So where's the snow?

Muddling through in Austria; God, life and a small black dog


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Guest Post; Lisa Ortigara Crego

Lisa and I met on a Facebook group and are writer buddies.

Tell us a little about yourself, where you live, family, career, horses etc.

I was born in Chicago, Illinois where I resided most of my young life with the exception of five years in a small town in Wautoma Wisconsin where I lived on a 400 acre farm riding horses and living my best life out in nature. My horse’s name was Pasha, a white Arabian who was a one-person horse.

In my late 20’s I moved to South Florida to enjoy the tropical beaches and paradise ambiance. In my spare time I love walking the beaches with my beloved dog Southern Grace, cycling, reading, and writing on spiritual recovery from food addiction.  I’m married to the love of my life, raised two fine sons who are grown and flown.

I worked in the weight loss industry for well over two decades, speaking around the country on recovery from compulsive eating utilizing spiritual and mind healing. I contributed several chapters in Sage publications and run a blog found at Weightcontroltherapy.com. To date I maintains a nearly 100 pound loss using the approach I teach.

My professional membership organization affiliations are: the National Association of Social Workers, the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists, the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals, and the American Psychological Association.

I’m a clinical psychotherapist, addiction psychologist and Visiting Professor in private practice worked in the field of eating disorders for well over two and a half decades. I earned a doctorate in addiction psychology, a master’s degree in social work with the emphasis on mental health, and is certified as an eating disorder specialist, masters certified addiction professional and licensed national Board Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist.

How did you get into writing?

I got into writing when I was thirteen years old writing in journals all the events, feelings, and experiences in my life. I still journal to date and have a chest filled with written-in journals for over five decades. You could say I have many books to write based on what’s in my trunk! I come from many generations of writers on my mom’s side. They owned and operated a newspaper back in the early 1900’s to mid-1900’s. In fact, I’ll be writing my first fiction on Abbie my great, great grandma who was part of the newspaper back in Berlin, Wisconsin.. Parts are true and most embellished.

Are you a plot in head first person or does it grow as you write?

I’m sort of a loose plot on paper type of writer, not an outline but a sketch of what my chapters will look like and then from there I’m a pantster letting my book write itself—or my spiritual guide gives me what I need to say.

I am the author of:

Release Your Obsession with Food: Heal from the Inside Out.

Release Your Obsession with Diet Chatter: Heal from the Inside Out

Release Your Obsession with Cheat DAZE: Heal from the Inside Out

And soon to publish: Release Your Obsession with Aging: Heal from the Inside Out

I’m proud of all of my books—they’re all my children so to speak but if I had to pick one to share with you I’d say it would be my most recent launch:  Release the Obsession with Cheat DAZE, Heal from the Inside Out. Cheat DAZE is not your common diet book—it’s not about a diet at all—the subject is a freedom you never imagined—freedom from the Cheat DAZE food frenzy that seizes you on any and every special occasion. Well, no more. This is a new way of relating to food. Imagine that you feel no gripping rush toward “willpower,” or guilt, or jonsing, or any of those old, familiar, feelings when that urge comes on and you know you’re going to cave.

By the time you finish reading Release your Obsession with Cheat Daze: Heal from the Inside Out, you’ll be able to skillfully arrest any inner and outer turmoil focused on the one cheat day—that often turns into days—and the Daze, as you enter Zombie Zone. But instead, for once, you will live free from the burdens and fears of giving into sugary, high-fat food selections, no longer white knuckling and forcing change in an unnatural way. You will no longer live for the cheat day. You will no longer live for the food, but enjoy what you eat to fulfill your miraculous body’s real needs—and thrive.

Coffee or Tea?

Although I love a good cup of decaffeinated coffee in the morning my best hot drink is tea. I’m half Italian and half English and the English side comes to fruition when it comes to my beverage throughout the day.

Chocolate or crisps?

Chocolate hands down! I love 95% dark chocolate…

Romance or thriller?

I like many different genres but outside of non-fiction I’d say I’m most partial to an adventure book with a spiritual message.

Horses, dogs or both?

I’m definitely a horse and dog lover—and parrot too!


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Guest Post: Justinn Harrison

I read the first book in the Gallant Hearts Series and was totally bowled over. I’ve never read anything about modern jousting and it was a mind blower. Great read, strong characters, romance and well understood horses.  Possibly my book of the year for 2020!   

Justinn,tell us a little about yourself, where you live, family, career, horses etc.

Hi, my name is Justinn Harrison, though I publish as J.D. Harrison. I love living in Colorado, though I have traveled all over the United States working with horses. I’ve been an upper level eventing groom, riding instructor, squire to full contact jousters, commercial carriage driver and mostly stall mucker, blessed with a huge variety of equine experiences. Currently, I am a part time stallion handler and barn manager, which gives me plenty of freedom to write and enjoy my own horse. My husband deserves an award for encouraging both of my passions, often to his detriment. He shares me with my dog, Cherry, a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, and with my heart horse, Smoke. Smoke is a very rare breed, the Canadian Horse, or Le Cheval Canadien. They are very smart, hardworking, people oriented, courageous and sturdy. To my constant gratitude, they are also long lived. Smoke is 23 this year and while a bit slower some mornings, he is still going strong. We enjoy carriage driving and trail riding mostly, though he is game to try just about anything.

How did you get into writing?

I’ve been writing since I was old enough to put together works on paper, telling stories for myself or writing poems when I needed an emotional outlet. I always took advanced English and creative writing courses with high marks. However, I did not start novel writing until a very serious fight with H1N1 (swine flu) in 2009 shook up my world. When you unexpectedly have to face your own mortality it helps you reevaluate what is truly important to you. The first finished novel came about in 2014, with several more on its heels, but they weren’t quite publication ready. The Gallant Hearts series began in 2016 during National Novel Writing Month, and I’ve been chasing the stories that sprang from that point ever since.

Are you a plot in head first person or does it grow as you write?

I have ideas of where the story is headed, but it’s mostly pointing my characters at that objective and turning them loose. Sometimes I throw situations at them and am just as surprised as the reader at the results. Makes every writing day an adventure.

Plug one of your books!

I’m always going to love book one in the Gallant Hearts series the most. Well Armored Hearts is everything I love all rolled in to one story. A strong heroine, friends who become family, unlooked for romance, renaissance festivals, hard hitting modern day jousting, and more than anything, horses that you fall in love with just as much as the people. It’s a meaty story that reads fast and there’s something relatable for almost everyone.

Coffee or tea? chocolate or crisps? Romance or thriller? Horses or dogs, or both?

ALWAYS tea. Preferably Glenghettie (a Welsh tea) brewed dark with just a lump of sugar and the barest splash of milk.

Oh goodness! If I must pick, then chocolate. Dark mostly. But I do love a salty crunchy snack too. Torture!

Romance. Sometimes romantic thrillers, but honestly, I read to escape and not much beats a believable happily ever after.

And definitely both horses and dogs! The horse often fancies himself a bit dog like, but he’s too big to cuddle with in bed at night. LOL

You can find my work at www.gallanthearts.com, I am on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJDHarrison/

Always happy to chat with other authors, readers and fellow horse lovers.


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BOOKS ON SALE; THIS WEEKEND ONLY, 14th and 15th September!


All are available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Links are below. Do enjoy and leave me a review!!!!

CHALLENGER

A deceitful friend and an injured horse. Can the horses and dogs in Joanna’s life help her to find faith and healing? Equine Assisted Therapy is a key theme.  ‘A beautiful rural family drama, especially for horse and animal lovers.’ Genevieve Raas

https://www.amazon.com/Challenger-Horses-Reflect-Our-Souls-ebook/dp/B07HMYMMR8

 

COMPROMISE

Hardworking Mollie’s life is full of disasters, but can moving in with Chris, in a deal called Compromise living solve her problems?Deeply buried secrets, horses and cows in a gripping drama, where two people try to find their peace. ‘A wonderful story with so many layers…I loved spiritual connection between humans and animals.’ One chapter more

https://www.amazon.com/Compromise-Horses-Souls-Anna-Rashbrook-ebook/dp/B07RRB8BN9

CHAOS

Chris and Mollie might be trying to move on, but their lives are still filled with tragedies, dilemmas and difficult horses. In an explosive climax, will they finally find their happy ending?

Released September 28th.

https://www.amazon.com/CHAOS-Horses-Souls-Anna-Rashbrook-ebook/dp/B07XJCS3DT


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Guest Post; Grant Leishman

Picture

Grant  (here with his wife, Thess)  As an fellow ex-pat, I was interested to hear about his new life. The booky links are at the bottom for his work!

Do you miss New Zealand? If so what in particular?

Perhaps I should feel guilty, but the truth is I don’t miss a lot about New Zealand at all, except for people, especially my son, who I haven’t seen now for over eight years. Excitingly, though, he is scheduled to come here next February, so we’re all hyped up about that. I remember before I came here, sitting in my lounge in Gore, in a freezing, winter southerly and saying to my son; “what person in their right mind would choose to live in a freezing, god-forsaken, hell-hole of a place, like this?” From time to time, when the temperature becomes too hot for me here, I wistfully long for one of those cold southerlies. In general, though, I was done with New Zealand and I’m pretty sure New Zealand was done with me….lol. They do say, home is where the heart is… and my heart is definitely here.

 Ex pats often miss certain products (me it’s dairy milk chocolate). Do you miss any thing?

I miss three things the most: Meat pies, Fish and Chips and oddly enough, beetroot. There’s nothing I like more in my salad sandwiches than a slice of beetroot but it seemed like nobody had even heard of it here and so began, The Great Beetroot Hunt. We scoured the local supermarkets for cans of beetroot but nary a can was to be found. Eventually, though, we did find a local version of the product in one supermarket. It’s not as good as the Watties’ version, but beggars can’t be choosers. Damn, I’d kill for a meat pie, though, somedays.

 What was the most major adjustment you had to make- apart from climate??

The biggest adjustment I probably had to make was finding something to do that was meaningful and fulfilling. I was only 52 when I came here and way too young to retire. It was almost impossible to find work, given the lack of the language (which still haunts me – I still can only speak a tiny bit of Tagalog, although I can understand more than I used to). After a year or so as a “house-husband”, I rediscovered my love of writing and that led onto editing and VA work, which all helps to pay the bills. As we all know, making a living as an author is a dream for most of us but I do find my work fulfilling, now.

 What is better/worse/ the same about living in the Philippines?

Better: My beautiful wife and my step-family. They really do make any minor difficulties worthwhile, but I do also love the relaxed lifestyle – I work when I want and I don’t when I don’t.  

 Worse: The traffic and the heat – but I manage to avoid most of the worst of that by working from home.

 The Same: Still have bills to pay! Damn!  

 What was the biggest culture shock for you?

I think the biggest culture shock for me was having to sit back and not being able to participate in conversations. Most people here speak a very high standard of English but, of course, when they are together they speak in Tagalog and for me, it’s hard to follow, so initially I did feel somewhat isolated. I think the other big culture shock was the sheer volume of people and the lack of “personal space”, especially on public transport. That took some getting used to – being crammed into a rattly, old tin can, called a jeepney, like sardines.     

Would you go back to NZ to live?

I can’t think of a single reason why I would ever go back to New Zealand to live. Manila is my home and this is where I’ll grow old (hopefully), die (not too soon, please) and be buried. I am a Filipiwi but pure Pinoy in my heart.

  What is your all time most favourite book?

Wow! So many to choose from and I do read over a hundred and fifty a year – exclusively Indie authors, I might add. If I had to choose the one book that made the biggest difference in my life, it would be, The Hero by Rhonda Byrne.

 For fiction, legacy-published authors, my favourite book of all time is: The Swiss Family Robinson by Johan Wyss.

 If I had to choose the book I’d most enjoyed reading, purely from an entertainment perspective it would probably be from an Indie Author and I’m leaning, at the moment, toward a book about WWII by one of the best exponents of that genre, Ellie Midwood: A Motherland’s Daughter – A Fatherland’s Son. But, I have read many, many, superb books, from an absolutely amazing group of Indie authors, over the years.

 


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Wow, I’ve got an article published!

This is on https://digital.imprint.co.uk, yippee!

All my life I have loved horses and dogs. I am also a Christian. When my time came to begin writing, these passions made my books. I had a very clear dream which began my first one which is now titled, Challenger. What follows may sound familiar. The sitting and writing it all out was pure pleasure, then the pain set in. Editing!

I discovered how rusty I was but found some totally honest beta readers. They spoke quite bluntly and got me editing until I was blue in the face. Then came the larks with creating the ebook and its cover. With some birthday money, I went to a book marketing company. They gave me a paid plan and nursed me through the process of making a professional attempt, more editing and checking.

Through them, I found that I had made my biggest blunder. Going for a title that I liked, but it wouldn’t catch the readers’ eye. Any of you heard of a Baize door? The book flopped on NetGalley and sales were negligible.

I relaunched the book as Challenger and the reviews began to come in. Now, here’s the crunch. Most people seem to want to read Murder/Mysteries or paranormal. This I found through some, er, review groups, but let’s not get into that. This meant some people who had never in their lives read a horse book had to, and to my relief, the majority were pleasantly surprised.

Then it was the endless publicising in Facebook groups, my blogs, wherever I could. It was time-consuming and frustrating. The only thing I found that worked was the Amazon ad that the company ran for me – I couldn’t get my head around running the Amazon ad myself!!! As the first run had flopped, they re-ran the whole package for me for free.

I had made a plan for my writing and while I hadn’t written a best seller, things moved. I had to go on. The next book, Compromise was written more quickly and this time I had it professionally edited-by a retired editor friend. But even so, more work was needed. This time when I went back to the book company, they didn’t like my cover. I argued my case as I had now thoroughly researched my genre and the cover matched this. I felt I knew my field now. It’s still early days with the Ad. I’ve written the next book and am editing it myself. I have invested in a programme, Pro writing Aid that is amazing.

Through my beta readers, research and groups, I’ve got to know other horse book writers. The thrill of chatting with them and swapping experiences have been amazing. It’s a small genre compared to some, but the books do sell.

The main problem is that Amazon does not have a category for adult horse fiction. If you want a good adult horsey read, you find them under Teenage and Young adult equestrian non-fiction books. This is where the mostly middle-aged women readers go. Daft isn’t it? My answer was to start a FaceBook group, Horse Books for Grown-Ups to match readers with writers.

I have also ruthlessly cut out anything that doesn’t work, such as the FB advertising groups. I don’t think many readers actually look at them. The only thing that got my books started, as said, was the Amazon ad, and that’s my main form of advertising now. I don’t give free books away; people just grab them and don’t read. I will reduce the price of my first book when the trilogy is complete. I do look for mainstream ideas to build my market and am honoured to be part of the Mom’s Favorite Reads emagazine team -whether they are so thrilled I don’t know!

Here are my tips – Not in any sort of priority and you can apply them to the mainstream as well.

  1. Research your genre on Amazon. Look at who is selling in the bestsellers and download samples to get an idea of what is current. Titles and covers, look at these too. Abad picture of a horse won’t sell. Check how many other people are already using your fantastic title.
  2. Categories. We get three when we publish. But you can request up to ten Browse categories, the top three are listed on your book page. The whole list is on the Amazon sidebar on the left. You do need to keep checking them though, they can get altered. Amazon gets a bad press, but so far, my experience is 90% positive.
  3. Be prepared to invest in good programmes and help!
  4. Find the specific groups on Facebook, join them and be active; you can then chat with people writing the same things. Join technical groups, such as for creating coversand mainstream author groups for support, Beta readers and moans! Maybe create your own group.
  5. Look at your genre on places such as BookBub, is it there at all? If not, don’t bother to go with them. Search for websites and blogs on your subject that might be good for promoting. Find other authors in the same genre and contact them. You can get so much good advice and support this way.
  6. Get a good editing programme. I use Pro writing aid and it’s worth every penny. If you have Word 365, use the read-aloud function that’s amazing.
  7. If you use a marketing company, remember that unless paid to, they won’t have read your book. We’re all very precious about our babies, but if they don’t know the book, they might not be able to give the right support. Also, sometimes they are heavily pressed, and you might not be happy with the work, be patient!
  8. Do set some realistic goals and keep to them.
  9. Beta readers. Friends and family are useless. Find random readers from groups who will be totally impartial. BUT don’t send an editable document to a stranger and you must set deadlines.
  10. Be tough, if an idea or website doesn’t produce sales; stop wasting time.
  11. If you blog, host other authors and hopefully some will host back. You can reach huge audiences this way.
  12. Keep writing. The more books you have in your stable brings readers who want to read all of your work. That’s how to make some money.
  13. A niche book will only hit the jackpot if you put in a homicidal, sexually active zombie unicorn that travels in time.
  14. Don’t overdo the FB/blog posts, there comes a point where people switch off.

 

Born in Winchester (UK) Anna grew up with dogs and a passion for horses which was fulfilled when her family moved to the countryside and she had her first pony. After school, she spent a year in Switzerland, then came, home met Dave in Marwell zoo, settled and raised a family. She later took a degree with the Open University, graduating with a First Class Honours in English and History. Anna worked for five years at the Fortune Centre in Hampshire as a Riding Therapist. Married for 36 years, she has two adult children who wouldn’t move to Austria when she moved there in 2007. Maybe a victim of watching too many editions of A Place in the Sun and Grand Designs, she loves Austria and has no plans to leave! She now teaches English and is concentrating on her writing novels.

Anna rejected faith until her own family went through the trauma of an eviction and homelessness in the 1980s. It was through these events that she found God again. Since then she’s been involved in Baptist, Anglican and Free churches, she’s now in the Anglican Church in Austria. However, she says she is just a Christian who happened to be in these churches and wouldn’t wish to be labelled! Anna also writes an Award-nominated blog about Austria which tells of rich experiences of life in a new country. This is now hosting guest blogs from other authors!

http://www.annarashbrook.wordpress.com

 

 


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Guest Post; K.J Cartmell

Kevin is probably the best beta reader in the world! He and I agree on a lot of aspects of organised religion, so I gave him a spot!

My stories come to me sometimes as waking dreams. I’m watching it, like a movie, rather than composing or directing the action. This one started with a boy and a girl walking down the street holding hands. The girl had long blond hair, fair skin and blue eyes. They gazed longingly at one another. but when the boy leaned in for a kiss, the girl pulled away and said, “Take me somewhere only God can see us.”

I knew right then that the girl was an Evangelical Christian and the daughter of a church pastor. The boy was someone from outside her circle. He didn’t go to church. That was why she was afraid to be seen kissing him in the middle of the street.

I thought, “Maybe this boy doesn’t believe in God at all. If his name was Thomas, he could be Doubting Thomas and the story could be called, The Gospel of Thomas. Wouldn’t that be a great name for a novel!”

 

Now, I took the reins from my subconscious and started working out the parameters of the story. I quickly settled on the name Adeline for the girl. It seemed both fresh and old fashioned. I drew some obvious contrasts between the pair. Thomas would go to the local public high school, while Adeline would attend a private Christian high school, and adjunct to the large church she attends, and where her father is a pastor. Adeline’s life would be highly scripted, organized around church functions. Meanwhile, Thomas lived with his mother and saw his father only occasionally. He would have a great deal of independence and freedom, yet he would have responsibilities, too, like cooking dinner for his mother each night.

I was drawing from personal experiences. I grew up as an Evangelical Protestant, and much of my family is still attends churches of this type. In high school, I was heavily involved in a big “mega-church” similar to the one that Adeline attends. Likewise, I was born to a single mother. Though my mother remarried when I was still very young, I remember times when it was just the two of us.

Thomas and Adeline are seventeen going on eighteen. This is a time of great discovery, when teens stop accepting what they were told and start figuring out what it is that they believe. I wanted to have some heartfelt, thought-provoking discussions between my two love birds about faith, religion and morality.

In addition to all the talking, I wanted there to be long scenes of physical intimacy between the two. The results have shocked some of my readers, but I was committed to portraying this relationship honestly and with realism. Thomas is the more experienced of the pair. He allows Adeline to set the limits, but then he goes right up to the line she has drawn. Yet, it’s important to understand, Adeline is a willing partner. She is ready and eager for this type of relationship.

Adeline’s family is in the spotlight, held up as models of a perfect family. But, underneath his façade are some dark secrets. Thomas, as he gets to know Adeline better, draws ever closer to these big secrets. I was drawing from personal experience here, too. I knew Good Christian Families that struggled behind closed doors with abuse, adultery and alcoholism. None of this was talked about in the open. It was all glossed over, yet I knew it was there and had seen and experienced its effects. The hypocrisy and false piety of my church grated on me as I grew older, and I eventually pulled away. Looking back, I felt anger and resentment, not at God, but at the church. I didn’t want to be associated with people like that any longer.

If I had written this book in my twenties, it would have been much more angry and bitter. I was in my forties when I started writing The Gospel of Thomas. I portray Adeline, her family and her church community, with harsh realism, but also with compassion and mercy.

The story grew and grew until it was nearly 600 pages long. When I was finished and reading it through, I realized that there was a natural break, a terrifying cliffhanger, right in the middle of the book. I split the story into two volumes, called Revelation and Rapture. I found a partner, GenZ Publishing, to help me publish Revelation. I plan to publish Rapture on my own, sometime next year.