Friday, April 10, 2015

T.K. Lukas, Author & Equestrian

T. K. Lukas, a born-and-bred Texan with a hunger for international travel, lives in rural Palo Pinto County, Texas USA, with her husband and a menagerie of four-legged friends, equine, bovine, canine, and feline. The recipient of the A. C. Greene Literary Award for Texas Authors for her short fiction, Of Murder, Mayhem, and Magnolias, she now concentrates her efforts on long fiction, from Historical, to Romance, to Adult Contemporary.

Congratulations, T.K., on your new book release Orphan Moon!

When was your first encounter with a horse?
When I was 5 or 6, my family and I went to Arkansas for a family reunion. I was determined to make my cousin’s Shetland pony my friend, even though it was known to bite and kick. I took it a peace offering of an apple, which it ignored.  “Sugar” instead chose to bite a mouthful of my hair, and she proceeded to shake me like a rag-doll. My mother came running, slapping the pony, yelling at it, and finally I was dropped to the ground. I was so upset, not at the pony, but at my mother for hitting the pony! For me, it was love at first bite.

What is the premise for your new book?
Orphan Moon, set in Texas and in various western frontiers in the early 1860’s, is about a girl who survives an Indian raid on her family’s homestead. She’s determined to rebuild, but is left penniless and alone. She forms a plan - it’s reckless and foolhardy – but it’s her only hope. The story is a saga of family love, loss, and betrayal. It’s a gripping adventure and a timeless love story. And, there are lots of really nice horses that populate the pages.

Who is the main character?
The main character is nineteen-year-old Barleigh Flanders. She’s smart, driven, and very courageous – a girl with gumption. However, she’s also a bit reckless and doesn’t think things through, which gets her into trouble. She has some inner struggles, too, that she has to overcome, and those inner struggles are just as daunting as the physical journey she undertakes.

Are your scenarios and events based upon your own personal experience?
While the book is classified as Historical Fiction, and the characters are purely figments of my imagination, it is based upon historical events that occurred in the 1860’s during the time leading up to the Civil War. It helps that I have real-life experience with horses so that I can write convincingly about them. I hate picking up a book that has horses in the story line, only to discover that the author calls a two-year-old filly a “mare,” or refers to all newborn horses as “colts,” or to see that the book cover depicts a cattle drive and the horses are tacked up in English saddles. I want authenticity - readers should expect that.  

Can you share an excerpt?
Here’s an excerpt of the opening scene from Orphan Moon:     

September 27, 1860

High upon the Brazos River ridge, bare-chested warriors on war-painted horses gathered with lances, bows and arrows, and tomahawks in hand. The fire-holder, the elder and revered medicine man, sat astride his decorated pinto in the middle of the assembly, his mount indifferent to the flaming torches his rider gripped in each hand. Other horses stomped up puffs of fine caliche dust that glittered in the moonlight. One hundred or more in strength, they waited in patient surveillance of the quiet farmhouse below, while those in the farmhouse watched them.
The moon cast shadows where there should have been none, as if the sun instead had reached full bloom. A lone white stallion stood on the highest point of the ridge, silhouetted against the silvery backdrop, its rider sitting tall. He held his hand high above his head, as if connecting to some lunar spirit. His arm dropped, the signal was given. The rocky ridge came alive with horses pouring over the edge, sliding and tumbling down the steep slope, racing across the moon-lit valley. Terrifying war cries filled the air as a gyrating circles of mounted warriors constricted in an ever-tightening noose around the ranch.
Brilliant arcs of light erupted in the night sky like blazing traces of shooting stars falling from the heavens. Barleigh Flanders stood transfixed in the barricaded window of her bedroom, peering through the gun port as arrows streaming fire rained down all around. Dread rooted her feet to the floor.
Henry’s hands shook his daughter’s shoulders. “Run to the goat shed, Barleigh. Get in the cellar. Take Birdie and the baby and Aunt Winnie. Now! Uncle Jack and I’ll give cover till we can make a run for it.”
“No, Papa. I’m staying with you.” Barleigh picked up the shotgun, thrust it through the port.
“Don’t argue, girl. No time to waste. Keep hold of your gun—take it with you.”
Winnie ran out of Birdie’s room carrying the baby. Born two days earlier on the first night of the full moon, Barleigh’s half-sister wailed with hunger. “Birdie’s too weak to run or walk. Having this child took all of her strength.”
Henry shouted instructions as he shoved them out the back door. “I’ll carry Birdie down in a minute. Don’t open the hatch unless you know it’s me. Hurry now—run.”
They ran, Winnie clutching Birdie’s and Henry’s baby, Barleigh the shotgun. Noble the hound bounded alongside, his black hair bristling in alarm. From the back of the house, past the horse corral, then to the goat shed, they raced the roiling cloud of dust churning in from the ridge. Barleigh threw open the secret hatch in the floor, and after Winnie and the dog made their way down the angled earthen steps, she slipped into the cool darkness below. Henry had dug the cellar and crafted a secret door for it as their hiding place to seek shelter from dangerous weather or even more dangerous men.
“Hurry. Close the hatch,” Winnie whispered. She bent forward, shielding the baby’s tiny body with her own as hooves pounded the ground all around, dirt sifting down onto their heads.
“But Papa’s coming with Birdie.” Barleigh peeked out the hatch, straining to see. A cavalcade of horses passed in front of the open door of the goat shed. All she saw were fast hooves and painted legs, but that was enough. She knew what was above. She secured the latch.

Do you have a favorite horse anecdote to share?
A favorite – that’s tough. Horses have been a part of my life since before I can remember remembering. Before I got my first horse at the age of ten, I read everything I could about them, rode my cousin’s horses, dreamed about them, drew pictures of them, plotted how I might steal one (I was eight-years-old) if my parents or Santa didn’t get me one.  I will say that they’ve had a huge impact on my life in very profound ways, most notably in that they brought me together with the love of my life: “There I was, waiting my turn at this equine veterinary hospital, when this handsome man walked in leading a bay roan mare with a bad hock...”  And the rest is history – or – the rest is a historical romance waiting to be written.

What are you currently reading?
I’m currently re-reading Empire of the Summer Moon, Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, by S. C. Gwynne. It’s by far the scariest and most fascinating book I’ve read in a long time. I initially read it as research for my book, so now I’m reading it for pleasure. It’s scary because it’s about real people and real events and the horrible things humans inflicted on one another.

What are you currently writing?
I’m currently writing the second follow-on book to Orphan Moon, that takes Barleigh and Hughes through the Civil War and into some very convoluted conspiracies involving a certain U. S. President. I’m also working on an adult contemporary thriller that has a USMC hero – which will lead into a real-life biography of the man who that character was patterned after. So, I’m very busy these days, and that’s a great thing! In all my books, no matter the era or setting, horses gallop across the pages!

Who is your favorite equine author?
My all-time favorite equine author is Marguerite Henry – I have many fond childhood memories, late nights under the covers with a flashlight, reading about Misty of Chincoteague. Will James, too, is a favorite. He wrote so eloquently of the emotional bond between a human and the horse. I still remember crying reading Smoky the Cow Horse.

Do you have advice for novice riders?
Yes! Ride, ride, ride. And then, ride some more. And, don’t forget when you’re done riding - stop and smell the sweaty neck of that horse. Imprint that scent into your memory bank. It’s a worthy deposit.

What does horsemanship mean to you?
For me, horsemanship, or being a good horseman/horsewoman, is pretty simple: take good care of your horse’s physical needs, keep your mind open to learning new ways to better train and/or communicate with your equine partner, and don’t impose human emotions and thoughts onto your horse. I’ve heard people say things like “my horse hates me,” or “that horse is such a bitch,” or “my horse is testing my patience today.” Horses are smart, some are clever, but they aren’t human, thank God. It would make for better equine/human relationships if the human tried to think more like the horse when in the saddle instead of assuming the horse is thinking/feeling human thoughts and emotions.

Connect with T.K…


Anonymous said...

Really like the atmosphere of the opening. Love horses and been researching Native Americans in 1812 for a novel. Will check out the links.

Unknown said...

A lifetime of knowledge of the horse and saddle shines thru in an expressive and well written novel about the old west.

Anonymous said...

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