Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Am I Seeing Things?

Have you ever seen a mirage? Remember the old western movies where people stranded in the desert believed they saw water only to discover it was actually more sand? Or when you’re driving on the open road on a particularly hot day and you see shimmering water on the road ahead? Those of us in the Southwest are used to road shimmer. That’s not exactly what I mean. This is about an astonishing experience Hero and I had a few years ago. When I mentioned it to a friend, she suggested I share.

View of the Caprock from Hwy. 84.
There are numerous windmill farms along the
Caprock because the wind usually blows here.
Hero and I were driving between Snyder and Post, Texas on Highway 84 toward Lubbock. On the left is a raised bed for the railroad tracks to prevent the tracks from being washed out in the occasional flood. (See my old 1998 short romance, BE MY GUEST, in which the heroine’s car is washed off this highway.) On the right are ranchlands and farms. Technically the terrain is rolling prairie, but most people think of it as flat as a pancake, which is why it floods in a heavy rain. Other than a few creeks and a wide branch of the Brazos River with almost no water in it under the highway, there’s nowhere for the rushing rainwater to go. The land changes just past Post when you drive up onto the Caprock and then you’re on the high plains, dubbed the llano estacado, or staked plain, by early Spanish explorers. Oh, it still looks flat, but you’re at a higher altitude on the Caprock.

Minus the tall trees, this is the mirage we saw.
Isn't it gorgeous?

Only a few months before, Hero and I had driven to Estes Park, Colorado to attend a meeting. Loved that place! Sigh. But, back to this drive from Snyder to Lubbock. We left Snyder pointed toward Post, when there appeared a huge mirage in front of us that exactly mirrored the mountains we’d seen on the way to Estes Park. And I mean exactly! The mirage was so clear that we could see individual boulders, crags, the tree line, and snowcapped peaks. The mountains looked as if we would drive right up to them if we remained on Highway 84. Incredible! If we hadn’t seen it, you could not have convinced either of us it could happen. As we drove, it remained perfect for at least fifteen minutes. Gradually, the edges began to soften, then the image faded and gently evaporated. Once again, nothing to look at but rolling prairie and blue skies.

We wondered what a first-time traveler on that highway thought. Imagine his or her surprise. In the two photos above, you can see the vast difference between the real landscape and the mirage. By the way, I owe an Australian author whose name I’ve forgotten an apology. She wrote a romance long ago about a hero who saw the heroine in a mirage. I thought it was a crazy story line, which just proves that nothing is impossible.

Have your ever seen a mirage like this or had an incredible experience while traveling? I’d love to hear about it if you have.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Guest Post: "The Mind-Body Connection" by Diana Raab

Diana Raab
Author, nurse, wife, mom, cancer survivor
The mind-body connection means that your body responds to the way you think, feel and act. For years we have known that our emotions have a strong impact on our health, but more recently studies have been popping up to prove this phenomenon. When we are stressed or anxious, our body warns us that things are not right. For example, we may exhibit some of the following symptoms, such as back pain, changes in appetite, palpitations, sexual problems, stiff neck, diarrhea, constipation and/or random aches and pains.

Furthermore, stress and anxiety tend to contribute to poor emotional health which can weaken your immune system, thereby making you more susceptible to colds, and infections and in more extreme cases, cancer.

Recent studies performed by UCLA scientists reveal how stress makes people more susceptible to illness. One scientist, Rita Effros, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and a member of the Jonsson Cancer Center, Molecular Biology Institute and UCLA AIDS Institute. says, “When the body is under stress, it boosts production of cortisol to support a “fight or flight" response. If the hormone remains elevated in the bloodstream for long periods of time, though, it wears down the immune system.”

There are a number of things you can do to improve your emotional health, so that your physical health remains intact. For example:

1) Lead a balanced life – minimize obsessions

2) Be resilient

3) Eat well and exercise regularly

4) Meditate to calm your mind and body

5) Express yourself through writing or another art form

As a nurse, writer and journaling advocate, I have found that both writing and meditating do a world of wonders to minimize my own stress and have helped me through many turbulent times in my own life, including three high-risk pregnancies, death of loved ones and more recently, two bouts with cancer.

When we are dealing with stress, writing is an effective way to ground us and help us gain clarity about what we are going through. This benefits our emotional health. Writing can quiet the agitated mind. It empowers us and improves our communication skills. It’s also a safe place to vent bottled-up emotions. Writing brings you face to face with your own truth and reality which can help you work through your problems.

Dr. James Pennebaker, author of WRITING TO HEAL, has spent more than 25 years studying the link between writing and health. He found that writing about strong feelings improves both our mental and physical health. Not only is it important to write about the sad moments, but it’s important to also write about the happy moments in our lives too.

Here are some tips to keep in mind about journaling:

1) Choose a notebook or journal which resonates with you

2) Choose a pen which is comfortable in your hand

3) Find a place where you will be uninterrupted whether it in your office, in the bookstore, mall or a park

4) Date your entries

5) Write for at least 15-20 minutes each day

6) Start by writing, “I feel ..” and continue the sentence

7) Write quickly and keep the hand moving. Write through the negative thoughts and honor wherever your mind goes. The thoughts do not have to be connected. There does not have to be a beginning, middle and end

8) Brag, exaggerate, be happy or sad

9) Be as honest as possible. Allow gut reactions and intuitions to come forth

10) After writing, take a break; go for a walk or run

Diana, thank you for sharing with us. I must add that Diana's proceeds from her book are donated to Mayo Clinic. Kudos to you, Diana!

One person who commented last Monday on the review of  Diana's book or today on her post will receive a copy of Diana's book, HEALING WITH WORDS. Be sure to leave your email in your comment so I can contact you if you win.
Reminder--if you haven't had your mammogram this year, schedule it today! Early detection is key.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Prize Winner and Terrific Review

Serious Reader wins the download of OUT OF THE BLUE, my paranormal time travel romantic suspense, In this story a woman from 1845 Ireland leaps off a cliff into the Atlantic, but lands beside the bass boat of a police detective in a Texas lake in 2010. It received 5 Siren Stones from Siren Reviews.

Speaking of reviews, I'm so happy to have received two terrific reviews this week for THE TEXAN'S IRISH BRIDE, a western historical set in 1885 Texas.

Please let me share one of the reviews with you. Brenda Talley at The Romance Studio gave the book 5 Hearts and I quote: "...Ms Caroline Clemmons has written a book that was so good it was hard to put down. She had my attendtion from the first page, This gripping plot just kept getting better. The main characters were so differnt from each other. Each took their vows seriously. The suspense was evident throughout the manuscript including the surprising actions at the end of the book. There were myriad supporting characters which kept the story moving.

There were no down times in the book. The action was almost non-stop. Her writing style is good. I don't believe I've ever read her books before, but I certianly will look for her name in the future. The sensuality was well written. it wasn't over the top, but it was involved. The honour of Dallas, as well as the unpleasant attitudes of some others, gave the storyline a wonderful viewpoint. I recommend this book. It's certainly my favorite genre. You will be glad to read this book."

Isn't that a terrific review? If it interests you, the buy link is here. I hope you'll not only buy the book, I hope you'll love it as much as I do.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sweerhearts Of The West Is A New Blog Launching Soon!

Who doesn't love a cowboy, whether
historical or contemporary?

Sweethearts of the West is a new blog launching on October 1st. Fourteen western authors of contemporary, historical, and time travel romances set in the American West teamed up to man—rather woman—this new blog. Puhhhleeeze, check the site out at and sign up as a follower.

Authors in the team are co-moderators (little ol'e moi) Caroline Clemmons and Celia Yeary, Amber Leigh Williams, Anna Jeffery/Sadie Callahan/Dixie Cash, Anna Kathryn Lanier, Ashley Kath-Bilsky, Cheryl Pierson, Jane Leopold Quinn, Jeanmarie Hamilton, Marin Thomas, Nicole McCaffrey, Paisley Kirkpatrick, Paty Jager, and Sandra Crowley. These range from newly contracted to USA Today Bestselling Authors.
As the photo caption states, who doesn't love a cowboy? But these authors cover more than cowboys: we write about miners, railroad men, Pinkerton agents, FBI agents, police detectives, doctors, hairdressers, and so many more interesting occupations and intriguing characters! Come join us October 1st and afterward.

Woohoo! Leave a comment here that you’ve followed Sweethearts of the West and be eligible to win an autographed copy of OUT OF THE BLUE, a paranormal time travel romantic suspense set in North Central Texas. This book received a 5 Siren Stone review from Siren. Remember—October 1st is the launch date. By the way, this giveaway is in addition to my weekly prize drawing. Free Loot!

Y’all come on back now, y’hear?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Unfinished Projects and Challenges

Super Writer vows
to finish the book
Have you ever entered a writing challenge? Yellow Rose chapter of Romance Writers of America is hosting a Book In A Week writing challenge September 23rd through September 30th. Of course, we can’t write a full-length novel in a week. At least, I can’t. What we can do is write without editing ourselves, get the bones down, and finish the first draft. I’m not sure how many are participating, but I’ve accepted the challenge. I’ll become a Super Writer, churning out pages at the speed of light, able to jump over tall buildings . . . wait, that’s another type of Super. I can do this writing challenge, though! I can, as the saying goes, finish the *&%# book. Does anyone hear Helen Reddy singing in the background?

Book in a Week or Book in a Month inspires writers to work harder, email and blog less. No one has to encourage me to do less housework, but I think that probably figures in to the competition. Love that part! And it is just that—a competition. We aren’t competing against others, but against ourselves. Once in a while each of us needs a nudge to give our all for a project.

Sam Elliott, epitome of a cowboy.
 What am I working on? So glad you asked. Several years ago I started a historical western romance, SAVE YOUR HEART FOR ME, in which the heroine was named after my aunt and the heroine’s mother was named after my mom. The book was to be a surprise for my mom. She was always supportive of my writing and I knew she would love seeing her name in print as a compassionate, caring, and spunky character in one of my books. I giggled to myself as I plotted the book and worked on it, picturing her pleasure when I presented her with the published product. However, when she died just over three years ago, I quit working on the book and let it molder in my computer. I couldn’t deal with her loss and also work on the book in which she’s a secondary character. If there is such a thing, she's a main secondary character because she is half of the subplot's couple. I always hoped she'd find a second husband after my dad died, but she wasn't interested. She said--and I've noticed this--the men her age were interested in women half her age or younger. She was funny, by the way.

Angels peeking through clouds
Now, though, I think it’s been long enough that I can finish this book, which I love, without crying on the keyboard. I suspect we all have unfinished projects of one type or another. I have way too many, but this is one I intend to finish. When Darling 2 was small, she used to tell me God and His angels were peeking through the clouds when she saw the suns rays as they are in the picture at the above right. Whenever I see a sky like that now, I’m sure my mom is one of the angels looking down from heaven and smiling.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Book Review--HEALING WITH WORDS by Diana Raab

Author Diana Raab
HEALING WITH WORDS: A WRITER’S CANCER JOURNEY is a compassionate and wry self-help memoir written by award-winning prolific author, nurse, teacher, and poet Diana Raab. At the age of forty-seven, she found her life shattered by a diagnosis of early breast cancer. Five years later she faced the same diagnosis by another, seemingly unrelated and incurable cancer—multiple myeloma. The book includes the author’s experiences, reflections, poetry and journal entries, in addition to writing prompts for readers to express their own personal story.

Raab’s journals have provided a safe haven and platform to validate and express her feelings. Raab views journaling to be like a daily vitamin—in that it heals, detoxifies, and is essential for optimal health.

Cancer is always a serious subject. One in eight women will be hit by breast cancer. Three of the four people in my immediate family have been diagnosed with some type of cancer. It’s a stunning diagnosis, especially when it happens to someone you love. My husband had a rapidly spreading squamous cell cancer in the tissue between his lips and nose, for which he had invasive Mohr surgery. I was diagnosed last year with thyroid cancer and believe I’m a survivor, too, although I'm still in treatment. Our diagnoses didn’t concern us nearly as much as that of our eldest daughter just over five years ago when we learned she had Paget’s, a particularly rapid and invasive type of breast cancer. Fortunately, after learning of a friend's battle with Paget's, our daughter vetoed her primary physician’s suggestion she wait for six months to have another mammogram before doing anything and sought immediate help with her friend's surgeon. The surgeon performed a needle biopsy, which was positive. and surgery followed shortly afterwards. The oncology radiologist told our daughter that in six months her cancer would have been through her chest wall. She is now a five-year survivor, though still vigilant. Our three shared diagnoses are why our younger daughter already has cancer insurance. With her immediate family plus aunts, great aunts, grandfather, and others having had cancer, she feels she can't afford not to be prepared.

Which brings me to one of Diana Raab’s points. Ms Rabb shows readers how to take control of their health. We must know the signs and be responsible for our treatment. This book will also benefit anyone who has felt victimized by cancer. She is a nurse, writer, teacher, and married mother of three who shares her ups and downs, her challenges, and her success.

Can writing help heal? According to Ms Raab, it can and did help her. In concise, compassionate terms, she insists that writing has the power to release bottled-up emotions. Most of us strive to appear strong in the face of adversity, but those pent-up or pushed down feelings must be released in order to heal. Journaling fascilitates that healing process. Faced with a double whammy from cancer within five years, Diana Raab shows readers how to use their painful diagnosis to renew and change them in unique ways.

Another plus for Ms Raab is that she donates her proceeds from her book to Mayo Clinic. What a nice thing to do!
Return on Monday, September 27, for Diana Raab’s visit to this blog. Comment today or on the 27th to be entered in a drawing for a print copy of HEALING WITH WORDS. Please leave your email with your comment so I can contact you if you win.

And remember—get those mammies grammed!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Senses--Smell

Texas Bluebonnets smell
like orange blossoms
Have you ever been in a crowd and smelled a fragrance that immediately brought back a memory? What about walking down the sidewalk in a park or residential area and catching a nostalgic scent on the breeze? I once heard some nutty so-called expert on television say people can't remember scents. Oh, yeah? Maybe he can't, but most people can and do. The sense of smell is a strong trigger for our emotions.

Each summer when I was small we went to my grandmother's in Southern Oklahoma for a couple of weeks. Don't ask me why we usually waited until August to visit her, but we did. No, she didn't have air conditioning, but at least she lived in an older home with tall windows and cross ventilation. By August, her town always faced water rationing, so she could only water on certain days and mostly just the vegetable garden. We were supposed to only use two inches of water for our baths. It never occurred to me no one was watching how much water I ran into the tub, but I suppose the water meter would have tattled. Anyway, one of the things my grandmother always grew were her petunias because they could tolerate the hot arid weather. Every time I smell petunias now I think of my grandmother's flowers. 

The same is true for Coty powder. Once it was available at all drug stores and variety stores, but it's only sold a few places now. My grandmother used it exclusively, and my mom started using it when she decided the Este Lauder I bought her was too expensive except for "special" occasions. Now my brother, daughters, and I grow nostalgic whenever we smell Coty face powder.

What's the point of my memories? When we write, our characters have those same memories. Whatever their situation, scents will trigger emotions--both good and bad. We had better record those sensations to insure our characters are credible.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rats! Another Birthday Rolls Around

Happy Birthday To Me!
I know it beats the alternative, but my birthdays are not my favorite occasions. Today, as my brother accuses, is the annual celebration of my 39th birthday. My daughters tell me to think of them as gift-giving occasions or national holidays. Works for me. Bring on the gifts.

Every year I set goals. Did I accomplish mine? Some of them.

Two of my manuscripts have been published by The Wild Rose Press. My paranormal time travel, OUT OF THE BLUE, was released in June to excellent reviews. Have I made money, though? Hmmm, we'll see when the royalty check comes.  My western historical, THE TEXAN'S IRISH BRIDE, was released this month but I don't have any reviews yet. My cover is now up for voting in the YouGottaRead cover contest. Vote now, please, for #15. I've received a lovely cover for a sweet contemporary now in edits, HOME SWEET TEXAS HOME, and it will be released in 2011.

Personal goals. I do not yet look like Cindy Crawford. (Okay, I'll admit that one wasn't realistic, but a girl can dream, can't she?) Once again I did not lose fifty pounds. Hero says to quit worrying about it and accept that this shape is me. See why I call him Hero? My lovely hairdresser, Susan, straightened out my horrific haircut of several weeks ago. Bless her! She didn't even say anything snarky about me going to another stylist. Is Susan's a saint or what? Probably she figured I'd paid for my crime.

I have not finished my WIP, which is another time travel in which the heroine is named after my sister-in-law Penny. I will finish it this year, though. On the positive side, I have taken on a different responsibility at my church for our women's group. I have become more interested in helping less fortunate in our community. My brother and I are near completion of a book about our father and his family. My maiden name was Johnson, which is now the most common name in the United States, so you can imagine how easy our line has been to trace. But I've connected with some new-to-me relatives and reconnected with others.

All in all, it hasn't been a bad year. My foot surgery wasn't a complete success, but I no longer fall on my face. As Martha Stewart says, "That's a good thing."  My thyroid cancer is supposedly under control even though so far I have the energy of a rock. The endocrinologist promised my energy will eventually increase--he just wouldn't commit to how soon.

Things are looking up. As my mom used to say, "It's a great life if you don't weaken." I don't think she thought that up, but I don't know who did.

Celebrate with me. Let's all go out to eat, all right?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Welcome Author Nana Malone

Author Nana Malone
Readers, please help me welcome Nana Malone to the blog. Nana's first book has just been released and she's eager to share her story with you.

Caroline: How did you get into writing as a career?

Nana:  I’ve always written, but as a child of strict Ghanaian parents, any career that wasn’t engineering, law, or medicine wasn’t a viable option. I didn’t have the courage to start writing with publication in mind until about ten years ago out of dissatisfaction with my PR job at the time. Who knew you had to be perky and love people in order to do PR? I still have a day job, but no more PR for me. I’m a software project manager by day.

Caroline: That's funny, Nana.  What do you hope your writing brings to readers?

Nana:  An escape. I’ve always been a voracious reader. I was mostly a lonely kid, so books gave me an opportunity to escape into a little adventure.

Caroline: Oh, me, too. In what genres do you write? (If more than one, why?)

Nana: I write Romance and Young Adult. Well, Romance is for the hopeful romantic in me. I heart happily ever afters. As for young adult, inside me lives an angsty fourteen year old who wants her stories told, so I have to listen.

Caroline: Who are your favorite authors?

Nana: I’m so glad you asked me for more than one LOL It would have taken way too long to pick just one. I could show you my crazy over-organized side and give them to you by genre, but I’ll spare you and just give you a couple. Misty Evans, Kimberly Kaye Terry, Eve Vaughn, Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Sandra Brown. I’ll pretty much buy anything of theirs without reading the back cover.

Caroline: A couple of those are my faves, too. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a plotter or a panzer?

Nana: Total hyper plotter. I usually do a couple of outlines, using several techniques I leaned over the years, plotting by motivation, plotting with mythic structure, the W Diagram. Then I do a fast draft, giving myself less than a month to complete the first draft, then it’s on to the dreaded edits. So many times the characters laugh at my hyper plotting and just do what they like, so I spend a good deal of time making sure my threads are tied off.

Caroline: Do you have a writing schedule?

Nana: Ha! I wish. I used to have this gorgeous color coded schedule by book series, length, time to write etc….then I had a baby. So now I squeeze in writing at work on my lunch break or when the little nugget goes to bed and hubby is occupied with basketball on the tube.

Caroline: Nana, you sound very organized. Are you attending any conferences this year or scheduled as a speaker? Blog tours or other promotions?

Nana: Yes. Lot’s going on. I’m doing several blog spots, Interviews and giveaways. You can check them all out on my website:

Caroline: Any guilty pleasures or vices you’d care to share?

Nana: Well, I got a million of ‘em, but not too many I’m willing to expose. Lol. The ones I will share: I just can’t help it, I get sucked into reality TV shows. Don’t judge me. I love Bryna Nicole handbags, though they can be murder on my budget. And, yes, I will buy books before I buy food. This became a real problem in college. Now I have DH to remind me that he needs to eat.

Caroline: When you’re not writing, what do you do to relax?

Nana: I read, read, and read some more. I also tickle the little nugget’s belly just to listen to her giggle. That really is the best sound.

Caroline: What advice would you give to pre-published authors?

Nana: Write, learn, and stay focused on your goals. Sounds simple doesn’t it? All kinds of things will act as obstacles. But if this is your dream you won’t let anything stand in the way of it.

Caroline: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?

Nana: I’ve lived all over the world but my family is originally from Ghana. Growing up, I was always itchy for new adventures and slamming my nose in a book was the easiest, safest way I could manage it. It was during one of my less successful adventures in New York that I decided to actually do something about my writing hobby and aim for publication. It took me eleven years, 3 completed manuscripts, and more rejections than I care to count but I’m finally here with the release of  GAME, SET, MATCH.

Caroline: Tell us about your latest release.

Nana: GAME, SET, MATCH is a contemporary romance set in Los Angeles. It’s story of lost and reacquainted love. In a world of flash and not much substance, Jason is looking to find meaning in his life again, while Izzy is struggling to keep her family together while building her career. Both characters need to overcome their self doubt, trust barriers and the pains of the past to find their way back to each other.


Off the court, tennis star Jason Cartwright’s playboy image is taking a public beating. On the court, he’s down forty-love. A knee injury is shutting down his game, and the paparazzi are splashing his love life on every magazine. A comeback is in order, but the makeover he needs to save his faltering career is in the hands of the woman he loved and left fifteen years ago.

While single-mom, Izzy Connors, sees people for who they really are through the lens of her camera, even without it, she knows Jason isn’t the star he appears to be. Although his charm and good looks haven’t dimmed since he broke her heart, all she sees is his wasted talent and playboy lifestyle.

Can Izzy put the past behind her and help Jason get his game, and his image, back on track? Or will the click of her camera shatter his world as well as his heart?

Caroline: I've read it and it's intriguing. Would you give us an excerpt?
Nana: Here's one rated PG:

Dark glasses masked his eyes, but Izzy knew behind them, she’d find intense heat able to strip her to the soul. His tousled blond hair just as she remembered it, a little unkempt, as if he hadn’t bothered with it. He was every bit the Hollywood playboy portrayed in the press. And that devil-may-care sexiness was going to be the death of her.

Before she could say anything else, his strong arms and a warm musky scent enveloped her. Involuntarily, her body stilled like an ice sculpture as her breasts came into contact with the hard planes of his chest. Unable to process the situation, she heard a faint clatter as his sunglasses fell to the floor. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried not to think of the last time she’d seen him, the last time he’d abandoned her for Sabrina.

“Damn, Izzy, you look amazing.” He set her down, but kept hold of one of her hands. Whiskey eyes poured warm amber over every inch of her body. “How’ve you been?”

The source of her greatest humiliation wanted to know how she’d been, as if they were old buddies. She reminded herself they, for all intents and purposes, were old buddies, until she’d made the mistake of pegging him as her first lover.

Behind Jason, his companion, with his rugged dark good looks and infectious smile, saved her from having to speak. Not that she could have. “Did I miss something, Jase? You two know each other?”

Jason’s smile flashed, making her want to do all manner of inappropriate things. Smash his head in with a frying pan? Strip him bare and see if he still looked as good as he promised? Launch a full TET offensive on him with her lips?

Not necessarily in that order.

Caroline: Great excerpt! Where can readers find your book?
Nana: At my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, at Amazon, and at my website

Caroline: How can readers learn more about you?

Nana: Readers can check me out on my website:

Caroline: Nana, thank you so much for sharing your time with us today. Best of luck in your writing career, and give your baby girl and extra tickle from me.

Readers, please leave your email in your comments to be entered in my drawing for a free book.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Writers' Meetings Provide A Morale Boost!

Winner of last week’s drawing is Ashley, and I’ll be contacting her to send her the download of THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE. Thanks to all those who commented.

Please comment again for another chance to win each week. I continually (so it seems) offer prize drawings for PDF downloads of my books.

Today was the monthly meeting of Yellow Rose RWA. What an energizing and inspiring meeting! Diana Cosby was our fabulous speaker. Her topic was research, especially for historical romance, but she also touched on creating a synopsis. I picked up pointers, even though I’ve been writing since Abe Lincoln was a kid. That’s one of the great things about writers’ meetings. No matter how long you’ve been writing or how many presentations you’ve heard on a subject, it’s always possible to pick up a new pointer or two and be reminded of others. Diana was so great that we invited her to come back next year and give a program on promotion. I’m looking forward to her next visit.

After the meeting, we reconvened across the interstate in a restaurant for one of the other things we do well—eat. We lingered over lunch talking a mile a minute about various aspects of writing. Imagine ten to fifteen women all talking at once. No, maybe a third to a half of us were talking at the same time and the others listening. I sat by different people at lunch than I had at the meeting, so I was able to catch up with several friends I hadn’t seen since the last meeting I attended.

Meeting with friends
provides a
genuine boost!
I’ve mentioned in other posts how much this sort of camaraderie, networking, and craft discussion helps writers. Those of us who write full time tend to hibernate in front of our computers. Online communication is great, but it doesn’t substitute for personal face time. Ever see Sandra Bullock in “The Net?” Scary! But those are not the dangers writers face, at least as far as I know. We do face isolation, depression/moodiness, writers block, and our writing becoming stale if we sit in our self-made caves and hibernate. We need this face-to-face interaction to balance us, refresh and relax us. Not only does joining with friends create the same endorphins as exercise and antidepressant medication, the effect lasts for up to three days! Go out with friends and quite literally give yourself a big boost.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review--SHANGHAI GIRLS by Lisa See

This week I read a wonderful book, Lisa See’s SHANGHAI GIRLS, and wanted to share it with you. In 1937 Shanghai—the Paris of Asia—twenty-one year old Pearl Chin and her younger sister May are having the time of their lives. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree—until the day their father tells them he has gambled away their wealth and that to repay his debts, he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides. As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, from the Chinese countryside to the shores of America. Though inseparable best friends, the sisters also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. Along the way, they make terrible sacrifices, face impossible choices, and confront devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are—Shanghai girls.

Lisa See
For me, this book was a more in depth and modern version of Edna Ferber’s GOOD EARTH, but involving not only China but the United States. I learned so much from this book. Although I love history, my view was slanted by my personal history. I once knew a man who had been an airplane pilot for General Chiang Kai-sheck’s forces and spent twenty-seven years as a Communist prisoner of war. I’m afraid that was as personal as that part of that war was for me. I cannot imagine the experiences Pearl and May were forced to endure. However, even more impressive is Lisa See’s telling of this story. She must have spent long hours researching and interviewing survivors of that time to make her story so believable and her characters come alive for the reader. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for any reader who loves great characters and living history. This book is available from Random House in hardback and trade paperback. The trade printing has discussions in the back and makes an excellent selection for a book club, which is how I came to read it. Learn more about Ms See at

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Photos Help Writers and Readers

A photo really is worth a thousand words to a writer. Odd, you say, that an adult fiction author would need photos to help him or her write? Need, no; enjoy, yes. Here are some examples:

(1) I wrote an as yet unpublished cozy mystery titled I FEEL THE EARTH MOVE. (Yes, I copied the title from a Carole King song.) Anyway, in this novel I had in my mind the house in which the heroine grew up and where her grandparents still lived. On a day trip to Jefferson, Texas my husband and I were driving along looking at the lovely homes when I asked him to stop. I had spotted the exact home of my imagination—right down to the paint colors. I took photos from several angles. I keep them with my writing photos to help jog my memory. This book is the first of a series—I hope—so I must be consistent in description of the home.

(2) Another example is sort of funny—now. My June release OUT OF THE BLUE is a time travel romance set at Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas. The heroine leaps from a cliff in 1845 Ireland and plops down beside the bass boat of a police detective. She lands near the base of a cliff formation called Hell’s Gate. My husband and I drove over to the lake, but we needed to get to the Boy Scout camp at Johnson Bend in order to set up the perfect shot. We wound around until we arrived at the camp and missed seeing the sign telling us to sign in. Yikes! We were almost arrested. After we explained, we were allowed to take the shots I needed for my research—with troop leaders watching us very closely.

(3) A photo doesn’t have to be one I took to inspire me. Author of the wonderful historical romance A SENSE OF HONOR, Ashley Kath-Bilsky, gave me an autographed photo of Gregory Peck in which he wears a cowboy hat. The photo had belonged to her late mother, but Ashley didn’t have a place for it in her home. Gregory Peck was so handsome in the photo from hia movie, "Duel In The Sun." Since western historical romances are among the subgenres I write, Ashley thought this photo would be inspiration for my cowboy heroes. What a nice friend, right?

(4) As a daily blogger, photos help illustrate my subjects and provide visual interest. I may not use photos in every blog, but I enjoy using them when possible. At times, I use free clipart. Illustrations of any kind break up the text and present a more readable blog. Because the heroines of OUT OF THE BLUE and THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE are from Ireland, I’ve used photos of trips to Ireland in several blog posts. To flavor many other posts, I’ve plugged in photos and the occasional cartoon character.

A photo from an Irish cliff such as the one from
which Deirdre Dougherty leaped in 1845.
(5) On this blog in the basic dashboard and sidebars, you'll see several photos taken by my eldest daughter, to whom I refer on the blog as Darling Daughter 1. Rather than use simply the template offered by Blogger, I believe her photos make this blog more appealing to prospective readers. Certainly her photos make the blog more enjoyable for me.

In addition to adding to the impact of a post, I believe readers enjoy photos. I certainly do. One of my favorie blogs--other than mine, of course--is that of Beth Trissel. She features wonderful photos taken by her husband and her brother.

What’s your opinion? Do you like photos in a blog?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Real Horse Whisperer, Madeleine Walker, Offers Tips

Horse whisperer Madeleine Walker is my guest today. In my lartest release, THE TEXAN'S IRISH BRIDE, hero Dallas McClintock trains horses without cruelty by "whispering" to and soothing them. Of course, Dallas is fiction. Madeleine is the real deal. She is an international horse and rider trauma consultant based in the UK, but she travels extensively to run courses on animal communication and healing. She runs clinics for animals and people and provides distance readings and healing. She is also a columnist, lecturer and author of numerous articles and her latest book, AN EXCHANGE OF LOVE. Here's her post:

                  "Top Tips For Communicating With Your Horse"

Love and respect are the two most important things to remember when communicating with your beautiful horse. Never underestimate their wisdom.

Most horse lovers truly understand the deep, spiritual, connections we have with our horses. It never ceases to amaze me, just how aware they are of our physical and emotional issues, and they love to help us to make sure we are as happy and healthy as possible. So it is only right that we should be just as vigilant for them. By learning to listen to their needs and advice, we learn so much about ourselves, and they very often ‘mirror’ what is going on for us in their behaviour patterns, and even take on physical symptoms for us. We have to remember that they are so much more than just a horse -they are huge sentient beings that really care about us. Whenever a horse starts to behave badly you must always check them for any physical pain, but then ask what’s going on for the owner? What has changed in their life that could be impacting on their energy and so affect the horse and the harmony of the connection between them?
(Madeleine above left with a dolphin on the cover of her latest book AN EXCHANGE OF LOVE.)

Before you start to try and hear what horses are ‘saying’, sit quietly and really connect with your heart centre. It might help to close your eyes, so that you can really concentrate and focus on your task. Feel your heart opening like a beautiful bloom and imagine sending a silver or golden line, or beam of light, to connect with the heart centre of your horse. Imagine pouring as much love as possible along that line or beam. I also ask permission to connect with the animal with the deepest respect.

(At right, Madeleine at a workshop in France with Giggles the horse.)

If you are just starting and want to practise, start with something simple, like asking what might be their favourite food or friend, or a favourite place they like to be. It might be useful to have a notepad and pen to jot down whatever comes to mind, as you learn to strengthen and build your confidence with your telepathic skills. We all have these skills innate within us; it’s just that we have been programmed to think that telepathic communication could be considered as something weird and something that only certain people can do. You can amaze yourself by just starting to write whatever comes into your head. This may take the form of pictures, or what seems rather like a video clip of the animal’s experiences. Physical feelings, sounds, smells or even taste can be experienced. If you feel any physical discomfort, for example tooth ache if the horse’s teeth need attention, or back ache, if their back needs realigning, make sure you imagine breathing out the feelings down into the ground and out of your body, as you don’t want to be carrying around their discomfort!

However consider if the discomfort is in an area of your body, which you have been ignoring, as the horse may be telling you to look after yourself! Horses need calm assertive leadership, so we need to check our emotions. Your horse will know what mood you’re in before you get to the barn, so always discuss your problems with your horse –they have great shoulders to cry on! This will help your horse understand what’s going on in your world and will alleviate their concern, as they will intuit that there’s a problem, and may think it’s their fault! Just by talking it over, your horse may allow solutions to pop into your mind. Commit to an action plan in order to help your horse and create a positive outcome to any issues that may occur. This will deepen your connection even further, and build even more trust between you. Just practice and be open to experiencing more balance, harmony, and love between you, than you ever thought possible.

For more information, check out her website Her book is available from Amazon in paperback.

Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us today, Madeleine! I suspect your tips would cross over to other pets and with people.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Happy Labor Day! And Writing What We Love

Bobbye Terry/Daryn Cross gave me this photo because she
knows I love Texas sunrises and sunsets. No, it has nothing
to do with this post except I love the photo.
Labor Day Weekend—a nice long weekend with an extra day to relax and be with family. What could be better? I hope you have time to read a good book. Like THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, hint, hint.

Why do I write historicals? A writer should writer the kind of book he or she likes to read. Although I’m an eclectic reader, one type book I love is western romance. The first one I read was by Lorraine Heath. I fell in love with the concept and read each one of her books I could find. She’s a very nice person as well as being a great writer. I’ve continued to follow her books as she’s moved into English Victorians, but that’s another subgenre of historical romance. A bookseller I trust suggested I try Jodi Thomas’ books. Thank goodness she told me about Jodi Thomas, because I read each of her books—and reread several—including the contemporary and suspense as well as the western.

Writing is more involved than reading. Any novel usually requires research to set up the world the writer will describe. My husband and I took our dream trip to Ireland and fell so in love with the country that we returned a second time, and would love to go back there. We also love our home state of Texas. What better than to combine the two? Cenora Rose O’Neill, the heroine of THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, is from Ireland. Dallas McClintock, the hero, is a Texas rancher in the Texas Hill Country, near Bandera but in the fictional area of McClintock Springs.

McClintock Springs was founded by Dallas’ grandfather, Vincent McClintock, and the fictional county named McClintock, too. It’s so much fun to invent a new town and county. Then I can make them anything I choose. The ranch buildings and house are so vivid in my mind that I’d like to be able to paint them so others could see them as I do. Perhaps I’ve described them well enough in the book that readers will be able to form a mental picture for them. Large two-story home painted butter yellow with dark green shutters and white railing around the wide front porch. Screened in sleeping porch on each floor to catch the Southwestern summer breezes.

I hope you enjoy western historical romances, too. I’ll include a copy of mine in the prize drawing on September 11th. You have until 11:59 pm that day to enter. If you don’t win, please keep returning to comment. I’ll have weekly drawings for quite a while. To enter, you simply comment on my blog and include your email address. If you sign up as a follower, that counts as an extra entry. Couldn’t be easier.

Have a safe and happy Labor Day!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Irish Travelers in Fact and Fiction, Plus A Prize Winner

First, let me announce that rbooth43 won my download of THE TEXAN'S IRISH BRIDE. RBooth, you have 48 hours to email me at with your email address so I can send you this book in PDF format. After that time, if I haven't heard from you, I'll choose someone else.

In my September book, THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, the heroine, Cenora Rose O’Neill, and her family were among those turned off their land by an English landlord. This was all too common during the 1800’s and before. Rather than starve, they joined a band of Irish Travelers. For this reason, I wanted to impart a bit of history to familiarize readers with the ethnic group.

Irish Travelers are descended from medieval minstrels and poets who traveled Ireland telling myths and stories. At that time, they were respected and learned. Travelers have their own language, Sheldroo, which is linked to the ancient Irish oral language that existed well before a written Irish language. At the time of English occupation, many Irish families were turned out of their homes as were the O’Neill family in my book. During that period, it was illegal for Irish to learn to read and write—only the English could attend schools and universities. How were uneducated people to support themselves? Those who could read and write began teaching others in what were called "hedge-row schools" because there was no other site available. Few could attend, though, because they had to scrabble for food. Many men worked for a penny a day building walls around large estates. Bread was a penny-and-a-half a loaf, so children had to help to support their families. The walls are now refered to as "penny walls."

Some homeless Irish families drifted in with the traveling minstrels and eventually became the bands of Irish Travelers. At first, they camped in fields and hedge rows. Later they acquired tents, then the colorful wagons that resemble gypsy wagons—as seen below left in a photo from Bunratty Folk Park, Ireland.

They are not gypsies, though. Gypsies are Roms and originated in India before they spread across most of the world. Travelers are purely of Irish origin, although they have now spread throughout the Western world. I saw examples of their wagons in museums in both Ireland and in Scotland. I was amazed how much storage space was inside the colorful wagons like those at left in Bunratty Folk Park. Lots of drawers and cabinets painted in cheerful colors and bunks resemble a sailing ship captain's quarters. Very efficient use of space. The doors may be left open for ventilation or closed for warmth and privacy. You see the wagon on the left has the top half of the doors open. This is the back of the wagon. A seat on the front allowed the driver to sit in front of a closed door, or open the door to converse with the someone inside. However, men not driving a wagon and children walked alongside the wagons. The strings of ponies which they traded usually would be led by young men. More on this group is available online from the University of Liverpool library.

Legislation in Ireland has set aside special camping places for the Travelers. The controversy reminds me of  Ireland's version of America's Native Indians. There is much controversy there over whether the Travelers' children should be forced to attend school or allowed to remain uneducated and speak Sheldroo in keeping with their culture. How far do parents' rights extend if it condemns the children to poverty? I suspect even Solomon couldn’t answer that one.

In the U.S., Traveler children are supposed to attend school. There’s a large base of Irish Travelers in White Settlement, Texas and another in Los Angeles, California and smaller groups in Appalachia and elsewhere. In White Settlement, many families live in RV’s or mobile homes at a park owned by one of the Travelers. The children don’t attend school, or if they go, it’s only sporadically. Most of the families are Roman Catholic and the wives attend mass. They were/are also called Tinkers because there was usually one among them who repaired pots, pans, and metalware. I remember the character named Tinker in several of Louis L’ Amour’s books.

My first introduction to modern Irish Travelers, also called Tinkers, came one January day when a terrible accident happened on the Interstate just west of Fort Worth, Texas. A group of boys had been driving the new, red, double-cab pickup one received as a Christmas gift and were headed west to visit their uncle a small distance past Weatherford in the next county. The five boys—all related—were going so fast when the driver lost control that the pickup actually became airborne, sailed across a median, and landed atop another pickup traveling east. All six people died. Two were brothers, cousins to the other three brothers, plus the innocent man minding his own business while driving to Fort Worth.

Highway patrol, sheriff’s deputies, and police officers were so moved by the deaths of these young men from one extended family that many of them attended the funeral in White Settlement. As they read the bulletin each person was given, officers learned these young men were all underage--their drivers licenses were fake. The ages were from 13 to 16, not 16 to 21 as the ID’s had indicated, and the driver was underage. Sadly, fake ideas are not uncommon for modern Irish Travelers. This accident sparked several in-depth columns about Irish Travelers in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The photo above right is of a modern Irish Traveler selling various items at a roadside park in Scotland. The woman is the Traveler. You're right, she looks nothing the picture top right that I chose as Cenora O'Neill. But then, Cenora is not an Irish Traveler--her folks just travel with them. Thanks to Beth Trissel for letting me use the photo.

Several times a year, Irish Travelers stop by our rural home and offer to pave our drive or repair our roof. The men are usually medium height and have startlingly clear blue eyes that truly look so innocent and sweet. If we were gullible enough—as one of our friends was—to let them resurface our driveway with asphalt, they would use a mixture of fluid which might resemble thin asphalt, but actually would be oil that washed away in a hard rain. Another common ploy is to get a 50% deposit for roofing, then disappear.

I am definitely not bashing Irish people! That would be stupid since I’m of mostly Scot-Irish descent and love anything to do with Ireland, Scotland and the UK. I’m simply identifying a stereotype. I’m sure there are some good people from the sub-ethnic group, Irish Travelers. As with so many other subjects, we only hear about the bad ones. For a couple hundred years, Irish Travelers have been thought of as con men and their wives as beggars. Some make good money. Others live hand to mouth. They’re accused of selling their daughters at a young age to marry much older men. Is that true? I don’t know.

They’ve made national news because of their shoplifting rings. Are there honest Travelers? Of course there must be, just as there are honest and dishonest people, good parents and bad parents, from any group. I took the photo above left on our second trip to Ireland. Sorry, but I can't remember where. We were near the end of a three-week tour when I took this photo and things had become a bit muddled together in my mind by then. I still loved the tour, by the way, and would go back at the drop of a hat!

How did Cenora O’Neill’s family and the band of Irish Travelers end up sailing across the Atlantic complete with their wagons and then trekking across the U.S. into Central Texas? Great question! You’ll have to read the book to learn the answer.

See, it was a trick question. Authors have no shame when it comes to getting you to read their books.

Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to leave a comment to enter the drawing for the next book giveaway!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Writing the West

I’m still excited about the release yesterday of my western historical set in 1885, THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE.

In this book, Dallas McClintock is a handsome young man of mixed heritage, half Scottish and half Cherokee. All his life he has faced prejudice because of his mixed heritage. At the death of his parents, he came to live with his aunt and uncle, who treated him like their son. Dallas’ two cousins treated him as their brother. They are a close-knit family, but now Dallas has his own ranch and is gaining a reputation as a talented horse trainer and breeder. He also raises cattle and sheep. Yep, on the same ranch. The house is a large place situated on a hill overlooking the river.

Cenora O’Neill and her family were tossed off their rented farm in Ireland with no more than they could carry. She and her parents and two brothers, Finn and Mac, wandered helplessly for a few weeks until a band of Irish Travelers befriended them. Soon, the Travelers moved from tents to wooden wagons in colorful colors. Never totally a part of the Travelers, but with no where else to go, the O’Neill family played music while Cenora danced and sang for coins whenever they passed through a town. By a chance you have to read the book to discover, the entire band of Travelers, their wagons, and their horses came to the United States to escape the prejudice they’d faced in Ireland. Here they found no more welcome and moved West hoping to find acceptance and—perhaps—free land they could claim.

This story is set in the Central Texas Hill Country near Bandera. I love Texas history and Irish history, and this book combines them. Mostly, it’s about people who struggle for acceptance and for a home. There’s skullduggery in it, of course. I love writing villains that readers can hate and could never write a romance with no crime in it.

THE TEXAN'S IRISH BRIDE ia available from The Wild Rose Press, Digi Books Cafe and other online stores. Print is $14.99 and e-download is $7.00.

Don't forget to comment to be entered in the Saturday drawing for a PDF download of this book.And while you're reading blogs, slip over to the Prairie Chicks blog and see my post there today.

Friday, September 03, 2010


Today is the official launch of my latest book, a western historical set in 1885, THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, from The Wild Rose Press in e-book and in print. How exciting, well, at least it is for me! I've been not-so-patiently awaiting the release. This cover is by far my favorite of any I’ve ever had, and was designed by Nicola Martinez at The Wild Rose Press. To celebrate the book’s release, I’ll be giving away a PDF download of THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE to one person who comments before midnight Saturday.

I love Texas history and especially love this time period. The story is set in Central Texas near Bandera and Medina, and also the Lost Maples State Natural Area. That area appeals to me and is the location of lots of real ranches and some fairly famous dude ranches. Years ago, my family and I stayed at the Mayan Dude Ranch and loved it. But I’ll discuss that trip another day.

For today, let me just say that I am very excited about the release of this book.  Click here to buy a copy, from The Wild Rose Press, or go to one of the other online stores. Here’s the blurb:

Cenora Rose O’Neill knows her father somehow arranged the trap for Dallas, but she agrees to wed the handsome stranger. She’d do anything to protect her family, and she wants to save herself from the Irish Travelers' brutish leaser, Tom Williams. A fine settled man like Dallas will rid himself of her soon enough, but at least she and her family will be safely away from Tom Williams.

Texas rancher Dallas McClintock has no plans to wed for several years. Right now, he’s trying to establish himself as a successful horse breeder. Severely wounded rescuing Cenora from kidnappers, Dallas is taken to her family’s gypsy-like Irish Traveler’s wagon to be tended. He is trapped into marrying Cenora, but he is not a man who goes back on his word. His new wife has a silly superstition for everything, but passion-filled nights with her make up for everything—but what is he supposed to do with her wild Irish family?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Making Certain Our Writing Says Exactly What We Mean

In order to tell our stories effectively, writers must make ourselves clear to our readers. This is true whether we’re writing the Great American Novel or a simple ad.

When our family first moved to this rural area,a bit of misunderstood writing amused me. An ad in the weekly shopping news read, “We buy natives.” Our daughters and I cracked up over it. My sensible husband ignored our giggles. After all, he was used to us. A tiny slice of my heritage is Native American—Cherokee to be specific—and this ad created the mental image of a slave block with Native Americans lined up for sale. Many pecan orchards are in this area. Of course, the ad meant native pecans, as opposed to the cultivated varieties. So, I wonder, why didn’t the prospective buyer say, “We buy pecans?” Same number of words in the ad, yet a very different message.

Recently the editor of my next release, Leanne Morgena from The Wild Rose Press, pointed out several areas where I had left out emotions that were evident to me when writing HOME SWEET TEXAS HOME. After all, I know the characters and what they’re experiencing. Unfortunately, I neglected to make this clear. How embarrassing! I’d like to say this is the first time this has happened to me, but that would be untrue. However, this book involved many more of those instances than any other I've written. Because my characters become friends I know well, I sometimes fail to make their feelings and reactions known to the reader.

This is why we writers need a beta reader or critique partner to check our work. We know what we mean, so it’s hard for us to catch mistakes like the one above. I have several great friends who help me. They had not worked on HOME SWEET TEXAS HOME because it’s one I wrote before I had critique partners. I’ll never submit a book again without having others read it thoroughly—just to make certain what I mean is actually what I've written.

This was a prize-filled week, but I'm not through with giveaways yet! Leave a comment to be entered in my weekly drawing for a PDF download of one of my books.