Category: Contest

Chicken Soup, Lemons, and Small Towns

One reason I enjoy writing stories set in small western towns is the sense of community. In one book I joked if someone sneezed, half the town would be at the door with chicken soup before day’s end. From the small towns I’ve known, this isn’t too far from the truth.

Life is hard. In the city I’ve become so accustomed to the polite and well-meaning “hello, how are you today” greetings everywhere, I can respond on auto-pilot. No matter how hard life is knocking me around, I can plaster a smile on my face and reply I’m fine. But in small towns, that’s harder to pull off because people know each other. They’re more likely to see past an overly bright smile and notice something is off. More importantly, they’re likely to ask and care about the answer. Not that this doesn’t happen in the city. It does. I just find it harder to create those mini-communities of support in the city.

Another difference I’ve discovered, is to receive help in the city, I am more likely to have to ask for it friends in my mini-community. My grandparents lived on a farm outside Decorah, Iowa, a town of eight thousand. If someone was struggling financially, if a death occurred in the family, or someone was sick, most of the town knew. For example, my dear friend Lori Turner Halligan shared a story about her father’s death during prime planting time in Iowa twenty-three years ago on April 28. Farmers arrived with equipment and planted her family’s fields before planting their own. Other families brought food to feed those working the fields. Her mother didn’t have to ask. The Turners needed help, and the community turned out. This is the sense of community I tried to create in both my Estes Park Series and my Wishing Texas Series.

Western women are known for their strength. In the old west, they helped carve a life out of the wilderness. While many of my heroines start out as “Eastern city women,” they possess a western soul. One that refuses to let them give up or give in. When fate lobs lemons at my heroines like hand grenades, they put on a hard hat and make lemonade,but sometimes even the strongest of women get weary.

Take Cassie in To Love A Texas Cowboy. When her niece is orphaned, Cassie moves from New York to Texas because that’s what’s best for Ella. Without family to count on, she’s learned to rely on herself, but keeping her art career going, raising a child and keeping a roof over their heads would shake Wonder Woman’s confidence. Like so many of us, Cassie realizes she can’t do it all alone. For her, help comes from the most unexpected place–Ty, a cowboy who at first glance appears to be on the opposite side of every issue and a small Texas town.

Whether we live in the city, small town or a ranch, whether our support comes from those related to us by blood, or a family we create in less traditional ways, we need people we can count on when life gets rough. 

And a special thank you to my BFF Lori for help with this blog and life in general. Everyone should be blessed with a friend like you.

Take a moment to leave a comment and be entered to win the dish towel, wine glass and a copy of Colorado Rescue.

To read an excerpt of To Love A Texas Cowboy, click here

Updated: October 2, 2018 — 4:33 pm

When Good People Make Bad Mistakes by Laura Drake

 

‘Ordinary women at the edge of extraordinary change’

Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it’s a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from.

– Al Franken

I’m fascinated by what makes good people make horrible decisions. I mean, we’re all doing the best we can, given what we know at the time, right? I explore this theme in a lot of my books, but never more than in my December release, The Last True Cowboy.

Carly Beauchamp has loved cowboy Austin Davis since first grade. Ask anyone in their dusty, backwater New Mexico town of Unforgiven, and they’ll say, “Carly and Austin” the way some say, “big trucks and country boys.” But after years of waiting for a wedding ring, Carly’s done with being a rodeo widow. She dumps Austin (again), but after a month she’s a pressure cooker, ready to blow. She heads to Albuquerque, where she’s not half of the C&A franchise. No heartbroken, “poor Carly.” Just an anonymous chick in a generic country bar. There she meets a man with ice blue eyes in biker leathers. They have nothing in common—except heartbreak. They pour out their pain while pouring the booze.

Horror hits when Carly wakes alone, but vaguely remembers she didn’t go to sleep that way. She calls around, to find that her mystery man never existed. He lied. About his name, his job . . . everything. She takes a morning after pill and goes home, determined to put this huge mistake in the rear view mirror. And she manages—more or less—until the doctor confirms her pregnancy.

Austin never meant to put his career on the circuit before Carly. She’s always been his future, his one and only. But now that she’s moved on, he’s beginning to see where he went wrong, and he’ll do anything to win her back. The only thing is, Carly’s suddenly acting differently, and she’s definitely hiding a secret—one that will test the depth of their love and open up a whole new world of possibilities.

So what do you think, P&P readers? Have you ever made a mistake that seemed like a good idea at the time?

Laura is away print copies of Nothing Sweeter and Sweet on You to one lucky winner picked at random from those who leave a comment.

Buy Laura Drake’s books here. 

Heart and soul. Cowboys and rodeos. Laura Drake has the amazing ability to give you all of it and leave you wanting more at the end.” Carolyn Brown, NY Times bestselling author

“Brilliant writing, just brilliant”–NYT bestselling author, Lori Wilde

 

 

Updated: July 31, 2018 — 10:26 am

Sometimes We Eat Giant Pickles at the Movies

When I talked to a dear friend, Jennifer Jacobson, about writing a blog on misconceptions Easterners hold about Westerners, she recommended the children’s book Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Byron Barton. The book’s young hero laments about what he’ll find when he moves out West. Not only did I get a good laugh, but the book fit perfectly with many stories friends shared on the subject. As Sharmat and Barton’s hero says at the end, “Back East they don’t know much about us Westerners.” Because of this fact, getting regional dialect/phrases, career details and settings that add richness to a story can be harder than readers realize because many industry professional are Easterners.

 One thing the hero in Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport claims at the beginning is, “…there’s cactus everywhere you look.” I chuckled because apparently, we have a cacti cover problem on Texas romance novels. When I asked author friends and readers on Facebook what Eastern folks get wrong about the west, I received a few cactus stories. Fact is, we don’t see many cacti in east or central Texas, but often there they’re on covers of novels set there. Other authors found saguaros on covers for west Texas novels though they don’t grow in Texas.

Often authors must explain regional phrases or words to editors. For example, what some call a dish towel, others call a cup towel. A pumpjack or nodding donkey is part of an oil well. It was suggested she say pumping jack. Ah, not only no, but hell no. As the author who shared the story said, she’d be “laughed out of west Texas if she’d used that term.” Another thing people don’t understand is y’all isn’t singular. A live oak is a specific type of tree, not a tree that’s actually alive. Texas barns are most likely weathered and red, not the giant red barns seen in the East and Midwest.

Another big issue was horses. One friend’s pet peeve was when authors put a hero on a “well-behaved” stallion. First, stallions are rarely “well-behaved,” and second, stallions often can’t be near other horses. Another author friend said she spotted a cover where the male model had a bridle thrown over his shoulder… upside down! According to her, “No one who has been within 20 feet of a horse would carry a bridle that way.” 

A friend and amazing artist, Jane Monsson also said her pet peeve is when authors get horse details wrong. From her art, it’s apparent she loves horses and knows a lot about them. I admit, I’ve worried about messing up with horse anatomy or gear. After all, I write western romance. There’s going to be horses in my stories and I need to get it right. While I know which end of a horse is which, I’ve never owned one and am nowhere near an expert.

How do I get details right enough so as not to offend experts like Jane? Edgar R. “Frosty” Potter’s cool book Cowboy Slang. The book contains an illustration “Parts of a Horse” and “Parts of a Horse Skeleton.” (I haven’t needed the later, but one never knows!However, I’ve frequently referred to the section “Colors of Horses.” This book of one hundred twenty-three pages is a treasure, containing great western sayings, info on cattle brands, barbed wire, cattle ear crop types, and how cowboys use a bandana! For horse gear, I refer to the illustrated horse gear section of a volunteer booklet from Equest Therapeutic Horsemanship Program. 

The other way I check facts or do research for my stories is by finding an expert. But that’s a blog for another day.

Now it’s your turn. Share with me what your pet peeve that people get wrong about the west or us Westerners and be entered to win a copy of To Catch a Texas Cowboy and the Book Club wine glass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Updated: July 31, 2018 — 8:18 pm

Cowboy In The Making Reissued

I’m excited to announce that Harlequin is reissuing my book Cowboy in the Making, along with USA Today bestselling author Angi Morgan’s The Renegade Rancher. If you’re like me and occasionally enjoy having a traditional book to hold, here’s your chance to get two great books in one! Look for Home on the Ranch: Family Ties this July.

In Cowboy in the Making, I wove together two of my favorite themes—tackling career struggles/obstacles and exploring the definition of family. After high school Emma Donovan headed for Nashville, her head filled with dreams of a country music career, but life didn’t go as planned. She returned to Colorado both older  and wiser. A freak accident sends Jamie Westland to his grandfather’s Colorado ranch to clear his head and sort out his life. But Jamie’s grandfather has a plan of his own—to play matchmaker between Jamie and his best friend’s granddaughter Emma by throwing them together any chance he can.

Both these characters have been touched by adoption, but from opposite sides of the issue. They both wonder where they belong, and wonder what it means to be family. What matters more nature or nuture? What makes us who we are and what are the ties that bind us together?

Here’s an excerpt:

Emma decided she was done fighting what she felt for him. She was tired of being strong, focused and directed all the time. More important, she was tired of being alone.

Not that she thought she’d found her soul mate or anything crazy like that. She believed the soul mate thing was as real as Big Foot—but Jamie made her laugh, something she hadn’t done enough of since her mother got sick, and for right now, that was enough. No harm. No foul. That became her motto.

From that night on, she and Jamie went out to eat after rehearsals and talked about whatever came to mind. Music, their childhoods. She learned he’d secretly listened to country music in high school. Sometimes they worked on music and had even started writing some songs together. A couple of times they went hiking or horseback riding. Nothing special, and yet their time together fed her soul.

Now today Emma stood in the parking lot at Stanley Park unloading tables and chairs from the shelter van for the Pet Walk when Jamie pulled up. He’d been such a rock for her when she found out about Andrew. It would have been so easy to fall apart, and she probably would have if it hadn’t been for Jamie.

He got out of Mick’s battered Chevy truck, looking way too good for this early in the morning, wearing one of the shirts he’d bought when they went shopping. As it happened her favorite, the tan-and-brown plaid that matched his coffee-colored eyes.

Before when he was dressed in khakis and a polo shirt, he’d looked… She searched for the right word. Restrained. Reserved. Almost as if he was apart from everyone and everything around him. Now a relaxed air surrounded him. He appeared at ease. Almost as if she was seeing the inner man for the first time. He looked as though he’d been here his entire life. As though he belonged.

She nodded toward his feet. “Good-looking boots.”

“Do I pass muster?”

“You’ll do.”

 

Thanks for stopping by today. Leave a comment and be entered to win the plastic, light-up wineglass from my favorite winery Firelight and a copy of Home on the Ranch:  FamilyTies, perfect for an afternoon on the patio or by the pool.

 

 

 

Updated: May 30, 2018 — 8:14 am

Winnie’s Winner!!

Thanks to everyone who came out to talk crossword puzzles with me today – it was such fun to learn about so many fellow enthusiasts!

I tossed everyone’s names in the cyber hat and the name I pulled out was

SUSAN JOHNSON

Congratulations Susan!  You’ve won your choice of any book from my backlist. You can find a complete list on the Books page of my website. Once you’ve made your choice, yo can contact me via my website with the title and your mailing info and I’ll get the book right on out to you.

Updated: January 9, 2018 — 11:39 pm
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