RedRoom, the site for readers and authors, had a contest this week. We were to blog about our favorite illustrated book. My choice is a highly personal one. Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is a book I wrote about a remarkable horse. Tecolote was born prematurely on a freezing night. There was no reason for him to survive–but he did. The book tells and shows what happened as Teco (as we called him) grew into a strong, mature horse.
Tecolote and his Mother, Rosie–
This was taken when he got on his feet.
Although the book is illustrated with photographs that show Teco from his birth all the way to an adult riding horse, the story focuses on his tricky first year. We didn’t know if he would live five days. People from our neighborhood gathered outside the corral where he and his mother lived, praying for him and crying. He looked beyond terrible. Even so, he brought people together from the very start.
Later, when Teco was out of the woods, his mother died. She was an older mare with health problems. Teco faced life as a preemie, then a young horse without a mother. The book centers around how we as his caretakers used the other horses of the ranch and its facilities to give the youngster a secure and normal start. It’s about how he found his place in the herd and made dear friends in the horse and human worlds.
Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is a beautiful tale for children, especially those with disabilities or facing loss. Teco’s story shows people––kids and adults–that those with problems can make it and have good lives. It’s is a kids’ book, 44 pages long.
Why did I stop writing at the end of Teco’s first year? We ran out of photos. Once Teco got his feet under him, he took off. The rest of his life was so normal that there wasn’t anything to photograph. He went under saddle so easily it was laughable, and then just headed down the road.
I cover Teco’s early days in the book, but I’ve never written about what follows here, the final part of Teco’s life.
Sandy & Tecolote–My author picture shows
just my face and a bit of Teco’s cheek.
This is the REAL photo. Teco’s giving me a hug.
Tecolote ended up being my horse. I’m an older rider with so many things wrong with me that I don’t know if I should be riding. Actually, I didn’t ride for several years. Due to an improperly set broken leg from a skiing accident, I developed severe arthritis in my knee and ankle. I had to have my knee replaced and my ankle fused. I also have a bad back. Plus I’m a cancer survivor and pretty chopped up because of that. After all that pain and surgery, I lost my nerve. After a lifetime with horses, I became afraid to ride even the calmest horse.
But my husband wanted me to ride with him again. He cajoled me into trying Teco, who had turned out to be the mellowest horse in the world. My husband’s coaxing worked.
Teco took care of me. I needed a special horse like him––gentle and kind and unspookable––to keep me safe. We became a pair as he took me on many safe, smooth rides up the trail.
One of the things that people who don’t ride don’t know about is the bond between horse and rider. Teco and I became as bonded as an equine/human pair can be.
I loved him. And he loved me back. He did a special thing that no other horse has done with me. I’d approach him, scratching his shoulder and neck the way another horse would if grooming him. He’d wrap his head and neck around me, encircling my body. It was the only way a horse could give a hug. (They don’t have arms, afterall.) He gave me a hug every time I approached him.
The book Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could came out and I entered it in a few contests. Life went on. When my grand kids came to visit, Teco amazed me. He’d never seen kids before, yet he packed them around like a trooper. They fell in love.
Sandy & Tecolote –– He’s my boy,
the horse that got me back into riding
After the kids went home, I got back to writing. I was working on manuscripts for two books. I didn’t go down to the barn for about a week. Finally my husband called and said, “I’ve got Teco saddled. Come and ride.”
I was high as a kite, euphoric. The book contests I’d entered were announcing their winners. I’d found out the night before that Teco’s book had won 2011 Silver Nautilus Award for Children’s Nonfiction (Gr. 1-6). The Nautilus Award recognizes books that promote spiritual growth, conscious living and positive social change. Previous winners include Thich Nhat Hanh and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I was overjoyed–Teco’s book belonged in that company.
Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could
Won the Silver Nautilus Award
My joy lasted less than 24 hours. I went down to the barn. My husband had Teco saddled and ready. There he was, resplendent in his golden coat with its black trim. I found it impossible to look at Teco without feeling happy. He was a buckskin; his body was golden palomino color. His mane, tail, and legs were black. I could run my eyes over him and appreciate his straight legs and how his shoulder angled back the way that a gaited horse’s should. He had a short back and long hip, an adorable face. All of Tecolote was beautiful.
But not that day. He stood in the barn, head down, mucous pouring from his nostrils. He coughed. I didn’t like the look of him at all.
On the other hand, he was saddled. Show me a horse person who can resist getting on a saddled horse and I’ll show you someone who isn’t really a horse person.
I decided to ride him to the arena and see how he did. He walked slowly, head almost touching the ground. He coughed and had no energy. In fact, he acted as though he might fall down.
“This horse is sick,” I said to myself, heading slowly back to the barn. When I got off of Teco, he lowered his head. Liquid poured from his nostrils, splattering on the barn floor.
He had pneumonia. It didn’t respond to the massive doses of antibiotics the vet gave him. I was mystified; I’ve had horses for 55 years and have never seen one with pneumonia. Our part of California is too mild.
Teco kept getting sicker. We took him to the hospital. We have one of the best equine hospitals in the country in our valley. Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center is a wonderful resource. They’ve saved the lives of many of our horses.
They’d save Tecolote, too. When he unloaded the horse from our trailer, my husband said a half dozen bright young vets swarmed around him.
“They climbed all over him for hours, discussing what might be wrong and doing tests,” my husband told me. They’d fix our horse.
Tecolote: Always Elegant
A day later, we went in for a conference. The vet who was coordinating Teco’s case said, “If we can stabilize him well enough to go home, he can hang out in pasture with his buddies the rest of his life. But you can never ride him again.”
We sat there, stunned. “What do you mean?”
“He’s too dangerous to ride,” the vet explained.
“What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s in heart failure.” He drew a diagram of Teco’s heart, showing how part was greatly enlarged. Their ultrasounds had given them a clear picture.
“But how did this happen?” I couldn’t believe it. “Is it because he was premature?”
“It has nothing to do with his prematurity. It’s been happening over the last two or three years.”
In shock, I realized that no one had ridden him during those years. My husband likes rip-roaring horses with tons of spirit. I wasn’t riding, being too traumatized by all my surgery. Teco stood in pasture, apparently fine, enjoying life with his friends.
And dying. We brought him home and gave him all the zillions of meds the clinic prescribed. Twice a day, my husband ground maybe thirty human pills with a mortar and pestle. He mixed their dust with molasses and water, and loaded the mess into a syringe with the end cut off, which allowed him to squirt the meds into Teco’s mouth. The horse raised his head as high as he could; he did not make it easy.
When the heart begins to fail, it enlarges, trying to make up for it’s decreased strength. It can’t pump enough blood to the animal’s body, and it can’t recirculate fluids. They begin to build up. On a horse, fluids collect along the animal’s belly––the lowest point on his body. Fluid gathers between his front and back legs as well. Teco looked he had a blanket of gigantic kitchen sponges stuffed under his skin from his the front of his chest through his hind legs. The meds did nothing.
Teco’s book kept winning awards. Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could was a finalist in two categories of the 2011 National Indie Excellence Contest: Animals/Pets General and Juvenile Non-fiction.
I was in this crazy world where the awards kept coming in and Teco got worse. I’d go down to see him in his pasture. He’d be standing there, head down, in a corner by himself. He was leaving this world. He was leaving me.
Tecolote–– Making a Full Circle
The vet said he had only a day or two to live when we put him down. If we hadn’t, the end would have been horrible. Just before I left the field so the vet could do his job, I scratched Teco’s neck the way I always did. Sick as he was, he turned his head and neck around and embraced me. A final hug, and he was gone.
I ended up in the hospital in the midst of all this. I started getting chest pains as Teco deteriorated. If you call up your doctor––and my internist was pretty far away––and say, “I’m having chest pains,” that doctor will say, “Go to the Emergency Room right away.”
If you walk into an Emergency Room, a haggard-looking lady in your mid-sixties, those medicos will JUMP. They did every test you can imagine. I was scared stiff, not knowing what was happening with my body.
It boiled down to: My heart was breaking. Tecolote was being ripped from my soul.
* * * * *
Tecolote died May 1, 2011, four days before his tenth birthday. He was a miracle when he was born and a joy all his life. He brought horses and riding back when I thought that part of my life was over. I loved him for the obstacles he overcame in his life, and what he helped me overcome.
Here’sTecolote: The Little Horse That Could’s Amazon page. You can loook inside the book and see Teco. I put up some photos of him and our other horses on the page, too. At the end of 2011, the book garnered two more prizes. It was a winner in Children’s Nonfiction and a finalist in Children’s Picture Book Softcover Non-fiction of the USA BOOK NEWS “USA BEST BOOKS OF 2011” AWARD.
* * * * *
That’s why Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is my favorite illustrated book. It’s all I’ve got left of him. I’m glad I’ve got the awards and the book.
Hey, everybody! Lady Grace is almost here! The official launch date is May 1, 2012. My publisher has the following announcement:
Lady Grace, Book II of Tales from Earth’s End will be officially launched on May 1, 2012. We at Vilasa Press think you’ll be as pleased with the book as we are. We’re looking forward to gala launch activities. We’ll be announcing them here. We’re providing more information about the book here. You can also read about it on author Sandy Nathan’s website.
Barry Nathan, publisher, Vilasa Press
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BEYOND THE END OF THE EARTH:
Three stories intertwine: Earth is devastated by a nuclear holocaust. Technological wizard Jeremy Edgarton and a few of his friends are whisked off planet moments before the disaster by the goldies, a race of super-evolved aliens. They seem too good to be true, and unfortunately, they are. The humans want out.
Jeremy’s mother, Veronica Edgarton, awakens from a cryogenic sleep in a chamber deep beneath the ice. Next to her is her husband, one of the most ruthless and cruel men ever to have lived.
The inhabitants of the gigantic underground bomb shelter Jeremy and others built are preparing to emerge. They were supposed to become a super-race. Regrettably, evolution can work for evil as well as good.
Each of these events is potentially volatile. Combine them and the results are explosive! The players from across time and space are catapulted into a struggle of cosmic scale, challenging them to draw upon every ounce of their physical, intellectual and spiritual strength.
Lady Grace is a thrilling, action-filled adventure wrapped in the embrace of epic love.
* * *
Praise for Lady Grace:
Lady Grace holds its own with the best of today’s sci-fi page-turners while accomplishing much more. Nathan’s second book in the Tales from Earth’s End is just as much a spiritual and psychological exploration as it is science fiction/fantasy thriller. Nathan has created a unique niche that leaves her without rival in the canon of contemporary fiction.
– Nathan Fisher, MBA, Stanford Graduate School of Business
A gripping original sci-fi tale that brings politics, spirituality, and personal responsibility into the mix. As in all interesting tales of good versus evil, the path to outcome is not predictable but the trip is super enjoyable and will keep you clicking for the next page.
– Consuelo Saar Baehr, author of Daughters
I LOVED Lady Grace! From the first moments, I could not put it down. Sandy Nathan has done it again. Within her believable, gripping tale of people who have somehow survived a thousand years, Sandy explores instant telepathic teleportation, human-animal relationships, survivalism, personal relationships, social experimentation, dehumanization, and the most of these . . . Love. The twists of
Jeremy’s evolution with Eliana and his mother, Veronica Edgarton, are breathtaking.
An Interview with Author Sandy Nathan: Questions Answered Here––
The following sample interview is provided for the convenience of the media and book groups.
Where did you get the idea for the novel?
About five years ago, my brother died suddenly and tragically. He was my only sibling and adored little brother. I was grieving, with all sorts of thoughts and feelings arising. About three months after his death, I had a dream. In the dream, a shining creature like an angel hovered above me. She was absolutely good, a being of love and light. She appeared to me as light. The light dropped closer and finally merged with me, so that I got to feel what it was like to be that angelic creature.
That was the angel in the first book of the Tales from Earth’s End Series, which my creative process turned into an angelic alien sent to earth on a vitally important mission. That was The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy.
The rest of the plot of The Angel popped into my brain in the next few days. When I finished writing that book, Lady Grace was rocketing around in my brain. I just wrote it down. Lady Grace is the story of what happens after the radiation clears enough to permit life on earth to continue. None of the survivors knows exactly how much time has passed. When I finished writing Lady Grace, its sequel was front and center in my mind. That sequel is Sam & Emily: A Love Story from the Underground. It will be published in early 2012.
Lady Grace, like the other books in the series, is an action-filled adventure with elements of sci-fi, and fantasy. And it’s a love story of epic proportions. What’s unusual about it––besides pretty near everything––is that two of my characters from the Bloodsong Series’ first book, Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money, “jump ship” and have roles in Lady Grace. This was really fun to write and I hope you enjoy reading it. The idea of having Bud, Wes and Will Duane show up just happened––serendipity. But they solve an important problem.
How did you come up with the title?
The book is about rejuvenation and personal change. It’s about grace and the power of grace. The title is also the name of one of the characters. You’ll see when you read it.
Who is your favorite character?
My favorite character is Lady Grace. I’m not going to spoil things by saying more. I will say that I noticed after writing the book that its major heroes are women. I wrote the story without being aware I’d done it that way. I guess I’d have to say that my favorites are all of those tough and wonderful women that save the day.
Do you have plans for sequels? Can you describe them? When will it/they be released?
Yes. I have at least two sequels in the works. The first, Sam & Emily: A Love Story from the Underground, is a breathtaking romance of legendary proportions. It takes place in the underground bomb shelter on the Piermont estate after the nuclear meltdown. I’ve been told it’s the best thing I’ve written. It will be out in Spring 2012.
And, a fourth story in the series is shaping up in my mind and partially written. That follows directly on Lady Grace. This is going to be a few years out. The Bloodsong Series and Tales from Earth’s End are going to touch in a major way. They may even merge.
Numenon, the first book in the Bloodsong Series, takes place in 1997. When we see Bud and Wes in Lady Grace, it’s 2015. Eighteen years have elapsed in the world of Numenon’s characters. That’s lots of water over the bridge. We have to see what happens to our billionaire, Will Duane, and his little band of outlaws. We have to see what’s going on in the world. My writing focus is going to be on the Bloodsong Series for the next period of time. Lots happens there––I’ve got drafts for many stories.
How long have you been writing? How often do you write?
I’ve been writing full time since 1995. Before that, I wrote academically and professionally. I write every day. I don’t set a particular time or word goal for myself. I write until I deliver a scene or chapter the way I want it. I quit working when I get a feeling satisfaction with my work. That can take a long time to achieve.
What authors have inspired you?
My favorite writer of all time is the Icelandic Nobel Laureate, Halldor Laxness. His Independent People is a masterpiece. Laxness can write two simple lines about a fish and have me in awe and tears. That’s good writing.
D. H. Lawrence is a favorite. Lady Chatterley’s Lover is one of my favorite books, as is Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
For more popular authors, I love Diana Gabaldon’s work. I’ve read the entire, massive Outlander Series three times (!), plus the associated Lord John books, and I even have the graphic novel of Outlander.
I also read lots of books by independent authors. Consuelo Saar Baehr is a favorite.
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PRESS RELEASE: AUTHOR SANDY NATHAN REDEFINES VISIONARY AND NEW AGE FICTION WITH HER TALES FROM EARTH’S END SERIES
SANTA YNEZ, CALIFORNIA – Lady Grace is Sandy Nathan’s latest Visionary and New Age novel. With it, Mrs. Nathan continues to redefine the genre. Many think of Visionary and New Age fiction as an uplifting (if perhaps preachy) category that carries a positive message for humanity. The good guys are pretty much assured of winning, or at least their cause is. New Age fiction in Sandy Nathan’s hands is a no-holds-barred war between good and evil where nothingcan be taken for granted.
“No one––on a spiritual path or not––is guaranteed a smooth ride through life,” Sandy Nathan says. “Existence has the same end point for all of us. We may be on an upward learning curve and have enlightenment as a goal, but the path is not easy, nor is the outcome assured. That’s reality.
“I like reality. My stories feel like they might have happened, even if they’re totally fantastic. Being real includes the possibility that the bad guys might win. In allowing for any outcome, I want my writing to make the literary quality of New Age fiction stronger. And keep its mystical nature.”
Lady Grace, the second book in the Tales from Earth’s End Series, continues the story line of the first book, The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy. The Angel ends with a nuclear holocaust destroying almost all life on earth. Lady Grace begins with survivors attempting to create a new society on a planet blasted to a prehistoric state.
As the characters come together, three separate stories emerge and intertwine. Each thread is volatile. Together they are explosive.
The characters of The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy return for new adventures surpassing any you can imagine. New voices come forth, including some surprises. “I borrowed from my other series, the Bloodsong Series, and brought a few characters you’ll recognize if you read my first novel, Numenon. Lady Grace spans time and reality for a mix that’s part sci-fi, part fantasy, and definitely Visionary and New Age,” says Mrs. Nathan.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown,
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Do not try to force them on
as though you could be today what time
––that is to say, grace -–
acting on your own good will
will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new Spirit
gradually forming in you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God,
our loving vine-dresser.