books

The Searching Place

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UPDATE! The Searching Place was released last month and is available on Amazon.

My newest book, The Searching Place will be released with Solstice Publishing spring 2019. The story is a light-hearted small town cowgirl romance set in southeast Tennessee.



Here’s a bit about The Searching Place….



Lily is on the hunt for her muse and redemption.



The once bestselling romance author Lily Perkins is in a bind after her fifth divorce has left her practically penniless and her last book was axed by the publisher. At the urging of her agent and friend, Nate Kinser, Lily moves east to find her muse and write her next best seller.



Carter is a cowboy womanizer that initially sees Lily as the next conquest he can toy with as everybody in a small town knows what a woman with her history is like. When his attempts to get her in bed fail, he realizes she’s not the conquest he thought she was. In the end, they both fall harder than they wanted to but there’s a catch – Lily’s long term agent Nate has suddenly left his wife for her.



When Lily is injured in a barrel race, both men rush to her side to protect the feisty cowgirl writer that has captured their hearts and Lily must choose between them.



Stay up with the latest news on my Facebook page.

Update — NEW COVER!



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Talking With Robert Brady

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This time on Talking In The Barn, I chat with fellow east Tennessee author and horseman, Robert Brady. Robert writes Fantasy books and rescues horses.

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What is a typical day for you like? 
I get up around 7a, feed the horses, the dogs and the cat. Make breakfast, then start programming. I’m a work from home software developer. I’ll go until around 4pm, then take a break for an hour, feed the horses, the dogs and the cat, then write for a few hours.

Do you write full time? 
I don’t write full time, but that’s my goal. Right now, a lot of my creative juices are absorbed by programming. Creating a program is a lot like creating a story.

How did you get involved with horses? 
I was raised around them. When my daughter turned 12, she started noticing boys, so I got her involved in riding, and then boys were on their own for about three more years. She’s a saddle fitter now, and she’s married to a guy who was raised around horses.

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How did you get started as a writer? 
In college, I missed my friends, so I would write stories where I used them as the main characters. Even before that, I used to love to write and won a few awards, including the New England Gold Key.

How do horses impact your writing? 
In The Fovean Chronicles, it’s really the story of a man and his horse, and even when he’s not with his horse, his horse is on his mind. Horses add balance to my life and I tried to put that into my stories as well.

What are your biggest struggles as a writer and as a horse person? Any words of wisdom there? 
Finding time, just like everyone else.
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What one piece of advice that you would give to a new horse person? 
Unless you compete, don’t try to replace a great horse with another of the same breed. You’re setting the new horse up to fail. If you’re lucky enough to have a great horse in your life, when his or her time comes, try something completely different for your next one.

What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring writer? 
Schedule time to write. Put it on your calendar – this day, I will write for 1 hour. Otherwise you’re always going to find something else to do.

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What is one thing that most people don’t know about you? 
I’m actually a really romantic person. Just never found the right person to share it with.

Tell us about the inspiration behind your newest book. 
The Fovean Chronicles is eight books long. It took me more than a decade to get right. My latest book, Semper Indomitus, ends the series. It was time to go on to the next project.

Any parting words to readers out there?
Don’t listen to your teachers when they tell you how to write – most of them have a really hard time getting published. Get into a good group, either locally or online, and then take their criticism constructively. The best advice you’ll ever get will sound mean and horrible at the time. I was told at one point that I was terrible and would never be published. It inspired me to really look at what I was creating and then change it. Also, read, read, read!

You can find Robert on Amazon.

Film Festival Win & New Book Release

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This fall has been busy with another new children’s book and a film festival win….

Beauford The Patriotic Donkey was released in November. Beauford is the brainchild of my other half, retired race trainer and former pro bull rider T. A. Bouk. “Tab” likes to say he waited until he was almost 60 to write his first book! We collaborated on the project along with local artist, Atlantis Corn that graduated from Sweetwater, Tennessee high school this year. A big thanks to art teacher Matthew Mikos for holding the contest among his students for the opportunity to illustrate the book.

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Beauford chases the thickens and thinks he’s too good for goats, but he soon learns everybody has to work together when you live on a farm. The book endears itself to the American Public by teaching the timeless lessons of farm work ethic, the importance of the flag, and honoring military service.

The book quickly climbed to the top, making Amazon Best Seller lists for Children’s New Release Animal, and Farm Life categories, and hit the all time top seller list for Children’s Farm Life books. Beauford The Patriotic Donkey enjoyed a local book tour with book signings at Rural King, Blount County Heritage Museum, Sweetwater Antiques, B&B Wholesale and Auction, and Pallet Jack Snack Shack.

FIRST FILM FESTIVAL WIN….

Earlier this year, I finished the film script for my book Lost Betrayal. Shortly after finishing, I entered the script in the Equus Film Festival

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LOGLINE FOR THE GRULLA –

A determined cowgirl enlists the help of a former bull fighter and drug addict in the search for her horse that is still mysteriously missing after a tornado destroys her ranch.

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The script, since entitled “The Grulla” won the Winnie Award for Best Equine Screenplay for the Equus Film Festival. I would like to extend a hearty “Congratulations” to my fellow Winnie recipients in the other categories. You can see the full list of winners on the American Horse Publications website.

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The script is actively being submitted to agents, managers, producers and directors. You can also check out my profile on IMDb Pro.

READ THE FULL SYNOPSIS –

https://fjthomasblog.wordpress.com/2018/05/15/the-grulla-film-script/

Talking With Author Carly Kade 

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This week I talk with horse writer Carly Kade about her new book coming out, and winning the Best Western Fiction Winnie Award at the EQUUS Film Festival.

Tell us a little bit about what your day to day life is like. 

 

I’m a busy cowgirl, and it can be difficult to fit in time for my creative writing, so I designed a plan for my writing life. I get up every morning at 5:30 am and start my day by writing before I go to my corporate job. At the end of the week, my husband reads back to me the chapters I’ve written. The routine works. I finished two books this way, and I’m already writing the third. Having scheduled time for my creativity really helps move my books forward. I am not a morning person, but the commitment to my morning routine keeps my creativity alive. 

 

Also, I made the rule to “touch” my story every day.  As long as I stay engaged with what I’m writing, the world I’m creating is never far from reach. It’s when I’ve been away from my words for extended periods of time that I find it hardest to get back to writing it so I try not to let that happen.

 

In addition, I have a patient husband, two dogs, and a horse waiting to spend time with me. Being at the barn fuels my creativity and helps me refresh from my life as a corporate cowgirl. I do what it takes to fit in my much needed barn time (although it feels as if it is never for as long as I’d like). Somehow though, I always make everything work and feel so fortunate to be able to have the life that I do. 

 

It isn’t always easy! There’s a lot of heavy lifting involved in getting a dream underway, but I am really proud of the creative life I’m inventing for myself!  

 

Do you have horses? Tell us about them and what you do with them. 

 

When I’m not writing or reading, I’m riding my horse. I am a member of the American Paint Horse Association and love competitively showing my Paint Horse, Sissy. I recently moved to Arizona so I’ve just started to explore all the amazing horse show options that my new home has to offer. I feel fortunate because it seems like there’s a horse event (almost) every weekend here, and I board my horse at a picture perfect ranch nestled between mountain ranges. It’s the kind of place I dreamed about as a girl! 

 

The classes I usually show in are showmanship, Western horsemanship and Western pleasure. Recently, I’ve been back in my English saddle and am thinking about showing in some hunt seat classes again!

 

Just like a make an effort to “touch” my novel every day to keep close to my characters, I make an effort to see my horse every day. Take a tour of my social media channels, carlykadecreative.com or my YouTube channel and you’ll notice my horse, Sissy, is pictured a lot and appears in my promotional videos for In The Reins as the lead horse character, Faith.

 

Here is the book trailer starring Sissy as Faith: https://youtu.be/Glv2Bz-WB-E?list=PLzxx3R-kABSVHJFnmwgn_6vZ3W98S3akk

 

How did get you started writing? 

I’ve always enjoyed creative writing and was recognized as a young author.  My education involved Advanced English and Creative Writing courses, but I didn’t set out to publish a novel until McKennon Kelly, the leading man from In The Reins, came to me like lightning one day in the form of a poem. I vividly remember the day I furiously scrawled him in my journal. That poem ended up being the intro to the book. 

 

From there, I just wrote the novel that I wanted to read. Beverly Cleary once said, “If you don’t see the book you want on the shelves, write it.”  I think I’ve read everything in existence about horses, cowboys and romance.  However, I couldn’t many horse book series written about my particular discipline. 

 

I wanted to read a love story themed around the type of horse shows that I liked to compete in. There are a lot of equestrian novels out there focused on dressage or jumping or rodeo but I hadn’t found many that focused on Western pleasure competitive horse showing at breed shows like Quarter Horse, Paint, Pinto or the Palomino Horse Circuits.

 

When did you get more serious about writing, and what was that process like? 

 

The story seemed to beg me to tell it, but I still pondered whether I should write a book or if I even could. Writing a book is scary! You put your creative self on the line for people to hopefully enjoy, but also to judge.

 

One day, I asked my husband if he would read my manuscript to see if what I had written had any merit. One thing to know about my husband is that the only book series he’s ever read was the Hunger Games on our honeymoon. As he read my story back to me, two things happened. I sat there and thought to myself “who wrote this” and “where was I while I was writing it” because it sounded pretty good, and then I noticed that my husband was laughing, smiling and engaging with my words. He put the manuscript down in his lap and said, “This is really good. You have to keep going.” So, I did.

 

When I started really writing In The Reins, I knew I wanted readers to feel like they were falling for the leading man as they turned the pages of my story. Generating that kind of feeling was my goal – what I wanted to create for readers – so In The Reins naturally became a romance novel. 

 

I’ve always loved reading and have been riding horses since I was seven. I know that I sure wouldn’t be able to resist reading about a handsome cowboy who knows his way around horses so I wrote about what I knew … horses and cowgirl culture.

 

You did very well at the Equus Film Festival. Tell us what the festival is about, and your experience being a part of that. 

 

It was so exciting when In The Reins was named an official EQUUS Film Festival literary selection, and then went on to win the Best Western Fiction Winnie Award.

 

I met so many amazing fellow authors, filmmakers and readers in New York City. The EQUUS Film Festival is an excellent platform for bringing the storytellers of the horse world together through films, documentaries, videos, art, music and literature. 

 

The EQUUS Film Festival expanded its reach into the literary world because of the books that inspired the films screened at the festival over the years.  The decision to add awards for literary works was to introduce new and existing authors to filmmakers looking for their next equestrian story. The festival organizers work to place authors with filmmakers to help develop partnerships through the EQUUS Film Festival.

 

I made a little tribute video to my spur-jingling journey in NYC so my readers could go behind the scenes of the EQUUS Film Festival with me. My cowboy helped me shoot footage as I attended the four-day equestrian extravaganza! We filmed it all – beginning with the VIP Gala & culminating at the equine equivalent of the Oscars called the Winnie Awards.

 

You can watch it here: https://www.carlykadecreative.com/blog/video-go-behind-the-scenes-of-the-equus-film-festival-with-equestrian-author-carly-kade

 

Tell us about your books.

In The Reins is the story of a city-girl-gone-country, a handsome cowboy and a horse that meet by fate on a southern farm. She’s looking for a fresh start and unexpectedly falls for the mysterious cowboy. But the leading lady finds herself wondering if the man with a deeply guarded secret can open himself up to the wannabe cowgirl in the saddle next to him.  

​I like to think that In The Reins captures the struggle between letting life move forward and shying away from taking the reins. Reader reviews suggest that I’ve written a love story sure to touch the inner cowgirl. I hope so!

Cowboy Away, the second book in the In the Reins series, picks up right where we left Devon, McKennon, their horses as well as the Green Briar bunch. It chronicles the history of how things became the way they were in In the Reins. Readers will meet new characters as the book journeys through McKennon’s past. In Cowboy Away, McKennon becomes a cowboy on a quest for revenge and hits the road with nothing but his memories, a pistol and hope to put his demon to rest.

 

Cowboy Away, the sequel to In the Reins, will release in 2017. Early reader, Laurie Berglie, author of Where the Bluegrass Grows says, “Sequels can be difficult to write, but not for Carly Kade. Cowboy Away is fantastic and without a doubt one of the best sequels I have ever read. This follow-up to In The Reins brings McKennon’s and Devon’s story full circle, yet leaves you hungry for more! I very highly recommend this equestrian romance!”

 

The books are available in Paperback and eBook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.  Audiobooks are in the works for both books, too!

 

Buy a signed copy from my website: https://www.carlykadecreative.com/buy-the-book.html

Or from one of these fine retailers

Amazon: http://a.co/fvgIrOO

 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/in-the-reins-carly-kade/1123120771?ean=9780996887908

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/in-the-reins

How does your love for horses impact you as a writer? 

I wanted to include a romantic relationship in my story that built on life lessons experienced in the horse world. Horses build character and require dedication. They are a big responsibility and teach us compassion, as we often have to put their needs before our own. I am a better human because I’ve owned horses.

 

I’ve heard that my characters are flawed but likeable. There are a few Bridget Jones style mishaps for my wannabe cowgirl, and she often has to dust off her boots then try again. My heroine heals her broken heart through her love for her horse. Devon invests in her relationship with her horse as much as she does with the humans in her life. I think I built a strong female character willing to face her fears head-on. Devon is committed to becoming a better horsewoman by listening to her heart, her mentors and her brain (most of the time). Her relationship with her horse is a primary part of the story. Perhaps, she is better in her relationship with her horse than with humans.

 

My history with (and rich knowledge of) horses is definitely a reason why I think other horse lovers have been drawn to the book.  I know what it feels like to enter a show pen and be nervous.  I know what it feels like to feel stuck with my horse’s training.  I know what it feels like to swoon over a cute cowboy.  Giggle!

 

I hope that sort of authenticity comes through in my writing. I’m a horse owner. I’ve shown competitively most of my life. I write about my lifestyle, not something I’ve researched, but what I do.

 

Some of the best feedback I’ve gotten though has been that non-horsey readers say that one doesn’t have to love horses or have knowledge about them to enjoy my story or fall in love with the characters. Many readers are actually enjoying the fact that they are learning so much about the human-horse connection because of my book. That makes my spurs jingle!

 

What are your biggest challenges as a horse person and a writer? 

 

The biggest challenge is finding the time. 

 

When it comes to writing, my favorite Stephen King quote is, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” I always worry I won’t have anything to write, but then I sit and make the time and the story magically starts writing itself through me. That is why the morning routine is so important.  It forces me to make the time to sit and write … no excuses. 

 

What are your goals for the next year?

 

As far as my writing plans, this is just the beginning! McKennon and Devon’s story definitely continues. This is a horse book series of at least four. The sequel to In The Reins will be out this year, and my goal is to have the third installment out in 2018. 

 

The crazy thing is that the fourth book featuring the characters is bucking up a storm in my mind and already taking shape on paper! I am writing the third and fourth book simultaneously. I am super excited about the journey this series is taking me on!

 

A fun fact is that I’m learning that there are a lot of JD McCall fans out there so I’m playing with the concept of a novella that tells the tale of my bull riding heartthrob with swagger!

 

If you had to give a piece of advice to a new horse owner, what would it be? 

Take the time to get to know your horse. 

In In the Reins, my Cowboy McKennon Kelly tells wannabe Cowgirl Devon Brooke this about her horse, Faith:

“Any real, beautiful thing in this world shouldn’t be tamed or claimed or broken. It should be allowed to be, worked with, not against, appreciated.”

That’s how I feel. Take the time to build a relationship with your horse.  When I feel Sissy’s stride beneath me, everything else fades away and I revel in being in the NOW. 

 

When I was younger, I was very competitive and went to a lot of horse shows.  A friend once said something to me that really stuck.  She said, “What about just being a horse owner and enjoying that?” That question really resonated with me. 

 

Now it’s the simple pleasures of horse ownership that I have come to enjoy most … long grooming sessions, the meditative rhythm of barn chores, a lazy Sunday ride. 

 

Take the time to bond with your horse. It is the most rewarding part of horse ownership.

If you had to give a piece of advice to a new writer, what would it be? 

 

My advice to an aspiring author is make the time to write! I recommend setting a goal like writing for 60 minutes uninterrupted or not stopping until you’ve reached a thousand words. Just start … that’s all you have to do. 

I highly recommend reading “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King. I loved the book as a reader and a writer. This is a book for anyone who writes, anyone who aspires to write, anyone interested in knowing a little more about the life of an author, or someone interested in knowing more about Stephen King as he gives a brief history of what led him to where he is now. It’s a fascinating read!

 

Also, I think it is very important to support fellow authors. Recently, I saw a graphic on Twitter that said, “Other authors are not my competition. I stand with them, not against them.” I strongly agree with this statement.

 

It makes my spurs jingle when authors unite. I’ve learned so much from other authors and appreciate how unique each of our writing journeys is. I think it is so important to support each other and share knowledge among us.

 

When dreamers band together and support each other anything is possible. You can’t do it on your own. In order to give back to the community, I host an Equestrian Author Spotlight on my blog where I interview other equine authors. I LOVE horse books!

 

Ways to keep up with Carly Kade –

 

www.carlykadecreative.com

amazon.com/author/carlykade
goodreads.com/carlykadecreative
facebook.com/carlykadecreative
twitter.com/CarlyKadeAuthor
Instagram.com/carlykadecreative
pinterest.com/carlykadeauthor

Watch Carly Kade Creative Videos on YouTube

 

 

Talking With Brady Ballard

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My children’s picture book, Pedro’s Problemo will be coming out soon (release target date is black Friday, November 24th!) with Dingbat Publishing. In Pedro’s Problemo, the Itty Bitty Wise Kitty Committee decides a rescued Chihuahua named Don Pedro Sanchez Elll Puppy Dog must ride a horse named Bubba to prove he’s royalty from Mexico since no one believes him. 

The artist for Pedro’s Problemo is ten year old Brady Ballard. I thoroughly love what her energy and art has brought to the story, and I enjoyed getting to share the book and process with her. I think you’ll enjoy getting to find out more about this multi-talented young artist. I see big things ahead for her!

Tell us a little bit about where you’re from. 

I was born in Cookeville, TN but moved to Lebanon, TN when I was one. Lebanon is a nice and quiet town that has lots of fun things to like bowling, a new art studio, parks, and movie theatres. 

What is a day in your life like? 

Other than school and some homework, I have after school hobbies  – tap, piano, and theatre. In my down time, I like drawing, crafting, and making videos. At the end of the day we watch a show as a family. I also spend a lot of time playing with my dogs, Barker, age 12, and Bonnie, age 1.

What are some of your favorite things to do? 

I have quite a few hobbies. I really enjoy making American Girl stop motion videos on you tube. I like tennis, camping, swimming, bowling, and have just started playing golf. I like all sorts of dance like tap and hip-hop.  I also play piano, act, and sing. I am in a sewing club and I like making jewelry with my Granna. Crafting is what I like to do during down time. I like to paint, draw, and work with clay.

How long have you been acting, and how did you start?

At age 3, I told my mom that I wanted to be in a play. When I turned 4 she let me do a drama camp. When she asked how I liked it, I said that was great but I wanted to BE in a play not pretend to be in a play. The next summer, when I was 5, I was in Cats, Jr. with Actors Point Theatre in Hendersonville. I even got to sing a duet in “Memory” with Grizabella.

Who are some of your favorite actors that you look up to, and why? 
I like Sutton Foster. She portrays Fiona in the Broadway production of Shrek the Musical. I like how she brings realistic behaviors into her acting instead of acting fake. I like how the Fiona character portrays a princess who is not perfect. 

I also like Lin Manuel Miranda. I am a huge Hamilton fan! 

What are some of your goals with acting? 

I enjoy making people laugh. I like to get into the character that I am playing and make them believable.

How long have you been an artist? What made you want to start drawing? 

I have been drawing since I was three. I did online projects before I could use a pencil and crayon. I saw someone drawing art projects on you tube with their kid and I wanted to model them. I wanted to try what they were doing.

What is your favorite thing to draw? 

My favorite thing to draw is people and their pets. Girls are fun to draw because you can be creative making their hairstyles and outfits. 

What was your favorite thing about working on Pedro’s Problemo and why? 

I like hearing the background stories on which the characters were based. I love seeing their pictures and videos, too. I really like drawing Bubba, Lucky, Pedro, and Yin the Yang. 

What was your biggest challenge working on the art for Pedro’s Problemo? Tell us about that. 

The hardest part was trying to make quality pictures without taking too long to do it. The horses were the most difficult character to draw because I had never drawn horses before.

What would you like to be when you grow up? 

Maybe an actress or illustrator. I really don’t know yet.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be? 

I wish that candy didn’t have bad stuff in it so that I could eat more of it. 

What is one thing that a lot of people don’t know about you? 

When I was in third grade I was given the opportunity to write, direct, cast, and choreograph a play that was performed in front of my entire third grade class.

Any parting words of wisdom? 

I just can’t wait for the Pedro’s Problemo to be published so we enjoy all the hard work we’ve put into it!

 

Talking Rodeo History & Ranch Life With Author Heidi M. Thomas

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After the last blog post with female bronc rider Kaila Mussell, author Heidi M. Thomas contacted me about doing an interview. I won’t spoil the surprise, but Heidi’s background is a perfect follow-up to a bronc riding story, especially since the NFR 2015 has just started! Not only an award-winning prolific writer and editor, she’s an author with a strong western heritage that I think all of us horse lovers can relate to.

Heidi small Author Photo

Heidi at Silver spur tableTell us about your childhood growing up on a working ranch in Montana. What were some of your favorite things about growing up ranching?

I loved the sense of freedom of living miles from a town, being able to run and play with no restrictions as a kid. Working with my parents taught me a sense of self-reliance, strong work-ethic and independence. Being around cows, horses, dogs and cats gave me a love for animals. And being without “technical amenities” gave me a love for reading and writing.

 Peregrine signing

You also had a grandmother that rode bucking stock. What was it like growing up with a grandmother that rode roughstock?

I knew she loved riding and being outdoors more than anything in the world and we rode horses together numerous times. But I didn’t know she was a rodeo cowgirl until she passed away when I was 12. My dad and I were going through photo albums and he casually remarked, “Did you know your grandma rode bucking stock in rodeos?” Whoa! How cool was that! I filed that away in my brain until many years later when I was ready to write about her life.

CowgirlDreams Front Cover 1x1.5What do you think made her decide to ride roughstock, and what were some of the challenges that she faced?

I wish I could’ve asked her questions about that, but through stories my dad told me and my research, I learned that many girls naturally gravitated toward that sport. They, like my grandmother, grew up on ranches, riding with their dads, brothers and later, husbands out of necessity. Then when the men got together and decided to see who could stay on the back of that bucking bronc the longest, the girls said, “We can do that too!” Many started competing around age 14. Their families sometimes were accepting and sometimes not. It was socially unacceptable to wear men’s pants, travel and compete with men, and it was dangerous. The “old-time” cowboys didn’t think “girls” could ride and they didn’t like it when they were outridden by a woman.

 

What impact has your grandmother, and growing up on a ranch had on your writing?

It’s had a huge impact. From that casual remark by my dad have come four published books! Her life and my growing up on a ranch gave me a love and a first-hand feeling for the setting, which I think is an important part of my writing.

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When did you start writing, and what were some of your challenges you faced when you started?

I like to say I was born with ink in my veins. I’ve been writing since I could form letters. I did get my degree in journalism from the University of Montana and worked for the newspaper in Missoula, then did several years of freelance writing for other publications. When I started writing fiction seriously, I found that although I had a good foundation through journalism, I had to learn to “show, not tell” and not to write so spare in the “Accuracy, Brevity, Clarity” mode. After I’d written and polished my first manuscript to the best of my ability, I started to send it out and collect rejections. In that process I learned that I needed to study and practice my craft more, so I took a two-year certification course through the University of Washington in fiction writing. Then, it was a matter of finding a publisher once I was ready to submit. It took ten years from the time I started the book until it was published. I now have four published books: Cowgirl Dreams (1920s), Follow the Dream (1930s), Dare to Dream (1940s), and the nonfiction book, Cowgirl Up: A History of Rodeo Women.

 What was your first book that was published? What was it like to finally see your work in print?

My first book was Cowgirl Dreams, the first of my “Dreams” trilogy, based on my grandmother. It was such a huge thrill to hold that first book in my hands! I was so excited and felt validated, that my dream was coming to fruition after all the years of hard work.

Are you a full-time writer? (If so, tell us how you got there, if not tell us your writing goals)

Yes, I consider that my vocation (as well as my avocation), along with freelance editing for other authors. I didn’t start writing books until after I had “retired” from a “regular” job, and I had a husband who was extremely supportive in all ways—my number one fan and cheerleader.

When do you do your best writing, and why? 

I’m not a morning person, and I don’t have a set schedule, although I keep telling myself I need to! Mid-day and early afternoon are my best times. Also, I think from my journalism background, I find I write best with a deadline! I belong to a critique group that meets once a week, so that gives me my motivation!

You have written several books that have won awards. Tell us about those & the inspiration behind them. 

They are a part of my “Cowgirl Dreams” trilogy. Cowgirl Dreams won an EPIC (Electronic Publishing) award and was a finalist in the USA Best Books competition. The sequel, Follow the Dream, won the coveted WILLA (named for Willa Cather) award from Women Writing the West. And of course, both are based on my grandmother’s life.

What is your latest book project?

I’m working on “the next generation” trilogy, based on my mother who came from Germany after WWII.

 Any words of wisdom for other writers and those that aspire to write?

From my own experience, I’m glad my first novel did not get published when I first sent it out. Today, it’s become much easier to self-publish and it doesn’t carry the stigma it used to. But don’t be in a big hurry to publish your book. Learn and practice your craft. Take classes, read how-to books, and join or create a critique group. And when you’ve rewritten it for the 50th time and polished it to the best of your ability, hire an editor to go through it. Above all, perseverance is key. Don’t give up!

 

If you want to keep up with Heidi you can find her on social media –

Website: http://www.heidimthomas.com

Facebook: search Heidi M. Thomas, Author

Twitter: @heidiwriter

Publisher buy-link: www.rowman.com

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Heidi-M.-Thomas/e/B004QT2N4M/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1448835070&sr=1-2-ent

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CHATTING WITH AUTHOR SAM FINDEN

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This week we get to spend some time with author Sam Finden. Although he’s young in years, he’s an old soul that’s a true horseman at heart with a gift for telling the best of tales. If you love horses, the rural life, and a good story I think you’ll enjoy reading what he has to say.

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What is a day in your life really like and what is your favorite thing to do?  

A day in my life is fairly uneventful most of the time. If I’m running around, I’m doing something wrong. Every day, I get up and throw on my muck boots straight away- even if I’m in my pajamas- and head out to the barn I built last summer to feed the horses. Then I’ll sit and plan out my day, drinking coffee and having a little breakfast. On work days, I’ll head into town and put in some hours at an architectural millwork shop (Western Spindle), After work, I’ll feed again and just hang out on the fence, then spend a few hours off my feet answering emails or working on a new story. I’ll wrestle around with the dog, play the guitar, or watch hockey. I’m no gourmet cook, so dinner is nothing fancy. Pretty laid back, mostly.

Do you write full time?

Writing full-time would be fantastic, but it’s not realistic for me right now. I’m not inclined to take on freelance work, to write just for the sake of writing, so it’s not feasible. Eventually I hope to have enough fiction work out there and producing to make a living off of book royalties, but that’s a ways out yet. I’m a newbie, with Saddle My Good Horse being my first foray into authorship. There are so many things to learn about promoting a book, so many strategies out there. Once I’ve made enough mistakes, that’s when I expect to be able to keep my ponies fed through income earned by writing.

How many horses do you have and what is the story behind them?

I’ve got two horses- both of them are quarter horses, and both of them are geldings. Chance, my old steady-eddy bay horse, is 18 years old. He came my way with another horse, a little mare named Ula that was old as the hills. She’s not around any more, unfortunately, and for a while, Chance was the only mount I had. He’s a good boy, but hasn’t been taught much more than go and whoa. I’m working with him whenever I can, trying to break a lot of habits he’s got. One good thing about him is that he’s pretty forgiving- I’ll put dudes on him without having to worry. He’s lazy and very in-your-pocket.

Red, my 11 year-old sorrel gelding, came to me for free. A word of warning: nothing is free. A buddy of mine was seeing this girl who couldn’t afford to feed him anymore- she got him as a project- and I was down to one horse, so I offered to take him. He’s actually pretty good- very quick side-to-side and very responsive off the leg. Someone put some good time on this horse, he had a good start – enough so that, even after being a pasture pet for years, he hasn’t forgotten all of it. The problem with Red, and it’s not so much a problem with him as it is with me, is that he’s been the boss for years. I’m not okay with that, so we’ve had some friction. All in all, though, he’s a pretty good horse. Like most people, I’ve just got to prioritize doing the necessary work to help both my horses improve. No more “Brush, saddle, sit, and spur.” More groundwork, more time together is required to really help my ponies be their best.

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What type of stories and blogs do you write? How did you start out writing and what led you to write your book? What’s the story behind it? 

I write mostly outdoor and horse-themed stories, though occasionally I’ll post an opinion piece, on my blog, www.samfinden.com. Really, my book was just a short story about ranch kids that got away from me. Writing short, creative fiction about hunting and fishing has been a hobby of mine since high school. When I got back into horses it was like a drug for me, and writing about them was the next best thing to riding. I like to tell descriptive, educational stories, the kind that people, sometimes, have to reread in order to learn something. When it comes to horses, it’s a natural thing- I want to learn new techniques, new theories. Whether it’s horsemanship, shoeing, packing, rodeo, even driving- I love it all. I want to be around it. And I want to bring readers with me, to point out a thumbs-up dally, then explain why by weaving the lesson into a chunk of dialogue or a historical anecdote.

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What role do horses play in your life and your writing? 

Horses play a key role in not only my writing, but in my life as well. I’m hopelessly addicted. I’ve found no better cheerleader for your newest story idea, no better counselor when you’re feeling defeated by something, than a horse. People scoff at the thought of an animal, who supposedly lacks the ability to reason, being a friend to a person, who often forgets their own ability to reason. I’ve moved around a lot and been lonesome a lot, but so long as there’s a horse in my barn, I’m a happy camper. They’re always there for you- of course they depend on you for feed and care, so that stands to reason- but there’s more to it. It’s a friendly nip across the fence, a nicker when you walk by. An observant, nonjudgmental nature. The ability to follow you, to trust you, and the confidence boost that provides. If I could bottle it, I’d be a billionaire. Horses and dogs are the finest of God’s creatures and I’m lucky to have them in my life every single day.

If you had to make one very important statement about life what would it be?

One statement or word of advice: Be considerate. Consider your horses. Consider your friends. Consider why you have enemies. Consider the traction on the road and the weight of your words when heard out of context. Consider your options. Consider waiting until cooler heads prevail. Consider God- He considers you every day. Consider spending more time in the present. And consider what you don’t know, then consider learning something useful.

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What advice would you give other writers looking to become published? 

I’m not necessarily the most qualified voice to recommend avenues toward becoming a published author, as I chose to self-publish. I can, however, tell of things that I’d like to/ will do differently the next time around, whether I self-publish or go the traditional route.

*I will, absolutely, set aside some time and money to farm out my cover design. Some of the templates that Amazon’s Createspace outfit offer are decent- I’d like to think that my second cover is well designed- but a discerning critic or reader may be looking for something much better. Good cover design is worth spending money on.

*Editing is in the same vein- you may think that your work will somehow be diminished by running it through an editor. I disagree. Reading through my book, a few glaring errors jump off the page and smack me upside the head. That alone is reason enough to hire an editor. I’m proud of my story and proud of the book, but I’m not thrilled with the choices I made in a few spots. A qualified editor would have solved that.

*I think an email list, a popular blog, and a sound marketing strategy are absolutely crucial. My book went out with zero fanfare, I just kind of published it and that was that. Had I possessed a list of qualified folks who knew me, wanted to read what I’d written, and were invested in me enough to do reviews, to recommend my work, I’d have been miles ahead. And, when you’re writing horse books, miles are a long way ahead!

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What inspires you to write? Any special writing rituals or writing habits? 

The main thing that inspires me to write is, typically, an experience I’ve had. It’s not always an exact translation, however. For example: My cousin and I go hunting in the back country for elk. We’ll load up backpacks with enough gear to get us through a few days and proceed to work our tails off until we succeed or give up. Several of these trips will put a lot of blog-post fodder in a guy’s head, and eventually it spills out in a story. Full Curl Optimism is one of those stories- a composite of things learned and experiences had, translated into fiction, then applied with a twist- in this case, I substitute Rocky Mountain Elk for Bighorn Sheep, and I give it an underlying battle against depression.

I like to start a story on paper. Usually, I’ll write a few paragraphs in pencil in a spiral-bound notebook, give it a rest for a day or two, then start typing. This isn’t always the case, though. Sometimes, when I’m really feeling it, I can just hammer away on the keyboard and, when I look up, there’s a rough draft. It’s times like those that I wonder, “Why am I not doing this all day, every day?”

One thing that I’ve been working on, and it’s hard, is that I rest a draft for as long as I can stand. Coming at a story with a new set of eyes, hopefully in less-rose-colored glasses, has kept me from posting some real junk. Sometimes the story can be salvaged and sometimes it can’t, but either is better than putting yourself out there with a lousy piece. So, maybe, that’s something to think on for people who are interested in writing.

What’s your favorite tale from all your travels? 

My favorite tale? That’s a tough one- I’ve been all over creation with all sorts of characters. Here are a few, though:

Once, while I was working as a wrangler/bus driver/snowmobile guide/ cook/dishwasher/sleigh driver/superduper cowboy at a day-dude outfit in Steamboat Springs, I slid a shuttle bus off a cliff in front of my guests. It was a real banner day in this guy’s life, that’s for sure.

Another time, I got hollered at by Federal agents for walking along in a restricted area at the Hoover Dam- I had no idea that I wasn’t supposed to be there.

In Minnesota, I was training a quarter pony named Twain that started at a lope and went up from there. I never claimed to be a great horse trainer, mind you. Anyway, this pony was all go. The boss picked him up cheap at the sale barn and I can see why. Good little run on him, but no handle. Once, while running flat out across a stubble field, I reached up and put my fingers through the ring on the bit, cranked his head all the way around to my stirrup. He never let up- just kept on running. We should have named that pony Forrest.

Two winters ago, in Montana, where I currently live, my borrowed mare and I somersaulted down a drifted hillside and came to rest facing one another, nose to nose. She was not amused. Later that day, we rode to within 100 yards of a huge herd of elk on three separate occasions- on barren prairie. Pretty cool.

So it’s tough to choose one tale, but suffice it to say that horses are an important part of my life, and every time I head out on horseback there’s the potential for a new story to take shape.

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How can people find out about your book and keep up with your work?

Thanks for the opportunity to talk a little bit about what makes me tick. If folks want to learn more about me, they’re welcome to head over to www.samfinden.com and follow along. From there, they can sign up for my email list to be notified whenever I post something new. They can also take a look at a couple of videos I’ve put together, or click on the link to my listing for Saddle My Good Horse. It’s a clean, educational book for young adults on up, and it’s something that those hard-to-buy-for teenage boys will actually enjoy reading (although there are no vampires or werewolves or anything). It’s horses, cattle, mountains, pretty much.

You can follow Sam on Facebook and on Twitter as well.