The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon – a review

Engrossed in promoting my equestrian thriller, escaping to read about another horse world was strange and yet satisfying. This is my review:

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The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon

by Linda Ballou (Goodreads Author)

Gemcie and her Irish Hunter, Marshal, are about to capture the World Cup when a nasty fall dashes their chances. While she is mending, her arch rival seizes this opportunity to catch a ride on Marshal, and to seduce her young husband. Confused and dazed by her new circumstances, Gemcie heads for the high Sierras hoping the majestic spires that captured the heart of the father she never met will provide the answers she seeks. She finds strength and solace riding solo on the John Muir Trail, but a bear attack ends her time of introspection and places her in the care of a solitary cowboy manning a fire lookout. Brady, who seems to love animals more than people, shows her love and gives her the courage to get back in the saddle. Haunted by images of Marshal being abused by his owners, Gemcie returns to rescue him and fly high with him once more. Ballou’s prose gallops ahead at breakneck speed as she takes you along on this wild ride.

Review 5*

From the opening hook, Linda Ballou’s The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon paints a rich picture of not just the show jumping world that Gemcie had earned her place in through hard work and dedication. The accident that dashes the ambitions of Gemcie and her Irish Hunter, Marshal, leads to other events that unravel her life, create new sub plots and take Gemcie into another world dominated by the high Sierras and a different style of riding – western.

The language continues to evoke images and sensations, whether in the actions or the descriptions. We meet new characters, including horses, and, in the mountains, we meet Brady. His portrayal triggers questions for Gemcie and, for this reader, but the challenge is a crucial peak in the novel, handled well. She might baulk at the challenges in the high Sierras, at first, but she is drawn on as the reader is by the plotlines.

However, although I liked how the story unfolded and the descriptive richness, two elements threw me from my ride-read. In Ballou’s defence, these are style issues, I suspect. First, I had problems with the transitions in scenes that changed from one paragraph to another – I am used to a scene break. The other area was Point of View – POVs. At first, I thought the story was head-hopping too much from one character to another then back. But I began to sense that this was ‘limited omniscient POV’ which I am less familiar with, but I accepted it and read on absorbed by the story.

Through the author’s extensive expertise, the novel resonates with accuracy, from descriptions of the wilderness to the various riding elements. Ballou works even vaulting into Gemcie’s recovery, as well as trekking and jumping, and in the ‘author’s note,’ we discover why this feels so right.

Ballou also neatly weaves the various characters and themes into the satisfying ending. Most of the characters feed into the climax as does the power of love and nature. The natural world is described with words that unleash all the senses, and this reader kept nodding at the importance of respecting nature as Brady does – a respect that Gemcie learns, marking her growth.

A satisfying and enjoyable read that I recommend. I await the sequel hinted at in the author’s final comments.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

Style – four ½ stars

 

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Oats, Hay and Rest

 

 

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Bookmark design by Jonathan Temples. Photo by Nick Perry.

 

I’m back home at Writing Wings for this final hitching post on ‘The Spiral of Hooves Blog Tour’. After a journey that has taken me to France, the USA, England, and Canada, the mare that I borrowed from Carly Tanner is ready for her oats and hay, while I bring this celebration of my novel’s August launch to a fitting close.

First, I must thank my fellow writers and bloggers who did so much to help me – Ailsa Abraham, Donna Galanti, Jane Bwye, Kristina Stanley and Cryssa Bazos – you are all amazing, as are those people that have given their support in other ways from sharing their knowledge at events to sharing their reactions to my novel.

There are still chances to win one of the signed copies of Spiral of Hooves that I am offering prospective readers. Giveaways are running at the following blog hitching posts where more is revealed about the book and about me. There is nothing to stop you entering at each site:

https://ailsaabraham.com/2017/08/05/the-spiral-of-hooves-tour/  (CLOSED – Winner: Sue Barnard)

http://www.elementtrilogy.com/the-spiral-of-hooves-blog-tour-signed-book-giveaway/  (CLOSED – Winner: Laura Thomas)

https://jbwye.com/2017/08/08/the-hitching-post/  (CLOSED – Winner: Jane Bwye)

https://kristinastanley.com/2017/08/08/new-release-spiral-of-hooves-by-roland-clarke/  (CLOSED – Winner: Kate Collier)

https://cryssabazos.com/2017/08/11/from-ostler-to-eventer-guest-post-by-roland-clarke-giveaway/  (CLOSED – Winner: Char Newcomb)

The last ‘hitching post’ is this one, so make a comment below, and you will be entered in the Writing Wings draw for Spiral of Hooves. This giveaway runs until August 31st to give you all more time.

But as they say in those TV promo ads – ‘that’s not all’. There is also a giveaway on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35838755-spiral-of-hooves and that runs until September 7th.

There is a bonus as every signed book has a bookmark in it. Do you think I should give away a signed bookmark to all you ‘hitching post’ responders? Let me know while I’m feeling generous.

Just in case you are new to this blog, here are the refined details about Spiral of Hooves, without the legal small print – there isn’t any that I recall.

BLURB:

In Canada, researcher Armand Sabatier witnesses what could be the murder of groom Odette Fedon, but traumatic images from his past smother his memory, and a snowstorm buries the evidence. Harassed by nightmares but fighting through them, Armand remembers the crime a few months later. By then he is in England, where he is dragged into a plot involving international sport horse breeding.

Suspecting everyone around him, Armand is forced to brave the past that he has kept buried. But what made Armand leave France? Where did he learn to survive and fight for justice? Why is the English rider Carly Tanner treading the same path as the first victim, Odette?

Can he save Carly before he has more blood on his hands?

What is Spiral of Hooves in brief?

An enthralling mystery full of twists, turns, and suspense, Spiral of Hooves is set against the competitive equestrian world of eventing. Characters are thrown together from different countries by their ambitions, ideals and desires, and by their passion for horses. Relationships are tested, and challenges surmounted as the mystery builds.

A thriller set in the high-stress, competitive environment of the horse riding life. Clarke mixes the excitement of the equestrian community with murder, romance, and friendships that are not what they seem. Clarke’s prose evokes vivid imagery, and the plot keeps you guessing. A thoroughly enjoyable read.” Kristina Stanley, Best-selling Author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series

Spiral of Hooves is available from Amazon on Kindle and for the first time in paperback https://bookgoodies.com/a/B073W3CLDV

Although nobody in the novel resembles anyone in my working career, I have interviewed five of the characters here at Writing Wings if you want to meet them at https://rolandclarke.com/spiral-of-hooves/. I suspect that my devious mind wanted to challenge you when I chatted with them

Don’t forget to please make a comment below if you would like to be entered in the Giveaway for a signed copy of the Second Edition of Spiral of Hooves.

Let me know what you think about signed bookmarks.  

Are my characters as devious as me?

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Bookmark design by Jonathan Temples. Photo by Nick Perry.

The Writer’s Cut

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You are invited to the launch of my equestrian mystery Spiral of Hooves: The Writer’s Cut aka The Second Edition on August 7th, 2017, which is incidentally my 64th birthday.

Join me on Facebook or Goodreads as I discuss how the novel came about, my horse world, being an MS warrior, and my future from motorbikes and longboats to spacecraft and airships. I will answer any question posed…within my ability to do so. Of course, there will be prizes from signed copies to other goodies.

The party begins at 9 am. MDT (1600 BST; 1100 EDT; 0800 PST) on Facebook – see HERE for details and invite. (Facebook says in Boise but the party is online so come as you are.) I will also drop in and out of Goodreads to chat and answer questions – HERE – whenever I can slip off Facebook. I am running Giveaways for signed paperback copies of “Spiral of Hooves” – one copy on Facebook, one on Goodreads, and one on each Blog running my ‘interview-promo’ post.

If any authors are willing to join the Facebook party it would let me sit back and chill for an hour – or visit Goodreads – while you entertain the fans and promote yourself. Just ask for a slot and I can add you to the schedule.

ARC copies are still available to read in PDF format, and there is still time to review Spiral of Hooves before the release on August 7th.

I can also supply blog copy to anyone willing to post about the novel and my world. Each blog will be invited to run a Giveaway for a signed paperback copy.

The following links should also direct you to specific Amazon sites:
https://www.createspace.com/3893100
http://www.amazon.com/dp/1548508411
http://www.amazon.ca/dp/1548508411
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1548508411
http://www.amazon.de/dp/1548508411
http://www.amazon.es/dp/1548508411
http://www.amazon.fr/dp/[1548508411
http://www.amazon.it/dp/[1548508411
…………………

  • BLURB: In Canada, researcher Armand Sabatier witnesses what could be the murder of groom Odette Fedon, but traumatic images from his past smother his memory, and a snowstorm buries the evidence. Harassed by nightmares but fighting through them, Armand remembers the crime a few months later. By then he is in England, where he is dragged into a plot involving international sport horse breeding.

Suspecting everyone around him, Armand is forced to brave the past that he has kept buried. But what made Armand leave France? Where did he learn to survive and fight for justice? Why is the English rider Carly Tanner treading the same path as the first victim, Odette?

Can he save Carly before he has more blood on his hands?

  • Genre – Mystery-thriller
  • Tone of the book – serious but not gory
  • Target audience – young adult upwards interested in horses and mysteries

I hope to see you at The Writer’s Cut Party.

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Launch Minus and Counting

Equestrian thrills return on August 7th with the re-release of my first mystery set in the horse world. (Yes, there is a second in the pile of drafts.)

First published in December 2013 but out of print since I left the publisher, “Spiral of Hooves” returns in a new edition revised to address readers’ comments. For instance, one of the sub-plots was out of character so I have removed it.

Although this is a new edition of the eBook, this is the first paperback edition – by ‘popular demand’. I am preparing for the August 7th launch on social media and I am looking for some input and assistance beforehand and in the week of the launch.

  • BLURB: In Canada, researcher Armand Sabatier witnesses what could be the murder of groom Odette Fedon, but traumatic images from his past smother his memory, and a snowstorm buries the evidence. Harassed by nightmares but fighting through them, Armand remembers the crime a few months later. By then he is in England, where he is dragged into a plot involving international sport horse breeding.

  Suspecting everyone around him, Armand is forced to brave the past that he has kept buried. But what made Armand leave France? Where did he learn to survive and fight for justice? Why is the English rider Carly Tanner treading the same path as the first victim, Odette?

  Can he save Carly before he has more blood on his hands?

  • Genre – Mystery-thriller
  • Tone of the book – serious but not gory
  • Target audience – young adult upwards interested in horses and mysteries

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I plan to write an ‘interview with ‘the author’ that re-lives my past before the stable door closes and I forget all the events that lead to me writing “Spiral of Hooves”. If you have any suggestions as to crucial questions I should ask myself, please ask them in the comments.

During the launch week, I would welcome other bloggers running the interview along with some blurb on the book and the cover image (as above). I can supply the post material beforehand if you let me know, either below or by sending an email via the Contact Me form.

If you would like to read an ARC [advance review copy] of the novel, I can supply one in exchange for an unbiased review. The more reviews that appear around the launch the wider the impact.

If you are on Goodreads, the Want to Read shelf is also important, so please add “Spiral of Hooves” to your shelf.

On August 7th, I will be on Goodreads to answer questions at https://www.goodreads.com/author/6828334.Roland_Clarke/questions and any asked in advance.

I will also be at https://www.facebook.com/roland.clarke.79 where I am hosting a Launch Party. If anyone is willing to co-host that event, then I would be grateful for a stand-in while I take a break on what will be a busy day.

Do you have any further suggestions that could make this a successful launch on August 7th?

A Brilliant Conspiracy

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Blogging from A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal 2016

April and the A to Z Challenge is drawing near, so today I’m posting about the Theme I intend to follow for the Month of April on Writing Wings.

The Challenge runs over 26 days – with Sundays off for good behaviour – and each day will be based on the alphabet, from A through to Z.

In previous years, I have chosen themes that were linked to Work In Progress… and I rambled somewhat. So I wanted something different, maybe tighter and more cryptic.

So “A Brilliant Conspiracy” was born.

This is a short saga based around the following ‘Blurb’.

Archibald Brewster claims detective expertise, frustrating genius hospital intern Jamila Knox.

Luckily, muscles never obstruct progress.

Questions remain, silently taunting, until vengeance wakes xenophobia-yapping zealots.

Inspired by this mystery, I will post a brief episode in “A Brilliant Conspiracy” on every day of the challenge, from A through to Z, each one starting with the relevant letter.

Each episode will consist of one word for each of the letters of the alphabet, initially in alphabetical order. As each letter is ticked off, I will then use it anywhere in the following episodes. For instance, Day 3 will start with ‘C’ for ‘Confessions, and somewhere I will use A and B – possibly for ‘Archibald’ and for ‘but’. By the time the mystery reaches Z, all the other letters will be in non-alphabetical order. That means 26 posts, each one of 26 words.

As a bonus, Archibald will pick his ‘horse of the day’, while Jamila will assess a ‘daily poison’ – again from A to Z.

I’m attempting to concoct these cryptic episodes in advance, but it’s proving tough. So if I fail to complete this challenge, then this will be, “Another Baffling Confusion”, especially if there is no Z.

Why not go visit the others on the linky list to find out what sort of posts you can look forward to elsewhere.

You can also visit the A to Z Facebook page where you’ll be able to see what everyone’s posting about. And there are the A to Z pinterest boards, the G+ page, and Twitter where the #atozchallenge tag rules.

See you on April 1st when Archibald and Jamila embark on their adventure.

 

End of an Era: Closing a Chapter in My Life

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With my mother Nidia Clarke at Borde Hill Horse Trials – by Tony Warr

As I prepare to embark on a life in the US, I realise that 2015 is witnessing the closing pages of some chapters in my life: my involvement with the sport of eventing.

On April 4th, I lost my close friend and organiser-mentor Bill Allen, and I attempted to say in my tribute what Bill meant to me and to the sport.  Not long afterwards, on April 29th, The Hon. Daphne Lakin, organiser of Iping Horse Trials, died and with her more memories of a special person. At the beginning of June, Bill’s co-organiser at Purston Manor Horse Trials, Dr Peter Lamont, and another guiding light, sadly passed on. Despite the courage of Bill and Peter’s widows, Ann and Jill, there were not enough entries to stop the final running of Purston being cancelled.

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Bill Allen at Borde Hill Horse Trials- by Tony Warr

I felt these sad departures heralded the end of an era, but they are underscored by another departure. On May 22nd the final issue of Eventing magazine was published, the June 2015 edition. I wrote on Facebook, “As others have said, Eventing got many of us started in journalism – or in my case re-started after a false start. Made so many friends this way from journalists like Jane Perry, Julie Harding, Ellie Crosbie, photographers like Nick Perry, Stephen Sparkes, David Miller, and riders, owners, organisers, grooms. So many memories and a sad end of an era.”

Although Kate Green was the editor that gave me my first reporting job for them in 1993, her assistant and successor, Julie Harding kept me writing. To my post Julie replied, “Agree Roland. So many wonderful people met along the way and friends made. Delighted to have helped some launch their careers too. Eventing was so many things to so many people – hence why there is much sadness surrounding its demise.”

In her own post she said, “Sadly the end of Eventing after 30 years… Janet and Brian Hill, its founders, could never have believed when they started it that it would go on to have such a long and illustrious history. A lot of people will miss you Eventing.”

That was reflected in both the comments about Eventing Magazine’s departure, and in the tragic loss of three great organisers.  They will all be missed, and the sport is poorer for them leaving us.

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The Seahorse Achievement Award

Although I didn’t start writing about the sport regularly until 1993, and didn’t co-found the South East Eventers League until 1995, my own involvement with eventing actually preceded the magazine’s launch by over twenty years.

In 1973, when I was twenty, my journalism career started as a sub-editor for The Field. Then one day the assistant editor, Derek Bingham, took me with him to Tidworth Three-Day-Event, which was the British Junior team trial. Once they saw my amateurish photos, those Juniors even persuaded me to take photos at their final trial. So began a sporadic flirtation that took me all over the UK taking photos, briefly to Toronto, and to events on the continent – Netherlands and Germany. Basically I was hooked.

I experienced some high-points, although the pinnacle came from carriage driving – as a passenger in the ‘suicide seat’ of a marathon carriage. But I remember cheering friends to victory at three-day-events, which is echoed in my novel “Spiral of Hooves”.

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Penny Sangster on Greenbank Harlequin by Roland Clarke

And there were terrible low points, mainly when riders were killed, or horses. I’ll never forget standing by the main arena at Badminton in 1976 when Lucinda Prior-Palmer (now Green) won on Miss V Phillips’ Wide Awake, but then he died of a heart attack on his victory lap.

I regret losing a photo I took of Mr C Cyzer’s Killaire in his stable, a photo that looked like a painting. It was taken a few years before Lucinda won Badminton on Killaire in 1979.

When it launched in 1985 The Guardian described Eventing as “a tough workhorse aimed at the serious trials riders and budding Lucinda Greens.” But that workhorse has now retired, and so has this one.

But we’re not going to retire gracefully, are we? NO WAY.

I’ll keep writing about horses, even if they are fictional. Okay, “Tortuous Terrain”, the sequel to “Spiral of Hooves”, is based in Idaho, and the sport is more western – endurance riding and barrel racing. But easier to research, I hope.

And then comes “Suicide Seat”.

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Dick Lane and his team of Lipizzaners – by Roland Clarke