The Grand Canyon of Texas

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Guess who took a class on how to use Photoshop? I now know just enough to be dangerous!

The setting for my new series, Trouble in Texas, is the Palo Duro Canyon, near Amarillo, Texas. My book, Swept Away, is set in 1868, before Amarillo was founded.

This is also when the Palo Duro area was still Indian Territory, so I”ve got a little town set smack in the middle of the canyon, but it”s a scrubby little town full of outcasts. All the people living there were what we might today call “off the grid.”

No train, no telegraph, no stagecoach, the roads were trails

and the co-existence with the Kiowa and Comanche tribes was touchy at best.

About ten years after my book the Indians were forced to relocate and Charles Goodnight came in and founded his fabled JA Ranch which was estimated, at its largest, to encompass over 1.3 million acres and support a herd of 100,000 cows.

So, to me, that proves it”s good ranch country, right? So I set Luke Stone”s ranch there, much smaller but still a nice sized spread.

Palo Duro CanyonAs I searched for an area to set my books, I knew I wanted rugged country and this canyon was perfect. Both beautiful and harsh. It”s known for its multicolored layers of rock, many of the layers a dramatic red, with steep mesa walls that remind you of the Grand Canyon. I heard it called Terra Cotta badlands. They also talked about the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River, who could not love a river named Prairie Dog Town Fork? I”m always trying to name my fictionalized towns something that means something. The town in Swept Away is called Broken Wheel, and it is called that for exactly why you”d think. Someone passing through had a broken wheel and decided to stay. There are towns all over the country with strange and charming names like that.

Palo Duro CanyonGeorgia O”Keefe, famed painter of the American Southwest, painted in Palo Duro many times. She called it, “a burning, seething cauldron, filled with dramatic light and color.”

Palo Duro has strange and beautiful rock formations, too. I think of this as a tower but read that it”s really called a hoodoo-a tall, thin spire of rock (sounds like a tower to me). The best known of these in Palo Duro is The Lighthouse.

There are also caves, eroded out of the soft, always changing rocks that make up the canyon walls.

by Mary ConnealyI found during my research that there were white settlers even though it was in Indian Territory and they referred to the Red River Wars. In my book Doctor in Petticoats, the hero, a traumatized doctor, had served during the Red River Wars. I wonder if, about six years in the future, Luke Stone (from Swept Away) will meet Alex Buchanan (from Doctor in Petticoats), years before he marries Beth McClellen. I love imagining history weaving itself together in my books. The American West was huge but there weren”t that many people. It”s entirely possible some of heroes and heroines could have known each other.

Swept Away is in bookstores now. I finally got to see it on an actual shelf! That”s when it starts to seem real to me that I”ve got another book out.

Also, Out of Control, book #1 of the Kincaid Brides Series, is now FREE on ebooks, if you”ve never given my books a try, this is your chance to do it for NO MONEY (c”mon, take a chance!!!!)

Out of Control on Amazon Kindle

Out of Control on Nook

All ebook formats are free.

Find out more about all my books at:


We has SIX CALVES born Sunday, March 10 in a Nebraska blizzard.

All six lived but My Cowboy husband was out in the snow almost all day fighting for their lives.

We brought the vet out for a prolapsed uterus.

Another, which was hours later and the vet long gone, we hauled twenty miles on treacherous roads to the vet for a cesarean.

Another My Cowboy”s brother pulled while My Cowboy was at the vet.

Three were born without intervention.


Come and follow My Cowboy”s spring calf season on Facebook:

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Author of Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys including the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series

18 thoughts on “The Grand Canyon of Texas”

  1. Look at you learning photo shop. I’m so proud of you! I haven’t done that yet, though I get jealous when I see what wonderful majic my friends can create. One of these days I’m going to have to get that and play with it.

    Love your setting. Palo Duro Canyon in one of the places Wes and I stopped on our honeymoon trip, so it has a special place in my heart. Gorgeous and rugged – perfect for a new Mary Connealy series!

    Congrats on the 6 successful births. Sounds like you had some real-life drama going on. So glad you had happy endings with each case.

  2. Good morning, Mary. I know your new book is wonderful and I’m fixin’ to go over and order it right away. As someone born and raised in Amarillo, I love Palo Duro Canyon and the many stories about it. It’s a wonderful setting for a story. And, I absolutely love your calves. When we had the same storm here before it headed your way, our friend’s husband who owns a ranch north of town raced to it because they also had cows fixin’ to drop calves. He goes out to “hay his moos,” as she calls it. I love that, too. Between their foreman and her hubby, I don’t think they lost any calves, but it’s hard to make sure it doesn’t happen. Thanks for selecting my neck of the woods to tell your story. Off to order it. Hugs, Phyliss

  3. What a beautiful place, Mary! I’ve never set a book in Texas, barely been there except in the big cities. Now I’m just learning about its wild side and how amazing it is. Thanks for the lesson.
    Your book sounds delightful.

  4. Love the pictures..would like to visit that area someday.

    Having calves in a blizzard is no fun! I always ended up with one or two in the house when that happened.

  5. Hi Mary………I love Palo Duro Canyon. It’s an awesome, breathtaking place. Like you said it’s ever-changing. I go there every chance I get.

    Wishing you lots of luck with your new book!

  6. Hi Mary:

    Millions of people have been to the Palo Duro state park. Many of these have been to the outdoor play held on the actual site of the story. It’s an unforgettable outdoor spectacle. We loved it and hope to see it again this year. I’ve been asking Linda Goodnight, (husband is related to Charles Goodnight of the Goodnight Trail), to set a story in this area. Do you think they would carry her book in the gift shop? A book set in Palo Duro written by a Goodnight?

    Now I see you have done it! But where are the keywords ‘Palo Duro’ on your book cover or the copy on Amazon? I’d call it the “Palo Duro Canyon, Trouble in Texas” Series. Let the millions of people who have visited Palo Duro state park get a chance to vicariously re-visit the park. And get the book in the gift shop! Oh yes, and I’d let it out that if you are going to visit Palo Duro, you just most read your series of books set first! (When I lived in Italy everyone said I had to read “The Agony and the Ecstasy” before I visited Florence.)


    P.S. Please show this post to a marketing person at your publisher.

  7. Amazing site of these Canyons.. I hope one day to see it in person.
    Good for your Cowboy husband who saved all of those calves…

  8. Hi Mary! I’ve never been to that part of Texas but your pictures make me really want to go – gorgeous! And congrats on the six thriving calves born during the blizzard conditions. No blizzards here but we did have one cow drop twin calves last week. Hubby was worried tht she wouldn’t raise both of them, but he put her and her calves in a pen and has been giving her extra feed and keeping a close eye on them and it looks now like all will be well.

  9. those pictures are really cool. and here i thought Texas was predominantly flat.

    i got Out of Control for free. read it and promptly bought the next two books ‘cuz, well – i just had to know the HEA for all the brothers.

    ps. if you need photoshop help, feel free to contact me. i’m a graphic artist and use that program often. i might be able to show you a few shortcuts.

  10. I love the pics. it just gives me even more of real pic when im re-reading your books. I just finished Swept away!!! i loved it and cant wait for the next one. I have read all you books and I tell all my friends that they need to read your books. They are all very good!

  11. Love the pictures. I am amazed how much some of it looks like our own Red Rock Canyon, (North of Mojave, CA). Not as extensive as Palo Duro, though. Just beautiful and to have a ranch in the middle of it would be dreamy.
    My husband used to do the cowboy thing with the pulling of calves. It seemed that it always happened during the Worst weather of the year. Good luck and best wishes to the cowboy husband and brother.
    And your new book.

  12. I am awed at the hoodoos, large pillars of rock standing up so majestically without reason. We have several hoodoos around locally and awe me all the time. The Palo Duro is certainly a jewel in the rough and you captured it beautifully in the photo’s you have. I am looking forward to reading more of your books in the future as I have enjoyed what I read so far. I enjoy the typical daily humour that you insert into your stories that bring a reader in. Congrats on Swept Away.

  13. Vince that’s a great idea and I will follow up on it HOWEVER I have sent books in the Grand Canyon and fictionalized Carlsbad Cavern and set a scene at Mesa Verde. I’ve approached all those places to carry my books and have had ZERO luck. I think they just don’t really do much fiction I guess.

  14. Most people don’t realize just how much work ranching/farming is. There always seems to be a minor , or major, crisis somewhere, especially this time of the year.

    The area where you have set your new series is pretty country. We hope to get back to Texas and see more of the state. It has such a wide variety of landscapes to explore. The West in general has so much to offer. Mesa Verde is a favorite of ours. We have been there at least 5 or 6 times over the years.

    We have purchased fiction books at some parks, but most of what they carry is non-fiction. I think part of it may be the “Romance” label attached. Too bad.

  15. Seeing the picture of the black & white face momma with the herford heifer reminded me of what happened in our family – you can add it to book. My granddaddy raised polled herefords, his son-in-law (my uncle) raised angus. My uncle wasn’t good at keeping fences up and his bull got in with granddaddy’s hereford & out came a black & white face. That destroyed their relationship! My granddaddy was a spiteful (seriously) man, left $1 to his daughter – who was married to the angus man.

  16. WOW. I’m in awe. SIX in one day! That is just amazing to me. Your cowboy had his work cut out for him, didn’t he? Sorry to be so late chiming in. I loved your post, as always. I admire you for taking the photo shop class–it’s beyond me.

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