Wednesday, December 12, 2018

when your biggest fan lives in your house

My youngest, a tween, has fallen in love with Starfire Angels. She keeps asking me questions, even though she's read the Dark Angel Chronicles once before.

Both my girls have read that series and more of my books, but my youngest will reread favorite series many times. Lately, she's acquired a taste for light romances and is probably enjoying that part of the story. She's been enjoying clean romances on Netflix, so now I have a love-story fan.

So, my daughter has been bothering me with all sorts of questions and wanting what's left of the swag I used to giveaway for the series. She's become a total fan, and I don't know how many of them I have anymore, since I quit all but one or two social media platforms. From her perspective, though, she's a fan of her mother's writing, and she says it's weird that she's reading what her mother wrote.

The first time she read the series, I was nervous about what she would think, as I am about anyone reading my work for the first time. Now, not so much. I know she can handle what's in the story and am glad that she can come to me with questions. As a parent, I am glad to know what she's reading and that she thinks it's cool that her mom is the author of something she likes.

I believe that there's something about that name on a book. That author is like some sort of untouchable celebrity, their name ascribed to a work that is admired for its power to take the reader out of their lives. I get that awe and feel like it's cool when I read a good book by an author I know. It takes a lot of work and dedication to write a complete story, edit it, decide on a cover, and publish it. I know that, but it's something more about the story that makes you feel like the author is some deity of words.

My daughter knows the work I put in, but I think she also feels like her mom is like all those other authors she likes, the ones she doesn't see at their computers typing out their ideas every day, the ones who don't lecture her about eating fruits and veggies every day. Those words have a different meaning from me, because it's a side of me that she doesn't ordinarily see. That side of me is someone other than her mother.

I'm glad to share my imagination with the world and especially with my kids. I want them to have something of me after I'm gone. Through my stories, they always will.

And isn't that part of the unconscious desire for kids--that we will somehow be immortalized through our genes? When we do something that benefits others (in this case, escapism), we are immortalized in ideas. To those who have enjoyed my stories, I will live on by having touched them in some way, just as many authors live on in me and whose work has threaded its way into mine.

I'm so blessed to have had the opportunities to leave a legacy for my kids that is more than just being their mother.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Gravity check--a Christmas story

Oh, Jack, you Christmas humbug.

I sat at the counter in the kitchen watching from behind as he sent Santa diving from his perch. I guess the jolly old style Saint Nickolas offended our kitty, or Jack was just in a particularly mischievous mood. I saw the paw shove the decoration, then heard Santa's bell jingling on his way down and as he bounced off the sofa and landed on the floor.

As I sit and shake my head, I can't help but want to laugh at the antics of cats. I love them, but sometimes they can be downright a--holes! Luckily, Santa survived. He's just cheap plastic and nothing broke.

Jack is either proud of making sure gravity still works
or... Nope. He's proud, like a typical cat.


The beard's a little messed up, but otherwise he's ready to go back on the wall with the snowmen.


Like most of our decorations, he was a Christmas gift many years ago. He will live on for another Christmas season, despite the cats.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

update on writing projects

I'm now working on the second book of Starfire Angels: Forgotten Worlds. It's not quite what I was initially planning, but inspiration took me around a different turn.

I'm absolutely loving writing this series. They're short novels and can be written and edited in less time than the long novels I've done. Also, they're just plain FUN! These stories are meant to be like episodes you'd watch for a tv series. Keeping them short, focused, and fast-paced doesn't mean I don't struggle. It just means that it keeps my attention better.

And I keep getting more and more ideas! I have ideas now for at least eight books but am sure that I could come up with many more, if all goes well. I know what needs to happen and will have "filler" episodes that don't necessarily add anything to the main story arc but which do explore the different characters and add to the fun, which is where this second book falls. They build the world in which the story takes place. Once I get going, I hope the full series beats start to fall into place. However, I know that while I can plan a story one way, I have to be flexible. The outline always changes as I write a single story, much less an entire series. It's more like a guideline than an outline, I guess you could say.

I did struggle with getting the second book going. In fact, for the second book, I actually deleted the first two chapters and started over, or at least started over after the first thousand words. There's a certain rhythm to a story that has to be found and it took a little bit of exploring to figure that out, although less than it did with the first book. I'm hoping it continues much more easily now that I have the story. This has turned out to be slightly different than what I had originally intended.

And I have a cover for the second book already with a tentative title. I can't wait to show you, but I have to wait until I am ready to set the pre-order for the first book. Only when they're ready for pre-orders will I be able to reveal the covers. The covers are perfect for the feel of these stories.

And I've been reading about some KDP issues that make me wonder if that's really the right path to take. I'll have to see what I learn when the time comes. I do just as well on Apple as I do on Amazon, so maybe I need to reconsider the plan of trying KDP Select.

I have time to get things in place. My plan is to finish book 2, then give the first draft a run-through edit for major fixes. I'll give book 1 another editing pass for major story fixes, especially since in writing the second book, I may have some things that I want to change in the first. I hope not, but inevitably, there is something that I need to tweak because a rule or fact established for one situation gets in the way of others so I have to find a middle ground and make appropriate adjustments. Usually by the second book, I have a solid feel of a new writing world.

Once book two is done and both of the first two books have been edited again, I'll start writing book 3. When that first draft is done, I'll hit edits on book one with full steam and go into editing rounds on books two and three. After book one is as good as it can get, I'll make that available, then focus on book two edits and make that available about 4-6 weeks after book one. Then, I'll start writing book 4. After the first draft of four, I'll edit book 3 and get that published. Then it'll be a matter of final edits on one book after writing the following book. It's a pattern that works well for me. Then I always have something coming up for publishing when I'm just finishing writing the next.

I would estimate releasing "A New Beginning" in late March to early April. The next will be about four weeks after that and then about every three months.

That's my plan, but I have to be flexible. I do live with a chronic illness that can make life difficult (such as not being able to focus on writing), and I have other obligations in my life. I appreciate your patience. It's hard enough for me--I can't wait to share these!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Starting Buddy on cows

Yesterday, I started Buddy on cows, and I see a lot of promise as a cowhorse.

On my family's farm, he's seen them up close in the last couple of months but has still been hesitant about being close. So, yesterday he got immersed in over a hundred cow/calf pairs. He helped us sort (in-hand with me doing the actual work), splitting them and effectively weaning the calves.

So, I took it easy with Buddy. I was going out to just see him--it was cold but I had bundled up--and saw that my sister, brother-in-law, and stepdad were still sorting when I arrived. I asked my sister if she minded me helping with Buddy in hand. She didn't and took some pics for us to share. (I think she was just glad for an extra hand with the work.)

At first, Buddy was dancing and carrying on, in his listen-to-your-handler way. He's good that way--his ground manners are great after all the natural horsemanship we've done. (You can't tell in the pictures below.) But he didn't like being away from his herdmates and being surrounded by bellowing bovines. After two hours, he was running alongside me to separate the stragglers who refused to cooperate and even started running ahead on the leadrope towards a cow I was heading towards at one point, rather than trying to get back to his herd. If we were standing back, he'd get impatient and paw and whinny, but towards the end, his eyes were more on the cows than his herd. It got to be that he got very focused on chasing cows as he realized they moved away from him and that we were doing a job.

This was a very good introduction to cows for him and very positive. It was also a safe way for me--on the ground with him rather than on his back. He was able to follow my lead and see that I wasn't afraid. I believe he gained a lot of confidence.

I've learned the hard way that horses that aren't introduced to cows in a good way can freak out about them. It's made me appreciate just how good my horses were when I was growing up on the farm. Boarding my horses at facilities closer to where I live as an adult has been a convenience in many ways, but it also limited the experiences of my last few horses.




Saturday, November 17, 2018

western saddles aren't much different than english saddles

When you get down to it, they both need to fit the horse and rider comfortably. This is something I started learning in the english riding world and now am carrying over into getting back to my western riding roots with Buddy.

I'd like to share some valuable information for other riders out there (and so I can reference it all in one place--here). These Schleese videos on Youtube are great and I highly recommend following Schleese Saddlery, whether you ride english or western. I've learned a LOT from these and from attending saddle fittings with Schleese and other saddle fitters, albeit for dressage saddles. And I've learned a lot from my horses, like how much good saddle fit makes a difference to them. Happy horses mean more pleasant rides and fewer problems, especially in their backs and legs.

I'd wish I'd known all this when I was growing up--but the internet wasn't around back then. I'm glad I know it now so I can buy the best western saddle for Buddy next spring. Then we can do both dressage and western dressage, plus not get laughed at while chasing cows, although my dressage saddle is far better than any western saddle, and I grew up riding western (or maybe because I grew up riding in a western saddle).

After seeing the intro in the first video, I suggest that you skip to the 2:42 mark on each.


















Saturday, November 10, 2018

picturing your characters

I know of authors who like to find real-life people who match their characters, mostly as an exercise for fun and to interest readers. I have always had trouble matching how I see my characters to real-life people and don't even try.

However, sometimes I'll see someone who causes a shiver down my spine. I feel like I just saw my imagination pop into real life. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's uncanny.

That happened recently with a Netflix Christmas romance called "The Holiday Calendar". I saw the actress starring in this whimsical little movie and had that feeling. So, I looked her up on imdb.com, of course, and found that Kat Graham has many acting credits, but none that I had noticed before, because they aren't the types of shows I watch. Of course, I had to watch The Holiday Calendar, because it does appeal to me.

As soon as I saw Kat in the trailer on Netflix, I felt like I saw Lilly from The Luriel Cycle trilogy, although she would need longer hair. Otherwise, she fits the image perfectly at this time, because she's about the right age right now. And her mannerisms are perfect, not just her looks. That's what makes this so haunting for me.

photo hosted by imdb.com

I don't go around looking for real people who match my characters, but when I see them, it's like those characters could be real rather than just in my imagination. The story takes on a different life when you see with your eyes the people who only lived in your mind.

The cover model on the ebooks is good and was hard to find, because I also needed multiple pictures, but Kat Graham fits my image of Lilly better. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

I don't do email lists

I know few people who enjoy receiving email spam, and that's what I consider most lists to be. They're invasive and often oozing with a great deal of "buy my books!"

Blech!

Not for me, at least not shoving it in your face. If you come here freely, this is my space, my home, if you will, and you expect to see something about me. The door is open here for you to look around into my life and books.

I hope you don't mind that I don't do email lists for readers. I even quit most social media. None of it really suited me, or at least it doesn't suit the present me.

I'm so much more comfortable being able to sit down and "chat" alone, talking to myself and an imagined audience, as I do while writing. Well, okay, while writing that's just having fun seeing where my imagination takes me. There really isn't any consideration of an audience of more than one... me.

But newsletters I've never been good at, at least not about myself. I put out a quarterly newsletter at work, but that's about other topics. I've never been good at self-promotion. I'd rather just write my stories and pay advertisers to send out the emails, tweets, and posts. Life is easier that way.

I enjoy interaction, but I've learned that I really prefer quiet time and letting people come to me. I don't like to be intrusive. It just feels rude, and that goes against everything I was taught about being polite.

I appreciate that you've visited and hope you find something interesting here. Thanks for stopping by, neighbor ;)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

horsing around at home



My view from the saddle is
awesome!


I've been enjoying having Buddy at my family's farm. He's enjoying it too, maybe a little too much. He's so enamored of my sister's little herd of horses that he doesn't like me taking him away!

Last week, we rode out in one of the pastures that had cows in during the summer, but they were moved, so the pasture is empty for us. (This is one of my favorite pastures to ride in, but I rode all over growing up and they're all fun, really.) We had company last week, my brother-in-law on one of my sister's horses. And that's not the sister he's married to, just to confuse you. (I have two sisters, one with no horses--that's the one he's married to. The other sister has the horses.) Buddy was anxious about being in unfamiliar territory, but with one of his friends along, he wasn't too bad.

This week, I didn't have any choice but to ride alone. I had to "cowgirl up" with riding like I did when I was growing up there. It was like riding a young colt all over again. We had a lot of issues and him screaming for his herd every five minutes. But he didn't act up too badly; as soon as he tried anything, I corrected him. The acting up decreased throughout our ride.
Tuff likes to go out with riders

We rode up and down hills, through washouts along the dried creek path, and even rode some trot circles and serpentines on the way back in which he remembered his dressage training. We did everything today. And we had a wet saddle pad at the end, and a sweaty horse. I didn't think he worked that hard walking and a little trotting, but apparently he did.

He needed that. He needs a LOT of that--he's gotten fat besides, so he can stand to lose some weight as well. And he's going to get that training, and more, over the next eight to nine months. He's already been introduced to cattle in his pasture and that had him freaked out initially but he got used to seeing them. Only the bull scares me, because he's not afraid of me. I don't like bulls. They get ornery and mean. We'll start riding with the cows when there's no bull.

Otherwise, we did have one companion--Tuff, the BIL's and no-horse sister's dog. Buddy didn't mind him this time like he did last week, just like he wasn't afraid of the washouts this week. He's a fast learner.

Lastly, wind energy seems like a great thing, but the turbines are eye-sores and loud. I grew up not seeing them and now they ruin the horizon with their ugliness.

Buddy's herdmates aka sister's horses
selfie time!
I'm not sure how he scraped his face, but the hair will grow back.

Friday, October 26, 2018

New series coming in 2019!

I have just finished the first draft of book 1 of a new series and feel like making an announcement. I'm so excited for this. It's something that I wanted to do for years but kept getting distracted--ooh, shiny!--by other ideas or by health problems (now managed).

Now, my idea has come to fruition, or at least the first book has. The cover and title are all ready with a series logo that I designed myself.

I will draft book 2 before releasing the first, perhaps even a third book before the first book is released. However, they don't take long to write. These are long novellas/short novels. The first draft of book 1 ended at  36,000 words and feels exactly as it should, like the pilot episode of a new science fiction series.

That's how I'm treating this--not like a book series but like a 90's science fiction series. Fast-paced, streamlined plot with lots of eye (imagination) candy.

If you're still with me, that's good. You'll learn the name of this new series soon enough, and there will be many books in it, especially since I plan to keep them at the shorter length. I already have five books outlined and plan on much more, as I will be treating this like a series with a composite cast and all the multi-faceted aspects that brings to the possible situations in a different galaxy.

I'm giddy just thinking about it!

So, here it is. The name of the series will be Starfire Angels: Forgotten Worlds. Book 1 is titled A New Beginning. The title was meant to be a place-marker but ended up being one of the themes of what the main character goes through and because this is a new beginning to the Starfire Angels series that I began almost ten years ago. In fact, this will released in the 10th anniversary year of the book that became the series namesake--Starfire Angels. However, this series is for serious science fiction lovers; A New Beginning is not romantic. It is as its title describes, a new beginning to the franchise, and an exciting one at that!

I am thinking that initially, this will be in KDP Select, so only available to Amazon Kindle customers, at least for the first three months. I'm not sure when I will release it elsewhere, but be sure to watch my website and this blog. I'll post purchase links as they become available.

I'll also post when the pre-release is available on Amazon.

Watch for a full cover release sometime after the first of the year.

Friday, October 5, 2018

advocate for your health

I say this because it's been a long time coming that I finally feel that the sources of most of my health issues these last few years has been found.

This latest could have been found 3 1/2 years ago or even before then if my idiot of a primary "care" doctor (who didn't care to do any work to actually help me) had actually ordered just two more tests. He ordered the colonoscopy (digestive issues) and endoscopy (celiac possibility, a month after I quit eating gluten). If he had actually used a brain or even cared to resolve the problem instead of saying outright that it was all in my head and stopping there, I would not have had to suffer some of the worst years of my life.

For over ten years, I had been told I had IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), yet it was certain foods that set off the symptoms (stomach cramping and diarrhea primarily). Weight gain, an almost unnoticeable jaundice, and brain fog were minor issues. I gave up pizza a long time ago and then pasta and then gluten foods altogether eliminated the painful cramping. Guess what--gluten foods tend to be high-fat foods or combined with high-fat foods... double whammy. No wonder I felt much better, at least for a while, after giving up gluten foods.

A few days ago, I had my gallbladder removed. It was the BEST decision of my life! (at least health-wise, even better than pursuing the thyroid issue)

A day after surgery, once the carbon dioxide that had been pumped inside me started to be absorbed and the anesthetic had completely worn off, I felt clearer headed than I had in a long time. In fact, I had forgotten I could think like that. After two more days of having an appetite and adding back foods that I had given up in the weeks before the surgery and even before the HIDA scan that showed a barely, almost non-functioning gallbladder, I can eat again! And, man, am I hungry! (no more nausea)

And I can sleep, or at least so far, so good. Much improved sleep (so far upwards of 7 hours at a time). After three years of struggling to get even 3 hours a night of sleep, depending on what and how I ate, that's a literal dream come true.

In fact, I'm willing to bet that my liver was suffering because of my gallbladder issue. The liver suffers when bile backs up. A poor-functioning liver affects thyroid hormones, sex hormones, and brain function, including sleep. Already a few days after having my gallbladder out, I have begun sleeping better, eating more (improved appetite), breathing easier, losing weight more easily, and feeling more creative. (The thyroid treatment helps too, but thyroid-gallbladder connection is a chicken-or-the-egg issue.)

I'm still waiting on the results of the pathology exam of my gallbladder and am curious to know if there was an infection or unseen stones blocking the bile flow.

All this because I advocated for myself and didn't give up. I took a lot of wrong turns and had medical professionals outside the corporate hospital structure who actually listened to me and ordered the tests that led to this. Unfortunately, it also took them a while to order the right tests, but at least they tried! That is the important part. I pushed them to keep looking and they did, unlike a supposed family doctor who only wanted to collect a paycheck. Truth be told, those medical professionals who have supported me are nurse practitioners and a naturopath with a lot of medical knowledge. (But it was a surgeon at a hospital-affiliated clinic that performed the operation.)

This is why it is important that our medical system remain independent of any control--medical professionals need the freedom to do what we as patients need. Choices are good and benefit everyone.

I feel MUCH BETTER!

Update 11/9/18: I'm still struggling to figure out my new levothyroxine dose. I had to drop it down a week and a half after surgery because I actually felt hyper. I can't go without, but I can certainly take less. That was another bonus of the gallbladder removal. I have to wonder if the higher dose was what was keeping the gallbladder going as long as it was, giving it just a little extra power instead of crashing entirely. It's gone now, so one less need for thyroid hormone in the body.

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 six 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.