Thursday, February 4, 2016

Book Character Interview: Meet Zach – The Man Outside the Rodeo Arena

Zachary Scott Kincaid – Zach for short – is one hot, hunk of a cowboy. Three-time World Champion Team Roper, he’s fast becoming a legend on the rodeo circuit. My Rodeo Man” pits Zach against one unlucky in love but feisty Southern debutant, Ashley Drayton. The pair could not be farther apart in what they think they want out of life. She wants white picket fences and that ornery cowboy lives, eats and breathes the rodeo. Much to Ashley’s dismay, Zach is more tempting than her Great Aunt Hettie’s Punch Bowl Cake and with just as many layers – sexy as sin, ruggedly handsome, a grin that will melt your heart but a deep well of compassion for others, strong family values, honest, hard-working and a man you can count on in a pinch. Instead of me extoling his virtues, let’s let Zach answer some of our questions in his own words:

How old are you?
“30 – not a bad age. Old enough to have some life experience under my belt but still have lots of good years to look forward to.”

What is your relationship status?
He flashed me a grin that sent tingles clear down to my toes. “Single and never had a special someone.” His smile slipped away. “Haven’t been looking for love – to busy rodeoing and ranching. It’s not easy to be part of a long-term relationship when you’re on the road 9 months out of 12 but when love does finally slap me upside the head, I’m ready to settle down and end my bachelor ways.”

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
Zach rubbed his jaw. “It’s hard to judge yourself but the ladies seem to like what they see. I’m 6’ tall, have brown hair – my mom calls it Chestnut – that’s been streaked almost blond by the Texas sun and blue eyes. Ranch work keeps me fit but I also follow a regular exercise routine developed for me by a sports trainer. In this business, if you don’t stay in shape, you won’t stay on top. There’s always someone ready to take your spot. I think of myself as an all-American guy.”

What are peoples’ first impressions of you?
“People who don’t know the rodeo probably think I’m a risk-taker, a player, a guy without roots, a wanderer chasing the white line from rodeo to rodeo but that’s not who I am.” He crossed his arms against his Herculean chest. “Real rodeo folk are the salt of the earth and I’m proud to call myself a rodeo man.”

Name three of your favorite things.
“Easy – our ranch – The Rocking K, the rodeo and hosting a therapeutic riding program for disabled kids – though there is this special lady that’s making a run to take over one of the top three spots.”

Name three things that tick you off.
“People who say they’re going to do something and then don’t – a person has to stand by his word, got no use for bullies and finally, people who don’t treat their animals right. Those things are just wrong.”

What is your best memory to date?
Zach leaned his forearms on the table, angling himself toward me, mischief dancing in those sky-blue eyes. “Growing up in the Texas Hill Country on a ranch is one big blur of happy memories – riding the fences with my dad and soaking in his wisdom – that stays with me to this day, bellying up to some of my mom’s home cooking surrounded by the warmth and love of her kitchen, horsing around with my brothers and gazillion cousins. If I have to pick one that stands out, it would be the adrenalin rush of my first rodeo. Nothing like charging after that steer, the perfect throw, being so in-tune with my partner that you know you’ve nailed it, the roar of the crowd – I was hooked there and then.”

What are you most afraid of?
“All my life, it’s been rodeo – junior level, high school, college and now pro. I live, eat, breathe and sleep rodeo. It’s defined who I am and how people have known me for so long.” He leaned back in his chair, two-fingering his hat farther back on his head. “I know I can’t do this forever… reactions slow and the new kids take over… but am I at the top of my game yet? Is it time to step back from the thing I’ve loved most in the world for almost 26 years? I suppose what really scares me is who am I without the rodeo? Is there a ‘me’ beyond the rodeo? That’s the question I’m struggling with right now.”

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
He scratched his head and crinkled his brows in thought. “This first part I saw on a tombstone and liked it. The second part is how I hope I’m remembered. ‘Say not in grief that he is no more but say in thankfulness that he was. His spirit lives in the deepness of his love, the generosity of his heart and the constancy of his faith.’”  

Now on to something lighter, what is your favorite drink?
“You just can’t beat a beer on a hot day, unless it’s a beer on a cold day, or a beer with pizza, or a beer watching the game, or relaxing with the guys after a hard day herding cattle – basically anytime. I like Corona best but have been known to hoist a mug of Shiner or Lone Star.”

What is your favorite food?
“Until I had some of Ashley’s Black Bean Chili, I’d have to say my mama’s fried chicken, with mashed potatoes smothered in gravy, her fluffy buttermilk biscuits and a thick slice of apple pie.” He grimaced slightly and shrugged. “Sorry, mom, Ashley’s chili wins.”

What is your favorite song?
“‘How Country Feels’ by Randy Houser. Like the song says, country is a way of life and I believe it’s one that will make you happy. I love the land and what it represents. Good honest people who appreciate what we have.”

What was your first impression of Ashley?
“My first impression? All sassy, flirty, full of fun, with more curves than a twisty mountain road and God in his infinite wisdom put those curves in all the right places. Course, that was at a dance hall. Later I learned that in public she’s usually totally different – cool, sophisticated, the perfect Southern debutant. Personally, I like the sassy, flirty Ashley better. When I dug a little deeper though, I uncovered a charming, loyal, compassionate and vulnerable woman who has managed to get under my skin and win my heart.”

Follow Zack’s and Ashley’s story in “My Rodeo Man” available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBook and Kobo or visit my website, It’s In The Story.

Zach Kincaid was definitely not what Ashley Drayton was looking for – one more risk-taking, bad boy to add to that long list of narcissistic, jerks who kept breaking her heart. Well, she was fed up. From here on out, bad boys need not apply. So how in the world had this cocky, confident cowboy charmed his way into her affections? She sure wasn’t going to succumb without a fight.

Ashley Drayton looked like the typical, spoiled Southern Belle that made Zach turn tail and head for the hills. As a champion team roper on the rodeo circuit and ranch owner, he sure didn’t need the complications a feisty, prima donna would bring to his life. When he finally did settle down, he wanted a woman strong enough to stand beside him in the hard-knock world of ranching and rodeoing.

Can a rough and rugged cowboy live happily ever after with a sassy and sophisticated socialite?  

Monday, January 4, 2016

Cowboy Hat Know How

When I write, I do a lot of research on the people, places and things that appear in my books. Since I write contemporary romance, I try and make the people and scenes as believable as possible. I hate it when I’m reading a book, chugging right along and I hit that spot that stops the flow because I’m thinking, ‘that’s not how it works,’ ‘he or she wouldn’t do that’ or ‘I’ve been to that place but I doubt the author has.’

For my last book, “My Rodeo Man,” one of the things I needed to learn about was cowboy hat etiquette. The first question I wanted to answer was, would a man keep his hat on or take it off when he was out dancing with his lady since that was one of the first scenes in the book? From there my questions circled around to when does a cowboy keep his hat on and when does etiquette dictate that he – or she – remove it? 

Here’s what I learned – almost all the rules have exceptions.

Rule 1 – Don’t touch another cowboy’s hat. The Cowboy Hat Guide put it this way, “You wouldn't want me askin' to try on your underwear would you?  So don't ask to try on my hat.” Exception – If a lady grabs your hat and puts it on her head, smile like the gentleman you are and let her wear it. You can also try for a kiss for letting her have her way with your hat. It's also fine if your hat blows off and another man picks it up and hands it back to you. 

Rule 2 – Don’t wear it backwards. There’s a little bow inside the hat’s sweatband and that bow goes at the back of the head – like the label goes at the back of your shirt.

Rule 3 – Your hat is always removed during a prayer or when the national anthem is played. Exception – If you are a lady and your hat is secured by hat pens, then you can leave it on otherwise, remove it just like the guys.

Rule 4 – Remove your hat when introduced to a lady – although it seems to be just fine to tip your hat to a lady if you already know her. Naturally there is more than one way to tip your hat – According to The Star Gazer Mercantile there is, “the Brim Tip and the Forward Tip methods. To properly conduct the Brim Tip method, grasp the brim of the hat between your thumb and two fingers and raise the brim, ever so slightly. The Forward Tip method means that you grasp the front of the hat crown, lift slightly and tilt the brim forward. Of course, both methods should include the obligatory head nod. Otherwise, you might look like you’ve just got an itchy scalp!”

Rule 5 – Never tip your hat to another man. According to The North Texas Reporter in the Old West, “It was akin to calling them a woman.”

Rule 6 – Always take your hat off when you enter a building but you can put it back on in commercial and public buildings. Exception – take it off in a movie theater, concert or at a sporting event if it interferes with someone sitting behind you. (This meant Zach could leave his hat on in the dance hall. I also checked out a bunch of pictures just to confirm that’s what people did and that was a mixed bag.)

Rule 7 – Always remove your hat when you sit down for a meal. Exception – If you are sitting at the counter of a diner, you can leave it on. You can also leave it on at a restaurant if there is no safe place to set it down. Nothing worse than someone spilling food on your hat.

Rule 8 – When you take your hat off, always set it on its crown, never on its brim or hang it on a hat stand or peg. The logic is that the brim is softer and the hat will lose its shape if you set it down on its brim.

Rule 9 – Felt hats are for the time between Labor Day and Memorial Day and straw hats are for the summer months. Exception – If it’s hot in October, put on the straw hat. If you’re going to a formal event in August, drag out that felt hat.

If you want to learn more about Cowboy Hats – from proper fit, to superstitions, to styles to etiquette, check out these articles.