Today I'd like to welcome Caroline Clemmons and her newest release, High Stakes Bride. She'll give away a PDF of High Stakes Bride to one lucky person...and as a Christmas bonus, I'll give away a $10 Amazon or a Barnes and Noble gift card to someone!
1. At any given time do you work on only one story and maybe plot out the next one, or are there many ideas racing around your head?
I only write one story at a time, but I’m always thinking ahead to what I’ll write next, and next after that. If I have a chance to visit the setting for a future book, I take my camera and capture all the details I’ll need (or think I will need). I’ll have to live to be 200 to write all the stories in my head.
Ha, Caroline, I hear you! I need either more of me or a nifty way to have more time in a day that isn't already taken up by work to finish everything.
2. Is there a genre you haven't written in but would like to? Or wish you could write in?
There is a women’s fiction I’ve considered, but that would be way, way down the road. I’m committed to western historical romance for the next year at least. I’m currently completing book three of the Men of Stone Mountain trilogy, then I will write two more of the Kincaid series in 2013. Other than that, I’m pretty happy writing contemporary and historical western romance.
3. Do you add an element of romantic suspense in your stories? If so, how difficult is it to maintain the integrity of the mystery?
Most of my stories have mystery as well as romance. I love murder and mayhem in any romance. ☺ I enjoy reading books with a threat of danger, so that’s what I write. My latest series involves poisons as well as other crimes. Have to keep throwing obstacles at the hero and heroine, don’t we?
4. Say you have unlimited funds: What kind of writing office/cottage would you create for yourself?
Probably pretty much what I have now, except I’d move the cats’ litter box to another part of the house. ☺ I enjoy my pale pink room with my dark faux cherry desk and corner computer station, lots of bookcases and storage, and a really comfy desk chair. My youngest daughter (my office used to be her bedroom) decorated it with romantic prints, I’ve added family photos and some of my book covers to the walls.
I’ve always thought I’d like a huge picture window looking out on a pine-covered mountain, but then I’d stare out the window instead of working--and I’d be living in a different area. Native trees in North Central Texas are several types of oaks, cottonwoods, willows, mesquite, and various other deciduous trees. The only evergreens here are cedar, which are a pest tree. One type of oak is live oak. Although live oaks do lose leaves, they are replaced year round so the tree is always green. Uh Oh, I digressed.
One big change is that I would have a paid assistant. Wouldn’t that be great? My husband is a big help now, but I need someone to help with social media so I can write. You know that if we don’t promote, we don’t sell, but all I want to do is write. I enjoy blogging, but not all the social media stuff. I’m always forgetting to check all the sites.
5. If you could turn your novel into a TV show, which novel or series would you do? Where would it be set? Network TV (ABC, NBC, CBS), Cable (AMC, BBC, Lifeitme) or Premium Cable (HBO, Showtime, Starz)?
The setting would be Texas, of course, which is where all my books are set. I have three series I’d love to see as movies: The Kincaids is set in Central Texas about thirty miles from Austin, the Men of Stone Mountain is set in North Central Texas, and the McClintocks are back in Central Texas between Bandera and Medina. I wouldn’t care which network. I’d be more concerned with the script and the actors cast as stars.
6. Finally, tell us about your latest release!
High Stakes Bride is the second of the Men of Stone Mountain trilogy.
Mary Alice Price is on the run from dangerous men. She had known that when her stepfather died, she would have to hurriedly escape her stepbrothers. Hadn’t she heard them promise her to the meanest man in Texas as payment for high stakes gambling losses? She’s all set to head for the stage and Atlanta as soon as her poor stepfather breathes his last. The problem is she’s only been off their Texas ranch once in over twenty years, so she has no idea how to navigate through the Palo Pinto Mountains. Even with Pa’s gasping directions, she’s soon lost, injured, and ill. One misfortune after another devils her until she links up with Zach Stone. He looks sturdy as his last name and invites her to his ranch where his two aunts will chaperone them. She figures life finally dealt her a winning hand. But how long can she evade her stepbrothers?
Zach Stone has the sweetest ranch in all of Texas, at least he thinks he does. All he needs is a wife to build his family of boys and girls to carry on his ranch and name. He’d though he had a fiancée, but the injury that left one side of his face scarred sent her running. He’s come to meet the stage and his mail-order bride, but finds a letter from her saying she’s married someone she met on the trip. Jilted again. He vows he will never speak to a woman ever again unless she's a relative. He’s sure his heart has frozen as hard as his name. Then he comes across Alice Price and comes up with a crazy plan to pass her off as his intended, have her make everyone hate her, then send her on her way to Atlanta. Sure he’s figured everything out, he figures nothing can go wrong with his plan.
Zach and Alice have a lot to learn about life and living with others. And on the way, they discover each is perfect for the other.
Here’s an excerpt of when they meet. Alice has been on the run and had nothing but bad luck. Zach has just been jilted by a mail-order bride and is camping out to cool off and plan his next move.
Zach slipped into the bedroll and waited, pistol in hand. He feigned sleep, wondering what kind of man tarried nearby. Whoever it was could have picked Zach off, so the sidewinder must not have murder on his mind.
Probably up to no good hiding out like that, though, because any Westerner would share his campfire and vittles with anyone who rode into camp. Zach wriggled into a comfortable spot and lay motionless. Anger at recent events helped him remain awake.
The footfalls came so softly he almost missed them. He opened his eyes a slit, but enough to see a thin shadow move toward the fire. About then heavy clouds overhead parted and the moonlight revealed a boy who scooped up a slice of bacon and slid it into his mouth.
The culprit set Zach’s tin plate on the ground near the fire, ladled beans into it, and picked up a fork. He squatted down and balanced the plate on his knees before he commenced eating. Zach noticed he kept his left hand in his pocket the whole time.
Something must be wrong with the thief’s left arm. Looked too young for it to have been a casualty of the War. Lots of other ways to get hurt out here. Whatever had happened to his left arm, his right one worked well enough. He forked food into his mouth like he hadn’t eaten in a week.
Zach let him shovel beans for a few minutes. Crook or not, anyone that hungry deserved a meal. When the kid stopped eating, Zach couldn’t figure out what he was doing. It looked as if he used the fork to scratch around on the ground, so he must have eaten his fill. Zach slipped his hand from beneath the cover and cocked the pistol.
“Hold it right there, son. I’d like to know why you’re eating without at least a howdy to the man who provided the food.”
The boy paused, then set the plate down slowly. “I left money here on a rock to pay for it.”
Odd sounding voice, but the kid was probably scared. Zach slipped from his bedroll and stood, but kept his gun pointed at the food robber. “Maybe.”
Zach walked toward the kid, careful to train his gaze so the firelight didn’t dim his eyesight. Sure enough, he spotted a couple of coins on the rock beside his pot of beans, or what remained of them, and his empty plate.
He faced the intruder. “Why not just come into camp earlier instead of sneaking in after you thought I was asleep?”
“I—I was afraid you weren’t friendly.”
Zach thought he also heard the kid mutter what sounded like “...or maybe too friendly.” Must be the wind, he thought, as he neared the boy.
Zach motioned with his free hand. “I don’t begrudge anyone food, but I hate dishonesty and sneaking around. Stand up so I can see you.”
The kid stood, hat low over his face and his good hand clenched.
Zach reached to push the brim back. “What’s your name?”
The kid stepped forward. “None of your business, mister.”
A fistful of sand hit Zach’s face. He heard his assailant run. Mad as the devil, Zach brushed grit from his eyes and set out in pursuit. The kid was fast, he’d give him that, but so was Zach. His longer legs narrowed the distance between them. With a running lunge, he tackled the kid.
“Oof. Let me go.” The lad was all wriggles and kicking feet as he squirmed trying to escape.
Zach wasn’t about to let that happen. They rolled in the dirt. In one move Zach pinned the boy’s good arm. The hat fell aside and a mass of curls spilled around the kid’s face.
His jacket parted and unmistakable curves pushed upward where Zach’s other hand rested. Zach stared in disbelief. Registering his hand pressed against a heavenly mound shocked him and he jerked his paw away.
“Well, I’ll be damned. You’re not a boy.”
The woman glared at him. “Right, and you’re not exactly a feather. Get off me.”
Zach stood and bent to help her but she curled into a ball where she lay. “Ma’am, you okay?”
“Just dandy.” She sat up, moving like a hundred-year-old. She glared at him while holding her stomach with her good hand. The other arm dangled uselessly. “You’ve likely broken the few uninjured bones I had left.”
His temper flared. “Hey, lady, don’t try to put the blame on me. If you’d been honest and come into camp like any other traveler, I’d have shared my food with you.”
“Yeah, well a woman on her own can’t be too careful and I don’t know you or anything about you.”
Zach saw her point. Though most Western men would respect a woman, it wouldn’t help if she ran into one of the exceptions.
“What’s wrong with your arm?”
She glared at him and appeared to debate with herself before she said, “Fell out of a tree. My arm caught in the fork of a branch. Pulled it out of socket and I can’t get it back.”
Well hell. As if he didn’t have enough on his mind. Now that he’d decided not to speak to another woman unrelated to him, this bundle of trouble showed up needing a keeper.
Resigning himself to one more stroke of bad luck, he said, “Take off your coat and come over here to my bedroll.”
The campfire sparked less than her eyes. “I’ll do no such of a thing. Don’t be thinking you can take liberties because I ate your food and I’m injured. I paid for the food.”
Zach exhaled and planted his fists on his hips. “Ma’am, there’s not enough money in Texas to pay me to take liberties with you. If you’ll move to my bedroll and lie down, I’ll put your arm back in place. You’ll likely have to take off your, um, your shirt.”
She looked him up and down as if she weighed him and found him lacking. “I figured you for a rancher. You a doctor then?”
“Ranchers have to know a good bit about patching people.”
She straightened herself and swished past him as if she wore a ball gown instead of a man’s torn britches. Watching the feminine sway of her hips as she sashayed to the other side of the campfire, he wondered how he ever mistook her for male. He followed her and tried not to appreciate her long legs or the way the fabric molded to them like a second skin.
When she reached the blasted bedroll he’d been stuck with, she slid out of her jacket. A grimace of pain flashed across her face as the weight of the light coat slipped down her injured arm. In one graceful move she plopped down on the bedroll.
“You’re sure you can do this?” she asked and looked up at him.
Flickering firelight placed her features in shadow. Moving closer, he figured the poor light played tricks on him, for he couldn't tell the color of her hair. He decided she had light brown or dark blonde curls. Whatever color her eyes were, maybe blue or green, they were big and watched him with suspicion.
“Yes. Sorry, I don’t have any spirits with me to deaden the pain.”
“I never touch alcohol. If you’re sure you can do this, just get on with it.” She unbuttoned her shirt and winced as she slid the injured shoulder and arm free, and then stuck her chin up as if she dared him to make an improper comment or gesture.
He knelt beside her, keenly aware of the differences that proved her womanhood. A chemise of fabric worn so thin as to be almost transparent pulled taut across her breasts. He swallowed and willed himself to ignore the dark circles surrounding the pearly peaks thrusting at the flimsy material. The memory of the lush mound he’d touched briefly wouldn’t leave him. He’d been alone too long and had better concentrate on the job at hand.
“Stretch out and try to relax. I’ll be as gentle as I can, but this will hurt.”
“Hurts already, but I better put my bandana in my mouth so I don’t scream. I’m not a whiner, mind, but wouldn’t want to draw attention if there’s others nearby.” She slipped the cloth knotted around her neck up to her mouth like a gag, then laid down.
She moaned but didn’t fight him. Zach had seen this done numerous times over the years and had performed it twice. He probed her shoulder gently, then rotated her arm to slip it back into place.
He listened for the snick of the bone reseating itself in the socket. When he finished, he massaged the muscles of her upper arm and shoulder. She’d likely be sore for weeks, but the harm she had done wasn’t permanent.
She lay with her face turned away from him. When he leaned over, he realized she’d passed out.
High Stakes Bride is available in Print or E-book at Amazon:
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Thanks to Isabel for inviting me to her blog. Thanks to you for stopping by! You can learn more about me at my website; on my blog you can sign up there for my newsletter and be part of contests, giveaways, and news of my releases.You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter @CarolinClemmons (no E in Caroline)