News from Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Friday, October 5, 2012

Cattle, Candy Bars, and the DEA.

In an online discussion in another group I frequent, the question was asked, “How much research do you do for fiction?” My answer was a lot, because I’m an information junkie and the challenge of learning something new is what gets me going. In the October issue of The Writer, Author Tayari jones is quoted as saying, “I believe you should always write a book you’re not quite good enough to write.” I would agree and add, “and don’t know enough to write.” Where else is the fun?
I’m working on a time travel romance. My heroine is renting a haunted beach house in New Jersey to recover from a shattering divorce. She falls in love with the house ghost, a captain on a whaling ship, and is transported to 1860s New Bedford, MA. This not only required hours of searching the internet for theories on time travel, but visits to the library to gather information on whaling. Fascinating, but brutal. I got to know Moby Dick, which maybe my favorite novel. I adore Ishmael’s humor.
My latest novel, Maddie’s Choice, which is in the capable hands of my agent, Jeanie Pantelakis of Sullivan Maxx Agency, waiting for publication, is about modern-day cattle rustling from small family farms in Arkansas, inspired by a short newspaper article.
 What if there’s this small farming community in Arkansas being plagued by rustlers? What if the rustling was a distraction to cover up the real problem of meth distribution I the area? Aha! I needed romance. You can read about the plot on
The problem was, I didn’t know squat about cows and didn’t know anybody who had one. I also didn’t know anything about meth except that I live in a tourist town and it’s a problem.        I learned from the local police chief that meth trade in the US is controlled by several motorcycle gangs, like the Hell’s Angels, who’d just visited Eureka and got into a knife fight with their Arkansas counterpart. Oh boy! I’ll call them “The Red Hand,” vicious, and dangerous and a threat to the ranch.
I had this idea that Maddie, my writer, would be rescued from above gang during a gun battle, by a 2500 pound bull addicted to the chocolate bars she’d been feeding him.
Can a cow eat a candy bar? They don’t have any teeth. I’ll end this story by telling you how I found out. The County Agricultural Agent is probably still ROFL. I called him and explained my problem. I’ve experienced stunned silence before, but this one, on the phone, was classic. My northern accent didn’t help. Well, after enduring his humor, I learned that yes, they can sort of mash it on the roof of their mouth before they send it to one of their stomachs. I was good to go. Big’un, the bull, became a star.
I added a lot of humor, a few tears, some steamy sex, and there you have it. Some day it will be on bookshelves everywhere.
So there you have it. Half the fun of writing is tackling a subject foreign to you and becoming well-versed.

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