I am so excited to be working with everyone here at Tule; the energy is contagious! I’ve been at this a few years now, and it’s great to work with such enthusiastic people. I also need to thank my friends Eve Gaddy and Kathy Garbera for allowing me into the fictional world they created; I’m a Texan by heart if not by geography, the Hill Country is my favorite place in Texas, and I’m enjoying playing there. And what’s not to love about a place called Whiskey River?
It’s also been great fun to return to the roots of my genre, and utilize a tiny bit of my personal history in my first Tule release, Whiskey River Rescue. (As you’ll find in the story, the rescue in the title applies in more than one way!) As is usual for me, the idea for my hero came first, so Crazy Joe Kilcoyne, as he’s known around Whiskey River, went into the pot. Being the dark, haunted character that he is, he of course needed a heroine who is. . .his exact opposite. Sunny, outgoing Kelsey Blaine fit the bill perfectly. With her soft heart and a life already dedicated to rescuing abused horses, she of course can’t leave well enough alone when her world is upended by her mysterious neighbor.
But that bit of personal history I mentioned. . . I’ve always been a horse lover. I was that little girl who never grew out of the childhood infatuation with these magnificent creatures. My first horse was a learning experience that landed me in a hospital ER; never again, I resolved, would I fall for a pretty face with a malfunctioning brain. (Hmm, sounds like a romantic suspense. . .) That horse was way beyond my competency level at that point. But my second, my sweet Sassafras, was ever willing, tolerated the fact that my only riding time was at the crack of dawn and sunset, and developed a highly amusing relationship with my dog at the time.
I also grew up in the San Fernando Valley of southern California, a place jokingly (yet not) known for its four seasons of fire, flood, drought, and earthquake. And I got to know that first one up close and personal one year when the roulette wheel of the fire season stopped on the foothill neighborhood where my horse was boarded. My first instinct, along with several other fellow boarders at our stable, was to go make sure she was all right. The only problem was that the fire department, quite reasonably, had all the roads blocked off. But we all knew the riding trails in the area, away from the main roads. (apologies to fire fighters who were probably scared to death by kids popping up on the wrong side of those lines)
Our stable, thankfully, was still standing; the tack room was scorched, along with a couple of corrals, but the fire had moved on. But others in the area were not so lucky, and not only were their houses and stables burning, they weren’t being allowed in to rescue their animals. Some, on the other hand, were already inside the lines. . .
And so began what we later called the round up, through the streets of this spacious but definitely suburban neighborhood, where those who could get to the endangered horses did it for those who could not. Someone yelled out the plan, the closest safe place big enough and safely fenced. Those who could got to trailers waiting outside the fire lines. Of the rest, those who could trust their own horses enough rode herd on the frightened animals, while those whose own horses were too frightened or had already been rescued led others away from the smoke, chaos, and flying ash and embers. The air was barely breathable, but at least the humans knew what was going on; our horses only knew they were terrified.
It wasn’t pretty, or neat, and not all were gathered—a few were found loose in the streets at daylight—but hours later, the local high school had acquired a sizeable herd of horses on the football field. It was quite a sight.
So that’s my bit of personal history, something I hadn’t thought about in quite a while, until the day I found myself writing a story about a horse lover named Kelsey Blaine who ends up rescuing more than horses, and changing her entire life in the process.
Author of more than 70 books, (she sold her first ten in less than two years) Justine Davis is a five time winner of the coveted RWA RITA Award, including for being inducted into the RWA Hall of Fame. A fifteen time nominee for RT Book Review awards, she has won four times, received three of their lifetime achievement awards, and had four titles on the magazine’s 200 Best of all Time list. Her books have appeared on national best seller lists, including USA Today. She has been featured on CNN, taught at several national and international conferences, and at the UCLA writer’s program.