horses

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

 

 

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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 With Elle Marlow

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I met Elle on Barrel Horse World when I asked for input on my first story, Lost Betrayal. Elle sent me a story she had written years prior and I immediately fell in love with her “hell on wheels” writing style! She’s a fun cowgirl that doesn’t take herself too seriously. Her stories are full of life, just like she is! 

Hi. Thank you, for hosting me today. I love, love, love talking about my fur babies.

Tell us about how you got into horses.

My love for horses came from the summer trips my family would take from southern Arizona up to the White Mountains in northern Arizona. There was a riding stable there and when I was five, my father put me on a horse and I refused to climb down. I cried, cried and cried and clung to the saddle to prevent being peeled off. I’m still that way. LOL.

Do you have horses and what do you do with them?

Currently, there are only two horses on our little acre. We have Josey, my big sorrel mare named after my book, Josey’s Mountain. Josey is a big sweet heart.  She has a motor to match and I am still unsure as I type this just exactly what I want her future to be.  For sure, she gets lots of trail rides and carrots, but whether or not I take her back to a barrel pen, I just don’t know.  I don’t bounce like I used to, and my confidence has been shot for a while. But, you can never say never, and I might just get the need for speed once again. Meanwhile, she’s happy to be my lawn mower and trail buddy.

The other horse here, is a very old mare named Firefly. Firefly is in her 30’s and we keep our eye on her every day. She’s a tough little horse with a heart to match. She is just Josey’s companion, and she does a good job at it. 

Do horses inspire your stories?

My horses DO inspire my stories. I have learned so much about humanity through horses. (Funny how that works.) I only have one or two books that don’t mention horses.  LOL.  I think I have an addiction.

My newest book release, is Walks With Him-Comanche Bride. Yes, it is a romance, but the plot revolves around, (surprise,) a ghost-horse. Can our Native hero catch the horse to pay for the bride? Will she let him? Oh, the drama!  It was a ton of fun to write this book, and It will appeal to romantics and horse addicts alike. You might disagree with how our hero manages to capture the ghost-horse, (I’m trying not post a spoiler,) but that’s the fun of fiction writing. I get to do what I want. 😊

Walks With Him was inspired by a painting I picked up at Good Will thrift stores. YUP. I stared at the painting and wondered about the woman who painted it. It is dated 1869 or 1969 and I got to thinking about what life might have been like for her.

This book releases on November first, and is one of 15 titles available on Amazon. Wow, fifteen titles. I need to get a life. 

Speaking of titles, what is your favorite book that you’ve written?

My favorite book? That’s like asking a mama to name her favorite child. I’m sorry, I can’t! I can’t do it!

How can folks keep up with you?

You can find me on my blog at www.ElleMarlow.Blogspot.com

Or on twitter as @ElleMarlowWrite.

Thank you so much for your time today. If you love a good historical romance, and love that will stick with you long after you finish the story, this is for you. Elle Marlow

Here’s a little information and excerpt on Elle’s latest book, Walks With Him….

Moves The Wind…is how the Comanche describe a stallion that eludes capture. It is said that the beast is both horse and spirit, running free between this world and the next. To ride this horse is the greatest desire among men—until she came into their world.

Abandoned in the wilds with sickly baby sister, Ivy wanders into the path of Comanche out on the chase. He is terrifying with his long hair and body made from the granite cliffs that surrounds them, but she needs him to save her sister’s life.

The Comanche name her Walks With Him, and her beauty has started a war from within. One man wants to enslave her, the other wants to win her heart and set her free. The price is impossible. The first brother to capture the special horse will get the woman. The real prize is who the woman gives of herself.

Her name is Walks With Him and this is her story.  

Excerpt: He considered Ivy as he allowed his gaze to roam over her. Her concern for her sister was admirable, her skepticism of love mirrored his own. She stood before him, her hair long and loose. Her fine features and round green eyes told of a woman that was delicate on the outside but made of tougher things on the inside. It was an attractive combination.

It was inappropriate to openly stare, but he couldn’t help himself. Rio was a larger woman, and so her buckskins hung loose on Ivy, but even that did not hide the curves that laid underneath. Curves that kept him awake at night. Yamka talks of Baby Deer’s beauty, but in his eyes, Ivy was the one who was most beautiful in both looks and in strength. Even now, when she was so clearly tired from the hard work, and to this strange new life she found herself in, she carried herself tall. In her, he saw the things that mattered. his body honed into her every move as if she were something he’d spent days hunting. He’d never experienced such an awareness in another person. However, the likelihood of anything more than him being able to admire her was slim. A prize like Ivy would end up with the son of a council member or a council elder himself.


Author Bio: 

Thank you, for hosting me on your blog today. I am very excited to introduce to you my latest historical Native romance, Walks With Him-Comanche Bride.  

About Me: Hello! My name is Elle Marlow and I am a proud born and raised Arizona girl. I feel blessed to live in the southwest where I get to enjoy the beautiful Sonoran Desert, ghost towns, horses and most importantly, cowboys!

I have a wonderful husband and so many kids that the old lady in the shoe has nothing on me. I love to write about the west and it gives me a darn good excuse to get out and explore. 

 

You can find me and stay updated at www.ElleMarlow.Blogspot.com  

Follow my Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Elle-Marlow/e/B00IDC61A0/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1509462655&sr=1-2

Or on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/ElleMarlowWrite 

Talking With Author Liz Hughey

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I met Liz on Twitter and immediately fell in love with her story, Barney The Lopsided Mule. As a fellow author and lover of the outdoors, she’s someone I can relate to and I think you will too!

Liz Hughey is a single mom to one, and an outdoor, equine, canine, feline, and bovine loving, life enthusiast.  Also, a self-published writer and poet to a series of children’s books, highlighting mules and mule packing, the first being Barney the Lopsided Mule.  Her twenties were spent working as a trail guide, packer, and sometimes cook, for outfitters in Northwest Colorado.  Now, 38 years old, she is a mom to a four-year-old son.  Also, the grazing manager of her family’s grass fed/finished Red Angus beef ranch in Southeastern Indiana, Blue Creek Cattle Company, LLC.  Hughey & Son ride their mules and horses as much as their schedules permit and are love living life in the rural Midwest.  But still, Liz’s body and mind dream of the horseback riding, mule packing, and mountain exploration of her twenties. 

You work on your family’s cattle ranch that raises Red Angus. Tell us a little about what your daily life is like. 

Well, it really depends on the day and the season.  I’m a full-time mom to a four-year-old boy and plan my ranch life accordingly.  I am very lucky and blessed to have a family that makes this possible.  Most of our days are planned around an animal activity, or rather, many animal activities; feeding horses and mules, taking care of laying hens, dogs, cats, moving cattle onto new pasture, riding horses and mules, etc.  There are also many dog hikes and creek adventures, lots of fort building.  I’m a believer and a follower of a holistic lifestyle and the slow food movement, so most of our meals are prepared at home.  The typical day for me starts around 7:30AM, 30 minutes of yoga/Pilates, multi-tasking of cooking breakfast (my son loves sunny side up eggs and homemade sauerkraut for breakfast) and morning animal feeding of cats, dogs, chickens, and horses/mules….my son has taken over the feeding of cats and chickens for an allowance of TSC toys.  On days that we are feeding/moving cattle we try to be with them by 11AM, weather permitting.  Obviously, in the winter things need to happen earlier, and they do.  But in the SE Indiana summer while grazing cattle, moving them to new pastures is best after the morning dew is off the clover, this is my rule anyway.  I’ve been mentored that dew on clover can cause bloat. 

Moving cattle consist of running lines of electric fence with fence reel, stepping in post, moving water and mineral into the new section, portable shades if we’re in the heat of summer, and picking up the section from the previous day.  I usually try to set up a few days at a time.  We do all of this with the help of a Polaris Ranger.  My son either helps me by hooking up the water skid to the Ranger or carrying posts.  Or he has an assignment of looking for and catching tadpoles, frogs, toads, box turtles, grass hoppers, etc. depending on the season.  He is also the Official Mineral Mixer, mixing kelp and diatomaceous Earth in the portable mineral feeder with his toy excavator.  Its so cute to see his little legs in there.  Add the garden in the spring and summer and firewood in the fall and winter, along with lunch and dinner, snuggle and story time, and you have yourself a full day.         

Previously the family ranch was a conventional cattle operation. What changes has the ranch made and what are the plans for the future? 

My family and I, Blue Creek Cattle Company, LLC., manage our pastures with a herd of Red Angus cattle.  In 2010 we started moving the cattle to a new smaller section of pasture every day.  We section off our larger pastures and hayfields, after the first cutting, into smaller sections, giving the cattle new high quality and desirable forage every day.  To prepare for this we added infrastructure of water lines to fence rows, making water accessible to the cattle though out the pasture.  We also added water trough skids, portable mineral feeder, and portable shades to the equation.  Having these tools allows us to manage where the cattle hang out during the day, spreading their valuable nutrients and giving back to the pasture.  We keep the manure out in the middle of the pasture instead of under the oak tree on the perimeter.  We also invested in a bale unroller so that we can unroll bales of hay on our hayfields in the fall and winter instead of feeding in a lot, adding organic matter to the soil.  Doing all of this has increased our grazing season by over a month and added much diversity to our ailing pastures and hayfields.  Our cattle now work for us doing a job that they love, grazing.                

You also work with horses and mules. Tell us a little bit about getting to do that and how that influences that stories that you write.  

I love working with horses and mule, it is a passion and hobby that I have had for many years.  Nothing better than taking a ride, and someday, riding will again be my main daily activity.  However, Horses and Mules are not part of my primary job of moving cattle, so they unfortunately take a back seat to bovine.  At some point in time I would love to teach myself and one or two of our hoofed friends to reel and unreel fence and pick up posts with me in the saddle.  That mental photo paints a great image in my mind and brings a smile to my face.  But now, with a four-year-old in tow, it’s just too much for me to bite off.  Currently, my work with the mules and horses is centered around caregiving, weekly riding, and giving my son a foundation in horsemanship.  My son will have memories of digging in his sandbox while equine graze the surrounding yard.  I ride as much as possible and one of my son’s chores is to ride his mule Ben once a week.  We do driveway rides.  I sometimes have my own steed, but am on foot most of the time while he digs through his pommel bags for snacks and juice boxes and enjoying the ride.  I am happy to report that my son took his first mule ride last week without me touching the lead rope.  I can now ask him to independently lead the two old men, one at a time, to the rail for their daily senior feed.  He ties a good knot too; must run in his blood.  In the winter months we visit the barn twice a day for feeding, my son tossing flecks into stalls and manning the nylon fork, building piles of loose hay to catch himself as he jumps off the stack.  I don’t want to force this life on my son, he doesn’t need to love farm/equine/ranch life.  But he does need to know this type of life and be comfortable in the saddle.  I feel that these skills will be used, consciously or subconsciously, no matter what path he chooses in life.  Giving him this foundation is a major influence and inspiration in my writing.       

Do you write full time or part time?

I write part time.  I cannot choose the exact times though, I must be flexible.  Writing tells me when it needs to be done.  It’s funny, I can have endless months of writing….then it just runs dry.  Sometimes it comes at 2am, I have to get up and write down the thoughts or they may be lost in sleepy dreams and gone by sunrise.  I do not feel like I’m alone in this.  If inspiration were constantly firing, it would lose its magic.  I love to write mule, horse, and cattle poetry; lights me up, makes me laugh.  My current publications are children’s book’s, inspired by wanting to share equine experiences and memories with my son. 

Spring 2017, we self-published Barney the Lopsided Mule, introducing children to a pack mule with a relatable problem and the lesson of healthy eating habits.  Barney has earned an Amazon Best Seller and an “Honorable Mention” from the New York Book Festival.  Barney the Lopsided Mule will also be up for a Will Rodgers Medallion Award, created to recognize quality works of cowboy poetry that honor Western Heritage, in the children’s book category.      

The second in the series, Pack String Hang-up….A Mule Trail Tale, introduces children to an entire string of mules and the different personality strengths and weaknesses that accompany them, with a lesson in forgiveness and teamwork.  Pack String Hang-up….A Mule Trail Tale will be available for purchase by Thanksgiving 2017.  Both books are available on Amazon, author signed copies available on my website, http://thecowgirlpoet.com/shop.html

One can occasionally read a bit of my equine philosophy in Western Mule Magazine, a fantastic monthly mule publication, filled with stories of the trail and training recommendations.  http://www.westernmulemagazine.com/

I also have work featured on my website, http://thecowgirlpoet.com.  And have had a poem, “The Salty Ones” chosen for the Oct 2017 issue of Cowboy Poetry Press, https://cowboypoetrypress.com/

Tell us about your books. Are the characters based on people and animals in real life? 

My current work is inspired by people and animals in my life.  If my close friends and family read my writing they may see themselves or relive experiences that we have had together, but I rarely mention names.  They wouldn’t mind though, I don’t write painful memoirs.  The mule books are all about the pack mules that I worked with in my twenties.  With them, I do name names.  My memories of packing and outfitting are so fond that I feel it’s important to immortalize the mules and freeze the time with their names.      

How do you think your stories make an impact in today’s world? 

I want to take kids back to nature, let them know it’s OK to get dirty, and enjoy a life without constant screens.  I say this as I type and look at my laptop.  The world of mule packing and outfitting is slowly fading away.  That is not my assessment, but the assessment of many packing and outfitting friends.  Finding people that want to work hard and do a tireless job is hard.  Packing/outfitting is not for everybody.  Owning an outfitting business is for a select few.  For this life to survive, kids need to know that it exists.  With so many young adults taking “Gap years” and time to reflect on life after they have earned an education, it seems to me that the perfect way to spend this time, summer breaks too, is on horse or muleback exploring our nations beautiful National Forests.  I have a dream that one day two dude wranglers will be sitting in a barn between rides, talking about what influenced them to spend their summer or fall riding and packing, and Barny the Lopsided Mule is part of the conversation.

 

What are your biggest challenges when it comes to creating stories? 

Finding the time to do create them.  I have a note pad with a list of stories and poems to be written, many started and not finished.  I just need the time and a rested mind to get there.        

What are you biggest joys in writing?

Creating a story and rhyme that is simple enough for a child to understand and funny enough to make an adult laugh.  I love the feeling of all cylinders firing while writing a poem.  When its flowing, it flows out of me like water.  I have no idea where it comes from, my brain, my heart.  Wherever, it makes me, an adult, laugh. 

If you had to give advice to an aspiring writer, what advice would you give?  

Write it down.  If you think of an idea or a line at 2:30 in the morning, get up and write it down, because it may not be there in morning.  Ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to cold call or send a note to your favorite writers and heroes, the worst thing they can tell you is “NO”.  You will never know until you try.  Use social media, I know its scary to put yourself out there, but you can reach the world with your writing in one key stroke.     

 

Are There Ghosts In Indian Mound?

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This week, my publisher released my short story, Winds On Indian Mound, as a single on Amazon.

 

Winds On Indian Mound
Winds On Indian Mound

 

Because everything I write has a little real life in it, I thought I’d share the real event that inspired this paranormal short story…

Are there ghosts in Indian Mound?

What really happened in Indian Mound, Tennessee? No one knows for certain, but a paranormal experience I had there years ago most definitely inspired my latest short story, Winds On Indian Mound.

It happened long ago while I was out riding my mare late one night. Of course, that was back when I was young and fearless. However, on that particular night, my bravery quickly evaporated; I was so scared to death, I still remember every detail twenty-five years later.

Just like the story, I had the offer of free board for my two horses in Indian Mound, Tennessee. The pasture my horses stayed in was relatively small, but it sat on about two hundred acres of rough and sometimes steep, rolling sage-filled fields. The property backed up to over seven hundred acres of woods. There were logging roads and any manner of dirt trails that ran through the woods.

Always being a cowgirl that wants to see what’s just around the bend, I looked for a way on to the seven hundred acres. Sure enough, just like in the story, at the top of the hill a large oak tree had fallen and taken the fence down with it. There was a gap just big enough for my horse to walk through.

The curious thing about the gap in the fence was that every time I crossed it, the wind was blowing and the temperature would drop. Even on the hottest of days, I would get a chill as I rode my mare across that fence line.

I rode those wooded trails as much as I could, each trip getting later as I went a little further in and discovered new places to ride. The last few rides, I managed to make it back to the barn shortly after dusk.

However, the last ride I took there ended when the full moon was high up in the sky. Looking back, I estimate it was probably around ten or maybe eleven o’clock at night. I was used to riding that late.

That particular afternoon, I crossed over the fence line, and although there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the wind was blowing the worst it ever had. I remember goosebumps appearing on my arms even though it was late summer and plenty hot.

The little chestnut grade mare that I had, Coco, was solid as they come. She was supposed to have been a Quarter Horse and Fox Trotter cross. I rode her everywhere and she never spooked at anything – probably the only reason I was so brave!

As I rode that evening, I didn’t pay much attention to the time, or the fact that it was getting dark. Then all of a sudden, my mare stopped dead in her tracks and would not move. Her head was raised and she was focused on something deep in the woods. Keep in mind, I had owned that horse about five years at that point and she had never done such a thing so I knew she saw something.

Over in the middle of some brush about twenty feet away, I saw a flash reflection of light. The only way I can explain it, is that it looked like moonlight reflecting off something metal.

I wear glasses now, but at the time I didn’t because quite frankly I didn’t have the money. When you’re young, you have different priorities I guess. At any rate, with it being dark and my eyesight not what it should be, I could see basic objects but I couldn’t see a lot of details.

Right after the flash of light, a medium size bird flew up out of the brush where the light had been. My mare suddenly decided then that she could move on down the trail.

I’ve always had what I call a “knowing”. It’s when you just know things for a fact that you shouldn’t know but you do. That night, I had a “knowing” that something was there in those woods. I felt it as surely as I had felt the wind earlier.

A few yards down the trail, I sensed someone or something was following us. So, I turned around and looked back. Sure enough, I saw something light colored about the same height as I was on my horse. I couldn’t see any details, as mentioned earlier, but I could see that it was a definite object that wasn’t staying still!

I told myself I was just being silly, and bumped my mare up to a trot. When I got around the bend in the trail, I looked back and the object was the same distance behind us. I decided to test what I was seeing, and began to canter my mare thinking surely it would disappear. Yet, every time I looked back, I saw that same object several yards behind us, just far enough back I couldn’t see exactly what it was.

By that point, I panicked and asked my mare for a full out gallop! We galloped all the way to the break in the fence. When we got there, the wind was blowing even more violently than it had before but the temperature didn’t change.

Once through the fence, we headed to the barn as fast as we could. The trail back was hard packed dirt with loose rock on top. It went downhill and to the left. We flew down the hill and took the left hand turn.

About half way to the barn, I stopped, thinking surely I was safe. I cocked my head to listen and heard the faint sound of gravel rolling down that hill. Needless to say, I high-tailed it to the barn!

I’ve always been drawn to otherworldly things. Probably because of my “knowing” as I call it, along with a sensitivity that I can’t quite explain, I have a good balance of curiosity and skepticism. I’ve spent a lifetime studying the supernatural, and have even analyzed several unexplained occurrences that have happened after that. Things like shadows and voices, usually at night, but not always.

Was it a ghost? Who knows, but whatever it was, that supernatural encounter had a huge impact on my life and found its way into a mix of fiction and American Indian culture in Winds On Indian Mound.

 

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.

Dream Cover Final 1.5x2 

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

 Dare Cover Final 1.5x2

Meet Kaila Mussell

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Earlier this year, I found out about female Saddle Bronc rider, Kaila Mussell.

Photo by Filene Mussell
Photo by Filene Mussell

The fact that she rides Saddle Bronc is pretty impressive in itself, but the fact that she’s come back from a broken neck is a clear witness to the strength that she has on the inside. She’s a phenomenal athlete and I think she’s someone who exhibits the strength and toughness we all aspire to.

Photo by Bernie Hudyma
Photo by Bernie Hudyma

What was it that made you decide you wanted to try riding broncs?

I started off in rodeo, barrel racing at 11, and steer riding at 12.  I did well at both events, however I got more of a rush out of riding steers and wanted to stay in the roughstock events.  When I became too old to ride steers, my initial inclination was to ride bulls, however my dad convinced me otherwise. I’m glad he did, as at that point I knew of some women who have ridden bareback broncs and bulls, but didn’t know any women who rode saddle bronc in the modern style of saddle bronc riding.  It turned into a more prestegious goal for me then, becoming the first woman to do so.  At that time,  my brother also wanted to ride broncs, so we both went to some bronc riding schools together to learn.

Photo by Christopher Morris
Photo by Christopher Morris

How did you feel the first time you rode an actual bronc out of the chute?

That was so long ago, and I’m pretty sure that I blacked out.  When I was first learning that happened a lot, and even when I rode I couldn’t remember what happened.   Eight seconds happens pretty quick, however over time and practice that short time (8 seconds) slows down, and when everything is happening right, it feels like all your movements are in slow motion.

Photo by Patti Ouimette
Photo by Patti Ouimette

When you decided to actually compete the first time, how did you feel?   What were some of your thoughts & fears and how did you overcome those?

I was pretty nervous the first time I completed. I did, however grow up breaking colts since I was 10, so I already had alot of exposure to riding horses that bucked, and I already had rodeo experience, although not in saddle bronc.  Most of my thoughts would have been related  to not wanting to being a “failure” and get bucked off, not wanting to look like a “girl” out there, or scared that I wouldn’t be accepted because I was a girl.  I really wanted to be accepted and to show others that I was just as capable as other bronc riders.  Nowadays my attitude on all of these feelings has been completely turned around, however at that point in time that is definitely what I thought.

You broke your neck last year. Tell us a little about that.

I broke my neck on April 5, 2014 at a BCRA rodeo in  Barriere, BC.  I got bucked off and landed on my head and kind of rolled onto the right side of my neck and shoulder.  I felt a shooting pain down the my right arm, and what felt like a crunch, but I chalked it up to a concussion, because other than being pretty sore, that’s what it felt like.  I drove home that night, which was a couple of hours away and didn’t go to the hospital.  The next day I was talking to my brother who is a doctor (GP), and he convinced me that I should go get it checked out because I was supposed to be flying to Hawaii the next day for a family vacation.  I went to the hospital more so to eliminate anything being wrong with me, because I didn’t want to chance having high medical bills in another country.  I happened to be picking up a friend at the airport that day and decided to stop in at VGH (Vancouver General Hospital) which is the only spinal unit in BC.  I’m happy that I did.  They took the injury very seriously and put me on a backboard and in a neck brace.  Multiple x-rays, CT and MRI later I was told that I broke my neck in 2 places on the right side of C6, and that I wouldn’t be going anywhere.  I wore a brace for a couple of weeks until they realized my neck wasn’t healing properly.  Immediately thereafter I went in for surgery and ended up getting a fusion between C5-C7, and two of my disks replaced by part of my right hip bone.

Photo by Filene Mussell
Photo by Filene Mussell

When did you decide to start riding again after that and why? Was riding the first time after your injury different from what it was like before?

While I was healing from a broken neck I was faced with all sorts of thoughts and decisions about what my future would be.  After weighing all the facts, talking to my surgeon and hearing everyone elses often unwanted “opinions” on what I should do with my life, I dug deep down and realized that my passion for bronc riding was still there.  At minimum I wanted to come back to riding if only to end on my own terms.  I waited a full year after my injury to completely heal to ride again.  My first ride back was on a “practice” bronc, a day prior to Williams Lake, BC Indoor Rodeo where I was to be competing for the first time after breaking my neck.  The bronc “Starbucks”, was a horse I was familiar with and I had ridden a few times in the past.  I managed to get her rode, but it wasn’t pretty and got off on the pickup man.  It definitely was a huge relief to get that one out of the way, as I came away without injury!  From there, the major fear was gone, and I was back to the swing of things.

How was it different?

The main difference with coming back riding after such a major injury, was that I appreciated the opportunity of being able to ride again.  I’ve noticed this year that I’ve had a lot more fun, not taken things as seriously as I have in the past, and enjoyed the whole journey of riding broncs in all aspects of the experience both outside and inside the arena.   I also managed to win the year-end season leader saddle for the BCRA (BC Rodeo Association) in the saddle bronc.  So overall, my comeback has been amazing!

How do you stay mentally tough?

I think pretty positive on a regular basis.  When I don’t, I remind myself why I’m doing this, focus and look at the bigger picture.  I read inspirational/self-help books, say positive affirmations to myself and post them around me.  As well, journaling has been a huge help in focusing on my goals, seeing where my mindset is, noticing things that may have helped in the past that can help me now, and/or seeing how far I have come and being able to acknowledge this.

What is that motivates you to keep going?

This is a really hard thing to describe what motivates me, as only a small amount of this can be put into words.  Motivation is more of a feeling, a passion that can’t be described.  I’m driven to do it, in part because I love the sport, the lifestyle, the challenge, the adrenaline and excitement of the sport.  To a large part these days I am motivated by seeing how much I inspire others to pursue their dreams by doing what I do.

Photo by Thomas Camus
Photo by Thomas Camus

What is your fitness routine to stay in shape to ride?

My fitness routine varies throughout the year depending on my work and rodeo schedule.  On a regular basis I strength train (primarily core training) 3 days a week  (30-40 mins), do cardio (primarily jogging) 3 days a week (4 miles), and yoga (1 hour) 1-2 days a week as well.  This may be alternated with other physical activities such as hiking, biking, MMA training or otherwise.

As for eating, I have had a lot of structured strict diets over the years.  I now find that its easier to eat well on a regular basis and stay active than to go to extremes.  I really don’t deny myself any foods, however less healthy alternatives I eat in moderation.  On a daily basis I do eat a high amount of protein, stick to whole, unprocessed foods,  and eat small amounts throughout the day rather than eating large meals.  Mind you, when you are on the road, it is sometimes hard to eat well or regularly.  I try to always pack lots of water and healthy snacks in case this happens.

Photo by Kat Nair
Photo by Kat Nair

Any words of wisdom for anyone that wants to ride broncs, or anyone that wants to rodeo in general?

Set clear goals of what you want.  Be willing to learn and put in the time and effort into what you do.  The skills for your chosen event in rodeo will not come overnight, but with hard work and dedication it will all come together.  Strive to constantly learn and improve.

What’s mandatory to be able to rodeo?

Mental and physical toughness, love of traveling, getting dirty,and performing under pressure, aside from investing a lot of money.  Nothing in life is easy,  but when things come together, it is all worth the effort.  Rodeoing is a lot like gambling, the only thing you are in complete control of is your effort in your ride or run.

If you’d like to keep up with Kaila, you can keep up on her social media accounts –

https://www.facebook.com/saddlebroncgirl/

https://instagram.com/kailamussell/

https://twitter.com/kaila_mussell