Category: Margaret Brownley

The Mail Order Bride Standoff

 

I have a new book out, just in time for Valentine’s.  The anthology is titled Mail Order Standoff.  If you like mail-order bride stories, then this one is for you. The stories all have a fun twist when the brides get cold feet.  Here’s a short preview of my story:

Pistol-Packin’ Bride

Attorney Wade Bronson didn’t expect to get shot on his wedding day–

and certainly not by his mail order bride…

Elizabeth Colton stares anxiously out the window of the stagecoach.  Fresh from Boston, never could she imagine a more desolate place. Every scary story ever heard about attacking Indians and highwaymen comes back to haunt her.

 Before they reach town, her worst fear is realized. A horseman flags them down and yanks open the door to the coach.  Certain he is about to rob her—or worse—she pulls out her derringer.  Much to her shock, the gun goes off and the man falls to the ground.

Attorney Wade Bronson is lucky to be alive.  Fortunately, the bullet missed his heart—barely. All he did was stop the stage to tell his mail-order bride he’d been called out of town on urgent business and had to postpone their wedding. God forgive him for not feeling especially charitable toward the blue-eyed beauty who shot him, but now he’s bed-ridden with a shoulder-wound and his gun-toting bride-to-be is in jail.

It seems everyone in the small town has an opinion on the brash young woman who traveled west to become his wife—and none of it good.  Orphaned at a young age, Wade was raised by the town and is Prickly Pine’s favorite son—literally—and the local girls know better than to get involved with him. Things looked bad until his three worried “mothers” took it upon themselves to place an ad in Matrimonial News for a “nice Christian girl from the east.” Now they refuse to believe the pistol packin’ bride is the right woman for him. At first, even Wade has trouble visualizing the two of them wed.

But in matters of the heart sometimes a wrong really does make a right.  Now he doesn’t know which task will be hardest; convincing his reluctant fiancée that marriage to a man with three sets of well-meaning “parents” won’t be so bad (maybe).  Or proving to the town that Elizabeth really is the girl of his dreams. 

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Updated: January 23, 2020 — 1:53 pm

Margaret Goes Square Dancing

I’m ready to dance!

In a moment of madness, I decided to join a square-dancing class.  I figured it would be good exercise and wouldn’t be that hard to learn.  I mean how hard could it be to do-si-do?

Well, I got the first part right.  It is good exercise. I clock more than ten thousand steps during class. Dancing is also good for the brain. According to Psychology Today,research shows that dancing reduces incidences of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

As for the easy part: forget that. Square-dancing requires memorizing hundreds of steps and learning a new language. The director told us that if we got lost, to just stand still and look confused.  Now That I can do.

In spite of the challenges, the one thing I really enjoy is the courtesy. Call me old-fashioned, but I love the way partners bow and honor each other. Though dress is informal, almost everyone dresses up a bit, which adds to the fun. The best part? There’s no shortage of cowboys. Yee-haw!

The various square dance movements are based on the steps and figures that were used in traditional folk dances from different countries. Folk dances were originally gala occasions where news would be swapped, and courtships formed.

The early colonists brought popular folk dances from France, Italy and Britain with them. However, following the American Revolution, the British dances fell out of favor and the French dancing styles took over. Many French terms like “do-si-do,” “allemande” and “promenade” are still used in square dancing today.

The French were not satisfied with the long double line of an indefinite number of couples, so they concentrated on the square limited to four couples. These squares were known at first as “French contra-dances,” or more simply as “French dances.”

Dance historian Phil Jamison writes in his book, Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance  that in addition to European dances, African American and Native American dance forms contributed to the development of square dance.

The dances done in early America didn’t have a “caller,” or someone who yells out the moves to dancers. Rather, the expectation, Jamison says, was that dancers went to school, memorized the moves, then went to the ball.

“Square dancing in those early days was done to live music that was almost always played by African-American musicians. It’s believed that many of these musicians became callers due to the gap in literacy and formal training among slaves of the time.”

Jamison says he found evidence of an African American caller dating back as early as 1819 in New Orleans. Other African American dance moves, instruments like the banjo and fiddle, and call and response traditions were also incorporated.

There have been several attempts to have square dancing designated the national dance but, so far, the efforts have been defeated.  However, according to The Smithsonian, thirty-one states now claim square dancing as the official state dance.

Square Dancing has changed through the years to fit the needs of the people doing it.  All ages can join in the fun and there are many LGBT clubs. There are also groups for the handicapped.

Though square dancing, as we know it today, is now an American dance, it’s popular the world over. S.Foster Damon wrote in his book, The History of Square Dance, “Square-dancing is greater than any one nation: it is democracy itself, in dance form. Can anybody think of a better way to spread the spirit of democracy?”

What new and exciting things do you have planned

for the New Year? 

Meet the Haywire Brides

             s

         The Outlaw’s Daughter is available for preorder                   Amazon

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Updated: December 29, 2019 — 6:03 pm

I’ve Got Spurs That Jingle, Jangle, Jingle & FUN GIVEAWAY

As a child, Saturdays were my favorite day of the week. I remember getting up early and rushing through chores just so I could spend the afternoons watching Westerns.  I had an unstable childhood, so I found comfort in the predictability of those old shoot em ups.  When a cowboy rode into town, you just knew he would set things straight before riding into the sunset. 

I also knew that when the camera zoomed onto the hero’s spurs as he walked into a saloon, he was sending a clear message; No one had better mess with him. 

I became fixated on spurs and for good reason. As a foster child, I was constantly being bounced from family to family. This meant I was forever having to change locations.  But the hardest part for me was having to walk into a new school, which I did more times than I can remember. This never failed to make me feel like an outsider. Because I was shy, thin as a rail, wore glasses and had red hair, I endured much teasing. No one called it bullying back then, but in modern terms that’s what it was. 

After going through an especially hard first day at a new school, I remember thinking enough was enough. Would Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard or Bob Steele stand around while the town picked on them? They would not! Only ten at the time, I decided what I needed was spurs, just like my favorite western heroes wore. The next time I walked into a new school, my spurs would send a clear message that no one better mess with me.

Convinced I had an answer to my problem, I asked for spurs the following Christmas, but never got them.  It didn’t matter. The next time I walked into a new school, I pretended I was wearing spurs just like I’d seen one of my cowboy heroes do the previous Saturday.  They only jingled in my head but, you know what?  It worked.  Somehow the jingle-jangle sound that only I could hear helped drown out the teasing and that made me smile.  And that smile helped me do something I’d not been able to do at other schools: make new friends.  It was a lesson I never forgot.

THIS DOORMAT MIGHT NOT DETER PORCH PIRATES, BUT YOU NEVER KNOW.

 

In that spirit, I wish you all a jingle-jangle holiday season filled with lots of smiles, good friends and loving families.  May all your spurs, imagined or real, be shiny ones and bring good things your way. 

For a chance to win this “don’t mess with this house” doormat, tell us what movie or TV show made an impression on you as a child?   

 

Meet the Haywire Brides

                                     

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Updated: December 16, 2019 — 2:12 am

Longing For a Cowboy Christmas & Giveaway

 

 

 

Linda Broday and I are celebrating the publication of our new book Longing for a Cowboy Christmas.

This is the second book we’ve done together.  Last year, our stories appeared in Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms.

That’s the exciting part.  The fun part is this: We are each giving away something special to one lucky reader.  We can’t wait to see who you are. 

“Brimming with holiday magic, this feel-good anthology of historical romance novellas, all centered on the cowboy mystique and second chances, will delight and charm.” Publisher’s Weekly

 

 

Margaret’s Story: A Love Letter to Santa

She turned his life upside-down.  Could she really be the right woman for him?

Holly Sanders plans to make this the best Christmas for a town hard hit by the drought.   Okay, maybe she’s overdone the bows, baubles and garlands.  But is that a reason for the new blacksmith Tom Chandler to declare war on tinsel?

Tom doesn’t mean to play scrooge. But when his dog’s objections to the endless caroling gets them tossed out of his boarding house, he decides enough is enough.

The escalating battle takes an unexpected turn when he spots Holly struggling against the wind with an armload of presents and rushes to help her. Before he knows what happened, the green-eyed beauty recruits him to play Santa’s helper. After helping make one small boy’s Christmas wish come true, he’s utterly hooked, and suddenly has a wish of his own!   But convincing Holly he’s the right man for her would require a miracle—and maybe even a little help from Santa.

Linda’s Story: The Christmas Wedding

As a late November storm batters her sod house, Rebel Avery’s thoughts are on the man she loves and plans to marry. Eight months ago, Outlaw Travis Lassiter had been captured and she fears he’s dead. To occupy her worried mind, she tells two small orphans she’s taken in how she used to celebrate the Advent and gets an idea.

The fledgling town of Hope’s Crossing has never had a Christmas celebration, so Rebel and the other women decide to make the entire town the Advent calendar. On their designated day, each home gives the children a treat. Day after day passes and it becomes increasingly apparent that Travis will not return. Rebel befriends a lonely recluse and gives her the only thing of value that she possesses—swaths of red satin fabric she’d saved for a wedding dress.

As they move toward the holiday, sagging spirits are renewed, a makeshift family is formed, and Rebel finds that through troubled times, love endures and conquers all. 

~~~~~~~

 Now tell us, are you an early Christmas shopper or do you wait till the last minute?

         Linda’s prize                                                         Margaret’s prize                       Collections make great hostess and teacher gifts (hint, hint). 

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Updated: September 19, 2019 — 6:42 am

Old-Time Advertisements

 

 

 

 

 

And now a word from our sponsor…

Those particular words didn’t come into play until the radio, but advertising has been around since the beginning of mankind.  Cavemen painted billboards on rock walls. Ancient Romans printed advertisements for gladiatorial games on papyrus.

After the invention of the printing press, advertisements began appearing in newspapers and periodicals. Circulars were posted on chimneys, lamp posts, walls, wagons, fences—you name it.  Since painting the town with ads was considered a public spectacle, men with buckets of paste worked mostly at night.

According to the old ads, only women had body odor.

Ads were designed not only to sell products, but also to solve personal and social problems. In many cases, people were oblivious to such personal shame as body odor or halitosis until some thoughtful marketer pointed it out.

Sense and Sensibilities

Looking back, I can’t help but laugh at some of the strange wording used to avoid offending customers.   During the 1800s the word limb was used for leg and white meat for chicken breast.  No one dare mention pants or trousers in polite company.  This posed a challenge for marketers. 

The Scott Company was so embarrassed at having to advertise toilet paper during the 1880s they customized the paper for their clients. The Waldorf Hotel became a big name in toilet paper. When a customer walked into a general store and requested a roll of Waldorf, no questions were asked. 

Speaking of toilet paper, Northern Tissue advertised “splinter-free” toilet paper in 1935.  If that doesn’t want to make you go “ouch” consider this: the “cure” for a certain male condition currently blasted nightly from the TV was, in the early 1900s, thought to be electric belts.

The westward migration spurred advertisements for real estate, investments and tourism.  

In 1860 the Pony Express advertisement in California read:

Can you imagine seeing an ad like this today?

“Wanted. Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”

The Civil War created a great need for clothes, shoes and ready made food and advertisements during the era reflected the new consumerism. 

Writers hear a lot about “branding” today, and we can thank the patent medicine companies of yesteryear for that.  By touting exotic ingredients, producers could distinguish themselves from competitors.  Other companies followed suit and slogans like the “soap that floats” became increasingly popular. 

It’s Wonderful, Amazing, Spectacular!

Not that long ago, a girl could be somebody, as long she was a secretary.

 Exaggeration was the order of the day and no one was better at reeling off adjectives than Richard Sears.  Eventually, Sears toned down the ads and was said to have concluded: “Honesty is the best policy. I know because I’ve tried it both ways.”

Honesty didn’t come easy for some advertisers and reform was needed. 1892, the Ladies’ Home Journal announced it would no longer accept patent medicine ads. The bogus potions were costing Americans millions of dollars per year and were coming under heavy attack by commentators and consumers.

In our factory, we make lipstick. In our advertising, we sell hope.”-Peter Nivio Zarlenga

Women purchased most of the household goods and so it made sense to have women create the ads.  As early as the 1900s, advertisers welcomed female employees.  The first advertisement to use sex was for Woodbury soap and was created by a woman.  Tame by today’s standards, the advertisement featured a couple with the message “The skin you love to touch.”  Not only did this raise eyebrows, but it promised sex, romance and love to anyone savvy enough to buy the product.  It worked:  Sales skyrocketed.

Studying advertisements is a great way to learn the customs, concerns, prejudices and history of earlier times.  I shudder to think what future generations will learn from ours.

What are your favorite or least favorite ads?

Read Margaret’s books and they will make you younger, wiser, thinner and rich

(Sorry, after reading all those old-time ads, I couldn’t resist!)

 

Cowboy Charm School

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                                                         The Cowboy Meets His Match

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Updated: August 21, 2019 — 7:05 am

We All Scream For Ice Cream (and Oysters!)

“Illinois wants more girls.  Open some free ice cream booths and you’ll fetch ’em”  -Burlington Free Press 1884

Ice cream might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the Old West, but as early as 1880, ice cream parlors were all the rage and began springing up in the most out of the way places.

Marshal Wyatt Earp was an ice cream devotee and every afternoon he headed for the Tombstone ice cream parlor on Fourth Street.  It’s not hard to imagine that he was on his way to enjoy his favorite sundae when he got sidetracked by the shootout at O.K. Corral.  He didn’t drink, but he sure did love his ice cream.  He wasn’t alone.

     “That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted.” (Last words). -Lou Costello           

Ice Cream parlors were popular throughout the west and some frontier towns had more than one.   Many restaurants, hotels and inns advertised Ice Cream and Oysters. Fortunately, the two weren’t served together; ice cream was the summer treat and oysters was a winter delicacy.  

Some parlors were quite fancy.  One in San Antonio advertised plush carpets, oak furnishings and stained-glass windows, but ice cream was also sold out of wagons (the first good humor men?) and tents.  Churches also got into the act and Ice cream socials rapidly grew in popularity.

Nothing says love like ice cream

Many a young man courted his lady love at an ice cream parlor. A Texas newspaper in the 1880s had this advice: “Love takes away the appetite.  If the woman of your dreams is on her third dish of ice cream, she’s not in love with you.”

The same newspaper also announced the wedding of couple who knew each other only fifteen minutes before tying the knot. But a successful marriage was assured as both had a passion for ice cream.

Then as now, the most popular flavor was vanilla.  Ice cream was flavored by fruit and even chocolate, but there were some strange flavors too (Avocado ice cream, anyone?)

Toward the end of 1880s, newspapers began issuing warnings against overindulging in that “insidious foe of health” ice cream, but as far as I could tell no one paid heed and no such warning seemed to exist for oysters.

So where did all that ice come from?

Before the train, ice was wrapped in sawdust and transported by wagons.  By the late 1880s, Tombstone had two ice companies; the Arctic Ice (two cents a pound) and the Tombstone Ice company (one and half cents per pound).

“Ice-cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal.”-Voltaire

According to 23&me, people with my DNA prefer chocolate ice cream. Well, they got that right. So tell me your favorite ice cream flavor and I’ll tell you your personality type,  and you don’t even have to send me your DNA! 

 

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Updated: July 20, 2019 — 10:45 am

If You Give a Mouse a Review: plus 5 book Giveaway

Years ago, I was a restaurant reviewer for a local newspaper.  My husband and I would dine at a restaurant like regular customers.  At the end of the meal, I’d pull out my card and announce that the restaurant had just been reviewed.

Once I became known, restaurant managers and owners offered me free meals and other bribes in exchange for reviews.  In order to write a fair and unbiased review, I never accepted anything free (though I must admit the costly bottle of champagne challenged my integrity), but you can’t blame anyone for trying. Restaurants depend on reviews for survival.  So do writers.

Whereas a single review in a newspaper or online can increase business for an eatery, writers needs a number of book reviews to notice a difference in sales.  In recent years, writers have lost important review outlets such as Romantic Times.  Now writers must depend on reader reviews on outlets like Amazon and Goodreads and those are not easy to come by.

Oh, sure, writers can pay review services and many bestselling writers do just that.  But the services don’t come cheap and there’s no guarantee that enough reviews will be provided to offset the costs.

Why All the Fuss About Book Reviews?

  1. Reviews offer writers greater visibility and a better chance of being found. Also, many promotional sites require a certain number of reviews before an author can use the service.
  2. A study conducted by the Northwestern University found that people bought products based on popularity, meaning the most reviews. Oddly enough, the reviews didn’t even have to be good.  Products with a lot of bad reviews sold more than products with fewer but better reviews.  (With that criteria, even a mouse could become popular if given enough reviews.)   
  3. It doesn’t take much. 20-50   reviews are enough to give consumers confidence enough in the product to purchase it.

Why don’t more readers leave book reviews?  According to my unscientific survey among friends and family, here are the top excuses, oops I mean reasons, for not leaving a review.

I didn’t purchase it from Amazon

Amazon allows reviews whether the book was purchased from them or not. If purchased from Amazon, it will say verified purchase.  Amazon does have an instinct for sniffing out reviews by a writer’s family members and friends (okay, you can’t blame me for trying), but otherwise anyone can review a book.

 I’m not a writer

You may not be a writer, but we writers value your words.  You don’t have to write anything fancy and you certainly don’t have to compete with a professional reviewer. I liked this book because….is a good start. Or maybe you didn’t like it as much as the author’s earlier works.  Honesty is always best when writing a review.  If you simply can’t bring yourself to write one, you can locate the book on Amazon, find the review that is closest to expressing your thoughts and click on “helpful.”  Yep, in the wondrous and sometimes confusing world of Amazon algorithms, “likes” and “helpfuls” count.

Don’t have time

I heard this one from someone who had recently won a free book from an online contest. I’m sure most winners don’t think about the time it takes the author to package and mail a book. Also, books don’t come free.  The writer probably paid for the book out of her own money, not to mention postage.  But writers do this willingly hoping the winner likes the book enough to recommend it to her friends, and yes, give it an online review. 

 My one review won’t make a difference

 Oh, but it does, it does, and we fillies appreciate readers who take the time to post reviews. You’ve helped contribute to the success of our books and we can’t thank you enough.

So how important are reviews to you in choosing books, movies, restaurants or Amazon purchases?

 Okay, now here’s the good part. Post a comment and you could be one of five winners to receive a copy of my new release The Cowboy Meets His Match—yep five.  BUT (yep, there’s a catch!) I’m going to ask for the very thing most writers are too embarrassed to ask for: All I’m asking in return is that winners consider posting a review of the book.  Yee-Haw!

 

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Updated: June 19, 2019 — 9:24 am

The Cowboy Meets His Match & Book Giveaway

His first mistake was marrying her;

                  his second was falling in love.                               

How would you feel if you suddenly found yourself married to the wrong person?  That’s what happened to Chase and Emily in The Cowboy Meets His Match. 

Chase has to marry per his father’s will in order to keep the family ranch. Emily has just traveled to Texas from Boston as a mail-order-bride.  After vows are exchanged and the bride’s veil removed, Chase realizes he’s married to the wrong woman. His new bride has no affinity for cattle and doesn’t even know how to ride a horse! He immediately demands an annulment, but as the following scene shows, that doesn’t work out the way he’d hoped. 

(For a chance to win the book, leave a comment.  Giveaway guidelines apply.)

~~~~~~~~

With a glance at the clerk, the judge drew a handkerchief out of his pocket and dabbed at his sweaty forehead. Replacing the handkerchief, he cleared his throat. “I’m sure this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.” The judge’s hollow laugh was met with scowls. Growing serious, he reached for a leather-bound book and thumbed through the pages.

“Ah, here we are,” he said, sounding relieved. “Annulment.” Adjusting his spectacles, he quickly scanned the page. “This should only take a few minutes. You just have to answer a few questions.” Finger holding his spot, he looked up and asked in all seriousness, “Why do you want an annulment?”

Chase reared back. “Why? Because I married the wrong woman, that’s why!”

“Yes, yes, yes, I know that.” The judge stabbed the page with his finger. “But that’s not listed here as legitimate grounds for annulment.”

The uncle jabbed the muzzle of his shotgun on the floor and placed both hands on the butt. “What are legitimate grounds?”

The judge’s finger moved down the page. “Bigamy, for one.” He looked up. “Are either of you married?”

“Yes, we’re married,” Chase said, his voice thick with impatience. “To each other!”

The uncle stared straight at Emily. “I think he’s asking if either one of you is married to someone else.”

Emily’s eyes flashed him a look of disdain. If it wasn’t for him and his veiled threats, neither she nor Chase would be in this predicament. “I’m not married. Or at least I wasn’t until a few minutes ago.”

The judge checked the book again. “Okay, forget that. Are either of you underage?” The judge had directed the question to her.

“I’m twenty-two,” Emily said.

“Twenty-six,” Chase said.

The judge’s finger moved down the page again. “Are either of you related to the other?”

Chase shook his head. “Absolutely not.”

The judge peered at them over the frame of his spectacles. “Are either of you”—he cleared his throat—“unable to consummate the marriage?”

Emily’s face flared, and Chase threw up his hands. “This is getting us nowhere.”

The judge held up the palm of a hand. “Now hold on. There’s more.” He glanced at the uncle’s shotgun. “Were either of you coerced into the marriage?”

Emily felt a flicker of hope, but before she had a chance to answer in the affirmative, the door flew open. A man stormed into the chambers with a bride in tow, and he looked fit to be tied.

The uncle stepped in front of the new arrivals, his shotgun raised in a threatening pose. The newly arrived bride gasped and fell back.

“Sorry, Royce,” the uncle said. “You’re too late. The will said the first one married will have full ownership of the ranch.” He tossed a nod at Emily. “Meet Mrs. Chase McKnight, your new sister-in-law.”

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Updated: May 22, 2019 — 1:44 pm

Not Always by Choice: Mail-Order Brides

I love reading and writing mail-order bride stories set in the Old West.  I’m happy to say that next month my next mail-order bride story The Cowboy Meets His Match will be published. And boy, oh, boy, does that couple ever clash!

It’s hard to imagine a young woman traveling west to marry a man she’d never set eyes on. The original catalog-bride business grew out of necessity. The lack of marriageable women in the west was partly responsible, but so was the Civil War. The war not only created thousands of widows but a shortage of men, especially in the South.

As a result, marriage brokers and heart-and-hand catalogs popped up all around the country. According to an article in the Toledo Blade, lonely men even wrote to the Sears catalog company asking for brides. (The latest such letter received by Sears was from a lonely marine during the Vietnam War.)

In those early days, advertisements cost five to fifteen cents, and letters were exchanged along with photographs. Fortunately, the telegraph and train made communication easier.

Not all marriage brokers were legitimate, and many a disappointed client ended up with an empty bank account rather than a contracted mate.

For some mail-order couples, it was love (or lust) at first sight. In 1886, one man and his mail-order bride were so enamored with each other that they scandalized fellow passengers on the Union Pacific Railroad during their honeymoon.

Not every bride was so lucky. In her book Hearts West, Chris Enss tells the story of mail-order bride Eleanor Berry. On the way to her wedding, her stage was held up at gunpoint by four masked men. While signing the marriage license, she suddenly realized that her new husband was one of the outlaws who had robbed her.

No one seems to know how many mail-order brides there were during the 1800s, but the most successful matchmaker of all appears to be Fred Harvey.  He wasn’t in the mail-order bride business, but, by the turn of the century, five thousand Harvey Girls had found husbands while working in his restaurants.

Under what circumstances might you have traveled west to marry a stranger?

His first mistake was marrying her; his second was falling in love.

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Updated: April 20, 2019 — 8:56 am