Holiday Freebies ~ Sexy and Sweet

Samhain Publishing has been treating their readers with free stories through this holiday season and an extra special one was posted today, Leah Braemel's FIRST NIGHT. Click on over and give it a read! It's fun and it's FREE.

And in addition to being a steamy hot read, it's especially fun for me because it has it's roots in the week that Leah spent down here in Texas during the RWA National Convention last year. You can read all the details about it here, but I have to say in my own defense that I'd always thought we used Mesquite wood in grills purely in self-defense! ;)


I have no bats in my bat house.

They say that bats are everywhere, if you'll just put out a bat house, they'll find it and roost or den or whatever bats do. It was on the the side of the well-house, but the only thing that moved in were wasps. I thought it needed to be higher, but I don't think where it is now is working very well.

Jolly Balls...

So everyone reads about Telpe's tire and Miree's hay habit and wonder why I don't just buy them 'jolly balls'. (for those that don't know, they're big rubber balls they sell for horses to play with). I've tried that and found a couple of problems with them. I liked them overall, and the horses liked them well enough. But I thought, for the price (they aren't cheap) the horses didn't enjoy them *that much more* than say, a rubber feed pan or an empty milk jug.

The bigger problem I had with the balls was that they roll *head desk* ... I know what you're thinking .... it's a ball forcryingoutloud... right? But they roll under the fence and I'm the one playing fetch. (I'm not that bored). And not only do the horses toss them through the fence, but the wind blows them around. So in the summer time, the west pasture has all the balls, and in the winter time (we only have two seasons here) the south pasture has all the balls.

The obvious answer (obvious to me) is to wash out a milk jug, dribble a handful of grain in it and toss it out for them. But they don't last very long. Hours at most. And even my family doesn't drink that much milk. And then (again) I'm chasing them down and picking them up to throw away.

I thought I had a brillant idea and a break through when I finished off a jug of laundry detergent. It has a handy dandy kind of spout that doesn't allow backflow or drips and I thought it would work nicely to keep the grain snacks from pouring out too quickly.

As you can see, that part worked well. Grain goes easy in, but only sprinkles come out. Perfect for encouraging play. (as if they needed encouragement).

Not only did I like the spout, but I was excited by the heavy feel of the plastic. I thought it might last a couple of weeks.

The jug itself was a grand hit.

but, alas, it didn't wear as well as had been hoped -- this photo was taken less then ten minutes into play and it had been completely demolished within a few hours.


I got a wonderful surprise last night at our Texas Smokin Gun's Christmas party. Beri and I managed to accumulate enough points to win the club high point in our division. I was totally shocked because I hadn't expected anything at all, and am inordinately pleased with the award, the recognition, myself and my little mare.

We did have a good year -- a very good year, but it's been a year of learning from our mistakes, more than anything else.

- There were the shoots where we had trouble because we hadn't ridden enough between times
- and the shoots where she soured from going too often.

- and the weekends that family issues kept us home or elsewhere on the road,
- - as well as the *smacks forehead* hindsight of weekends we missed that we shouldn't have.

- We've changed saddles, bridles and bits (three times) and figured out the oddest thing that was bothering her, when we switched from 'roping reins' to 'split reins'... Beri's only 14.1hh and so the normal stock horse split reins were too long, the ends were tangling around her knees. It was a simple fix, we just cut them off.

- We've changed some of how we do our training at home, going back to some basics. It was a (mentally) difficult switch for me to going back to neck reining and more western work. I was 'raised western' (old school) "but I got better" (<= Monty Python "she turned me into a newt" reference) with the centered riding lessons, and the bits of dressage I've had and applied to my endurance and trail riding. All that said, I've never gone back and brought my western riding up to par and this sport has me started back on that journey.

- We had a good run for the AHA OEIP year-end recognition with the CMSA, but needed a couple more better runs to keep our points ahead -- CONGRATULATIONS Dottie!

I'm especially proud of our little Beri for stepping up to the plate and doing such a fantastic job with the shooting this year and just generally doing whatever needs to be done. In addition to the shooting, she added several rides to her endurance record this year and has become the 'go to girl' and grown into a good, solid all-around family horse.

The hay-less hay bag

What you see here, on the left (the blue thing), is a hay bag. An empty hay bag. That stuff strewed below and about? ...that's hay.

SO why is the hay strewed rather than in the bag? That's an excellent question. And the answer, believe it or not, has to do with Telpe's tire.

Remember Telpe's tire? When Telpe got her tire, then Miree got her nosebag back. But since Miree (now she realizes) doesn't have a tire, *she* is terribly bored during the day too.

Miree has about another month of stall rest because of a 'soft-tissue injury' (IOW, she strained something, she has a lump and it hurts). Because she's inside, she gets flakes of hay each day instead of 800lbs at a time like all the others.

Miree being Miree, when I toss her hay in the stall, she has to dig in it and nose it around and arrange her hay 'just so' before she can pick through it and eat the variety of stalks in that days particular order. But that makes a mess of the stall.

So I put her daily ration of hay in the ... are you ready? ... in the hay bag. (which is a bag designed to hold hay) *In* the hay bag. Which of course, adds a step to her digging and noseing and arranging because now she has to first take the hay out of hay bag before she can strew it and make a mess of the stall.

*head desk*

For your Holiday Viewing Pleasure

... a bit of silliness brought to you by GWAIHIR the Valiant & Co. wishing you and yours lots of good food, friends and family, and safe travels as we dive into this holiday season.

Watch this space for news regarding upcoming sequels featuring GWAIHIR the Valiant.

* GWAIHIR The Valiant and the Tale of his Victory over the Medium-sized Orc


* GWAIHIR The Valiant and the Tale of his Victory over the Very Large Orc

* GWAIHIR The Valiant and the Tale of his Victory over Hoards of Orc is still under contract negotiation)

Telpe's Bling

...there's one in every barn.

This is Telpe being ... well, she's just being Telpe and I'm not sure there is much else to say about it except -- this is the horse your momma warned you about.

This is the kind of filly I warn buyers to look out for... now give me a minute to explain that. I've done a lot of match-making over the years and one thing I've tried to explain to new or first time horse owners is to look at a horse's scars. Most horses that have done anything at all are going to have something to show for it. That's not a big deal. But you have to understand that if three of four legs are criss-crossed, and there are marks on the chest, head and/or butt... you have to KNOW that this horse is an instigator.

Telpe has all that and more, from a ripped eye-lid to a fractured hind leg.

I'm certainly not saying not to buy a horse like that, they frequently have more drive and more personality and in many ways can make a better horse than one that's complacent. (They certainly are more fun for authors because of the conflict and chaos they create) But you have to understand what you're getting into. This is a horse that will actively seek out every hole in your fence; this is the horse that will stand at the gate and fiddle with the latch until they figure it out (yes, Telpe's gate has a clip on it that requires a thumb to open)((it's on the *outside* of the panel so she can't easily reach it)); this is the horse that will go through any gate or open door, just to see what's in there.

The reason Telpe is wearing a tire is a little complex. She normally stays with the herd in a 20 acre pasture, but she has been a little thin (she's 2yo and growing too fast too keep up with) so I brought her up to stay in the barn for awhile, treated her with an extra dose or wormer and have been 1) feeding her extra and 2) minimally restricting her exercise.

Over the course of a couple of months, her weight is coming up nicely, but we'd noticed that she was drinking a lot of water. Waaaaay a lot, like two to three times daily what a mature horse should be drinking. After consultation the vet, we decided it was likely a behavioral issue (boredom) and that in additional to several-times-weekly (light) work (which she was already getting) that she needed some extra toys.

What I usually do it wash out an empty milk jug and drop a handful of grain in it and toss it in the stall for them to throw around, but those don't last more than a day with her, so I hung up the tire for her to play with, and dropped a handful of grain (where she couldn't reach it -- I thought) in the inside of the tire. It took her less than 14 minutes to get to the grain, but she seemed very happy with her tire since her neighbors were, of course, quite jealous that she had a tire and they didn't.

Now, the problem didn't come until two days later when I put Miree's grain in Miree's nosebag and let Miree eat out of her nosebag. That's a problem because, up until getting the tire, Telpe had been eating out of Miree's nosebag.

SO I'm out at the barn, doing various chores, waiting for those that get morning feed to finish up when I notice it's suspiciously quiet in Telpe's corner. (Those of you who have toddlers or teenagers know what I'm talking about).

.... so I'm sitting here trying to describe the situtation and find I don't have any words that don't seem to overstate the obvious - so from this point, I'll just let the photo do the talking.



*head desk*

This guy is awesome!

No, you can't see the words, they're admittedly .... we'll call them 'rough' for lack of a better (polite) term. But I did move an old opening along past a sticky point.

Leah's already blogged about it better than I could have so I won't repeat it all, but if you ever felt like you needed a little motivation to get past a tough point, this is a great program.


...just a quick update to the previous post!

My entry 'F' pulled ahead for a decisive victory!

It seemed funny, at the time, to see the world land in my yard, roll
forward and squash Marin.

Many thanks to LA for a fun little contest, and thanks to everyone who voted.

And, no, I'm not sure who Marin is or what he was doing in my yard when the world landed here. The WIP-'Ice' muse is being contrary so a short story may be in order.


Oh no! not that again... it's ok - this one is just for fun.

Head over to LA's blog and vote for your favorite opening line to go with the posted photo.

and no, I'm not telling you which one is mine - just go vote for fun. It's a cool photo.

Helping Zette

Holly Lisle has put out this plea:

Lazette Gifford owns and runs the huge, free-for-everyone writing community Forward Motion.

She's always carried the cost of the site herself (and having done it myself for a bunch of years before she took over, I can attest that the costs are extensive). She gets occasional donations, but again, they are occasional, and they don't cover costs.She has been dedicated to keeping the site free, and as of right now 13796 writers are benefiting from that.

Now, however, she needs your help. She lives in Nebraska, where the first snows have already fallen this year. Her house has a leaky roof, no insulation, a non-working furnace, at least one broken water pipe, and the front porch is pulling away from the house. She needs to get a bunch of things fixed before Nebraska winter sets in in earnest.

Here's where you can help, and get something cool at the same time.

On the following writing courses and books, I have waived all commissions and the authors, if not Zette herself, have waived all payment. 100% of what you spend on these courses (minus PayPal fees) will go directly to Zette, from now through December 31st of 2008.

There's a reason for the rush---Nebraska gets bitterly cold in winter and stays cold for a very long time.

So here are the courses. Every item you buy will help. And every person you can point to this page who buys something will help.

100% of Your Payment after PayPal Fees Goes Directly to Zette for These Books:
Zette's Courses and Books:
The Zette Bundle
2-Year Novel, Year One
2-Year Novel, Year Two
Vision Writing Workshops
Silky Novel Pack
Silky II, Lord of the Land

My Courses:
Create A Character Clinic
Create A Plot Clinic

Books by other HollyShop writers:
33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About Mother Nature, Katherina Gerlach
33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About Construction and Construction Workers, Pete Nix

So far, $822 $1704.27 has been sent to Zette from this effort. (As of
12:52 PM, Oct. 26, 2008)

A couple of the other 33 Mistakes books have been added to this list:

* Pete Nix's 33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About
Construction & Construction Workers

* Tanya Drayton's 33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About Hunting

-- and I've send Holly a note adding my Mistakes about Horses to the group as well. So if you've been thinking about ordering, now is the time. It will go to a really good cause.

I don't know Zette personally, but I do know her work and I think, if you haven't read her before, you may find a new favorite author to add to your list.


I seldom rant in public, but this one is well deserved.

I'm something of an oddity, locally, in that I can't eat spicy foods.


... ... notice that I didn't say I didn't like them (I don't, for the most part) but that I can't eat them.

Oh yes, I like *spice*, salt, garlic, various and assorted herbs, but not hot peppers or anything that has produces capsaicin or any of the various acids so many people seem to enjoy.

According to wikipedia ...

It is common for people to experience pleasurable and even euphoriant effects from eating capsaicin-flavored foods. Folklore among self-described "pepperheads" attributes this to pain-stimulated release of endorphins, a different mechanism from the local receptor overload that makes capsaicin effective as a topical analgesic.

Pardon me!? ... It doesn't seem to me that I'm the one who should be looked at strangely.

Be that as it may, I don't really care what other people eat.

The problem I have is that so many people seem to have a problem with what I don't eat. I've learned I have to be careful when I'm ordering out because nacho rings come standard on a staggering assortment of foods.

- if you order a baked potato at a steak house, they ask if you want cheese and sour cream on it. Is it too much trouble, if you order enchiladas, to ask if you want peppers on them?

The pseudo problem is the eye-rolling and not-so-subtle inference that I'm high-maintenance when I'm careful to avoid peppers.

The real problem:
and I'm going to put this in bold because people don't seem to be able to grasp the concept...

You CAN NOT pick them off because the juice is still in the food. (Like olives. I don't like olives either, but they don't cause me pain. You can't pick olives off because you can still taste them. Mushrooms, you can pick off. No problem.)

If you use a fork to pick peppers out of the jar, do NOT use the same fork for ANYTHING else.

... and I get accused of being too sensitive and over reactive.

So this all came to a head last Friday night.

I'd been on the road since 8am and hadn't eaten since 2pm. At 10pm, I drove thru my favorite Sonic, ordered a Mayo-cheeseburger and continued down the road.

with the first bite, I realized I'd gotten a mustard burger instead. yuck. But, you know, you always get screwed in the drive through. And that seems to go double for me. No matter how polite and/or precise I am, I tend not to get exactly what I ordered.

On the second bite - the mustard seemed a little spicy. I had never had Sonic's mustard before so I wasn't sure what to think. It certainly didn't taste good to me in any way, but I was hungry and already several miles down the road.

On the third bite, I got a mouthful of jalapeño. The inside of my mouth felt like it'd been spritzed with acid. (literally, actually, that's about what happened. ..swabbed, not spritzed).

I pulled over, turned the light on and, yes, my burger had a generous handful of pepper slices, seeds and hot stuff and all. I turned around and drove back to the Sonic and had a chat with the manager about it. He was very understanding and sympathetic as was the young lady who had worked the window.

They gave my $4 back and I went on my way.

The problem is that, for a moments inattention by the girl working the window, my mouth burned for nearly 40 minutes. By the next day, the roof of my mouth had blistered.

- I'm assuming she simply grabbed the wrong burger and that it wasn't some kind of sick, malicious joke on the part of the kitchen.

Three days later, the blisters are finally healing.

Now, I don't know if the girl at the window was stressed in some way, if she'd had a bad day, or maybe one that was good enough to keep her distracted, but for whatever reason, she handed that burger out the window. Maybe it wasn't her, maybe the kitchen staff accidentally switched the bags. Who knows?

The girl that served me that burger has probably never considered that it might *really* be important to get the orders right, or that she might have a real influence on someone's day. She probably gets frustrated and even agitated at the complaints she has to put up with. But wouldn't it be great if more servers would take a real personal interest in customer satisfaction?

I'll bet if she had blistered the top of her mouth, she'd start being more careful about what she handed out the window.

(argh - this is getting too long) but to tie it back in to writing, my Sideways class last week was on using intended, as well as unintended, consequences in your plotting. This is certainly the kind of thing that would be guaranteed to cause conflict between characters.

- And this is exactly the kind of thing Holly talks about in using unintended consequences in your plotting ... following a simple, seemingly inconsequential action, to a logical yet unexpected conclusion.

New Blue

At what point does your youngest, your baby, become all grown up?

Because I think that just happened to me. I have this odd feeling of getting caught between a semi and a solid granite cliff-face.

I thought it was pretty scary to take him with me on those long gallops through the woods, and even a little scarier when we started mounted shooting.

But this is a whole 'nuther level.

- it showed up while I was gone to a shooting competition last weekend.

... I left for Ardmore early Saturday morning, they left for Corpus Christi Sunday afternoon. I got in Sunday evening and left for San Jose Monday afternoon. They got in late Monday evening and I didn't get home until very late on Friday night.

so it was yesterday before I got a chance to do more than stare dumbfounded at the thing.

It's just on loan right now, just here for us to try it out. Riiiiiiiiiight.

But the kid is smart.
He let me take it for a spin.
And it's fun.
Dangerous as hell if you forget "DON'T PANIC". But it's really pretty easy to handle and even thought it was the first time I've been on a bike in about 20 years, I was still able to recover from a couple of wobbly moments and some unplanned instances of speed without any real trouble. So, yeah, there's really no chance that it's not staying, but he's had a go-kart for about a year now and done well with that, been reasonaby safe with it and taken care of it, so hopefully this will be a good sport for him to get into.

There's NOTHING on the wing!

So the company sent me to San Jose for a week of training and since I hadn't flown commercially for nearly 20 years, it was both a daunting and (initially) exciting experience.

The security, while understandable, was awkward, difficult and time consuming -- but we managed.

The airline employess (we flew Southwest) were themselves wonderful, but the seats were cramped and uncomfortable for more than a few minutes. I'd brought a short stack of magazines and some writing, but found relaxing enough to enjoy reading or writing to be problematic at best. I did manage to get several thousand words into my new project ("Ice"), but that's not much considering we were in the air most of the day on Monday and again on Friday. So I have it in longhand, and have to weave it in to the disconnected sections I wrote on my laptop during the week, but that shouldn't be too hard.

The trip itself was fun. The training was good and is going to help with how I do my job on a daily basis -- and I had the bonus of dinner with two local friends. One long term internet friend who has been uber-supportive of my writing from the beginning and the other, a long time instructor/mentor who has been that, and a friend and more for many years. It was wonderful to get to see them and those dinners rounded out the week to an overall wonderful experience.

Does this mean that things are back to normal around here? I'm wondering "what passes for normal? Then I remember what I've always said: That 'normal' is highly over-rated. :)

life in general

Life has been coming at me with both barrels lately, but it seems that a lot of people are having the same stresses and strains.

At least I'm going to be able to get away this weekend, going to another CMSA competition. - although, as I told someone earlier today, what I mean is that I'm packed and ready to go. I won't count on getting there until I'm there. Life has been that way lately.

So, two days of shooting, then home, and then off to Sunny San Jose for a week of training for work. I don't like being gone for so long, but I'm looking forward to the workshops and it will be an easier week than I'm used to.

Our house has been coming along, the rock is done except for the posts that will be rocked and some of the trim. We haven't done much at all on the inside yet, but we're having a door made that's going to be very nice, and they're harvesting and peeling cedar posts for the second floor. I tried to take some photos but they didn't come out.

In writing news, I've finished Thunder Jewel and I've very happy with it. I'm getting the synopsis polished and I'll start sending it out next week. That makes two novels compete and making the rounds, and I feel really good about it. I feel tired, in a very good way, about Thunder Jewel, and I have so many different projects screaming at me that it's going to be hard to pick. I honestly think I need to work on two projects at once. I used to always write short stories like that and it's easier for me to flip back and forth than it is to stay on one project. That probably sounds crazy. But instead of double the time it takes for me to finish something, it halves it - because when I start to bog down, I just change gears and keep going instead of trying to fight through the sludge.

The next main project I'm looking at is the novel I've started during Holly's Sideways class and I've *very* excited about it. I've done more prep work on this one than I have before and I've already filled in a lot of the kinds of holes and back-story that I've always had to go back and fix in earlier chapters as I went along with my draft. I've never been able to find a good balance between pantsing and plotting, but Holly may have fixed that for me. I'll find out over the next couple of weeks.

My New Toy

ok, ok.... so my dog is almost as big as my horse...

Between various family drama and issues, I've managed to pick up a cart (ebay, where else?!?) and MIREE, after all these months of ground driving and pulling the drag, finally gets her chance to shine. She's doing wonderful! (how else would my little wonder-mare do?)

We've been down the road one time, and trotted today for the first time. The weather has finally cooled off and so I'm looking forward to much more riding (and driving) through the fall than I was able to do this summer.

Cowgirl Boot Camp

The shooting has fallen by the wayside, to some degree, because of family stuff keeping me busy, and in hindsight, I'm doubly glad that I got to attend the Cowgirl Boot Camp managed by the CMSA Club Texas Smokin Guns and taught by the wonderful Tammy Sronce. Her sponsor, Maytex generously donated a stack of saddle pads that were given away as door prizes. (Beri loves hers!)

Beri and I are the first grey from the left!

We had a wonderful time and learned lots. Lots of stuff I knew (*argh*) but wasn't using, as Tammy politely yet firmly pointed out.

Horsemanship is key to this sport. You have to have a horse that has a good mind and is light and responsive to the aids, and I haven't required Beri to be as light as she needs to be. And yes, even though we've missed the last few competitions, we're working on our being light and responsive to the aids.

Tammy also gave me a needed 'wake-up' call to a couple of issues with my guns. One thing I was doing that is really quite dangerous was cocking before I crossed Beri's neck when I was going for a cross shot.

I wonder how many cowboys in the Old West ended up shooting their own horses in the back of the head?!?!

The other main thing she helped me with - it's been making me nuts to look at my photos and see how I was leaning so far forward - she helped me settle down and "let the balloon come to me".

I can't say enough nice things about working with Tammy, but we also have another incredible resource here in North Texas and that's Curt Moore at the Shootfire Ranch. He's offering a beginners clinic October 18-19, in conjunction with the Texas Smokin Guns. Check their website for details. I've cliniced with Curt before and highly recommend him.

Otherwise, the club will be at the Equine Expo in Fort Worth and also doing a demo at Teskey's on September 20th. Any of you writers who are writing westerns or even modern cowboys - this is your check to get out and hear the gunfire, smell the smoke and ask questions.

Thinking Sideways ~

Lots of us here in the inter-spaceways are taking Holly Lisle's "How to Think Sideways" class, I've seen a lot posted around on various forums and blogs, but I find I have to throw out my own two cents about it.

First, let me say that I've been a fan of Holly's for a long time. Her books first, and I used to lurk in the Forward Motion community. I've read over and over again all the good free articles and advice she has on her website. At a point, before I had really gotten a good start, I'd been beaten down and was close to giving it all up, but the encouragement and support that she offers to anyone who will take the time to read what she has to offer tossed me back on my feet and helped me find my backbone and keep going.

When she started making her writer's workshop series available in the Holly Shop -- I elbowed my way to the front of the line.

Now, the second thing I want to say is that I've done the usual round of online classes as well as f2f workshops at various conferences and worked somewhat extensively with some very talented authors - and not to take anything away from any of that, because I've learned a lot in so many different places it would be impossible to list them all - and I have a full shelf of 'how to' books, including a short stack of well-thumbed favorites -- but on the whole, Holly's workbooks are in a class of their own.

There are a lot of good authors out there, good writers and good teachers. But it is a rare and unique individual who has the extraordinary talent to teach well the thing they are successful at. It takes a special *combination* of skill and talent that few people have.

Holly has that extraordinary, unique combination of talents -- not only of being able to figure out what she's doing that helps make her successful but being able to break that down into steps and explain it in a way that others can use what she's done to build their own skills.

I have most, if not all, of the writers workshop series and love every one. I have links to her shop in my sidebar because I believe in what she has to offer. When she opened up submissions for the '33 Mistakes' Series, I was excited to be included and ecstatic to get to be the first release.

So when Holly opened up registration for the first Think Sideways course, I was right there.

- my life has a series of explosions going on right now, so I wasn't able to keep up with weekly lessons for the 2nd through 6th week ... but I got caught up over the holiday weekend, which leads me to the reason I feel compelled to blog about it, even though so many others are as well, is because even though I went into the course with the highest of expectations - she totally blew me away.

It's not the kind of course I've seen anywhere else. She doesn't necessarily tell you anything.

What she does is show you how to use tools you need in order to learn the skills to ask the right questions and how to use the answers.

By the time I had worked past the barriers, through the clustering and done my Sentences, I had three muses screaming at me in full Technicolor scenes with plots, characters and conflict with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back explaining why each one was on the Group W Bench ... *ahem* ... or something like that. Amazing stuff came up out of the back of my mind and coalesced into complete stories faster than I could work through the pages of the workshop.

I had to physically cap the pen and close the notebook and put it away for a couple of hours so the muses would quiet down enough that I could hear the voices of the stories one at a time and get some notes down for them.

And, with all that, she shows you how to make the connection between writing what you love and writing something marketable. ...and I'm only six weeks into a six month program. I can't even imagine what else she might have in store for us, but I'm very excited about it.

I will say it should come with a warning label: not for the part-timers, wannabes and light-weights. I printed the first six weeks' lessons to take on the road with me last weekend and it completely filled a three inch binder. But the beauty of it is that you can go at your own pace so you don't miss lessons because of the ebb and ka-booms in your life.

If you are serious about a career in writing, if you love writing and you want to make a living doing it, this course can help you learn the skills you need. I haven't seen another single course that comes close to offering what just the first six weeks of this one does.

It's on sale, now, Monday Sept 1-Monday Sept 8. It's a full six months to a year long with weekly or bi-weekly lessons and much more affordable than it should be given the value of what you're getting. It comes with a guarantee, if you don't like it and want out, let her know and the payments stop.

LOL! ... I've been sitting here for 20 minutes trying to think of a way to say "you owe it to yourself to give it a try" without sounding cliché, but it's simply the truth and there isn't a better way to say it - so there ya' go. ;)

Mistakes our brains make...

So when I was about halfway though the session on writing horses at the February DFWWW Conference -- someone pointed out that on my handout, where I commented on the fabulous characterization by Eddie Murphy as Donkey as the White Stallion, it said Shrek III, and those scenes had been in Shrek II.

I was sure I had copied most of that paragraph about stallions from the draft of 33 Mistakes, Mistake One - Stallions. And so I was sure that the mistake must be in the final version of the e-book as well. You can imagine my mind was going a thousand directions and none of them good.

It truly was one of those cold-sweat kind of moments and in hindsight I was really glad I didn't have my laptop with me because I know how hard it would have been not to stop everything, turn around and check the file. As if it would have done any good to know, in that instant, if I had really screwed up that badly.

At any rate, once I did get to where I could check the file, the original correctly said Shrek II. *whew*

And, thankfully, if I blubbered too badly over those next few minutes, it's blocked from my memory. Have you ever notice how the human brain is wondrous like that, sometimes, to just pretend that it didn't happen. Is that kind of memory loss a type of survival mechanism to protect us from embarrassment and pain?

What about how denial kicks in at the time something is happening.

- "That isn't really a rattlesnake. It's a harmless snake that just happens to have rattles and a head shaped like a pit viper."

- "Just keep driving. That funny noise the truck is making will quiet down if you can just keep it going for another few miles."
- - on a side note, it's true that if there is smoke or steam coming out from under your hood and you speed up, it will seem to have disappeared. *blink, blink* ...although if it's a smoldering fire, it will burst into flames when you slow down ... don't ask me how I know that, it's a long, sad story with a bad ending.

Or what about those people you know who are (naively?) eternal optimists?

- I know my boss said they'd have to let me go if I was late one more time, but I now they didn't mean it.
- I know I shouldn't have that candy bar, but I'll get back on my diet tomorrow.
- I know my husband said not to bring another stray dog home, but that one's just too pathetic to leave here. He'll understand.

Do you ever put those people in your novels? Not the people of course, but those characteristics? Have you considered what wonderful character flaws these things can be? The bits of blank memory, the outright denial, the justification and the 'just one more time' refusal to step up to the bar. Are these things that keep your character down? Are they issues your character can grow and overcome? I know these are issues that I deal with everyday, both in myself and in those around me, and I suspect I would easily identify with a protag dealing these traits.

those old classics

I refuse to start every post with an apology for not being more consistent with my posts, so I won't...

...but I will say that something ate my chickens. These prints are my only clue.

But that's just par for the course, recently. My life has been like one of those old black and white movies. Not anything like the good old classics It's a Wonderful Life, or The Man who Shot Liberty Valance. But more like some of the first talkies -- you know the grainy ones that jump and flicker and don't entirely make sense?

But in spite of the troubles and inanities, life goes on. Writing goes on -- slow and painful -- but it continues.

I've been bogging down with my edits and I finally decided my big, loveable hero wasn't strong enough to carry the ending of my current work so I've tossed him out with the bathwater, dragged him backwards through the rosebriars, rolled him in tar and horseshit, slapped him around a little bit and have sent him to the corner with a stack of old Conan pulps, some Heinlein and the Silmarillion.

Yeah, it hurts to do that to him. And while what he was has been fun to play with, he needs to grow up. That's painful sometimes, but we both know it's needed.

The house is coming along. The outside is nearly done. At least, the major decisions have been finalized. We had some trouble with the windows and had to change some stuff, but I think it's looking really good.

I like the rock, a lot, and am glad we did it even if we had to grit our teeth through the expense. The rock masons are craftsman and artists. If you've never seen them work, it's a real delight.

One neat thing we got to do is that we've harvested some cedar out of our pastures and are peeling it to frame the front door (I can't wait to show off our custom door!!) the four front windows (two upper and two lower), and for support beams ...umm.. not beams, posts (are the called columns if they're wood?) on the inside. I can't remember that I've posted a photo of the inside, but the second story is normal on the ends but the main section is only floored about 2/3rds across... I don't think that makes sense. I'll have to take more photos.

Otherwise, riding -- not enough, but some. GLAMDRING has been getting the work. Somebody needs to buy this lovable galoot. He's a sweet boy (is there anyone, really, who doesn't love a guy who brings home a mouthful of flowers?!?) and a hard worker. It's a combination that's hard to beat. We're trying to get him to a couple more rides this year and get a few more 50s on his record. I'm still thinking I'm going to try shooting off him next year. He doesn't like the noise, but he's fast and handy. He's doing real well setting balloons and just being around the gunfire doesn't seem to bother him any more so that makes me think that firing off his back is just a matter of time.

Where's the ka-boom?

There is usually at least a small ka-boom when someone asks a question that should have a simple answer that actually requires discussion.

Like a couple of days ago, Js was out helping feed. He brought back a stack of empty buckets and waited in the doorway.

"Do the girls in the shark pen get a bump?" Now, I knew that 'the girls' meant 'the mares' in the 'shark pen' - is what we call the mare pasture because of the daily feeding frenzy.

'a bump' is a "bump bucket" ... that is, when I pasture feed (set feeders out in the pasture with loose horses) I fill five buckets for four horses. That way, when the dominate horse 'bumps' the others down the line, the last horse still gets to eat.

The only problem is that kind of question makes my brain implode.

Because it's not a simple "yes" or "no" kind of situation. Because: two of the mares share a bucket, so "yes" there *is* a bump, but .... he didn't ask the right question. What he meant to ask was: "How many buckets did he need to carry out there?"

If I had answered his original question: "do they get a bump?" "YES" (because there is a bump available) he would have filled and carried five buckets for four mares, which normally would be right - but in that particular case, with the two mares sharing, it would have set out two bumps instead of just one - which is not a disaster, but it is wasteful.

If I had twisted my mind around what I thought he needed to know and said "NO" - what if I had misunderstood what it was he meant to ask and there was another meaning .... and so I took a deep breath ... "What you mean is, 'how many buckets do you need to carry out there?'."

He stared at me for a moment and then nodded. problem solved.

Our little exchange stayed on my mind because it struck me I've seen that conversation gone over in writers groups - how important it is to say what you mean and how hard it can be to get exactly the right thing down on paper. Or how much fun it can be to ask one question and answer another... yes, I'm evil that way. ;)

- and so today, my son was with me, waiting in the truck while I fueled up and we had parked beside a piece of (very odd looking) heavy machine.

"What is that?" he asked.

I stared at it blankly ... and finally realized it was a "Traffix Device". It said so right on the big ugly butt of the thing. Traffix device and

And I told him so, in a confident tone that implied I knew what I was talking about. ... "It's a Traffic Device."

But having had to put up with me for his entire life thus far, he wasn't fooled, but he smoothed it over. "What's it for?" he asked in an even tone.
I shrugged. "No idea."

He blinked at me and stared in the way that kids do when they know they can't say to their parents "that was stupid".

I just shrugged again. "I guess you asked the wrong question, then."

...but the funnest part of it all was just a couple of hours later, he turned it back on me when I was the one to ask the wrong, inane question. We had a laugh over it, but (and this is probably a whole 'nuther post) the best part for me was knowing feeling that - boy-childs do (sometimes) listen to their mom's, but more than that, that something had connected inside him and grown him a little bit and given him a little sharper focus on this tough world we live in.

The Eyes of War

I finally stole the time to sit down and read Hawkspar last weekend. (I have to schedule time to read Holly's books - when everyone is gone because I get **very** grumpy at being interrupted)

.... and I don't know where to start. When Talyn came out a couple of years ago, I thought it was maybe the best read I'd had in a long time.

This one seemed even better ... maybe because I slipped so easily (eagerly) back into the world?

One of the things that draw me so strongly to Holly's books, are the layers. She writes with a depth of reality that makes you really believe in what's happening. All her details match, no matter how deeply you go in the world or how closely you look at it, or how far you pull back to look at the bigger picture. No matter how you pick it apart, when it goes back together, the pieces match - and that's important to me as a reader.

And I love all the Tonk Goodies

My other favorite thing about her books are the Truths that are woven in. Hawkspar can see possible futures, but like all of us, she has to learn that it's possible to make your own future if you don't like what you see. But it's hard and sometimes no matter how much we give, it doesn't seem like enough... and, usually, when you think it's over - it's not.

Holly writes with a gut-wrenching depth and strength that stays with you - I was going to say 'for long after you put the book down', then I realized that didn't convey 'long enough'. I have to say that she touches truths that filter through and stay with you through your daily life.

.... And that's just not the sort of thing you get when you just pull any pretty cover off the shelf.

Busy or boring or both?

It seems that life has been contradictory full of inanities and tragedies lately.

The tragic loss of a colt, Yoda, at 16 months old to a 'twist'. Treatment was timely and extensive, but he simply couldn't be saved.

Yoda's loss pales in comparison to that of a young father of four, a close family friend, who was laid to rest today.

I didn't mean to talk about those things... but they're still strong on my mind, and I think they go along well enough with the flower I photo'd. That life is both beautiful and painful.

I had never seen these thistles before we moved out here, but I love them. I love the contrast of the delicate beauty of the flower on that strong, thick, prickly stalk - and it strikes me that thistle epitomizes how I aim to write my heroines. I do want her to have some beauty, but I want her to be so much more than that. I want her to be strong enough to survive harsh conditions, the sun and rock, and to take care of herself as well as sheltering others.

Do you grok?

What if I said, "Tha sumbeetch sulled up on me."

Sure. "Tha sumbeetch..." is a colloquialism and should be used with a light hand, but what about "sulled up"? I was surprised to learn that not only is it apparently a recent addition to our language but it's very localized regionally.

What if I said the mesteno sulled up? ...probably not a fair question for anyone who's not old-school southwestern.

I love listening to Red Stegall, not just his music but his poetry as well. It's full of good old western flavor that you can't really find too many places any more, except maybe in some of Marty Robbin's old cowboy ballads.

Does it still mean the same thing it did a few years ago, if you pull out the makins and roll a quirly?

These dialects and flavors be used to define cultural differences and locales in other-world locations? Is there anyone who doesn't know how TANSTAAFL works?

I love the flavor sprinkled in - these are the things that really make it sound like home, but at the same time I know we can't alienate non-local readers. Where do you draw the line?

The Boy and his Mare

I hope readers don't get tired of seeing photos of my kid and the little mare, but I can't help bragging on them when they continue to improve, not just in skill, but in teamwork -- which is so key to so many things in life.

Jared has struggled with a lot in the last couple of years, some troubles at school, homeschooling (learning appropriate study habits, discipline, self-tasking), but the main thing I've seen him overcome is the pass/fail mentality that seems to plague so many kids these days.

So many things, he has tried, didn't do great the first time out and decided it wasn't so much fun.

I attribute a great deal of his progress to the wonderful family atmosphere of the CMSA and especially to the people who have reached out to us in the Texas Smokin' Guns club. It's a tough sport and it's made him a tougher kid.

He always did pretty well endurance riding with me, but in a lot of ways, he started in the sport, basically, riding at a level with most adults. He's a pretty good hand with a horse, in camp and on the trail. He can walk, jog, gallop, cross creeks, and handle about any kind of terrain.

So when he first tried shooting, it was fun, but tough, and all the other kids were a lot better than him - and that's hard for a guy, especially when he'd been doing so well elsewhere. In endurance, I was continually holding him back, his skillset was at or above the level of competition we intended for each day.

In CMSA, he's continually having to learn, practice and refine both his riding and his shooting. It set him back and we've had some false starts and some off days, but over the last year, he's seen his scores consistently improving. And even better than that he can see and feel how much his horsemanship is improving, and how much better he's working with this particular mare and that is the most rewarding thing.

We had a tough weekend at the last event. We were rained out on Saturday and so we camped and competed in the heat and humidity on Sunday. It made for a long weekend, but well worth it for the success we had.

In a way, I wonder if the shooting means more to him because it's harder, because each step and each success is harder earned than endurance ever was for him and it occurs to me I've heard all this before in plotting classes. That we should 'throw rocks' at our heroes, that we should exact costly vengeance on them before they meet their successes; and I think about all the nicey-nice *bleh* books I've tossed aside unfinished.

It makes me realize how important it is for our heroes and heroines not just to have struggle and fight overcome the odds, but I understand now that, in many ways, 'character arc' is more about growth than change. In _Writing to the Point_ Algis Budrys says that characters don't actually change, because that would be false to the consistency of the readers observation of people. But that being under stress (conflict) reveals hitherto concealed facets -that the character reaches deeper into themselves, tries again, tries a little harder, learns a new skill based on existing ones, and uses that to snatch victory from the grasp of the villain. And I have to say, that as I go along, it makes more and more sense to me. Perhaps I'm finally learning to reach a little deeper myself.

Thar's Horses in them thar woods.... or not?

This is a question that comes up surprisingly often.

The answer is .... 'it depends'.

And it depends on a lot of things. Horses are grazers, different than browsers like deer, or even donkeys. In addition to the nutrition (calories and vitamins and stuff), they need the long stemmed grasses in order for their guts to function properly.

Can they live without grass or hay (such as in the woods)? Sure. For while. Some horses will be very picky about what they eat, but most would put a goat to shame before they starved to death. They would start to eat odd plants, anything leafy, bark, sticks, even the old layer of detritus on the forest floor (one of my mares ate a mosquito dunk today (and she is decidedly not starving)) - and if they didn't get impacted, colic and die from that -- they would eventually be dealing with the consequences of long term malnutrition.

But depending on the climate, your woods may have lovely meadows. Easily enough to support a horse or two for a short period of time. And another meadow down the way. But not a herd of horses.

Also consider, if you're writing a horse that's been in the woods for a long time, it's likely to have life-long issues stemming from that experience. Anything from degenerative joint disease, if it was a young foal, if the woods-horse was a mare carrying a foal, or with a very young foal at her side, the foal could lack of integrity in it's soft tissues, ligaments and tendons, poorly laid down cartilage and even some amount of malformation of the delicate bones in the knees and hocks. These things could cause the young horse a lot of pain as he matures, especially when he comes of riding age and is put to work.

An older horse could have internal issues, anything from something as simple as a stick lodged in their mouth that festers, to internal damage that contributes to recurrent colic.

He may have developed a taste for toxic weeds if he managed to eat enough in the woods to keep him alive, but not so much it killed him.

And it's more than just nutrition: A horse's most basic self-preservations instincts are compromised in the woods. They are herd animals who find safety and security in numbers (and remember a real herd can't live in most woodland areas, so they'll be searching for other horses.)

Their eye-sight is designed for the open ranges. They see short distances with their heads down and long distances when their heads are raised. Aside from their keen sense of hearing, their eyes are their early warning system. But you can't see very far in the woods.

Their first line of defense is to run. And they can't run as fast in the woods, not if they're looking for a way through and having to zig-zag, dodging trees. So most horses, simply wouldn't stay in the woods. If they were chased into the woods, or abandoned there, they would travel, snatching what they could along the way, maybe stopping for a few hours at a creek or a meadow, but then they would move along - looking for food, but more dramatically, looking for safety. Although there are always exceptions. We had a local case of a horse that had been abused, rescued and (mostly) rehabilitated, getting loose and running to hide in the woods, and no, he didn't survive.

If a fully tacked horse gets loose from a rider, there is additional danger of the reins, or even the saddle, getting tangled in vines and holding the horse in place until he dies of dehydration. Another main consideration is that the horse may eventually have tack galls that fester.

But one of the main things authors need to remember is that it's not really natural for horses to be in the woods, that there needs to be a good reason for the horse to be there -- the worldbuilding has to be solid enough that the reader sees what the horse is going through trying to find enough forage -- and there needs to be appropriate consequences for the length of time the horse was in there.

Blood Magic by Matthew Cook

I got a couple of recent releases from Juno last week and finished Blood Magic by Matthew Cook last night.

I've been complaining for awhile now that there isn't enough gritty type fantasy, especially with the strong female protag that I like to read, but this is the second of two from Juno that I read cover to cover. (The first was Wind Follower by Carole McDonnell)

Kirin, and that isn't even her name, it's her dead twin sister that lives in her head's name, is the kind of anti-heroine that you're not sure, exactly, why you love her, but you can't help but hope she continues to overcome. She's made bad decisions and done bad stuff, and basically justified most of it one way or another, and the tough part of it is that you can understand why she's doing what she is, even if you don't like it. - and yet she still manages to do good on both the smaller scale and the larger - and YET the good and evil seem inexorably mixed. -- and these are the deeper themes that draw me so deeply into a world.

Kudos to Matthew Cook for writing this and also to Juno for publishing it.

The Heart of a Horse ~

There is a quote about the outside of a horse being good for the inside of a man. Churchill. And Reagan said something similar - they're right.

But what about the inside of a horse?

We all talk a lot about bone size (strength), conformation (structural angles and proportions/balance), there are thousands of books, videos, websites and forums, clinics and workshops - all on this subject.

But what about the horse's mind and personality? What about his heart? The physical heart is important, the size and strength, the 'metabolic structure' of the horse is at least as important to a performance horse as the (outside/visual) physical structure, but this post is about 'having heart'.

When horseman say a horse 'has heart' what they're talking about is that otherwise indefinable essence of spirit that makes a horse go above and beyond anyone's expectations.

Marty Robbins sings about the Strawberry Roan, a pony that couldn't be rode. The mustang he sings about is about as poorly built as any horse can be, but he has indomitable spirit and that's something that horsemen admire.

It had be hard to deal with, as in the case of the Roan, because he had decided he didn't like people and wasn't going to cooperate with them. And what about Old Red? He killed himself to kill the cowboy he couldn't throw.

There are others like the real-world filly Ruffian and Zane Grey's fictional Wildfire, who ran to the death for glory, for good, for the saving of another life, rather than obstinance and willfulness.

Some horses you can dominate and push around, some are timid or fearful, most seem more comfortable and happy with a Boss, some seem simply to not care - and sometimes those horses are the easier choice.

But if your hero is going into a situation, or if you want to make sure his success doesn't come too easy *evil grin*, you may want to give him a kind of horse like Strawberry or Red. A horse that draws lines he won't cross, a horse that won't quit and won't go down without getting back up. Or one like Ruffian or Wildfire who give their all to win the day.

Dragon's Wild by Robert Asprin

I picked this up a couple of weeks ago in a fit of sadness over Bob Asprin's passing. I've had it on my desk and finally picked it up yesterday evening -- and read the whole thing through. It's simply delightful, a fun, easy read, with 'just enough' of all the right elements.

Griffen “Grifter” McCandles is fresh out of college, with no prospects... or so he thinks!

The Good 'Ole Summer Tyme

Summer is upon us.

Yesterday was 101 and humid, but that's pretty much the norm for this time of year.

The pond is drying up, grass is browning and the thistles are in bloom.

That spot where the dog is wading is about the same place in the pond the mare is in the photos a couple of posts ago. It goes fast once it starts going down.

The kid has been away to summer camp and is back. He attended the first ever Wolf Ridge Summer Resident camp hosted by Fossil Rim Wildlife Center and we can't say enough good things about the staff, the facility or the program. He had a fantastic time and is already signed up for the next session.

Our horses are soaking up the heat. We've already had one close call with a dehydration colic, a silly young horse who didn't take good 'nuff care of himself on the first really hot day. We've had such a cool, wet spring, the sudden hard heat didn't give the horses much of a chance to adjust and some fell behind on their drinking. I usually start supplementing a dash of salt in their daily grain when temps reach 100. The vet said to start it at about 95 and I'll do that from now on. At the other end of the scale, I add the salt when we drop below freezing, I may bump that up a few degrees as well.

If you're writing horses, the weather and temps are one thing that people can get wrong if they haven't done a little research. Horses are typically more comfortable in a lower range than people are. They can (and do) acclimate to the heat, but it takes a little bit of time for them to adjust. If they're going to be worked in the heat, they have to be built up gradually in order to work safely in extreme heat.

What does this mean for your hero? If he's riding a hot weather horse into the cold, he'll likely do fine, except the hero does need to be sure the horse is drinking enough since they can refuse water that's too cold if the general clime is cold. If he's riding a cold weather horse into the heat - he's likely have trouble along the lines of muchly reduced endurance. That initial burst of speed might be only slightly less, but I wouldn't expect him to be able to maintain it. Dehydration and heat stress is a very serious issue in horses because the beginning stages are subtle and erratic. Even the most experienced horseman can have trouble recognizing the danger signs and by the time the horse starts showing clinic signs, it's often too late.

In spite of the heat, I'm riding more since I have more time each day with the schoolwork done for the year. I'm not sure I'll get to make any summer rides, but I'll have some horses ready for some of the fall AERC Endurance schedule.

As much as we rode through the spring, we've missed several events in May and into June due to a combination of things, but mostly the fuel prices. ... I say that, and then I had to pull out my calendar. I've stay home and missed 7 events in the last 9 weeks. That's well over 1500 miles of driving with diesel in the $4.70/gal range. *ouch* The calendar is full for the rest of the year, but I'm already chewing the end of my pencil. I'm not sure how many of those we can do. It's disheartening to have been patient for so many years and now when I finally have a nice new truck and trailer and half-grown kids, it's still so hard to get down the road. ... Ack! Enough whining for me. - back to writing!

I am not alone...

One of the reading forums I frequent has a well-posted thread about 'guilty pleasures'.

I have a few ... don't we all? Check the reading list (bottom left) I just added. I know there are books that will make some readers blush and others roll their eyes.

But one of my guilty pleasures is John Ringo's Ghost series. I didn't intend to get hooked on it. (isn't that what they all say?) I don't read much (if any) contemporary military fiction, I don't read much (if any) modern day guy-stuff books. I like fantasy, hard science fiction, history and romance, and I especially like elves and barbarians with big .. um.. swords (and stuff).

The first book of his I read was a loaned-to-me copy of Emerald Seas, and I enjoyed it enough to buy the rest of the Council Wars series and read them over a weekend.

And I have to admit that he endeared himself to me when he mounted his hero on a (are you sitting down?) a *gelding*! I read the page three times with a silly grin on my face ... the man obviously knew horses. Not just because of the gelding, but he got all the little stuff right, and that puts him on my 'short list', in a good way :), for a lot of reasons.

So once I finished those four books, I checked out his website and it looked like the next book in the series was long-time-pending.... So I checked Baen's bar and didn't find anything about it, so I emailed.

John kindly replied - and after a brief if somewhat interesting discussion about Red Sonja, he suggested, since I liked a grittier style of fantasy, that I try his Mike Harmon series.

allllllrightythen.... I don't blush easily, erotica is a big market these days and I'd brought home a stack from the RWA convention that I couldn't leave on my desk for the kids to question.... but this Mike-guy was anything but a typical hero. In fact, it seems Mike's most redeeming quality is that he acknowledges his demons and at least tries to keep a handle on them. And the book actually had a plot that tied it all together ... and late one night I found myself downloading the e-version of the next book ... and so forth and so on.

...and so I was delighted to find this review of the series (yes, it's long, but read on! and you'll get more of what the books are about) and John's reply here, and the wonderful news that 'OH JOHN RINGO NO!' shirts can be purchased from cafepress for a good cause.

Reading reading reading

I kept promising myself I'd put a "what I'm reading" list on the sidebar and I kept putting it off, but the longer I put it off, the longer the list got and the behinder I got.

One silly thing that had me puzzled is that I couldn't figure out where to start the list since of course I wanted to include the good books I read last week, and last month and the end of last year .... and all my old favorites ... *head desk*

So then I decided I would just list them all and that's a job that seemed overwhelming...

But I finally got it started just by listing the ones I can see on the tops of stacks and some of the ones I can see on the bookshelf from where I'm sitting. I'm thinking I need to go back and add author names and links on some of them. .....

Texas Summer Fun

I recently had an author friend ask about swimming horses. She needed to get her riders across a river and questioned me about the depth and how well and easily horses swim.

Well, of course everyone knows Misty of Chincoteague and the annual pony penning where the ponies are swam across the channel. And The Black swam through the storm and pulled Alex to the Island. Swimming is also a popular rehabilitation therapy for performance horses and specialized facilities are available across the country.

But - in all my life with horses, it's not something I've done. And in talking to a few of my horseman friends, it's simply not that simple. Many of the anecdotal tales were like mine ...

"I tried it once...",

"...finally made it to shore...",

"...sank like a rock...",

"Swim? Sure, three times.... Well, never on purpose..."

If you're writing horses crossing the river, there are a couple of things to think about. First - think about all you've read about how many miles out of their way travelers would go to find a crossing. There is a reason for that, I think - that horses have to be taught that they can swim.

Sure, they can learn, and some love it. But it's very intense exercise, as much as a full-out gallop, and dangerous to the rider for that reason, because the legs (hoofs) are really churning.

I went to u-tube and spent much too much time browsing the selection of swimming horses videos. I found very few of horses actually *swimming*. The vast majority were of horses *wading*. In this photo of me and BERI, she isn't swimming, she's walking (jogging) on the bottom of the pond. Look at the top photo - see the surge and wake ahead and streaming back from her? She's doing something like an extended trot, which is extremely hard to sit for all but really top riders (not me!! LOL! Look at how tightly I'm gripped on to her mane!) So you have a LOT of 'action' *and* an incredible amount of force of water blowing your legs back, not just the force on the front of your shins and thighs, but the water forces itself under your legs and conspires to lift you off the horse.

I had started out with a saddle, but the pressure under water was trying to flip the stirrups up over my ankles!!!!!!!!!!! Very scary stuff.

Check u-tube again, I didn't save the link, but there is a horrific video of a horse that panics and flips in the water. This is, unfortunately, more common then the fun, splashy, trot-across. In my unofficial poll, in combination with going back over past memories. I think I know as many people who have, or known someone who has, drowned a horse as have actually been on one swimming. There is a wonderful video of a 17.2 warmblood stallion swimming in the ocean. Look at the riders feet as the horse swims, they are streaming out behind, over the horse's rump.

Another contrast of the ocean swim is the gentle bank and shore. In a pond, or more likely a river crossing, if the bank is steep, there is a chance the horse will slip and scramble (and maybe go down) in the mud. And that can be (very) bad news for the rider if they get caught underneath.

So, whatever you're writing, if you have to cross the river, spend a couple minutes of research on it, and give us at least a hint of tension and conflict. Remember that unless the water's more than six or eight feet deep, the horses probably aren't going to swim - and if you do swim them, remember that they may not all make it, and that they'll likely be heaving and gasping for breath once they get to the far side.

And no. BERI and I didn't actually swim. We may, over the next few weeks... or we may not. We'll be back down to the pond, but it will be more for fun and less for research.

New Arrivals

I've been remise in posting again, but (here comes the excuse) it's been a lot crazy around here. Between the kids and work and writing - and, of course, the horses - time flies by and a week or more has passed before I realize.

We've had a couple of new arrivals in the last week. ...well, one isn't mine, not really, but I still get to brag on him because he's GWAIHIR's only foal this year.

Introducing AELFLEAH AL AZRAQ ("The Grey"), otherwise known as "Chewy". He'll be available for sale once he's weaned. Contact Aelfleah Farms directly if you're interested in raising a top notch performance gelding.

He's friendly and curious, as most foals are, but more than that, he's bred in performance proven lines that have great (steady, trainable) minds to go along with their athletic abilities. As bad as the market is (and getting worse), I know how tempting it can be to go after those 'bargain' horses. And I know a lot of people enjoy those challenges. But if you want one that's bred right and raised right - give Aelfleah Farms a call about this little guy because he's both.

The other 'new arrival' is mine. Not a foal though, we have a new mare.

DB RIANNE pulled in, after a long drive, about 4am this morning.

She's 10yo with a show record in hunter/jumper and endurance with a jr rider and we're pretty excited about her being here.

We owned her dam, DB RIFIAMA, for several years (as an older mare) and were very disappointed that we were never able to get a foal from her.

So many times, these wonderful little mares go into family homes, or performance homes (as they should), but then they are never preserved, replaced, to give future generations the benefit of knowing their daughters. Of course, the often unpleasant flip side of that is too many generations bred without performance testing, but that's a post for another day.

In any case, RIANNE is a case of how well it can work when people come together for the good of the horse and we're extremely grateful to the Schotts for their concern and generosity and working with us to get her down here where we'll continue her performance record, as well as breeding her within her rare group and sub-group to provide good-minded, athletic little mares to another generation of young riders.

Blogging With a Purpose

Last week, L.A. Mitchell bestowed upon me the Blogging With a Purpose award !


I'm always delighted to hear from someone who gets any good out of my ramblings and was tickled to get this bit of recognition.

The original rules(which she says she loosely altered) 1. Nominate 5 blogs which haven't had this award before 2. Each of the blogs must have a purpose 3. The nominated blogs must make a link back to this page 4. The logo from the award must be put on their blog and it must link back to this blog. ...I'm going alter as well, not 'alter' really, but I'm only going to follow #s 1 and 2.

I have to admit I've been working on this for a couple of days now. :( We've been busy here...

But I'd like to name some blogs that I frequent. It's hard to pick just five, but I'll try. And these are not in any order. I have too many 'must reads' to have any real favorites, so I'm trying to pick a variety.

First, I'll plug the Hero Rats. We have pet rats, and they are sweet as can be. Now I know that a lot of people who haven't been around them, just can't imagine what great pets they are, but they really are wonderful. They're loving and very playful. And clean. They clean themselves all the time, like little cats. Back to the Hero Rats. This is an organization that uses trained rats to demine at-risk areas. They sniff out the buried explosives and they are light enough they don't trigger the mines when they find them. They are also using trained sniffer rats to identify positive TB samples. One rat can test as many samples in ten minutes as a human technician can test in an entire day. They're amazing little animals. If you've never been around them, spend a few minutes checking these two links and give them a chance to win your heart.

Next, I'm going to give you a couple of places I 'hang out', just because they are interesting people. Val is a cancer survivor, a vet, a horseman, not to mention a mom and a long list of other stuff - and she's an interesting person. As is Leah. Leah is one of my long-time crit partners and I have the greatest admiration for how she keeps writing though all of life's travails. She's an endless source of inspiration and support for me when life gets me down and my writing slacks off. She always gives me a hug or a slap - whichever is needed. :)

An Arabian horse blog that I follow, Daughter of the Wind, and a website that has not just modern show and race horses, and the ever elusive Pure Desert Horse.

oops. That's more than five already - ok, I'll stop there, but I'm not taking one of those down.

Mother's Day

I hope everyone had a wonderful mother's day with lots of snuggles and smooches from their kids. Ours was pretty relaxed, mainly, dinner with my mom and family. I snuck off a little early and came back to mess with the horses a little. I didn't have time to ride, but I got MIREE up and worked with her.

We had a wonderful short ride yesterday, and as young as she is, I won't ride her again for a few days. It probably sounds funny, like she's not on a training schedule, but she's not. Not really. But that's the beauty of starting my own colts under saddle, is that I can do it on the horse's schedule. I don't have to answer to the demands that someone wrote in a book, StepOne, StepTwo.... and I don't answer to anyone who's writing a check for me to push their horse along. (although, I have to say, when I was riding other horses, I'm not sure if it was luck, or if I was just hard-nosed enough about it, but I never had anyone try to lean on me to push their horses.)

But the wonderful thing I have found out about riding just a little bit and then giving them time off, is that they tend to think about it all and come back stronger. Miree has been doing well, but still a little unsure under saddle - but yesterday, she was all brass and confidence. A totally difference ride from last week and the rides before. She was steadier on her legs, more sure of her balance with me on-board, lighter in my hands and more responsive. A wonderful and dramatic difference.

So after such a good riding day yesterday, I put on her driving stuff today. We're ground driving and still dreaming of a harness and cart. But, to date, while she's been wearing the bit, she's been driving with the noseband - a kind of hybrid bosal I like to start colts in. Well, today, I went ahead and attached the reins to the bit ... and she went along as if she'd been doing it forever. Of course, she's not 'giving' and 'bending' the way she'll learn to do, but it's simply incredible to be working with a little mare that has so much try and so much heart that she actually reaches out with open communication to figure out what it is the two of you are supposed to be doing.

She tentatively shifts one way, then the other, her entire being focused on mine. Tension and pressure, a frown, mean "that's not it" and softening and praise mean "good girl!" ... and she gives the same tension or softness back to me depending on if I'm being good or bad.

And that's the part that you never hear about when people talk about a partnership with their horse - that a partnership is a two way street. For all that Miree gives, she demands as much. I'm just glad that she's generous and forgiving and willing to work with me and give me the time I need to learn to be her partner.