Friday, June 29, 2012


My folks moved numerous times while I was young. Our ninth move and where I lived longest was to Lubbock, Texas. The mention of the town resurrects memories--some fond, some not. I don’t miss walking home from school in a sandstorm with sand stinging exposed skin. Nope, not a bit. But other recollections bring a smile to my face.
HOME. SWEET TEXAS HOME, a sweet contemporary romance that received a ♥♥♥♥♥ Review from The Romance Studio, is set in West Texas in and near the town of Lubbock.

I have to admit I incorporated a few events that really happened, like a sandstorm. One of other the parts of the book from my life is the domino game of 42. The game was already popular when I was a kid. My parents played 42, although my mom was not good at it. She preferred canasta. But they went to 42 parties where offered. When Hero and I first moved to our present home, Hero used to play 42 with friends while I played bridge or some other game until that group sort of drifted apart. Friends of ours still play 42 once a month (among other games) at our church. I like other domino and card games, but not 42. All I see are spots swirling in front of my eyes when I try to play. But I've learned it's a popular game in rural areas.

I do feel quite loyal to the game, though, since it was invented nearby where I live in Texas. Here’s what I have discovered about the domino game of 42. Also known as Texas 42, this is a trick-taking game played with a standard set of double six dominoes. Tournaments are held in many towns, and the State Championship tournament is held in Hallettsville, Texas the first Saturday of March each year. In 2011 it was designated the official State Domino Game of Texas. You might say it's not as if there are that many domino games, but I beg to differ. There are Mexican train, chicken scratch, plain dominoes, and enough variations to confuse anyone and played with double six, double nine, and double twelve sets of dominoes. We Texans are serious about our dominoes!

42 Game in Progress
Yawn, like watching paint dry IMO

Christopher Evans, a writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, reported in an August 1985 article that the game of 42 originated in Garner, Parker County, Texas in 1887. Garner is a small town west of Fort Worth. According to Evans, before its name was changed, Garner was called Trappe Springs. It was there that two boys, William A Thomas and Walter Earl, reportedly invented the domino game of 42.

Evans reported that Thomas, 12, and Earl, 14, children of devout Baptists, were caught playing cards in the hayloft of a barn.  Playing cards was considered sinful in those days, and the boys were disciplined for their indiscretion.

According to Evans, the two boys set out to find a way to play cards using dominos.  By the fall of 1887, they had devised a four-player game using double-six dominos that incorporated bidding and trumps, very similar to the game of 42 played in Texas today.

Since domino playing was acceptable to their parents and other residents of Trappe Spring, Thomas and Earl began teaching others how to play the game. The game caught on and spread from there. The Earl and Thomas families later moved to Windom in Fannin County (north-northeast of Dallas), and the game reportedly spread from there, too.

You do not have to play 42 to read HOME, SWEET TEXAS HOME (or to have written it). Here’s a blurb and excerpt to tempt you.


Courtney Madison has battled poverty her entire twenty-five years but is determined to make a safe and happy home for her teenaged brother after the recent death of their mom. Her mom’s illness left Courtney with a mountain of hospital bills, her formerly sweet brother Jimmy is now cutting class and hanging with a rough crowd, and she’s just learned she’s being downsized in two weeks. Hanging on by the threads of a fraying rope, she learns she’s inherited two million dollars from a kind elderly man she befriended when he was in the hospital across the hall from her mom. She thinks her inheritance in West Texas is the answer to all her prayers--but Courtney learns that while money improves her life, it doesn’t guarantee happiness. This modern Cinderella encounters problems even a fairy godmother couldn’t imagine.

Rancher/entrepeneur Derek Corrigan has incredible instincts for flourishing in the business world. With women, not so much. In fact, his friends bemoan he’s King Midas where money is concerned, but his judgment of women is pathetic--evidenced by his late wife and now the flamboyant woman he’s been escorting of late. As far as Derek is concerned, all he wants is to be a good dad to his children Warren, aged 8, and Meg, aged 5. Derek suspects the worst of his new neighbor and vows to fight his attraction for her. The only way he can protect his children and himself is to keep his private life very private. Besides, he knows what women do to him--they always leave and take chunks of his heart with them. He's been there, done that, had the vaccination and is cured. Isn't he?

Excerpt when Jimmy comes home from school to learn his sister has been injured and that his neighbor Derek is in his sister’s bedroom:

When Jimmy saw his sister in bed, he rushed over. “Sis, what happened? What’s with the towel and the ice packs?” He frowned at Derek. “What’s going on?”
She opened her mouth to explain, but nothing came out.
Derek figured the bizarre situation defied description. He patted Jimmy on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, she’s okay now. We were at the cemetery putting flowers on Sam’s and Maggie’s graves and your sister got trapped in the bathroom.”
Jimmy shook his head. “I don’t understand. How could that hurt her?”
Courtney sighed. “The knob came off in my hand and I couldn’t open the door. So, I climbed out the window.”
Derek held out his hands to indicate the small rectangle. “A small, high window.”
Jimmy looked from his sister to Derek. “I still don’t understand what happened.”
Courtney snapped, “I got stuck, okay?”
Now that he knew her to be okay, the week’s tension suddenly snapped Derek and he lost his perspective on the whole situation. He grimaced at Jimmy. “She, um…” He coughed to keep a straight face. “When she tried to go out the window, she got stuck with her head and one arm sticking outside and the rest of her inside.” He stood like a bird with a broken wing to imitate Courtney’s position. A grin spread across his face in spite of all his efforts not to smile.
Jimmy gaped at his sister. “Courtney? But she’s always so sensible. She’s never does anything stupid.” He began to smile also.
Both males burst into laughter.
“Listen, if you two are so amused, go into the other room to discuss my apparently hilarious antics and leave me to suffer in peace.” In spite of her strained muscles and injuries, she threw a box of tissues in their direction. “Go on, get out of here. Now.”
Derek glanced over his shoulder before he left.
She’d stuffed a pillow over her ears, to block out their laughter.

The Wild Rose Press in Print and Ebook:

Amazon Ebook:

Amazon Print:

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Jacquie Rogers

What is the 777 meme? Is it a mystery to be unfolded one clue at a time? Nope, it's a game, sort of a promotion game for authors who want to trick readers into buying their books. No, wait, I didn't mean to say that. No, no, of course not. The 777 meme is a fun way for readers to find out more about books. Yeah, that's better.Sure.

Friend and author Jacquie Rogers (author of the hilariously clever MUCH ADO ABOUT MARSHALS and other linked books) tagged me in a 777 meme. Jacquie is a fellow western historical author who also writes craft books for writers.

Apologies to Jacquie, but instead of a western historical, I've chosen the 7th line on page 77 of my contemporary cozy mystery, DIGGING FOR DEATH, which is the first of the Heather Cameron series. I'm currently at work on DIGGING FOR BONES, the second Heather Cameron adventure, while I also am writing my western historical HIGH STAKES BRIDE, the second of the Men of Stone Mountain trilogy. I don't understand why I'm compelled to write two books at once, but a writer's mind is positively unfathomable.None of us claims to be totally sane.Of course, I don't have two computers at which I type simultaneously. No, it's a mood thing. In addition to being slightly nutty, writers are often moody and capricious. No, no, make that writers are flexible. Yeah, sounds better, doesn't it? Sigh. But I digress.

As with most of my books, the setting is Texas, this time north of Dallas about where Van Alstyne is located. My dad was born nearby in Pilot Grove, and Darling Daughter 1 lives not too far southeast of there. Hero and I lived in Richardson when each of our daughters was born. You can see why I feel an affinity for that area of North Texas.

Before I give you the 7th line of page 77, let me give you the blurb and set up:

Garden center manager Heather Cameron is DIGGING FOR DEATH to prove her old family friend, mentor, and employee, Walter Sims, is innocent of murdering the meanest man in town. Heather can’t trust the police to find the real killer when all clues point to poor Walter. The dead man was beaten to death with Walter’s shovel several hours after they were overheard arguing, and the two men had a long history of enmity. Walter definitely looks guilty, but Heather is sure—well, almost positive—okay, she certainly hopes her friend and mentor is innocent.
  Heather is compelled to scour the fictional North Central Texas town of Gamble Grove to exonerate her old friend. She’s encouraged when the new police detective in town, Kurt Steele, shows interest in helping her look for clues.
The deeper Heather digs into the dead man’s life, the more she justifies his ruthless reputation. Walter is indicted, but police begin to suspect the victim’s stepson as murderer. Heather is convinced the stepson couldn’t have murdered anyone either—although it’s clear no love was lost between the two men. The attempted murder of the victim’s real son creates a new twist. Can Heather solve the murder without becoming the killer’s next victim?

Heather Cameron
Heather attends the murdered man’s funeral with her grandparents and great-grandmother. But I can’t tell you more or I’d have to kill you. No, the truth is that I simply don’t want to spoil the plot. Here’s line 7 of page 77 plus a bit more:

This time the organist got busy. A portly man I didn’t recognize walked forward and sang “How Great Thou Art.” Then, the minister took the lectern. He was known locally for long, rambling sermons. I was glad my family went to the Presbyterian Church a block away. I hoped he wouldn’t drone on or spout false virtues about the deceased. I’d heard Bootsy attended church here, but I wondered if the minister had even met Vance Rockwell.
During the times I’d met her, Bootsy had seemed a delightful, good-natured scatterbrain with an unchecked lavish sense of style. Her quiet weeping now unsettled me. No matter how much I disliked Rockwell, I couldn’t help sympathizing with his family.
In record time for this long-winded minister, the service was over. We all stood as the casket was carried out of the sanctuary, followed by the bereaved family. We waited our turn and filed out behind the others. Kurt spoke to Winston, the officer who’d been at the murder scene questioning Miguel and Steve, then both men left the church.
On the portico, we saw Kurt and Winston watching the Rockwell family drive away in a stretched black limousine.
Gigi poked Kurt’s arm. “Hello there, young man. I’m thinking about your marriage proposal. I may take you up on it.”
People within hearing turned to stare, saw it was Gigi, and went on their way. Something to be said for getting old and being able to say whatever you wished.
Kurt Steele
Kurt grinned. “Glad to hear it, Gigi. Sad occasion this, but how are you?”
“Any day a person my age goes to a funeral and it isn’t mine is a great day. You remember my granddaughter, Heather?”
Grandpa said, “He ought to, out strolling the town with her half the night.”
Beside Kurt, Winston coughed, and I had a feeling he covered a chortle. Kurt actually blushed, but he smiled at me and winked.
“I couldn’t let her walk around on her own, sir, and there was no talking her out of it.”
Grandpa shot me a glare then shook hands with Kurt. “You don’t have to tell me about this girl’s stubborn streak. Her mother was just the same. Appreciate you keeping an eye on her.”
He sounded as if I were ten and needed someone to hold my hand crossing the street. But I knew better than to protest and open that can of worms in public. “We’d better hurry to the car if you plan on going to the cemetery.”
Kurt offered his arm to Gigi. “Allow me to help you down the steps.”
Darned if she didn’t reward him with a flirty smile. “Always ready to have a handsome man escort me.” She looped her arm with his. “I hope they hired an extra awning. I’m not standing, especially not with the sun blazing on my skin.”
  “Must be why your complexion has remained so lovely.”
On the other side of him, I said, “Steele, you are so full of it.”
He only grinned as he stopped at the bottom of the steps and handed her off to me. “See you at the cemetery.”

I hope that tidbit teased your interest and you can’t wait to purchase this cozy mystery from Amazon, so here’s the BUY LINK:

Now, I’m tagging Anna Kathryn Lanier, Vonnie Davis, Linda LaRoque, Linda Swift, Paisley Kirkpatrick, Susan Macatee, and Callie Hutton to either blog their 777 meme or post it on Facebook.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, June 25, 2012


Readers, please welcome Kathy L. Wheeler today. Kathy and I met through Dallas Area Romance Authors (DARA). We also have written for the same publisher, The Wild Rose Press (TWRP). Kathy lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, where she is active (past president) in Oklahoma Romance Writers of America.

Kathy L. Wheeler, Author

Caroline: Please tell readers about growing up.

Kathy: My childhood was somewhat interesting, as I imagine most are. However, my parents have each been married six times. Yes, I said six (6). I think that made me most adaptable. I grew up in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, then in high school moved to Boulder, Colorado. Talk about culture shock! I have two sisters and three brothers, though the brothers are all step, you wouldn’t know it. We have a family reunion every three years just to make sure everyone stays together.

Caroline: Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?

 Kathy: Jayne Ann Krentz is by far my favorite author. I love all of her single titles, whether it’s contemporary, historical or futuristic. Susan Elizabeth Phillips too. My favorite sub-genre to read is Regency Historical. Teresa Medeiros, Elizabeth Boyle, Suzanne Enoch…I could certainly go on and on…

Caroline: Love each of those authors. What’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?

Kathy: What an interesting question. I have several hobbies. I jazzercise, karaoke, musical theater. I love the NFL and the NBA—but relax? Anyone watching Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals will tell you, that is not relaxing. Hmm, more like an addiction. I keep wondering what I’m going to do when the series ends. And, there is soooo much to do. Ah, but NFL will kick off two months later. So I’ll be good to go!

Caroline: Do you have a favorite quote that sums up how you feel about life?

Kathy: My book QUOTABLE is about a young woman, Genna, who uses obscure quotes to keep people from getting too close. But in one particular scene, she and her friend, Lorianne are having lunch and Lorianne accuses Genna of not dating since the joker from college. Genna answers with something like “The more I get to know men, the more I love my dog.” Lorianne responds with, “You don’t even have a dog.” And, I think that’s funny.

Caroline: I look forward to reading QUOTABLE. Have to confess I collect obscure quotes. How long have you been writing?

Kathy: I’ve been writing since 2006. I saw a Google prompt that said “write a story where Cinderella’s shoe fits one of her evil stepsisters.” So I did. Then I wrote the sister’s stories (they are available on Amazon).

Caroline: Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?

Kathy: I can write almost anywhere (except when watching an NBA Thunder game, or Dallas Cowboys NFL). Then I just have to set the computer aside and give them my complete attention. Otherwise, they do something stupid, like … lose. I type really fast, so I prefer a laptop, I can take anywhere. I can’t watch a movie when I’m working, but I do like white noise in the form of sports or The History Channel.

Caroline: Are you a plotter or a panzer?

Kathy: Mostly a panzer. But one of my critique partners is a big time plotter so at least there is some kind of balance. And, everyone knows, balance is the key!!!

Caroline: Yes, we all strive for balance, don’t we? Do you use real events or persons in your stories or as an inspiration for stories?

Kathy: I would say not. I think the characters just start talking in my head.

Caroline: Me, too. I hope they never shut up! Do you set daily writing goals? Word count? Number of chapters? Do you get a chance to write every day?

Kathy: Right now, I am inundated with editing. Last summer I had two articles published in a local paper (July and August). Then I signed my first contract (TWRP) in September, a second one (SMP) in October, and a third in December. Just yesterday, I signed my fourth (TWRP) and mailed it off. Edits, edits, edits. I have two more stories in the works. But another one that needs tweaking and submitting. EEEEkkkk!

Caroline: But a selling writer is a happy writer. What do you hope your writing brings to readers?

Kathy: I hope a reader feels what my character feels. Through their eyes. I don’t like being spoon-fed information. I re-read a lot of my favorite books. And every time I go back, I learn something new. I don’t have to be told every single little thing.

Caroline: What long-term plans do you have for your career?

Kathy: I really, really need to learn how to answer this question. I would love to be able to make my living by writing.

Caroline: Wouldn’t we all? Well, some people we know do, but most of us struggle. Would you like to tell us what you’re working on now?

Kathy: Edits, edits, edits.

Caroline: While edits aren’t exactly fun, at least they mean you have not only completed a project, but that it will soon be published. What advice would you give to unpublished authors?

Kathy: Keep writing. Always have something in the works. I had eight completed manuscripts when I signed that first contract. Lucky for me, I had other stuff ready to send off.

Caroline: And that’s good for prospective writers to know. While you’re submitting, keep writing so that when you do sell, you have multiple manuscripts available. Tell us something about you that would surprise or shock readers. A fun fact readers wouldn’t know about you.

Kathy: Most of me is just out there. What-you-see-is-what-you-get. But I do have a minor degree in vocal music. But I don’t think that would surprise many people. Although, singing is very close to my heart, and I can be extremely sensitive about it. I’m as good as some, not as good as others, though in a karaoke environment where there is a lot of alcohol? I’m totally awesome.

Caroline: Is your book a series? If so, how long? Family saga, other?

Kathy: Well, it seems I write mostly series, or rather, books that include characters from previous books. QUOTABLE is the first of four. The second one, Lorianne’s story, MAYBE IT’ YOU is due out in the Fall through Soul Mate Publishing.

Caroline: Tell us something you learned researching your book that surprised/interested you.

Kathy: The book I just signed a contract on, THE ENGLISH LILY follows my Cinderella Series. Lady Kendra Frazier is a character in the Esmeralda story. She is dyslexic. It was interesting to write. The editor who signed the book sent me a note and told me a story regarding her sister who is also dyslexic. The feeling that the character resonated with the editor was intoxicating.

Caroline: We have numerous dyslexic people in my family. Can you give readers a blurb about your book? I am lucky enough to have had two books released in the last couple of weeks. Neither of which are related to one another.

The blurb for: QUOTABLE
GENNA LYNDSEY is not a people person.  A short, too-skinny, wild haired waif, with crazy hair and sturdy nerdy glasses lives through books.  So it’s lucky she and her best friend own their own bookstore.  Her college days taught her that dating was too unreliable to depend on others.  It was then that she started resorting to obscure quotes to shield herself from others who ventured too close.
RICK JOHNSON, Fraud Insurance Claims Investigator, is assigned to look into an unusual number of claims filed by Genna Lyndsey.  He suspects Genna of sabotaging her own property for insurance money.  His investigation uncovers an adorable introvert determined to keep everyone at bay, while someone else resolves to put her out of business—no matter how great the risk.

How about an excerpt of QUOTABLE::

Without so much as a second thought, he moved his mouth over hers in slow deliberation allowing her almost ample time to step back should she have wished. It didn’t matter that the door was to her back and she had nowhere to step back to.
Definitely, the wild honeysuckle drove him wild with desire. Just the feeling of her timorous nature kept him from devouring her outright, tempting as it was. His tongue touched her lips in a feathery motion drinking in her sweetness. He pulled her to him, her slight body leaning into his.
A sharp pain hit his leg. He grunted and broke the kiss, making the break as painful as the pain in his leg. He glanced down. She’d dropped everything she’d been holding, her hands clutching the front of his shirt. Her cheeks were flushed. With hunger? Need?
She seemed at a loss as to what to do next. He stifled an urge to smile, irritation dissolving for the moment.
He grasped her hands gently, surprised by the rising desire to safeguard her. Resisting the appeal to reclaim her mouth, he tugged them from his shirt. Kneeling down, he gathered the spilled belongings. Just as he suspected, he’d been besieged with books.

The blurb for: THE COLOR OF BETRAYAL [Part of the Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll Series through TWRP]
Luke Reiser has every intention of marrying Malia Kane, a difficult feat when she refuses to acknowledge his interest. When Malia’s grandmother asks for a doll left in his attic, Luke believes his luck has changed. He summons Malia to his office, but he doesn’t expect her reaction.
Malia doesn’t have time to do artwork for Luke’s company. She’s preparing for an art show to ease financial difficulties looming like a snuffer ready to extinguish a candle flame. But what she finds at Luke’s office is worse than bankruptcy—it’s that horrid doll bequeathed to her at her mother’s death. Malia has found out the hard way the curse breaks any would-be lover’s nose, and worse. Not wanting to risk injury to Luke, she takes the doll and runs.
Can an ancient doll bring the two together…or will Luke end up next in a long line of victims…with a broken nose as well as a broken heart?

Seeming oblivious to his presence, her gaze spanned the room before dropping her face into open palms. “It’s old. It’s ugly. Why? Why would anyone want the blasted thing?” She had obviously forgotten his presence as the conversation she carried was strictly her own. “It’s that damned curse. It has to be.” She raised her head, staring out a window, its sill covered in dust. Her eyes squinted in the sunlight. “Oooh, it would serve him right if he did snatch the stupid thing.” Full lips pressed in a stubborn line had him lusting to trace them with a fingertip. Coax them into a curve.
“Who?” he demanded, but she didn’t answer. Luke decided to take charge of the situation before she completely lost all contact with reality. “What makes you think the doll is cursed? Not that I believe it for a moment.” It felt odd saying the words aloud, though the words from the note were carved in his memory.
She shot him a startled glance. Yes, that was surprise covering her features. Annoyed, he
promised himself he’d work on forging a less forgettable image later. Right now, however, she
seemed to be debating how much to tell him.
Malia opened her mouth to speak, and suddenly Luke’s brain ceased any rational functioning. A pressing need to kiss those parted lips overtook common sense, and he covered her mouth with his. How much more blatant a signal would he have to send for her to realize his attraction?

Caroline: Where can readers find your books?




How can readers learn more about you?
Twitter @kathylwheeler

Caroline: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you?

Kathy: Thank you so much for letting me ramble on. I think I’ve always been a bit of an artsy person. I could draw decent pictures when I was younger (forget painting!), I love to sing. I did some local theater. I was okay, just not great! But writing…writing seems to flow through my blood. And I hope that you enjoy the characters that live in my head.

Thanks for sharing with us today, Kathy.

Readers, thanks for stopping by!

Friday, June 22, 2012


Please help me welcome MK McClintock to the blog. MK is an entrepreneur, baker, photographer (you can see evidence of that in the post below), tour host, reviewer, and writer. She was born on the West Coast, but like me, after less than eight years left with her family. I came back to Texas, but MK went to the Rocky Mountains. After more adventures around the country, business college and culinary school, MK found a place to call home in Montana. And what a place she found! She proves it with gorgeous photos of her home state. Over the years MK McClintock traveled the country and visited magnificent Scotland, another thing we have in common. She dreams of a time when life was simpler, the land rougher and the journey more rewarding. With her heart deeply rooted in the past and her mind always on adventure, MK will always call Montana home.

Here's some great new! MK has generously offered to give away a copy of GALLAGHER'S PRIDE to two lucky commenters today. So, when you comment, please remember to leave your email address. Now, here's MK's interview:

MK McClintock, Author

Caroline: Please tell us about your life growing up.

MK: I grew up near the beach in southern California, but we spent a lot of time vacationing in the mountains, and I wasn’t that old when we left for the Rocky Mountains where my true appreciation for this life began. I’m the middle of five children (which meant referee growing up). I was (and still am) definitely a bookworm, but I do spend a considerably amount of time outside hiking, walking, swimming, snowshoeing – I love the outdoors.

Caroline: Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?

MK: Kathleen Woodiwiss and Edward Rutherford are my favorite authors. I’m pretty eclectic when it comes to genres, but I tend to reach for the historical romances, westerns, or a good thriller.

Caroline: I also love those, but also like cozy mysteries and contemporary romantic suspense. What’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?

MK: I love to spend time in the kitchen. If I’m too wound up and need to let it all go, I usually go for a walk, but then I spend a couple of hours just baking and listening to Celtic music. I also like to knit or just read a no-thinking-required book.

Caroline: Love those no-thinking-required books. To me, they are a chance to unwind and recharge. Do you have a favorite quote that sums up how you feel about life?

Eagle in Montana tree

MK: "Happy the man, and happy he alone, he who can call today his own; he who, secure within, can say, tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today." - John Dryden

Caroline: What a great quote. How long have you been writing?

MK: I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was very young. I still have all the stories I made up or wrote with friends during out little story club. It’s always been there.

Caroline: Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?

MK: It depends on my mood and the type of scene I’m writing. Generally I prefer writing in my office at the PC, but once in a while I need to sit by a cozy fire or look out over the lake for extra inspiration, and in those cases I use my laptop. I want complete quiet when I’m writing—I’m easily distracted. Again though, if the mood strikes or I’m writing a certain scene, I turn on classical or Celtic music—something that works with the story.

Montana's Jewel Basin - Is it any
wonder MK loves it here?

Caroline: I love writing to classical music. Are you a plotter or a panzer?

MK: Both! I plot out the initial story with an outline, but then I follow it where it wants me to go.

Caroline: That makes you a Plotzer. I am also, but I have to have that outline for starters. Do you use real events or persons in your stories or as an inspiration for stories?

MK: Certainly there’s a bit of history involved and some of the events may have taken place, but mostly it’s just imagination. I write how I believe it would have been and also how I like to think it would have been.

Caroline: Do you set daily writing goals? Word count? Number of chapters? Do you get a chance to write every day?

MK: I’ve learned not to set a daily goal—I just have far too much going on each day. Basically I give myself a certain block of time and whatever I get done, I get done. If I happen to miss a day, I don’t beat myself up over it. Writing has to be fun or I wouldn’t do it.

Caroline: That’s a mentally healthy outlook. We need goals, but if we’re too rigid we stifle creativity IMO. What do you hope your writing brings to readers?

MK: An escape from the modern world, even if only for a short time.
Montana view near MK

Caroline: What long-term plans do you have for your career?

MK: Just to keep writing. I have a lot of books planned—enough to keep me busy for the next 10-15 years. Whatever good happens with it, I’ll be thrilled.

Caroline: Me, too. Although I think I’ll have to live to 200 to produce all the books in my head. ☺ Would you like to tell us what you’re working on now?

MK: The second book of the Montana Gallagher series, GALLAGHER’S HOPE, will be released on August 1st. I’m giving myself a two-week break and then I’ll be back to writing the third book in the series.

I’m also doing research for two other books that I hope to release soon after the Gallagher series is complete.

Caroline: What advice would you give to unpublished authors?

MK: Get published! If you’re patient, then it doesn’t hurt to wait, but don’t wait forever to see your dreams become reality. And don’t give up—ever.

Caroline: A fun fact readers wouldn’t know about you.

MK: I really like corn on the cob, but won’t touch it off the cob.

Caroline: Is your book a series? If so, how long? Family saga, other?

MK: It is! The Montana Gallagher Series and I have four books total planned. The series does all involve one family, but you get some fun characters added into the mix.

Caroline: I love a series! Can you give readers a blurb about your book?

MK: Here’s the blurb for GALLAGHER'S PRIDE:

She was on a quest for discovery.
He was on a quest for revenge.
Together they would discover a second chance.

Brenna Cameron travels from Scotland after losing someone she loves in search of family she didn't know existed. Alone now in the world, Brenna makes an arduous journey, following the trail of discovery to Briarwood, Montana. Here she meets Ethan Gallagher, and the rest of the Gallagher clan. Only with their help is she able to discover lost family, heal old wounds and embark on a treacherous confrontation with a man who destroyed her family.

As head of the Gallagher clan, Ethan has more than enough to occupy his thoughts and time-he didn't need the complication of Brenna Cameron and he certainly didn't need the trouble that came with her. Ethan takes on the unwanted duty of self-appointed protector to the headstrong Scot, only to discover there is such a thing as second chances and more to life than revenge.

Caroline: What a beautiful and enticing cover. How about an excerpt:

MK: Here's Excerpt #1

Montana Territory-1879
He wasn’t about to let the grievance go unanswered. His parents had found thirty years of peaceful living in this beautiful and rugged land. They had traveled to the northern territories to escape the sweltering madness of Texas and had indeed found peace. Even when the land became the Territory of Montana more than ten years ago, they had still lived in peace with the other settlers that had come to mine and graze cattle. In all that time they had only one encounter with the Indians and that without loss of life. Since the army was defeated by some of the tribes about ten years back, the Indians were content to keep peace. So long as the settlers stayed to their land and left the natives to theirs.

Peace for the Gallagher’s had ended with Nathan Hunter.

The bastard had purchased land only a few miles from their extensive borders. The small stretch of grass between the two spreads belonged to a belligerent old swindler, Dwight Dickens, who refused to work the valuable land. When the fool realized that there was more than one interested party, he let the bidding war begin. It was little more than fifteen acres, but the prize of that land was the water. Water and grass were the greatest currencies out west, without which a rancher may as well pack up and leave. Control of that stretch meant control of the stream coming down from the mountains. The snowfall each year assured that the water would flow continuously through till the next winter and keep their ponds full.

The Gallagher family won the bidding war, but only once they agreed that old man Dickens could keep his small homestead on the land. A small sacrifice for the water rights.

One week later, Nathan Hunter had his men stretch barbed wire along the new boundary line. The Gallagher’s hated wire. When they had first come to Montana Territory, there was little more than a few small ranches in the area they chose to settle, a day’s ride north of Bozeman. Not many settlers lasted past their first winter in the harsh climate, but the Gallaghers had found home and soon became some of the most respected ranching families in the territory. Known for their fairness in business and hard work, they had made a solid name for themselves. Jacob Gallagher built a legacy on that wild land and his children were damned if they’d let one man destroy it.

MK And here's Excerpt #2
Are you out of your mind?” The words tumbled from her mouth before she could stop them, but he had gone and truly shocked her.

“No actually I’m not. It’s your safety I’m thinking of,” replied Ethan, more to himself than her. He loosened the hold on her arm.

Brenna let out an exasperated sigh, something her mother had always tried to discourage, and said, “I do appreciate your kindness, Mr. Gallagher . . .”


“. . . Ethan, but I’m certainly not the type of woman to just go home with two men whether I know them or not. It would be highly inappropriate, not to mention stupid.”

“And you’re not stupid.”

“Not as far as I can tell,” Brenna said with fire in her eyes.

Caroline: Well, you’ve certainly hooked me and I’m eager to purchase the book! Where can other readers and I find your books?

MK: The buy links are:
Amazon Link:

Amazon Kindle Link:

Caroline: Another thing we have in common, MK, is that your heroine's surname is Cameron, and my heroine for my cozy mystery, DIGGING FOR DEATH, is Heather Cameron. My hero for THE TEXAN'S IRISH BRIDE is Dallas McClintock. Obviously, we both come from Scots ancestry and love Scotland. How can readers learn more about you?

MK: Here are some links:

MK McClintock Website:

Official Blog: 

Goodreads Profile: 

Amazon Author Page:

Another shot of the Jewel Basin - I'm ready to pack
my bags and head there, how about you?

Caroline: Your blog and website are just beautiful. Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you?

MK: I fell in love with the Gallagher family from their first words. The characters are flawed, likeable and yes, sometimes infuriating, but they’re real and true to themselves. This is more than just a series, it’s a western saga and so some questions won’t be answered in every book – you may have to wait until the end. The series follows the Gallagher’s romance, hope and revenge over the course of several books—each one offering something new.

It should also be understood that I write fiction, not history. I do my best to stay true to the time in which the books are set, but I do take some leeway as a fiction author. I accept full responsibility for any major historical discrepancies. I hope you enjoy the story and the Gallagher family as much I do.

Caroline: A good point, MK. I also try to stay true to the time period, but we write fiction. If we have to make a hill taller or invent a town, we’re allowed to do so. Thanks for sharing with us today. I’m off to purchase your book now....

Readers, remember MK's giveaway and leave your email with your comment!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


My friend Brenda Chitwood alerted me to an article in Tuesday’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram about locales that had appeared in my books. Former Texan Tanner Beard has directed a movie about John Wilkes Booth titled “The Legend of Hell’s Gate: An American Conspiracy.” The film is distributed on DVD by Lion’s Gate.

The young director, whose parents live in Granbury, Texas, got the idea from a visit there. Apparently, a Shakespeare-quoting bartender named John St. Helen died in Granbury in 1870, and claimed on his deathbed that he was really John Wilkes Booth. As an aside, he’s not the only Granbury resident who claimed to be a famous outlaw. One man claimed he was really Jesse James, and was buried as the famous outlaw. The dispute was settled when James’s remains were disinterred in Granbury and in Missouri, and the Missouri skeleton’s DNA matched other James descendants. No such proof has been established for Booth, though, at least not to my knowledge.

Tuesday’s newspaper article interested me on several levels.

One, I just finished reading Bill O’Reilly’s excellent book, KILLING LINCOLN. I admit chose it only because it was the month’s selection for Book Divas, a monthly book club to which I belong. Imagine my surprise when I loved the book. In fact, Hero, Darling Daughter 2, and I read this book and each of us loved it! The fast-paced story reads like a novel and includes several things I hadn’t known before. But that’s for another day.

The other thing that fascinated me about the Star-Telegram article (and the reason Brenda alerted me) is that several of my books take place in the area of Hell’s Gate, now on Possum Kingdom Lake. Yep, life is imitating fiction again. Well, considering the article is about a movie, based partly on life, I guess that’s fiction too.

The first of my books that included Hell’s Gate was OUT OF THE BLUE, a contemporary time travel in which clairvoyant healer Deirdre Dougherty from 1845 Ireland jumps from a cliff into the Atlantic Ocean, but plops down into Possum Kingdom Lake in Texas. Yep, she lands right at the base of the cliff formation known as Hell’s Gate. Poor dear, she’s a good Catholic girl and believes she’s landed in Purgatory at the literal gates of Hell. Fortunately, she’s the key to helping Detective Brendan Hunter solve the mystery of who killed his partner and is trying to kill him. OUT OF THE BLUE is available from The Wild Rose Press at and at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

I love the Possum Kingdon area, and it’s also the locale for my current historical Men of Stone Mountain trilogy about the Stone brothers: Micah, Zach, and Joel. Micah’s story is the first, titled BRAZOS BRIDE. I'm currently writing the second book, HIGH STAKES BRIDE. Of course, the Stone brothers lived there decades before the Brazos River was damned to form the lake. While they were alive (sorry, but I always think my characters are real people), the river was wide and treacherous.

For instance, my 104-year-old-friend told me her parents once tried crossing the river about a year after they were married. Their wagon and team sank into the river’s quicksand. Obviously her parents escaped, but they lost all their goods as well as the wagon and team. Her mother was pregnant with her oldest brother at the time, and the couple had to walk all the way back to Weatherford where her grandparents lived. (Life was hard back then, but her parents had nine long-lived children, of whom three are still alive.) Hers is not the only tale of quicksand, which is why I related a similar incident in BRAZOS BRIDE, available from Amazon Kindle

Out of curiosity, I’ll be looking for this DVD. The film was shot in Glen Rose, Granbury, and near Hell’s Gate. The director and most of the actors are originally from Texas, so that’s another reason for me to see the movie.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, June 18, 2012


Please welcome our guest author today, Lauren Clark. Lauren is blogstorming her way across the web to promote her latest release, DANCING NAKED IN DIXIE. You can learn about Lauren's offer of a free book at the end of this post.

Author Lauren Clark

Caroline: Readers love to get to know authors. Please tell us about growing up.

Lauren: I had a really wonderful, idyllic childhood. I lived in a small town in Upstate New York, walked to school, played sports (field hockey, soccer, swimming), and was a cheerleader. I was NOT shy. I was precocious--in fact, my mother tells a story about how I slipped away from her in a department store when I was four years old, got into the elevator, and was met by a saleslady who asked me "Where are you going?" Evidently, I looked at her and said, "I'm going UP."

I am married with two boys, ages 7 and 14, and they are my world. I'm the mom who goes along on all of the field trips, loves to help with school projects, and cheer on my children in whatever they decide to pursue! I'm so happy that they adore books as much as I do--my 14 year-old has his own Kindle. I also love being silly with my boys--we make up stories, build Legos, play superheroes (I regularly tease my 7 year-old by telling him that I am "Super Mommy to the Rescue" with a pink cape and boots ... and he rolls his eyes and laughs. It's our special joke!)

Caroline: Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?

Lauren: Sophie Kinsella, Emily Giffin, Jennifer Weiner, Juliette Sobanet, and Dina Silver are among my favorite Chick Lit authors. I also love reading psychological thrillers ... I've been on a Lisa Gardner kick lately. I guess that I need a little dark suspense to balance out the light romance!

Caroline: When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?

Lauren: Spending time with family and friends is number one! We love to swim, boat, ski, bike, and spend time outdoors. My parents have a cottage in the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York and we all adore spending time there. I've been doing Pure Barre for the past two months. It's one of the most difficult workouts I've ever done, but it's pretty amazing in terms of results.

Caroline: Describe yourself in three or four words.

Lauren: Strong. Caring. Friendly. Creative.

Caroline: Would you like to share any guilty pleasures that feed your muse?

Lauren: Reading authors that I really admire (Sophie Kinsella, Jodi Picoult, Emily Giffin), talking to interesting people who have fascinating jobs, and hearing stories about people who overcome insurmountable life challenges.

Caroline: How long have you been writing?

Lauren: I started trying to write stories as a teenager, but had a lot of distractions (sports, cheerleading, school, boys) so I didn't stick with it. When it came to college, I went into Journalism and Public Relations, so spent a lot of time interviewing, editing, and writing. That said, it was good experience, but it wasn't the same as learning how to write fiction.

Caroline: Where do you prefer to write? PC or laptop?

Caroline: I prefer to write at home, but that never seems to work out very well! There are so many distractions and responsibilities that I have there, so I find that it's best to leave it all for a few hours (while the kids are in school) and go to the library. It's so quiet, they have wonderful study rooms with big windows that let the sunlight in, and they allow coffee or tea -- as long as you bring a lid!  Yay! (And I'm a Macbook girl, btw.)

Caroline: Are you a plotter or a panzer?

Lauren: Plotter. Definitely.

Caroline: Do you do your research before you begin a new project, or as you go along?

Lauren: I like to do most of my research before I begin a new project. I keep a folder for each novel, filling it with facts about the area (climate, population, businesses), photos of the city or town I'm writing about, details about special events, magazine articles, etc.

Caroline: Tell us about your writing schedule. Do you set goals? Do you write daily?

Lauren: I try to write five days a week when I am working on the first draft or revisions for a novel. I shoot for one thousand to fifteen hundred words a day.

Caroline: Do you write full time or do you have a day job. If you have a day job, what is it?

Lauren: I'm a full-time writer now...and a mom as well. I worked full-time for many years, though, as a television news anchor and reporter, a public relations exec, a customer relations trainer for a hospital, and a pharmaceutical company sales representative.

Caroline: Tell us something about yourself that might surprise readers.

Lauren: I used to have a horrible, awful, paralyzing phobia of speaking in front of people. I actually had a panic attack when I was talking to a small group of volunteers who worked for a domestic violence shelter. A year or two later, I was sent to Portland, Oregon for an intensive customer service training program. I didn't realize that, for a week straight, we would did nothing but get up in front of the group and make presentations. By the time I decided to go into TV news, I'd gotten over my fears. There's nothing like trial by fire!

Caroline: What is something unusual you learned while researching and writing this book?

Lauren: I knew that Eufaula's old jail (built back in the late 1800s) was moved and, most recently, was converted into a hair salon. What I didn't realize was that the jail had only two cells:  One side for men, the second side for women and lunatics.

Caroline: Obviously, that jail was built by men who believed women were little more than lunatics. LOL What do you hope your writing brings to readers?

Lauren: I hope that my books are entertaining and provide an escape into a world they wouldn't otherwise experience (i.e. DANCING NAKED IN DIXIE explores a historic town in the Deep South, STAY TUNED goes behind the scenes in the television news industry). I hope readers are also inspired by my strong, yet flawed, protagonists who take on tough challenges, take chances, and find happiness.

Caroline: What advice would you give to unpublished authors?

Lauren: Write a lot, read a lot. It's Stephen King's advice in ON WRITING, but it rings true for everyone who wants to be an author.

It takes a long time for most people to get a handle on the process--from finding his or her voice, to deciding on the type of stories to write, to having the endurance to finish an 80,000-word manuscript. Rarely will a writer's first draft be a best seller. A really good book takes a lot of time, revision, learning, and editing. Dixie is the sixth novel I've written. (And no one will see the first few because they were not very good!)

Caroline: Good advice. Tell us about your latest release.

Lauren: It's really a story about a career girl finding happiness, love, and her place in the world where she least expects it. Without getting too deep, I think Dixie also looks at a woman allowing herself to be vulnerable (and emotionally naked, if you will). While it's scary, it also opens her up to finding love and happiness. Julia's been closed up, hurt, and guarded for so long that it takes visiting Eufaula and being humbled by the kindness of strangers to strip away all that she's built up to protect herself.


Travel writer Julia Sullivan lives life in fast-forward. She jet sets to Europe and the Caribbean with barely a moment to blink or sleep. But too many mishaps and missed deadlines have Julia on the verge of being fired.

With a stern warning, and unemployment looming, she's offered one last chance to rescue her career. Julia embarks on an unlikely journey to the ‘Heart of Dixie’—Eufaula, Alabama—home to magnificent mansions, sweet tea, and the annual Pilgrimage.

Julia arrives, soon charmed by the lovely city and her handsome host, but her stay is marred by a shocking discovery. Can Julia's story save her career, Eufaula, and the annual Pilgrimage?


Chapter 1
“The new editor needs you, Julia.” A stern summons from Dolores Stanley leaps over the cubicles and follows me like a panther stalking its prey.  
“Just give me a minute,” I beg with a wide smile, sailing by the front office and a row of hunch-shouldered executive assistants. Steaming Starbucks in hand, my new powder-white jacket stuffed in the crook of my arm, I give a quick wave over my shoulder.
I am, after all, late, a bit jet-lagged, and on deadline.
A very tight deadline.
A glance at my watch confirms two hours and counting to finish the article. I walk faster. My heart twists a teensy bit.
I don’t mean to get behind. Really. It just sort of happens.
But that’s all going to change, starting today. I’m going to organize my life. Work, home, all of it. I’ll be able to check email on the road, never miss an appointment, and keep up with all of my deadlines.
Just as soon as I can find the instruction manual to my new iPhone. And my earpiece.  
Anyway, it’s going to be great!
So great, that I’m not the least bit panicked when I round the corner and see my desk. Which, by the way, is wallpapered in post-it notes, flanked by teetering stacks of mail, and littered with random packages. Even my voicemail light is flashing furiously.
Before I can take another step, the phone starts ringing.
In my rush to snatch it up, I trip and nearly fall over a pile of books and magazines someone carelessly left behind. My briefcase lands on my foot and excruciating pain shoots through my toes.
“Darn it all!” I exclaim. Other choice expressions shuttle through my brain as I catch the edge of the chair with one hand to steady myself. I frown at the offending mess on the floor. Who in the world ...?
Until in dawns on me. Oh, right. I left it all there in my rush to make the red-eye to Rome. My fault. I close my eyes, sigh deeply, and the strap of my canvas bag tumbles off my shoulder. Everything – keys, mascara, lip gloss, spare change—falls onto the desk top with a huge clatter. Letters and papers flutter to the floor like confetti in the Macy’s Day parade.
Just as Dolores sounds off again, her voice raspy and caffeine-deprived.
“Now, Julia.”
My spine stiffens.
“Be right there,” I call out in my most dutiful employee voice. Right after I scoop up this mess, find my notes, and calm down.
As I crouch down and start to search through my briefcase, a head full of thick silver curls and a pair of wire-rimmed glasses appear over the nubby blue paneling.
“Hey, before you rush off,” Marietta whispers, “how was Italy? Was it gorgeous, wonderful?”
“Marvelous,” I smile broadly at my closest friend and conjure up a picture postcard of sun-drenched Tuscany. Five cities, seven days. The pure bliss of nothing but forward motion. “From the sound of it, I should have stayed another day.”
Marietta sips her latte and studies my face.
It’s the understatement of the year. I hate to admit it, but the prospect of inhabiting an office cubicle for a week intimidates me more than missing the last connection from Gatwick and sleeping on the airport floor. Claustrophobia takes over. I actually get hives from sitting still too long.
Most days, I live out of suitcases. And couldn’t be happier!  
I’m a travel writer at Getaways magazine. Paid for the glorious task of gathering up fascinating snippets of culture and piecing them into quirky little stories. Jet-setting to the Riviera, exploring the Great Barrier Reef, basking on Bermuda beaches. It’s as glamorous and exhilarating as I imagined.
Okay, it is a tad lonely, from time to time. And quite exhausting.
Which is precisely why I have to get organized. Today.
I sink into my chair and try to concentrate. What to tackle first? Think, think.
“Julia Sullivan!”
Third reminder from Dolores. Uh-oh.
Marietta rolls her eyes and jerks a thumb toward the inevitable. “Guess you better walk the plank,” she teases. “New guy’s waiting. Haven’t met him yet, but I’ve heard he’s the ‘take no prisoners’ sort. Hope you come back alive.”
I grope for something witty and casual to say, but all of a sudden, my head feels light and hollow.
I’ve been dying to find out about the magazine’s new editor and my new boss.
Every last gory detail.
Until now.
“I’m still in another time zone,” I offer up to Marietta with a weak smile. My insides toss from side to side, churning as I slide out of my chair.
Marietta tosses me a wry look. “Nice try. Get going already, sport.”
I tilt my head toward the hallway and pretend to pout. When I look back, Marietta’s already disappeared. Smart girl.
“Fine, fine.” I tug a piece of rebellious auburn hair into place, smooth my wool suit, and begin to march toward the inevitable.
My neck prickles.
I’m not going to worry. Not much anyway.
My pulse thuds.
Not going to worry about change. Or re-organization. Or pink slips.
Focus, Julia.
At least half of the NATJA awards hanging in the lobby are mine.
The last three editors adored me.
The best projects land in my lap. Almost always.
Well, there was the one time I was passed over for St. Barts, but I’m sure what’s-her-name just had PMS that day. And I did get Morocco in February.
This last trip to Italy? Hands-down, one of the choice assignments.
I round the corner and come within an inch from Dolores Stanley’s bulbous nose. As I step back, her thin red lips fold into a minus sign. Chanel No. 5 wraps around me like a toxic veil.
Dolores is the magazine’s oldest and crankiest employee. Everyone’s afraid of her. To be perfectly honest, Dolores doesn’t like anyone, except Marietta—and the guy in accounting who signs her paycheck. And that’s only twice a month.
Most of the office avoids her like she’s been quarantined with a deadly virus. “Good morning, Dolores,” I say with forced cheer.
As expected, she ignores me completely. Instead, Dolores heaves her purple polyester-clad bottom up off the chair, and lumbers toward the editor’s office. Breathing hard, she pushes open the huge mahogany door, frowns, and tosses in my name like a careless football punt.
I follow the momentum, shoulders back, hoping Dolores doesn’t notice that my hands are clenched together so they won’t shake.
Stop it, Julia. No worries, right?
Dolores pauses and murmurs something that sounds like ‘good luck’. Wait. Dolores wished me luck? That freaks me out completely. I want to run. Or fall to the floor, hand pressed to my forehead, prompting someone to call the paramedics.
Too late. The door clicks shut behind me. The office already smells different. Masculine, earthy, like leather and sand. I crane my neck to see the new person’s face, but the high-back chair blocks my view; an occasional tap-tap on a keyboard the only sound in the room.
I fill my lungs, exhale, and wait.  
Light streams onto the desk, now piled high with newspapers, memos, and several back issues of Getaways. A navy Brooks Brothers jacket hangs in the corner.
I gaze out the window at the majestic skyscrapers lining Broadway; a blur of activity hidden behind a silver skin of glass and metal. A taxi ride away, three international airports bustle with life. Jets ready to whisk me away at a moment’s notice. My pulse starts to race just thinking about it …
“Not in a big hurry to meet the boss?”
The gruff voice startles me. My knees lock up.
“Sir?” I play innocent and hope he’ll blame Dolores.
The chair spins around. Two large feet plop on the desk and cross at the ankles. My eyes travel up well-dressed legs, a starched shirt, a red silk tie, and settle on a pair of dark eyes that almost match mine.
For a moment, nothing works. My brain, my mouth, I can’t breathe. It absolutely, positively may be the worst shock-of-my-life come true.
“David?” I stutter like a fool, and gather up my composure from where it’s fallen around my feet.
 The broad, easy grin is the same. But the hair is now salt-and-pepper. The face, more weather-beaten than I remembered.
“I told them you’d be surprised.” David’s face flashes from smug to slightly apologetic.
I say nothing. It’s the understatement of the year.
“They talked me out of retirement.” David folds his arms across his chest and leans back. “Said they had to have me.”
“I’ll bet,” I offer with a cool nod.
His face reveals nothing. “Not going to be a problem, is it?”
Of course it is! I dig my fingernails into my palm, shake my head, and manage to force up the corners of my mouth.
“Good.” David slides his feet off the desk and thumbs through a pile of magazines.
I stand motionless, watching his hands work. They are thick and tanned. The familiar flash of gold on his left hand is gone. I glower at his bare finger, incensed, to the point of nearly missing all that he’s saying. I watch David’s mouth move; he’s gesturing.
“…And so, we’re going to be going in a new direction.” He narrows his eyes. “Julia?”
I wrench my eyes away from his ring finger and nod. “A new direction,” I repeat in a stupid, sing-song voice.
David frowns. With a smooth flick of his wrist, he tosses a Getaways across the desk. It lands inches from my hand. He motions for me to take it.
“The latest issue,” he says casually.
Gingerly, I reach for it. And choke. That’s funny, I purse my lips. Funny strange. The cover story was supposed to be mine. My feet start to tingle. I want to run.
Instead, I force myself to calm down, and begin paging through for article and stunning photos I’d submitted—shots of the sapphire-blue water, honey-gold beaches, and the lush green landscape.
With forced nonchalance, I search through the pages. Flip. Flip. Flip. In a minute, I’m halfway through the magazine. No article. No Belize. No nothing. My fingers don’t want to work anymore. I feel sick.
“Julia, what is it? You look a little pale.” David prods. He leans back in his chair and stares at me with an unreadable expression.
I continue looking. Where is my article? Buried in the middle? Hidden in the back? More pages. I look up at David, who meets my dismay with a steady gaze.
What kind of game is he playing?
I yank my chin up. “No, nothing’s wrong,” I say lightly. “Not a thing.”
Inside, I’m screaming like a lunatic. There must be a mistake. My bottom lip trembles the slightest bit. I blink. Surely, I wasn’t going to … lose my …
“It was junk. Pure and simple.” David interrupts, the furrows on his forehead now more pronounced. He jumps up and folds his arms across his chest. “Bland, vanilla. The article screamed boring. It was crap.”
Crap? Don’t mince any words, David. He might as well have toss a bucket of ice water on my head. I shiver and watch him start pacing.
“Let me ask you this.” David stops walking back and forth, puts his fists on the desk, and leans in. “How much time did you actually spend writing and researching the article? Just give me a rough estimate. In hours or days?” David’s finished making his point. He sits down and begins glancing through a manila folder.
My mind races. Last month? Right. Trip to Belize.
Focus. Try to focus.
I fidget and tap out an uneven rhythm with the toe of my shoe. Excuses jumble in my head, swirling like my brain is on spin cycle.
David clears his throat. He opens a manila folder, thumbs through it, then gazes at me with the force of a steam-driven locomotive. “Are you taking care of yourself? Taking your … prescriptions?”
The words cut like a winter wind off the Baltic Sea.
I grope for words. My thoughts fall through my fingers.
My attention deficit isn’t exactly a secret. Most everyone knows it’s been a problem in the past. But things are under control … it’s all been fine.
Until now.
I start to seethe. David continues to gaze intently and wait for my reply.
What are you, a psychiatrist? I want to spout. Not to mention all of the HR rules you’re breaking by asking me that.
“I’m off the medication. Doctor’s orders. Have been for several years,” I answer, managing to give him a haughty, the-rest-is-none-of-your-business look.
David backs off with a swivel of his chair. “Sorry. Just concerned,” He says, holding one cuff-linked hand in the air. “So, exactly how much time did you spend on the article?” David enunciates each word, stabbing them through my skin like daggers.
“Five hours,” I blurt out, immediately wishing I could swallow the words and say twelve. “Maybe seven,” I look at the floor and try not to fidget. My bruised toe stares back at me.
David makes a noise. I don’t look. Then, I realize he’s laughing. At me. At my enormous fib.
I want to run, jump, hide. Anything to get away.
Head bent, David flips through a set of papers. He pauses at a small stack. I recognize the coffee stain on one edge and the crinkled corner. My article.
“Let me quote verbatim to you, Ms. Sullivan,” he says, his tone mocking. “Belize offers the best of both worlds, lovely beaches and a bustling city full of good restaurants. One can find both fascinating art work and treasure hunt for souvenirs downtown.”
He stops.
Surely, my article was better. He must have the draft. Oh, there wasn’t a draft. Oops. Because I hadn’t allowed myself much time. Come to think of it, I banged most of it out on the taxi ride from the airport. I accidentally threw away most of my notes in a shopping bag, which wasn’t really my fault. I was late for my plane. And then—
“So, I killed it.” David ceremoniously holds the papers over the trash can and lets go.
I watch the white papers float, then settle to their final resting place. Maybe I should jump in after them? My legs start to ache from sitting still. I want to fidget. Why did I wear these stupid Prada pumps that pinch my left heel?
“But, all is not lost,” David says dramatically. “I’ll give you a chance to redeem yourself.” He drums his fingers on the desk. “If you can up the caliber of your writing. Spend some time. Put your heart into it.”
I don’t say a word. Or make a sound. Because if I do, I’m sure to sputter out something I’ll regret. Or, God forbid, cry.
Redeem myself? Put my heart into it?
Deep breath. Okay, I can afford to work a teensy bit harder. Give a tad more effort here and there. But, the criticism. Ouch! And coming from David, it’s one hundred times worse. The award-winning super-journalist who circled the globe, blah, blah, blah.
David cracks his knuckles. “Look, I know it’s been tough since your mother’s illness and all.” His tone softens slightly. “Her passing away has been difficult for everyone.”
I manage not to leap over the desk and shake him by the shoulders. Difficult? How would he know? My blood pressure speeds up. Stay calm. Just a few more minutes. Doesn’t he have some other important meeting? An executive lunch to rush off to?
David drones on like he’s giving a sermon. I try to tune him out, but can’t help but hear the next part.
“Julia, it’s affected your writing. Immensely. And look at you. You’ve lost weight. You’re exhausted. I want you to know I understand your pain—”
“You don’t understand,” I cut in before I can stop myself. My mother died five years ago. She was sick for two years before that. I took care of her. I still miss her every day. Damn him. Get out of my personal life. And stay out.
We stare each other down, stubborn, gritty gunfighters in the Wild West.
“Fine,” David says evenly and breaks my gaze. “So, as you’ve heard, the magazine is going in a new direction. The focus group research says …” He glances down at some scribbled notes. “It says our American readers want to see more ‘out of the way’ places to visit. Road trips. A Route 66 feel, if you will.”
Focus groups. I forgot all about that obsession.
David pauses to make sure I’m listening. For once, he has my undivided attention.
“According to the numbers, they’re saturated with Paris, London, the Swiss Alps. They want off the beaten path. Local flavor.
So, we’re going to give it a shot. We’ll call it something along the lines of ‘Back Roads to Big Dreams.’”
What a horrible idea. I swallow hard. Our readers don’t want that! Who did he interview in these focus groups? The Beverly Hillbillies?
David continues, looking immensely pleased with the concept. “The emphasis is going to be on places and people who offer something special—perhaps historical or cultural—to their community. But the town or city has to be also looking toward the future. Planning how to thrive, socially and economically. It’s going to be part of a new series, if it turns out well.” David puts emphasis on ‘if’ and shoots me a look. “What do you think?”
Is he joking? He doesn’t want my opinion. Does he really think I like the idea?
David pauses. Apparently, he expects a response. An intelligent, supportive one.
“Sounds … interesting,” I manage to squeak out and shift uncomfortably. I predict that I’ll be spending a full day spinning half-truths. I’ll likely be offered a lifetime membership in Deceivers Anonymous if I don’t die first.
David snatches up his glasses. Glasses? When did he start wearing glasses?
“I know you’re our token globe-trotter, but I’d hoped you’d be more enthusiastic.” He taps his Mont Blanc on his mostly-buried desk calendar, and then points to the massive wall atlas. “I’m thinking Alabama.”
Something massive and thick catches in my throat. My head swivels to the lower portion of the map. I begin to cough uncontrollably.
Ever so calmly, David waits for me to quit.
When I catch my breath, my mind races with excuses. The words stumble out of my mouth, tripping over themselves. “But, I have plans. Every night next week. Tickets to the Met, a fundraiser, a gallery opening, and I have book club on Monday.” I don’t mention the Filene’s trip I’d planned. Or the romantic date I’ve been promising Andrew, my neglected boyfriend of four years.
David waves a hand to dismiss it all. “Marietta can handle the magazine-related responsibilities.” From the top drawer of his desk he produces an airline ticket and a manila folder with my name on it. He sets them on the edge of his desk. Something I can’t decipher plays on his lips.
I keep my voice even. “What about Bali?” I had planned to leave for the South Pacific a week from Friday. “It’s on my calendar. It’s been on there…”  
David shakes his head. “Not anymore.”
The words wound me like a thousand bee stings.
“Alabama,” David repeats.
My face grows hot. He’s plucked me off a plum assignment without a thought to my ability and my schedule. My new boss is sending me to God knows where and he looks perfectly content.
“If that’s my next assignment,” I sputter, “I’d rather…I’d rather dance naked!”
The announcement comes out much louder than I intend and reverberates through the room. Dolores probably has her ear pressed to the door, but the phrase bounces off my boss like a cotton ball.
David smothers a chuckle. “Suit yourself.”
“It’s a done deal, isn’t it?” I finally manage, my voice low and uneven. The answer is obvious. The airline ticket and folder are within my grasp. I don’t move a centimeter toward them. For all I know, the inside of one of them is coated with Anthrax. For a brief moment, I picture myself, drawing one last ragged breath, on the floor of David’s brand-spanking-new office carpeting.
“It’s your choice.” David swipes at his glasses, settles them on his nose, and swivels his chair toward the laptop. “Deadline’s a week from today. That’s next Wednesday. Five o’clock. Take it or leave it.”
I stifle an outward cringe at his tone and the way he’s spelling it out for me, syllable by syllable, like I’m a toddler caught with my hand in the cookie jar.
Take it or leave it.
Not the assignment. My job.
It’s your choice.
David’s fingers hit the keyboard. Click-clack. “Oh, and leave me your notes on Italy with Dolores. I’ll write the article myself.”
That’s it. The meeting’s over. I’m fuming. Furious. I want to rip up the papers an inch from his face and let a hailstorm of confetti fall to the carpet.
Take it or leave it.
I start to turn on my heel and walk out like we’d never had the conversation. David will come around, won’t he?
Then, I stop. It’s a joke. An awful, terrible joke. Do I have other job prospects? Do I want to change careers? What about my flat? What about the bills?
Fine. Okay. Have it your way, David.
I catch myself before I stick my tongue out. He probably has surveillance cameras set up on a 24-hour loop.
David knows I’m beaten.
So, I bend, ever so slightly. In one quick motion, I reach out to tuck the folder and ticket under my arm. In slow motion, papers slip through my fingers like water between the rocks of a stream.
Damn! I think I’ve said the words out loud, because the clatter of David’s awkward typing stops. But he doesn’t turn.
So much for a smooth exit.
On the ground lies a square white envelope and matching note card. I swoop down to gather my mess.
Though I’m trying not to notice, I can’t help but stare at the delicate pen and ink lines on the front of the card. There’s no lettering, just thin strokes of black that form the outline of a majestic mansion and its towering columns. Before I can stop myself, I flip open the note card, expecting a flowery verse or invitation. Some event I’ll be expected to attend for the magazine? A party?
But, there are only a few sentences inside, barely legible, scrawled in loopy, old-fashioned writing. David, Please help, I can make out. Underneath, a scribbled signature. An M, maybe?
Hmph. There’s no end to what people will do to get a story. Gifts, money, flowers, I’ve seen it all. Traded for a snippet of publicity.
I refold the note and hand it across the desk. It must not be very important, because David takes the card and sets it aside without glancing at it.
Necessary papers tucked securely in the crook of my arm, I straighten up, flick an imaginary piece of lint off my skirt with my free hand, and begin to walk out. My feet brush the carpet in small, level steps.
My hand reaches for the doorknob. I am inches from the hallway.
“Have fun! Don’t forget to check in,” David calls after me. “Oh, and send a postcard.”
I scowl.
That’s low. Lower than low. He knows I collect postcards. Make that used to. In my past life. I want to stomp out—have a proper four-year old temper tantrum. Be in control, I tell myself. Keep your chin up. Walk. His voice is ringing in my ears.
David can go to Hell!
I make the most horrible, gruesome face I can think of.
Surveillance cameras be damned.

Caroline: Where can readers find your books?
From Amazon for print and Kindle
For Nook

Caroline: Anything else you’d like readers to know?

Lauren: I really panicked about the title. I was unsure that readers would like it and didn’t want anyone to think it was erotica. The members of a book club I visited changed my mind—I was there talking about my first novel, STAY TUNED, and someone asked about my next book. When I shared the title, everyone was really excited, so I knew then that I had to keep the “Naked” in Dixie.

Caroline: How can readers learn more about you?

Lauren: - !/LaurenClark_Bks

Thanks for sharing with us today, Lauren.

Readers, the person who leaves the most comments on Lauren's tour will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card. To increase your chances of winning, follow her at the following url:

Thanks for stopping by!