Another busy day

Whew. Still a little tired from the week of Orycon. A full week? Well, yes, given that we’re based in Enterprise. The drive down on Thursday, then three days of the con, then a quick run to Clatskanie which turned into an extra trip because our friend’s stuff got mixed up with ours…on what is now being called a totally crazy holiday driving day…I believe it! Then back to Enterprise on another heavy traffic day. It was an intense time. Orycon deserves its own post but not happening tonight.

Today was a bit of a laid back day. I got up, looked at the forecast, and realized I needed to hustle and get out to the ranch to ride before the deluge hit. So I did. Miss Mocha actually walked most of the way up to me instead of making me come to her. Guess she missed the week without grain or treats. The roan filly is attached to her pretty strongly and followed us throughout the ride with occasional plaintive whickers. When I took Mocha out of the field she kept crying for Mocha. Mocha wasn’t particularly fretful, though. I did catch her licking the salt block with the roan filly and another weanling, so I guess Miss Mocha and Marshall the gelding are taking over babysitter duties. Or something.

Then I went and set up the table for Jingle through Joseph. Books, crafts, and jewelry. Hoping to do well over the next two weekends.

Still tired and very, very grateful for the new back massager. One way or another I’m gonna beat some of this pain syndrome I’ve been fighting. I can tell it makes a difference, just in how balanced I feel on my feet. But damn, sure is time-consuming. Oh well. If it works….

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Busy week

Whew. It’s been a busy week with a fast trip to Portland for Orycon and early Thanksgiving. Tired but wanted to get something up. I’ll have more mindful posts later…especially Orycon, which was a very good convention this time around. Sold books, had good panels, saw lots of friends…all worked out pretty nicely. Then we went to Clatskanie to harvest more carrots and parsnips, and managed to pick a nice batch of chanterelles. Unusual for this late in the season but it’s been a mild fall with no frost.

And now we are back in Enterprise. I have a lovely new back massager that is making me very happy.

Me fall over now. Well, after I jot down the side story about what happened to Vered during the events I’m working on right now in Challenges of Honor.

You know it’s been a good convention when you come back itching to start writing.

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Guests and Learning in Space

I missed writing yesterday for various reasons, including day job, housework and prepping for today’s guests–well, not entirely as I was also doing editorial work. No horse as by the time I got done with day job and other stuff, it was raining, getting close to dark, and not worth heading out to the barn. Today was bright and sunny but I had day job, guest prep, and…drumroll…prepping Learning in Space: Bess and Alex.

Learning in Space includes my three almost-winner stories: Tranquility Freeriders (Writers of the Future SemiFinalist), Too High to Fall (Anthology Builder Finalist), and Of Archangels and Fuzzy Green Mascots (Writers of the Future Honorable Mention as In Archangel’s Arms).

I’ve got almost everything finished for it except the front matter and a couple of other minor details, and then it’s going up wide. I’ve got a tentative blurb but need to work on it yet:

Bess Fielding and Alex Jeffreys are committed to a future in space with Bess’s family company, Do It Right. But that future comes with a steep learning curve in a place where the simplest mistake can be deadly…and not all those mistakes are naturally caused. Being a leader in new space technologies doesn’t stop sabotage from happening, however. As one of the leading production companies in space, Do It Right can be a target for the disgruntled and the ambitious. Nonetheless, Bess and Alex learn more about space and each other, until…good times come to an end….

With this book I’m just about done with Netwalk Sequence publications, except for the Disruption Chronicles.

Besides book work we had friends over for snacks and a casual card game session. A pleasant afternoon for all. The house is nicely mucked out and reorganized as a result, just in time for the holidays. Not that we have many visitors, but one never knows. I took the explicitly Halloween decoration down but the fall decor will stay up through Thanksgiving. I’m really tempted by a big ski-themed decoration I saw in Safeway as it’s hard to find nice ski-themed stuff. OTOH, we’re winding down on the skiing, possibly, so we shall see.

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Riding into fall and getting into the writing mode again

If someone had told me as recently as three years ago that I would be galloping Mocha in a stubblefield with gopher holes scattered throughout, I’d have said they were nuts.

So guess what I was doing today? Well, besides galloping, we did a bit of schooling. Little mare was energetic and ready to go, and we not only galloped but did some regular schooling. She was having problems with left to right flying lead changes in midsummer in the arena. Once she moved back down to the ranch and into the stubblefield pasture, I started working on some of our old schooling moves, including inside and outside bend in circles at the walk, two-tracking, and serpentines at trot and canter. Over the course of the last month, she’s gotten smoother and better at those changes.

I’m still trying to figure out what is going on with her. At one point I thought she might have a metabolic syndrome. These days, I’m leaning more toward a long-term, chronic pain problem caused by improper angles in her front feet and her SI joint and her hocks fusing. Somehow, last November, all of a sudden some movements became easier for Mocha and she’s now running sound on a regular basis. She gained weight back in her topline and she is relaxed and happy. I think everything stopped fusing and she finally remodeled her muscles to fit the new angles–whatever it is, I’m grateful.

She doesn’t necessarily act like a 17-year-old mare, except for the way she responds to schooling. Otherwise, the energy levels remind me of Mocha as a younger horse. I’m the one who has to remember to cool her out and spend time warming up. Left to herself, I think she’d take off and be a real wild woman at speed.

I also spend time trying to figure out what her herd dynamics are. She seems to be a lower-level trickster, liking to get her friends moving and stirred up when she feels like it.

All in all, though, it’s fun.

The last two weeks have played havoc with a lot of my writing stuff, as well as my recording of the books I’ve read on Goodreads. I met my reading challenge over there–150 books. I think that’s a bit of a push for me, but we’ll see what my final count for the year will be.

I finally sat down today and started fixing some of the short story submission stuff that got mucked up in the SpiritOne debacle. Fortunately, it appears that I got a bunch of stories rejected before the old email went belly up, which is good. The remaining market is…swamped, so I think I can assume a rejection. Whew. That’s back to normal. But it’s still just seven stories, so at some point I need to sit down and write some spec stories to be sending out to markets. Then I need to work on the anthology, as well as put together the Learning in Space: Bess and Alex compilation. At one point I thought I’d have that book ready for Orycon, but really? I don’t do a lot of sales there. If I can get it ready for even the last part of Jingle thru Joseph, that would be good. Otherwise…

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Hurricane Creek hike

So today was pretty much a decadent, no craft, no writing sort of day. It was nice, sunny, and a bit cold. So we went up Hurricane Creek for a little hike of about six miles total, three out, three back.

I had to contrast today’s hike with what we were doing in the Southwest just two and a half weeks ago. Then, I struggled up slickrock to reach Delicate Arch, and fretted because my hips didn’t like me, my feet hurt, my knees hurt, and it seemed harder than it should be to make that climb with that elevation gain. It was a pattern that seemed to be constant in Arches National Park, and I eventually decided it must be due to the texture of the sandy portions and the nature of slickrock.

Today I hiked farther, in snow and ice, with much less effort even though there was a comparable elevation gain. The only touchy places were on the return, in several icy downhill pitches. My knee started aching a little, but overall? Much easier to hike three times as far than it was in the Southwest.

Still scratching my head over that. Granted, the last night in Moab, I had something weird pop up in my dreams–this is not your place. That floored me. I’ve liked the Southwest and it was a nice trip, with lovely fall colors against the red rocks and all. All the same, that dream kind of coalesced…something…that kept coming up even though I kept denying it. Granted, Montecello didn’t sit well with me for some reason, somewhat echoing the feelings I had there the last time we stayed in that town. But Moab? There’s a small literary scene, an art scene, I bought new snow boots at a serious discount in Moab…and yet there was that continuing theme throughout my dreams that night.

This is not your place.

Maybe that’s why Hurricane Creek felt so good, because since we’ve been back in Enterprise I’ve felt even more at home. My boots grabbed into the soil, giving me needed traction as we hiked along. I decided along the way that maybe I needed to invest in some hiking poles. But I didn’t struggle the way I did hiking in the Southwest. It was a perfect late fall day to hike up the creek, and we were far from the only ones hitting the trail. Patches of snow intermittently covered the trail, icy in places but nothing too bad. We examined the remains of the Falls Creek fire, studied several impressive avalanche remains, and otherwise had a nice hike.

In contrast, this is definitely my place. Not stark, steep red cliffs but rugged mountains with a whisper of snow on the tops. Gray, white, and brown cliffs with narrow ridged columns instead of flat iron-red slabs. Clouds skittering high over a narrow treed valley with baretopped mountains.

Hubby forgot the sandwiches so we only had a banana for lunch. That was okay. I forgot the big camera so no pictures.

And afterward, we did make one concession to craft and went to Joseph where I got more backing fabric for pillows. I’ll have pillows available to sell at Jingle thru Joseph, some Christmas-themed, others not. The first ones came out pretty well so I have hopes that I’ll have more nice ones.

A nice day. I probably should have worked on compiling Learning in Space but I didn’t.

Sometimes you just gotta goof off. After the past two weeks, I’ve earned this.

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Contemplating a three day weekend

This morning I commented to the husband that it felt like I had finally come through the other end of a very intense and busy time. He looked at me. “You have been going full speed for the last couple of weeks. And next week is Orycon.”

Oh yeah. Orycon, then Jingle thru Joseph for two weekends, and then…it’s December, yeehaw!

But for some reason the past few weeks really feel nuts. Well, okay. Driving trip to the Southwest. Working while traveling. Trying to get the short story done for the anthology (for which I have to start doing edits). Facing this week of work, which involved cramming twice my usual work time into four days (thinking about this, um, yeah. 24 hours worth of work in 4 days is three days worth of a full time schedule. And I was sick two of those days. So. Yeah. Guess things have been a bit intense). And then last week was getting back from the Southwestern trip, getting ready for the Harvest Sale, then doing the Harvest Sale…okay, I can see why I was feeling a bit stressed and crazy. DUH.

The brief flirtation with snow appears to be fading. Oh, there’s still bits of snow and ice around, but it’s warmed up outside. Mocha worked up a respectable sweat but part of that was looking for an excuse to be Miss Drama Queen because she hadn’t been ridden in five days, and it was nippy. Her new pasture friend is clingy but…when I call, she comes to me and brings Mocha. So I give her a cookie. The two of them seem to have a nicely mellow friendship, though it’s hard to say for how much longer that will go on. All the same, they seem to be positive buddies. Mocha called to her when I turned Mocha loose, and her friend answered. Mocha galloped halfway out and her friend galloped to meet her. They sniffed noses, walked around a bit, then settled to graze. One of the two geldings in with them decided to come join them, while the other gelding who’s been a butt to Mocha was odd one out.

Riding today was pretty decent, at least until we went off on a new direction and Miss Drama Queen decided she needed to be…well, Miss Drama Queen. Not sure what set her off but she was skittery at a lot of stuff. I ended up taking up contact and making her collect up, which I usually don’t do when road riding.

Ah well, it’s good that she’s sparky and energetic at her age. It gives me hope that we’ll be riding together for a few more years.

Then home, and making two pillows.

But I’ve lost one of my SW Native American horse earrings. I had to search and search to find that pair. Went to brush my hand across my ears while at the computer earlier…and one earring was gone, the other one partially out. I hope that means I lost it here in the house and not at the barn or on the road. Darn it. It’s annoying because it is damnably hard to find Native horse figures, and I can’t seem to hand onto them (a turquoise pawn horsehead ring disappeared, too. A sign?). I looked and looked on our Southwestern trip, and the only thing I could find were horrifically spendy turquoise pendants, which weren’t what I wanted…I wanted a nice little pair of silver earrings like I have. Had.

Sigh.

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Substitute life

So I’ve just finished a day and a half stint substituting in a local first grade classroom. While I’ve worked with the younger grades ever since I semi-retired, this is the first time I’ve done a straight stint with younger than fifth grade students. The experience was inspiring, affirming, and exhausting.

It probably also helps that this was a small town K-12 school rather than a larger school, with a class of nine students. Nine is just about the perfect number for this age group–enough to have a spread in student ability, but not so much as to be overwhelming. The teacher left me lesson plans that were somewhat more than babysitting, with the opportunity to do some actual teaching instead of cruising through worksheets, catching up, or something like that. Additionally, unlike my previous sub stints this year, I was working with reading, writing, and math–all areas of comfort when it comes to teaching (Art is not necessarily a strength, nor is live PE, though I don’t do too badly with the online PE classes). I got to do a little bit of problem-solving in working with students, and I think I might have helped them learn a new concept.

Basically, I had to introduce the associative property of addition transforming 3 number problems into 2 number problems (such as 1 + 2 + 3=6 into 3 + 3=6, 4 + 2=6, and so on). The students had been easing up to it but I ended up starting them out in the concept. The first day was…challenging, to say the least, with even the strongest students struggling with the concept. Tears didn’t flow but they were close.

On the way home, I thought about it, and decided to use manipulatives to help work through the concept. We spent about fifteen minutes and yeehaw! It clicked with most of the class. Seeing the understanding flick on was inspiring and affirming. I am a good teacher, and it wasn’t that hard to figure out–then again, back to the concept of nine students. Plus I had an aide, and we were busy going from student to student as they worked through the understanding of how the process worked. Plus we struggled through a word web for a writing project yesterday–but everything flowed nicely today, and students wrote good stuff.

The other thing? Happy, comfortable first graders have absolutely no filters, especially when first feeling out the new substitute. At this point I am really grateful for my past middle school experience because that means I have no problems being strict, firm, but also unthreatened by kiddos looking for boundaries. That lack of filters means that spotting the attempts to derail the sub were easily spotted and countered. And because these students were used to firm boundaries, when I held firm, they yielded. But I also listened because, after all, the first grade lack of filters allows the savvy sub to figure out who’s pulling your leg and who is honestly telling you about a classroom routine that got left out of the sub notes (no one can get everything down!).

Still, it was fun to listen to the kids as they worked. The whole group started singing while working on a couple of projects–once, the school song, and then, later, Jingle Bells. This was a harmonious group of students as well. Oh, there were dramas, but all the same, they worked well together, they played well together, and it was just plain fun to be around them.

All the same–we are talking about first grade students. OMG. The sheer energy they throw off, plus the energy it takes from the teacher to anticipate and guide that intensity? Exhausting.

It’s a lot easier to run herd on 25 grumpy middle school students, in many ways.

But it was fun–in small doses like this.

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Good intentions

So here we go again. I had good intentions when I was trying to churn out a post a week about writing. And then…well…the heat and smoke of August this year wrapped around me and I just couldn’t get to it. Of course, then what happens is that the intentions of blogging pile up, and up, and up…yeah. So here we are in early November, almost three months since I last blogged. That’s been one of my longest periods without blogging.

What got me started again was a discussion on one of my writer Facebook groups about blogging–how much, when, and where. One person commented that he blogs daily, at the end of the day, as a brief rumination as well as the cultivation of a habit. I thought about this. When I was blogging regularly, I was doing it first thing in the morning before work, after getting words down. I’d also been blogging my ski excursions. Then stuff happened. LiveJournal went weird. Jay Lake died–Jay had been one of my inspirations for regular blogging. I semi-retired from classroom teaching, we bought the place in Enterprise, and since then I’m finding that writing in the morning isn’t always a reliable thing.

So I’m going to start trying to blog more frequently, every night if I can. I figure that might be more doable than the mornings, especially now that we’re getting into winter and daylight hours are already a premium.

We’ll see what happens.

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Adventures of a Hybrid Writer–Hitting the Wall

Between weather, summer obligations, and other things going on, I haven’t been getting much writing done lately. Late summer harvest needs, life needs, preparing to go back to the part-time day jobbe needs…everything clustered about and combined with politics, horrible heat, and all, I just couldn’t get the words down on the screen. Oh, I did get some words down for a possible side project, but other than that? Nothing on either book.

That said, I did get some reading done, and I’ve worked a little bit on promotion. But otherwise, it’s been a lot of other stuff happening and going on, and I see the prospect of a lot more of it ahead because, well, August, and August is somewhat nuts. You’d think I would remember that from year-to-year. Of course I don’t.

Looking at my overall word counts, too, I realize that working on two books might end up slowing down my actual long-term production. I’m not entirely positive about that yet, but we shall see how it flows. But coping with the dog days of summer, the heat, the urgency with which I realize we have to use these long days of sunlight for other purposes…well, alas, the writing isn’t going as well as it should.

But that will change. I know it will. The temps are going down. Soon the smoke will go away. I’ll be able to breathe better, and I’ll be able to do more.

I hope.

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Adventures of a Hybrid Writer–Word Count

Hi. My name is Joyce and I used to be a diligent word count tracker. Back when I got serious again about writing, I started keeping a daily word count to keep myself honest–I think I was influenced both by Nanowrimo and by the trend at the time amongst many of my writer friends to keep counts. I admit, there was probably a bit of competitiveness about it.

So I kept count of words by project on a daily basis, and used to break out my writing by type–not blog posts, but I tracked novel vs short stories. Then I started hitting the wall, and realized that I was focusing on quantity, not quality, and fell away from the practice.

But I still think it is and was a good thing. Why? Well, for one thing, tracking my words helped me think about where I was in a project. While this isn’t such a priority if you are writing short stories and essays, if you are creating book-length works, then it’s helpful to know if you’re in the first third or the last third, or if you’re flailing around in the middle. It gave me perspective enough to know that “okay, I’m on track,” or “Crud, I need to do something different” when working on a book. Tracking also gives me the ability to notice the difference between pacing of short stories vs novels. At this point, if I’m working on one project, I don’t really need to be tracking things. But if I do something different….

Which is why I’m tracking words again this summer. I am doing something different, working on two novels at once. Though I was well into Challenges when I started tracking, and had an existing start on Klone’s as well, I wanted to see if either project suffered.

So far, it hasn’t. The count is roughly 2x Challenges to Klone’s. But both books are at about the same place in the story. The difference is that I am shooting for Klone’s to be a shorter book than Challenges. I’m learning the pacing for that shorter book, and counting is helping with that. Plus the word count helps me realize that having two different projects at once might actually be useful for productivity because I can still run with more words out of the day if I switch projects. That’s good to know.

The other factor for summer counting is so that I can quantify how different factors may interfere with production–travel, conferences, stuff like that.

The thing to keep in mind is that word count is an analytical tool and not the end-all, be-all. If you’re using word count to quantify what you are doing and not using it as a means to analyze your production process, you’re not fully exploiting the possibilities that tracking your word count can do. That tracker can tell you a lot about your process–if you let it.

And with that, I’m off to rack up some words for the day. Tomorrow is a travel day.

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