Clant Seay says The University of Mississippi Gains from Soring


Clant Seay is sponsoring a petition on Everyone who hates that torture of horses called soring has a chance to sign this petition:


Mr. Seay does the following wrap up of soring which explains the petition but at the same time, shows us all that the movement to get rid of soring hasn’t progressed very far. Here is what he says at the site.

On March 26 – 28, 2015, one of the CRUELEST Horse Shows – the Tennessee Walking Horse (TWH) performance or “BIG LICK” show is coming to the Mississippi State Fairgrounds.

The “Mississippi Charity Horse Show” will feature 59 “Big Lick” Tennessee Walking Horses classes. Sadly, four of the five “Horse Show Judges” have received Horse Protection Act Violation Citations for “Soring” Horses.

“Soring” is the illegal and cruel practice of using chemical and mechanical methods to create pain in a gaited show horse€™s front feet to exaggerate their animated step … The Horses are forced to perform the CRUEL and unnatural high stepping “Big Lick” gait.


Middle Tennessee State vet Dr. John Haffner, “ The fact is the big lick can only be accomplished by soring. When one soring technique becomes detectable, another one is developed. The big lick is a learned response to pain and if horses have not been sored, they do not learn it.”

Trainers deliberately TORTURE by “Soring” by applying harsh chemicals (including kerosene, diesel fuel, and WD-40) to the horse’s legs and hooves. The chemicals cause painful blistering so when the horses are shown wearing “CHAINS” on their front feet, it causes excruciating pain which forces the horse into a high-stepping gait.

“Big Lick” TWH also wear heavy built up “STACKED SHOES” weighing 10-15 lb per foot. Often, trainers will insert metal or objects between the pads and the horse’s foot to create pain which also causes the horse to step high.

“Big Lickers” also “train” horses not to react to pre-show inspections. One Trainer used a medieval like “Barbed Wire Harness” in the shape of a “Figure Eight” to fit over a horse’s head and ears so it would “learn” not to move during inspections. Other Trainers beat or shock the horses to “teach” them.


On September 10, 2014, The Tennessean newspaper reported over 50% of 389 Tennessee Walking Horses inspected by USDA vets at the 2014 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration (TWH Super Bowl) showed signs of soring. It said the apparent signs of soring disqualified 166 competitors during the event -€” 15.4 percent of all of the horses inspected.


In 2014, the Celebration’s largest sponsor, Regions Bank (16 states), withdrew its $25,000.00 corporate support of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. In 2012, Pepsi-Co (Pepsi Cola, Mountain Dew brands) withdrew its $25,000.00 corporate sponsorship of the event.


In 2014, over 70% of the U. S. House of Representatives and 60 United States Senators publicly announced support for a Federal Law to eliminate the “Big Lick” by removing pads and chains from Tennessee Walking Horses, and make horse soring a federal felony. Tragically, the law did not get a vote. Soring is now concentrated in the States of Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi.


Starting in 2012, the University of Tennessee ended the decades long tradition of exhibiting a”Big Lick” Tennessee Walking Horse at its annual Homecoming football game. The new tradition features a sound natural flat shod Tennessee Walking Horse performing the plantation gaits.


The UMC (University of Mississippi) Childrens Hospital currently receives “Blood Money” donations from the “Mississippi Charity Horse Show” which are derived from the exhibition of “Big Lick” Tennessee Walking Horses.

Brand New Birthday Gifts to Read

Ever since my February birthday, I’ve been reading my birthday gifts from my children. It’s a tradition in my family for the children to give me books for Christmas and my birthday, and sometimes on other occasions as well.

Here’s what I’m working on now.

When Books Went to War, its subtitle and good descriptor, “The Stories that helped us win World War II.” By Molly Guptill Manning. The author describes the need for books during that war this way: “The days were grinding, the stress was suffocating, and the dreams of making it home were often fleeting. Any distraction from the horrors of war was cherished. The men treasured mementos of home. Letters from loved ones were rare prizes. Card games, puzzles, music, and the occasional sports game helped pass the hours waiting for action or sleep to come.” The book goes on to describe the Armed Services Editions, “portable, accessible, and pervasive paperbacks….”  This book is heartwarming to read as stories of the WWII soldiers and their reading matter is explored. The need for paperbacks is still true today. Last year I sent many paperbacks to the armed services. If anyone would like to know how to do this, just contact me below.

The Majesty of the Horse. An Illustrated history. Tamsin Pickeral. Photography by Astrid Harrisson. From the back cover: “Award winning horse photographer Astrid Harrisson and equestrian expert Tamsin Pickeral spent a year combing the world in search of the best examples of more than eighty diverse horse breeds….A fascinating read accompanied by sensitive and striking photography….Discover the vital role that the magnificent horse has played throughout history. From plow horse to racehorse. Trace the development of the most striking and significant breeds that are now almost forgotten.” This is a rich, beautiful book. The rare breeds are fabulous.

Lock In. John Scalzi. Here what Amazon says about the plot. “Not too long from today, a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent – and nearly five million souls in the United States alone – the disease causes “Lock In”: Victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge. A quarter of a century later, in a world shaped by what’s now known as ‘Haden’s syndrome,’ rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann. The two of them are assigned what appears to be a Haden-related murder at the Watergate Hotel, with a suspect who is an ‘integrator’ – someone who can let the locked in borrow their bodies for a time. If the Integrator was carrying a Haden client, then naming the suspect for the murder becomes that much more complicated.”

As You Wish. “Inconceivable Tales From the making of THE PRINCESS BRIDE.” Cary Elwes with Joe Layden.  Hilarious book about what it took, and you wouldn’t believe it, to get this movie made. I laughed all the way through, impressed by the love for the story everyone had and what they were willing to put up with to finish it.




Using Foreshadowing, Flashback, Dreams and Other Literary Techniques in Detective Novels

It has long bothered me that in literary criticism and in many readers’ minds, there is still a sharp difference between , thought of as serious, highly-crafted novels with meaning as seen in its theme, and what has been called popular literature. Snooty readers look down their noses, for example, at detective novels and say that kind of writing is second-rate along with other types of genre novels like romance, science fiction, horror, fantasy, police procedural, and so on.

Detective novels can be serious, contain meaning, that is, have a theme or central idea, and be highly crafted. I mean by “highly crafted” that the writer puts together his or her novel carefully and with attention to good writing, and often uses literary devices in building his or her story. A device is something that is used in order to achieve a particular effect. Examples are similes or metaphors. It is worth trying a few of these devices as you write and see if they make a difference in telling your story, if they enhance it. If so, your novel is worthy to be placed in the mainstream category.

I’ll start with a little background about the basic structure of a story or novel, touching on Aristotle’s design to pin down the basic structure that we all start with when we write our novels. We’ll go from there to the classic detective novel in which writers did not hesitate to use literary techniques, and finally talk about a few of those techniques that we can put into or insert into our novels which deal with manipulation of time: foreshadowing, flashback, subplot, meaningful dialogue about the future, description of an atmosphere that predicts what may happen, and dreams. First, the structure we start with for our novel.

Do you like to arrange the events in your novel that make up your plot in chronological order, making those events you’ve ground out so painfully from your fevered brain march one after one another obediently until the end, never deviating from the chronological pattern you’ve forced upon your book? After all, this has been the time-honored method of telling a story ever since a group of people eager to be struck by wonder sat on the ground listening to a roving storyteller relate the new story he’d heard somewhere (or made up) about King Arthur (Welch or Celtic) or Achilles (Greek) or Gilgamesh (Mesopotamian). These storytellers knew instinctively how to tell a story in the most effective way, to keep the listeners’ attention and hopefully get paid.

But to see literary theory about the nature of a plot, we need to look at what Aristotle said in his Poetics c. 355-335 B.C. This was the first objective analysis of a literary work.

Aristotle talked about the events of a story, which as I’ve said, are selected and arranged by an author to form a plot. Aristotle used the word mythos for our word plot. We would all assume that this is the word for myth, with which we are familiar. But as Northrop Frye and others point out, Aristotle said that broadly, mythos implies narrative movement, which means a form that tells a story. In order to be read sequentially, there must be movement within the story. Aristotle associates this mythos, which we are thinking of as plot or movement, with drama, which in turn he defines as a mimesis or imitation of a human action. We thus consider the plot, Northrup Frye says, as the “central form, or metaphorically the soul, of the drama.” The word “form” suggests structure, that is, how you build those events from beginning to end. The term is architectural: to build or put together.

To go a little further, Aristotle says that a plot has a beginning, a middle and an end. (This three part structure has been tinkered with for centuries. I want to mention that even though this structure appeals to all people everywhere, the popular way to meddle with it is to leave out the beginning end at which film goers or readers like me gnash teeth.) This Aristotelian structure makes the plot different from the type of narrative exemplified by a diary or primitive romances of long ago, which start and stop arbitrarily and have unconnected sequence.

The beginning of the plot must suggest an end and the end must return to the beginning. (In my latest novel, Cross of Gold Road,  we start with Tim Lomax at the beginning and see that he has suffered a grievous mental injury, and at the end we discover  how he turns out, thus turning the reader’s mind back to what he was like at the beginning. The story comes full circle thus satisfying the reader.

Another element Aristotle mentions which is typical particularly in the detective story is anagnorises. The word means “discovery” or “recognition” or “surprise” that the audience feels when the truth comes out.

Aristotle says plot is not simply an arrangement of events moving in a straight line; it is “teleological, that is, it has a purpose in moving as it does, and its purpose is to illuminate the beginning by the end, and vice versa.” To make it more complex, plot does not simply move with time but “spreads out in metaphorical space.” However, since the beginning and end are connected in some way, the movement suggests there must be a structure of some kind. Or simply, you build a structure when you construct your plot. The writer worries about how the incidents are put together, placed in the story, and how they are related.

A last way to look at plot and its structure, is that Aristotle suggests that the drama (or the story or novel) has importance because it has meaning. Meaning is the idea that is expressed in a piece of writing.

With this plotting structure in mind, let’s take a long jump to the detective novel, which is even more popular today than it was when Edgar Allan Poe started it in the nineteenth century with his story of ratiocination called Murders in the Rue Morgue in 1841. Of course in England, from which he drew inspiration, the detective story had an earlier start. The early detective novelists in both countries used Aristotle’s primary structure of plot when they wrote. If you dissect the plots in many of the famous detective writers of the nineteenth and early twentieth century novels, you can find these basic parts. Of course there are extra items added, but it all breaks down into a beginning, middle, and an end, the beginning associated with the end and vice versa, and all the rest. They may differ in their protagonists (Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Poe’s Dupin, but they are alike in one important way: These detective stories were written in a literary style in both countries. This means that writers thought that just as in other types of fiction, you must be acquainted with literary techniques to produce a well written book to write as beautifully as possible. This is true even if you were writing about the murders in an English country house on a certain rainy weekend. Thus you find the early work of Ellery Queen and Robert Parker using metaphor, simile, allusion, figurative language and other techniques in their work. (Parker and Queen were much more prone to do this in their early novels and that’s why those early books are quite entertaining to read and worthy of rereading. )

In the classic popular or detective novel, the detective is often an amateur and often has a companion or even a servant to help him. Poe’s protagonist, Dupin, liked to solve crimes the police couldn’t and cooperated with the police sometimes. Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Watson were influenced by Poe’s work. Another famous pair was Lord Peter Wimsey and his servant Bunter invented by Dorothy Sayers. All these detective stories were written in a literary way. They featured the rational thought of the protagonists in figuring out the mystery. Another must-have was fair play. All the clues were presented enabling the reader to figure out who the murderer was.

But this was due to change. The novels of Ellery Queen are an example of the changes the early classic mystery novels went through as the world changed. According to Joseph Goodrich, a Queen critic: “. . . the novels in the late twenties and early thirties were classic, fair play works. Later work encompassed stylistic experimentation, daring intellectual social and philosophical content. Post-World War II novels dealt with mass murder, aberrant psychology, McCarthyism, passion of Christ, Death of God, Auschwitz and insanity of modern life, all these figuring as background and subject. Usefulness of reason, the cornerstone virtue of the classic mystery, was questioned. Ellery Queen embodied rationality but the world had changed. Dannay and Lee reflected on that chaos.”

When in the US, hard-boiled fiction arose, which often had nothing to do with the beauty of one’s writing but which dealt with shock value, sensationalistic content, and crudity of expression to match what happened in the novels, lots of sex and violence, an immoral or amoral private detective as the protagonist, a lot changed. In fact many writers started writing police procedurals.

Let’s talk about several literary devices tied in with the manipulation of time, ways to wrest the novel from the often boring chronological plot structure you’ve given it. Let’s take it for granted that we start out with the Aristotelian structure of the novel we’ve talked about. We can feel free to try some literary devices that will make our novels more skillfully written, transmit our meaning more effectively, and fascinate the reader with our story.

Foreshadowing shows or suggests something that will happen or exist at a future time. Here you are stopping in your chronological pattern to prepare the reader for something important that is coming. You are, in effect, titillating the reader producing feelings of interest, pleasure, or suspense. She thinks, “I can’t wait to get there,” or How did that happen?” Using an earlier event that goes back before main story started, you can prepare for an important later event. In a historical novel I’m reading, the author stopped the narration to say no one realized seeing the beautiful laughing princess and her adoring subjects that in a few years they would be pelting her boat with garbage as it was rowed down the Thames. It thus makes the final event that much stronger now that the reader has been prepared. You can also use a minor episode to foreshadow a main development in the plot. Episode is an incidental event or happening within the story which nevertheless foreshadows something to come. Thus in a detective novel, a common incident is a person acting “wrong” in a group of people who are all acting “right.” The plot goes on until the writer reaches the point that the first person acting wrong was actually the killer and a bunch of people were there and never suspected anything. The alert reader knows something is wrong when she reads this little part and suspects that later this person will be met again.

Sometimes a subplot may emulate the major plot that will come later. While a subplot features secondary characters who act separately from the central plot, there may be a parallel between the two types of plots. The subplot may prefigure the problems inherent in the main plot. At some point, the subplot and major plot join.

Dialogue is very handy to suggest something that might happen in the future. For example, a character might have extra knowledge that he can impart to the detective, which might suggest something is going to happen based on the knowledge the character has.

Description of the atmosphere of the story, defined as the mood and the setting of the story may predict the type of action that will happen later. The three witches in Macbeth provide a frightening atmosphere that foreshadows the later violence.

Dreams work this way by foreshadowing what is going to happen later in the story. Once again the chronological action is stopped to make way for a meaningful dream, which is described outside of your original time. You are suspending that time, describing the dream, and then the story is taken up again after the dream is concluded and chronological time resumes. A detective novel might well start with a character having a terrible dream which prophesies an action which will occur in the future or gives only a hint of what has happened to the character which may bear on his ultimate fate.

So far, we’ve seen devices that predict something that is going to happen. Now for one that moves from the chronological time of your novel to the past. Flashback calls for the suspension of your chronological time temporarily to go into past events which throw light on the plot. It can be recollections by a character in a reverie, a daydream, a reversion to a previous event that throws light on the problem of the novel. The character is lost in thought, propelled there by an incident, a significant object or event .

If any of these literary devices sound like fun and you think they might enhance your novel, why not try them? Remember, though, if you overdo them, use too many, their individual effectiveness suffers.



The Birdman, An Icy Day, and Me

Winter has invaded my southern home. Having come from Buffalo, I feel myself an expert in winter, snow, ice and impossible roads upon which it is easy to get stuck and sit there like a fool with spinning wheels. But down here, problems immediately present themselves on days like this: all too familiar, as I’ve had them many times before in the north. I bought more groceries last Thursday morning knowing a snow storm was coming. Staying inside makes you eat more. I should have known that I would abandon my rigorous diet and eat something rich while I watch many reruns of The Bluebloods. Thus I need to get more groceries today including some baking supplies I ran out of (yes, butter makes the best cakes and muffins and I’m out of butter.) It is very cold here, thirty degrees this morning, and all of us who live here, accustomed to wearing summery clothes and rarely sweaters, have to pile on loads of layers, just as I had to do in Buffalo, and get our cars going. Luckily my old Ford Escape has four-wheel drive, which I’ve never used since I moved south. There is a weak sun out this cold day and that encourages me to go to the supermarket after lunch to pick up extra groceries.

The day happens to be my birthday too.  Last Sunday night, my youngest daughter treated me to dinner and a film in honor of the event. I chose “Birdman.” I suddenly realized as I was trying to figure out what the film meant as we watched, that the writers used magical realism, which solved all the problems immediately in interpreting the film. Once I accepted this premise,  I could then look at the events, settings and above all The Birdman himself as having more than one meaning, and the richness of the film made many meanings possible. I’ll go to the store where I can get some celebratory baked goods, thus eliminating the need to bake and giving me more time to read about this fascinating film online. For everyone who has seen the film, here’s a good address for you to start, in which the writer explores the various ways to interpret the film. Go to Erin Perry’s essay at The Dinglehopper for a neat discussion on what kind of film Birdman is.  She says “Seems to me we can take the ending in three different directions: the literal (real), the metaphorical (magically real), and the fantastical (unreal).” My vote is magical realism. See what you think!

Using Lines from Shakespeare as Epigraphs

I like to use epigraphs in my novels. They are quotations from writers who have said something directly applicable to my story–and said it perfectly. Shakespeare’s lines are epigraphs in two novels: Their Proud Hoofs (formerly The Case of the Three Dead Horses) and He Trots the Air.  Here are the epigraphs. You’ll notice that I’ve used parts of them as book titles also. Both are from Henry V: “Think when we talk of horses that you see them/Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth.” And “When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk; he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it . . .”   “It is clear that the horse was one of Shakespeare’s favorite animals. His appreciation of the grace, strength and loyalty of horses is evident in the care he took to name so many of the horses mentioned in the plays — Barbary, Capilet, Dobbin, Surrey, Galathe, Curtal — and in the intense feelings horses kindle in his characters.” ( If you have a new horse with no name yet, Shakespeare won’t mind if you borrow one of his.