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.
Dead Earwigs and Deleted Scenes
There were a few scenes that got deleted from the final cut of Love is a
Battlefield, many of which were near and dear to my heart. I imagine this
is a com...
1 year ago
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