Note to writers.
After my last book I decided my series had played itself out, at least for the time being. I loved my characters and enjoyed the ride but I needed to move on. I wonder if other authors feel the same way over time; that fear you’ll be stuck in one particular genre or that you’ll continue a series that should have ended when you were still excited about it.
So lately I’ve been revisiting another mystery. This one is gritty, bloody, and not at all like the funny, slapstick mysteries I’ve produced over the last ten plus years.
One of my challenges in this new book was to get two of my characters together at the beginning of the story. They needed to meet each other by happenstance, they needed to form an immediate connection, they needed to have a reason to see each other again, and they needed a compelling reason to trust one another. But my biggest challenge was to hold off on the identity (name) of one of the characters until later otherwise I’d show my hand and the mystery would be spoiled. How was I going to do that? Ideas came and went, frustration came and went, and then I used some personal experiences to come up with the answer. And it all fit perfectly.
I won’t give up much, but I will say there was a race involved, one character wore a number (so I was able to refer to her by her number and not her name - the problem of identity solved) and because of an accident at the race the second character had a reason to jump in to assist her (the meet) and he was going to be needed for a possible police report (reason to meet again) and soon the woman and the man would be involved in something that could be scandalous if revealed (the mutual trust).
How are you going to introduce your characters to one another? I encourage you to come up with unique and creative ways to do this and use the meeting as a multi-purpose way to advance your story, show character, plant clues, or add drama and tension to your scenes.
My first thought was to have my characters strike up a conversation at a gas station. Boring! And then what? Nada. I like my solution much better.
Sometimes our horses can be so goofy.
During a fun ride in the arena yesterday I started to walk Khyssie around the arena and came to a spot in the corner between the wall and the round pen. Without warning, she spun and bolted off in the other direction across the arena and stopped only when she was as far away from that corner as she could get. I am very happy I hung on because I really wasn’t prepared for her reaction.
This was silly, maybe she got spooked at the sound of snow falling off the roof. But when we got to the same spot again, she spun and headed back the way we’d come but this time I was a little better prepared. I turned her around and again we went toward the corner. She was still nervous but kept her wits about her - although she refused to pass this one spot.
And I had no idea what she was afraid of.
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, there were no new things, unusual shadows, noises or smells, I just couldn’t figure it out. Until I looked closer at the dirt on the arena floor. There was a mound about the size of a small mountain lion and the shape of an animal (and I’m pretty sure it must have looked like a mountain lion or some predator to her) so I had an idea. I asked my friend Stacey to ride her horse over to the mound and see if her horse would trample down the dirt so it looked relatively smooth. She did and that’s all it took. Khyssie relaxed and didn’t hesitate to walk right by the “trouble” spot for the rest of our ride.
Something to think about next time I ride. Even though she’s used to waving flags, noisy tarps, hula hoops, spinning ropes, fluttering bags, and everything else I can think of to desensitize her it’s those unusual things that appear to be threatening that will spook your horse.
Since you can’t think of everything a horse might be afraid of it’s important to work through these things so your horse will understand if you say it’s okay, she can trust you. However, it’s also important to listen to your horse because they may be aware of a threat (especially on the trail) and if you don’t perk up and pay attention you may be on the ground while your horse heads for home.
I got rid of the problem by destroying the scary dirt mound but I think it will be a good idea to include new things every day and monitor her response. I’ve also become more diligent in teaching her the “whoa.” The last thing I want is a horse that runs in a panic. Dangerous for everyone.
All in all, it was a wonderful day and we ended on a very positive note. And the highlight? She can back between poles, around corners, (I lay them on the ground in an “L” shape) and in any direction I ask of her. And she seems to be so happy about doing it that I barely even have to cue her.
Cherry blossoms in Japan
My daughter is still in Japan and recently had quite a scare. As she was traveling two hours to another city she unwittingly left her backpack on a train. As the train left the station she said she was obviously very upset and became increasingly distressed when she had difficulty telling anyone what had happened because she couldn’t find anyone who spoke English and she didn’t have the language skills to explain it in Japanese.
When she texted me she said she still had her passport and wallet and most of the stuff in the backpack could be replaced, but there were things she needed and it was doubtful she’d ever see it again. What she didn’t tell me at the time was that my camera was in her bag. A rather expensive Canon, I had let her borrow it for the trip.
Now comes the good part. Someone turned in her backpack to lost and found, someone else went through the bag and found a phone number and address for her former host, and my daughter was contacted and told where she could retrieve her bag. When she got it nothing had been stolen. It was all there.
This is a tribute to Japanese culture. If this had happened in America, first there would have been a shut-down of the train system since the bag was left unattended. There would have been panic and the officials would have been called. Then after realizing there was nothing to worry about, someone would have found the expensive camera and other things and I am fairly sure they would have disappeared, the bag would have been tossed aside and that would have been the end of the story. And this makes me sad.
What would you do if you found a wallet, a bag, some lost property left on a bus, a train, by the side of the road? Would you be worried, report it, take it, or return it? I would like to believe we would all do the right thing. So impressed by the people of Japan who regard honor, honesty, and integrity as high priorities. I thank God my daughter was well cared for as she makes her way through a strange country so far from home.
We can all think of a rider we know that seems to always do well, has calm, happy horses, and steadily improves their horse’s physical and mental state in an almost effortless manner. We watch and …
Every minute I spend with Khyssie I consider part of her training. Today I went out in the snow and spent time just hanging out with my girl. I caught her napping in the sunshine. Even though it was cold the sky was blue and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen. I snapped pictures and spent about 45 minutes just being with her. She’s a ham and kept me entertained. I offered her treats and a day to just be a horse with no pressure or scheduled lessons.
I don’t feel my horse should see me as someone who only spends time with her when it means work and expectations of performance. That connection is so important. Time with your horse also allows you a chance to see how they behave when they’re left to their own devices. For Khyssie that means tasting everything within reach, snoozing, nuzzling her companion, relaxing. When she knows it’s safe to relax around me the level of trust increases.
This is the story of raising, training and loving a young horse named Khyssie.
I also explore the love of writing. Because I can't be out at the barn all the time.