Eight Away · Pony Jumpers series · Sneak peek

Eight Away: Sneak Peek!

8A

Phew! It’s just past midnight on the second to last day of July (which I guess technically means it’s now the last day of July) and I’ve just finished final edits on PONY JUMPERS #8: EIGHT AWAY!

I’ve got a bit of work to do tomorrow to get the preview chapter of the next book sorted, and then EIGHT AWAY will be ready to release. But before then, here’s a sneak preview from Chapter 10:


The ponies strolled up the road, even Squib’s walk having slowed slightly after several hours of work. The dogs jogged ahead of us, lying down occasionally to wait for us to catch up, then trotting on. The sun baked down, making Susannah complain that she’d forgotten her sunblock and was going to be burned to a crisp in the morning. Katy took her helmet off and shook out her sweaty hair until Misty shied at a pothole and she hastily put it back on. AJ sat sideways in her saddle, one leg hooked over the pommel and her stirrups dangling against Squib’s round sides as she chatted to us behind her. The road stretched out ahead of us, shimmering in the hot afternoon sun, and I leaned forward and wrapped my arms around Rory’s neck, my cheek pressed against her sweat-encrusted coat.

“You’re the best,” I told her, and she bobbed her head agreeably. We were both tired, and I closed my eyes and let her smooth, relaxed stride lull me as we walked on and on down the road.

“Are you asleep?”

“Yes,” I told Susannah, then winced as her metal stirrup collided with my ankle yet again when Forbes shot sideways into Rory. My patient pony swished her tail and pulled a face at Forbes, but he was distracted by the monstrous irrigators in the crop paddocks across the road, which had just turned on. I tilted my wrist and checked the time – it was later than I thought.

“We should get a move on,” I told the others, stretching my back muscles as I sat up. I was out of shape as well, but I wasn’t going to admit it. “Anyone’s pony got energy left for cantering?”

It was a rhetorical question, really. Squib and Misty were dead set on racing all the way home, Forbes was desperate to escape from the ticking irrigators, and even Rory picked up the pace when she thought she was being left behind. We let the ponies canter down the side of the road, jumping back and forth across the drainage ditches to amuse ourselves as we went. And I finally, finally felt comfortable in the saddle again.

Eventually we eased to a trot, and then back to a walk, patting our blowing ponies.

“Squib’s going to sleep well tonight,” AJ declared, clapping his neck. “We need to do this again sometime.” Her eyes lit up as she turned towards me. “Can we camp out overnight?”

Susannah looked startled, but Katy was immediately keen. “Yes! After Horse of the Year. Let’s do it. Ride all day and sleep out under the stars – it’ll be perfect!”

I nodded slowly, thinking. “Yeah, we could do that. If we rode the fences right out to the south boundary it’d take us most of the day, and we could camp there. There’s an old dairy shed in one of those back paddocks that we could sleep in if we needed shelter.”

AJ scoffed. “No way. No tents either, we’ve gotta build a campfire and hunt and gather our food…”

She rambled on as Susannah looked increasingly alarmed by her propositions.

“If you want to go full Paleo, you go right ahead,” I told AJ. “But I’m bringing food, and a gas stove, and possibly a tent. We could always drive out there the day before and leave our gear, so we wouldn’t have to carry much with us.”

“That sounds like heaven. I’m so in,” AJ said. “What about it, Susannah? You game?”

She nodded, though she looked a bit hesitant. “Sure, why not? Although I might bring Skip next time, if Dad will let me,” she decided as Forbes took exception to Thor crossing the road in front of him and shied into Rory for what must’ve been the tenth time at least.

“Oof, sorry Tess! Honestly, Forbes, would you get a grip?”

“It’s okay. And you can always borrow Misty,” I offered, laughing at the expression on her face. “Or we’ve got a few farm hacks that are pretty solid, but I can’t promise you’ll get the smoothest ride.”

“She’ll be fine, she just needs to harden up,” Katy said dismissively. “And don’t think you can back out of it, Susannah Andrews. We’ll drag you here kicking and screaming if we have to.”

AJ turned in her saddle and grinned at us. “Isn’t friendship great?”

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Pony Jumpers series · Six to Ride · Thoughts

First world problems

First world problems banner

Just a quick blog post to share this message I received on Facebook during the week:

Just was thinking about why I liked your books so much and I realised it was the ‘real life’ issues which are rarely mentioned in other books. In book 6 with Katy in it I think, the part about world crisis and how you can often feel that you are overloaded and just don’t care anymore, I could really relate to that.

So for anyone who hasn’t read book 6 (SIX TO RIDE), here’s the conversation between 16 year old Katy and her neighbour Phil:

“Do you ever feel like it’s just too hard…to care? Like, when bad things happen around the world – suicide bombings and terrorist attacks and people getting beheaded and there being millions of people living in rat-infested refugee camps and it’s so awful and you feel so bad about it, but then you still have to get up every day and go to school and live your life, and your own problems seem so little and petty but then they’re also like, huge, because they’re the only problems that you’ve got. And then you get upset about stuff, and people are like um at least you’re not living in a rat-infested refugee camp and you know that’s true and you try to see that perspective but it’s so…exhausting,” I told him, my words tripping over each other as I tried to make him understand.

“Like it’s just too hard to care that much about everyone all at once, so you just ignore it as much as possible. Until something really bad happens, something terrible and cataclysmic, and everyone gets really worked up and it’s all over Facebook and there are hashtags and memes and everyone changes their DPs and you do it as well because if you don’t then it looks like you don’t care about other people’s plights, and then someone posts something about how the media is misinterpreting what’s going on or how you’ve only been shown the stuff they want you to see, and that hundreds and thousands more people are dying that you never even hear about. So then you feel shallow and you have to feel bad for those people too, for their problems and because they’re being ignored by the media, and it makes you mad that you’re being manipulated into caring more about some people than others, and you try and wrap your head around how it must feel for people to be in those kind of horrific situations, seeing their families get killed and not being able to go to school for fear of their lives, and you think how grateful you are for where you live and what you get to do in your life.

“But then your mum yells at you for not keeping your room clean, and teachers tell you off for not studying hard enough and it’s like sorry but I have the weight of the freaking world on my shoulders right now, except that I don’t. Not really. Because all those problems are other people’s problems, and my problems are whether I’ve done my homework and whether my room is clean and how my ponies are going and whether my dad just spent a stupid amount of money on a horse I can’t ride. I can’t do anything about whether someone decides to strap a bomb to themselves and kill innocent people. All I can do is write a hashtag and change my profile picture and feel guilty for having a better life than millions of people who are living in rat-infested refugee camps, and then I hate feeling so bad about something I can’t change and I can’t fix and it’s just so…it feels like such a burden, except it’s not, because look at everything we have, and how trivial our problems are…”

My words petered out at last, my tongue finally tying itself in so many knots that I had to stop. I wondered what Phil was thinking. Probably that I was crazy. I shouldn’t have said anything, should’ve quit while I was ahead, but it was too late now. My guts were officially spilled, and Phil still hadn’t spoken, so I sat up and looked at him, trying to gauge his reaction.

He didn’t meet my eyes. Instead, he was focused straight ahead, his expression tight and his jaw clenched. I thought he was mad, at first, until I realised that his eyes were shinier than usual. Was he…but boys don’t cry. It was the first thing that came into my head, and I shoved it away immediately. Of course they cry. Everyone cries. It’s perfectly normal, and healthy, and I was not going to judge him for it. But it made me uncomfortable. Not because he was a boy, but because crying people always do. I never know what to say to them, and my hugs always seem insincere, no matter how hard I try to make them feel comforting. I wanted to be AJ just then, because she would’ve known what to say and how to reassure him, or how to lighten the mood and stop him from crying, because I knew he didn’t want to be doing that in front of me. He was looking away now, trying very hard not to blink.

“You okay?”

He nodded, then raised a surreptitious hand to rub at his damp eyes. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be.” I leaned into his shoulder again, because it was all I could think of to do, and felt him lean back into me, reciprocating my touch. “Never thought anyone would be crying over my first world problems,” I teased, trying for some levity.

“Don’t say that.” Phil’s voice had changed, gone deeper, and I sat up again.

“What? Why not?”

He glared at me, that deep line reappearing between his eyebrows. “That first world problems crap. Because that’s part of the problem. It’s exactly what you’ve just been talking about. Everyone’s problems are their problems, and they still hurt, no matter how big or small they are. They still hurt. So saying your problems are not real problems because there are bigger problems in the world is so unhelpful. Everyone has things in life that suck, it’s just the scale of it that changes. Sometimes people can’t get out of bed in the morning because their arms and legs have been blown off. And sometimes people can’t get up because they just…can’t.”

Click here to read another sample from SIX TO RIDE, or buy it on Amazon.

First 8 covers 150dpi