I guess it’s the writer in me but I always love strolling through a cemetery. The buried stories are too many to number and I always wish I knew them all.
I can get a pretty good idea from the epitaphs carved on tombstones. Some are sad and some are hilarious, revealing a sense of humor. I wrote about a Texas Ranger once who was thinking about his epitaph and what he might be remembered for. It was in The Cowboy Who Came Calling with Luke McClain.
Here’s what he came up with: Here lies Luke McClain, he was one hell of a lawman. He fought injustice and crime wherever he found it. He gave generously of himself to make the world a safer place. He lived well and loved hard. He will be missed.
Of course, Glory Day told him he didn’t need to write a whole book. Her’s was: She lived. She died. End of story.
The epitaphs told so much about each of them. Glory was going blind so she was at a low point in her life.
Here are some favorite ones that I found:
Old Ma Walker, Non stop talker, Ran out of breath, Talked herself to death
Here lies Shawn O’Toole, kicked in the head by an ornery mule
Here lies Lester Moore. Four slugs from a .44. No Les. No more.
Here lies George Johnson hanged by mistake 1882. He was right, We was wrong. But we strung him up and now he’s gone.
Here lies a man names Zeke. Second fastest draw of Cripple Creek
They abounded in riches. But she wore the britches.
Here lies Rosalie Tanner. A woman that spent most of her life on her back
I’ve often thought about what I would say on my tombstone. Maybe something like “I laughed. I cried. I lived.” Or maybe the opening lines of my book Forever His Texas Bride: “A plan? Definitely not dying.”
What would you say on yours? Leave a comment to enter the drawing for one of 3 autographed copies of THE COWBOY WHO CAME CALLING.
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.
It seems the most frequently asked question of a writer is where our stories come from. My first two published books – KNIGHT ON THE TEXAS PLAINS and THE COWBOY WHO CAME CALLING – came from real life experiences. I didn’t know at the time why certain things happened and why I had to live through them. I didn’t know that I was a writer-in-training and storing up all these life events for future stories.
The Story Behind Knight on the Texas Plains
When I was a child growing up, our family lived next door to a Latino couple. They had a daughter who was a few years older and we became playmates. I was around eight or nine years old. One day an ugly truth came to light and it affected me in a huge way. We learned that the neighbor’s girl wasn’t really theirs. The man had won her in a poker game and brought her to the U.S. illegally. He was really mean. He didn’t work and stayed drunk all the time. He made life miserable for his wife and my friend. I began to wonder what her real father must’ve been like to have wagered his daughter in a poker game. Did she mean so little to him that he could give up his own flesh and blood so easily? I never got an answer to that. But it stayed with me, refusing to go away. That was long before I even knew I’d be a writer one day. I had a burning desire though to give Juanita the happiness that she was denied in life. I just didn’t know how I’d do that.
And then I became interested in writing fiction. I joined writing groups and learned how to put a story together and how to perfect my craft.
A few years later, Knight on the Texas Plains was born. I knew I wanted to write a story about a child that was won in a poker game. I named her Marley Rose.
Duel McClain is a down and out cowboy who’d just buried his wife and son. He’s wandering from town from town, not caring about anything other than dying. So he sits in on a poker game and comes away with an innocent little girl to take care of.
On his way back to where his parents lives, a woman stumbles into his camp. She’s hungry and desperate. He strikes a deal with her-ride along and take care of Marley Rose just until he gets the child to his family and he’ll take her anywhere she wants to go with no questions asked.
Jessie Foltry agrees, only she doesn’t count on the fact that Marley Rose and Duel would wiggle into her heart. All she’s wanted for as long as she could remember is to be a mother. Holding the sweet baby in her arms forges an unbreakable bond. And the nights under the stars with Duel make her dream of things a woman like her can never have.
Trusting Duel was the easy part…living without her knight on the Texas plains would be next to impossible.
This book came out with Dorchester Publishing in 2002. It has recently been re-released as a Kindle e-book for $2.99. I’m so glad that readers who didn’t get a chance to read it now have the opportunity.
The Story Behind The Cowboy Who Came Calling
During the writing of “Knight on the Texas Plains,” I knew I had to write a story about Duel’s brother, Luke. It seemed as natural as breathing. At the time I had just been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and began losing my vision. One day I could see fairly well and the next I could see little more than shadows. It was one of the scariest times in my life. I didn’t know how I could deal with being blind. I was a writer and I had many more books to write.
In Luke’s story he meets a woman named Glory Day. Glory is her family’s sole support. Her father is in prison and her mother has sunk into a deep depression and she’s developed an addiction for laudanum. Glory’s vision begins to swiftly fade and she doesn’t know how she’ll provide for her mother and younger sisters if she can no longer see. But Luke isn’t going to let her find out. He means to do whatever he has to do to help make Glory’s life easier whether she gets as mad as a hornet or not.
He’ll risk life and limb for the woman he loved. And he does.
Today, I’m happy to say that my vision has returned. Unlike Glory I never had to find out what permanent blindness was like. At least not yet. But it sure let me immerse myself fully in Glory’s character.
The Cowboy Who Came Calling was a 2003 release by Dorchester Publishing. It has recently come out again as a Kindle e-book and sells for the low price of $2.99.
Have you ever dealt with something in your life and then found out much later the reason why such a thing happened? Or feel free to just talk about anything.
I’m giving away a Kindle version of KNIGHT ON THE TEXAS PLAINS to two people who comment.