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!

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?

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).