Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A Chance Discovery

It's odd, life's little twists and turns. My journey to becoming a "horse person" and, later, an author happened because of a work of equestrian fiction.

I was twenty-three at the time, and working for the government, when I took a week off to stay at my parents' house while they were on vacation. My husband was out of town for a training seminar, and I was bored, so I looked around the house for something to read and found a Readers' Digest Condensed Book edition of Dick Francis's IN THE FRAME. The main character was an equine artist, and I got enough of a feel for the horse world to know that I wanted to read more of Francis's work, not to mention that fact that the man writes an excellent mystery, to say the least. Afterwards, I tracked down every title that Francis had written at that time and was hooked. Titles that I read soon after I read IN THE FRAME, and two of my favorites were: DEAD CERT and FOR KICKS. I fell in love with the fictional horse world he portrayed and decided I wanted to experience it for real.

I quit the government job, exaggerated my experience (none) to get a job working on a hunter/jumper show farm, and ended up working in the horse industry for twenty-five years. My first horse was a six-year-old Quarter horse Arabian cross. A big, fat, flea-bitten gray with black points and a black mane that stuck straight up after the previous owner had roached it. He reminded me of an ancient war horse from the Middle Ages, so I named him Stonehenge (barn name "Stoney). I've also had the privilege of owning several thoroughbreds who've retired from the track and an adorable Appendix Quarter horse mare named Flare:

Over the years, I've worked a variety of horse jobs. I worked briefly at the racetrack. I've worked as a barn manager, groom, vet tech, and I delivered foals on the night shift. That was my all-time favorite job. I've shown over fences, did some low level eventing, and eventually switched to dressage. Though I enjoyed riding, barn chores and caring for the horses interested me more.

I've always been a mystery fan, and when I decided to try my hand at writing, it was only natural that I would combine both loves: horses and mystery. There are currently four novels in my equine-oriented mystery series featuring barn manager and amateur sleuth Steve Cline. (Check out Steve's MySpace page.)

The stories are traditional mysteries with a touch of romance, highly suspenseful, and fully entrenched in the horse world. The books have been well reviewed in the New York Times, Denver Post, Chicago Tribune, Library Journal, etc., and they have collected multiple awards. The latest release, TRIPLE CROSS, takes place in Louisville and on the backside of Churchill Downs during the Kentucky Derby.

I've been lucky. Lucky that a chance discovery of a work by the master, Dick Francis, came at a time in my life when I was young enough, and naïve enough, to drop one career for another, riskier one. And I've been lucky that I've met with such success now that I've switched careers again, by trading in a set of reins for a pen.

More on TRIPLE CROSS later.

I'd like to tell you about a new blog: Equestrian Ink, a place where you can discover new authors, learn about equine-related fiction that you may have overlooked, and hear from some exciting guest speakers, too.


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