Wednesday, October 22, 2014

From Bad Guy to Hero

by: Peggy L Henderson

I have a new release that just out this month, the third book in my western/time travel romance series, Second Chances. The book is titled Diamond in the Dust.  I put off writing this book, pushing it back to write two other books in two different series between Book 2 and Book 3 because, frankly, writing this one scared me to death. Why? 
First of all, I don't like writing in a contemporary setting, and this story calls for the hero to come from the old west of 1872 to modern times. Reason #2: It was "suggested" to me when I was nearly two-thirds done writing the second book, Ain't No Angel, that I write the "bad guy" in that book as the hero in another book. to turn a guy with vindictive motives into someone likable, with a slow progression from his old self to someone the reader can root for,  and give him his own story and HEA? 
Well, the returns so far from my beta readers and my editor have been quite encouraging, some even saying this is my best book to date. Well, we'll see. It's definitely one of the most emotionally-charged books I've ever written, and with the most broken hero I've ever come up with. 

Here's a short excerpt from Diamond in the Dust:

Morgan shook her head. “I wonder if Laney would have met Tyler if you hadn’t schemed for her to marry him,” she said. “Have you thought of that?” Their eyes met. “Apparently your brother has forgiven you. Why can’t you forgive yourself?”
“There ain’t no turning back for me, Morgan. I can’t undo my past.”
“But you don’t have to continue down the same road. You can’t go back and undo things, but you can move forward with your life, change things for the better.”
Gabe pulled away from her. He sat on his bunk, and stared at the floor, resting his elbows on his knees. He couldn’t bear to let her see the shame of his past, and the guilt over what he’d done.
Not a moment later, Morgan’s hands were on his arms. He tilted his head to look up at her. She stood right there, concern in her imploring eyes. He couldn’t pull away from her. The draw of her tender gaze was too much.
“You’re trying to push me away, Gabe, but I won’t let you,” she whispered. “Not anymore. You can pretend to be angry at the world all you want, but one of these days you’ll realize that not everything is bad and ugly. You can’t change who your parents were or what they did, but you can change who you are.”
She leaned forward, and brought both hands to his face, framing his cheeks with her palms. Gabe drowned in the depths of her amber eyes, his mind waging a losing battle against the soothing touch of her palms.
“Everyone deserves a second chance. You’ve been given the opportunity to make a new start,” she whispered, smiling as tears rolled down her cheeks. “Your brother thought enough of you that he willed half of his ranch to you.”
“I ain’t a good man, Morgan,” he grumbled. “Because of the way I grew up, I—”
“Stop saying that.” Her voice rose uncharacteristically. For once, genuine anger blazed in her eyes. “You’ve been in the dumps all your life, you’re so blinded when good things actually happen to you. There are people who care about you.” She straightened, removed her hands from his face, and glared down at him. He’d never seen her this mad.
“Just because you had a rotten upbringing doesn’t mean you have to live your entire life that way,” she continued angrily. “Jake Owens thinks highly of you. I saw what you did for that little boy, Aaron, and I’ve seen you with Logan. You’ve had plenty of opportunity to take complete advantage of me, but you didn’t. You’ve never acted anything but honorably with me. I’ll never believe that you’re the horrible man you make yourself out to be. You’re a good man with a bad past. Stop looking back, and start looking toward the future.
Morgan spun on her heels, facing away from him. She hugged one arm around her waist.
Gabe clenched his jaw and sprang up from the mattress. “Dammit, woman, why the hell do you keep pestering me?” His tone was more forceful than he’d intended. He needed to be angry with her, needed her to understand that she was wrong about him.
Morgan turned slowly, her eyes wide as she stared up at him in disbelief. She chuckled softly, and took a step toward him again. Their gazes locked.
“Haven’t you figured that out by now, Desperado?” Her anger was gone, replaced by the soft, calm voice that always held him mesmerized.
Gabe stared into her eyes. The answer was written there plain as day. No one had ever favored him with the kind of look she offered. Gabe’s chest tightened, and warmth spread through him. He’d seen that look in a woman’s eyes before, but it hadn’t been directed at him. Laney had gazed at Tyler the way Morgan favored him at this moment. It was that same look that had spurred him to find a way to send Laney back to the future, to hurt his brother. A look he never expected to see a woman bestow on him.
“I love you, Gabe McFarlain,” she whispered, and leaned up to touch her lips to his. 

Reverend Johnson is in the business of granting second chances to those deserving a new start, even if it means bending the rules of time travel on occasion. In Gabe McFarlain’s case, he may have gone too far . . .

Abandoned by his father, and raised in a whorehouse, Gabe has grown bitter to the world. Fueled by revenge and hatred, his actions leave him facing the hangman’s noose. Accepting certain death, he wakes up in a time and place that is as foreign to him as the tender touch of the woman who rescues him.

Down to earth and level-headed, Morgan Bartlett isn’t afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve. All she wants is independence from her overbearing mother, and the freedom to shape her own destiny. When she aids a badly beaten man along the side of the road, she may have found more than a dusty cowboy down on his luck.

Morgan’s unshakable belief that Gabe is a good man slowly chisels away the walls he’s built around himself. As he comes to terms with living in the future, he must decide if losing his heart is worth more than holding on to the life he’s led in the past.

Peggy L Henderson is a laboratory technologist by night, and best-selling western historical and time travel romance author of the Yellowstone Romance Series, Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series, and Teton Romance Trilogy. When she’s not writing about Yellowstone, the Tetons, or the old west, she’s out hiking the trails, spending time with her family and pets, or catching up on much-needed sleep. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart. Along with her husband and two sons, she makes her home in Southern California.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Famous Western Dudes

by Lyn Horner

Among the many books about the Old West in my personal library, I have a big, heavy tome titled The American West, The Pictorial Epic of a Continent. Written by Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg and originally published in 1955, this book is a treasury of facts and legends of the American West. It includes over 1,000 black and white illustrations.

While paging through the giant compendium, I came across a section on “Dudes.” According to the authors, softies from the eastern half of the continent and Englishmen with foreign accents and tall hats swarmed into the West from the earliest days of westward exploration. So many English dudes settled in Colorado Springs that it became known as “Little Lunnon” (London.)

One Boston dude who ventured west was Francis Parkman,”who doubted he would survive it and barely did.” The son of a clergyman, young Francis developed a love of wild areas, forests in particular, while living with his grandfather in an unsettled part of Massachusetts. After graduating from Harvard University and law school, Parkman traveled west for the first time, spending several weeks living with the Sioux Indians. This experience evidently left him with an unfavorable view of Native Americans, which colors much of his historical writings.

An English dude of the early frontier was Sir William Drummond Stewart. Between 1834 and 1843, Stewart made six overland trips from New Orleans to the annual fur traders rendezvous in the Green River area of Wyoming. His extensive entourage included artist Alfred Jacob Miller, who he retained to paint pictures of the American West to be hung in Stewart’s Murthley Castle in Scotland.

Another adventurer was Irish sportsman Sir St. George Gore. Dubbed “The Noblest Roamer of Them All’’ by one author, Gore once made an offer to the United States to hire a private army to exterminate the Indians. (Not so noble in my opinion!) He also mounted the greatest 19th century safari into the West. His heavily armed party left St. Louis in 1854, employing twenty-one two-horse red cherettes, a personal carriage and a number of express wagons, oxcarts and freighting wagons. Each night, his brass bed and iron washstand were set up in a large green and white striped tent.

Gore’s hunting expedition cost more than $500,000 and lasted three years. He traversed 6,000 miles of the mostly unexplored west, bagging 2,500 buffalo, 1,600 elk and 125 bears. When he had finally done enough killing, Gore offered to sell all of his equipment to the American Fur Company at Fort Union. However, the company’s factor tried to cheat him on the price. As a result, Gore built a huge bonfire, burning his wagons and boats in full sight of the fort. Today, Colorado’s Gore Mountains, Gore Pass and Gore Canyon memorialize the big-spending eighth baronet of Manor Gore.

Less well remembered is the debonair Frenchman, Marquis de Morès, who came to Little Missouri, Dakota Territory in 1883. De Morès founded a neighboring town, Medora, named for his wife, purchased 44,500 acres of land and began ranching. He also opened a stagecoach business. He named his house the "Chateau de Morès"; it is preserved in Medora as a historic site.

The Marquis and his wife set up housekeeping with a French chef, butler and housemaids. Four years later, their homestead was wiped out by the terrible blizzard of 1887, and the De Morès went home to France. A bronze statue of the Marquis in full cowboy regalia stands on the main street of Medora.

Now, from Dashing Irish, here's a peak at my version of a dude.

Bosque County, Texas; July 1874

“Consarned critter! Why’d you have to go and get stuck in there?” Lil Crawford muttered. She tugged harder on her rope in an effort to pull the bawling calf from the mud wallow it had wandered into. No luck. The animal was mired nearly up to his shoulders in thick clay gumbo. No matter how hard she pulled, she wasn’t going to get him out.

Nearby, standing beside the creek that had carved out the treacherous wallow along the bank, the calf’s mamma lowed plaintively as if blaming Lil for her baby’s predicament. Sending her a baleful glare, Lil said, “It’s not my fault. You should’ve dropped him in the spring like you’re supposed to ’stead of in the middle of summer. Then maybe he’d be big enough to climb out of this dang mud.”

Arms crossed, she studied the situation. She considered letting Major, her buckskin gelding, drag the calf out but feared injuring the little mite, possibly even breaking his neck. She sighed in disgust. There was no help for it; she’d have to get down in the mud and wrestle the calf out. It was either that or leave him there to die a slow, miserable death.

Dropping to the ground, she tugged off her boots and socks. She set them near the edge of the wallow, then rose, unbuckled her gun belt and laid it atop her footgear, where she could reach her six-shooter if need be. Her hat joined the pile for good measure.

Lil took a deep breath, set her teeth and stepped into the wallow, cringing as she sank up to her knees in the gooey muck. It squished between her toes and clung to her legs, plastering her britches to her skin. It also stank of rotting grass and other things she’d as soon not name.

Crooning softly to the frightened calf, she wrapped her arms around his middle, coating her hands, arms and shirt with mud in the process. She braced herself, preparing to wrestle the animal free.

A man’s deep-throated laugh caught her off guard. Jolted by the sound, she cried out in surprise and struggled to turn around, fighting the mud that imprisoned her legs. Once she succeeded, she stared, slack-jawed, at the stranger grinning at her from atop the most broken down nag she’d ever laid eyes on. The dude himself was a sight to behold. Togged out in a funny checked suit, with a derby hat atop jet-black hair, he made her lips twitch. However, her humor fled when she met his eyes. Brilliant blue, they shot sparks of light, brighter than the toothy grin splitting his handsome face.

“Sure’n I must be dreaming,” he said in a lilting Irish brogue. “Or are ye truly a lovely faery maid sent to enchant me?”

His foolish question broke Lil’s frozen stare and roused her anger. She knew she was far from lovely, and right now she was covered with nasty muck besides. “Mister, I’m no fairy and I don’t take kindly to strangers who ride up on me with no warning. So you can just turn that bag of bones around and git. Right now!”

“Ah, colleen, will ye not grant this poor beggar a few moments of your company? ’Twould be my pleasure to help ye with the wee animal if ye like.”

She snorted at his offer. “No thanks. I can get him out by myself. ’Sides, you wouldn’t want to muddy up your fancy suit, would you?” she drawled with a smirk.

 He looked down at himself and grimaced. “I take it ye don’t care for my fine attire.” Fine came out sounding like foin. “Well, you’re not the first. A layer of mud might not be such a bad thing, eh? With that in mind, will ye not reconsider and allow me to lend ye a hand?” He gave another roguish grin and splayed a hand over his heart. “In truth, your beauty so captivates me that I fear I cannot turn away.”

Lil bristled at his absurd comment. Certain he was making fun of her now, for her beauty would never captivate any man, she narrowed her eyes. She’d teach him, by criminy!

Without a word, she plowed through the mud over to where her belongings lay piled. She hastily wiped the worst of the mud from her hands onto the grassy embankment, then reached under her hat and drew her Colt. Coldly calm now, she turned to face the impudent stranger. It pleased her to see how fast he sobered with a gun aimed between his eyes.

“This is Double C land, mister. You’re trespassing. I could shoot you dead and nobody’d blame me. So unless you want a hole in your head bigger than your mouth, you’d best get moving.”

Sighing, he crooked his lips. “As ye wish.” He tipped his hat to her, clumsily reined his horse around and started to leave, but then he pulled up and glanced at her over his shoulder. He held up his hands when she cocked her gun. “I’m going, colleen, never fear. But first, could ye be directing me to the Taylor place, by any chance?”

Lil stared at him for a moment while questions raced through her head. Normally, she didn’t poke her nose into other folks’ business, but in this case . . . . “What do you want at the River T?” she demanded.

He frowned testily. “I mean no harm, if that’s what you’re thinking. I’m merely trying to find my sister. She’s wed to David Taylor. D’ye know him?”

Lil drew a sharp breath. “You’re Jessie’s brother?”

“Aye, that I am. So ye do know them.”

“I know them all right,” she gritted. She should’ve guessed who he was from his damned Irish accent and those blue eyes that were so much like his sister’s. The two looked a lot alike in other ways, too, except Jessie’s hair was dark red instead of black. And he was handsome, not beautiful.

Fiddlesticks! She didn’t care what he looked like. And she didn’t cotton to the way he was staring at her now, as if he was trying to see inside her head. It gave her an uneasy feeling. She wanted him gone. If giving him directions would get rid of him, so much the better.

“Follow the creek. It’ll take you to their place,” she snapped, jerking her head in the downstream direction. “Now leave before my trigger finger slips. On purpose.”

He blinked and seemed to come back to himself. “I thank ye for your kind assistance, milady,” he said mockingly. Facing forward, he kicked his sorry mount into a stiff-legged trot and headed down the creek, bouncing in his saddle.

Watching him, Lil snickered. He was a greenhorn if there ever was one, and he was going to be mighty sore tonight. She waited until he was well out of sight before laying her gun aside and returning her attention to the mired calf.

To find out what happens to the dude and the feisty Texas cowgirl, you can purchase Dashing Irish on these sites:

Find Lyn here:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

How the Jack-O-Lantern Came To Be by Sarah McNeal

The Legend Behind the Jack-O-Lantern

Okay, I get the history of Halloween, but what about that Jack-O-Lantern? Where the heck did a pumpkin with a scary face and a candle inside come from? Well, this author went on an investigation and got to the bottom of the origins of this iconic symbol of Halloween.

It all started back in Ireland with a man called “Stingy Jack”. According to the story, Stingy Jack was having a drink with the Devil, and true to his character, didn’t want to pay for it. Well, doesn’t that just spell trouble right there? It gets worse. Stingy Jack convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin and used it to pay for their drinks. Wanting to keep the money for himself, Stingy Jack pocketed the coin with a silver cross so the old Devil couldn’t turn back into his rightful form. After some time, Jack freed the Devil, but with conditions. The Devil couldn’t bother Jack for a year, and should Jack die, the Devil could not claim his soul. A year later, Jack tricked the Devil into climbing a tree to pick some fruit. (Is the Devil this stupid?) Anyhow, while the Devil was up in the tree, Jack carved a cross into the bark of the tree to prevent the Devil from coming back down the tree. Once again, Jack extracts a promise from the Devil not to bother him for ten years.

Not long afterward, Jack died. Well, don’t you know, God wasn’t going to allow such a conniving character into Heaven. After the trickery Jack had heaped on the Devil, the Devil certainly wasn’t going to let Jack spend eternity in Hell. And just for a little pay-back, the Devil sent off Jack with a coal ember to light his way into the dark night. Old Stingy Jack put the coal ember into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the earth ever since. The Irish came to call Jack’s apparition, “Jack of the Lantern”, and later, simply “Jack O’Lantern.”
The Celts of Ireland and Scotland began making their own versions of Jack’s lantern out of turnips and beets. 

When they came to America, they brought the legend of Jack O’Lantern with them and continued the tradition of making lanterns out of vegetables. Eventually, they discovered pumpkins, a fruit native to America, made the best possible lanterns. 

In the 1820 story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, the headless horseman uses a lighted pumpkin hung from his saddle and chases Ichabod Crane. All that remained after the incident was the horse, a hat, and a smashed pumpkin beside the road.
Of course, lanterns carved from turnips and gourds, domesticated way back 10, 000 years ago, have been used by mankind in many parts of the world. Gourds were used as lanterns in caves by the Maori 700 years ago. I can see how humans would want a portable way to carry light way back in the day. It was a dark and scary place at night. Heck, we still use flashlights and cell phone lights to keep away the dark. In Ireland and Scotland, they often carved grotesque faces to frighten the fairies and spirits away, especially during Samhain, October 31-November 1 when spirits and fairies were particularly active.

The lanterns were used in Somerset on Hallowe’en (Punkie Night) during the 19th century. Some claim Jack-O-Lanterns started with All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Soul’s Day (November 2) to represent Christian souls in purgatory. Christopher Hill wrote that “jack-o’-lanterns were carved of turnips or squashes and were literally used as lanterns to guide guisers (not sure what “guisers” were) on All Hallows’ Eve. (Just a note: you may have noticed there are different was of writing Jack-O-Lantern.) Although is a commonly held belief that the Irish started the tradition of Jack-O-Lanterns, there is no scholar of Irish mythology and customs to support that assumption. However, the folklorist, Jabez Allies wrote, “In my juvenile days I remember to have seen peasant boys make, what they called a ‘Hoberdy's Lantern,’ by hollowing out a turnip, and cutting eyes, nose, and mouth therein, in the true moon-like style, and having lighted it up by inserting the stump of a candle, they used to place it upon a hedge to frighten unwary travelers in the night.”

Well, I like the Jack-O-Lantern story making deals with the Devil, and I also enjoy the Americanized version of the pumpkin with a carved face and a candle lit within. As children, my sister and I set the house on fire using a paper mache’ Jack-O-Lantern when the candle that wasn’t supposed to be there burned down and started a fire. Halloween just wouldn’t be the same without that ghoulish grin carved in a pumpkin and an eerie light inside it.
Now for your viewing pleasure, here are some award winning Jack-O-Lanterns over the last few years.  

There were many more super-duper pumpkins that won prizes over the last ten years. Fascinating, aren't they? Mine were never this artistic, but they sure have been fun to make, just the same. I hope everyone has a wonderful Halloween with lots of fun and plenty of treats.

Sarah McNeal is a multi-published author of time travel, paranormal, western, contemporary and historical fiction. Her stories may be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Prairie Rose Publications. Her website:   

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Turning of the Leaves ~Tanya Hanson

Hard to believe it a year already, but last fall, Hubs and I witnessed the aspen trees in all their fiery glory, mostly yellow and gold, occasionally red. I still get goosebumps remembering the magnificence that surrounded us in Vail, Colorado.

                           . Aspen are found throughout North America, from New England to Alaska, even down into California and Arizona. But the best, the most, and brightest are found in Colorado and Utah.
Aspen, Colorado, was named that for a reason!

  Petiole--the stalk attaching the leaf to the stem--are long and flat, giving the leaves the chance to flutter or “quake” in the slightest breeze. Depending on their location, aspen endure temperatures as low as -78 F, and as high as 110 F. While they prefer moist soil, they can grow in desert climes that get a half a foot of rain a year. Their absolutely only requirement for survival is abundant sunlight. With white bark and black scars, the aspen is often confused with the birch. However, birch bark easily peels like paper and aspen bark does not. aspen isn’t really one tree at all.

A stand of aspen is actually one huge organism, a large system--up to twenty acres--of underground roots. When there is finally enough sunlight, roots sprout up into the famed white trunks which eventually shoot off leaves. This is called vegetative, or asexual, reproduction. These root systems are called “clones” and can live for thousands of of years. The oldest known clone at 80,000 years old is the “Pando” north of Bryce Canyon in central Utah. Five-to-ten thousand year old clones are more common.

Aspen are unique in another way...beneath that lovely white back is an inner green layer necessary for photosynthesis. Making sugars keeps the aspen growing all through the winter when other trees go dormant. This green layer also becomes survival food for deer and elk when winters are long.

 In the fall, the trees of each aspen “clone” structure will have the same color turning from green to gold or red at the same time. The intensive root systems appear immune to plant diseases. The aspen is not endangered and never will be. Even dormant root systems come back to life...especially after a forest fire clears out other growth and brings back the sun. The only natural enemy of the aspen are pocket gophers who, in abundance, can gnaw through root systems. But chopped up roots can still grow. The aspen turn gold earlier in the mountains than Denver, and we sure timed it right during our vacation in Vail.

 Have you ever seen aspen? Did you find any interesting facts today? 

Here's also a tad on my latest and final release (sob) in my Lawmen and Outlaws series:
Outlaw in Love.

Outlaw Ahab Perkins has run roughshod through many of my books at The Wild Rose Press, so I reckoned it time to settle down this charming bad boy and let him find his soul and true love.  Which he finally does in Outlaw in Love, last in a trilogy.

On the run from his gang, having robbed his own sister, outlaw Ahab Perkins has no place to go but good. He’d give his heart to Teresa in a single beat...if the beautiful woman in gray weren’t a...nun.

Unbeknownst, Teresa Avila is as wanted as Ahab, hiding out in disguise at a rundown mission. After her crimes and her evil stepfather’s abuse, she’s convinced she’s not good enough for any man, not even the outlaw she’s falling for.

Enter a burned-out homestead, an abandoned little girl and a kindly sheriff...can both find love as they guide their souls out of darkness?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


A few words from Jodi Thomas . . .

Once in a while in my career of forty books, there comes a story I know I have to write.  It waits like an impatient child in the back of my mind for its time to shine.  A PLACE CALLED HARMONY was one of those stories.  As I moved through the Harmony series, getting to know the people of Harmony, Texas, better with each book I knew that someday I’d tell the beginning of their town.  From the day I started writing the characters came through clear.  I had to find men strong enough to influence the generations of Mathesons, Trumans and McAllens.

Many times during the writing of this story I felt all three men standing behind me telling me their lives.  Patrick McAllen, young and full of dreams, thought of it as an adventure and believed love came easy.  Clint Truman felt old at thirty and didn’t believe in love.  When he heard he had to have a wife to get the job, he went to the prison gate and picked the first woman walking out.  And then there was Captain Gillian Matheson who loved his wife but also loved adventure.

When Truman, Matheson and McAllen’s stories began to dance in my mind, I found myself staying up later every night to write more.  I love the way the three men interacted and the way all three loves stories grew.  I have a feeling that readers will be staying up a little later to read one more chapter.

I felt close to all of them, because my great-grandparents settled this same country over a hundred years ago.  My grandmother was even born in a covered wagon. So follow me through A PLACE CALLED HARMONY you’ll love the story.

Enjoy the adventure,

Jodi Thomas

Jodi Thomas is the NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of 40 novels and 12 short story collections. A four-time RITA winner, Jodi currently serves as the Writer in Residence at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas.


Review by Caroline Clemmons

Yes, I’m another dedicated fan of Jodi Thomas books. I can honestly say I’ve read every book she’s published and enjoyed each one. I admit I’ve wished she’d write more western historical romances even though I love her Harmony series and the two suspense novels she authored.

With A PLACE CALLED HARMONY, Ms Thomas has fed both my addictions by writing a historical western romance about the founding of the town of Harmony. As I expected, this book kept me enchanted from the first word to the end. Those who’ve read the Harmony books will recognize that series’ leading families of Truman, Matheson, and McAllen.

Harmon Ely wants to found a town at the juncture of two Texas Panhandle waterways where he’s built a trading post.  With his dog Davy as a companion, Harmon is used to his own company. He’s a man of vision who believes he owns the perfect site for a town. Though his trading post has been burned to the ground, he’s been shot and left for dead, and he’s been robbed several times, Harmon is not going to give up.

He has a scheme to attract married people to settle in his new town—all he needs are strong, determined, and resourceful couples. He’ll offer work building the town and a house. In exchange for two year’s work, Harmon will sign over their house and forty acres of land. With ads in newspapers, he carefully reviews responses because he only wants good people who will contribute to his town. He’s building for the future.

Harmon also enlists and old friend to help, Sheriff Lightstone of Huntsville, Texas. Lightstone knows a man who appears determined to kill himself with liquor and fights since the death of his family. The sheriff pulls Clint Truman from a brawl and offers him an opportunity to stay out ofjail. Lightstone even has an idea for Clint’s wife.

The two men take a wagon to Huntsville prison for women and wait as that day’s releases file out. Of the several women inmates regaining freedom that day, only one is not met and has nowhere to go—and she carries a tiny baby. Karissa has been betrayed by everyone she trusted and is consumed by fear. After assurances by Clint, she agrees to wed him if her conditions are met: he will never ask about her past, he will never strike her, and he will never force himself on her. He gives her a few days to recover while he sells his farm, then they set out by train for Dallas to buy a wagon and supplies for their trip to the Panhandle.

Meanwhile near Galveston, Patrick McAllen is escaping an overbearing and abusive father with the aid of his mute brother, Shelby. Going with Patrick is Annie Spencer, who is almost as eager to escape her stepmother. Patrick and Annie are friends but not in love. Their motive in marrying is to flee beyond their parents’ reach and they seek Harmon Ely’s town as a sanctuary. Annie requests only that Patrick never lie to her. He agrees and asks for the same. He hopes one day Shelby will join them.

Captain Gillian Matheson is a career soldier. Although he loves his wife Daisy to distraction, he cannot settle on her family’s farm and tolerate her brothers ordering him about constantly. He hadn’t realized when they wed that she wouldn’t leave her family to follow him from post to post. What he doesn’t know is that Daisy has grown weary of never seeing her beloved husband for longer than enough time to conceive another child. Writing as her husband, Daisy contracted with Harmon Ely to settle in his new town. Then she convinced her brothers to load all her furnishings into wagons and escort her to Harmon’s trading post and leave. All she has to do now is await Gillian’s arrival. The letter she sent her husband should bring him hurrying to meet her. At least, she prays that’s true.

A PLACE CALLED HARMONY is one of my favorites of Ms Thomas’ books. Each of the three couples plus the secondary characters face different problems that present a slice of 1880’s western life. Settling on the frontier was hard work and dangerous, but joy also awaited those with survival skills. By deftly weaving the good with the bad, Ms Thomas creates a portrait of those who founded not just Harmony, but a myriad of towns across the West.   

 If you haven’t already guessed, I give A PLACE CALLED HARMONY five out of five stars. You can buy this book from

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Ghosts of Galveston

By Kathleen Rice Adams

At only twenty-seven miles long and three miles across at the widest point, Galveston, Texas, is not a big place. Located about two miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico an hour south of Houston, the barrier island and tourist Mecca is home to 48,000 year-round residents.

At least, that’s the number of residents the most recent U.S. Census counted. Those who call Galveston home know the population is much larger. A goodly number of the island’s dearly departed…well, never departed.

Bettie Brown

1859 Ashton Villa, courtesy Galveston Historical Foundation
Built in 1859 by a wealthy hardware merchant, Ashton Villa is one of Galveston’s most striking museum houses. Miss Bettie Brown, the merchant’s eldest daughter, was quite the character during her lifetime. She never married, drove her own carriage, and smoked in public, scandalizing the community. She lived to a ripe old age and died in 1920…but that doesn’t mean she left the property. Today, she reportedly scandalizes tour groups by appearing in the Gold Room and her private dayroom, roaming the grand staircase, locking and unlocking one of her lavish trunks, stopping clocks, and playing the piano.

Clara Menard

1838 Michel B. Menard House
courtesy Galveston Historical Foundation
Also called “the Mardi Gras ghost,” the spirit that inhabits Texas Declaration of Independence signatory Michel B. Menard’s 1838 mansion is thought to be that of his daughter Clara, who died in her teens. According to legend, within the first few years after it was built, the house was the site of one of the first Mardi Gras balls in the country. During the festivities, a young woman slipped on the staircase, fell, and broke her neck. Ever since, the hazy figure of a young woman dressed in party regalia of the era has been seen standing at the foot of the stairs during Mardi Gras season.

Daniel Brister

1877 Smith Brothers Hardware Store
In 1920, twenty-five-year-old police officer Daniel Brister attempted to stop a robbery outside the 1877 Smith Brothers Hardware Store. He had just handcuffed one of the perpetrators when the second one shot him in the chest. Though bleeding, Brister chased down and cuffed the second robber, too…only to die of his wound moments later. Brister seems to have become less upstanding in the Afterlife. These days, he pinches women’s posteriors and breathes down their necks in the restaurant now located at the spot of his death. He also throws pots and pans in the kitchen.

Jean Lafitte

Jean Lafitte, artist unknown
courtesy Rosenberg Library, Galveston
The pirate Jean Lafitte built the first permanent structure on the island. All that remains of the 1816 smuggler’s refuge Maison Rouge, originally painted red and surrounded by a moat, is a crumbling foundation. The U.S. Navy chased the privateer off the island in May 1821, but Lafitte reportedly loved Galveston so much, he returned in 1823…after he was killed during a sea battle off the coast of Honduras. Legend holds the pirate buried a treasure beneath three oaks on the western end of the island. Treasure hunters never have found the loot, but several have reported encountering Lafitte—right about the time he chokes them.

Lovelorn Lady

1911 Hotel Galvez, courtesy Hotel Galvez
Because of its location overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, the 1911 Hotel Galvez once was a favorite getaway for Frank Sinatra and several U.S. Presidents. The most famous guest of the “Queen of the Gulf” never checked out of Room 501. According to generations of hotel staff members, the Lovelorn Lady awaited her fiancé in the room. When his ship went down off the coast of Florida and he was not listed among the survivors, she hanged herself. Sadly, the fiancé showed up about a week later. These days the Lovelorn lady doesn’t confine herself to Room 501, although that seems to be her favorite haunt. She has been seen or felt throughout the hotel, wandering the halls, breaking dishes, turning on water faucets, slamming doors, and blowing out candles.

Capt. Marcus Fulton Mott

After serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, Marcus Fulton Mott became a prominent lawyer. He built a grand Victorian Mansion in Galveston’s East End in 1884. Although the existence of a cistern on the property has never been confirmed, Mott’s son may have murdered three women and thrown their bodies into the well—or at least that’s what Mott’s ghost has told people. Reports of supernatural activity at the house have died down in the past two decades, but prior to the mid-1990s, the ghost at the Witwer-Mott House reportedly ordered people out of the home, threatened them, and threw mattresses across the room…while people were on them.

Point Boliver Lighthouse Ghost

1872 Point Boliver Lighthouse, courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
The original Point Boliver lighthouse, built in 1850, was pulled down during the Civil War so the Yankees couldn’t capture the light and use it as a navigational aid. The new lighthouse, built in 1872, still stands, though it was decommissioned in 1933 and sold to a private individual in 1947. No one has been inside the 116-foot-tall structure for years, yet people—including Patty Duke and Al Freeman Jr., who filmed a movie there in 1970—have reported seeing a figure on the light deck at the very top. Some say the ghost may be that of a lighthouse keeper’s son who killed his parents at the scene. Others believe Harry C. Claiborne, who began a twenty-four-year, two-hurricane tenure as lighthouse keeper in 1894, was so devoted to duty that he still mans his post.

Samuel May Williams

1838 Samuel May Williams House
courtesy Galveston Historical Foundation
Samuel May Williams served as Stephen F. Austin’s secretary, became the first banker in Texas, and founded the Texas Navy. The home he built on Galveston in 1838 is the oldest standing residence on the island. Known as “the most hated man in Texas,” Williams had a habit of pinching pennies and ruthlessly foreclosing on mortgages. Few are surprised he apparently hung around to terrorize the living. Fires have been lit in fireplaces when no one was in or near the home, there’s a “cold spot” outside the children’s rooms on the second floor, and a misty figure appears in the windows of the cupola atop the roof.

Tremont House Ghosts

Tremont House, courtesy Wyndham Grand Hotels
The Tremont House opened with great fanfare on April 19, 1839, in commemoration of the Battle of San Jacinto. By the 1860s, the Tremont had fallen on hard times—in more ways than one. In 1862, the Union Army commandeered the hotel to quarter soldiers. In 1865, the Tremont burned to the ground. Seven years later, the phoenix rose from the ashes even bigger and grander than before. The Tremont hosted guests including Buffalo Bill Cody, Clara Barton, Stephen Crane, and five U.S. Presidents, including Ulysses S. Grant. More hard times and several hurricanes later, the Tremont was demolished in the 1920s…only to be rebuilt once more in the 1980s. Somewhere along the line, a whole passel of ghosts moved in. A Confederate soldier marches up and down the lobby, where a little boy the staff calls Jimmy plays with bottles and glasses at the bar. Jimmy is thought to be the child who was run over in front of the hotel in the late 1880s. “Sam” was murdered on the fourth floor by a thief who wanted the haul Sam had made at one of the city’s storied casinos. The spirit in Room 219, assumed to be a disgruntled former employee, scatters the contents of guests’ luggage.

Unknown Schoolteacher

1895 Hutchings-Sealy Building
courtesy Mitchell Historic Properties
Among the many acts of bravery and selflessness recorded during the Great Storm of 1900, one stands out as especially poignant: That of a young schoolteacher who had taken refuge on the third floor of the Hutchings, Sealy and Company Bank on the Strand. As the seventeen-foot-storm surge submerged the island, sweeping property and lives from the face of the earth, the schoolteacher climbed through a window, perched on a ledge, and dragged people out of the flood and inside the building. She cared for the living for several days, until she succumbed to a fatal fever. To this day, no one knows her name, but she has a familiar face. Ever since the disaster, residents and visitors alike have seen a young woman dressed in the fashion of the day in various parts of the historic bank building. Before the restaurant that occupied the building for many years closed in 2008, some employees reported hearing her call their names.

William Watson

(May disturb some readers.)
Galveston Railroad Museum, courtesy Nsaum75
Of all the ghost stories on Galveston, William Watson’s may be the most gruesome. A bit of a daredevil, the thirty-two-year-old engineer was standing on the cowcatcher of a locomotive as it left the Santa Fe Union Train Station September 1, 1900—one week before the Great Storm destroyed the city. According to reports at the time of his death, Watson frequently pulled the stunt. Something went horribly wrong that day, though. He slipped from his perch, went under the train, and immediately was decapitated. His body stayed put; his head ended up one-quarter mile down the track, where the engine stopped. Watson reportedly haunts the former station (now the Galveston Railroad Museum), though not usually in visual form, thank goodness. Most of the time he merely makes strange noises and redecorates.

A second spirit hangs out at the museum, as well. For a time, part of the building served as a residential psychiatric treatment facility. In the 1980s, a female patient jumped to her death from a fourth-floor window. Since then, the gauzy form of a woman has been seen sitting on windowsills, one leg outside, before disappearing.

These are only a handful of the non-corporeal residents of Galveston. Sometimes called “a cemetery with a beach attached,” the island is second only to New Orleans in the number of reported hauntings. In addition to the celebrity ghosts, other spirits with unknown names and less spectacular stories remain on the island, partly because of Galveston’s dramatic history.

The island switched back and forth between Union and Confederate hands several times early in the Civil War (the Rebs finally managed to hang onto it from January 1863 on), and both sides left bodies behind in buildings along the Strand. After the Great Storm, the surviving buildings along the Strand became temporary hospitals and morgues. The Strand fell into disrepair for a number of years until Galveston philanthropist George Mitchell stepped in to renew and revitalize the area. During renovations, a number of skeletons were discovered in the walls, left there by war or storm victims who literally “slipped through the cracks,” evidently. That may explain why Galvestonians and visitors frequently notice vague forms in uniforms or period clothing floating near ceilings in some of the historic buildings.

Other reported hauntings include:
  • Orphans who drowned during the Great Storm have been spotted at the Walmart built on the site of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word’s doomed orphanage.
  • The Flying Dutchman was reported in Galveston Bay twice in 1892.
  • Bishop’s Palace may be haunted by the spirit of a former owner, who checks the building’s structural integrity when hurricanes threaten.
  • An unknown man, possibly a Great Storm victim, sometimes runs along the sand at Stewart Beach.

Though Galveston plays no role in my latest story, ghosts do. “Family Tradition” is one of six stories in Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico, Vol. 2, from Prairie Rose Publications.

Family Tradition
Haunted by his kin’s tradition of spectacular failure, bank robber Tombstone Hawkins is honor-bound to prove his family tree produced at least one bad apple. Carnival fortuneteller Pansy Gilchrist has masqueraded as a gypsy spiritualist for so long she’s started to believe her own spiel. When she accidentally summons a pair of real ghosts, dishonesty may not be the best policy…but it’s all they’ve got.

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