Monday, May 27, 2013

Eight days and counting: Exclusive Excerpt from SAMR!

Hey, gang! (Whoops, just wrote that as 'Hey, gag'. Hm. Different sort of story, that!)
I had planned on talking about the big-ass salamander that was hanging out in my kitchen the other day and scared the boots off me, but then I remembered--Summer at Mustang Ridge comes out a week from tomorrow. Yayyy! So to celebrate, I thought  would post an exclusive excerpt. Enjoy!
(All rights reserved, blah, blah)

“Aren't you a big one?” Foster mimicked, grinning as he led Brutus in from the geldings' pen, where a dozen or so mustangs were munching hay and snoozing in the sun.
The chestnut snaked his head around, feinting for a nip.
“Quit that.” He nudged the horse out of his space, reminding him how the pecking order went. The mustang had been at the ranch since last fall's gather, and had been under saddle for nearly six months. He'd only been in the working string for a few weeks, though, and was still reserved for the wranglers' use because his better-than-average smarts were paired with an unpredictable streak wider than the stripe running down his nose. He wasn't dangerous, but Foster wouldn't exactly call him reliable yet, either. Given his quick mind, big feet and smooth gaits, though, Foster figured he was worth putting some time into.
Annoyed that his nap had been interrupted, the gelding rolled an eye back at him.
“Yeah, yeah, life's tough. You think this is hard work, try being a real cowhorse. Compared to them, you're just a glorified trail pony.”
Then again, what did that make him? Head trail-pony wrangler? Executive greenhorn herder? Overlord of make-sure-the-dudes-don't-kill-themselves?
It made him employed, that was what. And saving for better days.
As his shaggy black dog, Vader, whuffed and darted into the barn, Foster clucked to Brutus. “Come on there, trail-pony-with-attitude. Let's fix that flat tire of yours and get you back in action.”
As they came into early June, they were leaving a wet-dry-wet weather pattern that had turned the horses' hooves brittle, leading to a bonanza of quarter cracks and loose nails. Which meant that Foster—who was the ranch's farrier in addition to lead merry-go-round attendant—was busier on the horses' day off than he was just about any other day of the week.
He'd left Brutus 'til last because the gelding had pulled his shoe clean off yesterday up on the ridgeline and did some serious damage on the ride home, largely because Junior hadn't noticed. The young wrangler had gotten an earful, but it'd be up to Foster to bang a new blank into shape, clean up the hoof, and find some good horn to nail into.
“I'm onto you,” Foster said, giving the gelding another nudge as they reached the barn, where the bright sun turned to murky shadows at the doorway and a nervous horse—or one with a questionable sense of humor—could spook. “Don't even think about it,” he warned conversationally. “This is supposed to be my day off, and I'm not in the mood to deal with your—”
Movement flashed in his peripheral vision as they stepped from light into dark, and Brutus gave a sudden elephant snort and exploded in a spook that was part pent-up energy, part “aieeeee, mountain lion!” The big gelding's shoes struck sparks on the cement as he tried to wheel and bolt, dragging Foster around with a thousand pounds of momentum and a cement-strong neck. Vader got in front of him and splayed all four feet, barking, trying to head off the runaway.
Foster hauled back on the lead. “Whoa, dang it! And, Vader, git!”
As the dog scurried out the back, Foster caught a flash of brown hair and wide, scared hazel eyes. He had only a split second to realize that the little girl was about to get flattened. Then Brutus swung his haunches around and bumped her hard, and she went flying across the aisle.
She hit the wall and went down in a pink-and-denim heap.
Foster's stomach headed for his boots but his body kept reacting, using thirty-some years of experience to juggle the gelding away from the kid and down to the other end of the aisle.
“Knock it off!” he growled, getting right up near one of Brutus's white-rimmed eyes. Where
normally he would've soothed, now he muscled the block-headed chestnut under some semblance of control, then kicked open a nearby stall and sent him into it, still wearing his halter. “Don't you dare get tangled in that lead,” he ordered, then ran the door shut and latched it tight.
He spun back, expecting to find the little girl still down. She wasn't, though. She was on her feet, plastered in the corner where the tack stall jutted out a few feet into the aisle. Her pink t-shirt and jeans were streaked with dust, her face sheet-white. All arms and legs, with a long torso and those big hazel eyes, she reminded him of a yearling in the middle of a growth spurt, when all the pieces didn't go together quite right.
She hadn't made a sound, wasn't crying now, just stood there, staring at him.
“You okay?” When she didn't say anything, he took a step toward her and reached out a hand. “Are you hurt?”
Foster's head whipped around as a dark-haired woman in a ridiculous pantsuit raced into the barn wearing the same sort of look he'd seen before in a half-wild heifer's eyes when he made the mistake of getting between her and her newborn calf. The kind of look that said she didn't care what happened to her or anything around her as long as she got up close and personal with the little one, pronto.
He did what he should've done back then, saving himself a whole bunch of black-and-blues. He got the heck out of the way.
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Monday, May 20, 2013

Hey, Look! I'm a Flower Girl

The Flower Girl

You know how sometimes you get a gift and it’s exactly what you didn’t know you wanted? Well, that happened to me this past week.

First, I should probably set the stage by telling you that I am a human raffle repellent. In thirty-plus years of being in various positions to possibly win something (anything) by having my name/ticket/whatever drawn, I never ever win, and nor do the people on either side of me. I magically repel whatever electrons are involved in random chance. It’s a scientific fact.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I left a comment on the fabulous Jeannie Moon’s blog (her debut launches this week, so totes click through and check her out!), discussing how much I adore hot pink zebra duct tape. (Incidentally, I received my first roll as part of a zombiepocalypse-survival-kit-style wedding present. I found this hilarious.) Imagine my surprise when Jeannie emailed me to say that I had won a wristlet! I wasn’t really sure what a wristlet might be, but who cared? I won something!

I decided to invest in some Powerball tickets, thinking this had to be a sign that my luck had changed for the better. Then I got busy and forgot to buy those tickets. In fact, I forgot about having won the blog prize, too, until it showed up the other day. With Arizona watching over my shoulder, I dug into the box, with its pretty tissue paper, handwritten note and tasteful promo items (thinking I should really up my own giveaway game from 'signed book in a mailing envelope'), and saying, “That’s right! I won a … something.”

I pulled it out. And I was charmed.

It was a Vera Bradley wallet-clutch-thingie (I guess that’s what ‘wristlet’ means?) made of quilted cloth with pretty flowers on it. And I, who have used the same brown leather Coach wallet since the late 90s, immediately transferred my entire life into this new cuteness.

Now, in a related story, I’ve been sneaking up on the idea of a new purse lately. This is a Big Deal for me, as I’ve had exactly three, all Coach, since my thirteenth birthday when my aunt gave me my first. (She was a Secret Service Agent—one of the first female agents, in fact—and it was too small for her Glock.) These things are heavy duty, look good when they’re beat up, and last forever.

I’ve been stalling on the new bag, though, because … well, I didn’t know why. At first it was because they’re not cheap and the old one really doesn’t look that bad. Then I made a deal with myself: lose ten pounds, and you can have the bag. (Yeah, that didn't happen.) Or finish the new manuscript ahead of deadline. (Ditto.) But as I looked at my new wallet-thingie, I got to thinking that maybe it wasn’t the cost. Maybe I’m just not a black leather girl anymore. Maybe these days, I’m soft cotton and flowers.

Me in my black leather phase, circa 2006.

Me today (well, last summer, but close enough).

One of the many things I love about writing the Mustang Ridge books is the idea of metamorphosis. Whether it's a busy surgeon who spends a week at the ranch and learns that its time for him to make room for love, or the ranch’s head wrangler coming out of his gruff shell to help a little girl get over her fears, the men and women of Mustang Ridge are always growing and changing. I guess I am, too. And you know what? I think I like being a flower girl these days. Maybe I’ll even buy a colorful bag to go with my flowery wallet thingie. And I’ll definitely keep those flowers in mind when I write today.

So tell me, have you ever had one of those moments when you realized that something you’ve always owned or done doesn’t really work for you anymore? Or had that perfect gift show up, one that you didn’t have any clue you needed? I’d love to hear about it!

Monday, May 13, 2013

George Clooney vs. Backyard Oil

The other night, Arizona and I caught an episode of Backyard Oil, which follows a bunch of Kentuckians who have gone rags-to-riches discovering oil wells in their yards, and are wildcatting for new strikes. I couldn’t tell you why he and I glom shows like Deadliest Catch and Bering Sea Gold yet find many other pseudo-reality shows unwatchable … but Backyard Oil isn’t bad. (I started to abbreviate the title, but just no. This is not a blog about B.O. Maybe next week.)

Anyway, as we’re watching it, Arizona points to one of the oil drillers and says, “Hey, he looks just like that guy.” Which, of course, provoked the usual game of charades-plus-twenty-questions. You know, the one that starts with “What guy?” evolves to gestures and lots of “You know, the one in that movie,” and eventually (if I’m lucky) arrives at something I can work with, like: “He was the vendetta guy with Natalie Portman.” (Answer: Hugo Weaving.)

Now, if we’re talking about an actress, Arizona will know her name, vital stats, and that she’s married to “that other guy.” But when it comes to the male half of the species, he can name exactly four actors: Will Ferrell, Sam Elliot, the guy who plays Iron Man, and everyone else. Thus, the interpretive dance of “You know, the guy with the eyes. He was in Big Lebowski.” (Answer: Steve Buscemi.)

In the case of the Backyard Oil guy, I didn’t have a clue which actor we were talking about. So the conversation went like this:

Arizona: “He was in the movie that retold that story. You know, Homer.”

Me: “Simpson?”

Arizona (waves hands): “No, the other one. Ancient civilizations, required reading, boats.”

Me: “The Iliad? The Odyssey?”

Arizona: “Yeah. Except with a jailbreak in the deep south.”

(Long hesitation.)

Me (Not so sure about the epic journey, but putting together the other clues.): “O Brother Where Art Thou?”

Arizona: “Yes! Coomer looks just like the guy in that.”

Me (voice squeaking): “You mean George Clooney?”

Yes, folks, he was utterly convinced that this oil driller looked like George Clooney’s brother, maybe even his twin. Yikes! So after I got done snicker-snorting, I dug out my laptop to prove him wrong. Except when I pulled up the Google images, Arizona pointed to a picture and said, “There. See?”

This is what I saw:


And here's the guy from Backyard Oil: 


And you know what? I could kind of see it. However, I loftily informed him that most females, when asked for their mental image of George Clooney, would come up with something more like this:

Or this:



So tell me, do you find that you and your men-friends have very different mental images of celebs? And do you guys do the “you know, the guy from that movie” dance?

Monday, May 6, 2013

First Date Disasters

In honor of tomorrow’s release of SUNSET AT KEYHOLE CANYON (a Mustang Ridge e-novella), which is the story of a spunky boutique owner and a sexy surgeon reconnecting after a blind-date backfire, I want to dish about bad first dates.

I really haven’t had all that many first dates, but one stands out as Awkward. Back in college, there was ROTC Guy. A cousin of a friend, we had some decent yelling-over-loud-music-and-flat-beer conversation at a party, and he asked me out. We made plans, I drove the couple of hours to where he went to school ... and discovered that I was going out with his entire ROTC class. And while Pizza Hut and Spinal Tap can make for a perfectly cool first date, the presence of his twenty best friends didn’t exactly lend itself to romance. 

Lacking any really juicy stories of my own, I hit up Arizona, who was active on for seven-plus years before he sent me that first “Hey, what do you say we skip the twenty questions and write a story together instead?” 

(Note to guys: this is an excellent way to get the attention of a girl with “WriterChick” in her user name. Especially when you can write. The story--a pirate erotica peppered with in-jokes from Star Wars and Monty Python--will forever stay between the two of us, but darn, it was fun to write.)

He didn’t have any Crazy Psycho stories for me (his psycho meter is pretty good), but did allow that he’d had a couple of surprises along the way. Like the girl who wanted to go to a wine bar, then turned out to be underage (contrary to what she claimed in her profile). Or the woman who went for a pre-date spray tan and wound up an odd shade of orange, earning a whole lot of doubletakes when she came into the restaurant.

Mostly, our first date stories were of the “perfectly nice, but not right for me” variety. A few, though, were near misses. You know, the amazing first date that somehow doesn’t make it to a second. Mine was when my crush and I made plans for the following weekend, but I later realized I had a conflict. I called him and said it turned out I was busy, but maybe we could do some other time. I was thinking he would suggest another night. Instead, he said, “Okay, fine,” and hung up.

It wasn’t until like two weeks later that I realized he thought I was blowing him off. Yes, it’s true. I have no game.

Anyway, that’s closer to what happened between Nina and Ben in my new novella. They had a great first date, totally hit it off with sparks, fireworks and all that good stuff … but date number two doesn’t happen until a friend conspires to bring them back together for a week’s vacation at a picturesque Wyoming dude ranch.  

Want more? Read an excerpt or buy now.

Meanwhile, I have a feeling that there are probably some far worse first date disasters out there. So what’s yours??