Wednesday, July 26, 2017

writing, riding, and cats

I haven't had much to say lately and have been quite busy with life and writing. It's great to write like that again.

But this only came about because I finally received treatment for at least part of what I've been suffering. It's taught me that it doesn't matter what your numbers are but what you feel. Don't listen to conventional doctors who say you're fine and anything you think you're feeling is wrong is "just anxiety" or "just old age." Find a new doctor. I did and I found some relief, not only because of the treatment but also because they listened and that alone is powerful medicine. Those doctors tried many things and tested to try to find the root cause but ultimately, we had to resort to the most common treatment, which is sufficient for me but at much lower dose than normal. And I have to watch my diet or risk a flare of the other part of my issues.

I wanted to make a point for anyone who feels sick but isn't feeling better. Look beyond traditional/conventional/corporate medicine. Listen to your body, not medicine.

Because I've finally found a treatment that works, I've had incredible creativity (except on flare days) and have made fast progress on Enlightenment. It is currently at 92,000 words and growing to where it will likely end up with a final word count between 110K-120K. But that's just the first draft. I tend to over-write and then have lots of space to cut back.

Lilly is learning to use a new power and there's a new daemon, a scout sent to learn what it is she can do. Nothing is what it seems and Lilly is having visions of a time before the Sundering. Her visions will reveal secrets that could change the course of the war.

This summer I have also been feeling more like riding Buddy and he's doing magnificent. He has been learning lateral work and has become pretty adept at walking leg-yield and the beginning of straightening. Although he still wants to go to his herd, he is learning to cooperate better. Since he has to work, he appreciates straightness more and more. He's at a point of learning trot leg-yield in preparation to canter. The dressage work is making things easier on him as he learns to carry himself properly and lift his back. He is becoming fun to ride, especially since he feels like he's enjoying the training.

After we finish working, we often head outside the arena for a little trail ride. To make those rides calm and pleasant, on days that I don't ride, I try to take him down the ditch for a trail leading session. By leading, I stay safe from him freaking out over something new. And by getting him out away from his herd, he learns that he can go out alone and trust me as his leader. If we're going to really trail ride, he needs to learn to deal with new situations and sights without letting his fear overcome my training. At least I can stay safe introducing new things to him because I am often alone in these situations and am getting older. The ground gets a LOT harder when you get older. I don't need any accidents, even if I always have my cell phone strapped to my leg when I'm with my horse.

Buddy and I after a great riding lesson.

And because he was too cute to leave out, the latest barn addition, who just appeared without any explanation. I don't know if he was thrown from a car nearby or fell out from hiding under a hood or if his own mother left him there. I know that he'll have a good home and that the dog is smitten with him, just as the rest of us are.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

the view from the saddle

The world looks different from the back of a horse. It's more peaceful and connected. One doesn't think about their problems or, if they do, those problems are minor compared to the beauty in that moment.

A horse doesn't plan ahead but lives in the moment. Really, they are incapable of that wider scope of cognitive function. Rather, they base their immediate reaction on experiences of the past based on the situation that they are in at that moment. They don't think that the sign in the road might blow in a sudden gust, but if it does, it becomes a monster at that time. You can pass the same sign a hundred times but suddenly on one-hundred-one, it's a fire-breathing, horse-eating monster. Horses live in the now, this moment. We can learn something from that.

I think some of that somehow affects us when we are with our horses, connected. When I'm with my Buddy, I am in that moment. I don't think about projects at work or what so-and-so might be scheming (somewhere) or my writing and what plot point I need to conquer. Rather, it's just me and my horse conquering the world together. That's it. Nothing else.

Of course, that doesn't mean I'm not thinking about how to get him to cooperate in a task. I still think about what I'm doing, but he has my undivided attention and when it comes to riding, it is all about that moment, each moment. It's very liberating.

This morning was a beautiful morning all about preparing Buddy to head out on the trails. After lunging and some arena riding, he was pretty subdued and focused. I've been taking it one step at a time in an effort to give him the most positive experiences possible. We've slowly graduated from one small step to the next: round penning and desensitizing -> lunging -> riding in an arena -> lunging and riding in the pasture and leading down the road outside the fences -> riding outside the fences.

We rode outside any fences this morning for the first time. My goal was to just ride along the property that he is familiar with, getting him used to being ridden somewhere outside an arena. I don't want to push him too far too fast. I never have. And he's rewarded me greatly every chance I've had to work with him. This morning, we did have an issue along the trailer row, but we would reach his limit of fear and I let him retreat to where he was comfortable and calm again, then we rode back and I'd ask for a little further before retreating. He wanted to run away, but he has the personality of a superb trail prospect. He listened to my voice and seat (which I try to keep relaxed) and the bit pressure (which wasn't that much). We did that three times and by the last time, reached the end of the trailer row and headed back to the arena far more calmly and with little rein pressure. That was good enough progress for me!

Buddy is not a flighty horse but he could be if we hadn't prepared for this. I've spent almost two years building his trust and confidence in my leadership. And I've done all I can to let him make the right choice so that I don't have to discipline. He's challenged me a few times, but it's never been too difficult to make him realize that misbehaving isn't worth the effort--he's a bit lazy, thank goodness. It's that laid-back personality, partially natural and partially from training, and achieving first his trust in my leadership on the ground and then his trust in my leadership on his back that combined to bring out the best in this little guy. It's not about the human being the boss but, rather, a trusted leader and partner.

And I did measure him recently with a proper measuring stick. He may not stay a pony for long at already 14.2 hands at 4 years old. Unfortunately, he looks like he will end up being a small horse, which tend to not score so well in shows against larger horses. He won't qualify for the pony divisions against other small equines. But, I have a happy little horse who will eventually carry me anywhere and do anything.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

AWAKENING preorder available!

It is done! Awakening has a new cover, a new series name that better reflects the tone of the series, and it's now available for preorder.

Lilly has been marked for death by daemons from a hidden world, a place known as the Shadow Realm. Within her has awakened the spirit of their enemy, one of the luriel. Such beings are myths to her, but one man is out to prove that they exist. The daemon slayer, Mychel, will introduce her to a world of shadows and light hiding beyond the comfort of science and technology, where ancient myths are real and an eternal war rages on, a war in which she has now been conscripted to fight.

One daemon is doing his best to destroy her before that happens. In human form, Darrac is able to get close to her and soon realizes that she is different—through Lilly, an ancient power has revived, a terrible power than can end the war…by eliminating both luriel and daemons. But destroying that power would mean sacrificing the one who has changed his heart.

Time is running out as the luriel within Lilly matures and her powers grow. One choice will determine the fate of two realms.

Only $0.99 for a full novel ebook!

It is making its way for preorder to the major retailers. As of today, it is available at smashwords, Apple, and Kobo so far. It will go up on Amazon next month but should show up at this week yet. Other smaller ebook retailers will begin to list it soon also.

The book will be released this fall.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

horse update

We have a drought here, so we're praying for rain. And it's been HOT!

Because of the heat, I've been going out to see Buddy in the mornings when I can. It worked out well today. I went out to work with Buddy. The outdoor arena was being worked up, so we lunged outside to get that done while waiting for the arena to be clear. Once that was possible, I rode. He gave me a few young horse moments, but nothing terrible. He's generally very cooperative, but he's still young enough--and damned smart enough!--that he could get spoiled very quickly with the wrong rider. It didn't take much to correct him and then he fully cooperated. He just had to try.

After our ride, I gave him a spring bath, something I've been wanting to do for a while. He gets so disgustingly dirty crossing through the creek in the pasture.

I also did something I've been dying to do--brushed out his tail. I don't do that unless it's cleaned and conditioned, which I did today. You pull out fewer hairs by leaving the tail alone, so it stays thicker and longer--I ended up having to trim it, because it gets so long. Other horses at the barn have thin, short tails because the owners brush them out all the time without washing and conditioning first. I had to shorten his with a scissors, like I did last year--it helps keep it from getting muddy, which gets flicked all over when he's swishing flies, and it helps keep it from picking up cockleburs.

Anyway, he cleaned up to have bright stockings, so I took a few picks of a clean horse, who probably got dirty crossing the creek soon after I left around noon. With the drought coming on, the herd has been crossing the creek to get the grass on the other side, but it's getting crispy there too. We're all praying for rain.

He cleans up nicely! (You should have seen how muddy he was from fresh creek mud!) And look at how long that tail was. It's still long, but not so close to the ground.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Cover Reveal!

I'm so excited by this. I said I was going to wait and I at least waited until reaching the halfway point of writing the second book. I love unveiling the covers of books to come, and this was hard to come by.

I searched through premade covers to find one similar to what I had in mind and was pleasantly surprised by what is the Enlightenment cover below. It happened to work out that the designer had more images with the same model that could be made into covers for the other two books. Hooray for consistency!

The challenge with this is that on the fictional world of Ahlias, the races have pretty well blended together so that most citizens have mixed characteristics, although the extremes of skin color do happen. The main character is one of the darker complexioned individuals of the world. Finding a cover with a model with the right attitude, age, and color was a challenge, but I knew the right one when I saw it. I lucked out.

As many know, book covers do tend to be whitewashed. That's such a shame, because, as Guardians of the Galaxy demonstrated with pink, blue, green, yellow, and even crystalline beings and more, we can use whatever color pallet that we choose. Finding a model to represent that can be hard, unless one is willing to hire an artist that can create something from scratch or is willing to rewrite their character, which just isn't an option in my mind.

The Luriel Cycle needed a style more in line with contemporary/urban fantasy, which is to use live models. Besides, I wanted a real person for these. She worked out nicely. Thank you, whoever you are who posed for the stock photos used in these covers. We writers appreciate your willingness to share yourself with the world to represent our fictional characters!

Now, I would like to reveal The Luriel Cycle covers:

And thank you to Angela of Covered Creatively for the artistic talent and cooperation in setting up the series covers to fit the stories written and planned!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Delicious muffins or bread recipe

Ever since I had a health crisis occur about two years ago, I went gluten free. That single dietary choice made a difference to my life.

Since then, I've learned to eat mostly without grains in my diet, but besides the occasional popcorn or rice pudding, I've also learned to bake with alternatives to wheat flour that are just as tasty, if not tastier. My favorites are sorghum and almond, usually mixed, and sometimes a little rice flour.

One of the recipes that I've adapted was the one that I used to make sweet breads and muffins that I think surpasses the traditional wheat flour recipe in taste. I've been asked for the recipe by friends who have enjoyed them enough to ask for the recipe, so here is my gluten/dairy/soy free base plus additions for bananas and chocolate chips (YUM!):

I'm no pro photographer. This is on my kitchen counter under the normal lights.


2 large eggs
1/2 c. grapeseed oil
1/2 - 3/4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. honey (preferably local, unprocessed)
2 Tbsp. water
1/4 - 1/3 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 c. sorghum flour
1/2 c. almond flour
1 1/2 tsp. xanthum gum
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
For banana/chocolate chip:

2-3 ripe bananas
1/2 c. Enjoy Life mini chips (gluten/dairy/soy free)

1) Preheat oven to 350 F.
2) Beat eggs.
3) Add vanilla and beat into eggs.
4) Wisk oil into egg mixture.
5) Use the same measuring cup from the oil to measure the honey. Doing so means less honey sticks to the measuring cup and gets into the batter without much fuss. If the honey is crystallized, you will need to set the jar in a bowl of hot water for some time to liquify it again.
6) Mix the honey thoroughly into the liquid ingredients.
7) Add the water.
8) Add the sea salt and mix thoroughly to dissolve it.
9) Mix in remaining dry ingredients.
10) Mash bananas in a separate bowl until mostly smooth with a few small bits, then mix them into the batter.
11) Add the chocolate chips.
12) Fill muffin cups/bread pan and bake. I use silicon bakeware, which requires longer cooking times. Generally, the batter is thick, so feel free to mostly fill whatever you use. The muffins or bread will be done when they are browned on top and spring back from light pressure.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Updates on life, writing, and training my horse

Life is moving on for me, finally. While I still have to deal with Hashimoto's disease (not hypothyroid, thank least not at this stage), I am doing better with the air hunger and insomnia that plagued me for a year and a half. I have learned that I can't take 99% of supplements. Apparently, I get enough in my diet that anything else is too much, according to my body. That's fine with me--eating healthy is the best way to go. And we're still working on figuring out the cause of the eosinophilia that's shown up on over this same time period--I can't help wondering if that's related to the symptoms in some way.

Weatherwise, spring is here and it seems to be full-on heading right into summer. This past week was hot. Time to get our garden going, but first we need to haul in some manure, because what we have is very thin topsoil and mostly sandy clay. We discovered last year that horse manure goes a long ways to fertilizing the soil. And we doubled the size of our garden, so we need the manure on the new section. The old section is good to go, and hubby tilled it up. We even have strawberries already blossoming (returned from last year), which were carefully tilled around.

Warm weather means insects are out too, so be careful of ticks and mosquitos. With WNV and Lyme now spread throughout North America, we should all be careful. It's about time that Lyme get the recognition that it deserves as a terrible disease.

Buddy with a well-deserved treat after a great session (5/6/17)
And this also means I'm out with my horse more. Buddy has blossomed this spring. As I mentioned in the last post, we picked up from the start this year right where we'd left off last year. We've really progressed already this spring. Although I only visit him 2-3 times a week and only work him 1-2 times a week, he's super smart. A few weeks ago, I started asking for frequent walk-trot transitions on the lungeline, and since then, he has really started to carry himself like a champ. His back is starting to swing as he comes through with lift and freedom. And he's straighter, which gives him greater balance. This has carried through under saddle, where he's now trotting for me. He's such a sweetheart in a cute little package (large pony). He's also become intensely focused in his work to where he is tuning out things that used to worry him and seems to enjoy feeling more balanced to where he wants to stay that way, which tells me that dressage is right for him.

Last of all, I want to announce that I will be revealing some book covers this summer. What was once planned to be a 4-book series called the Shadow Realm Saga with the release of Awakening about two years ago (removed from sale several months later for other considerations), will now be a 3-book The Luriel Cycle. The new ebook covers are all designed and ready, but I'm not yet ready to reveal those. They are eye-catching and better than the generic covers that they had previously. Now, I'm waiting until I am further along in the first draft of Enlightenment before revealing these new covers.

I hope to re-release Awakening with its new cover in the fall (after the first draft of Enlightenment is finished). And, as with all things artistic, it will have a little more editing, because art is never really finished and can always be a little better. Right? The titles of the trilogy will be Awakening (book 1), Enlightenment (book 2), and Eternal (book 3). These are my projects to complete over the next year, before I start anything new.