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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Leap Day Giveway!

Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to me!

Yes, it is February 29 — my real birthday. As you can tell, I am not shy about celebrating my birthday when I actually have one. Today, I turn 12. And to help me celebrate, I brought along some author friends. Together, we’ll be giving away seven books to seven winners.

Joining us today for a Leap Day Giveaway are Julie James, Joan Swan, Marie Force, Bella Andre, and Joyce Lamb. In a moment, I’ll introduce them and tell you what each of them is giving away. But first, here’s how the Leap Day Giveaway works:

Comment below before 11:59 PM on February 29. Share your memories of your favorite childhood birthday. Be sure to leave your e-mail contact information so that I can reach the winners right away. (Feel free to use words to replace symbols to prevent bots from stealing your info — for example, myaddress at gmail dot com. Your email will only be used to notify you IF you win. No one will save it or use it to spam you.)

Limit one prize per winner.

It’s so simple, a 12-year-old could do it. Which is lucky for me!

Winners will be drawn at random on March 1.

Okay, let’s get the party started. After all, I have waited four long years for this!

In honor of the day, I will be giving away one copy of Surrender and one copy of Untamed. If you haven’t read my MacKinnon’s Rangers series, this is your chance to catch up before Defiant is released on July 3.

I met Julie James when she kicked my butt in last year’s DABWAHA, which she eventually went on to win. Rather than taking a victory lap, she announced to her readers that she was going to read Naked Edge, which she did, also giving away a copy to one of her readers. I knew immediately that Julie was a class act. I devoured her books, which I thoroughly enjoyed. In fact, they were among my favorite reads of 2010. I had the good fortune of meeting her in person at last summer’s RomCon in Denver. I think we had maybe an hour to talk amid interruptions. But it was a good hour.

To help me celebrate Leap Day, Julie is giving away a signed copy of A Lot Like Love, which recently won Best Contemporary Romance in AAR’s annual readers poll — the second year in a row Julie has won that category — and is the second book in her FBI/US Attorney series.


As the daughter of a billionaire and the owner of the city’s top wine store, Jordan Rhodes is invited to the most exclusive parties in Chicago. But there’s only one party the FBI wants to crash: the charity fundraiser of a famous restaurateur, who also happens to launder money for the mob. In exchange for her brother’s release from prison, Jordan is going to be there—with a date supplied by the Bureau.


As the top undercover agent in Chicago, Nick McCall has one rule: never get personal. This “date” with Jordan Rhodes is merely an assignment—one they’re both determined to pull off even if they can’t be together for five minutes before the sarcasm and sparks begin to fly. But when Nick’s investigation is compromised, he and Jordan have no choice but to pretend they’re a couple, and what starts out as a simple assignment begins to feel a lot like something more. . .

For an excerpt from A Lot Like Love, click here.

Marie Force and I met through our readers. We seem to share a lot of readers, and they were very insistent that we should get to know one another, which we did. We’re both journalists who write romance, so, yes, we did need to meet. I found Marie to be funny, caring, smart — and a very talented writer. I downloaded several of her books in one big gulp onto my Kindle and started reading with Love at First Flight. I was impressed with the emotional realism she brought to the story and the freshness of her voice. Marie was so incredibly helpful when I decided to start self-publishing some of my work as ebooks. I can’t thank her enough for getting me started down that path.

In honor of Leap Day, Marie is giving away a copy of Maid for Love, Book 1 in her McCarthy series.

Maddie Chester is determined to leave her hometown of Gansett Island, a place that has brought her only bad memories and ugly rumors. Then she’s knocked off her bike on the way to her housekeeping job at McCarthy’s Resort Hotel by Gansett’s “favorite son,” Mac McCarthy. He’s back in town to help his father with preparations to sell the family resort and has no intention of staying long. When Mac accidentally sends Maddie flying over the handlebars, badly injuring her, he moves in to nurse her back to health and help care for her young son. He soon realizes his plans for a hit-and-run visit to the island are in serious jeopardy, and he just may be “maid” for love.

Reading Book 1 in the McCarthys of Gansett Island Series will get you ready for the next four books in the series! Hoping for Love, Book 5, will be out in March!

 Joyce Lamb is another journalist who also writes romance. We met through usual author channels, and that acquaintance turned into a life raft for me after I was fired from my job as editor. I don’t think 24 hours had gone by before Joyce e-mailed me to ask whether I’d like to do author Q & A interviews for USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog. I was deeply touched that she thought of me and accepted the offer. Since then, Joyce has shown herself to be a warm, caring and hilariously funny person. I’m very grateful to her and feel our work together on the HEA blog has been good for romance authors and good for both of us. Most of all, it has been a lot of fun.

Joyce is giving away a copy of her latest romantic suspense, True Shot.

Samantha Trudeau has spent the past ten years using her intense psychic abilities to put bad guys behind bars. She’s always believed she’s one of the good guys, until fellow spy and best friend Zoe reveals a shocking secret about who they've really been working for. When Zoe's gunned down, Sam goes on the run, because now her employer is coming after her. With no one to turn to for help, she flees to the only place she thinks she’ll be safe.

Journalist Mac Hunter has had a rough year. At the insistence of his good friends, sisters Charlie and Alex Trudeau, he’s going to crash at their family cabin for some much-needed rest and relaxation. But when he arrives he’s stunned to find the third Trudeau sister, Sam, wounded and unconscious on the cabin floor. Things go from bizarre to dangerous when men with guns show up.

Now, Sam and Mac are on the run together, trying to outsmart a demented government agent who has sadistic plans for Sam. As the heat builds between them, her past threatens their very survival. This unlikely duo — a man who uses words to fight his battles and a woman who'd rather use a Glock — are in for the fight of their lives. And in their growing partnership, perhaps they'll have a true shot at love.

For an excerpt from True Shot, click here. This book is on my TBR, and I can’t wait to get to it.

Bella Andre was an inspiration for me before she and I traded so much as an e-mail. I’d heard about how she’d set sail on the uncertain waters of self-publishing only to reap wonderful rewards and was impressed both with her courage and her faith in her writing. She and I crossed paths after I decided it was time to self-publish my first two novels, Sweet Release and Carnal Gift. She is the kind of person who is always willing to help other writers. 

She is giving away an ebook copy of I Have Eyes Only For You (The Sullivans, #4).

Sophie Sullivan, a librarian in San Francisco, was five years old when she fell head over heels in love with Jake McCann. Twenty years later, she’s convinced the notorious bad boy still sees her as the “nice” Sullivan twin. That is, when he bothers to look at her at all. But when they both get caught up in the magic of the first Sullivan wedding, she knows it’s long past time to do whatever it takes to make him see her for who she truly is ... the woman who will love him forever.

Jake has always been a magnet for women, especially since his Irish pubs made him extremely wealthy. But the only woman he really wants is the one he can never have. Not only is Sophie his best friend's off-limits younger sister... he can't risk letting her get close enough to discover his deeply hidden secret.

Only, when Sophie appears on his doorstep as Jake’s every fantasy come to life — smart, beautiful, and shockingly sexy — he doesn’t have a prayer of taking his eyes, or his hands, off her. And he can’t stop craving more of her sweet smiles and sinful kisses. Because even though Jake knows loving Sophie isn't the right thing to do ... how can he possibly resist?

 For more about Bella Andre and her books, click here.

Joan Swan is as lovely as her name. I met Joan only recently and was thrilled to discover that she and I have a lot of things in common, including some pretty macabre life experiences that influence our romantic suspense novels. Joan’s debut novel, Fever, just hit bookstore shelves. The moment I read the excerpt, I knew we were going to end up having a lot of crossover readers. Allow me to explain.

Her hero is a convicted murderer, and he’s about to break away from prison by taking the heroine hostage. My I-Team fans are now chanting, “Marc! Marc! Marc!” Yes, I think Fever is going to draw readers who like bad boys. If that’s not enough, the cover is scorching. (My son Benjamin, esq. pointed out that the V in Fever is pointing toward the hero’s junk.)

From San Quentin straight to your heart, Teague is going to be making a lot of us run to the bookstore.

Dr. Alyssa Foster will admit to a bad boy fetish…

But when she finds herself face to face with a convicted murderer with a determination for freedom and an eye on her as his get-out-of-jail-free card, Alyssa knows she’s in deep trouble…. Not just because Teague Creek is a prisoner desperate for freedom, but because his every touch makes her desperate for more.

A man with a life sentence has nothing to lose…

Teague Creek has one shot at freedom, but his plan to escape with a hostage develops a fatal flaw: Alyssa. On the run from both the law and deadly undercover operatives who know of his strange abilities, he needs to avoid trouble, but every heated kiss tells him the fire between them could be just as devastating as the flames that changed him forever. 

Click here for an excerpt from Fever.

 So there you go! It’s a party!

Now, remember to include your e-mail address with your comments.

Leap Day comes only once every four year, so let’s have some fun!

Let the party begin!
Monday, February 27, 2012

A MacKinnon’s Rangers Extra!

Today and for the next few days, I’m guest blogging over at Under the Covers Book Blog. But rather than an interview with me, I wrote something special for MacKinnon’s Rangers fans.

So head on over to Under the Covers to watch Iain and Morgan conspire to give their wives a little something special for St. Valentine’s day. I’m giving away two signed books to two people who comment between now and March 3.

Click here to join in the fun!

Then join me on Wednesday for an online Leap Day birthday bash. I’m still feeling pretty rotten, so I’m not sure whether it will be here on this blog or whether the party will be elsewhere online, but I do know that I and some of my dear author friends are going to be giving away books in honor of my Leap Day Birthday.

Stay tuned! And feel free to share the links.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Contests, news and a Project: Happiness update

Let me just say that pneumonia sucks. I totally understand now how this illness can kill people. There were a few nights when I wondered whether the combination of asthma and pneumonia would make me either faint or just stop breathing. That’s how hard I was coughing. The world would just start to go gray. My doc was giving me about 24 hours to get better, or I was going to land in the hospital.

Fortunately, I have come back to the world of the breathing — mostly. Inhalation is a sweet thing. Thanks to all of you for your emails, tweets and Facebook posts. Your encouragement meant a lot to me.

Before I launch on a Project: Happiness update, I wanted to let you know about some upcoming events and contests.

The 12-12-12 Leap Day Giveaway

I am a proud Leap Day baby. And this year — 2012 — I am celebrating my 12th real birthday. In honor of that, I am giving away 12 books through Goodreads — six copies of Surrender and six copies of Untamed. You need to be a member of Goodreads to participate, but signing up is easy. A lot of you probably already are Goodreads members.

To sign up for the Surrender giveaway, click here and scroll down the page to where you see “Win A Copy of This Book.” To sign up for the Untamed giveaway, click here, and do the same.

(Side note: If anyone has librarian privileges at Goodreads, please email me and let me know or message me through Goodreads. There are some things on my books that need to be updated, such as the new covers for Surrender and Untamed, and I don’t know how to make that happen.)

Unfortunately, I’ve had to limit participation in this giveaway to addresses in the U.S. and Canada. Now that I’m not working at the paper, I just can’t afford overseas postage. I feel terrible about that. I’ve never limited participation before, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

A MacKinnon’s Rangers special

Yes, Valentine’s Day is behind us, but on February 27, Under the Covers Book Blog is having me on as a guest. I’ll be bringing you a MacKinnon’s Rangers extra — a chapter-length look at Iain and Morgan offering Annie and Amalie some Valentine’s day affection. The mini-story takes place on Feb. 13-14, 1760, at the MacKinnon farm on the colonial New York frontier.

I didn’t want to give away any spoiler for Defiant, so I set the story just before Defiant opens. This means the action is taking place between the ending of Untamed and the epilogue of Untamed. Annie has just had her baby girl, and Amalie is eight months pregnant — and fearful of what is to come as women were back in the day when childbirth so often meant death. I find it very romantic when men find a way to nurture their women at times like these when what we think of as romance — hot sex, seduction — aren’t necessarily possible. Marriage isn’t a constant stream of hot sex dates so much as a commitment to live each day together and love each other fully. I try to give you some romance in daily life in this story, showing Iain and Morgan’s tender sides.

Those of you who want a taste of the MacKinnon brothers to tide you over to Defiant’s July 3 release date are in luck.

I’m uncertain of the details, but I plan to give a book or two away that day. Watch Facebook and Twitter (@Pamela_Clare) to get the live links.

Project: Happiness update

I wouldn’t say that Project: Happiness was derailed by pneumonia, but my focus was entirely on getting well. And that’s fitting, as a huge part of Project: Happiness for me is learning how to take care of my physical self.

I’m a history geek, as you know, and in my study of the ancient world — 10 years of Latin, people — I was always very touched by the old Latin adage, “Mens sana in corpore sano.” This translates to, “A healthy mind in a healthy body.”

It was an ideal to which philosophers at least adhered and which grew out of the almost identical Greek concept: “Νοῦς ὑγιὴς ἐν σώματι ὑγιεῖ.”

It’s amazing to me how ancient people’s saw the world so clearly and understood human life so well. We hire personal trainers and nutritionists and spiritual gurus to impress this concept on us today. So many people think starving themselves or pushing themselves to exercise and be thin or muscular or physically perfect is the key to happiness. Others spend years educating themselves or pursing worthwhile intellectual work — only to sit at a desk 24/7 and find that, while their minds are strong, their bodies resemble nothing so much as a pile of mashed potatoes.

How many people truly find balance? Probably not many.

I would like to be so bold as to propose an update to the Greco-Roman ideal and offer this: “A healthy spirit and a healthy mind in a health body.”

I see people as a blending of the three — body, mind and spirit. Each plays its role in leading us toward growth in this life and toward meaningful happiness. Neglect any one of the three, and the potential of our lives diminishes. Oftentimes, people neglect spirit until age or illness deprives them of their bodies. Each is an equally important part of our human existence. Although I’m not religious in the traditional sense, I think of them as a kind of personal trinity — the Three in One that is reflective of something higher.

I’ve had some time to think about how I want to undertake Project: Happiness. And, yes, I mean to create a road map, a way to quantify making qualitative progress in my life. After 47 years, I’ve concluded that we make progress in our lives when we devote true energy toward our desired goals. If you have no plan, if you have no road map, you have no way to measure your efforts or their results. In other words, shit doesn’t happen unless you make it happen.

As my grandmother used to say, “Wish in one hand, and piss in the other, and see which one fills up first.”

This is no longer about wishing. It’s about achieving. I don’t have decades left to goof around. What I want to be, I must become. What I am tomorrow is what I’ve built today. If I have a goal, I need to draw it out of my heart and make it real. As strange as it may be to say that happiness is something one can set out to achieve, I believe it truly is, not by chasing it or going to parties or escaping into other distractions, but by doing the hard work of becoming the person I was meant to be in all areas of my life.

In upcoming blogs, I’ll focus on each of these areas — body, mind and spirit — and the steps I plan to take and the challenges I know I will face.

To start with, I am thinking each day of what I am doing for each of these three areas of my life. What did I do for my body today? What did I do for my mind? What did I do for my spirit? A day that involves adequate rest, exercise and nutrition, together with satisfying work and prayer or meditation could be considered a successful, balanced day, for example. By consciously planning to achieve something for each part of myself, I hope to bring balance to my life — and to expose the areas where I need to work harder.

So stay tuned for the first exploration: Body.

And, yes, and more MacKinnon’s Rangers, too!

Plus, watch for I-Team news! 

Monday, February 13, 2012

BREAKING POINT wins Best Romantic Suspense in AAR Poll

I am delighted and astonished to be able to announce that Breaking Point (I-Team Book 5) won Best Romantic Suspense in All About Romance’s Annual Reader Poll. This is the second year in a row that one of my books has claimed this honor, as Naked Edge won in the same category last year.

As tempting as it is to crown myself reigning queen of romantic suspense, I gave my tiara to an adorable little 3-year-old princess named Taylor. Besides, there are so many fantastic authors writing romantic suspense that any such attempted coronation would be nothing but hubris.

This is the second (or third?) significant honor Breaking Point has picked up, as the editors of named it one of the Top 10 Romance Novels of 2011. 

Thank you to all of you who read the book, who shared your feelings about it through reviews and word of mouth, and who voted in AAR’s poll. You helped make this book the success is has been. It means the world to me.

Other winners I was happy to see this year included Julie James, who won Best Contemporary Romance for the second year in a row, this time with A Lot Like Love, a book I very much enjoyed. A Lot Like Love also tied with Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s Call Me Irresistible for Funniest Romance. Both had to be a tough categories to win.

I was also thrilled to see Jessica Scott pick up Best Debut Author for Because of You. I read her book pre-release and gave it a blurb because I was so impressed with the military authenticity she, as an army captain, was able to bring to the story.

Head on over to AAR to see a list of all the winners, to read author commentary on the poll, and to participate in a discussion of the poll on AAR’s message boards.

In the meantime, I’d love to celebrate this with you. Trouble is, I am sick as a dog with the worst case of bronchitis I think I’ve ever had pneumonia. If I don’t start getting better over the weekend, they’re putting me in the hospital. Given how much I hate hospitals, I need to put all of my energy into getting well. I’ll be back to draw a winner next week!

So to help me celebrate, post your favorite moment or quote from Breaking Point.  I’ll draw one name at random from those who post, and that person will win a signed copy of the book.

Thanks again for your support!
Monday, February 06, 2012

It's time to celebrate!

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you already know my good news, but I’ll share it here just in case some of you missed it.

On Monday, I heard from my wonderful editor at Penguin, who said she “loved, loved, loved” Defiant and felt “haunted” by it. I was in the shower when she called, but when I heard her message, which was so glowing, I got so excited I forgot how to use my cell phone and kept pushing the wrong buttons in my attempt to call her back.

We talked for about 20 minutes about parts of the book she had found particularly touching, parts of the book where I wondered whether I had successfully pulled of this scene or that scene. I was so relieved to hear that she felt all of the emotions in the book were earned. She predicts lots of tears, so make sure you have tissues handy come July.

July 3
And here’s some news I haven’t shared: Although this book is long — longer than anything I’ve written — she’s not changing it. No revisions. Nothing. What I wrote is what you’ll get, together with an afterword and some very special artwork.

So break out the champagne and the chocolate!

We also talked about the reissue of Ride the Fire, which now has a publication date of February 2013. I’m not sure why it’s so far off in the future. It will feature a fresh edit, the never-before-released-as-yet-unwritten epilogue, and a new cover.

We also talked I-Team briefly. She’s scheduled me for March 2013 for the next I-Team book, which will feature the former television broadcast reporter who takes Natalie’s place on the I-Team.

 I will have an ad put together soon (I hope) that you can copy and put on your blogs and FB pages if you want to help spread the word about the book. For whatever reason, Colonial America is a harder sell with romance readers, so I have that uphill battle to fight, along with the fact that I haven’t had a new historical out since 2008.

In the meantime, those of you who haven’t met the MacKinnon Brothers have roughly five months to catch up with Surrender, the first book in the series, and Untamed, the second. Both are newly re-edited and re-issued with new content and new covers.

Thanks for your continued support on Project: Happiness. I’ll have updates on my progress soon!

In the meantime, Seductive Musings is giving away a digital copy of Sweet Release to one Musings follower to celebrate February and Valentine’s Day. Click here to be entered for a chance to win! And thanks to Seductive Musings for the giveaway.
Saturday, February 04, 2012

So you asked to see some of my artwork...

 Thanks so much for your wonderful responses to my last blog entry. So many of you contacted me via Facebook or email to express your heartfelt support, many of you talking about ways in which you need to change your own lives. If we can support one another and make 2012 a year of unprecedented personal change, I’m all for it.

Yes, Project: Happiness is underway and has already brought change. Simply declaring my intention has helped to harness my energies in a positive way.

Since posting last Tuesday, I’ve chosen a gym that I’m going to join together with Benjamin, who is gearing up to apply for Officer Candidate School with the U.S. Coast Guard. We visited health clubs today and decided to join the city-owned rec center. They have several facilities and are dirt cheap, which fits my budget. I need to get back into shape. Benjamin needs to get into the best shape of his life. And unlike other times when I’ve joined a gym, the purpose isn’t going to be to work out as hard as I can, as if I were still the woman who could run 6.5- to 7-minute miles. I’m going to take care of myself and not injure myself.

Some of you asked to see some of my artwork from back in the day. It’s been a long time since I painted or drew with oils and charcoal and chalk. Most of my artwork was destroyed, so I have very little. But I have photographs of a few things, and I actually have what is perhaps my most priceless drawing.

Up at the top, you can see a photo of Pedersborg Kirke (Pedersborg Church) in Pedersborg, Denmark, a tiny town just on the edge of Sorø, where I lived. An enormous lake surrounds the town, and I used to run around that lake every morning six days a week at 6 a.m. The church stands up on the hillside above the lake, and one afternoon I headed over with a sketchpad and a set of oils and drew what I saw. The photo and sketch are from slightly different angles, and the drawing doesn’t have all the detail from the cemetery. But you get the gist...

I was 17 when I drew it.

This drawing still exists (I think). I gave it to my host parents, who still had it when I visited DK in 1999. It’s not Da Vinci, but it does show how I used to spend a couple of spare hours when I had them.

I dug through my old photo albums looking for anything I could find and was surprised to find this.  This painting was a joint effort and was put together for a Christmas choir concert when I was in 9th grade. I didn’t paint the outer corners or the star. As “Most Artistic” student, I was asked to paint the rose in the center. The rose was supposed to represent Jesus and was put in a spotlight during a Christmas choral piece titled “The Rose.” Other students painted the rest of it.

And now for what my sister and I might jokingly call The Piece of Resistance, poorly translating the French expression “la pièce de résistance.”

I drew this portrait of a crying Jesus when I was 14. I drew it with an ordinary pencil on a cheap sketch pad. I figured if Jesus knew everything that people did in his name, he’d cry. So here he is, hanging his head in grief.

I am not a religious person, but rather a spiritual one. I don’t go to church largely because organized religion leaves me unimpressed, and the last thing I want to do on Sunday morning is get out of freaking bed. I mean really! Whatever I feel with regard to God is between me and God, not me and everyone else on this planet. I don’t want the art here to create an erroneous impression.

This isn’t a great photograph of the piece. I had to take it off my bedroom wall to photograph it, and the light was reflecting off the glass. There’s a reflection of the wooden canopy from my bed on the glass, too.

I gave this to my maternal grandmother when we learned she had lymphoma, and she had it on the wall in her house. (She was religious.) After she passed, I took the drawing back because it meant so much to me.

Among the pieces of artwork that are missing include a charcoal and chalk drawing of a mother eagle with her chick that won first place in an adult art show when I was 15. I really wish I had that! There were some other drawings, as well as a couple of paintings and some prints.

I hope to ease my way back into this by getting some art supplies for my birthday and taking some classes through the recreation center, which offers them for $25. That’s just a way to get my feet wet after decades of not drawing or painting. It’s another reason we joined the rec center and not just an athletic club. They have lots of classes, including some that cover other interests of mine, such as organic veggie gardening. And they have a climbing wall. YES!

Fiction news:

I have an outline for a novella about Megan. It was going to be a Christmas novella way back when. Now it’s just a novella. I hope to start writing it next week and have it up and available for $2.99 through Amazon, B&N and Smashwords by the end of the month.

We’ll see what’s become of Megan since the end of Unlawful Contact. For those who have forgotten, she’s his little sister, and her life has involved serious trauma. She needs a lot of love and a lot of healing to have a real relationship with a man. We’ll see Emily, who is now 4. And, yes, we’ll see Marc and Julian, too. Marc will be in full-blown “protective big brother” mode, as you can imagine.

I haven’t heard from my editor about Defiant yet, but I’m certain I’ll hear soon. When I have any news, I’ll share it.

Have a great week, everyone! I plan to spend all of Sunday reading. We’ll be starting at the gym this week, and I hope to be writing again soon.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Project: Happiness — my new journey

Warning: What follows here is some deeply personal introspection. If you want to believe that I’m a superhero with no human failings, please do not read it.

No, I haven’t forgotten about this blog. I’ve been busy cleaning and reorganizing the house and doing all those chores and little tasks that get ignored when I write. I’m also trying very hard to de-stress and unwind — not an easy thing for a Type A personality like me to do.

It became abundantly clear to me as I was finishing Defiant that I need a new game plan, a new way of relating to my life, my writing, my health. For so long, I’ve lived my life like a workhorse, the result primarily of having married the wrong man for the wrong reasons too early, having had babies too young, and having no real plan, beyond knowing I wanted to write novels … someday.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

All of us have competing impulses for ill and for good. We lurch through our lives torn between pursuing our own good and our own self-destruction. Canadian musician Bruce Cockburn calls human beings “the angel-beast,” and that’s a pretty accurate description of most of us, myself included. It’s very hard for most of us to exorcise the beast and give our inner angel wings. Even Gandhi, whom I consider to have been a saint, struggled with his own weakness.

He wrote this prayer about his struggles: “I know the path. It is straight and narrow. It is like the edge of a sword. I rejoice to walk upon it. I weep when I slip. God’s word is, he who strives shall not perish. I have implicit faith in that promise. Therefore, though through my own weakness I fail a thousand times, I shall not lose faith.”

It comes down to how much we love ourselves — love in the deep sense, not in the self-aggrandizing, egoistic sense. And, for whatever reason, the stress of writing tends to bring out the worst in me.

I’m not the only author who has this problem. Writers are many times more likely to suffer from depression than other artists. That’s other artists, not the public in general. They’re also something like 19 times more likely to commit suicide than other artists. Why?

For one, writing is a very isolating activity, more so than any other art. You have to live inside your head at the expense of real connections in the world. 

But also writing requires an author to maintain a mental state of emotion for prolonged periods of time that, I think, affects our own real state of mind. If I’m writing a scary scene or a grief-filled scene, I need to feel it to write it. If it takes three weeks to write that scene, I’ll be “feeling it” for that period of time. If I’m not very careful to cleanse my emotional palate, I end up carrying those emotions with me beyond that scene —  Gabe’s untapped grief and anger, for example, or Zach’s self-loathing, or Lady Sarah Woodville’s self-blame.

I contrast that to the experience of painting, which was the first creative art I explored. Although I had always wanted to write books, I took art classes in junior high and discovered I have some talent in that area. I was voted Most Artistic in my schools throughout my secondary education and really loved painting and drawing. Unlike writing, it was a very cathartic thing to do. I would just drift away into the wordless world of art, which was all about color and using color to create the image in my mind. It was almost a form of meditation for me. Hours would pass. And I would come away from it feeling as light as sunshine.

I quit painting when I left school. No money for art supplies, which are insanely expensive. I did take a few art classes in college. One of my professors urged me to switch departments and get my MFA. When I told him I couldn’t afford it, he said, “Forget the cost. You’ll be making 80 grand two years after you graduate.”

But I didn’t heed his advice mostly because I couldn’t fathom how my paint splatters could garner that much attention. In fact, I considered myself to be one of the least skilled students in his class. He disagreed. “Everyone else looks around them at the outside world before they work on a project. You always work from inside,” he said. “That makes you much more creative than your peers, no matter how technically skilled they are. I can teach you technique.”

But back to writing…

When writing is going well, it feels like I’m flying. There’s a real high. When it isn’t going well, it is agony. And although I’ve written 11 novels, there’s always a niggling fear inside me that I won’t be able to do it again. So when I come to a difficult scene, rather than viewing it as a challenge, I start hating my own guts for “failing” to produce what see in my heart.

Some writers are able to produce drafts of a book and feel fine leaving some scenes as mere sketches or knowing that they’ve written crap. In fact, they give themselves permission to write crap, knowing they’ll fix it later. I can’t seem to do that. I tried it with Naked Edge, and the result was two months of lost writing time. Having been an editor for so long, and being used to getting exactly what I want to say on the page very quickly as a journalist, I can’t seem to settle for anything other than perfection. And I never achieve perfection, at least in my own sight. When I fail, I beat up on myself so mercilessly that I end up feeling despair.

What’s up with that?

That’s part of what I want to sort through this year.

I think part of the problem has always been the bottleneck of my life — single mother, full-time journalist, author. Too many hats, too little time. And let’s face it — I wasn’t exactly happy at the newspaper. Au contraire.

But the problem goes deeper than that. I’ve had more than my share of trauma. Here’s the short list: sexual assault at age 10; dating violence at age 14; a break-in by men with switchblades and attempted rape at age 23; near-fatal climbing accident at age 30 that left me partially disabled; two stalkers; several death threats; having guns held on me twice. I’m not saying this out of self-pity. It’s just an inventory. I’ve had an equal number of blessings, because I survived each of these situations and got stronger along the way.

I’ve been open and public about the fact that I was sexually assaulted by the father of a classmate when I was in fifth grade. That experience left me feeling tainted in a way that really only other rape victims could understand. I withdrew emotionally from the world and felt different from the other kids. My childhood evaporated at that point.

In junior high and high school, I started doing drugs as much out of curiosity and a desire to have fun, as well as the need to escape my own pain. By the time I was in 10th grade, I’d tried most everything that existed at that time — marijuana, amphetamines, narcotics, angel dust, cocaine. Some of my experiences from those days were hilarious and recklessly fun; others were scary, such as the night when a 21-year-old jerk beat me up at a party because I wouldn’t sleep with him. (I was 14 and stoned out of my mind.)

I don’t regret those days — they gave me great material for books — but I also recognize that they were part of a self-destructive impulse. Fortunately, unlike many girls, I was able to turn away from that scene when my life began to feel too out of control. I simply walked away. No addictions. No rehab. I was just done with it.

I had a few good years after that. I traveled to Denmark as an exchange student and saw a completely different way of life, one that I love to this day and miss very much. I worked hard to learn the language, to make friends, to see everything I could see. I took up running very seriously and reached a point where I could click off consecutive 6.5- to 7-minute miles and ran 10 to 13 miles a day six days a week. I met a Danish man, fell in love, got engaged. Then, oppressed by the idea of monogamy, he broke off our engagement.

And the pendulum swung from angel back to beast.

I went back to the U.S. at the age of 20, dabbled in drugs again, though not for long. I met a guy on the rebound and married him because he was... there. I got pregnant almost immediately, tried to make the marriage work and failed. I won’t go into that because that impacts my kids.

I will say that one huge factor in that was the break-in. “The Break-in.” That’s what we call it in my family. That involved two men with switchblades, me alone at home with a 9-month-old baby. I escaped being raped at knife-point by a margin of seconds — an experience I’ve shared publicly. The ordeal, coupled with the sexual assault when I was a kid, resulted in five years of horrid, terrible post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If it seems like I write a lot of emotionally traumatized characters, that’s why. I relate to that side of them perhaps more than any other.

Of course, many things that seem terrible at the time come with hidden blessings. My bad marriage gave me two wonderful kids. The mountain climbing accident that deprived me of my ability to run helped me find an inner strength I didn’t know I had (and gave me part of the plot for a novel). Having been a victim of sexual assault 1.5 times fueled my desire to confront the bad guys as a journalist, which I did head-on to the benefit of other women. Battling PTSD gave me an empathy for others that I might not otherwise have, making me a better reporter.

But now everything is changing again, and the pendulum has been swinging in the wrong direction for a while now.

I turn 48 on February 29 — Leap Day. My focus for the past 28 years has been on my kids, my work as a journalist, and my writing, even at the expense of my health. I’m finding it hard to keep up with the changes in my life. The kids are grown. Benjamin is home for now, but that won’t last long. I’m not longer the editor-in-chief of a newspaper and have no steady income. And writing has turned into a brutal boxing match of me vs. myself.

No, I don’t drink. I haven’t touched drugs in eons. That’s all far behind me. It’s more a case of the self-destructive voice in my head, which I sometimes jokingly call “Grima Pam-Tongue.” (For those of you who aren’t Tolkien fans, that’s derived from the character Grima Wormtongue, who fills the mind of King Théoden of the Rohirrim with evil, magical lies that sap him of his strength and will.)

I have two adult children, a lifetime achievement award for journalism, a National Journalism Award, and 11 published novels, but the voice in my head tells me I haven’t done anything with my life. I write books that get higher-than-average reviews, and the voice tells me I can’t write. I’m free to spend more time than ever doing what I want to do with my life now, and yet that destructive voice tells me I have nothing to live for.

The more exhausted I am, the emptier my creative well, the more stressed I feel, the louder that negative voice becomes. Physical pain plays a huge role, too. I’m less than two years out from my big spinal surgery and still have nights where I can’t sleep from pain, though things are a zillion times better than they were before I got my new neck.

Toward the end of working on Defiant, my sister sat on the couch beside me till 3 AM, all but holding my hand. When I reached a point where I wanted to scream, she helped me stay focused.

“I fucking hate myself!” I would shout. “I can’t write at all. Why in the hell did I ever think that I could write books? I should toss my computer in the trash and get a job at Burger King!”

And she would say in a deadpan voice, “Another glimpse at the productive inner monologue of Pamela Clare.”

Have I ever mentioned how much I love her?

Yesterday, she sent me this parable:

“A fight is going on inside me,” said an old man to his son. “It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other wolf is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you.”

The son thought about it for a minute and then asked, “Which wolf will win?”

The old man replied simply, “The one you feed.” 

I’m going through a huge life change right now. More than that, I’m having to face once and for all the wounded part of myself and heal it so that the fear and pain don’t control my emotional life. I have to take control of that inner voice and turn it toward a higher purpose.

I need to quit believing the lies Grima Pam-Tongue tells me. I need to feed the right wolf.

That’s what I’m working on right now. I’m focusing my energies on rediscovering what I love about life. I’m going to ask for some art supplies for my birthday so I can draw and paint again, something I long to do. I want to build up the strength in my body to be able to do some of the sports I love — hiking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, whitewater rafting. Next year, I hope to hire a ski coach who can help me re-learn to downhill ski despite my damaged spine.  (I have no feeling in my lower legs thanks to spinal damage from a broken neck.) I want to find a way to face the frustrations of writing that is functional and not destructive so that I can enjoy writing again.

And so I have launched Project: Happiness, an effort to overcome negative habits and thinking, to foster creativity and actively to pursue The Good. I am setting out deliberately to create happiness in my life. I’ve been reading, watching movies I’ve never seen before, listening to new music, going for regular walks and thinking about what’s really important to me. I’m re-filling my creative well.

The timing is perfect for this. The same changes that have thrown me off balance also open the door for me to transform my life. I hope to share the journey with you on this blog over the course of the next year.

I am determined to succeed.

Coming soon:

News about I-Team novellas
More peeks at Defiant
MacKinnon’s Rangers Reading Challenge

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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