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?

Scootin’ the Boot

A size 11 woman’s foot never looks good in cowboy boots, trust me on this. So when Boot Scootin’ came up as a topic, I panicked. But then Pam Crooks set off bells in my head – there’s more than one kind of boot. Sadly, my kind aren’t cute, or sexy.

First, let it be known right up front, I’m a klutz. I admit it. Nothing to do but laugh at myself. I’m also an adventurer – I push the envelope on a routine basis.

The two together? Recipe for disaster.

You know those boot-casts they put you in nowadays? Yeah, I’ve been in those as best I can remember, FOUR times.

The first was a freak fly fishing accident. I’ve got a bad knee from a motorcycling accident (Oh, make it 5 incidents-was in a boot from ankle to hip, that time) and the knee gave out on a hill. I felt the bone snap, but was in denial, and had my girlfriends haul me down to the jacuzzi on the luggage cart (wine may have been involved – but only as a painkiller).

The good thing about that, was I had tickets to the PBR Finals in Vegas the next week, and no way I was going to miss it. So we rented a wheelchair. The handicapped entrance was right next to the bull riders’ locker room. I call that a score!

 

Then I had two separate foot surgeries, right after the other. Between the two, I was in a boot  for a year.  My neighbor broke his ankle in a freak golf accident (yeah, two klutzs in the same neighborhood-what are the odds?) We used to race our knee scooters on the sidewalk.

 

 

 

 

Then came the one that had zero humor. I was out fly fishing in the back of beyond, Oregon, stepped in a hole with a branch across it, and snapped both bones in my lower right leg. Thank God there was cell service – I called 911 – a sheriff’s deputy zeroed on in the signal and found me about a 1/2 hour later. Problem was, it was an area of mud and downed trees – no way to get a stretcher to me – someone else would’ve broken their leg.

So everyone stood around (by then a few locals heard the yelling and stopped by) chatting about what to do (not me, I was the one doing the yelling). They finally came up with the idea of bringing a boat down the river, loading me on, and taking me to the ambulance waiting at a boat ramp. So that’s what they did. 

 

Then it was just 30 minutes on a dirt road (I felt every rut) and another 15 min to the hospital – all in all I think it was 2 hours from when I broke it until I got good drugs at the hospital. I was so happy I asked the doctor to marry me.

Surgery, a plate, 13 pins and a wire later, I was back together. The doctor released me two days later, but wouldn’t let me fly for another week. An angel stepped in – a lady I’d worked with years before lived in the area and gave up her BED to me for a week! 

 

That was it. I learned my lesson. No, I’m still riding motorcycles and fly fishing, but I’m being veeeeeery careful, now.

Oh the Research!

I think I win the award for the weirdest research trip ever. Don’t believe me? Read on.

I wrote a Women’s Fiction, Days Made of Glass. My main character is a woman bullfighter. Not the Spanish cape-and-tights kind, the American rodeo kind. When a bull rider is thrown, these guys step between a ticked-off bull and the downed rider.

Yeah, in a word – NUTS.

To my knowledge, there has never been a female professional bullfighter, so the concept and potential for conflict intrigued me for a long time. I was dying to write that book.

As a two-decade-long fan of bull riding, I know everything that could possibly be gleaned from watching it on TV, seeing events in person and talking to bull riders. I corresponded with several bullfighters, who generously offered to answer my questions (the photo above is of one of them). But to write about a woman who attends a bullfighting school, I would need to know a lot more.

Have I told you how much I love the internet?  I looked up rodeo schools in Texas, and came across Lyle Sankey’s Rodeo School. I emailed him, and he wrote back right away, and told me to come on down!

Lyle Sankey (on the ground) and his staff.

My husband and I drove to New Caney, outside Houston, over a Memorial Day weekend. I really didn’t know what to expect, but I showed up at 8 am on Saturday armed with a notebook, pen and tons of questions.

I learned a lot of technique and strategy, not only about bullfighting, but all the rough stock events: bull riding, saddle bronc and bareback riding. Even if that was all I’d learned, it would have made the trip worthwhile.

But I learned so much more.

The students ranged from 7 (!) to their mid-thirties. There were two girls. Some students wanted to do this for a living, some wanted to try it for the adventure. Lyle and his staff were amazing. Teaching someone to ride a bull requires more than just knowledge — the instructors were constantly watching to be sure that the student wasn’t only listening, but hearing. When you’re scared out of your mind, you don’t pay as close attention as you would otherwise. Many times I heard the bull-riding coach say, “Stop! Look at me.” Then, in a calm voice, he’d make sure that what he was saying sank in. After every ride the coach would go over with the student what he did right, what he did wrong and how to do better the next time.

First, lots of practice

7-year-old Carl, stretches before his ride.

The transformation in the students in three days was amazing. Not only in their skills, but I could see their confidence and self-esteem rise, hour by hour.

Lyle was teaching life lessons along with bull riding. At one point, a teen was getting ready and the bull leaned on his foot against the back of the chute. He whined. Lyle admonished him: “It’s time to Cowboy Up. That isn’t just a slogan on the bumper of a pickup, you know.” The kid was embarrassed and mad. He rode for two jumps, was bucked off and stomped out of the arena. Lyle followed him, talking the whole way. The kid wasn’t buying it. Lyle went back again ten minutes later, when the kid had calmed down and was more likely to listen.

You can’t pay someone to care that much. Lyle is a special man, who really cares about people.

In listening to Buddy Bush, the bullfighting coach, I learned more about what a rodeo life is. They are basically dirt-road gypsies. The life is much harder than I’d realized. But watching Buddy’s face as he told me stories, I could see how much he loves it. He believes he’s the luckiest guy out there. Isn’t that what everyone’s looking for?

Me, with Buddy Bush, Bull fighter and coach

Thanks to the research, and Lyle Sankey, the bullfighting in my book will be authentic.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I didn’t get on a bull, or in the arena with one.But if I were twenty years younger, I would have!

This is the book that came from that research: https://books2read.com/u/b6rz2J

Where I’m From – A Fun Excercise!


I discovered this years ago, and I enjoyed the trip down memory lane so much while creating this, I thought I’d share it with you. It’s a wonderful family keepsake.

And you don’t have to be a writer to do it – promise!

Below mine is the ‘Where I’m From’ template –  If you decide to try it, please post your results in the comments! 

Where I’m From

 

I’m from Johnson Baby Oil, lemon juice hair bleach, and swimming pool perfume. From standing on towels to protect bare feet from tarmac, waiting to pay Smitty the Ice Cream Man for my fudgicle. I’m from Lilac scented, kite flying, cloud watching summers.

I’m from shoelace skate key bracelets, homemade skateboards, and bicycle wheels clacking with playing cards. From kick the can, pickup softball games, and hide-n-seek until after dark when Mom yelled, including our middle names.  I’m from Gold Bell Gift Stamps, candy necklaces, and Vicks Vapo-Rub.

I’m from the big house on the corner, with the blue spruce dressed in red lights for Christmas. I’m from the room in the corner, with two windows, model horses, swimming ribbons, and a pet mouse, Scout. I’m the one on the left of the couch, Steve on the right, Nancy in the middle. I’m from the creek that ran through woods, all the way to Hidden Lake. I’m from the Civic theater with Tarzan, slow-pokes and ancient, popcorn-scented darkness.

I’m from Shakotko bones and Stutte high foreheads. From Lanie’s sweet smile, and Marge’s distracted love. From Nancy’s elfin face, bullheaded stubbornness, and undying loyalty. I’m from put your finger on your hand to show where you live Michiganders, hockey on TV with my chin on dad’s hip and, after the Lions losing on Thanksgiving in Tiger’s stadium, coming home to the smell of Mom’s turkey and dressing.

 I’m from Angry God Baptists, singing in the choir, and the golden-naved church I thought I’d be married in, and never was. I’m from Russia and Saskatoon, Livonia, and Petoskey, pirogues and pasties. I’m from shit on a shingle, milk toast, tuna casserole and Jiffy Pop.

I’m the keeper of treasures: photos, Christmas ornaments, and Toto’s Styrofoam Reindeer from first grade. From Nancy’s library, to her ‘I Love You’ charm around my neck, keeping a promise all these years she’s been gone.

####

 

The WHERE I’M FROM Template

I am from _______ (specific ordinary item), from _______ (product name) and _______.

I am from the _______ (home description… adjective, adjective, sensory detail).

I am from the _______ (plant, flower, natural item), the _______ (plant, flower, natural detail)

I am from _______ (family tradition) and _______ (family trait), from _______ (name of family member) and _______ (another family name) and _______ (family name).

I am from the _______ (description of family tendency) and _______ (another one).

From _______ (something you were told as a child) and _______ (another).

I am from (representation of religion, or lack of it). Further description.

I’m from _______ (place of birth and family ancestry), _______ (two food items representing your family).

From the _______ (specific family story about a specific person and detail), the _______ (another detail, and the _______ (another detail about another family member).

I am from _______ (location of family pictures, mementos, archives and several more lines indicating their worth).

 

I Have a WINNER!

 

I know it’s early – but I try to spend the evenings with my husband, so I leave my office early. Thank you everyone, for making me feel so welcome – I know I’m going to love it here!

The winner of my July release, Cowboy for Keeps, is, KRISTI!

Watch for an email from me.

In case you didn’t win, and want to check it out – HERE is a link to buying sites.

Have fun, and stay safe everyone.

Laura

City Girl > Country Girl

I’m Laura Drake, the newest Filly in the stable, and proud to be here! 

I wanted to introduce myself and let you know what you’re getting into with me (cue evil laugh).

My twelfth Western releases on the 28th (pause for a loud squee!). I’m probably a horse of a different color here, in that I came at this western thing later in life. 

See, I was born in the Northwest suburbs of Detroit – Yeah, city-girl AND a Yankee. When the job market died there, and I got sick of the snow, my sister and I moved, sight unseen, to Southern California (they really shouldn’t televise the Rose Bowl to the frozen Midwest). 

Closer to the west, but certainly not country. But that changed fast. See, I met an ex-pat bleed-maroon, Texas Aggie there. We fell in love, and that first Christmas, he took me home to momma – Midland, Texas.

That first Christmas – yeah, we haven’t changed much

There were a lot of eye-opening experiences that Christmas, but the best was, he took me to my first RODEO! It turns out the rodeo season kicks off every year twenty miles down the road in Odessa. 

I fell in love with it all, but especially with the bull riding. Then I discovered that bull riding was televised EVERY weekend! I was hooked.

I also discovered that the PBR came to a venue seven miles from our house in Southern California every January! 

Brendan Clark – cute, talented bull rider, AND a sexy Aussie accent!

I’d been writing small town series, but I switched to contemporary westerns, featuring, you guessed it, bull riders. Yeah, I’m a little obsessed – I’ve been to at least ten events, and five world finals – the most recent, last November in Las Vegas.

A broken leg (freak fly fishing accident) wasn’t going to keep me from the Finals!

Why bull riding? To me, it’s like a dangerous ballet. The riders are more like gymnasts than wrestlers. After all, you’re never going to out-muscle a 2,000 lb. bull, so it’s about staying balanced in the middle of a tornado. When it’s done right, and the stars align, it’s a beautiful dance.

But it’s also about the animal athletes – the bulls. They are bred to buck like thoroughbreds are bred to run, and it’s been a thrill to see the buckers improve the past decade.

We finally retired, left So Cal behind, and moved to Midland, Texas in 2014. 

So that’s my long winding road, from city-girl to country girl. It took me a long time, but I got here as soon as I could! 

Bullrider Jory Markiss with my RITA winner, The Sweet Spot!

I’m so looking forward to blogging and chatting with Y’all! 

To kick this off, I’d like to give away a copy of my July release, Cowboy for Keeps, to a random commenter. All you need to do is tell me,

What’s your favorite rodeo event? 

 

Here’s a bit about the book: