Posts Tagged 'Horses'

BOLD STROKES BOOKS AUTHOR INTERVIEW with FRANCI MCMAHON

by Connie Ward

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What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

 

There was never a decision about becoming a writer. I just started writing a different reality for myself, a daydream to transport myself from my present intolerable life. I found I really liked this alternate reality, looked forward throughout the day until I could be there again. So, writing became a survival tool that enabled me to change my life into the reality I wanted.

 

What type of stories do you write, and why?

 

An essay by Alice Walker galvanized me. She said something to this effect: “If you can’t find what you want to read, then write it.” I was living in Vermont and longing to be back in the West, where I grew up. I wrote Staying The Distance as a dream to live within, bringing together my love of the West and riding horses long distance, across land with no fences or roads and, of course, peopled with lesbians.

 

I think the key element here is “stories.” I want a story that takes the reader into it, has suspense and depth, with romance that develops from the characters, and has sex that feels real.

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

 

There’s a strange phenomena about girls who love horses and lesbians. Both are often seen by straights as having arrested development since they haven’t evolved to making men central to their lives. Both of my parents died before I began writing. My sister doesn’t take my writing seriously. My friends are enthusiastic, and I count among them some of my very best manuscript readers and commenters.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

 

Damned if I know. Usually real events are the catalyst.

 

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

 

A story will percolate around in my head until I am ready to sit down with it. I don’t plan everything out because often the characters will take hold of a story and lead it in a new direction, and I like for them to go onto new ground. If I have writer’s block I know it is because I need to work through something in the story, or that I am taking my characters in a direction they don’t want to go. Once a new path is chosen they roar along hell-bent for leather and I’m challenged to keep up with them.

 

How much of yourself and people you know are in your characters?

 

I’d say everything. It is like dreaming; everything in a dream comes out of your depths. For instance when I write about separation of lovers in a story, every breakup I’ve ever experienced comes into play. In a love scene I remember the elements of that time that resonated like a cello.

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

 

Yes, sit down and do it. Many people seem to want to be a writer, but until you type The End and then revise it five times, listen to comments, and then revise again you will be one of the many writers with a manuscript in your drawer. Be cautious about the ease of self-publishing because doing so deprives you of the experience of working with a good editor and the valuable advice of professional publishers.

 

What lesbian and gay authors inspired you most? Do you have a favorite of these author(s).

 

The first book to make me laugh was Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle. June Arnold’s The Cook and the Carpenter and all of Sarah Waters. Nicola Griffith’s The Blue Place. Joan Nestle, Lee Lynch, Lucy Jane Bledsoe’s Working Parts, and Katherine V. Forrest. The poetry of Becky Birtha, Olga Broumas, and Melissa Kwasney. There are so many, I am happy to say, because I remember the first few lesbian feminist books.

 

What is your favorite among the books/stories you’ve written and why?

 

Staying the Distance was my love affair with Montana and my introduction to creative writing. Night Mare and the sequel White Horse in Winter took me in a whole new direction, into suspense, and with both of these I enrolled in graduate studies. I lost count of how many revisions I went through, many of them in-depth. I am aware that I’ve mentioned three books here, but they, and the experiences and learning each gave me, were significant.Night Mare

 

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

 

There is nothing in the world like being on the back of a good horse, moving through the grass and sagebrush with the mountains as a framework. Even the slow, methodical trailing behind cows going to summer pasture, with dust and flies in your face, cannot be duplicated in joy. I also fly-fish the streams in Montana, that quiet meditation between me and the outdoors. I enjoy kayaking on lakes or slow meandering rivers, but not the white-water thrills. Classical music has been central to me since a child. My father was a violinist. And I love Patsy Cline. I tend to my fruit trees, each year an amazing abundance. I gather cut flowers into lovely vases all summer, whether from my tame garden or the wilds. I swim a lot and walk my dog. And, of course, I read. On those cold winter nights I may have a single malt whiskey in my hand.

 

 

 

Butter My Butt and Call Me a Biscuit

By D. Jackson Leigh

Language is my music.

I’m not talking about the mechanics of grammar—a necessary evil in my affair with words. I’m referring to the inflection, the regional euphemisms and the quirky idioms that add texture to our conversations and communicate who we are and where we’ve been.

That regional texture—whether it’s a Northern England clip, a soft Charleston lilt or  California surfer dudette lingo—is  the icing on my cake, the milk in my Cheerios, the red on my candy.

If you think I’m just porch-sittin’ (being whimsical), then consider this:

When Texas Gov. Ann Richards delivered the keynote speech of the 1988 Democratic Convention, she offered example after example of why the Republican Party’s “trickle down economics” did not work. However, little of her astute research is recalled today. Instead, she is remembered for her “that old dog won’t hunt” declaration that plunged her into the national political spotlight and put her name in history books.

So, when my friend Phoebe gave me a daily calendar of Southern expressions titled “Butter My Butt and Call Me a Biscuit,” my language-oriented brain latched onto a theme for the third in my Southern Secrets series.

Southerners love colorful euphemisms to soften the harsh realities of life. Instead of saying “she died,” we say “she passed on.” A man who has a wife and a mistress is “buttering his bread on both sides.”  To someone who has gone against your advice and then comes to you for help, you would tell them to “skin their own skunk” or “you made your bed, now lie in it.”

The world of quarter horse racing in Cajun-rich Southern Louisiana is fertile ground for the Southern eccentricities in “Hold Me Forever,” Hold Me Forever coverwhich is scheduled for a September release by Bold Strokes Books.

Clinton Casey is a grumpy old Texan who trains quarter horses at Louisiana racetracks. His daughter, Whitley, learned about horses from Pop and then got an education in lesbians and high-tech journalism at Louisiana State University. Mae St. John is an over-educated Georgia debutante with no job experience and no family … rather, no legitimate family.

They each have their own problems.

Clinton’s got more gravy than biscuits (more bills than money) after Alzheimer’s disease puts a leak in his crankcase (muddles his brain), so he takes out a sketchy loan against the farm and puts all his eggs in one basket—a promising bay colt named Raising the Bar.

So, even though Whit’s feeling like a sore-assed duck swimming in salt water (very hurt) after realizing her latest relationship was just spitting in the wind (going nowhere), she moves back home and works like a rented mule (you would never work your own mule that hard) to keep her dot.com business going and shoulder Pop’s training work, too.

Meanwhile, Mae is feeling like a hound dog without a porch to crawl under (a stray). She has neither home nor family since her grandmother, Big Mae, had too many toddies at the country club and drowned when she accidentally drove her Mercedes into a water hazard on the fifteenth fairway. When her grandmother’s will is read, Mae learns that the family fortune is gone and the bank has foreclosed on their house. Big Mae has left only a modest trust fund for the care of her poodle, Rhett, ten thousand dollars secreted between the pages of “Gone with the Wind,” and a letter confessing the father Mae grew up thinking was dead actually lives in Louisiana.

Seriously, while I had a lot of fun with the Southernisms, “Hold Me Forever”Hold Me Forever cover is about seeing people for who they are, not what they are. It’s about family, loyalty and trust. It’s about finding that person who fits perfectly in your life … someone who will hold you forever.

Leave a comment to enter the drawing for an autographed copy of “Hold Me Forever.” A winner will be drawn 5 days after the posting of this blog.

Unleashing My Inner Redneck

BY KARIS WALSH

I recently celebrated the first anniversary of the publication of my book Harmony. And what a year it’s been! I’ve (mostly) enjoyed the struggle to overcome my procrastinating nature as I wrote and edited my next novels. I’ve loved meeting readers and other authors and the talented BSB staff. And I’ve appreciated every moment I was able to dedicate to creating and writing and brainstorming. But one of my favorite by-products of this writing life has been the way my characters influence my hobbies, how I spend my free time. I played along with Andy, Brooke, Jamie, et al. as I practiced my viola, experimented with new recipes, and read financial books and magazines (because I really needed to find a way to invest that spare ten dollars I carried around in my pocket). And – for “research,” of course – I’ve smoked a few cigars, spent far too much time playing pool, and tried my hand (so to speak) at tequila body shots. (Hey, I strive for accuracy no matter what the personal cost.)

Now I’m working on my newest book, a romantic intrigue called Mounting Danger. Because of the storyline, I’m taking polo lessons again and hiking through Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park. But I’m both excited and worried about the effect my character Rachel will have on me. Unlike her sophisticated polo-playing counterpart, Rachel is a ranch-raised, backcountry woman. She’s everything a cowgirl-turned-cop should be – dusty and sweaty and hard-working and honest to a fault. While I’m writing about her, I’ll get to revel in all my redneck traits. And believe me, I have quite a few of them. I’m more at home in cowboy boots than in heels, I own more than one pair of coveralls, and I admit to having a pile of spare fence posts covered by the Washington State flag (local slang for a blue tarp) in my backyard. And while I was sitting in the pasture writing this blog, I had a determined goat trying to nibble on my computer. (Will the excuse “Sorry, but my goat ate my flash drive” work the next time I miss a deadline?) Over the next few months, Rachel will be part of me whether I’m riding, cleaning the barn, or possibly learning to two-step as I release my inner redneck cowgirl. Why am I worried about Rachel’s influence on me? Because – again, in the name of research – I’ve been searching through “horse-for-sale” ads as I try to find the right mount for her. I’m fairly certain one of them will find its way into my pasture, and I’ve reached my quota of animals. (Of course, I say the same thing about books, but I don’t stop buying them!)

Maybe someday I’ll create a character with a more useful (to me) hobby of housecleaning or weeding or closet organizing. But probably not. Besides, how much organizing does my flannel-filled redneck closet need? Once the flannel is sorted into categories – dress, casual, ripped-beyond-repair, should-never-be-worn-outside-the-house – what’s left to do? So for now I’m happy to explore, through my characters, some of the careers and hobbies that interest and inspire my little Renaissance soul. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go horse shopping…

Small towns, secrets, and shaded tobacco

BY D. JACKSON LEIGH

If there’s one thing we Southerners like, it’s secrets.

We like to keep them. We like to sniff them out. We like to whisper about them.

A secret might involve a crazy relative, a criminal act swept under the rug, or an indiscretion that leads to an additional family member. But all Southern families have them.

That’s why it wasn’t hard to write a second Southern romance following the theme of family secrets.

The first, “Call Me Softly,”  involved the concealed parentage of one of the main characters. “Touch Me Gently” is a second completely stand-alone romance that follows the same “Southern Secrets” theme.

Fleeing the secrets and subsequent betrayal of her closeted lover, Salem Lacey flees her urban life in Atlanta, Ga., for new start in a small rural South Georgia town where she meets the beautiful and mysterious KnoxBolander, a woman who has been rarely touched and never loved because she hides the grandaddy of all secrets.

To unfurl this story laced with a hint of the paranormal, I decided to take my readers to where Spanish moss hangs from huge, gnarled oaks and farmers still grow shaded tobacco in the rich bottom land between the Louisiana bayou and Georgia’s swamps – sort of a rural “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” setting.

I learned about shaded tobacco country when my dad served as a minister for a few years in a tiny town on the Gulf side of the Georgia-Florida border.  I was immediately enchanted by the  grand old houses and wrap-around porches.

They were celebrating “Mule Day” during one of my visits with the annual parade led by a matched pair of Percheron mules. They were huge, gorgeous animals and their owner, my parent’s landlord, was more than happy to give me a history lesson on the importance of mules to “shaded tobacco.”

Unlike cigarette tobacco that is wrapped in paper, cigars are wrapped in an unblemished tobacco leaf. The rich soil in that area was perfect for that variety of tobacco, but the plants had to be grown under the shade of thousands of yards of gauzy cheesecloth to produce leaves unblemished by the sun.  So, long after tractors became farmers’ workhorses, mules were still used to cultivate the rows of plants nestled under the arbors draped in cheesecloth.

But as enamored as I was with the mules,  it was the group bringing up the rear of the Mule Day parade that made me gasp.

High-stepping, smooth-gaited and black as a moonless midnight, the cadre of Friesian horses were an exclamation   the end of an impressive processional. While the mules pulled the cultivating equipment, Friesians with long, wavy manes and tails were the farmers’ choice to patrol their thousand-acre plantations.

“Touch Me Gently” was taking shape. I had a secret, two sexy women and the trademark of my novels, beautiful horses.

What more do you need for a good romance? A lesson learned.

The lesson in “Touch Me Gently” was one I personally learned some years back when I bought property for my own horse farm.

The small Georgia town where I spend most of my childhood was a wonderful place when I was very young.  I spent summers shoeless, swimming in farm ponds and riding ponies. But when I began middle school, I was rudely introduced to the fact that you were only somebody in a small town if you could afford the right clothes, your parents had the right jobs and your skin was white. My parents moved to a mid-sized city when I was twelve and I vowed never to live with small town bias again.

However, another small town – this one in North Carolina – changed my mind about that. The farm property my friends and I wanted to split was very cheap, but the family that owned it wanted to meet the buyers before they decided to sell. We were invited to their Labor Day family picnic and decided only two of us would go so that we didn’t give ourselves away as two couples looking to buy and split the land. Shortly after we arrived, we realized we had worried over nothing when one family member showed up with her wife and another showed up with his boyfriend.

The rest of the town was just as welcoming. Instead of being known as “those women without husbands,” we were known as “those women putting up all that board fencing for horses.”

It was a surprise to us, just like Salem Lacey finds more than a few surprises in the fictional town of Oakboro where folks are more open-minded than you’d think and a fresh chance at love awaits.

WITH A MOUTHFUL OF TOOTHPASTE…

by Karis Walsh

After a short break to celebrate the publication of my second book, Worth the Risk, I’m back to work on Something New. I’m glad to be moving on to a fresh project, but I am still struggling to adapt to the writing process. My control freak side believes I’ll be successful if I sit at my computer for a specific amount of time and aim for a specific word count every day. And that side of me is partially right – writing requires self-discipline, persistence, consistency. But I’m discovering that my real flashes of inspiration choose to completely disregard my attempts to schedule them. Those bits of dialogue that ring true, the personality traits that suddenly give life to a character, the strings that connect scenes so they form a coherent story – these ideas usually strike at inconvenient and unexpected moments. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to turn off the shower or treadmill or Sonicare so I could scramble around (soapy or sweaty or trying not to swallow toothpaste) for a piece of paper and pen. Often, my regular writing time is devoted more to deciphering and transcribing what I’ve scribbled on the back of receipts or junk-mail envelopes than to coming up with anything new.

I’ve found this same dichotomy to be true in other areas as well. I’ve recently returned to music lessons after a year-long hiatus, and the transition back to regular playing has been painful. Partly in a physical sense because my muscles are out of shape and I’ve lost the tiny calluses on the tips of my fingers that protect them from the viola strings. But I also mean painful in an aesthetic sense. What skills I once had are rusty, so my flaws come shining through. (While not exactly tone-deaf, I certainly qualify as tone-hard-of-hearing. And – something you might witness if you ever have the dubious opportunity to watch me dance – I am rhythmically challenged.) I’ve been trying to tackle these problems by spending an allotted time each day on etudes and scales and shifting exercises; but, while the routine of practice will help, I know it won’t make me a musician. Real musicality – beyond mere technical proficiency – will only come if I am open to the moments outside of my practice time when I have some little epiphany about the meaning of the music. The connections to a piece that are only allowed in when I’m relaxed and simply listening – not frantically trying to get my posture and fingering correct. The unplanned realizations that hit while I’m walking outside or lost in thoughts of love and suddenly some nuance behind the composer’s notes becomes clear.

Writing, music, life. We try and try to plan them. To schedule and organize and control every detail so we can make progress or meet goals or simply get through the day. But the real magic happens in the between times, when a jolt of meaning slips through the cracks and refuses to be ignored. And then we find ourselves turning off the shower and leaving a trail of soapy, soggy footprints as we go in search of a pen or a paintbrush or an instrument or a lover so we can express the inspiration that has grabbed hold of us. Because if we ignore it in the moment, its power fades away.

Violas and Ponies

Multi-talented author Karis Walsh talks about her newly released novel, Harmony, and her upcoming works.


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