Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Books by My Friends: Bodyguards in Bed by Elisabeth Naughton

Available today!

There’s just one cardinal rule when it comes to being a bodyguard: no matter how tempting it may be, never, ever get romantically involved with the person you’re supposed to be protecting. But as these sensual novellas prove, even the most important rules are made to be broken–again and again and again. Join acclaimed authors Lucy Monroe, Jamie Denton, and Elisabeth Naughton as they open the files on an undercover operative who finds a sexy surprise under his covers, a hot case involving mixed messages and mistaken identities, and a mission impossible protecting a provocative beauty who lives to love dangerously.

Yeah, it’s a hard job, but someone’s gotta do it.

Kensington Brava
May 31, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780758210333
ISBN-10: 0758210337

Read an Excerpt

Available at:
Barnes & Noble

Monday, May 30, 2011

Reader Mail

I've gotten some lovely notes from readers in the last few days, and I thought it would be fun to share a few with you! Thanks to everyone who has written to me via email, Facebook and Twitter to let me know you're enjoying the McCarthy Series! I'm delighted to hear from all of you!

Subj: Dear Marie,
I just love love, love,  your books. I have read all the available books, except for “the fall” which I still have to get. I don’t’ know how you do it, sometimes you read a book and some parts are not so  good, well your books are always good beginning to end. I always feel disappointed when a book has ended. My favorite book is “the wreck”. I hoop you continue to write many more books for me to enjoy.

With Kind regards(met vriendelijke groet),
Your Dutch fan living in Cape Town(SA)

(SUCH a kick to hear from a reader in South Africa! Thank you, Claudia!)

Subj: Gansett Island Series

What a wonderful series to discover on this very, very rainy Memorial Day weekend in western SD. I would definitely buy another trilogy :-) 
Thanks for supplying me with reading pleasure this weekend. I can almost smell the salty breeze from the ocean!
Anne from South Dakota

Subj: I love "Fool for Love"

Hello, Marie!
I am a huge fan of yours. I discovered The Wreck completely accidentally about two months ago. It took me a week to devour your available catalog. I appreciate the consistency with which you write; I always know that a "Marie Force" will be riveting, affecting, absorbing, and moving. Fool for Love was no exception.
In reading Fool for Love, one of the reasons I am drawn to your work became apparent. I love your heros and heroines and their contrast to the majority of romantic pairs in contemporary romance. The men are strong, but not brutish. Their strength comes from their honesty, respectfulness, and tenderness. The heroines are (to paraphrase Burt Bacharach) are not trying to make themselves over for their men. They are true to themselves and are valued for their kindness, intelligence, and work ethic. This attention to the internal values of the characters makes them incredibly relatable and appealing. I find it to be a real anomaly in contempory romance; I appreciate this very much. I also like the supporting characters and delving into their stories. The main events of the book do not occur in a vacuum. It helps to flesh out the events and to make the situation that much meatier.
So, to answer the question you posed to your readers at the beginning of the Gansett Island series (and in the beginning of FfL), I would adore reading more about the folks on Gansett Island. The images of the quaint island village and its residents are incredibly vivid for me (and I'm sure for other members of your audience). Probing into the lives of Grant, Adam, and Evan seems like a great place to go. It may be interesting to explore why Tiffanie is so sour and dissappointed by life. I would read any story about the Gansett Islanders that you wrote.
Ultimately, this email is intended to serve as a "Thank you". Thank you for writing such memorable and engaging stories. Thank you for crafting characters that are true to themselves and true to each other. Thank you for not being afraid to really sucker punch the readers. Because these are all of the things that hook me as a reader and really care about the outcomes for the characters.

Subj: New Favorite

Hi. I just wanted to say I was romance novel snob and only read Julie Garwood, Nora Robert and Judith McNaught books but when I thought I would branch out and read something new I came across your book True North and I was hooked!! Lol. I have all your books on my kindle and I think your story's are funny, smart and entertaining!! You definitely  have a new fan and I can't wait to read more of your books.  



Subj: New Book

OMG!!! I received your email at 8:37 this morning!  I had just come back home from my morning jog.  Immediately, I downloaded FOOL FOR LOVE on my kindle, jumped in the shower and scurried my husband and daughter out of the house. (daddy-daughter time is so needed in times like these)
WOW, just finished it!! AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME!  I have cried,laughed and fanned myself from the heat of Joe and Janey's love affair!  Thank you so much for this book.  I loved Maddie and Mac's story and this one made me want to move to New England!
You have made this one of the best Memorial Day weekends ever!  Thanks again!

Subj: Fool for Love


Just finished Fool for Love and if you are looking for votes as to whether you should do another trilogy with the "other brothers" then here's my vote!

Have really enjoyed the first 2 books and looking forward to the 3rd one in a few weeks.


Subj: The McCarthys of Gansett Island

Dear Ms. Force,
I must say that I loved the first two books of The McCarthys of Gansett Island. Cannot wait until the third is out in July. I truly hope you write more books to this series. I would love to read about the brothers.
I have read your books The Wreck and Love at First Flight and have loved both of them. I am working up to reading the rest of your books but they are usually heart wrenching to me so I have to be in the mood for a story like that. I love your characters. Their lives are so real I feel like I am there when I read your books.
I love your stories. Please keep it up.
Thanks for your wonderful writing.

I spent this weekend with my fifteen-year-old daughter while the boys were at the Indy 500. She got to read all these lovely notes as they arrived. So, to keep me humble, she offers the following:

Subj: Okay, so U suck

Ok hi so I just finished fetal affare and it was bad I mean there were like NO vampires in it.... I mean like fatal and vampire are like synonyms or whatever right? Ok so if ur books sucked anymore they'd be vampires lol bye
emily from antarctica

LOL--leave it to the teenager to bring me back down to earth! Thank you for all the love this weekend. I've enjoyed hearing from all of you (well, except Emily!)

Hope you've had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Next Up on Book Club: Against the Wind by Kat Martin

They were known as the "no-account Raines boys" but they've grown into successful, honorable men and everything they have, they've fought for tooth and nail. Now each of the three brothers has one last obstacle to overcome to claim what's eluding them: love.

Secrets don't stay buried long in cattle country. Sarah Allen, the beautiful girl who humiliated Jackson Raines in high school, is back in town. Not so long ago, she couldn't wait to leave Wind Canyon, Wyoming, in her dust. But, recently widowed, she has nowhere else to go and finds herself on Jackson's ranch. And despite everything, Jackson's finding himself reluctant to get rid of her.

Sarah brings her own kind of trouble, and he can't resist trouble. Enemies of her dead husband show up making threats, thinking she has something they're owed. They're not taking no for an answer, but what they will take is the one thing she has left—her daughter. Jackson's the only one who might be able to save little Holly and bring her home.

Thursday, June 2, right here!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book Club: Breaking Point by Pamela Clare

By: Ronlyn Howe

Denver journalist Natalie Benoit and Deputy U.S. Marshal Zach McBride find themselves captives of a bloodthirsty Mexican drug cartel. Working together, they escape through the desert toward the border, the attraction between them flaring hotter than the Sonoran sun. They fight to stay ahead of the danger that hunts them as forces more powerful than they can imagine conspire to destroy them both...

And now for Ronlyn's interview with Pamela!

Ronlyn: How are you feeling now that BREAKING POINT has been released?

Pamela: Relieved and very tired. I’m always nervous in the weeks up to a release. I put so much work into the stories, hoping to please readers. Seeing the characters that have lived in my head for months or even years come alive for other people and experiencing readers’ excitement as they move through the story has been very gratifying.

Ronlyn: Do you treat yourself to something special when you finish writing a book?

Pamela: Yes. Sleep.

Actually, things are usually so unraveled in my life when I finish a book that, after sleeping a bit, I “celebrate” by cleaning my house, going for walks, catching up on errands, and generally restoring a sense of order. Because I work essentially two full-time jobs, there’s no leisure time for keeping on top of such things while I’m writing. If my house gets cleaned twice a month while I’m writing, that’s great. (When my son Benjamin is home, he cleans the house. Bless him!)

Often, I get a massage or two, also. That helps get rid of the aches that come from sitting for long stretches of time, and it helps with the emotional release I need after finishing a book. Writing stories that are intensely emotional often leaves me feeling really emotional. I cry at the drop of a hat and feel really drained. Massage helps bring back some sense of serenity.

Ronlyn: I LOVE massages. And a clean house. I need to invest in a housekeeper and masseuse. ;-) You've always been very candid about some of the "topic" ideas coming from your day job as a journalist. When you come across some of those topics do you immediately think, "Oh, here's something I would use!" or is it a more gradual process?

Sometimes it’s one, and sometimes it’s the other. The five I-Team books that I’ve written so far include the most high-profile work I’ve done as a reporter. In a few cases, I was conscious of the fact that I would later use this stuff in a book while I was doing the investigating/reporting. But that was after I’d published. My reporting on prison issues and American Indian issues started before I was published, so, although it was obvious material for fiction, I wasn’t thinking, “Gotta put this in a book” while it was happening.

As the I-Team continues, I’ll be having to dig deeper into past reportage for topics/issues, and I might even veer into matters that I’ve never covered. I’ve been exceptionally—is lucky the word?—to have so many really big stories come my way. A lot of journalists never get to work on projects like that. But part of it is my own desire to step off the beaten path and take on topics no one else wants to touch.

Ronlyn: While you were writing BREAKING POINT the current issues on the border were becoming national news, with several reports regarding the Zetas making headlines. Then, of course, with the Navy SEALs becoming such a huge focus for their work, you were interviewed by the Washington Post. How did it feel having some of the topics in your fiction work be current headlines while you were writing and as the book was released?

Pamela: It was creepifying. I’d write about some hideous thing, and then something very similar would happen a few weeks later. I was writing about fictional Zetas while the real Zetas were out there committing mass murder in absolutely macabre ways—faces stitched to soccer balls, hanging people and slitting their throats (talk about literal overkill), slaughtering a house full of immigrants trying to make their way to the US, the kiling of U.S. Border patrol agents by bajadores and others. I’ve been aware of the situation with regard to Las Muertes de Juárez for almost a decade, and, of course, I knew about the Zetas. But the topic for the book had been settled in my mind for quite some time. To have all of this flare up while I was writing the story was extremely eerie.

Then, to top it off, SEAL Team Six takes out Osama bin Laden two days before the book’s release, putting SEALs in the headlines. Who could have predicted that?

Ronlyn: I guess this book is just really timely.

Pamela: That’s in part because I’m a journalist, so the issues I write about are real. They’re in or have been in the headlines (many times they’re headlines I’ve written, such as an article about a cement plan titled, “Concrete Evidence,” from which I got the focus of Extreme Exposure and the title Hard Evidence). For example, after Hard Evidence came out, the issue of human trafficking became more prominent in the news as part of a rising tide of public awareness.

I read a review where the reviewer insisted that the incidents described in Unlawful Contact—the rape of inmates by inmates, the sexual assaults of juvenile female inmates by guards, etc.—were hyperbole, that such extreme things didn’t really happen. I wanted to ask her when she was coming back to Planet Earth. These things really did happen.

Ronlyn: Do you think you might have a bit more of a finger on the pulse, so to speak, of various issues that are about to...trend (for lack of a better word) due to your continued work as a journalist and editor

Pamela: Possibly. I have a knack for predicting where stories will go. That’s one reason I’m the editor-in-chief and no longer a reporter. (I still do reporting, but that’s not the focus of my job any longer and hasn’t been for about 15 years.) Here’s an example of what I mean. When the Oklahoma City bombing happened, the TV stations were reporting that people who seemed to be Arab or Muslim were being stopped at airports for questioning. All of the channels were talking about the possiblity that this attack had been carried out by someone from the Middle East with a grudge against the U.S. I couldn’t believe how ridiculous they were being. First of all, someone from the Middle East is going to want to attack something symbolic of the United States, not an obscure building in a city and state their friends have never heard of. Secondly, I knew it was the anniversary of Ruby Ridge. So I turned to my fellow journlists and said both of these things, finishing with, “They need to be looking for a disgruntled redneck, not a Muslim.” I wrote a column about it, which ran in the paper the next day—when news broke about McVeigh.

And everyone in the newsroom said, “Whoa!” and looked over at me.

But, hey, to me all of that seemed obvious. Sadly, it was obvious on 9/11, too.


Ronlyn: Going back to BREAKING POINT, I know you've caught some serious flack for Natalie's decision to become a housewife. Did that surprise you?

Pamela: It really surprises me that women are so intolerant of other women’s choices, even those of fictional women. So, yes, I was a bit surprised. I was even more surprised by people saying that “all” of the I-Team women leave their jobs. If by “all” they mean just Natalie, they’re correct. (Personally, people can hate my books if they want, but I’d really appreciate their getting the facts straight.) Kara and Tessa reach the heights of being a journalist, which is working independently writing books and freelancing. That’s what every journalist hopes to do one day. They didn’t “leave journalism.” Au contraire. They moved up in their careers. Sophie, who always wanted to be a journalist, and Kat, who similarly had strong motivations for being a journalist (i.e., being a voice for Native people), are still at the paper. Natalie did leave, and I tried to make it clear in the story that she just wasn’t as connected to her career as the others. Journalism found her, she didn’t find it, and as the story opens we learn that she’s in a state of “professional ennui.”

Of course, then she goes through weeks of hell and attempts on her life. This, combined with her past trauma, ought to be reason enough to say, “To hell with this job.” In reality, very few women who start careers as investigative journalists remain in the job. It’s confrontational and intimidating. I’ve tried over the years to bring women in and to deliberately cultivate them as investigative journalists. Of all the women who’ve worked under my mentorship, ONE is still a reporter. One. It’s not discrimination; it’s self-selection. Women self-select out of this career more often than they remain. So for Natalie to leave her job reflects her lack of connection to it, her understandable desire not to be the target of violence, and the reality of the journalism world.

In addition to these reasons, there are two more: She is deeply in love with a man who has struggled to adjust to life outside of war. She doesn’t want to be the kind of two-career family where everyone’s exhausted and no one’s needs are met. She wants to make sure they both get the peace and happy homelife they so desperately want and deserve. She lost Beau, so she knows that every moment is precious. Who in her right might would say on her death bed, “Wow, I really wish I’d spent more hours at the office and succeeded more in my career”? It’s much more likely that most of us will wish for more time with those we love. So she chooses to be a homemaker in order to maximize the time they have together.

The second reason is very simple: If no one leaves the I-Team, I can’t bring in new characters.

In my hometown, I’m considered to be a serious feminist. But feminism for me revolves around the desires of women, not the expectations of a society that still values men’s work over that of women. If a woman wants to stay home and has the means to do so, that’s her business. I’ve had a journalism career that is the envy of many male journalists. It was recently capped off with the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award from SPJ, the same organization that sent Natalie to Mexico. But I stayed home with my kids when they were little, and if I hadn’t had to work, I probably never would have. Does that make me less of a feminist? In the eyes of some, perhaps. But there are those who see success for a woman as mirroring what we traditionally define as success for a man. I don’t want to be a man. I want to be a woman and to celebrate what’s special about the feminine in this world. I felt that Natalie personified balance in this regard. She was a feminine woman, but she was strong when she needed to be strong.

Women who are pursuing careers for the sake of having careers may find that path less fulfilling than they imagine. I’ve won big national journalism awards, passed a state law, broken big news, and the thing I’m most proud of in this life is being a mother.

One last thing: Some of those who objected to Natalie’s choice objected on the basis that it she was a woman who sacrificed her career for a man. I don’t think Natalie sees it as a sacrifice. While I understand that a lot of women feel taken for granted by the men in their life—I’ve been there and am proudly and happily divorced—there is nothing wrong with a woman giving of herself for the sake of the man she loves. I don’t see scads of message board posts objecting to the fact that Zach suffered and almost died for her sake. So apparently it’s okay for a man to give his life for the woman he loves, but it’s not okay for a woman to bake pies and keep a home for the man she loves. That’s unbalanced and unhealthy. From my point of view, spiritually speaking, the greatest thing to which we can aspire is to master ourselves so that we can serve others.

I’m working on that still.

Ronlyn: If there is one thing you'd like people to take away from BREAKING POINT, what would that be?

Pamela: I guess I want what I always want—for readers to leave the story feeling that they’ve been on a journey and are the better for it. We all know the feeling we get when we read a book that touches us. It’s that feeling that I want readers to have.

If there’s any message in the book—a moral premise, if you will—it might be that we can’t live full lives as human beings by keeping our pain to ourselves. Zach and Natalie try that. It’s only when they share with one another that they find love and release from the past and earn their HEA.

Ronlyn: Thank you so much Pamela for agreeing to chat with us today! If anyone has questions feel free to post them and she'll be popping in and out today to answer as many questions as she can as well as do a give away!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Next Up on Book Club: Breaking Point by Pamela Clare

We are so excited to welcome FOTB (friend of the blog) Pamela Clare back to book club with her new release,Breaking Point, on Thursday, May 26. If you haven't yet checked out Pamela's I-Team series, you are missing out on heart-pounding suspense and true-to-life action, a lot of it taken right from Pamela's long career as a journalist.

Here's the lowdown on Breaking Point:

Denver journalist Natalie Benoit and Deputy U.S. Marshal Zach McBride find themselves captives of a bloodthirsty Mexican drug cartel. Working together, they escape through the desert toward the border, the attraction between them flaring hotter than the Sonoran sun. They fight to stay ahead of the danger that hunts them as forces more powerful than they can imagine conspire to destroy them both...

Also, check out my recent interview with Pamela. Get ready for an awesome book club with the always-entertaining Pamela Clare! See you there!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book Club: Midnight's Wild Passion by Anna Campbell

London's most notorious seducer, Nicholas Challoner lives solely for revenge . . .

The dashing, licentious Marquess of Ranelaw can never forgive Godfrey Demarest for ruining his sister—now the time has come to repay the villain in the same coin. But one formidably intriguing impediment stands in the way of Nicholas's vengeance: Miss Antonia Smith, companion to his foe's unsuspecting daughter.

Having herself been deceived and disgraced by a rogue—banished by her privileged family as a result and forced to live a lie—Antonia vows to protect her charge from the same cruel fate. She recognizes Ranelaw for the shameless blackguard he is and will devote every ounce of her intelligence and resolve to thwarting him.

Yet Antonia has always had a fatal weakness for rakes . . .

Hey there book clubbers, Marie here taking a turn at hostess duty, and what a book we have to talk about this week! It had been a while since I'd read a juicy historical (one of my favorite genres within romance), and Anna's books never disappoint. From the time I first read Claiming the Courtesan, I have been a huge fan of her work. In this new book, Anna has given us a truly memorable hero and heroine in Nicholas, Lord Ranelaw, and Miss Antonia Smith. From their first meeting, the chemistry between Nicholas and Antonia burns up the page. Both had compelling backstories and interesting motivations for the decisions they made and the choices that drove them. I loved the way Anna tapped into the mores of the day by making Antonia's first love affair an abject disaster that poisoned the next ten years of her life, and how a similar situation in Ranelaw's past fueled his desire for revenge.

There were so many fabulous scenes in this book, but among my favorites were when Antonia clubbed him over the head with a fireplace poker (he had it coming, didn't he?) when she stared him down with a gun in hand after he kidnapped her cousin, and when she cried over his sick bed when she thought she'd lost him before she ever got to tell him she loved him. Ahhh, the stuff of classic romance novels! What were your favorite scenes in the book?

Anna will be joining us today from her home in Australia to chat about MWP and to give away a book from her back list (winner's choice) to one lucky commenter. Look forward to chatting about Midnight's Wild Passion! Find out more about Anna and her books at www.annacampbell.info.

Since I go out of my way to NEVER cook if I can avoid it, and as I have already posted the five or six recipes I make with any kind of frequency, I will offer this as my recipe for the day: RESERVATIONS, people. Make them. Often. :-)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On Anniversaries and Milestones and Lessons Learned Along the Way

Today is the sixth anniversary of the first time I ever wrote THE END. I finished my first book, Treading Water, on May 18, 2005 with great fanfare and celebration. My family took me out to dinner, there were flowers from the hubby and excitement from my dad, who'd been after me to "write that book" for years at that point. Sadly, my mother, who had died nearly two years earlier, wasn't there to join in the fun, but I believed then—and I continue to believe today—that she's had a hand in all the wonderful things that have happened in the last six years. After all, she was the one who put a book in my hand every night before bed and said, "Read." And I read and read and read some more. Reading has always been my no. 1 hobby. Over 10 years as a Navy wife, my favorite books got moved more times than I could count, but parting with them was never an option. Nineteen years of marriage later, I still have them. One of my prized possessions is a first-edition copy of Love Story, which is one of those books you wish you could read again for the first time.

Since I loved to read and writing was the only thing I've ever been any good at, I suppose writing fiction was my destiny. Last week, I finished my 18th novel, and I'm happy to report it's still fun, although no. 18 was greeted with considerably less fanfare than no. 1 received. I believe it went something like this: "Congrats, Mom. That's awesome. What's for dinner?" :-)

I thought it would be fun today to recount a few of the lessons I've learned in the last six years.

Lesson No. 1: Nothing Ever Goes as Planned
When I finished Treading Water (still, in my humble opinion, the best book I've ever written), I was surprised to discover the romance fiction world had been invaded by vampires. They were everywhere in 2005-2006. Contemporary romance was a dying genre, and few agents or editors were taking on new contemporary authors. When I realized there was literally no market for my lovely book, I did what I was told not to do: I wrote two sequels. Those three books are still my favorites, and they are the ones my core group of readers still talk about all these years later. After six years and five published books (with three more coming soon), guess what? Treading Water is out on submission to publishers. Contemporary is making a big comeback. I've had a bit of success with my earlier books, and my ebooks have really taken off. The time is right for my most-loved book to have its moment. Whether or not it will sell is anyone's guess, but I remain optimistic. I have no doubt that my readers would go crazy over those three books, so keep your fingers crossed that an editor will, too. Getting back to the nothing goes as planned heading: I kept writing, and my seventh book became my debut, Line of Scrimmage. Go figure! (If you haven't read the story behind Treading Water and The House That Jack Built, check it out.)

Lesson No. 2: Writing May Be a Solitary Endeavor, But It Doesn't Have to be Lonely
I have made some of the best friends of my life within in the romance community (writers and readers), and they've made this perilous journey so much more fun and bearable than it would've been otherwise. I won't name names here, but you know who you are, and you know what you've done to prop me up, so I will just say thank you.

Lesson No. 3: The Publishing Business is a Marathon Not a Sprint
People ask me all the time what the secret is to getting published—and staying published. I give the same answer every time: you have to want it with every fiber of your being. Just like people who run marathons or climb mountains, an inner drive fuels writers to keep showing up every day, to keep putting butt in seat and fingers on keyboard when it would be so much easier to just say ENOUGH already. You can't ever give up. Years ago, when nothing was going the way I'd thought it would (see Lesson No. 1), I kept telling myself the only thing I knew for SURE was if I gave up it would never happen. It's as true today as it was six years ago.

Lesson No. 4: Don't be Afraid to Take Chances
I wanted to write this series, you see, featuring a DC cop and a U.S. Senator in every book. I wanted it to be a romance series with mystery and politics and an enduring love affair between two complex characters. I was told it couldn't be done. I was told that romance demands a new couple in the second and subsequent books. I was told to write it to formula. I didn't do what I was told, and my Fatal Series is the result. I could've given in and done it the way "they" wanted it done, but I wouldn't love writing that series quite as much if I hadn't done it my way. I was also told you shouldn't write the second book in a series before the first one sells. Twice now I have benefitted GREATLY from not listening to that advice. Write whatever is calling to you, and don't listen to people who tell you "it's just not done." Maybe it just hasn't been done YET. For five and a half of my first six years in publishing, self-publishing was a taboo. And then, seemingly overnight, it wasn't. I gave it a whirl, and it's been the BEST thing to ever happen to my career. Take chances. Sure, you might fail, but wow, if you succeed, it's so much sweeter because you took a risk. Those other books I wrote along the way? I worked on them constantly for years. Any time I learned something new or identified a bad habit, I went back and applied it to my earlier books. One of my favorite quotes is luck is the convergence of preparation and opportunity. When this new opportunity arose to deliver my books to readers, I was READY, and the response to those books has made me feel VERY lucky indeed.

Lesson No. 5: Trust Your Gut
If you sense that someone is feeding you a line of bull, they probably are. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. If a relationship you've worked years to attain with an agent, an editor, a critique partner or anyone else affiliated with the business isn't working, don't be afraid to speak up. You are your own best advocate, and it's true what they say that no one will ever love your book as much as you do. A writer friend of mine told me the other day that she loves how much I love my books. Well, hell yes, I love them. If I didn't love them you'd certainly never get to read them. I love all 18 of them. Some more than others for sure. I didn't always love the process of creating them, but I love the end result or they'd be under the bed where no one could ever see them. None of my books are under the bed, and I hope you'll get a chance to read them all someday.

Lesson No. 6: Listen to and Respect Your Readers
One of the things I've come to realize is that in the publishing pecking order, readers tend to fall pretty far down on the list. In MY world, they are no. 1. Everything I do is for my readers. Every ounce of work I put into a book is for one reason: because I will be asking my hard-earned readers to part with their hard-earned money, and I want them to come away entertained and moved in some way or another. Sometimes they leave happy. Other times they are mad with me (I love that just as much) and sometimes they've fallen a little bit in love with one of my characters (Nick Cappuano anyone?) If readers finish one of my books thinking and feeling SOMETHING, ANYTHING, then I've done my job. I have kept all of the emails I've received from satisfied readers, and I treasure every one of them. I know what my readers want from me because I talk to them often, via email, Facebook and Twitter, and I am listening.

Lesson No. 7: Protect the Work
Writing and storytelling are the most important parts of my "job." They come first and foremost, ahead of promotion, attending conferences, networking with other writers and fooling around online. Without words on the page, there's nothing to promote or sell or read. Protecting the work sometimes means living like a hobbit, saying no to social events that sound fun and forgoing the glass of wine that would make me so sleepy nothing else gets done that day. Protect the work. It's everything. But it's also important to know when it's just not happening on a given day and not trying to force it. That, too, protects the work.

Lesson No. 8: Keep Your Priorities Straight
I've had a great run as a writer. I've been blessed beyond my wildest dreams with so many wonderful moments along the way. But writing is not my full-time job. I have one of those, and it gets all my attention every day before I write a word because it, too, has been one of the great blessings in my life. And before either of my two "jobs" come my two children, who are the most important people in my life. They are tied for No. 1 (and no, I do not have a favorite, contrary to what they might say), and they always come first. All I really care about is seeing them to successful adulthood (and hopefully getting a few grandchildren if they are feeling kind toward their mother). Anything else that might come my way via my books is frosting on an already very nice cake. My husband and kids have been my top supporters, my greatest champions and biggest fans. They come first. Period.

Lesson No. 9: I'm Doing Exactly What I Was Meant to Do
To everyone who has read my books, to friends and family who have encouraged and supported me over the last six years, to the first editor who said yes, to the publisher who took a chance on an unconventional romance series to the wonderful agent who has stuck with me through thick and thin, thank you. Because of you—all of you—I'm doing exactly what I was meant to do, and I'm loving every minute of it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Giveaway: Audio Copy of Fatal Justice

Hi there,
The good folks at Audible.com have given me a free audio book copy of Fatal Justice to give away to my reader friends. I'll be offering this giveaway until next Saturday, May 21, at noon EDT. Sometime before then, answer any of these three questions to be entered to win!

1. What's your favorite thing to do in Washington, D.C.?

2. If you've never been to Washington, what would be your first stop if you make it there?

3. What challenge or issue would you like to see Sam and Nick confront in the Fatal Series? (No promises the author will listen--LOL)

Go forth and comment to win!

Next Up on Book Club: Midnight's Wild Passion

London's most notorious seducer, Nicholas Challoner lives solely for revenge . . .

The dashing, licentious Marquess of Ranelaw can never forgive Godfrey Demarest for ruining his sister—now the time has come to repay the villain in the same coin. But one formidably intriguing impediment stands in the way of Nicholas's vengeance: Miss Antonia Smith, companion to his foe's unsuspecting daughter.

Having herself been deceived and disgraced by a rogue—banished by her privileged family as a result and forced to live a lie—Antonia vows to protect her charge from the same cruel fate. She recognizes Ranelaw for the shameless blackguard he is and will devote every ounce of her intelligence and resolve to thwarting him.

Yet Antonia has always had a fatal weakness for rakes . . .

Very excited to welcome my friend, Anna Campbell, to book club on Thursday, May 19. Don't miss this fun meeting in which yours truly will be handling the hosting duties. Look forward to visiting with Anna who will be joining us from her home Down Under! One lucky participant will have the chance to choose a book from Anna's backlist as a prize, so make sure you comment to be entered into the drawing!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Book Club: Crazy for Love by Victoria Dahl

By: Shelly Estes

Let me start off by saying I really, really enjoyed this book!!

Chloe Turner has been mislabeled a Bridezilla. Her fiance Thomas faked his own death by crashing his airplane and when caught, claimed he had to do it to get away from her. Her best friend Jenn decides what she needs is some time away at a tiny resort on White Rock Island that has no TVs, and limited cell phone & internet availability—so they can avoid the paparazzi that have been hounding Chloe since the news of Thomas’ “death”. Once they arrive at their getaway, two hunky guys take up residence next door. They are brothers Max & Elliott Sullivan. Both are handsome and sexy—Max in a greek god kind of way, and Elliott in a geeky kind of way. Max has a serious case of obsessive-compulsive disorder—he tries to protect everyone around him and make sure they are always safe. Not knowing Chloe’s story, he thinks she is just a nice normal girl, but he can’t help trying to protect her from a campfire and a diving expedition with an “amateur” dive instructor. When Chloe gets a look at Max in his diving suit – she mutters “Holy Ass Cheeks, Batman” and thinks he looks like a Greek statue with the ass of a Roman god.

Chloe soon realizes that Max has OCD issues, and gives him a hard time about it every chance she gets, but she also understands why he does it and tries to help him quit cold turkey. Chloe is eventually recognized by someone at the resort as the Bridezilla, and Max decides he just can’t take care of her, even though he has a really hard time not getting involved. Chloe & Jenn escape back to the mainland, and the press continue to harass Chloe. Max just can’t stay away from Chloe and comes to visit her at her apartment, (because he’s not going there to “save” her, he’s just going because they have a physical connection). The press quickly discover his identity and assume that he and Chloe are having a fling (which they are). When Max leaves Chloe again, because he just can’t keep saving the damsel in distress, Chloe gets angry and throws garbage at the paparazzi because she blames them for Max not standing by and supporting her.

Chaos abounds as things come to head when Thomas is arrested for fraud & embezzlement, a romance buds between Jenn & Elliott and Chloe finds out about a betrayal by a former friend. Max & Chloe try to work things out by agreeing to a long distance romance, which only lasts for a couple of months because they just can’t be apart.

This book is full of humor, odd personality quirks and a secondary romance between Elliott & Jenn. It was a quick easy read, with not a lot of angst to weigh it down.

Oriental salad

1 bag broccoli slaw (Walmart usually has near the fresh broccoli aisle)
1/2 C sunflower seeds
1/2 C sliced almonds
2 pkgs. beef ramen noodles

Mix together & break up ramen noodles

1/2 C sugar
1/2 C oil
1/3 C apple cider vinegar
2 flavor packets from ramen noodles

Add dressing right before serving. Mix well!!

Italian Beef

If I use my standard crock pot, I use just ½ of the ingredients.

15 lb. beef cubed (cheapest cut-usually chuck roast)
2 large onions
2 garlic bulbs
10-11 pkgs. Zesty Italian dressing (to taste) (must use the zesty Italian!!_
2 C. water

Put all together and cook for 6-8 hours, mashing with potato masher as it cooks.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Next Up on Book Club: Crazy for Love by Victoria Dahl

Chloe Turner thought she was going to marry the perfect man-until her fiancé's plane crashed. And then she got the really bad news: he'd tried to fake his own death to avoid marrying her. Now America's most famous bridezilla (a tag she most definitely does not deserve), Chloe escapes to a remote island to avoid the paparazzi. And right next door is a man who just might be the cure for Chloe's heartache....

A magnet for wild, complicated women, Max Sullivan is relieved to have finally found someone "normal." Chloe is his girl-next-door fantasy come to life, and best of all, she gets him. With her, he can be himself, a treasure-hunting millionaire who desperately wants out of his sexy but reckless job. But when Chloe's notoriety catches up with them, will their torrid romance make it to the mainland?

Come to book club on Thursday, May 12, to discuss this super fun book. I read this a while ago and loved it. It was my first book by Victoria. I look forward to reading some of her others! See you Thursday!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Book Club: Countess of Scandal by Laurel McKee

By: Anne Woodall
“OKLAHOMA, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains”—my home state and also home to the fabulously talented historical author, Laurel McKee (pen name for Regency romance writer Amanda McCabe), who I’ve just recently discovered. My new discovery has provided me with some excellent hours of reading pleasure and made me extra-glad I took the plunge into the historical romance genre. I’m so excited that a sister Okie is at the top of my list of favorite historical authors these days.

Laurel McKee’s powerful and exceptionally well-written “Daughters of Erin” trilogy is set at the end of the 18th century during the Irish Rebellion. Ireland and its history have always fascinated me. If a book offers me an Irish love story as well, I’m generally convinced to definitely read the book.

Laurel brings Ireland and its troubled past, along with these well-defined characters, to life on the pages of her books. The Irish spirit is vividly captured, the political upheaval is well-defined and fascinating, and the romance is beautifully and sensually portrayed. Ms. McKee has an extraordinary ability to write a well-balanced historical romance. I can assure you that the romance is not overshadowed.

Her writing exudes her love of Ireland and the quality of her research stands front and center. The first two books are excellent.

Book 1 – “Countess of Scandal”

Book 2 – “Duchess of Sin”

Book 3 – “Lady of Seduction” (Release Date: June, 2011)

Book 1

The “Daughters of Erin” series is a well-balanced blend of history and romance. “Countess of Scandal” introduces us to the three Blacknall sisters and their family.

This is the story of childhood friendship between Eliza, the oldest Blacknall sister, and Will, who lives nearby and a hero worthy of the title. Their friendship develops into so much more. But, as we know, there have to be trials and tribulations to overcome before the Happily Every After can occur. Eliza and Will are separated by opposing beliefs. Although Protestant, Eliza considers herself a true Irish woman and feels betrayed by Will when he goes off to serve the English Regiment.

Time passes, and seven years later, Will returns to Ireland to find Eliza is now a wealthy young widow living in Dublin. She is also, much to Will’s dismay, very involved in the secret societies of the United Irishmen. Above all else, Will is determined to keep Eliza safe at all costs and not lose the love and trust they’ve rebuilt. This book is overflowing with passion: the passion of friendship, the passion between a young soldier and a rebellious young countess, passion for one’s country and its people and causes, passion for the safety of family and, of course, the passion shared by these two young lovers. Eliza and Will’s emotions for one another and their physical chemistry heat up the pages.

While telling Eliza and Will’s breathtaking and memorable love story, McKee vividly describes the turbulent struggles that place enemies, family, friends, and lovers against one another in the political battle of the United Irish for their independence from England.

Believe me, Ms. McKee delivers an exquisitely wrapped package in “Countess of Scandal.” Even the girls’ sweet mother has her own romance.

“Duchess of Sin”
Book 2

“Duchess of Sin” continues the saga with Anna Blacknall, the middle sister, who is beautiful and mischievous, with a very strong-will. I loved her feisty and daring attitude. I especially enjoyed the “emerald-eyed Irishman” who she keeps encountering in places she should never be and tempting him beyond anything he’s ever felt. Anna and Conlan’s chemistry sets the pages on fire, their loyalties are tested, and danger surrounda them moment to moment. I must admit that “Duchess of Sin” was a slight favorite for me.

“Lady of Seduction”
Book 3

And the saga will soon continue with Caroline, the youngest Blacknall sister in the leading role. She’s the “bookworm” and “wallflower” who enjoys finding a safe and quiet spot in a library. Caroline is happiest when she goes unnoticed. There’s an arranged marriage being planned for her to an older widower with children who is safe and boring. Of course, we all know that things are not going to go smoothly and there has to be some changes made in this girl’s life. And I can assure you that Caroline is in for the time of her life—because I’ve read the first two books!! I could tell you but that wouldn’t be fair. You deserve the special hours of pleasure that reading these books will certainly bring about. The build-up from the first two books has me eagerly anticipating Caroline’s story in what to date is absolutely one of my very favorite historical series and has found its way to my keeper shelves.

Wrap Up:
Laurel McKee’s books make me sigh, put a smile on my face, bring tears to my eyes, and always leave me thoroughly satisfied while a bit sad, too, knowing I’ve arrived at the last page.

Without reservation, I recommend this series to one and all. And I salute Ms. McKee on her outstanding “Daughters of Erin” series .

An old Irish poem says:

Boxty on the griddle
Boxty in the pan,
If you can’t make boxty,
You’ll never get a man.

And a bit of Irish flavor for the taste buds:

Boxty (Irish Potato Griddle Cakes)

½ pound raw potato
½ pound cooked mashed potatoes
1 cup flour
Milk (as needed, see directions below)
1 egg
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper

Grate raw potato and mix with cooked mashed potatoes. Add salt, pepper, onion and flour. Beat egg and add to mixture with just enough milk to make a thick batter that will drop from a spoon.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto hot griddle or frying pan. Cook over moderate heat for 3-4 minutes on each side.

Glazed Corned Beef

4-1/2 pounds corn beef, rinsed
1 cup water
1 cup apricot preserves
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoons soy sauce

1 – Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2 – Coat pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place corned beef in dish and add water. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 2 hours; drain liquid.

3 – In small bowl combine apricot preserves, brown sugar, and soy sauce. Spread mixture evenly over corned beef.

4 – Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 25-30 additional minutes, or until meat is tender, basting occasionally with pan drippings.

5 – Slice corned beef across grain and serve.

Monday, May 2, 2011

An Interview with My Friend Pamela Clare

It's launch day for Pamela Clare's new I-Team book, BREAKING POINT! First, a little about the book:

Denver journalist Natalie Benoit and Deputy U.S. Marshal Zach McBride find themselves captives of a bloodthirsty Mexican drug cartel. Working together, they escape through the desert toward the border, the attraction between them flaring hotter than the Sonoran sun. They fight to stay ahead of the danger that hunts them as forces more powerful than they can imagine conspire to destroy them both...

And now...on to the interview!

I've been waiting patiently (okay not so patiently) for the new I-Team book, Breaking Point. I read Extreme Exposure last November (my first book using the Kindle app on my I-Touch) and then I devoured the rest of the series. I am so excited for this new installment. Tell us what to expect in Breaking Point!

Breaking Point has everything the other I-Team books have had — only more of it. I’ve ratcheted up the suspense and danger by sending Natalie, the heroine, to Juárez, Mexico, which is currently the most dangerous place on earth outside a war zone to be a journalist. The stakes are higher in this story than in any of the others. It’s life or death from Chapter 1 through to the climax of the story. Julian, Marc and Gabe each play big roles in the story, as does Joaquin, whom we come to know a bit better. I always wanted to write a book where the situation was so dire that all of the I-Team men had to fight side by side to protect the heroine.

With all the adrenaline and heart-pounding action comes a lot of sensuality between Natalie and the hero, Zach. I’m not sure who your fave I-Team hero is, Marie, but I think Zach will be giving him a run for his money. Zach is probably my most heroic hero, and I can’t wait to share him with you in all his former Navy SEAL, chief deputy U.S. Marshal glory. Jed Hill, that abdominally gifted man on the cover of the book, was my mental model for Zach (which is how he ended up on the cover). So you can imagine how much I enjoyed writing Zach’s scenes. Jed in the head. Yum.

In between it all, there’s a serious storyline about Zach and Natalie and how they fall in love. Both of them have faced their share of grief. They find in each other the one person who truly understands, and their love not only saves their lives it also sets them free to live again.

That’s 400 pages in a nutshell. Kind of a big nutshell.

I love that "Jed in the head." That's a good image to have in the head when writing. What was it about him that appealed to you and made him Zach?

Will it make me seem shallow if I say it was his a-ma-zing body? That’s what it was. I saw a photo of him, bare-torsoed, with just boxing gloves over his shoulder, and I think my heart cracked a few ribs. Thunk! His face is beautiful, too. Put the two together, as Nature has so kindly done in his case, and he was perfect for a former Navy SEAL now “working the line” as a chief deputy U.S. marshal. Why? Well, because. I have it on expert authority (a former U.S. Marshal) that most DUSMs are not hot like Jed. In fact, the cover of my book make this particular former U.S. Marshal, a source for the book, want to return to the job. If that’s what they look like these days, she said in an email, I’m coming out of retirement.

LOL--that's great! You're driving her right out of retirement to go looking for Jed! As a reporter, you must have a stable of experts to call on when researching your books. Can you tell us a little about your research process, and how much of BREAKING POINT is drawn from something you've experienced in your job?

Being a reporter certainly makes it easier to find sources if for no other reason than it’s something I’m used to doing every day. But, yes, I have a lot of established contacts as well. The seed for this story was planted almost 10 years ago when I did an opinion piece on Las Muertas de Juárez—the murdered women of Juárez, Mexico. I was enraged to think that more than 400 women and teenage girls had been the victims of brutal sexual homicides, their bodies dumped in the desert. There are still about 1,000 missing women and girls, most of them trafficked or killed. It’s appalling. Since then, of course, the situation in poor Juárez has gotten much worse. It is now the most dangerous place outside of a war zone to be a journalist. For that reason alone, I knew I had to send a fictional journalist there.

I had a lot of fun researching how people cross the border in secret. I did some research into the culture of narcotraficantes. I researched the flora, fauna and landscape of the Sonoran Desert. Then I picked a route for Zach and Natalie to take which meshed perfectly with other already established characters in the series. I had so much fun with that. It was like playing Oregon Trail or something, except it was Sonoran Manhunt.

What was so strange about writing this book was that terrible things were happening that were eerily echoed or foreshadowed in the story. I would write about someone being killed in a particularly grisly way — and then something very much like that would happen. I shared newslinks with my friend who were reading the story as I wrote it, and it gave us the eeriest feelings sometimes. I don’t think I’ve ever written a book that so closely shadowed what’s happening exactly at this moment.

Whoa, that's amazing. You must've been creeped out by all the coincidence! I love how you bring your work into your books. I know you've been in some scary situations as a reporter. Tell us about the tightest spot you've ever been in and how you brought that anxiety to your books.

Wow. Believe it or not, this is a tough question... Hmm. I’ve had a gun held on me twice. I fell of a mountain and had to self-rescue for a while before the chopper could reach me. That was serious and very painful. There was the time I drove into a coal mine while the drag line was running and tried to take photos before the armed security guards to get me. (I got away with it. Bwahaha!) But the tightest spot...

The tightest spot I’ve ever been in was probably when two men with switchblades broke into my house just after midnight one night. I was home alone with my then-9-month-old firstborn. I heard something outside our apartment—hushed voices. Then someone rattled the doorknob to the back door. I went to look and see if someone was there, but there wasn’t. I turned and thought I saw two heads pass my kitchen window. I walked over there and they were gone. Then I called my ex to see if he had tried to come over and had perhaps forgotten his key. I woke him up; he’d been sound asleep in bed.

At that point, someone started beating on the front door and saying, “Open up! Open up!”

I still didn’t get it that these guys were trying to attack me. I remember thinking that they must be a couple of kids playing a prank. But I decided to call 911 anyway, and that decision saved me from being gang-raped at knife point.

During the two minutes I was on the phone with 911 dispatch, the two men circled back around to the kitchen window and beat it in with the handles of their switchblades. I will never forget seeing their faces and seeing that they were HAPPY and turned on that I was afraid. I saw right their in their eyes exactly what they planned to do once they got ahold of me. They were really sure they had me cornered — and they did. They started in through the window, and I felt an urge to run, but my baby was asleep in the back. So I just clenched my fists and forced myself to stand there and NOT run. I didn’t want them to know he was there.

They were all of about eight feet away from me by the time the police arrived. I saw two officers running full tilt toward my apartment. One of them shouted, “Knock it the fuck off, or we’ll blow you away!” And then it was just chaos. By that point I was screaming like a total TSTL non-heroine. The attackers ran. One was caught not far from my apartment and taken into custody that night; the other stole a car and was arrested a week later in Wyoming. I lived in terror that entire week, afraid he’d come back for me.

The two men had raped another woman nine months earlier. Their perverted modus operandi was to try to make the woman afraid before they broke in—terrorize her and then break in and rape her. They managed to terrorize me, but they never touched me.

I had nightmares for years. I would find myself half-asleep reliving the break-in in the middle of the night. I jumped at every sound. When we ordered pizza and the delivery guy knocked on that same front door, I would come out of my skin. Loud noises, stress of any kind, anything startling—it would make me fall apart. I was eventually diagnosed with full-blown PTSD. This was a defining event in my life because I’ve had to fight like hell to come back from it.

A lot of my novels have characters who suffer from PTSD, and there’s a reason for that. I know what it’s like to feel like you simply can’t get over something. And I absolutely know what terror is.

I hope some of that comes through in the books.

Incidentally, the attack scene in EXTREME EXPOSURE draws directly from this experience, though for Kara it was one guy with a gun and for me it was two guys with knives.

I dedicated HARD EVIDENCE to the two officers who saved me that night. We’re still in contact. For them, that night was one of the best nights of their lives because they saved THREE lives—the investigator said rape was the least of what the two had planned—my life, my 9-month-old, and my not-yet-conceived son’s life. For me, it was one of the worst nights of my life, but it could have been a helluva lot worse.

I own guns now. I sleep with a 12-gauge shot gun beside the bed, and I know how to use it.

Holy smokes! I’m glad I didn’t read that before bed last night or I never would’ve slept. What an incredible—and frightening—story! I knew parts of EXTREME EXPOSURE were true life for you, but I had no idea just how close to true that story was. (And people, if you haven’t read Extreme Exposure and the rest of the I-Team books, what are you waiting for??) Okay, taking a Xanax and getting back to our interview… You certainly know your readers are divided firmly into teams based on our favorite heroes: Reece, JULIAN, Marc, Gabe. If you could bring just one I-Team hero home for a wild night, who would you pick and why?

Is there any particular reason Julian’s name is in all caps, Marie? Inquiring journalists notice that sort of obvious thing, you know...

God, I get asked again and again to make this choice, and it’s really impossible. All of them would make fanastic lovers, so picking any one of them would guarantee a mind-blowing night of sex. They all resonate with me emotionally. They all care about the women in their lives. All of them would make me feel safe at night. (Believe it or not, I’m still a very light sleeper as a result of that break-in.) Hmmm. We’re not including Zach here?

OK, I’ll say Julian. But that’s because Zach isn’t there. And now I’m thinking I should have said Gabe. Or Marc. But for now, for just this moment, I’ll say Julian. I think he would blow my mind.

All I can say is poor Reece (and you'll be hearing from our pal Aly, I'm sure!) LOL! On that note, thank you for the wonderful interview and insight into your motivation and research. I wish you'd had a little LESS real-life research. I wish you the best of luck with BREAKING POINT! Looking forward to your visit to book club later this month!

Pamela is giving away a signed copy of BREAKING POINT to one lucky winner today! Tell us which I-Team hero you wouldn't kick out of bed and why to be entered (ooooh, I love a good pun) to win!

Next Up on Book Club: Countess of Scandal by Laurel McKee

Blame my conference brain for not putting this up earlier!

As children, Eliza Blacknall and William Denton ran wild over the fields of southern Ireland and swore they would be friends forever. Then fate took Will away to England, while Eliza stayed behind to become a proper Irish countess.

Years later, Will finally makes his way home-as an English soldier sent to crush the Irish uprising. When he spies the lovely Eliza, he is captivated by the passionate woman she has become. But Eliza's passions have led her to join the Irish rebel cause, and Will and Eliza now find themselves on opposite sides of a dangerous conflict.

When Ireland explodes in bloody rebellion, Will's regiment is ordered to the front lines, and he is forced to choose between his duty to the English king and his love for Eliza and their Irish homeland.

Join us Thursday, May 5, for a discussion about this book!