Saturday, April 22, 2017

Real Deal Dude Ranch

Remote, rustic and real were the qualities I was looking for in a dude ranch in Colorado.  The Laramie River Ranch, a small spread sitting on the banks of cooling river in the middle of vast plains backed by snow-capped mountains, looks perfect. Situated near the Wyoming border, the ranch shares the wide open spaces of it's neighbor.
Owners Krista and Bill have small children so family values are a hallmark of the ranch. There are lots of activities for kids so adults can ride out for the day without a care.

Since publishing my book TheCowgirl Jumped Over the Moon,
I have become immersed in the horse world once again.  Twenty years ago I owned my own mare and we galloped over hill and dale until the sun slipped behind ridge of the Santa Monica Mountains surrounding our barn. I loved those days and cherish all the adventures I had with my best girlfriend. Becoming re-acquainted with the horse world through the works of other authors has made me want to get back in the saddle.
I am so looking forward to my stay at the Laramie River Ranch where horseback riding is the specialty. I don’t need high end amenities, I need to re-connect with nature riding on the back of a good horse in gorgeous country.  Yeehaw!!

Full report when I return.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sitting Chilly on a Ride to Justice

Flamingo Road (Fia Mckee Mysteries #1)Flamingo Road by Sasscer Hill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like all of Lynda Sasscer Hill’s stories Flamingo Road is set in the dark underbelly of the horse-racing world. I stopped going to the track when I saw a horse break its leg in half from the stress of being run too hard before bones were formed. Sickened by the sight of the animal being put down in front of me, I determined never to return even though I love the pageantry and beauty of fine specimens in their prime. But, we learn it is not always what it seems as Lynda shares the inside dope, [no pun intended] on what goes on behind the scenes in the racing world. Her plotting is fast-paced filled with many head-spinning sucker punches that keep the reader riveted. Protagonist, Fia Mckee, is an under cover agent who exercises thoroughbreds by day and seduces gangsters by night. Both endeavors are worrisome. In between she is trying to work things out with her estranged brother and his horse crazy teenage daughter. They are both trying to deal with the desertion of their mother and the murder of their father. Sasscer Hill ties the story together in a pretty bow in the end that makes you feel satisfied, and yearning for more, which I’m certain is in the offing.

View all my reviews

Since publishing The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon, I have been having fun reviewing other equine authors. This is one of the best so far.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon in the Ribbons

It was quite a leap of faith for me to publish this story.  Writing it was part of my own healing process when I had to give up riding due to an injury. I am so pleased that The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon is a finalist in the Indie Excellence Awards.  For it to receive this recognition is quite on honor.
Cowgirl has garnered numerous 5-Star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads from horse lovers, and general readers alike. I am marketing it under the genre “New Adult”, but the story can fall under “Women’s Fiction”, or even “Western Romance.” Here are some of my favorite comments from readers
**Horses. Romance. Adventure - who could need anything more from a book?

** I could smell the leather and sweat, feel the wind buffeting the flags at the shows, hear the whispers of the trees when Gemcie was out in the trail.

** Her writing is so descriptive that you feel you are in the saddle and experiencing everything Gemcie does. The words describing the amazing mountains makes you able to feel the wind and smell the rain.

While writing The Grand Prix jumping scenes in Cowgirl I kept a vision of Susan Hutchison in my mind. She is an incredible rider whose slogan is “No Guts-No Glory.” I saw her riding Samsung Woodstock in the 90’s when they were on their way to World Cup. She kindly agreed to an interview that appeared in the California Riding Magazine. The timing was auspicious because she was inducted into the Jumper Hall of Fame in 2016.

I especially enjoyed my conversation with Diann Adamson Can WeTalk”  that appeared in her newsletter Le Cour di l’ Artiste.

The Response to my storyand interview with Le Romantique, a site hosted by a Canadian teen, was important to me because I wanted to know if my book held appeal for the younger audience.

Cowgirl went Down Under in an interview with Christine Meunier, author of the Free Rein Series

A fantastic write-up and endorsement for my book appeared on Equine Addiction in Sept. 2016

Gina McKnight of Riding and Writing Fame spotlighted me on her blog early on.

I am grateful for all the enthusiastic support that The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon is receiving and can't wait to get back in the saddle myself for more riding adventures. Cheers, Linda

Adventure-travel writer, Linda Ballou, has a host of travel articles on her site, along with information about her travel memoir, Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales, her historical novel Wai-nani, A Voice from Old Hawai’i and her latest action-adventure novel The Cowgirl Jumped over the Moon  

 Subscribe to her blog and receive updates on her books, and travel destinations.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How writing Cowgirl helped me deal with loss.

I wrote The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon standing up at my breakfast bar. A tingling sensation in my lower back had turned into a debilitating condition brought on by a herniated disc that brought me to my knees and would not allow me to sit.  For six weeks I wore knee pads to crawl from my bed to the refrigerator and took my meals lying on my belly. This injury forced me to give up the riding world that I loved.  At that time, I was busy fulfilling my dream of competing in the jumping arena and doing three-day events with my headstrong little mare. She was my best friend and we had many wonderful adventures together. One of my favorites was rising at dawn on Easter morning and galloping across the top of ridge beneath pearly skies.  I can still feel the joyous sensation of being one with her powerful body—heartbeat to heartbeat.

My way of dealing with the terrible loss I felt was to write this story. Gemcie’s world is turned upside down when she is injured while jumping her horse. She loses everything and needs to be alone to sort out what has happened. She turns inward on a solo horse trek in the high Sierra’s that John Muir loved so well. This opens the door to a whole new world for her that helps her connect with what is most important to her.
Adventure-travel writer, Linda Ballou, has a host of travel articles on her site, along with information about her travel memoir, Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales, her historical novel Wai-nani, A Voice from Old Hawai’i and her latest action-adventure novel The Cowgirl Jumped over the Moon  Subscribe to my blog and receive updates on her books, and travel destinations.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Best of Times with Bobo

While living on the north shore of Kauai, I got a job as a cub reporter at the Kauai Garden Island
Napali Coast Kauai
  This gave me access to people on the Island I found noteworthy.  Suzanne “Bobo” Bollins, who lived at the notorious Taylor Camp (1969-1978) where young people fleeing the Viet Nam war and materialism of the mainland were living out the ultimate hippie fantasies, seemed a good prospect. It was said that Bobo swam the tumultuous waters of the Napali Coast wearing only a belt with a pouch containing a dry pareau for when she reached the shore. This seemed quite a miraculous feat to me, so I made an appointment to interview her.
She welcomed me in her tree house abode with a glass of Merlot. She told me that dolphin often played with her on her swims from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Valley—some eleven miles away. She said she felt their intelligence when they came close to look her in the eye.  She seemed perfectly at ease in her Spartan quarters, forerunner to the “Tiny House” movement today.  Her brown skin was weathered from the sun and a thick braid of golden hair went to her waist. Stories of the residents cavorting nude were over-stated, she told me. She was wearing a sarong tied at the shoulder in the early Hawaiian kikepa style, and said regular clothes were worn by residents in the evenings to fend off mosquitoes.
 She was highly animated in the telling of her month-long stays in the valley held sacred by Hawaiians, but abruptly stopped short to announce that the lava rocks in the canvas-domed sauna just outside her door were ready. This was to be an evening of sharing with the other residents in the camp. Bobo offered me a hit off of a joint of the most powerful pot I have ever run into in my life, and asked me if I would like to join them in a ceremony celebrating Earth Mother. Curious minds want to know, so I stripped to my undies and joined the group wearing no more than their birthday suits. We sat in a circle around the steaming crimson rocks holding hands while chanting a reverberating Om.  The heat generated by the cauldron of molten rocks combined with the intense communal sharing of energy brought me to a feverish crescendo. I stumbled out of the sauna, and planted myself face down in the frigid mountain stream running through the camp to cool off.  Energy shot through the top of my head like a comet, leaving my mind as clear as the sparkling heavens above.

At that time, the highly romanticized camp of peace and love hippies, glorified in coffee table books today, was nearing an end. Elizabeth Taylor’s brother, Howard who owned seven acres of beach front property had originally allowed a group of thirteen disenfranchised youth from San Francisco to build their camp on Ke’e Beach. Soon, there were over 120 people, including women with small children living at the camp. The residents of Taylor Camp who did not pay taxes, lived on welfare and food stamps, soon found themselves at odds with the locals. What’s more native Hawaiians didn’t like the desecration of the Kalalau Valley by hippies camped there. It was rumored that home boys had put a dead pig upstream the week before my visit to contaminate the water and encourage the tree-house people to move on.

Still, I admired Bobo for her extreme bravery and athleticism.  At the time I did not know that I had found the inspiration for the dolphin that would be the loyal friend of my heroine in Wai-nani, A Voice from Old Hawai’i.  It is fascinating to witness how life experiences boomerang into an artist’s consciousness and appear in their work. Many Wai-nani readers view her relationship with a dolphin family as fantastic. The truth is that all of the interaction between my heroine, and her best friend--a bottle nose dolphin, is real. That is to say, I researched the behavior of dolphins and their relationship with humans throughout history to bring authenticity to the story.  A documentary film detailing life in Taylor Camp was released in the Islands. Bobo’s granddaughter, Natalie Noble, stars in the film swimming alone in the buff along the majestic Napali Coast. I suspect there are dolphins playing in her wake.
Adventure-travel writer, Linda Ballou, has a host of travel articles on her site, along with information about her travel memoir, Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales, her historical novel Wai-nani, A Voice from Old Hawai’i and her latest action-adventure novel The Cowgirl Jumped over the Moon  Subscribe to my blog and receive updates on her books, and travel destinations.