Tuesday, October 6, 2015


I know it's fall and the new shows are supposed to be on all channels, but I'm afraid I have to play a re-run here at Sweethearts of the West. I'm knee deep in deadlines and that can be scarier than some of the stories in this post.

Hope you'll forgive me and enjoy reading these legends beneath the Bighorns again!!

Wyoming has her share of ghouls, ghosts, legends and lore that’s for sure.  And here at the foot of the Bighorns we’re carving pumpkins and stockin’ up on candy for the little gobblins who will be knockin’ on our doors this Halloween.  So, it’s a good time to share about those haunting voices carried on the Wyoming winds and the bumps in the night that has us pulling our blankets over our heads.

Here in Sheridan there are tales of Miss Kate Arnold still keeping watch over her beloved Sheridan Inn. Miss Kate arrived in Sheridan in the early 1900s and worked and lived at the inn until her death in the 1960s. She loved the Inn so much, she requested her ashes to be buried there and it’s said they were buried the wall of her room.  Miss Kate is joined in her haunts by the son-in-law of Buffalo Bill Cody who took his life at the Inn after a series of business and personal failings. There is some speculation, however, that he didn’t take his life, but it was taken from him.  These are joined by many other tales from beyond from Sheridan to Buffalo and everywhere in between. Today,  I’d like to visit the in between at Lake DeSmet.

Lake DeSmet at sunset
Lake DeSmet , named for Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet a Jesuit missionary priest to the Indians in the 1800s. The lake is a beautiful, tranquil lake attracting fishermen and tourists.  Pioneers, however, reported horses and dogs wouldn’t go near the lake and strange noises echoed across the water at night. Hidden under this gem of blue water are legends and secrets best left undisturbed…but we’re going to disturb them. 

The low moans of a heart breaking it’s said belong to a Crow warrior, Little Moon.  His band was camped along the lake, when Little Moon asked his sweetheart, Star Dust, to meet him at the edge of the water once the others went to sleep.  Little Moon arrived at the spot before Star Dust. While he waited a mist hung over the lake and in the mist was the face of a beautiful girl, more beautiful than any girl he had ever seen.  The girl beckoned Little Moon with a smile.

Hypnotized by the water enchantress, Little Moon viciously pushed Star Dust aside when she arrived and tried to put her arms around him.  He turned back to the face in the mist to see it gone.
Star Dust cast herself into the water when repulsed by her lover. The next morning Star Dust’s body was found drowned by the red bluff north of the lake. Her father demanded revenge against Little Moon. The men of the band bound Little Moon to the rock and left him there to watch for his mysterious maiden. 

Now, when the wind moans over the lake it’s said to be the faithless lover caller; the howls of a disloyal sweetheart. His spirit destined to wander around the shore looking for his maiden.
Another legend is that of one of the first Indian bands to camp near the lake.  They tried to use the water for drinking and cooking, but found it to be bitter. Nothing in the area explained why the water would be bitter, so they believed its bitterness to be due to the presence of an evil spirit.
That night, terrifying sounds echoed around them and suddenly the lake was infested by great hordes of sea gulls.  Throughout the night they soared and cried and swarmed.  At dawn the gulls disbanded and disappeared. 

But the worst was yet to come. After breakfast the champion swimmer among the tribe ran to the lake’s edge, gave a happy whoop and plunged into the water. As the others watched he turned and opened his mouth as if to scream, his eyes widened in horror and he was sucked below the surface.  They circled the lake, not daring to enter the water, but after a time when all was lost, they grabbed their belongings and fled the lake in terror.

Local ranchers and early pioneers reported a monster appearing the mist and rising above the waters.  Smetty, because every water monster needs a truly terrifying name, is a legendary creature thought to dwell in the subterranean caverns of Lake DeSmet. These caverns are speculated to be a faraway outlet from the Pacific Ocean.

Those who have seen Smetty report a monster 30 to 40 feet long with bony ridges along the back. His head is said to resemble that of a horse and rises from the water in a swimming motion.  Others report a large alligator like creature and still others compare Smetty to the legendary Nessie of Loch Ness fame. 

One rancher, whose home was near the lake, rose early and went into the fields. He heard a strange noise coming from the lake and turned to see a huge sea serpent rise from the lake. It stayed only a second and then disappeared.  His description of Smetty approached more of a dinosaur than any other. 

Does a monster lurk under the waters of the lake? And does a Crow warrior still wail for his lost love? Well, guess you’ll just have to pitch a tent by the lake and find out for yourself.  (I’d bring a fishing pole with ya cause chances are better of catchin’ a trout)  

Just in time to join the other ghost stories in the area is the release of THE BALLAD OF ANNIE SULLIVAN. I had such fun bringing this ghost story to life. I fell in love with Hank and Annie and hope readers will, too.  

Hank Renner enjoys summers and early autumns when he can escape his large family and spend time alone at the cow camp in the Bighorn Mountains. That is, until he starts seeing a beautiful woman with flaming red hair and brown eyes, who disappears as quick as the Wyoming sunshine. Questioning his sanity, Hank begins a search that just might lead him to his heart.

Annie Sullivan wants only one thing more than revenge for a rape and murder that occurred ten years ago…Hank Renner. Haunting the mountain, she’s kept watch over the handsome cowboy. But this year she did something she’s never done before, something that could change everything. She’s let the man see her—and exposed her soul.

Two lonely souls search for the truth that could solve a murder and a love that could resurrect their hearts.

Kirsten Lynn writes stories based on the people and history of the West, more specifically those who live and love in Wyoming and Montana. Using her MA in Naval History, Kirsten, weaves her love of the West and the military together in many of her stories, merging these two halves of her heart. When she's not roping, riding and rabble-rousing with the cowboys and cowgirls who reside in her endless imagination, Kirsten works as a professional historian.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

New Release Pre-Order

Instead of the usual historical research post, this month I'm sharing a special project I'm a part of. My Willow Creek novel, HIS BROTHER'S WIFE has been included in a ten volume boxset with nine others who are NY TIMES, USA TODAY and BESTSELLING authors.

COURTING THE WEST is loaded with a variety of sweet to steamy romances that any romance reader will love. Take a look at what's included.

Painted Montana Sky by Debra Holland, NYTimes and USA Today Bestselling author. 
Can two lonely hearts find their hearts' desire under the majestic Montana sky? "You'll fall in love with this town and these characters."  

Daisy (Brides of Seattle series) by Kirsten Osbourne, USA Today Bestselling Author. Can she possibly find love and contentment or is she doomed to a life of regret? "I definitely recommend this book and this series to Everyone!"  

His Brother’s Wife by Lily Graison, USA Today Bestselling Author. A high society mail order bride with a 14 year old bridegroom and his devilishly handsome brother all under one roof. What could possibly go wrong? “An emotional roller coaster ride, right up to the end.” ~Charlene Botha  

Tame a Wild Wind by Cynthia Woolf, Amazon Bestselling Author. Revenge is a dish best served cold. “Love, trust and lust just in the right combo...”  

Sleight of Heart by Jacquie Rogers, Amazon Bestselling author. A strait-laced spinster, a gambler with magic hands, and a fortune to be won—by sleight of hand, or Sleight of Heart? “It's a full house with romance, high stakes and adventure. You can always count on Jacquie Rogers for some laughs, and she doesn't disappoint...Enjoy the ride!” ~Meg Mims, author of Double or Nothing  

A Hero’s Heart by Sylvia McDaniel, Amazon Bestselling author. Wade Ketchum is searching for his only surviving sibling when he finds a ready-made family. A 1996 Golden Heart Finalist.  

Laying Claim by Paty Jager, Amazon Bestselling author. Jeremy Duncan heads into the Yukon Territory by dog team in the middle of a blizzard to keep one strong-willed, business-minded beauty alive. “A wonderful plunge into the Alaskan gold mining era.”  

Sarah Sunshine by Merry Farmer, Amazon Bestselling author. Only love can stop history from repeating itself before it’s too late…. “Loved Sarah’s story! Makes you feel good about life and how you can overcome your past.” 5 Stars Amazon Reviewer  

Chasing the Dead by Keta Diablo, Amazon Bestselling author. A sinister ghost chases Deacon, Madrid and the Indian maiden, Sacheen, across the desolate landscape of New Mexico. “The old west and paranormal all wrapped into one page turning book. A five-star read!” The Book Heathens  

The Most Unsuitable Courtship by Caroline Clemmons, Amazon Bestselling author. Storm Kincaid wants justice; Rena Dmitriev wants vengeance. “More than just another western novel. A well-plotted action thriller that's full of romance and passion and peopled by very likable characters.” 

The box set will only be available for a limited time. The "official" release is October 15th but you can grab it at a special pre-order price of .99cent. Get your copy at Amazon.Com or Amazon.UK

You can also join the authors in a Facebook Release Day Party for virtual drinks and prizes on October 15th from 7:30-9:30 central time. I hope to see you there!

About Lily Graison

USA TODAY  bestselling author Lily Graison writes historical western romances and dabbles in contemporary and paranormal romance. First published in 2005, Lily has written over a dozen romance novels that range from sweet to spicy.

She lives in Hickory, North Carolina with her husband, three high-strung Yorkies and more cats than she can count. On occasion, she can be found at her sewing machine creating 1800’s period clothing or participating in area living history events.

When not portraying a southern belle, you can find her at a nearby store feeding her obsession for all things resembling office supplies.

To see the dresses Lily has created, visit her Pinterest page.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

George Scarborough - Lawman/Outlaw

By Paisley Kirkpatrick
Recently I became aware of a dear friend's family connection to George Scarborough, one of the more modest frontier gunmen who helped tame the New Mexico and Arizona Territories. George was born in Louisiana October 2, 1859. He had quite a bit of gunplay and excitement in his limited career as a lawman. He had a considerable reputation among his peers and the outlaws he tracked throughout the southwestern wilderness.
The son of a Texas homesteader and parson, George knew firsthand the unsettled conditions of the southern frontier after the Civil War ended. His family moved to Texas where he worked as a cowboy for a while. After riding the range, he decided he'd rather deal with men than cattle. In 1885, when he was 26 years old, he took his first job as sheriff of Anson, Texas, then moved onto to work as deputy US Marshal in untamed El Paso, and finally worked as a private detective for the New Mexico Cattlemen's Association in the 1890's. At the time, El Paso was a rough town isolated from any nearby American towns. It was filled with gambling halls, bordellos, and unsavory characters, including John Wesley Hardin and John Selman.
Scarborough became well known for the unusual tactics he used while tracking a wanted outlaw. Often, he would disguise himself as an equal to those he pursued. He found this tactic extremely effective. He became hated and feared among lawbreakers. There have been many accusations that he was actively and ambitiously involved with outlaw gangs that he later betrayed, but no one could ever conclusively proved he was involved in unlawful actions.
In 1895 John Wesley Hardin claimed that he paid Scarborough and Jeff Milton, the El Paso Chief of Police, to kill outlaw and cattle rustler, Martin McRose. Milton and Scarborough were arrested but Hardin later withdrew his comments and the men were released. Later that year, gunslinger and latter-day lawman John Selman shot John Wesley Hardin in the back of the head while the man stood at the Acme Saloon Bar. On April 6, 1896, John Selman was murdered by Scarborough. George was put on trial for Selman's murder, but was acquitted.
Public opinion after his trial forced him to leave for the New Mexico Territory. He spent the rest of his days hunting down cattle rustlers and train robbers throughout the territory.
George had little appreciation for the overstated news reports of his exploits. In those days, the most effective lawmen had a dark side, but few were foolish enough to draw attention to themselves. In fear of revealing too much about his methods, George refused interviews by journalists. On April 5, 1900, Scarborough was involved in a shoot-out with George Stevenson and James Brooks. He was shot in the leg and taken back to Deming, where his leg was amputated. He died the following day.
After his death, the mysteries and legends surrounding George Scarborough were largely forgotten.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky

“As far as the eye can see…”
That's what my grandfather said when I asked him, “How big is Texas?” Now, some might say he was bragging – something Texans have been known to do when talking about everything from the size of the fish they caught to the size of their state. But, just to set the record straight, let me tell you that he was telling the truth.

Very often people ask me the same question, confused why it takes so long to drive somewhere. Impressive as the State of Texas may appear on a map, one doesn’t always get the true perspective, comparatively speaking. Superimposing the size of Texas over a map of Europe (pictured), helps to better understand how much land we are talking about.

I have also had discussions with people in the United States and other countries, who never knew Texas was once its own independent country. So, today – since the wonderful State Fair of Texas is underway -- I am going to give a little Texas History 101 lesson which may help many to understand why Texans are so proud of their state and its heritage.

Geographically-speaking, Texas is the largest among the lower 48 states in the United States of America. It is second in size among all 50 states to Alaska (which became the 49th state in 1959).

Covering 268,820 square miles, the State of Texas has 11 ecological regions, 14 different soil regions, and 10 different climate regions. Consequently, dramatic changes in weather are commonplace. Understandably, the Texas Panhandle (located far north bordering New Mexico and Oklahoma and considered part of the High Plains of the Western United States) and the Texas Gulf experience weather as different as night and day. In terms of the spectrum of elevation, the Texas Gulf is sea level and 90 miles east of El Paso in western Texas is Guadalupe Peak at an elevation of 8,751 feet. Texas even has two time zones, Central and Mountain. From Coastal Plains to the High Plains, lush Hill Country and Grasslands, Piney Woods and Forests, Mountains and the ocean waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the landscape of Texas has something for everyone.

An interesting point to consider, however, is that the Republic of Texas was even bigger than the present-day State of Texas. So, for anyone reading (or writing) a historical novel in the time period 1836-1846, these facts might come in handy.

As mentioned above, the Republic of Texas was an independent country in North America. From 02 Mar 1836 until 19 Feb 1846, its dominion [see map pictured] covered 389,166 square miles. Its borders included all 268,820 square miles of present-day Texas, plus parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico.

Boundary lines between Mexico and the Republic of Texas were defined in the Treaties of Velasco. The eastern border between the Texas Republic with the United States remained the same as had been established by the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819 between Spain and the United States. Also known as the Florida Purchase Treaty, the treaty had ceded Florida to the United States and defined precise boundary lines between the United States and Spain, then Mexico, and ultimately the Republic of Texas.

A key player in the fight for Texas Independence was Sam Houston [pictured]. Born in Virginia in 1793, Houston remains the only American to have served as governor for two different states. He moved from Virginia to Tennessee, fought in the War of 1812, and in 1827 was elected Governor of Tennessee. In 1829, he relocated to Arkansas. By 1832, he moved to Texas. Along with Stephen F. Austin, James Fannin, Frank W. Johnson, and Edward Burleson, Houston became a commander and leading figure in the Texas Revolution.

On 12 Apr 1836, (5 weeks after the Battle of the Alamo, and 2 weeks after the Goliad Massacre), spurred by war cries of ‘Remember the Alamo!' and ‘Remember Goliad!’ General Sam Houston led his Texian army to defeat Santa Anna in the Battle of San Jacinto that lasted only 18 minutes. [Pictured: The Battle of San Jacinto (1895) by Henry Arthur McArdle]

Now a country unto itself, the Republic of Texas elected a Congress of 14 senators and 29 representatives. Although David G. Burnet served as Interim President from March 1836 until October 1836, the first elected President was, understandably, Sam Houston. Houston also served as the third President for the Republic of Texas.

Despite its victory of Independence from Mexico, and the treaty signed by Santa Anna, tension remained between the new Republic of Texas and Mexico. In particular, the southern and western boundary lines, as well as control of the Rio Grande, were still being disputed.

Texas claimed the Rio Grande, one of two principal rivers in the southwest United States and Mexico. With a total length of 1,896 miles, the Rio Grande extended from south-central Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico. Mexico claimed the Nueces River, the “southernmost major river in Texas, northeast of the Rio Grande”. Tensions continued from the time the Republic of Texas was established until after Texas joined the United States.

Sam Houston supported the statehood of Texas, perhaps foreseeing the situation with Mexico had to be ended once and for all, and that war was a distinct possibility. Not surprisingly, when Texas became the 28th state of the United States on 29 December 1845, the Mexican-American War ignited four months later on 25 Apr 1846.

With the strength of the American government now protecting the interests of Texas, victory was realized exactly 1 year, 9 months, 1 week, and 1 day later on 02 Feb 1848. Not only did the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo end the Mexican-American War, but Mexico finally acknowledged Texas (and other territories that were part of the Texas Republic) were NOT under their control, and the Rio Grande became the defining border between the United States and Mexico.

With Texas now the Lone Star State, Sam Houston became its senator, serving as such from 1846-1849. Ten years later, on 31 Dec 1859, Houston became the 7th governor of the State of Texas. However, when Texas joined the Confederacy and seceded from the Union in 1861, Houston refused to swear loyalty to the Confederate States of America. Houston then retired to his home in Huntsville and died there before the end of the Civil War, on 26 Jul 1863 at the age of 70. Yet his impact on Texas history and his legacy continues to live.

Should you ever find yourself driving on Interstate 45 outside of Huntsville, be sure to see the Texas-sized statue of perhaps its greatest forefather, Sam Houston. There are also five USA Navy vessels named in his honor, an United States Army Base, historical park, national forest, university, memorial museum and…oh yeah…the fourth largest city in the United States—Houston, Texas.

As for Texas, as someone whose ancestors date back to the days of the Republic, I am very proud of Texas, its heritage, and its people. Whether I am in my yard, walking my dog around the lake near my house, or driving down that long stretch of I-35 to Austin and San Antonio, all I have to do is look up at the cornflower blue Texas sky and remember that long ago talk with my grandfather.

How big is Texas? "As big at the eye can see."

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope you found the post informative. ~ AKB

Monday, September 28, 2015


Hi everyone! I wanted to talk a little bit about my brand new single-author western romance anthology, WINTER MAGIC.

This is a collection of three stories that appeared in some of Prairie Rose Publications’ anthologies over the last year. Sometimes, it's hard to tie stories together with a logline, but I love this one we came up with: Three criminals who’ve lost everything…three women who have nothing to lose…is it love or magic that bring them together in these three romantic tales of the old west?

The first story, HEARTS AND DIAMONDS, was a part of the Cowboy Cravings anthology (June 2014). Hired gun Nick Diamond is determined to ruin the life of his nemesis, Carlton Ridgeway, by claiming Ridgeway’s bride at the altar with a damning lie. He never gives a thought as to how his actions might affect the bride, Liberty Blankenship, who is ready to sacrifice herself for respectability—though she longs for love with all her heart. When Ridgeway comes looking for a fight, Nick obliges—and all hell breaks loose—but will Liberty get her heart’s desire in the end?

Since I had brought the subject of brothers up in Nick and Libby’s conversation, and since Jake, the youngest brother, made a short appearance in HEARTS AND DIAMONDS, I decided to introduce the middle brother, Brett, in SPELLBOUND, my contribution to the Cowboys, Creatures and Calico II (Oct. 2014) anthology. We had so many wonderful submissions for our Halloween anthologies in 2014 we had to make a second volume! My story appeared in this anthology because of the element of magic—and the fact that the heroine, Angie Colton, is a witch—but it actually takes place closer to Christmas. In fact, the Christmas tree is the entire reason the showdown happens like it does between safecracker Brett Diamond and the villain, Teller Magdon. Without a bit of magic, things might not have turned out as they do!

Finally, in LUCK OF THE DRAW, the youngest brother, gambler Jake Diamond gets his own story. This tale appeared in WILD TEXAS CHRISTMAS (Nov. 2014) and I love the fact that “family” is the theme—with it being so close to Christmas. Jake has a bit of a history with the heroine, Lainie Barrett. She’s been held hostage with him for several days in Brett’s story, SPELLBOUND. They’ve said some things to one another under duress that maybe shouldn’t have been said. But when Jake accompanies Lainie back to visit her mother to let her know she’s all right, they make an incredible “find” that shows them Lainie’s odd “gift” and solidifies their relationship. Can a gambling man and a novice witch risk everything on each other?

Here’s an excerpt from the first story in the collection, HEARTS AND DIAMONDS. Nick has just forced Libby to marry him. They’re in the honeymoon suite having their first “heart to heart” talk…

“Be honest, Libby,” Nick said softly. “You weren’t any more in love with Carlton Ridgeway than you are with me. So what difference does it make you which one of us you marry?”

Libby was surprised at how quickly her little ladylike hand uncoiled from her proper stance and unerringly slapped his handsome face, only inches from hers. The noise it made was like a gunshot, and he flinched as he stepped back, his own hand going automatically to his cheek.

“You’re right, Mr. Diamond. I’m not in love with Carlton Ridgeway. The most I had to look forward to was a scrap of respectability—if not for myself, then for my parents. Now, that, too, is gone. So, the only choice is to go forward from this point and—and make the best of things between us. But I will not be used, any more than I have been already, Mr. Diamond.”

“Nick,” he corrected unthinkingly. “And we—can get an annulment, if that’s what you want.”

Libby’s smile held all the promise and danger that was stored in the reckless wildness of her spirit.

“I wouldn’t dream of disappointing you so, Nick,” she said sweetly. “No, we’ll make our dreams come true together,” she continued. “A home of our own, filled with children and, of course, true love.”

His lips quirked at her words. “That sounds pretty damn good to me, Libby. Uh…you do know what makes babies, don’t you?”

Though she only had a vague idea of how it was done, she wouldn’t give him the upper hand. She nodded sagely. “Oh, yes. And I’m looking forward to it.”

As if he knew her secret, Nick Diamond had the audacity to laugh aloud at that. Her face burned.
“I believe you’ll enjoy it more with me than you would have with Ridgeway.”

She moistened her lips and tried to settle the frantic pounding her heart had begun. “Well, then. Perhaps we should—start—immediately. With our family. Our baby.”

Nick stood silent as she floundered. Finally, he said, “Let’s have some dinner first, shall we? I’ll have the bellboy lay a fire for us so we’ll be comfortable when we come back from eating. You’ll need your strength for tonight…when the ‘baby making’ begins. I have a hell of an appetite—for good food and…good sex,” he added wickedly.


The Diamond brothers are cast out into the world by a crooked business deal at a young age. They’ve lost everything—including their father. Although they are forced to make their own way, brotherly bonds remain unbreakable: It’s all for one and one for all.

HEARTS AND DIAMONDS—Revenge sets hired gun Nick Diamond after a bride, and nothing will stand in his way. But when that bride happens to be outspoken firebrand Liberty Blankenship, all bets are off. Anything can happen when HEARTS AND DIAMONDS collide!

SPELLBOUND—Safecracker Brett Diamond and witch Angie Colton take on a border gang leader who is pure evil. Can Angie’s supernatural powers save them? No matter what, Brett and Angie are hopelessly SPELLBOUND.

LUCK OF THE DRAW—Handsome gambler Jake Diamond and beautiful fledgling sorceress Lainie Barrett make a last-ditch effort to reunite Lainie and her mother for Christmas. Along the way, Jake and Lainie realize there’s no escape from the powerful attraction they feel toward one another. But do they know each other well enough to become a family when they rescue an abandoned infant? With their own particular talents, they discover life is one big poker table—and love can be had if they are willing to risk it all!

Thanks to everyone for stopping by today! I will be giving away a digital copy of WINTER MAGIC to one lucky commenter, so be sure to leave your contact info in case you win!

BUY LINKS           Barnes and Noble Nook(coming)       Smashwords       Kobo

Saturday, September 26, 2015


Don't miss the giveaway at the end of the post!

Research is a large part of a writer’s world, especially when he or she writes historical novels. I confess I love delving into a subject and have trouble keeping on task. One of the fun parts is the day trip through North Texas' mountains.

Years ago my husband and I took a trip to Palo Pinto County, Texas for a driving tour and that’s when I fell in love with the area. No, actually I already loved driving through the valleys and the mountains that look more like hills. This tour, however, convinced me this was an area in which I would set many books. So far, I have two series set here—Stone Mountain and Bride Brigade—and a time travel, OUT OF THE BLUE.

Valley view on Johnson's League Ranch
As I mentioned, to most people, these would be considered hills, but geologically, they are true mountains. Don’t ask me why, I’m just a writer. There are many picturesque areas and I enjoy driving through at any time of year. Now, however, is a prime time because the leaves are changing. You find it’s easy to see why the Native Americans dubbed the trees “painted posts”.

Although many live oaks dot the forests, most trees are smaller scrub oaks which turn colors and lose their leaves. Live oaks lose leaves, but they’re quickly replaced and have dark green leaves year around, hence the name. Also in the area are cedars and they provided fence posts material as well as small logs for cabins. Add in a smattering of cottonwood, hackberry, bois d'arc, and elm.

In Palo Pinto County are many springs, the most famous of which is the "crazy water well" near Mineral Wells. According to accounts, a family with a mentally disturbed wife moved to the area and the husband dug a well. While drinking that water, the woman was cured. It should be called sane water, but that doesn’t have the ring to it that crazy water does.

Historic reproduction of cabin and well in Palo Pinto County
The original well went through a lithium deposit and that provided relief to the woman’s condition. People came for miles to get water from that well. To this day, Crazy Water Crystals are available for sale. Frankly, I doubt these are from the lithium well due to the FDA controlling that substance. Likely they are useful as little more than laxatives from minerals. The town isn't named Mineral Wells for no reason.  

One of my favorite ranches is the Belding-Gibson Ranch, which has a spring that never dries up and was a favorite Native American campground. This is a beautiful ranch that has been continuously run by the Belding family and descendants since 1859. The original cedar log cabin dating to 1854 has been incorporated into the ranch home, as has the smokehouse and the dog trot and second cabin. Fortunately, this family is lovingly protecting their heritage and have been generous in sharing with the public.

The Gibson home on the Belding-Gibson Ranch,
which includes the original cabins
I enjoy this county, although I’m glad I live in a Fort Worth suburb with all the shopping and medical conveniences I prefer. While visiting Palo Pinto, I can visualize life as it was in the last half of the nineteenth century. A drive there sets my imagination cog wheels turning and generating new ideas faster than I can write them.

Do you have special areas that inspire you? I’ll give away a copy of my first Bride Brigade romance, JOSEPHINE, to one person who comments today.

Thanks for visiting today. Don't forget to comment if you want to be included in the drawing for a copy of JOSEPHINE!

Caroline Clemmons is an Amazon bestselling and award winning author of historical and contemporary western romances. A frequent speaker at conferences and seminars, she has taught workshops on characterization, point of view, and layering a novel.

Caroline and her husband live in the heart of Texas cowboy country with their menagerie of rescued pets. When she’s not indulging her passion for writing, Caroline enjoys family, reading, travel, antiquing, genealogy, painting, and getting together with friends. Find her on her blog, website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, and Pinterest.

Subscribe to her newsletter here to receive a FREE novella. 

Photos by author; cover by Skhye Moncrief.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Changing of the Seasons

The leaves on the big oaks surrounding our yard are no longer bright green. They have already started to transition to various shades of yellow, brown, and red, and a few have dropped, littering the grass and driveway.  The acorns that fell last month no longer crunch beneath my feet as I carry out the trash. Between the deer munching on them and the squirrels gathering them, they are almost as forgotten as the lawn tractor-sprinkler that dutifully pulled the garden hose behind the last couple of months.
I know we’ll soon put away the patio furniture and complete the other needed chores to prepare for the winter months, but that is about it. There is no large fall harvest that we need to complete in order to know we’ll have a pantry full of food this winter. In thinking about that, I was reminded of one of the Little House on the Prairie books—The Long Winter

I read these stories as a child, and of course watched the series (and still do on cable), but it wasn’t until I was older and looked at those fictional books more as research that I realized  The Long Winter was about survival at its core. The story talks about how the family moved from their shanty a mile away into the small town in preparation of the bad winter that was being predicted. And later about how the snow was so deep they had to dig tunnels from building to building in town. The first snow had fallen in October and by Christmas the grocery store was out of food. The weather made it impossible for the train to deliver much needed supplies. Laura talks about how the family only ate two meals a day because Ma said the days were short and there wasn’t time for more than two meals, and how funny Pa looked. That is eyes sunken, he was thin, and not nearly as strong as usual. She talks about how tired they all were and how dull everything seemed. 

They were all starving. 

She talks about grinding wheat in the coffee grinder to make flour, and how Almanzo and another man braved the elements and travel 20 miles in order to get a few bushels of wheat.  Winter didn’t end until May that year. That’s when the supply train finally arrived and Ma cooked their belated Christmas dinner. 

Meteorologists have confirmed that the winter of 1880-81 was very close to what Laura Ingalls described in that book. This story really is documentation of life during a very severe winter back then.  

It’s also a book of perseverance and of being grateful for what you have, no matter how small.

So as fall arrives, I readily admit how grateful I am for the resources we have in place that assures we will never have to wait until May to have Christmas dinner.