Montana for Real

The blog also known as Montana for Real.

Monday, August 17, 2015

New and Free--Does it Get Any Better?

Getting published can be both the best and most frustrating experience of your life. Because YAY, an editor loves my book enough to take it on, but *SIGH* the waiting never ends, and patience? Not my greatest virtue.

As many of you know, I sold three book series (now semi-officially called the Texas Rodeo books because nothing is truly official until the book is actually printed) to Sourcebooks last November. Because these are rodeo books and the first is set in the summer, their marketing department strongly believes it'll sell best if released during the summer. BUT, there wasn't enough time to get it out there this year, which means waiting clear until next summer for the series debut, semi-officially titled Reckless in Texas, to hit the shelves.

Yes, dear readers, SHELVES. If all goes as planned you'll be able to pick this one up at your bookstore. Or even WalMart or your grocery story. But not my local grocery store (sorry people who live in my town) because I have it on supreme authority from a million-selling author that your book will never be on the shelves in your grocery store. It is an immutable law of the universe. 

In the meantime, people who've read and loved The Long Ride Home have been pestering me for something new. Since I finished the preliminary draft of Book Two of the Texas Rodeo series and have yet to get a real clue where to start Book Three (or possibly who the main characters will be), I dug out an old novella that I've always been rather fond of, gave it a serious tune-up, and posted it on Wattpad. 

For those who aren't familiar, Wattpad is like an online American Idol for writers. You put a story up and readers get to comment-- either on a particular line or at the end of the chapter--and they also get to vote at the end of each chapter, a sort of virtual thumbs up if you liked it. The more reads and votes you get, the more likely Wattpad will put your story on the front page of their website, which hopefully generates more reads and more votes and attracts brand new fans.

So, if you're looking for a quick, fun read and would like to help make me a star without having to hear me sing (believe me, none of us want that) come and join my Wattpad experiment. Read. Vote. And if you like it, use the Twitter, Facebook and other social media buttons to encourage your friends to come along for the ride. From a purely selfish standpoint, if you like my stuff, the more successful this experiment turns out, the more likely I'll make the time to do it again every three or four months until Reckless in Texas is released.

Here's the link to get you started: To Steal A Cowboy's Heart

Also, a huge ovation for Polly Icenoggle who took the cover photo. Is that awesome or what?

Friday, August 14, 2015

On Subways and Suitcases and the Big Apple


Traveling would be awesome if it didn’t require luggage. Imagine, waltzing through airports with nothing but a wallet and the clothes on your back—at least until you reach the security line, where they take half of those. Air travel with suitcases is the sole reason the term ‘baggage’ has come to refer to hauling around a heavy emotional load.

Last week’s trip to New York City for a writer’s convention was no exception. Before flying out of Bozeman I dropped my son at my sister’s house for a week of quality aunt time. Upon arrival, we discovered his suitcase was back home on his bedroom floor. Thank the stars that I have a male child, and he’d stuffed his iPad and toothbrush in his backpack. Buy two changes of underwear and a pair of swimming trunks and he was set for a week long vacation.

My baggage and I arrived simultaneously in the Big Apple, which is always nice, and I’d arranged a car directly from the airport to the friend’s doorstep where I’d be spending the first night. No sweat.
Then came Wednesday, when I had to get from her apartment to the convention hotel. I considered the cost of a taxi. Then I considered that I could board the subway two blocks from her house and be spit out two block s from the hotel for a mere three dollars. I did not consider that the subway system wasn’t designed for people with luggage. I bought my ticket from the vending machine, swiped it, and promptly got my suitcase wedged in the turnstile. A long-suffering woman in the glass booth shouted at me to back out, then let me through the handicapped door with a ‘Stupid tourist’ eye roll.

New Yorkers are masters of the eye roll. I know. I saw them do it a lot.

I proudly de-trained at the Times Square station, only to realize there were seven exits and I had no clue which was closest to my hotel. I made my best guess and hauled my bag of bricks up three flights of grubby stairs while wearing a skirt and sandals, emerging into the tourist mob without a clue where I was in relation to the Marriot. On the plus side, this is an excellent way to meet handsome, helpful members of the NYPD.

I have no idea how many toes I ran over slogging through the crowd, but I did eventually arrive at the right hotel—word to the wise, there are actually three Marriot hotels in the vicinity of Times Square—dumped my luggage on the first bellman who would take it and keeled over on the nearest couch. 

Not only had I arrived, but I could skip that trip to the hotel gym.

Four days later, I re-packed and headed for home, feeling smug. I had downloaded the Delta app on my phone, checked in online and paid for my bags. I couldn’t be more prepared. The shuttle dumped me out at Terminal Four and I started following signs to the Delta check in, which appeared to be up two floors. As I made for the elevator, a helpful airport employee flagged me down and instructed me to just bop around the corner, where there was a convenient ground level baggage check.

Yay! I barely reached the line when a guy came along waving and shouting at a whole herd of us to march down the terminal—hurry, hurry, hurry—to where another dude was grabbing suitcases and tossing them onto a conveyor belt. I handed over my first bag, expecting him to ask to scan my boarding pass, but he just tossed it on the conveyor with the rest. He started to reach for the second. I kept a death grip on the handle.

“How do you even know that was my bag and where it’s going?” I demanded.

He looked down at the bag we were currently wrestling over. “It isn’t tagged? They’re supposed to be tagged.”

“I haven’t checked them yet,” I said.

He looked at me as if I was the idiot. “You have to go upstairs for that.”

NO KIDDING. Which was why I tried to go there in the first place, instead of this zoo where they were rechecking bags for connecting flights from other terminals. In the meantime, my untagged suitcase had disappeared into the bowels of the airport. Congratulations, JFK, for being the only airport to lose my luggage before I even set foot on a plane.

I hiked half a mile upstairs, where clerks did some truly exceptional eye-rolling and agreed the recheck guys were idiots but could offer no solution. I hiked another half a mile downstairs to baggage services, where a third clerk confirmed their opinion—along with the eyeroll—and made a phone call to see if someone could grab my bag before it dropped into the pit of no return. She did not appear optimistic that such a feat could be accomplished. There was mention of filing a claim at my destination and possibly being reunited with my belongings at some unspecified future date, but no one made any promises.

I dragged my aching feet another mile back upstairs, through security and to my gate, defeated. Just before midnight, I stumbled down the jetway in Bozeman to stare blearily at the baggage carousel, when what to my wondering eyes should appear than my missing suitcase. My fellow passengers didn’t seem to appreciate the magnitude of this modern day miracle. From their expressions, you’d think none of them had ever seen a woman hug a Samsonite before.

Writer friend Patty Blount, my very first little black dress, and yet 
another reason I would have wept if I lost my suitcase forever.


Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Wait and Hurry Up


Back when I worked in sports medicine as an athletic trainer, we used to say the job was comprised of thousands of hours of boredom interrupted by brief moments of sheer panic. You'd stand on the sidelines day after day watching game after game, and the most thrilling challenge you faced was trotting out on the field with a rack of water bottles during a time out and trying not to trip and fall on your face.

But always, in the back of your mind, was the knowledge that any moment could be THAT moment, when an athlete fell and didn't get up. When you raced onto the field reciting the A-B-C's of basic life support, replaying CPR class in your head, and running through a checklist of how to treat a spinal chord injury. In fifteen years, I'm happy to say I never needed to apply any of those skills, though there were times we immobilized and back-boarded a player as what turned out to be an unnecessary, precautionary measure. And I can honestly say, there's nothing that'll get the ol' adrenaline rushing like the sound of a human bone snapping with enough force to be heard from forty yards away.

Then it was back to the sidelines to observe a few hundred more hours of football or baseball or soccer without having to deal with anything more life threatening than a blister.

You're probably wondering where I'm going with this. Me, too. Give me a few minutes and maybe I'll remember what the point was when I started.

Oh, right. I was thinking how really, working with book publishers isn't all that different. In movies, the heroine gets a big book deal and is instantly whisked off on a glamorous tour of the world where thousands of adoring fans line up to fawn over her. Which actually happens to some authors, I've heard, but they skip over a few things. Namely, the months between when you sign on the dotted line and when something actually happens, because the gap between selling your book and actually seeing it on the shelf can easily stretch to a year. Or two.

Scheduling a book release isn't as simple as scribbling your name in an open slot on the calendar. A savvy publisher is looking at all kinds of factors. What other books are they releasing at the same time that could compete with yours because it's aimed at the same audience? Or, if they've picked yours as a book that's going to get an extra promotional boost, they'll want to avoid releasing on the same day as one of their big name authors who'll be monopolizing a lot of marketing resources. What books are other publishers releasing that might overshadow yours, especially if you're a relative unknown? What time of year do books like yours sell the best? (Yes, good marketing people know these things.) Plus a hundred other factors unknown to anyone outside the publisher's inner sanctum.

All of this to say that yes, I signed a contract for a new, three book series with Sourcebooks back in November. And then...nothing. Well, mostly nothing, at least concerning the first book, which is already complete. I got to meet the whole Sourcebooks team and my lovely editor at both the Romantic Times and Romance Writers of America conferences and learned that due to reasons stated above, the first book is tentatively scheduled to be released in June or July of 2016. I gave them a few chapters and an outline of book two and floated some book three ideas past my editor. Other than that, I've just been cooling my heels over here on the sidelines. And writing another book that I fervently hope they won't hate on sight.

Then yesterday, POW. First email from the editorial/marketing/art department with a list of what they needed from me. Author Bio, character descriptions, book blurb, etc., etc., and by the way, is there any way you can get that back to us by Friday? Or before would be better.

I felt like I'd flashed back to my athletic trainer days. Wait, wait, wait, wait.....OH MY GOD WE NEED YOU NOW.

My first reaction was, "EEK, IT'S STARTING!" And my second was, "Oh...dear...Lord....I have to look into that manuscript I haven't opened in over a year and what if it has moldered into a pile of drivel in the dank basement of my hard drive?"

I'm happy to say, it didn't spit in my face for ignoring it. And in the process of reminding myself how I described these long ago characters, I even found a few things I liked. This line of description in particular, a welcome surprise considering character description is my least favorite part of writing. If I had my way, I'd start every book with photos of the guy and the girl and say, "Refer to this as necessary".

Anyway, the line goes like so:

"This close she could smell the clean sweat that had his hair hanging in damp clumps around his face, and see that his eyes were green. The color of luck, and money, and the grass on the other side of the fence."

I like to think the description tells you something about his character, and how the person doing the describing feels about him. That's the goal with good physical description, anyway, to reveal something of the character of both the subject and the person looking at them, not just an inventory of parts.

The other bit of good news is, I've already done this once before and knew what to expect, so I had most of what my publisher needed already in mind, if not on hand. One frantic email to my agent's office got me the hardest bit, so for once in my life I got my homework done and handed in ahead of time.

If only I'd learned this lesson sooner. Perhaps I wouldn't have procrastinated my way through eight years of college. Or not. Sometimes it's more exciting to just be ready to take the leap at a moment's notice.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Temporarily Indisposed...


Yes, it has been forever and a day since I've got around to posting anything on the ol' blog, but for once I have an excuse other than it's summer and I don't feel like doing anything that resembles work. We've been having internet issues since the end of May, due mainly to the fact that we're too cheap to pay for our own internet connection so we mooch off my parents via high-powered router. This has worked well for the past six plus years. Then we made a fatal error in judgement.

We put siding on our house.

First off, it's necessary to understand that we live in the bunkhouse. When we moved in, it was 400 square feet, half of which was originally my granddad's chicken coop with a kitchen and bathroom built on. Then we dragged an old wooden granary over and tacked it on one end for a living room. Then we built a lean to off the south side for a porch and a bedroom, so the child didn't have to sleep on a mattress on the living room floor. The porch alone was a three year process. With all the expanding and tacking on there wasn't much sense putting on siding, plus it costs money that could be spent doing something fun, but eventually the particle board started sloughing off wood chips like dandruff and my mom got tired of looking at it out of her bedroom window, so she offered to pay for the installation if we would just please do something about our little wooden shack. So we went from this (which makes it look a lot better than it was in real life):

To this:

Ain't it purty? Dale and Richard Bird did a beautiful job. Just one problem. That high quality Masonite siding does a bang up job of not only blocking the cold wind, but also our WiFi signal. We've tried antennas. We've tried moving around to different parts of the house. The signal will pop up for a few minutes then disappear for no apparent reason, except that it's most likely to work when the temperature is below fifty degrees, which actually happens quite frequently in the summer up here on the border but only before 8 a.m.

In the meantime, in order to blog or Facebook or anything that requires a decent signal for more than five minutes I have to haul my computer over to my mother's. Or out to the tipi, which does not have Masonite siding. Under normal circumstances we would bite the bullet and get our own hookup, but as it happens our local co-op is in the process of installing fiber optic cable to replace our glorified dial-up, after which we will be able to do crazy things like stream video. Excuse me while I put my head between my knees to avoid hyperventilating. Unfortunately, there is no estimated date of completion, so for now, I'm sort of in internet detention. 

This is not all bad news. Thanks to lack of Twitter, Facebook and staring at dresses on ModCloth and eShakti, I finally finished the preliminary draft of Book Two of next year's Texas Rodeo series. Now all I have to do is figure out what Book Three is going to be about and I'm golden.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Adding Some Color


So today we're talking a little roping and a little cowology, and that place where the two meet. First, the roping. The last couple of years we lived in South Dakota, Greg and I did quite a bit of team roping. Then we moved to Oregon and there were plenty of tie down and breakaway roping jackpots to keep us busy, plus we didn't have space for both steers and calves on our two acre plot, so the team roping mostly went by the wayside.

Since we moved home to the ranch we've been trying to get back to it, but for one reason or another we never seemed to have the time. Now I've shed the town job and I have t

wo horses--Bailey and Vegas--who really aren't suited to anything but heading steers. And Greg finally got the heeling horse he's been looking for in Hollywood.

Now's where we get into the cowology. We keep a small herd of Longhorn cows specifically for the purpose of raising roping cattle. But since no one was team roping and the Longhorn bull was a tad difficult to have around, for several years we just bred the Longhorns to our Angus bulls. And because Angus bulls are polled--like most commercial breeds these days--and polled (aka, without horns) is a dominant trait, we had a whole string of Longhorn calves minus the horns.

Last summer Greg decided to change that and took five of our cows down to my cousin's place to breed to his Corriente bull. The result has added a whole lot of color to our herd:

You can also see why Corriente/Longhorn cattle are favored for roping. They're lighter and more agile so less prone to injury, and stay that way until they're three or four years old. Compare the two calves about to the one below, that's out of an Angus bull. Notice how much beefier he is? Also the reason Corriente/Longhorn cattle aren't favored for beef production. Basically, they're too skinny, and it costs too much to fatten them up. Which is too bad, because they never have trouble calving and have a natural resistance to most of the common diseases that make cattle sick. 

But dang, they sure are pretty.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dogie Daycare


Out in the pasture today, I ran across this bunch, the only cattle in sight. Note the ratio of calves to cows:

Unless you've spent time on a ranch with large pastures, you may not realize that even cows need to get away from their kids once in a while. So they hire babysitters. No, really. Nearly any sunny afternoon you can ride through our pasture and find a bunch of calves being watched over by two or three cows while the rest of go off and graze or have a drink with the girls.

I've never checked, but I assume they take turns keeping an eye on the brats. Or possibly, like some humans, the same poor souls get stuck with playground duty every day. I do know one thing. The missing mamas are always within earshot, and will come on the run with one bark from Max the Cowdog.



Friday, May 01, 2015

Now you can laugh at me in person!


Time to start hounding all the Cut Bank area folks to come and hang out next week. Yes, they're turning me loose on the unsuspecting public again. Robbed of my delete key, it is entirely possible I will say something totally humiliating either for me or my family. In other words, pretty much like every time I speak in public.

Laugh at me or laugh with me, either way, we'll have a good time.