Saturday, September 8, 2018

a household of cats

It's time to lighten the mood. Just for fun, our cats with lots of pics.

First up is Suki, who turned five this year. She is named after Suki from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Her place every morning while waiting to get fed.

snoozing in the front window

Cleaning herself on the dining room rug



Next up is Jack, our youngest kitty, who turned three years old this year. He is a rare brown tabby tuxedo and loves boxes as much as he loves being up on the cabinets. He jumps up directly from the counter to the top of our cabinets, for now. When he gets older, I hope that quits, Jack is named after all the goofy Jack characters (Jack Sparrow, Jack Fenton, Jack O'Neill, etc.):


On top of the cabinets at the edge of the wall, watching something
outside the dining room deck doors.

On the wall between the kitchen and front room, surveying
his domain.



Our next kitty (second oldest) is Dargo, aka "momma's boy" for his tendency to always snuggle with mom (me). Dargo will be eight years old soon. He is our only registered cat (TICA registered Siamese) with a birthdate of 10-10-10, or in binary 42, which is why his registered name is Dargo Zaphod. I wanted Dargo Beeblebrox but hubby thought the Zaphod was better. Dargo is primarily named after Ka D'argo from Farscape. Also, Dargo is so smart that if you ask him "Are you hungry?" his head will snap around so fast, you wonder that he doesn't get whiplash. At fourteen pounds, he's a big cat, but he doesn't look fat, although he could stand to lose a pound to be just right.



Dargo loves taking over my lap, especially when I sit down to write.

Begging to go out on the deck
Before Jack started doing it, Dargo was the cabinet walker and still is.
But Dargo doesn't jump straight up. He takes the "steps": counter to
fridge to cabinets.

Dargo in his corner on the cabinets


Last of all, we have Padme, our first and oldest cat. We've had her since she was two and she just turned fifteen this past week. Happy birthday, old girl! For several years, she's had to get medicine for her hyperthyroidism. We had considered RAI but we felt it would have been too much stress for her. I can relate to what she deals with, since I now deal with hypothyroidism. She's a sweet old girl who used to be shy but now is at a point where she welcomes anyone who comes in the house while the others hide. She loves attention and warm laps.





Dargo and Jack are BFFs and love to rough-house together, as boys do, especially right around meal times. And they snuggle on the bed or in the window:


ps: most of these have been posted to my instagram account at some point recently. You can find me at instagram.com/melanienilles_author .

Friday, September 7, 2018

where has the integrity gone?

I'm calm now, but an hour ago, I was fuming. Why? Because of auto insurance.

About a week ago, the same day that I was out seeing Buddy last (see my post before this), while I was taking care of Buddy in fact, I had my pickup in the pasture with me and the horses. My sister has three horses, a pony, a mini, and the mini donkey in that pasture. Buddy has a nice little herd of friends. Apparently, they like him enough to stay close, as I described in my last post. What I didn't mention in that post is that they stood near my truck, which I had parked right outside the portable corral after driving across the pasture to get to him.

Here's the thing--I figured the horses were just trying to stay in the shade, or as much as they could, so I let it be. While I was tending to Buddy, I heard a horrifying sound. I knew that sound from years of horse experience.

I jerked upright from where I was scraping off botfly eggs on Buddy and ran to the "gate" of the panels and chased the horse's away from the front of my pickup. And I looked and saw exactly what I had expected:



Those are some of the scratches in my hood from horse teeth. It appears that they ran their teeth along it after licking off the dirt. They also made a short but deep scratch on the passenger side door, which I later found.

There are two reasons I can think of for my sister's horses to do this: 1) boredom and 2) gum pain (likely caused by botfly larva, which burrow through the gums to get to the digestive tract and which are atrociously active out there). Or maybe a little of both.

But I wasn't mad at my sister or her horses. I was mad at myself initially for taking my pickup into the pasture. It was my decision and I've been around horses for over 35 years, more than long enough to know anything is possible. That's not why I was fuming today, though. That goes to what followed.

I took my truck to a shop I trust to get a quote. Total for the door scratch and hood: about $1231. Apparently, part of one scratch goes so deep that it caused some denting.

We checked with our insurance comprehensive, started a claim, and found out our deductible for that would only be $100. Yay!

Except it came with a catch. Stupid me for thinking this was going to be easy. When the claim rep asked whose horses put the scratches in, I was honest and said my sister's horses, never expecting what would come next. She asked for my sister's name and phone, which I provided. All the while, a little warning siren was growing ever louder in the back of my mind.

I finally heard that siren clearly enough to acknowledge it, so I asked what they were going to do with the information... They planned to get her insurance and submit it to them to pay.

WTF!? This wasn't a vehicle collision. This was comprehensive. I was immediately pissed. How could they go after her auto insurance for something her horses did? How could they even go after anyone? It was horses, for God's sake! This was my fault, not hers. I made the decision to park my truck within their pasture.

I was ready to ream whoever's stupid ass idea it was to do all they could to not pay a simple claim. I love my sister and I know she doesn't need that hitting her. I come from a close family and we stand with each other; we don't let little things come between us. And what's more, that family is giving my horse a place to live free of charge. This wasn't malicious. It wasn't intentional. It was just bad circumstances.

F*****g insurance companies! This is what's wrong with this world. I was taught to take responsibility for my actions, and they wouldn't do that, nor would they take the responsibility that we pay them to take on.

So, I did what a good sister does and told the claim rep to cancel it. I'm paying this out of pocket as a lesson learned. I won't put that burden on my family, and neither would my husband. Some of us actually have some integrity and decency. It won't be easy to pay, but I won't risk my sister's insurance rates going up for something that I did. I'd rather that I would have lied about the horse and said it was my own, and I don't like lying either. Had I known what would happen, I would have.

Why do we pay insurance if they can't pay a simple claim? This showed me what's wrong with that whole industry. We've become too litigious as a society and too ready to blame everyone but the man/woman in the mirror for our own mistakes. Well, I own up, and I'm proud of that, just as my parents taught me. I'm paying this out of pocket now, but at least I won't have sold my soul to the devil.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

back to my roots

Although I don't blog much, I'm still around. I've been focusing on real life, in the present, and it is satisfying. I can't say there aren't hardships, but it is far better than all the vitriole online. I think I've talked about my reasons for minimizing social media enough, so I won't go into that again.

What I will say is what I've been doing.

The view of home always looks best from the back of a horse. Here,
Buddy and I rode through the pasture he now calls home, a week
before he was all cut up inside his legs. He seemed to enjoy our ride :)
Life is up and down for me. After some potential issues with my health (not thyroid related this time), I decided to take my horse out to my family's farm to live in the pasture with my sister's horses. While I could have done this at any time to save money, it's not the most convenient of situations--no indoor riding and far from me. It's a cattle ranch/farm that's fifty miles away, a good 45-60 minutes one way plus the same for the return trip. It means putting miles on my vehicle just to see my horse.

However, as expected, Buddy is happy, his health is better, and his feet are better (no more standing in mushy footing). Despite one of my sister's small herd being a dick (a horse that nobody likes) who is the likely culprit who left a couple of fleshy bite wounds on poor Buddy and another one being a literal jackass--he is a mini donkey--my boy is much more relaxed. What I think may be a small ringworm patch on his neck was actually starting to grow hair on my most recent visit without any treatment, and the new bite wounds already have grown over with new skin a week after discovering them. He's only been there for two weeks.

At least one of his new herd likes to be with him. In fact, on my latest visit, they all followed us to the portable corral set up in the pasture (from working calves in the spring). I tied buddy inside and closed them off, but that didn't stop them (and the dickish bay) from pestering Buddy from the outside. The first time I visited, they stayed away. This last time (second week since taking him out), they wouldn't stay away and I had to chase them off--they stayed about thirty feet away, until I took him out.

Unfortunately, I found Buddy with new wounds that look like he tried to walk over something that cut up the insides of his legs a bit. Nothing too deep, but it was cringe-worthy. Like the bite wounds, I put some salve on those. I didn't get to ride, but I don't mind. the important thing is taking care of him. And I hope that he learned a lesson from that, as in not to do whatever he did again. I don't know why he did that in the first place, but I can imagine the bay chasing him to where he could only have one way out to cut himself like that (skin-deep, not into the muscle but still rough-looking). The same bay that no one can ride anymore, because he's bucked off even a bull-rider...twice.

I had Buddy at a nice barn for a short while, after moving from where we were boarding due to the sale of the place. At that nice barn, I had everything, but Buddy wasn't happy. And I felt responsible for being sure he got to stretch his legs, which I don't have the time for, especially with the occasional pain issues I've had. Sometimes, a nice facility isn't the best for a horse. He wasn't happy there, and that small patch of ringworm (suspected) was getting bigger. I knew he was stressed. All the signs were there. He was also losing weight (despite the good feed and hay--which he didn't always eat) and getting stiffer in his movements as his feet became tender. Out in the pasture, his feet are tough and his movement is so much more relaxed with bigger reach.

I'm happier for Buddy feeling comfortable with my childhood home on the prairie. I don't worry about him when I can't see him for several days--he does better taking care of himself. Even after a week, he was mister relaxed for me and let me do anything I needed to. I brought treats, salve for his wounds, fly spray, and brushes. He likes being taken care of, and he let out a big sigh as I was brushing him, as if to say "Thanks." He let me do what I needed to do to take care of him and was almost sleeping while I was working on cleaning, scraping off bot eggs, hoof-cleaning, and wound-treating. (A HUGE change from the brief period in the nice place, where he was always dancing around.) It was a very rewarding day, even if I have to wait a week or more for the latest cuts to heal before I can ride.

Having a horse isn't about riding anymore for me. As I've had to deal with my health issues, it's become just having something when I need it, a creature that I can give something back in return for what he gives me. It's a partnership--I take care of him and he let's me on his back and does what I ask for a short time. In between, I feel better knowing that he gets to relax as a horse is meant to--in a pasture with other horses, all the grass and water he needs and room to roam and run as he sees fit.

It took me a while to get over my beloved warmblood and the ambition and focus of dressage. With my thyroid and autoimmune issues, I've had to learn to slow down and enjoy life. But that's not a bad thing. Buddy was meant to be a little project to get me through some difficulties, but he's become something more. I want him to know dressage, because it makes such a difference to him physically and because I enjoy it. However, I don't have the time for that at the moment as I try to figure out if there is something in my body that will require some attention. Dressage is good for everything we ask of our horses, and I plan to use that to turn him into a cowhorse. He doesn't bat an eye at the cows in the pasture across the road, but we'll see what happens when the time comes to ride among them. I think he'll do great--he's incredibly smart.

I have a feeling that, once he learns to move a cow, Buddy's real talent will come out; and dressage has taught him to listen to the rider, me. That's important for moving cows too. It's a combination of horse and rider. Horses live in the moment, while the rider is thinking ahead to the possibilities of what that bovine might do and preparing to react, sort of like driving a vehicle in traffic. The "vehicle" in this situation, however, has four legs and a mind of its own. I can't wait to see what we can do together. We'll find Buddy's place. It will be and has been a fun adventure.

And it's happened because I know that a horse isn't a machine. A true horseperson respects the animal as an individual and listens, attends to their needs, and, through training, works with their unique personality to reach a goal. Like with teaching humans, one must keep the sessions interesting and be respectful and kind yet firm and consistent for the best results. Horses like to learn. They're amazing once they get going and will almost ask you to give them a job. Like us, they want a job they enjoy and that suits their natural talents.

Buddy has blossomed in the three years I've worked with him, from being timid and afraid of disobeying (due to--before I bought him--heavy-handed training that likely didn't take into account his individual personality but treated him like any other cog in a machine) to awakening to become a little resistant and finally to being willing to try what I ask and trusting that I'll take care of him and make him as comfortable as possible. I'll push him out of his comfort zone at times but will always be sure that he's safe and as pain-free as possible.

And that reminds me of something that can't be repeated enough: There are three reasons horses disobey us--1) lack of understanding, 2) fear, and 3) pain. #2 and #3 can contribute to #1. Once we eliminate the last two, understanding comes much more easily.

Buddy has learned that I will take care of him and never punish him and that I will listen. Communication is key. Horses have feelings. In fact, as I was leaving along the gravel road around the corner of his pasture, Buddy looked up from getting a drink at the dugout. He watched my vehicle (which I'd parked by the portable corral where I took care of him), until I was out of sight. I'm not sure what that meant, but it made me feel like maybe he was saying good-bye until I come out again. I hope that's sooner than the week between each of the last two visits.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

New Covers!!

I can finally announce that the Dark Angel Chronicles have new ebook covers!






These will become available in the next week, along with some formatting updates on the ebook files. A fresh coat of paint inside and out!

Covers all designed by storywrappers.com.

Monday, July 30, 2018

It is done

One more series is complete. This time, it's The Luriel Cycle, the trilogy of books titled Awakening, Enlightenment, and Eternal.

Eternal is now available at several stores and will soon be distributed to many more. The purchase links on the series page will be updated as those become available. As of this post, Amazon, Google Play, and Smashwords have it available for purchase.

For millennia, the world of Ahlias was guided by the whims of the Shadow Realm's beings. Daemons unleashed their fury hunting down the enemy luriel hiding inside humans. Those Awakened humans struggled to survive until they could one day Ascend to join the ranks of the luriel fighting the daemons in the Shadow Realm. The cycle of Awakening, Enlightenment, and Ascension was all they knew.

Until now.

Lilly has the power to end the luriel cycle, defeat the daemons, and restore the balance of the Eternals. She has learned to use the Un'Dei within her. She has seen the truth about the luriel and daemons. And she has accepted her fate. The time has come to cross the bridge to the Shadow Realm to end the war that has shaped her world and stolen the man she loves.

But the Shadow Realm is no place for a mortal...


Friday, July 27, 2018

Getting lost

I get lost what day is what often enough that I was planning the middle of August to be in two weeks instead of three. I have so much going on my head is spinning. I blame the thyroid, but I'll spare you the details of living with that issue.

I've been stressing for several months about my horse since the owners of the place where I pay to board put it up for sale. There aren't many options here and I didn't want to put that on my parents, who have a farm/ranch 50 miles from me. Then, something happened to ease my worries--this summer, a place advertised to take in a few boarders, one where I could ride out of the weather and bugs. The only problem is the price and that my little pasture pony will have to get used to being in a stall. He won't have his herd. However, living in a stall with daily individual turnout I've found tends to make horses more reliant on humans for companionship and more confident in their humans as leaders. They don't rely on other horses so much for cues on how to behave. This could be a good thing for he and I, although it is still a long drive from my house while being close to my day job.

I haven't even been able to focus much on riding on the days that would work (a modest breeze to keep the awful flies and mosquitos reduced but not too windy and not too hot). At the new place, I won't have to worry about anything except the rare severe thunderstorm and snowstorms. The ride last Friday was a rare treat where I have been boarding.

I'll be moving my boy this weekend, before this cool weather leaves us and summer returns. Once that's done, one worry will be off my mind, except paying for this very nice boarding situation every month.

Another issue I've been dealing with has been recovering an old series. The five-book Dark Angel Chronicles are getting a makeover. I'm hoping this is the final look. It has to be good. Cover artists are not cheap, especially the good ones.

All this has taken my attention from editing Eternal. I'm still working on that. The edits are getting less and less and I'm past ready to be done. It has been three months since I finished it and I've edited four books now, this being the fourth. I had also done final edits on Enlightenment in this same series and re-edited Tiger Born and Spirit Blade because it bothered me for a long time that they needed another coat of refinement, small things but many of them. I don't think I need to do anything more for those. I still enjoy them very much.

And I've now had at least six passes through Eternal and have rewritten everything to some degree. I don't think it will need anything more after this latest. I am 2/3 done with this round and it is very readable with few changes needed. Reading in different formats (paper, computer, ereader) all reveal different issues. I don't know how good it is but I know that it wraps up The Luriel Cycle very well. The series evolved as I was writing it, but part of that was me changing because of the thyroid as I mentioned above--it influences everything, even our emotions and sleep. And those play a big part in writing.

Around those bigger projects are always the day-to-day tasks--work, cats, family needs, doctor appointments, exercise time, etc. Friends have said they don't know how I can do it. Sometimes I don't know either. I just give myself time to relax in between. I think that is how I do it--by setting up time slots for everything and just making the task of that slot a priority. I have to, because life is complicated with thyroid disease, which makes everything more difficult. The glue to keeping it together is regular exercise and a family who isn't too demanding.

Soon, Eternal will be done. With all luck, maybe I can finish this weekend. Otherwise, by the middle of next week. I have to finish--I've been away from writing too long and need to get back to it asap.

Just for fun, the kitties say "Hi!"

Dargo on top of the cabinets in the kitchen

Dargo and Suki recharging in the sun by the deck door

Dargo and Jack (BFFs) snuggle together in the front window

Suki up close

Jack on top of the pantry
ps--a lot of these pictures are shared on my Instagram account @melanienilles_author.

Monday, July 23, 2018

my Buddy

I've been trying to ride my horse regularly this summer, which usually means twice a week on good weeks. But it's probably for the best that he gets a few days of recovery after each ride--he's been building strength with each ride or ground session, mostly through the leg yields in hand or under saddle. He's also getting the trot leg yield coordination and balance down, which helps in so many ways.

My little horse finally has the strength to do what comes harder for him than most other horses--cantering. On Friday, we tried for the second time this year after a week since the first time. He's five, a little older than most horses get it, but cantering has never been easy for him. Now, he has become balanced enough to carry a rider in canter in each lead. He stays in shoulder-fore pretty well, with help from me, but I have to keep him together to keep the gait. I'm just proud of how far he's come.

And he's trail riding more calmly too. Here's a little video I took after our workout on Friday. He was so good that--after we overcame a couple bucks getting into the canter going his more difficult direction--he earned an extra helping of grain as a reward!


He tries so hard for me. I love this little guy. I only wish he hadn't outgrown pony size, but at least he's still small. I'm done with big horses (no offense--the ground is just too hard at my age when things go wrong).