Friday, November 27, 2009

Book Giveaway

Don't forget! Many of you have started your Christmas shopping already. Here's a chance to win a copy of Alison Hart's latest horse book -

You have three more days!
Entries close on November 30, 2009
Simply leave a comment, or email me (info on my profile page).
Winner will be picked at random on Dec. 1st, and I'll ship the book to you for free! Easy as that!

Thanks to everyone who entered. Contest is now over and winner has been chosen. Congratulations, Katrina! We will get your book to you soon.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Meet Alison Hart

Alison Hart is the author of over 35 novels, many of them about horses. Her popular mystery Shadow Horse will be re-released in May 2010, along with the sequel, Whirlwind.

Alison - have your books been primarily of a certain genre, or for a certain age group? What draws you to write for that age group?

I like the immediacy and excitement of fiction - early chapter through YA - for young readers. However, in my long career, I have written picture books, nonfiction for educational markets and articles for adults. The variety continually improves my writing.

As a fellow horse and animal lover, I am always on the lookout for new horse books. Tell us about your life with animals, and how it colors your writing.

Having animals all my life has helped me understand and write about the emotional ties that people have with animals, yet keep scenes and situations realistic. I say the realistic part with tongue in cheek because my current early chapter book Bell's Star is written from the point of view of a horse, so realism was obviously stretched. (I've also been a cat detective and an assistance dog!)

How long does it generally take you to finish a novel? Do you find yourself working on more than one project at a time?

The amount of research required often dictates how long a book takes. The Racing to Freedom trilogy (Gabriel's Horses, Gabriel's Journey, and Gabriel's Triumph), which takes place during the Civil War, took two years to research. And even at the revision and last minute editing stages, I was fact-checking. So, yes, I sometimes work on other projects that are shorter and less research-intensive while writing longer novels.

You are a fairly prolific author, Alison, and yet I know that you also have another career - as an adjunct college instructor teaching writing, and earlier as a special education teacher. How do you structure your day to accomplish so much?

I didn't start publishing until I was teaching part time, which helps. I never could have taught full time, raised two kids, managed all the demands of publishing - research, writing, editing, marketing - and kept my sanity. I know some authors who do and I tip my pen to them! Teaching actually helps my writing and keeps me connected with the real world and real issues of literacy.

Any tips for fellow writers?

I just finished critiquing manuscripts for a SCBWI conference. Many of the pages/chapters showed a lack of understanding of not only what makes a good story, but what makes a good story for a middle grade reader, for instance. Make sure you read books for children at all levels and in all genres. Analyze dialogue, complexity of plot, chapter lengths. Then find a story to tell that excites you. Don't try and write the next Twilight unless you are crazy in love with teens and vampires. Write about your passion.

I know that you are interested in promoting literacy in children. Any ideas on how we can get them away from the television/computer/electronic games syndrome and make readers out of them?

Every author and educator needs to read the book Readicide by Kelly Gallagher. He says it all.

Of all the books you've written, do you have a favorite one? And why?

School kids often ask this question, and my answer is "the book I am writing must always be my favorite, so that you, the reader, will be as excited about reading the book as I was writing it." Right now, my favorite book is Emma's River from Peachtree Publishers, which will be out in April 2010. I just finished editing it. It's a suspenseful tale of a plucky girl and her pony surviving a steamboat explosion in 1854 on the Missouri River.

Any new books or projects you'd like to share with us?

I'm thrilled that the sequel to Shadow Horse is coming out in May 2010. Shadow Horse was published in 1999 and was nominated for an Edgar Award in 2000. I always dreamed of a sequel. Ten years later it's finally happening!

To learn more about Alison and her books please visit her website at

Book Giveaway!

Win a copy of Alison's newest book - Bell's Star.

Book Giveaway!!

This fast-paced historical novel, told in the voice of a young Morgan horse, would be a great gift for any young horse lovers on your Christmas list. To enter, leave a comment on this post, or send me an email (check my profile page) by November 30, 2009. I will randomly draw the winner on December 1st. Okay?

Alison, thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Donkeys and the Publishing Business

Okay, I promised you a post on how owning donkeys prepares you for the publishing business. And if you are just a little bit sharp, you might have guessed that both are SLOW AS MOLASSES!
But wait. There's more. Much more. First, a primer on donkeys.

Donkeys have a bad rap for being stubborn. Slow, stubborn, and some people even say ornery. But as someone who has owned and raised lots of donkeys, I feel compelled to say that donkeys are not mean, and neither are they stubborn.

Donkeys are some of the sweetest animals on earth. If you treat them right, using patience and kindness, they will do almost anything for you. (Hopefully like agents and editors).

Donkeys come by the reputation for stubbornness in comparison to their equine cousin, the horse. Horses and donkeys are similar in many ways, but their response to an unknown or uncomfortable situation is different. Horses often have a nervous, skittery flight reaction when they see something new. Donkeys, on the other hand, have a freeze reaction to new things. They stop, think, and process everything before deciding which way to go. Basically, the donkey takes its time and thinks things through. So I ask you, which is smarter, the horse or the donkey? Trust me, it's the latter.

Okay, back to the publication business. How many of you have waited eons for a response, running to the mailbox or frantically checking your email after sending off your manuscript/query/1st three chapters/ proposal to some editor/agent/publishing house? Are you driving your mail person nuts? Have you developed carpal tunnel from pressing the send/receive button every 5 seconds? Here's some advice. Go spend time around some donkeys, and learn to develop PATIENCE.
Yes, dear reader, Patience is the magical trait needed for success in the publishing business. (Well, a modicum of talent and luck help also).

It may take months for your query to be answered, months for a decision to be made by a publishing house, and then if you are lucky enough to finally get something accepted, more months of polishing, waiting on editors, waiting on cover art, waiting on . . . well you get the idea.

And pushing things is just not the answer.

PATIENCE is a good trait to have in life anyway. From standing in line at the grocery store (or waiting to get your swine flu shot) to the behemoth slowness of the publishing industry, it is best not to let it get you down. Breathe. Write something new. Be like a donkey. Realize that everything happens in it's own sweet time.

If you want to know more about donkeys, here are some GREAT donkey sites:

And stay tuned, right here, for a guest blog by author Alison Hart, featuring a giveaway of her latest book - a horse story!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Amazing Internet

Yes, the Internet is an amazing place, isn't it? And I, who always considered myself Ms. Natural and was never one for techie stuff, now thoroughly enjoy it.

It is my first choice for immediate information: I don't like watching news on television in the morning because it's noisy and it takes up too much time. I turn on my computer and get all the headlines right on one page, in about 10 seconds. If I want to find out exercises for sciatica or treatments for laminitis or the weather in Waikoloa, Hawaii, I can find it online. If I read a great book and want to check out the author and find what else they've written, if I can't remember the words to that song that keeps floating through mind, then it's google time.
I got my agent online. I found her on a site that lists agents accepting new clients I emailed her my query letter and she emailed back asking for three chapters and a synopsis. Then she phoned and emailed me again, requesting the full manuscript. With just a few clicks of a mouse, my novel flew all the way across the country and right onto her computer screen. (Hint - don't try this unless she requests your ms. She's good with the delete button ;-0)

Because of the Internet, I found the best dog in the world (shelter dogs rule)
and adopted a sweet young cat who had spent half his life in a cage.

I know - who could resist this face?

With social networking, I have met new writing friends and new animal-loving buddies, as well as reestablished connections with old friends with whom I've been out of touch. I have found critique partners online, found the perfect new home for a donkey and made dear friends with people who I might never have rubbed shoulders with if it wasn't for the open walls of the Internet.

And since writers are always on the look-out for new words (especially verbs) who would have known several years ago that we'd all be using "googled, friended, blogged, and facebooked" as verbs? You know, as in, "hey, I'll facebook you?"

Pretty neat, indeed. Yep, I'll admit it. This self-proclaimed nature girl is now an Internet junkie. But now I've got to quit blogging and actually get something done.

So you tell me, what cool things have happened to you on the Internet??

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For those of you who have no clue what I'm talking about - it's a loose organization of crazy people egging each other on to write a 50,000 word novel in one month's time. You'd think they'd have picked a month with 31 days, wouldn't you? You know, like January, March, or May. But no, instead, they up the ante, trying this silly stunt in a period from November 1-30, with a major holiday (Thanksgiving) thrown in right towards the end.

Actually I am so, so jealous of the people who attempt this (including several writing friends and critique buddies - LOL). The idea is to keep your internal editor at bay, and just write lots and lot and lots of words which can later be cut, edited, re-arranged and improved, and maybe even turned into something of value. I only wish I was so motivated.

Instead, I have set my own goal for November. I have a new middle-grade manuscript which I love. It was coming fast and furiously to me last summer, and I hashed out 20,000 words so quickly I almost felt like a real, bona-fide writer. But then I got bogged down in STUFF and stopped writing. Oh. Horrors. Will it lay unfinished on my desk, so that we never find out what happens to David, Olive, and the yellow dog? (Not to mention the peacock and the boys on the raft).

No, I say. No. I will finish this novel (which is good, by the way :-)) I will hash out and complete the dreaded middle third of this novel by November 30, come Hell or High Water. (Trust me, around this neck of the woods, it could definitely be High Water.)

Okay, so here I go. By November 30, I should be past the middle, and ready to write the big, climactic last third of the novel (which is loosely formulated in my mind.) Unless of course, my characters decide to veer off in some unknown direction - which is always a risk. Try and stay with the program, will you, characters?

Okay, wish me luck! Ready, set, write . . .