How Authors Set Their Stories

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It’s my pleasure to welcome Caroline Clemmons during Women’s History Month to my blog . She is a prolific  and bestselling author who adds authenticity to the genre of historical romance. Like this post? Leave a comment after you’ve finished reading. We’d love it if you’d share your thoughts with us.~~~Ruby Johnson

Do you wonder why authors choose a particular site for their books? As a Texan, I enjoy setting my books and novellas in my home state. Texas is a big, though, with diverse landscapes. How do I choose?

First, I write about locales I enjoy visiting. That’s what happened years ago when my husband and I learned of the open house at a historic ranch about forty miles from our home. We visited the Belding-Gibson Ranch in Palo Pinto County. Part of this ranch was taken in by the formation of Possum Kingdom Lake, known locally as PK, but there is a large acreage still operating as a ranch. The occasion of the open house was to celebrate the release of Barbara Belding Gibson’s book about the ranch, PAINTED POLE: The Beldings and Their Ranches in Palo Pinto County – Pioneer Days to Computer Age, by Sunbelt Eakin Press.

I already loved this area and used this lake for a modern story, OUT OF THE BLUE, featuring a heroine who travels from the past to help a modern police detective solve several murders. My husband and I had driven to the lake many times. This was my first visit to this ranch and inspired my historical romances, the Men of Stone Mountain series.

The Belding-Gibson Ranch started in 1859 with a 12 foot by 12 foot cedar log cabin. Not giant pine logs, but the cedars that grow abundantly here and are the thorn in the cattleman’s side because they encroach on grazing land.  Fortunately, the Gibsons who own what remains of the ranch have preserved the cabin, the smokehouse, and as much of the original homestead as possible. The ranch is beautiful with huge live oaks dotting the pastures and offering shade for cattle. At least, it was when we were there. Although the ranch headquarters is safe, grass fires burned large portions of the ranch a couple of years ago.

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The old cabin now is a bathroom in the Gibson’s home. Hard to visualize a family living in a room that size, and at first only the Belding forefather, Henry Belding, lived there. The smokehouse is now a storage room/pantry. A cold room, actually a shaded furrow filled with running water, kept milk cool. Now it’s a part of a hallway leading to a family room. I so appreciate people like the Beldings and Gibsons who value their heritage and preserve it.

The area was inhabited by cedar cutters and hunters in 1854—and Comanche, Apache, and Kiowa. Odd as it seems to me, the main targets of the hunters were possum skins. Of course, the Comanche and Kiowa sometimes targeted the hunters.

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People from Colorado might laugh at the Palo Pinto Mountains and say they look like big hills. Geographically, they are genuine mountains covered in live oak, scrub oak, cedar, and other native trees such as elm, hackberry, and cottonwood. The scrub oaks turn lovely colors in the fall, which is why the Native Americans named them palo pinto, or painted stick or pole.

No, they’re not as pretty as Vermont’s fall colors, but give us a break. They are beautiful in their own rite. Cedars and live oaks retain their dark green foliage among the fall hues of the scrub oaks. My favorite time to drive through this area is spring when trees and grass and wildflowers abound .

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Live oaks are a species of oak, not merely an oak this is alive. Of course it is living, but the tree gets its name because, while it is deciduous, it bears thick clusters of dark green leaves year round. I used that feature to help the heroine of HIGH STAKES BRIDE, Men of Stone Mountain book 2, escape capture by her stepbrothers. Which brings me a chance to segue to my books in the Men of Stone Mountain series.

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The three Stone brothers have settled in the Palo Pinto Mountains to raise cattle. In book one, BRAZOS BRIDE, they face a drought and rescue a beautiful young heroine someone wants dead. HIGH STAKES BRIDE is about Zach, the middle brother and his aid to a woman running from stepbrothers who intend her harm. By book three, the first two brothers have married and only Joel Stone, eldest, is single. He’s sheriff of the fictional town of Radford Springs, and an excellent lawman. While his brothers each have ranches numbering thousands of acres, Joel’s smaller ranch is managed by a foreman. Joel lives in town in a huge shell of a house he bought and is slowly completing.

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I love setting a series of books in this locale, and you can be sure it will pop up again with spin off characters from the Men of Stone Mountain series. TABITHA’S JOURNEY: SUBSTITUTE BRIDE is due out at the end of May. CHRISTMAS ON STONE MOUNTAIN is due in November. These two will be novellas, and they won’t be the last set in Radford Springs.

But back to BLUEBONNET BRIDE, which is Joel’s story. At age thirty-two, he finally meets the woman for him. Too bad she isn’t receptive to his attention. Joel is not a man to give up easily, but he doesn’t know the terrible secret Rosalyn hides—a secret she dares not share.

Here’s a blurb:

He’s a by-the-book Texas sheriff; she’s on the run from a murder conviction…

When a tornado provides Rosalyn with the opportunity to escape the gallows, she collects her daughter Lucy and flees. They travel far enough West that Rosalyn believes she’s gone to the ends of the earth. She hopes she and Lucy will be safe in this remote North Texas town where she embarks on a new life as a dressmaker. If only she could avoid contact with people, especially the handsome sheriff who pops up every time she turns around. She fears either she or her chatterbox daughter may slip and reveal too much.

Joel Stone has been content with his life, even if it’s not the one he’d dreamed. His younger brothers are married and living nearby, his aunts have moved to Radford Springs, and he is respected for the efficient job he does as sheriff. When he meets the new widow in town, his instant attraction staggers him. She appears uninterested, but he is determined to win her hand in marriage.

But life doesn’t turn out the way either Rosalyn or Joel plan. They overcome temporary obstacles, but what of the secret she protects? Can he save her from the gallows?

Does that tempt you? BLUEBONNET BRIDE is my favorite cover so far. My friend Nelda Liles in Frisco, Texas gave me several of her excellent bluebonnet photos taken at the annual Ennis, Texas “Bluebonnet Trail.”  I found the photo representing Rosalyn Dumas on iStock. I hope you find this cover irresistible. My sweet husband combined them and completed the cover.

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Here’s an excerpt from BLUEBONNET BRIDE where Joel has just climbed a tree and hung a swing for Rosalyn’s daughter Lucy:

Lucy did as he asked. He thought he could shinny down the rope so he wrapped his legs and hands around it. He would have been all right if Mrs. Dumas hadn’t chosen that moment to come outside. She shaded her eyes with her hand, but the sunlight hit her hair and turned it molten golden red.

He stared at her and lost his concentration. His legs drooped and his fingers tired of supporting him. He dropped to the ground in a tumble. The fall knocked the breath from his lungs and he lay there amid twigs and leaves. He blinked and tried to focus through watery eyes.

Mrs. Dumas knelt beside him. “Oh my word. Sheriff Stone, are you all right? Is anything broken?”

He sat up and conked his head on the swing seat. He rubbed the spot and grinned. “Not my most glorious moment, but I’ll survive.” He stood, wincing at the pain in his back where he’d hit the broken limb.

“Please let me help you inside. Lucy, get his coat and hat.”

Going anywhere with her sounded good. She took his arm and led him into the kitchen. He didn’t feel at all guilty throwing a limp into his walk.

“Sit at the table and tell me where you’re injured.”

“I’m fine, ma’am. Just need to sit a while and clear my head.” He remembered this kitchen from when the Brown family lived here. Already she’d begun changing the appearance by moving furniture around. The table was much nicer where diners could look at the back yard while eating.

She pumped water into a glass and set it in front of him. “What were you thinking? You could have broken your neck.”

“I realize that now. At the time, it seemed an easy enough task.” He downed the water then smiled at Lucy. “I had a good helper.”

Lucy giggled. “Giant sheriffs can fall after all.”

“Apparently so. The swing’s strong enough for you, though.”

“Mommy, may I go swing now?”

“Just be careful of that broken limb until we can clear it away.”

“I’d better do that.” He started to rise.

She pushed him back onto his seat. “You sit right there until I’m sure you’re all right. Does your head hurt? How’s your vision? Do you see double?” She tilted his head so their gazes met.

“My vision is fine, ma’am, and I sure am glad. You have the prettiest eyes I’ve ever seen.”

She jerked her hand back so fast you’d think she’d been burned. He savored the warmth where her fingers had touched his jaw.

“Humph. Apparently there’s nothing wrong with you, sheriff.” She fisted her hands on her hips. “At least no damage from your fall.”

“I’ll just move that branch out of Lucy’s way and then get back to my business.” He stood and bent to grab his coat from where Lucy had dropped it.

She grabbed his arm. “Wait. There’s blood seeping through your clothes. Sit down and take off your shirt.”

He froze and considered following her request before sanity gained a toehold. “Nothing I’d like better, Mrs. Dumas, than having you tend my cuts and scrapes. Seeing as how you’re a widow on your own, I reckon I’d better get on to Doc Ross’s and let him see if there’s a problem. This is a small town, and I sure would hate if anything I did caused gossip to smirch your good name.”

Her expression softened. “Thank you, sheriff. I appreciate that more than I can say. I’m pleased you’re truly a gentleman.”

Joel pulled on his coat and left. He kicked himself all the way to the doctor’s office.

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BLUEBONNET BRIDE can be purchased  for e-readers at Smashwords, https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/287177?ref=CarolineClemmons

The print and e-book version are available from Amazon at

http://www.amazon.com/Bluebonnet-Bride-Stone-Mountain-ebook/dp/B00BHOC7L8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1362152055&sr=1-1&keywords=caroline+clemmons

E-book for Nook http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bluebonnet-bride-men-of-stone-mountain-book-3-caroline-clemmons/1114769632?ean=2940044331914

E-book for Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Bluebonnet-Bride-Men-Stone-Mountain/book-Iz-t5jYI2UCMJHEaDn77TQ/page1.html?s=SHHtSokBJkKDipC76F3L9w&r=

                                                      ~~~

Caroline Clemmons is an Amazon bestselling author of historical and contemporary western romances whose books have garnered numerous awards. Her most recent novel, BLUEBONNET BRIDE, is a poignant tale of tender redemption. A frequent speaker at conferences and seminars, she has taught workshops on characterization, point of view, and layering a novel.

Caroline and her husband live in the heart of Texas cowboy country with their menagerie of rescued pets. When she’s not indulging her passion for writing, Caroline enjoys reading, travel, antiquing, genealogy, painting, and getting together with friends. Find her on her blog, website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Is there a book that sticks out in your where you felt a real sense of place?

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11 thoughts on “How Authors Set Their Stories

  1. Well, I’m fascinated by the unique name,Possum Kingdom Lake.
    Although I lived in Texas for a little over a year out on the parie in central Texas, I was impressed by the varied landscape of Texas. While I had to search for places with trees, there were places that had forests of trees. Thanks for the definition of live oak. I had no idea why they were called that. Names for certain land formations in the west has always interested me, words used to describe them like mesa, box canyon and rise. We don’t have names for things like that here on the eastern seaboard.
    The Men of of Stone Mountain series sounds wonderful. I like that you saved the oldest brother for last. Most family trilogies start with the oldest and work down to the youngest.
    I enjoyed your blog, Caroline.

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  2. I loved learning a little more about Texas. Your books sound interesting. One current book besides yours that stands out about sense of place is Connie Brockway’s “The Other Guy’s Bride” which takes place in North Africa and the desert.

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  3. Ruby, thanks for having Caroline today. You have a lovely site which I visit often.

    Caroline, I love all of your Stone Brothers books, They are all wonderful, and Bluebonnet Bride is no exception. The local you picked is one of my favorites, although, that said, there isn’t a part of our beautiful state that I don’t love.
    I eagerly await your next story.

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  4. Amazing info, Caroline. We have California live oaks and now I know why they have that name. And the palo pinto explanation is terrific…as well as your photos! Good job today. Best wishes with the books.xo

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  5. Great post Ruby and Caroline! This is a good example of why setting is just as important a character in a novel as the protagonists are. Its the landscape that takes your characters out of the cardboard cut-out relm in the readers mind, and makes the story’s journey truely cinematic. Do you guys have any tips you use as you write to fuse the “place” into the story?

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  6. Hi Ruby, it’s great to see Caroline here today. And what an interesting topic. Half the fun of writing about another time and place is doing the research and discovering the things that make each setting special. Bosque County, Texas, is home base for my Texas Druids, and while I live north of there in Fort Worth, I’ve visited the Bosque area several times. There’s history around every corner. One of these days I hope to visit Possum Kingdom Lake, Caroline, and see where you got your inspiration for the Men of Stone Mountain. Even though mountain cedar is my worst allergy!

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