It’s a strange time to hold a book launch, quarantined as we are, stuck with the feeling that there is no safe place to go. How long will this isolation last? There’s simply no way to tell. We long for a signal, like the one Punxsutawney Phil delivers each year when the furry rodent surfaces from his den to tell us when winter will morph into spring.
Alas, there is no miraculous creature to mark the end of our confinement. Which brings me back to the book launch for my new novel, Wild Horses on the Salt. Normally, I would host a book signing and a Q&A session at some lovely bookstore – Don’t you love bookstores? – but, of course, that wouldn’t work considering our current situation.
With that in mind, I popped on my thinking cap, and decided we could have a book signing of sorts right here. So, let me get my magic wand. I’ll be right back.
Yay! I found my magic wand!
Whew! Found it. It was tucked in the back of a closet and it’s a bit dusty. But I think it’ll work. Let’s see.
Oooo! Sparkles everywhere!
And now…here we are! Look at all those pretty books. You want to touch them, I know. And this bookstore – lucky us – also has a bar. What a brilliant idea. So, everyone get a beverage and then sit in those rows of chairs.
Oh my! We need more chairs. So many people! (A girl can dream.)
I take my place at the podium and lift the mic. Unlike a lot of authors – many of whom tend to be introverted types – I’ve never met a microphone I didn’t like. Could be my massive ego, but I digress.
“Thank you all for coming. I am overwhelmed.” I smile. “And now, I’d be happy to take your questions.
Hands shoot up all around the room and I blush. (Really.) “In the corner. Yes, you, sir.” A dapper-looking man with a gray beard smiles.
“What kind of books do you write?”
“Good question. I write fiction, though not in any specific genre. My stories are based on subjects that interest me. In the past, I’ve written about a former soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress, child abuse, polygamy, domestic terrorism, cults, archeological looting, the black-market sale of antiquities, and a serial rapist. In Wild Horses on the Salt, themes include the problems associated with the over population of wild horses in the West and the struggles involved in escaping from domestic violence. However, all my books have one thing in common: the amazing landscape of Arizona, from the Sonoran Desert to the Verde Valley to the high country of the Arizona strip.”
I spy a few younger members of the audience and am delighted, as a just-retired teacher, to see some of my former students. “Makayla.”
“Ms. Montgomery, what inspired you to write about the wild horses of Arizona’s Salt River?”
“You can call me Anne.”
Makayla and the rest of the kids look like I’ve asked them to serve detention for a week. I sigh and realize I will be Ms. Montgomery for the rest of my life.
The horses that roam along Arizona’s Salt River are beautiful but problematic.
“The horses that roam free along the Salt River have been the subject of much controversy in Arizona, primarily because their numbers have grown too large to be sustainable and they too frequently encounter vehicles, events that result in accidents that have killed the animals and injured humans. Though millions of wild horses once roamed free in the United States, today approximately 82,000 remain. Because their ancestors were brought here by European explorers, there are some who believe these animals are an invasive species, a creature that should be culled to safeguard native fauna, fragile grasslands, and riparian habitats. Others believe the wild horse should be defended, protected, and allowed to roam free. The debate is ongoing, with those on both sides of the issue often unwilling to compromise.”
I scan the room and focus on a young woman dressed in a turquoise T-shirt, jeans, and strappy sandals. I nod.
“The protagonist in Wild Horses on the Salt is running away from domestic violence. What made you write about the topic?”
“Thank you for asking. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, nearly 1 in 4 adult women and approximately 1 in 7 men in the U.S. report having experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.
The often-silent scourge of domestic violence invades all walks of life and, though the poor are disproportionately affected, no one is immune. I felt it was important to point out that domestic violence does not discriminate. People of all kinds, young, old, rich, poor, white, black and brown are subjected to its wrath.
The life of Rebecca Quinn, the protagonist in Wild Horses on the Salt, seems idyllic from the outside. She’s a smart attorney with a handsome, successful spouse. She comes from wealth and privilege. And yet, Becca is repeatedly brutalized by her husband.
I created Becca from personal experience – I’ve been subjected to domestic violence myself – and from statistics. The point is no one should have to deal with this abuse and there is always a way out, though that does not mean leaving is easy. One needs support, both emotional and financial, to get away, as well as a plan to survive the split. It’s my hope that those reading about Becca’s journey will be inspired to make changes in their own lives.
I take more questions. Everyone is so interested in my book, I’m giddy with delight. Eventually, however, the manager of the book store taps her watch.
“Thank you so much for coming everyone. I will be signing books at that table in the corner.”
OK. You got me. This is me signing books at a previous book launch. There’s only so much my magic wand can do.
A long line of book buyers forms as I take my seat. When the last book is signed – of course, it’s a sellout – I have cramps in my hand, but it’s pain I will savor.
After everyone leaves, my sweetie pie appears with a glass of wine. “Thought you might need this,” he says, and I remember why I love him.
That said, the first person in the contiguous United States who contacts me will get a signed copy of Wild Horses on the Salt.
And, again, thank you for coming.
Wild Horses on the Salt
A woman flees an abusive husband and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona desert.
Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint
Order your paperback through an independent book store*:
Wild Horses On The Salt
Wild Horses On The Salt: Large Print Edition
Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.
Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.
Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?
“Ms. Montgomery weaves an intricate parallel tale, portraying the struggles of one woman, and that of a lost wild stallion—both fighting to rise above the cruelty of an unkind world. Her unique writing style, incredible knowledge of her subject matter, combined with her ability to create vivid scenes of the East Valley, and particularly the Tonto National Forest and Salt River area in Arizona, takes the reader on a fascinating (and educational) journey.” —Author Margaret Millmore
“The author’s brilliant world building soon had me relaxing and enjoying the desert, the wilderness with so many horses. This was the kind of story I knew I wouldn’t want to end.” Anita Dawes
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