Researching the Seasons of the Tallgrass

"The rugged terrain of Kansas inspires her tales of life and love on the tallgrass prairie." 
~ Country Magaine

The Kansas Flint Hills

Years ago, I took a college course at Emporia State University called Flint Hills Folklife.
Dr. Jim Hoy taught about the Flint Hills inside and outside the classroom.That summer, my love for the Flint Hills of Kansas was born. The Flint Hills are a strip of land two hundred miles long and fifty miles wide that stretch from Nebraska to Oklahoma near the middle of Kansas.

Unlike most other land in Kansas, which is ripe for farming, this strip of land refuses to be tamed--too rocky to farm, its rolling hills encrusted with sharp native flint rock. Because of this, it has become one of the last remaining tallgrass prairie regions in the world.

I've always loved this parcel of Kans
as grassland, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I realized I had a story to tell. So began my idea to write about the people of this land, to tell their story in a fictional piece of work. That idea stemmed into four contemporary stories, which blossomed into the Seasons of the Tallgrass series. 

The Setting

Our setting takes place in the heart of the Flint Hills in Charris County (a fictional combination of Chase and Morris County) with the local town of Diamond Falls (a fictional town roughly based on Cottonwood Falls, KS.)

Snow Melts in Spring - The Main Characters

The opening for this first book came to me very quickly. I knew there would be an accident involving a horse, and first on the scene would be a young lady veterinarian, and an aged rancher, who is the father of our hero, a professional quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.

Mattie Evans - age 28, country veterinarian
Gilbert "Gil" McCray - age 37, professional quarterback
John McCray - Gil's dad and owner of the Lightning M Ranch
Dusty - chestnut gelding that Gil trained as a teenager.

Snow Melts in Spring - The Research

This story involved quite a bit of research. Of course, I had to learn everything I could about ranching in the Flint Hills. I read lots of books on the subject, visited with people from that area, and explored miles and miles of Flint Hills countryside. One such excursion occurred on our 16th wedding anniversary.

At that time, I was just beginning research for Snow Melts in Spring. Part of my study included staying at the Clover Cliff Bed and Breakfast, built in 1860, near Elmdale, KS. This charming spot hosts thousands of acres of rolling prairie with miles of trail and lots of history. You might find several similarities between this place and John McCray's Lightning M Ranch. Learn more about the bed and breakfast HERE. 

Other research included visiting local veterinarians and trailing one of them through a work day. This part was integral to the story, as I had to get the "accident" just right in order for my aged horse to survive the vehicle-related accident needed to initiate the plotline of my story.

The next bit of study involved the game of football. Now, I have to admit that I have never been too knowledgable about this particular sport. However, in order to write some of the opening scenes, I had to become knowledgable. So, I made a few more trips to the library, brought back tons of books about football, and watched a LOT of football on television. I'm sure my husband loved the extra attention I gave during those football seasons. I even bought a football to hold and throw and help me get into the story when it came time to write from Gil's point of view.

Seeds of Summer - The Main Characters

This book wasn't as easy to write. Again, while the opening came to me rather quickly, the closing scene eluded me for several months. It finally came to me, however, and I pray it will be an ending that leaves you sobbing with joy.

Natalie Adams - Age 22, Former Miss Rodeo Kansas
Jared Logan - Age 27, New Pastor in Diamond Falls
Willard Grover - Natalie's neighbor and family friend
Chelsey Adams - Natalie younger half sister
Dillon Adams - Natalie's younger half brother

Seeds of Summer - The Research

Because I already had the main research done for the setting of this book, I concentrated on learning all I could about the competitions for Miss Rodeo Kansas (MRK) and Miss Rodeo 
America (MRA). This proved to be quite interesting as well as entertaining. During the course of 18 months, I interacted with various people in the MRA, especially Amy Wilson, the 2008 Miss Rodeo America. 

Amy served to be a tremendous help in learning about this unique competition, and it didn't hurt that she was also the former Miss Rodeo Kansas--a perfect fit for my main character, Natalie! Her warm and friendly demeanor made me feel right at home with all my questions. And if she didn't have the answer, she always pointed me in the right direction.

Stay tuned for information about Blades of Autumn, the third book in the Seasons of the Tallgrass series.