Wednesday, August 27, 2008


This past week was an interesting one for me as far as reading goes. The sad truth about being a writer is that writing cuts into reading time in a huge way. Lately, I’m lucky to finish a book a month, but I gave in to temptation when a bookseller handed me an advance reader copy of SILKS written by the esteemed Dick Francis and his son Felix Francis. SILKS was a good, solid read--highly recommended for all Francis fans.

Then my sister lent me a debut novel, THE GOD OF ANIMALS by Aryn Kyle, and that’s the topic for today’s post. I was going to hold off reading another book so soon after SILKS, but I opened Kyle’s book--just to read the first page--and that was it. I was sucked in until the very end. This author’s skill blew me away.

THE GOD OF ANIMALS is a coming-of-age story featuring twelve-year-old Alice Winston. She and her family live on a horse ranch in the desert. The Winston ranch had been in the family for generations, and the family has fallen on hard times. Alice’s mother is severely depressed and rarely comes out of her room. Alice’s older sister, Nona, is a natural, gifted rider. Nona’s success in the show ring helped bring in clients, so when she runs off with a rodeo rider, the family has a harder time making ends meet, but more importantly, her leaving deeply hurts Alice. Then we have the father, a complicated individual to be sure. Eventually, he is forced to take in boarders, something he’d never done before. When his father hears of this, he likens it to “prostituting” the ranch.

Okay. What I found so compelling about THE GOD OF ANIMALS is Kyle’s wonderfully descriptive writing and her insight into human nature. The descriptions in this book are absolutely fantastic. Admittedly, there were errors when it came to horse details and a few believability problems, but I happily gave the author a pass. What was very difficult to read, however, was the abuse meted out in this book, the cruel training methods, etc. The abusive scenes were even that much harder to read because of Kyle’s gift for description.

I skimmed the reviews on Amazon, and readers either loved or hated this book. Period. And I can see why. Kyle unflinchingly examines the good and evil that we all possess, and she doesn’t feel she must give us a happy ending, but a realistic one. In a way, that was refreshing because life is messy.

If you read this book, the abuse will bother you. It’s meant to bother you. But this is the kind of read that will stay with you long after you reach The End.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Back to Work . . .

I no longer own horses of my own--it’s been a couple of years now--and I’ve got to tell you, I am still going through withdraw. I need a horse fix, and I need one badly.

For a while, writing about horses helped because when I’m writing a “horse” scene, I feel like I’m in the scene. Like every equine author I know, the horses that I’ve known and loved come alive for me then. So, that’s fun. And I love it when I have a “riding” dream. I had one the other night, and interestingly enough, I was paired with my old partner, Stoney--my first horse. We were on a trail ride together, and he was his typical self: fun and a bit mischievous. I was amazed at the muscle memory at play. Everything felt so real. Then, unfortunately, my pesky cat woke me up, and that was that. Man, did I want that dream to last.


What to do? With all the family obligations and the writing job, and the obvious--no horses--getting some quality horse time is going to be a challenge. So, I got to thinking . . . what if I can combine writing with being around horses? I could haul my laptop to the nearest horse show and write while being surrounded by beautiful horses. Nah, I doubt I’d get any writing done. Might as well take my camera instead, enjoy the show, and snap some pictures.

Could I get a part-time job in a stable to satisfy my need? I don’t see how given my time constraints, though as weird as this might sound, I love mucking stalls.

Then, I got to thinking about my all-time favorite job--delivering foals on the night shift.

(See June 3rd and 18th posts for more about that job.)

At this huge (500+ horses) Pennsylvania farm where I worked, foaling attendants were expected to muck stalls or clean waterers between rounds. Then, as morning approached, we would hay and grain about eighty horses before our shift was over at seven. Believe me; I would have been bored if I didn’t do stalls. It pays to keep busy: other employees there had been caught napping.

But, I know some breeding farms work differently. The foaling attendant may only be expected to make rounds and/or monitor CCTV screens and deliver foals with nothing much to do in between, and I can see why. While I appreciated being kept busy mucking out between rounds, I used to feel sorry for the mares in the barn where I was working because their sleep was definitely interrupted.

Anyway, maybe I can bargain with a local breeder. I’d work for a lot less if I can do the rounds and deliver the foals and write when nothing much is going on.

In the meantime, I’ll have to find another way to get my horse “fix.”