December 31, 2012

Holiday Cheer - Unlikable Heroes (Part I)

Just leave a comment on today's or any other
November 25-December 31

By Rebecca Lynn

I have a book coming out this week (1/4/13) with what has been called an "unlikable hero". I finaled in the Genesis contest (ACFW's version of the Golden Heart) after first having written this book and all of my first round judges obviously "got" him. But when I entered the exact same manuscript in an RWA-sponsored chapter, I had all three first-round judges come back to me with various iterations of "I hated the hero from the first sentence." And apparently, three chapters wasn't long enough to like him again. But after this, I entered the book in three other RWA contests and had the same responses as my first two contests. Either I had judges who adored him or hated him. Either I finaled, or I was just about dead last. There was absolutely no middle ground. Everyone reacted so strongly to him, but no one's reactions were the same.

As the result of one contest, I received a full request from Harlequin and gladly sent it in. I waited about three months and got a rejection, but the editor loved my hero. Don't change him, was her advice. Change the plot, but don't change the hero. She "got" him. After revisions, I submitted to Pelican, who accepted the book for their White Rose line. This editor also "got" Sean.
But I still had readers (critique partners, as well) who thought he was too harsh. This constant struggle over his character got me thinking about unlikable heroes. And since the book is finally out, I thought it only appropriate to do a series of blogs on the unlikable hero. The first one will be part of the Holiday Bash book blog, where you can win lots of cool prizes for commenting. The second and third parts will happen during my release week, so check my blog ( for the conclusion to this series.
So what made my hero unlikable? Well... the very first sentence of the book is him firing a nurse. By throwing shoes at her. He misses intentionally, but still, the guy is throwing shoes at a nurse. Not exactly endearing. Of course, when you understand the context, and how she was pushing him to put on shoes he'd explicitly told her he couldn't wear anymore. You see, Sean lost his ability to walk, and he has a closet full of old climbing and hiking equipment whose only purpose is to taunt him with his old life. The nurse skips over some easier-to-wear shoes and decides to push him into his Mad Rock Sharks instead. After challenging him, taunting him, disobeying him, and then manhandling him, Sean has had enough. We see him at his lowest moments, in the first couple of chapters. Yet we see something in him (perhaps it's only what Jaclyn sees, but it's still something) that is vulnerable and hurt.
What made my hero unlikable was the fact that he gave in to his baser instincts. There are several ways you can use the "unlikable hero" trope, and perhaps one of the most dangerous (in my experience) is having him commit actions that are unlikable. Throwing shoes at a nurse is pretty low. And even though the heroine never sees it, we (the readers) do see it, and we know that he has an unguarded heart. Granted, he shows a lot of anger in the first five chapters. None of it is pretty, but it does get more manageable, once Jaclyn starts to have an affect on him.

Writing Sean was a challenge, because there were times that I didn't even like him. In fact, there were times when I wasn't sure that he and Jaclyn deserved to end up together. She has so much pain in her past, and pain in her present. Sean aggravates that, for sure, but he also alleviates it. And that's what eventually won me over about Sean. He makes her want to be a better person.

What about you? Have you ever read a book with an unlikable hero? How did you feel about him? What did he do? Did he end up redeeming himself (or being redeemed) in your eyes?

Please stop by and see me on Twitter (@beck_a_tron) or Facebook (@rl-syme), or my blog ( for more on unlikable heroes, and more on my new release, His Wounded Heart that releases on Friday! Don't forget to comment here for chances to win the Holiday Bash prizes. But I'm also giving away a gift bag of His Wounded Heart swag to one commenter on my Unlikable Heroes blog posts. So comment away and win away! Hope you enjoy. Happy Holidays!

Bacon Pinwheels 

6 strips bacon, diced
6 oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup mayonnaise
1 can (4 oz) mushrooms, steams and pieces, drained
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tube (8 oz) refrigerated crescent rolls 


Heat oven 375.

In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp.  Using slotted spoon, remove to paper towel to drain.  In a small bowl combine cream cheese and mayonnaise until smooth. Add mushrooms, garlic powder and bacon.

Separate crescent dough into four rectangles, seal the perforations.  Spread cream cheese mixture over each rectangle to within ¼-inch of edges.  Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a short side.  Pinch seams to seal.  Cut each roll into six slices.

Place side down on greased baking sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.  Serve warm.  Refrigerate leftovers.

December 30, 2012

Holiday Cheer - The Family Gathers Near

Win a 2013 Calendar and a Nook below for how....

by Linda Carroll-Bradd

Thanks for having me today, Anna. Happy New Year to all.
The major rush and bustle of holiday activities have settled, but many of you are probably still in the “relaxing with the relatives” mode. I’m currently about 400 miles from my mountain home, visiting with my step-daughter’s family that includes my two granddaughters. Plus my son and youngest daughter have traveled from southern California and are under the same roof. I love that feeling of a mixture of families hanging out together.  Memories are made and old times recollected as we share meals, play board games, do puzzles, and read stories.

All these elements ran through my mind as I plotted out my historical Christmas story, The Ring That Binds, released by Prism Book Group. Because of the holiday, I wanted a small child as part of the story, which meant a single parent (this is a romance, after all). Plus I wanted to include a “from the heart” gift because we all treasure those special gifts. My publisher says the story has the “aww” factor and so far, I’ve received three 5-star reviews on Amazon.

RECIPE: (luxury wasn’t part of Celina’s household so this sweet cornbread would have been considered a treat)

Molasses Cornbread
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
4 tsp baking soda
1 egg
¼ cup molasses
1 cup sweet milk
¼ cup vegetable oil

Place dry ingredients in medium bowl, make well in middle. Mix in all wet ingredients and pour into greased 8” square pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 min or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. 
Widow Celina Innes, a dress shop owner in the small 1886 mining town of Aspen, Colorado, struggles to run her shop and live down her late husband’s bad choices for the sake of her four-year old daughter, Keena. She made the mistake of following after one man’s dream of striking it rich and has sworn not to do it again. Co-owner of Toussaint’s General Store, Mikel, watches this proud woman run a successful business but wishes he could make her life a little easier. He has to be contented by slipping treats to the child in hopes of pleasing her mama. When illness strikes the child, Celina turns to Mikel for help and they work together all night to get past the crisis, deepening their friendship. But when the crisis is over, Mikel disappears from Aspen and Celina learns he is seeking to increase his stores. How could she have been so wrong about the man? Can a woman sworn to put down roots and a man looking for more riches find happiness?
Plastering on a smile for her most cantankerous customer, Celina turned and had to bite back a gasp. Only two weeks had passed since the first fitting, but she could see the side seams would have to be let out so the front could button properly. The banker’s wife did enjoy her cakes and pastries. “Yes, ma’am. The dove gray wool with black collar and cuffs. Such a smart fashion choice.” If only she could afford a new coat half as fine.

She grabbed her box of sewing pins, and slung the measuring tape around her neck. “Go ahead and step up on the platform.” To avoid pointing out the obvious problem, she ran her hand over the fine wool to check the sleeve hem then looked at the back side to see how the pleat folded. “The length at your wrist looks good, don’t you agree?”

Mrs. Peabody held out a pudgy arm, and looked at her reflection in the oval mirror on the wooden stand. “I suppose.” She half turned to get a glimpse of the back and then faced the mirror again.”But these front panels are wrong. Did you deepen the seams?”

“Possibly today’s dress is of a heavier weight, now that we’re further into December.” Oh, the merchant’s dance of choosing the most tactful words. With a quick move, she pulled the measuring tape across the open span of the jacket’s front pieces and noted the gap’s measurement. “Nothing’s permanent. I can taper the side seams.” She held the tape along Mrs. Peabody’s side, as if gauging where to make an adjustment when what she needed to do was let out the seams at least an inch on each side.

The bell over her door tinkled, and a whoosh of cold air swept inside.

“I’ll be right with you.” Celina glanced over her shoulder and spotted Mikel Toussaint, one of the two owners of the general store. Her heartbeat kicked at the sight of one of the town’s most eligible bachelors. “Oh, hello.”

“Mikel!” Keena ran around the counter to greet the tall, dark-haired man. “See what I made.”

“Ah, a necklace fit for a princess.” He scooped up the little girl in his arms then tickled her tummy before turning to acknowledge the women. “Hello, Mrs. Innes, Mrs. Peabody. How are you ladies this fine day?”

“Fine?” Mrs. Peabody sniffed, turning back to preen before her silvery reflection. “A Colorado winter hardly deserves that compliment.”

“A winter day in the mountains without snow is a fine day, my papa always says.” He smiled, white teeth flashing above his green woolen scarf. “Back in the old country, in Espana, on a day like today, people sit on verandas, enjoying wine and pintxo.” He raised Keena to head height and swung her around, causing her to erupt into a fit of high-pitched giggles. In a flash, a peppermint drop appeared in his hand and he presented it to the little girl.

Mikel’s smile softened his dark, slashing eyebrows, and nose with its hawk-like bend, making him almost good looking. Celina had heard ladies whisper about his older brother Danel’s rakish handsome features. But her preference was for a man who knew how to smile.

Celina shook her head at his foreign word that she’d learned meant some type of tasty food from his Basque homeland.

A throat clearing behind her was a not-so-subtle reminder that she was with a customer. Her stomach tightened with a nervous twist.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Toussaint?”

“Oh, my errand. I forget when surrounded by three lovely ladies.” He set Keena down with a pat on her head, and then reached inside his jacket for a flat brown envelope. “I know you look for magazine with eager eyes each month. All the way from Philadelphia.”

Godey’s Lady’s Book. Her link with the latest in the fashion world was the one item of pleasure in her tight budget. When she accepted the mail, she felt the warmth left by his hands on the paper, and her fingers slid to capture it. “Thank you for dropping by with this.”
Where to find the book:
Prism Book Group has a 30% off sale until January 2, 2013—use code Holiday12


Barnes & Noble:              


As a child, Linda was often found lying on her bed reading about characters having exciting adventures in places far away. Upon reaching a landmark birthday, she decided to write one of those romances she loved so much. Easier said than done. Perseverance paid out and twelve years later, she received her first call from a publisher and a confession story was published. Now Linda writes heartwarming contemporary and historical stories with a touch of humor, and many have a tie to her previous home of Texas.
Linda currently lives in the southern California mountains with her husband of 34 years and their two spoiled dogs, Shiba Inu Keiko and terrier mix Phoenix.

Where to find me:
Twitter @lcarrollbradd
Linda can also be found on LinkedIN, Goodreads, Classic Romance Revival, and Manic Readers.
Leave a comment here (including your email address) and be eligible to win a 2013 calendar, and also be entered in the big giveaway drawing for the Nook HD.

December 29, 2012

Holiday Cheer - 12 Days of Christmas

Win a nook HD, just leave a comment for a chance
By Anna Kathryn Lanier

Okay, here’s a pet peeve of mine….those who don’t know when the twelve days of Christmas are. These days I’m seeing all sorts of references to the Twelve Days of Christmas before Christmas: get free books, recipes, or enter a contest. The only problem is that the Twelve Days of Christmas are not the twelve days BEFORE Christmas. They are the twelve days AFTER Christmas. This mixed-up reference, is to me, as maddening as those who object to Christmas decorations before Halloween. We are putting one celebration before another.

Part of this confusion comes from people who are not part of a liturgical church tradition. This is not a bad thing, it’s just a misunderstanding of when and what the Twelve Days are all about. The churches that follow a liturgical year (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost) have set the time-line for the celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas….the Christmas season, which is from December 25th through January 5th, the day before the Epiphany or the traditional day of celebration for the visit of the Three Kings to the baby Jesus.

In some cultures, Christmas is celebrated as a holy day, without the exchange of gifts. Gifts are instead exchanged on Epiphany or, in some cases, a gift a day is exchanged during the Twelve Days of Christmas. Epiphany, January 6th, as said, is the observation of the day the Magi arrived to pay homage to the Christ child. They brought their gifts for the new-born king. In the liturgical year, it is the beginning of the Epiphany season, the time before Lent starts with its forty days of self-deprivation.

No doubt, you’ve heard of Mardi Gras and the big parties held around the world in observance of it. A traditional time of celebration and revelry. One goodie often found at this time is a king cake, a reference to the three kings. This time of celebration is held during Epiphany Season, and ends on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

Ah, but I digress, though I did want to show how the year follows one thing after another. It helps to explain when the correct The Twelve Days of Christmas fall. The Liturgical Year starts with the First Sunday of Advent, four Sundays before Christmas Day. For 2012, that ‘new year’s day’ was December 2nd. From then until Christmas Day, the liturgical church is in the season of Advent. The season of Christmas starts with Christmas Day and goes for twelve days. January 5th is often referred to as Twelfth Night. In some traditions, it marks the removal of Christmas decorations and involves feasting.

I’m also sure you’ve heard of the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. The origin of this song is in dispute, but the meaning behind it doesn’t seem to be. The items given to the ‘singer’ of the song are not as simple as they appear. The do, in fact, refer to God’s grace.

Ace Collins in “Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas” explains the meanings behind the gifts:

The “true love” giving the gifts represents the pure love of God. Each gift represents a major doctrine of the Catholic faith.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree
The partridge represents the courage and devotion of Christ dying for his people. A mother partridge will lure predators away from her chicks, even sacrificing her life for them. The pear tree symbolizes the wooden cross upon which Jesus died.

Two Turtle Doves
This represents the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Doves also symbolize truth and peace.

Three French Hens
French hens were the food of kings in sixteenth century England. Here they represent the expensive gifts brought by the wise men to the newborn Jesus.

Four Calling Birds
These symbolize the authors of the four Gospels.

Five Gold Rings
These are the first five Old Testament books known as the Law of Moses.

Six Geese A-Laying
Here we have the six days in which God created the world. The eggs, from which new life springs, symbolize creation.

Seven Swans a-Swimming
These represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit outlined by the apostle Paul: prophesy, service, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership and mercy. The swan, a graceful bird, symbolized these virtues.

Eight Maids A-Milking
Being a milk maid was one of the lowest jobs in sixteenth century England. Jesus came to save the poor and the humble, thus this gift represents Jesus’ love for the common people.

Nine Ladies Dancing
This dance represents the nine fruits of the spirit: love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Ten Lords A-Leaping
Here is a reminder of the Ten Commandments.

Eleven Pipers Piping
These represent the eleven faithful apostles who followed Jesus to the end and spread his message after his death. While there were twelve apostles, one betrayed Jesus.

Twelve Drummers Drumming
This is a symbol for the twelve tenets of the Catholic faith laid out in the prayer, “The Apostles’ Creed”. The drummers may provide the cadence for reciting this prayer.

Thinking you might want to give these gifts? Remember first off that the items repeat themselves. So that on the second day, it’s a gift of two turtle doves AND a partridge in a pear tree. On the third day it’s three French hens, two turtle doves and another partridge in a pear tree. So that at the end of the 12 days you’d have given 364 gifts. It will cost you $107,300 to give your true love “The Twelve Days of Christmas” gifts in 2012. Click HERE for a breakdown of the costs from USA Today.

Author Leah Smith has fantasized about her neighbor, Houston’s pro baseball player Marcus Slade, for years, but thinks it’s unlikely she’d catch the cowboy’s interest since her IQ is bigger than her bra size. Having already been hurt by a man who wanted size over substance, she’s not in a hurry to play in that ball field again.

When an unexpected opportunity gets Marcus inside his favorite author’s apartment, he’s not about to let a second chance at love pass him by. Their attraction is quick and electric and has him instantly thinking about something more long-term. But when a woman from his past intrudes, his hopes of a cozy Christmas with Leah are buried beneath her cold shoulder.  

Risking a strikeout, Marcus has one chance left...go for the grand slam of his life and crash Leah's annual Christmas Eve party in hopes of convincing her she’s this Cowboy’s Dream. 
Unedited Excerpt:
Leah closed the book and handed it to him. Once again, their fingers brushed and heat sizzled up her arm.
He stared at her hand a moment, then cleared his throat. Raising his gaze to her face, he smiled. “So, how are you going to celebrate?”
“Celebrate? Oh, I hadn’t thought about it.” She glanced around the kitchen. She hadn’t shopped in over a week. When on a deadline, fast food worked best. She lifted her hands palm-up and frowned. “I don’t have a beer, let alone a wine cooler.”
He went slack-jawed. “You don’t have a beer?”
“No, not even a light beer. Though I might have some tequila about.” She glanced toward a cabinet near her bare Christmas tree, then back.
He stared, squint-eyed, at her Christmas tree. “Expecting elves to decorate for you?”
She came around the counter to stand beside him, then wished she hadn’t. Forget the tequila. His body heat warmed her through the jogging suit and his aftershave intoxicated her. She blew out a slow breath. “No, aside from the fact I’ve been under a deadline, I’m a traditionalist.”
He glanced her way, blue eyes sparkled with curiosity. “A traditionalist?”
“Hmmm, yes. I decorate on Christmas Eve and celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, December twenty-fifth through January fifth.”
He leaned a hip against the granite bar. “Do you exchange gifts every day then, too?”
She shrugged. “When I have someone to exchange with.”
“And you won’t this year?”
Great, now she not only appeared to be a waif, she’d sound like one, too. “No. My parents are in Australia doing an archeological dig. They won’t be back until the middle of February. I’m an only child.”
“An archeological dig?”
“Let’s just say I had a very unusual upbringing. I suppose that’s why I enjoy writing historical novels. I’ve been to many of the places I write about in my books.”
“No kidding? That sounds exciting.” He propped an elbow on the bar and leaned toward her. “Growing up on the ranch as I did, I never went anywhere outside Texas until I played ball for college.”
She chuckled. “Not me. By the time I started high school, I had more stamps in my passport than most people have underwear.”
His gaze slid lazily down her body. A hot shiver of desire swept through her at the glimmer of interest in his eyes.
“Well, I know one way to celebrate.”
Had his voice dropped an octave? “Do you now?” Had hers risen one?
He pushed off the counter and stepped toward her. “Hmmm, yes, ma’am. Change into some celebrating clothes and I’ll be back in an hour. I know a great restaurant to celebrate grand well as book births.” 

“A Cowboy’s Dream by Anna Kathryn Lanier is a quick romantic read that is sure to appeal to lovers of the happily-ever-after ending. This story twists traditional roles and makes it the hero who believes in romance and the heroine who is wary.” ~Whitney, Fallen Angels Review, 4 Angels
“I recommend this book to anyone who wants a feel-good, compact book with a lot of inner parts to hold the readers’ interest.” ~Brenda, The Romance Studio, 4 ½ Hearts

The Twelve Days of Christmas post first appeared on the following blogs:
Sweethearts of the West 12/2/2010
Seduced by History 12/19/2011

To be eligible to win the nook HD, just leave a comment on any or all blog posts from November 25-December 31, 2012. An email for contact must be left in the comment to be eligible to win. A random drawing for a winner will take place between January 1 and January 3, 2013. Winner will be notified by email (so leave your address). Odds of winning depends on the number of eligible entries.

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

December 28, 2012


Win a nook HD - just leave a comment

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. 


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
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 


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 View her blog posts Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at and find book reviews, giveaways, interview, and miscellany.

Twitter:!/carolinclemmons (No E in Caroline)

Caroline loves to hear from readers at
Happy New Year 2013!

To be eligible to win the nook HD, just leave a comment on any or all blog posts from November 25-December 31, 2012. An email for contact must be left in the comment to be eligible to win. A random drawing for a winner will take place between January 1 and January 3, 2013. Winner will be notified by email (so leave your address). Odds of winning depends on the number of eligible entries.

December 27, 2012

Holiday Cheer - Oatmeal Butterscotch Aftercare Cookies

Win a Nook HD (just leave a comment)
and get a FREE copy of Talyis's book!
By Talyis Ellison
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone! My name is Talyis Ellison and I am the author of the book Of Thorns and Pearls, a dark, steamy romance about a woman(Tabor) drowning in sickness and self-doubt and the dark and mysterious vampire (Shy) with the ability to save her. The sequel is entitled Mercurial Ends which I am currently writing. If you are looking for a book to snuggle up with during a cold blizzard, Of Thorns and Pearls is sure to warm you up.

Tabor and Shy flew to California on Monday, Christmas Eve just in time for Tabor’s mother to drive them around the hills to see the holiday decorations, last minute shopping and a spirited dinner of grilling on any pending nuptials. The Eve went as well as it could go for Tabor, however, Shy is in his usual playful mood wanting to snuggle with Tabor as “grown adults are expected to do” while her parents where a nestled away in their bedroom already dreaming of sugarplum fairies.

Christmas morning, Tabor’s lip curled to the side more than once while opening her mother’s lavish Christmas gifts but she was grateful for the simple tabletop book of 1970’s Avant Garde art that her father gave her. Shy, supportive and yet willfully found every opportunity when her parents were pre-occupied to challenge her with a passionate kiss.

The day after Christmas, he cornered her in the hallway when she wasn’t aware and forcefully palmed her breast pushing her hard against the wall. His lips met hers with fierce love in-which she returned his kiss with her own fire. Tabor’s aura lapped at the edges of Shy’s vampire nature, spurring him on to take what was his.  Tabor melted into his embrace pushing her body closer to his, enjoying the sweet taste of peppermint and sugar in his kisses.  Alas, she quickly scrambled away, as she heard her father approaching the landing muttering about sculpturing.

“Ah, Tabor, I was looking for you...” her father said ignoring the deep red blush in her cheeks. Shy casually rubbed the tension from his neck as Tabor quickly joined her father’s journey to his study.

He was determined to get into her knickers before they returned to New York City. But poor Shy, didn’t win; Tabor’s fear of being caught won.

They flew back to New York City in silence and Tabor’s self-consciousness kicked in. She wondered if she should have just lived a little and indulge in a little love-making while on their trip.  Then her resolve debated that she was right to maintain her level of comfort and vampire/master or not he had to respect her boundaries: sex in the parents house was a ‘no’.  The more Shy did not speak the more she worried and knew he was probably listening in to her thoughts.

The Captain announced his descent into LaGuardia Airport and Shy reached over Tabor’s lap to buckle her in. He quickly took advantage of his closeness at the moment and whispered into her ear.

“Yes, my dear, you will definitely pay for spurning me on Christmas.”

Shy's Oatmeal Cookie recipe from Mercurial Ends (the second book  to Of Thorns and Pearls now in-progress).

He's a vampire that loves watching chefs with talk shows. In Mercurial Ends, Chapter 4 ( Shy’s takes Tabor on an impromptu date to the Met Museum. After breaking into the vaults of the museum his Little One has certainly worked up an appetite. Like a good Dom, Shy gives Tabor great tender loving aftercare in bed with fresh from the oven cookies.

Here is the recipe from the Imagination of Shy:

Oatmeal Butterscotch Aftercare Cookies

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • heaping 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Seeds from 4 vanilla beans
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour - preferably organic or gluten-free substitute
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • dash of  ginger
  • dash of cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp of real organic Vermont maple syrup from the Union Square OM
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup mixed raisins from the Union Square OM
  • 1/2 cup of butterscotch morsels
  • 2 cups of "I Better Make Her Happy because I can't Live Without Her"

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until fluffy while listening to her dreams.
  3. Carefully pour flour, salt and baking soda into a sifter and sift over wet ingredients. Add spices and organic maple syrup and stir. Then add oats, butterscotch morsels and raisins, organic butterscotch morsels and stir once more.
  4. Chill the dough for 5-10 minutes. Then scrape into a overly buttered metal cookie sheet. Lots of butter is essential so it is fluffy but too much will fry the bottom. They shouldn't be flat. Shy only cares about  "the yummy" not factory tailored cookie look.
  5. Bake for about 25-28 minutes or until nice and golden brown for about 250 degrees.
  6. Let cool for a bit buts still maintain its warmth and serve in bed to your resting Power Aura or Sub.

Tell me if you liked the recipe and tried it out. What else should Shy make?

Get the first book of the (Thorns series)
Of Thorns and Pearls by Talyis Ellision now available on Smashwords

Get Of Thorns and Pearls by Talyis Ellison now for free until the end of the Holiday Cheer Event! Use code:  ZU72V

Of Thorns and Pearls is dark, steamy romance about a woman drowning in sickness and self-doubt and the dark and mysterious vampire with the ability to save her.
Tortured, rebellious artist, Tabor, struggles with her mundane life. Striving to become famous through her talent, and refusing to live in the shadows of her famous mother, she is challenged by illness and crippled by her own imagination. Forced to attend community college, she meets Shy, a handsome, mysterious stranger who does not embody his name. Pushing her buttons, and challenging her in new ways, he captivates her; reading her life just by looking into her eyes.
Little does Tabor know Shy holds the key to her future. Coming to her in the middle of the night -- under the guise of a wonderful dream – between her thighs, fangs extended, he presents the cure for her suffering. He is a vampire.
Will Shy push his own demons aside to help Tabor rid herself of her own? Will he save or use her?

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