Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Wild West … Florida?

That’s right, Florida is America’s oldest cattle-raising state courtesy of Ponce de León. In 1521, Ponce de León returned to Florida with horses and several Andalusian cattle. Life wasn’t easy for those early cattle—or the early ranchers, for that matter—what with cattle fever ticks, gators, swamps and snakes. Throw in a few hurricanes for good measure and, well, you get the idea. No, life wasn’t easy at all.

But those early cattle adapted. (I have a feeling the early ranchers did a sight of cussing along with the adapting.) Ranches sprang up, dozens of them by 1700. By the 1800’s, when settlers moved south in search of new pasture, so did the cattle. Then along came the railroads. With transportation, the beef industry grew.

What does all this have to do with the Wild West, you ask? I’m getting there. Along with the herds of cattle, some numbering upwards of 50,000, towns sprang up. Now, where there are towns you have people, and people have needs so you have shops. People also have horses, and horses need blacksmiths. Still with me? You have cattle, people and horses. What’s missing in this picture? Oh, yes, cowboys.

Okay, you say, I get it—cowboys equal Wild West. Umm, no, I don’t get it. Well, hang on, you will. Along with all the people, cattle and cowboys came something any fan of the Wild West is acquainted with—rustling.

And lots of it. Florida was open range. Miles and miles of it. Cowboys rounded up stock from open plains, from hammocks, from swamp, river and streams, and then drove them to market. Of course, not everyone was content sticking to cattle they had any right to. Sound familiar yet?

That’s right, just as in the Wild West, Florida had its share of rustlers and range wars, like the one between the Barbers and the Mizells, where the shooting of Orange County Sheriff David W. Mizell in 1870 sparked at least 8 more murders. That was only one of many such instances. In fact, it was a series of sensational murders from Florida’s last range war that some say led the Florida Legislature to authorize private fences and, in 1949, helped put an end to open range in Florida altogether.

Today we think of Florida as sun, fun and beaches, but it had a start as wild and woolly as any you’d find in the Old West.

Fighting Over A Stolen Herd, by Frederick Remington. Included in an article entitled, "Cracker Cowboys of Florida" published in Harper's new monthly magazine v.91, issue 543, August 1895
Orlando Sentinel: Barbers, Mizells Had History On Opposite Sides Of The Law
Orlando Sentinel: Thief Altering Others' Cattle Brands Sparks Beef In Old Orange County 
The Clewiston News: No arrests made in triple murder near Lakeport  
Glades County Democrat: Murders end Florida's range wars

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Past, present and future, treasure fires the imagination...

LOST "CABIN" GOLD MINE AGAIN LOCATED screamed the headlines of the New York Times on August 18, 1902. Then, as now, such stories of lost treasure fired the imagination. It is human nature to find such things fascinating. Stories of lost gold, of treasure in the Old West, abounds.

Harker's Hell has its own version of  lost legendary treasure, just like Wyoming has its Lost Cabin Gold Mine, and Colorado has Dead Man's Cave, and New Mexico has the Lost Padre Mine. But the secrets of the Harker's Hell lost treasure has a little twist....

DISOBEDIENCE is Book One in the Harker's Hell series, and is now available.

To check out the New York Times article, click on the link below:

New York Times, August 18, 1902

And don't forget to check out my post on the USA Today Happy Ever After blog:

USA Today HEA blog

B&N Nook:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Louis L’Amour. I cut my teeth on his westerns. As a kid I could spend hours lost in his Old West. His heroes were not always good men, not always on the side of the law, but there was an unshakable core of values they held to, even if they differed from society’s at large. They were strong. They had to be to survive not only the villain or the rigors of Western life, but to survive the land. The land is a character in his books, one with a large presence. For me, no other writer brings the land to vivid, living life in quite the same way.

To this day, I can pick up one of his books and be transported to a past that has heroes who have that everyman quality, strong heroines who don’t give up, and that land. Westerns remain one of my favorite genres.

Mr. L’Amour's books definitely influenced my writing. I think you can see it in DISOBEDIENCE,  book one in my new series, Harker’s Hell. Below is a short excerpt, I hope you enjoy it.

From the lost journal of Harker Shand Delais

We weren’t prepared for the reality we found, the vast, billowing seas of grass, heat that bleached white the bones of the unwary, and mountains. Mountains that stood on end, their jagged peaks splitting wide a blue dome such as we’d never before beheld.
We named it the Badlands. A hell-spawned, wild, brash, land, filled with vicious thorns tipped with barbs and poison; where seemingly solid ground hid death pits covered by thin layers of volcanic glass. It was stark, seared, fit only for coyote and cactus.
It was here we made our home. 

And one more…

 Eyes burning, she stared out over the harsh landscape as mile after mile of straggly grass, cactus and rock rolled by with unrelenting slowness. The arid expanse, sculpted by the blast of harsh suns, was so very different from her home.
The Smoky Mountains, part of Teton Territory, were achingly lovely. Clouds ghosted around their jagged peaks like wisps of early morning wood smoke, hollows hid grass and trees as green as poison, and myriad shallow streams chuckled their way over rocks slippery with moss, to gather and swirl in small ponds and lakes. No, no one could deny the beauty of the Smokies.
She hated them.
As stark, as forbidding as this land was, it drew her in some indefinable way. There was an honesty in the twisted, tortured formations, in the sprawling patches of low-growing cacti and in the wicked thorns glinting on the scattered brush. Unlike her home that cloaked danger in the illusion of safety with green, cool shadows. Only a fool wouldn’t recognize the danger in this land.
Waves of heat shimmered off the red sands, glistened on shards of black volcanic glass. In the distance, columns of Joshua trees towered over the vast wasteland; macabre sentinels that watched the passing of time, unfazed by the life and death struggles taking place around them.
Only the sound of the traces and the creak of wood and leather broke the stillness. Heat poured off the sand like an oven, making it hard to catch a decent breath. Dis licked her lips, tasting salt.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Excerpt from Disobedience, Harker's Hell, Book One

From the lost journal of Harker Shand Delais

I cannot escape the blame. Those that have died. Those who will die. Their deaths belong to me. I led them to this terraformed piece of rock. To carve out a life and recreate that ancient period known as the Old West.
It was an obsession. One I shared with anyone who would listen.
Shared? No, that is not the right word. Infected.
In honor of our new beginning, they called this place Harker’s World.
They should have named it Harker’s Hell