Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Guest Author: Janet Dean

Helen here. I first met Janet many, many years ago at one of RWA's national conferences. I was standing in line waiting to get a book autographed by Susan Elizabeth Phillips when I started having one of my typical conference meltdown moments. Janet, a stranger at the time, turned around, hugged me, and the rest is history!

Back then, we were both unpublished. We both subsequently finalled in the Golden Heart and sold our first books, and I couldn't be happier to have Janet come and visit today as her first book hits the shelves.

My debut novel, Courting Miss Adelaide, Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical, is on the shelves. Naturally I’m flying high, though not as high as you gals tumbling out of the back of that convertible. ;-) It took nine years to sell a book, then two more to see Courting Miss Adelaide in print so I’m savoring the moment.

The kernel for Adelaide’s story came from a newspaper clipping my father sent me about the placing out of New York City’s immigrant children. It triggered my “what if” moment—what if a lonely spinster wanted a child and saw the “orphan train” as her last chance for motherhood? From that moment on, life for Adelaide changes forever.

I find the history behind the “orphan train” fascinating. Between the years of 1853 and 1929, more than 250,000 orphans or half orphans rode trains from New Your City to new homes in the Midwest and beyond. What an amazing adjustment for these immigrant children, and for the people who took them in!

We history lovers tend to glamorize the “good ole days.” I’ve learned it’s far easier to travel into the past sitting at my computer or reading a wonderful book, than facing the rigors of the trail or the restrictions 19th Century society placed on women. Countless men and women met the challenge of their times. Their courage so impresses me that I want to write books that keep their achievements alive in our hearts.

But that doesn’t mean I’d want to live back then. I value modern conveniences, the ease of communication and especially of travel. We’ve all experienced canceled flights or construction tie-ups, but compared to the day when horses were the chief mode of transportation, we’ve got it made. My heroine is afraid of horses. To be honest, I prefer viewing them from afar. Adelaide had her reasons and I have mine.

My close encounter with horses goes back to my Middle School years when a friend invited me to go for a ride one spring afternoon. This would be my first time in the saddle. My excitement was tempered by a mild sense of foreboding, but Black Beauty had been one of my favorite childhood books and I loved TV cowboys and their four-legged friends. This would be fun!

My friend, Sara started with the basics, showing me how to saddle a horse, and then stood back while I tried. Just getting that heavy contraption on the mare’s back proved challenging. When I tried to tighten the cinch, the horse puffed out her sides. Sara shoved the heel of her hand into the mare’s side and her belly shrank before my eyes. Who knew a horse could be so devious as to plot to dump me, saddle and all? My sense of adventure sagged, but I was no quitter.

Sara showed me how to mount, then added one final bit of advice, “Let the horse know who is boss.” I knew full well that the horse and I both understood who was in charge. And it wasn’t me. But I’d have rather eaten grasshoppers than admit that truth. We headed out. Did I mention my horse wasn’t crazy about this little outing? She kept trying to turn back, evidently eager to return to the barn on this sunny, blustery day. We’d only gone a few yards when she decided she’d had enough. She left the road, climbed the concrete steps set into a grassy bank and crossed the neighbor’s front yard, ignoring my efforts to rein her in. When I finally got the horse stopped, her head hung over a barbed wire fence and my friend was screaming like a maniac. Or perhaps that was me. What happened was, and still is, a blur.

Obviously shaken and scared for her horse, Sara suggested we trade mounts. Red-faced, I clambered aboard the larger second horse as Sara reminded me to show the animal who was boss. Perhaps my memory is faulty, but I think that mare flashed me a smile. Thankfully, we arrived at our destination, our girlfriend Sandy’s house, without further mishap. I should mention here that Sandy lived near a small rural airport. The three of us had a chat and some refreshments before heading back. I’d just settled into the saddle of the larger horse when a low flying plane zoomed toward the runway. The horse reared on its hind legs, exactly like in the movies, except I’m no stunt rider. By some miracle I hung on.

This maneuver would’ve looked great in a show ring but didn’t do much for Sara. She suggested we trade horses again. I figured after almost hanging herself in barbed wire, the mare would behave on the trip home. And she did. I actually enjoyed myself, feeling like a horsewoman at last. Not far from Sara’s house, a paper bag blew across the road. My horse took off like a shot—

In hindsight, I realize I’m quite the horsewoman to have kept my seat that day. Though I didn’t appreciate the mishaps at the time, the experience helped me write a scene in Courting Miss Adelaide.

Anyone care to share a riding story? Horse, llama, camel, I’d love to hear your escapades. Especially if they don’t make me feel I’m the only one failing in the equestrian department.


Janet is giving away an autographed copy of Courting Miss Adelaide to one lucky commentor, so stop by tomorrow and we'll post the winner.


Dina said...

Hi Janet,

I went to camp when I was younger and rodes horses, but that about it.

I think your book cover is beautiful.

lois greiman said...

Janet, thanks for riding with us...and talking about horses! My favorite subject in the world!! Unfortunately, I've had too many mishaps to list here, concussions, broken ribs, scars (literally) upon scars. My son had his ear ripped off by a horse. And...just yesterday my other son got into a scrape with one of our mares. She reared up and struck him in the chest with her hoof. Bruised his jaw, bloodied his chest, and shredded his shirt. Horses are fun, aren't they??

Looovvve your cover. Enjoy the crazy ride of publication. It might be scarier than bronc riding. :)

CrystalGB said...

Hi Janet. Good to see you here. When I was a child, my brother and I had ponies and we had a couple of mules that we rode too.
I love the cover of Courting Miss Adelaide.

ArkieRN said...

I rode a horse once when I was younger. Unfortunately, the horse saw no reason not to enjoy lunch despite the pesky person on her back so the experience consisted of sitting on a horse's back and watching her crop the clover.

Michele Hauf said...

Beautiful cover!

I'm leery of horses as well, because they're bigger than me, and I respect that. I did once go with my daughter on a Girl Scout expedition that involved riding horses. For some reason they decided I got to ride the very pregnant horse. She was not pleased to have me on her extremely wide back. Kept twisting her head back to nip at my feet. And I recall she was pretty feisty with her steps too. The ride probably only lasted fifteen minutes but I was so thankful to be off that horse!

D Twomey said...

I've been on a horse a few times. I think I've only ridden one by myself once though... when I was in high school. Had a friend whose father was a dairy farmer. She had a party at her house and let us ride her horse. I thought I was really hot stuff, being able to ride and control this huge animal and all. Truth is, it pretty much knew what it was doing without any help from me. It was great fun though!

Congratulations on your book! I'm guessing it makes all of the hard work worth it now....

Betina Krahn said...

Janet, I love your post! I, too, grew up on stories of Flicka and Black Beauty and loved horses from afar. Eventually got to ride some and realized I'm a horse jinx or something. Nearly every time I'm on a horse I get hurt. Maybe I'm just not the TAKE-CHARGE kind of rider that horses demand.

My friend Judy Duenow clued me in to some "horse psychology" and I'm better around them now. But I'll never be a real horsewoman. And that's fine by me. I'm a dog person, instead.

And in Minnesota there are still lots of stories about grandparents and great-grands who came west on the orphan trains. Every so often a big write-up appears in the paper and "survivors" tell their stories. It's amazing. And I've long thought that would be a great place for storytellers to mine for drama and romance. "Courting" sounds like a wonderful story! Congratulations!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Janet, welcome!

I love horses, and we own a few. When I met my hubby, lo, many moons ago, we had 2 major things in common--love of horses and books. On the horse front, he was a natural--the Indian cowboy of a romance lover's dreams. I had been taking riding lessons for years, but I had to fight my lack of coordination and fingure out mentally which muscles were required for this sport and how to be the boss of an 800 (?) lb creature whose instinct is to flee when frightened. My riding instructor once told me that the only thing keeping me in the game was my stubbornness. She also predicted that I would own my own horse one day.

Horses are glorious and amazing. Thanks for riding with us, even if all our horses are under the pink hood!

Helen Brenna said...

Hi Janet!!! So glad your book is finally out on the shelves. How exciting. Did you rush out to a store just to see it there?

I love looking at horses and petting the nice ones, but I know diddly about them. Wish I knew more. Someday. I wonder if horses are a part of every adolescent girls fantasies?

Marilyn Puett said...

I wrote this long post about my first horseback riding experience and Blogger ate it. Let's just say the horse had a mind of it's own and was improperly saddled and it was nearly disastrous. The DH told his horse to giddy-up and mine took off at a full gallop and I couldn't rein him in. Then the saddle began to slip. Fortunately the DH got to me and got the horse to stop. It was a long walk back to the the stable where I proceeded to give the manager a piece of my mind and ask for a refund.

The DH and I visited Egypt in 1980 and had the opportunity to ride camels out to the pyramids. They're nasty creatures and their owners aren't much better. A camel gets up hind legs first and you get tossed about in quite an undignified manner. Then my camel owner didn't want to tell my camel to get down until we paid him more money. It's too far to jump and I played the hysterical female card which got him to let me down. The DH complained to the tour company, which kept the return trip from having any problems. And by then I knew to lean waaaaaaaaaaaay back when that camel started standing up.

My sister and I are planning our "girl's trip" for this year and are talking about a few days at a dude ranch. It sounds like fun, horses and all.


P.S. Congrats on your first release!

Keri Ford said...

Beautiful cover.
I had horses in my younger days. Me and my sister and cousin often ran this 'track' of sorts that loop around grandma's house and everything. But then somebody put up and electrical fence and forgot to tell my horse. I saw it, he refused to listen to my worries since he knew our 'track'. Yep, we went right into it. Thanks goodness the darn thing was off because the top wire caught me across my neck and knocked me off backwards. But my shoe was hung in the sturrip and my horse then proceeded to drag me until I had gained enough sense to yell, Wow! Never forgot the look on my horse's face when he turned around and looked at me hanging upside-down. It was a very, "what are you doing there?" kind of look. like it was my fault!

Debra Dixon said...

Congratulations, Janet!

Sounds like a great book.

I totally feel for your horse escapade. I had a friend tell me to get on her dressage horse. It required a mounting block. The horse was so big and I'm so short that my legs just kind of stuck out. Getting them around and down to stirrups was a joke!

When my friend finally stopped laughing she told me to dismount and I got off on the wrong side. I didn't know there was a "wrong" side!!

Helen Brenna said...

OMG, Keri! It's only hilarious because no one got hurt.

Deb - quite a picture you paint there! LOL

Sean and Anna said...

I think I have some bizarre fear of large animals. I rode a few horses when I was a kid, but know I am tearfully afraid of them. My family went on a trip to NM and we stopped at a ranch museum- lots of cows and horses. We watched a cow being milked ad the entire time I just kept thinking, wow, this cow is giant! So now I fear horses, cows and anything bigger than me. I've added riding a horse to my life list so maybe I can get rid of the fear.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Dina,

Thanks for the compliment on my cover! I love that your butterly
moves its wings. How cool!


Janet Dean said...

Lois, after reading about all the mishaps you and your family have had with horses, I feel silly for mentioning my little ride! I imagine your son is sore today after tangling with the mare. Give him my best.

Publication is more like riding a roller coaster than a bronc. Lots of ups and downs and wild twists and turns, but no one dies. At least, I haven't heard if they have.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Crystalgb! So how was it to ride a mule? Are they as stubborn as we hear?

Glad you like the cover of Courting Miss Adelaide as much as I do. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Hi Arkiern, I'm beginning to see that all horses have minds of their own, not just the two I rode. I hope you didn't have to pay for the horse to take his lunch hour. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Michelle, sounds like pregnant horses have mood swings. Glad you still have your toes!


Janet Dean said...

Hi d twomey,

Horses must love a good party, too. :-)

Nothing worth having comes easy, but aren't those the things that mean the most?


Janet Dean said...

Hi Betrina, I was just in Minnesota at the American Christian Writers Conference. 126 authors signed at the Mall of America. What fun!!!

The number of orphan train riders has to be dwindling. It's wonderful to have their stories. If you're interested in learning more, visit


Janet Dean said...

Hi Kathleen! Thanks for the warm welcome!

We live near Amish country. I love to look at their horses, some sleek, some powerful, all beautiful, grazing in the pastures as I drive past. But I'm not tempted to get out of my air conditioned, comfortable car. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Hi Helen! I heard Courting Miss Adelaide was on the shelves before I actually saw a copy. But I didn't take long getting there. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Marilyn, I love your spirit!! Have fun at the Dude Ranch!


P.S. I doubt I can put your tip on riding a camel in a book, but you never know. Thanks!

Janet Dean said...

Keri, I didn't realize electric fences were so high. That could've been a disaster!

How fun that your horse had a bewildered expression on his face. Wish he could've described the look on yours. ;-)


Janet Dean said...

Hi Debra. I can just see you trying to reach the stirrups.

I remember my friend taught me there was a right and wrong side to mount and dismount. So what happened when you went off the wrong side? Did the horse give you a ticket or just a warning?


Janet Dean said...

Hi Sean and Anna, from some of the stories we're hearing today, maybe you should take riding a horse off your list. LOL

I don't like to fly. Trying to convince me how silly this is, friends point to statistics that more people die in car accidents than in plane crashes. What are they trying to do? Make me afraid to drive?


Keri Ford said...

Janet, I don't remember the fence being that tall, so I'm thinking his head went between the top wire and one under it, therefore sending the top wire to slid up my body and when it cut acorss my neck, that was the end of me for staying in the saddle.

I'm sure my look was a sort of 'what were you thinking? didn't you feel me trying to stop you?' But hey, in those days, I probably laughed, untangled him from the wires and hopped on to finish the race--you know the really important things.

Janet Dean said...

Keri, No whining for you. You'd make a great heroine in a book. :-)


catslady said...

Almost 40 yrs. ago we took a cruise and took a side trip while in Haiti - up a mountain to see the historical Citadel. Only way up was by horse which I really had never riden before. All went well until the trip down. We had just started when one of the guides (who wasn't speaking English) had me exchange horses with him. I thought there was something wrong with my horse but they were all laughing amongst themselves. Well my new horse fell!!!!! I just missed going over a cliff!!!! Luckily I just got a scrape under my arm but boy that stung for the rest of the trip. I haven't been on a cruise since lol.

Janet Dean said...

Catslady, oh, my! Nothing funny about that experience!!! I'd stay away from cruises, too! Or at least, the side trips.


flchen1 said...

Hi, Janet! How fun to "see" you here! I love to read about horses and riding, but to be honest, any riding experiences have been the strictly controlled "tourist" type--I've been horseback riding exactly once, last year, in Jamaica. It was one of those little touristy things where the guides led us on a short trail, then at the end, they led the horses into the water just off the beach. It was really fun, and I can see how if you ride more frequently, you get to enjoy getting to know the animal as well as enjoying the ride! I was thankful that I managed not to fall off :)

The only other animal I've been on was an elephant, when we were in Thailand. I was expecting at the time, and my son got to ride with his grandmother, but I was assigned my own elephant--I speculated that it was because I was so wide at the time ;) And that wasn't much of a ride--we just sat on these seats strapped to the elephants' backs while they walked around on a short trail. My son's most vivid memory of that ride was when the elephant in front of theirs stopped and had to uh... potty :)

Congrats again on Courting Miss Adelaide!!

Cindy Gerard said...

Hi Janet
Congratulations on your first release. What a wonderful moment for you. And the cover is just plain beautiful.

Last time I rode a horse I got bucked off. Ended up with a concussion and a sprained neck and a bruise the size of Texas on my hip - of course since my hip IS the size of Texas, I guess that was to be expected. Anyway, my hubby sold my saddle the next day Now I just pet them :o)

Estella said...

Congrats on the release of your book.
I grew up with horses and still have taken my share of spills. Had this one horse who like to go under low hanging branches and scrape you off.

Janet Dean said...

Hi flchen1! Riding a horse in the surf sounds romantic. :-)

I'm glad your elephant ride was tame. Can you imagine riding on a mad or scared elephant? :-0

Thanks for the congrats on Courting Miss Adelaide!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Cindy! You've got one smart husband.

After hearing this long list of horse related injuries, I prefer to walk. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Estella, I'm starting to believe horses don't like being ridden. Why else would they try to scrape off their riders? Buck them off? Try to run back to the barn? Any horse psychologists out there?


Missy Tippens said...

What a funny story, Janet! I didn't know you'd had personal experience with fear of horses when I read Courting Miss Adelaide. :)

Janet's book is great, by the way!! Such a sweet story.

(Don't enter me in the drawing since I already have the book. thanks!)


kimmyl said...

Hello Janet, nice to see you here.
Thanks for the great post today!
I have been excited about your book ever since I read the title. I can’t wait to read it.

Keli Gwyn said...


I enjoyed your interview and your story about riding your friend's horses. I'm glad you weren't hurt. I'm sure that experience is what makes the scene with the horse in Courting Miss Adelaide feel so real.

My sister had a Welsh mare when we were in high school. One day I went out to ride her on my own, but I didn't know the trick of forcing her to let out the air in her belly. As I rode, the saddle slipped slowly to one side, and I landed flat on my back. Rainbow just stoppped, turned around and laughed. At least it looked like she laughed. I learned just how smart horses are that day.

Please don't enter me in the drawing since I've already devoured my copy of Courting Miss Adelaide.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Missy! Thanks for the kind words for Courting Miss Adelaide!

Adelaide is more afraid of horses than I am, though after reading the comments to this post, I may have to rethink that. LOL.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Kimmyl, I'm glad the title drew your interest! I can't take credit for it, but I loved it immediately.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Keli! Great to see you. I'd like to know how horses pull that little prank. Do they swallow a ton of air? Rainbow could've at least felt contrite. :-)


Chelle Sandell said...

Love your cover! My cousins lived on a working cattle ranch so I was able to go riding often growing up. My older cousin had cutting horse that I just adored. One day my cousin had him saddled so I just helped myself. Everyone laughed and thought it was funny until two of the calves took off...and so did the horse. He went one way and I went the other. LOL. I still have a pretty little scar on my knee to remind me. My husband had a roping horse when we married but eventually we ended up moving into the city and had to sell her.