NANCY RAVEN SMITH grew up in Virginia where she ran horse sport events. On her farm, she, her husband, and their two daughters rescued horses, dogs and cats. They are advocates for animal rescue. Later in California, Raven Smith traded her event experience for film work. Her screenplays have won numerous major awards. and then she discovered a passion for writing mysteries. When not writing, Raven Smith enjoys white water rafting, snorkling, travel, and here family. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America. Her debut mystery, Land Sharks – A Swindle in Sumatra was chosen as an Amazon/Kindle Scout Selection Winner.
The Reluctant Farmer of Whimsey Hill is by Bradford M Smith with Lynn Raven & Nancy Raven Smith. The Prologue is included below.
We all know the saying—opposites attract. But the real question is how long can such a relationship endure? My husband, Brad, and I put that question to the test.
When we met, I owned a horse named Junior and a yellow mutt named Amy. I loved both dearly. My dream was to live on a farm and rescue dogs, cats, and ex-race horses.
Brad was a city boy who was not into animals. In fact, he’d had some bad experiences with them and was not interested in sharing his life with anything four-legged. He much preferred working in his field of robotics for the Navy.
According to the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test any such union as ours would be doomed. The only problem was that we took the test after the wedding and after Brad agreed to move to a farm in rural Virginia for a year to see if he would like it. At the end of that test year, I promised he could choose whether we moved back to the city or not.
Twenty years later, we came to empty nest syndrome and retired from our farm. We lost count by then of the number of animals we rescued. Our phone was on speed dial of every rescue group in our area. It had been a wonderful time filled with children, some ours, some not, and all kinds of four-legged critters.
When we moved to California, we often found ourselves telling farm stories to our new friends. They kept insisting that we write a book. Finally, even my screenwriting mentor from Women in Film said we should write it. So we made the decision to do it.
At that point in our lives, our oldest daughter Lynn and I had studied as screenwriters. Brad had done a lot of technical writing. Our youngest daughter Debi contributed stories, but chose not to participate in the writing.
Brad, Lynn, and I had weekly lunch meetings at the Cheesecake Factory in Beverly Hills near where Lynn worked at the Paley Center for Media. Our original concept was to gather our family stories, have Lynn, Brad, and I write separate short stories, and end up with an anthology. We quickly found that that left the book with a confusing timeline and not much of a storyline because the stories had three different, jumbled points of view and frequently overlapped. It just plain didn’t work.
In the end, we settled on creating a spine for the stories, telling the story from Brad’s fish-out-of-water point of view. That worked. In keeping with the spine, we picked the theme that “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” (Neale Donald Walsch) This was the most important decision we made and when we did so, everything else fell into place. It also allowed for the stories to be light and humorous as we had envisioned.
We reorganized the stories to follow this new spine for the book. It covers from the time Brad agreed to live on a farm against his wishes through to his decision that he loved the farm and the animals.
But here’s how we physically handled the writing. We organized the stories chronologically to fit the spine. Lynn and I would often interview Brad for his version of the story and his word usage. Brad and Lynn both had full time jobs, so I was elected to do the first draft. Brad would go over my draft, rewrite and give notes. I would do a second draft, Brad would again rewrite, and we would pass it to Lynn for her notes and a rewrite. We’d go around this way until we were all pleased with the outcome. Then our final version of the book moved on to beta readers.
For myself and Lynn, we found such pleasure and camaraderie from readers and other authors that our next projects include new books.
HOW NOW BLACK COW
If a black cow crosses your path, is it worse luck than a black cat?
I’m not a superstitious man. And yet, here I stand in the middle of the road about a mile away from our farm in rural Virginia wearing my best navy pinstriped suit.
Doesn’t sound like such bad luck, does it?
But if this were a good news, bad news thing, that would actually be the good news. The bad news lies at the other end of the thick rope I’m clutching in my hands.
That’s where it circles the neck of a Black Angus steer named Pork Chop.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this unruly beast was put on earth to torment me.
My family disavows all connection to Pork Chop. They refer to him as “my cow,” as in, “Honey, your cow’s out” or “Daddy, your cow needs to be fed.” Somehow this animal has managed to alienate my entire family. Not an easy feat with a family as besotted and overrun with animals as mine is.
But for once, Pork Chop is not being rowdy. Actually, quite the opposite. He’s lying on his side with all four feet stuck out stiffly. He looks dead, but he’s just asleep. I can see his chest rising and falling steadily. Dead might be easier to deal with.
Judging by the long shadows cast by the nearby pine trees, it’ll be dark soon.
Pork Chop weighs nearly six hundred pounds, and there’s no way I can move him on my own. As much as I’d like to, I can’t leave him lying in the road to go for help. He could be injured or cause an accident. But if I don’t go for help, who knows how long I’ll be stuck here. Pork Chop isn’t my family’s favorite animal, yet they’ll never speak to me again if he gets hurt.
A honk shatters the quiet. A neighbor slows down in his dusty, battered Ford pick-up.
I raise my hand to wave him down. He waves back and drives on. I can see him snickering in the rear view mirror.
Our working farm neighbors don’t know what to make of me. I’m still the outsider who works nine to five for the federal government.
I can understand their confusion. The country is not my habitat of choice. As a Boston native and a Cornell graduate with a Masters in Electrical Engineering, order, logic, and cleanliness matter to me. The robots I work with suit me perfectly. When I program them, they do what they’re supposed to. Robots never pee, poop, bite, kick, or drag me where I don’t want to go.
Unfortunately my wife’s animals do.
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The Reluctant Farmer of Whimsey Hill.
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Monday, June 26th.
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