Fortunately, I’ve never had a case of writer’s block. But I have written myself into a corner and then sat back wondering how much of the story I’d have to strip away to fix it. I didn’t mean to make a mess of A Cowboy’s Kiss in Wyoming, but I had Chessie Chesterfield sitting next to Derrick McCullough, and the entire family of McCulloughs had been playing a joke on this little visiting North Carolinian who knew nothing about anything western. She had been fed sausage at supper, and they led her to believe is was rattle snake. Well, when it came out that it had all been a joke, Chessie retaliated and punched Derrick in his thigh. It wasn’t meant to hurt, she’s not much bigger than a fly, and he’s a tough ex-bull rider. But she punched and he tried to conceal horrendous pain, well beyond anything her little swat could have caused.
Uh-oh! Now what? What did I do? I put myself in the corner with no way out. I write by the seat of my pants. I knew where the story was going, but normally I’m just the stenographer for my characters. They looked at me, and I looked at them, and we all shrugged. I’m trying to explain to Chessie that she can’t hit Derrick, and he’s swearing she didn’t actually hurt him – well, except she did. So if I take the punch out… Derrick is livid. He’s in pain and it’s not going away. Whatever went wrong with his leg would go wrong someplace else. “Everybody, go to sleep and we’ll discuss this tomorrow night.”
Luckily I still had my day job. It was an odd legal job that involves medical records. I worked for a local hospital and several large medical practices in the area. One of those medical practices was sports medicine. It just happened that’s where I was the next day. I breezed through the door, gathered my charts, and began much like any other day. One of the women who worked there asked what I was writing this time. I looked at her and groaned. “You won’t believe what I did…”
She swore she knew exactly what happened to Derrick and how Chessie’s little punch triggered it. As promised, the next day she had it all laid out for me. For the record, I’m not a blood and guts person. I don’t want to see pictures of surgeries or even neatly sutured skin. Too late. I had everyone in there excited about what I was writing. The one doc was dragging me around showing me X-rays, surgical photos, more photos, post op photos, more photos, more X-rays, (my stomach is ready to pitch everything including last week’s chicken lo mien) and he’s handing me samples of artificial hip joints and explaining which one was given to a grandmother and which one would be given to an Olympic athlete or my young ex-bull rider. The therapy folks were in on it, telling me how long and what.
If he has surgery in the morning, we’ve got him on his feet that evening. Next day, he’s walking with help. He’s going to be… Okay, my head was spinning. I’m taking notes. Notes that I will never need to write the story, I got an education in hip replacement! I came home and explained to Derrick that he’s got to have surgery. Ever see a grown man have a fit? Oh, he had one. He didn’t want anything to do with going to a hospital. He’d been down that road, been addicted to pain killers, ruined his marriage over it, etc. Too bad. I let him sleep on it. When he got up the next morning, he knew he had to go to the hospital.
I live in a populated area with a dozen universities, lots of hospitals, etc. I write about no man’s land in Wyoming. Uh-oh.
I love the Internet! I start looking. No sports medicine centers. Huh? Okay I found a physio-rehab center and called. The place is smaller than my local YMCA. That’s it! There is no other. It’s the only place my hero could go to be rehab-ed after surgery. I double checked everything with the woman who runs the place. She confirmed every step and even gave me a few extra tidbits. Those cowboys are a tough and stubborn lot, and they think they can jump back in the saddle long before the doctor releases them. If they do, they will probably wind up in surgery again. Her descriptions of the hip movement helped me accurately write a few scenes.
My local sports medicine people were thrilled. For weeks, they spoon-fed me information on hip replacements. And naturally, before the book released, they all wanted to read it just to be certain I was accurate.
Maybe creating a conundrum was the best thing that could have happened. The book spent over seven months on Amazon’s top 100 western romances and most of that time it was in the top 30.