Free Review Copies Available

Further to the Eligibility Post, Pulp Literature Press is making free review copies of all their 2017 publications available this month.  That includes Allaigna’s Song, so if you want to snag a copy (in exchange for an honest review, award nomination, or other lovely other way you can help spread the word) head on over to the Pulp website.  No limit on the number of publications you can request, as long as you promise to read them!

Get your review copies here!

Posted in Allaigna's Song, Pulp Literature | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Tacking up … again

Originally posted on Academie Duello’s blog in June 2013

Horsemanship Level 2: Tacking & Untacking

There’s really nothing different about tacking up and untacking in Horsemanship Level 2, except this time we ask that you do it on your own:

7. Tack up and untack unassisted

So rather than repeat myself, I’ll refer you to the Level 1 post on the same subject: Another Tacky Post.

By the time you’re ready to test Level 2 you should have groomed, untacked and tacked up your horse dozens of times.  Take care to avoid the trouble spots listed, and you’ll do fine.

Posted in Cavaliere Archives | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Award Season: the Eligibility Post

I’m kind of late out of the starting gate here (what can I say, November and December were busy) but here’s my very short list of award-eligible writing for 2017.

Allaigna’s Song: Overture

ISBN: 978-0-9949565-9-0 (print)
ISBN: 978-1-98886500-3 (eBook)

When Allaigna was seven she almost sang her baby brother to sleep — forever.  She may not be heir to her mother’s titles and secrets, but she has inherited her grandmother’s dangerous talent for singing music into magic.  Allaigna’s Song:  Overture  is a love story, a family saga, and a coming-of-age novel that braids together the stories of daughter, mother, and grandmother.

This book is eligible in the novel category for the Nebula Award, the Endeavour Award, the Aurora, Sunburst, and any other general novel awards for fantasy novels published in 2017.  It is also eligible for awards for first novel / new writer such as the Campbell.

See?  I said it was a short list.

If you’re in the voting mood, however, why not consider the following:

  • The astounding Melissa Mary Duncan for her cover art on Allaigna’s Song.
  • Book designer Kris Sayer for the incredible job she did on interior and cover design, including the custom cover font
  • Inker Mel Anastasiou who improved my pencil illustrations a hundredfold.

I’m happy to send review ebooks to any SFWA or CSFFA voting members.  Just drop me a line here:

You can of course find the print and ebook versions on Amazon or at Pulp Literature Press as well.  Thanks for your consideration!



Posted in Allaigna's Song | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Moody Mares and Grumpy Geldings

This post was originally published on Academie Duello’s blog in June 2013, and is part of a series detailing the requirements for the Blue Spur, or second rank of the Mounted Combat program.

Horsemanship Level 2: Equine Warning Signs

Take a look at this painting by George Stubbs.  Who is the angry looking bay in the middle threatening: the happy bay in front of him, or the oblivious human and palomino behind him? (Answer below)Reading your horse’s moods is one of the most important skills you can develop.  Although they don’t speak English, horses can communicate quite effectively with their body language.  When you’ve spent enough time around horses you can detect their level of interest, boredom, anxiety and irritation.  For safety’s sake, though, the first bit of equine grammar you should familiarize yourself with are:

6. Signs of a horse about to bite or kick

Horses have two modes of attack, frontal and rearward.  Forward attacks, via biting or striking with the forehoof tend to be more aggressive and premeditated, while kicks are often a defence against a perceived threat.  That said, some horses do aggressively swing their hind ends around to intimidate, and I’ve seen some back up to other horses fully planning to start a kicking spree.  All horses, no matter how docile, have defensive responses, and it’s good to know whether yours tends to be a biter or a kicker, while keeping in mind that all horses have the capability for both.

Signs of an irritated horse:

  • ears back
  • tension in head and neck
  • nostrils ‘pinched’ or narrow
  • tail twitching
  • stamping or swinging a foot

A horse that’s irritated is not necessarily going to bite or kick, but may be gearing up for it, so use caution.  Try to find the source of the irritation, use calm and soothing words, and stay at the horse’s shoulder, keeping out of the ‘danger zones’ in the front and back of the animal.

Signs of a horse about to bite or strike with the forehoof:

  • ears pinned back
  • snaking neck
  • teeth bared
  • lifting or swinging foreleg

Signs of a horse about to kick:

  • ears pinned back
  • head high & tense neck
  • eyes turned back, perhaps showing whites
  • tail wringing
  • swinging hind leg
  • swinging hindquarters toward target

Some horses will make a warning noise as well, such as squeal or even a sort of whimper deep in the throat.  Horses in general prefer not to fight and risk injury, so their warnings to each other are an important part of conflict prevention.

All the above points apply to an irritated or angry horse.  A horse that is suddenly frightened may kick without warning, which is why moving safely around the horse, avoiding the ‘kick zone’ when possible, is good practice (see last week’s post on grooming and common sense).

Equine Expressions

George Stubbs was a keen observer of equine mood, and the horses in his paintings speak volumes.  These nursing mares are not pleased by the happy-go-lucky older gelding or mare that has come by to say hello.  The mare on the left is merely disgruntled.  Her ears are back but not pinned, and she’s telling the intruder she’s not interested in chit chat.  The mare on the right is clearly put out.  Her high head, wide eyes, pinched nostrils, and pinned ears tell the grey that if he takes one step nearer her head will snake out and she’ll take a piece out of him.The famous racehorse Hambletonian isn’t happy either.  His snaking neck, pinned ears and bared teeth may  be a sign of fear rather than agression in this instance, but if I were his owner I wouldn’t be standing in front of him and looking at the painter. (On another note, I will forever be in awe of Stubbs’s ability to capture the sheen of a horse’s coat on canvas).

Looking back at the triptych at the top of the page we can see that the bay horse on the left is fairly content.  His neck is high but relaxed, and his ears are forward in an interested, but not frightened, manner.

The palomino on the left has a bit more tension in him.  One ear forward and one back means he’s trying to pay attention to everything around him.  It’s possible the man is moving him backward, which is why he has to turn that ear back in the direction of his movement.  (As the study was being done the handler probably had to constantly move the horse back into position).

The fellow in the middle, however, has his eye on something behind him.  He’s not happy about it, as we can see by the white of his eye, his flattened ears, and the tension in his neck and muzzle.  While he’s not swinging a hind leg, the muscles in his croup and buttock are bunched as if he’s about to move that hind end.  This painting was done from three different studies, so the man and horse on the right were never at risk. If it were a single scene, I’d be a lot more more worried about their safety!

Posted in Cavaliere Archives | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Grooming Good Behaviour

This post was originally published on Academie Duello’s blog in May 2013, and is part of a series detailing the requirements for the Blue Spur, or second rank of the Mounted Combat program.

Horsemanship Level 2: Grooming

By the time you are testing Level 2 you should be able to groom your horse quickly and confidently.  On the checklist for Level 2 is:

5. Groom horse; three reasons for grooming; common sense around horse.

Grooming, and the reasons for grooming are pretty well covered in this level one post: The Well Groomed Horse.  Take a moment to review that post, and the video of a complete grooming.

Grooming and Common Sense

The way you interact with your horse during grooming says much about your level of competence and confidence as a horseman.  A groom who takes charge of the horse and the surroundings creates a safe enviroment for herself, her horse, and bystanders.  Someone who is nervous, disorganized, or allows the horse to be in charge is setting herself up for mishaps at the least, or even serious accidents.


Whether you’re grooming in cross-ties, at a hitching rail, or in a stall or paddock, make sure you have adequate room to move around your horse.  The last place you want to be is trapped between a 1000 lb animal and a wall, with no room to get out of the way.  Keep your grooming tools and tack organized and out the way, so neither you nor your horse accidentally step or trip on them.

Your Dress

Long hair should be tied back, and loose jewellry tucked away.  You should be wearing practical clothing and boots or shoes with a smooth firm upper.  Never wear flip-flops or sandals around a horse!  A front hoof concentrates about 300 lbs onto the rim of hard hoof, sometimes with an iron shoe.  If you work around horses I guarantee that at some point one will inadvertently step on your foot.  If you’re wearing boots, it will hurt, and you may temporarily lose a toenail; if you’re wearing sandals, it will crush bones.

Your Horse’s Dress

Always put a halter on your horse, even if you are grooming in the stall or paddock.  The halter is a signal to your horse that she’s on the clock.  No matter how placid and friendly the horse, if you don’t have a halter on and she decides to wander away, you’ve lost authority, and she no longer feels she needs to listen to you.


If you tie your horse to a post or rail, use a quick release knot tied to a loop of twine that will break if your horse suddenly pulls back.  It is much easier to catch a horse that has simply broken the weak link of a piece of string, than one that has broken its halter or pulled down a fence, frightening and possibly injuring himself and others in the process.

Cross-ties also need to be attached to a loop of twine rather than directly to the wall, and should have quick-release buckles that attach to each side of the nosepiece of the halter.  If a horse pulls backward in cross-ties that don’t break away he can flip over and seriously hurt himself.

My favourite method  is ground-tying.  A ground-tied horse is one who has been taught to stand with his lead-rope simply dropped in front of him on the ground.  It is not difficult to teach a horse to ground-tie, but it takes time and the patience to calmly move a horse back into position every time he takes a step out of place while you are working with him. However, its well worth the effort, as you know that, no matter where you go, you have a safe place to ‘tie’ your horse.

Your Demeanor

A good groom moves calmly and efficiently around the horse.  Keep one hand on your horse as you move to reassure him and let him know where you are.  Talking in a soft voice will do this as well.  When you move behind the horse stay as close as possible to him, keeping your arm over his rump as you switch sides.  If he kicks, he won’t get much momentum, and he’ll likely only nudge you or hit your lower legs.

Don’t allow yourself to be distracted.  Horses almost always give warning signs before they kick or bite (more on that next week), and if your focus is on your horse you will notice these before they happen.  Most people who are kicked or bitten had their attention elsewhere when it happened.  Focussing on your horse also allows you to detect his moods, what he likes and doesn’t like during grooming, and what calms him or makes him more fidgety.

Your Horse’s Demeanor

Ideally your horse will stand placidly, not moving her feet at all, except when you pick them out.  In reality most horses fidget or shift to various extents while tied.  Your job is to be calm and insistent.  If your horse continually swings his haunches around, you need to continually push them back into place.  If she decides she’s held her hoof up long enough and puts it down before you’re done picking it out, you need to firmly prevent her from doing so (most horses will give up pulling their feet away if you calmly hold the hoof at the toe and lift when they pull).

A horse that steps into your space, whether intentionally or distractedly, is dangerous. By unemotionally moving your horse back out of your space whenever he does that, you set safe boundaries and let him know you are in control of the situation.  Be persistent.  Horses like to know someone else is the boss.  It makes them feel safe, and when they feel safe they relax and stand still.  You’ll know your horse is relaxed when he lowers his head, yawns, chews or lets his eyelids and ears droop.  Congratulations!  Your horse trusts you, and your job of grooming him is now that much easier.


The relationship you build with your horse during your grooming sessions goes far beyond the cross-ties.  A horse that trusts you and acknowledges your leadership is easier to catch in the field, easier to tack up, easier for the vet and farrier to work with, and easier to ride.  A horse that doesn’t yet trust you will be more prone to spook or balk in new situations, or refuse fences in the arena.  A relaxed horse can also stretch through his back, release his jaw, and give you his poll under saddle, making him capable of engagement, throughness, collection, and all those other higher level qualties we look for in a mount.

next week: warning signs


Posted in Cavaliere Archives | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Jog

This post was originally published on Academie Duello’s blog in May 2013, and is part of a series detailing the requirements for the Blue Spur, or second rank of the Mounted Combat program.

Horsemanship Level 2: Leading at the Trot

At level 1 we asked that you demonstrate how to safely lead your horse for the simple purpose of moving him about from stall, to cross-ties, to arena.  You can review this here. For level 2 you will also need to demonstrate leading at the trot.

4. Lead in hand, walk & trot.

The most common reason for needing to lead your horse at the trot is to detect lameness and gait faults.  This might be done for the vet during an exam or at an event as a soundness check and is either known as trot-up or ‘the jog’.  In-hand classes at shows also ask for the horse to be trotted to show off his obedience and the quality of his gaits.

When trotting for a soundness exam the same safety rules apply as when leading at the walk: have the excess lead-rope folded, not looped, in your left hand; use your right hand to lead the horse; and jog beside your horse’s left shoulder so he doesn’t step on you or move into your space.  For the trot you will want a slightly looser lead than at the walk to allow for his larger movement.  This will also keep you at a safer distance.

Most horses will trot if you start to jog beside them.  If your horse doesn’t immediately move into a trot, use a verbal command, or a cluck.  You can carry a long whip in your left hand and tap his quarters behind you if he is particularly reluctant.

The Trot-up

The jog or trot-up is a formal display of soundness done at national and international calibre horseshows.  In three day eventing the horse is jogged before judges and vets on the first and last day of the event.  The horse is immaculately groomed and shown in a snaffle bridle.  It is also a chance to show off the rider’s style, and these days some riders do the jog in Ascot hats and high heels.

For the formal jog, start as you would for a regular trot, with the excess reins folded in your left hand, and your right hand holding both reins 6-12 inches below the bit.  As your horse starts to trot, drop your right hand and and place it behind your back, holding the reins and whip in your left.  This allows your horse to move freely and demonstrates that you aren’t dragging or holding him back.

The larger your horse, the more you’ll have to move to get him to show off.  Take long, springy, rhythmic strides which will encourage him to do the same.

next week: grooming

Posted in Cavaliere Archives | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Happy NaNoing to all my writer friends.  If you are churning out a novel this month, may your words flow freely, your plots be mathematically precise, and your characters grow and change in marvellous and unexpected ways.

And don’t forget to use that leftover candy as fuel!

Posted on by JM Landels | Leave a comment

A day in the Life

This post was originally published on Academie Duello’s blog in May 2013, and is part of a series detailing the requirements for the Blue Spur, or second rank of the Mounted Combat program.

Horsemanship Level 2: Routines of the Horse

There are many different equine lifestyles for the domestic horse, from grazing loose on the range 24/7, to kept in a barn with a variety of supplemental feeds, and everything in between.  At level 2 we don’t expect you to be able to descibe all the various horsekeeping options:  you simply need to know the routine of your own horse (or the horse you typically ride).

3. Know the routine of own horse:  feeding, grooming, exercise.

Your horse’s feeding and exercise regime is dependant on her stabling situation.  A horse that is kept on pasture requires very little, if any, supplemental feed, will get sufficient exercise to regulate energy and maintain base condition, but will still require grooming to check for injuries and keep the coat and hooves healthy.  A horse that spends most of his time in the stall or paddock will require hay and possibly grain, will need to be exercised daily, but may be easier to groom.  Whatever your horse’s routine is, be prepared to explain how it relates to the stabling situation.

Here are the questions you’ll need to be able to answer:


  • How does your horse get fresh clean water?  Bucket, automatic waterer, trough, stream?
  • What is the source of your horse’s forage?  Grass, hay, or a combination?
  • How many times a day is your horse fed hay?  How much?
  • What type of hay is fed?  Local meadow hay, alfalfa, timothy, hay cubes?
  • What types of concentrates, if any, does your horse get?  Oats, pelleted feeds, beet pulp, cob, etc?  How much?
  • How does your horse get salt? Block in stall or paddock, granulated, or as part of complete feed?
  • Are there any other supplements such as oil, joint or hoof supplements, daily medications etc? How are they fed?
  • Does the feed situation change seasonally?

Feed charts in the stable often given rations by volume, such as ‘1 scoop of pellets’ or ‘2 flakes of hay’.  However, it’s better to be able to answer these questions in terms of weight, such as ‘1200g complete pellets’ or ‘3 lbs hay’.  If you don’t have access to a scale, your barn manager can probably tell you the actual feed weights.


  • How often is your horse groomed and when?
  • When is your horse given a complete grooming, and when is he just quartered or set fair?
  • How does the grooming routine differ in winter, spring and summer?

A complete grooming is often done after a ride, when the pores are open and scurf in the coat rises to the surface.  Quartering is a quick grooming, usually done before a ride, to check for injuries, clean out the hooves, and make sure the saddle, girth and bridle areas are clean.  Setting fair is often done when a horse comes in from the field, or first thing in the morning, and is a quick check for injuries, the adjustment of any clothing, like rainsheets or flymasks, and the removal of any burrs or other pieces of the countryside stuck in manes and tails.


  • Does your horse get daily turnout?  For how long, and in what size of field or paddock?
  • If your horse does not get turnout, how does he get daily exercise?  Longeing, free longeing, riding, hand-walking?
  • How often is your horse ridden?
  • How many rides a week are schooling in the arena, and how many hacking out on the trails?
  • How often does is your horse entered in shows or competitions?
  • How does your horse’s exercise vary between seasons?

Exercise has a huge effect on horses’ mental states.  A horse that is kept in a stall or small paddock will often have too much energy, which makes him ‘hot’ or difficult to handle.  If your horse has variable turnout, you will probably notice she is much calmer when she is getting regular turnout than she is when she is kept in the stall or paddock.

If you use a school horse and aren’t aware of all his other activities check with the horse’s owner or the barn manager to find out what his daily schedule is.

next: leading at walk and trot

Posted in Cavaliere Archives | Tagged | Leave a comment

Special on Pulp Literature Issue 16 till Hallowe’en

The Autumn issue of Pulp Literature is spectacularly spooky this year.  It contains no fewer than two ghosts and one ghost town, three very different end-of-life experiences, ghouls in coffee shops, unidentified monsters in the subway, and of course, the latest excerpt of Allaigna’s Song: Aria.  All at a scarily low price of $2.99 on until Hallowe’en!

Pulp Literature Issue 16, Autumn 2017

With authors like kc dyer, Brandon Crilly, Rina Piccolo, Patrick Bollivar, Susan Pieters, Oak Morse, FJ Bergman, Mel Anastasiou, Leah Komar, Greg Brown, and Glenn Pape, this is an issue you don’t want to miss!

Posted in Allaigna's Song, Pulp Literature | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Come and say hello at the SiWC Author Signing!

I’ll be signing copies of Allaigna’s Song: Overture (as well as Pulp Literature issue) at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference Author Signing, this Saturday, October 21st, from 5:30 – 7:00pm.

The event is free to attend, and you can meet authors like Jack Whyte, Diana Gabaldon, CC Humphreys, Susanna Kearsley, JJ Lee, kc dyer, and many more.  Books will be available on site, so it’s a perfect opportunity to get a head start on holiday shopping!

SiWC Author Signing
Saturday 21 October, 5:30 – 7:00pm
Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel
15269 104th Avenue, Surrey, BC

See you there!

Jack Whyte dispensing advice at a previous SiWC signing. Photo by Sandra Vander Schaaf

Posted in Allaigna's Song, Pulp Literature | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment