Sunday, August 31, 2008
The Dance by Jami Davenport is the story of a man and a woman who have been deeply wounded by loss and betrayal. They've each handled their pain very differently but still end up in the same place - hiding behind thick walls to keep out anyone who could hurt them again.
Mariah has been alone for as long as she can remember. She clings to material things because they don't run away. But still she keeps the hope alive that one day she'll find real love and have the whole fantasy. But in the meantime she'd rather by like Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, and not think about it until tomorrow.
Rico has his own skeletons in his past and in his present his freeloading family is milking him dry. A has-been rock star who was addicted to drugs, Rico has thrown himself into his import business to keep everything else out of his life. But still his family is making him nuts so he goes into "hiding" in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State. When he sees Mariah on her horse she puts the first chink in his wall in years, but is he ready to let her in, and will she want to cross that threshold?
The two can't resist each other and eventually give in to their feelings and their walls come tumbling down. But all too soon it is time for Rico to head back to his "real" life and that coupled with the truths that Mariah learns brings their happiness crashing against the rocks.
The Dance is a great book! It pulls on your heartstrings and caused me to tear up a time or two. I really felt for Mariah and all the hurts she had to work through. Her growth throughout the story was inspiring. Rico, of course, had my heart from the beginning. And when the two are together it is beyond scorching! Through all of this The Dance is still more than just a love story, there are some ups and downs which keep you guessing and causes plenty of hand wringing as we wait to see if they will get their happily ever after. I definitely recommend this book, its a great read filled to the brim with real emotions and plenty of heat.
Friday, August 29, 2008
My reviewer truly deserves to win the best review. She wrote an incredible, insightful review. I'm blown away by it. I also love that the reviewer was intrigued by dressage and actually sought to find out more about it.
Also The Dance just received an A rating from Simply Romance Reviews and an Outstanding Read. You can read the entire review at Simply Romance Reviews.
Whipped Cream Reviews--5 Cherries
The Dance by Jami Davenport
Full length, M/F
Review by Xeranth
♥ ♥ ♥
Right from the get-go, The Dance embraced humor, warmth, very human characters and a wealth of possibilities. It’s a well told tale about two people who make choices with the best of intentions and get the worst results. However, until they face their demons, and for one of them, it ends up being formidable, they will have an incomplete future.
You might wonder about my word choice, ‘incomplete future’. Think of a scale – you put two items to weigh and they don’t match. Of course you are going to add something to or subtract from the one that needs to be balanced. Thing is, sometimes the item we believe to be perfect ends up being not enough. That is how I see the relationship between Rico and Mariah. It’s a delicate dance to make a relationship work and Ms. Davenport explores this from a very human perspective. Our hero and heroine each end up giving, but the scales remain unbalanced. They have to come to terms with what each is willing to do, to go that extra mile, if they want that balanced future, a complete future.
The back drop totally fascinated me. Oh sure, this occurs in a delightful and romantic location but what hooked me were the horses, especially Mariah’s horse, Sueño. The riding discipline that Mariah practices is called dressage. I had no clue what that was; couldn’t wrap my mind around what that would look like. I found a co-worker who knew exactly what it was because she herself practices it with her horse so I was able to pick her brain. How cool was that? Think of the Lipizzaner stallions and you’ll get the picture. Once I figured it out, I had a new appreciation for Mariah’s character and enjoyed the story on a whole other (new) level. Now I am fascinated with Ms. Davenport’s choice of profession for her character. I wonder, what was her inspiration?
The conflict of the story is meaty and emotional. Ms. Davenport resists, though I have no idea how she did it, the easy way out for her characters. I really wanted Rico to save the day. I wanted the conflict to end as happily as Mariah and Rico eventually become. The author stuck to realism and endeared her characters to me even more. They are not perfect, they are not cardboard and neither are they capable of super human acts. Rico and Mariah are just a man and a woman stumbling through the pile of yuck life has thrown at them, to come out on the other side with bumps and bruises but whole.
The passion they share is sweet and hot. The happily ever after is well earned and emotional. And through it all, Ms. Davenport keeps it optimistic with humor, love of family and hope. Which is a good thing because there are some tense moments which for me, were jarring and emotional. You can’t come away from reading The Dance untouched. I certainly didn’t and I highly recommend this book to everyone who enjoys a well told romance.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
This past week was an interesting one for me as far as reading goes. The sad truth about being a writer is that writing cuts into reading time in a huge way. Lately, I’m lucky to finish a book a month, but I gave in to temptation when a bookseller handed me an advance reader copy of SILKS written by the esteemed Dick Francis and his son Felix Francis. SILKS was a good, solid read--highly recommended for all Francis fans.
Then my sister lent me a debut novel, THE GOD OF ANIMALS by Aryn Kyle, and that’s the topic for today’s post. I was going to hold off reading another book so soon after SILKS, but I opened Kyle’s book--just to read the first page--and that was it. I was sucked in until the very end. This author’s skill blew me away.
THE GOD OF ANIMALS is a coming-of-age story featuring twelve-year-old Alice Winston. She and her family live on a horse ranch in the desert. The Winston ranch had been in the family for generations, and the family has fallen on hard times. Alice’s mother is severely depressed and rarely comes out of her room. Alice’s older sister, Nona, is a natural, gifted rider. Nona’s success in the show ring helped bring in clients, so when she runs off with a rodeo rider, the family has a harder time making ends meet, but more importantly, her leaving deeply hurts Alice. Then we have the father, a complicated individual to be sure. Eventually, he is forced to take in boarders, something he’d never done before. When his father hears of this, he likens it to “prostituting” the ranch.
Okay. What I found so compelling about THE GOD OF ANIMALS is Kyle’s wonderfully descriptive writing and her insight into human nature. The descriptions in this book are absolutely fantastic. Admittedly, there were errors when it came to horse details and a few believability problems, but I happily gave the author a pass. What was very difficult to read, however, was the abuse meted out in this book, the cruel training methods, etc. The abusive scenes were even that much harder to read because of Kyle’s gift for description.
I skimmed the reviews on Amazon, and readers either loved or hated this book. Period. And I can see why. Kyle unflinchingly examines the good and evil that we all possess, and she doesn’t feel she must give us a happy ending, but a realistic one. In a way, that was refreshing because life is messy.
If you read this book, the abuse will bother you. It’s meant to bother you. But this is the kind of read that will stay with you long after you reach The End.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
This book will set the stage for other equestrian romances, featuring equines with character and their devoted owners. I'm toying with future plots involving animal communicators and equine therapy, both physical and emotional.
In this book I have small scenes in the horse's point of view. You can read a few of them here at my guest blog at Title Magic.
From the Horse's Mouth
Here's a blurb from The Gift Horse:
Never look a Gift Horse in the mouth?
CARSON REYNOLDS would dispute that statement. After all, it was a gift horse that got him into this mess in the first place. Carson has never backed down from a challenge, but he’s never faced a challenge like this one. It’s the project nobody wants. It’s doomed to fail from Day One because of lack of money, lack of planning, and no lack of a difficult, interfering sister. Carson’s mission is to transform a run-down horse farm into THE premium horse training facility in the Pacific Northwest and transform the disorganized resident horse trainer with a penchant for self-sabotage into a confident, professional equestrian of international caliber. Unfortunately, City Boy Carson doesn’t know one end of a horse from the other, and the large creatures scare the heck out of him. His situation is compounded by a love-sick, 1500-pound mare with a crush on him , his growing attraction to the grungy horse trainer, a disruptive sister who insists the trainer be fired, and a demanding father who has lost faith in his son’s abilities.
Tired of running from herself for six years, SAMANTHA MACINTYRE has returned to the scene of a horrific barn fire allegedly caused by her carelessness. She accepts the head trainer position at that run-down facility with the hope of defeating her demons, proving her innocence, and earning a permanent position at the new equestrian center. With lofty aspirations, but no money and no horse, Sam will do anything to ride the talented, though difficult, horse Carson received as a birthday gift from his family. But first, she must pass the test: compete the horse for one season, impress Carson, and best his sister’s preferred trainer.
As Sam gets closer to the truth regarding the cause of that long-ago fire, small mishaps begin to escalate into larger, more serious, accidents. Carson’s horse knows the real perpetrator, if only those dimwitted humans would listen. With no where else to turn, Sam confides in Carson and together they delve into the actual cause of the fire. With the help of an opinionated equine, they face a surprising reality--that love is more important than ambition, money, or blue ribbons.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Those of you who have read my mystery series featuring equine vet Gail McCarthy, will recognize Plumber, a horse that Gail acquires in the second book of the series (Hoofprints) and who features in many of the stories. Plumber, as he’s described in the books, is a well-bred Quarter Horse gelding, cocoa brown with a small white star, and an especially kind, willing, cooperative horse. The real Plumber is nineteen years old this spring, still sound and a competitive team roping horse who has won many thousands of dollars and several saddles and trophy buckles, and is sunning himself in my corrals as I write this. He very much resembles Gail’s fictional “Plumber” in all ways but one. The real Plumber is a klutz.
I acquired Plumber almost by default. My uncle raised him, and I was the one who picked out Plumber’s dam for the broodmare band. Plumber was her first colt. When I did the feeding chores on the ranch, I was immediately engaged by this baby, who would sneak out from around his mama to “play” with me. Pattering his front feet and leaping from side to side as though I were the cow to his cutting horse, he made every effort to get my attention. I was smitten. My uncle had raised Quarter Horses for many years and this was one of the most winning colts I’d seen.
Time passed. Plumber grew up, as colts do. Eventually he was three years old, still unbroken. My uncle was ready to sell him. Since I’d always liked the horse, I said I’d come by and have a look. Together my uncle and I took the colt to the round pen and turned him loose, so we could watch him move. I let him trot around me a little and then stepped in front of him, in a horseman’s time-honored technique to get a young horse to plant his hind leg and turn around. Plumber tried to stop and turn around but got his legs tangled and almost fell down.
My uncle shook his head. We got the horse moving again and this time my uncle stepped in front of him a little more forcefully, in an effort to get the colt to exert himself. Once again, Plumber seemed completely unable to execute this simple maneuver. First he tangled up and stumbled, then seemed to panic and attempted to jump the four bar fence. Unfortunately he wasn’t any better at jumping than he was at stopping and turning. He ended up on top of the fence, and more or less rolled over it, landing on his back on the ground. Eventually he managed to scramble to his feet and trot off, completely unhurt, but clearly the world’s klutziest three-year-old colt.
“I wouldn’t buy him if I were you,” my uncle said.
I had to agree. But as time went on and the price on Plumber came down further and further, I couldn’t forget his bright eyes and winning personality. Six months later, when my uncle was about to sell him to a horse trader, dirt cheap, I bought the colt.
My team roping partner protested. Why would I want that clumsy colt? “He has a good attitude,” I said. “I’m going to prove something with him. A good mind can make up for a lot of lack in athletic ability.”
For a long time things went as you might have predicted. I broke Plumber with no problems. He never once bucked or gave me any grief. Training him was a whole nother problem. He could make a couple of turns with a cow, but could never manage a third one; his legs just got tangled up. When I first started roping on him, he appeared unable to run. When asked to go faster than a lope, he disunited every time. My team roping partner laughed at my efforts. “That horse is useless,” he declared. “Sell him.”
I persevered. I liked Plumber. The colt was in some ways more like a dog than a horse. He would (and still does) nicker if he saw me, even if he was tied in a whole row of horses, including his pasture mates. Plumber was a “people horse”. He wanted to be your friend. Though clumsy for sure, he was always cooperative.
I roped on Plumber for several years, strictly in practice situations. Slowly the horse got better. Eventually he could run (yes, run, though he was never very fast) down the arena, turn with the steer and make a decent stop—well enough to be a tolerable sort of heel horse. And he was always cooperative.
During the years I spent training Plumber, my partner’s great heel horse, Pistol, developed ringbone, and was eventually retired to the pasture. My partner shopped around for a replacement but couldn’t find one he liked. I offered to let him use Plumber and though he pooh-poohed the suggestion, he eventually started using the horse, for lack of something better.
That was twelve years ago. In the ensuing time, my team roping partner has won thousands of dollars and many saddles and buckles on Plumber (they just won a breast collar last weekend). My partner now considers Plumber to be one of the best heel horses he’s ever had. Of course, I can’t resist the occasional “I told you so.”
As for me, I had a little boy, and for many, many years Plumber packed the two of us around in his rocking chair lope, much to my son’s delight. My kid has his own horse now, and rides most days of the week, and his love for this is due in large part to the many happy hours he spent with me on Plumber (and Flanigan) when he was a toddler and small child.
I still ride Plumber regularly, both in the arena and on easy trail rides in open country. I plan to keep him and retire him when his roping days are done. He’s been a real inspiration to me, my little mind over matter horse.
Laura and Plumber
Thursday, August 14, 2008
I met up with old friends I’ve known for almost twenty years and shopped stores I’m familiar with, although I spent most of my shopping time in FAO Schwartz. I called home to discuss options for buying gifts, and my husband reminded me this was my first trip away from the kids in seven years and I was spending my free afternoon in a toy store!
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I no longer own horses of my own--it’s been a couple of years now--and I’ve got to tell you, I am still going through withdraw. I need a horse fix, and I need one badly.
For a while, writing about horses helped because when I’m writing a “horse” scene, I feel like I’m in the scene. Like every equine author I know, the horses that I’ve known and loved come alive for me then. So, that’s fun. And I love it when I have a “riding” dream. I had one the other night, and interestingly enough, I was paired with my old partner, Stoney--my first horse. We were on a trail ride together, and he was his typical self: fun and a bit mischievous. I was amazed at the muscle memory at play. Everything felt so real. Then, unfortunately, my pesky cat woke me up, and that was that. Man, did I want that dream to last.
What to do? With all the family obligations and the writing job, and the obvious--no horses--getting some quality horse time is going to be a challenge. So, I got to thinking . . . what if I can combine writing with being around horses? I could haul my laptop to the nearest horse show and write while being surrounded by beautiful horses. Nah, I doubt I’d get any writing done. Might as well take my camera instead, enjoy the show, and snap some pictures.
Could I get a part-time job in a stable to satisfy my need? I don’t see how given my time constraints, though as weird as this might sound, I love mucking stalls.
Then, I got to thinking about my all-time favorite job--delivering foals on the night shift.
(See June 3rd and 18th posts for more about that job.)
At this huge (500+ horses) Pennsylvania farm where I worked, foaling attendants were expected to muck stalls or clean waterers between rounds. Then, as morning approached, we would hay and grain about eighty horses before our shift was over at seven. Believe me; I would have been bored if I didn’t do stalls. It pays to keep busy: other employees there had been caught napping.
But, I know some breeding farms work differently. The foaling attendant may only be expected to make rounds and/or monitor CCTV screens and deliver foals with nothing much to do in between, and I can see why. While I appreciated being kept busy mucking out between rounds, I used to feel sorry for the mares in the barn where I was working because their sleep was definitely interrupted.
Anyway, maybe I can bargain with a local breeder. I’d work for a lot less if I can do the rounds and deliver the foals and write when nothing much is going on.
In the meantime, I’ll have to find another way to get my horse “fix.”
Happy reading and riding!
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Unfortunately, because of the recent chaos in my life, I lost the brochure which described the woman’s methods and she doesn’t have a website. I’m going to have to use my questionable memory to reiterate what she did and said.
I’m a member of a trail riding club that has been holding holistic health clinics for equines and riders for the past year. The clinician is a local woman named Tonya. I haven’t been able to make any of the clinics. When one was held last month, I signed up. It was titled: emotional therapy for horses through holistic healing. Now, since I lost the brochure, that’s an approximate title, but you get the idea.
I’ve been having lameness issues with my dressage mare, Gailey, off and on for the past year. I’ve spent a lot of money, and the results have been inconclusive. A few weeks before this clinic, Gailey had hooked a shoe on the trailer ramp and slid down the ramp on her butt, landing in a heap at the bottom. She’d been lame ever since and was lame at the time I attended this clinic.
I explained to Tonya my horse’s background, which includes some very serious injuries and major trailer trauma early in her life. I’ve blogged about her trailering issues in a previous blog. She thought about it for a few minutes then began to check out my horse. Within a few minutes, she announced that my horse’s lameness issues were induced by trauma, not physical issues. Using a combination of acupressure and other methods that I can’t remember the names—since I lost that DARN brochure—she spent a few minutes working on my mare’s back, head, and neck.
She then concocted this vial, which consisted of remedies made from certain flowers. I believe they were called Bach remedies. As she explained to me, horses in the wild seek out certain flowers for their healing properties. She didn’t believe I’d need another treatment but was to call if I did.
I gave my mare a day off then rode her the next day. She seemed sound. Then life intruded upon my world, and I was unable to ride for about two weeks. Last Thursday, I had a lesson, My trainer commented that she’d ridden the horse earlier that day and that the mare seemed sounder than she’d been in a long time. She also mentioned that she wouldn’t have hesitated to show the horse that weekend if she’d been entered in a show.
So go figure. I’ll leave it up to you. Did a little time off heal Gailey? Or did her holistic treatment? I really don’t know, but I plan to do more research on the subject. I’d love to hear about your experiences with holistic healing.
On the book front in my life, I contracted The Gift Horse. It will be a 2009 release with Bookstrand. My first two books (The Dance and Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed?) are now available in print via Amazon and Barnes and Noble and in ebook format from the publisher and Fictionwise.
I’m blogging at Title Magic tomorrow and the subject is “Telling a Story from a Horse’s Point of View.” Stop in and say hi.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
I just got back from vacation last week and was very happy to be reunited with my horses again. Almost the first thing I did on getting home was walk down to the barnyard and have a look at the four equines living in the corrals there—our current saddle horses. All looked as if they had weathered my absence nicely—a real relief. As always, my gaze eventually went to the large rock in the biggest corral, which marks the grave of what was argueably the best horse I ever owned, or more accurately, was partners on. Now Flanigan doesn’t appear by name in my mystery series featuring equine veterinarian Gail McCarthy, but he lends his abilities, personality, exploits and tribulations to several horses in the course of my ten books, and since he’s been on my mind lately, I’d like to tell his story here.
Flanigan was a team roping horse, and a good one, which was how he came into my life. At that time, I was competing at ropings on my horse, Gunner, and my team roping partner purchased Flanigan from a well-known rope horse trader for a fair chuunk of change. When Gunner started to suffer from sore hocks and I decided to quit roping on him, my partner offered to sell me a share in Flanigan, so that I’d still have a mount for the ropings.
I was doubtful. The horse trader had informed us that Flanigan’s previous owner had been so afraid of the horse that he’d attempted to starve the animal into submission; it had taken the horse trader six months to feed the horse back up to a normal weight. Flanigan was cinchy, and if a certain careful protocol was not followed with his saddling and warm-up, he would buck. He’d bucked my partner off several times and I wasn’t eager to be the next victim. Nevertheless, my partner insisted that Flanigan was a “babysitter.”
This seemed like somewhat of a paradox to me, as I’m sure you can imagine. Neither did Flanigan attract me, as some horses in my past had done. Plain, brownish bay with a little white, Flanigan pinned his ears in a grouchy way whenever one looked at him, and he did not have a particularly “pretty” way of moving or working. In short, on the surface there didn’t seem to be much to recommend him. Nonetheless, I tried him.
The horse amazed me. If you’ve ever had the experience of a mount who would really pick you up and carry you, who attended to his job without needing much if any help, leaving you free to concentrate on your end, then you know what I mean. I saw instantly what my partner had meant by telling me the horse was a babysitter.
I bought a half share in Flanigan and roped on him for many years. In the photo above I am turning a steer for my good friend Sue Crocker, who is heeling on Pistol (who also appears in my mystery series as an equine “character”). I mastered the art of Flanigan’s warm-up program, and though he crowhopped with me occasionally on the first run of the day (something he would do right up until the time he was retired), he never bucked me off. I also rode this horse on numerous pack trips through the rocky Sierra Nevada Mts of California, where he proved to be just as reliable as he was in the roping arena. Flanigan and I traversed many tricky trails together over those years (including some spots that brought other horses and riders to grief), and I will be eternally grateful for his calm and responsive reactions, as well as his strength and surefootedness. Our travels in the mountains form the basis of my fifth book, Slickrock, and though the mount Gail rides in the story is Gunner, the horse who crossed those passes with me in real life was Flanigan.
Flanigan had other virtues, too. He would work a cow as well as a well-trained stock horse; he would pack an outright beginner and/or a small child willingly and calmly; he won many dollars and numerous trophy saddles and buckles as a competitive team roping horse. For me, though, the thing that mattered the most was the incredible “feel” I got from Flanigan. An immensely strong, intelligent, self-assured and capable horse, he made me feel safe and centered, whether we were traversing slickrock passes in the mountains or charging at full speed down the arena after a steer. Flanigan was one of those horses who simply would not fall down. Didn’t matter if a cow turned right in front of him at a dead run or a foot slipped as he followed a narrow crack in the granite---the horse stayed up.
I grew to love Flanigan as much as I’ve ever loved any horse; I understood his grouchy behaviors and saw through them to the great heart inside. I nursed him through many bouts with colic, which he was prone to, and made sure that he spent long periods of time turned out in my sixty-acre pasture getting some well-deserved R and R. When my baby was six months old, the horse I chose to take my child on his first ride was Flanigan.
Sadly, though Flanigan stayed sound and usable until he was twenty-one, at some point that year while he was turned out in the pasture, he suffered an injury (we never knew what happened) that resulted in a diaphragmatic hernia (diagnosed through ultra-sound at a major equine veterinary center). From this point on, he could only walk about the pasture. Moving faster than the walk caused him to gasp for air. (More about this in my novel, Moonblind.)
We kept Flanigan for another year, and he was able to enjoy a reasonably pleasant season in the pasture, but eventually he came down with a severe colic which wasn’t responsive to drugs. Since surgery was impossible due to his condition, we chose to put him down rather than let him suffer. He is buried here on my small horse ranch and every time I look at the stone that marks his grave I remember him, and what a magical horse he was for me, enabling me to do many things I didn’t think I was capable of. I will always be grateful to him.
I still miss Flanigan, even though I lost him some years ago, but I feel his spirit stays with me—a protective guide. I’m sure that others who have lost beloved horses will understand.
Laura Crum and Flanigan