I've noticed one of the top questions I'm often asked by editors when pitching a book is "What qualifies you to write about cowboys and ranching?" For a long time I thought my inclination came from growing up in Colorado and just living around the lifestyle. Only recently have I realized that not only has God planted me in the land of cowboys and ranching, He's also feeding my inspiration.
Where to start? Right off the bat, I'd have to credit my kids and husband for throwing our entire family into the 4-H life. Even though we started out in general projects, as my daughter and son grew older, so did their level of responsibility. At one point, we counted 42 rabbits and over 300 chickens qualifying as 4-H projects. Bunnies and chicks are cute, but they don't bring in the money at the Junior Market Livestock auction. So, my daughter has raised pigs over the last 4 years and my son has dabbled in goats and sheep. We grown in knowledge of raising these animals by working with other 4-H families and helping where ever we can. Livestock Judging also broadens your horizons. I learned more about cattle, sheep and pigs by attending judging meets while my daughter competed on the team. 4-H offers more opportunities for self-discovery than you'll ever imagine. Who says 4-H is just for kids??
During the summer, my daughter works for Sombrero ranches, one of the largest trail horse operations in the nation. She doesn't work with the horses, though. She drives tractors and other equipment, tending to the various fields of hay and alfalfa the ranch needs to sustain itself during the winter. I've expanded my terminology base listening to her talk shop when she'd come home in the evenings.
Two years ago, an opportunity arose that allowed me to go back to work at an office close to home doing what I love to do -- I'm the 4-H secretary for our county. Working on the other side of the desk (I've been a Project Leader for 10 years and an Organizational Leader for 7) has presented opportunities galore to learn about all aspects of farming and ranching. Boulder County has a very active agricultural base. In addition to 4-H, our Extension Office houses agents in Horticulture, Agriculture, and Family/Consumer Sciences. I've learned all sorts of fun facts on plants, crops, soil, gardening, canning, preserving...the list goes on and on. I'm blessed to work with a 4-H agent who is also a large animal veterinarian. Have questions on raising horses, cows, sheep, etc?? He's my go-to man!
In direct reference to my lastest WIP, one of our Organizational Leaders works for the National Beef Association based here in Denver. Since my hero is a rancher dealing with the Association, what better connection could I possibly have??
Over the years, my writing has included Regency historical and Romantic Suspense based on the Eastern Front. I love those locations and eras and have the manuscripts to prove it : ) But there's just something about cowboys...
Truth to tell. One of the reasons I expanded my Inspirational Romances to include historical and suspense is because of well-meaning advice I received years ago telling me westerns are dead, good luck selling. I changed my direction and followed the trends. I'm not saying that's a bad idea. Actually, I've won numerous contests with those manuscripts. Someday, who knows, I might just dust them off and try my hand historical England and modern day Russia again. For now though, I'm writing what I know.
Look around you. Are you writing your passion? Has God placed stories on your heart filled with rich description and vibrant dialogue that you've turned away from because that genre just isn't selling? I did and I'm glad I've come to my senses.
Joy has returned to my writing. I'm praying my books sell, but if they don't, I'll be just as satisfied knowing I've written the words planted in my heart knowing God has His reasons.
Listen to your heart.