Fort Worth Stockyards

I wrote a blog here a while back about things to do around Dallas. One of those were the Fort worth Stockyards. Well, I can’t very well recommend somewhere I’ve never been, right? The grandkids were visiting from Panama (and getting vaccinated-dual citizens!), so we went on a day trip.

Wow, there’s something there for everyone!

First recommendation – go in early spring or fall – it gets hot there! Second, go early. We got there early enough to snag a shady parking spot, and started wandering.

Tons of shopping! Everything from tourist-trap stuff to really top end boots and attire. These guys were outside one shop, and I was tempted to take one home – instead, settled for the perfect coaster for my desk!

Then we sat on a bench beside the brick of Exchange Avenue, and waited for the cowboys to drive a herd of longhorns past! (happens daily at 11:30 & 4:00) I don’t know if you’ve ever been close to a longhorn, but they are HUGE!

They also had one saddled and standing in the shade that you could get on and grab a photo, but none of us were tempted.

We wandered, and every fifty feet or so there are stars in the sidewalk, like in Hollywood, but they’re for cowboys (and women) that helped settle the west, Western actors, even the cattle trails had one.

After a delicious lunch at Shake Shack (Didn’t know there was one in Texas!), we set off again.

Next stop, Cowtown Coliseum. They have rodeos there every Friday and Saturday night, and the kids would have loved to have seen one, but there just wasn’t time, this trip. But it’s open to the public every day, and there are still things to see there, including Sancho of the curly horns.

It’s also home to the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame – I had a blast finding all the bullriders I’ve followed for years, including the King of the Cowboys, Ty Murray. But it wasn’t only just cowboys – rodeo stock (bucking horses and bulls) are represented too!

Next stop, The John Wayne Museum. It was closed, but we went in the gift shop, and I couldn’t believe it! There was Trigger and Bullet! For you youngsters, that was Roy Rogers’ horse and Dog, from his TV show. I’d seen them at the Roy Rogers Museum in Victorville, Ca, decades before, and it was like seeing slightly macabre old friends!

 

 

 

On the way out, I couldn’t resist – I had to get on the bucking machine. Mind you, it was NOT moving. Trust me, getting up on that thing was hard enough – a sure sign I’m too old for it, but I had to get a photo!

All in all, a great, fun day – I highly recommend it! You can learn more of the details of what to do there, here.

If you make it there, send me a photo of YOU on the bucking bull!

Other Obsessions: Fishing!

I don’t know why I love it. I grew up in the suburbs. My mother’s idea of camping was a 4-star hotel, and my dad bought a weber to grill, and used it ONCE in my lifetime.

But there was a creek across the street from us, and I’d buy hooks at the dime store. And one memorable day, I even caught a catfish on a safety pin and a hot dog.

It wasn’t until I was grown and on my own that I fished again.

My husband and I belonged to a motorcycle club, and there was a weekend at the Kern river near Bakersfield, California, every year. We stayed at a hotel on the river. My girlfriend Pam and I were sitting on the patio with the water rushing under us, when she asked me if I liked to fish. We went across the street to a gas station and rented fishing poles, and she even caught a 5 inch trout. Then she asked me what I thought about fly fishing.

Our husbands bought us fly rods, reels, and fly fishing lessons for Christmas, and that was the beginning of my addiction.

One of the trips we made every year was to Kennedy Meadows, a remote area, high in the mountains. A river runs through it (sorry, couldn’t resist) and another friend, Chris came fishing with Pam and I. We had a blast, and returned for several summers. The die was cast. The Kennedy Meadows Hookers were born.

One of the early years

The three of us have taken a fly fishing trip somewhere, almost every year since. Yellowstone, Mammoth, Ca, Oregon, we’ve been all over, and had a blast, every time. Fishing with them is great, but the nights are even better – like high school sleepovers with your best friends – only with WINE!

We’ve got tons of stories – like the year I broke my leg (just a hairline fracture) and I insisted I wasn’t missing Jacuzzi time, so they wheeled me down on a luggage cart (wine was involved, but it was medicinal)….to the year I REALLY broke my leg on the last day of the trip, and the Sherriff’s dept had to send a boat to rescue me.

 

 

 

 

 

To THIS year, when I caught the biggest trout of my life! Had to be 10 lbs, around 28″. After the photo op, I let her go.

We’ve aged over the years, and we aren’t intrepid hikers anymore, but we still go, every year (except last year, danged Covid!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2021 Hookers

So how about you? Do you like fishing? Have you ever been?

The Difference Between Romance & Women’s Fiction

I’ve been thinking about this lately, because I’ve written a women’s fiction that is with an editor now (cross your fingers for me!).

I’m very familiar with the subject, because my first book, The Sweet Spot, I wrote as Women’s Fiction. Half the editors who read it thought it was romance, half, WF. It finally sold to a romance line, so I had to make some changes.

The difference is mainly in the focus. In a romance, the focus is on the relationship, and ends in a ‘happily ever after’. In WF, the focus is on the woman’s journey and emotional growth. It may or may not have romance, or even a happy ending.

I learned that in Romance:

  1. The bad-boy hero can’t be TOO bad. In my debut novel, the couple had lost their son in an accident, and it tore them apart – they divorced. To deal with the pain, my heroine developed a Valium habit. The hero’s drug was young and blonde. In my original version, he was still with the blonde when the book opened. I had to change that; my editor told me that if the readers met the bimbo, the hero would be irredeemable, no matter what he did down the line.
  2. I had to soften the heroine as well – she could be damaged and flawed, but she couldn’t be seen as cold, or uncaring.
  3. Because I wrote the book as a WF, most of the scenes involved the heroine’s point of view. I had to add a couple of scenes with the hero’s, and even though they weren’t together in the same scene in the first third of the book, I had to add thoughts each had of the other, showing how they were changing.
  4. Sexual tension. It’s not critical that the couple make love but there still needs to be escalating sexual tension as the book advances. Inspirational romances do a brilliant job of this.
  5. I had to be more careful with graphic scenes (not talking sex, here). My hero raised bulls for the bull riding circuit. In one scene, the heroine helped a cow with a breech birth. My editor had me reduce the level of gore, blood, etc.  I also had to be careful how I covered breeding details like selling semen (can I say that here?)
  6. And, of course, there must be a HEA (happily-ever-after.) That was no problem, because I originally planned for my couple to end up together!

In my Women’s Fiction:

  1. There is a romantic interest, but it’s a small part. The guy is mostly there to show her issues with commitment. I leave it open-ended as to whether they end up together.
  2. The focus is on a grandmother and her granddaughter who, due to the past, doesn’t like or respect the family matriarch. 
  3. So it’s about the main character’s growth. When she learns her grandmother’s past, and her secrets, she not only accepts her grandmother – she learns more about herself, and what was holding her back.

So tell me – do you read Women’s Fiction? Romance? Which do you prefer, and why?

I’m giving away a copy of The Sweet Spot to two commenters!

Family Stories

We write them, we read them, but also, they are our own history – they’re part of who we are.

I have two examples:

First, mine. My grandfather was an itinerant preacher on the plains of Saskatchewan, Canada. They lived in a tent (not many trees on the plains). He’d be home long enough to get his wife pregnant, then go off on his donkey, preaching again. After the first few babies were born (she was alone), she told him she was going to a city, with or without him.

9 of the 11 children. My dad is the youngest

So they moved to Saskatoon. The kids kept coming, and at one point, the house caught on fire. Once my grandmother got all the kids out, she went back for her husband’s sewing machine (he was a tailor as well as a preacher) and threw it out the window before getting out herself.

This isn’t the one that burned.

I come from hardy stock!

My second story is my husband’s. His maternal great-grandmother was 11, her sister 9, when her mother died back east. Her father put them on a train heading west, and told them there would be someone to meet them in Texas, and he’d follow as soon as he wrapped up business.

The girls got off the train in Midland, Texas. No one to meet them. A few good people traded off taking them in until the 11 year old could get work and take care of her sister.

She never knew what happened to her father.

Two months after she died, they got a phone call from someone back east, claiming to be kin. Turned out, the father shipped the girls off on a train to get rid of them. He was marrying another woman, who didn’t want his kids.

5 generation photo. His great-grandmother is bottom left.

Can you imagine? I’m glad she passed without knowing that.

Okay, your turn – give me your family story in the comments!

My Worst Date Ever

By Laura Drake

I know, Valentines is over, but Karen Kay’s romantic ‘meet’ story last month reminded me of mine, and it was very different than hers.

My Southern California apartment manager set me up. Really. This woman I hardly knew except to pay rent to, called me out of the blue telling me that a guy in the complex had noticed me, and asked if she’d introduce us. My silence must’ve telegraphed stunned, because she rushed on to say that he was a successful businessman, polite in the old-school way, and kind of shy. He was raising his two kids all on his own… Before she could launch into a saving-kittens-from drowning-story, I said, okay, half to make her stop, half because I was curious to meet this throwback.

She knocks on my door that afternoon, introduces him and takes off. There I stood, not knowing what to do with this shy, good looking man on my doorstep. He invited me out that night, and I said yes, because I couldn’t say no to that cute, little-boy smile.

He took me to dinner, and proceeded to drag me through every detail of the horrific divorce he’d just gone though . . . for TWO HOURS. I’m sitting there thinking, He may be cute, but I’m so out of here.

Then he tells me his goal is to be married within the next year. Wow. Really? I NEVER planned to marry again. And he has full custody of his two kids. I’d never had kids – never wanted them. I couldn’t wait to get home.

He dropped me at my doorstep, and looked like he wanted to kiss me, but didn’t.

Then he asked me if I wanted to go for a ride on his motorcycle that weekend. He has a motorcycle? I LOVE motorcycles! The wind in your face, the thrill of speed, wrapping your arms around that strong chest . . .

Okay, so one more date. At least he couldn’t talk about his divorce while we were riding, right?

Luckily, I didn’t find out until after we were engaged that the apartment manager felt sorry for him, and was setting him up with random single women from the complex – he hadn’t noticed me – he didn’t even know what I looked like!

That shy guy and I celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary this month!

He went from the worst date I’d ever had to my best friend. Who knew that could happen?

I’d love to hear your first date stories in the comments!

Fort Worth Facts

I recently moved about 20 miles away from Fort Worth. I’m excited to discover more about this epic historical town, and will, the minute it’s safe to do so. 

I’m putting together a list of little known places I want to see, and I thought I’d share it with you, in case you ever visit (this may even entice you to!)

  • Jesus BBQ – This quaint shoebox on South Main has been in business since 1969. A sign hangs over the sidewalk – “Jesus BBQ and Mexican Food.” The reviewer loved it.
  • Pick Your Own Strawberries 3010 S. Bowen Road, Arlington Pay $10, get a 1-pound strawberry basket and spend a sunny day picking strawberries. Better get there early as sometimes the berries are picked over before closing.

  • The Blue Hole, Dinosaur Valley State Park 1629 Park Road 59, Glen Rose

  • The swimming hole in Dinosaur Valley State Park offers visitors a chance to cool off in 20-feet-deep clear water surrounded by 100 million-year-old fossilized dinosaur tracks. Before you go, check out the Texas Parks & Wildlife website to learn how to map nearby dinosaur tracks because some may be hard to find.

  • Ayres Cemetery2500 Block of Scott Avenue 

    A tiny, antiquated cemetery hides one block off Interstate-30 in a motel parking lot in East Fort Worth. Crumbling gravestones tell a story of one of Fort Worth’s first families. Nestled next to a few of the gravestones are markers indicating that some were citizens of the Republic of Texas, which ended in 1846. The last time someone was buried in this family lot was in 1955. The Ayres Cemetery remains as a symbol of the area’s early settlers.

  • Bonnie and Clyde Shooting Dove Road, Just East of Hwy. 114

    This power couple frequented North Texas reportedly because relatives lived here. However, their career as robbers and gangsters slowed and halted when they played a part in killing several Texas patrolmen near Grapevine.

  • Northside Street Art Intersection of 21st and Roosevelt streets

    An enraged gorilla sits on the side of a nondescript building in an otherwise colorless part of town at the corner of 21st Street and Roosevelt. The artist is unknown.

  • The Stockyards – Lots to do there:
    • Cowtown Opry
    • Fort Worth Herd Cattle Drive
    • Mechanical Bull
    • Cowboy Hall of Fame
    • Cattlemen Maze
    • Filthy McNasty’s Saloon

I don’t know about you, but I love the quirky, the obscure, the unknown. I plan to visit several of these places!

Have you ever been to Fort Worth?  

Cowboy Sayings

One of the things I collect is cowboy sayings (come on, you already knew I was weird). Here are a few of my faves.

 
 
  • Small as a bump on a pickle
  • That horse is the hind legs of destruction
  • I ate so many armadillos when I was young, I roll up when I hear a dog bark.
 
 
 
  • Texas is the silver buckle of the bible belt
  • There’s two theories about arguin’ with a woman. Neither works.
  • Speak your mind, but ride a fast horse.
  • Always drink upstream from the herd.
  • Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.
 
 
  • Never drop your gun to hug a grizzly
  • Never ask a man the size of his spread.
  • Never miss a good chance to shut up.
  • Never smack a man chewing tobacco.
  • He’s crazy as an acre of snakes.
  • I was so poor growing up, I had a tumbleweed as a pet.
  • And probably the most famous – don’t squat with your spurs on.

I even have cowGIRL ones!

  • High steppers give bumpy ride.
  • You can’t get ahead of anyone you’re trying to get even with.
  • If you wake up and find yourself a success, you ain’t been asleep.

  • Cryin’ about a bad past is a waste of good tears.
  • Nobody’s credit is better than their money.
  • Half your troubles come from wanting your own way. The other half come from getting it.
 
What’s your favorite cowboy/country saying?

The ‘Mother Road’

My agent is shopping my Women’s Fiction road-trip story. Here’s the blurb:

Trouble with the Curve meets Peace, Love and Misunderstanding.

Third generation Jacqueline Oliver was born to be a hippie; she resisted. Through a series of odd events, she finds herself with the hippie grandmother she resents on a Route 66 road trip that could save her business and answer the questions from her damaged past. Or drive her crazy.

I’ve ridden Route 66 a bunch on my motorcycle, and I even got to ride part of the abandoned section on a bicycle! But still, I had to do research. I came up with some amazing facts I didn’t know:

  • It was going to be named U.S. 60 but was changed to 66 as it did not run coast-to-coast.
  • The moniker Mother Road was coined by John Steinbeck in his novel “Grapes of Wrath” (1939).
  • Its original alignment went through Las Vegas and Santa Fe in New Mexico, but an irate governor re-routed it to bypass them in 1937 to punish politicians in Santa Fe.
  • The segment across San Bernardino County in California from Needles to Upland with 244 miles (393 km) is the longest segment within one county of the whole route and is 20 mi. longer than the distance between London and Liverpool in the UK.
  • The The expedition led by Lt. Edward Fitzgerald “Ned” Beale (1822 – 1893) to survey and build a wagon road from New Mexico to California, followed the 35th parallel, its course was later followed by Route 66. He used camels, imported from Tunis as pack animals. Though hardier than mules, the camels scared both horses and mules. The Army decided not to use camels in the future.
  • The route is over 2,000 miles long: 2,448 miles in 1926
  • Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Hollywood stars of the 1930s and 40s, spent their honeymoon in Oatman, Arizona. (I’ve seen that room!)
  • Pixar‘s 2006 animated film Cars had the working title of Route 66,
  • Wigwam Motels. There was a motel chain with rooms designed to resemble an Indian teepee. Two of these motels survive, one in San Bernardino, CA, the other in Holbrook, AZ.

And finally, the photo I used for inspiration while I was writing.

Mailboxes line the road beside the original alignment of Route 66 in Peach Springs, Arizona.

Have you ever ridden the Mother Road? There’s an eerie throwback vibe to it that seems to echo the past. If you haven’t been on it, I highly recommend a road trip!

Do You Read Series?

Readers tend to love series. But you may not know that there are more than one kind. Here are the basic types:

Dynamic Series – follows the same character or group through the series as they try to accomplish a large goal. The story arc is too big for one book and is fleshed out over multiple books.  Think: The Hobbit, or Harry Potter.

Static Series – each book is more an individual event or installment in the characters’ lives than a series of related events. Think: Sherlock Holmes, Murder She Wrote, or Babysitters Club. You know, Cozy mysteries.

Anthology Series – tied together by a world, a setting, or character relationships. The series can be made up of dynamic and/or static series. Think: Marvel or Hogwarts.

That ends the education part of the post, promise.

I only write the last type – mostly because I’m not smart enough for the first two! I’ve written three small town series – they’re popular and especially well adapted for Westerns.

But my very first series is different – because I didn’t mean to write a series! The first book I ever sold was The Sweet Spot,  a reunion story about a divorced couple with a ranch that supplied bucking bulls to the bull riding circuit. In the divorce, he got the bulls, she got their valuable semen. It won the Romance Writers of America RITA award for best first book that year (I’m still squeeing!).

But it sold in a 3-book series. I freaked out. I’d never written a series. I didn’t even know about the types of series above. So I followed the old adage, ‘Write what you know’. If you’ve been reading my blogs here, you know that what I know is bull riding.

So I wrote a series set in the world of professional bull riding. 

The second book, Nothing Sweeter, was about a woman on the run from her past, who ends up taking a job as groom on a remote, failing cattle ranch. She talks them into raising bucking bulls as a way to turn the bottom line to black. Oh, and falls in love with the curmudgeon owner. 

The last book, Sweet on You, is a road trip story. A combat medic veteran can’t stand witnessing soldiers’ pain any longer. She returns stateside, and takes a job as a member of the medical team that cares for injured bull riders at the PBR events – figuring she could do the job, since she had no respect of spoiled athletes. You guessed it, she falls for one.

I’m proud of their overall average star ratings of 4.6-4.8 on Amazon, but I have another reason for bringing them up today:

They’re on SALE!!

The Sweet Spot is $0.99, the other two are $1.99! Not sure how long the sale will last, so check them out soon!

What is your favorite type of series? Your favorite one?