Thursday, 16 April 2015

Isis Model Horses - a Rival to Julip

Julip Model Horses had the rubber (or latex) model horse field pretty much to themselves in the 1950s, but by the 1960s competition began to spring up from rival firms Isis, Pegasus and Otway, and Julip appeared thoroughly spooked by the competition. Their advertisements took on a distinctly panicky tone: “Beware of imitations!” they begged.

Pony Magazine, April 1963
Otway and Pegasus, as far as I can tell, only lasted a couple of years, but Isis Products provided more sustained competition in the early 1960s. The company’s founder, Margaret Hughes Hartmann (1929-2006) grew up in the docklands of Cardiff. She desperately wanted to be a vet, but money was short, and her older brother’s education ate up what money there was. He eventually became a paediatrician. Margaret trained as a teacher, and then married Cyril Hughes Hartmann, an historian and writer, and contemporary and friend of CS Lewis and Tolkein. Cyril and Margaret’s daughter Carola was born in 1956: she was one of twin girls, the other of whom was stillborn. As was common at the time, the baby’s death was never spoken of. Carola had no idea about the existence of her twin until she was in her teens, although when she was very young, and learning to talk, her mother told her she would often ask where the other girl was. After her mother died, Carola found a sculpture of a baby’s head and shoulders, whose eyes, Carola said, “seemed somehow dead.” Carola believed this was the only way her mother could mark the death of the baby she had not been allowed to hold.

This sculpture was strictly for private consumption: the sculptures by which Margaret made her living were inspired by the passions of her surviving daughter. Carola loved ponies and Margaret began to make model horses and ponies out of rubber with manes and tails made out of real hair. Exactly when the company started, I am not certain. The earliest advertisements I have found are in Pony Magazine, and date from May 1962. They show what looks like an established range of horses and riders, and it seems likely that the company probably started a few years before this. Isis Products was named after the Isis River, on which the family lived, and at first were made at home. When the company took off, Margaret employed two staff, and moved the company to a workshop in the village of Eaton Hastings, near Faringdon in Berkshire.

Unidentified Isis model © Pam Wakelam
Isis Walking Pony © Pam Wakelam
The company had a small range of horses and ponies, riders and tack, made in the workshop, with jumps being made by a local supplier. The company sold their horses through mail order, and produced catalogues (sadly I have never seen one) which listed their models and accessories.The models I’ve seen mentioned are: walking horse, walking pony, hunter, Thoroughbred, child’s pony, walking foal and standing foal. I have never come across any of these in the flesh (rubber?) and for an idea of what they actually look like have had to rely on the advertisements I’ve found in the equestrian press, and the lovely Pam Wakelam, who’s been kind enough to supply photographs of her own collection of Isis horses. Pam was able to provide some help on how to tell Isis from other latex models. They look, it must be said, a lot like Julip, but Isis ponies generally don’t have silver horseshoes painted on, which Julip almost always did. In addition, Isis models have flatter sides and bigger heads than Julip models, and paintwork which looks rather thicker. I like them: to me, the Isis models are more finely modelled and altogether prettier than most Julips. You can see more Isis models on this link to the Equorum forum.

Isis Pony Mare and Foal © Pam Wakelam
Isis - Hunter or Thoroughbred © Pam Wakelam
Margaret Hughes Hartmann certainly seemed rather more clued up about the power of advertising than Julip. The earliest Julip advertisements I’ve found used photographs, but by the time the first Isis advertisements appeared in Pony Magazine in the 1960s, Julip’s advertisements consisted of text simply asking people to order early for Christmas. Presumably alarmed by the competition from Isis, and similar company Pegasus, Julip took out an ad in Pony in December 1961 which exhorted their readers to beware of imitations, but made no effort to compete with the other companies’ much more attractive advertisements. Julip still relied on the power of words alone.

Looking at the companies’ advertising strategies from 1962-1965 is instructive. Isis’ advertisements were all accompanied by attractive pictures, with beautifully composed backgrounds, showing off their range. Isis also outgunned Julip in other departments. Pony Magazine ran an annual competition, with prizes donated by publishers, riding schools, and of course, Isis. Julip contributed a prize in 1961 (a horse and bridle), but then donated nothing in 1962. Isis’ prize was a voucher for £2 2s. They continued to donate prizes until the company closed. Each year, they outdid Julip, and because their prize was more valuable, each year they appeared further up the list of prizes.

Pony Magazine, September 1963
Both company’s products were also featured in editorial. It may seem odd to us now, but there was a time when Christmas issues of magazines appeared without a spread of horsey present ideas for you and for your family. In post-war Britain, with rationing in place, it is perhaps not surprising that these didn’t appear until Britain’s economy improved in the 1960s, with Pony Magazine’s first gift ideas feature appearing in 1962. Both companies were mentioned in the feature, and it’s fascinating to read just what was written:
"...if you want less fragile specimens [than Beswick china horses] there is the unbounded range of ponies, horses, riders, stables - a whole riding stable or horse show - produced by Julip Associates, the pioneers in the field....Other providers in this field are Isis Products.
Julip quite obviously didn’t like the fact they had competition, and I would love to have read the original communication they sent the editor, Col C E G Hope. Whatever it was, it was strong enough to make him at least give the spirit of it to his readers, whilst also mentioning that there were indeed other providers. Julip backed up their down-with-the-competition attitude with another “Beware of cheap providers” advertisement in the same issue – it was another effort restricted to text only, and appeared buried in the depths of the magazine. In contrast, Isis’ November 1962 advertisement was this very pretty scene, printed just inside the front cover.

Pony, November 1962

Julip fired off another “Cheap Providers” ad in April 1963, and then reverted to text advertisements without feeling the need to snipe at the competition. There was less of it, as Pegasus’ last advertisement appeared in April 1962, after which the company presumably folded. Isis continued to expand, and in November 1963 put out their card game “Tack”, sold in WH Smith’s network of shops as well as directly from Isis. Alas, this, and their rather lovely "Yearling" money box, which appeared in 1966, seemed to be the company’s last hurrah.

Pony, December 1966
I believe that Cyril Hartmann’s illness led to the slow winding down of the company, and Carola told me her mother wound up the company altogether when Cyril died in 1967. Margaret Hughes Hartmann went back to teaching, eventually becoming a Head Mistress. She never gave up sculpting. Sadly, few Isis models remain in the family after a disastrous house fire destroyed pretty well everything the family owned, leaving Carola with just her model donkey. The Isis model her mother made of her beloved piebald pony, which appeared on her birthday cake at her 12th birthday, did not survive.

Isis models provided a fascinating episode in the history of model horses. If her husband’s ill health had not forced Margaret Hughes Hartmann to wind up the company, it’s interesting to speculate just how major would have been the competition they provided to Julip. Certainly, with her keen marketing brain, and her thoroughly charming range, Margaret Hughes Hartmann deserved to succeed.

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Many thanks to Carola Hartmann, and her husband Malcolm Cooper for the very considerable help they gave me with this piece. Carola sadly died in 2013 . She was a keen writer, and you can find some of her stories here.

Huge thanks too to Pamela Wakeham for supplying all the pictures of Isis models for this piece.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Reviews: Elaine Brown - Jackie's Pony Secret and Ponies at Penstorran

Elaine Brown: Jackie’s Pony Secret

Jackie’s Pony Secret opens with Jackie sitting on a train with the lady from social services, on their way to Devon, where Jackie will start a new chapter in her life after the death of her mother. She is to live with her grandfather and his new wife in Devon. Until she gets there, Jackie has had very little to do with the countryside, and even less to do with horses. However, her grandfather and his wife, Elise, have a farm. They keep their own horses, and the other stables are rented out to a riding school, which is of course absolutely ideal if you find you’re keen on ponies, which Jackie does. There are plenty of hurdles to be overcome, however, before Jackie can settle into her new life. 

The first of these is to overcome her instinctive fear of horses, and to learn to ride. If you read this book as a pony-mad child whose knowledge of ponies is limited you’ll absorb plenty of useful information. The instructional stuff is nicely done. Instruction can be difficult to do without it feeling sanctimonious, or breaking the flow of the story with wodges of indigestible facts. Generally, Elaine Brown manages to insert the information seamlessly, and still keep you interested in Jackie’s progress and in what she’s learning.

The story takes place against an interesting set of family dynamics. I particularly like the step grandmother, Elise, who comes over as a warm character, and I like the developing relationship Jackie has with her father, from whom she’s initially distant. Jackie herself is likeable, with a strong sense of what’s right and wrong. The dynamics of her relationships at school, with all its ups and downs, are realistic. I felt that there are occasions the author doesn’t quite have Jackie’s voice straight in her mind: most of the times she speaks pretty much as any 12 year old would, but occasionally she comes out with something that sounds as if she’s considerably older.

Elaine Brown has a real feeling for describing horses and what they’re up to. I could see Tia, and Secret, and all the other ponies trotting around in my mind. She’s also really good at letting you know what a place is like – something authors can often skip over in their headlong rush to get on with the plot.

If I have a criticism of this book, it’s that the author leaves me wanting more. Because she is good at getting into her character’s feelings, I’d have liked to know more about what Jackie’s “aunts” – Grandfather and Elise’s children, who are younger than Jackie, thought about the new arrival into their household, and more of the back story of Jackie’s father’s new relationship. That said, there are a lot of relationships in this book, most of them new to Jackie, and the author does a good job of showing what it’s like to be an uncertain 12 year old thrown into a whole new life. Jackie’s Pony Secret is a good, traditional pony story which allies well developed characters to plenty of authentic pony action.

Jackie’s Pony Secret

Age of main character: 12
Themes: family break up, death of parent, bullying, false accusations

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Ponies at Penstorran
This is the second in the Pony Chronicles series, in which Jackie, Nicole and their friend Joanna are being shipped off to Cornwall for the summer. Jackie’s grandfather and his partner Elise are going to America on a lecture tour, so the girls will stay with Celine, Elise’s half sister. She is described as “quite eccentric and enormous fun,” and she sets the tone for the book. It’s a story of quite some energy, with adventure, ponies and villains. The girls contend with a dastardly developer who wants Celine’s land and buildings, and is prepared to stop at nothing to get them.

That isn’t all there is to the story. The girls have taken their ponies with them, so there’s plenty of pony action, with cross country and beach rides, as well as experiences with the multitude of other animals Aunt Celine has. It would have been easy to make Celine a caricature, with her broken French, but she isn’t. She comes over as genuinely warm (Elaine Brown has a real talent for writing decent adult characters). The girls’ friendships develop and Jackie learns how to tackle a cross country course, a skill she puts to good use. The characters’ voices are more settled in this story; having established them in the first book, the author seems to have relaxed and is able to enjoy them.

The action is believable, and it’s a good, rollicking, holiday read.

Ponies at Penstorran

Age of main character: 12
Themes: friendship, intimidation

Monday, 30 March 2015

Two Authors, the Man from the CIA, and his Horse

If you'd like to know who they were, go on over to the Horsecrossings blog, where I waffle on about unexpected horse story authors.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Review - Amanda Wills: Into the Storm

I haven’t read any pony books for a while, because I’d lost my pony book mojo for a couple of months, and I’m glad I read this book as my first essay back into the pony world. Amanda Wills’ Into the Storm, I have to say, I’d have enjoyed whether it had been about ponies or dustbins. It’s exciting, dramatic, and an excellent answer to the question of what do you do with your characters when they’ve had two home-based adventures – you plonk them somewhere totally new and see what happens.

Amanda Wills has spirited Poppy away from Devon in this third of the Riverdale ponies series. Poppy has won a riding holiday in a competition with her short story about a Connemara, and she and best friend Scarlett are about to leave when the book opens. Poppy is desolate at the thought of being without her beloved Connemara, Cloud, and things don’t improve when they get to Oaklands Trekking Centre. Poppy tries her best to overcome her shyness with the other trekkers, but it doesn’t really work. She thinks that because she won the writing competition to get here, she’ll have a fantastic horse, but what does she end up with? Solid, hairy piebald cob Beau, that’s what. Everyone else has dream ponies – grey Arab mares; floaty palominos.

It’s not fair. That’s what Poppy thinks. Neither is it fair that tall and glamorous Cally seems to hit it off with Scarlett. Nobody seems to think very much of Poppy. Beau isn’t interested in being a willing co-operator, and Poppy’s always at the back of the ride, always the one people are waiting for, and the one people have to pick up off the floor when it all goes wrong. Poppy couldn’t be more fed up. This isn’t how things should be.

Amanda Wills does a brilliant job of showing someone who has what my grandmother would call a real mardy fit on. Poppy has painted herself into a corner. How she gets out again makes an excellent story. Amanda Wills does friendship spats extremely well, and best of all, she lets you see both points of view.

I enjoyed this story more than book two (and I liked that very much). It’s neatly plotted, wryly amusing, and full of those moments that anyone who’s had anything to do with ponies will recognise – the failure to travel those few centimetres that would make opening the gate easy, and the casual plonking of a hoof on your fragile foot. The drama when the storm hits Oaklands is thoroughly gripping. I do like a story that moves its participants on; where they’ve realised something about themselves, or the way life works, and when, as here, when it’s done by a subtle and effective writer it’s a real treat.

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Amanda Wills: Into the Storm

Age of main character: 12
Themes: jealousy, friendship issues, violent storms

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

In other places

I have been very quiet here of late. I've not been utterly silent though - I am contributing to a new blog written by equestrian authors, Horse Crossings.

Here's my take on the American horse stories which made it to Britain. Just to whet your appetite, here's one of the Knight printings of the Black Stallion. I loved these covers.

And here I am on how it all began - the beginnings of the pony story.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Review: Kate Lattey - Dream On

Dare to Dream was one of my stand out books when it appeared, and its sequel, Dream On is right up there with it. Sequels aren’t necessarily easy things to write. Often authors have used up their best plotlines; any dramatic tension was resolved in the previous book, and you can’t help but be aware of the author scrabbling round frantically trying to find something else with which to engage the reader. None of that applies to Dream On.

At the end of the previous book, Marley’s beloved horse, Cruise, had to be sold to enable the girls and their stable to survive. The New Zealand horse world is a relatively small one, and so there’s no way in Dream On that Marley can escape Cruise. It’s not that his new owner, Bubbles, is a monster either, because she isn’t. She understands just how bad Marley feels. The worst thing for Marley is that it’s obvious Cruise still misses her. He’s not jumping to the best of his ability, but in an act of real love, she advises his new owner what to do to get Cruise on side, and it works.

Marley does have other things to think about. Van’s boyfriend Mike has a difficult stepbrother, Jake, who’s been landed on him. Marley and Jake have one of those uneasy and edgy relationships, and it’s this, and Marley’s reaction to it which give this book much of its passion and poignancy. Marley is, of course, still riding, and has a new problem horse to contend with in the shape of the vicious and violent mare, Borderline Majestic. Majestic is an all too believable picture of a talented horse who has been backed into a behavioural corner by the “show them who’s boss” school. 

Kate Lattey’s horses are as excellent as her humans, and I love the way she portrays them as more than winning machines, or the recipients of girlish dreams.

There’s plenty happening with Marley’s sisters too, both of whom are facing life-changing decisions. But it’s a measure of this author’s talents that one of the stand out characters in the book for me is the bad girl of the last book, Susannah. She’s still on the horse show circuit, but her appearances at shows must be torture, with a hissing swarm of hostility greeting her every move. Everyone knows what her brother did to Marley so that Susannah would win, and no one, with the rather wary exception of Marley, is prepared to give Susannah any quarter. But Kate Lattey makes Susannah brave; not bolshy, or defensive, or a victim. She carries on turning up, even though she knows how awful it will be. Real bravery, something which isn’t raw physical courage, is a tremendously difficult thing to portray without making your character an unrealistic saint, or a wretched victim, but Kate Lattey does it effortlessly with Susanna. I do like the way this author doesn’t take the easy way out with her characters: there’s none of the traditional stereotypical figures so common in pony books.

Kate Lattey has produced another tremendous, character-driven book, with every bit of authentic horsey detail you could wish for. I defy you not to cry at the end. If you haven’t already gone and loaded this on to your Kindle go and do it now. You won’t regret it.

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Kate Lattey: Dream On
Kindle: £3.06
Available in paperback format only in NZ/AUS directly from the author.

Age of main character: 15/16
Themes: some romance, grief, self harm (relatively minor; probably not triggering)

Friday, 9 January 2015

Guest blog: Elaine Brown on Self Publishing

Elaine Brown and I first met when she asked me what I thought of her first pony novel, Jackie's Pony Secret, then unpublished. I read it and loved it, and have watched Elaine's progress ever since. Elaine has followed up Pony Secret with another novel, and after several nearly-there episodes with publishers, has decided to go it alone. This is the story of how she did it.

Elaine's books are:

Jackie's Pony Secret
The Ponies of Penstorran

and you can follow Elaine on her website:

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Books were a large part of my childhood. My older sister and my mother used to read to me every night at bedtime - more, I think, in the interests of getting me to sleep than anything else as I was a poor sleeper. However, I was told that they would often fall asleep themselves but I would still be awake. It wasn’t long before I started reading for myself and I was able to read quite fluently at a very pre-school age. I was fascinated by words and how they clung together to make a sentence, a paragraph and then a story. One of my most treasured possessions was a children’s dictionary and I would look up words I hadn’t heard before and then use them liberally.

I have written for as long as I can remember. When I was still quite small I used to write short stories, poems and songs. English was really the only class I bothered with in school and I managed to pass my English O’ level a year early: just as well really, as I didn’t stay at school to take any others (you were allowed to leave school at 15 in those days and O’ levels were generally taken at age 16).

Writing went on the back burner when I was a teenager – horses and boys were much too fascinating. I was also a swimmer and much of my free time was spent in the local baths, honing up for competitions. I still always read though. Bedtime always saw me with a book in my hands and my reading matter was very catholic.

In my late twenties the writing bug hit me again. I started submitting short stories and articles to magazines, mainly about cats and other domestic pets, reader’s tips and reader’s letters. It wasn’t something I did seriously, but rather for the fun of it; seeing my name in print and being paid a small amount of money. I used to get about £10 for a reader’s letter or tip and around £50 for an article. I was also working for a large employment agency at the time and it occurred to me that our numerous temps might like to know what went on at ‘headquarters’ and to feel more part of a team. I started up a monthly newsletter, which was very well received. Time and time again I was told “you should write a book.” That was all well and good, but you needed to have an idea and I didn’t. “Write what you know” was another recurring theme; horses, obviously, but I didn’t have a plot.

When my son was born I desperately wanted to be at home with him but I had to go back to work. It wasn’t a lifestyle choice, it was a necessity because I am the wage earner in my family. I used to come home every evening and my son and I would cuddle up on the sofa and read while my husband cooked. Tell The Time with Winnie the Pooh was a favourite. We still have that book, carefully looked after. I racked my brains to think of something I could do from home but ideas eluded me, at least those that were in any way sensible. Then, when my son was a few months old, a family tragedy occurred. My step daughter-in-law died and left three children aged 11, 9 and 2. The children were farmed out to various family members and it got me thinking about the different turns life takes and what alternatives there might have been. From this small kernel a series of books – The Pony Chronicles - was born. For a while I scribbled on the train and produced a book which, frankly, wasn’t that good. It was far too short and galloped through itself at a rate of knots. I needed to slow down and put some meat on the bones. I read through carefully and first of all noticed that there was very little descriptive narrative. I could see the characters and the scenes so clearly in my mind that I had assumed the reader could see them too. I’m not a fan of reading pages of description so I was careful to add it in carefully and make it flow with the general plot so that it read naturally. Then I realised that Jackie went from one “adventure” to another without any space for the mundanities of eating, going to school or other activities so I went back over it again. Gradually the book took shape and became much more readable. I have recently gone back to it again to do some re-writing. I did say I was never going to read it again at one point, but that seems to have gone by the board!

Jackie’s Pony Secret features 11 year old Jackie who is sent to live with her Grandfather and his second wife on a farm in Devon. It’s a huge change for a girl who had been brought up in South East London, and I have tried to combine contemporary social issues, instruction on horse-riding and stable management, and also incorporate an element of adventure.

I looked into various options for getting Jackie published and readied it to send off to a publisher. I struck lucky on my first attempt. The publisher liked the way I wrote. However she was worried that the books might be similar to a line they were already running, and she wanted to see the second in the series. I got down to writing immediately. Sadly, it took a long time. The death of both my parents and a move to a different part of the UK stalled the process. By the time I had finished the second book – Ponies at Penstorran - and sent it off to the publishers the lady who was interested had moved on and her successor sent me the standard rejection letter. In retrospect I should probably have included the letter from her predecessor, but we live and learn.

I tried several other publishers. I had some rejections but also some minor successes. Some were quite rude – a one line email saying “not for us”, for example. One wrote that she loved the book but didn’t feel strongly enough about it to do it justice and I should look for a more specialised publisher. I put the book away in a drawer for a couple of years.

It is worth mentioning that during this period I stayed firmly away from reading any kind of pony book. I have a horror of inadvertently absorbing someone else’s idea and regurgitating it at some time in the future. I still don’t read books that are similar to mine for this reason. However, I have now gone back to reading pony books and have rediscovered the joys of Ruby Ferguson, the Pullein-Thompson sisters and Mary Gervaise. I have also discovered quite a few excellent indie authors and have enjoyed their books. It’s a mystery to me why these people haven’t been picked up by publishers.

Months, even several years passed, before I decided to go on with my project and started sending Jackie out again. Writing a book is certainly not a five minute project. Like raising a child, it takes patience, understanding and rethinking things. Situations and times change and Jackie was first written in the late 1990s – a time when most people did not have home PCs and mobile phones were almost unheard of.

The first publisher I sent it to expressed interest. I waited and waited but nothing happened. More than a year went by and still nothing happened. I am not the sort of person who pesters other people and my occasional emails were met with the answer that it was still in the pipeline. Eventually I got fed up and rang them. It turned out nothing was going to be imminent, probably for a couple of years!

Around that time Kindle raised its head above the parapet. I decided to go along the self-publishing route for several reasons. I was impatient to get my baby ‘out there’. I was getting older and was beginning to feel that if my books were ever published, it would be posthumously. I also wanted to test the water and see if my books had legs, rather than relying on friends to say that they were good – you only have to watch Britain’s Got Talent to see where that leads! Early signs were encouraging but a lot of people were asking when the book would be out in physical form – they neither had nor wanted an e-reader and I started to think about publishing the book as a paperback. 

For a long while I put it off. ISBN numbers are a major outlay for me, for a start. They can generally only be bought in batches of 10 and cost over £100. There are other ways, such as going through a vanity publisher, to get an ISBN number but after some research I decided this avenue was not for me. I have a number of books - written and in the planning stage - so it would have made financial sense to buy my own. The printing was another cost, but I am lucky enough to know someone who has published a book and he pointed me in the direction of a printer who was not only reasonable but very helpful. Another cost that normally has to be taken into account is the book cover design. Websites recommend you put aside £350 for this alone. Again, I am lucky enough to be married to an artist (whether he considers it lucky or not I’m not too sure) and he is happy to do my covers for me. I did have some good ideas for marketing – having been in marketing at one time - and thought I could probably manage to sell my book.

Fortunately, someone talked sense into me. I have two jobs, I am a volunteer for my local Cats Protection branch, I am a registered chaperone for children in entertainment for my local council, I am trying to help my husband with his prospective business and also get my son set on his career path. Most weekends are spent doing mundane jobs around the house. I fall into bed, exhausted, every evening, and I barely have time to write. How on earth did I think I was going to have time to market the books? I also suffer from chronic depression and generalised anxiety disorder. There are days I just can’t function and, if you are trying to run a business that will inevitably involve having a thick skin and knocking on doors, it isn’t a winning formula.

So now I am back to having a major re-think. I’m re-writing my first book, Jackie’s Pony Secret, as I was never happy with the beginning. It is certainly very true to what happened when my stepdaughter-in-law died, but it is rather dreary reading. Curiously, I am also writing an adult book. It didn’t start out that way. My husband has often said I should try writing an adult book as the children’s book market is notoriously hard to crack. I used to tell him that my mind just doesn’t work that way. I have enough trouble understanding why people do what they do anyway, never mind writing a story with a plot and a good beginning and ending. Somehow, though, it is happening. What started off as a stand-alone children’s book took a mysterious turn and wandered off on its own, which does tend to happen when I write! The Horses of Streatham Hill focuses on 18 year old Nick and is set in the 1970s. It follows Nick’s journey from cramped tenement to dealer’s yard to becoming a professional rider. It isn’t a traditional pony story, although there are horses in it. It is more a ‘coming of age’ book (if that isn’t too hackneyed a phrase). I must say I am enjoying writing it and hope it will be finished by early Spring.

I still have hopes that I can make a moderate amount of money from writing – at least enough to work part time and devote more time to my writing and to my son. It hasn’t happened yet, but who knows?

Self publishing has, for me, been a rewarding experience. It has given me the confidence that my books are worthy of notice and that I am right to continue. Certainly I have met some nasty people, who were scathing about my work and told me I would get nowhere. I am a bit of a sensitive bunny and don’t deal very well with this sort of thing. On the plus side I have met some lovely people whose help has been invaluable. They have held my hand and pulled me back up during my black dog moments. They have swept up the pieces and put them back together. They have given me advice from the position of actual knowledge of the industry. They have also given me a well-aimed kick up the backside when I needed it. They know who they are. My little triumvirate family now has several shoots branching off from it – each one labelled ‘friends’. Thank you.

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