Tag Archives: ghost

all of our stories begin like this

It is a truth universally acknowledged that in order to become good at something, one must spend a long, long time being very bad at it.

My summers are spent largely on running day and overnight camps for horsey kids and kids-at-heart. This year, I wanted to try something new, so I dug out an old recurve bow (homemade with PVC pipe – a surprisingly great starter bow!) and investigated mounted archery.

Turns out, it’s really hard to hit a target from the back of a moving horse.

Or, if you haven’t seriously shot a bow in over twenty years and have dubious hand-eye coordination… hard to hit the target at all. I was woefully bad. Embarrassingly bad. Certainly not accurate enough to demonstrate in front of a dozen campers. But it was somehow still fun; addictive, even. I was pretty sure the kids would love it. I also kept thinking how excellent the Dragon would be at mounted archery, and how she’s reached that stage of elderly where every year is a gift and not everything can wait until tomorrow.

tumblr_nqfhe0XyHS1uz71uao2_500Just like Merida and Angus.

So I practiced. Just in stolen moments, a few minutes a day, usually waiting for the horses to finish their dinner. I earned blisters and bruises and managed to completely lose two arrows in a pasture. I’m not sure what the neighbors thought about the thirty-year-old walking around the fields with riding breeches rolled up to the knee and a bow made out of plumbing pipe. I was terrible and then I was terrible some more and then one day every single one of my arrows made it into the hay bales and then eventually some even hit dead center.

Fast forward two months. I’m still not that great and still hopeless at notching an arrow on horseback, but I can at least hit the target while stationary or moving. Camps have come and gone and my patient Dragon has ferried dozens of eager archers back and forth across the yard (at a sedate walk, of course). While a few come equipped with previous archery experience, most of them are shooting for the first time.

When you introduce a new skill to someone, you know they will not master it right away. They know they will not master it right away. It’s always interesting to me how different people respond to this. Often it becomes a challenge: you can see the spark of determination kindling in them as they ask if they can have another try. Sometimes they find it fun whether their arrow hits the target or a tree. But occasionally they will tell me that they will never be good at it, because they are not naturally talented or skillful now. Lately I find myself wanting to tell them to embrace being bad at it. To ENJOY being bad at it. Because it’s where everything starts.

photoDon’t throw away your shot.

This something I’ve been thinking about a lot since I began the long process of rewriting Project Warhorse. The first book in this trilogy was my first love and the first novel I ever completed. It’s a story I’ve nurtured in some form for eighteen years now. And I still love it for the same reasons I did then – but as every revision brings me closer and closer to the emotional truth I want to live in it, the actual manuscript looks less and less like the book I started out with. I was proud of those early drafts when I wrote them, but when I look at them now, I can see the ways in which I’ve grown and changed as a writer since then. My words are hitting their bullseye a little more frequently now.

It’s terribly exciting, knowing that developing craft is a journey that never ends.

This week the first page of my favorite weird warhorse story is online, in the agent round for #FicFest alternates. I was thrilled to be named to Team Italy (especially considering I only found out about the contest a few days about the deadline!) and while I’m outwardly trying to be cool about it, inwardly I’ve been turning cartwheels at this shiny little milestone. Even if nothing comes of it, it feels like new scenery on the long road to publishing – and no matter how long it takes, no matter how books I have to write or how many times I have to take a deep breath, aim and fire, I’m on this one for the long haul.

ficfest post agent round

Huge thanks to mentors Jessica and Ashley for their kind words and mad query letter skills, to organizer Tiffany Hofmann for putting everything together, and to the Twitter community for being full of awesome, as always. The world is full of some seriously nice and some seriously talented writers, and I can’t WAIT to see everyone’s stories in print someday.

Here’s to beautiful beginnings.

this means WAR(horses)!

Today’s the day! With query and pages held high, it’s time to charge valiantly onto the Pitch Wars battlefield, trumpets blaring all the way. Am I nervous? NEVER. (What? No, this shaking is perfectly normal. Too much chai, you know…)

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I have loved the idea of Pitch Wars ever since I first heard about it in February. The greatest thing about it: just by pressing submit, we are already winners. As much as I would LOVE to be a finalist and work with one of these rockin’ mentors, no matter what, we’re coming out with a freshly-polished query and manuscript, and with an equally rockin’ community at our backs!

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A bit about me:

  • I’ve been an equestrian for 20 years; currently I live on a farm as a caretaker for 13 horses and run an English riding school. I still love it, although I could do with a few more hours in the day and I could do without that vexing phenomenon known as “winter.”
  • I own a beautiful chestnut dragon who gives kisses and high-fives. I am teaching her to paint, which is turning out to be a dangerous business.
  • I think the smell of bookstore is the most intoxicating thing on earth.
  • I’m a huge Tolkien geek, and Harry Potter will always have my heart. Some of my other favorite books/series are The Scorpio Races, The Raven Cycle, The Lunar Chronicles, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Night Circus, A Wizard of Earthsea… oh, the list goes on and on.
  • I’m a former unschooler, plenty socialized and a survivor of college math, thanks! 😉 Actually, I’m hugely grateful for my unconventional education.
  • I’m also a hardcore introvert, so sometimes after a long week of lessons I have to crawl under a rock for a day or two with my elderly cat. (You could say she’s a co-writer on all my projects, since most of them are typed with her draped over my arms!)
  • I was an ML for NaNoWriMo for four years, which was insane and hugely rewarding.
  • I don’t know if I could live without chai lattes.

The novel I’m submitting, affectionately referred to as Project Warhorse, is the YA fantasy that’s been my baby for a long, long time. I began brainstorming the trilogy thirteen years ago, completed a first draft in 2010, and have spent the years since endlessly revising and tinkering. It has sisters and secrets and ghosts of all kinds, magic, angst, and a bleak moorland setting that required heavy doses of Scottish and Irish music. It is possibly a love letter to storytelling. I will not admit how many times I have cried while writing it.

In a nutshell:

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It’s also a tricky little beast of a novel that could hugely benefit from a fresh pair of eyes. My writing group is about as fabulous as fabulous can get, but they’ve been with this one from the very beginning (and filled my plot holes, and brainstormed battle strategy, and assured me that reincarnated warhorses ARE the new vampire). So if this Pitch Wars thing doesn’t pan out the way I’m hoping, I will be searching for a new critique partner… who else loves epic tear-jerking fantasy? Secretly I love revision almost as much as I love discovering great new novels – let’s make things shiny together!

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And until Sept 2, let’s flail around in great company. A huge shoutout to Chris Keelty for the Mentee blog hop that is distracting me from my query obsessing, and an even huger shoutout to Brenda Drake for making all this magic happen.

 

make a wish: an origin story

Once upon a time, a little girl scrunched up her eyes, blew out all six candles on her birthday cake, and fervently wished that she would grow up to be a Real Author.

Image courtesy of The Food Network

(It was a strawberry cake. The little girl had not yet developed her loyalty to all things chocolate.)

Over the next six years, the little girl continued to work towards this goal, filling blank book after blank book with stories about horses. Talking horses, wild horses, crime-solving horses, dreamy show-jumping horses with stars in their eyes – you name it, they had a five-book series. Every once in a while, the humans got their own stories, too, mostly girls equally fierce with a sword and a pen. (Who also rode horses. Naturally.)

When she was twelve, she dreamed about the sisters, and the silvery horse running on the shore. It was the sort of strange dream that haunts you in the daylight, hours and days after waking, and so the girl did what all Real Authors surely do with strange dreams, and put it into a story.

When she was sixteen, a part-time resident of Middle-Earth dissatisfied with her own fiction and craving myth and magic, a wise person told her: “The book you want to read is really the book you want to write.” She never forgot those words. They haunted her like the horse still did.

Twelve more years passed, and the girl wrote, and wrote, and wrote. Remembered the sisters and the ghostly horse, who taught her how to craft a tale and build a world. Remembered again and again how writing made her whole. Every NaNoWriMo novel and every prompt scribbled at writing group brought her closer and closer to the truth: a Real Author is someone who is haunted by stories, and real magic is believing in the stories long enough to tell them to someone else.

And now, with lot more candles on her birthday cake but query letter and synopsis in hand, the next chapter of the Real Author’s adventure begins!