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The Return of Coffee

Well, I never really stopped drinking coffee.

But for the longest time, I wasn’t making it.

I love cold brew. When I lived in Brooklyn, I became an ardent supporter of “iced coffee season.” Basically, on the first warmish day in April, you order an iced coffee, and then that’s it: it’s iced coffee season, even if the next two weeks are cold enough that a warm coffee would feel good on your hands. Iced coffee season is an absolute once you’ve made your commitment.

(I have a theory about coffee and New York City, by the way, which is that the city’s tumult and close quarters are simply easier to take with something in your hands to occupy you. I think having a cup of coffee in your hands is similar to having a cigarette: it’s something to fiddle with, something to do that isn’t meeting people’s eyes or accepting that you are a tiny ant in a vast swarm, something to stop you from having a constant series of existential crises.)

Anyway, it’s hard to imagine a season in Florida which isn’t iced coffee season; plus cold brew is easier on your insides (did you know that? it’s less acidic) and I have always had a tendency towards ulcers and nervous tum. The downside is that it is generally higher in caffeine. I have to drink less of it, or my hands shake. A few years ago I started buying Chameleon Cold Brew’s concentrate and having one every day, usually in the afternoon to keep the after-lunch snoozes away. When I started working late nights at Disney Springs, I’d have a cold brew around five or six PM to keep me going until two AM.

Now I’m home all day, working on my computer, and one day I remembered a pleasure from my old days before I took up iced coffee: the all-day pot of coffee. Back when I had the farm, was writing Retired Racehorse Blog every day, working on The Head and Not The Heart, raising a toddler, and also working at Disney a couple nights per week, I worked my way through a pot of coffee from morning until late. I decided a constant cup of coffee at hand was exactly what my lockdown days needed!

black coffee with dog in background
I like my coffee black.

Of course, in those days I was happy with whatever the seasonal roast from Starbucks was. Now I decided it would be fun to get more adventurous. I wanted to try small roasters. It would be great to support small businesses during this economic downturn, for one thing, and for another when it comes to hot coffee I have developed a much more demanding and pretentious palate. (My husband and I used to go around Brooklyn tasting small-batch roasts like other people taste wines. I’m not ashamed.)

I did a lot of research and ended up with a coffee subscription from Trade. There are a lot of coffee subscriptions; Trade was the one that worked out for me. They pull from small roasters all around the country, they match up your flavor profiles and tell you ahead of time what’s coming, and they give you the option to change it out ahead of time if you’re particularly into a certain roast of coffee. Also they don’t charge for shipping. And I have to tell you, when you’re ordering two bags a month, shipping can add up.

The first bag that came was the fabulously named “Darkness” from Gimme Coffee, based in Ithaca, NY. I know there are a couple of Gimme Coffee cafes in NYC but I’ve never been to them, so this was a totally new blend for me. Trade sent me an email when it was roasting and then a few days later my coffee arrived. I ground up some beans and HELLO! Absolutely fantastic. Dark chocolate with a little cherry to finish. Marry me, Darkness.

gimme coffee
Darkness by Gimme Coffee. Yum, y’all.

I have something new coming next week, but I know that Darkness will feature in my coffeemaker again really soon. Another reason to like Trade: some subscriptions are always surprises or curator’s choice, but they let you sub in whatever you want.

Having an all-day pot of coffee has been great and I’m so happy to have gone back to it. I don’t tend to finish it in an afternoon, but that just means there’s some cold coffee leftover for the morning! Since I’m a born napper, it’s helping me work through the whole day so that I can actually fall asleep before midnight and get up early enough to go run… basically, rewiring my night owl rhythm to fit in with Florida weather and the realities of lockdown sidewalk traffic.

Well, this was supposed to be a microblog but it’s a solid 800 words. I guess that’s what happens when I write about coffee!

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April Storms

Hey, it’s day two of microblogging!

Today was actually really interesting. A big cold front moved through early this morning. This is about as late as cold fronts manage to push through Central Florida – by May, they’re pretty much too weak to make it this far south. This was a particularly strong storm system, creating tornadoes and hail damage throughout the southeast.

For some reason cold fronts love to hit the Orlando area overnight or first thing in the morning. I knew this one was due around dawn, and at 2 AM our NWS weather alarm woke us all up to tell us there was a Tornado Watch for the area. At 6 AM, I woke up suddenly. Nothing seemed to have caused it, but I got up and roamed around the apartment, looked through all of the blinds, glanced around the kitchen. I just had a funny feeling.

I went back into the bedroom and looked at my phone, and saw an extremely strong line of thunderstorms just about thirty miles west. I tried to close my eyes again, reasoning that the weather radio would wake me up if there was a tornado warning, but I noticed lightning flashes coming from behind my closed blinds and thought, no, this is silly. 

So I took the dog out.

I know, that sounds crazy, but actually it made perfect sense: the storm front was still an hour away, and the lightning I was seeing was from a secondary line which had set up ahead of the front and was moving away from me. Plus, the dog was going to need to go out right when it would be storming. I was a problemsolver.

storm clouds approaching
The storm front approaches from the northwest. This was after the dogwalk!

It had been a while since I’d gone out and been surrounded by clouds that are just lighting themselves up with lightning. It was still very dark and very still, with just a few sleepy frogs croaking, and I enjoyed that walk very much. By the time I went back upstairs, fed Sally, and went onto the porch to observe the clouds, the storm front was much closer, while the secondary cluster of storms was in full swing to my south.

storm clouds april 2020
Half and half, looking east

It didn’t end up being a terribly bad storm front in my neighborhood – cold front-induced storms have an interesting habit of hitting their weakest point from when they first cross over land near Tampa just as they reach my town, and then they tend to pulse back upwards as they move a little farther inland. For me as an observer of clouds and lightning, this actually isn’t a bad thing. It lets me get great shots before and after the storm.

storm clouds 2020
Still before any rain has fallen, the roll cloud pushes through and cuts off the dawn. Looking southeast.

The all-day rain with occasional thunder that has followed is a very rare treat in Florida. We’ve been dealing with a drought since the beginning of the year, and I think all the animals and plants are very grateful for today’s cool temperatures and constant rainfall. I know I am.

Just six more weeks to rainy season!

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I got a tree!

Hi friends! I thought microblogging might be a fun experiment to play around with. I’m a solid five and a half weeks into stay-at-home life, and my only record of this weird period of human history is my insane tweets. Why not do some insane blogs, too?

Today I am excited about my tree, which arrived by post yesterday from the idyllic-sounding Hacienda Heights, California. I know it’s in Los Angeles County and probably isn’t idyllic, but what a name, right? I love the breezy romanticism of early southern California Americans. The citrus trees, the terra-cotta tiles, the boundless optimism. Early 20th century Los Angeles is a beehive for me.

Anyway, my tree arrived and she was looking a little worse for wear at first, but now her leaves are uncurling and she seems quite spritely. I haven’t named her — I kind of got out of the habit of naming inanimate objects and I’m not sure if that’s going to come back or not — but I have already initiated pep talks so that she knows I am rooting for her (that’s a plant pun!) and want her to grow up big and strong.

umbrella tree in pot
My new tree and her horse friends

She’s an umbrella tree, by the way. I ordered this one from Amazon because the reviews were half-decent, the tree described was a good size, and I liked that it came with a pot, so I didn’t have to buy soil and a pot as well. I’m on a budget here!

I grew up with an umbrella tree in the house. When I was in elementary school we moved to Florida from Maryland, and the umbrella tree was eventually planted outside, by the front door. This happened to be where water poured down from the eaves during Florida rainstorms. Was this on purpose? I have no idea. But this tree grew and grew and grew into an umbrella giant during our time at this house. I was always so proud of it for doing so well outside.

So when it became clear most of my life would be working from home, not from a cafe or from the apartment complex workspace or by the pool (by the way, March and April are THE work-from-the-pool-deck months and I am sad to be missing this), a new corner of the living room was set aside for Natalie’s Office, and I declared the window sill to be Natalie’s Garden, and this is where my lovely little tree lives. There’s a succulent coming this week too, and I’ll show you that plant when it arrives!

Well, I’d better get on with the business of writing fiction now. Think of me and my tree sitting in our corner, enjoying the midday light, and know that new books are happening!

Do you have a plant? What kind, and why do you love it?

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First Reviews for The Hidden Horses of New York

I’m excited to share some of the first reviews coming in for my latest equestrian novel, The Hidden Horses of New York.

The Hidden Horses of New York book coverIn a lot of ways, this title was a departure for me. Readers who have been following my different series for the past decade or so will definitely have certain expectations of what a Natalie Keller Reinert novel will look like. So while this isn’t written with the same horse-only focus as The Eventing Series or Show Barn Blues, I still put my heart and soul into the descriptions, settings, and especially people and horses who populate this story.

So naturally, I’ve been curious to see what readers would think of it! Here’s what we have going on at Amazon:

“Natalie Keller Reinert books never disappoint. Not only does the author’s extensive knowledge of horses and racing give the book an authentic, realistic feel, she has an unerring feel for dialogue and plot. Highly recommend this book.”

“I couldn’t put it down! I reluctantly took a pause to go to work and do my own horse chores, but then picked it right back up!”

“Natalie Keller Reinert’s newest is a highly topical return to racetrack literature–and a soaring love letter to New York racing in particular. While the novel’s major plots entwine journalism start-ups and public perception with slaughter auctions and whistleblowing, the emotional core remains a girl and her horse. Jenny’s journey from the training tracks and prep races of central and southern Florida through each of New York’s racetracks mirrors that of her colt, Mr. November, en route to the Breeders’ Cup, as well as her relationships with her co-journalists and her industry. The author interrogates racing’s contemporary and perennial concerns while balancing family and romance plots admirably, with plenty of pulled-from-life training and backside details layered in (a Breeders’ Cup at Belmont is the cherry on top for New York racing fans). From flashy, doofy Mr. November to the police mounts of Central Park and a cowboy outfit on Long Island, this book has a horse for every reader.”

“This is my favorite book by this author. Her story telling and writing style are spot on. I was sucked in and could not put it down !”

“Loved this new novel by my favorite equestrian author! I felt like I was in the story with Jenny, all the locations were so vibrant. This was a fun and interesting read, one I really enjoyed!”

“I loved this author’s other books, but I’m not going to finish this one. No horses, characters I didn’t care about – not a quality read like her other books.”

I felt like including that last one because hey, everyone reads the same book differently. I’m actually a little concerned this reader didn’t get the correct product from Amazon, since it literally starts the first two or three chapters introducing a variety of horses. Reviewer, if you’re reading this, reach out to me and let’s make sure you received the correct download.

But nonetheless, the overall theme of the reviews is that yes, this book is working for long-time readers. Awesome news!

I’m also seeing lots of five-star ratings over at GoodReads! This is great news as I’ve always found the GR community a little tough to impress.

You can add it to your bookshelf by clicking here:

The Hidden Horses of New York

What did you think of The Hidden Horses of New YorkHave you left a review at Amazon or GoodReads yet? Your reviews keep books visible and help authors out, so thanks for the time you take to leave a few words of recommendation on the books you love!
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Thank You, Patrons!

Thank you Patrons

Today is #ThankYouPatrons Day!

Thank you Patrons

When you become a Patron, whether it’s for a writer like me, a podcaster, a visual artist, or any other creator, you’re supporting art for art’s sake and changing the way the internet works. When you support an artist directly, commercial gains can take a backseat to free expression. More relatable, more recognizable, more soul-stirring, more inspirational!

When I think of all the stories and writing I’ve been able to share with you this year, I am simply in awe. People call me prolific. They looked at my double set of tables at Equine Affaire this year and said: “Natalie, how do you write so much?”

Two tables of books at Equine Affaire this year!

Well, I get the support I need to write as much as I can. And I have a lot of stories to tell!

So on #ThankYouPatrons Day, this is just a reminder that you mean the world to me. That I listen to every suggestion you make and read every comment you post with keen interest, and I am writing for you.

Visit my Patreon to learn how you can become a Patron and receive special access to unpublished work, preview stories as I write them, and contribute comments and suggestions to my work!

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Ordering Signed Books from Natalie Keller Reinert

signed horse books

As the holiday season approaches, I frequently get requests for signed books. Makes sense! Signed books make amazing Christmas presents. My unique equestrian fiction novels in particular are perfect for riding instructors, barn owners and farm managers, trainers and coaches, horse show moms and basically anyone else who loves horses. Or books. You get the idea.

It’s always hard for me to fulfill late-season signing requests so I’m really excited that this year the amazing Taborton Equine Books are going to handle some of that for me!

Equine Affaire book signing 2018
Signing mountains of books at Equine Affaire 2018!

In conjunction with our Equine Affaire book-signing (in W. Springfield, MA on November 8-9, 2019), signed books are now available to order online, directly from the bookseller. I’ll sign your book at the event — you’ll get the book in the mail afterwards!

So whether you just want a signed copy of Ambition for your bookshelf, or your working student is going to squee when she gets a copy of Horses of Wonderland for Christmas, right now is the perfect time to get your signed book ordered!

As for me, I’ll be icing my hand in between signings at the Equine Affaire table. Between the in-person demand and the online orders, I am going to have a lot of books to sign!

Get your books signed by me (and ten other authors) at Taborton Equine Books’ 2019 Signed Books page.

Here’s everyone who will be attending the Equine Affaire book-signing event, by the way!

equine affaire book signing 2019
Equine Affaire 2019 in W. Springfield, MA!
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Autumn Meet-Up at Equine Affaire 2019

It’s that time of year again!

I love going to Equine Affaire. Yes, it’s Massachusetts in November, which is… chilly. But it’s charming! The autumn leaves, the colonial towns, the SNOW FLURRIES (that totally happened last year). For me, a Floridian, it’s a wow.

Plus, Equine Affaire brings together so many horse people in one place. It’s an equestrian fun fair.

Equine Affaire 2019

Every year my wonderful friends at Taborton Equine Books invite me to sign books and meet up with readers at their fantastic bookshop. Taborton is THE equestrian bookseller, with shelves and shelves of every sort of horse book, from classic children’s stories to the newest training manuals — and, of course, my favorite, equestrian fiction! If you love the pleasure of perusing bookshelves instead of skimming Amazon listings, you can’t miss this store.

Come and see me on Friday from 4 to 7 PM or on Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM (I’ll be sneaking away for lunch around noon, but I’ll be back). If you already have one of my books, bring it along to be signed. If you need to pick up a paperback, Taborton will have some! But be warned, last year they sold out of Ambition before my Saturday set was over!

I’d love to chat with you, meet some new friends, and definitely catch up IRL with all of you fantastic social media friends.

This year’s Equine Affaire is November 7-11, 2019, at the Eastern States Expo in West Springfield, Massachusetts. Will I see you there?

RSVP at my Facebook Page here!

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Don’t Hate the Side-Hustle

The side-hustle is getting a lot of grief these days.

Having a side-gig is getting blamed for everything from millennial burn-out to the accusation that we’re turning our hobbies into jobs because of online/offline peer pressure (and thus hating our hobbies for being our jobs).

And while it’s true the entrepreneurial mood right now is focused on eradicating the toxic “always be hustling” culture we were taught to adore in the first fifteen years of this awful new century, the fact is, gigs and hustles and multiple hats are part of our culture and our economy now. Let’s be real: we live in a very disappointing simulation most of the time. Ah, 2019: wage stagnation, financial inequality, and an expectation that if we need anything in an emergency, or even the very basics of healthcare, a for-profit corporation will handle it… providing your job still fits into their latest business plan. We should be so lucky as to have a passion we can monetize, if that’s our society’s status quo.

So don’t hate the gig economy, hate the game — then learn to play it well. Start off by knowing thy enemy: it’s not the work.

The root cause of both burn-out and of hating your passion-turned-job is a lack of balance, not simply the monetization of hobbies.

Cross-stitch pattern "don't quit your day dream"
Photo: Brianna Santellan/Unsplash

Here’s the thing: there is nothing more important than work-life balance. While it’s really common to get burn-out just from working your nine-to-five, it’s also true that side-hustles, even the ones you are passionate about, can easily upend whatever tenuous grasp you might have had on work-life balance–especially when they’re added to a nine-to-five day.

When I was working a full-time job and writing fiction and freelancing and trying to ride just a couple of days per week, my life was a series of precariously balanced appointments, with meticulously monitored commute times to make it all possible.

I had to give up freelancing, but even that wasn’t enough. I barely had the energy to write anything after work, I didn’t have time to work out so I could feel healthy and good about myself, and getting to the barn was an exercise in resilience and not going crazy in traffic jams.

One person calling “Hey Natalie, quick question?” from the office next to mine at 4:03 PM was enough to mean that, fifteen minutes later, I was sadly slogging out to my car to drive home, knowing I wasn’t going to get to ride that night. It was absolutely important that I stick to my timetable, from leaving my apartment at 7:20 AM to beat morning traffic, to getting out at by 4:10 to almost beat evening traffic. A few minutes’ diversion either way meant an extra 20 minutes or more of time stuck in the car, while daylight waned. (Orlando notoriously has some of the worst traffic in the country, so that was part of it.)

I don’t know if keeping to that strict timetable was work-life balance or a slowly soul-numbing descent into hell, but either way, once my full-time job was over, I realized I didn’t have to clock-watch in order to get to the things I loved. So I turned back to my passions and sorted out what parts of them I could monetize (or in some cases, hyper-monetize) and found actual control over my day. It is my day, after all.

It’s all about balance. Photo: Thomas Peham/Unsplash

Of course, there’s work to be done at balancing all of my side-hustles, turning my work day into one big succession of hustles.

At first I asked: can I write for a certain website I enjoy writing for and produce a novel in 90 days and pick up a freelance social media campaign and plan travel and teach riding lessons and have a family life? It turns out that no, I can’t. I’ve been back in the hustle life for less than two months and I’ve already had to make some adjustments to my expectations of myself. I had to do some calculations, figure out the ROI on the work I was doing, and choose to prioritize the work paying the highest ROI and eliminate the work paying the lowest.

As a result, I’ve now completed the first draft of a novel in record time (six weeks, thank you for asking!), booked some very cool vacations for some very cool people, started teaching riding lessons so we can rock a new generation of horsey kids, started working out (I can run three miles now without stopping, thank you for asking!), and spend what is probably too much time with my family, no seriously, I think they are tired of me.

And what I love most? This can change. I can change this up tomorrow. I could add a freelance gig, pick up a part-time job so that I can remember how to interact with other humans, jump on a contract and work in an office for a few months making something cool happen, write another book, write a series of short stories, start a podcast (okay that probably won’t make any money) — but the point is, my life is mix-and-match right now, and I’m running around the candy shop, picking my favorite flavors.

Let your hobby earn you some breathing room. Let your passions run your life. Let your side-hustles give you new meaning.

Just keep it balanced. You can do this.

The Internet gives us the opportunity to market ourselves with almost no effort. Want to sell your dressage-themed cross-stitch pillows, but don’t have time to market them? Start an Instagram and a Facebook, and spend an hour on Saturday evening scheduling posts for the week while you’re ignoring Netflix. (You’re on your phone anyway.) Tag some horsey influencers and ask if you can mail them a couple. There, you did some marketing for the week. No craft shows, no tack shop cold calls, no fuss. Now you can get back to ignoring Netflix in peace.

The gig economy is here and we can let it empower us, or we can let it burn us out. What we can’t do is deny it exists, and that it’s taking over our lives. How are you going to hustle it?

PS: if you’re marketing dressage cross-stitch pillows, I want to see them. And if you’re making something awesome – contact me! I’m going to start a monthly feature on equestrians with side-hustles!

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5 Questions with Equestrian Author L.R. Trovillion

So, here’s the thing. I love social media, because it’s given me a chance to meet wonderful people (like you, probably!) but we have to admit it, there’s a flaw in its design. All of those short sentences and catchy captions don’t give us nearly enough time to really get to know each other!

For that, I think it’s time to get back to blogs. Make a cup of tea, set aside some time to read, and enjoy some stories from people we’d like to get to know better–I think we could all use that once in a while! So without further ado, let’s start with Five Questions for author L.R. Trovillion.

L.R. Trovillion author image
Writer L.R. Trovillion creates compelling Young Adult and Equestrian Fiction

Trovillion is the author of the new Young Adult – Equestrian Fiction novel Horse Godsand previously released False Godsboth set in Maryland’s equestrian community.

Her books get great reviews with readers, who love her fast-paced, tightly-woven plots about teenage girls who find purpose and courage through equestrian life.

If you love coming-of-age stories (and who doesn’t, really) and a well-written story with plenty of horses in it, these books belong on your list.

I asked L.R. Trovillion five questions about her latest novel, her writing life, and her craft. Let’s go!

Hello! Thank you for being my debut subject for Five Questions!

First of all, thank you, Natalie, for giving me this opportunity to speak with you and for hosting me on your blog.

You have a new book! Tell us a little about Horse Gods and your inspiration for this story.

The story grew out of a unique experience. A friend invited me to accompany him and his hawk out hunting. When this bird of prey lifted off his arm to the treetops, I was amazed that it did not just fly away, free. That really got me thinking…

Freya the hawk
Freya, the inspiration for an avian character in Horse Gods

The sequel, Horse Gods, picks up the story of a new main character, Regina Hamilton. Her abusive mother, who we met in the first book, False Gods, is getting out of prison and Regina has only a few months to figure out how she can avoid having to live with her. As a minor, she doesn’t have too many options.

She falls into an opportunity at an elite dressage barn (even though she’s a jumper rider!) to work as a resident working student, if she can prove herself.

But things at this barn are not what they seem, and before long Regina finds herself in a dangerous situation. (No spoilers).

What made you decide to begin writing equestrian fiction?

L.R. Trovillion on horseback
L.R. Trovillion fits in plenty of real-life riding for her inspiration

Horses are the inspiration. I only started riding as an adult when I had a job that would support boarding and lessons, but I never looked back!

To help defray some costs, I worked as a groom for a hunter/jumper rider, which gave me a unique view into the world of big-time horse shows.

Later, my interests gravitated to dressage. I believe there is a certain magic in the horse-human connection and I hope to capture a little bit of it in my stories.

Horse Gods blends a lot of topics – you’ve got hawking, dressage, Irish mythology, and parents in prison, among other things. Was it hard to keep your plot in order and not lose any threads?

Ha, ha! I’ll have to let my readers answer that question, but I certainly hope I didn’t lose any threads! Yes, there’s a lot going on, but the various topics are all held together by one central theme—trust. The hawk, the wild mare, the Irish myths that surround Regina all symbolize various needs for and levels of trust. You see, Regina has no one to lean on, no one to help her (she thinks), and so has always just relied on herself. As she grapples with one problem after another, she slowly discovers how to trust in others as well. But that trust in people is severely tested in the end.

Can you tell us a little about your writing craft – how you schedule your time, how you plan your stories, that sort of thing?

Horse Gods ebook cover
Horse Gods, L.R. Trovillion’s new YA/Equestrian Fiction release

I would like to say that I am very disciplined and sit down to write for a set period of time every day, but that would be a lie! So often I sit down to write and a million other tasks feel suddenly more pressing—‘Oh, maybe I should clean out the closet instead!’

When I do knuckle down to write, at the beginning of a novel, I get a germ of a story idea and start building the characters around it. I like to take a main character, give her a big problem, strip her of all outside support from family or conventional means, and set her loose to make bad decisions and see what happens. Secondary characters sort of turn up on the pages and some of them become quite interesting and get to be the main character in the next book. (Spoiler: Main character in book 3 is Willow).

Sounds quite haphazard, doesn’t it? I do usually have the beginning and the end destination planned, but that whole messy middle part is sometimes surprising even to me.

What’s on your 2019 reading list? Have you read anything amazing this year?

I am fortunate to belong to a book club, which has been together for about 23 years. In that time, I have been introduced to so many amazing books, often ones I would not have picked out for myself.

Recently, one of my favorites was A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I was a Russian language and literature major in college and this book captured so beautifully the culture, history, and mood of that time in Russia. Plus, I absolutely fell in love with the main character, Count Rostov! As for horse fiction, I’d have to say an all time favorite is Horse Heaven by the master storyteller, Jane Smiley.

I also love to read a lot of Young Adult. I really enjoyed The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon for her brilliant and edgy characters and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo for amazing world building. On my list: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow. But I’m open to other suggestions!

Really solid choices. I love Amor Towles’ first book Rules of Civility, and A Gentleman in Moscow has been on my list for ages. And of course, Horse Heaven, I’ve been very open about how much I love that one!

***

Thanks to L.R. Trovillion for that excellent look inside her books and writing process. I especially love the idea of taking a character, stripping her of help, and seeing what she’ll do next. My process is generally to take a character, give her an opportunity, then think about all the awful consequences. Either way, you can’t have a story without being well-versed in a certain kind of worst-case scenario thought process!

So, I highly recommend you take a look at L.R. Trovillion’s fantastic equestrian fiction novels. You can find them at Amazon, or visit her website for more information. On Twitter? Follow for updates and new blog posts about equestrian life: @lrtrovillion

Have you read L.R. Trovillion’s work? Do you have a question for her, or a recommendation? Be sure to comment below!

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Taking Chances: Equestrian Writers Who Collaborate Instead of Competing

The first Timber Ridge Riders novel had me hooked.
The first Timber Ridge Riders novel had me hooked.

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.

Bittersweet Farm's 1st novel, Mounted
As did the first Bittersweet Farm novel, Mounted.

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

How Two Rivals Came Together to Make a Team: YA & Tween horse book authors Barbara Morgenroth and Maggie Dana

The 3rd Bittersweet Farm book from Barbara Morgenroth, Wingspread
The 3rd Bittersweet Farm book from Barbara Morgenroth, Wingspread

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.

The latest Timber Ridge Riders release, Taking Chances, by Maggie Dana
The latest Timber Ridge Riders release, Taking Chances, by Maggie Dana

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, tween horse book author, shows us how it's done.
Maggie and Smoky show us how it’s done. Photo: Maggie Dana

Maggie Dana

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.

Visit: maggiedana.com

Barbara Morgenroth, every bit as intense as her characters in the saddle. Morgenroth writes edgy YA fiction for horse-lovers.
Barbara Morgenroth, every bit as intense as her characters in the saddle

Barbara Morgenroth

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.

Visit: barbaramorgenroth.com

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