I just wanted to give a quick shout-out to the readers who have taken a few minutes (or more than a few minutes, judging by the length and detail of some of these things) to leave reviews for Show Barn Blues. You are so, so appreciated. I don’t even have the words.
Mary Pagones called it “a must-read for hunter-jumper riders.”
Kate Lattey said “I couldn’t put this book down.”
Other nice things readers said:
“damn good writing”
“You are one of a very few authors that ‘get’ what makes horse people tick.”
“I loved this book!!! The author developed the characters very well.”
Okay, the last one wasn’t particularly nice but I just want to be up-front with the criticisms as well as the raves.
There are also stars and reviews on GoodReads, whose users I have always found to be a very tough crowd, so the scattering of 5-star ratings there is deeply appreciated.
All I can say, again, is thank you, and I’ll keep writing to bring you a new book as soon as possible. I couldn’t write these books if it wasn’t for you, and your reviews are what connect new readers to my books. Writing books takes time, having time to write takes money, yet books make very little money. It’s a conundrum writers have been facing for as long as we’ve been putting stories on paper. When you leave a review and convince people to try my books for the first time, you’re giving me a few extra minutes to work on Pride, or whatever new title is in production.
I should also let you know that the paperback of Show Barn Blues is now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and CreateSpace, and it’s absolutely beautiful. So if you prefer a book you can touch and put on your bookshelf and admire, pick up a copy! If you think your local tack shop should be carrying my books, get in touch with their contact information and I’ll reach out to them.
And if you haven’t joined us at Horseback Reads, please make sure to like our Facebook page and keep in touch on Twitter! We’re going to have more equestrian writing and content to keep you up to date on the latest horse books from our authors. If you’re looking for new authors to try, Horseback Reads is the place to start.
Part of my Great Equestrian Books review series, this post was originally published at Retired Racehorse in 2013.
I have a fabulous horse racing romance to share with you this week! It’s one of the most fun, suspenseful, and horsey romances you’ll ever read.
Keeping The Peace is the first of a series built around a National Hunt racing stable. I’m utterly in love with the main character. I’m just going to say it: this book could be called Bridget Jones Goes to the Races and it wouldn’t be far off the mark. Luckily, I love both Bridget Jones and racing, so this was a match made in heaven for me.
Sweet, lovely, and impressively creative with bad language when she’s pissed off, Pippa Taylor is going through the motions. She’s got a job, she’s got a flat, she’s got a sort-of actor boyfriend who is just bound to get discovered one of these days. She has the requisite bad-girl best friend, she has the requisite lost dream of being an artist — she has everything you need to be a another cog in the machine.
But nothing throws a machine out of whack like a horse. They’re pre-Industrial Age, they defy all logic, and we love them without reason. And while Pippa is no horsey girl, when she inherits a pair of Thoroughbreds from her uncle, she’s struck by not just the inherent promise in a horse, but by the dream that her uncle had for one of them.
That’s Peace Offering, and like every horse, he comes with baggage. His racing history is rubbish, for one thing. His trainer is a bad-tempered Horse Racing Ken Doll, for another. Peace Offering immediately starts changing Pippa’s life in all sorts of crazy fashions, as horses do.
Hooton’s evocative imagery and crisp writing sets this story apart from the competition. Here’s Pippa meeting a yard of racehorses for the first time:
She stopped at the first stable and peeked inside. Suddenly, half a ton of horseflesh came hurtling towards the door, teeth bared, ears pinned back. Pippa gave a startled yelp and jumped out of harm’s way. She yelped again as she collided with a neat cutlery set of pitchforks and spades leaning against the wall.
I loved the National Hunt racing setting. Like most Americans, I know about Cheltenham and the Gold Cup and the King George V in a sort of abstract fashion: they’re steeplechases in England. I know that… that… um… well, they happen. I’ve sat up at odd hours watching the jumps racing and I absolutely love it… riding a steeplechasing course is definitely on my bucket list. (Some might say it ought to be the last item on my bucket list.) I know about Kauto Star. If pressed I would say Haydock is a horse and not a place but I’d have to Google it.
Despite holding an exercise riders’ license, when it comes to jumps racing, I’m kind of a Pippa:
Jack shook his head helplessly.
“We won the Cheltenham Gold Cup with him earlier this year. Won eight Grade Ones on the bounce. He’s a bit of a celebrity.”
“I know Cheltenham!” Pippa cried, excited that she knew something to do with horseracing.
The new-to-me setting gave this book a particular charm, especially the very thrilling racing scenes. Thrilling, terrifying, you know — just think how stressful you find it watching your favorite horse (to say nothing of your own) running a six furlong race. Now imagine a three mile race. I wonder if Americans as a society would even survive if we were suddenly forced to watch NH instead of flat racing. Our poor over-taxed hearts would just give out after 2 minutes.
Imagine poor Pippa urging on her horse, only to see a horse fall on the other side of the fence, right in their landing path, that Finn, the jockey can’t possibly know about.
Peace Offering stretched higher and wider to clear the yawning ditch and wall of spruce. Pippa could almost see the surprise register in Finn’s body language when he caught sight of the fallen horse on the landing side.
“Please God, help them.”
They touched down a stride away from Corazon. Peace Offering took half a stride and took off again, hurdling the half-risen faller.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Pippa babbled. She wondered how many other repented sins God would allow her. Another fifteen fences’ worth?
Fifteen fences. At this point I’m sweating and I’m just reading the book.
But that’s one of the many pleasures of Keeping the Peace. With exciting racing scenes, a slow-burning romance, and the delightfully creative swearing (yes, two mentions in one review) that the British have truly mastered, Keeping the Peace is one of my favorite reads this year.
This post originally appeared at Retired Racehorse Blog in 2013.
I’m a huge proponent of independent publishing, not least because it has allowed horse books to enter a whole new level. Gone are the days when I could choose between a $5.99 paperback from the Thoroughbred series or a $35.95 hardcover tome on dressage principles if I wanted to have a little horsey reading time. Equestrian writers can write for equestrians of all ages.
(And on a side-note, whoever decided that horse training books should be published on expensive glossy paperstock and with beautiful slipcovers was probably some accountant reading a report about the 35-55 married female with disposable income demo that represents the majority of Dressage Today’s subscribers, not a horse-person who knows a training book is best perused in the rather dirty and disheveled confines of the tack room immediately before or after a training session.)
Meanwhile, back at the ranch… Indie publishing lets horse-people publish horse-books that I actually want to read.
You’ve probably noticed that I’ve reviewed Barbara Morgenroth and Maggie Dana books quite often at Retired Racehorse. That’s because they’re not just excellent writers, they’re horsewomen, and they write horse books that make sense. No one is going straight to the Olympics after they went to a summer riding camp, taught an unbroken Mustang to jump logs in the woods by moonlight, and subsequently won the Grand Prix at the National Horse Show. (Any old Grand Prix will do.)
Instead, Maggie writes about tweens who are going about the very difficult business of growing up and working really, really hard to improve their riding because they know nothing else really matters in life.
Meanwhile, Barbara writes about teens who are going about the very difficult business of growing up (in a much more edgy manner, because teens) and working really, really hard to improve their riding even though they’re not entirely convinced that it’s the best way to spend their time (because teens).
The books lend to one another beautifully: As Barbara said, “Maggie’s books are a gateway to mine.”
And, I’d like to think, Barbara’s books lead to mine, which are written about adults in the horse business.
No more skipping from Thoroughbred to Mary Wanless in one not-so-easy step. Horse books have a progression now.
And indie publishing isn’t just wonderful because it allows us to read books we might never get to enjoy otherwise. Indie publishing also provides for a spirit of collaboration and friendship between authors who realize that by working together, they can provide the best possible reading experience for fans. Recently, they sent me this wonderful article:
How Two Rivals Came Together to Make a Team
In the world of traditional book publishing, Barbara Morgenroth and Maggie Dana would be rival authors, both vying for the same limited space on bookstore shelves devoted to children’s and YA fiction. Very likely they’d be monitoring one another’s sales ranks and rejoicing if the other author dropped a few points.
“Hooray! Let’s break out the whips and spurs!”
But when it comes to indie publishing, all that has gone out the window. Independent authors are totally open about sharing resources and information and helping one another. Some have edited and/or proofed another’s books for free; other indies have provided their fellow authors with professionally designed covers, formatting, and typesetting (again, for free) because they believed in someone else’s book and wanted to help.
Six months ago, Barbara and Maggie only knew each other from their Amazon listings, but thanks to a chance encounter on a well-respected indie publishing industry blog, they connected in real time.
And they are loving it.
After getting to know one another via phone and email, they swapped information: Maggie has taught Barbara how to format her books for ePub and Kindle, and Barbara (whose multiple talents include writing for daytime television) has helped Maggie broaden her writing horizons. They’ve also swapped characters.
Lockie Malone, Barbara’s enigmatic horse trainer who stars in her Bittersweet Farm series, makes a guest appearance in Taking Chances, the seventh book in Maggie’s Timber Ridge Riders series for mid-grade/tween readers.
At some point, one of Maggie’s Timber Ridge characters will show up in Barbara’s Bittersweet Farm YA books.
And who knows where this will lead? All bets are off as these two writers set aside any hint of competition and work together to make their genres the best they can be… and they’re having a boatload of fun while doing it.
About these two horse-crazy authors …
Maggie Dana’s first riding lesson, at the age of five, was less than wonderful. In fact, she hated it so much, she didn’t try again for another three years. But all it took was the right instructor and the right horse and she was hooked for life.
Her new riding stable was slap bang in the middle of Pinewood Studios, home of England’s movie industry. So while learning to groom horses, clean tack, and muck stalls, Maggie also got to see the stars in action. Some even spoke to her.
Born and raised near London, Maggie now makes her home on the Connecticut shoreline where she divides her time between hanging out with the family’s horses and writing her next book in the Timber Ridge Riders series. She also writes women’s fiction and her latest novel, Painting Naked, was published in 2012 by Macmillan/Momentum.
Barbara was born in New York City and but now lives somewhere else. She got her first horse when she was eleven and rode nearly every day for many years, eventually teaching equitation, then getting involved in eventing.
Starting her career by writing tween and YA books, she wound up in daytime television for some years. Barbara then wrote a couple of cookbooks and a nonfiction book on knitting. She returned to fiction and wrote romantic comedies.
When digital publishing became a possibility, Barbara leaped at the opportunity and has never looked back. In addition to the fifteen traditionally published books she wrote, in digital format Barbara has something to appeal to almost every reader—from mature YAs like the Bad Apple series and the Flash series, to contemporary romances like Love in the Air published by Amazon/Montlake, along with Unspeakably Desirable, Nothing Serious, and Almost Breathing.
And while you’re there, give it a bookmark or subscribe for updates. I’m switching away from the how-to Disney blog and moving into travel narratives. Get a taste of the new style with my Fort Wilderness walk, posted last week. I’m toying with the idea of a collection of Walt Disney World stories at the end of 2015!
In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from my full review, posted to GoodReads. Are we friends on GoodReads? Click through below and be sure to add me!
Disneylanders takes on a big topic–when are we too old for Disneyland? Is it crazy and childish to be in love with a theme park? Are we foolishly surrounded by fake bricks and fiberglass facades, or does our love for this place of dreams still have a valid role in our adult lives? And in the midst of a budding first romance and the need to get away from our parents and strike out for freedom, don’t we still all belong together, as a family, while we’re at Disneyland?
Casey is on vacation with her parents–the same Disneyland vacation they have taken year after year, but this year, things feel different. She feels pressure to grow up–possibly into a person she doesn’t really like, as her (former) best friend has done. Her parents seem more annoying and overbearing than ever before, and when she meets a teenage guy named Bert (a delightfully dorky reference to Mary Poppins that they both get), Casey finds herself embarking on her first act of teenage rebellion. There are worse places than Disneyland to do that sort of thing, I suppose.
As you, the reader, follow her characters through a tumultuous two days in Disneyland, you feel every emotion, see every land, even smell the churros and popcorn. No opportunity to examine the way that Disneyland makes us feel is ever wasted.
The main character of Ambition, Jules, is a prickly young woman with a chip on her shoulder. Not the most endearing of characters, right? I was really worried about how Jules would be received by readers.
After all, there were plenty of readers who told me that they wanted Alex, of the Alex and Alexander series, to be tougher. To know all the answers. To never feel weak.
And while I can understand the appeal of having a heroine who knows all the answers to look up to, that’s not the kind of stories I have been trying to tell.
There are so many of us brought up in the horse business who constantly feel that we are in over our heads, that we are facing insurmountable odds and disadvantages, that we are too tired to go on, but we always go on… that’s reality. The question is, how do we shove through these fears and weaknesses, how do we get the energy to go on, what spurs us to continue the struggle to be the best, whether we are riding, or training, or breeding?
And that’s the story. Not having all the answers, but slowly, slowly, figuring things out. Hopefully, some will be able to draw inspiration from Alex’s struggles, as well as Jules’, and take heart that they can figure it all out, too.
Jane Badger, who runs Jane Badger Books and is the author of Heroines on Horseback: The Pony Book in Children’s Fiction, wrote about Jules and her flaws and promise extensively in a recent review at her blog.
“However brilliant Jules is with horses, she is blindingly hopeless with people. She’s one of those who, because they’ve been hurt so much in the past, bites first and asks questions later. She treads, wilfully, all over anyone who dares to come near her…
“Despite Jules’ desperate, tearing ambition to get somewhere, she seems intent on sabotaging herself. She simply can’t believe that anyone can approach her simply because they like her, and not because they have some sort of ulterior motive. The dreadful irony is that Jules spends her life sorting out problem horses, but she’s the least sorted out person in Florida.
“The brilliance of Natalie Keller Reinert is that she makes you stick with this difficult, prickly, downright unlikeable girl. And if you, like me, do need to find at least something to like in a main character, stick with this book. I promise you you will not regret it….
“In Jules Natalie Keller Reinert has created a barbed wire heroine who still, despite her arrogance, and her pathetic inability to see the good in people, still has something about her that catches at your heart.”
Bringing Jules to life was important to me. Sharing her was hard. Reading reviews like this and having conversations with people about why she is real and why she matters — that’s amazing.
Thanks so much to Jane Badger for her assessment of Ambition and Jules, and thanks to all of the readers out there who are making Ambition the top horse book at Amazon. I hope we make a difference to someone who didn’t quite think they could make it.
I’m so excited to share the first reviews for Ambition with you!
When I read a review, I’m really finding out, at last, if I’ve accomplished what I wanted to with my story. Ambition, in particular, is a story that went through many, many incarnations as I tried to take it from a story that resonated with me, to a story that would resonate with many equestrians around the world. And that’s not always an easy thing to judge on your own, or even with the small sample size of a few beta readers.
But so far, it looks as though I may have accomplished my goal.
Here is a clip from Horse Junkies United:
Starting the novel on Thursday evening, I was finished it by Friday at noon- I couldn’t put it down! Her writing style is easy to read, and the pages flow effortlessly. Most of all though, I was thrilled with all of the horsey details that were not only abundant, but accurate! This is were you could tell that the author had experience in the sport that she was portraying, lending this to her storyline and characters, making them come realistically to life.
As I wrote Ambition, just as with my other equestrian novels, I wanted to be sure my readers understood I was writing for them. These aren’t books That Also Have Horses in Them. I’m not throwing in a few horses to placate the horsey folks in the crowd.
These are horse-books for horse-people.
Thanks so much for the reviews, and please keep them coming! You can find your own copy of Ambition at:
This book review is posted over at Retired Racehorse, where I have been posting equestrian reads for years now. But for all my new readers, here is my latest review, for Maggie Dana’s outstanding Turning on a Dime:
I’m often struck by how much we share with the equestrians of the past. Our tack, our boots, the very way we sit our horses — whether we ride English or Western, we are very much in contact with our riding roots every day. Horsemanship is horsemanship, and, by the same token, the deep genetic need the truly horse-crazy feel to keep horses close to them probably hasn’t changed much in the past millennia or two, either.
But in Maggie Dana’s powerful new drama, Turning on a Dime, we’re asked to stop and consider what the modern horse-crazy life might look like in another time — one that isn’t quite so pretty and permissive as today.
Sam might be vying to become the first African-American member of the United States Equestrian Team, but really, race is the last thing on her mind. The horses don’t notice, and neither does she.
Caroline is too busy ducking away from crinolines and corsets to worry about her future role as a Southern Lady. And the war with the North is getting close to home, certainly, but as long as she can sneak out for a gallop on her mare, life is good enough.
They’re one hundred fifty years and a world of prejudice apart. But Sam and Caroline have a lot to learn about one another — and themselves — when one turn of a dime throws their lives together, and they learn how deeply their fates are entwined.
What happens when you throw a 21st-century teenager — who happens to be African-American — into an 1863 plantation house? Well, you’d think nothing good. Luckily, Caroline has a good heart, and a definite interest in Sam’s 21st-century toys. Every teenage girl wants an iPhone, even if they have no idea what it actually does. (That’s design for you.) And that iPhone will come in handy. Because Sam and Caroline are about to find out that there are more important problems than just getting Sam back to her own time, and sometimes video proof is all a person will believe.
In Turning on a Dime, one truth becomes clear: horsemanship has nothing to do with the date on the calendar, or the roles society has granted us. For those of us who proudly bear the title “horse-crazy,” horses are in our blood, and no silly laws or rules can change that. Our horses come first — everything else is just details.
Visit MaggieDana.com for more information, or pick up Turning on a Dime right here in paperback or ebook!