Category: Margaret Brownley

Summer Escapes

Being a California gal, the beach and ocean take top priority with me.  I thought you might like to know about some of my favorite spots:

Cambria-This little town is nestled among Monterey pines. My favorite place to watch the sunset is on a bench that sits atop a cliff overlooking Moonstone beach.  Once, while my husband and I were sitting there enjoying a glass of wine, a bagpiper appeared and played Amazing Grace.   For a moment, I thought I was at a funeral, but I know he meant well.

 Ventura—This seaside town is only an hour away from my house, so it’s a perfect place to spend a weekend or summer day.  August is county fair time.  If you can stand the heights, the Ferris wheel offers great views of the ocean.  If you’re into antiques, Ventura is the place to go.  I found a beautiful iron gate there that had been ripped out of an old house.  It now adorns my wine cellar.  This town also has great museums, bookstores, restaurants and wineries.   You can even see Erle Stanley Gardner’s law office where he wrote the drafts for his first Perry Mason novels.  Speaking of mysteries, Ventura is where I got the inspiration for my Undercover Ladies series.

Morro Bay-The scenery is beautiful and the weather nearly always perfect. There are shops and museums to explore and of course our favorite Art in the Park event which takes place every Memorial Day weekend. It’s also fun to watch the antics of sea lions and otters, but the real attraction is the dining. 

 For a change of pace, sometimes we head for the mountains.  Our favorites include:

 Mammoth—This is mainly a ski resort, but we enjoy going there in the summer in our RV and relaxing by the lake.  The mountain air is good for the soul, and fishing and hiking is great.  Before going, you might want to make sure your health insurance is up-to-date.  My husband once fell out of a boat and hit his head, my son fell off a bicycle and I had an unpleasant encounter with a bee hive.  In case you’re wondering, Mammoth also has a great ER.

Big Bear- We once rented a cabin on the lake for a week.  It had a large wooden enclosed porch that seemed like the perfect place for the two grandbabies to play.  Big mistake; We ended up having to pull hundreds of splinters out of their little legs and hands.  On a brighter note, Big Bear has miles of bicycle paths to explore and a great night life.  They tell me the rock climbing is out of this world, but I’m too chicken to try.  The village offers some great shopping and dining.  Just watch out for those wooden porches. 

Tell us about your favorite summer get-away.

 

 

There’s a new sheriff in town and she almost always gets her man!

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Updated: June 18, 2017 — 9:21 am

A Little Cowboy Humor

It’s hot, I’m tired and madly trying to finish a book.  I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some lighthearted fun and thought a little cowboy humor would do the trick.

A COWBOY AND HIS CELL PHONE

Permission for use granted by Nick at Science and Ink\http://www.lab-initio.com/

Any cowboy can carry a tune.

The trouble comes when he tries to unload it.

 

-John-Betong at Johns-Jokes.com

 

An onion can make people cry; but, there’s never been a vegetable

that can make people laugh.

 

Permission for use granted by Nick at Science and Ink\http://www.lab-initio.com/

 

When in doubt, let your horse do the thinkin’. 

 

Permission for use granted by Nick at Science and Ink\http://www.lab-initio.com/

 

Always take a good look at what you’re about to eat.
It’s not so important to know what it is, but it’s critical to know what it was.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
What is your favorite way to stay cool?
 

There’s a new sheriff in town and she almost always gets her man!

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Updated: June 18, 2017 — 4:16 pm

A Match Made in Texas: Book Giveaway

“Are you’re askin’ if your virtue is safe with me?”
She blushed, but refused to back down. The man didn’t mince words and neither would she. “Well, is it?”
“Safe as you want it to be,” he said finally.
                                –From Margaret’s new book, A Match Made in Texas
My new book will be released June 6th and I wanted to share a little bit about it.  This is Amanda Lockwood’s story.  If you read Left at the Altar, you might remember that she is the sister who was always in trouble.  Well, she’s in really big trouble this time around. 

The book opens with Amanda stuck in the middle of nowhere after been thrown off a stagecoach for criticizing the driver.  This is where Rick Rennick finds hers and he offers to give her a ride.   After assurances that her virtue is safe with him, she accepts.  Here’s what happens next:

No sooner had she seated herself upon the wooden bench than Mr. Rennick took off hell-bent for leather. Glued to the back of the seat, she cried out. “Oh, dear. Oh, my. Ohhh!”

What had looked like a perfectly calm and passive black horse had suddenly turned into a demon. With pounding hooves and flowing mane, the steed flew over potholes and dirt mounds, giving no heed to the cargo behind. The wagon rolled and pitched like a ship in stormy seas. Dust whirled in the air and rocks hit the bottom and sides.

Holding on to her hat with one hand and the seat with the other, Amanda watched in wide-eye horror as the scenery flew by in a blur.

The wagon sailed over a hill as if it was airborne and she held on for dear life. The wheels hit the ground, jolting her hard and rattling her teeth. The hope chest bounced up and down like dice in a gambler’s hand. Her breath whooshed out and it was all she could do to find her voice.

“Mr. R-Rennick!” she stammered, grabbing hold of his arm. She had to shout to be heard.

“What?” he yelled back.

“Y-you sh-should—” She stared straight ahead, her horrified eyes searching for a soft place to land should the need arise. “S-slow down and enjoy the s-scenery.”

Her hat had tilted sideways and he swiped the peacock feather away from his face. “Been my experience that sand and sagebrush look a whole lot better when travelin’ fast,” he shouted in his strong baritone voice.

He made a good point, but at the moment she was more concerned with life and limb.

He urged his horse to go faster before adding, “It’s also been my experience that travelin’ fast is the best way to outrun bandits.”

“W-what do you mean? B-bandits?” It was then that she heard gunfire.

She swung around in her seat and her jaw dropped. Three masked horsemen were giving chase and closing in fast.

Have you ever been stranded? 

Leave a comment and you could win a copy of

Left at the Altar.  (Giveaway guidelines apply)

A Romance Writers of America  RITA finalist

There’s a new sheriff in town, and she almost always gets her man!

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Updated: May 25, 2017 — 7:07 am

Old West Towns: Real or Myth?

Shops and businesses on the streets away from the center of town were laid out willy-nilly; some with entries facing alleyways. Boarding houses and private homes were seemingly dropped at random, as if tossed like dice from a gambler’s hand. –from my WIP, Stop the Wedding (book #1 Shotgun Brides)

I’m working on a new 3-book series that takes place in the fictional town of Haywire, Texas.   Before I could begin writing, it was necessary to map out my town.  Fans of western movies might think that’s a bit strange.  When a town is only one street wide and a block long, what’s to map out?  Well, for one thing, western movie sets are generally much smaller than a real town ever was, and less spread out.

Gold Hills, Nevada

The town in my book was built prior to the Civil War.  That’s important to know, because towns founded before the war generally sprang-up along wandering cow paths.   If you ever got lost in parts of Boston, as I once did, you’d know how confusing such towns can be.

Fortunately, after the war, town founders hired surveyors to plat grids oriented to railroad specifications. This practice came too late to help the poor residents of Haywire—or my hero who gets lost while chasing a bad guy through town.

Since business taxes in the Old West were calculated on width, shops and saloons were built long and narrow. What was generally called Outhouse Alley ran behind the buildings, parallel to the main thoroughfare.

Some buildings did double-duty. Schools often shared space with the Oddfellows or Masons, and shopkeepers lived over shops.

My town’s main street is T-shaped which runs into the railroad.  On the other end of Main, the town is split in two by a hundred-foot wide cross street.  A street like this was known in many western towns as the Dead Line, the purpose of which was to separate moral businesses from those beyond the pale.

Dead Line streets were wide enough so that anyone who accidentally ventured into the wrong side of town, occupied by saloons, bordellos and in Haywire’s case, the barbershop, could easily turn horse and wagon around.  Thus delicate constitutions were saved and reputations left intact.

Typically, the bank would be built next to the sheriff or marshal’s office, which explains why bank robberies in the Old West were rare. Only the most daring outlaw would attempt a bank robbery. It was much easier to rob stages—and a whole lot healthier.

Movies do get some things right. For example, buildings in many towns were mostly wood with false fronts.  These fake facades were added to make hastily-built buildings look more impressive and provide a place for signage.  Some towns, especially in the south-west where few trees could be found, were built mostly from adobe.

Speaking of movies, what western would be complete without having the hero barge through a saloon’s bat-wing doors? In reality, not every saloon had such doors. In some parts of the country, it was too cold or windy and too much dust would blow inside. Saloons that did have café doors also had standard doors that could be shut and locked when necessary.  A tour guide at Universal Studios explained that movie sets had saloon doors of different sizes: an extra-large one to make the heroine appear small and demure, and an extra-small door to make the hero appear taller and more imposing.

Another thing that frontier towns had that you won’t see in most western movies is a sign telling visitors to check their guns.  Now that’s one area where Hollywood and Haywire can agree.

Have you ever visited a western ghost town or movie lot?

 

Welcome to Two-Time, Texas

There’s a new sheriff in town and she almost always gets her man!

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Updated: April 27, 2017 — 4:50 am

They Said What?

There’s nothing like looking back at the Old West through the words of those who lived it. There were some real characters back them, and here are a few actual quotes to prove it.

Words to Live By

  • “Never run a bluff with a six-gun.”– Bat Masterson
  • “As a good horse is not very apt to jump over a bank, if left to guide himself, I let mine pick his own way.”-Buffalo Bill
  • “Why should I obtain by force that which I can obtain by cheating?”-Doc Holliday
  • “Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.” –Wyatt Earp
  • “Shoot first and never miss.” – Bat Masterson

Setting the Record Straight

  • “They say I killed six or seven men for snoring. It ain’t true. I only killed one man for snoring.” – John Wesley Hardin

Famous Last Words

  • “If a man knows anything, he ought to die with it in him.” -Sam Bass
  • “Can’t you hurry this up a bit? I hear they eat dinner in Hades at twelve sharp and I don’t aim to be late.” – Black Jack Ketchum
  • “Let the record show I’ve killed 51 men. Let ’er rip.” Deacon Jim Miller, professional killer
  • “Suppose, suppose …” Wyatt Earp
  • “I see a good many enemies around, and mighty few friends.”-Bill Longley

Calamity Jane

 Girls with Guns

  • “I figure, if a girl wants to be a legend, she should just go ahead and be one.” -Calamity Jane
  • “A pair of six-shooters beats a pair of sixes.” -Belle Starr
  • “I never killed unless I was compelled to.” -Belle Starr
  • “I ain’t afraid to love a man. I ain’t afraid to shoot him either.”-Annie Oakley

Now That’s Mighty Thoughtful

  • “I didn’t want to send him to hell on an empty stomach.”- Clay Allison after killing a man at dinner

The Hangman Speaketh

  • “I never hanged a man that didn’t deserve it.” Judge Parker’s hangman George Maledon
  • “We never did hang the wrong one but once or twice, and them fellers needed to be hung anyhow jes’ on general principles.”- nameless judge

 That Fighting Spirit

  • “Well, if there ain’t going to be any rules, let’s get the fight started.” -Butch Cassidy
  • “I want results when I fight.”- Frank James

  Reaching for the Stars

  • “All my life I wanted to be a bank robber. Carry a gun and wear a mask. Now that it’s happened I guess I’m just about the best bank robber they ever had. And I sure am happy.” -John Dillinger

 Okay now it’s your turn. 

What saying or words of wisdom would you like to be remembered for?

 

There’s a new sheriff in town and she almost always gets her man!

A Match Made in Texas

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Updated: March 19, 2017 — 7:43 am

True Facts of the Old West

Though it’s hard to imagine the likes of Wyatt Earp or Bat Masterson bowling, this was actually a popular sport in the Old West.  According to True West magazine, one of the strangest bowling alleys was built in California in 1866. After felling a majestic Redwood, miners turned the flat, heavily-waxed surface into a bowling alley.

Speaking of sports, baseball was also a popular sport in the Old West. Even Wild Bill Hickok was a baseball fan and reportedly umpired a game wearing a pair of six-shooters.

We think of the old West as wild, but it pales in comparison to what’s going on in some cities today. From the 1850s to the 1890s, Texas held the title as the most gun-fighting state. But during that forty-year span, the state logged in only 160 shootouts.

The number of Old West bank robberies were also greatly exaggerated. During this same forty-year period, only eight bank robberies were recorded in the entire frontier. Today, yearly bank robberies number in the thousands.  California and Texas have the highest number of bank robberies. At long last, the west lives up to its reputation.

Some cowboys were real swingers. Yep, they even played golf.

It breaks my heart to say this, but some of the phrases associated with the Old West weren’t actually coined until the 1900s, which means I can’t use them in a book.  These include “Stick em up” and “hightail.”

The one thing outlaws feared was dying with their boots on.  To “die with your boots on” was a term that meant “to be hanged.”  Outlaws often pleaded with the sheriff to take their boots off so their mothers would never know the truth of how they died.

Before the days of GPS, it was the chuck wagon cook’s job to keep the cattle drives heading in the right direction. Before retiring, his last chore of the day was to place the tongue of the chuck wagon facing the North Star. This was so the trail master would know which direction to move the herd in the morning.

It might be hard to believe, but most cowboys didn’t carry guns while riding. Carrying a gun was a nuisance to the riders and firing it would scare cattle and horses.

Of the 45000 cowboys working during the heyday of cattle drives, some 5000 were African-American.

The tradition of spreading sawdust on saloon floors supposedly started in Deadwood, South Dakota. The sawdust was used to hide the gold dust that fell out of customer pockets, and was swept up at the end of the night.

So what Old West fact did you find most surprising or interesting?

 

 

There’s a new sheriff in town and she almost always gets her man!

A Match Made in Texas

Available for pre-order

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Updated: February 23, 2017 — 6:54 am

For The Love of Candy

 

Save the Earth; it’s the only planet with chocolate

I’ve got candy on my mind this month and it’s not even Valentine’s.  There are two reasons why I’m thinking of all things sweet and it has nothing to do with the empty box of chocolates on my desk; January is national candy month and the heroine of my current work in progress owns a candy shop.  

While doing the research for my book, I turned up some fun and interesting facts.  For example, we can blame our sweet tooth on our cavemen ancestors and their fondness for honey.  But the most surprising thing I discovered was that marshmallows grow on trees—or at least used to.  That was before the French came up with a way to replace the sweet sap from the mallow tree with gelatin.   

I also learned that during the middle ages, the price of sugar was so high that only the rich could afford a sweet treat.  In fact, candy was such a rarity that the most children could expect was an occasional sugar plum at Christmas.  (BTW: there are no plums in sugar plums.  Plum is another word for good).

This changed during the early nineteenth century with the discovery of sugar-beet juice and mechanical candy-making machines.   

Soon jars of colorful penny candy could be found in every trading post and general store in the country. It took almost four hundred candy manufacturing companies to keep up with the demand. 

This changed the market considerably. Children as young as four or five were now able to make purchases independent of their parents. (Had youngsters known that vegetables including spinach was used to color candy, they might not have wasted their money.)

Children weren’t the only ones enjoying the availability of cheap candy. Civil War soldiers favored gumdrops, jelly beans, hard candy and, hub wafers (now known as Necco wafers).     

Never one to miss a trend, John Arbuckle, noted the sugar craze that had swept the country and decided to use it as marketing tool.  He included a peppermint stick in each pound bag of Arbuckle’s coffee to encourage sales. 

 “Who wants the peppermint?” was a familiar cry around chuck wagons. 

This call to grind the coffee beans got a rash of volunteers.  No rough and tumble cowboy worth his salt would turn down a stick of peppermint candy, especially when out on the trail.

Arbuckle wasn’t the only one to see gold in candy. Outlaw Doc Scurlock, friend of Billy the Kid and a Bloody Lincoln County War participant, retired from crime in 1880. Though he was still a wanted man, he moved to Texas and opened up a candy store.

Cadbury, Mars and Hershey rode herd on the chocolate boom of the late 1800s, early 1900s.  Penny candy still made up eighteen percent of candy sales but, by this time, some merchants had refused to sell it.  Profits were thin and selling such small amounts to children was time-consuming. Chocolate was more profitable. The penny candy market vanished altogether during World War II when sugar was rationed.  Fortunately, no war could do away with chocolate.

Okay, so what’s your favorite candy?  Anyone have a candy memory to share?

LeftattheAltarfinalcover

 

Who knew being Left at the Altar could be such

sweet, clean, madcap fun?

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Updated: January 23, 2017 — 5:05 pm

Left at the Altar Book Release and Giveaway

MargaretBrownley-header

LeftattheAltarfinalcoverI have a lot to celebrate.  My novella Do You Hear What I Hear? released on the 24th; my book Left at the Altar will hit the stores on November 1st; and my office is clean (no small miracle).

Left at the Altar is the first book in my new series and I’m excited about it.  The second book A Match Made in Texas will release in the summer of 2017 and the third book How The West was Wed will follow soon after.

The idea for Left at the Altar came to me in a rather unexpected way.  We inherited several antique clocks and they all needed servicing.  My husband called a clock repairman to the house and the horologist was a writer’s dream.  He was full of fascinating stories about clock collectors.  But the story that really made an impression was the one about a client who owned so many clocks, the quarter-hour racket was deafening.  The horologist’s job was to turn the clocks off before each holiday so that guests didn’t have to compete with the cacophony of bongs and chimes during dinner.

banjo-clock

This Banjo clock circa 1929 was a wedding gift for my husband’s parents.

Ah, sweet inspiration. Before I knew it, the town of Two-Time, Texas was born and the story of two feuding jewelers fell quickly into place.

The book takes place in 1880 before standard time.  Prior to 1883, the town jeweler usually determined the time. Trouble arose when a town had more than one jeweler and no one could agree on the time.  One town in Kansas reportedly had seven jewelers and therefore seven time zones.  Talk about confusion!

Just think, a person traveling from the East coast to the West would have contended with more than a hundred time zones. That wasn’t a problem when traveling by covered wagon, but it became a huge problem when traveling by train.  I was surprised to learn that some battles were lost during the American Civil War due to time confusion. When an order was issued to attack at a certain time, no one really  knew what it meant. Was that Washington time or local time?  And if it was local time, which one?

clock

This clock has been in the family for a hundred years!

Ah, yes, time.  It affects us in ways we might not even be aware of.  It certainly affected the two feuding families in my story.  A marriage was supposed to unite the families and turn Two-Time into a one-time town, but of course nothing ever goes as planned as this little excerpt shows:

The grandfather clock in the corner groaned and the wall clocks sighed. Seconds later the cacophony of alarms struck the hour of eight a.m. Only today, it wasn’t bongs, gongs, cuckoos and chimes that bombarded Meg’s ears. It was mocking laughter. Jilted bride, jilted bride, jilted bride…

Hope you enjoy the story as much I enjoyed writing it.

Now it’s your turn.  Leave a message and you might win a copy of Left at the Altar.  Giveaway guidelines apply.

How does time affect your life?  Are you always running late, early or on time? Are you looking forward to the November 6th time change?  If you could change one thing about time, what would it be?

Time for a little holiday cheer

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Do You Hear What I Hear?

only 1.99

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Updated: October 27, 2016 — 7:49 am

Jobs That No Longer Exist

MargaretBrownley-header

Recently I came across a list of occupations that some experts say will be obsolete in the next ten years.  Occupations on the line include postal workers, farmers, ranchers (yikes, we’re talking cowboys here!), cooks and cashiers.

Self-service checkouts are slowly taking over the stores and restaurants in my area.  You can even check out your own books at my local library, and meter readers have gone the way of the dinosaurs.  All this got me to thinking about occupations from the past that no longer exist.  Here are a few that caught my eye:

Bone man public domain

Bone man public domain

Rag and Boneman

Following the great buffalo slaughter of the 1800s, bleached bones covered the prairies.  It didn’t take long for homesteaders to figure out what the real money crop was.  Bones were used for cosmetics, glue, lubricants and sugar cane filters. During the height of the bone trade, eastern processing plants purchased an estimated billion-dollars’ worth of bones.    

Iceman

Icemen made daily rounds in wagons, carts or trucks delivering ice for ice boxes.

Knocker-Upper (it’s not what you think)

How did workers get to work on time before alarm clocks?  A knocker-upper banged on doors or windows to wake people at the appointed time. Some used peashooters aimed at second story windows.  It makes you wonder who woke the knocker-uppers?

Gandy Dancer

Gandy dancers 1917 source: wikipedia

Gandy dancers 1917 source: wikipedia public domain

This jobs sounds more fun than it was.  Railroad workers or gandy dancers, as they were called, laid thousands of miles of railroad tracks across the U.S.

Leech Collector

Bloodletting was a popular method by which to treat disease or infection. Doctors used millions of leeches during the 19th century and let’s face it; someone had to collect those suckers.

Pettifogger

Shyster lawyer (some people might argue that this profession still exists)

lamp_lighter

Wikipedia public domain

Lamplighter

These workers lit gas streetlights with the aid of a long pole. In some communities, the lamplighter also served as night watchman.

Lector

Lectors were hired by factories to educate workers and eradicate boredom. They did this by reading newspapers and even novels aloud. Should a lector read anything too radical or controversial, he could expect to be tossed out on his ear.  Hmm. Sounds like some college campuses today.

 

 

 

Do any of you remember milkmen?  What about gas station attendants who used to pump gas, clean windows and check the tires?  It wasn’t that long ago that people came to the door selling encyclopedias and vacuum cleaners. Most of us could probably do without the salesmen, but wouldn’t it be nice to have someone fill our tanks on occasion?  I would also miss not having my mail delivered, and can’t imagine a world without cowboys.  What about you?  What profession or occupation do you or will you miss?

                              Left at the Altar

LeftattheAltarfinalcoverWelcome to Two-Time Texas:

Where tempers burn hot

Love runs deep

And a single marriage can unite a feuding town

…or tear it apart for good.

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Updated: September 18, 2016 — 7:07 am
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