There are also a bunch of images of her on Instagram.
I’m thankful to have had a wonderful, magical horse like Chroicoragh, and will cherish every memory. I have finished my degree, and since I will be working full time along with some other changes, I have decided to let someone else enjoy the privilege of having a unicorn in their own back yard!
She is registered, healthy, sound, and open if you wish to breed her. She is an excellent broodmare and broke to ride.
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted any progress on my book, and with going back to school, it’s been a bit on the backburner (again), but with some recent encouragement from writing friends, and a Unicorn-loving little girl, I think it’s time to revisit Ruby.
Chroicoragh, the Unicorn in my backyard, inspired me to write this book. Ruby is a 13-year-old girl, growing up in the middle-of-nowhere, Middle America. She might seem familiar to you. Here’s my “elevator pitch”:
Her parents are breaking up. The hunky farm boy down the road doesn’t notice her. She’s having strange dreams of hummingbirds, and all she can think about is getting a horse. But when she discovers a Unicorn in her neighbor’s barn, Ruby Fortuna goes on the adventure of a lifetime.
An elevator pitch is something you could use if you ever are stuck in an elevator with, say, Faye Bender or Jennifer Laughran, or George Lucas, and they just happen to say: “Oh, you wrote a book? What’s it about?” Then you give them your pitch, and by the time you are stepping off the elevator, they’re shaking your hand and going, “Have your people call my people.” Then 12 months later you are at the book release/movie premiere/Newbery Awards, saying, “Thank you, thank you, it all started with a serendipitous elevator ride…”
But first, one must finish the book. :) Working on it! Until then, a teaser:
RUBY AND THE UNICORN
Dodder’s Field sat on a low hill above the river. The small cemetery dated back to the days of the town’s founding fathers, and some of the limestone grave markers dated over 150 years old. Elm and walnut trees stood guard over peaceful grounds, seldom visited, but well-kept. Graceful stems embraced granite monuments of residents past.
Moonlight shone down through the trees, giving the place an eerie otherworldly glister. Bad enough being in a cemetery at all hours of the night, but the strange glow trickling through branches and and reflecting off headstones made it seem they had stepped into another time. Though the air felt balmy, Ruby shivered as they entered the hallowed grounds. David looked around, scanning the shadows. Chroicoragh went forward, and sidestepped walking over a grave, out of respect for the mortal remains within.
Ruby, taking note of the plots, looked down and realized her boots and legs were not getting wet anymore from rain soaked grass.
“Hey, look. It’s dry here,” she said, and startled herself by how loud her voice sounded in the stillness of the graveyard.
David paused to glance around him.
“Huh, you’re right. Must not’ve rained here. That’s weird.” He was careful to use a more subdued voice.
“Really weird,” stated Ruby, “especially seeing as how big that storm was.”
“So,” David began, “this all started with a hummingbird?”
“I think so,” Ruby replied.
The two had been discussing the day’s events, and David was still trying to put the pieces together. Ruby had told him about her dream and then seeing the hummingbird when she woke up, and then later, in Molly’s barn, with Chroicoragh. And she told him all about the storm, and the lightning, and discovering the Unicorn.
When David had asked her why she’d been out at Molly’s in the storm, she told him about her parents’ fight, and that creep, Mr. Miller, and of the ruined photograph. She didn’t say anything about seeing Bobby and Missy and the other kids in the car. She’d been embarrassed and humiliated, and besides which, she didn’t want her best friend David to know she had a crush on Bobby, his bossy big brother. It would’ve been too weird.
“Well, I wonder what the bird has to do with any of it,” David pondered.
“I don’t know,” said Ruby, “I never really thought about it. I just thought it was strange to see a hummingbird. Have you ever seen one around here? My grandparents had some around their ranch out west, but I’ve never never seen one here.”
“Nope, me neither. Why don’t you ask her?” David said, thumbing in Chroicoragh’s direction.
Ruby perked. The thought hadn’t occurred to her, and she’d almost forgotten about her ability to communicate with the Unicorn, since the creature hadn’t spoken to her since they’d left David’s house. Chroicoragh seemed to be aware of Ruby’s thoughts, because the girl then heard the soft lilting voice in her head:
Child, sometimes ‘tis better to listen than to speak.
“What do you mean?” Asked Ruby.
The boy has a good heart, he will suit us well on our path. As we walked, I did not interrupt your tale so that I may better attend to the essence of your companion. “Where your mouth may make you blind, your ears may make you see” she quoted.
“What’s that from? It sounds familiar,” Ruby asked.
‘Tis wisdom of the Ancients, replied Chroicoragh, passing a large lichen-covered mausoleum.
“Where your mouth may make you blind, your ears may make you see?”
“What?” Said David.
Ruby repeated the phrase, and pushed a fern out of her way.
“What does that mean?” He asked.
It is a lesson. Remember it well, the mare cautioned.
“I’m not sure,” started Ruby, “but I think it’s the same thing my dad says to me sometimes when I’m arguing with him. Only he says it ‘Sit down and shut up.’”
Yes. One cannot hear what he speaks over.
“Anyway, Chroicoragh, do you know anything about the hummingbird?”
Dappled moon-shadows darted grey and white on the soft grass as they walked, and shafts of shimmery light stood like columns in a cathedral.
Humming bird? The mare questioned. What is a ‘humming-bird’?
“The little bird that was flying around your head today, in Molly’s barn.”
I saw only the sprite, Chroicoragh answered.
“Sprite?” Said Ruby.
“Sprite?” echoed David, “you mean like 7-Up? Ouch!” he said. He had run into a blackberry bush, and its thorny brambles stuck to his shirt.
“No, ssh,” said Ruby to David, “I’m trying to hear her.”
“What Sprite? Like a fairy?” Asked Ruby.
“Oh, yeah,” said David to himself, “shoulda known that. Duh.”
One of the fair folk, yes, Child. Siofran, Lord Chamberlain of the High Court. A wood-sprite; an honorable breed.
“Oh. Sounds important.”
Yes. Very important, Chroicoragh replied, but said no more.
Ruby noticed they had almost reached the far edge of the cemetery. She turned to David.
“Where did you see it? The fairy ring.”
He got his bearings.
“Well, there’s the Pierces’ plot, over here, and the Ayers monument is that way…where’s the tree with the ‘No Hunting’ sign? It marks the back of Schultz’s property. That’s where the fence is down and you can cut through.”
“How’d you find this place anyway?” Ruby asked him.
“Debbie showed me.”
“Debbie Twist?” Ruby said, in disgust.
“Yeah. Old Schultz is their grandpa. What?” He asked, noticing the look on Ruby’s face.
“Ew. I don’t see why you guys are always hanging around those Twists. I can’t stand them. They’re so phony,” Ruby tilted her chin up in defense.
“Oh, come on, Debbie and Missy aren’t that bad. Besides, our parents have been friends forever. We’re just used to seeing them, that’s all. Oh, there it is,” he said, heading for a large elm, an old metal sign nailed to it side, and rusty barbed wire enveloped in its skin. The fence had deteriorated enough to let the three of them pass through, single file. First David, then Ruby, and Chroicoragh following behind.
As Ruby stepped from the sanctuary of the graveyard to the woods beyond, she thought she heard light notes of laughter, like a giggle.
She trailed after David as he wound his way through the overgrowth, backtracking and correcting his path along the way, studying the trees around him, trying to find a particular spot.
We are near, Ruby heard Chroicoragh’s voice, but there are others.
“Others?” Ruby stopped, and reached out to grab David’s shirt, “wait up.”
He stopped, and the tinkle of laughter floated to them again.
“Wait a minute,” David said, “that’s where it is. But who’s over there? Did you hear that?” He asked Ruby.
She nodded, holding her finger to her lips in a “ssh” motion. Then she waved her hand, pushing toward the ground, signaling to go slow. She wanted to find out whoever was in the woods before letting her own presence be known, and especially didn’t want any strangers seeing two kids out by the cemetery at night with a Unicorn. Try explaining that, she thought.
With that thought in Ruby’s mind, Chroicoragh understood, and hung back just enough to be able to see the children, without being seen herself.
David inched forward, crouching low behind ferns, and a fallen tree. Ruby crept up beside him, and peered into the grove.
A circle of oak trees formed the border of a clearing, carpeted with thick moss. In the moss dotted with acorns, another perfect circle formed, a ring made of hundreds of mushrooms, some tall, some short, broad and button-like. Ruby could see why they called it a Fairy Ring. The moonlight within the ring flickered and shimmered like glitter in one of her grandma’s snow-globes. Mysterious and magical, it drew her in.
The sound of voices reminded her to remain cautious, and she pulled her focus away from the ring. Across the clearing on the opposite edge near the trees, lay a young couple canoodling on an old blanket. The boy wore cut off shorts, and tube socks. He kissed the girl, oblivious to anything else, and his hand groped beneath her blouse. Suddenly Ruby’s face felt warm. She avoided looking over at David, afraid he would notice her spying, even though she knew he saw the same thing.
The girl arched her back, and spoke softly. A ray of light illuminated the view, and Ruby’s heart caught in her throat.
END OF CHAPTER 12
I’m kind of scared to be putting this out there, so be gentle with me. Let me know what you think in the comments.
Many people will change a horse’s name upon taking ownership. Your “Wildfire” could be someone else’s “Rusty.” This happened with our colt. I thought and contemplated and researched and stewed for days, trying to come up with the perfect name, and then I figured it out: Arthur. I absolutely loved it; classic, masculine, regal – heck, Arthurian. And it just happened to be my dad’s name. Here’s the little stinker:
He was the cutest thing – such a chunky monkey, and the wooliest little horse you ever saw. I can’t wait to see pictures of him as he matures. He will be a fantastic stallion, lots of flash and attitude. The gal who bought Arthur is in east Texas, and changed his name to “Aubie,” after the University of Auburn mascot. Some people think knights and legends, others think sports. But that’s a prime example of names and meanings, and another of the many the differences between people.
Names are a popular topic among writers as well. When you have a story to tell, the characters involved have to be compelling; someone you reader can relate to, and a name can really help the character connect to the reader’s heart.
Here’s a few that come to mind: Holden Caulfield, Scout Finch, Elizabeth Bennett, Dorothy Gale, Bilbo Baggins, Harry Potter, Scarlett O’Hara, Sherlock Holmes, Lucy Pevensie, Jay Gatsby, Jane Eyre, Ebeneezer Scrooge (Does it get any better than that? Ebeneezer Scrooge?) Tell me there’s not one character in that list that you didn’t connect with somehow. And I would bet anyone reading this list could come up with at least ten more.
In writing my story, I have to say I was lucky when it came to my lead character’s name, because her name and the idea for the story happened at the same time. It just came to me all at once, like a lightning bolt. The side characters have been even more fun to create, and when the name comes, it helps form the image of the person in my mind. As I write, I see them; their expressions and reactions, how they walk.
I’m like a little spy, up in the sky of their world watching it all unfold, and writing it down. It’s actually a lot of fun. The hard part is when it gets foggy and you can’t see what’s going to happen next. Some people call it writer’s block. To me, it’s just a fog, a slight mist perhaps, that I just can’t see through quite yet.
But the naming of anything, whether it be babies, horses or fictional characters, is something that deserves a fair amount of thought and consideration. I usually have a pretty good idea of at least a few names to try. But this time around I was stumped. What to name this little creature?
For some reason I was drawn to floral names (Daisy, Blossom, Buttercup) but none of them fit. She’s very feminine – leggy and graceful, and sweet. I’d always liked the name Serafina, but it just seemed a bit much. Besides, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner stole it. I even thought of Violet, since both of her eyes are blue, but the Afflecks stole that one, too. Buggars.
I also like the idea of sticking with an Irish name, but I figured it’s enough to have one difficult-to-pronounce, non-phonetical name. I have always included a pronunciation hint for Chroicoragh’s name (Cree-Core-ah), because it is a very unusual name, and because I can’t stand it when I don’t know how to pronounce something. J.K. Rowling drove me crazy with Hermione until she finally gave us a clue on how to say it: Her-my-o-nee.
People can get kind of carried away with the whole Gaelic thing, though. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE it. I love all things Celtic. But for these purposes, it’s a little like salt. A bit of it is fine, for flavor, but too much is just overkill. I’ve seen breeder pages where every horse’s name is some sort of ancient medieval spelling of a name that no one has any clue how to say, and then they don’t even give you a pronunciation for it. Drives me crazy. Sjkjdhefb – there’s my horse’s name. It’s pronounced “Jim.”
Okay, why not just call him Jim?
So, in naming our newest filly, I wanted Irish, but not too crazy with the spelling, a nature name, and something feminine. When I knew Serafina wouldn’t work, and I found the name Fina at namenerds.com, I knew we’d found our name. Irish for vine, it’s different enough without sounding stupid, and easy to pronounce. Done.
So, Fina it is. I think it suits her, don’t you?
Update March 2012: Fina has been sold and her new owners call her “Athena.”
However, one of the benefits of registering your horse is that her name will officially remain
If you or someone you know is on the hunt for a name, here are a few sites I found helpful:
And, Finally, when doing all of this searching around for names and their meanings, I came across this YouTube video of a band called Late Night Alumni performing their song, “What’s in a Name?” The singer has such a beautiful voice, and the topic was so fitting, I thought I’d share it with you. I think artists nowadays need all the help they can get, when trying to get the word out.
I thought I was prepared, but this little stinker decided to surprise us. I’d been checking Chroi every night, all through the night for a week to make sure we wouldn’t miss the big event. Then on Tuesday, she started showing more promising signs. The area around her tail became soft, almost jelly-like, and she began “waxing.” Waxing occurs when droplets of colostrum dry on the udders and form a bit of a build-up, like wax dripping from a candle. By Wednesday evening, milk was flowing pretty steadily from her udders. Some mares don’t wax at all, and some will wax up to a month prior to foaling.
But when Chroi had Keira, she waxed the day before, and boom! Foal:
The night Keira was born
So Wednesday night, I didn’t sleep much, waiting for this new baby. I’d get up, put my slippers on, wander out to the barn in my jammies, peer over the fence, and… nothing. Then Thursday morning when I went out to feed, Chroi was just standing out in her stall as usual, waiting for her breakfast, calm as can be, with that baby still securely inside her big round belly. So I threw some flakes of hay to her & Keira and headed off to a doctor’s appointment with my son.
While we were gone, my neighbor went to check on Chroi and left a message on my cell phone: “You’ve got a drop-dead gorgeous filly over here! She’s black and white and has two blue eyes.”
So we rushed home, and this face greeted us:
She had just stood up.
What’s amazing to me is how, minutes after being born, a new foal will get up and immediately begin the process of trying to nurse.
She uses her whiskery little muzzle, trying to find the right spot…
A little help from Mom…
Her curly hair.
She’s all legs.
Newborn horses, like newborn babies, are a little gawky and awkward at first. But they get all cute and fluffy in a few days.
We’re so happy to welcome our newest family member!
It’s a little after 1:00 AM, and I just went and checked on Chroi. She’s not due for another eight days, but I figure we’re in the home stretch. She could deliver early, and there’s a storm front coming in from California tonight. Arthur and Keira were both born during a rainstorm, so I’m paying close attention to her as the barometer drops.
But she looks OK, I think she’s still got some time left. Although, she is showing that she’s more uncomfortable – shifting her weight, and laying down to nap. And she’s quite bitchy with Keira, too, chasing her off and not wanting anyone to mess with her.
Oh I remember those days! When I was pregnant with my first, by the end of the term, I was so miserable; puffy with water weight, my feet were so swollen that none of my shoes would fit; the skin on my belly pulled so tight I thought it would pop, and no matter how hard I tried I could not get comfortable. Like sleeping on top of a watermelon. I finally took to walking around the mall, for miles it seemed, just to kick-start my labor and get it all over with. Little did I know it was the last time I would ever have peace and quiet.
Just kidding. Peace and quiet is highly overrated, I’m sure.
But I can relate to the crabbiness. When you’re fat, puffy, and uncomfortably carrying a watermelon in your belly, you can get a little crabby. Keira better look out, ’cause Mama’s not having any of it. Chroi’s watermelon is more like one of those giant squash-pumpkins you see at the fair in the bed of a pickup truck.
Deb was one of the first people to encourage me to write – not only that, but to take it seriously, and to treat my writing professionally. I am indebted to her for her guidance and enthusiasm regarding all aspects of my writing, as are the other members of the Scottsdale Writer’s Group, of which she is the moderator.
I was honored to have been a part of Deb’s editing team, and proud to see my mentor reach her goal of publication. And now, as a cherry on top of her sundae, not only is she published, but has been honored with an award nomination! For anyone out there who likes a good, tight mystery that keeps you up at night turning pages, please take a look at Staccato and Snare, by Deborah J. Ledford, available through Amazon, Kindle, and Second Wind Publishing.
The first, Staccato, is a thriller set in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, and follows a piano prodigy as he pieces together the clues to find his girlfriend’s killer, and the deputy who is trying to solve the case.
“Deborah J Ledford’s thriller tears through mountains and music with a steady rhythm in perfect time with the maestro Alexander’s music room metronome … as readers turn STACCATO’s pages, quickly, crisply, sharply throughout Ledford’s Toccata-like virtuoso performance.”
~ Malcolm R. Campbell, 5 star review: “Knight of Words” Book Reviews
The second book, Snare, follows the same deputy, Stephen Hawk, as he helps a Native American pop star find the person who is trying to kill her. Snare has been nominated for the Hillerman Sky award:
“Performed against the backdrop of the picturesque Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, and New Mexico’s mysterious Taos Pueblo Indian reservation, SNARE is a thriller fans of Tony Hillerman will appreciate.”
“White-knuckle suspense at an electrifying pulse.” ~ Suspense Magazine
“Deborah Ledford’s expertly crafted SNARE is a gripping story of the price of fame and the haunting and deadly power of long buried secrets. It’s also a valentine to the landscape and people of New Mexico’s Taos Pueblo. A terrific read.”
~ Dianne Emley, L.A. Times bestselling author of Love Kills
They are both great reads and I highly recommend Staccato and Snare for you and the readers in your life.
In today’s tumultuous publishing environment, getting a book sold is more difficult than ever. Please support up-and-coming authors. I have provided a link to published friends on my left sidebar.
Disclosure – I receive nothing for promoting Deb’s books, other than good karma.
Second I wanted to give you an update on Chroi’s icky dermatitis condition. It had gotten to the point to where it was bothering her so bad that she was kicking her foot on the ground, and hurt herself. I think she bruised her hoof. Yes, that can happen. None of the idiot home remedies that I tried worked, and the itchiness and scabs just got worse. So the vet came out, and his recommendation, which I had feared, was to clip her feathers.
I know. Ugh.
So here’s what a Gypsy Horse looks like with shaved legs:
who wears short shorts?
Luckily we just had to clip the feathers on her hind legs because she didn’t have any issue on the front legs. In addition to clipping, I have to wash her legs with a prescription-grade anti-fungal shampoo, and gave her antibiotics twice a day for five days. If any of you ever have to give your horse medication, here’s a good method:
dissolve the tablets in a couple tablespoons of water,
mix with a couple handfuls of sweet feed (oats and grains mixed with molasses)
to make it extra yummy, follow Mary Poppins’ advice, and (see below)
add a generous spoonful of brown sugar.
For Chroi, this worked so much better than trying to force the medicine down her throat – she actually loved it!
So she’s feeling much better, her infection is clearing up and even though she’s lost some feather, it will grow back. And she still looks pretty.
3. Baby Watch!
Which brings us to our next subject: BABY!!
Chroi is due to foal in two weeks! She’s getting super fat, uh, I mean, great with child. As we get closer to the delivery day, her body shows signs that she will be ready:
Udder filling up with milk (already happening)
“waxing” of the teats, which just means some of the milk is starting to flow.
softening of the pelvis, right above the tail
slight decrease in appetite, which is a big one, especially for a pig like Chroi. When she’s not hungry, I know something’s going on!
I will keep you posted. Last time we had babies, they were both born during a rain storm, so we will also be keeping an eye on the weather.
Now, I just have to think of a name… any suggestions?
Chroicoragh is a perfect example of how “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” I loved Mary Poppins as a kid. We had the soundtrack on vinyl, and used to sing along to it all the time. I miss the days when Disney just wanted to put out great films. And I mean how can you top Julie Andrews? She’s the best. Enjoy!