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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Christmastime Already? Sheesh!

Okay. I've been slacking off in writing my posts. November events blasted me out of my routine, rocketing past Thanksgiving, and landing me in the land of elves and Santa. Holy schmoly! What just happened?

I know I'm not alone in feeling clubbed and dazed. Book events filled my calendar, and November left many of us numb from a shared experience. (I'm not going to mention the "T" word, or anything about a shocking "E," or, well, you get the idea.) Time marches on. I'm a mom in the middle of an active family, so I feel pressure to get in gear and make Christmas happen.

Past Christmases were a blur of school events, office parties, shopping, baking, and decorating the house. I'll admit to being a little high octane when it came to making Christmas memories. The sleight of hand my husband and I perfected about Christmas Eve magic had our kids believing in Santa well past the average age of enlightenment. Their refrain? There must be a Santa because no way mom and dad would buy all that stuff and no way in heck could we hide it all until Christmas morning. Boo yeah! Mission accomplished.

But this year is different. My family will have one empty seat at the dinner table. It's a fact I'm having a hard time accepting.

Two of my children have graduated college and my youngest is a freshman. Asking them what they want Santa to bring makes them roll their eyes, and with no kids in the local schools, holiday concerts, bake sale fund raisers, and classroom parties are things of the past. I'll confess to being grumpy about decorating my home, too.

This season, the one filled with joy and love, is teaching me to find the joy in my life and focus on the love. I will eventually bake, shop, wrap, and decorate, but I'm refusing to do so when it feels like a "have to" instead of a "want to." I want to enjoy this holiday with my family. And I will.

This Christmas will not be a blur of activities. I am choosing to spend my time wisely and carefully, with people I love. I am going to take the time needed to show how I feel. Maybe we'll hike together or eat warm ginger bread, made from my grandmother's recipe, dripping with melting butter. When we do, I'll listen to their favorite Christmas memories and ask them about their hopes for the future. I don't think anyone's going to notice I didn't wrap a bunch of presents or I served a store-bought quiche instead of making my own. If they do notice? I'll invite them to talk with me while I wrap or cook. I want my time with them.

My second novel, "The Troubles," won best fiction award at EQUUS Film Festival in NYC
I realize that finding joy is like looking at yourself through a fun house mirror. Depending upon your perspective, features dominate your view or shrink away. I'm surrounded with joy. I just need to decide to keep my focus there.

Part of my joy was learning that "The Troubles" won a literary award! I may write a whole post on my November events, I may not. For now, I'm sharing a little bit of my joy with you.

If I don't post again for a couple of weeks, please know I wish you a wonderful holiday season and a joy filled new year. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

How Many Years to Become an Overnight Success?

You've heard the sayings by many different celebrities that it takes ten to fifteen years to become an overnight success. There is even a site dedicated to capturing the quips. Certain themes run throughout all of them. Overnight success is a myth, luck plays a part, and years of dogged work guarantees you nothing.

I didn't chose the life of an author to see my name on the New York Times best seller list, the measure most authors would agree on as the epitome of success. Of course, I'd love to see that, but I'm an author because I have fun with the process. I love creating and sculpting a story. I enjoy discovering readers and learning how they discover my work. I'm intrigued by the process of reaching readers through social media and marketing. I love the business and the creativity demanded in the publishing life.

I'm still working on becoming an overnight success, but I'm aware of accomplishments along my way. This November marks a few milestones for me. Four years ago, my first book, The Charity, was published and I started attending author events. Those initial events affirmed my love of the process of marketing as well as writing. Good thing, as a few of my signings were more challenging than others.

Fans from Canada! They didn't mind the cold as much as I did.
Some of my first signings were at the Equine Affaire. This conference is an annual pilgrimage for professionals and civilians in the equestrian world and draws over one hundred thousand people to the four day event. My books revolve around the horse world, so I knew I needed to be there to reach one sweet spot of my target audience. Was I featured at a book store? Nope. My first signings were as a guest with my brother's company, Eastern Hay. I propped my books up on a few hay bales and chatted with horse-loving and book-reading patrons. I sold a lot of books, made a few fans and learned a whole lot more than I bargained for about alfalfa hay and nutrition content of different horse feeds. I stood outside in the snow one year, cold drizzle another. All the while, I was seeing what people bought, figuring out why they bought what they did, and wondering how to get my foot in the door. I chatted with store owners, met different event organizers, and networked. In my rare down times, I attended equitation clinics and toured the breed barns to satisfy my horse cravings. I had a blast!

Fast forward four years. This month, I've been invited to moderate two author panels at Equine Affaire. Taborton Equine Books, where I was a featured author last year, will host book signings for all of the panelists afterwards. I'm thrilled at the honors, plus I'll be inside and warm! I have a short story (featuring a survivor of human trafficking at a therapeutic riding center) being released in Best New England Crime Stories by Level Best Books, and am a panelist at the EQUUS Film Festival in New York City. All of that is in addition to the bread-and-butter events of book clubs and local author fairs. 

These events are fun for me, but they have a purpose as well. If enticing a reader to buy your book is like getting a kid to like broccoli, then it takes more than one exposure to an author name to develop a fan base. With each of these events, my circle of influence is larger than what I could have reached on my own. My name is listed on schedules, in programs, and on websites. When people see my name there, they know I'm serious about writing and the publishing business. I'm leveraging every little bit I can to reach the next rung up the success ladder.

So why bother? Well, if you go by the timeline above, I only have another six to eleven years before I hit it big.

Good thing I'm having fun.

Maggie Dana, Natalie Keller Reinert, Jean McWilliams, Connie Johnson Hambley when I first discovered Taborton Equine Books. The coat and scarf say it all! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Author Panels at Equine Affaire

[2017 update: I'll be with author Laura Moore, Thursday, November 9 at 6:00 PM on the Seminar Stage talking about horse and writing, of course! You can find more details on my Facebook page.]

I don't know about you, but I love talking about horses and books as much as I love riding and writing...well, almost. When I'm joined by talented authors who share my passions, there's no contest! Let the gab-fest begin!

This year's Equine Affaire is a special one for me. I've been asked to moderate two panel discussions focusing on horses and books.

I know! Pinch me, right?

Thursday, November 10 will kick things off with a discussion on what your favorite fictional horse says about you. Does the Black Stallion make you all dreamy? How about Joey in War Horse? Purple ponies and unicorns count as windows to your soul, too. Me? I always liked the bad boys, and Thunderhead captured my heart long before I thought breaking curfew could be so much fun. I'll be joined by Maggie Dana, author of the iconic Timber Ridge Riders series, Mara Dabrishus, YA equestrian book author, and Patti Brooks, Morgan Horse evangelist and thriller author.

But wait! There's more!

Friday's panel will feature award-winning and best-selling authors Laura Moore, Natalie Keller Reinert, and Holly Robinson discussing how using the essence of the horse in fiction creates better stories. Laura pens sultry romances set in Virginia's horse country. Natalie brings thoroughbred racing to life with such love and realism you can feel the horse grit under your nails as you turn the pages. And Holly? Her books unfold the complex emotional ties inside families. Her recently released Folly Cove features a sister who gave up a promising riding career to care for an overbearing mother. 

After the panels, the authors will be meeting readers and signing books at Taborton Equine Books. Check out the signing schedule below for more times and authors.

Monday, October 24, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Turning for Home by Natalie Keller Reinert

If you're a horse lover without a horse or have a stable full of the four-legged beasts in your back yard, Turning for Home will have you sigh with love for the horses in this book as well as the humans who champion them.

Natalie Keller Reinert has crafted a story so real, I could feel the horse grit on my hands as I turned the pages.

Racehorses fill Alex's stable and heart. She loves each horse in her care as a trainer, and is passionate about the well-being of all horses at the track. As an outspoken activist for the ethical treatment of thoroughbred athletes, she becomes a lightning rod in a scandal for the very type of abuse she strives to stop. All she has to do is stay out of the public eye and away from the track until the controversy sorts itself out. But trouble isn't something Alex backs away from. 

Horses may fill Alex's life, but one horse fills her heart. Tiger Prince is a loser at the track, but something about Tiger tugs at her. He's keen witted and a gorgeous mover and Alex determines to create a new life for Tiger. Maybe he'll become a show jumper, maybe an eventer. All Alex knows for sure is that if Tiger can forge a new life, she can prove that thoroughbreds can have a long career even after their racing lives are over. 

Turning for Home is a must read for the horse loving reader. This book also received special honors as a finalist for the Dr. Tony Ryan award that recognizes books highlighting the Thoroughbred breed. 

About Natalie:

Growing up between Maryland and Florida, Natalie Keller Reinert has spent much of her life in the saddle. From galloping racehorses at Aqueduct, to grooming for international-level Event riders in Ocala, to riding on mounted patrol in New York City, if it involves horses, Reinert’s probably given it a try.

In 2011 she released THE HEAD AND NOT THE HEART, which became the first of four novels in the Alex and Alexander series. She’s also written novels set in eventing (AMBITION) and horse showing (SHOW BARN BLUES).

Join Natalie and me at the Equine Affaire where we'll tell how capturing the essence of the horse helps authors create better stories.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Keeping Secrets by Maggie Dana

When a book is nominated to be on Amazon's new Prime reading program, you know you have to check it out.

Keeping Secrets is the first book in Maggie Dana's Timber Ridge Rider series geared to young adults. Filled with teen angst,Keeping Secrets sets the stage for those many life lessons that allow its main character, Kate McGregor, to come of age. She blames herself for the death of a prize show horse and has sworn never to ride again. Ever!

Enter the need for a summer job and a place to live and Kate finds herself right back where she doesn't want to be...on a horse farm populated by the quintessential mean girls. For any horse crazed reader, Dana books are sure to give a healthy dose of horse and life lessons.

Tightly constructed and well-written, the Timber Ridge Riders series should be on every young reader's list.

Maggie Dana’s first riding lesson, at the age of five, was less than wonderful. In fact, she hated it so much, she didn’t try again for another three years. But all it took was the right instructor and the right horse and she was hooked for life.

Join Maggie and me at Equine Affaire and hear us talk about your favorite fictional horses!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Remember Me by Laura Moore

Laura Moore's book, Remember Me, is a wonderful addition to the equine fiction genre and not in the way that you think.

The reader meets Margot Radcliffe at a crossroad in her life. Gorgeous and headstrong, she
wants a place by her father's side to run Rosewood, a first-class horse farm in Virginia. Her father and, more importantly, his new trophy wife, think marriage is a much better idea for Margot. Tempers flare, and Margot leaves her family to become a super-model. A tragedy forces Margo back to the farm and back to face the man she'd rather forget.

I know what you're thinking. Horse book? Syrupy romance? Erotica with hooves? If any of that were true (or offensive), I wouldn't tell you to READ THIS BOOK!

First, the "horse book" genre is populated with young adult and coming of age novels. This book is neither one of those. Yes, there is romance and yes, some steamy sections, but the similarity stops there!

Margot has to do what she can to keep her family's farm solvent. Along with stepping into her father's shoes as farm manager, she has to step up as parent to her half sister. The inner life Moore brings to her characters kept me turning the pages. Bad boy Travis is a treat. Oh, and the terrific descriptions of horse farms and the business of training helped too!

What I loved about this book is what readers don't see a lot of. Each of Moore's characters has a strong moral compass that keeps them on solid footing. Margot has to raise a teenager rattled by grief and determined to be, well, a teen. How Margot deals with her half sister is wonderful mix of love and muddling through the slop of life with only an inner compass to guide her.

Moore's writing is first rate and her story is tightly constructed and readable. Treat yourself and read book one of the Rosewood Trilogy, Remember Me.

Laura was born in and grew up there and in Western Massachusetts. She received her undergraduate degree and my M.A. in art history. Since graduate school, Laura has worked as a museum lecturer and has taught art, art history, and French. She now lives in Rhode Island, where, in addition to writing, she teaches English at the Rhode Island School of Design--a great place to share her love of art and fiction.

Join Laura and me at the Equine Affaire in Springfield, Massachusetts, as we discuss how using the essence of the horse helps us write better fiction.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Level Best Books: Author Profile

(This post first appeared on Level Best Book's Facebook page. In preparation for the release of their next anthology, Level Best is highlighting authors with a featured post. Mine is below.)

Today we have author Connie Johnson Hambley who describes how horses and volunteer work shaped her story Giving Voice.

I volunteer at a therapeutic riding center near my home and gained a reputation as not being rattled by any horse or human behavior. Horses are highly intuitive and can sense a person's fear or uncertainty even before the human becomes aware of his or her emotions. This finely honed equine ESP is a primitive survival mechanism that makes them unique partners in behavioral therapy. My role as a horse handler is to focus on the horse to keep the clients safe while enabling the client the greatest latitude to learn.

I was one of a handful of volunteers to receive additional training. Not for handling a horse, but for learning how to interact with new clients. The clients were survivors of human trafficking, and the training shattered my perception of the who, what, where and how of this horrific crime. The women came from small towns in the U.S., not some third world country. They were entrapped in lives we may have seen as they scrubbed offices late at night or cared for babies during the day. The less visible women tended needs and lived lives we don't want to imagine.

But, as a thriller author, my mind goes there. 

I was witness to women regaining a sense of personal power as they learned to interact with an animal ten times their size. I was instructed not to touch the women, as they had been touched far too many times without their consent. I watched as the horses accepted them for who they were in that moment without judgement. I witnessed women learning to accept themselves as beautiful and strong. And they began the long journey of forgiving themselves.

Giving Voice is inspired by each woman, but not based on any one story. It is dedicated to the women of Amirah and the humans and horses of Windrush Farm.

To learn more about Connie Johnson Hambley visit her website at

Thursday, October 13, 2016

BOOK LAUNCH: Folly Cove by Holly Robinson

One great aspect about a writing life is the wonderful people you meet along the way who then become friends. We cheer each other on and thrill in their successes as we strive for our own. It's one thing to read a great book and want to tell your friends. It's extra special when that book was written by your friend!

This is my experience in reading Folly Cove, Holly Robinson's newest book. 

The Bradford sisters, Laura, Elly, and Anne, love one another, as only sisters from an overbearing and complex mother can. Their mother, Sara, former jazz singer and wife of the owner of a historic inn located in a beautiful coastal New England town, has secrets and is willfully ignorant of her impact on her daughters. Laura placed her own life as a competitive equestrian on hold, the "good" daughter who sacrificed to "do the right thing." Elly and Anne returned to the family fold after living lives that resulted in dashed dreams. They come back to the inn and face each other as well as the results of their decisions. Prominent throughout the story is the Bradford family trait that keeps secrets close to hearts even as families threaten to break apart.

No one writes about the inner lives of women better than Holly Robinson. Describing the complex relationships between sisters and lovers, and unraveling the impact of mothers and aunts are fertile ground for Holly's skilled touch. Add to this, a mystery of a father who abandoned Sara and her daughters, in settings that will take a reader's breath away, and you have a story that will keep you turning pages until the small hours of the morning.

I received an ARC of this book prior to its release.

Do yourself a favor and read this book. I know Holly Robinson will become your new favorite author.

Holly's Bio:

Novelist, jourlalist and celebrity ghost writer Holly Robinson is the author of several books, including The Gerbil farmer's Daughter: A Memoir and the novels The Wishing HillBeach Plum Island, Haven Lake, and Chance Harbor. Her newest novel, Folly Cove, will be published by Berkley Publishing Group/Penguin Random House in October 2016. Holly's articles and essays appear frequently in publications such as CognoscentiThe Huffington Post, More, Parents, Redbook and dozens of other newspapers and magazines. She and her husband have five children and a stubborn Pekingese. They divide their time between Massachusetts and Prince Edward Island, and are crazy enough to be fixing up old houses one shingle at a time in both places. Connect with Holly on Facebook, at and on Twitter @hollyrob1.

If you're in the Springfield, Massachusetts area November 11, stop by the Equine Affaire and hear Holly on a panel discussion of using the essence of the horse to bring readers a better story.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Sisters in Crime at the Boston Book Festival

October 15
Copley Place
Boston, Massachusetts

If you love meeting your favorite authors, hearing about best selling fiction and non-fiction books, then spending a Saturday at the annual Boston Book Festival is for you!

Sisters in Crime will be at the Boston Book Festival with a full roster of authors and plenty of books to sell! Stop by, have a chat, and then take in one of dozens of special programs sponsored by the BBF folks!

I'll be at the Sisters in Crime booth later in the afternoon, so stop by for a visit! Here is the line-up of authors:

C. Michele Dorsey
Coralie Hughes Jensen
Julie Hennrikus (a.k.a. Julianne Holmes)

Frances McNamara
Leslie Wheeler
Peggy Gaffney

Gayle Lynds
Judith Copek
Susan Oleksiw

Carolyn Wilkins
Lisa Lieberman

Arlene Kay
Edith Maxwell

Clea Simon
Marian Stanley


Connie Johnson Hambley

Independent Publishers of New England Annual Conference

Friday, October 21 to Saturday, October 22
Portsmouth, New Hampshire Sheraton Hotel
If you don't know about the Independent Publishers of New England, you should. 
Workshops & Panels
IPNE believes in the value of hands-on, practical knowledge transfer in a variety of formats targeting diverse learning styles. That's why they are designing a smorgasbord of pithy interactive and hands-on sessions for you to choose from. Check the Conference registration page for the latest! I'll be helping authors perfect their presentation and interviewing skills with a workshop on Friday.

IPNE's theme this year is, "Collaboration Is the New Competition." They are planning a special collaborator-matching program at the Conference, so let them know: How do youcollaborate to produce, publish, and market your books? What services or assistance would help you most? What talents and skills can you offer others? Sharing knowledge is power!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sisters in Crime Author Panel: Marstons Mills

I believe the best fiction hangs on the bones of fact. Join me and fellow Sister in Crime authors, Susan Oleksiw and Carolyn Wilkins, as we discuss how we craft real life and history into gripping thrillers and mysteries.

When: October 22 at 2 PM

Panel discussions generally run from an hour to an hour and a half, with 30 to 40 minutes of discussion by the panelists, followed by questions from the audience, and book signing and sales. The topic, “We Not Making This Up,” was originally developed for non-fiction true crime writers, but since the number of authors who write true crime has diminished, Sisters in Crime has expanded the topic to include fiction writers who mix fact and fiction in their books. That's perfect for me because my stories hang on the bones of fact.

Joining me for the “We’re Not Making This Up” panel will be:

Susan Oleksiw  ​
"I don't remember a time when I wasn't writing or making up stories."
Susan Oleksiw writes the Anita Ray series featuring an Indian-American photographer living in South India at her aunt's tourist hotel. In the first book in the series, Under the Eye of Kali (2010), a guest disappears and another falls unconscious. In The Wrath of Shiva (2012) and For the Love of Parvati(2014) Anita solves crimes among her extended family. When Krishna Calls (2016) finds Anita and Auntie Meena facing the loss of their hotel and everything they care about.
Carolyn Wilkins 

Carolyn Wilkins is a Professor of Ensembles at Berklee College of Music and the author of  Melody For Murder: A Bertie Bigelow Mystery.  She is also the author of They Raised Me Up: A Black Single Mother and the Women Who Inspired Her and Damn Near White: An African American Family’s Rise from Slavery to Bittersweet Success. Her nonfiction books are available from the University of Missouri Press. Carolyn's new mystery novel Mojo For Murder will be released by Pen-L Publishing in the Fall of 2016

Friday, September 30, 2016


I met Ellen at an Irish festival near Boston, Massachusetts and was instantly intrigued with her book. A trove of forgotten letters in a dusty attic ignited her desire to learn more about the role her family played in the Civil War. Ellen and I shared the linkage of Irish ancestry and a desire to tell Ireland's history through our books. I know you'll enjoy meeting Ellen here. If you're in the Boston area, come meet us both at Dorchester's Irish Heritage Festival.

Ellen Burke: A Hero on the Home Front

My historical novel is entitled, Yours Faithfully, Florence Burke and it is based on my great, great grandfather’s Civil War letters.  Florence Burke, a strapping, determined man, is an Irish immigrant volunteering for war in the place of a wealthy banker in exchange for a piece of farmland. He needed land in order to improve the lives of his beloved family and in order to apply for citizenship. Florence became a soldier for the 37th Mass volunteers. While he was fighting in Virginia he wrote love letters to his wife Ellen and his three children back home in West Springfield, MA. There’s no doubt that Florence was a hero to his family, enlisting to improve the lives of those he loved.

But there is another person, a quiet, unlikely hero named Ellen Burke who is thrown into an unimaginable situation and emerges as a strong, resilient “guardian of the home front.” When Ellen learns that her beloved husband Florence has volunteered for war without her knowledge or approval she is shattered and frightened. How will she keep her children safe and well through the harsh New England winter? How will she manage a new farm on her own? How will she support her embattled husband? How can she do this alone?

After Florence heads off for training camp Ellen manages to put aside her resentment and concentrate on providing food, shelter and love for her children.  She is alone now and must make all the decisions for her family. But the battles on the home front have just begun.  Ellen faces winter storms, thieves, disparaging rumors and illness. Through it all, she remains steady and confident, and acts as a strong mother and “stand in” father. Besides family and property management, Ellen also finds herself battling with the prominent town councilman who promised her husband a deed to a parcel of land in exchange for his conscription.  

In Florence’s absence she must fight for this legal contract and other specific trade agreements. Ellen has never even entered her city’s Town Hall and now she finds herself in a man’s world, fighting for what is rightly owed to her husband and her family.  Standing on her own and taking responsibility for all the household duties, Ellen transforms from a meek, na├»ve woman, to a strong, self-confidant mother, wife and friend. She even manages to rise above her anger and feelings of betrayal toward her husband, Florence. She focuses on staying strong for her children and using her mental and physical strength to cultivate her farm and keep her family consoled.

Ellen uses every resource available to her in order to survive during war time. She seeks help from neighbors, friends and family and the advice from local professionals.  She’s a strong Irish immigrant whose wit, fierce determination and unconditional love see her through many difficult times. To her children, neighbors, and friends—and especially to me, she is a true hero!


Ellen B. Alden is a dynamic first time author who began the journey of writing after discovering an old leather box filled with nineteen Civil War letter in her attic. The letters were written from her Irish immigrant great, great grandfather, to his wife and children at home in Western Massachusetts. Ever since that day Ellen has worked tirelessly to learn their story and bring it to life through this novel. She travelled to Ireland several times to meet with a local historian, to explore her ancestry and to research the Great Potato Famine.
Ellen is a graduate of St. Michael’s college in Vermont. She earned a teaching degree from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California and then attended Merrimack College Graduate school of Education. She has worked as an elementary school teacher and she has also dappled in the wine business. She earned wine certificates at Boston Universities Elizabeth Bishop Wine Resource Center and worked as a wine consultant for several liquor stores and a winery.

After living in Los Angeles, London and Boston, Ellen calls Andover, Massachusetts her home.  She lives here with her husband Michael, her three children Nathan, Liam and Jillian, and her two dogs Moxie and Frosty.