You’ve been asking for it — now she’s here. The prequel to the bestselling Alex & Alexander Series is coming in just a few weeks!
Runaway Alex has been my biggest project of 2020, and I’m so excited to bring you the backstory of this horse racing duo. Alex and Alexander have taken me so many places: to Saratoga for horse racing’s first-ever con, Equestricon; to Keeneland for the finalist party of the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award; to Pimlico for a signing on Preakness weekend…the list goes on and on. And I can’t even begin to list the amazing people I have met because of this book series.
So it’s my very great pleasure to bring you the story of how they met, what drew them together, and the first days of the Alex and Alexander story.
Horse racing isn’t for nice girls like Alex. She’s been told again and again: stick to horse shows, stick to riding lessons, stick to the relative safety of the suburban equestrian center where she has been a working student since grade school. Even better: go to college!
But Alex can’t shake the conviction that the Thoroughbred life is her destiny.
Can’t wait to get started? Here’s the introduction where we meet Alex for the very first time…
Runaway Alex: Prologue
My feet hit the ground with a little puff of dirt. Grass won’t grow in this spot anymore. My dad, the resident gardener, does everything he can to fix the bare patch outside my window. He doesn’t understand why the thick runners of St. Augustine grass can’t overcome the gray sand. Some day, I won’t have to jump out the window anymore, and then the grass will grow back in a thick, lush, tropical carpet, and he’ll never be able to explain it.
He’ll never know it was because I was running away, every chance I got.
Although at some point, he’ll probably wonder how I got so good at riding horses.
If you want to read on, click here to sign up and I’ll send you a link to read the first three chapters in a special preview ebook!
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.
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
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
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 and Smoky show us how it’s done. Photo: 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.
Barbara Morgenroth, every bit as intense as her characters in the saddle
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.
I’m happy to announce that Turning For Home (Alex and Alexander Book 4) is now available for download at a variety of online retailers, with a paperback to follow soon!
Get a grown-up horse book!
This new installment of these “Horse Books for Grown-ups,” which began back in 2011 with the publication of The Head and Not The Heart, then continued with the 2014 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award semi-finalist, Other People’s Horses and the holiday short Claiming Christmas, returns to the dark bay beauty that Alex fell so hard for at Aqueduct Racetrack, The Tiger Prince.
The charismatic Tiger has run his last race, and it wasn’t pretty. Alex is faced with an agonizing decision: how can she retire a hot-tempered gelding who has no place on a breeding farm, but is such a pet that he can’t be sold or adopted out?
Then, as if life wasn’t complicated enough, another scandal is breaking over the racing industry. Racehorses are found abandoned and starving in the Everglades — and a radical animal rights group pins the blame on Alex. Hate mail and death threats, plus a mysterious new neighbor who is making life downright dangerous, throw Alex’s training career into a tailspin.
Stuck on the farm, exiled from the racetrack, angry and shell-shocked, Alex and Tiger have more in common than ever. When a Thoroughbred Makeover event is announced for late spring, Alexander and Kerri both encourage Alex to seize the opportunity and show everyone that she’s fully capable of responsible racehorse retirement. It’s a move that could make — or break — her training career.
Turning For Home returns to some of my favorite places: the rolling hills of Ocala, the small-town feel of Tampa Bay Downs. And it takes on one of my favorite subjects, racehorse retirement. That’s actually what got me started in this whole writing game, you know — writing Retired Racehorse Blog back when I had a little Florida farm, some broodmares and foals, and one wonderful gelding that I’d gotten off the track and was training to be an event horse.
I actually trained that horse, in part, to prove to myself that I still could do it. I guess in that way, I’m a lot like Alex in this story. Is retraining a racehorse like riding a bike? At some point, muscle memory kicks in, right?
It seemed that way for me, when I was out riding Final Call. I used the memory of those rides to write about Alex as she rides Tiger. I hope that helps the story ring true for equestrians — that’s always my number one goal as a writer!
Enjoy Turning For Home, and be sure to let me know what you think! You can read the first chapter right here on the website, or see the previews at the links below:
The newest Alex and Alexander novel is almost here!
Are you ready for the first chapter of the newest Alex and Alexander novel, Turning For Home? Well, I have it here for you!
Here’s the story:
Every racehorse must one day retire from the track, and for Tiger, that day has arrived.
Alex isn’t ready for Tiger’s racing days to end, but planning his next career is quickly becoming the least of her problems. An animal rights group is accusing her of involvement in a horse-abuse scandal, and with death threats arriving daily, Alexander fears for her safety. Suddenly Tiger’s not the only one heading back to the farm — Alex is stuck at home, too, with strict orders to stay away from the racetrack.
Both horse and rider would rather be racing than hacking around the farm. A Thoroughbred makeover event seems like the perfect distraction, but as the activists ramp up their protests, Alex realizes she’s competing for more than just a blue ribbon. She’s fighting for her own reputation. This horse show could make — or break — her future in horse racing.
Ready for more? Here’s chapter 1. And don’t forget, you can pre-order the Kindle edition of Turning For Home now through March 2nd and have it delivered automatically on March 3rd! It will also be available at iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, and other retailers on March 3rd. Watch for a paperback in just about another week, if you prefer hard copies. Here we go! Continue reading →
I’m happy to announce a new short story has been published! Beginning today with the Holiday 2014 issue of Equestrian Culture Magazine, you’ll find an exclusive short story written especially for ECM’s readers.
This issue’s story is Two Runaways, a story set at a horse rescue and adoption agency. I had such a wonderful time crafting the main character’s voice, trying to find the right language to express Beth’s background and personality. She was a very real character to me from the minute the idea for the story came into my head. I could even hear her voice, accent and all, in my head, and it was my challenge to write the story in her words, not mine.
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.
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:
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.
We had an amazing opportunity yesterday — to see the Mini Kelpies, which are two 1/10 size maquettes of the full-size Kelpies statues in Scotland. In case you’re not familiar with The Kelpies, they are these giant horse-heads:
The Kelpies of Scotland. Photo: TheKelpiesatHelix Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TheKelpiesatTheHelix/info)
Having never seen the full-size Kelpies, I can’t say with absolute certainty that they were no less dramatic in miniature form… but there’s no doubt that the mini Kelpies, set before Bryant Park’s staircase beneath the skyscrapers of Midtown Manhattan, were incredibly striking. Maybe even goosebump-inducing. They were utterly fantastic.
Portrait with a Mini Kelpie. They’re big!
A rather forbidding Kelpie
I wish the Kelpies always lived in NYC. I would visit them every week… even if that meant slogging into Manhattan! There is just something about them — something that conveys the fierce power of a horse — which is amazing considering the medium, strips of shiny metal. They still have every bit of the expression and character of the original horses who modeled for them — two Clydesdales, as a matter of fact.
The Kelpies will be at Bryant Park until mid-April, according to their website. Bryant Park is behind the New York City Public Library, at 6th Avenue and 42nd St. Very easy to get to, so if you are traveling to the city, be sure to hustle over there and see them. (Pro-tip: Bryant Park has gorgeous public restrooms, something that isn’t easy to find in Manhattan.)
Later that afternoon, wandering our home borough of Brooklyn and desperate to soak up every last drop of sunlight and every moment of semi-warm air before winter settled in again, we found ourselves in DUMBO, walking towards Brooklyn Bridge Park…
Manhattan Bridge Reflections
Cal against Brooklyn Bridge Park, Manhattan in the distance
In the distance behind Calvin you can see the glass structure around Jane’s Carousel. This beautiful historic carousel was inundated with water during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It’s since been fully restored. We stopped by to take a glance but since it was the first warm day of the year, every prancing steed was taken! Another time. When New Yorkers aren’t quite so excited about taking off their coats and feeling a little warm sun on their faces!
Although after this winter, it’s hard to imagine that we’d be able to take warmth for granted again. I know we will, but… it’s been pretty rough.
Of course, cold weather means writing weather. I’m working on the revisions of my upcoming novel, Ambition, and you can read snippets and teases of it at my Facebook page, Natalie Keller Reinert: Horse Books for Grown-Ups. I’ll be posting more and more, along with photos and inspiration for the people, places, and horses in the book, as I get closer to a publication date. I am really excited about this book, which has taken several years to get to this point, the actual “Let’s publish this thing!” stage.