Now What? (and Other News)

hurry-spring

Now is the winter of my discontent

Okay, maybe I’m being Shakespeare-dramatic. Monochromatic seasons can bring that out in me. Here on the prairie, the only visual break from tan grass stretching to the horizon is when it turns white for a while. I’m grumbling, but the truth is that I can use a break from my hectic pace, every ten months or so, to cozy-in at my farm.

But this winter, I mourned some excruciating good-byes. If you are a woman of a certain age who thinks too much, the changes can add up. Not that it’s good or bad; just that I noticed and needed time to acclimate. I think there’s some rule of diminishing returns that says that with each day I grow older, the world becomes more precious. The beauty in ordinary things has become nearly debilitating. But then, I think too much. No apologies.

I’ve been prodded into action after reading that there is legislative action to make it legal to shoot hibernating bears, along with their cubs. It seems to follow that the dogs and I could be mistaken; we’ve been doing a decent bear impression. Besides, the weather is having mood swings and I’m counting days till the time change. Hurry spring.

BOOK NEWS: My books are now available on two new online sites. Check out the Equine Network Store for a great collection of equine literature, and for international readers, Lavender and White publishers, based in the UK, now carry all three books.

COMING EVENTS: I’ll be at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo March 10-12 in the Author Corner. (Discount tickets here.) I’ll be signing books and meeting new friends. *** I’ll be at my favorite indie bookstore, Covered Treasures, in Monument, CO, on March 18th, 3-5 pm, signing books. Please come by. *** Who’s going to the World Cup in Omaha? Look for my books in the Equine Network Booth and I’ll be there, too. Let me know if you want to meet-up.

I’ll be presenting at the Region 10 PATH conference May 7th. This isn’t open to the public but it’s a reminder that I am available for public speaking engagements, on topics on horse advocacy and training, women’s experience, and writing. Please contact me if you’re interested in having me speak to your group or clinic at your barn. Join with groups in Washington, California, Virginia, and Illinois-Indiana.

NOW WHAT? Well, I have a stack of ideas; I’m investigating doing something on the topic of responsibility and care of therapy horses. *** One of my readers encourages me to consider a children’s book, with Arthur, the goat, as the main character. She found a great illustrator, too. *** Others are encouraging me to compile a book of quotes from my blogs. *** Still others are asking about a book of photos and poems. *** And I have a few book outlines including a sequel to Stable Relation and another book about Love, Men, and Dogs. What do you think?

THEN THIS: I always thought I’d write something, but it wasn’t easy. At first, it was nothing but masochistic. I’d read a fresh paragraph aloud and I’d tried so hard to be clever that I was nearly unintelligible. Adverbs were lost in verbiage. There were runaway pronouns. But I stuck to my keyboard, hoping an intention in my mind would somehow intersect with the right group of words. Then I edited liked a mad dog with a chainsaw.

babybird-3Do you feel the pull to write? If there’s interest, I’m thinking about starting an online group to encourage those of us who are certain there’s a book (or blog or story) in us but we’re having a time squeezing it out. Like an egg. That will hatch into something real. Like a fat-lipped baby bird.

Want to write with us? (Email me at anna@annablake.com)

Again, for those of you who have left reviews for Barn Dance, or the other books, thank you so much. It breathes life into search engines and that is gold for indies like me. I appreciate every single review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads.

HURRY SPRING.

….

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

Nickers, brays, bleats, howls, and quacks. Now.

longear-approved

We are Long-Ear approved. A whole lot of books do not have this designation.

Barn Dance has been available for a week, and the race is on. But it’s an endurance race and not a sprint; perfectly suited for a contrary herd like us. The start was a bit uneven in an attempt to answer readers asking for a holiday release. I let Amazon have a head start. They are bigger and stronger and didn’t need it.

Independent bookstores are my love, and in order to have my books available there, I do a list of extra things. If you have a bookstore you love, you can get any of my books from them. Tell them Ingram has it; especially if you are located outside the U.S. In a day or two now, Barn Dance will be available from my personal favorite, Barnes and Noble. Support them when you can, but getting it there before the holidays is doubtful.

(Ebook versions are all available on Smashwords, iTunes, and all the usual online locales.)

And if you want to go old-school, you can still get a book from me, signed and with a sweet bookmark or two, by clicking here. There’s no extra charge for the Corgi hair that is bound to be included, as well.

If you like my books, please consider telling a friend or writing a review. You, sitting there with your coffee, are my entire publicity plan. Here’s the crazy part: It’s working. Thank you. I’m so grateful for the precious time you spend reading. It would be painfully dark and quiet without you!

And finally, to introduce my spokes-donkeys today, with Nickole in the photo: Ajax and Comet are here for some training. They are available for adoption through the Colorado Horse Rescue Network. And photos never lie. They are smart asses.


Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

BARN DANCE *Book Launch*

behind-me

Excuse me. Um. Barn Dance is now avail…

***

Speak up. Enunciate. 

***

He’s right behind me, isn’t he?

***

What you want to do is take a deep breath, relax your ears, and then PROJECT!

***

He is a donkey-publicist of strong opinion and this isn’t the first time he’s corrected me in public.

***

Get to the point, old girl.

***

pr-barn-dance-3d-cover

BOOK LAUNCH:

BARN DANCE

available AT AMAZON now,

AT BARNES AND NOBLE,

or SIGNED books available on HERE!

***

Bray it out! That’s me on the cover.

***

Paperback and ebooks at Amazon now and Barnes and Noble.   Signed copies on my website. (Slower than Amazon but comes with a bookmark, too!)

***

Buy Barn Dance now. Thank you. The goat says thanks, too.

***

And please consider writing a review of Barn Dance or Stable Relation or Relaxed & Forward. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads.) Your words will kick-start the search engines in our direction. Self-published books gratefully rely on word-of-mouth support. Thank you.

***

YOU should bray it out, too. Help her. She’s only human. 

***

Well. Isn’t that the truth?

….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

One Book Award; Two Bar Incidents

wm-toasting-spirit

The 2016 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards were held last weekend, in conjunction with the Miami Book Fair International. Stable Relation won a gold medal, and since I never went to my high school graduation, I decided to attend. As if that passes for logic.

I’d been there before and love south Florida, even during election years. It’s always been culturally diverse with many Spanish-speaking residents, so I did my best. By that, I mean that I made a point of saying hello, smiling when I didn’t understand, and following with gracias. It felt good to make the effort. I can also order a beer in Spanish, but that’s about it.

A convention of introverts. Just think of it.

On Friday night, there was a meet and greet for authors at the hotel. Apparently, no one eats on airplanes anymore, and I’d had a close connection, so by the time I finally got to the hotel, I’d already missed two meals. I went down to the bar early and ordered dinner. As I sipped my wine, I took a keepsake out of my pocket. A client had given it to me years ago; a small stone with a word, or in our case, a name, etched into it: “Spirit”.

Forty-five minutes later there was still no sign of dinner, I’d had a second glass of wine, and tears were flowing. It wasn’t the first or last time that I’ll cry over a good horse. And it wasn’t just my gratitude for thirty years with my Grandfather Horse, who changed my life. It was also the memory of saying a final good-bye to him two months ago.

Yes, I flew to another state to get dressed-up and cry in the dark corner of a bar.

I guess the best thing I can say is that, at my age, most people look right past me. It’s one of those backward age-perks. Dinner never came; then I sat through a series of presentations about book marketing, and among other things, was reminded for the umpteenth time to thank people you might want something from in the future.

Public relations is a quandary for me. Self-promotion is necessary. At the same time, strategizing about it always feels grimy and insincere. Call me a dweeb–maybe even a Labrador–but I’ll take my PR cues from dogs. They seem to get it right most of the time. Then I stumbled off to bed, after a bag of chips from a vending machine. Wrung out. Gracias.

Saturday morning and I did it again. Me, the one who is usually up and writing at 3:30 in the morning, missed breakfast and the bus to the Miami Book Fair. I Ubered (a new verb) there, got some coffee and had a great time. Then I rushed back early, determined to nail down an entire meal and have time to get “formal” for the award presentation, as requested.

The presentation was like I imagined graduation would have been. We walked across the stage, got our medals, and smiled for the camera. Applause, and more kind people. And more photos. I hope I smiled–but not too much. What I didn’t expect, descending the steps on the other side of the stage, was the overwhelm of gratitude I felt for how much words have always meant to me, on so many levels. I felt elated and humbled. All the good words.

The biggest weekend takeaway was how affirming it was meeting people who had done what I had; authors of true crime and young adult and historical nonfiction. Like Cary Allen Stone, and Tyler, and Michelle Rene, and Karen Hoyle and more than I can list here. New friends and word geeks, one and all.

book-awardOn Sunday, I checked out and got the airport early. I was feeling giddy; I’d been recognized for my gold metal… by the metal detector. Wow, it’s changed me already.

I swaggered into the airport bar and pulled out my notebook. The last three weeks, I’ve had a chronic case of blurbitis, and without that measly sink-or-swim paragraph, the next book languishes in limbo forever. No pressure.

But I must have snorted when the men next to me at the bar made a joke. That was all it took. They welcomed me in, telling me they were just back from an amazing trip to Cuba. They were Texans; I know better. But they told me about visiting Hemingway’s house and seeing his pet cemetery. They had a photo of four small headstones; I think three of the names might have been some Spanish variation on “Blackie” and one simply said, “Linda.” Conversation sped on to the Cuban economy, vintage cars, and the professor who was their guide; these two longtime friends had quite a time together. I’m certain we didn’t vote the same ticket. Then they ordered a second round.

Hemingway; the man’s man author; I asked who their favorite woman author was. The dead air didn’t last long. “Barbara Kingsolver. Poisonwood Bible.” And we have a winner!

Eventually, they asked me what I was doing in Miami and I told them. Then I told them they’d heard me right. Heaven forbid getting googled in a bar, but I was there, loud and proud. My life limped and groaned while passing before my eyes. Gracias again, for the statute of limitations. Or maybe it just felt that way.

What could I do? I tossed my suitcase onto the bar stool, like a saddle over a horse, and rummaged through dirty clothes to produce two copies of Stable Relation. At the same time thinking, “Who is this woman?”

UPDATE: Cover image; check. Ebooks formatted; check. Blurb for back cover edited into submission; check. Barn Dance is almost done, just a pile of technicalities left to do. It’s up to Prairie Moon Press now.

Then our flight was announced and we all hugged like old friends, still as different as Americans can be. Standing in my line, I turned and saw one of the men, looking exhausted, half-drunk, and clutching Stable Relation in his arm.

Here’s to you, Spirit. The ride isn’t over yet.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Equine Pro

Word Geek Needs Prom Date

“She’s insufferable with this stupid human game. What’s wrong with tossing a ball. What an embarrassment. We try to sleep through it.”
“She’s insufferable with this stupid human game. What’s wrong with tossing a ball? We try to sleep through it. This woman is an embarrassment.”

I was once on the very brink of practically passing as sophisticated. It isn’t the same as actually being sophisticated, but I swear, this blog is like a trashy “True Confessions of a Dork” tell-all. Bad boundaries? I was routinely accused of that, but I’ve moved beyond that to shameless.

I’m winding up to brag about my vocabulary. That’s what all this honesty has come to. Someone, please, stop me before I drag out comments from my grade school teachers!

First, just because I’ve never played a computer game in my life, doesn’t mean I don’t understand the theory. I want to announce I have just taken up something remotely like a computer game, only obscure and arcane and, well, it has the stench of a long over-ripe Honor Society membership.

Okay, here goes.

I call it writing but that’s a poor description. I spend a few minutes gathering words around an idea I have, and then hours editing them. I move them around like furniture, I replace words with better words. I struggle with punctuation and adverbs and pronouns. Then I check for words that I repeat too often or not enough. Writing is the very tiny part of the job.

Sometimes I use software programs like Word, but more often, I like the software here on WordPress. Their spell check is powered by an elderly English teacher with a very sharp ruler. For longer work, I like Scriveners, a writing software for arranging a book that is no less than co-author worthy in its ability to hold it all together before it actually exists. Even if their spell check is a bit more like a Junior High English teacher who also coaches soccer.

I’m getting to the part where it’s all as exciting as playing Call of Duty. (I had to google a game title. Is this a good one?)

Some word geeks play scrabble and call it good, but the game I dream of is software that can tell that I should have used to instead of on. You can’t imagine how invisible those little words become during editing. Oh, of course you can. You see those mistakes in my writing all the time. I’m the blind one.

Obviously, I troll around on word software sites because I get their solicitations… that’s how I stumbled upon Grammarly. I downloaded the free version and then had a picky judgment fest about it. I’m that kind of crazy on a Saturday night. There is a page switch aspect that I don’t like, but it wrangles commas pretty well. In my dorky opinion.

It all changed when I got an email summary from Grammarly that used the word “Mastery” in relating that in the last 39,620 words I’d written, (more words that 99% of users did in the same time period,) I had used 1424 unique words (a larger vocabulary than 97% of users).

Okay, I like this game. I think you can see why. I would never be the kind of person who liked statistics. That’s math and I would rather fanatically over-tip a server than do math.

It was WordPress who taught me to love statistics. I check them all the time, it’s a compulsion. Because they flatter me. Something math has never even tried to do. “Readers in 161 countries.” Wow. Humbled and flattered. It’s getting remotely close to 1,000,000 hits. (It would have been easier to type a million hits, but I wanted to gloat over all those zeros.) This is how it came to pass that I bored the dogs into a coma.

Like all good embarrassments, I was standing there at the corner of No One Cares! and Do You Know Who I Am? And smiling like a fifth-grader in cat-eye glasses and a buttoned-up sweater because Grammarly is my new best friend.

“Pathetic,” the dogs mutter in unison.

gold-shiny-hrReal Life Update: This Friday, I fly off to the Miami Book Fair International to receive my award for Stable Relation. This is an awkward invitation to be my prom date. Please. There’s a Saturday night formal event and as usual, the dogs weren’t invited and I think no one else will ask me to dance. So will you come? If you can’t show up, will you talk me through it on Facebook? I’ll be posting about it on my author page here. 

“Like” the Facebook page and follow me there, so you can share my angst of not wearing barn clothes and sleeping dogless. But know it won’t be as much fun as editing, just so you can prepare. 

Barn Dance, the next book, is still on track for January release. I think we have the cover photo nailed down, just looking for that perfect, witty tagline. Oh, and some more obsessive-compulsive editing. I know there are some stray commas and semi-colons roaming aimlessly through the text, but at some point, you just have to hold your nose and jump.

Okay, in an attempt for fairness, it wasn’t all hearts and flowers with Grammarly. I confess that Grammarly also noted that I missed commas in a compound sentence 274 times. I made 94 mistakes with missing articles. Perhaps most tragic, there were 168 mistakes in comma splices. I didn’t even know that happened to commas. Let’s just state the painful truth. I have comma drama.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Equine Pro

 

 

When I Met You.

20160313_140155-1Welcome to the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo. Let me start by saying it was never my fantasy to spend a few days standing on the cement floor of a convention hall, under fluorescent lights with no windows. It came with the extra tease that people walked by all day long, on the way to the barn where the horses are stalled, while I stood behind my book table.

The other authors did a great job of hawking their books, confidently asking people passing to stop and look, and I just couldn’t start the conversation with buy mine!

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not retired and I don’t have a trust fund. I need book sales just as much as anyone. At the same time, I can only do this selling thing the way I can do it. If I start to feel like the guy at the state fair selling the Chop-o-matic… well, it won’t work for me. It’s awkward; I’m the one who hates it when people try to sell me things. Clearly, I have issues. So I was cross-dressing as an author, wishing I was in the barn where I belong, and trying to find the words that wouldn’t betray my books or me.

That was when I met you.

You were the Mom who knew nothing about horses, but came along with your daughter who was transforming herself in this horse world you don’t understand. All you could see was how beautiful and competent she’s becoming.

You were the husband of the woman who stopped to tell me she loved my blog; you were quiet until we compared dirt bikes to horses, and found we had a sense of humor in common.

You were the lonely horse owner who came back a few times to tell me again about how your rescue horse chose you, and follows you, and shares your heart in a way that has never happened before in the history of mankind.

You were the elderly woman who no longer rides, but still belonged there with us.

And maybe my favorite: the teen girl whose friends competed, while she stayed loyal to the leased,  lame, and un-rideable horse who was her best friend. What a horsewoman she’ll make!

Thanks for the reminder that authors, even a memoirist like me, need to tell the personal story that is a shared experience. Sometimes we get so wound up in our own subplot, that we can’t see the bigger story. (Replay the famous Rick-Ilsa Hill of Beans speech from Casablanca one more time!) I could have written a chapter for each of the people I met. Is this where the term Dear Reader comes from? It’s a term I’ll use will full heartfelt affection from now on. I loved meeting you.

In the meanwhile, it’s springtime on the high prairie! It isn’t green yet, but the birds are back and the hibernation is over. We’re all a little itchy to get on with Our Upcoming Events!

  • Midwest Horse Fair, April 15-17, in Madison, WI. I will be in the Horse’n Around Magazine booth, #2304. Drop by and tell me about your horse!
  • Mountain of Authors, April 23, 11-5, Pikes Peak Library District, at Library 21c, located at 1175 Chapel Hills Dr, CS, 80920. This is an informative day with speakers and a wealth of local talent.
  • WEBINAR Calming Signals: Are you Listening?, May 10, 7pm ET, 5pm,MT. Windrush Farm in Massachusetts invited me to create a webinar. It’s available for anyone to watch live, or taped at a later time, with proceeds to benefit their therapeutic riding program. Who knew making this presentation would be so much fun?
  • Horse Symposium, Oslo, Norway. October 29-30. International speakers on horse welfare. I’ll present on Leadership that Builds Confidence and Ulcers and Stress. I’m very excited about meeting the people at this event.

This week I’m off to Madison, WI, for the Midwest Horse Fair. Please stop by and distract me from myself!

For as solitary as writing is, it’s also the thing that brings so many intriguing people into my experience. I am so profoundly grateful to you, DEAR READER, for the stories you share with me, as we exchange notes on this horse/life. It’s the thing I never expect but appreciate the most–the reminder that we are all more alike than different. Thank you.

 

 

Donkey Skills for the Recovering Introvert

Critically acclaimedThey say you always remember your first. Back then you were worthless for anything but daydreaming. Tossing in damp sheets at night, waking to a full moon, and playing it out in your head, over and over again. Then up in the wee hours, clutching a cup of tea, and worrying about how it would all work out in the end. I’m talking about book writing, of course.

“There is a romantic notion to writing a novel, especially when you are starting it. […] A lot of 50-page unfinished novels are sitting in a lot of drawers across this country. Well, what it takes at that point is discipline […] It’s largely an act of perseverance […] The story really wants to defeat you, and you just have to be more mulish than the story.”— Khaled Hosseini

Stubborn? Being more “mulish” than the story? Ha! We totally own that; us donkeys are the stuff that inspired mules in the first place. Let the writing romance continue!

If you ask me, writing is the easy and fun part. The challenging part–the Big Girl Panties part–came later. Yes, I created this blog to whine about my dysfunctional relationship with the scary bits–the publishing and promotional aspects.

Silly me. It ends up that experience really is the best teacher, and to my surprise, even the business parts are wild fun. I’ve become absolutely chatty. Maybe I’m channeling Edgar Rice Burro.

Here are my upcoming events. Come and introduce yourself…

  • Rocky Mountain Horse Expo, Denver, March 11-13, NE corner of the Expo Hall. I’ll be in the Author’s Co-op booth, signing both my books and talking about horses.
  • Mile High Mustang Club, Elizabeth, CO, March 22, 6:30pm: Speaking on Relationship Advice from Your Horse: Leadership that builds confidence in both partners.
  • Midwest Horse Fair, Madison, WI, April 15-17, with the Horse’n Around Magazine (booth 2304 in the main hall of EXPO building) signing book and still talking about horses.
  • Mainstay Farm Clinic. Richmond, IL, April 18th, private clinic.
  • Mountain of Authors, Pikes Peak Library District. Colorado Springs, CO, Saturday, April 23.
  • Webinar for Windrush Farm, May 10th, Calming Signals: Are You Listening? (info here: http://wp.me/p2G3Wf-66 ) Anyone can join us; proceeds benefit their therapeutic riding program!
  • Horse Symposium, Oslo, Norway, October 29-30. Presenter, more details to follow.

If you belong to a group that might enjoy a presentation or clinic, contact me through the link at the top of the page. I’d be happy to talk about any ideas you have.

And please, the usual heartfelt request to please take a moment and post a review–Stable Relation if you haven’t already, or Relaxed & Forward, when you’ve finished it–to Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble. Indie books only stay afloat by word of mouth, so I count on you. Reviews keep the title alive on the search engines and that means that my books come up on other pages as a recommendation. It’s incredibly valuable in getting them in front of brand new eyes. In this way, Amazon and Barnes and Noble actually advertise for me, and in case it isn’t obvious, my advertising budget could use the help.

Whether you leave a review or not, most of all know that I appreciate each of you taking the risk on my books. Reading time is a precious commodity and sharing that means so much. Thank you for letting me be on your nightstand.

At the beginning of this adventure, I was waving a white flag and whining about being an introvert. Shame on me. I was mulish enough to write the books in the first place; I just needed to adjust my ears a bit. I’ve got some old time donkey traits that serve me well. I’ll bray it out just like Edgar, with confidence, honesty, and when required, stubbornness. Why, it’s a compliment when you look at it in the right light.

Is there some dream that your past is keeping you shy about? Because I’m pretty sure we all have an inner donkey if we look. I’d bet my ass on it.

Relaxed & Forward: My Secret Wish

2016-01-16 12.20.20 (2)I’ll say it again. The hardest part of this writing and publishing process for me is always the description of the book–that paragraph beside the cover image on the Amazon or Barnes and Noble page. Those few words are supposed to perfectly define the book and simultaneously demand it be purchased. Out of millions of books languishing in the mists.

Before Stable Relation came out, I spent a laborious week scrutinizing each word of that one measly paragraph, but when the first reviews came in, I realized that they described the book better than I had. My words failed my own words.

So a manuscript of  eighty thousand words–think about what a huge number of words that is to wrangle into a meaningful order in the first place–lost forever if that tiny preview blurb doesn’t sell hot and fast.  No pressure.

In defense of writers, sometimes there’s a gap between what we think we wrote and what the readers finds. We can never control, or even guess, how the book will be received. I did a good deal of tongue-biting when I was writing Stable Relation. I wanted to tell the story in a way that was meaningful and interesting. I thought about pace, I edited entire chapters out, and I wanted to make sense in a non-chronological way. Most of all, I didn’t want to talk down to readers; I wanted them to have their way with the book. Then those eighty thousand words got squeezed to a blurb, quickly becoming my least favorite word ever. Blurb sounds too much like burp.

Same drama for the second book Relaxed and Forward: Relationship Advice from Your Horse. Only this time it isn’t a story but rather a collection of essays. Publishers will tell you that format is even harder to sell than memoirs, if that could be possible. With that dismal vote of confidence, I spent the two weeks tweezering words and fussing with clauses until I finally sputtered to a halt at this particular blurb. I didn’t finish it so much as surrender to it, letting my finger finally collapse on the finish button. Then I waited.

Sure enough. Within a few days, one of my favorite readers referred to Relaxed & Forward as a Daily Devotional. What she said! Exactly.

Devoted is defined as love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for an individual, activity, or cause. The first three verbs define a rider and the last three nouns are synonyms for ways to commit to a horse.

One of my strongest beliefs about training, teaching, or about anything else in life, is that attitude outweighs subject matter. Horses read our intention much more than judge our technique. Riders are constantly challenged to stay fresh and new, and be, well, inspired. I wanted this book to be the middle of that conversation, not a cover-to-cover read so much as a small spark of idea to ponder an essay at a time.

NEWS THIS WEEK: **I’ve been invited to do a project that I’m really excited about. Horses and riders will benefit and it will be available to a huge audience. It’s in the planning stages right now, but expect to hear all about it. ** Plans are proceeding for the Midwest Horse Fair the weekend of April 15th in Madison, WI. We’re booth 2304 in the main hall of EXPO building. If you plan on going, I’d love to meet you. ** I’m negotiating possibly being at the Horse Expo in Denver next month with my books. ** It’s been really fun sending signed books out (link at top of page) and talking with readers. Let me know if you’d like a personally inscribed copy of either of my books.

And the usual heartfelt request to please take a moment and post a review–Stable Relation if you haven’t already, or Relaxed & Forward, when you’ve finished it–to Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble. Indie books only stay afloat by word of mouth, and that is up to you. Whether you leave a review or not, know that I appreciate each of you taking the risk on my books. Reading time is a precious commodity and sharing that with me means so much.

So here is my secret fantasy: Some writers aspire to win a Pulitzer, some want their masterpiece to be an elegant coffee table book. My dream for Relaxed & Forward is to be…dare I say it…a bathroom book. In barns across the country. Just 800 words of inspiration before you ride… and most riders always make that one stop first.

Relaxed & Forward: Available Monday!

 

RELAXED & FORWARD: RELATIONSHIP ADVICE FROM YOUR HORSE.

2016-01-16 12.10.39 (3)The first proof of the new book, Relaxed & Forward arrived… and my crack editorial staff have checked it out. It’s absolutely beautiful. I’m ringing the dinner bell; come and get it!

Relaxed and forward are the words that I like best to describe the foundation of the dressage training pyramid; that sweet, positive spot with horses where partnership blossoms and good work comes easily. I like the same description for people.

And Here it is! For those of you who know my blog, now you can blog binge, mouse-free! For those of you who haven’t followed the blog, you’re in for a treat. Whether you have a horse, dog, kids, or a spouse; this stuff works–because it’s about relationship. Here’s part of what it says on the back cover:

We’ve been besotted with horses since they had three toes. From the popular Relaxed and Forward blog comes training advice combining the everyday fundamentals of dressage with mutual listening skills. Blake writes with a profound respect for horses and an articulate voice for humans, blending equal parts inspiration and un-common sense. It’s serious training communicated with humor and lightness, because horses like cheerful riders.

The book is available now at all online retailers. Including Amazon, Barnes & Noble (soon), Itunes, etc.

If you are an eBook reader, you can get it on Smashwords (here).

And if you want A SIGNED COPY, click (here). It will take a bit longer, and cost more than Amazon, but I’ll inscribe it to you and your horse.

It’s Not Exactly Like Seeing Dead People

L'AmourClaraMy father came to my last book talk. For those of you squinting, tilting your heads, and doing the math… Yes, he departed this world twenty-four years ago, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t enjoy a good haunt. We’re family, after all.

This book talk was at the local library and the program director introduced me to a man before the talk started. He was a generation older than me, sitting in the back row wearing a ball cap. His faded eyes narrowed as he stood up. The first thing he told me was that people usually got really mad at him when he came to things like this. He didn’t smile.

That was when I recognized something familiar in this contrary old man. Lots of us have complicated relationships with our fathers. It’s a love so humorless and fierce that it can feel like hate. I’ve tried to make peace with that dark love forever, but I’ve settled for getting better at recognizing it dressed up like someone who knows what buttons to push. Not that my father would have gone to a book talk during his life. Unless it was Louis L’Amour at the local pancake house.

The book talk started by playing my book trailer on a projector. I am so sweet on that trailer; the music makes me mushy. Then I read a couple of passages and answered a few questions. After we adjourned, the old man came to me and announced that he disagreed with me on a few things. He said he was against five acre horse properties. I nodded; it would be fine with me if we all had more land. He said all he ever rode where rescue horses; that he retrained them. So I thanked him for helping the horses.

See how good I’ve gotten at this? I used to be more defensive but I’m the one who thinks you can improve family relationships post-death. It wasn’t obvious at first; I’d get aggravated by someone, or even just uncomfortable. It would stick in my brain until it dawned on me that it wasn’t them at all, but a splinter of memory, still festering. And I had one more chance to get it right.

Then the big finale… he told me that all my horses were therapy horses and that was fine for me. He was dismissive of my training methods. His horses needed to earn their feed and not just stand around, he said, and this positive training thing didn’t work. He’d seen Parelli, he said. He gestured with both hands, wet his teeth, preparing to tell me the biggest, filthy-worst thing–that he’d seen Parelli hit a horse. I wish that was news but he’s nowhere near the first person to make that claim. He was looking at me hard, waiting for a response. First, I did the thing horses taught me. I took a breath and exhaled, to slow things down. My shoulders dropped and I smiled. I told him that I grew up just like him; riding the bad horses until they were good horses. He’s like lots of horsemen who think women are too soft to train horses, so I assure him that I’m not the one who baby talks and carries treats in my pocket; I like a good working horse as much as he does. And I thanked him for coming.

Just as he turned to go, he leaned close again and whispered, “I liked that you did what you had to do. And that you said how it felt.” and he was gone. Was that a compliment? It’s crazy what you think you hear when the blood isn’t pounding in your ears.

THIS WEEK: If you’d like a signed book, there’s a link above. This Saturday, the 19th from 2-4pm, I’ll be at The Tack Collection, 104 N Harrison Ave, Unit A, in Lafayette, Colorado. (303-666-5364) It’s my first stop in Northern Colorado and I hope to see you there.

And there is a bit of finger drumming, as I wait for the new year. The second book, Relaxed & Forward, Relationship Advice from Your Horse is ready for the final proof process, but rather than letting it get lost in the holiday rush, I’m waiting for 2016. Impatiently.

BTW: If you’ve already left a review on Amazon, thank you, and if it isn’t too much, please consider asking your friends to do the same. It takes a village for an indie book to float–a boisterous, insistent village who calls all the neighbors in to help. As always, I’m in your debt. Thank you for supporting Stable Relation.

 When I moved to my farm, I wanted to tell my father. Even after he passed, seeking his disapproval was a habit hard to break. At the same time, there’s a peace that comes with realistic expectations. So I don’t wonder what my father would have thought of my book. He would never have read it. We both know I’m no Louis L’Amour.