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
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.
My good friend Linda Benson, who writes lovely fiction for animal writers, was kind enough to tap me for this blog hop about writers and the writing process (which is why it’s named The Writing Process Blog Hop, and isn’t that just convenient! We are creative people, we writers.)
Linda Benson’s Cat Tales series
Be sure to go say hello to Linda Benson, who writes for animal lovers of all ages, with works ranging from dystopian fiction (The Girl Who Remembered Horses) to contemporary fiction (her Cat Tales series), and blogs at LindaBenson.blogspot.com.
This blog hop is timed very well, as things are getting very exciting around here! Here’s why… in the very first question!
Question 1: What am I working on? The final edits of my new novel! I am in the production phase, almost ready to release Ambition to the public.
I’ve been writing and rewriting Ambition, in some form or another, for several years. At one point it was actually in present tense. I have a great hint for any writers considering taking a present tense novel and making it past tense: don’t ever do it! What a nightmare that was. I’m still finding leftover typos from the changeover.
But Ambition is worth it to me. I had an idea in my head, of a girl who couldn’t afford to be an event rider and wasn’t going to let that stop her, who had an idea of what her horse could be and wasn’t going to let anyone take him away from her, and it wouldn’t let me go. So every time I read through a draft and shook my head and said “this isn’t it,” I just set it aside, wrote something else, and came back to it.
And this time I decided I wasn’t quitting until it was well and truly done.
So now it’s done — the cover is being designed, the final copy-edits are on its way — and it should be on sale in just a few weeks. It’s going to be incredible to finally have this book out there. I hope that it resonates with readers as well as Other People’s Horses did. Because I’m working on the next book in the Alex and Alexander series now!
Other People’s Horses: Book 2 of Alex and Alexander
Question 2: How does my work differ from others in its genre? My equestrian fiction stands apart because it isn’t genre fiction. Try finding adult fiction written about the horse world that isn’t a mystery or a romance — it’s very hard to do. And horses aren’t merely the backdrop to my books — they’re a huge piece of the narrative. I’m writing for horse-people, and for adult horse-people in particular. I love a good pony story as much as the next person, but someone forgot to write about what happens when horse-crazy kids grow up. Well, I am one of those kids. So I’m writing our stories.
Question 3: Why do I write what I do? I write the books I want to read. It goes back to the previous question: no one else was writing contemporary fiction for adults in the horse world. There is plenty of Young Adult, but very little for the rest of us.
The same goes for my three Historical Romance novels. I like romances, and I wanted to create a few with strong equestrian settings. Isn’t everything better with a good horse?
Babies on the loose! Ocala live oaks co-star. Flickr/Christopher Stadler
I’m also utterly in love with my settings, and that has a lot to do with how I write. I write about horses, but I also write about Florida rather obsessively, and some other favorite spots, like Saratoga, that really speak to my soul. I couldn’t write a sterile paragraph about a Florida afternoon — there’s too much to admire and love and fear all at once. So I’m not one to shy away from trying to paint an Ocala sunset with words or describe the way the air tastes just before a thunderstorm. Instead, trying to find words for those things is one key component of why I write. I love them too much to passively observe them. I want to own them.
Riding Apollo, a spotted draft, on patrol in Central Park, New York City
I’m looking forward to adding New York City to the geography of my books, after spending so much time riding in the parks as member of the NYC Parks Department’s mounted unit. I have a very exciting idea in my head about a young woman riding in Brooklyn’s own Prospect Park — but that’s all I’m saying right now!
Question 4: How does my writing process work? Slowly. Well, not quite. I’m actually a very quick writer. If you’ve ever seen people doing those thousand-word hours during National Novel Writing Month? Yeah, I do that in about fifteen minutes when I have my blood up. And those tend to be my best pieces. If I’m not writing at about a mile a minute, I’m usually thinking too hard, and not getting what I want on the page.
And that means edits.
Many, many edits.
I’m an obsessive writer, always looking for the perfect turn of phrase. That means that my books can take a very, very long time to reach completion. I have started doing a very thorough outline, which helps: Other People’s Horses only took me about six months, thanks to my outline. Ambition, on the other hand, never had an outline — and it’s taken three years.
So while I’m capable of doing something like a magazine write-up in about twenty minutes, send it to the editor, and go on about my day without another thought, my novels are a long, drawn-out process, with plenty of sleepless nights, lots of self-doubt, and moments of sheer terror while I’m waiting for someone to finish reading a sentence and tell me what they think. Writing novels: it’s just so fun!
And that’s all from me this time! Next week you’ll see blog posts from authors Christine Meunier and AnnaLisa Grant. In the meantime, go check out their blogs and their books. I think you’ll find there’s a little something for just about everyone!
Christine Meunier writes about horses in many facets from a home base of Australia. You can visit FreeReinSeries.com to learn more about her children’s equestrian books, and equus-blog.com for everything equestrian, from book reviews to horse health!
AnnaLisa Grant has a successful Young Adult series in The Lake Trilogy, and she has recently released her first New Adult novel, Next to Me. She blogs about the writing life at annalisagrant.com.
In honor of the First Saturday in May and the Run for the Roses, I’m having a sale — on eBooks!
My Heroines on Horseback Historical Romance novels all feature unique characters — both male and female — who draw strength from their horsemanship. I’m immensely fond of these stories.
The historical romance field is very crowded, and they haven’t seen many reviews, but take a look at some of the nice things that have been said about the Heroines on Horseback:
The book was just as well written as one of the leading lights of the Traditional Regency Romance genre.
If you are looking for a regency with a Heroine with some spunk this is the one for you! Probably my favorite of the 200+ I’ve read this year. Funny and lively.
Not too shabby, right?
I have a thing for historical romances — I started reading them when I was in middle school, and for escapism, it doesn’t get much better. Gowns, chivalry, ancestral manor houses and crumbling castles… and of course, there are always horses.
I fell very hard for the Regency period, especially as I grew older and I discovered actual historical writers such as Jane Austen and William Thackeray. I love the rich language and the dry wit of the early nineteenth century, and in the two Regency-era titles, Miss Spencer Rides Astride and The Honorable Nobody, I worked very hard to create dialogue that was true to the period. Add in rich settings from the Irish countryside to the Dakota prairies, some fine horses, and a few complicated relationships, and you have yourself a story!
Miss Spencer Rides Astride, The Genuine Lady, and The Honorable Nobody are all available as eBooks at Barnes & Noble.com and Amazon.com. I do hope you enjoy them!
For a girl writing about racehorses, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Yesterday, Castleton Lyons, home of the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award, announced the eight semi-finalists for the 2013 competition. This unique award celebrates one common theme in full-length literary works: the racehorse.
Imagine my delightI was thrilled to see I FREAKED OUT AND NEARLY HAD A HEART ATTACK when I saw my own Other People’s Horses on the list, the lone novel amongst racing histories, memoirs, and biographies.
There are no words for my appreciation for not just the nomination, but all the readers who encouraged me, left me nice reviews at Amazon and GoodReads, sent me emails to let me know they liked the books, and have generally clamored for me to continue writing about horses and the people who love them. I never would have dared enter this competition without you and your support!
Thank you for telling me that Other People’s Horses means something to you!
I promise there is more to come.
If you haven’t read Other People’s Horses, I still love you. Go to my Facebook page for a coupon code for 20% off the paperback at the CreateSpace store, good now through March 31st.
And with that, here is the press release for the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Awards semi-finalists. Have you read any of the other books? Tell us about them in the comments!
2013 Dr. Ryan semi-finalists exceptional group
The 2013 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award competition has drawn the strongest slate of semi-finalists in its eight year history to date, an impressive assortment of well-penned histories, fiction, biography, and autobiographies—both human and equine. In the end, the underdog theme ruled the day in this cycle of uniquely award-worthy entries.
Launched in 2006 by the late Dr. Ryan, the award, worth $10,000 to the winner, was the industry’s first to honor full-length literary work focusing on racing. Dr. Ryan loved good writing as much as he loved a good Thoroughbred, and thus placed few parameters on his concept other than skill with the written word.
Three 2013 finalists will be revealed via press release on March 17 (see: http://www.castletonlyons.com/). The winner will be announced during an invitation-only reception at the Ryan family’s historic Castleton Lyons farm near Lexington on April 9.
Book Award Semifinalists:
Battleship: A Daring Heiress, A Teenage Jockey, and America’s Horse
Author: Dorothy Ours
A character-driven work based in the early decades of the 20th century. Battleship centers on enigmatic Marion DuPont of the famed chemical manufacturing family … her battles against the gender limitations of her time, her marriage to a Hollywood movie star, and most importantly, her undying love for horses—most specifically her faith in a pint-sized son of Man o’ War, who, in 1938, packed her colors to victory in the world’s most heart-testing race: England’s Grand National Steeplechase.
Casual Lies: A Triple Crown Adventure
Author: Shelley Lee Riley
The feel-good narrative of a woman trainer who sees potential in a small, nondescript bay colt and runs with it—literally—parlaying a meager $7,500 purchase price into $795,991 in career earnings. Under the name Casual Lies, the colt took Shelley Riley on the ride of a lifetime, winning in graded company and, more importantly, placing in both the 1992 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
Foinavon: The Story of the Grand National’s Biggest Upset
Author: David Owen
Another with the Grand National as a backdrop, this one provides an account of the 1967 renewal, unimaginably upset by the 100-to-1 title character, Foinavon. Owen details how the winner and his companion, a white nanny goat named Susie, thereafter charmed the British masses as they traveled the country on a “victory tour,” while reminding one and all of the true meaning and glory of the Grand National itself.
Jack: From Grit to Glory
Author: Chris Kotulak
The story of a living American legend, told via anecdotal material, interviews of those who know him best, and through memories from the man himself. The down-to-earth Nebraskan is a Hall of Fame horseman and himself the son of a Hall of Fame trainer; and in the course of his nearly 60 years—and counting—on the track, Van Berg has remarkably developed both racehorses and other trainers of Hall of Fame caliber.
Other People’s Horses
Author: Natalie Keller Reinert
The only fiction entry among the finalists, this one brings back a pair of married trainers, Alex and Alexander, from 2012’s Head and Not the Heart. In this one, the husband is abroad on family business, leaving Alex at Saratoga running the stable, battling sexism, dealing with a naïve assistant, and falling hard for a crazy filly she thinks she can fix.
Ride the White Horse: A Checkered Jockey’s Story of Racing, Rage, and Redemption
Author: Eddie Donnally
Gut-wrenching autobiography of a jockey on a road straight to hell, replete with race-fixing schemes, batteries, and squandered dreams. Stalked by alcoholism, drug and sex-addiction, and mental illness, we follow Donnally’s life as it descends from nascent talent into hopelessness, homelessness, and total despair. Donnally’s gritty mea culpa of a life not well lived may be a tough read, but is ultimately, one of hope and redemption.