Today is the day! April 1st is the official release date for Cowboy Fever.
I love all my books. Saying one is better than the other is like picking a favorite child -- you just can't do it. Each one has its unique traits and holds a special place in your heart. But I have to admit that Cowboy Fever is that special, overachieving child who's especially easy to love.
For one thing, Teague Treadwell is my sexiest hero yet. He's determined to be a better man than his alcoholic father, but his tendency to solve his problems with his fists made him the town bad boy. He's done his best to step out of the shadow of his bad reputation and make himself worthy of the town's golden girl, but small town labels tend to stick.
And then there's Jodi Brand, the quintessential cowgirl. A former rodeo queen, she's trying to reinvent herself too - but while Teague is trying to polish his image, she's doing her best to dull hers down. All she wants is to be herself, but when she needs to raise funds for her therapy riding program, she discovers she'll have better luck if she lives up to her hometown's high expectations and brings back her old sparkle.
That riding program is the third reason I love this book. A few years ago, a friend asked me to help at her daughter's riding session at Cheyenne Therapeutic Riding Center (CTEC). Her daughter has autism, and they needed someone to walk alongside the horse and keep her safe.
I've seen that little girl smile, but I've never seen her light up like she did when she sat in that saddle. Horseback riding is a genuine miracle for kids with autism. Their world is a confusing, overwhelming place, and horses carry them up and away from their bewildering reality.
Language and communication are often a mystery to people with autism, and social cues are learned rather than instinctive. But the signals that communicate with horses are much less complex than the ones we use in human relationships. A gentle tap of the heels, a softly spoken "walk on," or a tug on the reins is all it takes to make CTEC's calm, obedient horses perform.
It's also difficult for kids with autism to focus. Often their sensory systems have no filter; the whistle of a distant train demands as much of their attention as a person speaking to them, and light and motion can be overwhelming. Something about riding seems to lift them above the confusion. Maybe it's the excitement of being on board such a large animal, or maybe it's simply the view from above, but it makes a tremendous difference in their ability to learn.
It's also easy for the kids to bond with horses. The world of a child with autism is often a frightening place, and horses know about fear. They're flight animals, programmed to run at any perceived threat. Temple Grandin, a respected professor of animal science who overcame the challenges of autism, feels that this is the key to the magic that happens between kids and horses.
When I first heard about CTEC, I thought riding was a recreational activity for the kids, but it's much, much more. When you see a child who rarely expresses affection nuzzle a horse and whisper in its ear, or see a normally fearful child take the reins with confidence, you realize that this is something special. The two kids pictured in this post are students in our program, and say more than I ever could about the importance of this program.
That's why the celebration of the release of Cowboy Fever will include a Barnes & Noble book fair to benefit CTEC. And even if you don't live in Cheyenne, you can help! A portion of your online Barnes & Noble purchase will go to CTEC if you enter the code 10442713 at checkout.
It's a great time to stock up on those Sourcebooks releases you've been meaning to buy! Here's a shopping list to get you started -- all in keeping with our cowboy theme:
Happy shopping - and don't forget to enter the code!
Do you have a volunteer program that's enriched your life? Tell us about it in the comments!
A Special Announcement:
I really wanted this post to be about the kids and the riding program--but I have to mention my exciting news. Last week I found out that my second book, One Fine Cowboy, was nominated for Romance Writers of America's RITA award for Best Single Title Contemporary Romance. This puts me on a list with Nora Roberts, Rachel Gibson, Susan Donovan, and several of my other favorite writers, so I'm absolutely thrilled by the honor, and so grateful to the judges and RWA leaders who make the RITA happen!