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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Seductive Musings

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me — sort of, Part I

I was born in the middle of a day that doesn't exist all that often — February 29. While family members are quick to argue that this explains my, er, quirky personality, I like to think it means I'll always be youthful. After all, I have four times fewer birthdays that the average person my age.

Yes, today — or maybe tommorrow — I turned 10.75 years old. I'm the youngest mom, the youngest newspaper editor and the youngest romance novelist you've ever met. Hell, I'm even younger than my own children. Weird, but true!

People think it must be fun to have a weird birthday, and it is. But it wasn't so fun when I was little. Imagine being four or five and being told, "You don't really have a birthday. I guess you don't get any presents." That's a dire pronouncement to the ears of a child. No birthday? No presents? No cake? It's enough to make a tot sit down and cry. And I did.

The cruelest cut came from my hag of a Sunday school teacher, who had a plastic cake she used to celebrate each months' birthdays. When February came, she brought the cake out, sang happy birthday and left me out. Then March came and she forgot. When I whined about it (I think I was five), she said, "Well you don't really have a birthday do you?" Beeotch!

When I was little we celebrated my birthday on February 28 with the usual stuff — cake, ice cream, presents. When I got older, I began celebrating on the nearest Saturday night and reserving the entire week for my own amusement. If I didn't have a single day that was my birthday, then, dammit, the whole bloody week was my birthday.

These days, at the ripe age of 10.5/10.75, I'm not so sure I care whether it's my birthday or not. I just want to continue having them because the alternative — death — is unappealing at the moment.

But next year I have a real birthday. The whole world will live through another Feburary 29, and I plan on doing what I do whenever there truly is a Leap Day — celebrating my butt off.

This just in from one of my dearest friends, journalist Terje Langeland:

"Oh, and happy non-birthday!!!!!!!!!!
(No cake for you.)"
Terje

Hey, Terje, bite me!

In other news: Got slammed with another blizzard this morning. Had a few very close calls during my commute. It's been snowing all day so the drive home will be even more fun. YAY!
Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Blogito Ergo Sum

That's Latin for "I blog, therefore I am."

I haven't been keeping up very well, have I?

I blame Libby. I went to her place after work last Friday (the first day of my failure to blog), and had a terrific time. She's gorgeous, sweet, funny, naughty and a very good cook. She made a couple of really delicious dishes for us — asparagus and portobello mushrooms in one and a scrumptious pasta dish that had perfectly cooked pasta with tomatoes, seared spinach and some kind of very light but delicous sauce. (This is starting to sound like Leiha's blog, isn't it?)

We drank lemoncello — the first time I'd tasted that — and I got a bit tipsy. Which led to four hours of conversation, followed by a scrumptious viewing of Carolina Moon. The hero, Cade Lavelle, was played by an actor who ought to be part of every woman's FDA recommended daily allowance of vitamin hunk.

The cool thing is that Libby lives 20 minutes up the highway, so we can do a repeat on that night anytime.

Saturday and Sunday I spent frantically writing, trying to finish up the primary sex scene in Unlawful Contact. Now that it's done, I'm not sure what I think of it. I may rewrite substantial portions of the chapter toward the end in order to thread in a little plot point. I won't get time to look at it today, unfortunately.

I stayed up writing until 2 a.m. Monday morning hoping to get the chapter to Aimee, then couldn't sleep, then had to get up to go to work at the paper at 5 a.m., so yesterday was a haze. I came home and crashed. Today I'm doing much better.

But to make up for my failure to blog, I offer this website as recompense: www.cleaninghunk.com.

I chose Brian in the kitchen in the contruction worker outfit — which he, of course, removed. YUM!

And just so you'll know, I now have an enormous iTunes bill from downloading all of the songs y'all recommended. Some of them are fantastic. "Freak Me" by Silk is a winner. Very sexy! I can't remember who suggested that one.
Thursday, February 22, 2007

Anticipating Evil (Libby, that is)

So tomorrow at this time — or thereabouts — I'll be north of here at the home of Evil Libby from the RBL Romantica board. Libby has recorded CAROLINA MOON with her Tivo so that she and I can watch it. There will be alcohol, and perhaps a police escort home, if I'm not careful. Ahem.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to this. It's made me think about the ReBeLs I've met, those I've talked with on the phone and how many wonderful friends I've made through the RBL Romantica message board over the years. It's such a fun place to hang out, and I feel so privileged to be included in the group. There are, after all, places on the 'Net that are less than welcoming to authors, and there are places that are for readers only. But RBL Romantica is the perfect place to mingle and just be yourself.

I've met in person: Vickie, the original Headmistress of RBL; Linda, our Den Mom; Lina, the Sexy Pretzel and contest coordinator extraordinaire; Su, my sexy dance partner; Leiha, my other sexy dance partner; Linda T, the elusive Rebel, now know as Sparklz on the BTS blog; and Mich the Sexy Wonder Mom.

I've talked on the phone with Aimee, who can personally take credit for keeping me awake and sane while I was writing Hard Evidence,; wonderful Rae, who isn't on the board as much as I wish she were; Boadicea, who is tons of fun and lives nearby -- relatively speaking; Little Red Devil Ann Owen, who had lots of good advice on my recent work situation; our darling Beaty; and probably a few others, too... (I think Judy and I talked once when she was at Vic's house...)

I've chatted via IM with Nes the sex goddess and sweet and darling Rosie (no, Ro, I didn't forget what I was going to send you).

I've traded emails with so many other ReBeLs, each of them reaching out at times to offer feedback or support or friendship: Robin, Jaycee, Karen, Missy, Heather, Tammy, Debbie H, Cindy O., Bobbi, Sarah, Amy, Rhiannon, Patty S., Kelly C., Tammy2, Sara, Kristi, Beth, Sandra, MiladyM, Ronlyn and others...

RBL rocks. What can I say? I've loved every minute of it. :-)

So now I'm about to meet Libby and find out exactly how evil she is. I hear she's a Badass Warrior Princess in her spare time. Good thing her DH is a cop. He can keep her BWP butt out of jail. Hopefully one of us will be capable of taking pictures, even wearing handcuffs.

OK, back to writing. Thanks for sharing your playlists — there are literally dozens and dozens of songs for me to listen to. Thanks, too, for weighing in on fun places to have sex. I love it! And, hey, I need all the inspiration I can get.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Trouble with wireless/More thoughts on sex in books

So, we got wireless in our town. The entire town is a hot spot. I'm just having a bit of trouble figuring out how to make it work with blogger, which is why I haven't posted recently. But I've gotten this far, so that's exciting! It's going to be great to have faster access to the 'Net and to VoIP programs like Skype. I do some serious Skyping to Europe, and the lag time on dial-up is hideous!

I've moved on to the next chapter in UNLAWFUL CONTACT — Chapter 18, to be specific — and will be writing lots more sex. Yes, it's that part of the story where they finally get to steep themselves in passion for a while. I'm enjoying the writing, which is nice.

Until recently I would have said that there really can't be too much sex in a romance novel. And then I read a book that had too much sex. Every scene felt like a construct to generate another sex scene, like a porn movie where every little thing becomes the prelude to more sex. While the sex was reasonably well written, after a while, it became... dull. I didn't care if he was giving it to her again or not.

I'm thinking ahead for this story, thinking of some fun scenarios I haven't written. Extreme Exposure had snow sex and jiggle stick sex. Hard Evidence had shower sex. So what's been in my head for this book is hot tub sex and mirror sex (and maybe some pearl vibrator sex).

What are your favorite sexual fantasies in romances? Oral sex? Threesomes? Bondage? Rough sex?

Come on, spill!

For me, bondage can only be of the vanilla variety — no hardcore BDSM. And I'm not interested in writing or reading anal sex. But rough sex and oral sex and showers and vibrators. Yum. Mild bondage. Mirrors. Maybe even a home gym scene. (Haven't you ever thought those weight benches resemble stirrups or am I by my pervvy self on this score?)

Love to hear your thoughts. Get dirty with me!
Monday, February 19, 2007

Favorite sex scenes

I spent this weekend — and entire three-day weekend — working on a 1,000-word sex scene for UNLAWFUL CONTACT. Now, if you've ever been to Gennita Low's blog (link provided to the right and down) there's an image — she calls it a profile of herself — that aptly demonstrates how I felt all weekend long.

It was like bashing my brains out on my keyboard. If I were only slightly less sane than I am — I'm not saying I'm sane or anything — I might indeed have resorted to smashing my head on a wall. It likely would have produced similar results on the page.

Kurt Vonnegut once said that he feels like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth when he writes. And I can relate to that, too. There's a feeling of KNOWING what you want on the page and yet being limited by your own klutzy use of language. You feel the beauty of a particular story moment, and yet the words you find to describe the scene completely lack the ability to convey that beauty. And when you did deeper, try to reconstruct it, try to get at the heart of the emotion in the scene and how it feels for your character to be in that moment, you find yourself without words altogether.

I truly hate that.

I'm not sure how to get beyond it except to keep pushing. Even now writing about this, I feel the same extreme sense of "I've got to break something" agitation that dominated my weekend. (Breathe! Breathe!)

The writer's life is made up of moments such as this. In the end we hope to achieve something transcendent, something meaninful, something real and powerful. In romantic fiction this is just as true as it is in literary fiction. (Feel free to eat my ass if you disagree.) But along the way there are so many moments where we feel we have failed as writers. Put those failed moments together and you have what's called a "book." :-)

I'm about to reread the crap I wrote this weekend and see if I can move forward or if it's time to take out my much-used machete.

But before I go, I wanted to ask what makes a sex scene in a romance novel perfect for you. Is it a set of physical actions (he went down on her and then they had intercourse); an emotional sense of union; the two combined; sexy language and imagery? What is it? And which authors write sex the best.

I'll put Tara Janzen out there as a new-to-me author who write sex well.

Thoughts?
Tuesday, February 13, 2007

2 Tired 2 Blog

Long, long day, but a good one. Things seemed to change by the hour at work today, and all for the better. I'll wait to see where they end up before I say more. I feel very good about all of it — what a relief after the stress of the past several months! Regardless of which way things go with my job, I feel very good about all of it. Sometimes when you take a stand it makes a difference -- that's what my message has been as a journalist and now it seems to be true in my own life.

It's snowing again and very cold. I came home to a house that was FREEEEEEZING and still don't feel warm. We've had six feet of snow since Dec. 22 right here in my yard, so I'm kind of done with winter. Yes, this is Colorado, but as Evil Libby can attest, usually our winters are pretty balmy, unless you're in the high country, i.e., mountains.

Tonight, Benjy is spending the night at a friend's house where tomorrow they will treat their girlfriends to a three-course meal which they will have cooked themselves, roses, mini-lights and a guitar concert, during which these three boys will take turns as lead singer to sing "their" songs to their girlfriends. Much preparation has gone into it.

Liz, my son's girlfriend, has her own special plans.

Much romantic scheming going on.

If I knew how to post photos, I'd post one of the two of them. Too bad! There's one where he's giving her flowers and you can see on his face how utterly besotted and in love he is.

Off to bed for me before I fall over.

(((HUGS)))
Thursday, February 08, 2007

The right time for S-E-X

Today I stayed home from work to rest and try to get well. I seem to feel a bit better every day. Not being at work helps, just in terms of stress relief. But I probably should have slept more.

In the meantime, my writer insecurity has welled up about my WIP. I always feel like whatever I'm working on SUCKS and that it sucks more than anything I've ever written. Felt that way with every single book I've ever written except Ride the Fire, which was more my story than any book I've written and so was deeply personal. (I had other issues writing it.)

Here's the core of my concern:

It's the age-old dilemma for romance novelists: When should the hero and heroine finally get past the obstacles that separate them and get it on? A lot of readers seem to want it to happen as soon as possible in the story. They want sex from a close to the front cover to the very end of the book, if possible. And authors, eager to oblige and romance reader ourselves, often search for ways to make the Big Bang happen early in the story.

But I find myself once again — is it like this in all of my books? — FAR into the story and Marc and Sophie haven't done the wild thing. (OK, so they did it in the prologue, but that was when they were teenagers, some 12 years ago.) I think the only book in which my hero and heroine got it on fairly quickly was Extreme Exposure with Reece and Kara. And the sex fiend in me liked that. Tess and Julian, on the other hand, didn't do it until after page 200 for what I thought were good reasons. With the historicals, my character have tended to have sex about 2/3 of the way through the story. In Ride the Fire, it was probably later than that, but they did everything BUT have sex by that point.

I'm on P. 250 (?) of Unlawful Contact and I'm only now about to lead up to the Big Sex Scene. And here's why: The rule I have for my stories is that the hero and heroine have to reach a point of caring and mutual trust and respect before they have sex. The issues between them don't have to be resolved and they don't know they're in love, but they have to at least trust the other person and realize that they care about them.

Sophie and Marc obivously have some serious blocks to that. Marc holds Sophie at gunpoint and uses her as a human shield to break out of prison — not very heroic and not very nice, from her point of view. (She later learns why.) At first, she believes he's a dangerous criminal, no matter how she might have felt about him in high school. For her to be overwhelmed by lust and ignore what he's done isn't really credible.

OK, so here's the question: What has to happen for for the sex to "feel right"? Is it possible for an author to hook her characters up too soon?

I personally find it frustrating if there's not a fair amount of good sex in a book. But I can't put Marc and Sophie together before Sophie truly wants to be with him beyond just the physical impulse. Does that make sense?

What do you all think about the timing of sex in romance novels?
Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Weird things people send us

I'm feeling a bit better today — loads less pain, but still very tired and sluggish. I went to work, put the paper to bed and left a bit early. I need to rest one of these days! I hate it that so many of us work jobs that don't allow for us to be biological organisms that sometimes need to rest and heal. I think I'm going to call in sick tomorrow just to sleep. (Imagine that!)

Today I got a large box of designer makeup products in the mail. Retailers and wholesalers send all sorts of things to newspaper editors. Trojan sent me an enormous box of condoms once. It sat on my desk for days, and I wasn't really paying attention to it until someone came in for an interview and I saw them staring at it. I wanted to say, "You know, you never can be too careful. I keep a box in my car, too." But that wouldn't have been too professional. So I told them the truth: unsolicited sample.

Then there was the time a company sent us a box of vibrators. Some were shaped like rubber duckies. One was a penguin. Another was shaped like a google-eyed gold fish. This was out of the blue, mind you. So I and another female member of the staff divided them up amongst the chicks in the office. I took the penguin. Gives new meaning to "March of the Penguins," eh?

Over the years I've gotten (unsolicited): lacy panties, jog bras, T-shirts galore, boxes and bags of candy, chocolate, tea, coffee, and food (including a frozen turkey); vitamins; energy drinks; granola bars; books of all kinds; DVDs; CDs; gift certificates for free massages and other forms of body work. And, of course, I haven't paid to attend a play or concert in probably 15 years. What are press cards for, anyway?

Oh, the schwag! Oh, the perks!

So today it was makeup: Vera Wang perfume, Mariska Hargitay lipstick; some kind of lip plumping kit; lotions, hand cremes, body butter; sparkly rose powder that I suspect you put on your cheeks; something I don't know what it is; some kind of gel that has antioxidants and is supposed to make you blush, & etc. Too bad Lina isn't here to play! She made me look like a sex kitten at RWA last summer. She'd know what to do with this stuff.

I hope to get time to get back to Marc and Sophie tomorrow.

Hugs to all...
Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Happy Waitangi Day!

Today is Waitangi Day. I hope everyone celebrated appropriately. I really have no idea what Waitangi Day is about, but it became a newsroom custom to celebrate it back in the late 1990s when I was working at Colorado Daily. Terje Langeland, probably the best reporter I've ever had the honor to work with, started it all by wishing us all a Happy Waitangi Day one year. None of us knew WTF he was talking about, but there it was on our calendar: Waitangi Day.

As the years passed, we celebrated it with cards and other goofy activities, such that it became an excuse to act silly at work. Except that Terje (who's 6-foot-7 and Norwegian) is now far away in Japan, and I'm not longer with that particular group of reporters. Our little newroom culture has faded into the past. Terje and I still send each other "Happy Waitangi Day" emails, but it's not the same.

I spent today feeling awful and working on my cover story about Molly Ivins. I consider it nothing short of a major feat that I finished it. I got maybe three hours of sleep last night. My face was throbbing from this damned sinus infection, and the pain was truly on the brink of intolerable. (Thanks to Aimee for staying up with me while I held frozen broccoli on my face. Mwah!) I took a bag of frozen peas to work and held it on my face while I tryped.

No fiction today, though I have pondered this next scene in the book. It's a sex scene. Marc and Sophie finally, FINALLY, getting together. The set-up hasn't quite come to me, probably because my brain is infected, too. LOL! Maybe when I get some sleep and these antibiotics kick in I'll feel better.

I just voted in the HUGHEYS, and in the process of choosing my Best of for 2006 realized I'd only read a handful of books last year. D'oh! That's not good. I need to make more time for reading this year.

My son, Ben, made a wonderful chicken soup for dinner to try and pamper his sick mom, and now I'm headed to bed...

G'night.
Monday, February 05, 2007

Goodbye, Molly

Today was a journalism day — no fiction writing at all. (I miss Marc and Sophie!) I didn't sleep all night because I have a bloody sinus infection. Even Starbuck's couldn't energize me.

I spent the day interviewing local and national celebs to create a tribute piece for late, great columnist Molly Ivins, who died of breast cancer last week. I met Molly twice — once as a cub reporter when I interviewed her and once several years later when I was an award-winning columnist and newspaper editor and was attending a conference where she was the keynote speaker. Both times I was touched by her immense intelligence and her kindness.

The first time I was so intimidated by her. She was already a syndicated super-star at that point, and I felt like a a complete newbie — tongue-tied and stupid. She talked about issues and people I didn't know, making jokes I didn't always understand. I did my best to take notes — those were the days of taking notes by hand — and to make sense of what were obviously pearls of wisdom from a master.

The second time, I was attending a conference for newspaper editors and publishers. The group was made up almost entirely of men and their trophy wives. Journalism is largely a men's game, particularly at the top, and I found myself relegated to talking with wives who had little more than their next Botox on their minds. But Molly was there as keynote speaker. She handled the almost exclusively male audience with ease. I ran into her outside after her speech and enjoyed the only real conversation I had during the entire conference. She had almost no hair, having just finished her first round of chemo, but she was remarkably upbeat. Sadly, I can't remember our conversation, only her encouragement to "keep fightin' the good fight."

It broke my heart when I heard she'd died. She had a way with humor that few can even hope to immitate. I always felt humbled when I read her columns, always wondered why I hadn't thought of that. So this week, I'm putting together a tribute to this woman who has touched truly millions of lives with her wit and wisdom.

Goodbye, Molly, I'll miss you.

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Favorite Writing Quotes


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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