Thanks to the riding lessons I took while writing Along Came a Cowboy, I’m no longer terrified of horses. But I still have a healthy respect for our equine friends. So when my husband Kevin and our girls decided to go out to our little farm and ride last Saturday, I grabbed the camera instead of a saddle. The first picture I snapped—them riding toward me from a distance—looks so peaceful and serene, doesn’t it? And even in the second picture, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of movement. But in real life, the horses are all trotting. Between pictures, our fifteen-month-old palomino filly bolted from the back of the group and flew past Lady (the horse in the middle that our oldest daughter is riding) in a blur.
As soon as I lowered the camera from taking the second photo, Lady started bucking. It was so unexpected I didn’t even have time to yell. The mare bucked about four times, and though our daughter made a valiant cowgirl attempt to stay on, she landed sitting on the ground with a thud. Thankfully, her daddy’s a chiropractor, so he put her hip back into place and she’s sore, but okay. And yes, she says she’ll definitely ride again. Next time we’ll just put the filly up first.
After fourteen books, I’m finally learning the value of the element of little surprises. When a story starts to feel stale or predictable, I love to shake it up some. Buck someone off. I’m not talking about big plot twists because we all know those are necessary. I’m talking about the small stuff. What happens, for example, if we allow a character to say something they’re thinking instead of making it an internal thought? I remember a scene in Along Came a Cowboy where Jack and Rachel were talking. She was having all these snappy thoughts. But the dialogue itself was a little ho-hum. I revised to let her say a few of those things aloud and things livened up in a hurry!
Surgeon General’s Happily Married Woman’s Warning: Don’t try this same technique (speaking your thoughts aloud) the next time you and your husband are having a disagreement. Not unless you really want to make your dialogue lively!