Saturday, May 30, 2015

Hinting at the Future

Chief, a gentle and willing gelding, came into my life
when I was thirteen.  Folks would point to the brand on his neck and say, "See? Chief was an Army horse. And the "S" branded below the number meant he made Sargent."

One man told me I could "write to Washington" and armed with this brand, they could tell me all about my horse.
The picture I took showing Chief brand
(1248) to send to Washington

I did and "they" did. Turns out he was a Morgan Horse that the Army purchased in Texas. However, the "S" stood for "surplus."

Through the years Chief and I roamed the Adirondack Mountains, often road ten miles across town to ride with others, took part of every parade my town of Lake Placid had. I even found a college where I could take Chief with me.  I can't recall a less than perfect day with Chief and probably because of that I knew I never wanted anything but Morgan Horses in my life.

In a high school English class, that spent an entire semester studying Shakespeare, one of the assignments was to write something in Shakesperian style.  That was easy. Of course Chief was my subject:
Chief's birthday was always celebrated
with a homemade carrot cake
extra carrots added!

They called him by the name of Chief
And Chief he certainly was.
For kindness, poise and quality
No better could there be.
(lots more to my sonnet, but this is how it ends:)
And one white foot was needed all
To make me want for ere.
This noble beast.
This Morgan horse
To be surpassed by none.

Years later, after marrying my horse-trainer-husband, it became my job to fill out the horse show entry forms. The horse show association (AHSA back then) required that the trainer be identified and his AHSA number included. 
On a trail ride in VT with a
friend. Note all the horses
in the background.

Kinda still gives me goosebumps to think that my first horse's brand was exactly the same as my husband's AHSA number. And that my wonderful experiences with Chief kept me in the Morgan Horse world where I would run across the man that became my husband.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A right royal read...

By Carolyn Henderson

This month, I’ve been unashamedly royalist.  It’s something that affects the British horse world every May – and it’s all down to a horse show.

It isn’t just any show, though. It’s Royal Windsor, held in Her Majesty the Queen’s ‘back garden’ with Windsor Castle providing a spectacular background. Even the most hardened competitors love it, because it has a special atmosphere.

The national media is out in force, because the royal family is there to watch the Queen’s show horses and native ponies competing. My friend and co-author Katie Jerram produces and competes some of these horses and though she never talks out of turn, it’s clear that Her Majesty is the most understanding and knowledgeable owner Katie could wish for.

My favourite story doesn’t come from Katie, but I really hope it’s true. Her Majesty is often criticised for wearing a headscarf rather than a safety hat, but apparently the scarf is used to give her escort a useful signal. If she ties another knot in it, that means it’s time to gallop; these days, she may stick to riding her Fell ponies, but anyone who knows the breed will appreciate that when they want to, Fells can shift.

When I worked with Katie to produce  Katie Jerram on Showing for J A Allen, we featured some of Her Majesty’s horses in the book: not because they have such an illustrious owner, but because they are such great examples of their type. And yes, we do have a very special and private picture of Her Majesty flicking through a copy of the book.
Here’s a link to the book if you want to know more:

People who don’t share a passion for horses sometimes seem to think that if you own a horse, you must be wealthy and privileged.  I’ll go with the privileged, but wealthy? You must be joking. I might spend £65 every six weeks on my horse’s shoes, but I’m the Queen of the charity shops when it comes to buying my own clothes.

One reason the Queen and other members of her family love horses is, perhaps, that animals are great levellers.  A horse won’t grovel or curtsey and a Fell pony certainly won’t. When your life is dictated by affairs of state, an hour spent with a hairy pony must be truly precious.

A cat may look at a King, but a horse must surely enrich the life of a Queen.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Horses Sneak In

by Linda Benson

When you're a certified horse nut, horses sneak into everything, don't they? When I was younger, a visitor to my house once remarked that every. single. picture. on my walls had a horse in it. Really? I hadn't noticed. That just seemed normal to me.

When I got interested in Jamberry nails (love them, great for outdoor girls like me) one of the first things I looked for was to see if they had a horse design (they do.)

If I'm looking for anything: books, fabric, furniture, clothes, I will always gravitate toward something with a horse theme.

So it's only natural that as a writer, horses tend to sneak into my stories also, even if it's not a horse story.

Case in point: In my very first Cat Tale, called The Winter Kitten, Brianna moves in with her dad in Portland, Oregon, after leaving the horse farm where she lived with her mom, who has died.

Yes, it's true. Horses are mentioned, or are part of the plot, of several of my Cat Tales (a series about Cats!)

My novel Six Degrees of Lost, a coming of age novel told from two different viewpoints, was just re-released after the original publisher closed its doors earlier this year. It's now available under my own imprint, Seven Trails Press, and it features David and Olive, teenagers from different backgrounds, both searching for their place in life. It's filled with rescue dogs and foster animals, and *cough* even a couple of horses.

In this case, the horses that sneak in are not show horses, or a girl's dream ride. No, they are skinny old rescue horses named Shakespeare and Paintball. Here is the scene where Olive (a city girl, staying temporarily with her aunt) attempts to ride one of them. In Olive's own words:

" I feel like a total idiot, sitting up here on Paintball holding onto the saddle horn while Swede leads me around like a baby. David probably thinks I’m a complete chicken.

Paintball acts antsy, shuffling his feet, which rocks me off balance. “What’s he doing?” I ask. “Is he going to run off?”

“Olive, this horse never even flinched when we saddled him,” says Swede. “He’s so old he couldn’t spook if he tried. Nothing to worry about.”

Paintball begins to dance underneath me and turns in the direction of the barn. He raises his head and lets loose a long neigh and his whole body shakes. “Why did he do that?”

“Oh, he’s just missing the other old codger back there,” says Swede. “I’ve got a firm hold on him. He’s not going anywhere.”

“Can I just get off now?” I feel like a baby the minute I ask, but the horse is making me all jittery and nervous.

“Sure,” Swede says, bringing Paintball to a halt. “Let’s walk him back to the barn where he can see his buddy, and you can get off there.”

My insides turn over. “No, I want to get off now.”

“Okay,” says Swede. “No problem. Whoa there, old Paintball.” He takes a firm grip on the horse. “Now swing your right leg back over the cantle, kick your feet out of the stirrups, and let yourself fall to the ground easy.”

I land with a hard thump and almost fall on my butt. I look around to see if David is watching. He is. My face turns pink and I feel about three years old instead of thirteen.

From the barn behind the house, Shakespeare lets out a long plaintive neigh of his own, and Paintball whinnies back. “Whoa there, you old crowbait,” says Swede. He jerks on Paintball’s halter a few times as he walks him back toward the barn. “Behave now.”

“Maybe it’s a good thing you got off when you did,” David says.

“I don’t really know how to ride,” I mumble. I barely know David, and I feel like I just had the most embarrassing moment of my life. "

Here's the link to Six Degrees of Lost, if you'd like to know more:

So yes, horses tend to sneak into every aspect of my life, from choices in living situations to decor to thinking, dreaming, and writing.

What about you? Tell us! Whether you are a horse lover, owner, aficionado, rider, writer, reader, or horse admirer, how do horses sneak into your life?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Correct, But Still Wrong

                                                                           Milton C. Toby photo
by Milton C. Toby


It's one of the few tidbits of useless information I still recall from a miserable semester of college German--a course I passed by swearing to never take German again. The word is long and unpronounceable, but what does it mean?

Roughly translated, verschlimmbessrung refers to an improvement that makes things worse.

"New Coke" comes immediately to mind. The "improved" soft drink represented the first change in Coke's secret formula in almost a century and was introduced with much fanfare on April 23, 1985. New Coke promptly bombed in spectacular fashion. Other examples abound, but the application of verschlimmbessrung that matters for our purposes as writers involves copy editing. Whether editing our own work, or working with a professional copy editor, a devotion to "correctness" can be a disaster.

The apparent contradiction that an editing change can be both correct and wrong at the same time occurred to me when I came across an article about copy editing in a recent issue of The New Yorker. I love The New Yorker, in part because of the quality of the writing and in part because the magazine is one of the few places where you can find a lengthy article about the history of commas. (The ubiquitous comma was invented--as much as a person can invent a punctuation mark--by an Italian printer named Aldo Manuzio. He apparently was looking for a way to separate items in text without ending a sentence, and added a tail to a period around the year 1500.)

I had the good fortune of working with a excellent copy editor on my manuscript for Canonero II: The Rags to Riches Story of the Kentucky Derby's Most Improbable Winner. She knew her job and her changes generally made the book better. Our only disagreement, and it was a significant one, involved how to refer to a horse in a sentence when the animal's name is not used. Was a horse a "he" or an "it?" My editor opted for the latter and made changes throughout the manuscript, leading to many awkward sentences like this one: Hoist the Flag finished the year unbeaten in four starts, although it (not he as I originally wrote) was disqualified in the Champagne Stakes for causing a serious traffic jam during the early going.

Canonero II received dozens of "good luck" cards before his start in the 1971
Belmont Stakes. His fans clearly did not consider him an "it."
Collage by film producer/director Salomon Gill
A flurry of emails ensued, with both of us citing various sections of The Chicago Manual of Style for support. (If you are not familiar with the CMS, it is the bible of style for writers and editors. It has a spot within easy arm's reach of my computer.) Her argument was that "he" referred to a person but not to a horse; mine was that even if using "it" rather than "he" was technically correct, the usage violated well-established tradition and would offend every reader.

We eventually settled on an exception in Section 5.49 of the CMS that allowed gender-specific pronouns such as "he" or "she" to be used "as if the antecedent represented a male or female person." It also helped that "he" and "she" rather than "it" were used to refer to horses in my two previous books for that publisher.

Some improvements actually do make things worse.

Happy Verschlimmbessrung!



Friday, May 22, 2015

My last blog post looked at horse and pony stories written during the war in the UK. It took a while before book production started to approach anything near its 1930s levels, but by the 1950s it was getting there. The war was over; rationing was coming to an end. We had never had it so good, so Harold Macmillan said. The welfare state was becoming established, employment was high. The 1950s pony book reflected the spirit of optimism of the age: they were set in an Arcadian Britain that had never existed, but perhaps, now, it might. In this post war world, riding was becoming ever more popular. In 1934, there were 103 Pony Club branches, with a membership of 8,350. By 1952, Pony Club membership had increased to 18,905, with 201 branches. PONY Magazine, started in 1949, was well into its stride, and was read by people who had no pony, nor any hope of getting one either.

The Pullein-Thompsons were now fully in their stride, with Josephine’s Noel and Henry series, Diana’s Augusta and Christina, and Christine’s Chill Valley Hounds and Phantom Horse all appearing in this decade.

Ruby Ferguson's Jill series was now joined by other pony series fiction - distinctly variable in quality. Mary Gervaise, best known for her school stories, which she had been producing in a pretty much unbroken run since the 1920s, began her G for Georgia series with A Pony of Your Own (1950). The most pony-orientated of her books, it took a genre in decline – school stories – and slapped the ever popular pony book on top of it. The series is an odd one in several ways: although billed as ponies and school, most of the books are set outside school, and there is little traditional pony adventure. Mary Gervaise doesn’t do gymkhanas. She does do outsiders, and family life, and that is what the Georgia series gives the reader; that and ponies as friends.

Mary Gervaise was joined as a series writer by Judith M Berrisford. She had been a regular contributor toPony Magazine, and had produced a range of pony stories like Timber (1950), Sue’s Circus Horse (1951) and Red Rocket (1952)which tended towards breathless adventure. With Jackie Won a Pony (1958), she started one of the lengthiest British pony series (now overtaken by Pippa Funnell’s ghost-written Tilly series). Jackie Hope wins a pony in a magazine competition, and instead of picking one of the lovely ponies she is shown, goes for a grey Welsh pony she sees pulling a cart – Misty. Unlike most ponies pulling carts in pony fiction, Misty is not ill treated. This sets the tone for the series: Jackie’s world is a safe and comfortable one, through which she crashes with her partner in disaster, her cousin Babs. In holiday adventure after holiday adventure, Jackie and Babs rush in, full of honest good intentions, and end up infuriating those around them. Everything works out in the end: these stories are safe, comfort reading.

Towards the end of the decade, Pat Smythe started producing her Three Jays series. Pat Smythe was an immensely accomplished rider, who won a bronze medal in the Stockholm Olympics in 1956. This was the first year in which women had been allowed to compete with men. In previous Olympics, Pat’s horses had been selected but she was not allowed to ride them. Her horses did not do well for other riders and they did not compete. When Pat rode them, they won. She was brave, a wonderful rider, well turned out and never grumbled. She was a heroine to ponymad children, and they bought her Three Jays series in droves. It was a clever marketing concept: all fans long to know more about their heroes, and the Three Jays series allowed the reader to imagine herself in Pat’s world. It was set in Pat’s home and stables, with her horses and staff, with the addition of the three fictional children: Jimmy, Jane and Jackie.

Georgia, Jackie and The Three Jays were all reprinted several times: but the Three Jays did not survive beyond the 1960s. When Pat retired from show jumping, and married, there was no longer the magnetic pull of her celebrity to enliven the books, but they remain as an insight into how Pat rode and thought.

~  0  ~

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Reader Appreciation Club

Some writers (more successful ones than me!) have fan clubs. I want to go the other way, and start a Reader Appreciation Club.

You can join the Reader Appreciation Club if you write a helpful review of a book, that doesn't include any plot spoilers but just lets potential readers know why you liked it, so that they can decide if they would like it. You can join the club if you tweet or post on Facebook about a book that you can't put down. You can join the club if you send the author an email or a Facebook message or tag them in an Instagram photo or just in any way possible let the author know that someone's reading the author's book, and that someone likes the author's book.

If you take a book on vacation, tell the author!
From Reader Appreciation Society Charter Member Summer T.
Then once you're in the club I'll shower you with praise, send you chocolates, and ask you to cheer me up when I'm feeling down.

Because that's how you got into the club. Not because you sold books for me, or made my book more visible to buyers, or even because you said nice things about my book. The members of my Reader Appreciation Club (imaginary, because I live in Florida and mailing chocolates would be messy) get to join because they let me know that they're reading the book. "Hey Natalie, you know that entire summer you spent indoors editing a novel? I read it."

As an author I don't get a pat on the back from my boss.

I don't get to chat with anyone in the break room at lunch time.

I don't even see my customers (as someone with a retail/hospitality background, this one is particularly tough!). Basically, you're all just highly theoretical to me until someone actually sends me that email, or tags me in that Instagram photo of my book visiting the Bahamas as a beach read, or writes that review at a booksellers' website.

Sometimes it feels like I'm sending my work out into a void, hunching over something, obsessing over something, for months and even years, and then... just waiting. Waiting for a little proof that someone read it, that my work resonated with someone, that all that work matters.

"You know that entire summer you spent indoors editing a novel? I read it. You exist. It exists. That summer mattered."

Writers and websites like Goodreads will tell you that writing a review helps an author sell books, and that makes it a nice thing to do for an author that you like. And that's true -- don't get me wrong.
This is all a review needs to be, to be helpful to readers and precious to authors! Welcome to the club, Morganmom!

But even when someone isn't comfortable writing a review, or they don't have time, or they don't have an account with Amazon after all so that 500-word review they just wrote has just been deleted and never again *%&*#((D!! -- just letting the writer know, in some small way, that someone has actually read that work they sent out into the void months ago, or years ago... that's all you need to get into my Reader Appreciation Society. (Imaginary.)

Thanks to everyone who has ever emailed me, tagged me, tweeted me, written me a review... thanks to all of you. You're my pat on the back from my boss, and you're my chat in the break room, and you're my validation that all this work matters.

You guys rock, and you totally deserve chocolates.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Try to get it Right the First Time

Do you Research for Your Writing?
Although a lot of what is written for enjoyment is fiction, there are areas that should be factually correct.  I think this is especially true for horse books where people read to enjoy, but also to learn about an animal they love.

It’s important that what they read is information they can put to use with their own horses - or once they get a horse!

Perhaps it’s tempting for someone writing a book to not double check information they’re not 100% certain of.  A book is written once and then provides you a return any time it is read or bought – it is worth getting it right the first time.

With our current digital age, the great news is that if somehow facts change and your book is no longer current or correct about a particular thing, you can easily update an eBook and republish it.  Do your homework and try to get it right from the start, but keep up to date in your field and don’t shy away from revising an edition of your book if you need to.

Friday, May 15, 2015

On Commitment

by Meghan Namaste

Writing a novel is a huge commitment, but then again, so is horse ownership.

The big difference between those who casually write and novelists is the ability (the drive?) to commit. Novels are a different animal than the short stories and blog posts of the writing world. Such a large body of work requires a lot of investment, sometimes many years of devotion. It's not for the fly-by-night writer. To write a novel (and follow through) you have to truly commit to the story. Without that deep-seated desire to complete your narrative, without that abiding love for your characters, your novel will forever remain a mere concept, not reality.

Aside from the time commitment, the attention to detail required is the next biggest hurdle in actually producing a finished novel. Anyone who merely loves writing action sequences (fight scenes, dramatic cliffhangers, makeout scenes, you name it) will quickly bog down when it comes time to actually formulate a plot and fill in all the gaps. The first rule of novel writing is that every scene is important, not just the Big Important Scenes.

I believe one of my strengths as a writer (and potentially my downfall in real life, as it happens) is my ability to milk the drama in any situation. Little moments can still convey powerful emotion, and every scene should move the plot forward.

Without romanticizing the writing process, you begin to see it for what it is. Not easy, certainly not glamorous, but for those who want it enough, the magic is there. It just takes a lot of work to achieve it, just as horse ownership isn't all brisk gallops through scenic fields with the wind in your hair. There are those blissful moments, those foot-perfect rides, to be sure, but then there are those downtimes when lameness strikes, or when you drive to the barn in a whiteout just to drop off food baggies.

Cumulatively, it all adds up into something special. Is it any wonder why so many horse owners also happen to be writers?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Making Words Count: Don't Be Boring!

by Toni Leland

A few years ago, I had a great Skype session with my then-13-year-old granddaughter, who is an avid reader and was a great help to me with a YA book I was trying to write.

Anyway, she asked what the next few scenes would be and I mentioned that my main character would be taking a trip to another state. She nodded, then leaned forward so I could see her expression on the Skype screen.

"Well, okay, but leave out the boring stuff."

This caught me off guard. What would a young teen find boring about a trip? So I asked her, and she didn't hesitate at all.

"You know, sitting in the plane, taking off, all that stuff. If you use the plane trip, make it exciting. Like, if the plane crashes and she's the only survivor!"

Okay, I can see that this child will not be fooled by filler. And if she isn't, then neither will the thousands of other young readers we hope to woo with our tales.

So, back to boring. In the early stages of my fiction-writing career, I attended a workshop given by a successful writer in which she outlined the parts of a novel and their importance. She focused on the "sagging middle" because that's where many authors have problems. She talked about breaking up the story into mostly equal word counts to achieve the final goal, and how to dole out the story points through the whole thing.

Could I keep my mouth shut? Nope. During the Q&A session, I mentioned that my story was finished, but I only had 65,000 words and the required count was 85,000. How could I fix it? Without missing a beat, she said, "Come up with more story." It was the right answer, but what she didn't include was HOW to do that. I had to learn that on my own.

A story arc has three "acts" made up of scenes. Each scene should tell the reader something new and move the story forward smoothly. A story outline can give the author a map to follow and, like a road trip, should include some scenery and attractions along the way. Building the story world is one way to expand word count, but add too much and you'll have readers skipping through the narrative. Extensive character description can also expand word count, but most readers prefer to visualize a character themselves rather than read about all the physical details. Hair and eye color, body structure, any quirks – those are good, but the rest is filler. Dialogue is one of the best writing techniques for carrying a story, but make every word golden. Lots of dialogue is good and provides plenty of white space on the page that gives one the feeling of reading quickly. But dialogue that tracks every reply and grunt and "Hi" and "Yeah" and "Fine, how are you?" is boring! We write stories not about real life as it boringly is, but real life as it is interesting. Conflict is the foundation of every story, so use it to the fullest. Make your characters work for their goals and desires; give them obstacles.

Know ahead of time what your genre expects for word count and include it in your initial story plan. I found a great explanation of word counts; it made life much easier for me. To figure out how to achieve your desired word count, look at each scene or plot point and ask yourself, "What else can happen to make this more interesting?" This is how you "come up with more story."

Now, about that plane crash...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

On being a horse

by Diana Kimpton
I’ve spent much of my life riding horses, caring for horses and writing about horses. Now, for the first time ever, I have the chance to be one.  

That’s because my local amateur dramatics society is staging a production of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows. It’s a brilliant adaptation by Mike Kenny so, when I saw there was a character called Horse, I couldn’t resist having a go. It’s not a big part. I’m only on stage for one scene, but that scene is huge fun to do.
By now, you’re probably wondering if I’m the front end or the back. But this isn’t a pantomime horse. All the characters in Wind in the Willows are humanised animals so Horse is just me, standing on two legs while trying to think and act in an equine sort of way.

I spend half my time on stage with Rat trying unsuccessfully to catch me. Having spent many hours standing in a field trying to catch a horse that doesn’t want to be caught, it’s fun to put myself in the role of catchee rather than catcher and do the running away for a change.  

After I finally surrender in order to get a carrot, we set off to explore the world with Toad’s gipsy caravan pulled by yours truly. Fortunately it’s very light and we don’t go very far before we have a disastrous encounter with a loud and terrifying car. As I prance around the stage, jumping with alarm at every fresh noise, I imagine how the real horses I’ve met would behave and try to do the same.  

Of course, none of those horses could talk. But I’m sure that, if they could, their dialogue would be remarkably similar to the wonderful lines Mike Kenny has written. “Clip clop? Not clopping likely” is definitely my favourite and there are times when I’m sure that’s what my own  horse is thinking.
You can find out more about this adaptation of The Wind in the Willows at Nick Hern Books

Sunday, May 10, 2015

L. R. Trovillion

It is my turn to post and it happens to be Mother's Day. I would be remiss if I ignored the opportunity to say something about the influence of mothers on this, their day.  I'm posting a picture of my mother that I especially like because it was a time when she was young and happy and had all the promise of life in front of her...also, because she is sitting on a horse.

My mother was not an accomplished horsewoman, but she had a love of horses, especially in her youth.  I hope I've passed that on to my own daughter, whose first horseback riding experience was "in utero" (perhaps not such a smart idea) and who later spent years in pony club, junior equestrian teams, and eventing.  By high school she traded in her ratcatcher and boots for a rugby shirt and cleats, but I believe her years of riding, training, and showing horses gave her a certain mental toughness that is hard to duplicate. More than that, competing in a sport with a horse--another living thing as your partner--teaches you that you are not the center of the universe.  This is often a critical lesson to learn during certain teenaged years. Thank-you to the horses. Here's a picture of me and my daughter from years ago, at a time when we were both able to enjoy riding together. (Yes, I know my hair should be tied up under the helmet. I had taken it off, and just popped it back on to mount and pose for the picture.) 
Horses have figured in the mother-daughter relationship in our family for two generations now, so it is no happenstance, I suppose, that it figures prominently in my novel, False Gods. Relations between mothers and daughters have been endlessly explored, examined, picked and pulled apart under the microscope of the novelist as well as the movie producer.  It has provided rich, fertile ground to till for stories...and yet, there always seems to be more to say about the myriad and diverse relationships between these two female family members.  The mother in False Gods has difficulty with her two daughters, but instead of it being the teenagers who are the troubled ones, it is instead the mother who suffers from emotional problems to the extent that she doesn't even notice the damage she's inflicting until it is almost too late. I won't give anything more away, except... speaking of giveaways (warning: this is where the self-promotion comes in), a contest is now running on Goodreads until May 13th to win one of seven copies of False Gods for free.  I'd love to hear what other people have to say about their mothers, their relationships, and whether horses were a part of it. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Writing and Riding––and Free Books!

by Lisa Wysocky

Writing about horses is a lot like giving riding lessons. Both make me think through a sequence of events. Both, over time, require me to achieve progression, and both allow me some creative freedom.

If a rider has trouble keeping her heels down, I might instead ask her to point her toes to the sky. Trouble posting the trot? Try a two-point, then dropping into the saddle before bouncing up, rather than sitting and then trying to get up. If a fictional character needs a new horse, I can invent a way to put the perfect equine into the story. Or, I can find a creative way to give a horse an interesting character quirk that ties into the plot.

I am currently finishing my third equestrian mystery (The Fame Equation, fall 2015). It has been wonderful to reconnect with my characters and help them problem solve through another murder. My characters also help stretch me out of my equine comfort zone from time to time, so it has become an educational process, too.

Why would an otherwise healthy horse blow bubbles in a water bucket, or lie in an odd position? What does a circling behavior in the pasture really mean? Those and a thousand other questions have to be researched and solidified in my mind before I can distill it down to a sentence or two, and still make it interesting for the non-horsey reader.

I research everything, even things I “know,” just to be sure. For the most part I am right, but the research often broadens my scope of knowledge, or adds one new bit of information that I can then use to move the story along.

When I finish this last edit of The Fame Equation, I will once again lose that intimate connection that an author has with her characters. Fortunately, my Cat Enright mysteries are a series, and I will soon enough be able to pick up the connection with them in a new adventure.

I have been fortunate that my series has won a number of awards, and thrilled that it has been optioned for film and television (fingers crossed). But, the mechanics of writing it have made me a better riding instructor, and have made me a better horse person.

In preparation for the fall release of The Fame Equation, my publisher has agreed to send readers of this blog a digital kindle or epub file of the first two books in the series, The Opium Equation, and The Magnum Equation. There are strings however (aren’t there always?)

1. The offer is only good through May 12, 2015
2. The publisher strongly hopes the reader will write an honest review on,,
3. The files must not be shared with anyone else

I am thrilled with this offer, and hope you will be, too. To request your files, send an email to with your name and the file format that you need.

Until next time: happy reading!


Monday, May 4, 2015

An exercise in prolificacy

By Kate Lattey

I’ve got a new toy, and I can’t stop playing with it. Over the long Easter weekend, I decided to see how quickly I could write an entire (albeit short) novel. I had a rough story outline and no other commitments, so I gave myself four days, sat down at my laptop, and started to write. To keep myself honest, I first declared my intentions on Facebook. I put each chapter up on Wattpad as I wrote it, so that people could check in and follow the story in real-time. It was a challenge, and it was fun. And even better, people really liked the story. 

The characters were a mix of old and new – some who’d shown up in my previous books, some who’d never been heard of before – but they all leapt off the page, and the writing just flowed. I don’t want to say effortlessly, because let’s face it, writing is never effortless. But I didn’t get bogged down or stuck in the story, I just wrote and wrote and wrote. Posted another chapter, and wrote on. And so on, until suddenly on Sunday afternoon, I was done. And with a whole day to spare!

What else to do, then, but start the sequel? Or even better...make it into a series! After all, if I can write one short novel in a weekend, I should be able to get one book done each month, right? Well, life's nothing without challenges, so I put my thinking cap on, came up with a concept that I loved, and the Pony Jumpers series was born.

The first book, First Fence, is told from the perspective of a character named AJ, who is struggling with her pony until she befriends Katy, another young rider who has a wealth of experience. Katy and her mother Deb give AJ the help she needs to get her pony on track for a successful competition career, something AJ, who comes from a completely unhorsy family, has only ever dreamed of before.

The sequel Double Clear is then told from Katy’s perspective – and while she turned out to have a strong voice and plenty of storyline, she also turned out to be a far more complex character than I’d ever anticipated. It was almost as though once I got inside her head and she started to trust me to tell her story, she realised she didn’t have to put a brave face on all the time, and everything that was bothering her just came pouring out. Katy has a lot of issues to work through, and at times the book was heart-wrenching to write. But there are so many threads to her storyline – outside of the pony-centric A-plot there are at least five other sideline plots to follow through with in the upcoming novels. I’m excited to see how she progresses over the course of the series. 

So, the series. I can’t say for sure how many books I’m going to write, but I have the basic plots and timeline sketched out to get myself as far as (brace yourself) twenty novels. Ambitious, for sure, and whether I ever find the time to write them all, I can’t say. But I have committed myself to the first eight by the end of the year.

Why eight? Well, after Katy’s story is told in book #2, I’m switching it up again to a different protagonist for book #3, Triple Bar. Not that she’s entirely new – Susannah has been showing up in my books for years, and has appeared already in the first two books in this series. If Katy is a complex character, Susannah is a veritable kaleidoscope. There is a lot going on behind closed doors in her life, and I’m looking forward to exploring her side of the story, since we’ve only seen her through other people’s eyes up to now.

And then there’s book #4, Four Faults, which will shift perspective yet again to get a fourth character’s perspective. This character has turned up already in the first two books, and will have been introduced sufficiently by this stage however that hopefully the reader will be intrigued to find out what’s really happening in her life as well, before book #5 shifts back to AJ, and the cycle begins again. (If I only write the first eight, then I’ve at least written each character twice, see? But I would really love to manage all 20 books - that’s only five each, after all…)

If this sounds incredibly complicated, it gets worse. Not only will each of these books tie into each other, but as mentioned, Susannah has turned up in my books before. As has Katy, for that matter. So they have fixed backstories, and part of my challenge is to keep track of their history as well as planning out their future. (I already almost tripped myself up badly until I went back to check my references to Katy in Dream On and discovered what was at the time a throwaway line that completely contradicted some of what I’d written in Double Clear, so I had to go back and fix that one.) I have a complex spreadsheet that keeps it all straight and explains the timeline, which I have simplified into a graphic on my website, since I’ve failed at writing the stories chronologically as I originally intended and I was getting readers confused. (Hey, it all makes sense in my head!)

So it’s complicated, but it’s also fun. For years, I wanted to write for television (I would still love to, in fact). I love the episodic nature of television drama, so this series of books is like my version of a TV show. Some episodes might be stronger than others, some will necessarily be more dramatic, there will be cliffhangers and there will be little, subtle moments. (And lots of dialogue, because I always write a ton of dialogue. Perhaps that’s the TV writer in me trying to get out!) 

I also – and this sounds completely nerdy but it’s true – love episode titles. Some of my favourite TV dramas have great episode titles, whether they’re a play on words or a quote from Shakespeare, or just really gorgeously poetic. And you’ve probably noticed the theme that I’ve already started with my new series of numbering the books within their titles. (Four Faults will be followed by Five Stride Line, then Six to Ride…and so on. I had so much fun coming up with them, and yes they go all the way up to 20.) I designed and created the covers myself, using Adobe InDesign. The cover photo of First Fence is an iStock photo, but the cover images for Double Clear and Triple Bar were taken by a friend of mine for a school assignment several years ago and she has generously allowed me to use them. (I also used my borderline Photoshop skills to swap out the background on Triple Bar which was originally shot on carpet, not wood. Hopefully you can't tell!) I have placeholder images for the rest, mostly from Shutterstock, which will be purchased as required. And the colour theme of purple for AJ’s books, yellow for Katy’s, pink for Susannah’s etc will continue throughout the series.

And so this is my ultimate challenge: to write 20 books of fewer than 40,000 words, that all fit into a fixed timeline and don’t contradict each other, told alternatively from the perspective of four very different characters leading four very different lives, bound together by their passion for show jumping. And each novel also has to have a strong A-plot that carries the reader’s momentum forward throughout, combined with several interesting B-plots, like whether AJ can find a way to get along with her autistic sister, whether Katy can forgive her father for abandoning her, or whether Susannah can find a way to integrate her brother back into her life after her parents disowned him. (I’m keeping my fourth protagonist under wraps for now, though eagle-eyed readers can probably predict who it’s going to be.) Oh yeah, and to also integrate each character as seamlessly as possible into each book, whether or not it’s their turn to be the protagonist…

Not for the faint of heart, then, but I’m loving it so far. And I have had so many comments from readers saying that they love the way that the books tie into each other, which is really encouraging. But it means that I have to have these characters straight in my head, starting with their disparate writing styles - details that range from the language and euphemisms they use, to their level of introspection, to precisely how they tend to structure their sentences. Not to mention the names of their family members, their pets, their nicknames, what subjects at school they’re good at and what they struggle with, their favourite foods, whether they’re a heavy sleeper, what kind of music they like, their hair and eye colour…and of course, every little detail about their ponies...

It’s a good thing I thrive on a challenge! And so far, it seems to be working. As a friend told me this morning: 

“I feel like these kids actually exist and I’ll get to meet them all someday…like I’m just reading an account of their lives. An excerpt from each of their diaries or something. It’s heartbreaking to realise they’re all fictional.”

I took that as a huge compliment. When people believe in my characters that hard, I must be doing something right.

But for now, I have a third book to write…

First Fence and Double Clear are now available for purchase on Amazon at US$2.99 each. The first chapter of Triple Bar is also included at the end of Double Clear to give readers a taste of what’s to come!