I’m adding a second book to my serial works-in-progress at Patreon!
Sunset at Catoctin Creek is the first novel in my Catoctin Creek series. I’d been playing with the idea for a small-town romantic novel for a little while. On one of my barn days – I have a lot of time for thinking on barn days! – I came up with not just one, but three novels set in a fictional small Maryland town called Catoctin Creek.
The name and setting both have a lot of significance for me. My Keller family came to western Maryland in the early 1800s and settled there, along with many other German immigrants. Catoctin Creek is a stream that runs along the ridge of the Appalachian Mountains called the Catoctins. There’s an old Keller graveyard near Catoctin Creek, and not far away, my great-grandfather’s old farm.
So I came up with this idea, and promptly fell in love with my imaginary town of Catoctin Creek, and then set it to one side because work, and deadlines, and etc.
Now, though, I could use a little escape. I’m on Day 12 of Quarantine Life, and my long affinity for the fuss-free, smaller-footprint advantages of apartment life? Well, it’s being tested a little. Let’s just say I could really go for a front porch with a set of rockers, a babbling brook within earshot, and an old barn where my horses whinny for their suppers.
So I’m running away (in my mind) to Catoctin Creek, and I’m inviting you along with me. I’m posting the first chapters of this novel at my Patreon, free for everyone to read. Come meet Rosemary, who has lived at Notch Gap Farm her entire life, and seems largely content with her spinsterhood and her rescue horses. Come meet Stephen, who has come to Catoctin Creek to settle his father’s estate, make a little money, and head back home to Manhattan before he forgets how to order in dinner from Seamless. And meet Nikki, Rosemary’s best friend and no-nonsense proprietress of the Blue Plate Diner, and the Kelbaughs, Rosemary’s elderly neighbors and touchstones on lonely nights.
Like I said, the first few chapters are free – no paywall. Eventually I’ll have to move them to subscriber-only, for copyright reasons, but I’d like to give everyone a shot to decide if they want to read it first.
And just as a reminder, subscriptions to read all of my work on Patreon are just $3 per month. I really want to keep it reasonable, while still getting a little income for the writing which takes up much of my day. I’m also posting new chapters of Runaway Alex for subscribers at this time, so you’re getting two books at a time. (Here’s the first chapter, no payment required.)
I hope that everyone who needs a little escape can find it in Catoctin Creek. And I hope that soon, we can all get back to our happy places, for real.
Last year I decided a prequel to The Head and Not The Heart was in order. Readers have been asking for one for years, and I kept pushing it away… then suddenly, it felt like the right moment. I had just finished The Hidden Horses of New York, and the bug to continue writing about my horse racing heroines was still strong.
After some false starts, (including one absolutely gorgeous intro paragraph which I re-read to myself, smiling triumphantly, until I realized that it was written in third person and the entire rest of the series is written in first) I finally have an intro chapter I’m ready to share.
Why share now, before the book is even remotely complete? I’ve been loving installment fiction at Patreon for over a year now, and I’ve shared all of my most recent stories there as works in progress since last year’s Forward. Sharing a chapter or three every week of my first draft has been an amazing experience for me – honestly, more writers should try it.
It’s really fun for me to share my ideas as I write them and get feedback right away from my most dedicated readers. And the response from readers tells me it’s fun for you, too!
So if you’re ready to give the introduction to Runaway Alex a read, hop over to my Patreon – no subscription required.
And if you like what you read, you might want to stick around and subscribe to read the complete first drafts of two unpublished novels: the equestrian amateur-owner misadventure Grabbing Mane, and the theme park drama You Must Be This Tall. They’re all available from just $3 per month!
I’m excited to share some of the first reviews coming in for my latest equestrian novel, The Hidden Horses of New York.
In 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:
What did you think of The Hidden Horses of New York? Have 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!
Jessica Burkhart, author of Canterwood Crest and Wild Hearts, said: “A horse lover’s delight! Full of heart and NYC grit. I loved exploring the hidden horses of NY with Jenny! Absolutely a new hit from Natalie Keller Reinert.”
In her pocket, Jenny’s phone buzzed three times—then stopped again. They were learning, she thought, tugging Mister in a circle for the jockey.
Mister was not the sort of horse who stood still for mounting, despite Jenny’s best efforts to teach him good manners. She’d come home last summer and ridden him each morning, teaching him to be a racehorse on the white-fenced oval back home in Ocala. It hadn’t been enough. Jenny’s mother had snorted that a body could hardly expect some rude New Yorker to teach manners to a two-year-old colt, and Jenny had protested even while inside she felt a glow of pride at being called a New Yorker. There was something about belonging in the city that was beginning to call to her by then, a realization that the alien streets and endless traffic and soaring towers were somehow as richly intoxicating as the green hills and ancient oaks and molasses-scented feed rooms of Ocala, and she had already begun to wonder if she was going to stay on after school was over.
Now, she was just waiting for the chance.
Her phone was still and silent, but she felt it rumbling against her hip, a phantom vibration with every step. Her whole life was waiting to begin, and she’d find out what came next in minutes… if she could just get Mister out to the race course without bloodshed.
She kept walking the colt, slowing his stride infinitesimally (infinitesimally was all Mister would tolerate) as her mother held out her palms alongside the colt, waiting to help Manny spring into the saddle. Mister, watching him with a sideways ear, tensed his muscles, his steps shifting into a hopping-skipping jig, his hindquarters weaving sideways as he hit Jenny’s unforgiving hands on the leather and chain binding them together and he ran out of room for all of the energy flowing through him. He held back for a moment, and Manny put his hands on the saddle, his knee into Andrea’s hands, and jumped onto the colt’s back.
“Watch him in the gate,” Jenny’s mother spat out, falling back from Mister’s swinging haunches before he let a hind hoof fly, heedless of what might be in his way. “Don’t let him twist and carry on or he’ll miss the break.” It had been Mister’s undoing in all but his last start this year. It was the reason he was still in Florida in May, when everyone had expected him to go to Kentucky. He just hadn’t had the brain to go with his speed yet.
Jenny thought his brain had finally caught up.
“I got this, Miss Andrea,” Manny said, his voice confident. Jenny glanced up at him and he grinned back at her.
“I’m glad you’re riding him,” Jenny told him.
“Yeah, me too.” Manny laughed and adjusted his stirrups. Mister was still trotting in slow motion, but the jockey wasn’t bothered. The only thing that would have gotten his attention was if the horse reared or bucked. Spine flat? All systems go. “I like this boy. He got a lot of spirit, but he not stupid.”
They gave up their circle, and started toward the gap in the track fencing. The outriders were waiting on their track ponies, the retired racehorses and bored quarter horses watching the younger horses’ antics without interest. Track ponies had seen everything before, twice over. Jenny slid the chain free of Mister’s halter, and began to unbuckle the strap behind his ears, preparing to turn the colt over to the outriders. Manny wouldn’t be asked to control Mister alone until the bell rang and the gates sprang open.
A darkly tanned woman with a long bleached ponytail flowing from the back of her helmet leaned down from her rangy horse’s back, and, just as Jenny slipped his halter free, the outrider slid a slim leather strap through the ring of Mister’s bit.
She timed it perfectly; Mister was never free for a moment.
“Let’s go, old man,” the outrider told her mount, and the horse broke into a shuffling jog while Mister hopped alongside like a big gray bunny, shaking his head furiously against the outrider’s taut hold on his bridle. As he sprang away, a gob of white foam slopped from his bit and onto Jenny’s shoulder. She brushed the saliva away without looking at the damage done to her blouse, wiping her hands on her race-day khakis, which had seen much worse. For one long, frozen moment she just watched Mister cavorting at the end of the leather thong. He flipped his head, propped his shoulders, blew loudly through his nostrils. No one paid him any mind. The outrider was ignoring him, the pony horse was ignoring him, even Manny, perched above his withers, was ignoring him. Refusing to acknowledge his foolishness was the only way to deal with Mister’s mischief-loving heart; the moment you got on his case about something, the colt escalated things to a scale that quickly got dangerous for everyone.
Jenny thought about how much she loved him, and how much she had missed him while she’d been in New York, and how much more she would miss him if she went back for good.
Then her phone buzzed again, breaking the spell, and she pulled it out of her pocket just as her mother came hustling up. “Let’s go, girl. You’re standing in the track like a crazy person,” Andrea commanded. “They’re trying to put a race on, if you haven’t noticed.”
She hit the green button on her phone’s screen, her heart between her boots, suddenly afraid of whatever news was waiting. Yay or nay, go or no go, it was all going to be a disaster for half of her.
“JENNY!” the people in her phone shrieked in a chorus, and her heart rebounded like a balloon freed of its string, soaring up into the endless blue of the Florida sky.
“GUYS!” she yelled back. “HOW DID IT GO?”
Stay tuned for another preview next week… or order your copy now!
Have you heard the news? My newest equestrian novel, The Hidden Horses of New York, is now available for pre-sale on Amazon! If you’re waiting for the paperback, you can order it along with the Kindle edition’s download date on November 26, 2019. I’m thrilled to share this story of friendship, the equestrian community, equine welfare and yes, a little romance with you. To get you started, here are the first thousand words of The Hidden Horses of New York.
Jenny jiggled the lead-shank to distract the three-year-old colt tugging at the other end, and tried to ignore the phone buzzing in her back pocket. Her mother’s gaze, sharp and unforgiving, caught hers from across the saddling ring, and Jenny felt the force of her warning: don’t touch that phone while you’ve got hold of a horse. It was one of Andrea Wolfe’s most ferociously-enforced rules. Once, she had taken a rider’s phone right out of his hands and thrown it with the power and grace of a pitcher. The phone had landed in the cattail-choked drainage ditch running along the inside of Sugar Creek Farm’s training track and was never seen again.
“Settle,” Jenny hissed at the colt, who rolled one wild eyeball at her and flared his nostrils, tossing his head towards her face. For an instant her vision was a blur of black skin, ringed inside with red. The colt’s sleek coat was graying out slowly, his neck and body spangled with white-ringed dapples and his mane a cloud of black. Jenny remembered when he’d been born, a fox-colored colt blinking owlishly through spectacles of pale hair, a dead giveaway that this pretty little chestnut would grow up to be a gray.
Jenny jerked back to the present and gave the lead-shank in her hands a tug to remind him not to get so personal. The colt straightened out and they kept on walking in their tight circles, using every inch of the space they’d been allotted. The walking ring of Tampa Bay Downs was tight; the little crowd of spectators pressing in so closely that Jenny was sometimes afraid even the rail keeping them back from the horses was still not far enough away to protect them from a kick. As a rule, hot-blooded young Thoroughbreds were not malicious. But they were in a hurry to get moving, and indiscriminate with where their flying hooves ended up.
Jenny’s phone was buzzing again, furiously rattling against the thin chest pocket on the flowing blue blouse she’d paired with her race-day khakis. She desperately wanted to answer it, wanted to see her friends’ silly faces and hear their stupid voices so much, and she was crazy to find out what had happened with their final presentation, if Professor Mulvaney thought their idea was any good or if they were just a bunch of idealistic kids (which Jenny did not think was a bad thing, not yet). They needed his buy-in if they were going to get anywhere. Lana’s father had been determined on that point. He wasn’t giving them a dime otherwise.
The loudspeakers crackled as if they were clearing their metallic throats, and then the feed from the track’s resident commentator took over the sound of jingling metal and thudding hooves. He was standing near the paddock with his back to the horses, a small burly man in a three-piece suit that strained at the arms, wraparound sunglasses and gel-stiffened blonde hair competing with his swirling tribal neck tattoos for attention. Jenny always thought he looked like a cross between a professional skateboarder and Guy Fieri. He spoke, with a thick Long Island accent, about past performances and speed figures and jockey win percentages. When he got to Mr. November, he just said: “this one is the favorite for a reason, but if you want to beat him, try the three and the six,” and then continued on with the next horse.
Jenny ran a hand along Mister’s hot neck. They weren’t going to beat him—not the three, not the six, not any of the other horses circling the paddock. His dark eye met hers, and suddenly Jenny forgot about her phone, and the conversation she was missing in New York right now. This happened before every race. Jenny would live entirely in the moment for the next fifteen minutes: the moment she handed Mister off to the outrider, the moment she caught him after his race, the moment she led him into the winner’s circle.
Today was Mister’s day.
She smiled at him, the sounds of the horseplayers dissipating around her.
Then he ducked his chin backwards and tried to bite her, his eyes bright with mischief, and she was wrenched back to reality. “No,” she huffed. “You’re bad. Don’t do it again!”
Mister pushed hard against the bit in his mouth, grinding his teeth. The movement tugged at her joints, made her wince as she pulled back. He was so ready, so painfully ready. Why wasn’t it time to mount up yet? She looked to the center of the ring. Her mother was there, talking to the jockey, a slim-hipped young man who was having a very good year. It had been easy to convince him to ride Mister in the colt’s first big stakes challenge. Everyone knew the colt was peaking. No one knew it better than Jenny. Because while the line for owner was always filled in with “Sugar Creek Farm,” Mr. November’s real owner had always been Jenny Wolfe. He was the last good thing she’d done before she’d gone away to school, and the one good thing she’d returned for, over and over again. Bred by Jenny, foaled by Jenny, halter-broke by Jenny, started under saddle by Jenny. She’d done it all over winter holidays, spring breaks, summer vacations, and long weekends. She’d hurried home from a cold, snowy New York to a warm March evening when his birth seemed imminent, despite her mother’s tired reminders that there was no telling when the mare might actually foal. And early that morning, as a storm blew through the open rafters overhead, her colt had been born.
The new foal had blinked at her from his damp bed of straw and then promptly bit her, all gums and tiny milk teeth closed tight on her hand, and Jenny had laughed and told him, “you’re the one, you’re my Mister November,” and he’d been Mister every day since then.
Jenny’s mother had disapproved of naming a wobbling newborn colt for a race three and a half years (and a solid mountain of luck) away. “There are thirty-six foals due on this farm alone, thousands all around Ocala, and you’re pinning all of your Breeders’ Cup hopes on this one?”
But Mister was Jenny’s hope, not the farm’s hope or her mother’s hope. And she thought Mr. November was a fine name for a colt she planned to point at the world racing championships, held in November each year. “Plus he looks like a Mister,” Jenny added. “With those little spectacles of his.”
“Those will be gone in two months,” her mother snorted, but she left it alone after that.
Three years ago, Jenny thought, her hand still on the taut muscles running along Mister’s arching neck. Three years ago, he’d stood no higher than her waist. And now he was this big beast, this monstrous colt with muscles toned into the airstream lines of an Art Deco locomotive, coat spangled with white stars like the iron-gray sky the morning before a hurricane, taut skin and flowing raven mane and dark, intelligent eyes that landed on Jenny the moment she entered his field of vision and never left her until she was gone again, back to wherever Jenny went when she left Mister behind.
“Riders up!” the ring steward called, raising his clipboard in the air like a ceremonial flag. As if released from taut strings, the jockeys and trainers dispersed in every direction, flowing toward their mounts in a wave of bright pageantry.
Want to read more? Get the rest of the first chapter – just email me here: natalie @ nataliekreinert.com (remove the spaces). I’ll send you the entire first chapter of The Hidden Horses of New York as a sneak peek!
I’ve officially given The Hidden Horses of New York its publication date of November 26, 2019, and I just can’t wait to share it with you. This book means the world to me.
Last year, I was brooding about my “millennial horse racing story” that I wanted to write. I knew I wanted to tell the story of a band of friends who were young, idealistic, and wanted to change horse racing for the better. They were going to do it through social media and the internet. And that’s… that’s all I knew.
It took more than a year to pull together the concept that became The Hidden Horses of New York. It took more than three beginnings (all of them beautiful, in my opinion) in three different voices and multiple points of view. It went from being a multi-POV to a single narrator, but one thing that didn’t change: the main character, Jenny.
Jenny is young, idealistic, shy, ambitious. A horsewoman who ran away from her horsey home to see what else she could be. Who fell in love with New York and the friends she made there. Who found a way, against all odds, to remain an equestrian in the greatest city in the world.
Who was hopelessly in love with her best friend.
I adore Jenny, and walking in her shoes to write this story has been such an emotional ride. I’ve cried, I’ve felt the wind against my cheeks, I’ve nestled down under a soft blanket in her chilly apartment. I have felt at one with Jenny more than any other character I’ve ever written. I know everything about her, I know the pictures hanging on the walls of her childhood bedroom, I know the books on her coffee table, I know the cereal boxes in her kitchen cabinet.
Those who know me will read this book and know I’ve shared some of my most remarkable life experiences with Jenny, and that’s not a gift I share lightly. I’ve jealously guarded some of these storylines, waiting for the right moment to give them up to the world. I believe I’ve found that moment.
And the cover! Oh, the agonies over this cover, friends. I wanted Jenny’s story to stand apart. I am proud of my book covers, but I needed something different for this one. I worked for days until I had a concept, then I realized I didn’t have the technical know-how to bring it to life.
Enter How Bowers, a wonderful friend who offered his time to turn my dream into a reality. And look at the beauty he has created! I’m so, so thankful for his expertise and dedication to my concept.
This is the story idea, in a few words, for the book:
Jenny’s a horsewoman, born and bred. Aidan’s a photographer, with a passion for sleek thoroughbreds. Lana has business brains and start-up cash. Together, they’re going to bring horse racing’s best stories to life. Best friends working on a passion project together: it could be the perfect post-grad life in New York City… if only Jenny weren’t hopelessly in love with Aidan.
Unrequited love aside, Jenny might be in over her head. It’s not an easy task to get old-fashioned trainers to open up to her, but Jenny’s determined to get her story. Then, as she digs deep in search of a missing horse, Jenny tumbles into a dark underworld she’d thought was just a fairy tale.
In the pursuit of horse racing’s happy endings, to say nothing of her own, Jenny will find herself tested again and again. A colt’s bid for a Breeders’ Cup championship, a racehorse with no name, a charming police mount on Amsterdam Avenue, a carriage horse clattering through Central Park: the horses of New York are clamoring to have their stories told. Jenny just has to find the words, and the courage, to give them a voice.
There’s a lot more to this story than what I could wedge in >200 words, but here we are.
And here we go.
I’m so thrilled to share The Hidden Horses of New York with you. I only hope you love it as much as I do.
Launching Turning For Home was my most challenging book launch to date. The fourth book in a series — how do you share that with readers who are new to the series? Compared to Ambition, I barely did any promotional work at all. I just plain didn’t know what to do.
After all, I couldn’t exactly send it to equestrian websites and blogs if they hadn’t covered the first few books. A few websites who had declined reading The Head and Not The Heart and Other People’s Horses (because they were racing novels) had been my most enthusiastic reviewers for Ambition — and here I was going back to racing for my newest novel.
And not just racing, but responsible racehorse retirement. Other People’s Horses was about horse racing, and while there were a few bad apples, it was largely positive. Racing people liked it; so much so that it was a semi-finalist for the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award in 2014. Turning For Home deals with retirement, animal rights activists, and the fact that some people just are not doing right by their racehorses. Would it hit a chord with racing publications, or just piss everyone off?
Well, at least I had my core readers, right? RIGHT? But what if I couldn’t get the word out to all the readers that had been clamoring for a new Alex novel for the past two years?
All of a sudden the year’s worth of work I’d thrown at Turning For Home was looking pretty crazy. Maybe, I thought, I should have spent all that time working on the sequel to Ambition, a book that was fresher in people’s memories — and which had a lot of support from traditional equestrian websites and magazines.
In the end, I settled for awareness. I designed a few graphics to stick on my various social media pages. I used Amazon’s new pre-order feature for the Kindle edition, so that it could start climbing the rankings in the horse racing category where the other Alex novels already do well. (Happily, Amazon helped out by featuring it in their “Hot New Releases” section for a few weeks.) I tweeted (a little) and Facebooked (a little) and threw out a few notices on Pinterest and Instagram. Just enough to let folks know that the book was happening, and if they wanted to, they could read it!
How’s that working out for me?
Well, so far so good. Turning For Home made its debut in March on Amazon’s top ten horse racing titles, and it’s been up there consistently ever since. It’s also been sitting in the top five on Teen/Young Adult Sports & Outdoors, which is a new category for me, but I’m in good company there with several other equestrian authors, so I’ll take it! (FYI, I added the teen age group to my books based on the enthusiastic teen response to Ambition, but I still write these books in a mature tone as I always have.)
“I could not recommend this book more highly for horse lovers!”
“If you love horses, horse racing, showing, or just plan love Thoroughbreds… read Natalie.”
“You can’t go wrong with one of Natalie’s equestrian books.”
You GUYS! Stop it. I’m blushing.
So, all in all, the confusing promotion of a fourth book has turned out okay. I would love to know how much of it was my blog and social media, and how much of it was people clicking on Amazon’s suggested purchase or new release ads, that actually let people know Turning For Home was available. Either way, it’s good to know that I can concentrate on writing, and spend less time worrying about getting the word out about new books.
But if you really want to know… look for my next book, Pride, very soon. Yes, it’s the next book in my Eventing Series, which began with Ambition. Yes, Jules has a lot more growing up to do. It should be a fun ride.