Category: Margaret Brownley

My Most Meaningful Christmas Gifts

At age eight, I received a most meaningful gift. It was a big beautiful doll with blond hair and eyes that opened and closed. I had worked hard for that doll. To get on Santa’s “good” list, I cleaned my room and did my chores.  Not wanting to leave anything to chance, I even did everyone else’s chores.  When I opened the box Christmas morning and saw two big blue eyes staring back at me, I was elated.  I felt as if I could make every dream come true if I wanted it bad enough and was willing to work for it.

At twelve, I received a most meaningful gift.  It was an angora sweater. A year earlier, I had received toys for Christmas. “Graduating” to clothes was a big deal. I remember feeling so grown-up. That gift told me that others saw me that way, too.

At seventeen, I received a most meaningful gift.  It was a heart-shaped necklace from my boyfriend.  I believed at that moment that love would last forever.  The chain snapped less than a week later, and we broke up soon after. That gift taught me that some things are meant to last for only a short time, and that we must enjoy them while we can.

In my twenties, I received a most meaningful gift.  Our oldest son was born just before Christmas. It was a gift that both elated and humbled me. This baby—this beautiful gift from God—was solely dependent on me and I wanted so much to be the perfect mother.  But as I walked the floor that Christmas day trying to comfort a colicky baby, I realized the futility of that goal. I soon learned that no child ever said that his or her mother was perfect, only that she was the best.

In my thirties, I received a most meaningful gift.  The Christmas I most remember during that time was a bleak one.  My husband’s company was on strike and we were down to our last fifty cents.  As I filled our three children’s stockings with nuts and oranges, I dreaded the following morning when they would see how little Santa had left.  Much to my surprise and delight, I never heard one of them complain. If anything, they seemed to be more appreciative of the few gifts they did receive.  That was the year I learned that sometimes less is more.

I received the most meaningful gift during our saddest year. Our oldest son died a few months before Christmas and I couldn’t even bring myself to put up a tree.  I cried most of that day and I don’t remember what presents I received, but I do remember one important gift.  For it was that year that I learned that we’re stronger than we think we are, and though we lose so very much with the death of a love one, we can’t possibly count all the blessings that remain.

I don’t know what gifts are in store for me this Christmas, but I do know this: the gifts that touch our hearts are the ones that stay with us the longest.

Merry Christmas and may the gifts of love, peace and joy be yours.

 

Enjoy the Gift of Reading

      

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Updated: December 21, 2017 — 9:19 am

A Pinch of This and a Dash of That

Have you ever noticed that some of those old family recipes never taste as good as you remember from your childhood?  Those early cooks didn’t waste a thing, as anyone who inherited a recipe for giblet pie will attest. I also have a recipe that calls for one quart of nice buttermilk. As soon as I find buttermilk that meets that criteria, I’ll try it.

I especially like the old-time recipes for sourdough biscuits. Here’s a recipe from The Oregon Trail Cookbook:

“Mix one-half cup sourdough starter with one cup milk. Cover and set it in the wagon near the baby to keep warm … pinch off pieces of dough the size of the baby’s hand.”

Early cooks didn’t have the accurate measuring devices we have today and had to make do with what was handy—even if it was the baby.

If you’re in the mood to drag out an old family recipe this Thanksgiving, here are some weights and measures used by pioneer cooks that might help: 

Tumblerful=Two Cups

Wineglass=1/4 Cup

Pound of eggs=8 to 9 large eggs, 10-12 smaller ones

Butter the size of an egg=1/4 cup

Butter the size of a walnut=2 Tablespoons

Dash=1/8 teaspoon

Pinch=1/8 teaspoon

Dram=3/4 teaspoon

Scruple= (an apothecary weight=1/4 teaspoon

Gill=1/2 Cup

Old-time tablespoon=4 modern teaspoons

Old-time teaspoons=1/4 modern teaspoon

2 Coffee Cups=1 pint

As for the size of the baby, you’re on your own.

                                                                Weights from Christmas in the Old West by Sam Travers

 

Chuck wagon or trail recipes call for a different type of measurement

Li’l bitty-1/4 tsp

Passle-1/2 tsp

Pittance-1/3 tsp

Dib-1/3 tsp

Crumble-1/8 tsp

A Wave at It-1/16 tsp

Heap-Rounded cupful     

Whole Heap-2 Rounded cupfuls

Bunch-6 items

However you measure it,

here’s hoping that your Thanksgiving is a “whole heap” of fun!

 

For Your Christmas Reading Pleasure

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Updated: November 12, 2017 — 9:29 am

Those Gutsy Women of the Old West

Never underestimate a woman doing a man’s job!

My passion is writing about the old west and the fabulous women who helped settle it.  Western movies helped establish the male hero, but depicting women mainly as bonnet saints, soiled doves and schoolmarms did them a terrible disservice.

The westward migration freed women in ways never before imagined. Women abandoned Victorian traditions, rigid manners and confining clothes and that’s not all; they brought churches, schools and newspapers to frontier towns and helped build communities.

Female barber wielding “man’s most sacred implement.”

Women today may still be banging against glass ceilings, but those brave souls of yesteryear had to break down doors. One newspaper reporter complained that “Women dared to lay hands on man’s most sacred implements—the razor and strop—and shave him to the very face.”

Ah, yes, women were barbers, doctors, firefighters and saloon keepers. Women even disguised themselves as men to fight in the Civil War. With little more than their faith to guide them, they owned cattle ranches and gold mines and fought for women’s rights.

In 1860 Julia Shannon of San Francisco took the family portrait to new heights when she shockingly advertised herself as a daguerreotypist and midwife.  Cameras were bulky, chemicals dangerous and photo labs blew up with alarming regularity. It was a hard profession for a man let alone a woman.

Kate Warne dressed in Union soldier disguise

Forty years before women were allowed to join a police department, Kate Warne worked for the Pinkerton National Detective agency as an undercover agent from 1856 to her death in 1868. Not only did she run the female detective division, she saved president-elect Abraham Lincoln from a planned assassination by wrapping him in a blanket and pretending he was her invalid brother.    Her story is the inspiration behind my Undercover Ladies series in which the heroines were—you guessed it—Pinkerton detectives working undercover.

It took strong and courageous women to bury children along the trail; barter with Indians and make homes out of sticks and mud. It’s estimated that about twelve percent of homesteaders in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas and Utah were single women.  And yep, women even took part in the Oklahoma land runs.

An article in the San Francisco Examiner published in 1896 says it all: “People have stopped wondering what women will do next, for keeping up with what she is doing now takes all the public energies.”

These are the heroines for whom we like to cheer.  It must have been a shock to the male ego to have to deal with such strong and unconventional women—and that’s at the very heart of my stories. The gun may have won the west, but praise the Lord for the gusty and courageous women who tamed it.

Can you name a gutsy woman–either past or present?

 

Speaking of heroines of the Old West,

let’s not forget gusty Sheriff Amanda Lockwood,

who almost always gets  her man.

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Updated: October 26, 2017 — 6:39 am

Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms & Book Giveaway

Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arm will be released on October 3rd.  Don’t you just love that title?  I’m so excited to be part of the collection, which also includes stories by Leigh Greenwood and our very own Linda Broday!

My story is titled A Texas Ranger for Christmas and I’m giving away a copy (giveaway guidelines apply). So be sure to leave a comment.  Here’s a sneak peek: 

Sadie had just put Adam down for his afternoon nap that second week in December when a hammering sound drew her to the kitchen window.

“Dang that man!” Now the ranger was on the barn roof hammering down shingles. Last week, after he’d spent the day repairing the fence, he’d run a fever and had to spend two days in bed.

Now here he was at it again, overdoing it.

She pulled a woolen shawl from a peg by the back door and stepped outside. The wind was cold and angry clouds crowded in from the north like a bunch of wooly sheep.

Upon reaching the barn, she yelled up to him. “If you fall and break your neck, don’t come runnin’ to me!”

He peered over the edge of the roof. His nose was red from the cold and his hair tossed about like sails in the wind, but he sure was a sight for sore eyes. “I guess I’d just have to wait ‘till your friend Scooter comes.”

She balled her hands at her side. “I’d think you’d have a little consideration for my reputation.”

His eyebrows quirked upward. “I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”

“How do you think it looks for a woman to entertain a man that’s not her husband?”

She’d not yet told anyone of Richard’s death. She didn’t want friends and neighbors coming to her door to express condolences until after the ranger was long gone.

He shrugged. “Isn’t it a little late to worry about that?  Some of your neighbors already know I’m here.”

“I told them my husband sent you here to recover from your bullet wound.”

“Your husband sent me? That might be hard to explain when the truth comes out that he’s dead.”

“That’s my problem.”  She tossed her head.   “I mean, it Captain.” She grabbed hold of the ladder and gave it a good shaking. “If you don’t come down, I’ll see that you’re stuck up there for good!”

“Why, Mrs. Carnes, is that a threat?”

She glared up at him. “You’ve already had one relapse and I’m not about to take care of you for another. So what’s it gonna be?”

“Okay, okay, I’ll come down, but only on one condition.”

She straightened, hands at her waist. “What?”
“You stop calling me captain. My name is Cole.”

“Not gonna happen,” she said. Calling him by his given name would only strengthen the bond between them, and she couldn’t let that happen. It was hard enough trying not to like the man more than was absolutely necessary.

“Why not?” he asked.

“I never name an animal I plan on eating, and I sure don’t aim on naming a man who’ll soon be gone.”

“All right, Mrs. Carnes. Have it your way. But could you at least tell me what your Christian name is? I promise not to use it unless you say it’s okay.”

She chewed on a bottom lip. “Sadie,” she said. “And I don’t want you calling me that, you hear?”

“Nice name,” he said. “It suits you.”

She didn’t know what he meant by that and she wasn’t about to ask. “So what’s it gonna be, Captain?” She grabbed hold of the ladder and rattled it. “You coming down or ain’t you?”

“Oh, I’ll come down, Mrs. Carnes.  But only because I don’t want you complaining about me to your dead husband.”

Short stories and novellas are popular around the holidays.  I don’t mind writing short, but I prefer reading full-length novels. Which do you prefer?  Also, has a short story ever inspired you to check out the author’s novels?

What do you call Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms?
Heavenly!

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Updated: September 21, 2017 — 9:39 am

Mind Yer Manners

Is it just me or have good manners gone the way of trail drives?   I have three grandchildren working summer jobs and I’m appalled at the stories they tell about customer rudeness.

It didn’t always used to be that way.  Back in the Old West, manners ruled.  A cowboy might have been rough around the edges and whooped-it-up on occasion, but he also knew his Ps and Qs.  To show you what I mean, let’s compare today’s manners with those of the past.

Hitting the Trail:  Navigating some of today’s roads is like steering through a metal stampede. It’s every man/woman for his/her self.  Cars ride on your tail and cut you off. To stay on the defense, today’s drivers must contend with drunkenness, speeding and texting—and that ain’t all.  If this doesn’t make you long for the good ole days, I don’t know what will.

The Cowboy Way: When riding a horse, a cowboy would never think of cutting between another rider and the herd.  Nor would he ride in such a way as to interfere with another man’s vision. Crossing in front of another without a polite, “Excuse me” would not have been tolerated.  As for riding drunk; that would have gotten a wrangler fired on the spot.

Please and Thank You:  Recently I saw a young man hold a restaurant door open for a young woman.  Instead of saying thank you, she chewed him out. Oh, me, oh, my. What is the world coming to?

The Cowboy Way: The first man coming to a gate was expected to open it for the others. Everyone passing through would say thank you.  Holding a door open for a lady went without saying, as did tipping his hat and saying a polite, “Howdy, ma’am.” Back in the old days, a cowboy might have gotten a smile from the lady, but he sure wouldn’t have gotten a tongue-lashing.

Cell Phones: I could probably rattle on about poor cell phone manners, but for me, loud talking is the worst offense.  During a recent visit to the emergency room, I was privy to every patient’s medical condition and more. 

The Cowboy Way: Those early cowboys didn’t have cell phones, of course, which is probably a good thing; A ringing phone would have startled the cattle and maybe even the horses.  John Wayne wasn’t talking about cell phones when he said, “Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much,” but that’s not bad advice.  Especially in the ER.

So what do you think?  Are good manners a thing of the past or are they still very much alive?

 

 

How the West Was Fun!

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Think Like a Horse: 10 Favorite Cowboy Sayings

 

Kathryn Albright Kathryn Albright &Margaret Brownley

Margaret Brownley

wish Petticoats and Pistols

a Rip-Roarin’,

Yippee Ki-Yay

Son-of-a-Gun Birthday

Celebration

To help celebrate, we decided to share some of our favorite words

to live by–cowboy style!

So pull up a log to sit on, prop yer feet by the fire,

and consider the wisdom of the West ~

Kathryn’s Favorites:
(It’s so hard to choose only five! There are so many good ones.)

 

1.  Before you go into a canyon, know how you’ll get out.     
2.  Never straddle a fence. Build one, or tear it down.
3.  You can’t tell how good a man or a watermelon is till you thump’em.
4.  If you want to stay single, look for the perfect woman.
5.  A mail-order marriage is trickier’n braidin’ a mule’s tail.

Margaret’s Favorites:

1.  You don’t have to attend every argument to which you are invited.
2.  Too little temptation can lead to virtue.
3.  If you come home with a hair on your vest, you better have a horse to match.
4.  Love your enemies, but keep your gun oiled.
5.  Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear or a fool from any direction.

Now it’s your turn.  What are your favorite words to live by?

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card

(in celebration of our 10 years here!)

***

P.S. Don’t forget to enter the giant birthday bash giveaway. You can find all the details along with the entry form HERE.

Celebration

Running from trouble, Maggie McCary signs up to be a mail-order bride.

She doesn’t intend to actually marry…but one sensational kiss changes her mind!

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

A Match Made in Texas

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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
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