Monday, February 20, 2017

Texas Border Outposts: Part One

I just got these award badges from the Paranormal Romance Guild and MUST share them with you. thanks to everyone who voted for Decoding Michaela!


Now for Texas Forts!
Texans have long fought border wars of one kind or another. Early settlers often fought for their lives on their own, but later they came to depend on military forces for protection. The soldiers needed a home base where they could live and train for battle. Their posts, with the grand name of "Fort," were often sorry affairs at first, but they formed a line of defense against Indian raiders and Mexican troops.

A few individual Texas forts have been featured on Sweethearts of the West in the past. Today, I’d like to lay out for you the progression of forts across the state as pioneers moved west into country formerly home to the Comanche, Kiowa and Apache tribes.

The first to erect forts were the Spaniards, who built missions and towns in south and southeast Texas. They protected their settlements with walled fortresses (presidios.) Most famous was San Antonio, once called Bexar, with its legendary Alamo.

However, as more and more American colonists flooded in, they established far-flung ranches and small towns that were vulnerable to Indian attack. Formal military protection didn’t exist at first, and colonists had to protect themselves as best they could. This is why the Texas Rangers originally came into existence.

Some early colonists built their own forts. One example is Fort Parker, established in 1834 near the Brazos River by Reverend Daniel Parker and his followers. Fort Parker is infamous because of a Comanche raid in 1836 that resulted in many deaths and the abduction of several white women and children. Among them was 9-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker who grew up to marry Chief Peta Nacona and give birth to Quana Parker, last of the Comanche chiefs to surrender.

Fort Parker; public domain, Wikipedia commons

During and shortly after the Mexican-American War (1846-48) U.S. forts were built along the Rio Grande River. Oldest of these was Fort Brown, sometimes called the “Grande Dame” of Texas Forts. Established in 1846 across from Matamoros, Mexico, it was named after Major Jacob Brown, who died there after losing a leg to Mexican artillery. Fort Brown remained in service for almost a century.

Siege of Fort Brown; Wikipedia commons; public domain

From 1848 to 1849, a chain of forts were built between the Rio Grande and north Texas to ward off attacks by Comanche, Kiowa and their allies. First, several companies of state militia were assigned to temporary camps. These were Connor’s Station in southern Navarro County, Ross’ Station on the North Bosque River, likely in McLennan County, McCulloch’s Station on Hamilton Creek in present day Burnett County, Medina Station in Medina County, Fredericksburg in Gillespie County, and in Austin, where two companies were stationed.

These camps proved woefully inadequate to protect settlers, prompting the United States Army to build the first forts manned by federal troops. They are as follows:

n      Fort Worth on a bluff above the confluence of the Clear Fork and West Fork of the Trinity River, giving rise to the city of Fort Worth (where I live)
n      Fort Graham on the east bank of the Brazos River in Hill County
n      Fort Gates on the north bank of the Leon River in Coryell County
n      Fort Croghan on Hamilton Creek in Burnett County
n      Fort Martin Scott in Gillespie County, 2 miles south of Fredericksburg
n      Fort Lincoln on the west bank of Seco Creek in Medina Cnty.
n      Fort Inge on the east bank of the Leona River in Uvalde Cnty.
n      Fort Duncan on the east bank of the Rio Grande at today’s Eagle Pass

Also in 1849, the Army erected Fort Bliss in far west Texas, where El Paso now stands. to defend against the Apaches. More posts were built on Texas’ southern border: Fort McIntosh at Laredo and Fort Ringgold (or Ringgold Barracks) at Rio Grande City (also called Davis’ Landing.)

Next month, I will talk about the second line of defensive forts as settlers move ever westward across Texas.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Different Kind of Prison by Sarah J. McNeal

While researching prisons in Wyoming for my WIP, IT’S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE, I found something fascinating and actually kind of wonderful. I’ll admit I am not captivated by prisons, or at least not until I found out about The Wyoming Honor Farm.

Monument At The Riverton Honor Farm

But first, here’s a little history. The Wyoming Honor Farm opened in 1931, attained by the 21st Legislature, and was originally known as the “State Penitentiary Farm” with a budget for the first year of $50,000. It was part of the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins, and was run by Farm Manager Andrew Brenston, the acting onsite supervisor, with 1 other supervisor and 2 correctional officers. The staffing level didn’t change for 40 years.  According to the 1958 Annual Report, “It was proposed that the overall farm program be continued and improved for … hope that a greater number of those released would profit by participating in this work to the extent that they may be successful in finding and maintaining their place in society and become useful citizens once again.”

The Wyoming Honor Farm started with 880 acres a mile north of Riverton, Wyoming. After 11 acres were sold later to the State Highway Department, 869 acres remained. Farm operations decreased to 640 acres in 2016. Activities in the early years included beef, swine, and poultry operations, crops, dairy production, and a butcher shop. 2300 acres of State and leased land behind the Wyoming Life Resource Center in Lander were added in the late 1970s for grazing for the beef program. Current annual farm operations include an average of 700 cattle, spring calving, 170 wild horses, and over 500 acres of alfalfa, corn, oats and other crops.

In 1985, “A” Dorm was built, housing 40 inmates, at a cost of $425,000. Three other dorms were built in the following years, along with new food service facilities, vocational education shop and a multipurpose administration building. Now here is the part I really love. In 1988, The Wyoming Honor Farm partnered with the Bureau of Land Management to begin training wild horses.  3500 wild horses have been adopted from the Honor Farm since 1988, and over 950 inmates have worked in the program, with an average of 175 horses on-site each day. The co-operative agreement between the Wyoming Honor Farm and the Bureau of Land Management is one of the longest running Prison partnerships in the United States.

In the 85 years since its beginning, the Wyoming Honor Farm facility has expanded to fill an important position in the Fremont County community, and overall Wyoming Department of Corrections vision, providing offenders opportunities to become law-abiding citizens, and successfully return to society as neighbors.  Through upgrades and physical expansions, the Honor Farm has grown into a prison containing four dorms, having a facility capacity that has grown from 30 inmates in the earliest years, to 279 inmates in 2014. The facilities now include a warehouse, as well as programming, vocational, recreational, and educational space, to meet the goal of reducing recidivism through cognitive and behavioral intervention.

 The Inmates packing sand during a flood

The Wyoming Honor Farm's Wild Horse Program, which began in early 1988, plays an important role in inmate rehabilitation because it provides an opportunity for inmates to learn how to respect animals and people through day-to-day challenges. Respect is a life skill that many inmates need help developing while incarcerated. Inmates in the Wild Horse Program work together as a team and, through this team, they learn to respect the opinions and goals of others. Inmates working with horses learn that through respect and patience even a wild animal will respond in a positive manner.

The Wyoming Honor Farm's Wild Horse Program has adopted a training program which staff members feel is both beneficial to the horses here and to the inmate trainers who work with the wild horses. The horses progress from round pen work, to halter work, then into the saddling and rider acceptance process. This ensures that the horses are not saddled or ridden before the necessary ground work has been completed. Clinton Anderson's training series is used as our main horse training system. Also included in the program are techniques similar to those used by Buck Breneman, Monty Roberts, Ray Hunt, Bryan Newbert and John Lyons which have proven to be very successful.

When an Honor Farm inmate is assigned a job in the Wild Horse Program he begins work on the feed crew. His job is to feed the animals. During the day he will spend much of his time helping others work with the horses.
This gives the inmate an opportunity to observe training techniques as well as become familiar with the animals. When the supervisor feels that the inmate is ready to progress to handling and gentling he will talk to the inmate and start the training process.

Inmates With Wild Horses 

The horses start getting desensitized from the beginning through the feeding and pen cleaning process. They also are moved from pen to pen, or worked in the large arena until they can handle some pressure. This is done either by horseback or from the ground. The horses will also get exposed to contact through the chute when being doctored, vaccinated, or identification tags being checked. The horses then are sorted into pens according to age, sex, or training progression. Once it is determined the horse is ready to handle it, they will then start getting sorted out individually during the day, and go through lots of round pen work before being progressed into the halter starting process.

Once a horse has moved on into the halter stage, it is progressed and advanced to more refined halter training. Attention is concentrated on getting the horse’s feet handled and the horse willingly going into the horse trailer. It will then be progressed to saddle acceptance, and slowly with baby steps, be transitioned into rider acceptance. The main focus for the horses is having a solid foundation created by lots of groundwork.

The Honor Farm has 2 adoptions on site each year, (one in the spring, and one in the fall), and a few other satellite adoptions around the state in coordination with other BLM events. Horses are adopted using a competitive bid process, where the highest bidder gets the horse. Bidding starts at $125.00 per horse. The horses are still property of the BLM for one year. After the year is up, the adopter gets a vet or brand inspector to sign an application to verify the animal is healthy, and then the adopter gets clear title for the horse. 

The inmates in this program have to learn to communicate and cooperate with each other to make everything work. Just like the horses, inmates have to establish relationships, and maintain them with positive or negative communication. The main focus is more on the positive side and stresses that this is not just horse training, it’s life. If the inmates can apply the lessons learned by working with the horses and each other, they have a much better chance of becoming productive citizens when they get out. A strong, positive, work ethic is something the Wyoming Honor Farm really tries to instill in the inmates.

A strong belief is that the horses will not lie to you or for you. So it stands to reason, the horse holds the inmate accountable. If one does not gain the trust of the horse, they will not progress. If one try’s to lie, cheat, or sneak with the horse, it will not tolerate it, and the truth will come out. Inmates also get to help take care of something that responds back to them. If you treat the horse and coworkers with dignity and respect, the rewards can be life changing.
It’s easy to see it as a win-win situation. In cooperation with the BLM which helps remove horses from the range, the public gets to have access to horses that have been gentled in the training program. The lives of the horses are saved and the lives of the inmates are changed forever through this innovative and wonderful program.

Riverton Honor Farm And Rescue Horses

Naturally, I have to use this exciting research in my 1958 era WIP about Kit Wilding and June Wingate.


June believed Kit loved her…until she married him

June Wingate has just married the man of her dreams only to overhear a conversation at her reception regarding the truth about why he married her. Her heart and trust are broken.
The newly elected mayor of Hazard, Kit Wilding, needs a wife because the town demands that their mayor be a married man. He trusts June, but now that they’re married, his wife seems distant and secretive.  Kit is not the kind of man to give up easily.

(Unedited Opening Lines):

A loud slap echoed through the mayor’s house. June’s hand stung as she placed it back in the pocket of her dressing gown, part of her vast trousseau paid for by her parents.

Kit stepped back and rubbed his reddened cheek with his left hand. June couldn’t help but notice the flash of his golden wedding band in the light of the dressing room. Her heart clenched at the sight of it. They’d been married only a few hours and now this…

“What the hell was that for, June? Did I do something wrong by trying to kiss my wife?”

“You bet you did. I thought you loved me and now…” She wasn’t quite sure how to say it to him now that she knew the truth. Honestly, she could barely believe what she had overheard at their wedding reception. How could she explain to him what she heard and express the doubts she had about his love because of it? Well, best to find a way because it seemed quite evident to her that he wasn’t about to leave her be until she did.

“You’d best tell me what this is all about, June, or I’m going to think you married me just to spite your parents and now you have second thoughts.”

“Oh, I have second thoughts all right, Kit Wilding, but it has nothing to do with my parents. It seems you married me just so you would have my family’s statue in the town to help you get elected mayor. I never would have thought you could do such an underhanded thing, Kit, not in a million years.”

“And you came by this amazing and supposed truth in what way?” Kit turned to walk back into the bedroom, and then he sat on the bed and faced June, his face a stoic mask.

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:
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Thursday, February 16, 2017

How valuable is that Quilt by Linda K. Hubalek

"The Quilt", by Edward Henry Spernon Tozer (English, 1864-1955)
Isn’t it funny how we used “old bedding” when we were growing up, and now realize how valuable these antique quilts are due to the work and love put into each of them?
When my parents downsized to a smaller home, they didn’t have room for two trunks of old quilts, and I was lucky to inherit them. Inside these wooden chests were the handmade quilts, made by my great grandmother and grandmother, which we had used on our own beds when I was young.
My childhood years in the 1960s were spent in a wood frame house built back in 1870. This house was featured in my Butter in the Well book series. The only heat for my upstairs bedroom came from a floor vent, which let a little warmth drift up from the room below. Therefore, during the winter months, there were “blanket sheets” on my bed, plus three or four quilts on top.
Then I grew up, left home, and started using the light modern blankets on my bed.
Looking through the inherited quilts again brought back many memories. Not only of the quilts, but other flashes—like tucking my feet up inside the flowered flannel nightgown I wore to bed, pink sponge curlers, and having only my nose sticking out from under the pile of bedding.
Now I think of how we treated those quilts that we had used for everyday bedding, and am amazed that they survived.
I marvel at the thousands of tiny handmade stitches and the variety and colors of the fabric—all scraps from past clothing of my ancestors.
How many hours did the quilters spend cutting out the block pieces, and then sewing them together?
Who sat around the quilting frame to quilt them? Relatives, friends, neighbors?
What was the conversation those days back in the late 1800s and early 1900s?
Did these women ever consider their handwork would keep their descedants warm after they were gone? Or that I would treasure these quilts and the memories of the quilters a century later?
Just think, whether it was a hundred years ago—or present time—a quilt made by someone’s hand, is keeping another person warm.
How valuable is that? Priceless…
North Dakota Quilters, circa 1885

Thanks for visiting Sweethearts of the West today!

Linda Hubalek

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Touch of Texas Irish—A Contest—My Research

As always, for me the research for this novel was fun. The story begins in Ireland, and my husband and I were fortunate enough to tour parts of Ireland several years ago. So, while writing my heroine's flight from Ireland, I had a good picture in my mind of the town and port of Kinsale, Ireland where she boarded a freighter bound for Boston, Massachusetts.

I knew nothing about Boston, so spent hours researching the port, the docks, and the neighborhoods where Irish Catholics lived. At the time, Boston was a Protestant town and didn't want Catholics in their neighborhoods. During the migration of Catholics from Ireland, many traveled to Boston as well as New York and other cities. I didn't know Boston's port was so extensive.

I spent a great deal of time researching rail travel, time schedules, and routes. The train didn't travel all the way to Fort Stockton so the hero and heroine had to board a stagecoach in Monahans. It was a rough ride compared to the train. I've researched stage travel for several other books so didn't need to spend much time on this topic.

I lived in Fort Stockton, Texas for several years, but did have to research the area for the time period of 1890. The fort had been closed, so the town lost much of its trade. The store by Comanche Springs was a stopping place for travelers.

Contest:  For the release of A Touch of Texas Irish, I'm giving away a James Avery charm bracelet with a clover heart charm. To enter, go to my website or blog and use the form to sign up for my newsletter. I will enter you into the contest. If you already receive my newsletter, email me at and request that I add you to the contest list. I will be checking emails to make sure they're valid and don't time out before a newsletter can download.

Unfortunately, the winner must be in the U.S. A winner outside the US will receive an E copy of this book and a selection of others and another winner will be selected for the bracelet.


Aileen Lynch flees Ireland to escape a forced marriage, but in Boston she marries a frontier doctor needing a mother for his son, and they board a train bound for Texas.

Doctor Samuel Walker attends a medical conference in Boston, and at a colleague's entreaty, marries a young Irish woman to save her from a forced abusive marriage.

While Aileen strives to earn Sam's affection, the frontier doctor vows never to risk Aileen's safety or his heart—he'll not father a child and watch Aileen die.


Aileen stepped from the washroom wearing her robe with only her chemise underneath. She wanted to be able to dress quickly if need be. Her traveling costume was folded and stored in her portmanteau. It would slide under their bed in case she needed it in a hurry. Sam waited for her right outside the door and walked her to their berth. The porter already had the seats folded down and the bed made. The couple that sat across from them was settled in the bunk above.
Sam held the curtain for her while she crawled across the mattress. He removed his clothes and laid them across the foot of their bed. He slipped under the covers in his drawers. Suddenly shy, Aileen clutched the robe closer to her body.
He untied her robe. "You can't sleep in that. You'll get too hot and become tangled when you try to turn over." She had to admit the car was rather warm. Sam mentioned something about a hot air furnace. "Come on, give it here." He took the robe and tossed it to the end of the bunk. When she'd settled under the covers, he slipped an arm under her head and pulled her close. Her heart thundered in her chest. Surely he'd not make love to her here. She'd die of embarrassment. "Good night, Aileen."
"Night." She released a sigh of relief, but felt a nagging disappointment. The thought of such an activity in these close confines brought forth a giggle.
"What's funny?"
"Sleeping this close to other people is so odd. Lydia is the only person I've ever shared a bed with." And now I'm sharing a bedroom with close to two-dozen people. Sam's heart thrummed away under her ear, and the faint aroma of his aftershave tickled her nostrils. She fidgeted trying to decide what to do with her free arm. The obvious remedy would be to throw it across Sam's chest, but she didn't want him to think her brazen. Finally, he made the decision for her. He took her arm, placed it across his middle, and stroked it with a gentle motion. She closed her eyes, enjoying the closeness and his touch.
"You settled...comfortable?"
 "Yes, thank you. Goodnight, Sam."
He squeezed her with his strong arms in response. She listened to the sounds around her—snoring, coughing, and the occasional passing of gas. Not having slept in such close confines before, the intimate sounds were foreign to her. Though Sam didn't love her, lying wrapped in his embrace, she experienced security for the first time since her mother's passing. A tear leaked from her eye, and she wiped it away. No looking back, Aileen. Mother wanted you to be happy. Aileen would make that happen.
A Touch of Texas Irish is now available for pre-order. The release date is March 8th. Copies are available at—
I have a new release, an anthology about love and modes of travel. It is available

Friday, February 10, 2017


WILD HORSE SPRINGS is the latest in Jodi Thomas’ Ransom Canyon Series. I have thoroughly enjoyed this series, as I have her other series. I feel I know the characters in the town of Crossroads that I’d recognize them if I met them on the street.

Sheriff Dan Brigman was first mentioned in book one in this series. He’s respected, honest, dependable, a good friend, a concerned father, and a man on whom the town can depend.

Dan’s wife abandoned him and their daughter Lauren years ago, although she shows up occasionally. Now, Lauren has graduated from college and moved to Dallas to write a novel. So, Dan is alone at home—when his job lets him go there.

How does the sheriff of a small town date? Many women in town would be happy to catch him. He's aware of the gossip that would ensue if her asked a woman on even one date. The only women he meets are usually speeding or bailing their husband out of jail. He won't even let friends set him up with their unmarried relatives for fear of hurting their feelings when he doesn't ask for a second date.

In WILD HORSE SPRINGS, Dan is driving along and—in the middle of the deserted highway—he finds a single sparkly, blue lady’s boot. He wonders about the kind of woman would own such a boot.

When he finds Brandi Malone, she's as beautiful and wild as he guessed she might be. At least, he thinks she is—but that’s her stage appearance and not the real Brandi. What drives Brandi to move from one small bar to the next when she has a voice good enough for Nashville? Why is a woman this beautiful alone?

The other story in the book deals with Lauren Brigman, who returns home defeated and wishing she’d never left. She hasn’t recovered from losing Lucas Reyes. Will Lauren's homecoming lead to heartbreak or a second chance for her and Lucas?

Obviously, I recommend this book to anyone who loves westerns, contemporary romance, or just well-written books. Let me insert a brief excerpt of the book to illustrate what I mean:

When he turned onto the county road on the third Friday in November, featherlight snow circled in the cruiser’s headlights as if the beams caught winter’s breath dancing in the dark along the silent stretch of highway. The first freeze of the season was whispering across the flatland, but Dan feared a storm would rage in a few hours.”

Can’t you visualize the scene painted by Ms Thomas’ words? She is a gifted author and I eagerly await her next release.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


By Celia Yeary

The recent 2017 PBS series titled “Victoria” has brought the rise of interest in Queen Victoria to America.  In 1837, a diminutive, neglected teenager is crowned Queen Victoria. She navigates the scandal, corruption, and political intrigues of the Court, and soon rises to become the most powerful woman in the world. Victoria stars Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who) as Queen Victoria in a highly anticipated series that follows the drama of the candid, spirited monarch who was perhaps the first woman to seem to have it all.

Following Victoria from the time she becomes Queen through her passionate courtship and marriage to Prince Albert, the lavish premiere season of Victoria dramatizes the romance and reign of the girl behind the famous monarch.
Young Queen Victoria
Born 1819-Died 1901
American Victorianism was an offshoot of this period and lifestyle that occurred in the United States, chiefly in heavily populated regions such as New England and the Deep South. The name was derived from the reign of Queen Victoria, which reflected the heavy British cultural influence on the nation during the time.

As American business people of the Second Industrial Revolution created sprawling industrial towns and cities in the Northeast, the growing upper class of the Gilded Age mimicked the high society of their former mother country in dress, morality, and mannerisms. The period included various activities: the Second Industrial Revolution, the Women's suffrage movement, and Republican political domination.

After the Civil War to the turn of the century, wealth increased all across America. By 1870, an enormous building boom increased the number of millionaires to one hundred. With the advent of new money, the call for more of everything reigned among the wealthy.
Too much is not enough” became the mantra, as the rich constantly sought out new ways to display their prominence in society.
From New York to the West coast, a woman of means threw her heart and soul into creating a home befitting her status. This meant building a home that was as festooned as a Christmas tree—inside and out.
She stuffed every room with spindly, feminine furniture, until it overflowed with excess. She decorated with abandon, creating grossly decorated rooms, filled with every knickknack and gimcrack imaginable. A person might feel stifled and claustrophobic in the room.

The ladies, young and old, dressed in the fashions of the day. The outfits were as ornate as the homes in which they lived. Pronounced bustles, unnecessary and odd-looking, was part of every well-to-do lady’s dress. One dress might contain as many as twenty yards of silk and satin, and rows and rows of lace and fringe and ruffles decorated the necklines, hems, and bustles.

A lady strived for the most extravagant hairdo she could manage. She piled it high on her head, tortured it into masses of curls and ringlets, and above all, draped it with all manner of gewgaws to frame her face. All in the name of elegance.

In All My Hopes and Dreams, a Western Historical set in the Victorian era, 1880 Texas, Miss Cynthia Harrington lives in a big, white Victorian house in Nacogdoches, Texas with her banker father. As she says in the novel, “Nacogdoches is not exactly the social and fashion center of Texas.” However, she strives to be the best-dressed young lady of the small East Texas town. With her loveliness and poise, she manages to attract the attention of visiting horse-buyer, Ricardo Romero. Of course, they marry, and she soon learns that the Romero ranch on the far Western edge of the Texas Frontier most certainly differs in all ways from her usual lifestyle—and that includes dress. By the third day, she finds herself wearing boots, split skirt, blouse, and gaucho hat.
Read about their adventures and how they fall in love in ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS.

Celia YearyRomance, and a little bit of Texas