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

Beware Cowboy Fever; It Can Sneak Up on You!

(My publisher is running a 99 cent special on my book High Button Shoes today only! See below!)

I bet you didn’t know this, but cowboy boots multiply when you’re not looking.  Or at least that’s what happened at my house.  It all started when someone gave me one—ONE!—cowboy boot planter for my yard.  That’s all it took. Before I knew it, another boot showed up

Do you know what happens when family, friends and neighbors walk in and see two of anything?  They immediately think you’re a collector.   People love collectors.  It makes gift-giving so much easier.  No thinking required.

Soon, I was drinking my morning coffee out of a boot-shaped cup and washing my hands with soap from boot dispensers.  Cowboy boots took over my jewelry box as earrings, framed my family photos and opened my wine bottles. And it didn’t stop there.

Somewhere along the line my boot collection expanded into all things western. Cowboy nutcrackers started showing up on my window sills. Western plaques began adorning my walls.  Miniature horses took over table tops.  Even my feathered friends were treated to bird houses shaped like saloons.   

No longer do my children, grandchildren or friends have to slave over a Christmas shopping list trying to figure out what to give me.   The word is out; Grandma/mom likes everything, as long as it’s western.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I thank my lucky stars that the planter that started it all had been a cowboy boot and not something gross like, say, a zombie! 

                  Are you a collector and if so, did you become one on purpose or by accident?

On Sale Today Only, for 99 cents!

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A feisty widow; a dashing outlaw—something’s definitely afoot.

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Cowboy Fever, Orphans, and a Giveaway!

 

 

Oh man! Do I have cowboy fever and it’s not just this week! Mine is a permanent condition. I love reading about them, writing their stories, and contemplating how it used to be before barbed wire and paved roads.

I’m sure some things are the same and cowboys still have the same kind of heart and love for the land and his way of life.

Next week, I’ll release TO CATCH A TEXAS STAR (Book #3 Texas Heroes.) In this story, Marley Rose McClain (the baby in Knight on the Texas Plains) is all grown up and looking to make her own way in the world. But she’s shattered to learn the secret Duel has kept from her all these years and to discover he and Jessie aren’t her parents. Who is she really?

A cowboy drifter named Roan Penny comes to see her as his Texas star and helps her sort it all out and find herself again. In the process they fall in love and plan for the future. But, will they live to see it?

I loved figuring out who Marley is and what she wanted. She loves writing stories for the many children her parents have taken in but sees no hope of getting them published. Roan has faith enough for both of them though.

This is the first time I’ve written about a character who writes and it was fun.

People ask why I write orphans into almost every story and here’s why.

The 1800s was overrun with orphans. New York City alone had 30,000 in 1850. Immigrants arrived and a good many died of disease and starvation, leaving their children with no place to go. The orphanages bulged at the seams and there were still so many living on the streets.

In an effort to curb the situation, they began shipping children out on orphan trains and offering them to any one willing to give them a home. From 1854 to 1929, a quarter of a million orphans rode on those trains. Yet, with no oversight, a good many faced horrible abuse.

Things weren’t much better in out west. People were dying in cholera epidemics, yellow fever, small pox, etc. Then you add in the numbers of the women dying in childbirth and it’s staggering. Then came the Civil War and left even more children without parents. On the American frontier, there were Indian uprisings in addition to everything else. It was a horrible time of upheaval and children bore the brunt.

Children are very dear to my heart. They represent the future and we should protect and nurture them. They are so vulnerable and helpless and I think we have a duty to be their voice.

What is your passion, what do you feel strongly about? Animals, children, equality, justice?  

To celebrate the release of TO CATCH A TEXAS STAR I’m giving away three copies of the book. Just leave a comment to enter the drawing that will take place on Saturday.

I hope you like it. I’m hard at work on a new series called Outlaw Mail Order Brides and launching Book #1 in January with Book #2 following soon after.

Cowboy Fever and Rodeo Fun

This week, we’re celebrating Cowboy Fever. I’m pretty sure I’ve been infected since I was old enough to walk.

I love cowboys, rodeos, and the country way of life.

Growing up on a farm about twenty miles from the closest town (population around 1,000), we generally took our excitement anywhere we could get it.

Each summer, I eagerly anticipated our small town’s biggest event of the year – the Fourth of July Rodeo.

Back in those days, it was a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-sanctioned rodeo. Some of the top names in the circuit would join hundreds of rodeo fans for four days of rodeo, events in the park, a parade through town, and the annual Suicide Race (a crazy horseback race down a steep butte, across the highway, through the river, and into the rodeo arena).

Our whole family looked forward to the celebration. My oldest brother regularly rode in the Suicide Race and a few cousins competed in the rodeo. My dad, brothers, and many cousins participated in the parade.

For a horse-crazy little girl who loved the smell of leather and the sight of cowboy hats, it was amazing. From an early age, I had a romance with the rodeo (and cowboy fever!).

One of the few stores we had in town was a saddle maker with a boot shop. When I was five, my dad took me to Leroy’s shop to pick out a new belt for the rodeo. It was the first time I could choose my own. Talk about excited!

As we walked inside, the welcoming aroma of leather filled the air. Dad led me to where Leroy worked on a saddle at the back of the shop and they talked a few minutes. Impatiently waiting to get down to the business of picking out my belt, they finally told me to go see what I could find. My gaze – and heart – immediately settled on a hand-tooled belt with little flowers stamped into the leather and a silver buckle with a gold saddle that glistened in the overhead lights.

I still have that little belt today along with my love of rodeo and cowboys.

I suppose that love is what inspires so many cowboy heroes in my stories. It’s awesome to write about modern-day ranchers in my Grass Valley Cowboys series, and about rodeo cowboys in my Rodeo Romance series. I also get a kick out of writing about cowboys in the old West. I think lawmen of yesteryear must be one of my favorites, since this coming Thursday I’ll release Lightning and Lawmen, my fourth story with a hero who works as a lawman in a rowdy western town.

How did a simple hello turn into something so complicated?

Love is about to leave one lawman thunderstruck in this sweet historical romance!

 Cultured and full of grace, Delilah Robbins agrees to accompany her meteorologist father to his new post in Baker City, Oregon. Expecting a primitive place, she’s delighted to discover an up-and-coming town with plenty of surprises as well as a place she can turn into a sanctuary for her beloved birds. As she settles into life in the western town, she unwittingly creates a riff between two deputies when they both fall for her charms.

 Deputy Dugan Durfey only meant to extend a friendly welcome to a newcomer. But the moment he set eyes on the meteorologist’s delightful daughter, Dugan’s heart was no longer his own. Since his best friend and fellow deputy suffered the same fate, Dugan struggles to do what’s right. He’ll fight jealousy, outlaws, and a wily raccoon to keep Delilah safe, but the greater battle lies in overcoming his fears to profess his love.

Filled with humor, adventure, and plenty of sweet romance, Lightning and Lawmen highlights the history of the era and blends it with the timeless feelings of discovering true love.

To enter for a chance to win a $5 Amazon Gift Card, answer this question:
What’s one special summer memory from your childhood?

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DLMXSGT/?tag=pettpist-20