Book Releases

Holding On (Colorado High Country #6) —
The Colorado High Country series returns with Conrad and Kenzie's story.

A hero barely holding on…

Harrison Conrad returned to Scarlet Springs from Nepal, the sole survivor of a freak accident on Mt. Everest. Shattered and grieving for his friends, he vows never to climb again and retreats into a bottle of whiskey—until Kenzie Morgan shows up at his door with a tiny puppy asking for his help. He’s the last person in the world she should ask to foster this little furball. He’s barely capable of managing his own life right now, let alone caring for a helpless, adorable, fluffy puppy. But Conrad has always had a thing for Kenzie with her bright smile and sweet curves. One look into her pleading blue eyes, and he can’t say no.

The woman who won’t let him fall…

Kenzie Morgan’s life went to the dogs years ago. A successful search dog trainer and kennel owner, she gets her fill of adventure volunteering for the Rocky Mountain Search & Rescue Team. The only thing missing from her busy life is love. It’s not easy finding Mr. Right in a small mountain town, especially when she’s unwilling to date climbers. She long ago swore never again to fall for a guy who might one day leave her for a rock. When Conrad returns from a climbing trip haunted by the catastrophe that killed his best friend, Kenzie can see he’s hurting and wants to help. She just might have the perfect way to bring him back to the world of the living. But friendship quickly turns into something more—and now she’s risking her heart to heal his.

In ebook and soon in print!

About Me

My photo
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.


Seductive Musings

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Post-paper exhaustion

Okay, this is just yummy. I love naked men in water. I wish he'd move his hands, though...

Sorry to have dropped off the face of the earth!

First, let me say this:

IT'S OVER!!!! Do you hear angels singing? I do!

The biggest paper of the year, the biggest pain in the ARSE of the entire publishing year, is done and on the stands. Is it any good? I don't know. I haven't been able to touch it since putting it to bed last night.

This was one of the roughest editions I've ever done, and part of it was my fault. I utilized an intern to do important work for the edition, coached her, checked in with her, but didn't supervise her closely enough. The result was disaster. I had to rewrite 2/3 of the edition myself at the last minute. We're talking so much typing that I could barely feel my hands — that is until I went to bed and my arms ached from the elbow down. OMG! It was a nightmare. Add to that the fact that my most experienced staffer was gone and everyone except for me was either new or new at their current positions and you have barely controlled chaos.

My peeps — the editorial staff — dived into it with me and helped me save the paper from going up in flames. There was no screaming. The edit team is pretty cool under pressure. Lots of suicide jokes, though. Today, I feel hung-over. Didn't drink, but I feel achy, fuzzy-headed and slow.

We're looking at some kind of gun story for next week's cover, looking seriously at the issue of whether more guns equals more violence or less violence on campuses. Or maybe something completely different. One of my mentors is leaving the media scene, and I interviewed her for a cover story the week after.

That's the J-news (j = journalism). Now for the N-news (n = novel).

Sweet Release, Carnal Gift, Ride the Fire, and Surrender are all out of print. They're completely out of stock at the publisher, and all that remains are copies on the shelves. They're looking at repackaging and rereleasing the entire Kenleigh/Blakewell family trilogy later this year. I'm hoping they're going to repackage Surrender eventually, too, because the cover sucks. For now, they're going to reprint it as it is, so that I'll have copies to sign in Dallas at the Romance Writers of America convention, where I'll be hanging with Debbie H and Leiha and Su and Gennita Low and CJ Barry and Ann Christopher (wonderful woman and author) and hopefully my homey Bonnie Vanak.

Unlawful Contact is two chapters and an epilogue away from being done. I'm at the hair-raising part of the climax now — hmm, not sure how hair-raising it is, really — and will be moving on to the really good stuff soon. I love happy endings! Then, as soon as it's done being written, I go through a rewriting/editing frenzy that lasts a couple of very hairy weeks of mostly no sleep (my favorite part, actually) and then I ship it to NY.

Also, Dorchester, the company that publishes my historicals, is doing an online reader survey. This is your chance to tell them about the books and authors you love. They're giving away prizes, I think, or maybe it's a steep discount on book orders. At any rate, to have your say go to: Hey, they're asking, so tell 'em what you think.

And, Gaby, if you're reading this, tusind tak! Jeg fik chokoladen i dag! I've already eaten most of the Anton Berg chokoladeæg. Smager godt! Mmmmm. I love this international trade in books for chocolate!

A photo of my irritatingly gorgeous little sister, Michelle, with her boyfriend's son. She was recently traveling and has returned home to Sweden in time to read the final chapters of my novel. Lucky her!

My sister was gone on vaca for a couple of weeks, and I missed her. She's back now. Next time I'm going to post a very unattractive photo of her. They're hard to come by, but she herself supplied one of her on a very bad hair day. I'm delighted!

Missed you all while I was in J-hole. Now I'm back again.
Friday, April 20, 2007

Reality in romance

Yesterday's post got me thinking about the ways in which real life has influenced my fiction and thinking about my tendency to want to bits of real life in romance. A lot of my stories start with a real-world concept or challenge the real world in some way.

I am a history geek. That's why I studied archaeology. I love connecting with people from the past and knowing what their lives are like. That's easiest for me to do when I'm holding something that's from the past—a pot shard, a piece of cloth, a medieval manuscript. I've been lucky in that, during my time at the university, I was able to touch everything from ancient bones to a 13th-century Parisian pocket Bible. I touch it, and I feel like I'm channeling. The past comes flowing through.

Ride the Fire started in a history class when a professor described "The First American Revolution," i.e., the Paxton Boys Rebellion. In 1763, tired of being used as a barrier between the townspeople and the Indians, frontiersmen, most of them Scots-Irish, like Bethie's family, rose up and attacked the cities to the east. In the south, people actually died. In Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin went out, unarmed, and faced down a mob from Paxton bent on attacking Philadelphia to get at and kill a small tribe of Christianized Indians that were under the protection of the Britsh garrison at Philly.

I found this fascinating because I'd never heard of it before. So when I sat down to write my first romance, I thought I'd focus one book on the Paxton Boys' Rebellion. But I wanted to have a trilogy, so I mapped backwards, counting out time for three generations, and that landed me in the 1730s. I very methodically researched that period — for two and a half years — and constructed my first novel. The idea that I liked so much was flipping the power paradigm so that the heroine had power over the hero and not visa versa.

Of course, what you write is very different from what you think you're going to write. I learned over a period of seven painstaking years that my characters, once brought to life, had other plans. And so Cassie ended up with a father who was living in a swamp, and Alec didn't let anyone have power over him, unless she was carrying shackles. ;-)

I wanted to set Carnal Gift in North America, but I was under no small amount of pressure to set something in Scotland. Naturally, I can never do what I'm told, and so Jamie ended up in Ireland. Still the book I'm least fond of, in part because 100 pages was hacked out of it to make it fit the already-printed covers. Shoot me.

And while writing Carnal Gift, Nicholas popped into my head so strongly that I almost couldn't focus on Jamie. He arrived tortured and emotionally wounded, a man who lived not with his parents on a big estate but in the wilds. Strangely, the historical event that inspired the entire trilogy got shoved to the background, as I followed Nicholas and Bethie across the frontier. Fort Pitt became the focus instead, and while the seige of Fort Pitt and the events surrounding Pontiac's Rebellion are rendered with painstaking accuracy, the Paxton Boys' Rebellion isn't. Weird, huh?

Ok, I'm drifting... Reality in romance. In Cassie's story, it was my strong sense of feminism, of women needing to seize their rights however and wherever they could. I was a newly published columnist at that time, one of very few women at the newspaper. I covered women's issues almost exclusively. So Cassie's proto-feminist attitude is very much a reflection of that.

Carnal Gift is the book that was written to fit my publisher's wishes (Europe) and not mine. Still, I think it holds my love for my own Irish heritage and my passion for all things ancient and Celtic.

Ride the Fire is where I feel I finally began to come into my own as a writer. I dug deep into my own past as a child rape victim for that novel, leaving myself emotionally shredded afterwards. There are so many aspects of Bethie and even Nicholas (in his traumatized state) that come from my own experience. When I finished that book, I couldn't even speak about the story without crying. For me it was a real turning point. I crossed a threshold where I was able to use my own emotional experience to power the emotions of the characters.

Not surprisingly, a lot of readers said it wasn't romance. Too violent. Too graphic. Too gory. Too brutal. (You can see this in the reviews on B&N and Amazon.)

Extreme Exposure was a more obvious use of my own life. I really did investigate a cement plant for major pollution crimes. I really did sneak behind the razor wire. I really did say those things to a politician in a bar after having too many margs... The whole book is full of references to my own life. I refused to make Kara one of those sweet, unbelievable contemporary heroines who don't cuss and don't want sex and don't make mistakes. The most important thing I included were the real-life death threats I've received and the break-in, during which I narrowly escaped being raped at knife-point.

Surrender was again inspired by my own historical geekiness, focusing on my fascination with the French and Indian War (Seven Years War to Brits, Canucks and Aussies). I put some of my familiarity with Celtic and Indian cultures in that book, trying to make the setting real. Frontier. Wartime. The response was just as vehement against the book — this isn't romance; it's gore.

Hard Evidence is much more fictional than Extreme Exposure, but there are emotions in that story that again are derived from real life. I lived for a short time in a small redneck town and hated it. I left as quickly as I could (before finishing high school) and tried never to look back. But more importantly, it contains my very worst memory as a journalist — seeing a teenage boy with his head shot off. Head. Shot. Off. But not his face. Just his head.

Things I wish I didn't know:

1. What happens to human brains when they dry on the wall.
2. What a teenage boy looks like with his head shot off.

And now you see why yesterday's post made my mind drift in this direction.

I toned these two things down when I write Hard Evidence. Those of you who've read the book might not immediately think of the scene I'm thinking of when you read this. But it's not the sort of thing you can describe without feeling ill. Or at least I can't because I saw it. I've never described it to another living soul. Writing Hard Evidence was really therapeutic in that sense because I no longer feel like I'm falling or that my stomach is sinking when I get that image in my head.

But what I'm getting at here is that my books tend to be a bit violent at times. And they're filled with a lot of real life, not just my real life, but historical reality, too. I'm a slave to it, and I believe it benefits the stories. But there are lots of readers who prefer a more sanitized look at the world. Not me. I need the grittiness for the romance to really shine. I love the meat that reality puts on the bones of a story. I love the depth real facts lend to fiction.

What do you all think? Should romance be untouched by the gruesome realities of history and the present?
Thursday, April 19, 2007

Once again, we are helpless against the grief of others

This is the photo my paper ran on the day after the massacre at Columbine—April 20, 1999, eight years ago tomorrow.

So what is it about the third week of April? Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City, Hitler's birthday, Columbine Massacre, and now Virginia Tech.

Once again, some lunatic male has gone nuts with a gun and committed mass murder as a prelude to suicide. For me, as a journalist who covered Columbine in 1999, the shootings at Virginia Tech were deja vu. As soon as I heard about it, I knew what the scene would look like—people in shock, police and media everywhere, relatives and friends in tears, candlelight vigils.

When the Columbine shootings occurred, I was at work, sitting at my desk, and the news came across the television behind me. (Trivia tidbit: Newspapers rely heavily on TV news stations, and most papers have a "secret alliance" with a particular paper. Ours didn't, but we did keep a TV on all the time.) Within two minutes we were on it.

I worked three days non-stop more or less. Then on the third day, I just lost it and cried my eyes out. It was the anguish of the parents who'd lost children that broke my heart. I heard stories that didn't necessarily make the news, and I felt what I imagine everyone felt and what so many of us feel any time one of these horrendous catastrophes occurs: I wanted to do something to take away the pain of parents. And, of course, there is nothing you can do. At one point I remember throwing the photos of the two shooters onto a faraway desk because their faces were really getting to me. One of my reporters left journalism shortly after Columbine. She was so traumatized by it, she couldn't do journalism any longer.

So this time we didn't cover the story directly; we're in Colorado, not Virginia. We did run some wire op-eds about it. But what I kept seeing in my mind, even though I watched very little coverage, was the parents' grief. I must admit, too, to some disgust about how the whole incident was handled, though I can see how the police would have assumed the shooting was over. Generally rampages don't involve two-hour recesses.

I'm so sorry. And that's all I know how to say.

Other things that happened this week:

One of my favorite all-time journalists and a very good friend left the paper this week to follow dreams elsewhere. I cried. And cried. And sent myself flowers. We took him out for sashimi (sorry Ronlyn!) and then after work headed over to the local brew pub for a few pints and to relive favorite memories. It was so bittersweet. I was on the email with him by 9 this morning. Live free and write strong, Vince.

I gave up coffee for four days and I had a migraine every day. Having gotten precisely four hours of sleep last night, I said, "To bloody hell with this," and hit Caffe Solé, my fave coffee shop, for a triple vanilla latte. Coffee never tasted so good.

We're smack-dab in the middle of our biggest paper of the year, our annual Best of Boulder edition. Best taco? Best pizza? Best hardward store? Best reason to drink frigging hemlock?!?! I always swear I'll be rich or dead before the next B.O.B. edition. So far I've failed at both. I will be having convulsions and bleeding from the ears by next Thursday. It's going to be 120 pages.

My son's GF began her internship as a photographer at the paper. She knocked on the door during a staff meeting and said, "I just wanted to give you a hug." So I gave her a big hug, then said to the staff, "I always form a close relationship with our photo intern." Which she thought was hilarious and which the new person didn't understand at all, of course -- which is exactly what made it funny.

Sorry, no fiction updates in this post. Not even time to think of Marc and Sophie.

Deneice, welcome. I hope you'll come back again and post with us.
Sunday, April 15, 2007

Marc and Sophie EXCERPT (with special guest appearances)

OK, I promised and excerpt and I'm a woman of my word. But I don't really have time to blog, so this is going to be quick and nasty. I'm just going to post and that's it...

This is from Unlawful Contact. Marc has persuaded Sophie to help him find the men who are after his sister, and just to make sure she's keeping up her end of the bargain, he follows her to lunch one day. Please note the special guest appearances by RBLers who don't know I'm running them on my blog! Oh, the photos I could have used. Mmmhmmm. I'm ROFL just thinking of it...

(This is kind of long. Sorry!)


Marc watched the two of them disappear inside, not liking it one bit when the man opened the door for Sophie and ushered her inside, his hand resting in the small of her back as if he knew her well. Giving them a few minutes to be seated—how well did she know this jerk?—he stood, tucked the paper under his arm, and went inside.

“How many today?” The hostess, a young Asian woman whose nametag read Leiha, drew a menu from the stack, a warm smile on her face, her blouse low-cut enough to reveal a tattoo of a dagger on the swell of her left breast.

“Just one.” Marc looked through the restaurant, saw where Sophie was sitting, and picked his spot. He kept his voice quiet. “I’d like the small table in the back.”

“This way, please.” Leiha smiled at him with bright red lips.

He sat on the far end of the table, facing Mr. Mustache’s back, able to see both Sophie and the restaurant’s front door.
A young Asian woman with long dark hair walked up with a glass of water with lemon and a hot, wet washcloth on a little tray. “My name is Su, and I’ll be your server today.”

Su told him about the specials, her gaze traveling over him as if he were lunch, then left him to decide. He washed his hands, glanced down at the rectangular paper menu, and found himself staring at the page.

Tuna. Salmon. Yellowtail. Snapper. Shrimp.

How long had it been since he’d eaten sushi? Hell, he’d forgotten it existed.

And then he went insane.

Only after he’d finished filling out the menu did he realize he’d ordered enough sushi and sashimi to feed a shark. Painstakingly he scratched out most of what he’d checked. He’d get the sashimi lunch platter now and order of sushi to go. Then he heard Sophie laugh and remembered that he hadn’t come here to stuff his face.

Today was Day Three. Today DOC was required by law to respond to her open-records request about the report from Denver Juvenile. He was here to make sure Sophie gave him a copy of that report whether she felt like sharing information or not.

He watched as another server brought Sophie and Mr. Mustache two bowls of miso and a pot of tea. Sophie smiled, said something that made the guy laugh. Then she reached out and touched his arm.

She was flirting with him.

The realization hit Marc like a brick between the eyes.

The bastard was almost old enough to be her father! Half the hair on his head was likely made in China. He probably needed Viagra to beat off and had a sperm count of two.

You’re jealous, Hunter.

Hell, yes, he was jealous!

She’s better off with him than she’d be with you, dumbshit, and she knows it.

That thought snapped him out of it—but only for a moment.

Then Sophie smiled, tilted her head to the side, exposed the delicious column of her throat—and Marc felt his teeth grind.
It was fortunate for all of them that Mr. Mustache chose that moment to take a leak. He excused himself, stood, and walked toward the restrooms in the back, leaving Sophie alone.

Marc fixed her with his gaze, leaned back in his chair, and waited.

The smile that had been on her face disappeared the moment the guy left the table, and she looked more irritated than excited or flirtatious. She glanced off to the side, her eyes focused on nothing in particular, as if she were thinking. Then slowly, her gaze traveled back across the room—and collided with his.

Astonished, Sophie could do no more than stare.


He sat no more than ten feet away from her dressed to kill in a single-breasted black suit and gray silk tie, his face clean shaven, his gaze laser-sharp. He looked so unbelievably… hot.

But that didn’t stop her from wanting to bite his head off. His being here couldn’t be a coincidence. He had followed her!

“What are you doing here?” she mouthed.

“Having lunch,” he mouthed back. “Who’s he?”

Was he jealous? Good!

“My date.” She smiled, lifted her chin.

He gave a snort, shook his head.

“He’s a parole officer and a nice man, and he’s armed.” Furious, she spoke in a loud whisper. “You shouldn’t be here!”

“A nice parole officer? Well, that explains the ugly suit.”

One of the servers approached his table and set his miso and salad on the table with a set of chopsticks. “I’ll be back with your sashimi.”

Hunt gave the server a slow, sexy smile. “Thank you, Su.”

Was he trying to make Sophie feel jealous, too?

As if!

Sophie waited for the blushing server to skedaddle then leaned forward to make certain he could hear her. “You should go!
Now! All I have to do—”

“You won’t do it, and we both know that. Did you get the report?”

So that’s what this was about. He’d followed her, not because he wanted to see her, but because he wanted to get a hold of the report. Feeling strangely hurt, Sophie was about to tell him exactly what he could do with that report, when he suddenly turned to glance out the window.

Ken reappeared beside her and took his seat. “So what were you saying about DOC?”

Sophie forced herself to focus on Ken, doing her best to ignore the man who sat not far behind him. “Hmm? Oh. Not only are they trying to blame me in part for the escape, they’re giving me the runaround on an open-records request that I filed with Denver Juvenile on Monday.”

He picked up his chopsticks and attacked his California rolls. “What are you trying to lay your pretty hands on? I might already have it in my files.”

“I was hoping you’d say that.” She gave him a bright smile, weighing her words carefully. “I have reason to believe a series of sex assaults occurred there some years back. I’ve asked for a copy of a report that was made as part of the investigation into her allegations.”

Ken frowned. “Does this have to do with Megan?”

Behind Ken, Hunt was sipping his tea and eating his miso, his gaze never wandering far from her. She leaned to her left, using Ken’s head to block her view.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t answer that one way or another. Source confidentiality.”

“I understand.” Ken nodded, then his face sank into a boyish pout. “And here I was hoping you’d asked me to lunch because you found me irresistible and wanted to see me again. You don’t have to go out with me to ask for my help, Sophie.”

Behind him, Hunt scooted back into her range of vision, just as the server appeared with a plate of sashimi. He gave the server another sexy smile, unwrapped his chopsticks and picked up a piece of what looked like yellowtail.

Sophie felt a stab of guilt. “Well, of course I wanted to see—”

Hunt lifted the sushi to his lips, curled the tip of his tongue around it, and drew it slowly into his mouth, then chewed, his gaze riveted on her.

Heat unfurled in Sophie’s belly, and her pulse tripped, every coherent thought in her brain vanishing. “—you.”

For a moment she could do nothing but gape at him.

Then she jerked her gaze away from Hunt and was relieved to see that Ken was focused on his lunch. “It was sweet of you to worry about me.”

“Of course I was worried about you. The entire state was worried about you.”

Ken was saying telling her how he’d felt when he’d learned she’d been taken hostage, but Sophie barely heard him, her gaze drawn back to Hunt—who lifted a pale piece of tuna with his chopsticks, licked off its juices with the tip of his tongue, and dropped it into his mouth, a look of bliss on his face.

Her breath caught in her throat, the heat in her belly spreading, moisture building between her thigh. Realizing that Ken had stopped talking and was watching her, she jerked her gaze away from Hunt.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “It must be hard for you to talk about this. I just thought maybe he’d given you some idea where Megan might be.”

Sophie realized Ken was talking about Hunt and felt an absurd impulse to laugh.

He’s sitting right behind you!

“Yes,” she said instead. “I mean no! No, he didn’t say anything, but, yes, I guess it is still hard to talk about it.”

Ignore him, Alton!

But she couldn’t ignore him.

As if under a spell, she found herself compelled to watch as Hunt picked up a rosy piece of salmon. He flicked the pink fold of flesh with this tongue, licked off its juices, then sucked it into his mouth. This time he closed his eyes, and she swore she heard him moan.

Her inner muscles clenched—hard.

Instinctively, she crossed her legs, squeezing her thighs together to ease the inner ache, her gaze fixed on his face. But the pressure only made it worse, and she couldn’t help but squirm in her chair.

“—do you know this report really exists?”

Snap out of it, Alton!

Sophie jerked her gaze off Hunt, found Ken watching her. “Well, I… Yes, I do.”

“I asked you how you know it exists. Are you okay? You seem really nervous.” Ken’s eyebrows drew together in a concerned frown. He reached out, took her hand in his, gave her fingers a gentle squeeze.

Behind him, Hunt shot out of his chair, fists clenched.
Saturday, April 14, 2007

The blizzard that wasn't

The news here is that it didn't snow. Despite predictions that we'd see almost a foot of snow Thursday night into Friday morning, only a few random flakes fell. Chance of precipitation, they told us, was 100 percent. Actual precipitation? Nada.

The local competing newspaper even ran a story — on their front page — about how Boulder residents were set to awake to to ten inches of snow at least and how flights were being cancelled due to the snow storm, & etc. D'oh! (And why do newspapers report on the weather, anyway? Can't we see what's going on for ourselves?)

This is actually very good news because for the first time in the history of my garden, I have a tulip bonanza. Now, it's nothing like what you'll see on Nes's blog. But I have perhaps fifty pink tulips all popping up at the same time, all BIG and tall and graceful, and all very lovely. I wasn't anticipating this and would have hated to see them all squished under a foot of snow.

Normally, my tulips are stubby — short leaves and flowers that bloom almost next to the ground, hidden among the leaves. Colorado is a very dry state, and there's rarely enough moisture over the winter to keep tulip bulbs happy. But thanks to the five feel of snow that fell between December and the end of February, we had moisture aplenty.

I'm told the storm blew south very suddenly, and Kat and Ray are reporting that they got snow. Which is wonderful because they've had a drought going on down there for what seems like ages.

So today the sun is shining, and the mountains are vivid white, covered with a few feet of fresh powder. And that's how Colorado should look.

As for me, well, I'm trying to write fiction and not feeling great. We're coming up to the two busiest weeks of the year at the paper, as well. So through the end of April is going to be an absolute zoo. But at least I have my sweet little lipsticks back...

So despite feeling kind of cruddy — my stomach isn't appreciating all the tea I drank this week and feels like I ate a bag of razor blades — I'm starting the climax of my novel.

I'll try to have an excerpt for you tomorrow. How's that?

I'm glad you all enjoyed the Lipstick Diaries. Now if I can stay sober and Evil Libby can stay out of my purse... (wink)

Seriouly, that Libby is a darling and tons of fun, and I'm so glad she's almost my neighbor.
Thursday, April 12, 2007

Lipstick hostage standoff ends without violence

Yoda confronts Jabba T. Hutt and his minions late Wednesday to reclaim two lipsticks held hostage since last week by Hutt's crime boss, Evil Libby

(Boulder, Colo.)—Two lipsticks taken hostage by blog underworld figure Evil Libby were returned to their distraught owner, smut author Pamela Clare, late Wednesday night. Both lipsticks, though reportedly shaken, appeared to be unharmed.

The hostage trade-off occurred late Wednesday on neutral territory in Longmont, Colo., where representatives of Evil Libby, including Tattooine underworld figure Jabba T. Hutt, were met by Clare's official representative, known only as Yoda. No violence took place during the exchange, but observers say Hutt and Yoda have a past history and that Hutt appeared to be intimidated by Yoda's hulking presence.

The lipsticks were released into Yoda's custody without incident and escorted by Yoda back to an anxious Clare.

Yoda takes possession of two lipsticks held hostage for almost a week by Evil Libby

"I am so grateful to everyone who pulled together to bring this hostage standoff to a happy close," Clare stated in a press release. "That's why I write romance. I like happy endings."

Yoda shepherds his two young charges away from the forces that held them captive this week. Evil Libby had repeated made threats against the listicks, which were shaken by their ordeal but unharmed.

Leaving the scene, dragging empty chains behind him, Hutt appeared upset by the exchange. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one source claims Hutt feels used.

"There was very little payoff for Hutt in the end," the source said. "Evil Libby called the shots and, quite frankly, Hutt feels used. He was hoping at least for a glimpse of a Princess Leia action figure. Instead, he came fact to face with that ovegrown gnome, Yoda."

Jabba T. Hutt, displaying the chains used to control his young captives, leaves the scene of the exchange in obvious frustration.

Evil Libby's motives in holding the two lipsticks hostage are unclear, but analysts say her motives may have been two-pronged.

"First and foremost, Evil Libby wanted to prove that she is a forced to be reckoned with, not just another pretty face. But second, pulling other people's strings amuses her. This was simply entertainment for her."

But another source claims Clare and Evil Libby were in cahoots the entire time and that the affair was in truth a publicity stunt for the two of them, bringing Evil Libby a new level of notoriety in Blogland and generating sympathy for Clare.

"Any suggested that Ms. Clare cooperated with Evil Libby in the captivity of her two young lipsticks is patently false," said Clare's representative. "Her family and her makeup bag have been through enough. We ask that you respect their dignity."

However, sources in Longmont say Evil Libby and Clare were seen leaving a Longmont coffee shop late Wednesday night after the exchange was made, both smiling and highly caffeinated.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Lipstick hostage crisis escalates

(Boulder, Colo.)—A hostage crisis involving two innocent tubes of libstick entered its second day with the lipstick's captor making additional demands. According to police, shady underworld blog figure Evil Libby contacted the lipstick's distraught owner, smut author Pamela Clare, to set conditions for a trade-off. In an e-mail that contained blatant threats against the lipstick's safety and survival, Evil Libby indicated her willingness to take extreme action, police reports say.

"I see I need to work on my hostage negotiation skills, so to show you I'm serious about the lipstick (it is getting warmer outside after all, and I might 'accidentally' leave it in the car), here's a picture to show you just how serious the situation is," the email stated. "I hope you make the right choice. Jabba's kind of pervy when it comes to womanly things if you know what I mean. And I think you do. BWA AH AH AH AHHHH!"

The email was accompanied by a graphic picture of the two young lipsticks chained and under the control of Storm Troopers answering to Tattooine's organized crime figure, Jabba the Hutt. Police were unwilling to comment on what Evil Libby's connections to Hutt and crime on Tattooine might be.

"Anything would be speculation at this point, so we're unwilling to comment," said a police spokesman.

However, inside sources indicate that Evil Libby could be the secret head of Hutt's organization. The same inside source was able to provide this blog with the photograph in question (warning: may be too graphic for some viewers).

Two tubes of libstick were taken captive last week by Evil Libby. They are shown here, alive but under the control of Storm Troopers and Jabba T. Hutt.

Whether the image was intended to provoke Clare into rash action or as a proof of life is uncertain at this point.

Phone calls to Clare went unanswered. The reclusive and eccentric author is said to be in great distress about her lipstick and willing to do almost anything to get it back. Clare is also grappling with a novel deadline at this time, and tabloids have been speculating as to whether she can hold out under the strain.

Though police refused to confirm the date of any arranged drop-off, a source close to the investigation claims the event could take place as soon as tomorrow evening.

The lipstick was reported missing over the weekend after Clare, known for her willingness to take extreme risks while researching her novels, attended a meeting with Evil Libby and her consort, an enigmatic figure known as D.H. Man-Toy. How the lipstick came in to Evil Libby's possession is uncertain, but one source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Clare had been drinking and that this led to the tragedy.
Monday, April 09, 2007

Lipstick diaries

You won't see this on CNN, but there's a new hostage crisis. That Badass Warrior Princess, Libby, has my two favorite tubes of lipstick and she's holding them hostage. Apparently, I abandoned them at her house — I'd had a whole Bud Light, after all — when I accidentally dumped my purse on her couch, where they were found, helpless and alone.

I spent all weekend looking for those tubes of lipstick, thinking I must have dropped them in the car or left them at work. I was at the office when the email arrived: "Do whatever I say, or the lipstick gets it..."

I was both horrified and relieved. My poor little lipsticks had been found, but they were in the wilds of La La Land in the hands of someone who'd vowed to do them wrong if I didn't comply. Fortunately, the demands weren't too harsh — no request for $1 million in unmarked bills or anything like that. Just a piece of Marc...

Marc Hunter... Just imagine sitting on that face.

The goods have been delivered, and I am anxiously awaiting my wee lipsticks later this week.

But the plot thickens. This was actually a ploy on my part to get Libby away from her bows and arrows and leather restraints and into a coffee shop. And it's working. Yes, she thinks she got what she wanted, but in truth, she's coming to my realm — the espresso bar — very soon. Bwahahaha!

OK, sorry. I'm insane with allergies and sleepiness. I went to bed right after dinner, and only by force of will was I able to get up and come downstairs so that my son would feel like he has a mum.

I got through Chapter 26 of Unlawful Contact which brings me to the climax of the story. It's always exciting to write this part of any novel and also a bit stressful, because either the threads pull together in a way that feels worthwhile or they don't. I panicked all weekend that they wouldn't.

This tendency to freak out — and I'm not the only author who does it — has made me think that writers need live-in psychiatric help. Writer shrinks. Probably actors would benefit from this also. Definitely rock stars, judging from Britney's bald head. Imagine how useful it would be if creative people were less freaking crazy.

So only four chapters to go plus an epilogue and then on to the second book in the MacKinnon Rangers trilogy. I'm really looking forward to writing a historical again. YAY!
Saturday, April 07, 2007

Paging Marc and Sophie...

Wubbit, my bunny BFF, mistress and love toy of the Easter Bunny

Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate Easter. I hope those of you who celebrate Passover had a good week with your families and that someone found the Affikoman so mice don't get it. For those who celebrate Beltaine, a few weeks to go... Whatever your Rite of Spring might be, maybe it be blessed and happy.

For me it will be Another Writing Day.

See, this is exactly what I hate about being a full-time journalist and a full-time novelist. I get close to my characters, make some progress on my story, then it's Sunday night and time for bed. Then Monday morning comes with a laundry list of problems and things to do.

What size paper this week? How big is ROP? What's the lead story? Got cover art? What's in news? Get letters to the editor (that would be me) edited and in. Make sure the intern has something to do. Deal with myriad strange phone calls and letters and emails by the hundreds. This meeting. That meeting.

And, well, pretty soon Marc and Sophie have left me behind and gone off on some honeymoon somewhere without me. I sit down on Saturday morning, brain tired from the work week, and try to put the newspaper aside so that I can create words for the page. But without Marc and Sophie hanging in my head, it's hard.

I think authors who are able to write full-time have such a huge advantage, and I wonder if my books would be better if I were able to concentrate. I know I'd have a lot more of them.

Alas... Some day.

Last night was a treat. I went up to Libby's again to meet her wonderful DH and see what police restraints look like. They weren't what I see on the TV news. No chains, just leather. (Sounds kinky, no?) Libby is a darling, of course, very pretty and sweet. Her kids are adorable, absolutely cute as buttons, both of them. It was hard not to scoop them up and smooch them. I had a beer and got really relaxed, which is different for me. Makes me think I need to drink more booze.

Thanks, Libby, dear!

OK, so now I need to conjure Marc and Sophie back from the ether. (Yes, Kat, I have smudged my silly self.)

Enough whining and back to work.
Thursday, April 05, 2007

Where the wind knows me

Black Mesa, part of the Navajo Reservation, Arizona

And now for something completely different...

In Hard Evidence, I introduced a new character to the I-Team—Katherine James. A mixed-blood Navajo, Kat take the environmental beat at the paper after Kara leaves to go have babies with Reece. But if you read down this blog, you'll catch a couple of entries from the woman after whom Kat is named—my dear friend and sister Kat James.

I named the character in honor of Kat and her husband, Ray James, a traditional Diné spirtual leader. Ray and Kathee came into my life during one of my darkest hours, at a time when I simply didn't want to be on the planet any longer. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

I first began covering Native issues in 1994/1995. Part of it was my desire as a journalist to put my pen in the service of those who have no voice in the mainstream media, and part of it was entirely selfish. I had learned when I was 12 that I had a full-blooded Cherokee great grandmother who was the daughter of a chief, and not knowing how to explore what it meant for me, I started looking into American Indian issues from the safe distance of the newsroom.

Early on, I learned that Diné families were being forced off their homesites in order to make way for coal mines. It horrified me to think that we might still, in this supposedly evolved day and age, be forcing Indian families off their land. I decided to look into it, and I asked permission to come to the Navajo Reservation—the dinetah—and report on this. The elders said, "No." (Unlike a lot of journalists, I don't go where I'm not welcome.)

Window Rock near the Navajo Nation Council building in Window Rock, Arizona

I covered the issue as best I could from a distance for a number of years before I received a call asking me to please come to Black Mesa now. So, with a verbal map that included things like, "there's usually a cornfield planted near there," and "stay to the right for a while, then when you come to this pile of tires, keep to the left for a while," I drove down to the rez by myself to cover a blockade that feds & etc. had erected to prevent the annual Sun Dance from happening at Ana Mae. I drove through the blockade myself, and spent the next week encamped with the participants watching guys with guns and Ray-Bans surveille 500 Indians at prayer. (Note: There are no street signs or really any paved roads on Black Mesa. If you get lost, you better hope you've got a full tank and lotsa water.)

The experience was transformative in ways that I can't talk about on a blog. Suffice it to say, nothing was ever the same for me. Imagine listening to static on the radio all your life and then, suddenly, having the signal come in loudly and clearly—beautiful music after a lifetime of white noise. The connection with God that I had never found in a Christian church was suddenly so loud and clear.

Murals inside the Navajo Nation Council chambers in Window Rock, Arizona. These depict the history of the Diné people

I covered the conflict on Black Mesa for years, feeling that I was really able to help the relocation resisters with my articles. One year, the coverage resulted in TONS of supplies going down to Black Mesa. I covered hearings on the relocation held in the Navajo Nation Council chambers and interviewed their president. I spent nights sleeping under the stars in the desert on Black Mesa, eating fry bread in the morning and mutton stew at night. I discovered that the sound of a single drum can make you feel more alive than anything you've ever known and that you don't have to know the words to sing and you don't have to speak to communicate.

My reporting on the problems on Black Mesa led to my being asked to come to Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River and other Lakotah reservations to the north to report on other issues, giving me the opportunity to see and experience things most people never get to see or do. Including ruts in the road that could swallow the average car and the joy of sand in my teeth.

But then my own life got out of hand. I won't go into details, but every once in a while the experiences of a person's lifetime can catch up with them. I found myself struggling in ways that scared me. I had already been introduced to Kat and Ray, and I was gently nudged to go speak with Ray about my problems. I remember driving to their house late one night—they were living in the Colorado mountains at the time—and being terrified of exposing my inner ghosts to two people who didn't really know me. But that was better than, say, giving up on life altogether.

I had an hours-long conversation with Ray. Both Kat and Ray treated me with the utmost compassion. Several weeks later, after much preparation on my part, Uncle Ray held a special ceremony that enabled me to start my life over again—quite literally, in fact. It's not polite or permissable to discuss ceremony, so that's all on that point. But it's no coincidence that my writing career began shortly thereafter. Everything in my life changed.

Navajo National Monument, one of the most photographed places on earth. Hot as the blazes, too.

And so it came to pass that the people I had hoped to "help" turned around and helped me. Prayers came in from the dinetah from people who lived in traditional hogaans without water or electricity offering comfort and strength. People who owned a single chicken offered to slaughter it and hold a feast with me. I was given corn from people who'd grown it with their own hands in the hot desert sun. It was so deeply moving and humbling to find that hand reaching back to me. I'd found a home among them, a place that could and has always been a refuge to me. (Right now Kat and Ray are thinking, "So, yeah, when's the last time you were here, girl?" Soon, I promise.)

It's been five years since that ceremony, and now I live a new life, thanks to Ray and Kat. I have new names, a new birthday, a new life. In honor of them and all the Diné people mean to me, I have Kat James, mixed-blood Navajo reporter, in my next romantic suspense (after Unlawful Contact). It will give me a chance to write from a different point of view and to share some of the beauty I've found in the Diné way of thinking. Already, Kat has shown some of this in my books, notably when she tells Tessa that the Diné see a woman's tears as one of her healing strengths.

Anyway, to find Kat posting on my blog made me very happy. I guess this is my way of saying, "I LOVE YOU!" to my sister Kat and Uncle Ray.

Mitakuye Oyasin! Hágoónee'!
Monday, April 02, 2007

Joanie has a Julian jones (EXCERPT)

So I heard from Joanie tonight. She's in Indonesia at Club Med on her way back to Hong Kong from Las Vegas. Yeah, rough, I know. Usually when the people I know say they're at Club Med I think they meant Club Fed and are serving time in federal prison. But Joanie actually meant Club Med.

So Joanie had a jones for Julian. Since I adore the guy myself, I thought I'd post his big return scene in Unlawful Contact. Julian for those of you who don't know belongs to Aimee C., but he's also the hero in Hard Evidence. And hard is the least of what Julian is. Oh, my. pant, pant.

So here he is....

From Chapter 6 of Unlawful Contact

The cabin door flew back on its hinges, hit the wall with a crack, the suddenness of it making Sophie scream.

“Freeze! Police!”

They’d gotten here faster than she’d imagined they would, streaming through the door with a burst of frigid air, guns drawn, a familiar face in the lead.

Relief surged through her, strong and warm. “Julian!”

Dressed head to toe in SWAT team black, his Kevlar jacket emblazoned with yellow letters that spelled “POLICE,” Julian Darcangelo swept the room with his gaze, making eye contact with her for the briefest moment as he and the rest of the team secured the cabin.

“I promise I’ll come quietly.” Sophie managed a smile, wiped the tears from her face with her free hand.

“Get medical in here!” Julian holstered his pistol and reached her in two strides, sitting beside her on the bed and pulling something from his pocket—a silver key. He uncuffed her, took her wrist in his hand, and rubbed it, his expression turning dark when he saw her bruises. “It’s going to be all right, Sophie. The paramedics are right behind us.”

Sophie sank into the hug he offered—and burst into tears.

She couldn’t say why she was crying, exactly. Her emotions were so jumbled she couldn’t sort through them. Shock. Adrenaline overwhelm. Sheer exhaustion.

Heartbreak. Rage. Grief.

She buried her face in Julian’s shoulder, unable to hold back her sobs, the weight of all that had happened crashing in on her.

“It’s going to be all right.” He held her tight, his Kevlar vest hard as steel, his voice soothing. “I’m going to stay with you till we get you to the ER. You’re not alone anymore.”

She soaked in the warmth of his friendship, felt him pull the sleeping bag more tightly around her, heard him issue a handful of orders, his voice quiet as if he were afraid of disturbing or upsetting her.

“Taylor, get out there and break trail so the band-aid boys can get through. And shut the door behind you. We need to keep her warm. Michaels, you’re stepping on evidence. Wu, you’re in charge. I’m taking myself off duty as of this moment—oh-three-twenty hours.”

And suddenly she felt silly.

She drew back, sniffed back her tears. “I-I’m sorry.”

“You have nothing to apologize for, Sophie. None of this is your fault.” He brushed his thumb over the bruise on her cheek, a muscle clenching in his jaw. “No matter what happened, no matter what he did to you, we’re going to help you through it.”

And then she saw the situation through his eyes—her crying, the handcuffs, her bruises, her clothes lying wet and torn on the floor.

“He didn’t hurt me, Julian. I’m okay, really.”

He frowned. “Like hell you are.”

“The bruises are my fault. I tried to get away and—”

The look on his face told her he wasn’t buying it. “How long ago did he leave you here?”

“About two hours ago, I think.”

Julian passed the info on to his men, then pulled out his cell phone and typed in a quick text message. “I promised Tess I’d let her know when you were safe. She’s waiting this out with the rest of the gang at Reece and Kara’s place.”

The thought of her friends gathered together, worrying about her, made fresh tears sting her eyes. She realized that Julian was here not so much because it was his job—he was vice, not SWAT—but because she was Tessa’s best friend and he cared about her. He’d been willing to risk his life to save hers.

She swallowed her tears. “Thanks, Julian.”

He brushed her thanks aside. “I didn’t do anything. I’m ashamed to say it, but if he hadn’t called to tell us where you were, you’d still be sitting—”

The door opened, and two men stepped inside, one carrying a folded stretcher, the other what looked like a large blue tool box.

“Finally.” Julian stood and made space for the paramedics, his hand strong and reassuring on her shoulder.

The one carrying the tool box knelt beside her. “Looks like you’ve had a rough day, but we’re going to take good care of you.”

“I’m fine now, honest.”

But she was the only one who seemed to think so.

The paramedics took her vitals and told her she was still mildly hypothermic. They stuck an IV of warm fluids into the back of her hand, a process that hurt more than she thought it would. Then they lifted her onto the stretcher, covered her from head to toe with heated blankets and, with Julian’s help and that of another cop, carried her through the snow to the waiting ambulance, despite her protests that she could walk.

“Hush, Sophie.” Julian looked down at her, his expression stern. “This is the part of the adventure where you quit being tough and let other people take care of you.”

In short order, she found herself inside the brightly lit ambulance, Julian beside her, a body-length heating pad beneath her, a ton of blankets on top of her, warm oxygen flowing through a mask into her lungs. It was as if someone had given her a sedative. She couldn’t keep her eyes open.

“Why… am I suddenly… so sleepy?”

“Your body has been fighting to normalize your temp for hours,” one of the paramedics told her. “Together with everything else you’ve been through today, I’d say you’re exhausted.”

Sophie barely heard him, her eyes drifting shut, her thoughts shifting to Hunt. He was out there somewhere. Out in the cold. Alone. What if they shot him? What if he froze to death?

She willed her eyes to open, sought out Julian. “He’s still out there.”

But Julian misunderstood. He leaned down, gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “He’s not going to hurt you again, Sophie. We’re going to find him. I promise.”

Before she could explain, she was asleep.

# # #

Cocooned in warmth, she slept as the ambulance wound its way silently down the canyon, the occasional bit of conversation reaching her, Julian speaking in hushed tones with the paramedics. Some part of her realized they were talking about her, but she couldn’t summon the strength to open her eyes or respond.

“—looks like he hit her across the cheek with a crow bar.”

“—think he raped her?”

“—a man his age in prison for six years…”

“—pretty woman, alone and helpless, would be tempting.”

“—put him in solitary for the next hundred years.”

“—shoot him first.”

It was the siren that finally woke her, startling her from her sleep.

“It’s okay, Sophie.” Julian still held her hand. “We’re trying to get past your colleagues into the hospital parking lot.”

Her colleagues?

“You think they’d show a little more respect for one of their own,” said the driver. “CNN. MSNBC. Fox. Geee-zus!”

A media feeding frenzy.

You’re news, Alton. How do you feel about that?

She felt pretty cruddy, actually.

“Let’s see if I can’t give her some privacy.” Julian pulled out his radio. “Eight-twenty-five.”

A voice crackled back. “Eight-twenty-five, go ahead.”

“Eight-twenty-five, I need a unit on each side of the ambulance to create a barricade and block the windows.”

Sophie listened, fighting to clear the cobwebs from her brain, as Julian spoke in police code, using his position as one of the city’s top cops to shield her. Touched by his thoughtfulness, she gave his hand a squeeze. “Thanks.”

“Figured you didn’t feel much like giving interviews right now.”

The ambulance rolled to a stop. The door at Sophie’s feet opened, cold air rushing in. And suddenly she was moving, the gurney sliding feet-first out the door.

She gasped, grabbed the rail, the sensation more than a little strange as the paramedics pulled her over the edge and the wheels beneath her dropped to the ground with a loud clunk.

“Easy, Sophie.” Julian leaned over the gurney and placed a hand on each side of her face, blocking her from view. “We’re almost inside.”

How unreal it all seemed. The blazing fluorescent lights of the ambulance bay. The bright white flashes from a hundred clicking cameras. The burst of shouted questions.

“What’s her condition?”

“Is it true the perpetrator called in her location himself?”

“Is Marc Hunter in police custody?”

The question jolted her, made her pulse jump.

Had they caught him?

Then she realized it was only a question. It didn’t mean anything. The reporter was just fishing for information.

You’re not worried about him, are you, Alton?

Yes, she was. Despite everything he’d done, she was.

Be careful, Hunt.

Even as the words formed in her mind, she drifted off again.
Sunday, April 01, 2007


The pictures of one of my rose beds are meant to cheer me up. Tomorrow it's back to the real world, and by noon, Marc and Sophie will be far from my thoughts. April is probably the busiest month at the paper, together with August, so my plate will be full.

And how far did I get? I needed to write ten chapters and edit them by tonight.

Instead, I finished Chapter 21, wrote 22, 23, and 24 and am about to finish 25. So that leaves 26-30, plus the epilogue, unwritten. And then all 400 pages have to be edited.

I wish I wrote faster, but I just don't. I'm trying not to be angry with myself for being late and later and later with these books. I just can't slap words on the page in order to have words on the page. They have to feel right to me.

So thank you everyone for your support during this big push. With your encouragement, I got what is about a month's writing for me done this week because of my time off. Now I need to somehow keep up at least a chapter a week until I'm done in order to get this to New York by the end of April.

I will definitely keep the excerpts coming.

As for the roses, a large part of my yard is flower garden. I call this one my fairy garden because when the giant delphiniums and roses bloom at the same time, as in these photos, it really looks magical. I've never spotted an actual fairy, though the garden is redolent with aphids. Every year, we unleash ravenous hoards of lady bugs on the plants, and that helps us keep pesticides out of the garden.

I love spring and early summer. By early June when all of my roses bloom, the yard will smell like roses. It's heavenly!

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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