riding

Talking With Susan E. Conley

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This time I chat with author, freelance writer, and horse enthusiast Susan E. Conley. Susan came to the horse world later in life, and like most of us found horses had a huge impact on not only her creativity but her sanity as well.

Resident in Ireland for twenty one years, Susan E Conley went horse crazy at the tender age of 41 and 11/12ths. In 2006, she finally got up the nerve to get up on an actual horse as opposed to reading and dreaming about them, and it’s been harder and easier than anything she’s ever done yet.

Susan is a graduate of Pratt Institute with BFA in Communication Design. She has worked in the field since the summer between sophomore and junior year and counts The Village Voice, New York Magazine and Entertainment Weekly as past design experiences. She has a Master of Philosophy in Irish Theatre Studies from the Samuel Beckett Centre, Trinity College, an Honours Degree in Psychology, and a diploma in Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning.

She worked as journalist soon after moving to Ireland as theatre critic and as a feature writer on lifestyle topics. Susan is the author of three other books: Drama Queen; The Fidelity Project; and the soon-to-be-rereleased That Magic Mischief. She is at work on her next ‘horse book’ as well as a new paranormal/historical romance series.

Susan was not born in the saddle and didn’t even get near a one until she reached middle age. It never even occurred to her, as a child, to pine for a horse. She doesn’t run a yard, compete at a high level, or even own her own horse (yet.) After fourteen years though, she’s still in love with everything horsey and member of her yard’s riding club; she stands as safety officer and is hoping to compete off-yard in 2020.

What type of books do you write, and how long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for, yikes, over thirty years. The very first thing I wrote was a one act play that got produced as part of a competition Off-Off (Off) Broadway. I made a short film of it and continued to write plays and screenplays while working on independent films and with an independent theatre company — all while working as a magazine designer as the day job. I moved to Ireland from NYC in 1998 and without any contacts in either realm, via journalism, turned to writing books. I’d classify myself as an ambivert and while I like getting out and about, I had the space to find that sitting by myself making up stories is truly my bliss point.

I am the author of three novels, all in the romantic comedy vein, and I’ve recently signed a contract with Sourcebooks for a new romance series, The Shapeshifters of the Beau Monde, a Regency era historical/shapeshifter mashup.

Many Brave Fools: A Story of Addiction, Dysfunction, Codependency…and Horses is my first memoir. I had started blogging about taking up horseback riding in mid-life following my divorce from an active substance misuser, around the time that people were getting blog-to-book deals. I didn’t get one of those! I keep plugging away with it regardless, querying agents, revising, engaging the services of an editor, revising. I was thrilled when my proposal/manuscript was accepted by Trafalgar Square Books.

How did you get started writing?

I think I started writing because I am the poster girl for voracious reading and then became so invested in the power of narrative, as delivered by theatre and film, to fulfill not only the desire for entertainment but also for expressing unifying concepts. In terms of performance, there’s nothing like sitting in the dark with strangers and experiencing catharsis; as regards writing, living a story, for as long as it takes to read it, is so powerful. I wanted to be part of that world, part of providing that for people.

What is your biggest inspiration for writing?

I don’t know if I have an inspiration so much as I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t write. I might try knitting maybe, or do more art… I remember, when I was shopping Many Brave Fools to agents and getting no joy, I was thinking I’d just quit, and that notion lasted, quite literally, all of two heartbeats.

What is the most common comment that you get from your readers?

I think they appreciate the use of humor in my writing. There are aspects of Many Brave Fools that are dark and not funny, but my sense of humour still prevails. Readers find the memoir unexpectedly funny, which is the highest praise to me.

What is the message that you want to convey to readers?

After I finished my masters at Trinity College, I worked as a freelance journalist writing about the arts, and I did many interviews with practitioners in theatre, visual arts, writing, you name it. I always wanted to represent their projects faithfully but I also wanted to be able to give a look-in on their process and why they did what they did. I think that has carried over into my own work: that your intentions for your life and your goals are achievable and the trick, I suppose if you want to call it that, is to be flexible along the way, to readjust yourself continually, to keep your vision intact but to know that the journey is not a straight line from A to B.

Do you have horses? Tell us about the horses in your life.

I don’t have horses, but I do have schoolies that I ride consistently. I seem to have a knack for getting horses who hate going, to go. It may be that my leg is titanium because of having to get horses who won’t go, to go — it’s a chicken and egg scenario! I also am very sweet on whichever horse I’ve got, and as school horses don’t get much loving, I think that makes a difference. My current mount had a long stretch of disengagement but I am happy to report that his mood is elevated since we’ve been working together. Pony nuts may something to do with it…

What role do horses play in your creative process?

They save my sanity! Not gonna lie, but indigenous endorphins are the absolute business.They clear the cache of all the garbage that accumulates from daily life. And that’s not the physical activity of riding, but also the mental relief I experience from simply setting foot on the yard. You can’t think of anything else when you’re around horses, and it’s so freeing and yet so focused,; the knock on effect is that my mind feels free and focused off the horse.

What is your biggest struggle as a rider and how do you deal with that struggle?

Not having enough time/money to ride as often as I’d like. I feel like I’d be even better fixed mentally and creatively if I could get four rides a week — I’m only on two at the moment. I’m always in the market for more freelance work but lately it has required going in to work in other people’s offices rather than at home, which prevents me being up at the yard.

As regards my actual riding, it’s always something: my heels had started coming back up over fences last year. That’s sorted, but now my lower leg has got loose again? Eh, so, I’m working on that at the moment. Once that’s solved I’m sure another issue will rear its head. No pun intended.

What is your biggest struggle as a writer and how do you deal with that struggle?

It used to be time, but I’ve gotten good at using how ever much I have. Even if I take a current manuscript out for lunch when I’m day-jobbing, and write a few lines or make a few corrections, I’m moving the story forward.

In the beginning, when I had no notion that I could achieve what I set out to do, so I’d hold on until I could, like, spew it out in one piece — like a whole chapter, or whatever. Now I have more confidence in my process and I trust it, so I can consider a few lines of dialogue work well done.

My recent struggle is a good one, having to write to a contracted date. Up to now, I’ve had a healthy draft done before having it taken up by a publisher. The second novel of my mashup series is due in September and I’m sweating it a bit. The good thing is I’ve got the framework hammered out, I had a great freelance edit on the first novel from which I learned a ton, and I’m trusting my process (as above) and doing whatever amount of writing I can, every day.

What advice would you give a beginning rider?

I was and continue to be so fortunate in my instructors. The level of quality I enjoy is astonishing, and I know this because I’ve been around the mounting block a few times — I’ve experienced only okay teaching as well as very poor. I did some ‘riding around’ to see other places and ride other horses, and wasn’t too impressed. So my advice would be to shop around. Try a bunch of different places and pay attention to ho you feel after a lesson: do you feel like you’ve learned something and feel good, or do you feel bad? No one, at entry level, should ever be made to feel bad. If you’re not having fun and feeling like you are an amazing being, learning how to do something new, then move on.

What advice would you give a beginning writer?

Embrace the notion of a shitty first draft! Read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott if you have not already done so; if you have done, read it again. She gives us all permission to write something imperfect, and speaks eloquently about perfection as the oppressor of creativity.

Listen to all the advice that other writers, the internet, and random strangers have about how much you should produce on any given day, when you should write and how often —then throw it all out as you figure out what your own process is. Mine changes from work to work: one novel required that I rise with the lark and write, which I hated with a passion; I wrote the first versions of every chapter of my masters’ thesis in cafes; the framework of the novel that is launching my new series was wrought during lunch hours. Feel free to take this all in and ignore it, too!

Some bullet points: I spent a lot of time giving my stuff to friends to read, and have learned that doesn’t work for me … If you’ve got to a place with your manuscript where you think may want to query agents or publishers, invest in an edit from a professional … Read your work aloud, it makes such a difference! … Time off from writing is as important as writing … and holy moly, put that pad and pen by the bed for when you wake up with ideas, I still have not learned this lesson and lived to regret only last week.

And kind of like the horseback riding advice, adapted: enjoy yourself, love the things you are trying to relate, and remember you are an amazing being doing something new, every day.

Many Brave Fools: A Story of Addiction, Dysfunction, Codependency… and Horses, by Susan E Conley, is available now from horseandriderbooks.com (USA) and quillerpublishing.com (UK and IRELAND)

You can find out more on Susan’s website.

Connect with her on Twitter and Insta @manybravefools and follow her blog on www.manybravefools.com

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.

 

Blogs Galore!

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I have to confess, I haven’t kept up the interviews on here as much as I would like – I’ve got a few new ones coming up soon!

In the meantime, I figured I’d give an update on writing & farm news. There’s been quite a bit going on!

Back in the fall, I got asked to be a regular guest blogger on Everybody Needs A Little Romance. The site hosts a good number of well-known romance writers. While they do talk romance and there are book reviews, the neat thing is they talk about every day events as well. It’s neat to get the inside scoop on what it’s like to be a real romance writer! What’s even better, a few of the guest bloggers are horse gals as well – How cool is that?!

The other news is that I recently launched a website and blog called Cowgirls With Curves. It’s a place where real sized riders can be encouraged and share their struggles and triumphs, and just be recognized and highlighted. Each week I post a new interview so the world can see how many wonderful plus size riders there are out there. The response has been overwhelming, and it’s been fulfilling to see the difference the site has already made. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for CWC!

On the writing front, I’ve been working on a new novella, The Searching Place. Here’s a little hint of what it’s about…

Carter Perkins knows a lot of the local women. What horseshoer doesn’t know a lot of females? But then, Carter knows a bit more about them than what size shoe their horse wears. A bit of a small town player, Carter doesn’t quite know what to think of the fiery red-headed gal from out west. It’s not until he gets himself into a bit of bind that he realizes he needs to change his playboy ways. 

I’m also working on a couple of short stories, another novel, and I’m ironing out the plot for the sequel to Lost Betrayal. I frequently share snippets of my latest WIP on my Facebook Page so be sure to visit it often!

The last bit of news is that I’m fostering a donkey. Yes, you read that correctly! Oscar, as I call him, is a local rescue case that was running loose unattended in the neighborhood. I’m fostering him until we can find him a home with lots of attention. He’s not been gelded and he’s not been handled. Needless to say, he’s been quite the project. He’s made progress though and I’m hoping the work that I’ve been doing with him will help his chances at finding a good home with lots of attention.

Meet Oscar the foster jack donkey!
Meet Oscar the foster jack donkey!
He's teaching me where to scratch!
He’s teaching me where to scratch!
When he first came to us, you couldn't get within 10 feet!
When he first came to us, you couldn’t get within 10 feet!

Stay tuned for the next interview! We’ll be chatting with Cowboy Poet, Stuart Hooker. Visit  his web page at http://www.cowboypoetry.com/stuarthooker.htm .

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

ATHENS BOOK SIGNING

Book signing at the Valley Farmers Co-op in Harriman

HARRIMAN BOOK SIGNING

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.

SHOW RING

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.

MO STEVE

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

luckypic

Talking With Ceri Dickinson With Pure Essence Photography

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This time we talk with UK photographer Ceri Dickinson of Pure Essence Photography. Not only does she live and love the horse life, she has a fantastic eye for capturing the moment. I think you’ll love seeing her work and finding out more about what makes her tick.
ceri
Tell us what a day in your life is like.  
A day in my life can be very different depending on which day you catch me! I work as assistant manager on a livery and hunting yard so, on a work day, it’s up early to do my horses and then off to work.  Work can involve anything from a lot of mucking out to schooling a horse, teaching a client or getting hunters ready for action.

On a photography day I will (again) be up early to see to my horses and then prepare for the shoot.  It’s really important that all my gear (and back up gear) is in good working order and ready to go – batteries will be fully charged the day before.  I also like to spend a little time reading through the booking form the Client’s fill in so that I can get a feeling of who they are and what kind of shots they are going to like.

On a day off it gets really boring – that’s when I have to catch up on the paperwork side of the business and do my housework! If I’m really lucky I might squeeze in a bit of free time to do some “just for fun” photography.

Are you a full time photographer? 
No, I’m part time. In all honesty I’m not sure I would want to be full time.  As much as I love photography I also love working with horses.

I tried to leave a couple of times but ended up going back!  I’m very lucky with the job I have now as it allows me a balance.  Horse jobs are generally all consuming, they are not a job, they are a way of life and I always accepted that.  I never thought I would find a way to be able to do both horses and photography but I have an arrangement with my current employers that I work 3 days a week in summer and 5 in winter, which leaves me with enough time to do both!  I’m a lucky girl!

What types of photography are you most known for? 
I like all kinds of photography and particularly enjoy a bit of landscape or macro photography when I’m just having fun but Pure Essence is all about lifestyle portraits.
What led you to that type of photography and what inspires you when you’re behind the camera? 
What first drew me to photography was landscapes. I love the outdoors and was constantly disappointed with my inability to capture the scale and beauty of nature on my little compact camera so I decided to go and learn how.  I never intended to get hooked! I thought I would stick with my (decent) compact and just learn to use it better – how wrong I was!

At first I hated portrait photography, I thought it was too posed and false and there was too much airbrushing (no, it’s not just for celebs) the finished photo often looked nothing like the person once all their imperfections were removed.  Then, one day, I was at a competition with a friend and was snapping a few pictures of her horse.  I decided I would try not to attract her attention and grab a few candid shots.  I loved the results, I fell in love with the idea of photographing relationships and moments.  This technique is the aim of all my shoots whether with animals, children or couples  I always want to put them at ease, make them laugh and then capture the real them.

ceri2
What role do horses play in your life & in your photography? Any good horse stories? 
Horses are a huge part of my life. I have tried to get away from them a couple of times but I’m always drawn back.  I have worked in many different areas and have some amazing memories….. grooming at the European Eventing Championships, competing at the BD National Championships, seeing horses I’ve backed and produced go on to have wonderful, happy lives.  I think one of my favourite moments was riding a pretty sharp, 14.3hh, 6 year old who had been bred by the people I worked for and backed and produced by me to 8th place in the BD Novice Winter Championships.  It wasn’t the rosette that made me happy, I was just so proud that the little horse went into that scary arena with all the people and stands, etc and trusted me enough to get on with his job.  Moments like that make all the hard work worth it!
What is the most favorite photograph you’ve taken and why? 
My favourite photo is one from that first day when I was taking pictures of my friend and her horse at a show. Barnaby (Hailstone Hero) was a horse I had produced and sold, I kept in touch with his new owner and she became a good friend.  I took this picture of Barnaby as he was tied at the side of the lorry, there are things I could have done better and things I would change given a chance but I love this photo as Barnaby’s personality just shines out of it.  His owner has a framed copy in her home.
ceri3
How can readers find out more about your work? 
I am based in Yorkshire but am willing to travel to any area of the country with a travel fee, if you can organise a group of 4 or more of you at any one yard I would waive any travel costs.

My website is www.pureessencephotography.co.uk I apologise for the lack of updates on my blog – I’m a terrible blogger but there are plenty of examples of my work there.

My facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/puressencephotography or you can follow me on twitter @PureEssPhoto

Any parting words of wisdom for people that want to pursue their passion?
Do it! Always do it, but be ready to give it everything you’ve got and expect disappointments along the way!

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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