Other Obsessions

By Laura Drake

If you’ve followed our blogs here at ENALR very long, you’ve seen that there’s a lot more to us than the stories we write. We all have other interests; Shawna is a new Mom, Cyndi’s decorating, a bunch of us have been traveling this summer. Well, not me, but I’m not bitter.

I’ve got other interests as well. The past months, I’ve written about bicycling (you can read it here,) motorcycling (here,) and fly fishing (here.) I realized I haven’t shared my biggest obsession. No, not food.

Pro Bull Riding!

Why? I’m not a country girl; I grew up in Detroit. I don’t much like country music — to me, a steel guitar sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard. So how could I have gotten so wrapped up in a sport that I wrote a three book series set in that world?

  • I’m fascinated by young men who, through courage, craziness, or under the influence of large quantities of testosterone, get on the back of two thousand pounds of attitude that wants to  throw them in the dirt and dance on their dangly parts.
  • The athleticism. Bull riders have more in common with gymnasts than wrestlers. The mechanics require more balance than brute strength.
  • These aren’t media savvy, spoiled athletes. They’re mostly kids off farms, and ranches. Watching their wide-eyed interviews on camera, and talking to them in person, gives me hope for the future of America. They remind me with their gentlemanly “Ma’am’s” and “Sir’s” that mothers somewhere are still raising kids right.
  • I’ve watched this sport grow over the past ten years, and have enjoyed watching events that are real — not slickly orchestrated and Hollywood perfect.

These men represent the American Cowboy; a rare breed in today’s society of political correctness and metrosexuals. They still live by the belief that their handshake is a scared promise, and integrity isn’t what you talk about, it’s what you live. They live a code that they’re willing to die by. How many people do you know like that?

Do yourself a favor. Check out their website. Tune in to a PBR event some weekend (TV schedule is here.) I dare you not to get sucked into the drama. Maybe I’ll see you at the finals in Las Vegas some November!

Let ‘er buck!

Laura has written three books set in the world of Pro Bull Riding. The first, The Sweet Spot, is due out next May, from Grand Central.

Girlfriends

By Laura Drake

Lately, if it weren’t for hard work and deadlines, I’d have no life. I’m watching everyone around me leave on vacation, reading blogs about trips (yes, I’m talking about you, Natalie) while I sit here, pouting, my nose skinned up from the grindstone. Yes, I have RWA National to look forward to, and it’s going to be amazing, but that’s not a vacation.

My vacation won’t happen until October, but it’ll be worth waiting for. Every fall, the ‘Kennedy Meadows Hookers’ hit the road on a fly fishing trip. Before you get the wrong idea, let me explain.

My husband and I used to belong to a motorcycle club. No, not the Hell’s Angels kind – the old guy, BMW long-distance motorcycling kind. There we met wonderful lifelong friends. Every year, a bunch of us went up to Kennedy Meadows (remote valley in the Sierra Nevada Mountains) for Memorial Day, to camp and hang out together. Wow, we have some legendary memories. One year, a few of us women agreed to bring fishing tackle, and the Kennedy Meadows Hookers were born. We had a wonderful time, catching the beautiful little Golden trout that practically jumped on our hooks. Well, as all great things do, those trips ended: people retired, moved away, passed away.

But the three most die-hard fisherwomen, Pam, Chris, and I, missed the camaraderie of those trips. So we planned a trip every fall, to Mammoth. We hiked and fished gorgeous little streams, amid the blazing poplars and golden meadows. We stayed in a rented condo, cooking comfort food at night, drinking wine in the Jacuzzi, giggling like high school girls on a sleepover. Other women came and went, but the core group hung together.

Last year, on the last day, I slipped on the edge of a bank, and broke my leg in two places. I thought I just sprained my ankle, so I iced it – by getting back in the stream and fishing. I wasn’t going to miss the Jacuzzi that night, so they loaded me on a luggage carrier, and wheeled my butt down there. Yes, wine was involved. Told you, we have legendary memories from these trips.

This year, The Hookers are heading to Oregon, to take on the rivers up there. I’m sure we’ll store up some more great memories, and hopefully, no more broken bones.

The fish better be afraid.  Very afraid.

My First Century Bicycle Ride

Easy to smile at the beginning . . .

by Laura Drake

Alpha Dog and I had been training for three months, so I had mixed feelings about finally attempting my first organized Century bicycle ride (100 miles in a day.)   On one hand, I was looking forward to not having to spend 8-10 hours a week on that darned bike seat, training, and was getting behind in chores around the house.  On the other hand, I was dreading it. I had serious doubts about my ability.  How embarrassing would it be not to make it after telling everyone my goal?  No such fears for Alpha Dog, he could do this with very little sweat.

We decided to spend the night before in Poway, so we would be at the starting line in plenty of time.  After a huge Italian dinner (one of the advantages – you can eat whatever you want the day before the ride) and a good night’s sleep, we were up at 4:30.  I had planned on a big breakfast, but found that I was too nervous to eat much.  When we got to Old Poway Park it was still dark, but the place was soon hopping with 1500 bicyclists.  Who knew there were THAT many crazy people in Southern California?

There didn’t seem to be an official start; no gun going off, or cheering. We just inserted ourselves into the huge peleton of bikes on the road.  Police were directing traffic through town and it sure was nice to have someone to stop cars so we didn’t have to wait at intersections.

That hill was a bitch-kitty

Within a mile and a half the dreaded “Poway Grade” began.  They’d closed off one of the lanes to traffic for the ride.    4 miles of 9% grade…ugh.  The good news was that we’d come down the weekend before and I tackled the hill, so at least I knew I could do this part!  I hadn’t done it elbow to elbow with 1500 of my closest friends however.  It was scary to be clipped into the bike with people either whizzing by me at close proximity or lugging ahead of me slowly.  I was so hyper alert that I didn’t even notice that the hill was hard!

On to the next 96 miles.  We were lucky with the weather; overcast and a high of 80 degrees.  Alpha Dog’s dust wasn’t even visible — I was sure I’d seen the last of him for the day. He was testing his testosterone level against a bunch of young riders at the front.  As the riders spread out, I had a chance to look around.  The land is beautiful: rolling hills, trees overhanging the road, and gated estates.  We went by the Wild Animal Park, Legoland, a thoroughbred racetrack, the ocean.

It’s funny, I only remember “snapshots” of most of the ride; I think the rest of it I was concentrating on the road, traffic and my level of energy (or lack thereof).  The motorcycling skills paid off going downhill, as I was able to whiz along while others heated up their brakes and slowed down.  Saw one wreck along the downhill…a guy had been going too fast to take a turn, and he went off the road – CHP was on the scene.  That slowed everyone down!

I caught up with Alpha Dog at the rest stops, where he’d waited to be sure I was okay.  He was so happy he was giggling, and by the third one I was a little “testy.”  Okay, to tell the truth, I was snapping at him like a woman in labor.

The last 25 miles were seen through a haze of pain: legs, lungs, butt.  They had advertised the ride as having 4500 feet of climb, and I kept looking down at the ascent display on my bike computer every few minutes, and when we passed 4500 feet, we still had twenty miles to go.  I thought to myself, “Oh good, now the rest will be downhill – I can do this!”   But the road kept climbing.  At 5000 feet, I realized we’d been duped!  Then I really got bitter.  The route took us along the freeway on a bike trail, with retaining walls on both sides.  We were climbing endless hills, and it was HOT!  We finally rolled back into Poway and I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw the city limits sign. Alpha Dog was ahead, but keeping fairly close at that point, and stopped me from taking a shortcut 3 miles from the end.  Boy he was lucky he was out of earshot from then on!

The Finish Line

To his chagrin, we finished in the bottom third of the riders (obviously not due to HIS lack of ability!).

I was just happy to have finished, and to pull the seat out of my butt.  I hobbled to where they were serving food and sat as far from anyone else as I could . . . I stunk!  You can’t imagine how filthy you get – you’re slathered in suntan lotion, which picks up road grime and seven hours worth of sweat.  I wanted to burn the clothes I wore, regardless if I was still in them or not.

When I got off the bike, Alpha Dog said, “Wasn’t that fun?!” He looked so happy that I didn’t hit him.  But I did lay some ground rules:

  • I didn’t want to hear the word “fun” again,
  • He seriously needed to stop smiling,
  • I didn’t want to talk about the ride, or what ride we were doing next, or even LOOK at the bike for at least a week.

By that time I figured the last 25 miles will have faded like the pain of childbirth (it didn’t.)

Final mileage: 104.  Final total ascent: 5700 feet.

Am I glad I did it?  Yeah.  Am I going to do it again?  Not in this lifetime.

Living the Dream

By Laura Drake

You know, after 57 years on this planet, I’ve developed some theories. I love scientific theory; making a hypothesis and testing it to see if it’s valid. Since this life didn’t come with a manual (at least I never got one,) I’m still figuring it out as I go along. Following are two theories I have that have not yet been struck down through the years.

  • Everyone gets a certain amount of bad in their life.  I’m not sure anyone gets any more than anyone else.  Do some people seem as though they do? Sure. But I think it comes down to how you deal with it. It’s like pain tolerance – I broke both bones in my lower leg last year, and didn’t go to the doctor for three days, because I thought it was just sprained. My boss gets a sniffle and runs to the doctor, sure he’s got pneumonia. My point isn’t that I’m tough and my boss isn’t – it’s that pain doesn’t affect me as much. Could that be why I have more physical ailments than him? Or because I’ve led a more active life, because I’m not as afraid? Or both? I’m not sure – not enough data to judge. But it sure is interesting.

I believe that everyone has their time in the sun. A shining time in the spotlight – our x years of true happiness. You’ve seen people have their moment; the cheerleaders and football stars in high school. Movie stars, lottery winners. Are their lives perfect? Not by any means. They don’t have to be famous, or rich. Everyone’s happiness is different.  But you can see that they’re living the dream by the look on their faces – they’re in the zone –and they’re deep down happy.

I think it can happen when you’re little (Shirley Temple) or when you’re old (Grandma Moses,) or anywhere in-between. My husband’s time was college. He loved every second of it. He gets this look on his face when he recounts the memories – a reflected glow of that shining time.

I’d observed this in others, but never really thought about it in my own life – until now.

Because I’ve come into my time.

I had to learn most things the hard way, by making mistakes. Well, if you keep breathing long enough, you break through all the mistakes and what’s left is what you were meant to do from the beginning. Can you imagine, finding out what you wanted to be when you grew up at the age of 50? I found I was meant to write. My first book isn’t due out until next year, and I’m not talking about how wonderful it is, or how successful I may be (or not) as an author.

I’m talking about how writing feels to me. It’s right – deep inside, and I don’t need anything outside me to validate it. I can even see it, on my face in recent photos…that glow.

So, it’s your turn. What do you think of my theories? Have you had your shining time yet? What does it for you?

My Worst Date . . . Ever

By Laura Drake

My apartment manager set me up. Really. This woman I hardly knew called me out of the blue, telling me that a guy in the complex had noticed me, and asked if she’d introduce us. My silence must’ve telegraphed stunned, because she rushed on to say that he was a successful businessman, polite in the old-school way, and kind of shy. He was raising his two kids, all on his own…

Before she could launch into a saving-kittens-from drowning-story, I said, okay, half to shut her up, and half because I was curious to meet this throwback.

She brought him by that afternoon, knocked on my door, introduced him, then took off. Now here I stand, this shy, good looking man on my doorstep. What am I supposed to do with him? He invited me out that night, and I said yes. Even I couldn’t say no to that cute little-boy smile.

He took me to dinner, and proceeded to drag me through every detail of the horrific divorce he’d just gone though . . . for TWO HOURS. I’m sitting there thinking, “He may be cute, but I’m so out of here.”

Then it got worse. He tells me his goal is to be married within the next year. Wow. Really? Oh yes, and he has full custody of his two kids. Well, I’d never had kids for a reason – never wanted them. And I was never getting married again. Ever.

Talk about red flags!  I couldn’t wait to get home.

He dropped me at my doorstep, and looked like he wanted to kiss me, but didn’t.

Then he asked me if I wanted to go for a ride on his motorcycle that weekend. He has a motorcycle? I LOVE motorcycles! The wind in your hair, the thrill of speed, wrapping your arms around that strong chest . . .

Okay, so one more date. At least he couldn’t talk about his divorce while we were riding, right?

That shy guy and I celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary next week.

He went from the worst date I’d ever had to my best friend. Who even knew that could happen?

After thirteen short years, Laura Drake became an instant success in December, selling three romances set in the world of professional bull riding to Grand Central. THE SWEET SPOT, in which a couple struggles to reclaim their lives after a tragic loss, will be released in the spring of 2013.

http://LauraDrakeBooks.com

Don’t Waste a Second

By Laura Drake

I heard today that a distant relative, after enduring brutal treatment for lung cancer, is in remission!  I’m so very happy for him, and his family. He’s such a sweet, giving man.

It reminded me of something I learned back in 1990, when I lost my sister to cancer. She was 32.

DON’T WASTE A SECOND

I thought I had a busy life already; I was married, had two kids, and worked full time. But I could no longer afford to let the years flow by, thinking I’d do things later. The gaping hole in my life was a constant reminder that ‘later’ isn’t a given.

I realized a basic truth — wherever I am at any given time is a result of what I’m focusing on. If I’m not where I want to be, all I need do is make changes in what I’m focusing on to change it. Sounds too simple, doesn’t it?

It’s not. The following is a quick list of my major goals and accomplishments since then:

  • Finished my degree. Since I kept working full time, it took 4 years, and my kids and I doing homework together, but I got it done.
  • Learned to ride my own motorcycle. I’ve logged 100,000 miles.
  • Learned to fly fish.
  • Learned to write – In December I sold a three book deal to Grand Central

Along the way, life happened. Kids got married, and produced the most beautiful grandkids (don’t make me pull out photos!) My husband and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary in March. We’re looking for a place to jump out of the rat race and into retirement.

People always are amazed when I tell them I get up at 3 am to write before going to work. I’m down to about 6 hours sleep a night. Hey, I’m getting older – I have less time to waste!

Would I have completed these things if I wouldn’t have focused on my ‘bucket list?” I don’t think so.

But the best part wasn’t ticking off the items on the list. It’s the fun I had along the way to achieving them. The challenge of trying to do something I’d never done – and not sure I could do.

So? What about you? What would you attempt if you realized there wasn’t a second to waste?

Laura has always been a storyteller.  She began on her front porch, telling ghost stories to the neighborhood kids.  They ran screaming, but kept coming back for more. If she wasn’t telling a story, she had her nose in one, bumping into students on her way to classes.

Her settings are Western, but Laura grew up in the suburbs outside Detroit.  A tomboy, she’s always loved the outdoors and adventure. In 1980 she and her sister packed everything they owned into their Pintos and moved to California, sight unseen. There, Laura met her husband, a motorcycling, bleed-maroon Texas Aggie, and her love affair with the West began.

Laura rides her own motorcycle. She owns two; Elvis, a 1985 BMW Mystic, and Sting, a 1999 BMW R1100. She’s put on a hundred thousand miles riding the back roads, getting to know the small western towns that are her book’s settings.

On an annual pilgrimage to Texas, Laura was introduced to her first rodeo, and loved everything about it. She was even more excited to discover Pro Bull Riding was shown on television every week! She’s since attended any event within driving distance, as well as two PBR National finals.  Several people in the industry have been gracious in sharing their knowledge with a city girl. Her love of this sport has grown into three books to date.

Ideas are still growing.

My Brand of Romance

The Ladies of ENLR are thrilled to welcome Laura Drake as a new blogging partner. Laura will dispensing her wisdom monthly on every third Thursday. Help us make her feel right at home.  

My first blog with y’all! I’ve been very excited about it, trying to decide what to write that would give you a flavor of my stories.  I write contemporary Western Romance, revolving around the world of the PBR – Pro Bull Riding.

I’ve read countless romances. Historicals — autocratic noblemen, just waiting to fall for a bit of skirt. Paranormals — sexy immortals, the ultimate bad boys.  Steampunk? Not even sure what that is, but if it’s romance, I’m game! I love falling into one of these novels, like a warm, soft bed after a long, hard day.

But that’s not the type of romance I write. I’m seasoned. I’m wiser. Okay, I’m old. But along with the advancing wrinkles, sagging parts, and grey hair, has come a subtle but beautiful new version of romance. It seasons my writing like an exotic spice.

Fading is the headlong, rushing need. The constant craving that, looking back now, sometimes made me feel like a hormonal puppet. A softer, more subtle brand has taken its place. I now have time to notice details. Like:

The look in a man’s eyes, the softening, that lets you know he’s aware of you, as a woman.

His casual, proprietary touch at your waist as he leads you through a restaurant.

The sound of your name, well-worn and intimate, on his tongue.

I notice different parts of the male body than I did before: the curve of his back, as it slides to his hip. White vulnerable skin of his foot, soft as baby powder where it touches my leg. The taut cords on the back of his neck that make me want to nibble . . .

Okay, so all the hormones haven’t faded yet.

I’m so looking forward to settling in, and getting to know you all here at Everybody Needs a Little Romance!

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