Saturday, February 25, 2017

Meet Ashley – No Ordinary Southern Belle

Ashley Elizabeth Drayton may look like the perfect Southern Debutante, but she’s really a giant spitfire packed in a 5’ 2” body. My Rodeo Man” pits Ashley against three-time World Champion Team Roper, Zach Kincaid, who’s fast becoming a legend on the rodeo circuit and has the reputation for being a lady’s man. Unlucky in love best describes Ashley’s situation. She’s fallen for one lying, cheating scumbag after another and has decided it’s time to turn her life around. With a plan to find Mr. Right firmly in hand, she’s going to curb her impulsive behavior and live happily ever after with a man who is a respectable, dependable, solid-citizen.

Want to learn more about Ashley? Read the following interview.

How old are you?
“While I grew up being told a woman never divulges her age – what the heck. I’m 28,” she shrugged. “I’m tired of doing what my mama tells me.”

What is your relationship status?
She rolled her eyes and sighed. “Single. Been engaged twice, but the last one is the one that opened my eyes.” Sadness, disappointment, and regret marred her delicate features. “I thought Bill was the one and shared my life with him completely. Even put him on the deed to my condo.” Her tiny fist pounded the table. “Ladies, let me be your cautionary tale. Go ahead and love with all your heart, but hang on to your independence.”

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
Ashely finger-combed her wild, curly locks that tumbled past her shoulders. “Physically? Big violet eyes, long black hair, curvy – men look so I assume I’m attractive. A keen fashion sense and fantastic dresser. I’m short, but I prefer height challenged. But more importantly, someone who has so much to give.”

What are peoples’ first impressions of you?
“Flighty, impulsive, because I’m petite – people tend to think ‘pat on the head’ cute instead of classy – drives me crazy.” She scowls and pouts and looks adorable. “I want people to see the smart, capable woman I am.” Her voice turns wistful. “Maybe someday...”

Name three of your favorite things.
“Easy – my best friend, Lauren Royall – she’s always there for me and has been my partner in crime on more than one occasion. Two and three – a day at the spa being pampered and whipping up something fabulous in the kitchen. Maybe I should have been a chef instead of an accountant? Can I add a fourth? Shoes, I love shoes, especially tall, spiky, kick-ass shoes.”

Name three things that tick you off.
“Top of the list – my mother… it would be nice if she could cut me some slack instead of constantly criticizing me and my choices. Second, men who use women and don’t respect them. Finally, Being taken for granted. I am not a doormat.”

What is your best memory to date?
Ashley leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms over her chest, thinking. A small smile finally softened her lips. “Spending time with Lauren’s family. They always accepted me for who I am, loved me unconditionally, and made me feel special. No matter what mischief Lauren and I got in to, I always felt like I belonged. My family is the exact opposite. Cold, critical, unloving. I’ve come to the conclusion after so many years of trying to please them, that I deserve more.”

What are you most afraid of?
She cringed. “That I will never find my soul mate. It’s not that I need a man to complete me, but I want someone to love me. I want someone to grow old with, to be there in good times and bad. I’m sure my luck has got to change one of these days, but that’s what scares me the most.”

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
“Never really thought about it. That’s a tough one… ‘Here lies an eternal optimist who brought sunshine into the world and love and laughter to all who knew her.’ At least I hope that’s what I do.”

Now on to something lighter, what is your favorite drink?
“Give me a lemon drop martini and I am one happy lady. Sitting at a bar, sipping a sophisticated drink, makes me feel like one of those glamorous movie stars in the old black and white films.” A small smile played around her full lips. “But I try to match the beverage of choice to the occasion. For instance, tea with the garden club or beer at a sporting event.”

What is your favorite food?
“Hard to pick just one.” She paused, taking a mental inventory. “Garden grown tomatoes fresh off the vine and warmed by the sun. Just slice that delicious sweetness and pop it right in your mouth. Then there is Aunt Hazel’s Peppermint Stick ice cream.” She made a to-die-for face. “Hand churned, of course. I’d crank and crank for what seemed like forever then Hazel would unlatch the lid and hand me the dipper. I can still hear the crunch of ice against the steel container and wooden bucket.” She closed her eyes remembering. “That creamy goodness on a hot, sultry summer afternoon just cannot be beat.”

What is your favorite song?
“Would you believe, ‘Singing in the Rain’? Those lyrics represent everything I want to be. ‘What a glorious feelin', I'm happy again… The sun’s in my heart and I’m ready for love.’ I’m a hopeless romantic and with my new plan, that’s going to be me.”

What was your first impression of Zach?
“Trouble with a capital ‘T’. The man was exactly what I DIDN’T need. He struck me as a charming playboy, the typical love them and leave them type, and the kind of man where taking risks is second nature. No roots, drifting from one rodeo to another with no long-term prospects. To my ever-loving delight – first impressions can be so wrong. I had no idea the work and dedication it takes to become a rodeo champion. Far from being a drifter, the man has a plan for his life. In addition to looking like he’s just stepped down off Mount Olympus, he’s kind and loving and caring… and the perfect man for me.”

Follow Ashley’s and Zach’s story in “My Rodeo Man” available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBook and Kobo or visit my website, BonniePhelpsAuthor.

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?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Ranking Royalty

A few years ago, I toured the Cotswolds in England - a journey that let me bask in the footsteps of history - history that I've always enjoyed reading about. Grand tales of kings and queens and a host of titled folk - but keeping the titles straight was not so easy.

Our tour guide passed along this mnemonic device that English school children learn to remember who outranks whom.

King, Queen and Prince (Princess) are the highest rank but after them comes:

Does - Duke (Duchess)
Mary - Marquess (Marchioness)
Ever - Earl (Countess)
Visit  - Viscount (Viscountess)
Bill - Barron (Barroness)

I hope this little rhyme helps.

I also spent a wonderful afternoon at the Tower of London. This is the view from the Beauchamp Tower looking down on the courtyard.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

My Favorite California Places

There been a post making the rounds on Facebook asking people to identify how many states in the U.S. they’ve visited. My tally is 33… so far… much of that thanks to Uncle Sam moving us around the country when my husband was in the Air Force.

Some of the states we only passed through with little chance to do more than form a fleeting impression. Other states we either lived in – or visited for a week or more – so formed lasting memories.

This is part of an occasional series of states I’ve visited and trips that earned a place in my heart.

Since I was born and raised in California, I’ll start there.

I’ve already talked about my love of the Santa Ynez Valley in a previous post that you can read about that here.

The Rose Parade in Pasadena
I grew up in Southern California so it was easy to pile us all in the car early on January 1 and drive to the parade route. We haul our folding chairs and blankets to a spot along the curb and watch the magnificent floats go by. Seeing them on the television is one thing – but in person, towering above you – that is something else. Mom would pack hot chocolate and donuts (I highly recommend you bring food, since it can be hard to find anything along the streets). I took my own children a few times and it’s an experience that transcends generations.

Mammoth Lakes
Once the children have grown into adulthood, it’s often more difficult to pull them away from their busy lives and spend some quality time together. My daughters and I rented a condo in Mammoth for a week one summer and did some quality bonding. The town was the perfect base for day hikes and is about an hour’s drive to the east entrance to Yosemite which meant we could squeeze in a day trip there as well. Luckily my girls are good sports and indulged their mom’s love of nature.

Driving up Highway 101 North of San Francisco
In my early 40’s I realized that I had never visited the Redwoods and decided to correct the situation. I talked one of my daughters into joining me for what I thought would be a camping trip. I discovered that many of the campgrounds along Highway 101 are designed for RVs and not tents so – do my daughter’s delight – we did end up spending most nights in a motel. The drive is both breathtaking and soothing. I just wanted to take big gulps of air as we drove through this incredible scenery. The trip is also a bit like taking a step back in time as you pass through a number of small towns – no freeway by-passes – so it felt very much like the road trips of my youth where you had to slow down and take a good look at the world and people around you.

Places you should add to your itinerary in San Francisco
Everyone visits Fisherman’s Wharf and China Town but I suggest you make the time for the Alcatraz tour. In a weak moment I agreed to take my daughters and one friend each to a New Kids on the Block concert in San Francisco – but, there’s always a but, right? – they had to agree to some educational activities during our stay. They grumbled but ended up fascinated by the experience. You can almost hear the ghosts of past inhabitants. On several other occasions I’ve moseyed on over to the other side of town and spent some quality time in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Relax, sip some tea, and enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the space. Not too far away is the de Young Museum so you can make a day of it.

Yes, I love Disneyland and other tourist draws like San Diego and Santa Barbara and the wine country of Napa, but there’s more to this beautiful state.

What are some of your favorite spots?