The Real Life Inspiration for Cabin 5

The Andrew J. Blackbird Museum

Last summer, my family and I took our yearly summer trip to beautiful northern Michigan. Usually, I take a break from writing during the summer, but there’d been an idea percolating in my head for a third book in my Dark Horse YA mystery series. The premise involved Brynlei, the highly-sensitive MC from the first two novels, returning to Foxwoode Riding Academy as a counselor, instead of a camper. I had a few other plot points worked out in my head, but my story was still missing the paranormal/magical realism elements of the first two books in the series.

andrew Blackbird museum

A few days into our trip, my husband and I were strolling through quaint downtown Harbor Springs when the Andrew J. Blackbird Museum caught my eye. It would have been easy to miss, being only one room in an unassuming white storefront at the very end of the main drag. Having nothing else to do, and never having noticed the museum on any of our previous trips, we went inside and checked it out.

Once inside, we were initially underwhelmed by the small museum and slightly uncomfortable being the only people there, aside from a woman behind the counter in the adjoining chamber of commerce. But we were already through the door and committed, so we began to browse. The room housed various Native American artifacts, inlcuding a canoe, pottery, moccasins, and arrowheads. I paused in front of a specific arrowhead believed to have belonged to the Ottawa tribe. It was nearly perfectly preserved. The artifact sparked an idea for my story.

Certainly there were more arrowheads from the Ottawa tribe buried beneath the earth that hadn’t yet been discovered. What if Brynlei uncovered one of them during her stay at Foxwoode? What if her sensitivities allowed her to feel its history? What if the arrowhead was related to the bad things happening to her campers? You can see how my imagination stampeded ahead. Brynlei already had so much in common with the Native Americans–her love of nature, her respect for animals, her belief in living for the seventh generation. With Foxwoode’s location in a fictional town in northern Michigan, the discovery of an arrowhead just like the one in the case was a natural addition to the storyline. I snapped a photo. (below)

Arrowhead

We left the museum, my phone loaded with pictures and my creative mind brimming with inspiration. On the way out, we spent more time reading the sign out front about the history of the man, Andrew J. Blackbird, who the museum commemorated. And what an unbelievable history it was! Here’s the short version:

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Andrew J. Blackbird, the son of the last known Ottawa chief, was born in 1815 in what is now Harbor Springs, MI. After white settlors overtook their land and forced them into “Christian” schools, Andrew assimilated to the new culture and attended what is now Eastern Michigan University. He lived with one foot in the old world and one foot in the new. He fought for Native American veterans to receive pensions. He helped settle land claims and worked to achieve citizenship for Native Americans. He married and bought a house in Harbor Springs, and even became the town’s second postmaster in 1858.

I was so intrigued by Mr. Blackbird’s story, that I bought his memoir, History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan, which was first published in 1887 by volunteers. The book was printed in the tiniest font I’ve ever seen and I practically had to use a magnifying glass to read it. However, I did learn several interesting tidbits from Blackbird’s firsthand account of his history, including one particularly horrific story about white men spreading small pox to the natives by giving them a tiny box filled with virus spores and instructing them to take it back to their village many miles away. This tragic story found its way into my book, as Brynlei does her own research on the Native Americans who lived in the area.

In any event, I was thankful to have learned more about the Native American tribes of northern Michigan and that Andrew J. Blackbird’s history has been preserved. As a bonus, the arrowhead ended up being an integral part of Cabin 5.

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Have you ever been inspired to write a story based on a real life artifact? I’d love to hear about it!

Book Release Day for Cabin 5!

The Dark Horse series is complete!

The big day is finally here. CABIN 5 is available on Amazon. My Dark Horse YA mystery series is complete!

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Are you a horse-crazy, nature-loving, ghost hunter age 12 and up, or an adult who enjoys reading YA and/or twisty mysteries? This award winning series might be for you. Here’s all the information you need for the newest release in the Dark Horse series, CABIN 5…

Back Cover Blurb:

Brynlei returns for her final summer at Foxwoode Riding Academy, this time as a counselor for the girls in cabin 5. Unfortunately, her nemesis, Alyssa, has also returned, and it doesn’t take long for their past differences to rise to the surface.

After Alyssa tells a ghost story about the curse of cabin 5, a series of accidents and near catastrophes befall the girls in the cabin. The discovery of a Native American artifact in the woods leads Brynlei to believe the curse may be real. When Brynlei finds her own life in danger, she realizes evil is hiding in plain sight. Can she uncover the truth behind cabin 5 before Foxwoode is forced to close its doors forever?

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Find it on Amazon. Also available on Kindle Unlimited!

New Year, New Blog!

You might have noticed my blog has been renamed, The Sustainable Writer. While I’ll continue to write about my general writing and publishing adventures, I’ll also be livening up my feed with eco-friendly content that’s so important to me, including minimalist living tips, incredible photos of tiny houses and natural vistas, delicious plant-based recipes, calls to action, land conservation and animal rescue stories, and previews of books by fellow writers that feature environmentally conscious characters and plots! My goal is to create a community of like-minded readers and writers who support each other and fight to protect our planet, one story at a time. Thanks for hanging around!

Dark Horse Series (2nd Edition) Just Released!

Hi all,

It’s hard to believe that summer is wrapping up and fall is in the air. I’ve been working on a BIG project all summer, and I’m happy to say that it is two-thirds complete! Last spring, I took back the rights to my Dark Horse YA Mystery series in order to make some revisions and gain more control over the marketing of my books. The series was re-released on Amazon a few days ago, and is now available in Kindle and paperback versions, and FREE for Kindle Unlimited readers! These are the perfect quick and thrilling reads to wrap up your summer! While the new versions are similar to the old ones, the revised mysteries are now fully appropriate for ages 12 and up.

So, what’s the other one-third of my project? The third (and final) book in this YA mystery series is in the works. I’m over halfway done with the first draft and am happy with the way the story is shaping up. I’m excited to announce that Cabin 5 (Dark Horse, Book Three) will be releasing winter 2020! I already have the cover and can’t wait to share it with you when it gets closer to the release date.

In less exciting news, my backyard vegetable garden is in full production mode. My husband and I are having a competition to see how many tomatoes we can eat every day. Any other veggie lovers out there? Here’s a quick photo of a recent morning’s harvest. Let’s enjoy the fresh produce while we can!

Author Spotlight: Carly Kade

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome fellow equestrian author, Carly Kade, to my blog! Carly is one of those people who bursts with positive energy (interact with her on social media and you’ll see what I’m talking about). Although she resides in sunny Arizona, she’s actually a Michigan native (like me!) I read her romance novel, In the Reins, last year and recommend it to anyone who enjoys gorgeous horses, western riding or handsome cowboys.

Carly_Kade_Author_Photo_Web_ITR_Sequel[2742]About the Author:  Carly Kade is an author of equestrian fiction. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle! She writes fiction about horses, horse shows, western pleasure and a handsome cowboy or two! Her books are for people just like her…crazy about reading, horses and cute cowboys! In her free time Carly enjoys competitively showing her registered Paint Horse and works on her next novel. In the Reins, Carly’s cowboy romance novel inspired by the equestrian lifestyle has been an Amazon equestrian bestseller for more than 10 weeks and is an EQUUS Film Festival literary award winner for Best Western Fiction. The novel is available now in paperback and eBook.

Connect with Carly Kade Creative on Facebook or Twitter, or on her website: www.carlykadecreative.com.

3D Book Cover All[2744]From the back cover:

McKennon Kelly. McKennon Kelly. McKennon Kelly.

Cowboy McKennon Kelly was the last thing Devon Brooke wanted to focus on after finding herself suddenly single. Looking for a fresh start to life, city girl and journalist Devon just wanted to go back to her country roots and focus on building a relationship with her newly acquired equine partner Faith.

Devon finds companionship in handsome bull riding ranch hand JD and delicate Green Briar horse farm owner Sophia, both who advise Devon to keep her distance from McKennon and “mind her p’s and q’s” around the quiet and eerily peaceful stables. Devon thinks it shouldn’t be too difficult to avoid the Adonis cowboy, but after noticing his skills and expert ways with training horses, she figures it couldn’t hurt to get to know him a little bit … right?

Devon follows the guarded cowboy to a horse show, where she is unprepared to learn she may not be the cowgirl she thought she was. After a near-tragic incident, Devon begins to realize that the more time she spends with McKennon, the less she really knows about him (or horses, for that matter), and his mystery just keeps getting bigger. Who is he really, what is it that everyone doesn’t want her to know, and why is this tight-shirted, spur-jingling, weather-eyed cowboy all she can think about now?

Interview with Carly Kade:

If you could spend the day with any character from your novel, who would it be? Why?

If I could spend the day with any character from my novel, I’d take a riding lesson from my horse training cowboy McKennon Kelly. McKennon Kelly came to me (like lightning) in the form of a poem.  I vividly remember the day I furiously scrawled him in my journal.  I didn’t want to miss a thing, a thought, or a moment of his inception.  Thank heaven that I always keep a journal with me.  That poem ended up being the intro to the book.  McKennon Kelly comes from the part of me that is in love with love.  My imagination had so much fun creating him.  As I turned my words into a man, I took the best from the ones I once knew (and those I still know), the ones I’ve read about in my favorite books, all the ones I’ve imagined, and mixed those qualities with all the things I wish men could be then sprinkled in a little of what I imagined a cowboy who can make the eight on the back of a raging bull would be like …  McKennon is the best little pieces of everything and everyone I’ve experienced in life.  My heart was a flutter as I created him.  I am proud of McKennon Kelly.  I hope he sparks a smile across readers’ lips as they turn the pages of In The Reins. He certainly makes me smile as I continue to write his story in the sequel.

What attracts you to writing in the equestrian fiction genre?

I am happiest when I am in the saddle so it’s probably no surprise I was interested in writing a story about the bond between horse and human.  Also, I knew I wanted readers to feel like they were falling for the leading man as they turned the pages of my book.  Generating that kind of feeling was my goal – what I wanted to create for readers – so In The Reins naturally became an equestrian romance.  I’ve always loved reading and have been riding horses since I was seven. I know that I sure wouldn’t be able to resist reading about a handsome cowboy who knows his way around horses so I wrote about what I knew … horses and cowgirl culture.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

I write in the morning before life has an opportunity to get in the way. I get up at 5:30. My husband and I start the day by walking our dogs then return home to meditate. Quieting my mind really prepares me for creativity!  After I pour my first cup of coffee, I settle into my home office for my scheduled morning writing session. I am not a morning person but the commitment to my morning routine keeps my creativity alive. I made the rule to “touch” my story every day.  As long as I stay engaged with what I’m writing, the world I’m creating is never far from reach.  It’s when I’ve been away from my words for extended periods of time that I find it hardest to get back to writing it so I try not to let that happen.

What are you working on now?

McKennon and Devon’s story continues. Currently, I am working on the sequel to In The Reins and planning its release in 2017.  The crazy thing is that the third book featuring the characters is bucking up a storm in my mind and already taking shape on paper!  I am writing the second and third book simultaneously. I have having so much fun with the journey that this series is taking me on! I’ve learned that there are a lot of JD McCall fans out there so I’m already developing a novella that tells the tale of my bull riding heartthrob too!

What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?

There is so much research that goes into finding the right category for your book.  I loved that Amazon had a section for equestrian books.  I was happy to be able to categorize In The Reins alongside other horse books that I had read and fell in love with.  These are the books that helped me realize I could write my own horse book.  When I learned that In The Reins had broken into the top 100 (and then the top 12) my heart grew a thousand times its size because it meant that my writing was resonating with the audience I wanted to identify with and write for.  I put together a promoted post celebrating my readers on Facebook to acknowledge their contribution to helping my book get there.  I couldn’t have done it without them. Since then, In The Reins has gone on to be an Amazon equestrian bestseller for more than 10 weeks and has won the Best Western Fiction Literary Award at the EQUUS Film Festival in New York City. I’m so grateful and my spurs couldn’t be jingling more over my book’s success!

What subjects do you enjoy writing about most? Why?

I love writing equestrian fiction. I am a horse lover and a horse owner. When I am not riding a horse, you’ll find me writing about one. I was inspired to write In The Reins because I wanted to read a love story themed around the type of horse shows I liked to compete in. There are a lot of equestrian novels out there focused on dressage or jumping or rodeo but I haven’t found many that focus on competitive horse showing at breed shows like the Quarter Horse, Paint, Pinto or the Palomino Horse Circuits.  In my writing I am particularly interested in showcasing the western pleasure discipline and creating stories that provide an honest depiction of the bond between horse and human.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Carly. It’s been great getting to know more about you and your books!

Stay tuned for my April Author Spotlight with YA thriller author, Nina Mansfield!

 

BARN SHADOWS Release Day!

Today is the Day for my Book Release!

barnshadows42737The second book in my YA mystery “Dark Horse” series–BARN SHADOWS–is now available in PRINT and KINDLE and on KOBO!

While BARN SHADOWS can stand alone, I recommend reading Book One–TRAIL OF SECRETS–first because the second book gives away the ending of the first book.

BARN SHADOWS Back Cover Blurb:

A year after her tumultuous exit from the prestigious Foxwoode Riding Academy, seventeen year-old Brynlei returns determined to confront her demons and win Foxwoode’s elite Top Rider Award. When she stumbles over an antique doll at the construction site of a new barn, a series of inexplicable occurrences force her to question whether her condition as a “Highly-Sensitive Person” is to blame or if something more sinister is at play.

As Brynlei becomes consumed with discovering the history of the unearthed doll, the bizarre happenings escalate to dangerous levels. She soon realizes that someone close to her is lying. But who? Could a decades-old tragedy and the threatening events at Foxwoode be more closely entwined than she ever imagined?

Watch the BARN SHADOWS Book Trailer on YouTube!

Thanks for stopping by and supporting my books!

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The Real Life Horses that Inspired My Writing

One of the most fun things about writing my Dark Horse series has been bringing to life the horses on the pages. While some of the equine characters in Trail of Secrets and Barn Shadows are purely fictional, others are based on actual horses I’ve met, ridden, known or loved over the years.

Louie
Louie

Let’s start with the leading man…er, gelding, Jett. During the time I was writing Trail of Secrets, I was half-leasing a wonderful appendix named Louie. Louie was a beautiful dark bay/black gelding full of personality and spunk. He wasn’t always easy to ride, but my riding improved dramatically during the year that I rode him. Saying goodbye to him was so difficult that I actually took a year off from riding after I stopped leasing Louie. He was THAT special. Jett is based on a combination of Louie and the horse I owned as a teenager, Snowman. While not black (obviously), Snowman was about as full of personality as a horse could be. Owning him was the culmination of all my childhood dreams. Whenever I write about Brynlei’s bond with Jett, I find myself reaching back into my memories of my love for Snowman.

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My Snowman

Anna’s feisty mount, Rebel, is also based on a few spunky chestnuts I’ve known. Before

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Edoras

Louie, I half-leased a mare named Edoras. She gave me a run for my money alright. Edoras taught me how to ride a “Whooa!” horse (Elbows bent, shoulders back, bend her in!) I’ve known other horses like Rebel, too. There’s currently a horse at the barn where I ride named Zara. She’s a sweetie, but has an accelerator that can take even the most experienced rider on an “exciting” trip around the ring. What is it about chestnuts?

In Barn Shadows, two new horses are introduced into the mix–Patches and Amigo. Patches is a beautiful Paint pony ridden by a new character, Bethany. The pony is based on an actual pony named Patches owned by my friend and her daughter (pictured below). The real-life Patches is a wonderful teacher, as is the Patches in the book. And both ponies are easy on the eyes…Don’t you agree?

An odd new girl named Grace joins the cast of Barn Shadows, along with her equally unusual mount, Amigo. Amigo does not possess the confirmation of the fancy hunters at Foxwoode so everyone is surprised when they witness the stocky horse’s natural jumping ability. This side storyline is loosely based on one of my favorite non-fiction books, The Eighty-Dollar Champion:  Snowman, The Horse that Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts. Those of you who have read the book might see a few parallels between fictional, Amigo, and real-life, Snowman.

Sadly, I met my new favorite horse at the barn, Abby, after I’d already finished writing Barn Shadows. I’ll have to incorporate this special bay mare into my next book! Isn’t she cute?

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Abby

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the real horses behind many of the horses in my books. Until next time, happy reading, writing and riding!