Shannon here: Every time you comment on any post dated March 19 – 23 will go in the drawing for a copy of book 2 in my Texas rodeo series, Rodeo Hero (as soon as I get my author copies). Deadline: March 31st, 11:59 PM central time.
When I decided to write a book about a bull rider and a city girl, I needed a year-round indoor rodeo to fit my plot. I did some research and found the Fort Worth Stockyards. My heroine could live and work in Dallas and my hero could work at the Stockyards. But Heartsong Presents likes small town flavor, so I googled small towns around Fort Worth and Dallas. I needed a nice small town where my hero could live on his ranch.
I found Aubrey, Texas–Horse Country, USA. It definitely sounded like a place with ranches. Next I found The Peanut Festival, held on the first Saturday in October each year in Aubrey. The town’s sandy soil once grew peanuts. But over the year, the climate changed, the peanut industry died out and horses took over. Aubrey is north of Fort Worth and Dallas and roughly an hour from each. Not too bad of a commute for my characters.
I contacted the city secretary, Nancy Trammel Downes and Aubrey Main Street Committee member, Deborah Goins.
With their help, I learned enough about The Peanut Festival and Main Street to send my characters to the festival on their first date. Nancy even critiqued my scene to make sure it seemed like it happened in Aubrey instead of in my head.
With book 2 and 3 in the series, I found myself setting more scenes in Aubrey and bluffing my way through it became difficult. By this time, I’d learned Nancy was originally from Arkansas and married a Texan, just like me and my husband. Nancy was also an avid inspirational romance reader. As a plan formulated for a research trip to Aubrey, I contacted her about a possible visit and book signing, since Rodeo Dust was already released at the time. I wanted to actually go to The Peanut Festival, but I had a prior engagement for that date and my son was in school and my husband at work. Since I don’t usually travel without them, it didn’t work out.
But Nancy told me about Christmas on Main, another festival that just happened to take place during my son’s Thanksgiving break from school. My husband was off that week too, in transition from being a full time dental technician/bi-vocational pastor to full time pastor. The timing was perfect. Nancy notified several newspapers and set up a signing at Moms on Main, the local restaurant she’d steered me to when my characters needed somewhere to eat after church.
When I finally arrived in Aubrey, it was everything I dreamed of. Main Street with its storefront shops, so much like my hometown. Tents and booths with crafts, antiques, and food lined the street and an open field for the festival. A horse drawn hansom cab was on hand for romantic carriage rides.
I was so excited to meet Nancy and the Murray’s who own Moms on Main. They had two 4 x 8 posters of me and the book advertising my signing. Between meeting people and selling books, I scribbled notes as fast as my brain could detail all the antiques and unique decor at Moms. I even checked out the bathroom since my characters have a discussion about the men in their lives in there.
Halfway through my signing, a train whistle blew. Shortly afterward, the train rattled past the old peanut dryer. If I hadn’t visited the aread, I’d have never known my characters would hear or see a train or the patriotic Christmas tree the Murrays had up in their restaurant.
I took pictures of the peanut dryer, city hall, and The Ever After Chapel. I thought I’d have one of my couples get married at the chapel, which was once a church, but it didn’t seem to fit any of them. I even ate a Philly Beef & Cheese sandwich at Moms with my husband and son. Yummy!
The people of Aubrey made me feel like a celebrity. They had a sound system set up for the festival and announced several times that I was there. They let each booth owner, including me, tell who they were and what items could be found in their booth. I learned the man operating the sound system was Scott Moody, Charlie Pride’s keyboardist. My dad is the biggest Charlie Pride fan ever. I can’t tell you how many Charlie concerts I attended as a kid. Before I left, the Murray’s bought 30 copies of Rodeo Dust to sell in their restaurant. The Mustard Seed, a Christian book store bought copies also.
It was so nice visiting Aubrey. The people made me feel right at home and invited me to come back when the rest of the series releases. We definitely plan on returning and I’d still love to make it to The Peanut Festival. Both festivals benefit The Aubrey Library and I donated books for
door prizes a portion of my proceeds. There’s also an antique car show in Aubrey, but I didn’t get it worked into the series. For such a small town, it’s a happening little place, much in part due to the Murrays. I heard numerous townspeople sing their praises during my visit. From what I saw during my one day spent in Aubrey, I agreed with every word.
Come back March 23rd for an excerpt from Rodeo Hero.