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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

100 Words: Spring

One of my professors encouraged us to keep writing journals and to exercise our writing muscles through prompts and challenges. Most days, we began class with a 100 word entry on a variety of topics. I'm having a "blah" day full of creative self-doubt and worry over my post-op puppy, so this is 100 words on spring.

Spring is coming. The atmosphere is like a layer cake: cool stacked on top of warm, on top of cold, on top of balmy, on top of bitter, its icing blue and white, soft and fragile. Breezes bring whispers of change – promises of rolling dark clouds and tumultuous April rains. The first tender blooms test the strength of the sun. And beneath the soil, fresh shoots of green grass wait. Spring is coming, but it is not here yet. It lingers within winter’s brown shadows, its breath held, winking at us, before it bathes the world in particolored splendor.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chapter Eight

Dressage: a French term meaning “training”, the purpose of which is to further develop a horse’s natural athletic ability with an emphasis on obedience, flexibility, and suppleness.
Mel reminded herself of the basic, fundamental definition of her sport the next morning as she jogged down Dry Creek’s long driveway in the predawn darkness, a cell phone in one hand, flashlight in the other. She had always believed in her own personal fitness and at Carlton, that mentality had been reinforced.
She also hoped her daily routine would quell some of the nervous energy jumping through her system thanks to the knowledge she would have to work alongside Dan today. He was obviously disgusted by her, though he knew nothing about her. Which, she thought with a sigh, wasn’t all that uncommon in the competitive horse world. He would doubtless balk at the idea of her working with any of the horses who were in for training because she was a dressage rider. But, just as she’d reminded herself, she planned to remind him that dressage training was built on athletic fundamentals. She was quite capable of handling these horses.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chapter Seven

“You’re sure I can’t talk you into letting me help you turn out the rest?” Mel watched her geldings explore their new, lush, two acre paddock. They had inspected the rain shelter and the water trough and Roman was now making friends across the fence with two of the training horses.
She glanced over her shoulder, again wondering where the rest of Larry’s crew was this morning.
“I’m sure,” Toto’s voice was friendly, but firm. “Me and Foster, we do this every Sunday,” he said of the blue heeler, who was aptly named after the Australian beer. “I think you oughtta go on up to the house and meet Larry’s missus.”
“You think?”
“I know.”

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chapter Six

After twenty-four hours without a shower, Mel overcompensated and took two: one that night and one the next morning. There was an apartment above the barn that was accessed via a stairwell in the back of the office and though it needed updating and obviously hadn’t been used in a while – a thin layer of dust coating everything – it was comfortable. The ceiling was peaked, which she’d expected, and it was furnished with a dresser, on top of which sat a TV and DVD player, a small twin bed, cafĂ© table and two chairs, fridge, a single kitchen cupboard, floating counter, fridge, sink and a bathroom that was, thankfully, walled off and sealed with its own door.
By the time she was content that her horses were comfortable for the night and Toto showed her to the apartment, it had taken all her remaining stores of energy to take a shower – not caring as she watched the water mix with the dust inside the tub and run in a brown cyclone around the drain – brush her teeth and fall into the lumpy bed with its scratchy sheets. She didn’t question whether the sheets were clean. Didn’t look inside the fridge. Didn’t call her parents though her guilty mind suggested she do so. She shut her eyes and in what felt like only moments, she was opening them again, a subtle lightening of the gray sky beyond the apartment’s one window signaling that she’d slept all night and dawn was here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Royal Guard at his Post

I don’t ever write about animals – at least, I haven’t up until Just Like Lightning. I’m a hopeless animal nut, but I know most other people aren’t, and I also know that, when it comes to reading, the more exciting, action-packed, romantic, etc, the more enjoyable the book is to read. Which, by default, eliminates most animal-related fiction. The decision to give a character a pet of any kind always worries me – I have countless worries when it comes to what I’m writing, how I’m writing it, if it’s likeable, if it’s readable – and when it comes to pets, I worry that it might take away from the human interactions in the story. Or that readers might find it to be filler, background fluff, that doesn’t progress the plot.
So far, though, it’s been really, really fun to write the horses in Just Like Lightning. Horses and dogs (and even cats, I have to admit) are their own unique little characters. They make me laugh, smile, fume and cry at times. I’m afraid that if I include too many animal personalities in a story, I’ll get bogged down in their stories, and not those of the humans.
It’s just that there are so many wonderful details...
Like Riddick sitting in front of my wheelbarrow every morning, moving from stall to stall with me while I shovel. He sits down and his head does a slow swivel back and forth, scanning the paddock, turning to look at me over his shoulder every so often as if to ask when I intend to finish so he can go back inside for his mid-morning nap. Occasionally, a turkey vulture wheels overhead on an updraft and he gives chase, barking furiously, but then he comes trotting back. And sits. And watches; my silent sentry at all times. And then he follows me when I dump the wheelbarrow. Lies down under the stand of pines and watches me ride.
Like Markus picking up his brushes one at a time with his teeth and flinging them across the stall while I try to groom him.
Like Cosmo knowing I was too short to reach all the way up to his mammoth head, so he lowered it down level with my chest so I could halter him.
Like Skip standing over Cosmo’s grave, smelling the freshly-turned earth, trying to figure out where his best friend had gone.
Like Markus standing at the gate, depressed, head down at his knees, when Skip didn’t come home from Auburn.
Like Skip hooked to a half dozen IVs and monitors, drugged nearly to unconsciousness, unable to eat solid food, standing prone in ICU, but hearing our voices and mustering up the strength to whinny and turn to the door.
And when I don’t feel like smiling at all, that ridiculously fat cat Sophie rolls over, grabs my boot in her claws, digs her teeth into the rubber sole and makes a sound like that of some whining hell spawn – her favorite game of Bite the Shoe – and I laugh even though I don’t feel like it.
I don’t write about animals…but not because they don’t deserve it. Because they do. They really do.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chapter Five

It was a soft, velvety indigo sky that covered the world tonight, nothing like the churning mass of black clouds that had heralded the storm’s arrival the night before. The weather was only a small comfort, though, as Mel followed the blue and white Dry Creek rig through the familiar turns that would take her to the ranch, and the Carlton estate.
When the flickering carriage lamps mounted on either side of the automated, intricate iron gate that barred entrance into the Hanoverian farm came into view, her pulse picked up. The headlights cut a bright wedge through the dark, showing the masonry pillars that held the Carlton gate, the black and gold sign emblazoned with the Carlton prancing horse. Carlton Premier Hanoverians, she read to herself with a convulsive shudder.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chapter Four

Mel was hand-grazing her horses near the cattle pens when Larry found her. She held a lead rope in each hand and let Roman determine their meandering path across the rodeo grounds, LT content to follow. When Roman lifted his head, chewing grass, and pinned his ears, she knew someone was approaching. A check over her shoulder revealed the owner of Dry Creek Ranch walking toward her.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Chapter Three

Melanie’s mother was a veritable wellspring of optimism and forceful determination. Quitting was not a part of her vocabulary. She had reared both her daughters to believe there was no obstacle, no setback that couldn’t be overcome. Ain’t no mountain high enough and all that. Mel’s younger sister Elizabeth was a year away from her bachelor’s degree and was already applying to law schools, one of which would undoubtedly offer her a full academic scholarship.
Mel’s decision to drop out of college at twenty-two so she could focus on her equestrian pursuits had nearly sent her mother to the hospital. Only polite, careful insistence, planning and organization on her part had finally convinced both her parents that she wasn’t quitting, but simply redirecting her life down a more suitable path. Afterward, it had taken three years of hard physical labor, long nights, early mornings, calluses, blisters, saddle sores and a persistence she hadn’t known she’d possessed to land the job of all jobs – at least for a dressage rider like herself: a stint as a working student under the tutelage of  Arthur and Marissa Carlton at Carlton Premier Hanoverians.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chapter Two

Larry Shaw swallowed two lint-covered aspirin he’d dug from the depths of his pocket with a sip of coffee and grimaced. A heavy dampness clung to the morning left over from the night’s storm, thick tendrils of steam curling up from the fields surrounding the fair grounds. The rain had turned the Georgia clay to red slurry that was doubtless going to rid a horse or two of a shoe. Beads of condensation clung to everything: the gates, the seats of the bleachers. It dripped down off the high ceiling of the pavilion and dotted the arena with water polka dots. The humidity was wreaking havoc on his arthritis, and he concentrated on extending his leg and straightening his inflamed knee with every step as he and Eli went to check the horses.
“…need a faster run,” Eli was saying. “These are the stupidest damn cows I ever saw.”
“Not sure it’s the cows’ fault,” Larry said, leaving out the usual reprimand that Eli was too impulsive, too heavy-handed with his horse, and always threw his rope too soon.
Eli snorted.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Guess This Topic is Appropriate...

There are so many types of romance when it comes to fiction. You've got your historical, your paranormal, your fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk. There's romantic suspense and romantic mystery. Category and single title. After I finished my first novel, I began researching agents and was completely overwhelmed with the seemingly endless forms of romantic fiction. And to be honest, I really didn't want to admit I'd written a romance either.

Labeling my work as "romance" felt so limiting. It inspired images of chocolate, flowers, really sappy, mushy confessions of unending love.


But my manuscript wasn't really a mystery, wasn't taut enough to be a thriller, not elevated enough in language and imagery to be considered literary...and the central plot point was a relationship. Crap. Double crap! Without meaning to, I'd written a romance.

And then I figured out the difference between category and single title. Category stories are more focused, shorter, and very Harlequin-esque. Single title works have more flexibility on length, subject matter...everything. So it's okay to have some mystery and suspense elements, to drag out the relationship and flesh out the characters more.

So I can write romance without barfing. Just Like Lightning is my very first (and maybe only) work with heavy equine involvement, but I'm hoping that won't matter. Under the dirt and horsehair, it's still about humans.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chapter One

“Do you have your paperwork?”
Melanie passed over the proof that both her horses had been tested for coggins and found clean and watched as the thickset Georgia State Patrol officer behind the desk gave the results a cursory glance. The tidy green file folder also contained LT and Roman’s vaccination records, negative results for any and all disorders that might have been found in the blood samples that had been drawn from each gelding. Their total health workups, proving that she transported two strong, disease-free animals across the Florida state line into Georgia.
Healthy, but not necessarily happy.
The weigh station was a cramped, smelly, cheaply carpeted little box set up on stilts so the sliding windows were accessible to the truckers who usually passed through to have their loads calculated. Mel twisted around, sending a shower of rain droplets flying off the hem of her black rain slicker, so she could peer through the station’s windows and glimpse her rig parked beneath the floodlight outside.
The rain was vengeful tonight, chasing her away with as much ferocity as the Carlton family. It pummeled the sides of the station, its fat drops rattling the windows in their panes. The thin walls of the building groaned against the wind. Lightning cleaved the dense summer night sky and in its flash, Mel imagined she could see Roman’s black head whipping back in fear through the trailer’s window.

Just Like Lightning

Melanie Walsh dropped out of college and moved her whole life to Florida in pursuit of a dream: a coveted position as a working student at Carlton Premier Hanoverians. But she finds herself alone and homeless, days' drive from her parents with her two horses and trailer in tow. Seeking shelter from a storm in the temporary stables at a rodeo, she has no idea if she should trust the cowboy who finds her huddled in a stall, but she doesn't have much choice in the matter. Mel learns that life has a way of changing with violent suddenness - just like lightning - and not always for the worse.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Book

I quickly learned that one cannot go out and simply "get published". Most publishing houses no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts from writers without agents, self-publishing through a vanity publishing house is frowned upon by the industry, and so the best option is obtaining the agent. And that's where the real fun begins.

I could probably go on for pages about my query letter stress. For most agents a one - to - two hundred word letter is the only audition you're afforded. Forget audition, because you can't share your actual writing, but only a quick paragraph synopsis, word count, and the dreaded relevant bio. Oh, relevant bio, how I loathe thee.

The problem is: previous publication would lend me more credit in the eyes of agents. But if I can't publish a manuscript because I have no publishing credits to my name, how then am I supposed to publish anything so that I'll be more impressive on paper? I'm confused just writing it! So my relevant bio isn't so relevant at all, because I'm not published, therefore un-publishable.

Since printing a handful of copies of one of my novels on my own dime would be both expensive and a big no-no, I'm going to publish here, on the web, so it doesn't really count as self-publishing. And because I do worry about plagiarism, I'm writing a short novel just for the blog so my heart won't be broken if theft occurs.

The first chapter or two should be up before the end of the week! The working title is Just Like Lightning.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Blogging is Scary

The web is a hate factory most of the time. People hide behind the anonymity of screen names and deliver one wicked blow after another to enemies of their own making: what did some of these poor Internet posters ever do to earn their unabashed hatred and scrutiny? So it's with a healthy dose of trepidation that I dip my toes in the pond. Especially because I'm not so self righteous as to think that anyone cares what I have to say in the first place. Blogs are not kind to the humble!

But, here goes. Deep breath.

I've been writing all my life, and in the past three years have written a variety of stories, two full-length novels, and am working on a third. A childhood dream has solidified into a certainty that I want to write for a living. And of course, that's not ridiculous at all. Heaven help me...

So this blog is going to be an outlet and an experiment. The plan is to document my (possibly futile) efforts to become published and to share some of my writing as well. I'm going to be posting a novel specifically written for this blog in serial, one chapter at a time, hopefully with weekly updates.

But I'm nervous, because blogging is scary. And I'm really hoping this can be a positive, welcoming place to visit. That's the goal, anyway.