by Earl Staggs
My very special guest today is Caroline Clemmons who is one of the best writers I know. Her writing is smooth and clean and her characters become people you'd like to have as friends from the first page. Not all of them, of course. Some of them kill people.
Caroline writes mystery, romance, and adventure. She and her husband live in rural North Central Texas with a menagerie of rescued pets. Learn more about her at her blog
She loves to hear from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org
Inspiration Comes From Many Sources
by Caroline Clemmons
Authors are frequently asked how they conceive ideas for books. My friend Bobbye Terry answers that she orders hers from a small factory in Ohio. Fun answer, but not true. Authors are besieged by ideas from everything they hear, newspaper articles, and life. “What if” is our friend.
For instance, I attended a seminar at Weston Gardens in Fort Worth, a lovely garden center with gardens, a lecture hall, and a gift shop in addition to plants for sale and landscaping service. My youngest daughter, Bea, and I enjoy Weston Gardens. They offer seminars on everything from tea to attracting bats. We love the place and admire the owners and their staff. My mind began whirling with “what if” a family owned business like Weston Gardens was run by a young woman? What if a situation arose that encouraged her to solve a murder?
That’s all it took to send me plotting DIGGING FOR DEATH, the first Heather Cameron cozy mystery.
The heroine is the only grandchild of Meg and Richard Gillentine, who raised her after her parents died twenty years ago. She is tall and gorgeous, but her duty to her profession keeps her from taking advantage of her good looks. Working with her are her best friend and shop manager, Chelsea Bedford, and her assistant manager Miguel Diaz. Heather is determined to prove to her grandparents that she is worthy of the trust they showed when they turned the garden center over to her. The murder of a client and the clues pointing to Heather's employee and mentor, Walter, sends her searching for the real killer.
So far, I have five books plotted, and currently I’m writing the second, DIGGING FOR BONES. In the meantime, DIGGING FOR DEATH has just been released in e-book, with print soon to follow. Here’s a blurb:
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. Or, is Kurt just interested in spending time with Heather?
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 is the 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?
Here’s an excerpt from DIGGING FOR DEATH:
Lining the Rockwell’s drive nearest the new garden plot were a fire engine, an ambulance, a van, what was probably an unmarked police car, two black and whites and—dang, wouldn't you know it?—the Gillentine Gardens truck. The muscles in my stomach were like vise grips clenched on my insides as I drove past the other vehicles and parked. Sickly dread overwhelmed me at what I might find.
I wanted to turn my car around and drive home and run up to my bed and pull the covers over my head. No such luxury for me. I climbed out of my car and strode quickly toward the crowd, swallowing down fear’s metallic taste.
Container rose bushes destined for Bootsy Rockwell's garden almost filled the garden center’s staked-bed truck. Miguel Diaz sat on the truck’s bed with his feet dangling off the end. Steve Harris sat beside him. Bad vibes shot through me. A uniformed policeman and another man stood talking to Miguel. Miguel looked ashen and ill, but he nodded to me. Steve said nothing, merely hung his head.
"Hello, Heather." Miguel shook his head, despair evident in his sad brown eyes. "It's really bad."
The officer turned to me. "You know the whereabouts of Walter Sims?"
"He's supposed to be at the garden center. What's happened?" I repeated my question.
Steve looked up, but said nothing.
Miguel looked as if he were trying to send me some sort of signal. "Heather, it's—“
The man in plainclothes quieted Miguel with a glance as he stepped forward. Good heavens, what a giant. Must be six-four with shoulders broad as our truck. Even a long, tall Texas gal like myself had to look up to meet his gaze.
Whoa. What a gaze it was. Worried and puzzled as I was, I couldn’t fail to notice his eyes were delphinium blue and his dark hair the color of moist peat moss was cut short. He wasn’t GQ handsome, but definitely attractive.
"I take it you're Miss Cameron? I'm Detective Kurt Steele and this officer is Sergeant Jack Winston. We need to ask you a few questions."
"Not until I know what's happened. Why are you questioning Mr. Diaz and Mr. Harris?" Darn, stress must have fried my mind. I couldn’t believe I refused a detective.
"Vance Rockwell was murdered early this morning with Walter Sims’s shovel. We want to speak with Mr. Sims. No one here seems to know where Mr. Sims is.” He paused. “Do you?"
Rockwell dead and Walter missing? Panic rose with the bile in my throat.
No, please don’t let Walter be the killer.
At that moment, paramedics wheeled a gurney bearing a black body bag past the truck and loaded it into the ambulance. Oh Lord, Rockwell dead from Walter’s shovel? And Walter hated him.
Carole King was in my head, and the earth really did move. Dropping away from my feet, leaving me drifting. The sky tumbled down. Swirling, everything was swirling. Spiraling around me. I thought I might throw up or pass out—or both.
The detective stepped forward and grabbed my arm, anchoring me in the mixed up universe. "Miss Cameron? Maybe you should sit on the truck by Diaz and Harris."
But the sky still tumbled, the earth spiraled around me. I was a kid spinning until I was drunk with dizziness. Sky flipped places with earth. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down.
"Yes...Yes, I’d better." With Detective Steele's help, I staggered to the truck. I shrugged off his hand intent on levering myself onto the bed. But I stood there as if in a trance.
The detective hoisted me up onto the truck as if I were a small kid. I sat there wondering if I were going to pass out.
I felt Miguel’s hand at my neck. “Your head, put it between your knees.”
I did as he instructed, closing my eyes and taking a couple of deep breaths. When I straightened, my head was throbbing but the earth and sky had resumed their correct positions. Sky above, earth below.
Willing my eyes to focus on the detective, I insisted, "Walter wouldn't bash in anyone's head." I prayed I spoke the truth.
Detective Steele referred to his notes. "It appears he and Mr. Rockwell had a heated argument yesterday about a quarter of five. Mr. Sims stalked to the truck—“he pointed at Steve”—where Harris waited, and peeled off."
Drat Walter, coming here when I’d ordered him to stay at the garden center. "If you consider anyone who argued with Rockwell a suspect, you'll be interviewing half the state." I almost included myself but thought better of it. "Besides, you said Walter left."
Sergeant Winston said, "Maybe he returned."
"Phffft." I peered at Detective Steele. "Sounds like you’re grasping at straws. What kind of detective work is that?"
Steele's clenched jaw displayed a small tic.
Oops, I shouldn’t have said that.
If you’re tempted to read more (and I hope you are!), DIGGING FOR DEATH is available at Amazon Kindle in print and ebook
Thanks for letting me share with you today!