GUEST POST – 5 of My Favorite Horse Scenes by Tisha Martin

Guest Post - Tisha Martin - 5 of My Favorite Horse Scenes

I’m very excited to welcome author and editor, Tisha Martin, to the blog today to talk to us about horses in fiction. This is the second in a series of posts Tisha is sharing with us. If you missed the first one, you can read it HERE.

Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us, Tisha! 


Five of My Favorite Horse Scenes

by Tisha Martin

If a dog is man’s best friend, then a book is a writer’s or reader’s best friend. Do you have a favorite book that you have reread over the years? Maybe you have a few. Throughout my life, a few books have really made a difference in my life, especially books about horses, particularly when the horse has some major role in the story.

I grew up reading The High Hurdles and The Golden Filly series by Lauraine Snelling. When I was at library book sales, I’d sift through the piles and stacks of books for horses on the cover, the easiest way to pick out as many books without having the large chance to completely read the back-cover blurb and assess whether I wanted to drop it into my $1 Book-a-Bag deal. Once, I was at my friends Carla and Jim’s house because they had a computer and I didn’t, and I needed to learn how to type. Carla had a mound of books she was sending to the donation bin, but knowing I loved to read and liked to write, she let me browse through the books. I found a delightful horse book that would later inspire me to write historical fiction in the specific historic subjects listed on my website.

I’d like to share with you five of my favorite scenes from my four best-loved horse books during my early writing days.

National Velvet by Enid Bagnold was published first in 1949 by William Morrow & Co., then in 1953 by Enid Bagnold Jones through Scholastic Book Services.

I had watched the movie (starring Mickey Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor) first and didn’t know there was a book. But, nevertheless, that’s what library sales are for!

The blurb: Teenager Violet seems like any other girl who’s horse-crazy. But who else would dare chop off her hair, don jockey’s clothes, and enter the world’s toughest steeplechase? Here’s the story that made Elizabeth Taylor a teenage screen star … a story you’ll laugh over—cry over—and never forget!

My favorite scene:

“The Hullocks were blackening as Velvet cantered down the chalk road to the village. She ran on her own slender legs, making horse-noises and chirrups and occasionally striking her thigh with a switch, holding at the same time something very small before her as she ran. The light on the chalk road was the last thing to gleam and die. The flints slipped and flashed under her feet. Her cotton dress and her cottony hair blew out, and her lips were parted for breath in a sweet metallic smile. She had the look of a sapling-Dante as she ran through the darkness down-hill” (1).

Velvet Brown’s desire and love for horses is seen so vividly in this scene. Didn’t we do things like that at a much younger age, act out the things we enjoyed before we got the real thing?

Another set of books, For Love of a Horse and The Summer Riders, by Patricia Leitch captures the heartwarming story of Jinny Manders, growing up on the moors, where she rescues Shantih, an Arab, from being mistreated as a circus horse. Together, they become inseparable, until two city kids come to stay and threaten to ruin Jinny’s plans.

My favorite scenes:

“Jinny gritted her teeth. She wished that the circus was over and they could go back to the hotel. She was sitting close enough to the ring to be able to see every detail of the horses—their patient, watery eyes, the scarred legs and sunken necks. One of them was broken-winded, and the harsh sound of its breathing tightened Jinny’s throat. She hated the ringmaster, hated his pleated lips and beady, watching eyes. She flinched under the crack of his whip as if it stung against his own skin. . . .

“The horse was pure Arab. She came, bright and dancing, flaunting into the ring, her tail held high over her quarters, her silken mane flowing over the crest of her neck. Her head was fine-boned and delicate, with the concave line of the true Arab horse. Her dark, lustrous eyes were fringed with long lashes and the nostrils wrinkling her velvet muzzle were huge black pits. She moved around the ring like a bright flame, her prickled ears delicate as flower petals. Her legs were clean and unblemished and her small hooves were polished ivory. After the dull ache of the rosinbacks, she was all light and fire” (For Love of a Horse, pp. 23-25).

In these scenes, the pure beauty and intelligence of the horse is like seeing the rocks at the bottom of the ocean. I love the concept of the rescue horse, and I highly recommend these books for any horse lover, regardless of age.

The last book, Tall and Proud by Vian Smith, is a classic and close to my heart for its raw and emotional story and simple, compelling descriptions. It’s the book that inspired me to write.

The Chicago Tribune said of this 1968 title, “Vian Smith’s description of his native Dartmoor country and its people is rich in background for this story of a young polio victim who learned to stand as tall as the horse that helped her overcome the pain of recovery. The Britisher’s tale is a moving one. . . .”

My favorite scene:

“For awhile Sam [the horse] danced, not sure what was expected of him and showing his willingness to gallop. Then he settled to a walk, which was away from Gorse Blossom and up the hill, his head held high and interested because he had not gone this way before” (p. 139).

I like Sam’s attitude and his curious personality, but a little later in the story, he shows his frightened side when he thinks his owner, Gail, is going to mistreat him. And boy does he display a nasty force.

I’ve read these books nearly every year and always find something new to enjoy about them. Great books will do that. And they don’t have to be intricate. Sometimes the simplest story, if executed well, can have such an influence on your thinking, your writing, and hold a special place in your heart.

By the way, it’s Kathleen’s birthday week! We swapped blog post deadlines, so please send her a birthday message!!

Where to find Tisha

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www.TishaMartin.com

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www.twitter.com/tishmartin1416 

 

 

GUEST POST – How to Write About Horses in Historical Fiction by Tisha Martin

How to Write about Horses in Historical Fiction

I’m very excited to welcome author and editor, Tisha Martin, to the blog today to talk to us about horses in historical fiction. This is the first in a series of posts Tisha will be sharing with us over the coming months and I’m excited to see what else she has in store! Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us, Tisha! Welcome to my blog!

 

How to Write About Horse in Historical Fiction

by Tisha Martin

Horses have long since been an icon in American history, a loyal friend to the cowboy in the movies or in a novel. Often, too many historical writers don’t capitalize on the benefit of including the intelligence of the horses in their stories, and therefore, miss opportunities to add depth and personality to their stories and to shape the character arc. Horses are smart, despite what people may say. (And mules are even smarter! I’m thinking of Clarice from The Apple Dumpling Gang.)

Here are four ways authors can capitalize on the personality of the horse in their historical novels.

  1. Use horses as secondary characters.

Perhaps that the idea of humanizing the horses in a story seems strange, but consider Little Brother, the mustang in Hidalgo, the western movie starring Viggo Mortensen. Little Brother acted as a secondary character in advancing the plot. When Frank T. Hopkins (Mortensen) went into the village to rescue Jazira, the horse worked with his human to make the rescue a success.

Including these types of minor details in a story adds depth to the plot and captures the essence of the character’s and horse’s relationship, further endearing both characters to the readers. That’s a pretty neat win-win, if you ask me.

  1. Let horses help the human characters.

If you’re writing a western, consider this: horses will not run away from their owners. Many authors may think that horses are sneaky and always want to run off. In reality, horses are extremely loyal. I like to think they’re big dogs. For instance, if you leave a horse five miles down the trail so your main character has an easy getaway after the ambush, the horse will find its way back home without assistance. That’s called loyalty—and instinct.

mustang-horse-sister-tisha-martin-author-editor-historical-fiction
Thika, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and Sister, the mustang Paint, one of the horses I trained. Never have I found a more loyal friend than the mustang.
  1. Give horses an emotional personality.

Horses do show emotion if they are mistreated. If you have a nasty character in your story who mistreats the horse, you can show the horse’s emotional personality by describing the horse’s fear as it bucks, bites, or kicks. This adds suspense and propels the plot. Showing emotion in these scenes will deepen the care factor and enrich the story world.

But what if you want your character to have a positive relationship with the horse? Perhaps the character nurses the horse back to health, like Joe did in Black Beauty. You can use the horse’s gentle personality mixed with those moments of fear and mistrust (if the horse is coming from an abused situation or is now in a new environment) to liven up your scene. A horse that is treated with kindness and respect will respect its owner.

  1. Consult the horse experts.

Nothing is more annoying to a horse lover than to read of inaccurate details in a story about horses. Some common inaccuracies include proper terms for horse tack, basic horse behavior, and horse anatomy. Often, these are misused because the writer googled what they did not know, found what appeared to be helpful information, and stuck it in their story.

Authors can avoid these glaring mistakes by bypassing the great internet and seeking out their local horse expert or local library for horse-related information. You can call a horse stable and ask questions, email the horse breed association, ask a friend who owns horses, or visit your local library and pull out a good horse resource book.

Remember, an animal is usually a reflection of its owner, especially if the animal has been loved for a long time. Now, a horse may not bring its owner the newspaper every morning (although stranger things have happened!), but the relationship between your character and their horse can be used to add a deeper layer to the story that feels and reads like a loyal friend.

Happy writing on the trail!

horseback-riding-1393029_1280

Where to find Tisha

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www.TishaMartin.com

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www.twitter.com/tishmartin1416 

 

 

How to Ignore Critique

How to Ignore Critique

The timer buzzed but Susan completed her final note before setting down her pen.

The critique group leader looked up and surveyed the five people surrounding her dining room table. “Who’d like to go first?”

Susan held up her pen. “I’ll go.”

“Okay, thanks.”

Susan glanced down at her notes on Harold-the-newcomer’s first submission to the group.

“First of all, ” She looked up at Harold. “I like the tension you’ve established in this scene. I can really feel the conflict between these two characters. So, good job.”

Harold nodded and grinned. “Thank you.”

“Near the bottom of the first page, in the sixth paragraph.” Susan tapped her finger on the paper. “See where it says, ‘He felt the sun beating down on his back’? Do you think you could rewrite that to eliminate the word ‘felt’? If you can, I think it might help your readers experience a deeper point of view.”

Harold’s brows pinched together. He said nothing as he dropped his gaze to his own copy of the story.

After an awkward pause, Susan turned the page and found her next note. “Here in the middle of the second page, you do a good job describing how the trash is all cleaned up today, but then you point out that it was spilled across the yard yesterday. The reader already knows this, though, because you wrote about the spilled trash just two scenes prior to this one, right? I think you can get away with just the description of how clean it is today and leave out the rest. The reader will pick up on the significance of the change.”

She looked around. Others were nodding.

Harold’s lips pinched and he didn’t look up.

Susan stifled a sigh as she skimmed through the rest of her notes. “Regarding the last line on the second page. With the way you structured this sentence, I’m not sure what you are referring to when you say, ‘Those things didn’t matter anymore.’ Perhaps, if you-”

Harold jumped to his feet. “I don’t know what there is not to get. My other group got it just fine.” He snatched back the copies of his story from those around the table. “They thought it was great. You must not have read it carefully.” He jerked Susan’s copy from her hands and jammed the papers into his backpack. “Maybe if you didn’t use this stupid timer,” He knocked over the wind-up timer.  “You could appreciate great writing when you saw it.”

Everyone gasped.

Harold stormed out of the house, slamming the front door behind him.


 

Don’t be a Harold. Just don’t.

You should never dismiss constructive critique out-of-hand. It’s even worse to take it as a personal offense. If someone has taken time out of their day to read your work and provide feedback, the least you can do is listen calmly and with an open mind.

But what should you do when the person critiquing you is wrong? 

Well, first of all, stop and consider that they might be right. Seriously. We don’t know what we don’t know. Sometimes what that person is saying doesn’t make sense to you, not because they are wrong, but because they haven’t explained it in a way that you can understand. Ask follow-up, clarifying questions. Make sure you thoroughly understand what they are trying to say. Then, if you have thought it over rationally, and still don’t think they are correct in their assessment or suggestion … shut up. Just smile and thank them for their time and effort in critiquing your work. Then walk away and put their notes in a file somewhere.

Don’t delete or throw the critique out right away. 

Why? In my experience, even those critiques you initially assess as incorrect can sometimes prove to have a grain of truth six months down the line when you learn something new; or you can suddenly encounter a second person saying the same thing as the first person, but they are explaining it in a way that changes your perspective on it. Having two or more people provide you with the same or similar critical note means it is time to sit up and pay attention. Maybe they are both wrong. Maybe not. Either way, it will be much easier to reassess things if you can look at both critiques side by side.

So when should you throw out critiques?

If the critique is something objectively wrong such as telling you that you can’t capitalize the word “son” even when using it as a proper noun, unless you are referring to Jesus . . . double check your preferred style manual, then throw it out. Grammar is grammar (for the most part).

If the critique is subjective, – such as how much you describe something – you should first consider everything you have learned about the writing craft and the conventions of your genre. Then consider whether you are hearing it from two or more sources or if it is a solitary opinion. Then, if you, as the author, still want it to stay the way it is … that’s why you are the author.

The thing a lot of new writers forget is that when everything is said and done, writing is an art form. Art is subjective. Trust me. I have received directly opposing critiques from equally reputable sources. They can’t both be right.

When it comes down to it, it’s your name on that title page, not theirs. Until and unless you sign a contract granting someone else control of your art, it is up to you to decide what best represents your intentions as the artist. Own that.

Don’t be a Harold.

Do have the confidence to (respectfully) ignore a critique that changes your art into theirs. 

Have Confidence

P.S. I’ve come a long way in my thinking on this issue. Take a peek back at my first reaction to the revelation that I am an artist.

Let’s Chat!

Have you met a ‘Harold’? How do you handle critiques (writing-related or not) that you don’t agree with?

TWEETABLES

Don’t be a Harold. Do have the confidence to (respectfully) ignore a critique that changes your art into theirs. (CLICK TO TWEET)

Having two or more people provide you with the same or similar critical note means it is time to sit up and pay attention.  (CLICK TO TWEET)

You should never dismiss constructive critique out-of-hand. It’s even worse to take it as a personal offense. (CLICK TO TWEET)

Don’t be a Harold. (CLICK TO TWEET)

An Experience I’ll Never Forget – Asheville Christian Writers Conference 2017

asheville-christian-writers-conference-2017

This was my first time attending the Asheville Christian Writers Conference.  My first time attending any conference which was so far away I couldn’t drive to and from home each day. In fact, living in California, I had to fly myself to North Carolina just to attend this conference. I had to pay for the rental car which I drove over 100 miles each way from the airport to the hotel room which I also had to pay for. This was no small trip where my pocketbook was concerned and I was gone several days in a row, leaving my hardworking, crazy-busy husband to take care of our three boys alone. So was it worth it?

Well, let me tell you about it.

The people

One of the best things about attending a writers conference is the people you meet. I met so many wonderful people at this conference that it would take far too long to list them all. So I will limit myself to sharing just three of the many special connections I made.

em_photo-1Edie Melson taught the very first Early Bird Class for this conference on the “Hows and Whys of Social Media” and from that moment I knew I was in the right place. Not only did I learn a lot just in the short time she spoke, but her warmth and generosity came through in her words and the way she presented herself. Over the next few days I had several opportunities to speak with Edie both one-on-one and in groups. I can tell she is a woman who knows her stuff and has a passion for helping others. I am blessed to have gotten to know her.

ruth-and-i-at-acwc-2017Ruth Steel is someone I met in the halls. We made eye contact, smiled, and after exchanging names and shaking hands, I opened with the typical writers’ conference question, “So, what do you write?” (Original, I know.) When she replied that she was working on a historical fiction novel for the Young Adult audience, I immediately knew we were going to be friends. We enjoyed many conversations over the next few days and exchanged contact information so that we can keep in touch and continue to cheer each other on in our writing endeavors.

Melanie and I met in the shuttle at check-in on the very first day. There was something about her smile and her readiness to chat with anyone that told me I was going to like this lady. Turns out I was right. I think there was something about our personalities that we just clicked. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there was a particular something she let slip in one of our earliest conversations that made me instantly decide she was my new best friend.

You see, when she found out that I write historical Christian romance, she responded, “Oh! I have a friend who writes that. In fact, her book just came out.” I was like, “Really? Would you mind giving her my contact info? I’m always wanting to get to know other people in my genre.” And she says,”Sure.” And then she says this: “I forget the title of her book, hold on….Her name is Sondra umm…” and she trails off as she starts looking in her bag for something and I’m like, “Kraak? Sondra Kraak?” And she says, “Yes.”!!!

I’m not gonna lie. I had a serious fangirl moment, but I tried to play it cool. (Not too sure I succeeded. Don’t call me out Melanie!) I could not believe I had the chance to maybe get to know Sondra. I loved her debut novel so much that I pre-ordered her second one which I also loved! I know. I’m using a lot of exclamation marks. I can’t help it. Sondra Kraak!!! Okay, I think my cool cover may be completely blown now. Deep breath. Exhale.

Seriously though, Melanie is a wonderful friend and writer in her own right and I am truly blessed to have had the chance to meet her and learn part of her story. I’m looking forward to staying in touch.

The Classes & Keynote Speeches

To be honest, I have never missed so many of the classes at a conference as I did at this one! I am so relieved that I have all the handouts and audio recordings of the lessons to review later. (I missed so much because I was so busy attending appointments to speak with all the wise and wonderful faculty who had attended the conference.)

 

linda-gilden-at-acwc-2017
Linda Gilden gave a very inspiring Keynote Speech

That said, the classes I did get to attend were pure gold. Again, that first class Edie Melson taught comes to mind. She reminded us to view social media as a place where we get to connect with other writers and readers who share our passion for the written word and not just a place to talk about me, my book, and I. She also gave great suggestions on how to make sure we are making the best use of these opportunities, advised us on avoiding common mistakes, and shared great tips for making the best use of our time.

 

I have to tell you, if you have not heard Vonda Skelton speak, you are missing out! Her keynote speech had me almost bent double in my seat and wiping tears of laughter from my eyes. This lady knows how to tell a story. Have you ever met someone who’s a bit petite, but when she speaks her spark and spirit fill the room? That’s Vonda. Of course, not only did I laugh until my face hurt, but I gleaned a lot of wisdom and encouragement from her words.  Her first book was rejected 63 times before it was accepted. Stop and imagine that for a moment. That is hard. She is one tough cookie. Sending your manuscript out time and time again in the face of so much rejection takes a special kind of determination, but she didn’t give up. Today Vonda is a highly successful writer and speaker, well respected and well loved.

The Experience

Becoming a professional writer is a different experience than entering many other careers. There are many paths to choose from and many steps to take before you reach success, and success can look very different for each writer. Being a professional writer involves so much more than waking up one day and writing down a few words, or even completing a story/article/whatever kind of writing someone does. While that is a start, it is only the start.

Part of the path I have chosen involves making connections with others in my industry, submitting my work for others to judge, and approaching literary agents to discover whether they believe in my novel enough to help me find the right publisher for it. Attending this conference provided the opportunity for me to accomplish all of that.

Does this mean I’m done and can check those things off my list? Of course not. The thing about this career is there will always be another book to put out there, another risk to take, another connection to make. It’s terrifying, I won’t lie. But it can also be very life affirming.

As you know if you’ve been following my blog, I was blessed to tie for Second Place in the Badge of Honor Contest at this conference. The encouragement in that award alone is priceless, but even before I learned of this accomplishment, I was being lifted and encouraged by so many other people whom I spoke with during the conference. Whether the words came from faculty or fellow attendees, those words of support and encouragement were like water in the desert for this writer.

So, was it worth it? In a word:  Absolutely!

Do you enjoy conferences? Has anyone come into your life at just the right time to offer encouragement? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

TWEETABLES:

Find out whose keynote speech had @KathleenDenly wiping tears of laughter from her eyes. (Click to Tweet)

Is the Asheville Christian Writers Conference worth attending? – @KathleenDenly (Click to Tweet)

5 Tips for Writing the Perfect Book Synopsis

5 Tips for Writing the Perfect Book Synopsis by Kathleen Denly
(How it can feel trying to cram your masterpiece into 2 pages or less.)

In preparation for my attendance of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference 2017, I have been polishing my book synopsis for my WWM manuscript. In order to create the best possible synopsis I have read many, many articles and it occurred to me this information might be helpful to others as well. So this week I am sharing with you 5 of the most helpful articles I found on writing the perfect book synopsis along with some of my favorites bits of advice from each:

Back to Basics: Writing a Novel Synopsis by Jane Friedman

“A good rule of thumb for determining what stays and what goes: If the ending wouldn’t make sense without the character or plot point being mentioned, then it belongs in the synopsis. If the character or plot point comes up repeatedly throughout the story, and increases the tension or complication each time, then it definitely belongs.”

Your Guide To An Effective Novel Synopsis by 

“There are no hard and fast rules about the synopsis. In fact, there’s conflicting advice about the typical length of a synopsis. Most editors and agents agree, though: The shorter, the better.”

6 Steps for Writing a Book Synopsis by Marissa Meyer

“The first paragraph of the synopsis should give the same basic information you convey through the book’s first chapter: where and when does this story take place, who is the protagonist, and what problem are they facing right off the bat?”

How to Write a Synopsis of Your Novel by Glen C. Strathy

“The biggest mistake most people make when they try to write a synopsis for the first time is to create a bare bones plot summary … It is the emotional twists and turns that make a novel or a hockey game appealing.”

Novel Synopsis: How to Write a Synopsis for your Novel by Graeme Shimmin

“Another trick is to get a friend and sit down with a voice recorder. Then tell them the plot of your novel. Listen to the questions they ask. Transcribe the conversation and pick out the best bits. You might find that your story flows more naturally in a conversation.”

Love Is Like Writing

On my Facebook page, I recently shared this quote by Jonathan Safran Foer:

“You rarely hear writers talk about the editing process,’ he says. ‘But editing is everything. The writing itself is no big deal. The editing, and even more than that, the self-doubt, is excruciating. It’s like the difference between having a crush and a marriage.”

The quote seems to have originated from a 2002 interview by Clark Collis for the Observer in which Mr. Foer goes on to say,

“Crushes come easily, they’re intense, and you want to have them as much as you can. But then, with a marriage, it’s like, OK, what does this person’s farts smell like?”

Prior to reading his quote I hadn’t thought of writing in terms of a romantic relationship, but I find it fits well. For me, however, it looks a little more like this:
Love & Writing Analogy Table

Your Turn!

Do you agree with my tweaks? Do you remember your first “crush”? Tell me about it! I’d love to hear from you!