- by Charlotte Hubbard
Ok, so you’re sitting alone at the counter at your local diner, drinking a Diet Coke, when the younger, totally hot Native American stranger on the next stool propositions you. Do you:
1) Stare blankly and say, “You wanna what? With me?”
2) Look around frantically to see if anyone you know heard him
3) Say, “Oh, no, I’m not that kind of woman.”
4) Say yes and have the time of your life in a no-tell motel room.
You probably won’t have to guess which option Diana Grant chooses, given that she’s my heroine in an erotic novella, “Long Hard Ride,” but believe me, she was not expecting her day to go that way! She’s just learned that the bank is foreclosing on her ranch, because paying for her late husband’s liver transplant totally drained their accounts. Worse yet, the bank prez is really after her land so he can develop it into resort condos, and his wife has already decided she wants her luxury digs right where Diana’s cozy home now sits. The bulldozers are poised, ready to rip the guts out of the Montana horse ranch she and her husband Garrison have loved for twenty years.
I knew that much shortly after my Aphrodisia editor invited me to write a story for an upcoming cowboy anthology (TEMPTED BY A COWBOY, out in July), but then I had to get past the premise and actually concoct a story for this gal! As often happens for me, I sorta set my brain out of gear for the next week or so and the pieces of backstory and research came at me from several different directions! It’s a process that just happens for me, mainly because I’ve come to expect it…and because I now believe it’s how the Universe works for me when I invite it to.
So, I had this premise in my mind, about this beleaguered widow around my age…and I decided I was in the mood for a Native American rodeo rider. Used to live in a rodeo town, so I love the sport and am familiar with its inner workings. And hey, if the fantasy of broad shoulders, cinnamon skin, and long black hair works for me, it works for millions of women, not? Was flipping through my assortment of folders and saw one with a white horse on the front. Ta-DA! Michael White Horse became my hero!
Then I ventured to the RT conference and saw my writer friend, Diana Groe. We caught each other up on our current projects, and she proceeded to tell me about the Indian Relay at the rodeo in Sheridan, Wyoming. And as she described all these young red-skinned guys riding bareback at breakneck speeds, wearing only loincloths and body paint, I knew I had to include such a scene in this story! Got a few pertinent details from her, as research, and my imagination was off and running!
Day or so after I got home, I mentioned the premise to my old college flame, Jack, with whom I exchange the occasional email. So happens Jack, an accountant, used to do the books for a Native American casino on a nearby reservation in upstate New York, and he couldn’t wait to tell me how totally messed up the accounts were. Seems the guys in charge were more bookies than bookkeepers: they went from running a penny-ante Bingo hall to managing a casino that brought in hundreds of thousands each week. Large sums went unaccounted for—or were spent for questionable causes—and Jack, as a white guy, knew damn well he was not being told everything that should’ve been reported.
So voila! I had Michael’s back story and a family conflict he wasn’t at all comfortable with: he’d quit keeping the books for his tribe’s casino. Went back to riding saddle broncs before he got too old to realize his dream of winning at the ProRodeo championship in California. He’s on his way to his first small-time event when his truck breaks down, in the pouring rain, and he’s waiting for the tow truck in the local greasy spoon when Dejected Diana plops down on the stool beside him.
But it’s not enough to assume the rest of the story happens at that nearby no-tell motel, even if this is erotic romance! To make your characters real—the kind readers worry about–they have to have an issue or two that seems insurmountable.
So happens, my oldest brother had just left his job to go on total disability, in preparation for a liver transplant. As we heard about the preparation process, and the way his anti-rejection drugs would run him $6,000 a month in addition to the expenses of the transplant, I was gobsmacked. Unless you have really good insurance (not part of the package for the very small company where my brother worked, unfortunately) how can you even dream of undergoing an organ transplant? Yet if you’re his forty-something wife, how can you not insist that he sign up for this life-saving procedure?
So Diana’s backstory and present conflicted situation was partially drawn from what I was hearing about a real-life family situation. I’m very thankful my brother is still hanging in there, awaiting a donor match. Diana’s husband underwent his transplant, but didn’t fare so well. And after he passed on, his expenses did not: not only is Diana a worn-out widow from being a caretaker, she’s about to lose her home, too.
And Michael, bless him, is a sucker for a damsel in distress. Even if she’s a forty-something damsel with red-rimmed eyes who wears careworn clothes and has a crass bank president posting auction signs on her property.
I did a little online research to figure out Michael’s rodeo circuit route, and to place Seven Creeks ranch in Wolf Point, Montana (where there just happens to be a Native American casino), and from there, my story wrote itself.
Well, practically! I got by with a little help from my friends Diana and Jack, tossed in some real-life financial crises, and when the pieces fell nicely into place I entitled it “Long, Hard Ride.” Seems Michael and Diana play that title from a lot of angles, and I hope you’ll enjoy their story!
Thanks for coming along for this ride! And your reward for reading clear to the end?? Ask me nicely…and tell me how you’d answer the question at the beginning, and there could be a signed book in it for you!