outdoors

Cathy Perkins

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Cathy Perkins.

My guest this week is the award-winning author Cathy Perkins. Using her background in the financial industry, she writes predominately financial-based mysteries, while also exploring her characters’ relationships. Her most recent book, CYPHER, released this month and is currently on sale for .99 on Amazon.

When not writing, Cathy can be found doing battle with the beavers over the pond height or setting off on another travel adventure. A native of South Carolina, she now lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.

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So Cathy, if you were an animal, what kind would you be?

Oh, I’d definitely want to be one of our dogs.  We aren’t sure if our dogs are part of the family or if we’re part of their pack, but the result is the same—one big happy unit. The Lab and the Puppy hang out in my office during the day, snoozing on giant beds, gnawing on marrow-packed bones, and placing their heads on my thigh to claim pats and back scratches. (If ignored because I’m paying too much attention to that small box, aka the computer, they’ll lift my hand off the keyboard with their nose.) On weekends, we’re all in the mountains at our place on the river, which our kids and their friends—along with all the family animals—have dubbed Best Dog Park Ever.

Can I join your pack. Sounds wonderful.

What’s your favorite dessert?

Ice cream is my weakness, with Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie way up there in the deliciousness register. I will venture out of the strictly chocolate category for Cherry Garcia.

I knew we were kindred spirits. Cherry Garcia is my downfall too.

What’s your favorite room in your house?

My favorite room is actually the main room of our small weekend place in the mountains. The cabin has wonderful views of the river and surrounding mountains. It’s cozy with a fireplace for the winter and windows all around to let in delightful breezes and the sound of the river and songbirds the rest of the year. Heavenly! It’s compact, but filled with carefully chosen furnishings. We really hate leaving on Monday mornings.

Sounds delightful. Can I visit?

How do you develop your stories?

Most of my stories start with a “what if?” Without giving away the plot and all the twists, my most recent release, CYPHER, starts with, What if a hitman killed the wrong person?

The “whys” line up from there—why was the killer sent to murder the heroine? Why wasn’t she home? Why was her friend there and mistaken for her? The characters grow and become three-dimensional as I think through the implications and how that character will react to events unfolding around him or her. In CYPHER, both Cara and David have to fight for what they really want, and each has to trust the other, something that doesn’t come easily for them.

Because I love tightly plotted stories that twist and turn, I generally outline the major story lines. I’m always surprised when I finish the first draft and find small setups and details that my subconscious added. During edits, I weave these bits into the story to build out a suspect or enhance a theme.

Can’t wait to read it.

What’s your next project?

I’m working on a lighter story right now, set in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state instead of South Carolina (where my other stories are set). The starting point for my WIP occurred while cutting up with a friend. We riffed off the opening—there’s a body in the beaver pond. Oh, dam(n).

Oh my, watch out for those beaver ponds!

What types of books do you like to read?

I’m a voracious reader. Mysteries, thrillers and suspense are my ‘go-to’ stories, but I also enjoy literary, fantasy… I’ve been on a women’s fiction binge lately. So many of those stories delve deeply into relationships.

My stories are predominately mystery/suspense, but I tend to make them more character-driven than strictly action-oriented. I enjoy the way the characters’ internal conflicts play into the external plot, raising the tension and the stakes when it’s personal.

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Cypher

Cara Wainwright thinks life can’t get tougher when her mother’s cancer becomes terminal—until she returns home from the hospital and finds a courtyard full of police officers and her houseguests dead.

Greenville, SC Detective David Morris, is unsure if Cara is the suspect or the intended murder victim. Searching for insight into her family, their mounting secrets, and the conflicting evidence from multiple crimes, his attraction to Cara complicates his investigation. Is the lure need, manipulation—or real?

While David pursues forensic evidence, Cara pushes for answers about her father’s possible involvement, for at the center of the mystery stands Cypher—the company her father built and will take any measures to defend.

When the assassin strikes at the heart of the family, Cara and David have to trust each other and work together to stop the killer before he eliminates the entire Wainwright dynasty.

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“This took place in your home. Is someone trying to hurt you?”

She met his eyes. “I don’t know.”

He waited for more.

Her hands rose and fell in a frustrated gesture. “Don’t you think I’ve asked myself that a thousand times? Ever since it happened, I’ve asked why? Was it random? Were they after me? One of them?” A flush climbed her cheeks, but her eyes didn’t waver. “Natalie looks a lot like me. She was in my bed.”

She stopped, her lips pressed tightly together. He was intently aware of her—how she held her head, her hands. The way she stood and sat. He didn’t want to be aware of her on that level, knew it couldn’t go anywhere. He also recognized the sensation wasn’t going to go away.

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Your can get CYPHER at the following sites:

Amazon               http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MMLX1ZQ
B&N                    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cypher-cathy-perkins/1120110911
Kobo                    http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/cypher-1

You can contact Cathy at:

Facebook            https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCathyPerkins
Twitter                 @cperkinswrites
website              http://cperkinswrites.com
Goodreads         http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5367341.Cathy_Perkins
G+                     https://plus.google.com/u/0/+CathyPerkins/

Categories: adventure, animals, Books, dogs, Mystery, nature, outdoors, romance, Romantic suspense, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Language of Horses

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In contradiction to what we often see in movies and on TV, horses do not constantly make noise. They don’t whinny every time someone rides them, nor do they “scream” if they are hit by a whip (as one misguided author wrote). As prey animals, they tend to be quiet, not wanting to attract attention. They do, however, have very effective communication, using both vocalizations and body language.

small_2645376508A mare talking to her foal uses a low, soft whicker to show affection. She greets a friend, of any species, with a slightly louder, rumbling nicker or, if she’s excited, a higher pitched whinny. If you walk into a barn at feeding time, you’ll probably be barraged by both loud and soft greetings, according to the different personalities and how hungry they are.

Squeals are also a common way that horses communicate. When horses meet for the first time, they sniff noses, sometimes getting quite noisy about it, then often they’ll squeal and strike out with a front foot—a dominance behavior. Mares in season tend to squeal a lot too, usually adding a slight, threatening kick to tell others to keep away. The squeal and kick also say “stay away from my food!” My mare Glory has to assert herself this way whenever the gelding in the next stall looks at her while she’s eating her grain. You’ll also hear squeals as an expression of high spirits and playfulness.

Horses are herd animals and bond very strongly. If they are separated from one of their friends they’ll often neigh repeatedly, calling to them. If another horse answers, it may start a “conversation” that doesn’t end until the looked-for horse returns. Since a neigh is a high-pitched vibrating sound that can be quite loud, this can get old very quickly. My Portia had a bellow that could hurt your ears.

About the only time you might actually hear a horse scream is when a stallion is challenging a rival. A fight is a noisy affair.

small__6087150424The one sound you don’t ever want to hear from your horse is a groan. Horses tend to be quite stoic and tolerate a lot of pain. By the time they hurt enough to groan, they usually are in big trouble and you’d better get the vet out ASAP. The groan associated with colic is one of the scariest a horse owner can hear. However, the hurting groan is different from the grunt and groan you often hear when they roll. That’s just a “oh that feels so good” sound.

I had originally intended to talk about body language too, but that would make this post too long. I’ll save it for next time.

So the next time you see a movie where the horse whinnies as it does something, you can shake your head and mutter “Hollywood.” What silly things have you seen horses do on screen? Or have read about in a book?

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Mare and foal: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nomanson/2645376508/”>nomanson</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt
 
Photo: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/55839122@N04/6087150424/”>NatureNerd (probably outside)</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Categories: animals, horse care, horse personalities, Horses, How horses talk, Mother Nature, outdoors, riding, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 24 Comments

Kentucky Horse Park

Kentucky Horse park.

Last month, guest Kathryn Jane told us interesting facts about the Kentucky Derby. This week I’d like to talk about the Kentucky Horse Park, a unique facility celebrating America’s horses.

Located in Lexington, the home of the Kentucky Derby, the Park is a tribute to the racing Thoroughbred. A huge statue of Man of War stands over his grave in a courtyard near the entrance. On the path leading up to the memorial are markers showing the stride length of a few of the most famous Thoroughbreds of all time. The distance that Secretariat covered in one leap vividly demonstrates why he is still the fastest horse ever. All throughout the park you will find statues and graves of many famous racers and other tributes to the state’s most important industry. In addition, at the Haman of warll of Champions you can see retired Thoroughbred, Standardbred and Quarter Horse racing champions exhibited daily.

The Park was designed as a living museum dedicated to all horses, not just Thoroughbreds. One of its most fascinating features is the International Museum of the Horse, the world’s largest museum chronicling the history of the horse and its importance to man. Associated with the Smithsonian, the IMH uses its 60,000 feet to educate the public about the horse’s unique contributions to human history. As you walk up a long, winding ramp you follow the development of the horse and its various roles throughout time. Also there are interactive exhibits about the Arabian horse, the Kentucky Thoroughbred, Draft horses, Horse Shows, the famous Buffalo Soldiers, and horse-drawn vehicles. In addition to the IMH, there are the American Saddlebred museum and the Wheeler museum, which details all aspects of the hunter/jumper world.

KHP tourOne of the most popular attractions is the Horses of the World. Over thirty different breeds live in the Park and are featured in daily shows or tours. Many unique horses with costumed riders are presented and after the shows visitors can meet and pet their favorites. In addition there are horse drawn tours and carriage rides, horseback riding and pony rides, and in the Spring mares and foals to visit.

If you are at all into horses and end up near Lexington, you should try to visit the Kentucky Horse Park. It’s a fascinating and totally unique experience that the whole family should enjoy—especially any horse crazy female members.

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Photo Kentucky Horse Park courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/rbglasson/3742826141
Photo Mar of War Memorial courtesy of http://www.fotopedia.com/items/kweaver2-JCMfVLC4B
Photo Horse Drawn Tour courtesy of myoldkentucky.blogspot.com/2007/10/kentucky-h
 
Categories: Horses, International Museum of the Horse, Kentucky, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Horse Park, nature, outdoors, Racing, Show jumping, stables, Thoroughbreds, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments

I is for Horse Illnesses

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small_185495090For such large, athletic animals domestic horses are surprisingly fragile, due to the artificial environment man puts them in. Wild horses are sturdy, hardy animals—smart, wily and able to take care of themselves. They graze all day, move constantly and only the healthiest survive and reproduce. They are also relatively small, not particularly pretty and very strong-willed.

Consequently, when man decided horses were good for more than providing meat and milk, he began breeding them for specific traits. Good temperament, large size, speed and beauty were some of the prized characteristics. Over the millennia horses morphed into creatures that often would have a hard time surviving in the wild and even have problems surviving in man’s care. The desire to win races has resulted in many Thoroughbreds being very fast but having weak feet and overly sensitive emotions. Show ring “fashions” have encouraged huge bodies with slim, tiny legs and feet that cannot stay sound for the long run. And, of course, miniature horses, as cute as they are, would be hard pressed to survive on their own.

small__598978125Add to that, being confined twenty-three hours a day in a small stall, being fed large amounts of hay, instead of eating grass, and being asked to do intense work instead of moving casually, and today’s horses develop problems that they wouldn’t encounter in the wild.

One of the most common and deadly problems is a result of how they are kept and fed. The horse’s stomach is designed to digest small portions of food all day long. While some horses are kept in large pastures where they can graze naturally, this kind of open land is disappearing and most horses, by necessity, live in confined areas, either stalls or paddocks. Then they are fed calorie-dense hay and often grain too, usually twice a day because that fits best with human schedules. As a result their digestive systems can be easily upset and they can colic.

Colic is basically a painful bellyache that can be relatively easy to treat or can develop into something deadly. It is the most common cause of death in horses. Bad food, dirty water, parasites, lack of exercise, a sudden change in the weather are some of the many things that can provoke a colic attack. In most cases, the problem can be solved by a visit from the vet. Sometimes surgery is required (a very expensive proposition) and other times the only thing to do is to put the suffering animal down. Good management is vital to keeping horses healthy and happy.

freeimage-144227Another illness connected to food and care is known as laminitis, a very painful condition that affects the hooves. The equine digestive system cannot handle large amounts of concentrated, high-carb food. If a horse should get loose and into the grain barrel or pig out on high-sugar Spring grass, this can trigger an inflammatory response which destroys the tissues in its hooves that hold the boney structures in place. Depending on the extent of the damage, the result can be devastating. Conditions such as Cushings Disease or Metabolic Syndrome can make horses susceptible to laminitis problems too.

As odd as it might seem, horses have many of the same problems that humans do. They can have allergies, COPD, arthritis, thyroid dysfunctions, bursitis and a host of other disorders. And they are treated with many of the same medicines. I used to give my daughter’s mare powdered Synthroid for her low thyroid and albuterol for her breathing problems. Horses with stomach ulcers often get Tagamet.

Of course, wild horses are unlikely to have ulcers or allergies or a lot of the other problems. These tend to be the result of living with man and doing the work he asks of them. So it behooves us to be aware of the consequences and do our best to take good care of our equine friends. Today, because of advances in understanding and veterinary care, horses are living and working into their thirties. Something very rare in previous times.

Race horse photo: http://tinyurl.com/mtxc7uo
Stable photo: http://tinyurl.com/lu8ysme
Categories: horse care, Horses, nature, outdoors, ponies, riding, stables, Thoroughbreds | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

Weekend Snippets Again

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It’s been a while since I did a Snippet Sunday , so I thought I’d try it again.  I know I have lots of fun reading all the other snippets posted by the many talented authors via Snippet Sunday and Weekend Writing Warriors.

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Here’s a bit from the second chapter of Wyoming Escape.  Let me know what you think.

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Wyoming Cover - 1600

One dead body is frightening enough. A second one, plus a dirty cop, sends Mikela Richards fleeing for her life. She hides on a Wyoming Dude ranch, but her attraction to an on-leave Marine threatens her fragile feeling of safety.

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Mikela squinted against the bright Wyoming sun pouring through the cafe window and gave her breakfast order. Her last words were drowned out by a loud blast that shook the building and rattled the dishes. She clamped her hands over her mouth to stifle a scream while images of blood and death flashed in her mind. The waitress’ hoarse, smoky voice brought her back to the present.

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“It’s okay, honey. Just old Cranky’s truck backfirin’ again. Wish he’d get the darned thing fixed.” The buxom woman peered at Mikela in concern. “You all right? You’re white as a sheet.”

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You can find Wyoming Escape on Amazon
Amazon
Be sure to check out more fabulous snippets listed on Snippet Sunday on Facebook
and on the Weekend Writing Warriors website
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Happy reading!
Categories: animals, Books, Cowboys, Dude ranches, Horses, Love, Mystery, nature, outdoors, Romantic suspense, suspense, Uncategorized, Western romance, Wyoming | Tags: , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

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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KC-FFYA-200x300

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

Sheep and Writing Stories

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borrowed chickens.

Please welcome my guest KB Inglee. KB writes historical short stories which have appeared in several print anthologies.  Her story “Weavers Trade” placed second in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. Many of her story ideas come from her job as historical interpreter at two living history museums near her Delaware home. And sheep are often her inspiration.

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When I was 7 my sister was given riding lessons as a Christmas present. How can that be fair when I was the one who devoured every horse book in the library and turned our back yard apple tree into a whole stable of horses? The first story I wrote was about a horse named Star.

Imagine my surprise when I realized my first novel had not one single animal in it. It was set in a time when horses were common forms of transportation. I didn’t have so much as a cat in the kitchen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you are going to write historicals, you need to do the things your characters do. I visited a living history museum near my home and discovered a flock of heritage sheep. I learned to give tours, tell the story of the family that lived there. My first published work (Farmer’s Daughter, Miller’s Son) is a kid’s look at the time period. I hand stitched a set of appropriate clothing. All the while I was longing to get my hands on the sheep. I wanted to do any animal type work my characters might have done: drive oxen, plow with horses, and raise chickens. I don’t remember when I was first invited to work with the sheep, probably I got to feed them when the regular shepherds were out of town. In ten years I worked myself up to head shepherd.

I was of an age where I was happy to move from 1200 pound animals with heavy feet with iron shoes to something smaller which didn’t break bones when it stood on my toes. I have been present at the birth of lambs, had had to put down old and sick animals that have been my friends for years. I can tell you how the industrial revolution changed agriculture and how the market value of sheep has changed over the years. I can process wool from the back of the sheep to the back of the person. I even butchered a sheep.

author vs sheepIf I have a muse at all, it is these animals. Like my protagonist they appear gentle but they will happily knock you down and walk over you if you are in the way. Like my protagonist they are patient and can stand around for hours waiting. If you have food, then they will push and shove to get to it, just as my protagonist will to find the answer to a problem.

If I am stuck for an idea or the way out of a plot problem, all I have to do is stand among the sheep. I can dig my fingers deep into the wool, listen to them breathe, watch them interact with each other and with me and the visitors. It may be a form of meditation.

There are still no animals in my narratives, but I have a whole flock involved in the writing.

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Here are some of KB’s stories, available on Amazon.

Joseph's captivity.

“Joseph’s Captivity”, Untreed Reads, 2012
A grumpy Joseph finds himself exiled, not to Egypt, but to an island
off the coast of Maine in the early colonial period.

Fish Nets.

“Netted”, Fish Nets, Wildside Press, 2013
A pile of string helps uncover a murderer

Magic Bullet.

“The Magic Bullet“, Death Knell V, Infinity Press, 2013
An article in French and an old gun provide the clues to solve a series of armed robberies.

Categories: animals, anthologies, history, living history, Mystery, outdoors, sheep, Short story, suspense, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , , | 15 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…

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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

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