Friday, November 8, 2013

THE LAST FREE LAND IN TEXAS


 
When at last I completed the raw manuscript titled Texas Dreamer and sent it off to my partner/reader, I immediately began to think of a new series. For months, the idea of Mail Order Brides has been floating around in my head, yet the idea didn't seem completely right for me.
THIS UNKNOWN WOMAN
MIGHT LOOK LIKE MY FIRST
WEST TEXAS BRIDE--
KATHLEEN PARKER

I scanned a couple of books and websites about pioneer Texas women who helped settle our state, hoping to find an idea. All these women were strong and unique in some way, and one story in particular grabbed my attention.

By the turn of the century, almost all the land in Texas had been designated for a particular use. Only one strip in West Texas remained and the government listed it as Free--4 Sections to a man. A section of land is 640 acres, one square mile. Four sections would be 2,560 acres, or four square miles.

Aha. My new series will be titled: WEST TEXAS BRIDES.

The first story is in the beginning stages, about my characters Josiah Fremont and Kathleen Parker. These two have an unlikely meeting--thus, the outline for my story. As yet, it is untitled.

At the dawn of the Twentieth Century, unsettled land was treasured by many. For it to be offered free, with a few requirements, enticed men, some with families, to go out west to the South Plains and stake a claim. After having it surveyed and staked off, the man would ride to Lubbock, about twenty miles away--or a day's ride on horseback--and file his claim in the courthouse. After three months of living on the land, the claim was completed.

Some owners lived alone on the land until a sod half-house could be constructed. Then he
would bring out his family, and they would begin to homestead.
A few women chose to live on the land right away, even if it meant living in their wagon.

My characters, though, are as concerned about whether to marry or not as they are about the free land. Josiah is definite about staking a claim, and he's just as determined to find a woman to look after his three motherless children.

Whether he marries her or not, he must convince one particular woman to accompany him on his venture. 
~~*~~
WIP Excerpt:
"All right. Can you cook? Do you think you could get used to children? Mine are real good, obedient...well, most of the time.  Lucas is a strong little guy and often acts like a man. He sees after his sisters real well."

She nodded. "I can cook, but I'm not used to cooking large amounts. That's something I could learn. But Mr. Fremont, I truly don't think I'm suitable for you as a wife. The life seems rather rugged, and I'm not used to that. I might make a mess of things. So, I must decline your offer."

Standing, she held out her hand. "Good day, Mr. Fremont. Good luck with your search for a wife."

Josiah stood. His heart pounded, knowing she was perfect. Her manner was likable and calm, the kind of woman he preferred, the kind he needed for this journey. Yes, it would be difficult, but he honestly could envision success that would make them all proud. She couldn't say no.

What could he do to persuade her?

Kathleen lowered her hand, but she didn't walk away. She kept searching his face and blinking.

He stood as immobile as she.

"Miss Carter..."

"Mr. Fremont..."

Both laughed. "You go first, Miss Carter. What were you about to say?"

"No, you go first, Mr. Fremont."

Twisting his hat by the brim around and around, he said, "Please don't say no. I can find another woman, I'm pretty sure. I have two other names, women I know personally, but truth be told, I don't think I could live with either one. You see, my Louise was a winner, a real lady who worked beside me. We were a team, and that's what I'm looking for, a partner...who might be my wife if that's what both of us want."

"A partner. Now, I rather like that. So based on these five minutes, you have concluded you could live with me."

A tiny quirk at one corner of her mouth told him she wanted to laugh. Ah, she had a sense of humor. Now that was something he liked.
~~*~~
Resources:
Handbook of Texas Online
Wikipedia
Wikimedia
Texas Tears and Texas Sunshine
Women of the West


15 comments:

  1. Celia, that's my part of the country--or was. Love the excerpt and look forward to the book. I love mail order bride stories, but would not have wanted to risk being one.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Celia, that sounds like a wonderful series and a perfect setting. My time travel romances in the 1880s are set in the Panhandle. So much history there.

    Great excerpt!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I loved the excerpt, Celia. You better hurry up and get this story written. I have a particular fondness for mailorder bride stories. I like it when the couple grows into love.
    a square mile of free land just seems like the greatest start anyone can ask for.
    As always, I love your posts. I'm looking forward to your series.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Isn't it awesome how inspiration just gels? Celia, what a terrific series and a fabulous setting! I look forward to more inter-related books! xox

    ReplyDelete
  5. Caroline--mine, too! Hockley Country, which was included in this Free Land thing. Oh, no, me either. I could never be a mail order bride. But who knows--if you or I had been born in a different time, we might just decide to go West as a mail order bride.
    Thanks for your comment.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Linda--Oh, that's right. You have a series set in the Panhandle. I think only those of us who have lived out there and know about it could see it as a viable place to live.
    But to settle down on wide open land. I get cold sitting in my living room. I cannot imagine how I'd feel living out there in a dugout and/or a wagon.
    I thank you for commenting.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sarah--they got four sections--four square miles. That's a nice amount of land.
    I like your statement, that you like a couple "to grow into love." That's a wonderful way to put it.
    Thank you for reading...I always love to see what you have to say.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Tanya--that's a good way to put it. An idea just gels. We never know, do we, those of us who write, just exactly what will pop up.
    I hope this series works. Sometimes I begin something, and it just fades away.
    But with this one...Oh, I do want to make it work.
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Celia, I love the premise of West Texas Brides, and your excerpt was great. Looking forward to this series. Great photos, too. :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. I love the sparks and the repartee of these two characters in your WIP. I foresee your West Texas Series as being a big hit!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ashley--thank you for your impression. I do like the title for the series. Now, I need to write the stories. This is one I began, and I have a second one started as well--just the idea, mostly. It's interesting, isn't it, when word come to you and you know it's right.
    I appreciate your comments, always.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Maggie--Oh, don't I wish! If only I could write another one like Addie and the Gunslinger. It's going on two years old, and still on a Top 100 Amazon list.
    But not all can be winners.
    I like my characters, too.
    Thanks so much for your encouragement.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Sounds like you have another winner on your hands, Celia. My husband is from Dalhart so we make that drive every year. Carving out a living must have been very hard in that area. Very few trees and not a lot of rain. Wet, nasty winters. Love going there in summers, though as the temperatures are always so pleasant.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Ciara--don't I know it! I grew up out there. But we didn't homestead--haha. But there's something very appealing and clean and good about the Staked Plains. I hope this is a winner. Don't we always wish for this? At least I like the title of the series.
    Thanks so much for your comment.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Celia, this series will be a big success for you. I loved your excerpt, so fun. They will be a lively match. Wishing you the best!

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West!