Friday, November 29, 2013

Giving Thanks

I know this is not a very original post since we just finished Thanksgiving here in the states, but it seems that I and my family are blessed and I need to spend time reflecting on all the things that make life so wonderful.

My family, of course!  We show love in many way, especially lots of teasing and bad jokes that others could find offensive. My kids still love to be with us and have found boyfriends and girlfriends who fit in as well.
We enjoy vacations and holidays that are filled with laughter though not much in the way of intellectual
discourse. Apples to Apples is as sophisticated as we get!

My animals, always!  Our family has never been without animals. They are an important part of our
life even with the cold morning feedings and walks and the occasion poop or throw up accident.  Ziggy and Fang, Relish and Bell, and Chuck (the cat) require constant attention. But what would life be without them? I am thankful I do not have to find out. Too many people must make that choice due to economy, weather, health or a change in their living situation.

The bounty of my life! My class just finished reading
I am Nujood Age 10 and Divorced, which is a memoir about a young girl living in Yemen.  Poverty, lack of education, and laws and religion create a living environment that is horrible for women.  For some lucky reason, I was born in the United States where all things are truly possible. I was blessed with a good family, a good brain and good health which helped me make choices that have brought me great happiness. I am thankful for all that was given to me and I wish that ALL children in the world could be so blessed.

What are you thankful for?  I'd love to hear.  Happy Thanksgiving all!
PS. I picked a winner for my book who did not respond. I hope that person goes back to the post and checks for her name!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Chill Factor

If you’d told me four months ago that before the end of the year I’d be riding Qrac, my nine-year old Lusitano, alongside bulldozers, streamrollers and pneumatic drills I’d have said you were mistaking me for someone else.  If you’d insisted, gone on to say, “Seriously, Cesca, you’ll see; pretty soon you’ll be cantering around an outdoor arena while workmen dressed in fluorescent clothing clank about with tools and giant pieces of equipment! There will be a giant crane swinging overhead, lorries rumbling in and out of the property loaded with all sorts of building materials. There will be welders creating mini firework displays in dark corners, giant sheets of plastic flapping about in gale force winds. You name it, there’ll be it! And you’ll be riding in it!”

By then I’d probably have checked your forehead for fever, whereupon you might have nodded knowingly and carried on telling me fairy stories about Qracy and I plodding past cars and tractors and miscellaneous trucks on country lanes, reins long and loose. You might have mentioned us ambling past curious cows, trotting and even cantering along dirt tracks flanked by apple orchards swathed in anti-hail nets swelling and whooshing in the breeze.

Pff! At this point I’d have been really worried about you, potentially suggesting a quick trip to the hospital.

The thing is: those fairy stories came true. Since moving to our new stables in mid-August, Qrac and I have experienced all of the above and more. My spooky, pretty volatile Lusitano and I have had to learn to cope with living and working on a building site, with trail rides mandatory when heavy rain turned the arena into a gloop-fest.

I hadn’t planned on moving Qrac to the stables in my village before the beginning of December, when the new stable block and indoor arena are scheduled to be completed (by the way, they open this coming weekend! Woohoo!), but circumstances beyond my control decided otherwise: I tore the ligaments in my ankle while on holiday, needed crutches, and couldn’t drive the 60-odd kilometres to where Qrac lived. Luckily for me, someone moved their horse out of the village stables, freeing a box and allowing me to bring Qrac here four months ahead of schedule from one day to the next..

Frankly, when I took the decision I hadn’t given much thought about what it might be like working him in conditions that, at times, have been pretty crazy. If I had I’d probably have decided moving him early was far too inconvenient, not to mention dangerous, and I’d have sent him down to the south of France to his breeder (Elevage Massa) for a few months of training. Had I done that, right now I’d probably be on my way to Les Arcs-sur-Argens to pick him up, returning with a finely-tuned horse well-versed in the art of beautiful half-passes, magnificent flying changes, and in possession of a far more established, far more balanced extended trot. Viewed from a purely dressage point of you, this would have been great. But I’d have missed him like crazy.

And you know what? Now, less than two days away from the official opening of the fabulous new installations, I’m really happy Qrac and I were here to witness the construction almost from start to finish (the foundations were down before we came). Sure, there were some pretty hairy moments the first few times I worked Qrac in the paddock with bulldozers bulldozing away approximately two metres from the rail, and buses and trucks zooming by on the adjacent road. He spooked. He spun. He tensed up. He wasn’t always one hundred percent with me. But thanks to all this commotion we've both been forced way out of our comfort zone. Qrac has developed coping skills he never knew he had, and I've gained so much confidence. 

We've done more hacking in four months than in two years at the previous stables, heading out in beautiful weather as well as horrendous weather, learning that we’re quite capable of dealing calmly with things previously considered totally out of the question. We’ve done other “different” things too: we even had a jumping lesson, both thoroughly enjoyed it (Qrac quite fancied himself as a show jumper!), and will probably do more of that once the indoor arena opens this weekend! Oh yeah, and we did a dressage competition, too, ten days after I got back into the saddle after my injury, practicing the test alongside diggers and heavy machinery. We did ok, all things considered!

But I’m ready for an indoor arena now. The past two weeks have been particularly trying; the outdoor arena is pretty much frozen due to insane northern wind bringing us arctic temperatures. Hacking out is horrible, the wind so strong that Qrac has to put his head down and really turn on his rear engines to get us back to the stables. Still, seen from a positive perspective I know I wouldn’t even have considered riding him outside in such conditions! But when you’ve got to go, well, you’ve got to go. We’ve gone, been pretty blown about, got somewhat rattled in a couple of areas (the clanging flagpoles and flapping flags at the village dump, the hail-nets covering the apple orchards, the bamboo hedge near the vet’s house, and various renegade plastic bags), but made it back to the stables without too much ado.

The indoor!!!
So when the indoor opens this weekend, and we’re once again able to enjoy riding in the lap of luxury, I know I’m going to continue going out hacking as often as possible, trailering to different places, doing more cavaletti work. Variety really is the spice of life, but isn’t it funny how it sometimes takes an incident to make us realize this?

How about you? Have you been forced out of your equestrian comfort zone and reaped all kinds of benefits?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Something New

                                                by Laura Crum

            Today and tomorrow (Nov 27th and 28th) there is an Amazon “Countdown Special” on the third novel in my mystery series, Roughstock. Roughstock has always been one of the most popular novels featuring my protagonist, equine veterinarian Gail McCarthy. It’s rated 4 and 1/2 stars on Amazon. Roughstock is regularly priced at $2.99 as a Kindle edition, but as a Thanksgiving deal, it will be 99 cents today (the 27th) and $1.99 tomorrow (the 28th). On Friday the 29th it returns to its previous (quite reasonable price) of $2.99. So now is the time to get a great deal on the Kindle edition of one of my best-liked novels. Click on the title to find the Kindle edition.

            To give you an idea if you would like this book, here is a brief synopsis and a couple of quotes from reviews.

While attending the annual Winter Equine Seminar at Lake Tahoe, Gail finds one of her fellow horse vets dead, and another accused of his murder. The trail leads back to Gail’s hometown of Santa Cruz, California, and through the twists and turns of the team roping world, plunging Gail into a confrontation with an unlikely killer. An endurance ride, a horse in trouble, some tough cowboys, and a thrilling horseback chase scene on an isolated beach all add up to a must read for horsemen of all disciplines who enjoy whodunits.

“A very American spin on Dick Francis’s racing books…Crum’s lifelong love affair with horses permeates her writing. For those who like whodunits and horses, Crum knows the equine industry and it shows.” –Western Horseman

“A fascinatingly detailed look at the life of a veterinarian…with Gail’s bright personality and Crum’s illuminating conclusion. It all adds up to a satisfying mystery with lots of heart. This one is a must.” –Publisher’s Weekly

For reader reviews of Roughstock on Amazon, as well as more info about the book, click on the title.

            I’d like to point out for those who are shopping for Xmas gifts for horse loving friends, that today, Weds the 27th of November, you can purchase the first three novels in my horse-themed mystery series for 99 cents each as Kindle editions. Cutter, the first book in the series, is set in the world of cutting horses, Hoofprints, the second book, revolves around skullduggery in the western horseshow arena, and Roughstock centers on team roping and endurance (quite the combo, if I do say so myself). All three books are 99 cents each today, Weds the 27th, making a great gift for less than three dollars for anyone who reads on Kindle and likes horses and mysteries. The entire twelve book series features equine veterinarian Gail McCarthy, following her through twenty years of her life.

            Those of you who have read Roughstock, (or any of the other books) I would love it if you would add your insights in the comments, including what you liked and didn’t like about the book. Endurance riders, feel free to tell me what I got wrong about endurance—its not my sport and I included the endurance aspect because I thought/think it was interesting. My only research was chatting with endurance people and working as a scribe for my friend who is a vet, on one endurance ride. So yeah, I may have made mistakes for sure, and I don’t mind being called on them.
            Anyway, if you haven’t read it and you read on Kindle, get Roughstock today for 99 cents. I’m betting you will enjoy it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Claiming Christmas: a New Holiday Read

by Natalie Keller Reinert

Happy Thanksgiving week! I hope everyone has already cleaned their houses from top-to-bottom, gotten all their groceries ready, and is preparing to strap on an apron and get cooking bright and early Wednesday morning.

(Oh, wait, I'm talking to horse-people here. I hope everyone is excited to have Thursday off for extra riding time! Don't forget to pick up some take-out for dinner on the way home!)

Of course, last year I was in the barn on Thanksgiving too, prepping the NYC Parks horses for their march in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I marched in it too, but I'm very happy to be spending the holiday indoors this year! It's supposed to be frigid and blustery. This year, I'll be doing the cooking thing in my warm kitchen, and thinking of all my chilly friends out there on horseback. I'm from Florida, people. I just wasn't built for cold weather. I hibernate, I write, I cook. See you in spring.

And so it's probably inevitable that as the leaves fell and the temperatures dropped, my thoughts turned to the greener trees and balmier climes of home. Most holiday stories concern themselves with sleigh bells and snowfall, but when I wrote Claiming Christmas, my new holiday novella, all I had on my mind was a mild Florida winter. No snow need apply, and the only sleigh bells are on carriage horses trying to look Christmassy on an eighty-five degree afternoon.

Claiming Christmas is an Alex and Alexander novella, picking up where Other People's Horses left off. It's late October, and the Christmas songs are starting to play in the stores, but Alex is on a self-imposed vacation from the world, only paying attention to her horses. Then she's tapped to fulfill a Christmas wish for a local girl with a tragic past and a future that's less than merry and bright. Grudgingly, Alex takes on the job -- and finds herself ready to do anything to give the kid a merry Christmas at last.

Writing this story reminded me of some of the dedicated riding instructors I had as a child, and the relationships we developed. I was a determined rider without a huge bank account to fund my ambition; along the way I met trainers who saw how hard I was willing to work, and they found ways to see me through tough times and keep me in the saddle. Alex has never had that interest in people (or children) but in this story, she finds out what it feels like to be a role model, and to hold the key to someone's happiness -- and she likes the feeling.

And so as we descend into the madness -- I mean the spirit -- of the season, I hope you all have people (and horses) in your lives that remind you of how much you give every day.

Claiming Christmas is available for 99 cents as a Kindle or Nook ebook, or in virtually any format your heart could desire at Smashwords.

Friday, November 22, 2013


by Linda Benson

Ahh - it's cold out. 23 here this morning, and my ducks uttered a few choice words when they jumped in their pond this morning and hit ice. Yikes! But it is the season for snuggling up by the fire with a good story to read. Which is why I hope you'll allow me the liberty of announcing my new short read called

No, this one is not a horse book (although, there are horses briefly mentioned.) But I do know that most horse lovers also are animal lovers in general, so I hope this book will appeal to you. Here's the blurb:

Brianna doesn't know how she'll make it through her first winter in Portland. It rains too much, she misses her mother and the country life they once shared, and with Christmas coming up she's having a hard time adjusting to life with only her dad. When she finds a kitten trapped in their garage, Brianna is sure things will get better. But nothing goes as planned, and Brianna wonders what she's gotten herself into.

This short story from Linda Benson, award-winning author of books about the human-animal bond, will surely warm your heart in any season.

THE WINTER KITTEN is available on Amazon for only $0.99 as a Kindle eBook, so if it sounds appealing, I hope you'll give it a try. Don't have a Kindle? You can download the Kindle app for free right from the product page of this book, and read it on your computer, tablet, phone, or other device. Cool, huh? Here's the link:

After five novels from two different publishers, this book is a first for me - my first try at publishing on my own (with help from professionals on both editing and cover design) and my first try at publishing short fiction. And I believe there may be demand for shorter reads. With our busy lifestyles and (sadly) shorter attention spans, a complete, satisfying story that can be read in just one or two sittings might be appealing to many.

I hope some of you will pick this one up and let us know.
Is there a future for short fiction? What do you think?
Give us your opinion!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Difference Between People and Horses

                                    by Laura Crum

            Horses are honest. If a horse looks mad or scared or happy or hungry or curious or excited or what have you, he is. Once you learn how to read a given horse (they’re all different), you can pretty much tell what he’s thinking most of the time. You may not be sure how you want to respond to him to get the results you’re after (this would be the skill of horse training), but you know where he’s coming from.
            People on the other hand…people are deceptive. The smile and act as if they like you and it often means nothing. Inside they might feel quite negative towards you, even as they mouth those pleasant phrases. A lot of the time they aren’t even honest with themselves about how they are feeling, and so it is literally impossible to have an honest conversation with them. They don’t know how. Not only can you not read them, they can’t express an honest emotion.
            And then there is that particular sub-group that are drama queens. Not only are they not able to be honest and straight forward, but everything is ALWAYS a big deal. They express a lot of emotion all the time but none of it is particularly honest. They are usually not speaking to someone or at odds with someone in their immediate context. The drama changes, but there is always a drama. They seem to feed on this.
            At this particular moment in time I am fed up to here with the dishonesty of people and their silly dramas. This isn’t exactly a relevant subject for a blog post on an equestrian and writing themed blog…or then again, maybe it is. I am betting that many of you horse people out there know exactly what I mean and possibly even feel this way yourselves from time to time.
            Speaking for myself, I relate to the world more like a horse than a person. I know, that sounds weird, but it’s true. If I smile at you and say something friendly, I feel friendly towards you, if I look sad, I am sad, if I look annoyed, I’m annoyed…etc. I don’t pose, and I don’t pretend to feel what I don’t feel. If I don’t like a person I mostly avoid that person, but if the person chooses to confront me, I am honest about how I feel on any given subject. I try to respect other people’s space and their feelings as I would like to be respected, but the bottom line with me is honesty.
            This doesn’t always work out too well. Some people like me because they always know where they stand with me, and others find me too blunt. I’m OK with this—the ones who find me too blunt aren’t usually people I am drawn to, anyway. I like direct people. I like people who are like horses, if you see what I mean. Easy to read. What you see is what you get.
            Usually when I get a “false” vibe from a person, I avoid being involved with that person. But sometimes life circumstances force a relationship with a person who doesn’t give you a good vibe. And in my experience this always leads to trouble.
            Whether it is a co-worker, or your child’s teacher, or the new barn manager at the barn where you have always boarded, that niggling feeling that “this person isn’t being totally honest with me,” is always a red flag. But it is sometimes very difficult, verging on impossible to avoid said person.
            My recent experience with this sort of situation has just blown up in my face, causing me to reflect once again on the fact that I do much better with animals overall than I do with people. Thus I have a lot of sadness, and a good deal of bitterness in my heart this morning…and thus you get this blog post.
            I am trying hard to focus on all the good things in my life, and there are really so many good things. Gratitude is the right response. I’m also trying to believe (and I actually do believe it) that this particular door is closing for a reason and that it will help guide us to the path we are meant to be on. I’m aware that the bitterness will pass. I am, in general, a happy person, and my husband and son are also happy. This is a small thing in the big picture. But at the moment I prefer horses to people, thank you very much.
            Anyway, on that note, I am grateful every day that my 33 year old horse, Gunner, is still with me. I don’t know how long this can last—his arthritic issues are getting worse as he gets older. But I give him pain killers and hang out with him, and I learn a lot from his honesty. He’s still playful and spooky, just as he was as a young horse, and yet there is a deep wisdom and acceptance there, too. Looking into his eyes reminds me that all I can do is be honest myself and roll with the punches as they come along. Tomorrow is another day. (I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere before.)
            And so, I give you Gunner’s gaze. I think this photo says it all.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

A tale of two horses... and their owners

By Gayle Carline
Author and Horse Lover

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

A friend of mine hates Dickens because his main characters never take charge of their own lives to alter their course, and of course he's right, but I particularly love this opening line/paragraph because it perfectly describes how various people view the world. To some, the glass is half full and it is the best of times. To others, life is always tipping toward the worst.

In 2008, I was longeing my beautiful black gelding, Snoopy, in the round pen. He was running, not bucking or jumping or acting crazy, when he began to limp. After some initial assessment by the vet who had stopped by because she's a friend of the ranch owner, we took him to the equine hospital down the street for x-rays. I still remember Dr. Klohnin's soft accent as he pointed to the picture on the screen and said, "Do you see the white line? He has broken the sesamoid bone."

He said a lot more, although once he said the phrase, "fuse the joint" my brain got up and left the building. Even so, I kept interpreting each sentence as positive. They could operate. (They've done this procedure before.) Snoopy could come back to full health. (Many horses had.) The procedure was successful about 85% of the time. (Better than 50/50!)

It took almost three years to get Snoopy's leg back to being fully functional, but I always believed that it would. I wasn't going to give up until one of his vets took me by the shoulders, shook me firmly and said, "It's over and done and we can't save him."

I guess you could say I see things as the best of times.

Recently, one of the horses at our facility managed to knock a goodly-sized portion of his hoof off, exposing the soft tissue underneath. He is in a box stall, which the entire staff has inspected, and no one can figure out how he did it, although I must add, he is quite the kicker when he thinks there might be food available.

As you horse owners know, having the foot exposed is a danger to infection, so Niki (the trainer) tried to call the owner, couldn't reach her, and made the executive decision to get the vet out. Dr. Garloff came out and flushed the wound, packed it with antibiotics and wrapped it tightly.

I was there when Niki finally contacted the owner. I could only hear one side of the conversation, but it was pretty easy to interpret. The owner was crying hysterically. Her horse, in her mind, was irreversibly broken. Niki kept having to reassure her that she would not have to put the horse down. The hoof will grow back. It will take a long time, but it will grow back. There is no reason for sadness and worry, as long as they follow the vet's instructions. Cleaning, antibiotics, wrapping every other day.

A week later, the owner was still expressing worry.

"I've been worried about your horse, too," she told me. (Snoopy has been having some issues that seem to be solved with different shoeing.)

I felt like telling her to keep her worry blanket off my horse. I save my worry for problems I see as insurmountable, and Snoopy was going to be fine. Just fine.

What does the world look like to you? Do you live in the spring of hope or the winter of despair? Do you believe in the power of positive thinking? Or is it all in the hands of science or fate or some other force of nature?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I Answer a Few Critics

                                   by Laura Crum

            Reading reader reviews of one’s own book on Amazon can be interesting, cheering, and frustrating—all at once. Obviously positive reviews are a joy for the author and outright negative reviews are pretty crushing (fortunately I haven’t had too many of this last sort). Some reviews are mixed, with the reviewer stating what he/she did and did not like about the book. A lot of the time I understand exactly why the reviewer had a certain objection; sometimes it concerns a fault that I can easily see and acknowledge. What I find very frustrating is the reviews in which I think the reviewer is just plain wrong. So today I’d like to bring up some of the negative things that have been said about my books by readers, and respond to them.
            Let’s take Cutter, my first mystery novel, set in the world of cutting horses. Cutter has a four star rating on Amazon, so obviously it has been pretty well liked by readers overall. But…there is one very negative review in which the reviewer states that my glaring lack of knowledge about horses ruins the book. She says she owns and raises horses and that I “need to do more research.” I will admit that looking at this particular review makes my blood boil, so I try not to go there. But here is what I would like to say to this reviewer.
            “Lady, I don’t care how many horses you have, or if your horse keeping practices are vastly different from mine. I dare you to show me ONE place in the book where I am inaccurate in what I say about horses. Everything in my books (regarding horses) is modeled on things I have actually seen and done, with the exception of some dastardly deeds, and these are also as accurate as my long career with horses (and checking with my vet) can make them. You may not like my writing style, you may disapprove of the way horses are treated in the western horse world, you may just not like my tone, and that’s all fine. But you are 100% dead wrong about my information being inaccurate.”
            Very satisfying to write that out and post it here. But very frustrating to think that potential readers are being told something negative about my books that is simply not true. I’m not sure what was in this reviewer’s mind when she wrote this comment, because she fails to give any specific point where she thinks I am inaccurate. And, of course, I can’t know if she really has horses or knows anything about horses at all. But there her review sits, among all the others that attest to the fact that the book is very accurate in all its horse background. Grrr…
            Then there are the criticisms that I actually agree with. Several people have said that they really liked Cutter and Hoofprints (my first two novels, rated four stars and four 1/2 stars respectively on Amazon), but did not like my excessive use of dashes. To these people I would like to say that I am sorry for this fault, and give an explanation.
            When I put Cutter and Hoofprints up as Kindle editions, I had no electronic copies of the manuscripts. At the time I wrote them, the publishing company that bought them worked strictly on paper copies. Thus the editing and the final editions did not exist in digital form. So I had to have the actual hard copy books scanned in and then go through the resulting digital copies trying to take all the scanner errors out. This was not easy. Certain scanner errors just weren’t that obvious, though I went over the books many times. The hardest thing turned out to be the fact that I literally could not tell that a dash which appeared to be a needed hyphen at the end of a line would end up being an unneeded dash in the text when it finally appeared on the Kindle. Thus the books ended up having a lot of extra dashes as Kindle editions.
            I apologize for those dashes. I know I should return to the books and edit them some more and try to get the extra dashes out. The truth is that I have been overwhelmed with other projects, and getting the books edited and put up on Kindle was a six month project that took ALL of my time and I just can’t face going back to it…yet. Some readers have assured me that the remaining scanner errors (dashes and such) do not detract from the books, and some readers obviously feel differently. So this is a very legitimate criticism.
            And then there are those criticisms that seem particular to the critic. For instance, I have been criticized for deviating from the plot stream (too often) to describe details of the landscape and weather. This “fault” has annoyed a few readers. However, some readers praise my books for just this reason. They say I do a great job of evoking the places I write about through accurate detail. “I felt like I was right there with Gail as she rode those trails,” is a frequent response to my books. So it’s hard for me to say if this trait in my writing (which I freely admit to—I love describing landscape and weather and trying to create through words the feeling these things give you) is a strength or a weakness. Maybe both?
            There are those who just don’t consider my protagonist “likable enough,” and there are those who think she is just like a best friend. I have to guess that’s a reflection of personality style on the part of the reader. I’d venture to say that chatty, outgoing extroverts are likely to find Gail a bit of a cold fish, and quiet, introspective introverts who are something of a loner in real life will like Gail and relate well to her.
There are a few who resent what they describe as a sudden dramatic wrap-up in some of my books that presents them with an unexpected villain, and there are many who praise my books because they never figure out who-dun-it ahead of time. I’m here to tell you that the “surprise” villain is/was a real thorn in my side as an author. I never realized that this was an expected feature of a mystery until my books were bought by a major NY publisher and my editor made it clear to me that the reader must always be surprised by the ending. They don’t call mysteries “who-dun-its” for nothing. You are not allowed to build up to an inevitable conclusion in a strong logical manner through clear character development, as you might do in a thriller, or sci-fi or whatever. No, you must somehow disguise the killer’s motivation thoroughly enough that the reader is surprised when the villain is revealed at the end.
Needless to say this isn’t easy to do, and DOES result in a story where the killer’s true purpose and character must be hidden—resulting in a rather sudden revelation and wrap-up—in order to create that sense of surprise which the mystery reader expects. I sometimes find this frustrating myself as a writer, so I can understand why a reader might critique me for it. But perhaps it helps to understand the trap the mystery author is in? Give too much info about the villain and his/her motivation and everyone will guess who it is before the “surprise” ending. But giving very little info ahead of time results in that sudden wrap-up/revelation that often seems a bit contrived and not-so-believable.
And finally there is the thing which has drawn the most criticism (and the most hostile criticism) of all. I had the nerve to turn my equine vet into a mom in the ninth book in the series. Even more, a stay-at-home mom who practices attachment parenting (or natural parenting). God forbid.
Quite a few readers who absolutely LOVED my books when Gail was a single veterinarian were very unhappy when I gave her a baby. Childless women themselves, they found the topic of motherhood boring, and the idea that Gail would actually stay at home to take care of her baby rather than go back to work as a vet was repulsive to them. All I can say to this is oh well. Before I was a mother, I found the topic of motherhood boring, too, so I get it.
To explain why I transformed my busy, dedicated horse vet into a mom (Gail still has horses, and the later mysteries in the series are all very horse-themed, by the way), well, I wanted to write about motherhood because it has been a huge and fascinating part of the last fifteen years of my life. I had said all that I had to say about the life of a veterinarian (and more than a few horse vets have told me that I was writing their lives, so I think I did a decent job on that subject), and I decided to write about a topic that interested me now, in order to keep myself engaged with the series after turning out eight previous books. The fact that not everybody was going to like this motherhood theme was absolutely something I understood going in. I found I was less interested in pleasing people than in portraying small truths and insights about life that I have learned over the years, through/in my fiction. If some don’t like my last four books because of the “mama” theme, so be it. Lots of people do like these books—and I am guessing that other moms are probably more likely to like the stories than non-moms. However, judging by the reviews, there are exceptions to this rule. One of my absolute favorite reader reviews of Chasing Cans (which is the book in which Gail has a nursing baby to deal with as she solves a mystery at the barrel racing trainer’s ranch next door) is as follows:
I was prepared to not like this book so much based on previous reviews. People have pretty harshly judged this story because of the  new mom theme running throughout the book. So I read it, and to the Neigh-sayers, I say, "SO WHAT." We have read about Dr. Gail McCarthy throughout many ages and stages of her life, and becoming a new mom is just another one of her ages and stages. It's one of the things that apparently makes Gail, Gail. In the meantime, the author still weaves a credible mystery and an interesting story, and no matter what, the author's writing style always wins me over because her dialogue is so well crafted. I feel like I really know her characters and their personalities, and the same cannot be said for very many authors I have read recently. I hope Laura Crum continues to write, and I will continue to read them, even if Dr. Gail McCarthy (or any other character she conjures up) goes into pre-menopausal nervous breakdowns, joins religious cults, and just sits in corners and drools and babbles. Yes, Laura Crum's writing is skillful enough to make even that into a mystery and make it interesting as well.

       Now that is a review that makes me smile. She gave the book 5 stars, too.

       Anyway, I know all authors deal with this issue (surely there isn’t anyone who gets ALL good reviews)—anyone have any insights on your own experiences dealing with negative reader reviews?


Sunday, November 10, 2013

And the WINNER is . . . . !!!

Cindy D, you have won a  copy of Darling Mercy Dog of World War I. 

Fang picked your slip of paper out of her bowl -- I swear it was not rigged and she did not think that it spelled CANDY instead of CINDY (she's a much better reader than that.)  I would take a photo of her with your entry in her mouth but she swallowed it. Anyway, congrats!

However, anyone who entered is also a winner if you would like to read and review Darling on your blogs. Horse lovers are usually dog lovers, and this is definitely a dog book for young and old.

Please email me at the address below (cleverly in code so spammers can not find me) CINDY THE BIG WINNER and anyone else who would like a copy to review and make sure you put your real name and address in the email. I promise no promotional materials or yard sale items will be included when I send the book. The copy will be sent media mail and the post office does take its time.  I believe the Pony Express was faster.


Thank you all for entering!

A Sunday snippet

By Gayle Carline
Horse Lover, Owner, and Rampant Author

Good morning! How's your Sunday going? This isn't my regular day to post, but our darned fine administrator (Hi, Laura!) needed someone to fill in, so I said yes, then someone else said yes, then we all blinked, so here's something for you all to tune into until the next brilliant post.

I actually have something else to discuss on my next post, but I'm not quite ready to do it today, so I thought I'd give you a little snippet of my horse's memoir. He's a pretty good storyteller, even if he's lacking in typing skills.

BTW, "Uncle Snowy" in this story is a little grey pony who has been put into the paddock to teach Snoopy the yearling his manners.

* * * * *

There were two goats in the pen next to us. They were girl goats, about half my size and brown, and had funny little tails that stuck straight up. I usually ignored them, since they were not very interesting. It’s not like they ran around and played. They spent most days standing in the corner and eating, or looking for food to eat.

One night, I lay down to sleep and somehow woke up in their pen. There was a space underneath the metal bars just big enough for my body and I guess I scooted around to the other side while I dreamed. I don’t really know how it happened, but I went to sleep in the pen with Uncle Snowy and woke up in the pen with the goats.

At first, they liked playing with me. They ran around the pen and I ran after them. Then they came over and sniffed my legs. That’s when I saw their little tails wiggling.

I couldn’t resist. I reached over and grabbed one goat’s tail in my teeth and lifted. Her back end came off the ground, so I shook her up and down. She started yelling. I let her go and grabbed the other goat’s tail. I shook her, too, then I dragged her up to the gate. She yelled even louder.

I dropped her and ran after the first one again. It was a fun game, chasing the goats and grabbing their tails. I couldn’t quite throw them, but I could shake them up and down and drag them around the pen.

One of the ranch men came running. He caught me and took me back to Uncle Snowy’s side of the pen. He wasn’t happy with me. Neither were the goats. Uncle Snowy wasn’t thrilled, either.

“You are a doofus,” he said. “Leave the goats alone.”

“But it was fun.”

“It wasn’t fun for the goats.” He shook his head, making his white mane wave in the hot sun. “Look, I’m a pony. I’ve lived my entire life being a pain in the butt. But I’m small, so they don’t get that mad at me. I get cute points. You’re six months old and already as big as me. No one will think you’re cute when you’re as big as a tractor, especially if you’re pulling pranks.”

I trotted a big circle around him. “But Uncle Snowy, fun is fun. Who cares about cute points?”

“You will when they whip you for being bad. Listen to me, Snoopy. The humans here are very nice. Some of the nicest humans I’ve lived with. They do everything they can to make us understand what they want. But if we misbehave, they spank us, sometimes with the whip. Just learn your lesson now. Leave the goats alone.”

Even now, I don’t know what everyone was so mad about. I thought it was fun.

* * * * *

What's the zaniest thing your horse has ever done?

Oh, PS, I forgot - if you want to get a copy of Snoopy's book, here are the links: for the Kindle, for the paperback.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Please Save This Horse...

                                    by Laura Crum

            Surely you all have seen these heart-wrenching pleas on facebook. A thin, miserable horse (always a photo) that will go to kill unless money or a home is immediately forthcoming. Usually the story that goes with the photo will bring tears to my eyes. I love horses. I would like to save them all. And I think you can easily see a small problem with that concept.
Because I’m now on facebook (and you’re welcome to friend me there) and some of my friends are involved in horse rescue, I see quite a few pleas to help rescue a given horse. Either with money, or time spent helping the rescue organization, or actually adopting a horse. I think most of what I personally see is quite legitimate (though I realize there are plenty of facebook scams)--people doing their very best to help horses. I admire what they are doing—but I don’t donate, let alone take on a time commitment or another horse.
            And then there are people who need help. Just counting situations that I personally know of and know to be truly deserving people faced with a wholly unexpected medical crisis that is costing them more money than they could ever possibly come up with….well, I know of at least a half dozen of these situations to which I have given a donation. Let alone all the ones I hear about and believe to be real needs and good people. The thing is, I really can’t give any more money even to these legitimate and deserving causes. Even though I want to.
            Why? Because we have lately had our own medical problems in our family and the medical bills are rolling in here, too. I don’t dare give away money I might need to pay bills I haven’t even seen yet. Let alone what the future holds.
            I am a responsible person and I pay my bills. The last thing I want to do is put myself in the position that so many horse rescues seem to end up in—having taken on too many projects, spent more money than they really had, and are now unable to take decent care of the horses they are responsible for. And believe me, this weighs on my mind.
            I have five horses here—the youngest of them are in their late teens. Having had a forever horse who lived to be thirty-five, I know how long a well-cared for horse can live…and I know for a fact that the cost of keeping these older horses in good shape goes up every year they live past thirty (usually). There is supplemental feed and daily drugs to combat arthritic issues…etc. And there is time spent blanketing and unblanketing and stalling and turning out (if that is your way of horse keeping).
            One of the saddest things that can happen is a well-intentioned horse owner becoming so financially strapped that he/she CAN’T take decent care of an older horse that has been a beloved horse for many years. To see these horses thin and ill-kept, or even worse, at the sale and bought by the killers, is heartbreaking. I pray this will never happen to me. And so I husband what resources I have carefully, so that I can take good care of the responsibilities that are mine to deal with. I do not want to have to beg for help—ever. Though I also understand that I am not in charge of what happens to me and mine. But I can try, to the best of my abilities, to prevent a financial crisis from happening here.
            The thing is, I feel guilty. When I read a heartfelt plea from someone I truly believe to be a good person in desperate need of help for a child or spouse, or trying to save a horse or dog that would otherwise die forlorn, I really WANT to help. I could spend all day sending money to such worthy causes, and it would make me happy. That is, I could do this if I lived in an apartment sans pets or family and had at least as much income as I have now.
            In reality, our income is enough to support our family and critters and the land we live on—it will stretch to cover us for the occasional unforeseen veterinary, medical or other emergency. But it will not suffice for endless charitable donations, or for that matter, luxuries like shiny new cars or fancy clothes or vacations in Europe. We just aren’t that wealthy.
            And still, I feel guilty. Because I could send a hundred here and a hundred there—to folks who really need it. And I have done that and I keep on doing that—and I feel guilty if I do and guilty if I don’t. I imagine a lot of you feel the same.
            Anyway, having read a heart-rending plea on facebook for time spent to comfort a very sick woman recently, I am reeling with the conundrum of this guilt. My first responsibility is to take care of that which is mine, lest I end up like those horse rescues full of starving horses and become a burden on others. And not only do I not have enough money to make endless charitable donations, I do not have time to accomplish all that I am responsible for here and drive two hours each way to visit/spend time with this poor woman (who really needs the support). But I long sometimes for a simple life that would allow me the freedom to spend time and money helping others who need help. At the same time I absolutely love my little horse property and my life here with my critters and family. It is my lifelong dream come true. And it is this very dream-come-true that renders me too tied down-- financially, emotionally and time-wise-- to be able to do much for others. This is the reality. It puzzles me in a constant, sad way.
            I have always been able to step up for the situations that came my way—the stray dog running down the street, the good friend that needed a helping hand, a few dollars to a homeless person I meet on the street. I call it the “good Samaritan principle.” The good Samaritan stumbled upon a man who had been robbed lying in a ditch. It’s important to note that the Samaritan wasn’t looking for people to help, or running a shelter. He was going about his business and stumbled upon someone who needed help—and he helped that man. And this is how I have tried to live my life.
            But, because of the internet, I now stumble on far more “men lying in a ditch” than I have the resources to help. The good Samaritan didn’t bankrupt himself and his family helping the stranger. But if he had tried to help two dozen strangers, the Samaritan might have found himself destitute. In my mind, that would have been a wrong thing to do.
            The hard part is that you don’t avoid becoming that rescue who needs rescuing by conserving your resources once you start to tank. By then, it’s too late. You stay solvent (financially and emotionally) by making careful, conservative choices while you still have plenty of resources. Which means you say no to those who need help when you realistically could give them some money or time. You just know that if you do (and keep on doing this) you inevitably WILL tank in the end. Where exactly do you draw the line?
            There is no clear answer to this question that I can find. I want to be responsible for all that I have taken on; I also want to help those in need. The internet shows me so many who need help (legitimately). The only thing I have found so far is that I feel guilty—a lot. Even if I do donate…and also when I don’t.

            Is there an answer? Those of you who feel as I do, please tell me how you resolve this puzzle.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A "Christmas is Almost Here" Book Giveaway

Equestrian Ink posters are in holiday giveaway mode. As far as I am concerned, a book is the best gift, especially for a young reader. Laura and Linda have both had great giveaways. Now it is my turn!

My latest book, Darling Mercy Dog of World War I is out and ready.  Darling is set in England and Belgium during World War I. It is an appropriate and exciting (I hope) read and gift for ages 8 to adult on the little-known topic of mercy dogs, who found wounded soldiers in 'no man's land.'

Fang my ever-watchful editorial assistant
Laura, Linda and Jennifer have kindly offered to read and review it. Laura will post her and her son's review on EI. Linda and Jennifer will post on their own blogs. In the meantime, I would love to send a free, hardback copy to a CONTEST WINNER. Fortunately the contest is easy--simply let me know in the comment section this week (November 2nd - 9th)  that you are interested in putting your name in my totally random drawing. Slips of paper will go into my assistant Fang's food bowl and she will pick one lucky winner.  I will post the winner's name on November 9th so be sure to check back on EI for a post announcing the BIG WINNER. That day, those who are not winners can also get a free copy if he/she is interested in reading it for a review. That means EVERYONE can be a winner! YAY!

So let me know if you want to go into Fang's food bowl -- she is chomping at the bit (oh wait, that's my horse Relish.)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Thank you!

by Laura Crum

Just wanted to say a big thank you to all those who made my free book promotion such a huge success. We gave away thousands of books, with your help spreading the word. And I very much hope that all of you who took me up on the free book offer enjoy my horse-themed mystery novels. Happy reading and riding...and happy writing, too, seeing as it's now the "novel writing" month again!

Here's my resident great blue heron flying away just as the sun rose yesterday (he's after the goldfish in my pond), for something lovely and inspiring.