Tag Archives: judith tarr

The Incredible Judith Tarr

It is my honor—and I mean that truly—to host author Judith Tarr today.

I first read Tarr’s work in the 1990’s, and continue to be swept up in her stories the moment I read the first page. Her novels encompass the fantastical and historical traditions fantasy readers yearn for, and entwines them with characters who are vibrant, real, flawed, and ever striving. Among my favorites of her works are the White Mare’s Daughter and Arrows of the Sun. Both open trilogies filled with marvelous things. The Washington Post said of her work, “Judith Tarr is as confident in describing the battlefields of war as she is in exploring the conflicts of love,” and I must say I agree completely!

So when it looked possible to include Tarr’s newest novel in the Weird Western bundle—and as a debut!—I was biting my fingernails until she said yes. This woman of sharp observation, honed craft, and polished wit tempered with wide life experience has offered you, my darlings, an opportunity to read Dragons in the Earth through StoryBundle before it’s available to anyone else.

And on top of all that, she agreed to answer a few questions for me!

Dragons in the Earth takes place in Tucson and surrounding areas. I’ve a love for the desert myself, and your respect for the land of your adopted home comes through in your work so strongly. You mentioned elsewhere your reasons for settling in the desert. What has surprised you about desert living? Is that a warning or an enticement?

As I’ve said elsewhere, I moved here for my health. What I didn’t expect was for it to be as livable as it is. “It’s a Dry Heat” is true. I can’t handle humid heat at all, but here, while it’s challenging (and I have to be out in a lot, with the horses), it’s amazingly tolerable. It does not hurt, either, that we build for it, design for it, and plan for it. We make the most of what cool we can find or manufacture.

The other surprising thing, from the being outside all the time standpoint, is that while the desert is notoriously full of snakes, scorpions, and attack cacti, swarms of biting insects are remarkably rare. I can be outside at night without getting eaten alive, and horseback riding in warm weather doesn’t require six layers of Kevlar and a quart of fly spray per horse. We do get barn flies around the summer rains, and mosquitoes if there’s standing water, but it’s nothing like what I dealt with every spring and summer in New England.

 I moved from Indiana to the foothills of eastern Colorado, so I completely understand the joy of (mostly) insect-free outdoor enjoyment!

Now, I’m a dog person. A dog person who adopts rescue pups and helps others understand their adopted dogs who have “a past.” What I’ve loved about reading your accounts of working with horses, on your blog and through Patreon, is comparing your explanations of equine communication to canine communication. Can you share a little bit about communicating with horses—the nonverbal exchanges, the predator-prey alignments, the differences between mares and stallions—and the depth you chose to include in your novel.

Now this could be a book.

And it is! Right here, folks can find Writing Horses—your fantastic guide to including horses in a novel without triggering horse-knowledgeable folks to throw said novel against the wall. Or across the stall.

Or a library!

As briefly as I can put it, horses communicate through movement, through body language and through what can be best be described as manipulating energy. They’re extremely subtle, and extremely complex in their interactions. Humans are at a severe disadvantage here; we’re focused in our heads, we’re loud, we’re clumsy, we lack nuance. Horses are extremely patient with us, but it’s a rare horse who doesn’t eventually just give up and stop trying if it’s constantly exposed to oblivious human body-screamers. That’s the checked-out barn potato but also the crazy spookmonster who freaks out about everything.

If a human tries to communicate with a horse on the horse’s own level, even if the effort is at best a clumsy approximation of what a horse would do, the horse tries very very hard to accommodate. That’s especially true of sensitive horses, and horses raised with the expectation that the humans will try to pay attention.

Then things happen. Like you’re longeing your horse on a 20-foot line, and not saying a word. “Riding” him from that far away. Moving him, changing his gaits, with tiny shifts of your own weight and attitude. Or you’re standing with your horse and you’re breathing with her and she started off anxious about something outside, but now she’s breathing slow and deep along with you, and the anxiety is gone. And stays gone as long as you keep that focus.

Magic.

Mares and stallions? Ah, the myths. Most basically, stallions aren’t the wild hormonal maniacs they’re made out to be. They’re strongly controlled by their instincts, yes, but it’s the mares who control them. Which means human women get along great with stallions. Better than men. A man can be a rival, but a woman is the alpha mare, and he’s wired to defer to her.

Just recently I was going to ride my stallion, but one of my mares wanted the session. As I led him past her, he went nutty. She was driving him off his tiny head with her targeted mareness. I seriously could not get him to focus–and he’s well trained, very smart and wise, and bonded to me. She manipulated him right out of the session. So she got the ride, and he calmed down the minute he was back in his stall with his pile of hay.

And these aren’t even ancient Powers hiding on a ranch outside of Tucson.

Well. Maybe that’s not actually true.

Dragons in the Earth puts together a bunch of elements we often associate with isolation and solitude—a desert setting, caretaking, spiritual and magical undercurrents. What choices and opportunities do you find this provides your characters and their developments?

It lets the characters be very much a part of the landscape and the climate and the overall spirit of the place. At the same time, since that isolation happens just a few miles outside of a city of half a million humans, on land that’s been occupied continually for millennia, there’s the option of entering the urban energy sink and using that to power certain aspects of the magic. Which I will be contemplating for the sequels, because Tucson Magic is a real thing, and it’s urban as well as desert and wilderness.

That’s the thing about the city, in fact. Twenty minutes outside of a heavily populated area is desert or mountain or forest. There’s real wilderness out there. Mountain lions and bears. Bighorn sheep. Saguaro forests. Then you turn around and drive down and you’re in the mall or the University or the barrio.

And even there, you’ll find tiny enclaves: houses with a pipe pen and a couple of horses in back, a garden that’s been there since the Spanish Colonial days, an old sacred hill that looks down on the inner city. There are thousand-year-old pit houses in the middle of the city, or at highway interchanges. And cutting-edge aerospace and biotech, and the airplane graveyard out by the air base.

The stories write themselves.

Would you share your most memorable desert experience?  Your most memorable equine connection?  Either or both?

Oh gosh. There are so many. The mare manipulating the stallion with her hormones–that was a couple of weeks ago. She does things like that all the time. So do the rest of the horses.

For pure desert experience, one of my favorites was a couple of years ago. A writer friend was in town researching a book, and we went down to the Presidio and poked around the remnants of colonial Tucson. From there we headed to Saguaro National Park West, and back in time: we climbed Signal Hill to see the petroglyphs. It was the summer Solstice, 109 degrees F, and we were up on the edge of the sky, where the old ones left messages for the gods and each other. That was a very Tucson day.

What’s coming up next for you, and how can folks who love Dragons in the Earth be informed?

I’m working on a sequel to my space opera, Forgotten Suns, and also on the next Tucson Magic/Horses of the Moon story. I talk about these things intermittently on facebook (with much horse and farm detail), and more often on twitter, where I’m @dancinghorse. Twitter is a good place to find me.

I also have a Patreon, where I post bits of horse and farm news and snippets of fiction. That’s here: https://www.patreon.com/dancinghorse

As a Patreon supporter myself, I can highly recommend it!

Thank you so very much for your time, Judy!

Judith Tarr’s current new release, Dragons in the Earth, is available exclusively through  StoryBundle until September 8!

If you’re ready for more, check out Dancing Horse Farms for information on Tarr’s writer mentoring, and her Horse Camp for Writers.

#SFWApro

 

 

Horse and Writer

Today, I want to share some info and opportunities from Judith Tarr — a fantastic writer, editor and mentor who does this other awesome thing.

Horse camp for writers.  With Lipizzans!

Darlings, this is really, really cool.  Had I the funds, I’d go in a heartbeat.  In fact, it’s one of those things I’ve been planning to do, and would have already scheduled had the Very Big Project not been delayed for months.  (And still pending…)

But times have been tough at Dancing Horse Farms.  I’ve been in that position — when one thing after another chips away at savings, at time, at the ability to get back on top.  The consequences of the temporary setbacks could result in permanent loss.

It doesn’t need to be that way!

Judy is offering a sale on her editing and mentoring services.  She is witty and sharp, award-winning, extensively experienced in multiple publishing paths, and heartily supportive of writers who self-publish!

And she is offering discounts on horse camps!  You don’t have to schedule anything right now, but making a deposit for the experience right now would go a long ways toward bridging the current funding gap.  If you don’t want to go or can’t go, sponsor or partially sponsor someone else!*

If you do sign up for the horse camp, I’ll drive down to Dancing Horse Farms myself and meet you, if you want.  We’ll all hang out, talk writers and writing and the writing business.  I’ll cook one of my writer-recipes of your choice, if Judy will let me in her kitchen. 🙂  Heck, I’ll throw in self-defense training fun for all!

We’re a community, we writers and readers.  How and when we extend helping hands in support of each other determines how strong of a community we build.

So go now and check out her post on the matter, which includes the possibility of sponsoring one of her magnificent horses, too.

Questions?  Please ask!  And pretty-please spread the word around.

 

 

*No, do not sponsor me.  That doesn’t seem right, since I’m the one making the suggestion. 🙂

 

#SFWApro

What Kurtz Taught A Teen

The fabulous writer and person Judith Tarr has been facilitating a read of Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni novels, first published in 1970s. Tarr also wrote this great post on her discovery of Kurtz’s work, and its impact on opening up her own writing directions.

Tarr just happened to choose the writer who had more influence on me, as a reader, than any other.

Kurtz boosted my writing as well in a couple remarkable ways—I’ll get to that in a little bit—but her stories did more for me as a young person growing up odd in a decidedly conformist environment, as an innately curious person being educated mostly by people who judged first the appropriateness of my questions.

Continue reading What Kurtz Taught A Teen

Not-Reviews and Links

100_2354On this snowy day, I’m taking a break from Sand of Bone revisions.  My darlings, I know the revision process has gone on far too long–so long that it feels quite irresponsible to take a break of any sort.  But, well… Here we are.

I’ve been reading and muchly enjoying Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker trilogy.  I could go on and on about how much I enjoy the characters and their interactions, or how tickled I am to see the insides of a revolution amidst a realistically convoluted world.  But one of the other things Elliott has done beautifully is measure her characters against the immutability of core morality—but never confuses morality with affiliation.  With our own current political climate utterly polarized by affiliation, it’s refreshing to watch characters find their allies, question their choices, and make externally-conflicting-but-internally-consistent decisions that are adjusted based upon new information.  I haven’t finished the trilogy yet, and so look forward to reading the last third of the third that I find myself purposefully slowing my reading so I don’t reach the end so quickly.

Not too long ago, I finished Pen Pal by Francesca Forrest, recommend by Sherwood Smith.  This, too, deals with revolutions and revolutionaries.  One central character finds the strength she needs to endure and succeed by holding more and more tightly to narrowing set of goals.  The other central character finds her strength though asking tough questions and adjusting her goals and perspectives.  Neither is more right or wrong that the other.  The challenges the characters face, and the settings in which they face them, require wildly different approaches even though their goals are essentially the same.

Between those two novels, I’ve tried repeatedly to sink into Ancillary Justice.  It isn’t that I haven’t liked it—I’ve really been taken by the concepts, in fact—but I haven’t found it as compelling in terms of story.  I’ll likely return to it after I finish Elliott’s trilogy in the hope the story will catch me.

On the nonfiction side, I’ve been reading The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back.  It’s as long and detailed as an epic novel, and I’ve been very pleased with the data used to back up the claims and proposals, but is too much for me to read and process all in one fell swoop.  Even so, I’m repeatedly struck by how we continuously make programs and policies bigger and more complicated in an attempt to make life simpler and easier.  It’s essentially investing millions to teach people to do more with less, rather than investing thousands to ensure there is more to do more with.  Forex, when I was living on a thousand dollars a month, I didn’t need an expensive training program to help me land a new job.  I needed six hundred dollars for new tires so I could drive to the job I was already trained to do.  Alas, I qualified for a training program, but there wasn’t even a “buy new tires” program to which I could apply.

Next up on nonfiction is How Can You Defend Those People? recommended by Nancy Jane Moore over at Book View Cafe.  The work of criminal defense attorneys fascinates me.  (In fact, when I looked into law school, it was with the goal of working as a defense attorney.)

And now, for a few links:

Hackschooling Makes Me Happy is a TEDx talk from teenager Logan LaPlante.  I love what this kid is saying, and adore the “structure” of his education.  If I had to do it all over again, I’d have homeschooled more fully along those lines.  Really, it wasn’t until this year that I completely let go of the curriculum-driven mindset.  Would that I had dumped it two years ago!

Fit and Feminist on the neurosis that has permeated The Biggest Loser.  I can’t tell you how many folks I’ve seen who are so obsessed with the notion of “healthy weight” that they’re driving themselves into illness to get it.  An extra ten or twenty pounds is not nearly as unhealthy for a person as a sedentary life or a diet devoid of essential nutrients.  And people look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that, if they eat stuff like “healthy” granola and yogurts, they might as well chow down on a candy bar.

Over at Books by Women is an article on coming to writing with a theater background.  I love and can relate to her discussion of using the tools of compelling theater to write compelling fiction.  There is cool stuff there that made me think more about how I use my own theater background.

Lastly, there is The Destructive Power of Publishing.  I’ve never been one to completely and utterly dismiss all that Big House publishing is and can be, but I think I’ve made it clear why Big House publishing is not for me.  For more on that, check out Judith Tarr’s series on Escaping Stockholm.  This article speaks to those reasons.

I like getting my validation directly from readers.  Every sale is an acceptance letter!

Judith Tarr on Escaping Stockholm

Novelist and equine expert Judith Tarr has had quite enough of seeing writers pushed and manipulated by publishers.  The first segment of her series “Escaping Stockholm” is here.  At the end of that post is a link to Part Two, and Part Three should be available May 30.

I never broke into trade publishing with a novel (just a couple short stories), but first met and befriended published novelists over twenty years ago.  I’ve watched and listened to their experiences.  Some years ago, I decided I didn’t want to work under the constraints and conceits of traditional publishing because what such work would require wasn’t the sort of thing I wanted in my life.*  What Tarr is discussing–the treatment of authors on all levels of what should be a professional relationship–highlight many of the reasons I chose to self-publish.

And if you haven’t read Tarr’s work, you are missing some really cool stuff.  You can check out her offerings through Book View Café and Amazon.

 

*I consider it unreasonable to give an editor one, two, or more years of exclusivity to make a decision about my work.  I get that traditional publishing has many reasons for wanting both exclusivity and open-ended time to decide.  That doesn’t mean I find those reasons acceptable.  Some writers will call me arrogant for refusing a single person exclusive rights to hold what I’ve created–without given either a decision or compensation–for as long as that single person wishes.  Most non-writers would call me crazy for agreeing to such a thing.