It’s hard to believe that my book that is out this month, Her Texas Rodeo Cowboy, is the 16th story I’ve set in my fictional town of Blue Falls, Texas. It’s the 12th full-length book with that series name attached to it, but there were also a Christmas e-novella (A Cowboy in Her Stocking) and a previous trilogy, The Teagues of Texas, that introduced the Hill Country tourist destination.
Her Texas Rodeo Cowboy examines that age-old conflict that occurs when someone with deep roots on the land where they grew up falls for someone who lives the life of a tumbleweed. However will they solve the conflict to find their happily ever after?
Sloane Hartley is deeply rooted to her family’s ranch in Blue Falls, Texas. So she isn’t about to risk falling for a tempting tumbleweed like Jason Till. To Sloane, Jason is a handsome heartbreak waiting to happen. Like all rodeo cowboys. If she ever let herself love again, she certainly wouldn’t pick someone like him!
Jason only has eyes for one prize—the steer-wrestling championship. And he can’t afford any distractions. Certainly not a blonde beauty with trust issues like Sloane. She represents everything a cowboy on the circuit can’t have anyway—home, family, a real relationship. Everything he thought he didn’t need. But when he’s with Sloane, Jason can’t remember why winning at the rodeo seemed so important.
When I begin plotting a book, I tend to base the characters’ physical descriptions on an actor or actress. So it was really cool when I went to DragonCon over the Labor Day weekend and got to give signed books to two actresses who inspired recent heroines in my Blue Falls, Texas series. They were both from the show Reign, loosely based on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. Rachel Skarsten, who played Queen Elizabeth I, was the model for Sloane in this month’s release. Adelaide Kane, who played Mary, was the inspiration for Arden, the heroine from In the Rancher’s Arms, which was out in April. Both seemed to think it was pretty cool to have had a book heroine based on them.
My question to you: What actors do you think would be good models for my future cowboy heroes?
of When Things Got Hot in Texas in Kindle or Nook–winner’s choice! So be sure to leave a comment.
(Contest guidelines apply)
Hey y’all! For any who don’t know me, I’m Laura Drake, a Contemporary Western Romance author. But I mostly write about a specific kind of cowboy – the crazy ones – bull riders.
I’m a city girl from Detroit, but I married a Bigger-than-life Texan. On my first trip to Texas, he took me my first rodeo and I fell in love! Then I found out bull riding was on TV every Saturday and I was hooked! There’s something about a guy having the courage to get on a one-ton animal that wants to stomp his guts out that gets me. I’ve met a bunch of them, and my faith in the younger generation was bolstered; they’re down home country boys who still say ma’am and sir, and use the manners their mamas taught them. Well, and then there’s always the Wranglers in chaps!
I tend to jump in with both feet, but even I admit, I got carried away. I’ve been to ten regular events, and four World Finals in Vegas, one after breaking my leg in a freak fly fishing accident. Hey, I’m a dedicated fan….and it was a bonus that the handicapped staging area was right outside the guys locker-room!
A couple years later, I was writing a Women’s Fiction about the first woman bull fighter in the PBR (there’s never been one in real life). I felt like I should have more of an insider view of the skills involved, so I went to bull fighting School! No, I didn’t get in the arena with a bull, but if I’d been ten years younger, I would have!
I wrote a three-book series set in the world of pro bull riding. When the first one came out, I called in all my markers, and got with Jory Markiss, who at the time, was the #10 bull rider in the world (and he’s pretty darned cute, besides).
Speaking of seriously cute, for the model for my last hero in the series, Cam Cahill, I used the bull riding legend, Chris Shivers. I mean…whew!
I recently released a novella, Cowboy Karma, in the, When Things Got Hot in Texas anthology. I wanted to explore what would happen if an arrogant love-em-and leave ‘em bull rider tried to reform his bad boy ways. Meet Stead James:
The Pioneer City Rodeo – A Perfect Setting for Second Chance Love
I’ve loved everything cowboy since I was a child, and dreamed of living where I could have a horse. But, unfortunately, that wasn’t a dream my parents shared, and as I grew into adulthood, I moved on to other interests. Like many in Wisconsin, or Illinois where I live now, I used to think that all rodeos happened in the west. Just yesterday at church a woman was surprised I was interested in rodeo or that rodeos occur so close to us. There are a lot of rodeos going on in my home state of Wisconsin and all around the Midwest during the warmer months. A fact I learned about a dozen years ago when a friend invited me to a rodeo.
The Pioneer City Rodeo, where Second Chance Love is set, is a real event that happens every Labor Day weekend, which I attend every year now. Like in my story, there are rodeos on three consecutive evenings, and we attend all three. Located in the tiny village of Palestine, a southern Illinois town nestled along the Wabash River, the rodeo offers a wonderful getaway to cap off the summer. We meet a lot of the locals sitting around us in the stands and on Main Street during the street fair. Although some of the retail establishments in my story are from my imagination, many are real, including the Back Porch Smokehouse and the Wabash Coffee House, located a short distance upriver from Palestine.
When I decided to write the story, it was a natural to make my hero, Jace McGowan, a bull rider, since that’s one of my favorite events. My heroine, Sydney Knight, is a born and bred Chicagoan and can no more picture herself living on Jace’s Texas ranch than he can see himself hanging up his bull rope and living in a Chicago apartment building. This conflict leads to a lot of tension, but they both have baggage beyond that which must be overcome before they can move forward and learn how much they really do have in common. I hope you’ll read my story to find out.
Second Chance Love
Chicago lawyer Sydney Knight and Texas bull rider Jace McGowan have nothing in common but everything to lose when they are thrust together during a weekend rodeo in rural Illinois. Neither one of them would have imagined two years ago that the deep attraction they sensed during a day-long outing would resurface when Sydney’s boss assigns her to Jace’s legal case.
Sydney has been through a world of hurt since losing her dad when she was sixteen, then being dumped the morning of her wedding. She’s sworn off romance and instead devotes her time toward a partnership in her father’s law office.
Jace has found faith in God and wants out of his sponsor contract with a risqué restaurant chain that requires him to pose with scantily-clad women. He’s about to bail on the contract and pay steep penalties—something he can ill afford, given that his deceased father left the family with unpaid taxes.
Sydney is determined she’ll get Jace out of his contract and return to Chicago with her heart intact, but Jace is just as determined to help her see they are meant to be together. Can a city girl with roots deep in Chicago and a bull-riding rancher with roots deep in Texas give themselves a second-chance love?
Pam will give one lucky reader a Kindle version of Second Chance Love. Leave a comment to enter.
For Christmas my wonderful son-in-law bought tickets to the PBR in Wichita, Kansas, which will take place in a couple of months. This isn’t the first bull riding event he’s taken me. They are all a treat and brought to mind the backstory to my $.99 eBook release of the first book in the Kasota Spring Romance series The Troubled Texan. Since this contemporary series takes place several generations later than one of the six Texas anthologies I was fortune enough to be included in with Fellow Filly Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, and the late DeWanna Pace, Give Me a Cowboy, about a Texas Panhandle rodeo in the late 1800’s, I decided it might be fun to give you all a glimpse into how we developed this book. Without it, there would be no Troubled Texan.
Typically, the publisher matches up authors in a short story collection or an anthology and each author writes their own story based on the house’s criteria. In our case, our editor matched the four of us up and all but this one book had a theme and each of us wrote an individual story.
For our second book, we tried something different. We decided we’d all intertwine our stories around one rodeo. This was really gonna be fun and challenging, so we got together and went through all of the historical facts. The first date chosen had to go because there was no rodeos in the Texas Panhandle until the summer of 1888. Our story changed dates to the 4th of July 1890. The Pecos, Texas, competition occurred on July 4, 1883. One thing about historical writers, particularly writing about your home town, you must stay as authentic as possible. So we needed the name of a fictional town. I was coming back from Dallas, and looked over and low and behold there was a railroad crossing a few miles from Amarillo … West Kasota. In the 1800’s seemingly everything had a Springs attached, thus Kasota Spring, Texas, came to fruition.
Now for the next problem, since there were only four official events in the rodeo at that time, we all had to select one for our story. We were sitting around the work table. Jodi and Linda selected their events, so that left DeWanna and me. I’ve always loved bull riding. Although it was an unofficial event, taking place somewhere far away from the rodeo grounds, we decided to include it. I’d really been watching and studying up on bull riding because I had a fantastic story in mind or at least that was how I saw it. Well, guess what? DeWanna was the next in line to select; and, of course, what did she choose but bull riding and the reason, her brother was a bullrider!
I tried not to act disappointed when the only choice left was wild-cow milking! Yes, just like today in our rodeos. The reason was simple, the ranches had to bring in the mama cow to take care of her youngster who was participating in calf roping. Eventually, someone came up with the idea that if they hauled both mama and calf in why not make an event out of it … so I got wild cow milking.
To tell you the truth, I think my scene in the rodeo was so much fun to write. It rains, so my hero and heroine who were undesirably teamed up, really got to know one another by the end of the scene!
In The Troubled Texan I borrowed, with her permission, several of Linda’s character’s families as founders of Kasota Springs. Two pioneers out of my stories I truly loved were Teg Tegler and Edwinna Dewey (from the Christmas anthology). Here is a picture I took at the Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, Texas, a few years ago. This couple is exactly how I envisioned Teg and Edwinna. I know it’s okay to use their photo, since I got their permission and they asked me to autograph my stories to them as Teg and Edwinna!
The fictional Teg’s great-grandson works on the Jack’s Bluff ranch in The Troubled Texan and Edwinna’s great-great granddaughter lives in Kasota Springs still and has a book of her own as heroine that’s under contract. It’s so much fun for me to write about these folks and their dreams.
How about a few fun facts about the rodeos of the 1800’s.
Before the 20th century, rodeos were called “Cowboy Competitions.”
Bragging rights for an entire year were at stake.
Cowboys tuned up their horses, shook the kink out of their ropes and made final decisions on who mugs and who milks. That was my story. My hero did the mugging and my heroine did the milking in the rain.
Today, the cowboy winning events earn huge purses; however, in the original rodeos, they won a small purse and blue ribbons from the trim of a girl’s dress or bonnet.
Jail cells were used as boarding house rooms, since even prisoners were let out of the hoosegow for the rodeo.
The opening was full of “speechifying”, but the crowd never let it last very long.
They had chuck wagon competitions, just like today. Fares included beef, potatoes, biscuits and bread pudding.
There was a lot of music competition. Singers and pickers: guitars, fiddles, and poetry.
The oldest cowboy in the area always had the honor of shooting the pistol to begin competitions.
There were no rules that governed the rodeo, like there is today. The grounds were typically near the railroad and/or stock yards, because the main street was needed for parades and competitions.
When the evening was over, usually after a dance, everyone climbed aboard creaking buckboards, dusty buggies, and faithful horses and scattered to resume the tasks of their normal lives and to work on their skills for next year’s competition.
My question to you all, do you like rodeos and what is your favorite event?
Howdy, everyone! I’m happy to be joining the Petticoats & Pistols as the newest member today, partly because it’s always nice to hang out with other writers and readers but also because of the focus on westerns. You see, I’ve loved westerns for as long as I can remember. I recently had to answer a questionnaire for my publisher, and one of the questions was why I liked cowboy stories. I had to sit and think about it because it was just something that had always been true. As I was growing up in rural western Kentucky, we only had three TV channels and had to go outside to physically turn the antennae if the reception was bad. I distinctly remember that old movies played on Saturday afternoons, and a lot of those were westerns. When I think back on them now, I can identify why they attracted me and why I still love western-set TV shows, movies and books.
The landscape was so wide open with impossibly wide skies and a rugged type of beauty. This was completely different than the wooded, rolling hills where I grew up. At that point in my life, I’d barely been out of the state with brief trips a few miles down the road and across the river into Illinois and a Girl Scout trip to Opryland theme park in Nashville, Tenn., both of which looked pretty much like Kentucky. So those western landscapes, even if some of them were created on Hollywood lots, were like a different planet that I longed to visit.
Even though it was romanticized and still is to some extent, cowboys were iconic American heroes. They could live off the land, were honest (at least if they were wearing a white or light-colored hat), chivalrous, and a force for good. Even back then in the 1970s and ’80s, I knew that things were rarely that black and white in real life. Reality was more complicated and filled with shades of gray.
I love stories set in the past. I haven’t met a costume drama I didn’t love, and westerns — at least for me — fall into that category. It’s a bit like being a time-traveler and being transported to a different time and place, but you don’t have to worry about the lack of hygiene or modern medicine.
While I love my modern conveniences, I for some reason have always loved stories about survival and living off the land. When I think about people who set off in wagon trains west, not knowing if they’d make it or if they’d ever seen friends and family again, I’m awed by how much courage that took. Kind of like people who boarded ships in England and sailed for America. Even though modern-day cowboys and ranchers have the modern conveniences the rest of us do, they are still men of the land and work out under those wide-open skies.
While I write contemporary romance, many of which have cowboys as heroes, I still have a great love for western historicals. These were the first romances I read back in high school and continued to read in the years that followed — stories by Lorraine Heath, Kathleen Eagle, Elizabeth Grayson, among others. My first manuscript was even a historical set along the Oregon Trail, inspired partly because of that old video game called Oregon Trail. A friend even got me a shirt once that said, “You have died of dysentery,” which is a familiar phrase to anyone who played the game.
If a new movie comes out that is a western, I do my best to go see it in the theater so they’ll continue to make more. If there’s a western-themed TV series, I’m parked in front of the small screen. My all-time favorite show, Firefly, actually is a mixture of western and my other favorite genre, sci-fi. Yes, space western, and it was awesome!
In the months ahead, I look forward to blogging about various western-themed topics — my trips across the American West, my love for western-themed decor, rodeo, etc. And I look forward to interacting with the readers of Petticoats & Pistols.
Well looky here! Lacy Williams has come back for a visit. I swear to goodness that woman writes some good stories. Guess that’s how she got to be a bestselling author, huh? Let’s give Miss Lacy a big ol’ howdy!
Lacy Williams here, excited to be back with P&P!
Today I want to chat about the men who risk their lives in the rodeo arena. No, not the ones with the vests and helmets… the other ones. They wear colorful outfits and clown makeup. You know. The bullfighters.
Their job is two-fold. When the bull riders get bucked off (or jump off), the bullfighters distract the bulls to buy the riders time to get out of the arena. In between rescuing riders, the bullfighters also entertain the crowd with their antics and often over the loudspeaker, so they have to have a sense of humor and be able to think on their feet.
Can you imagine racing around in a dirt-packed arena, just in front of a fifteen hundred pound bull that wants to pound you into the ground? You jump into a barrel (have to be pretty fit and more agile than I am!) and wait for the bull to leave the arena. Then you do it all over again!
What would make a man choose bullfighting for his job? That was the question I asked as I created the hero for my June release, Luke Starr. As Pamela Tracy and Vickie McDonough and I brainstormed the Lone Star Brides series, I knew their heroes would be twins and bull riders. I also knew Luke would secretly be a little envious of their close twin relationship. But the real thing that drove him to choose bullfighting is his guilt over something that happened when he was sixteen. I won’t spoil the story for you, but Luke uses bullfighting to distract himself from the guilt that eats him alive… until he’s forced to come home to his family’s ranch and face the memories that haunt him.
THE BUTTERFLY BRIDE is book three in the Lone Star Brides mini-series and is Luke’s story. When heroine Jess Sadler ropes him into reaching out to a special needs student, Luke uses the skills he’s learned in the arena to reach out to the boy. And what woman can resist a man with a soft spot for kids?
THE BUTTERFLY BRIDE is releasing in ebook only and I’d like to give away two ebook copies, names to be drawn from anyone who comments today. Do you have a favorite kid-friendly hero? It could be a single dad, uncle or otherwise. Let me know!
Thanks again for hosting me today. I always love visiting Petticoats & Pistols!
About The Butterfly Bride:
The prodigal son is back. Ever since the terrible mistake he made in high school—a mistake that cost his best friend his life—bullfighter Luke Starr has stayed far away from Pecan, Texas, and his family. But with his twin brothers gone on their respective honeymoons, Luke is forced to come back to town to watch over Gramma and the family ranch. And he can’t wait to leave again. Because being home hurts more than being stomped on by a bull—and it’s only a matter of time until he messes up all over again.
Special ed teacher Jess Sadler will do anything for her students—even abandon her comfort zone to convince a reluctant rodeo cowboy to give “horse lessons” to a student she can’t reach. But when feelings for Luke blindside Jess, she knows she’s in trouble. The man is counting down the minutes until he can leave Pecan. Will he take her heart with him when he goes?
Then a little boy goes missing on the family ranch, and Luke must confront the ghosts of his past or lose the future he never dreamed was possible.
About Lacy Williams:
USA TODAY bestselling author Lacy Williams works in a hostile environment with three-point-five kids ages 6 and under. In spite of this, she has somehow managed to be a hybrid author since 2011, publishing 26 books and novellas. Lacy’s books have finaled in the RT BOOK REVIEWS Reviewers’ Choice Awards (2012, 2013, & 2014), the Golden Quill and the Booksellers Best Award. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, ALLi, and Novelists Inc. Visit her online at LacyWilliams.net.
A few weeks ago, I set up my small vending booth at the 27th annual Winnemucca Ranch Hand Rodeo and enjoyed a rodeo weekend. It’s my fourteenth year of vending there and I love, love, love attending. For one thing, I get to see my neighbors, many of whom I only see a few times a year. Several of them are on ranch hand teams, so I also get to see them compete, which is a lot of fun. Also I get to see kids grow up, from being babes in arms to competing in stick horse races, then sheep riding, then…well, I haven’t been there long enough to see any of the kids reach the age where they compete on an actual ranch hand team, but I’m sure it’s coming.
Ranch hand, or rancher, rodeos are competitions between teams of cowboys and cowgirls representing different ranches. The events are those that a working cowboy might encounter in the course of their day. There are a few traditional rodeo events—bronc riding, team roping and steer stopping—along with ranch events—branding (with paint), ranch doctoring, cow mugging, steer loading. The wild horse races and wild cow milking may not be everyday ranch occurrences, but they add some spice to the competition.
The rodeo starts off with a Calcutta, where people bid on the teams. The money goes into a pot proceeds are used as prize money, with a portion going to the person buying the winning team(s). Yes, you can buy your own cowboys.
Steer loading is one of my favorite events. There are times on a ranch when a steer on the range needs to be loaded into a trailer to be brought back to the ranch.
Cow mugging is along the same lines. Sometimes a steer or cow needs to be caught and cared for due to an injury or some other circumstance and is in an area where it can’t be run through a chute. It may take three or four people to take a grown cow down after it’s been roped.
This video does a great job of showing just what happens at a Ranch Rodeo.
There are sanctioned ranch hand rodeos and qualifying teams compete for a national title in early November. The Winnemucca event lasts for four days. In addition to the two-day rodeo, there are children’s events, cow dog trials and a stock horse competition, followed by a ranch horse sale.
If you ever get a chance to attend a ranch hand rodeo, I highly recommend it. It’s a great family experience.
And…my first American Romance is out this month!
TESTING THE LIMITS
Rodeo star Grady Owen has a new challenge. No-nonsense Alexa Benjamin is tougher than any bull he’s ever faced…but she sure is a whole lot prettier! Not that Grady has time for much between caring for his twin nieces, rebuilding his family’s farm and training. Trouble is, the more he tangles with Lex, the more he wants to win her heart.
Lex is drawn to Grady…in spite of herself. But ever since her bullfighter father died in the ring, she’s determined to never need anyone again. She’s afraid, and Grady is all about facing fear head-on. Taking a chance on this bull rider is unthinkable…but so is the idea of letting him walk away!
After living for almost 17 years in Greater Seattle, during the summer of 2012 I moved with my crew down to Southern California to the most charming of laid-back little beach towns. I absolutely adore being in San Clemente (it still has its original main street–called Del Mar–with angled parking) but the move was hard on my kids who were true Seattlites and I missed all my friends. By February, I really wanted to do a fun project with some of my close author friends and I made some calls and sent off some emails, asking if three of them would like to create a series together, something set in Montana, something with cowboys and featuring the beautiful rugged Montana landscape.
My three author friends–Lilian Darcy from Australia, CJ Carmichael from Canada, Megan Crane from California–agreed and we decided to make a girls roadtrip to Montana to brainstorm our books and series. I thought it’d be fun to share how Montana Born from Tule Publishing came about, using the words of Lilian Darcy, one of the founding authors.
This is how Marietta, Montana, our beloved fictional Western town, came to be!
In Lilian Darcy’s words:
It began in February…
Milestone #1—The phone call
Jane Porter calls me from California. Jane is a good friend, so I’m smiling when I hear her voice. ‘I want to have a writers retreat to plot a joint series’, she says. ‘Are you in?’
I think I’m in before she even gets to the word. We talk on the phone until my ear turns blue and I have to seek medical attention.
The plan is ambitious. This will be a real publishing company, not simply a group of like-minded authors publishing independently with some linked stories and branding (although, hey, that would be great, too). We will bring in experienced professionals in publishing, editing and marketing, as well as authors whose attitude and quality of work we can count on.
Honestly, I think my whole world feels different after this one phone call.
Milestone #2—The preparation
‘I want you to come over here’, Jane says in a follow-up email. ‘I have Megan Crane and CJ Carmichael on board, and we all need to get together to talk about our story ideas, and about how this is going to work.’
Did I mention that Jane is a good friend? She has frequent flyer miles that she actually gives me to cover the airline ticket. We decide May will be the best time, so I naturally go straight to the most vital pieces of preparation—crossing the days off a calendar and shopping for clothes.
We do also brainstorm a lot via email about stories during these two months. We decide to create the Montana Born Books imprint, and to set our first few series of books in our fictional town of Marietta, Montana.
(Because Montana is cool. I’ve been there now, and I know.)
We each throw in a bunch of ideas.
Megan comes up with a big, single title mini-series about three sisters who’ve grown up with the difficult parenting of their saloon-owner and Vietnam vet father, Jason Grey, after their mother left town.
CJ creates a traditional ranching family, the Carrigans, while Jane also creates a ranching family, the Sheenans, on the adjacent property.
I have a major women’s fiction trilogy in mind, following the lives of characters who’ve all been changed by what happened at the Marietta High School Prom in 1996.
Milestone #3—The brainstorming
May 1st arrives, and I fly across the Pacific to California. Jane meets me at LAX and nearly drives off the road about nine times on the way down to her house in San Clemente because we’re so busy talking.
Three days later, we fly to Kalispell, Montana, where CJ picks us up, after collecting Megan earlier in the day, and we drive to her cottage on Flathead Lake.
Now, some of you may have seen the pictures on Facebook, but I want to stress that we actually do work quite hard, despite appearances to the contrary.
First, we talk for a whole day, building our fictional universe. Where exactly is our town located? What’s the population? What’s its history? What stores and other buildings are there in Main Street? Who owns them? (Hint: When you read the books, watch out for mentions of a Jane Austen–inspired character, who’s a bit of a gossip-monger.)
We go to bed very satisfied with our first day’s work, and then the next morning when we get up CJ says, ‘You know what? I don’t think our planned stories are closely enough linked.’
She’s right, we realize at once. We’ve each gone off on our own tangent, with the Carrigans, the Greys, the Sheenans and my tragic 1996 prom night. For our launch, we need something that knits our characters more closely together and celebrates our fictional town in a more vibrant way.
Milestone #4—The stories
‘How about a rodeo?’ I think this is CJ, too. She is so great at cutting to the heart of the problem and coming up with the right idea.
‘No, how about a novella each?’
As writers, you tend to know something is right when the sparks immediately catch fire. Within an hour, this morning, we’ve each come up with the basic bones for a story.
The Title Fairy pays us a visit, which is close to being a Montana Miracle. She is a pretty temperamental creature, that one, and can withhold her creativity for months, sometimes.
Armed with titles, story ideas, linking threads and a whole lot of detail on our fictional world, we begin writing that very day…
Look for more about the making of Marietta, Montana and the results of our efforts with the release of our Montana Born stories in April!
If you’ve enjoyed this inside look, do leave a comment for a chance to win a print copy of our four rodeo stories that created Montana Born, Love Me, Cowboy plus fun Montana Born reader swag!
(Portions of Lilian Darcy’s story first appeared in the September 2013 issue of the Australian Romance Readers Association newsletter.)
Hello, my name is Barbara and I’m a rodeo fan-girl.
There, I said it. Yes, I love watching cowboys take their lives in their hands aboard those lunatic pro-bulls. (Screaming into my fists, aside.) But after agreeing to write a bull-riding hero for my next book, I realized how little I actually knew about the mechanics of the sport. I needed to do some research, which is always one of my favorite parts of writing. I’ve discovered many a good turning point through research.
Hours of YouTube marathons yielded these tidbits, for example:
* Bull riders most often use man-made barrel contraptions manipulated by a huge lever to practice on and not (for the most part) real bulls because…life and limb.
* There are coach/mentors who teach/hone bull riding technique, even to the pros. One of these ended up figuring into my story and even changed my hero’s living situation.
* The bull ‘athletes’ are respected every bit as much as the riders and are specially bred to buck. One is even crowned champion at the end of the season for big money.
* The difference between a slinger –a bull that tries to hit the rider in the head with its horns and a honker: a really ‘rank’ and difficult animal to ride.
Most intriguing was the bullrope—that woven rope/strap that goes around a bull’s chest and which the rider wraps around his gloved hand—which he must release at the end of the ride or risk getting hung up and dragged around by the arm. (The screaming into fists part.) It took a while to figure out the wrap techniques and how riders freed themselves at the end of a ride.
Traditional American bullropes, position the cowboy’s hand directly over the bull’s spine. Each time a bull bucks, the rope slides a little to the left, tightening on the cowboy’s fingers. And if the stars align badly, the cowboy is unable to release this bucking strap from his pinched fingers and he gets dangerously hung up.
Brazillian bullropes are relatively new on the scene. They appeared with the influx of Brazillian cowboys who have taken many of the top spots on the rodeo charts in the past few years. The bullrope they use is slightly different from the American one.
Their grip handle starts off center, to the right of the bull’s spine, and releases to the right, the opposite direction of the American rope, which takes the pressure off the cowboy’s hand and allows him to easily free himself, preventing hang-ups. Some U.S. rodeos have banned them, claiming they’re an unfair advantage for the Brazillians and U.S. riders who have embraced them, but the jury’s still out on whether it’s simply a smarter design or an advantage. With the high stakes money in the PBR, it’s understandable that some sour grapes linger over these ropes. But I decided to use one in my story, because it felt like a smarter choice for Finn Scott, who had two little children waiting at home for him, along with a temporary wife with commitment issues.
I loved every minute of writing CHOOSE ME, COWBOY (Part of the Montana Born Rodeo series) And for those who read last year’s, A FAIR TO REMEMBER, this book follows the second of the Canaday sisters, Kate.
I have a $10 Amazon gift card for one lucky commenter here. Just tell me your favorite rodeo event!
Barbara Ankrum is the bestselling author of fourteen books, including her latest contemporary romance, CHOOSE ME, COWBOY, from Tule Publishing. Her bestselling western historical series, ‘Wild Western Hearts’ and ‘Wild Western Rogues” are available on all e-book platforms. She’s been twice nominated for RWA’s prestigious RITA Award.
Professional and amateur cowboys intrigue me, as do the equally tough professional bullriders.
Every year I attend 2-3 rodeos, from small regional amateur rodeos in Montana and Arizona, to the National Finals Rodeo held in Las Vegas, and that doesn’t include the PBR (Professional Bull Rider) events I try to attend each spring.
Fortunately, I never lack for company when I’m heading to the rodeo or PBR. My husband and I have a standing date for the NFR in Last Vegas each December and have tickets for the last three nights of competition, and my writer friends Megan Crane and CJ Carmichael are also always up for a rodeo weekend.
I’ve written a variety of rugged heroes, including cowboys and bullriders, and three of my reader favorites were all professional bullriders: Dane Shelly (She’s Gone Country), Cade King (Be Mine, Cowboy), and Colton Thorpe (Take Me, Cowboy).
These three heroes were tough, hardcore alphas. Dane Shelly walked with a permanent limp, Cade King once dealt with his pain by drinking hard, hitting the bottle to numb his exhaustion and pain, while Colton Thorpe has no desire to ever settle down and be a buckle bunny’s sugar daddy.
I may have inherited my love of cowboys and western stories from my grandfather, an engineer and rancher from El Paso, Texas that loved the land so much he owned three cattle ranches in California and would fly his private plane in and out of the different ranches to help with routine chores and round ups. I spent school holidays on his favorite ranch in the Cholame Valley (forty-five miles east of Paso Robles) where the miles and miles of rolling hills and open land made me think anything was possible.
At UCLA I switched from being a Creative Writing major to American Studies where I could combine my love of American literature with American history, culture and art. My senior thesis was on Mark Twain, and it’s impossible to study American culture without being reminded at every turn that the American West, and our Frontier has shaped our national consciousness. Americans are explorers and adventurers and yes, risk takers. We’re fiercely independent and determined to succeed.
I was lucky to study in depth the literature of our West, reading both the classics from James Fenimore Cooper to Willa Cather, as well as getting an introduction to the greats in our popular culture, like Bret Harte, Jack Schaefer, and of course, the one and only Louis L’Amour.
Through reading I discovered one of the defining characteristics of the classic Western hero (or heroine) is strength, particularly inner strength, and this strength, and rugged individualism, resonated deeply with me. It’s not enough to say the right thing, but one must do the right thing. Integrity is also essential, as well as having a clear moral compass.
I’m grateful for my academic immersion in the West. It’s definitely been useful for my career, but as I write a contemporary western hero, not a historical one, I’m always trying to broaden my knowledge and deepen my perspective to better ground my character, making him or her as intriguing and relevant as possible for my readers.
To get my characters right, I do a lot of research. In fact, at the very beginning of a new story I do far more research and studying then actual writing.
My research can be broken into one of three categories:
1) Reading: I read every reference book, memoir, and bio I can get my hands on!
2) Interviews: I talk to industry experts (in this case, cowboys, bullriders and family and friends)
3) Observation: I attend live events, soaking it all in and noting every detail possible.
Over the years I’ve collected quite a few books that have become essentials in my Western library. I’ve pulled out a few to share with you here, and have listed four favorites by title and author below.
Favorite Reference Books
King of the Cowboys by Ty Murray and Steve Eubanks
Chasing the Rodeo: On Wild Rides and Big Dreams, Broken Hearts and Broken Bones, and One Man’s Search for the West by W.K. Stratton
Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies, & Bull Riders: A Year Inside the Professional Bull Riders Tour by Josh Peter
Rodeo in America: Wranglers, Roughstock, and Paydirt by Wayne S Wooden
Not every lover of westerns needs to be a rodeo fan, but if you enjoy a great rodeo hero or setting, check out one of the titles I’ve shared above (the top three are my personal top three favorites). You can also learn more about the PRCA and PBR, including rankings, schedules and ticket info at http://www.prorodeo.com and http://www.pbr.com.
My next rodeo event? Why, it’s the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in just two months time. And I’ll be attending with my favorite ‘cowboy’, my husband Ty. And okay, he’s not a real cowboy, he’s a professional surfer, but with his Texas roots, he loves the rodeo as much as I do!
Giveaway: Are you a rodeo fan? Have you ever been to a rodeo? I’d love to hear about your favorite event or experience and one of you will win a signed copy of She’s Gone Country and some fun Jane Porter reader swag. Winner will be announced here, in the comments, on Saturday, October 10th so please check back to see if that winner might be you!