Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Contemporary West & The Rodeo

Hi Sweetheart readers! I'm thrilled to be a part of this new group blog - mostly because its main focus is one of my all-time favorite subjects: the American West! The western genre has come a long way from the dime novels that made it famous. Before I began writing western romance, whenever I pictured the West it usually featured gunfights between cowboys and Indians, treasure hunting, and folklore heroes.

What surprises a lot of people - and, I admit, me once, too - is that contemporary westerns are as hot a commodity as historical westerns. For example, the Wayback, TX series created by the western editors of The Wild Rose Press. These novellas take place in a fictional western small town and are each, yes, contemporary western romances. As a testiment to the popularity of the contemporary western sub-genre, almost all of them hit the publisher's bestseller's list. So what makes contemporary westerns so special? A lot of what readers love about the contemporary West hasn't changed much from the ways of the old West. Cowboys still wear their Stetsons proudly. A lot of sheriffs still wear silver stars and cowboy boots. And cattle ranching is still done from the back of a horse. Lots of cowboys, in the ranching world especially, occassionally still sleep under the stars.

A key ingredient that make the books of the Wayback, TX series so desirable and something we don't see a lot of in historical westerns that is still quintessentially western is the rodeo. Though this ranching-based sporting event developed in Spain and Mexico, it has become a large part of our western culture. In fact, if you've ever been to a rodeo, you know that there's something about the whole spectacle that harkens back to dusty days of old. Not too many people know how far this western tradition has spread. After it grew popular in the United States, it traveled to Canada, South America, and Australia where it is still wildly popular in country areas. Rodeo is the official state sport of South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. It is also a sport in which women have most always been welcome to compete. And though the rodeo has created controversy with animal rights' activists from its inception, the competitions are now much more animal-friendly. Great news for people like me who believe strongly in the rights of animals!

The best part of rodeos, for me, is the gathering of cowboys! From the feathers tucked in the brim of their hats to the spurs of their boots, there is something undeniably fascinating about those rodeo cowboys! If you've never experienced the rodeo yourself, here's a glimpse into bull-riding from a spectator's perspective:

The enthusiasm of the rodeo crowd was infectious. From underneath the brim of her new hat, Calli’s eyes widened as Stella’s husband rode a mean, bucking bull with impossible grace. She got to her feet with the crowd to cheer him on as the seconds stretched.

“Oh my God, he’s going to do it!” Calli squealed, clutching Stella’s shoulder and spilling popcorn everywhere as she hopped up and down.

“I know, I know, I know!” Stella shrieked, pressing a hand to her heart. There was a mixed look of pure terror and anticipation on her face.

The buzzer rang out across the corral. The audience applauded, whooped and hollered as Judd did a lithe roll off the bull’s back and retreated out of the cloud of dust the wild animal’s hind legs kicked up. As the rodeo clowns moved forward to chase the bull out of the corral, Judd raised his hat to the jubilant crowd.

Just before he turned to trot off, he sent a smile Stella’s way.

“Aw,” Teensy Griffin cooed. “Nothing like a roped cowboy.”

Stella breathed a sigh of relief and shrank back to the seat. “Glad that’s over.”

“I don’t know how you do it,” Calli said with a shake of her head. “Do you know how stupid you have to be to let the guy you love do something like that? Didn’t you see 8 Seconds?”

“He lives for this,” Stella explained. “Absolutely lives for it.”

“They all have their things,” Teensy put in, rubbing an absent hand over the considerable baby bump stretching the belly of her bright pink tank top. “Thankfully, Nick’s is model airplanes. Lucky you, Judd’s fetish is way sexier.”

Calli shook her head at the absurdity of it. Even she had to admit, though, that bull riding was kind of sexy. The to-hell-with-it man riding the untamed beast. He might as well be giving fate the bird. It took more balls than Calli had ever seen, not to mention some unique, ingrained athleticism.

As the next bull and rider charged out of the gate, she realized that these men were athletes. Her initial rodeo skepticism had melted into complete respect in less than an hour.

BET IT ON MY HEART © Amber Leigh Williams
This is a clip from Book III of the Ridge family saga, a trilogy written for TWRP's Wayback, TX series. All three books feature a rodeo cowboy. In the first book, Blackest Heart, silent cowboy Judd Black (mentioned above) is a champion bull-rider. This story placed 1st in the 2009 More Than Magic Contest's novella category and was chosen for trade paperback publication in the Wayback, TX anthology The Way Back Home! Book II, Bluest Heart (the bestselling book in the Ridge trilogy so far), features Casey Ridge, a cattle rancher and calf-roping competitor and his heroine, Josie Brusky, who holds her own at the rodeo in barrel racing. And, finally, in Book III, Bet It On My Heart, we get to know the quintessential cowboy, Keefe Ridge, who is a retiring bronc-rider. Readers voted Keefe and Bet It On My Heart Book of the Week at Long & Short Reviews.
In each book the rodeo creates a solid backdrop for some good contemporary romance and I had the time of my life researching and writing each! If my pen and I ever do go back west, whether for a historical or another contemporary trilogy, fans of the Ridges be assured, I'll definitely be dipping back into some of that rodeo ink! And since at this time I write contemporary westerns only, I'll be back next month with some more fun influences of the contemporary West! Hope you enjoyed the excerpt and, if you're interested, the Ridges of Wayback, TX just launched in audio book, too! All three books are available now at The Wild Rose Press in ebook and AudioLark in audio!
"Williams has brought the romantic back to romance!" ~ Long & Short Reviews
BLACKEST HEART ~ 1st Place More Than Magic Novella
FOREVER AMORE ~ LASR Best Book of 2009 Nominee


  1. Hi, Amber--I'll be the first to comment on our very first real blog. You did a wonderful job explaining the rodeo, the Wayback, Texas Series, and your family saga in that series. Your book covers are great. Congratulations, and we'll look forward to more great posts from you on each first Sunday--okay? Celia

  2. Amber--I love rodeo cowboys! I've got a series of rodeo books coming out next year for Harlequin American and I've really enjoyed researching material for them. There's just something so sexy about a cwoboy trying to tame eighteen-hundred pounds of wild bronc!

  3. Celia, I look forward to blogging the first Sunday of every month!

    Marin, ah - a kindred spirit! lol I look forward to reading your rodeo titles!

  4. Amber, I live in horse country and some of our young friends are rodeo crazy. If you look around our church on Sunday morning, you see a surprising number of men who wear boots to church. In town, the same is true. I love the West! I love reading and writing about both contemporary and historical western heroes. Oh, guess that means I like western heroines too. LOL Great post!

  5. Awesome post, Amber. I love rodeos, too. Marin is totally right--taming a beast is totally sexy. My experiences are more tame. I've had the honor of riding in several opening ceremonies over the year, and, when I was young, I tried my hand as a barrel racer in a couple playdays. It took over 20 seconds for my reliable, but fat and slow mare to carry me across the finish lines. Dead last had never been as much fun before, nor has it been since.
    Love your excerpt and look forward to reading more in the future. I'm also pleased to hear audio books are available.
    Wishing all the best to you and yours

  6. I fell in love with westerns watching John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Charles Bronson movies with my dad. I fell in love with western romance novels when I read Janet Dailey's Calder Series. It doesn't matter if the western is a historical or contemporary, the feel and excitement translates the same. Love them!

  7. Hi, Amber, what a fascinating genre you write in, and it seems you do it well! Best of luck with your work. -laura

  8. Caroline, I envy you living in the heart of the action. I can't wait to drag the hub off to a dude ranch for a weekend of fun! And, I agree with you on the western heroines. They, too, seem to have something extra. True grit, maybe?

    Sandra, I used to love riding and wish I had the time to do more of it now! I'm told I bounce quite a bit in the saddle, but I enjoy every moment.

    Lilly, I feel the same way. Though I write contemporary western, I love nothing more than a good historical western. My absolute favorite western film is Lonesome Dove. And recently I read Jillian Hart's "Homespun Bride" which is an ispy historical western - one of the best book I've read in a long time!

    Laura, thank you very much! And thanks for reading my post :)

  9. Hi Amber,
    Great blog and explanation of rodeos. You mention Australia, and I know we do have rodeos out here, but I have unfortunately, never been to one (probably because i live in the city).



  10. I love TWRP's Wayback series! Great blog, Amber, thanks for the rodeo info and the sneak peek--sounds like a great read!


  11. I love TWRP's Wayback series! Great blog, Amber, thanks for the rodeo info and the sneak peek--sounds like a great read!


  12. Margaret, if you ever see an Australian rodeo cowboy, would you mind sending me a pic? LOL

    Nicole, thank you so much! I love the Wayback, Texas series too! Great authors, great stories :)

  13. Interesting info about Rodeos. There is something about the swagger of a cowboy.

    Great excerpt.

  14. Hi Amber,
    LOVED your post! Even though I was raised here in Oklahoma, my parents weren't big on the rodeo stuff, so I didn't get to go to a rodeo until I was spending the summer one year with my cousin who is a week older than me. I think we were about 10 or so, and Larry Mahan was there! MY GOSH, WE JUST FELL IN LOVE WITH HIM. LOL (That tells you how long ago that was!) Anyhow, I love to read about rodeos and rodeo cowboys, but don't really know enough about the terminology to write about one. After that excerpt, I know I have to get going on adding your books to my reading pile. I'm hoping for a kindle for Christmas. LOL

  15. Paty, you're right about that! Thank you!

    Cheryl, I fell in love with the bull riders. And to tell you the truth, I didn't know much about rodeo terminology either but you learn a heck of a lot from watching those rodeo competition on TV, especially from commentators. I'm hoping you get that Kindle and enjoy the Ridge family trilogy :)


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