Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Historical “Sweet” Romance Excerpt!

Have you ever wondered how "kissing under the mistletoe" got started… Well, mistletoe has been part of European folklore as far back as the ancient Celtic Druids. It was known for its mystical powers. In the Middle Ages, mistletoe was hung from ceilings and over doorways to ward off evil spirits. In Greece, kissing under the mistletoe became part of the marriage rites. In Scandinavia, mistletoe meant "peace" where enemies would declare a truce. Therefore, married couples that were arguing would kiss and make up beneath the mistletoe. During the eighteenth-century in England, they created a “Kissing Ball” made of mistletoe with ribbons and ornaments, which was hung from the ceiling at Christmas time. A young lady who stood under it could not refuse to be kissed. A kiss beneath the mistletoe meant friendship, goodwill, or romance. If a couple in love kissed beneath the mistletoe, it was interpreted as his promise to marry her.

Melinda and the Wild West: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho
Awards: Finalist for Reader Views “Reviewers Choice Award 2007”

Debra Gaynor, Reader Views: “From the first page I was captivated by this book. I had to continue reading, rushing to turn the page, I had to see what next adventure would catch up with Melinda. The plot is interesting: mixing history with fiction, adventure with romance. Melinda is an endearing character and you can’t help but see things through her eyes. This is good Christian fiction. It is a great honor to highly recommend this book to readers of historical fictions and romance. Ms Clarke, this is a piece to be proud of, well done!”


Melinda sat at the piano and played Christmas carols while everyone lounged in chairs. As they felt the spirit of Christmas, they began to sing one carol after another. After a while, Gilbert stood and walked over to the piano and watched Melinda’s hands dance gracefully across the keys as he sang. His deep, rich baritone voice rang through the room and Melinda was very surprised that this rugged rancher had such a lovely voice. She was learning more about him each time he came over for Sunday dinner, which was nearly every week. For some reason, Aunt Martha had taken him under her wing and he was becoming a regular guest in the home.

When the song came to an end, she turned in her seat and looked up into his face. “You have a lovely voice.”

Gilbert could see the surprise in her eyes and hear it in her voice. He raised his eyebrows and said jokingly, “Thanks. I sing to my cows so they’ll give me more milk.”

Melinda laughed softly at the thought of Gilbert singing to his cows. “Now that’s something I would like to see.”

Gilbert enjoyed her delightful laughter and noticed that her eyes seemed to glow with happiness. Her charm was like a fairy gift from angels. And she had an ethereal beauty about her that made it difficult to stop gazing at her. Was it because it was Christmas that made her seem more beautiful to him? Was it his imagination that she seemed more at ease around him or were they just getting to know one another better? He had noticed his attraction toward her was growing with each visit and he looked forward to every Sunday meal at Martha’s home.

“Mr. Roberts, have you heard of ‘Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains’?”

“Yes, I have.”

“Did you know that it was composed by a Mormon pioneer from St. George, Utah?”

“Yes, I did.”

Gilbert was amused that Melinda would underestimate his knowledge of music. He did not know the classical composers and music like Melinda did, but when it came to Christmas music he had no competition. Christmas was one of his favorite times of the year. He did know one classical composer, though, and that was Handel because he had written “Joy to the World.”

“In fact, Melinda, I heard that John Macfarlane woke up in the middle of the night with the tune and words in his head. It was so strong that he couldn’t go back to sleep, so he woke his wife up and asked her to help him. He lit a lantern and then began playing and singing the song that came from his heart while his sweet wife helped him write each note and word down on paper. They stayed up all night until they finished the song.”

Melinda’s eyes lit up. “I didn’t know that.”

“He died four years ago in 1892.”

“I didn’t know that, either.” She smiled. “Do you want to sing it with me?”

Gilbert nodded and she turned back to the piano, flipped the page over, and began playing. Gilbert’s rich baritone voice blended beautifully with Melinda’s mellow alto voice. The blend of harmony was so beautiful and each word was sung with such feeling that a hush came over the room as they sang.

Far, far away on Judea’s plains,
Shepherds of old heard the joyous strains:
Glory to God, Glory to God,
Glory to God in the highest;
Peace on Earth, good-will to men;
Peace on Earth, good-will to men!

After they finished the song, the room was still and no one said a word. Melinda could feel the sweet spirit in the room and she turned to look at Gilbert. He had an air of joy and contentment about him and she wondered if he could feel the peaceful atmosphere in the room as she did. When their eyes met, Melinda felt warmth creep into her cheeks. His eyes seemed to be searching hers. But why? Feeling uncomfortable, she quickly averted her eyes and stood.

“Jenny, I have a gift for you because I won’t be here for Christmas to give it to you,” Melinda said.

She walked over to the Christmas tree, picked up a small gift, and handed it to Jenny and then sat down. Jenny’s eyes sparkled with delight as she ripped the paper open. Before her eyes was a lovely blue ribbon.

“It’s for your hair, Jenny. And it’s your favorite color, too.”

Jenny ran to Melinda and wrapped her arms around her neck, hugging her tightly. Melinda sighed and wrapped her arms around Jenny.

Jenny’s voice sounded constricted as she spoke, “Thank you, Miss Gamble.” She looked up into Melinda’s eyes and said lovingly, “I love you.”

Melinda was touched. She had not expected this. In fact, she had not been ready for this sudden display of affection. She had never had a student tell her that before and her eyes moistened; her chest was tight with emotion. These were such simple words, yet they seemed to have an intense effect upon her.

Gilbert watched his daughter and Melinda. He saw how touched Melinda was by his daughter’s affection and he saw his daughter’s love for her teacher. No other teacher had ever affected his daughter like this. In fact, no other teacher had ever cared enough to help his daughter in school before. Melinda, he knew, had done some good in his daughter’s life. In fact, he felt that she had made a difference in his own life, too. He felt alive again, as he had never felt before.

Aunt Martha had watched Gilbert at Thanksgiving and noticed that he seemed to be quite interested in Melinda, so she had made sure he was invited over every Sunday evening for supper. The town called Martha “Cupid” because she enjoyed pairing people up. And that was true. Martha wanted others to have the joy and happiness she had in marriage. So, when she noticed Gilbert’s interest in Melinda, she had decided on a plan.

While everyone had been singing, Martha had put a coffee table just inside the kitchen door, next to the doorway where the mistletoe hung. Then she carefully placed the dessert and plates upon it. When Melinda or Gilbert would get a cookie or brownie, they would be positioned perfectly under the mistletoe. Martha thought her idea was very clever. Uncle William watched Martha studiously and he chuckled. He knew his wife and he knew what she was doing. He sat comfortably on the sofa as Martha came with a plate of cookies for him and for Jenny.

As she handed Jenny her plate, she said, “Sit by the fire and enjoy the warmth while you eat your dessert.”

Then she sat down beside William and handed him his plate with a smile. William whispered in her ear, “Thanks, Cupid.”

Aunt Martha acted innocent. “What do you mean?”

Uncle William whispered, “I’ve been living with you for over fifty years now and I believe I know you inside and out.” He grinned at her as she tried to act innocent and then he kissed her cheek lovingly.

Ignoring his astuteness, Aunt Martha called out, “Dessert everyone! There’s cookies, brownies, and tarts on the coffee table.”

Melinda headed for the dessert table and began filling a plate. As she stood in the doorway of the kitchen, it had not dawned on her why Aunt Martha had put the table there instead of the living room. Gilbert walked up to the coffee table, waiting for his turn. He had noticed the mistletoe, but was not sure if he should say anything or if he should take advantage of the situation.

Martha grinned and said, “Oh, oh. Look at that. Melinda is under the mistletoe. Well, what are you going to do about it, Gilbert? You can’t let her get away without a kiss, especially when it’s tradition. No one can avoid the mistletoe, you know.”

Melinda quickly looked up at the mistletoe in surprise and then jerked her head toward Aunt Martha with a shocked, knowing expression. When she turned to face Gilbert, his soft eyes seemed to glow as he stood before her. Melinda quickly touched her cheek with the tips of her fingers when she felt the warmth creep into her face. She felt so embarrassed. She was nervous and felt uneasy as he gazed into her eyes. She was not sure what to expect.

Gilbert smiled with amusement when he saw her blush a rosy color, and he said in a low and soft tone, “Melinda?”

His eyes held hers as he searched them for an answer. Then Melinda lowered her eyelids and looked down at her hands that were nervously playing with the red satin ribbon at her waist. Gilbert could see that she felt apprehensive and uneasy and he did not want to embarrass her more than she already was. So, as his eyes stayed glued to her expression, he gently took her slender hand into his and lifted it toward his lips. Then he pressed them tenderly against the back of her hand, lingering a bit.

Melinda was surprised at this chivalrous gesture and raised her eyes to meet his. The tenderness of his kiss and the softness in his eyes touched Melinda and a warm glow filled her soul. She was sure he could feel her pulse race as he held her hand and her fingers seemed to tingle from the touch of his lips. It did not take much to turn her face a rosy glow once again. Then, instantly, a strange sensation of joy came over her that she had not expected.

Gilbert let go of her hand as he turned to Aunt Martha and said, “We had better go, Martha. It’s getting late.”

The softness of Melinda’s hand in his and her many blushes seemed to have their effects on Gilbert. His heart had skipped a beat that night and he felt it was time to leave. He was not ready for what his heart was trying to tell him. He had concerns that he was not yet ready to face.

Aunt Martha grabbed their coats and a bag with cookies and roast beef inside and handed them to Gilbert. As she walked them to the door, she whispered, “Don’t worry. She’ll soften towards you. It will just take time.”

After they left, Melinda felt as if she were in a daze as she walked upstairs to her bedroom. Her heart was full and she didn’t know why. For the life of her, she could not figure out why she had reacted in such a way to his tenderness. Gilbert and she were as different as night and day, and yet she felt attracted to him. Why? She remembered his lingering kiss and how warm and tender it had been. The memory of it seemed to linger in her mind. Her heart had raced when he had touched her hand. And when he kissed it, a tingling sensation seemed to start at her knuckles and make its way to her heart.

She tried not to think about it because the following day she would be catching the train to Boston to visit her family for the holidays and she needed her sleep.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Interview with “Sweet” Romance Author Caroline Clemmons

Caroline Clemmons lives with her real-life Hero in rural North Central Texas with their menagerie of rescued pets. Her first made up adventures featured her riding with Roy Rogers to save the West from rustlers and bank robbers. Now she writes historical, contemporary, and time travel romances and contemporary mysteries. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with family, reading, traveling, genealogy, and browsing antique malls and estate sales. She writes full-time, except when life interferes.

Hello, Caroline. I just love the book cover of this novel. Please tell us about it.

HOME, SWEET TEXAS HOME is a sweet contemporary romance and modern Cinderella story. Heroine Courtney Madison is a strong woman with high morals. When her mother became ill, Courtney became head of household. Now, six months after her mom’s death, Courtney is hanging on to her sanity by a few strands of an unraveling rope. Her mom’s death left a mountain of medical bills. Courtney is guardian of her formerly sweet 15-year-old brother who has become sullen and is hanging with decidedly unsavory pals, skipping classes, and letting his grades drop. Her latest blow is that, due to the huge new chain bookstore down the block from the independent Dallas bookstore where she’s manager, the store’s owner is coming out of retirement to manage his store. In two weeks, Courtney will be out of a job. No savings, no job, no prospects. She’s in a panic. Enter hero Derek Corrigan to tell Courtney she has inherited an estate in West Texas worth over two million dollars from the kind, elderly man she befriended when he and her mom were in the hospital. All her troubles are over. Or so she thinks. But Courtney learns that money solves her immediate problems, but new problems arise. Trouble she would never have imagined.

Derek Corrigan has been betrayed by every woman he’s ever loved. He’s learned the hard way that caring for a woman means he loses a chunk of his heart. He doesn’t need a woman’s interference. He has his two precious kids, Warren and Meg, and they’re the most important part of his life. Never again will he risk his heart by committing himself to a woman.

Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

I grew up in the area of West Texas where this book is set. My parents and I lived in a rural area for three years when we moved back from California, then we settled in Lubbock where I grew up. The weather there is dismal, but the place gets under your skin in spite of anything you can do. The town of Sweet Springs is fictional, but it’s a composite of the little towns in which my family lived before we moved into Lubbock. The sandstorm in the book is one of the things I remember from living there. When I was in junior high, I walked about a mile home from school and I remember walking in that wind and sand. Ugh. There are a lot of things I like about the area, though. The people are nice, on a clear day the sky is so blue, and the sunrises and sunsets are gorgeous.

Ooooh, I remember those good old sandstorms! I remember my very first one. I had to quickly pull over to the side of the road because I couldn’t see beyond my car. I never realized that a sandstorm was so much like a snowstorm. Really! Okay... a reviewer wrote, “Caroline wrote a story that had you laughing, crying, and caring about a group of people that were from different worlds...so many twists you couldn’t wait to see where she took you next.” Do all your books have humor and several twists in them?

Each of my books have twists, and each is about family members that support one another. I suppose the humor is subtle, and not everyone “gets” me. My intention is that each of my books has a combination of emotions from tension to humor, and that the situations are credible--whether the book is contemporary or historical. I do quite a bit of research, even for a contemporary.

I love your description of Derek: “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.” Hahaha! That was great. What do you like most about Derek’s personality?

Derek loves his kids so much that he often works from his home office so he can spend more time with them. He wants them to know they’re important to him and that he loves them. What better hero than a man who’s a great dad? He also does a lot to help others in his community, and that speaks well for him. He’s wealthy, but he remembers when he was struggling.

Derek sounds like a great character. Okay, now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

One of the things I used to do each summer is can vegetables and fruits. Lots and lots of them! I supplied canned goods for both sets of parents and our daughters as well as for Hero and me. I also entered the State Fair and won blue ribbons for my grape jelly, peach jam, and green beans. Judging used to require two jars for each entry--one to taste and one to display. Due to the weirdness of people now, rules were changed so that judges didn’t taste the food and appearance is the only criteria. That’s when I quit entering. What’s the point of winning if taste doesn’t enter into the decision?

I think that's awesome. My mother used to enter her bottled fruit in the county fairs. I can’t believe they took tasting out of the contests. Do you remember the 1945 movie, State Fair? I’ll never forget the tasting contest when the judges tasted the mincemeat…over and over again. It was hilarious. Thank you so much for this wonderful interview Caroline. Below is an excerpt from Caroline’s book. I laughed so hard that I just had to include it.

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?”

Derek 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.”

Monday, December 5, 2011

Interview with Christian Author Jessica Zondervan

In her early twenties, Jessica Zondervan experienced an unthinkable amount of pain and tragedy. During that time, she grieved the deaths of several loved ones, including her mom and dad, her college professor, both of her dogs, her grandpa and grandma, and a very close friend. After years of struggling with grief and depression, Jessica experienced complete healing and now dedicates her time and energy to helping others break free from depression.

I fell on my face and wept. I prayed for healing. I didn’t want to dwell in my misery any longer. I wanted to breathe again, feel again, live life again.” - Jessica Zondervan

Hello Jessica. I can tell this is going to be a very touching subject for this week. Please tell us about your new book.

Breathing on Purpose: Surviving the Death of a Loved One deals with death: its timing, its existence, and the magnitude of its life-altering impact. In my book, I share my grief-story and how I coped with losing both of my parents, my grandparents, my two dogs, my college professor, and a dear friend - all within a few years of each other. I walk the readers through the challenges that I faced - regardless of how painful, ugly, and unglamorous those challenges were. The beauty that flourished from my many grief-experiences/challenges, allowed me to re-establish my faith in Jesus and the outcome was beautiful healing and complete restoration. (Isaiah 43:1-3)

What inspired you to write this book?

Breathing on Purpose: Surviving the Death of a Loved One was written out of a longing to share my grief-experiences with others who were and who are grieving. I wanted to equip readers with a faith-filled hope that would resurrect their passion for life after surviving the loss of their loved one(s). I’m not necessarily trying to answer a particular question or give a remedy for grief—I’m trying to make a connection. I want to comfort those who read my book as they themselves question their experience with death and their belief in (or need) to find God. I want them to know that they are not alone. There is hope and healing for them in Jesus. Breathing on Purpose: Surviving the Death of a Loved One provides readers with an honest approach and a vulnerable perspective on what it means to walk through the grieving process with peace.

You have touched the lives of many people, Jessica. A Reviewer wrote, “I wish this book had been written when I lost my brother. It would have made my family’s loss a lot easier. I cried a lot of healing tears. Breathing on Purpose is from the heart! It’s a must read for anyone who has ever lost a loved one.” Do you receive letters concerning the way you’ve helped others through your book? If so, can you share any with us?

What a great question. I have received a variety of encouraging and inspirational letters that have moved me to tears. The most encouraging letters I receive are usually from strangers. I once received a letter from a woman – same age as me, who experienced the unexpected loss of her parents – just like I had. Our stories were so similar; God had brought us together to talk about what we had gone through. It’s humbling to know that my story touched the heart of someone else – someone I’ve never met. To this day, I still find myself being comforted by the letters I receive – from both strangers and familiar faces. I know that in the end, the precious Lord has a plan for everything. Losing my parents was part of that plan; my being able to help others deal with their grief has made my journey a lot easier. I know for certain that I am where God wants me to be, and I will forever be grateful for those experiences because they have led me to where I am today. (Jeremiah 29:11)

What does your family think about your writing?

I am extremely blessed to have such a supportive family. In fact, my husband is the one who encouraged me to write. He is my biggest supporter and has believed in me from day one. This book would not have happened without his unending support and encouragement. Before I wrote, Breathing on Purpose: Surviving the Death of a Loved One, my husband would tell me (on several occasions and numerous times each week), that I needed to write down my feelings and put my grief-experiences into a book. After a year or more of listening to his pleas, I gave in and wrote Breathing on Purpose.

Wow! What a wonderful, supportive husband! Yup! He’s a “Keeper”! Okay, it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

I love football – both college football (Iowa Hawkeyes) and the NFL (Philadelphia Eagles). There is nothing better than being with my family and friends, eating food and watching football. Family, friends, food, and football = the perfect day for me.

A female author who loves football? Well, how about that! And that’s right… food and family makes the perfect day. Thanks for this wonderful interview, Jessica. I hope you touch many lives with this book.