What We Can Learn from a Modern-Day Cowboy | The Faraway Horses Book Review

Photo of the book Faraway Horses

“You hear a lot of talk about mentoring these days. It doesn’t have to be just talk. If we get to troubled kids early enough, we can impress things upon them not by being mean and threatening, but by providing discipline and guidance.

The same thing is true for troubled horses. If you extend the parameters too far because of sympathy, the horse won’t have any boundaries, and you will end up spoiling him.”

—Buck Brannaman, The Faraway Horses

Have you ever watched or read The Horse Whisperer? Did you ever wonder where the inspiration behind this touching story came from? Here’s your answer: the real-live horse whisperer, Buck Brannaman who has gained the respect of such renowned horsemen as George Morris.

If you don’t know any of those names, it doesn’t matter at all. Please read on.

In his autobiography of sorts, The Faraway Horses, Brannaman establishes that the way to communicate, get along with, and establish good relationships with both humans and animals is a balance of love and respect, and, when necessary, discipline. I recommend this book to horsey people and non-horsey people alike because of the level it goes to understand mankind through horses, and vice versa.

Personally, I’ve always been intrigued by the honest way horses and other creatures behave and how they can reflect how humans react to conflict, fear, change, and abuse. Brannaman doesn’t shy away from this. He explores emotional trauma within himself and other people and applies the principles when dealing with those other people and broken horses.

In this book, he tells stories of his childhood, family experiences, his time as a famous “Idaho Cowboy,” and a little on his assistance with the movie The Horse Whisperer, but he always comes back to the importance of valuing others and communicating with them in a way that shows love and respect no matter who they are.

Brannaman has committed his life to helping horse owners with their horses, and along with that comes healing and restoration to both the owners and horses. His book The Faraway Horses will take you deep into the psychology of both horses and people and the healing they’ve found through Brannaman’s methods. Pick up a copy today, or do what I did and listen to the audio version. It’s well worth the short six hours of audio.

Genre: Autobiography


Bethany Swoboda is a freelance editor for Wordbender Books. She has always loved reading, reading, reading, and enjoys helping authors polish and develop their manuscripts. Some of her many hobbies are horseback riding, bouldering, helping work her family’s farm, playing piano, crocheting, and volunteering at her church. She has a BA in creative writing and a minor in professional writing from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri.


Rescuing of Princesses in Disney Films: Sexist? Or embedded in our DNA?

Picture of a princess in a red cloak

Folktales strike us as enigmatic because they mix the miraculous with the natural, the near with the far, and the ordinary with the incomprehensible in a completely effortless way. — Max Luthi

 [Author note: This quote really doesn’t have much to do with this blog until the end except for “the ordinary with the incomprehensible” when referring to the great lengths to which a fairy tale prince will go to rescue or see his princess, like in “Rapunzel.” However, I think it’s a nice quote to get us thinking about fairy tales.]

The recent hubbub about men rescuing young ladies in Disney films being sexist—benevolent sexism, to be exact—caused me to remember a fairy tales class I took in college.

There is a theory illustrated with folklore that there are certain elements of a story that, well, make a story. And these elements are so ingrained in us that without them, a story ceases to be a story—or at least ceases to be interesting. In fact, my professor actually argued that these story elements are programmed into our DNA because every culture has folktales that include those elements. (Side note for clarification: not all elements have to be present in each story.) One of those major elements is a man rescuing a woman.

Folktales/Fairy Tales

Let’s remember that many Disney Princess films come from ancient folktales that we commonly refer to as fairy tales. Neither the Grimms nor Hans Christian Andersen made these stories up. They are folk stories, verbally passed from generation to generation until these men took the initiative to write them down.

Fairy tales are one-dimensional on all levels, so there’s definitely a lack of romance to them, and the audience doesn’t really get a lot of context leading up to the rescuing of the female character. Generally, folktales are told with unemotional rigidity. Kind of a “this is how it happened” without an invested narrator, and a lot is left to the audience to interpret.

(However, there is still a lot of literary importance, and not just because they are historical literature. A book I’d encourage anyone interested in the history of stories to read is The European Folktale: Form and Nature by Max Luthi.)

The Rescue

Each of these Disney stories—movies—being criticized lately carries the traditional element of romance. Why do you think that is? I mean, we’re talking old-old tradition. Somehow, generation after generation, the story of a man and woman falling in love is attractive to us. And a man rescuing a woman is still more interesting to us. We want to watch. We want to see how it ends. We love sitting in anticipation for the end when we know the prince or princess and his or her counterparts will finally be together and “live happily ever after.”

I think it’s something so deeply ingrained, so deeply rooted that there’s no getting it out of our system, even across different cultures. And I think we’re actually missing the point on why we like stories about a man rescuing a woman.

Why do I think that?

The Real Rescue

Well, I think it’s an ingrained depiction of Christ rescuing the His bride, the Church. As those of us familiar with Christianity know, throughout scripture, the Church, God’s people, is referred to in the feminine and He is referred to in the masculine. We, the Church, are referred to as the bride, and Christ as the Bridegroom.

As you get into the nitty-gritty of scripture, you find how truly awful the Israelites (and mankind) are toward the Lord and that, even so, He is always ready to swoop in and rescue them when they finally realize their need for Him, mixing “the miraculous with the natural, the near with the far, and the ordinary with the incomprehensible.”

And I think this prince-rescuing-princess romance is a reflection of that.

I’m not saying that women need men to save them. And I’m most definitely not saying women are all horrible toward their male counterparts.

What I am saying is that it seems as though the gospel somehow appears in verbal folktales. How amazing is that?


Grab Your Hot Cider For A Fun Read | [SNEAK PEAK and TONS of Great Summer Photos!]

I don’t know if you noticed it last Friday evening, but, with the blowing in of the northwesterly winds, summer is gone, and, friends, it’s fall. So, wrap your hands around of mug of hot apple cider, and read on.

Fall in the Midwest is one of my favorite times of the year. All of a sudden, the humidity is gone, the air is vibrant and clear, and, as if touched with the barest caress of sunlight, the maples start turning, beginning at the very tips of their leaves on the easterly side and fading gently, perfectly into the still-green portions of the trees.

sunset over lake

What I will miss from summer are the foggy drives into work, watching the sun rise over the tree-covered Ozark foothills, rays peeking through in dark blues and grays and in lighter colors—reds, purples, orange—above the low-hanging clouds.

What I look forward to are the effervescent colors of fall, Happy Apples, deer season, and later, the ice-encrusted trees and snow. Oh, how I love snow.  And how I love fall and winter clothes, the intimacy of warm homes, and people readying for the holidays.

But now, at the close of the summer, before the summer-ness dies off, I want to give you one last peek of my summer—some fun, and a project I’ve been working on that’s about ready to launch.

Let’s take a peek back through summer’s swiftly closing door.

Photo of yellow flowers

The New Addition

Piper. Piper is probably the biggest change that has happened this summer like I mentioned in another blog. One of these days I’ll get around to writing a post that is solely for her, so consider this a teaser.

Puppy leaning on stool

On Memorial Day our dog Nicki, at the age of 11 passed away. She was Aussie #2, and, 4 dead chickens (courtesy of a coon) and a month later, Mom and I drove to Kentucky to pick up Aussie #3.

Puppy between bushes
Piper at 8 weeks at the breeder’s home in Kentucky. Doesn’t she look innocent?

Holy Toledo, two minutes into the drive home, we thought we had picked up an entire pack of coyotes the way she was carrying on! And so, nameless-puppy as she was then, got what she wanted (out of the crate), and was daubed (among other things) “the banshee.” She has been a steamroller. Very stubborn, very smart, and incredibly full of personality, and exactly the opposite of Nicki. Where Nicki was scared of the A/C vents, Piper sleeps on them.

Puppy with ball

Where Nicki was easy to train because she was easy to intimidate if needed, Piper . . . oh Piper. Well, let’s just say that Piper does whatever it is she shouldn’t be doing even faster, and more calculated.

But as she grows and her brain starts to catch up with her teeth (the frantically biting teeth of a teething, hyper-hyper Aussie puppy), she seems to be turning out rather amazingly. I’m pretty sure that’s due to the dutiful training my cat, Elsie, has been painstakingly instilling in her since she came home. I’m not joking.

Dog and cat on the swing

Piper has even started sleeping on the porch chairs like Elsie, if that tells you anything.

Needless to say, our life has been much more interesting (and a lot more work). But more about that another time.

Dog in tunnel
My brother and crazy Piper goofing off in the tunnel.

The Best Friend

Ruth and Maddie
Aren’t these two ladies gorgeous?

Hurricane season blew my best friend to me. So, while many people were dealing with the destruction of Florence, I was blessed beyond measure to hang out with Ruth and her husband and their dog (and Piper’s new friend) Maddie at our farm.

Ruth and Ethan and Maddie

After months and months of trying to figure out how to see each other one more time this year, God provided a paid leave for Ruth due to the impending weather in Virginia, and she got to come to Missouri for about four days. Four days is never enough, but we’re so thankful. Moriah graced us with our “whenever-we-are-together” photoshoot, and she did an amazing job. (Remember, moving puppies, moving horses and general craziness.)

Selfie of me with the dogs in the back seat behind me
Driving the dogs to PetCo for puppy playtime!

Ruth and I . . . well, neither of us is very photogenic, and we’re both super awkward, so pictures are not a strong point for us. But Ruth always says, “We need to take pictures of us together!” and I am usually the one to make it happen even though, when we finally are together, it’s the last thing we want to do.

Ruth and Me with the Dogs

We also got to ride together which is special because that is was the original connecting point of our friendship.

Ruth and me with horses

The Project

Now for the real teaser: The Project. The project I’ve been working on slowly but surely for months.

It’s a book. And not a book by me.

[By the way, would you all be interested in a book written by me?]

This particular book is actually a second edition of a book my grandma wrote years ago. She had originally had it self-published and recently ran out of copies, so we revamped it, made it cool (very cool, with the help of Hannah Shockley and her cover design), and it’s about ready to be released.

Book cover
Cover art by Hannah Shockley

My wonderful grandma is not one for advertising, so here is a teaser of my own:

Are you looking for a practical guide on how to believe for your husband’s salvation?

Set Apart for the Kingdom: God’s Plan for Your Husband’s Salvation is a story of humility and God’s grace and miracles—and how you can apply God’s promises to your life through His Word. In short, it’s a dose of God’s Truth that can teach you how to pray and act in a Kingdom manner and, through trusting in the Lord and building your relationship with Him, win your husband for Christ. This truth can be applied in a much broader sense and I think it’s relevant to most relationships in general.

Real strength is walking in God’s way. – Connie Dailey

This book has been a pleasure to work on, and I can’t wait to release it. God will absolutely be using it to change lives.

I will let you know when it releases!

And with that, I shall close. How was your summer? What do you look forward to most in fall? Tell me your summer stories!

Books under futon
I hit up some book sales, and, well, long story short, they were basically free, so I HAD to bring them home . . . yes, they are stacked under my futon. But they are happy to have a home!

Bethany Swoboda is a freelance editor for Wordbender Books. She has always loved reading, reading, reading, and enjoys helping authors polish and develop their manuscripts. Some of her many hobbies are horseback riding, bouldering, helping work her family’s farm, playing piano, crocheting, and volunteering at her church. She has a BA in creative writing and a minor in professional writing from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Us girls holding the horses


For the Love of Jane Austen | Pride and Prejudice Book Review

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

 Oxford Illustrated edition of Jane Austen

Jane Austen tidbits are always treasures, as is this well-worn book and quote.

Pride and Prejudice has wound its way into the hearts of generation upon generation. We could talk all day on what makes a “classic” and what makes a classic attractive to so many people for over 200 years, but why should we do that when we already know and appreciate one such as this?

This is probably my third time through Pride and Prejudice. I started it during the winter this time, and read a chapter every now and then, savoring it whenever I had a little bit of time to relax and enjoy. I didn’t finish it until recently—mid August! But really, it was not a bad way to enjoy a book, especially one I was already familiar with. I always got really excited when I remembered that it was there, waiting for me to continue reading it.

With all the trashy pop culture books out there now, it’s so refreshing to sit down with a real piece of wholesome literature where the characters reap what they sow with their actions, learn from their mistakes, and . . . well, who doesn’t love a happy ending?

[Side note: one of my professors told the class, “happy endings are for children.” He might be right, but I am proud to say that I will always be a child in those standards.]

I love Lizzy Bennet. Of all the characters I have read, she is probably one of the most similar to my nature. I have some strong Katniss Everdeen traits and some very strong Professor McGonagall tendencies, but I feel like Lizzy encompasses my normal, everyday self. That sometimes quick tongue that gets her into trouble. Her love of subtly defying the norm. Her loyalty to her family.

How she loves to shock people like Lady Catherine.

Maybe I am none of these things and maybe I do none of these things. But I do think that there is much to learn from the situations Jane Austen wrote for Elizabeth to experience.

For instance, there are consequences to something small like when Elizabeth overhears Mr. Darcy call her “barely tolerable.” Elizabeth has to deal with her feelings after that, but at first she creates a prejudice about him that was certainly quite wrong. As her character grows and expands, she then has to deal with her own pride in knowing she was wrong—and wanting it to be so much different.

There are so many levels of “pride and prejudice” in this book. (Read it to find them!)

It makes for wonderful character development.

Are you looking for similar books? Jane Austen has a great selection including one of my personal favorites, Emma. Emma really eats the consequences of her actions!

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Villette are wonderful similar-genre options, too, but if your French isn’t up to par, you’ll miss out a bit on the dialogue unless you have a Norton’s copy or you keep Google translator handy.

Genre: British literature/historical fiction/satire/romance; adult, teen, preteen.

What is your favorite classic? Tell me! And tell me what has you so captivated by the characters and/or story.

Sunset over dark bean field

Bethany Swoboda is a freelance editor for Wordbender Books. She has always loved reading, reading, reading, and enjoys helping authors polish and develop their manuscripts. Some of her many hobbies are horseback riding, bouldering, helping work her family’s farm, playing piano, crocheting, and volunteering at her church. She has a BA in creative writing and a minor in professional writing from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Appreciate those Life-long Friends

Small girl holding a chicken
I love this picture because this is one of the few times I’ve seen Hannah happy about touching a critter. Most of her animal experience came from my family’s farm, and I’m afraid most of it has not been positive for her…


I have mentioned her before, but let me officially introduce you to my graphic designer, Hannah Shockley.

I mean, you do want to know where I got my amazing, gorgeous design and logo from, right?

Hannah Shockley has been a friend of mine since we were babies. Okay, “friend” might be stretching it a bit because we had one of those “love-hate/I don’t understand you but you’re in my life” friendships because we were so different. But we turned into decent adults and now we’re great friends! And I can’t tell you how blessed I am to have her in my life still. There’s something so incredible about having a friend for 27 years when you’re 27 years old.

Let that be a lesson to all of you youngsters: cherish the good, honest friendships you have now because years from now, you might still have them. I was the rough-and-tumble kid, and she was the quieter, more creative type who would watch me in horror. But, indeed, we survived childhood and are working hard for our own businesses, collaborating when we need to.

Wordbender's Beth Swoboda and Hannah Shockley as kids

Hannah is one of the most patient, kind people I know, and she will absolutely stretch herself to help out.

Wordbender Logo

A stack of business cards

Designing my brand was not an easy task. I know that, and I’m so thankful Hannah took the time to create exactly what I wanted—even though I didn’t know exactly what I wanted. I basically told her that three things are really important to me (a book, a pen, and a unicorn), and that I didn’t know how in the world she could combine all three while still giving me a snazzy, artistic, simple design.

To make it even more complicated, I really, really wanted it to look like those old medieval wooden tradesman signs.

You all have seen the result of Hannah’s hard work. My logo is exactly what I wanted. Exactly.

Wooden stamp of Wordbender's Logo

I talked about my logo quite a bit in Do Rabbits Lay Eggs? But here’s a brief explanation in case you missed it:

The Book

Classic book

I am a manuscript editor! Books are infinitely important to me and have been ever since I learned to read when I was three. Growing up, I always thought it would be the coolest thing to “get paid to read.” And, well, now I’m living the dream! Someday, I will also have a library in my house. I hope.

The Pen

Pen by Wordbender

Pens are for writing, for creating worlds, stories, characters, for orchestrating thoughts, narratives, and painting pictures with clarity for the mind’s eye. The pen is the basic element of writing.

Besides, quill pens are just neat.

The Unicorn

Silhouette of Wordbender and her horse
My Unicorn – Photo Credit: Luke Swoboda

Fiction. I love fiction. For me, the unicorn symbolizes a more magical touch while incorporating my other passion: horses.

I’ve been riding since I was four or five, and once I started, I never stopped.

Now try to make all of that simple! Somehow, Hannah did it. And I am forever (happily) in her debt.

Hannah and I have a story. When we were about five, my mother saddled up our horse Cocoa and gave us pony rides one day. She set both of us in the saddle and started walking us around. Well, I guess Cocoa got an itch or something, but she shook, like horses do, and the saddle went from being right-side up to upside down! Instead of falling off, Hannah and I clung to that saddle on the underbelly of the horse. I’m pretty sure we squealed something awful, but that horse just stood there until Mom could help us off. I don’t think Hannah has been on a horse since.

Designed by Hannah Shockley

Hannah has been interested in photography and graphic design for as long as I remember. When we were teenagers, her camera was one of her most beloved possessions. And I remember her talent even then. As the years passed, graphic design came more to the forefront for her job.

Well, then she went and got married to a wonderful man we’ve known from church for ages, and now they have a beautiful, blue-eyed, redhead daughter. Recently, now that Penny is a little older, Hannah decided to start expanding her graphic design business, and I’m thrilled to have been one of her first new customers!

She is currently working on business pages, which I’ll update here and on my Credits page when those are ready. For now you can reach her by emailing designedbyhannahshockley@gmail.com.

Hannah and her husband, CJ, live at the Lake of the Ozarks where CJ is a real estate professional. CJ and Hannah team up to improve houses and resell them.

Hannah is starting to incorporate her photography skills into the realm of real estate.

I just asked her to work on another project that I can’t wait to share with you all! It might be a while still, but I’ll let you know when it comes out.

Designed by Hannah family photo
CJ, Hannah, and Penny Shockley

For all of your graphic design needs:

Hannah’s email: designedbyhannahshockley@gmail.com

Real Estate:


Find CJ on Facebook or call at 636-744-2450


Bethany Swoboda is a freelance editor for Wordbender Books. She has always loved reading, reading, reading, and enjoys helping authors polish and develop their manuscripts. Some of her many hobbies are horseback riding, bouldering, helping work her family’s farm, playing piano, crocheting, and volunteering at her church. She has a BA in creative writing and a minor in professional writing from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri.