Update: The Horseback Reads Book Club and Blog

I have two great updates for you from the Horseback Reads website!

The first is that today I have a blog post up entitled Still An Equestrian. As I’m sure some of you know, I’m an equestrian author without a horse. But it gets worse. I don’t even take lessons… or go on occasional trail rides with friends… I don’t have any (real-life) horse time at all!  So am I still an equestrian? You better believe I am, and I explore the reasons why we never lose that status here at Horseback Reads.

The second update is for our Horseback Reads Equestrian Book Club. We’re so excited to launch in the month of November! This is the perfect month to carve out a little “me time” with a good book. November gets crazy fast. Thanksgiving, holiday shopping, holiday decorating… it can get overwhelming quickly. Taking twenty minutes to relax and read will go a long way towards your overall peace of mind. And of course you want to read about horses!

Falling for Eli
Our November book club selection!

Our first title selection is Falling For Eli: How I Lost Heart, Then Gained Hope Through the Love of a Singular Horse, by Nancy Shulins. This is an absolutely lovely story about an off-track Thoroughbred, and I’m so excited to read it again. I actually wrote a review of Falling for Eli when it was first released… I’ll have to see if I can find the file and post it here! Still, I think the cover photo just speaks for itself — a silly chestnut Thoroughbred with a heart of gold.

At the end of the month we’ll have a live chat with author Nancy Shulins at our Horseback Reads Facebook page, so you’ll definitely want to pick up this book (don’t forget to check your local library!) so you can jot down some questions for the author.

(I’m so excited that we’re all just going to talk horse books together at the end of the month! This book club is the most fun idea ever!)

Below is the link for Falling For Eli at Amazon, and you can also find it at all other major retailers. Be sure to check in at our Facebook page and say hello, and tell your friends at the barn! Let’s start the Equestrian Book Club off right!

Book Review: Wanderlust and laughter from “The Road to Little Dribbling”

The Road to Little Dribbling
The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson

For Bill Bryson fans, Mr. Bryson can do no wrong. And you’d better believe I’m a Bill Bryson fan. His travel stories are the perfect blend of grouchy internal monologue and “oops did I say that aloud” less-than-internal monologues. As a grouchy internal monologue super-user, I identify with Bryson every time the human race does something dismaying.

Even within the close confines of that small island of Britain, there’s plenty of room for the human race to do something dismaying. Our favorite globe-trotting grouch encounters morose barkeeps who turn away dinner patrons from empty rooms because the kitchen is slammed, witnesses a total lack of English grammar in the land where English grammar was born, and a poster of Jeremy Clarkson being judgmental (also without grammar). It’s enough to make a person weep for the future.

Luckily, he also finds views. Marvelous, marvelous views.

The Road to Little Dribbling is filled with descriptions of views. The view from the top of a hill, usually. Sometimes the view from a cliff, for a slight change. Sometimes a view of a lake, or an ocean, or more hills. I’ve never been so raptly fascinated with the concept of showy landscape. I reached a point where I was Googling each place Bryson visited, so that I could take it all in right alongside him. I now want nothing more than to go tramping through the most unknown, under-appreciated corners of England, following the so-called “Bryson Line,” taking in all those magnificent views.

Along with those views, there is also a little bit of melancholy — again, a staple element of a Bryson trip. So many things gone, or teetering on the edge of being gone… buildings, livelihoods, shops, and yes… perfect landscapes. They’re always on a precipice of being lost, whether from a lack of funds, a lack of thought, or a lack of foresight.

Bill Bryson’s latest book makes me long to go to England, not just the England he’s tramping through today, but the England of two hundred years ago, the England of two thousand years ago, and even further back than that, because, as I’ve newly discovered, Britain is unimaginably ancient.

Until I can get there, I’ll just reread his book, laughing out loud in public and sighing over those longed-for views.

The Road to Little Dribbling will be released in the US on January 19, 2016.

New Horse Book Review! “Something Royal” is Something Delightful

Something Royal
Something Royal, by Maggie Dana

Eleven books ago, when Kate came to Timber Ridge Stables and became Holly’s companion, we could all see this was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. And it has been! Through horse shows and horse camps, blizzards and summer storms, film shoots and crime scenes, Kate and Holly have been through it all together. They’re true BFFs. So nothing could ever come between these two best friends, right? Especially two best friends who are now sisters!

Sure, there are small things. Kate does not understand what Holly sees in make-up. Or clothes that can’t be worn for barn chores. Or flaking out over boys. (Okay, Kate has some very slight interest in boys… or one in particular). Holly is at a loss for why Kate isn’t more interested in dolling herself up, but honestly? Holly isn’t much of a worrier. Worrying is Kate’s hobby, and she’s fantastic at it. (I strongly identify with Kate in this, as in many other things.)

But these girls are tight, and these problems are tiny. What could come between them?

Well, something royal this way comes.

Mutual friend Twiggy (Flying Changes, book 10), is coming to visit Timber Ridge Stables. Twiggy is a European princess who trails drama in her wake. Holly adores her. Kate, less a fan, just adds the upcoming Twiggy drama to her list of worries. Doesn’t she have enough problems, without coaching Holly through a royal visit (or coping with Holly’s hair, makeup, and wardrobe obsessions)?

Kate, as she sees it, has some very real problems. Including, distressingly enough, wondering whether her beloved Tapestry is enough horse for her hopes and dreams. I’m with Kate — princesses are all good and well, boys are very nice for someone, and clothes are for rubbing off horse slobber on — the real problem in this world is making sure the horse you love and the horse you need are one and the same. Sometimes, it can be impossible to know for sure.

Something Royal is a delightful read, full of twists and subplots (I didn’t even mention there might be a stalker!) with lovely horses and the passionate barn-rat kids who love them. Watching Kate and Holly test the bounds of their friendship, while they each grapple with very different dilemmas, makes this series continue to surprise and delight with every new installment.

P.S., love the title!

Find Something Royal at Amazon, B&N, iTunes, and Kobo – or visit TimberRidgeRiders.com

An Equestrian Book Club

Book clubs are so fun. You read a book, you go to a book store or a cafe, you drink a lot of wine with your girls and talk about all the self-affirming principles you learned from your mutual read…

Wait, that’s just on TV and Pinterest. That’s not real life.

Especially for many of my equestrian friends, who don’t live within commuting distance of a book store or cafe, let alone have the time to go there in the evening and drink wine. Hello, did anyone ever hear of mucking out after work? There’s a little thing called night-check? And we have to fit riding into the 32 minutes of evening daylight we’re granted once the clocks change (sorry to bring up a sore subject).

Still, there are so many great horse books out there.  It would be a shame to miss out on any of them. Your horse agrees.

horse book club Photo: flickr/australianshepherds
Photo: flickr/australianshepherds. Usage: creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

My friends at Horseback Reads are cooking up an equestrian book club. An online book club, so there’s none of that commuting thing. Just a book we all read together, a chat with the author (and with each other), so we’re getting together to celebrate the good things in life: horses and books. (You can supply your own wine if you like; we prefer Pinto Grigio for these things).

It’s also a great way to while away these upcoming dark evenings… in between sunset and night-check, that is.

Want to help us design our Equestrian Book Club of the Future? If you have ideas, suggestions, random thoughts, lightbulb moments, or strokes of genius, please bring them to our attention. Just visit our Facebook page at facebook.com/HorsebackReads. Or leave a comment here!

We’re going to build a better book club, and we want your ideas on what will make it great for you! 

Two Winners: Equestrian Fiction from Mary Pagones

Here’s a rare experience for me: reading a book so intensely personal, I was literally nodding my head “yes, yes,” along with the narrator’s internal dialogue. Here’s a rare experience for me: finishing a book, reading the teaser of the follow-up book on the next page, and immediately downloading that book so I could continue the journey I was on. Here’s a rare experience for me: the next book was completely different in every way, from voice to characters to motivation, and it still affected me as much as the first one.

The Horse is Never Wrong, by Mary Pagones
The Horse is Never Wrong, by Mary Pagones

I’m talking about the work of Mary Pagones here, an equestrian writer who Gets It. She’s one of those rare breed of writers who can get inside the head of a horse-person and lay bare our hopes and dreams, our ambitions and fears.

And she does it in a clever way, too.

Pagones starts her two-book (so far?) equestrian series with The Horse is Never Wrong, a totally non-conformist Young Adult horse story. (When I think about this book and how far we’ve come from The Saddle Club and Thoroughbred, I am just amazed and grateful for the gifts of independent publishing.) Narrator Heather isn’t impressed with her Asberger’s diagnosis — a crutch her teachers seem to love pinning her social anxieties and occasional academic blunders upon, but which might not actually exist, since Asberger’s has been folded into the Autism spectrum. All Heather knows is, everyone else is weird, and she is just doing her own thing. What’s wrong with that?

Heather discovers riding and riding is good for her… but it isn’t a Cinderella Goes To The Olympics story. Heather as a character is beautifully written — she narrates without self-pity, without (intentional) humor — she’s a just-the-facts-ma’am reporter. Her voice is unerringly true to herself. Not particularly flowery, even stilted at times, and always pretty sure something is going to go wrong. Here, Heather sums up her biggest challenge in life: dealing with herself.

“I’m just going to have suck and up and deal with the me I have been given, just like I have learned not to complain about a horse’s behavior. Change your behavior; it’s not the horse’s fault, I’m told.”

I got Heather. I totally understood Heather. I felt an almost alarming connection to Heather — she took me back to ninth grade (which was not a place I particularly wanted to go, but… I did some good riding that year, and I met some cool people at the barn to make up for the people I didn’t even remotely understand at my high school).

And that’s what makes Fortune’s Fool so interesting.

Fortune's Fool, by Mary Pagones
Fortune’s Fool, by Mary Pagones

Simon, who makes his first appearance in The Horse is Never Wrong, couldn’t be more different from Heather. It’s several years in the future and Simon has gone from the local barn’s resident bronc-buster, that teenager who will get on anything, to a high school senior about to embark on his life’s dream. He’s going to be a working student at an eventing barn (clearly inspired by Tamarack Hill) and take life by the horns. He’s going to make a living as an eventer. He’s going to ride horses forever and ever and no one can stop him.

Simon is brash, arrogant, proud, hot-tempered, know-it-all… and yet he’s totally lovable. He listens to 80s punk and New Wave, worships The Killers, and is dying for a pair of Doc Martens if only they didn’t cost as much as a new pair of paddock boots. No one can tell Simon a damn thing… Simon knows best, thank you very much, especially about his riding, especially especially about his hell-for-leather cross-country style and his possibly-psychotic horse, Fortune.

Oh boy, did I get Simon.

If Heather took me back to my awkward “only my horse understands me” freshman year, Simon took me back to my post-high-school “I’ll sleep/earn money when I’m dead” years. (I’m still kind of in those years, except I give in to sleep way more often. I still don’t really earn any money, though. I write horse books.) But seriously… listened to 80s punk and New Wave. wanted a pair of Doc Martens but couldn’t justify the cost. knew that my parents and my teachers and life and everyone were wrong — there was no need to waste time on so-called intellectual pursuits, not when I could ride a horse, take care of a horse, clean up after a barn full of horses…

As truthful to writing from Simon’s perspective as she was from Heather’s, Pagones does a total 180 shift in her writing. Simon’s sentences are jagged, his observations are hyperbolic, his language is very, very salty. Simon cusses like a sailor, but what 18-year-old working student doesn’t? I used to boast that I only spoke English but thanks to fellow working students and foreign grooms, I could swear in five languages. (I don’t remember them anymore.) Simon thinks in bursts of emotion and long moments of introspection; what some people see as editing misses are more likely the workings of his mind. No one thinks in perfect sentences.

The aching truth behind Simon’s rough swagger is that he doesn’t know what’s going to happen and that’s scary as hell. He doesn’t have money, just talent. And he’s just as plagued by thirty under thirty lists as I’ve always been — of course, now my pet peeve are forty under forty lists. Could people stop being so accomplished, please? Here’s Simon, telling it like it is:

The sense of motionlessness is particularly strong when I read about about someone my age winning an international event. This seems to confirm everyone’s opinion that I’m making some sort of horrible mistake with my life.

He’s eighteen, he’s in a state somewhere between elation and panic about the future, and he’s in very deep waters, not just professionally, but romantically.

Been there.

What it all comes down to: The Horse is Never Wrong and Fortune’s Fool are not your average horse books. I’ve never read two books by the same author that were written so differently, and yet so genuinely. I’ve never identified with two characters so completely opposite in every way. These books are challenging in structure and story, completely honest to the equestrian life, and by turns both soft and gritty. Non-traditional and utterly readable, these are wonderful new entries into the growing equestrian fiction niche.

Thanks for the reviews!

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.”

“silly book.”

Okay, the last one wasn’t particularly nice but I just want to be up-front with the criticisms as well as the raves.

book reviews
It’s true.

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.

Thank you!

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 Readsplease 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.

That’s all for now… I better get writing!

Updates: Book Reviews, Bestsellers, and Tacos

Well, it’s been almost ten days since my last post here — the one where I promised I’d write more, remember that? What happened in the meantime? Well, a little writing, and a whole lotta life…

The goal was to get up every morning and write write every morning before I did anything else. Tea and writing, instead of tea and Twitter, basically. I actually had a really good start! For a few days, I was hammering out a few thousand words on Pride instead of thinking “I should really be working on Pride.” 

Of course, during this time, I was going to work in the afternoons — sometime between noon and five PM. For me, any time I’m working in the evenings, I feel like I have limitless potential to achieve things in the mornings. Writing, reading, errands, you name it, I can accomplish it all and still have a nap before I head to work.

This past week, though, everything changed. I’m training for a new position and my life has turned into morning shifts. Suddenly, I went from a 3 AM bedtime to a 6 AM alarm. I was sleepwalking through the days. It’s probably for the best that I don’t have the strength of character to wake up an hour early to get some writing in. Who knows what nonsense would happen in my dream-state?  I’d probably have Jules riding a chestnut unicorn through the underworld to rescue Pete from a Transformer or something.

Show Barn Blues paperback
Real books, plastic horses.

So, the week has been a little light on word count. Things will shake out in the next week or two, though.

The other fun things happening around Natalie’s world…

-The paperback of Show Barn Blues arrived. It’s gorgeous and looks great with your other horse books! You can now order it through Amazon — I believe Barnes  & Noble and other bookstores will take a few more weeks to add it to their catalogs.

Number 1 Bestseller Equestrian Sports
That’s a ribbon I love seeing

Show Barn Blues has four 5-star reviews on Amazon. It’s made it as high as number 16 on the Amazon Sports Bestseller list, which I think is as high as any of my books have gotten on the Sports list — but much sooner than any of my other books have made it! Horses and Equestrian Sports are the sub-category of Sports where I list my books. The “pages read” reports on borrowed copies is also at record highs for my titles. If you have Amazon Prime, you have access to Kindle Unlimited – that means you can borrow my ebooks for free!

-I’m part of a new author’s co-op called Horseback Reads. Our website is at horsebackreads.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We’re a group of equestrian writers who hold ourselves and our writing to the highest quality standards, so you’ll always know you’re getting a thoughtfully-crafted, edited, and well-produced book from us. Our social media outlets will be a great way to keep up on new equestrian titles you’ll want to read.

tacos el tenampa
Every time I see them, I want them even more.

-And finally, I had tacos so good they revived my interest in food/travel blogging, so instead of crashing on the couch after dinner, I wrote a blog post about them. If you love tacos, you’re welcome to read my thoughts on them here: http://thatdisfamily.com/2015/09/tacos-el-tenampa-kissimmee/

This is a good thing because any sort of writing inspires more writing. Once you get back in the habit of typing away about your entire life and all your inner thoughts, it’s very addicting. I used to blog daily on multiple sites — in fact, if you’re new to NKR fiction, you might not realize that The Head and Not The Heart was born out of the massive daily readership of my first serious blog, Retired Racehorse.

Well, that’s the news from Celebration. I’m still on the lookout for new reviews for Show Barn Blues, so if you enjoyed the book, my name is Natalie Keller Reinert and I’m on Amazon and GoodReads, and if you didn’t enjoy the book, my name is a secret and you’ve never heard of me. Have a great week!

Writing Habits (That I Don’t Have)

I really, really need a good writing habit.

This summer has not been my best for writing. As I blogged the other day, I’ve been working slightly insane hours, and when I’m not at work, I would really rather go to the pool/go to a theme park/go to sleep/do anything besides think about what the characters inhabiting the recesses of my brain are up to. I would prefer they stay in the recesses of my brain until I have more energy to deal with them.

The Internet is great for finding enabling quotes like this one. See, Anne Tyler is bad at writing habits, too!
The Internet is great for finding enabling quotes like this one. See, Anne Tyler is bad at writing habits, too!

Then I get another urgent email asking me when the sequel to Ambition is coming and I look at a calendar, realize I am six months behind schedule, and start panicking. (I don’t start writing, necessarily. It’s much easier to panic.)

I’m really, really good at panicking.

Somehow this summer I managed to finish Show Barn Blues, and the consequential lift in mood and energy that comes from publishing a book at last, from not having to open that damn file anymore, from having fresh new words to look at, is pushing me to really make a commitment to my writing. I need to do better. I need to do more.

I need to finish Pride.

So, I’m trying to get myself back into the writing habit by opening up my computer and editing a chapter of Pride every morning.

But then Bradbury comes and lays down a truth-bomb.
But then Bradbury comes and lays down a truth-bomb.

Obviously this is not as easy as my current morning routine, which is plopping onto the couch and looking at Twitter for an hour. And, in what is probably a surprising twist only to me, it’s actually more entertaining than looking at Twitter for an hour. I don’t even know what I’m looking at on Twitter most of the time. Theme park news, random pictures of racehorses steaming in the morning sunlight, a funny gif of a dog… seriously, what have I been doing with my life?

It’s more entertaining, writing a novel, but it requires infinitely more effort than the couch/Twitter combo, and sometimes most of the time I just don’t feel like I have the energy or the brain power to write anything of consequence.

Well, if the past two days are any indication, I actually do have both the energy and the brain power, so I have to keep at this morning writing challenge until it stops being a challenge and starts being a habit.

Of course, next week, I work at 8 AM every day, so I’m not sure how this is all going to hold up when I’m leaving the house at 7:30. Do I have any energy and/or brain power at six in the morning? I have to tell you, the outlook is not promising.

The Internet is overrun with motivational blog posts informing me of illustrious writers who set their alarms for 4 AM every morning and write ten thousand words before breakfast, but maybe those illustrious writers are morning people with an extraordinary sense of vision and purpose who also don’t have Twitter? What about the rest of us?

I googled “writing habits” and found a nice list for “making commitments into habits” which I think I’ll be referring to in days to come, as I struggle with this whole actually-write-your-book-like-you’re-a-writer concept. I especially like:

  • Keep your commitment small to avoid anxiety that fuels resistance.

I’m very talented at anxiety.

  • It’s easier to honor your commitment early in the day, before your decision-making capacity is depleted. Do what you say will do as soon as you can; that way, you can enjoy the satisfaction and self-respect for the rest of the day.

That feeling of satisfaction and self-respect goes a long way, especially if I encounter a person later in the day who would like to make me feel like I am less than important. Excuse me, rude person, I wrote part of a novel this morning. What did you do? Move along.

  • Give yourself a small reward when you honor your commitment. At the very least, acknowledge and celebrate the fact that you are honoring the commitment.

I’m going to reward myself with an egg sandwich. It’s very simple positive reinforcement: you write, you get breakfast. Good job, Natalie.

Show Barn Blues: New Equestrian Fiction

Show Barn Blues
Show Barn Blues

My newest equestrian novel, Show Barn Blues, is now available at Amazon! This ebook edition is part of Kindle Select, which means Amazon Prime members can can borrow it for free.

I’m so excited to bring Grace and her horses to you. Set in central Florida, Show Barn Blues explores barn politics, the business of horses, and what happens when a once-rural community changes around a thriving equestrian center. If you’ve ever spent any time in a boarding stable, you’ll feel right at home in Grace’s beautiful barn.

Show Barn Blues is also connected to the Eventing Series, which continues later this year with book 2, Pride.

Like my other equestrian fiction titles, Show Barn Blues features adult characters, not teenagers — but you’ll find it’s a suitable read for all ages.

From the back cover:

Grace has built her life on show horses. It’s been a good life, too — she mounts her wealthy students on European warmbloods, competes her horses on Florida’s rigorous A-circuit, and runs the nicest barn in the neighborhood. Then, suddenly, it’s the only barn in the neighborhood.

As Grace’s country town becomes a sun-drenched playground of pools and golf courses, she vows that no bulldozer will ever touch her farm. With her neighbors selling their farms and moving to more isolated corners of Florida, she finds herself fighting off land-hungry developers alone — until Kennedy comes along.

Kennedy is everything Grace doesn’t want around her bustling show barn — a pleasure rider who would rather wander in the woods than tackle a show-jumping course. Kennedy might make for an unlikely sidekick, but she’s just the inspiration Grace needs to fight back against the developers who want to bulldoze her corner of Floridian wilderness — and, eventually, against the wilderness itself.

If you’re waiting for the paperback of Show Barn Blues, good news! It should be available in the next two weeks.