nature

Falling For You Again

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kate curranToday I’m welcoming another Kate–Kate Curran, author of the recently released Falling For You…Again. Kate started her creative journey writing fiction, but got sidetracked to a career in photojournalism, specializing in agriculture. Fifteen years later, she went back to her first love and published three children’s books. Now she has switched her talents to romance. Falling For You is her second romance novel.

Here’s Kate Curran:

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Watson Falls

Watson Falls

Waterfalls intrigue me. Always have always will. Their beauty and mystery draw me both as a photographer and a writer. Some of my very favorite waterfalls are in Oregon.  Highway 138 from Diamond Lake to Roseburg is referred to as the Highway of Waterfalls. (http://tinyurl.com/mvkz9cs) Watson Falls is spectacular. Toketee Falls is on my must see list. And further north, east of Portland is Multnomah Falls. Spectacular. Someday I picture a waterfall in one of my books to add intrigue and color.

My early romance reading days consisted of Kathleen Woodiwiss, LaVyrle Spencer, Joan Johnston, Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Heather Graham. These are the ladies who inspired me to write my own book

What prompted me to write a book of my own?  I’ve always got something to say J.  I would call my stories deeply emotional. I talk about family relationships, and I look for ways to resolve issues. They won’t be perfect, but my characters will learn to communicate and find better ways to resolve their issues.

My current book, Falling For You…Again is about a couple, Clare and Ethan Burke who have basically had a fairytale marriage until their 14 year-old daughter, Grace, dies in a boating accident.  Ethan almost dies in the same accident.  As the story begins two years later, Clare and Ethan are on the verge of divorce until Clare goes missing on a photo shoot.  A blizzard is eminent and they both discover their love is stronger than either of them realized.

To me this isn’t a story about death and dying, but a story of survival and that there can be happiness, and love and an engaged life after losing a child. A fan whose daughter died in her early twenties told me she wasn’t sure she could the read book, but she did. She said it didn’t bring her down, but uplifted her. And that’s what I want to give my readers. A few tears, some laughs, romance and an ending that warms their heart.

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They vowed to love each other forever, then grief tore them apart.

Clare and Ethan Burke carved out a life in Paradise Falls, Idaho. While Clare built a career as an outdoor photographer, Ethan taught eighth-grade science. They raised three children and had a happily-ever-after life until tragedy struck and their daughter was killed in a boating accident.

Two years later Clare and Ethan still love each other, but their grief has pushed them to the brink of divorce. Their problems become insignificant when Clare leaves for a photo shoot into the mountains and doesn’t return. With a blizzard looming, Ethan must move heaven and earth to find her.

Will they get a second chance or lose each other forever?

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Available on:
Amazon:  http://tinyurl.com/o4raxml
Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/402961
Barnes & Noble:  http://tinyurl.com/lb5zjv3

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Present day, Paradise Falls, Idaho…

Clare Burke bolted upright in bed.

The hazy light of dawn filtered through the French doors and sent a halo of light over the shimmering image at the foot of the bed.

“Grace.” Two years and two days since her death, and her daughter still came to her, comforted her.

Questions overrode logical thought, but rather than sort through them she blurted out the one that continually weighed on her. “Are you happy?”

Grace smiled that smile that would drive a hermit in search of companionship, then vanished.

Had she been real or imaginary? The lines were as blurred as Grace’s image.

Tears welled in Clare’s eyes, and her heart absorbed a wave of grief. Why had Grace been taken from her? Why her child? All she had left of the daughter she loved were memories. Memories of pursed lips hiding braces, purple-streaked blonde hair and the snort of teenage sarcasm.

The faint light illuminated the sky blue walls. The room should have made her think of wide open spaces, but instead it had become her prison.

She stared at the stack of self-help books on her nightstand. She knew the titles as intimately as she did herself. Learn to Grieve, Living Without Your Loved One and her more recent pick,  The Top Three Reasons Marriages Fail: Finances, Communication, and Emotional Detachment.

The knot wedged in her stomach wound tighter as she stared through a blur of tears at her husband, Ethan, sound asleep, twisted around the down comforter like a deranged pretzel.

When was the last time she’d felt truly connected to him?

Two years and two days.

They’d embraced life back then, now they tolerated it. They were shells of their former selves—colorless imitations of the vibrant couple they’d once been. Back then she would have told him about Grace’s visits. Now they were barely civil to each other. Ethan was here physically. Emotionally, he had become as untouchable as Grace.

The faint shriek of their oldest son, Jack’s, alarm filtered through the adjoining wall.

Tousled brown hair poked above the covers. A pair of matching brown eyes slowly opened and stared back at Clare.

“What time is it?”

Once upon a time that raspy voice had been her idea of a mating call. Now she felt a desperate ache that nothing filled. “Six.”

His knuckles grazed her cheek. “Still a while until we have to get up.”

Clare knew that tone, the darkening of his eyes, the wisp of a smile that had once held the promise of bliss. It would be impossibly easy to say yes, to curl into him and ignore the fact that sex for her had become as tempting as unflavored gelatin.

She pressed his hand to her cheek. “Could we just hold each other and talk instead?” Her words stripped the smile from his face.

He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. “Honestly, Clare, I’m all talked out.”

“I’m not.” She desperately wanted to recapture the closeness they’d shared, and the only way she knew how to do it was by talking.

He turned his head to look at her. “You never are.”

Three simple words and their bedroom became a war zone.

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You can contact Kate Curran at:

http://www.katecurran.net
http://www.facebook.com/katecurranauthorpage
http://www.twitter.com/katecurrankate3
http://www.goodreads.com/KateCurran
http://www.katecurran3.blogspot.com/

Categories: Books, dealing with death, death of a child, Love, nature, outdoors, romance, survival, suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

The Sensitive Extrovert

Wow! WPRG Reviewer's Choice nominee flathat a surprise!

My books, WYOMING ESCAPE and FOREWARNING, have been nominated for the PRG Reviewer’s Choice Award for “Best Mystery/Thriller/Suspense.” Voting is open from through Sun, Jan 12.

I’d really appreciate your support and vote. Unfortunately the books are competing against each other, so I hope you’ll choose Forewarning. You’ll have to page down a ways to get to the Mystery/Suspense listing. If you click on either cover image, you’ll be able to see the reviews for both books.  And you need to register on the site in order to vote.
http://www.paranormalromanceguild.com/2013reviewerschoice.htm

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I’m still catching up from the holidays, so I’m recycling an older post about horse personalities that I hope you will enjoy.

Previously I talked about the Extrovert Thinker as typified by my horse Star. Today, I’d like to discuss the Extrovert Reactor.

First, a quick note: These personality types are on a continuum, of course. Some are more extroverted than others, some are less reactive. Some can change—become less introverted or more of a thinker. But their basic type remains and influences their actions.

Portia at 29

Portia at 29

My mare Portia, a grey Anglo-Arab (half Thoroughbred and half Arabian), was a typical Extrovert Reactor. She was very sensitive to stimuli and hyper-aware of her environment. Even at age twenty-nine and retired, she could be a challenge and needed an experienced handler. Not that she’d ever deliberately hurt someone, she just tended to react first and think later.

She also really enjoyed life. She loved to play and would try her best to please. She’d yell a greeting when she saw me and come running up to the gate eager for a treat or an outing. In the show ring or a parade, when she “turned on” all eyes were on her. She also used to fly down a new trail with her incredible walk, eager to see what was around the next corner. Even though she could be a pain in the butt, her exuberance was a lot of fun.

When I first got her as a seven year-old, she was ready to spin and bolt at the slightest provocation—a rock that looked funny, a horse scratching it’s ear with a hind leg, a COW on the trail! She soon learned bolting wasn’t acceptable behavior so she tried others. Like teleporting half way across the arena or jittering in place or jumping straight up. I eventually discovered that part of the reason for her reactivity was because she was in pain. She needed chiropractic care (just starting with horses at that time and not widely accepted) and a correctly fitted saddle (which proved to be almost impossible to find). Once those problems were solved, she settled down a lot.

But she still retained her quirky personality. One time we hung a bright pink piñata in a tree near the pasture and she and my daughter’s horse decided that it was a decidedly SCARY thing. They came up close to the fence, took a look, then snorted and high-tailed it back to the barn. Duchess stayed there, but Portia couldn’t resist. She’d dance back up to the fence and watch big-eyed as one of kids swung at the colorful unicorn. Then she’d take off for the other end. A few minutes later, she was back, waiting to be “scared” again. I swear she was disappointed when the thing finally broke and everyone went away.

Her playfulness and sensitivity made her a delight to train. She was eager to learn new things and would try her hardest to do what I asked. Of course, this meant I had to be quite careful  with my corrections so I wouldn’t discourage her. In general, she’s always required a very light hand. As a result, I got a horse responsive to the slightest cue and that just about read my mind.

Riding her was never dull. One time we were exploring in the mountains and I twisted around in the saddle to get a map out of the saddlebag behind me. Just then a pair of fawns exploded across the trail, directly in front of us. Portia spun aside–out from under me because of the way I was turned. I ended up hanging off her, one hand somehow on her bridle, one hand on the breast collar, one foot still in a stirrup under her belly and the other still in the stirrup on top of her back. Because of how far down I was and the fact the saddle was slipping, I couldn’t get back up. Another horse might have freaked and tried to get rid of me, but Portia stood perfectly still and waited for me to work myself loose of the stirrups and drop to the ground. I really couldn’t blame her for dodging  the fawns and I certainly appreciated her being sensible.

Obviously a sensitive, reactive personality is not appropriate for an inexperienced horse person. This type needs a calm, confident rider who doesn’t get upset by spooks and silliness. But if you know what you are doing and have a light touch, a extrovert-reactor can be great fun.

I lost Portia this summer at age 30. I really miss my delightful “brat child.”

Categories: Books, horse personalities, Horses, nature, outdoors, riding, training horses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

In the Saddle: Regency Riding

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Interesting article on riding sidesaddle and earlier styles of riding. I’ll let this take the place of the blog I had intended to do because the info is really good.

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This will be my last blog of the year. I’m going to take time off for the holidays and will resume blogging in the new year. Don’t forget my two Christmas promos.

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The Winter Wonderland Scavenger Hunt. http://tinyurl.com/n85tvtn

Win author baskets and discover new books.

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Indie Tribe Special Christmas Showcase. http://tinyurl.com/nxyqbxn

Lots of fun authors and books.

 

Shannon Donnelly's Fresh Ink

foxhunting The horse was a vital part of everyday Regency life, but few of us today have such an intimate acquaintance with that lovely animal.  We all know how to describe someone getting in and out of a car, but what about getting on and off a horse?  What does it actually feel like to ride side saddle?  How can two people ride a single horse?

The English saddle has changed little in its appearance over the past two hundred years.  The major change came at the end of the 19th century when the modern “Forward Seat: was invented and the saddle flap began to be cut “forward” so that it lay over a horse’s shoulder (allowing a shorter stirrup).  Prior to this, riders sat very straight in the saddle, leaning back when jumping fences, as seen in hunting prints of the era.

The Side Saddle

sidesaddle1790-1810Prior to 1835, a side…

View original post 2,370 more words

Categories: history, Horses, nature, outdoors, riding, Thoroughbreds, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Gaits – Not Gates

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Today I’m going to talk about how horses move—their gaits. Contrary to what the movies usually show, horses do more than walk or run flat out. In fact the most commonly used gait of all, the trot, is only seen if they are pulling carriages. So what is the reality?

You’re probably familiar with the horse’s four natural gaits—walk, trot, canter and gallop. But did you know that some horses have six or more gaits? I’ll talk about the basics first.

small_10020981376The walk is a slow four-beat movement. First a rear foot moves, followed by the front foot on the same side, then other rear foot followed by its front. With this pattern three feet are always on the ground providing a smooth, easy ride. Horses vary greatly in size, shape and energy, but an average walk is about four miles per hour. Some have much faster walks, in the six mph range.

A good rider knows to keep his/her body still and quiet so as not to disturb the horse’s balance. If you allow yourself to move in the saddle, the horse has to constantly deal with a shifting weight that can interfere with his equilibrium. Therefore, it’s important to keep your upper body still—but not rigid. Your pelvis needs to move with the movement of the horse’s body. At the walk, this means allowing each side of your pelvis to move forward and back independently as first one rear leg steps forward and then the other. At a normal, casual walk this is usually no problem. At a speed walk, it’s surprising how tiring that can be.

The trot is a faster two-beat gait where opposite pairs of legs move at the same time. small_369623604As each pair goes forward, the horse’s back drops a bit, which causes the rider to feel a jar when the feet land and the back rises again. Learning to ride a trot comfortably is a beginner rider’s hardest task. The easiest way is to learn to post, which means rising out of the saddle and sitting back down in rhythm with the gait. Some horses do a slow jog that has very little bounce and is much easier to sit, but it doesn’t cover a lot of ground. If you want to go a long distance fairly fast, you’ll be doing most of it at a trot. This applies whether you are riding or being pulled in a carriage or coach. The trot is the “working” gait for going places. Something to keep in mind if you write about people traveling distances.

small_2431865552The horse’s third gait has a couple of names. If you are riding English style it’s a canter, but it’s a lope when you ride Western. Either way, the canter is a three-beat leaping gait with a moment of suspension, but is much smoother to ride than the trot. Here the rider needs to let her whole pelvis move forward and back with the movement. The canter or lope is a controlled fast pace that allows you to cover ground quickly, for a shorter period of time.

The gallop or full out run is the fourth standard gait and used for racing or fleeing a predator in the wild. It’s a four-beat, stretched out, ground-covering canter that can only be sustained for a relatively brief period of time—one to two miles. Despite what you see in the movies, horses can’t run fast for long periods. Usually the rider stands in the stirrups when galloping.

In addition to these standard gaits, there are a number of additional gaits specific to certain breeds. These horses are unusual and fun and I’ll talk about them next time.

Here’s video about gaits:

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Race photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/kubina/185495090/”>Jeff Kubina</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Horse walking photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/63942879@N05/10020981376/”>Katherine Mustafa Photography</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Horse trotting photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nikkis_pikkis/369623604/”>nikki_tate</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Horse cantering
Categories: dressage, Horses, nature, outdoors, Racing, riding, Thoroughbreds, training horses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Feet and Farriers

medium_132910292There’s an old rhyme we’ve all heard as kids.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The poem is meant to show that small actions can result in large consequences. It also illustrates a basic fact of horse keeping: without proper hoof care, you can’t use a horse.

Cleaning a hoof

Cleaning a hoof

A hoof is essentially a long toe (or three fused together, to be exact). The outer wall is like a very thick toenail that wraps most of the way around the inner structures—soft tissues, ligaments, and bones. The sole of the foot is also made up of a fingernail-like material that is softer than the wall. It covers most of the bottom of the hoof except where the frog is located. The frog is a V-shaped, rubbery structure that acts as a shock absorber. In a wild horse that casually roams over varied natural terrain these parts of the hoof become hard and tough.

In contrast, domesticated horses that are kept in stalls, used on man-made surfaces such as stone, concrete and asphalt, and are asked to carry weight or pull heavy loads usually need protection for their hooves. In addition, man, through selective breeding, has greatly modified the horse, oft times creating a creature that would have no hope of surviving in the wild. Hence the invention of horseshoes and the development of the craft of the farrier or horseshoer.

Up until the Middle Ages, the distance a horse could travel was limited by how well its hooves stood up to the wear and tear of the load and the surface it was traveling on. Men tried different methods to attempt to protect the hooves, including the Roman hipposandal, a hard leather contraption they strapped on, but none were particularly successful. It wasn’t until sometime in the early Middle Ages that they began to work iron and bronze into horseshoes which they nailed on through the thick outer wall. Suddenly, horses could go much greater distances, which increased travel and trade.

Farrier at work

Farrier at work

When the farrier comes, he first pulls the old shoes, if any. Then he trims the hooves to make them level and even. Like fingernails, hooves grow and can be worn into lopsided patterns, so it’s important to rebalance the foot before putting on the new shoes. Just like people, horses feet are different shapes and sizes and the shoes need to be fitted to them.

Horseshoes can be worked in two ways—either by pounding a (cold) shoe that almost fits into the correct shape or by heating the shoe and reworking it to fit. If the foot is normal with no problems, cold shoeing is easiest. However, if either the type of work or physical problems demand something extra, then hot shoeing is the way to go.

Farriers have to study horse anatomy and physiology because they also deal with diseased and injured hooves that may require special shoeing. Laminitis and Navicular Disease are two problems that require long term, knowledgeable care. My husband’s horse, Koko, had a long ordeal with laminitis. Without our excellent shoer, we would have had to put her down much sooner. A good farrier is hard to find and important to keep.

No hoof, no horse.

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Single shoe: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/132910292/”>Leo Reynolds</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Cleaning a hoof: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/64081615@N06/5861756930/”>eXtensionHorses</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Farrier:  photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/duanekeys/228806896/”>duanekeys</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Categories: blacksmiths, Farriers, horse care, horse shoes, Horses, nature, riding, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Eventing – Not For the Faint of Heart

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Cross-country

Three-Day Eventing is an Olympic and international equestrian sport that originated in Europe as a competition to demonstrate the fitness of cavalry horses. In those days, the armies wanted horses that looked impressive on the parade grounds, could travel across any kind of terrain at speed and for long distances, and then be ready and able to continue the next day. To test these abilities they developed a three day competition—in essence an equestrian triathlon.

The first day the horses demonstrate their dressage skills, performing intricate movements requiring high levels of training and obedience. The second day they show their courage, endurance, and ability to handle all kinds of difficult situations by completing a challenging cross-country course. The last day they prove their fitness by doing a precise and demanding stadium jumping round.

These tests developed into national competitions, culminating in becoming an Olympic sport in 1912. Initially, only military officers were allowed to compete. In 1952 male civilians became eligible, but women weren’t allowed into the club until 1964. Equestrian sports are among the few where men and women compete head-to-head. With a couple of exceptions—rodeo and racing—male strength is not a particular advantage and both sexes can be equally successful.

Eventing has become a popular activity for all levels of riders. You can start out on very easy Beginner Novice, Novice or Training courses, then move up to Preliminary, Intermediate and Advanced. You can also take part in one day events known as Horse Trials.

A horse and rider compete either as individuals or, at the international level, also as members of a team. Scores are computed on the numbemedium_2568292756r of faults a pair collects. As in golf, the lowest score wins. You acquire faults through mistakes in the dressage test and refusals, course mistakes or taking too long in the two jumping portions. Three refusals or a fall of horse or rider will result in elimination. Horses are also eliminated if they don’t pass the daily vet inspections.

The most important qualifications for the horse and rider are courage and fitness. The horse has to trust her rider and be willing to go where asked, sometimes jumping blindly, not knowing what is on the other side. Of course, the rider has to be equally brave, trusting that the horse can do what he asks and will keep him safe.

One year I served as a jump judge at a local Intermediate championship. This involved sitting by a large wood pile jump and watching to see if any horse refused, totally missed the jump, or fell. While I had done some cross-country for fun, I’d never tried anything the size of that wood pile. The sight of those horses tearing downhill and then having to slow and gather themselves to jump had my heart in my throat a good part of the time. Unfortunately, one rider did not get her mount back enough so the pair did not make it and fell hard. The rider got up sooner than the horse. There was no question of it doing anything more that day. That was the inspiration for a similar incident in my book Forewarning. My heroine Kasey Edwards is a former Three Day competitor.

Just as vital is the athletic ability of both. Top ranked riders cross-train, ride multiple horses daily and are extremely fit. They also put in long hours conditioning their horses to be able to finish the grueling second day.

medium_8123864734Unlike most other Olympic sports, Three-Day Eventing started as an Olympic event and then developed as a more general contest. The Badminton Horse Trial in Great Britain was the first major non-Olympic event and is still considered the most prestigious. The premier Three-Day in the US in the Rolex, held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.

While the limited TV coverage of Eventing in the Olympics used to concentrate on jumping falls, the increased public interest has resulted in actually being able to see portions of all three events. Below are a couple of videos.

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Three Day Eventing:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Fqjo9EST8I
2012 Rolex:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfYJjdggyq0
The Cross-Country Ride to London: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8aShtqmJ_o

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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/21795222@N06/2568292756/”>clickerjac</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/zlatko/8123864734/”>Zlatko Unger</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Categories: dressage, Horse Trials, Horses, Kentucky, nature, Olympics, outdoors, riding, Three Day Eventing, training horses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

A DREAM COME TRUE

GloriaToday I’d like to welcome Gloria Alden author of the Catherine Jewell mystery novels The Blue Rose and Daylilies for Emily’s Garden. Gloria is a former third grade teacher who is spending her retirement writing short stories and novels. Her published short stories include “Cheating on Your Wife Can Get You Killed,” winner of the 2011 Love is Murder contest; “Mincemeat is for Murder” which appeared in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, “The Professor’s Books” in the FISH TALES Anthology; and “The Lure of the Rainbow” in FISH NETS, the newest Guppy Anthology. Her latest novel Ladies of the Garden Club will be coming out soon.

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A DREAM COME TRUE

When I was a young girl, I galloped everywhere hitting my thigh to go faster on my imaginary horse. I galloped through fields and woods leaping logs, galloped across the road to my cousin’s house or to my grandparents farm and sometimes further down the road to another cousin’s house. Sometimes I rode Wildfire, and sometimes it was Thunderhead or Flicka or another horse in my stable of horses. I dreamed of someday having a ranch in the west with hundreds of horses.

I think my love of horses came from the story my dad told of a pony he rode one summer in the mining town in Pennsylvania where he grew up. My grandfather was foreman of the mining stable. The superintendent of the mine bought a beautiful black pony for his son, and it was kept in the mining stable. The pony tossed the boy the first time he tried to ride it so the superintendent asked my father, about the same age as his son, to ride and gentle it. All summer my father rode that pony, but the superintendent’s son never got over his fear of it so the pony was eventually sold.

During my galloping period, I read every horse book in my small rural library numerous times, and at Christmas I usually got a horse book, too. I dreamed of horses and drew pictures of horses, but I was thirty-eight years old before I finally got my first horse. My husband heard of a horse for sale and took me to see it. Of course, I fell in love with that strawberry roan paint. I thought he was beautiful. A few days later he was delivered. We had no barn, no saddle or bridle or even a lead rope. We did have hay, grain and a water bucket.

We put him in a shed and a few days later my husband and young teenage sons started building a barn – a large barn with five stalls. A week after my horse arrived, I now had a saddle and bridle.  I was ready for my first ride on my very own horse. Now, mind you, my riding had been very limited over the years. Mostly it was while we were on vacation and found a riding stable where you paid for an hour ride with a group on trails following a guide. Seldom did we move out of a walk, but maybe we’d trot a little and once in a great while gallop for a few minutes. Neither my husband nor I had ever saddled a horse, but we’d watched while these trail horses were saddled so we knew how to do it. Or so we thought.

As soon as the horse was saddled, I mounted and headed down a trail into the woods beside our home. He was a high stepper and both of us were eager to be out and on the trail. I was euphoric. His ears were perked forward interested and curious as we went along. And then I turned him around to head back. Maybe I should have thought twice about buying a horse named Rebel because as soon as we were heading back, he took the bit in his mouth, and I couldn’t slow him down. He was heading home, and just where that home was in his mind, I didn’t know. It was then I felt the saddle slip. I learned from that experience, you always tighten the girth, wait a bit for the horse to relax and then tighten it more. Anyway the saddle slipped and ended up under Rebel. Fortunately, I was able to kick my feet free from the stirrups and landed on the ground still holding onto his reins so he didn’t end up in some other county. He jumped about trying to get rid of that thing, but fortunately, I was able to unbuckle the saddle and not get kicked or stepped on.

So at the end of my first ride on my very own horse, I walked home with a saddle on my back now leading a docile horse. It wasn’t exactly the way I had envisioned that first ride. Eventually, Rebel was sold. He was a rebel. Over the years there were other horses and ponies. Once we had five at one time, one we boarded for a friend. My four kids joined 4H, and I became proficient at saddling and caring for horses. I learned to pull a horse trailer to take them to shows and for riding lessons and even took riding lessons, too.ponies2

Then there came a day when I had to move. I had to sell my last two horses because I didn’t have the money to put new fencing around the pasture of the small farm I bought. The house needed too many repairs and the barn needed a new roof. But my love of horses never went away. However, I down sized the dream. Now I have two totally useless small ponies – sisters – that I rationalize keeping as being compost makers for my gardens, but it’s really because I love them.

What dream did you have when you were young? Did it ever come true?

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blueRose_flatIn The Blue Rose Catherine Jewell enjoys the small quiet town she’s recently moved to where she’s a botanist at Elmwood Gardens and also has a small garden center, Roses in Thyme. At least she does until she discovers a body with a garden fork in his back at Elmwood Gardens. John MacDougal, the police chief of Portage Falls, has never had to deal with a murder in his ten years as police chief. As he questions the suspects, many who are Catherine’s co-workers and friends, she works to divert his suspicions elsewhere since she’s sure none of them could be the murderer. When another body is discovered, they start working together, and in spite of their inexperience and several close calls with death, they solve the murders and restore calm to the little town of Portage Falls.

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In Daylilies for Emily’s Garden Catherine Jewell is excited about restoring the gardens at the estate ofdaylilies_frontPreview1 the reclusive Emily Llewellyn. Everything for this project is arranged through Charles McKee, her secretary and companion. Catherine’s curiosity of this eccentric recluse is piqued when her only contact with Emily is through brief glimpses of her through a window before she quickly disappears. Catherine’s excitement dims a little when she discovers a dead body. Meanwhile other unsettling events are going on in Portage Falls. A bypass coming closer to town threatens wet lands and the residents are divided on the next phase of the construction.  When environmental activist Bruce Twohill comes to save the wetlands some consider him a savior while others like Police Chief John MacDougal are suspicious of this stranger. Another dead body is discovered and the buzz around town thinks it’s connected with the first body.  Returning characters from The Blue Rose plus new and interesting or quirky characters add color to the small town of Portage Falls in this second book in The Catherine Jewell Mystery Series.

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Both books are available on Amazon and Smashwords

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You can contact Gloria at:
Website: www.gloriaalden.com
http://writerswhokill.blogspot.com

Categories: Horses, Mystery, nature, outdoors, ponies, riding, Romantic suspense, Trail riding, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Horses are Characters, too…

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JoAnn_hands_chinWingsEdit-v2_300Today my guest JoAnn Smith Ainsworth talks about a very special animal that helped her through a difficult time in her life.

When JoAnn Smith Ainsworth carried wood as a pre-teen so her Great Aunt Martha could stoke up the iron stove to prepare dinner, she wasn’t thinking, “I could use this in a novel someday.” Yet, the skills she learned from her horse-and-buggy ancestors translate into backdrops for her historical romance and paranormal suspense novels.

Her most recent release is Polite Enemies, published by Whiskey Creek Press and available as an ebook too. Here’s JoAnn.

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POLITE ENEMIES features a farm horse, Old Molly, who appears in many high-profile scenes. In 1895 Wyoming, Old Molly thwarts outlaws, hauls equipment to fight a fire and, notwithstanding exhaustion, comes out of the barn one more time for the heroine to defend her hero. Old Molly has a personality that makes her one of the story characters.

Old Molly has been with the family for over a decade. Whether called upon to pull a plow or haul a load of farm produce to town, Old Molly placidly does her duty. The hero is a rancher so there are other, more powerful horses in the novel, but none of those horses have the personality and importance of this tried-and-true farm horse.

Incorporating a horse with a “personality” into POLITE ENEMIES came from my own experiences as a horse owner. I owned a horse for a few years and he played a central role in my life.

Sensacional was a Peruvian Paso with dark coloring, an almost-to-the-ground, black tail and a flowing, black mane. He had a very smooth, specialized gait, (which looked like this horse riddenSilvano Taipe show horse by my trainer, Silvano Taipe). Sensacional played a major role in helping me survive the transition of my son from a dependent child into an antagonistic teenager and, finally, into an independent young man. I had to learn to step away, to give my son enough space so he could grow. Sensacional was the “crutch” that helped me through the transition. He kept me from a mother’s despair as her child pulls away from her.

Sensacional was a rescue horse. In a way, we rescued each other. He was a beautifully trained gelding with quality features, but his owner died suddenly. Those family members dealing with a human death forgot about the horse. Not being fed and watered, Sensacional went to skin and bones. By the time I got him, he was too weak to carry a person. The trainer spent a few months to fatten him up and rebuild muscle tone. We took long walks together while Sensacional was unable to carry weight.

I would speak to him as we walked and he seemed to understand and accept the bond of mutual need being built. Although he was a show horse at one time, I wanted him for trail rides on a Napa County recreational ranch. Peruvian Pasos can cover miles with ease and provide a smooth ride because of their gait. As Sensacional responded to food and exercise and companionship, we became closer. Eventually, he was fit for trail rides.

My mothering instinct traveled from my son to my horse. Where my son rejected fussing and care, Sensacional loved being coddled and groomed. The horses in POLITE ENEMIES benefitted from my experience.

As is the nature of things, during this time my son and I became more estranged, but Sensacional took the sting out of it. It took my son into his early twenties to return to a belief that parents might have some value in this world. It took Sensacional less than a year to return to his original beauty and most of his strength, but the starvation had taken a toll on his health and shortened his life span. Sensacional neared the end of his days and passed out of my life at a time when my son reached his maturity and eventually came to believe a mother might be worth acknowledging once again.

Have you ever had an animal which helped you over hard emotional times? Describe your experiences for us.

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Polite Enemies COVER_300x200IDA LOUISE OSTERBACH survived Indian and range wars and the murder of her husband. She’s kept the farm going through sheer grit and the help of her cousin, a friend and two farm hands. She’s managed a profit, paid the mortgage and re-paid the crop loans. Hard working, focused, fiercely proprietary, the last thing she has time for is romance.

JARED BUELL—widower neighbor and wealthy rancher—was never particularly charitable when it came to farmers, even eye-catching ones like Ida. He’s not looking to start trouble or anything else with her. His comfortable existence needs no complications, thank you very much. Then an old nemesis comes to town and threatens his and Ida’s property. He has no choice but to get involved.

Experience this action-packed romp through 1895 Wyoming where an outlaw schemes to take over the town and Ida and Jared find love when they least expect it.

Read an excerpt at http://bit.ly/1epn2aM.

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Contact Joann at:

http://www.joannsmithainsworth.com

joannparanormal@gmail.com

Visit @JoAnnAinsworth on Twitter and Facebook.

Categories: Horses, nature, Romantic suspense, Uncategorized, Western romance, Wyoming | Tags: , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Personalities and Horses

Last week I posted about how sex or gender influences how horses interact with the world and you, as a rider or trainer.  But that isn’t the only thing you need to be aware when handling these wonderful animals. Just like people, horses have very different and distinctive personalities. Some of these are easy to live with and others are quite challenging.

(I still haven’t quite caught up from being gone most of last month, so I am again reusing parts of an early post which ties in with last week’s.)

My first instructor in this area was my horse, Star, who I’ve talked about before. small_4888162686I became pretty successful in teaching her to do a lot of different things. Then her second son, Junior, came along and I discovered I needed a different set of tools to work with him. And this has been true with each horse I’ve dealt with.

You can classify horses as having four basic personalities. They can be Extroverts or Introverts. They also can be Thinkers or Reactors (emotional). This means you can have an extroverted-thinker, an extroverted-reactor, an introverted-thinker and an introverted-reactor. Then you add their gender and their experience into the equation and you have a complicated being that requires some thought to train effectively. Each personality type has its pluses and minuses and is good for different things and different riders.

Star was an extroverted-thinker. She was friendly, self-confident, rarely afraid of anything and willing to try whatever I asked her. She was also strong-willed and could be difficult. Horses are prey animals and, as such, are basically “scaredy cats.” In the wild they stay alive by being hyper-aware of their environment and ready to run on an instant. Domestication hasn’t done away with that basic instinct. A horse whose emotions dominate sees threats everywhere and can react without thinking. My Portia was a prime example. When I first got her, she would whirl and try to bolt at the slightest provocation. Typical extroverted-reactor.

Star, on the other hand, rarely reacted to anything. Her version of a spook was to stop, study the offending object for a minute and then go up and sniff it. She had grown up along a railroad track and had experienced earth moving equipment moving around her space, so she learned early thatsmall_4125411682 loud noises and big things weren’t usually dangerous. Given her basic self-confidence, she extended this attitude to the rest of her world. You could surprise her, of course. She wasn’t bothered by the fire engine racing down the street, but nearly jumped onto our neighbor’s porch when it suddenly blasted its siren right alongside her. Scared the dickens out of me too!

Because of her personality, Star was easy to teach, once we started communicating properly. She enjoyed learning, experiencing new things and exploring new trails. Portia liked to learn too but got upset easily, which shut down her brain. On the other hand, Glory, an introverted-reactor, is harder to teach because she’s afraid to try new things. And my husband’s horse, Koko, an introverted- thinker, could be down right stubborn about trying anything new. So I have had to adjust my methods for each personality.

Being aware of these personalities also helps you when you pick out a horse to own or work with. Some people do better with one type, and others do better with a quite different one. Since I’m more of an introverted-thinker, dealing with a horse of the same style would drive me bonkers in the long run. We’d probably both fall asleep. I do much better with the reactors who need to be calmed down. This wouldn’t be true of someone who had an emotional nature. They would be better at energizing a thinker.

What personality type are you?  What types do you like best?

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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/pictureclara/4888162686/”>Clara S.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
 
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/abejorro34/4125411682/”>abejorro34</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Categories: horse personalities, Horses, nature, outdoors, riding, training horses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Evolving Mermaid

Joanne Guidoccio is my guest today and she will be talking about mermaids, since a mermaid is the heroine of her debut novel, Between Land and Sea.

Guidoccio 001In high school, Joanne dabbled in poetry, but decided to wait until she had more life experiences before writing a novel. The original plan was to get a general arts degree and take a few years off to travel and write. Instead, she gave in to her practical Italian side and obtained degrees in mathematics and education.

While she experienced many satisfying moments during her teaching career, she never found the time and energy to write. In 2008, she took advantage of early retirement. Slowly, a writing practice emerged and her articles and book reviews started appearing in newspapers, magazines and online.

Her debut novel, Between Land and Sea, a paranormal romance about a middle-aged mermaid, has just been released by Soul Mate Publishing.

THE EVOLVING MERMAID

When I announced the release of Between Land and Sea, a novel about an overweight, middle-aged mermaid, I was surprised by the subsequent comments.

The typical male response was a Duchenne smile followed by a puzzled expression and several pointed questions…

Why is she so old?

 Just how overweight is she?

 What happened to her?

The men had preconceived notions of what a mermaid should look like—wavy auburn tresses, mesmerizing green eyes and a curvaceous twenty something body.

The women, on the other hand, were intrigued by a mermaid who did not fit the stereotype and wanted to hear more about her reinvention story.

When it comes to mermaids, there can be no real consensus on their appearance. After all, they are only fictional characters subject to the whims of different cultures and time periods.

According to Greek mythology, Sirens were originally thought to be deities who had fallen from their position among the Greek gods. There is some discrepancy regarding the number of Sirens who lived off the coast of Greece (or possibly Italy). Anywhere from two to five Sirens lived on this island and lured men to their deaths with their bewitching songs. Descriptions of the Sirens varied; in some of the older myths, they had the head of woman and the body of a bird.

In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus had himself tied to the mast and ordered his men to stuff balls of wax into their ears while approaching the Sirens’ island. Only by taking these drastic measures could Odysseus ensure that no one jumped off, swam to shore, or endangered the lives of the crew. The songs of the Sirens were so hypnotic that sailors would become distracted and often steered the ship into dangerous waters or onto jagged rocks.

Among seafaring people, there are several historical claims of actual mermaid sightings. In 1610, Captain Richard Whitbourne claimed he saw a mermaid in Newfoundland’s St. James harbor. A young boy in Scotland (circa 1820) is believed to have killed a mermaid by throwing rocks at it. Unlike the beautiful Sirens in the Greek myths, the dead mermaid resembled a three-year-old child, but had a salmon’s tail instead of legs. The villagers had a funeral for the mermaid and buried it in a small coffin.

Hans Christien Anderson immortalized a kinder, gentler mermaid in The Little Mermaid. While it was my favorite fairy tale, I felt so sorry for the mute ex-mermaid who could only smile when the handsome prince married someone else. Knowing that the prince’s wedding morning would only bring heartbreak and seal her fate as “foam on the crest of waves” always saddened me.

I wanted a happily-ever-after ending for the little mermaid and the prince. But when the Disney version was released, I still wasn’t satisfied. I realize now that I wanted to read about a different kind of mermaid, one who could enjoy a happy and successful life, with or without the prince. And maybe one who wasn’t quite so young or so beautiful.

Keeping this vision of an older and wiser mermaid firmly in mind, I wrote Between Land and Sea, the first book in the Mediterranean trilogy.

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 betweenlandandseacoverAfter giving up her tail for an international banker, Isabella of the Mediterranean kingdom is aged beyond recognition. The horrified banker abandons her on the fog-drenched shores of southwest England, leaving her to face a difficult human journey as a plain and practically destitute fifty-three-year-old woman.

With the help of a magic tablet and online mermaid support, Isabella evolves into the persona of Barbara Davies. Along the way, she encounters a cast of unforgettable characters, among them former mermaids, supportive and not-so-supportive women, deserving and undeserving men, and several New Agers.

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EXCERPT

Isabella stumbled as she got out of bed and tried to balance herself on the stumps that now served as permanent legs. She willed herself not to cry as she recalled the magnificent tail that had been the envy of the Mediterranean kingdom. Her mother and grandmother had also been blessed with the same tail. Now only Annabella held this birthright.

She heard her stomach growl and thought longingly of her favorite kelp dish. She closed her eyes and visualized the steaming goodness that would satisfy her hunger. And then she remembered that she could no longer manifest her desires.

No more powers. No more comfort and ease.

Her lips trembled as she looked about the small, neat room filled with large wooden pieces and smaller metallic ones. She tried to move one of the larger pieces and then gave up in frustration. Andrew had promised her a beautiful home with servants, and now she must live this life of ordinary humans.

The flickering of a green light caught her attention. She approached and noticed the tablet lying on one of the wooden surfaces. It was blinking at her. Tentatively, she touched the green light. The blinking stopped and a smiling face materialized.

“Greetings, Isabella. I am Lisa738. Annabella has asked me to guide you through your orientation.”

Isabella frowned and tried to recall her connection to this lowly mermaid from the Numbers class.

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Where to find Joanne…

Website: www.joanneguidoccio.com

Amazon: http://is.gd/AVpoVs 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/joanneguidoccio

Facebook: www.facebook.com/BetweenLandandSeaJG

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jguidoccio/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7277706.Joanne_Guidoccio

YouTube (Trailer #1): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xipZ6quZDOs

YouTube (Trailer #2): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfiKOQe_yuU

Categories: fantasy, mermaids, nature, outdoors, romance, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

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