Ready to win some great equestrian goodies, including a three-pack of my paperback novels The Head and Not The Heart, Other People’s Horses, and Ambition? Head to your local Barnes & Noble and pick up the newest edition of Equestrian Culture Magazine, then join the Big Giveaway! You’ll find prizes from Dubarry, Goode Rider, the Washington International Horse Show, Ariat, Dark Horse Chocolates, and other great equestrian companies.
It’s hard to believe that Labor Day has come and gone, September is here, and school is about to start for Calvin. (For one thing, it’s 90 degrees outside.) But the locusts are singing in the linden trees and another Saratoga season is in the books, so this is it, folks. This is fall.
(And I’ll brook no arguments about fall beginning on September 22nd or whatever. September 1st is the beginning of meteorological fall, and I’m all about meteorology.)
We caught a train to Saratoga Springs for a few days before the season ended, thank goodness. Add in our Del Mar trip back in July and we are feeling pretty accomplished about hitting the Del Mar/Saratoga exacta. Two of the most beautiful racecourses in America, and yet nearly opposite in setting and composition — it made for a wonderful contrast.
I have a few blog posts about Saratoga floating around in the Internets, so I won’t write another here. You can visit Equestrian Ink: Writers of Equestrian Fiction for “Images from Saratoga,” a photo post with some of my favorite scenes from around Saratoga, both at the races and in town. And over at my Disney/travel/family blog, That Dis Family, I’ve written a short primer to visiting Saratoga, whether you’re horsey or not.
Saratoga is where Cory and I sat down and brainstormed the story that would become Other People’s Horses. As a muse for an equestrian writer, you don’t get many places as perfect as Saratoga. We even talked to Talk of the Track about writing, equestrian fiction, and retired racehorses, and you can watch the video at my Facebook page. I myself haven’t watched it, but I do recall that I did not cry or run away, so I guess for my on-camera debut I’m doing pretty well.
Did we come up with any new stories during this year’s sojourn in Saratoga? A few new ideas — the daily inspiration that comes from sitting at a picnic table along the backstretch, from playing with a pony, from listening to the thrum of hoofbeats on a racetrack. It was really two days after our return, watching the Travers Stakes and talking to a few people on Twitter about the tremendous finish, when I realized that I had a wonderful new story idea.
We’ll have to wait and see.
Want to win a copy of one of this summer’s hottest equestrian reads? Visit Goodreads and enter to win a paperback edition of Ambition. I’ll be sending out four signed copies to winners in August.
If you’re already a Goodreads member, you can click below to enter to win. If not, join up and add me as a friend! You can check out what I’m reading, send me recommendations, and just generally talk about good books.
And thanks to everyone who has already read and loved the ebook edition of Ambition. I’ve been getting wonderful reviews while the book has been consistently one of the top-selling Equestrian and Horse category titles at Amazon. I’ve also gotten three 5-star reviews at BN.com, a site where I see less traffic, so that’s really exciting!
And for all those of you who are asking for a sequel, with more Jules, more Peter, more Dynamo, and more Mickey… you almost have me convinced…
I’m thisclose! Come over to my Facebook page and post about why you want more from the characters of Ambition and maybe… just maybe… you’ll push me over the edge!
So don’t forget: enter to win a signed paperback of Ambition at Goodreads.
As long as we have lived in NYC, we’ve made it a point to go the Belmont Stakes. Who wouldn’t? I mean — it’s the freaking Belmont Stakes, one of the great horse races of the world, and it’s just a short train ride away. Sounds so perfect, doesn’t it?
Eh. Here’s the thing.
When California Chrome won the Preakness Stakes rather handily, it started sounding a lot less perfect, and a lot more crowded. The ominous predictions of 105-125,000 people descending upon Belmont Park, many of them by the same train we’d be taking, was being retweeted with gleeful abandon by racing fans who were excited to see a racecourse being used for anything besides pigeon nesting grounds. But I was already missing the tumbleweeds that typically blow through the cavernous grandstand of Belmont Park, and we were still weeks away from the big race.
Now, Belmont Park was built for crowds. And once upon a time, I hear, people used to go there for other reasons than the Belmont Stakes. But crowds just aren’t my thing.
If I have to wait a long time for something (whether it’s a restroom or a drink or a food truck or anything free at all) I probably won’t have anything to do with it. It’s a prejudice I developed as a Cast Member at Walt Disney World, where I became pretty accustomed to only visiting the parks on the least-crowded days and shunned any ride with a wait time over 20 minutes because I knew I could drop by next Tuesday or whenever and just ride it then.
It’s gotten to the point that if there was a truck parked outside offering free puppies, but the line was an hour long, I’d just go buy a puppy somewhere without the wait. (Unless it was free beagle puppies. Then I would go buy one and stand in line for a free one and then I’d have two beagle puppies and I’d be the happiest girl in the world.)
But although not puppies, it was the freaking Belmont Stakes, as stated before. And although the Triple Crown bid made it a less desirable event, in my mind anyway, that also made it completely impossible to skip. What if that pretty chestnut won the Triple Crown and we were sitting in our living room in Brooklyn? How lame would that be? The lamest, that’s how lame. The absolute lamest.
So we put on our Goorhin Bros hats and we went. First: crowded trains are crowded. There aren’t many other ways to describe them. And, according to one Long Island Rail Road employee, the rails are so decrepit on the Belmont tracks that the trains are only allowed to go five miles per hour. And the air conditioning stops working. So it takes a very, very long time and it is also crowded and it is also hot and that’s just never what you want in your public transportation in June. The nose rebels. Luckily, a regular rider told us about his pal that uses the Queens Village stop and walks over. That came in handy later when we decided to get the heck out of Dodge.
And we did get the heck out, thankfully before the mayhem that was the trains being shut down (although the railroad has not publicly admitted they shut the trains down). Here’s the thing: A lot of college students went to Belmont Park for the very first time on Saturday. They dressed up in weird approximations of what they thought was racetrack attire (I don’t know what impression college students are trying to make when they wear Nautica shorts and blue blazers but it isn’t a good look, especially when they are downing a six-pack of cheap beer they just realized they won’t be able to smuggle in). They stood in hour-long lines for $10 Coors Light and they shouted and they laughed and they cursed and they sat in the stairwells and created traffic jams and they smoked. An astonishing amount of smoke.
And I guess they had a good time, and maybe they think that’s what a trip to the races is like. And maybe they’ll come back next year for the Belmont, and do it all again.
But it’s definitely not like my typical day at the races. Because, well, they were there. Yelling and being drunk and blocking stairs and wearing those ridiculous faux-horseplayer outfits. (Pro-tip: At least go to a vintage store if you’re going to dress up. Don’t go to Macy’s.)
If there was a happy medium between a regular racetrack day and Belmont day, somewhere between 10,000 people and 100,000 people, somewhere between ghost town and seething masses of humanity, where you could enjoy the presence of other humans having a good time and still actually see the horses, I’d take that.
But what it really comes down to with racing: I have to see horses, and there were so many humans (and so much smoke) in my way, that in the paddock the view was dicey and on the apron, all I could see were the tips of their ears as they galloped towards the wire. After catching a decent glimpse of the field for the Acorn Stakes, I missed the race. And I never saw Princess of Sylmar at all, and she was on my wish-list, right alongside Palace Malice (yup, missed out on him too).
So it wasn’t very horse-centric. And then there were the Breathe Right girls.
Let’s talk about Breathe Right for a moment. They were handing out free nasal strips all over the place, because California Chrome wears a Flair strip, yadda yadda yadda. Clever product placement, and funny — until a Breathe Right rep shoved a packet of strips down my shirt when I wouldn’t take them from her. Literally, right down my shirt. It bordered on assault. It was weird. It did not make me want to rush out and purchase Breathe Right strips to attach to my nose.
I did enjoy seeing the booth from the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. Their booth was sponsored by the Daily Racing Form, which means every donation they received went straight into the charity. Serious props to the Form for this move. It’s exciting to see national racing publications picking up on the responsible retirement movement, especially one as die-hard horse-player as the Form.
I snagged an OTTB rubber bracelet, but for $10, I could have joined the giggling line of ladies and gents all ages who were posing in front a green screen. They’d walk away with photos of themselves galloping California Chrome past the wire. It was great to see so many people taking an interest in retired racehorses! Hopefully the TAA folks will be able to set up at more tracks this summer and keep educating the public (and reminding the powers-that-be) about how important comprehensive Thoroughbred retirement programs are.
The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance booth also made me happy because on a day when the horses were completely out of reach, I was able to stop and talk with people who were there for the horses. Not a lot of folks at the Belmont Stakes were there for the horses. They were there because Time Out New York suggested it would be a hip and fun vintage-type thing to do.
But for those of us who show because we love the horses more than reason itself, the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance symbolizes the very best thing about modern racing: the movement towards care and compassion, towards responsibility in retirement. And on a day of excess like Belmont day, it was a refreshing breath of clean air in a smoky room.
So, the 2014 Belmont Stakes. We went. We sighed. We went home. But I noticed quite a few banners for the July 5th race card, which includes several nice-looking stakes races. Will I be schlepping back out on the Long Island Rail Road? It’s possible. After all, I doubt I’ll be one in a hundred thousand next time. And that sounds pretty nice.
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.
Read the entire interview and see more about Jane Badger Books here: http://booksandmud.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/review-natalie-keller-reinert-ambition.html
And don’t forget to enter to win a copy through Monday at midnight!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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.
And here is a clip from a review at Amazon.com:
What makes it a great read is the details riders will relate to. Every page is chock full of the nitty-gritty of horses.
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:
Paperback at Amazon and Barnes & Noble (Coming Soon)
Today is the day! It’s the release of my new equestrian novel, Ambition.
I’ll update this page as new sites come online. For now, Ambition is available at Amazon in the Kindle store and at Barnes & Noble. You can read the first few chapters and get your copy!
*Update!* First review at Amazon:
This story, of a prickly woman named Jules who needs to make a name for herself in the eventing world, is a fun read for people who know, love, and understand horses and riding. What makes it a great read is the details riders will relate to. Every page is chock full of the nitty-gritty of horses: tacking up, horses with different personalities, mucking out, horses finding ways to hurt themselves, etc. Descriptions like ‘a horse that lifts his knees to high at the trot instead of swinging from his shoulder’, will have equine-minded readers nodding, and for folks that aren’t that ‘horsey’, this is still a tale about striving to succeed no matter what, and they will come away with a sense of what it is like to compete a horse at a high level. I am waiting to savor Ms. Reinert’s next work. I’ve read one novel about racing at Saratoga, and this one of eventing in Florida. I can’t wait to see what the next story is about.
iTunes and Kobo, as well as a paperback edition, are coming soon!
It’s been more than a year since my last equestrian novel — too long! But I’m happy to announce that on Tuesday, May 20th, I’ll be releasing my newest novel, Ambition, to readers everywhere.
Still set in the rolling hills of Florida’s horse country, Ocala, Ambition leaps over to the sport-horse world and the sport of eventing.
Jules Thornton didn’t come to Ocala to make friends. She came to make a name for herself. Twenty-two and tough as nails, she’s been swapping stable-work for saddle-time since she was a little kid — and it hasn’t always been a fun ride. Forever the struggling rider in a sport for the wealthy, all Jules has on her side is talent and ambition. She’s certain all she needs to succeed are good horses, but will the eventing world agree?
Getting back into the eventing scene was a real pleasure for me as a writer. I spent my teenage years eventing in Florida and Maryland. I haven’t been over a cross-country course in more than ten years, but I still day-dream about it. Someday, someday…
As for the characters: I love Jules, but she’d never believe me if I told her that. Jules isn’t used to having friends. She’s used to being the low man on the totem pole, after what seems like forever as a working student in a show barn full of her own wealthy classmates. It’s just Jules and her horses, against the world — or so she thinks. But there are still some people on Jules’ team.
And since I like to think that the horses and the setting are just as important as the humans, you’ll find that several horses, including Thoroughbreds, and the heart of Florida horse country are well-represented. Just as Other People’s Horses and The Head and Not The Heart explored Ocala, Saratoga, and New York City in depth, I couldn’t help but celebrate Ocala once again, drawing upon years and years of memory and deep, deep affection for that chunk of the state called “North-Central Florida.”
So watch out for Ambition, available in ebook and paperback beginning Tuesday, May 20th. I think you’ll find it to be a very, very interesting ride… and check your stirrup length and girth. There may be a few bucks thrown in when you least expect them
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!
I’ve read my new book about six times in the past two weeks.
It’s not because I’m obsessed with my new book (maybe I am a little bit) but because I’m an obsessive editor, in general. So I’ve been reading and rereading, tweaking and changing and fixing word by word, line by line, trying to get the best possible execution of this story I’m trying to tell. And when I’m done reading it, my husband reads it, and does the same, and then I have to add in all of his changes — which means reading it one more time.
I have to admit, there are times when I am a little tired of my new book.
But reading it can be a fascinating experience for me, as well. Because throughout Ambition, just as throughout Other People’s Horses, The Head and Not The Heart, Claiming Christmas, and Horse-Famous, I’m reading new accounts of old experiences I’ve had.