Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Minnesota Yankee with Southern Roots

By: Lyn Horner
Writing about myself is not my favorite thing to do. I'd much rather write about the characters running around in my head, but September is "Talk About Yourself" month, so here's my story.

George, Sylvia & baby Me

I was born in San Francisco, California. My parents met there during the war -- the Big One. Daddy was a cook and Mama was a waitress in the same restaurant. They dated only three months before marrying. Both had been married once before. My mother was eight years older than my dad. They both grew up on a farm, she in Minnesota, he in North Texas.

As a young woman, Mama worked as a housemaid in Minneapolis. Later, she contracted TB and spent three years in a sanatorium. She was a beautiful woman but grew up in a very old-country atmosphere. (Her grandparents emigrated from Bohemia in the later half of the 19th century.) She only had an eighth grade education and was rather unworldly. Even so, she packed up and headed west with a friend after her first marriage broke up. I think she had a taste from adventure.

My dad was definitely an adventurer. A Texan with southern roots that trace back to colonial times, he was one of thirteen siblings. He left home during the Great Depression at the age of seventeen to get away from his dictatorial father. Despite being handicapped with a neuromuscular disorder, he traveled all over the American West, working as a page in the Texas Legislature, picking fruit in Arizona, cooking and working as a door-to-door salesman in California and the Northwest. He could not join the armed services during WWII because of his handicap, but did do one stint in the Merchant Marines as a cook. Later, he worked at the Dixon Gun Plant in Texas, before returning to California.

Lyn, age 4 -- in Minnesota

When I was four years old, we moved to Minnesota so Mama could be near her family. We settled in Minneapolis, where I grew up. My dad worked for the University of Minnesota as an office supervisor in the alumni department for several years. After that, he floated from one job to another, sometimes working in sales, other times as a cook. Once I was in school, Mama went back to waitressing.

My childhood was not the greatest, mainly because my parents had serious marital problems. Mama was clinically paranoid. She thought everyone was talking about her behind her back and accused my dad of cheating on her -- constantly. He had her committed to a mental hospital twice. It did no good. When I was a senior in high school, he finally moved out.

Meanwhile, I was diagnosed at age nine with the same hereditary disorder my dad suffered from. It runs back several generations in his mother's family. By the time I was in junior high my ankles had grown weak and I walked with a noticeable limp. Other kids teased me and I became more and more introverted. My only escape was in schoolwork, at which I excelled, and in books and TV. Daddy got me hooked on westerns early. He also fostered my interest in art, giving me a beginner's oil painting kit when I was in fifth grade.

When high school came along, I had no friends and thought no boy would ever want to date me. Thank God, my dad got me some counselling. I forced myself to reach out to a few other girls and started to attend football, basketball and hockey games with them. In my senior year, one of my girlfriends egged me into asking her boyfriend's best friend to a girl ask boy dance. It was called the Sweetheart Swirl. The guy said yes! That same night he invited me to be his date for the senior prom. I was in seventh heaven! And that's how I started dating my future husband, Ken.

Ken and me at the Como Zoo Conservatory, Staint Paul, MN, about 1966

We dated all the way through college. I attended the Minneapolis School of Art (now the Mpls. College of Art and Design) majoring in fashion design, mainly because I wanted to study fashion illustration, a small part of the course. Ken went to the U of M and business college. We got married about six weeks after I graduated. The next day, my dad headed home to Texas, where he lived the rest of his life. He and my mother never legally divorced.

Wedding day, cutting the cake

After we returned from our honeymoon in the Grand Tetons, Ken returned to college for a few more months while I went job hunting. Over the next few years, I worked at two different department stores in their advertising departments. I was a finishing artist, drawing fashion accessories, clothes and toiletries. After that, I worked as an art instructor for Art Instruction Schools. Do you remember their "Draw Me" heads? They used to run in TV Guide.

Mama, me & one of many cats to occupy our home(s.) Purple anyone?

Ken worked first for a CPA firm and later for a large corporation in accounting and management. He would be transferred three times from location to location in the central time zone, eventually bringing us to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, where we have lived since December, 1986. I quit work when we made our first move, to the Chicago area, and stayed home to raise our two children. Shortly before that move, my dad drove up from Texas to visit us.

Daddy with me & the children, Dan and Carrie

Once Dan and Carrie were both in school, I got more serious about writing, a hobby I took up when they were small, needing a creative outlet. Around the mid-90s I finished a rough draft of my first novel. It was very rough and went through many revisions. I joined Romance Writers of America and North Texas Romance Writers, and signed on with two different agents (not at the same time.) Sadly, neither managed to sell my "masterpiece."

For the next several years I became involved with my children's extracurricular activities, particularly the band parents club. Probably too involved. I mean, it became like a full time job! But, oh, how Ken and I loved riding the buses with the band kids and cheering for them during their halftime shows. We also made dear friends we've remained close to ever since.

As you can imagine, writing took a back seat during that period. I did manage to write a memoir titled Six Cats In My Kitchen, now available for Kindle. It's full of family photos and offers a candid view of life with a half dozen feisty felines -- and a disability.

In 2010, I published Darlin' Irish (originally Darlin' Druid) -- the first in my western/paranormal Texas Devlins series. Since then I have written and published three more books in that series, plus two combo sets. Now I am at work on a romantic suspense series with my trademark touch of psychic phenomena.

Just a few days ago I republished White Witch, Texas Devlins Book One (the prequel novella) with a bit more content and a dramatic new cover created by Charlene Raddon. You can see more of her work at .

Book Excerpt: 

Chicago; August 1871
Jessie hiked up her skirts and stepped into the cool water of Lake Michigan, wading out until the gentle waves lapped at her knees. It felt wonderful on her sweaty skin. She wished she could immerse her whole body but didn’t relish walking home in sopping wet clothes.
“Jess, you’d best be careful,” her brother Tye called from a few feet away. “There could be a drop-off.”
“I know. I’ll not go any farther out. And take your own advice, brother dear.” She glanced at him enviously. Having stripped away his shirt and rolled up his pant legs, he was splashing water on his chest, not the least bit concerned about getting his trousers wet.
“Aye, I will, although I’m a fair swimmer, unlike you.” He grinned at her mischievously. “In case ye haven’t noticed, I’m not burdened by a skirt and petticoats either.”
“Humph! Go ahead and get your trousers soaked. Doubtless you’ll enjoy being ogled by every woman we pass on our way home, ye wicked devil.”
He laughed and sliced the water with the edge of his hand, sending a small geyser her way. It caught her in the face, causing her to shriek and duck away as droplets dampened the bodice of her worn gray gown.
“Don’t do that!” she scolded. “I don’t want to get all wet.” Wiping water from her eyes, she blinked several times to clear them. Once she was able to keep them open, she happened to glance into the distance across the lake . . . and froze.
The lake disappeared before her eyes, replaced by a burst of fire that soared high overhead, wringing a strangled cry from her lips. The fire turned into a hellish scene of flames leaping from building to building along a familiar street, a street filled with people running for their lives before the monstrous fire. It licked at the wooden paving block underfoot and at the walkways lining the thoroughfare.
Her view of the event shifted abruptly. Now she saw her family’s cottage going up in flames behind her as she was being whisked away.

“Nay, not our home!” she wailed without realizing she’d spoken. Then the scene changed again. Now she was looking toward the city from far across the lake, and what she saw made her scream in horror.


  1. How lucky you were to have a loving father and a husband who is constant and true. Those are big advantages even in the face of all your adversities. You were such a cute little girl. I loved that ruffled dress.
    I think most authors are introverted. We're up in our heads dreaming up stories.
    I liked this excerpt. I like how you transitioned this character into her psychic vision. Very clever.
    I wish you every success and happiness.

  2. Lyn, I enjoyed learning more about you. The new cover for WHITE WITCH is a hundred times better and I'll bet it helps sales. You're a very good writer.

  3. You have definitely had an interesting life. Isn't it something when we think back and look at our history. It was fun getting to know you better.

  4. Sarah, you're so right. My dad pushed me to get a good education and inspired me in many ways. Ken has been my best friend and love for close to fifty years.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpt from White Witch. Jessie Devlin, the visionary heroine, is still my favorite character.

  5. Caroline, you're a true sweetheart. Thank you for your wonderful compliment! I'm glad you like the new cover.

  6. Paisley, thanks for stopping by. "Interesting" is a nice way to put it. :)

  7. Lyn, I so enjoyed your life's story and pictures. Truly, your father was a your inspiration and you were and are one determined lady with tremendous strength. Of course, Ken was your next stepping stone of inspiration and growth. Yea Ken! It was so nice to get to meet you. When I saw your wedding picture, I laughed at how young you and Ken looked. Then I remembered just how young my husband and I look in ours.Goodness, the old pictures are great, aren't they? A treasure of memories. Golly, we were young then. And yes, showing my age, I definitel remember "Draw Me" heads. And I love your excerpt, and I am ordering your intriguing White Witch the minute I finish this. Wishing you the best.

  8. Beverly, how sweet of you! I truly appreciate your support and kind comments. Yes, we do look so young in those old photos. Seems like time just slip through our fingers.

    Thanks so much for visiting!

  9. Lyn, I really enjoyed this. It's odd how we all see each other on FB and group e-mails, and of course, here, but we don't really know much about one another personally. This was a very interesting glimpse into your life.

    My parents had their problems, too--I guess most couples did/do, but some are worse than others. It seems to make us more introverted because of that and in a way, turn us to our talents such as drawing, writing, music, etc.

    I'm glad to get to know you better.

  10. Cheryl, you're right, we all have our own ways of "escaping" rough times, whether as kids or adults. For someone with a creative urge, it's natural to seek solace in our writing, visual arts, music, etc.

    It's great to get to know you better too.


Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West! We are very sad to require comment moderation now due to the actions of a few spam comments. Thank you for your patience.