I have spent a little too much time ‘researching’ online. In fact, I spent the entire weekend researching for Shey’s book, my Texas book, and I didn’t know that I actually went a little crazy at Amaon and eBay tracking down history books, cook books, memoirs, biographies, and more until the books started to arrive in today’s mail.
I ordered a lot of books. A lot, a lot. The good thing is that I found some really cool books. The bad thing is, now I’m going to want to read them all which means I won’t be doing quite as much writing as I should be. But oh, I love history books and historical accounts and pouring over old black and white photos of a time long gone.
Some of the books that have already arrived include: Texas Women on the Cattle Trails; Grace & Gumption: Stories of Fort Worth Women; Between Sun and Sod, An informal History of the Texas Panhandle; Whatever the Wind Delivers; Palo Pinto County History; Painted Post Past: A 150 Year History of Palo Pinto County, Texas; More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Texas Women—and I have probably another 10 books still coming.
Now will all that history go into Shey’s story? Nah. But I, the writer, need a rich world to draw on, and the more I know about Shey and her family, and Shey and her ranching neighbors, and how these families got to Palo Pinto County, and what their dreams are, and what their reality is, the more real and interesting the story is for the reader.
People have asked me recently why a Texas set story, concerned I think that I don’t know enough about Texas to set a story there. I just shrug a little at the questions because I love Texas. My mom’s dad was from El Paso and I used to work for AMR Corp and they’re headquarter in Fort Worth and a couple of my very good high school friends married guys who make their home in Texas and every time I can visit them, I do.
But a ranch story…a story that returns Shey to her family property is actually closer to my heart than most people know. My grandfather, after finishing college at Purdue, moved to California. Although he was a civil engineer by profession, his passion was cattle and land, and I grew up spending vacations on one of the three cattle ranches he owned at the time of his death. The ranch I visited with my family was just called ‘the ranch’ and the property is a couple hours from Fresno heading west towards the coast, but about 40 miles before you hit Paso Robles.
Life on the ranch was simple. The cabin was just a beaten up trailer turned into a bunk house and painted a dark barn red. We got our water from the windmill. We kids played in the old corrals and silos and feedlots. As we headed off every day, mom would remind us not to get trapped in the grain in the silo–we’d suffocate–and to make sure we carried our rattlesnake kit in our back pocket. We rode old horses who pretty much ignored us and went looking for deer at night once the sun dipped and twilight spread long lavender shadows across the hills. As I said, it was simple, but it also remains part of my strongest memory of my childhood, my family and my past. The ranch taught me to love the land and to listen to the wind in the grass and the rustle of the olive colored leaves on the oak trees. It taught me that there’s nothing more better than pancakes on a cold morning and no better way to sleep than on a saggy, sqeaky bunk bed because your brothers and sister are nearby.
I don’t know how the actual writing of Shey’s book will go. I’m nervous. I’m eager. I’m excited. Every book is a huge new challenge but this book already has a special place in my heart. Taking Shey home will give me a chance to go home again, too.
It’s been a few days since I did a blog contest and I’ve got a stack of great novels to give away, including books by some of my author friends Liza Palmer, Megan Crane and Beth Kendrick, along with a Starbucks mug, a Starbucks drink card, a bag of See’s chocolate hearts and tons of JP goodies. Just post a comment below by Wednesday midnight and I’ll announce the winner in a comment below on Thursday morning. You can post anything to be counted, so talk to me!