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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A stroll through my garden

We're getting to the time of year where the "What's blooming now?" feature on the left column here won't be enough to show you what's happening in my flower garden. I'm a lover of flowers, particularly the flowers I've chosen to grow in my garden — antique English roses, Rocky Mountain wildflowers, irises, lavender, delphiniums and so on. Because I'm such an "olfactory" person — I have a very sensitive nose — everything must have a smell. And when it's all in bloom, the scents mix together in the sunlight and I get drunk just standing on my own porch sniffing.

I took a quick stroll this morning and snapped some photos of what's blooming right this very second.

Stef, the peonies above are dedicated to you. They're such a lovely rich, red color, which is a perfect contrast to their deep green foliage. They just started blooming yesterday.

White iris is one of my very favorite scents. I could stand there all day with my nose in the blossoms, huffing like an addict. When Benjy was little he saw these from a very boyish point of view as the dust and light and fire from an explosion. (Hey, I'm not a boy. Don't ask me.) He started calling them "flak explosions" when he was about eight or nine. So that's what we still call them. LOL! Nice explosion, huh?

Sage is sacred to Native people here, and I grow a ton of it. White sage is really what I wish I grew, because it's the preferred form of sage for smudging and praying, but I love these tiny purple blossoms. This plant is perhaps five feet across and six feet long. It stands about two feet high. And when it's in full bloom, it seems to buzz from all the bees.

The dry climate and heat are great for growing California poppies. I love the rich orange color of these tiny flowers. They're just starting to pop, and they'll bloom all summer, though they get rather leggy by August.

Penstemon is a Rocky Mountain wildflower. It has slowly been spreading through one part of the garden, and I'm encouraging it. You can see the park-like green of my lawn in the background. It won't stay that way. It's too hot and dry here in the summer. Also, I think you can catch just a glimpse of the first Stelle del Oro daylily to bloom this year in the background.

Near the street I have irises of mixed colors behind a very tiny, dainty flower called Snow in Summer, which somehow defies the direct sun to bloom most of the summer. I just love it.

The first rose to bloom this year is Blanc Double de Couvert, a lovely scented rose with a bright white double blossom. It survived this past winter, which combined unusual extremes of heat and cold and dryness, better than the other roses, which all died back to the ground. Our climbing rose, which was 12 feet tall and last year must have had a thousand white roses on it also died back to the ground. Lamentation! It's only about two feet tall and has maybe forty buds right now.

I'm now more than two-thirds done with Naked Edge and hope to have another chapter done before I go to bed tonight. That puts me on target for finishing by mid-July and hopefully holding on to an early 2010 pub date.

Have a lovely spring day, everyone!
Thursday, May 28, 2009

Unlawful Contact is a Daphne du Maurier finalist!

I just got the news that Unlawful Contact, the third book in the I-Team series, is a Daphne du Maurier finalist! I'm really thrilled about this because I love the characters and the story and am happy the judges did, too. Also, it means that I'm three for three with the I-Team series. I've only written three romantic suspense novels, and they've all been finalists in the Daphne's single-title category. Of course, it would be really cool if this one wins. Still, the competition is always top-notch, so it's great just being a finalist.

This reminds me that I've promised some of you a certain scene involving Marc, his memories of Sophie and his right hand prior to his escape from prison — if you know what I mean. (And I think you do.) I will get to it, but it has to wait until Gabe's story is written.

Ah, Marc...

To celebrate, how about an excerpt? Hmm... Which scene? I can't remember which ones I've posted and which ones I haven't. But this is one of my favorites. I remember writing it and how long some of the emotional sequences took to get right. If you haven't read the book, there are probably spoilers here, but what the heck?

From Unlawful Contact:

“Easy, Sophie. I’m not going to hurt you.”

Sophie heard a man’s voice, felt hands move over her, tugging off her bra, unzipping her skirt, ripping off her panties. A spark of panic ignited in her belly, moved sluggishly to her brain. She tried to push the hands away, but couldn’t seem to move. “N-no!”

“That’s right, sweetheart. Get angry. I’d love nothing more right now than for you to wake up and hit me.”

But she couldn’t hit him. She couldn’t even open her eyes.

Then strong arms surrounded her, precious heat enfolding her, soothing her, chasing away her shivers. And she drifted.

Sometime later—she couldn’t say how much later—gentle fingers tested the pulse at her throat, pushed back the hair from her face, brushed over a sore spot on her cheek. Then she felt her head being lifted. A cup nudged her lips.

“Come on, sweetheart. Drink. That’s it.” The man’s voice was deep, comforting, somehow familiar.


Warmth slid down her throat to her stomach, spread through her belly and into her limbs, rousing her, driving the terrible cold away, bringing her slowly back to herself.

The crackling of a fire. The scent of wood smoke. The soft warmth of skin against skin. An arm around her waist. The steady thrum of a heartbeat.

She opened her eyes, found her face pressed into a bare chest.

A man’s bare chest.

Her heartbeat picked up as she tried to remember, her mind strangely fogged.

Had she met someone? Had she gone home with someone last night? Had she been so drunk that she’d forgotten? She’d never done that before—ever. That was Holly’s M.O.

But here she was. And here he was.

They lay as close together as a man and woman could without having sex, her head resting on the hard mound of his bicep, one of her legs tucked intimately between his, her breasts squashed against his ribcage. As close as she was, she couldn’t see much of him. But she could feel all of him—the coarse hair on his hard thighs, the prodding outline of his testicles and penis, the ripped muscles of his chest and abdomen.

She was in bed with Adonis, and she couldn’t remember how she’d gotten here.

She drew her head back to get a better view of him. The firelight revealed some kind of tattoo on his right arm, which lay possessively around her waist. She tried to make out what it was—an eagle?—but most of it was concealed by a dark band of duct tape and something that looked like—

Dried blood.

Her memories flooded back, riding on a surge of fear.

It was him.

Marc Hunter.

The man who’d held a gun to her head. The man who had kidnapped her. The man who’d… Oh, God! Had he raped her?

“No!” She pushed, kicked, tried to shove him away.

“Calm down, Soph—!” He gave a grunt, then a growl, then rolled her beneath him, the length of his naked body holding her motionless on the mattress, his hands pinning her arms above her head. “Oh, Christ!”

Some part of her registered the pain in his voice, but she was too afraid, too panicked, too damned angry to care. “Get off—!”

“Not till you promise to keep your knees away from my balls!” He groaned through gritted teeth. “Damn, woman, you’re hard on the manberries!”

It took a moment for him to catch his breath.

Then he raised his head and scowled down at her. “Listen to me, sprite! I’m sure this is confusing as hell, but it’s not what you think. Nothing violent or X-rated happened. You were hypothermic, and I spent the past few hours trying to keep you alive. We’re in a sleeping bag together to preserve body heat.”

But Sophie barely heard him.

Only one person had ever called her that.

She stared up at him, almost too stunned to breathe. But even as she tried to deny it, she knew it was true, recognition dawning in a bittersweet rush.

She drew in a shaky breath, then let it go. “Hunt?”

The scowl on his face softened to a frown. “So you don’t recognize me till I’m lying naked on top of you? I guess I’ll take that as a compliment.”

Through the havoc of her feelings, she tried to explain. “Y-you called me ‘sprite.’”

His dark brows drew together. “I did?”

“Yeah.” The word came out a whisper.

For a moment, they lay there in silence, skin to skin, the weight of his body pressing down on her, their gazes locked. At an emotional edge, she forgot all the big things—like the fact he’d held a gun to her head—her mind catching only the details.

The rapid beat of his heart against hers. The rasp of his chest hair. The hard ridges of his abdomen against her belly. The heat of his skin. The strength of his grasp. The dark length of his lashes. The unreadable emotion in his eyes.

Slowly, he released her wrists, his hands shifting until they pressed palm to palm with hers, his gaze never leaving hers.

Somehow her fingers twined with his, locked.

Then he groaned—and kissed her.

It was a deep kiss, full and scorching, his lips pressing hot against hers, his tongue probing the recesses of her mouth with skilled strokes, his body moving against hers in a slow grind as if he were kissing her with every fiber of his being.

A bolt of heat ricocheted through her, unexpected and overwhelming, making her shudder. Unable to think, she arched against him, her tongue seeking his, her body driven by raw instinct. And for a moment she was lost in him—in the male feel of him, in the intensity of his kiss, in the erotic pressure of his erection against her hip.

Then she caught it—the coppery scent of blood.

His blood.

Reality crashed in on her like an avalanche.

Drop the steel and back off, or I’ll blow her the fuck away!

She was kissing a cold-blooded killer, the man who’d held a loaded gun to her head, the man who’d almost gotten her killed.
In a heartbeat, the fire inside her became fury. She wrenched her head to the side, tried to twist away. “N-no! Stop!”

“God, Sophie!” He sounded breathless, his voice strained. “Jesus!”

“Don’t touch—!”

He clamped a hand over her mouth, glared down at her. “Believe it or not, I didn’t mean for that to happen any more than you did! Now, I’m going to unzip the sleeping bag and get out, and you’re going to leave my nuts intact, got it?”

# # #

Her body trembling, Sophie pulled the sleeping bag tighter around her, struggling to come to grips with all that had happened and watching as Hunt, still naked as a Greek statue, fed his prison garb to the fire, one piece at a time.

Marc Hunter was Hunt.

Strange to think she’d never known his real name. She’d thought Hunt was his real name. She’d never heard anyone call him anything but Hunt, not even teachers. She hadn’t known he had a younger sister, either. So much for teenage intimacy.

She ought to have recognized him at the prison. True, he had a beard and much longer hair, and he was taller now, more muscular, his rangy frame filled out. But those green eyes, those lips, those high cheekbones were the same. In retrospect, it seemed so clear. Hadn’t she had a strange feeling about him? God, she felt stupid!

But then prison was the last place she’d expected to see him. All these years she’d imagined Hunt serving his time in the Army, going to college, and setting out for the stars, a wife and three kids at home. Instead, he’d been rotting in a prison cell.

The teenager who’d secretly wanted to be an astronaut—the young man who’d taken her virginity and given her the most romantic night of her life—had grown up to become a cold-blooded killer.

The pain of it cut through her like a razor, her anguish made sharper because he’d clearly known who she was from the beginning—and he’d put a loaded gun to her head anyway.

Drop the steel and back off, or I’ll blow her the fuck away!

She swallowed, forced down the rush of emotions that welled up in her chest, unwilling to let him see how much he’d hurt her.
And if he’d also saved her life?

She’d been unconscious for part of the time, but she remembered enough—hands tearing away her wet clothing; a voice urging her to wake up, to open her eyes, to drink; strong arms holding her close, enfolding her in warmth.

Easy, Sophie. I’m not going to hurt you.

Could an act of compassion make up for cruelty?

She didn’t know.

She raised a hand to her mouth, pressed her fingers against her tingling lips. Why had she let him kiss her like that? Why had she kissed him back? And how could his kiss have affected her so much after all he’d done?

It was shock, Alton.

Or nostalgia. Or exhaustion. Or adrenaline.

She came up with a quick list of excuses, none of which appeased her conscience. All she knew for certain was that she’d never felt anything like the surge of emotion that had taken her the moment she’d realized who he really was—relief and joy and grief and anger twined so tightly that she hadn’t been able to tell them apart.

At least she knew he wouldn’t rape or kill her.

He stood, watching the fire burn, his hair hanging between his shoulder blades, the muscles of his back narrowing to his waist, his butt tight and round. How’d he’d stayed in that kind of shape during six years in a nine-by-nine cell was beyond her. But there was no doubt in her mind how he’d managed to pull so many strings from behind bars. He positively exuded dominance. He gave off a vibe that said, quite distinctly, “Don’t fuck with me.”

But, clearly, someone had tried. A thick scar at least six inches long curved down the left side of his back. She didn’t have to be a doctor to know it had been made with a crude and vicious weapon and that he’d come close to being killed.

He bent down and reached for the stolen backpack, giving her a brief glimpse of the body part she’d supposedly abused, scattering her thoughts.

She looked quickly away, found herself gazing around a one-room cabin. Log walls. A pine table and chairs that matched the bed. A chest of drawers. Antlers above the fireplace. One shuttered window. One door, it’s lock broken, a chair tucked beneath the knob to keep it from swinging open. He must have kicked it in when he’d brought her indoors. Had he carried her inside? He must have. She had no memory of arriving here.

“If you’re thinking of running, you’d best think again.” His voice startled the silence. He turned toward her, still naked, and tore into what looked like a package of long underwear. “We’re miles from anywhere, and the snowpack is almost six feet deep. You’ll exhaust yourself post-holing and will probably be dead before you reach the main road.”

She forced herself to look at his face, not the heavy planes of his chest or the silver scar near the dark circle of his right nipple or the shifting tattoos on his biceps or his six-pack or the trail of dark hair that led to…

Her mouth went dry.

And he wasn’t even hard.

Something clenched deep in her belly to think that that had once been inside her.

She jerked her gaze back to his face, hoped he hadn’t noticed, and was relieved to see he was looking down at the long johns in his hands. She swallowed—hard. “I want my clothes.”

“Forget it. They’re soaked.” He stepped into the bottoms, pulled them up, tucking himself inside, the stretchy material seeming to accentuate, rather than hide, his penis. Then he ducked down and grabbed something else from the backpack. “But if you’re done staring at my crotch, you can put these on.”

Sophie felt her cheeks burn—and got a face full of long underwear.

Pink long underwear.

“Hope you like the color.” He turned his back to her, picked up a piece of firewood, and dropped it onto the blaze. “Got it on sale.”
Friday, May 22, 2009

The difficulty of writing sex

This image was purchased, not stolen.

Back to our regularly scheduled program... Kind of.

I want to thank each and every one of you who posted below. I'm sorry I didn't answer individually. This week was another special edition, and my son's girlfriend came to visit, so between getting 100+ pages to press, I was running to the airport and sending off copyright infringement notices. Still, I read and appreciate all of your posts. It means the world to me that you understand and care. I adore you!!!

Thanks to those of you who took up the topic on your blogs, as well. At the very least, people who see those posts might think twice before giving in to the temptation of downloading.

Illegal downloading is the topic of this week's poll! Yes, there's a new poll. I can't see who answered or how — it's completely anonymous — so you can confess and be absolved. It's merely for curiosity's sake that I put it up, not to scold anyone. I think we've all done something at one point or another, perhaps not realizing what we were doing constituted a copyright violation.

Enough of that for now.

Foot update: I hate having a broken foot. I need to go back for more x-rays, but I haven't made the time yet. I've been going without the cast on occasion, which last Sunday night resulted in my waking up in abject agony. I believe I almost screamed in fact. I woke up shouting, "Oh, my God!" And it wasn't in the good, orgasmic sense, either.

Speaking of SEX...

Last weekend I wrote a different sort of sex scene. It's an act I've not included in my books before. Aha, you say! She's finally writing anal sex! Um... no. I'll let you guess what it was. (The excerpt is below.) The thing that was fun about it was that it was new for me and therefore an interesting challenge to write.

Despite what Cosmo tries to tell us, there really is nothing new under the sun when it comes to men and women getting it on. I see their covers with teases like: "The 10 newest sexual positions! Cosmo tells you how!" Well, those 10 positions are probably in the Kama Sutra, if nowhere else, and we all know how: Get into a funky position and then do what you always do — insert Tab A into Slot B and let the spirit move you.

This image was also purchased. With money. That I earned.

The point is that writing interesting, compelling sex isn't easy. I think it's the hardest component of a story. Any time I come to a sex scene, I know it's going to be a tough bit of writing and I'm going to want to pull my hair out. How many ways can you describe a tongue inside another person's mouth? How many ways are there to describe an orgasm? How many ways can you describe the sounds a person makes when they're sexually aroused or climaxing or sexually contented?

The more books I write, the harder it is. I keep meaning to create an Excel spreadsheet to use to organize the adjectives, verbs and other descriptive terms I use so that I don't repeat myself. We all know that some books get that way — it's the author's 15th novel and every love scene is starting to sound the same. I so desperately don't want that to happen to my books, though it probably already has!

Of course, the key is to have each sex scene develop from the characters' own unique personalities. So Nicholas and Bethie have their slow, healing progression from "don't touch me" to "No Man But Me." And Julian all but assaults Tessa on his bedroom floor, believing, until he faces his past, that he is the kind of man who could do that kind of thing. And Marc just wants everything he can get after years of deprivation (provided it's Sophie), especially a mouthful of the taste he's missed while in prison. And so on...

But even so, there are only so many ways to describe it. Most difficult of all, there are only so many words you can use to name the organs involved. I refuse to use things like "sheath" or "velvet center" in contemporaries (and even historicals). But if you use "p-ssy" or "c-nt," you're going to irk your readers. So what does that leave you with? "He thrust his cock into her wet heat." Been there, written that, probably have the T-shirt.

It's a conundrum.

So let's talk about this: repetitive love scenes and ridiculous language. Where do you draw the line with language, and how do you deal with sex scenes in an author's work when they start to feel canned? Those of you who are writers, please share with me your patented secrets for dealing with this conundrum.

And to all my American readers: Have a good Memorial Day. Prayers and thoughts for our veterans and those who've been injured or lost their lives fighting for their country.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Favorite sex scenes

A while back — it seems like eons ago — I posted a poll asking you all to tell me what your favorite sex scenes are from my novels. Fun idea, only it seems I didn't do it right.

Because the poll function doesn't allow you to enter words, I had to make a list from which you could choose. In making that list, I attempted to put what I thought (from a reader point of view) were the best scenes from each book. But I left out the waterfall scene with Morgan and Amalie, and I left out an entire story — Will and Lissy's story, "Heaven Can't Wait."

As a result, some of you let me know that you couldn't vote because your favorite scene wasn't listed.

Here are the results as they stand:

Alec & Cassie: The shackle scene — 0 (0 percent)
Jamie & Bríghid: Tied up in the forest — 1 (3 percent)
Bethie & Nicholas: "No man but me" — 6 (21 percent)
Iain and Annie: The shaving scene — 6 (21 percent)
Morgan & Amalie: The "wolf" scene — 0 (0 percent)
Kara & Reece: The "menage" with Mr. Jiggle Stick — 0 (0 percent)
Tessa & Julian: The shower scene — 4 (14 percent)
Sophie & Marc: The Jag shag — 9 (32 percent)
None of the above. I have a different favorite — 2 (7 percent)

The Jag Shag won, but with only 32 percent of the vote. That was followed by the "No Man But Me" scene from Ride the Fire, a favorite of mine, and the shaving scene from Surrender. After that came Tessa and Julian's shower scene, and then Jamie and Bríghid's forest scene.

I was surprised that Alec and Cassie's shackle scene got no votes and that Kara and Reece and Mr. Jiggle Stick similarly got no votes. But, hey, what do I know? The wolf scene from Untamed also received no votes, but for some reason that doesn't surprise me.

So here's the question: If you could choose and weren't limited to the choices I made, what would it be?

And, most importantly, why???????
Friday, May 15, 2009

Naked Edge Excerpt

My new mattress

Busy, busy week in newspaper land. Looks like I'm revving up for a big investigation. Can't say more about it than I think I'm going to enjoy this one. I love making life difficult for people who've worked hard to be jerks.

The big news at home this week is that I bought a new bed. I've been sleeping on the same box springs and mattress since I was five months pregnant with Benjy — that's 20 years ago — and even though it was top-of-the-line in its day, it hasn't been comfortable for several years. The price made me sweat bullets, but then I thought of what it would be like to sleep and I handed that credit card right over.

How's that for edge-of-your-seat excitement. A new bed! Woohoo!

Other news:

Lilac attack

My lilacs are so lovely I can't stand them. Benjy and I planted the bushes a few years ago. At the time, they were not taller than my knee. But now they're up to my chin and dripping with beautiful, scenterrific blossoms. My garden is starting to take off — Benjy is outside right now in the last phase of weeding the front beds — so the "What's Blooming Now?" feature on the left panel here isn't going to be enough to keep you up to date.

Lily of the valley

Lilacs, hardy geranium and lilly of the valley are all in bloom right now. The geranium will bloom all summer. The other two are fleeting but sweet.

Hardy geranium

My Russian sage bush seems to have bit the dust. It's a huge bush and well-suited to dry climates. But we had such a bitter cold snap early in the winter, followed by no moisture till late March. I think that was too much. Fortunately, though other plants suffered, it appears to be the only casualty.

My climbing rose died back to the ground after three years of growth making it more than 10 feet tall. And all of the rose bushes except for the Blanc Double du Coubert died back to the ground. All of the canes are D-E-A-D dead. Fortunately, they're all sending up new canes, or I'd be rolling on my lawn and wailing. I love roses so much!

The tulips are either gone or past their prime, and asiatic lilies are pushing their way up.

Okay, now that I've bored you into oblivion with the minutiae of my garden, I thought I'd share a humorous but (hopefully) still sexy excerpt from Naked Edge.

This is from Chapter 19, which I haven't quite finished yet. So it's hot off my finger tips:


Feeling replete and contented, Gabe cradled Kat’s head against his shoulder, watching through half-closed eyes as she trailed a fingertip through the pool of ejaculate on his belly. She dabbed at it, made little circles in it, rubbed it into his skin like lotion, her actions somehow both innocent and amusing.

“So this makes a baby.” There was a note of awe in her voice.

“Not like this.” He reached for the box of tissues on his nightstand. “Mostly, it just makes a mess.”

# # #

Five minutes later, Gabe sat at the table in his boxer briefs, watching as Kat, wearing that same old T-shirt of his she’d worn this morning, made them a dinner of buffalo steaks, roasted potatoes and salad. Where she came by this sudden burst of energy when he could barely think and would rather be dozing in his bed with her still in his arms was beyond him. He supposed it was one of the great mysteries of life — how having a good orgasm knocked a man out, but re-energized a woman and left her ravenous.

Maybe it was an evolutionary thing that had enabled women to fatten up for pregnancy and produce healthier offspring back in the day when life was hard and food scarce. He could kind of see that. A cave woman has sex with a cave man, and while he’s lying on the mammoth skin in a post-coital stupor, she raids his cave for leftovers. Still, Gabe supposed human males had it easy. If he were a male black widow or praying mantis, Kat would be munching on him right now, not carrot sticks.

Not that he and Kat had mated. Not that they’d actually had sex. They’d done nothing more than get each other off like a couple of high school kids. And yet it had satisfied him in a way that three years of hard-core fucking hadn’t. Later, when his brain was working again, this would probably scare the shit out of him. Which was why he didn’t want to think about it now.

He watched Kat sprinkle salt and pepper on the rib eyes. Then she bent down to slide them in the oven to broil, and his gaze shifted to the curve of her ass and her cute lavender panties. And some of his daze lifted.

She shut the oven, then stood and turned to him, half-eaten carrot stick in hand. “Do you like onions in your salad?”

Despite what had happened today, she seemed relaxed, almost happy, the ordeal she’d been through temporarily forgotten. Some macho part of him found this more than a little gratifying. Distracted by the sweetness of her face, he barely heard himself answer. “Uh-huh.”

It was a good thing she hadn’t just asked him if he liked rat turds in his salad.

You’re in over your head, buddy!

Yeah, he was. But at the moment that didn’t seem so bad.
Monday, May 11, 2009

Recommended reads

I think the last time I posted about a book I'd recently read, it was Kathleen Givens' On a Highland Shore, which I still love and still recommend for those who love Scottish history and in-depth, sympathetic characters. I really loved that book.

Recently, I've read two books that I enjoyed so much I thought I'd mention them.

The first is Anna Campbell's Tempt the Devil, which is read last week. Here's a brief synopsis from Amazon:

Any man in London would worship her. Yet Olivia is, quite frankly, bored of them all. Despite her many dalliances, she's never felt true passion, never longed for any lover's touch . . . until Julian, London's most notoriously wanton rake, decided to make her his mistress.

From the moment he first saw her, Julian knew he must possess her. And when he discovers her greatest secret, a scandal that could ruin her reputation and end her career, he knows just the way to use this damaging information to his most delightful advantage. He offers Olivia a deal with the devil: he'll keep her secret . . . if she allows him the chance to show her true ecstasy.

But Olivia must be careful, for Julian has a secret of his own: he will not rest until she is completely, shamelessly his.

I'm not typically one to read Regencies. I'm far less interested in lords and ladies and society than I am in the lives of common people. It's the archaeologist in me. Also, a story with a courtesan as the heroine.... Not typically my thing. But I was excited to read this book because it was written by Anna Campbell. She writes unusual historicals that tend to turn the dominant paradigm on its head. And she's very, very good at making us care about her characters.

I found an emotional richness in this story that is often lacking in romance novels. The depth of the characterization, the fact that neither Olivia nor Julian are one-dimensional characters, the fact that story revolves around sex as an issue and yet isn't about sex at all... A really wonderful story. It brought tears to my eyes at times, particularly the parts that resonated with topics in Ride the Fire. (That's all the hint you're getting from me.)

The second book — one I finished in the wee hours this morning — is historical fiction written by a romance novelist, Joan Wood. The Road to Avalon retells the Arthurian legend in a way that is as historically accurate as you're probably going to get. Again, this thrills the archeologist in me.

In Wood's book, we're actually in post-Roman Britain fighting to survive incursions by the Sea Wolves, the Saxons. One gets a strong taste of the Roman history, but also the Welsh components of the story. Rather than setting the medieval version of the story we all know in a post-Roman setting, she strips many of the medieval components away, revealing a story about a man who was destined to be king, the woman he loved beyond all others, the wife he tried to love, and the kingdom he built through staggering self-sacrifice.

Mary Jo Putney wrote in her forward to the story: "I've never read a version that had greater psychological resonance than Joan Wood's treatment."

I read that before I read the story, thinking, "Yeah, I love Mists of Avalon, and there's no way you can beat that."

However, I have to say that Wood at the very least equalled Mists of Avalon for me precisely because of this psychological resonance. All of the strange events in Camelot — Gwenhwyfar's affair with Bedwyr (often spelled Bedivere, who was her lover prior to Lancelot's appearance in the stories); Arthur's son through incest, Mordred; the deaths of Arthur at Mordred's hand. It all makes sense in this story, and it's all terribly tragic because non of these characters are evil. The Christian vs. Pagan angst of Mists of Avalon is downplayed to the point of being irrelevant, which was fine with me. And these are masculine Romanized Britons, which has its definitely appeal. There is no explicit sex, though there is sex.

And I loved it. It was one of those books where, although you know Arthur dies, you have to keep reading. And when he does die, the bittersweetness of his passing is excruciating.

I've tried to find a .jpg of the book's new cover to post, but they're all very tiny. So instead I'll just show you the painting that's on the cover, "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" (The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy). It's being reprinted, so you'll be able to find it at Amazon and in bookstores soon, I'm guessing.

And just what am I doing reading instead of writing? I read on nights when I'm too exhausted from my job to write. As for why I might focus on reading books about King Arthur and why everything I read for the next several months will be about King Arthur... You'll just have to guess.

I hope all of you mothers had a wonderful Mother's Day. I spent the day with Benjamin, and I've taken an extra day off this week to be with him today. Which is wonderful! We're off to do some grocery shopping — finally I have someone to help! My broken foot rejoices! — and then I'll be back.

So, tell me whether you've read this books, what you thought and what you're reading now.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009

How slow can you go?

If the person we're talking about is I, the answer is quite slow, indeed. Not by choice. Not because I want to be the slowest writer on the face of the Earth. Not because I don't care that there are readers who want Kat's story now and Connor's story now and Lord William's story now and Joseph's story now. And what about Ruaidhrí and Emma Rose??? Won't I write about them, too???

Yes, I get your e-mails, and I, too, want these stories to be written. I want to lavish you with prose that inspires you and characters that delight you and make you fall in love. Here's the catch:

I'm very, very picky, and I'm very, very busy.

I'm very picky because I don't ever want to put a book in your hands that disappoints you. A fool's hope, perhaps, as I know that has happened. Still, I make it my goal to write books that satisfy with no loose ends forgotten, no chance for heightened emotion overlooked.

I'm very busy because I'm a single mom with a day job. If I could find a corporate sponsor to enable to sit at home and write all day every day, I would gladly wear their T-shirt and paint their logo on my house. Sadly, no one has offered yet, which leaves me in my current situation.

The image at top was taken back when I started Naked Edge. You'll notice that in those days, writers were made to be content with quill and parchment — vellum, mostly.

Time passed, and the quill fell into disuse. Some fellow in Germany came up with the idea of moveable type. (Imagine that!) And my entire manuscript — all 20 pages that were written by then — was printed onto paper using wooden block letters like these.

And still I toiled and labored and worked, hoping to bring you all the best possible story I could, listening to my characters when I ought to have been sleeping, looking at the most intimate details of their hearts and minds, foregoing fun and dates and food and personal hygiene to focus my energy on Kat and Gabe's story.

The seasons progressed, springs and winters without number, and then God created the typewriter. I'm not certain it actually was God — I wasn't looking at the time — but when I saw it, I saw that it was good. It enabled writers to type into the wee hours of the night in their own homes, where they could be have as writers behave — wearing pajamas, drinking too much coffee in the morning and too much wine at night, having conversations with non-existent people, and behaving strangely.

Then, of course, there were "word processors," and now I own a laptop. Yes, a Mac.

The point is that I have been writing this novel for a very long time, and you all have been very patient. I am making progress, and I am working very hard on it. I will be taking time out to see Star Trek because I must, but that's the only real break I'm giving myself. So I am sorry the publication date has been bumped back to February 2010. I hope to turn it in on time so the date doesn't need to be pushed back once more.

I promise to write as fast as I can!
Sunday, May 03, 2009

Support the free press — hug a journalist

The Freedom Forum Journalists Memorial honors journalists who've died while trying to expose the truth.

Today, May 3, is World Press Freedom Day, an international day intended to draw attention to the eroding freedom of the press worldwide and to the important work journalists do, sometimes at great cost to themselves. Some are harassed and threatened. Some are imprisoned. Some experience violence. And some are killed.

Those of you who've followed the I-Team series, which is in part based on my own work as an investigative journalist, understand by now that being a reporter can be dangerous. I jokingly tell people that I went in to journalism not understanding that it was a contact sport. It's a joke, and yet it's kind of not funny.

When I wrote Extreme Exposure, I dedicated the book to the 1,400 or so journalists who'd died in the line of duty. The number of slain journalists is now at least 1,913.

Far too often these days when we think of "media," we think of mainstream media that doesn't do its job, or we think of paparazzi-type reportage that involves chasing people and invading their lives to bring the public news that doesn't matter. Rarely do people think of those reporters who toil away, day in and day out, doing the hard work of muckraking — digging and researching in order to protect our freedom by acting as a watchdog on government and those in power.

In my own tiny way, I've tried to fight the good fight. I have friends who still fight the good fight, some of whom you may have seen on TV or heard on the radio, telling about injustices they've exposed. All the investigative reporters I know have, at times, been threatened. I've had two stalkers, one of whom threatened to kill me with an AK-47 and who sent me letters detailing where I went and what I said to the cashier at the gas station, etc. If it's like that for us here in the U.S., imagine what it's like in other countries.

So today while enjoying your beautiful spring Sunday, take a second to remember reporters around the world, some of whom are languishing in prison cells for the crime of telling the truth.

And, Michael, congrats for making it onto Colorado Public Radio with the program about PTSD and soldiers at Fort Carson. You rock.

Coming soon: I-Team hero interviews and more Naked Edge excerpts!

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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