There are TWO winners from Ruthy’s post “Weaving with Words, Ridin’ With Spurs”. Winners of a copy of are Janine and Carol Luciano! Who happened to post back to back! Gals, e-mail me with your snail mail addresses!
Weaving creates an image, doesn’t it? No matter how you apply the word, we envision yarn or threads being moved in lock-stitch by hand or machine. We see the flash of success as the weft threads pass through the warp threads, and a foot treadle bounces the threads up and down in clockwork precision.
That’s kind of what it’s like when we write a story.
Umm… NOT THE PRECISION PART!!!!
I’m a pantser, a writer who begins with the idea of how I see the story and characters and then I create… and I add and subtract as I go. Not all writers work like this, some like notes, charts, timelines, etc… I do better by avoiding all that as completely as I can. But what all authors have in common is the weaving of the word… and when I’m writing a Western (like my upcoming Shepherd’s Crossing series with Love Inspired or my Double S Ranch series with Waterbrook) I weave with a different set of threads. Some are coarser. Some are thicker. Some are rugged because carving a living off the land requires not only skill but fortitude. And I love folks with fortitude! (I just listened to the full recording of Peace in the Valley this weekend… Barbara McCullch did a great job with this Western and the character voices!)
I want my Westerns to sound authentic. Not contrived. Not over-done. If a rancher is educated, I want them to sound that way with a distinct twang as needed. 🙂 There’s nothing like an Ivy League educated cowboy (Colt Stafford “Back in the Saddle”) that comes across when he faces the heroine and does nothing more that touch the tip of his index finger to the brim of his hat.
No words needed.
He said it all with one gesture, a gesture he wouldn’t have used in Lower Manhattan but one that is quite effective in Central Washington. Colt’s a coming home character, a man returning to his roots out of necessity, a man surprised to find he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be… at last.
Mary Connealy taught me years ago that cowboys aren’t generally the talkative type. She’s right.
Like so many hard-working men, they grunt a lot, and then they’re surprised when those around them are at a loss to read their feelings. And then you go and read a Paul Harvey poem “So God Made a Farmer” and you realize you need to go beyond words, to actions.
There’s a book that talks about love languages, and it’s so stinkin’ true in many ways… not all people speak in poetic license.
A lot of men have to choke out “I’m sorry” or “I love you”… the dolts! 🙂
But sometimes those same men will go the distance to make sure the wagon seat is smooth enough to not snag a pretty dress…
Or extra warm potatoes to keep a historical heroine’s feet from taking a chill…
Or run to school to pick up a sick child of a single mother so she doesn’t lose her job at the diner…
Or dig the grave for his daddy’s old Golden Lab, gone home to heaven. I love that scene in “Saint Maybe” and used a similar scene in one of my first books “Waiting Out the Storm”… because acts of sacrifice transcend genre and touch a reader’s heart and soul.
There are so many ways to show emotion as we write. Some require few words. Some require a pause in the action. A long moment. Unshed tears. Or gut-wrenching sobs…
While others show the frontier or pure country joy… a single flower, tucked in a Mason jar on the heroine’s table. A pair of pumpkins, set on a porch with a tuft of corn by their side. A walk with a calf, or a foal, or to bottle feed lambs…
Love on the ranch or the farm or in the country isn’t always shown the same way as on the coasts. Fancy meals and pricey nights out are usually not the norm. And while those are good in their place, there’s something more soul stirring about a pot of stew and fresh bread. A homemade pie. A pretty scarf that the hero buys because it matches the heroine’s eyes…
When I’m writing Westerns, I make sure my mindset is on animals and kids first, because honestly, when dealing with a farm or ranch and animals, they have to come first. They can’t fend for themselves… That simple admission leads the reader into the heart of the rancher, the devotion of the hero and/or heroine. The words I choose to set the scene or ride the wave of emotions have to ring true to the reader, no matter where he or she lives… or what they do for a living.
Word weaving… it’s what makes an authors voice distinctive, and what makes a story memorable or forgettable. Those words create and follow the rise and fall of emotion and that roller coaster ride should be as real as we can make it… so the reader gets the full price of their ticket!
Do you have favorite book scenes that have stuck with you over years? I’d love to hear about them… comment today because I have a beautiful copy of my newest Love Inspired book “The Lawman’s Yuletide Baby” as a giveaway… and I think you’ll love this beautiful story of healing and hope and sacrificial love.
Of course the fact that it’s my 20th LOVE INSPIRED STORY is a wonderful milestone!!! 🙂 I brought coffee and hot chocolate because things are cooling down here in Western New York… and some homemade double chocolate chip cookies, because while Pumpkin Spice everything is fun… nothing beats double chocolate chip. And it don’t pay to argue with me, because I’m armed… and dangerous, my friends!
Cookies for everyone!
Congratulations to Mardell, Mary and Alice! They’ve each been picked out of the big ol’ cowboy hat to get a copy of Ruthy’s duo with Jillian Hart… I hope you guys love sweet Christmas stories! Thanks for stopping by and visiting with me yesterday!
My new cowboy is a shepherd.
Now there’s an image crisis there, because we see shepherds differently than we see cowboys.
Cowboys are square-shouldered, horse-back riding, Stetson hat wearing, maybe even gun-totin’ working men. This is the cover of book one of my Double S Ranch Series….
Shepherds make us think of Bethlehem… long cloaks, robes, cinched waists and sandals.
But in the American West, that image doesn’t cut it. In my upcoming “Shepherd’s Crossing” series with Love Inspired, four sisters inherit a share of a sprawling, beautiful western Idaho sheep ranch developed by their uncle, one of the heirs to a publishing empire years before. When the girls’ father embezzles money from their mega-publishing empire, leaving millions of dollars in unanswered debt, the girls are left to fare for themselves… but when their uncle leaves them the ranch– well MOST of it– the girls see a chance to begin anew.
Of course the other part of the ranch goes to a smokin’ hot cowboy hero who has a significant past with the oldest sister, but that was a dozen years before… and the last thing he wants to do is share the ranch he’s worked for twelve years with a bunch of Steel Magnolias sporting impressive university degrees and no knowledge of sheep or the ruggedness of a northern winter.
But the west isn’t The West anymore… like so many changes in the past forty years, the demographics of sheep farming have weakened in the hills of Idaho. The fleece and lamb market faded, farmers sold off, and modern irrigation methods have made unprofitable land arable again, so that hay is beginning to edge the famous Idaho potato out of it’s esteemed #1 position. WHAT????? SAY IT AIN’T SO! Irish gals love their potatoes!!!!
And the big game hunters who lobbied for Bighorn sheep to be brought back to Idaho, don’t want farm sheep roaming the hills in the annual sheep walks… They’re afraid that the domestic sheep carry germs/bacteria that sicken the Bighorns.
An industry torn, and change ensues… with hay and cattle encroaching on what had been Spanish Basque shepherding practices for decades.
Setting a romance in the West is the easy part… making it real to the reader, bringing them into the hills of Western Idaho, the rolling bluffs giving way to mountain peaks, letting them see the sheep heading into the hills, guided by Peruvian shepherds now… Swarthy-skinned men, recruited from the mountains of Peru, here to make a new life, guiding sheep on the annual brush-clearing trek, now threatened by change.
So much has changed but brown-skinned cowboy shepherds still prevail, and in this series we bring the true diversity of today’s America to the helm… Mixed sheep and mixed races sprinkle the landscape like spring wildflowers, natural and good. And that’s the beauty of writing today’s romance.
Publishers want it real. They want it relevant. They want that romance front and center, and what better way to create conflict than thrusting people out of the comfort zone completely? Lizzie Fitzgerald wanted the career her father eschewed, the career crafted by her grandfather and great-grandfather, publishing icons in their time. She was born to step into their shoes but her modern technology and her father’s greed left her with no company… and even cost her job with a Boston paper. And now she’s here, face-to-face with her first love, the man who fathered her lost child… and never lifted a finger to help.
Setting this series in the hills, mountains and valleys of Idaho is absolute pleasure. The Northwest allows all kinds of weather, excitement, danger and good old-fashioned ranching at its best, even as times change, people leave the land for urban development (oh, those SILLY PEOPLE!!!) and story-tellers like me re-create one of the most iconic and beloved images of our time and times past…
The American Cowboy.
This series begins next year, but I’ve got a copy of my just-released Christmas duo with Jillian Hart to give away today! Leave a comment and we’ll tuck your name into Colt Stafford’s big ol’ Resistol hat…. And as you read these beautiful holiday stories, you’ll share in the joy of the upcoming holiday season and sweet, sweet romance.
And while most of us live life in small towns, cozy nooks, or urban streets and suburban neighborhoods, the romance of cowboy lore… and the American West… goes on.
Except in Baseball where this New York Yankee will be cheering for PINSTRIPES all the way during the post-season!!! 🙂
I love northern cowboys.
It’s not that I’ve got anything against all those smokin’ hot Southern cowboys, or the rugged, Stetson-wearing men of the Southwest…
Gathering animals or spreading hay to keep them strong in adverse conditions.
I love this series:
It’s the kind of grit and guts that either draws you in or sends you running!
I was totally drawn into the lives of the Stucky, Hughes and Galt families and their ranches.
Animals are survivors by nature. You’ve only got to look out your window at birds and squirrels and ants and rats and mice and snakes to realize that without any human intervention, animals survive.
But in a for-profit operation, it’s crucial for as many to survive as possible. And that’s where the true cowboy comes in. Or the rugged farmer, dedicated to his farm/ranch no matter what part of the country he hails from.
I’ve noticed distinct differences between Eastern and Western ranches. Eastern ranches tend to house cattle overwinter. Western ranches let the animals roam.
Western ranches use SUVs, utility vehicles and horses to gather and monitor their spreads, and their spreads often cover thousands of acres.
Eastern ranches tend to be in the hundreds of acres, marked with hedgerows spawned by being in Eastern woodlands.
The physical differences are notable, but the intrinsic love for their job, their animals, their stock, their families… that’s universal. Success arises from sacrifice, and that’s what we love about a cowboy story. The sacrificial component of their life, their choices, appeal to us!
Which then makes the cowboy the Almost Perfect Hero.
Of course he can’t be perfect.
Perfect is boring and gets old real quick.
But the profile of a cowboy, the hard-working sacrificial nature makes them great romance hero material.
Now here’s the REALITY: They get annoyed. Grumpy. Mad at the weather and forces of nature… Very few stay even-tempered when their livelihood, family, stock, homes are threatened.
But that’s normal. We wouldn’t want a hero to gloss off everything. We want him to buck up and stand strong and get back on the horse and keep on trying. Because that’s what a hero does.
They don’t give up.
Do you have favorite heroes? Who are they?
Name me your favorite hero to be tucked into a drawing for a copy of the second book of my Double S Ranch cowboy series… “Home on the Range”….
He doesn’t have to be a Western hero… any hero will do.
I want to know what appeals to you, like the northern cowboy appeals to me.
I brought coffee… and peach pie. I might be a Yankee… but I make an absolutely amazing peach pie!
RUTHY’S WINNER FROM AUGUST 31!!!!! DEANNE, YOUR NAME CAME OUT OF THE COWBOY HAT FOR A COPY OF “HOME ON THE RANGE”! E-mail Ruthy at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll get your snail mail!
I AM A FILLY!
I’ve always been a girl… And then a woman/sister/mom/wife/daughter/sister-in-law/grandma….
But now I’m officially a Petticoats and Pistols filly and do you know why?
I write Westerns.
It’s not my fault.
IT’S NEVER MY FAULT! (Just had to get that out of my system.)
But this time it’s true… Love Inspired asked me to be part of a Western continuity a few years ago and I was hooked.
I am over the moon and if that sounds overdone, trust me: it’s not. It’s facts, ma’ams, simply facts. And huge thanks to the wonderful writers/cowgirls of Petticoats & Pistols for bringing me ’round the campfire. But how is writing a Western novel different from writing my typical novels?
That’s Colt Stafford on the cover. And that cover is a clue. Western heroes are larger than life, regardless of size… Because it’s not the size of the man. It’s the size of the heart.
Real cowboys are strong enough to be gentle… They’re man enough to put others needs, including the horse, the stock, the wife, the kids… before theirs. They’re tough enough to find faith, even if it’s not for the first time. They practice “Cowboy code” and they’re proud of it. Whether you’re the oldest brother Colt, pictured above…
Or the middle brother, Nick: (Nick’s book is a finalist in the Maggie Award of Excellence for 2017. It’s available here.)
Westerns are different in lots of ways. The obvious distinction is setting, and that’s a big difference because the West prides itself on being The West… Movies and books chronicle the push west, Ken Burns did a whole documentary about Westward expansion, Western movies and television shows abound and there are high school and college courses done on the positives and negatives of that westward push. History books cleaned up some stories, while scholars re-painted those same stories with dark intent that sometimes went to opposite extremes.
In the midst of it all, a region was built, bought, separated, fought for, fought over, divided and maintained. The heartland became the opening segue into the American We. With land spreading west, north and south, new states, cities, towns, villages and ranches were born. People moved west, moved back east, and moved west again, pushing that invisible wall of separation until they hit the Pacific Ocean.
I’ve delved into the history of it to create a fictional town set in South Dakota, one in Idaho and one… romance in a soddy!… in eastern Nebraska.
I’ve written an award-winning, bestselling series about the contemporary west, and loved it.
Whether my stories are set in modern times or historical venues, they have one thing in common: Love. And strong, strong women.
I love strong women.
I love empowering women.
Women are the unsung heroes in so many roles in life, but not in a Ruthy book. A memorable hero is a wonderful thing. But I love a book that celebrates the strong overcomer in a woman. A book that champions HER as much as it does him…
Because I believe women are blessed with an amazing strength that gets overlooked too often. Hey, I’ve been in a labor bed… and at a bedside, holding a dying hand. I’ve been in an emergency room, watching skilled professionals try to save a life… and at a graveside, mourning when life succumbs.
A great Western is a story of strength… of hope… of love.
My joy in writing gets polished in all of my books, but my cowboy books grab a piece of my heart and don’t let go… Maybe it’s the hat.
Maybe it’s the setting.
Or maybe… just maybe… it’s that pioneer-loving side of me that will never take the American West for granted.
Hey, I brought some home-made ice cream and chocolate dipped cones… and strong coffee. Join me inside and if you leave a comment, I’ll toss your cute name into a hat for the first Double S Ranch book “Back in the Saddle”. Let’s talk why we love romance