Highlighting Ana Morgan’s research about cowhands and their universe.
I had lots of first-hand experience to draw on, when I started writing Stormy Hawkins. I knew homesteading. I’d been chased out of a pasture by the neighbor’s Jersey bull. (It had nasty horns and knew exactly how to use them.) I lived near the fictional setting of the story, so I’d walked similar rolling hills and prairie pastures, looked up at the big open sky. I’d been a stranger in a small, country town, where everyone knows everyone’s business, and newcomers stand out like thistles in a zinnia bed.
I’d ridden on train cars powered by huge steam locomotives at regional steam thrashers’ reunions, watched their mighty steel wheels squeal to a halt, and listened the chug chug of the engines, billowing smoke.
I know cows, turkeys and chickens. I can regale you with stories about pigs and geese. But I was no expert on horse sense. I took a workshop on horses and won a critique of ten manuscript pages. Naturally, I picked the pages where the hero’s beloved horse was front and center.
I researched era clothing and costumes, studied images that helped me imagine the dresses my heroine gets to wear.
I checked when barbed wire was invented. Couldn’t have the characters build a fence with materials that weren’t invented yet. I had to take into account when the Dakota Territory applied for statehood and became North Dakota and South Dakota.
I studied historical society books about the Missouri River’s muddy water and shifting banks. Interestingly, when my husband, two granddaughters and I drove to Nebraska to view the solar eclipse this past August, we drove over the Missouri River at Yankton. The river looked exactly like I’d described it in the story. I could “see” the flat-bottomed riverboats chugging up river, skirting submerged trees, just like the historical texts described.
I did lots and lots of Internet research on riverboats. I downloaded articles with pictures of snag boats, freighters and passenger boats, back-paddlewheeled and side-paddlewheeled, until I was able to imagine them gliding up to small trading town docks.
About the Book
Blade Masters has finally spotted his ideal Dakota Territory ranch, where he can live alone, forget his cheating ex-fiancée, and bury the shards of his shattered heart. All he needs to do is sweet-talk the ailing owner, and his spitfire daughter, into retiring.
If she weren’t desperate, Stormy would never hire a cowhand. She’s learned the hard way that she’s happier working her family’s ranch alone. But, the greedy banker who holds their mortgage just demanded payment in full—or her hand in marriage.
Will this handsome drifter protect her? Or does he have designs of his own?
“Turn around and ride back to town,” Stormy hollered. “I’ll shoot.”
“No, you won’t.”
She hunkered down and aimed at the peak of Blade Master’s slate-colored Stetson. “I’m a real good shot.”
“I’m sure you are, Miss Hawkins, but you don’t have any ammunition.” He reached into his vest pocket and pulled out two shotgun shells.
Startled, she checked her gun. It was empty.
He moved his mare closer. He sat easily in the saddle, like a man used to horse work. “Just so you know,” he said, “right now I’m as suspicious of you as you are of me.”
“You got me.” He tapped the side of his nose. “It still smarts.”
Wary, she waited for him to make his move. He wasn’t close enough to smack with the butt of her gun, but she tightened her grip anyway.
He didn’t budge. In fact, he didn’t seem bent on threatening her at all. His broad shoulders swayed slightly as his mare shifted under him. Saddle leather creaked under a trim waist and lean hips. One leg of his dark jeans had a stain the color of boiled beans.
She studied him more closely. Locks of his long, black hair had slipped free of a leather tie-back, and his eyes were the color of Zed’s special occasion brandy. If she were a love-starved farmer’s daughter, she’d bat her eyelashes in a come-and-get-me invite. But, she wasn’t. She was a smart, capable rancher who could take care of herself. And, she wanted answers. “Why were you at the Land & Loan?”
“I could ask you the same question. Why did you go inside?”
“None of your business. Answer my question.”
He avoided her eyes. “I heard shouts and a crash. I didn’t know the two of you were engaged.”
“Did he tell you that?” She raised her chin and immediately regretted it. Her neck ached where Jonathan Vance had squeezed. “We’re not.”
About the Author
When she was small, Ana Morgan’s dream was to know something about everything. She has studiously waitressed, driven a school bus, run craft service on indie film sets, wandered through European castles, wired a house, married a Marine, canned vegetables, and studied the stars. She knows how to change a flat tire but prefers a gallant, handsome stranger who strips off his jacket and spins the lug nuts for her.
You can contact her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org