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WOOHOO! Crimson Rose Line, Here I Come

Ex-Ray Cover I was notified the other day that The Wild Rose Press would like to publish Ex-Ray, a romantic suspense novel.  It’s way different than the usual Claire Croxton works you’ve seen.  I’m excited about this opportunity because not only is The Wild Rose Press an awesome publisher, but I get to work with Ally Robertson of the Crimson Rose line of TWRP.  This means I’ll be published under the Champagne Rose line–contemporary romance, the Scarlet Rose line–erotica  (as Luna Zega,) and now the Crimson Rose line for romantic suspense.

This is NOT the official cover of Ex-Ray, but one my talented friend, Casey Cowan created.  He’s with Oghma Creative Media if anyone needs covers, banners, websites or editing, Oghma is the place to go.

This is the blurb of the book:

The isolation of Alaska’s arctic is the perfect place to hide. But you can’t outrun your past. Maggie Shaw flees an abusive husband and assumes a new life as Anne Sutton, a 911 emergency dispatcher. Her husband, Ray Malloy, a meth-dealing, dirty cop with a vicious temper and a powerful right hook, is determined to find her and the three million in drug money she stole. Using her computer hacking skills, Anne is able to stay one step ahead of Ray until he goes off the grid. Even though she lives her life with the constant threat of discovery, she’s eventually able to form deep friendships and even falls in love again—with Joe Carducci, the new cop in town. When Ray shows up in Barrow, Anne must overcome her fears to protect her friends from Ray’s violence.



The Next Big Thing Blogfest

Miss Velda Brotherton, the co-founder of the Northwest Arkansas Writers Workshop and an amazing, multi-published author asked me to participate in The Next Big Thing blog series. Her Next Big Thing blog posting can be found at: :


Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book?

My latest book is called Ex-Ray. My mom came up with the title. She’s terrible at naming things. She didn’t even name me. Daddy was in the hospital in Tulsa having a kidney removed. She called him to let him know he had a daughter and he named me over the phone. Her cats have all been named “Kitty” or “Fluffy.” I had to name her last two cats—“Betsy” and “Priscilla” So, for my mother to give me a book title is a BIG deal.  My first release was Redneck Ex, so she thought it would be cool for me to have an “Ex” series. Goodness knows I have enough exes to provide material for a 30 volume series! It’s all them, you know? I’m a peach.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Ex-Ray is about a woman who disappears without a trace to escape an abusive marriage. She obtains a new identity and moves to Barrow, Alaska where she becomes a 911 Emergency dispatcher. After I’d finished the edits on Santorini Sunset and I was ready to start a new book, I looked through some old files of mine and discovered a novel I started twenty years ago. I was working as a 911 dispatcher in Barrow, Alaska at the time and the novel included some of the very interesting calls I’d received while I worked there. So, I dusted it off, spruced it up and went to work. It’s darker than my usual work. I’ll admit to days of prevailing indigo moods and nightmares while writing it, but it was worth it. I believe it was extremely cathartic for me.

What genre does your book fall under?

At first, I thought it was contemporary romance, but now I think it’s romantic suspense or possibly women’s fiction. It actually falls into the contemporary romance guidelines, but it’s too dark. I don’t think it’s dark enough for women’s fiction. I absolutely cannot stop the snark. So, even though it’s a dark topic, there are a lot of lighter moments. After talking to a couple of editors, I’m labeling it romantic suspense.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh, I love playing this game.  Just love it!

The point of view cmaggiegcharacter is Anne Sutton. I see Maggie Gyllenhaal as Anne.

The antagonist is her husband, Ray Malloy. I see Christian Bale or Toby Keith as the really, really bad guy.


The love interest is Joe Carducci. Joe is simply dreamy. He would be played by Channing Tatum or Orlando Bloom.

channingt   orlandob

Anne’s best friend is Bernadette Brower. I see Gwich’in actress Princess Lucaj playing that role.


What is the synopsis of your book?

The isolation of the Alaska’s Arctic is the perfect place to hide, but you can’t outrun your past. Maggie Shaw flees an abusive husband and assumes a new life as Anne Sutton a 9-1-1 emergency dispatcher. Her husband, Ray Malloy, a meth-dealing, dirty cop with a violent temper and a powerful right hook, is determined to find her and the three million in drug money she stole. Using her computer hacking skills, Anne is able to stay one step ahead of Ray until he goes off the grid. Even though she lives in constant fear of discovery, friendships develop and she falls in love with the new cop in town, Joe Carducci. When her past comes crashing down on her, will she be able to overcome her fears and protect her friends or will she once again become victim to Ray’s evilness?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Praying that it will be represented by an agency.  Could everyone reading this take a moment and visualize Ex-Ray with a Random House on the spine of the book?  One second, that’s all it takes.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I was editing another book while writing this one, so I’d say about a year.  In addition to being the President of the Oklahoma Writers Federation, farm life keeps getting in the way. If I have the opportunity to actually write every day like I should, I can get a first draft done in a couple of months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I describe Ex-Ray as Sleeping with the Enemy meets Hope Floats.  I do realize those are movies, but what can I say? I don’t follow rules very well.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Good question.  As I mentioned, I’d started the book twenty years ago. A lot has changed since then. Anne and the love interest Joe were always there, but Anne’s reason for being in Barrow changed. It turned out that the guy I was living with at the time I first started Ex-Ray was abusive. Like everyone in such situations, I discovered the extent of his temper and violence too late. This book took a turn toward the dark underbelly of life when I decided to make Anne a victim of domestic violence. Hence the nightmares and indigo moods while I was writing it. I hope Ex-Ray will be helpful and encouraging for women in similar situations. The book is dedicated to my father because he’s the one that dragged me out of the mess.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Alaska. Barrow. Fall sunset by bowhead whale jaw bones and umiaq frame.Well, the fact that it’s written by the still unnoticed greatness that is Claire Croxton should be enough, right? Just kidding!  It’s set in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost community in North America (300 miles above the Arctic Circle.) I lived there for fourteen years, so folks can get a real taste for life in the Arctic. All of the 911 calls happened in real life. My magical formula for NY Times Bestselling novels is: cats + snark + sex = bestseller. NY seems to be unfamiliar with my magical formula, but they’ll discover it soon enough, right? Especially with everyone visualizing a major publisher on the spine of my hardcover book. So, of course all three elements are in abundance.

So, this is where I’m supposed to list 5 authors who will also be blogging these questions. Unfortunately, all the bloggers I know are already blogging on this topic.  Having the same people post the same interview on the same blogs could get a tad bit tedious. So, Velda Brotherton took pity on me and told me I could explain why I failed to do my homework and get other authors’ participation. Bottom line? I procrastinated (big shocker) and by the time I got around to asking folks to participate, they were already doing it for someone else. My bad. But, don’t you just love Velda?

You should check out these blogs by some brilliant writers!




Claire’s Synopsis AKA the Suc-Kop-Sis

What is the purpose of a synopsis? Yeah, I know, it’s a summary of the 400-page manuscript you’ve been slaving over for the past year (or 3 or 5.) I get that. The agent/editor/publisher needs to know what the book is about without having to slog through the entire document–especially if it isn’t their genre. My question is why the hell does it have to be in the format they require?

Why can’t it be an outline or a chapter-by-chapter breakdown? Regardless if your book is written in first person/past tense, the synopsis has to be in third person/present tense.  What the heck is that all about?

Even though, I toiled for hours to get the best paragraph EVER to describe Ex-Ray in my query letter, I can’t use it in my synopsis.  Shoot, I could have written a third of a novel in the time I spent on that paragraph. Now, the synopsis?

So tell me, does this paragraph draw you in or what?

The isolation of Alaska’s arctic is the perfect place to hide. But you can’t outrun your past. Maggie Shaw flees an abusive husband and assumes a new life as Anne Sutton, a 911 emergency dispatcher. Her husband, Ray Malloy, a meth-dealing, dirty cop with a vicious temper and a powerful right hook, is determined to find her and the three million in drug money she stole. Using her computer hacking skills, Anne is able to stay one step ahead of Ray until he goes off the grid. Even though she lives her life with the constant threat of discovery, she’s eventually able to form deep friendships and even falls in love again—with Joe Carducci, the new cop in town. When Ray shows up in Barrow, Anne must overcome her fears to protect her friends from Ray’s violence.

Maybe the agent will be wowed and just ignore the synopsis. Any chance that’ll happen?

I Need a New Title

My friends, I have a quandary. For over a year now, between editing other novels, I’ve been working on Ex-Ray–a story about Maggie Shaw who escapes her abusive marriage by disappearing without a trace. She moves to Barrow, Alaska, assumes a new identity, Anne Sutton, and becomes a 9-1-1 emergency dispatcher. After 4 years in hiding, she falls in love with the new cop in town, Joe Carducci, and eventually has to face down her husband, Ray Malloy. It’s a gritty love story filled with angst, violence, humor and tenderness–not to mention polar bears. Kind of a Sleeping with the Enemy meets Hope Floats.

So, what’s my quandary you may ask? Here you go. The title is Ex-Ray, Ma came up with the name, which kind of plays off the title of my current release, Redneck Ex. I was writing page 200 or so before I realized that Ex-Ray wasn’t the best title since Ray technically isn’t an ex. Maggie/Anne is still married to him. In her mind he’s an ex. He stopped being her husband the first time he punched her in the face, but she’s still married to the guy.

Is Ex-Ray a misleading title? Do I need to come up with a new one? Any suggestions?


I love rain. Love it! It’s from all those years living on the North Slope of Alaska. I like being locked inside my house all snug and cozy while the weather outside is frightful. It’s when I’m the most creative. In the Arctic when the weather is nice, you MUST go outside. The chances of it being clear and pretty again soon are slim to none. Even after living in the Ozarks for three years, I still feel the pull to be outside when the weather is nice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cursed the sun since moving here.

Even though I’ve had words with Mother Nature, I’m really thankful the weather here in the boonies is as nice as it is.  Getting inside the house in the Arctic can be hazardous to your health.  Check out this scene from my current work in progress, Ex-Ray.

Anne Sutton is returning home–during a blizzard–from a shift as a 9-1-1- emergency dispatcher. The officer who dropped her off is sitting in the truck waiting for her to get inside safely.

The flakes were sleet-like and razor sharp. It felt like walking through a spider web made of barbed wire. The steps to my apartment were completely buried–a six-foot wall of snow stood between me and the door. I’d only taken four steps from the truck, but when I turned around to ask for assistance, I couldn’t see the vehicle. 

The security of knowing Huffman was still there even if I couldn’t see him, gave me the courage to go forward. Besides, I really needed to pee. 

I turned around and faced the building. I could make out its form and the outside light strained to shine through the blanket of white. My face hurt from the slashing flakes and I pulled down my parka hood limiting my visibility even more. 

There’s no way I can get into the apartment.

I turned toward the truck again and could see nothing. 

Go toward the apartment. It’s easier to find than the truck. If nothing else, you can get under the building.

Facing directly into the wind took my breath away, but I trudged forward. Fortunately, it was cold enough that the pile of snow blocking the door was frozen near the bottom. One step and I sunk to my knees. At least it wasn’t the whole way. The thought of being buried alive in a snow embankment sent a chill much colder than the minus-sixty-degree arctic blast through my heart. Another step. I sunk to my waist. 

I struggled to get out. Pushed my hands on the top of the berm, but it wasn’t sturdy enough to hold me. I wiggled more and my foot hit something solid. Knowing that a large surface area on the snow would work better than trying to prop myself up with my hands, I pushed off and flung myself backward. My torso and waist were out of the hole. I lay on my back as the flakes pelted down on my face. It looked like a scene from Star Trek—the spaceship flying through the stars at warp speed. 

I giggled. 

Quit admiring the stars and get inside, you idiot. Do you want to die?

I shimmied around so that my head was facing the door, I hoped, instead of the street and slid across the top of the snow bank. When my head hit something solid, I maneuvered myself onto my knees and dug out my keys.

By then, I was crying. Scared out of mind. Tears stung my face as they froze to my cheeks. I found the door handle and put the key in, but it didn’t turn. 

Oh shit. Am I at the wrong building?

By then, my hands were getting numb and my thumbs were burning. 

Gotta get inside.

I tried the key again. It went all the way in the lock, but it wouldn’t turn. 

I kicked and banged on the door, but I doubted anyone would hear me over the wind that rocked the building. 

My tears turned to sobs. I stuffed my gloved hands into my parka and kicked the door some more, cursing and screaming.

Calm down. Maybe the lock is just frozen. 

I put the key in my mouth and it instantly stuck to my tongue. I held it there for thirty seconds, then slipped it into the lock. It fit and the lock turned. 

Thank you, Jesus.

The door opened at the same time I was pushing it. I saw bright white lights and felt warmth wash over me as I fell, weeping, to the floor. 

“Anne, are you okay?” A masculine voice asked me. 

Maybe I’m in heaven. 

“Anne.” I felt hands on my shoulders as someone tried to roll me over. “Shit, Anne. Are you okay?” 

I was on my back and someone was cradling me in his arms. I stopped crying and opened my eyes. Joe held me. A concerned look flashed across his ebony eyes. 

Yep. I’m in heaven.

My sobs turned into laughter. To some it might have appeared maniacal, but I was happy to be alive so to me it seemed normal.

“Can you stand?” 

entrance to my house after the blizzard.

Sure, I can, but I like it here.

I stayed for a few seconds longer than was appropriate and stood. “Yeah, I’m fine.” I smiled at him. “I’m glad you heard me knocking.”

“It was only because I was down here doing a load of laundry.” He took my arm and helped me up the stairs. 

“How’d you get in? It looked like the door was frozen or something.”

“I sucked key,” I explained.

“What?” He stopped midway up the stairs and looked at me.

“The lock was frozen. Sometimes if you can warm up the key in your mouth it’s enough to get to lock to move. If it’s really frozen, you have to resort to a propane torch.”

“You’re kidding.”

“One never jokes about sucking key.” 


Woohoo! Spring is here.  I love it. It’s my second favorite season. Autumn is my fave. Even in the Arctic, you could see evidence of fall.  The tundra would turn a vibrant red color just before it was covered once again with a thick layer of snow and ice. Spring, on the other hand, was just snow and ice.

Here’s an excerpt from my current work in progress, Ex-Ray. Anne Sutton, is a 9-1-1 emergency dispatcher in Barrow, Alaska. She escaped an abusive marriage by disappearing without a trace. She changed her name and appearance and went to the least likely place her husband, a dirty cop, would look for her.  She’s been in hiding for 4 years.

A heads up  about this passage, the prose are purple on purpose. Wow, I liked typing that sentence. Talk about alliteration.

Anyway, enjoy!!

Spring, my favorite time of year. The trees come to life with tiny buds of green. Dogwoods paint the landscape with lacy splotches of white. The vibrant blaze of Redbuds competes with the scorching yellow of forsythias. Tulips and daffodils dance in the cool early morning air that holds the promise of afternoon warmth.

Springtime in the Ozarks anyway. The vernal equinox doesn’t mean squat four hundred miles above the Arctic Circle. That’s not entirely true because it is time for Piuraagiaqta—the spring festival. For a country girl like me getting used to living next to a frozen ocean was a challenge. My first year in Barrow, I thought I was going insane. I’d survived sixty-two days where the sun didn’t rise above the horizon. Spending Christmas in complete darkness was different to say the least. Then, January rolled around and I was giddy, absolutely giddy, when the sun peaked through a whispery layer of clouds. By February, I was wrapped in a severe depression. The sun was up, but it was thirty-degrees-below zero. No way to go outside and play.

When the rest of the world was reveling in a green wonderland, Barrow was still shrouded in a thick layer of snow and ice. How do the Iñupiaq mark spring? By drilling holes in the frozen lagoon and playing golf. My favorite Piuraagiaqta event was the frozen-chicken bowling. The sheer oddity of seeing a frozen chicken skid across the icy lagoon and knock over bowling pins does a lot to buoy one’s spirits.

P.S. They did away with the chicken bowling event several years ago because it was wasteful, but come one. Artistic license here. That’s quite an image, don’t you think?

A New Twist

I  blame it on Mr. Write,  a gentleman in my writers’ group. I like blaming things on him. He takes it in stride and usually laughs it off. I really hate to admit it when he’s right and dog gone it, just between you and me, he’s right a lot. He’s constantly adding little red squiggles on my pages–adding commas and such. It annoys me because I personally think commas are overrated. Unfortunately, the editor at The Wild Rose Press agreed and all those pesky, little commas are in the edited manuscript.

This particular incident of him possibly being right  isn’t as simple as blood-red marks on my pages. He’s completely, I mean COMPLETELY, changed my current WIP, Ex-Ray. You see, since my other two NY Times Bestselling novels are contemporary romance, I assumed Ex-Ray was as well. It was going along just fine–60K words worth of angst, heartbreak, love, great sex and snark.

The only character to appear in two of my books is Owen. He’s the cop that notifies Summer Leigh about Dwight’s injuries in Redneck Ex. Since Anne, the main character in Ex-Ray, works as a 9-1-1 operator in Barrow, it made sense to have Owen show up in this book as well. Good grief. Barrow isn’t that big. There should be some character overlap.

The only problem is that Owen is a super nice guy and dreamy to boot.

Anne has fallen in bed with Joe Carducci–the new cop in town. A couple of weeks ago, I read the scene where Anne finds out that Owen likes her in that way as well. When I finished reading the scene, Mr. Write said, “Anne gets together with Owen, right?”

I said, “No. She’s with Joe.”

He said, “Owen’s too nice. You can’t leave him hanging.” Okay, I paraphrased ever so slightly.

Several other folks nodded in agreement. I didn’t think anything of it. What can the experienced, multi-published writers of my little writing group possibly know? Owen’s fate was sealed when I gave my mother the excerpt to read and she said, “Honey bunch, you need to write another story set in Barrow so Owen can find someone. He’s a nice boy and needs to good girl.” 

So, yesterday when I was preparing the reading for last night, I looked at the Ex-Ray manuscript. I had skipped ahead 3 months in the story.  Figured I’d go back and fill in the details of that missing time later.  I scrolled down the page and ran across this: in big bold, red no less, letters  Deal with Anne’s emotions about Owen.

Well I did and discovered Anne has been in love with Owen for years. I was just too dense to see it. Now, I have her in a very physical relationship with Joe and an extremely close, emotional relationship with Owen.  Sounds like real life to me, right? Love triangles happen all the time.  How many times have you been dateless and as soon as one guy asks you out another one does too?

I like the fact that Anne loves Owen.  He’s very lovable.  Only problem? In contemporary romance you can NOT have a main character who has feelings for more than one person.  If the MC has slept with someone on the pages (past relationships don’t count) then she cannot sleep with anyone else.  Good grief. In YA novels girls can screw the entire football team and no one blinks, but in an adult, contemporary romance, there can be no question who the MC ends up with.  Did I mention, Adult? Contemporary? As in 21 century? A time when monogamy isn’t expected until the “exclusivity” discussion.

As I read the excerpt last night, I knew I’d made the right decision. Owen has been there for Anne from the very beginning, but when I finished the reading, I was totally depressed. I’ll have to rewrite the entire freaking novel. It’s no longer contemporary romance.

You know what Mr. Write said? “Change the genre.”

Well, duh. Claire Croxton is now a writer of contemporary romance AND women’s fiction.

Thanks, Mr. Write and Mama. 🙂