A half-wild horse, a Celtic legend, and a teen trying to escape… Regina Hamilton has three months to prove to the courts she can earn a living on her own and avoid going home to her abusive mother—a tall order for a teen with only her riding skills to rely on. Desperate to prove herself, Regina lands a job at an exclusive dressage barn. But when workers start to mysteriously disappear, she becomes ensnared in a web of lies and deceit. With time running out and unsure who to trust, Regina turns to an unlikely trio: an unusual boy who trains hawks, a reclusive professor of Celtic history, and a half-wild red mare. Together they form a bond that will be tested when a long-held secret exposes a much greater threat—and Regina’s the target. To save her horses and her life Regina may have to trust her enemies and betray her friends.
Horses, Hope, Healing. That's the promise in a nutshell. My books will feature horses, they will instill hope, and there will be healing by the end. I love a happy ending, but not ones that are easily achieved OR expected. That's what my stories promise. I love a flawed main character who struggles with her outward situation as well as internal demons (which are often far worse). I want to give readers not only an adventurous ride but also at the same time something to think about long after turning the final page. Horses, for me, are so intuitive and sensitive that they are almost magical in their ability to sense what is going on in a relationship with "their human." I love to convey that magic to every reader, whether they've ever known a horse or not. For more, please visit the blog on my website called HORSES HOPE HEALING at www.lrtrovillion.com.
Have you ever been reading a book and developed a good idea of what the character(s) look like and the author goes and spoils it with a description or trait that doesn't match? I hate that. I also hate when they make books into movies and the actor looks NOTHING like how I imagined the character. I just like to keep the character consistent with the way I see him/her in my head. How about you? That's why I use minimal description of a character's physical appearance in novels so the reader can fill in the rest. That being said, I know how I see them and it helps me to write the story if I have pictures of my characters, the places they visit, the horses they ride, the trucks they drive...you get the "picture." (ha ha) So, I collect pictures illustrating my novels and pin them to boards on Pinterest. If curious, check them out via a link on my website or by name. See if they match YOUR imagination!
In this March Madness basketball season when people pick their dream team final four, we were challenged to pick our author "Final Four"--meaning the writers who meant the most to us. It is really impossible to boil it down to only four, but I decided to pick four who had an influence on me as a writer. Here's my list: Neil Gaiman. I love that guy! Anyone who can create a heartwarming and believable story about a child raised in a graveyard by ghosts is a genius; Alice Hoffman--I've always loved her magical realism, love of nature, and lyrical prose; Anne Tyler for the consistent body of work that is breathtakingly honest, real, and holds a magnifying glass up to examine the minutia of real life; lastly Carolyn Keene (yes, the Nancy Drew author) because she was the one who got me to fall in love with books when I was struggling so much with reading as a kid.
Novels don't have to start with a chase scene, discovery of a dead body, or ticking time bomb to hook a reader, but authors do have to put their main character into a situation that ramps up the conflict. Horse Gods starts with this hook: how Regina can avoid having to live with her abusive mother when she is released from prison in a mere three months. Once I set the hook in a novel, I like to amp up the conflict by having my main character, in an attempt to solve her problems, get in deeper. I have her make terrible decisions at every turn, act impulsively without thought, and generally get herself in more trouble instead of out of it! Readers will hopefully keep turning pages to find out how Regina's going to get out of THIS mess, just as she stumbles into a more dangerous one.
My grandparents immigrated to the US from Ireland and although I did not know them well, I think I inherited some of the Irish storytelling DNA. My love of myth and legend was given full rein in Horse Gods. I even imagined the professor in the story to be a type of Joseph Campbell, expert in comparative mythology. Of course horses play a huge role in myths, especially those of the Celtic people. They gave us the Fiolair, a magic horse that protects its true owner and the Kelpie--horses that lured people to their death in the sea. In Horse Gods I often took the bare bones of some legends and embellished them or even made up some of my own! But each one was created with a dash of magic and a connection to the "real life" story. Horse Gods with special pre-order prices available now. Grab a copy and enjoy some Irish magic!
Most main characters in my novels are female. Why? Maybe because I am. It gives me an edge into knowing and portraying them more realistically. But is that a good thing? In honor of International Women's Day, I've been thinking about female characters in novels. How are they portrayed? What kinds of women do we like to read about? Do we want them to be familiar and recognizable? Do we want them to be the super heroes we dream about? Or, do we want them deliciously wicked or outrageously daring? Maybe all of the above. No matter the "type" of female character, they have to have more than one dimension and that's what makes creating them fun! The three women in the opening of Horse Gods may at first strike you as hopelessly weak or totally wicked, but wait. They're going to change! What were some of your most memorable female characters?
I'm excited to return to the horse show world of Cory Iverson and her friend and fellow-competitor, Regina Hamilton. In this next book, the focus shifts to Regina. It's been a little over a year when Regina learns her mother, imprisoned for her crimes committed in the first book (no spoilers), is getting out. Regina must find a way to earn a living to escape her abusive mother. With the help of a friend, she lands a job at a prestigous dressage barn but what at first seems like a golden opportunity, soon turns into a dangerous trap. By writing this story, I thought a lot about the nature of trust. What do you do when those who are supposed to protect you let you down, or worse, turn against you?
Cory Iverson's junior year is off to a lousy start. Publicly humiliated by the school's hottest guy and terrorized by a bullying band director, Cory flees sports try-outs and just about everything else she begins, earning a reputation as a loser as well as a quitter. But when her wandering dog leads her to the barn of a former Grand Prix rider, she finds a welcome refuge in the familiar world of horses. It's not too long before she starts dreaming of showing in one of the country's most prestigious shows--a totally unrealistic hope--until she rescues a mysterious horse with some unusual talents. But her road to success is littered with roadblocks as events spin out of control: prescription painkillers appear in her mother's purse; her ballerina sister wastes away before her eyes; her boyfriend is keeping secrets; and her normally opinionated trainer becomes strangely evasive. Worst of all, the horse show world is not what she imagined. It isn't long before Cory's winning spree attracts the attention of a brutal trainer with a string of unexplained horse deaths in her wake. When Cory lands in the crosshairs, she has to decide if she'll once again back down and flee or stand up for herself, her horse, and her dreams.
Everyone loves a winner, especially one who is an underdog or who has overcome incredible odds. It seems the deeper the fall into failure, the more spectacular the win. In FALSE GODS, the once heralded Grand Prix rider and trainer is disgraced. People whisper behind her back that she's lost her nerve--disaster for a show jumper. But is it true, or something much more destructive and sinister? You've got to read it to find out! I recently experienced my own horse show comeback of sorts. After a nearly 12-year absence from the show ring, I competed in a local schooling show. Sure, it was not Grand Prix, it was not the "big time," there was nothing at stake but my pride...but it took some nerve to do it. Although I didn't "win," I sure felt like I did. Do you have a comeback story to share?
I found a stack of my old report cards from elementary school. They are not a testament to academic promise, let me tell you. Each teacher, year after year, complained that I daydreamed in class and did not pay attention. And they were right. I was bored (Dick and Jane, really? How come the boy gets to do all the fun stuff?) By the end of 6th grade I had become a master at mentally escaping any situation into the made up stories running through my head. When I got older, I also escaped into other people's stories--in books. How great it was to be able to spend a whole day reading on the back porch. Somehow, the two streams of my imagination and the creativity of other writers crossed paths and I started writing stories--all kinds, from fan fiction to mysteries to fictionalized biographies. These days, usually a story starts with a character who shows up in my imagination and invades my life. When she moves in to stay, I know I have to write her story. And eventually, she tells me what it is.
We have a lot of fun sometimes in our writing critique group. You must have a sense of humor in order to offer your story up for pot-shots, criticism, and yes, laughter. But it is all in the right spirit--to help each other. Sometimes we burst into laughter when reading a single line of dialog or an exchange between characters. Somehow when writing it, the words rang true, but when you read it out loud...ugh! We have all called each other to task for clunky, formal speech, for words a professor would use in a teenager's mouth, or a line dripping with feminine hallmarks spoken by a strapping male hero. "That's not man-speak!" we hoot. And when the author reads it out loud herself, she starts laughing, too.
I first heard of International Women's Day (IWD) decades ago when I was studying Russian in school. Around 1917, the Soviets commemorated this holiday in conjunction with women's suffrage. Today, many countries around the globe recognize IWD on March 8th. So how do we observe Women's Day? Is it an opportunity to examine equality issues or a chance to honor exceptional women in history? Perhaps both. But in addition, I think it should also be a call for women to help lift up other women, even in simplest ways. Read a female author and write a review for her. Mentor a young woman interested in your career field. Call a friend who is struggling and give her your time. Stop competing and empower each other instead. Happy IWD2019!
Why was Cory so alienated from her friends? Why was she so afraid to try, to compete? Why did she shun everything to do with horses until...well, I won't spoil the moment when that changes. If you've read False Gods and want to know more about Cory before she moved to Maryland, you absolutely have to read The Dream Horse and find out. If you haven't read False Gods, it's a great place to introduce you to the characters. The Dream Horse tells you what happened to crush Cory's dreams and shake her faith, but False Gods tells you how those dreams were restored in a way she could never have imagined. Just like life.
“Worse than the total agony of being in love?” Remember that line from Sam, the little boy in Love Actually? Do you remember your high school crush? Hanging around by his locker, hoping to get a mere glimpse, maybe exchange a few words? For me, romance felt so painful then, mostly because I was unsure of myself as well as clueless. In this scene, our heroine Cory has been plotting to run into crazy Kevyn who is so totally different, so self-assured, he's rocked her world. She's plotted and planned and dressed up for him...only to be met with disappointment. In these last few weeks of the Month of Love, take time to look back at those thrilling, painful, exhilarating, cringe-worthy, and euphoric memories of first loves. Do you recall any "I can't believe I acted like that!" memories?
Have you ever procrastinated over something you wanted to do because you were afraid or filled with self-doubt? Fear is the enemy of creativity, so is it any wonder writers often quit? How do you push through doubt, fear, and negative thoughts? When I feel an attack coming on, I go to my readers for help. I can't tell you the number of times it happened that just when I felt like giving up someone out of the blue tells me how much they enjoyed my book. Or, a marvelous review pops up on my book page. Or other miracles that provide hope, validation, and assurance I'm providing a service: entertaining stories with a message. So to anyone who has written a review, thanks! And to those who haven't, please consider it. Reviews-good or not so good-help authors hone their craft and buoy them up for the next project. What dispels your self-doubt?
When I set out for the barn this morn it was minus one degree. I dressed in layers, scarf wrapped around my face, no exposed skin, and extra coats and gloves on hand. I was in for five or more hours outdoors caring for horses. In the cold, this means battling frozen hoses, heavy filthy blankets to put on or remove, poop frozen to the stall mats, pushing an overflowing wheelbarrow up hill through the snow--both directions. Today I was already tired when I saw a horse had pooped in her heated water bucket, making it into Poo Stew. It all had to dumped and scoured out. Slipping on ice, the wind razoring my cheeks, I headed back inside. On the way, I passed my mare. When she recognized me, a deep throated nicker echoed through the cold and warmed my heart, stopping my feet in their tracks. The reward. That's why we do anything hard--riding or writing or whatever your passion. For the love of it and for the "nicker rewards" -- like when someone writes a nice review of my book. Suddenly the memory of all the hard work melts away.
Like you, I enjoy comfort. Being a horse person, my comforts come less often but are appreciated all the more. When I arrive at the barn on an 8 degree morn, I love the red of the sunrise over the horizon. I enjoy seeing the fuzzy, orange tabby who runs to greet me. I love the nicker of horses when I open the barn door and smell the sweet hay. Despite the freezing cold of winter, the wind that razors the skin off my face, the frozen water buckets, and the struggle of winter, I can find comfort in small things. When I get home after a hard day of physical labor, a strong cup of tea and fleece slippers are comfort. The best comfort of all, however, is the escape into a truly wonderful book that brings me to new places, big adventures, with fascinating characters.
There are so many terrific writers of equestrian fiction out there, especially for YA, so what makes my books different? Sure, there's a girl and a horse and a big problem to overcome... but what makes False Gods, and the soon-to-be-released sequel Horse Gods, different is that although the main character thinks her problems are all "out there," in reality they are within her--and the horse acts as the vehicle to brings about the necessary change. Sometimes that change feels spiritual, sometimes the story tips slightly into magical realism. It's probably no accident the horse in the first book is named Epiphany as Cory overcomes self-doubt and learns to value herself. Stay tuned for book two when a special horse tackles the problem of trust!
January 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. If you think this is a problem only in big cities or near the border or in Third World countries, you are mistaken. Exploitation of vulnerable people, especially underage girls and immigrants for sexual trafficking, happens even in "nice neighborhoods." That is why it is critical to know the signs and take action. I've taken awareness training on this terrible issue at various venues and am still horrified by the scope of the problem--over 20 million victims worldwide. My next book in the series, Horse Gods, touches on the problem of girls being recruited for sex trafficking and how easy it is for a young, desperate girl to fall into and become trapped that dark web. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) is a national assistance center with a hotline and resources to help. Please don't turn a blind eye to slavery and trafficking--Break the Silence.
In this excerpt, Cory successfully navigates her mare over the highest jump she has ever attempted. Feeling a sense of accomplishment is wonderful! It is so important, in fact, that we should take time to look back over the year and note all our triumphs. As a writer, this is especially important, because we tend to focus on what we have NOT done. So, here it goes: In 2018 I signed with Bublish to distribute and promote my book, I consulted with them for improved branding and a new cover to improve marketability, my sales improved, some local libraries purchased it for their collection, my website was totally revamped (visit it at www.lrtrovillion.com) and I finished the next book in the series, Horse Gods, with a gorgeous cover, and it is edited and close to its March launch date. Phew! There's so much more I need to do, but looking back, I accomplished a lot. Thanks readers for your support.
Christmas has such power to rip you out of the present and fling you back to childhood. I vividly remember Christmases in New England when I was very young. We kids were allowed to change the color of the candles in the window each night, taking turns. When it was my turn, I picked all different garish colored bulbs for each one. My poor parents! The manger scene, which took up the entire top of the upright piano, was a battle ground between me and my sister. We fought like tigers over the placement of the figures because I insisted the Wise Men had to be far away since they didn't arrive until later. I can still envision the watery glow of the outdoor lights at night, burning through a layer of snow, and the cold glass window that sent drafts through the house. The smell of bayberry brings me back home in an instant. Food, sights, sounds, traditions. What are your earliest memories?
People who don't own horses--or perhaps have never even sat on one--still recognize the magic and majesty of this special animal. Today, on National Day of the Horse, think about all the ways the horse has contributed throughout history: in work, war, transportation, and sport. For more details, check out Oxford academic Barry Cunliffe's YouTube insights into the horse as a catalyst in human civilization. In WWI alone, over 5M horses and other equines died in service to man. Today, the horse continues to be used in more than just sport. Horses are key contributors in health and therapy organizations, police work, ranching, search and rescue, and more. Think of the powerful image of the Budweiser Clydesdale team and it's no wonder it became one of the most iconic brand symbols in the world. I know I have readers who have never ridden a horse, yet still enjoy a great horse story. Thank you, all horses, for everything you give.
Where do characters come from? The realistic ones are likely shades of people we know or met. The really realistic ones are some aspect of the author. Really, writers may deny this, but it's true. Cory in False Gods, in the words of her sister, is even "worse than a quitter" because she never really tries. If she can't be good at something, she won't take it on. At some point it sunk in that Cory is me. I've shied away from anything I don't think I'll master or be good at. Why? Insecurity, perfectionism...you name it. Everything except riding. Like Cory, my love of horses pushed me through all the self-doubt, the fears, the frustrations, and kept me going, pursuing a nearly unattainable goal of being a competent horsewoman. For the love of horses. In the end, Cory's love is what saves her. Find out how--grab a copy of False Gods for an inspirational holiday story.
Cory is a rider. She thinks her sister's obsession with ballet is dumb. Her sister thinks riding involves too much cold, dirt, and "being outdoors." These two could not be any more different. But are they? When I began my working life, I shared an apartment with a gal who studied ballet, choreographed, and lived and breathed for dance. I lived at a barn. We were so different--she was from out west, I was from New England; she was conservative on issues where I leaned liberal. But, like the characters Jess and Cory, we came to see the strengths in each other's passions and discovered that we had more in common than we thought--even when it came to dance and riding. My friend's devotion to dance inspired me to create the character Jess and to try to capture the magic of ballet in False Gods.
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Leo Tolstoy made this astute observation. I love to create family drama in all its unique permutations in my novels, but in my own family this Thanksgiving I am enormously happy and grateful. My daughter and her boyfriend arrived late last night (straight from Med School clinical rotations) and got up early this morn to run our traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Trot despite the bitter cold. I'm thankful I came home to find my husband had dinner well under control and then some. I spent the down time before guests arrive to clean the barn and prepare treats for the horses and dogs (and write this book bubble!). My heart is full of gratitude. I hope you're having a wonderful holiday, too.
This is the time of year when more reading is undertaken during the long, dark nights and more books are sold leading up to the holidays. What kind of books do you look for? I want to fall in love with the characters so much so that I hate to see the story end. I love twisty-turns in the plot that keep me off balance. And my secret pleasure is a good Cinderella story--think Rocky, think Seabiscuit, think The Pursuit of Happiness. To be a good one, however, the main character has to overcome impossible odds and maintain his/her integrity throughout. There can't be any cheap deus ex machina bail out at the end, either. I look for these stories and love reading them. I also love writing them. What are your favorites? Happy Reading Season!
...like me? Some people are inspired by music, but I get creative by looking at images. I'm a visual learner and I "see" everything in my mind. That's how I survived my college classes, particularly having to learn all the complex grammar rules in Russian, my major. I could "see" the textbook page when I went in to take the test. When writing a scene (if I'm really into it) I see a movie rolling past my eyes and take it down like dictation. Pictures help. I have spent hours falling down the Pinterest rabbit hole, devouring images that illustrate characters, setting, moods. I create boards for each of my books so I can collect ideas, get in the mood, "see" what is going on in the story. Please visit my Pinterest boards to see pictures of Cory, Jess in the Nutcracker, the horses, the Washington International Horse show, the ruins of the Enchanted Forest and more. What's your Pinterest addiction?
On the first day of NANOWRIMO, National Novel Writing Month, I'm thinking about how I became a writer. When did it happen? When I sold my first book? When I got published? When I finished a manuscript? I think it happened when I put pencil to paper in elementary school and plotted out my first story. You're a writer if you write. Period. When people discover I've written a book, they often share how they intend to write one just as soon as they retire, or the kids are older, or when they get a special room set up...insert other excuses here. I doubt they will, because they don't know the secret magic word for becoming a writer: BICHOK. It stands for "Butt in chair, hands on keyboard." You have to write to become a writer and with enough practice, maybe even a good writer! So sign up for NANO, practice BICHOK, your story is calling! BTW, my first "novel" was called The Clue in the Haunted Bridge. Awful, right? I might even still have the notebook somewhere...
Halloween is associated with fear, but what really turns fear into an uncontrollable monster? Your own thoughts. Cory fell jumping a fence and now is afraid it will happen again. Her mind goes over and over the scenario, building up fear and almost guaranteeing she will crash. What you fear, or more precisely, what triggers your fear, causes your mind to turn it into reality--what we horse people call "riding for a fall." But how to stop the cycle? Equestrians are told to "get back on the horse that threw you" right away before the mind gets ahold of paralyzing fear. Not always possible. But some triggers are so insidious and hidden, you don't even know what's causing the fear. I'm so afraid of closed in places that I can not even watch someone in such a situation in a movie or on t.v. Recently I recalled an episode from my childhood that explained a lot. When I was very young, a friend locked me in the trunk of her family's car and ran away. She likely left for about ten minutes, but to me it was hours alone, trapped, in the dark. Fear triggers. What are yours and how do you vanquish the monsters? Happy Halloween!
False Gods is all about having a dream. Coaches, motivational speakers, and parents all encourage us to pursue your dreams. But no one talks about the dark side to desires and dreams. What if, in pursuit of your dream, you take a destructive path toward attaining it? The characters in False Gods have both humble and lofty dreams, but obsession, drive, and the fear of failure perverts their idyllic goals: Jess wants to become a pro ballerina but jeopardizes her health to achieve "the look"; Cory's mom wants to love and be loved so desperately she hooks up with an abusive and dangerous man; Cory's horse trainer sought Grand Prix fame to the extent that she ruined a horse and destroyed her career. By all means strive for your dreams but temper them with acceptance of where you are now, enjoy the process as you reach for the goal, and don't hurt yourself or anyone else along the way.
The opening of this scene suggests some bad weather is going to roll in soon. So are some really bad people and events. In my stories, weather often mimics or predicts the mood and action. As a horse owner, I'm particularly aware of the weather forecast, but I recall once when I was caught totally off guard. A friend and I were out trail riding on a winter day when suddenly a violent snow storm blew in. The sky turned dark and the snow fell so hard we couldn't see more than a foot ahead of us. In an open field, we experienced total white-out and didn't know which way to go in order to get home. At that point, my friend said, "Drop the reins. Let the horses show us the way home." It took a leap of faith, but that's what we did. Frozen, snow covered, and essentially blinded, we were helpless but the horses found their way back to the barn.
Writing for Young Adults, you walk a fine line between realism and discretion on the amount of detail included in scenes depicting sex or violence. As a reader, I have never enjoyed explicit scenes detailing either, but rather prefer well timed hints that leave it up to the reader to imagine what is going on. In romantic scenes, less is often more. Take for example the removal of Michelle Pfeiffer's glove in "The Age of Innocence." Sensuality implied in a simple gesture. I hope I have hit a balance in portraying the teen romance between Cory and her boyfriend, Kevyn, but suggesting emotions and leaving it up to the reader to fill in the blanks.
Scent triggers memories. This has been a known fact for some time. Some scents stir up powerful, long forgotten memories the brain has kept hidden. For example, while cleaning up after a home improvement project, I opened a can of turpentine and immediately saw an image of my mother when she was young woman. The smell brought me back to early childhood, watching her oil painting, enveloped in the smell of linseed oil, paint, and mineral spirits. It is a vague memory, but conjures up a sense of contentment. In my writing, I refer to scent, odor, smells both good and bad because they are such strong triggers to memory and therefore emotions. What are some of your favorites?
In this scene, Cory learns the horrific fate of many horses sold at auction--a terrifying ride across the border to slaughter. Like any reasonable person, she questions how this happens. Doesn't anyone want these horses? Can they be saved? Indeed, there are good horses that "fall through the cracks" and land in this terrible place. I wrote this scene to shine a light on the precarious fate of all horses and to give hope to those willing to take on a rescue horse. Please support organizations that help transition ex-racehorses to new homes, such as the Retired Racehorse Project. We are a nation built on the backs of horses. We owe each one a safe home or a dignified end to life.
Back to school, new clothes, a fresh start--that's how I viewed Labor Day each year. New Year was in September, not January. It was a time for making resolutions, riding on the tide of optimism. In New England where I grew up, the school year never started until after Labor Day when the weather was cooling and the evenings grew shorter. It was clearly the end of summer, the end of flip-flops and cook-outs and swimming in the ocean. Back to school traditions vary depending on where you grew up. What are some of your autumn memories? What traditions were associated with the beginning of the school year? I'd love to hear some!
In this scene, at night Cory flees an assault by running to the safety of the barn. A group of feral barn cats appear and comfort her. I have always loved cats (and horses and dogs) and find each one unique. There is nothing more soothing than a purring cat on your lap. Just two weeks ago while I was away, my cat slipped out and disappeared. I've done everything to find her, but no luck. The worst part is not knowing what happened to her. Hoping to adopt another cat in need, I visited a rescue and picked out a Siamese mix that looked a lot like the one in this story, but the adoption coordinator treated me like I was a bad pet owner because my cat escaped (even though I wasn't even home!) I'm missing having a cat, but figure the right one will come along at the right time and find me.
It's exciting to type "The End" after the last words of your novel. But is it really the end? Series are more popular than ever these days and I think it is because readers fall in love with characters, become comfortable with a familiar setting, and just plain old want to know what happens next. I didn't write FALSE GODS with a series in mind originally, but now I find myself putting the finishing edits on the sequel, HORSE GODS. Readers asked for more. They wanted to know what happened to Cory, Vee, and especially their horses! So I'm creating an even more exciting story. The sequel is a surprise and very different from the first book. How? You'll find out on March 17th when HORSE GODS make its debut!
Everyone who loves horses will tell you that they are magic. Indeed, horses seem nearly psychic at times, appearing to read our feelings, energy levels, intensions, and hurts. If you have a good relationship with a horse, that animal becomes an emotional mirror. In this scene, I portrayed a bit of that relationship in a description about a very intuitive mare--a horse so sensitive to the needs of those around her, she appears to heal them by her very presence. It is true horses are healers--indeed, they have proved this in various therapeutic programs from physical therapy to dealing with PTSD, psychological or socialization issues. I am so impressed with the healing power of horses that I wanted to capture a bit of that magic in False Gods.
What do you want to be when you grow up? Every kid has heard this question. By senior year in high school, it's no joke. Kids are making college, job training, and life decisions at a young age. In this scene, the mom is pushing Kevyn to attend Harvard, her vision for his life. Not his. Cory, still a junior, struggles with the concept that she has control over the direction of her life. Do you have a calling? Have you ever felt destined to follow a certain path in life? Anyone who has a child knows they are not born as tabula rasa, but rather are hard-wired in certain directions, talents, interests. Some hear their calling early, others are still searching well into their later years in life. It's okay. Keep listening.
We hear a lot about writer’s block, but what’s the problem? Writers pray for sessions when they sit down at the keyboard and the words flow like dictation from the talented writer gods. Musicians, scientists, athletes all seek this almost 'outside the body’ experience of effortless creative power or being in the zone. So if we can plug into this secret energy source, why don’t we? I think it is because the power, the muse, or whatever you want to call it, requires that you trust it first. Trust it to show up. Trust it not to lead you astray. For the blocked writer, it’s hard to believe that if you just show up and do the work, it will be okay. Usually better than okay. Often the muse comes for a visit, likes that you’re willing to listen, and whispers creative inspirations in your ear. But trusting is hard. It’s much easier to clean the refrigerator or alphabetize the spice rack than face the blank screen or edit the lousy first draft. It is hard to believe that if you just put your fingers on the keyboard, something magical can happen. Trust demands you let go and let it take over. It gets easier, so they say.
My main character knows French well enough to read Candide in the original. Good for her! Foreign language teaching is not emphasized enough, early enough, in schools. Foreign languages have played a large part in my life. I started French in the 3rd grade, switched to Russian in the 9th grade, and ended up majoring in Russian in college and minored in Italian. Later in life, I had an opportunity to learn Persian! I believe foreign language study changes the way we think, how we view the world, and I'm not the only one. Check out NPR's Hidden Brain podcast "Lost in Translation" to learn more about how foreign language learning stretches us to think about concepts like time, agency, and gender in new ways. It also improves cognitive function, boosts brain power, and is fun!
People have asked me if things in the book are real. By that, they mean, did any of the events really happen? Yes and no. I based a lot on similar experiences, but in the case of this excerpt--the birth of twin foals--a good deal of the details are exactly how it happened. I had a beautiful Hanoverian mare that I bred and after many trials, finally she was in foal. Sadly, one winter day she pounded on the barn door to be let in. She was dark with sweat, so I knew something was terribly wrong. The vet was an hour away and he would not have been able to stop the birth anyway. The mare delivered two premature foals, stillborn. I loved the mare, so her grieving broke my heart. I never bred her again.
Remember at the start of each new school year when you vowed "this year will be different!" Cory's junior year in a new school starts out with public humiliation, bullying from the band leader, and discouraging cross-country try-outs. Her year did not start out as expected, but how differently the story ends as Cory learns who she is and what really matters in her life. Beginnings do not necessarily dictate endings in life. There's always the opportunity for a fresh start.
Is it sadness or depression? Family members, like in this scene between a mother and daughter, often don't recognize or accept the signs of depression. It is stigmatized, pushed under the rug, and explained away by others. Until something happens. Depression can't be cured by telling someone to be thankful for what they have or to advise them to get tough and shake it off. Also, depression often spikes during holidays, like in this scene at Christmastime, putting additional stress on family ties. The mother in this scene has suffered a major life change, divorce, but there are clues that she has suffered from depression long before this event: giving up on her artwork that she loved, ignoring her daughter, abuse of drugs or alcohol. Depression has touched my life in destructive ways so I write about it in order to bring the problem into the light. Have you known anyone who suffered from depression? How did you help?
What's a calling, and do you have one? Many people, when they hear the word 'calling' think of a call to religious service, but calling is much larger than that and can encompass all manner of pursuits in life. Your calling is linked to your desires, so it is important to discern what they are and to evaluate them closely. Thus, in this scene, a teacher imparts a valuable message to Cory which she later acts upon. People may say they don't have a calling. That is sad, but what is much worse is to have one and ignore it. Psychologists have proven that people who never felt they had a calling were better off as far as health and satisfaction than those who did feel as if the profession of their desires was out there but they did not go after it. Health and wellness writer Colleen M. Story advises both writers and others that it is imperative to answer the call: "Leaving a calling unanswered is like ignoring a rock in your shoe. You're feeling that rock now. Embrace that feeling. Let it hurt. Let it remind you that this is important." My calling is to write stories. What's yours? Don't ignore it!
Are band geeks sexy now? Remember when the smart kid, the computer nerd, or yes, the band geek took a back seat to the team quarterback or handsome class president as the romantic hero in books? Not any more! Heroes in Young Adult fiction have refreshingly transformed into all sorts of leading young men and women. Think of the struggling young cancer patients in "The Fault in Our Stars" or the painfully shy heroine who lives through her fan fiction in Rainbow Rowell's "Fangirl." I love these characters and hope to add to the pantheon of Young Adult fiction's unexpected and much more interesting love interests.
Advice to writers is always "write what you know" but this can be too limiting. This scene describes a jump off at a high level show jumping competition. Have I ever competed at that level? Heck, no! So what business do I have writing this scene? Instead, I tapped into my more modest experiences jumping horses and applied all the fear, exhilaration, indecision, physical strain, and hopeful prayers one experiences when you partner with an equine athlete which has a mind of its own. Then I amped up the adrenaline for the main character's experience jumping with a whole lot more at stake. I think the advice to writers should be changed from "what you know" to "what you've felt" instead. In the end, all stories are driven by the emotions they generate.
Jess, a driven teenager with the goal of becoming a professional ballet dancer, is on the threshold of developing an eating disorder, bulimia. She tells herself that she must look a certain way in order to be competitive in the dance world, and that is certainly true (due primarily to Balanchine's legacy). Jess, however, may be tipping over the brink from "maintaining weight" to a full blown disorder, due in part to other personal issues. I became concerned about the problem of eating disorders when I heard tales from a young dancer about her peers who had started doing unspeakable damage to their young bodies in the name of achieving a sylphlike appearance. Dancers, along with models, jockeys, and other performers, are particularly vulnerable and fall victim to eating disorders with disastrous long-term effects. Treatment, likewise, must be long-term with a lot of support. I wanted to shine a spotlight on this problem in the hope that the medical community would find effective treatment and preventative measures. In the meantime, let's stop making thin, thinner, thinnest the ideal body image.
Every writer knows you must grab the reader's interest in the first few pages. Since not all stories can open with a death-defying chase scene, how does the writer instead take the reader gently by the hand, whispering "Come with me. I have a story you'll like." She has to put these words in the mouth of her main character. Come. Journey through my life for a while, experience my pain and challenges, care about me, and share my triumph. Such is the opening chapter of Cory's story. She has ditched cross country try-outs for fear of failing and now she finds herself talking with the school's hottest guy. But once again instead of standing up for herself she becomes the a target for a humiliating stunt. The reader will want to know: Does she change? How? Will she gain self-confidence? Will she get back at that jerk, David? Come along with Cory and find out!
Bullying in school has escalated to epidemic proportions with the introduction of social media. But what if the biggest school bully is one of the teachers? In this scene, the band director, nicknamed The Hawk, has been terrorizing students all year. He intimidates and picks on the timid and the talentless ones especially and no one has had the courage to stand up to him. He presides over the band room like a Roman emperor in the arena, until one day he goes too far. When Cory stands up to challenge him for pushing a student, all eyes turn to see what will happen. She doesn't know what will happen. Will anyone back her up? Will she become The Hawk's new target for persecution? Will she be thrown out of band, or worse yet...? I wrote this scene to show Cory finally standing up against her fears and to illustrate that bullying, no matter who is doing it, should be confronted and stopped. Read on to find out what happens!
Ever felt like a quitter? Does the fear of not being good enough paralyze you into not even trying? Cory has struggled with perfectionism and fear of failure to such an extent that she now runs away from every challenge--even the things she really wants to do or become. Her deepest desires are squashed by fear and she justifies this fear by pointing out examples of the hurts experienced by people around her. In a essay she is forced to write entitled "Desire," Cory expresses her secret fear that if she wants something too much and doesn't get it, the desire will destroy her. Life and circumstances have caused her to lose confidence, trust, and hope. To quote the great writer Anne Lamott, "Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor; the enemy of the people. It will keep you insane your whole life." Have you ever let your need for perfection or fear of failure keep you from your dreams?
In this scene, the main character, Cory, is at her first big-time horse show and she's nervous. She allows the expensive horses, big name trainers, and glittering atmosphere to intimidate her. It isn't long before she starts comparing herself to everyone she sees. Suddenly she notices the rust on their horse trailer she never saw before; the fact that her show coat might be out of style worries her; and worst of all she feels ashamed of her beloved horse, Epiphany, because she was bought from an auction. Cory's imagination runs away with her, convincing her that everyone is laughing at and looking down on them. As a result, she loses confidence in herself and her horse--and that leads to trouble. Have you ever fallen into the comparison trap? What did you do to climb out?
People have asked me why I named a YA novel False Gods. The title may be confusing so I hope this excerpt helps to explain. It is an exchange between a school counselor and the teenaged main character, Cory, on the topic of desire or achieving happiness. How many of you remember the painful teenaged years when you suspected everyone else had their life figured out but you? It seemed that if you could just be more talented, more intelligent, more outgoing, more like someone else, someone you were not, then you'd be happy. Then everything would be great! But those desires, those dreams are just false gods, because once one is achieved, you need a bigger or better one. Cory, in danger of losing her sense of self, does avoid the pitfalls of envy and false promises in a very surprising and unique way. But you'll have to read False Gods to learn how she finds out what's really, truly important to her. Hint: it involves horses.
In this scene, Cory's sister announces that she is giving up her passion--dance. Cory, who is a chronic quitter, attempts to talk her out of it, but instead is stung by her sister's harsh words: "Doing nothing is the same as quitting. Maybe worse." Have you wanted to do something but didn't out of fear? Fear of failure, fear of not being good at it, fear it's a mistake, or fear of looking stupid in front of others? These fears can cripple us into a life of dull safety, passionless existence, or lifelong regret. Cory starts out in the novel abandoning try-outs for band and a cross-country team only because she is afraid she won't make the cut--without even trying! Only her passion for riding keeps her from running away from that dream as well. We are meant to enjoy our lives. The Bible tells us "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power and of love and of calm..." We will always have fear, indecision, insecurity. What's the solution in order to live a full life? Don't cheat yourself. Do it, even if you have to do it afraid.
In this excerpt, a woman faces the heartbreak of losing the foal her beloved mare is carrying as well as her dream for that promising little horse's future. Much of our lives are built on dreams, imagined futures, and longing for something great. When it is suddenly and brutally swept away from us, it is a shock. But that shock forces us to look more closely at our dreams and evaluate what we already have with fresh eyes-- with vision tinged with gratitude. I've been in this woman's place and watched a beloved mare give birth to premature and still born twins. I had high hopes for what this amazing mare could produce for me, but in the end, gave up the dream because the mare's health meant more to me. It is likely we have all lost a beloved pet, given up on a cherished dream, or had disappointment dog our path. How do you keep on, look forward to the future, and dream again?
Winter is my enemy, I've decided. It's out to get me. If you hate the cold like I do, you're in good company. Seasons and the weather often act almost as characters in my stories because they are such a big part of my life as a horse owner. In the winter, we battle frozen water buckets, heavy, dirty horse blankets, having to remove gloves to work buckles and clasps... In the spring, it's mud, in the summer, flies. You get the idea. But Winter! It wins the prize. The other day I tossed a water bucket onto the ground to break the ice out. It flipped, then crashed to the ground, spraying chunks of ice and frigid water all over the front of my jacket, down my pants, into my boots. But I had to finish the chores in the 5 degree temps. When I went in the house, I couldn't get out of my coat--the zipper was frozen! Like I said, Winter is my enemy.
Cory encounters her mother the day after she narrowly escapes sexual assault at the hands of her mother's drunk boyfriend. Cory, searching for compassion and protection, is only met with disbelief, scoffing, and dismissal. How many women or teen girls have gone to their most trusted family members, teachers, coaches or clergy with their stories only to be told they were imagining it, they were making too big a deal out of it, or, worst of all, they were to blame. This excerpt captures one teen's stark realization that she cannot even rely on her own mother, another woman, to combat sexual harassment.
FALSE GODS, first in the Maryland Rider Series, is free today (4 December) only. Pick up a copy for the holidays and get a ring-side seat to the gritty world of show jumping. Can three underdogs--a washed-up trainer, a rescued horse, and a loser teen--take on the Grand Prix circuit? It isn't long before their winning spree attracts the attention of a competition who will stop at nothing to win. Will Cory give up her dream to save her horse? The next book in the series--The Horse Gods--is due out in 2018.
Cory was always jealous of her perfect ballerina sister, Jess, and thought ballet was stupid. Until tonight. The fantasy of the ballet along with the hope and love of Christmas finally work their magic on Cory. I received a lot of help and inspiration for the ballet scenes in False Gods from my long time friend who is a dancer/choreographer and her daughter, a pro at a company performing at the Kennedy Center this month!
I'm sure we've all felt them at one time or another but it seems there's nothing like the holidays to bring out family strife and festering past hurts. In this scene, when "the knives come out" it is not just for carving the turkey! Sibling rivalry is nothing new, as the teen heroine, Cory, discovers while observing her mother and aunt in a verbal battle. It is then, however, that Cory comes to the realization that her mother's constant criticism of her may have come from of lifetime of unhappiness and feeling she was not measuring up. Have you ever had a tense Thanksgiving with family?
Working Title: The Dream Horse
This Book Is In Development
Sometimes promises hurt more than lies. Cory Iverson has worked hard all year, and this morning she's finally going to get her dream horse. In less than 24 hours, however, everything reliable in her life comes crashing down, destroying her dreams and leaving her resentful of promises. That is, until a special messenger assures her that her true Dream Horse is waiting...
Have you ever had so many bad things pile on your life you can't help throwing up your hands and asking, "Why me?" You hear that good things can come out of bad situations, but it's nearly impossible to believe it when you're up to your eyeballs in misery, trouble, or heartbreak. The spirit of hope is a theme in the prequel The Dream Horse and I want readers to come away believing that miracles can happen-- but they might not appear according to your time frame. I've never found a satisfactory answer to that impossible question of why bad things happen to good people, but I like to think things can change, things can improve, situations get resolved, trouble passes, and heartbreak fades. If you keep hope alive.
I'm having fun writing this novella about Cory Iverson's life before she appears in the novel FALSE GODS. This story goes back to when she lived in Massachusetts and rode at a barn there. So, the question is, what happened to turn her into a quitter, what was it that made her afraid to even try? Why did she give up riding? And most importantly, what was that little ember of hope that kept her belief in a dream horse alive? Read the backstory and find out! Those of you who read False Gods will certainly have a few "ah-ha" moments, and readers who haven't, I hope will read The Dream Horse and carry on with the series! Let me know what you think-- prequels thumbs up or down?
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