MEET F.J. THOMAS
WINNER: EQUINE SCREENPLAY --------
A Southern gal with a western heart, F.J. Thomas resides in east Tennessee with the love of her life, a retired race horse trainer and former professional bull rider, and a menagerie of horses, cats, and dogs. F.J. works full time in the healthcare industry, and is currently building a new tiny home.
A multi-genre author, F.J. started writing in high school and never looked back. A romance and short story author with Solstice Publishing, she also writes children's picture books under the name Jewel Thomas. In addition to writing books, F.J. has written equine articles that have appeared in America's Horse, Horse & Ranch Magazine, and Hoofbeats.
F.J. writes the motivational and lifestyle blog, Cowgirls With Curves, and the horse-focused writer's blog, Talking In The Barn.
A former OHSA Carded horse show judge, trainer and instructor, F.J. loves competing in anything from huntseat to barrel racing and ranch events every chance she gets. Her real life pursuit of the cowgirl lifestyle has provided plenty of first-hand experience and inspiration for writing books a southern twist.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEW BOOK.
Lost Betrayal was my first published book that was released by Solstice Publishing in 2014. Sage is just getting her life back together when a tornado hits her farm in northern Georgia, taking her hopes, dreams, and the very horse that the future of the ranch depends on. The story is about what happens to Sage and the horse, Houston, in the aftermath of the storm. Earlier this year, I finished the film script The Grulla which is an adaptation of Lost Betrayal. I entered the film into the Equus Film Festival where it won the Winnie Award for Best Equine Screenplay.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR SCREENWRITING WORK AND YOUR EFFORTS TO INTEREST A PRODUCER IN YOUR SCRIPTS.
Writing the script was a completely different experience than writing the book, mainly because of the things you have to keep in mind like props, etc. The great thing about a book is that you can share things like internal dialogue. You can’t do that on screen and it’s a challenge sometimes to convey details that are important to fully grasp a scene.
I have been searching for a script agent or manager to represent The Grulla, but I would be happy for a producer or director to take the project on. I signed up for IMDb pro and created a profile there as a screenwriter. The great thing about IMDb pro is that it lists contact details that may not be easily found online for producers, directors. Although the query process is similar, there’s some small differences like a log line instead of a blurb or pitch. Granted I’m still studying and learning, it seems as though the film industry is a bit harder to break into than the publishing world.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE TITLE FOR THIS BOOK?
The two biggest elements of the story are the lost horse and the betrayal that occurs in the story.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK? IS IT PART OF A SERIES?
I worked on the story for over ten years before I finally finished it. The original idea for the story came from an experience years ago in helping get supplies to horses impacted by hurricane Floyd. Large animals are the last to be rescued, and are the least to receive media attention for their needs. I do intend to write a series. The next story in the series is the story of how Sage’s parents met and the start of the ranch.
HOW MUCH OF YOUR BOOK IS BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES OR THOSE OF SOMEONE YOU KNOW?
The book is largely based on my own experiences with horses and people in the horse industry. I’ve never been through a tornado, but I’ve always had a fascination with weather so researching about the destruction a tornado leaves behind came easily.
WHAT CRITERIA DID YOU USE WHEN SELECTING THE COVER FOR YOUR BOOK?
Authenticity. As someone that lives the whole horse lifestyle, it was important to me that the cover be authentic and not over-done. While that may sound simple, when you start researching cowboy romance covers, there’s not very many authentic cowboys on book covers, and the horses rarely look athletic.
WAS THERE A MESSAGE IN YOUR BOOK THAT YOU WERE TRYING TO CONVEY?
Aside from bringing awareness about large animals impacted by disasters, I wanted to convey the message that even in the face of tragedy and betrayal from those closest to you, never give up.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD CHANGE ABOUT YOUR BOOK?
When writing the script The Grulla for the book, I had to go back and read a good bit of it. There were parts that I wouldn’t change a thing, but there were a few places I could tell I have grown as a writer. Those parts I would probably change.
WHEN AND WHY DID YOU BEGIN WRITING?
I was in high school when I started writing poetry at the urging of my English teacher, Mr. Shiflett. I entered the State competition and wound up winning second place.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST CONSIDER YOURSELF A WRITER?
When my first equine article was published in America’s Horse years ago.
DESCRIBE YOUR WRITING STYLE.
I describe myself as a southern writer with a western heart – I think that describes my writing style and voice accurately.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST LESSON YOU HAD TO LEARN AS A WRITER?
That you spend as much time marketing and promoting as you do writing when you get to the other side.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU FACE AS A WRITER?
Time is the biggest challenge. The other is finding a balance between promoting and writing – both are equally important if you want to make a career out of writing.
NOT INCLUDING FAMILY, WHO SUPPORTED YOUR EFFORTS TO BECOME A PUBLISHED AUTHOR?
I have to give western author Tell Cotton a lot of credit for becoming published. He was an editor for Solstice and he encouraged me to submit to them and the rest is history. My friend Nancy Sherlin was very encouraging and supportive. I have to give a shout out to my place of employment as well – OrthoTennessee. When Lost Betrayal first came out, they threw me a surprise book signing party at work. I was so overwhelmed by the gesture that I cried – my own family hadn’t put in that much effort! I’ve also gotten a lot of encouragement from folks in the rodeo and horse industry such as Pepper Stewart, John Harrer with Whoa Podcast, and Amy Stevenson with Horse Hour Podcast. Fellow writers Elle Marlow and Juliette Douglas, and many more have been great supporters. I’m very thankful and blessed to have a great network. As they say, it takes a village to raise a writer!
WHO WAS YOUR FIRST PUBLISHER AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THEM?
Solstice Publishing was my first publisher and I learned a lot from them through the publishing process. I learned how to write a book blurb and a back cover. I also learned a good bit through the editing process as well. My editor was from Australia so things that I said without thinking were sometimes foreign to him – I had never thought about that before and it’s a good thing to keep in mind when you’re writing a story.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR NEW WRITERS?
Read as much as you can on writing and book marketing – both will be extremely valuable over time. Don’t get discouraged by rejection – use it as an opportunity to refine your manuscript. Remember, all you need is ONE publisher or agent to say ‘Yes’. Get good at summing your book up in one sentence -- you’ll use it a lot for queries and twitter!
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE WRITERS?
As far as well-known writers, I am a big fan of Stephen King. Elle Marlow has a great writing voice – she’s one of the sassiest writers I know! The great thing about being an author is that you get to know some fabulous authors and it’s hard to choose a favorite!
WHAT ARE YOU READING NOW?
I just started Eighty Dollar Champion about the great jumping horse Snowman. I love a great underdog story.
WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?
For someone to lose something they dearly love, whether it’s a passion or a person.
IF YOU COULD MEET ANYONE WHO EVER LIVED, PAST OR PRESENT, WHO WOULD THAT BE?
Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt --- Both were great horseman.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOWS AND MOVIES?
Of course, I love anything about horses or rodeo, but I also like Ancient Aliens, and anything on the paranormal.
WHAT KIND OF MUSIC TOUCHES YOUR SOUL?
As a songwriter, I love and appreciate all types of music and they each have a purpose for me. However, what really touches my soul is the old country and blues. Bob Wills and Hank Sr. are some of my favorites. I love George Strait and The Steel Drivers.
WHAT DO YOU WANT WRITTEN ON YOUR HEADSTONE?
I love the saying, “She never moved the stars from their courses but she loved God and rode good horses.”
BY F.J. THOMAS
THE FUTURE OF THE RANCH HANGS IN THE BALANCE
Sage is just getting her life back together when a tornado touches down and destroys her family ranch in northern Georgia taking her hopes, her dreams and the very horse that the ranch’s future hinges on. An ex rodeo cowboy with a past, Garrett has sworn off rodeo and the last thing he needs is entanglement with a woman on a wild horse chase but there’s too many unanswered questions, such as how a horse could stay gone so long. Refusing to believe her horse was killed in the storm and refusing to give up on the ranch, Sage begins the journey of rebuilding her life once again and searching for the horse that to her, holds the past and her future. Sordid secrets and malicious betrayal jeopardize her efforts. Is she strong enough to push past the hurt and the lies in order to get back all she holds dear?
A typical broke college student, Lacy can’t pass up the lure of free board for her horse even if it does mean having to deal with an odd land owner. Undeterred by bizarre old Indian tales, she soon finds out that some deals come at a price, especially when old Indian ghosts come back to life.
BY JEWEL THOMAS
Don Pedro Sanchez Elll Puppy Dog has a beeg problemo! No one believes he’s really royalty from Mexico, because Momma Francy Pants rescued him from the middle of the road. Worse yet, the Itty Bitty Wise Kitty Committee says that if he wants to stay, he has to ride Bubba the horse, the one who’s still in training, and prove he’s royalty.
Beauford chases the chickens and thinks he's too good for goats, but he soon learns everybody has to work together when you live on a farm. Beauford The Patriotic Donkeyendears itself to the American public by teaching kids the timeless lessons of the farm work ethic, the importance of the flag, and honoring military service.
Francine has always been told that she has to be “itty bitty” to rope, ride, and chase cans. But Flitter the horse, her new best friend, tells her she’s “Workin’ Stock” like him. She’s made to do more than just look pretty and just like him, she can be fast.
Ol’ Merle, the ranch’s number one guard dog, tells Francine only skinny girls and horses can win in the rodeo arena. She takes a chance and tells him she and Flitter will barrel race in the back corral to prove him wrong.
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