Monday, January 30, 2012


By Ashley Kath-Bilsky

"Home is the nicest word there is." ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

Like many little girls, I loved the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In fact, the Little House books were my first introduction to historical literature, and instilled within me a curiosity and lifelong fascination for how people lived in the past.

I still gravitate toward historical fiction and non-fiction, both as a reader and writer. And whenever I get the chance, I love to visit places where I can actually see firsthand how people lived long ago.

Since childhood, I have visited many historical sites. My travels have taken me from Revolutionary War battlefields in New England [Pictured: Saratoga Battlefield, Saratoga, New York] to a haunting windswept battlefield east of Inverness, Scotland called Culloden Moor.

From famous landmark American homes like Monticello and Mount Vernon in Virginia, to breathtaking castles in Scotland and England.

I have gazed in wonder at intricate lime wood carvings by Grinling Gibbons at Hampton Court Palace (see below), and warmed my hands by a peat fire in a stone Crofters cottage in the western highlands. But there is nothing that touches my heart quite as deeply as a simple, hand-hewn log cabin.

Don’t get me wrong, I love architecture and admire all the work and extraordinary talent that has contributed to buildings like Hampton Court Palace or the innovative genius of Thomas Jefferson in designing Monticello. But there is something about seeing a log cabin that has been preserved from the mid-1800s that I cannot help but admire. And one of my favorite places to visit (and learn about) log cabins is in Fort Worth, Texas.

Nestled in a beautiful wooded area off University Boulevard is a wonderful collection of log cabin homes which make up a Living History Museum called The Log Cabin Village. Although owned and operated by the City of Fort Worth since 1965, it was a group of residents in the 1950s who had the foresight to form the Pioneer Texas Heritage Committee and preserve some 19th century log cabins before they were lost forever.

An initial six buildings were acquired from the North Texas area and painstakingly relocated to the site in Fort Worth. They were not designed by famous British architects like Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) and John Nash (1752-1835). There were not skilled craftsmen employed and paid to do the labor. They were built by men often alone in the wilderness, like Charles Ingalls, who first cleared the land, then went about chopping down trees and cutting logs that were on average 1-2 feet longer than the desired length needed for the structure. The logs were then dragged or rolled to the building site.


When you consider that the homes at Log Cabin Village were all constructed around the 1850s, you can readily understand how difficult it must have been to not only have the supplies you needed, but the time it took to construct your home – usually very quickly. One would think that chopping down enough trees and cutting logs was the most difficult part. But a great deal more went into building a cabin that would provide safety and shelter for your family.

Hewing the logs (converting a round log into a square timber), came next and could be quite time-consuming – especially for one man. A hewing axe or broadaxes was used. Basically, the axe had one side that was flat and the other side of the axe was beveled. [See picture]

Hewing the logs created a tighter fit, as well as a more polished finished with flat wall surfaces.

Once the smoothing or hewing was done, great care then had to be taken in notching the logs.

Suffice to say that the weight of the cabin rested on its four corners, and the weight-bearing stability of those corners depended on how well corner notches were made. However, it was important that each log did not rest ‘flush’ against the other. They had to be separated from each other by a space of an inch or more called a chink. The next step was then to fill in that space with chinking, to protect against cold, wind, rain, and snow.

Mud, clay, lime, pieces of split wood, shingles, and stones were used as chinking. Red clay was often used in North Central Texas. Hilly areas also used small rock fragments which were prevalent. In addition, since limestone was available in most of North Central Texas, a lime plaster was applied as a protective coating over the chinking.

Due to inclement weather or the need to build a shelter as soon as possible, many log cabins did not have a traditional stone foundation. Roofing consisted of a ridgepole with split logs or wooden boards extending down to the top of the cabin walls. To protect against rot and leaking, everything from sod, bark, earth, clay, and even leather were used. However, the best thing to use were shingles, which usually had to be specially ordered or were perhaps available for purchase at a fort or a general store – if you were lucky enough to live near a town.

Seeing the American frontier craftsmanship that went into the building of the log cabins at The Log Cabin Village is fascinating, but you also cannot distance yourself from the fact that each cabin was someone’s home—a home where they lived, raised children, struggled to survive, and often died. Some of the people who lived in these homes were important men in the history of Texas, men like Isaac Parker.

Isaac Parker was a pioneer, soldier and lawmaker who served in Elisha Camp’s Company in 1836. He was also a member of Congress for the Republic of Texas from 1839-1845, a State senator, and a lifelong friend of Sam Houston. In fact, Parker County in Texas is named in his honor.

The Parker cabin was built around 1848, making it the oldest structure in Tarrant County. Its design is that of a double-log room construction connected by a covered breezeway (often called a dog trot). A large fireplace was located in each of the two log rooms.


In addition to living in this two-room log cabin with his wife and children, Isaac brought his niece, Cynthia Ann Parker (and her infant daughter named Topsannah), after they were discovered by Texas Rangers. Unfortunately, Cynthia Ann did not want to be rescued.

For those who are not familiar with the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, she was captured during a Comanche attack in 1836 when she was 9 years old. Although beaten and mistreated as a slave, in time, she would become the beloved wife of Peta Nocona, a Comanche chief. The story of Cynthia Ann Parker is a tragic one.

Having spent 24 years with the Comanche, she now considered them her people, and longed to be reunited with her husband, Peta Nocona, and their two sons, Pecos and Quanah Parker.

When her baby daughter died of pneumonia, Cynthia Ann—giving up hope she would ever see her sons again—starved herself to death. However, her son, Quanah, would become the last great chief of the Comanche.


Built circa 1853, the Tompkins Cabin is a one-room log house with a loft. Its owner, John Baptist Tompkins was born in Virginia on 21 October 1820, and arrived in Texas with his wife, Sarah, in late 1857.

Originally located in Parker County, the cabin was situated on fertile land, and Tompkins was a progressive farmer who used innovative crop rotation methods as well as experiments with various seeds. His primary crops were wheat, oats, and hay. And his apple, pear, and plum trees were believed to make up the finest fruit orchard in the area.


Although not originally a grist mill, the Shaw Cabin is one of the few working grist mills in Texas today. I LOVE the fact you can visit this Grist Mill and purchase fresh, warm cornmeal just like the way it was milled in the 19th century.

The cabin itself was built around 1854, but the milling equipment (pictured below) dates back to the mid 1860s. The equipment came from a saw mill located in Moline, Texas, and had been in continuous use for over 70 years until it stopped working in 1930. In 1970, the City of Fort Worth purchased and installed it into the Shaw cabin.

As for the owner of this cabin, Thomas J. Shaw was originally from Tennessee. At age 19 in 1838, he made the first of many trips to the western frontier where he assisted troops in what is known as the “Trail of Tears”; the forced relocation of the Cherokee nation to the Oklahoma territory. He eventually returned to Tennessee.

But in 1851, a now married Shaw moved to Texas, first settling in Paris then moving to Fort Smith, Arkansas. When a group of families traveled through Fort Smith on their way to Texas in 1845, Shaw and his family joined them. The fifteen families arrived in Parker County in October, 1845. Due to heavy rains, they were forced to camp on the banks of the Clear Fork of the Trinity River. Eventually, they would cross the river and stake out the sight for their homestead. The Shaw Cabin was erected on this sight.

Shaw had great skills as a carpenter and house builder, and became quite well known for his log cabin building. Many inexperienced homesteaders sought his help. A prosperous farmer, Shaw served as Parker County Commissioner, Justice of the Peace, and a Notary Public. He also helped with the actual organization of Parker County and voted in its first election.


Built circa 1855, the Pickard Cabin is a one and a half story home. The second story has a loft which was used as the sleeping quarters for the Pickard children.

William Sidney Pickard, and his wife, Malissa Ellen Dickson, were originally from Tennessee. In October 1856, they began their journey to Texas. Accompanying them were William’s father’s family and slaves. Upon arriving in Parker County, William’s father purchased a 320-acre farm in Spring Creek. The family began improvements and started raising horses using the stock they brought with them from Tennessee. In 1863, after William Sidney Pickard returned from the Civil War, he purchased this cabin and lived here with his wife and eight children.

Another prominent citizen of Parker County, William S. Pickard served as County Commissioner and as President of the Parker County Pioneer Association in 1895. He died in his home on 15 January 1898.


"So they all went away from the little log house. The shutters were over the windows, so the little house could not see them go.” ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder"

These are just a few of the log cabins that have been preserved at Log Cabin Village in Fort Worth. Among the others you will find here are the FOSTER cabin, one of the few surviving plantation style homes in Texas, and a one room, board-and-batten schoolhouse. Built in 1872, the MARINE SCHOOL features handmade benches, a teacher’s desk, and blackboards that were painted on the walls.

Remember, the Log Cabin Village is a Living History Museum where you can not only see how these homes from the 1800s were made, but walk inside and truly see how pioneers lived. A variety of period artifacts are on display. You can walk through the village on your own; each cabin has information posted about its history and a staff member in period costume is present to answer any questions you might have. Or, you can arrange to take a tour called "Meet the Pioneers", very popular with school children and scouting troops. Participants are divided into groups and then visit each cabin where their historical interpreter discusses Texas frontier history, as well as demonstrates various crafts from the 19th century. Demonstrations vary, but include weaving, candle-dipping, blacksmithing, and milling.

“The real things haven't changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.”
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

I hope you enjoyed this post, and perhaps found it useful. What I love about history is that it really is a part of all of us—individually, as a community, and as a country. And that makes it all the more important to preserve it whenever we can. In closing, I have to send out a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose opened a door into the past for me with her book and made it live again. ~ AKB

For more information about the Log Cabin Village, visit their website at:


Fort Worth’s Log Cabin Village – A History: Terry G. Jordan, Texas State Historical Association (1980)

Early Family Home - The Early Life Settler Series: Bobbie Kalman, Crabtree Publishing Company (1947)

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Hey everyone, I have a new release out this week and wanted to tell you a little bit about it. It's a departure for me--and I broke several of my own rules to write it.

Rule #1 – I never write in first person.
Rule #2 – I never write from a child’s point of view.
Rule #3 – I always have romance somewhere in my stories.

Well…one out of three ain’t bad.

I threw Rule #1 out the window when I picked up my pen and started this book. I did write Kane’s Redemption in first person. It’s the first work of fiction I’ve ever written from this perspective, and after I wrote it, I knew there would be two more of these novellas to follow. There was no better way to tell this story of young Will Green and Jacobi Kane – and the secret that stands between them.

Will is a child when the story begins, but a young man by the conclusion. So, I guess you could say I broke my own “Rule #2” as well.

Growing up in the 1800’s on the prairie of the southwest would make an adult of you quickly; even quicker if you watched your entire family murdered in the space of five minutes. This story is not just about Will, though – it’s also about Jacobi Kane, who has some secrets of his own. Although he rescues Will, he wrestles with demons that can’t be fought alone – but how can Will help? In the end, who is the true rescuer – Will, or Jacobi Kane?

Romance? Well, there’s a bit of that. But it’s the romance that comes with new beginnings and the kiss of forgiveness. Come to think of it, the romance in Kane’s Redemption is different from anything else I’ve ever written, too.

This story came from somewhere deep; a place I didn’t know existed. It’s a gift I hope you will take as much pleasure in reading as I did in writing.

Look for Book 2 in the Kane trilogy, Kane’s Promise, in the fall of 2012.

Here's the blurb:Novella - A ten-year-old boy fights for his life when he is taken prisoner by a band of raiding Apache. Steeling himself for death, Will Green is shocked when a lone man walks into the Apache camp to rescue him several days later.

Driven by the secret he carries, Jacobi Kane has followed the Indians for days and needs to make his move to save the boy. With the odds stacked eight against one, his chances for success look pretty slim. But even if he's able to rescue the boy and they get out alive, what then?

EXCERPT from Chapter 1:Tonight would be my night to die. Red Eagle and his men had kept me alive to their own end, for the last several days. Now, they argued, and though I didn't speak Apache, it wasn't hard to tell what they meant. We had ridden across endless miles of desert, populated only by saguaro cactus and rattlesnakes for days. I wasn't sure how many. The men talked amongst themselves, their faces smeared with war paint. Garish and frightening, they had seemed to me from the moment they took me. Now, they seemed hideous, almost laughable.

The sun was setting on another day among endless time – six days; seven? I wasn't sure how long we'd ridden. On and on, it seemed as if we'd ride until we came to the end of the earth. But I knew the ocean surrounded the continent on three sides, and we were far from the cooling spray of ocean water my father had often spoken of.

I was in Hell, and I knew it. But not the why. Why was I even still alive?

Available for Kindle here at Amazon, and in print next week!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


By Caroline Clemmons

When I was growing up in Lubbock, Texas, dancing in school was strictly forbidden. We could, however, learn "folk games" in physical education class. That was the only part of Phys Ed that I liked. I am soooo not a jock. Think shy, klutzy, asthmatic nerd. 

After high school graduation, I became a student at Texas Tech. My first semester there, a guy asked me to the western dance held each Friday night, and I accepted. Woohoo! I didn’t think I knew how to dance western style, but I had this great skirt that would be perfect. (Yes, I was pretty shallow, but I was 17, so give me a break.) Imagine my surprise when the dances were the folk games I’d learned in public school!

According to the Mid Atlantic Challenge Association, the square dance is an American institution. It began in New England when the first settlers to New England (probably not counting the Puritans) and the immigrant groups that followed brought with them their various national dances: the schottische, the quadrille, the jigs and reels, and the minuet. I’m including one of my favorite videos below, in which Queen Elizabeth II is shown dancing what greatly resembles a square dance (but formal). That’s Prince Charles dancing with his grandmother, the Queen Mother. Thanks to Loretta Chase and Susan Holloway Scott for including the video on their blog, "Two Nerdy History Girls."

Lacking the organized recreation of today, hardworking New England pioneers felt a need for activity that provided recreation as well as social contact with neighbors. Settlers gathered in the community center, a barn, or wherever there was room on Saturday evening and enjoyed dancing their old-world favorites. Communities grew and people of different backgrounds intermingled, and so did their dances. As the repertoire increased, it became increasingly difficult for the average person to remember the various movements.

In almost any group there would be at least one extrovert with a knack for remembering the dance figures. Dancers let this person cue or prompt them in case they happened to forget what came next. In due course, the prompter (or caller) acquired a repertoire of patter that he could intersperse with the cues. Initially, each square consisting of four couples had its own caller who stood in the center of the four couples. Must have resulted in a lot of noise! With the introduction of better dance conditions, microphones, etc. only one caller was needed.

In the early 1930's, Henry Ford became interested in the revival of square dancing as a part of his early New England restoration project. Mr. Ford used to vacation at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts. There he became interested in the dance program conducted by Benjamin Lovett. (I can’t help but wonder if he was an ancestor of Lyle Lovett.) The program included the gavotte, mazurkas, the schottische, the minuet, the Virginia reel, and other squares and rounds. Mr. Ford tried to hire Mr. Lovett, who declined, pointing out that he had a firm contract with the Inn. Ford simply bought the Inn and Mr. Lovett's contract and took Mr. Lovett back to Detroit with him. Isn’t money grand? At least...I think it would be.

In the Detroit area, Mr. Ford established a broad program for teaching squares and rounds, including radio broadcasts and programs for schools. He built a hall in Greenfield Village and named it Lovett Hall, and it is still in use. His efforts captured the interest of other individuals who then modernized the activity so that it would appeal to contemporary America while retaining its basic flavor. Square dancing groups began to form all over the country.

1945 Victor Keppler Photo
By 1948, square dancing had reached the level of a fad and there was some concern that interest would be short-lived. Not so.

Folk dancing also received a major boost in the 1920's when the New York City public schools, the first major school system to do so, made folk dancing a required activity. But Lloyd "Pappy" Shaw should received primary credit for square dancing's modern revival. Shaw was superintendent of the Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado during the 1930's. Shaw shared his enthusiasm with his students and offered summer classes for dancers, callers, and national folk dance leaders. Returning to their respective homes and communities, the square dance revival began. In 1938, Shaw organized a student demonstration team that performed exhibition dances in Los Angeles, Boston, New York and New Orleans.

Morris Dancers in England
According to many scholars, the English ancestor of our modern square dance was the great Morris dance. It was an exhibition dance done by trained teams of costumed Morris dancers wearing bells - six men (women did not participate) in two rows of three. Later on, in the 17th century, country dances became all the rage in England. At the same time, people did "rounds for as many as will", some of which resembled the choral dances often danced in the naves of English churches.

As shown below, basic steps ground the square dance, with fancier steps added as dancers gain expertise. Great way to exercise while having fun!

The French adopted and modified the English country dance and called in the Contredanse Anglais. They also produced the form of dance known as the Quadrille (a term which originally referred to a card game). Many people believe the Quadrille is the grand-daddy of our modern square dance. However, "Dull Sir John" and "Faine I Would" were square dances popular in England over 300 years ago. The French also developed the Contredanse Francais or Cotilion (later changed to Cotillion), a dance done in a square formation with eight dancers. The video is from Erika Joy Ordonez's Graduation/Birthday Cotillion at the Waikiki Beach Hotel, Waikiki, Hawaii on July 14, 2007. Love it, but all I can add is Erika's dad must be very wealthy! I wonder if Erika paid for all the dresses. $orry, I lost my train of thought for a moment.

As I mentioned, dancing masters came to this country with our forefathers and brought with them the dances of their homeland. One of the earliest records and one of few of these dances is contained in the works of John Playford, a musician and dancing master. His book, "The English Dancing Master - Plaine and Easy Rules for the Dancing of Country Dances, with Tunes to Each Dance" was published in seventeen editions between 1650 and 1728 and contained 918 dances.

Meanwhile, couple dancing was keeping pace. The French had a round dance called the branle, and there was the gavotte and the minuet. The most daring of all dances, the waltz (Sigh, I love to waltz!), created quite a stir when it was introduced, for it permitted the gentleman to hold his partner in close embrace as they moved about the floor. Not so shocking now, but scandalous at the time. Regency readers will recall that special permission had to be given musicians to play that dance at a ball. That dance position, which we now call closed dance position, was known for many years as the waltz position.

President Ronald Reagan made square dancing the National Folk Dance 1982-1983 and many states also have adopted it as the state dance. Here's square dancing the way it's supposed to look, performed by the Traveling Hoedowners dance group at Whirl & Twirl in Orlando FL. Paul Place is the caller.

Wherever you live, somewhere nearby square dance lessons are offered. Do you ever go square dancing?

By the way, the recipient of Lyn Horner's books, DARLING DRUID and DASHING DRUID from January 20-21 was Ruby. Thanks for commenting, Ruby.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Shoes made out of what?

Wyoming is stuck in my mind lately—probably because my current WIP is set there—so I decided to share an interesting historical tidbit about Big Nose George and his Wyoming demise and what still remains of him there.

Last summer we spent the night in Rawlings, Wyoming. As we were exiting the interstate my husband told me about a car that used to be there when he lived in the state as a young child. It had two front ends and could drive in both directions. We both laughed as we headed down the main drag toward our hotel and there sat the car. (No, that’s not the tidbit I want to share.)

While in town, we wanted to visit the local museum to see the shoes made out of Big Nose George (yes, made out of) but to our disappointment, the museum hours didn’t coincide with our schedule unless we extended our vacation by a couple of days, which we couldn’t. So, though I didn’t see the shoes in person, here’s the story:

George Parrott (he had several aliases) was an outlaw, mainly a cattle rustler but participated in many other robberies, who met his demise after killing a Wyoming deputy and a railroad investigator. The lawmen had been pursing Big Nose George and his gang for train robbery. After a shootout in which the lawmen were killed, George and his gang made their way into Montana, and for whatever reason, in a saloon there they began bragging about killing the lawmen. George was apprehended and returned to Wyoming for a trial. Found guilty, he was sentenced to hang on April 2nd. However, on March 22nd he attempted to escape while being held in the Rawlings jail, and failed which led to an earlier death than scheduled. The jailer’s wife heard her husband calling for help when Big Nose George, (who’d managed to relieve himself of the heavy shackles on his legs with a pocket knife and a piece of sandstone) hit her husband over the head. She grabbed a gun and persuaded Big Nose George back into his cell. The jailer’s skull had been fractured, and while he lay healing, word spread of the attempted jail break. Over two-hundred local residents stormed the jail and proceeded to lynch Big Nose George from a telegraph pole that very day. 

But that is only half the story….A local doctor wanted to study the brain of an outlaw, believing it would assist him in treating other patients. When Big Nose George’s brain revealed no out of the ordinary findings, the doctor then peeled the skin from George’s chest and thighs and had them made into a pair of shoes. The doctor, John Osborne, went on to become other things, but ultimately, the Governor of Wyoming. And wore those shoes at his inauguration. (For more information and pictures you can visit

I haven’t used any of this in a story, and don’t know if I will, but found it too amazing not to share.

I’d also like to share that my next book, Testing a Lawman’s Honor, will be released on February 1st

El Dorado, Kansas, 1881

Della Cramer has tried her hardest to ignore the way Deputy Spencer Monroe stirs her desire, believing he doesn't share her feelings. Little does she know that Spencer has been harboring years of regret for not preventing her marriage to a scoundrel, despite the searing kiss they shared. 

When her long-lost husband's sudden death leaves Della's future uncertain, only Spencer can help her. But first, he will have to convince her to trust him and finally give free rein to her passion....

Short excerpt:

Her lips had gone dry, but Della didn’t dare lick them. Spencer might take it as a sign she wanted him to kiss her. And she did want that, more than she wanted to breathe, but kissing him wouldn’t solve anything.
His gaze continued to encompass her, as if he could see inside her head and read her deepest, most private secrets. Startled, terrified he might be able to do just that, Della ducked under his arm and didn’t stop until several feet separated them.
“Spencer,” she started. It was a moment before she could snatch on to a dwindling ounce of willpower. “I’ve just learned of my husband’s death, and the loss of my home, I-I—”
He cocked his head, and the gaze in his eyes was too charming. Too endearing. “I don’t have time to play games with you,” she whispered.
“Funny you should mention games, Della.” He took a step forward. “I think it’s time we both stop playing them.”
“Spencer.” She pressed a hand over her heart, fearing it might explode.
His hands, gentle and warm, and big and so precious her breath stalled, ran down her upper arms and then back up to settle on her shoulders, stirring up a delicious heat deep within. “You know what I’m talking about, Della.”

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Guest: Darlene Franklin--Inspirational Historical Romance Author

Welcome, Darlene Franklin! Readers, please leave a comment to be eligible for a hard copy of Darlene's newest release, "A Ranger's Trail." And now, here she is, to tell us all about herself and her writing--expecially her Texas novels. 

Recently a reviewer called the Texas Trails series an “epic.” The description startled me, but the more I thought about it, the more it resonated. The six books of the series sweep through fifty years of Texas history (1846-1896), touching on major milestones of the period: immigration, settlement, Indian wars, range wars, cowboys, the Rangers, stagecoaches, the War Between the States, the discovery of oil.

But when Susan Page Davis (Captive Trail and Cowgirl Trail), Vickie McDonough (Long Trail Home and The End of the Trail) put together the proposal, we weren’t thinking “epic.” We were looking for a way to tie six books about Texas together and we decided on the tried-and-true family saga arrangement. Then we looked at historical events that interested us in the six decades from the 1840s to the 1890s. Before long we had the structure we needed for the series. The books stand alone, and we each wrote two titles in the series. My two entries, Lone Star Trail and A Ranger’s Trail, take place during the 1840s and 1870s respectively. 

Our agent, Chip McGregor, suggested the idea and teamed the three of us together. Susan, Vickie and I have worked together before. I felt privileged to work with such great writers. Not only that, but we work well together. Not all teams do!

Why Texas? Because Texas sells! And more than that, all three of us enjoy writing stories set in the west.

Vickie is from Oklahoma, but both Susan and I grew up in Maine. Susan has never lived in the southwest, but her knowledge of horses, farms, guns, and all things western combined with her research make her a terrific western writer.
I not only grew up in Maine, my mother lived on the ocean for almost thirty years. I kept moving south and west for my education and other reasons until I reached Colorado. The purple mountain majesty of song tamed my heart the same way the roar of the ocean waves pounding the rocks outside my parents’ home did. I soon discovered how much I prefer the western way of life. It’s friendlier, slower, and so very American. After twenty years in Denver, I recently returned to Oklahoma for the best of all reasons: I wanted to be near my grandchildren.

Texas Trails begins on the Gulf Coast, in Victoria. That’s not quite on the coast; they arrive in Carlshafen/Indianola, a town that got blown away by a hurricane that shows up in A Ranger’s Trail. In Lone Star Trail, the Morgans have a thriving horse farm near Victoria. Texas has just joined the Union. Jud resents the tide of Germans arriving in Texas to claim free land promised to them in the hill country.

In A Ranger’s Trail, Jud’s son Buck is a Texas Ranger assigned to quiet a range war that’s taking place in Mason County, part of the German community in the hill country. Although we didn’t plan it that way, all our stories except one, I believe, take place on a more or less straight line from Ft. Worth to Victoria. Moody put together a map showing the locations of each story that appears in each of the books.

In preparation for writing the series, I took a trip down that line from Ft. Worth to Victoria. I also found a number of excellent books which gave me some of the nitty gritty details I like to include in my stories.

In A Ranger’s Trail, I included quotes from contemporary accounts of the Mason County War. I wanted my readers to understand that the skeleton of my story actually happened, that the ugly prejudices and violence did not spring from my imagination. It was part blood feud, part range war, a senseless waste of life that stemmed from racial tension between “Germans” and “Americans.” I fought hard (and succeeded, I believe) to make it a story of hope in the midst of a hopeless situation.

TEXAS TRAILS: Doubt meets hope and fear gives way to faith in the Morgan family.
A RANGER’S TRAIL: When Leta Denning’s husband is murdered at the beginning of the Mason County War, she wants one thing: revenge. Buck Morgan, a Texas Ranger called in to investigate, has ties to a German family involved in Denning’s death.

Buck’s ability to remain impartial and bring the murderer to justice has Leta anxious. As she struggles to keep her ranch afloat, Buck offers to help—all the while searching for the truth. A tentative trail emerges, one forged by respect and bound by vengeance and forgiveness.

“Found not guilty of any wrongdoing. Praise the Lord.” Derrick Denning lifted his cup of coffee in a mock salute to his wife, Leta. “As the Good Book says, ‘Thou hast maintained my right and my cause.’ Though I feel bad about the fines the other fellows have to pay.

The Denning family sat around the table enjoying a celebratory dinner in their cabin on the D-Bar-D Ranch. Young Ricky clapped his hands on the table, although he didn’t know what they were celebrating. Leta looked into her husband’s eyes over their son’s head and smiled. The baby inside her stirred, as if contently joining in on the joy.

“I’ll read up on that new law about transporting cattle over county lines before I go on any more cattle drives. Right and legal aren’t always the same thing, and we want to be sure we stick on the side of the law.”

“It’s not right, the other men getting fined.” Leta’s brother Andy stopped shoveling beans into his mouth long enough to grumble. “They didn’t do nothing wrong. The cattle belonged to Mr. Roberts and Mr. Thomas.”

When her husband was arrested for helping M.B. Thomas and Allen Roberts take their cattle to Llano County from Mason County, the ordeal filled her with anguish. Local German cattlemen had accused both Thomas and Roberts of stealing cattle. In the court case, six of the cowhands were found guilty and fined $25 a head. Yet the court dismissed Derrick’s case due to insufficient evidence.

The German cattlemen had grumbled at the verdict. Tensions between Anglos and Germans already ran high, since German settlers had opposed seceding from the Union during the War Between the States. Now Mason County was full of cattle ranchers who were angry that justice for cattle stealing—real and supposed—was not being fulfilled through the law. German settlers and people native to Mason County alike were troubled.
Buy Link: A Ranger's Trail on Amazon:
Darlene's Blog:

Friday, January 20, 2012


By Caroline Clemmons

Jeanmarie Hamilton had surgery this week, so please help me welcome Lyn Horner who is graciously allowing me to repost and earlier interview with her from my own blog. To show her appreciation for her readers, one lucky person who leaves a comment today will win downloads of both of Lyn's books!

Author Lyn Horner
Lyn, please tell us about growing up.

Lyn: I’m an only child. Born in San Francisco, I was raised in Minnesota, my mother’s home state. My father was a Texan and it’s from him that I inherited my love of the Old West. I’m married to my high school sweetheart. We have two grown children, six grandkids and a passel of cats.

Caroline: I love cats, but only have two. I notice that you also have a memoir titled SIX CATS IN MY KITCHEN. Would you like to give us a small peek at that book before we go on to DARLIN' DRUID?

Lyn: Thank you. I invite you to try my memoir, SIX CATS IN MY KITCHEN. Six special cats are the headline-grabbing stars, but I touch upon subjects such as grieving the loss of loved ones, living with a disability, and coping with major life changes.

Quoting reviewer Todd Fonseca, “Through her prose, Horner’s love of life, cats, and wonderfully engaging humor comes through in this high energy memoir. Reading Horner’s story is like chatting with a best friend over coffee on a Sunday afternoon – few things in life are better.

Caroline: Your book sounds inviting. Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?

Lyn: Diana Gabaldon is my favorite author. I adore her Outlander series. I also like Linda Howard and Iris Johansen. As you might guess, my favorite genres are historical romance (especially Scottish, Irish and western romance) and contemporary romantic suspense.

Caroline: We share a love of the same genres. Isn't Diana Gabaldon a lovely person as well as a great writer? How many books do you read a month? What are you reading now?

Lyn: I don’t read as much as I used to because I’m busy writing. Such a burden!  Even so, I read five or six books a month. Right now I’m re-reading KINSMAN'S OATH by Susan Krinard. When I find books I like, I often read them again and again.

Lynn's Memoirs
and her 6 cats
Caroline: So do I, and each time I get something new from them. When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? I know you love your cats, but do you have any hobbies?

Lyn: Let’s see, I love to read of course, and I love movies. Some of my favorites are the "Lord of The Rings" trilogy, "Avatar," "Gladiator," "Last of the Mohicans," and "Red River" (the original black and white version with John Wayne and Montgomery Clift.) Gardening is my only outdoor hobby.

Caroline: At our house we're very grateful for Netflix so we can watch our favorite movies and TV series. Describe yourself in three or four words.

Lyn: Determined, imaginative and somewhat reclusive.

Caroline: Would you like to share any guilty pleasures that feed your muse?

Lyn: Dark chocolate, Celtic music and steamy hot baths. Oh, and an occasional margarita.

Caroline: You and I have a great deal in common! How long have you been writing?

Lyn: I’ve always enjoyed writing, but from the time my folks gave me a rudimentary oil painting kit, I set my mind on becoming an artist. I got my bachelor of fine arts and worked as an illustrator and art instructor for several years. Then I had two children, we moved, forcing me to quit work, and I found myself isolated at home with two small kids. To save my sanity I began to write as a hobby. That was well over twenty years ago. The ups and downs since then could fill a book.

Caroline: Writing does have a lot of ups and downs that mirror life. Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?

Lyn: I work on a laptop. My favorite places to write are in my recliner or on our bed with books and research notes spread around me. If I’m writing a blog or answering interview questions I can do it with the TV on, music playing, or my husband talking to me. But if I’m working on a book, I need quiet. Solitude is best.

Caroline: Are you a plotter or a panzer?

Lyn: I’m a plotter. I use stickum notes to work out major plot points, then develop a loose outline. It undergoes changes as a book progresses, but having a plan keeps me on course toward my goal.

Caroline: Same here. What on earth did we do before Post-It notes? Do you use real events or persons in your stories or as an inspiration for stories?

Lyn: I am very often inspired by real events in my western historicals. For example, I use the Chicago Fire and our country’s first transcontinental railroad in DARLIN' DRUID. Most of my characters are purely fictitious, although I did include the real commander of Camp Douglas, Utah, as a peripheral character in DD.

Caroline: Tell us about your writing schedule. Do you set goals? Do you write daily?

Lyn: I set goals but don’t always meet them. I write nearly every day, starting by 6:30 or 7 a.m. First I check email, comment on some writing forums, and maybe write a blog. When all the “fun stuff” is done, I go to work on my current project. With interruptions for household chores, it’s more of the same until late evening, sometimes into the wee hours of morning.

Caroline: I'm so not a morning person and tend to be more creative late at night. What do you hope your writing brings to readers?

Lyn: Most of all, I hope to give readers a rollicking good adventure that draws them in and won’t let go of them until the very last word.

Caroline: What long-term plans do you have for your career?

Lyn: I will continue to write my stories and publish them as ebooks. If I’m lucky enough to build a loyal following of readers, I will be proud and grateful. Beyond that I’ll take one day at a time.

Caroline: Well said! Would you like to tell us what you’re working on now?

Also now available
Lyn: Sure. I’ve just finished writing book II in my Texas Druids series. Titled DASHING DRUID. This is the story of Tye Devlin and Lil Crawford, troubled souls who find both comfort and conflict in each other’s arms. Like his sister Jessie, the heroine of DARLIN' DRUID, Tye possesses a psychic gift inherited from Druid ancestors. He can experience other people’s feelings – he’s empathic in modern terms – an ability that may save those he loves or get him killed. Now I'm at work on book three in the series, DEAREST DRUID.

Caroline: What advice would you give to unpublished authors?

Lyn: Learn your craft, research settings and time periods carefully, and write the best book you can. Join a critique group and edit, edit, edit! Be persistent. Don’t let rejection letters stop you. Keep writing, keep submitting, and consider publishing your own eBooks. They are now outselling all forms of print books.

Caroline: Tell us about the first in this series. In any series, even if they're stand alone books, I like to begin with the first book. 

Lyn: If psychics live among us, if they existed in ages past, is it possible such gifted beings also inhabited the American Old West? They do in my Texas Druids trilogy. Meet the Devlins, whose hidden talents lead them across prairies and mountains, into the land of cowboys and Indians, with consequences not even a Druid seer could predict.

Set in 1872, DARLIN’ DRUID is a blend of epic adventure, stormy romance and family strife, peppered by flashes of Druid magic. Jessie Devlin, daughter of Irish immigrants and survivor of the Great Chicago Fire, is descended from the “Old Ones,” her mother’s name for their ancient Druid ancestors. Gifted with visions of the future, Jessie dreams again and again of an unknown man who saves her from death. A prophetic vision convinces her the man is real and sends her west in search of him. But will her quest lead her to love or into a deadly trap?

Caroline: You've hooked me! I do believe in psychic abilities and several people in my family are psychics of one type or another.

Lyn: Here's the excerpt:

A woman’s shriek rent the air, interrupting his ruminations and jerking him to attention. The sound had come from inside the depot.

“What the devil?” he muttered. Cutting a path between startled travelers, he shoved open the door and stepped into the building. The stuffy interior reeked of tobacco and sweaty bodies. Finding a gap in the crowd, David caught sight of a red-faced young corporal. The trooper bobbed and weaved, arms raised to fend off blows being rained upon him by a woman in a brown poke bonnet. Her weapon was a heavy looking black reticule.

“Scoundrel! I’ll teach ye some manners, I will!” she vowed in a furious Irish brogue. Swinging wildly, she sent the corporal’s blue cap flying.

“Take it easy, lady!” he cried. “I didn’t mean no harm.”

Wondering what offense the man had committed, David shouldered his way through the crowd until he stood directly behind the woman. Slim and a head shorter than himself, she wore a calico gown, the same drab color as her bonnet. Some settler’s wife, he assumed. But where was her husband?

“No harm, indeed! Stand still, ye heathen, and take what’s comin’ to ye,” she ranted. As she spoke, the yellow-haired corporal spotted David’s uniform and threw him a desperate look.

Feeling duty-bound to step in, David cleared his throat loudly and said, “Excuse me, ma’am, but perhaps that’s enough. The corporal might be needed in one piece when he gets back to his post.” His remark drew laughter from several bystanders.

The woman snorted angrily. “Indeed? Well, I don’t give a fig whether the lout is in one piece or twenty!” So saying, she landed a solid whack on the corporal’s noggin that made him yelp.

“Get ’im, darlin’!” a man in the crowd shouted, egging her on.

Afraid the young soldier might retaliate, David reached out to grasp the woman’s arms, stopping her in mid-swing. “Ma’am, if you’ll just settle down . . . .”

“Let me go!” she shrilled, attempting to wrench free.

He should have complied with her demand, but some primitive instinct made him slip an arm around her and haul her back against him. A sweet scent of lilacs and woman washed over him, and he instantly grew aware of her feminine curves.

She gasped indignantly. “How dare ye? Bithiúnach! Muclach! Take your filthy hands off me.”

Glad he didn’t understand Irish, David cursed under his breath when she rammed her heel into his shin. It didn’t hurt much thanks to his leather boots; nor did the small fists pounding on his arms. But her frantic twisting sent the wrong signal to his male parts.

“Calm down, you little wildcat!” he growled. Releasing her, he stepped back before he humiliated himself.

Whirling around, the woman drew back her arm as if to slap him, only to freeze when their eyes met. A choked sound escaped her lips and the angry color drained from her cheeks. Seeing her sway, David grasped her shoulders to steady her. Her hands clutched his forearms as he returned her wide-eyed stare.

Her eyes were sapphire blue, so dazzling that he had trouble breaking their hold upon him. When he did, he noticed how young she looked – eighteen or twenty, he guessed – and what a beauty she was.

His gaze wandered over her smooth, creamy cheeks and dainty nose then lingered on her pink parted lips. Forcing himself to look elsewhere, he noted the dark auburn curls framing her brow. Her ugly bonnet hid the rest of her hair, but he bet it would look like silk when she let it down.

Then he noticed how rapidly her breasts rose and fell, and desire surged through him, swift and strong. He felt a loco urge to pull her into his arms and kiss her. Reluctantly dragging his gaze back to her sapphire eyes, he wondered what had come over her. A moment ago, she’d been mad as a hornet. Now she stared at him as if she were seeing a ghost.

Dazed by the sight of him, Jessie wondered vaguely if she was having one of her visions. Her gaze kept returning to his gray-green eyes. Crowned by dark brows with an eerily familiar slant, they matched those she’d so often seen in her dreams. Could this tall, uniformed stranger be the man she had left home to find? She hadn’t expected her quest to bear fruit so soon. And the longer she studied his sun-bronzed, square-jawed face, arrow-straight nose and unyielding mouth, the more she doubted he was the one.

Those rakish features were hard, not gentle, and his hauntingly familiar eyes did not caress her like the ones in her dreams. Instead, they devoured her, making her stomach flutter and her heart race. When he boldly stared at her breasts, they tingled as if he were actually touching them. Stunned by her reaction, she inhaled sharply, catching the scent of shaving soap and virile male. She wondered if he would kiss her.

Caroline: Intriguing excerpt to add to the blurb. I'm sure they've made readers want to read the book. Where can readers find DARLIN' DRUID?


Barnes and Noble:

Caroline: Anything else you’d like readers to know?

Lyn: See my vision of my book:

Caroline: How can readers learn more about you?

Lyn: My home page:

Blog site:


Thank you, Lyn, for sharing a new type of western historical with us today. Continued good luck with your writing career!

Thanks to you, readers, for stopping by.