Shannon Stacey

The Not-So-Super-Secret Kowalski Project of Doom (and a contest)

In my after-hours, I’ve been working away on the SSKPoD (Super Secret Kowalski Project of Doom). I’ve also mentioned it on Twitter. So what is it?

It’s a short story (free read). (I don’t think it’s going to quite hit novella length, but you never know. The Kowalskis love to talk.) During the crazy DABWAHA voting I offered to, as a bribe, write the having-the-baby epilogue for Joe and Keri (Exclusively Yours). Their daughter was born between Undeniably Yours and Yours To Keep, so I thought it might be fun to back up a little.

I’ve also had a lot of readers ask me for Leo and Mary’s story. A lot more than I expected, to be honest. So I was taking part in the Sizzling Book Club chat for Yours To Keep at Smart Bitches, where talk of Leo and Mary’s story came up again. And, while the chat was scrolling by at crazy fast speeds, the story just BAM—in my head. So I’m trying to jot down a couple of notes, but the chat’s still scrolling and I have to pay attention so I’m trying to get my husband to write a couple of things down but he writes so slowly and I can’t read his writing anyway, so it was a little crazy.

So here it is: the coming soon* Not-So-Super-Secret Kowalski Project of Doom:

Nothing brings Leo and Mary Kowalski more joy than the impending arrival of their seventh grandchild, although they can’t help but wish their oldest son and his wife could have just one of their many false alarms while the sun’s still shining. Between Keri’s first-time-mom anxiety and Joe’s fiction-writing imagination, the hospital staff’s threatening to install a revolving door.

When yet another late night call brings everybody to the hospital with the promise Keri’s really in labor this time, the clock ticks past midnight and into the day marking the anniversary of Leo and Mary’s wedding vows. As they wait for the newest Kowalski to make a grand entrance, the baby’s grandparents remember back to the Northern Star Lodge in 1969, where an angry young man wounded his last week in Vietnam met a dark-haired girl with a dimpled smile and a stubborn streak that matched his own. He was forbidden to socialize with the daughters of guests and her parents had grand plans for her future, but Mary lost her heart to the boy with the pretty blue eyes and refused to give up on him.

The contest: Mary Kowalski needs a maiden name!

Just leave your suggestion for her maiden name** here in the comments (or, if you came here from my FB page because they’re being snotty about contests, you can suggest a name there). I’ve got a crazy, busy weekend planned, so on Monday on Wednesday evening (my time) I’ll announce two winners, each receiving a $25 gift card to their choice of Amazon, Barnes & Noble or All Romance eBooks. One winner will be the person whose suggestion I use and the other will be randomly drawn from everybody who enters.

* I don’t know exactly when this will be available yet. I’m shooting for no more than two months from now, but I have to make my word count on contracted books each day before I work on special projects.

**Mary’s background has never really been mentioned, so there aren’t really any guidelines for names. She’s a New Englander, but her family could originally have been from anywhere (and that backstory could possibly be decided by a really great maiden name.)

(Oh, and if you go to moderation, it’s okay. The last thing I do before I draw winners is check and make sure nobody got lost in there.)

55 comments to “The Not-So-Super-Secret Kowalski Project of Doom (and a contest)”

  1. Judy Latham
      · August 18th, 2011 at 11:02 am · Link


  2. Cheryl McInnis
      · August 18th, 2011 at 11:04 am · Link

    Yay for Mary and Leo’s story!!! :)

    My first thought is that since the Bruins FINALLY won the cup again this year, Mary’s maiden name should be Thomas-in honor of Timmy ;-)
    Then again, Mary is a good, upstanding Catholic girl name…so maybe her maiden name should be Kennedy-like those other New England Kennedys…maybe she is a distant cousin, lol

  3. Juliann
      · August 18th, 2011 at 11:05 am · Link

    Mary Ann Antonelli. Her background could be Italian since she is a great cook. Also, the story can be how she grew up in a large city (New York) when her parents came over on the boat. They moved away to New England at an early age for her parents to start a hotel to live the American Dream, and that is when she meets Leo and falls in love.

  4. Corinne Bridges
      · August 18th, 2011 at 11:08 am · Link

    I think she should have a Northern name & I LOVE ice cream so… vote is for Gifford. I love the Kowalski family and this book series!! :) Great contest!!

  5. Suzie Conn
      · August 18th, 2011 at 11:08 am · Link

    Arsenault ~ A super New England Name

  6. Phyl
      · August 18th, 2011 at 11:13 am · Link

    This suggestion is honor of my grandfather who died when I was two in 1959. He was a Catholic French-Canadian who settled in Springfield, MA as a young man with his wife, my grandmother. By all accounts he was a colorful man and smart as a whip. He patented several small inventions that he sold to car makers like Ford and Chevrolet. During prohibition he ran booze between Springfield and Montreal. I wish I had been able to know him–Grandpa Denis.

  7. SaraO @ TheLibrarianReads
      · August 18th, 2011 at 11:14 am · Link

    Englehart: It’s my mother’s maiden name. But I’ve always thought it would make a great character name…With the ‘heart’ at the end I think it sounds sweet and potentially romantic.

  8. jo
      · August 18th, 2011 at 11:19 am · Link

    How about something like Chester. The Chester’s sound like a rather socialite family name.

  9. Mary Kirkland
      · August 18th, 2011 at 11:19 am · Link

    well, since my first name is Mary, I’m gonna go with my last name…lol Very original right?


  10. Veronica Ortiz
      · August 18th, 2011 at 11:31 am · Link

    Mary Dubois. Its a French surname, so the backstory could be of her ancestors from France. Here is some research info for the Dubois surname: . I’m excited to read this short story! Can’t wait! :)

  11. MinnChica
      · August 18th, 2011 at 11:35 am · Link

    Mary reminds me of a woman from a big Italian family. Everyone is always loud and in each other’s business and spends 90% of their time in the kitchen.

    I love the last name Columbo.

  12. Carin
      · August 18th, 2011 at 11:43 am · Link

    I like something simple, so she had to go from something easy to Kowalski. Brown, Flint, Pope, Stone, etc.

    And if you went with Stone, you could have her family trying to marry her off to the son of the Wall family, so they want her to become Mary Stone Wall.

  13. Chele Blades
      · August 18th, 2011 at 11:53 am · Link

    I agree she should kind of have a normal every day name Wilson…

    Glad for Mary & Leo Story!!!

  14. E.D. Walker
      · August 18th, 2011 at 11:53 am · Link

    The dimples make me think Irish. Maybe.

    What about:


    OR you could use Pettibone, just because it’s an interesting looking name.

  15. StacieDM
      · August 18th, 2011 at 11:56 am · Link

    Finnegan. Love the lyrical way it rolls off the tongue. What a fun contest!

  16. Peark
      · August 18th, 2011 at 12:08 pm · Link

    For some strange reason I went in search of Irish last names….


  17. Heather Rae Scott
      · August 18th, 2011 at 12:17 pm · Link

    I’m squeeing from the inside out. I can’t wait to read this and of course any more Kowalski’s that happen your way.

    Italian: Corcetti
    Irish: Reilly, O’ Malley, McDonald
    Scottish: MacKenzie, Wallace, Stewart (after someone we know just spelled differently ) MacDonald
    For aliteration: Mobley, Morris
    or Harper, Shaffer, Walker,
    If she’s a hunky like her hubby, you have Ploskunak ( plause-koo-nak) or Ignaczak ( Ig-nay-czach)

  18. Daphne
      · August 18th, 2011 at 12:20 pm · Link

    My grandmother was named Mary. So I’m going to suggest these two:

    Carriere (Cajun French/French)
    Cryer (Scott-Irish)

    Also, review of Yours to Keep,

  19. LisaA
      · August 18th, 2011 at 12:25 pm · Link

    Mary Elizabeth McClery. Her parents immigrated to New England from Ireland. They came to America so that they, and their six American-born children could live the dream. Mary’s mother worked in the kitchen of a wealthy family and was known for her fabulous cooking, and shared her skills and love of good food with her daughters. Mary was beautiful and smart, and her parent’s had hopes that she would marry a young, ambitious man from a prominent family. But Mary was also passionate and headstrong, and when she met Leo…well, her fate was sealed. Initially, her parents did not feel that Leo was good enough for Mary, but eventually they came around and discovered that Leo, though rough around the edges, was a good man who would love her, challenge her, and could provide a good life for their beloved daughter.

  20. JoyceZ
      · August 18th, 2011 at 12:42 pm · Link

    So excited to hear there will be more from the Kowalski’s!

    I like Mary Murphy

  21. library addict
      · August 18th, 2011 at 1:02 pm · Link

    Yay, can’t wait to read the SSKPoD. Thanks so much for writing it.

    I like Mary Derda (coud be either Polish or German) or something else simple like Mary Reed (Read/Reid) or Mary Brown.

  22. Tracy Fischer
      · August 18th, 2011 at 1:27 pm · Link

    Yeah! Glad to hear about another Kowalski read!

    I vote MARY MARTIN

  23. Sarah Hazelton
      · August 18th, 2011 at 2:09 pm · Link

    It would be fun for her maiden name to be something easier and more simple than Kowalski, so that when she got married it was a huge change for her. SHe could go from having a name no one had trouble reading, spelling or pronouncing to something that she was constantly having to spell for people or correct their pronunciation. Just another perk of falling for an intense, overwhelming Kowalski man. Names popping into my head are:

    Mary Louise Alexander
    Mary Elizabeth Payton
    Mary Sue Sutton
    Mary Ellen Roth

  24. Lisa B
      · August 18th, 2011 at 3:14 pm · Link

    I asked my boys i got


    There ya go. lol

    Can’t wait to read this Shannon.

    Lisa B

  25. Peggy M
      · August 18th, 2011 at 3:31 pm · Link

    I suggest Mary Spencer, my mother’s maiden name.

  26. Lynda the Guppy
      · August 18th, 2011 at 3:44 pm · Link

    Ryba (a family name…also Polish)

  27. Lisa J
      · August 18th, 2011 at 3:57 pm · Link

    Since my Grandma was a very devout Catholic (with 9 kids she better be), I would like to suggest her maiden name, Heitz. It’s a nice strong German name.

  28. Jane
      · August 18th, 2011 at 4:04 pm · Link


  29. C2
      · August 18th, 2011 at 8:59 pm · Link

    O’Shaughnessy or maybe O’Reilly.

    Yay Project of Doom!!

  30. Elena Compo
      · August 18th, 2011 at 9:33 pm · Link

    Mary Patricia (Mary Pat) Catherine Elizabeth Sullivan

    The decendants of Irish indentured servants. Family was lace curtain Irish.

  31. Lori
      · August 18th, 2011 at 10:52 pm · Link

    Yay!! For Kerri and Joe’s birth and for Leo & Mary’s story!!

    How about Mary Brady? A fine Irish name :)

  32. Angie G
      · August 18th, 2011 at 10:56 pm · Link

    What a fun contest as well as something to look forward to. Yay!!!

    This is probably silly, but what about something simple like Jones or Smith. Growing up, I bet she never imagined she’d someday be a Kowalksi! On the other hand, I really like the idea of an Italian or Irish background. There are so many possibilities. Whatever you go with will be great. I can’t wait to read it.

  33. Danielle West
      · August 18th, 2011 at 11:28 pm · Link

    Well, I have these pictures (1921) of two family members on my mother’s side that were sister-in-laws and they were both named Mary with really dark hair. One had dimples, the other not. Both were immigrants, Mary Amalia Hansen was from Germany and Mary Anita Mahoney was from Ireland and they married into the Danielson family. So my suggestions are Hansen, Mahoney, or Danielson.
    Can’t wait to read what you are working on!! Love the Kowlski’s!

  34. Stacy
      · August 19th, 2011 at 1:46 pm · Link

    I always pictured Mary Kowalski as being Hungarian or Italian, so I’ll throw out Nagy, Papp, and Simon; Romano, Marino, and Mancini.

  35. Bev Stephans
      · August 19th, 2011 at 2:01 pm · Link

    Mary Margaret Corley

  36. Jean
      · August 19th, 2011 at 8:58 pm · Link

    Mary O’Malley

    It just popped into my head.

  37. Sarita
      · August 20th, 2011 at 7:48 am · Link


  38. gillian
      · August 20th, 2011 at 12:28 pm · Link

    What about Fitzpatrick thats a good name.

  39. Tracy S
      · August 20th, 2011 at 3:40 pm · Link

    I just found the Kowalski’s and am LOVING them!!

    It’s fun to see how people comment that Mary reminds them of their family and their nationality. I have an Italian sister-in-law and we always compare stories on our families. My family is Polish. Polish and Italian are so much alike it’s scary!! You feed those you love (could be why we are all a little rounder!!), family get togethers are NOT quiet, and we are all up in each others business!

    I know Kowalski if very Polish sounding, but I’ll go with a few more:


  40. Dori O'Quinn
      · August 20th, 2011 at 6:55 pm · Link

    I think Frazier.It was my Grandmother’s maiden name or Berard my other Grandmother’s maiden name.

  41. Heather Carter
      · August 20th, 2011 at 8:28 pm · Link

    I think that Morel sounds New Englandish. Don’t you?

  42. Amy Farr
      · August 21st, 2011 at 3:38 pm · Link

    I agree it should be something simple. I like Beach, Wetzel, Brison or Evans.

  43. Emily D
      · August 22nd, 2011 at 12:18 pm · Link

    I was going to suggest my Hungarian maiden name (because I think only 14 people in the country share it) but then I realized that since my mom’s name is Mary then the character would have my mom’s name and I just don’t think I could deal with that. So, I’m now going with Szabo. Because it starts with the Sz like my maiden name but won’t make me picture my mom.

  44. Kathy Ivan
      · August 22nd, 2011 at 12:21 pm · Link

    My first instinct is Irish–with an Irish woman’s temper and huge capacity for loving. So: O’Connor would be my first choice.

    Mary O’Connor. Has a nice ring to it. LOL

  45. Danielle Beahn
      · August 22nd, 2011 at 12:22 pm · Link

    I vote Mary Bradshaw! I can’t wait for the story! Love your books!

  46. Emily W.
      · August 22nd, 2011 at 12:36 pm · Link

    I’m going to say Miller. In honor of my grandmother since Mary is becoming a grandmother again in this story.

  47. Melanie Findley
      · August 22nd, 2011 at 1:18 pm · Link

    Findley, Harrah

  48. Jennifer Clark
      · August 22nd, 2011 at 2:03 pm · Link

    Boutet – it is French and was my grandmother’s maiden name

    My maiden name is Keilholz and is very german which could work for Mary also.

  49. Turophile
      · August 22nd, 2011 at 2:17 pm · Link

    Witzigrueter It’s my grandmother’s maiden name. And romance novels need more german last names that no one can pronounce, right? Lots of comedy there.

  50. Jewell
      · August 22nd, 2011 at 4:17 pm · Link

    Oy. Your requests always start my mind churning after a long, hard day at work.

    I remember a girl from highschool with a most unusual to me last name. Schlegelmilch. Dark haired just like Mary, and the name is from old Middle High German. It represented the occupation of dairyman, and literally means Buttermilk.

    Now this could be shortened and Americanized as many immigrants used to do to blend into the melting pot. Especially if they had high aspirations about social standing. Milcher, perhaps. And, the name Kowalski is very ethnic and a mouthful compared to that, LOL. Could explain why her parents don’t want them together. A seperation from past.

    Also, though I haven’t had the guts to try it, buttermilk is supposed to be very thick and tangy. Not for the faint of heart.

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