Friday, August 26, 2011

THE EXCITING STORY OF AUTHOR CAROLINE CLEMMONS!

That’s a Big, Fat Lie, of course! Mine is not an exciting story, but I had to get your attention, didn't I? Here I go with the not-so-exciting story of me.

Mom, Dad, and I in CA - I
may be wearing a skirt, but
in my heart I was a cowgirl!
See band-aid on my knee.
When I was a baby, my parents and I moved from Dodson in North Texas to Bakersfield in Southern California. Those are my first memories. We were near my half-siblings and life was good for everyone, especially me. Some of my best memories are of those CA years, even though I was asthmatic and anemic and generally puny. Eventually I contracted San Joaquin Fever and it attacked my lungs. My lungs worsened and, when I was seven, we were advised to leave the San Joaquin Valley or I would die. My father was doing well as a home builder, but instead of just moving to another part of California, my parents returned to Texas and the cotton business. Dad looked much younger than his chronological age, but he was still too old at 58 to have to relocate for a sick kid. When he saw me feeling better, though, he said the move was worth it. What a guy! He was 61 when my baby brother was born, Mom was 38, and I was ten. In retrospect it scares me to think of coping with a baby at Dad's age, but he did fine. I was the happiest, to finally have a younger sibling.

Dale Evans and Roy Rogers
My dream then was to ride the range with Roy Rogers, saving the west from all the rustlers and bank robbers I’d seen in the movies. I was thrilled to move to Texas and knew any minute I would see cowboys. Cowboys would be everywhere! How disappointing we moved to a cotton farming area where my dad managed a cotton gin. Talk about disappointed, my mom was crushed when I shunned a doll for my 8th birthday in favor of a Roy Rogers holster and cap gun. I was ready for the bad guys!

Dad tried to tell me that Texas was not at all as portrayed in the movies. A few weeks after we settled in our new home in West Texas, we traveled to Hollis, Oklahoma to visit my grandmother. The route took us through a ranching area and, sure enough, we saw cowboys on horses herding cattle for a fall roundup. I was over the moon. (Poor Dad. Moral: Don't tell your kids something is impossible because God has a sense of humor and always makes you eat your words.) From then on I knew Texas was the right place for me! Yeehaw, cowgirl!

Carolne at age 12,
a Nancy Drew
 wannabe
Although I have never lost my own love for cowboys, as a young girl in Lubbock, Texas I lost myself in books such as the Nancy Drew series and those by Louisa May Alcott. Every spare minute, I could be found with my nose in a book. Still can.

My best friend and I decided we would be detectives a la Nancy Drew. We were twelve, and nearly investigated too much. When we almost encountered a real-life criminal, our parents' threats of dire consequences ended our detective adventures. My friend moved away, but I'm sure it had nothing to do with me being a bad influence. Really. You can trust me on this.

Not to be daunted, I decided I would become a world famous reporter like Lois Lane. (No, I was never a practical person.) I did take several years of journalism classes, spent a year as editor of my school paper, and won several state awards. From then on, I was the publicity person or newsletter editor for every club or church group I joined--and I joined a lot as you'll see way below. Years later, as I’d done all my adult life, I submitted to the local newspaper several captioned photos and stories for a couple of community groups to which I belonged. We'd only lived in that town a year when, one day the editor greeted me and told me they'd just fired their featured columnist because she kept saying nothing happened. The editor asked if I’d like to get paid for writing the kind of stories I had just submitted. Paid? For what I did anyway? You bet!

But I explained I had two severely asthmatic children who were frequently ill. She said I could work from home when they were ill and that when they were in school I could come in after I took them to school and leave in time to pick them up. What a deal! Small newspapers do not pay small-time reporters/featured columnists much money, so I was definitely not getting rich. My husband figured that as much time as I spent searching leads and interviewing people, I made around fifty cents an hour. The good thing was that I was doing something I loved that was fun. Soon I knew half the people in the community. But, as engineers often do, we moved. Bye bye newspaper job.

Rare photo with me in it. Usually I take the photos.
Bea, me, and Stephanie. Bea is no longer a blonde,
and now I am blonde.After all, Anerica is where
women grow blonde as they age. Right?
This is one of my favorite photos of our daughters.
 Of course, my all-time favorite job had been stay-at-home mom! Best job in the world. But after working as a reporter/featured columnist, my next job was as assistant to the managing editor of a psychology journal at Texas Christian University. Great fodder for developing characters. After that, I worked as a bookkeeper. Then, one day, my husband told me that unless I simply liked working, I should quit and write full time. Woohoo! I did not hesitate and turned in my resignation the following day. Now, I’m a full-time writer. Ooh, I feel so empowered! Broke, but empowered.

Our Texas Pioneer,
Thomas Vestal Johnson
 Probably my love for Southwestern history was inspired by my dad’s stories of his family coming to Texas from Georgia in 1876. I loved hearing the tales of covered wagons, half dugouts, gunfights, fording rivers, founding a town, and all the other stories he told. I’d ask him to repeat them over and over because I never tired of them. A couple of history teachers also fueled my love for history, one in junior high and one at Texas Tech. I continue to immerse myself in history books so that my historical writing is as credible and accurate as I can achieve.

Several years earlier, my mother-in-law had brought me a grocery bag of romance novels her cousin had given her. My mother-in-law, who generally didn’t approve of me all that much, said she believed I could write a romance. She insisted my long, long letters to her about our family were like chapters from a book. My husband agreed that I could write a book and encouraged me. The main problem, in my oh-so-naive opinion, was that I was not a very good typist. I pounded chapters on the typewriter, thinking we should buy stock in Liquid Paper and carbons to get some return on what I used.

Hallelujah!
But then, (hear the angels singing?) we got a home computer! The sun shone brighter, the birds sang happier songs, and all was right with the world. No longer did I need to buy Liquid Paper by the case. I could cut and paste paragraphs. No more messy carbon paper. I could delete or backspace. On the computer keyboard, I could type really, really fast. I was going to be a famous writer just like my ideal, Nora Roberts!

Nora Roberts--not like me!

Sigh. Sadly, that’s not how it's turned out. The first book I wrote was bad. Sad and bad. Reading is not the same as writing. But then, I heard about Romance Writers of America and learned where the local chapter met. Each month speakers taught foreign (to me) subjects like character arc, point of view, pacing, hero's journey, developing characters, and more. The chapter had workshops and conferences. I found critique partners, some good and some really bad. I took a community ed class in writing fiction to sell. I read craft books. Eventually, my writing improved and is still evolving.

Now on Kindle
for 99 cents
Four women from the local RWA chapter sold to a new line at Kensington and told me the name of the acquiring editor. She bought my contemporary romance and it was released in 1998. It’s now on Kindle and Smashwords as BE MY GUEST. Next came western historicals THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE (Kincaids Book 1), THE MOST UNSUITABLE HUSBAND (Kincaids Book 2), and the novella HAPPY IS THE BRIDE. But then, tragedy struck. Western historicals fell out of general favor, I fell out of specific favor with the marketing director for reasons that I won't discuss here, and Kensington dropped me. A crushing blow for any author. My backlist is on Kindle, though, for 99 cents each and selling pretty well. The books are also on Smashwords.

Doesn't he look
sweet and soulful?
He's a great hero.
For several years I floundered around, writing westerns that I never submitted and writing cozy mysteries that I also never submitted (although one is now at an editor's desk) and feeling generally depressed about my non-career. Then some friends on a private loop invited me to participate in an anthology for The Wild Rose Press. Six of us each wrote a novella set around the Civil War. It was fun, but if you split a small royalty six ways, guess what? No cash, but we did final in the 2009 EPIC contest. Now I have the rights back to the novella, and it’s on Kindle as LONG WAY HOME. I love writing for The Wild Rose Press. Great editors, beautiful covers, lovely group of people. And they like western historicals! What could be better? Oh, yeah, NY Times bestselling author, right? Still, I love The Wild Rose Press and their staff and other authors. 

5 Hearts from TRS
So I submitted and they published the contemporary time travel OUT OF THE BLUE, western historicals THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE and novella SAVE YOUR HEART FOR ME, and the western contemporary HOME, SWEET TEXAS HOME. And hooray! HOME, SWEET TEXAS HOME has just received a 5 Heart review from The Romance Studio. Here's the buy link in case you're tempted, and I really hope your are: www.thewildrosepress.com/caroline-clemmons-m-638.html

The Wild Rose Press doesn't publish mysteries, so this week I've listed one of my mysteries with Kindle. ALMOST HOME is about a deputy sheriff, Link Dixon, who leaves Dallas PD and returns to his small hometown with his son after the death of his wife. Link thinks of his hometown as a haven from the world's problems, a wholesome place safe for his son to grow up surrounded by extended family--until he learns nothing stays the same and Mayberry has become America's Most Wanted. ALMOST HOME is the first of a series. Think Bill Crider's Sheriff Dan Rhodes meets Joan Hess' Maggody. Sort of. It's available for $2.99.
Me (left) back in my join-everything
days with my friend Marjorie King and
forrmer Texas Governor Ann Richards
at a reception given by our local
Business and Professional Women
for Ann Richard's campaign.
 Lest you think my life has been narrow and shallow, I have to tell you that during all this time I volunteered for community services like Meals on Wheels, the area food pantry, and in several areas of our church. Well, some of my life was fairly shallow--bridge clubs and garden clubs and such. Participating in League of Women Voters and Business and Professional Women seemed right at the time, though I have to admit I'd much rather write than attend either now. I am still involved with our church, in a book club, and in RWA chapters.

This is a stock photo. I don't have a
photo of my ribbons. They were
for peach jan, grape jelly, crab
apple jelly, and green beans.
My husband and I used to have a large garden and through the years I've canned hundreds of jars of vegetables and fruit, and made enough jelly and jam to send the entire state into a diabetic coma. On a cold winter day, nothing compares to the satisfaction of opening your pantry and taking out a jar of something you canned in the summer. But let me assure you that if you have a hectic schedule and positively cannot process fruit or vegetables on a certain day, that's the day the produce is ready to can! I also made crafts until I overdosed on them, but still enjoy painting in oils and water colors--just not as much as writing. At the State Fair of Texas I won ribbons (some blue) for my canning, and years ago at garden shows for floral arrangements and cut flowers. While I served as PTA President I helped pass needed legislation to protect our school children from stores selling alcoholic beverages nearby. Like many of you, I was a home room mother, school volunteer, and Brownie and Girl Scout leader. In short, I participated in all the things we do as parts of life and being a mom, wife, and daughter. Those are rich memories I treasure--but I like writing better than anything except being with my family!

Me behind Hero at a
party several years ago
Writing now is a balm for my soul. I love it, but I admit I neglect writing sometimes to spend more time with my husband. We've each had some health scares in the past few years and I realized that every minute together is precious. He is a wonderful man! I call him Hero on my blog because that’s who he is. My hero! He cooks for me, takes care of me, and supports all my schemes to the best of his ability--even my crazy ones. (Please don't ask him about my venture with our younger daughter into the antique business!) Our daughters bring us joy, but we don’t see them as often as we’d like. We live on a small acreage in the cutting horse area of North Central Texas with our dog and two cats and the wildlife that comes for our birdseed, birdbath, and pan of water. I'm finally living where real-life cowboys are a normal sight!

Through writing I’ve made wonderful friends and met amazing people who understand that hearing voices in your head is not unusual. My personal voices want me to write down their stories, and I can do that. I hope readers enjoy learning about these characters that spring from my subconscious. There are many more characters asking me to tell their stories.

Thanks for reading. Y'all come back now, ya hear?

18 comments:

  1. Sweet Caroline : ) What a wonderful, wonderful post & pictures! I wish my mom was still here with me to read your posts. My grandfather used to have bring my mom, her brother and sister, and their cousins to town every Saturday so that they could see the western movies at the local theater. When they got back home, they would play cowboys and ride their stick horses. You'd have to look far and wide to find a better role model than Roy Rogers. A true gentleman, and so handsome and talented. His good heart and personality shine through his eyes! I love hearing about your mom and dad and your family memories. For me sharing my family stories keeps them alive and makes me feel like they are still here, even for just a little while. I am so glad that you have your own personal Hero, and that you continue to write books and share your thoughts in your blog posts. Your books are on my TBR list--soon : )

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  2. Whew! For someone who had a not so exciting life, you sure have had some great adventures! Oh, Caroline, I loved reading every word of this. This clinches it--we're definitely related. I had asthma and we had to move to the High Plains of Texas for the dry air. Imagine! I was instantly cured--I guess. How do I know?
    We also had relatives in Bakersfield.
    So, you see even more ways that you and I have been connected out entire lives....and still are...even though we never knew until recently.
    What a gift you've given us, with the photos and a glimpse of your and your precious family.
    Celia

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  3. Hi, Caroline! I enjoyed reading your life story! I suspect most writers lead ordinary lives, while conjuring up exciting escapades in their heads that end up as books and stories.

    Great cover for The Long Way Home! Glad to see you're getting your stories out there in whichever form you can. You are a fantastic writer!

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  4. Caroline, I enjoyed so much your life story and humor. Great photos too, of blondes and not blondes anymore, and your handsome hunk. Can't type more as I'm heading to the airport.

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  5. Carolyn, Carolyn, Carolyn - It IS an Exciting Story, and your love of westerns and cowboys is so much a part of you. But I never knew about the ribbons at the State Fair of Texas! Yay, you!

    Really enjoyed reading your story, and could not help but smile at the photo of you as a little girl. The expression is soooo familiar. ((hugs)) ~ Ashley

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  6. I'm an old Roy rogers fan, too. And I loved my cap pistol and holster. Kindred spirits. Simply loved your post and am wishing you much success.

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  7. What a lovely story, Caroline! I am impressed with your long list of books. This new Amazon/Smashwords revolution works perfectly for someone like you with a load of backlist.

    I wish you all the success in the world. And I think westerns are definitely back in favor at Hqn.

    I thoroughly enjoyed your story.
    Lynne

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  8. What a wonderful life, Caroline! I live in Oklahoma where cowboys are a regular sight too. I so enjoyed your trip through time. Parts of it reminded me of my own parents, both now gone. Thank you.

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  9. Fun learning more about you, Caroline!

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  10. What a delightful read, Caroline. You most definitely have had an interesting life. I chuckled when I saw that photo of you in your little skirt with straps...I am sure there is a photo like that of me somewhere. Maybe our clothes came from the same place.

    It was so fun to get to know who you are and what you've done in your life so far.

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  11. Virginia, I used to go to the movies while my mom shopped for groceries and went to the laundromat. I just sat there and visited with my friends and watched the movie over and over until my mom came to get me. Couldn't do that now. Thanks for reading my books.

    Cousin Celia, I am continually amazed at the coincidences we share.

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  12. Carolyn,
    What great photos. :-) Loved hearing more about you and your writing.
    If we'd lived close to each other, we would have been dangerous. I was also into Nancy Drew and the Little Women stories, as well as the follow up stories like Jo's Boys. We could have had great escapades and gotten into all kinds of trouble. ;-)

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  13. Caroline, what a fascinating life you've led! We'll have to have a chat off loop one of these days about canning. I grew up watching my Grandma can tomatoes and peaches and the like every year, but I just never learned now. I've always wanted to.

    I love that you dabble in crafts and painting as well as write. I have cousins who are phenomenal crafters and a mom who knits and crochets beautiful blankets...but all I can do well is write, LOL.

    A great blog, I loved learning all these new things about you!

    Hugs,

    Nic

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  14. Thanks, ladies. I so appreciate you reading the blog and taking time to comment.

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  15. Caroline, I just love your books! Thanks for giving us a peek into your exciting life. Okay, maybe not all that exciting every minute, but certainly rich wiht love.

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  16. Great post Caroline! I enjoyed it immensely!! And it gave me a little jolt to read about your work with the League of Women Voters, and today is the anniversary of women achieving the right to vote. Wow.

    Oh, and I used to write a column for a small town newspaper too!

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  17. Hi Caroline,
    What a fabulous post. My you have certainly had an interesting and fulfilling life. Loved Roy Rogers too and Dale Evans, well it goes without saying I hated her. I might be an Aussie, but I still love Westerns. Gunsmoke. Wagon Train, Little House on the Prairie, Rifleman and Bonanza, all favourites.Fickle creature that I am, I ditched Roy Rogers because I fell in Love with Little Joe Cartwright. Your blog was a trip down memory lane for me because our Aussie history and lifestyle is very similar to that of Texas

    Regards

    Margaret

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  18. Carolyn, this was a great story. I enjoyed every line of it and the photos. We share a love of the same books as children and we also share a short and disappointing career with Kensington. I'm also a TWRP author (among others) and ebooks have been so fulfilling for me. I wish you continued success with all of your books. I'm sure they reflect your total life experinece and writing skill and I'm looking forward to reading one very soon. Linda

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