October 31, 2012

Wednesday's Chow - Spinach and Curd Cheese Curry

From this week's guest blogger, Rosemary Morris, we have Spinach and Curd Cheese.  If you missed her insightful interview on Monday, please stop by and say hi!
My next release, Far Beyond Rubies, includes Gervaise’s receipt for Spinach and Curd Cheese Curry to be served with chapattis or tortillas and, or rice.
To serve four.
2lbs fresh spinach, New Zealand spinach, Swiss chard or 1 lb of frozen spinach.
8 ounces of paneer Indian curd cheese available from Indian shops and (in England) supermarkets.
3 tablespoons of olive oil or vegetable cooking oil.
1 desertspoon of finely grated fresh ginger.
1 chili, optional.
Salt and pepper to taste.
2 lemons cut into eighths.
If using fresh spinach, New Zealand spinach or Swiss chard remove stalks, and shred the leaves. Bring a quarter of a pint of water with one teaspoon of salt to the boil. Add the greens and simmer until they are cooked, then squeeze out most of the water.
If using frozen spinach defrost it, add the salt and then squeeze out most of the water.
Cut the paneer into half inch square cubes, deep fry them until they are golden brown and put them in water to keep them moist.
Heat the oil in a large wok or frying pan. Add the ginger and stir fry on a low heat for 1 minute. Add the fresh chilli. Stir fry for 30 seconds. Add the spinach and stir fry for a minute. Add the curd cheese and stir it gently over a low heat until it is mixed into the spinach.
Serve with flat breads and or rice, add extra salt if desired, some pepper to taste and squeeze lemon juice over it.
When adding the greens to the fried ginger and chilli stir in 8 ounces of cooked fresh peas or frozen peas.

Tanged Love, Sunday's Child, False Pretences.
New release in March, 2013 Far Beyond Rubies.

October 29, 2012

Interview with Rosemary Morris

Anna Kathryn,    
First of all thank you for inviting me to be your guest.

Q.                Where are you from? 
A.          I live in Hertfordshire, England.
Q.                What sparked your interest in writing? 
A.          Since childhood I have been an avid reader. Blessed with curiosity and an active imagination it was inevitable that one day I would become an author.

Q.                What components, in your opinion, make a great story?
A.                An intriguing plot, an interesting theme, strong characters, good or bad, which the reader can identify with. Emotion, emotion and more emotion, and I do not mean only in romances, emotion can be low key but it needs to be there. Last but not least, a good pace which makes the reader wants to turn the page to find out what happens next.

Q.                How would you generally categorize the books/stories you write?
A.                I write traditional romantic historical fiction, by which I mean that I do not open the bedroom door wide.

Q.                Do you set your books/stories in your home town, or do you prefer more exotic locations?
A.                So far my novels are mostly set in London and South East Englad, but in Far Beyond Rubies, set in Queen Anne Stuart’s reign, there are links with India.

Q.  How much of your writing is based on people or events familiar to you?

A.  I mention some historical figures in my novels, but the main characters are fictional, although I sometimes see a face in a crowd, a magazine or a newspaper and jot down a description, which I use in a novel. With regard to events, I read widely and visit places of historical interest to get the facts right.

I was inspired to write Tangled Love when reading about Charles II, James II, his daughter, Mary, who with her husband William of Orange, usurped the throne, and his second daughter Queen Anne.  After Charles II’s death, his brother James became king. Most non-Roman Catholic peers did not like the man, his politics or his religion. Eventually, James II was forced to flee to France. Some of the peers of the realm refused to take an oath of allegiance, first to William and Mary, and then to Anne for as long as James II lived, because they had sworn an oath of allegiance to him.  What, I asked myself, would be the fate of a daughter left in England by her father who followed James to France? The inspiration for Sunday’s Child came when I asked myself how families of dear ones killed in the Peninsular War against Napoleon would be affected, and what effect the war would have on a survivor. False Pretences, set in Regency England, evolved when I imagined a young girl, who is desperate to find out who her parents were, refuses to make an arranged marriage. And Far Beyond Rubies was inspired when I read a snippet in a book about Queen Anne’s period and my interest in India.


Q. How did you come up with the title of Tangled Love?
A. As a child, to please her father, who my heroine, Richelda, loved, she swore on the Bible to do her best to regain Field House, the family estate confiscated in the reign of Charles I. Penniless and alone Richelda believes she will marry Dudley, the vicar’s son who she loves. Subsequently she resists every attempt by her rich aunt to persuade her to marry the new owner of her ancestral home, Field House. Tangled Love suits the various dilemmas in Richelda’s life.     

Q.  What is the hardest part of your novels to write?
A.  Writing the first paragraph which I hope will intrigue the reader and make the reader want to continue.

Q. What was the easiest part of the story to write?
A.  The first draft in which I develop the plot and theme, and in which the characters come to life. 

Q. Was there much research involved?
A. Yes, the shelves in the bookcase in my office are slightly bowed with the weight of books about economic history, fashion, food, furniture, make-up, perfume social history, and much more. And I often stagger home from the library with more books for research.

Q.  Is there a message in your story you want readers to grasp?
A. Yes, we experience the same emotions as our ancestors although our life styles are so far removed from theirs. Also, to understand our present it is helpful to understand our past. For example, if the Duke of Marlborough had lost the Wars of Spanish Succession the history of the United Kingdom would have been different and the same is true of the Duke of Wellington and the Battle of Waterloo.

Q. What do you feel is your biggest strength as a writer?
A. My ability to recreate the past through the subjects described in my answer to the previous question.

Q.  When you first started writing, did anything about the writing process surprise you?
A. The amount of time it takes to revise a novel, and then work with editors prior to publication astonished me. I was surprised by the amount of time it takes to build an online platform, through my website (which is due to be updated), my blog and numerous online groups that I belong to.

Q. Do you celebrate when you finish a story, and if so, how?
A. By the time I write The End I’m so exhausted that I need a day off from writing. I don’t have the energy to celebrate unless sleeping late on the following morning can be described as a celebration.

Q. Do you have a set writing routine?
A. I wake at 6 a.m., make a hot drink and work until 10 or 11 a.m. with a short break to have breakfast and watch the news on television.  I then get on with the chores, go shopping, cook, socialize or work in my organic garden in which I grow fruit, herbs and vegetables, and then at 4 p.m. I’m back at the laptop or computer to work until 8 p.m.

Q. What do you like least about writing?
A. Writing a letter of introduction to a publisher and writing a synopsis of a novel.

Q. Which authors do you feel have influenced your writing most?
A. As a child I read Jeffrey Farnol and Geoffrey Trease’s children’s historical fiction and, at the library, I always chose to read historical fiction and non-fiction. Later, I read the classics, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen. At around the age of fourteen or fifteen, I borrowed my next door neighbor’s novels by Georgette Heyer which I could not read fast enough. These authors and many more invoked my wish to become a published historical novelist. I also read the works of Elizabeth Goudge, Anya Seton Mary Stewart, and, I think, in my late teens began reading the Angelique series by Seargeanne Golon, more recently I read and enjoyed Helen Hollick. Philip Gregory, Sharon Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick’s novels..

Q. If you could go back in time, what author would you most like to invite to share a chat and a bottle of wine?
A. Well, I would like to chat with A.C.Bhativedanta Swami Prabhupada but like me he did not drink alcoholic beverages, so it would be out of the question.

 Q. Have any new authors caught your interest?
A. Yes, to name a few, Maggie Coleman, Jen Black, Mirella Patzer and Christine Courtenay.

Q. What’s next for you? Can we look forward to a new story in the near future?
A. Far Beyond Rubies will be published in March 2013. At the moment, I am revising two novels. One is a big, fat mediaeval novel; the second is set in Queen Anne’s reign.  I am also planning a new novel Monday’s Child, a sequel to Sunday’s Child set in the Regency era.

Q. Who supports your writing activities most?
A. The members of the online critique groups which I belong to, and members of my writing group, Watford Writers as well as The Romantic Novelists’ Association and more online groups than I can mention.

Q. What does your family think of your writing?
A. My family is supportive and proud of me.           

Q. What advice would you give an aspiring author?
A, Never be discouraged by rejection, persevere, and while doing so learn as much as you can about the craft of writing through books on How To Write, constructive on line writers’ groups, workshops, and writers’ groups at which you can read extracts from your work and receive helpful comments.

Q.How can readers reach you? 
A. They can e-mail me at:  rosemarymorris@hotmail.co.uk.



October 24, 2012

Wednesday's Chow - Hot Cranberry Cider

by Callie Hutton

This week's geust offers up a yummy hot drink in time for the cool autumn nights.  Callie posted a wonderful blog on Monday about naming characters. If you haven't stopped by A Rose by Any Other Name... and read it yet, do so now! 

Hot Cranberry Cider

Apple Cider is very popular this time of the year, but I found this recipe for Hot Cranberry Cider, which is absolutely wonderful to sip while gazing into the fireplace. Be sure to have your romance novel handy, when you do!

This recipe is from the Food Network website, courtesy of Paula Deen & Friends, Simon & Schuster, 2005


  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, plus additional sticks to use at stirrers
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 8 cups cranberry juice
  • 6 cups apple juice


Put the sugar, cinnamon sticks and cloves in the basket of a large coffee percolator. Put the juices in the bottom of the percolator. Let the mixture perk as if making coffee. Serve with cinnamon stick stirrers, if desired.

October 22, 2012

A rose is a rose by any other name…..

By Callie Hutton

How do you pick the names of your characters?

Do you wait until you’ve formed the character either in your mind, or on paper before you give him or her a name? Although I’ve never waited to name a character, more than once I started off with one name, and then as the story progressed, it became evident that this was no Elizabeth. More of a Delilah.

Since I’m a panster, changing a name mid-way through the story is not so unusual for me. A regency I completed a few months ago, and is now in the hands of several publishers awaiting the dreaded decision, I changed the heroine’s name three times. And ended up with the name I started with – Olivia.

Recently I decided to use my daughter and nieces names in my books. For the married ones, as long as I don’t use their husbands’ names for the hero, I can write the love scenes without a problem. What is a problem, however, is my nieces, for the most part have ‘modern’ names. Tracey, Stacy, Kim, Dawne, and so forth. Since I write primarily historical, it becomes a challenge.

In a contemporary I wrote recently, I knocked out two nieces by using them for first and last names. Kerry Mackenzie. It’s rather cool that Mackenzie (in real life) is Kerry’s daughter.

I keep a rather extensive list of names I hear that seem different, or unusual. Most times I have the names of my hero and heroine before I start the book. It’s searching for the secondary characters in the story that drives me to the list.

Butlers’ names are fun. There aren’t a whole lot of John or Jim in regency butlers. They have unusual names, like Bonwich or Pembers. I’ve often wondered, is that their first, last, or butler name?

Some characters’ names become so entrenched with their authors, their names are almost synonymous. Who can think of Margaret Mitchell and not conjure up Scarlett O’Hara? How about J. Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes? Or Agatha Christie and Miss Marple? Or in a more modern vein, James Patterson and Alex Cross? Janet Evonovich and Stephanie Plum? J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter? E L James and Christine Grey?

We would probably all love to be so connected to one of our characters.  The notoriety alone would sell books.

In my book that my publisher just released, A Prescription for Love, naming the characters was easy, since it’s the third book in a series. The hero’s name was already set, from the first two stories, but I had to find a character name for the heroine that fit her personality. Heidi just seemed to call to me. I lucked out when one of my critique partners questioned if that name would be used during that time. When I researched the book Heidi, I found out it was published right around the time my character would have been born. Whew!

So tell me how naming characters works for you. Easy? Hard? Do you change names as the character grows, or do you have it all plotted out before you start, so changing anything would unnerve you?


Callie has been making up stories since elementary school, and writing gave her a way to turn off the voices in her head.  She’s had a number of articles and interviews published over the years, and about two years ago, decided to put her writing skills to the test and write a book.

            Oklahoma is where she hangs her hat with her husband of thirty-six years, two young adult children, and three dogs.

You can catch her hanging out at Facebook, Twitter- @CallieHutton, and her home base, www.calliehutton.com. Stop by sometime and say hello.

Books by Callie Hutton:

Oklahoma Lovers series, #1, #2, #3

An Angel in the Mail

Tessa’s Treasures

Miss Merry’s Christmas, October 31st

Daniel’s Desire, November 19th

All of Callie Hutton’s books can be found at www.Amazon.com and www.BarnesandNoble.com.

October 17, 2012

Wednesday's Chow - Italian Vegetable Soup

I've posted this recipe before, but it's worth repeating, especially now that fall is in the air, even here in Houston!  I've had this recipe for nearly 20 years and it's a family favorite.  Enjoy it with some fresh-baked bread/rolls.

Italian Vegetable Soup

1 pound ground beef
1 cup diced onion
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup sliced carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (16 oz) tomatoes
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (15 oz) red kidney beans, undrained
2 cups water
5 teaspoons beef bouillon granules or five bouillon cubes
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon sweet basil
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup frozen or fresh green beans, in 1-in pieces (optional)
½ cup small elbow macaroni
Parmesan cheese, grated 

Brown beef in large heavy kettle; drain off fat. Add all the ingredients except cabbage, green beans and macaroni. Bring to a boil. Lower heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add cabbage, green beans and macaroni; bring to a boil and simmer until vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes). If you prefer a thinner soup, add additional water. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese before serving.

Anna Kathryn Lanierwww.aklanier.com

Never let your memories be greater than your dreams. ~Doug Ivester


October 15, 2012

On Writing - Settings

by MJ Fredrick

I admit, I’ve bought books before simply based on setting. When I first started reading romance, it was Ireland—ANYTHING set in Ireland. I expanded to England, then Scotland, before venturing to the United States and gobbling up Civil War romances, then moving to the present day.
What I discovered about myself is that I choose to read certain settings based on what I was interested in at the time.

For awhile it was archaeology, thanks to the Mummy movies. There are not many of those, BTW.
For awhile it was California-set romances, thanks to the Virgin River books.

Then Hawaii-set books because of my crush on Alex O’Loughlin in Hawaii 5-0.
My son’s girlfriend recently moved to Alaska, so I have been reading some of those.

Lately, it’s western historicals thanks to Hell on Wheels and the re-showing of Into the West. (I have one episode saved because I want to write a wagon train story now.
That happens when I write, too.

My historical Sunrise Over Texas was written when I was teaching Texas history, about Jane Long, the “Mother of Texas.” I’d taught that lesson in previous years, but that year something clicked!

My hot shot firefighter story, Hot Shot, was written when the Colorado fires were so bad in 2000.

Midnight Sun is set in Antarctica because of a show on the travel channel I saw about cruises that take people to see the 7th continent.
My series Welcome to Bluestone was written when I was visiting Minnesota, which is harder hit by the recession than my home state of Texas. We drove past a town struggling to stay afloat, and the series was born.

What about you? Does setting influence your choices when it comes to buying books? Are there any settings you DON’T care to read?
MJ Fredrickhttp://mjfredrick.com
Bluestone Homecoming
Guarded Hearts from Lyrical Press

October 10, 2012

Wednesday's Chow - Raisin Bran Muffins

J. D. Faver treats us with a special recipe from her new cookbook. Thanks for filling for me on such short notice, June!

Hi Anna Kathryn. I'm delighted to be able to share a favorite recipe with your readers. It’s one of 56 recipes in my newly released cookbook, A Texan in the Kitchen: Autumn Recipes.   

I worked as a Nutritionist for the Dairy Council for many years and this was one of the recipes I used to demonstrate. The flavor develops as the batter ages. Batter will keep in the refrigerator for up to six weeks.


10-ounce box of raisin bran cereal

5 cups flour (can use 2 cups whole wheat)

3 cups sugar

3 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons salt

1 quart buttermilk

1 cup cooking oil

4 eggs, beaten

Mix dry ingredients in large bowl. Add liquids. Bake in muffin tins 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Batter will keep in refrigerator for up to six weeks. Aging seems to improve the flavor.



My other news is that the third in my series of romantic thrillers, set close to the Mexican border has just been released. BAD VIBES is available on Amazon, as are the first two in the series. In Bad Vibes, Deputy Darla Calhoun arrests a vagrant, hanging around the marina, but after he’s cleaned up, she discovers a hunky, hard-body with a smoldering gaze hidden beneath the filthy rags. He turns out to be a federal agent working undercover. He’s after a gang of human traffickers using the Intracoastal Waterway to bring sex slaves into the United States from Mexico. Rafael assigns Darla as liaison officer to work with the feds, bringing her face-to-face with the “Iceman”, Mike Burke, the undercover agent she arrested. Darla, Mike and his partner tear up and down the Intracoastal Waterway in pursuit of the human traffickers, but when two local women disappear, the search becomes personal.
The order of the Series is:
4) Bad Dreams (under construction)
Visit J.D. Faver’s website: http://www.jdfaver.com/    
Follow on Twitter & Facebook


October 8, 2012

Life feels better if you participate

by Debra Doggett
Life feels better if you participate.  That’s the sum total of the knowledge I’ve gained in many years of living.  Writers are often rather solitary creatures, living in the world they create in their heads and on paper (or the computer screen in my case).  One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever found in a writing book came from Julia Cameron, whose book The Artist’s Way reminds all creative people that they need to refill their well every now and then.  Pulling ideas, characters, motivations and even actions from your head requires that your head be full of stuff, preferably stuff that lends itself to molding in order to create those things in your story.
Now, most writers have lots of stuff meandering through their brain.  That’s part of what makes them writers.  But no good writer uses the same stuff over and over again.  In my humble opinion that kind of repetition is a good way to end up with writer’s block.  So we search for ways to reignite our creativity, to spark the muse once again.  The answer is right in front of us.  Take your muse out for a walk.  Make sure that walk is somewhere filled with the kind of human interaction and eccentricity that just begs to be put down on the page.

I’ve spent the past couple of days filling my well with the kind of sights and sounds that spark the muse in me.  This weekend my little town hosted the second annual Aztec Highland Games and Celtic Music Festival.  I’m talking kilts, ladies, and lots of them.  Guys (and ladies) throwing big cabers, heavy weights and something called a sheaf.  And music.  The kind of music that has more than a beat.  It has drums, pipes and heart as well.  My mind soaked in an ambience that created scenes of Scottish Highlands, warriors, and earthy lust.  The earthy lust part will go a long way in finishing my work-in-progress.  And the image of some of the warriors will work nicely to create descriptions that hook the reader into my story.  Participating in a weekend of music and musing has given me a fuller well to draw from along with a greater appreciation of Scottish cuisine (the haggis made a memorable impression).  I’ve never written a Scottish highlander story.  Perhaps it’s time to start one now.
Vampire Gates McHenry has waited eighty years for a chance at sexy shapeshifter Ava Harper.  When she shows up at his bar with a wolf trap and a nasty attitude, he knows the time has come to deal himself into the game.  And the stakes for this game are higher than any he’s ever faced before because someone or something has taken an interest in Ava as well.  A deadly interest.  If he can find the threat and keep Ava from staking him in the process, he just might be able to make the move that will win Ava Harper’s heart.


He grinned up at her and a slow smile spread across her face, something that sparked a bit of concern inside him.  When she bent down and leaned over him, he stopped thinking at all.  Then she put those moist lips by his cheek and he was glad he didn't breathe, for the feel of her against him would've driven the air from his lungs.  In spite of his touted control, having her this close had him struggling not to reach out and take what he wanted.  His mind started to wander, envisioning all the ways he could make her come, over and over again, all night…

"What the—"

His words were cut off by the pressure of the stake tight against his heart.  Ava leaned down close, that satisfied smile broader now.  The point of the wood aimed over his heart nipped at his clothing and drove all the nude images out of his brain.

"What's the matter, gambler?  Don't like the stakes?"

"You carry a stake with you?  Where the hell did you have that hidden?"

Ava pointed to the flowerbed by the porch.  "There.  You were so deep in your horny daydream I could've pulled out a Mac truck and you wouldn't have noticed."

"Why is it every time I try to get romantic with you, you whip out a stake?  What have you got against having a good time?"

She plopped down on the ground next to him.  "Your obsession with playing almost got you killed."
Gambler's Moon Buy Now

 The Prize Buy Now 
Learn more about Debra at:

October 3, 2012

Wednesday's Chow - Chicken and Dumplings and Peach Cobbler

By Caroline Clemmons.
This week's guest blogger shares not one but two country cookin' recipes.  If you didn't visit Caroline's Monday blog, The Best and Worst of Being a Writer, please do so HERE.
What do you remember about trips to Grandmother’s house? Numerous things pop into my head, but one thing I remember is the foods we had. She cooked as her mother and grandmother had. I don’t remember her trying “new” recipes other than the cake recipe from the box of White Swan Cake Flour. A good dish pioneers made was chicken and dumplings because it stretched one hen to serve a larger group of people. More people show up, add a few more dumplings. Here is my grandmother’s recipe for that dish. I’ve tried to replicate her cooking, but my result never tastes the same as hers.  I’m sure Aunt Lizzie, from the Men of Stone Mountain books BRAZOS BRIDE and HIGH STAKES BRIDE, prepared this recipe. 

                                                          Chicken and Dumplings
1 large stewing hen
2 cups flour                                                                 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup lard or shortening                                           1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk                                                                   Optional: sliced carrot and celery

Choose and prepare a nice fat hen.  Cut it up, with the meat on the bone.  Stew the chicken in a large pot with plenty of water.  After the chicken has cooked, you may want to remove the bones so people do not have to deal with them when they eat, but they add flavor and nutrition to the broth.  

Cook the chicken until it is tender (about an hour).  You can put slices of carrot and celery in the broth as the chicken cooks.  Season broth with salt and pepper.  When the chicken is tender, cook on very low simmer while you make the dumpling dough. 

To make the dough:  Mix the flour, shortening, baking powder, salt and milk.  Roll dough out thin and add more flour if it is not stiff enough.  Cut it into strips about 1" to 2" wide.  Keep heat low under chicken.  Drop half of dumplings into broth, pulling strips of dough into pieces as you drop them.  After about five minutes, push those dumplings to the side of the pan and drop in the rest of the dough in the same way.  Cook another five minutes or so.  Stir. Take a little fresh milk or buttermilk and drizzle it around the edges of the pan.  Stir.  Cook another ten minutes.  Test to insure dumplings are cooked through and serve.    

A favorite of cowboys everywhere was canned peaches, and I’m sure the Stone brothers were no different. Ranches and line shacks all over the West were stocked with canned peaches. For a busy day dessert, how about peach cobbler? And what’s even better, the recipe below is a short-cut which doesn’t require rolling out pie crust. This recipe is a favorite for my family.


Busy Day Cobbler

1/4 cup soft butter or margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
Fruit filling:

One 16 oz can fruit *
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup of the juice from the canned fruit (If there is not enough juice to make one cup, finish filling cup with water.) 

*If using fresh fruit, use 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water instead of amounts given above

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Beat until smooth. Pour into greased loaf pan (10 x 5 x 3) or greased 1 1/2 quart casserole. Spoon drained fruit over batter. Sprinkle with sugar and juice. Bake 45 to 50 minutes. Serve with warm cream or ice cream.

Thanks to Anna Kathryn for letting me share a couple of my favorite recipes. Thank you for stopping by!
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

October 1, 2012

The Best and Worst of Being a Writer

by Caroline Clemmons

 One of my favorite Charles Dickens works is TALE OF TWO CITIES. If you’ve forgotten, it begins “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” Those lines describe a lot of life, don’t they?  They remind me of research. Writing, especially historic novels, requires extensive research. This is the worst because of the time involved. This is the best because those of us who write about history love, love, love researching our time period.

For instance, I am writing the third of my Men of Stone Mountain series, BLUEBONNET BRIDE. My heroine, Rose, wants to use a sewing machine she discovers in the home she’d just purchased in 1872 Texas. Is it a hand- crank machine or treadle? What kind of machine is it? Does it have a nice cabinet? What does it look like? 

We live in a wonderful age, so I didn’t have to stop writing, change clothes, do my makeup, curl my hair, or drive anywhere. I own a reproduction 1897 Sears Catalog, but that is way too late for this series. So, I relied on the handy-dandy internet. Fortunately, there was plenty of information, complete with photos.  

Imagine my surprise to learn that a good product does not necessarily equate success. The first functional sewing machine was invented by the French tailor, Barthelemy Thimonnier, in 1830. Thimonnier's machine used only one thread and a hooked needle that made the same chain stitch used with embroidery. Sounds good, but not for him. The inventor was almost killed by an enraged group of French tailors who burnt down his garment factory because they feared unemployment as a result of his new invention!

Despite a further flurry of minor inventions in the 1840s, most Americans will claim that the sewing machine was invented by Massachusetts farmer Elias Howe who completed his first prototype in 1844. Yet perhaps the essentials of a modern machine had come together in early 1844 when Englishman John Fisher invented a machine which, although designed for the production of lace, was essentially a working sewing machine. [Possibly because of miss-filing at the patent office, this invention was overlooked during the long legal arguments between Singer and Howe as to the origins of the sewing machine.]


Howe’s was patented in 1845 and Howe set about trying to interest the tailoring trade in his invention. He even arranged a competition with his machine set against the finest hand sewers in America. The machine won hands down but the world wasn't ready for mechanized sewing or its hefty $300 price tag. Despite months of demonstrations, he had still not made a single sale.


After failing to sell his machine in America, Howe tried England. Corset maker William Thomas eventually bought the rights to the invention for £250 and arranged for Elias to come to London to further develop the machine. The two did not work well together, each accusing the other of failing to honor agreements and eventually Elias, now almost penniless, returned to America.


When he arrived home he found that the sewing machine had finally caught on and that dozens of manufacturers, including Singer, were busy manufacturing machines--all of which defied the Howe patents. Howe sued Singer for patent infringement using funds from a mortgage taken out on his father’s farm. In 1854, eight years after patenting his sewing machine, Howe was victorious in defending his rights to the lockstitch. He won his patent lawsuit against Singer. All companies that were using his invention were now forced to pay him royalties.

Sewing machines did not go into mass production until the 1850's, when Isaac Singer built the first commercially successful machine. Singer built the first sewing machine where the needle moved up and down rather than side-to-side and the needle was powered by a foot treadle. Previous machines were all hand-cranked. Woo Hoo, this was the information I needed! But, being addicted to research, I couldn’t stop reading.


When most of us think of sewing machines, we probably think of Singer. I learned that the real development Isaac Singer made was the credit payment plan, what he called the hire-purchase, where a customer could buy the machine and use it while paying for it. I had erroneously thought the “buy now, pay later” system was a modern thing, like credit cards. Nope, Singer came up with it. In fact, Singer did not invent any notable sewing-machine advances, but he pioneered the hire-purchase system and aggressive sales tactics. Both Singer and his competitor-turned partner, the formerly penniless Howe, ended their days as multi-millionaires. I love a happy ending, don’t you?

Since I do, let me tell you about my new release, HIGH STAKES BRIDE, Men of Stone Mountain, Book Two. I guarantee a happy ending. The fun is discovering how we get there, isn’t it? Here’s the book’s blurb:


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? 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.

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’s been jilted and vows he will never even speak to a woman again unless she's a relative. Then he comes across Alice Price and comes up with a crazy plan. He’s figured everything out, and is sure nothing can go wrong with his plan.  

But life holds surprises for Alice and Zach... 

Here’s an excerpt: 

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.”


Did that capture your interest? I hope so. Here are the buy links: 


Thanks to Anna Kathryn for having me as her guest today.
Thanks to you, readers, for stopping by!


Caroline Clemmons lives in North Central Texas with her personal hero husband and a menagerie of rescued pets. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family, reading, travel, browsing antique malls, genealogy, and an occasional nap. You can learn more about her at www.carolineclemmons.com or stop by her blog at http://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com.