Archive | March 2013

Busy is Good

Finally! i have a busy week ahead of me! The weather is warm (61 degrees) and the wind has died down. For the whole winter (or that’s what it seems like) I haven’t done anything. I’ll I’ve done was write. Write and write and write. But I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished much. Especially after my “dry spell” in January and February when I just could not come up with anything new to write about, couldn’t bring myself to even begin editing my 365,000 word manuscript (don’t worry, I’m planning on making it into a series: I don’t know if anyone would dare take on a book that long), and all I did was sit at my computer for three or four hours every day with nothing to show for it. It was times like that when I wished I had something, anything, else to do. But, with the cold weather, I was stuck indoors.

But now, new that it is enjoyable to be outside, I’ll be putting my writing on hold for awhile. I’ve submitted one of my manuscripts to four different agents, so now I’ll be waiting for the rejections to come pouring in (You can see I’m very optimistic). And next month I should be contacted again by my editor concerning my western book, due to be out in November. Wait, now that I mention it, tomorrow is next week, isn’t it? Hmm. I might be busier than I’d thought. Well, being busy is good. Believe me. There aren’t many things worse than being bored. Of course, there is such thing as too much work. (I complain about that all the time during the summer!)  But right now, some good, manual labor is just what I need. So I’ll be building my greenhouse tomorrow, planting my currants, hazelnuts, raspberries, and day lilies. I’m expecting several more shipments of trees and bushes over the next two weeks, and sometimes this month my family will be gathering, moving, and working our cattle herds (we’re talking about 300+ cows and 300+ calves…and some odd bulls).

It’s bed-time, so I’ll part with these encouraging words: Happy April everyone! Get out there and enjoy it!!!   

Happy Easter!

Dear Readers,

The Easter holiday is upon us. Sunday is the anniversary of the day Jesus Christ rose from the grave, after dying for our sins, and returned to Heaven to be with our Father. For many people, Easter is the day the Easter Bunny comes and delivers colored eggs, rubber ducks, and candy to children, there will be a big meal in the afternoon, and also a time to visit with those out-of-town relatives who came for a visit.

Today, as I’m writing this, it is Good Friday. Old timers say you’re supposed to plant potatoes and onions today for a bountiful crop. Well, since I do most of my garden shopping through mail-order catalogs, I have not received any of my seed potatoes yet. So…I might be in for a not-so-bountiful harvest. Oh well. But what better was to spend today, not even a week after the first day of Spring, than to go and look at some baby lambs? For some time I’ve been thinking about getting a milk goat, and today, I might be able to buy a baby one. (I’ll keep you posted on how well that plan works out.) As well as being outdoors in the sunshine…and the wind. I’m very ready for warm weather: I’m sick of the cold. I know, more work comes when the weather warms up, and there are many windy days in the summer too, but right now, I’m just looking forward to warmth. Even if I have to be like a snake and curl up on a big flat rock and soak in the sun, I’ll do it! That is, just as long as I don’t have to share the rock with any other snakes.

I hope your Easter is filled with good company, good food, and the presence of the Lord. Happy Easter everyone!

Here with the Wolves part 2

Here is the next part to my book, Here with the Wolves. I welcome any feedback and/or constructive criticisms you may have. Enjoy!

And not a moment after the Grandfather set foot on American soil did he see them: thousands of indigenous werewolves. Left alone amongst the Indian populous, the wolves had bred and multiplied with nerve-wracking speed. The Grandfather set to work, but could not make as much as a dent in them.

His crew was outnumbered.

He wasn’t canny enough to outwit the wolves, or anticipate their next move.

So what did he do?

He came up with a brilliant plan, a plan to mix just enough wolf blood with his own so that he could ‘think’ like the wolves and outsmart them. He was wise enough to know, however, that if he didn’t choose wisely, his offspring would be just as much wolf as the creatures he sought to destroy. Somehow he managed to find a woman whose bloodline had almost been completely drained of wolf and he took her for his bride. The result of the union was a tiny daughter. The mother died giving birth, leaving Columbus to raise and train his young child. He would have no outside help, for too many wolves had discovered his plan and wished to foil him to save their species.  

This did not stop Columbus: he knew if he could kill the wolves himself, he would find a way to use his daughter as a tracker.

But in an unfortunate turn of events, the girl was left behind when Columbus set sail for home. She was left with her people, a child with pale skin, to stand out and be humiliated by both her Indian and wolf kin. How easily they could have killed her and freed themselves from worry, but wolves are merciful. The girl was spared and raised in the ways of her mother’s people.

Her father returned one day, and took her away with him. Being a gullible child, she allowed herself to be molded into the killer Columbus had meant her to be. He raised her, not as his daughter, but as a creature with a purpose. In other words, he treated her as a slave. By now he was formally married, to a noblewoman, and could not afford his relationship with an Indian woman to get out, so he lied about the child, saying he found and captured her to be his handmaid.

And just a few years before he was sentenced to prison, Columbus sent his daughter back to her country of birth and set her loose on her people. She killed without compassion, without the faintest repentance. She was everything her father had hoped for, and more: she married a human man and produced half a dozen grandchildren with the need to kill wolves already imbedded in their minds.

Down through the generations this went, but the wolf Slayers began branching off, some going their separate ways and their blood would eventually clear, leaving them nothing more than human beings.  

But the few from Columbus’s line decided that with the ever-growing wolf population, their purpose in life was meant to go on. And every so often, one of my bloodline will marry a wolf, just to keep the blood fresh. This happens every three or four generations, just to keep us able-minded and strong.

There are a few other bloodlines, not from the Grandfather, thankfully, and most of us have congregated here in North America. A few dozen remain in Australia, a handful in Europe and Russia; none is Asia, and maybe only one or two in Africa. Obviously there aren’t any of us at the North or South Poles, because come on, why would a werewolf live somewhere so frigid?

Anyway, here I am: a third generation killer. Third generation means that I’m one-eighth wolf and the rest all human. The perfect mix. Or so the Grandfather thought. First generation is the offspring of a wolf and a human, a rarity these days, and second generation is one-quarter wolf and three-quarters human. Fourth generation floats along unspoken of, and fifth generation is almost too far gone, in dire need of marrying a wolf to keep their heirs from becoming too weak. For me, Rodger Vancouver, my father, is second generation, and my mother, Megan, is a human with Creole and Danish ancestry. It’s always a bonus to throw some fresh blood into the mix, or so I’ve been told. Besides, the Danes were top-of-the-line witch killers, so bring it on, right?

Three out of every ten people are werewolves. One out of every two hundred people is a wolf-slayer, like me, but only one out of every ten Slayers will embrace their birthright, the rest just turn and live blind to the ever-present threat of wolves. They go along, no better than a regular human. So we’re kind of outnumbered.

Other than that ominous cloud that hangs over our heads, we Slayers are basically pretty normal. My dad is a hunter, that is to say, he enjoys killing other animals just as well as he likes killing wolves. His ‘man-cave’ (I emphasize the word strongly) is stuffed full of deer horns, elk racks, and almost every kind of animal pelt you could imagine: from squirrels to grizzly bears and moose to leopards. He also has a few pack mules that he loans to hunters for travelling to hunting camps in the mountains. And he has a job as a mechanic.  

My sister Viviana and our brothers Collin and Corey will be trained as Slayers also, but since I am the eldest of these siblings, the responsibility to keep up the bloodline fell to me years ago. Even though I wanted to reject it, I could not. Even though I am kind of supposed to hang out with my dad to learn stuff from him, I’m hardly ever around him; he and I are too much alike and we disagree on practically everything and have ever since my initiation.

So I’m closer to my little sister and my baby brothers, who live with our human mother. She’s a sweet little woman, Mom is. She reminds me of a little bird with her slender figure and silky brown hair. She is gentle and she wants what is best for me. But because she is only human, Dad never confided in her what he was. So I have been formally forbidden to ever speak of important things, such as wolves or my training.

It isn’t difficult, because Mom doesn’t pry into my life. She has accepted that I am to grow up to be someone amazing. That is why she’s never minded when I was sent to stay with a friend of dad’s, a man named Kenneth. All the same, I was never been able to have that strong mother-daughter bond. That was something I longed for, but it was too hard to try and be her friend when I couldn’t even tell her who my friends were or what I did for a living.  

 

*to be continued*

(c) Briana Vedsted 2013

Can your characters speak to you?

When I read this, I though, Finally! Here is someone else who thinks that characters can sometimes take over a story without the author’s permission! (It has happened to me too many times to count.)

Re-blogged from: http://andrewtoynbee.wordpress.com/

Characters that can write their own stories

This is a debate that will probably rage forever.

I have encountered the discussion / argument a few times and sadly, I am forced to agree with both sides of the arguement – never a happy position.

source; Crirez – Stock.Xchng

One writer commented;  ’Think about how ridiculous that sounds – someone you’ve invented in your own head decides that he is now going to refuse to run into a burning building.  You, the writer, decides what he will and will not do.’

My argument (whilst agreeing with the technical explanation above) is that at some point it may feel completely wrong for a character (with a given personality) to be forced to perform an action – unnatural, even, no matter how much the First Draft required it.  And if it feels wrong to the writer, it will almost certainly feel wrong to a reader.  So the character is showing his…well character…and ‘protesting’ that what the writer is asking him to do is…out of character.

This is an extract from ProcrastinatingWriters on the very same subject;

Jennifer said;

How would you suggest a writer learn more about what their characters want? I often hear writers say their characters “wrote” the story for them. My writing doesn’t unfold like that. I come up with everything–not my characters. I’d be interested to hear how you suggest someone allow their characters to take the lead.

My reply;

My characters often take over scenes and need frequent reining in. I know many writers don’t believe this can happen (I admit that it does sound a bit daft! But it happens.) but I believe it might stem from having created strong characters (or at least well-established ones) with clear motives.

When I’m in Muse mode, writing dialogue, a character can leave the well-chosen track and head down a different road altogether. By the time my fingers have stopped moving, the new conversation is already underway. I am then faced with a choice; Hit Delete or go with the new coversation and see where the chat leads. If it’s relevant, or new and exciting, I stay with it. If it leads me down a dead-end, I won’t scrap it entirely, but Cut and Paste it into my Recycling area – from where I may retrieve it later. That bit of dialogue might even inspire a new chapter, idea or complete novel.

So allow your characters some freedom within the story and they might just surprise you by doing something unexpected – something you’d never normally have plotted. Whatever they do, it’ll be within character (it has to be for this theory to be valid).

I also found this entry on Fiction Factor;

Have you ever been writing a story only to have a minor character try to take over? Okay, so they aren’t real and they can’t really do that, but sometimes it seems like they have a mind of their own.

Larry Brooks says;

Your characters will begin to talk to you.

Ah, the mantra of the pantser.  Waiting for the completely fictional construct of your imagination to take over the story.

This is like asking your nine year old to drive so you can enjoy the scenery.

If you have to wait until the character figures out what’s required in the story before you do, then your story is already broken.

Because the story isn’t completely and solely about the character.  It’s also about the narrative landscape upon which a drama unfolds – conflict and tension – which may not yet be fully realized within the character’s perception.

Like a nine year old who can’t see over the dashboard.

All valid points, Larry.

However, I heard this from Carole Barrowman (Professor of English and Director of Creative Studies in Writing) on Monday 17th Sept 2012.  She was on BBC radio with her brother John Barrowman (yes, him!) discussing the latest Dr Who novel they had written.

She said; “It’s surprising the routes that the characters can take your story down.”

Evidence of characters guiding the story?  I think so, Larry.

When I write, I have definite plot points that must be fulfilled and a nailed-down ending.  Anything that happens in between those points can be guided by the characters I have created.  If I originally visualise a character as being introverted and shy, with events being determined by that and then other events mould that character into a determined, angry and vengeful person, I will happily follow this new line, allowing the new, developed persona to shape their own destiny.  The result is often a stronger character and higher drama.

The debate will doubtless continue…

Whilst idly browsing my WordPress stats, I noticed that someone had highlighted this very page from Reddit.com.

The post was one of several that referred to something called (and this is a completely new word for me) Tulpae.

The page describes a Tulpa as; …best described as an imaginary friend that has its own thoughts and emotions, and that you can interact with. You could think of them as hallucinations that can think and act on their own.

The contributor opens the discussion with;

Are characters in a novel the Tulpae of the Author?

Very interesting question…

The post then goes on to ask;

By talking and fleshing out something to your own subconscious for so long, you start to get answers from it. The answers align themselves with all these preconceived traits you’ve given them (for the most part). When you talk to your own mind for long enough, it will answer back: this is an accepted fact.

This sounds a lot like an author with a good enough character not deciding what the character will do, but the author knowing what the character would do because the character tells him or her.

I was told by a writing professor of mine that authors should strive for this level of character development, to the point where the character makes its own decisions.

anyone interested in discussing this?

Read more of the discussion here.

I’ve noted some other thoughts on my post ‘Are authors guilty of creating imaginary friends?’  (Link to follow on Dec 19th 2012)

Back onto the subject of characters taking hold of a story, I stumbled across a Ray Bradbury quote on Chichikir’s wordpress page (if I may borrow the great man’s words);

“The bottom line here is that I am not the one in control. I do not try to steer my characters; I let them live their lives and speak their truths as quickly as possible. I listen, and write them down.”

Even the great Ray Bradbury let his characters find their own way?

And so the debate continues…

CG Blake also discusses the phenomenon here.

*   *   *

Amira K. at Z-Axis says this;

(Outline your stories before you write.)

Okay, I get that it works for some people, maybe, but it sure doesn’t work for me. When I try to outline I end up boxing myself into corners without giving my characters room to live, breathe, and make their own choices. My characters come to life on the page, sometimes almost without my consent, and do things that take me completely by surprise. They do things that I would never do. If I outlined my stories, I would never be able to give my characters the freedom they deserve.

 

The Ag Expo

Agriculture is…”the backbone, the building block. The homesteaders scattered across the West and developed it for agriculture uses,” she said. “Some of them came here [Colorado]. The spirit of agriculture has been with us ever since. If agriculture stays strong, the overall economy of the city and county is strong.” Taken from the Cortez Journal, http://cortezjournal.com/article/20130318/NEWS01/130319840/That’s-a-wrap-for-2013–Ag-Expo

Every March for the past thirty-one years the Four States’ Agricultural Emporium (Ag Expo) has been held in Cortez, Colorado, not too far from where I live. Since I was old enough to be carried or walk on my own, I have not missed an Ag Expo. for farmers and ranchers who don’t get out very often, as is the case with my family, the Ag Expo is marked down on the calenders and waited for with much anticipation. There are vendors and booths from Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, as well as some other neighboring states. Kids who are in 4-H or FFA show their steers, heifers, pigs, and lambs. There is food, fun, and educational experiences. Once, when I was five or six, a kindly old cowboy gave me a few roping pointers. And this year, my siblings and I learned a lot about goats. For years my brother has wanted goats and once we sampled some of the milk and were pleasantly surprised with how close to cow’s milk the taste was, I made up my mind: sooner or later I will be investing in a milk goat. We made a few rounds through the bull pens, admiring the velvet-furred black beasts. Then we looked at the sheep (I’ve wanted sheep for as long as I can remember) and the little black lamb stole my heart.

Unfortunately though, people are losing interest in agriculture. I remember not that many years ago when the main exhibit building was literally packed to the bursting point. This year there were too many unused booths and empty rooms. Even the animal exhibits were fewer than in years past. The only children in sight were the ones who’d come with their teachers on a Field Trip, and there couldn’t have been more than two dozen of them.

There were only three chickens, two pigs, a couple of turkeys, and a few alpacas. No rabbits, heifer calves, chicks, or colts. It is a sad thought about how so many people have given up the farm. As far as people in large cities are concerned, their meat, milk, eggs, and flour comes from who-knows-where (no offence to all you city folks). Too many teens these days don’t know/care about what it takes to raise a bottle calf, grow an apple tree, or even ride a horse. I have to face it: I live in a world of technology. Even I use technology: I’m on Facebook, I own a laptop, run this website, and send emails. The one thing I don’t have that over 3/4 of people my age have is a cell phone.

In the summer, I quit my ‘office job’ and live outside for most of the day. Most people don’t know what a sideroll or a pivot is (don’t worry, someday I’ll write a post explaining what they do, how they work, and what an enormous pain in the neck they are) but that is how my family and many of our neighbors make their living . And some people still dryland farm. Other than farming, people own cows. Cows make money for us nearly year-round: we sell old/open cows in spring and most of the calves in the fall.

I’ll admit that I have no experienced with tractors: the most I’ve done on heavy equipment is cut a few swaths of hay. But I’ve helped with the branding of the calves for years; even before I was big enough to push the calves, it was my job to chase them out of the pen after they were released from the squeeze chute. I currently own three cows, four first-calf heifers, four yearlings, four calves, a bull, and a horse. I’m not bragging, I’m just saying that it IS possible for youngsters to succeed in the agriculture business. My little sister is an expert (in my opinion) rider and has a few cows and a horse and wants to make her living as a cowgirl. My brother wants to be a veterinarian and own cows and goats. That’s why I commend banks who offer the Young Farmer loans, although you nearly have to jump through hoops to qualify for them. This year, I had every intention of buying 71 acres of farmland, but since we’ve been hit so heavily with the drought and will only have half the normal water supply, I’m going to have to wait until next year or the year after, if it is still for sale by then.

Farming is hard: you have to work very hard, and sometimes your work doens’t pay off and you barely make it by. My parents are the hardest working people I’ve ever met. And they’ve gone through more hardships than any person has a right to go through. And they’re still young, with many more hardships yet to endure. And within a few years, I know I’ll be in the same boat. You may ask, “Then why? If farming is so hard, why would anyone want to be in that occupation?” Because: if no one farmed we would all go hungry. And, in my personal opinion, earning your living by farming is the most honest way to live.  

To all you farmers, ranchers, dairy cow owners, backyard gardeners, and young aspiring agriculturists out there: Keep up the good work and God bless you all.

 

History of the Cow

Here is my column for the Fence Post magazine this month. Enjoy!

Cows are ornery critters. You just cannot trust them! Oh sure, when they’re babies they’re cute and lovable, but when that baby is about three months old, she’ll face her first unpleasant human encounter: branding day. Poor baby, along with Mama, grandmamma, assorted aunts, sisters, and cousins, are rounded up, herded to a holding pen, and sorted. Babies go to one pen and their mothers another. Then there is a bumpy journey in a squeaky trailer down the highway to another pen, where there will be a quick reunion, followed by a second sorting. After being taken from her mama again baby is chased into a contraption she will learn to fear: a squeeze chute. Trapped, baby is pricked with needles, tagged, and branded. When she is finally turned loose from her steel captor, kids will chase after her, yelling and waving their hats. This is about the time our calf is changing from cute to cow.

Here comes our seven month old version, which weighs about six hundred pounds and is wilder than a raccoon after grazing alone on the mountainside all summer, and well, cute just isn’t a good description anymore. Even that calf you had to bottle feed for a week before her mama would accept it has tried to become more elusive than a snake’s eyebrow! Of course, cowboys are canny creatures and can usually sniff out and catch the less-than-brilliant mammal. That’s when the fun really begins. See, now that the critter-in-question has been captured, its going to do its doggone best to keep from being approached too closely by its two-legged owner. We all know that plan is going to backfire, as the dear little heifer needs to be separated from her mother, sorted from her male kin, prodded down a long alleyway, stuffed in a trailer, and packed away in a feedlot with lots of strangers, attended to by another human who insists on coming in close contact nearly every day!

Five months later it’s time for the heifer to be re-tagged, vaccinated, and possibly re-branded, which means she has to make another journey down the alleyway. Oh the injustice of it all! But perhaps this will be the last time. Baby is going to give her humans one last chance.

And after a summer in the wide open pasture without being chased or prodded or pricked, Baby decides her humans must have forgiven her for whatever injustice she must have done them and believes she is safe. She almost doesn’t even mind when the horse-riding men come to herd her down the mountain and drive her to her winter home.

Then, on the eve of Baby’s second birthday, she gives birth to a healthy calf of her own. One cannot describe the new mother’s pride! Her owner comes to check on the baby. Nearly prancing with delight, Baby waits for her human to congratulate her for her great accomplishment, but to Baby’s horror, her calf starts to cry as soon as the human touches it! Baby sees a flash of metal and hears a click. Her child bawls in protest. That’s the last straw! Baby springs into action, memories of her own childhood flooding back! She won’t stand around while her youngster is mistreated! And just like that, the rancher who’d only been trying to tag the calf gets bowled over by Baby! Back on his feet, the rancher attempts to skirt around Baby to get back to his truck. But Baby, thinking he’s after her calf, bellows furiously and charges. She chases her owner behind a tree. Thinking he won’t be foolish enough to try anything else, Baby returns to comfort her calf.

This is why cows are called Flighty, Batty, Dangerous, or just plain Mean: they’re sick and tired of being treated like, well, like animals! They have no intention of letting their babies be harmed in any way. Who would blame them? Would any of you mothers out there allow your children to be tagged and branded? Heavens no! But please ladies, leave your horns and hooves at home!Image