interview

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!

 

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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.     

 

Cowboy Poet Stuart Hooker

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Award winning Cowboy Poet Stuart Hooker has been writing poetry for a lot of years, but it’s only the been the last few years that he’s shared his work with the world. A hard working man that grew up with traditional ranching and cowboy values, he’s a talented writer that’s never strayed far from his roots. If you love horses, cowboy poetry, and the western lifestyle you’ll love Stuart’s interview.

Award winning Cowboy Poet Stuart Hooker
Award winning Cowboy Poet Stuart Hooker

If you had to sum up in three words what you do, what would they be? 

Write for me.

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

A day in my life: Like most working folks, I have two separate types of days. I work in a copper mine, as most of my share of our family ranch did not come to me as my grandparents wished, so I have to work away from the ranch. The small part I was able to keep is not large enough to make a living on. In the mine, I operate a huge P&H electric shovel, loading 240 ton trucks with ore, leach material, or waste to be hauled out of the open pit mine. Nearly half of my days are spent going to work, to make a living, carrying and trying to share the work ethic I learned on the ranch. We work 12 hour shifts, so with vacations and days off, I am off more than half of the days. I have less than five years until I retire. I enjoy what I do, especially when I get to “train” new shovel operators.

another 4100 Shovel

Now, here’s the best part, having more days off than workdays! I was able to salvage a one section pasture that I am currently fencing off, so I can run eight to ten head of cattle on as a supplement to my retirement. It has a dirt tank that generally holds water year round, but with the drought conditions we’ve had here in SW New Mexico, it has been dry a few times in the past few years. I am in the process of building a road to my camp so I can get a well drilled and put a solar pump in. I plan on living there after retirement, but it’s miles away from power, so I’m looking into solar, back up generator, and other types of power. On my days off, I love to go work on this pasture. I’ve built what I call my “Kiva,” with the help of family and friends. I have a mini-motorhome I sleep in when there for a few days, and the “Kiva” is the gathering place for when family/friends join me. It has a fireplace, and three grills for cooking, table, home-made chairs, and other furniture. What I enjoy most is the complete silence and peace to be found there. It’s miles away from a highway and the county road that goes through my pasture is rarely traveled. You may find me cutting posts, stays, trimming brush, building fence or roads, or watching deer, elk, and other wildlife up there on my days off.

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My tank, full of water, with the Mogollon Mountains in the background! I love this pasture as it's part of the ranch that my great, great grandfather owned in the past.
My tank, full of water, with the Mogollon Mountains in the background! I love this pasture as it’s part of the ranch that my great, great grandfather owned in the past.

Tell us what type of writing you do.

I write cowboy poetry, mostly. At times I write song lyrics, when one “just sounds right” with a melody accompanying it, but the majority of my work is cowboy poetry. I was raised on our family ranch, working from a young age as a cowboy and as a farmer. We raised our own hay, grains, and “permanent pasture” for grazing. I have so many fond memories of working cattle, wrangling horses, and the close knit family we had at that time working together for the building up of the ranch. That’s why I write cowboy poetry. It’s a life I have lived and am getting back to soon.

Here is one verse from a poem in my book, “A Cowboy Spirit,” which was picked as best Western poetry book for 2014, by “True West Magazine” in their January 2014 issue. This is from the poem “I’ve Outlived Lots of Horses:”

 

I’ve outlived lots of horses, I’ve had good ones from the start,

I’ve outlived lots of horses, but they live on in my heart,

I’ve outlived lots of horses, I rode each one with pride,

I’ve outlived lots of horses, broke my heart when each one died;

 

You cain’t help but love horses, each one’s different than the rest,

You cain’t help but love horses, hard to say which one’s the best,

One may be good in mountains, one may have a lot more speed,

All of them have somethin’ that a cowboy may need;…

A Cowboy Spirit
A Cowboy Spirit

Tell us a little about your writing  history and how you got started. 

I have always loved music and poetry, mostly Country Western Music and Cowboy Poetry. Like I said earlier, I’ve written poetry for most of my life, but I thought it was not fitting for a cowboy to write poetry. My perspective was off. I finally let my family and very close friends view my work. I was amazed, and still am, by the fact that they liked it. When the lyrics I wrote went number one, in someone else’s name, after the anger subsided, I realized that I was doing something that I could take pride in, and very quickly my writing improved, due to that confidence.

 

I have just begun my journey as a writer. I’ve written for years, but only recently, July, 2013, had my book of poetry published. I have started reciting my poetry at local events and on “open mic night” at a local “Saloon and Opera House.” I competed at the Western Music Association in a poetry recital contest and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I’m still an “unknown” as I build a reputation in the cowboy poetry world, so I’m not, as yet, invited to the large “gatherings” around the country. Also, my job keeps me from going to as many as I’d like, but I’ll retire soon and be able to attend more. I have found a new publisher and have my manuscript for my second book almost complete. I’m looking forward to it coming out. My first book received an enthusiastic review from Rick Huff, a nationally recognized reviewer of country music and poetry. I was amazed when he said, “Hooker is one heckuva poet,” and that my book was worth the effort to find.

 Tell us how horses have played a roll in your life. I bet you have some great horse stories… 

Horses have been an important part of my life, teaching me lessons in life and taking me to places that would normally be out of reach. When I got the first horse that was actually mine, my grandfather bought him, and one for my older brother, from a horse trader in Gila, NM. Grandpa knew they were out of Mexico, but they appeared to be good ranch horses. I remember my brother wasn’t paying attention once and got bucked off and broke his arm while riding his little paint. That made me cautious, but my black horse was worse. We didn’t know he had been “locoed” and he threw me higher than any other horse before or since. I still have slight back problems, as I landed on my shoulder and messed up my back. My next horse, a sorrel, was bred and raised on the ranch. He was more than a pet, or a tool, his personality was indescribable. We were more like best friends, so when I was checking on him out in the pasture, one winter and found he and eight other good horses had gotten into loco weed, it really was hard to deal with. I wasn’t able to get him over it, but you learn life’s lessons out on the ranch and sometimes they’re not pleasant. Like my poem says: “they live on in your heart.”

We raised Quarter Horses, and they’re my favorite. They make excellent ranch horses and they’re smart, dependable, and can do almost anything that’s asked of them. Years ago, a hired hand ran a horse for many miles, and “wind broke” the horse. He was instantly fired, of course, and the horse improved and was put out to pasture, but that horse didn’t quit, even though his health was at risk. That sad episode that I witnessed when the horse brought the rider into the ranch yard has stuck with me, and I was impressed by the heart of that Quarter Horse, along with the selfishness of the hand.

In his later years, my grandfather had a grey horse, named “Jiggs,” that had a few years on him, and my grandpa loved that horse. “Jiggs” had more “cow sense” than any other horse I’ve known. My grandpa taught a lot of us and a lot of horses much about cattle. Well, we were at a corral we had high on a mountain, and were branding the calves when we heard some commotion from outside the pen. The first thing I saw was “Jiggs” had backed away from the fence where he was tied by the reins and was pulling backwards. I thought something had spooked him. Nope, grandpa had loosened the cinch, as we all did when a horse was being rested and grandpa’s saddle must have slipped down on his side. All I saw was “Jiggs” standing there, still tied, with the saddle between him and the post with the reins going through the cinches and to the post. “Jiggs” had taken his own saddle off, all by himself. We all got a good laugh out of that!

 If you could have one dream come true what would it be? 

I have had so many dreams realized that I know I have been blessed! My daughters, grandchildren, and my first great granddaughter are all doing well, making grandpa proud, and seeing my first attempt at publishing my writing, holding that book that I created in my hands. I don’t know if life gets better than that. Being raised on the family ranch, I remember the entire family getting together, usually on Sunday, after morning church services. Granny, mom, Aunt Mary, and the other ladies would have a tremendous meal for the “army” of relatives, and friends to feast on. Those were good times. The dream I’d like to realize more than any others is for the family to be close, like we used to be, but I’m afraid that so much self-interest has overpowered their sense of family. The split of a ranch is especially hard when greed is involved!

If you could tell the world one important thing, what would it be?

The cowboy way of life includes working hard, doing you share of the work, and more, to get the job done. That helps you to like yourself and who you are. Learn your job and do it the best you can, then you will be proud of yourself and realize you may not hear that you’re doing good, but others and yourself will realize this and then you will be a success! Taking pride in what you do makes you better at it.

Any parting advice for writers and horsemen?

This follows the same lines as the last question. I hid my poems for years, believing that real cowboys don’t write poems, hahaha. That was a fallacy and I don’t know where it came from. When I gave away some lyrics I wrote and they became a huge national hit on a major Country Western album, I was angry until a friend convinced me that I was looking at it wrong. I needed to focus on the fact that I could write a number one hit song and that I was a good writer. That’s when my writing improved, greatly. I’m constantly trying to improve my writing, and I edit, edit, edit, but I believe my writing is improving. Realizing the truth, whether we need to learn more about horses, techniques, gear, or about writing, and working on getting better and more knowledgeable is the key. If we’re constantly trying to improve, we will succeed!

How can people keep up with your work?

I have a Facebook page: (Stuart Hooker, author) where I regularly post poems. I have near 2,000 page likes there. A few of the poems are from my first book and a few will probably go into my next book. A handful of my poems are posted on the “Folks” page at cowboypoetry.com, the largest site for cowboy poetry, and a site that I support and hope others will, also. My book, “A Cowboy Spirit” is available at most online bookstores, amazon, barnesandnoble, and others in the hardback, softcover, and ebook editions. It’s also available through my publisher Xlibris and their bookstore. So far, the local newspapers, Silver City Daily Press and Las Cruces/Silver City Sun News are the only print media to cover my poetry. Totsie Slover, a dj at the Deming, NM radio station, KDEM, has interviewed me, but I am still in the process of “building a rep.”

Tell us a little about your plans for the future.

I have been writing for almost fifty years, but have kept it hid until the last fifteen, or so years. I’m sure there are gems of cowboy poetry in warbags, trunks, and other hidden sites that have never been seen by anyone except the author, all over the West and the entire country. It’s unbelievable the number of people who comment to me that they, also write, whether it’s prose or poetry. I only recently, July, 2013, self-published my book with the help of Xlibris, a “vanity publisher” who’s main goal is to sell me “marketing campaigns.” They did a great job on the book, but I had to market it on my own, which hasn’t gone very well, as yet. I believe the internet social networks are the boon of the future in marketing. My Facebook page now has almost 2,000 “likes” and I’ve had a poem that I posted reach over 100,000 “views.” Of course I hope the sales of my book takes off and I, at least, get back the money I paid to have the book published and it would be nice to have a supplement to my retirement in almost five years. I think social media is the way to get the word out, if your work is good! There are also many more “cowboy poetry gatherings” now than there ever have been. When I’m able, I plan on attending more events around the country. It will be nice to meet people from all over that share the same interests as I do, cowboyin,’ horses, and all American values!

stuarthooker

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.

Life & The New Author…

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In a couple of weeks we’ll be chatting with Pendleton Petticoats series Shanna Hatfield. From Nov. 7-Dec. 24, she’ll be donating 10% of the net proceeds from all my book sales to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund which is a fund to help injured cowboys. It’s a great cause and you’ll definitely enjoy learning about Shanna.

In the meantime, I thought I would update what’s been going on in my life as a horse show judge, competitor, and writer after the 40 hour work week in the office. As always, there never seems to be enough hours in the day and always a horse I want to ride or a story I want to write. I have to say though, my first year as a published author has been fun and a terrific learning experience for what works, what doesn’t and a lesson on how to fit it all in. Let’s just say most mornings I’m up at 3am, 4am if I’m sleeping late!

One new update that is really cool is that Everybody Needs A Little Romance invited me to be part of their blog. If you love romance, you really need to check it out because the site has several terrific romance writers that post blogs and write book reviews. It’s a mecca for anything romance!

Valley Farmers Co-op has been very gracious in inviting me to do a book signing at their stores in east Tennessee at Athens and Harriman. This year I attended three of their events and had a blast! Not only did I get to see old horse friends, I also got to chat with fans and meet new readers as well. One thing for sure, I’m more at home at a feed store than I am anywhere else besides the barn or the arena!

Book signing at Valley Farmers Co-op in Athens

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Book signing at the Valley Farmers Co-op in Harriman

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Pam Brown also invited me out this summer to sign books at the NBHA Tennessee State finals in Harriman, Tennessee. Fireman has had feet issues this year and I haven’t gotten to run a set of cans since the spring but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to go to a barrel race! So I got the best of both worlds and got to sign books, see the barrel race and get some time in talking about horses. Needless to say, I was a little tired at the end of the day!

NBHA BOOK SIGNING

My next book signing event is at Foxleaf Bookstore in Cookeville, Tennessee on Halloween night! If you’re down that way, stop by because we’ll have plenty of hot cider and candy!

I’m also an OHSA Carded horse show judge and have the wonderful opportunity to judge some of the shows in the region. Smoky Mountain Horse Show Series is one my favorite places to show and to judge. Last weekend they held their first show series at Tri-State in Cleveland, Tennessee. I managed to capture a quick shot of their beautiful jump course before we got started.

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I love to do everything from show hunter to run barrels and sort cows on a horse. I think different disciplines have a lot to offer and just make for a well-rounded horse. Read my horse blog, Musings From The Leadrope, and you’ll pick up on that pretty quick! A couple of weeks ago I managed to get one of our green horses out to her first show at the Smoky Mountain Horse Show. She went in the In Hand Trail Class and the walk/jog classes as well as a walk/jog Horsemanship class. Granted she wasn’t as finished as the others, but she did a fabulous job and I couldn’t be prouder.

Keith Mooney managed to get several shots of us at the show. Here’s the link to our Horsemanship class  – http://www.keithmooneyphoto.com/HorseShows/SMHSS-October-5-2014/68-W-J-Horsemanship/i-tRn8smF

Then here’s a pic of her In Hand Trail Class.

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So what’s new for the rest of the year? With winter coming, I’ll have a little more down time and I’m hoping to get back to work on The Searching Place, an untitled horse focused paranormal, and a thriller short story. My goal is to have a new book out after the first of the year. Sometimes life gets in the way so we’ll see but that’s the plan at the moment for this new author!  Oh yeah, one more thing…

Lucky kitty sez don’t forget to buy a copy of Lost Betrayal!   #catspeddlebooks

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Talking With Equine Photographer Anna Kemp

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This time we chat with Equine Photographer Anna Kemp who lives in the UK. She’s a horse gal with a fantastic eye for capturing just the right moment in photographs. I think you’ll enjoy finding out more about this budding photographer and seeing her work.

 

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

 

Since we are still enjoying the summer holidays here, a day in the life at the moment typically involves horses, horses, and more horses! (And the occasional sleep in…) I spend as much time as I can with my own horse, Freddie, schooling and hacking out when the lovely English weather permits. When I’m not at the yard you can usually find me volunteering at my local RDA, or out on a shoot! I attend local equestrian events and travel to different yards around the area when people ask me to do a shoot. This will soon begin to change however as I embark on my final year of A-levels – scary stuff! There’s a lot of studying to come but I hope to still be able to fit this around my riding and photography!

 

  • Are you a full time photographer? If you work at another job tell us about that as well.

 

I am unable to pursue photography as a full time profession as of yet since I am still a student, however, I do conduct shoots for people and their horses all over my area for a small fee – we all have to start somewhere, right? As mentioned previously, I also volunteer at my local RDA yard as often as I can which is an extremely rewarding experience when I get to share the joy on the rider’s faces when they get to trot for the first time, or go for a walkabout on their special pony outdoors! In the future I hope to be able to combine my passion for writing, photography and, of course, horses to be able to work for an equestrian publication.

 

  • How did you get into photography?

 

For as long as I can remember, my dad has enjoyed photography as a hobby so my interest was probably sparked by him! I got my first little Kodak camera at the age of about six and it could only take up to twenty photos at a time – though I never let that stop me! From that moment on, wherever I went, the camera went. Just over a decade and several cameras later and I’m onto my first bridge camera which I got for my 16th birthday (Canon SX40 – DSLRs still terrify me a little bit!) From a young age I have also entered some of my work into an annual local agricultural show and always enjoy learning from other people’s expertise there!

 

  • Out of all the pictures you’ve taken what is your favourite and why?

 

I think my all time favourite photo has to be one taken when I was still taking riding lessons and helping out at the yard, about two or three years ago. I had brought along my little pink Lumix to take some snaps of the horses and, on passing my all-time favourite ride, a 14.2 Welsh D named Topper; I decided this would be an ideal opportunity to practice the elusive macro mode! He stood there calmly as could be as I came right up close to his cheek to try and get a good shot of his eye – this was something I’d often seen in equine artistry and websites and the like, so I wanted to replicate the style as best I could! An Old English proverb states that the ‘eyes are the windows to the soul’ and I think this is part of the reason why I ended up loving this photo so much and why an edited, more cartoon version of the image is the hallmark of Hoofprints. Particularly since Topper still is one of the greatest horses I’ve ever had the fortune to meet, this photo will always hold a special place in my heart!

 

  • What role do horses play in your life and in your photography? How do they inspire you?

 

Horses have played a huge role in my life for approaching ten years now and last year my sister and I decided to take the leap from taking lessons and helping out at our yard once a week, to loaning our own horse. We have now found Freddie, or ‘Fantasy Feeling,’ a handsome TB gelding who we have on part loan 3 days a week; though through these summer months it has tended to work out more often than that (we’re not complaining!). He enjoys dressage and together I hope that we can attend some local competitions next season!

 

The work of Monty Roberts and Kelly Marks is of particular interest to me and so I try to incorporate their techniques and advice wherever possible. A special friend gave me ‘Perfect Confidence’ for my 11th birthday and was even lucky enough to be able to include a postcard of Pie signed by Kelly! I think it was at that moment I knew that I wanted to be involved with Intelligent Horsemanship. Next summer I hope to attend one of the Intelligent Horsemanship courses to expand my knowledge of their amazing concepts further.

 

I also attend as many equine events as possible, including HOYS in 2012 and Blair Horse Trials last year – I’m delighted to say I am able to return to both for 2014! Events like these also provide a great opportunity to practice my photography and it was from this, as well as taking photos of my friends and their horses, that inspired me to set up Hoofprints. For me there is no greater joy than being able to capture the beauty of horses, whoever they are and wherever they come from, to enjoy at any time at all!

 

  • How can people find out more about your work? List your website, blog, facebook, twitter, etc.

 

FACEBOOK: facebook.com/hoofprintsep

INSTAGRAM: hoofprints_ep

 

TWITTER: @hoofprintsep

 

  • Any parting words of wisdom for those that are interested in becoming a photographer?

 

Work hard – and don’t give up! I realise that probably couldn’t sound more cliché but it’s the best advice I can honestly give. Showcase your work wherever you can, gather critique and keep practicing! It doesn’t matter what kind of camera or software you have, providing you know how to use it. There are many free editing websites out there as well as video tutorials on how to get the best from your camera which can be extremely helpful. Don’t forget it is usually the smallest, most simple things that can make the biggest difference!

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Talking With Romance Author Christina Cole

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This time we’re talking with Secret Cravings author Christina Cole. Christina has been very successful as a romance writer and as you’ll soon see does a wonderful job at spinning a tale. Her belief in true love is what guides the way in the stories that she tells…

Tell me a little about your life. Where do you live and what is a typical day like for you?

I live a quiet, old-fashioned sort of life in a small mid-western town. I’m happily married to the love of my life. My time is divided between family, my love for writing, and the things I enjoy, such as cooking, music, and, of course, reading.

 How long have you been writing and what genres do you write? 

I’ve been writing all of my life. I scribbled my first short story at the age of four. At eight, I wrote my first novel – a very short one about a girl and her horse. How original, huh?

What inspires you in your writing? What is your muse? 

What inspires me is my belief in love. I truly believe that love is a powerful force in our lives, that it can strengthen us, encourage us, and help us become better people. Learning to give and receive love is a true blessing.

What role do horses play in your life and/or stories? 

I was riding horses from the time I was three years old and remained a “horse crazy” girl well into adulthood. Sadly, I’m no longer actively involved with horses and riding, so I do the next best thing – I write western romance novels.  I’m also a history lover, and I’m naturally drawn to the days of the “old west”. I’ve written historical romances set in other times and places, but my heart belongs to the cowboys who’ve ridden into our American culture to become icons of hard work, respect, and honor.

Horses do play a very important role in Keeping Faith, my latest western historical romance, available July 1 from Secret Cravings Publishing. Horses, in fact, are so important to the story that I asked the cover artist to please include an image of a horse on the cover.  I was very pleased with the result.

The hero of the story is cowboy Tom Henderson, a man with an affinity for horses. Some folks say it’s because he was – literally – born in a barn. His drunken whore of a mother made a wrong turn that April morning after leaving the outhouse and ended up giving birth to her son on a pile of straw in the horse barn.

As Tom struggles to become a better man and provide a secure future for those he loves – including his infant niece, Faith – he has an opportunity to ride out and capture a band of wild horses. His dream is to someday have a horse farm, but that dream has always been as unreachable as the rocky mountains around him.

I won’t reveal the outcome, of course, but Tom learns through his experiences. Horses can teach us a lot if we’re willing to listen.

What is your favorite thing about a cowboy and why? 

His respect for others. People often quote the old saying that “What the world needs now is love,” but I think it’s really respect that we’re so often lacking.  For me, the cowboy is a potent symbol of what true respect means.

If there was one thing about your life that you wish you could change what would it be and why?

In looking back over my life, my greatest regret is that I have so few tangible things to celebrate the lives of the people I’ve loved. I lived with my grandfather while I was growing up.  He was a remarkable man. I have only a few photographs of him. He told me many stories about his own childhood, stories about his experiences in World War I, and stories about people and places he’d known. I wish now I had them written down. There are others, too, who have passed away, leaving me with memories, but very few of those tangible reminders, such as photographs, recordings, and other memorabilia.

How can people find your books and learn more about you? 

I do a lot of blogging. Although most of my blogs are designed to showcase other authors and help them promote their books, I do have two personal blogs readers can visit for more information about me and my philosophy of live and love.

Christina Cole Romance (christinacoleromance.com) is my “official” blog where I share a few personal thoughts and keep readers updated on new releases. Occasionally I take part in “blog hops” and give away books, ebooks, and other prizes.

Riding Into the Sunset – Stepping Back in Time (thesunsetseries.wordpress.com) is a blog I’ve set up for “all things Sunset”.  The stories I’m now writing are all set in the fictional little town of Sunset, Colorado. Readers can visit the blog to learn more about the stories in the series, more about the town itself, and more about the characters who live there.

Any parting words of wisdom for writers? 

Know who you are as a writer, and write the stories you’d like to read. Writing should be a pleasure, so listen to your own voice, and write your own stories.

KEEPING FAITH..

Love brings them together. Hatred tears them apart.

One man…one woman…between them a precious child whose future they hold in their hands.

Everything they say about Tom Henderson is true.  Born in a barn, the bastard son of a drunken whore, he’s got nothing to offer, and any dreams he might have are as far away as the distant snow-capped Rockies — and probably as unattainable. He’s long had his eye on pretty Lucille McIntyre, but that’s just one more impossible dream.

Lucille has always been considered the prettiest and most popular girl in Sunset, but her father’s sudden death has left her shaken and sad. Now, life seems to be passing her by.

When a prim and proper spinster arrives to deliver a squalling 3-month-old infant to Tom, his life and Lucille’s both change. His decision to keep the baby girl sets off a firestorm among the good ladies in town who don’t consider him fit to raise a child.

Together, Tom and Lucille will do anything in their struggle for keeping Faith.

 

Cowboy on Montana ridge at first light,mountain background

Next time we talk with Solstice Publishing author Crackerberries Anderson about her book Blackhorse 2015. This will be an extremely interesting interview and very different from the interviews you’ve read so far! Stay tuned!