M. Elle Kelso is a Canadian writer who crosses genres from western/action, paranormal and suspense. But they all have one thing in common—a little hint of romance. Learn more about her and her books at her website.
Home, Home on the Range…
...where how many deer and antelope can live together in harmony, finding enough to feed themselves without running out of food for twelve months at a time?
That’s the question and I’ve found over the years that there are writers who seem to forget about those details when they write about life on a ranch. I understand that, to many, the idea of land mass is something outside the boundaries of their normal world, since most live in a house, set in a yard, in a block of like yards and never stop to think about how much space they actually occupy.
I remember reading my first romantic suspense novel about thirty years ago, while living on my hobby farm (anything under 10 acres in my locale) and raising horses. I knew I could safely feed and look after two horses on the first four acres and one on each of the other 6 acres (based on how much they eat and how much I’d have to feed them hay and grain.) Then I read the book—I don’t remember its name or who wrote it, and when I read out loud how much fit on the hero’s ten acre ‘ranch’, my husband and I burst into hysterical laughter and loud guffaws. Why? Because the writer had a herd of 100+ cattle on a ten-acre ranch. Kid you not! Those cows would have been standing on top of each other.
On four acres of pasture, you can feed two horses, for one year, and you will have to supplement.
On ten acres, you can have a smallish herd of 6-8, absolutely no more than 10, with no buildings, trees, barns or riding rings/arenas. On eighty acres, you could care for—well here it gets tricky, so you sign into sites like this one, answer the questions, and their algorithm supply the answer. Or you ask someone like me who can answer the question for you. I’d tell you about one horse per acre, IF: there are no trees, creeks running through the land, houses, barns, riding rings, garage for your car, sheds for your farm equipment or any other building you can think to put on this fictional ranch. And if there’s a road running through it, take more land from the horses and remember that it does not take more than a few minutes to drive from one end to the other.
I remember one book where it took someone about ten minutes from the gate to the house, on 50 acres. NO! Maybe thirty seconds at 20 mph.
One of the ways I explain acreage to others is that one square mile is 640 acres. If your speed is 30 miles an hour on a straight, flat road, you could drive from one side to the other in two minutes.
Never go too small. Readers will catch you out, and if they understand land mass, there’s nothing that throws them out of a story faster than ridiculous numbers of animals and dwellings on too few acres.
My new release, Eagle Down, is the third book in my Cyber Cowboys series, and while most of the action in the first two books centers around dog kennels and ranches (not farms—there is a complete difference,) the third book takes place on a ranch with a side trip to a hospital. These books came from my overstimulated imagination but are factually based on what I know—breeding and showing horses and Labrador Retrievers, farming and veterinary care of said animals.
Even the flying: I took the ground school part of my pilot’s license but had a major problem with cloud formations. But again, it is something I know a little about. Many of the incidents in my books are based on actual experience. As far as locations, I use Google, Google maps, and my map books to keep me informed. I use the satellite view a lot to tell me about the topography. And if I’m quoting cattle prices, I use the market information in the area for my prices. And to do that you have to know ranch language—like the definition of a boner steer.
The internet is a huge source of this information if you ask the question correctly. Someone with knowledge and experience can be even better. I set most of my books just outside Portland in the Pacific Northwest (a fictional town) or the state of Wyoming. I’ve been to Portland twice. Thank goodness for Google! And if you need help, contact me at email@example.com—I’m happy to assist if I can.
Cyber Cowboy Series, Book 4
Meet the Cyber Cowboys—a tough bunch of private eyes who know computers and the law inside out and backward. Every time they step out of their computer-P.I. boots—answer a call that doesn’t include black-hat hackers, online hustlers and fraudulent con artists—they meet nothing but trouble. Attempted murder, arson, rustling, and abduction they can handle. Falling in love sends them looking for the ‘help’ button. Computers? Artificial intelligence has nothing to do with it! In every case, these laid back investigators have to get down and dirty to save the women they love. They help multi-national companies and governments fix their problems...but when trouble hits and love gets involved? They’re the ones who need rescuing
The Corbin, Taylor & Wynn Investigative Agency is three men (Blake Corbin, Jared Wynn and David Taylor) who’ve been in business together for years. The agency is headquartered in Cheyenne, Wyoming when the series begins but soon moves to the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains. Business is so good they hire additional investigators and even the new guys aren’t immune to the trouble love can cause.
The Cyber Cowboys series is four stories of romantic suspense and skullduggery set in Wyoming and Oregon. Additional stories may augment the series based on the characters who work for the agency.
In Mercy Rule we meet Will Carter, the first non-computer-literate member of the Agency. Will is a lawyer/legal investigator with the Seattle DA’s office when Blake offers him a job. His first case takes him back to Seattle and nearly costs him his life when defense attorney Mercy Brittain’s brother Todd is abducted.