Sunday, November 18, 2012

Barrel Run Excerpt from Cowgirl Is a State of Mind

   Walking back to the trailer, Riley reflected on the pattern and visualized her run. She slipped into automatic pilot as she finished getting ready – leg wraps and bell boots for her horse, long-sleeved shirt and hat for herself, the competition bridle.
   Rock and roll music was playing over the loudspeaker several minutes later when Riley got close enough to the arena to hear, and when the announcer called her name, she felt ready. She had already positioned Novocain, her horse, where she wanted him as the competitor before her exited the arena. She was aware of the announcer still speaking but was no longer listening – her complete focus was on her riding and her horse.
   Novocain began to hop, almost in place, as they came closer to the mouth of the alley. He was ready to go, coiled like a spring, waiting for her to let him go. Riley put all her weight in the stirrups as they passed the protruding fence so it no longer posed a danger of catching her leg. Her seat and upper body switched to a forward position, and she released the firm hold on the reins. Novocain burst into a full run immediately.
   With her seat and legs she encouraged the gelding to run. Both hands were on the reins to help guide and steady him with her eyes fixed on the point just before the first barrel where she wanted to be when she would ask him to start the turn. When she cued him at that point he responded immediately; he checked his momentum and wrapped the barrel so closely her leg skimmed the top all the way around. As he straightened from the turn his powerful hind end pushed away and he covered the ground quickly to the second barrel. She sat deep in her saddle and cued him again. He gathered his body to shorten his stride and made a pretty arc around the barrel, wasting no time.
   As they left the second barrel the crowd was silent, watching the near flawless run unfolding. Riley knew that although Novocain was running hard and fast, he was also running carelessly, and she feared he would crowd the last barrel. They were covering ground to it very quickly and she caught herself overanalyzing, debating how much to let him turn it on his own. As they closed in on the barrel she failed to raise her inside hand or sit back to cue him to gather for the turn. Her body reacted by stiffening as she realized she was neglecting to ride her horse.
   She felt Novocain hesitate, as if he was questioning how she was riding now versus their practice and training sessions. It caused him to falter in his stride, losing track of his feet momentarily. As he pushed away from the misstep, a back hoof caught the edge of his front shoe, jerking him and pulling the shoe off. He stumbled slightly. His momentum kept him up and he quickly regained his form, but they had bumped the barrel as they left it. She encouraged him to hustle as they sprinted for home and there was silence except the sound of Novocain running. Just before they crossed the timer the crowd moaned, and she knew the barrel had gone over.


Welcome To the World of Promoting Your Product

   Work has been crazy busy. For a steady paycheck I'm employed by one of the oldest companies in Nebraska that works on repossessed properties in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri. I hover over a keyboard and gaze into double screens, trying to make sense of client requests and the resulting work completed by crews. Busy or not, I am taking the time to put my thoughts together and get back to writing. If you have ready any of my first published novel, Cowgirl Is a State of Mind (thank you!), then I like to think you'll be pleased to know I have started a manuscript that follows Cowgirl with one of the men as the main character. Personally I like surprises, so I won't say which man it is.
   Someone recently summarized it well when they said to me that writers are introverts to begin with. 'Socially handicapped' is a good way to describe myself, preferring to avoid the general public if I can. But, it's up to me to promote my book, so I am having to change my ways. Promotion is a whole new world to me - I never gave the meaning of 'marketing' much thought before the book was ready to be published. But I am learning . . . something new almost every day so it seems. Anyone who has worked with horses (or any animal), and are any good at it, understands that the animal communicates many things, if we only pay attention. It should be no surprise that people are the same, if we only pay attention.
   I interacted with a good number of individuals recently at the WPRA World Finals where I had a vendor booth, and wish I had gotten the names of at least a few that purchased Cowgirl Is a State of Mind. They gave a glimpse into their own lives of interesting stories to tell, and looking back it would have been wonderful to have the opportunity to keep in touch with them. Live and learn - I guess it's not a big snafu if I learned from it. There was the local woman working in the WPRA office for the weekend, the woman who colorfully commented on the opening scene of Cowgirl Is a State of Mind with her own real-life parallel, another who asked what inspired me to write the book and as I spoke I watched his eyes get big with understanding.
   And then there was the man with the company selling WPRA coats and apparel, his booth within a wimpy girl's throw from mine. He and I did not start out on a good foot. It began typically enough with his casual 'Hello, what are you selling?' but it didn't take long for me to get the feeling he saw me as a diamond in the rough that needed polishing. A lot.
   The first day, Thursday, he was selling WPRA logo jackets like it was cold out (it was) and I was sitting with my books, usually alone. Evidently he noticed. When his coats-like-hotcakes sales slowed, he approached with what I am sure was meant as well intended, superior leadership advice. I felt like I was standing in front of a used car salesman with five hundred dollars to spend. To say we mixed like oil and water would be an understatement.
   But, like many less-than-ideal beginnings, the end of our four days within close proximity ended amicably as was evidenced with smiles, laughter and even a hug. He had listened to a few things I had to say, and I had listened to him. Neither of us admitted to agreeing with the other's opinion on anything, but we had listened. He bought a book and I bought some WPRA merchandise. And whether either of us acknowledges it or not, I like to think we influenced the other to the good, if even just a little bit.