As I gear up for release of my next cowboy book, UNRIDDEN, on May 26th, I can’t help remininscing. Below is a blog I posted on the Linden Bay MySpace back in December when Rough Stock was released. The Work in Progress I talk about is UNRIDDEN, back when it was in it’s infancy.
Research…every writer has to do it occasionally, some more often than others depending on the genre being written. I know I have to do quite a bit for my military romances or risk committing factual faux pas which will cost me the respect of readers. There is research where you get a book or find a website to get your facts, and that is important and helpful, but it’s not enough. It’s not enough to immerse both the writer, and consequently the reader, in the world of the characters in the story. It is not just laziness that has me, more often than not, seeking information and factual details from my “muses” rather than another resource.
Picture this… I am on the phone with one of my military consultants when I hear a bugle being played in the background. After spending all of his adult life on a military base, he doesn’t even hear it anymore, but of course I am so excited I can barely contain myself. “Oh my god! Is that Taps?” Yes, it was. Twenty-two hundred hours, lights out. Hearing that immersed me in the world in which I was writing, and I wrote the playing of Taps for lights out into the award-winning A Few Good Men.
Another time I was on IM and a consultant typed to me, “Gotta go. Inbound vehicle born IED. We need to get to the bunker.” That elicited an “OMG!” on my part once again, and after I’d heard from him and found out all was well, I wrote the event into Crossing the Line. The sights, sounds, emotions in the opening scene of Model Soldier are from a description of an actual training one of my military muses emailed to me.
You can see the value of personal contact in research, so it was no surprise that when I tried to write my rodeo book, Rough Stock, using only the internet and television as research I couldn’t do it. And so along came amateur bull-rider and part-time horse trainer/full-time college student Mike Short…
I did a People Search on MySpace for Rodeo Cowboys and there he was. I messaged him out of the blue, explaining my dilemma, begging for help while praying he wouldn’t delete a message from a stranger without reading it. But he didn’t. Mike took pity on this desperate author, though he may regret it one day.
Mike and I collaborated on Rough Stock, and now, he has been invaluable as I write my work in progress about two professional cowboys and a romance writer who asks them to help her with her research. (sound familiar?)
My consultants know, because I warn them upfront, that anything they say can and will be used in my books! Whole conversations between us can end up as character dialogue. (IE the “Shit Pit” scene in A Prince Among Men was pretty much a conversation I had on IM with my soldier consultant deployed in Afghanistan) Luckily, my consultants don’t mind. Look for the conversation between bronc rider Clay and his fellow rider Mike in Rough Stock. The dialogue is paraphrased from an email Mike sent me. As is Clay’s observations on Mason’s riding style, which is taken from when I questioned Mike about the differences between Saddle Bronc, Bareback Bronc and Bull Riding. One night on IM, Mike described to me his first time on a bull so beautifully with so much emotion, I saved it, knowing I will use it, word for word, in my WIP when the hero describes his experience to the heroine.
It’s things like the above that I credit with every good review, and every sale. The quality of my books, my writing, and my stories are only as good as the foundations they are built on, and they are built upon the backs of the people who inspired them. To them, I will always be eternally grateful.
So there you go, the answer to the question posed in the title… How does a New York romance author do rodeo research? You get yourself a cowboy. (And it doesn’t hurt if he is incredibly sweet and damn cute, too!)