Some ranches have the strangest names but probably all mean something personal to the owner. The ones I put in my stories all reflect the owner’s state of mind or what they value. Some that I see when I drive down the road leave me scratching my head though. Like the Dime Box and Hoof Prints ranches.
In the anthology Give Me a Texas Cowboy, Jack’s Bluff was the name of the ranch in mine and Phyliss Miranda’s stories. Jack, one of Tempest LeDoux’s many husbands, won the ranch after buffing in a card game. I thought it was perfect.
Here are others I’ve used:
Sullivan – A Texas Christmas
Long Odds – Texas Mail Order Bride
Last Hope – Twice a Texas Bride
Wild Horse – Forever His Texas Bride
Lone Star – Men of Legend series
Aces ’n Eights – Knight on the Texas Plains and To Catch a Texas Star
Each one tells a lot about the owner. Duel McClain in Knight on the Texas Plains and To Catch a Texas Star named his ranch for the poker hand he won Marley Rose with and he doesn’t ever want to forget the miracle of how she changed his life.
To Catch a Texas Star is a story of hope, forgiveness, self-discovery, and vanquishing evil. Marley Rose is on her way into town when she finds a man bleeding and unconscious by the side of the road. Roan Penny has seen the worst of humanity, but Marley and the McClain family restores his faith. As he recovers he falls in love with the dark beauty he calls his Texas Star and longs to make a life with her. But evil from the past finds them. Will it destroy the happiness Roan and Marley have found?
The book released on July 3 and is available everywhere in bookstores and online.
Here are a few of the old Texas ranches still in operation not far from me:
Tongue River Ranch
Matador Land and Cattle
Yellow House Ranch
How about you? Can you name a ranch either in books/TV shows/movies, or that you’ve seen or heard about? I’m giving away one copy (winner’s choice of format.) Comment to enter the drawing to be held on Saturday, August 4. Giveaway Guidelines.
Oh man! Do I have cowboy fever and it’s not just this week! Mine is a permanent condition. I love reading about them, writing their stories, and contemplating how it used to be before barbed wire and paved roads.
I’m sure some things are the same and cowboys still have the same kind of heart and love for the land and his way of life.
Next week, I’ll release TO CATCH A TEXAS STAR (Book #3 Texas Heroes.) In this story, Marley Rose McClain (the baby in Knight on the Texas Plains) is all grown up and looking to make her own way in the world. But she’s shattered to learn the secret Duel has kept from her all these years and to discover he and Jessie aren’t her parents. Who is she really?
A cowboy drifter named Roan Penny comes to see her as his Texas star and helps her sort it all out and find herself again. In the process they fall in love and plan for the future. But, will they live to see it?
I loved figuring out who Marley is and what she wanted. She loves writing stories for the many children her parents have taken in but sees no hope of getting them published. Roan has faith enough for both of them though.
This is the first time I’ve written about a character who writes and it was fun.
People ask why I write orphans into almost every story and here’s why.
The 1800s was overrun with orphans. New York City alone had 30,000 in 1850. Immigrants arrived and a good many died of disease and starvation, leaving their children with no place to go. The orphanages bulged at the seams and there were still so many living on the streets.
In an effort to curb the situation, they began shipping children out on orphan trains and offering them to any one willing to give them a home. From 1854 to 1929, a quarter of a million orphans rode on those trains. Yet, with no oversight, a good many faced horrible abuse.
Things weren’t much better in out west. People were dying in cholera epidemics, yellow fever, small pox, etc. Then you add in the numbers of the women dying in childbirth and it’s staggering. Then came the Civil War and left even more children without parents. On the American frontier, there were Indian uprisings in addition to everything else. It was a horrible time of upheaval and children bore the brunt.
Children are very dear to my heart. They represent the future and we should protect and nurture them. They are so vulnerable and helpless and I think we have a duty to be their voice.
What is your passion, what do you feel strongly about? Animals, children, equality, justice?
To celebrate the release of TO CATCH A TEXAS STAR I’m giving away three copies of the book. Just leave a comment to enter the drawing that will take place on Saturday.
I hope you like it. I’m hard at work on a new series called Outlaw Mail Order Brides and launching Book #1 in January with Book #2 following soon after.
Today is going to be a very busy day for me. I’m going to West Texas A&M University to film a segment for PBS. It’s for a show called 24 Frames. It’s exciting but very scary. I hope I don’t mess up too bad. The segment will air in September. I’ll have more on that later. I may not get to all the comments right away.
But today I want to tell you about my short story collection that I’ve self-published. Gunsmoke and Lace is my first attempt to put something out myself and I found nothing about the process easy. I was supposed to have the ebook and print releasing simultaneously but it didn’t work that way. After two weeks, only the ebook is up. The print should be along soon I’m told.
I have four stories in this collection: The Telegraph Tree, Moon Dog Night, The Gunslinger, and Hard Luck.
The inspiration for The Telegraph Tree came after I attended a lecture about women who came West and the challenges at West Texas A&M University. The speaker quoted statistics about the number of women who committed suicide, unable to handle the constant hardships and loneliness. The women spent most of their time alone in the empty, vast space with their children (if they had any) and not having anyone to talk to broke their spirits until there was nothing left.
Listening to that reminded me of a Sam Elliott movie called Conagher that he made with his wife Katherine Ross. To combat her loneliness, she wrote poems and tied them to tumbleweeds. Maybe you remember it.
That’s where The Telegraph Tree was born and when I finished, I entered it in several writing contests. It placed 3rd in Women Writing the West and also in Wyoming Writers, Inc.
I wrote The Gunslinger (formerly The Widow’s Heart) for an anthology for Cheryl Pierson at Prairie Rose and was real proud how it turned out. I made a few changes to it though.
Moon Dog Night is about two children who ride into a bounty hunter’s camp on a cold winter night. They’re trailing the man who took their mama and they’re determined to get her back. Of course, Bonner Raine can’t let them go alone. But will they arrive in time to save her?
Hard Luck has a lot of humor as two cowboys try to rob a bank. Absolutely nothing goes right and I’ve saved a surprise at the last.
All these stories sprang from a deep well inside me and I think it’s time to share them.
The fabulous Charlene Raddon designed this gorgeous cover and I love everything about it. She’s so creative. The fantastic Jerri Lynn Hill did the editing and she’s an amazing woman. Jeri Walker formatted it. I couldn’t have succeeded without these ladies.
Gunsmoke and Lace is available everywhere online. But here are a few links:
In the late 1800s at the tail end of the Gilded Age, the wealthy began having what they called “Poverty Parties.” They mostly provided entertainment for the snooty rich where they could poke fun of the poor and call it “all in good fun.” Believe me, the poor were having no fun.
One such party was at the home of D.W. Tripp in Athens, Pennsylvannia. Guests were instructed to wear flour sack clothes, no jewelry, and speak in dialect.
Here’s a portion of the invitation and it’s very difficult to read:
“Every womin what kums must ware a Poverty dress and apern, er something ekelly erpropriate, an leave her poodle dorg to hum.”
Fines were assessed for dressing too fine, having cigars in a man’s pocket, slicking his hair down, walking with a cane, etc. The party was a fundraiser and the money went toward building a new church.
The food consisted of corn meal mush served with an abundance of cream and sugar, brown and white bread sandwiches, apple and pumpkin pie, donuts and cookies. The table was bare. No tablecloth or napkins and the guests ate from tin plates and drank coffee from tin cups.
These parties established even a greater divide between the classes. These parties came at a time of great inequality. Immigrants were suffering and dying as well as black Americans. I’m sure they had a different view of these parties.
One snooty woman wrote an article in the 1905 copy of Bright Ideas for Entertaining that stressed that the tinware was always “borrowed” for the party. She wanted to make sure no one thought the rich would actually “own” any.
Yet, later on into the 1920s, one woman wrote that Poverty Parties should be used to shine a light on the less fortunate instead of making fun of them and that the guests should perform some real service to help the poor.
Southern fraternities and sororities carried over this form of entertainment well into the 1950s. Then they added unemployment parties where they stood in a bread line to get coffee and donuts.
I had never heard of these until I ran across an article a month or so back. My parents suffered through severe poverty and didn’t think it was much of a party.
What are your thoughts? Have you heard of these? What do you think about the subject?
Oh, and I plan to release a collection of short stories next month. My first attempt at self-publishing. It’ll be in both print and ebook. This isn’t up for sale yet. Soon, my little darlings.
You probably don’t realize it but the Old Farmer’s Almanac goes on sale every year on the 2nd Tuesday of September and farmers everywhere raced to get a copy. This is the oldest continuously published periodical in the U. S. It was first published in 1792 during George rWashington’s first term as president. The editor was Robert B. Thomas. It sold for six pence or nine cents a copy.
It originally carried the name of Farmer’s Almanac but the word “Old” was added to the title in 1848 after several other farmers almanacs came out by different companies. They didn’t want anyone to get confused.
Farmers and city dwellers alike have depended on the Old Farmer’s Almanac to know when to plant and what the weather for the next year will be like.
People living on the American Frontier used it as their Bible. It was indispensable. But how did this little book get things right for so long?
A man named Robert Thomas, founder and editor of those first editions, came up with a complex formula using his observations of natural weather cycles to predict the forecast. He was fascinated by science and at age 16 read Ferguson’s Astronomy. He had amazing predictions and was said to be uncannily accurate 80 percent of the time. (Even today, his formula is kept locked away at the Almanac offices in Dublin, New Hampshire.)
Only thirteen editors have headed this book since its existence, the latest of which is a woman who took the helm in 2000. Her name is Janice Stillman.
But the Almanac does much more than predict the weather. It has advice on gardening, cooking, and fishing in addition to lunar cycles, and horoscopes. Sometimes there is a blend of trivia and human interest stories and even recipes. You can find most anything in one of these books from anecdotes to fashion predictions for the coming year.
In 1942, the almanac came close to halting publication when a German spy came ashore on Long Island, New York and was apprehended by the FBI. They found a copy of the 1942 Old Farmer’s Almanac in his pocket. It appeared the Germans were using the Almanac as a source of weather forecasts because it was so accurate. Indirectly the book was supplying information to the enemy. The editor at the time quickly changed the format to only show weather indications, not forecasts, until the war ended.
Last September, they predicted that Texas and Oklahoma would have the driest winter on record and, Lord knows, that certainly came true. Here in the Texas Panhandle, we went 192 days without getting any moisture. It was broken about two weeks ago with .22. We’re having bad fires and dangerous winds. I certainly hope it starts raining soon.
Today the Old Farmer’s Almanac sells for $6.99 in paper print and $5.90 for the Kindle edition. There are folks who swear by the information inside each copy.
Wherever you are, I hope you’re getting the weather you want. Sometimes I think it’s gone haywire.
Have you ever used the weather forecasts to tell you when to plant or fish? Or maybe you like the horoscope readings.
This may seem morbid to some but I’ve always loved cemeteries. I love walking through them, reading the tombstones, imagining the person’s story. Did they achieve their hopes and dreams? Did they know love? Were they loved in return? How did they die? So many questions go through my mind. One of the most interesting trips my husband and I went on before he passed was to Deadwood. So much history there. Deadwood is where Wild Bill Hickok met his end in the Nuttal and Mann’s Saloon, shot by Jack McCall. Hickok, as well as Calamity Jane and a whole lot of others, is buried in the Mount Moriah cemetery.
Records show that in Deadwood’s first three years as a town there were 97 murders and suicides.
Here are few of Mount Moriah’s residents:
POTATO CREEK JOHNNY was a Welch immigrant at seventeen years old and looking for gold and excitement. Johnny (real name John Perrett) stood just 4’ 3” tall and as he grew older, he let his hair and whiskers grow long. Folks said he resembled one of Snow White’s dwarfs. Then one memorable day in May 1929, in working his mine, he discovered one of the largest gold nuggets anyone in South Dakota had ever seen. It weighed 73/4 troy ounces and valued at $45,000 at today’s currency rate. The find thrust him into celebrity status and he became a regular in all the parades. Folks from all around visited the cabin he built by himself in the woods. In 1943 at 77 years old, he took sick and died. He’s buried next to Wild Bill and Calamity Jane.
PREACHER SMITH was the first missionary in Black Hills and he was undoubtedly one of the most famous good guys. His real name was Henry Weston Smith and he walked into Deadwood with a wagon train in May 1876. He began preaching on the jam-packed street to the cutthroats, gamblers, prostitutes, and anyone who would listen. Tough, grizzled miners wearing guns would sit on the wooden planks or stand and listen to him. They always passed the hat at the end. August 20, 1876, he preached his last sermon and headed to a nearby town. He never made it. They found him three miles from Deadwood, shot through the heart. The killer was never found. All of Deadwood’s businesses shut down for the burial on Mount Moriah.
CHAMBERS DAVIS came to Deadwood in 1877 from the Denver Mint. He was an expert at ore testing an opened an assayer office on Main Street. He had a credit of $100,000 with which he was able to buy ore for California companies from eager prospectors. He was young and had a beautiful young wife, Adrienne. They were a popular young couple and were mentioned frequently in the social columns of the newspaper. In June 1878, she died very suddenly at the age of 33 of unknown causes. Then a year later in April, Chambers also died very suddenly and was buried next to his wife.
KITTY LEROY was Deadwood’s most famous soiled dove. The magnetic beauty was also a bigamist, married to five men all at the same time. Kitty was always armed to the teeth with two pistols, a couple of Bowie knives, and a dagger she tucked into her long brown curls. She wore huge diamonds in her ears and knew how to show a man a good time. In fact, men fought and killed over her. She was a professional dancer in the saloons and was often found at the card tables where she cheated men out of their hard-earned gold. Sam Curley, her fifth husband, was a faro dealer and very jealous. On Dec. 7, 1877, he caught Kitty in bed with another man and shot her, then shot himself. She was only 28 years old. Their funerals were held in the Lone Star saloon and they buried in a double grave. A month after the tragedy, ghostly apparitions were seen and continued until the saloon was demolished.
These are just a few of the interesting stories that are buried in Mt. Moriah cemetery. I’ll end this with a poem someone wrote upon the death of Marie Gaston, Deadwood’s first librarian.
How vainly we struggled to save her,
Around her how deeply we mourned,
When back to her Maker who gave it
Her beautiful spirit returned.
I just love visiting old cemeteries. In a plot next to my parents in the small country cemetery where they’re buried is a family who all died in the 1800s. The wife’s name was Texanna and I used her name as my heroine in a story I wrote for Give Me a Texas Ranger. I’m always finding something of interest. Do cemeteries interest you? Maybe you have one you’d like to share.
Settings are very important to me in my stories and when I can, I go to visit the land. I stand, close my eyes and listen to what the wind tells me. Often I hear voices long past whispering in the breeze and I know this is what I’m supposed to write.
In the back of The Cowboy Who Came Calling, I explain that everything I put in the story is historical fact. I think readers want to know that.
This story is set in the small town of Santa Anna, Texas in the central part of the state. Both the town and the nearby mountain were named for the Comanche war chief, Santanna. He was an important chief and the first of his tribe to visit Washington, D.C. There, he saw what his people were up against and began advocating for peace. He was struck down and died in a cholera epidemic in 1849.
Here are the Santa Anna Mountains in the distance. Not very high at all. Most probably wouldn’t even call them a mountain range.
This monument was erected by the state to mark the site of Camp Colorado. It was part of a line of forts built in the 1800s to protect settlers against the Indians. There wasn’t anything left when I last visited here. It’s on private land now. Luke McClain joins a gang who use the old fort as a hideout in my story.
The town (only 8 miles from Coleman, TX) was never very large and today the population is a little over a thousand people. Here is a very old building and an old crumbling wall.
The picture below shows the thick vegetation and in the distance, the ridge of Santa Anna Mountains above the treeline.
Below is Bead Mountain that I mention in the story is actually a sacred Indian burial ground. When it rains, colorful beads wash down the sides. It’s actually reputed to be haunted.
Okay, that’s a quick look at my setting. I apologize for the poor quality pictures.
Here’s your question: How often do you look on the map for the place a story is set when you’re reading? Do you feel cheated just a bit when you find it’s a made-up place? I’m giving away four copies (winner’s choice of print or ebook) of The Cowboy Who Came Calling. Comment to enter the drawing.
Sometimes events in my life inspire a story. That was certainly true with Knight on the Texas Plains and my little playmate who’d been won in a poker game. And now again with THE COWBOY WHO CAME CALLING (Book #2 Texas Heroes series.)
When I wrote this story in 2002, I was locked in a battle to keep my eyesight. I’d been diagnosed with MS and the disease was determined to steal my vision no matter what doctors did. Each day found a drop in the things I could see. Then, I woke one morning unable to see anything but shapes and shadows. My neurologist put me in the hospital, gave me bags of steroids, and was able to bring much of it back. Although I still struggle with eyesight, I can do almost everything I want today.
In The Cowboy Who Came Calling, Glory Day is slowly going blind and this terrifies her. She’s the sole support of her younger sisters and her mother. If she doesn’t hunt, they don’t eat. To make matters worse, the bank is trying to take their farm.
On the trail of a wanted outlaw, Glory shoots former Texas Ranger Luke McClain then has to take him home with her and fix him up. She desperately needs the reward money to pay the bank and try to get her father out of prison before she loses all her vision. Luke desperately needs the outlaw as well in order to clear his name and get his job with the Texas Rangers back. But the outlaw Mad Dog Perkins slips away.
As Luke recuperates in the Day household, he sees all the things in bad need of repair and begins to make himself useful as soon as he’s able. Glory sees his help as pity and it gets under her skin so she starts calling him Mr. Fixer. But her deep irritation comes from attraction to him. He won’t want a blind wife.
The Cowboy Who Came Calling is in the vein of Little Women and Glory reminds me so much of Jo March. She’s embodied with such courage and strength. The book is a reissue and releases Feb. 6.
What a difference a year…or four days…make. Decorations are put away and the good times stored in my memory. It’s time to look forward to the future and I do think this will be an easier year.
In 2018, I’ll reissue The Cowboy Who Came Calling in February (Book #2 of Texas Heroes) and TO CATCH A TEXAS STAR in July (Book #3.) Those will wind up the series in a fine fashion before I start releasing Outlaws Mail Order Brides in January 2019.
But whoa there! I’m getting ahead of myself. 2017 has a few a more days left.
I’m supposed to write about resolutions except I don’t make New Year resolutions. Never have. So here’s a compromise—I’m just going to call these Ten New Year’s thoughts.
I want to write more books that not only entertain but leave you with something to ponder.
I want to make this a fun year as much as I’m able.
I plan to dance in the rain and celebrate a milestone birthday. Never mind which one.
I plan to self-publish a short book or two on my own.
I want to give with my whole heart in everything I do. Life’s too short to hold back.
I want to do my part to help this earth by recycling, keeping my corner clean, and stamping out litter.
I want to do what I can to help the homeless people and pets.
I want to be a better, kinder, more sympathetic person.
I want to listen with my heart instead of my ears.
I want to make my family proud every day.
There you have it. Ten thoughts for 2018—God willing and the creek don’t rise. I’m sure you have your own set of thoughts. I wish you peace, love, and harmony now and forever.
I’m giving away a Linda Broday 2018 small wall calendar. To enter the drawing, tell me about your weather or what Santa brought you or what book you’re reading. I’ll draw late Saturday.
Oh my goodness! I feel like I’ve been stuck on some amusement park ride all year. You know. The one that yanks you high in the air then drops you like a sack of potatoes and sometimes does some wild loops on the way down. But I did it. I released five books and I’m pretty proud of that. Still, I’m saying lots of prayers for an easier 2018. Not complaining. Just old and worn out.
So, Christmas is almost upon us with just a few more days left. I don’t do a lot of decorating. My tree is in the attic and that’s where it’ll stay. (I’m referencing the old and worn out part here.)
For the last 30 years no matter what, I’ve always put my Christmas angel out. She’s getting a bit frazzled (like me) but still looking beautiful.
I also decorate my dining table. This year, it’s candles and poinsettia. I lit the candles the other night when I ate and took a picture. It brightened up my spirits and put a warm glow in my heart.
I thought my French doors leading to my patio needed some cheer too. No one will see it but me but I kinda like it. It looks nice. By the way, that wreath is old too.
To celebrate this season, I’m offering two copies of CHRISTMAS IN A COWBOY’S ARMS. Six heart-warming stories by six very talented writers—including our own Margaret Brownley.
My story, The Christmas Stranger—
Alone, in a blizzard, no shelter in sight, Hank Destry pushes in all his chips and comes up losing. Half-frozen and unable to go any farther, he falls from the saddle into a snowbank. Spinster Sidalee King is returning from visiting a sick friend and sees a barking dog. The pet leads her to Hank. She digs him from the snow and takes him to her home on the Lone Star Ranch.
Her job in the mercantile represents the sum total of her life but the drifter’s plight touches her. Everyone needs someone to spend Christmas with. Could he be Miss Mamie’s lost son that she speaks of? And what are the ugly rocks Miss Mamie doles out as payment for kindnesses? Mystery and love abound this Christmas season as two lonely people receive an unexpected gift.
To enter the drawing for one of two copies of this anthology, tell me if you have a tradition at your house. Or just talk about anything. That’ll work.