Excerpt Friday – The Nutcracker Bride

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Welcome to Excerpt Friday!  Each Friday we’ll be featuring excerpts from recent releases by our very own Fillies.  So grab a cup of coffee and read on.  And if you find you’re hooked by what you read (and we know you will be!) just click on the book cover to purchase the entire book.


From Author Margaret Brownley – THE NUTCRACKER BRIDE


2_NutcrackerBrideKansas 1880

Thunderous hoof beats broke the silence on that gray December day. Even the air crackled with urgency.

Lucy Langdon dumped a handful of hulled nuts into her bucket and looked up from beneath the walnut tree. Someone was in a big hurry. Such haste generally meant an emergency: a tornado, prairie fire, or locust invasion—a doctor needed. Or maybe Mr. Jones had been attacked by one of his chickens again.

She craned her neck, but the road curved around the Holbrook orchard, preventing her from seeing much beyond the bend.

Even her sorrel, hitched to the wagon, sensed something amiss. Ears pricked forward, she pawed the ground and whinnied.

“It’s all right, Penny,” Lucy called as she hastened to calm her skittish mare. As the pounding hooves moved closer, Penny tried pulling free from the traces. In the struggle to contain her horse, Lucy’s straw bonnet flew off.

A shiny black steed sprang into view and galloped at full speed toward her. The horseman reined in next to her wagon, his powerful mount rearing back on its hind legs and pawing the air. A flash of blue eyes and a handsome square face greeted her from beneath his wide-brimmed hat.

“Save that for me!” the stranger yelled, spinning his mount around in a tight circle beside the wagon.

Startled, she called back, “Save what?” But her question went unanswered, for already the man had raced away.

No sooner had he vanished than three more horsemen rode into view, their faces half-hidden by scarlet kerchiefs. A shiver of panic raced through her. Outlaws!

Lucy released Penny and grabbed her shotgun from the back of the wagon. Her rapid heartbeats all but drowned out the pounding of hooves as the desperados raced past.

Paying her no heed, the masked men headed in the direction of her house. Her first thought was for her grandfather. God, please don’t let them stop there!

She swooped up her bonnet and reached for the bucket, tossing both into the wagon. She would have to pay old man Holbrook later for the nuts.

Scrambling onto the driver’s seat, she grabbed the reins and released the brake. “Gid-up!” she shouted. Cracking her whip, she drove home helter-skelter, the wheels of her wagon kicking up dust in her wake.

BJ Akin Will Be Here Saturday!

Sandhills DreamerMiz BJ Akin has put her foot in the stirrups and will arrive on Saturday, November 1st.

This lady is a dreamer and she dreams large. She has such a love for horses and cowboy life so we have a lot in common!

Miz BJ has just released her first novel. I’m sure we won’t have to twist her arm to get her to spill the beans about it.

And she’s toting 3 copies to give away!

Yippee! Don’t dawdle come Saturday.

Head over and join the party!

Most Asked Questions About the Old West


I picked up an interesting book at a swap meet titled 1001 Most-asked Questions About the American West by Harry E. Chrisman. The book is out of print but there are a few left on Amazon.   I bet you didn’t know there were that many questions to ask about cowboys.  Here are some samples from the book:

Did Indians have any special word to describe the covered wagons they saw on the plains?

They called them “teepees on wheels.”

howdySo many western people say “howdy” when they meet you on the street. Where did the term originate?

Howdy is short for “How-do-you-do?” You don’t have to tell the inquirer how you feel, for he doesn’t care anyway! A cowboy once advised a friend never to say “Howdy” to a talkative, glib Easterner whom they both knew. “Why not?” the second cowboy asked. “Because he’ll tell you,” came the answer.

Is there any record of a woman riding in a cattle stampede?

Old cowboy Anderson from Sequin, Texas told of seeing a lady ride side-saddle being swept into a longhorn stampede. He wrote: “Seeing the cattle gaining, that woman swung herself astride and pulled off a race that beat anything I ever saw.” This is what they called riding “clothespin” style.

Was marijuana used to any extent in the settlement of the Old West?

Marijuana was not used as a drug. However one Western expert has noted that even Bibles and wagon covers were often made from the Devil’s weed, in addition to some of the clothing the pioneers wore and the hemp rope they used.

What was a “pitcher and catcher hotel” in the early West?sign

It has nothing to do with baseball. A pitcher was what they called the washbowl, and the catcher (or thundermug) was the chamber pot. Margaret here: Whoever thought up the name thundermug must have had a real problem.

What was the usual bounty offered for an outlaw when the posters read, “Wanted, dead or alive.”

$500 would bring a man in dead or alive. That was a lot of money back in the 1870-80s.

What did the term “grubline gossip” mean?

Cowboys laid off during the winter months would ride from ranch to ranch looking for odd jobs. In exchange for free food they reported whatever news they heard on their travels and this was called grubline gossip.

What were the worst factors pioneers had to contend with?

Blizzards, Indians, fleas, snakes, cholera, small pox, diphtheria, lice, bedbugs, prairie fire, falls into deep wells, accidents from livestock, cyclones, runaway horses, stampedes, heat sunstroke, silence of the plains and loneliness. Many women thought the latter two the worst.


Petticoat Detective coversmall

What would have been the worst

factor for you?

Petticoat Detective

Working undercover is no job for a lady, but one thing is certain;

Come hell or high water, Jennifer Layne always gets her man!

Available for preorder in print, eBook or MP3 CD



Cover Quirks

newsletter_headerjpg - 2

It’s always exciting to get your first look at a new cover. Even if it gives you an odd feeling of deja vu. That’s what happened to me when myFullSteamAhead Cover Final editor first sent me the cover art for my next project, Love on the Mend.

This a novella that follows up with a character from Full Steam Ahead. In that story, the hero and heroine take in a runaway boy named Jacob. The full story of what led the boy to run away in the first place, however, is never completely revealed . . . until the novella. In Love on the Mend, Jacob is a full-grown man, a doctor weary from his time as a surgeon in the Civil War and all the death witnessed firsthand. He longs for peace, but knows he will never have it unless he lays his past to rest. So after 17 years, he finally returns home, only to discover that his past is still alive and kicking.

Now, since this new story will only be available in digital format, and as a novella it will be offered at a fraction of the full-length novel price, my publisher decided that it would be more cost effective to use material they already had in-house for the cover instead of doing an entirely new cover shoot. Being a frugal person, myself, I thought this a wise plan. Besides, it left me with a fun quirk for my cover.

Playing off the doctor angle and using what they had on hand, the art department came up with this adorable cover–one that is remarkably similar to a book by the wonderfully fun Cathy Marie Hake.

My new cover. (You can click on it to pre-order the e-novella.)
That Certain Spark
The original cover from 2009. (You can click this one, too. Grin.)

















They changed the scenery in the background, photo-shopped the color of the dress to change the stripes into a teal color and used a different pose and props than the one selected for Cathy’s cover, yet the two remain very similar.

Now Cathy’s book came out five years ago in 2009, so I wasn’t sure if anyone would even notice. But the first time I posted the cover on Facebook, one savvy librarian from the Netherlands was quick to pick up on it. She asked straight out if it was the same model and dress. Yep. Didn’t bother me in the least, though. It’s not like going to prom and finding two other girls wearing the exact same gown as you. No, to me it was a conversation starter. Besides, I’m a huge fan of Cathy Marie Hake and was honored to share a cover model with her.

The only complaint I have at all is that the style of dress is not right for my time period. Love on the Mend takes place in 1868. The skirt should be much fuller and belled out. But other than that, I’m very pleased. It’s fun, cute, a bit flirtatious, and it fits my feisty heroine, Molly Tate, just fine.

  • So what do you think of the cover?
  • Ever showed up to a gathering wearing the same dress or blouse as someone else?

We Have 3 Winners for Karen Kay’s Free Give-Away

bannerYes, we have two winners for the free give-away.  And those winners are Mel K and Vickie Couturier and Melanie Backus.

Mel K and Vickie and Melanie, could you please email me privately at karenkay(dot)author(at)earthlink(dot)net — so we can go over which book you would like and the best way to get it to you.

Congratulations to you both, and my hearty thanks to all of you who came here today and left a message.  I really enjoyed chatting with you all.

Have a super rest of the evening and a terrific rest of the week — and oh, before I forget it — HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

WIRELESS COM, North American Indian Style


And a Happy Tuesday to you!  I’ll be giving away a free ebook — or mass market copy of one of my books if you don’t yet have an e-reader — to some lucky blogger today.  All you have to do to enter the drawing is to come on in and leave a comment.

So…today I thought we’d have a look at various communication systems used by the old-time American Indian.  Some time back, I wrote and email about wireless com — Native American Style.  I believe at that time I gave a brief overview of various methods of wireless com — hundreds of years ago.  Today, I thought I’d continue in that vein.

indians on the hillI think sometimes we in the modern world forget how ingenious were those who went before us.  In our day and age of the internet and so many things at our fingertips, I think we forget that our forerunners had so many ways to stay in communicate at great distances.  Here are a few that could be used when the person you were communicating to wasn’t visible — or at a great distance from you.  Smoke, dust signals and of course, fire and fire arrows.

Here is a quote from Josiah Gregg’s Commerce of the Prairies — vol ii, p. 286:

“The most remarkable (way of communicating) is by raising smokes, by which many important facts are communicated to a considerable distance and made intelligible by the manner, size, number, or repetition of the smokes, which are commonly raised by firing spots of dry grass.”

When needing to send something to be seen as far away as fifty miles, the highest elevation one can get it needed.  The manner of fire or smoke used was important.  Usually one would start a fire and then cover it with green grass or weeds so that a white smoke was formed — this usually would be seen in a vertical column, which could then be used with a code that was well understood by others within the tribe (but not by those who were not part of the tribe).  A blanket would be put over the fire in such a way as to give signals that were either long or short.

north-american-indians-5So this being said, let’s take a look at some of the things that were said by smoke.  These two were used by the Apache:

Alarm — this uses at least 3 columns — or more — all at once — this shows that there is danger afoot.

Attention — this was usually just one column — something else would usually accompany it to tell what it was that needed attention — for instance if a camp was being taken down or set up — or to give warning of an enemy.

Fire arrows were often used on the prairie to communicate.  For instance, amongst the Santee Sioux, one fire arrow meant that the enemy was about — two arrows meant danger and three arrows meant great danger.  Two arrows sent up at the same moment could mean “we will attack,” and an arrow shot in a particular direction if diagonal, would mean that direction.

Now, these meanings often changed — it wouldn’t do to let the enemy know one’s signals and so often a war party would agree on the signals before going out on the prairie.

It was said by others that the Indians could communicate almost anything by use of smoke, fire, fire arrows or dust and that they used their signals intelligently, seldom, if ever, making mistakes — if only because a mistake could mean the safety or not of one’s own party.

assiniboin-indians[1]Of course there was a standard way of communicating tribe to tribe, because all of the American Indian tribes spoke different languages, and that was by way of sign language.  But don’t think that the American Indian was the original inventor of sign language.  Use of gestures to communicate goes way back in history, even Plato making mention of this form of language.  At one time in ancient history, communicating by gestures was part of the education of freemen.

That this form of communication was so well used by the American Indian, however, was unique, if only because whole conversations could be carried on without a single word being said, and the language was so universal on the plains that language formed no barrier whatsoever.

Even in our modern society, there are gestures that are well known and communicate effectively.  That such gestures are commonly grotesque tends to show to me only that our society has degenerated down to such things…shame…

But once, long ago, sign language was common, was well in use and could communicate anything — even the passion of loving and being loved.

Hope you have enjoyed the blog today.  Be sure to leave a comment if you’d like to enter into the drawing.  And please remember to pick up you copy of RED HAWK’S WOMAN, my latest release which has just recently gone on sale.

RedHawksWoman-R -- first drafthttp://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5168/red-hawks-woman




Non-Traditional Christmas Traditions with Sherri Shackelford

I’m working on a Holiday book for next year, which got me to thinking about Christmas traditions. So many of our traditions are passed down from generation to generation. When I was growing up, we were always allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve. We spent Christmas Eve with family – one year with my father’s family, and the following year with my mother’s. Christmas Day was reserved for the immediate family. My mother’s family lived in Minnesota, and they were fond of a particular drink called a Tom & Jerry. The drink consists of a batter which is mixed with hot water and rum or brandy.


You can find recipes for the batter on the internet (it’s a mixture of eggs, spices and powdered sugar), but I’ve been lucky – a local store in my hometown carries the mix around the holidays. (Although you have to order early, it goes fast!) There are special glass and bowl sets for the batter and the drink. I have to admit I like the drink better without the booze! The ritual of mixing the batter with hot water while the smell of nutmeg and cloves fills the air, instantly brings back memories of Christmas.

Tom & Jerry

I’m from the Midwest, so I associate Christmas with cold and snow. For a few years we lived in California. While I enjoyed our Christmases in California, I missed the changing of the seasons and the added communion of being forced indoors by the weather.

When I became a parent, I developed a bit of resentment for the holidays. Usually, the women in the family are the keepers of traditions. (Not always, of course!) And as the keeper of the traditions, we have the added pressure of making everything FESTIVE!

For the holiday book I’m writing, my heroine has no Christmas traditions. Raised by her father, they treated Christmas as a ‘day off’. No chores, no cooking, and no church. The day following Christmas, they traveled into town and bought each other a gift. (This ‘tradition’ started when the heroine’s father forgot Christmas, and had to make up an excuse on the fly.)

Naturally, when my heroine enters into a marriage-of-convenience with a ready-made family, her family traditions are a bit of a shock to my hero.

Which brings me to my questions – Did your family have any holiday traditions that were non-traditional? 

One commentor will win a $5 gift card from Amazon.

Here’s a sneak peak at the cover/blurb for my February book – this is definitely NOT a holiday book! The heroine is an independent suffragist, and I had a lot of fun writing her 🙂 This book kicks off the Prairie Courtship series. Here’s a hint – If you’ve read The Marshal’s Ready-Made Family, you’ll be happy to know that this is her brother, Caleb’s, story.

The Engagement BargainMake-believe betrothal

Rock-solid and reliable, confirmed bachelor Caleb McCoy thought nothing could rattle him; until he discovers he needs to pose as Anna Bishop’s intended groom. After saving her life, his honorable code bid Caleb watch over the innocent beauty. And a pretend engagement is the only way to protect her from further harm. 

Raised by a single mother and suffragist, Anna doesn’t think much of marriage;and she certainly doesn’t plan to try it herself. But playing Caleb’s blushing bride-to-be makes her rethink her independent ways, because their make-believe romance is becoming far too real.


The winners of the five books I gave away are:

Tried and True-Naomi

The Advent Bride-Crystal Barnes

The Gingerbread Bride-Heidi

Hope for the Holidays-Contemporary Bundle-Kimberly Helton

Hope for the Holidays-Historical Bundle-Laurie Gommermann

The bottom four are ebooks…The Advent Bride and The Gingerbread Bride are available in all formats. Both “Hope for the Holidays” books are Kindle only

I will contact each of you and make sure I’ve got the right contact info for you to download your book.

Excerpt Friday – The Advent Bride

Excerpt Friday Logo

Welcome to Excerpt Friday!  Each Friday we’ll be featuring excerpts from recent releases by our very own Fillies.  So grab a cup of coffee and read on.  And if you find you’re hooked by what you read (and we know you will be!) just click on the book cover to purchase the entire book.


From Author Mary Connealy  – THE ADVENT BRIDE


AdventBridesmLone Tree, NE

November 29, 1875

Being a teacher was turning out to be a little like having the flu.

Simon O’Keeffe. Her heart broke for him at the same time her stomach twisted with dread for herself. The churning innards this boy caused in her made a case of influenza fun and game.

The small form on the front steps of the Lone Tree schoolhouse huddled against the cold. Shivering herself, she wondered how long seven-year-old Simon had been sitting with his back pressed against the building to get out of the wind.

On these smooth, treeless highlands the wind blew nearly all the time. No matter where a person sought shelter outside, there was no escape from the Nebraska cold.

Just as there was no escape from Simon.

Picking up her pace and shoving her dread down deep, she hurried to the door, produced the key her position as school marm had granted her, and said, “Let’s get inside, Simon. You must be freezing.”

And what was his worthless father thinking to let him get to school so early?

Simon’s eyes, sullen and far too smart, lifted to hers.

“Did you walk to school?” Melanie tried to sound pleasant. But it didn’t matter. Simon would take it wrong. The cantankerous little guy had a gift for it. She swung the door open and waved her hand to shoo him in.

The spark of rebelling in his eyes clashed with his trembling. He wanted to defy her—Simon always wanted to defy her—but he was just too cold.

“My pa ain’t gonna leave me to walk to school in this cold, Miss Douglas.” Simon was offended on his father’s behalf.

“So he drove you in?” Melanie should just quit talking. Nothing she said would make Simon respond well, the poor little holy terror.

“We live in town now…leastways we’re living here for the winter.”

And that explained Simon’s presence. He’d started the school year, then he’d stayed home to help with harvest—or maybe his pa had just been too busy to get the boy out the door. And before harvest was over, the weather turned bitter cold. The five mile walk was too hard and apparently his pa wouldn’t drive him.

The day Simon had stopped coming to school her life as the teacher had improved dramatically. That didn’t mean the rest of her life wasn’t miserable, but at least school had been good. And now here came her little arch enemy back to school. It was all she could do to suppress a groan.

Closing the door, Melanie rushed to set her books on her desk in the frigid room. She headed straight for the pot-bellied stove to get a fire going.

She gathered an armful of logs, pulled open the creaking door and knelt to stuff kindling into the stove. She added shredded bits of bark and touched a match to it. A crash startled her and she knocked her head into the cast iron.

Whirling around, expecting the worst…she got it.


Glaring at her.

The Perfect Storm….or….I’m juggling as fast as I can

Mary Connealy Header

When I die….people are going to say….remember the month of October in 2014???? Well, if Mary could have skipped that month (well maybe half of September, too)….she’d have lived for ten more years.

Lots of great stuff happening and I’ll get to that, but also my mom fell and spent three weeks in the hospital, now she’s in a nursing home. Recovering and we hope to spring her soon but she’s 86 so it’s slow.

Also another family member with a health crisis I’m not going into here but trust me….tons of emotional energy and time….which I want utterly to give.

And in the midst of those things that I absolutely HAVE to make a priority………………………….


Which is fun and wonderful and I love doing all of it….but wow, the marketing, trying to keep straight all the promises I’ve made…..trying to remember which book I’m supposed to be talking about now. And, plus, also, too…..I’VE GOT A BOOK TO WRITE!

Great Grandma

Great Grandma-My mom with six of her seven great-grandchildren on Labor Day 2014




So this is me, whining and rejoicing in equal parts because c’mon … this writing gig is what I pursued for years. This is what I WANT. This is an achievement of which I am so proud and amazed and honored.

Mary and her Mom

My mom holding me when I was about six weeks old. Mom seems distracted, I may have been eating shrubbery.

If by any chance I have made any promises to anyone and haven’t kept them….please email me and remind me because many things have vanished into air pockets in my brain.

So Mom is healing. She’s an absolute doll. My main concern for her, beyond her health is she just does NOT ask for anything for herself.

So I feel like I need to be there, asking for her. I’m actually not real good at that myself. My Cowboy husband is great at it. So he gets a lot of me worrying and him taking charge for which I am so grateful.

I’ve also got seven brothers and sisters who, well, one is a doctor but in an odd twist they ALL seem to think they’re doctors. So lots of advice.

AND I didn’t even intend to talk that much about my mom, let alone post a bunch of pictures of her so I’ll stop now, what I intend to do is explain the juggling and give books away. One each of the four releases. And you know what? I’m giving away five. Because P & P filly Margaret Brownley is in one collection with me!

Available for Pre-Order Now

In bookstores Now

TRIED AND TRUE…we’ve talked about that a lot here (well, I CERTAINLY HAVE) Saddle up for a wildly fun ride with the Wilde sisters!

Kylie Wilde is the youngest sister–and the most civilized. Her older sisters might be happy dressing in trousers and posing as men, but Kylie has grown her hair long and wears skirts every chance she gets. It’s a risk–they are homesteading using the special exemptions they earned serving in the Civil War as “boys”–but Kylie plans to make the most of the years before she can sell her property and return to the luxuries of life back East.

Local land agent Aaron Masterson is fascinated with Kylie from the moment her long hair falls from her cap. But now that he knows her secret, can he in good conscience defraud the U.S. government? And when someone tries to force Kylie off her land, does he have any hope of convincing her that marrying him and settling on the frontier is the better option for her future?

“Another great laugh-out-loud historical romance with memorable characters who have charm, style, grace, and a bit of mischief.”
–RT Book Reviews on In Too Deep


The Advent Bride…which costs $0.99 so if you don’t win, seriously consider buying it. It’s ebook only and it’s book #1 of a twelve book series of Christmas novellas called The Twelve Brides of Christmas.

New–The 12 Brides of Christmas! You’re invited to a Christmas wedding…that is twelve of them!  Discover the joy of an old-fashioned Christmas romance with these twelve heart-warming stories. Brand-new stories from renowned inspirational fiction authors will take you into the heartland of historical America. Releasing each week starting October 6, you’ll want to read all of them. 

#1: The Advent Bride
Melanie Douglas is alone on the Nebraska plains, teaching school to get by. She finds a unique box with hidden drawers to use over the advent season to engage a young boy in his schooling. When Henry O’Keeffe sees a positive change in his son, he has to see for himself what this new teacher is doing.


The Nutcracker Bride…by Margaret Brownley  she’s one of the twelve authors of the 12 Brides of Christmas series. All twelve books in this series are $0.99 which honestly makes my generous giveaway not all that generous! Sorry.

#2: The Nutcracker Bride
When Texas ranger, Chad Prescott, wakes up from a gunshot injury in Kansas, he finds himself surrounded by German nutcrackers and nursed by the feisty Lucy Langdon.  Could this be the start of a beautiful friendship or just a bad dream?

va Hope For Holidays v Historical

THEN (yes hang in there, more giveaways) Hope for the Holidays-Historical Bundle

Four award-winning and best-selling inspirational authors take you back to times gone by with this heart-warming collection of old-fashioned romance at its best! From 20th century Boston to the forested hills of 19th century Idaho, these talented romance writers offer a taste of faith, hope and love in this delightful collection.

Including my contribution to the collection…”Sophie’s Other Daughter” by Mary Connealy …this is Sophie McClellen from Petticoat Ranch, she had four daughters and this is the story of the fourth one….Laura McClellen is just answering a call for her big sister, Doctor Beth, at the Reeve’s home. (I told Beth’s story in my Rita nominated book Doctor in Petticoats) Ike Reeves shows up for a surprise Christmas visit, exhausted and filthy. Ike claims the right to escort Laura home and outlaws after Ike turn a simple ride into a fight for their lives.

va Hope For The Holidays_ContemporaryBundle smAnd Hope for the Holidays-Contemporary Bundle … yes you’re reading that right CONTEMPORARY. I wrote a contemporary. If it helps ease your fears that I’ve abandoned the BRAND….it’s a contemporary cowboy….so it should be okay.

Six heart-warming romances from award-winning, best-selling and multi-published authors will make you smile your way through the holiday season… and beyond! In today’s busy, commercial world these sweet stories remind us of the true spirit of Christmas: faith, hope and love… and the greatest of these is love! Six happy reads at one low price! Merry Christmas!

Including my contribution to the collection….”Hope for Christmas” by Mary Connealy the hero of this book is Tanner Harden IV…great-great-great (oh who knows how many greats???) grandson of Belle Tanner and Silas Harden….Kelsey is alone, lost, pregnant, stuck in a blizzard and surrounded by wolves.
And then things get worse.

There are multiple authors in the last two … it’s my friends from our Seekerville blog. We teamed up and wrote a bundle of Christmas stories…and they are both ebook only and cost $2.99-each.

I’m giving away one each of all five of these books today…to five separate winners…in the hopes you won’t notice that this blog is really about NOTHING. Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing.