How Rodeo are You? by Celeste Castro

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[Note from Frolic: We’re so excited to welcome author Celeste Castro to the site today. She has an important question: How Rodeo are You?]

When I was a little kid my dad took me to my first rodeo. The Caldwell Night Rodeo in Caldwell Idaho in my hometown. I remember the cowboys with huge belt buckles riding massive bulls and getting tossed around like rag dolls. I was fascinated by the bullfighters who performed breathtaking acrobatics designed to distract wild animals and protect riders. I loved the beautiful horses and the smell of leather saddles and dirt from the arena that mixed with the warm summer air. My most vivid memory was when I witnessed the tour de force that are rodeo queens. Barrel racing contestants with huge, perfect hair and wearing color-coordinated outfits trimmed in shimmering golds and silvers glittering underneath the stadium lights while doing their victory laps around the arena, waving at fans, and smiling at me as they galloped past. 

These memories inspired Prize Money, an own voices, small-town rodeo romance about a champion barrel racer, and rodeo queen, Eva Angeles who strikes up a friendship with Toma Rozene, a former Hollywood stuntwoman turned bullfighter–the first and only female bullfighter in the entire state, who meet at the rodeo. 

Both of these women are at the pinnacle of their professional careers. Eva is a two-time barrel racing world champion on her way to her third title. Her rise to the top has involved more than hard work alone, though she isn’t a stranger to putting in a long day. In addition to training, which involves a grueling season on the road and running upwards of fifty races, she’s a farm girl and she also pulls shifts at her family’s restaurant. She gives back, too. She volunteers in her community and organizes charitable fundraisers benefiting fellow contestants. She also offers free lessons to up-and-coming barrel racers. Eva’s dream is to one day retire and live on the range where she spends the free time that she does have, caring for wild mustang. Eva knows what she wants and does everything in her power to make it happen. Eva recognizes her privilege and relies on her supportive family, especially her Abuela to inspire her when she needs an extra push. Eva does a wonderful job managing all her obligations until a certain tall, dark, hunk of a woman gets into her head and throws her a sword when she’s juggling tennis balls.

Toma comes from a big family too and hails from a long line of professional bullfighters—the ones who rescue fallen cowboys and cowgirls at the rodeo. Rodeo is the family business. Rodeo is life and rodeo runs in their veins, though her’s, not so much. Toma’s mother died when Toma was a child and as the youngest of five brothers, she always felt like an outsider. She left home as a teenager in search of something more and made a name for herself in equestrian stunt work. When we meet Toma, she’s fresh off the set of a blockbuster film when a family emergency calls her home. She finds herself in the saddle at the rodeo once again. She doesn’t expect to fit in but eventually finds herself enjoying her family even though she’s riddled with guilt at being away for so long. Toma is used to a life behind the scenes and as the only female bullfighter in the state, she’s becoming an inspiration and not quite sure how to handle the newfound attention. She is grateful for her relationship with Eva. Their shared passions make for an easy friendship but, as their feelings deepen, they must decide if the divergent futures they seek will stand in the way of love. 

The story touches on many other themes, from reinvention and redemption to breaking down barriers that exist in the macho, male-dominated sport of rodeo. I wanted to address the lack of diversity and representation in the sport and help shatter the myth of the American rodeo by helping reclaim the narrative and pay tribute to the Hispanic influences on the history of the rodeo. I also wanted to tell a story where anyone can see themselves shining underneath the stadium lights and being the stars of their own stories.

To celebrate the release of Prize Money which is available on May 11, 2021, with Interlude Press, I created a quiz so that you can see if you have what it takes to be in the rodeo and find out which Prize Money character you’re most like!  

Quiz Art by the talented Mars Lauderbaugh.

About the Author:

Celeste Castro, she/her, is an American Mexican from small-town, rural Idaho, where most of her stories take place. She grew up with learning disabilities, though she always kept a journal. When she was a young adult, court-ordered volunteer work helped her find her way, and, in 2009, she graduated from Seattle University with a Master of Public Administration. She is a member of the Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) and a 2019 GCLS finalist for paranormal fiction. In addition to fiction, she is a staff writer for Hispanecdotes, an online magazine for Latinx writers, where she publishes essays and poetry.

Prize Money by Celeste Castro, out May 11!

Eva Angeles is a professional barrel racer headed for her third world title when a competition mishap throws her in the path of an on-the-loose bull. She is saved from impending disaster by a tall, dark, and handsome bullfighter—a woman.Toma Rozene is an equestrian stuntwoman fresh off the set of a blockbuster film when a family emergency calls her home to help run the family business: rescuing fallen rodeo riders before blustering bulls and bucking broncos trample their dreams.Eva and Toma’s shared passions and competitive spirits make friendship easy, but, as their feelings deepen, they must decide if the divergent futures they seek will stand in the way of love.

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