I’d intended it as an epilogue from dad, Marty’s, POV and a bridge to the next Calhoun in the series. Marty Calhoun is a sweetheart who deals out bear hugs and wisdom like most good dads do. As much as he’s loved celebrating his children’s successes away from Bigfork, he’s enjoying having them all home again too. – Juanita
I’m a pretty visual person, so when I start creating characters for a new book I tend to search for an image I can look to as inspiration. It was no different when I began to create the world and characters for my Once Upon a Western series. Here’s a peak at the inspiration and a little bit about the main characters of Book 1, Her Cowboy Prince, which is loosely based on the Cinderella fairy tale.
ROAD TO YOU (and me) via Holly Golightly and Princess Ann
My non-writer friends find the whole idea of writing books
fascinating crazy. The very idea makes them offer me a glass of wine and a sympathetic pat on the back. I understand this, of course. Sitting down in front of a computer with a blank page and a blinking cursor intimidates me too, even after twenty-some books. Trying to explain how ideas come to me—a frequently asked question—is even harder. I suppose that’s because no two books are ever the same, not in the way they come to me, nor in the way I figure out how to tell their stories. My latest book, ROAD TO YOU, Book Two in my Band of Brothers series, was no exception. The inspiration for it came (weirdly) from Hollywood. But more on that in a minute…
“I wanted to write about that guy, the one with zero time for anyone or anything except his own interests.”
When the winter Olympics came to Vancouver in 2010, I heard something that might have been urban legend, but it sparked my imagination. The rumor was, bowls of condoms had been set out in the athlete’s village and they had disappeared at an alarming rate.
The assumption was that athletes from less progressive countries were stocking up, but the very idea that bowls of condoms had been set out like bonbons on end-tables made me highly curious about what went on behind those walls.
I started thinking about all those healthy, ripped, gorgeous athletes meeting strangers who were also in peak condition. Maybe they didn’t speak the same language, but they lived the same lives of pursuing excellence. They all wanted release from the pressure of training four years for the most important competition of their lives, maybe needed comfort if things hadn’t gone as well as they hoped….
I tucked that idea in my back pocket and brought it out when I started writing On The Edge, the first book in my new series for Montana Born, Blue Spruce Lodge. I loved the idea of Rolf coming from that life of non-stop training in harsh conditions. The narrow focus, ignoring pain, overcoming injury and other obstacles, letting nothing matter but gold.
“Rolf might be retired, but he’s still in tip-top condition and under her bulky sweaters, Glory has a yoga-toned figure and a romance-author’s fertile imagination for love scenes.”
I also loved the Michael Phelps death-stare memes from the Rio Olympics. I wanted to write about that guy, the one with zero time for anyone or anything except his own interests. Rolf is selfish, rude even, but he does what it takes to get what he wants.
Then I made him want the heroine. Bad. And I gave Glory every reason to hate him, so he has to dig deep and learn to compromise if he’s going to win her heart.
Glory has her own version of gold. Not everyone is Eddie the Eagle and just decides to try making the Olympic team in ski jumping. She’s more like the rest of us, worried that if she goes after what she wants—which is to write romance—that she might fail.
As she watches how Rolf refuses to let anything get in his way, however, and recognizes that she allows just about everyone and everything get in her way, she begins to make changes and go after greatness. Along the way, she and Rolf use a bowl or two of condoms.
Rolf might be retired, but he’s still in tip-top condition and under her bulky sweaters, Glory has a yoga-toned figure and a romance-author’s fertile imagination for love scenes.
Look for book two, From The Top, on Feb 27th where Ilke trains her whole life for South Korea only to fail spectacularly. She returns to Blue Spruce Lodge to pick up the pieces. Grab a box of tissues. You’ll need it.
Award winning and USA Today Bestselling Author, Dani Collins, has written more than two dozen romances ranging from sexy contemporary for Harlequin Presents, to romantic comedy, epic medieval fantasy and even some erotic romance. Lately she has also been writing rancher romance for Tule’s Montana Born. Since she’s a small town girl at heart, this makes her feel at home.
He’d known, since the day that she’d angrily backed him up against his locker and told him how things were going to be, that this moment was coming…
2. What drew you to the American Extreme Bull Riders tour series?
I love bull riding and have been writing bull riding books for a few years now. When Tule decided to do a bull riding series, I was so excited!
3. What do you think readers will love most about your hero, Austin?
He’s a good guy. He’s confident without coming off as egotistical. He’s easy going and ready to lend a hand, but if you rile him, watch out, because the alpha in him will make a sudden and unapologetic appearance.
4. If you could switch places with any character in this book, who would it be and why?
Easy answer—Kristen, the heroine, because I’m pretty much in love with Austin.
5. Can you share a few sentences from a bull-riding event featured in your story?
Wannabe’s muscles rippled as Austin flipped back the fringe on his chaps and settled himself onto the bull’s broad back.
It didn’t matter that Kristen was in the crowd tonight.
He started to work his rope, warming the rosin as Wannabe twitched his skin, blew some snot. Gave a quick backward kick into the chute wall.
Didn’t matter that Kristen had once told him he was never going to amount to anything.
Wannabe humped up and the spotter took hold of Austin’s vest, steadying him as he slid his hand into place under the rope, which was then pulled tight.
Nope. Didn’t matter at all.
He took a couple of careful wraps, pounded his glove and slid forward into his hand. A quick nod at the gate man and Wannabe exploded out of the chute, doing his best to show his belly to the rafters. Austin hung on.
Kristen was in the audience tonight and damned if he was going to fail in front of her again.
Jeannie Watt is the author of over 20 contemporary romances and the recipient of the Holt Medallion Award of Merit. She lives in a small ranching community—a place where kids really do grow up to be cowboys—with her husband, dog, cat, horses and ponies. When she’s not writing, Jeannie enjoys sewing retro fashions, running, and buying lots and lots of hay.
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I cannot begin to explain the excitement and relief–tinged with terror–when I finally finished writing my eighth romance novel, Kane, and sent it off to the editor and then off to copy edits. Tule Publishing first started crafting this series last year at RWA in San Diego, and I was so fired up to be part of the series. The seven other talented authors who’d signed on to the series awed and inspired me. My hero, Kane, came to me, almost instantly. Obviously he had to be hard-core confident, sexy, physical, fearless, and intensely focused on winning. In my mind, he was perfect physically, emotionally and mentally. Naturally I wanted to mess up all that masculine perfection to toss him off the broad, thrashing back of his cocky, I-got-the-world-in-one-hand, swagger. Didn’t take me long to decide to combine my two favorite romance tropes—second chance romance and secret baby.
Let the fun begin.
But who would walk away from a man they’d been friends with and crushed on since childhood? Who would hide an unexpected but wanted pregnancy from a man they loved on a deep, soul mate level? And why? Enter Sky Gordon. She’s the younger sister of Kane’s best friend who died riding a bull when he was barely out of his teens. This created a deeper bond between them that over the years morphed, briefly during one summer break in college, from friends to lovers. Not sharing a pregnancy is not cool by anyone’s standard so of course I had to write Sky to try and enough of a motivation and back-story that her actions, though wrong, make sense to her at the time. And how would my hero, Kane a man who’s back story is as complicated as his reasons for living a nomadic life and risking his life most Friday and Saturday nights, react to the discovery of Sky’s lie and his child? How does someone accept and then forgive the unforgivable? I had to get him to try.
I love how the complications, the nosiness and drama central to spinning a story, churn like filthy and familiar laundry in the wash. I have a built-in excuse for thinking and dreaming and not always paying attention to the mundane. My family and friends have now realized that my characters, while not “real,” they run a really close, breathing down your neck second. I also (confession former writing and history teacher) love researching. Researching bull riding was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I attended a PBR performance in Portland, OR last year with Jane Porter who loves the events and actually travels to different cities to fangirl watch. She was a wealth of information and successfully kept her eyes opened the whole performance, whereas I was so keyed up and nervous I couldn’t even chow down my kettle corn. I watched a documentary Fearless as well as a lot of “how-to” videos. Watching the rides was thrilling and nearly impossible. So many times I had to jump off the treadmill at the gym because I kept squeezing my eyes shut as a bull hurtled out of the chute.
Not possible to close your eyes and write about a man determined to seize control and win at any cost whether it’s on the back or a bull or by swooping up the one woman he’d let in his heart but let go and the child he they made and tucking them into his truck while he races the clock to get to the final round of his next event a six hour drive away. Talk about tension. Talk about intense. Talk about fraught ride humming with sexual tension, unresolved conflict and two people who don’t know how to forgive or trust but have to make a life together for their three year old daughter happily singing and enjoying her new adventure in the back seat.
Sinclair lives in Oregon’s wine country where she and her family own a small vineyard of Pinot Noir and where she dreams of being able to write at a desk like Jane Austen instead of in parking lots waiting for her kids to finish one of their 12,000 extracurricular activities.
Jocelyn Garrity was not having a very good day. In fact she’d not been having a very good five years. Dead husband, teenage son who hated her, boss who thought he was god’s gift to vaginas, astronomical student loan debt and almost as astronomic orthodontic bills. Not to mention a sleep deficit she’d never make up even if she slept from now until the end of the decade.
And, this just in, a flat tyre. With the stubbornest set of wheel nuts she’d ever had the misfortune to tangle with.
What was your favorite part of writing for the American Extreme Bull Riders Tour series?
Googling hot cowboy pics
Where did you get the inspiration for this book?
My inspiration really came via Troy, I knew I wanted him to be a bit of a man-whore. The guy on the circuit who’s always flirting and getting lucky and I knew at the root of all that was a terribly damaged guy with an awful childhood culminating in a brush with juvie. So essentially he’s a really reckless guy with little regard for his own life. I didn’t know anything about my heroine other than she was going to be one of the few women who’d ever said no to him. Then, late last year, Kelly Hunter and I met up in Sydney to watch an Aussie PBR rodeo and were chatting about our characters. After that brain storming session I knew my heroine was going to be an older woman – an ER doctor – a widow, with a teenager who has community and connections and commitments. Someone anchored – the complete opposite to Troy.
Did you have a “dream cast” in mind while writing your story?
As always I had a Pinterest page for my book https://au.pinterest.com/amyandrewsbooks/bull-rider-wip/ This is where most of the Googling hot cowboy pics comes in!
Describe your favorite scene in the book in just one word.
My favourite scene is when Troy is in hospital having his dislocated elbow popped back in by Joss. He’s high on morphine and funny as hell and Joss starts to wonder why the universe keeps throwing this cocky, young bull rider at her.
Amy is an award-winning, USA Today best-selling Aussie author who has written sixty plus contemporary romances in both the traditional and digital markets. She’s sold two million books and been translated into over a dozen languages including manga.
When I illustrate the cover of each book, I try to envision the scene and live in it with the characters.
My name is Rhian Awni and I am the illustrator behind the Love at the Chocolate shop and Taming of the Sheenans series. I hope this does not sound like a cliché story, but I have been drawing since I was a little kid. My mother, who loved doing fashion illustrations, encouraged me to develop my skills. She always gave me constructive feedback and taught me how to draw human figures proportionally. I owe a large part of the skills I honed in drawing as a kid to my mother. I did not study illustration in college, and actually have a Bachelor‘s Degree in computer science. Illustration was always my hobby and I developed it over the years. I went back to school to get a Masters Degree in graphic design, and I chose graphic design as I was too afraid to be a starving artist! That is what got me started in my business as a graphic designer in 2009, and later an illustrator when I started combining my illustrations with my designs based on demands from my clients. I was very self-conscious about the quality of my art, but my clients provided me with a major boost when they stated how much they liked the illustrations I created for them!
I work both with watercolors and Photoshop to create my illustrations. That way, they still have the texture of the traditional medium, yet look crisper and more refined when I digitally color over the original illustrations. I first start with a pencil sketch.
After I get my client’s approval, I redraw my illustration on watercolor paper and color it.
I then scan it and digitally modify it in Photoshop to add more colors and textures. It usually takes up to 8 hours to complete an illustration, but sometimes even longer than that! I always start my illustration projects with a bit of research and my favorite tool for that is Pinterest. I find inspiration for fashion, poses and hair styles there. Fashion is a major source of inspiration for me. But I also enjoy combining elements of classic art into my illustrations. I am influenced by Impressionism and Rococco movements in arts. What I like in these movements is the playful style of the artwork and the spontaneous nature of the subjects. I also tend to add a romantic or nostalgic touch to my illustrations.
I love warm and bright colors. Colors play a large part of my process too. After the sketch is approved by my client, I create a very quick color mockup for my own reference and I create it digitally in Photoshop. That way, I know where to put each color on the paper. I tend to limit my color schemes, and go with the subject of the book when I create the cover art. If the book story takes place in the summer, then I use bright and airy colors. If it takes place during the holidays, then warm and festive colors are used. That way, the colors make the first impact on the viewer, and then the subject comes next.
When I illustrate the cover of each book, I try to envision the scene and live in it with the characters. That way, I can bring it to life on paper! I very much enjoyed working on every book cover illustration from Tule Publishing but my absolute favorites are the following:
Connect with Rhian!
I was thrilled when author CJ Carmichael invited me to write a book for the Love at the Chocolate Shop series. This is my first Montana Born story and I can honestly tell you that it was so easy to fall in love with Marietta, Montana and all its inhabitants.
When I brainstorm new books, I focus on one single character first—I call him or her my anchor character. Once I know who the anchor character is, the other characters easily fall into place as well as the setting and the plot. In the case of Sweet Home Cowboy I already knew the setting was the charming town of Marietta, Montana, so I only needed to focus on characters and plot.
You might assume the anchor character in this story was the heroine Elena Puente, a first-grade teacher from Las Vegas, Nevada, or local Marietta cowboy Wesley Banks. Not so. This time a secondary character tugged at my heartstrings. Years ago Keith Urban came out with a song called “But for the Grace of God”. The verse below has stayed with me for years and I knew one day the right book would come along where I could tell this man’s story.
I can see that old man
He’s walking past our door
And I’ve been told that he’s rich
But he seems so poor
‘Cause no one comes to call on him
And his phone it never rings
He wanders through his empty home
Surrounded by his things
In Sweet Home Cowboy the man Keith Urban sings about is my anchor character Judge Alistair Kingsley—the estranged great-grandfather of my heroine Elena Puente and the employer of my hero, Wesley Banks. Judge Kingsley is the lynch pin that holds this story together and allowed me to explore one of my favorite themes…the meaning of home. Home is more than a place. Home is forgiveness, acceptance and unconditional love. Home is your shelter and your path forward.
I’ve always been most comfortable writing about imperfect people who struggle through life—people who accept the life they’ve been given but always strive for better. Imperfect characters, dysfunctional families and small-town settings are the heart of my stories and Marietta, Montana is the perfect backdrop for Sweet Home Cowboy—a story that reminds us of how resilient the human spirit is and that everyone deserves their very own happy ever after—even cranky old men like Judge Alistair Kingsley.
What’s your definition of Home?
Marin Thomas is an award-winning author of over 35 western romances for Harlequin books and she also writes women’s fiction for Berkley. She loves small-town stories with quirky characters that revolve around the importance of family and is thrilled that her Tule debut will release in the Montana Born line and Chocolate Shop Books series.