writing

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

The Dogs in My Life

Morison-Knox_Karen-7748-Edit-webToday Ariel Moon is visiting to talk about the dogs in her life and how they’ve influenced her books.

Ariella Moon writes about magic, friendship, secrets, and love in Spell Check, Spell Struck, and the upcoming Spell Fire, the first three books in The Teen Wytche Saga from Astraea Press. After a childhood spent searching for a magical wardrobe that would transport her to Narnia, Ariella grew up to become an author and shaman. Extreme math anxiety, and taller students who mistook her for a leaning post, marred Ariella’s teen years. Despite these horrors, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at Davis. She now lives a nearly normal life with her extraordinary daughter, shamelessly spoiled dog, and an enormous dragon.

Welcome Ariel.

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I was about five-years-old when a cocker spaniel-mix wandered into our neighborhood in search of food, water, and love. He was malnourished and had whip scars on his back. My family took him in, though in truth, the whole neighborhood adopted him. Blackie listened to my childhood secrets and licked my nose when I cried. His appearance marked the beginning of my life-long love of dogs.

Years after Blackie’s passing, my mother acquired a Schnauzer named Fritz. By then we had moved to a Christmas tree farm. An older German couple that arrived after Thanksgiving each year to pick out a Douglas fir particularly admired Fritz. I called him Wrong Way Fritz. If deer were in the apple orchard and I yelled, “Deer!” Fritz would run into the Christmas trees. If I spotted a squirrel among the Christmas trees and yelled, “Squirrel!” Fritz would dash to the orchard.

When I married, our first dog, a blond lab-mix named Tasha, would scale six-foot wooden fences to escape our backyard. She left behind Emily, a Jack Russell terrier. A breeder had scheduled Emily and her siblings to be euthanized because their noses were brown, not show-worthy black. Emily became my baby. She lived to be seventeen, and though she died twenty years ago, I mourn her still. Her companion, Miko, was a beautiful white shepherd. Madchen, another white shepherd, taught me a difficult lesson about recognizing — and avoiding—puppy mills. Rare dog-less years followed. Finally we rescued Jack, an overprotective Jack Russell terrier. Jack underwent a devastating personality change after we had him neutered —another painful lesson learned.

Our short string of bad dog luck ended with Honey, a black retriever-mix with golden paws. True, she had severe epilepsy and had to be heavily medicated. But she was worth every penny we paid for medication and vet appointments. Honey and I hiked everywhere together. When a seizure would hit her on the trail or in the middle of the street, neighbors would stop and wait with me until Honey could rise again. After she passed away, the whole neighborhood mourned. Around Halloween, when the veil between worlds is the thinnest, neighbors would stop me on the street and say, “I was just thinking about Honey.”

I immortalized Honey in my Young Adult series, the Teen Wytche Saga. She appears as Baby the —what else—black retriever-mix belonging to Evie O’Reilly, the protagonist in Spell Check, the first book in the series. Baby’s foil, Einstein, an unrepentant cockapoo, is an ode to all the strong-willed dogs I have known. Like Baby, Einstein appears in the first two books in saga, Spell Check and Spell Struck.

When Honey and I used to walk in our old neighborhood, we’d sometimes encounter a woman with two of the mangiest, toothless, such-a-mess-they-are-adorable, rescue Yorkies. I couldn’t resist giving them pivotal roles in Spell Struck.

In part, I include dogs in my books because they reveal character and add humanity and sometimes humor. The absence of canine companions in my upcoming novel Spell Fire, (November 2013, Astraea Press) adds an unspoken layer to the main character’s isolation. Since I couldn’t give my protagonist a dog, I gave her a dragon. Which brings me to Gracie, my daughter’s I-know-Honey-will-die-soon-so-here’s-a-new-dog-so-you-won’t-follow-me-to-college present. Gracie is the first magic-practicing animal I’ve ever lived with. No wonder. Did I mention her breed? Gracie is a Papillon-Chihuahua-Poodle-Dragon Hatchling-mix. I’m sure she will magic her way into some future book.

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Spell Struck

 Book 2: The Teen Wytche Saga

What if the one person who saw through your lies and loved you, harbored a secret that could cost you everything?

SpellStruck_500x750Goth outcast, Salem Miller, believes her love spell failed until Aidan Cooper arrives at Jefferson High. When he chooses her over the popular girls, Salem knows magic brought him. But can she summon enough wizardry to save her sister? Salem fears Amy’s next suicide attempt will succeed. Magic brought Aidan. Maybe it can cure Amy. Salem’s last hope lies hidden within a damaged grimoire, nearly destroyed by a wrongful love spell. Was her rightful love spell enough to restore it?

Newest Jefferson High transplant, Aidan Cooper, doesn’t expect to be attracted to a goth. Then he realizes Salem is throwing a glamour—pretending to be something she’s not. Guess it takes one to know one, since his whole life has been a lie. But if his kidnappers discover he’s broken their No Attachments rule, he’ll never see Salem again. Worse, he’s terrified they’ll harm her when they discover she possesses the ancient grimoire. To protect Salem, Aidan must destroy the grimoire, and escape his captors.

While Salem races to unlock the Get Well Spell, Aidan scrambles to overcome his past. With their star-crossed paths at odds, will time run out for both of them?

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Excerpt:

Aidan lowered his hand. His finger pressed against my skin, shooting a delicious tingle up my arm. When I didn’t move away, he hooked his finger over mine. My breath caught. We stayed, frozen, hyper-focused, for what seemed like three lifetimes. Then Aidan trailed his fingertips across the back of my hand. The soundtrack, popcorn smells, and theater audience melted into the background. The world narrowed down to the unspoken grief and need entangled in Aidan’s touch.

I rotated my hand so my palm faced upward. Aidan hesitated. Our gazes locked in the flickering light. The spell link humming between us lit up like blue lightning. At least I think it was the spell link. Aidan plunged his fingers between mine. Our palms pressed together, igniting a current. Air shuddered from my lungs. Magic rippled from us in successive waves.

My heart stuttered. My breath ceased. Every cell within me vibrated. Troops of fairies or dragonflies took flight in my lower abdomen. It’s possible blue lightning shot from my boots.

Good thing I wasn’t holding the popcorn.

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Buy Links

Astraea Press

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Where to Find Ariella Moon

Ariella’s website

Ariella’s Blog

Facebook

Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/goodreadscomAriellaMoon

Categories: Dogs and cats, Paranormal, Uncategorized, writing, YA | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Cats In my Stories

Welcome Andrew McRae today as he talks about how cats slip into his stories.

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Andrew  is a misplaced Midwesterner who rolled downhill to the San Francisco Bay a quarter-century ago. He is the author of Murder Misdirected (2012) from Mainly Murder Press and “The Case of the Murderous Mermaid and Other Stories” (2013) a collection of whimsical murder mysteries. He has had numerous short stories published in the past few years; notably “Felony at Farquhar Farms” in the collection “The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping” (2012) and “Frankenstein and The Spanish Nun” in the collection “Moon Shot” (2013), both published by Untreed Reads.

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Cats have a way of slipping into my stories, the way cats do. I usually don’t plan on a cat appearing in a story when I first set out to write it, but cats are good at sneaking into places not intended for them, as anyone who has ever lived with a cat knows.

There is a bookstore cat in my novel, Murder Misdirected. His name is Junior and he is handsome, as all male cats are. He sees it as his duty to greet customers and welcome them to his store. Junior also enjoys sunning himself in the bookstore windows and lying on the upper bookshelves of the store where he can keep a close eye on things.

Junior is based totally and completely on the real Junior, a cat who helped me with the writing of that novel. He did this by insisting on keeping my lap from being empty and cleverly batting the keyboard and mouse to see what improvements to my writing might result. Naturally, I in turn attribute any and all typos to Junior, not that that bothers him.

I have to admit that I received more comments about Junior from early readers of the manuscript than most of the other secondary characters. This was especially true during a particularly harrowing chapter in which all the main characters, including Junior, are in deadly danger. “No, not the cat!” was a typical comment.

In my recently completed sequel to that novel, so new as not to have a title settled on, Junior is back, furry as ever and even more pleased with himself.

In my collection of whimsical short mysteries, “The Case of the Murderous Mermaid and Other Stories” another cat makes an appearance. Her name is Precious. She has one eye, sharp claws, and she is based on a cat who lived with the pleasantly wacky mother of a friend of mine, and is the basis of a character, herself, in the story.

However, it is another cat who shows up most often in my stories, one that is not based on any cat with whom I have ever been acquainted in what passes for my real life.

She is a black and white cat of indeterminate age and origin. She is pretty, as all female cats are, but she has no set name. In a series of children’s stories about a toy poodle named Spot, she is simply called “Kitty Cat” and she has a way of disappearing, as all cats do, as she walks away with her tail straight up in the air. She also has a habit annoying Spot by slowly winking one eye at him. Woof!

In a series of stories in the slip-stream genre I have written, The Black and White Cat is sometimes seen strolling in the story’s background, while other times she is perhaps, but only perhaps, a mysterious entity who serves as the catalyst for the story’s action.

In a middle grade novel that I am finishing this month, The Black and White Cat is the cause of two children going back in time (and returning safely, of course.) That cat certainly gets around!

In one of her most tenuous appearances, she shows up in a science fiction mystery story titled, “Frankenstein and The Spanish Nun”. This story will be in the soon to be released “Moon Shot” anthology of short stories from Untreed Reads. There is a young woman in my story with the first name of Katrina, or ‘Kat’ for short. She makes her entrance in the story wearing a black and white headscarf. Cats can be so sneaky at times!

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MD-BookCoverMurder Misdirected is the story of a pickpocket who one day picks the wrong pocket and finds himself on the run from the police, the FBI, and a killer.

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MurderousMermaidPosterThe Case of the Murderous Mermaid and Other Stories is a collection of three whimsical stories of mystery and murder.

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The Case of the Murderous Mermaid and Other Stories
Murder Misdirected
Available now in paperback and ebook from Mainly Murder Press,
Amazon and Untreed Reads.

Categories: Bookstores, Cats, Dogs and cats, Mystery, Short story, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

THE HORSE NEVER DIES!

Today I’m going to switch my animal loving guests to Mondays, while I’ll continue my posts on Wednesdays.

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My first Monday guest is Shannon Kennedy, who also writes as Josie Malone.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs a child, Shannon loved to dream away the days in an old cherry tree on her family’s pony farm. In her imagination, the tree became a beautiful Arabian stallion, a medieval castle and even a pirate ship. She got in trouble for making her bratty little sisters walk the plank, but hey, they never broke any bones. On rainy days, she headed for her fort in the hayloft. While the rain thudded on the cedar shingled roof, she read books, eventually trading Carolyn Keene for Georgette Heyer. Today, she lives on the family ranch in the Cascade foothills. Now, she’s teaching the kids and grandkids of the ones she taught way back when we started. She’s had a lot of adventures over the years and plans to write all about them.  Hope you enjoy reading about them!

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Take it away Shannon!

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I live on the family farm, a riding stable in the Cascade foothills. I organize most of the riding programs, teach horsemanship around my day-job as a substitute teacher, nurse sick horses, hold for the shoer, train whoever needs it – four-legged and two-legged.  And write mainstream western romances as Josie Malone for SirenBookStrand.  I write young adult realistic fiction under what the kids at the barn call my “real name,” Shannon Kennedy for Black Opal Books and Fire & Ice YA.

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Writing what I know means horses show up in most of my books. Because it’s fiction, the horse never dies – unlike real life. My veterinarian, Dr. Tim Cavenaugh of All Creatures Great and Small up in Arlington, Washington says, “We choose to love those who have a shorter life span than we do,” and I’ve lost my share of dearly beloved horses over the past forty years. In March 2011, my equine companion of almost twenty-four years, Lucky Lady died of cancer and I’m still grieving her.

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So, what can I tell you about horses? And how do you make them authentic in your books? First, remember that although they’re big, they’re also surprisingly fragile in spite of their size. A horse has one stomach so it is not like a cow, a goat or a deer. The stomach is small, so the horse eats approximately twenty hours a day in the wild and sleeps four hours, usually in naps.

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Adult horses still lie down but not for long, about fifteen minutes. Lady used to empty the whole barn when she snored. She would lie down for a half hour and her weight; all eleven-hundred pounds would press on her lungs. She would groan as if she were dying. I’d run down to the barn and get her to roll up on her chest. Then, she would go back to normal breathing. Of course, once I interrupted nap-time, she would stand up and give me the look that meant “Just where are the carrots, Mom?”

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I love horses and I was thrilled when I found a publishing house that does too. My latest series from Fire & Ice YA centers around Shamrock Stable, a fictional “down-home” riding stable near Marysville, WA. The first book came out in this summer. No Horse Wanted is the story of Robin Gibson who wants a 1968 Presidential blue Mustang for her birthday. When she gets the opportunity to choose a horse of her own, Robin isn’t happy.

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I based the horse she rescues on one that I actually brought to our barn several years ago. Lady made a guest appearance and my wonderful editor allowed me to dedicate this book to the two horses that inspired it. The second book in the series, No Time For Horses will be out in October. Deck The Stalls, a holiday novella comes out in November/December. I hope you enjoy the Shamrock Stable series and the horsy facts that make the stories authentic.

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Happy Writing and Riding!

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Shamrock Stable, Book 1 – NO HORSE WANTED

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No Horse WantedThe only thing that Robin Gibson wants for her sixteenth birthday is a 1968 Presidential Blue Mustang. Following their family tradition, what her parents promise her is a horse of her own, one with four legs, not four wheels. Mom competes in endurance riding, Dad does calf roping, her older brother games and her older sister loves three-day eventing, but Robin proudly says that she doesn’t do horses. She’ll teach her controlling family a lesson by bringing home the worst horse she can find, a starved, abused two-year-old named Twaziem.

Robin figures she’ll nurse him back to health, sell him and have the money for her car. Rescuing and rehabilitating the Morab gelding might be a bigger challenge than what she planned. He comes between her and her family. He upsets her friends when she looks after his needs first. Is he just an investment or is he part of her future? And if she lets him into her heart will she win or will she lose?

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http://www.fireandiceya.com/authors/shannonkennedy/nohorsewanted.html

http://www.amazon.com/Horse-Wanted-Shamrock-Stable-ebook/dp/B00F6EMBK2/

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You can contact Shannon at:

www.josiemalone.com

www.shannonkennedybooks.com

Categories: Horses, nature, outdoors, riding, training horses, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

The Art of Breathing for Two

Imported Photos 00004 Joining us today is Susan Schreyer, the author of the just released Shooting To Kill, the fifth book in the Thea Campbell mystery series. Set in the real-life town of Snohomish, Washington, her books feature amateur dressage rider and solver-of-crimes, Thea Campbell.

For those of you not familiar with dressage, it is a type of very precise, formal riding that you see in the Olympics and in the Disney movie The Miracle of the White Stallions.

When not working diligently on her next book, Susan trains horses in the art of dressage and teaches people how to ride them. Today she talks about one of the exultant moments every rider hopes to have. Take it away Susan!

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I was watching a video the other day—Edward Gal and Totilas (European and World Champions, with the highest scores ever achieved) in a freestyle ride that earned the pair a score in excess of 90%—and was struck by something rather profound which, of course, like any truth is not new, but re-experienced.

That truth is: good riding, really good riding, transcends the correct application of the aids and the ability to perform the various movements.

Think about that for a moment.

Do you agree? I’ll bet you do.

Now, tell me this: what is the defining moment—the transcendent point in time where technically proficient grows a soul and becomes art? How do you recognize it when you see it, feel it?

I believe it is that moment when you cease to be the controller of the other creature, and become one—a symbiotic relationship, if you will. You can see it in the relaxation, the fluidity of both parties. There exists a grace that, when I see it (even on video), can reduce me (and likely a couple other of you) to tears. It’s that powerful. You cannot mistake it, you cannot pretend it isn’t there. When witnessed, it hits you in the heart.

When you experience that moment it is like nothing else, no matter how technically wonderful, that has come before. It is an ease that lies at the level of breathing, an effortless balance that requires only intention to shift direction or gait, an open door that allows access to levels of power at once heady and frightening when first encountered.

It’s the Buzz Lightyear moment: to infinity and beyond.

The Holy Grail of dressage.

If you’ve been riding for a while, and trying to improve, there is a good chance you’ve experienced this—even if for a brief moment six months ago. Quite a number of riders are familiar with that transcendent point. Perhaps it was fleeting, something that happened by “mistake.” Or, if you’re very lucky (not to mention diligent) it was something you achieved and can return to at will. Nevertheless, it is that joining of our souls to that of our four-legged companions that keeps us going, keeps us striving, keeps us getting our butts out to the barn when we’d rather be curled up with a glass of wine and a good book.

This possibility to become one, to join with our noble friend, gets us into the saddle when our bones are too old and our bodies hurt. We smile when we remember the times we touched the dream, and we willingly try again for just one more taste.

Happy riding, people.

If you’d like to see the video Susan is talking about:
http://www.horseandcountry.tv/episode/edward-gal-moorlands-totilas-record-breaking-wdm-kur

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300x480 72dpi shooting to killWhen Thea Campbell’s veterinarian collapses after accidentally injecting himself with a horse vaccine, Thea rushes to his aid. Despite her best efforts, the much-loved vet dies. In the wake of this tragic fluke, Thea reconsiders her own cautious approach to relationships.

Life, Thea decides, might be shorter than you expect, and procrastination a death-bed regret.

She immediately accepts her best friend’s last-minute wedding invitation and embraces the planning of her own marriage to fiancé Paul Hudson.

However, on return from her friend’s wedding, Thea has little opportunity to pursue her new philosophy. Her veterinarian’s death has been ruled a murder, his young assistant arrested and accused of deliberately substituting euthanasia solution for the West Nile vaccine.

The only person to believe in the assistant’s innocence is Thea’s sister Juliet. She intends to investigate and begs Thea for help. But Thea believes the case is closed and the police have arrest the right person. Besides, she intends to concentrate on planning her wedding.

…However, the chilling fact is Thea was right about life being shorter than expected. Procrastination is not on the killer’s agenda.

http://tinyurl.com/qauup5a

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Susan can be run to earth at most bookstores and ebook retailers, as well as the following locations;

Susan Schreyer Mysteries website: http://www.susanschreyer.com

Things I Learned From My Horse blog: http://thingsilearnedfrommyhorse.blogspot.com

Writing Horses blog: http://writinghorses.blogspot.com

Twitter @susanschreyer

FaceBook: Susan Schreyer Mysteries

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Susan-Schreyer-Mysteries/161359303906634

Categories: Books, dressage, Horses, Mystery, riding, Romantic suspense, suspense, training horses, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Welcome Marsha West

I’d like to welcome Marsha West, author of the newly released VERMONT ESCAPE.  (Yes, I know, a very similar title to my Wyoming Escape. We met online long after both novels had been titled.) Vermont Escape is the story of Jill Barlow, a widow  whose father is murdered two years after her husband was killed. She decides to leave her home and moves to a lovely Vermont town to start a new life. But her worst fears are proven true when the killers pursue her, convinced she has evidence that could destroy their game.

Before revealing an excerpt from her exciting novel, Marsha has agreed to answer my sometimes pertinent and oft times impertinent questions about life, writing and nonsense. Thanks so much for visiting Marsha!

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Marsha West.

Who are the important people in your life? Have they influenced your writing?

The first people who come to mind are my mother and father. Both of them wrote. My father not as much as my mother, but one of his stories was printed in an Air Force magazine. He was always inventing things. Nothing ever got patented, but the device he created to open canned cream was great. Mom had stories printed in her Women’s Club writing group’s annual booklet. She also self-published a public speaking booklet and two devotional books:  Prayers and Inspirations for Parents of Teenagers and Prayers and Inspirations for Senior Citizens.

Of course, none of this writing business would have been possible without the support of my dear husband, affectionately referred to as DH.

 What’s your favorite dessert?

I have a good friend who makes a dynamite chocolate sheet cake with pecans on top that is truly to die for. It’s just the best. Now, I also like apple pie, but eons ago, I had a friend who made it from scratch. Perfect seasoning, flaky crust, just amazing. But if it doesn’t taste like that, I don’t want it. Since I can’t be sure, I seldom order it. A little weird? Yeah, probably. So now, I’m happy to stick with Julie’s chocolate cake. J

What prompted you to write Vermont Escape? Did you want to say something specific?

The idea is based on a time in my life when the kids were in elementary  and middle school. The whole family had gone on a lovely vacation to Red River, New Mexico. Up in the mountains. Gorgeous views. Moderate temperatures. Great shopping. Fishing for my husband. Can you say paradise? I’m from Texas where in August it can easily be 109 cooling only to the 80s or 90 at night. Stressful stuff awaited us back home, and I didn’t want to leave the lovely mountain top retreat. We half-joked that we could buy one of the little stores for sale, and my husband could practice law. We’d just not return.

Well, only in fiction, do you really get to escape, and we returned to Texas. Ultimately, life settled back into that level of stress we can all manage to handle. But that feeling of really wanting to leave everything (not my family) behind stuck with me and was the basis for VERMONT ESCAPE. When I first started writing the book, it began with Jill Barlow leaving her home in Fort Worth after a bunch of bad stuff happened. Various re-writes cut those scenes from the book, but the feeling of escape still drives her. Pretty much, I’m always trying to show that second chances are possible. It doesn’t matter how old you are, love is out there to be found. That more important than anything is family. All of my books have a generational aspect.

What is your writing process? How do you develop your stories?

I’m a plotter, so before I try to write the story, there are a number of things I have to have in place first.

1)      I need a location. I know most people start with the characters, but I start with the location. Where do the people live and work?

2)      Then I ask myself who lives in that house? Why are they there? What do they do in town? At that point I drag out all my charts and start developing the characters. Not just what they look like, though I’ve frequently got pictures of people who represent the characters as I see them in my mind. What were their growing up years like? Who are their friends, mentors, supporters? I do charts for all but the very smallest of roles.

3)      Then I ask what do they want and why can’t they have it? That leads right into the Goal, Motivation, and Conflict chart. (Judges of the first book I entered in contests, said I should really study GMC. LOL I didn’t know what they were talking about. That book remains under my bed serving as a holder for dust bunnies. LOL)

4)      Next chart is one for internal and external conflict and it’s from this that the action pieces happen.

5)      Then I put together a tag line and a short paragraph about what’s going to happen.

6)      Then it’s time to write. I let myself write some of the backstory. I know it will go away and only pieces of it will get layered into the story, but I have to write 2-3 chapters of this. It’s kind of how I get into my characters’ minds.

7)      Then I write full speed. Every morning, I read over the last chapter or last pages I wrote to get back into the groove. I’ll edit as I go—typos, grammar stuff that jumps out. Then I write as long as I can without editing. I keep a small stuffed puppy (Scruffy) on my computer to remind me to let the creative juices flow. My internal editor can be a real pill to deal with. Scruffy helps me keep up and creative.  I move the puppy, re-read, edit a bit. Then Scruffy comes back out and away we go. (If I’m editing another manuscript while I’m also creating, I’ll take a day and edit with the pup gone. Then stop and with the pup in place, write for a few days.

8)      If I get stumped, I reference my charts to see who are these people, what is it they want, what’s keeping them from getting it? What’s on the action chart? What’s next? Sometimes you just have to let the fingers go and see what comes up. If it’s on the paper, you can fix it.

9)      When I finish, I put the manuscript away, focus on another project. I usually don’t look at the finished book for 4-6 weeks. Then pull it back out and start major rewrites and edits. Those can take up to 3 months.

10)   This is what I’ve done in the past. It will be interesting to see if this is the same pattern now that I have a published book. There are many things that tug on an author after they’ve got one book published. We’ll have to see.

If you were a color (red, blue, green, etc.), what would you be?

No question, I’d be blue-green, otherwise known as turquoise, aqua, aquamarine, teal. I’ve always loved that color, even when I was a kid. Back in the day, I had my colors “done.” Turns out my eyes are a shade of aqua, and I always feel good when I wear the color.

What writers or books have influenced you?

When I first started reading romance again after a twenty-year hiatus, I picked up Linda Howard and Elizabeth Lowell. Loved the combination of mystery and romance. Boy was I surprised by how much the romance had changed. The door was no longer closed! I also read Carla Neggars. I loved her descriptions of New England. She writes romantic suspense about a couple of families and all their friends. The intertwining is amazing. Don’t know how she keeps up.  I also really love Kay Hooper’s books. She’s a bit more into the paranormal suspense area with less romance, but the romance is still there. If I were going to branch out from what I write that’s probably the direction I’d go. Oh, not with shape-shifters, but more involving the mind or spirits.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few people I’ve taken classes from who influenced my writing: Shannon Donnally, Lori Wilde, Linda Styles, and B. A Binns. The person who made the biggest impact and I believe led to me being published is Margie Lawson.

Coffee or tea?  Beer or wine? Sweet or tart? 

Hot coffee (or iced in the summer) first thing in the morning, but the rest of the day it’s iced tea. I get a loose tea from an Antique Mall tea room. I follow the directions exactly and enjoy the best apricot/mango tea right in my home. Wine for sure. I love the taste of beer (drink it poured over a glass of ice—I know kind of odd, but it’s the way I like it.) But wine is semi healthy for you, and I love the glasses. J Sweet wins hands down up against tart.

If your book is made into a TV movie, who do you want to play the hero?

John Corbet?? Maybe, but he needs a beard and longer hair. I’m so bad at this. Should’ve skipped. LOL

What’s your next project?

Just sent off book 5 to MuseItUp with fingers crossed they’ll want to publish it, too. So now I’m splitting my time between edits/rewrites of the 6th book. In Second Chances (the hero is a supporting character in VERMONT ESCAPE and demanded to be the hero. I had to speak firmly to him that he was not the hero of that book, and if he’d back off a bit, I’d give him his own book. That’s what Second Chances is.

But I’m very excited to have started looking at the 7th one. When I initially sat down to write # 6 (It went by the number for a year and a half! I’m dreadful with titles.), the plan was for it to be the first of four books. Four women who met as kids at summer camp and now are dealing with a multitude of issues in their own lives. They get together a couple of times a year. Two live in Fort Worth. One in Dallas and one in Wichita Falls. Not a series where you have all of the same people, and the end doesn’t come at the end. But it will be a series with several characters who overlap and show up in each of the books and each book is complete in itself.

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Vermont Escape 200x300

Two years after the murder of her husband, someone guns down Jill Barlow’s father, a Texas State Representative. The authorities suspect a connection between the murders, but can’t find proof. Jill longs for the peace she found when she visited Vermont after her husband’s death. With the perpetrators still at large, she flees to the small town of Woodstock.

The gambling syndicate, believing she has damning evidence against them, pursues her, shattering her dreams of peace. In an effort to protect her grown children, she doesn’t tell them violence continues to stalk the family.

Despite having lost so much already, with the lives of her family and friends at stake, will Jill be required to make more sacrifices, even the hope of a second chance at love?

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EXCERPT :

Jill Barlow reached for her make-up kit and brushed against the one thing she’d been doing her damnedest to avoid. Her heart rate tripped into overtime.

The package she received days after her dad was murdered. One month ago, but she couldn’t face opening a reminder of the nightmare.

Pictures of her vigorous father mixed with recent images of his closed casket. Nausea hit. Again. Damn. Why would someone blow off her father’s head? She didn’t stay to find out. She ran.

She’d pushed herself on a four-day trip from Texas to Vermont. Emotionally and physically exhausted, all she wanted to do was unpack her pajamas and climb into bed. Habit required she clean and moisturize her face. Habit provided comfort when life was chaotic. Habit could get her through the worst. Or not.

In the Woodstock Inn suite, her hand trembled when she removed the package and dropped it onto the bed where it lay on the white coverlet like a scorpion.

Hands propped on her knees, she leaned over, drew in needed oxygen. A minute passed, and then she straightened.

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VERMONT ESCAPE is available at:

MuseItUp  http://goo.gl/nJtaa                 B & N http://goo.gl/1lR6D                      Amazon http://goo.gl/qhzBm

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You can contact Marsha West at:

http://www.marsharwest.com/category/blog for Thoughts on Thursday and Tuesday Author Chats

https://www.facebook.com/#!/marsha.r.west  @marsha.r.west

http://www.twitter.com/Marsharwest  @Marsharwest

Categories: fear, Mystery, romance, Romantic suspense, suspense, Uncategorized, writing | 19 Comments

Cherley Grogg and The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk

Today I’d like to introduce Cherley Grogg who has written a delightful children’s book with special appeal to boys. Take it away Cherley!.

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I’m so glad to have this opportunity to share a little about myself and my children’s novel “The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk”, which is free to download from Amazon for a limited time.   The inspiration for the book came from my grandsons. I have three grandsons and a granddaughter. My granddaughter loves to read, but the boys do not, so I decided to write a book they would love to read. I knew it’d have to have strong kids in it, strong physically and head strong too.  The characters would all have to be realistic with problems and scuffles among themselves, it would have to be fast paced and full of adventure.  Plus my grandsons like sports and girls so I needed to put that in there as well. I couldn’t leave my granddaughter without someone to relate to so I gave the brothers in the story a female cousin who could keep up with them in most things and top them in other things. In addition to the children, there are some strong, funny and interesting adult characters. This book appeals to people of all ages.

The main character in “The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk”, Brandon is not quiet. He’s very outgoing and loud. He’s a leader and his outgoing boisterous personality works well for him, but not listening also gets him into a lot of trouble. Jordan his cousin is a female version of Brandon, but Jacob his brother is the opposite. He’s a quiet listener, a thinker. The 13 year olds get in a passel of trouble because of not listening, and Jacob quietly follows them.

Here’s the Blurb: A teen’s life disrupts when his Great-Grandmother, a stranger comes to live with him and his family. She upsets his life so much that he stoops pretty low to get rid of her, including trying to find a way to get into the oversized trunk she has stored in his garage. Spunky Grandma keeps the key in a special place.

The kids expect treasure, but discover a terrible secret instead, which puts Grandma in danger’s way. Will she turn to her grandchildren for help or to a young ghost?

This is an excerpt from Chapter Fourteen:

Jacob looked astounded. “How in the world did you pull that off?”

“A girl has to have stuff.” She grinned. “You know girl’s stuff.”

“No, we don’t know, and we don’t want to know. The important thing is you got the card.” Brandon reached for the credit card.

“I want to know,” Jacob said.

“Believe me, you don’t want to know,” Jordan laughed as she handed the card to Brandon. “Hurry up. I need to get Dad’s card back to him before Mom’s out of the shower.”

                In the next chapter the kids went to play soccer. Grandma went with them. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 15:

                Lilly turned to Grandma. “It doesn’t matter what she thinks, she’s not on our team. I don’t know why the coach favors Jordan. Maybe he feels sorry for her. She’s so big and clunky.”

Grandma’s eyes flashed, and her little fist doubled up.  Brandon hoped she wouldn’t spit. He put his hand on Grandma’s shoulder. “Let’s go.”

“I’ll go, but I want her to know that Jordan sure is big.   She has a big heart, and a big personality, and she’s twice the lady that girl is. She would never put someone else down to try to make herself look better.”

“I don’t need to put her down to make myself look better. I always look good.”

Grandma turned her head and spit.

“The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” is free from Amazon; I hope you will enjoy it.

 Free on Amazon-limited time

.SGT Final 7 1 2013

http://www.amazon.com/The-Secret-Grandmas-Trunk-Along/dp/1475282656

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Join me on my Facebook Fan Page:

Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores. 

Stamp Out Murder”.

The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” This is an especially good book for your Tween Children and Grandchildren.

And please join me on my Facebook Fanpage, that’s managed by one of my most faithful fans: Cindy Ferrell

Here’s a link to Cher’ley’s  WEBSITE

Categories: Mystery, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Interviewing Myself

Forewarning CoverWelcome back.

Today I’m taking part in an Author round-robin blog, where I talk about various aspects of my writing process and my new book coming out next week. I was invited to the party by Marsha West, author of the soon-to-be-published VERMONT ESCAPE. You can visit her and learn about her fabulous new book at: http://www.marsharwest.com/vermont-escape/

Here goes:

What are you working on right now?

I’m getting ready to publish my next book, FOREWARNING. I have my cover, it’s been edited and gone through beta readers, and now I’m in the process of formatting it for the Kindle. I plan on releasing it July 1.

How does it differ from other works in its genre?

It’s a cross-genre romantic suspense about an energetic healer who lives on a horse ranch. FOREWARNING is the first book of my Horses and Healing series. It tells the story of Kasey Edwards, an alternative healer, who rescues an injured man and gets drawn into an unexpected web of danger.

What experiences have influenced you?

I’ve had horses most of my life—started riding when I was three. Caring for, raising and training them has molded my approach to life. Animals ground you in a way that’s often lost in city living. They also led me into alternative approaches to medical care. When traditional veterinary methods couldn’t help one of my horses, complementary techniques did. So I’m a firm believer in both.

Why do you write what you do?

I like happy endings and I like mysteries that engage my mind, so romantic suspense is the perfect blend. My books tend more to suspense with romantic elements than traditional romance. In my Horses and Healing mysteries, of which FOREWARNING is the first, I also get to talk about complementary therapies.

How does your writing process work?

I’m a “puzzler.” I can’t just sit down and write, like a pantser, nor can I write to an outline, like a plotter. Usually, I come up with an initial idea, figure out where I’d like to story to go—the ending—then start fleshing out the characters, using character sheets and personality profiles. My characters may change while I’m writing, but I do need to know who they are to make them real. I’m always surprised and delighted by the serendipitous things that pop out as I go along. Maybe a comment by a character ends up setting up a later scene. Or I encounter someone or something that inspires an idea for my story.

What is the hardest part about writing?

Two things: turning off my internal editor and figuring out the turning points in the story. After I know my characters, I then have to figure out how to get them from point A to point B. By determining three or four turning points, I have an idea of where to go. But getting those points can really be a bear.

What would you like to try as a writer that you haven’t yet?

Historical fiction—suspense, of course. There already are several excellent writers, such as Suzanne Adair, doing early American mysteries, but I’d still like to try my hand at it.

Who are the authors you most admire?

There are so many, it’s hard to single them out. Some who come to mind are Jayne Ann Krentz, Nora Roberts, Kay Hooper, Elizabeth Lowell, Cait London, Robin Carr, Suzanne Brockman, Linda Lael Miller and Allison Brennan.

Who are new authors to watch out for?

Marsha West—can’t wait for her VERMONT ESCAPE. Susan Schreyer, Polly Iyer, Jerrie Alexander, Donnell Bell, and Susan Boyer to name just a few. All romantic suspense writers.

What scares you?

What if no one likes my book? Not what if it doesn’t sell, but what if they don’t like it? I want it to be a success, of course. (And make lots of money. J) Even more important, I want readers to enjoy my stories and to come back for more.

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And now I’m going to introduce you to the next link in this Author’s Chain—Susan Scheyer, author of the Thea Campbell Mystery series. Her next book, SHOOTING TO KILL, is due out soon. If you like humorous mysteries featuring horses, be sure to visit her blog “Writing Horses” http://writinghorses.blogspot.com.

Categories: blog hops, Books, dressage, healing, Horses, Mystery, romance, Romantic suspense, suspense, Trail riding, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Fear and How You See the World

© Forca | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Forca | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

A few posts ago I talked about Horses and Victims–about fear distorting how an animal or human deals with the world. Sometimes the reaction is a result of an over-sensitive individual having to put up with unaware or uncaring people, such as with my horse Glory. Sometimes it is a result of direct abuse. Recently I encountered an unexpected reaction which came from the latter source.

Last month I self-published a short story titled IMAGES – A LOVE STORY. Before I put it up I had several people critique and edit it. Everyone thought it was a sweet tale and seemed to enjoy it. Except for the last person who saw it. Her reaction totally astonished me.

My friend was extremely upset by the story. She thought the hero was manipulative, had ulterior motives and was not to be trusted. Going through it page by page, she pointed out all the suspect things he was doing. I was blown away by her interpretation of his actions. I would never have thought that about someone without a compelling reason. And frankly, she was amazed at the intensity of her reaction too. I’d really hit a hot button for her.

It seems she had been molested as a child and, even though she has been happily married for many years, that has skewed her view of men. Also, she has a daughter who has been in an abusive relationship, and she has worked with a battered women’s group. Talk about a different background from my nice, safe, sheltered life!  While I understood where her response was coming from, I didn’t think most people would feel the same and didn’t change my story.

But the incident pointed out again how differently people can react to the same stimulus. I’ve entered my stories in contests and received both perfect scores along with quite low scores in the same contest. Some people seem to really like my writing and others don’t. I’ve only gotten a few reviews for my novel, WYOMING ESCAPE, and mostly they’ve been quite good. But I did get one person who didn’t like the heroine at all–thought she was wimpy. Other people have admired her guts. As the saying goes, “different strokes for different folks.”

All writers go through the same thing and have similar stories. But it’s interesting to speculate on what provokes such opposing opinions. What happened in the reader’s life to cause this reaction? Hmm, fodder for a new tale?

Have youCover - Images - 2 encountered a really off-the-wall reaction to anything you’ve done? Were you able to discover the reason for the response?

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If you’d like to read IMAGES and compare your reaction to my friend’s, you can find it for Free on Smashwords.

You can also find WYOMING ESCAPE on most online bookstores.

Categories: abuse, battered women, Books, fear, horse personalities, Horses, romance, Uncategorized, writing, writing characters | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Horses and Victims

Glory #2Lacy cowered in the closet, her arms wrapped tight around her legs and listened to the footsteps coming closer and closer. The door swung open and she tried to scream but she couldn’t make a sound as the knife descended.

We’ve all read and seen variations on this scene, a victim, usually a woman or child, too frightened to do anything to help themselves. You’ve probably felt that way a time or two in less dire situations. I know I have. Interestingly, people aren’t the only beings that react this way. Horses and other animals often do too.

Today I’m going to finish my series on horse personalities and how they connect with writing novels. Since it’s been a while, I’ll do a short recap. Horses can be generally classified as four personality types. The extrovert-thinker compares to the typical alpha hero—confident, outgoing and brave. The extrovert-reactor is similar to the smart-ass heroines—emotional, reacting before thinking and taking chances. The introvert-thinker is more like a stalker villain—quiet, careful and determined.

The fourth type is the introvert-reactor—horses who are easily overwhelmed by their emotions. My horse Glory is a typical example. An extremely sensitive Thoroughbred, intended for racing, she was apparently handled inappropriately for her personality and was too timid to fight back. Instead, she shut down and stopped reacting to anything at all. She was very well-trained and my instructor had recommended I get her as a school master for learning dressage. (For learning an intricate skill such as dressage it’s best to have a horse that already knows what to do and can teach you to do it right.)

She seemed very sweet and obviously knew her stuff, so I decided to take a chance on her. And she ended up teaching me much more than I ever expected. It soon became apparent that she was very different from any horse I had handled before. Not only was she so sensitive that she hated being brushed, she was unexpectedly uptight, but expressed it in an unusual way. While most horses act out in some way if they’re upset, she shut down and turned it inside. During one of our first rides, we weren’t communicating well and suddenly she got a nose-bleed. When this happened again in different situations, I realized this was a stress reaction.

The thing that I found oddest was how afraid she was of making a mistake. I was used to horses trying to do what I asked and if it wasn’t quite right, we’d just do it again. Not Glory. If she thought she’d made a mistake, she’d either get a nose-bleed or stop and start shaking, obviously expecting to be punished. This fear carried over to the trail. Another horse could spook big time at something unexpected and she wouldn’t move a muscle. It was eerie.

I almost gave up on her the first year, she wasn’t much fun. But gradually she started being less uptight and we began to communicate better. It took a lot of years for her to really trust that she’d found a safe place and it was okay to express opinions on things. Now she will boss around the other two horses and she doesn’t worry about miscues. Now she really is MY horse and I am her person.

I’m so glad that girls and young women are being taught to stand up for themselves nowadays. We’ll always need helpless victims for our stories, but hopefully they’ll be less common in real life.

Have you encountered a situation where you froze and were unable to react? Do you use helpless victims in your stories?

Categories: Books, dressage, horse personalities, Horses, suspense, Trail riding, training horses, writing, writing characters | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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