In the Midst of the Bustle...

With all the hustle of the last few days, including a failed water pump on the truck to go along with the holiday joy, somehow/someway we still managed to take time to enjoy ourselves for the holidays.

The water pump went out as I pulled in the driveway of my very last Christmas stop and I was able to coast into a parking spot. The wonderful guys at Gamestop assured me it would be fine for me to leave the truck a day or so. I, luckily, was able to walk across the street to where my son was at work and drive his car home. I called a home mechanic that has helped me before and US Rider who called the tow truck. I can't say enough good about them!! If drive a big truck or haul a trailer, you should definitely consider using them. They are extremely customer service oriented.

So, with all my gifts under the tree and the truck tucked in and getting it's water pump replaced, the boys were pounding on my door demanding that it was indeed Christmas at 3am -- and so we were up and opening gifts ;) and back to bed by the time the paper was flying in most other living rooms. By the time we were up and breakfasting, and starting to get ready for our big family dinner at noon -- the sun was out and shining, giving up a beautiful (rare) Texas White Christmas. (After 75 degrees on Wednesday and our ice storm and snow on Thursday).

And then this evening after a full day of eating, napping and playing xbox - we found one more wonderful Christmas present ... this one tucked in the hay under a cedar tree in the pasture.

Our very first goat baby for our new herd of dairy goats. (the doe in the photo isn't her mom, btw, just one of our very friendly, bossy, nosey herd.) This little girl is a keeper and increases our herd by one, so we now have ten goats and a sheep.

Merry Merry

Merry Christmas from Texas

Remember all those Christmas cards that show the cowboy in a driving snow? We're living that today. Thank goodness for a full fridge! We're settled in for a cozy two days. All the prezzies are wrapped and under the tree and the boys are playing x-box. ... Except for as long as it took to run feed and water to the goats, horses, chickens, cat and dog!!

Step 4,029

A/C unit is 'roughed in' in the new house. Writing that check hurt, but I know all-n-all, I'm getting what I need and I'm very happy with the installing company both professionally and with the owners and workers personally.

The framers have some finishing up to do. ...should be done tomorrow.

...the plumber is on his way to go over what still needs to be done with both the plumbing and electric and give me a quote on that.

It's both exciting and scary - each single step seems so major, but it sure is nice to be getting closer to done and to be thinking we'll actually be moved in before too long.

Holiday Bustle

Life, it seems, has me by the short hairs and is making me dance.

At least ... it's playing a tune. I'm dancing as well as I can.

There have been so many changes in my life recently, good, very good, for the most part, and some hard, but it's the juggling and trying to fit everything into it's new place keeps me worn out.

We did have a wonderful Thanksgiving and are looking forward to a good Christmas as well. I've been excited to have lots of prezzies under the tree this year and have been buying like mad, but after chasing from store to store, I still ended up buying the majority of what I wanted online and am now tapping my toe madly waiting for the UPS truck.

I long ago gave up many of the special Christmas traditions of my childhood and through the years of marriage and kids have worked out new schedules and expectations. This year, we're playing fast and loose with tradition and planning simply to celebrate.

What are your special holiday traditions that are generational, or what have you changed and made your own with your families over the years?


maintenance & apologies:

photobucket has apparently changed some of their account rules, guidelines and restrictions. I apparently was stupid enough not to keep up with them. The linked photos that are giving the errors are in an old account and I'm working on getting access back to that account to get it all fixed.

In the meantime - apologies for the mess.

*update: I think I've at least managed to get rid of the errors. I have to admit that I'm unlikely to continue using photobucket after this.

** final update: Photobuckets customer service responded promptly and restored my service with no fuss no muss. But I'd already deleted the custom background and borders I had here. I guess I should be forgiving, they've been a good service for years and did respond promptly --- but I still wonder why they felt the need to screw with me in the first place. ...jury is still out.

"Well, I'm back."

I'm back -- echoing Samwise Gamgee's famous final words -- and as for him, things are forever changed here. Loss of things and people, but gains of freedom and opportunity and looking forward to a better future in spite of the struggles.

Of course, a divorce is nothing compared to saving the world so perhaps (most certainly) I'm being overly dramatic. But in many ways, I feel that I've saved my little corner of the world, this new world I'm trying to face bravely.

Yesterday was the perfect time reflect: I have my home and land, my horses, and my kids and life goes on. My decisions are my own now. I live with my own mistakes now. And that's all good.

I have a lot in my life to be thankful for, since this is the season to be listing such things; I have my health and a lot of love and true friendship in my life. I have my sons, and my son's friends (my friends as well) that live with us, and their friends (my friends as well) who are often here. They offer not just friendship, but a lot of support in helping around the place, and there is a lot that needs do'n even on as small a farm as we have here. I have family, parents, brother and sister, and I have close friends both locally and over the distance of phone and internet.

We had waaaaay too much to eat yesterday and today are stuffing ourselves with all that's left. The sun is shining, the mares are munching hay and the goats are napping in the sun.

Life is good.

Good reports keep rolling in...

Yes, yes, I know. In order to continually breed horses, I have to sell the babies.

Honestly, it's not that hard for me to let them go, not as hard as it is for some people, I know, because I see it in two ways. One) that they're growing up and taking their place in the world and two) that they're spreading the good word and promoting their lines. and three) that for each one that sells, I have budget and space for another little replacement. The numbers in this group are low enough that every single one is important.

Certainly the more horses under more riders doing more stuff is going to do more good in the long run than a bunch of rare-blooded horses standing in my pasture eating. I remind myself of that every time one drives out the gate. But it's never easy.

It's still hard to let them go, no matter what. You worry about them. If they're going to be good, or if they'll show their 'ass' one time too many and be a "bad advertisement" rather than a good one. (If they're going to embarrass you rather than make you proud). If you judged the individual well enough that you've managed to get them in a good home. But still knowing that even the best of circumstances can change.

So you do all that you can do to get them out in the world - and then you hold your breath. You hold your breath until you pass out, hit your head on the floor, finally wake up and stumble to the kitchen for a bag of ice. And then you wait some more.

Finally the reports start coming in, and eventually the photos.

From the young gelding a few posts ago, to GLAMDRING (top photo) who has a good start in his endurance career, LANDROVAL who is just getting started, to Eowyn, who finished Tevis in fine form this year -- the reports are looking pretty good.

(so you see my little ANDE has a lot to live up to!!)

One step forward....

Step #hundred-n-something out of how many thousand...?

The electric guys came out yesterday and put up the pole for service to the new house. Does this mean I'll have two electric bills for the duration? .. um. yeah. *head desk*. But, hopefully (am I being overly optimistic?) the bill on the new house will be minimal until we get moved it. The wires and plugs are run on the inside, for the most part, but a few loose ends need to be tied up. At any rate, we've been running extension cords to get the work done and now we'll be able just to plug in, so it should all be just as well.

The Chiva

I tried to think of something witty to say, but frankly, I'm at a loss. I don't have any idea what she though she was doing and I'm having trouble even making something up. ... anyone else have any ideas?

First Week

Little ANDRETH is a week old today.

Here is she with my mom who's President of my Fillies Fan Club. Thank goodness for moms who will come out and gush over each new colt and filly, no matter how many we've had over the years.

Andreth has proven herself to be sweet, sane and sassy, all in the same package and we're delighted with her. She's friendly and curious and loves being scratched.

I like to get the babies turned out on pasture as soon as I can, but even with a good sensible filly like Andreth, it's always a little scary to let them out into the big, wide world.

Of course, she did fine with it.

I turned them into the small pasture and they snorted and bucked around before taking off to the Wild Blue.

They had a nice run-around and tucked back into the comfort zone in their pen, took a longish nappy, and went exploring again.

Andreth will likely be my 'next' endurance horse, her dad and Beri may be ready to slow down by the time she's ready to go, so this is an excellent start for her.

Hello World

- as yet un-named (probably grey) filly by GWAIHIR TOS out of BINT BINT AMAIRAA was born last night about 10:30, so she's only about 16hrs old in this photo. The oddest thing of all is that she was born on her due date, which virtually never happens with horses. *Average* gestation is about 11 months, *normal* is anywhere from 10-13 months. So you can see that picking any particular day is going to be problematic.

With her last foal, Marah started showing signs of labor in October and didn't deliver until January, so I was watching the impending signs of this one with some trepidation.

Thankfully, all went well, mostly well. The filly was born easily and was very strong and eager to get up and get around. Marah had a little more pain than I like to see passing the placenta, she kept laying down again instead of letting the filly try to learn to nurse. It was a little more difficult than usual because the filly is tall enough and Marah short enough that it makes finding the teat the first couple of times a little more awkward.

But they managed and so now you have new filly stories to look forward to over the next few years.

Another one

We had a fantastic double weekend a couple of weeks ago. More shooting!

We rode to a 2nd place in our division two weeks prior, and again at the last shoot, this time we were only down by 3/10's of a second. Close enough to both laugh and cry. But it was a good day getting better -- no question about that.

After the shoot, I went on out to camp on some private property adjoining the local national grasslands. The property owners are horsemen and long time friends of mine. They purchased this little guy as a coming 2yo, just about three years ago. I've seen him a couple of times, some photos and regular updates as he has been started under saddle, but I hadn't been able to spend any real time with him until recently -- and what a wonderful treat to see him all grown up and going down the trail. We did a short (6 miles) trail ride since we were all on young horses and I had the pleasure to ride him around camp when we got back.

This is the most rewarding thing in the world, to see grown up babies out in the world and doing good. And especially once I got on him. He's the perfect blend of his sire and dam, with his sire's lightness and length of stride and his dam's strength.

He's well loved and well cared-for, he's happy, healthy and well-adjusted. He's willing and his training is just were it should be given his age.

And so, at least in this part, all is right with my world.

The Good 'Ol Days

I got this lovely surprise in my inbox about a month ago. It's one of those $5 photos some enterprising individual was walking around selling. The photo itself must be 20 or more years old.

That's me getting beer poured on my head and -- dare I say it -- my current boss doing the pouring. That cute thing standing in front of me is my sister and the hero in the white hat, coincidentally, lives fairly local to me, about 70 miles south of our old stomp'n grounds. We stay in sporadic contact, but isn't that how life takes you way onto way.

Boy did we have some good times. Some crazy times. Looking back, I see a lot of it makes its way into my writing. Some 'incidents', but more than that I use the attitudes and situations. Good friends and Good Times -- friends good enough to stick with you through the tough times. Loves lost, marriage (divorce) kids and the roller coaster economy... amazing that we're still together and amazing how much that silly picture means to me after all these years.


I saw some Texas Starfish in the road and wondered if they're indigenous and local or how widespread the species might be. Are these critters you find alongside your roads? What kind of odd things do you find 'out back' when you go walking?


My sister showed up yesterday with her bag full of throwing knives, including a small axe - and we went a little nuts with it.

I've done this once before. A couple of years ago, we hosted the DFWWW Fantasy Day at our place and I got to play with throwing a tomahawk. (complements of Don Watson) BOY! It's hard -- but far from impossible, there is a weight and rhythm to it that I find both intriguing and appealing. It's the kind of thing that you're not going to be able to nail without thousands of reps to make the throw and the aim instinctual. But it's FUN!

And I found myself feeling like a toddler ("mine!") not wanting to give up the weapon.
Every thud and flop miss makes me want to go again and again. (and again)

Just one more time, one more time, just once more.....

I know, I know. It's bad policy to throw away your weapon, in spite of how cool it looks in the movies. Especially given how hard it is to perfectly time the throw with the distance, balance and force. I can't bring myself to actually use a throw in one of my stories ... I haven't yet, but that hasn't yet stopped me from butchering the nearest hay bale with everlasting attempts and the oh-so-exciting occasional success.

Marah's Belly - Six Weeks Due

We didn't have any foals born here last year and only have one due for '09, so we're waiting anxiously. Marah is (officially) due on July 7th, about six weeks from today.

I just love watching their sweet round bellies fill out and imagining the foal.

Colt or filly?

It could be grey or chestnut .... maybe black, but probably not bay.

The sire is my endurance horse, GWAIHIR TOS.

Interestingly enough, we didn't have breeding dates on Marah's previous foal. She went into labor in October and didn't deliver until January. We don't know if she was having early labor or if she carried a long time, but we'll be keeping a close eye on her over the next few months.

Spring time in Texas

... didn't I already do a 'Springtime' Post?

well. I'm going to do another one, and probably at least one more before I'm done. We don't usually have much spring, but this year has been a good one.

We have yellow and bright pink cactus roses, I can never decide which I like best.

The wildflowers are rioting this year, with all the rain we've had. The pastures looks like a busload of kindergartens finger-painted all over them, but the photos just don't do them justice ... I'll have to keep trying, but I do love the cactus flowers.

And, of course, our other most notable springtime herald, the infamous 'rattlebugs'. Ug. This was just a baby, only about 2 1/2 ft long.

For the most part, we live in peace, but these guys are much too common and dangerous in our area to let them be. We've had dogs and horses bitten, lost one dog, and they've come much MUCH too snapping on one of us. They tend to be sluggish early in the spring -- slow to move out of your way -- as well as being foul tempered (more than usual) and aggressive. They're more awake now, but that doesn't mean they'll really get out of your way if they hear you coming. It's funny I've always been told that, but it's not been my experience. The last one I got close to, walking, coiled and prepared to fight until I backed off. So it doesn't hurt my feelings too much to see them on the road like this.

edited to add another flower pic: I'm not really a warm fuzzy about flowers and such, but I love to contrast of the delicate beauty of our wildflowers in their rugged rocky beds and the cactus.


... I .. um..... ...never mind.

It's All about Telpe

Telpe.... yes, regular readers will remember Telpe.

So I captured a couple of shots of her nose a couple of weeks ago ... and have been debating as to what kind of jaws she had poked her nostril into.

The top ones did look like punctures to start with, so at first I guessed that she had battled a fanged snapping turtle of enormous proportion. (you can't tell as well in these photos, but the bottom wound was "V" shaped.)

I've revised this theory several times as it heals, because it really looks like -- of all things -- a human bite, on the top. I say that because it looks like it was made by blunt teeth in a half-round pattern. Of course -- I can't imagine any human being able to open their jaws wide enough to get the whole horse in their mouth like that. ...

The obvious answer would be a horse bite - but isn't that much too simple? (and of course, the pattern seems to narrow)

... and so while I've been pondering this mystery - the kids
run in last night to inform me that the grey filly had ripped her leg and a bone was sticking out.

- yes. Could there be any doubt that it was Telpe.

Thankfully, they were wrong about the bone, but she did skin her left gaskin.

This snap was taken the second day. Since it was sliced and torn down from the top, it couldn't be stitched because with the skin tag attached at the bottom there isn't any blood flow to the flap. So the vet simply snipped it off, gave her a couple of shots and we're starting with a simple spray on bandange. You can easly see the thickened edges of the skin. The bare muscle is an area larger than my hand and yes, the blood (and stuff) is seeping through. It's quite sore and swollen, but Telpe is happy as the proverbiable clam since she's tucked back into the indoor stall and is getting lots of extra special attention each day.

From Where ...?

In our area we have a lot of natural cedar and an equally overwhelming amount of invasive juniper.

The so-called trees in our pasture look mostly like this:

or even, the few that we've trimmed to look like a more normal kind of tree look like this:

But, after nearly 15 years in this area, this year I noticed something a little different. I noticed this tree.

and not just one, but I could see two others who'd had similar treatment from where I was standing.

Closer examination revealed a tortured and destroyed inner circle.

My mind being the overly complex and complicated kind, didn't consider anything like a wet spring and unusually heavy growth following a couple of years of dry or take into consideration the high winds we've had -- it immediately leaped to thinking how I could use such a thing in the world building or conflicts of my next novel. What could be the meaning of so many random trees being flattened from above? Spacemen? The Hand of God? Monsters or Monstrous Beasts?

What wonderful ambiguity, misunderstandings and conflicts these 'topped' and flattened trees could cause naive or superstitious characters. ...!

More on Writing ~

I've been riding more than writing lately -- which is both good and bad.

We've been to a couple of events which I haven't posted about yet, so here it is. A miserable endurance ride over Easter weekend ~ my fault mostly for being over-confident and under-prepared ~ but we were out riding in the worst of the spring storms and simply decided enough was enough. I hate that we had to pull, but we'll ride another day. A couple of weeks later, Miree and I went to another CMSA Shoot and again, she did her typical good-hearted baby-best. Our times are slow, but that's still ok at this point. We placed 2nd(tied), 4th, 4th, and 3rd out of four for an overall dead-last. Not where I'd prefer to place, but I know she's doing a great job for her age and level of training and I know that by bringing her along slowly I'll have a better horse over the long term.

Otherwise, ...*looks at date of last post* *blush* It's not that I've had nothing to write about, but that my mind has been going in so many directions it's been a little hard for me to focus. The weather here has been awful and raining -- so I should have plenty of time to write -- but I've been worrying over several different projects rather then moving forward on any particular one and while that is progress, it's not as noticable on the 'outside'.

We're working on (re-) fencing our south pasture when is a pretty major project and coming along slowly. And we're still riding, although the endurance schedule slows down in this part of the world for the summer, we'll shoot at least once a month all summer. Beri is coming back well from her tie-up and will be back on the shooting circuit so I'll alternate her with Miree.

The Reason Why

... I'm reminded time and again that it's all worth it.

... the waiting and watching and the worry. ... the feed bills and the vet and the worry. ... and the dreaming and the worry ...

- but when one is born, you remember there's nothing softer than the feel of brand new fur and nothing sweeter than the smell of their warm milk-breath.

- you have the years of just being together and learning to be friends while learning to halter and lead and get hoof-trimmed and get in the trailer.

- then you have those first short, easy rides. Miree's driving as well, so we've been doing a little of that.

- and then you have the big day when you take them in public for the first time and put a little pressure on, always of course, in front of a crowd.

When one comes through as well as Miree did last weekend, there is no feeling in the world that can compare.

We had a great day her first day shooting. She showed herself to be settled and sane and willing -- and gave a little more with each stage, showing improvement throughout the day -- but more than just a good day, Saturday was both a culmination and a starting point of what I dreamed of when I put her sire and dam together almost five years ago.

Good Morning - or not...

It's unfortunately common to stroll out to the barn for whatever reason and be surprised by some situation.

<= like this one.

We've had obscene amounts of rain in the last week and today, well... yesterday, was the first day we saw any sun in awhile. The horses are shedding and itchy, and so the pony came up out of her pen into the stall to have a good dry spot to roll and scratch in.

Since I have panels instead of solid stall walls (remember, in Texas we have more days each year over 110 than we do below freezing), the pony found herself in a little bit of a silly situation.

In this case I had to manage to get a long soft rope double-wrapped around the pony's pastern (between the fetlock and hoof) - which is how you turn a horse over by yourself - although getting down and between a horse's back legs when it's trapped and potentially likely to panic is very VERY far down my list of intelligent things to do ... and in this case was complicated by having to engineer the pony's leg so the bend in the hock would come back through the bend in the pipe fence panel. It was a little more excitement than I enjoy these days, but we got it done and no one any worse for the wear.

So what is it you do routinely?

I mean the kind of thing that if you stopped and thought about the process you'd refuse to follow through ... these are things that need to be done *now* ... that you can't call a professional to come take care of it for you. ...

Best laid plans...

As I posted a couple of weeks ago, we had high expectations for our two days of riding in the Hill Country State Natural Area outside of Bandera, Texas.

It was not to be.

We got out of town right on time early Friday morning and had an uneventful drive. Set up camp, exercised the horses a little and just generally got ready for Saturday's ride... braiding manes, packing fanny packs, making final adjustments on the tack and such.

Saturday started great. We trotted out at a moderate pace in the middle of the pack, down a park service road and then up into the beautiful rugged hills.

But very shortly my little star mare, Beri started slowing down. Her rider thought there was 'something wrong', but I couldn't see it. She had a bright expression and was walking freely, just didn't want to trot. She's a fairly well seasoned endurance horse and so I thought she was just being smart and conservative on the hills. We slowed down for her, then slowed down again and finally stopped for a real exam -- as good a one as I could do on the trail. I was looking for signs of colic or tying up (Equine Exertional Rhabdomyolysis). Her heart and respiration were normal, she was hydrated, had gut sounds and her butt was jiggly. But when I went to check her capillary refill, I knew we had trouble. Her gums were darkening and that's a sign of toxicity. I didn't know WHAT was wrong, but I did know we were definitely in trouble.

I sent Courtney on ahead on GLAMDRING to ride the best ride she could and I stayed with Abelino while he walked Beri down out of the hills and to a spot in the trail were we could cut through to a road. I flagged down a park ranger who drove to the base camp and let them know we were walking in with a sick horse. Beri's gums seemed to lighten a bit with the walking and her attitude perked up enough that I even wondered if it had been some minor upset tummy or thing that she had worked through. But we weren't taking any chances and so when ride management arrived with the trailer, we loaded her up and hauled back to the vet.

Her gums had darkened again by the time the vet examined her, but her other signs were not too bad so he recommended trailer rest and a close watch. But by the time we got her to the trailer, untacked and filled her hay bag, she'd started to tighten up and show all the classic signs (hard butt muscles) of tying up. We got her back to the vet and started on treatment.

It was a long day, and we have a long recovery and a slow rehab in front of us, but she's going to be fine -- which is the best possible news.

Courtney and GLAMDRING had a good ride on the 50 that day. He was tired at the finish, it's a tougher trail than he's been on before, but he still had some horse left and so we cleaned him up with the expectation of another 50 on Sunday.

Since Abelino didn't have a horse for Sunday and Beri was napping comfortably, he partnered with Ross Carrie to take a first place in the 12.5 mile RaT! They had a great time and I think he's definitely hooked on the sport.

GLAMDRING made it 25 miles on what was day 2 for him, before he started showing some strain (for a total of 75 for the weekend) and so it was up to me and GWAIHIR to bring it home.

It's not the kind of trail you can make a lot of time on, but I let GWAIHIR pick his pace and he likes to canter, even barefoot on this tough, rocky trail. I love this horse, he just keeps getting stronger and we so gained time over the last 25 miles to come in 3rd overall and take a 1st in our division.

So what else to say? We had some good rides in spite of the trouble and it's always a good day -- keeping in mind how fast things can go very wrong -- it's always a good day when you bring home a horse that pulled through some trouble.

It Needed Killin'

Gwaihir the Valiant has been enthusiastically and diligently rehearsing for the upcoming sequel to his hit video short on youtube.

As you can see, he has perfected the killing of the medium-sized orc.

First we have the kill -- the stomp and bite.

The follow-up bite and the toss away. (A gentleman always cleans up his messes so the ladies aren't subjected to the trauma of faux orc bodies.)

The 3/4 point

Courtney is in her second year of endurance and her second year of competing my horses, but this is the first time that we've managed to camp and ride together; and it was Abelino's first time at an endurance competition -- so we had a lot of time together both in camp and on the trail. It was good quality time of the kind where you've been together for a couple of days and worked and sweated and had fun together and the talk kind of dies down and that's ok because you're all comfortable enough together that the silence isn't awkward, like it can be in some social situations.

But one thing we talked about is that we have ambitious plans for this year. Our first short term goal is to do the 2-day 50/50s that are coming up and then the 100 mile ride at the Bluebonnet in April.

And so over the course of the weekend, I spent some memory on my first 100 mile ride. It was at the Armadillo in '93 and aside from bright-eyed enthusiasm and ambition, I didn't really have all I needed, going into it, to finish. You can talk all day about grit and heart and sheer strength of will, but I finished that night (morning) only because I had a good horse and better friends than I deserved.

I could write thousands of words on the experience of doing your first 100 deep in the Piney Woods of East Texas, but the thing that comes forefront to my mind now, as a writer, is the element of human nature. What I'm musing on is, I think, a kind of survival instinct in our heads that we have to, quite literally, turn off in order to succeed in the Worst of Times.

It's a battle of heart and mind, of logic and emotion.

One of the only clear memories I have of that night is sitting in the dirt in the middle of a forest service road at some hour wee early in the morning, with said undeserved friends, crying that I was certainly killing my horse to continue (I had the delusion that he was foundered) and throwing up because I had begged and smoked an unfiltered camel (I don't smoke).

I had hit 'the wall', mentally, emotionally and physically and I really had nothing left. But there was something in me that wouldn't let me quit. I didn't have it in me to go on, but I didn't have it in me to quit either and so I was at an impasse.

On a subconscious level, I was reaching (fighting, clawing, scrambling) for a reason to quit that had nothing do to with me being a quitter and had nothing to do with me giving up. So you see, with everything else gone, I still had a stiff neck and a tattered remnant of pride. I needed something, anything, to be wrong with the horse so I could be (figuratively) carried off the field and put to bed with the secure pretense that I'd made the right choice.

But it wasn't the right choice. My friends knew that and stood by me. They carefully examined the horse. He was fine. They took the cigarette away and gave me some water and washed my face. I'd ridden nearly 90 miles in about 18 hours and I was that close to being done. Ten miles is short enough to spit when you've already been that far -- and that was the encouragement I needed. A leg up on the horse and a slap on his hairy butt and we were back out into the woods.

We made it that night and did another 100 the next year.

But there came a time in my life when it wasn't the right choice. I pushed too hard when I should have pulled back and I suffered greatly for it. I learned what real pain was and I learned fear of pain that was truly debilitating.

And that fear kept me from finishing three more 100s and with that sad record, it's been ten years since I started a 100. Is it fear or realism?

* I'm older now, obviously, heavier and less fit.
* But I'm also smarter.
**I think, smart enough to make the difference.
* The memory of the pain and the failures has faded.

I have three horses that show every sign of being good 100 mile horses and I have friends that are at least as determined as me to make it through.

And so, I think I'm prepared for that late ride exhaustion. Not to suffer it, but to head it off before it takes hold. We'll go into the ride with a good nights sleep. We'll eat and drink like we should and we'll support each other throughout.

... so why am I going on about it here? Because, as a writer, I'm looking at my characters. I'm rubbing my hands together and cackling and thinking how I can use these memories to deepen the trauma and conflict in my stories. I can use them to make my characters more human and more real.

I can give them that dark fear that quivers deep inside and whispers "Don't be foolish. It's better this way..." I can shake their confidence and give them that doubt, and I can even see them fail. Because I know they'll come back smarter and stronger and more determined for it.

Freezing N' Burning

Well. I'm back. I woke up this morning with so many ideas, I couldn't handle them all. But first, I have to talk about our fantastic weekend.

We started three horses and finished two.

The weekend turned colder than we had expected and so we were only marginally prepared. We should have known better and it was a lesson that wasn't as hard as it could have been, knowing Texas in February. This ride has, in the past, seen ice storms on Friday with beautiful warm sunshine on Saturday. So we shouldn't have been surprised, this year, when we got cold, windy and cloudy instead of sunshine.

Abelino jumped into endurance with both feet and started a 50 his first time out -- and did great. Beri (ELBERETH TOS) is a well-seasoned endurance horse, but she still gets a little race-brain. He handled all her early morning antics and her late-ride doldrums and finished in fine form.

Beri has enough miles now that she really settles into the work and the miles and when you're doing a moderate pace, she can seem a little sleepy or tired. When that started happening, we kicked them into a high gallop and 'played hard' for ten or so miles.

To me, it's the height of the sport when you have enough horse to play and really enjoy the day.

I'm glad to be back on GWAIHIR. He's a handful of horse, but it's a joy to ride one who is still fresh at the end of the day. He has amazing gaits, especially his canter. He has a little rocking lope that's so easy to sit he spoils me for riding anyone else. He's done a handful of Limited Distance rides over the last few years while I was riding with my younger son, but those days are behind us and he's ready for a lot more miles. I'm dangerously enthusiastic about getting him to a lot of rides this year.

Courtney and GLAMDRING had an unfortunate pull between 55-60 miles. She had a ton of horse left, he has the fitness level, but not (YET!) the emotional maturity to be on the trail alone in the dark in spitting rain and pending storms. Courtney made the tough (smart) decision to bring him (and herself) safely back to camp rather than ask him to do something he isn't ready for. It was a tough lesson for all of us -- but we know where his 'holes' are and what he needs to be working on ... and it's all do-able. It just needs to be done. And it will be, hopefully in time for the 100 in April.


That resounding silence you're hearing is the sound of me clawing my way back up to collapse, gasping, at the edge of the world after having galloped off into the starry outer regions.

We've been riding a lot -- the weather here has been fantastic -- and we have a full schedule in the coming months, so don't give up on me. And writing with Holly Lisle's How to Think Sideways Graduate Class. I'll hopefully have lots of photos and stories, both riding and writing, and will soon be back on track with posting on a more regular basis.

Private Property

Leah and I have been friends and crit partners for a long time. We've laughed and screamed and cried together, and the more interesting of those stories may yet come out at some later date. ;)

But for today, I could not be more pleased to introduce her and her first release. It's been exciting for me because I've been alongside her so much of the way. I've known she was a talented writer from the beginning and I'm proud (very proud) to have helped her along with what support and emotional encouragement I could give.

*Raises frosted mug* So here's to Leah, her first sale and to many more.

When Sue asked me to write something up for her blog, I said, “Sure, I can whip something up for you.” Then I sat and stared at a blank page for a while. You see, Sue has been a huge influence on me. She’s the one who pushed and shoved me toward where I am today, not listening to me whinge and rant the way I’m prone.

Sue and I started off writing a round-robin story with several other aspiring writers. That was the first time I’d ever written from a male point of view and it was quite eye-opening. And surprising, especially the time when I posted my character (a warrior) talking to Sue’s character (a barmaid) saying that he wanted an ale but perhaps he needed shave, or perhaps he needed both. Sue misread my post and had her character thinking he’d asked her for a BATH. Okay, you had to be there to understand how hilarious that was. But you see, that was the beginning of our partnership. I went on to write quite a few more stories involving that character, and Sue very generously allowed me to use her character in some of those stories.

For the next year I concentrated on writing fantasies, where before I’d usually written science fiction or suspense. When not writing my next chapter, Sue would challenge me to write drabbles to make me write tighter. She’d push me to write outside of my comfort level. We’d exchange numerous emails about writing techniques and ‘the rules’ and when you could break them, or if you should. And with each critique, with each email, I learned more and more from her.

So when Sue challenged me to write an erotica back in the spring of 2007, I looked at it as another exercise. The first one I wrote was a sci-fi involving dragons and shapeshifters on an earth in the future, the next was a contemporary paranormal, again involving shapeshifters. But then for some reason I can’t explain, when I created the world around Private Property, there wasn’t a shapeshifter in sight. Set in contemporary Dallas, there was no fancy hardware involved (unless you count the BDSM equipment lining the shelves in Sam’s private bedroom.) No swords and chainmail, no elves, no evil wizard in sight. Yet these characters, Mark Rodriguez and Jodi Tyler, and especially Sam Watson, just leapt off the page in a way none had since I wrote that very first round-robin story. It’s about jealousy and betrayal, and the search for trust and boundaries and respect for both your friends and your lovers. All universal themes, no matter what the genre. Oh, and I mustn’t forget, there’s some really hot, wicked sex in it too.

If you want to read an excerpt you can go here, or here. (I will warn you, the first one is for those 18 years of age or over.) And you can buy Private Property here. But whether you buy it or not, I still owe Sue a huge “Thank You.” Because I really wouldn’t have gotten where I have without her guidance.

Happy New Year!

"HAa-ppy New Year" ~ I can never say that without thinking of the stop motion "Frosty the Snowman" saying that when he wakes up with the top hat on. But it's a happy memory and so I guess that's all good.

And we have had a good start to 2009.

The holidays were good here, if busy. But I think that's the nature of the holidays and it was especially welcome since we had a rough year with some of the family stuff.

But while so much of the US is iced in, in Texas this time of year can be the time to be out and doing.

Beri and I went to our first Brass Tacks match yesterday, hosted by our local CMSA Club, Texas Smokin Guns. It was a beautiful 84 degrees with a perfect light breeze for most of the day. The wind picked up toward the end of the day and made the last couple of rounds more challenging, but that's an inherent part of the sport.

I'd given Beri, and myself, time off since our last match last fall. She did a 50 at the Armadillo endurance ride with Courtney and only some light trail riding and pony rides since, but we haven't been shooting so I wasn't sure how we'd do. Overall, I was moderately pleased with my shooting and extremely pleased with Beri. The break did her good and she seemed ready to get back in the game.

We did 'good enough' in our class (3 of 6!) and are slowly moving up in the overall standings, which is pretty exciting since we spent so much of last year just learning how to use our thumb.

- no. really. One of the hardest things for me to learn to do has been to cock the gun fast enough on the run down. Even now, I'll miss the fourth balloon if I let her run home. But yesterday, she rated for me better than she has before and that's part of all the elements of the sport starting to be more automatic instead of me having to over-think each step.

We only got to do two endurance rides last year (although my horses each did a ride without me!) and we're excited to have more endurance local-to-us on the schedule - so we're looking at an intense (FUN!) year, and yesterday gave us a great start.