Guest: Mary Connealy!

What I tried to do in Petticoat Ranch is get inside a man’s head.cover_petticoatranch_sm.jpg

I’m lucky I got out alive.

The comedy in Petticoat Ranch comes largely from my heroine Sophie thinking like a woman and my hero Clay thinking like a man. They have even less exposure to the opposite sex than is usual.

Well, Sophie’s had exposure, she’s just come away with a very dim view. Clay grew up around men in the Rocky Mountains. He’s completely lost.

All Clay knows about women he’s heard or made up. He expects quiet, polite little women folk to stay clean, stay inside, cook his dinner. He doesn’t quite get it that they’ve been living on their own on a Texas ranch for years.

All Sophie knows about men is from her worthless husband. She had to do most of the work when he was alive and keeping him happy—a hopeless task—was just one chore she didn’t have to do after he was dead. She expects little or nothing from her new husband.

I suppose it’s risky to ever believe you know what a man is thinking but I feel like I had a little better chance than a lot of people because of my husband.

Ivan comes from a family of seven sons. His mother is a saint. That woman can tell stories of blood and destruction and mayhem that would make Stephen King run screaming.

Now Ivan and I have four daughters. Watching the mystified way he reacts to the girls is funny.

If you’ve got sons and daughters both you know how brothers are. They torment their sisters for entertainment.
“Yay! I made her scream!”
“Yay! I made her cry!”
“Yay! I embarrassed her in front of her friends!”

Little brothers learn to not only accept those crying, screaming moments from sisters, they revel in them.  But to a man who’s never had a sister to torture, females remain very much a mystery. I’ve decided it’s one of those things you learn as part of your childhood development…or you never learn it at all.

So, once when one of the girls was crying over some trauma…I think she got called out in a softball game…or maybe benched…or scolded by the coach, I can’t remember. I was hugging her and listening to her cry it out and just generally doing this, “Oh, honey, oh sweet baby, you poor thing”…routine until the tears stopped. That’s what they seem to need.

Ivan came in and he saw her crying and he was furious. Injustice! Who made you cry? Why I oughta….

When his growling didn’t make her stop crying—shocker—he pulled out his billfold and offered her twenty dollars.
Well, my daughter is a bright little thing and after all, it’s not like she’d never lost a ball game before. She snatched the twenty and cheered right up.

Later, I had a little talk with him about the wisdom of teaching the girls that crying in front of a boy earns you money.
Hello emotional blackmail!
Hello romantic comedy novel.
Hello ‘Petticoat Ranch’.

img_6416.jpgI did research for the place—Texas. The history, the flora and fauna, the clothing, the ranching, the lingo. But the kernel of the story comes from my real life Petticoat Ranch.

What do you think? Are heroes harder for women authors to write? Do we really know what’s going on inside a man’s head? Are our heroes all romanticized? Are they doing what we wish they’d do instead of what a man really does?

I’m going to have a drawing for an autographed copy of Petticoat Ranch today. Everyone who leaves a comment has their name thrown in the hat.

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74 thoughts on “Guest: Mary Connealy!”

  1. I think heroes can be harder for women authors to write, though “people watching” and personal experience can help. I grew up with one sister, but I had 3 uncles I was around growing up, my grandfathers, my dad, cousins, ex-boyfriends, friends. Some of them I could ‘read’, while others still remain a mystery even to this day.

    Sometimes I don’t understand my husband, but then, there are other times it seems I know him like the back of my hand.

    I don’t know that we really know what’s going on in their heads, but I think all of us have at one time or another known a man who really showed what he was thinking, feeling.

    Are they all romanticized? Maybe to a point. I know when I read/or write a book I definitely want the hero to turn out to be more than some hardshelled, thoughtless jerk, otherwise the heroine would have no reason to love him at all and that wouldn’t be much of a romance.

    Have a great day- I’m off to get everything else I need to do out of my way so I can start working on my NaNo novel.

  2. Mary, your post had me grinning, as always.

    We romance writers definitely write for the heroes in our hearts–and readers read for them, too. Men are a different lot. After 32 years, my husband is 98% predictable, but that other 2% when he surprises me makes me fall in love with him all over again.

    Academia has debated the merits of romance novels in the belief that they paint an unrealistic view of love and relationships. A fantasy, if you will. Perhaps there’s a degree of truth in that, but there’s a great deal of allure in creating that fantasy that literally millions of women can relate to.

    Thank you for blogging for us, Mary!

  3. Hi Mary! Love your post. You have such a wonderful, humorous voice. I’m sure “Petticoat Ranch” is fantastic!

    I’m sure (I hope) as comments trickle in, I won’t be the odd man out here. I love writing inside my hero’s head and find it much easier than the heroine. Over the years, I’ve thought about possible reasons why. Here’s what I came up with.

    During my growing up years, I much preferred to watch and listen to what the boys and men were doing. No, I wasn’t a so-called tomboy. I just found the men’s conversations to be vastly more riveting that the women’s. Back then, remember, women were limited (for the most part and where I come from)in their activities. The men did much more exciting things, and they talked about them.

    So, for me, heroes are easier to write. I love getting into their p.o.v. Many of my heroes are gunslingers, etc., so go figure. :o) But I must say, I used to be a dead shot with a pistol, but that was years ago, before I had to start wearing reading glasses to see my hand in front of my face.

    Thanks for being here!

  4. Hi Mary– It’s good to see you on THIS end of Petticoats – our guest blogger! I too, like to write hero-driven and hero minded stories. I love getting into their heads. I’ve been married 33 years and I don’t claim to Know what’s in my husband’s head at all. But I know HIM. He’s great and sweet and romantic at times, but there is the giant communication gap between us. But I find that’s generally true of man/woman relationships. Men do think differently. I’ve taken workshops on it and you know what I’ve found. The man’s mind is a lot less complicated than ours – I don’t mean that sarcastically or to imply we’re smarter (well maybe), but women read more into situations than men. At any rate, I do love a good strong hero and an equally met-his-match heroine. Your story sounds marvelous!!

  5. I suspect we have romanticized men in our writing. Of course, that’s the point right? For a book to ‘take us away’.
    My husband has grabbed onto this ‘theory’ he’s fond of.
    Men think things through. Women talk things through.
    I think that might have some validity. I know I’ll start asking him a question, not something he knows I don’t know, but something I’m trying to decide. By the time I’m through with the question and the pros and cons of the decision, I’ve made it. So I’ll end the question with, “Forget it. I know what I’m going to do.”
    Which usually earns me an exasperated look. I’ve actually learned to think the question through to the end now before I ask it, saving that whole conversation. But what’s the point of saving a conversation. Conversation is fun–for me.
    It just helps me to hear it said out loud.

  6. So Taryn says heroes are harder and Devon says they’re easier. That can just be explained by individual skill or preference.
    But what I always wonder is; are we getting it right?
    Maybe, like Charlene said, Men are less complicated. Another way to put that is, Men are more straight forward, direct.
    Pam, thanks for letting me guest blog.

  7. Several years ago I listened to Harold Lowry’s workshop on writing the male pov on tape. It was hilarious to hear a man admit the things we women already know. Men are driven by much more basic needs than women. Hunger, thirst, lust (or the need to procreate), and the instinct to hold territory and protect what’s theirs. For some reason, men aren’t wired to get into the complex emotions the way women do–although I have known plenty of men who were just as emotion-driven as women. I find it fascinating that a woman is capable of using both sides of her brain simultaneously, while men can only use one side or the other, but not both at the same time. Hmm…I hope I got that right.

  8. Great post, Mary! This is my first visit to this site, but it won’t be my last. It’s great! I’m working on a proposal for a western right now, and this was a great encouragement. I read Petticoat Ranch and LOVED it. It’s a laugh-out-loud book.

  9. Hi, Susan. Thanks for coming. You need to hunt all through this site because these ladies have posted so many great insights, and links, and bios that there’s a ton to learn.
    And lots of fun while you’re learning it.

  10. Mary,
    My husband’s name is Ivan too. And he comes from a family of 7 sons and 4 daughters. He is the strong silent type. Still waters run deep. I like doing the male POV but I’m well aware I write it in an idealized way–the way we women hope our strong males think–a little basic yet with deep emotions that they often don’t express in clear concise ways.

  11. Mary,
    I found this blog via Cindy Holby’s personal website, and I am so ecstatic. Your post was just right to hook me. I agree with Linda Ford on this issue. I think we idealize our heroes. I do find that reading books written by a man helps me get into the male pov.


  12. Whoa, Linda, when you wrote Ivan and Seven Sons, I thought maybe we had one of those bizarre double life kinda guys. But the four sisters changes everything.
    I like the deep emotions theory. We’d like to HOPE that under all that silence and grunting is something. 🙂
    I’ll have to go check out Cindy’s website, too. If she’s linked to Pistols and Petticoats she’d gotta be okay. 🙂

  13. Mary, it’s such a joy to see you guest blog. I love your amazing wit. You always come up with something wise disguised as humor. Kinda like Maxine, the greeting card woman. And I think I speak for the rest of us fillies that P&P is better for having your presence. 🙂

    Great topic to choose. I just wish I knew what goes on inside a man’s head. They are mysterious beings–kinda like aliens from Mars! But, oh how I love ’em, especially when he surprises me. I think I can get into a man’s pov pretty good when with my hero, but I’m much more comfortable writing heroines. I know how women think and can add some funny or tender scenes because I know us. 🙂 I’m just glad for my trusty research books on man-thinking or I’d be floundering around like a fish looking for some water. And I’ll keep on watching, listening, and learning. Life is a good teacher.

    Thanks for blogging with us! Petticoat Ranch is on my list. I know it’ll be a fun read. Wishing you lots of success.

  14. Wonderful post, Mary! I loved Petticoat Ranch! Love your humor that just dances off the page. The heroes I write are probably more what we women would like men to be, but the stories they live in aren’t humorous. The one comedy I’ve written has a far more realistic hero. Maybe the choice is between drooling and having a good laugh.

  15. Wonderful post, Mary!! Thanks so much for joining us today. I can’t wait to read Petticaot Ranch! I love humor in books, in fact–those are my guaranteed keepers 🙂

    Maybe I’m one of few women authors who relate far better to the male POV. I grew up with brothers, we lived in the country and until I hit high school, my closest friends were always boys — I didn’t get girls (didn’t particularly like them either). I didn’t like their games; jump rope, hop scotch, standing around giggling…I just wanted to run with the boys — so I did 🙂 I’m ever so thankful to have two sons–I prayed for boys, certain a daughter would not delight in a mother who hates to shop, could care less about jewelry, and wouldn’t be caught dead in anything pink. A gothic tomboy at heart *g*, I’ve always related better to my heroes–they are the easiest for me to write. I also started out reading straight-up western novels because I liked the knife fights and gunfights—I like ACTION. I try to combine the elements I love in both genres: rugged action, passionate romance, desert-dry ‘guy’ humor 🙂 But for the most part, my heroes are always clear in my mind, where as I have to put a lot of effort into ‘figuring out’ my heroines 😉

    It’s very interesteing to see how everyone’s backgrounds influence their perspectives on everything around them. 🙂

  16. Thanks for this great post. Your new novel sounds wonderful. Heroes are definitely romanticized and most women love that type of man, especially so in the days of the Westerns. Women were looking for this escape, and it was provided with these books. I look forward to enjoying this book.

  17. You prayed for boys? That’s so funny, Stacey. I just finished my WIP. I call it The Husband Tree, (we’ll see if the title sticks) It’s named after the place the heroine buries all her worthless husbands.
    She’s got four daughters and every time she gets pregnant she prays the whole time for daughters because she has no clue how to raise up a son to be anything but worthless…she figures it’s inevitable.
    The woman has serious issues and NO interest in the cowhand she was just forced to hire.
    Of course, true love cannot be far behind.

  18. I don’t know about that title, Mary—dead husbands and trees makes me think of that people tree in 300! *G* I’m praying for that ranch hand – sounds like he’s got his work cut out for him 😉

  19. Mary, great post. I loved your book, too! I really enjoy writing in the male POV. I think it’s because men are emotionally complex and we’re forever trying to figure them out!

  20. Thanks for the head’s up. As usual, your post had me laughing out loud. Can’t wait to read the Husband Tree. Or Petticoat’s sequel. Or Of Mice…and Murder. Or anything else you want to throw my way!

  21. Having two brothers and five sort of brothers (my mom’s best friend’s sons) that I spent more time with than any girls growing up, I tend to feel more comfortable writing the male scenes than the female. But I think I still idealize them to a certain extent. I mean, how can I fall in love with them and have the heroine fall in love with them, if they don’t have something other than physical yumminess.

    The book you’re working on now, sounds interesting too!
    Great Blog, Mary!

  22. There’s a ‘people tree’ in 300?
    Okay, that’s a code right, Stacey?
    Is there a movie called 300? That sounds kind of familiar.
    Believe me, while Belle is digging the hole for husband #3 her main concern is time lost from chores, which side has she already planted a husband on and damaging the roots of the poor tree. She is NOT grieving.
    The woman has a seriously bad attitude toward marriage.
    Suzan and Suzanne, thanks for coming. Teh debate over whether men are emotionally complex could go on indefinitely. Of course the debate would be between woman because men would never bother to wonder. but the ‘forever trying to figure them out’ part is dead on.
    Suzanne, I’m glad you liked Petticoat Ranch. I tried to give my poor hero Clay as hard a time as possible and I think I succeeded.
    So, Paty, do you think you’ve got a bead on men, then? Because you could start giving speeches and probably make a fortune.

  23. Hmm, Devon, you might have a point there. I had two older brothers, and we lived on a farm. As my brothers took jobs away from the farm, I ended up being Daddy’s right hand girl. I’ve dogged calves, milked cows, been caught in a stampede, cut, raked, and baled hay and helped rebuild a few tractors, and more1

    I’m not sure if I get into the heads of my cowboys enough to make them believable, but I try, and I reckon that’s all anybody can do.

    PS. Farm gals just don’t let on to your dh that you can do all these things…especially if you marry a cowboy/farmer. I spent more time hauling cows to the stockyard while on maternity leave than I did sitting at home rocking the babies. Sigh.

    PSS. Stacey, it sounds like we were separated at birth! lol

  24. Wonderful post! My brother has all boys (three of them) and my sister has only daughters (two of them) so when all the kids get together they are not quite sure how to interact with each other…LOL…different interests, different toys, different sensitivity levels, etc. You should have seen one of the boys trying to play with Barbies…LOL

    I have been wanting to read this book for a while now, but haven’t gotten it yet. It sounds like a great story!

  25. Pam! I know just what you mean about Don’t let them find out you can do stuff.
    Hello, milked cows for years before the first baby was born…Yeesh.
    Then when I was pregnant, Ivan said somethign like, “It just wouldn’t be worth it if you got kicked.”
    Well, now, did I protest and give him a talking to about how protected a baby is inside a mother AND that in the years I’d been milking I’d never gotten kicked.
    No way. I just agreed sweetly and retired FOREVER from milking.

  26. Getting inside a man’s head wasn’t so hard, Stormi. Getting back out though…tricky. 🙂
    Ivan’s family has a little of this All or Nothing streak in it, Jennifer. He’s from all boys. We’ve got all girls. Three other brothers have all one of the other. Very strange. And then three are mixed boys and girls so no real order to it.
    The Husband Tree is a while in the future. I’m just thinking about it because I finished it yesterday.
    The sequel to Petticoat Ranch, Calico Canyon, is coming next August.
    You can read a synopsis of it on my website,
    Petticoat Ranch is one man dropped into an all female world.
    Calico Canyon is the flip side. A prissy school marm in a forced marriage to a widower with five sons…her most unruly students.
    And the marriage is forced by a completely innocent compromising situation right after she gets his boys kicked out of school and he gets her fired.
    NOT a marriage made in heaven.

  27. Mary, I enjoyed your post just as I knew I would. I don’t know about this male/female thing though. Are you sure we’re supposed to understand guys? I don’t think I want them understanding me. That would ruin the fun! Actually I’ve got my husband figured out after 40 years. It’s a sure bet he’s going to do or say just the opposite of what I’m thinking.

    As for the heroes I come up with, who knows? I think they probably do what I wish more than anything else. Hopefully I’m wishing they are like they should be. I don’t think they are harder to write than the heroines, just as has already been said, maybe a little less complicated.

    BTW, Stacy, I prayed for girls. I got one, too. And two boys.

    Mary, I’m looking forward to The Husband Tree. How intriguing that sounds! Can it be better than Petticoat Ranch?

  28. I think my husband has a ‘debate’ gene.
    You’d think after 31 years of marriage I could predict what the man would say. Sometimes I think he’s just waiting for ME to say something so he can pick the other side and debate it with me.


    How come I can not have any idea what he’ll say but then when he does say it, he’d ABSOLUTELY adament about it? You’d think anything he cared about this much, I’d have a clue. But No-o-o-o-o

  29. Stacey, after reading your post, you’re going on my automatic buy list. I started out reading straight westerns, too, and that’s what I used to write. Love the shoot-em-up gunfights and even enjoy writing a good knock-down, drag-out fistfight.

  30. Hi Mary!

    There are some authors that I enjoy their heroes a lot and I think that is because they have things in common with the men in my life. When a heroes reaction to something is similar to what I’ve experienced I can relate to it and smile.

  31. What a great post! Can a woman ever know what goes on in a mans’ head? I am pretty sure a man has no clue what goes on in a womans.

  32. Hi, Maureen. That’s when it’s perfect isn’t it? When we’re reading and all the sudden we can completely identify. The hero says something and you just react like, “Oh, that’s such a man thing to say.”
    Or the heroine wants to say the RIGHT thing but what she says comes out all wrong and makes everything worse…lots of real life stuff in THAT. 🙂
    Devon, the underlying reason for her husband’s deaths is stupidity.
    Belle is found of saying, The west can kill you in a hundred different ways. And if you’re stupid and/or lazy, it can kill you in a thousand.
    So, when people pressure her to remarry after her first stupid lazy husband’s death she caves but figures it’s not really PERMANENT, since her new husband is worse than her first.
    But Belle likes to be in charge, so she needs to admit that she’s choosing husbands she can push around and whatever she ends up with is at least partly her own fault. As she buries husband number three she vows to never let the world push her into marriage again.
    So when a man comes along she can’t push around, she’s got to back off and let someone else help her. It does NOT come naturally.
    A lot of the mindset of Petticoat Ranch is the same as The Husband Tree.
    Only while Sophie–a very tough woman–in Petticoat Ranch–is struggling to survive. Belle Tanner in The Husband Tree is getting by just fine.

  33. Mary, they both sound wonderful! I love it when characters have to struggle and even fight for their HEA. I also love reading about strong women, even one whose mindset may have to alter a bit before she can find happiness with the one man who can stand toe-to-toe with her. :o)

  34. Mary, great post!
    Getting inside a man’s head… Isn’t that an impossible task? Well, it is to me!
    Husband tree sounds awsome!!

  35. Clever blog site. Very attractive and great comments. Do we understand men? No. I’ve been married 50 years and still don’t get it.

  36. I think it must be hard to write a novel… but a hero that is likeable – I think that with a good imagination… we could all figure out the perfect man!

  37. It’s always risky to assume you understand what’s going on in a man’s head. I have an absolute jewel of a husband, but even when we are talking very candidly about things, it’s so easy to misunderstand the motivations. I do think men tend to be more straight-forward–much less worrying about the ulterior motives or emotional ramifications than we women do. That makes it very easy for us to read things into their actions that they never even considered. I have found that men in novels written by women tend to be much more complex creatures than most women in novels written by men. Are women authors braver or men authors wiser?????

  38. Devon, what’s HEA?
    Stephie and Evelyn, I don’t think we ever DO understand men. But it must be worth trying because we just keep at it.
    Lily, you’re talking about two different things. Realist and lovable…at lest in fiction. I think if we get too realistic…well… we want a little less realism in books, I think.
    It is hard to write a novel, Nathalie. Or rather it’s a strange kinda lonely pastime not suited for everyone.
    Pat, I think I write books with strong women because that’s how I WISH I was.
    In my books my women say what’s on their minds and don’t take lip from anyone. In real life, I’m the peacemaker at home. The calm in the middle of all this emotional storm from my daughters and my husband. So I spend most of my life biting my tongue.
    I think writing is my safety valve. 🙂

  39. I love reading about guys – I only had a sister and then I had two girls so reading about how they grew up is always fun.

  40. I think they mostly just rassle and hit each other Jeanne. I’m basing that on my own little brothers and a little guys I know.
    That’s how I’m having them behave in Calico Canyon.

  41. LOL Mary…you just described my brother’s boys…they pick at each other and argue, but if someone else messes with one of them, watch out! They band together then. Tackle and wrestling are favorite pasttimes lol.

  42. Mary,
    Loved your comments about brothers making sisters scream. My son loved nothing better than to aggravate his little sister.
    My husband and I are opposites, which makes life very interesting. He’s quiet and reserved. I’m not. My hubby jokes that I have to get in my 10,000 words a day or I’m still talking to him as he’s going to sleep.
    Thanks for sharing this website. I’ll be back. My wip is set on an open range ranch.

  43. Hi, Betty. I just read today’s comic strip For Better of Worse. Big brother tormenting his little sister. I just proves my theory.
    And Jennifer, my herd of little boys definitely band together…usually against their new step-mama.

  44. I’ve told my husband a million times, he doesn’t have to “fix” everything. Sometimes the best cure is a simple, “Oh, I know what you mean.” Men always think they have to have the answers, don’t they? That’s why I love my girlfriends. They just commiserate or come up with better complaints!

    Yes, we do know what they’re thinking. We just don’t think it’s right.

  45. Ah, summing up everything, Cheryl. Nice work.
    That’s right, just let me vent. Don’t fix it. Because even if they DO fix it, I STILL need to vent so he’d thwarted the main reason I’m talking.

  46. Hi, Connie. Thanks for stopping by. And thanks for the kind words about Petticoat Ranch. It’s book one of a three book series. Book 2 – Calico Canyon is coming next August. Check my website for more information as it becomes available.

  47. Mary, all you books sound FAB!! The movie 300 came out last year, starring bare-chested hottie Gerald Butler as King Leonidas, leading his 300 Spartan warriors aganst thousands of invading Persians. The ‘people tree’ was quite literal, and gruesome…but it was a pretty good movie. Could have done without the erotic overtones in some parts–but overall, worth watching 🙂

    Thanks, Devon! Love them death-defying action scenes 😉

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