Fall Comes to Florida

October is here! I love October. I’ve never liked September, not for a single moment, but October is lovely and I’m here to tell you why.

First, October is when fall comes to Florida. How can you tell it’s fall? The light, for one thing, and that’s not the bit I like–I love the bright, white light of summer. The shifting light of September makes me think of short days and long nights and school starting (I have almost no good memories of school, so anything I associate with going back to school is a negative). But the light’s an indicator that the weather is changing–the steeper sun angle means less humidity, fewer afternoon thunderstorms, and, best of all, cooler nights.

horse hiding behind a tree

Ben hides behind a tree as the golden October sunset approaches.

Oh, those cooler nights! I don’t remember summer nights in the 80s when I was a kid, but I grew up along the coast, and now I live inland, and it gets so hot here. Orlando summer nights stick in the 80s and you just want to melt. Honestly, I should not want a shower after walking my dog at ten o’clock at night. But here we are… and then October comes, and the temperature drops into the 60s at night, and it’s magical.

Then there’s the breeze. Here’s a fun thing about Florida: every season is breezy except for summer. In summer, we sit and wait for the sea breeze to make it inland… with mixed results. Sometimes in late September, the breeze picks up something fierce, and it sticks around for the most part until April.

When I was a kid, I used to ride my bike everywhere. We lived on a grid; our street went east/west and so did plenty of my friends’ streets. One night I was playing Trivial Pursuit with my parents. The question was about the equinox: when are the equinoxes, or something to that effect. I was maybe eight or nine, I didn’t know what the word equinox meant. But the months April and September stuck out to me. It was always so windy in those months!

I guessed; I was right; there was general wonderment. I explained that it was extremely hard to ride my bike in April and September because of the wind. Maybe the wind was the equinox, I reasoned.

I don’t know if the wind is directly or indirectly related to the equinox, but it’s definitely when the weather starts to shift towards or away from our summer rainy season.

And while I miss the rainy season, when I have a horse to ride, I can celebrate the beginning of riding season! It’s surprisingly pleasant to ride a horse on a 90-degree day when the humidity is only 60% instead of 85% (with that lovely breeze, of course). This part might be hard to explain to out-of-staters, but you’ll have to trust me on this.

I can bump my rides up from thirty minutes to sixty minutes. I can ride any time of day, with plenty of walking breaks, instead of only before ten a.m. or only after six p.m. I am almost never racing lightning bolts back to the barn. I don’t have to give a bath with plenty of tea tree oil mixed into the shampoo after every single ride, because when the rain goes away, so do the tiny flies and the skin bacteria issues.

Riding a horse at sunset

Riding into the fall sunset.

Oh, fall is a magical time in Florida!

Now don’t get me wrong: there are drawbacks. I miss the lightning and the thunder and the tropical downpours and the towering clouds and the singing frogs–I miss them something fierce. I have already mentioned that the slanting fall light makes me feel the opposite of nostalgic. And all that wind? Well, have you ridden a horse on a windy day? Enough said.

But all of that aside, I’m glad it’s fall. I’m ready for our first cold front, our first chilly night, the first day I get to wear jeans. I’m excited for all the riding I’m going to fit in, and the running too, because I’ve only been running once or twice a week over the summer.

When I was a kid, rainy season seemed to last half the year. Now I know it’s only four and a half months in a good year, and it was only three months this year, thanks to weird hurricane activity. It’s weird to imagine that we’re months and months away from storm season and summer, from the big glowing clouds and the sizzling sounds of cicadas in the trees and the late-night croaks of frogsong. When I think of Florida, when I’m far away, those are the pieces my mind conjures up.

But really, most of the year in Florida is just like October: golden days, blue skies, a steady breeze, and a hot, hot sun.

It’s not a bad place to call home.

But Florida doesn’t have much by way of fall leaves, so I go up north for that. I’ll be in Massachusetts next month for Equine Affaire in West Springfield! I go just about every year and hang out with my good friends at Taborton Equine Books. Come see me on either Friday or Saturday — I’d love to chat, get to know you, sign your books, or maybe help you find your next great read!

Find out more and RSVP at Facebook!

Ambition is Coming

Ambition - available May 20, 2014

Ambition – available May 20, 2014

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