western

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

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

Heidi small Author Photo

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

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

 Peregrine signing

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When do you do your best writing, and why? 

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

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

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

What is your latest book project?

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

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

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

 

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

Website: http://www.heidimthomas.com

Facebook: search Heidi M. Thomas, Author

Twitter: @heidiwriter

Publisher buy-link: www.rowman.com

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

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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

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.

SMGH New Cover Art

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.

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! 

Talking With South Dakota Cowgirl & Writer B. K. Kopman

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I ran into BK on Twitter and I have to say she’s a cowgirl that I really like and I think you will too. She epitomizes what this blog is all about with her love of horses and her out of the box thinking on writing. Mark my word — I think she’s on to something with her stories and will be taking the publishing world by storm!

Tell us about you and your family? What is your life like? 

I grew up in Duluth, MN in a six kid family. I have amazing parents who encouraged my love of reading and horses even though they didn’t understand it. They’re still a bit surprised that horses didn’t turn out to be some little girl phase (sorry folks, I’m a lifer). About three years ago when I finished my third year of college, I met a South Dakota farm boy at a friend’s wedding and it was Cloud 9 and unicorns after that. We’re married now and live outside the small town of Lake Norden, SD. We reside in a little rented farm house on forty acres of prairie with our two dogs and one horse.

I work three jobs currently. I am an administrative assistant at a government land conservation office (NRCS), a part-time colt starter and horse trainer (I usually only take on three horses at a time due to not having my own facility yet), and am a writer in any spare time the first two jobs leave me.

 How did you get involved with horses?

I was a dog person as a kid. Then my mother made the mistake of drawing a horse for me on a fogged up bathroom mirror. I fell hard and even though we lived in town, begged for a pony every Christmas. When I entered sixth grade, my parents bought a thirty acre farm and we began to board a friend’s horses. Whenever that friend was around, I would beg him to teach me something about his wild paint horses. After a while he bought his own place and moved his horses (saddest day of my young life!) and our pasture sat empty for a few years. I was lucky we had neighbors that took my horse poor self in and taught me to ride on their wonderful foxtrotters. Eventually in eighth grade, I wore my parents down and we bought an old appaloosa mare who taught me a great deal about confidence.

I worked for a few stables in the area, honing my skills and learning, before I hit upon horse job heaven: exercise rider for a cutting horse barn three miles down the road. I spent almost four years immersed in the sport of cutting, drinking in the dust and cattle, living for the thrill of riding an athletic horse as it dodged catlike after a cow. One of the hardest things about getting married and moving was leaving that job! To date, those were a few of the most important years in my horse life. What I learned there impacted how I start colts and tune horses now.

If you had to tell us about only one horse you’ve dealt with, which one would it be and why?

Hands down it would be a little Arab/Quarter horse crossed named Lassie. She was the first horse I ever trained, and boy, was she a handful. Lassie was and still is, the friendliest horse I ever met, but she was hot and nervous. I got Lassie as a four year old filly when I was a junior in high school. I was outgrowing my first horse’s athletic ability; I wanted to go riding all day, every day and the 23 year old mare just wasn’t up for it.

Some friends of ours were getting out of horses (seriously, who does that!?) and happily sold me the spunky Lassie. I loved her even though she’d dump me at the first sign of trouble. After a year of fighting, I finally buckled down and read some Clinton Anderson, delved into Buck Branamen and poured over Ray Hunt’s writings. Lassie and I worked our tails off and after a few months, she was as bombproof as could be and I could ride her bareback and bridleless. I was on top of the world! I felt like Stacey Westfall! I was as pleased as punch at our success. But Lassie wasn’t done teaching me yet.

The summer after my freshman year in college, Lassie bowed both her back tendons during turnout. I was devastated. To me, this was the end of my horse. I had little knowledge of horse leg injuries because  my horses had never gotten more than a minor cut. But even though I thought Lassie would never be ridden again, I resolved to give her the best possible care. I threw myself at Google’s feet, I prostrated myself in the lap of every veterinary hand book and bribed my own vet with muffins for every drop of knowledge about bowed tendons. A year later, Lassie was pronounced sound! I sadly but happily (bittersweetly?) prepared her for her next home in wake of my engagement. She is now a little girl’s barrel horse and is living a pampered life!

What type of writing do you do and what is your latest project?

I scribble off a few lines of poetry here and there and pen some song lyrics occasionally, but what I really love writing are westerns with a twist. While an avid student of Louie L’Amour, William Johnstone and Elmer Kelton, I also love fantasy and steampunk. You can just bet I’ve read every Harry Potter book more than three times. As a result of this, I’ve started several stories where cowboys end up in odd places and have to use their bronc riding, sharp shooting, cattle mustering skills to get themselves out of a sticky situation. It wasn’t until lately that a particular group of characters had finally had enough of my false starts and demanded a full adventure. I’m at the editing-the-fourth-draft phase and have declared it’s genre to be “western steampunk” and its working title is “Maker”. Maker is set in the northern region of Montana in 1890, where a young cowboy and a talking mountain lion join forces to defeat and discover why a mechanical killer cougar has been slaughtering local ranchers’ cattle.

My main focus with any of the stories I write is staying true to most aspects of the old and modern cowboy way of life, and gearing them toward the young adult and middle grade reader. Many kids these days don’t get to experience life outside of the city and traditional western books may appear to be an archaic or uninteresting read. I want to introduce these young readers to the world of the west without boring them with the typical gunfights and long cattle drives. Don’t get me wrong, I love those aspects of traditional westerns, but my gut tells me today’s younger generation finds them less endearing. I feel current writing project a gateway book for children to grow into avid readers of all westerns, a genre I don’t want to see die or phased out.

How do horses factor into your writing? 

Actually a lot less than I thought. My characters always get a good horse and I make sure to describe gear and movements correctly, but they aren’t the headlining act. I tried to feature horses more prominently a few times but the cowboys kept trumping them in every scene so I backed off. I still have it in my heart to write a story based around cutting horses and riders but until then, my horses just play a supporting role. They have presence, but my characters aren’t as bug-eyed about them as I am.

When did you start writing?

 I’ve written and kept journals since grade school but as much as I loved writing, it honestly never entered my mind that I could actually write a book. It was during college when I rubbed elbows with a few aspiring writers that I realized authors were normal (I use that word in the loosest sense) people like me and not some awesome word gods in the sky. That’s when I buckled down and started learning everything I could about writing.

Do you have any unique writing rituals, and if so what are they?

I don’t have any specific rituals or needs to get in the writing mood. I write anywhere and everywhere I can. Between the office job and the horse training, I don’t have a ton of time to waste setting up to write, so I’ve learned to write when I can no matter what is going on around me. I’ve been known to write an idea in the arena dirt and yell “don’t ride over this!” and then bolt for the tack room to find a pen. I’m always listening to the way people say things because if they say it in a particularly clever or blunt way, I’ll end up discreetly scribbling down their words on my hand or chanting them in my head to memorize them.

How do you handle writer’s block?

 If I hit a blank spot, I don’t stress. I stand up, walk away from wherever I was writing and go do something else for a while. Sometimes I’ll just write nonsense words like Dr. Suess or start narrating everything I do in a loud voice for the next hour. That last one throws my husband for a loop but I always end up with a phrase or sentence that sparks my imagination and then it’s back to the writing desk.

Of all the pieces you’ve written, which one is your favorite?

 My favorite story I’ve written is definitely my current project “Maker”. I love my characters even if I am a bit hard on them.

I have penned a favorite poem, too.  My dad, in a weak moment, confessed that he had always dreamed about having a stout little pony to pull him around in a cart. The image of a forty-seven year old man asking for a pony drove me straight to my notebook. On his next birthday, I presented  him with a hilarious poem about a rough and tough tractor mechanic asking for a pony for Christmas. It’s one of the few times I’ve gotten my dad to roar with laughter over something I’ve written, so I’ll always cherish that one.

How can people find your work?

 I’m pretty disconnected compared to a lot of people I know, but I just joined Twitter (@BKKopman) and Instagram (@bkkopman) after I got read the riot act from a fellow writer friend about platform building. There you can find snippets of my current works and lines of occasional poetry. As I get more comfortable with all this technology, I might be persuaded to start a blog, but until then, 140 characters and the occasional picture is about all I can handle.

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Talking With Romance Author Stephanie Hurt

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This week I talk with multi-talented cowboy romance author, Stephanie Hurt. She’s a writer with a big heart that loves horses and I think you’ll see that in the interview.

Tell me a little about yourself & your family. 

Well, I’m a busy woman. I thrive on staying busy. I’m a wife, mother of a 15 yr. old son, Accountant, Children’s Minister and a romance Author. Not to mention I run a publishing service.  I’ve been married to my wonderful hubby, Tommy, for 20 years. We live about 50 miles south of Atlanta on land that has been in my family for over 150 years. We live in the country and that makes me really happy. I’m a country girl to the bone.

What type of books do you write and what led you to write those types of stories? 

As for my writing, I write mostly cowboy romance. Since I’m a country girl, I’ve been around cowboys, farms, horses and such all my life. When looking at heroes, I consider a cowboy a hero. I know some may not understand this, but it’s just the way I feel. All of my romances are clean, wholesome romance. I strive to bring out romance in every age. I have young fans, older fans and even male fans. I try to write something that everyone can enjoy.

How do horses play a role in your books and your life? 

As long as I can remember I’ve loved horses. Since I’ve lived in the country all of my life, I’ve always been around horses. When I was around 13 my parents gave me horseback riding lessons. I remember I couldn’t sleep the nights before the lessons. It was the most fun I can remember having. I hung on my trainers every word. I had posters of horses on my walls, I drew horses on my folders and I just loved the smell of a horse and the leather of a saddle, crazy but true.

When you walk in my living room you automatically know I love horses. I have them on my walls in pictures, plaques and statues. My cousin once found an old horseshoe on our land, then he surprised me with a gift, it was the horseshoe welded on a stand and painted all black. I loved it. I even use my old riding hat as decoration.

So, when I write, you always see a horse somewhere. I also named my publishing service Horseshoe Publishing for obvious reasons.

What is your philosophy on writing and life? 

Let’s see here, I guess my philosophy on life is to live life everyday as though it was your last. Make sure that you leave a legacy behind and I’m talking about a good legacy. Always treat everyone as you would want to be treated. If you do things the right way, then you don’t have anything to worry about and don’t worry over things you can’t change.

As for writing, my philosophy is to write what you know or love. If you have a passion for something, then put it into words. Don’t let the current fads lead your writing. If you write what you’re passionate about, it will show. I write romance to inspire. I think everyone needs a little romance in their lives.

Name your three favorite books that you’ve written.

Oh, this is hard. Ok, here goes:

Open The Heart – An Alpine Christmas Romance

Finding The Right Time – Release date 3/31/14

Moonbeam & Roses

What are your goals for this year?

My goals for this year are easy. Well, maybe not easy, but straight forward. I plan on finishing up my current works in progress and intensify my promotional activities. Also, I’m expanding my publishing service, but that’s for later this summer.

If you had to give one piece of advice what would it be?

My advice is to go after your dreams. We’re only given one run at this thing we call life, so go for that dream and make the most of it.

 You can keep up with Stephanie on her blog at http://stephanie-hurt.com/

Finding the Right Time redone