Friday, June 27, 2014

odds 'n ends

So many thoughts; I have to get them out of my head.

No 'Poo

I've been transitioning to no more shampoo or conditioner on my hair.

First, a little background...I switched to no soap years ago and my complexion really cleared up. I've always battled acne and scrubbing my face with only a washcloth and water has made a HUGE difference. I only use meds on occasion now. Of course, as I've aged, I've changed my diet too, eating more healthy foods and cutting out high fructose corn syrup foods where I can. According to my dermatologist, HFCS alters hormones which affect acne. Even if I do binge on occasion, the effects aren't as disastrous as before I quit using harsh soaps.

As for my scalp, I always had itchy scalp and used Head and Shoulders in the blue bottle on my scalp and needed a good conditioner to restore the luster of my locks. I dreaded not washing my hair because of the itch and gunk I'd find if I skipped more than 24 hours.

But I finally got tired of my dry hair frizzing around my face after some time since I first accidentally learned of the 'no poo' method of washing hair and decided to give it a try. I was scared because of the dreaded scalp itch, but it didn't happen. I actually made a mistake the first few days, but it worked out--using apple cider vinegar/water mix on my scalp instead of the baking soda/water mix. I never had scalp itch or gunk. I did that for several days, risking oily hair but nothing bothering my scalp. By the fifth or sixth day (not sure when I started last week), I switched to scrubbing in the baking soda/water mix on my scalp, rinsing, and pouring the ACV/water on most of the length of my hair. The oiliness went away on my scalp. Unfortunately, I need a haircut to rid myself of the damaged lengths from all those years of harsh shampoo but most of my hair looks great.

It's only been a week, but I'm very happy with my decision, and I've noticed feeling better mentally too. Not sure if that's the reason, but less exposure to harsh, carcinogenic chemicals is always a good thing, right?

Perler Beads

My kids love these little things and all the patterns they can make. I quit buying them almost a year ago because hubby and I tired of always ironing them, but with other kids in the house, I bought a bunch more colors from (Perler bead central!). They're a great rainy day activity limited only by a child's or adult's creativity.

I first became aware of these from my mother-in-law, who got our girls doing them years ago when we'd visit. I'm not sure how long they've been around, but the kids love them.


From my Facebook page: "I'm making slow progress on the latest project, but I'm not sweating it any more. I've told myself that I'll finish each book when I finish it. No more trying to write fast like "successful" authors. I have my own pace, and I'm more comfortable sticking to that, although there are times when I need to push myself (just not all the time--it's wearying). My brain is clicking away in the background more when I'm away so that when I sit down for an hour or two, I'm more productive than if I try to write for any longer periods. In other words, I'm going back to being me instead of trying to imitate other authors' methods."

Writing for pleasure rather than business = what I've been preaching for years. I got too caught up in all the "you must write lots and lots to be successful" hype that I started hating writing. It's time to practice what I preach. I'll write at a pace that best suits ME. When I like what I'm doing, it will come through in the writing and be more entertaining to readers.

Back to work now!

ps--I already wrote about my equine troubles last night.

keep on keeping on

I'm praying for my horse every day. The last six months have been difficult with only a brief glimpse of light glimmering between jumping from one problem to another.

It started when the farrier took heels too low and sored him in mid-December, prompting me to learn barefoot trimming, in which I've made a mistake or two, which healed quickly. Throughout that, we've had severe spring coughing and then some mystery illness that made him really depressed and unwilling to move for two weeks or even to eat much.

I'm trying to keep his hoof angles up where he's comfortable but not too high, fretting that tendons might be damaged, because he's still doing an occasional toe-first landing on his right front, although that could be due to some damage to his heels that the thrush and mechanics caused this past spring. I worry that I caused that in trying to get the thrush out of his hooves, so I feel especially miserable, although I don't know how I could have caused that. And he started toe-first landings last summer before I had the shoes pulled..

He is moving more freely again and I really want to get back to riding him but I don't want to push him too much and risk something worse. My 2nd level dressage horse hasn't done more than basic work in over a year, starting with severe ulcers a year ago that took me out of the saddle and thrush that kept him sore. I even had him in hoof boots until a few months ago. By the time I start getting him back in shape, something else comes up. I keep praying that's over and we can both return to steady riding again. I bought a new saddle for him specifically, which I'm struggling to pay off but it's worth it's weight in gold for as well as it fits us both.

I'm just praying for the health and soundness of my horse for the rest of his life, to put all these difficulties behind us for good. Unfortunately, bad farriery for too many years has taken its toll in making life difficult for both of us, because I didn't know any better. I hope the ground flax I started giving him is as much a part of that miracle as what I've read about it. I more or less live in fear of each day but also in hope of seeing improvement.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

An update post

Just a few things going on...

1. I'm waiting on artwork for Spirit Blade. Paul Davies (Legend of the White Dragon covers and Tiger Born cover) is working on this one too. I've seen the preliminary sketch and am excited for the final version.!

2. I'm waiting on one edit of Spirit Blade before going forward with all editing suggestions. I want to be able to digest it all at once when I go through it next. After that, I'll polish up just the first part for release in July (mid-late).

3. I'm not sure what I want to work on next. I was going to try a short story and just couldn't get into it. I thought I'd start the next Starfire Angels book, but right now, I'm so deep into the Demon Age world of Derandria, that I want to stick with that a bit. I'm building my reference file of background information for the worldbuilding. It's so much easier to have something like this for a series than to have to guess or try to search through previous books. Nemesis may get pushed back.

4. I have two branches to take in the Demon Age series next, overlapping in time period. Yikes! No wonder I'm having trouble deciding what to do next--too many ideas, too little time!

5. Non-writing related, I think my horse has ulcers again. Thank goodness there's a generic omeprazole available. I can deal with 1/6th the price of the name brand product that's been the only real choice until the patent ran out this year.

6. I'm an aunt again :D

7. Enjoy the Summer Solstice! (Yes, I ran out of things to say. It's late and I'm finally tired enough to head to bed. Good night!)

Friday, June 13, 2014

How To Train Your Dragon 2

I wanted to see this for a long time and took my kids today for the first showing of the day. It was great to sit in the theater with maybe a dozen other people at noon on a Friday. Weekday matinee = Best. Time. Ever! Nearly empty theater.

I will give some spoilers but no specific points. You'll still have to see the movie for yourself. Oh, and pretend Riders of Berk and Defenders of Berk never happened. The movie seems to pretend those never happened.

Anyway, on to the movie. The first five minutes shown on Youtube doesn't show everything in the first five minutes. It leaves out some minor transition points...

Not everything is shown in this clip.

The second movie takes place five years later, and the kids are around 20 years old and still not married. In a kids' movie, that makes sense but if this were real Viking culture, they probably would have kids already. Minor nitpick. At least in this movie, they are interested in relationships, as demonstrated by the interests of Snotlout and Fishlegs for Ruffnut to the disgust of Toughnut (her brother).

And then there's the trailer:

Ruffnut finds a different man. I didn't like the twist with that in the end. It didn't feel like it fit after all the effort of showing her interest in Erit. Not a good twist.

But there was a twist that completely fit the story, and I'm not talking about the revelation of Hiccup's mother. I will only say it was necessary but very sad. In the events leading up to that and thereafter, however, I felt like the story was rushed more for action's sake and sacrificed the storylines of all the characters except Hiccup and Toothless.

The movie starts with a great, rich canvas of characters and reintroduces them all five years later but then grows thin for the sake of action. The fight scenes rush to the point, not really exploring the full risks to the characters. In the twist I mentioned, there's something that happens between Toothless and Hiccup that I felt was more of a forced point to move the story in the direction the writers wanted rather than being true to the characters, and of course that quickly changed with a word from Valka. As a writer, I can see a different route that would have kept it true to the characters--having Toothless back away in shame of what he'd done rather than Hiccup yelling at him would have been more believable, imho. I was disappointed by that.

In the battle between Alphas, I would have liked to have seen more about the dragons defending the white Alpha and perhaps a struggle of the smaller dragons to fight the control of the gray. This would also have been an opportunity to give the other characters more screen time. This was a place I felt was thin.

The final battle was interesting, but again felt rushed to get to the main points. I would have liked to have seen more attention on the other characters. Instead, the story focused solidly around Toothless and Hiccup and Drago and the gray Alpha. Not even Valka, a dragon expert, was brought forward with any ideas about how to defeat the Alpha. I felt like the ending was a copout in some ways just to show how strong the bond between Toothless and Hiccup is and to round out the plot about Hiccup's fate as the son of Berk's ruler. While the first half of the movie felt like a great return to the characters I loved in the first movie, the last half felt rushed and thin compared to the first half, where there were some expectations about the story set up that seemed to get pushed aside in the second half rather than fulfilled.

Overall, I'd give the movie a 7/10. I enjoyed it but felt it was lacking in some ways that could have made it outstanding.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

being the leader

It's always nice to get back to basics in any work, particularly with horses. There's something about working with a green horse that brings out my creativity. I have my methods down and understand how to get the results I want. Because my big guy has been sick, I've been working with a horse that was trained and sold, and purchased back after hardly being  touched in over two years, so I'm not totally starting over but she is spoiled. But I have to say that it sure seemed like it the first few sessions of groundwork.

I use a form of natural horsemanship that goes by the principles of the human taking over as the herd leader. When the leader says to move the feet, the follower does that. When the leader says come and be close to them where it's safe, the follower does that gladly. The wrong things are made difficult and the right things made easy. It really is that simple in principle.

But to be a leader, one must be able to communicate. Horses and humans speak different languages, but we are both adaptable. Somewhere in the middle, we compromise and speak a language that both of us understand. It's like going to a foreign country where no one speaks your language, so you have to learn theirs or stay lost and frustrated. In the case with horses, we have to mostly learn their language, a language of movement, reward, and trust. By using a language the horse more fully understands, we can get what we want from them more easily, because they understand us.

I realize I'm sort of babbling here, but I was thinking about the progress I made with this mare in only a hand full of groundwork sessions. She went from being a spoiled brat (when she used to be a real sweetheart the last time I saw her before she was sold) to being the horse that I remembered. It took standing up to her tantrums and not backing down but we got there. I also only take the sessions one step at a time, so that once we pushed through one comfort zone and expanded her trust in me as leader, we ended on a good note. The next session, I'd push a little more, we'd work through a tantrum and then end on a good note. She's a fast learner, a grade horse but clearly an Arabian/Paint cross. Very smart and calm. She wanted a strong leader who could tell her where the boundaries were but one who was fair and gentle whose judgment she could trust.

My big boy was much harder than this little mare--dominant and confident with presence galore. He continued to challenge me for years after starting natural horsemanship, but he also came to trust that he didn't have to worry about anything unless I told him to worry, so he stayed calm. This little mare just had to be reminded that humans had to be respected as the leader and she gladly relinquished her attempts at leadership and now just wants to be with humans, completely loving and obedient.

All it takes is understanding between two species to attain that. Every horse is different, but they will all gladly follow a strong leader who can assure they won't be harmed. It's amazing to see that process again.

Next week, I get on her for the first time. It's probably been over two years since she had a rider on her back, so I am treating this like a colt starting. It will be interesting to see how she takes it. The saddle was no big deal today, but a rider on the back really changes things.

While my big guy is regaining his spirit and some weight, I have this cute little project to keep me busy. I'm grateful to the owner for giving me this chance to do something useful for her that gets my mind off my horse's problems.

I'll post updates when I have significant news on Sweetie.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

prognostications and dragons

Look who's watching over my work desk ^ . It's Toothless. I can't wait to take my kids to see How To Train Your Dragon 2 this Friday. I love dragons, adore Toothless, and have (alongside my husband) instilled the same love in our kids. Of course, the collection of Pocket Dragons helps too--even cuter than Toothless!

I enjoy writing about dragons, which is why my first real epic was Legend of the White Dragon (written before Starfire Angels, despite the publication dates). And it's also why I have a dragon clan in the Demon Age series with a young member of that clan who has a destiny to fulfill. I look forward to sharing more about her, her goblin friend, and the other demonlords and demon hunters featured in Spirit Blade. Watch for more about this in posts to come. I hope to also share some amazing artwork for the cover of the book in about four to six weeks.

I'm currently sitting at my desk after finishing a day of formatting for new paperback versions of two more of the Dark Angel Chronicles books and hope to finish the fifth and last of that series with the new covers on the paperbacks tomorrow. You'll have a choice of collecting the series with the old covers or the new covers. I'm keeping up the old covers alongside the new, so you'll continue to have a choice.

And in other news, I foresee a difficult summer and fall in this household, but I'm hoping that Spirit Blade can lift things up a little. I will be releasing it in serialization for those who don't want to wait, with the first two parts at $0.99 each and the last two at $2.99 each. I hope to get the first one free everywhere, but that could take some time. Once the cover is finalized, I'll be able to set up the release schedule for the serial and the complete novel and post that here as well.

Last of all, I'd like to thank everyone who has stood by me, waiting on each book. I'm trying to give each series the attention they're due while also getting at least one more series off the ground. I had written Tiger Born with the intention of turning it into an epic fantasy series. Spirit Blade is only one step with indications in that of the branches of storyline that I'd like to develop. Of course, there's the Starfire Angels series, with Nemesis to come in the Revelations sub-series and then the Apocalypse sub-series. It grows more complex and technical and I do need breaks to refresh myself. And I still want to get Shadow Realm off and going, but I can't say when that will happen now.

I'm not getting done what I thought I would when forecasting a few months back. However, I am more comfortable writing what I enjoy and leaving the readers to decide for themselves the outcome. Thank you for continuing to make this a worthwhile endeavor!

a new blog

That's right, this is my new blog. I decided to go with something outside of my web host (the Wordpress blog being set up by my host service). Every few years, I end up with an update that turns off and deletes all comments. Blech! That's no fun. I lost lots of good comments, especially on my equine ulcers post. The first time it happened a few years ago was bad enough, but to have it happen again...I'm done with that crap.

So, here I am on blogger. I'll have to set up links from my website, but this will be the new blog. I will quit using the Wordpress blog and, in time, remove it. I'm too disappointed in the losses I've had from updates. What the heck?!

I'd like to start out by saying Hi from my new blog. Thanks for sticking with me!