Why would a writer focus on poison? I don’t plan to murder anyone in real life. However, I love to kill people in books. Great way to relax. Joking, joking. But perhaps you've seen the coffee mugs or T-shirts that boast, "Be careful what you do or you'll end up in my book" and "I kill people in books." One of the joys of being a writer is that I can take out all my frustrations on my fictional characters. Well, to you they're fictional. To me, they're (almost) real.
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I first became interested in poisons years ago from reading Agatha Christie’s mysteries. I still love her books and am fascinated with poison. Many plants have medicinal qualities and other seemingly innocent lovelies can be deadly. For instance, in Alexander Dumas’ THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, oleander leaves are ground and incorporated into food to murder. Foxglove can heal or kill, depending on how it is administered and to whom. While researching, I pour through books like DEADLY DOSES from Writers Digest Books and old herbals. My eldest daughter fed my fascination with HERBS AND THINGS by Jeanne Rose, a book on remedies that gives both friendly and unfriendly plants and their uses. My youngest daughter has given me several illustrated books on native Texas plants, many of which can be harmful. Picture the writer rubbing her hands and laughing evilly. BWAHAHAHA!
Before scientific forensic tests, poisoners had far more freedom. Current pathologists’ tests uncover most poisons and, fortunately, create a hardship for villains. Since my current trilogy is historical, my villain is safe from sophisticated forensics. But not, of course, from my hero and heroine. Many poisons leave tell tale signs that even a medieval physician could detect. All readers know that cyanide leaves a distinctive smell and blue coloration of the victim’s lips for a while after death. Advanced arsenic poisoning colors the fingernails at the base. Can you believe women used to use arsenic to control their weight? I’d love to be thin, but not that way! Women also used to deliberately ingest tape worms supposedly as a help with their weight. But that's another post.
MEN OF STONE MOUNTAIN TRILOGY
For my current Men of Stone Mountain trilogy, I studied poisons available in the Southwest where the book is set. In the first of my trilogy, BRAZOS BRIDE, heroine Hope Montoya is being poisoned. She doesn’t know the killer’s identity or type of poison, but she is an intelligent woman and deduces the poison is administered through her food and/or her tonic. Although she is severely weakened by the contaminant, she devises a plan to escape and gain an ally. The key is to convince Micah Stone to wed her in a temporary marriage of convenience. What would convince him? As is the case now in North Central Texas, a drought has Micah’s cattle dying for lack of water. I don't want you to think Texas is always arid, so here's a photo while the spring bluebonnets were in bloom:
|Photo by my friend Nelda Liles of Plano, Texas, taken on the spring Bluebonnet Trail near Ennis, Texas|
BRAZOS BRIDE BLURB
Hope Montoya knows someone is poisoning her, but who? She suspects her mother was also poisoned and knows her father was murdered. Who wants her family eliminated? She vows to fight! She realizes she won’t last the eight months until she turns twenty-five and her uncle no longer controls her or her estate. Never will she be dominated by a man as she was by her father, as she has seen her mother and grandmothers dominated. If she marries, she gains control now, but only if she weds a man she can trust. Only one man meets her requirements. Can she trust him to protect her and capture the killer...but then to leave? She offers him cash plus land adjoining the Brazos River to save his cattle.
|Brazos River near where Hope's ranch is located and near my home|
Micah Stone has been in love with Hope since the first time he saw her. But he was accused of her father’s murder and surely would have hung if not for his two brothers’ aid. Most in the community still believe him guilty. But the drought has him too worried about water for his dying cattle to care about his neighbors’ opinions. When Hope proposes a paper marriage in exchange for land on the Brazos River and much needed cash, her offer rubs his pride raw. His name may be Stone, but he’s not made of it. He can’t refuse her for long, and so their adventure begins. Can he save Hope before the killer succeeds and kills both of them?
|A Jimmy Thomas cover from|
BRAZOS BRIDE EXCERPT
She looked at her hands. Perhaps she was unreasonable. Or maybe insane for sympathizing with a man who'd had to work harder because of her family.
"I know it is an odd situation. If—if you wear your shirt and britches, I guess it would be all right if you slept on top of the cover here." She patted the bed beside her.
He froze. Not a muscle moved, and he only stared at her. Had she misunderstood? Did he think her offer too forward?
She babbled, "That is, if you want to. You said I should trust you. Well, maybe you would be more comfortable where you are." Why didn't he say something? Would he prefer sleeping in a chair to sharing the bed?
From the street below, she heard raucous laughter and someone called to a man named Ben. Music from a piano, she supposed in the saloon, drifted in through the open windows. A gust of breeze moved the curtains and slid across her skin. In this room, though, there was no sound.
Slowly, he rose and extinguished the lamp as he moved across the room. She slid one of the pillows beside hers then scooted down. What had possessed her to offer him half her bed? Would he think she invited more?
Too late to take it back now, for the mattress dipped as he stretched out. Quaking inside at the thought of him so near, she turned her back to him. She heard his weary sigh, as if he relaxed for the first time in a long while.
"Good night," she offered, and hoped he understood the finality of the phrase.
"Yep. Good night, Mrs. Stone." The mattress shook as he turned his back to her. She felt the soles of his feet press against her ankles. He must be several inches too long for the bed and she guessed he had to bend his legs to fit. She didn't dare turn to see firsthand.
She lay perfectly still, afraid to take a deep breath. Soon his breathing changed and she knew he slept. Outside the open window the town quieted and the distant tinkling of the piano was the only sound. Light from the full moon illuminated the room and slanted across the bed. A soft breeze drifted across her, lulling her in its caress.
With a sigh, she fought to relax, but abdominal pain kept her awake no matter how her body cried for rest. Perhaps if she planned, she’d forget the pain and chills that racked her frame.
Plan, yes. She needed a plan for food preparation when she returned to her home. No, Micah said he had a plan. Oh, dear, once more he took charge when it was her life, her home.
Maybe Aunt Sofia and Uncle Jorge would have left by then and things would be fine. Already she felt more secure. She sensed her eyelids drifting closed and the sleep’s blessed relief approaching.
A gunshot ripped apart the night.
The blast startled her and she screamed as something thudded near her head, showering her hair and face with splinters. Panic immobilized her. What had happened?
Micah dragged her onto the floor as a bullet ripped into the mattress.
Did that capture your interest? I hope so!
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Caroline Clemmons writes mystery, romance, and adventures—although her earliest made up adventures featured her saving the West with Roy Rogers. Her career has included stay-at-home mom (her favorite job), newspaper reporter and featured columnist, assistant to the managing editor of a psychology journal, and bookkeeper. ♥ Now she writes full time and loves it! ♥ She and her husband live in rural North Central Texas with a menagerie of rescued pets. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family, reading, travel, browsing antique malls and estate sales, and delving into genealogy/family history.
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