Thursday, February 21, 2013

Blog Hop: My Next Big Thing

Nancy Peacock, author of Life Without Water, Home Across the Road, and A Broom of One's Own, tagged me for this blog hop. You can read her essays and find out more about her on her blog, Marginalia.

My Next Big Thing:

1)      What is the working title of your book or project?

The Girl Who Was Never Not Broken

2)      Where did the idea come from for this book or project?
A song I heard in the TV series McLeod's Daughters. It took me awhile to track it down online and purchase it for my iTunes library, and I listened to it for several months, maybe close to a year, before the story began to come. The song, Last of the Happy by Eva Trout, seemed to be the soundtrack to a novel that had not yet been written. And for whatever reason, it picked me to write it.

3)      What genre does it fall under, if any?

Literary suspense.

4)      If applicable, who would you choose to play your characters in a movie?

This question often pops up in interviews and blog hops. Having lived and worked in Hollywood, I know how unlikely it is that I would ever get to choose the actors for a project based on one of my books. So I don't even think about it. All I can say is that if they pay me enough money, they can cast anyone they want to in the roles. If Javier Bardem was involved, that would be just fine with me.

5)      What is the synopsis of your manuscript or project?

A young woman leaves Needles, California when her father is jailed, she thinks for writing bad checks, and a mysterious man comes looking for her to ask questions. She drives south, meets a young cowboy in a bar over dinner, and drives him to the ranch near the border of Arizona where he works. What begins as a quick visit to ride a horse turns into a new life. She falls in love with the horses, the work, and especially with the woman who takes care of things and feeds the cowboys. Shug quickly becomes the mother Ava Lee never had.

But Shug has a son who is involved with running drugs and stolen horses across the border, and he falls in love with Ava Lee. Ava Lee's father is not in jail for writing checks but because he witnessed a UFO fall into the river outside Needles - he is in custody because he won't cooperate with CIA agents, one of whom happens to be Shug's other son Tag. Tag is assigned to track Ava Lee and finds her living on the ranch where he grew up, the daughter his mother never had, and getting quickly pulled into his brother Dixon's life of crime.

6)      Will your book or story be self-published or represented by an agent?

This will be the second "Borderland Book" published by my imprint, November Hill Press.

7)      How long did it take you to write the first draft?

It is still in progress.

8)      What other book or stories would you compare this to within the genre?

I'd say Cormac McCarthy's Borderland Trilogy and Ellen Gilchrist's novels.

9)      Who or what inspired you to write this story?

It grew from that aforementioned song!

10)  What else about the book or story might pique the reader’s interest?

It addresses the issue of horse slaughter, which is something I don't think the average person knows much about.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

connecting with horses via the heart

This week I tried something new. While standing with Keil Bay a few days ago, as he hung out in his stall after breakfast instead of going out to graze with the rest of the herd, I blew softly into his nostrils and waited for his usual response - he blows softly back.

An idea popped into my head. As I stood in front of his stall door, and he hung his head over, I focused on my heart beat and on his, meditating on the two synchronizing and beating together.

I was just playing around, as I do, to see what happens. I had no idea this little exercise would be so powerful.

Keil became perfectly still as I did the meditation. After about 20 seconds, he let out a long, soft breath, and then became still again. Each time I purposely allowed my mind to drift from its focus on our heartbeats, he nudged me gently until I re-focused.

We did this for about 5 minutes, and then I gave him a big hug and walked away to do some chores, thinking he would head out to the field. A minute later, he was whinnying at the stall door for me to come back. I did, and we did the heart meditation again, with the exact same response.

He actively wanted to continue doing this exercise, not leaving the stall and calling me back when I left him.

Yesterday I tried this again with both he AND Salina, but from a distance, 10-15 feet away, when they were otherwise occupied and not interacting with me.

As soon as I focused on our heartbeats, both of them would stop, get still, and then turn to look at me. And then they both lowered their heads slightly and began to lick and chew.

I also tried it with the pony in a grumpy pony moment and he pricked his ears forward and then he too licked and chewed.

It's St. Valentine's Day today, with all kinds of focus on love and hearts and romance. My husband and I will go out to dinner to celebrate, but the main focus around here will be exploring this new technique with the November Hill herd.

Heart equines, all.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

kittens and rain play

Thinking back yesterday and today about the three little kittens who lost their mittens... no, wait... the three little kittens who came to live on November Hill in 2005. I was thinking about them because yesterday Pixie ended up on the ROOF and I was remembering the day Dickens (left in photo, next to Keats, then Osage) climbed to the very tip top of the 40-foot tree in our back yard.

Today, Dickens the all-grown-up tuxedo cat trotted in from the back field with a mouse in his teeth and now, even as it rains outside, he has demanded to go out because he is such a devoted cowboy. Keats left us in 2012 quite suddenly and unexpectedly, and Osage, mostly known these days as Muffine Eloise, is snuggled on the sofa by the woodstove.

And now we're doing kittenhood again with two new cuties, Pixie and Pippin.

This morning, while Pixie was trying to figure out how to access the roof from the back deck (as opposed to front porch, which she already figured out), I was at the barn trying to manage 6 frisky equines. Yesterday was balmy, today the cold came back, and all the horses and donkeys' energy levels skyrocketed.

At one point all 6 were passaging and cantering in a very small circle in the corner of the front field. In their way was a gate, a cement block, a tree, and a water trough. All I could think about was the possibility that with 5000+ pounds of equine in such close quarters, something was bound to go wrong.

I opened the gate and asked the pony to come through, which remarkably he did, at a trot, and that took one of the troublemakers out of the mix.

Cody, surprisingly, was the other troublemaker, tossing his head and getting Salina going as he floated in a 10m circle around her. I headed to the barn to get a lead rope, and before I could even get there, Salina shot off into a huge canter, through the other gate and all the way down the paddock, followed by her trusty donkeys. I ran down and closed the gate before Keil Bay and Cody could follow her.

It was crazy!

I had to run an errand mid-day and got home just in time to muck, set up stalls for the rain tonight, and play with the pony and Keil Bay in the arena. Apache Moon was amazing today. He circled me for about 20 minutes doing huge, floating trot and bold, beautiful canter with many flying changes. He was so forward at first I had to put whip and lead rope down and just focus on relaxing my entire body to slow him. But soon he was trotting with just one trot step from me and cantering with one canter step. For a few minutes he was changing leads when I would "canter" with the opposite leg from his. Really fun time with him.

Cody declined his invitation to come in, but Keil came - not as in sync as we were last time, but Keil Bay was really wanting to get into his stall with some hay, so we played just a little while (huge huge trot and fairly out of control cantering/bucking) and then I opened the gate and he trotted through the paddock and into his stall.

Salina (!) came to the gate and wanted to come in and play - I wouldn't let her because I was truly worried she would get in there and go wild. I'm not sure what's going on with her right now but she is moving really really well and is wanting to go go go.

Monday, February 04, 2013


With all the crazy weather we're having lately (70s one day, a few days later ice and temps in the teens, high winds, etc.) there hasn't been much riding going on around here. I've been trying to keep horses and donkeys comfortable, clean, warm, and happy, with all the usual help from my dear daughter and husband. 

Salina has been really wanting to be back with the big boys the past two weeks, and we've compromised by allowing her some turn-out with the entire herd each day. This give the donkeys a chance to go off duty and have some wild donkey fun - usually the two of them running like mustangs all over the farm, making metallic sounding squeaks that sound like machinery of some kind and not two little donkeys.

Salina is bossing the pony and hanging out with Keil Bay, and occasionally shifts allegiance over to Cody for a bit. Usually by the time her next meal is served, she's ready to come back into her paddock and barnyard, and the donkeys are just as happy to come with her.

As you can see from the photo, the kittens are growing up. It happens so fast! They are now trying out all the possible sleeping spots in the house, fitting themselves into spaces probably not quite meant for cat naps, which seems to be a major criteria for cats choosing favorite spots. Pixie loves this pot, and she might as well enjoy it now, because she's going to be too big for it soon enough!

I woke up feeling off today, so am hanging out on the bed and watching the horses outside my window. And reading. And playing on the iPad.

For anyone who loves reading and books, head over to Jordan Rosenfeld's blog every day this month. She's counting down the days until her novel, Forged In Grace, comes out, and celebrating with a literary quiz question or two every single day. The winners get copies of different books every day. This Wednesday (February 6th) the winner will get a copy of my Claire Quartet collection. So far, the questions are fun and the giveaways are great! 

Here's the link to go play and win: Jordan's blog

Happy February!