January 2012 — Connor MacKinnon returns

    This has been an incredible week. First, the shackling bill moves out of committee and onto the Senate floor. And now...

    I am so very happy to announce that Berkley has offered me a five-book contract that includes two I-Team books and three historical novels, starting with Connor MacKinnon's book!

    MacKinnon's Rangers return in January 2012.

    This is beyond my hopes. Conventional wisdom says that publishers don’t buy books mid-series from another publisher, so I knew when I left the previous publisher of my historical novels that there was a chance that the MacKinnon’s Rangers series would die. I didn’t want that to happen, but I knew I had to make a change. So I held my breath and took the plunge...

    And I’m so glad I did!

    My editor at Berkley, who has stood by my unconventional choices (like a virgin Navajo heroine), read both Surrender and Untamed and loved them. She wants Connor’s book, too.

    I know that 2012 sounds far away, but in the book world, it’s really not all that far away. What’s important is that the book is happening, and his story, which is going to be told for sure now, is in the works. I already have an outline for it, which my editor has seen. It was supposed to be two pages. It’s 11 pages long, because someone really got into write about him when she finally had the chance.

    After that, I’ll be leaving Colonial America for a while to write some stories set in England and Scotland. And not one of them involves a duke.

    My first order of business is writing Zach and Natalie’s story, Breaking Point. And then it’s back to Colonial New York to finish the French & Indian War and tell Connor’s story.

    I hope my historical readers are as happy about this as I am. You all know that historical romance was my first love. It’s still what I read most by far. I’ve appreciated your willingness to try reading romantic suspense, but I know some of you — KristieJ, KarLynP, MelissaB, I hope you read this! — wish you had more historicals. Well, you’re going to get them.

    I’m so excited, and I want so much to celebrate!

    I wish you all lived a bit closer!

Fun at RomCon / Shackling bill goes to full Senate!

    Denver skyline during the daytime

    Summer is coming fast, and by now most of us are trying to firm up our summer plans. I’ve opted not to go to any of the other romance conferences in the country this year and instead plan to stay home and attend RomCon. For once, everyone will be coming to the Mile High State.

    Unlike the other conferences, RomCon is strictly about readers and connecting readers with writers. It's going to make for a unique conference experience, I think, and it will also be a lot of fun.

    I'm going to be participating in a few events, and I have organized an event of my own, the Pamela Clare Reality Tour. Based on a tour that I took a couple of friends on a few years back, the tour will take readers who sign up to see places mentioned in the I-Team books.

    Here are some of the places we may visit: Downtown Denver; Aurora, which was Julian’s stomping ground; Eldorado Canyon State Park to see a route called The Naked Edge on Redgarden Wall where Gabe was climbing when Kat fell; Boulder Mountain Parks, where we might go on a brief hike led by one of my Ranger friends; a cement plant (we won't go in); and Rocky Mountain National Park.

    What, I ask you, is the point of being in Colorado if you don't get to see real mountains?

    There is only room for 10 people to join me on the tour. I’ll be driving the van and narrating as we go. There will be lots of time for questions. And if people have flexible schedules, we might even get to eat out at a restaurant in Estes Park.

    The PC Reality Tour is tentatively scheduled for Friday, July 9, so those who want to be a part of it will need to make sure they’re in Denver by that morning. We take off at noon and come back depending upon when people want to be back. If we get time, we’ll visit my rose garden where I putter when I need a break from writing.

    So I hope some of you will be there! There is a sign-up form on the RomCon Web site.

    NEW Shackling bill update 4/30: The Senate Appropriations Committee voted unanimously early this morning to strike the fiscal note from the shackling bill and then passed the bill unanimously. It looked for a moment like we were in trouble when the committee chair asked the Department of Corrections to testify. These meetings aren’t supposed to take testimony and only do so at the chair’s discretion. (Obviously, I wasn’t the only person having conversations with the senators behind the scenes this week.)

    DOC tried to say the law wasn’t needed. The chair asked if anyone knew of any instance in which a woman was actually shackled during labor. Well, duh! Then one of the senators spoke up and reminded everyone that this was already discussed, that the bill covered the county and city jails as well as the state prison and so the bill is about more than DOC. Then he suggested DOC be made to come up with the money on its own and that a vote be held. And then it was done.


    So now the bill goes to the Senate floor for discussion/debate by the entire Senate. I expect it to pass there. And then we start from the beginning in the House. We have two weeks to repeat the same process and get it to the Governor. And I’m betting cash that’s where DOC turns next to kill the bill. So, I guess I need to schedule an appointment with the governor, aye?

    Novel news: I’m in contract negotiations right now, and I hope to have really good news for you here in the next week or so. Stay tuned!

    And sorry about burdening you with the sight of those sexy guys for so long. I’ve been running ragged and didn’t have time to update my blog till today.

A Monday without Man-Titty is like, well, any Monday

    This poor guy is all tired out! Any volunteers to give him a nice full-body massage?

    The quote I bastardized for today's headline, should read, "A morning without coffee is like sleep." And these guys who've come to spend today with us sure are sleepy.

    I find that quote to be overly inaccurate, however, because we all know you can’t just sleep at your desk. The tragedy of Monday is needing to sleep, but having to work.

    But sex hormones — or as folks from Boulder would say, second chakra energy — is better than caffeine because it wakes you up without he nasty plunge four hours later. Plus, being turned-on is fun. Being jittery — not so much.

    And that, my friends, is the science behind Man-Titty Monday. It gets your ovaries working, gets your heart beating and puts a smile on your face.

    Speaking of titties...

    Some of you have perhaps heard of Boulder’s nudity issue. We have the Naked Bide Ride in the summer and the Naked Pumpkin Run in the fall, where folks put jack-o-lanterns over their heads and run naked down the street. We also have a topless gardener, a woman who tends to her flowers and veggies wearing only a thong.

    Despite Boulder's liberal reputation, there are some people in town who freak out about all of this. I'm not one of them, and I find those who do to be puritanical and prude and probably in need of more fiber in their diets.

    In Denmark, where I lived for an extended period of time, it is absolutely normal to see full nudity in public parks on sunny days. I'm talking about your neighborhood park. Yes, people of all ages, sunbathing in their underwear or completely nude. No big deal.

    Here, it's illegal to be nude in public, even if you're nude for non-pervert reasons. Toplessness is legal in Boulder, but few women dare to go topless. I went topless in Europe all the time and miss being able to do so here. I'd do it in my own yard if I could, but being a public figure means that would garner more attention than I want.

    Our poor topless gardener got the attention of a certain national pseudo-journalist, who called her a “pinhead” on a national broadcast. She's just your average person, actually, and I felt that was wrong of him as a person with a public platform to attack her that way. You can like this particular pseudo-journalist if you want, but what he did is, I believe, unethical and not what journalism is about.

    So, I called her and asked if she‘d like to have her side of the story told. She and her husband grilled me a bit — they're shy of journalists after all the attention — and then they agreed.

    They would allow me to interview her on one condition: I have to do the interview while topless. I agreed.

    So that’s what I'll be doing tomorrow morning — sitting topless in her living room with her and her husband conducting an interview.

    I will say this about my life: It is never dull.

    And, no, this is not the craziest thing I’ve ever done for a story. Not by a long shot.

    I'm making progress in Zach and Natalie’s story. Still no work on how the situation will shake out with regard to historicals, but I will keep you updated.

    I'll be very busy today with our “Best of...” edition, which is roughly as much fun as a root canal. But I will check back as I am able.

    Have a great day, everyone!

Review of North & South (2004 BBC series)

    For a couple of years now, I’ve gotten e-mails from Kristie J talking about BBC’s four-episode series North & South, urging me to watch it. As busy as I am, I thanked her for the recommendation — but I didn’t follow up on it.

    Then I found North & South on Netflix and decided to put it in my queue ahead of Tristan & Isolde. It arrived last week, but I didn’t have time to watch it.

    Last week was a very busy week for me, with lots going on at the Capitol and way too much to do at work. I worked every night till 10 or 11 p.m. and was so tired Thursday night after I finished editing our special edition content that I knew I needed to get to bed. I made the mistake of popping North & South into my DVD player.

    I watched the first episode and then had to watch the second. When that was done, it was midnight. But I didn't care. I downloaded the third and fourth from Netflix and watched the whole darned series.

    Guess when I finally made it to bed? 2:30 AM! Yes, that's exactly the right way to make up for stress and lost sleep, isn't it?

    So, now, like Kristie J., I’m telling you that you need to rent this program from Netflix. It’s a desperately romantic series with two people who shouldn’t be together falling in love set amid the struggles of a Victorian industrial town in Northern England.

    Margaret, the middle class educated daughter of a clergyman, is from the south, while John Thornton, who grew up amid poverty, is the master of a cotton mill, where the desperately poor labor all day in conditions that would make you and I cringe. When she first sees Thornton, he’s beating the lights out of a worker who tried to smoke in the mill — something that could start a flash fire and kill all of them.

    Naturally, Margaret’s first impression isn’t a good one, but she is forced to spend time in Thornton's company — and that of his mother — when her father, who is no longer working as a clergyman, takes Thornton on as a pupil. Thornton finds Margaret to be ignorant when it comes to business and to worker/master relations. She sympathizes wholeheartedly with the workers without understanding how hard it is for him to keep the mill operating so that they can have jobs at all.

    The class struggles that help shape this story fascinated me. I delve into those sorts of things in my own writing. I find the daily lives of the average person throughout history far more interesting that the lives of lords and ladies, who have always made up a tiny percentage of human society.

    Though I wanted to strangle Margaret a few times — and I hated Thornton's mother at first — I can to adore all of the characters (apart from his bimbo sister) and cherished the evolution of this love story.

    Thornton's mother is a character I really came to respect as the story unfolded — her loyalty to her son, her willingness to do the right thing even when she abhors Margaret, her sense of honor.

    The script was superb. The acting was perfect. I forgot they were acting, actually. It all seemed very real to me. The sets were very interesting — how they reconstructed the machinery of a cotton mill I can’t say, but it fascinated me.

    The kissing scene at the end of the series ranks right up there among the best and most fulfilling kissing scenes every. Yes, I cried — in part because I know I’ll never kiss Richard Armitage myself. (That’s patently unfair, if you ask me.)

    Yesterday, I ordered a copy from Amazon, because I know I'm going to want to watch this again (like right now). This time, I want to watch it more slowly and watch it when I’m actually awake. The series has 9 out of 10 stars on IMDB, which is incredibly high for any film.

    So here’s my official recommendation for you. I regret not listening to Kristie sooner. After all, I know she has impeccable taste. She’s told everyone on the planet about Ride the Fire, hasn't she?

    What other movie kisses can you think of that just stole your breath away? One that comes to my mind is the kiss between Lancelot (Richard Gere) and Guinevere (Julia Ormond) in First Knight. That was intense!

    I just popped back to add these:

Megan's Law update

    Thank you, Ronlyn, for keeping people up to date!

    And thank you, everyone, for your vibes, prayers and good wishes!

    Late last night I learned that the shackling bill was going to face a big hurdle today. The Department of Corrections (DOC), which runs the prisons, has said they're not taking a position on the bill. And that's true — sort of...

    As one of the senators said, “You say you're not against the bill, but we can look at your comments and see how much you think this is going to cost and guess the truth.”

    Instead of coming out and saying they’re against the bill, the deputy director came before the Senate Judiciary Committee today to share her concerns about the bill. Also, the DOC gave an analysis to the state of how much it was going to cost them if this bill passes, and the number they gave was HIGH. Those two things might well have been a big problem, and I spent last night and this morning doing last-minute research about the fiscal notes that other states included with their bills so that I would have a way of countering what they might say.

    I was pretty stressed out about it — OMG! — and during her testimony, I kept wondering if this was going to be the end of the bill.

    After she spoke, the senator sponsoring the bill asked me to testify again. And although I was only supposed to offer new information, I started by recapping what they'd heard last week. I didn’t want DOC's testimony to outweigh the rest of it.

    Okay, so that’s cheating. Sue me.

    Then I talked about how in Pennsylvania, they found they needed to have the same number of guards whether the inmate was shackled or not. I told about an incident (which I learned about this morning from the Penn. senator's legislative aide) where a guard left a shackled inmate to go do whatever (drink, bathroom, shag a nurse... whatever). And while he was gone the inmate became critical. When he returned to her hospital room, the doctor was on the bed trying to cut the shackles off with a hacksaw.


    I told them that whether the bill passes or not, DOC would have to look at increasing its staff because without having more than one guard, we are leaving inmates in danger if we walk off when they're shackled.

    I tried to throw in every encouraging word I could. I told them that the Senate in Pennsylvania had passed its bill unanimously and that I was sure we could do the same. I had no sense of what they thought of what I was saying. Everyone always looks painfully serious in these hearings.

    I went and sat down. Beside me was an inmate whose story I reported on a long time ago. (Unlawful Contact is dedicated to her stillborn baby — the result of neglect from the guards). She reached over without saying a thing and took my hand and gave it a squeeze.

    And then they voted and passed it unanimously — and when I looked beside me, she had tears in her eyes. Of course, since I'm a crybaby, I got tears in my eyes, too. *sniff*

    Now the bill heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which may be the biggest hurdle, because they have to find money for it in a state with no money. I told them they should tell DOC to hold a bake sale. (Aren’t I helpful?)

    So keep your fingers crossed, and keep the prayers coming.

    We’re in the midst of our biggest edition of the year right now, so I’ve got work to last me through midnight and beyond, probably. But I wanted to hop in and update everyone because I knew you were pulling for the bill today.


    Oh, yes — students from a journalism class I spoke to two weeks ago were there. And there was a photographer as well who shot photos of me (but no one else — weird), so perhaps there's going to be media coverage of this outside my paper. For the sake of the bill, I hope so.

TGI-freaking-MTM / First except of Zach and Natalie

    Thank God it's Man-Titty Monday!

    Usually I save my praise of the Divine for Fridays and the weekend, but staring at this scrumptious, wet chest has me starting the hallelujahs a bit early this week.

    Once again, thanks to Tracy from Goodreads. She runs a ranch over there — beef everywhere you look.

    I like wet men. I’m not sure what it is about wet man-chest, but it gets me every time. Maybe it accentuates the smoothness of skin. Or maybe it’s because I’m a double water sign — Pisces with Cancer rising. Who knows? Any theories?

    I hope you all had a great weekend. I spent mine sketching out ideas for a five or so historical romances and then went back to torturing Zach and Natalie. It sucks to be them right now. That’s all I can say.

    But what is it they say about writers? We should show and not tell. Given that this is going to be an incredibly hectic week for me — I have a cover story, the biggest special edition of the year, plus the shackling bill vote on Wednesday — I might as well give you something that will keep you happy for a few days.

    I know! How about another image of Jed Hill, aka Zach, and an excerpt from Zach and Natalie’s story?

    This is pretty much how Zach is dressed now, except that he's blindfolded and his wrists are shackled behind his back and chained to a wall. Also, he’s been — how shall I say it? — mistreated for about a week now.

    But, hey, show don’t tell, right?

    From Chapter 1 of Breaking Point, the fifth book in the I-Team series...

    Natalie Benoit watched the streets of Ciudad Juárez roll by outside the bus window, wishing the driver would turn up the air conditioning. It wasn’t yet noon and already the city was a sauna. Even the palm trees seemed to wilt in the humid heat.

    “With eleven other months in the year, why did SPJ have to pick June for this trip?” She fanned herself with her copy of the day’s program, perspiration trickling between her breasts.

    “Don’t tell me you think it’s hot, chula.” Joaquin Ramirez, the newspaper’s best shooter, grinned at her from across the aisle, his camera still aimed out the window. “This can’t be any worse than New Orleans in the summer.”

    “Is that where you are from, Miss Benoit — New Orleans?” Enrique Marquez, a reporter from Culiacán, glanced back from the seat in front of her, his Spanish accent making both her name and the name of her hometown sound exotic. In his fifties, he was still a handsome man, with salt-and-pepper hair, a well-trimmed mustache and brown eyes that twinkled whenever he spoke of his grandchildren.

    “Can’t you tell by her accent?” Joaquin gave Natalie a wink.

    Natalie ignored Joaquin, refusing to take the bait. “Yes, sir. I was born there and grew up in the Garden District.” Which was why she did not have an accent, no matter what her coworkers might think. “I left Louisiana many years ago and live in Denver now.”

    She hoped Sr. Marquez would let it go, but was almost certain he wouldn’t. Mention New Orleans, and people just had to ask about the storm. Given that journalists were far more curious than most people, Natalie supposed his next question was all but inevitable.

    “Did you live there during Hurricane Katrina?”

    Natalie looked out the window, letting the words come with no thought and no emotion, as if what they represented meant nothing to her. “Yes, sir. It was a terrible time for so many of us. I moved to Denver after that.”

    She said nothing about where she’d been during the storm or what she’d witnessed or what that had happened to her parents.

    Lo siento. I am sorry, Miss Benoit.”

    No le gusta hablar de eso,” Joaquin said softly.

    Natalie didn’t speak Spanish well, but she understood that much. And Joaquin was right. She didn’t like to talk about it.

    Banamex. Telcel. McDonald’s. Lucerna. Pemex.

    The names of banks, businesses, restaurants and gas stations drifted before her, barely registering with her mind. What she did notice were the colors of the buildings. Bright oranges. Vivid blues. Lush greens. Lemony yellows. And blazing blood reds. Everywhere reds. It was as if the residents of Juárez had decided to strike a blow on behalf of color in defiance of the drab brown landscape that surrounded them.

    Natalie had signed up for the trip because she’d wanted to get away from the newsroom for few days. She’d been working at the Denver Independent for almost three years now, and she was beginning to feel frayed around the edges. Not that she didn’t love her job. She did. Having a spot on the paper’s award-winning Investigative Team — the I-Team — was every investigative journalist’s dream. But journalism wasn’t a low-stress profession even on the best of days. Burn-out was just another hazard of the job.

    She and thirty-nine other journalists — most American, some Mexican — had crossed the border from El Paso into Juárez early this morning, part of an educational tour put together by the Society of Professional Journalists and the U.S. State Department as a way of bringing Mexican and American journalists together to learn about the issues of immigration, the drug trade, and human trafficking. They’d had breakfast at the U.S. consulate. Then, under the protection of a dozen armed Mexican federales, they’d toured a police station and the offices of El Diario, the local newspaper, where bullet holes in the walls reminded them just how dangerous it was to be a journalist in Juárez.

    “And I thought my job sucked,” one of the other American reporters had said, running his fingers over the scarred wall.

    The sight of those bullet holes — and the empty desk of the journalist who’d been killed — had put a few things in perspective for Natalie, too. The worst thing she had to put up with during the course of the average work day was her editor’s temper. But no amount of yelling from Tom Trent could compare to flying bullets.

    Now they were on their way to the Museo de Historia — the beautiful Museum of History — where President Taft had once dined. After that, they’d visit a new five-star hotel in the downtown area for lunch. It was clear that Mexican officials were proud of their town and were making certain that the tour included a look at the beauty and culture of Juárez, and not just the violence for which the city was unfortunately known.

    She couldn’t blame them for that. There were at least two sides to every story, and although the drug cartels made headlines, most people who lived here were decent men and women just trying to raise families and enjoy their lives. Despite the poverty the unremitting violence, Ciudad Juárez was a city that still dared to hope.

    In the streets below, a young mother, her dark hair pulled back in a bouncy ponytail, pushed a baby in a stroller. A shopkeeper in a royal blue apron swept the stone steps of his store. Two teenage boys in bright white T-shirts and jeans walked past a gaggle of pretty girls, their heads craning for a better look as the girls passed them. The girls, well aware of this attention, covered their mouths with their hands and broke into giggles. Nearby, two elderly gentlemen sat on a bench, lost in conversation, fedoras on their heads, cigars in their hands.

    Natalie felt the bus lurch to a stop but was so caught up in the tableau outside her window that she didn’t realize something was wrong until the scene changed. The teenage boys stopped, then turned and ran up an alley. The shopkeeper dropped his broom and disappeared indoors. The woman with the stroller grabbed her baby and backed into a doorway, a look of fear on her face. The two old men dropped to their knees, crouching behind the bench.

    And then Natalie heard it — the grinding fire of automatic weapons.

    Shattered glass. Screams. Staccato bursts of gunfire.

    “Madre de Dios!”

    “What the hell?”

    “Natalie! Natalie, get down!”

    Joaquin’s shout of warning pierced Natalie’s shock and disbelief. She scrambled into the small space between her seat and the seatback in front of her, crouching against the floor, shards of glass falling around her like rain. Pulse pounding in her ears, she looked across the aisle, her gaze locking with Joaquin’s as he reached out and closed his hand over hers.

    # # #

    It was pain and thirst that woke him.

    For a moment Zach MacBride thought he was back in Afghanistan, lying at the top of that canyon wall, a bullet in his back. He opened his eyes to see pitch black — and then remembered. He wasn’t in Afghanistan. He was in Mexico. And he was a captive — blindfolded and chained to a stone wall.

    He raised his head and realized he was lying on his right side, his hands shackled behind his back, his bare torso resting against the filthy stone floor. His mouth was dry as sand. His wrists were blistered where the manacles had rubbed them raw. His cracked ribs seemed to cut into his left side like a blade.

    He tried to sit, but couldn’t summon the strength.

    He was weaker than he’d realized.


    Then something hard and multi-legged brushed his chest as it skittered by, bringing him upright on a punch of adrenaline. Pain slashed through his side, breath hissing between his clenched teeth as he bit back a groan. He wasn’t afraid of the rats or the spiders, but they weren’t the only creatures here in with him. The one time the Zetas had removed his blindfold, he’d seen scorpions. And the last damned thing he needed was a scorpion sting.

    Dizzy from hunger, his heart pounding from exhaustion and dehydration, he leaned his right shoulder against the brick wall and tried to catch his breath, the chain that held him lying cold and heavy along his spine. How long had he been here? Five days? No, six. And where exactly was here?

    Somewhere between Juárez and hell.

    They were giving him only enough food and water to keep him alive, his hunger and thirst incessant, mingling with pain, making it hard to sleep. Only once in his life had he been this physically helpless. Only then it had been much worse.

    If he survived, if he made it out of here alive, he would track down Gisella and kill her — or at least hand her over to D.C. The little bitch of a Brazilian INTERPOL agent had set him up, betrayed him to the Zetas. She’d known what would happen to him — the Zetas were infamous for their brutality — and still she’d handed him over to them with a smile on her lying lips.

    At least you didn’t sleep with her, MacBride.

    Yeah, well, at least he could feel good about that. It would suck right now to have her taste in his mouth or her scent on his skin, knowing that she was behind this. Long ago he’d made it a rule never to have sex with women he met on the job, and despite Gisella’s persistent attempts to get him to break that rule, he’d kept his dick in his pants.

    Hell, they should carve that on your headstone.

    If he got a headstone.

    Would they put up a marker for him if they didn’t have a body to bury? Barring one hell of a miracle, he’d soon be scattered across the desert in small pieces. A year or two from now, someone would spot a bit of bleached bone in the sand and wonder what it was. No one would ever know for sure what had happened to him.

    Besides, who was there to buy a grave plot or erect a headstone? His fellow DUSMs? Uncle Sam? His mother was gone. He hadn’t spoken to his father in five years. And he had no girlfriend or wife — which was a good thing. He’d seen firsthand what happened to women and children when the men they loved and depended on were killed.

    Okay, so no headstone.

    Mike, Chris, Brian and Jimmy were in Arlington, resting beneath slabs of white marble, but for Zach it would be saguaro and open sky. That was okay. He liked the desert. And even if he didn’t, it wouldn’t make one damned bit of difference to him once he was dead.

    Which will be soon if you can’t find a way out of this.

    Not that he was afraid to die. He’d expected his job would catch up with him one day. In fact, some part of him had been counting on it.

    But not yet. And not like this.

    He’d been about to wrap up the biggest covert operation of his career when Gisella had called him and asked him to meet her at a nightclub in downtown Juárez, claiming to have intel vital for catching Arturo Cesár Cárdenas, the head of Los Zetas, who was wanted in the United States for the murder of Americans on U.S. soil. So Zach had grabbed his gun and fake ID — he never carried revealing documentation when he was working a black bag job like this — then crossed the border and headed straight to the club, where he’d found Gisella, dressed to kill, sitting at the bar. She’d bought him a Tecate, walked with him to a table near the rear exit, and started telling him something about a shipment of stolen coke. And then…

    And then — nothing.

    The beer had been drugged. When Zach had awoken, he’d found himself here, surrounded by pissed off Zetas demanding to know who he worked for and where he’d hidden the cocaine. He couldn’t answer the first question because it would imperil the entire operation, putting the lives of others at risk. And he couldn’t answer the second because he hadn’t stolen the coke and had no idea where it was. But this had only angered the Zetas more.

    So they’d brought in a specialist — a man who knew how to inflict pain while keeping his victims alive. Electric shock was his area of expertise. He’d gone to work on Zach two days ago, and so far the two of them were at an impasse. He’d been able to make Zach pass out. He’d made him bite his own tongue trying not to scream. He’d made him want to cry like a baby. But he hadn’t made him talk.

    Zach had the Navy and SERE training to thank for that — Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. Designed to help SEALs survive behind enemy lines, his training had been a godsend, helping him through hour after excruciating hour. Even though he was no longer in the military, he’d instinctively fallen back on that training, silently reciting bits and pieces of the military code of conduct, using it to stay strong.

    I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense… I will never surrender of my own free will… If I am captured, I will resist by all means available… I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability… I will make every effort to escape…

    As weak as he was, he knew he stand much of a chance of escaping. And that meant there was only one thing left for him to do — keep his mind together long enough for his body to give out. Long enough for him to die as he ought to have done six years ago.

    Raucous laughter drifted into his cell from across the courtyard, voices drawing nearer, boots crunching on gravel.

    Zach stiffened, dread uncoiling in his stomach, rising into his throat.

    They were coming for him again.


    He drew as deep a breath as his ribs would allow, swallowing his panic with what was left of his spit.

    I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense. I will never surrender of my own free will.

    # # #

    “Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos, santificado sea tu Nombre.”

    Holding fast to Joaquin’s hand, Natalie looked to her right, where Sr. Marquez crouched against the sliver-strewn floor, eyes closed, a rosary in his trembling hands, his whispered prayers barely audible over the pounding of her heart. She didn’t understand everything he was saying, and it had been years since she’d been to Mass, but she recognized the cadence of the prayer, her mind latching onto the English words, speaking them along with him in her mind.

    Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

    The door of the bus seemed to explode inward in a spray of glass.

    Too afraid even to scream, Natalie watched as three armed men in dark green military fatigues stomped up the stairs, pistols in hand, automatic weapons slung on straps over their shoulders. One stopped long enough to point a pistol at the bus driver, whose pleading cries were cut short with a pop that splattered blood across the windshield.

    Screams. Black boots. Another pop.

    Sr. Marquez prayed faster, his voice shaking. “Danos hoy el pan de este día y perdona nuestras deudas como nosotros perdonamos nuestros deudores.”

    Then Natalie heard the mechanical click and buzz of Joaquin’s camera. Somehow she’d let go of his hand, her face now buried in her palms. She looked up, saw him lying out in the aisle, his camera pointed toward their attackers, a look of focused concentration on his face as he did his job — documenting the news.

    She whispered to him. “Joaquin, no! They’ll kill—”

    The boots drew nearer.

    Joaquin kept shooting. Click. Click. Click.

    “¡No! Por favor, no—” No, please don’t—



    And Natalie understood.

    They were killing the Mexican citizens on the bus while, leaving the Americans alive.

    Pop! Pop!

    She looked over at Joaquin, at his dark hair, his brown eyes, his brown skin, and was blindsided by fear for him. They would think Joaquin was Mexican. And they would kill him.

    Pop! Pop! Pop!

    Blood ran along the floor, pooled beneath the seats, the air thick with the smell of it.

    Pop! Pop!

    “Y no nos dejes caer en la tentación sino que líbranos del malo. Amen.” Sr. Marquez opened his eyes, his gaze meeting Natalie’s, rosary still in his hands. “I am sorry, Miss Benoit.”

    And then the men in the boots were there.

    Sweat trickling down his temples, Sr. Marquez looked up into his killer’s face, pressing his lips to the cross.

    Natalie cried out. “No, don’t—!”


    Then he lay dead, his eyes still open, blood trickling from a bullet hole in his forehead.

    Without thinking, Natalie threw herself into the aisle, shielding Joaquin with her body, struggling for the right words. “Él no es mexicano! Él es americano! He’s a citizen of the United States! He’s American!”

    Cold brown eyes — a killer’s eyes — watched her with apparent amusement, a pitiless smile spreading across a face too young to be so cruel. Then teenage assailant’s gaze shifted to his fellow killers, and he said something in Spanish that made them laugh.

    Joaquin wrapped his arms around her and pulled hard, obviously trying to thrust her behind him, but constrained by the small space. “Natalie, stop! Don’t do this!”

    The young assailant raised his gun.

    “He’s American!” Natalie shouted the words. “Es gringo, americano! He’s—”

    Then she realized the gun was pointed at her.

    Her breath caught in her throat.

    He’s going to shoot you, girl.

    She wondered for a moment how much it would hurt — then gasped as the butt of the gun came down on her temple. Her head seemed to explode. Blinded by pain and limp as a rag doll, she fell forward and felt cruel hands wrench her away from Joaquin, who fought to hold onto her, shouting something in Spanish that she couldn’t understand.

    “He’s American,” she managed to say, her own voice sounding far away, the world spinning as she was dragged down the aisle and passed from one attacker to another. She struggled to raise her head and caught just a glimpse of the man who’d struck her aiming his pistol at Joaquin. “Joaquin!”


    And she knew he was dead.

Getting in the mood — and a shackling bill update

    Reach, girl, reach!

    I hope everyone is doing well. It was a crazy-busy week here on Colorado’s Front Range. We’re heading toward the biggest special edition of the year at the paper, and that requires a lot of preparation. On top of that, of course, there’s the anti-shackling bill.

    But before I update you on all of that, I wanted to talk about music again. This week, I thought I’d share the songs I typically listen to when I’m gearing up to write love scenes, and also my preliminary playlist for Zach and Natalie.

    Some of the songs on Zach and Natalie’s list are completely new to me — “Beautiful” by 10 Years; “Santa Monica” by Theory of a Deadman; “Call Me” by Shinedown; “Bother” by Stone Sour; “Break Me Shake Me” by Savage Garden, which one of you suggested.

    Of those, “Call Me” resonates for Zach at the moment — at least the first several lines — because he’s certain he’s going to be dead in the next couple of days. I like “Santa Monica,” too, though it has no application to the story itself. Again, a lot of the music I listen to is just to help set the mood.

    “Champion in Me” by 3 Doors Down is a great song for a Navy SEAL, as is “Shine.” And “Landing in London” is just one of my favorites songs over the course of the past two years.

    As for the sexy love songs, they range from Madaonna’s “Justify My Love” to Brian Adams’ “Everything I do (I Do It For You),” which together have more plays than any other sexy-ish, romantic song. If I find a song that hits the mood of the story, I’ll play it over and over for hours.

    Also on that list: “Kiss from a Rose,” by Seal; “Chasing Cars,” by Snow Patrol; “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” by Savage Garden; “Unchained Melody” by U2; “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye; “Feelin’ Love,” by Paula Cole; “Nights are Forever Without You,” by England Dan and John Ford Coley; “Freak Me,” by Silk; “Could I Have This Kiss Forever,” by Enrique Iglesias; and “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel, as well as many others.

    I have another list that’s just romantic songs, and one that’s more down and dirty sexy songs, like “Closer,” because sex isn’t always about romance. Sometimes it’s about sweat and pheromones and coming hard and fast.

    I am always, always open to new music. Suggestions are welcome! When I get a chance, I'll publish these as iMixes on iTunes so you can browse through them that way.

    Now for an update on Senate Bill 193:

    Wednesday, as you probably know, was its first hearing. That gave us a taste of who might be opposing the bill and why. No one showed up to oppose the bill at all. Because politics are so partisan these days, I expected the senators who weren’t in Sen. Hudak’s party to oppose it just for fun, as both sides do. However, though they asked the most questions, the questions they asked were thoughtful — a good thing because they’re all male.

    One of them seemed not to believe that any women in Colorado was ever shackled. He asked, “Do we even know that this happens in the state?” sounding very doubtful. Ironically, he’s from the district where our state prison department is headquartered, and being on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he’s supposed to be an expert. I got a silent laugh out of that.

    I was, indeed, nervous, but not as much as I expected to be. As soon as the senators started asking questions that other witnesses couldn’t answer, I felt like the know-it-all kid in the classroom — the proverbial Harmione Granger who just has to raise her hand and answer. Of course, in legislative committee hearings, you don’t raise your hand; you wait your turn. And that was hard!

    I thought I did a decent job of testifying. I had to stop a couple of times to make sure my mouth was keeping up with my brain. I made the male senators grimace when I talked about the guards strip-searching women with stitches. So that was fun.

    My mother went to see what it was all about and ended up passing a note to one of the lobbyists who handed it to the senator carrying the bill explaining that the immediate postpartum recovery period is about 42 hours for a vaginal birth and 72 for a c-section. She used to work as a labor and delivery nurse, so she was able to make her contribution, too.

    The midwives who work with incarcerated moms-to-be sent a representative to speak on their behalf, and when I saw her my jaw dropped. She was the certified nurse midwife who caught Benjy when he was born. I said, “You were my midwife when my second son was born!” And she said, “I thought you looked familiar.” That was wild!

    As people were testifying on behalf of the bill one by one, I had a surreal moment where I realized none of them would be there if not for me. That felt good — and very strange. And then I almost got choked up because here was a room full of people talking about the humanity and the needs of women in prison. How often does that happen? Rarely.

    The committee couldn’t vote because the bill has moved so fast that we don’t yet have a fiscal note — an analysis of how much the bill will cost the state. Typically in Colorado if a bill has a fiscal note, it’s dead. However, the fiscal note in this case is attached to a provision of the bill that I created to guarantee public accountability by requiring a report to be filed any time a woman is shackled. Why did they do it? For how long? What kind of shackles did they use? It’s an attempt to make sure they’re following the law. And it guarantees nosy reporters access to a font of public records.

    Remember how the I-Team heroines are always filing open-records requests? That’s what investigative reporters do. So I’m trying to set it up so that there will be public records to request.

    However, I won’t kill my own bill to accomplish that. So if the fiscal note means death, then we’ll cut that provision.

    I got a firm sense that if this bill were about nothing other than not shackling women during labor and birth, it would sail through. So that left me feeling very optimistic. If we pass through Senate Judiciary and the appropriations committee (for the fiscal note), then the bill will be off to the Senate for debate. If it clears the Senate after three readings, then we start over in the House. I do have a House sponsor now.

    Afterward the hearing, I spoke with one of the witnesses. She’s a legal expert on birth-related issues. She asked if I’d like to participate in setting up an online database so that other women in other states can download the info and use it to get shackling banned in their states. And, of course, I would love to do that. We’ll wait till this bill passes. I’ll do some writing for that project, and hopefully women across the country will get ready for next year’s legislative session and change the lives of women in prison.

    We’ll take the bill up again next Wednesday for a vote.

    In the meantime, I’ve got a few more historical novel sketches to prep for my agent, as well as Chapter 2 of Zach and Natalie’s story to write. I want to get through Chapter 3 this weekend. I need to make some writing goals and see what kind of ridiculous schedule I need to keep to finish the book by August, which is my plan.

    I won’t be online much, because I really, really don’t want you all to have to wait forever for this book.

    Have a great weekend!

Research update

    The Sonoran desert near the U.S./Mexico border

    It’s 114 degrees, the sun beating down relentlessly. There’s no bathroom. Whatever shade you can find is going to have attracted other creatures hoping to get away from the heat and bright daylight — scorpions, coyotes, other human beings. You have only as much water as you could carry and only one change of clothes. Shoes that seemed sturdy are now torn from desert thorns. Sand is everywhere — between your toes, stuck to the sweat on your skin, in your drinking water.

    You can’t travel by day. It’s just too hot. So you take your chances with the scorpions and hide in the shade of bushes, so tired that you don’t think twice about resting your head on the bare, hoping that nothing eight-legged will come along. And you sleep. A little.

    Hunger and thirst wake you. You rummage through your pack, feeling slow and stupid from hunger and dehydration. You know that if you can’t reach your destination before your water runs out, you’ll die. There’s no one here to help you. And if you do see other people, you’re better off remaining hidden.

    This land is where drug smugglers and human traffickers rule. Armed with AK-47s and other weapons, they won’t think twice before shooting you and leaving you for the vultures. And they might even do worse...

    So you sip your water and wait for sunset when you’ll stumble blindly northward again, unable to see the thorns that tear at your shoes or the snakes that curl up not far from the path seeking warm sand or the human predators who have an advantage over you with their night vision goggles.

    Okay, okay, I’ll stop. But I thought I’d share with you my research lately. You may find hints in it of things that will happen in Natalie’s story.

    I’ve been researching topics around my next I-Team book since shortly after Christmas, focusing heavily on the U.S./Mexico border. Natalie is in Mexico when the story opens, touring Cuidad Juárez with a group of U.S. and Mexican journalists.

    One thing I’ve focused on quite a bit is the experience of the illegal border crossing. I wanted to get into the skin of someone whose done it, so I’ve been watching episodes of Border Patrol and reading books about it from a variety of points of view. And all I know is that I don’t even want to find myself having to sneak into the U.S. via the desert. The arachnids are enough to keep me away. Yes, an arachnid patrol would be more than enough to dissuade me. Who worries about men with guns when there are spiders and scorpions around? [Shudder]

    I’m learning what I can about desert flora and fauna, as well as terrain and popular places for crossing the border. It’s absolutely fascinating.

    The latest topic I’ve picked up is Navy SEAL training. I wanted to know the lingo, the basics about BUD/s and Hell Week and, in particularly SEER training. How do we train our most specialized troops to resist torture? My sister-in-law’s brother recently left the SEALs, so I’m hoping he’ll be able to answer some questions for me.

    Navy SEALs fastroping

    I also spent quite a bit of time researching the work deputy U.S. marshals do along the border and had lunch with a couple of marshals. They were fun to hang with and had lots of helpful information and stories to share.

    I usually do research before I write a book, but I also keep it flowing while I’m writing so that new impressions and words and situations are presented to me. That helps me be more authentic in my writing, and I think it helps keep me inspired, too.

    With Kat’s story, I didn’t have to do that much research, but with Natalie’s I do. Of all the I-Team books, this one is based the least on my own experience, meaning that I really can’t take anything for granted.

    Shackling bill update: The bill will be read by the Senate President tomorrow and the first committee hearing is at 1:30 PM on Wednesday. At this point, I plan to testify. I’m also trying to track down women who gave birth while in custody to see whether they have experiences about giving birth in shackles that they can share with us. There are a number of organizations that have signed on to support the bill, but it faces some challenges, too. How the Department of Corrections (which runs the state prisons) will respond remains to be seen... But the county sheriffs (who operate county jails) are in favor of it and will be testifying for it. YIKES! I’m nervous about Wednesday and already worrying about what to wear so that I look like a sane, sensible citizen and not a print journalist slob from Boulder.

    I will probably be overwhelmed with work between now and Thursday evening, so I might not be back till then. I hope you all have a great week!

Wake up and smell the man-titty

    Go ahead. Top off your coffee. He isn’t going anywhere. There’s plenty of time to stare, because it’s once again Man-Titty Monday.

    I think this bit of perfection came from Tracy, too. Gotta love those pecs. And those obliques — okay, the one we can see. And that six pack. I like the tats, as well.

    What do you all think about tattoos? I had intended for Julian to have tats, as well as a penis piercing, but the piercing got nixed by the publisher. I'd thought it would be awesome to have a hero who could wear, you know... attachments. But she did not agree, finding it kind of trashy. I was like, “Well, yeah, but think about it — attachments.”

    This is going to be a busy week, with our biggest special edition of the year coming up and the anti-shackling bill moving into committee hearings. I’m not sure when I’ll need to be in Denver and when I’ll be at the paper. Today, I’ll be in meetings for at least part of the day — often a hazard associated with Mondays in the newspaper world.

    I finally got my seedlings planted in the garden on Sunday and otherwise spent most of the weekend working on little sketches of possible historicals, including Connor’s, which turned out to be more like a full-blown synopsis than a sketch. We’ll see what happens.

    Have a beautiful Monday, everyone!

Connor MacKinnon

    Isle of Skye — homeland of the MacKinnon brothers

    So, guess what I’m doing?

    Before I answer that, let me just say that the ballgame yesterday was wonderful. We sat in the infield box behind the Rockies dugout watching the men, er, game, as the Rox beat the Padres 7-0. Because it was the home opener, there was lots of extra celebration — fireworks, troops from the Marines, Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard, fighter jets flying overhead. I loved the part where the fighter pilots were introduced. Why are fighter pilots so consistently snaxy? Has anyone met or seen a fighter pilot who wasn’t flat-out hot?

    My son Alec took this photo, but the seats are so crammed together that his phone was only inches from my face.

    Diane W asked a question in one of her posts to my last blog entry, asking me if I had unchained poor Zach yet. I wanted to answer that here.

    Zach, if you'll remember, is a former Navy SEAL currently working along the U.S. Mexico border as a deputy U.S. Marshal apprehending fugitives. Except that he was just betrayed by a compromised INTERPOL agent, drugged and handed over to a cartel to be tortured for information and then cut into small pieces.

    The answer to Diane’s question is this: No, I haven’t unchained him yet. I’m not going to unchain him. Natalie is. But she can’t do it yet, because...

    I have to spend this weekend preparing several concepts for historical novels to run past my editor, rather than working on Natalie's story.

    As some of you know, historical romance is my first love. I haven’t written a historical for a while, not because I don’t want to, but because there were things that needed to be sorted out. I left the publishing house that was publishing those books, but hope to be writing historicals again soon.

    Right at this moment — KarLynP & MelissaB, can you hear me? — I am working on an overview of Connor MacKinnon’s story. That’s obviously the story I want to tell next. I’m not sure I’ll be able to do that. It’s up to my editor.

    I’m about to enter in to a new contract, so my agent has asked me to work up quick sketches of every historical novel in my head, not just Connor’s. I can't take that literally or I'll never get anything else done. So I'm limiting it to a half-dozen stories, some of which take place in the more popular European settings.

    I’m not sure what’s so special about European settings. Personally, I love pre-Revolutionary Colonial America, but I am not in the majority on this.

    But in the meantime, I’m playing my MacKinnon’s Rangers iPod playlist, which I love. It feels like a family reunion, except that the reunion is with a bunch of Rangers who live in my head, so it’s fairly quiet as Scottish family reunions go.

    I have several Medieval Scottish stories rattling around in my brain, plus one story set during the 18th century in England and Scotland, one set during medieval times in England/Wales, and one set during the 18th century in Scotland.

    I can’t say why, but the moment we cross into the 1800s and onward, I lose interest in history. I like the ancient world (Rome, Minoan, Egypt), Vikings, the medieval period and the 18th century. Sadly, some of those periods are no more popular with romance readers than Colonial America. D’oh! Just my luck.

    But I promise not to abandon Connor no matter what. I get e-mails every day from readers who want the rest of that series. I want it, too! I love them more than any of you, believe me, and if I have to delay his story much longer, I’m going to cry.

    I won’t know for several weeks what decision is reached about my next historical, but when I know for sure what I’m writing, I’ll post the news here.

    On another note, sorry it took so long to update the blog, but my dorkwad neighbor cut through my phone cable, leaving me without phone and Internet all day. It was just repaired.

    For those of you following legislative news, the shackling bill was introduced Friday and might go before its first committee hearing as early as Wednesday. I’m a bit nervous about that. I’ve never testified at a Senate committee hearing before...

    There could be a highlander in our future...

    Okay, back to hanging with Connor, who has not forgiven himself for the carnage he unleashed against the French when he believed that they’d slain Morgan. He and Joseph are in a Shawnee village just now, trying to forge an accord that will keep the Shawnee from fighting for the French. But as they begin speaking with the Shawnee leaders, a young Irish woman is brought into the village, newly taken as a captive by one of the Shawnee warriors to be his wife in place of the wife he lost to the British. Exhausted and terrified, she sees Connor, the only other white person in the village, and in her eyes is a silent plea for help.

    Let's eavesdrop a bit, shall we?

    "Black Feather is said to be a good man. Submit wi'out quarrel, Mary. His anger with you will soften after he has lain with you as your husband. ’Tis the way of men.”

    “He killed my mother, my sister and my little brothers. I watched him stitch upon my mother’s scalp. I’ll not lie with him. Please help me!”

    “I’ve come to forge an accord with the Shawnee. If I fail, many more just like your mother and wee brothers will die.”

    “But you must help me. You’re one of the MacKinnon brothers. I heard your Indian friend speak your name.”

    “I am the least of those who bear that name. There’s naugh' I can do, lass."

    Do you think Connor will allow Mary to be taken against her will? Or will he imperil his mission of peace for the sake of one wee lassie?

    Have a good weekend, everyone.

A bit of catching up...

    The walls inside the capitol are made of rose-colored marble. The elevator doors are brass with scenes from Colorado history depicted in the panels.

    Didn’t Reece and Kara get hot and heavy in an elevator at the State Capitol? Or did they just talk about it? I can’t remember.

    So sorry to be MIA. It’s been a crazy week.

    It started Monday with word that a friend of mine had been found dead in his home. I turns out he killed himself. So that’s been hard to deal with.

    I got the lawyerized version of the anti-shackling bill I’m spearheaded back to review, and one page of words had been turned into five. I kid you not. So I had to read through that and make sure that nothing substantive had changed. And it hasn’t.

    Then, of course, there was a paper to put out. I wrote a tribute to my friend, who was a public figure in our town.

    Today, I’m the guest speaker at a journalism class on the Metro State College campus, then I’m heading a few blocks up Colfax to the State Capitol for one last go-through on the bill language before it is officially introduced into the State Senate. It will have to clear at least one Senate committee before going to the Senate floor for debate. A lot of people have signed on to support it — everyone from Planned Parenthood to a statewide lobby organization of county sheriffs. The sheriffs are key because they run the county jails, and they will not be opposing the bill. In fact, their past president is going to testify in favor of it. So that’s going well.

    Tomorrow is the Rockies home opener vs. the Padres. Go Rox! I’ll be going to that tomorrow with my older son, Alec, so that will give me some desperately needed time to relax.

    On the writing front, I finished my proposal for Natalie’s book, which is called Breaking Point at the moment. Survival Instinct and Body Heat are still in the running. What I don’t like about the first two is their lack of sexual innuendo... Maybe something brilliant will come to me.

    I hope you all have a great day. And I’m sure no one minded MTM lasting a few extra days, though that wasn’t my intent. I got thrown for a loop Monday when I heard about my friend and have just been crazy-busy since then.

M is for Monday and... Man-Titty

    Are words really necessary? I doubt any of you will even see the words on this page, not with such a-MA-zing male anatomy on display. Let me give props to Tracy from Goodreads who found this for me and e-mailed it over.

    I am in love.

    His name, I'm told, is Jed Hill. And I wish my name were Mrs. Jed Hill. I would gladly have 12 kids with this man — or at least try.

    I've got a weakness for men with strong obliques, perhaps because my first lover was an Olympic-caliber gymnast (he was on his country’s national team but missed the ’84 Olympics due to a shattered ankle). He had a physique not terribly different from this. If I'd known then what I know now, that poor man wouldn't have gotten a night's sleep for the 18 months we were together.


    Anyway, how can you follow up on that picture at the top? Perhaps with these...

    Yes, he’s too sexy for his shirt. But he’s also too sexy for those bikini briefs. Someone apparently forgot to remove them.

    I’ve never been much of a football fan, but if football players looked like this...

    ... I most certainly would be! In fact, I’d probably strap on some shoulder pads, put on some cleats and try out for the team. I’d be the one trying to get tackled. Me, me, grab me! Tackle me! Pile on me!

    Now take a good look at him, hold him in your mind’s eye, because this is what I have in mind while writing Zach MacBride, the hero of my next I-Team novel, Natalie’s hero. Zach isn’t a football player, though. He’s a former Navy SEAL, decorated for service in Afghanistan, now working as a deputy U.S. marshal on the border between El Paso and Juárez.

    But right now he’s chained to a wall and close to dying...

    Trust me, okay?

    Have a good Monday, everyone. I hope this made it a bit more fun.

Happy spring!

    A holiday dedicated to the consumption of chocolate... What could be better than that?

    I wish those of you who celebrate it a Happy Easter! I hope you have a wonderful day filled with good food and family.


    Eye candy instead of candy when we indulge in Week II of MTM

I-Team playlists for your iPod

    I am a music fanatic. I’ve always been that way. Even back when I was 4 years old, music playing on the stereo would make me jump out of the tub and run, wet and naked, on fast little feet out to the living room to dance. My parents probably thought there was something developmentally wrong with me.

    In school, I was in choir, marching band and concert band. Plus, I listened to music non-stop at home. When the Walkman came out, it became my constant companion. No need to tell you that I'm an iPod devotee.

    But music is also one of my primary sources of inspiration for my writing. Without music, would there be words? I'm not sure. I use music to manipulate myself emotionally, setting up playlists for characters, for certain scenes in books, and general play lists for novels.

    Several of you have asked about my playlist for Naked Edge, but rather than just listing that, I thought I’d put them all up here. So whether you’re on Team Reece, Team Julian, Team Marc or Team Gabe (or are preemptively signing up for Team Zach), you’ll find something here to give you insight into those characters — or at least the odd inner workings of my brain, which is much less exciting.

    So get ready to sample some tunes at the iTunes store. I won’t be able to list everything here, just the most significant songs for each book.

    Extreme Exposure
    I haven't saved this list — it’s been a while now — so I’m going from memory. I listened to a lot of Eminem (esp. Lose Yourself and 8 Mile) while I wrote this. Not sure why. But the most “Reece” song to me was Five for Fightin's Superman (playcount 1,630). I saw Reece as a hero who was almost too good for the world around him, a man who just wanted to be a man but whose sense of right and wrong was so strong that it led him to this sea of conflict — but also, ultimately, happiness with Kara. That song for some reason evokes that for me. For the scenes at the cement plant at the end of the book, I wanted something that sounded violent and evoked factory machinery. So I listened to U2’s “Mofo” from Pop. And that's about all I can remember...

    Hard Evidence
    I still have some of this playlist on my iTunes.
    “Jerusalem Poker” by Bruce Cockburn — evoked Julian’s inner cool during violence
    “Savin' Me” by Nickelback — This might sound like a Marc song (in fact, he might have grown out of it), but to me it evoked Julian’s inner struggle and his being trapped in a sense of worthlessness. It is the most “Julian” song I can think of. Plus he was in prison at one point.
    “Feelin' Way Too Damn Good” — this made me feel his sense of disbelief that he’d fallen in love
    “If You Wear That Velvet Dress” — This was the end of the story for me. It starts at Julian’s bleakest moment when Tessa is gone, then resolves into their being together and all danger being past. This is one of those instances where it’s more the emotion of the music than the lyrics.

    I also listened incessantly to a mixtape put together by Joe Thunder and some of his homies. This was hip hop from Aurora — A-Town, Julian’s stomping ground. This was right off the street. You can’t get it anywhere, plus none of the songs have titles.

    Unlawful Contact
    The name of this playlist is actually MARC&SOPHIE. I think in terms of characters, because they have to feel like people to me to feel real to you.
    The love scene in the prologue needed a sense of innocent sensuality, and I got that from “One Summer Night” by the Danleers. Think of Marc's ’55 Chevy.
    “Spybreak” and “Clubbed to Death” from The Matrix soundtrack fed the actions scenes.
    “Running Away” by Hoobastank — what else but prison escape music? “Where Do I Hide?” by Nickelback came in there, too.
    “Running to Stand Still,” U2's song about heroin addiction, was Megan for me. Love this song.
    “Worthy To Say” by Nickelback and “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton helped feed the street scenes, particularly anything having to do with drugs.
    “Better Than Me” and “Lips of An Angel” brought to mind Marc's sense that Sophie deserved better. Again, it’s not always the lyrics. Sometimes it’s just the emotion it evokes.
    As for the love the two felt for each other, “Truly Madly Deeply” and “Chasing Cars” were high up there.
    And the ultimate Marc song? “When I'm Gone” by 3 Doors Down. This was the beginning of my 3 Doors Down obsession. See if you think this fits:

    Everything I am

    And everything in me
    Wants to be the one
    You wanted me to be
    I'll never let you down
    Even if I could
    I'd give up everything
    If only for your good
    So hold me when I'm here
    Right me when I'm wrong
    You can hold me when I'm scared
    You won't always be there
    So love me when I'm gone
    Love me when I'm gone...

    That scene that made people really anxious toward the end of the book, the one that involves bullets... (I’m trying to do this without spoilers) I listened to one song for an entire weekend just to convince myself that the worst had happened and that it was O-V-E-R in a permanent way. And that was the love theme from the 1969 film Romeo & Juliet, titled “A Time for Us.” And I cried my way through an entire box of Puffs writing that scene.


    Marc met her gaze, gave her fingers a squeeze, then spoke haltingly. “I’m sorry… Dragged you into this.”

    “Shhh!” She ran her knuckles over his cheek, trying not to cry and failing miserably. “You just rest now. Save your strength.”

    “Don’t cry… No happy endings… not for us… not this time. But for you… you’ll find happiness… the right man.”

    “Don’t you even say that, Marc Hunter, damn it!”

    “You helped me… find Megan. Thank you… is not enough.” He looked to where his sister sat crying quietly, the baby clutched in her arms. “I love you, Megan… Promise me… no more drugs. Be… a good mom. Tell Emily… I love her, too.”

    “I-I promise.” Her face contorted with grief, Megan gulped back a sob and held the baby out so that he could touch her, Emily’s little fist closing around his finger.

    “Cop… ” Hunt’s gaze shifted to Julian. “Watch over Sophie. Megan and Emily, too.”

    “You know I will.” Julian met Sophie’s gaze. “Three minutes, thirty seconds.”

    “Sprite?” Hunt took another shaky breath, his pale face a mask of pain, his gaze searching for her.

    “I’m here, right here.” She squeezed his hand, but this time he didn’t squeeze back.
    His seemed to relax when he saw her. “I... love you… Always have… Every day… you. My fairy sprite.”

    “I love you, too, do you hear me?” She sobbed the words.

    His mouth curved in a weak grin. “I… hear you.”

    Their gazes locked, the love she saw in his eyes undimmed by pain. And for a moment it was just the two of them—just her and Hunt.

    “You mean everything to me, Marc Hunter. Everything.” She leaned down, pressed her lips to his, her palm pressed against the rapid thrum of his heart.

    He answered her kiss, his lips like ice.

    Then the distant beat of a helicopter drew her gaze to the sky.

    By the time she looked down again, his eyes were closed.

    And that brings us to...

    Naked Edge

    I have many playlists for this book. Kat has one. Gabe has one. The sex scenes have their own list. The book in general has one. The big scene at the end of the book has its own playlist. If you absolutely must know all of the songs, e-mail me. Here are the highlights:

    “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails — what else could be the soundtrack to his sex life?
    “Unforgiven II” and “Fade to Black” by Metallica for his climbing scenes
    “Broken” by Lifehouse for Gabe’s feelings about Kat
    “It's Been Awhile,” “Right Here,” and “Tangled Up In You” by Staind are strong Gabe songs, especially the first, which is kind of the ultimate Gabe song:

    It's been a while
    since I could say that I wasn't addicted and
    It's been a while
    Since I could say I love myself as well and
    It's been a while
    Since I've gone and fucked things up just like I always do
    It's been a while
    But all that shit seems to disappear when I'm with you

    I listened to a lot of 3 Doors Down, too, but Staind really took over after the first six months or so.

    The entire soundtrack to the movie Thunderheart
    The soundtrack to How the West was Lost
    “Meditations on Dinetah,” by R. Carlos Nakai (Dinetah means Navajoland, and Nakai is Diné)
    The entire CD Fire Crow by Joseph Fire Crow

    This music also served to fuel the action scenes toward the end.

    Other significant songs:
    “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak and “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias for the love scenes (together with a bunch of others)
    “You and Me” by Lifehouse for their wedding at the end and the epilogue.
    “Supermassive Black Hole," by Muse for skiing scenes (that turn into snow angels).
    “Sometime Around Midnight” for Gabe's broken heart

    And for the scene that made you hate me? This will probably seem weird, but Annie Lennox singing “Into the West” from the third Lord of the Rings movie. It is, after all, a song about dying and grief.

    And there you have it.

    I’m always looking for new music. Oftentimes, when I feeling like I'm suffering from writer’s block it's actually musical ennui — being sick of all my music. So feel free to share, especially if you’ve got music that evokes torture. I could use some of that for Zach right now. (Let the teasing begin! Bwahaha!)

Blog Archive

Total Pageviews