December 28, 2012

Holiday Cheer-WEATHER IS THE WRITER’S FRIEND

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by Caroline Clemmons

Thanks to Anna Kathryn Lanier for hosting my visit today. 

Do you live where the winter storm has locked you indoors? Lovely if you don’t need to leave home. Here in North Central Texas, we only have a few snow flurries, but folks are snowbound in the Texas Panhandle. I love snow, but then I work from home and don’t have to commute. Being snowed in is a cozy treat for me, and a good time to snuggle with a cup of hot chocolate, a good book...and my husband. Our pets also gather around for cuddle time.  
 

Weather always plays a part in my romances, and sometimes becomes a character. Bad weather can isolate a couple, present a huge obstacle, or propel the story forward. Think of the tornado in THE WIZARD OF OZ, which certainly moved that story forward (no pun intended).  

A storm that starts as rain, then sleet, then heavy snow is a character in HIGH STAKES BRIDE. The inclement weather helps the heroine, Alice Price, escape from the two men pursuing her. That is, with the aid of rancher Zach Stone. What could be cozier than being snowed in a warm cabin with a kind and handsome man? There are a few surprises for Alice Price and Zach Stone: (1) the battered little boy who looks as if he and soap are strangers, (2) his injured dog, and (3) the biggest surprise...the dead man on the cabin floor.   
 
Those aren’t the only surprises in store for either Zach or Alice. She’s one of my favorite heroines. Like me, she is incident prone. ☺ I’ve never dyed my own hair the peculiar color Alice did, but I once accidentally dyed my daughter’s hair lavender. Talk about panic! Whew, no wonder she won’t let me color her hair now.

Here’s a blurb about HIGH STAKES BRIDE:

Now that her stepfather has died and can no longer protect her, Alice Price is on the run from two stepbrothers who wagered her in a high stakes poker game. But she’s only been off her stepfather’s ranch once in over twenty years and has no sense of the landscape or direction. Determined to catch the stage to Atlanta, she has two mules loaded with her belongings. From the first, she encounters one setback after another. She is certain fate has dealt her a losing hand...until she teams up with Zach Stone.
 
 

Zach is through with any woman not related to him. He camps out for a little time alone before he heads home and admits he’s been jilted by his mail-order bride. When he meets Alice and learns she is on the run, he lets her tag along with him. Their ride through a freezing storm when she is already exhausted leaves Alice with a case of pneumonia. Obviously, she needs some place safe where she can recover. That’s when Zach comes up with a crazy plan--Alice can pretend to be his mail-order bride until she recovers, make his family hate her, then he’ll send her away Sounds easy enough.
 

Zach hired the Seth, a young boy Alice and Zach discovered in his old cabin, to be Zach’s new ranch hand. Seth’s dog, Harry, accompanies the boy. Life appears rosy, but lies tangle Zach and Alice into a web of deceit that grows more and more complicated. 

Here’s an excerpt from HIGH STAKES BRIDE of the first time Zach meets Alice while he’s camped out: 

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.

“Have to give it to you, ma’am. You were the quietest patient I’ve ever seen.”

She lay with her face turned away from him. When he leaned over, he realized she’d passed out.  
 

I hope you found that intriguing and will want to purchase HIGH STAKES BRIDE, Men of Stone Mountain, book 2. Here are the buy links: 


Print or Ebook at Amazon:
 
 
Do you serve ham for New Year’s Day? In the South/Southwest, ham is the traditional dish for New Year’s Day. I’m sharing my family’s favorite sweet potato recipe to go with your New Year’s Day dinner...or any other time. This dish is always a hit and anytime I serve it to others, I am asked for the recipe. 

SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE 

2 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes (about 4 large sweet potatoes, or
           use canned)
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 stick margarine or butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (I don’t like nutmeg, so I omit this and double the
       cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 

Topping:

3/4 cup corn flakes
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I use pecans)
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 stick margarine or butter 

Drain and mash the cooked or canned sweet potatoes, removing any fibrous tissue. Add the sugar, milk, eggs, 3/4 stick margarine, and spices. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cover with topping. Return to oven for about 10 minutes, or until topping is bubbly. 

Here’s a bit about Caroline Clemmons: 

Caroline Clemmons writes mystery, romance, and adventures—although her earliest made up adventures featured her saving the West with Roy Rogers. Her career has included stay-at-home mom (her favorite job), newspaper reporter and featured columnist, assistant to the managing editor of a psychology journal, and bookkeeper. She and her husband live in rural North Central Texas with a menagerie of rescued pets. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family, reading, travel, browsing antique malls and estate sales, and genealogy/family history.  

Excerpts from some of her exceptional reviews can be found on her website, along at www.carolineclemmons.com. View her blog posts Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at http://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com and find book reviews, giveaways, interview, and miscellany.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/carolinclemmons (No E in Caroline)

Caroline loves to hear from readers at caroline@carolineclemmons.com
Happy New Year 2013!


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7 comments:

Geri said...

Love the Stone men! They're such big, strong men. And the setting is perfect.

I've read them all and want to read more.
Geri

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

Your stories sound wonderful! Love cowboys. :)

My mother used to serve ham on New Years Day, but us picky eaters would have pizza. lol

I'm not fond of ham still so we barbeque. The family just got a 'smoker' for Christmas and my husband is itching to use it. lol So guess what we'll be having for New Years?

kmnbooks at yahoo dot com

Amy S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amy S. said...

The blurb and the excerpt were great! We serve pork loin or pork chops on New Year's. We had the ham on Christmas Day. I'll have to try your sweet potato casserole. I've tried many recipes and mine always flops. lol

ammysmith98@gmail.com

Mary Preston said...

HIGH STAKES BRIDE sounds fabulous.

We generally have ham over the holiday season.

marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Caroline Clemmons said...

Thanks for having me, Anna Kathryn. We're having that sweet potato casserole with our ham and black eyed peas on New Year's Day. We bought a spiral sliced ham from the neighbor boys who were selling for their 4H group.

Toni W. said...

I like reading the story so far and can't wait to read the rest of it thank you.bibbiesparks@yahoo.com