Monday, March 30, 2015

Linda Hudson Hoagland, Author

From Tazewell, Virginia USA, welcome award-winning Author Linda Hudson Hoagland. Linda writes fiction and non-fiction novels, short stories, poetry and more. She is currently the President of the Appalachian Authors Guild, as well as a member of numerous writing groups. Linda has a distinct writing style that will draw you into her scenarios, friend her characters, and keep you on the edge of your seat!

When did you realize you wanted to become a writer? 
I realized I wanted to become a writer at a very early age. In school we were taught to treat the books we were using with reverence and respect. We were instructed to look at the name on the spine of that book we were holding to see the name of the person who wrote it. That’s where I wanted to see my name. I had just learned to read at that time.

Where do you like to write?
I write in my living room where I have my laptop set up on a table that remains in front of me at all times. I usually don’t write directly onto to laptop. That is my tool and I use it for entering purposes after I have handwritten my initial words. I, also, write anytime and everywhere I go when I feel the urge to do so. Many times you can find me at a slow moving festival writing away on my notebook.

How do you maintain thoughts and ideas?
If I don’t write down an idea right away I might lose it and I have lost many ideas. As far as my books are concerned, my mind has to perk those ideas around in my head before they are written on the paper.

What has been your best marketing venue?
Festivals, book signings, book clubs, and the like are the places I choose to sell my books. I like the one on one presentation to the buyer/reader. I get to meet all kinds of people.

What is the premise for The Backwards House?
One of the mysteries The Backwards House is about a house that is right across the street from my house. It is built with its backside facing the street and that always bothered me. My dog, Nikki, and I would scout it out on occasion to find out who lived there and why it was so mysterious. That’s how the book gets its start.

Are your stories based upon your own life experiences?
Almost all of my stories are based on a life experience of one sort or another. I think that is true of most writers. I do write fiction but I have to have a reason for writing that story. I write what I know. I also write true stories, nonfiction, for people who want me to tell their stories.

Please share a favorite passage from one of your novels…
Quote from: Quilted Memories

Now, I will be known as an author, a writer of words that mean something, and not just a purchase order clerk for the Tazewell County School System

Now, I have a real legacy for my two sons. I write poetry and have had several of my poems published. I write several different forms from free verse to rhyme which is my favorite which makes me old school in my thinking.

And can you share one of your poems?
Poem from: I Am...Linda Ellen


Overnight the brown hues of the blades
of grass changed to a vibrant, lush green
that covered the rolling hillsides as
food for the cattle that were dressed in
shiny fur coats of whites, browns, and blacks.
At the roadsides, the flowering trees
bursting with blooms, lifting their branches
to the sun beckoning the warm rays
to caress the blossoms and green leaves.
The doldrums of winter had transformed
into the welcomed rebirth of spring.
The world was a much prettier place
For the eyes of all of those who see.

Published in the Clinch Valley Review 2012

What is the key to writing great poetry?
I don’t know what the key to writing great poetry might be. I write what I feel and hope you will be able to see through my words.

What are you currently reading?
I have just finished reading 26 novels of fiction for a novel writing contest. I was very impressed with the works I had received.

What are you currently writing?
I am currently working on four works of fiction (mysteries and literary) and several nonfiction undertakings that will require a lot of time before they can be offered for publications.

Do you have advice for novice writers?
Don’t dream about writing your novel, just sit down and do it. It won’t be perfect but it will be a beginning. Along with writing your own work of art you must read the offerings of others.

Connect with Linda…

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Chip Gross, Author & Outdoorsman

From Ohio USA, welcome author and outdoorsman Chip Gross. 
Chip is a graduate of the Ohio State University, Wildlife Management. He has experience as an expert outdoorsman; freelance writer, novelist, photographer, and speaker. He has known the life of a Lake Ranger, State Wildlife Officer, and more. You will enjoy Chip’s interview about writing, photography, his favorite place to enjoy Ohio’s natural beauty, and Ohio’s bear population…

Welcome Chip!

Who is your favorite outdoor writer?
My favorite writer is Allan W. Eckert, now deceased; but he was not necessarily an "outdoors writer."  Eckert was a fellow Ohioan, and I consider him my writing mentor.  Early in his career, he wrote natural history magazine articles and books, then later switched to historical narrative.  I like Allan's writing style, and have probably subconsciously tried to emulate it in my writing.  Pick up a copy of any of his books and you'll be in for a treat.  I have written several magazine articles about Eckert, and was able to meet him several times while doing the interviews, a highlight of my writing career.  

What are you currently writing?
I'm the author of six books about the out-of-doors, but am not currently working on a book project.  I'm also the author of hundreds of magazine articles, both print and online.  For the past decade, I've been the Outdoors Editor for Country Living magazine, published by the Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives.  As such, I write a monthly outdoors column for that publication, titled Woods, Waters & Wildlife.  In addition, I write for about a dozen other outdoor-oriented magazines, some regularly and some only once or twice per year. 

What is the premise for you fiction novel Home, At Last, Is the Hunter?
Published in 1994, Home, At Last, Is the Hunter is a fiction novel based on my life.  It's the story of young Jeff Stewart, who learns to hunt the wild turkey from his maternal grandfather, known as The Boss.  The grandfather character in the book is a combination of my father and grandfather.  The wildlife officer character is a combination of the many wildlife officers I knew and worked with during my 26-year career with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife.  I took an early retirement from that state agency 13 years ago to become a freelance writer and photographer.  The book has a spiritual (Christian) message, and is appropriate for readers from mid-grade school through adult.  

In your book Poachers Were My Prey, you tell the true story of R. T. Stewart and his adventures as an undercover wildlife law enforcement officer with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife. How did you meet R.T. Stewart?
I first met R. T. Stewart when he and I were both young wildlife officers with the Ohio Division of Wildlife.  He began his career as a uniformed officer, but was eventually assigned undercover.  When that occurred, I told him that I'd like to be the one to write his story once his career was completed.  He agreed to that, and when he retired he and I wrote Poachers Were My Prey.  The book was published in 2012 by Kent State University Press, and subsequently won first place in the book category of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, Excellence in Craft awards competition.  The book also won an Outstanding Media Achievement award from the Outdoor Writers of Ohio.    

Your instructional fishing book, titled Trolling Big-Water Walleyes, talks about the secrets of fishing the Great Lakes. Can you share one (or two) secrets?
This may seem like a no-brainer, but the "secret" to catching Great Lakes sport fish (particularly walleyes) is fishing where the fish are.  The Great Lakes are so vast that many, many miles of water often contain few or no fish during various seasons of the year.  And many Great Lakes fish species, such as walleyes, are migratory.  So if you don't know what the fish are doing, and consequently where they are located at any particular time of year, you'll be fishing dead water.  A second "secret" pertaining to walleyes, particularly when trolling, is to fish slowly.  I usually troll between one and two miles per hour.  In essence, it's slow-motion fishing, but very productive.  For more specifics, pick up a copy of my book!         

Where is your favorite fishing hole?
My favorite fishing location is Lake Erie, simply because it is so productive.  Considered the "Walleye Capital of the World," millions of walleyes are caught from Lake Erie annually.  My wife and I also fish for yellow perch on the lake, usually during the fall.

What type of lure/bait, etc. do you use?
For walleyes, I troll large, plastic stick baits (minnow-imitation lures) during early spring and late fall, and nightcrawler harnesses during the remainder of the open-water period of the year.

Monday Creek flows near our family farm. We see a lot of wildlife come and go with the seasons. The deer are beautiful, but can be pests in crops and gardens. What are your views on Ohio’s deer population and what can be done to control the population in the future?
Though not a deer hunter, I've been a sport hunter nearly all my life.  I was taught to hunt by my father, and began when I was 13.  Today, I'm mainly a small-game hunter, preferring spring turkey hunting and wingshooting.  As for the Ohio deer population, I have every confidence in the wildlife biologists hired by the Ohio Division of Wildlife to manage the deer herd.  It is not an easy job, but these men and women are dedicated professionals who have the good of the wildlife resource at heart.  Having worked with many of these fine people for years at the Division of Wildlife, I can personally vouch for them concerning their professionalism and skills.  Despite what you might hear otherwise, Ohio's deer herd is in good hands.

Ohio has bears, too. Or at least one bear; scat in our barnyards and along our creek bank. As a livestock owner, I do not appreciate their presence. What is your experience with the bear in Ohio?
I don't have any personal experience with black bears in Ohio, but view them as a part of our natural heritage and would like to see their population continue to increase.  Wildlife biologists currently estimate the population in the state at somewhere around 100 black bears, mainly in eastern and southern Ohio.

Your photography is captivating, especially of birds. Bird watching has become ever so popular. My sister-in-law is an avid birder. What is the key to capturing great avian photos?
Wildlife photography is a subject unto itself, and bird photography can be particularly difficult.  It takes patience and good photo equipment and technique to be successful, but most importantly it takes a knowledge of birds and their behaviors.  In other words, where do you find them and what will they likely be doing at various seasons of the year?  I do my bird photography both from blinds and by simply walking around in the locations/habitats birds frequent.

When and where in Ohio can you find the best photo op for birding?
My number one choice for birding and bird photography in Ohio would be Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and adjacent Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.  Both are located along the western shoreline of Lake Erie between Port Clinton and Toledo.  The two best times of year to visit are spring and fall, during migration, but anytime you can get there is worthwhile.

Photo (c) Chip Gross

As a photographer, can you share one of your favorite photos?
This photo is of whitewater rafting the New River in West Virginia.  To get the shot, I positioned myself onshore below a set of particularly gnarly rapids and shot photos of various rafts as they came paddling through during the day.  It's a good photo for several reasons; it's cropped tightly, the action is "frozen" by a high shutter speed, and the exposure and lighting are good.  The photo won the President's Award (Best of the Best) for the Outdoor Writers Association of America, Excellence in Craft awards competition.   

Of the Ohio native fauna, which species thrills you the most; coyote, wild turkey, catfish, etc.?
I spend about a month each spring chasing wild turkeys.  I put out a photo blind in late March and take photos of the birds for three weeks before the hunting season begins in late April.  You can see some of those photos in a photo essay of mine in the current (April 2015) issue of Country Living magazine.  Once the hunting season comes in, I turkey hunt with my younger son, which has become a tradition for the two of us through the years.  His oldest son, one of my five grandsons, will be joining us in the turkey woods for the first time this year, and I'm looking forward to that!

As an award-winning outdoor author and photographer, what has been your greatest outdoor experience to date?
Probably my greatest outdoors experience so far was the opportunity my wife and I had two years ago to visit Alaska for two weeks.  We spent a week of that time in Denali National Park, where I took some 1,800 photos and she took 800.  We also had the opportunity to kayak around icebergs and land in a small airplane on a glacier at the base of Mount McKinley.  If you are an outdoors person, save your pennies and get to Alaska sometime during your life.  There is nothing in the Lower Forty-Eight that compares.

Ohio has great opportunity to discover nature and wildlife; many beautiful parks with regal aesthetics. Where in Ohio would you guide the person who is looking for the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature?
In Ohio, I would recommend the Hocking Hills Region in the southeastern section of the state.  It not only has outstanding natural beauty and many miles of public land, but also many amenities to choose from; everything from campgrounds to Bread & Breakfasts to secluded cabins to rustic lodges. 

Connect with Chip…

Ohio Outdoors - Photo (c) Chip Gross

Monday, March 23, 2015

CS Thompson, Author

From Texas USA, welcome Author CS Thompson. Currently residing in Tennessee, CS has a long list of accomplishments. He was an All-State shot putter in his high school and college years (Ohio University track team), while pursuing education in classical philosophy and eastern mysticism.  CS finished his degree at North Central College in psychology and then to Wheaton College Graduate School for a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology.  After graduating, he took a job as a counselor at Naperville Community Outreach and taught part time at North Central College.  A year later he was recruited by King College to move to Bristol, Tennessee to be the director of the school’s counseling center. 

Through personal experiences and life events, the Epistle of James became a focal point for CS.  Between 1995 and 2005 he wrote four applied theology books based on James, designed and taught two college courses based on James; Spiritual Formation and The Epistle of James and Introduction to Christian Counseling.  His interested in James eventually led him to write his first novel, The Bishop of Jerusalem.

Currently CS and his wife, Barb, enjoy their children and grandchildren, as well as travel to locations like, Tuscany, Italy, Washington, DC, and New Orleans that provide settings for his Natasha McMorales mystery novels.

What motivated you to write your first novel?
My first novel was The Bishop of Jerusalem.  It is a historical novel about the last five days in [the Apostle] James’ life.  Up to that point everything I had written was related to mental health and spiritual formation, and the last three books were all applications of the first chapter [in the Holy Bible] of James. These books formed the basis for a college class entitled “Spiritual Formation and the Epistle of James.”

So after years of operating in the marketplace with a moderate level of expertise on James, I came across an account of his death.  I was shocked because it is an intriguing story, but I had never heard it. I assumed most folks hadn’t heard it either.  It had to be written.  The first draft took 3 months.  It flew out of me.  I did quite a bit of research on the culture of Jerusalem in 62AD for the second draft and that took another year.

Are your characters based upon your own life scenarios? 
Yes.  One of my first books was From Mount Carmel to Mount Horeb: Elijah’s Journey Through Depression which came about because my depression after being cast aside by a church I was serving as a youth pastor seemed parallel to what I read about Elijah. I have been writing mystery novels since then.  I have 6 Why Mystery novels (each title begins with Why?”). The protagonist in the Why Mysteries is a woman detective named Nattie Moreland and she is a ‘caretaker’ from her dysfunctional family of origin.  The ‘caretaker’ adaptation is how she solves crimes, because she is so other focused, non-threatening, engaging, and self-effacing that people open up and tell her things they would not normally share.  She is not based on one of my clients, but rather several hundred of my clients.  She is my homage to caretaking women with whom I may have spent thousands of hours.

In Why Now? I tried writing in first person with a character named Jack who is introduced on a trip to St. Lucia with his wife.  He had several misadventures and I had each and every one of them first.  One misadventure was when Jack (and I) was told that he couldn’t enter the restaurant his wife most wanted to attend because he was wearing sandals without black socks.  Jack (and I) had to beg several newlyweds to buy a pair of black socks. 

Please share an excerpt from one of your novels...
Excerpt from  Martha’s Story,  chapter 27 of  Jasper Lilla and the Wolves of Banner Elk.  Martha is the first person to experience the wolves chronologically although it is not the first encounter the readers are exposed to.  Jasper and Riley go to Banner Elk to hear Martha’s story because Jasper is having a hard time coping with his encounters with the wolves.  This book has just been released...

The phone rang, and for a brief moment Martha almost regretted her decision. “It’s easy,” the Lexus salesman had told her. “You can control almost everything, even your iPhone, from the steering wheel.” Easy for my grandson, she remembered thinking. Just after the third ring went quiet, she found the phone button and pushed it with her thumb.
“Hello, Mary,” greeted Martha before her daughter could speak.
“Well . . . how is it?” asked Mary.
“How is what?” replied Martha, knowing full well what she was being asked.
“Your graduation present.” That’s what Mary called Martha’s new car. It was really a retirement present, but since she was retiring after thirty-five years as a school librarian, it was a graduation from school in a way. It was also the first and only extravagance Mary had ever seen her mother indulge herself with. Mary’s father had abandoned them when she was a child, leaving Martha with a newborn baby and a load of debt.
“It’s too fancy for me,” declared Martha. “I’m thinking of taking it back.” She wasn’t thinking of returning the Lexus at all. Although she was still disoriented with all the gadgets it was equipped with, the driving was exquisite. The seat fit her perfectly, the steering wheel moved effortlessly, and the gas pedal worked like it was an extension of her foot. She drove it off the lot and got it up to ninety-five miles an hour before getting scared. She had no idea how fast it would go, but clearly it would go faster than she would.
“You’re such a Martha,” said Mary.
“You’re no Mary,” came the familiar banter. It was a ritual they began just after Mary’s adolescence when they became as much friends as mother and daughter. Truly, each, in her own way, was more Martha than Mary. Both were independent, responsible, hardworking, and maternal.
“Where are you anyway?” asked Mary.
Martha looked around at the winding road with thick woods on either side. “I don’t know for sure,” she said. “Somewhere between Elk Park and Banner Elk.”
Mary laughed. “Well, have a good time, Mom. Don’t forget about your doctor’s appointment.”
“Yes, Mom,” said Martha as she hung up.
Accelerating through the next turn made her giggle, but then something caught her eye and made her jam on the brakes. Her tires squealed, and the rear end wobbled as she screeched to a stop.
Parked on the side of the road was an old red pickup truck with the rear passenger side up on a jack. A man lay face down next to the jack.
Martha pulled her car behind the pickup and jumped out. “Are you okay,” she said, rushing forward.
The man didn’t move as she knelt down next to him. She knew immediately that something was strange when she touched him. There was no warmth in his body, but he felt more like a stuffed animal than dead. Her hand recoiled. A sick feeling in her stomach swelled as she slowly retreated from the body, only then noticing the absence of exposed skin and the unnatural curve to the elbows.
A dummy, Martha told herself as she backed farther away without taking her eyes off the scene. Who would play such a cruel joke?
The answer she didn’t want came suddenly as a strong arm draped across her from behind, clamping her against someone who was much taller and much stronger than she. “Thanks for stopping, darlin’,” said a deep voice that made her shudder as she flailed.
He just laughed and tightened his grip, lifting her off her feet as if she were a rag doll.
She wasn’t strong enough to loosen his grip, so she dug at his forearm with her nails. His denim jacket repelled her efforts to claw at him as easily as his strength had repelled her attempts to wiggle free.
“Help me,” she screamed as he began lugging her into the woods.
She went quiet as her terror sank into something well beyond panic.
As he walked he carried her on his left hip, still using only his left arm to subdue her. Then he stopped suddenly and slung her to the ground. She was jolted as she landed on her tailbone.
“Why are you doing this?” she pleaded.
“I’m a lion,” he said, “and you’re a lamb.” He retrieved his cell phone from his back pocket. “It stinks for you, but that’s the way it is.” He placed his right foot on her left arm, pinning her to the ground while he typed something on his phone.
He’s talking; that’s good. Talk to him. Make him see you as a person. She wasn’t sure where in her memory that strategy came from, but she had no other options.
“I’m Martha. Martha Bonhoffer.”
He watched her talk, but his expression didn’t change. He pressed his foot harder on her arm.
“I have a daughter named Mary and a grandson named Frankie.”
He kept watching expressionlessly as he put his phone away.
“I’m a librarian.” Her voice trembled. “Actually I was a librarian, and now I’m retired.” She swallowed hard. “I’m a retired librarian.”
“You’re a lamb,” he said flatly. He bent down beside her head and tried to grab a handful of her hair.
She pushed at his hands, but he easily gathered her wrists and clamped them together in his huge right hand. Then he reached again for her hair. Once he had a firm grip on her hair, he let go of her wrists. Standing, he lifted her halfway up his thigh.
“Please don’t do this,” she blubbered as she struggled. “I was trying to help you. How could you do this to me? I was trying to help you.”
She was sobbing so hard that she could no longer see. He began dragging her along the ground. Her head banged against his knee when he stopped abruptly. He lowered her to a seated position and then went rigid. Martha wondered if he had heard something. She couldn’t see anything. Fear stopped her from crying out for help again. She wiped the tears from her face. That’s when she saw the wolf standing at the edge of the clearing directly in front of them—the biggest wolf she had ever seen. It was all white, and it just stared at them.
Once she could focus again, Martha noticed that the wolf’s eyes were fixated on the man standing behind and above her. The man slid his hands under her arms and lifted her up, holding her there between him and the wolf.
Coward, she thought.
She nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard a high-pitched growl directly behind them. The man swung her around so that the two wolves were now on either side of them. The first wolf was still standing in the same place at the edge of the clearing to her left, and the second was on her right. Martha felt the man’s grip tighten as a third and fourth wolf emerged from the underbrush in front of them. Pushing her forward, he began creeping backward.
Everything was happening in slow motion now. She noticed that none of the wolves were baring their teeth, which would be a sign of aggression. She also noticed that none of them were paying her any mind at all.
Standing perfectly still she gathered her arms around herself. Now there were six wolves—three sets of pairs, and the man was backing away from them.
Without so much as a glance at her, the wolves directly in front of her moved past her. Once they were beyond her, she began making her way toward the road.
“Hey,” her assailant called out to her. “Aren’t you going to help me?”
She looked back over her shoulder. The man was in the middle of the clearing, completely surrounded by what were now four pairs of wolves. The wolves were all in wider stances—heads bent forward, their back hair standing on end, all clear signs of aggression.
“I don’t know what to do,” he begged her.
He looked as pitiful as anyone Martha had ever seen. She felt sorry for him until she remembered. Then turning away, she said, “Tell them you’re a lion.”

Why is the Apostle James intriguing to you? 
Had you asked me what my go-to Bible books were, I’d have told you John up until about 1990.  That’s when I came to King University as the Director of Counseling.  I was asked to speak during chapel a couple of times a year and I tended to pick my topic by going about my normal counseling duties until something occurred in the therapy room and a light bulb would go off in my head telling me that what my client and I just said to each other is what the campus needed to hear as well.  After several years of this I noticed that it was almost always James, and not John, that I used as my text.  It was then that I realized that my go-to Bible book for my work, my calling, was James.  That is when I began writing The James Prescription.    

Do you reference Scripture and Bible events in your novels?
My Spiritual Formation books and the James novel are all loaded with scripture.  As a matter of fact in the original version of The Bishop of Jerusalem, the last line of each chapter is a line from the first chapter of James.  You could simply read the last line of each chapter and you would have read the first chapter of James.  My editor said it was too cute and so we changed it, but you can still see the remnant of it.

In the Why Mysteries, Nattie is not a Christian, but she is a seeker of truth and I have her meet Bible believing people of all sorts.  Her step-father is a religious zealot who leads Bible discussions at lunch every Sunday. Although Nattie tends to fly under the radar in these discussions, her
creative under-achieving brother, Kevin, always eggs Nattie’s step-father on.  So in my novels the Bible is more of a background and is included in such a way as to not be a stumbling block to someone mildly hostile to Christianity.  I go so far as to let Kevin have a little fun at his fundamentalist step-father’s expense.

In the Jasper Lilla Chronicles there are no overt Biblical references but the over-arching theme is about the futility of ignoring one’s calling.  

You have great book covers. Do you design your own covers? Do you believe book covers determine marketing and book sales?
Thank you very much.  The Bishop was designed by Crossroads publishing.  The other Spiritual Formation books are all CreateSpace templates.  Why Natasha? was designed around a photo I took in Italy by a local marketing company.  Why Him?, Why Me?, and Why Bristol were done by that same company, but I designed Why Bristol?.  Why Knox? is actually a painting by Kent Paulette.  He allowed me to use it as a cover. It was implemented by Cam Collins who also manages my website.  Why Now? and Jasper Lilla were both designed by me and implemented by Cam. You can’t sell a book that goes unnoticed and I think covers are what get books noticed. 

What are your views of world events and the impact it has on American culture? 
I think American culture can be a bit oblivious to world events.  We don’t usually notice or get upset by atrocities in the world until our movie stars get upset about them and that is not so good.  We are certainly upset by ISIS but we aren’t letting that affect us much, and that is good (maybe).

As a world traveler, where in the world is your favorite place to visit?
The people of Uganda were the friendliest people I have ever been around, but the place I’d go back to over and over is Tuscany because of the beauty of the countryside, the food, the wine, and because Florence is a moderate-sized city with history and sites that are only second to Rome, Paris, or London (all of which have the crowds and filth of a major city).

What are you currently writing?
Currently I’m writing the sequel to Jasper Lilla and the Wolves of Banner Elk.  The working title is Escape From Asheville, but I’m not at all happy with that title because I’m not yet settled on Asheville being the featured place.  This is a trilogy with the 3rd title, Back to Boone.  I’m 17,000 words into book 2 and I have the last line of book 3 in my head.

What are you currently reading?
My wife and I are reading 7 Men by Eric Metaxas.  I’m reading Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shipiro for work and The Rook by Steven James for fun. 

Who is your favorite author?
My favorite author is Aaron Sorkin.  He writes for television and movies.  When my writing gets flat and I want to be inspired by touching characters that intertwine around both sides of an issue I watch “West Wing.”  Sorkin can make me cry more than any other author.

Do you have advice for novice writers?
I suppose the common advice is often, “If you want to be a writer you must write.”  That is good advice, but I’ll add this, “If you want to write you must be a writer.”  I know that sounds like double talk, but here’s why I say it: what makes a writer is thinking of yourself as a writer, which you cannot do without actually writing.  But just writing isn’t enough. Thinking of yourself as a writer means that you are a writer even when you are not writing.  If ‘writer’ is part of your identity then the writer part of your mind is ALWAYS nearby.  No matter what you are doing, whether you are writing or doing anything else, your writing can be enhanced.  At any moment a writer can/will be inspired for a plot twist or the turn of a phrase or even the perfect name for a character not yet thought of.

Describe your bucket list…
Other than seeing the Cubs win the World Series and to lose 40 pounds, my bucket list is to stay married to my wife, keep doing the work God called me to do, continue enjoying writing, and watching all my grandchildren blossom into the adults God envisioned when He made them.

Connect with CS…

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Melissa Fisher, Equine Massage Practitioner

From Ohio USA Melissa Fisher knows horses. She has been around horses most of her life. Melissa explains, “Through these past 12 years you can say I have gained a significant amount of experience, but I always learn something new every day. Going through High School I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do once I graduated. I knew I wanted to go to college and have a career in the animal field, but at that time I just wasn’t sure. I went to some colleges but never really found my true calling until I went to Hocking Technical College in Nelsonville, Ohio. There is where I discovered I wanted to become an equine massage therapist. I went through two years of college in what seems like a blink of an eye. But in those two years I have learned so much, thanks to the teachers that have helped me. Massage really is an amazing technique and is extremely useful as an aid in healing the body. Using everything I was taught in school, and with hard work, I started my own equine massage business called Happy Hands Equine Massage in April 2013. Currently I am doing massage in the Mid-Ohio Valley region, in the vicinity of Marietta, Ohio. However I do/will travel once I gain more clientele.”

When was your first encounter with a horse?
I cannot tell you the first time I was around a horse, because I've been an animal lover since I was able to walk and have always been around them. But the first time I owned a horse I was 10 years old. His name was Babe and he was a Dark bay mustang. He came out from the Nevada Desert. He and I didn't always see eye to eye. However, when I was 12 my parents gave me a red and white Quarter horse paint and we instantly clicked. I can remember the day I got him like it was yesterday. Actually we went out to look to see him and afterwards, I told my parents I wanted this horse. A couple weeks went by and I asked them if we were still able to get him and they told me he had been sold already. Of course I was crushed. A few days later I came back in the house from doing barn work and my parents had me go back outside to the barn. And there he was! They had him delivered and then waited until I was in the house to bring him over. That was the only time my parents were able to surprise me. They say my mouth literally fall open. His name is Jesse James. I got him when he was 6 and he’s 18 now. I tell you what; they picked a horse that fit me perfectly. We are like two peas in a pod.

As an equine massage practitioner, what technique do you use?
When I massage, I use only my hands and for some of the moves I use elbows. I don’t use any tools. If you’re asking what technique I use - as in what kind of moves do I do? I use several different types of massage maneuvers that have different effects on the muscles.

Do you use other products, such as oils and creams?
I use products only if the owner wishes to have them used on their horse. I have several types of oils to choose from that I can implement in the massage session. I am also considering getting a liniment that helps with the massage and will have longer lasting results.

Have you had encounters with troubled/problem horses?
Yes, I have worked on a few horses with problems. One was a mare that had a shoulder problem and another had a sore leg from falling. Massage not only helps the physical aspect for the horse, it also helps for the emotional aspect as well. I worked on a mare that out of the blue started biting and being really mean. After I worked on her, she was herself again, all bright and happy.

Do you have a success story/anecdote to share?
I’ve worked on a Tennessee Walker/Morgan Cross mix that was used for cart pulling. He was in his middle 20s. He was having lots of tightness in his neck and since he was an older horse his owner believed he was developing arthritis. For all the time she has owned him she hasn't seen him put his head down to relax. After I worked on him he had his head down many times and the tightness in his neck has diminished.

As a horse-owner, what can I do to keep my horse healthy and happy?
As a horse-owner, I recommend massage and possibly a chiropractor to help put my horse back on track if he seems off. Pay attention to how they act when you’re walking them and when riding. They will show you how they feel. You just have to watch.

What does horsemanship mean to you?
I think horsemanship means the companionship between you and your horse. It’s a bond like a friendship and how well you can work and get along together. If you pay attention to each other, then they will take care of you just as much as you take care of them.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Secretariat's Dental Tool

Alan and I were on our way to Paris, Kentucky.
Secretariat's Dental Tool
Another Great Adventure by Author No Sweat

Alan, an old friend of mine, directed me to the meeting. Alan and I drove to Paris, Kentucky this afternoon where we met a lady who still had some of her father's dental tools that he used and kept while the vet at Claiborne FarmI only learned of the lady’s father, Gordon Layton, because as I was curious about a large color print of Mr. Prospector that she owned. I was looking at the picture and kept noticing that Seth Hancock had signed the picture.  I knew that Seth was no artist and I asked her why it was that his signature was on that print. I could see that it was a real signature.  And that is when this lady began relaying to me that this print once was her father's and while he was working for Seth Hancock he asked him to sign it for him which Seth did. The whole matter began because I noticed the Seth Hancock signature. 

I was already currently interested in Seth Hancock as my friend. Bo Bennett, who died this past year with my novel These Precious Days lying on his stomach, was via phone telling me a tremendous story about the Hancock's and his meeting one of the more nefarious ones in a jungle in Belize on Monkey River where world class snook and tarpon roamed. Bo and his uncle got out of their boat and went to this giant tree-house in the jungle where this Hancock was living. He was wild drunk, and had some gorgeous native women with him. Before the eve sun made itself on the horizon they were all drinking up a storm when out of the jungle appeared some 20 natives with plastic five gallon buckets.  They all began to partake in the rum, etc. and as the sun slowly began to fade over the jungle they began to turn their buckets upside down and use them for drums.  They were all some 30 feet off the ground in a glamorous Swiss Family Robinson tree-house and playing drums surrounding about all around the outside of the house - a wraparound porch where all of the men had scattered themselves to beat on their drums.  Bo said he had never experienced anything like it and that it was damn fine in every way, especially while watching several of the girls, scantily clad, dance to the drums.   Bo said that the drums echoed over the jungle and that the men had been doing this for years and was better than any drum band you could ever begin to hear.  Bo and his uncle stayed there the night and left the next morning, the place only reachable by boat as if some place smack out of Conrad's Heart of Darkness

It was this story that I kept pushing out of Bo as he was dying the last three days of his life.  He would stop telling me the story as he was running out of energy and then I would call him right back and get him back on it and again we would go over the details of it and I would be on my end of the phone and be writing notes as fast as I could to retain what he was saying about Hancock. I know he described him as very handsome at the time and that he was smart and he called himself the black sheep of the family and that they had sent him on the dark side of the earth for him not to be an embarrassment. Gina, I have tried to research the Hancock family and figure out which Hancock this is and it still remains a mystery. I am all but tempted to ask someone in the family itself as to who it could be.  You see, Bo is a peripheral character that I have in LA GUERRE EST FINIE (No Sweat’s upcoming new novel).  He and Luisa Lang (Will Lang, Jr.’s only child) were, well, hot for each other. I made the mistake of introducing them - and worse yet, while Bo's other hot girlfriend, Angel, was very close by, leopard-see-through-string-bikini and all. Never a good thing. And with Bo like some Gregory Peck turned loose in Adam and Eve's lush Garden. 

One of the old mansions still located on the Claiborne Farms.
Back at the house, the lady spoke at length about her father, Gordon Layton; one of her stories involved the great race horse Nijinsky and she talked at length about how her father had to often bleed him (his bleeders were also all there for sale) and that in the end he was the person that had to put Nijinsky down, hating the ordeal. Anyways, I managed to come away with the well-made blacksmith tool designed to grind down horse's teeth that her grandfather had made as he was the blacksmith who taught at Cornell University and the same man that gave his son, Gordon Layton, the vet, this tool that he used throughout his life while working on the Claiborne Farm.  

She then went on to show me a wood crate full of her father's dental tools that he used while attending the horses at Claiborne Farm. In the box were several interesting looking tools, some of which were old in appearance being blacksmith made. When I inquired about them she began to give me her family's history telling me that her grandfather had been a blacksmith and that quite often it was the blacksmith that was also the vet in any area, which makes sense. Apparently her father was quite good at his profession as he wound up teaching at Cornell and yet only had a High School education.  And his son, her father, Gordon Layton, became a vet there in Paris, Kentucky close to the Claiborne Farm. Eventually, he became their "vet in residence" at the farm.  And as such he worked on all the many famous and great horses that came through there. She spoke at length about Nijinsky and how her father would have to bleed him at times and how her father would say ‘that horse should hate me but does not and is such a great horse almost understanding what I do.’

It was Gordon who eventually had to put Nijinsky down. I can't swear for certain that this particular tool called a "dental float" was actually ever used on Secretariat, etc., but the likelihood of it is high. I will probably go back and buy a few more of her father's tools before it is all said and done. Her father now has lost his memory, etc. and she has to care for him and she has been selling some of his personal items.

Anyways, that's how the whole thing started, my eye catching the Hancock signature. If you are going to tell a story, tell the whole damn thing. 

Your Most Humble And Obedient Servant, No Sweat.

Secretariat's Dental Tool

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