A committed Catholic and author of Christian fiction, I find God continually places me in situations which create new stories to include in my books.
I am also an avid dressage rider and competitor on my beautiful home-bred bay gelding, Cruz Bay.
The only place my husband and I could both agree on to live was Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. We both live here and it has proved to be a win-win!
My horse is boarded at a wonderful barn just off island. Although I miss having him at home with me, it only takes twelve minutes for me to visit him every day and he's enjoying all the attention he gets from the staff there, who love him almost as much as I do!
Hillie the Golden Retriever disappeared from our horse farm in England one night, with Blue, the Great Dane (from ‘A Dog Named Blue’). Blue came back. Hillie didn’t, and there followed a sequence of very unforeseen events!
On Monday, 20th July, I asked my gelding, Cruz Bay to trot, after fifteen minutes warming him up in walk.
He immediately took two horrible missteps and I jumped off him. The front left shoe had twisted underneath his hoof, and the clinch (the flat metal edge that’s supposed to prevent slippage) was sticking into his sole. He’d only been shod four days ago!
There was no way he could take another stride like that. With great effort I managed to pull off the shoe, thinking, “This is going to be bad. He’s for sure pulled a tendon.”
For the next week I bound up his foot, while waiting for the farrier’s next visit. Cruz was turned out as usual with his chestnut BFF, Chance and when no swelling showed during that time, I congratulated myself on having dodged a bullet.
Two weeks after the incident, although Cruz wasn’t lame, the leg swelled halfway up from the fetlock joint so it wasn’t accumulated fluid: it was inflammation of the soft tissue.
On palpitating the leg, the vet thought he felt a pulled tendon. When the ultrasound showed otherwise, he told me I’d lucked out: Cruz’s check ligament was torn, and this injury was much better than the alternatives of suspensory or tendon damage.
However, it required eight weeks’ stall rest, a situation that I’d always dreaded for this horse. As my vet in Maryland recognized, “Cruz is not a candidate for stall rest.”
Coping with Stall Rest
I explained this to the vet, who nevertheless insisted on it. To help my horse handle his imprisonment, he was given two more calming supplements in addition to his regular one. This was an emergency: my enormously fit horse was never going to chill out in his stall 24/7 for two months!
One advantage he did have over the two other horses that were diagnosed with tendon injuries at the same time. He could be hand-grazed for 45 minutes twice a day.
At first, he seemed so relaxed in his stall that I figured he didn’t need to get out. Then I thought ahead to when I’d have to hand-walk him. If I didn’t accustom him to the limited exercise from eating grass now, with me on the other end of his lead rope, I was going to have a demon on my hands when I did finally take him out of his stall.
On day four, I bit the bullet and led him out, with my heart beating wildly and feeling very sick, as I waited for the fireworks to begin.
But they didn’t. He was so glad to escape from the confines of his (very spacious) stall that he dropped his head down to eat immediately his feet touched the green stuff.
The Daily Routine
Currently, this is what my day looks like.
6 a.m. Get up, shower and dress: write for an hour, go to 8:30 Mass then leave for the barn.
9:30 a.m. Arrive at the barn.
Unwrap the bandages around Cruz’s front legs, apply ice-wrap to the injured left leg and the BEMER to the right leg for 15 minutes. The BEMER sends electro-magnetic waves to the site of injury, increasing circulation and promoting healing. I use it on both front legs to keep things equal.
Switch BEMER to injured leg for 15 minutes.
Groom Cruz in the mean time to make him comfortable.
Bandage all four legs. His back legs became ‘stocked up’ – filled with fluid from standing around, especially on hot days – and bandaging them prevents this from happening.
Apply fly repellent and attach forelock extension to his puny front hairs to give his eyes more protection against the bugs.
Put on gloves, (so I don’t get rope burn if he goes nuts), place halter on Cruz and lead him out of his stall onto a large grass area by the paddocks.
Hold onto the lead rope, while allowing him to meander around munching, making sure his legs don’t get tangled up in it.
45 minutes later, return to stall, apply thrush remedy to all four frogs and soles.
Clean out his stall.
Kiss him on the nose, say good-bye and drive home. (It’s now 11:30 a.m.)
5:30 p.m. Drive back to the barn
6 p.m. Rinse and repeat.
This makes a total of 2 hours a day spent driving to and from the barn, and 4 hours tending directly to Cruz for a total of 6 hours.
Filling in the Time Profitably
With an hour and a half spent standing next to my horse, every day I needed to find a useful occupation that could be done at the same time. Since I have my heart in my throat every time I take Cruz out, worrying that he’ll spook, get loose and run around doing more damage to that ligament, I was naturally praying he’d stay calm.
That led to my decision to say the Rosary a few times while I’m out there, and not care who sees my white beads dangling as I juggle them and the moving horse.
I’ve also taken to reciting the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which any Catholics reading this might want to consider. It’s an opportunity to contemplate the occasions of grief she suffered as Christ’s mother, both before and during His Passion. Otherwise, it’s tempting to think that her life with Our Savior was a bed of roses sans the thorns.
If I’ve finished my prayers and the time isn’t yet up, I try to solve the daily crossword on my phone. But a horse in motion is not conducive to accurate typing in of letters!
As annoying as this state of affairs is, I have many blessings to count. Especially when I see some of the other horses’ injuries. One of them has foundered and has to be in her stall for 30 days straight. She has to stand with each leg in little rubber tubs of ice twice a day, to bring down the inflammation and reduce her pain level.
It’s only a check ligament: it could be much worse.
Cruz can be hand-grazed: other horses are stuck in their stalls for the duration.
He’s at a barn where his stall is twice the size of his previous one and makes his life much more bearable – with two windows looking over the polo field!
I have three friends offering me their horses to ride (four equines in total) – now I just need to find the time to ride them!
Cruz has been a really good boy so far – contrary to my expectations.
I’ve learned how to wrap stall bandages, after several tutorials!
I’m getting to know the other boarders, since I’m in the barn, not on my horse.
Cruz is getting three months’ rest from being ridden.
He’s enjoying the extra attention from me.
I’m able to say my prayers while I let him graze.
God is good!
Until these past two years in South Carolina, Cruz always had several months off work in the winter because the weather was so bad. As one friend put it, he’s younger than his twenty years because he’s not been ridden non-stop.
Which is why I’m happy for him that he’s getting a break. When I’m allowed to get on him again, we’ll both have a fresh start.
But hopefully not too fresh!
P.S. In addition to my using the BEMER, Cruz is also getting three shock wave treatments, which are powerful boosts to his circulatory system and encourage healing.
Hello, and welcome to the Faith through Horse Fiction Podcast. I’m Hilary Walker, horse owner and writer of Christian fiction, aspiring to spread God’s word in an entertaining way in my novels.
Today I’d like to share insights with you about ‘Friday’s Folly,’ the upcoming third novel in the Sinclair Island Romance series which will be officially released on July 29th .
If you’re interested in receiving an advance review copy of the book, please shoot me an email at Rubesca4@gmail.com. I’d be happy to send you one.
So, what’s the book about?
Max is desperate to get off Sinclair Island and away from his dead-end bookstore job. When he meets Camille, who loves the island, he knows he has to keep his emotional distance. Otherwise he can kiss goodbye to any hopes of starting a new life on the mainland.
Camille has rescued a racehorse, Friday’s Folly, and Max helps her retrain him. While he is immediately aware of his feelings for her, she’s much slower to realize just how strongly she feels about him.
Hanging over their relationship is the constant threat of Max leaving, and his irreverent attitude towards God.
Will Camille be able to change his mind – about both?
The Idea for the Book Came from …
An experience I had checking out an OTTB aka Off Track Thoroughbred. My horse Cruz Bay and I were going through a terrible phase. He’d reared and dumped me at a major dressage show and it seemed we were not destined to get on.
Looking for his replacement, I went to see a beautiful little Thoroughbred mare in Pennsylvania and was shocked at the conditions in the racing barn where she lived.
After I got home, I was consumed by the need to get her out of there. The way Camille comes to acquire Friday’s Folly is identical to the logic I used to persuade the bay mare’s owner to let me take her away.
(You can read the full account in the short story “How Not to Rescue a Racehorse.”)
I took her to Kimberly Godwin Clark’s farm near where I lived at the time. She is the lady who wrote the brilliant book “New Track, New Life,” that Camille uses as her guide when retraining Friday’s Folly. I knew she’d do a fantastic job with the mare, whom she renamed Class, and she didn’t disappoint. I later received a wonderful email from her new owner saying how thrilled she was with her new horse. A happy ending for the ex-racer.
In the meantime, I realized that Cruz Bay and I are meant for each other, and we’re still together as he turns twenty this year. 😊
What Part Do the Horses Play in this Book?
Horses are integral to the overall plot and provide the opportunity for the Christian heroine to broach the subject of God to the non-Christian hero.
Max’s black gelding, Winston, is the means by which he and Camille first meet. Later on, the horse is the reason for Max spending a great deal of time with her, and having lively debates about science and religion.
Camille works hard trying to overcome Max’s cynical attitude to God, and Winston inadvertently assists her arguments.
Her own horse, Friday’s Folly is a project that brings them together. But he also becomes the cause of friction between them.
Then both their geldings are suddenly in grave danger and the pair have their work cut out for them!
Soon afterwards some other horses require even more urgent help – from Max and his father, whom he wants to get away from.
You can see that the horses are vital to the novel.
Does the Book Have a Christian Message?
Max believes that science explains everything, leaving no room for God. Camille challenges his arguments against a Creator in a logical and hard-to-refute way.
I hope she encourages any non-Christian readers to check out the book she uses to back up her reasoning, and that believers find a useful source for countering the typical viewpoint of today, that science and Christianity are at odds, if not downright war, with each other.
The book I refer to is ‘Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists Are Missing the Target,’ by John C Lennox, a brilliant Oxford mathematician and committed Christian. Another book of his well worth reading on the topic is ‘Can Science Explain Everything?’
Are the Characters Based on Real People?
No. I never model them on any specific person, but I do take characteristics from different individuals and use them in my fictional world.
However, the names I use are often those of very dear friends, even though the character who carries it is nothing like them. Otherwise, I scour baby names online.
When it comes to the horses, I often have a certain animal in mind when I create them. It’s afun way of immortalizing the equines I’ve owned in my life, but I use fictitious names.
I tried for days to come up with a good name for Camille’s title Thoroughbred – you only have to look at my notebook to appreciate the mental effort and anguish that went into it! Then, as has happened with all the romances, the name came to me when I wasn’t searching for it and has no connection to any of my copious scribblings.
Do We Revisit Any of Previous Characters?
Sinclair Island is only 7 miles square with one riding barn, so you’ll meet all the main characters from the earlier books, including ‘Ivan’s Choice,’ as it turns out that Bryce McCloud is closely connected to Max.
Emma and Fulton, Dinny and Grant, Bryce and Pippa – they all play major roles in ‘Friday’s Folly.’
How Long Did ‘Friday’s Folly’ Take to Write?
As soon as I published ‘Dinny’s Challenge,’ I parked my rear end in its writing position and proceeded to map out the next sequel.
Most authors, I suspect, will tell you that the best way to stop worrying about the reception of your current novel is to dive straight into another one.
This third Sinclair Island Romance will be out exactly five months after ‘Dinny’s Challenge.’ I usually write faster, but had a lot of trouble with the first chapter of ‘Friday’s Folly:’ I didn’t know where to start the book and wrote it out at least three times.
I’m now working on the fourth novel in the series and am a long way through mapping out the plot.
For the curious, the heroine is an atheist this time!
What’s My Writing Process?
I have a dear author friend who can create a detailed synopsis in her head (I wish I had that talent!). The problem is, once she knows how the book ends, she’s no longer interested in writing it.
Apparently, Stephen King has some scathing words about writers who plan their novels in great detail. In which case, he’d highly disapprove of my method.
While I’m willing to go in a new direction if a main character absolutely insists on it – you’d be surprised what bullies these fictional personalities can be! – I am most definitely a ‘plotter’ rather than a ‘pantser,’ someone who flies by the seat of their trousers, as we would call them in England.
Did I Know the Ending Before I Began Plotting?
I usually have no idea exactly how the book will end when I start out on the planning journey. Obviously, it has to be a HEA, or Happily Ever After, or people will want their money back, but I only figure out what form that takes when I’ve arrived at the point where the hero and heroine have to get together or I scrap the book.
Was Anyone Else Involved in Creating the Book?
Friday’s Folly became a fun collaboration when I asked both my subscribers and my Facebook friends to help me find the name of the bookstore on Sinclair Island. It was heartwarming to receive so many wonderful ideas!
The same happened with the tagline: I got many great suggestions and I’ve noted them all for use in creating the banners for ‘Friday’s Folly.’
My Facebook pals also helped with the book’s title. I was torn between “Friday’s Folly” and “Annie’s Folly” until one person pointed out that “Annie’s Folly” made the heroine sound rather silly. Case closed.
(In case you’re wondering, the heroine’s name was originally Annie, then a friend complained that I have too many characters’ names ending in the ‘ie’ sound.)
Together with a few dedicated friends, I have a fantastic group of Launch Team members among my subscribers, who read Advance Review Copies of my books and post very generous reviews online. Their help has made each of the novels in the series an Amazon best seller.
I am also blessed to have my other subscribers, who are incredibly supportive of my writing and have contributed heavily to my success as a writer.
I hope you’ve enjoyed looking behind the scenes of ‘Friday’s Folly,’ the next Sinclair IslandRomance novel.
Look out for it on 29th July! It will be available in all the major ebook outlets, including, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iBooks.
Don’t forget to email me at Rubesca4@gmail.com if you’d like an ARC! Everyone who posts a positive review will be included in the acknowledgements of the final version.
In the meantime, I’ll enjoy revisiting the residents of Brotherton and experiencing the dramatic events that unfold in that usually quiet part of the West Country.
VillagersDodo and BobOlding
Two characters in the book, Dodo and Bob, are very dear to me and based on a real couple who used to live down the lane from our house in Gloucestershire. Like us, they owned horses, and the woods running behind our two properties belonged to them.
My husband and I would ride through the forest and up the hill to their house, where the real Dodo and Bob would urge us to put our steeds in their stables while we had a ‘little something to drink’ together.
We loved sitting outside in their quintessentially English garden, looking over the fields and watching the geese and chickens wander in and out of the kitchen, chased by a lively Shi Tzu.
Then my husband and I would get back on our horses and ride home, glowing with bonhomie, before it got too dark to see where we were going.
Bob and Dodo introduced us to the Queen’s cousin and his wife, who lived one door down in a large house with an active ghost. They invited us to cocktails and subsequently to dinner, where my American husband kissed the Princess on the cheek. There was no way I was going to kiss the Prince: he would have been horrified!
Dodo was even more colorful than I have portrayed her in the book. She used to make the most outrageous comments. She and Bob could never agree on the details of any story, and you’d better have eaten before you went to their house, as she usually burnt the food.
But she was a generous and loving soul, and when she passed away from a heart attack, sitting in her chair in the garden, Bob was grief-stricken. He held it together for four years before taking his own life on the anniversary of her death.
As a Catholic, I had no peace because he’d committed suicide, a mortal sin. I worried about Bob’s soul and confided in my parish priest. He told me that God would have understood the condition of my friend’s mind and for me not to be anxious, but to pray for him.This I still do.
I miss them both. Bob got to read Brittle Diamonds before he died, and thoroughly enjoyed my portrayal of him and Dodo. I am so very glad of it.
Why I Wrote the Book
After more than twenty years away from the Catholic Church, I finally returned to the fold.
There are many reasons why, but the catalyst was the birth of my son, although it still took me several years after that to commit fully to my faith.
When our little family moved to the States from England, I was thrilled to discover that Catholics weren’t in the minority as they are in the United Kingdom. I suddenly belonged to a huge community!
My local parish priest was a very charismatic man, whose sermons were both entertaining and educational. We all loved him.
Then came that fatal day when he told us he was under investigation for sexual abuse of seminarians, allegedly perpetrated some thirty years before.
We were all horrified that anyone could make such an accusation against our wonderful pastor, and were confident he would be swiftly exonerated and back in the pulpit.
Sadly, this was not to be the case.
My sorrow at discovering my Catholic leader was not above reproach led me to write this book.
The novel handles several other difficult issues in addition to the priest scandal, which was raging then and sadly still is. It will be a long time before the Catholic Church recovers, but recover she will.
The sermon in Chapter 17 is poached from a real sermon preached at the time of our priest’s disgrace.
Since so many of us are stuck at home ‘sheltering in place’ I decided to put the first three books of my Riding Out series into a boxed set and only charge 99 cents. I figured most people would feel that’s a good price for 474 pages of (hopefully) uplifting Christian fiction!
I let my subscribers know about it and was amazed at their positive response. The book sold a ton of copies straight away. Thank you all so much!
A dear author friend, Autumn Macarthur, let her huge fan base know about it the next day. They bought loads of copies, too and I am so appreciative!
The timing was perfect: as Autumn said, ‘it was a God thing.’ 🙂 As a result, The Jack Harper Trilogy is a #1 Best Seller on Amazon and I’m going to enjoy its exalted status however briefly it lasts. 😉 Thank you, Lord!
I want to give a shout-out to Autumn for being such a staunch supporter of my books andcontinually boosting my career. She is a kind and generous fellow Christian and I owe her a huge debt.
As a Christian author, I thank God for each gift of success.
“Dinny’s Challenge” became a #1 Best Seller for a glorious while and I knew took screen shots of its exalted status immediately!
Creating the book was an interesting exercise in humility, as you can see from my post, “Dinny’s Challenge:” A Fresh Start. It taught me not to take criticism personally, but to see it as a helpful aid to improvement.
My critiquing circle’s good judgment made the book successful, and I am eternally grateful to them.
Readers tell me my books bring back happy horse memories from their childhood, and one was even encouraged to get on a horse again, after reading about the equine adventures of my heroes and heroines!
Such feedback is enormously rewarding and encourages me to continue writing.
I’m now working on “Friday’s Folly,” Book 3 in The Sinclair Island Romance series.
P.S. If you would like to join my Launch Team and receive Advance Review Copies (ARCs) of my new books, please comment below. I’d love to welcome you aboard!
Running into her former fiancé forces Dinny to face her cowardice towards him decades earlier.
Dinny gave Grant back his ring and married the man who was accusing him of fraud.
Now widowed, she attends a wedding on Sinclair Island and unexpectedly runs into her ex-fiancé – three decades after he moved away.
Dinny’s beloved mare is about to go blind and Grant meets with her to suggest an unorthodox solution for saving the horse’s sight. But his girlfriend becomes determined to keep the once engaged couple apart and extracts a promise from Dinny not to interfere in her relationship with him.
Dinny realizes she’s falling in love with Grant again. Problem is, he’s a crook and her deceased husband’s arch-enemy. And she’s given her word to stay away from him.
Grant never stopped loving her, and a nearly fatal incident with a horse gives him the unexpected opportunity to clear his name.
When Dinny discovers the real criminal’s identity, she is faced with the sordid truth that her marriage was based on a lie.
Can Grant forgive her for believing the wrong man? Can she forgive herself – or her late husband?
Under pressure from Grant, she admits her true feelings, she then tells him that she mustn’t give into them. Angry and disappointed, he walks out on her.
Soon afterwards, he risks his life to save his girlfriend and Dinny knows she’s truly lost him.
Her life will be unbearable without him and she has to get him back.
It’s been interesting to discover that an author friend of mine, who is way more successful than me, is having the same trouble with her current novel as I am.We both suffer from a difficulty to move on from the hero in our previous book to the next one.
Grant didn’t own a horse in the first version. He’s quite a bit older than Fulton in ‘Saving Prophecy’ and his only sport was golf. I hadn’t realized how boring he was until I decided to make him the owner of a beautiful grey gelding. After all, the horses make the book, don’t they?
That immediately gave him a snazzier car, an interesting extra hobby, and he is also a member of the volunteer emergency services on the island. I shan’t say which one, but no, he’s not a fireman.
Which brought me to Dinny, who needed spicing up, too. She was under her husband’s thumb for many years, but broke out of her shell after his death. I wasn’t conveying that, apart from having her fulfill her lifelong dream of buying a horse. Now she’s up to all sorts of things, and I’m having a hard time keeping up with her!
Wish me luck as I follow the tricky romance between the two of them.
My beta readers are currently running their eagle eyes over the novel and giving me valuable input. After that I shall be sending out ARCs (Advanced Review Copies) to my wonderful Launch Team for their feedback.
All being well, the book will be ready to launch by the end of November.
What’s the book about?
Twenty-nine years ago, Dinny was swept off her feet by the man accusing her fiancé of financial fraud.
When Grant loses the woman of his dreams to his boss, he moves away for good.
Now a widow, Dinny attends a wedding on Sinclair Island, where a chance meeting with Grant rekindles powerful emotions.
He’s never found a woman to replace Dinny in his heart. Butwhenhe hints that he was framed by her husband, she feels disloyal for spending time with him.
Yet if Grant is telling the truth, her whole marriage was a sham and she can’t handle that.
When Grant has a riding accident, Dinny realizes she’s still in love with him. But giving into her feelings means facing the sordid facts about her deceased husband. Is she ready for that?
Grant finally convinces her of what really happened and she prepares to move onto the island to be with him.
But then he confesses a secret that sends her reeling. Sensing her love for him is not strong enough to accept the truth yet again, he walks out.
Life for Dinny will be unbearable without Grant. She has to get him back!
But how?Is it too late to salvage their relationship?
When I have the final launch date I shall let you know.