One touch of a button on my CD player, one second of the galloping beat of “Hooked on an 8-Second Ride,” and I’m there—dead middle of the rodeo arena. Dust, cowboys, bulls so big they measure a foot and a half between the eyes. The smells of cotton candy and popcorn vying against ranker odors. The chorused groan of the crowd when their favorite crashes to the ground just an instant before the buzzer. The booming voice of the announcer echoing through the speakers. “Sorry folks. Maybe next time.”
The lyrics, “addicted to danger, ruled by passion and pride,” tell me all I need to know about the bull rider. But it’s the beat, the raw, driving, feral beat of adrenaline, that shows me how it feels to sit aback a brawny Brahma, with tension steeling my nerves and determination throbbing through my veins.
This one song by Chris LeDoux puts me there, ready to ride. Doesn’t matter that I’m female. Doesn’t matter that I’m too old. With that song, I’m a young man with jangling spurs and a hat firm on my head. I feel the animal shift under me, feel his restless power, smell his dirty hide. My hand’s secure in the braided rope, my teeth are clamped. All it takes is one short order barked at the gateman: Pull it!
The gate swings wide, and the bull explodes from the chute . . .
That’s the wonder of music. If you can’t live it yourself, the song will take you there. It will lift you out of your skin, whisk you from where you are, and settle you where you want to be like nothing else, except maybe a gripping novel.
When I was writing Give the Lady a Ride and again as I wrote The Final Ride, I employed a variety of tricks to keep me in character, to inspire me, to immerse myself in this world I’d created. Although my mother’s family owned a ranch, I’ve never lived on one. Although several friends were involved in the rodeo, I’d never participated. So I needed all the help I could find to get this city girl on the ranch and rodeo arenas. I didn’t have a soundtrack of different artists. All I needed were my Chris LeDoux 20 Greatest Hits and Chris LeDoux: The Early Years CDs.
His cowboy and rodeo songs, like “Hooked on an 8-Second Ride” and “Stampede,” kept me in my setting, but his all music–not just his western genres–also played a huge role in my characterization. Through his lyrics, I gained an insight into the personality of a ranch/rodeo cowboy. He’s a practical joker and a little on the wild side. Loves his friends and family. Loves the land. He’s high tempered and foolish sometimes, quietly wise other times. Quick witted. Resourceful.
Is this an idealized portrait? No doubt. But when the hero in your romance novel wears boots and a Stetson, a little idealism doesn’t hurt.
More than any other tactic I employed, music put me where I needed to be, introduced me to personalities and a lifestyle I’m not familiar with, and provided a rhythmic realism to my bull riding scenes. (Thanks, Chris. RIP).
Don’t forget to look for me this week!
Catherine Castle’s Romance for the Ages–I get to explain why writing The Final Ride was so tricky!
Susan Baganz’s Silygoos—What do pet peeves and most embarrassing moments have in common? I reveal what mine are! — Book giveaway!
Friday, July 8: Speaking engagement with ETWA in Longview, Texas
Saturday, July 9: attending the East Texas Writers Guild Conference, Tyler, Texas
Tuesday, July 12: Betty Thomason Owens’s blog
Thursday, July 14: Pamela S. Meyer’s blog
Friday, July 15: Norma Gail’s 2Me from Him
Monday, July 18: Speaking engagement in Franklin, Texas