Stephanie Berget – Romance Beneath a Rodeo Moon.

Stephanie Berget was born loving horses, developing a lifelong love of rodeo when she married her Bronc Rider. They traveled to rodeos throughout the Northwest while she ran barrels and her cowboy rode bucking horses.

Welcome to the blog Stephanie. And Happy Birthday! Tell us about your latest published book.

Thanks Judy. The book is called Gimme Some Sugar, the first in my Sugar-coated Cowboy series. It is set in the ranching country of central Oregon.

Sounds tasty. Coincidentally, that’s the book I’ll be giving away this week. What’s it about?

Pastry chef Cary Crockett is on the run. Pursued by a loan shark bent on retrieving gambling debts owed him by her deadbeat GimmeSomeSugar_200ex-boyfriend, she finds the perfect hiding place at the remote Circle W Ranch. More at home with city life, cupcakes and croissants than beef, beans and bacon, she has to convince ranch owner Micah West she’s up to the job of feeding his hired hands. The overwhelming attraction she feels toward him was nowhere in the job description.

Micah West has a big problem. The camp-cook on his central Oregon ranch has up and quit without notice, and his crew of hungry cowboys is about to mutiny. He agrees to hire Cary on a temporary basis, just until he finds the right man to fill the job. Maintaining a hands-off policy toward his sexy new cook becomes tougher than managing a herd of disgruntled wranglers.

I had so much fun writing this book. Micah West’s daughter, Willa Wild West, kept me laughing the whole time.

How much has your own life influenced your writing?

I started writing to bring a more realistic view of our western life style to the Romance genre. Some of the information on rodeo and horses in romances was so wrong and I try to fix that in my stories. Also, I married my own rodeo hero and most of my friends either rodeo or ranch. I try not to base my characters specifically on acquaintances and friends, but bits of all of them show up from time to time.

How did you find your most recent hero and heroine?

Out of the blue, Pansy Lark appeared as a secondary character when I was writing Gimme Some Sugar. When I got ready to write the sequel, Sweet Cowboy Kisses, she demanded to be the star. I wanted the hero to be a professional bull rider, and Pansy told me she had history with bull rider Kade Vaughn. Sometimes I have to work hard to come up with the characters peopling my books, but for this one, Pansy led the way. Sweet Cowboy Kisses will be out in August.

You sound busy. What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

I raise a salsa garden every year, tomatoes, peppers, and onions along with zucchini and green beans. Reworking old furniture is another thing I love to do, adding cowhide and rope to make it western. My biggest passion is training barrel racing horses and competing at rodeos. I haven’t found anything that matches the thrill of racing a horse I’ve trained at full speed.

Can we expect more books in your current series?

Yes, the third book in the Sugar-coated Cowboy series will be Byron Garrett’s story. He’s one of the cowhands on the Circle W Ranch. As a man who’s totally happy working for rancher Micah West, he’s not sure what to do when he finds out he’s not only inherited a wagon load of money, but a little girl, too.

You’re going to start your next project. What’s first?

The next book in line is the sequel to Radio Rose. The title is Love and Other Useless Things and is the story of Stevie, the blue haired twin. Her hero is saddle bronc rider, Will Bogarts, who after years of competing, just qualified for the National Finals Rodeo for the first time. He’s living the dream—at least until Stevie tries to help him out.

What do you read? Do you read different genres when you’re writing vs not writing?

I’m up for a wide range of genres, but contemporary romance is my favorite. I like mysteries, time travel, YA and anything really that is well written. Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips are my all time favorite authors and I reread them often. I’m on a humorous paranormal binge right now, inhaling Molly Harper, RL Naquin, Charlaine Harris and Darynda Jones. I’m also a big audio book fan and I’ll listen to anything read by Amanda Ronconi.

Judy here: You can follow Stephanie on Facebook, Twitter @stephanieberget or Pinterest at Stephanie Berget. And be sure to check out all of her books on her Amazon Author Page.

Come back next Monday to find out who the contest winner is, and catch up with Tamra Baumann, next week’s guest author.

Here’s an excerpt from Radio Rose:

Cover Radio RoseThe little red car was all she could afford. Though it got her where she needed to go, it could be finicky. She rubbed her hands together, the friction warming the key in her palm. As she patted the dash, she pumped the gas pedal three times. Holding her breath, she placed the key into the ignition and . . . nothing.

“Come on Miss Cool.” Stroking the steering wheel softly, Rose pumped the gas pedal once more. When she turned the key again, the engine ground a few times then stopped. She took the key out and reinserted it, stroked the dash with her fingertips and pumped the gas pedal one more time.

“I promise you nothing but super premium for the rest of the month if you’ll just start tonight.” As she turned the key, the engine caught, and when she pumped the pedal several times, the little engine roared.

“I wouldn’t trade you for a Ferrari,” she said, her good mood coaxing her frozen lips to curl into a smile.

The statement was an out-and-out lie, but she was talking to a car so what possible difference could it make? The last thing she wanted was to be stuck in the parking lot bribing a stubborn red scrap of metal. 

Of course, if the heap hadn’t started, Rose could have gone back inside and spent the time calling Irwin on the office line to get advice on her own love life, which was nonexistent. But since Miss Cool had decided to cooperate, her love life could remain imaginary, at least for tonight.

With no snow or ice on the road, Rose was driving on autopilot. She’d taken this route so many times the last few years she could drive it in her sleep.

The quarter moon threw out just enough light to outline the stately lodgepole pines that stood sentinel along the edge of the rural highway. Since hers was the only car around at two in the morning, she let her mind wander to the subject of next Monday’s show, Aliens Hidden Amongst Us. She was right on top of it before she noticed the big black thing planted in the middle of the road.

 “Ohhhhh, shit!” She jammed her foot on the brakes, and jerked the wheel to the left. Panic sped through her veins on ice skates as she lost control. The car slid toward the barrow pit, teetered back and forth for a split second then dropped over the edge.

Flickers of pain traveled from her neck to her brain and back as momentum pushed her up so hard her head slammed into the roof. The flickers melded into an explosion as she collapsed, her forehead bouncing off the steering wheel. The hot burn of tears stung her nose, filled her eyes then flowed down her cheeks.

She really had to start wearing her seatbelt.

Though her mind was still spinning like a helicopter rotor, the feeling of flight had ended. The car had come to a stop.

Holding her head between her hands, she took several deep breaths, groaned and tried to figure out what had happened. One minute she’d been driving along minding her own business. The next she was flying through the air like a drunken duck.

The thought of the black thing in the road caused her heart to bounce off her stomach and lodge in her throat. Some of her callers described their alien abductors as floating, just like the thing she’d seen in the road.

Buzzing rang through her head like a cheap alarm clock, and she squeezed her eyes shut in a feeble attempt to drown out the sound. She pressed her fingers into her eyes, took deep breaths and waited until the pain receded to just-below-migraine level.

Concentrating on the ignition, she managed to turn the key, but of course, Miss Cool wouldn’t start.

A tap at the side window caused her to jump. As she slowly turned her head, all she could see were two dark, shadowy blobs, floating. Floating? Sharp, prickly spots of fear wormed their way down her back as she tried to crawl from beneath the steering wheel.

The door was wrenched open, and whatever was out there drifted inside.

Through the fog that inhabited her brain, she heard words. “Easy there. I’ve got you.” She turned toward the voice, leaning away at the same time, but could only see a shadowy splotch.

She was trying to make sense of what was happening when the dome light flickered, dimmed then went out. At the same time, she felt something take hold of her hand and pull her toward the open door.

“Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God,” Rose cried out as she jerked back. Breaking free, she crab-walked her butt back across the seat until she bumped into the passenger door. With her left hand, she fumbled for the door handle, with her right she felt for the ridiculous helmet she never thought she’d need.

 She hadn’t believed in aliens, but then she’d never come across one before. Reality had a way of dispensing with untested doubts. Something was reaching into her car, grabbing hold of her hands. Then it hit her, and her skin turned to ice. Tentacles! With suckers!

Terrified, but determined to do everything in her power to survive, she tried to pull a sufficient amount of air into her lungs. She only succeeded in catching one single breath.

Rose swept her hand along the floor of the car, her fingers coming into contact with the rough edge of a nylon strap. Bursts of panic pulsed beneath her skin when she realized the helmet was wedged beneath the seat. Tears fell one by one from her chin.

Wrapping the strap around her hand, she jerked frantically. With one superhuman tug, it came free. Swinging the mind-protector up to her head, she fought through the fear, settling it into place. With her thumb, she flipped a switch on the side, and the bright colors lit up the interior of the car like a carnival carousel.

As she caught her reflection in the windshield, the hope she’d been holding on to disappeared. She looked like a porcupine decorated in Christmas lights, more ridiculous than frightening. She wasn’t going to scare the alien. Hell, she wouldn’t scare a girl scout.

She’d laughed at the horrible stories of abductions from little-used stretches of country lanes and of the excruciating experiments that followed. They’d happened just like this. Aliens appeared in the middle of the road, and the drivers lost control of their cars.

Though most of the stories had the cars just losing power, not crashing.

With her Novocain numb hands, she couldn’t get the damn straps on the helmet to stay hooked. She had to try. One thing was for sure. She wouldn’t let any creepy aliens make her a statistic.

As she fumbled with the mind-screen’s buckles, the door opened behind her and Rose felt herself being lifted out of the car. She had to get away, to save herself. She had to escape.

Pushing with her arms, and flipping like a fish, she dropped free of the being’s grasp. Her mind said run, but her feet were on strike, and she collapsed like a well-worn rag doll. As she attempted to crawl away, a force lifted her off the ground.

Swinging her legs in desperation, one foot connected with something solid. She heard a string of angry sounds as she was pushed face first, against the car. She tried to kick again, but found her legs pinned against the metal. She punched something hard with her elbow and was twisted around to face her attacker.

The thing grabbed her upper arms and shook her. “Stop fighting me. I’m not going to hurt you.”

“That’s what they all say,” Rose shrieked, “just before they abduct you.”

“Stop it!” The tone and volume of the words penetrated the static in her head, and she quit struggling. This alien spoke perfect English in a deep voice with no sign of an accent.

She focused her eyes on the way his T-shirt stretched across his muscular chest then slid her gaze up until she came to his face. She was surprised to see a very good-looking man. No not a man, an alien in human form.

With dark blond hair, long black lashes surrounding his eyes and a delectably, kissable mouth, he was the personification of her make-believe boyfriend. She licked her lips and lifted one hand to touch his face before coming to her senses.

Boy, aliens had taken morphing to a whole new level. It would be easy to relax into his strong arms, but she needed to keep what senses she had left sharp.

“Are you hurt?” he asked.

Rose was still in shock and shook her head. Glass shards of pain sliced into her brain. She slammed her eyes shut and sucked in a breath.

The helmet slipped to the side, and he gently lifted it off her head. Pressing it into her hands, he waited for her to open her eyes.

She peeked at her helmet and saw half the lights had burned out. “Damn, piece of shit helmet. This piece of crap is guaranteed for ten years. How am I going to make good on the guarantee if I’m abducted? Answer me that.”

“Are you dizzy?” he asked. “Can you walk?”

As she lifted her gaze to his eyes, firefly sparkles flashed across her vision. She’d forgotten he was there. She tossed the helmet to the ground. I must be out of my mind. Abducted by aliens, and I’m worrying about that piece of junk.

As she tried to answer, the words froze into little clumps of ice and melted back down her throat.

“How many fingers do you see?” he asked, holding up one hand.

“Hold them still so I can count.”

“How many?” he asked again, impatience riding on each word.

It seemed a stupid question for an alien to ask, but now was not the time to question these guys on their mathematical skills. Focusing her eyes, she counted the fingers slowly, twice then told the truth. “Seven.”

“You need to sit down while I try to get us out of here.” He carried her to a vehicle, opened the door and placed her on the seat.

“Don’t take me with you. Please. I’m not a normal human. I wouldn’t make a good specimen,” Rose pleaded as she stuffed her trembling hands between her knees to hide the shaking. “Really, I’ll skew your results.”

She focused her vision and concentrated on his features. Nothing was making sense. He looked like a human, a darn nice one, but her callers had told her aliens could change form at will.

He placed her helmet in her lap. Only a light, here and there, was blinking now. Forty-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents down the drain when she didn’t have money to spare. But if she disappeared into outer space to be experimented on, money would be the least of her worries.

She didn’t have the energy to fight him when he lifted her legs, put them in the spaceship and dug around until he found the straps to tie her down. He reached across her, belted her in and shut the door. Now she was trapped. Running her fingers over the door, she tried to find the handle. Before she could make her move, she felt the spaceship lifting off.

She’d listened countless times as her callers talked about their experiences with this exact thing. In her mind, she’d discounted them as being delusional.

Now she remembered what Louise, a regular caller, had said. “They put me in a huge, bright capsule. The takeoff was smooth as glass, and silent as a forest after a snowstorm.”

Her spaceship jerked. With each move, her head spun and noise burrowed into her skull with all the finesse of a jackhammer. There was no beautiful machine here, just a piece of junk, kind of like her Geo.

Just her luck she’d get this puny, puddle jumper of a spaceship. They probably didn’t even serve inter-flight drinks, and she could use a shot of bourbon. As the vehicle jerked again, she grabbed the edge of the seat. Make that two.

Many nights on her show, she’d pretended to believe the people who called in when they’d described this very thing. Some said their ship lifted straight up and some said it flew away, skimming the treetops.

As these thoughts raced through her mind, the spaceship rocked back and forth several times then bounced off the earth.

She didn’t want to leave the earth. Heck, she didn’t want to leave Tullyville, Colorado or KTLY. Who would talk to her callers about aliens if she were abducted? Who would reassure them?

The only thing she could think to do now was pray, fighting aliens with God’s help. Some of her callers insisted it was the way to go. She hadn’t been inside a church since her dad’s funeral, but at this point she needed all the help she could get.

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