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

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pardon our dust — I-Team Reading Challenge


I just wanted to apologize for not keeping up better with the blog lately. Not only is work busy, but I ran into some complications with my neck. I’m now taking prednisone and painkillers to get that back on track.

But it has put me behind in my writing and in rolling out all the fun I had planned to celebrate the upcoming release of Breaking Point.

Only 33 days and 16 hours to go as I write this!

Still, thanks to some help from my sister and some friends, things are moving forward. So here’s what’s under construction:

I-Team Trivia: These are some tough questions! Plus, there will be a section of matching the hero/heroine to the quote. You think you know Julian? Is Marc your man? Have you got Gabe down? We’ll see.

I-Team Hero/Heroine Interviews: This is always lots of fun. We can sit down and check in with them and see what they have to say about and to each other.

There will be prizes for winners, including signed copies of Breaking Point, the chance to appear in the next I-Team novel, an exclusive opportunity to preview Defiant and more.

If Jed Hill answers the questions I sent him, we could have an interview with him. I do plan to contact the former U.S. Marshal I interviewed for this story and see if she’d be willing to answer some questions for you all.

So pardon our dust and the various delays and stay tuned! Much fun to come!

Recent poll results: As the latest poll, about the use of words like “pu$$y” finishes out, I thought I’d comment on the fact that 100 out of 130 voters want to see Holly’s story. So here’s my promise: If my publisher doesn’t want it, I’ll write it for release as an e-book.

If you want to discuss the issue of words like “pu$$y” in romance, hop on over to my Facebook page, where a rousing discussion is underway.

Have a great day, everyone!
Wednesday, March 23, 2011

BREAKING POINT gets a starred review from PW!

I was hoping for good news — any kind of good news today. My prayers were heard and delicious excitement was delivered to my e-mail Inbox in the form of a starred review for Breaking Point from Publisher’s Weekly.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with PW, the publication doesn’t review very many romances. Of the books the editors choose to review — books of all kinds, not just romance — those found to have special merit are given a star. So one star from Publisher’s Weekly beats five stars from pretty much everywhere else.

And what did PW have to say? I thought you’d never ask!

Pamela Clare. Berkley Sensation, $7.99 ISBN 978-0-425-24051-9

Clare’s fifth I-Team novel (after Naked Edge) sizzles with constant adventure and romance. U.S. Marshal Zach McBride is the unwilling guest of Mexican drug lords when he meets another prisoner, American journalist Natalie Benoit. The two join forces to escape and make their way across the treacherous Mexican desert toward the U.S. border. Their romance and mutual attraction develop as they share their unhappy life stories and dodge their enemies in one harrowing encounter after another. Natalie's initial fragility is juxtaposed against Zach’s stalwart nature as he helps unearth her hidden strengths and she encourages him to listen to his heart. Complex characterizations and a fast-paced plot filled with sensual romance and mystery make this a highly enjoyable read for newcomers and series fans alike. (May)

This is the first time PW has reviewed one of my I-Team books, though they’ve done reviews of both Surrender and Untamed. Untamed also got a starred review, while Surrender merely received a very positive review.

I’ve also heard that RT Book Reviews gave Breaking Point four stars. Here’s what their reviewer wrote:

“Clare consistently delivers! Breaking Point is packed with gut-wrenching tension, tragedy, romance and passion. The characters are riveting and the story of Mexican drug lords, journalists fighting for the truth and marshals seeking justice is timely and effective.”

This is a step up from Naked Edge, which got a measly three stars from RT.

I just wanted to share the great news with you. It certainly made my day!
Sunday, March 20, 2011

Thanks to my awesome readers!

A bloom from last year’s garden

Congratulations to Julie James for winning last night’s heated race in Round 2, Set 3 of the DA BWAHA, which I believe stands for Dear Author Bitchery Writing Award for Hella Authors. Awesome name.

I just wanted to thank all of you who voted and posted and tweeted and corralled other readers, your friends, your family, strangers in the subway on behalf of Naked Edge. We lost by 280 votes — a respectable amount given how many votes were cast in that race. It’s all in good fun, and it was great to be included this year.

Julie James is one classy woman. She’s giving away two copies of Naked Edge on her Facebook fan page today. As far as I know, she and I fought our way through that bracket with zero trash-talking.

I have to say some of your tweets were hilarious! As I said in a Facebook post, I have the most awesome readers. I just adore you all.

When I wasn’t hitting the “refresh” button yesterday, tweeting or posting on Facebook, I was outside with Benjamin getting our early garden planted. I really believe in the concept of the victory garden or urban homesteading, whatever you want to call it. So we always have a vegetable garden, and we’re become better urban farmers.

Yesterday we planted: onion sets, spinach, arugula, radishes, carrots, romaine lettuce and Swiss chard. Those are all basics for us. I’ve got broccoli ready to go in, as well. Then when we’re past any frost danger — mid-April to early May — I’ll get dinosaur kale, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, and a few kinds of squash planted (acorn, zucchini, summer squash and delicata). And we’ll be ready for summer.

Last year, I ate broccoli, green beans and chard out of our garden until fall. In fact, I had fresh broccoli through the first week of November. That was nuts! Of course, other people had to take care of the garden last year because of my neck surgery. But this year should be better, though I have been having some problems again and may be seeing the surgeon soon.

We also got our roses pruned. Those of you who’ve been following me for a while know we have a big rose garden. Benjy got it all pruned and ready for spring. I was afraid the bushes would have died back to the ground due to our extreme low temps this past winter, but most seemed to have pull through just fine. The miracles of mulching.

Benjy leaves for the second half of his spring semester today. It’s always terribly hard for me to make that drive to the airport and watch him walk away. He doesn’t like leaving either, but that’s part of him growing up. Empty nest just sucks.

But I wanted to pop in early and thank you all and wish you a peaceful, lovely Sunday!
Saturday, March 19, 2011

Votes needed! Vote for NAKED EDGE before 11:59 CST

Thanks so much to all of you who’ve already voted in today’s round of the DA BWAHA. And special thanks to those of you who’ve made this personal and tweeted, posted on Facebook and shared the link with your friends, helping to get out the vote.

At this moment, Naked Edge has fallen behind and is in danger of losing this bracket. I know there are a lot of you who voted last time who haven’t voted yet. It would mean a lot to me if you headed over to right now and voted.

If you have author friends who are willing to throw their votes behind Naked Edge, that would be great. Or if you're a member of a Yahoo group or other loop, please feel free to post there and include the link.

Bribery: If I win, I give away another copy of Naked Edge, plus I will post an excerpt from Defiant, Connor’s book. But that only happens if I win.

The polls close at 11:59 Central Standard Time. Tweet, text, e-mail, post...

Help me get out the vote for Gabe, and I’ll show you what that naughty boy Connor is up to right now.

I know I have the most passionate and devoted fans in romancedom, so I know we can do it!

Thank you!!!
Thursday, March 17, 2011

Vote for NAKED EDGE in the DABWAHA!

Sorry I’ve been AWOL. I still do not have Internet. It’s the longest I’ve been offline since the Internet was invented. I should be able to “get it up” tonight or tomorrow they say — “they” being Qwest.

First, I wanted to thank Ronlyn for keeping you all updated about my sudden disappearance. And I want to thank those of you who worked so hard to get the word out about the DABWAHA vote, which is happening right bloody now! Naked Edge was chosen as one of the finalists and needs your votes!

I hear that trash-talking is part of the DABWAHA tradition, but I’m not sure I’m capable of that. But I can pimp it with the best of them. So we’ll skip trash-talking and go for hyperbolic pimping instead.

But first things first: PRIZES!

The DABWAHA is famous for it’s amazing prizes, so there’s lots of good reasons to vote. I’ll add more. For every round that Naked Edge wins, I’ll give away a signed copy of the book. The more Naked Edge wins, the more changes you have to win. (To be entered into the drawings, comment below.)

So spread the word on your blogs, on Facebook, via Twitter and help Naked Edge take the DABWAHA.

10 Reasons Naked Edge Should Win the 2011 DABWAHA

10. Gabe is uncircumcized. How often in a romance novel is the hero’s dick different?

9. Kat is a virgin, but she’s not a stupid, mousy virgin, so you get 100 percent of the hymen but zero percent of the “I'm a virgin at age 26 for no good reason” TSTL.

8. Gabe and Kat have sex in the snow.

7. I practiced Kat’s near-fatal falling scene before writing it. I deserve something for that, don’t I? Well, don’t I? (Read about that here.)

6. Kat is American Indian through and through, not a Hollywood Indian. Naked Edge isn’t Dances with Rangers.

5. Julian Darcangelo + Marc Hunter + Gabe Rossiter

4. Some of the events in the book actually happened — and I was there reporting on them.

3. You never knew park rangers could be so damned sexy.

2. “I love you, Katherine James. I love you with everything I am. You're the best thing that ever happened to me. Remember that.”

1. Other authors write romantic suspense. I live it. (Except for the “romantic” part.)

So head over to, raise Naked Edge to March glory and collect prizes along the way. If that’s not win, what is?
Friday, March 11, 2011

Review — THE PERFECT PLAY by Jaci Burton

The Perfect Play (Play by Play, #1)The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


First, let's just take a moment to savor this cover. Jed Hill is among the wonders of nature, and I will never grow tired of staring at his absolutely ripped physique.

Fortunately, the book lives up to the cover. Mick is a star quarterback at the height of his career and his carefully orchestrated fame. Tara is an event planner single mom with a 14-year-old son she gave birth to as a teenager. When the two meet at an event Tara plans, neither of them have any idea where they're going to end up.

Tara doesn't want a parade of men in and out of her life because of the bad example it will set for her son — and because she's never really had any reason to trust men. Her life is her work and her son. (That's something I can relate to!) Mick, on the other hand, is wealthy, famous, a star — but he's sick of the bulimic models and vain starlets his agent has arranged for him to "date."

Although this relationship starts in the bedroom — and it gets off to a sexy start, believe me — it quickly becomes more than just sex. Those of you who love erotic love scenes will enjoy the book, because there is a lot of super-scorching sex in this story. But the emotion isn't lacking either, and by the end you'll be delighted, as I was, when Tara opens herself to the possibility of being with Mick and Mick straightens out his priorities, making a firm decision about what matters most to him in life.

My only quibble with the book is that I wanted an epilogue. I wanted to see Tara have the family and support she's never had before. Given that the next book involves Gavin, Mick's brother, a pro baseball player, I'm guessing we'll get some of that then.

This is the first book I've read on Kindle, so that was an adventure, too.

I recommend this to contemporary romance fans, romantica fans, and those who love sports-star heroes.

I just want to add something... A reader friend e-mailed me to ask about the sexuality in the story. She saw the “romantica” mention and wanted to know whether the love scenes included anal action, which she does not like to read. The answer? Yes, it does. I’m not into that either — call me Little Miss Vanilla if you like — but I found I was able to just skip a few lines and be fine. It's a great story.

View all my reviews
Wednesday, March 09, 2011

I-Team Reading Challenge — Naked Edge chat

Calling Team Gabe! This is your chance to wax eloquent.

I meant to have this up this morning, but this week has been insane at the paper. I had a huge project more or less dumped in my lap and am trying to get it done before I leave for a week-long writing vacation that starts tomorrow at 5 p.m. Things have been so tense that I did something I really haven’t done in ages today — I got up in the middle of a meeting and walked out. Now I just want chocolate and a blankie.

::Deep breath::

Poor Kat and Gabe have been patiently awaiting their turn on the I-Team Reading Challenge stage so this blog is dedicated to their story, Naked Edge.

Naked Edge drew together some completely unrelated things. It combined my climbing accident — read all about it here — with my years of reporting on American Indian issue and my time volunteering as a naturalist for Boulder Mountain Parks (now called Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks). I borrowed names from my ranger friends, which amused them. More than that, however, this book was a very personal tribute to the DinĂ© people and to my DinĂ© friends.

Without a doubt, it was the most difficult book I’ve written. I wanted to make absolutely certain to be accurate when it came to the Navajo traditions in the story and to Native culture in general. That’s a very complicated, layered world to portray even when you’re familiar with it as I am — Kat’s Navajo heritage, the mixed cultures off the reservation where Native people from all nations come together for ceremony, friendship and a sense of belonging, their conflicts with mainstream society. I’ve said it a zillion times, but I wanted Kat to be Navajo through and through, not an “apple,” i.e., red on the outside and white on the inside. If I had to criticize most books, films, TV shows involving Native characters it would be for portraying Native characters in a way that makes mainstream readers/viewers feel comfortable.

At the same time, there were things I couldn’t write about. The real goings-on in ceremony, certain sacred words and phrases. Those things aren’t meant to be shared. Except how do you create an authentic Navajo heroine without going into those things? Well, you have to be creative and careful.

Kat became my favorite heroine. Strong and very comfortable being a woman, she knew exactly who she was. There was no need to “find herself.” She was herself. And some readers agreed at least, as she was voted Favorite Heroine in RBL Romantica’s Hughie Awards, ousting Eve Dallas from her multi-year hold on the lead spot. Go Kat!

But a lot of people didn’t care for her. The reviews range from glowing five-star reviews to a measly three stars from RT Book Reviews and one-star review in which the reader says the book was “incredibly stupid,” mostly because she didn't like the fact that Kat said she didn’t date. In fact most of the objections to Kat came as a result of her sexual choices. Some people got on Kat’s case for being a virgin and setting Gabe straight at their first real meeting (lunch). Some people got on her case for not wanting him to wear a condom the first time they had sex. Some people hated the fact that she went back to the rez to have her baby and for not having an epidural (!). Some didn’t understand how a woman could go to college and still have superstitious religious beliefs about coyotes and so forth. Allow me to explain:

Some women don’t date. Dating — i.e., sampling men to see which one you like, if any — is a serial event. Some women wait for a man who is interested in them as a wife and explore that territory very carefully. These are mostly women of strong religious conviction.

A lot of Native people — not just Navajo — don’t feel comfortable with contraception. In the case of the Navajo, the mingling of male and female waters is part of what’s sacred about sex. If you remove that, you’ve destroyed the significance of the sex act. So naturally Kat would want her first sexual experience to be all natural.

As for the birth at the end, if Kat hadn’t gone home, her daughter would not have been considered Navajo. To be Navajo, you must have a certain blood quantum AND be born on the rez. And not all women have epidurals. A lot of women prefer completely natural births. What’s the big deal about that?

And lastly, a lot of women go to college and yet are Christian, Buddhist, Muslim or whatever. They have beliefs that may seem strange, stupid and/or superstitious to outsiders, too, even though they’ve been to college. To suggest that going to college eliminates a person’s belief system is to fail to understand the importance of tradition and one’s connect to one’s own spiritual truth.

What struck me as so funny as I read through all of these objections to Kat’s character, particularly the sexual ones, is that they were coming from women. Haven’t women fought long and hard for the right to make decisions about how they live their lives? Kat was making choices that were right for her, but there’s a segment of the romance reading world that just is only comfortable with sex for fun and wants heroines to be rockin’ the contraception.

But I write stories about characters who feel real to me. Kat was a traditional Navajo. These things were natural for her.

I guess I needed to get that off my chest. Whew!

As for Gabe, there were some readers who felt he was so repugnant that he couldn’t be redeemed. I found that funny, given how many novels have man-whore heroes. Gabe isn’t a man-whore by nature, of course, and meeting Kat was a scary re-introduction to his core self. Ultimately, it forced him to confront his choices, his past and the way he had changed. But, yes, it probably took readers a while to warm up to him. That didn’t bother me, because I knew by the end they would love him.

Because this book took a lot of risks, I was pretty nervous before it came out. I even blogged about how nervous I was. Despite the fact that the story received some of the nastiest reviews any of my books have ever received, it’s getting nominated for all kinds of awards — and winning. Between AAR and the Hughies, it won six awards. So I think a lot more people appreciate the risks the story took and the different feel of it than hated it.

As for the Big Event at the end, you all have done such an amazing job of keeping that secret! I can’t thank you enough for that. It was a crucial moment in the story, the one where past and present come together and Gabe has to make a choice. And the only choice he can make is to express his love for Kat in the ultimate fashion. I wanted that to feel real and to break hearts. I think it succeeded because Naked Edge has been getting a lot of tear-jerker designations.

So, a year after it’s release, I stand amazed by the recognition the story is receiving. I hope with all my heart that it opened up hearts and minds to the contemporary Native experience. Much of what was in the book is real and those real events represent the kinds of things that happen to Indian people every day: the raid on the inipi, the theft of artifacts, the corruption and loss of sacred sites, the desecration of graves, the struggle to maintain identity, the fight to preserve one’s own spiritual beliefs and practices, and so on...

I’ve been an eye witness to much of that. The raid on the inipi really happened. The loss of a prominent sacred site really happened. I covered it, shared the outrage and wished I could have done more.

I suppose the ultimate satisfaction for me came when my friend Kat, after whom Kat is named, read the book. Her husband, whom I call Uncle Ray, is a full-blooded hereditary Navajo spiritual leader, and both of them are dear to me. Kat read the book and e-mailed me to say it was perfect and that it felt authentically Navajo to her. She saw things that no one else could see — elements of shared experience between the two of us, late-night conversations, jokes, my own personal experiences on the rez. There are elements of our friendship that are woven into those pages.

Maybe that’s what makes the book feel special to people, even if they don’t know what those elements are or realize they’re even there. (Egads, now I miss her so much!)

Today, she sent me a link to a hideous news broadcast in which a non-Native reporter took news cameras into an inipi ceremony. Cameras! She filmed it. They filmed the altar. They filmed the sacred elements. And they put it on TV. During the call-in portion of the program, a Lakota elder called in to say that what they had done was wrong. She cut him off! I was horrified. (I’m not posting the link because that would only perpetuate the insult and damage.)

I didn’t intend for this post to be so long. This is all really heavy stuff. I guess it’s okay to share it with you, though, because these are the things I think about when I put a story together.

So I’ll shut up now and turn it over to you.
Saturday, March 05, 2011

RomCon & RangerCon

You, too, can stand here at Fort Ticonderoga overlooking Lake Champlain

I just wanted to pop in to update you all on a few things.

Recapping from my last post, Naked Edge is a DA BWAHA finalist in the contemporary category. The winner is determined by reader participation, and the games start on March 13!

RomCon — RomCon is taking place this summer in Denver. Last year was it’s first year, and it was a pretty amazing event. This year, some of those minor kinks will be worked out, and it should be tons of fun. It’s the only event of its kind — a gathering of romance readers and romance writers. It’s not about how to write romance or get published. It exists purely to bring readers and authors together. There are discussions and private chat sessions and a whole host of other events designed to get you close to the authors whose work you enjoy.

I signed up to be a RomCon affiliate this year so that those of you who want to attend can get a small discount. If you look at the right-hand column on my blog, you’ll see a little RomCon graphic together with a coupon code. The code is pclare. Just register with that code to get your discount.

A photo from last year’s PC Reality Tour. Here we are in
Rocky Mountain National Park.

RomCon is taking place from Aug. 5-7. And though we say it’s in Denver, it’s actually in Aurora — where Julian Darcangelo hits the streets. Last year, I took an SUV load of friends and readers on a tour of sites in the I-Team books, called the PC Reality Tour. I’m not sure I have that much energy this year. But if there is interest, I might pack a few people into my car and go tooling around Denver/Boulder and perhaps even into the mountains.

Facebook — I started a new fan page at Facebook. I’m not too far from my cap of 5,000 friends on my regular Facebook page and having a fan page allows me to do some things, like host certain events, that I can’t do as easily from the regular page. So pop on by and click “Like” to join in the fun. I’ve uploaded some photos and made a start toward getting the page rolling. I just don’t have tons of time. But it will come together. The first event I’ll be hosting is a release party for Breaking Point that will involve lots of giveaways, not just from me but from other authors, as well. Stay tuned for more info...

RangerCon — In 2012 — possibly May, possibly September or October — I plan to meet with a group of readers in Fort Edward, NY, to celebrate the MacKinnon’s Rangers series and the release of Defiant — and to see the real places in the novels. This includes: Rogers Island (Ranger Island), the town of Fort Edward (Fort Elizabeth), Fort William Henry, Lake George, Fort Carillon/Ticonderoga, Rattlesnake Mountain and other sites in the vicinity. I hope to gather a group of reenactors, history experts, and others whose knowledge of the French & Indian War and the Colonial Rangers is astounding and have them guide us through history. Then I’ll read from the books, with the location right there in front of us.

This will be a not-for-profit event, with the cost based solely on the cost of all the things we do, i.e., vehicle rentals, experts fees, etc. I hope to have us all stay at the Historic Inn of Fort Edward, which is where I always stay when I’m there.

By necessity, this will be an intimate group, not a grandiose affair with five hundred people packed into a conference center. I’d like to get some idea of the interest out there. So please let me know if it’s something you’d be seriously interested in doing. The cost would involve airfare to Albany, NY, your hotel stay, meals and a registration fee to cover the cost of the events.

I might be able to arrange for us to go to the waterfall where Amalie and Morgan made love for the first time. I might be able to arrange for a mock battle complete with muskets to be fought in our honor. Who knows? I’m willing to try anything.

So please let me know if you’re interested. And if you know someone who’s a complete MacKinnon’s Rangers fan, please pass this to them.

I’m off to dose up on caffeine, and then I’m heading back in time to 1760 to the wilderness west of the Hudson River, where Connor is about to put his life on the line for the niece of the man he loathes most in the world — Wentworth’s niece, Lady Sarah Woodville.
Thursday, March 03, 2011

Game on! NAKED EDGE a DA BWAHA finalist

I logged in to check my e-mail a few minutes ago and discovered that Naked Edge, voted Favorite Romantic Suspense by AAR readers in their annual poll, is a finalist for the 2011 DA BWAHA contest that’s run by Dear Author, Smart Bitches, and The TBR LLC.

Is there something in the drinking water? Or is there something in the book? This is what I ask myself late at night.

If you know anything about DA BWAHA, you know it’s modeled after March Madness, an event pertaining to basketball. Call it basketball playoffs if you want. Teams are arranged into brackets and compete until there’s a single champion. (Can you tell I’m not a sports reporter?)

Naked Edge is one of eight finalists in the Contemporary category. But unlike basketball teams, novels can’t actually face each other down. Imagine the chaos in bookstores if they could! Flapping pages in the aisles, paper flying, broken bindings.

But that’s where readers come in, voting on brackets that are sent in and tabulated. Put simply, if you participate enthusiastically and all of you who love Gabe vote for Naked Edge, it just might win. The competition is stiff. The other finalists are wonderful novels written by extremely talented authors. But I believe in you as much as you believe in me!

The cool thing for readers is that this competition is loaded with prizes. Berkley, my publisher, is giving away an ARC of Breaking Point and a number of other novels. There are other cool prizes, as well, not just books. (But what’s cooler than books?)

Motivated? Head over to the DA BWAHA website to read more about how to play, to see a list of prizes and finalists — and to get your game on.

Please spread the word among other I-Team fans and Team Gabe members!

So thanks to Dear Author, Smart Bitches and The TBR LLC for choosing Naked Edge as a finalist.

And thank you for your support!

Team Gabe members will want to stick around. Next week, we have our chat about Naked Edge.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

I-Team Reading Challenge — Unlawful Contact chat

Welcome back to the I-Team Reading Challenge!

First, let me apologize for Blogger. The colors in my sidebars here are all wrong, and they are unfixable. So if things seem weird looking, they are. It’s not you.

Second, I’d love to hear from those of you who are participating in the challenge to hear how far you’ve come. I know some of you are already done, which is amazing.

Third, thank to all of you for the wonderful birthday wishes! I had a wonderful day yesterday. Ronlyn sent me flowers at work, which helped brighten the day considerably. Beautiful yellow roses and daisies, they are so cheery and lovely! Then last night I went out to dinner with my parents, and my mother surprised me — that is far too mild a word for it really — by giving me my grandmother’s wedding ring as a gift.

The ring — antique gold with an antique solitaire diamond — is so delicate and beautiful. My grandmother wore this ring on her finger when my grandfather was off chasing German U-boats in the U.S. Navy during World War II. She had two young children and a baby — my mom — and had to take care of them, plant and harvest the garden, tend the chickens and the goat. She had to wash laundry in a tub and run it through a ringer. Wearing it on my finger makes me feel very close to her and puts me in mind of the lives women used to live.

Needless to say, I got all teary-eyed.

But on to Unlawful Contact! Marc has waited long enough. And now I turn my blog over to Kara... Oh, wait.

I guess I’ll share my thoughts about this book first.

As all of you know by now, Unlawful Contact was based on real horrors that occurred in Colorado’s prisons. I began covering issues related to women in prison in 1997, when it dawned on me after some high-profile violence in the men’s unit at the local lockup that we never heard about women at our county jail. I called the sheriff and asked rather stupidly, “Do we have women in our jail?”

Indeed, we did. But no one was looking at their situation. No one was reporting on issues that were affecting them such as separation from their children or the lack of training programs for women as compared to men or substandard health care for women. So I jumped into the deep end on these issues — quite literally.

I worked with the county jail captain to be arrested on a bogus felony and locked away for 24 hours in the women’s unit with the inmates. It was the 24 scariest hours of my journalistic life and, I believe, my finest. During that 24 hours, chronicled in detail in my Goldilocks Goes to Jail diaries, I learned so much about the impact of violence on women’s lives. What is the No. 1 thing that most women in prison have in common? Childhood sexual abuse.

I could go on and on and on and on about the things I learned in that precious, terrifying 24 hours. But we’re here to talk about Unlawful Contact. It was actually the second book I had planned for the I-Team series, but my editor thought the content was too dark.

“You had some other idea, didn’t you?” she asked. “Why don’t you write that instead?”

Okay, sure, except that human sex trafficking isn’t a light-hearted either. If the sexual abuse of female inmates is too dark, what about the sexual enslavement of teenage girls? Well, I didn’t ask that question. Instead, I wrote Hard Evidence, afraid the entire time that she would reject it for being too dark. She didn’t. And she let me move on to Unlawful Contact at that point without a single word about how dark the subject matter was. I guess I had convinced her I could handle it and still have a romantic story.

There are so many real things in this story, from prison slang to inmates OD-ing in prison to the sexual abuse of teenage girls by adult male guards to the rape of parolees by a parole officer to the stillbirth of an inmate’s baby that resulted from neglect on the part of the guards to the shackling of pregnant inmates during labor.

I lost sleep over these abuses. I lay awake at night thinking about these women, feeling rage and despair that we as a society could take people and treat them like this. It wasn’t the fact that they were behind bars. It was the fact that their sentence came with grotesque violations of their human rights. The guards who methodically raped those teenage girls got less time in prison than the girls were serving in juvie. Rape and abuse and the loss of one’s baby should never be part of a person’s prison sentence.

All of my passion for this topic — women in prison — went in to writing Unlawful Contact. I actually got out my old case files and read up on minute details. The autopsy report I describe in the story is from a real autopsy of an inmate who overdosed. The details of certain acts of violence are straight from my interview notes. (Note to the reader on Goodreads who said that the violence in the book is clearly exaggerated and that the author resorted to hyperbole: In fact, she did not.)

Then at the end of the book I engaged in a fantasy that all the wrongs were corrected, that new laws were passed, that the bad guys were defeated and there was liberty and justice for all who deserved it. But it was a fantasy.

Unlawful Contact came out in 2008. I tried that year to get a senator friend of mine to carry a bill that would outlaw the shackling of inmates during labor and delivery. He was not interested in carrying such a bill. I waited, did other things. And still I was haunted by the idea of women being chained to beds during the hell that is labor.

As most of you know (or maybe not), last year I took up that issue again. I started from the beginning, spending months negotiating my way into the Denver women’s prison. I was not honest about why I was there; I told them I wanted to see what kind of prenatal care the women got. What I really wanted to do was get the inside scoop on shackling. Within a month, I had the detailed research I needed to take to lawmakers. I arranged for a meeting with the senate president (a wonderful man from my town). He listened. He was appalled. And thus the ball finally started rolling on what eventually became Senate Bill 193. I wrote the first draft of the bill, was the primary expert who testified on this practice in the House and Senate committee hearings — and the damned bill passed with only one “no” vote (from a lawmaker who is currently hungry for my support of one of his bills). The whole drama of the shackling bill is preserved on this blog for anyone who wants to search for that label.

For me, the bill’s passage felt like the culmination of so many years of hard work. More than that, it made it easier for me to sleep at night. And a strange thing had occurred — fact had become fiction had become reality. Is that life imitating art? Not sure. But can you see what it meant to me?

When I think of Unlawful Contact, that’s what comes to my mind. Let me put it this way: Extreme Exposure was based on one five-month-long investigation. Hard Evidence grew out of a single cover story and several interviews. But Unlawful Contact was the bringing together of more than a decade’s worth of experience covering prison issues.

(Similarly, Naked Edge was more than a decade of reporting on Native issues and close ties and friendships with Navajo people, as well as my own catastrophic climbing accident and a lifetime lived with rock jocks and other crazies. But Gabe has to wait for his own turn...)

In terms of the fiction, writing Marc was pure pleasure, though Julian was such a tough act to follow that I was really off-kilter for a while. Julian kept stealing scenes, and I had to keep cutting him out. The scene in the cabin when Julian finds Sophie... Let’s just say no one who loves Julian loves him more than I did in that moment when I wrote that scene.

The tension between Julian and Marc was the beginning of a wonderful bromance that has continued to bring me joy in my writing up through and including Breaking Point. In fact, I think it kind of reaches new heights in Breaking Point.

As for the scene that made some readers hate me: Sophie spat out the morning-after pill. Get over it! I am not a guidance counselor, sex educator, nurse, Planned Parenthood PR person or in any way responsible for ensuring that people use contraception. Sophie loved Marc. She knew she might lose him at any moment. Quite literally any moment. And she let nature take it’s course. I would do the same in her shoes. If you don’t like that, feel free to throw the book against the nearest wall.

To this day, Unlawful Contact is a very special story for me. I cried so hard when I wrote that scene at the end that made all of you cry. I played “A Time for Us,” the love theme from the 1968 Romeo and Juliet over and over again to make myself as sad as I could possibly be, and I wrote my way through an entire box of tissues to make that dark moment seem real.

If I can say one thing about all of my books, it’s that I’ve always felt that romance could be about something. I’m not trying to push a political agenda. I’m not trying to tell anyone how to vote or what to think. I just want to write stories that reflect the world in some way and that resonate back out into the world.

And that’s what I have to say about that book. If anyone has actually read this far, congratulations! And I appreciate it.

So now I yield the floor...

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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