My eighth book, Birds of a Feather is coming out soon, and even though this book is set in Southern California and not centered on equestrians, I have been thinking about riding trails.
Back in my twenties, when I was working at a pack station in the High Sierras, I always had the most fun when the rides were big enough for the outfit to send multiple guides. My favorite place was always out front. I loved turning in the saddle to talk to the first couple riders in line. I kept a close eye on the line of riders. Pacing is everything. If you blindly plow ahead, the riders can get strung out. Horses trot to catch up and that can end up dislodging a rider. I prided myself for knowing where the trouble spots were and leading everyone to Rainbow Falls or the Red Cones safely.
Then there’s the guide who rides drag. She also hollers at people to keep their horses from eating, to give them a kick to keep up with the horse in front. She’s typically the cowgirl to get off if someone drops something or needs a saddle adjustment. She makes sure nothing gets lost along the way.
My favorite cowgirl back in the day was Heather Honeywell. She was dependable and fun. At the rest stop, she not only pulled her weight getting guests on and off the horses, she was super fun to chat with. We laughed a lot the summers we worked together. I shared with her once a story about a first kiss I’d had. A boy in my class at Humboldt (It took me a while, forgive me) asked me for some Chapstick. I put some on and pulled him in for a kiss. I had forgotten I’d shared that with her, and one afternoon asked her if she had some Chapstick. “In a tube,” she told me squarely.
This is on my mind because these days, I’m not leading trail rides, but I am still taking the lead when I start a story. I have a destination in mind, and I work really hard to engage my reader instead of the rider. I think about pacing. I think about pausing at just the right lookout to give readers a glimpse of beauty. Every book needs a cover, and for this one, Heather was there at the back to craft something perfect for me.
I sent her some ideas through Bella, and the first cover she sent back had a pink car on the front. I messaged her. “Heather,” I said. “These are lesbians, not Mary Kay salesladies! There can’t be a pink car on the front! Find something that looks like a Subaru.”
“Is that a thing?” she replied.
All these years later, she still makes me laugh. All those years ago, I never dreamed I’d be writing WLW romance, but what a happy trail this has turned out to be. That I have my friend riding drag for me in this new way is a special treat. I hope her cover snagged you and the story delivers. I can’t wait to hear what you think!
Laina Villeneuve lives in Southern California with her wife and three children. She consumes words. Mountains of words in the essays her college students write are her protein. Nonfiction reading is great fiber, and general fiction her fruits and veggies. Lesbian romance is always dessert! You can feed her your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Her latest romance, Birds of a Feather will be released by Bella Books September 15th.