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Friday, September 30, 2016


A publisher once asked, “Why do you set everything you write in Texas?”
Answer: Because it’s what I know. I know Texas. I don’t know Minnesota, or Utah, or Oregon, except through brief encounters or research. Why would I want to try to use places foreign to me?
In addition, “Texas” is part of my brand: Celia Yeary….Romance, and a little bit of Texas.

So, what do I know about Texas? What do you know about Texas?

1. Everything really is bigger in Texas.   At 268,596 square miles, Texas is the second largest state behind only Alaska. It is the second most populous behind only California. Texas has the largest state capitol building and the highest speed limit (85 miles per hour along a stretch of toll road between Austin and San Antonio); it’s also the nation’s leading cattle, cotton and oil producer. And—we have a monument dedicated to the Biggest Loss Texas has endured: THE ALAMO.

2. Six flags have flown over Texas.  Native Americans have lived in Texas for thousands of years, but it did not become part of a country in the modern sense until Spanish explorers arrived in 1519. The Spanish then essentially ignored it until the 1680s, when the French established an outpost near Matagorda Bay. That galvanized the Spaniards, [who said], ‘There might not be anything there, but damned if we’re going to let the French have it.” Although Mexico’s war of independence pushed out Spain in 1821, Texas did not remain a Mexican possession for long. It became its own country called the Republic of Texas, from 1836 until it agreed to join the United States in 1845.

3. Texas hosted what was arguably the last battle of the Civil War.  Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House in April 1865. Yet despite being fully aware of this, Northern and Southern forces squared off the following month in the Battle of Palmito Ranch in Texas. Funny, it’s often referred to “just a giant mob fight” which took place on a coastal prairie east of Brownsville, Texas. Ironically, the Confederates won. It was a short-lived victory, however, as they agreed to lay down their arms a couple of weeks later.

4. “Don’t mess with Texas” started as an anti-litter message.
In the 1980s Texas spent about $20 million a year cleaning up trash along its highways. It was not uncommon to see cowboys driving down the street tossing a beer can out the window. As a result, the state Department of Transportation hired an advertising agency to help with its anti-litter campaign. The agency came up with the phrase “Don’t mess with Texas,” which first aired on television during the 1986 Cotton Bowl and has since turned into an unofficial slogan for Texas pride.

5. Texas Is A Whole Other Country.

I’m referring to the seven distinct geographical regions in Texas, giving some the thought Texas could be divided into seven states:

BIG BEND COUNTRY  Most of the area’s landscape if part of the Chihuahuan  Desert. Though it is arid, this remarkable area can explode with beauty after a brief rain. The mountains, valleys, and plains offer a variety of terrain and climates, and its rugged beauty must be seen to be appreciated.
GULF COAST REGION.  The Texas shore along the Gulf of Mexico offers 624 miles of coastline, stretching from the Louisiana border to the Mexican border near Brownsville. This border region goes inland enough to include the city of Houston, Galveston, Victoria, Corpus Christi, Kingsland and the King Ranch, and Brownsville.

HILL COUNTRY  Here, you’re not only in the center of Texas, you’re in the middle of everything the state has to offer. The region is home to rolling hills that dominate the region, but also contain plenty of lakes and rivers to cast your line or take a dip. Major cities in this region are Austin, San Marcos, New Braunfels, and Bandera.

PANDANDLE PLAINS   The Panhandle Plains are flat with rolling plains and wide-open spaces. The region boast of the clearest and brightest star-filled skies you’ll find anywhere in the Lone Star State. Large cities are Lubbock, Abilene, and Amarillo. It contains a huge area that was once “The Last Free Land in Texas.” I wrote another blog about that once.

PINEY WOODS  This area is vastly different from all the other regions in Texas. It is a thickly wooded area of pine and hardwood forests. There are four national forests and five state forests. The area is filled with historic homes and all kinds of festivals. The larger cities are Texarkana, Nacogdoches, Tyler, and the Woodlands north of Houston.

PRAIRIES AND LAKES  The phrase “everything’s bigger in Texas” came from this region. How do you think the term “Big D” originated? Dallas. Oh, and yes, there is Fort Worth, too, where a visitor can get a sense of the true cowboy spirit at the Stockyards National Historic District, the Stockyards Collection and Museum, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, and Billy Bob’s Texas—the largest honky tonk in the world. There’s also plenty of other museums, performance halls, and a zoo. The area has lakes galore. Other cities are Arlington, Grand Prairie, Waco, and Bryan/College Station.

SOUTH TEXAS PLAINS  This region borders along the Rio Grande River. The climate ranges from tropical to rugged beauty. The Rio Grande Valley offers one of the best birding and butterfly watching in America. Canyons and rivers give the visitor plenty of fishing and boating opportunities. Major cities are San Antonio, Laredo, and McAllen.
If you are not a Texan, you can find much information about the area you choose. These seven geographical regions are vitally important, as are the locations of certain cities.

Even I, as a 7th generation Texan, dating back to when one of my relatives—John Jefferson Hughes—fought the Mexicans to help Texas gain its Independence—still research the area I choose to set a new story. I have the honor of being a member of the DRT (Daughters of the Republic of Texas.) because of this ancestor.

Even though I have been all over the state for one reason or another, I still make sure I have my facts straight. Too often, I’ve read a story set in Texas, say in 1870, in which a bride or someone travels by train to the western part of the state. Railroads did not exist past Fort Worth to the west. If you drew a straight line from Fort Worth in the northern part of the state straight down to the Rio Grande, you will see there are no railroads way out there. Soon after, though, the railroads did begin to trickle west—one from Fort Worth to the far NW part into the panhandle, and one to the SW toward the Rio Grande.

I had to stop a series I wanted to write about the brides out on the high plains, around Lubbock, because of no railroads. And I didn’t want my brides to arrive in covered wagons. So, I moved the location to the Hill Country, in a fictional area close enough to San Antonio to get my brides there.
Yes, I know non-Texans often write romances set in Texas. It can be done—I know some who have. At the moment, one of my non-Texan friends is writing a Western romance set in Texas and I am her advisor on some things. Right away, she had to move her story from the Big Spring area close to Fort Worth—because of the railroad thing.

So, yes, write what you wish. But be careful…or just stick with what you know.

New Mail Order Bride Series in the works:

Brides of Winchester County

Book One: Noel

Book Two: Della

Book Three: Olivia.

This series is set in a region similar to Bandera, Texas and close enough to San Antonio to get my brides there by railroad. Then they wait for someone from Twin Rivers, Texas to arrive for them. Another thing: I create fictional small towns but use names of big well-known cities. In this case, I researched the new name I created to make sure Texas does not have a town by this name.  I’m using Twin Rivers, Texas, because in that general vicinity to the east is a small town named Three Rivers.
Thank you for reading the blog today.
ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS is set in the far Western part of Texas on a Spanish Land Grant ranch. I placed it where I knew a railroad snaked SW from Fort Worth across the barren land to the Rio Grande.
To escape an arranged marriage, beautiful, proper Cynthia Harrington from East Texas impulsively marries Ricardo Romero, a striking, sensual Spaniard who ranches on the far western edge of the Texas frontier. Innocently, she steps into a hotbed of anger, rivalry, and strong wills. As she struggles to gain a foothold in the hostile household and foreign ranch community, she finds that her biggest challenge is to make her husband love her.

Ricardo creates his own problems by marrying an outsider, angering his mother, father, and his jealous ex-lady friend. Then, the Texas Rangers arrive looking for a killer, and Cynthia saves Ricardo’s mother in a confrontation with the wanted man. Ricardo realizes that his delicate bride has more grit and spunk than he thought, and his greatest trial becomes a race to pursue his own wife and persuade her to stay with him.

Celia Yeary
Romance, and a little bit of Texas


  1. Great post Celia. Texas is my go to state to write about, because it is what I know. Being the contrary person I am, when asked which state I was going to place my present WIP, Texas they assumed, I said Alaska. What was I thinking? Alaska instead of Texas? Worlds apart and a lot of research. It's been fun, but my next book will be back in Texas.

    1. I have forayed into New Mexico for one of my stories, but the story began in Austin, Texas. We lived in New Mexico for a year, so the area I chose to use in this story was set in an area that I was familiar with. That's what's I love...use another area, but make sure you can identify with it.
      Thanks, Livia.

  2. Celia,

    As a native Coloradoan, I set most of my stories in the eastern plains area of the state, because I'm most familiar with the land and the history. However, when I make a foray into Texas for my stories, I research, research, and research some more to get the details as close to "perfect" as I can for all the reasons you stated. I know my way (physically and historically) around the Panhandle area of Texas fairly well, so that's where I tend to stay with my Texas-based settings.

    Your advice, "...write what you wish. But be careful…or just stick with what you know" is not only sage, but it's also a matter of respect for the reader who knows her way around the history of where a story is set.

    1. Kaye, you did an exceptional job with your Texas research for THE COMANCHERO'S BRIDE. Carry on. :-)

    2. I like your reply, Kaye. Oh, the Panhandle of Texas is rich with history and land formations and yes, it is part of the Llano Estacado.Good for you...I'm sure you did a great job, being the accomplished author that your are!

  3. Celia, you've written about something near and dear to my heart: TEXAS! The only thing bigger than our glorious state is Texas attitude. :-D

    People often look at me dumbfounded when I tell them Texas is more than 800 miles across at the widest point -- more than anyone wants to drive in a single day. In those 800 miles, folks will pass through four or five of our geographical regions, depending on the route they take. The distance from the top of the Texas Panhandle to the tip of the boot also is more than 800 miles. Texas is REALLY big!

    Like you and Livia, I set my stories in Texas because that's what I know. I made the mistake -- once -- of setting a story in Arizona. Love the story and the setting -- Arizona is beautiful -- but boy was the research painful. Never again! :-D

    Great post Celia. Big TEXAS hugs to you, my friend!!!!

    1. Ooooh, THANKS FOR THE HUG! I think that's the main thing others do not know about our state--the several geographical regions. Not many states have so many differing areas in which the climate, terrain, etc. are so unique from the others.

  4. Boy oh boy, I know one thing about Texans; they love Texas. LOL
    I would say it's a good thing to write about what you know and, if only westerns took place in North Carolina I would be all over that. I have been out west, lived in Nebraska and Texas and explored the other central plains states with my friends. All of my western Wildings stories take place in a fictional town in Wyoming. The one and only time I saw Wyoming it left a huge impression on me. I do have to research things like trees, flowers, animals, the geography and so on. I don't think I'll be finding a magnolia tree or gardenia bush in Wyoming, so it's important to know what grows there. So, when it comes to writing what I know, well, I have to say I do know some things about Wyoming, but I have researched the heck out of it. I hope my Wildings seem like stories that naturally came from Wyoming. I do my best to make it feel real.
    Celia, this was a wonderful blog. When I lived in Texas I thought the Texans were the nicest people and so friendly. Maybe it's just because they're happy living in Texas. LOL

    1. Now Sarah, don't go tellin' folks we're friendly. Next thing you know, Yankees'll be movin' down here in droves and make us all crabby-like. ;-)

    2. Listen, the Californians are taking over our state. Austin, Texas, the capital of the state?...has more Californians than even before. We keep looking around, thinking, oh, my gosh,...soon we're going to be California!!!

  5. I'm not from Texas, but I've traveled there. I live in Colorado so I set my stories in Colorado. (At least the Western ones, the Medievals are another story *Grin*)

    Great post, and as most know, I love history! Doris

    1. Thanks, Doris. I think we write western historical....because we love history. You think?
      Colorado is a wonderful state for a romance novel setting.

  6. Celia, this was a wonderful post! Loved it. I love Texas--yes I can say that as an Oklahoman because my family came here by way of Texas and many still live near the border on both sides. I will never write about anywhere other than Texas and Oklahoma. Not only is it what I know, but it's what I want OTHER PEOPLE to know. So many people have wrong ideas about our states, and that's just my way of making them realize that there is life west of the Mississippi.

    Great post!

    1. Hey, thanks, Cheryl! Yes, many have wrong ideas about both states. We spent three years in Stillwater--Jim earned his doctorate there--and we really liked that town. Beautiful campus, I thought it rivaled some of the picturesque colleges in the east.
      Visitors to Texas are often shocked that it's not all desert and cactus. Typical reaction.

    2. That sort of misguided geographical belief happens regarding Colorado. It's not all mountains and snow here. From the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains to the eastern border is the Colorado High Plains (aka High Plains)of a portion of the larger Great Plains. 2/5 of the state is flat. So everyone... Move along. No mountains, snow, and skiing to see here...

    3. Yes,I knew that. In fact, the Great Dust Bowl began in that part of plowing too deep and using those double blades (?) to dig more deeply. The entire plains there and in Texas were stripped of all vegetation and set up the dust bowl.
      I knew this about Colorado, but I'm sure not many know. Thanks...reminders are always good for anyone writing a historical story.

  7. Celia, I must apologize for being late to this blog--I was in Salem, MA doing witchy research--lots of fun, but my Ipad wouldn't let me sign in to this blog. ARGH! I always feel like I've had a history lesson when I read one of your blogs. And that's so very good because I love each and every one of them. And this one indeed was fantastic. The breaking up Texas into 7 parts has helped me considerably. Now I understand it so much better. So a big thank you from this northern girl who writes westerns and tries to always investigate the things I don't know as well as I should. I too have always heard you should write what you know, and I do try to incorporate those things I do know--medical wise, cooking, gardening, herbs, etc, but since I enjoy writing westerns it takes me forever to make sure I'm writing it correctly and using the right terms--so when I am up in the air on something I consult you experts and thank goodness all of you roses give me a wealth of info.. I'm truly blessed. So again, thanks so much for steering me in the right direction once again, and I adored All My Hopes and Dreams. Wishing you the best.