Coming in March…Braced for Love

I will tell a little story that serves as the background of my upcoming three book series Brothers in Arms

I’m from a town that shall remain nameless, but it is old. It’s claim to fame (one of the few) is that it is old.

An old town.

So the man who founded the trading post and thus started the settlement, was a scoundeal.

He was married back east, had children, and at some point, he ran off, headed west, abandoned his wife and children to explore the frontier.

It got him as far as my hometown.

Where he married, had children and ran off. No mention of his wife back east.

He went to Colorado and (do we really need a drumroll?) he helped found a town, got married, had children and…his story is lost from then on.

But I’m assuming he ran off and who knows how many families he scattered across the west.

So my series is inspired by the scoundrel but of course I make it much worse when, if you really look at what my town’s founder did, it’s honestly hard to be much worse. Still, my scoundrel managed it.

Three families, each with one son. Each abandoned…except…his last wife was the owner of a large ranch. He first husband died and she inherited his ranch. Her father neighbored with her and after she because a young widow, she moved home to her father and the two of them, with her daughter, ran the ranches as one.

Then along comes the scoundrel. He has to be a charming rogue doesn’t he? To convince these women to marry him?

So then he runs off, but once in a while he wanders through. He has a son now with this third wife who has learned what a useless man she married. Then his third wife dies.

And suddenly, he is the sole owner of a huge ranch. And when he dies (this all happens before the book begins of course) instead of dividing it as his wife had laid out, between her daughter and her son…our scoundrel leaves it in three pieces to his three sons. None of these three men knew about each other.

And here come the heirs. And they all thought Pa was dead, only his final family knew when he really died. Two men who thought their father had been dead for around twenty years, are furious to find out what a horrible man he was. The brother and sister who own the ranch, their grandfather and mother’s ranches, are furious that the will reveals the cheating and lying. And they expect the very worst of the newcomers.

And then someone tries to kill one of them. Then another. Then a third.

They suspect each other. Distrust each other. And have to stick together to survive. It won’t be easy.,

Book one is Braced for Love, releasing March 2, 2021. More details about that next time.

Coming in July book #2 of the Brothers in Arms series is A Man with a Past.

And this year (and next) my publisher Bethany House Publishing is releasing three books from me. The whole series coming out in a single year!!!

Book #3 is Love on the Range. Coming in November.

Come along for a ride rooted in a true story…and then of course, taken into fiction without a qualm.

Mary Connealy

 

Art of Letter Writing

 

Did you know January 23 is National Handwriting Day? It’s true! The celebration began back in 1977 when the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association established the day to promote the use of pens, pencils, and paper. It also happens to be the birthday of John Hancock, a man remembered for his stylish signature on the Declaration of Independence. In fact, in the U.S., his name became a synonym for one’s signature.

As technology pervades (invades!) more and more of our daily life, it seems we write things by hand less and less.

There’s just something about writing something by hand that is almost therapeutic. And it’s an art that is quickly becoming lost. 

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love getting something handwritten in the mail, whether it’s a card or a letter. Even a sticky note with a message written in Captain Cavedweller’s chicken scratch handwriting brightens my day. 

Writing a letter is an art – from choosing the card or paper to the writing utensil, to the words that are expressed. 

Writing a letter does require a little more effort than sending a quick text, but think about how personal a letter can be. How special it is to the recipient. How meaningful and appreciated even the simplest message of “I’m thinking of you” is to someone who loves you. 

Letters build relationships in a way, a personal caring way, that text messages and emails never will. It’s something tangible that can be held in the recipient’s hand. Whether it’s a card full of glittery sparkles or a formal piece of heavy parchment, what really matters is the message conveyed from your hand to the heart of the reader. 

 

In my sweet historical romance, The Christmas Wish, the heroine, Brynn, writes anonymous letters to people in the town of Hardman. Her only goal is to offer encouragement and cheer to the recipients.

Here’s a little excerpt from the book:

Percy had heard about someone writing letters full of positivity and hope to people in town. His parents had been the recipients of one a year ago, and his mother proudly kept the letter in the desk in the apartment. It was one of the first things she showed him when he returned home.

The handwriting was sometimes shaky, which made Percy wonder if it was an elderly person, but the turns of phrase the writer used hinted at someone younger.

Regardless, the wisher’s identity remained a mystery that Percy rather hoped continued. It gave the people in Hardman something happy to focus on and look forward to since a letter popped up once a week and no one could guess who would be the next recipient.

He glanced at Brynn as the conversation shifted to the holiday season and noticed her looking quite pleased. He wondered if it had something to do with the wisher or the way her grandfather continued to cast adoring glances at Dora Granger.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if  there were more Brynn’s in the world? 

I’m going to try to be more like her, and write by hand more personal notes this year. 

What about you?

Do you write notes for friends and loved ones? Do you enjoy receiving them?

Do you have a favorite note or card that you’ve kept as a keepsake? 

Post your answer for a chance to win a handwritten note from me! 

 

An Outlaw Land Agent, Mayor, and Romantic

In the settling of the U.S., owning land used to be the primary dream of almost every man–rich or poor. It was something tangible that meant you had worth and the owner could use it however he saw fit. But how were the sales handled when almost every town had a land office?

The General Land Office created in 1812 was an independent agency of the United States government responsible for all the public domain lands. It took over this function from the Treasury Department that had been in effect since 1785.

The General Land Office was in charge of surveying, platting, and selling of public lands. In addition they oversaw the Homestead Act and the Preemption Act in disposal of public lands.

During the Westward Expansion period, land sold at such a frantic pace that it was difficult to keep up. As I said, everyone wanted a piece to call their own.

Every town of any size had a land office where prospective buyers could see what was available. If they bought some, a deed was recorded and registered at that county’s courthouse which then made its way to the General Land Office in Washington D.C. But given the slow speed of travel, it might be a year or more before it got registered. And unscrupulous land agents could sell the same land twice or several times over. I see how easy it would’ve been. And how killings would’ve taken place. The West had no one to oversee a lot of things.

In 1946, the General Land Office and the U.S. Grazing Service merged to become the Bureau of Land Management.

In my newest release, ONCE UPON A MAIL ORDER BRIDE, Ridge Steele served as the mayor and land agent in the outlaw town of Hope’s Crossing. Unlike others, he is honest and above board in his dealings and in the recording of deeds.

To settle this fledgling town, he and his friends send for mail order brides through Luke Legend and his private bride service. Ridge is the last of his friends to get one.

When Adeline Jancy arrives, she’s more than he ever dreamed in every respect—other than she couldn’t speak. Due to horrifying trauma, she’s lost her voice. Ridge doesn’t have to marry her, but he does. He likes what he sees and figures she’ll do just fine.

He soon discovers Addie can throw a hissy or argue as well as anyone—all without words.

Their love grows slowly and ripens into a passionate story for the ages. From the moment they strolled onto the page, I knew they were perfect for each other in every way. Each had their own strengths that complemented the other as should a real relationship.

Do you believe in love at first sight? Or do you think it takes time to develop only after the couple has come to know each other? I’m giving away a copy of this book (winner’s choice of either ebook or print.)  I’ll draw on Saturday.

 

* * * * * * *

DID COWBOYS EAT CHICKEN FRIED STEAK? by Cheryl Pierson

Many years ago when my mother-in-law came to visit us in Oklahoma all the way from her native West Virginia, the thing she loved best about my home state was CHICKEN FRIED STEAK! Mom had never had it before, and it never dawned on me that someone might not have ever eaten that wonderful delicacy. When we took her out to eat, she asked “What’s the best thing on the menu?” I told her “Chicken Fried Steak.” We both ordered it. I don’t think she ordered anything else the entire time she stayed with us–around 10 days, after I had my first baby–whenever we went out to eat after she tasted Chicken Fried Steak. 
 
I wonder if cowboys ever ate this? I know they ate a lot of beans and so on, but gosh, I really think this had to come from the trail drives or ranches “back in the day”–it is WONDERFUL. It’s one of the foods that’s common, and that we are known for in this part of the USA.  In fact, it’s part of the official STATE MEAL OF OKLAHOMA, as of 1988! (WHO KNEW?) My mom never made it often, but maybe it was because she knew if she did, it would be all I’d ever want to eat
 
I found this great recipe online for Chicken Fried Steak BITES that looks wonderful–whether you’re entertaining or just want something different and good for yourself and family members. 
 
 
Chicken Fried Steak Bites 
 
Prep Time: 10 minutes 
Cook Time: 25 minutes 
Cooking Level: Intermediate 
 
The secret to true “chicken fried steak” is frying beef in cooking oil that was previously used to fry chicken. If you use fresh oil, it is considered “country fried” with less authentic flavor. The same batter recipe and method we’ve given below can be used to fry up some chicken breasts for lunch before cooking for the party for improved pre-party satisfaction. 
 
Fried Steak:
 
Ingredients 
 
• 2 lb. cube steak, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces 
• 4 cups canola oil Batter 
• 1/2 cup milk 
• 1 egg 
• 2 cups all-purpose flour 
• 1-1/2 tablespoon seasoned salt 
• 2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper 
 
Directions 
 
1. Prepare a paper towel-lined plate for finished steak pieces and set aside. 
2. Heat oil in a deep cast iron skillet over high heat until the temperature reaches 350F, then reduce to medium. Note: if not using a thermometer, test the temperature of the oil by sticking the end of a bamboo skewer into it. When the indicated temperature range is reached, the end of the bamboo will sizzle, then reduce heat to medium. 
3. In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg and milk for batter until well mixed. 
4. In a shallow dish such as a pie plate, combine the dry batter ingredients well. 
5. Dredge each piece of steak in flour mixture, dip into the egg mixture, the roll in flour mixture again to coat well. 
6. Shake off excess flour, then place into the hot oil for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned. 
7. Remove cooked pieces to plate and allow to rest for 2 minutes before serving. 
 
Gravy:
 
Ingredients
 
• 2 tablespoons bacon drippings 
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
• 3/4 teaspoon salt 
• 3/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper 
• 3-1/2 cups whole milk 
 
Directions
 
1. Melt bacon grease in an 8-inch iron skillet over medium heat. 
2. Brown the flour in the bacon grease along with the salt, and pepper, whisking constantly until golden in color, about 5-7 minutes. 
3. Gradually add 3 cups of milk a little at a time, stirring constantly to prevent curdling. Add more milk as necessary to keep from becoming too thick. 
4. Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve. 
 
Tip: Gravy can be made ahead of time and refrigerated overnight or frozen. Allow to defrost overnight in fridge before use, and heat slowly in the microwave stirring at 30-second intervals or over low heat on the stovetop. Add more milk as necessary to achieve desired consistency. 
 
 
I will definitely be making this, and it looked so great I just had to share. I’m thinking my cowboy ancestors must have had this delectable dish many times! 

Jody Hedlund Has a Winner!

 

Thank you for keeping us entertained and informed, Miss Jody! We loved it.

Now for the drawing………………………..

Some lucky commenter will win a print copy of A Cowboy For Keeps!

That person is………………………………………………

TERESA F.

Yippee!! We’re so happy for you, Teresa. Watch for Miss Jody’s email.

Cheryl Pierson will have a post up tomorrow so everyone come back.

Those Hunky Colorado Cowboys! (And a Giveaway!) with Jody Hedlund

Most readers know me for my historical romances about lighthouses, orphan trains, and bride ships. But a western? Whoa! What’s that all about?

No, I’m not switching genres. My friends here on Petticoat and Pistols have the western genre well covered! But I am delving into a five-book family saga set in the high country of Colorado in the ranching area of South Park.

The Colorado Cowboys Series has all my usual trademarks—deeply emotional characters, fun plot twists, and sizzling romance. But this time the package includes hunky cowboys!

Most of the time when we think about cowboys in Colorado, we think of the ranches on the eastern plains, not the mountainous high country. But believe it or not, ranches started popping up in the mountains very early in Colorado’s history.

One of the first ranches in South Park (near Fairplay), was Hartsel Springs Ranch, founded as a homestead in 1862 by Samuel Hartsel. He started his ranch by buying oxen brought into the mountains by men arriving to mine for gold. The oxen were often worn out and worth little after making the long trek to the West. But Samuel fattened them and then turned around and sold them as beef to the mining community.

By 1864 Hartsel decided to branch out and diversify his livestock. He went to Missouri and purchased a herd of shorthorns that he then drove to Colorado along the Santa Fe Trail. It was a tough trip, but he eventually completed the cattle drive and made it back to his ranch with 150 head of short-horned cattle. 

Figure 1 Picture in South Park that I took of a cattle ranch during my research trip

Hartsel went on to become a very successful rancher, capitalizing on the rich grassland in South Park that fed his cattle. He also took advantage of a natural hot spring near his land that he developed and used for tourists who wanted a chance to bathe in the “healing waters.”

A Cowboy for Keeps, the first book in the series, is inspired by this real life cowboy and ranch. The hero, Wyatt McQuaid, is attempting to make a go of homesteading and ranching. But with all the obstacles he faces, he’s having a hard time making a new home. When Fairplay’s mayor offers him a deal, one that involves taking a bride in exchange for cattle, Wyatt can’t resist.

If you like hunky cowboys, mail-order brides, and marriages of convenience, then I invite you to give A Cowboy for Keeps a chance!

Leave a comment on this post if you’d like the chance to win a signed copy of the book! (Sorry, U.S. mailing addresses only.) I will choose a random winner on January 16.

What’s your favorite thing about cowboy stories?

Jody Hedlund is the best-selling author of over thirty historicals for both adults and teens and is the winner of numerous awards including the Christy, Carol, and Christian Book Award. She lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy teens, and five spoiled cats. Visit her at jodyhedlund.com

Pam’s Winner!

 

 

   Tonya Lucas!

 

Thanks to all who stopped by today as I featured my new Blackstone Ranch series!

Stay tuned, ladies . . . 

 

And Tonya, I’ll message you for the specifics of sending you a free copy of Book #1 in my Blackstone Ranch series, A COWBOY AND A PROMISE.

My Blackstone Ranch Series – It’s all about the details! by Pam Crooks

Many readers inhale series romance for the obvious reasons.  Done well, characters that have endeared the reader in one book live on in subsequent books.  We get to see their lives, their happiness, the town or ranch where they live, sometimes even the villain or his gang that continue to be a thorn in the characters’ sides.

I’ve done numerous series over the years, and I love writing them as much as the reader loves reading them.  I’m excited that the release of Book #2 and #3 of my first contemporary western romance series with Tule Publishing is drawing closer and closer.

To write a series, an author must keep track of the details.  This is crucial and shows professionalism.  To make mistakes in one’s own books is sloppy, and you can bet the readers will pick up on carelessness.

For me, my saving grace is Microsoft’s One Note. Oh my goodness, I can’t survive without these ‘notebooks’ that keep the gazillion notes, research, images, and yep, details right at my fingertips.

A COWBOY AND A PROMISE is available now.  As Book #1, I had to set up the three ex-military brothers who live on Blackstone Ranch.  I also had to set up the town named after their great-grandfather.  And of course, there are businesses in that town, and people to run them, and the list goes on and on.

I was very careful to weave many details throughout all three books to keep them connected and real, and I’m happy to share a few now:

In Book #1, A COWBOY AND A PROMISE, Beau Paxton is a twin who has served in Afghanistan with his two brothers.  All three come back to heal, run the ranch, and help their mother care for their crippled father. 

All are respected and well-liked in Paxton Springs and enjoy fond memories growing up, like fresh popcorn in Mary’s Mercantile.  That same popcorn comes back in Book #3 and the mercantile’s owners play a nice part for Shandi, the heroine.

In Book #2, HER TEXAS COWBOY, Brock Paxton is scruffy-cheeked and suffers from being excluded by his twin once Beau finds Ava, his true love.  It’s that loneliness that sets him up for Lucienne in his book.

Jace Paxton is the oldest, also womanless, but always searching and having fun along the way.  His skill is working cattle, which plays a huge part in his Book #3, MY KIND OF COWBOY.

You can bet they drive the same color of Ford F-150 pickups, wear the same color Stetsons, and ride the same breed of horses throughout the series that I set-up in Book #1.

Their favorite watering hole in town is the Greasy Bull, which plays a huge part of Book #3. Their friend, Nash, is the local deputy and a former classmate whom the Paxton brothers depend on to help solve the troubles they encounter in their own books.

In Book #1, Ava arrives from New York.  Her favorite color is pink, which I show numerous times and then remind the reader in a nightgown she lends to Shandi in Book #3.  Her skill is in construction, and she’s crucial in building the vacation resort which is a basis for the entire series.

In Book #2, Lucienne is rich and hugely into fashion, much to Ava’s frugalness and chagrin.  I intro her in stilettos, skinny jeans, and a leopard-print blouse. She’s also a nurse practitioner who is never without her medical kit which she keeps in her expensive suede bag, and yep, that medical kit comes in handy in Book #3 when Shandi needs some tending.

In Book #3, Shandi has her own book, but she’s introduced in Book #1 as one of the first people Ava meets when she arrives in town.  She’s popular, sweet as pie, and always wears jeans, tank top, and a ponytail.  Thanks to Tule’s awesome cover artist, my female cover model has a pony tail, and she’s a perfect fit for my Shandi!

There are many more details, of course, that you’ll learn if you read the series.  I don’t want to give everything away, do I?

To buy or Preorder on Amazon, just click the cover image!

Please follow me on Bookbub!  Click HERE.

 

I’d love to gift a winner an ebook copy of A COWBOY AND A PROMISE, Book #1, just by chatting with me today!

Some readers love series.  Others love standalones.  What do you feel are the pros AND the cons of series?

Winners! Winners! For Karen Kay’s E-book Giveaway

Howdy!

My husband did the drawing for me and we have three, not two winners.  He thought he’d picked only one, but it was three.  So, I’ll give away three e-books instead of two.

The winners are:

 

Trudy C.

Deb Galloway

Mary-Chris Hines

Congratulations to you all.  And also, many thanks to everyone who came to the blog yesterday and left a reply.  I really love them all.  Trudy, Deb and Mary-Chris please contact me at karenkay.author@startmail.com to get your e-book of IRON WOLF’S BRIDE.

And, before I close here, let me wish one and all a very prosperous and happy new year.