Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Fun

                                                by Laura Crum

            I hope you all have a fun, spooky (just spooky enough) day. And here are some photos I’ve taken to celebrate this season. They seem more evocative to me than words. Though I guess that's something an author should never say. Oops.

            The “barfkin.”

            Our spooky graveyard—complete with steaming caldron (thanks to dry ice) and Mario.

            Spider on my porch—real spider. Doesn’t he/she look quite Halloweenish?

            The wild grape turning red.

            My hillside in its autumn colors.

            I always think my bantie chickens have very autumnal colors.

            What sort of face should this pumpkin have?

            California fuschia with pumpkin.

            Sage named “Limelight”—don’t you love the chartreuse and electric blue together?

            A few apples still on the Fuji tree—and they are really sweet!

            An autumn rose--Lady Hillingdon tea rose.

            Lots of rose hips on the big rambling roses.

            Which remind me of this sweet poem by Cicely Mary Barker.

            Jack-O-Lanterns freshly carved and frisky.

            Jack-O-Lanterns the day after.

            Autumn trail ride—this photo is from two years ago at about this time—we haven’t had a photographer with us on rides lately. My son is almost as tall as I am now, but the horses and the landscape look just the same.

            Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Love...and an Ordinary Horse

                                    by Laura Crum

            So lately I have had one minor negative thing after another. Nothing big, nothing important, but still, upsetting and annoying. I started a very whiney blog post about this stuff, and in the middle of it, I looked out my window and saw my bright gold palomino horse, Sunny, standing in his corral, looking up at my window with his ears pricked—like a little “spot of sunshine,” as my son says. And I smiled. How could I not? Sunny makes me smile every time I look at him. Wouldn’t you? Is he not a Barbie/princess/unicorn pony come to life?

            Bird, of Redheaded Endurance, listed on the sidebar, once said that being able to see and call to her horses from her window was one of her greatest joys (I apologize, Bird, if I’m not quoting you accurately). And that is so true for me, too. I am looking out my window at my own HORSE (let alone he’s so cute). He lives here with me on my small horse property (which I developed over a twenty year period from bare land—as I could afford it.) This is my childhood dream come true. So I got up from my whiny blog post and went down to the corrals.
            I walked past the veggie garden and gazed with my usual interest at the brushy hills that protect my little hidden hollow from view. I watched the chickens clucking and pecking in the barnyard, and I rubbed the big tiger cat’s head when he greeted me. My cute yellow horse looked at me hopefully, and met me at the gate when I got his halter. I caught him and climbed aboard, with the help of the fence. I know its not PC—no helmet, no saddle, no bridle, no boots…etc. But I just felt like doing it.

            So I rode Sunny for twenty minutes on my riding track and then turned him loose to graze. He seemed quite happy with that. I was happy just watching him from the porch.

My once ornery little yellow horse—the one I had to uhmm, “correct” quite a bit for the first couple of years I owned him-- is my buddy now. We get along so well—we are really a good team. I am so grateful for him and for my happy life. And I went back in the house and deleted that whiny blog post.
Because I love my life. And I love my ordinary little horse. He’s nothing special. Most folks wouldn’t want him. My last blog post was about training my horse, Gunner, an immensely athletic horse (still with me) who can probably move better at 32 years of age than Sunny ever moved in his life. Sunny is a clunky-moving, cold-blooded critter who flunked out as a team roping heel horse for being too slow and clumsy—and it does not take a terribly athletic horse to make a heel horse. For reference, my horse with two left feet (Plumber) made a good heel horse (see my post on Plumber here). Sunny is a good, tough, solid-minded trail horse—that about covers it. Some of my friends refer to him as my “plug.” And it’s pretty much true. But he works for me.
He, among many other things, helps me to realize that I have no real problems. Yes, there are negative people in the world, and its no fun when we end up dealing with them, and sometimes people let us down, even if they mean well—and that’s no fun either. Stuff happens and stuff breaks—and it’s a bummer and a nuisance. But my main emotion after riding Sunny was “thank you.” I am so glad that my problems are my problems—they are GREAT problems to have. My family and critters are healthy and happy, we are secure in our home, which we love. I have many good friends (lots of whom have been my friends since I was young, also some new friends that I very much enjoy, and some good internet friends) and I’ve had a wonderful career writing horse-themed mystery novels, achieving my initial goal of writing twelve books in my series featuring equine veterinarian Gail McCarthy (and a huge thank you to all of you who have read these books—especially those who have written me to let me know and/or reviewed my books—I appreciate you, too). I’ve had so much fun with my horses over the years, and I continue to have fun with them today. What more could I ask?
So a big thank you to Sunny, for reminding me of what counts. I love my ordinary horse.

And for those who are interested, Sunny features largely in my last two novels—Going, Gone and Barnstorming---which both center on trail riding adventures.

And finally, today is the last day to get the first novel in my mystery series, Cutter, for free. I’m tickled that so many people have taken me up on this offer, and I hope a few more will grab this free book today. Here is the link to get Cutter for free.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The New Qrac

I just brought Qrac home from the equine clinic. I took him there on Monday, and he was gelded the following morning. You can imagine my state of mind on Tuesday, waiting for the vet to call me to tell me how it went! He’d told me he’d call between eleven-thirty and twelve, but it was almost one when he finally called, and I was going nuts! But the operation went well, Qrac woke up slowly and calmly, and the vet told me he’d be in touch the following day to let me know whether I could pick up my horse on Thursday. When we spoke yesterday afternoon, he told me that everything was fine, and gave me the go-ahead to pick Qrac up this morning.

I didn’t sleep so well, my mind in over-drive, conjuring up images of an exhausted, sad-looking horse.

Instead, I arrived to find him all normal and chirpy, as though he hadn’t even noticed his manhood had been tampered with. There is hardly any swelling, the incisions are small and clean. Qrac seemed happy to see me, and clambered into the trailer without any fuss.  The protocol for the next week is to give him the French equivalent of Bute (I think it’s Bute) twice a day for two more days, and to watch for swelling or fever or digestive issues, and to walk him for an hour, either in hand or under the saddle. If all goes well, we can gradually resume work in a week. So, fingers crossed everything goes smoothly.

Right now I’m pretty exhausted as the past few days have been pretty intense for me emotionally and I’m relieved to have it all behind me. As I said in my previous post, deciding to geld Qrac wasn’t something I took lightly, and I even wavered slightly in the days before the surgical procedure was scheduled after receiving a heartfelt message from someone in the north of France who used Qrac to cover one of his mares, and who wrote to say he was sad about my decision as Baila du Bratt, his one-year-old filly out of Qrac and Salsa du Bratt, had recently won the silver medal at the German International Lusitano fair, and was therefore qualified for the European Championships. He sent me a link to some footage of Baila, who is dark and long-legged and gorgeous and looks just like her father, yet with more suspension than him in trot. He’d have liked to have Qrac cover his mares again, and although my decision saddened him, I know he understood my reasoning. I was very touched by his message, and thrilled to know that Qrac had produced such a lovely, promising baby girl. I don’t know exactly how many babies Qrac fathered before I bought him, but what I do know is that they will now be super exclusive!

I’m going to sign off now and go make myself a cup of tea, as I’m so knackered I can hardly think straight, let alone write coherently. I hope this post makes sense, and apologise if it’s a just bunch of gobbledygook!  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Training a Cutting Horse and a FREE Book About Cutters

                                    by Laura Crum

            My first novel, Cutter, was inspired by the years I spent training and showing my horse, Gunner. I bought Gunner as a green broke three year old (for a lot more money than I could really afford). Here I am, young, proud of my horse, and ready to train him to be a world beater—the day I bought Gunner.

            I had spent some time working for cutting horse trainers, and I thought I knew plenty. I was quite sure I could train Gunner to be a solid cutting horse. But, of course, I had never trained a cutting horse from green broke to competitive. I had a lot to learn.
            But I persisted. And Gunner was a really talented horse. I worked a lot of cattle on him. I rode him virtually every day. He learned to cut a cow. Here we are out at the family ranch, cutting those critters. I think we both look pretty intense. I particularly like the way my hair and his mane are standing straight up. Note the slack in the reins.

            Being able to effectively cut cattle at home is very different from succeeding in cutting horse competition. A cutting class has very specific rules. You break a rule—say you “switch” cattle, or you have a “hot quit”, well, you’re not going to score well. And then, whether you mark well or not has a lot to do with cutting the “right” cow, and you have, at most, three chances to get that done in the two and a half minute run. So, often, you may not make any big mistakes, but you don’t get a chance to get your horse “shown.” (This happened to me a lot in my early years.)
            And then, cutting is a judged event, and, I’m sorry to say, that, as in all judged event, there is a large political element. As someone on a “homemade” horse, and not being the client of a big name trainer, I was at a huge disadvantage when it came to this aspect of the sport. Nevertheless, eventually I won quite a little bit.
            Below you see Gunner winning the cutting at our local county fair. He was eight or nine by then, and a pretty darn solid cutting horse, if I say so myself. I still was no great showman, but I did a workmanlike job. And sometimes, as on this day, it was good enough to win the class. We marked a 72 1/2 here, on tough cattle, and it did the trick. This was probably my favorite victory—in front of the hometown crowd. Gunner won other awards, but that county fair buckle meant the most to me.

            Gunner went on to be a team roping horse for me. In the photo below you see me heading a steer on him. Note that neither of the rope horses in this photo is wearing a tie down. Those of you who are team ropers, or have seen much of the sport, will know that those are pretty well broke horses.

            When Gunner was fifteen I retired him from competition and used him for light riding. He’s seventeen in this photo.

            When he was twenty I turned him out to pasture with some companions—he’s the horse on the far right.

            And last year we brought him home so he could eat all the equine senior feed he needed—and get lots of attention. Here’s my son hand grazing him. Gunner is 32. Looks pretty good, don’t you think?

            So that’s Gunner’s real life story—and it’s a pretty happy one. I did successfully train him to be a cutting horse—and later, I wrote a mystery novel about that cutting horse world that I knew so well. This novel, Cutter, is the first book in my mystery series featuring equine veterinarian Gail McCarthy. Though it is no cutting horse training manual, it does have descriptions of what it feels like to ride a cutting horse, and gives a pretty clear picture of what a “cutting” is like. Not to mention there are many vivid portraits of some pretty classic cutting horse trainers and owners (yes, drawn from life).
            The horses, too, are based on real horses that I knew, and Gunner appears in this story. He is also the model for the horse on the cover.

Though the central mystery is based on a shady deal I was told about, I must admit that it is totally fictional, as it is described in the book. But in all other ways the book is a very true representation of the cutting horse world that I knew.
            So starting today, for five days only, (October 24th through October 28th), I’m offering a FREE Kindle edition of Cutter. It’s a great chance to give this book a try with no downside. And, if you find you like it, there are twelve books in the series, each dealing with a different aspect of the horse world.
            So here is the link to the free copy of Cutter. If any of you do/have read this book, I’d love to get your feedback. I’d be really grateful if you’d post a review on Amazon or Goodreads. And it’s totally fine to point out where you think I could have done better.

Monday, October 22, 2012

He Bucked Me Off

                                                by Laura Crum

            You don’t expect an older, solid horse that you have ridden for years to suddenly decide to buck you off. But such were the surprised words of a friend of ours the other day, when his older, solid rope horse broke in two and bucked the guy off in the course of a roping run. And yet, as our friend admitted later, this was actually pretty predictable, as such incidents often are.
            Because this horse, like many horses, was/is a touch cinchy, and our friend, who had arrived late at the roping practice, had dramatically shortened his usual warm up routine with the horse, and basically pulled the cinch tight, loped a few circles and went on to make a run. Which didn’t work out. (The guy was fine, by the way.)
            This got me thinking of other times when I’ve seen friends get bucked off, and the times I’ve been bucked off myself. I’m not talking here of coming off when a horse spooks or jumps, but the times when a horse has bogged his head and bucked until his rider came off, which is something quite different. I’m pretty good at riding spooks and sudden jumps, but a horse that has truly dropped his head and gone to bucking will dump me every time.
            The usual cause of such bucking is precisely what happened to my friend. Not enough warm-up on a cinchy horse before the horse is asked to exert himself. And this really is pretty predictable. Flanigan, probably the best horse I ever rode, was cinchy, and required a long, careful warm-up which involved tightening the cinch in stages, much slow work, and some fast work before he was asked to make a roping run. Otherwise, he bucked.
            I had a healthy respect for his bucking, so I always warmed Flanigan up carefully. But my friend, Wally, who was partners with me on the horse, was a tougher sort of cowboy, and though he TRIED to warm the horse up well--he always intended to, mind you--if he arrived late at the roping and the first pot had started, well, he’d just go ahead and make a run whether Flanigan was properly warmed up or not. And this didn’t always work out so well.
            I will never forget one particular day at the Oakdale roping arena. Wally had arrived late, warmed Flanigan up briefly, and had to make a run. Flanigan “broke in two” right after Wally had roped the steer and bucked Wally off. Wally landed smack in front of the heel horse, who ran over the top of him-didn’t touch him with a single foot, but Wally remembers looking up at the horse’s belly and thinking—this horse isn’t a QH, he’s a paint. He’s got a big white spot on his belly. Not something I’d probably have noticed at that moment, but as I said, Wally’s way tougher than I am.
            Anyway, Wally got up from the dirt, caught Flanigan, and led him over to me (we were partners on this horse). “Where’s the horse trader,” Wally said. “I’m selling this SOB right now.”
            “Over my dead body,” I told him. “That was YOUR fault. You didn’t warm him up.”
            Well, Wally and I didn’t sell Flanigan, and he went on to be the best horse either Wally or I ever rode. We both won on him at roping (Wally far more than I), and I rode him on many, many pack trips in the Sierras, where he was a true rock star.  He was always cinchy and needed his careful warm-up—when he was twenty years old he bucked with Wally on the first steer of the day. But I truly trusted this horse, who, by the way, never bucked me off. When I decided to take my six month old baby for his first ride, the horse I chose was Flanigan. (We kept Flanigan until he died—of an inoperable colic at 21 years old).
            So, I’m thoroughly accustomed to dealing with a cinchy horse that needs a lot of warm-up, and my buddy who got bucked off last week ruefully acknowledged that, “Yeah, I should have warmed him up better.”
            But there are other sorts of buckers. I think of Breeze, a horse I broke and trained when I was younger. Breeze was an easy colt to break and never gave me any trouble. He seemed cooperative about everything, if a little lazy. I started him as a three-year-old and all went well. As a four year old, I continued his training, and, at this point, I started asking this horse to move a little faster and try a little harder. I would work cattle on him, and when he didn’t move quickly when the steer moved, I would get after him a little. (For those who don’t approve of this, I can only say that this is how 90% of all cowhorses are trained, and I was doing as I had been taught by the professional trainers I worked for—I might do things differently, now.)
            Anyway, lazy Breeze seemed to be getting it. He started to “fire,” that is, move quickly with the cow when the animal moved. I was pleased with his progress. I even thought of buying him from my uncle, who had raised him and owned him. But…
            I ran into the professional trainer who had trained and shown this colt’s mother and brother. The brother had been a big winner for the trainer, and so I asked the guy what he thought. Should I buy Breeze?
            The trainer looked at the ground and didn’t say anything. I know enough about trainers to know that they don’t like to talk a horse down that’s in their barn. So I said, “I’m seeing that you wouldn’t buy him.”
            This trainer was a friend, and he looked me in the eye. “That horse’s brother is a nasty SOB,” he said. “Yeah, I won a lot on him, but that horse was a real pain to deal with. And the mother was the same.”
            So, OK, I didn’t buy Breeze—but I kept riding him. And he seemed like a real nice horse, just lazy. I kept getting after him to get him to try a little harder, and one day I found out what that trainer had meant. With absolutely no warning, Breeze bogged his head and bucked me off hard. I was Ok—I got back on, I kept training this horse. But I was a whole lot more careful after that.
            Breeze tried to buck me off several more times. When my uncle started riding him, he bucked my uncle off. He eventually made a rope horse and got sold to a rancher. But the interesting thing? Breeze had five full brothers and sisters. They were trained by different people—not me. Every single one of them was a “coyote” bucker—a horse that seemed cooperative, gave no warning, and would suddenly break in two and buck until the rider was dumped. It was genetic, as my trainer friend had implied to me when I asked about buying Breeze.
            So that’s another sort of bucker—and it’s a sort I never want to deal with again. Fortunately, my riding horse these days is gentle. Crowhopping (which I don’t mind) is the worst he’ll do. (To me, crowhopping is bucking where the horse doesn’t put his head down.) And my life is plenty exciting enough taking easy trail rides with my son on our gentle horses.

            So, anybody else ever dealt with a bucker? I’d love to hear your insights.

And for those who would like a free electronic copy of my first mystery novel, “Cutter,” set in the world of cutting horses, I will be offering a free Kindle edition starting this Weds, and ending this Sunday. I’m a newbie at this Kindle stuff, and I’m not sure if you have to be a member of Amazon Prime or not to get the free copy, but I did my best to get it up there for free. So if you have any interest in checking out my mystery series featuring equine veterinarian Gail McCarthy for free, here is the link to buy Cutter—now 99 cents, but free this coming Weds, October 24th, through Sunday, October 28th. And below is the link to a review of Cutter by Dom (A Collection of Madcap Escapades, listed on the sidebar), who is a horse trainer and a fine writer herself. I think this review gives a very good idea of what the book is like. http://harnessphoto.blogspot.com/2012/08/book-review-cutter-by-laura-crum.html  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ziggy Goes to School

Several posts ago I wrote about our new rescue dog, Ziggy, and our mutual adjustments. As most of you dog lovers know and have experienced, a rescue can be a challenge. Ziggy is high maintenance -- everything he does is, well, zigified, meaning he hits the extremes. When he loves it's all out; when he gets stressed, it's all out. There is no mellow middle.
Ziggy packing his school supplies 

Wednesday Ziggy had his first day at dog obedience school.  I've trained many dogs so training wasn't the issue. He picks up commands quickly and remembers them well unless OMG THERE'S A RABBIT but that is ignore-able dog behavior as far as I am concerned. Dogs should be dogs. But he also falls apart whenever we see or meet other dogs. He becomes a mixture of fearful yet aggressive and his behavior can ruin a fun walk (we go on MANY walks.) So off to school we went for socialization.

Ziggy practicing the 'sit' command 

The instructor is no-nonsense. Our first class was just for the humans. There are fourteen of us plus fourteen dogs which makes for a crowded group, so she wanted to lay out the rules, find out what each dog needed and check medical records. Basically we would spend the first 'dog' session getting to know each other (nose to butt) and two commands at most. I liked the socialization part -- this is exactly what Ziggy needed.

I wish I had photos of that first class, but as you can imagine, my hands were full of Zigginess.  He did well after he realized that a) I wasn't leaving him b) the other dogs couldn't approach unless he was willing and c) treats were involved.  The photos I wanted actually would have been of the other owners and dogs. Two wouldn't go up the steps, four were totally out-of-control, one never ventured from between her owner's legs, one pulled her owner around the room, two were grouchy and mean. And two older pups were so chewy and floppy and  wiggly they made Ziggy seem Zen. That left Ziggy and one quiet Cocker Spaniel who, the owner said, jumped on guests.

Chihuahua princess demanded a photo of HER be added to this post! 
So we passed the first class with flying colors and Ziggy got to smell many butts and even managed to greet a few of the quieter dogs without falling apart. Next week is 'down', which will be more of a challenge. But really my goal isn't commands as much as having Ziggy finish the six weeks with more confidence around other dogs. I'll let you know how it goes!

I'd love to hear your dog stories. Horse lovers are plain old animal lovers, and I know there are plenty of tales to share.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Slickrock--the Making of a Book

                                                by Laura Crum

             Slickrock, my fifth book, has always been the overall reader favorite in my mystery series featuring equine veterinarian Gail McCarthy. The series as a whole is set in Santa Cruz County, California, where I live, but Slickrock takes place on a horse-packing trip in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the whole mystery occurs in that context. It’s essentially a “vacation mystery”. Sort of the vacation from hell.
            The beginnings of Slickrock are buried in my distant past—the summer I was twenty-two and spent three months living by myself in a tent at a Sierra lake, with just my six month old dog for company. I wasn’t there to write a novel—no, I was after something much bigger than that. I’d fallen in love with the book, Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, and I was trying a grand experiment in solitary living, to prove or disprove the claims of that book. I meant to write something, of course. My senior project, as an English major, was a paper to be written about my time of living by myself at Burgson Lake in the mountains, and how it compared to Thoreau’s sojourn at Walden Pond.
            To that end, I kept journals while I lived at the lake, meaning to weave them into something cohesive later. I did present the paper, but have long ago lost it, but the journals, with their descriptions of my solitary life in a tent at Burgson Lake, stayed with me. Those journals were the beginning of Slickrock.
            Here I am with Joey, my six-month-old Queensland heeler, at Burgson Lake, thirty-three years ago. The photo was taken by my friend, Shery, when she drove up to spend a weekend at the lake with me.

            It wasn’t until I was thirty that I conceived the idea of writing mystery novels—more or less inspired by Dick Francis. I came up with the concept of a female equine veterinarian as a protagonist, and began by writing about cutting horses (my first novel, Cutter), as I had spent my late twenties training and showing cutting horses. By my thirties I was involved with team roping horses (which play a large part in my third and fourth novels, Roughstock and Roped). I was also taking many horseback pack trips into the Sierra Nevada Mountains on our own horses. On the longer trips, we crossed the spine of these mountains many times, going over several different passes, and camped at dozens of high Sierra lakes. The longest trips lasted two weeks or so. I kept journals on these trips, too. And gradually the concept of a pack trip mystery began to assume form.
            I wanted to write about the pack station that I had worked at, and the lakes and passes I knew. The trails and their various obstacles were big in my mind, including the infamous slickrock, for which my novel is named. And, of course, every wreck and near-wreck that had come our way, as well as some described to me by friends, would make their way into this pack trip story. But…I needed a plot.
            Well, as I often do, I borrowed from life. I had heard a tale of real life villainy involving horses that interested me (can’t tell you—it would spoil the story). And I had, myself, stumbled upon a very dramatic crime scene that I thought would make a good opener for the book. And then there were all my Sierra journals, written while I was up in the mountains, for background. And so Slickrock was born.
            I tried to incorporate all my real life pack trip adventures into this book, as well as my favorite places. The picture below shows me riding across Kerrick Meadows, high in the eastern Sierras, and the scene of a fairly thrilling horseback chase in Slickrock.

            The horse Gail rides in the novel is Gunner, but most of my pack trips adventures were on Flanigan, and it is his stalwart nature that is the bottom line in both the story and my real life travels. This is Flanigan, possibly the best horse I ever rode.

And here I am on Flanigan at Wood Lake, a lovely Sierra lake which appears in Slickrock.

            Slickrock has always been the reader favorite of my novels—I can’t say exactly why. For me, the parts drawn from my journals that describe what it is like to be alone in these mountains are the really interesting part of the book. And I think that perhaps some readers agree. For those of you, like me, who admire Funder’s writing and blog (“It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time,” listed on the sidebar), here is Funder’s comment on Slickrock:

“And her place descriptions are amazing! Having read Slickrock I desperately want to learn to pack. She really captures the beautiful, remote, terrifying, captivating reality of the mountains. (I could do without all the calamities that befell Gail!)”

            So there you go. If that doesn’t make you want to read the book, I don’t know what will. Except the fact that it is for sale for 99 cents on Kindle—only until the end of this week. So now is the time, if you’re interested at all. I honestly think that if you enjoy my writing on the blog, you will enjoy this novel.

            Here is the link to the Kindle edition of Slickrock. If you do give this book a try, I’d love to know what you think of it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Walking the Dog

by Linda Benson

Hello everyone - I'd like to share my brand new release with you, even though it does not contain even One. Single. Horse. *ducks while you throw sack of rotting carrots* But if you'll allow me this short pitch - we promise to return you to your regularly scheduled horse posts soon. *grin*

My newest book, called Walking the Dog, does have one of the cutest covers ever.

See what I mean?

And Walking the Dog has lots of dogs in it - therapy dogs, animal shelter dogs, rambunctious puppies, and even one quite independent orange cat.

But the real story centers around two kids who are dealing with some rather adult problems.

Jared feels like he's the only one who looks past Sophie's scars to see her for who she is. But can he be a true friend when she desperately needs one?

Jared is smitten when his teacher seats the new girl, Sophie, right next to him. Even with the scar running up the side of her face, Jared thinks she’s the most beautiful girl in the entire fifth grade. But why did she transfer here so late in the year? Rumors say something bad happened to her.

Jared and Sophie become friends while walking the guidance counselor’s new puppy, but when his parents object to this arrangement, Jared fabricates a series of elaborate lies to meet Sophie on the sly. But little brothers can be pests. First Petey lets the orange cat loose at the animal shelter where Jared and Sophie have been secretly walking the dogs. Then Petey turns up missing.

And Sophie's past finally catches up with her.
Walking the Dog was just released from Musa Publishing as an ebook, and it's already garnering some great reviews. It's a relatively short, but powerful read, and you can buy it for only $2.99.

Here are a few links:

Musa Publishing

Thanks, everyone. I hope some of you will give this new book a try.

Let me know what you think!

We authors really appreciate our readers!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Final Offer...and Favorite Book Covers

  by Laura Crum

Does this title remind you of those carpet merchants who are constantly "going out of business" and this is your very last chance to buy at a reduced price? That was my thought, too. But its true. This is the very LAST week to get the first eight books in my mystery series featuring equine veterinarian Gail McCarthy for 99 cents on Kindle. Next week the pricing structure will change. So for anyone who is interested in my older titles, now is the time. Here is the link to find them on Amazon. The order is Cutter, Hoofprints, Roughstock, Roped, Slickrock, Breakaway, Hayburner and Forged. Each book deals with a different aspect of the horse business—all based on things I have actually done, so hopefully the ring of reality is always present. Cutter revolves around cutting horses, Hoofprints is about reined cowhorses, Roughstock about team roping (with some endurance thrown in), Roped is about ranching and roping, Slickrock takes place during a horse packing trip in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Breakaway has much trail riding in the coastal hills, Hayburner involves breaking a colt…etc.

And for this week only, all eight books are only 99 cents each! (Do I sound like a rug dealer?)

So today I’d like to post a visual of my favorite covers. I think these images give a very good sense of what the series is about—mystery and horses. Here is the cover of Hoofprints, the second book in the series.

And here is Roughstock—the third book—by the very talented Peter Thorpe. This is one of my favorite covers.

Here is Hayburner—book number seven—the artwork is also by Peter Thorpe.

And here is Forged—book number eight—I love the artwork on this one, too.

So what do you think? Do these images work for you as alluring covers? Do they make you want to read the book? Anybody have a favorite? I have had a few covers I DON”T love. Maybe I’ll post those next.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


by Francesca Prescott

When I went looking for a dressage horse early last year, I wasn’t planning on buying a stallion. I’d initially planned on buying a German or Dutch Warmblood, but when I realised that the majority of the horses I liked were way out of my price range, I started looking at Iberian breeds. Not that Iberians were a whole lot cheaper; come to think of it, many of the Iberian horses I viewed on video were even more expensive than many of the German or Dutch Warmbloods. Owning an Iberian horse seems to have become trendy, so a horse with minimal schooling and decent movement can go for a pretty insane price, especially if he’s got a long, thick, flashy mane to boot.

I say “he” as most ridden Iberian horses are uncut males; I don’t think I saw one Iberian mare for sale other than for breeding purposes. Of course, I know there are ridden Iberian mares, but I’m pretty sure they’re in a minority. Anyway, when I bought Qrac, my Lusitano, he came with the full perky package. Dark bay (almost black), he’s gorgeous and rather oohlala.

Iberian stallions are said to be different from other breeds: not as hyper, not as hot under the collar, not as complicated to handle. This is certainly true for most them; when I bought him, seven-year-old Qrac was gentle and sweet and pretty straightforward in his attitude towards life. However, he’d already sired a couple of youngsters so whenever a sexy lady walked by he had a tendency to get a little distracted. Sometimes he got pretty seriously distracted; I remember having to ride past a field full of voluptuous blondes a couple of months after I bought him and goodness gracious me did he get himself wound up! We bounced past, with me taking deep yoga breaths, trying not to stay in control without getting all tensed up. It was ok, but it’s not my favourite memory of a trail ride. Qrac also got pretty full of himself when I trailered him to my farrier, backing out of the van, realising he was in a harem full of hotties (brood mares galore!), putting his tail in the air, his back up, tossing his neck and prancing around like a Latino sex god. I was glad to have my farrier and his assistant take him off my hands within seconds. He soon settled down; as I said, he’s a sweet, well-behaved horse, but testosterone sometimes messes with his head. Boys will be boys.

I love my boy to bits. Every morning, when I arrive at the stables and see him, I can’t believe how lucky I am to have to own such a beautiful, affectionate horse. If I stop and talk to someone outside the stable before going to say hello to him, he gets all jealous and stomps his feet. Okay, so he wants a sweetie as well as a face rub, but that’s ok with me. His neighbour, a Spanish stallion, also gets impatient when he sees me as he knows he’ll get a sweetie too. I’m the sweetie lady; I can’t help myself.

Qrac isn’t quite as stallion-ish as he was in the first few months after I bought him, because I soon had him chemically gelded. The vaccination lasts between six to twelve months and works pretty well; I could take him to the farrier and pass other horses in a field without him morphing into Zebedee. My vet gave him a booster shot back in March as spring seemed to be springing at the same time as my horse’s libido. I’d actually considered gelding him surgically late last year, as it looked like I needed to have an operation on my ankle, but when it turned out I didn’t need one, and that Qrac and I were really beginning to find each other’s buttons, I backed out. I didn’t want to stop riding, if only for a few weeks. But deep down I already knew I was only postponing the most sensible decision for me when it comes to where I am in my equestrian life. I’m almost fifty-one, I’m a decent rider, but I’m not a professional, and even though Qrac is an approved stallion from a very good breeder, I didn’t buy him to make money from his manliness. I bought him to enjoy riding dressage. I don’t need the complications that come with all that testosterone. And a few months ago, when Qrac went totally nuts when I went to get him out of the field after he was provoked by another stallion (the people at my yard made the mistake of putting them in adjacent paddocks), rearing, boxing and biting me (he got my thumb pretty badly; it’s still a bit sensitive. I blogged about it here at the time), any waverings subsisting in my mind were wiped out. I’d wait for the summer to wind down and for the flies to die off and I’d make the veterinary appointment.

So Qrac is scheduled to be gelded at a good equine clinic in ten days. Although I know it’s the right thing to do, I’m still worried. I mean, it’s an operation, he’s going to be put under for a while, and although it’s a routine procedure that rarely goes wrong, there are always risks, the main one being the horse panicking when he comes to, struggling, falling over and fracturing something. The vet reassured me that they have a special padded room for the horse to wake up in, that they have a team of specialists on hand to administer sedatives and calm the horse down, but…well, crap happens. Then there are the other lovely things to worry about: infections, choking during the operation, and I don’t even remember or want to remember the other scary things the vet had to make me aware of. As I said, it’s a good clinic, so I’m sure everything will be fine. I’m also aware that some stallions never lose their stallion behaviour, but judging from the way the chemical castration calmed his libido (there’s been no showing-off in front of ladies, or fire-breathing since the shots) I figure Qrac will be chilled.

I know some people (usually men) tell me I shouldn’t geld him because he’s fine the way he is, that I should just learn to be firmer with him when he plays me up. Believe me, I’ve toughened up a lot (my trainer says she can’t believe how much good Qrac has done me as far as assertiveness goes) but at the end of the day I’m not a bolshy, pushy person. Assertiveness doesn’t come easy to me.

Also, I tell myself that it mustn’t be fun for a stallion who’s already enjoyed a fair share of rumpy-pumpys to watch the ladies go by day after day, and never be able to have his way with them. I think that as a gelding, his social life will be more pleasant, and that many years from now, when he retires, he’ll be able to live in a herd, like my other horse, Kwintus, who will be 21 next year and is relaxing in the lush grass and rolling hills of Burgundy. 

More importantly, I think that gelding Qrac is the right decision for his life with me.

What do you think? Have you owned stallions? Have you gelded stallions late? What is your experience? I’d appreciate your thoughts, but right now, with Qrac’s operation (it will be an inguinal castration procedure, which is more expensive but safer for an older horse as there will  be no open wound) only a few days away, I’d rather not hear any gory, upsetting stories of gelding operations going horribly wrong. Be gentle! Thank you :)