Jane Porter: Q&A with my Style Icon, Carol Koch

I met Carol Jansen Koch in 2005 when I was on my Frog Prince book tour and hosted a tea in Plano, TX for Pi Phi Alums.  We didn’t really get to know each other until I was back 2006 on my Flirting with Forty book tour.  After that event we spent a couple of hours talking and by the end of the evening Carol was a true blue friend.

On every visit to Texas, I try to see Carol, and when I returned in 2010 for my She’s Gone Country book tour, a 10 day trip that would take me across Texas, I had Ty and 18 month old Mac along.  We kicked off our trip in Dallas/Ft Worth and who better to launch us on our Texas adventure than Carol and her new husband, Garner Koch, a true Texas cowboy.  

IMG_1369 Ft. Worth is Garner’s old stomping grounds so he took us to get real boots–at Leddy’s–and then showed us the Texas he knows and loves.  IMG_1400



Garner and Carol are the friends we meet every year in Las Vegas for the NFR.  While the guys go off and do guy stuff, Carol and I and her cool Texas crew go shopping at Cowboy Christmas.  This last year Carol made a list as one of the most fashionable people at the 2015 NFR and so I thought it would be fun to share a little bit of Carol’s western fashion sense with you, as well as some great places to pick up your western fashion wear.  


1)  Carol, I met you in Texas at a Pi Beta Phi alum event.  So have you always been a cowgirl?  

I’m a Midwest farmer’s daughter.  Born and raised in Iowa.  Self proclaimed big boned Iowa girl.  Got to Texas as soon as I could.   Texas completes me.jp1

2)  When we first met you were single.  How did you meet Garner?  Tell me about your first date.

I cannot tell a lie.  We met at a Honky Tonk.  (I hope my Mother isn’t reading this… she thinks we met at church) It was the day after Christmas and I was very germy and so didn’t want to go out.  Garner was the tallest most handsome cowboy in the place and he came up to the table where I was sitting with my 5 girlfriends and asked ME to dance.  I so thought he was coming to ask one of my other of my pals.  Ha!  We danced the night away.  We exchanged numbers and I so thought I’d never hear from this cowboy again….to my surprise, he called me while my friends and I were driving home!  Yes.  my friends were very impressed!  jp4


3)  How did you develop your western style? 

My style is forever evolving.  I love to invest in some fabulous pieces and then throw in a few inexpensive pieces to make the look my own. jp6


4)  Where do you shop?  

Orisons in McKinney, Texas and also Ya Ya Gurlz in Abilene, Texas are both my favorites and thankfully not next door to me – otherwise I might get into lots of trouble….it’s a treat and ordeal when I go to shop.  I go with my list of parties/events and they help dress me.  It’s like stepping into your best friend’s closet.  

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5)  What is the one thing you MUST wear when going out with Garner?  

Boot and turquoise. jp5

6)  How much did Garner influence your fashion sense? 

Garner is very traditional.  He has great shirts from 10+ years ago in his closet that with “extra heavy starch” – wears today and looks timeless. Our dry cleaners know us well.  Unless Garner’s britches (jeans…) can stand up in the corner by themselves,  we take them back to the cleaners…. 

My favorite line early on was oh I need something new to wear to our next party/function as….”it’s hard being Mrs. Garner Koch…”  this only worked a few years.  He’s onto me now. I can admit I’m addicted to the entire perfect “costume” hunt and presentation.  It’s my obsession.    🙂 

2 of Carol’s Fav Shops:  
YaYa Gurlz –  Abilene, TX – http://yayagurlz.com
Orisons – McKinney, TX –  http://www.orisons.co

Garner Koch’s Fav Shops for Boots & Traditional Wear:  
Leddy Boots2 locations in Ft. Worth, TX  http://www.leddys.com
Maverick Western WearFt. Worth, TX  http://www.maverickwesternwear.com
J Hilburn Custom Shirtshttp://jhilburn.com/catalog/custom_shirts


A couple of Jane’s Favorite Shops: (I discovered these shops and designers from attending NFR’s Cowboy Christmas (of course, I was introduced to them by Carol!)
Patricia Wolf – Patricia’s vests and belts are amazing.  I have one of each!  http://patriciawolf.com/product-category/women/vests/
Ann’s Turquoise – Craving some turquoise jewelry?  Here you go!  http://www.annsturquoise.com/8hsyiqjs4vnrk6i1p8barp3bnp9t3wjp7

Plus a few more fun stores if you’re in Texas or enjoy shopping online:
Pinto Ranch – You can shop online or visit their locations in Dallas, Houston, and Las Vegas  http://www.pintoranch.com
Gypsy Wagon – Fun mix of western and boho fashion–plus jewelry & more.  Online or locations in Dallas, Austin, and Crested Butte, CO  http://www.the-gypsy-wagon.comcountry_450x2
Wild Bill’s Western Store – Hats, boots galore & lots more  http://wildbillswestern.com


A big thank you to Carol for letting me poke around her closet and talk fashion.  Carol, you inspire me to take fun risks and make fashion fun!

Do you enjoy western wear?  Where do you shop?  Leave a comment and you’ll be entered for a giveaway!  The prize is the winner’s choice of a signed print copy of She’s Gone Country, set in Mineral Wells, TX, or an ebook version of the book, plus reader swag!

Jane Porter: The Cowboys of Cholame Valley

IMG_3768When I first submitted my cowboy romances to Harlequin—back in the early 1990’s—I was told that my setting of a California ranch wouldn’t work, that California was not known for its cowboys and ranchers.

This was news to me. I’d grown up in Central California and my high school was a school with a strong Ag program. One of my best friends lived on her family’s ranch twenty minutes outside town. Everyone I knew drove a truck of some sort and half the football team had little cans of SKOAL in the back pocket of their Wranglers.

And then there was the family ranch. My grandfather’s ranch.

This last Fall I shared that my Texas grandfather, William M Lyles, once had three cattle ranches in California, his favorite being the Lazy L Ranch in Parkfield, California.

Just where is Parkfield?

IMG_3626It’s in the middle of the Central California, 40 miles east of Paso Robles. The land is beautiful—rolling hills, gold fields and green pastures, ancient oak trees, cattle, wildlife.

My grandfather died in 1965 in a ranching accident on the Parkfield property when I was just a year old.

In fact, the picture of me in a red romper as an 11 month old with my brother Thom on Dixie, was one of the last times I was with him. We were all at the ranch and Grandpa had put his four grandkids on Dixie for the picture, but the saddle slipped and we all went down. There was much crying following the fall, but Grandpa wouldn’t have any of it. He told my mom to put us back on the horse and that’s what she did (to be fair, she doesn’t look very happy in the pic, either) but Grandpa was tough, and we were raised to be tough, too.

Baby Jane on Dixie
Baby Jane on Dixie

After he died, my grandmother sold the other two ranches but kept the Lazy L and continued to run grandpa’s Black Angus cattle until later she leased the grazing rights to a neighbor. We always spent a lot of time on the ranch. Some families would visit Pismo Beach or even exotic Hawaii, but we went to the ranch, visiting every year for the entire Easter week.

Kat, Jane Rob on Sunny
Jane with sister Kat and brother Rob on Sunny

Growing up the population of Parkfield was small. Really small. 21 People. Imagine my shock when as an adult I discovered it had shrunk to 18.   Not a bustling place, unless you happen to be in Parkfield for its annual Bluegrass Festival or the Memorial Day weekend rodeo.

Cooling off in Horse Trough
Cooling off in Horse Trough
Jane Rob on Unbroken Horse
Jane with brother Rob and Mom

Today Parkfield’s population might be smaller than when I was growing up in the 70’s, but our neighbors in Cholame Valley, the owners of the big V-6 ranch, have turned Parkfield into a very appealing western destination with activities for the whole family year round.   Interested in a stay on a dude ranch? Feel like participating in a cattle drive or attending a rodeo? Check out some of the activites in charming little Parkfield http://www.parkfield.com.

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Son Jake at the San Andrea fault

I only knew a couple things about our ranch when I was growing up. The turnoff for our ranch is where James Dean crashed his car and died. At twilight you’d go driving and see deer everywhere. And then there was the little fact that Parkfield is the self-proclaimed “earthquake capital of the world.”Where-the-old-west-still-hangs-around

It wasn’t until I read WHERE THE OLD WEST STILL HANGS AROUND last year that I discovered there is a lot more to Parkfield’s history than earthquakes and cattle. Robert Flood grew up in Parkfield and writes of a California few people know. My favorite stories were those set in and around Parkfield, including the influence of the Jack Ranch and the William Hearst families, as well as the outlaws who spent time in Cholame Valley: Jesse James and the Dalton gang.

The only outlaws causing trouble in the rolling hills around Parkfield now are probably my boys when I take them for a long weekend to spend time in our little ranch house. There isn’t a lot to do at the Lazy L but relax, build puzzles, ride horses, go out looking for deer at dusk, and then drive another ten miles to the Parkfield Café for some great beef brisket and BBQ.

Son Mac and his first ride at the ranch

Have you spent time on a ranch?  Leave a comment for a chance to win a $15 giftcard from Amazon!  Contest ends Friday with winner announced on Saturday!

PS  There is a funny story about one of the pictures above.  Did you see the picture of me sitting on a dark brown horse with my little brother Rob?  In the photo, my mom is holding the lead.   You see, my mom is a very determined woman.  There is nothing she can’t do once she puts her mind to it, and whenever we visited the ranch, she’d chase down the horses, saddle them, help us ride…in general, she was pretty confident that she could handle her kids, and the horses.   My mom had so much confidence that one Easter when we reached the ranch, the horses weren’t in the corral by the ranch house, but below the cattle crossing guard in a lower pasture.  Mom marched down to the lower pasture and  spent considerable time cornering a most unwilling dark brown horse, but she did it.  She got a lead on him, then bridled him, and saddled him, too.  And then finally, she put my toddler brother and me on “Sunny’s” back.  The horse was not happy.  He was really unhappy.  But my mom wasn’t having it, determined to show us kids how it was done.  We had just finished taking the picture you see above when the neighbor came careening up the road in his truck, all upset because that wasn’t Sunny.  That wasn’t our horse at all, but a wild horse that wasn’t yet broken.  He couldn’t believe Mom had got a bridle and saddle on him.  Personally, I wasn’t that surprised.  My mom is a woman who knows how to get things done.  Thanks, Mom, for teaching me that anything is possible! 




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My friend Susan gave me this entertaining book the other day!   I love reading the quotes and find some so true, some funny and others very poignant.  I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you today, from NEVER ASK A MAN THE SIZE OF HIS SPREAD, A Cowgirl’s Guide to Life. Giving credit to the author, and I love her name, Gladiola Montana.  Isn’t that a great name?


Never Ask a Man the Size of his Spread




The Code of Her West- Use a short rope, a sweet smile, and a hot brand.

When a cowboy gives you the key to his truck, you know you’re close to winning the key to his heart.

Foolin’ a man ain’t all that hard, finding one that ain’t a fool is a lot harder.

Oil all the wheels on your wagon, not just the squeaky one.

“One of these days” is “none of these days.”

You can’t get ahead of anybody you’re tryin’ to get even with.

If you wake up and find yourself a success, you ain’t been asleep.

Be sure to taste your words before you spit ‘em out.

Women have a lot of courage, otherwise none would ever get married. 

New and improved can’t beat tried and true.

When kissin’ a cowboy in the rain, make sure you both fit under his hat. 

A lesson every cowgirl should learn is where her business ends and someone else’s starts.

About half your troubles come from wanting your way; the other half come from gettin’ it.

Always say “please” when you tell somebody to shut up.

To win all you gotta do is get up one more time than you fall.  

Before you get serious with a cowboy, make sure he values you more than his truck. 

If a man thinks that a woman who can dog steers, ride broncs and rope the wind is too much for him, he’s probably right.

A weddin’ ring should cut off the wearer’s circulation. 

Never-under any circumstances-admit that you like to cook. 


Aren’t these great?   They made me laugh.  My favorite is: “Be sure to taste your words before you spit ‘em out.”  Which one fits you the best?  

And be sure to visit me tomorrow at A Platinum Event- Fantastic Fall Multi-Author Online Party.  Sign up TODAY to be included. Every author is giving away wonderful prizes.  And my hour on the fence post is Friday at 3:15 pm, PST…I’d love to see all of you there!!  I’m giving away Amazon Gift Cards and this Fabulous Fall Prize. (Audio book of Carrying the Rancher’s Heir, Pumpkin shakers, Pumpkin spiced candle, Fall kitchen towels, and Candy corn!)

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Check out my newest release too, A Royal Temptation! 

A Royal Temptation 1






My Research Travels Take Me to Montana and a Giveaway!


Charlene Newsletter Banner2

My very next novel will be pre-set in Marietta, Montana.  That sounds like a real place, doesn’t it?  Yet, it’s not located on any map that we know of.  What I mean by pre-set, is that this town already exists in many other author-related books, so in a sense it’s real.  There are café’s and schools, a chocolate shop, and a sheriff’s office all in the small town of Marietta.  Characters live there, either in town, or near Copper Mountain or in Paradise Valley, doing what normal folk ordinarily do, ranching, banking, baking, dining and romancing!

For my new adventure, I’ll be one of four authors writing a romance about when the Rodeo comes to Marietta. My bronc-riding hero (who has no name yet—would love for you to name him) returns to his roots and meets up with his deceased brother’s widow—the very same girl he dumped for the excitement of the rodeo.  Said heroine, wants nothing to do with him, until he reminds her of the unrequited passion they’d once shared.

So my research begins learning about Montana.  I’ve never been, and usually I set my stories in places I’ve traveled, so this will be a bit of a challenge.   Here’s some fun facts about Montana:


montanaflag (1)

The State flag is stunning: Rocky Mountains, cliffs and rivers under the big sky.

Montana’s Motto:  Oro y Plata  (Spanish-Gold and Silver)

Montana is the Spanish word for “mountainous”.

The state nicknames are:  Big Sky Country and Treasure State

Montana became a state in 1889

It’s the 4th biggest state in the US

But 44th most populated with just over 1 million people


So now I ask you to help me come up with my hero and heroine’s names?  I’m really at a loss, usually I have a clear vision of their names, but right now I’m coming up blank. Both are Montana born and bred and have worked on ranches.   Give me your suggestions and you’ll be in a random drawing for a really cool 2 in 1 book.  The Cowboy’s Pride by Charlene Sands/The Paternity Proposition by Merline Lovelace


Also available for PRE-ORDER is my newest Desire  (releases on July 1st)  Isn’t it pretty?

The Billionaire's Daddy Test



Lucille Mulhall, Oklahoma Cowgirl & Wolf Roper

P&P Vickie McDonough 3 smallHello, Vickie McDonough here.  Before I get to the actual post, I just wanted to drop a quick note to let you know I’ll be giving  away a print copy of Gabriel’s Atonement to one of the visitors who leaves a comment on this post.  Now, let’s talk about Lucille.

You’ve heard of Annie Oakley, but have you ever heard of Lucille Mulhall, who at one time was just as famous?

The first rodeo in Oklahoma Territory was held in the mid-1880s, and ironically, Lucille Mulhall L.Mulhall 04was born on her family’s ranch near what would soon be Guthrie, Oklahoma on October 21, 1885. It is said that she could ride before she could walk. The cowboys who rode the plains of the Indian Territories tutored her in the art of lassoing. Her skill at riding, roping, and training horses was evident, and at a young age, she started competing in roping contests.

When Lucille was just ten years old, the mayor of Guthrie invited her to ply her skills and entertain at a cowboy gathering and contest. At age thirteen, she had her first major debut at the St. Louis Fair in 1897, and in a few years, she was performing on the vaudeville stage, entertaining crowds of up to 5,000.

Zach Mulhall, Lucille’s father, organized the Mulhall’s Congress of Rough Riders and Ropers. Lucille was the star of the show, where she met and became friends with Will Rogers and also Teddy Roosevelt, who was then a candidate for the vice-presidency.

L.Mulhall 03Zach was a proud father and one of Lucille’s greatest fans. He claimed that when his daughter was thirteen, he told her she could keep as many of his steers as she could rope in one day. “Lucille,” he bragged, “didn’t quit until she’d lassoed more than 300 cattle!”

In 1900, when her father was roping in El Paso, he bet local cowboys that his daughter could out rope them—and she did. Zach won over $10,000, but Lucille faced a horrible ordeal. The cowboys didn’t believe she was a girl and attacked her, tearing at her clothing to prove she was not a woman. Her brother Charley rescued her just in time.

Later in 1900, Lucille performed at a Cowboy Tournament at a Rough Riders reunion. Teddy Roosevelt was again amazed at her skill. He joined the family for supper, where the topic of conversation centered on the wolves plaguing the area. Lucille offered to get one for Teddy. He agreed, but only if Lucille would rope one. Undaunted by the challenge, she spent the next ten days tracking a wolf pack. One morning, she caught up with themL.Mulhall 01, and as she rode toward them, the pack scattered—all except for a steer-sized wolf she called “loafer”, which ran straight toward her. She roped him, but he gnawed through the rope. She tossed another rope on loafer and tied him to a tree, then cut his throat. She took the wolf to a taxidermist and had it stuffed, then she sent it to Teddy Roosevelt. As a thank you, the Mulhalls and the 101 Wild West Show performed at the McKinley-Roosevelt inaugural parade.

Lucille and her wolf kill made the news across the country, and she was dubbed the Cowpuncher Queen of Oklahoma Territory. Newspaper reported that Lucille was the greatest attraction at the Rough Riders reunion. An article in the Wichita Daily Eagle described her as a little girl who “weighs only ninety pounds can break a bronco, lasso and brand a steer, and shoot a coyote at 500 yards. She can also play Chopin, quote Browning, construe “Virgil” and make mayonnaise dressing.”

L.Mulhall 021901, Lucille roped five horses simultaneously at a horse show in Iowa. Later, she roped eight at once. The next year, she won a “thousand dollar day championship medal” at the Texas State Fair and Champion Steer Cattlemen’s Convention in Fort Worth. In 1903, Lucille was dubbed “the only lady roper in the world” and won $10,000 when she set a new world record for steer roping.

Lucille married and had a son, but because she left home and returned to performing, her husband, Martin Van Bergen, raised the boy. Van Bergen later divorced Lucille after deciding she would never settle down to domestic life as most women. A second marriage also failed.

Some sources say that Lucille made millions of dollars by performing in silent movies. At one time, she was the most famous horse woman in the world, but she ended up where she began, back on her family’s ranch. She died tragically in a car crash on December 22, 1940.

Lucille performed before European royalty, U.S. presidents, and won the respect of cowboys worldwide for her skill. She became the only female rodeo producer of her time with her show Lucille Mulhall’s Roundup and is well known for opening up the world of rodeo for women. Lucille’s popularity was due to her skill, the result of perfect timing with her rope, unusual balance on her horse, and her diminutive size and ladylike demeanor. Most important, she was authentic, coming from a genuine ranch background. She was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1975 and National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1977.

So, tell me. Have you heard of Lucille Mulhall before?



In 2008, I started writing a book called Gabriel’s Atonement, which has stayed on my heart ever since. It was one-third finished when I had to set it aside because I got a contract for another book. I was thrilled, when after several rejections, Gabriel’s Atonement was finally picked up by Barbour Publishing. The book released on January 1, and I’m thrilled to tell you that Gabriel’s Atonement, book 1 in the Land Rush Dreams series received 4 ½ stars from Romantic Times magazine.

Popular historical author Laurie Kingery writes: “This is possibly the best western I’ve read all year. (2014)”

Gabriel's_AtonementWhat it’s about:

Gambler Gabe Coulter is content with his comfortable life—but when a man with a gun confronts him in a dark alley, everything changes. Guilt riddles him for killing Tom Talbot, even though it was self-defense. The dying man said the money he lost to Gabe was meant for his wife and son. The only way Gabe knows to rid himself of the guilt over killing Talbot is to return the money he won to the man’s wife.

Lara Talbot doesn’t believe Tom had money. She sees Gabe as a charming con artist like her irresponsible husband and wants nothing to do with him. She struggles to feed her family, keep her rebellious sister in line, and care for her young son and sick grandpa. The land rush in the Oklahoma Territory seems the only way for them to get a home, so Lara rides, but her dreams don’t turn out as planned. Could God have a bigger dream for her than she could imagine?
(Click on cover to purchase book)

To learn more about Vickie and her books, visit her website here.

America’s First Female Superstar by Vickie McDonough

Vickie McDonough 3 smallPhoebe Ann Moses–do you recognize the name? Some sources site her last name as Mosley. Phoebe was born in August 16th, 1860, in Ohio. She grew up in a poor family, and after her father died, she was sent to Darke County Infirmary, where she was educated and taught to sew. At age ten, she was sent to work for a family who treated her cruelly. She called them “the wolves” and soon ran away and returned to her family. She helped support them by hunting game and selling it to a local shopkeeper. Her shooting skill grew quickly, and she was soon able to pay off her family’s mortgage.Annie Oakley

Have you figured out who she is yet?

Miss Annie Oakley, the most skilled female shooter of the 19th century.

In 1875, when Annie was just 15, she stunned Frank Butler, an expert shootist and vaudeville performer, when she beat him in a Thanksgiving competition. Frank fell in love almost at first sight, and the next year, he and Annie married. A few years later, when Frank’s partner took ill, Annie replaced him, amazing audiences with her shooting skills. At that time, she adopted the stage name of Annie Oakley. They joined a vaudeville show, and Annie began making her own costumes–ones more modest than the risqué outfits the other females wore.

 IAnnie Oakley 2n 1884, Anne met Sitting Bull, the Sioux Indian chief. He was so impressed with her abilities that he dubbed her “Little Sure Shot.” In 1885, Annie joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and performed in the show for the next seventeen years. Annie dazzled audiences by shooting the flame off candles and corks out of bottles. She even shot off the end of a cigarette that her husband held in his teeth. Talk about trusting your wife! Annie could shoot distant targets while looking into a mirror, hit the edge of a playing card at 30 paces, and shoot holes in cards thrown into the air before they hit the ground.

Annie Oakley 3Annie toured Europe for three years and even met Queen Victoria. In 1901, Annie was injured in a railroad accident and partially paralyzed for a time, but she recovered and went on the star in a melodrama called The Western Girl. After she and Frank retired, Annie did exhibition work to raise money for orphan charities and the Red Cross. Annie died on November 3, 1926, and just eighteen days later, Frank joined her. Annie’s life was commemorated by the Irving Berlin musical, Annie Get Your Gun. She will always be known as America’s first woman superstar.

Vickie will be giving away 2 print copies of Call of the Prairie today.  Join in on the fun and post a comment!!


 Whisper cover 4Call Of The Prairie cover











About Vickie
Vickie McDonough grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead, she married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams in her fictional stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen and others living in the West during the 1800s. Vickie is the award-winning author of 29 published books and novellas. Her books include the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series, and End of the Trail, which was the OWFI 2013 Best Fiction Novel winner. Whispers on the Prairie, which released last July, was chosen by Romantic Times as one of their Recommended Inspirational Books for July.

Vickie is a wife of thirty-eight years, mother of four grown sons, one daughter-in-law, and grandma to a feisty seven-year-old girl. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, antiquing, watching movies, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website and sign-up for her newsletter: www.vickiemcdonough.com

About Call of the Prairie – 
Sophie Davenport fears life is passing her by. Her strict, overprotective parents have kept her close to home because of the severe asthma attacks she sometimes endures. She longs to live a normal life and hopes to marry, but that dream seems impossible. When her aunt has a tragic accident and requests someone come to Kansas to help her, no one is available except Sophie. Her father, tied up with business, reluctantly agrees to let her go. Sophie is ecstatic and sees this trip as her one chance to prove to her parents and herself that she’s capable of living on her own. But things in the small town of Windmill are not as her aunt portrayed. And her aunt’s handsome neighbor, guardian of two of the children her aunt cares for after school, obviously doubts her abilities. Will the Kansas dust, the drama, and difficulties prove too much for Sophie? Or will she lose her heart to her neighbor and succumb to the call of the prairie?





The Cowboy Contract 3One of the very nice things about being traditionally published with a publishing house is that there’s an  art department that deals with making marketable covers.  They take care of assigning models to represent your story on the cover of your book.  The author does have to fill out an Art Fact Sheet to describe the hero and heroine’s physical traits.  At the same time, the author also describes the theme of the story, any major turning points and locations of particular interest that would enhance the cover.   For me, the majority of the time, they’ve gotten it right.  Not that I’m always thrilled with my covers or titles, but for the most part I am. 

The one negative about being traditionally published is that the author has no control over the final artistic vision of the cover.  So when I received the rights back to a story I’d written, I decided to self-publish it.  I am still in the process of doing just that.  You may have heard me speaking about this book in the past. It’s been months – the major drawback?

We can’t find the right cover art.   Yes, there are pre-made covers available at several online sites and many images to go through, but believe it or not, there aren’t a slew to choose from bearing good-looking western/country/cowboys or scenes.  The Cowboy Contract

Well as luck would have it, my son-in-law is a photographer and he suggested that we do our own cover shoot.  He’s a talented guy and I only had to think about it for a few seconds before agreeing it was a great idea.  But that still left us with who to use for our hero and heroine.   

That’s where my daughter Nikki came in. She’s auburn-haired and petite just like my heroine. And their age range is the same.  Her dear friend, and Zac’s brother-from-another-mother, ( the best man at their wedding and Godfather to their little girl), Tony was willing to help out.  As you can see in the pictures, Tony is tall, dark and handsome- the perfect hero. 

We chose Paramount Ranch for the setting. If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s where the series, Medicine Woman was originally filmed and the historical town is still set up, complete with livery stable, sheriff’s office, wagons, train depot and gorgeous landscapes of the Santa Monica Mountains.   On a side note, we took a field trip there with my nephew’s class years ago and saw them shoot one of the episodes. Jane Seymour made a special point to come out to speak to the children and she was lovely to them.   So, the area had always stuck out in my mind.   

We had a few poses in mind and I learned a lot about placement and lighting.  Believe it or not, near dusk is the best time to shoot.  Bright sunshine and the shadows are gone. We only had an hour of good lighting that day, but I am happy with the results. 

The Cowboy Contract 1So not only was I the babysitter of the cutest new little cowgirl in town, but I was helping with direction. I never thought I’d hear myself tell my daughter, get closer, hold him around the waist and look passionately into his eyes, to a man other than her hubby.   Many shoots were tossed out because everyone was laughing too hard. If nothing else, we had a great time!


Now, I need your help in deciding which picture best depicts the story and reflects the title. Keep in mind, this isn’t the finished product, there may be more graphics on the cover, but I’m asking what scene works the best.  I’ve captioned them by number.  I’ll pick three random winners  for a prize of one of my available backlist books.  I appreciate your input on this!!

Here’s a brief synopsis of THE COWBOY CONTRACT:

Trey Walker was cursed when it came to women, so he never expected to invite veterinarian, Maddie Brooks to live under his roof at 2 Hope Ranch. But the petite, wholesome redhead needed a place to stay and practice medicine after a fire in Hope Wells nearly cost her everything she owned.  And Trey needed her expertise.  The bargain they struck seemed to be made in heaven.  If only the Walker Curse wouldn’t rear its ugly head.

Maddie Brooks knew the temporary arrangement she made with Trey was strictly business.  For over a year she’d tried to get the handsome rancher to notice her, but the man simply wasn’t interested.  Now, she’d be living at his ranch and using his barn to treat animals.  She owed him her livelihood, but oh, how she wished for something more.   Would Trey give her reason to hope?

NIK and Tony











Nik and Tony 2



Nik and Tony 4
Nik and Tony 5














They say if you want something done, ask a busy person!

Raising my hand here!!   I’m ultra busy.  It seems to be the way of the world, so no complaints here.  There’s nothing I would trade in my life right now.  I’m blessed with a good family, nice home and recently two lovely granddaughters were added to the mix.  Little Everley is 16 months old and baby Kyra is 8 months old.  I watch them 2 to 3 days a week and it’s truly the highlight of my week.  The other hours are spent writing and I usually have 2 to 3 projects going at once. 

Right now, I’m working on a Harlequin Desire continuity called TEXAS RENEGADE RETURNS.  This story anchors the 9 book series and is a unique challenge for me to tie up loose ends of all 9 books and tell my hero’s story to a satisfying and hopefully compelling conclusion. 

It’s my next project that is baffling me. And I will admit to being frustrated with decisions that I don’t usually make on my own.

 I will be self-publishing a story that was one of my earlier works, called Like Lightning.   Luckily for me, my daughter is an editor and she’ll be my grammar guru.  One problem solved.

 The cover art will be pretty…not a clench scene or a sexy cowboy, but a cropped shot of a bride in a flowing lacy wedding gown, wearing cowgirl boots nestled next to a groom in cowboy boots.   We may not even see their faces. That’s to be determined by the cover artist.  Second problem solved.  

The original title (I never cared for…the cover and title an experiment for the line) really had nothing to do with storyline and now desperately needs a makeover. We’ve narrowed it down to a few titles and I’d love the wonderful bloggers at Petticoats and Pistols to give me your pick!  Will you help me solve Problem Three?  

Here’s is the story in a nutshell:

When a fire destroyed everything Maddie Brooks owned, rancher Trey Walker offered the pretty veterinarian a deal, he’d give her a place to stay and a barn to treat her animals if she’d help out at 2 Hope Ranch.  Maddie was sweet and sexy, and had “keeper” written all over her. But Trey didn’t dare act on the sizzling attraction between them—because of the Walker Curse.

Trey came from a long line of men who broke women’s hearts. And he was determined not to break hers, too. But with Maddie sleeping next door, she was impossible to ignore. He wanted to hold her, feel her body against his. He knew Maddie was the last woman on earth he should fall for. 

Which title do you find most appealing?  Which title would make you wonder about the story?  Which title would compel you to open the book and read the first few pages?

Rancher to Her Rescue

The Cowboy Contract

Contract with a Cowboy

Making Maddie Mine

Two Hope Cowboy

Cowboy Be Mine


I’ll be drawing a random winner today to win a book from my available backlist!! It’s the winner’s choice.  I hope to hear from all of you! And thanks for your help!!











Smooth-Talking the Hometown Girl my Digital Only book is 99 cents all during the month of March! 

 Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online retailers

Two-Gun Nan Aspinwall

Nan Aspinwall, born in Nebraska in 1880, was skilled at trick roping, sharp shooting, archery, stunt riding, bronc riding, and steer riding. She also portrayed an Oriental dancer called Princess Omene.

She was eventually the highest paid star in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Pawnee Bill’s Far East troupe. None of these things are what she became really famous for. Two-Gun Nan’s true claim to fame came in 1910-11 when, on a bet from Buffalo Bill, she rode from San Francisco to New York on horseback. At the age of 31, she covered 4496 miles in 180 days in the saddle, alone. The 180 days includes a week spent in the hospital when she and her horse ‘fell off a mountain.’


I have no idea exactly what that means and I couldn’t find details but she and her horse were in good shape when they finished their historical coast to coast ride. Like a true showman, she didn’t end her ride quietly. When Nan arrived in New York she rode into a 12 -story building, on into the freight elevator and rode it to the top floor.


Two-Gun Nan became an instant legend. At a time when the frontier to the west had closed, and barbed wire cut across every stretch of once open country along the entire continent, this cowgirl single-handedly found a way to rekindle the American fascination of saddling up, heading to the horizon, and banging around the vast expanse of a country that spread from one sea to another. Perhaps more importantly, she proved this dream and this country were open to women as well as men.


The ride became part of the greater Western mythology almost instantly, where it remained solidly for half a century. In 1938, almost three decades after the ride, Nan’s journey was included on the Mutual Broadcasting System’s national radio broadcasts of Famous First Facts. The media legend of the ride again was recounted on the radio in 1942 on a broadcast of Death Valley Days. About 1960 “Death Valley Days” did a television show about her cross-country ride, for which she was a technical advisor. In 1958, Nan’s adventure made the jump to black-and-white television when it appeared in an episode of the Judge Roy Bean television show.


Born Nan Jeanne Aspinwall, she added the last name Gable when she married her first husband, Frank Gable, around 1900. These two traveled and performed together, and after 1913 even ran their own touring wild west vaudeville production, Gable’s Novelty Show.


Frank died around 1929, and Nan dropped from view not long after that. Nan remarried at some point in the 1930s to a man whose last name was Lambell.


With the new name of Nan Jeanne Aspinwall Gable Lambell, the adventurous cowgirl spent the last 34 years of her life living in anonymity and solitude by choice. She died on October 24, 1964 at age 84 in San Bernardino, CA.


Her death certificate listed her as a life-long housewife.

Mary Connealy

Montana Rose Giveaway

Leave a comment today ABOUT COWGIRLS to get your name in the drawing for a signed copy of my just released romantic comedy with cowboys, MONTANA ROSE.
Montana Rose finds Cassie Griffin facing her husband’s death and living alone with her unborn child in Montana Territory. She finds herself fair game for every ill-bred, foul-mouthed suitor in town. That is, until Red Dawson steps in to make an offer.
I moved from Texas to the Rocky Mountains for this series—a big jump. New plants, new weather, new challenges. For a while, I had this book set near Fort Laramie in Wyoming, but the research proved too confusing. I found that Fort Laramie (the fort, not the town) was moved twice and neither location was near the town that bears its name. This conflicting information was daunting to the point that I just moved myself completely out of the state and picked a fictional town.
I kept the romantic comedy with cowboys, though.
Two things about writing comedy:
1) I can’t stop myself. I just always go for the sassy answer. The woman is always mouthing off, and the man is always saying exactly the wrong thing. Humor is my default writing style.
2) Humor is really hard work. General humor that runs through the book doesn’t just come off my fingertips. I’ll write in my sass, but on the second pass, I’ll punch it up and then there’s a third pass and a fourth. I do lots of tweaking to get the pace right. There’s a rhythm to comedy that I find really complex. To keep the story moving can be really hard, especially if I have a scene that’s really wacky with lots of characters and lots of dialogue.
Sometimes when I know what I want from a scene, I almost shy away from humor because I know how much work it’s going to be to get it just right. Then, I build up my courage and just write it. The first draft is never good enough—not even close. I have to write it badly, then fix it.
The scene in Montana Rose when Cassie lets Red’s chickens go, nearly burns down the barn and almost gets killed by a furious mama pig—I rewrote that ten or fifteen times trying to get it to flow just exactly how I wanted it. I needed to portray Red’s controlled anger and terror for the safety of his wife, himself, his animals and his ranch. I also wanted to portray Cassie’s abject regret for all the trouble she’s caused and her fear of how her husband will react. So I had to get all that emotion right, along with the action of all Cassie was messing up.
And though the scene is riddled with angst, anger, terror, regret, and fear, in the middle of all that, I want comedy. I love scenes like that but I dread them too, because I want so badly to get it right.
Despite very serious underlying issues, my first hope is always that the reader will have fun. That’s always my goal, to write a book that entertains and draws readers in and makes them glad they picked up one of my books.
A brief look at Book #2 in this series is The Husband Tree, coming in January.
Belle Tanner buries her third worthless husband and makes a vow over his shallow grave. She’s learned her lesson. No more men.
Silas Harden just lost his second ranch because of a woman. The first deserted him when times got tough. Now he’s had to quit the whole state of New Mexico to avoid a trumped-up shotgun wedding and the noose of matrimony. He’s learned his lesson. No more women.
Belle needs hired hands to move a cattle herd late in the season and there’s no one around but seemingly aimless Silas. She hires him reluctantly.Silas signed on, glad for the work, though worried about a woman doing such a thing as hiring drovers, only to find out he’s the lone man going with five woman, including a baby still in diapers. After the cattle drive is over, he might as well shoot himself to speed up the process of being embarrassed to death.
A fast approaching winter.
The toughest lady rancher you’ve ever seen.
A cynical cowboy who has to convince five women he’s right for their ma. . .and then convince himself.
And one thousand head of the crankiest cattle who have ever been punched across the backbone of the Rockies.
And Book #3 in the Montana Marriage Series is Wildflower Bride, coming in May 2010.
This heroine, Abby, has never met a man she didn’t pull a knife on.
This cover is not finalized so I’m showing it to you but there may be some changes. It’ll be close to this, though.
Leave a comment about cowgirls, what’s your favorite kind.
Cassie is sweet and vulnerable. Belle is just plain tough. Abby is mean, of course to cover all her hurts.
We talk about cowboys here a LOT so lets talk cowgirls. Leave a comment telling me who your favorite cowgirl in books, TV, movies, whatever. And I’ll toss your name in the Stetson to claim a signed copy of Montana Rose.

Before the next books in the series I’ve got a Christmas romance coming, Cowboy Christmas.     

Click on a cover to buy on Amazon