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Grass Valley Cowboys

A few weeks ago, I was working on promotional plans for my books for the summer. As I browsed through my books, a little niggling thought kept popping up… one that said it was time for more book cover makeovers.

Every once in a while, I’ll give a book cover a new look. It’s fun and allows my brain to use some different creative skills. 

This time, the series I decided could use a new look is one of my favorites — the Grass Valley Cowboys. 

Set in the tiny Oregon town of Grass Valley, this series focuses on (as the title implies) the cowboys who live there. Specifically, cowboys from the Thompson and Morgan families.

I had such a good time writing these books and I do plan to write a few more before I bring the series to an end. The inspiration for the series came when I happened to drive through the area on the way to spend the weekend with my aunt and cousins. I just couldn’t help thinking what a fun setting Grass Valley would provide for a story.  Not only that, but one of my dear friends grew up in the area, and had stories to share about things that happened there.

The settlement of Grass Valley began with the establishment of a few stock ranches. Settlers began to arrive in the area and were soon plowing the cattle-sustaining grass to plant wheat fields.  Dr. Charles R. Rollins, a physician from New Hampshire, is credited with establishing Grass Valley when he arrived in the area with a small party of pioneers.  Dr. Rollins had an easy time choosing a name for the location since the rye grass grew thick and tall in the alkaline soil. Rollins built a large two-story hotel, which included a clinic from which he prescribed and sold medicine. 

The Grass Valley Cowboys series takes place in modern times, but as I wrote the stories, I often envisioned what life was like when the area was yet settled. When deer hid from hunters in the tall grass and those crossing the Oregon Trail pressed onward for the fir-dotted hills of the Willamette Valley. 

Here’s a little about the books and a look at the brand-spanking new covers!

The Cowboy’s Christmas Plan

Grass Valley Cowboys Book 1

Cadence Greer’s plans for a happy-ever-after are quickly derailed when her fiancé runs off with his secretary a week before their wedding. Homeless, jobless, and jilted, she escapes to Grass Valley, Oregon, where she takes a job as a housekeeper and cook to seven cowboys on a sprawling ranch.

Trey Thompson is a well-respected pillar of the community, running a successful ranch with his brother. All he wanted was someone to cook meals and keep the house clean. When he hires Cadence Greer for the job, he gets more than he ever planned on, including a sassy little redheaded orphan.

 

The Cowboy’s Spring Romance

Grass Valley Cowboys Book 2

Trent Thompson doesn’t have many secrets, except for the torch he’s carried for the new schoolteacher since she moved to Grass Valley more than three years ago. Instead of asking her out, he’s dated every single female in a thirty-mile radius, giving her the impression he holds no interest in knowing her.

Lindsay Pierce moved to Grass Valley to teach and quickly fell in love with the small community as well as the delightful people who live there. Everyone welcomes her warmly except for one obnoxious cowboy who goes out of his way to ignore her.

Will Trent be able to maintain the pretense when he has to babysit his niece, who happens to be in Lindsay’s class?

 

The Cowboy’s Summer Love

Grass Valley Cowboys Book 3

After six years in the service and two tours of duty in the middle of a war zone, Travis Thompson eagerly returns home to Grass Valley, ready to resume his life on the Triple T Ranch with his two older brothers. Ever the wild-child, Travis doesn’t disappoint as he rolls from one adventure to another in his quest to keep his adrenaline pumping. He needs a release for the tension constantly building inside him, especially after he discovers the girl he’s loved his entire life just moved back to Grass Valley.

In love with Travis Thompson since she was old enough to notice boys, Tess Morgan can’t stay away from him no matter how hard she tries. Convinced Travis sees her only as his best friend’s sister, she wants him to realize she is the woman who could love him deeply and passionately.

 

The Cowboy’s Autumn Fall

Grass Valley Cowboys Book 4

Brice Morgan thought love at first sight was some ridiculous notion of school girls and old ladies who read too many romance novels. At least he does until he falls hard and fast for an intriguing and thoroughly perplexing woman at a friend’s wedding.

Bailey Bishop attends her cousin’s wedding with no intention of extending her brief visit to Oregon. Married to her career as a paleontologist, Bailey tries to ignore her intense attraction to her cousin’s best friend, Brice. Ready to return home to Denver, Bailey instead accepts the opportunity to explore a new dig site not far from the family’s ranch in Grass Valley. Can she keep her feelings for Brice from derailing her plans for the future?

 

The Cowboy’s New Heart

Grass Valley Cowboys Book 5

Former bull rider Hart Hammond spent twenty years building a business empire while successfully avoiding love. He buried his heart the same day he made his last bull ride and has vowed to never make the mistake of loving a woman again. Then he meets the beautiful mother of the fun-loving Thompson tribe.

Years after her husband died, Denni Thompson can’t bear to think of giving her heart to anyone else. With three newly married sons, a grandchild on the way, and a busy life, Denni doesn’t entertain any notions of romance until she encounters the handsome new owner of Grass Valley’s gas station.

 

The Cowboy’s Last Goodbye

Grass Valley Cowboys Book 6

With his siblings and friends entangled in the state of matrimony, Ben Morgan is more determined than ever to remain blissfully single. Despite his vehement refusal to commit to a relationship, he can’t help but envision a future with the sweet, charming woman who unknowingly captures his heart.

Harper Hayes is an expert at bad relationships. After vowing never to wed, the idea enters her mind with alarming frequency after she meets Ben Morgan. Although the handsome cowboy makes it clear he’s only interested in having fun, Harper’s dog and crazy uncle have other ideas.

 

You can find all the books in the series on Amazon .

Also, for a limited time, The Cowboy’s Summer Love is on sale for just 99 cents! 

If you were going to come up with a name for a book in this series, what would you choose? 

Happy 4th of July!!!!

Gals and guys, cowboys and cowgirls, I am wishing you the most wonderful of Independence Day holidays you could possibly have.

One of my annual ways to remember how to be grateful for what brought us to this point is to watch 1776, the amazing musical that revisits the trials of the Second Continental Congress, the chosen men who had the guts to declare our independence under difficult conditions of treason, compromise, ego and eccentricity…

If you’ve never seen this movie, you will be blessed by a look into what came before…

Before we were an expansionist nation that migrated west and pioneered a Western culture we all love…

A look into the “before”…

So we can enjoy the now!

And the song written for John Adams (William Daniels) “Is Anybody There?” as Adams reflects on the struggle to bring a new country into being against huge odds…

You can see this here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Fq4H4SAb6s

Enjoy your holiday folks, and if there’s not a parade or fireworks in your schedule, that’s okay.

Grab a hot dog… say a prayer… Thank the Lord… Share your M&Ms with others… Help a neighbor… Watch a patriotic movie with the A/C roaring if you’re hot, hot, hot…

And may God bless you and yours on this wonderful, celebratory day.

When folks criticize America… when they scorn us or roll their eyes, or crab about this or that or the other thing, I think of the sacrifice that’s gone before us…

Before you and me…

Before our grandparents and our great-grandparents, and the soldiers and the pioneers and the war that didn’t just tear us apart but bound us together as one nation, under God…

Those first folks, seeking religious freedom, sailing a fierce ocean to land in an unknown land…

To leave fair England for the robust and forested shores of a New World.

It took guts to get us here, friends. Guts and faith. And it will take the same to keep us afloat.

Happy Independence Day!

Updated: June 25, 2019 — 5:24 am

Julie Benson’s Winner!

The winner of the signed copy of A Cure for the Vet and the T-Shirt from Rustic Ranch is…

Kristi

Congratulations!

Look for an email from me regarding how to claim your giveaway.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by to chat.

May your Fourth of July 4th be blessed, filled with wonder, and safe.

                               Julie

Updated: July 3, 2019 — 8:01 pm

Love of Country Ingrained…

Hey, it’s Ruthy here, and I love being part of Stars & Spurs week here at the hoppin-est Western group of cowboy-lovin’ gals there is…

What is it about Western images and culture and determination that makes us think of flag and country?

Well, it could be that flag flyin’ high at ranches all across the West/Midwest.

Or those small town celebrations that make us remove our hats, put a hand over our hearts and feel a prayer even if not one cotton-pickin’ word comes out of our mouths.

Or it could be at the graveside of a young man, the sharp knife of a short life, gone too soon in defense of his country. According to Wikipedia, over 80,000 soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen/women never plowed another field or husked another ear of corn following World War II, the Korean conflict and the Viet Nam War…

From some of the least-populated states came tens of thousands of Homeland Heroes.

From the “fly-over” states came the sound– and the cost– of freedom.

The sound of “Taps” being played on that single horn.

Bagpipes toning the tear-jerking chords of “Amazing Grace”

And the sight of a cowboy, on horseback, hunting that last calf as the sun dips down behind him.

The reminder of Christ and that shepherd we all love so much, leaving the 99 safe and sound to go after the one lost sheep.

When I think of Stars and Stripes and Spurs, that’s what comes to mind.

That in an amazing country that had been so divided 85 years before, shedding the blood of so many in a Civil War that tore us apart and bound us together, so many stood strong in the face of international terror when faced with the scourge of Hilter and Mussolini and Stalin, heartless men whose selfishness and greed dictated the loss of millions…

The image of a cowboy, standing guard at the gate or delivering a calf or a lamb or rocking his own baby floods our hearts with the goodness of the American West. This thought-provoking photo comes from Priscilla Du Preez over at Unsplash.

Because in the West it doesn’t matter how tall you are…

But how tall you stand.

And may God bless America….

Tobias Keller, Unsplash

Ruthy is giving away two copies of her newest Love Inspired Western “Healing the Cowboy’s Heart” to a couple of lucky cowgirls or boys but you’ve got to carry on the conversation below because when it comes to faith, hope and love, the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom stands strong, doesn’t it? And don’t get your knickers in a twist if you haven’t gotten your books from last month… you know our Ruthy lives on a farm and the grumpy farmer has been fighting rain, rain, and more rain so every little job doesn’t get done once… or twice… but three, four or five times. But they know they’re blessed to have jobs and lives beyond the farm, so there’s no lamentation… just a time-drain, folks. And one of these days our Ruthy will get to the Post Office and send out the last few weeks of books…. Sure as shootin’! 

Feel free to shout out the folks you know who have served… they have blessed every one of us by that sacrifice of time and safety!

 

 

Cowboys and Fireworks, Yee Haw!

July, that wonderful month where we get to celebrate our country’s independence. The Fourth of July is a fun time for both young and old alike. But did you know that the 4th Saturday of July is National Day of the Cowboy? Yep! That’s right. It’s the day we celebrate the contribution cowboys and cowgirls made to our country’s wonderful heritage.

  Do you know when the era of the cowboy came about? It was after The War Between the States and was birthed in the heart of Texas. Of course, folks had been herding cattle for years beforehand, but in Texas ranchers allowed their cattle to roam free. Unfortunately, over time, they grew wild and unruly.

As the country recovered from the aftermath of the war and life moved on and more and more folks moved west, the demand for beef grew. This meant all those cows had to be rounded up. Cowboys drove large herds to market across miles of prairie and other terrains. About five million head were driven to wherever the most profitable markets were which in turn, created a lot of stories of the Cowboys’ adventures and untold riches. Well, sort of. Adventures probably outweighed the riches most of the time.

But over the years a certain romanticism developed around the cowboy. Part of what made them what they are today. We celebrate the hard work it took to gain our independence in July, but also the hard work of the cowboy that helped shape our country later on.

Can you imagine being a cowboy driving thousands of cattle across the great plains? Can you imagine the dangers the cowboys had to keep an eye out for? Sudden storms, rough terrain, predators, cattle rustlers. Violence was ripe at times and the cowboy had to protect his herd however he could. Cowboys had to be tough to endure the frontier life. For them, that meant a lot of time outdoors, sleeping under the stars. Cowboys worked hard, Period. A working cowboy still does. As some of you know, my little sister is a retired racehorse jockey and now trains horses. This means she knows other trainers from all over, some of which are working cowboys and ranchers who do their horse clinics on the side. Sure they have modern conveniences, but the work is still just that. Work.

So the next time you read a western, think of all the guts and grit it took to do the job of a cowboy. This is one of the reasons we like westerns. Western romance, even better. After all, there’s nothing quite like reading about a cowboy that comes to the rescue to save the day and gets the girl.

             

 

Celebrate July Fourth and have a ball. Come the 4th Saturday in July, which this year is July 27th, think of the hard-working cowboy that helped shape this great country, smile a little smile, and say a little thank you.

Updated: June 26, 2019 — 8:13 pm

Hee-Haw! Here are Margaret’s Winners!

Oh, me, or my.  Didn’t we have a grand time today?  Thank you to all who responded. You’re all great and  I wish I could send each of you a book!  Today’s winners are:

Valri Western

Sally Schmidt

Lori Smanski

Cathy Thomas

Becky Elliott

& Grumpy the Cat

 

 

Congratulations, Ladies! Tell me if you prefer print or eBook.  If print is your choice, I need to know your mailing address.  Contact me at margaretbrownley1@gmail.com

 

Updated: June 20, 2019 — 6:31 pm

Pioneer Pit Stop

Philip Foster Farm in Eagle Creek, Oregon was the last stop along the Oregon Trail for weary travelers to rest before continuing on to Oregon City. This year the farm is opening The Lucy House, which Philip Foster built for his daughter.
Lucy and her husband Josiah enjoyed a home with a parlor, kitchen, and a bedroom on the first floor. The second floor contained two additional rooms; another bedroom and what historians believe Lucy used as her sewing room. The house also has a front and back porch. 

It took three years of restoration to bring the house back to its historical roots, and the loyal volunteers of the farm are still working on it. The first-floor bedroom still has a few things planned, so next year the house will be complete.

The house, originally located across the road, has had various homeowners over the years who of course added a bathroom and laundry room. These were removed to bring back the house’s historical authenticity. I had fun visiting the Lucy house this weekend and seeing what had been done with the place. Of course, it’s fun visiting the farm anyway!

This weekend was also made special by cooking demonstrations of pioneer food — biscuits and cookies mostly — along with the blacksmith demonstrating his wares and the function of the black smith’s shop. The Oregon Trail folks were there with maps and books on the subject along with various vendors and a little music tossed in. Kids loved trying out the two-man saws in the sawmill portion of the huge barn that sits on the property. There are covered wagons and various other conveyances to see. There are gardens, a general store and of course, Philip Foster’s own home. A two-story farmhouse that never ceases to amaze me. Here are a few pictures …

 

 

Philip Foster’s house.                              Hey, the biscuits are done!

 

 

Working at the dry sink.                    Pioneer biscuits.

 

 

                      Philip Foster’s dining room and parlor.

 

Churned butter and cornbread muffins!   Volunteers working in the General Store.

 

Longtime volunteer and Philip Foster Farm participant Elaine Butler (pictured above) invited me to do a book signing at the farm’s Garden Days held the third Saturday in July. Of course I said yes! When you write about pioneers and get invited to be surrounded by them for a day signing books, well, that’s my cup of tea!

The farm also hosts a week-long summer camp for boys and girls ages 7-12, and a girl’s camp, also for ages 7-12. During these camps, children get to learn pioneer skills, stories, songs, dances and work with experienced crafters. What a great way to get to experience pioneer life! 

For more information on the Philip Foster Farm, check out their website here.

I’ll let you know how the garden party goes! Until next time …

Kit

 

 

Updated: June 17, 2019 — 1:20 pm

Matrimony Vine

I was flipping through an old book about the Oregon desert the other day when a photo caught my eye of a vine climbing up the side of an old cabin.

The caption beneath the photo said, “Homesteaders’ wives needed something green in the middle of the gray desert.” 

Of course the photo was black and white, but the description went on to state that most women planted a matrimony vine. 

Matrimony vine? 

Although I loved the name, I’d never heard of it. 

A quick search revealed matrimony vine is also known as Chinese Wolfberry, Chinese Boxthorn, Himalayan Goji, Tibetan Goji. The deciduous shrub has roots that go back to Japan, Korea, and China. 

As the book I was reading stated, homesteaders who were trying to make a living in the sagebrush-dotted desert lands longed for a spot of color, something that would grow with minimal attention and water.  Many of them found what they were searching for with the matrimony vine. 

I could so easily picture a hardworking farm wife dumping her dishwater on the plant, eager to keep it green and growing in the sometimes harsh desert climate, especially those found in the dry interior of California, eastern Washington and eastern Oregon. 

Legends state a newlywed couple would plant the vine at their homestead to bless their marriage.

Matrimony vine was also a “pass along” plant that could be easily dug up and shared with others. Can’t you just see a mother digging up a bit of her beloved plant to share with her daughter when she wed?  The “lifted and gifted” plants seemed to thrive amid the desert climate.

Another way the plants came to America where with Chinese workers. The berries, popularly known as Goji, have been used for centuries by the Chinese in teas, as dried condiments, additions to stews and soups, as well as for medicinal purposes.

Waves of Chinese immigrants began arriving in San Francisco in the 1850s, and with these immigrants came components of their native culture, including the Goji berry. Tens of thousands of immigrants arrived, escaping poverty and civil war in China, initially bound for the gold fields of California. As they journeyed throughout the west for work, the Goji berry traveled along with them.

Today, stands of matrimony vine mark where homesteads long ago lost to time, fire, or other causes, once stood. The shrubs can also be found growing near old Chinese cemeteries.

Sadly, the plants have become host to the potato psyllid which is related to aphids and secretes a toxic saliva during feeding that causes great harm to potato plants. 

During my growing up years on our farm, we had one of these plants growing out behind our milk barn near the shed where we bottle fed calves. I had no idea what it was, but each spring, it burst forth with beautiful purple blossoms and each autumn, bright red berries begged to be picked. My mother told me it was poisonous and to leave it alone. Now I’m kind of wishing I’d plucked a few of those berries anyway. 

And there you have it, how matrimony vine came to be an invasive plant in the Pacific Northwest!

If you close your eyes and envision a homesteader dutifully keeping alive a plant in the midst of dirt and sagebrush, what do you picture?  

THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS #4–CONAGHER AND CINDERELLA by CHERYL PIERSON

Have you ever read a story that made you wonder why the author spent such a long, boring time describing an item or place that seemed of little importance to the story?

Usually when that happens, it’s because its importance will be revealed later on, or some scene will call up that particular memory or description for some reason—and its usually a pretty darn good reason!

Let’s look at Cinderella’s slipper as our first example for this. Of course, a glass slipper would be highly unusual, wouldn’t it? In fact, most likely, there would be no other slippers like that one pair!

This particular pair of shoes serves as a symbol for the entire story—improbable things happening to a young woman who has been treated so terribly for so long that lead to her ultimate happiness—it’s a story we can all relate to!

The magic that brings her happiness is not just going to the ball and all the wonderful things that happened on the way—the beautiful gown, the carriage, and so on—the true magic for Cinderella is falling in love. And how can the two lovers hope to be reunited? Well, if it weren’t for those exquisitely, perfectly-fitting glass slippers, everything else that came before—all the magic, hopes, and dreams—could have amounted to nothing at all. Everything hinges on the glass slipper fitting!

Hence the description of the slippers themselves, carrying the slipper on a pillow (which I always believed was taking a terrible chance!) and the endless search and trying on of the slipper throughout the kingdom.

The slipper is all-important because it is the proof that she is “the one” –and it has come to symbolize the very story itself. When we see a picture of the glass slipper, we know it “means” Cinderella, right?

Think about Lous L’Amour’s iconic western, Conagher. Two lonely people meet and fall in love through heartfelt notes that Evie, the heroine, writes and ties to tumbleweeds. They could be found and read by anyone—or no one at all.

http://g.tinyurl.com/y6y8yj33

 

But the fact that Conagher feels they speak directly to him, shows us how important what she did is to the story. This is further borne out when, in conversation with him, she uses a phrase she’s written on one of the notes—and he knows immediately it is she who has been writing them.

 

Loneliness and the vast emptiness of the land is a common theme throughout the book. It was unimaginable to her that Conagher would be the one who found “that note” – the one she repeated the phrase from in conversation with him—but it wasn’t impossible. And his line to her is one of the most romantic of all time, in my opinion.

 

He takes one of the notes out of his pocket and asks if she wrote it, and she says yes, she did. She tells him she was just so lonely she had to talk to someone, even if no one was there to hear. He says, “There was, Evie, there was me.” 

 

The details of:

  • The land around them and their feelings about the emptiness and aloneness of where they are…
  • Evie’s acting on those feelings by just writing them down on paper and tying them to tumbleweeds…
  • The act of Evie repeating the phrase in conversation she’d used on the note Conagher found…

all add up to make this story so special and memorable—and one you will not want to put down once you start reading!

Conagher isn’t a fairy tale, but it does have its own brand of magical connections that lead to love. The details and descriptions in both of these stories, as different as they are, give the reader insights that the author, in both cases, was masterful in providing throughout the story!

 

Finally, another couple of tales that come to mind are two short stories many of us read in our high school English classes—The Necklace, by Guy De Maupassant, and The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry. Do you remember these—both based on objects that were described in great detail—and the twists at the end that left you gasping in surprise?

 

If you haven’t read them, or even if it’s been a while, they are always good to revisit and are classic examples of why detailed descriptions of “things” can be so important to a story’s premise.

Can you think of an example in your reading where the detailed description of something had deep importance to the story?