I think most writers will tell you that their novels and short stories start with an idea as tiny as a grain of sand which evolves (hopefully) into a pearl only after much thinking and mulling and maybe a little research.
It may be a setting, or a character or an event that begins that rumination of thought, and I usually can tell you exactly what triggered each of my novels. I have to be honest, however, and say I really don’t know what made bull rider pop into my head when I set out to write an author’s challenge about airport body scanners for Radclyffe’s yahoo group.
Since it was maybe three years ago that I wrote that author’s challenge that is now the prologue for my latest release, “Every Second Counts,” I can only guess that it must have coincided with my research into marketing opportunities for my equestrian-based romances.
I sometimes have readers who tell me they don’t read romance novels, but they bought one of my books because they love horse stories. Horses don’t always play a major role in my stories, but they are always present in the setting.
With that in mind one night, I began to google “gay or lesbian” and “horses.” That turned up lots of hits on gay rodeos. Women in jeans and chaps. Ride’em cowgirl. Or maybe cowboi.
I haven’t made it yet to a gay rodeo, but thinking about that brought to mind the last time I was briefly single and trying to figure out how to date after being in 13-year-relationship. We now had this new thing called online dating and I decided to give it a whirl. When I found someone who sounded compatible and I asked her for a date, I wanted to do something different from the usual coffee meet-up or dinner and a movie. Her profile said she was athletic and adventurous, so I decided that I would take her to the bull riding competition being held at the local coliseum that weekend.
I picked up my date and we drove to the coliseum, chatting our heads off and getting to know each other. It was a good start. Unfortunately, it went downhill from there.
There are two separate bull-riding competitions. One event is part of a full rodeo. Those riders are often “all round cowboys” who also enter saddle bronc, bareback bronc, steer wrestling and/or roping competitions. I’ve been to rodeos and they’re fun.
Bull riding purists — usually the best bull riders vying for the biggest money — compete on a separate circuit that offers nothing but bulls and lots of testosterone. This was the event scheduled at the coliseum.
It didn’t take us long to figure out that the crowd was sort of like hockey and NASCAR fans who drink as much alcohol as possible, and act as obnoxiously as possible while they wait for the bloody fight or the big wreck. The people sitting around us were waiting to see a rider be gored or stomped by a bull.
After about an hour, we decided to leave. If we hurried, we could still make a late movie and salvage the date. But, there was a small snag when we returned to the parking lot.
You see, I still had my small horse farm south of Greensboro, NC, at the time, so the Ford F150 truck I drove was a necessity for hauling hay and pulling a horse trailer, not just a butch thing. It was a white, because white trucks show less road dust than a dark vehicle.
We had been so intent on chatting when we arrived, I forgot to note the letter identifying the area where we parked. There were probably 1,200 vehicles in the lot we thought I’d parked in and at least 999 of them were white Ford F150s. Apparently, a lot of other people knew about the road dust thing.
We spent – no bull – a full twenty-five minutes walking up and down row after row of trucks while I clicked the button on my key fob until it finally lit up and sounded the alarm on my truck.
We climbed into the truck and sighed. “I guess we’re too late for movie now. Would you like to go get coffee?”
“Thanks,” she said, “but I’ve got an early meeting tomorrow. Maybe you should just take me home.”
I like to think it was a simple lack of chemistry, not the disasterous evening, that kept us from having a second date.
Fortunately, fiction is always better than real life. So, you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that Marc Ryder in “Every Second Counts” is sexy and interesting and would never forget where she parked her truck.