IMPORTANT: PLEASE READ!

Thank you for being a loyal follower of Rocking Horse Writing. This blog is no longer active, as I have split Rocking Horse Writing into two separate blogsone for writing/publishing and one for horses/riding.

To continue following my adventures in writing, reading, and publishing, please follow

To continue following my equestrian pursuits, mishaps, and blunders, please follow

I will only occasionally publish the same post on both blogs (e.g. A post about a writing book dealing with horses.)

I hope you will continue to follow one or both of the new blogs. I apologize for any inconvenience!

One Blog becomes Two

It has come to my attention that this blog attempts to cover too many subjects. For that reason, Ive decided to separate Rocking Horse Writing into two blogs.

If youd like to join me in my adventures in writing, reading, and publishing.

If you follow Rocking Horse Writing solely to laugh and cry at my equestrian adventures and mishaps.

Of course, if youd still like to follow BOTH of my blogs that would be the best option of all! This will be my last post on Rocking Horse Writing, as my two new blogs will require all my extra time and energy. Thanks for your input, loyalty, and sticking around through the blog changes!

TRAIL OF SECRETS Cover Reveal!

At last, the cover for Trail of Secrets has arrived! I instantly fell in love with the cover when I first saw it a few weeks ago. I wanted to share it with the world immediately, but Ive been sworn to secrecy until today. Im so thankful to Caroline Andrus for designing such a mysterious equestrian-themed cover. It truly captures the essence of my novel. Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think!

Trail of Secrets, by Laura Wolfe

Spending three weeks of her summer at the elite Foxwoode Riding Academy in northern Michigan should have been one of the happiest times of sixteen year-old Brynlei’s life. But from the moment Brynlei arrives at Foxwoode, she can’t shake the feeling she’s being watched. Then she hears the story of a girl who vanished on a trail ride four years earlier. While the other girls laugh over the story of the dead girl who haunts Foxwoode, Brynlei senses that the girl—or her ghost—may be lurking in the shadows.

Brynlei’s quest to reveal the truth interferes with her plan to keep her head down and win Foxwoode’s coveted “Top Rider” award. To make things worse, someone discovers Brynlei’s search for answers and will go to any length to stop her. As Brynlei begins to unravel the facts surrounding the missing girl’s disappearance, she is faced with an impossible choice. Will she protect a valuable secret? Or save a life?

Publisher:  Fire and Ice Young Adult Books (coming August/September 2015)
Age level: 13-18

Still not sure if you want to read it? Watch the trailer:

 

I hope to see you next week, when Ill recount every detail of my recent visit to the Kentucky Horse Park!

Horse of Inspiration

Today is Derby Day and, not surprisingly, I am going to talk about horses.  Do you remember my previous post about that horse of lightning speed that dragged me around the ring during my first time riding her? The one that left me with bloody hands, tears in my eyes, and muscles so sore I could not make myself a sandwich because it hurt too much to lift the bread? Well, Her name is Edoras and I am leasing her now. As my riding instructor always says, You never learn anything from the good lessons! And boy have I learned a few things. Over the past several weeks, I continued to ride her and learn.  Dont get me wrong, there is still A LOT of room for improvement. But for the next couple months she will basically be my horse 3 days a week. If things go well, we will even get to compete in a show at the end of June.
I am ecstatic about this turn of events for so many reasons. As most of you know by now, so many of my story ideas come from my experiences with horses. I can only imagine all of the inspiration Ill draw from my time spent with Edoras. (Good thing I have my white board to write down all these ideas!) For example, I just found out that Edoras is the Great Great Granddaughter of the famous racehorse and Triple Crown winner Secretariat! Doesnt she look like him? And this helps to explain her need for speed. She also seems to know that she is descended from royalty. Its almost as if she is speaking when she looks at me as if to say, I am a princess and you are here to serve me. Oh, how I love horses and their unique personalities!

Well, I am off to the barn to gather some more inspiration:) Happy Derby Day and may the horse who is treated the best by his or her trainer/owner/jockey win!

My YA Novel is getting Published!

Happy 2015 Everyone! I was planning on doing my usual January post where I review my writing and riding goals from last year and set up new goals for the coming year, but that all seems really boring now. Why? Because my new year just started out with a BANG! On New Years Day, I accepted an offer from Fire and Ice YA to publish my Young Adult thriller, Trail of Secrets. Somebody pinch me! The release date is scheduled for sometime in August or September 2015 and my book will be available in both digital and print formats. And to make things even better, Fire and Ice YA publishes tons of horse-related books. They are the ideal publisher for my book, as Trail of Secrets takes place at a riding academy in Northern Michigan. I cant wait to read some other books published by Fire and Ice YA and let everyone know when I find some gems.

Ive been overwhelmed by all the congratulatory messages Ive received on my Author Facebook page the last couple of days. Some people have asked how they can help me in these months before the book is released. The answer is pretty simple: spread the word! Id love for my blog readers to like my FB page and share the link with friends. Trail of Secrets will most likely to appeal to young adults and adults who love horses, enjoy ghost stories, or simply crave a good mystery. In the meantime, Ill be sure to keep everyone up to date on the cover reveal, pre-sale opportunities, and the release date.

Ill save the big reveal of my list of 2015 goals for a future post when theres a little less excitement in the air. But heres a hint: I need to get back to riding!

Hope everyones year is off to a great start too!

Horse Show Hangover

Well, its taken me almost three weeks to even recover enough to write this post. My recent horse show trip with Louie was fun, exciting, stressful, expensive, exhausting, thrilling . . . Did I mention exhausting? It was four straight days of waking up at the crack of dawn and going non-stop until collapsing into bed and waking up four hours later to do it all again. Im so glad I did it though. Louie was a champ literally. We won Reserve Champion in the Adult Low Hunters division! My husband and two-kids came out to watch my jumping classes on Saturday afternoon, which meant so much to me. I posted some videos of our first and second place rides below. My adult medal class was on Sunday the very last class of the day. I was so exhausted by that point that I almost told my trainer I wanted to scratch, but I decided to push through because I didnt know when I would have the chance to compete again. And good thing because we came in second place (out of eleven entries). I was happy with the way I rode, so I cant ask for much more.

It wasnt all sunshine and rainbows though. After my last class on the fourth day, after cleaning up and checking out, after returning to our home barn, I suffered what can only be described as a meltdown. Im going to blame it on pure exhaustion. The way I felt can only compared to my condition after being in labor for 37 hours when my first child was born. I think I may have been suffering from a bit of heat stroke and dehydration as well. Somehow, I made it home and my husband was so shocked by my appearance that he considered taking me to the hospital. Although I was starving, I couldnt eat anything. I wanted to take a shower more than anything, but I couldnt even stand up. I went straight to bed, still wearing my breeches and show shirt! It was bad.

Its been a couple of weeks now and Im feeling normal again. But I made a very difficult decision to take a break from riding (and from half-leasing my buddy, Louie) for a while. The demands that riding makes on my time and on our bank account are becoming too much to handle. My kids get out of school next week and will be home with me for the summer. I want to spend more time focusing on them and on helping them pursue their activities and goals. I want to clean my house, weed my garden, bake muffins, take day trips with my kids, and spend more time on writing. Taking a break from riding will, hopefully, give me time to do all these things and possibly free up some money for a dinner or two out with my husband.

I am sad though. Although I am leasing Louie until the end of June, I miss him already. He is such an affectionate horse with a heart of gold. Ive been half-leasing him since last October and he truly has become a part of our family. Ill miss my friends at the barn too. I always look forward to hanging out with them and their horses. I wont say I am quitting riding, because I dont believe that is what Im doing. Ive tried to stop riding before and my breaks usually do not last more than a few months. I just need some time to step back and regain that passion that I seem to have lost a little of over the last few weeks.

Has this happened to anyone else? Have you ever felt the need to take a break from riding? Did you get back into it later? Please share. Its cheaper than therapy!

Im taking a blogging break for a few weeks, as my entire family is heading Disney World to help celebrate my parents 50th Wedding Anniversary. Enjoy the beginning of summer everyone!

A Schooling Show Win

This past Sunday, Louie and I competed in our first show together.  The fact that it was a schooling show made the event somewhat less daunting. Just think of it as a lesson, my riding instructor told me more than once.  I dont have a lot of showing experience and I havent ridden in a show since I leased Edoras last Summer, so I was nervous. Really nervous. My lesson on Louie two days earlier had not gone particularly well, so I really just wanted to get through the show without embarrassing myself.

I arrived at the barn at 10am and my first class didnt get underway until about 1pm.  With each minute that passed, I became more nervous.  Why am I doing this to myself? I wondered.  I could be sitting comfortably at home on the couch eating donuts and watching the Olympics.  But as the old saying goes, Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  So, after reviewing the courses in my head five hundred times and taking almost as many trips to the bathroom, it was game time.  Now that its all over, I can honestly say that Im so glad I took the risk.  Louie was wonderful.  He definitely knew it was a show and he performed.  I was happy with my riding, with the exception of a few minor mishaps.  Ive decided to look at those mishaps as learning experiences.  The blue ribbon eluded us, but we did take home second, third, fourth, and sixth place ribbons.  I rode in my first medal and was invited back for round two.  The video of our first round ride is below.  (I apologize for the poor quality it was taken through a window.)  If you watch closely, you can see Louie coughing throughout the course.  This messed up our rhythm a bit, but I think we came out pretty well.

Competing in the schooling show was a valuable experience for me.  I now have one show on Louie under my belt.  I realized during the show that everyone makes mistakes.  I did not see a single horse and rider team perform flawlessly.  This realization that we are all works-in-progress alleviates some of the unrealistic pressure that I often put on myself to be perfect.  Ill continue riding Louie and practicing in preparation for the two shows I plan to compete in this Summer.  The schooling show was a big step in the right direction.  Now I hope you dont mind if I pop an advil, sit on the couch, eat donuts, and watch the Olympics.

Happy riding and writing, everyone!

Hone your Craft through Reading

In the midst of snowiest, coldest winter in Michigans history, Ive been hard at work, furiously attempting to complete the first draft of my first YA novel (working title, Foxwoode).  More than once, while Ive been trapped inside my snow-covered house frantically typing away on my computer, images of Stephen Kings, Misery, have crept into my brain.  But, thankfully, there is no crazy woman holding me hostage in a snowy cabin forcing me to write the next great American novel.  I dont have any fans to speak of.  The pressure to complete my first novel is coming completely from within me.

Im happy to report my thriller/mystery, which is set at a summer riding academy in Northern Michigan, is making progress.  I just passed the 35,000 word mark and Im nearing my first draft end goal of approximately 50,000 words.  Ive learned so much about the writing process, just by writing.  Its been inspiring to see the characters personalities and previously unimagined story lines develop before my eyes.  But, not surprisingly, doubts and questions have also developed as I write.  For example, how much adult content is appropriate in a YA novel?  How dark is too dark?  (My mind easily slips into dark places see Misery reference above).  Is my writing horrible?  What is the best way to begin a new chapter?  To signal the close of a chapter? And for that matter, how long should the chapters be?

I know there are many books out there dissecting the art of writing a YA novel.  Personally, I have found Mary Koles, Writing Irresistible Kidlit, to be extremely helpful in this area.  But all of the how to books in the world cant answer many of the most basic questions, including Am I on the right track? and What are they looking for?  By they, I mean agents, publishers, and the young adult audience.  Ive found the best way to answer my constantly developing questions is by reading other thriller/mystery young adult novels that have recently been published.  Just by reading similar novels, I can see how other authors were successful in doing what I am trying to accomplish.

In her book, Chapter After Chapter, Heather Sellers recommends reading 100 books from the same genre a writer wishes to write.  Im not sure Im going to make it to 100 before my first draft of Foxwoode is completed, but I am striving to read at least 40-50 comparable novels.  I love Heather Sellers idea of keeping a list of each book Ive read with a sentence or two about the story line.  That way, when it is time to query agents and publishers I can easily refer to the list and mention books that are most similar to mine.

The other day I went to Barnes & Noble and made a list of all of the best-selling teen thriller/mystery books on display.  Just from that one trip, I have about twenty new books to add to my list.  Im currently reading, and thoroughly enjoying, The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney.   I love that it is written in third person, just like my novel.  Ive been able to sharpen my technique of writing dialogue and internal thoughts by observing how Ms. Cooney did it successfully.  Next on my list is The Killing Woods, by Lucy Christopher. The cover of the book looks almost exactly how I envision the cover of my future novel to look (except mine will have a misty silhouette of a horse in the woods too).

Now I need your help.  I am searching for some great YA thriller/mysteries that involve horses and have been published in the last 3-5 years.  Any suggestions?  Please share!  Also, Id love to have more friends with me on my YA reading journey. Please be my friend on Goodreads to join me.  Id love to see what youre reading too!

Until next time, happy reading!

Published in Practical Horseman!

I received my February issue of Practical Horseman in the mail yesterday and flipped directly to the very last page where the My Life column is housed.  And there it was!  My article!  Published in Practical Horseman!  To say I was thrilled would be an understatement.  To be honest, I dont know who was more excited  me or my son, Brian, who was pictured in the photo with me.  The poor kid honestly believes he is going to be famous now.  I didnt have the heart to tell him that no one he knows will likely ever see this magazine article, unless their parents happen to be serious English riders.  My ever-supportive husband promptly ran out and bought a rustic wood frame (reminiscent of a barn door) that fit the page perfectly.  The article now hangs in my home office as a token of one goal accomplished.  Although there are many other goals yet to be fulfilled (as documented in my article), this little piece of success is a solid step in the direction in my writing and publishing journey.  So Im taking a moment today just to be happy.  After all, these moments on the long and lonely road of writing are few and far between.

On the riding front, stay tuned to my blog for news on our big move to the new barn.  Hint:  the new barn is unheated which is not fun during the polar vortex in Michigan!  But lots of changes (hopefully good ones) are happening in the horse arena.

Until then Happy Writing and Happy Riding!

My Goals for 2014 Year of the Horse

Happy New Year!  I know this is going to be a good year because 2014 is the Year of the Horse, after all.  I love the feeling of a fresh start that comes with a new year.  I know a lot of people do not like New Years resolutions, but I am not one of those people!  I love reviewing my goals from the previous year and seeing which ones I accomplished, which ones I still need to achieve, and which ones Ive decided (for one reason or another) are no longer important to me.  Setting goals keeps me focused and provides stepping-stones to fulfilling my dreams.  In the words of Yogi Berra, If you dont know where you are going, youll end up someplace else.  Wise words, indeed.

Ill spare you my personal goals, but Ill share a few of my writing and riding goals from 2013.  Lets see how I fared:

1.  Write 12 fully polished picture book manuscripts

I did this one!  Thanks in large part to my participation in Julie Hedlunds 12 x 12 challenge and with a lot of input from my critique groups.

2.  Get a picture book published

I did this one too!  HORSE FLOWERS was published as an eBook for the MeeGenius App in July 2013.  I also have my picture book, HENRIETTAS HOOF POLISH, under contract with Guardian Angel Publishing.  It should be available in both print and eBook form sometime in 2014.  I cant wait to see what the illustrations will look like!

3.  Find an agent to represent me

I did not achieve this goal in 2013.  I submitted many, many manuscripts to agents who seemed to be good fits for my work.  I must admit, I gave up on this goal a little too easily.  When I did not hear back from anyone (other than form letters) after my first round of submissions, I started focusing more of my energy into writing my YA novel.  Ill continue to pursue this goal in 2014.

4.  Lease a horse

I am so thankful that I was able to achieve this goal in 2013.  I half-leased a beautiful and athletic mare named Edoras for two months in May and June.  After she was sold, I began half-leasing my current buddy, Louie, in October.  Being able to ride three times a week while also being a stay-at-home mom to my two young kids is a juggling act, but a privilege that I dont take for granted.

5.  Compete in at least two horse shows

Well, I achieved half of this one.  I competed in one horse show in 2013 with Edoras and it was such a tremendous learning experience.  We placed in almost all of our classes, so I was very happy about that.

Hey, 3 1/2 out of 5 aint bad!  I also accomplished a few other goals that werent on my list, like getting published in two magazines (PKAs Advocate and Practical Horseman), coming in third place in Susanna Leonard Hills 3rd Annual Holiday Writing Contest, and being selected as an alternate for the United States Equestrian Team. Just kidding on that last one. I wanted to see if anyone was still paying attention. All in all, 2013 was a really good year for me.

Now moving on to my goals for the new year.  When thinking about my goals, I followed another wise piece of advice:  Your goals should be just out of reach, but not out of sight. Denis Waitley.  So with that in mind, here are my writing and riding goals for 2014:

1.  Finish writing and revising my YA novel

2.  Get my YA novel published or represented by an agent

3.  Join a YA critique group

4.  Attend at least two writing workshops and/or seminars

5.  Get another picture book published or represented

6.  Continue to develop my author platform by increasing my blog, twitter, and author Facebook page following

7.  Enter at least one writing contest

8.  Continue half-leasing a horse (preferably Louie!)

9.  Compete in at least two horse shows

10.  Win a blue ribbon

I am purposefully keeping my goals somewhat broad.  Of course, I also have very specific things Id like to work on in both my writing and riding.  For example, Id like to learn how to better write believable characters from different points of view.  In riding, I am working on riding from leg to hand and keeping my shoulders back.  But for me, the purpose of my New Years goals are broader objectives that all of the smaller steps help me to achieve.

What about you?  Did you achieve last years goals?  Did you set any writing or riding goals for the new year?  Id love to hear about them!

Until next time, happy writing and riding in 2014 (The Year of the Horse!)