The I-Team — Now available in Audiobook format! Find them on Audible.com!
Skin Deep — Now in trade paperback! Find it on CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com! And coming in audiobook format on April 29! Ride the Fire, Kenleigh/Blakewell Family Saga #3 — Reissues with new material, including the never-before-published epilogue!
Sweet Release and Carnal Gift — Now in trade paperback! Find them on CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com!
Striking Distance(I-Team #6) — Available in paperback, ebook, audiobook — Nov. 5
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.
Lately, I've been getting the same questions a dozen times a day, so I thought I'd post some answers here and perhaps alleviate some confusion.
Q: I loved Defiant. Do you plan to write more books in the MacKinnon's Rangers series?
A: I do plan to give Lord William and Captain Joseph their own stories, though I’m not sure when they will be released or what the titles will be.
Q. Do you plan to write more I-Team books?
A: Absolutely. I am working on Striking Distance, the sixth book in the series, right now and hope to have it done in time for a May 2013 release. Watch my blog for updates and excerpts. I know a lot of you love Holly — I do, too — but I'm saving Horny Holly for last.
In addition, I plan to continue the series of spinoff novellas I'm calling the I-Team After Hours series to help readers through the long wait between books. Skin Deep, the first I-Team After Hours novella, came out in May. It tells the story of Marc Hunter’s younger sister, Megan, and Nate West, the scarred veteran who helps Megan face her past.
Q. Why do you go so long between books?
A. I write two different sub-genres, plus I’m a very picky writer and try very hard to write the best book I possibly can. I’d rather make people wait than churn out junk. In the end, it’s the quality of the story that counts, not how fast I wrote it.
All you have to do to enter is to comment below *with your contact information* and tell me why you’re looking forward to reading the I-Team stories. For an extra chance to win, follow @Pamela_Clare on Twitter and retweet my link to this post with the #UKGiveaway hashtag.
Three winners will be chosen by contest randomizer on Friday, April 3.
The contest is open to UK residents only. That’s nice for a change, isn’t it?
It’s been wonderful to watch readers’ excitement over the stories, and it continues this week. The fourth, fifth and sixth books in the series —Naked Edge,Breaking Point, and Striking Distance — will be out on April 2, with my historicals slated for release in May.
I’ve been working very hard on Nick and Holly’s story — Book 7 in the series — and hope to turn it in to New York by the end of April.
Good luck to you all!
Kenleigh-Blakewell Family Saga audiobook giveaway
A smexy excerpt from Nick & Holly’s story
I thought it was time to give you a glimpse of Nick and Holly’s book. I’m about halfway done at this point and anticipate turning it in to New York at the end of April.
In my mind, Holly has always looked something like Scarlett Johannson. I promised myself my next hero would look like the amazingly sexy David Gandy. And guess what? They did a super-sexy Dolce & Gabbana shoot together, which I took as a sign.
If those images don’t work for you, feel free to imagine the blond woman and dark hunk of your choice. What you do in your imagination is none of my business.
The book doesn’t have a fully official title yet, so... Without further ado, I introduce Nick and Holly.
Holly honestly has no idea what she’s in for, but then again, neither does Nick.
From Chapter One...
Trust no one.
What the hell did Kramer mean by that?
Nikolai Andris rubbed his closed eyes with the heels of his
hands, then looked up at the clock.
This was a waste of time.
For almost three weeks, he’d been keeping Holly Elise
Bradshaw under round-the-clock surveillance. He’d turned her life inside out
but had found nothing. He’d tapped both of her phones, sifted through her
laptop, searched her condo, memorized the details of her childhood, learned
about her friends, pored over her financial records, scrutinized her posts on
social media for hints of tradecraft, and tracked every move she’d made via
GPS. He’d found nothing remotely suspicious.
He’d even gone behind Bauer’s back and contacted Rich
Lagerman, an old buddy from Delta Force who was now working for the FBI, and
asked whether Bradshaw was one of theirs. Every federal agency in the country
now had undercover officers, and it wouldn’t be the first time operatives from
different agencies had tripped over one another while pursuing the same
“Nope. Not one of ours,” Rich had said. “But if you need any
help with her, maybe some late-night, under-the-covers work, let me know.”
Nick now knew more about this woman than she knew about
herself. If Holly Bradshaw was some kind of underworld operative, a foreign
agent, a traitor who sold US secrets, then he was Elvis fucking Presley.
Someone at Langley had screwed up.
Nick had been recalled from assignment in Tbilisi amid whispers
that a handful of officers were missing or dead and that the Agency was
conducting an shake-up and internal investigation of its Special Activities
Division, or SAD, the top-secret branch of the CIA that had recruited Nick out
of Delta Force nine years ago. He’d never been assigned to operate within US
borders, so he’d arrived in Langley expecting to find himself in the middle of
Instead, Bauer had given him a file with the latest intel on
Sasha Dudayev, aka Sachino Dudaev, the Georgian arms smuggler who’d killed the
only woman Nick had ever loved.
“He killed an officer and stole a flash drive containing
classified information vital to US operations outside the homeland,” Bauer had
said. “Keep Bradshaw under surveillance, recover the data, and neutralize them
both using any force necessary.”
As a rule, the Agency left affairs within the homeland to
the NSA and FBI, but they sometimes broke that rule when it came to high-value
international targets and US citizens who’d crossed the line to work with those
targets. It was unusual for Nick to run surveillance on a fellow American in
her home, but apart from that element of his current mission, Bauer had given
him exactly what he’d wanted for two long years now—a chance to make Dudaev
Dudaev had played the Agency and brought the Chechen op down
on their heads. Nick had been there that night. He’d watched, wounded and
pinned down by AK fire, as the son of a bitch had emptied his Makarov into
Dani’s chest, then made off with the cache of arms the Agency had wrested away
from Chechen terrorists.Nick had
crawled over to her and held her body afterward, held her until he’d passed out
from blood loss.
His sole task that night had been to protect her, and he’d
But now things were about to come full circle.
There was only one problem.
The suits at Langley had clearly made a mistake when they’d
fingered Ms. Bradshaw as Dudaev’s contact. Okay, so it was an understandable
mistake. The bastard’s last lover had been an Italian journalist who’d acted as
his mole and messenger—until he’d had her killed. Analysts must have assumed
he’d recruited Ms. Bradshaw when she’d interviewed him about his new art
gallery and then begun dating him.
As understandable as the error might be, nothing changed the
fact that Nick had now wasted three weeks discovering that Holly Bradshaw was
exactly what she seemed to be—an entertainment writer, a smart but shallow
blonde, a woman who loved sex, expensive clothes, and good times with her
friends. He’d explained all of this to Langley, sharing every bit of intel he’d
gathered on her. If Dudaev was about to sell the flash drive, the deal would go
down without Bradshaw’s knowledge or participation.
Bauer had shrugged. “Stick with her. The analysts swear
she’s the one.”
Some people just hated to be wrong.
Nick’s time would be better spent trailing Dudaev and
hunting down the real contact—or sorting truth from rumor on the internal
investigation and the missing and dead officers.
Trust no one.
Kramer had contacted him this afternoon insisting they speak
face to face. He’d told Nick when and where to meet him. Nick hadn’t needed to
ask what was on Kramer’s mind. It wasn’t unusual for an officer to be killed in
the line of duty, but it was strange that Nick and Kramer had worked with all
of them. Then Kramer had ended the call with those three words—and Nick’s
imagination had taken over.
“They’re ombré crystal pumps in royal blue with four-inch
Nick took another swig of cold coffee. In his earpiece,
Bradshaw and her friend Kara McMillan were still talking.
“I love them,” Bradshaw said, “but my shoe budget is blown
for the next ten years.”
Nick doubted that. Bradshaw’s daddy was a retired brigadier
general who had served with US Army Intelligence—another reason analysts
believed Dudaev had chosen her—and Daddy had created a nice little trust fund
for his baby girl.
“How much do a pair of Christian Louboutins cost?” McMillan
Nick ran through the key facts on her, more to help himself
stay awake than because he’d forgotten anything.
McMillan, Kara. 40. Journalist, author, journalism
instructor at Metro State University. Wife of Sheridan, Reece, lieutenant
governor of the state of Colorado. No arrests. No suspected criminal
associations. Three children. Formerly employed by the Denver Independent on
its Investigative Team, aka, the I-Team. Met Bradshaw through work. Close
“Well, it depends on where you buy them, whether they’re on
sale, which shoe you choose—that sort of thing.”
“Holly,” McMillan said in a stern voice. “How much?”
Bradshaw hesitated. “These were just over three thousand.”
Nick had just taken another swig of coffee and nearly
Three thousand dollars? For a fucking pair of shoes?
“Wow!” McMillan laughed. “Reece would divorce me.”
“Did you get them for your big date with Sasha tomorrow?”
“I needed something to go with my new dress.”
Nick rolled his eyes. The woman’s closet was full of shoes.
The last thing she needed was one more pair—especially one that cost three
“I read in the paper that he’s a billionaire—gas and oil
money,” McMillan said.
Nick felt his jaw clench.
Dudaev’s fortune had been built on human lives, including
Dani’s. Murdering her had been nothing more than a business transaction to him.
He could change his name, wear designer suits, and open a dozen art galleries
trying to make himself seem respectable, but nothing could wash the blood off
“You should see the sapphire necklace he gave me last week.
The chain isn’t actually a chain. It’s a strand of diamonds.”
Nick already knew from another conversation—this time with
Sophie Alton-Hunter, another friend from the newspaper—that Bradshaw had bought
the dress to match the necklace. Now she’d gotten the shoes to go with the
dress. And at last Nick understood what a woman like Holly Bradshaw would see
Well, greed was blind.
She had no idea what kind of man he truly was. If she wasn’t
careful, he’d strangle her with that necklace.
“Sophie told me. It sounds like he’s serious about you. Do
you think this will be it—the big night?”
What did McMillan mean by that?
“I don’t know. I mean, he’s good looking enough.”
“Good looking enough?” McMillan laughed. “He’s a lot better
looking than that banker you went out with last year. Where was he from?”
“He’s better looking than that Saudi prince, too, whatever
his name was. In the news photos, he looks a lot like George Clooney but with a
more aristocratic nose and a mustache. Sure, he’s got some gray, but I’ll bet
he’s fully functional.”
They were talking about Ms. Bradshaw’s love life.
Nick glanced for a moment at the photos of her he’d pinned
to the wall above his desk. He could see why men were eager to sleep with her.
She was hot.
Okay, she was incredibly hot. Platinum blond hair. A
delicate heart-shaped face. Big brown eyes. A full mouth, and a body that…
Get your mind off her body.
What good were looks if they got you into trouble? There
were men who preyed on beautiful women, and Dudaev was one of them.
“Yeah, but he’s… I don’t know… self-absorbed. He’s probably
the kind of man who rams into you for five minutes and then acts like he’s just
done you a big favor, the kind who makes you wish you had a magazine to read
when you’re in bed with him.”
McMillan was laughing now.
But Bradshaw hadn’t finished. “A lot of guys are like
that—oblivious to what women want. ‘Don’t worry about getting me off, babe. I
just want to go down on you all night long’—said no man ever.”
Nick shook his head. Is that what she truly expected?
A dude would have to have a motorized tongue to pull that
Did all women talk like this about sex? Nick couldn’t
imagine his sister sharing details about her sex life with her friends or using
this kind of language. His mother, a devout Georgian Orthodox Christian, would
have had a coronary if she’d caught her daughter or even one of her five sons
talking like this.
Not that it offended Nick. He found it kind of sexy,
actually. But then, given the things he’d seen and the things he’d had to do, a
conversation about oral sex was pretty damned tame.
“Not all men are selfish.”
You tell her, McMillan.
“No, I suppose not. But lots of them are. It makes me want
to take out a full-page ad in the paper just to help out womankind. ‘It’s the
Nick let out a laugh—then caught himself.
Keep your shit together, Andris.
# # #
Holly Bradshaw glanced over her shoulder at her living room
wall. “Mr. Creeper must be watching something funny on TV. I just heard him
laugh. I never hear him.”
“You still haven’t met him?” Kara asked through a yawn.
“He’s lived there for almost a month now and hasn’t once
come over to say hello. He stays indoors and keeps the shades drawn. I’ve seen
him outside once. He was taking out the trash, but he was wearing a hoodie. I
couldn’t see his face.”
Kara’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Maybe he’s a serial
“You’re not helping.”
“Who cares about him anyway? If I were you, I’d be so
excited about tomorrow night. You lead such a glamorous life. I’m so jealous.”
But Holly knew that wasn’t true. “You and Sophie and the
others—you spend every evening with your kids and a man who loves you while I
watch TV by myself or go out to the clubs. I think you’re the lucky ones.”
Like the rest of Holly’s friends, Kara was happily married
to a man who cherished her. Reece was one of the kindest, most decent, and
sexiest men Holly had ever met—which was really strange, given that he was a
politician. He’d bent over backward to prove to Kara that he loved her. Now,
they had three kids and lived what seemed to Holly to be a perfect life.
The fact that all of her friends were now married and most
had children had changed her life, too. She spent a lot less time out on the
town with them and a lot more time alone while they took on new roles and
responsibilities. As much as she craved excitement and enjoyed the city’s
nightlife, some secret part of her had begun to long for what they had, and that
longing seemed to grow sharper all the time.
But Kara didn’t seem to believe her.“Are you saying you’d be willing to trade
places with me?”
“And sleep with Reece?” Holly stretched out on her sofa and
felt herself smile.
“That’s not exactly what I meant.”
But the question, however intended, had Holly’s imagination
Reece was sexy with dark blond hair, blue eyes and muscles
he hid beneath tailored suits. How fun it would be to peel one of those suits
away from his skin.
Tessa was married to Julian Darcangelo, the city’s top vice
cop and a former FBI agent who’d worked deep cover. Tall with shoulder-length
dark hair, a ripped body, and a strikingly handsome face, he was sex on a
stick—and crazy in love with his wife.
Then again, Marc Hunter, Sophie’s husband, had served six
years in prison and had that badass vibe Holly loved. A former Special Forces
sniper, he was also a devoted family man—and sexier than any man had a right to
Gabe Rossiter, Kat James’s husband, had a rock climber’s
lean, muscular build and had all but given his life for the woman he loved. Kat
was a lucky woman.
Zach McBride, a former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor
recipient, had saved Natalie from being murdered by the leader of a Mexican
drug cartel. All lean muscle and confidence, he had the hard look of a man who
was used to taking action.
Nate West, Megan’s husband, had been badly burned in combat,
his face and much of his body disfigured. The part of him that wasn’t scarred
was extremely handsome—and he had a cowboy charm that brought the song “Save a
Horse, (Ride a Cowboy)” to Holly’s mind.
Javier Corbray had rescued his wife, Laura Nilsson, from
captivity in a terrorist stronghold in Pakistan, sacrificing his career as a
SEAL. With a sexy Puerto Rican accent, dreamy, dark eyes and a mouth that—
“Are you fantasizing about my husband?” Kara’s accusing
voice jerked Holly out of her reverie.
“No, of course not. Not really. Okay, a little,” Holly
confessed. “I was just deciding which one of you I’d most like to trade places
It was just a game. Holly had never so much as flirted with
a married man. She didn’t poach on other women’s territory. But that didn’t
mean she couldn’t fantasize.
“Holly!” Kara laughed. “I’m sorry I phrased it the way I
did. Let me try again.”
Tessa, Holly decided.
She’d trade places with Tessa. She’d always had a secret
crush on Julian.
But Kara went on. “If you want to meet good men, maybe you
should quit going to the clubs. Most of the guys there are just looking for
someone to hook up with.”
It wasn’t the first time Kara had suggested this, but she
How could she?
Holly fired back. “You met Reece at a bar.”
Okay, so it had been a restaurant. Still, Kara had consumed
three margaritas, so it might as well have been a bar.
“Only because someone interfered,” Kara replied.
Holly smiled to herself. It had been so easy.
“Where else can a woman meet men? If I don’t go out, I’ll
never meet anyone. It’s not like Mr. Right is going to just walk up and knock
on my front door.”
“You never know.”Kara changed the subject. “Hey, did you hear that Tom is converting to
Holly sat upright. “Tom? The same Tom Trent I know? The one
who spends his day shouting at everyone? He’s converting to Buddhism?”
“That’s what my
Kara’s mother Lily lived with Tom.
“She would know. But Tom—a Buddhist? He and the Dalai Lama
have so much in common, like, for example… nothing.”
Tom was the editor-in-chief of the Denver Independent, where
his temper was as much of a legend as his brilliance as a journalist. As an
entertainment writer, Holly didn’t work directly beneath him like her I-Team
friends did. Beth Dailey, the entertainment editor, was her boss. Beth never
yelled, never insulted people—and she appreciated Holly’s shoes.
“I think it’s perfect,” Kara said. “If anyone needs to
meditate, it’s Tom. Gosh, it’s after midnight. I need to get to bed.”
“Same here.” Kara wasn’t the only one who needed a good
The two said good night and ended the call.
Holly got up from the sofa and went through her nightly
routine, undressing, brushing her teeth, and washing and moisturizing her face,
a sinking feeling coming over her. Naked, she walked over to her dresser and
carefully took her new Louboutins out of their red silk bag, moving them so
that the light made the crystals sparkle.
She didn’t want to spend another moment with Sasha Dudayev,
but she’d already accepted and had the shoes…
Just one more date and that would be it.
She tucked the shoes carefully back in the bag, turned out
her light, and crawled between her soft cotton sheets.
It’s been a good month here at Casa Clare. My health continues to improve. The first three books of the I-Team series are out in the UK. Ride the Fire (Kenleigh-Blakewell #3) came out in audiobook with Kaleo Griffith voicing one of my personal favorite tortured heroes, Nicholas. Sweet Release, my first historical, is being translated for release in May in Japan. And, best of all, I’ve written almost half of Holly’s story.
Now for the details...
Eternal Romance released Extreme Exposure, Hard Evidence, and Unlawful Contact on March 5, bringing the I-Team series to readers in the UK and Commonwealth nations. The books are available in print and ebook format. I’ve gotten so many emails over the the past year asking when the books would be out. I hope my UK readers are enjoying them.
The next three — Naked Edge,Breaking Point, and Striking Distance — will be available on April 2, with four of my historicals set for release in May.
My author copies of the first three books arrived, and it has been wonderful to hold them in my hands!
The Kenleigh-Blakewell Family Saga is now available in its entirety in audiobook format from Tantor Audio. Kaleo Griffith is again giving voice to my characters — good news for all of you Obsessive Kaleo Disorder sufferers. Yes, it’s OKD Fix Time! Kaleo has outdone himself on this series, which has a gazillion different characters with at least that many accents. Most of the series features characters who speak with different British English accents, so if you loved Kaleo as a Scott, you’re going to love these, too. I’ve listed to Sweet Release and Carnal Gift myself and am a few hours into Ride the Fire, a novel of which I am particularly fond. Carnal Gift got an A+ review from Audio Gals, which is pretty terrific!
Readers in Japan can look forward to Sweet Release in May. They really love the MacKinnon’s Rangers series there and are particularly fond of Lord William. Yes, HE is the the star of that series for them. So, while they wait for his book, they’ll have the Kenleigh-Blakewell series to read. Thanks to Kyoko Nakai for her hard work on the translations!
Acoso Mortal, the Spanish translation of Striking Distance, published by Ediciones Pamies (Phoebe) in Spain, has been nominated for Best International Romantic Suspense of 2014. I have also been nominated for Best International Author, which is really touching, especially given the company. I am very grateful to my readers in Spain and to Ediciones Pamies for their unflagging support and enthusiasm.
I love the cover to this book — Laura’s striking blue eyes and Javier’s dog tags.
Mariajo Losada does a fabulous job translating my books for Spanish readers, putting so much of herself into the effort. I’ve told her that I consider them to be our books, not just my books.
And then for the news that has me smiling most...
I am more than a third of the way done with Holly Bradshaw’s story. The working title is Dead Giveaway, though I am still hoping to come up with something naughtier and sexier. This is Holly’s book we’re talking about, after all.
What can I tell you about it?
You all know Holly pretty well, as she’s been in each I-Team book since the beginning. Nick Andris, the man who finally wins her heart, is new to the series. Let me tell you about him...
Nikolai (Nick) Andris is the son of immigrants from Georgia. He grew up in the States in a close family, has a sister, and four brothers. He went into the Army and made his way into Delta Force, but was quickly recruited by the CIA to serve as a paramilitary operator.
Two years before the story opens, he is involved in an operation that goes sideways — and costs the life of the woman he loved. Now, he’s been recalled to the US and given the chance to take out the arms dealer responsible for her death. The arms dealer just happens to be the man Holly is dating.
Poor Holly! You know it’s been a bad date when 1) you’re drugged and 2) you wake up half naked in bed with a dead man.
The words have really been flowing on this book, and it has been so fun to write. It’s probably the lightest and funniest I-Team novel, and Holly and Nick together are setting the pages on fire.
I was going to do a blog post about picking up the pieces of my life and the challenges involved in that — how what was once normal feels so strange, how hard it is to create a day when you’ve forgotten what it feels like to have things to do.
But a strange thing happens.
I started trying to pick up the pieces — and found myself living again.
I am doing much better than in my last blog post. Though I still have some pain in my left chest and arm, probably from radiation, I’m going for walks, hitting the gym, and best of all I am writing again. I cannot tell you how it has felt to sit down every day and have Holly’s story just fall out of my fingertips. I’m on Chapter 6 — a point at which I’ve already begun to doubt whatever story I’m working on — and so far, I love it. But more on that another time.
I have news! So many of you have asked over the past year or so when, oh, when will my books be available in the UK and Commonwealth countries on Kindle. The fantastic news is that Eternal is publishing both my historicals and the I-Team series, and the books will be out in March, April and May — all of them.
I’ll share the covers here. I hope you love them as much as I do. Which brings me to a funny story...
I was going back and forth with my wonderful editor at Eternal when I discovered that the covers for the historicals are based on photographs taken by my good friend Jenn LeBlanc.
Talk about a small world!
This was complete coincidence and speaks to the quality of Jenn’s work that a UK publisher had tapped her photos for my books.
If the man on the cover of Surrender looks familiar it’s because he bloody well ought to. That’s Karl, who served as the live-action hero in the trailer Jenn, Benjamin and I put together for Defiant.
It’s a special thrill for me to have Jenn’s works on my books. If you count my indie pubs, that means Jenn’s photos grace eight of my covers now. Is that right, Jenn? Eight?
The publication schedule for Eternal is as follows:
BREAKING POINT .
RIDE THE FIRE
I asked my editor what a UK edition means — do they translate the US slang, prison slang, or historical terms into UK English? She said they try to leave the words as they are as much as possible in order to preserve the story. (I wish US publishers would do that with books from the UK! I can figure out what a lorry is, thank you.) That means my UK readers, who have been so very patient, are going to be getting the I-Team stories and my historicals intact.
As a special treat, I’ll be participating this weekend in a free romantic fiction festival designed to bring UK readers and authors together online. I’m not sure what all it entails, but I’ll be there. Here’s the link to sign up and participate.
I've got to run, so I'll post the I-Team covers here and dash. But I hope you're as happy about the news as I am. It's rare to have two entire series coming out all at once. If you’re new to my work, visit my website at www.pamelaclare.com for details on all of the stories.
For weeks, I’ve been wondering what I should write here. Should I try to share my eight-month battle against breast cancer? Should I share how I'm feeling emotionally these days? Should I try to take my observations and experiences as a cancer patient and try to say something profound about life?
The truth is that a part of me just wants to forget everything that happened this year, starting on April 21. I can’t, of course, so here’s a quick summary.
Cancer treatment sucked. Between surgery, chemo, and radiation, I spent almost eight months dealing with different kinds of sickness and pain. The healthcare professionals weren’t always the compassionate people they needed to be. They weren’t always on the ball. And the cost... It was nothing less than obscene, making me doubt the United States’ right to consider itself a first world nation.
I feel emotionally and physically broken, devastated by loss, and afraid this terrible disease will come back. That’s how most cancer patients feel. It’s hard to get psyched about the future when you’re not sure you’re going to have one.
Life makes no sense to me at the moment. I feel distant from everything I used to love. My faith is in tatters, and I can barely relate to the life I had before. How can I go back to it? Perhaps I can’t.
Yes, 2014 has been the worst of times. But before that, for two precious months, it was the BEST of times. After years of working my ass off as a single mother, putting in long hours at the paper then writing fiction in all of my spare time, life seemed at last to be going my way.
On February 10, I got on a plane and lived The Dream. Ever since being an exchange student to Denmark, I have wanted to live in Europe. And although I wasn’t actually able to relocate to Copenhagen, I traveled back and forth between France, Denmark and Spain, doing book signings in Paris and Madrid, spending time with my beloved Danish family and friends, making new friends, taking in historical sites, art, excellent food, and new experiences with Benjamin and then with both Alec and Benjamin. What could be better than bumming around Paris with both of my sons? When we stood together on March 28 in front of the Eiffel Tower after enjoying a sumptuous meal there with our friend Pierre, I felt I had finally reached the part of my own story where I could settle in and enjoy my own happily ever after.
I came home on March 30 and was diagnosed with Stage 1c breast cancer in April. Poof! There went the magic.
What followed were a mastectomy, chemo, and radiation. The only good to come out of the past eight months — other than catching the disease early and hopefully saving my life — is the amazing support my family, friends, fellow authors, and readers demonstrated every single day during this long nightmare.
There were some fun times. My sister spent seven weeks with me, and I always laugh when she’s around. My brother David took me on a surprise trip to Mount Rushmore, which I really enjoyed, even though we got the news that my Danish father had passed on a few minutes after we got out of the car. Benjamin and I went on an Oregon Trail trip, visiting stops along the trail, including Fort Laramie. During chemo, I tried to make the most of it, going on long drives in the mountains and taking a few easy hikes with Benjamin.
That didn’t take the ugliness away, but those trips were my attempt to live as fully as I could despite the ugliness.
I feel that I must say this: I do not believe that God has a plan for me that includes breast cancer. I don’t believe that breast cancer was a “path” I was “meant” to walk or a “journey” I needed to take. I don’t believe it is/was a gift or a blessing. I didn’t “manifest” it. I don’t believe I should be grateful for the experience. I don’t buy into any of that fatalist, pseudo-spiritual crap intended to downplay the horror of these past eight months.
It was terrible misfortune, a major bummer, a shitty bit of luck. It sucked.
So where does that leave me?
My hair is growing back. Apart from starting Tamoxifen later this week, I am done with treatment. I’m facing years of regular check-ups and tests to monitor my health, a situation that will probably involve a fair amount of anxiety even if all goes well. I also still have to undergo reconstruction, hopefully sometime during 2015. But apart from one major surgery and regular check-ups and tests, I can go back to my regular life, knowing I have about a 90 percent chance of making it five years without a recurrence.
When I was in the midst of chemo and thought about going back to my life, I imagined myself being like Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas morning, clinging to his bedpost and saying again and again, “I’m alive!” then dancing through the streets in my pajamas. But that’s not how it’s shaping up. Between an overwhelming sense of loss and nagging worry, whatever joy I might have felt is largely muted.
I am working with a counselor to try to make my way beyond this emotional morass by utilizing cognitive behavioral therapy to get control of my thoughts. I’ve also registered for a meditation class, despite a life-long reluctance to do all the stereotypical things Boulder people do. (I grew up surrounded by happy, shining people carrying yoga mats who seemed oblivious to the hardships of the world that I saw as a reporter, and it left a bad taste in my mouth.)
I need to change my diet and exercise, but that is tricky, too. I tore the meniscus in my knee midway through chemo, so walking and exercise are tough for me at the moment. Yes, I could swim, except that I can’t. Swimming requires swimming-appropriate fake breasts and an adapted swimsuit, so that’s expensive and out for the moment. Still, I have permission to ride a stationary bike, so I’m going to be doing that even if I’ve always disliked that as a form of exercise. Quelle joi.
Most of all, I need to get back to writing, or I’ll be living in my parents’ basement by June. I started Holly’s story before my diagnosis, and I hope I can get back into it and finish it quickly so that I can continue to eat in the daily fashion to which I have grown accustomed. Plus, the book has to be really good to make up for the year I’ve been off the market and for the inconvenience to my publisher.
Pressure? You bet!
These are the challenges that frame 2015. I hope I can find the courage to be equal to them. I hope I can find a way to transform the grief, the rage, and the fear. However long my life is, I need to live it to the fullest.
It’s Project Happiness all over again, except that I am both weaker — and stronger — than I was before. Life has gotten pretty fucking real, and so must I. Fortunately, my record for dealing with horrible days and harsh reality stands at a gleaming 100 percent.
In the meantime, please know how much your posts here and on Facebook meant to me. I saved every card and gift you all sent to me. Your donations to my medical fund and the Good Food Fund made such a difference in my life. Forgive, if you can, the fact that I wasn’t able to write thank you notes or contact you all personally in response. The cards are saved in a special box that is now so overflowing with good wishes and concern that I can’t close it. I have read and re-read them all.
Here’s hoping for a happy and HEALTHY New Year for us all!