We had so much fun when Stephen Bly was our guest that I've asked him back to tell us about his newest book release, One Step Over the Border.
Stephen, tell us about yourself.
I’m a pastor, a mayor, an antique Winchester gun collector and a writer. I’m also a fan of Jimmy Buffet music. What do these diverse avocations have to do with each other? In every field I want to grow as a person . . . push myself and my skills . . . my understanding . . . my spirit. I’m not a sit-around-and-let-life-come-to-me kinda guy. I want to dive in and change things for the better, if I can. I write a lot of fiction books, all from a Christian world view. Being pastor helps me stay focused. I’m mayor of a town of 308 in the mountains of Idaho, on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. That keeps me very western. And I collect old Winchester rifles, which reflects my love of historical accuracy. And Jimmy Buffet music? Hey, there’s not a whole lot of difference between a pirate and an outlaw.
I write about the West (historic or modern) from the inside. Born and raised on western ranches, I have both the heart and mind to describe things as they really were . . and are. There are those who think the frontier has long passed and with it the "code of the west." The truth is, both are still around . . . and it’s fun to show that in a contemporary story. The West is so big, so diverse, so enchanting it’s a thrill to write about it in any era.
What would you like to tell us about the book?
Here’s a blurb on my newest book, One Step Over The Border . . .
It’s a romp. A road adventure. It’s a buddy story with romantic comedy. Some call it CowboyLit. Rodeo cowboy Hap Bowman’s on a search for Juanita, the gal of his dreams, whom he hasn’t seen in 18 years. He seems stuck on 12-years-old and the enchanting girl he met then.
"An idiot obsession," his roping partner, Laramie Majors, chides. But Laramie agrees to a final summer’s trek along the Rio Grande. If they don’t find Juanita during those months, Hap promises to drop the idea of the hunt for the mystery senorita. But if they find her, will she feel the same as Hap does about their years ago interlude?
In One Step Over The Border the time tested values of cowboys rub up against contemporary mores. It’s a crazy story that becomes more logical as the reader delves deeper into it. It will make you laugh and shed a tear or two. I hope you’ll find some new life-long friends in Hap and Laramie, like I have, and that they make you think about your own ‘idiot obsessions’ in a fresh, fun way. Have I ever had one? Are you kidding? Being a full-time fiction writer is an idiot obsession all its own. Most people have the good sense to avoid such an occupation.
Getting back to Hap’s pursuit . . . don’t we all have someone in the past, that we knew for only a short while, that we wish we could have known better, longer? I know I have. So when Hap and Laramie ventured out on a quest for Hap’s Juanita, I decided to invite others to go along too. Folks have been e-mailing Hap http://firstname.lastname@example.org and asking for their own “Juanita Search Kits.” They get a bumper sticker, magnet, bookmark, stickers, flyers, etc. It’s a whole packet of material that will equip anyone to join the fun of finding the Juanita with “the mark of God.” If they send Hap a picture of the places where they stuck their Juanita signs, they’ll receive a free copy of the book. It’s all there on the website at http://www.onestepovertheborder.com/ . . . .
How would I describe the "most likely reader? Or what 'felt need’' does this book meet?
While the book will appeal to both men and women, I believe, by sheer numbers more women will read it, especially country gals with cowboy-on-their-mind kind of hearts. While people often talk of women looking for knights on white horses, many gals have at one time longed for a tried-and-true cowboy on any color of horse. So this tale has that kind of appeal. Plus, the drive to find that one person, the one you can’t forget, lingers in the mind of all romantics.
And we all have a desire to find the "right'’ person who will share the ups and downs of life, to be searched for and found, or to complete something we promised ourselves long ago. We also really want to do the right thing, even if no one knows it. That drive often makes us take a stand against pesky odds. This story’s also about friendship, being there through all the struggles and mistakes and quirkiness. In that way, it’s a satisfying and yet surprising story.
One Step Over The Border is available as of June 12, 2007, through your local quality bookstore, your favorite online book supplier, or you can order an autographed copy through http://www.blybooks.com/
And there’s a very special feature on http://www.amazon.com/. . . some more adventures about Hap and Laramie that did NOT appear in the book, can be found on AmazonShorts in the story entitled, Aim Low, Shoot High.
Stephen sent us an excerpt from the book for you.
Central Wyoming, summer of 1996
The yellow dirt road that stretched before him reminded Laramie Majors of the countryside around his grandparent’s place in Oklahoma. Miles beyond the blacktop sat their two story, white clapboard house with a front porch swing and sweet tea that tasted a bit sinful if you’d just come back from church. As a kid, those trips north lined a route of escape from the tension of home and invited him to a different world. At Grandma’s house, no one yelled. No one got hit. And Mamma never cried.
But the parade of gray sagebrush, dull green scrub cedars and squatty pinon pines on the rimrock reined Laramie back to Wyoming. Yellow grime fogged after his truck like a swarm of South American ants, creeping like a disease across the fenders of his silver Chevy pickup.
Dwight Purley told him to take the short-cut through the south end of the Big Horn Mountains. But Dwight presumed Laramie knew more about Wyoming geography than he actually did. Although the blond gal with stubby pigtails and logger’s biceps at the Sinclair gas station assured him this was the right way, he now found himself grumbling over her apparent misdirections.
He questioned again if he should have stayed on the pavement out of Casper. This endless dirt road didn’t have the feel of a short cut and the fuel gauge had dropped near empty. He hadn't seen a ranch, a rig, or an occupied cabin for miles and didn’t know which direction to walk to find gas. He considered turning back, but the drive to make it there today pushed him over the next hill. He promised himself he would not go back to Texas a failure. It was a promise he intended to keep.
Laramie smeared the dirt off the dash and slapped the front of the fuel gauge in hopes that it was stuck, then punched off the CD player. As he crested the hill, he slowed to a stop as two dozen pronghorn antelopes ambled across the road. They turned to gawk at his rude intrusion. He stared back at their blank, clueless expressions, wondering how many times the same look plastered his own face.
The thin blue Wyoming sky unfolded to the west. Hills gave way to rolling sage and brown grass prairie. As he dropped down into a cottonwood draw, he spied a log cabin. Its battered shake roof sported a new satellite dish receiver. Thick gray smoke curled from the chimney. A girl about ten scampered from the outhouse wearing red striped shorts, cowboy boots and a Nike t-shirt.
She waved, then disappeared into an unpainted barn. Laramie waved back. She was the first person he’d seen in almost an hour.
Eight miles further west he reached Highway 20. He turned north and followed the green highway signs and bright hotel billboards that lured him towards Cody. He rolled the windows down, hoping to blow out some dust. And memories.
Majors parked his pickup under the only shade tree on the level street. He studied the scrap of scribbled brown paper: Hap Bowman, 2490 Paradise Road, Cody, Wyoming.
The home looked like a 1960s tract house, only there were no other residences. No landscaping. No parks. No sidewalks. No neighborhood improvement association. Just one dwelling in bad need of paint on stucco with fake brick walls.
The wide, empty street led to nowhere. Laramie fastened the top button on his collar and practiced a crooked smile in the dusty mirror. He knew it was time to cowboy up, to get his small talk in gear. No one discerned how tough it felt for him to meet new people.
A 1992 black Dodge truck was backed into the driveway. Behind it, on eroding blacktop, a wheelless Volkswagen van perched like a miniature diner, propped up by cinderblocks and weeds. A battered canvass awning stretched out the side. A dust devil that spawned in the vacant lot next to the faded green house seemed reluctant to leave. Laramie watched the dirt swirl a moment as if waiting for an oracle to make a pronouncement.
An aluminum screen door hung crooked, slammed too hard, too often. A half-built front deck stretched out into sun burnt grass, its gray-bleached boards a testament to a long abandoned building project. The black dog asleep on the porch defied pedigree, but Laramie noticed a huge pink tongue hanging out.
Once again, he studied the penciled note, then surveyed the yard. He detected no horse. No barn. No corral. No run-in shed. Not even a plastic steer head stabbed into a bale of hay. Not one sign that this guy ever practiced roping.
Laramie brushed his gritty fingers through short, curly brown hair and rubbed his clean shaven chin. He took a deep breath and muttered, “Mr. Dwight Purley, you said I needed to meet this Hap Bowman. You said he could head rope a steer as good as anyone in Wyoming. I will trust you enough to knock on that door. But this scene better improve quick, because it isn’t looking real good right now.”
When Laramie reached the front step he patted the dog, but the animal showed no interest in him. Afternoon heat reflected off the walls like a radiant electric heater in winter. Laramie longed for the comfort of a glass of Grandma’s sweet tea or the throat clearing rush of an ice cold beer.
He scraped open the busted screen door, hesitating to knock on the peeling white paint of the wooden one when he heard a blast of angry Spanish words, followed by a loud crash and a yelp.
Laramie ground his teeth, then checked the note one more time: 2490. He eyed his truck and considered a hasty retreat, when a man hollered from inside, “Juanita! Put that down.”
Even the dog flinched when the lid to a white porcelain commode busted out the front window, scattering glass on the unfinished deck.
The wooden door flung open. A black mustached man about Laramie’s age sported a black, beaver felt cowboy hat and several parallel streaks of blood across his cheek.
“Ehhh . . . Hap Bowman?” Laramie stammered. “Dwight Purley sent me to ask you about . . .”
The shorter man grabbed his outstretched hand and yanked him indoors. “Man, am I glad to see you.” Then he barreled outside, the door slamming behind him.
The room reeked of garlic and dirty diapers. A divan sprawled backwards. A slice of pizza plastered the wall. Majors heard a roar from the yard and peered out the busted window in time to view the Dodge pickup spin out into the street and head south.
The bristles of a broom smacked Laramie’s ear. The surprise, more than the impact, staggered him into the trash covered pine coffee table. He cracked his shin and hopped around the room trying to flee his attacker.
“Who are you?” the dark haired lady snarled. Her full lips were painted as red as her long fingernails.
“Excuse me, ma’am . . . I didn’t mean to intrude . . . I just . . .”
She walloped him in the side, then jabbed his ribs with the broom handle. “Well, you did intrude. Where’d Hap go?”
Laramie hunkered behind a cluttered, mucky end table. “I wish I knew. He’s the reason I stopped by. I need to talk to him.”
The brown skinned woman yanked open the gauze curtain. “It figures he’d run out on me.” She spun back. “What are you staring at?” She grabbed up a jar of baby food and cocked her arm.
Laramie shielded his face. “Wait, lady. Whoever got you angry, it’s not me. I was told to come talk to a Hap Bowman who lives here.”
“He doesn’t live here.”
“I guess that’s my mistake.”
“He never lived here. That’s the problem.”
“Then, I’ll be leaving. I just wanted to talk to Hap. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
“Inconvenience? The jerk ruined my life. Look at me. Look at me! He turned down all of this.”
A full, stained yellow t-shirt hung outside her skin tight jeans. Bright yellow round earrings dangled even with her chin. Smeared mascara darkened her sad eyes. Slumped shoulders belied her feigned defiance.
“I’m sorry for whatever’s going on here. But I never met Hap before. I have no explanation for his behavior. I’m a roper and I was told that . . . "
The pureed peaches sailed at his head. Laramie ducked. The glass jar crashed into the black iron table lamp which tumbled to the soiled green shag carpet.
Laramie retrieved the lamp and shoved it back on the table. “I take it you don’t like ropers.”
“What he did to me wasn’t right.” When she tossed her head back, a wave rolled down the massive black curls.
Laramie scooted towards the front door. “I really need to get on down the road.”
“That’s what they all say.”
Wow, I can hardly wait to read the rest.
Thank you for coming by Stephen. Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of One Step Over the Border.