I’ve just heard today that my new publisher, i5, has sent THE ORIGINAL HORSE BIBLE to the printer. It will be available in June. Until then, enjoy the book trailer produced by the amazing Striking Media.
29 Apr 2013 9 Comments
14 Feb 2013 Leave a Comment
One of the fascinating things about writing historical novels is researching the various rituals of romance in your chosen period. Edwardian-era England is my favorite time, namely because it was a time of great societal change. Love and courtship, however, remained steeped in tradition. How and whom you married depended hugely on one factor: class.
For those “upstairs,” marriage was more about keeping blood within the aristocracy pure; for the newly wealthy industrialist, a good match gave social climbing parvenus standing within Society.
07 Feb 2013 Leave a Comment
When I thought about historical bad girls, the subject of this week's blog, my mind immediately jumped to the rebel girl who dared to step outside society’s boundaries and ask “why not?” To me, these girls are the pathfinders, the heroines, the founding sisters/mothers who blazed a path for us. I would not have the luxury of living a life of my own making were it not for the likes of such “bad girls” who risked everything to change the status quo.
15 Dec 2012 Leave a Comment
The correct way to recycle a gingerbread house (barn, in this case). My hens enjoyed this one last year. Well, they did once they understood that it was food. I love the look on Fern’s face (she’s the dark Brahma in the right hand corner). It took a day before this gingerbread was pecked to pieces.
12 Nov 2012 1 Comment
I will never forget the first time I saw a field of poppies in full bloom. I was living in England at the time and I was on my way to Bath with a friend. We took the scenic route through to Stonehenge, and as we crested a hill the view opened up and there it was: a massive field of red poppies.
The poppy (Papaver rhoeas), or corn poppy, as most people know, is the memorial flower of veterans. In many countries, especially in England, the flower is given out or sold by charities to be worn on Veterans Day (called Remembrance Sunday in Great Britain). Farmers consider the corn poppy, however beautiful, a weed. Possessed of a pepper pot shaped seedpod, the corn poppy only needs a little breeze to shake its millions of tiny seeds everywhere. The seeds can lie dormant for years, just waiting for the right conditions. In World War I the soil disturbances—trenching and bombing—provided this, bringing long-buried seeds to the surface, and soon the poppies covered the barren soil with beauty: a place of death had sprung to life.
The corn poppy became a remembrance symbol when Canadian Colonel John McCrae wrote a poem that described the poppies shortly after his friend and former student, Alexis Helmer, was buried.
McCrae threw the poem away, but an officer dug it out and sent it to the press in England where it was published by Punch magazine in December 1915.
In Flanders Fields by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1818)
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
In 1918 Moina Michael, an American YWCA worker read McCrae’s poem in a Ladies Home Journal and was inspired by the last part of the poem: ‘if you break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields.’ She decided to always wear a poppy. The notion spread, and today paper poppies are made and sold, raising funds for veterans every year.
When I saw the field in full bloom that day, I remembered Colonel McCrae’s poem, and I thought about the power of writing and how it can help us deal with our emotions through terrible times. I thought about how our words can continue to touch people long after we’re dead. McCrae found beauty, humanity, and meaning after the horrible aftermath of Ypres through this astonishing poem. The Flanders Field poem still makes me cry each time I read it. And I can’t look at a red poppy without thinking of our veterans and how much they’ve given us, and what we owe them. What we will always owe them. Such is the power of words.
24 May 2012 8 Comments
A friend of mine, a fellow writer and horse/farm owner, recently asked me how I found time to write articles and books while taking care of a farm. She was looking for ideas to help in her own work/farm/writing quandary and wondered if I had any tips for her. I wasn’t sure what to tell her because I put myself in the same boat. The fact that I can’t finish everything every day in the way that I want is always a source of frustration for me. I know I’m joined in this by a lot of people. My friend, Jennifer, another hobby farmer and photographer, and I admitted once that we looked forward to winter because there was a lot less for us to do.
Now I’m not complaining. I want to say that right off the bat, because owning this beautiful piece of land near Lake Michigan is a dream come true. Being able to stay home and write every day is another dream come true. I love all of my animals, even my mischievous goats, and one day away from my farm is hard to bear. But, there is a LOT to do when you own a farm and there is a LOT to do when you are a writer. So much to do that it can become overwhelming. There is no end. I feel guilty for taking an hour away from writing or weeding or planting to sit on my porch and read or to watch something stupid on TV. I long to jump on the train and go to Chicago to visit the art museum or to ride my bike to the lake and sit there for a few hours. Every day is filled with another task to do, another goal to meet, another weed to pull, another craft to learn that I can write about, another source to interview, another scene to write.
On an average day I wake up anywhere from 6 am to 7 am, feed all the indoor critters and then pull on the wellies and head outside. Chickens are first. I let them out, fill the water drinkers, top up the feed hoppers, lug extra feed out to the coops and gather any early eggs. Then it’s over to the big guys. I feed the horses, feed and cuddle the barn cat, feed the goats, spray the horses with fly spray, walk them out to their pasture, return to the barn to muck stalls and fill water buckets. I open the greenhouse and water the seedlings. Then I head into the house about for coffee and breakfast. Check emails, answer emails from my editors, take a sneaky look at Twitter, quickly scan the news on NPR online. Send out a few emails to writer friends to check in with them and then settle down to work. I write fiction for two hours each morning, six days a week, unless I have a pressing deadline. My riding instructor told me years ago when I became a professional trainer to make sure to ride my own horse first, otherwise I’d be too tired to ride after I’ve ridden everyone else’s horses. So I take that into my writing world too. If I waited to write fiction after being shackled to my computer…well, it just wouldn’t happen. This amount of time may not seem like much, but the word count mounts up with even an hour a day. I suppose that is the best advice I could give anyone who wants to write. Just an hour a day, start there.
After my fiction session I switch to non-fiction and fact check articles, and then either write an article, do some research, conduct interviews or work on a non-fiction book project. Then it’s lunch and then back to work or out to run errands. About 4, I take the dogs for a walk in the woods near my house or go for a bike ride. When I’m walking or riding I mull over plot problems or ideas for scenes. When I come home I make notes or quickly sketch out the scenes I thought of on my walk. I answer any emails and then change into barn clothes, feed the indoor critters, and then back out to feed the chickens, gather eggs, feed the big guys and then do any farm chores, such as water the gardens, weed, check my bees, harvest veg, ride the horses. Then it’s back into the house to make dinner, have dinner, do the dishes, hang out with my husband and niece for a couple of hours and then to bed where I’ll read for an hour, think about my fiction again and make any notes on my iPad before I go to sleep.
The weekend is filled with farm chores, harvesting, cleaning, visiting farmers markets, more writing, hanging out with family/friends, and, yes, even some time out on the porch swing reading.
Those of you who follow my blog might remember there used to be a milk goat in that schedule. As fun as it was, milking one goat took two hours out of my day. The milking bit was fast; the preparation before and after and dealing with the milk took the longest. So I dried my doe off in the winter and found that I didn’t really want to repeat the milking this summer, so I took a break. And that’s fine. In the not-so-distant past I would have forced myself to keep going, but sometimes the wise choice is to let some things go. The goat didn’t mind, I didn’t mind, I have a freezer of goat cheese and goat milk, so it made sense to take a year off of the dairymaid work. That’s another piece of advice: it’s okay to drop a project. You don’t have to do something forever, just because you did it once. That doesn’t make you a quitter.
Each day is a busy day indeed, and of course life prevails and I get sick or fed up, or someone in my family or a friend needs help, or someone is visiting from out of town or galleys come in for a book project that need to be addressed. It’s important to stay flexible and to understand there are only so many hours in the day, and not everything is going to get done perfectly…or at all. As long as everyone is healthy, fed and watered, the house and farm is relatively clean, and my work hasn’t gotten out of control, then I have to call that a successful day. Everything else is a bonus.
My best friend, editor and co-author, Moira Reeve, told me once that she gets what she can done each day, she cracks open a bottle of wine, surveys the damage, and pronounces the job…done? That’s really all we can do.
So that’s my blog written. Phew. On to the next task!
12 Apr 2012 1 Comment
My little LaMancha goats were born one year ago today on my husband’s birthday. Happy Birthday little guys! They were so little then. That’s Barley in the front and Clover in the back.
01 Feb 2012 1 Comment
On Monday I had the privilege of interviewing Dave Mizejewski for my livestock Q and A for Hobby Farms. Dave is a media personality, author, blogger and a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. You may recognize his name from Backyard Habitat on Animal Plant and from his appearances on NBC’s Today Show, The Martha Stewart Show and Good Morning America. And of course now you’ll know him as a guest source for Hobby Farms!
Dave is one of those people who is utterly passionate about wildlife, and he totally understood that a good many (I’m even thinking maybe ALL) hobby farmers and urban farmers want to have a farm that exists in harmony with the surrounding wildlife. Not only is having an eco-friendly farm good for the planet, but when predators and prey are in balance, they tend to stay away from your own livestock and plants. And many can even help out on the farm. Raptors keep voles and mice out of the barn, bees and other pollinators increase yield, and birds that eat insects keep that pesky population in check. But sometimes a predator can learn that chickens or other farmyard critters are easier to get hold of (and probably even tastier) than a fleet-footed mouse or rabbit. That’s the case with my reader’s question. A hawk had learned to pick off her free range chickens, kill them, and eat them on the spot. Since raptors are protected by federal law, farmers have to learn to work with a predator instead of against them. Dave explained that raptors are very smart, and once one learns to hunt chickens she keeps doing it until she fails a few times. Once she realizes it isn’t worth it, she moves on to other prey. That means my reader might have to keep the hens off the range and indoors for awhile. As Dave said, sometimes the total protection of the flock for a little while is worth it in the end. And for sure, my reader can go back to admiring her resident hawk soaring over her fields dive-bombing field mice. And that’s as it should be.
To read Dave’s entire answer, you’ll have to wait for the May/June issue of Hobby Farms. But in the meantime, if you’re interested in finding the best tractor or all purpose vehicle for your farm, take a look at my article on the subject (my pro source is the AMAZING Cherry Hill–yes, I know how lucky I am to get to interview people like this) in March’s Horse Illustrated, which is out very soon.
In the meantime, look at this great photo on Dave’s blog. This will give you a good idea of his sense of humor. I love the koala’s little hand holding the leaves.
I also want to apologize for the lack of posts on the blog. I had foot surgery just before Christmas and it’s been healing slowly. I thought that would give me more time to write the blog, but turns out it’s hard to be inspired when you’re incarcerated in the house for weeks on end. I couldn’t even walk to the barn to see my animals. My husband finally brought my boy goats, Barley and Clover, up to the house on Christmas Eve so I could see them. They bleated when they saw me. Heart…melt. Yes, indeed.
Anyway, I have lots to share with you in the coming days, so, as they say in the newspaper trade, watch this space!
25 Dec 2011 2 Comments
I found this wonderful video of the children in the ballet school. The pride on the children’s faces is amazing. SAB
24 Oct 2011 Leave a Comment
The Original Horse Bible is selling really well! It’s currently ranking 52,000 in books (out of millions!) on Amazon right now, and number 50 in equestrian books. So a big thank you to everyone who purchased a copy. And in honor of this and the book’s two month release I’m offering a signed book mark for anyone who wants one, even if you haven’t purchased the book yet. Just drop me an email at email@example.com with your address and I’ll send one out to you!
Just in case you missed the book trailer, which was created by the amazing team at Striking Media, here it is: