Message From The Author

Author's Message

Top Gun Military Romance Writer Lindsay McKenna Leads Women into Combat...and Authors into the Electronic Age!

by Cindy Schwalb

The first author to popularize contemporary military romances again forges new terrain in romance publishing with Valkyrie the first full-length e-book written for Hard Shell Word Factory and in it, she takes the military romance to a whole new level.

While many new authors have launched their careers on the Internet, only recently have established authors begun to contemplate what e-publishing could offer them. Romance favorites, such as Diana Gabaldon, Mary Jo Putney, Barbara Freethy and Stephanie Bond have opted to contribute short stories, novellas and serials to various e-book sites, but Lindsay McKenna is the first established romance author to embrace electronic publishing as a serious venue. In addition to Valkyrie, which kicks off her Women in Combat E-Series (also available in paperback), Lindsay will begin another military E-Series, for Hard Shell, Riders of the Storm, in 2001. These series will be written in addition to her Silhouette Morgans Mercenaries novels so fans will have lots of McKenna books to savor. We caught up with the author to find out how she made the leap into e-publishing and what sets Valkyrie apart from her other books.

"I've taken the kid gloves off! she exclaims of her non-formulaic military romance and the new-found freedom of writing for electronic publishers. Named after the warrior maidens who served the Norse god Odin in mythologyrisking their own lives to bring slain heroes back to fabled Valhalla, Valkyrie is a novel that combines gritty real-life with a love story; equal rights for women with romance; current events with fiction. Best of all, it has a happy ending!

I had a risky book, exploring the possibility of women in combat, wrapped up with an intense love story, and I knew brick-and-mortar publishers (the so-called traditional publishers) would shy away due to its controversial nature. But I wasnt going to let this go, she explains of her electronic premiere. My love and respect of the military and its people has always been close to my heart and Valkyrie mirrors that respect.

Hard Shell became Lindsay's electronic home only after long hours of careful research. "I literally went through every e-publisher: going to their website, reading up on them and catching the flavor of their publishing venue and capabilities," Lindsay recalls. She contacted her top five e-book sites with straightforward questions about sales, royalties, contracts; their editorial staff; production routine and publishing formats. Lindsay revisited these websites each week to learn how often they publish and keep their sites up-to-date. She also searched out as many reviews of e-books that she could find. Hard Shell was getting top reviews and their covers were uniformly impressive, so she contacted Mary Wolf, who enthusiastically responded to Valkyrie and agreed to offer the book in print as well as the electronic formats. Being able to write for an e-book/paperback publisher enabled me to create to my full depth and breadth as a writer, and it was exhilarating!

Working with Mary also allowed Lindsay to become more involved in the publishing process than ever before, from brainstorming cover concepts to working with qualified editors. "My knowledge and experience was appreciated, supported and we worked together like a good team."

Another reason that Lindsay opted to take Valkyrie straight into e-publishing was that her subject of women in combat was too pertinent and timely to risk letting the manuscript sit on an editors desk, awaiting long discussions on the controversy following a cumbersome year-long journey through the traditional publishing process. Lindsay reveals that already, the Navy is finally going to allow women on board submarines. And most fascinating of all, as of July 2000, the British Army has started a one-year trial of putting women into their Army to see if they can handle ground combat. And, of course, the Pentagon is watching this one year trial with unprecedented interest because if it works (and it will), I'm sure they're going to allow women into all career slots, including combat ones as well. "Having been in the military," Lindsay adds, "there is no question in my mind that women can perform any job a man can. Only 15 percent of
the slots in the military are still closed to women; ground combat among them."

Valkyrie opens in the year 2003 as Congress has just allowed an unprecedented one-year trial for The Women's Liberation Forces (WLF), a company of women trained for ground combat and run entirely by women. A conflict along the Thai-Laotian border sends these female soldiers into their first battle alongside the U.S. Marine Corps regiment.

"This [book] is not a tame story or about tame people," Lindsay explains. "It's about real people who make good and bad decisions and pay heavily for them."

Her story follows the experiences of Corporal Cathy Fremont, as she tries to survive the year-long experiment and gets caught between the blind ambition of the WLF commander, Major Louise Lane, and the immovable political and military forces that work to see the WLF fail.

Throughout it all, Cat finds one true ally and despite her honor of the regiment, breaks the military rule and falls in love with an officer, Recon Captain Jim Boland. With these wheels in motion, her characters play out the potential disasters that could arise by creating a WLF without unified support of all government members. Valkyriealso proves that even in love, men and women can fight side-by-side together.

Valkyrie is a story about love, honor, morals and values set against a seething political backdrop. But, she adds, one that Im sure could actually happen

To purchase Valkyrie in paperback, download, or disc format go to www.hardshell.com, amazon.com or bn.com. Readers who are not online can order the paperback through their local bookstore or call Hard Shell directly, 715-824-5542. For more on Valkyrie and to download a bookmark, visit Lindsays website, www.lindsaymckenna .com. To read a longer excerpt go to www.hardshell.com/Valkyrie.asp.

Excerpt from Valkyrie

For the last six months, Ive been shoving more and more of my emotions away so that I could function. So I could survive, Cat began, her voice barely audible. I always knew I was sensitive and I learned a long time ago not to show it. Nobody wanted a kid who cried at the drop of a hat. Ive had to learn how to shelve my emotions. When I joined the WLF, I had no idea what it would do to me.

She lifted her chin, trying to wipe away the tears from her cheeks. Im not a killer, and yet Ive killed. I can hardly sleep some nights because of it. I dont believe in Lanes philosophy of women being better combat soldiers. I tried to rationalize my being there by transferring my care to my squad. And then she took that away from me. Lane has tried to strip me of everything Ive ever believed in. Its as if every one of my values and principles is being put on the line and challenged to see if Ill stick to them or throw them away. And then, I met you

Cat sniffed and tried to smile, but the attempt to came out broken and haunted looking. You were kind to me. You treated me like a human being. I started feeling as if I could survive all this, Jim. You gave me the reason to hang on. Reaching out, she placed her fingers against his sandpapery jaw. Her fingers slipped from his jaw and she clenched them in her lap. I felt gutted. Destroyed.

Jim sat there for several minutes, digesting her words. Eventually, he picked up Cats tightly knotted hands and slowly worked them apart and holding them gently within his own. Thats why you didnt want me near. Youve done everything by yourself in your life. Jim felt his chest expand with their shared grief and thought he would suffocate as he saw her face soften.

Tucking her trembling lower lip between her teeth, Cat bowed her head and nodded. Ive been alone all my life, Jim.

He was the most honest man she had ever met. He didnt play games and that rattled her. Their entire relationship was based upon raw, black and white reality. They had met under brutal circumstances. They were holding reality at bay because they had one another. There was something about the strength in his face, the set of his jaw and his burning, gray eyes that seared her soul when he gazed down at her. She had no idea of where they were going with one another, understanding as never before that life was to be lived in the present. Not in the past. There was no future, because in three days she might get blown away. Or Jim might. She resolved to share as much as she could with Jim, feeling that commitment flow through her. Before, Cat had practiced life in a future mode. Not any more. That was a luxury she could no longer afford.


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