So where's the snow?

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


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Swallows

On August 24th, I was in Tamsweg and saw the swallows gathering to get ready to fly to Africa. It was amazing, you imagine such things are in the past. But no, here they were hundreds of them!

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Guest Post: Hope Ellis-Ashburn


Welcome to Hope! I found her latest book absolutely fascinating, the social history had me riveted, until the end!

Tell me about your life? Where do you live? Do you have a family or pets?

I grew up on a dairy farm in rural Southeast Tennessee, USA. We milked 125 head of Holstein cattle and raised crops such as alfalfa, corn, and soybeans on two farms totalling 600 acres. I love all animals but was born with a passion for horses. I got the first horse that I actually owned when I was 12 years old. She was a 13.2hh Spotted Saddle Horse (pony) that I rode English and western. While over the years I rode a variety of pony and horse-sized equines, my actual first horse-sized partner of my own was an Arabian gelding named Faax El Din. I won him as a prize in an essay contest when I was 16 years old. I have been devoted to the Arabian breed ever since. I attended college at Middle Tennessee State University where I was on the horse judging and equestrian teams while working toward my bachelor of science degree in horse science. I attended graduate school at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville earning a master of science degree in agricultural education. I hold teaching credentials in agricultural education and business education. I am married and have a 17-year-old daughter who is a senior in high school. Writing is my side job that I do on a part-time basis. I’m a full-time career and technology education teacher, instructing classes in business education at a local high school. Presently, I live near a small town about forty-five minutes away from where I grew up. My family and I reside in a remodelled 1927 farmhouse that was originally built by my husband’s grandparents. My husband and his family own the farm on which we live. It is a Tennessee Century Farm meaning that it has been in continuous agricultural operation by the same family for over 100 years. Our farm has met that criteria for 195 years! On our farm, we raise hay and black Angus cattle. My half-Arabian mare, Sally, lives on the farm with us along with her pet donkey, Harmony. We also have two Border Collie farm dogs, Gus and Daisy, and a house cat, Rose.

Why did I begin writing?

I’ve had a love for writing for as long as I can remember. In school, I often wrote short stories just for fun. Prior to my teaching career, I worked for the extension service which allowed me to write newspaper articles, newsletters, and some educational material. In 2015, on a whim, I wrote a true, short story about a horse show experience and submitted it to EQUUS magazine for consideration. It was picked up and it really all began then. Since then I’ve written everything from true stories to more technical pieces relying on my expertise in the horse industry which dates back over thirty years. My articles have covered everything from trailer tyres to pasture management, and everything in between. My client list is one I am proud of and includes: EQUUS, Horse Illustrated, the American Quarter Horse Journal, Arabian Horse Life, Sidelines, US Equestrian, and Hoof Beats magazines. I have also written for TheHorse.com blog.

Tell me about your latest book:

In March of this year, I released my second book, “Always Hope: How dairy cows and Arabian horses inspired grit in a young girl’s life.” It’s my coming of age story about growing up on a dairy farm and my amazing first Arabian horse. It’s both sad and humorous and paints a true picture of farm life. It’s available on Amazon.

What are your future plans for writing?

With my current one just out, I haven’t thought much yet about another book. Certainly, I plan to continue writing for my clients.

What is your all-time favourite book?

I have always loved Gone with the Wind. Not only is it my favourite book, but it’s also my favourite movie! The main character, Scarlett O’Hara, is such a strong female personality. I admire her strength and resilience.


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Bella and Swingle’s holiday

For International dog day!

Bella came to stay for a few days and we had a ball!

Paddling was best in the hot weather.

Plenty of games of bitezes!

I even let her sleep on my favourite bit of the sofa!

In the woods was fun too.

Bella fell in the pond once, I did warn her! Oh it was fun!


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Cover reveal!

The third in my series of books about horses, love and faith. I thought the series was finished, but there’s going to be a Christmas story and one set in Austria… Here’s the blurb!

Chris and Mollie thought it was time to move on; change is good, isn’t it?

But in going their separate ways, they just hit more problems and complications.

Chris leaves the farm to meet his mentor Alan. But his dream of a happy time sorting himself out in the community on the Dorset coast is ruined by a terrible accident. Chris must return to work with horses to make amends. Returning home brings more shocking revelations throw new light on his troubled gender identity. More trapped than ever before, can he find a way out?

Mollie starts her dream of boarding girls from her old school but finds herself out of depth and struggling with the teenagers’ demands and moods. It seems the idea is a disaster for all. But maybe, Ann from the stables has a solution.

Galloping through all these misadventures is the equestrian sport of Vaulting and the struggles of Keith, the stallion who has caused the two so many problems. Strange arrivals, a new horse, a Nun and Mollie’s mother all combine to bring even more chaos to the struggling pair. The journey for all ends in a shattering conclusion but will Mollie and Chris finally get their happy ending? Does it need God to step in and change things?

A standalone follow on to Compromise.


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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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The library goes on the legend trail!

In reverse order! As part of our summer programme we went to Kendlebruck and walked through the village to the little pilgrimage church; Maria Hollenstein. It means literally a hole in a stone. It was found that the water running through it has healing properties for eyes. The church dates back to the 18th century, and was renovated in the 1950s. They’re now raising €1,000,000 to do it up again. Shocking waste of money as far as I’m concerned….Still the kids had a great time, especially in the playground at the end!


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Simple beauties sitting on the barn window