How horses shaped this author’s life

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“Kisses are nice, coffee is better. Now go. Leave the coffee. And turn off that camera!”

Writing and horses are two passions that traveled with me from childhood to adulthood.  I was the pesky kid who bugged her parents for a horse every Christmas and every birthday. I got a Breyer model horse instead (haha, not funny mom). Then around age 13 I got a Saturday job at a nearby stable in exchange for riding lessons. I found my bliss. I wrote my first “book” about a girl and her horse around that time. Bliss struck again.

Both have been a huge part of my life ever since.

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“Yes this jacket IS too big but watch me rock it like a BOSS.”

I got to wallow in my two passions writing my latest paranormal romance novel, Omega Rising.  It’s about a stable owner and the unusual group that surrounds her. The fictional Sky Blue Farm is based on a stable where for years I lived and breathed and worked horses (minus the sexy shapeshifter wolves and bears and magic and murder. There was drama there but not that kind of drama 😀 ).

Horses need care 24/7 no matter the weather. In winter we bundled up in long underwear and held hot packs in freezing hands and hand-walked horses indoors when the sub-zero temps made it too dangerous to ride. In summer we sweated through our tank tops under the hot August sun in jeans or breeches with leather boots because riding in shorts is something you only try once (sweaty skin + leather saddle = omg-it-hurts-so-bad burns).

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“Is that a carrot? I smell carrots. Do you have one?”

I’ve called vets for injured or sick horses. Scary.

I’ve called ambulances for injured people. Scarier.

One of my horses (a clever, handsome bay TB/Quarter Horse cross) was so quick sideways that he once left me hovering in mid-air for a split-second, during which I literally thought holy crap I’m in a Road Runner cartoon before I hit the ground in a heap. I’d have used it in Omega Rising but readers would’ve snorted in disbelief unless they were riders, too. In that case they’d nod yes, been there, that does indeed suck.

I’ve had young horses, tall horses, lazy horses, and spooky horses, learning something with every one. Grays and bays, mares and geldings, skinny chestnuts and fat ponies. I’ve been stepped on, knocked down, bucked off, bitten, kicked, and yes, sailed over a fence or two without my mount. But I loved them all.

In Omega Rising the opening scene shows the heroine and her mare, Peeka Booyah, jumping fences in a field. I based her on my own lovely mare except for the talent at jumping fences thing.  Fiction is awesome 🙂

I wouldn’t trade my experiences at that farm for anything. Some of those memories made it into the book, some will NEVER see the light of day. Yeesh. But the camaraderie, that sense of family and belonging ran deep,  overcoming the hurt feelings and squabbles and allowing us to survive when things went sideways. Much like it does for the Sky Blue Farm family in Omega Rising.

Our barn family isn’t together anymore; we peeled off one by one after the farm was sold but I’m in touch with some of them. My forever horse and I are at a different barn, one filled with good people, but I look back on those years at “my” barn with so much love in my heart. They changed me, shaped me; as a writer, as a rider, as a human being.

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“I’m sweaty, tired, and smell like a horse. What a good day.”

My heroine in Omega Rising, Cass, is funnier than I am, certainly ballsier, but we share an enduring love of and respect for all horses, small and tall. Oh, and we both have a passion for sexy, shapeshifter wolves *cough* Nathan *cough*

Omega Rising (book one in the Wolf King series) and Skye Falling (book two) are available at all online retailers. Happy reading!

WRITE ON;

AND LOOK AT THIS FACE BEFORE YOU GO

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“Again with the camera? Don’t forget to include my ears this ti–dammit.”

Why? Because I love reading romances

(95/365)
(95/365)

Here’s a question that every author who writes romantic stories will absofreakinglutely get from family, from friends, from interviewers, even from strangers: Why do you write romances?

Here’s my short answer: because I love reading romances.

Of course I’m aware a few of the self-proclaimed literati recently decided to look down their noses and sniff as they regale their readers of lurid bodice-rippers (really? was the book you read from 1970s or 80s?)  and impossible plots that those oh-so-silly women love (again, really? the plot of The Goldfinch was a bit out there yet was a fantastic story that won a Pulitzer).

Are those lords of literature being purposefully inflammatory to get clicks and therefore exposure? Probably.

But still…bite me. Er, what I mean is I’d like those people to pick up and actually read a romance written in the last 10, even 15 years. Well, my first impulse is a tad more visceral (like STFU or GTFO) but I end in the same place which is urging them to READ A ROMANCE.

I’m damn proud to be a romance writer and reader. Hell, I’m a card-carrying member of the RWA. (Romance Writers of America).

RAWR.

There’s a reason that the genre is so successful. There is something for every taste. My God, what other genre features heroines that are shapeshifters, vampires, and duchesses alongside single moms, doctors, and unemployed administrative assistants?

There are contemporary romances, erotic, historical, inspirational, paranormal, suspense, action-adventure. Heat levels from sweet red peppers (like Christian romances) to ghost pepper fire (BDSM stories, duh). There are the quick-read category novels and the 800 plus pages epics like Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Acheron (which was amazing, btw). Romances are smart, witty, poignant, sad, sexy, funny, touching, dramatic, dreamy, I can go on and on.

The thread that binds them all is the ending; Happy Ever After or at the very least Happy For Now. I think this is why the literati get their panties in a twist.

It’s a bad argument and here’s why. In thrillers the bad guy gets caught. But how? Read it and find out. In mysteries, said puzzle is solved. But how? Read it and find out. In romances, the characters fall in love. But how? Yes, say it with me, read it and find out.

It’s the story that sucks us in; the struggles each character endures, growing as human beings, realizing what they are or can be, succeeding or failing, falling in love. Today’s romances feature strong yet flawed heroines and nuanced heroes who grapple mightily with decisions, both emotional and plot-driven.  Romances routinely deal with weighty, difficult subjects like PTSD, depression, insecurity, trauma, and death.

When it’s done well, and it often is, readers learn something and feel something as human beings. Love stories are that powerful.

In my favorite books when I close the cover, I smile; a bit sad it’s over and also completely satisfied. That’s the homerun. That’s the payoff in romances. A good story moves us. That’s what I try to do with the characters and stories I write – let the reader connect so well with the book, feel what the characters feel, want what the characters want, that she (or he) smiles when she closes the book.

There is no greater pleasure than that.

WRITE ON;

“Long Live The Delicious Paranormal Romance”

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Thanks for giving me an opportunity to rant a bit.

When I was close to finishing the first draft of my paranormal romance, Omega Rising, back in late 2013/early 2014, the world (meaning a lot of agents, editors, and bloggers I respected) declared the paranormal romance dead. “Can’t sell PNRs anymore.”  The articles came fast and furious. “Glut.” “Market oversaturation.” “Twilight was the beginning of the end.” On and on they went. But…but I love reading PNRs. How come suddenly no one else did?

Let me back up a second. I’m an avid reader of romances. Well, I’m an avid reader of everything but romances have been my favorite ever since I picked up one of my mom’s Harlequin Presents as a teenager. I looked forward to sneaking away with those white covers with bright pops of color when she was done reading. Those stories took me to far off places like the deserts of Arabia, the mountains in Switzerland with handsome heroes and beautiful heroines. They solved mysteries, wrestled with accidents and amnesia and their feelings, they took down the bad guy, confessed their lies (it seemed there was always a big lie being told) then eventually confessed their love for each other. The Happy Ever After. Hooked.

Then about eight years ago I picked up my first paranormal romance (by Christina Dodd, who I’d never heard of before) and read it one sitting. Amazing. Fantastic.  Delicious. I bought the whole series and gobbled them up, too, and hunted for more books. The stakes were higher in paranormals, the heroes hotter and heroines sexier, the romances steamier. Yes yes yes. More, please.

Paranormal writers used words real men and women used every day, like cock and wet (no more petals opening, no more manhood or gods forbid manroot – hooray). The heroines were strong, flawed, their orgasms important, like in real life. Even with the fantasy element of vampires or shapeshifters or witches, the stories, the romances, were more authentic. I was so IN.

Okay, back to when PNRs were declared dead. On an  open Twitter chat with one of the publishers where I planned to submit the manuscript once polished, their reps confirmed what I’d been reading. I was blindsided, heartbroken, sick to my stomach. I had just spent a considerable amount of time and tears on my first novel that would never sell.

Might as well flush this thing I created and loved down the toilet. I stumbled through the rest of that day, berating myself one minute then the next wondering if I could change my novel and eliminate the paranormal element.

That made me feel even worse because paranormal added a level of complexity and tension and steaminess that, in my view anyway, not just couldn’t but shouldn’t be cut out like an unwanted defect. An unsalable defect. I wrote what I loved but no one wanted to read PNRs anymore?  Because I sure did.

The next morning I woke up and looked at my TBR stack and some books I just finished reading. A healthy number of those books were paranormals. I checked the pub dates – all new. Huh. Wtf. They weren’t dead after all.  HOORAY and AWWW YEAH!!

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After filing that bit of news under “dammit, don’t believe everything you read’ I went right back to my manuscript to revise, rewrite, edit and revise some more. Less than a year later I had two books under contract and my editor helped make my books even stronger.

My theory is that for a while there was a glut of paranormal romances and some books that slipped through were…less than good (you know what I’m talking about). The market listened to annoyed readers, including myself, who plunked down hard earned cash only to find a story that didn’t live up to the high expectations the genre demands.

Because of this, I believe, the big publishers, small presses, and   authors tightened their standards and better stories resulted. Savvy readers want a good story, a hot romance, and a reason to keep turning the pages.

Good for the genre, good for the reader.

Long live the delicious paranormal romance!

(Anna here: this is an updated version of a guest post I wrote for the awesome blog Foreplay and Fangs on June 9, 2016)

You can check out my delicious paranormal romances Omega Rising and Skye Falling at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, AllRomanceebooks, etc.

WRITE ON;

SIRENS contributing author Adam Bealby makes a splash

Finally! Rhonda Parrish’s volume four of her Magical Menageries series, titled Sirens, came out this week.  The cover is spectacular.

 Sirens_SneakPeek

Sirens are beautiful, dangerous, and musical, whether they come from the sea or the sky. Greek sirens were described as part-bird, part-woman, and Roman sirens more like mermaids, but both had a voice that could captivate and destroy the strongest man. The pages of this book contain the stories of the Sirens of old, but also allow for modern re-imaginings, plucking the sirens out of their natural elements and placing them at a high school football game, or in wartime London, or even into outer space.

Sixteen siren songs that will both exemplify and defy your expectations.

Goosebumps.

The reviews say things like “enthralling”, “poignant”, “fantastic voyage”, and my favorite, “grabby hands” so I look forward to savoring Sirens this weekend. Today’s guest post is by one of the contributing authors, Mr. Adam Bealby, who was kind enough to throw some words our way. So, the blog is yours Adam!

 Hello folks! I’m Adam L. Bealby, author of The Fisherman’s Catch, a story in the rather splendid Sirens anthology edited by Rhonda Parrish. Anna’s kindly given me free rein to do a guest blog and I thought hey, let’s try something a bit different!

 ‘Carry on…’ is a game I play with my kids for a bit of fun and to encourage their creative muse. You start reciting a story, pause at a cliffhanger or crossroad, and say, “Carry on, carry on, carry on”. Someone else picks up the thread, finds a suitable handover point and passes it back with a second “Carry on, carry on, carry on”. You get the idea.

 So, without further ado, I give you (a slightly polished version of)…

 The Ugly Siren

 by Adam L. Bealby (age 38) and Poppy Bealby (age 11)

 A: There was once an ugly siren who was no good at magic glamours. Whenever a ship sailed by the other sirens would assume beautiful female forms in order to run the ship aground and devour its crew. But one look at the ugly siren and the sailors would sail in the opposite direction instead.

The other sirens weren’t very happy about this. They told the ugly siren to take herself down to the farthest end of their rocky peninsula, out of sight and out of mind.

One day, as the ugly siren was basking on her lonesome rock, a whaling ship happened along.

P: The sailors on the whaling ship were chasing a whale. One look at the ugly siren and the whale dived down to the ocean depths, never to be seen again. The sailors were very cross. Then they saw the ugly siren and they were very sick. Several of them puked in a bucket.

 But one of the sailors wasn’t cross. And he didn’t puke in a bucket. He looked at the ugly siren and he saw the most beautiful creature in the world.

He was very upset when the captain gave the order to fire.

 A: As the first mate made to release the harpoon the sailor pushed him out of the way. The metal stake bounced harmlessly off the rocks a few feet from the ugly siren.

The captain feared that this strange love sickness might spread to others in his crew, so he had the sailor thrown overboard.

 As the ship sailed off towards the horizon the sailor dragged himself up out of the water and sat beside the ugly siren on her rock.

 P: They got to talking and soon fell in love. The ugly siren realised that the sailor liked her for who she was, not what she looked like. She took him to the other side of the rocks to introduce to the other sirens. In truth she wanted to show off her catch. But when her sisters woke up licking their chops she realised her mistake.

 A: Fortunately, the other sirens didn’t like the look of dinner. They’d never seen an uglier human before! He was so ugly they felt sick to the gills. So sick that they puked in a bucket.

 With all this fishy spewing going on the sailor made good his escape. He was convinced that the ugly siren had led him into a trap. He jumped into the sea and began to swim away.

P: The ugly siren jumped in and caught up with him. She took the sailor in her arms and tried to explain away the misunderstanding with a big salty kiss. It occurred to her that she had used her powers without realising it, casting a glamour over the sailor to save him from the other sirens. She was so happy!

 But the sailor didn’t believe her fishy story. He struggled to get away, and as he did so he drowned.

The grieving siren clawed out the sailor’s heart and let his body sink to the ocean floor. She went back to her lonesome rock and there she stayed the rest of her days.

 And when she got very lonely she gave that heart a little squeeze, to remind her that someone, long ago had recognised her inner beauty.

 THE END

 Adam L. Bealby writes fantasy, horror and weird fiction for both adults and children. His short stories and comic work have been published in numerous anthologies, including Pagan (Zimbell House Publishing), Darkness Abound (Migla Press), Once Upon A Scream (HorrorAddicts.net), Sirens (World Weaver Press) and World Unknown Review Vol. 2. He lives in Worcestershire, UK with his wife and three children, and a harried imagination. Catch up with his latest ravings at @adamskilad.

 Poppy Bealby is in her last year of primary school and enjoys writing and skyping.

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