A Heart Surrendered by Joy K. Massenburge is so much more than a romance. Sharonda Peterson’s life doesn’t belong to her. Her life belongs to her mother, her father, her church, and soon it will belong to Brice, an up and coming pastor candidate whose real reason for choosing Sharonda is he wants boy babies and someone he can control. By the end of the first chapter, I was fully immersed into Sharonda’s miserable life. As the story moves forward, we learn her mother, a mentally unstable pastor’s wife, is the one who’s really in control through her vicious tongue, temper tantrums, and demands.  The motherRead More →

A Sweet Small-Town Romance Erin Dearborn finds her solitude and creative expression weaving beautiful baskets from natural material. It’s a hobby she keeps for herself and the people closest to her. Her confidence and self esteem have been destroyed by an abusive husband who took out his inadequacies on his wife. When Erin meets Kent Ritter, an ex-serviceman rancher who wants solitude in order to keep his own emotional wounds safely hidden, she and her little daughter begin to work their way into his heart. The fact that Erin’s new home is a maintenance nightmare provides Kent with the incentive to help a neighbor. ErinRead More →

My first experience with wild horses came more than 20 years ago in Arizona when I worked with a horse whisperer who caught wild horses off the Hopi reservation. Steve Harris also trained BLM mustangs, both fresh and spoiled, and difficult domestic horses. Cowboy Steve Steve was a working cowboy for 25 years on ranches in Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, and Washington. By the time I met him he’d become a horse whisperer with a program for training wild horses. Along with the program came the design for Port-a-Flex Safety Round Pen. Round Pen A round pen is a small corral, usually 50 feet in diameter.Read More →

Christmas Tree BarbaraEllinFox.com

December first naturally brings with it the guilt that I have yet to decorate our Christmas tree. Decorating the tree produces a little bit of stress. There are two people in my family who embrace decorating the tree, and I’m one of them. The other? Well, the year she was in England during Christmas, I decorated a smaller tree with sad faces in commemoration of her absence.  Actually I’ve yet to buy a tree this year. I developed my  expertise with artificial trees during a stint working for a year round Christmas store in Denver. After nearly thirty years of sticking those little color coded branchesRead More →

heroes BarbaraEllinFox.com

A recent afternoon at a rodeo planted Willie Nelson’s song “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” firmly in my brain. Early Cowboys Growing up glued to the T.V. watching Roy Rogers, My Friend Flicka, and Fury, along with every western that came out of Hollywood, I was sold on cowboy heroes from an early age. But thanks to Walt Disney, Mr. Ed, and various horse whisperers—rodeo? Not so much. Rodeo Cowboys I routinely stayed away from the violence of rodeo, until the parent of one of my children’s friends convinced me to give it a try as a spectator. She said I’d love the harmlessRead More →

Who doesn’t love to read a new Christmas story? I look forward all year for the Christmas Read season to begin. And I love Christmas With the Cowboy, Tina Radcliffe’s latest edition to the Big Heart Ranch series. This story is like one big family reunion and so much fun. A cowboy Scrooge is in for an awakening  when Emma and Zach meet. I love that Zach and Emma are not living in denial to themselves. They may not have a clue about how the other feels and they sure aren’t letting their own cat out of the bag, but at least they can identifyRead More →

reckless BarbaraEllinFox.com

God’s reckless love carried me through my first ACFW conference in Nashville. Not only did He open all the financial doors for me to attend, He assured me this was the year I should treat my writing as a business. God Does Things in His Own Time There are days I feel as if I’ll never move forward on my path with God. And once in a while I question whether I’d missed a path switchback. Then suddenly God begins to move, and it’s a breathtaking ride to keep up. It’s happened before, and in the slow, seemingly never ending times I try to remindRead More →

size BarbaraEllinFox.com

Knowing how to talk about the size of a horse might seem like a mundane topic but a writer should know certain trigger words because their incorrect use is a dead giveaway to horse lovers. Where to measure Horses are measured from the withers to the ground by hands. The red line in my parts of the horse chart depicts this line. A hand is a unit of four inches that stems from when men measured horses according to the width of a man’s hand, rather than a measuring tape. Today, a “stick” that has a level is used for official measurement. When is Height Important?Read More →


Mary Vee had a helpful post on pitching your story this week, and one of her suggestions was to pitch to the family pet, so I asked Reno to help me practice.  Practicing a pitch should be a cinch for someone who has taught riding as long as I have. At least that’s what I assumed. But whoa there. This is not easy. An Easy Start We started yesterday. Reno ate hay, and I groomed him. He committed to a full three weeks of daily practice after I promised a treat for each session. Today he got a carrot. So Reno has the cushy job,Read More →

Terminology BarbaraEllinFox.com

Recently I did a presentation called “Horses for Writers” for  my local ACFW chapter.  As I prepared, I was amazed at the amount of basic  equestrian terminology require for historical fiction. Horses were used for everything and a life without an equine meant less progress, less food, less travel, and more work. Writers of contemporary fiction need to know our hooved friends as well, because horses are no longer work vehicles but companions and buddies. And Here’s Why The 2017 American Horse Council’s Economic Impact study tells us that 38,000,000, or 30.5%, of all U.S. households contain a horse enthusiast. Having a lifetime career withRead More →

riding BarbaraEllinFox.com

In 1969, before there were certifications for riding instructors, I graduated from a riding program in Maryland, certified to teach riding and train horses. The program was tough, backed by the Maryland Department of Education and the British Horse Society. In my class were students taking their final exam for fifth and sixth times. People didn’t pass on the first try. Fully Unprepared The program, Potomac Horse Center, was my first time away from home alone. And in my ignorance I signed on for a program based on eventing. Eventing is a riding sport that involves three different activities including galloping and jumping cross country.Read More →

organic BarbaraEllinFox.com

Organic Writing Organic writing is described as ‘seat of the pants’ writing where story falls out of the pen possibly leading down the dark halls of no return.  Adversaries claim the writer dives in and searches for story structure as they go. This opposes advocates of story structure, or architecture, for which the writer develops a story outline, then fills in with the words. Proponents believe this method provides a crisp clean story and wastes less time. They may be right but it has absolutely nothing to do with an organic writing life. The Definition Organic- happening or developing in a natural and continuous processRead More →

Plans BarbaraEllinFox.com

I live by plans, whether it is the future with the horses, teaching riding, training, or writing. I have a plan for everything, my horses, my manuscripts, both fiction and non-fiction. Teaching Riding When teaching riding, I have a plan for the day’s lesson, but I also have a long range plan for each student. The same applies to training horses. There are the immediate issues to work through, but there are also the steps, parts of the plan necessary for developing a willingly cooperative riding partner. It takes years to develop a good rider. After a rider learns to control their own body theyRead More →

try BarbaraEllinFox.com

Horse whisperers learn to recognize and reward “try.” What is “Try” “Try” is the smallest, sometimes almost imperceptible, effort the horse makes to do what you ask. It may be as big as a change of direction or as small as a sigh, a twitch of an ear, a change of the eye, or a muscle relaxing in tail. It is the smallest most minuscule effort the animal makes. Sometimes it’s the best he can do, the most he can give. To Recognize “Try” You have to know the animal. By know, I mean you have to be able to recognize tension, resistance, fear, needRead More →

Time BarbaraEllinFox.com

Have you ever considered how addicting the hunger for time is? We cannot influence how much time we’re given, yet it’s one of our most precious gifts. The wealthiest person in the world cannot buy more of time, in terms of amount, than you or I can. How we use our time is up to the individual. Choice Choice is another gift. Each day we make hundreds, maybe thousands of choices. There’s a choice to make in every situation, whether it’s, ‘should I put cream in my coffee?’ or ‘should I take this job?’ Anyone who tells you they have no choice has bought intoRead More →

riding BarbaraEllinFox.com

When I was a kid and wanted to learn to ride, I spent hours practicing not just for a summer but year after year. I took lessons riding any horse available, went to summer camp, competed in horse shows, and read everything I could get my hands on. I practiced continuously. Then over the years I met incredible horsemen who taught me about different facets of horsemanship and the industry. I worked hard at my craft of teaching riding and training horses. It makes me smile when I think how much the horse industry is like the writing industry. Use it or Lose it  RidingRead More →


I just finished book two in Terri Blackstock’s most recent If I Run series. I reread the first book titled If I Run, so I’d be up to speed for If I’m Found.   I’ve read several other series by Terri Blackstock and have felt my time was well spent on each one. I like her clear, get to the point and get right into the action style. She’s a master at tension, even when you know who the culprit is, and she has great plot twists. Her books are clean and they carry a message. And she keeps getting better.  A Problem That is a problemRead More →

Horse Whisperer BarbaraEllinFox.com

What’s in a Name? I’ve mentioned in my post Horse Whisperer, What Does it Mean? the label horse whisperer was glamorized by the 1998 movie based on a book by Nicholas Sparks. But my research showed that Sparks’ depiction of horse whisperer had flaws. There are a lot of labels that dance around this type of horse training but it’s difficult to define something that doesn’t have a definitive name. Each label contributes to the definition, only the problem is that the crux of this method is an esoteric gift.  The label natural horseman or natural horsemanship was made popular by Pat and Linda Parelli, andRead More →

Independence BarbaraEllinFox.com

I spent the day working with my Pinterest boards in preparation for writing a post about how I use this media for writing. While I waited for my computer to reboot (more than once) I also finished reading A Cry for Independence written by Joy K. Massenburge. Now you all know that writing book reviews is not a favorite activity of mine and I may have mentioned I only write reviews on books that I can give 5 stars. A Cry for Independence is a special story and today it upstages Pinterest. I met Joy online several years ago through the Scribes critique group withRead More →

Tina BarbaraEllinFox.com

If you like horses and cowboys (and cowgirls) you’ll enjoy Tina Radcliffe’s new book, Falling for the Cowgirl. But cowgirls and horses are not the only attractive parts of the story. Falling for the Cowgirl, is book two in the Big Heart Ranch series. Big Heart Ranch is a home where disadvantaged kids can have an advantage. Who doesn’t enjoy heartwarming stories where kids are helped through their association with horses? Clueless Cowboys Make me Laugh We don’t meet many kids in this story but we do meet Travis who’s trying to make the ranch work in order to help kids. Travis makes me laughRead More →


While I am writing each day, a myriad of unresolved questions swarm my mind. Should I pursue traditional publishing? What about Indy? Should I continue to enter contests? How soon should I tell people about my stories? I have to tell you—there are a lot of questions. Another question is when should I tell my non-fiction readers about my fiction side? Once I invite people into my more casual mind-set, opinions could change. I’ve never been one of those people who eases the band-aide. I grab the edge and rip. Sometimes that’s good. Other times not so much. Writers are sensitive and ripping the bandageRead More →

Reno BarbaraElinFox.com

Reno is my BLM mustang who was captured by the government during the horrendous Calico round-up in Northern Nevada. In fact, his HMA (herd management area) Granite Range is the setting for my current work in progress. Over time I’ll tell you Reno’s whole story starting with his capture, but for now I’ll tell you about yesterday, because today yesterday is hard to forget. Mmm, Reno is a Little Chubby One thing Reno has difficulty with is saddle fit. He’s a large chested horse with a round back that is shorter than most horses.  Reno has a special gel infused saddle pad for his westernRead More →

real deal BarbaraEllinFox.com

In the 2007 movie “Wild Hogs” four middle aged suburban men take a motorcycle road trip to California on a search to find themselves. Along the way the four biker wannabes get into a mess of trouble when they run into the Del Fuego motorcycle gang whom they believe are the ‘real deal.’ The wannabes stand up to trouble and find the men they want to be. They also discover that the Del Fuegos are posers. Before the action starts we meet Paul, the owner of the local image bar where Doug, Woody, Dudley and Bobby hang out to fulfill their motorcycle fantasy. Paul isRead More →

morning BarbaraEllinFox.com

Morning in the barn is a favorite time for me. I love the sounds and the interaction with the animals. Hoping to find a way to share my blessings with you, I took photos and recorded sound this morning. If you’d like to listen to the birds while you read this post, just click on the sound bite. Where do they Sleep? Most of the horses spend their time outside unless the weather’s bad. Two usually come in at night—Reno my mustang, and Lewis. Reno has his own room for two reasons, and we’re alike in both cases. Reno is always dieting. He loves food,Read More →

love horses BarbaraEllinFox.com

 When did I first love horses? Not exactly a burning question for anyone other than myself, but every now and then, when I survey the Missouri farm and multiple horses in the pasture, I wonder—How did this happen? My Home I grew up on Long Island. That’s the skinny island that sort of looks like a fish with Montauk Point at one end and New York City at the other. Montauk Point is home to a lighthouse that was authorized by President George Washington in 1792. Long Island, or L.I., Is about 118 miles long and 23 miles wide and is currently home to more than 7,800,000Read More →

Capi BarbaraEllinFox.com

Capi is a 17.1 hand Percheron horse who weighs 1850 pounds.  That means he’s one inch taller at his withers (front part of his back) than I am at the top of my head, and he weighs more than eight times what NFL Quarterback Tom Brady weighs. I’m pretty sure this is the only time you’ll find me with Tom in a blog post. Capi is our first draft horse, and when he arrived at the farm his mass and height were intimidating. His hooves were almost as big as my head and his head was almost half as long as my body. The ideaRead More →

Desperation BarbaraEllinFox.com

Has desperation ever driven you to try something new? When you’re well educated in your field and you’ve been at your craft for a long time it’s easy to become skeptical of new methods. That’s the way I was about horse whisperers twenty-five plus years ago until a situation put me at a point of need. This particular situation requires remembering disappointment from the past, not a fun road to travel. God tells us in Is. 43: 19 & 20  “Remember Not the former things, nor consider things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceiveRead More →

Worst Fear BarbaraEllinFox.com

As writers we are told to discover or determine our character’s worst fear. Is she afraid of losing someone? Losing a job? Sickness? Losing her life? I had difficulty pinpointing just one worst fear for the protagonist in my first manuscript. Certainly she was fearful for her daughter’s safety but her daughter was only part of her life.  What deeply embedded fear motivated her? It wasn’t until I researched fear in riding students for The Riding Instructor blog that learned about root fears in an article by Karl Albrecht Ph.D.The (Only) 5 Fears We All Share. When I looked at Rylie with these five definitions,Read More →