Monday, December 26, 2016

An Excerpt from New Blood (Thoroughbred Breeders #1)

by Christine.

Hi everyone!  A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you!  I thought I would provide you with a sneak peak into my latest horse series, Thoroughbred Breeders.  Below is some text from the first chapter of book one, New Blood.  Enjoy!

 

New Blood (Thoroughbred Breeders #1)
by Christine Meunier

1. Tuesdays

Savannah Reynier couldn’t decide if she liked Tuesdays or not.  On the one hand, she was working with horses – like any other day – so how could she not?  On the other, Tuesdays were farrier days.  Each Tuesday on the stud she worked on, the farrier was booked to do whatever horses needed a trim at that time.
Today it was the yearling fillies that needed their feet looked at.  Standing half the day holding horses for the farrier wasn’t high on Savannah’s list of favourite horse chores.  When the class of horses needing a trim was barely handled, this task fell a little lower down the ladder.
She wondered which apprentice would be along with Rick and Jay this time.
Hopefully not Flynn again.
He was a terrible flirt.  Plus, her workmates had so much fun teasing her afterward no matter what she did around him.  She’d tried being polite.  Then she’d tried ignoring him.  Rudeness hadn’t discouraged him either.  She wondered if she could swing things so that her co-worker Kathy ended up holding for him.
If he comes.
It seemed that Rick and Jay had a different apprentice each week.  It made sense she supposed, that they would take on as many as they could.

As the cars pulled to a stop outside the holding yards Savannah made her way into the first yard.  She was able to catch one of the fillies by moving slowly and talking quietly to the dark brown with a star on her head.
“Hey sweetie,” she said, rubbing her gently on the neck, “the quieter you stand for the man, the quicker we get this done.”
“Not to mention that the man would really appreciate it, too,” an accented voice said from not too far behind her.
South African, Savannah decided as she turned to face the latest apprentice that had obviously been dumped on her.  She tried to school her features to an indifferent glance as she felt her stomach do flip-flops.  She nodded politely as she took in the scruffy brown hair, small amount of stubble and curiously green eyes.
Wow.
“These girls have been handled on a regular basis, but they are yearlings…” she found herself offering and then felt her face warm as he grinned at her.
He can probably tell that for himself.
“They do look young, but it’s their feet that really interest me,” he offered, stepping closer to offer his hand to the brown filly.
She sniffed at him before looking toward the other horses, disinterested in the man before her.  The exact opposite of Savannah’s sentiments.  She grinned at the thought before quickly schooling her features again as she realised she had an audience.
He was looking at her with a brow raised in question.  Savannah internally sighed.
Awkward.
“So I’m Craig and you’ll have to put up with my lack of social skills – but not farrier skills – for the next couple of hours, I’m sorry,” he said by way of introduction.
This immediately endeared him to Savannah.
A self deprecating farrier – who would have thought it?  Then again, false humility works well for some…
With a start she realised he was waiting for her to introduce herself.
Now who’s lacking in social skills?
“Everyone calls me Anna,” she responded quietly, thinking if Craig didn’t start trimming, she was in for a ribbing from her workmates for sure.
“Well, almost everyone,” she muttered, more to herself as Craig ran his hand down the filly’s near fore to pick up her hoof.
She couldn’t help but take in his frame as he worked.  He was easily taller than her, but not too much so.  His shoulders were broad and arms strong.  She stared at his back, refusing to continue her perusal.
“So who doesn’t call you Anna?” a voice interrupted her thoughts.
It took a second for the question to register – and then for her to realise that although the comment hadn’t exactly been made for him, Craig expected an answer.
“Aah… my boss.  Nev calls me Savvy.”
She could hear him clipping off excess toe before he picked up his rasp and started around the edge of the hoof.
“Because of your knowledge and ability with horses?” he asked with a grin as he put the filly’s hoof to the ground and assessed how it sat.
Clever with words – check.
“I’m sure Nev would agree with that statement because it makes him look particularly clever when people discover my full name happens to be Savannah.”
Craig’s eyebrow rose again and Savannah questioned what he was thinking.  That she was rude in the way she talked about her boss?  That Savannah wasn’t a common name?
Probably that he still has three feet left to trim.
As if sensing her thoughts, Craig moved around to the other side of the filly, running his hand down her off fore.  Following him, Savannah made sure she was standing on the off-side of the horse before he continued his work.
Why didn’t he do her hind leg?
Of all the farriers that she had seen trim feet, they went in the same order.  Start with the near fore, move onto the near hind.  Following this, complete the off fore and then finally the off hind leg.
Surely he’s not that new to trimming feet that he hasn’t been taught that.
She assumed it was something they got taught anyway, much like people getting taught to mount horses from the left hand side.
Not that the reason why is relevant to recreational riding.
Mustering up some semblance of courage, Savannah decided to ask.
“So I tend to like learning all I can about horses…” she started, unsure how to ask without seeming stupid – or like she was trying to make him look so.
“Mmmhmmm…” came the response from under the horse.
“Is there a reason why you’re doing both forefeet first?” she asked before she lost her nerve.
Craig finished rasping the hoof before letting the filly stand on all fours.  He gave Savannah a grin before checking that the hoof was balanced on the ground.
Dimple – check.
“You think I should have done them in a different order?” he asked her, still smiling.
She frowned, wondering if he was teasing her.  Eventually she shrugged.
“I suppose you can do them in whatever order you see fit.  I’ve just noticed a particular pattern that farriers seem to follow,” she responded as he moved onto the off hind leg.
“When I’m doing most horses for the first time, I do their front feet first.  You never know how well handled they are going to be and I’ve had a couple of incidences where I get one foot done, move to the back and all hell breaks loose.  For whatever reason, it’s impossible to get the back foot done and by this stage the horse is so worked up, they won’t let me touch their other front foot.  At least this way if there are issues with the hind feet, the horse is balanced in front.”
Savannah pondered this as Craig finished the off hind before moving back to the filly’s left side.  He made short work of her near hind before declaring he was finished.
“Thanks for telling me the reason,” she responded lamely before going to get another horse.
Craig had finished before the other two men.  Savannah wouldn’t have been surprised if he paused for a cigarette like the majority of the other apprentices seemed to.  She was pleased to find that instead he stepped up to the group of skittish fillies and kept them from breaking away from the corner while she worked to get a head collar on one of them.
“Thanks,” she breathed as she led the young horse toward the gate out of the yard to where there was more room for him to work.
Craig ducked through the rails and then held the gate open for her.  Savannah decided in her next glance that he was somewhere in his mid twenties.
Old for an apprentice.

Jay and Craig ended up with the last two fillies.  Savannah wasn’t surprised to find Rick observing the apprentice as he worked away.
She knew she would have been intimidated by such a gesture but decided Craig didn’t seem the least perturbed.  Instead he continued working whilst talking with his boss about the filly’s feet.  Savannah listened keenly, eager to pick up any new bits of knowledge.  Plus, she decided, Craig’s voice and accent were extremely pleasant to listen to.
Gorgeous accent – check.
Savannah concluded that once all the trims were complete and the two familiar vehicles made their way back down the drive that Tuesdays had drastically improved.  In fact, she would go so far as to say that she liked Tuesdays.

*this is a shortened version of the first chapter of New Blood.  You can purchase the book at Amazon.  There are currently 2 in the series and the 3rd is on it's way!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Thoroughbred Breeders Series

by Christine.

Hi everyone! I’m super excited to share with you about my new series! I have recently finished writing the sixth book in the Free Rein series, which is to be titled Contagious.

New Blood by Christine Meunier
Whilst working to finish this story, I was toying with the idea of writing a horse series for adults that focused on the thoroughbred breeding industry. After a couple of weeks, an idea for the first story came to me. Around this time I ended up resting in bed with a bout of laryngitis. It provided ample opportunity to think out ideas for stories! And so the first five books were plotted out after the few days of resting in bed.

The first two books were completed shortly after and I tried my hand once again at designing covers. You can now purchase New Blood and No Hoof, No Horse on Amazon for $2.99 USD.

If the idea of a series aimed at adults, focusing on the horse breeding and farrier worlds interests you, why not check out Thoroughbred Breeders? You can add the books to your Goodreads shelves, too!

The books so far have been downloaded in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Canada! I’d love to see them gain exposure in other countries, too!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Scheduling Writing Time and Embracing Ideas




It is an interesting balance, finding the time and motivation to write horse stories.  The topic of horses is one I am ever passionate about.  Having the motivation to write a particular story however can be difficult at times!

I schedule time each week to work on one novel or other.  Recently I have finished and published B and B  and I still aim to bring out the sixth novel in the Free Rein series before year’s end.  That said, book 6 is being difficult!  I have half of the novel written and am struggling to continue with it.

Do you Schedule Writing Time?
In spite of this, I set myself a goal to write a chapter each week, knowing that sometimes I just need to sit and write.  When I do this, the ideas come and I get caught up in the story once again.  Writing takes real commitment at times.

Alongside working on this story, I started to toss around the idea of a series for young adults.  As I mulled it over for a week or two, I sat down to write one day and found the characters developing before my eyes.  In fact, in a 3 day period, I had written half of the first two novels in the series!

There are times when motivation strikes you and you just need to write.  Take advantage of the times when the words flow quicker than you can write – or type! – them.  Alongside this, be diligent in setting aside time to write each week so that your stories are progressing.  As a writer, it is important that you consistently invest time in your art, even when you don’t find motivation knocking on your door.  Find a balance between making use of ideas when they come to you and writing because you know your story needs to be written.

If you’re a writer, what story have you most struggled to complete?  How did you get around this?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Pay it Forward

by Christine

As an equine author, do you invest time in helping other authors? Or is your sole focus to get the word out about your books so that you can (hopefully) make sales?

I have Loved Reading the Pony Jumpers books by Kate Lattey Recently!
Pay it Forward: I have Loved Reading
the Pony Jumpers books by Kate Lattey Recently!
In whatever industry you’re in, it is beneficial to look out for the success of others. We should each make it a priority to promote others’ work that we have enjoyed or help to spread the word about a new release. It isn’t difficult to do and chances are, these authors will be so appreciative, they’ll return the favour.

Amongst your busy schedule, set aside some time to help promote other authors. Perhaps you can provide them with a review once you’ve finished a book that you really enjoyed. Or maybe you can help share a link of a new release. Or perhaps you can provide them with an encouraging comment on their personal blog.

For those who are so inclined, you could even create a section on your blog to help promote other equine authors. Whether you make up questions for an author interview or you post excerpts from new releases, this can be a great way to generate some extra content for your blog that doesn’t take you a lot of writing time.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to help someone else in their endeavours to be a successful equine author. As you do so, hopefully they’ll be inclined to return the favour. Either way, it is worth setting aside a little time each week or month to encourage others.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

New Release: All Heart

The time has come.

Or, well, actually the release date for my newest novel is tomorrow. That said, I'm excited and want to share it right now!

All Heart is the sequel to my debut novel, Stay the Distance. We get all the original characters back, plus a few more. One of them is definitely a goat named Betty, which I enjoyed writing more than I thought possible. Turns out goats are incredibly fun to write.

Here's the summary:

Summer's Over.

It's been a summer of changes for July Carter, who has left the high stakes racing season at Saratoga with not only a young filly to call her own, but also an unexpected boyfriend. Change, it appears, is good.

But as the Thoroughbreds return to Belmont Park for fall races, July is caught up in all of those summer changes. With Kali struggling at her new barn, college applications to write, and her relationship with Beck frustratingly undefined, July doesn't know what to tackle first. On top of it all, her mother is back in New York to ride Lighter, the barn's most promising--if completely crazy--colt, stirring up trouble in the shedrow, which now sits mostly empty.

When Lighter goes lame during a workout, July simmers over. And when Beck decides that she might be too much for him, July finds herself staring down another change. This time, it's unwelcome. This time, her heart is on the line.

All Heart is available for pre-order right now on Amazon. Print will arrive on release day. If you want to wait and get yourself a signed print copy, I'll be at Equine Affaire in November doing three solid days of book signings. I hope I'll see you there!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Preparations and Changes

Early this morning when I was out feeding the horses, I heard squawking and calling from an unseen flock of birds just over the tree line. It was a familiar sound, but only in autumn. It was a sign that the time was indeed changing no matter how warm the weather felt. The birds knew and were gathering. My area in the Mid-Atlantic seems to be a fly-over state in the migratory path of many birds heading south. I enjoy hearing their passing calls to each other overhead and laugh at my terrier who maintains her air defense perimeter over the farm by running and barking at them. Other signs abound. The tips of some leaves are turning yellow, the corn stalks are dry and golden, the dark falls sooner and much faster, and the horses' coats have lost their sheen and are becoming fuzzy. Time speeds up for me each autumn. As if time is on a bobsled race downhill to December, I'm always a month or so behind.

This year, I'm preparing. I've decided that I will simplify my life as much as humanly possible in this era of plugged in/turned on and instead unplug. I'm avoiding Facebook (the monstrous time vampire that it is) and other social media robbers of time. I've already given up television, but now I'm going to take a hard look at all my activities and ask whether it feeds my spirit or helps others (or is necessary to sustain life...I'm not crazy). If not, it's going.  I need more time for writing and in order to write well, I need more time for reflection. That means feeding creativity with reading good books, trying new things, learning, and all the while maintaining a wonder at the world and our surroundings. Change is hard. It is sometimes exciting, sometimes stressful. I'm taking it slow. I'm slowing that accelerating bullet train that rushes to the end of the year and instead taking a leisurely stroll, hoping to see something new along the way. Care to join me?

In the spirit of change, here's the new cover of False Gods. Hope you like it. I'm working on a sequel, taking up the story from a different character's point of view. Please visit my website at www.lrtrovillion.com   and keep in touch.





Monday, September 5, 2016

B and B, New Release by Christine Meunier

by Christine

Hi everyone! As authors, it is exciting for us when things finally culminate in the release of a new book. The writing, editing, seeking feedback, cover design and other odds and ends have all come together to create a finished product.

And I have been blessed to experience that once again, quite recently. My latest release is a novel for adult readers. It is a horse based, Christian romance. Interested? Here’s the blurb for B and B:

Things are changing…
Ben likes his life at Happy Trails. As a trail guide on a property in Australia he doesn’t have to work hard to make friends. All he needs to do is make sure his clients are safe on their horses and have an enjoyable ride.
Ben can manage that. He loves that he can work with horses all day, every day. The humans are an added annoyance but he only has to deal with them in short bouts.
The new cook hired for the farm looks like she could be a complication. Ben is averse to change and he is certain her arrival means change.

Brooke knows the trial position as cook at Happy Trails is a blessing. She needs a job to support herself and her daughter – the fact that she can cook for an income is an added bonus.
If she can just avoid the interest of trail guide and jokester Jake, she’ll be fine. After all, she isn’t interested in a new male in her life. She just wants to focus on her daughter and make a future for them.

B and B is available for purchase on Kindle at Amazon. You can check it out by clicking the picture in this post. Why not add it to your Goodreads, to be read list?

What equine book release are you eagerly anticipating?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Judging a Book's (Genre) By Its Cover

by L. R. Trovillion

I have no idea why the old adage "Don't judge a book by its cover" has stuck around so long. Clearly, that's exactly what we all do initially. Okay, as a metaphor, you should not similarly judge a person by their outward appearance...but as for books, that is the first thing a potential reader will see and that reader will make any number of snap decisions based on the cover: is it intriguing, attractive, makes you want to know more... But the most important clue the cover imparts is this one:  genre.

Let's agree that there are indeed certain types of covers that grace particular genres. Think for example of the romance novel. Whether historical romance, contemporary, or romantic suspense, they all share common elements. These may be a portrayal of hero/heroine in an embrace, in a pose of longing, or sometimes just in an outfit that suggests steaminess. Often there are lips or certain body parts featured.  Enough on that. How about fantasy? I'm sure you are already conjuring up all sorts of starry images or hidden glens or fractured beams of light over a mysterious world. You get the point.

So what does an author do when she's told her cover (and her title) are not representative of Young Adult literature, her target demographic? That happened to me. I've been told the cover does not attract YA readers, it looks more like historical fiction, it is not clear what the story may be about...on and on. So, I decided to give a new cover for the ebook version a try. Now I have a new problem.

What should that cover look like and can I find a graphic artist who gets horses? After carefully explaining to the cover designer that the main character is a jumper rider and her horse is dappled grey and sending her a few representative pictures of what I thought she looked like, the poor woman picked out a dressage rider (but was savvy enough to check with me first if it was right). I can only imagine how insane we horse people must sound to an outsider explaining that no, eventers and hunters and dressage riders don't all wear the same outfits and the same tack and yes it makes a huge different to people who read these books. So, she may punt and go for a more abstract concept type cover. I told her as long as it wasn't a horse shoe or a show ribbon, try it out. Getting a cover for a horse book is a very difficult task. Or maybe I'm just picky.

So, with my crazed rambling guidance and some picture ideas, this poor creative soul is out there trying to come up with a horse concept cover knowing nothing about horses, hoping that it will satisfy her fussy "no-that's a flea-bitten not dapple gray" client, me. I have to trust in her artistic sense. I'm not very good with yielding control. So, stay tuned for the big, new cover reveal of False Gods!

http://amzn.to/2aBTxqu

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Farm Detective


The everyday running of a horse farm is both exciting and challenging. From the lawn tractor that won’t start (yet again) to the mare who is mysteriously losing hair on her face, to the odd looking weed that has suddenly sprouted in the center of the pasture, there is always at least one ongoing mystery on the farm.

From creative thought to research to problem-solving, writing is much like farm management. First, a problem, conflict, or potential threat has to be identified. On the farm it might be swarming bees, a lame horse, or a leaky barn roof. In writing, it could be a murder, a romantic triangle, or even the loss of a job.

The research phase involves the writer understanding the problem enough to explain it to readers, and offering a plausible resolution. It also involves the characters taking steps to manage the problem, or methodically gather information toward resolving the conflict. In the barn, research might take the form of different sprays to get rid of the bees, an internet search or a call to a local county extension agent to identify the unusual weed, or palpation of a horse’s leg to identify the source of the lameness.

Finally, the character or the horse owner has enough information to make a decision that will solve the problem. The decision might involve some trial and error, but eventually a resolution is found. The weed turns out to belong to an innocuous branch of the mint family, the lameness stems from a sore hip, and the bees, well, spraying a mixture of vinegar and water around the barn seems to deter them.

Unlike mystery books, however, farm-based mysteries usually do not involve a murder. But the thinking process that goes into each really is very similar, and I have found that creative problem-solving on the farm also allows me to then create some interesting plot lines. 




One recent challenge was how to secure the barrels for our new horse obstacle so they did not tip over. After much research about safety, and a few trial and error attempts, we ended up packing tires around the barrels to create a stable obstacle for our Colby's Army horses and riders to navigate.

Farm challenges can be frustrating, but if you begin to think of them as a way to develop a book idea or a story line, maybe some of the frustration will turn into creativity. This week I have dealt with the non-starting mower, a mare’s facial hair loss, unwanted bees, a leaning barn support beam, an electric fence that does not want to turn off, and a few other odds and ends. What have your farm or writing challenges been recently?

––

Lisa Wysocky is a bestselling and award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction, including the Cat Enright equestrian mystery series, now optioned for film and television. She is also a therapeutic riding instructor who consults with PATH and other centers about their horse herds. Find her at lisawysocky.com

Monday, August 8, 2016

The End Decision is Yours





In late June I finished writing the first draft of my soon to be released novel for adults, B and B.  I have had an acquaintance in Canada read and edit it for me and have been thankful for his feedback.  The majority of corrections and suggestions he made, I took on.

It is so helpful to have another pair (or pairs!) of eyes go over your work.  They can point out inconsistencies, spelling errors or grammatical errors.  On top of this, they can let you know if your story flows or in some spots, just doesn’t make sense.

This feedback can only help you to improve your story as you make corrections and adjustments.  Some things you may decide to leave as they are, despite a suggestion.  As the author who self publishes, this is completely your choice!

It was easy for me to take recommendations from this editor – mainly because I agreed with where he was coming from.

When it came to the design of my cover, however, I found myself struggling to take on others’ advice.  I designed one cover and just wasn’t happy with it.  After sitting on the design for a few days, I had an idea on how to change the cover and make it more appealing.

The end result was 5 different designs that I opted to put onto my Facebook page in an album and see what people thought.  I was so relieved when the majority liked the 1 that I thought would make my cover!

Belladonna has a Cover I Love!
As more people liked or commented, I was surprised to find two close friends preferred the first cover I had designed and not been happy with.

On top of this, I received feedback from an author that none of the covers worked for her.  An auntie commented that she didn’t like them either and my husband, well, he’s always brutally honest with me!

So suddenly for a cover that I thought had been picked by the majority as the best, perhaps it was just the least unappealing?  Whether an eBook or a paperback, a book cover draws in readers.  I read the blurb to see if I want to read a story, but a good cover can really draw me in.

Although the decision is ultimately mine, I am now faced with the daunting task of deciding on my book cover.  Do I go with the one that the majority chose, or do I redesign to find something more fitting for those who didn’t like the options at all?  Choices, choices…

What book cover has most caught your attention?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Run Your Own Race

by L. R. Trovillion
Today was as humid as a greenhouse here in the Mid Atlantic, even in the morning when I decided to go for a run. Understand, I am not a long distance runner or rabid devotee--I just want to get fit. Towards the end of the session I was pleased to hear by Runkeeper tell me I ran much longer and farther than before, but before I could bask in the glow of my own accomplishments, a sinewy woman who probably weighed all of 95 pounds after a heavy meal, blew past me and motored up the steep hill ahead. I watched, aghast, as she tackled the climb as if she were riding an escalator. Meanwhile, I was chugging like a steam engine pulling twenty cars loaded with coal. I had to break to a walk. So, of course, I immediately got to comparing myself with her. Why can't I do that? I resented her and wanted to be her at the same time. And that's what's wrong with me and a whole lot of other people. We look around, compare, find ourself lacking, and launch into any number of negative responses: quitting, tearing others down, making excuses, criticizing oneself. While all that is going on, what we really need to do is center ourselves and run our own race. That woman on the hill may have been running all her life, whereas I just started. Ultimately, it doesn't matter, because I was there to do what I needed to do and accomplish the times and distances I had set out for myself. And then I needed to celebrate those accomplishments. That last step is important, too.

The same thing happens in writing. How many of you out there have seen other writers zoom past you on the road to publishing, snagging an agent or signing a 3-book contract while you feel as if you're languishing on the by-roads. Have you felt jealousy, envy, resentment or even surprise to learn that another author is now wildly successful and his marketing campaign is raking in new readers by the thousands while your Amazon sales statistics are flatlined? Yeah, it's hard not to compare. That's what human beings do, but do it at your peril writer friends. We are all running our own, unique race and no two journeys are alike.  So when you feel the breeze from that author running past you up the hill, do not despair. You don't know his journey, what he's done to get there, or how long he's been at it. Run your own race. Be the best runner, writer, rider--whatever-- you know how to be.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What I Wish I'd Known When I was Eleven


When I was young, all I could think about was horses. From the time I stole a tiny, plastic horse from the farm set at my nursery school (I was two), horses were my thing. After years of raking yards and many summers of lemonade stands I finally saved up enough to buy a pony when I was eleven. From there I moved up to an Appaloosa mare and began to compete. Since then I have trained, instructed, and shown successfully on a national level, although I sometimes feel my journey with horses is just beginning.

I have learned a few things over the years, however, so I thought this might be a good time to share what I wish I’d known when I was eleven. And, in reviewing this list, I found that it applies to books and writing, just as much as it does to a journey with horses.

1. It’s okay to ask questions. In fact, never miss an opportunity to ask. It is the very best way to learn something that is important to you. Ask more than one person, then compare answers to develop your own opinion.

2. Set a goal, one that is doable. Your goal should not be winning a class or writing a best seller, but more along the lines of improving your performance. You might not reach your goal, but you will have learned something along the way. When you do reach a goal, celebrate!

3. Prepare, then prepare some more. Think of every possible scenario regarding your goal and walk yourself through all of them, as best you can. Then do it again, and again.

4. As much as you can, read. Then read again, and discuss the ooks with others. There is always something to learn.

5. Watch your horse and the people around you as he or she interacts with others. That is probably how the horse or human will try to interact with you. Then adjust your demeanor accordingly. Some horses and people respond best to a soft voice, others need firm, business-like directives. Make sure your horse and your friends are a good match for you.

6. Always wear a helmet when you ride. Always. I have seen far too many accidents, many at the walk and trot, to feel it is safe for anyone to ride without one. (Okay, not much in common with books here, but it is important.)

7. Follow  basic safety guidelines in all that you do. Most injuries happen out of carelessness. Keep your lead rope from dragging on the ground, check your girth or cinch often, make sure your equipment is in good condition. Constantly think the equine mantra: is this safe?

8. Have fun, and try new things, such as a Dressage or barrel racing lesson, or reading a SciFi  novel or a biography. It is important to expand your horizons in all that you do.

9. Make friends and encourage others. Then, your new friends will encourage you, too. Remember that you do not compete against others, but against your own best self.

10. It’s okay have a bad day. If you’re smart you will learn something important, so smile and take time to digest what went wrong so you can come back better and stronger the next day.

Just like you, I have learned so much more during my journey with horses and books than just this. But I really, really wish I’d known all of these things when I was eleven. 

––

Lisa Wysocky is a bestselling and award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction, including the Cat Enright equestrian mystery series, now optioned for film and television. She is also a therapeutic riding instructor who consults with PATH and other centers about their horse herds. Find her at lisawysocky.com

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Final Letter to my Old Man, TC

I’m not sure when the story started – early on in these 8 years we’ve shared perhaps – that in your final moments, a blissful peace would sweep over you as you lay down in the sunshine, and in the next moment, you are running as fast as your hooves can carry you across the rainbow bridge. I would find you in the pasture, looking relaxed and asleep, the wear and tear of this world left behind. Your soul at peace. This is what we all wished for you.

You’ve always been healthy, even for a gelding of your age and history. Sure, you choked on grain that one time, and you aspirated it on that other occasion, but between the vet’s knowledge and drugs, my checkbook and your strong will, we beat them all. Even when you gas colicked this past winter. It was a rough one, but you pulled through.

This Spring seemed like business as usual. I was quite amused as you gingerly trotted through the pasture, picking up a jaunty canter when you felt sure-footed. I kept thinking about how lucky I was to have found the magical combination of feed and exercise that kept you healthy and your eyes sparkling. You were voraciously hungry, you were drinking more than ever and you were even a tad round.

And then this crazy Upstate New York Summer weather happened. 90’s and humid during the day. 50’s and 60’s at night. You were sweating more than you had in the past three years. Fourth of July weekend you stopped eating grain altogether. You acted uncomfortable for days, despite vet visits and medications. Suddenly, after 35 years of riding, driving, showing, and trails, you had developed laminitis. I was beside myself. That Sunday morning I haltered you and took you out to the lawn, hoping you would eat something. In those cool, quiet early morning hours, I found a place to release my frustration. I could not make you eat. I could not fix your feet. I felt like I was in the middle of a perfect storm for your downfall. I leaned over your now bony sway back and sobbed as you slowly wandered around the yard before deciding that you wanted to be in your pasture more than you wanted sweet yard grass.

And yet you continued on. I changed your meds a bit, added ulcer guard. Mixing your meals was four star service and yet it was a crap shoot as to whether or not you’d actually eat it.

I lay in bed that night, thinking. I tried my best to meet each new issue as it came along and I was not deterred as they began to pile up. I chatted with our vet one night, making sure we were doing everything we could to help you, to keep you comfortable. I started to analyze other food choices and ponder where I could get samples – perhaps you were bored with yours. If I could just stem to tide of old age –

As I lay there, all of your laundry list of meds running through my head - your routine of easy boots on all day, off while I was doing chores and monitoring you, back on at night as you loved to roam under the light of the moon, five o’clock sponge baths, snacks in the yard – I started to pray to God to keep you healthy. And that’s when it hit me.

What if I was asking for the wrong thing? The last thing I ever want to do is to go against nature. I would never want to be seen as warring with the Creator. I also realized that if you colicked again, I would call the vet and fight to fix you. I would continue to fight to heal your laminitis. I would find something for you to eat that gave you the energy to fight for yourself.

In that moment I realized I would never be able to let you go unless it was the result of something I couldn’t fix. That’s when I knew what to pray for.  The prayer eased my mind. I had found my greatest fear when it came to you, as well as my way to find peace.

Ten days later, I found you down in your stall. Slick with sweat, eyes dull from exhaustion. I knew I couldn’t get you to your feet. I called my neighbors and they came to the rescue. It took six of us, but we got you to a standing position. I was encouraged. Even though your shoulders trembled, even though your heart raced – you were standing. This felt like winning.

And then I ran my hand over the soft rim of your nostrils. It was 86 degrees that day, and your nostrils were ice cold. The corners of your lips were the same. Ten minutes after the vet arrived, your gums were turning blue even as you ferociously grabbed a hay bale, ripping it off the ground.

I knew it was time. That’s when I remembered the fairy tale ending I had wished for you for so long, realizing in hindsight that I had gone against my word and fought to get you up anyway. And that’s when I heard my prayer softly echo through my soul.

“Please, when you take him home, please let it be because of something I cannot fix. Because if there’s the possibility that I can fix it, then I will try. I cannot help myself. This is just the way that You made me.”

Old Man, when you first came to my farm, I used to say, “if you’re here for five months or five years, you will be safe and you will be loved.” And you were.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Co Authoring Horse Stories




Perhaps it’s your desire to break into the world of writing horses, but you’re not sure where to start.  Or you’d like to do something different to further your writing career and attract a different group of readers.  Have you considered collaborating with another author?

I have recently finished reading City of Angels, which was a free download on Kindle.  It was appealing because of one author Tracie Peterson – I really enjoy her works!  I am not unfamiliar with James Scott Bell, either.  These two Christian authors have worked together to bring this story to life and I really enjoyed the read!  From having finished this novel, I would be tempted to look into other works by James Scott Bell, because of my interest in novels by Tracie Peterson.

Co Authoring Horse Stories: What do you think?
If two horse authors have a readership base, chances are some of these fans may overlap, but many won’t.  Particularly if you write about different aspects of horses – children’s books, teen stories, adult novels, equestrian, racing – whatever it is, you may find that co authoring a novel is a way for you to each compliment the other author's writing and grow your readership base.  Food for thought!

With access to many people over the internet, working together on a story wouldn’t necessarily need to be done in person.  As long as communication lines are kept open, authors may find that they can develop ideas for a plot, themes and characters via email or chat.

An added bonus could be that two creative minds can develop a strong story that is entertaining and informative with a unique twist.  And when it comes to marketing the story, there will be two lots of ideas about what works for gaining interest!

What novel have you read and enjoyed that was co authored?

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Trimming the Deadwood and Other Painful Experiences

Last week a tornado hit our small town, which was quite a shock for this area of the Mid Atlantic. As roads again became passable, telephone poles replaced, electricity restored, neighbors gathered at grocery stores, churches, schools and work comparing the damage and sharing their experiences. Everyone pretty much agreed that they felt lucky it wasn't worse than it was. The damage to our farm consists of broken trees, some hanging precariously over fence lines. The man hired to remove the deadwood gave me the unfortunate news that many of my trees could not be saved. When a tree sustains so much damage and the interior is exposed, it is open to disease, infestation, and rot. My beautiful shade tree in a small paddock has to be completely removed, lest on some future date it dies and falls on the fence. This hard news made me think of writing, of course! How often do we look at our work in progress and procrastinate over making the necessary cuts...cuts that will be for the good of the whole story. The first draft of my last book, False Gods, eventually got a deadwood trimming of nearly 30,000 in order to tighten the plot, keep the pace moving, and eliminate fluff. Oh, but how we fall in love with our own fluff! At first, I snipped a few leaves and branches here and there. Then a few bare limbs. Eventually, I saw that whole chapters had to go. Clear the deadwood. Make way for new growth. Rev up that chainsaw and do what's necessary, no matter how hard it is to say good-bye to that lovely shade tree.
http://amzn.to/1TVvENR

Saturday, July 2, 2016

My New Ride

I'd been toying with the idea of adding a second horse for some time. A horse that could walk trot and canter, a horse that would be sound. A horse I could actually take up the levels in dressage. As much as I love my Paint mare, she has her limitations and while she's had good years, they always seem to end in another injury. Another setback. But horses are expensive and time-consuming, and I wasn't sure that I wanted that much responsibility. I wasn't sure I could be the kind of horse owner I strive to be with two horses. So I kept going with my one horse, my clunker, my best friend horse, through a winter of no riding and a lot of massaging and hand-walking in the hopes of making a difference in her comfort.

Then one day in the spring, I saw a notice on the board that one of the boarders was selling her horse. He was a horse I knew well enough to know he was at least worth a test ride. I was still in denial about it, but I had enough presence of mind to invite my mom and my boyfriend out to watch our trial ride.

He was well schooled in dressage but had been putzing around trails with beginners on board for the last two years, and sat for much of the winter on top of that. I wasn't expecting much, but he quickly responded to me, and we worked out a few issues and saw improvement within one ride. I couldn't deny his potential, and I knew what he had been, so I bought him. It was the easiest transaction ever. He lived at my barn already, so no trailering, no muss, no fuss. The seller gave me his bridle, halter and blanket. My saddle fit him. And I was freaking out (especially when I handed over the cash...waving goodbye to that much money physically hurts).

At first I was somewhat indifferent to him. I am deeply bonded to my mare, and I wasn't sure if there was room to form a bond with another horse. I was also anticipating a long road ahead of earning trust, since that was my experience with Sofie. But Riley has been fortunate to always have good owners, and his personality shone right away. He is very friendly and expressive, and I soon realized he has a heart of gold under saddle. In our early rides he sometimes struggled to do what I asked, as we were both out of shape, out of practice, and I hadn't yet learned how to ride him. But no matter how poorly I rode, he never said "no". He tries his hardest all the time, even when I take things too far and turn a so-so session into a complete disaster. With the help of my wonderful trainer, we have come so far in a few short months, and I have the biggest smile on my face when I ride.

Sometimes things do happen for a reason. It is terrible that my horse hurt herself (she is now doing much better, but I still won't ride her for another six months or so), but her struggles opened me up to the possibility of adding another horse, and Riley came up for sale at just the right time. Financially, I was able to take on the responsibility (which I would have struggled to do when he was for sale two years ago), and I am in a place in my life where I can balance it all. I am so glad I did the scary thing and bought him. I knew he was a very nice horse, but I never expected to love him as much as I do after such a short time. He is truly a gift.



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Excellence in Editing and Formatting


I confess that I have a number of pet peeves when it comes to the editing and formatting of books. As someone who edits for several small presses as well as independent authors, I understand the positive impact the good brain and eye of an experienced editor can have on the finished product. Wearing an author hat, we all read or see what we expect to see on the page, rather than what is actually there. If we expect to see, "The horse ran across the road," what might really be there is "The horse tan across the roas." We don't see what is obvious to another, because our author brain knows what is supposed to be there.

A recent labor of love.
 As an editor, I want to see . . . rather than the annoying ............... I like to see long dashes––rather than - this. A lack of consistent spelling of names and products drives me nuts, as do spaces between paragraphs. The Chicago Manual of Style is my writing and editorial bible. I also do book the occasional book design, so paragraphs that have indents of more than a third of an inch bother me, as does ragged left text in a printed book.  

The proliferation of self-published authors who do not have the funds or take the time to hire an independent editor to catch these and other mistakes adds to the problem. When I as a reader am distracted enough by poor formatting, typos, and plot inconsistencies. I put down the book. And that's a shame, because most times, the story is worth reading. Lest you think I am too hard on authors, I include myself as one who has made the mistake of self-publishing a book that was not independently edited, a book that was not ready for publication. Lesson learned. 

The fact remains that an author who publishes with a small independent press, or who self-publishes, has to deliver a product that is equally as well-edited and well-formatted as a book that has landed on a major bestseller list. That is hard to do, but the extra effort will be worth it. I also believe that this attention to detail in writing and producing books carries through to other areas of our lives. It translates to a spotless tack room, diligence in developing a good canter departure, and delivering a well-turned out horse. It's taking time to do the best you can and in taking pride in going the extra mile to make your product that much better.

Even with as many as seven edits, each of my books that were published by a major publisher has a typo or two. Those are seemingly inevitable. But I use well-edited books, expert grooming of horses, and beautiful riders to motivate myself to reach deeper, father, and higher in all that I do. What motivates you to do better?

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Lisa Wysocky is a bestselling and award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction, including the Cat Enright equestrian mystery series, now optioned for film and television. She is also a therapeutic riding instructor who consults with PATH and other centers about their horse herds. Find her at lisawysocky.com

Monday, June 13, 2016

Creating an Author Mailing List



by Christine.

A great way to be able to build up followers of your books is to generate a mailing list.  Fans of your book/s can sign up and receive updates as you develop as an author.  This can be particularly beneficial if you plan to write more than one novel, or establish a series.

My debut novel was a standalone novel aimed at young adults wanting to get into the horse industry.  Shortly after the release of Horse Country, an idea formed for a series for the younger reader.

Because I have an author mailing list, those keen to know about the latest releases for the Free Rein series can provide their email address and subscribe to Christine Meunier Author News.  It’s then up to me to keep them informed!

Encourage Readers to Sign Up to Your Mailing List

Once you’ve created a mailing list, you can choose how often to contact your readers: 

  • monthly
  • seasonally
  • whenever you have news

The choice is yours but it’s a great way to keep fans informed and let them know the latest news first – before you release things on your website, before you update your Facebook page and before a book is available for sale.  It’s up to you how you utilise your mailing list, but this can be a great way to keep a collection of contact details for people who are interested in buying your books.

If you provide them with the option (and link) to preorder your latest release or to give a review in exchange for an advanced copy of your planned release or to received an autographed copy of your novel/s, mailing lists can be a great way to attract fans to your readership.

The best bit is you can establish such lists for free or at a minimal cost.  I make use of MailChimp and have read many references to AWeber.  Do your research but be proactive – set up a mailing list, design a campaign and be sure to let your fans know that you want to keep them informed, if only they’ll sign up!

You can easily provide a link where people can go to sign up and direct them to this from your Twitter account, Facebook page, personal website or any other social media means.  Alternatively, you can create a pop up that encourages visitors to your site to enter their email address and sign up.

Once the mailing list is created, you receive notifications any time there is a new sign up.  You can even provide an automated response that thanks them via email for their sign up – and this email can provide them with a personal message from you, a link to where they can download a book for free or something else of your choosing.  Show your fans you appreciate them providing their contact details!

Have you signed up to your favourite author's mailing list?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Swept away: 107,000 words, 31 days.

This May, I wrote a novel in a month. A NaNoWriMo, if you will, only this particular novel wasn't 50,000 words. It was 107,000.

Okay, wait, let's back up. In April, I was obsessing over first drafts. I had just finished the first draft of All Heart, my horse book sequel to Stay the Distance, and had squirreled it away to let it marinate before attempting to figure out its flaws, because that's the way of things. I never want to be too close to a first draft when I start on the second draft. There has to be some time apart. It's for the best, really. Otherwise I'll lose all sense of self and fall into a pit of impossible rewrites.

So, separation. But what to do in the meantime?

Just a little Northwest Arkansas to spice up this post.
I had already told my editor that I was going to work on what I was calling the Arkansas Novel (Uninspired WIP title? Yes.) this year. My editor and I are both Arkansans. Not born and bred there, but definitely grew up there for years and years. We're drives on dirt roads, dunks in swimming holes, hope-you-don't-get-snakebit Arkansans. Naturally, her response was write it now. The thing is I had already tried writing this book. I'd tried five years ago and failed miserably, not sure where it was going and not sure I could even write what I wanted to write. So I let it sit on my hard drive, languishing in a state of unfinished disrepair.

It couldn't go on that way. But it couldn't stay the way I'd previously envisioned, either. So I pulled up Blacksnake, the Arkansas Novel's prequel (available in How to Trick the Devil) and glared at it for a while. Then I opened up a new Word document and proceeded to go nuts.

Okay, not nuts exactly. But I did get really into it. I took my main characters and I started to stretch back their history--something my editor calls writing the fictitious reality. My main characters' stories, their parents' stories, their parents' parents' stories...I went back to the 1600s. (Like I said, really, really into it.)

Most of the time when you plot a book, you look into its future. You're plotting out where a book is going, not so much looking into its depths and trying to see its past. That said, by looking into that murky background, I found the story I wanted to write. I found characters I didn't know I was going to even write about, who would be major players in the story I wanted to push out. Once I got them on the page, their history written down and how they connected to the rest of the world I'd just created, I stopped and turned my attention forward, opening up a new Word document to lay out the backbone for three books--just plot points stringing to plot points from beginning to end across the trilogy. From there, it was fleshing out those plot points into chapters until everything was in place and I could start writing.

So--to the figures. 107,000 words, 31 days. I started the draft on April 11, and I finished it on May 12. I kept a log of how much I wrote every day. I set daily goals in Scrivener, which showed me how fast I was writing with its little gradient-hued progress bar. I was diligent. And I wrote. 1,400 words on May 5th constituted a slow day. 8,000 words on May 9th was...a little frightening. What happened on that day? Did I consist only of story and a flurry of keyboard strokes? How did I even accomplish this?

And the answer, I think, is I enjoyed what I was doing. I sat down and I didn't spend half my time agonizing over every detail, every bit of dialogue. I got out of the story's way. There was only the story in my head that said sit down and write me. Shockingly enough, I decided to obey it instead of fight it tooth and nail to the end. There was no forcing it to do anything. The story went down on the page, and where it deviated from the outline, I re-outlined. I added chapters. I just held on as it rushed onto the page--for thirty-one days. When I wrote the ending on that last day I just sat there and stared at the behemoth that seemed to magically have appeared on my computer's hard drive as my editor yelled at me over Google Chat, "Did you finish it? DID YOU?"

I told her I did--in all caps because EXCITED--and I sent it her way. Then I sat there, thinking about everything else that needed to be done, because there's always that second draft to get through. And maybe a third, fourth, fifth--the work never really seems done. It's the most anticlimactic of feelings, finishing a first draft. But still, I was excited. I am excited. I want to rip into this draft, make it better, get this sucker so polished it is shiny with editing, and then write the second book, and the third. I am swept away, and maybe that's been the secret all along.

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Mara Dabrishus is an author and librarian at a small college in Northeast Ohio. Horse racing is her first great love, but for the past several years she's ridden dressage, learning how to spiral in, half halt, and perform the perfect figure eight. Her second novel (gasp!), Finding Daylight, was released in January 2016. For more information, please visit www.maradabrishus.com.