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Launching the 4th Book: Turning For Home

Turning For Home promo square
My favorite promotion piece for Turning For Home – this Instagram friendly square.

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.

Turning For Home FB cover
A Facebook/Twitter banner letting people know Turning For Home was coming.

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.)

The reviews have been solid, too — all five-star so far, which is definitely too good to last, but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts! Things people are saying at Amazon:

“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.

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Online Inspiration

Barn Cat
Barn life is made up of tiny moments like this.

It’s one thing to find inspiration in your daily life. Out fooling around with horses, hanging at the barn listening to gossip, leaning on a fence at a horse show or on the rail at the races — it’s easy to take home a hundred stories from one afternoon around horses and horse-people.

Barn life, after all, is made up of little moments that might not have anything to do with riding or training. Like stumbling upon a cat in the hay and trying to figure out a way to pull out a flake without disturbing his regal slumber — that one happened to me last week.

Adding some horse-time to my life is a tremendous boon after spending two years, while I was writing Ambition and now Turning For Home,  without any horses in my life. I was working off a whole lot of memories, and not much else.

That’s where online inspiration comes in.

grazing a horse
Remembering the simple pleasure of grazing a horse until he’s dry.

When you’re searching for just the right turn of phrase to describe the way a horse’s expression lights up as he heads towards a fence.

When you’re trying to find a way to express the feel of your horse’s hot neck beneath your palm.

When you’re just plain thinking what would this horse/this rider do next in this situation I’ve put them in?

Thank goodness for the Internet, my friends.

I use Tumblr and Pinterest to gather together photos that I find inspirational. Sometimes, when I can’t eek out another useful description from the sea of black-and-white words, I need something a little more real and concrete. I go through photos, watching horses jump fences, horses jigging towards the starting gate, horses leaning over their stall webbing to get a glimpse of the hay-cart coming down the aisle. And that’s enough to bring back all the sights and sounds and smells and surfaces of the shed-row or the stable, and I can get back to work with a renewed sense of purpose.

My Pinterest board for Turning For Home includes cross-country jumping, racetrack mornings, Ocala views, and just plain equine silliness.
Follow Natalie’s board Turning For Home – Alex & Alexander # 3 on Pinterest.//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js

My Tumblr is similar, with a different variety of horses — the Tumblr is more about fine art photography most of the time, whereas the Pinterest might contain links to articles or just certain moments that I find evocative. The Tumblr is at ottb.tumblr.com.

Check them out to get a taste of the online inspiration I use every day in my writing! I’ll continue to add images and posts even after Turning For Home is released — it’s the kind of beauty you never want to give up.

 

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Ride with Equestrian Writers at Horse Crossings

Consider this your invitation. If you love equestrian writing and want to know more about the writers behind the books, Horse Crossings is a new blog just for you!

Natalie Reinert with Player
Player, a buddy of mine at Hidden Acres Rescue for Thoroughbreds in Port St. John, FL

I’m so happy to have joined the inaugural team at Horse Crossings, along with founder Linda Benson (author of the beautiful novel The Girl Who Remembered Horses), Young Adult authors Alison Hart and L.R. Trovillion, writers Jane Badger and Milt Toby, and novelists Meghan Namaste and Toni Leland. All of write about horses. All of us are connected with horses in our daily lives. We want to share our process, our adventures, and our stories as horsemen and writers with you, our readers and fellow horsemen.

It’s really good timing for me, since I just moved back to Florida with my family, and am enjoying some much-needed horse time by volunteering at Hidden Acres Rescue for Thoroughbred (HART) in the town where I first started riding my own retired racehorse out across the Florida wilderness, Port St. John. It’s an interesting mixture of nostalgia and ambition that’s motivating my writing these days, as I drive to my childhood neighborhood to do barn chores and work with off-track Thoroughbreds, then head back home to my desk and my work.

Since I haven’t really been able to spend any time with horses since I left the mounted patrol unit of the New York City Dept. of Parks and Recreation in 2013, the simple act of mucking a stall has been a real pleasure! Grooming a horse and taking him out to the round pen for a little work-out — bliss. I’m excited to write about the horses I meet and work with at HART, and I’m going to do a lot of that at Horse Crossings, as I explore how horses inspire my writing.

In this week’s first post at Horse Crossings, I wrote about my upcoming novel Turning For Homeand the decision to step back from the racetrack and talk instead about retiring racehorses. There are still racetrack moments in this latest installment of the Alex and Alexander series, but there are many more farm, round pen, and even dressage ring moments. As a horsewoman, Alex is doing what we all must do — travel full-circle to be her very best, and do the best for her horses.

Jane Badger of Jane Badger Books writes about getting her start in writing about horse literature. She’s the queen of pony books, and her posts will make you want to take  up a new hobby, collecting these vintage British horse stories! So read with caution!

Lisa Trovillion, author of False Gods, talks about answering that impossible question, “What’s your book about?” It’s something that makes all of us authors stumble, until all of a sudden we’re working our way through a twenty-minute dissertation on our heroine’s deepest darkest fears. None of us are particularly gifted at elevator speeches.

The Girl Who Remembered Horses - Linda BensonAnd Linda Benson started off our week with a look at the inspiration behind The Girl Who Remembered Horses, which was recently re-released with a gorgeous new cover.

So come and join us at Horse Crossings! Visit the blog and be sure to subscribe to keep up with all of us.

And if you’ve been waiting for the new Alex and Alexander horse-racing novel, you’re in luck — Turning For Home is almost here!

 

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New Short Story at Equestrian Culture Magazine

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.

Visit equestrianculturemag.com to read Two Runaways and the other great articles in the Holiday 2014 issue, and find out how you can continue to read this new breed of equestrian content online throughout 2015.

And let me know what you think of the story!

 

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Longhand

Filling the notebook with "Turning For Home"
Filling the notebook with “Turning For Home”

Who writes in longhand anymore?

Society awards a certain level of sophistication to the act of typing. Writing longhand is so eighteenth century.  You’re writing in a notebook? Why not just pull out a feather quill and some foolscap? (Note: I don’t actually know what foolscap is. I’ve just read it for years and years and assumed it’s a kind of paper.)

Of course there are layers and layers within this typer’s sophistication. There’s the cafe full of people furiously typing away at MacBooks, surreptitiously checking their Facebook when they don’t think anyone is looking, securing their spot and their computer with eye contact and a nod with the neighboring typer when nature calls (all those lattes have to go somewhere).

I’ve been part of that scene, and for a long time I thought it was the most sure way to identify myself as a writer. You feel like a writer, when you’ve shrugged off your sweater and you’re sipping lukewarm coffee and your fingers are flying across your MacBook’s keys. It’s like going to the office. It’s more official than when you sit on your couch in your pajamas.

(NOTE: I am currently sitting on my couch, in my pajamas.)

Some people take the typing obsession a bit further and get a typewriter. Typewriters require a certain amount of confidence — you’re clipping along at a good pace, just like on a computer, but without the safety net of a delete button. Of course, they’re not socially acceptable in cafes. (Although I could see a typewriter cafe being extremely popular in Brooklyn, and now that I think of it, I’m kind of shocked that this is not a thing. Can you imagine the noise level? They could issue earplugs at the door, I suppose.)

But what both typewriters and computers get wrong is speed. Too much speed. Typing fast is a modern accomplishment. And it’s great for certain kinds of work, like taking notes or hammering out a bunch of emails that don’t require a lot of wordsmithing.

I type too fast. The WPM averages that I took such pride in during my 7th grade Business Applications class are not good for my novels. When I’m in a typing groove, fingers flying, delete button hardly in play, I can get down thousands of words in an hour. The problem is that I’m writing with a total lack of caution.

Which sounds great, until two hours later when I sit back, crack my knuckles, and realize that I’ve gone so far off the rails that I either have to rewrite my entire book to accommodate the detour my plot has taken, or do a substantial amount of deleting.

The crazy thing is, this just keeps happening. I keep on giving in to the seductive Cult of Typing, slipping into a booth at my local cafe and joining the typing legions. I write for an hour or two, smile, do it again the next day, smile, and a few days later I look at the work and try to figure out how it’s heading towards the ultimate conclusion and realize… I’ve done it again.

I have a stack of documents on my hard drive now that are painful to think about, most of them relating to Turning For Home, the upcoming (supposedly, if I could nail it down) novel in the Alex and Alexander series. They’re well-written (some of them are downright fantastic) and I can’t just dismiss them. But some of them, eventually, won’t fit into the narrative. That’s brutal to think about. (I love my words!)

All of this, of course, could be avoided if I would just learn my lesson and stick to longhand for first drafts. Longhand isn’t necessarily sophisticated. It doesn’t give me that Look I’m a Professional Writer look. It makes my right hand ache and I’ll probably end up with arthritis.

But longhand is slow enough, even when I’m scribbling, that I have more time to think about my words. And so unlike typing, which allows me to throw words onto the screen with abandon, emphasizing quantity over quality, longhand creates measured, thoughtful sentences from the very first draft. Scenes that open and close in perfect rhythm. Characters who stop and think instead of just chattering their way through a dialogue.

And I can still write in longhand while sitting on my couch, wearing pajamas.

Every time I write a book, I come back to my notebooks and my pens and my aching hand as I slowly write it all down in longhand. I don’t know why I keep trying to do it all on the computer. I suppose I’m trying to save time. But if there’s one thing that should never, ever be hurried, it’s a work of fiction. I’m posting this here to remind me of that.

Longhand, baby.