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.
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.
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.
|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 Drewwannabe
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
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.
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.
|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-everythingat a reception given by our local
days with my friend Marjorie King andforrmer Texas Governor Ann Richards
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.
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!
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.
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?
Thanks for reading. Y'all come back now, ya hear?