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Cobalt Blue: A Novel

A novel for courageous readers and seekers, COBALT BLUE is a turbulent, gorgeous ride into sacred sex..

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“Her writer’s eye sees to the center of things — to the spiritual center of our beings….”

Clyde Edgerton
Author of The Night Train, Raney, and others


Cobalt Blue

Winner of a 2014 IPPY for Visionary Fiction

Prepare to be shocked. Prepare to be moved. A novel for courageous readers and seekers, Cobalt Blue is a turbulent, erotic ride into compulsion, obsession, unmentionable attractions, and ultimate empowering redemption.

Burned out from work and a break-up, Andie, a 38-year-old commercial artist in a small Southern town, hungers for whatever will force her out of her familiar limits and has a sudden, shocking religious encounter, kundalini rising, the physical experience of tantric enlightenment.

When this mysterious, seductive yet terrifying brush with the divine catapults Andie into compulsive sexual behavior she must search out what has seized her to try and stop these new and disturbing cravings.

Andie’s struggle to regain control of her mind and body is complicated by a too-close connection with her glamorous parents, especially her magnetically attractive father, and by working closely with a bigoted U.S. senator, the man who for her personifies evil.

Her story takes her from the elegant golf town of Pinehurst, North Carolina, to the raucous and shadowy byways of pre-Katrina New Orleans, with pauses in India, Ecuador, and other exotic locations.

“Beautifully intense.”

Kelley Harrell, Huffington Post

“A novel of ideas… a pilgrimage… a scorcher.”

Ben Steelman, Star News

“Cobalt Blue is entrancing and unsettling, a novel that gets at the marrow of sexual and spiritual experience. Peggy Payne is one of our most gifted writers ”

Angela Davis-Gardner

Author of Butterfly’s Child, Plum Wine

“An engrossing story of the spiritual awakening of a painter who becomes so obsessed with sex that she nearly loses her sanity. Payne strips away the barriers to female passion ”

Barbara Hand Clow

Author of The Liquid Light of Sex

“Zesty … entertaining and rich in detail ”

Oscar Hijuelos

Pulitzer Fiction winner, author of Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

“Gorgeously lyrical, Cobalt Blue ventures into dark psychological territory before the light finally rises. This bold story deals with frightening hypersexuality, unwanted religious experience, and hard-won transcendence. With its Jungian underpinnings … this beautifully written novel will appeal to anyone fascinated by boundaries, taboos, obsession, and mystery ”

Anna Jean Mayhew

Author of The Dry Grass of August


A New York Times Editors’ Choice

In the North Carolina college town of Chapel Hill, a cool-headed, intellectual minister is grilling shish kebabs in his backyard when he hears God speak to him out loud. But neither he nor most of his congregation believe in a God who’s reach out to them directly. The incident triggers a series of profound crises, threatening to destabilize his marriage, his relationship with the church, his conscience and his very soul.

As wild temptation takes hold, this attractive but socially awkward, happily married young minister must wrestle with his impulse to escape the very thing he has been seeking.

“…Real emotional power… most readers will find themselves both satisfied and disturbed.”

The Atlanta Journal/Constitution

“…She tells an incredible story incredibly well.”

The Baltimore Sun

“Perceptively written, often poignant….”

Publishers Weekly

“She treats an age-old subject… with a freshness that makes it real and relevant to everyday life.”

The Seattle Times/Post Intelligencer

“Ms. Payne is quite good at conveying those rare moments when one is astoundingly aware that one is alive.”

The News and Observer, Raleigh

“Peggy Payne’s first novel is very good… She delivers the goods emotionally.”

The New York Times

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Sister India

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

On the rooftop patio of a small guesthouse in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi sits an American woman who weighs more than 400 pounds. Both in her fat and in her cloistered life, Natraja, born Estelle, is in hiding from the life she tried to escape in North Carolina.

When a series of Hindu-Muslim murders leads to a citywide curfew, Natraja’s guests unwittingly become her captives. So begins a period of days blending into nights as Natraja and her Indian cook become entangled in a web of religious violence, and their guests fall under the spell of this ancient kingdom–at once enthralled and repelled by the begging children, the public funeral pyres, the holy men bathing in the Ganges at dawn.

Sister India is a traveler’s tale about the strange chemistry that develops from unexpected intimacies on foreign ground and a story in which the mysterious processes of psychological healing are made visible. It is also a love story of an unconventional sort, a tale critics have called unsettling, mesmerizing, delicious, and enthralling.

Vedic astrology, healing massage on the riverbanks, an American-born innkeeper, and a hidden romantic passion form a tale that “is not comfortable,” says Atlantic Monthly senior editor C. Michael Curtis, “but neither is it easily resisted.”

Sister India is a traveler’s “mesmerizing, hypnotic story,” says the creator of PBS’s Body & Soul Series, “of discovery and redemption.”

“From the novel’s very first sentence, her ravaged voice grips the reader.”

The New York Times

“A poetic mosaic of sights, smells, sounds, and tastes”


“Benares Silk: West-meets-East defies the oriental stereotypes in an American’s

novel set in India’s holiest city.”

India Today International

“Worlds collide”

Olivia Goldsmith,
The Mail on Sunday,
You Magazine

“So very relevant to our times”

Benazir Bhutto
Former Prime Minister of Pakistan

“…Pits the ineffable demand of the spiritual against the pragmatic concerns of the worldly.”

New Age Journal

“Payne writes with a sure, graceful hand, moving her characters from fearful isolation to connection, from awakening to redemption.”

The Charlotte Observer

“Sister India is a book of wisdom, even, one wants to say, of enlightenment.”

The Independent Weekly


Doncaster: A Legacy of Personal Style

This book is the story of a women’s clothing company built on helping every person develop their individual style and meet their personal goals. That means every employee as well as every customer. The author found, as she began work on this project sponsored by the clothing company, that what might have been a routine copy-writing job instead became an important piece of her life’s work. As an outsider to the company, Peggy realized early in the process of the research that this organization was serious and enthusiastic about encouraging the development of individual potential. This was a philosophy close to her own heart. So writing this company’s history helped her to get out a piece of her own message. Thus, she became an example of the company’s hiring philosophy: to find people who could meet the company’s needs through fulfilling their own individual dreams. While a bit out-of-date on the details of the firm, this is still a valuable picture of how a business can bring out the best in people.


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At Sea With My Writing

A Novelist Cruises to Book Deals

A 20-page mini-book

Twice Peggy Payne has set sail across the Atlantic hoping to take a break from obsessive worrying over a novel-in-progress. Twice she has come home with unexpected, valuable, near-magical answers to writing and publishing problems and, in fairly short order, a fresh book contract.

The first voyage, on the Queen Elizabeth 2, led ultimately to publication of Sister India, a story set in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi beside the Ganges. (Water always seems to provide some writing magic.) Appropriately, the publisher that brought the novel out was Riverhead, an imprint of The Penguin Group.

Obviously, this writer should have boarded ship immediately when she started having trouble with her next novel, Cobalt Blue. Exhausted and frustrated, she ultimately went back to sea on the Queen Mary 2.

Cobalt Blue emerged in the spring of 2013, nine months after that voyage. It was chosen as the May book of the month for a Playboy Radio Network program and has hit the top 100 Kindle books on spirituality. All of Payne’s fiction focuses on the intersection of sex and spirituality.

At Sea with My Writing is two articles, one for each voyage, on what Peggy learned (and ate), offering, too, glimmers of the profound pleasures of writing and a few days at sea.


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The Healing Power of Doing Good

(Co-authored with Allan Luks)

Conventional wisdom has always held that when we help others, some of the good we do flows back to us. That satisfaction has always been thought to be largely emotional: feeling good when you do good. Now important widely- discussed research shows that helping others regularly produces significant health benefits as well. In fact, it has effects similar to those many of us experience when we exercise.

Both for those who are already giving back and for those who are considering it, this valuable personal guide tells you how to choose an activity that’s right for you, how to maximize the health benefits, and how to overcome the main obstacle to getting started: lack of time. The Healing Power of Doing Good reaffirms and explains that when we care for others we care for ourselves. It is an important read for those suffering from chronic health problems as well as the health conscious, anyone interested in how our mind affects our body, and people in the helping professions. And it reminds us that never has there been a greater need for caring than there is today.

It is almost impossible to read this book without wanting to do good. Both for those who are already volunteering and for those who are considering it, this valuable personal guide tells you how to choose an activity that’s right for you, how to maximize the health benefits and how to overcome the main obstacle to getting started: lack of time.

The Healing Power of Doing Good reaffirms and explains that when we care for others we care for ourselves.

Co-author Alan Luks teaches at Fordham University. A leader in the social and health service fields, he is also author of Will America Sober Up? and You Are What You Drink, as well as editor of Having Been There.

“Read it! Follow its teachings and heal your life and the life of others.”

Bernie Siegel, MD,
Author of Love, Medicine, and Miracles

“In The Healing Power of Doing Good (Ballantine), authors Allan Luks and Peggy Payne report: … It is the process of helping others that is the healing factor, regardless of the kind of help offered or its outcome.”


“The findings of your survey support what many who volunteer already know: By serving others we are able to lead happier, healthier, and more productive lives.”

President George H.W. Bush

“Can holding abandoned babies really cure a backache? It seems to. Such caring might reduce the growing violence of our society….”

Library Journal

“If heeded, this is a book that could change the fabric of society and the health of nations.”

Mental Medicine Update