Now available in ebook from my store at NatalieKReinert.shop, as well as the Amazon Kindle store: The Regift Horse, Book 3 of Ocala Horse Girls!
Evie has struggled to find meaning in her equestrian life after retiring her heart horse. So when her cousin concocts a plan to regift her Christmas horse to Evie, she’s on board with the idea…although she’s less certain when she finds out it comes with a boarding and training contract.
Malcolm Horsham is a notorious terror on the eventing circuit, especially where his staff is concerned. But when he offers Evie a shot at training with him for six months, she goes against the gossip and gives him a chance.
Is Malcolm going to grind his new working student into the ground? Or will Evie take every chance he gives her to pull aside his tough armor and find the nice guy within?
It’s a romance – take a guess. But the fun is definitely in the journey!
Have an amazing time with The Regift Horse…I know I had an amazing time writing it!
Where to find it:
My store – ebooks you can read on any device, including Kindles: nataliekreinert.shop
Hello everyone! I am excited to share the first chapter of my upcoming novel, The Project Horse. This sweet, fun read set in the Florida horse country is coming to ebook and paperback on April 26, 2022.
The Project Horse was originally shared on Patreon and it was a major favorite with readers! It has been a pleasure to write, and I can’t wait to get it out to everyone. Here’s the deal:
Posey Malone is just trying to get her life together.
And to accomplish that, she’s heading home. With her horse trainer father gone to the great bookmaker in the sky, her love life in shambles, and her career as a copywriter low-income at best, she figures it’s best for everyone if she just shacks up with her mother for a while. Abandoning New York City for the wilds of north Florida won’t be easy, but Posey figures she can use some quiet time back in her old bedroom to save money, help her mom adjust to life without her dad, and get her head on straight again.
So when she pulls up in front of the family house and sees a big “For Sale” sign in the front yard, please forgive Posey if she says a few swear words.
Mom has a new place to work and live, and Posey has little choice but to tag along after her. Unfortunately, this means she’s thrust back into the thick of the Ocala rivalries which chased her away from home eight years ago. Namely: Adam Salazar. The son of her father’s ex-partner, Adam made her life a living hell as a teenager. One could almost say Adam broke up her entire family, if one wanted to blame someone. And Posey definitely wants to blame someone.
Determined to show Adam up, Posey takes on a failed racehorse as her project horse. She’ll prove she’s a better trainer than he is, and save some pride in the process. But when Adam takes Posey’s bet and starts training a project horse of his own, she finds herself spending more time than she anticipated with her arch-nemesis . . . and that the arrogant boy she remembers has been replaced by a handsome man who is determined to make amends.
A story about growing up, coming home, and finding love: The Project Horse will take you on a gallop through Florida’s horse country with plenty of friendship, laughter, and redemption along the way.
You can preorder The ProjectHorse and get it delivered to your ebook account on April 26th at the preorder price of $4.99 from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Smashwords, and other stores. Visit https://books2read.com/theprojecthorse
OR you can preorder and receive the book files for your favorite ereading app/device from my Author Direct Store at Payhip for the special price of $3.99, and get it a day early, on April 25! Visit https://payhip.com/b/f4dwL
This is a preorder special, regular price is $5.99!
The Project Horse is also coming to Kobo and Google Play, plus library apps like CloudLibrary, Overdrive, and Hoopla!
Plus, of course, super cute paperbacks to brighten up your bookshelf – and you can expect an audiobook later in 2022.
Meet Posey in the first chapter with this sneak peek!
The Project Horse
The windshield wipers have been working nonstop since South Carolina.
They’re making a truly obnoxious sound. Somewhere around the Florida/Georgia line, one of the wiper blades tore a little, and it’s been groaning against the glass with each upstroke ever since. It’s a sort of grinding rubber sound that makes me grit my teeth. Something I have to stop doing, incidentally, as my dentist has threatened me with a night guard.
My former dentist. I guess Dr. Singh is a good guy and all, but driving two thousand miles back to his office in Queens would be tough to manage every six months.
I’ll miss him, but I guess finding a new dentist is just one of the changes I have to accept in life.
And frankly, there are other changes which will hurt more. Apologies, Dr. Singh, but losing the perfect everything bagels from the deli down the street, and late-night slices from Angelo’s Pizza on the corner, and two a.m. gab sessions on the living room sofa with my roommate Carmen—those are the changes that are really going to leave a mark.
But it is what it is, as Carmen would say. One of the secrets to living a happy life in New York City is knowing when it’s time to fold and get up from the table.
I’m a few months late in that, actually. The house was winning, handily, before I realized that if I wanted to move back to Florida with enough money in my checking account for gas and Doritos, I had to stop putting it off.
So long, bagels. So long, pizza. So long, Carmen, and so many other things I have learned to love and hate and fear: like long subway rides on hot days just to savor the ice-cold air conditioning on the N train, and Dr. Singh’s warnings about a night guard if I couldn’t control my stress, and my half-formed dreams about a career and a life that was more than the two-bedroom apartment in Astoria where I’d landed seven years ago, a scared college grad with no real vision of the future.
Now I get to be a scared college grad with no real vision of the future seven years later. Score!
“You did the best with what you had,” I say aloud. I’ve been talking to myself a lot on this drive. It’s a doozy: there are twenty-four hours of interstate between New York City and Jacksonville, where I exited for the state highway that would lead me towards Ocala and my childhood home, and I’ve been alone with my thoughts for all of them.
Plenty of time to go over what went wrong: bad boyfriends, bad job choices, bad luck; and what went right: the best roommate a girl could ever ask for, an address in Astoria before it was cool, a freelance writing career that waited for me when I put my life on hold back in spring to deal with my dad’s unexpected passing.
Well, it sort of waited for me. I lost a couple of my best-paying clients and I was left relying the most on a singularly boring gig, writing content for an insurance company. They did have a division offering equine insurance, which I couldn’t help but find interesting. With my kind of background, anything horsey makes me stop and pay attention. New York City had the occasional equestrian moment to catch my eye: cops on horseback riding down a city street, movie studios filming a rider on horseback galloping down a random Queens avenue, a carriage horse eating a carrot from a tourist’s hand in Central Park.
But it was nothing like my hometown, of course. Ocala, Florida cheerfully bills itself of the Horse Capital of the World (hyperbole is welcomed in this town) and I grew up the horsey daughter of horsey parents, in a brick rancher on a street named Blue Ribbon Court.
And that’s where I’m heading now.
Not because of the equine insurance content writing—they don’t care where I’m typing from. But because it has been six months since my dad died, and in that six months, my mom’s voice has gotten smaller and her conversations shorter; while at the same time, my financial situation has gotten tighter and my relationship with my long-time boyfriend imploded. Because it was looking more and more like I hadn’t made it in the city, and if I couldn’t make it there, maybe I couldn’t make it anywhere.
That’s how that song goes, right?
A logging truck rushes towards me on the narrow, two-lane highway. My little Kia shivers as it roars past and leaves a slipstream of howling wind in its wake. The pine forest on either side of the road is dark and wet, and I feel like the trees are waiting for me to slip up and slide into their embrace.
“You’re losing it, Posey,” I tell myself, and grip the steering wheel a little tighter. “Just an hour to go.”
An hour feels like forever when you’ve been driving this long. That or time has ceased to exist. I can’t decide which.
When the road opens up to four lanes, and I see the old orange grove store coming up, I know it’s time for one last break. I pull the car into the pitted parking lot and get out slowly, stretching my tired arms in the drizzle. The air smells like wood smoke and orange blossoms and manure and fish guts.
Adam and I used to come to this shop when we were kids, right after he got his driver’s license. He thought the shellacked gator heads in the window were so funny; I thought they were gross. I still do. I look away from them and head inside. The bell chimes overhead. A woman, wrinkled and creased like a reused paper lunch bag, looks up from her phone and then down again.
The row of juice coolers is still next to the door, the plastic cases full of orange and grapefruit and tangerine juices in their many shades of sunshine. I liked to mix orange and tangerine; Adam liked ruby red grapefruit, sweet and bitter all at once. The juice used to come from around Ocala, from the groves of Marion County, but not in our time. The freezes knocked the orange business south long before we were born. The orange grove store is a relic, and it feels that way, like the 1960s settled down here and locked the doors.
Horses took the place of the citrus, and horses were why Adam and I lived here, why we were friends, why we’d known each other since—well, since forever.
God, I hope he’s not here anymore.
I walk past the juice without tasting it and pull a Cherry Coke from the fridge in the corner. The same Cherry Coke I could buy in the city.
The woman puts down her phone long enough to take my money. “Gross day,” she says, dropping coins into the register.
“Sure is,” I agree, the local twang already back on my tongue. “Seems cold for October, too.”
“You don’t like the weather now, wait ’til tomorrah,” she advises me, and I know it’s just an everyday saying, but it feels like a threat.
Tomorrow. Where will I be tomorrow?
Waking up in my own bed, at home.
It’s easy to picture my bedroom, because it hasn’t changed since I was twelve. A double bed covered by a striped pink and white duvet; a shelf of Breyer model horses above my desk; a framed shadowbox displaying my best champion and reserve champion ribbons from childhood horse shows resting atop my bookcase; a shiny blue racing whip leaning against the wall in one corner, its short leather “feathers” curling with age. All waiting for me, just a few more miles down this cracked and steaming highway.
It’s a weird room for a twenty-six-year-old, but none of this is ideal. I don’t mind climbing into that bed as a guest, but I can’t quite believe I’m going to do it as a resident, and what’s more, that my dad won’t be in the bedroom down the hall with my mother, or sitting in the living room watching horse racing from Australia well into the wee hours. That was always his self-prescribed cure for insomnia. Sometimes he didn’t go to bed at night at all. He came home from training hours, stripped and showered, and fell into bed, sleeping through the afternoon.
His schedule could make my mom crazy, but my dad was not the kind of guy you could reason with. He did his own thing, and he did it with a smile.
He got away with a lot, thanks to that smile. No one ever stayed angry with Paddy Malone, the nicest guy in horse racing.
I’d inherited his charming smile, but not the get-out-of-jail-free pass. To my dismay, I’d found the Malone smile isn’t a form of legal tender in New York City. Not like it is in Ocala.
Or was, I suppose. Who would take it now? Paddy Malone was gone. His old partnership with Rafe Salazar, the money in the operation, had been dissolved years before. While I was in New York, writing word salad for corporations, and dating unreasonable men, Paddy settled down to train a few horses on his own, fade into obscurity, have a heart attack, and die. Maybe, since then, the Malone heritage has expired, and I’m coming back to the town where my name meant something to find that I’m now a no one—a fate even worse than being back in the city, where I was never anyone.
I’m back in the driver’s seat and about to pull onto the highway when my phone trills. There’s nothing fancy like Bluetooth in this hard-luck sedan, so I have to put the car back into park and pick the phone up, like a sucker. “Hey, Carmen,” I say, trying to inject a little fake pep into my tone.
“Hey, bestie! Are you home yet? What’s it like? Have you seen any alligators?” Carmen’s full of pizazz and caffeine at this time of day. It’s five o’clock in the evening, so she’s on her last coffee break during her receptionist shift at a physical therapy office near New York-Presbyterian Hospital. This is the triple-espresso break, the one that sees her through the last hour of work and the subway ride home. It’s always high energy, often alarming.
“Weirdly enough, yes I have.” I don’t tell her the alligators I’ve seen so far are frozen in shellac for all eternity. “But I’m not home just yet. Another half-hour or so left.”
“Get the spare bedroom ready for me. I need a vacation already.”
“You just got home from Puerto Rico,” I point out. “You were gone the whole time I was packing up, remember? I assume to avoid helping me.”
“Oh yeah, because visiting family is such a vacation. All we did was sit around my cousins’ houses and eat. I gained like ten pounds. And it rained the whole entire time.” Carmen’s voice takes on a pout. “I shoulda moved to Florida too. Why didn’t you ask me to move with you? I’m hurt.”
Carmen would never survive in rural, landlocked Ocala. We’ve had this discussion before. “This isn’t Miami Beach, Carmen. And where you gonna find work in Ocala? Because I don’t see you mucking stalls, honey.”
“Oh, oy, because they got no doctor’s offices in Florida.” Carmen sighs extra gustily, just for me. “I can’t believe you gone, that’s all. Bestie, I need lots of reports, okay? Tell me everything. I cannot believe I’m going home tonight and there’s gonna be no one there. I’m gonna talk to the walls. I’m gonna have a seance and call up some spirits just so I have a friend!”
“Don’t have a seance. Remember what happened when Alfrida tried to talk to the ghost in her kitchen?”
“That was different. That was a poltergeist. And the whole kitchen didn’t burn down, only the curtains. Coulda been worse.”
“I’m just saying. No, I’m asking. Don’t anger the spirit realm. Or at least don’t do it alone.”
“Who’s gonna do it with me? Not Alfrida, I know that. And with you in Florida? That’s it for me and the great beyond, bestie.”
I don’t know what to say. For a moment, I just want to turn around, drive north. What’s another twenty-three hours on the road? When you’ve left behind everything you built in your adult life, including your very best friend, only to go back home and have to deal with all the garbage you left in order to escape?
The rain is pattering on the windshield, blurring the pine trees on the other side of the highway. It’s definitely the rain, and not tears in my eyes.
“I’m not mad at you,” Carmen says eventually. “I understand why you had to go home. Work, your mom, Darren…it all added up. I know, honey.”
I don’t want to think about Darren. Breaking up with him wasn’t a big reason I left New York. But breaking up with him was the big reason I’d realized I wasn’t made for New York. That I’d been faking it all along. I wasn’t a lifer. I was a visitor.
“And seriously, after your dad, I get it,” Carmen continues. I can picture her thinking through her words, gazing across the throbbing, pulsing Midtown traffic as she sips her latte. “I know it’s not about me. I would just like to make it about me. You know I’m always happier when I’m the center of everything, right?”
“You’re always the center of everything, Carmen.” I sniff. “No one would ever dare to take the spotlight off you.”
“I appreciate that.”
“It was just all—too much.” I don’t even know what I’m saying. But it doesn’t matter.
“I understand,” Carmen repeats, more firmly this time. And I have the sense that Carmen is maybe going to cry a little, just a little, but if she cries, I’m going to cry.
“I better go,” I say. “It’s going to get dark. It stays light past four o’clock here, by the way. Kinda fancy.”
“Call me soon, bestie,” Carmen says. “I mean it. I love you, girl.”
* * *
So I turn the windshield wipers back on, listen to that awful grinding sound of torn rubber being tugged across glass, and set off on the last twenty miles of my two-thousand mile trip.
And wouldn’t you know, it stops raining?
As I drive through the northern reaches of Ocala, the western sky clears and a sunset made of molten gold stretches itself along the horizon. The light gilds everything it touches: old mobile homes, pine bark darkened with rainwater, black-board fences, horses grazing on rolling pastures. Occasionally, the thin white curves of training track railings—because this is horse country, but more than that, it is Thoroughbred racehorse country. Kentucky gets the glory and the celebrity-studded first Saturday in May, but sunny Florida is the winter nursery of the biggest racing stables in the business, and a fleet of much, much smaller year-round outfits, as well. From stables of a hundred horses to only one, these smaller training operations are like the one my parents ran, the ones I grew up a part of, the ones I expected to work in…before I realized I couldn’t stay here another second.
Well, here I am, not at all ready for round two.
Dusk is falling as I pull into a small court of single-family houses. Blue Ribbon Estates used to be way out in the countryside, but I’ve passed two shiny new subdivisions on the way here. It’s disorienting, remembering farms, but seeing cookie-cutter houses in their places. Someone probably felt the same way thirty years ago when these brick ranchers went up on a discarded pasture. I guess we’re all disappointments, as far as generations go.
I park the Kia under a street light in front of the house, and marvel for a moment at the way my childhood home simply doesn’t change. Same lace curtains in the bay window. Same beige blinds in the upstairs bedrooms. Same boring square of green sod in the front yard—wait.
I get out of the car and shut the door with trembling fingers. Slowly, slowly, I walk over to the sign on the lawn.
And the cap on top: UNDER CONTRACT.
I press my fingers to my brow, an instant headache flaring behind my eyes. This can’t be happening. Mom would have told me, she would have said—I talked to her yesterday, for heaven’s sake!
The front door opens, a rectangle of yellow light. I see my mom as a silhouette, a small woman in jeans and a sweatshirt.
“Honey!” my mom calls. “You’re here! I have the best news!”
* * *
“How did this happen so quickly?” I’m sitting at the kitchen table, which is mostly covered with cardboard boxes. My mom has been packing all day, apparently.
While I was driving home, she was putting everything in the house into boxes marked KEEP or GIVE.
It’s a lot to take in.
Mom puts a mug of tea in front of me. “Baby girl, you don’t even want to know what this house is worth. Land values in Ocala have quadrupled. I am not joking when I say the sign went up yesterday morning and the contract sign went on it today. I didn’t even have to give a single showing. We had six offers over asking price by five o’clock yesterday.”
I take an experimental sip of tea while I try to process all of this information. It’s terrible, of course—my mom makes awful, stringent, horrendous tea with store-brand teabags and some kind of plant-alcohol sweetener which makes me crave actual sugar like a drug addict—but it gives me something to do with my hands besides wave them around my head, having a total freak-out. And something to do with my lips and tongue besides using them to shriek, “How can you just sell the house like this? We were supposed to start over together!”
I was supposed to start over with her.
Had I not been clear to her, before, when I said I needed this?
My mom is drinking a low-calorie beer. She sets the sweating bottle on the table without regard for rings left on the wood, so I guess the placemats and coasters are packed away. Or maybe there are no rules anymore. “Anyway, honey, you can stay with me as long as you want. I got a job with housing.”
“You did? A job? Doing what, the books?” Mom was the business manager for Malone Training, and Malone-Salazar Racing Stables before that. She could probably get a management job from any breeder or trainer in town just by asking.
“Oh, no. Feeding outside horses.”
“Seriously? Like, broodmares and stuff? You’re going to be one of those people who just drive around with a golf cart full of feed?”
“I am,” Mom says with satisfaction. “I think it’ll be fun. I was more hands-on with the horses after it was just your father and me. I don’t want to sit in a stuffy office all day.”
I can understand that.
“It’s part-time, just feeding breakfast and dinner, checking to make sure everyone is alive and in one piece, that kind of thing. But, it comes with a two-bedroom house. Plenty of room for the two of us.” She tapes up a box with sure fingers. “You could probably get a job there, too, if you want one.”
“A horse job?”
“Why not? You said you’re short of writing work. You know how to handle horses. And there’s plenty to be done. It’s October, so the long yearlings are all coming in to get started under saddle, and the Kentucky farms are sending down their babies to start too—they need tons of riders.”
“I know the Ocala calendar,” I interrupt. “But I quit riding because I wasn’t any good at it.”
My mom looks down at the roll of packing tape in her hands. “You were plenty good at riding,” she says quietly.
“Sure, I was. So good that Dad took me off all our best horses and Adam Salazar told me his father thought I was a danger on the track.”
“Posey, you’re not still hanging on to that!”
I nearly overturn my tea mug. “Hanging on to that? Mom, I was getting up at four thirty every morning to ride our horses before school and then I was fired. You were there!”
“It wasn’t that you were a bad rider,” Mom says, looking everywhere but at me. “There were other reasons they took you off the horses.”
“Like what? Like Adam suddenly deciding he hated me? Rafe couldn’t handle his little heir getting hurt by a girl outriding him in the morning? I can’t believe we’re talking about this, by the way. My primary goal in giving this damned business up was never, ever having to discuss any of this, ever.”
“So let’s not talk about it,” Mom retorts spiritedly. “Let’s talk about something else. How about those Yankees, huh?”
“I don’t know anything about the Yankees,” I sigh. “Where is this job, anyway? Where are we going to live?” I’m hoping for one of the big farms, like Clover Meadows or Silverleaf, where I can disappear into a thousand acres of rolling pastures and figure out my life quietly, on my own.
“Oh, it’s right around the corner,” Mom says. She can’t help but look excited, and for a moment I can forget my pique. My mom is a very young sixty-two, with a golden tan and crinkling lines around her eyes and mouth. She’s spent her entire life outdoors in the Florida sun, and she looks unfairly beautiful despite her serious lack of SPF for most of it.
“Whose place? Is Lucky Seven still in business?” I take a sip of tea, trying to think of some of the other big farms near Blue Ribbon Court.
“They are, but not them. It’s actually—” She gives me a lopsided grin. “It’s Salazar Farm, Posey.”
I choke on my tea.
“Oh, honey.” All of my spluttering earns me a sympathetic pat on the arm. “I’m sure Adam Salazar has forgotten all about your little spat.”
“Spat?” I stare at her. She knows she’s underplaying this situation by a factor of ten. Or a hundred. “Try lifelong feud.”
“You were just kids!”
“We were seventeen, Mom. We were practically adults. And that little spat ended up with me losing my job and going to New York City.”
“Where you lived a great and exciting life,” Mom suggests. “Found a career you love?”
I roll my eyes at that.
“Lots of young women would love to spend their twenties in the city,” she says. “I think you’re just a little worked up right now.”
“I’m worked up because I haven’t slept in two days and you just told me we are moving to the Salazar place and that you think I should work there. Did you really think they’d hire me to ride? After what went down?”
“It’s water under the bridge,” Mom says, but she looks a little troubled, a line forming between her eyes. “Adam was very eager to offer me this job and house when I said I might be looking.”
“Wait. Adam offered it?”
“He’s running the place for his dad.”
“Jesus.” It just gets worse and worse. “I can’t talk about this anymore. I need a nap.”
“I’ll heat something up once I’ve cleared the table, and then you can go to bed,” Mom says. She eyeballs the large vase left on the table, a crystal leviathan that’s been part of the house since I was a small girl. “Do you want that vase?”
“Me? I don’t have anywhere to put it.” It’s the kind of vase which demands a shelf of its own, possibly a carefully positioned light, and daily dusting.
“Goodwill pile, then,” she says briskly, and sweeps the vase from the table. I watch it leave the room in her hands, finally shocked speechless. But by the time she comes back, I’ve recovered myself enough to bring up the real issue here.
“Mom? Adam Salazar will not have forgotten our fight.”
“Oh, and how do you know that?” Exasperation enters her tone. “You don’t have any idea what Adam Salazar is thinking about.”
“I know because I didn’t forget!”
She eyes me speculatively, as if trying to determine how much bad news I can handle in one evening. “Well, I didn’t want to say it, but Adam has a few more things on his plate than you ever did. I wouldn’t assume he’s still mulling over arguments from seven years ago, just because you are.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I snap, even though I know what it means.
Adam Salazar’s somehow more of an adult than me. Because he stayed. Because he lived up to his family legacy.
The finale to my bestselling Eventing Series arrives February 22, 2022. Before you panic, there WILL be another series after this one featuring Jules and Pete – along with all the friends they’ve made along the way, and some new arrivals. I’ll have a sneak peek of this new series in the back of Home, so don’t miss what comes next!
In Home, Jules deals with the fall-out of the explosive news she received at the end of Prospect, and sets off on a quest to find the place she and Pete can finally call home.
For a special preview of Chapter One of Home, read on.
New to The Eventing Series? Read the prequel, Bold, for free when you sign up for my newsletter here: StoryOrigin.
The Eventing Series is available in ebook, audiobook, and paperback. Read the entire series on Kindle Unlimited through May 7, 2022.
CHAPTER ONE: HOME
Mickey tugged at the bit, asking for room to run, and for a moment, I was tempted to let him have it.
After all, there was no one around to be shocked at the trainer of Alachua Eventing Co-op, galloping her horse like a madwoman in the pasture on a quiet August day. Breaking all her own rules, because it was hot and sticky, the high sky of late summer white around the edges, as if the blue was being leached away by sheer heat.
I was rarely alone in summer, but the farm was quiet for a rare hour. Pete was riding a horse in Ocala, and the barn kids had all decamped to High Springs for lunch at the sandwich shop. Going out to lunch had been the new novelty for them this summer, thanks to a few of the older kids acquiring driver’s licenses and cars—plus the addition of Kit to our farm line-up. Kit brought a new level of fun-loving, good-natured spirit to Alachua Eventing Co-op. Everyone loved her, and everyone wanted to drag her to lunch and ask her about her horses, and the World Equestrian Games, and what it was like to go from the Young Riders program to becoming an international competitor.
She certainly took the pressure off me right when I needed the help. Adding her as an assistant instructor was a stroke of genius on my part, if I did say so myself.
And I wasn’t even that jealous of her.
I mean, okay, I was a little jealous of Kit. And sometimes, at four o’clock in the morning when I couldn’t sleep, I would lay next to Pete and listen to Marcus snoring gently and think about Kit making the team while I retired my Advanced horse, Dynamo, from upper-level competition.
And I’d think about how Kit was young, younger even than me, and she was now a hot prodigy on the eventing circuit. While I was almost thirty, and pregnant. Pregnant, while Kit was still in her mid-twenties and definitely not pregnant, and competing at a higher level than I had been at her age.
And who still had an Advanced horse in Big Dan, while I had one retiree, one horse running at Intermediate who might be ready to step up before I took off for maternity, and one horse being ridden by one of my students—who was almost certainly going to buy him.
Which left me with just Mickey when I came back from my maternity break, in the spring.
One horse in competition, when I once had six.
But I wasn’t going to dwell on that. No—I wasn’t washed up quite yet. I just had a few things to take care of, and then I’d be back in the running for top-level competition, and Kit had better watch out then!
“Just a few, small things,” I said to myself, running a hand over the bump in my riding tights, and at that moment, Mickey sensed the looseness in my left rein and plunged forward.
So, we were galloping now. I pushed my hands down on his neck and let him go.
“Yes,” I sighed, feeling him rev up beneath me. It had been too long since we’d galloped.
He had a long, powerful stride—Mickey had been a racehorse before he’d been my big event horse, and he remembered how to use his body for maximum efficiency, digging down against the bit and throwing his weight onto his forelegs to give his hindquarters more room to act as the engine. I let him use this gallop to our advantage on the long lanes between jump complexes on the cross-country course; Mickey could make time on the hottest, most oppressive Florida day, when all those bulky half-Thoroughbred, half-warmbloods were starting to feel every inch of their extra height and bone. The eventing community had moved from its roots, no longer scavenging former cavalry mounts and racehorses and instead breeding powerful jumping machines, but the ex-racehorse still had a shot in this fast-moving world of elite equestrian sport. The big horses simply couldn’t outrun the Thoroughbreds, not forever.
So, I let Mickey run. This was just my big horse and me, galloping across the broad fields as if our lives depended on it, and it felt amazing.
I laughed with exhilaration, and his ears flicked back to listen before he doubled down and lengthened his stride once more, his hooves making a satisfying thunder on the ground.
Ahead of us, the fence line appeared, black boards making a bold barricade against the jungle-green grass. I let Mickey’s long strides swing south, the horse running with confident self-assurance as he found the coop between the two pastures without having to be told. A cross-country horse running on autopilot—now that was the dream. He steadied himself as the coop rushed up to us, and I made sure I was out of his way before he took the jump, soaring out of stride like a steeplechaser.
I slipped the reins through my open fingers, giving him his head as he landed, and he found his stride and took off again, breath coming loudly through his cupped nostrils.
I resisted the urge to whoop with pleasure, but in my brain, I was howling at the pale moon overhead.
This was living—this was life—this was everything!
Mickey swept towards the farthest corner of the farm, hooves drumming a steady beat on the ground.
Then the sun went behind a cloud, taking the glitter out of the day with startling suddenness. A rumble seemed to lift out of the surrounding air, and I knew that the best gallop in the world couldn’t outrun a Florida storm.
Time to go back to the barn. Now I just had to get this big horse under control. I reined back gently, wobbling the bit, trying to get his attention without yanking. I didn’t care for sudden movements or sharp tugs these days; they seemed to strain the skin around my stomach, which was already working pretty hard without being tested by a tough horse. It took a while to get Mickey’s mind back on me.
But in the farthest corner of the field, Mickey finally slowed, his need to gallop sated at last. I sat down in the saddle as he settled down to a walk, head nodding. The blood vessels on his neck popped up from his hot skin, hustling to get the oxygen through his body. He threw his head, tossing foam from his bit through the air to land on my shirt and boots.
“That was tough work, buddy,” I told him, “but you seemed to have a good time.”
A new peal of thunder rolled through the pastures and lapped around the pine trees at the edges of the farm, like water splashing against a seawall. The storm was coming up quickly. Mickey didn’t so much as flick an ear at the sound, but I turned him towards the barn, keeping close to the fence-line and the imaginary safety of the tall pines on the other side. Lightning hadn’t struck me yet, not in nearly thirty years of Florida life, and it probably wouldn’t today, but I still preferred not to be the tallest object in the middle of a pasture when a storm blew in.
Still, when my phone starting buzzing madly from the pocket on my riding tights, I hesitated a moment before I pulled it out. There was something magnetic about phones, right? But they couldn’t attract lightning, could they?
I would be the first to admit to myself, although to no one else, that maybe I didn’t pay enough attention in high school and there were some gaps in my knowledge of anything that wasn’t horses. Pregnancy had certainly taught me I knew more about horse anatomy than human. Every doctor’s appointment was a new and unpleasant journey through my own body, as the doctor and nurses explained, in unnecessary detail, all the things happening inside.
I told them I was better off not knowing all of it, but they had some crazy idea that knowledge was important.
I gave in and pulled out my sweaty phone, grimacing at the dampness on the glass face. Then I saw the name on the screen and made an even more disgusted face. Suwannee Valley Health.
Ugh, ugh, ugh. The doctor again.
The practice’s full name was Suwannee Valley Health Associates of Alachua, and everyone in the office was very nice, including my main doctor, Alberta Waddell, but just because they were pleasant people didn’t mean I wanted to talk to any of them outside of an appointment. Of which I already had too many—I’d been to the doctor more times in the past three months than at any point in the past five years of professional riding in Ocala. Poked and prodded and smeared with goo—I was starting to see what sporthorses must feel like, with our constant ultrasounds and MRIs and X-rays, all our “just to be sure nothing’s going on in there” diagnostics.
I poked the green button unwillingly and hit the speakerphone option. “Jules here,” I announced, as lightning raised a crackle on the line.
Mickey flicked his ears at the sound of my voice, so much louder than usual.
“Ms. Thornton,” a receptionist replied. She had a twangy Southern accent. “This is Suzie at Suwannee Valley Health Associates.” As if every phone didn’t broadcast the caller’s name already. “Just calling to ask if you have time to speak with Dr. Waddell. Would that be alright?”
“I can’t come in for an appointment, if that’s what you mean,” I replied evasively, thinking of the time it would take to shower Mickey and put him away, shower myself and get dressed, and drive down to Alachua. It would be three o’clock before I got there. And I was really counting on a nap after this ride. A surprise appointment would eat the entire afternoon.
“No, just on the phone, honey.”
Oh. “Yeah, that’s fine,” I said. A sharp crack of thunder punctuated my words, and I looked around for the leading edge of the storm. There it was, dark clouds lined with cottony white, cresting the top of the pine forest to our west. It would be pouring in five minutes. I mentally measured the walk back to the barn. Four minutes?
“Ms. Thornton?” Dr. Waddell’s voice was the opposite of Suzie’s: slower, low-pitched. She was Canadian. “How are you today?”
“Just fine,” I said. “Taking it easy.”
Technically, I was. At my visit with Dr. Waddell last week, she’d asked me to go easy on myself while she waited for some test results to come back, and I’d immediately scaled back my riding and teaching plans. The gallop on Mickey might not have been planned, but I hadn’t done anything dangerous. Still, I couldn’t help but run my free hand over my belly. Everything felt okay in there. You’re fine, baby, I told my passenger, sure that telekinesis was part of the package with pregnancy.
It was hard to be pregnant. I couldn’t lie about that. My body was doing its best to work against me, and I was expected to do my best not to see it that way, but it was hard. Here we were in late August, and already everything felt different from the way I’d felt in June, when I’d found out the truth about the little flock of butterflies in my stomach. My boots didn’t fit properly, I was wearing riding tights instead of breeches for the first time in my life (and damn if they weren’t comfortable), and my balance had a way of changing from one day to the next.
Luckily, I had moved past randomly throwing up in the barn aisle, but not before the kids had gotten so used to it, no one even muttered, “Ew,” but just fell into a routine: one person handed me a bottle of water while someone else went for a shovel and scattered shavings on the spill so it could be scooped up and thrown on the manure pile.
And of course, Pete treated me like a crystal vase which could only be handled with white gloves, but that wasn’t as annoying now as it had been when he’d started it—only sweet, only a reminder of how thoughtful and kind and loving he was. Pete, my fiancé, who didn’t mind at all that I was completely unwilling to discuss a wedding. I had too much else going on to even think about something so insane, and he got it.
He was in the same position, after all.
Dr. Waddell started to speak, then paused as a crackle of lightning broke up our conversation for a moment. “Are you outside?” she asked, distracted.
“Yes,” I admitted, hoping the squeak of leather wouldn’t give away just where outside I was.
“In this heat?”
“I’m used to it.”
A sigh. “Ms. Thornton—”
“Can you call me Jules? I’m sorry, I’m just not used to the other way.”
“Jules.” Dr. Waddell’s voice was almost warm, which was a nice change. “Here’s the thing. Nothing is wrong, but I have to advise you take extra care.”
And then she started talking about numbers and levels and weights and a lot of other stuff that all added up to one thing by the time Mickey stopped at the closed pasture gate and I had to hop down to open it. Not really hop, either—I got down from the saddle very slowly and cautiously, causing my horse to turn and look at me curiously as I tried to hit the ground as lightly as possibly.
I told Dr. Waddell thanks and agreed to come back in a week’s time, and then I slid the phone into the pocket of my tights. For a moment, I didn’t know what to do. Not now, not this week, not this season. My world had just shifted, and honestly, this many moves in a single year were just about more than I knew how to handle.
I was supposed to have two more months—two more months in which to finish qualifying Mickey for our goal events next spring, two more months to make our mark as a team who couldn’t be split up. By mid-October, we’d have the finishes we needed and I could gracefully bow out for the winter, returning next spring with a new Advanced horse ready for serious competition at the highest levels.
These last two months were supposed to be the glue that held us—and my career—together.
I looked at Mickey, his dark mane blowing back in the suddenly gusty wind. The light was going quickly and his near-white coat, darkened with sweat, was the color of slate. His breath had calmed nicely on the walk back to the barn; Mickey was blindingly, brilliantly fit. Ready for a full fall eventing season.
The hotly-awaited sequel to my bestseller Grabbing Mane is here! For every reader who asked for more of Casey and James’s story, I’m so happy to bring this continuation.
Casey’s still trying to figure out life — aren’t we all, Casey? — but things have become more complicated. Her remote job allows her to live in West Palm Beach with Brandon, and she’s working in the horse industry, so on the surface, everything looks great. But the truth is, Casey’s struggling — with work, with living away from her friends, and with finding the time that her young Thoroughbred, James, needs from her.
When Casey gets sent on a business trip, she thinks she might have found a potential mentor in the owner of a southern California stable. But as she grows closer with the farm’s long-time working student, she finds problems beneath the surface. It turns out, nothing’s simple…for anyone!
Join Casey as she tries to get control of life, work, and friendship…and also figure out why Brandon has a pair of cowboy boots he doesn’t want her to know about!
Read Flying Dismount in paperback, in Kindle ebook, or as part of Kindle Unlimited (for a limited time only).
On paper Casey’s life is perfect. In reality the dream job that allowed her to move with Brandon and her horse to West Palm is more like a monster taking over her life. James is no longer the quiet horse she was riding at home with a trainer. The marketing position in a horse show organizer start-up has evolved into countless hours of overtime and work way outside her job description. Brandon is still there, but thanks to the horse and job she hardly sees him. Then comes the call to organize a new show – in San Diego.
Once again Reinert brings relatable characters, accurate horse details and realistic equestrian settings to Casey’s struggle to find life balance and define horse, personal and professional goals. Reinert never disappoints. Recommended
From Lisa on Amazon:
This second book in the Grabbing Mane series highlights the true struggles we amateur equestrians have. Casey thinks she’s found her dream, but it just isn’t working. Her character is relatable in preferring to avoid conflict. The author ads a number of trainer/barn owner characters to the story that highlight the many different personalities and theories that exist in the horseworld. I appreciate this about her, she really gets how it is and creates a believable story. Just when we think things are going well, there is a wrench thrown in and we’re kept guessing.
I got a bit worried as the author dips a bit towards some social issues of the day. For recreational reading, I prefer to avoid hot buttons, as we’re confronted with them enough in real life. For leisure and escapism time I prefer to keep it lighter. Condemn me if you want, but it is what it is. However, Reinert balanced fairly well and doesn’t push these issues too far.
Overall, this is a great second act of a new series about the everyday equestrian balancing barn and work life, as opposed to the pros in her other series.
This year we’ve been waiting for good things…which makes Linda Shantz’s chosen title all too apropos. Good Things Come could be the feel-good phrase of 2020, because it feels like that’s all we can do: wait.
Wait it out with a good book, at least. Good Things Come is the first novel from talented equestrian artist Linda Shantz, and this experienced horsewoman trots out impeccable details and plenty of racetrack lore as she explores what makes horse-people tick. Plus, that cover!
Here’s what the back cover has to say:
Smart horse girls are supposed to go to vet school…but trust a horse to mess with common sense.
If Liv wasn’t such a control freak, it wouldn’t have rubbed her the wrong way when the farm’s new exercise rider stepped in to resuscitate Chique, the first foal out of her father’s favourite mare. But when she drops out of vet school to get her jockey’s license in New York, intent on coming back to Ontario to ride Chique in the Queen’s Plate, he’s the obvious choice to keep an eye on the filly.
Nate’s content to watch Liv go, even though he’s got similar aspirations, when he’s not talked out of them by voices from his past. His growing bond with Chique might earn him Liv’s approval and give him the fresh start he’s looking for, but that’s as involved as he’s getting with the boss’s daughter.
Liv’s determined to keep their relationship professional, no matter how much Chique draws them together. The three of them are going to have to learn to be a team to make it to the Plate.
Set against the backdrop of North America’s greatest racetracks, Good Things Come is a story about the hearts of Thoroughbreds…the people who love them…and the allure of Canada’s most prestigious race.
It’s true, all of it. I had the great pleasure of working on the production side of this gorgeous novel, and I’m here to tell you that if you like racing, horses, or just plain lovely books, you’ll love Good Things Come.
And that’s why Linda Shantz is next up in my very occasional Five Questions!
Five Questions with Linda Shantz
1. Linda, you’re an overachiever! You’re a sensational painter, what made you jump into writing a novel as well?
Well, to be honest, I’ve been writing longer than I’ve been painting, I’ve just been braver about my painting! I started the story that would become Good Things Come when I was eight, because I decided someone needed to write a story about the Queen’s Plate, instead of the Derby. Needless to say, both the story and I have grown up a bit since then!
2. What do you do for fun when you’re not making amazing art?
These days, herding lessons with my young Border Collie. I’ve owned Border Collies my entire adult life, but this is the first dog with whom I’ve done herding. So much fun to see her instinct develop, and a challenging learning curve for me!
3. You write with excellent authority about a number of racetracks, including Woodbine, Gulfstream Park, and Saratoga. How long have you been a horse racing fan?
Oh, probably since my mother started reading The Black Stallion to me when I was about five years old! I went to my first horse race when I was ten, when my dad took me to the Canadian International at Woodbine. The following year I went to my first Queen’s Plate, and have missed very few of them since. Even when I was working on the backstretch, the Plate was always the thing, and if you didn’t have a horse running, you dressed up and went to the front side to be part of it.
4. If you could have one horse from Good Things Come as your own, which horse would you choose?
Claire! I’ve paid my dues with the small, quick, turn-on-a-dime ones like Chique. I don’t get to ride bomb-proof horses, so it would be like a vacation to have an unflappable horse like her to ride!
5. Will there be a follow-up to Good Things Come?
Yes! There is another book with the same characters (and some new ones!), and it follows them through the next year of Chique’s career. It’s been through a couple of drafts and will be out in the spring of 2021. If anyone wants to be kept up to date they can sign up for my mailing list at lindashantz.com/good-things-come-updates
They can also read the first chapter of Good Things Come there.
I’m so excited to join a group of seven other equestrian fiction authors for our first-ever boxset release!
Horses, Hearts & Havoc is a collection of eight full-length novels in one convenient ebook. And the genres! We’ve got thriller, we’ve got mystery, we’ve got romance, we’ve got barn drama: it’s all here.
Best of all, the books are all first in their series. So you could be looking at several new series you want to dig into when you’ve finished the boxset…we’ll keep you busy with horse stories through the rest of this cursed year!
(My entry is Show Barn Blues. Have you read it, or its follow-up Horses in Wonderland, yet?)
I get so many messages telling me that good horse fiction for adults is hard to find — like, shamefully, woefully, ridiculously hard to find — so this collection is going to be such a fantastic helper for so many people searching for equestrian fiction authors they can follow and love.
Check out the authors I’m playing with on this stage:
We’re talking racehorse mystery. We’re talking western intrigue. We’re talking high-stakes horse showing, cowboy romancing, riding academy redemption, show jumping set-ups and bluegrass getaways. This boxset is the stuff horsey dreams are made of.
I’ve known Laurie Berglie a long time. This equestrian author and I go back to my old days of blogging about off-track Thoroughbreds for my breakout blog Retired Racehorse, and when she published her first novel a few years ago, I was absolutely delighted. Where the Bluegrass Growsis a pleasure to read, a romance with plenty of equine co-stars and a lot of heart.
When she sent me a copy of her latest novel in her Equestrian Romance series, I dropped everything to read it. Taking Offis the story of Erin, who attentive readers will have met in Berglie’s second book, Kicking On. Erin is faced with a life change and when she takes it, you’re going to be cheering her onward… and maybe thinking about your own possibilities. I put it down utterly in love with Erin and ready to read more about her adventures, and I know I’m not alone!
Laurie Berglie’s Equestrian Romance Series
When Laurie isn’t writing fiction she’s living her best life with several lovely horses and a resident fox — which she helpfully documents for us with her impeccably curated Instagram, Maryland Equestrian. As a girl who grew up with a childhood split between Maryland and Florida, Laurie’s decidedly English equestrian lifestyle calls to the Marylander inside me! She’s also a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald, so, like, we just get each other. And if her doormat ever disappears, she’s going to know exactly who took it.
Laurie, when you first wrote for Retired Racehorse Blog (years ago!) I had no idea you were going to get into fiction. What made you decide to start writing equestrian romances?
Crazy, right? Me neither! I had always loved to write, and dabbled with fiction here and there, but nothing ever stuck. Then I started writing what eventually turned into Where the Bluegrass Grows, and it stuck. It probably took me 5+ years to finish the first draft, but I just kept coming back to it. I ended up really liking my characters and wanting to see what happened to them, where their story led, etc., so I just kept at it.
Your characters are intertwined just enough to keep the stories connected – did you always plan a series filled with friends and family?
I actually didn’t. When I wrote Where the Bluegrass Grows, I ended up really liking the character of Macy. She seemed to have this fun story all her own, so when I finished Bluegrass, I decided to focus on Macy and tell her story a bit, so to speak, and that became Kicking On. In that novel, Erin’s character ended up having a larger role than I initially thought she would, so I wanted to give her her own story as well. I think when I originally started out, I was going to write a few books about Molly, always having her be my main focus, but the other characters came to life in a way that I wanted them to have their books too and not to always be supporting characters. It’s interesting how things unintentionally take shape!
A quarter-life crisis seems to be a major theme for your main characters. They realize they’re on the wrong track or something else spurs them into making a massive life change. Any… uh… personal experience with this?
Hahaha good question! No quarter-life crisis here per se, but my characters do explore the paths in life I didn’t take, but possibly wanted to. Molly is living my dream life – to be a full-time writer of fiction. Macy, as an equine vet, is living a life that I didn’t pursue but thought seriously about for many years. I spent most of my mid-twenties debating about whether or not to go back to school to be a vet. I think had I gone to vet school immediately after undergrad, I would have done it, but ultimately, I decided that I wasn’t in the position to take out thousands of dollars in student loans to pursue that career. So I had Macy do it!
Of all my characters, I think I am most similar to Erin. She’s an attorney and I also considered law school for quite some time. With Erin, I also explore the whole not having kids thing – which is a decision I made years ago. While my husband is on board with the no kids lifestyle and I, thankfully, have not experienced a divorce the way Erin has, I went down the ‘what if’ path with her. What if my husband had wanted kids and I didn’t? Then – what if I truly hated my job and wanted to leave to follow my passion? And since Erin is rather bold, I knew she could answer those questions for me, and that turned into Taking Off.
I absolutely use characters to explore the paths I haven’t taken, so I am on your wavelength here! So, what have you learned as you wrote and launched your third book that you wished debut author Laurie had known?
I wish I wouldn’t have been so scared about – well, all of it. When I published my first book, I told almost no one. I think I wrote a blog post about it, shared a handful of times on social media, but that was it. I gave it life and then just let it die. With my second novel (and there were three years in between) – I had a plan for how to market it. I really leveraged my Instagram platform and sent lots of copies to influencers. (I don’t think “influencers” were really a thing when I published my first). And, unlike the first, I wasn’t afraid to reach out and ask for help with promotion… blogs, magazines, podcasts, etc. I realized that I couldn’t just wait for people to come to me. I had to reach out, introduce myself, and pitch my PR ideas. Some have worked out and some haven’t, but at least I put myself out there and made some great connections.
Your Instagram presence is amazing! Is Instagram your main brand presence, and was this on purpose or just how your audience developed?
Thank you! Yes Instagram is my main brand presence – I don’t really keep up my blog or Facebook page anymore. Everything just got too time-consuming and sometimes something has to give. My Instagram all happened by accident. I started it in 2014 as my personal account. I kept it public (also by accident), but then I noticed random people starting to follow me. I figured, oh I guess there are some people out there who like seeing horse pictures, so I kept it public and started playing with it… sometimes I posted personal things, sometimes I shared nice curated content, and it went from there. This was back in Instagram’s glory days before the horrible algorithm, so I think it was easier to build an account. Now it’s SO hard to gain new followers and growth has definitely slowed. But – I really like the little community I’ve built! Everyone loves horses and books – lots of common ground – so it’s fun to chat with my “friends.” 🙂
Hey – no quotation marks necessary! You never know when your Insta friends are going to bump into you – like when we were hanging out at the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes a few years ago! Thanks for being on the blog, Laurie!
Now it’s your turn, readers. You can find Laurie Berglie’s equestrian romance novels in Kindle and paperback formats at Amazon (and look at these covers! Gorgeous!). Click the covers to read more and get your copy!
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.
The Hidden Horses of New York, publishing November 26, 2019
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.
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.