book excerpt from What Hope Remembers, Catherine Castle's Wednesday Writers blog series, contemporary romance, horse riding story, Johnnie Alexander, Sweet romance, What Hope Remembers
Today I’m welcoming Johnnie Alexander to the Wednesday Writers blog. Johnnie going to talk a bit about writing what you know, a bit of life history which she used in her contemporary romance What Hope Remembers. Welcome, Johnnie.
Getting Back On—Long Years Later
When I was a young teen, I got thrown from a pony. And I mean tossed-in-the-air, fall-flat-on-my-back thrown.
A gracious onlooker said that it was the most graceful fall she’d ever seen. (That soothed my pride but not my aching muscles.)
A couple years later, I sat astride the family pony (which I seldom rode) in the pasture across from our house. I was content with a quiet walk, but he decided it’d be more fun to stay with the others in our group.
His saddle slid sideways.
I ended up on the hard ground.
You all know what they say about getting back on after falling off, right? I’ve heard that, too.
But instead of heeding that advice I never rode again.
Fast-forward a few, ahem, decades.
I’ve decided my newest contemporary romance needs a horse-riding hero. Come to find out, the heroine rode horses, too, when she was a young girl. Then her parents died in a fiery plane crash, and she quit the activity she loved most because her dad was no longer there to cheer her on.
A friend from church who is an avid rider and trains her own horse had given me tips on “horse lingo” for a historical novella I’d previously written so I turned to her again.
“I think I want to take riding lessons,” I said. “Just a few.”
“I know just the person to teach you,” she replied.
As it turned out, my first riding lesson was with my friend. I rode Chance, a glistening black beauty, while she held onto the lunge line. We rode in giant circles while I did my best to stay in the saddle. I enjoyed it though I was intimidated by Chance’s size. (Hey, I’m barely five feet tall.)
The following week, we went to the stables where I’d end up taking several lessons. On that first visit, the instructor asked my goals.
“I just want to be comfortable,” I said. “To do something I’m afraid of and not be afraid anymore.”
She told me about Gabby. “But she’s a pony. Most adults don’t want to ride ponies.”
“I’m not too proud,” I quickly said. “I’d love to ride Gabby.”
It turned out Gabby was the perfect choice. She was a tall pony—larger than the ponies you often see at carnivals or fairs for children to ride.
Over the next few weeks, I learned to keep my heels down, my back straight, to properly hold my reins, and even a tiny bit of dressage.
Then the holidays came and several weeks later, I moved away.
But I’ll never forget my riding lessons with Gabby, and how even that little bit of horsemanship added more realism to the scene where my heroine rides again for the first time in years. After all, I knew how much her behind would ache!
I hope to ride again sometime.
If I can find another tall pony as sweet and gentle as Gabby.
What Hope Remembers
By Johnnie Alexander
When Amy Somers loses her job as a lobbyist, she moves to Misty Willow, well aware that she’s crossing bridges she’d burned years before. With all the mistakes she’s made and the uncaring things she’s done–even to her own family–she can hardly believe that happiness will find her, especially when Gabe Kendall, her first crush and her first kiss, rides back into her life atop a buckskin mare.
A former Marine, Gabe is at loose ends after serving a prison sentence for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He sees beyond Amy’s hard exterior to the girl he once knew and loved, and he longs to see her open her heart. Yet with his vision clouded by shame for his past and fears about the future, he finds it difficult to see the path ahead.
But the memory of that long-ago kiss just may have the power to reignite a romance that brings out the best in both of them.
The June sun beat on Gabe Kendall’s bare head and tapped into his childhood memories of the horse farm. He leaned his arms on the weathered fence and let his mind bask in the remembrance of long summer days under tranquil blue skies.
The pastures, lush and green. The paddock with its packed dirt circuit. The stables, once alive with the soft snuffles of contented horses and the familiar smells of oiled leather, fresh hay, and honest sweat.
Except for the glow of memory, nothing was the same.
The horse barn, the machine shed, even the nearby house were smaller than he remembered. Perhaps a consequence of seeing his uncle’s place for the first time with grown-up eyes. Or maybe his imagination had tricked him into thinking everything about the place was bigger. God knew he’d experienced too many nights when the only way he could lull himself to sleep was to conjure up happier times.
That long-ago summer, the summer after Mom’s last illness, he’d cut hay, filled the silo with the yellow kernels of newly harvested corn, and ridden horseback every chance he got. When the chores were done, he dozed beneath the old sycamore back by the pond. And he prayed for a return to before. The same prayer he wanted to pray now.
Not that it would do any good.
Praying wouldn’t erase the cracked paint on the fence and the buildings, the clumps of weeds overtaking the grass. Wouldn’t transform the land into the paradise he remembered. Ugly facts taunted him with their staunch reality.
A forlorn air hung over the place, heavy with regret and heartache. But the silent emptiness wasn’t because of his adult perspective or the glow of childhood memory.
Whisper Lane Stables might be a thriving business if Rusty were still alive. Except then he’d know how low Gabe had fallen…
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About the Author:
Johnnie Alexander is a wannabe vagabond with a heart for making memories. While relaxing on her Sunshine State patio with her dogs Rugby and Griff, she writes stories that tug at your heartstrings. She has won the prestigious American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis Contest (Historical) and received several conference awards. Johnnie is marketing director for the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference and past president of both the ACFW Memphis and ACFW Central Florida chapters.
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