Thursday, March 3, 2016

I'm a Little Bit Country by Karen Rock

I'm a Little Bit Country by Karen Rock
When I proposed the story that became my March release, HIS KIND OF COWGIRL, I was excited to set my novel in Texas (where I've only visited once for an RWA conference), on a prize bull ranch (my uncle's a dairy farmer- so how much different could it be?) with a bull-riding hero (I've ridden horses so- it's all good...).

Then I began to research and thought- uh-oh- what have I done?! I'd only stepped foot out of the conference center for a lunch in downtown San Antonio. Cattle ranching and Dairy farming... they aren't even in the same food group. As for horse riding and bull-riding being related... well... my riding experience is limited to older, gentle horses and the closest I've ever been to a bull is at the 4H exhibit at the county fair. Yikes.

What was I in for? I'm a stickler for getting even the tiniest details right. One reference to roadside wildflowers means loads of investigation to make sure the particular species is native to my setting and blooming during the particular time period in which the book takes place. So... you can feel my fast approaching pain when the reality of all that I'd need to learn finally hit. 

Mr-V8-51-6Luckily, I have an awesome friend from Texas, Elizabeth Robertson, who talked me off the ledge and even volunteered to beta read my book! She ensured that my characters sounded and behaved like Texans and my small town details were on point. I also worked with Rach Cutrer, co-owner of the generations-old V8 ranch in Wharton, Texas. Through phone conversations and email exchanges, she answered my questions about the daily life of a rancher, showing prize bulls at the Houston Livestock show (where one of my favorite scenes is set) and the breed in the book that she also raises: Brahman. The first thing she taught me: Brahman is not spelled Braman. lol. 

Finally, Sheri Smith, an agent that represents Mike Lee, a PBR national bull-riding champion, took me under her wing and helped me understand the profession and the fearless men who ultimately helped me to create Tanner Hayes, my hero. When I needed to write a bull-riding scene, she put me in contact with Brandon Bates, a former bull-rider turned PBR Elite Tour announcer. I learned the step-by-step, blow-by-blow of bull-riding from the moment the athlete enters the chute with the bull to their quick hustle up and over the fence when they're bucked off (or "dismount").

Knowledge is a powerful thing. For authors it informs our story-telling and enables us to immerse our readers in an authentic world. They can trust us to take them on a journey that's honest and real, an experience I always want readers to get from my books. In turn, I feel as though I become a part of that world, too after living and breathing those characters and that place for hundreds of pages and months of time. 

The best thing about reading and writing is the chance to travel to other places and times without ever leaving your seat. After this experience, I've become an 'explorer with a keyboard'. This northern gal now considers herself a little bit country... bless her heart ;)

Warriors And Rodeo
On a side note, I wanted to give a shout out to Sheri Smith's wonderful charitable organization: Warriors and Rodeo. WAR provides rodeo gear, via donations and sponsorship to military, EMS, firefighters, law enforcement and other professionals that protect and serve our country who are interested in the rodeo/western lifestyle. Whether it be vests, helmets, chaps, boots, spurs, hats, ropes, clothing or other items, WAR gives back to those who are willing to give it all. I'm proud to have become a sponsor and hope you'll check out this very worthy cause HERE .  Thanks!  

40 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new release Karen. As I was reading your post I wondered how long it actually took you to write it since you had to do so much research for it. That was a brave undertaking. Authors are my heroes. Your book sounds great.

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    1. Thanks, Laurie! The research for this book was longer than most but I loved learning about this world and Sheri and Elizabeth made it lots of fun!

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  2. It was such a pleasure to share with you some of the "heart" side of the bull riding/rodeo world. So often we only see the tough exterior of those cowboys, but inside they all have a heart as big as Texas.

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    1. Sheri!! You just said it all :) You absolutely helped me to understand the heart of these amazing cowboy athletes and to create a hero, I have to admit, I fell a little in love with myself... Thank you for everything you did to make this book real, and honest and have a lot of heart!

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  3. I applaud you for your research to make things as accurate as possible - there have been many times in the past that after reading a book with many mistakes that I vowed to NEVER read that authors books again!!

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    1. I'm with you on that, Teresa! The moment something is off, factually, in a book, it takes me out of the story... so I maybe take a little too much time obsessing over the small things- but I always feel better to get everything right than have a reader scratch her head and say, "That's not true..." Right now I'm setting a book in Colorado on a dude ranch and have had a lot of fun getting to know that area and that world, too :)

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  4. Great post, Karen. You sound like me. I jump off the ledge with an idea and while I'm plunging down, I try to get all the details in order! I find research fun and rewarding and I see that you do, too. Can't wait to read this book.
    Cynthia

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    1. So true, Cynthia! It's pitch before I think... lol. But that's good in a way because then we don't let the amount we need to learn stop us from writing books in lots of different settings with different types of people. Sounds like we are a lot alike in that :)

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  5. Wow - you put me to shame with your researching! Very cool that you were able to find all of those sources of material. I love it. Congrats on your new release. Can't wait to read it.

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    1. Thanks so much, Amy! I was very lucky to have met such generous people who cared about me getting it right as much as I did :)

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    1. I always think that about you, Roz!!!

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  7. You are amazing! Congratulations on your new release.

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    1. Thank you, Liz! I'm so glad for this to come out at last :)

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  8. Thank you, Karen! I love Tanner and Claire's story, and I'm so glad others finally get to read it.

    You're the best! :-)

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    1. You're the best! Tanner and Claire's story couldn't have happened without you. Thanks for being such an amazing friend who is willing to beta read the a draft so rough it probably nearly blinded you- haha- and trade "Bless your heart" jokes with me to make me laugh whenever I got stuck <3

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  9. Great research. That's quite a bull in the picture. I'd hate to be trying to stick to his back for long. I've never attended the Houston Livestock Show, but my brother used to work on it as a volunteer, and it sounds like a huge undertaking.

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    2. Thanks, Beth! The Houston Livestock Show is amazing. Some of the biggest names in country music perform there every year, plus they have rides, attractions, food... not to mention the amazing cattle to look at and watch as they compete. I'm dying to go to it after researching this!

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  10. And I'll bet your house is spotless, Karen. :) Way to ROCK the meticulous research! I can't wait to read it.

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    1. LOL- my house is so not spotless, Jill! Maybe I should apply that research ethic to vacuuming a little more ;)

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  11. <3 I love this! I also do a ton of research into little details for my books. 95% of the information doesn't make it to the final pages, but just knowing all of the background details adds so much depth to the story, making everything feel more "real." <3

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    1. That is real deal research, Veronica!! I'm so glad you mentioned all of the things we learn that end of not using after all... so true. And I agree, just knowing those facts, even if I don't end up using them, helps me to feel more confident in that world. Thanks so much for commenting :)

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  12. Readers usually have no idea how much time goes into getting the information right! Love that you have so many willing to help. Great post.

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    1. Thanks, Patricia :) I was very lucky to have found Sheri, Rach and to count Elizabeth as my friend. They each had an area of expertise and together made the book possible.

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  13. Karen, I can't wait to read your book! Sounds fabulous. I would love to go to the PBR finals in Las Vegas some year. That's on the bucket list. Congratulations.

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    1. Thanks, Leigh! And that's on my bucket list, too- we need to plan a trip together :)

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  14. Now I am looking forward to reading this book even more! Since I had a book set in Texas, too, and I have a good friend who lives near Austin and helped me with some of the nuances, here's a test for you: When do you use "y'all" versus "all y'all?!" :-)

    Congratulations and best wishes with your latest release!

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    1. Thank goodness for our awesome friends!! I didn't use all y'all, but I'm thinking that it encompasses everyone- all... Am I close- lol

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  15. Karen - congratulations on what sounds like a tremendous feat! I've always thought one of the best things about writing is all the writer gets to learn in the process - about the subject, about the wonderful and fascinating people working in the field, and about the kindness and generosity of everyone willing to extend themselves to help you get it right. And then you get to share all that with the reader. What a trip!

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    1. You said it so perfectly, Muriel :) It's hands down one of my very favorite parts of the novel writing process... once it's done. Before that, I'm always thinking, "Why did you think you knew anything about being a female king crab fishing boat captain... or something like that (And that's actually a heroine is an upcoming book... haven't delved into researching that , yet... lol)

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  16. Ok, all y'all. Since I lived in Houston for over 30 years and was hugely involved with the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show for decades, I can't wait to read your book, Karen. No pressure! LOL. I also applaud you for researching the way you do. For me, it's the best part and I get "hooked" on something and spend days "playing" with a whole lot of information I wind up never using.
    When I wrote my first novel, my mentor at the time said, "Being a writer is easy. All you have to know is...EVERYTHING." I've never forgotten that. It is so absolutely true!!
    Smashing cover. Can't wait to start reading. Congratulations all the way around, my dear.

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    1. Haha! No pressure... sure, Catherine... :) Your friend's quote is the best. It's true. If we get something right it's expected and if we're wrong- Sha-Zam- called out for it. But we should have that level of responsibility and desire to get it right to make sure that the reader is a part of that world and never has a moment to question their decision to come along on our journey.

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    2. So aptly put! That responsibility is why I love this writing world. Back to my research on tedders. Ha!

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    3. Nice! Now that's a specific detail... :)

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  17. Looks great :) I've been to lots of rodeos and even dated a cowboy but that's not research enough LOL

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    1. That's like a hundred times farther ahead than when I started out, Pam- lol! Plus, you dated a cowboy- you lived the dream... ;)

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  18. Your story sounds quite exciting. You really get immersed into your research, and that’s what makes your books so authentic.

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    1. Thank you, Marion! It was daunting at first, but the wonderful help I received made all the difference :)

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    2. Thank you, Marion! It was daunting at first, but the wonderful help I received made all the difference :)

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