Wisholute or Chaos?

InsecureWritersSupportGroup2

This is my first post of 2015 and my first Insecure Writer’s Support Group post of the year. Before I tackle the resolution chestnut, I have to introduce myself. Guess I need to update my About Me page… at some point.

Until the MonSter called multiple sclerosis swiped me down, I was a freelance equestrian journalist, and photographer. I was diagnosed with MS in January 2000 and by 2005 I retired, unable to meet any deadlines. My second wife, Juanita is now my understanding and put-upon carer, and we live in Harlech, North Wales, with a brilliant view of Snowdon.

When the MS is behaving, and my pain is calm, I write fiction. My first novel, ‘Spiral of Hooves’ was published in December 2013, and I have various projects on the go.

First Snow on Snowdon ~ Juanita Clarke

First Snow on Snowdon ~ Juanita Clarke

So why ‘wisholute’?

My writer friend Ailsa Abraham coined this clever word as an alternative to ‘resolution’. Don’t we all manage to fulfil just a fraction of our resolutions? In many cases, they are closer to ‘wishes’ driven by intent of some sort. Great for Insecure writers like me. So I don’t make them – well not often.

My simple ‘wisholute’ was “Find a Brit publisher and finish one tale…” by which I meant, my US publisher is great for my equestrian series, but being in the UK I would like to find a similar Brit publisher. And my insecurity kicks in when it comes to my next publishing step.

Do I chance that my ‘Gossamer Flames’ saga is worthy of beta readers? Are there any out there that will want to read it?

Should I focus instead on revising ‘Fates Maelstrom’ and re-locating it in North Wales?

Do I suppress the urge to write yet another first draft to put in the bottom oven to simmer?

Well, I’m taking part in the 100k in 100 days Challenge and have a loose strategy of edit-create-revise: on the days when I need to Blog/vent/rant etc I do; on the days when I get inspired to review one of the books I managed to read in 2014, I do; when I get the urge to bring new characters alive in ‘Seeking A Knife’, I do; and I intend to make those short stories ready for the brave beta readers out there, wherever.

And for my reading I am multi-tasking too – I have three books on the go, and just acquired one set locally, to get my head ready for that revision I mentioned.

Trouble is, that insecurity might be feeding the multi-tasking. Should that be chaos? Not if we are creating words and worlds for valued readers. As IWSG says, “Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!”

Dewy Cobweb ~ by Norman Hyett

Dewy Cobweb ~ by Norman Hyett

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The awesome co-hosts for the January 7 posting of the IWSG will be Elizabeth Seckman, Lisa Buie-Collard, Chrys Fey, and Michelle Wallace!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Please visit others in the group and connect with the awesome writers out there. Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

 

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Winning formula for Badminton Horse Trials

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On Sunday 11th May the winner of the 2014 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials will be decided after four days of intense CCI**** competition. Central to the winner’s success in this three phase competition will probably be the cross-country course designed by Giuseppe Della Chiesa, Badminton’s new designer – the first in 25 years.

But who are the prime contenders for the Badminton title? It takes years of training, dedication and great skill to succeed at the world’s most prestigious four star three-day. Sothere will be the “usual suspects”, including William Fox-Pitt on top form as winner of the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event at Lexington last weekend. This was William’s third Kentucky win, each one on a different horse. His 2012 winning ride, Catherine Witt’s Parklane Hawk is one of his rides at Badminton this year, and won Burghley in 2011. With two rides at Badminton, William will have to be a favourite.

William Fox-Pitt in Eventing Grand Prix at Hickstead on Lyn How's Diamond Manati ~ by Roland Clarke

William Fox-Pitt in Eventing Grand Prix at Hickstead on Lyn How’s Diamond Manati ~ by Roland Clarke

However, the field of 85 rides includes some notable previous winners, including equestrian legend and four times Badminton winner Mark Todd, GB Team stalwart Mary King, and Pippa Funnell – the only winner of the Rolex Grand Slam (for consecutive wins at Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley). There are also others in the field whose build-up may have given them and their rides a chance at the title. Of course injuries could also see some contenders fail to start – that is a risk with horses.

But not all of the riders and horses are likely winners, nor are they just making up the numbers. There are many other reasons for running. Some are aiming for a spot on their country’s team at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy from August 23 – September 7, 2014 – the eventing is Thursday 28th-Sunday 31st August. For others this seems like a natural step in a horse’s career and could be the rider’s own Badminton debut. Many pony club riders dream of riding at Badminton and that dream may never die, even when it is fulfilled.

Many of the riders entered I know from my days as an equestrian journalist and photographer. A few I can remember competing at pony club trials, like Sophie Jenman, who is making her Badminton debut having done Burghley CCI**** in 2013. I used to write about her mother for local papers as she was a leading contender in the South East Eventers League, as were over a dozen of the riders.

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

It’s a long road to Badminton and far from smooth. Portraying that struggle in realistic terms is difficult, and I hope in my novel “Spiral of Hooves” that I succeeded. Writing a Badminton winner was never my intention, but I wanted to set some scenes there. So over to my Badminton runners – why did you compete there?

Carly Tanner: When first asked about Badminton, I told a reporter that my mare Silver Torc is, “…fantastic and owes me nothing. If it wasn’t for her injury, we might have gone. Without a top horse, Badminton’s just a dream.” However, Gilles persuaded me that I was capable of riding there and realising my pony club ambition. I had to relent saying, “Okay. Torc and I have done a few three stars, so we need a challenge.” At that point I was unaware of where it would all lead.

Gilles Boissard: It should have been my dream but instead my competing at Badminton was driven by my father’s ambition of having bred a Canadian team horse. However, Carly told me when we walked the course, “That’s not you talking, that’s Roman’s pride. He doesn’t care about the means or the cost, just the result.” At that stage Carly was unaware of what pride and ambition would unleash.

So when the first horses do their dressage on Thursday 8th May 2014, keep your eyes on both the names like William Fox-Pitt, but also watch out for the outsiders and the hidden agendas. There might be a mystery there.

 

 

Life Throws Curve Balls

A foggy evening 01

A foggy evening 01 (Photo credit: AnneCN)

This was meant to be my first attempt at an Insecure blog having failed to do one on the first Wednesday in October or November – sorry IWSG.

Damn those curve balls, whether they be my health (MS), stress, or moving plans. They keep on coming, so I keep trying to knock them away. This is another attempt, although I should be doing my tax return.

Starting on a positive note, I managed to write 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo in November, and a week later I had typed the last word ~ ‘forever’. This was only a 60k rough first draft of ‘Tortuous Terrain’, but at least it’s something to work on. With a lot of revision, editing, and critique, I should be able to produce a fitting sequel to ‘Spiral of Hooves’, my first published novel, coming shortly from Spectacle Publishing Media Group.

However, my 2013 NaNo effort will have to join the queue behind four other novels needing revision, although it might jump the queue a bit if the demand is there, and if other efforts are deemed unworthy of revision. And that is where I am in a quandary, and where I am Insecure. Where do I go from here? What do I tackle next? How can I improve my editing process, which with ‘Spiral of Hooves’ took at least a decade?

I look at the speed of others when it comes to producing finished books, and I marvel… and I shudder. Most of my Facebook writing friends are completing a book a year, sometimes as many as five. Some are even producing short stories as well. Although my health is a drawback, I am retired with more time, supposedly, than many of my colleagues.

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What do I give up doing? Linking with the digital world, by checking emails and social media? Learning my craft, by reading other blogs? My only escape, gaming?

Or do I set tighter deadlines? Or do I chill out and tell myself that at sixty I still have time? Or maybe I must accept that in the next life I will start trying to be a writer earlier.

It’s not straightforward when I find it easier plotting a new novel, even writing that first draft, than editing. I even have a sequel to the sequel churning around in my head… ever since I read a blog about writing a series, which suggested that one write the first and have the synopsis of Book 2 and of 3 in the wings. Great when I have two series in the pipeline ~ the Chasseur series (Spiral of Hooves++) and the Gossamer Steel series (Wyrm Bait++).

The solution is out there somewhere, but for now I will stop being a lone wolf howling at the moon, and stop baring my soul here so I can go edit ‘Wyrm Bait’, the next novel crying out for an audience. It’s already had at least two drafts, several critiques, and a professional edit.

Time to get the red pens out.

Is that the best solution? Or have I dismissed a better one above?

November

November (Photo credit: Cape Cod Cyclist)

Armand Sabatier ~ Sidekick or Assassin?

English: Rancocas ( Helis Stock ) Farm is an A...

English: Rancocas ( Helis Stock ) Farm is an American thoroughbred horse racing stud farm and racing stable located on Monmouth Road (County Road 537) in Springfield Township, Burlington County, New Jersey, Jobstown, New Jersey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

As the winter snows threaten, I need to draw my interviews at Du Noroît Stud to a close. Arranging the final interviews has been a challenge – as head groom, Odette Fedon has a schedule that seems like 24/7, while I was beginning to feel that Armand Sabatier was as evasive as a wolf. Is that why he’s called Loup, French for wolf? However, he has finally agreed to talk on the understanding that he has the right to remain silent. (Although there are ways to unravel the mystery, here.)

Bonjour Armand. Many thanks for agreeing to talk about yourself. First, what was your life like growing up in France?

My childhood will always be a precious memory, even if life was hard for mes parents with four children. Our farm in the Cevennes provided more than enough to feed us well: l’agneau – the lamb, vegetables, and les châtaignes – chestnuts that my mother even used for bread. The region is beautiful, especially in the autumn with the trees. But it’s all no more. Just memories.

What went wrong? Did your parents lose the farm?

Non, but to see us educated they had to take other work and rent out the farm, as it wouldn’t sell. Now they live in Montpelier, je pense. My older brother, Laurent lives there but the rest of us… moved away.

DSCF1338---Copie

L’Aigoual, near Cabrillac – Le lac du Salagou

 

This is all before ‘Spiral of Hooves’ begins? What made you leave?

Back in my teens I dreamt of helping the environment by finding safer ways of doing things in the Cevennes. I managed to get a degree in Biodiversity, Ecology, Evolution at the University of Montpelier, but then I… changed… careers.

A change of direction? In what way? Positive one, I hope.

Merde, je souffre. It hurts to remember. Just know that I failed badly, and betrayed the trust of my closest friends. The price was too high. Even now the guilt is too much… but I had to run. I still pay for mon erreur.

You came here to escape? Or to build a new future?

Especially in the Fall, this area reminds me of the home I abandoned. And my past is… buried. Gilles has given me a chance of… something better. Here my degree was a means to move on.

Is that why your new friends see you as a bookworm?

You misunderstand. The books and my qualifications are the future. Here I can forget… and move on.

But Roman Boissard believes that “the scruffy academic is a born criminal” because of your evasive manner. He wants your “contract terminated”. Yet, the others trust you. Are you concerned?

Non, Gilles always supports his friends. As he says, we are a team and when we move to his stud in England, we will be out of Roman’s way. Life will be better.

Fenburgh Stud, the one he found with Odette Fedon? So she’ll go as well and I can interview her there. Perhaps she won’t be so busy.

Exactement, she works too hard… as does Lina. I worry about them, but there is little I can do.

But you gave Lina a dog for protection. And although she sees Gilles as the hero, she sees you ‘Loup’ as his sidekick. By the way, why the nickname?

[Armand closes his eyes] Was it because I was stealthy? Perhaps. I forget. It’s just a name, but I like the idea of being a sidekick, un assistant.  Peut-être, like Gilles’s Watson, as at university where I tried to help. Or maybe I’ll be like Sam in your favourite book. Although at what cost? Does somebody have to die again? Is this a murder mystery? I suspect that I will find out, too late as usual.

What sort of danger do you fear? Are you suggesting that you might be the one committing the crime? Or perhaps you’re a victim? Apologies if that is dragging up the past you want to forget.

[Armand shakes, then breathes slowly.] Too late, it already haunts me. I have learnt to count death as an unwelcome but ever present companion. The dead lurk in the shadows… as if I’m to blame for them all. Yet death can confront us at the end of a gun, crossing the street or riding a horse.

Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974) was a French novelis...

Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974) was a French novelist, playwright, and filmmaker. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I assure you that Armand Sabatier will be remembered, even if death comes back. Sorry, but it is an essential part of you. However, I will change the subject and ask who is your favourite author?

Merçi, and I will accept my fate, even if I have to reluctantly use force again.  As for the author, my apologies it’s not Tolkien. It has to be someone French – you know French authors have won more Literature Nobel Prizes than those of any other nation. It’s tempting to quote one of those, but instead I will choose Marcel Pagnol. He wasn’t just a writer, but excelled in almost every genre – memoir, novel, play and film. Peut-être, you know him from ‘L’Eau des Collines’, the series based on his 1952 film ‘Manon des Sources’, which was remade by Claude Berri in 1986. Je suis désolé, I am sorry I’m getting all academic.

Except that is how everyone sees you. Don’t apologise. Just tell me, what are your three most prized possessions?

A photo of Cabrillac, where I grew up – customs wouldn’t allow me to bring a dried leaf into Canada. And I have two pieces of jewellery to remind me… [Armand lowers his head, tears forming in his eyes].

My apologies for dragging the past up, again. Merçi Armand, this has been a fascinating and insightful interview.

Non, merçi pour tout, it is not good to hide my guilt, especially when death still stalks me. Better to face what I will become. Maybe England will be an opportunity to absolve myself of my failure.

 

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

‘Spiral of Hooves’ is a murder mystery set against the competitive horse world. For further information click here.

Other interviews: 

Carly Tanner ~ Leading Lady & Athlete

Gilles Boissard – heroic playboy?

Lina Jardero ~ Scientist & Adviser?

Major Roman Boissard ~ Entrepreneur or Thorn?

 

Forthcoming interviews:             

Odette Fedon, Head groom at Du Noroît Stud

Peter Tanner, Architect & Trainer (England)

blood in the snow

blood in the snow (Photo credit: Anosmia)

 

Major Roman Boissard ~ Entrepreneur or Thorn?

English: Flag of Canadian Army

English: Flag of Canadian Army (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been apprehensive about interviewing Roman Boissard about his role in ‘Spiral of Hooves’ ever since he objected to my interview with Du Noroît Stud’s nutritionist, Lina Jardero. However, it is important to establish whether he is the interfering nuisance that his son, Gilles makes out, or whether the family equestrian business is his creation and dependent on him.

Monsieur Roman Boissard, many thanks for making time to see me…

Major Boissard to you. And you are late. Your appointment was last week, Clarke. I presume that you were never in the army otherwise you would show more respect. Army discipline would sort out your sloppy ideas.

Of course, Major. Can I ask what you did in the Canadian Army?

All I can divulge is that I was posted on covert operations with front-line combat regiments. Essential work that must remain confidential. Move on to the next question, I am a busy man.

Did you establish the family equestrian enterprise, Boissard Équestre with your son?

Tabernac, I formed Boissard Équestre on my own, without any help from my useless playboy son or those who exploit him… most of them foreigners that don’t understand us.

Who are your closest friends?

My business partners, like Patrick Harfang. We play golf together at our country club near Bromont. I trust them more than my son. Patrick is a sharp businessman, who can turn any failing business round and make it far more profitable than it ever was.

So you would consider this Patrick Harfang as like part of “your tribe”?

Of course. I can always trust his advice. It’s sound. The reverse of my wastrel son, Gilles.

What would you have to do to get kicked out of this club?

A ridiculous scenario and one that would be unmotivated.

Before the novel began, what were your hopes for the future? What changed that?

My dream was for Boissard Équestre to produce first-class horses for the Canadian Equestrian Team. But everything that I have tried to achieve has been opposed by my son and his under-qualified team. What use is a University degree when it ignores the scientific advances of prominent businesses? Lina Jardero is a total fraud.

But Gilles has said, “Papa is merely a nuisance”. The implication being that you are at fault?

Calisse, if I wanted I could make his life messy, but there are sensible options, if he would only listen to me. I am a reasonable man.

53/365: Over the hills and far away

53/365: Over the hills and far away (Photo credit: Rrrodrigo)

So what do you think is going to happen next? Can you reach an agreement with your son?

If he knows where his real loyalties lie. And those loyalties are not to his so-called friends. Who are they anyway? A salope groom that merely wants his money, a failed scientist that risks the horses with her experiments, and a scruffy academic that is a born criminal.

You are suggesting that Armand Sabatier is dangerous, so you don’t trust him?

He tries to take advantage of us with his pitiful moods. He’s too shifty and evasive, pretending to help everyone. Maybe I should have his contract terminated. I’m not even sure that he’s allowed to work in Canada.

By termination, you don’t mean murder? Your son suggested that you might kill someone, but not Armand, surely?

If I want him off the stud, I have easier ways to remove him. Now, if you want a suspect and if it isn’t my son, then the Frenchman would be ideal. However, I don’t think he has the brains to use anything other than a computer. A born failure, as an academic and probably as a criminal.

What was your most shattering, and most recent encounters with death?

In the military I saw my share of death, and it needs to end there. As I’ve said, I’m a reasonable man for whom killing is only a last resort and in combat. Life is sacred.

I accept that you have been misrepresented by others. In that respect, what’s your greatest talent?

As an entrepreneur, to always find the most cost effective but also most cutting-edge ways forward. That is why I was very keen to proceed with the trials of genetically-modified feed. And despite the critics close to home, the breeding stock look excellent and the financial projection is positive. The business has great prospects. As a family-man, to provide for my family, even Gilles.

Gilles sees himself in the hero role, ignoring the fact that a protagonist can always be female. What about yourself, are you heroic?

I have the military training to be a hero, but I fear that my age might be against me. Writers, like you, want young dynamic heroes and I suspect that means my son. Or are you suggesting that your novel features some trendy heroine protagonist? You can’t mean Jardero or that useless groom Fedon? That would be laughable – it will never sell.

Harrison Ford at the Pacific Design Center in ...

Harrison Ford at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think I have an age advantage over you, Major Boissard. Even if I lack the military discipline. Are you applying for the protagonist position?

Dare you ask? I have all the qualifications, even if others want to condemn me. If my favourite actor, Harrison Ford can still be the hero then I accept the promotion.

Thank you, Major Boissard for the valuable insight into your true personality. I have other candidates for the position, but I will assess your credentials with due consideration.

As long as you are not seriously considering my son. Tabernac, that would be a major mistake, even if he has his leeches.

 

Forthcoming interviews:             

Odette Fedon, Head groom at Du Noroît Stud

Armand Sabatier, Du Noroît Stud EIA researcher

 

Other ‘Spiral of Hooves’ interviews:

Carly Tanner ~ Leading Lady & Athlete

Gilles Boissard – heroic playboy?

Lina Jardero ~ Scientist & Adviser?       

Studs o' Death

Studs o’ Death (Photo credit: Anthony DeLorenzo)

                  

Lina Jardero ~ Scientist & Adviser?

English: Rancocas ( Helis Stock ) Farm is an A...

English: Rancocas ( Helis Stock ) Farm is an American thoroughbred horse racing stud farm and racing stable located on Monmouth Road (County Road 537) in Springfield Township, Burlington County, New Jersey, Jobstown, New Jersey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having finally interviewed Gilles Boissard, I feel that is time to talk to his friend, Lina Jardero, who he described as “our nutritionist” and said “I can rely on her advice”. Hopefully she can reveal more about her major role in ‘Spiral of Hooves’, and what she knows as the tale opens.

Before you met Gilles Boissard, what were your hopes for the future? What changed that?

My life wasn’t going anywhere meaningful. Studying Animal Biology at McGill University and meeting Gilles was the chance to apply myself. I believed in his dreams and could apply mis talentos to make them real.

Your abilities – talents. So what kind of talents? How did they help Gilles?

Sólo mi educación. He needed my knowledge to improve the breeding of the horses. Without me, his father, Roman would have destroyed Du Noroît, our Canadian stud. Caramba, that man is a menace.

What are you willing to do to stop him?

[Lina laughs] No estoy loco. I have my science. The horses are healthier since my regime was implemented. He’s the crazy one. Ask him what he will do to stop us.

But what crime might you commit if the need arose?

I know what being a victim is like. So I don’t feel I can discuss that. Change the subject.

My apologies. It’s hard not to pry. So can I ask, who is your favourite author?

In my teens I discovered ‘The Mixquiahuala Letters’ by Ana Castillo, which rang very true as a young woman struggling with discrimination. Now if I read it seems to be all scientific papers. Just don’t tell Loup that I used to read literature, he’s such a bookworm that he might misunderstand me.

Cover of "The Mixquiahuala Letters"

Cover of The Mixquiahuala Letters

By Loup you mean Armand Sabatier, who you live with. Is he your partner?

[Lina laughs] He’s sweet but just a friend. I sometimes wish he wasn’t so like shy. That idiota, Roman calls him shifty but I know Loup means well. Perhaps he can be odd and evasive sometimes. So?

But you would trust him in a difficult situation?  

Naturalmente, although I am unsure how useful he would be. That was why he gave me my dog for protection. If you want my choice of hero, it would be Gilles. Maybe with Loup as his sidekick.

Your raven hair and stunning looks – apologies – tell me that you are Latina. Does that influence your personality as well?

Apology accepted. But if you are suggesting that I’ve a fiery temperamento, you’re wrong. And work comes before pleasure. Next question.

Who then is your favorite superhero?

Wonderwoman, as I always wanted to be her. But my origin is not so interesante.

What was your life like growing up? You mentioned discrimination.

It was hard, being a Latina – an outsider. Even among my own I felt different. So I left home and made my own life. No fue fácil – it wasn’t easy. Until I met Gilles… and Loup.

Did your parents understand? Did they support you?

Only mi madre shared my pain. After I left home, it was her that needed the support, when I could send her anything. But I can no longer help my family. I’ve been forced to move on.

So this is now your family, here in Canada? Is this what Gilles called “the team”?

Si, mis amigos. Gilles and Armand, and our head groom, Odette Fedon. They are now mi familia.

A strong unit then. So you don’t fall out with each other?

Like all friends, si. We argue, shout and get upset. But it never lasts. Friends forever. Or is that tempting destino?

Probably, so what do you think is going to happen next?

We’ve been discussing that. Gilles wants to move to the new stud in England, Fenburgh. It’s the one he found with Odette.  I fear that Roman will try to stop us.

How can he do that? Gilles suggested murder, but does he hate anyone that much?

We could give you a list. But I fear most for Odette. She has crossed Roman many times. But I hope I’m wrong. She is very special, and a crucial member of the team.

Muchas gracias, Senorita Jardero. I am grateful for your time. It has been fascinating to talk with you and…

“Tabernac, who gave you permission to interview her?”

“Your son and that’s good enough for me. If you want to be interviewed Monsieur Roman Boissard, I can make an appointment for next week…”

“I make the appointments here, not some insignificant writer. And definitely not my useless boy. Jardero, back to work at once. Haven’t you got something better to do, Clarke?”

blood in the snow

blood in the snow (Photo credit: Anosmia)

Other ‘Spiral of Hooves’ interviews:

Carly Tanner ~ Leading Lady & Athlete

Gilles Boissard – heroic playboy?