What is a Fire Horse?

Kay Honeyman

I was already writing about a girl traveling through Angel Island to America when I discovered the year of the Fire Horse.

In much of the Western world, we use a linear measurement for time, the years parading forward into the future.  The Chinese use a cycle to measure their years.  On the mats in Chinese restaurants it looks like a 12-year cycle built around animals, but these animals are matched with five elements – metal, wood, fire, water, and earth creating 60-year cycles.  So you are not just born in the year of the Horse, but in the year of the Earth Horse or Water Horse…or Fire Horse.

Fire Horses are formed from the heat of flames and the wildness of horses making them as dangerous as they are strong-willed.  They fight and kick against boundaries, disregarding traditions, valuing blind faith over wisdom and cunning over intelligence.  The first…

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Why I Write Realistic Fiction

I was at the Montgomery Book Festival last week on a “Just Keeping it Real” panel with Christina Mandelski, Stasia Ward Kehoe, and Jessica Warman (all fabulous and so much fun to spend the day with). Our books span the various genres under the umbrella of realistic fiction– mystery, romance, coming-of-age, historical. An audience member asked us why we wrote realistic fiction, and I have been chewing on that question ever since. Continue reading “Why I Write Realistic Fiction”

Fire Horse Girl Info and Inspiration

I could live my life on Pinterest. It caters to all my quirks in addition to my love of cork board. I created this Pinterest board to the YA Scavenger Hunt last month. I’ll post the link here in case you want to look around. It has some of my favorite websites about Angel Island and San Francisco. Continue reading “Fire Horse Girl Info and Inspiration”

Put down the book and back away.

Happy Banned Book Week!


Celebrate your right to read by picking up a banned or challenged book. I put together some of my favorites in the link below.


Click here to see my board of some of my favorite banned and challenged books! Continue reading “Put down the book and back away.”

Double Seventh Festival – Chinese Valentines Day

It is the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, also known as Double Seventh Day. I have often heard this day described as the Chinese Valentines Day although it seems to have its own unique traditions and celebrations. It’s also called Young Women’s Day or Daughter’s Day. Continue reading “Double Seventh Festival – Chinese Valentines Day”

Chinese New Year – Kitchen God

“That is what I always thought love would be. A kind of understanding.”

“You are very romantic for a Fire Horse,” Spring Blossom said.

“Maybe. I also like the story of the kitchen god who throws himself into the fire.”

This is a story that I tried to work into THE FIRE HORSE GIRL several time. None of my attempts were successful because it is one of those great pieces that exist outside the story an author is telling at that moment. In the final version of THE FIRE HORSE GIRL, it exists only in the one line above. Still, I think Jade Moon would have a complicated  and interesting relationship with the story. It is a good story, so she would like that. It ends with some pretty brutal justice, which would probably meet with her approval. On the other hand, she might not like that Zhang ends up as the eyes and ears of the Jade Emperor inside every household…including hers. Continue reading “Chinese New Year – Kitchen God”

Chinese New Year – Animal Race

 “It is a horrible match,” I said. “A snake and a horse. We will do nothing but fight.”

I have always loved the story of how the years got their animal names in the Chinese zodiac. There are many versions of this story, and several beautiful children’s books that tell the tale if you want to learn more.

Once upon a time, long ago…

the Jade Emperor decided to hold a race to decide how the years would be named. The twelve fastest animals would earn their places in the Chinese calendar by having years named after them.

After the announcement, the cat and rat huddled together. “We are not the fastest, so we will have to be the most clever,” the cat said, blinking his eyes at his friend the rat. “Wake me up early and we will be the first at the river. I am sure we can figure out a way to win first and second.”

The rat promised to wake the cat, but when morning came, he decided that one less competitor would better his chances of winning. He slunk away in the morning, causing the cat to miss the race. The Great Race

But the rat still had to beat the larger and faster animals. he asked the ox to carry him through the race in exchange for a song.

race_chinese_zodiacThe strong, hard-working ox agreed. The race began and the rat was thrilled to see the ox pull ahead of the other animals. The ox would arrive first and the rat would arrive second. “But why shouldn’t I be first,” thought the rat. I was clever enough to trick the cat and get a ride on the ox.” The rat decided to play one more trick. Just as the ox was ready to step across the finish line and claim the first year, the rat slipped down and scurried the last step just in front of the ox. The ox had to be content with second place.

The tiger arrived in third place. The rabbit, who had hopped across stones most of the way, had to use a log to get across the last bit of the river. But his quick feet landed him in fourth place.

The dragon arrived next. “I thought you would arrive first,” said the Jade Emperor, “since you are the only animal here who can fly.”

The dragon explained that he would have arrived first, but he stopped to help a few villagers and rabbit balancing precariously on a log who needed a breath of wind to keep him from falling in the water.

The horse galloped toward the finish line, but just as he was about to cross it, the snake snuck out from behind his hoof. The horse, startled, stumbled back. This allowed the snake to slither into seventh and left the horse in eighth place.


The goat, monkey and rooster arrive next. They had made a raft and worked together to cross the river. The Jade Emperor, impressed with their cooperation, awarded the goat eighth place, the monkey ninth place, and the rooster tenth place.

The dog arrived in eleventh place, pleased with his romp across the river. Eventually the pig arrive. He had eaten too much and fallen asleep, but he was lucky enough to arrive just in time to come in twelfth.