Thanks so much for inviting me over to Wild and Wicked Cowboys to celebrate the release of Lickety Split. The book came out yesterday and I’m seriously proud of my first cowboy romance. I grew up in Texas, and my family owns a ranch, but it’s taken me a long time to find a story set down there that needed me to tell it. Patch and Tucker just wouldn’t take no.
Today, I wanted to talk about that walk that cowboys have. You know the one I mean, the easy good ol’ boy saunter that owns any room and draws the eye.
Country singles sing about that walk like it’s all in the loose hips, the hang of the jeans or even the scuff of the boots. Movie westerns focus on the props: chaps and spurs, saddle and lasso, but that’s not really it either. The gait can be bowlegged or stiff, easy or eager, but it conveys a total physical confidence right through any clothes that happen to be in the way.
Personally, I think it comes from spending a couple thousand hours on the back of a big animal in all weather, learning to work together. Just logic and habit. After a while you learn to work with the horse rather than against it, your hips give in and the two of you move like one thing at any pace from trot to gallop. It’s a dance of sorts, between your butt and the saddle, but you’re always rolling against the horse’s rhythm. That translates into the best two-stepping, that glorious, glassy glide you get dancing with folks from Texas, Arkansas, and parts of Oklahoma. LOL After a couple decades on horseback, you walk different, sit different…hell, you even stand different because riding changes the way you use your body and where you put your weight.
Growing up in Texas I saw it all the time, but I only really analyzed it the first time I tried to fake it.
Back in my twenties I was onstage in London playing a hustler at a theatre in Covent Garden. Now, these Brits had no experience of cowboys, or even Americans really, outside of tourists and sitcoms. My costume was pretty understated, loose jeans, old harness boots, and a longsleeved undershirt. It was the boots that gave me the idea.
For my initial entrance, I literally ambled on stage and stood silent for about 3 minutes before talking. To be fair, the walk I gave this character was stolen wholesale from my family’s farrier, a cocky young sumbuck who’d been a field hand, foreman, and even a stint as a bullrider, before he decided he liked his spine sound and his brains unscrambled and started shoeing horses for local ranches. And lord was he sexy… hotter than Hell in pajamas. LOL A legit kicker. That walk told a whole story and I swiped it.
In rehearsal, I didn’t even question the impulse: I was playing a male prostitute from a grubby Nevada town about the size of a train crossing and a gas station… The character wasn’t flashy or slick at all, but he needed to have a certain amount of relaxed swagger…which is how the farrier’s walk came to mind. No way in hell could I ever spend as much time on a horse as he had, and for all the mechanical bulls I’ve bested, I will never in my life sit on the back of the real thing. But this guy had done all that, a LOT… and the way he moved across a space just pulled your eye to him. So I took what I could, pulled on my Luccheses, and prayed for grace. LOL
This character had so few lines, but he needed to matter for the story to land right. I knew I could steal the whole play if I could make him dominate the space the way he needed to. Weeks I spent trying to approximate what came so natural to our farrier. In rehearsal, one of the actresses teased me about it, “That fookin’ strut!” and she’d slap my ass and laugh because it worked exactly as I’d hoped. The director was thrilled. I was doing a ghost of an impression of course, and I probably only got it about 20% right. But once we opened, that cowboy walk got me rave reviews (and even an oddball award) because of the illusion of history it built into the play. And ever since, I paid close attention to the way that walk works.
Anytime I read a cowboy romance, I’m always hyperattuned to the way the characters move. It’s probably easier to do it than write it; being onstage or on-film is one thing, but fiction’s a funny thing to help people visualize. So much of a story happens in heads: yours, the critics’, the readers’… Doesn’t matter really. I can always tell when authors really know how to talk that walk and usually they’re folks who know it well, better than I ever will.
When I started outlining Lickety Split, I spent a lot of time, more time than is sensible probably, thinking about how Patch Hastle and Tucker Biggs walked through the book. Of course, the way they moved taught me how they danced, fought, and fooled around. It mapped out their environment and their journey. Before I knew it their walks had given me their personalities, their backstories, their pacing, and even the book’s title: Lickety Split. 😛
Bio: Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal. Though new to romance fiction, Damon has been writing for print, stage, and screen for two decades. He’s won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year. Get in touch with him at:
Lickety Split: love won’t wait.
Patch Hastle grew up in a hurry, ditching East Texas for NYC to make his name as a DJ and model without ever looking back. When his parents die unexpectedly, he heads home to unload the family farm ASAP and skedaddle. Except the will left Patch’s worst enemy in charge: his father’s handsome best friend who made his high school years hell.
Tucker Biggs is going nowhere. Twenty years past his rodeo days, he’s put down roots as the caretaker of the Hastle farm. He knows his buddy’s smartass son still hates his guts, but when Patch shows up growed-up, looking like sin in tight denim, Tucker turns his homecoming into a lesson about old dogs and new kinks.
Patch and Tucker fool around, but they can’t fool themselves. Once the farm’s sold, they mean to call it quits and head off to separate sunsets. With the clock ticking, the city slicker and his down-home hick get roped into each other’s life. If they’re gonna last longer than spit on a griddle, they better figure out what matters—fast.
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In this excerpt from Chapter One, Patch Hastle has just come back home to Texas from NYC for a reading of his parents’ will and discovered to his dismay that they’ve named Tucker Biggs, his mortal enemy and worst fantasy, executor of their estate.
The lawyer frowned. “Mr. Biggs had no idea you were en route today. I believe he planned to meet you home.” His home, she meant, because Tucker lived on the farm and Patch did not. What did she know? Everything. Hell, she’d written the will. She opened her mouth to say something, but Patch laughed again.
“Tucker Biggs can’t pay his water bill. He’s a….” Bigot. Fraud. Sleaze. Loser. Prick. Bully. He didn’t bother to shield his distaste. And they put him in charge. “Mess. Hell, he lives in a trailer he stole from an ex-girlfriend in Lake Charles. On our land.”
She blinked, no longer charmed. “Unfortunately, we’re not authorized to take any kind of action without the executor. Do you know if he’s willing to sell?”
Shrug. His mind raced. “What can you tell me?”
She sounded distraught. “I assumed you knew.”
Head shake. “My parents and I had a falling-out.”
“There’s insurance, but your daddy might be deemed at fault because of the signals. I can file the paperwork, if you….” She turned toward the door. “…want.”
Boots on gravel, a tread he knew better than he’d ever admit out loud. He hated his heart for beating faster, his skin for prickling. A dull roar in his ears as the door flapped open and all the oxygen escaped.
“Patch?” A low rumbling drawl he remembered too well.
Patch braced himself before he looked up.
Sure enough, Tucker filled the doorway in a chambray shirt and a straw work hat that he took off as he stepped inside, likely because the lawyer was a lady.
There he stood, larger than life, with the same square sandpaper chin and twinkle in his wink that got him a free piece of pie anywhere he ordered iced tea. “Well, hell, son! Look at you all growed up.” He wiped at his chiseled mouth.
Just the same.
Patch frowned. He couldn’t believe Tucker looked so good, even now. He had to be midforties but his body looked— “Hey, Mr. Biggs.” He straightened but didn’t trust himself to stand.
Tucker hesitated just inside the threshold, letting the last of the cool air escape before bringing the heat inside with him. He blinked, squinted, and turned slightly as he entered, as if his shoulders were too broad to fit through. “Tucker, huh? Boy, it’s good to have ya home.”
He rolled the brim of his hat and rocked on his worn boots. Tough. “I ain’t seen you since… man, look atcha! I wouldn’ta known you.” The greeting seemed almost real. Tucker grinned as if he were glad to see Patch. “Lord, I ain’t seen you in five years.”
The calluses scraped his smooth palm. “Seven.” He shook the rough hand, squeezing it hard to make the point.
Tucker didn’t react. “Whenever you took off. Right thing, you did there.” Without letting go, he pulled Patch to his feet for a thumping hug that pressed their bodies together. “You’re a big un, huh?” He smelled like sawdust, machine oil, and sunburned skin.
Patch stepped away and took his seat again. “I’m almost twenty-three.” And now you’re old, mofo. Put out to pasture, only he didn’t look so worn out.
“Smart kid.” He sat down and squeezed Patch’s leg. “Lord, it’s good to see you.”
Baffled and overwhelmed, Patch nodded in reply, his entire attention focused on the firm pressure. A wet swallow.
Before today, Tucker had been friendly to him exactly twice, both times drunk. Patch’s sophomore year, the big cowboy had shaken his hand when he made the football team. The next year, he’d smiled and thumped Patch on the back at the Orange County rodeo. Ten total seconds of humanity in twenty-two-plus years. “Uh, same.”
Were they supposed to pretend that they’d been buddies? His dad’s best friend had been frank about his dislike from the time Patch was four and spent twelve years treating him like something you scrape off your boots.
Tucker rubbed his chin with his ridiculously thick fingers, dropping his gaze. “Son, I’m sorry for your folks. They sure loved you.” Except, on his lips the word became shore and the bullshit sounded plausible. His charm greased the lie.
Patch grunted acknowledgment but kept his mouth shut. Today was not a day for truth about how narrow and spiteful his parents had been.
Now he’d never get to make peace, no matter how much he’d wrestled with his devils these seven years. Tucker and the lawyer probably took his silence for grief, not regret. Ballad of the Small-Town Queer.
By junior year, Patch had become an unwelcome boarder in his parents’ house, paying his rent with chores and humiliation. He could talk to his dad a little, but his mama was a sad ghost who prayed for nothing and knitted booties for other people’s grandkids.
For ten sorry seconds his freshman year, he’d tried to make friends, play sports, anything to keep him away from the farm.
Coach Biggs killed that hope in the cradle.
Even before high school, Tucker had avoided Patch.
Freshman year, Tucker alternated between ignoring and insulting him, harassing him in front of the team and teachers, smacking him around to toughen him up. No one had blinked. Friend of the family. Later, when they’d been nothing more to each other than benchwarmer and bigot, they hadn’t exchanged two polite words.
Ms. Landry took a seat behind her desk, facing the two of them, mistaking the silence for affection and proximity for a reunion.
“Well….” Tucker broke the tense silence. Obviously he planned to pretend the past hadn’t happened. “Good you’re home. We’ll take care of ya.”
Patch sighed and looked at the linoleum. Long fucking day. He looked at his watch. “Ms. Landry?”
The lawyer opened a file and riffled through the pages. “Mr. Biggs?”
“Yes, ma’am. I’m sorry for the hour. I got the messages. Phone works fine, I just gotta be there to answer. We had a situation with a well.” The word came out sitch-ation and Tucker capped it with that crooked smile that turned panties into pussy willows.
She looked back, pink and fidgety. Great. Now she, like everyone else in this shithole county, thought Tucker was wonderful.
Excerpted from Lickety Split by Damon Suede
published by Dreamspinner Press
Copyright 2016. Damon Suede. All Rights Reserved
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