she noticed the pity and sadness in his eyes.

The breath left her lungs, and her heart began to pound, the sound of her pulse almost drowning out his words.

“Mademoiselle, it is with great sorrow that I must report—”

But she had already seen. “Non!”

Two young officers approached the hospital, bearing her father on a litter.

Heedless of soldiers’ stares or Lieutenant Rillieux’s attempt to stop her, she ran to him. But it was too late. Her father’s eyes were closed, his lips and skin white, his throat torn by a musket ball. She didn’t have to check his breathing to know he was dead.

“Non, Papa! Non!” She cupped his cold cheek in her palm, then lay her head against his still and silent chest, pain seeming to split her breast, tears blurring her vision.

Over the sound of her own sobs, she heard Lieutenant Rillieux speak. “He was slain during the first assault. He toppled over the breastworks, and we could not reach him until the battle ended for fear of the Ranger’s rifles. You should know that he fought bravely and died instantly. We shall all mourn him.”

And in the darkness of her grief it dawned on her.

Everything her father had been, everything he’d known, everything they might have done together was gone. Her father was dead.

She was alone.

April 19, 1759
New York frontier

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, de 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.

Conner stretched out beside him and spoke in a whisper. “I cannae look down upon this place wi’out 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 didn’t believe that the hastily built abatis—the barrier of felled trees and branches that had been piled before 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 before 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 north 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 before.
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, 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 Annie, said the sin was not theirs but Lord 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 his wife, 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.

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 before 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 Muhheconneok. “You thrash about like a herd of 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 old 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 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 whisky in his belly.

Morgan switched to English so that those among his men who did not speak Muhheconneok could understand. “What does de Bourlemaque 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. Colonel le Chevalier de Bourlamaque was commander of a fort 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 emotions, nor was she so selfish that she required diversion. And if, at times, she wished de Bourlamaque 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.” De 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 1,500 men. She could not imagine so many deaths. In all, the French had lost three hundred, and that had seemed devastating. And yet, Amalie had overheard de Bourlamaque call those losses 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.” De 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.”

Capitaine Rillieux leaned back in his chair, his face a wide grin. Alone of 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 Capitaine Rillieux didn’t seem to realize he’d said something shocking. “We will 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?” De 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 her father 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.

Capitaine Rillieux’s nostrils flared, and he bowed his head in apology. “My regrets once more for your loss, my lord. MacKinnon is a formidable adversary, but we will break him. Arrangements have been made. As I said, my men are ready.”

But 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 here. The towns would bustle with hay wagons and apple carts. Farmers would return to their fields and orchards, trappers to their forest trails.

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

De Bourlamaque, who was now her guardian, was of the mind that it was past time for her either to take vows and serve Christ or 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 she had no desire to return to the dreary life of the convent. 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. De 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 like her parents. She wanted a husband who cherished her and whom she cherished in return, a man who valued her opinions more than her obedience, who would see her as more than a helpmeet and a mother for his children. She had yet to meet such a man.

And so she had pleaded bereavement, feigning confusion over which path to take—that of a novice or that of a wife—and de Bourlamaque had relented.

For now.

Yet she knew her reprieve wouldn’t last. Neither Monsieur le Marquis de Montcalm nor 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, de Bourlamaque would have sent her back her 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?

The thought sprang unwelcome to her mind, dousing her last spark of appetite.

Everyone in New France remembered the fate of the poor Acadians.

She set her silverware aside.

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

Amalie had come to feel affection for de 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.”

Capitaine 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, gentlemen?”

“But of course!” Fouchet and Durand insisted.

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

Capitaine 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.”

Capitaine Rillieux’s smile faded, his gaze boring through her. “And what can a young mademoiselle who was raised in a convent 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 de Bourlamaque held up his hand.

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

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

But Amalie did not miss the flush beneath his olive skin, nor the angry press of his lips.

It was de Bourlamaque who spoke next. “Père François tells me the little medicinal garden you planted behind the chapel is 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. De 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 Capitaine Rillieux looked uninterested.

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 de Bourlamaque and saluted smartly. “Monsieur le Colonel, it is MacKinnon’s Rangers! We have them!”

# # #

Morgan knew it was a trap the moment the first 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 fire 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 enemy were alerted to their presence, and with no explosions or fire to distract them, the French 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 crossfire.

“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 among the French, particularly those on the ship who seemed to realize all at once that they were outside the fort walls—and vastly outnumbered.

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 them into the trap. He would bloody well get them out.

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 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 burned 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 behind him. “You’re daft!”

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!”


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 old Irish face. “You bloody daft Scot.”

Another blast of cannon.

Morgan slipped the tumpline over his head, grabbed his rifle and 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 fire, glancing over to watch his men’s progress until they disappeared among the trees. Then, feeling a rush of relief, he cast one last glance at the fort walls—and felt something strike him in the left shoulder.

Instantly his left arm went numb, falling useless to his side. Something warm and wet trickled down his chest.


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 fire his heavy rifle with one hand, he dropped it to the sand, withdrew his pistol, aimed and fired, ending the soldier’s celebration. But several other soldiers had climbed into the rigging to see what their comrade’s cheering was about, and before Morgan could take cover, several 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.


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 counter attack? “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 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 he never finished the thought.

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

Monday, July 16, 2007

RWA memories

Geez, it's hard to be home! One day back at the office and it feels like RWA is part of the pleistocene past or something. I miss my friends. I miss the drinks. I miss the spontaneous fun that is the hallmark of RWA.

There's something special about the friendship of fellow authors. They're the only people who know what it's like to walk around with voices in your head — a head with its own village of people, each one of whom is clamoriing to get out. They're the ones who know what it's like to miss your characters so much that you get depressed. They understand the thrill a good review brings and the desperation and panic that not being able to write can create inside the heart.

There's also something special about readers. They share the love affair we authors have with our characters. If I want to share my obsession with the MacKinnon brothers or Marc Hunter or Julian Darcangelo, my readers are there. When I need bolstering because my tendency to be self-critical overwhelms my muse, my readers are there.

RWA brings them both together so beautifully!

Here are some of my favorite photos from RWA. (Thanks to Leiha for bringing her camera and emailing me these pics!)

The best thing about this year's RWA was being together with my mother. After some health scares, it was such a blessing to have her with me. As one really wonderful bookseller said to me, "Your mom is your RITA." And she was.

This is my home girl, Bonnie Vanak. She was such an angel to me throughout the week, helping me through my RITA jitters with drink after drink. It was wonderful to spend so much time with her.

When I want to find CJ Barry/Samantha Graves, I look in the bar. And here she was again! I was able to hang out and let my hair dry before the Daphne Awards.

My mother got out on the dance floor at the Harlequin party on Friday night to do the twist. She had a blast.

This is me getting a little wild with RBL's Su. She's so much fun (and so sexy) that she ought to be illegal.

Bonnie, Emma Holly and I hit the dance floor together at Harlequin. Though Emma and I have known each other via Internet for a few years, this conference marks the first time we met face to face. I had a blast! She's a sweetheart and very funny!

Gennita Low and I have been friend since we first became authors, and I love getting together with her every year at these events — and on her occasional visits to Denver.

I had the honor of being the first filling of the night in the Asian Persuasion Sammich featuring Leiha and Su. I'll be your vanilla any day, girls! Some people nearby were shocked by this pose. We're not sure why.

More photos as they become available...
Saturday, July 14, 2007

And the winner is...

Not me.

Am I disappointed? Yes, of course. But I'm not feeling the sense of defeat that I thought I might feel. Why?

Well, JD Robb, aka Nora Roberts, was a finalist, and she didn't win. Patricia Potter, whose work I admire so much, was a finalist and didn't win. Lisa Kleypas was a double finalist and didn't win tonight.

That's a bunch of wonderful, talented writers, each of them a best-seller. And I'm in their company as finalists who did not win tonight. Not bad.

But I'm going to post my speech here on this blog because the words in it are true, even if I didn't get to speak them from the stage during the RITA ceremony. So here's what I would have said, and it's what's true in my heart every day:

Thanks to RWA's founders and its members for creating a home for women who hear voices in their heads. Thanks to the judges for finding merit in my novel. Thanks to Kally Jo Surbeck and Colorado Romance Writers for their support and friendship.

Thanks to:

Natasha Kern, my agent, who has been beside me every step of the way.

Alicia Condon, my editor, for letting me write the stories I want to write and to everyone at Dorchester for getting behind this book.

My sister Michelle White, who read my first romance manuscript and said, "It's just like a real romance novel."

My friend and cousin Sara Megibow for her support.

The women of RBL Romantica for their tireless support, their friendship and their love of fun.

And to the women of Rebel Writer's Refuge who keep me sane: Bonnie Vanak, Norah Wilson, Jan Zimlich, Alice Duncan, Alice Brilmeyer, and Mimi Riser.

Special thanks to my mother, Mary White, who is here with me tonight. And to my boys, Alec, and Benjamin, who've emailed and text messaged me every day all week to tell me that they love me and believe in me. I couldn't do this without their love and their support.

Thank you!


OK, that's what I would have said, and it's true whether it's spoken into a microphone in front of 3,000 people or posted on this blog where very few eyes will see it. Those of you who've reached out to me over the years have each in your own way made a difference.

So now it's time to pack up the glitter gowns and face the fact that RWA 2007 is over. It's so hard to say goodbye to everyone. I miss them already. There's one week out of the year when we all come together, when I get to put the less fun parts of my life aside and focus on what I really, truly love. I'm more bummed about the conference coming to an end than I am not winning the RITA.

It's a major down to return to the real world.

My love to everyone! And, Bonnie, thank you so much for making this such a special conference. Everyone ought to have a friend like you! Fortunately, I do. ;-)
Friday, July 13, 2007

Parties, parties, parties

Another late-night check-in...

My mom arrived today in Dallas. Her flight was delayed by weather, putting a slight kink in our plans. I'm so excited that she's here. It means the world to me to have her here tomorrow night, regardless of whether I win the RITA or not.

We arrived late to the Dorchester author dinner. Dorchester publishes my historical novels, and I've always loved the friendly feeling of their dinner parties. We had Tex-Mex at a place called Monica's, giving me a chance to introduce my mother to Bonnie Vanak, Nina Bangs, Brooke Borneman, and lots of others from Dorchester.

Chris Keesler spoke a few words about Ronda, and I found myself trying not to cry into my fajitas. Everyone raised their glasses spontaneously and drank to Ronda.

We missed you, Ronda, dear.

Afterwards, we changed into fancy clothes and headed off to the Harlequin party at the Fairmont. One of the highlights of RWA every year are the publisher parties and dinners. Usually held on Friday nights, they give publishers the chance to take their authors out and treat them to drinks or dinner. And the biggest, best party is always the Harlequin party. It's THE party to crash, and so many people do.

The years I've gone, the party has featured a DJ and lots of great dance tunes, plus a cash bar and a wonderful buffet of morsels and desserts. Picture 300 romance authors dancing together with their friends, singing and having a wonderful time. As I told my mom, "This is almost exclusively women, and they're just here, being happy and having fun." It ROCKS!

We met up with Bonnie Vanak, Gennita Low and Emma Holly and — YAY! — The Asian Persuasion. Su and Leiha from RBL were there, looking gorgeous as always. We danced our butts off, and they were sweet as sugar to my mother. We got her out on the dance floor (photos to come) and boogied with her. She wore a hot red dress that she'd bought especially for the parties here, and we had a blast!

I got to introduce my mom to a host of celebrity authors. I also got to introduce her to Sara Megibow, who once worked with me at the paper and now works as an assistant to Kristen Nelson (an agent). She is related to me distantly, something we discovered completely by accident after we'd already known each other for a couple of years. My mom had been really excited to meet her.

Seeing everyone again and introducing them to my mother — Bonnie, Kristie J, Emma, Su, Leiha, Gennita, Patrica Potter, Sharon Mignery, Robin Owens & ect. — and just letting loose for a while is so fun! I told my mom that I like the life Pamela Clare lives and prefer it to the one her journalistic alter ego lives. At least Pamela Clare gets to have fun!

We took a limo — a nice, black limo — back to our hotel when we had danced ourselves out. I told Bonnie to get used to it. There will be lots of limos in her future.

Tomorrow night are the RITAs. Am I nervous? YES! I've burst into tears a half-dozen times since being here, and I know I'm going to be keyed up tomorrow night. I don't know how to avoid being emotional about something like this. Heck, I cry over nothing. But the RITAs?

My boys continue to text message me several times a day with good wishes for tomorrow. They're not the only ones. So many friends and even strangers have either called or texted or sent emails offering good wishes, and it means so much to me.

So thanks to all of you for your caring and kindness and encouragement. It really does mean the world to me. And I will keep everyone posted. The RITAs are 8-10 p.m. Texas time — that's one hour ahead of Colorado. I think it's Central Time zone here. I probably won't be able to post on my blog until late.

Either way, I'm proud of Surrender, and that's what matters most.
Thursday, July 12, 2007

Late night update from RWA

'Scuse typos. I'm inebriated...

Tonight were the Daphne du Maurier Awards, for which Hard Evidence was a finalist. Roxanne St. Clair won in my category — single title — but it was great to be one of the five finalists. Extreme Exposure was Daphne finalist, as well, so that's two for two, which is great.

Author Ann Christopher, whose books I enjoy, was there with me, as was my wonderful friend, Bonnie Vanak, whose Egyptian historials rock. Ann won a gift basket. Bonnie treated me to so many drinks that I'm typing about 40 letters for every word that successfully makes it onto this page.

(Note to readers: When you can edit reasonably well after this much alcohol, it's proof that you've been a journalist for a loooooong time. So please respect this particular skill set -- um, I guess it's called drunk typing. Not sure. You're the sober one. Figure out a name for it.)

Anyway, yeah, so Sara Megibow, who is my cousin and who works as an assistant for the Kristen Nelson Agency, was also there. God, I love seeing her here!!!! She got her start in this industry (OK, I'm bragging) by reading my manuscripts. She would read them and offer feedback, and she loved doing it so much she decided she needed to turn it into her career. And so she asked me how she could turn reading unpublished manuscripts into a day job and I said that I had no bloody idea. But she did it. And now she's here at RWA with me, and I adore her. Even when I'm not drunk.

OK, what was I saying???? No clue.

Oh, yes. CJ Barry/Samantha Graves was there, as well, so she and I got to get caught up a bit. That's the great thing about RWA — so many of my friends in one place! (namely, the bar.)

So I wanted to head out with the RBL Party Crew — Su and Leiha are here — but I was pretty worn out after the Daphne and came back to my room instead. Then Bonnie and I decided we should talk, so we went to the bar for one drink. One. Hahaha. OK, but I am in my room now (obviously, duh).

Thanks for your posts, everyone. Bonnie and I drank a toast in Ronda Thompson's memory tonight. Then we drank to the RITAs on Saturday night. And then we drank for the hell of it.

My mother arrives tomorrow. She's flying in from Montrose, Colo. (Look on a map.) I'm so honored and excited to have her here. I want her to meet my agent and my writer friends. It's a part of my life that is completely new to her.

Did I mention that the convention hotel is very close to the grassy knoll — think Zapruder film — and the place where John F. Kennedy was assassinated. When we drove past the knoll, I jumped up in the bus and said, "Oh my God, it's the grassy knoll!" And people looked at me like they thought I needed lithium.

OK, this is a rambling go-nowhere post.

Let's see how coherent I am tomorrow in the A of M when all the booze has worn off and only the pain remains.

Ronda Thompson/RWA

Ronda Thompson, a friend and the celebrated author of the Wild Wulfs series (St. Martin's) is gone, killed quickly by cancer.

I got the news late last night via email and immediately called my friend Bonnie Vanak, who was asleep in her hotel room. I felt terrible about waking her up, but finding out that Ronda had died was like a kick in the stomach. I thought at first it had to be a joke, but it's not.

Ronda was one of the first published authors to reach out to me when I was a newbie. She was here in this very hotel with me during my first RWA convention, and she and I made time to have lunch together because we'd had so much fun emailing each other.

Over the years, we'd spoken numerous times on the phone, and I was so happy for her when she made the USA Today list and then the New York Times. Friendly, funny, and a talented writer, she was always there to support newer authors and to gab.

Ronda, I was looking for you at this convention. I was watching for a tall woman with a smile as big as Texas on her face. I was expecting to see you, to give you a hug, to talk with you. And you're gone. I am so, so sorry for your kids and your family, but I am grateful that your career reached such a high point while you were here to see it. I miss you!

Other news:

The flight here was a drag. I think everyone had a rough time reaching Dallas because of weather. Some people are still stuck in New York. When I arrived, I enjoyed the added bonus of lost luggage. The concierge at the hotel was very helpful in chasing it down through the airlines. I was too busy with the conference to do that myself, so I'm very grateful. And I have my clothes! YAY!

I had breakfast with my editor from Berkley, Cindy Hwang, and I learned that Unlawful Contact has a publication date — June 2008.

The Daphne du Maurier Awards are tonight late — 9 p.m. local time — so I'll try to get back tonight with an update. I'm going to be enjoying lunch with Kris Alice Hohls and Sandy Schwab, who traveled all the way from Germany to participate in the conference.

The book signing last night was great. I got a big lump in my throat when I saw the RITA flag on my table. We are allowed to keep them, so it's here in my hotel room now.

I spent the evening with Emma Holly, who is a very sweet and warm person, as well as my good friend Gennita Low, who had me giggling about everything, DebbieH from the RBL board and her friend Amie. I so enjoyed getting to meet Emma and Debbie and Amie and being able to put faces with the names. Debbie is an absolute sweetheart — that's all there is to it. She's a wonderful, fun and funny person. She and Amie helped me stay organized (not a small job) and Amie carried my box of books from the literacy signing all night, insisting that she wanted to help somehow.

That's the best thing about these conventions — connection with people you've come to care about either through their writing (Emma, Gennita) or through email exchanges and message boards (DebbieH).

Two members of the RBL Party Crew arrive tonight, so it's time to nap rest up for the mayhem to come.

Su and Leiha, BRING IT ON!
Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Let the fun begin!

First things first.


This hunky guy was brought to my attention by Lina from RBL. She said she thought she could see some of my contemporary heroes (Julian, Marc Hunter) in him, and I couldn't agree more. I found the top photo to be trés Marc, though, of course, it's not the Marc Hunter I stared at while I wrote the book. The photo below is just screaming sexy.

Okay, on with other matters.

Tomorrow morning at 9, I fly out of DIA for Dallas/Ft. Worth for the Romance Writers of America national conference. I absolutely hate flying, but lacking a transporter, I guess it's my best option. But once I land, it will be a blast.

After checking in and registering for the conference. I'll be attending the Bookseller Tea, an event RWA has put together for published authors. I attended last year as well, but I hadn't had one moment of sleep the night before. This time I hope to be awake and capable of answering questions like, "What subgenres do you write?" and "Where are you from?"

Almost immediately after that comes the annual literacy signing. Try to imagine 300 authors and 10,000 readers in one room! The first year I signed books there, I was shellshocked by the press of people and the noise. This will be my fourth literacy signing, I think.

But this year will be special. There will be a blue and gold flag sitting at my spot that says, "RITA Finalist." I'm probably going to start bawling when I see it. (Note to self: waterproof mascara.) I'm actually going to bring my old camera — it's one of those antiquated things that takes, you know, film. I need a photo of this to put in my scrapbook so my grandchildren can see it one day.

After the signing, I'll be meeting up with authors Emma Holly and Gennita Low. Gennita and I have polished off our share of tequila shots together (and gotten lost outside our own hotel afterwards), but this will be my first time meeting Emma in person. I will also be meeting a host of friends/readers from the Internet for the first time, and I can't wait to put faces with the names and emails.

If you're in Dallas, please stop by my table and say hello!
Saturday, July 07, 2007

In memory of Kathleen Woodiwiss

So, who was the first romance author you ever read?

Kathleen Woodiwiss was my first. Somehow I got my hands on a tattered copy of The Flame and the Flower, and the story captivated me. I must have been about 14 when I read it. The book was first published in 1974, I think, so it was a few years old by the time I read it.

I remember being utterly swept away by Brandon and Heather's story. Heather was so abused and innocent, and Brandon was... Well, what can you say about a hero who rapes the heroine. Of course, he didn't realize that's what he was doing, at least not the first time. The sex was hot, not by today's standards certainly, but for it's time, it was pretty scorching, opening up possibilties for women as writers and readers to explore their own sexuality and their relationships with men.

That's what romance novels are really about, after all. That's what makes them inherently feminist — powerful tools for women in changing their lives and visioning the world in new ways.

I didn't understand much about sex then, just the basic Tab A into Slot B mechanics. But I knew the moment I finished reading her book that I wanted to write stories like that one day.

Kathleen Woodiwiss is why I write romance. It's as simple as that.

I read Rosemary Rogers and other early romance authors, also, and I loved their novels, too. But Kathleen's books stood out for me. Who can forget Shanna? My friends and I had a dog-eared copy of that book. I can't tell you how many times I read it or how often we traded it back and forth. Anyone who read that book never forgot it.

And then there's The Wolf and the Dove. Wonderful story.

I didn't follow her later novels, but I'd hoped to have a chance to meet her one day and thank her for the hours of escape and for the inspiration she gave me.

My condolences go out to her surviving family, and I know that many of us in the world of romantic fiction, both writers and readers, will be saddened to learn of her passing.
Thursday, July 05, 2007

RWA Ramblings

What does this photo have to do with RWA? Who cares? Enjoy the view, chicas.

I don't think I've ever been as aware of an approaching RWA conference as I am this year. I told myself that I would not go to RWA this year unless I was a RITA finalist, knowing full well that my chances of being in that final number were roughly the equivalent of my sprouting feathers and flying to the moon.

And then I got the phone call.

As I told you all, I nearly fainted when the voice on the other end told me Surrender had made that final cut. I truly had to grab and chair and hang on because gravity and adrenaline were doing a number on my brain.

Once I recovered, I registered for the conference thinking it would be my funnest, easiest, lightest conference yet. I don't have a panel to give, no presentations to make it through despite a horrendous hangover like last year. (Why do they always give me early morning panels? It's almost as if they know I'm going to be hung over.)

Tonight I wrote up my schedule, and I realized it may be my busiest conference yet due to the RITAs and the Daphnes. Am I complaining? Heck, no! Bring it on! Meetings, more meetings, still more meetings. Luncheons, breakfasts, dinners, RITA rehearsal (who knew they rehearsed the ceremony?) and DRINKS. Yes, at the end of the day, drinks!

A week from this moment, I'll be drunk on chocolate at the Daphne du Maurier Awards. For those of you who've never attended Death By Chocolate, it is Nirvana for the chocoholic. The only thing that could make it better would be nude men coated in chocolate and placed on the tables for us to nibble. But, hey, I know that probably violates some kind of food-safety code. Um... Sorry, distracted myself...

At any rate, it's absolutely going to be my busiest conference yet, and with the need to commute from the Adam's Mark to the Hyatt for the conference, time is going to be very crunched. Trickiest of all will be getting dressed for the RITAs between dinner and the start of the award ceremony next Saturday. I think I'm going to be able to borrow my agent's room at the Hyatt to quick-change from dinner clothes to glamor gown. If not, then perhaps it's the phone booth like Superman.

A huge contingent of women will be there from RBL Romantica, and I'm looking so forward to seeing them all. I'm also looking forward to meeting Emma Holly face to face and connecting again with Bonnie, Gennita Low (no getting lost outside the hotel this year, Jenna!), CJ Barry, Ann Christopher, and a whole host of other wonderful people — authors, booksellers, librarians, the great folks at both of my publishing houses — and my agent, Natasha Kern, whom I've seen three times this year.

So those of you who are reading my blog who will be attending RWA — what are you most looking forward to this year?

For me it will be sitting at the literacy signing with that beautiful RITA finalist banner on my table — and seeing everyone again!
Monday, July 02, 2007

Bling's the thing

Pardonez moi for not posting more frequently. I'm still avoiding the computer, and I've been pretty busy.

No, these aren't the crown jewels. This is my new hair ornament — Swarovski crystals set in flower shapes with tear-drop danglies on the bottom.

This was the result of my mall crawl yesterday, a little trip that cost me dearly. The goal is to buy clothing and accessories that are appropriate for attending the big Romance Writers of America conference in Dallas in nine days, taking into account the fact that I'm a RITA finalist.

I've gotten two sexy cocktail dresses, one that has a transparent chocolate brown overlay on top of deep, peacock blue silk. The skirt is pleated. I didn't think it would look good on me, but Benjy, who is the perfect shopping companion, insisted that I try it. It was the first thing that looked good on me. The second is a really fancy cocktail dress with a black layered taffeta skirt and a white beaded silk bodice. I love it and might wear it to the RITAs instead of a long dress.

I bought a pair of black patent leather pumps and wish I could find the same shoes in brown. No luck thus far. No matching handbags either.

I also bought a strand of pearls (as fake as some women's orgasms) to go with my pearl and white gold earrings (genuine like my orgasms) and a lovely Liz Clairborne brooch (don't ask, don't tell).

I took back a suit I'd bought and bought a better one that happened to be on sale and was cheaper.

Then I wandered into the Swarovski store.

I'll never go there again!!!

I would post photos of the dresses, but my cell phone just can't capture them. I'm hoping someone (Su? Leiha? DebbieH?) will have a camera in Dallas, because I don't own one.

OK, off to edit boards for tomorrow's paper and do more laundry.

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Favorite Writing Quotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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