Monday, January 30, 2012


West Texas - where there are
"miles and miles of miles and miles"
 HOME, SWEET TEXAS HOME is a sweet contemporary set in West Texas near where I grew up. My uncle and cousins were farmers who also sometimes raised cattle. Can’t keep all your eggs in one basket, right? Not with Texas weather so unpredictable. My husband had several uncles who were ranchers and farmers, and some of his cousins still farm. Although we live in a rural area now, both Hero and I grew up in the “big city” of Lubbock.  If you've ever been to Lubbock, you realize that's a joke. It's about 250,000 people, and it still has a small town atmosphere. But since it's the largest town for 120 miles, it's a major shopping and business center.

Lubbock Cotton Field
 To raise money to build their new house, my father-in-law raised cotton on a field at the edge of town and my husband helped. Large-scale farmers had lots of equipment, but my father-in-law had to hire someone to plow the land for planting. The rest was accomplished by hand--Hero's, his dad's, and eventually his younger brother's hands. Hero remembers initially clearing hundreds of tumbleweeds from the land and burning them to ready the plot. Needless to say, he hates tumbleweeds! After several years, the family had saved enough cash to buy a lot-and-a-half and build a house on it, with my father-in-law as contractor and doing some of the work himself. Once they’d saved enough to build, that was the end of their cotton farming. My husband was grateful. I'll bet his dad was even more grateful, because he did all this farming while holding down a full-time job.

Texas Tech Univ.
is in Lubbock
During the time Hero and his brother worked in the cotton field, when they came in dirty and tired, their mom would tell them that if they didn’t go to college, they’d be doing back-breaking work like that forever. Hero said he didn’t know then what his degree would be, but he knew that he was going to college so he’d never have to farm again. He graduated from Texas Tech with an electrical engineering degree that he used in the aeroapace industry. So what did we do as soon as he reached the peak of his career? You guessed it! We bought a small acreage in a rural area, and here we are today. Life certainly plays tricks on us, doesn’t it?

Here’s a video about tumbleweeds even my husband can’t hate.

About the time my future husband was burning tumbleweeds, “chopping cotton” (hoeing weeds from young cotton rows) and "pulling bolls" (harvesting the cotton), my family moved to Lubbock. Dad had been managing cotton gins, but he was making more money buying and selling cotton. No, he didn't have to cart the bales around. The process involves samples of each crop for grade, which is where the term "fair to middling" originated. (In West Texas, when you ask someone how they're doing, often the answer will be "fair to middlin'.")

Lubbock, Texas, dubbed the Hub of the Plains
First, my dad bought our house near the same edge of town as where my husband's family lived. We were so pleased to have our own new home. When I was small and we lived in California, Dad had built houses. But each house supposedly built for us ended up sold because of a local housing shortage. He and Mother could never turn down a tidy profit. Anyway, in Lubbock we were happy to finally own one similar--though not nearly as well constructed--to those Dad had built in California. The first year we lived in Lubbock, cotton plants came up in our flowerbeds because the housing development was carved from a cotton farm. We thought that was funny. Yes, we lived simply and took pleasure in simple things.

You can see that even a contemporary book about that area might be close to my heart. Here’s an excerpt from this modern day Cinderella story in which a Dallas city girl, Courtney Madison, inherits property and investments in West Texas. The set up is that hero Derek Corrigan had arranged for his best friend Rusty to be Courtney’s date for a neighborhood potluck the previous Friday. Derek might have asked Courtney himself, but he’d already arranged a date with an old friend, Janelle, before he learned of the party. Things didn’t go well for Derek and Janelle at the party, and now it’s Monday morning. It helps if you know that the house Courtney inherited is the one in which Derek grew up and that it was Derek's adopted father, Sam, who left Courtney the legacy, but the will binds Derek and Courtney to work together for a year. Derek now lives across the road.

Family-oriented contemporary romance.
Cover represents Derek and his two children,
Meg and Warren. Courtney's dog is named Bingo.


Derek Corrigan
After wrestling with himself all weekend, Derek had come to apologize to Courtney. The two of them had to keep working together for the better part of a year. Somehow she’d found out he’d set her up with Rusty and misunderstood. She left a message with Rosa that she’d arranged for the repair of his truck and that Jimmy would be working off the cost of repairs. Didn’t even ask to speak to him.

He figured she was still mad, but he didn’t see why. What was so all-fired wrong with setting her up with a nice guy like Rusty? Hells bells, he’d just tried to help her get acquainted. Where’s the crime in that?

At church yesterday, she’d evaded him or looked right through him. That wasn’t even Christian. And just when he was getting used to having her to talk to. Of course, for Rusty she’d been all sugar and cream. Derek smiled in spite of himself. She’d made Janelle spitting mad with that little imitation act. He’d never seen anyone get the best of Janelle, but Courtney had. Everyone got it, and laughed. Except Janelle.

Oh, no. Janelle didn’t laugh at herself. She’d sulked the rest of the evening. He vowed never, but never, to ask Janelle anywhere again.

In Courtney’s house the next day, Derek grabbed a cup of coffee as he passed through the kitchen. Courtney was in the living room consulting with two painters. He stopped dead in his tracks. What the hell did she need with painters? Hadn’t this house been plenty good enough for Maggie and for Sam just as it was? Sure it had, and plenty good enough for him too. Why did Courtney have to go changing things?

 When she saw him standing in the kitchen doorway, she paused. “Joe and Juan helped me get our trucks to Buddy’s garage. Buddy will call you when yours is repaired.” She stared, eyebrow lifted. “Did we have an appointment about something else today?"

An appointment? In his own house? He kept forgetting it wasn’t his house anymore. The house wasn’t Sam’s either. A pang of sorrow stabbed his heart and sliced downward. This had been his place with Sam and Maggie—the place they’d built especially for him. That was then; this was now. The whole place was hers and she could make any changes she chose. He had no say in anything she did with the house and farm. Instead, he was now the interloper in her house.

He exhaled. “No, but I’d like a word with you when you have a minute. I’ll just wait in Sam’s, um, your study.”

Ten minutes later she came in and he’d swear the room’s temperature dropped twenty degrees. She closed the door softly behind her. Man, but he had the distinct feeling she’d have preferred to slam it—and hard.

The second the door clicked shut, she launched into him. “Derek Corrigan, I realize you think I’m an incompetent social pariah. However, do not ever, ever take it upon yourself to find dates for me. No matter how nice the man might be. Do I make myself clear?”

Her quick breaths recalled the way she’d looked with only the sheet covering her breasts. Admiring her fire, he wished she wouldn’t direct it at him. Oh, hell. How had she found out about that? Rusty never would have told her.

He threw up his arms. “I thought it would be nice for you to have an escort since you don’t know anyone here yet. Okay? What’s so wrong with that?”

“For your information, I had a date the weekend before the party.”

He froze, and blood drained from his body. Who had she been out with? He’d bet it was that creep Lance Thompson. Damn the man. “I was only trying to help.”

She shook a finger in his face. “You should have asked me first. Do you have any idea how humiliated I was to learn Rusty didn’t ask me on his own? I had to hear from Janelle that I was a charity case.”

Damn, damn, damn. His fingers clenched and he wanted to punch the wall. He should have guessed Janelle was the culprit.

Courtney turned and paced. “And to think I fell for that fake visit to Rusty’s where he just happened to have fresh coffee and a cake from his mother. Oh, brother, I guess you both got a laugh out of that.”

“No, we did not laugh. Hey, you needed to meet him, right? And once he met you he said he would have asked you anyway, so what's the difference?”

When she opened her mouth and stepped toward him, he tried again before she could launch another attack. “Look, Janelle shouldn’t have told you, but you shouldn’t have made her cry, either.”

“Humph.” Courtney narrowed her eyes. “Puhleeze, me make that woman cry? Give me a break. That woman hasn’t cried since she got her first training bra.” She paced the office as if she were being paid by the step.

Man, Courtney had one smart mouth on her when her anger took over. “She cried because you called her a piranha after she tried so hard to make you feel welcome to the community.”

She stopped pacing again. “Your girlfriend certainly made no effort to welcome me. In fact, she did everything within her power to make me feel unwanted.”

Hell, how had he come to be defending Janelle? “She’s not my anything., she’s just gone through a rough divorce.” He suddenly remembered that this was Janelle’s third divorce, but Courtney didn’t need to know that. “Neither of us wants to remarry. She likes to have a presentable escort when a twosome is called for—“

“Please spare me.” She held up a hand. “I’m not interested in the sordid details of your sexual liaisons.”

“They’re not sex…” He swallowed hard. “Not liaisons of any kind, just two people going out with no strings attached. Okay?”

Courtney faced him and jammed fists on her hips. “If you believe that woman is not interested in marriage, and to you, then what I heard was right.”

Anger raced through him. Dear God, how he hated gossip. He’d been hurt too deeply by rumors, first as a child about his parents’ lifestyle and poverty, and later by his former wife’s escapades. No, he’d never speak a word of gossip himself. How he’d like to shut Courtney up now by kissing her senseless instead of waging this stupid argument.

“Oh yeah?” He took a deep breath and glared. “What did you hear?”

She stepped toward him and leaned into his face. “That where making money is concerned, you’re King Midas, but where women are concerned, you really are dumb as dirt.”

“Who says?” He clamped his jaw tight. Damned if he’d apologize now. He’d bet Elaine made that wisecrack. She’d been mad at him ever since grade school when he’d called her a chipmunk. “Was it Elaine?”

“Everyone who knows you says it.” She stamped her foot. “Do you hear me? Everyone!”

“Yeah, well at least Janelle is nicer than that creep Lance Thompson. I suppose you plan to keep seeing him?” He didn’t trust that man and couldn’t understand why she didn’t see through Lance’s fake so-called charm.

“As a matter of fact, I am. He’s an interesting date.”

The ring of the telephone forestalled her next comment. She gave him another of her molten glares before she picked up the receiver. “Hello.”

She staggered backward to a chair. Her eyes widened as color drained from her face. “I’ll be there right away.”

He stepped forward. “What’s happened? Who’s hurt?”

With shaking hands, she leapt up and grabbed her purse and keys. “Jimmy’s been in a fight at school.”

HOME, SWEET TEXAS HOME is available in print and e-book from The Wild Rose Press at,
and at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online stores. I hope you’ll give it a read and let me know what you think.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, January 27, 2012


First, the winner of a free e-book from our Amazing Authors Event is Becky. I've sent her an email.

Friends and I were talking recently, teasing one friend because in all her books either the hero or heroine has a dog. I like that, and books I write usually include pets. Showing a character that is sympathetic to cats or dogs adds a dimension to the person. A gruff man who befriends a scruffy dog lets the reader know that the tough guy is not as heartless as he wants others to believe. He has instantly become more sympathetic to readers. In the movie “Hang ‘Em High,” Clint Eastwood is introduced to the audience driving cattle across a river. He gets off his horse and wades back into the river (wearing chaps) to save a young calf. Fast on his heels is a posse ready to hang him. Because of his compassion, we know this man has to be a good guy. Good thing, because that's the extent of character development for this movie.

Our Shih Tzu, Webster
 A heroine with a pet comes across as kinder and more nurturing. This is, of course, if the pets are well cared for. I hate, hate, hate books where a pet dies! Remember THE YEARLING? OLD YELLER? No thanks! Won’t read it.

Our family’s pets are all rescued animals that have become family members. I know their life span is shorter than ours, but don’t want to be reminded when I’m reading for pleasure.

Sebastian, our
17 lb. baby
Pets don’t have to be cats or dogs or horses. At a critique meeting once, I told my cp’s (critique partners) about my neighbor who raises beautiful rare hens. Yes, they are beautiful! Called blue-reds, they are rusty red with soft bluish wing and tail feathers. My citygirl cp thinks I should move into the city, too, and said, “You have to get out of the country, now!”

Bailey, our shy tabby
The first “real” mystery I read was by Erle Stanley Gardner and featured a parrot. I was about nine and don’t remember the title of the book. Sad, because that novel changed my life by showing me mysteries didn’t have to include Nancy Drew. But I digress. Again.

Pets add substance to any story, just as they do to our lives.
Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


My hope is that you believe my blog, "A Writer's Life," is irresistably sweet and that you read it regularly. Linda Banche on her blog “Linda Banche and her World of Historical Hilarity” (her books are great fun!) nominated me for this award. Linda is the author of AN INHERITANCE FOR THE BIRDS, part of the Love Letters series from The Wild Rose Press, and releases Feb. 1, 2012. Linda has a lovely blog, too. I’m sure she’d love if you visited her and discovered her witty Regency historicals To accept the award, I have to name seven things about me that you may not know and then nominate ten blogs.

Here are seven things about me:

1. I once received a bomb threat intended to intimidate me. Because the phone threat was so unexpected, I laughed and the caller hung up.

antique cup and saucer
 2. My youngest daughter and I once had antique booths in three antique malls. If we had time--and money--we’d keep dealing in antiques even though the market is depressed. Love those estate sales and auctions!

3. Before I learned to say, “no, thank you,” I was a Girl Scout and Brownie leader, PTA President, room mother, Sunday School teacher, on and on ad nauseum.

4. Several yeara ago, I drove a rental car on the German autobahn. No, I didn’t put pedal to the metal, but I did go 85 mph.

5. I used to love to play friendly bridge several times a week, but am not certain I even remember how to bid.

6. I first met my husband Hero when I was 12 and he was 15. We didn’t date until I was a senior in high school.

7. Even though I’m Texan, both sides of my family were Oklahoma pioneers who settled in Harmon County (formerly a part of Old Greer County).

Now that you’ve learned more about me, let me share something about my friends' blogs. I have many favorite blogs, many of which are group blogs such as Sweethearts of the West. Here are ten individual authors whose active blogs I love to visit (and that Linda hasn't already named):

1. Anna Kathryn Lanier “Chatting With Anna Kathryn” at

2. Cathie Dunn “Cathie Dunn Writes” at

3. Celia Yeary “Romance and a Little Bit o’ Texas” at

4. Elaine Stock “Everyone’s Story” at

5. Ginger Simpson “Cowboy Kisses” at

6. Jacquie Rogers “Romancing the West” at

7. Lyn Horner “Texas Druids” at

8. Maggie Toussaint “Mudpies and Magnolias”

9. Mona Risk at

10. Susan Macatee at

Hope you’ll check out these blogs - but please still come back to visit mine!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, January 23, 2012


Three years ago, friends on a private loop decided to put together an anthology set around the Civil War and invited me to participate. That’s not my usual time period--I write either contemporary or historical set between 1870-1895. I wanted to be a good sport, though, so I joined the group.

We started with eleven authors, but people had to drop out for various reasons, including one who stomped off in a huff because the editor wouldn’t let her include her Mexican historical. At the end, six of us wrote novellas, and our anthology placed third in the EPIC. Woohoo!

Now that I have the rights back, I’ve republished this story on Kindle. It’s the only thing I’ve written which does not take place in Texas--not even a scene. It was fun to write, and I hope readers enjoy it. I based it on historical journals about the area of Northwest Georgia from which my ancestors migrated to Texas. Witherspoon is not a real town, but named after a Granbury, Texas antique mall where my daughter and I once had a booth. I used some family names, though: Parmelia, Sarah, Bailey, Hardeman, and McDonald (the Scots clan to which my Johnson family aligned). I also used the home description from my ancestors.

Don't this man have a sweet face?

Here’s a blurb from LONG WAY HOME.

Parmelia Bailey has promised to keep the women and younger brother of her family safe until the family's men return from War. That includes bringing her brother’s fiancée, Sarah Hardeman, and Sarah’s mother and sisters to stay at her grandmother’s home in town. Maybe she shouldn’t have stolen back her horses from the Yankees, but she could think of no other way to rescue the Hardeman women.

Darrick McDonald waited four years to return to Witherspoon, Georgia and Parmelia. Who would have dreamed war would bring him back? He had to protect Parmelia from a renegade who’d vowed to make her sorry she’d turned down his proposal. Darrick prayed he wasn’t too late.

Here’s an excerpt from LONG WAY HOME:

At last, she turned the buggy into her grandparents’ drive and pulled around to the back. With a huge sigh, she stopped at the carriage house. Surely a week had passed since she caught her horses last night. All she wanted now was to crawl in bed and sleep for days, pretend the war never happened. She couldn’t relax yet, not until the horses were back with those Yankee scoundrels.

Sarah, let’s see your mother and sisters inside. After that, Rob and I will deal with the chickens and cow.” Parmelia’s hands shook as she climbed out of the buggy. Fatigue, relief, and fear turned her limbs to jam.

She walked Sarah and her family to the back door where Grammy and Mama took over.

Parmelia returned to the carriage house. “Rob, help me unhitch the horses and put their bridles on so I can take them back.

Why don’t I do that.” Darrick McDonald stepped from the shadows. He appeared calm, until she looked at his face.

Parmelia was surprised sparks didn’t shoot from his dark eyes and ignite the entire carriage house. She clutched her throat, hoping a way out of this predicament would come to her. How had he known to come here, to wait for her?

Darrick, you—you gave me a fright.”

Did I? Perhaps you have a guilty conscience.” He freed one of the horses.

When did you come back?” She fought for an idea, but none came to her.

Late yesterday.” He walked back and forth beside Lady. “Funny thing, you having two horses after the Army confiscated all the livestock in town. Another coincidence, two Army horses went missing overnight.”

Did they?”

He stopped and gave her a piercing look.

She gave up with a sigh. “I can explain.”

I’m listening.” His eyes were still dark with anger.

My brother’s fiancée. You remember Sarah Hardeman? I had to bring her and her family to town. I—I had no way to do that without a team.”

Rob added, “These are our horses anyway. You low down, yellow-bellied Yankees stole them from us.

Oh, Lord. Leave it to her brother to make things worse.

Hush, Rob. Give me the bridles. Put the cow in the barn then come help me with these chickens.”

He pouted and handed over the tack. “Oh, all right. I never get to hear anything good.” Rob untied the cow and stomped toward the barn.

So, you’re a Yankee officer now.”

Captain.” Darrick crossed his arms. “I’m waiting for an explanation, Parmelia.”

Her temper conquered her good sense, and she stepped toward him. “You’ve got your nerve, coming here wearing that uniform, traitor.

He stepped forward until they were almost touching. “Call me what you will, but you’re the one who stole two horses in a time of war.”

She refused to retreat. “How can you accuse me of stealing, when you Yankees have taken over our town?”

Because you did steal them, and you weren’t even clever about it. I followed their tracks to your grandparents’ home. You do realize that with a less sympathetic Colonel, they could lose their home?”

Dear heaven, she hadn’t considered her grandparents if she were caught.

No!” She took a step backward. “I was going to return them. Rob’s right, they are ours. They know me, so they were eager to come to me.”

He pulled a small, withered apple from his pocket.

Rats, she must have dropped it, one of the few from their store of fruit in the cellar.

Darrick held the apple in front of her nose. “Looks to me as if you coaxed them away.”

She sighed, “Maybe I did, but it was only to use them for a little while. Sarah and her family were in great peril.”

He tossed the apple from one hand to the other, but stared at her face. “Are you crazy? You could have been killed.

She grabbed the apple from him. “Sarah, her mother, and sisters could have been murdered and their home burned. We barely got away in time as it is.”

If you had bothered to consult the Colonel, he would have sent soldiers for them. As it turns out, I would have taken my men and gone.”

Are you crazy? You could have been killed,” she echoed him.

Shocked at the concern in her voice and in her heart, she continued, “Um, I mean, they might not have recognized you and could have shot you. Or, that man that tried to take my horse could have killed you.”

Oh, no, she hadn’t meant to tell that last part.

He grew angrier and grabbed her arms. “What do you mean?"

She tried to twist away. “Nothing.”

Parmelia Bailey, who tried to take your horse?” He turned her to face him.

Refusing to meet his gaze, she stammered, “There, um, there was a man in the woods, a ways north of the Mitchell’s house. He…um, he jumped at me and tried to take Beauty, but Rob and I got away.”

You are the stubbornest, orneriest woman I’ve ever known. Don’t you realize what could have happened to you?”

It crossed my mind,” she snapped and raised her face.

If you were mine, I’d, I’d...”

Yours? You moved away and left me, remember? And now you’re a Yankee officer.” Lord, she shouldn’t have reminded him she’d loved him. Worse, she still loved him.

She willed tears not to fall. Keep your anger up, don’t let him know how he hurt you.

You know why I left Witherspoon. You know I had no choice.”

There’s always a choice.” And she would have chosen to go with him, if only he’d asked, even if she had been only sixteen.

Like you chose to steal these horses?”

She shrugged away from his grasp. “Steal? Soldiers stole them from us. Do you understand the term borrow? That’s what I did.”

In times of war, the government has the power to confiscate items from civilians. Do you understand that?”

Call it what you wish, it’s still stealing when you take what’s not yours and keep it.”

Maybe we’re only borrowing your horses.”

She thought his mouth twitched to hide a smile. His humor only irked her more.

Like you Yankees borrowed from the stores in town so we can’t even buy supplies—that is, if we had money. Which we don’t.”

He smiled. “I heard you had plenty of those Confederate dollars.”

Oh, Yankees make me so mad! Take my horses and leave.” She turned and stomped toward the house.

He called, “Aren’t you going to invite me in to say hello to the family? Maybe you could bake me an apple pie.”

She slammed the kitchen door and leaned against it. His laughter floated around her.

From the front of the house, she heard Mrs. Hardeman complaining and Mamma and Grammy’s soft, soothing answers. She wondered how much of Mrs. Hardeman’s grousing they’d have to endure.

Parmelia pushed away from the door, and then remembered those dratted chickens. Peeking through the curtains, she saw Darrick leading the horses away. His long, lean body looked good, his walk a confident swagger. Dark brown hair caught the sunlight. Lordy, he was better looking than he had been four years ago when he lived in Witherspoon.

When he’d touched her just now, she’d sizzled. She’d wanted to throw herself in his arms and have him reassure her, kiss her, love her. How could he create these sensations inside her when he’d abandoned her four years ago? When now he sided with their enemies?

She jumped when Sarah came up to her.

Parmelia, is something wrong?”

I—I just remembered the chickens is all. I’ll get Rob to help me get them down and into the chicken coop.”

Nonsense. My sisters and I will do it. You look all worn out. You must have ridden most of the night.”

She shrugged. “I’m all right. We started for your place close to midnight.”

Sarah’s dark eyes sparkled. “Did you really take those horses from the Yankees?”

Yes, but they’re on their way back to those thieves now. Darrick McDonald was waiting for them in Grammy’s barn.”

Darrick?” Sarah touched Parmelia’s arm. “Oh, Parmelia. Is he still as handsome?”

She sighed, hating to admit the truth. “More. And taller. He sure fills out his uniform, too, but it’s blue.

Oh.” Sarah paused. “But he’s here, and you talked to him. That’s something, isn’t it?”

Before Parmelia had to answer, Rob slammed inside the kitchen. “That old cow’s still upset. Am I supposed to milk her or what?”

I’ll get the pail for you.” Parmelia retrieved it from the screened in porch. “The stool’s still in the barn.” She clasped her hands. “Fresh milk. Oh, that will be wonderful. We’ve been without it for a month.”

Rob called, “We got to have hay.”

Maybe she can eat the lawn tomorrow. I’ll try to barter some hay.” But who had any supplies except the Yankees? Sighing, she went back into the kitchen. She simply could not deal with another crisis today.

I took off my extra clothes, but my hair’s a mess.” Sarah stood at a small mirror over the washstand and smoothed curls of brown hair from her face. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t think my teachers at Thorndike Academy of Young Women would approve of my appearance.”

Parmelia looked at herself over Sarah’s shoulder, then gasped. What must Darrick have thought of her? She told herself she didn’t care then admitted she did. She’d been so careful about her appearance when he’d called on her years ago. He must think she’d turned into a hoyden. Peering at her rough hands and broken nails, she thought maybe she had. Oh, what did it matter? Forcing back tears and regrets, she pulled at her men’s britches and curtsied to Sarah. “I don’t think anyone from Mrs. Carrington’s School for Young Ladies would even speak to me.”

They broke into giggles and went in search of Katie and Nancy.

I hope you'll want to purchase LONG WAY HOME, a bargain at only 99 cents. Remember that this is a novella, so it's a fast read at just under 20,000 words. The buy link at Amazon is:

Smashwords is

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, January 20, 2012


Mineral Wells, Texas today
                          THE SETTING
How about a tour of a lovely West Texas city? Set amid the Palo Pinto Mountains, Mineral Wells, Texas is one of the places my husband and I drive for a few hours’ getaway. Although the surrounding terrain looks like hills to most folks, the height and manner in which they were formed makes them genuine mountains. They were named by Native Americans for the fall colors on the profusion of spindly scrub oaks  Individual peaks in the range include Sugarloaf Mountain, with an elevation of 1,462 feet above mean sea level; Antelope Mountain (1,321 feet); and Crawford Mountain (1,470 feet). The local terrain is surfaced by shallow, sandy soils with some clay, in which grow oak, juniper, and mesquite. This is the setting for my work in progress, BRAZOS BRIDE an near where my contemporay time travel romantic suspense OUT OF THE BLUE is set.

The largest town in Palo Pinto County is Mineral Wells. Very aptly named for the large mineral content of the water. In fact, the water was responsible for the town when James Lynch laid out the town and became it’s first mayor. For more information on Crazy Water and Lyncg, See Celia Yeary’s January 18th post at for more information.

People drinking from Mineral
Wells' Crazy Water Pavillion

                              THE HOTEL
But the title of this post mentions the Baker Hotel, doesn't it? One of my favorite places in Mineral Wells is the Baker Hotel. It rises fourteen majestic stories. Don't laugh. True that's not so tall by most city standards, but dwarfs the mostly one- and two-story buildings around it. My family had driven by the hotel whenever we traveled west on Highway 180 from the DFW Metroplex and I was impressed with the sight of this tall building amid smaller ones--and curious about the interior. The architectural style is a favorite of mine and the same as Texas Tech University and my former high school, Lubbock High.

The Baker Hotel
I was fortunate to tour the Baker Hotel on a Heritage Society Tour several years ago. Seeing inside the hotel saddened me. One speculator had almost gutted the place selling off fixtures, carpets, and anything marketable. After that, he deserted the hotel and vandals and vagrants moved in.
Lobby as it appeared in 1929
Lobby today. Sad difference!

                            THE PAST
At one time, "the Baker," as locals call it, had a full spa, solarium with tanning beds, ballrooms, meeting rooms, restaurant, swimming pool, bowling alley under the swimming pool, garages, and big name celebrities entertaining guests. It boasted extravagant creature comforts such as an advanced hydraulic system that circulated ice water to all 450 guest rooms, lighting and fans controlled by the door locks that shut off and on automatically when the guest left or arrived in their rooms, and a valet compartment where guests could deposit soiled laundry that was accessible by hotel staff without them ever even having to enter the guest's room. The hotel was fully air conditioned by the 1940s, which added to its appeal as a top-notch convention attraction, offering a meeting capacity of 2,500 attendees--a remarkable number considering that in 1929, Mineral Wells was home to only approximately 6,000 residents.

The Baker also generated its own power. Two huge generators located in the basement supplied the hotel power requirements. Certain hotel areas  allowed unseen access to rooms and other locations by the employees.

Swimming pool over tunnel to garage
and over full-sized bowling alley

Glen Miller Orchestra
Even though it opened mere days after the 1929 stock market crash, the Baker enjoyed immense success throughout the 1930s, largely due to Mineral Wells' growing reputation as a top tier health spa destination. Several notable celebrities made the Baker a temporary home during their visits to the city's health spas; the star-studded guest list (and entertainers for the lavish supper club and ballroom) included the likes of Bob Hope, Glenn Miller, Lawrence Welk, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, and future U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. It is even rumored by local historians that legendary outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow may have spent a night or two at the Baker.

The story of the Baker Hotel begins in 1925, when citizens of Mineral Wells, concerned that non-citizens were profiting off of the growing fame of the community's mineral water, raised $150,000 in an effort to build a large hotel facility owned by local shareholders. They solicited the services of prominent Texas hotel magnate Theodore Brasher Baker, who had gained notoriety by designing and building such grand hotels as the Baker Hotel in Dallas, the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, and managed the Connor Hotel in Joplin, Missouri. Construction began the following year on the grand and opulent structure; it would rise fourteen stories over Mineral Wells, house 450 guest rooms, two ballrooms, an in-house beauty shop, and other novelties such as a bowling alley, a gymnasium, and an outdoor swimming pool (added to the plans by Theo Baker after a visit to California). Completed three years later with a cost in 1929 dollars of $1.2 million, the mammoth building instantly dominated the city skyline and was the first skyscraper built outside a major metropolitan area

T.B. Baker began to suffer financial difficulties in the early 1930s, eventually declaring bankruptcy in 1934. He passed control of the Baker Hotel to his nephew Earl Baker, who had served as the hotel's manager as well as managing director of Baker's Gunter Hotel in San Antonio. Despite its owner's financial problems, the Baker Hotel continued to thrive throughout the mid 1930s. As the decade came to a close, however, Mineral Wells' reputation as a health spa was in decline. Advances in modern medication and the discovery of antibiotics such as penicillin lead local doctors, who had been encouraging patients to partake in the area's therapeutic waters, to invest more confidence in medicine. Business suffered, until a second boom in the Baker's popularity occurred when the Fort Wolters military base opened nearby in October, 1940. It was home to the largest infantry placement in World War II, and the hotel enjoyed its greatest popularity and success as a result. Throughout World War II, the transient and permanent population of Mineral Wells hovered near 30,000, a large number of them making their temporary homes in the Baker.

After the war ended in 1945, Fort Wolters was closed and again business suffered. A smaller renaissance came in 1951 when the Wolters facility was reopened as a helicopter base. The Baker hosted the Texas Republican Party conventions in 1952 and 1955, and the Texas Democratic Party held their convention at the Baker in 1954. Aside from these successes, business declined steadily through the 1950s. Earl Baker announced that he would be closing the hotel after the passing of his seventieth birthday in 1963. True to his word, Baker shuttered the building on April 30 of that year, bringing an end to thirty years of service to Mineral Wells and surrounding areas. The hotel re-opened in 1965 when a group of local investors leased the structure from the Baker family. But the revival was be brief. Earl Baker died of a heart attack in 1967, after he was found unconscious on the floor of the cavernous Baker Suite. In 1972, the Baker closed its doors for the last time.

                         THE HAUNTING

Of course, the Baker has at least one resident ghost. People report seeing a ghostly female figure walking the halls. Are you frightened? There are several interesting stories about the hotel itself. One concerns Mr. Baker's mistress, who lived on the 7th floor. She committed suicide and her ghost is said to still roam the hotel, but especially the 7th floor. The feminine presence there is said to be hers.the room she stayed in, apparently quite comfortably, was a suite on the southeast corner of the seventh floor. Many have reported smelling her perfume and her spirit is said to be quite flirtatious with men she may fancy.

Another story tells of a intoxicated woman who tried to jump into the swimming pool from the 12th floor ballroom balcony. Naturally, she was killed. The gangsters Bonnie and Clyde have also been rumored to haunt the Brazos room and ballroom. There are many other stories, but space doesn't allow their dicsussion today. Those interested may check the Southwest Ghost Hunters report at and another at
                          THE FUTURE
For years, friends of the Baker have tried to find investors to purchase and restore the hotel to its former beauty. Hallelujah! Contractors have been surveying the place for about a year now, sizing up everything from its electrical and plumbing systems to its compliance with modern-day building and fire codes. If they get started remodeling the place this spring as planned, it'll be ready to open in spring 2013. The estimated $54 million price tag to get the place up and running again includes outfitting it for business as a modern spa and hotel.

I eagerly look forward to the time when this beautiful old building is restored.

Thank for stopping by!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Thanks, Caroline, for hosting me on your blog today.

I thought I’d talk about what led up to the creation of my new post Civil War romance release, CASSIDY’S WAR.

Susan and her husband as Civil War reenactors
Before I began writing toward publication—I’d dabbled for years, but only had a few pieces published in school papers or amateur fanzines—my husband became enthralled by the Ken Burns documentary about the American Civil War.

Susan and husband outside
an antebellum home

This led to family trips to Gettysburg, followed by his finding a local Civil War reenacting group in Philadelphia. Once he joined, he decided the whole family had to get involved. So, in order not to spend most of my weekends from spring through fall home alone, I became a civilian reenactor.

Civil War reenactor musicians
 I had to do research and learn how to dress, what to eat and what appropriate activities the wife of a soldier would be involved in while in camp. It was a lot of fun and I learned many things that ultimately ended up in my stories set during the War.

Civil War ball gown
 While all this was going on, I was working on children’s books. My first book was a ghost story set in the 19th century, but was never published. I did write a short young adult story set during the Civil War that ended up in one of those little magazines that only paid in copies.

When I decided to write a young adult novel, I used that short story as the basis for my novel. UNDER THE GUNS was ultimately published. It was the story of a young woman and her brothers, as well as one of their childhood friends. The young men joined the Union army and the girl, in time, was able to work as a nurse in the Washington hospitals and later as a battlefield nurse. Her brother’s friend, who she’d known since childhood and considered a nuisance and outrageous flirt, wound his way into her heart after being nearly killed at Gettysburg. She nursed him back to health and fell in love only to nearly lose him again when he was captured by Confederates.

Lady's fan
When this book went out of print and I got the rights back, I thought about trying to get it republished, but decided writing a brand new story about these same characters at a later age, would be a lot more fun.

Victorian lady's hat
My new release, CASSIDY’S WAR, is the story of these same characters five years after the first book ended. My first challenge was to tear the couple apart before the new story began.

My idea was to have the hero, George Masters, suffer from a condition we associate with modern soldiers, but it happened to Civil War soldiers as well. Post traumatic stress disorder caused George to leave the heroine, Cassidy Stuart, days before their wedding and shortly after he returned from prison. He left town and wandered the country, at first living in a drunken stupor, then straightening up enough to earn his living as a professional gambler. And to make him more heroic, he’s persuaded by an old army buddy to seek employment at the Pinkerton Agency. When the story begins, he’s returned to town, five years after he left. But he’s now working undercover as a Pinkerton agent.

Although writing a whole new novel was a lot of work, I did enjoy working with ready made characters on this brand new story. And since the characters are directly affected by the Civil War, my knowledge of that tumultuous period helped to make the characters ring true.

Available now!

And now CASSIDY’S WAR is available for the world to see. I have a gorgeous cover and I hope readers will enjoy reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Blurb: The Civil War is over, but CASSIDY’S WAR is just beginning.

Cassidy Stuart longs to attend medical school. Training beside her physician father and serving as a nurse during the war have only increased her desire to be a doctor with her own practice. When the man who left her at the altar returns, she’s determined not to let him upset the plans she's set for herself.

Until his mission is accomplished, George Masters must hide his identity as a Pinkerton agent as he investigates a physician living in George's former hometown, a short distance from Cassidy's home. When he finds Cassidy hasn’t married, he hopes he can rekindle their love while trying to protect her and the townsfolk from the evil Dr. Madison.

Can their love be renewed despite the villain's desire for revenge against them both?

Excerpt from CASSIDY'S WAR:

He propped her against the wall, removed his hat, and lowered his mouth to hers. Before she could utter a protest, his tongue pressed against her lips, trying to push them apart.
She shoved with all her strength. "Dr. Madison! I must insist you take me home. Now!" She struggled to keep her breath even as she watched his smoldering expression grow cold.

He leaned away from her, pushing his hand through his hair, then settled his bowler back on his head. "You must forgive me, Miss Stuart. I should never have taken such liberties. But your beauty has mesmerized me."

"Please take me home. Now."

Madison tightened his grip on her wrist. Movement outside the alley drew her startled gasp.

George raced to her side and yanked Madison's hand from her arm. "Take your hands off her, you filthy scum!"

Madison's eyes widened. "See here!"

Before he could utter another word, George raised his fist and slammed it into the doctor's face.

"George, don't!" Cassidy cried.

George paid no attention. Madison growled and swung at George. He ducked and the doctor swung again, this time connecting with George's jaw and knocking them both to the ground.

The two wrestled and grunted, rolling around in the dirt.

Cassidy stepped to the edge of the alley, her heart thudding. No pedestrians strolled by. Wringing her hands, she turned back. She had to stop this herself.

"Will you please stop acting like school boys or common ruffians?" She glared at them, hands fisted on her hips.

"I won't let you hurt Cassie, you pompous ass,' George ground out.

"Looks to me like you already have," Madison spat.

George swung and connected with the doctor's nose.

A loud crunch drew a gasp from Cassidy.
George glanced up, his lip curled upward. He rose to his feet, breathing hard.

Dr. Madison lay flat on his back, cradling his bloodied nose in both hands.

"George Masters!" Cassidy glared into his dark eyes. "Just what are you doing?"

"He—I..." George arched a brow. "He had you alone in a dark alley. What am I supposed to think?"

She lifted her fisted hands to rest on her hips. "So you punched him?"

"Well...he hit me, too." He rubbed his jaw.

CASSIDY’S WAR available from The Wild Rose Press


and Barnes and Noble
Find out more about me, read the opening chapters of my new release and learn about my other books at my website:

My thanks to Susan for sharing her writing and reenacting experiences with us. Remember that the Amazing Author Event continues:

Jan. 18. SG Rogers -

Jan. 19. Linda LaRogue -

Jan. 20 Jacquie Rogers -

Thanks for stopping by!