Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Can You Hear Me Now?

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Or more to the point, would you like to hear Cole and Shawnee, the lead characters in my latest book, Tougher in Texas?

I have two CD copies of the audiobook to give away to my newsletter subscribers. As a bonus, if you sign up you also get supposedly funny stories about rodeo, ranch life, and per my annual tradition, the worst Christmas road trips ever.

Pop over to my website to subscribe before I send out the prize post on Friday morning. No, you don't get a specific time. I don't even know what I'm doing an hour from now, let alone in two days, so it could be at the crack of dawn or it could be after we finish chores, and chores can be half an hour of feeding calves and horses and the cat herd (so they don't eat either of the above, there are enough of them to drag down a full grown bull), or chores can be "As long as you're dressed and out of the house, could you help me for a few minutes?".

And two hours, a small roundup and a rebuilt fence later, I stagger back to the house.

So what I'm saying is, don't take any chances. Sign up before six a.m. on Friday at:

KariLynnDell.com

Then watch for the giveaway email Friday morning. Just remember, morning by our definition is "the time between when we drag the kid to the bus and when we come in for lunch", and depending on how many of the automatic waterers froze overnight, lunch could be around 2 p.m. And scrambled eggs with toast, since the cook was otherwise occupied.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

FEARLESS IN TEXAS - EXCERPT

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Somebody had a little too much rodeo fun this summer to keep up with the blog, but now that winter has settled in, I'm gradually catching up. Book Four of the Texas Rodeo series, Fearless in Texas is in the final editing process, due for release on April 3, 2018. Here's a sneak peek.


He’d step in front of a bull to save a life
But even he’s no match for a girl this Texas tough

Rodeo bullfighter Wyatt Darrington’s got it all figured out. The perfect car, the perfect job, the perfect looks—the perfect lie. He may be on the fast track to the Hall of Fame, but he knows he’ll always be an outsider to people like Melanie Brookman. Texas-born and bred, with the arena in her blood, Melanie’s come to see Wyatt as her personal enemy, and that suits him just fine—this way, she’ll never realize the truth.

He’s been crazy in love with her for years.

Melanie’s always been a fighter. Fiercely independent and tough as nails, she’s stood up to everything that got in her way—including Wyatt. But now her infamous temper’s got her on the ropes, and there’s nowhere left to run but toward the man she swore she’d never trust…and this time, there’s no denying just how hot he makes her bur
n.

***

Chapter 1

The instant Wyatt’s fingers came to rest on Melanie’s bare skin, they both cursed—a mutual, almost silent hiss, too quiet for any of the crowd encircling the nearly empty dance floor to hear over the music. Their steps didn’t falter. They didn’t blink. But he didn’t pretend he couldn’t feel the jolt at the inevitable, unavoidable contact…and neither did Melanie.

He smiled—a generic, just making conversation smile that would fool anyone besides the woman looking him directly in the eye. “Well. This is inconvenient.”

“Extremely,” Melanie agreed.

He didn’t bother to move his hand. The cut of her emerald-green halter-top bridesmaid dress left him with no alternatives other than her exposed back or her satin-covered butt. Her long, straight chestnut hair had been pinned into a tousled updo with tendrils that trailed down her neck, begging a man to twirl them around his fingers.

Damn Violet for being the one woman on earth determined to make her maid of honor look as hot as sin.

As they circled the floor, eyebrows were raised and glances exchanged. He was aware of the picture they made—him blond and elegant, at ease in the tuxedo that made the other cowboys tug at neckties and fidget with cummerbunds; her following his lead as effortlessly if they’d been dancing together for years. They were sleek and athletic, glowing with the pheromones that had been accumulating, molecule by molecule, over the enforced proximity created by two days of the standard pre-wedding hullabaloo.

Wyatt flicked a glance toward the bride and groom, so wrapped up in each other they wouldn’t have noticed if their attendants had broken into a tango. “Joe is the closest thing I have to a brother.”

Even though he did have a male sibling.

“Violet is my sister,” Melanie countered. “Her family is my family.”

Even though her own parents were sitting at a table only a few feet away, pointedly ignoring each other.

He studied the circle of faces that surrounded them, let his gaze settle for a beat on Joe and Violet, then focused on Melanie again, his voice hardening. “I’m not giving them up.”

“I was here first.”

Which was why his position was so much more precarious. He had only just found this weird and wonderful extended family that was more about loyalty than blood. Melanie’s ties to them were forever. His connection was new and perilously fragile.

“So this”—his fingers flexed, creating a slight, dangerous increase in pressure—“would be incredibly stupid. Especially for us.”

She tilted her head in question.

“You don’t like me. You certainly don’t trust me,” he said.

“Depending on the circumstances. You are a good friend to them. If you hadn’t forced Joe to come to Texas in the first place, he’d still be in Oregon instead of over there trying not to fall face-first into Violet’s cleavage—which is pretty damn impressive in that dress.” Melanie smiled fondly at the two of them, then brought her gaze back to meet Wyatt’s. “I’ve seen you risk life and limb for him in the arena.”

He shrugged. “I’m a bullfighter. You do what it takes to make sure the cowboy and your partner walk away.”

He didn’t have to explain. She’d been on the rodeo trail long before she took her first steps, and her brother was also a bullfighter. But she shook her head. “You’d do the same for a complete stranger in a back alley. If I ever got caught in the middle of a convenience store robbery, you’d be the person I wanted standing at the Slurpee machine.”

“But not sitting across the breakfast table.”

She pursed glossy red lips as she considered the question. “It would be too crowded with you, me, and whatever agenda you’re currently working. I’d have a hard time deciding where I fit into the scheme of the day.”

“Says the woman who makes a living parting the unsuspecting public from their hard-earned dollars.”

“Ouch.” But the edge in her voice was more amusement than offense. “I’ll have to tell Human Resources to add that to the job description.”

“And this conversation is a perfect example of why we would be a disaster. Despite this.” He traced a featherlight arc across her skin with his thumb.

She let her lashes flutter lower, to match her voice. “We could sneak off for a single night of depraved sex. Get it out of our systems.”

For a moment, the possibility hovered between them like a heat mirage. They both inhaled sharply, then exhaled slowly.

“Been there, tried that, have the divorce papers to prove it.” And he would not let his dick lead him into that steel-jawed trap again. Not when he had so much more than a simple broken heart on the line. He flashed a smile, bright and lethal. “I have it on good authority that you can—and will—hold a grudge.”

“Every girl needs a superpower,” she said with an equally toothy grin.

“Yours could make future Thanksgiving dinners a little awkward, don’t you think?”

Her eyes narrowed. “I think I am both reasonable and mature enough to handle myself.”

“History begs to differ.”

Color flared in her cheeks, a visible gauge of her rising temper. “Are you trying to irritate me?”

“Yes.”

She blinked. Then laughed in disbelief. “You really think that’s going to help?”

“Can’t hurt. And it comes so naturally to both of us.” He twirled her, then pulled her close again, nearly eye to eye with her in heels. “We can’t be friends.”

The song was winding down. One more chorus, and he would have to step away to dutifully tap the father of the bride on the shoulder and cut in for the traditional dance with the bride’s mother.

“We also can’t avoid each other completely,” she said.

“Close enough. I live in Oregon; you live in Amarillo. I visit a few times a year, and even when I am here, you’re usually working. It’s been over a year since Joe and Violet got together, and we’ve barely crossed paths, except at holidays.”

“Then we should be safe. I’ve had plenty of practice behaving myself at Miz Iris’s house.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Also not what I’ve heard.”

“Hey, it was all at least half Violet’s fault.” Her soft laugh was laced with affection. Then her eyes narrowed again. “So we agree on one thing.” She dragged a fingernail lightly down his neck on the pretense of flicking off a speck of the infernal glitter Violet’s son had blasted them with upon arrival at the reception hall. “This—”

“—is not worth the risk.” Wyatt kept his voice cool, despite the hot pulse of his blood.

“And we swear never to speak of it to any of them.” Her gaze sharpened on his face. “Ever.”

He curled his lip. “Would you like to spit on our hands and shake to seal the deal?”

“Sunshine,” she drawled. “If I decide to swap spit with you, I guarantee it’ll get a lot messier than that.”

He gave a strangled laugh, dropped his hands, and took a step back as a passing waiter shoved plastic champagne flutes at them for the latest in an endless series of toasts.

Ignoring the drunken ramblings of some distant cousin, Melanie lifted her glass. “Here’s to no lovin’ between this man and this woman.”

“For as long as we both shall live,” he agreed mockingly.

They tapped their glasses together, and both tossed back the champagne.

She handed him her empty glass before sauntering over to join Joe and Violet. Wyatt rocked back on his heels, appreciating the view…as he was sure she had intended. He took two full steps in pursuit before he caught himself, turned, and walked in the opposite direction.

A decision he would live to regret for a very, very long time.









Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Revved Up


It's almost that time again!

My publisher is getting revved up for the August 1 release of the third book in the Texas Rodeo series, Tougher in Texas. Shawnee is back by popular demand and this time she's butting heads with Cole Jacobs, who may be the only human on earth more stubborn than her.

As part of their nefarious plot to lure you into my clutches, my publisher is running specials on the digital version of the first two books for a limited time. You can grab the second book, Tangled in Texas, for 99 cents, just follow the links on my website to your preferred online vendor: http://karilynndell.com/tangled.html

Even better, Reckless in Texas is currently FREE as part of a duo with the estimable Carolyn Brown, so you get double for nothing. Visit my Facebook page for details: Kari Lynn Dell Western Author.

Please do feel free to pass the information along to as many friends, acquaintances, and strangers on the street as possible. Every download makes my rankings jump on the websites and fools them into thinking I'm a big deal, which in turn makes them more likely to point readers my direction.

Speaking of revved up, I recently had a conversation with a friend on being on the receiving end of the 
ol' tractor rev.  Yeah, fellow ranch wives, I see you nodding and grinding your teeth. For you and for those who've never had the dubious pleasure, here's a little essay I wrote on subject.
 
~~~
My lifestyle underwent a rather dramatic change after my dad's unexpected illness. Though now that I think about it, that's a ridiculous turn of phrase. I mean, really, who has expected illnesses? Psychics? Time travelers? That guy in your office who always calls in sick the Monday after the Super Bowl? Anyway, after Dad's heart attack I became the number one chore girl, which is a nice change from the desk job. However, since I hadn't been around on a day to day basis, I started out sort of clueless and required a lot of supervision. Which I appreciated. Really. But taking orders from my husband can be--how shall we say?--a bit of a test of our matrimonial bliss.

Communication is the answer, of course, but 
first you have to figure out the question, like the morning he made a vague gesture toward the west and said, "Load up some bales in the tractor bucket and take them over to the horses."

I was somewhat baffled because I was under the impression that the herd of horses out in the pasture got big round bales, but I dutifully stacked the tractor bucket full of small squares and headed out.

My husband came roaring along in the pickup to flag me down. "Where the heck are you going?"

"To feed the horses," I answered, because, Duh, isn't that what he just told me to do?

"I meant the horses on the west side of the barn," he said. "Not the west side of the ranch."

"Oh. Well. You should be more specific."  

Sometimes, it's a matter of semantics. As a person accustomed to communicating via the written word, I occasionally find the lack of visible punctuation in spoken language troublesome. Thus began the endless loop in which my husband attempted to instruct me to acquire medication for what he referred to as 'heifer calves'. I assumed these to be 'calves who are heifers', when in fact what he meant was 'calves born to heifers'. Which, technically, would be heifers' calves, but he proved to be emphatically disinterested in discussing the finer points of grammar while one of 
said calves was showing signs of expiring at any moment.

Then there's the non-verbal communication. We have the usual repertoire of arm waves and finger points for when the situation makes shouting impossible. Most often this is because he is driving the tractor and I'm running around on the ground doing the real intellectual stuff like cutting twine on round bales and making sure no baby calves stumble into his path and get squashed.

Lacking a functioning horn, his preferred method of getting my attention is to rev the tractor engine. Vroom! 
Point, gesture, No, go that way! I trot that way.Vroom! Point, gesture. No, I meant that gate! I trot over to the gate in question.Vroom! Point, gesture. Watch out for that cow. I watch out. Vroom! Point, gesture. Don't forget to feed the bulls.

And so on. And so on. All. Day. Long.

I do much better now, except when I'm up to my eyebrows in my writing and suffering book brain, in which case expecting me to remember exactly where I was supposed to deliver the fuel pickup and at what time is completely unrealistic, let alone recalling that I was supposed to toss in a water bottle. I swear I do try to listen. I've even taken to making notes on my wrist with a Sharpie and setting alarms on my cell phone to shore up my notoriously faulty memory. Even then, a certain amount of miscommunication is inevitable, so we both try to keep an even keel.

But honest to Pete, if he revs that engine at me one more time…

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Nod Your Head, Cowboy



The cool thing about being A. a contestant and B. at a small, local rodeo, you can get right down in the middle of the action. While watching, try to tune out the rodeo announcer and concentrate on the pickup men and gate man.

Notice the guy on the white horse. He's sitting as close as possible to the chute because the proximity of his horse helps keep the one in the chute calm. As soon as the cowboy is ready to nod for the gate he backs off to give the bucking horse room to fire.

This would be Cole Jacobs from my Texas Rodeo books. "I'll help you any way I can but don't be messing around on my horses. Get in, get down and nod your face."

And in Tougher in Texas you'll meet the fictional version of that white horse, who I named Salty. He's one of the best characters in the book.

**Addendum: you can also see that the ground was a little iffy due to a rainstorm a couple of days earlier. The committee did a great job getting the arena in shape overall but there were still a few slick spots and this horse seemed to have a gift for finding them.




For more info and where to buy Tougher in Texas visit my website at KariLynnDell.com

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Monday, June 05, 2017

Win an Advance Copy of Tougher in Texas!


It's Almost Rodeo Time!


55 days until the release of the next book in my Texas Rodeo series, Tougher in Texas! It sounds like a long time but if your summer plans are anything like mine, it'll be the first of August before we know it.


Like the first two books Tougher centers around a fictional family of rodeo stock contractors, Jacobs Livestock. Well, sort of fictional. I grew up going to Montana rodeos produced by the very real Jacobs Rodeo company, and the name in the book is an intentional salute to a lot of great memories. Last weekend we went to what has been one of the first rodeos of the summer season for at least half of the years of my life, and I was able to catch a behind the scenes video that is an almost perfect replay of the opening of Tougher.

Almost perfect because the real crew does it flawlessly--but flawless doesn't make for a good story, so...

Here's the video, and the opening scene. Meet Cole Jacobs. And if you click on the link in the right tool bar and subscribe to my newsletter by Sunday, June 11th at midnight PDT, I'll toss your name in the hat for one of two signed Advanced Reader Copies of Tougher in Texas.




~~~


Chapter One


All of Cole’s problems would be solved if he just found a wife.

The thought popped into his head at the exact instant that a ton of bovine suddenly bellowed and kicked, slamming into the steel gate Cole was holding and knocking him flat on his ass. If Cole hadn’t stood six foot six, he probably would’ve lost some teeth. The gate caught him in the chest instead, and sent him sprawling in the dirt. His red heeler, Katie, barked once and launched herself at the bull to protect him, but Carrot Top just trotted off down the alley, more interested in checking the empty pens for leftover hay.

Cole scrambled to his feet and snarled as his gaze zeroed in on the bright-yellow cattle prod in the hand of one of the men who rushed to his aid. “What the fuck are you doing with that thing?”

The cowboy took a hasty step back, then another when Cole stalked toward him. “Just hurryin’ things along.”

“My stock moves just fine without a hotshot.” Cole made sure of it, training them from birth to handle easily.

The rodeo season was a cross-country marathon of long miles and strange places. Less stress equaled better performance, and even though the low-current buzz of the cattle prod was more startling than painful, Cole wanted his stock as relaxed as possible until the moment they exploded from the bucking chute. Carrot Top was an old pro. He’d earned the right to inspect the loading chute before setting hoof on the steep ramp.

And to come unglued when some asshole zapped him.

The cowboy ran out of room and backed up against the fence. Cole snatched the hotshot, busted it over his knee, and then tossed it back, the ends dangling by the wires that ran down the long shaft. "Pack that and the rest of your shit and get out of here.”

The cowboy clutched the broken prod to his chest, jaw dropping. “But I’m your pickup man.”

“Not anymore.”

Cole turned his back and strode down the alley to retrieve Carrot Top. As far as he was concerned, the conversation was over.

Half an hour later, his cell phone buzzed. He was tempted to ignore it, but she would only keep calling until he answered. There was a strong undercurrent of stubborn in the Jacobs gene pool. He heaved a deep sigh and put some distance between himself and the rest of the crew before he accepted the call, holding the phone three inches from his ear in anticipation of his cousin’s displeasure.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Violet yelled.

“He used a hotshot on Carrot Top.”

“So ban him from the stock pens. Hell, ban him from the whole rodeo grounds except when he’s working the performances, but did you have to fire him?”

“He used a hotshot on Carrot Top,” Cole repeated, slower this time.

“I understand. It was stupid. But what do you suggest we do next weekend when you’re the only pickup man in the arena?”

Cole hadn’t thought about that at the time. He’d been thinking about it since, but hiring contract personnel was Violet’s job. If she was here like normal, he wouldn’t have had to put up with a stranger. He wouldn’t have to put up with any of this crap. He could go back to just taking care of his stock and leaving all the people bullshit to Violet. He couldn’t say that, though, and as usual, his brain collapsed under pressure and offered up only the one sentence in his defense. “He used a hotshot on Carrot Top.”

Violet huffed out a breath so exasperated he swore he felt the breeze on his end of the line. “You do realize the doctor sentenced me to bed rest because my blood pressure is through the roof, right?”

Cole ducked his head, crushing a dirt clod with the toe of his boot. He wasn’t trying to aggravate anyone, especially Violet. She was command central for Jacobs Livestock. The hell she’d been going through had thrown all of them for a loop, Violet most of all. She hadn’t been sick a day in her first pregnancy, though Beni had decided to make an appearance six weeks early. She’d been prepared to be cautious and watchful. She had not expected to be sick as a dog practically from the moment she and Joe had seen the telltale line on the home pregnancy test.

Besides, Cole was almost as excited about the baby as its parents. He loved being Uncle Cole, and now a little girl? He grinned at the thought of a future full of ponies and pink cowboy boots—assuming his family didn’t string him up for driving Violet into another premature labor.

Cole huffed out a breath, leaning a shoulder against the back of the infield bleachers. Around him, the empty rodeo grounds looked like a hangover—garbage cans overflowed with empty bottles, corners of banners drooped along the fences, spilled popcorn and a smashed glob of cotton candy littered the ground. Katie nosed around under the bleachers and came out packing a half-eaten hot dog. It all looked ill-used and abandoned—sort of like Cole felt.

Yes, he had put them in a tight spot, but there were some things he wouldn’t tolerate when it came to his stock. Okay, many things. Obsessive-compulsive prick was another way of putting it, though only Joe dared say that to his face. He was family. Plus, he was a lot faster than Cole.

“Don’t try to say I didn’t warn you,” Violet said, her voice laced with grim amusement.

Cole froze. She couldn’t mean… “I thought you were kidding.”

“No, I was not, any more than I was kidding when I told you to make this one work, or else.”

Panic churned Cole’s gut. “Violet, you can’t. There must be somebody else—”

“I refuse to even ask. This makes three perfectly good pickup men you’ve chased off. If you can’t force yourself to get along, I’ll send someone you can’t fire.”

“Don’t. Please.” He didn’t hesitate to beg. If she followed through on her threat, he’d either be insane or under arrest by season’s end in September. “Just one more. I promise—”

“Nope. I’m done. If you can find a replacement before tomorrow morning, I’ll hire him. Otherwise…” He could hear her smirking, dammit. “Your new partner will meet you at Cuero.”

~~~

For more about Tougher in Texas AND handy dandy links to pre-order a copy of your very own, visit my website at: http://karilynndell.com/tougher.html

**

Friday, May 19, 2017

Happy Spring!

We have, with the exception of a few stragglers, survived another year of calving. Another winter. And in nine days, another school year. We are literally emerging into the light, as we approach the longest days of the year when we have around eighteen hours of daylight.

You may feel free to assume that we don't work from dawn 'til dusk, although some days I have to practically hit my husband with a stick to make him stop at a decent time. Spring is fickle--like every other season--with a bitter wind, snow and rain on Wednesday.

But today...well, today was the kind of day that makes all those other kind worth the suffering. Blue skies, white mountains, fat shiny calves, good horses, awesome cowdogs and almost NO wind.



I have also survived another new book, the fourth in the Texas Rodeo series, which was turned into my editor next week. I am an brain break for a few days, but the beginning of next week I'll be back with a chance to win an advanced copy of my August 1st release, Tougher in Texas, which early reviewers are saying is the best in the series so far. 

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Friday, April 14, 2017

I Can Do It....


It's calving time. Actually, it's been calving time since the middle of February--first the pampered registered princesses, then the first calf heifers--so we've been watching this scene replayed over and over for two months--and this year it's on Cow Cam! We now have a remote-controlled infrared camera mounted in the rafters of our indoor arena/maternity ward. At 2 a.m. we could just stagger out of bed and into the porch to check the cows.

Now we've hit April, the weather has warmed up and the older, commercial herd is calving out in the pasture, where there are fewer germs to share but also so much space that doing night checks isn't feasible. I shove the husband and kid out the door at 6:30 every morning to make the twelve mile trip to the school bus, then I go drive around and check to see what happened overnight. It's sort of like hunting for Easter eggs, poking through the brush patches to see what I can find.




Unfortunately, calves aren't the only thing that's due. The fourth book in my Texas Rodeo series, Fearless in Texas, is supposed to land on my editor's desk by the end of the month and I am not exactly on schedule, so when I'm not wrangling or playing midwife I've been feverishly trying to pry words out of my brain, and reminding myself that I have, in fact, done this before. 

And trying not to be that guy who was recently arrested for taking his laptop out on the front lawn and shooting it. Five times. 

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