Monday, February 24, 2014

A Weekend of Horses (and Hockey) by C.P. Stringham

Monte Nicholas and Nancy Epler shortly after closing the
sale on their new horse farm. (Photo courtesy of Rockin' N)
Busy, busy, busy...
As most on-the-go families can attest, weekends are a huge juggling act of accommodations.  Within a forty-eight hour period, we attempt the near-impossible feat of fitting each activity into some form of itinerary that makes everyone happy.  Between our work and school weeks, we find ourselves living for the weekend—AKA: our not so leisure leisure time.  This past weekend, while jam-packed, was incredibly satisfying.  We spent hours at a nearby horse farm and even managed to squeeze in a hockey game on Saturday night.  How can you go wrong with horses and hockey? 
Monte Nicholas and Robin Muzzy, riding Jean's horse,
Smarty, chat during a break. 

Horse heaven...
Our friends, Nancy Epler and Monte       Nicholas, recently began living their dream of owning a large horse boarding and training facility.  The former Round Top Stables, located on Wolcott Hollow Road in Athens, PA, is now called Rockin’ N Stables & Ranch (Click on name for link.)  Nancy and Monte are no strangers to the horse world.  For them, it has been a lifelong love—both of their fathers were horsemen so you can say it’s in their blood.  In business for a little over four months, this horsepower couple has already built up a great client base and a good reputation.  From my outside perspective, they have reached this early success, in part, due to their willingness to network with fellow trainers and barns.  They understand how important it is within our small horse community to build friendships and collaborate.  The other reason for their success is due to Monte’s training skills.  Many of the barns in our area have hired Monte to come in and break their young horses and desensitize them.  While the words break and desensitize may sound harsh to those outside of the horse world, they are anything but.  Especially in Monte’s capable hands.  While he demands respect from the horses he’s training, he also treats them with respect.  When he introduces new horses to situations, he doesn’t force them to do it in a heavy-handed manner.  Instead, he works on the horse’s natural curiosity to lead them to the end desired result.  My family and I have witnessed him work wonders.
Since Rockin’ N’s opening, they have hosted three well-attended riding clinics.  Each clinician featured has been brought in from other established local barns.  Patricia Ross (my children’s riding instructor,) of Foxwin Farm LLC (click on name for link,) presented the first clinic at Rockin’ N during
From left to right: The clinicians Pat Ross riding Foxwin Jericho 
"Tank," Richie Fisher judging a 4-H show at 
Alparon Park, and Robin Muzzy, Carolyn Mosher,
and Jean Lindsey with Craig Cameron (second from left.) 
(Photos courtesy of Pat Ross, Caitlin McBratney, 
and Jean Lindsey)
the grand opening event.  Pat is a Morgan Horse breeder and dressage instructor with over fifty years of experience and a recipient of the prestigious American Morgan Horse Associations’ Masters Certificate for her “long-standing commitment and involvement with the Morgan Horse.”  She and Monte covered basic horsemanship and training tips with an emphasis on communication and partnership-building for horse and rider through fun group and individual activities.  Their second clinician, Richard A. Fisher, instructed participants on barrel racing and horsemanship.  Richie is the owner and founder of Fisher Equestrian Center and is known throughout the area for his involvement working with 4-H exhibitors by presenting clinics and judging shows as well as training and instructing for novice amateur, amateur, and open showing.  
This past weekend, Rockin’ N hosted an Ultimate Trail Challenge clinic instructed by Jean Lindsey with the help of Carolyn Mosher.  Jean got her start as a young teen under the guidance of Dick and Tete Burleigh of Burleigh Quarter Horses and has since been a clinic student of Craig Cameron, Joann K. Long, and Denny Wilcox.  With her former AQHA gelding, Light Brunch “Leo,” Jean won numerous circuit championships and AQHA Region Five Regional Experience Championships.
Sydney and Leah lead the way as Nancy Epler and Carney follow while
Jean Lindsey has fun during the Ultimate Trail Challenge. (Photo courtesy
Lea Halderman)
My oldest daughter got to participate in two out of three of these clinics.  She lives and breathes horses.  As a non-horse owner, the generous and kind-hearted folks in our horse community help to indulge her obsession.  For this past weekend’s clinic, Jean offered her the use of her three year-old filly.  Needless to say, she had a smile plastered on her face the entire time her butt was in the saddle.  Everyone knows what an honor it is to use one of Jean’s well-trained babies. Sydney was on cloud nine.
Part of the line up during the Ultimate Trail Challenge
As a spectator, my heart literally gushes over with love and admiration while I’m at these events and I witness the teamwork and camaraderie taking place between participants.  This clinic was no different.  Take fifteen riders and fifteen horses, all with their own unique personalities and experience levels, and put them into an indoor arena with obstacles and sensory hazards and you’d expect chaos, but that wasn’t the case.  Through careful planning by Jean, Carolyn, Monte, and Nancy, the clinic was a huge success for both participants and those auditing in the spectator section.  Advanced riders honed their existing skills and knowledge base and novices made giant gains by meeting new challenges.  It was great visiting with old friends and leaving the event having made a few new ones.  Nancy and Monte assured us they are working to bring many more of these wonderful events to Rockin’ N. 

Sydney riding Chief and Mackenzie riding 

Nancy's horse, Carney. (Photo courtesy of Rockin' N)
My daughters get to reap the rewards of being Pat’s lesson students and riding and learning at Foxwin Farm while also enjoying our friendship with Monte and Nancy where they can ride at their farm as well.  Friday night was spent at Rockin’ N while Pat and Monte worked with one of the young Foxwin mares and Sydney got to ride Jean’s AQHA palomino filly, Leah, around the arena while Jean and Carolyn set up for Saturday’s clinic.  On Saturday, we attended the clinic as a supportive family while Syd participated.  Rounding out this great weekend of horse time, both of my girls returned to the barn on Sunday afternoon and rode two of Rockin’ N’s lesson horses.  The greatest part of Sunday’s ride for Sydney?  Talking Monte into letting her ride with an English saddle on his Western gelding, Chief.  Who knows, maybe by summertime, Monte will get into the hunter/jumper spirit and he’ll buy a pair of jodhpurs or breeches for himself—but I wouldn’t count on it.

                                                                                                   Bring on the hockey!!
Syd, Viv, and Mackenzie waiting for the game to start.
Facing off..
During our weekend of horsey Zen time, we fit in an Elmira Jackals game on Saturday night.  Our local ECHL hockey team hosted the Wheeling Nailers.  We had excellent seats right on the glass and loved every minute of checking, hooking, and slashing—and a fight or two.  Although the Jackals lost 1-3, the girls left the game upbeat with the give-away prizes they were able to grab.  Mackenzie even got to take home one of the game pucks after it managed to squeeze between the glass and the net and landed in front of her. Thank you, My Gal Friday, for sharing your tickets with us!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Whistling Dixie and Other Tunes

by: Robin Janney

I was wondering what to put up for this week's post.  I've been so busy the past week or so, going here and going there, that I haven't even had time to work on my second novel or even my own blog!  But then I had a moment to read C. P.'s post and thought I'd add my own thoughts to it.

While I love music, and am constantly broadening my listening repertoire, I don't always write with music on.  At this moment, the only sounds I hear are the washing machine doing its never ending job and the neighbor pounding on something...most likely trying to break up ice from our numerous snow storms.

The series I am writing is dubbed "The Country Music Series" for a variety of reasons.  The majority of my favorite music happens to be country, from Alan Jackson to Dwight Yoakam.  And since the novel is set in a small country town, I figured it would fit.  Not to mention that the book titles will bear a striking resemblance to some country song titles.  I also thought it would be fun because of my tendency to mix in a little Fantasy into my Romance, and I can't imagine a more unlikely pairing than Country Music and Fantasy.  What can I say, I guess I'm twisted like that!

Add to that the mention of different Country songs and artists.  Craig, the male lead in my novels, is the one who is the country music fan.  He's the one who makes the CD mix for their wedding night, he's the one who picks a country song for them to dance to after he proposes to her.  There will be other music references in the later novels, as Angela (the female lead) begins to listen to other types of music as she spreads her wings, but Country will still be the predominant music of choice...even when they stand in the heart of New York City.

And let's be honest.  Country love songs have a certain reputation.  Something addressed early in the novel between Angela and another female character.  Here, read it for yourself:

             Another woman came in just then, interrupting Angela’s thoughts.
             “Hi, Cori,” she said in greeting, as she recognized the other woman. “How’s it been going?”
             "Same as always,” responded the taller woman as she poured herself a cup of the decaffeinated coffee. “Like a country love song.”
             “That bad, huh?” Angela asked with a smile.
             Cori smiled back, her tired eyes lighting with long forgotten humor. “Oh, yeah, you’d better believe it. Dog’s run away for the third time this month, the kids are sick, and my boyfriend just got laid off, and things have been good.”
             “I’m sorry to hear that,” Angela said sympathetically. “I’m sure the dog will come back any day now.”
           The two women laughed at the joke that dated back to their time in high school.

At this moment, you would have no idea that Angela just met one of her antagonists for the novel.  She certainly had no idea either.  She thought she was just sharing a joke with an old high school friend.

But the day is young yet, or young enough, and I may yet turn some music on to listen to when I get to working on my second novel, presently dubbed Ring of Fire.  I may just hit shuffle on my iPhone, or I may go straight to James Blunt as that's what I'm craving at the moment.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Music Makes My World Go 'Round by C.P. Stringham

It struck me, while I was working on rewrites and edits yesterday, how much music plays a vital role in my author world. Not only does it increase my productivity, it also helps me get into the heads of my characters. Maybe I get too detail-oriented sometimes, but I truly want to know my characters inside and out—and their music preference plays into it.
Now, don’t laugh, I’m not a very modern gal. I don’t own an MP3 player. My daughters do. They love them. Have them loaded to capacity with songs. My eldest even has favorite movie clips downloaded on hers—Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. Yep. Creepy. And cool. Despite my lack of techno-gadgets, I get by with a decent collection of CD’s (those shiny, silver plastic thingies) and by tuning in to our local Top 40 station. My friend, Lisa "The Rage" (I'll explain her nickname at the bottom,) works in the offices at Pembrook Pines Media. They’ve recently changed their format on 94Rock to include hits from the 80’s and 90’s—music from my heyday. Mostly, I like to listen to the DJ banter during the morning show. Background conversation that doesn’t require my active participation.
    Today’s music selection is courtesy of Grace Werner, my latest work-in-progress protagonist, and is comprised of Daughtry, Hinder, Offspring, and Pantera. Grace will be featured in book three of the Ellis Springs Series, Rest in Peace. She had a rebellious youth and, even at age forty, still likes to headbang (quite the contrast from Natalie’s Classical and Reverend Stephanie’s Country music in the earlier books of the series.)
Music to headbang write to...

As I’ve said before, music helps me think like my characters. During particularly difficult scenes, it often helps set the mood. Allows me to sink into the turmoil or despair I’m trying to create. A good portion of Rest in Peace was written while listening to Evanescence Fallen. Amy Lee’s haunting vocals combined with the lyrics from such songs as Going Under and Bring Me Back to Life made for inspirational writing partners. Another favorite was Broken by Seether with guest vocals by Amy Lee. The book’s theme of escaping and overcoming one’s violent past required me to be able to delve into perfect emotional darkness. At the same time, as Grace’s story reaches a turning point, I needed something to help show her emergence into lightness and good; embrace the positives in her life while never forgetting the past that molded and shaped her because, no matter how far she’s come, she’ll always carry a semblance of burden.

You can see how important a role music plays in making my books happen. It encourages my chameleon moods in the creative process. Tolstoy captured it best, “Music is the shorthand of emotion.” What helps to set the mood for you? 

As promised, the story behind Lisa "The Rage." She joins Paralegal Jenn and I two to three times a week for our hikes around The Matterhorn. We call her The Rage because she totally fits the mold of hot-tempered (natural) redhead. Her adventures in anger mismanagement often leave us laughing hysterically (and doubly thankful she's on our side.) This video clip from Malcolm in the Middle is a close representation of the scene taking place in the Wegman's parking lot not so long ago. Of course, in The Rage's story, the F-bomb was dropped into the mix. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Tale of Two Authors

Author Robin Janney and I have known each other since last summer. Not in the traditional sense, mind you, but in the twenty-first century sense. You know, we met on Facebook! We have a mutual friend, Deanna, who told us about each other and encouraged us to be “friends.” Taking Deanna’s advice has proven to be a great idea. Not only do we get each other like no other non-writing folks do, we were able to start this wonderful collaboration with Broads of a Feather. In just the short month since it came into fruition, our blog has seen some serious traffic. Visibility is golden when you are trying to promote your name and your books.

Robin Janney and C.P. Stringham travel to Spalding 
Memorial Library to seek out new readers and new books.
To boldly go... Eh. You get the Star Trek reference.
Two weeks ago, Robin, who is just as shy about meeting new people as I tend to be, suggested we meet at a central location. While we both call Bradford County home, she’s at one end and I’m at the other. What better place for book-loving ladies to meet than a library? I set it up with my friend, Janet Gigee, Director of Spalding Memorial Library who graciously accommodated us. Shortly after my second book came out (shameless plug: Her Father's Last Request,) she asked if I’d be interested in giving a presentation at the library to both introduce myself and to discuss being an independent author. At the time, I was more concerned with getting my third book out (another shameless plug: The Research Trip ,) but kept her offer in the back of my mind. Even though the summer would have been the perfect time to set up a date with Janet, my fear of public speaking reared its ugly head. But now, I have my Broads of a Feather cohort, Robin Janney, to co-present! Strength in numbers. Janet pulled out her planning calendar and now we have an official presentation date! Mark your calendars, people. On Saturday, March 22, 2014 Broads of a Feather will be presenting a talk at 1:00PM on being independent authors! I'll pause here and let Robin put in her take.

     Robin says: Wait...who are you and why am I here again?  Okay, okay, I'll be serious now!  (Probably not for long though...)

     Meeting Carol was an idea that had been rolling around in my head for a while, and after she presented her idea of Broads of a Feather, I decided to throw it out there.  I mean what was the worst that could happen?  She'd say no...or worse yet, say yes and we end up not liking each other!!  But of course those two things didn't happen.  Just the opposite actually!  Yaaay!!

     Hanging at the library with Carol and Janet was GREAT!  I loved the look and feel of the library!  Very bright and welcoming!  And Carol was sooo nice and pleasant, taking the lead while I'm just kinda twiddling my thumbs wondering what I had set in motion.  I don't like the idea of public speaking myself, but I know that once things get rolling, I'll relax and it'll be great!  Once you get me started talking about my books (my shameless plug: Farmer's Daughter), or reading in general, you can't really shut me up. 

     And did Carol mention she brought Star Trek stuff??  How cool is that??

Twyla and Keeley, of Mad Hatter's Cafe
and Co-Op, taking a moment to pose.

The ladies working "madly."
After the library, Robin and I moved on to the Mad Hatter's Cafe and Co-Op to enjoy coffee and some Weekend Whoopie—from Kurt's Making Whoopie. Mad Hatter's is located on Main Street in Athens, Pennsylvania. As the name implies, their decorating theme is “entirely bonkers.” Everyone knows all the best places are. It offers a cozy, colorful, and friendly atmosphere. They have daily specials with real food made on site and offer a co-op section of locally made goodies. They also offer gluten-free, vegetarian, and Paleo options for those with sensitive diets. Special thanks to Twyla and Keeley for making us feel at home during our visit. While there, we listened in as Lisa Belles of The Healthy Rainbow  gave a free presentation on stress-reducing activities and practices. It was a happy coincidence we were there the same day that such a talk was taking place. Everything Lisa said about healthier living struck a chord with me—Robin as well. I’ve already blogged about my eight-month journey to healthier living in Holidays, Damn Holidays.  We stayed for the entire presentation and brought home the helpful handouts Lisa provided to attendees.

Mad Hatter's fresh-brewed coffee and Death By Whoopie.
Kurt of Kurt's Making Whoopie. 

(Photo from his Facebook page)
I’m giving Kurt his own paragraph in order to brag him up a bit. Kurt and I went to school together and now he runs a successful gourmet whoopie pie business out of his house called Kurt’s Making Whoopie. Check out his Facebook Page. It’s his part-time gig because, by day, he’s a hardworking public school art teacher. Both of my children had him—and loved him because he’s, God forbid, FUN. My youngest now refers to him as Uncle Whoopie. (I love it!!) How ironic is it that we attended the same rural Pennsylvania high school and now, twenty-some years later, we’re both in the whoopie business? I write about whoopie and he makes whoopie—and so expertly might I add. He comes up with the best tongue-in-cheek names for his products: Whoopie In The City, Fall Fling, Better Than, Yo’ Mama and many more. His catch phrase? “How do you like your whoopie?” Bringing this back on track with our authors’ day, Mad Hatter's offers Weekend Whoopie by featuring Kurt’s Making Whoopie products. Kurt changes up flavors each weekend. The day Robin and I were there the feature flavors were Death By Whoopie and Irish Coffee. We decided to go all the way with Death By Whoopie—a truly foodgasmic experience. I know I was left basking in the afterglow. How about you, Robin? 

        Robin says:  I saw the wrapper around that whoopie pie and I thought, At last!!  I have "liked" Kurt's Making Whoopie on Facebook for a while without ever having tasted one of his creations!  I don't even remember how I found the page, just that he was a local business and I'm all into supporting local businesses.  But now, after having that delightful Death By Chocolate...I just want to like the Facebook page over and over and over again!  Yummy!!

This is why we're a great team....
......she photo bombed me!
         And the coffee was great too!  I really do need to get out more, because I'd never even heard of the Mad Hatter's Cafe!  Granted, I don't get up to the Valley much at all, but one thing this meeting really emphasized for me was that I need to get out more!  Not too much, cuz this girl needs to write her second novel and get it into the hands of her readers.  Because I just loved the Mad Hatter!  Bright yellow walls and Johnny Depp - okay, it was just a movie poster from Alice in Wonderland, but hey, it was good enough for me!

        The only thing I could think of while Lisa Belles was talking about stress reduction was: she's been reading my email!  This winter has been a rough one and I can't tell you how much this happy accident encouraged me! I'm not alone, and sometimes that's important to remember.

         And that was one of the best part of meeting Carol. I'm not alone in this madness that grips me...times when I have to find the nearest sheet of paper to write my thoughts out, times when I have to stay up 'just five more minutes' to type the scene in my head before it's lost, times when I have to leave myself voice memos on my phone because it's bedtime and the computer's off and I'm half asleep and 4 am is swiftly on its way.  She knows!

All in all, it was a great afternoon! Meeting Robin in person was the highlight for me. I know I’m looking forward to our collaborations at Broads of a Feather and a life-long friendship. As Robin coined it, we’re “two peas in a pod.” It sure feels that way. I can honestly say, being able to message someone and chat about books and current works-in-progress, even if it’s 12AM, is a godsend. Like I said, we get each other. Broads of a Feather gives us the perfect opportunity to reach more readers through both social media formats and local venue appearances conducting presentations. Hopefully, we can welcome more regional romance writers to Broads of a Feather. Can you imagine the possibilities, Robin?  

The beginning of a beautiful friendship!

 Robin shamelessly steals, uhm ...borrows!!! borrows!!!...Han Solo's line, "I can imagine pretty big!"  ;)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Telling A Story Requires Hard Work

by: Robin Janney

As I mentioned in my last post, I was going to further talk about the hard work that goes into writing. C. P. Stringham beautifully illustrated part of it in her last post, A Real-Life Superhero.  Not content with internet research, she ventured out and interviewed a person in the field she was writing about.

I myself have never been that brave and have always relied on internet research and real life experience.  I can't begin to tell you how many hours I spent on the internet, and even in some real books in the library researching my character Angela's bout with pneumonia, and even the finer details of her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  While I myself have issues with anxiety, I wouldn't say I have PTSD!

And I really shouldn't say I'm "not that brave" because I met C. P. Stringham for the first time ever this Saturday!  It was my idea, because I was curious as to whether or not we'll 'hit it off' in reality.  And we did, which you'll hear about in a later post.

Hours go into a novel.  Many hours.  I don't want just the grammar to be correct, or incorrect as the dialogue calls for, I want the events and trials to be as realistic as possible.  While I want to stretch the truth as far as possible, bend the rules and challenge reality...first I need to know what that truth is and what the rules are!

Especially since in my Romance I like to include a touch of Fantasy.  Dragons and shared dreams/visions are enough to give it the Fantasy tag in my opinion.  Because I plan on including more of the shared dreams in future books, I have begun to peruse different articles about that subject.  Because it's one of those gray areas that no one agrees on, I'll be allowed more freedom to experiment and press the limits.

While it can be tedious sometimes, it isn't always so.  Last November I had to chance to visit New York
Just buildings to some...a city I fell in love with <3
City for the first time in my life and as fun as it was, it was also part research.  When creating my character Craig, I made him a native New Yorker, city born and raised.  At that time, I didn't have the vision for the series that I have now.  In my original vision, Craig and Angela didn't leave their small town of Tyler's Grove but instead started a family there.  Needless to say, in the near decade the novel sat in my email, something in me changed enough that it was no longer content with that future for them.  In fact, the life events at the end of Farmer's Daughter demanded a different future for them.  A future that includes Angela setting foot in NYC herself for the first time - and that was something I wanted to have the experience for.  Watching CSI: NY only goes so far!

Storytelling for me is a labor of love.  A love for writing, for the physical coalescing of words and images that I can't do verbally.  A love for the characters and worlds that I create.  And a love for you, the reader, which inspired me to tell the story in the best manner possible.