Nov 21, 2010

shocked speechless

So I was in Detroit this weekend when my aunt asks me if I knew the 2010 National Book Award winner. I did not. She seemed surprised and said that it was about horse racing. My reaction was stunned staring and random muttering along the lines of "Whaa? I didn't.... How did that...? Huh?"

Allow me to introduce you to the 2010 National Book Award winner, Lord of Misrule:

At the rock-bottom end of the sport of kings sits the ruthless and often violent world of cheap horse racing, where trainers and jockeys, grooms and hotwalkers, loan sharks and touts all struggle to take an edge, or prove their luck, or just survive. Lord of Misrule follows five characters—scarred and lonely dreamers in the American grain—through a year and four races at Indian Mound Downs, downriver from Wheeling, West Virginia.

Horseman Tommy Hansel has a scheme to rescue his failing stable: He’ll ship four unknown but ready horses to Indian Mound Downs, run them in cheap claiming races at long odds, and then get out fast before anyone notices. The problem is, at this rundown riverfront half-mile racetrack in the Northern Panhandle, everybody notices—veteran groom Medicine Ed, Kidstuff the blacksmith, old lady “gyp” Deucey Gifford, stall superintendent Suitcase Smithers, eventually even the ruled-off “racetrack financier” Two-Tie and the ominous leading trainer, Joe Dale Bigg. But no one bothers to factor in Tommy Hansel’s go-fer girlfriend, Maggie Koderer. Like the beautiful, used-up, tragic horses she comes to love, Maggie has just enough heart to wire everyone’s flagging hopes back to the source of all luck.

I'm going to have to see about this.

Nov 19, 2010

Guest Blogger: Author Alison Hart

By Alison Hart

I write mysteries, suspense and historical fiction, mostly involving horses, all based in reality.

In Shadow Horse and its sequel Whirlwind, Jas must prove that Hugh Robicheaux killed two horses for insurance money. The mystery revolves around true scams that can happen in any sport, but in this case, the high stakes sport of horse showing:

“One of the worst cases of fraud happened in the early 1990’s,” Miss Hahn told Jas. “Some of the top paid riders and wealthiest owners in the business paid a lowlife named Tommy Burns to kill their horses.

“In one case, a horse named Empire was galloped until sweaty. Then he was put in a clean stall and electrocuted. Based on the sweat and clean stall, the vet ruled colic.”

There were worse details in the magazines and articles that I read for research and at the rescue farms I visited, details that turned my stomach. I wisely left many of them out. An author continually makes choices about the amount of research and reality to include. Too little can result in a bland story, too much can make it gruesome.

In my “Racing to Freedom” trilogy (Gabriel’s Horses, Gabriel’s Triumph and Gabriel’s Journey) set during the Civil War, my research sent me to the dark times when African Americans were treated with brutality and disdain. I definitely had to make choices, leaving out graphic incidences of slaves being hung, whipped and sold from their families. However, there was plenty left for a true and gripping tale such as the scene from Gabriel’s Journey, set during the real Battle of Saltville, Virginia:

Hoofbeats thud in the foggy distance. Then angry words drift down the hillside from the cabin of wounded soldiers. “Drag them coloreds outta there!” a gruff voice hollers.

The surgeon’s voice rises in protest, but moments later the report of revolvers echoes through the hills. I startle with each shot.

“Oh my god,” Captain cries out hoarsely. “They’re killing the wounded.” 

Private Black’s words flash in my mind like a warning. When those Confederates see our black faces charging them with rifles and bayonets, they’re going to attack us with a vengeance.

I’ve written over sixty books. When people ask me where I get my ideas, I tell them, “Just pick up any newspaper. Or read a history text. Horror, crime and mayhem are everywhere.”

And they make terrific stories.

2011 Upcoming YA Books

by Mary Finn
June 14, 2011
Young Adult

When Thomas Rose first spots the girl hidden by the roadside, she looks as drab as a lark, with only her red kerchief giving her away. But French Hélène, who goes by "Ling," is no ordinary bird. Tiny Ling enchants Thomas with her wild spirit and tales of a circus where she danced atop her beloved horse, Belladonna. But the horse has been sold, and Ling must fetch her back. Now Thomas’s life as a clever but unschooled wheelwright’s son is about to change. Their search leads to painter George Stubbs, who euthanizes ailing animals in order to study their anatomy. Stubbs draws eerie horses that stride as if they could move out of the paper world into the real one - but he assures his young friends that their horse is safe at a nearby estate. As Ling and Thomas devise a risky plan to recover Belladonna, Stubbs hires Thomas as an apprentice, teaching him to read and write as well. In this fascinating story, Mary Finn incorporates a real eighteenth-century artist into a beautifully imagined tale of adventure and young romance.

The A Circuit
by Catherine Hapka and Georgine Bloomberg
May 24, 2011
Young Adult

The A Circuit is the top of the top when it comes to horse shows. It's a world with its own rules and superprivileged lifestyles. Teens travel the circuit all year, showing horses that cost as much as some homes.
Tommi, Kate, and Zara are all elite competitors on the circuit, but they come from totally different backgrounds. Tommi is a billionaire heiress trying to prove she has real talent (not just deep bank accounts). Kate puts the working in working student—every win has been paid for with hours of cleaning stalls. She's used to the grueling schedule, but Fitz, the barn's resident hot guy, is about to become a major distraction. And then there's Zara. She's the wild child of a famous rockstar, but she's ready to take riding seriously. Can a party girl really change her ways?
Readers who enjoy peeking into the elite world of Gossip Girl or The A-List will feel right at home in this new series with its friendships, drama, and privilege set against the backdrop of competitive horseback riding.

(Okay, this was only a matter of time. In fact, I've been waiting for this to happen only so I can read the book and stare at it in awed fascination.)

Nov 17, 2010

Author Interview: Alison Hart

Today I'm talking to Alison Hart, author of over twenty mysteries and historical novels for children and young adults. The horsey set knows her best as the writer of the acclaimed Shadow Horse and its recent sequel, Whirlwind. Fans of the Thoroughbred series know her as Alice Leonhardt, who penned various volumes during the New Generation including Racing Image, The Bad Luck Filly, Living Legend, and more.

What inspired you to write Shadow Horse?

I am a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) who works with the court system to advocate for abused and neglected children. The pairing of foster teen with a rescue farm seemed like a great story; the insurance scam came after I did research.

What sort of research did you do for Shadow Horse and Whirlwind

I interviewed a social worker, a probation officer, an insurance agent and a police officer, and visited juvenile court and a rescue farm. I did extensive reading as well.

There was quite a wait for Whirlwind. What went into making the book finally happen?

I honestly don't know what took so long. I was busy writing historical fiction that was doing well for a different publisher. Sales for Shadow Horse were steady but not phenomenal, and in today's market/economy, sales must be phenomenal for a publishing house to request a sequel.

You wrote several books for the Thoroughbred series during its “New Generation.” Which character did you most enjoy writing? 

I pretty much created Melanie and Image, so they are the ones I most identify with.

What draws you to writing about horses, particularly for children and young adults?

Horses have been in my life since I was five years old, but horses and humans have been intertwined since as early as 3500 BC when horses were raised for milk and meat in Kazakhstan. (see the fascinating March 2009 article in National Geographic)

Since then, horses have been used (and exploited) by humans in all parts of the world. In America, horses became extinct about 10,000 years ago and were then reintroduced by 16th century Spanish Explorers. That gives me centuries of history to write about. My current books focus on the 1800’s when horses were used for transportation, farming, racing and war --see my historical suspense Gabriel's Horses, Gabriel's Triumph and Gabriel's Journey, Emma's River and Anna's Blizzard--as well as modern-day novels like Taking the Reins, Shadow Horse and Whirlwind.

Do you have any upcoming horse books or other writing projects on the horizon? (Possibly a sequel to Whirlwind, perhaps?) 

I'd love to do a sequel to Whirlwind, and have an idea plus a possible title, but again, the sales of Whirlwind have to be phenomenal for Random House to even consider it. In 2011, Risky Chance, book seven in the Horse Diary series, will be published. It's about horse racing during the 1930's. I also have a second American Girl book called Dive Right In, part of their InnerStar U series, which allows readers to choose their own endings. It's not about horses but still fun!


My thanks to Alison for taking the time to answer a few questions!

Whirlwind's Facebook Page - Become a fan!

Nov 15, 2010

Shadow Horse & Whirlwind Giveaway Winner!

Vtgypsy! has spoken! Vtgypsy, please e-mail me your address at wbfblog at gmail dot com and I'll drop the books in the mail. As for the rest of you guys, thanks for participating and keep on the look out for future giveaways. I've got lots of random horse books sitting around that are dying to be read and randomly shipped off so other people can join in the hilarity.

Nov 4, 2010

Giveaway: Shadow Horse & Whirlwind

Thanks to Alison Hart, I've got yet another giveaway to announce. One person will win a copy of both Shadow Horse and its sequel, Whirlwind. I know. How fabulous is this?

Shadow Horse

After assaulting the owner of High Meadows Farm, thirteen-year-old Jasmine Schuler must face the inside of a courtroom and juvenile hall.

Jas knows no one will believe her defense--that the man she attacked had poisoned Whirlwind, the mare she loved. Hugh Robicheaux is powerful enough to shift all blame to Jas's grandfather. But Jas refuses to give up. After she is pronounced guilty and put into foster care at a farm for abused animals, she remains determined to prove her charge against Hugh.

The key becomes a scrawny brown gelding she rescues at a horse auction. She's sure Shadow is somehow connected to the mare she lost, but how?

When thirteen-year-old Jas Schuler found her beloved mare, Whirlwind, dead in her paddock, she thought her heart would break. Now Jas knows the truth.

Whirlwind is alive.

Wealthy horse breeder Hugh Robicheaux faked the mare's death, collected insurance money on her life, then sold her to an unsuspecting buyer. And he's going to get away with his scheme, too. Unless someone can find Whirlwind. And that's exactly what Jas plans to do.

But hunting for Whirlwind is dangerous. Hugh has threatened to destroy everything Jas holds dear unless she stops her search. As she struggles with her desire to find Whirlwind without letting the people she loves get hurt, Jas must ask herself: Is all this worth risking for a horse she may never find?

- Comment to enter. 
- One entry per person. 
- If you have won a giveaway on this blog, you are still free to add your name to the hat. 
- Following the blog, while appreciated, is not required.
- Winner chosen at random via

Contest runs from November 4 through November 15.