Saturday, December 1, 2012

What's the right/write solution?

I just finished working with a young horse that had issues being ridden away from home. She was a pleasure to work with, good mind and really very brave. Her issues weren't separation anxiety or even leaving the comfort of home. It was more that it gets boring doing the same thing over and over. A smart horse starts thinking that if they have to do it over and over, they must be doing something wrong and starts looking for alternatives.

All it really took was changing her bridle to something that wouldn't encourage her to rear, good timing to keep her pointed the right way and to keep things interesting and rewarding (yummy, dry weeds) out on the trail.

Every horse needs a different approach. If a trainer says they have a sure-fire recipe or that they won't let a horse advance until they are perfect at something else, s/he isn't really listening to the horse.

Just like giving the same cue to 100 writers--they will all come up with a completely different story, all valid, all interesting. Everyone has a different approach to writing, editing and marketing. None right or wrong, except for the individual. We must all keep our minds open to find what works for us.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Check out below or on my sidebar for an amazing givewaway of over 50 YA books by Beth Revis.

Here's my contribution what I love about YA.

I'm thankful that YA books exist as a category, giving those who are passionate about reading AND writing about wonderful, strong characters a medium for thinking and feeling. When I grew up, YA books weren't called YA, but they were the books I read over and over. I'm way past my teenage years now, but I still love YA. I love tapping into the me I was then - and the me I still am.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

So excited - I'll be on pins and needles til December 12! I submitted my entry to three awesome potential coaches for PitchWars. Here's hoping I get picked. Either way, I'm thrilled that my Fantasy story Elemental Fire is complete and I'll get some feedback and am on my way to querying.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Critique/book giveaway

Author Kristi Helvig is celebrating her 1000th blog follower with a giveaway! Query, first pages or a book. Check it out -

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday - Best book in July

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic is: What was the best book you read in July?

This one is easy for me. I finally got to read The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Wow. I expected to love the book because I enjoyed Shiver and love horses. But this book was just amazing. The interactions between Puck and Sean were heart wrenching and my emotional investment grew steadily through the book. I so desperately wanted both of them to win, but knew that there was no way for the ending to avoid a tragedy on some level. I literally wrung my hands  while reading the last few chapters. This book is a perfect example of slowly building tension and connection with both the characters and the events.

On a related note, I am currently reading Outlander - Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon, a portal fantasy set in 1700's Scotland. The legend of the Waterhorse, which The Scorpio Races is based upon, is told around a campfire. And I just got to a chapter titled The Waterhorse, so I am looking forward to learning more about this legend that I'd never heard of before Maggie's book.

Don't you love it when things in life tie together like that?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

RTW: What movie improved on the book?

My choice is ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, by Cormac McCarthy. I actually can't say if the entire book is not as good because I haven't made it past page 10. I cannot read it, no matter how hard I try. There are no quotation marks! I may not be the biggest fan of experimental writing, but that type of experimentation just fails on me. There are also some incredibly long sentences. One is 13 lines long! By the time I've forced myself to read every word, I forgot the first 5 lines and couldn't tell you the noun or verb.
The movie was great, though. Lots of imagery, powerful characters and a fascinating time in Mexico/US history.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Any weekend that starts on Thursday, should be wonderful. And it was . . . it just had more than its fair share (even accounting for four days) of excitement.

Things started slow enough, I packed the horse trailer in fifteen minute increments as 95 degree temps drove me back to the AC when beads of sweat threatened to roll into my eyes. We managed to leave the driveway within minutes of “my” plan. I plan everything, my husband, Stace, doesn’t plan anything. If I didn’t, we’d be 3 hours late to every event.

The 5 hour drive to Chugwater Wyoming was peaceful, no flat tires, no near accidents (last year’s story). Actually, at this point in time I don’t even remember the trip. From Chugwater, we drove another half hour west and the people in the horse trailer ahead nicely let us pass. Thank God – they arrived in camp 45 minutes later than us. We just can’t drive slowly – other than to stop and ask each of the people in the other stopped rigs if they were okay. This is an eleven-mile segment of dirt road that takes 40 minutes at our speed. We had to stop once and let the transmission cool – which had nothing to do with our driving speed, I’m sure. ;-)

But we made it to camp and everything was lovely, only a slight downpour to cool things off.

We signed up for a 55 mile ride. My husband’s horse hadn’t been ridden for a month. He was supposed to do a 100 two weeks prior, but had a saddle wound, so didn’t go. He’d saved every bit of energy we’d so carefully cultivated. All for the start of this ride. A 20 mile loop with millions of rocks and hills. My horse doesn’t do hills or rocks at speed. Such a prima donna. So we carefully picked our way through the rocks while my husband’s horse did a parade canter – ie lots of vertical motion for very little forward motion. Pretty. Not. We have the pics to prove it.

Still, a lovely ride. We stopped to let the horses drink at a tank as we headed back to camp for a vet check. Even got off to let them eat for a while. As I re-mounted, two yahoos (technical word for dimwits that race their horses for 17 miles and don’t even stop to offer water) galloped down a hill, spooking my horse. As my leg swung over his back, he shot forward and I landed on his rump and then the ground. Luckily the ride photographer was able to catch my horse before he decided to prove he could jump a cattle guard.

No worries, I bounce pretty well. Off for our second loop of 17 miles. My horse suddenly overcame his aversion to hills and decided to race up every one. Would have been great if his body agreed with his brain that that was a good decision. By the third loop, he got it all together and decided to listen to my ideas: nice steady speed, try not to trip over the rocks.

We were doing a nice trot about a half mile from the finish line though a mowed green meadow. There isn’t much green grass in Wyoming this year, but this little bit did a great job of disguising a very green rattlesnake. Prima donna that he is, my horse wasn’t about to mar his good looks with a swollen nose, so he executed his famous exit-stage-left. Luckily our momentum carried my flight path past the very annoyed snake. I landed first on a knee and then plopped onto my face. I did not stay in that position long – mid flight I’d caught a good earful of rattles.

Eleven rattles. See, we know this because my husband decided to, while holding onto his horse, stone the 3’ long sucker to death. Sort of death. His head was partially disconnected, but the body writhed and wiggled the rattles on its own. Prima donna still not impressed. But we walked into camp with that snake hoping someone would barbecue him for us.

That was it for the calm part of the weekend.

Part of the reason we did this ride was because it was half-way to Gillette Wyoming. What’s in Gillette, you ask? We’d found a horse for sale in Gillette. He was big enough for my husband, although untrained, and the best part is that his is a grandson to a stallion that we’d lost to colic a couple years ago.  So the plan was to do the ride and then go look at the horse and hopefully buy him.

As we got back into cell phone range, there were 9 messages on the phone. Some miscellaneous, then one from my mom about the wonderful rainstorm. Then another from my more panicked mom telling us about the lightning strike and the fire across the valley. Then another from a much more subdued mother at 2:45 am saying she’d gotten the 3 left behind horses evacuated but was going to stay at the house and wait to escape with the dog, cats and important paperwork. Then the call from our hay hauler saying he was on his way to our place.

After several intense conversations, nothing could be gained by us heading straight home, so we turned north to Gillette, bought the horse and loaded him up. Then another phone call from the panicked version of mom – yet another fire, this time on the hill behind the house. We’d started arrangements to bring the evac’d horses home but put an end to that plan. Instead, we’d drive the horses with us straight to the evac barn and spend another night in our LQ horse trailer. No hardship there, it’s comfy and we still had plenty of junkfood.

We drove through three incredible downpours, one that later closed I-25, wishing we could bring even some sprinkles back with us as Saturday’s weather skirted our valley. Sunday morning, 26 firefighters climbed back up a steep rocky hill to finish putting the second fire out so they’d all be free to focus on the expected new lightning strikes as Sunday storms start rolling in.

I am left with a bruised, scraped elbow, a wrenched neck, scrapes on my nose and cheek, a blue goose-egg sized lump on a knee, a new horse and happy, healthy, unburned family members and a story that is just a little more exciting than the usual. Life is good!

But just a reminder (as if we need it) to those of us living in the parched west, keep an eye out those windows during lightning storms, it can happen at any time. And thank you to everyone involved in any way with protecting our homes, family and animals from fire!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A couple of movie reviews

I watched two movies this weekend. Up front, I didn't have high expectations that I would love them, hence not seeing them in the theatre.

The first was "The Grey", starring Liam Neeson. I didn't think the original trailers showed enough reason for an entire movie and I think that was true. One scene I did appreciate was immediately after the plane crash when a man is clearly going to die a gruesome death, Ottway (Neeson) doesn't tell him he'll be ok, he says, you're gonna die. Let it wash over you. He gets him through the end in a realistic and helpful way - not something you see often.

From there, the movie goes downhill. We do get a sense of the individual remaining characters, but I didn't "care" about them. Probably a good thing as they die one by one. Neeson is a great actor and that was evident in this movie, but I still didn't care about Ottway. We know his wife is gone and he is ready to end his own life. But we don't know why she's gone - did he kill her, did he cheat on her and she left him, did she die in an accident or from sickness? We finally find out at the very end, but by then it just didn't matter. If we'd known earlier, maybe we'd care if he lived.

Beautiful scenery though.

The second movie was "The Artist". A little artsy for my tastes, but I was intruigued - it won all those awards, right? I actually enjoyed the concept, but I think it could have been done in a more clever fashion. The movie was cute, a diversion. NOT better than "Avatar"!!! Initially I felt it was nothing more than a mechanism to do a silent movie - take all the silent movie cliche's and put them together into a spoof. I didn't care much for the rakish main character, although he played the part perfectly.

The dog was the best part! The little bits of sound were integrated cleverly - I just wanted more cleverness. I think doing a color silent film placed in modern times, but with a logical rational would have been much more interesting.

Anyone have concurring or opposing thoughts? Let us know!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday - best book in June

From YA Highway:

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question to write about on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: Best Book of June
I have been trying to work through my TBR list while editing my WIP, doing line edits on other people's books and keeping up with reading and reviewing books written by people I know, chat with or just bump into. It's tough! So I have a book in progress on my Kindle, one on my laptop along with the open edit files and a hard copy.  The good news? I finally got to read THE SHIFTER, by Janice Hardy.
I highly recommend this book. But you all know it's a great book. What struck me was the effortless world building and Hardy's ability to carry the reader along with the character. Worth studying for an aspiring writer!
Now I'm heading back to local coverage of the terrible fire in Colorado Springs. We're about 20 miles south and have only dealt with occasional smoke. But the images are terrible and we have friends evacuated and at least one that probably lost her house. It's not even close to being over. Our thoughts are with all of them.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I just received this email from Writer's Digest. Perfect timing as I edit my own WIP and completed an edit of someone else's manuscript. It took me a page to explain these few, extremely important points in "Becoming a Ferocious Self-Editor".

I love editing--my own or someone else's work. I love editing so much I may never finish my book.

As I watched this short video, I thought of how daunting applying these concepts to an entire book might seem. There are some exercises to make these things second nature when writing and obvious when editing.

One is to write flash-fiction. The intent is to write a very short, but complete, story, using as few wasted words as possible. Pick a topic, write a couple thousand words. Now, go cut it in half. Really--half. If you have to, read each sentence aloud, leaving out the iffy word. Does it make sense. Good, delete!

Another exercise is to pick one of those mostly useless words and do a search in your document. Read each sentence. Can you get rid of that word? Do it! By the time you finish, you will be so thoroughly sick of that word, and disgusted by how many times you used it, that you will never throw it down accidentally again. Up and down are perfect examples.

Do you have any exercises that can help the battle to ferociously self-edit?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Exciting weekend!

My weekends rarely involve writing. They are horse and husband time - preferably together. This past weekend was no exception. We delivered a horse to a friend to try out for a week. Once there, we all got distracted, hoof trimming another and doing some vaccinations.

Well, the new horse went exploring on the 35 acre property and somehow managed to wiggle through/under a gate. No big deal, it's a valley, where could she go? The answer is up! She climbed a cliff and was just gone. We had to drive the long way around and by that time, she had a couple thousand acres to hide in.

I drove home to get my horse involved in the hunt. Following hoof prints worked until cows and later rain obliterated them. We knew she really couldn't leave the area and had plenty to eat. We put out buckets of water and went home to organize a posse for the next day.

But at 8pm, we got a call from friends in the area that had seen her while playing on their ATV's. They finally snagged her and we picked her up. A bit thirsty, but otherwise in great shape. She is now back at her new home getting to know a smaller area until she realizes this is home! Smart girl though, I never worried that she'd get herself in trouble.

People think our lives are exciting. I don't know - kinda par for the course for us. We're just happy both horse and people ended the day where they were supposed to be. This is Callie: fences, who needs fences?

Friday, June 15, 2012

YA Giveaway

Please visit Rebecca Behren's blog - she's giving away a couple ARC's from BEA, and a copy of Insurgent.

Link to great post on your punctuation personality type!

Did you notice the exclamation point in my title? Yeah, I overuse them. I'm trying not to, leaving my current go-to punctuation as the hyphen. Which I have to then go back and convert to em-dashes. I'm a little frightened at what this says about me in this amusing personality analysis post by Leah Petersen on Bryan Thomas Schmidt's blog.

What is your puntuaction personality?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday!

This Week's Topic:
If you could go on a writing retreat anywhere, where would you go & who would you bring?
Well, I just missed one of the coolest sounding writing retreats I've heard of: Literature & Landscape of the Horse. It's located in beautiful Wyoming. Of course I would want to take my wonderful horse Bahzra. He's a 12yo Polish Arabian gelding that I adopted from a horse rescue. When he came to the rescue, he was 7 years old, completely untrained (not even halter trained) and still a stallion. He still has plenty of attitude, but he loves what we do and understanding his mind has been quite the learning experience.
Vee Bar Guest Ranch

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Never Surrender Blog Fest

Today, I'm taking part in Elana Johnson's Never Surrender Blog Fest, which is meant to celebrate the release of her sophomore novel, Surrender. Below is one of my experiences.

I discovered the sport of endurance in 1999, went out and bought a horse that was way too energetic for me - but hey, she was gorgeous! I spent 2000 teaching her to walk. Just one loop around the arena at a walk, that's all I wanted before I'd feel safe enough to venture onto a trail. I attended a 15 mile fun ride and - amazingly - was hooked on the sport. Pay no mind to the blisters and that I fought that horse the entire 15 miles. I built muscles for controlling my beautiful bay mare, Venesza, got her in shape and off we went.

After the events of September 11, 2001 we entered a ride called the Outlaw Trail. Five days in the grueling country of south central Utah, where the outlaws hid from the Pinkertons. The history, the terrain, getting away from cell phones, televisions - that was enough for this to be an incredible adventure.

I never intended to ride all 5 days. I'd never done anything like this - and my husband, my navigator, my McGyver had to stay home working. The first day, I held on to the reins with a death grip. We climbed straight up a cliff. Really, we did. Cuz the fire-breathing dragon I rode decided to take a short-cut. I don't know how many places I closed my eyes and just prayed. We finished the day with my horse still full of energy so everyone told me I should ride the second day, so that she would learn to conserve her energy.

I did. We completed, yet again blasting to the finish line. I hadn't planned riding the third day at all. It was the hardest, longest trail, going down to lower, hotter elevations. But everyone said I had to. By this time, there were only four people still riding. I made them promise not to leave me because I knew I'd get lost. One person pulled, concerned that her horse just wasn't feeling right - endurance might sound grueling for the horse, but they love it and endurance people take exceptional care of their horses. We ride for buckets - not money - the horse is everything.

That day I got to ride over the same slick rock that many famous outlaws must have traversed. The end of the course was a several mile climb up a plateau. The horses were tired and hungry - this is the desert. The right thing to do was get off and lead the horses to save their energy. We did, snatching the rare blades of grass and holding them for the horses to nuzzle from our hands while we walked, never stopping. Now anyone who knows me, knows that I don't walk up hills. That's what horses are for! But that day, for my horse, I walked and walked and walked. Once up top, she burst into a trot and raced into camp once again.

I had to go out the next day - it was a moral imperative. My legs were sore, I had blood blisters under my toenails, my back ached, who knows what else, those things are impossible to remember after a few days. But my ailments did not encourage balanced riding on my part, so my horse ended up with a sore back by the end of the day.

I was satisfied. I'd ridden more miles than planned, learned so much about my horse and seen some of the most beautiful country imaginable. But no, the supportive ride managers helped me massage my horse's back and convinced me that she'd be ready to go the next day. They were right. How could I stop now? My horse still danced around, she wanted to go. I decided that no matter what, I would take care of her back and off we went. It was a glorious day. Just three of us riding amazing horses through aspen, flower covered meadows, rocky hills and streams so clear I wanted to jump in and drink and swim.

My horse finished with no soreness. My muscles probably ached, I rode so properly, heels down, balanced and didn't pound her back no matter how little was left in my muscles. I love that horse. I love that ride. I love what I learned then and since about enduring. Never Surrender!

Now go check out Elana's blog She's amazing, some of the best advice I've read on query letters and then go buy her books!

Monday, June 11, 2012

22 miles today at Roxborough Park - I think I'm almost ready to commit to riding 100 miles just under 2 weeks from now. Not sure if I'm scared or excited!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Repost from "Writing from the Peak" blog

This was posted on the Writing from the Peak - blog of the Pikes Peak Writers group in Colorado Springs. I think this sounds like an excellent way to study writing craft. Enjoy!

Posted: 06 Jun 2012 08:58 AM PDT
As a creative writing coach, I ask my clients to find a model book. Maybe even two.

A model book is one that:
§ is typically in your genre
§ is something you have either said “this is the book I wanted to write,” or “I could have written that book.”

Together, we pick it apart and identify craft elements that the model author used that could teach us something about what the client likes or identifies with in a story.

What worked?

I like to teach from a model book. Teaching from a book that’s a finished product and one that’s presumably been edited (though that’s all changing with e-books, isn’t it?) allows writers to judge what worked and what craft elements they might be able to use in their own book. It also begins to help identify just what it was about that book that resonated with them.

Something else happens too. When you use a model book, there’s a focus on the positive – what did work? Because you only want to emulate what did work, right?

Even if you’re identifying what didn’t work in the model book, you spin that to a positive because the next question, of course, is: What would you do differently in your book?

Different than critique group discussions

In my years of coaching I have found this kind of work to have an important distinction from critique groups. I have participated, led and attended many, many, many critique groups. I find that in analyzing work that’s not complete, the focus is generally on what doesn’t work – helping the writer fix it. There are points of discussion about what does work, but the bulk of the conversation is about how the writer might change what’s on the page so that it does work according to the writers in the group.

When you use a model book, there’s no changing it. It is what it is. There’s only what you can learn from it and adapt into your work.

I run a monthly Writers Book Club where we dissect books for craft elements. Often one of the first things I ask is: what would your critique group say about this book? Interesting to note that we usually concur that most of the books we read wouldn’t have made it through our critique group intact.

Here are five things we might be focusing on when we’re dissecting a model book:

1.  Opening hook: you might actually pick apart the opening hooks of several books in your genre to get the feel of what works for you as a reader.

2.  Structure: this is a great use of a model book. What kind of plot is it? Is it traditional, lyrical, juxtapositional? Or a combination? Can you map the structure? Does your structure match? Can you learn anything from the model book structure?

3.  Backstory: Here’s a big one: When you’re writing you’re often figuring out the story as you’re writing so backstory creep is common. In your model book, look at when, how and how much backstory is conveyed.

4.  Arc: If you pull apart the individual character arcs, can you see something about the pacing? About the rise in tension? Can you see how the characters drive the plot?

5.  Story world: Is the world different than ours – different country, different time period, different species? If so, how is that difference communicated? If not, how much of a role does the world of the characters contribute?

One of my clients is working on a three-part YA series. So far, we have found a few model books to work from. They are all post-apocalyptic and they deal with certain differences in world structure, as does her book. How does the author orient the reader into the new world? Where does the story start? Do we get any backstory that tells what happened? Or does the book follow what the character needs to know and not what we readers think we need to know? How is the world different and the same as the one we know? What’s the story question? How does that question play out? Who is the character at the opening of the book? How does the character change? What did she face along the way?

There are as many ways to pick apart a model book for craft as there are craft elements that you can identify.

If you get experienced at picking books apart for their craft elements, you will begin to see what has worked in the past. Then you can decide if you want to follow a map you’ve created for yourself from your model book or if you want to veer away and create something different than the models that are available.

About the Writer:  Deb McLeod, is a writer, creative writing coach, co-founder and executive director of The Writing School. She has both an MFA and a BA in creative writing. She has been teaching and coaching for over ten years. Deb has published short fiction in anthologies and journals. She has written articles and creative nonfiction. Deb has been a professional blogger, tech writer, graphic artist and Internet marketing specialist.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday - Best book read in May?

I am in the middle of a re-write of my YA Fantasy "Elemental Fire", working with a crit partner and a review that turned into an edit. So reading for fun slowed down a lot in May. The best book I read was "The Fire in Fiction" by Donald Mass. Oh, my antagonist is getting a whole new side to him, thanks to the insightful exercises in that book. How I wish I'd read it before spending two years flying by the seat of my pants! Good thing I'm kinda weird and truly enjoy the revision process.

Monday, June 4, 2012

And now for something from the other side of my world! Yesterday we did 18 miles in preparation for a 100 mile ride later this month. Well, I think 100. Maybe 50. I can't decide! It's going to be a tough ride.

For those of you who don't know anything about the sport of endurance, we have 12 hours to ride 50 miles, or 24 hours to ride 100 miles with several vet checks to make sure the horse is fit to continue. I didn't think my horse, Bahzra, could handle a long ride with lots of mountains, but this year he seems to be telling me something different.

I might wait til the day before the ride to decide!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I just put up a post on the Review page for Scott Cramer's "Night of the Purple Moon". Next I'm reading "Red Leaves and the Living Token" by Ben Burrell.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Welcome to my new blog! I will be posting my adventures in my journey to become a published author and to forever improve my communication with my wonderful endurance horses.

I also plan to review a few books here and there - keep checking back.