Captain, the Horse Who Wouldn’t Walk

wp-1473284576708.jpgMy first memories of horses comes in the form of a buckskin pinto named Captain. He was my mother’s horse, and he held all my dreams behind his blue eyes. I loved him from the moment I realized I could love, and I wanted to be on his back long before I knew how to ride.

Sometimes after riding my mom would set me in her Western saddle and lead Captain around, or sometimes she would swing up behind me and we’d ride double around the pasture. I was pretty sure I was as close to heaven on earth as I could possibly be.

I grew a little older, and my budding confidence around horses took on an edge of boldness. I was sure I could ride by myself, and I remember clearly the first time my mom unhooked the lead rope.

Captain promptly stopped walking.

I clicked. I kicked. I kicked harder. I commanded him to move. I even smacked his back end with the reins.

He sighed hugely and didn’t lift a hoof, and that’s when I learned my first important lesson:

The horse knows you better than you do.

He knew I didn’t have the confidence, the will, or the know-how. I understood the motions, but he knew I didn’t understand the language.

I tried a few more times over the next year or so, but every time I got on, he refused to move. The times my mom held onto his bridle to get him going, he came to a halt the moment she let go.

I considered myself a failure and doomed to love an animal who would never love me back. I remember crying over it at least once. Having a dream die is hard on an 8-year-old.tmp_5926-img_20160907_140543-1286490898

I was 9 when I attended Pony Camp at a nearby stables, and after a week of “training,” I returned to Captain with something new: determination. Combined with greater confidence and increased knowledge, it meant I felt ready to ride anything.

Thus came the day when I sat on his back by myself, and I kicked. He stood still, but I noticed a flick of his ear, and I knew for the first time he was listening. I kicked again, told him to move, and I think I called him a Big Lug.

And Captain walked.

It was the beginning of a complicated relationship, but that day was all victory. He walked!

In that moment, my dreams returned to life.

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When Girl Meets Horse

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My 6 year old daughter is much like me in many ways, including being born with a love for horses. Hand her a stick, *poof!* now she has a pony to ride. Give her a carrot *poof!* the rocking horse is now carrot-starved and Must Be Fed. Pretend someone or something is in danger, *poof!* she hops on her ever faithful rescuing horse.

For years she has watched horses from afar with that wistful longing I well remember feeling. A couple years ago, we once passed a rider on a walk, and she was gracious enough to let my kids pet her beautiful palomino. Palominos are still one of my daughter’s favorites.

On Sunday she met her first horse up close and personal courtesy of a kind neighbor. It was a step towards a dream come true for her (the ultimate dream, of course, is a horse of her own). I’ve never seen her grin so big for so long!

A little bit of instruction later, she had balance and perfect posture as our neighbor walked the horse around, and I really had just one thought. “Land sakes, she’s a natural.”

Then I remembered, that’s what people said about me when I first got started. And I sighed happily, because while I foresee a lot of work, a lot of patience, and a lot of waiting on her part, I secretly have already started hearing it in my heart:

“Here we go again.”

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Nothing new to report on The Sprenkil Adventures. Still plugging ahead with queries, still hopeful for some replies! Still have a little of the list left to go. Starting to think more seriously what to do next should I not land an agent or publisher.

 

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The Presidential Graduation Speech

If you haven’t already heard of Jack Aiello, now you have. His 8th grade graduation speech swept not only his audience, but YouTube, various news agencies, and talk show hosts as well.

I read through a number of the news articles I could find online, but most of them repeated the same things. They highlighted the humor and the brilliance behind the presidential impersonations, and yes, it’s hilarious (it’s why he caught my attention), but I was hoping for more. Something different. Eventually, I found an article that stood out.

Here you will find no quotes from the speech, no commentary on the inflections…in fact, there’s very little about the original video at all. Why did it resonate with me? Quite simply, the family element. The article isn’t just about Jack, it’s about his whole family, and I really really appreciate that.

So thank you, Kerry Lester of the Daily Herald.

And congratulations, Jack Aiello!

Two months later…

The eyes are finally improving to the point I can work in short bursts on the computer without discomfort. This is relieving news to me, because I have done much writing by hand these last many weeks and I’m somewhat anxious to get caught up on the typing side of things.

This morning I awoke and dressed in preparation for the 90 °F weather my phone told me to expect. Two hours later I raced outside to bring my dog in from the rain, and I decided phones make terrible weathermen.

*angry-natural-1

I wish I had more writing to show for my 2 month absence than a few silly sentences about the weather. I fear I got kinda discouraged for a while, because although I sent out a bunch more query letters on The Sprenkil Adventures, I didn’t hear from a single one of them. I found rejections to be motivating, but silence? That’s way worse than being told no.

After getting over the initial slump, I decided to take another hard look at the manuscript, and I encountered what I consider to be a pretty big flaw. Why it took me months to see it, I don’t know. But I fixed it, and I feel better about it now.

Queries resume this week!

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Remembering SkyHawk

Part of me is somewhat saddened that the issue with my eyes has forced me to write less on the computer. Among other things, I had hoped to participate in the A-Z Challenge this year, but (obviously) that isn’t going to happen anymore.

What I am going to share today is a memory, and to this day it remains one of the strongest memories I have of my first horse, SkyHawk. I spent about 2 hours today going through my personal journals looking for the entry, and at length I found it.

I’ve been talking recently about stories where people rescued horses, but there’s also a place for stories where horses rescued people. Physical rescue is heroic, but so is emotional rescue. I know almost as little about therapy horses as I do about rescue horses, with one exception. I’ve been rescued before, and this is my story.

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The last photo of SkyHawk and Me.

July 7, 2004

A couple months after I first got SkyHawk, my brother started showing the first signs of what eventually (i.e. four years later) led to his diagnosis of bi-polar disorder. At the beginning, though, we didn’t know what was going on. We just thought my brother was going through some weird form of rebellion, so when the first real blow came that something was seriously wrong, I fell apart.

You must understand, before my brother started changing he was my best friend hands down. We did everything together, shared all our secrets, and valued the other’s opinion more than anyone else’s. The day I realized I’d lost that, I almost broke.

I ran to the only other place I had (I was 16, but not driving at the time and thus couldn’t escape that way)–I ran to my horse’s stall. Hawk was still relatively new to me, and I didn’t know him that well. I wasn’t sure if I really trusted him yet, but I was in a bad way and willing to take my chances just to be with something living and outside the house.

I sat down in the corner and started crying hard, silent tears, my face buried in my knees and my arms wrapped around my legs. After a few minutes I heard Hawk moving around, then I felt this light pressure on the back of my neck. I opened my eyes and looked up, and through watery vision I saw he was standing over me with his nose pressed against my shoulder. I cried even harder then, and he stayed with me, nose to shoulder, for what felt like ages.

I’ll never forget that night. It was the moment I knew Hawk and I understood each other. I trusted Hawk completely after that.

Hawk and I went on to do all kinds of things together. I took a fancy to bareback jumping and bridle-less riding (but not bridle-less jumping, because I wasn’t quite that brave). We went for trail rides through acres of apple orchards and vineyards, taught each other the passage and piaffe, and consumed large amounts of root beer (me moreso than him, but he did enjoy the occasional swig).

I miss him.

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My Horse Sprenkil has another rejection! Time to send out more queries…

Earl Assam to the rescue!

tea-1170551_640Today as I prepared my quiet time tea (I have 5 kids…quiet time is mandatory for EVERYONE, including Mom), I thought for quite a while what I should blog about (because quiet time is when I blog, or write stories, or otherwise use the computer). It’s worrisome to me that often times I don’t have a blogging plan, and with my lack of a plan I have little hope for ever getting ahead. You can’t get ahead on a track you haven’t laid out, and all that.

In the midst of my pondering I reached for a new sample tea. I tea-1132529_640absentmindedly ripped it open, only glancing at the package briefly as I placed the teabag (yes, bag, don’t judge me) in my pretty countryside mug. “Numi Aged Earl Grey, Assam aged with real bergamot”.

Wait. Assam? Didn’t I just read this fabulous review about Assam and comment on how I would need to try it? And what is Assam doing in an Earl Grey anyway?

I love tea (quarts of it kept me company through many an all-nighter during college), but I confess my knowledge of it is relatively limited. Turns out that bergamot oil is the defining factor to Earl Grey, and the black tea element is not at all as fixed as I thought. Go figure.

And so, I am rather enjoying my Assam Earl Grey as I pen out an outline for “Sprenkil Visits the Zoo.”

Questions I must answer:

  1. Big city zoo or smaller city animal sanctuary? Leaning towards the latter, as that would make a little more allowance for introducing a rescue horse.
  2. I know my rescue mare is a former high jumper who sustained a leg injury. Breed? No clue. I need to research high jumping a little more.

On that note, I loved stadium jumping, but high jumping is downright scary looking!

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Updates on The Sprenkil Adventures:

“My Horse Sprenkil” now has 4 rejections! The last one surprised me a little…the agent was very kind and encouraging. I wasn’t expecting to encounter that in a rejection letter. Onward, onward…

“Sprenkil Goes to the Moon” is back from the beta readers, now it’s time to par down and edit. Draft #4, here we come!

Waiting, waiting, and waiting. (But not doing nothing.)

reiter-913736_640Edit: Changed the title of the post. I wrote it late at night, and the next morning it struck me as rather misleading in meaning. Apologies to anyone else who thought so too!

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It’s difficult sometimes to know what the next step is as a not-yet-published author. It’s kind of like the time my horse and I found ourselves ankle deep in a surprise swampy mire of ick. We slipped and slid our way out of it, sometimes slowly choosing our steps, sometimes wildly stumbling about in an effort to find lost footing. (It was an adventure of a trail ride, and both of us got serious baths when we got home.)

Right now I feel somewhere in between the two sensations. I’m not quite sure of where I’m at with The Sprenkil Adventures, but I’m not hanging on for dear life, either. Two rejections and counting! At least I know where I stand with two agents, so that’s something.

There are a number of websites and articles that have helped me learn about publishing, query letters, marketing, and formatting. Since I haven’t really an update about the book, I though I might share some of the resources I found especially helpful. Continue reading

Pinterest Reveal

L.J. Potters is now on Pinterest!

There you will see photos that inspire the setting and characters within the Sprenkil Adventures. You will find learning resources for kids related to elements within the books (currently this means a board on nature learning and a board on the solar system).

As I write more books, more Pinterest boards will develop. Already there are two new character boards secretly waiting to be revealed!

Curious? I suggest you begin by checking out the character board for Sprenkil!

Consolation in a Bavarian Teacup

“There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea.” (Bernard-Paul Heroux)

ConsolationTeaI’m an officially recognized author now! This is the positive that I’m taking away from my first rejection letter. Yes, I felt some disappointment, but I’m not taking it personally.

To bolster my resolve and increase my motivation for today, I’m giving my afternoon tea something prettier than a heavy mug to rest in. Irish Breakfast, meet Bavarian china.

I pulled out a couple of the Sprenkil sketches from last year, hoping that would offer some extra encouragement. I still have no desire to illustrate my own book (and am very happy with the illustrator I’m currently working with!), but sometimes seeing the visual helps motivate the writing.

And so, Sprenkil flies on!