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

Friday, September 28, 2007

Untamed has a pub date!

That's the good news. After having precisely ZERO books out in 2007 — count 'em, zero — I will have two books out in 2008. The bad news — and it's not really bad news — is that it's November 4, 2008. The long lull is due to the excruciating amount of time I put into Unlawful Contact. Hopefully, the books will be worth the wait, and you will all still remember who I am. Pamela who?

Yes, I write at roughly the same speed that sap flows in January. A large part of that is due to being a single mom. Unlike a lot of authors, I don't have a spouse working to pay the bills while I climb the lists. And I don't have another person in the house to take care of things like proofing college applications and soothing teenagers with broken hearts.

I am just starting Chapter 7. Other things have taken center stage the past few weeks, as you all know, and I'm hoping to make real progress this weekend.

Thanks so much for your wonderful, healing words for Ben. He is doing better than he was a week ago, for certain. I've gotten great support from his teachers at school, who know him well enough to realize his world had just been toppled and took the time to call me.

Aimee and Bo, I haven't gotten your cover flats mailed off yet. Sorry! I will do it soon!

I hope everyone has a great weekend!
Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Love sucks!!!

I didn't mean to fall off the face of the earth, but while I was busy planning my next blog and working on my next book, life happened.

On Friday, my son got a phone call from his girlfriend (see beautiful, romantic photo below), who, after being away at college for three weeks — three short weeks!!! — broke up with him. OUCH!

Ben was and still is absolutely crushed. I've spent pretty much every waking moment since then either working or helping him. I've baked and cooked, as if home-cooked meals and cookies can actually help him. I've listened to him pour out his agony and tried to offer advice sparingly. But there's no way around the fact that I can't really do anything for him.

To complicate matters, I adore the girl in question myself. She was like a daughter to me. I loved spending time with her and seeing the two of them together. She interned at the paper with me. I have cried my eyes out, too, both for Benjy's loss, and for mine. I don't dislike her. I'm not angry with her. I just regret the horrid grief my poor kid is enduring. (He's 17, almost 18.)

So now I turn to you, my friends, and ask you to share what worked for you the last time you were drop-kicked to the curb. How did you cope? Did you do anything you regretted? How long did it take you to get over him/her? Have you found true love again? What did you learn? Why do we risk having our heart broken again by loving again?

I will share your bon mots, your wisdom, the fruit of your suffering, with my beloved son.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cover for Unlawful Contact!!! With EXCERPT

I've been waiting and wondering and waiting and wondering, and it just arrived!

Without further ado....

Click to make it bigger.

So what do you think?!?!?!


In honor of the cover, how about an excerpt? This exerpt is the scene that inspired the cover.

WARNING: Sexually explicit!!! Spoilers!!!! (Oh, yeah, like that's going to stop you!)

From Unlawful Contact

Two white candles sat in silver candleholders in the middle of a coffee table, their golden flames reflected in the dark, polished wood. The coffee table sat in the center of the room between two plush sofas and across from the fireplace, where a cozy fire crackled. Two places had been set with linen, silver, and crystal. Nearby on the floor sat a silver champagne chiller filled with crushed ice. The sultry sound of jazz drifted in the background.

Hunt poured out the champagne. “How’d it go?”

Wow.” For a moment, that’s all she could say.

“Are you hungry?” He bent down, stuck the bottle in the chiller, then stood and walked toward her. He was still wearing his jeans, but he’d put on a sleek black shirt and had rolled up the sleeves. He looked casual, sexy… delicious.

“This is amazing.”

When was the last time a man had done something romantic like this for her?

Never. That’s when.

“I hope you like salmon.” He slid his arm around her waist, ducked down and brushed a kiss over her lips.

“I love salmon. What are we celebrating?”

He pressed his forehead to hers, looked straight into her eyes. “Now, Sophie—we are celebrating now.”

She felt her breath catch, something bittersweet rushing through her, part hope, part despair. And suddenly she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

“Go make yourself comfortable.” He released her and strode down the hallway toward the kitchen.

She walked over to the coffee table, sat on the thickly carpeted floor, and stared into the fire, its warmth seeping into the cold places inside her.

There’s no “happily ever after” for us, sprite. There’s now. Only now.

Could it be that simple?

Could it be any more simple?

Neither of them had any idea what was going to happen tomorrow or even five minutes from now, but rather than worrying about it, Hunt was savoring every moment, trying to experience as many of the pleasures of life as he could before they were taken from him forever.

Tears pricked Sophie’s eyes, but she fought them back, determined not to spoil the mood Hunt had obviously worked so hard to create. She needed to put her fears aside and take hold of this little taste of heaven he was offering—if not for her own sake then most certainly for his. This was as close to a normal life as he was going to get.

There’s now. Only now.

Well, happy endings were overrated anyway.

Hunt walked back through the doorway and set two dinner plates on the coffee table. Sophie’s mouth watered. On each sat a grilled salmon filet covered with a relish of tomatoes and black olives next to buttery baby potatoes and steamed asparagus.

“I didn’t know you could cook.”

“I can’t—but I can read a recipe as well as the next guy.” He sat, a lopsided grin on his handsome face. Then he picked up his champagne glass and fixed her with his piercing gaze. “To now.”

She raised her glass, smiled. “To now.”

Champagne tickled its way down her throat straight into her empty stomach. She set her glass down and tucked her napkin in her lap.

He picked up his napkin. “So what did they say?”

It took her a moment to realize what he was asking. “Tom said he’ll follow up on the request for the report and do the background checks. My attorney said he’ll subpoena the halfway house’s surveillance records if they have any.”

“How long do you think it will take?”

“I can’t be sure, but I’m guessing we’ll have the information from the background checks by mid-day Monday. That usually takes only a couple of hours.”

“Perfect. That means we can spend the weekend searching this place for information about Megan’s life.” He picked up his fork. “Bon appétit.”

The food was delicious, the salmon soft and flaky, the relish adding tang and saltiness, the asparagus cooked to a perfect crispness. The champagne was cold and dry with a long mineral finish that went straight to Sophie’s head. The tension of the past week began to melt away, the shadows chased away by good food and drink, the warmth of the fire, and the heat of his gaze. She found herself telling him about her parents’ restaurant—how she’d all but grown up in the kitchen, being coddled, fed and fussed over by a staff of finicky French chefs and a sommelier who took her wine education seriously, even when she was six.

“That sounds like a wonderful way to grow up.”

“I probably would have become the manager or maybe the wine buyer if… ”

If her parents hadn’t been killed.

Marc saw the grief in Sophie’s eyes and knew where her thoughts had taken her.

She cleared her throat. “Sorry. I’m babbling.”

“No, you’re not.” He reached over, took her hand, gave it reassuring squeeze. “It must have been the most horrible thing in the world to lose your mom and dad.”

She nodded, took a deep breath—and then changed the subject. “So tell me about the Army. Did you grow up wanting to be a soldier?”

He couldn’t help but laugh. “Hell, no! I grew up wanting my mother to stop drinking and using and start acting like other kids’ moms. I didn’t spend a single moment thinking about the future. By the time I was a senior, it was clear that the Army was the my only chance to avoid mowing lawns and changing oil for the rest of my life.”

As they finished the meal, he told her about boot camp and how the meanest master sergeant on the face of the earth—a bastard by the name of Stracher—had kicked his ass into gear. He told her how he’d discovered he had skill with target shooting. He told her how he’d been transferred into Special Forces after 9/11 and deployed to Afghanistan as a sniper, where he’d spent a winter high in the frigid mountains near Tora Bora.

“It must have been very hard.” Her cheeks were flushed, her body relaxed, her gaze focused on him, a dreamy look in her big blue eyes. She was obviously feeling the champagne. “I’m so glad you made it home in one piece.”

“You know what kept me warm at night?” He leaned in closer, brushed a strand of hair from the satin of her cheek. “I kept thinking about this beautiful girl from my hometown. I only spent one night with her—just one night—but it was the sweetest night of my life. She gave me her virginity and told me to shoot for the stars. I tried, Sophie. I tried to shoot for the stars.”

He must have been feeling the alcohol, too, or he never would have said anything like that. Or maybe it wasn’t the champagne. Maybe it was just being near her like this. He seemed to be running at the mouth a lot lately.

She turned her head, nuzzled her cheek against his palm, her skin unbelievably soft, her eyes drifting shut. “Did you really think of me these past six years?”

He ran the pad of his thumb over her lower lip. “Oh, yes. I thought about you. Dreamed about you. Fantasized—”

Her eyes flew open, her pupils wide and dark. “About me?”

“Yeah.” Slow down, Hunter. Do you really think a woman wants to know that sort of thing? “Does that bother you?”

She shook her head, the flush on her cheeks going deeper, her lips parting on a breathy whisper. “I was just thinking we could… you know… try out a few of those, um, fantasies. While we have the chance.”

And that right there blew away any fantasy.

His tried to say something, but all the blood in his body had rushed to his crotch.

“So, Marc Hunter, where do you want me?”


Where did he want her? God, he wanted her everywhere. Against the wall. Spread-eagle on the bed. On her hands and knees. In the hot tub. On the dining room table. In the Jag. Hell, on the Jag.

But one fantasy stood out above the rest. “It’s not so much where I want you, Sophie, as it is how. Nothing tastes quite like a woman, and no woman tastes like you.”

She gave an almost inaudible gasp. “Then you want…”

“I want dessert.” He stood, reached for her, drew her onto the couch beneath him.

He kissed her out of her blouse, suckling her through her bra until she was whimpering and writhing, her nipples straining against the wet lace. Then he moved on to her pants, drawing the fabric down her long legs, tasting his way down her silky skin, over her sensitive calves to the tips of her little toes. But as scrumptious as her skin was, this wasn’t the taste he hungered for most.

He worked his way back up her legs, nudging her thighs apart with his hands, inhaling the wild, musky scent of her arousal, filling his lungs with her. Yes, this was it, the scent he’d wanted inside his head for so, so long. But now he wanted a taste.

He licked her inner thighs along the edge of her panties, heard her gasp, her fingers sliding into his hair, rough lace and soft skin both sweet against his tongue. Then he drew back and licked his way up the lace where it covered her cleft, the soft folds of her labia beneath. When his tongue felt the tiny bud of her clit, he held himself still, flicking it through the thin cloth, feeling it swell.

She whimpered, lifted her hips eagerly toward his mouth. “Please, Hunt!”

He chuckled. “Sorry, but this is my fantasy, and I’m going to take my sweet time.”

She gave a pained moan. “Is this your ‘torture Sophie’ fantasy?”

“No, it’s my ‘Sophie lets me do whatever I want to do’ fantasy. I’m going lick you everywhere, until your scent is imprinted on my brain, until I can taste you in my dreams, until you saturate my skin. So settle in because this is probably going to take a while.”

He saw her belly contract, felt her shiver, and knew what he’d said excited her.

“But… what about you?”

“Sweetheart, this is for me.”
Saturday, September 15, 2007

ペーパーバック — My name in Japanese?

Terje Langeland, where the heck are you when I need you! In Japan, of course. If you see this, please email me so that we can catch up! And also, be aware that you can buy my books on No more excuses, Ter-hay!

著 — I belive this is is the Japanese character for "author." I'm not sure because my idiot friend Terje lives in Japan and isn't available at this moment to translate. He's Norwegian and 6-feet-7. Which means that everyone in Japan, from his wife to his boss to the toughest street thug, all look up to him. He's a true FOP, and I adore him, though I'm a bit pissed that he no longer works with me. He was a member of the Dream Team, the group of journalists I worked with that is the basis for the I-Team in my contemps. He was one of the amazing group that won the National Journalism Award with me.

Where is this leading? Well, I went hunting for foreign-language covers, and I found a few. Ben scanned in a few, as well.

So now we're going to play a game called "Guess that Novel." Anyone who gets them all right, gets an autographed cover flat (the English-language versions). Silly prize, I know, but, hey, this isn't freakin' Jeopardy. I hope those of you who lurk will join in, particularly those of you I know come to peek from Danmark, Deutschland and Sverige.

This one ought to be easy. Strange, though, because I don't remember writing a scene in which the heroine breastfeeds the hero...

This cover makes me laugh. I have a single copy of this translation. If you know German, it will be a cinch. If not, you might be guessing for a while. And, no, I never wrote a novel in which the heroine raids the closet of a Texas drag queen, either.

Here's a tough one. No art and a minimalist title. No clues from me.

Another tough one. How much of a cunning linguist are you? Hint: the cover art has nothing to do with the story. *EG*

And saving the, er, best for last...

Nice to see John DeSalvo's chest again, but that chick's hair scares me!

Good luck! And may my best fan win!
Friday, September 14, 2007

Estoy escritoria

I'm home with a sick kid today. Ben has what the doc says might be West Nile Virus. High fever, chills, body aches. He called me from school yesterday afternoon, shivering so hard that he could hardly speak through his chattering teeth. He's doing better today. Boulder County is No. 1 nationwide for West Nile, so I'm not surprised given how many nights he spent out this summer making his movie.

Ann, did you get bitten by any skeeters while you were here? Maybe Linda didn't have a cold after all. I hope you're both feeling better.

I was worried that my Gangsta Bitch sistas would get sick because we got bitten a fair amount the last night they were here, but they seem to be fine.

So today was fun because FedEx brought a package of books — the Spanish translation of Hard Evidence, titled only Evidencia. I know some Spanish — I have studied 9 languages formally in school and a few others on my own, but have forgotten most of them — and have been getting my kicks reading passages of it to my sister, who does speak Spanish quite well.

Apparently, the Spanish edition (in Spain) of USA Today reviewed it and gave me a great review. (Why won't they review it in the U.S.?) The cover blurb quotes that review: "Una escritoria maravillosa que te cortará la respiración." (A wonderful author who will take your breath away.)

See, I'm spending too much time with Evil Libby, BWP, GB, because the next thought that pops into my head is, "And what will I do with your breath once I have it? Bwahahaha!"

Here's a cool thought: My books are out in six languages. This same Spanish publisher has also published Extreme Exposure. There are French and Norwegian translations of Carnal Gift, French and Portuguese editions of Extreme Exposure, two different German translations of Sweet Release, the covers of which frighten me, an Italian edition of Surrender and various translations in these same languages of Ride the Fire. I can read the Norwegian and German translations and get a kick out of that.

And, see, there goes Libby in my head again... These translations are my first step toward global domination!

Yes, I'm taking over the world. I need to get some writing done first, of course, and I'd like my house to be clean beforehand. I'm in desperate need of a pedicure, and I haven't had a drip of caffeine today. But once all of that is taken care of, it's chocolate and naked men for everyone!
Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rebel Summer

Elk do their thing in Rocky Mountain National Park.

This must really be my summer to meet women from RBL Romantica — known affectionately as the Rebel Board.

First there were the AAN awards in Portland. I got to meet Linda T. for the first time. We had dinner in the best restaurant I've ever experienced. And the very next day, I met a very pregnant Ronlyn and had hamburgers, fries and shakes with her, her son and her DH.

Next came RWA. I got to hang with Leiha and Su again. RBL author Gennita Low was there to help me get into trouble (as always). But I also met Emma Holly for the first time — a thrill — as well as Debbie H, who is both funny and very nurturing. That was a wonderful experience.

Then Gangsta Bitches paid me a visit — Evil Libby, KrisTAY and SueZAY. We had a blast, nearly laughing ourselves to death over three days of great food, fun company, alcohol and a bit of Rebel debauchery. The pygmys — that's Kristi and Sue — got their first view of the Rockies, while Libby and I got to show off our home state.

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to have three more Rebels pay a visit when Linda, Beaty and Ann came to Colorado. I'd met Linda in 2005 in Reno, but I'd never had the pleasure of meeting Beaty and Ann. Ann arrived first by perhaps an hour. Then Linda drove up in her new car with Beaty. And Ann, Beaty and I went shopping (an experience Ann said would be akin to herding cats). We were actually pretty organized, I have to say, and came home with lots of goodies.

Ann stands with Mount Meeker in the background beneath a wide Colorado sky.

Ann cooked her world-famous ziti with lots of delicous Italian sausage and ricotta cheese, while Linda put together some delicous bread recipe using rolls, Lipton onion soup, butter and parmesan. We gorged, and it was delicious. We stayed up late that night talking and talking and talking.

Ann must have 10,000 friends — no surprise given that she's an absolute sweetheart — so I feel like I've met at least a dozen of them. She shared stories of their exploits, making us all laugh. Linda, too, had lots of stories to share. Beaty was the quiet one of the three (at first), but she's the expert with the one-liner. The three of them know each other so well that they ought to be part of a sit-com.

Long's Peak — the big one with the flat top — dominates the skyline as a storm moves in. I can see Long's from my front yard.

On Saturday, we drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park. Ann had been there before and remembered much of it. We saw elk and a bunch of human males (distinguishable by their lack of antlers) crossing the street. It must have been a vacation day for a rugby team or something. Then we drove home and had 'za. (That's PIZza.)

Libby drove down from her home in LaLa Land, about 25 minutes away, and brought a batch of lemoncello. Now, don't ask me how it happened, but we didn't drink it. I think it was some kind of Jedi Mind Trick Libby used so she could take it home, chug it in the garage and then tell her DH that we drank it all. Sure, Libs. All I know is that I had to either be really tired or under some kind of spell NOT to drink it. The stuff she and her DH brew in their still is yummy!!! It was great to see her, but sometime after midnight she decided she had to go home (to drink the lemoncello, I'm sure).

I woke up Sunday to discover what a bunch of SNEAKS these three are. There was a card with TWO Starbuck's gift cards in it, one of which I had placed the order for in the Starbuck's drive-thru the day before. Ann said her cat needed to get a thank-you gift for her roommate for cat-sitting while she was away. And I believed it. Turns out it was a sweet gift to me. Thanks, you three!

We had breakfast Sunday morning and spent most of the day talking until it was time for Ann to leave to catch her flight. Beaty and Linda stayed for dinner — I made a pot roast — then headed back to their hotels in A-Town (that's Aurora for the uninitiated).

So now things are very quiet here at Pamela Clare Inn and Eatery. Rebel Summer is coming to a close. No more visits on the horizon. (WTF?!?) But it sure was fun while it lasted!

Thanks, Ann, Linda and Beaty for making the long trip!

A photo Ann took of some of my sunflowers. Good-bye, summer.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Torture by Excerpt — A scene from Untamed

Hey, what's with the freakin' insects outside that click? We don't normally have those in Colorado. It feel like I'm surrounded by strange aliens or something — all that klicking. Are you hearing them, too, Liberty Loo?

But annoying insects are not the topic of this blog. I'm sure you're happy to know that.

Yesterday, it was just a threat. Today, I'm acting on that threat.


Yes, it's another round of "Torture by Excerpt," in which I, the socially maladjusted author, force you, the hapless, innocent FOP — that's "Friend of Pamela" — to read an excerpt from my work in progress. By so doing, there shall be kindled inside you a desire to read more (one hopes), and yet, seeking relief, you shall find none. For the book is not yet finished.

See what happens when a romance writer doesn't get her chocolate? Already insane, she becomes dangerous!

From Untamed

Amalie bathed the Ranger’s face with a cold, wet cloth she’d dipped in water sprinkled with wild sage and juniper. It was a cure she’d learned from her grandmother’s people. The wild sage would purify him, and the juniper would cleanse away the remnants of his sickness. His fever had broken early this morning. There was no doubt now—he would live.

His skin was no longer pale but flushed, his dark hair slick with sweat, little rivulets trickling down his temples, his neck, his chest, drenching the linens beneath him. He slept peacefully, his long lashes dark against his cheeks, his jaw shadowed by many days’ growth of beard, his chest rising and falling with each deep, steady breath. But his peaceful rest would not last long.

The laudanum would soon wear off, and whatever pain he still had would return. Monsieur Lambert, hoping to save their dwindling stores of the precious medicine, had given the Ranger his last dose a few hours past, vowing to force water down his throat if necessary. But that was not the worst of it. When she’d come down to breakfast, she’d overheard Lieutenant Rillieux and Bourlamaque discussing what to do with the Ranger next. As soon as he was able to stand, they would move him to the guardhouse—and his suffering would begin anew.

And this time…

Amalie did not wish to think on it.

She dipped the cloth back in the scented water, squeezed it out, and nudged the linens down to his hips. She bathed first his arms, which were still stretched above his head, each wrist shackled to a bedpost. Then she wet the cloth again and bathed his shoulders, working her way over his chest and down his belly.

Although she knew it must be sinful, she couldn’t keep her gaze from following her hands, his man’s body so different from hers, the sight of him both disturbing and intriguing. His skin was soft, but the muscles beneath it were hard, the feel of him like steel sheathed in velvet. Although his nipples drew tight from the chill of the water as hers did when she was cold, his were dark like wine, flat and ringed by crisp, dark hair. Where her belly was soft and rounded, his had ribs of muscle—and a trail of dark curls that disappeared beneath the linens.

As if drawn by a will of its own, her hand left the cloth behind to press against those ridges, her fingers playing over his sweat-slick skin as she slid her hand slowly from his belly up to his chest, something tickling inside her at the feel of him. Her hand came to rest above his heartbeat, its rhythm steady against her palm.

“Your touch could bring the dead to life, lass.”

Amalie gasped, jerked her hand back and saw to her horror that the Ranger was watching her. Heat rushed into her face, made her cheeks burn, English words forsaking her tongue. “M-mon Dieux! Pardonnez moi, monsieur!

He watched her through dark blue eyes, his gaze soft, a hint of amusement on his face. “Easy, lass. I didna mean to frighten you.”

“Forgive me if I offend, monsieur!”

Morgan’s mouth was as dry as sawdust. His chest ached. His right leg throbbed. But at the moment he didn’t care. He watched the play of emotions on the French lass’s face—fear, shame, wariness—and found himself wanting to lessen her unease. “’Tis only nature’s way for a maid to be curious about men. Besides, I wouldna be a Scotsman if I shrank from the touch of a bonny lass… a beautiful woman.”

Did she understand him?

The deepening flush in her cheeks told him she did.

And she was beautiful. Her eyes seemed to hold all the colors of the forest—greens and browns mixed together. He’d never seen any like them. They seemed to slant upward at the corners, or perhaps that was just the effect of her cheekbones, so high and delicate they were. Her nose was small and fine, her lips full and well-shaped. Her skin was flawless, almost luminous. Her hair was the color of sable, dark and gleaming. It hung to the floor when she sat, tresses so long and lovely they made his hands ache to touch them.

She was French—that much he knew—but he’d bet his ration of rum she was also Indian. Her cheekbones, the slight slant of her eyes, the hue of her skin—like cream with just a hint of coffee—bespoke a mixed ancestry. And then there were the herbs she’d placed in the water. No simple French lass was likely to know about such things. Was she Huron? Abenaki? Mi˙kmaq?

What did it matter?

She’s like to be the last lass that e’er you set eyes on, MacKinnon.

As Morgan has always loved the lasses, ’twas was a strange thought.

Roused by the blessed relief of a cool cloth against his skin and the fresh scents of sage and juniper, he’d come slowly back to awareness, thinking for a moment that he was a lad again, that he’d fallen sick and was in Joseph’s mother’s lodge in Stockbridge. Then he’d opened his eyes to find himself being perused by the same lovely French angel who’d haunted his fevered dreams, and it had pleased him to know she was real.

He’d watched through half-closed eyes while she’d bathed his body, her gaze traveling over him with innocent curiosity. Then she’d laid her small, soft hand upon him, her timid touch burning a path over his skin, threatening to rouse him in an altogether different manner.

“The Abbesse says I am far too curious.” Her accent was soft and sweet.

“The Abbesse?”

She nodded. “From the convent where I was raised.”

Aye, and that explained her bashfulness.

“Och, well, if you were raised in a convent amidst womenfolk, ’tis even more reason for you to be curious, aye? No wrong has been done, lass. Dinnae trouble yourself. What is your name?”

She looked as if she did not want to answer. When she spoke, her voice was almost a whisper. “Amalie Chauvenet.”

“’Tis a bonny name. I’m thinkin’ you already ken who I am.”

She nodded gravely. “Morgan MacKinnon, the leader of MacKinnon’s Rangers.”

There was a hint of—was it anger?—in her voice when she spoke.

“How long has it been?”

She glanced at the window, at the ceiling, at her hands, which lay folded in her skirts—but she did not look at him. “Fifteen days since you were wounded.”

Fifteen days!

No wonder he felt so bloody weak!

Connor, Joseph and the men would have long since made their way back to Fort Elizabeth. Surely, even Iain would have the news by now. Did his brothers believe him already dead? Would they blame themselves? He pushed the question from his mind.

“Might I have some water, Miss Chauvenet?”

She reached for the water pitcher, a surprised look on her face. “You no longer seek your own death?”

He shook his head. “I have lost that battle.”

Her lovely face grew troubled. She poured water into a tin cup, then lifted his head and held the cup to his lips. Silken strands of hair slipped over her shoulder to fall against his chest, the scent of her like lavender, fresh linen and woman. “Drink.”

He asked her to refill the cup four times before his thirst was quenched, wondering as he drank at the distress he saw on her face. Had the Sisters raised her to be so primsie that she still felt guilt for touching him? Perhaps she was afraid of him and did not wish to be here. “I thank you for your care of me, Miss Chauvenet.”

The troubled look on her face became genuine anguish.

And he understood.

“You ken what awaits me, and it troubles you to be speakin’ wi’ a dead man.”

She stood so quickly that her stool toppled over. Then she stared down at him with eyes that held the first sheen of tears. “I do not care what becomes of you, monsieur! Why should I? You and your Rangers killed my father!”

Then she turned and fled in a swish of skirts.

And as he watched her hurry to get away from him, Morgan knew that his sins had caught up with him at last.
Monday, September 03, 2007

Ring around the rosaries

Authors do strange things sometimes to get in touch with their characters. A lot of us become so close with the people whose lives we write that we end up talking to them in our heads — or even out loud. Yes, I've done that, and when it happens in public it's a bit embarrassing.

When I start a new novel, I try to find ways of invoking those special characters, of bringing them closer to me. I always create a playlist on i-Tunes that evokes the "feeling" of the novel and its characters, but there's more. When I wrote Carnal Gift, I burned a Virgin Mary candle, saying the novena on the back and lighting it each time I sat down to write in honor of Bríghid's defiant Catholicism. When I wrote Ride the Fire, I had the diaries of the soldiers from the siege of Fort Pitt to bring home the daily experience of my characters. I also had — and still have — a painting of Fort Pitt as it looked that year. (It's visible to the viewer's left of the photos with the Gansgta Bitches taken in front of my desk, posted below.) For Surrender, I used mostly music, particularly Old Blind Dogs.

For Untamed, I knew I wanted something that I wished I'd had while writing Surrender — the little wooden rosary that hung around Iain's neck and which, I presumed, hangs around the necks of his brothers, Morgan and Connor, and a great many of their fellow Rangers, all of whom are Catholic. So I went hunting...

Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a plain, wooden rosary with no adornment on it? I finally found one on a website that sells Polish religious goods to immigrant communities in the United States.

The plain wooden rosary worn by the MacKinnon brothers, specifically Morgan MacKinnon.

Of course, in the process of finding Morgan's rosary, I looked at a great many rosary websites and saw some truly beautiful rosaries. I decided I'd like to have Amalie's rosary, too. Raised by the Ursulines in Trois Rivieres in Canada, she is French Métis and very Catholic. The daughter of a French officer, it seemed she should have something a bit more upscale than Morgan's simple carven rosary.

Amalie Chauvenet's rosary. The white fresh-water pearls represent her innocent nature to me.

By then, I had decided these things were very pretty and that I now collect them. Then I saw that Anglicans pray with rosaries, too. This came as a pleasant surprise, as I am officially Anglican. So I looked around to find one I loved, and bought this:

Notice that it has a cross instead of a crucifix. It also has a different number of beads than the Catholic rosaries.

I hang Amalie's and Morgan's together on my computer, and I must say they look good together. The soft pearls and bright crystals contrast nicely with the more masculine wood. I hold them when I'm writing and pondering my words, and I think they do invoke the characters nicely.

I actually use my rosary. Though officially Anglican, I follow the Red Road — Indian spirituality — in practice. The two aren't incompatible by any means, so that's nice. But anyone stepping into my house would be perplexed and confused about what religion I am. And that's fine with me.

There's Bríghid's Virgin Mary candle on my mantle. There's a menorah on my kitchen shelf. There are several bundles of sage and an ear of dried corn from Black Mesa in my kitchen and a Sun Dance crown on my bedroom wall. There's a Celtic cross on the wall near my desk, and three different rosaries — two Catholic and one Anglican — on my computer, next to a necklace of turquoise turtles. A turkey feather, the words of a Psalm, a Bible, Buddhist meditations, and a book of Cherokee spritual writing round it out.

You gotta love the First Amendment. It protects my fiction, and it ensures that I can pray (and write) in any wacky way that works for me.

In other spiritual news, my beloved friend Kat is leaving the Rez and moving back to Denver! Thank GOD, and hurry the hell up, will you, Kat?

Next post: Torture by excerpt!
Saturday, September 01, 2007

Young love, first love

It's been a blue couple of days in my house. On Thursday, Liz, my son's beloved, left to go to college. The two of them have been dating for almost a year. And what a year it was! She was a senior, and he was a junior — except that everyone thought he was senior because he was in mostly advanced classes and because he talks and acts like an adult.

They went to Homecoming together, neither of them thinking anything romantic would come of it. But then over dinner, something just clicked. Liz told me she knew Ben was special when she realized they'd talked all through dinner and afterwards and had never had a single awkward silent moment.

I watched my son fall head over heels crazy in love with this beautiful young woman, who also happened to be very smart and fun. I got used to having her in my house, cooking meals with us, joining us for dinner and such. I got used to her popping through the door all hours of the day. And when I say "popping" I mean "spring-loaded." My son would answer the door, knowing it was she, and she would fly through the door and land right in his arms. It made me so happy to see my son's love being returned with so much enthusiasm.

Over the course of the year, they arranged many surprises for one another, some with my participation. Ben made her a teddy bear by hand using some pattern that existed in his imagination. The result was adorable. He snuck into her house while she was away and put it on her bed.

For Valentine's Day, he and his friends spent weeks rehearsing songs for their girlfriends and planning a big dinner and decorations. They had their respective women "kidnapped," brought blind-folded to one of their houses, where dinner was cooking, flowers were on the table and the room was decorated with fairy lights. Then one by one, the boys sang "their" song to their own beloved while the other boys sang backup. They all played guitar. Ben sang "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol, putting his heart into the night even though he had a 102-degree fever. The girls were blown away. Afterwards, Ben pretty much collapsed and Mommy had to drive into Boulder at 6 AM to get him.

There were dinners, surprise bouquets of flowers delivered in class, poems, photo albums filled with images of the two of them, a very romantic Prom, swing dance classes in which Ben learned how to lift Liz up, tilt her all the way back and kiss her, as he's doing in the photo above, taken two weeks ago. There were hikes, family dinners with the three of us and cakes spontaneously baked to surprise me. There were countless hours this summer of working on Ben's film, King of Hearts, a 1930s noir detective story in which Ben plays the detective and Liz plays the dangrous dame.

Ben and Liz pose in costume for the Gangsta Bitches on the set of Ben's film

So Thursday when Liz left was a very, very hard day in this house. Ben handled it very well. I took him out of school for the day and I stayed home from work. We had breakfast with Liz — and then we said goodbye to her. And, yes, I cried more than my son did. (The Gangsta Bitches are not surprised to hear this; they've seen my tear ducts in action. All tears, all the time.)

I took Ben into the mountains so that he could have some space to reflect. There's something about mountains or the ocean that have the ability to swallow us and all of our sorrows. We went up to Boulder Falls, then drove on the Peak to Peak Highway, which, incidentally, is the highway Marc Hunter follows after his escape from prison. We stopped in Nederland — known locally as Ned — though we didn't bother to stop and visit Grandpa in the Tough Shed, the dead guy whose grandson put him on ice and who has been in deep freeze since the 1990s up there and has become the focus of the annual event Frozen Dead Guy Days. But I digress.

Ben does his best Teddy Roosevelt pose in front of Boulder Falls, in the distant background.

By the time we got home, we'd gotten a few text messages each from Liz. The bouquet of "bright, fucking pink" gladiolas she'd given me — hey, that's what she called them — were on the table. (Those kids were paying attention, Libby!) The chocolate cake she'd made for us the night before was sitting on the counter. We had steak and potatoes for dinner, then sat down to a slice of her cake with vanilla ice cream and watched Ben's favorite movie, Casablanca.

Well, here's looking at you, kids.

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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