The authors of 'Unconventional in Kansas City' talk about their stories.
'Kiss Me, Cowboy' by Carol Lynne
It isn’t easy to cling to teenage promises when you become one of the forgotten.
For Eli Barron, Jesse Clooney has always been the one. From their first day of kindergarten through their high-school graduation, the pair were inseparable. So, when a situation arises that splits the two men apart, it’s up to Eli to keep the home fires burning as Jesse sets off to follow his dreams on the rodeo circuit. But how long can a man continue to stoke the fire before the flames die out?
Hometown Love by Carol Lynne
I grew up in a small farming town twenty-five minutes south of Kansas City. For my story in this year’s GRL Retreat anthology, I wanted to focus on the impact the American Royal has had on communities such as the one I was raised in. I don’t think my old high school has a FFA (Future Farmers of America) club anymore, but I can still remember seeing those blue corduroy jackets filling the streets of Kansas City during the American Royal. Farm kids would come from all over the country to watch and compete in the junior rodeo events as well as showing livestock. The highlight of the competition was always the professional rodeo events, and I have to believe every student in attendance dreamed of the day they could return to the American Royal as an adult and compete against the best.
With that memory in mind, I wrote a story of two boys who fell in love and lived for the day they could join the rodeo circuit. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always play out the way we want it to.
'New Vocations' by T.A. Chase
Two men who believe in second chances meet and their lives are never the same again.
Layne Daly comes to participate in the American Royal. He’s there to show off the abilities of the retired thoroughbreds he adopts straight off the track. He wants people to know these animals can do so much more than race. He has three horses there to do exhibitions in reining, barrel racing and cutting. When his usual groom gets sick, he has to hire someone fast.
Carl Stewartson used to love coming to Kansas City for the rodeo. He’d ride broncs and hang out with his friends. But since his career-ending injury early in the year, Carl has been spinning his wheels, trying to find something to do with his life now that he can’t rodeo anymore. He runs into Layne and offers to help him with his horses.
Together, they have to deal with not only the stress of the event, but also starting a new relationship. Second chances are what Layne does best and he’s more than willing to give Carl the opportunity.
'Stallions and Ice' by Stephani Hecht
Sometimes you have to climb a mountain to see the future.
While Brandon loves to go and watch his friend, Nichole, at the American Royal every year, there is no way that he is ever going to climb on a horse. His feet belong on the ground or the ice. As one the of the players of the local minor league team, the Wichita Thunder, all he dreams about is someday moving up to the major leagues. That is, until he meets Nichole’s brother, Ethan.
Ethan grew up in a family that has always been in the rodeo circuit. There was no question that he was ever going to be anything else…until he’s sidelined by seizures and can no longer ride. Then he meets Brandon and he begins to wonder whether maybe, just maybe, his life isn’t over.
Will decades of tradition tear the men apart? Or can they can overcome all their obstacles and be together?
"If you are given a subject, don't fight it." by Stephani Hecht
When I was told the theme of this year's anthology I won't lie, I didn't know what in the heck I was going to write. I have never been to a rodeo, am severely allergic to horses and am more than a little afraid of the clowns. So, I was about to to the unthinkable and tap out on this one.
Then I remembered something that Gilbert said to Anne in the movie Anne of Green Gables. I don't know the exact words so I\'m paraphrasing here, but he told her, "You need to write what you know."
We all know that I know hockey inside out. So, I decided that I would throw a hockey player in the book and just like magic I had a terrific couple. One that I soon feel in love with.
So, this is my advice to all future authors out there. If you are given a subject, don't fight it. Instead, find a way to make it work for you. Everybody has a story, it's just our job to get it out of them.
'Playing with Fire' by Jambrea Jo Jones
Ranch cook against restaurateur—who does it better?
Hayden McGrath has the formal training and knowhow to run one of the best farm-to-table restaurants in the city. This year he wants to prove his worth by entering the barbecue competition at the American Royal. It has nothing to do with a certain cowboy from the Flying P…
Amos Vasquez has been the ranch cook at the Flying P Retreat since it was an actual ranch. Now it’s a place tourists flock to so they can have a taste of his food. This year he is going to win the barbecue competition and nothing will stand in his way, not even a certain sexy redheaded restaurant owner who has caught his eye.
This will be the barbecue competition to beat all competitions at the American Royal.
Barbecue Competitions by Jambrea Jo Jones
When I heard that our next anthology would take place in Kansas City and I found there was a barbecue competition called the American Royal, I knew what I was going to write about. One, I love food. Two, the Food Network is my favorite station. I watch as many cooking contest shows as I can. It was like the plot wrote itself as soon as the location was picked.
I had the concept of my story ready to go, but I had to figure out who my guys were. I wanted them to be against each other in the competition, but I didn’t know if it would be friendly or not. And really, the cook off was more of a back drop to the story of what was going on with Hayden and Amos.
The stories I write tend to focus more on the couple than a whole lot of background. At least, I like to think so. When I start a story, I have to have a title and names for my characters. The rest sort of flows and my characters ‘talk’ to me. I never really know what is going to happen. It makes for a fun and surprising story sometimes. Especially when I found out that Hayden and Amos knew each other.
For me, this story was fun to write. I always enjoy the Unconventional anthologies. I look forward to see what we’re going to write about each year and I love the other authors that have been in these anthologies with me.
'Resuscitating Love' by Devon Rhodes
If Hill keeps putting cowboys ahead of his marriage, even being a cardiologist won’t help David fix their broken hearts.
Hillard ‘Hill’ Pearson, the new events director of the American Royal, has worked hard to get to where he is. This is his first year as director, and the huge responsibility of the more visible position has taken over his life. Yes, he could be considered a workaholic, but he’s put fifteen years into the event he’s loved since he was a kid, and now is his chance to shine.
When David Weinstein finally convinced his long-time partner, Hill, to marry him, he thought it would bring them closer together. Instead, they’re not even to their first anniversary and their relationship is suffering. David’s finally at a stage in his medical career where he has regular hours, but he can’t seem to connect with his husband when he’s free. Now, with the event that he’s sick of hearing about underway, he feels like he’s making all the effort with no return.
Can Hill and David resuscitate their love before David gives up on the promise of forever?
Desk-riding Cowboys by Devon Rhodes
For many years now, we’ve collaborated on the Unconventional anthologies, and every year, I wait until at least a few of my co-authors come up with their story ideas before I come up with my characters. I’m always the last story as well, so I try to wrap things up overall. With this anthology, we didn’t do a continuous story, although some of our characters do make cameos. But I knew we’d have plenty of cowboys. So I decided to have my cowboy ride a desk instead of a horse, as the director of the American Royal—the big event we built the anthology around.
Hill grew up around horses, but just didn’t have the desire to compete on the rodeo circuit, even though he loves that world. Instead, he worked hard to get to the point where he’s the one running the show. His husband David, on the other hand, has finally reached the point in his career as a physician where he has regular hours and can have a life, just when Hill has no time for one. David’s not happy about having to sit back and wait for crumbs of attention, but he knows how important Hill’s career is to him. At some point, though, Hill is going to need to open his eyes and realize that the dream he’s chasing isn’t nearly as sweet as the reality he’s letting slip away.