Hey Chris! Thanks so much for letting me visit. But this is Ben, not Jon. I’m taking over the blog hop from Jon. He let me do the first interview and I had so much fun that I told him I handle it. He said that would be fine with him. I told him I’d stay on top of things and tell his readers about some stuff me that Jon might not know. He thought that sounded like a plan.
In Showstring Jayden told Jon the story of how the two of us met, well his version of it. It’s coming out as part of the Rode Hard anthology from Torquere Press. It’s kinda different since we met at the state fair. But it’s still a cool story. Jayden is a city kid with a big heart but a lot to learn about life.
I’m craving some good steaks from home today, so I thought I’d tell you about our cattle. What we mostly sell is grass-fed beef. Now, most people are probably saying “Well aren't all of them fed grass?” Well, yes and no. See there are people who keep the momma cows, and sell calves. Then the calves are grown out and eventually they’re sold to a feedlot where they live in pens and are fed lots of grain and stuff. But grass-fed means they never left the growing and living on grass stage. It’s not got as much fat, and I think it’s better for the cattle. But that’s a whole other fish to fry.
But there’s a catch. It can be dry and tough if you’re not careful. That’s why we have Angus. They do a good job of putting enough fat in the steaks so they’re still nice and tender. But then, I like them with a little butter melting on them while they grill over mesquite. Man, does that ever taste good. Nice grill marks and just salt, pepper and a few chunks of butter. Grass-fed beef is really deep red too. It’s all the iron they get from the grass and stuff they eat.
So there is a little lesson in raising and cooking fine steaks. If you need help eating them, just let me know!
~ Ben ~
Jayden Laine has spent his life in the city, dreaming of cowboys and cattle ranches. He looks forward to each fall when his life is exchanged for his dreams when the state fair opens.
This year when he steps into the barns he’s greeted by the sights he’s come to see, and one additional sight of Ben Ramos fighting to move a two-thousand pound bull that’s decided he doesn’t want to move. What happens next starts a juggernaut of emotions in Jayden that turn his world upside down. Now all he has to do is reevaluate his entire life and decide who to believe. And he has only a few days to do it.
Stepping into the barns from the bright sunshine, I paused for a moment to let my eyes adjust. The earthy scent of cattle merged with the sweet odor of hay and the sharp bite of pine shavings to play across my senses while I waited. I lost myself in this world each fall during the state fair. It always took a little sneaking around so my father didn’t know how I was spending my time. If he figured out my desire for cowboys hadn’t changed, he’d send me off for treatment again, or worse. But this was my time to dream I was normal, to pretend I didn’t know I was damaged.
Locking my guilt away, I moved down the aisle, determined to allow myself a few moments of peace. The neat rows of cattle lying contentedly on immaculately groomed beds of wood chips revived the world I lost myself in each time I could. While forming an important part of my fantasy life, the cattle intimidated me. They were huge, but I still dreamed of working with them.
“Sorry, excuse me.”
Startled I glanced up to find myself in the way of a guy who looked only a few years older than me, leading a massive black animal. Scrambling out of the, the heat of my clumsy embarrassment burned across my face. “Sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.”
The tanned cowboy gave me a bright smile. “If it wasn’t for old fat ass Norman here, it wouldn’t be a problem. But he doesn’t like to be led. So taking him out is a chore.”
He planted his worn boots against the walkway and heaved at the lead rope. The animal took one slow step and stopped again. Exasperation filled the guy’s face. “Holy crap! I’d so make you into hamburger if you weren’t the best bull we’ve had in a while.”
Jon Keys’ earliest memories revolve around books; with the first ones he can recall reading himself being “The Warlord of Mars” and anything with Tarzan. (The local library wasn’t particularly up to date.) But as puberty set in he started sneaking his mother’s romance magazines and added the world of romance and erotica to his mix of science fiction, fantasy, and comic books.
A voracious reader for almost half a century, Jon has only recently begun creating his own flights of fiction for the entertainment of others. Born in the Southwest and now living in the Midwest, Jon has worked as a ranch hand, teacher, computer tech, roughneck, designer, retail clerk, welder, artist, and, yes, pool boy; with interests ranging from kayaking and hunting to painting and cooking, he draws from a wide range of life experiences to create written works that draw the reader in and wrap them in a good story.