Good afternoon, friends and welcome. Today I am featuring author Ali Spooner who is here to talk to us. I recently read her latest book, “Back in the Saddle” so stay tuned for my review in the upcoming weeks. For those of you who don’t know Ali, she is the author of sixteen books that are available for purchase. Come on over and join us and if you’d like to ask Ali a question, you can put it in the comments below.
“A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.”
To me that says it all. As a storyteller, I relay the events of characters, and hopefully the reader emerges from the story with new experiences or knowledge, that meets their expectations of an adventure.
Tell us about yourself and what gets your creativity flowing?
I’m a native of Florida, but have lived in Alabama, Tennessee, and Wisconsin for short periods. I live with my partner of 22 years, Rhonda in our home in Pensacola. I began writing as a hobby to entertain myself and some online friends while in hotels on the road for work. I fancy myself as a storyteller who is learning to write, so I’m still a work in progress. I travel frequently for work, so driving, or flying gives me a great deal of time to think about story lines and often I’ll see a sign or an object that triggers a story idea. For instance, I was driving through Mississippi a few years ago and saw a crop duster pilot spraying fields of cotton, in preparation of harvest and it spawned a story I self-published on Smashwords around 2010, called The Painted Cat, and of course the main character was a thrill seeking, female, crop duster pilot. Sometimes a vivid dream will trigger a story or character and I never have difficulty coming up with story lines. I have on average 3-5 stories in various stages of development at any time and I work on whichever character speaks the loudest in my imagination.
What inspired you to create the prequel, ‘Cowgirl Up’?
Growing up in central Florida, my family had several businesses. My father and uncle shared a grove caretaking business, managing orange groves for investors and our family groves as well. Our second business was the Crescent A Land and Cattle Company where we again managed herds for other’s as well as our own. During my childhood, I spent a significant amount of time on horseback as we “worked” cattle, moving them to different fields, penning them to provide healthcare or sending them off to market. So Cowgirl Up was a natural story for me to write. Many of the events the crew of the MC2 experienced from the long hours of baling hay, to training young horses were experiences from my youth. The title Cowgirl Up came from a sticker I saw on the back window of a truck pulling a horse trailer, presumably going to a rodeo or horse show somewhere in Florida. It was fun reliving some fond memories of working with my family.
What is ‘Back in the Saddle’ about?
Back in the Saddle is a continuation of the journey the crew of the MC2 is experiencing. Coal, Stormy and Gene, the youngest of the crew get to live out a dream of participating in a live cattle drive in the mountains of Montana. Coal continues to struggle in her battle with PTSD, and in Montana, the flirtation of a beautiful cowgirl tempts Coal to stray in her relationship. However, Coal’s heart, is claimed by her partner, Mary Leah, and she stays true to this love. Melissa, the widowed owner of the MC2 and Mary Leah’s sister, for years after her husband’s death, felt she was satisfied with her life until a surprisingly new love interest steps into the picture.
Rhonda and I had a winter vacation in Montana years ago, and I fell in love with the country and it’s beautiful, wild nature, so the use of that setting for the cattle drive was easy for me to use.
How much of Coal is actually you? Or do you relate more to Mary Leah?
A bit of both actually. Coal has a bit of my younger spirit, with her love of horses, being a cowgirl and an out of doors type person. Like Mary Leah, I am also a cancer survivor, so there’s a part of me in her character as well. I think it’s natural for every writer to inject a bit of their personality or life experiences in their stories.
Are you an animal lover? Tell us about your experience.
That’s an understatement! I learned to ride a horse before I could ride a bicycle and we’ve always raised animals or had a variety of pets. As kids, we experienced showing steers through 4 – H or the FFA (Future Farmers of America). We did our share of horse shows and loved to go to rodeos. As an adult, I have mainly had cats and dogs as companions, and they have graciously allowed me to live in their homes. I spent four and a half years living apart from my family for work and my two rescue cats kept me sane during those times and came home to live with us in our forever home. Just recently, Kiwi, our 9 year-old blue heeler, lost her battle with cancer and traveled across the Rainbow Bridge. She was considered Rhonda’s dog, but she was my snuggle-buddy and playmate. In her younger years, she would wear me out throwing a tennis ball for her to retrieve. She spent hours beside me in my office as I worked or created stories and was always the first to greet me when I came home from a trip. Rascal, my first rescue cat in Memphis, was the beautiful, tiger cat in The Painted Cat, and Kiwi has certainly filled her share of roles in stories, especially, Cowgirl Up and Back in the Saddle in the blue heeler puppies Bo and Dolly that Coal purchased as Christmas presents for Mary Leah and Gene. Kiwi has a special place in my heart and her spirit will grace futures stories as my companion in writing.
If Coal could go anywhere for a first date, where would she choose to take her beau?
Probably the first date setting she helped Stormy arrange for Del when they first met. A beautiful spot on the MC2 where they looked across a valley and watched the sun set, the final rays of sunlight creating a brilliant palette of colors across the landscape, while she grilled a meal for them. They would share a meal, maybe a bottle of wine and then stretch out in the bed of a truck to watch the stars emerge in a sky free from manufactured light.
Do you like live music? Which bands have you seen live?
I love music of all types, but country music holds my heart. I’ve been lucky to see most of my favorites such as Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Gretchen Wilson, Alan Jackson, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, and so many others. I’m still hoping to see Garth one day, but as of yet, our paths have not crossed. There are many other artists I’d like to see, such as Fl/Ga Line, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban, Little Big Town…and the list goes on, so I have catching up to do.
What is your favorite musical instrument? Do you play? If so, tell us about it.
I can’t play a lick of music, but I love the sound of a banjo, and if I ever learned to play an instrument, it would probably be the one. Deirks Bentley, put out a folk album with a song on it called Up on the Ridge, that I love. It has a great feel of Appalachia to it.
Me: One of your characters plays a mean flute which I heard as I was reading along. Very well done.
What was your inspiration for choosing the settings for these two books?
I love the wide open, ranching space in Texas and thought that would make a perfect spot for the MC2. When I think of large ranches, I automatically think of Texas. There’s a few left in Florida, but I thought readers would relate more to Texas. As I mentioned earlier, I fell in love with the beautiful scenery in Montana, and would love to return there to see it across all seasons. The deep green of the woodlands against the backdrop of majestic, snowcapped mountains seemed the perfect setting for a cattle drive adventure.
Tell us more about your passion for college softball.
In high school, I played every sport. My first love was basketball, and I played my freshman year in college. Softball was the one I played into my thirties, but only slow pitch, as the fast pitch craze didn’t catch on in the southern states until years later. I was born and raised a University of Florida Gator and follow our sports teams as a die-hard fan, win or lose. We are fortunate to have a great coaching staff and great softball team. I love watching the South Eastern Conference teams in all sports and hope to be able to attend the College World Series of Softball in the next few years. I’ve also found this to be a great way of finding new and different names for characters. I was amazed, but delighted to see a young woman named “Bubba” on a team this year. I enjoy college sports over professional ones because I believe college athletes play for the pure love of the game. It’s not a career for them and they don’t make millions or have products named for them, but they truly love their sport and appreciate the opportunity given them to play.
Have you ever gone on a rustic outing in nature? If so where?
I enjoyed camping, but will now admit my camping is limited to a pull behind camper or cabin, as these old bones can’t tolerate sleeping on the ground. Some of my favorite spots are in western North Carolina and middle and eastern Tennessee. As a kid, I was a member of the Trail Riders Association in central Florida and we would camp long weekends in the summer with our horses in and around the Ocala National Forest. It was great fun swimming with your horse and cooking meals by campfire. Hmm, sounds a bit like Back in the Saddle.
Who was the last Affinity author you read?
I was honored to do some beta reading for Annette Mori on a couple of her upcoming titles. I love her quirky characters and the variety of her story plots. I also read Renee MacKenzie’s, book Pausing, which is an excellent read. I’m fortunate to publish with some fantastic authors, so I’m never at a loss for great stories to read.
Me: Stay tuned for my review of Renee Mackenzie’s Pausing next week.
Can you share with us your love of photography? Where is the most interesting place you’ve travelled to take pictures?
Photography is creating a visual story or record of memories I’ve experienced or shared with loved ones. I enjoy wildlife and landscapes as well as capturing family and friends. I have two grandbabies that give me plenty opportunities to photograph, as well as my fur family. With the creation of digital photography, I find myself taking hundreds of photos on a trip, so I have plenty memories to choose from as favorites when we return home.
One of my most exciting places to go was to Stonehenge when I visited London. I was in awe of the power of the setting. I could feel it vibrating through me as I walked amongst the monuments. Rhonda and I also traveled to Alaska in 2015 and the scenery there was amazing. I also love the waterfalls of western North Carolina, especially Whitewater falls. The falls are gorgeous no matter what season you choose, but I love it in the fall with all the foliage, turning colors. Yes, before you ask, these falls will be the ultimate destination in a short story, scheduled for release in February of 2018 called Shotgun Rider. These falls hold some special memories of my Mom and Rhonda, my partner.
Do you have beta readers read your manuscripts?
Absolutely! I couldn’t live without good betas. I have a variety of readers who volunteer to read the drafts of my stories and provide excellent feedback on how I can improve the story. I try to mention them in the acknowledgement for each book, as they have been a tremendous help to develop it into the published story.
What is next for you?
I am currently working to develop a new series of books I call the Strong Southern Women series. There are five stories under development as a part of this series, but more to come. The first, Diamond Dreams, contracted by Affinity Rainbow Publications, will be published in the first quarter of 2018. It’s the first of three books regarding the lives of the St. Angelo sisters in rural Louisiana. Diamond Dreams follows the eldest daughter, Cameron (Cam) St. Angelo as she follows her dream to play college softball at LSU.
I believe in the concept of strong, southern women, as they have been the basis for most of my stories. These women are the characters that I know, and have grown to love. Ordinary people, that I feel that many readers can easily connect.
I’m also working on some other stories as well. A third book in the Hunter series is about two thirds of the way drafted. The fourth and final book in the Sasha Thibodaux vampire series is also underway. A sequel to the Cowgirl series has also begun to percolate in the back of my mind. So many stories, so little time to write!
As I mentioned earlier, I read ‘Back in the Saddle’ and have an excerpt to get you started.
Harley watched as the two women stepped off the porch. When they’d taken three steps, the clouds opened up. As they dashed for the house, laughing, Harley couldn’t help but smile. Melissa skidded to a halt when she reached the porch and waved to him. Harley waved back and returned to the kitchen, shaking his head.
“Whew, that was cold,” Melissa cried out when they entered the house, and then broke out laughing again. They were both sopping wet, but Cam couldn’t prevent herself from joining Melissa’s infectious laughter. When she could finally stop, she looked at Melissa, who was still bent over laughing. Her wet hair framed her face when she looked up at Cam, whose chest tightened, making it hard to breathe. Cam slid down to the floor, unable to look away from Melissa. “What in the world are we laughing at?”
Melissa sat down in front of her. “I have no clue, but I’m having a hard time stopping.”
Here is an excerpt from Diamond Dreams. As a baseball lover, I’m definitely going to check this out when it debuts next March.
The sound of the ball hitting the leather of the catcher’s mitt made a loud pop as it whizzed past Cameron St. Angelo. The inside pitch was meant to brush her back from the plate, but Cam barely twitched as she felt the air moving in the flight path of the ball in front of her face. After the umpire bellowed out “Ball two,” Cam stepped out of the batter’s box, and tapped the aluminum bat against her metal cleats. She turned her head toward the pitcher’s mound and grinned. “Is that the best you got Bugsy?”
“You damn well know it isn’t,” the angry pitcher growled back.
“Are y’all gonna play ball or jabber the rest of the game?”
Cam stepped back into the batter’s box. “Sorry Blue.” She twisted her right foot in the packed clay until she felt comfortable and dropped her hand indicating she was ready for the next pitch.
“Bout damn time St. Angelo,” the catcher barked at her. “This gear is hot, so let’s get a move on.”
“Bring it,” she called out to the pitcher.
Ursula Bugg, or Bugsy to Cam, was a top ranked pitcher on the opposing team, and Cam knew she had a wicked fast riser. She also knew that Ursula had a weakness and it was Cam herself. They had competed against each other in every sport since they first met in high school, and Cam had always won the battle as the superior athlete. As hard as she tried, Bugsy had never bested her in any sport, and facing her now as the opposing pitcher, would make no difference. Yes, Bugsy was good, but Cam was better, and she understood how much she got into Bugsy’s head. They battled through three years in high school and by their senior year, Bugsy’s condition had grown to an obsession.
It didn’t matter that Cam was an All-State shortstop and team leading cleanup hitter, bound for Baton Rouge in the fall with a full ride to play softball for LSU. Bugsy was determined to strike her out. Cam could almost hear the grinding of Bugsy’s teeth as she reached deep down inside for extra strength as she released the next pitch.
“High and wide,” the umpire called out, “Three balls and one strike.”
Forced to throw a strike, or risk walking her, Bugsy stepped off the mound to wipe her hand, as Cam waited on the fastball that would be nestled in the center of the plate. She watched Bugsy step up to the pitching rubber, digging the hole beside it deeper for more traction and power, then begin her wind up. Her movement seemed like slow motion to Cam and the ball looked the size of a cantaloupe as it approached. Her eyes locked on their target as she tucked chin to her chest, her eyes glued on the ball as she started her swing. Her teammates were probably holding their breath, but Cam had no doubts. She caught the ball on the sweet spot of her bat, and that ball was going out of the park for a walk off home run. She rushed out of the batter’s box toward first base as the left fielder backed toward the fence until she realized there was no keeping the ball in the field of play. Cam rounded the base and slowed her pace to a jog as Bugsy glared at her from the pitcher’s mound. When her cleated foot touched home, the umpire called, “Ball game.”
Welcomed by her teammates with high fives and slaps to her helmet, she made her way to the dugout to drop off her gear before joining her friends in congratulating the other team on a game well played. When she approached Bugsy at the end of the line, she smiled, “See you next fall.”
“You better believe it,” Bugsy answered finally cracking a smile. She too, would also be attending LSU to play ball. “Maybe we’ll meet again next week if we make it to the tournament.”
I’d like to thank Ali for stopping by. Be sure to check out her links below for more new and exciting news. ‘Back in the Saddle’ is available and I’m encouraging you to check it out.
Ali’s Amazon Profile – Here you can check out her sixteen books.
Until Next Time,
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Printed with Permission.