Time is winding down in a hurry to the Feb. 3 release of my debut novel, The Long Ride Home. To the point that I'm now hyperventilating every few hours instead of once or twice a day, imagining real humans reading the words that I wrote.
Hair of the dog has always been an old cowboy cure, or maybe just an excuse for week long drunks, but I thought I'd give it a try only in reverse. I figure if I give you a few peeks into the novel and no one boos me out of the arena, I might be able to persuade myself to crawl out from under the covers on release day.
So first, a blurb from the book so in case you haven't seen it before you know the set up:
The Long Ride Home
David Parsons is on the verge of making his pro rodeo dreams come true when his one-in-a-million rope horse, Muddy, goes missing. In the aftermath, David loses everything. His career, his fiancée´, his pride.
Four years later, David is clawing his way out of the ruins and back up the rankings when he gets the miracle he’s prayed for. Muddy has been found on Montana’s Blackfeet Indian Reservation.
But repossessing Muddy is unexpectedly complicated. Kylan, the teenager on Muddy’s back, has had a lifetime of hard knocks. His custodial aunt, Mary Steele, will fight like a mama bear to make sure losing this horse isn’t the blow that levels the boy. Even if it’s at David’s expense.
David is faced with a soul-wrenching dilemma. Taking back his own future could destroy Kylan’s. And ruin any chance he might have with the fierce, fascinating Mary.
It’s a long, hard ride to the top of the rodeo world. And for David, an even longer ride home. Unless he can find a trail that leads to both.
And now, a peek inside the cover. If you haven't visited my website and read the blurb there, you might want to do that first, as it is from the first chapter. The excerpt below is Chapter Three, when David has driven all night from a rodeo in Oregon after a friend spots Muddy at the Montana High School Rodeo, our first introduction to the boy who now has the horse...and of course, his aunt Mary.
The Sunday afternoon performance was well under way when David pulled into the Kalispell fairgrounds. He’d left Sisters as quick as he could get his rig rolling, but it had been an eleven-hour drive, and he’d had to stop a couple times to give Frosty a break.
His hands fumbled with latches and ropes as he unloaded the horse, hung a bucket of water and a hay bag on the side of the trailer and then took off for the arena. His instinct was to rush straight to the roping box, find the horse that almost had to be Muddy, but he forced himself to steer clear. The middle of a high school rodeo was not the time or place to make a scene.
He worked his way through the warm-up area, the mob of kids trotting circles, double and triple checking ropes and cinches, but there was no sight of Muddy. Around the infield side of the arena, he found a spot to lean in the shade of the bleachers. Just in time. The calf roping had started.
He watched half a dozen runs, barely noticing whether they were good, bad or otherwise. Then Kylan Runningbird rode into the arena and all the air in the Rocky Mountains wasn’t enough to keep David’s head from spinning. He knew that dirt-brown horse as well as his own face in the mirror.
Muddy, in the flesh, looking exactly as David had last seen him. Fit, glossy and cocky as all get out.
David tore his gaze off the horse long enough to check out the rider as the announcer prattled on about Kylan Runningbird. A high school junior, state finals rookie, and here he was in fifth place so far with a solid shot at qualifying for nationals. The kid looked soft, slouchy, the brim of his beat-up hat crooked in the front, the tail of his shirt slopping out of his jeans on one side.
He also looked too nervous to spit.
Muddy, on the other hand, was all business, whipping around in the box and slamming his butt into the corner without waiting for the kid to steer him. The kid’s head jerked, enough of a nod for the gate to open. Muddy exploded out of the corner and arrowed in behind the calf.
Man, what a pup. A little pot-bellied Hereford loped out, head up, practically screaming rope me. Kylan took two swings and threw. The loop bounced on the top of the calf’s head and, by some miracle, fell over his nose.
Muddy stopped, as quick and hard as the slam of door. The sight of it made David’s heart skip. Kylan flew off his side, more of an ejection than a dismount. His legs buckled and he went to his knees, but he got his left arm hooked over the rope. Muddy hustled backward, pulling the calf so when the kid stood up it was right there under his nose. Kylan fumbled it onto its side, strung his piggin’ string on the top front leg, gathered up the hinds, applied three deliberate, two-fisted wraps and a hooey and then threw up his arms.
The crowd went wild. One section of it anyway, a cluster of at least fifty people seated on the end of the grandstand. From the way they cheered and pounded each other on the back, David guessed they hadn’t expected Kylan to come through in the clutch. He could see why. The kid wasn’t much of a roper. Lucky for him, he was riding the best horse on the planet.
Fury exploded in his head, as white hot as those damn fireworks in Cody. David spun on his heel and strode around to the back of the arena, drawing startled looks from the people he shouldered past. By the time he got there, Kylan was surrounded by a huddle of friends, all slapping palms and bumping fists with him like he’d won the state championship instead of barely edging into fourth place. And there was Muddy, tugging at the reins, impatient as always to get back to the trailer now that his job was done.
The kid spotted someone in the mob of people streaming down from the grandstand and started that direction. David stepped into his path. Kylan squinted up at him, confused.
“I need to talk to you,” David said, voice hard, muscles knotted as he fought the urge to yank the reins out of the kid’s hand.
Kylan looked past him, as if for help. David glanced over his shoulder to find two girls with their arms around each other, their smiles fading as they saw his expression. The smaller one pulled off her sunglasses. Her face was freckled under the brim of her baseball cap, but there was nothing childish about those eyes.
Not a girl. A woman.
“What do you want with Kylan?” she demanded.
The tiny part of his brain still capable of logic could see she wasn’t old enough, but David asked anyway. “Are you his mother?”
“Good,” David said. “Maybe you can explain why your kid is riding my horse.”
She flinched. Surprise? Or guilt?
“Who are you?” she asked, recovering fast.
“My name is David Parsons. That horse was stolen from me four years ago in Cody, Wyoming.”
“Nu-uh.” Kylan stepped back, arms extended as if he could hide the horse behind them. “He’s mine.”
The younger girl edged around David and grabbed the kid’s hand. “Don’t worry, Ky. He’s got the wrong horse.”
“No, I don’t.” David stared down at the woman, daring her to argue. “I’m betting you don’t have any papers on him.”
A crowd had begun to gather, the inner circle mostly dark-haired and dark-skinned, Kylan’s friends from the Blackfeet reservation and their parents.
“Do you?” the woman asked.
“Not with me,” David admitted. “I wanted to be sure it was him. Now that I am, I’ll have his papers faxed up to the sheriff’s office.”
At the word sheriff, a murmur went through the crowd, which had grown as bystanders realized something serious was happening.
“He’s mine!” Kylan was breathing hard, almost sobbing. “We bought him fair and square.”
The woman gave David a stony-eyed stare and spoke to the kid. “Take your horse back to the trailer, Kylan.”
“Just do it. Go with him, Starr.”
Kylan hesitated, but the girl hooked his elbow, wheeled him around and dragged him away toward the contestant parking area, darting worried glances over her shoulder. Muddy trailed along, supremely unconcerned with the whole drama.
The wall of people closed off behind Kylan and several of the men looked more than willing to take David on if he followed. He seriously considered trying it anyway.
“I’m Mary Steele,” the woman said, pulling his attention back to her. “And, yes, I do have a bill of sale for that horse, so you’ll have to excuse me if I’m skeptical. You get your papers and whatever other proof you have, and then we’ll see what’s what.”
“Fine,” David said. “I will.”
She gave a slight nod. “In the meantime, stay away from my nephew.”
She angled past David. The crowd parted to let her through and then closed ranks again. Over their heads, David watched her leave, her stride confident, her shoulders square. David watched until she disappeared into the maze of pickups and trailers in the infield and then faced the angry mob.
“You got no right accusin’ that boy,” a woman declared.
“I’ve got every right,” David said. “Give me an hour and I’ll prove it.”
Available Feb. 3, 2015. Ordering information at: KariLynnDell.com