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.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

the story of Buddy

Okay, I'm not totally obsessed with my horse, but horses are a big part of me. I've said before that horses are a part of my soul. Not having a horse partner is like death and I can only have one at a time. I mean that. Buddy has saved my life.

When my last and dearest horse I had ever had in my life went downhill in his health, I made the difficult choice to put him down. I had never done that before, but it was clear that he was in increasing pain and nothing I did helped him. I took him to a good place where he was put to rest and I can visit him any time. But he has visited me.

I sincerely believe that Beau was looking over my shoulder a year later when I went to the sale barn thinking I'd take on a pony that I could share with my kids and handle with my new health difficulties. I knew my skills could match whatever I found.

At an auction, one never knows what they'll find, but there are hidden gems. Buddy was one of them. He had ringworm, bad teeth, and had been cowboy broke into submission. However, he'd been broke fast to look good in the sales ring. Luckily and unluckily, he'd only been 2, not 3 as he was listed, so I knew that I could undo any training mistakes since he hadn't had long enough for bad handling to cement any bad behaviors.

I knew to be wary and I had my strategy for the couple of ponies I thought would fit the bill, one being that I took one of my kids with me. I know the games that horse traders play and especially those who work that particular semi-annual sale. I lost on a smaller pony but I won Buddy for what I consider a fair price--ponies are always in high demand and high priced. But I do love the thrill of bidding at an auction.

Buddy came with baggage, some of which I quickly dropped. He learned that he didn't have to just take whatever I did. He learned to open up to me, through massage and natural horsemanship and by clearing up the ringworm on his face and getting his teeth floated (the equine dentist discovered sores in his mouth in that first visit just a few weeks after I bought him). He was given a winter to grow up and get used to his new home and herd. It was too cold outside and I was going through a terrible time with my health to get out to see him more than a few times until spring came. Our first spring (2016), he had bloomed!

Last summer, Buddy took to natural horsemanship immediately, and then had to learn to accept side reins and the bit. He had some baggage yet to work through, but he had awakened to a new world and an easier life. He was able to grow up. I didn't ride him more than 15-16 times all year, but he was only three years old. Mostly, I focused on ground work, his feet, and becoming a human he could trust. I had already used our first six weeks before the winter set in since buying him to establish trust and confidence in me, but that went even further when we started working together last year. And I started him in a much gentler bit than the one he wore in the sales arena.

We ended 2016 as a team. Buddy had the advantage of everything that my over 30 years of horse training and then trying to care for Beau's worsening symptoms taught me. He had an owner who could help him physically and mentally to overcome what might have happened to make him contain his emotions. He learned that, while his human had rules, he could express himself because that human would listen; and he came out of his shell to become very expressive and cooperative with training that takes the form of questions and being directed toward the correct answer rather than punishing him for not understanding. As an example, he went from not letting me handle his feet when I first bought him to giving me his feet a year later--they need regular treatment to avoid infection that causes heel pain. He now understands this and lets out a big sigh after all four feet get their triple antibiotic ointment/clotrimazole mixture. (Tip: most foot pain in a horse can be attributed to one or (most likely) a combination of 1) contracted heels, 2) poor trimming, 3) infection, 4) sugar-rich diet...not navicular disease.)

Buddy and a friend, Chevy
We started 2017 as partners. Once again, I gave him winter off--MUCH too cold and snowy to be out for more than a quick check. As the previous year, we started with ground work. Buddy is such a smart little guy that he picked up right where we had left off last fall as if he hadn't had 3 months with hardly any handling. This time, I started with being sure he would yield his head by reaching his nose fully around both sides to his ribs, but I also asked that he relax before I let him go, combining a natural horsemanship technique with body work. This actually worked out to help him even more than I expected.

It wasn't long this spring before I got on for the first time, which happened a few weeks ago. Today we had our second ride (spring decided it wasn't ready to come back and I had busy days in there when I couldn't do much with him). Buddy finally let me ride a posting trot circle on him. We tried once last year but he wasn't sure about my posting and didn't want to trot. He started that way today and then decided to go with it.

Before our ride today, I lunged him with side reins. Last week, when I last lunged him, I started asking for frequent walk-trot transitions to keep his attention on me rather than the herd. He started sitting and reaching more forward at the trot and developed better balance. Today, I asked for that from the start and saw the transformation. He is quick to learn and when guided the right direction, the training seems effortless, like he already knows what to do.

Buddy (April 30, 2017)
I have felt from the beginning that Buddy came into my life for a reason. It could have been any horse, and I might have done far worse with a horse from the auction, but Buddy is the calm, easy-going horse that I need in my life right now. Although he's not a fancy mover, he is easy to care for and work with. I dearly miss Beau's giant strides (when he was at his best, before his deterioration) and the uphill canter (that he would no longer perform in the end because he was in too much pain). However, my life changed and Buddy is the right size (pony sized) and temperament for me now. And Beau's expensive dressage saddle fits him--that almost never happens.

I cared for Beau when his health deteriorated and did everything I could to try to make him feel better. I failed. Now, Buddy is taking care of me. Since I've had him, I've gone through some of the worst issues in my life and had contemplated suicide when things were at their worst. It was knowing that Buddy was there for me, needing me, and that I might be able to return to the joy I once knew by sharing my soul with a special horse that gave me the courage to keep trying to recover. Had I not had a horse, my soul would have been empty and had no reason to continue the struggle through the despair of my health problems. I feel that the day I found Buddy, I had a four-legged angel looking over me making sure that I was taken care of and giving me a purpose.

I have a dream for Buddy--National Pony Dressage Finals. Someday. He'll be able to do it when we're both ready.

All that I've been through has taught me not to push and has given me a patience that I never had before in my life. I feel like I've arrived at that special place that all the old horsemen find. I know now what horse whispering really is--taking the time, having the patience to listen. It's knowing how to ask for cooperation by showing the horse that what you want is easy; It is making the horse feel secure and confident. All that I've suffered has been a blessing in disguise, another lesson that I'm sure came down from a four-legged angel. Thanks, Beau, my original buddy!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A sample of today's writing

I thought it might be interesting to take a segment of what I wrote today and post a teaser. I've been working on Enlightenment and am working on chapter 9. It's ROUGH DRAFT, so be forewarned. I can't say when this will be released as an ebook, but probably next year. I will be re-releasing Awakened sometime this fall.

Here's a sample of today's work:

“Well done, Lilly.” The quiet voice of Master Kimisu praising her filled her with pride.

She opened her eyes to the slight lift of his lips.

“You proved that you can, indeed, reach your luriel. You are much closer to Enlightenment than you realize.”

Her smile was forced, and he must have seen it. He studied her with a quizzical look for several seconds and finally said, “You seem…reticent about this stage. What holds you back?”

She’d always been a terrible liar, wearing her emotions on her sleeve.

The internal debate about what to tell him strapped her tongue. Worse was his quiet expectation while waiting on her answer. What should she tell him?

What might he already know? He knew about the Un’dei. What else had Mychel or the other Pallora Fen told him?

Maybe he’d make her leave if she told the truth. That would displease Mychel and make it possible for her to return home and try to pick up the pieces of her old life. There was nothing wrong with that. So why was she hesitant?

Just say it.

Before she could freeze, she looked the master in the eyes, in which she recognized a depth of understanding the world that fueled a respect for the man. In that fraction of a moment of realization, she understood that it was that level of respect that he’d sparked from that first brief encounter on their arrival that she didn’t want to disappoint.

Lilly took a breath and said quickly, “I don’t want to Ascend.”

His demeanor remained the same—no judgment upon her. Had he expected her to say that, so that it wasn’t a surprise to him?

Still, she held her breath on the expectation of a harsh admonishment. Ascension was the pinnacle of celemae development. How could she not want that? –That’s what he would argue.

Instead, his eyes glazed in that way people’s eyes do when they turn their thoughts inward.

He was considering her statement, and eventually, no matter how he looked at it, the inquisition would be the same.

She might as well leave now and rose from the grass mat.

“Why are you here?” His words stopped her from reaching for the door.

“I don’t know. Mychel forced me to come.”

“Did he? Did he tie you and gag you and drag you here? That is not what I saw several days ago.”

That's not everything and I'm not going to reveal much about it. I can say that this is definitely very rough and will be fleshed out in the editing process to come later. The important part of writing a first/rough draft is to get the ideas down. Everything can be edited later.

Friday, March 24, 2017

On a good day...

Spring is here! And for two days (minus the early part of this morning with the sleep med hangover) I've felt great. Standing at my desk is helping to stretch my shoulders and back, but I still caught myself scrunching my shoulders while working today and had to make an extra effort to drop them. I've been downing small pinches of salt throughout the day too--craving it--and feeling better as I reach some level only my body knows, so I'm guessing there are some adrenal issues that are preventing electrolytes from staying balanced. But by noon, I had no breathing issues whatsoever. It's been wonderful!

And then I went to enjoy this day with my boy:
He didn't want to stay away far enough for me to get a decent picture and kept crowding in on me for treats. At least for a moment, he took his mind off me long enough to check out a friend heading our way. This was after I was done playing with him and had taken him back to the pasture

When I had him inside, I turned him loose in the indoor arena to run and he stayed in a circle around me as if I had a lunge-line on him. He even put in a good crow-hop, about 2 feet off the ground! Also, the last few times I've been out, I've been working on him yielding his head in a relaxed way without hanging against the halter, picking up our yielding lessons again from last year in preparation for summer riding. Today, he finally gave me what I wanted, and when I released him each time, he let out a lot of tension in the form of yawns and deep breaths.

I had also expected to touch up his hooves. His heels that I noticed were contracted on Sunday looked improved today already, only five days after first treating them for thrush this year and giving them some touch-up trimming to encourage them to open. It's that time of year to stay on top of the thrush/hoof rot that comes from sloppy footing. I've learned from experience that contracted heels are a major source of pain for horses and are generally caused by two things--thrushy hooves and bad trimming.

I learned barefoot trimming a few years ago, but having been sick and not sure how much I could safely push myself over the last two years (and knowing that trimming is HARD work), I entrusted Buddy's trimming to someone else, although I know this person is a farrier and trims for shoes, whether a horse gets them or not. That is WRONG and can do a lot of harm.

When Buddy started getting foot fussy late last fall, I knew that something had happened the last time or two that the farrier had trimmed him, and I hadn't been there the last time. (Then it got too cold for me to spend more than a few minutes outside with heavy gloves before my fingers froze, so wasn't going to potentially spend an hour working with his feet.) This farrier knows I don't like what he does, since he ruined the feet of the horse I had before Buddy; but I didn't have much of a choice. *I* got that previous horse's heels to open up and soles to heal, despite the sidebone, contracted heels, and high, arched, thin soles that he had developed over several years with that farrier! (Alas, there was more wrong with Beau than his hooves and he dealt with a lot of sacrum, stifle, and general body pain, but I did everything for my beloved boy until he deteriorated too far to bear watching him suffer; and now Buddy reaps the benefits also of all the training I took on in hoofcare, body work, nutrition, and dressage riding.)

If Buddy hadn't just had his teeth floated (and a baby cap removed) a week ago, I would have put a saddle and bridle on him and at least started some lunging in side reins, if not also had a short ride indoors. It's too sloppy outside for him to stretch out in a run, much less for me to feel safe riding a young horse. He's pretty sure-footed, but I don't like to take unnecessary chances. I like to give the mouth at least a week to heal, even if he didn't have much done this time with the dentist. The mouth heals quickly, but why push it?

I was so pleased to see Buddy improved today and especially because I helped make that possible. I only regret letting him go so long without treating his heels for thrush--it was a loooong cold winter! But I know he forgives me, especially because I bring the treats ;) . Also, he now accepts me as a benevolent leader worthy of his respect. He's shown me that he lives up to his name :) .

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

the Importance of Ergonomics

I work at a safety organization and just finished putting together an office safety presentation for our trainers. I created the ergonomics portion as a separate presentation last fall, so you'd think I'd have realized this sooner, but my situation is different.

Something hit me today. It's happened a couple of times, but just little ticks, not the big knock that finally hit me today. I realized long ago that there was a musculoskeletal component to the air hunger that I've been experiencing. Stretching and massage have always provided temporary relief but hasn't kicked it out completely.

My work monitor, chair, keyboard tray, and foot stool all put me in the perfect position...for a normal visioned person. I am not normal; I wear bifocals. I've had them for so long that I don't often think about what I'm doing; I don't realize how I adjust my head to see things through the different parts of the lenses.

I realized today how far back I tip my head to read through the bottoms of my bifocals. I have to tip my head back farther than a normal person to read on my monitor, no matter the resolution. (Yes, my eyes are THAT bad!) I never have to do that at home when I have my laptop on my lap and I feel better and breathe easier.

So, I stood up and realized that, although my head is above the monitor, it was in the right position so that I wasn't straining my neck and shoulders to hold my head back to read through the bottoms of my glasses. It was actually perfect, partly because I'm so short. As an added bonus, the portion of my desk for my keyboard and mouse is adjustable and at it's highest is perfect for me standing. So, I have a standing desk! I was amazed at how much my shoulders stretched when relaxed and how much more comfortable I was looking down at my screen instead of up. And the air hunger improved slightly. It will take time to see if I'm on to the source of that problem, but if nothing else, I am more comfortable at my desk at work and am not just sitting on my butt all morning.

I've seen different ergonomics pictures, and most show the monitor below the level of the user's head for proper alignment. I'm hoping the new position helps correct this issue or at least lessen it (there may still be a physiological cause). I still have my other health issues, but only the insomnia is as frustrating as the air hunger. Everything else is a cake walk by comparison.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

some perspective on writing and the real world

Has anyone noticed this--I don't write stories strictly about rebels against a big bad repressive regime. Rather, I like to explore all sides and build up sympathy for even the "bad guys". I don't believe that any entity of many individuals is "evil". Rather, as the best writers have always preached, every character has a story. Even the "bad guy" thinks he/she is doing right for their own reasons and it's worth exploring by removing ourselves from our personal views and putting ourselves in their minds. I believe that adds incredible depth.

The best stories challenge our perceptions and beliefs, challenge us to step out of our comfort zones and look at the world from a different set of eyes, to, as the saying goes, "walk a mile in another's shoes." Unfortunately, much of the popular fiction in the last twenty years has lacked that perspective that I enjoy. That's one reason I write--to enjoy stories that I like to read. Granted, I like an underdog story, but I also like to to be able to see all sides.

I had a real challenge in Starfire Angels: Revelations to put some perspective on the situation with the alien parasites and made Leksel really give the situation a hard look in Nemesis. He had changed so much with training and started questioning the rightness or wrongness of everything. The answers weren't straightforward or clearcut after examining the different aspects of what was right or wrong. The lines blurred, and that's how real life is.

In my worlds, there may be an illusion of polarization, but I like to disintegrate that into a gray area where there isn't any easy answer except for the characters overcoming their flaws. It's not just Starfire Angels but also the Demon Age series, White Dragon books, and even the Luriel Cycle.

Maybe that says something about my personality or maybe it's just me wishing people in the real world could quit bickering and fighting about every little perceived "wrong" by another. What ever happened to "water off a duck's back" or "love thy neighbor" or "mutual respect"?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

re- Awakening

The other day, I picked up a print copy of one of my books that I had left off as an intended series--Awakening. It's a book that I pulled from sale over a year ago, when I wasn't sure I could continue the series. But in picking it up, I read a middle chapter...and couldn't put it down! The writing swept me away and I thought, "This is too good. I couldn't have written this." I love and loathe those moments, because it depresses me to think that I'll never write that well again, which is never the truth. At the same time, it pushes me to write better.

Original cover of Awakening
I have been totally caught up in the world I created in Awakening. And I have made tons of notes, which is probably just duplicating my efforts in some file on my computer somewhere. I had an outline for the series and have been really mulling things over in my head, and I decided that if I'm going to continue this, it will be a trilogy, not a 4-book series as I had originally thought.

When I had first conceived of this, I figured 4 books would be perfect--Awakening, Enlightenment, Ascension, and Eternal. But something was never quite right about that. I even had a tough time coming up with four cover ideas. Now I know why--it wasn't meant to be 4 novels, only 3. I've really been mulling over the outline and inspired ideas from rereading Awakening and see more clearly how the plot fits 3 books much better.

Now, if my muse sticks with me in this, I can finish the next two without distractions...other than the bad days from health issues. I am debating the middle book title--Enlightenment or Ascension--but definitely want Eternal as the final book in the series. This first book isn't changing--the story is the same. Only the unwritten books have a new plan.

And I think I will rename the series from Shadow Realm Saga to The Luriel Cycle. I think it sounds less dark--the story really isn't dark fantasy but a reshaping of angels and demons into something else. It has always been intended as a fantasy saga set on another world but with a modern technology society rather than a medieval, traditional fantasy setting. Magic and technology and science mix in this world and I love the concept as much now as I did when I first developed it.

Now, I'm glad I pulled it when I did. I can better organize how the rest of the story plays out. Everything happens for a reason, and this wasn't a fully developed plan when I first started it. It only took a few years to reach maturity, unlike Starfire Angels, which took twelve years from the first concept to what it became (the first book of my most popular series). Legend of the White Dragon went through a similar redevelopment in its own way also, and now that's been my better seller (helped along by riding the coattails of A Game of Thrones).

Those who did purchase Awakening with its original cover can claim a rare first copy.