Posts Tagged ‘writing’

MEANWHILE, MISTY & I . . .

May 19, 2018

Misty tank

Meanwhile, Misty and I enjoyed every day together. As you can see, she kindly shared her water tank with me in the summer. Misty and I also swam in the pond down at the pasture, but this water trough didn’t have craw-daddies, which made it my favorite cooling-off spot.

In I Kings 4.26, it says that Solomon had 4,000 stalls for his chariot horses, and he had 12,000 horses. As for me, I was perfectly content with one, my Misty. And this is how my characters seem to feel about their horses too: Ellie in Backyard Horses; Sarah Coop (“Scoop”) in Horsefeathers! Jen in A Horse Named Bob; Dakota in Starlight Animal Rescue; Winnie in Winnie the Horse Gentler; and Young Winnie in Winnie: The Early Years.

 

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BUTCH

May 11, 2018

Butch

While I continued to enjoy Misty, my “backyard horse” and bestest friend, my older sister, Maureen, began to dream of fancier horses. At first, she just wanted a “tall, skinny” horse. And eventually, Butch came into our lives, thanks to a previous owner, who seemed happy to give the gelding a new home for a token amount of money. Up to this point, every horse we’d encountered had been good-natured and bomb-proof. So we weren’t at all surprised when Butch unloaded at our house and backed down from the truck with no problem.

I had to admit Butch was a handsome horse. Not only that, but he seemed friendly and calm. He led easily to the barn, where he seemed to feel right at home. He didn’t bite or buck or rear. We could not wait to ride him.

And then Maureen rode him. I can still see my sister sitting tall in the saddle on a sunny afternoon, urging Butch to walk up our dirt road. Only Butch had his own ideas. He walked backward. And backward. Maureen stopped and started over. Butch walked backward. When urged on, he trotted backward.

That horse never walked forward–not one step, not with a rider on his back. We didn’t have Butch for long. In fact, I have to admit that this picture isn’t actually our Butch, though the resemblance is nearly perfect. Neither Maureen nor I could come up with a single picture of Butch. I suppose Maureen wasn’t in a picture-taking mood, and I was laughing too hard to take a good one.

I haven’t yet started writing the fourth book in the new series, Winnie the Horse Gentler: The Early Years. But I’m planning on giving Winnie a problem horse that only wants to go backward. Should be interesting to see how she handles the problem. . . .

BEST (HORSE) FRIEND EVER

May 8, 2018

My Misty (2)

Although Misty doesn’t look his best here, he was always his best. And he looks a lot better than this Dandi anyway, if you ask me. I remember the day Dad took this picture. I’d rushed home from school to see Misty. As usual, my friend met me at the fence and put his head in my lap for a snuggle and a good scratching. Later, I’m sure I brushed that mud from his winter coat and went for a ride, bareback. We likely stayed out until supper. We would have stayed out longer if it hadn’t been for that annoying activity called homework.

In the Winnie the Horse Gentler: The Early Years series, Winnie forms a deep friendship with a big ol’ plow horse named Chief. Winnie often climbs the top rung of the fence so Chief will join her and put his head in her lap for a snuggle and a good scratch. Sound familiar?

I hope I never took Misty for granted. I remember being grateful for the gift of Misty’s friendship. But I didn’t know then that all good gifts come from God. And it was only later that I came to understand friendship with God through Christ. I’m still thankful for Misty. And now I’m not only thankful, but I know the One I’m thanking. I know Who deserves my thanks.

ANGEL & ROCKET

April 30, 2018

Angel and Rocket

The bottom picture shows Angel and Rocket in our pasture. Some of our horses let us ride them into the pond, and some did not. We set up jumps in the back pasture, and there was a very short trail  that circled the pond behind the trees. I learned to drive our old station wagon on the long, dirt lane that led from the gravel road down to the pasture gate. Far too young to drive on the road, I’d steer down the lane (under the supervision of my dad), then back up the long lane when done riding. To this day, I’m better driving backward than forward.

The top picture shows the pen, or the fenced-in yard beside our house. You can see how close the house is to the fence. Farther to the left was my room. At one time, the outside wall of my bedroom formed one side of the pen. If I opened my window, I could hop out and join the horses . . . or they could stick in their heads. In the bottom right corner of the first picture you can see the rim of a round, metal horse’s trough. On hot summer days after a ride, that trough became my tiny swimming pool. My horse drank while I cooled off.

Two of the books in the Winnie the Horse Gentler series feature foals. In Gift Horse, Winnie helps with the difficult birth of a foal. Then we see more of that foal in Friendly Foal. I was, of course, remembering Rocket and Angel.

SUGAR THE SUPER HORSE

April 24, 2018

Bareback on Sugar

I want to pay a final tribute to my first horse, Sugar. She put up with me when I was just beginning to ride and to understand horses. She taught me about friendship and loyalty, and I credit her with my lifelong love of horses. Sugar is the Pinto I write about in the first chapter of Horse Dreams, the first book in the Backyard Horses series, the shaggy mare that becomes a best friend. She probably made an appearance or two in the Winnie the Horse Gentler and Horsefeathers! series, but I’d have to look that one up. (Or, if any of my wonderful readers would like to inform me, that would be great. Many of my horse-loving readers know the details of those books better than I do!)

I remember sitting by Sugar’s side on that last day. Her chest barely moved, and I watched it to make sure it did. Her breath was raspy, but she didn’t seem to be in pain. I stayed out in the pen with her well after dark, missing supper, until I couldn’t take it anymore. I returned to the house and curled up on the couch. I pretended to be asleep, but minutes later I heard my sister ask Mom, “Should we wake her up?” And Mom answered, “No. It will keep.” And I knew Sugar was gone.

But not completely. That night I broke out a fresh Big Chief tablet and started writing down everything Sugar and I had ever done together–the morning rides before school, the “explores” after school, the races with Maureen and Rocket, the Cowboys and Indians games with neighbors and cousins. When I ran out of stories, I made up more. I created “Sugar the Wonder Horse,” followed by the sequel, “Sugar the Super Horse.” So maybe that first horse taught me even more than I thought.

My Best Friend–SUGAR

April 6, 2018

Bareback on Sugar

Good ol’ Sugar was my best friend at this age. I told the Pinto everything. She listened to my dreams of becoming a horse trainer (like Winnie the Horse Gentler). She didn’t mind if I griped about a bad day at school or too much homework. She always made me feel like she’d been waiting for me to get home and ride her. Now that’s friendship. If you were a horse, would you want people to sit on your back and tell you where to go? If you were as big as a horse, would you even let a little person sit on you? I think not.

Top Five Lessons I learned from Sugar:  1) Sometimes, the best thing a friend can do is listen. 2) It’s a great gift to let people believe you’re really glad to see them . . . even if you’re not. 3) Love can be sacrificial–like carrying someone to a place she’d like to go. 4) Take the time to really get to know a friend. And be loyal. 5) When you fall off, get right back on. Bonus lesson: God created an amazing animal in the horse. Imagine coming up with a design for such a beautiful creature, one that’s soft, but strong, giving and kind, with a nicker and neigh, two of the best sounds on earth, and the best smell in the entire world! It will be awesome to see Sugar again in heaven.

HORSE-LOVING, READING, & WRITING

February 26, 2018

Cowgirl

Before you jump to conclusions, this isn’t my granddaughter, but a horse-loving reader (like my granddaughters). Her teacher asked students to dress up as their favorite character from a book, and I’m honored to say that this student chose Ellie from my BACKYARD HORSES series. In case you don’t know what a “backyard horse” is, it’s what we called horses that weren’t fancy, would never be show horses, and didn’t belong in a stable. We kept our horses in a pasture, but we also had a small pen and barn in our yard.

A horse book, a pink cowgirl hat, boots, and a stuffed horse–what could be better than that? Answer: All the similarities between this cowgirl, Helen, and my oldest granddaughter, the “star” of the BACKYARD HORSES series. Although we call her “Ellie,” our granddaughter’s real name is “Helen,” named after her great-grandmother, Helen Daley (co-star of WITH LOVE, WHEREVER YOU ARE). Both gals love horses, reading, and writing. It’s amazing how many letters and emails I get from guys and gals who love these three things: horses, reading, and writing. As it happens, I’ve always loved horses, reading, and writing too!

WRITING & BULLYING

February 22, 2018

Lara medium

Tomorrow I’m off to Columbus, OH, for the weekend to speak at a convention of teachers of English and Language Arts–wonderful people who still believe in our kids and want them to love reading and writing and to excel in both in an atmosphere of kindness, compassion, and safety. I’ve never met a teacher–or a student–who hasn’t witnessed bullying. Then one night about 3 AM, all of these concerns came together for me when I woke up and could almost hear this tough girl saying, “This is not about me. This story, I mean. So already you got a reason to hang it up.” I got up, crossed the hall to my office, and began writing what may be the most surprising (to me) book I’ve ever written. I had no idea where the story was going, and I usually do when I begin writing. In the end, it came to be about the effects of bullying, the promise of returning kindness for meanness, and the possibility of touching and changing lives in school and out. Plus, the book contains, in real time as action proceeds, just about everything I know about writing, with chapter titles like: Character; Villain, Setting, Dialogue, Opposition, Conflict, Details, Rising Action, Climax, Resolution.

If you’ve read about Lara and Laney, I’d love to hear from you. You can learn more about the book at http://www.dandibooks.com.

 

WITH LOVE, FRANK’S PHOTOS

January 25, 2018

write table vittel fr (2)

My last post showed a picture Helen sent to Frank. On the back of that photo, Helen wrote: “Don’t miss the background–someone always close.” The background showed her pictures of Frank. I wish this photo were clearer, but it’s evident that Frank had the same idea. On the back of this photo, he wrote: “my writing table.” The last years of Mom’s life, first in Missouri, then in Ohio with us, on her dresser she had pictures of Frank. And on the window ledge beside her bed sat their wedding picture, the framed photo above, on the right, the couple in their Army uniforms on their wedding day. It was the last thing she saw every night. I’m looking at it now, as it’s on the wall just to the right of my computer screen.  What special pictures do you keep close?

WITH LOVE…WHEREVER YOU’RE GOING

January 18, 2018
train

Lt. Frank on a German Freight Train

My last post was of Mom (Helen) in her helmet, so I needed to post this one of Dad (Frank) in his. He hated to cover his curly black hair, but he definitely needed to wear his helmet. Here, he’s on a “captured” German train that had carried prisoners to concentration camps. He and a few other doctors are heading to Alsace-Lorraine, and then he’ll move into German battlefields. In case you’re wondering what’s with that odd expression, the only words on back of the photo are: “I’m sucking on a piece of hard candy.”