Kaki Warner: Persevering and a Giveaway!

Kaki WarnerThank you Petticoats & Pistols for inviting me to visit today—it’s always a treat to hang out with the Fillies.


This has been a hectic year for my husband and me. Remember that big forest fire in Washington State last summer? It burned to within yards of our house and turned 60 acres of timber at the back of our property to ash. Then the floods came. Then we were sideswiped in our new car, suffered a devastating loss in the family, and I had two knee replacement surgeries. But like Chief Dan George advised in Josey Wales, we endeavored to persevere. And it worked! Our house was saved, insurance paid for the lost timber, our car is all fixed and no one was hurt, our grief is easing, and my knees are getting better every day. Plus, I lost 50 pounds through it all. Double win!


So how is this relevant?


Writing is a lot like life—full of ups and downs, disappointments, euphoria, and sometimes a lot of self-doubt. But if you endeavor to persevere, you’ll get through it to the good stuff. I’m living proof of that.


Throughout all this drama, I was trying to write the most difficult book I’ve ever attempted—HOME BY MORNING, the story of Thomas (the Cheyenne Dog Soldier) and Pru (the educated daughter of a white plantation owner and a slave). This couple had been introduced as secondary characters in the first book of my runaway bride series—HEARTBREAK CREEK. Their story wove through the next four novels, generating a lot of mail and questions about when they would get their own book. But I had my doubts.


Home By MorningDid I have enough story left for a book?


How in the world would I get into the heads of characters so far beyond my own life experiences?


Could I do justice to their story without getting mired down in political correctness, politics, or trying not to make them victims, or too modern in their thinking and experience?


Then I realized…they’re just people, regardless of their culture, race, background. They want what we all want—love, acceptance, and respect. So I put my head down and started writing.


And then a wonderful thing happened. A whole new character showed up, with the voice and the spirit and the charisma to help me bring Thomas and Pru’s story into the light. Lillian, Lillie, Katse’e.


She taught me a lot. How to reach outside my comfort zone and take a risk on new ideas, different cultures and experiences. How to tame the doubt with humor and courage. How to listen.


Those are worthy lessons for any writer. (Too bad I couldn’t have figured it out thirty years ago…but then some of us are slow learners, I guess). Has that ever happened to you? When a person, or a character, or an experience reaches inside your mind and tweaks it just enough so that everything falls into place and makes sense? Not yet? Then endeavor to persevere. It’ll come when it’s time.


I hope you’ll get a chance to read HOME BY MORNING. If you do, let me know what you think. I can be reached on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/kakiwarner.


And to show you how much I appreciate you dropping by and leaving a comment, I’ll be giving away two signed copies of HOME BY MORNING.



After Kaki, her husband and their coonhound retired to the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, Kaki decided to get serious about writing. She sold her first book to Berkley (Penguin Random House) the year she went on Social Security. Since then, she’s penned nine novels, a novella and a short story. It’s been a fun, wild ride, and along the way she’s been blessed with kind reviews, a Maggie, a RITA, and four RITA nominations. But what she values most are the wonderful people she’s met…both readers and other authors. So her advice: don’t let anyone tell you you’re too old to start writing, or it’s too late to try something new. The rewards can be astounding. So just do it.

Kaki Warner Talks Horses and a Giveaway

Kaki_head_shotHello again, and my thanks to all the fine authors at Petticoats & Pistols for inviting me to visit today and pimp my latest release, WHERE THE HORSES RUN.
In part, I dedicated this book to my husband’s and my two mares—Missouri/American Forxtrotters and full-blooded sisters. They were often cranky, contentious, and hardheaded—in kindness, we said they had well-defined personalities and strong awareness of self. But they were also kind-hearted, mostly cooperative, sure-footed, beautifully gaited, and loved chasing cows across this beautiful country. Knowing them greatly enriched our lives (and diminished our bank account), while giving us wonderful memories. We miss them still.
So I decided to write a book about a horse, (plus all that romancy stuff, too). Despite being a western historical, and the fifth Heartbreak Creek book, WHERE THE HORSES RUN is mostly set in England. Where else would an ex-Texas lawman go to purchase English Thoroughbreds and Hanoverian warmbloods? But in addition to securing excellent breeding stock, Rafe Jessup also found a traumatized horse and a woman desperate to make him well.
where_the_horses_runPembroke’s Pride is a Thoroughbred stallion who was injured in the Grand National Hunt (steeplechase) Race in England in 1870. Pems is fictional—the race isn’t. The obstacles I’ve described in the book are true to the course, including the most dangerous of the thirty jumps. Although the hedge at Beecher’s Brook is only five feet high, the landing is lower than the take-off side, which confuses many horses. In addition, on the other side of the hedge and hidden in the approach is the brook—not particularly wide or deep, but with a horse’s limited straight-down vision, it can be a real shocker. Many horses and riders have been injured at this jump, several fatally. In my story, just as Pems pushes off, another horse bumps him and sends him into the brook. Several horses pile on top of him, penning him under the water. Although he heals from his physical injuries, he is terrified of water thereafter.
Sound farfetched? It isn’t.
We had a horse that wouldn’t cross water. Not because of an injury, but because he was a nitwit. Or maybe a liar. The water in his trough didn’t scare him at all, and in fact, he dearly loved to play in it, drenching himself and anyone in the vicinity. He eventually learned to cross water. And we learned that you can lead a horse to water, but you sure as hell can’t make him cross it if he doesn’t want to. Instead, you have to break through that fear, convince him to put aside his instincts, and trust you enough to do what you ask. If you can reach him, you can teach him. This takes a lot of time and patience and hard work. Luckily, I had just the right guy to help Pems.

Do you have horses? Are you afraid of them? Do you still nurture a childhood dream of having a horse of your own? Share your thoughts, and you’re in the hat for one of two copies of WHERE THE HORSES RUN that I’ll be giving away to two commenters. Good luck! And thanks for chatting with me today.

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Please visit Kaki at http://www.facebook.com/kakiwarner or write to her at kaki@kakiwarner.com. She loves hearing from readers. All of her books are available in print or digital at major book retailers and on-line distributors, as well as the Penguin/Berkley website. Check out the latest reviews on the amazon website: http://amzn.to/1lLdUBI.

Kaki Warner: Bride of the High Country

In my latest release, BRIDE OF THE HIGH COUNTRY, I had to get my main characters from NY to Heartbreak Creek, CO.  Since the Transcontinental had been finished the previous year (1869), I picked the train.  Oops.


Even though train travel had been available in the east for three decades, cross-country hauls were rare.  Amenities, rarer.  No bathrooms, for instance.  But that was OK since the trains had to stop every twenty miles to fill the tenders with water.  If the passengers were lucky, there might be an outhouse beside the tracks.  Or if they had a dime, they could purchase a box lunch from an enterprising local, or enjoy a hot meal of beans, bacon and stale biscuit.  Then back on the train and the hard bench for another lurching, bouncing twenty miles. YIPEE.


But, of course, my characters were rich, so they traveled in style in a Pullman Palace Car, which was as plush as a gamblers’ steamboat, complete with velvet couches, carpet and wooden inlay around the windows.  There was even a washroom in every four-berth car, which emptied directly onto the tracks (and you thought it was hunters who decimated the buffalo—HA!)  Also included on the luxury runs were a parlor car and dining car, which served mostly-edible meals when your plate wasn’t sliding into your lap as the train clickety-clacked along.


Ah, the beautiful scenery and fresh air—if only you could see through the soot-streaked windows or breathe through the billowing smoke wafting back from the locomotive.  Still, it was faster than a three-month trip by wagon.  Plus, you got to shoot at stuff as you careened along at ten, twenty, or—OMG—even thirty miles an hour.  What a treat!


FACT:  Each Pullman Car was owned and operated by the Pullman Company, and was serviced by a white-jacketed Negro man universally named “George” in deference to his employer, George Pullman.


The West would have been a vastly different place without the influence of the railroads.  For one thing, they offered incentives for people to settle along the right-of-ways, thereby creating permanent customers for the goods they were hauling.  They also carved routes through impossible country, built thousands of trestles, bridges, and culverts, or—since anything steeper than a 3% grade was prohibitive in fuel, construction, maintenance, and equipment costs—they laid tracks miles out of the way to avoid them, thus opening up even more country.


FACT:  In constructing the Transcontinental, Irish immigrants laid tracks west from Nebraska, while Chinese workers came east out of Sacramento—and they arrived at the EXACT SAME SPOT at Promontory Summit!  Amazing!


FACT:  The standard width between rails was determined by the Romans when they built stone roads in England.  4’ 8.5” was the width between the wheels of a two-horse chariot.  Over time, those wheels wore such deep grooves into the stone that later wagon-makers had to space their wheels to fit them.  Then somebody figured wheels roll easier metal-on-metal, so they laid down metal-capped wooden rails, put flanged, metal-treaded wheels on their horse-drawn wagons, and soon coal was rolling out of Newcastle at record rates.  And all because of the width of two horses’ asses pulling an old Roman chariot.  Who knew?


So there you have it.  More than you ever wanted to know about the joys and hazards of riding the rails west.  Have you ever taken a cross-country train trip or slept in a Pullman?  Would you do it again?


Leave a comment, and your name will be entered for a signed copy of BRIDE OF THE HIGH COUNTRY.  Thanks for coming by, and my thanks to you, too, fillies, for letting me chat with your readers.