Viola Parker can’t land a job since the famous jumper, Wastrel, crashed to his death with her aboard. She can barely afford her whipped-cream-in-a-can addiction. When she finds her mentor unconscious, she suspects foul play and wonders if her old friend, Harry, has answers. But Harry disappears with the truth, leaving behind a mysterious delivery and cryptic confession. A short story prologue to the Dream Horse Mysteries with a preview of On the Buckle: Dream Horse Mystery #1. Check out the entire Dream Horse Mystery series: On the Buckle, Dream Horse Mystery #1 Run Out, Dream Horse Mystery #2 Wrong Lead, Dream Horse Mystery #3 or, get the entire set in the Dream Horse Mysteries Omnibus.
On a cold Christmas morning long ago, a big van delivered a horse to our house. I was twelve and had been taking lessons on a gray mare I called Sasha, and had dreamed and begged for this day for as long as I could remember. Sasha stood in the van wrapped in a green blanket trimmed in red. I used this experience in Cold Backed, the short Dream Horse Mystery prequel, and even wrapped Vi's gift in a green blanket trimmed in red. During this holiday season, my hope for you is that at least one of your dreams--however big or small--comes true.
The beginning of Cold Backed, A Dream Horse Mystery Prequel, uses hot beverages to introduce the main character, Vi, and her best friend, Harry, and illustrate how different their backgrounds and current circumstances are. Meet Viola Parker and some of the other Dream Horse Mystery characters by reading this short story for free today!
Ahhh...Thanksgiving. It can be such a wonderful time of family gathered around a feast they've prepared together sharing what they're thankful for. Or, it can be non-family gathered around a feast someone else prepared and served, making cryptic and barbed comments about people and things that have nothing to do with the holiday. Cold Backed the beginning of the big mystery of the Dream Horse Mysteries, containing clues you won't understand until you read the third book in the series--Wrong Lead. For now, enjoy Vi keeping her head above water with Harry and his parents.
~~Winner of the 2019 American Horse Publications Equine Media Award for Fiction AND a Winnie from The Equus Film & Arts Festival, as well as the 2020 Feathered Quill Bronze award for Animal-Adult and finalist in Mystery/Suspense!~~ Gallop to the finish with Dream Horse Mystery #3 Vi's kept a job for nearly one year and is sure she's going ride off into the sunset with her trust fund, but ghost horse Wastrel has plans that put everything she's worked for in jeopardy... Viola Parker knows old wounds can fester. What she doesn't know is how deeply they can cut or to what lengths people will go to recover. When she returns to her roots to solve her mentor's murder, nothing and no one is what they seem and no amount of whipped cream makes sense of it. She should be able to trust her friends, her family, herself. She should know where she belongs, where home is. But with Malcolm and everyone she loves acting strangely, and everyone she hates even stranger, trust becomes elusive. Wastrel becomes her only confidant. Has she been on the wrong lead all along? If Vi doesn't figure out Wastrel's clues in time, what she doesn't know could kill her. Vi's in for a bumpy ride in this riveting and poignant wrap-up to the Dream Horse Mysteries.a
Starting Wrong Lead, the third Dream Horse Mystery, was a little easier than starting Run Out, Dream Horse Mystery #2. I wanted to finish telling the story of Vi's year at Winterlight and begin when she's on the precipice of a big decision...and then throw all sorts of obstacles in the way of her making that decision. This first chapter lays out some of the complications--both internal and external--Vi will face in the third Dream Horse Mystery, and sets up the mysteries to come.
In Wrong Lead, Dream Horse Mystery #3, Vi must confront her past before she can face her future. A big part of her history on Long Island revolves around her friend Harry and both of them competing at horse shows. That all ended when Vi's favorite ride of all time, Wastrel, crashed and died while she was showing him. Wastrel visits her dreams now and has been making her relive scenes from that fatal day. Harry provides an opportunity to practically go back in time, to compete a new horse at the same place. Can she face the place that robbed her of her future? Or is it just what she needs to banish yesterday's ghosts?
It's funny how the mind connects the dots. How one thought leads to another and another. The fall weather here in the northern hemisphere puts me in mind of the coming winter--cozy nights by the fire and all that. And that put me in mind of Winterlight and what the farm name means in the Dream Horse Mysteries. In this scene from Wrong Lead, Dream Horse Mystery #3, Vi's mind is working on a lot of different issues and trying to connect what seem to be very disparate dots, including how she really feels about Malcolm, as well as whether she can overcome a long-held fear. The book is set in the spring time, but Vi is remembering a conversation with Malcolm from the previous January. By the end, she comes to an important decision. The scene starts with some wise words from Vi's cousin, Penny.
You know how sometimes you're in a relationship with someone and it's pretty solid but you're a little insecure about it anyway? That's the situation for Vi Parker, star of The Dream Horse Mysteries at the beginning of book 3--Wrong Lead. She's nearly completed the year's contract working for Malcolm, and she's almost sure she's in love with him and the feelings are mutual. But he hasn't asked her to stay. Where does she stand? In this scene, Vi has just finished a dirty chore. It's a farm and people get grimy and sweaty all the time. Normally, that wouldn't be an issue. But when a surprise visitor from Malcolm's past shows up, beautiful and smelling clean, the ground shifts beneath Vi's feet.
Vi's attitude just landed her out of work--again--and she can barely keep her horse in hay let alone support her need for whipped cream. Now, all that's between her and a surprise trust fund is keeping a job for one full year by the time she's 30. And a glowing letter of recommendation. But it's hard to keep a civil tongue when within minutes of arriving at her new post at a Missouri horse farm, Vi runs headlong into a bull, has to catch a runaway, and her horse kicks her kilt-clad boss, Robert Malcolm. If Malcolm doesn't make the farm a success within the year, his father will sell it to developers. The new manager is a key component in his plan, but the moment Vi and her long legs and keen gaze step into his bull's path, he knows he's in trouble. Soon, sparks fly between them. But someone else has their eye on the land, too, and they will do anything to kill his success. It's supposed to be a relaxing--boring!--year of riding "on the buckle." First, Vi's favorite red panties take a float downstream without her, and when she gets to the store to stock up on whipped cream, people are already talking about it. Soon, between the ghost horse visiting Vi's dreams and the dead bodies piling up, the question isn't whether she can keep her mouth shut long enough to earn a reference, but whether she'll live long enough to get it.
It can be hard to know where to start a book, but sometimes a character starts talking to you, and it's like taking dictation instead of writing. That was the case with Vi Parker when she told me, "The truth is, my parents are alive." That raised so many questions! I had to know more. I hope that's true for readers as well, because that's where Vi's story starts.
Vi has to learn many new skills when she starts working at Winterlight, and driving the tractor is one of them. When you own horses, you have to deal with the waste they produce. Stalls must be cleaned daily and the manure disposed of. Usually, that means taking wheelbarrows full of wet shavings or straw and manure somewhere and piling it up until it can be moved elsewhere. A healthy temperature for properly composting manure is between 90 and 140 degrees. (I did a lot of research for this book!) I've seen manure piles steaming, and they can get as hot as 160 degrees or more. In many places, compost piles are used to dispose of dead livestock and will render a body into useful humus in fairly short order. I won't say more except that these facts became an important part of this story.
I once heard an author speak at a conference who said, "Chase your characters up a tree and then throw rocks at them." I liked that advice and enjoy getting my characters in as much trouble as possible. Vi was reluctant to take this job but she needs it. Needs to keep it for a year if she's to get the trust fund her absentee parents set up for her. Her cousin Penny sent her on her way with three new rules: No drinking, No smarting off, No sleeping with the boss. Is Vi able to obey the rules, keep the job, get the trust fund? Find out in the Dream Horse Mysteries. The short prologue to the series, Cold Backed, is always free and available everywhere.
Vi Parker came to me one day all of a piece. I felt her anger, her hurt, her vulnerability. Though she presents herself with hard edges wrapped in witty sarcasm, at her core she’s just as in need of affection and reassurance as any of us. She remains optimistic and hopeful. Building out her history led to the eventual result that the Dream Horse Mysteries became much more than the comedic amateur sleuth horse stories I envisioned when I imagined what would happen if Janet Evanovich and Dick Francis had a book baby. These books are about generational conflict, learning to trust oneself, believing in the power within, and healing.
Keeping a job for one year shouldn't be this hard. Vi's sworn off whipped cream, her favorite bra is strung on a tomato plant, and ghost horse Wastrel has galloped back into her nights... Vi's kept her attitude in check--at least on the outside--and kept her job. So far, so good. The mysterious trust fund created by her absentee parents might be attainable after all. But on a hot and sticky day in August, when Vi's hunky boss, Malcolm, is out of town, her estranged parents and long-lost grandfather land on the farm's doorstep with nothing more than empty suitcases and a few scraggly tomato plants. Tempers flare and secrets emerge. Fearing Malcolm will finally lose his patience with her, Vi does her best to keep her grandfather out of the gun safe and her dog out of his precious garden all while trying to curb a lifetime of anger to endure her parents' mystifying visit. But that's the least of her problems. The eye thief is stalking them, and he'll stop at nothing to execute his long-awaited revenge. Vi can barely resist the urge to run out. Will she survive a scorching summer of tomatoes, tango, and terror? Witty, crisp dialogue and plenty of twists and turns will keep you guessing right to the end of this thrilling and emotional sequel to On the Buckle.
I'll tell you a secret. When I wrote the first Dream Horse Mystery--On the Buckle--I didn't intend for it to be a series. In my naïveté, I slapped "Book 1" on the cover and published. Readers wanted more! Eek! Oh, but that's a good thing. Right? A really good thing. But where to start? How to introduce the characters and situation to new readers without boring those who've just read the first book? I struggled. I rewrote. My critique group groaned each time I brought in yet a new version of Chapter 1. I thought I'd never get it right. And then I trusted my heroine, Vi, to tell her story and let it flow from there.
Families are complicated and often keep secrets--from each other and themselves. When Vi's parents and long-lost grandfather, Giacomo, come to stay at Winterlight, Vi begins to learn more about her history than she's sure she wants to know. Including that Giacomo has been on the run and in hiding for out of his life...
On the farm, the weather is much more than a matter of convenience...or inconvenience. It is life. Will it rain too much or too long to get the crops in? Will it rain on the newly mown hay and ruin it? Will the corn dry up and die on the stalk? I live on a farm in the midwest, so I'm familiar with this cycle and love including the weather in my stories. In this excerpt from Run Out, Dream Horse Mystery #2, it's summer in Missouri. Hot, humid, buggy. Thunderstorms can rise up out of nothing more than the shimmering heat and moist air quickly ruining the day or crops, and sometimes, bringing a break, a release. Tempers are already short, and then Vi's parents arrive at Winterlight without warning, just like an unexpected storm. The parents who gave her up, who disappeared, whom she hates. Are they harbingers of doom or just the breath of fresh air needed in the middle of a scorching summer? In this scene, the tension and mystery escalate right along with the storm.
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