Information doesn’t necessarily want to be free

Note: I should have probably posted this two weeks ago, but I was still working things out when it came to Substack alternatives. I may still have more to do, but…here we are, the promised response to Yann LeCun’s December 31st/January 1st tweets. Working now on some horse blogs, as well as writing blogs.

One of the not-so-delightful parts of New Year’s Day 2024 was a series of postings by Yann LeCun (chief AI scientist at Meta) on Xitter saying that most book authors should release their books for free, because…oh, here’s the screenshot.

Needless to say, that sentiment didn’t go over well with a number of authors, including me. And because it was New Year’s Day, many of us had some time to express our opinions. LeCun kept focusing on the low dollar amounts most authors make as a justification for making their books available for free downloads, and that if authors aren’t expecting to make a lot of money off of their work, then they are motivated more by intellectual impact. Ergo, they should release their work for free if that is the case.

Sigh. Yet another example of how low the “information wants to be free” argument has devolved. LeCun’s argument has a number of flaws, including the reality that no one in publishing, including publishers, can tell you in advance whether a book is going to be a hit with the public or not. Oh, there’s a certain amount of sales that can happen given the right amount of money spent on promotion.

However, there is no tried-and-true formula for discerning what books will sell well. If there is, New York has yet to discover it. The same holds for a number of ambitious and aggressive self-published writers.

Granted, one has to keep in mind that LeCun is coming from an academic perspective and he is most likely thinking of nonfiction. Even at that, however, it’s somewhat saddening to read the implied notion that one either writes for intellectual impact or money (and the manner in which he repeatedly frames the argument as either/or strongly suggests he’s operating from a nonfiction point of view). There’s no room for entertainment or education (which I suppose could loosely be defined as “intellectual impact”) in this framework.

However, most of us who write, especially fiction, are not doing so as part of a day job. LeCun comes from an academic background where publication, either for free or requiring the author to pay for it, is part of the job requirement. He can afford to give away his creations because he’s already receiving compensation for them through his work. LeCun’s bias shows up in his own words:

Those of us who write fiction, whether we’re submitting to traditional publishing or self-publication, start laughing bitterly at this statement, because we don’t know how much we’re going to make from it unless the book is already under contract. This current work-in-progress could manage to hit the popularity-go-round on release—catching the wave of what’s currently popular. Or a major influencer on BookTok or other online venue suddenly discovers the book and promotes the heck out of it. Or…lots of possibilities exist, including the possibility that this book becomes a sleeper hit months or years after initial release.

The reality is that unless you have an advance in hand before you start writing the book (more common in nonfiction than fiction) you just won’t know before publication whether the book is a hit or not. That’s just the reality of publishing.

But let’s also look at the other piece of LeCun’s argument…the “intellectual impact” and “benefits to society” side. Again, this is more of a nonfiction writer’s position. “Intellectual impact” might fall more to the literary side, where the author is engaged with dialogue about theme. “Benefits to society”—I suppose that depends on how one approaches the concept of entertainment as either a frill or necessity.

That said, most fiction writers are writing to tell a story, with the primary purpose of entertainment, whether that be for the author or for the author’s hoped readers.

Then the question becomes, how does society benefit from free entertainment? Oooh, that’s a monstrous can of worms to consider, especially after all the years of apparently “free” entertainment provided by broadcast television and radio. Only said entertainment was not exactly “free.” Those radio and television shows had/have sponsors, advertising, and product placements within the story framework. “Free” periodicals have donors, advertisers, and sponsors.

And shall we discuss pop-up ads on websites?

The reality is that there is no such thing as “free” information. Someone pays for the creation and the distribution of such information, and someone pays for the receipt of such information. The purpose for the existence of such information can range from any sort of combination of product advertising to sharing a cool idea to entertainment to promotion of particular ideologies.

No matter what the purpose, at some point payment happens for the creation of the concepts, images, and words, both by the creators in the form of the efforts they perform (for which they will receive some sort of compensation, either by an employer or by selling the result of their creative endeavor) and by the recipients in the form of paying for the product through purchase, subscription, or exposure to advertising/ideologies.

It’s not free, to either creator or recipient of information. It only seems as if it is free.

And so, to return to LeCun’s assertion that most books should be freely available for download, I assert that his conclusion is based on a flawed assumption that information wants to be free. That the spread of information, whether through fiction or nonfiction, is free.

I assert that all information is paid, whether through effort or money. LeCun and others who assert information wants to be free conveniently overlook the cost of the effort it takes to create something.

Information doesn’t want to be free. It just makes you believe that it wants to be free.

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Just another random post–digging out of a slump

Yeah, yeah, I know, this doesn’t fit the current fashion to have your blog posts all neatly organized and corralled because I’m drafting this just before posting, and it’s not on the list of things to post. And I am getting to that place…slowly. But I keep getting mugged by ideas that I want to write, especially when I’m out working with the horses, or that infamous “ideas popping into my head just as I start going to sleep” moment.

Arrgh. It’s frustrating.

One issue is that I’ve been slowly thrashing around trying to dig myself out of a slump with the fiction work and that’s bled over into these casual essays. At first I thought this feeling was due exclusively to working within the same series, with the same characters, for over four years. Then I started thinking about the other, non-series work I’ve been drafting during this period, especially when I was posting work on Kindle Vella as well as Substack and—oh.

More than one thing going on.

First, I’ve spent the past few years hustling to post on Medium, Substack, and Kindle Vella. While some of that has been a crossover with my published fiction, a lot of it hasn’t been that. All three venues require a certain amount of time dedicated to them and/or associated social media as a participant in order to gain any attention to your own work. That ends up being a time suck, especially since the writing that gets done on social media doesn’t go into creative work. Or, if I have multiple notions to post, I have to stop and think about whether I want to spam people’s inboxes.

Which, honestly, causes me to freeze up when I think about it. Then it becomes a case of “oh no, I can’t post that because I posted already today.”

The hustle culture around those venues also ends up being a time suck that doesn’t necessarily show results. So it’s not at all surprising that I started sliding into a slump from just plain old burnout. While all those posts last year about writing accountability really helped me at the beginning, they eventually became just another millstone around my neck that interfered with writing production and choked me up.

Second, I realized that yes, writing these blogs helps with my writing production. I don’t draft them with an eye toward eventual publication because in order to do that, I need to spend more time polishing them. These are meant to be reflections more than anything else—basically, the classic blog.

Third, I want to write these blogs about a lot of things. Not just about writing but about horses, current events, and even a little political history. One thing that is coming clear from my current activity on social media is that I remember a lot of political history that is relevant to current events. I recently started rereading a history of Democratic party organizing in Oregon during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and came away with the reaction that not only are there many similarities between the current situation and that era, but that wow, if we think things are rather chaotic now, um, the way third parties rose and fell, and coalitions frequently shifted during that era (and some of those hijinks)….

Things can get worse. But they can also get better. I want to share some of those insights, but mixed in with horses, blathering about the outdoors, writing, and who knows what else.

So. Drafting this post today and putting it up today, but I am working on building up a backlog of posts. I’d like to put things up two or three times a week, without swarming the inboxes but providing variety.

We’ll see how it goes.

My next post this week will be “Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free,” a reaction to some tweets by Yann LeCun that, well, rubbed me the wrong way because of his attitude toward fiction. I have one post drafted about winter horses, and will be working on another shortly about a recent realization that this past year makes it twenty-seven years since I went back to riding horses as an adult. I also have some writing process posts in mind, one about converting a villain to a protagonist (Philip Martiniere, for those of you who are curious) and musings about organization.

But no more accountability posts. Damn, that was enough to send me into burnout just on its own.

Meanwhile—housekeeping issues. I’m not sure just yet how SendFox handles responses. Feel free to send me a note at [email protected] if you want to respond and you aren’t sure if responding in email works.

For those of you reading this someplace other than your inbox, this is how you get this newsletter in your inbox:

Hoping to see you around!

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Yay! I think things are resolved…and DUCKS!

Mallard ducks in snow-covered wheat stubblefield

This picture of mallard ducks in a snow-covered wheat stubblefield just amazes me. They moved in when subzero temperatures hit, creating these nests in the snow. The picture really doesn’t do it justice because I took it on the first day that temps rose above freezing and the ducks were starting to fly around rather than cluster in groups like the one I show here. There were hundreds of ducks in that field. Just…totally astonishing.

We’ve pretty much been riding through the winter weather here. Our little corner of the valley seems to keep avoiding the worst of the storms so far but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. We got down to -18F one day and had multiple days where all I did with the horses was go out to the ranch, give them grain and treats, and look them over. Even with a young horse I’m reluctant to ask for much when the temps are less than 15F. Mocha got a neck hood added to her portable shed (aka the heaviest Weatherbeeta brand blanket on the market) and Marker got Ground Schooling With Cones. Which meant a lot of backing up with precise targeting* and lots of step, whoa, step, whoa.

*ahem, not-so-precise right now since he is a wiggly fidgety boy with ADHD elements and he’s not done this before. He’s better under saddle than on the ground so far. But it will come.

The resolution of things addresses not just this blog but my author newsletter. My monthly newsletter needed to find a new home since MailChimp was shutting down TinyLetter. I had considered moving to Substack because, well, it’s easier. I even started adding new subscriber lists to the Substack I made for the author newsletter. Then the whole kerfuffle over extremist content being monetized on Substack happened, and that was a big nope. I have newsletter subscribers who won’t use Substack. I started looking around at newsletter options, and started setup on Mailerlite only to realize that while the free program has a lot to offer, I could only run one thing from it. If I wanted to migrate my Substack blog subscribers there, I needed to run with a paid account.

Not gonna work.

I looked at other options, and either ran into list upload issues, or just didn’t have the room to grow, much less run two separate functions (blog and newsletter) from the same platform. Not unless I paid money, and given that I haven’t monetized any of this stuff, monthly payments didn’t seem like a great thing to do. However, I discovered that there was an option with a reasonable one-time payment, and started checking it out. I’m now working with SendFox. It’s not big but it has more tools than TinyLetter or Substack, really, without overwhelming me like Mailerlite did. If I ever make it big I’ll probably move the author letter to Mailerlite–or not. I have more tools to work with and figuring these tools out is going to take me some time.

I’m still tweaking and finalizing things. But how things stand right now is that content for the blog starts here, and is mirrored on SendFox and Dreamwidth.

Just creating the landing signup pages on SendFox this morning was a huge relief. I didn’t realize the degree to which worry about what I was going to do was piling up on me. Add that to the need to keep on top of the weather so I could react appropriately to what was happening and it’s been a wild start to 2024.

What can you expect to see from this blog coming up? Amongst other things, this is one of the few blogs where you’ll see me drafting directly in WordPress. I have several drafts in Word, some about horses, some about writing commentary, and I have a whole list of topics to work on. Upcoming blogs will include a reaction to statements by one of the bigwigs in A.I. about how authors should just upload our work for free, reflections on reforming a villain in one of my worlds, and as always, the occasional horse training and management update.

Meanwhile, if you want to follow me easily, here are a couple of links (note, if you are reading this in your email, you’re fine for the blog feed!):

Want to subscribe to my blog feed and read my musings about writing, life as a senior in the wide open spaces, and blathering about horses? Sign up here:

Want to subscribe to my monthly newsletter for more information about what I’m writing, what I’m publishing, and links/announcements of sales, appearances, and special programs? Sign up here:

And if you want to contribute to the Fund for Horses with Boopable Noses and the Old Grouch…here’s my Ko-fi link!

(Yes, I know I should make the links into cute buttons or so on. Work in progress and all that.)

Oh yeah…the Ko-fi link also allows you to buy ebooks directly from me rather than from the big distributors. I’m running a sale on The Heritage of Michael Martiniere and A Different Life: What If?

Deep breath. I’m baaaack. Watch out, world.



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One Year Ends, Another Begins

Well hello there. I haven’t written much on this blog of late, primarily because I’ve been wrestling with burnout and, for lack of a better word, depression over a number of factors, some of which I’ll talk about here. A lot of it is the realization that I need to change how I do the business side of writing, including communication and promotion. And…there are a lot of pieces I have to finagle.

One of the big reasons why I’ve been hanging back on writing much of anything here was the Substack Nazi blowup. I’ve been waiting to see what, if anything, would come of it. This isn’t my first go-round in dealing with a platform going problematic—Usenet, then LiveJournal are both pieces of my sordid internet past. However, it gets tiring to go through the steps. One thing I figured out very quickly was that I needed to ensure that I had a place to go for my author newsletter. I had planned to move it to Substack since TinyLetter is shutting down. Unfortunately, I still lost subscribers in the transition to Mailerlite.

Nonetheless, that particular issue had been nagging at me even before the blowup. Moving from TinyLetter to another venue was in the works for a while, simply because it’s a struggle to deal with at times. Links didn’t always want to work, pictures could be problematic. The move was inevitable even before MailChimp announced it was closing TinyLetter. It had just been a question of Mailerlite or Substack? Well, Substack decided to make that choice easier. Now I have to figure out this much more powerful communication tool. But that piece is taken care of.

When it comes to this blog, I already had strategies. The precept of “post first on a platform you control” has been a habit of mine for years, ever since early copyright discussions back in the ‘00s. I post first to my WordPress blog (which is the link which I will share from now on), then to Dreamwidth, then to Substack, at least until I figure out how to set up an easy transfer of my Substack followers to my WordPress blog with the ability to send out emails and gain visibility.

Another consideration is creating different income streams this year. I did not monetize my Substacks, fortunately, so that makes things much easier. I may set up a Patreon, and am looking into Kickstarter as well. Meanwhile, I’ve set up a Ko-fi (well, really, activated it) and am integrating it into my direct sales plan. I have a short story (Digital Clone Wars) and a novel available there (Federation Cowboy). More will be coming as I negotiate the narrow pathway with BookFunnel, PayPal, and Ko-fi. Buying my books there or donating, either one time or for an ongoing monthly contribution, will help a lot. Not only will this contribution go toward paying for editing and so on, but it will help with buying small horse things. Marker needs a new cinch, as well as hoof boots, so….

Straightforward link here since this old lady is still wrestling with the buttons.

So what else is going on besides major changes in platforms and wrestling with all of that stuff?

Well, Becoming Solo got booted out of the self-published novella competition on the verdict of one reviewer who openly admitted it was written in a style that didn’t work for them. That review hit hard for some reason, especially since the reviewer then turned around and posted it to Amazon. 3.8 rounded up to 4 stars, but the review itself…sigh. There are reasons not to read reviews and this situation was just one of them. Coupled with the reviews for other recent contest submissions where I get praised for writing style, then chucked out of the competition leaving the impression that it wasn’t well-written because it didn’t get past the first round….

Unlike other competitions, one drawback of these indie competitions is the visibility at all stages. People know if you’re part of the competition. Plus there’s a whole culture of freebies around them, which would be great if people went on to buy other books or request them from the library. However, I have my uncertainties about how many people actually read their free books.

I’ve already had doubts about two of the three major contests aimed at self-published authors, and my experiences this year just confirmed that I’m better off not wasting my time with them. I’m not writing what the reviewers want to reward. Rather than risk further backhanded praise with little gain, I’m directing my energy elsewhere.

What am I doing differently this year?

Well, last year I tried the weekly executive meeting with monthly summaries and weekly accountability posts. That was useful inasmuch as I identified one issue I’m having, that of needing to adjust when I write due to the seasons. During the winter I need to get out to the horses around midday because of the timing of sunset, which happens around 2:30 at the ranch. A fact of life in the mountains. But those posts contributed to my growing sensation of burnout.

Gaining the visible evidence (from my to-do tracking and the accountability posts) of the impact of the seasons on my productivity is huge. Now I can somewhat plan around seasons, regrouping on a quarterly basis.

The other thing I am doing is drafting these posts in Word, then cutting and pasting them into the WordPress blog, and going from there. I often have blog ideas while I’m out and about doing things, but if I’ve already posted for the day, I’m kinda reluctant to put up another one. So the notion drifts away and the essay doesn’t get written. I’m trying to change that situation because it feels like not getting those words out contributes to my sense of malaise.

I want to commit to a post a week, no particular day.

And finally, I’m trying to automate my promotional activities. If I don’t promote, no one buys a book. Since I’m not releasing any new work until midway through the year, I need to have sales of existing work and outreach to new readers. That means promotion. Ugh. But it’s gotta happen, so….

Getting long so that’s it for now. 2024 is a year of change.

How much change remains to be seen.

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After three months: Marker and Mocha update

Has it been three months since a certain bay Arab-ish gelding came into our lives? Well, yes, it has been. And while it’s been a learning experience for The Boi as I work with him to fill in training holes, it’s also been a learning experience for the Mocha girl. Not only has she needed to learn how to be a retired horse and settle into retirement, but she has needed to learn how to share treats and human attention. And that is a work in progress.

I continue to be astounded by the speed with which Marker is developing confidence in me. He is still pushy on the ground but is learning to share attention and treats with Mocha. Recent rains have softened up the gravel roads so that I can ride him on them without him wearing shoes. It’s been nearly two months since I last took him on the road, and what a difference. He’s more relaxed, he looks to me for support more frequently, and while we encounter Scary Stuff–yesterday was not one but two encounters with the Horse-Eating Stroller, as well as a Scary Bicycle–he’s more prone to listen to me than Mocha was in a similar situation. I don’t have the same coiled spring under me and there are a lot more loud snorts involved. However, in his second encounter with the Horse-Eating Stroller, he just passed it with high head, then issued a Loud Snort after we went by. I don’t feel the need to resort to a Pelham setup with him like I did with Mocha. So far, anyway.

Otherwise, it’s pretty much working on building up his conditioning under saddle and continuing to focus on sharing and proper ground handling behavior. I don’t like to do very intensive training under saddle until a horse is sufficiently strong to do some of the things I want to ask for, including collection. I moved too quickly with Mocha, so I’m taking my time with Marker. We are doing small things–he sidepasses, he does haunches turns (well, kinda) and forehand turns (well, kinda). I can stop him by tightening my abs and sitting up, even without saying “whoa” (which is a huge thing in my book, because getting that good whoa in an emergency, especially on the road, is all-important).

But the other thing is working on whoa on the ground. It helped that the husband did some work with him when we were both handling the horses, as part of transitioning Mocha to a.)being a retiree and b.) sharing. Now that I’m handling both horses by myself, ground manners at liberty are HUGE. I’m finding out that Mocha needs as much work at sharing as Marker. He wants to be first, and is still working on fear of missing out when being handled. Mocha has not needed to share me with other horses before, and has exhibited crankiness and aggression when other horses try to move in on us.

That…doesn’t work. Not in this scenario.

One goal is to be able to have the horse I am haltering remain respectful toward the loose horse (primarily a Mocha goal). Ear pinning is one thing but lunging, squealing, or even threatening to kick the horse sharing attention is not acceptable. Racing through the gate in either direction is not good either. Not moving out of the way of the haltered horse is not good (both horses need to work on this).

Standing for the “whoa” command is another goal, for both horses. While Marker’s a greater offender because he just can’t resist the lure of cookies, Mocha is just as bad at times with her sneaky creep. However, they’re both starting to get it. I will make both of them stand after I unhalter the other, waiting for that moment when they’re both standing to give them a cookie at the same time. I try to do this in the same place every time so that they associate the location with standing quietly. At some point we will need to work on generalizing that goal, but it’s coming along.

Mocha also needs to work on not rushing through the gate. She’s not bad when leaving the field, but there have been times when she will try to bolt through to get back into the field before I finish getting the gate out of her way. Not a good thing with a barbed wire gate. I pulled her back out yesterday when she did that, and She Was Not Happy. Balked at going back out, but…I prevailed, and we reschooled the gate.

Marker still needs to work on personal space. He is just so happy to see people! treats! attention! that he gets pushy at the gate. However, he’s starting to learn back much better, though sometimes the end of a lead rope needs to come into play to get his attention. He is a pocket pony by nature and owners before the person I bought him from (who had been working with him on this) let him get away with being pushy in people’s space. He is a touchy boy, and often needs to touch his nose to my hand for comfort. But he is slowly learning that there is a difference between being in my back pocket and checking in for reassurance. Or trying to help me put his saddle on….

Both horses are coming along in their new lives. They also have developed a friendship, which is good. Mocha seems to have accepted that she is retired, but that retirement still means rules and manners.

So it’s all good here–just nice and boring, except for funny moments (both the lady pushing the stroller and I burst out laughing when he emitted that Loud Snort after he passed the stroller the second time). That’s the way I like my horse training. Steady, quiet, a building of routines, and minimal drama.

Hopefully, things stay that way.

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Announcing the Goddess’s Honor rerelease

As I prepare to write the Goddess’s Vision series, one task that was on my mind was the rerelease of the first series set in that world, Goddess’s Honor. I had a number of reasons for rereleasing Goddess’s Honor in a second edition.

First of all, while my old covers were lovely, they simply didn’t fit current trends in fantasy. They also didn’t reflect the dominance of powerful women in that world. These covers are far from perfect–I made them myself, using figures from downloads I purchased through Depositphotos (and checked upload dates to hopefully avoid A.I. elements), and landscape photographs I had taken using assorted filters from my Canon PowerShot SX530 HS digital camera. That way I could say “no A.I.” with a certain degree of confidence. The Challenges cover, while a bit whimsical, also hints at a strong element within that particular story–the degree to which a land’s magic influences the strength and power of its rulers (and what happens when the land disapproves of its leader).

Second, these books were originally formatted using Scrivener. The interiors just didn’t look that good to me after I got my hands on Vellum and started doing layout there. I wanted to have books that I could feel proud of promoting and selling, rather than books that made me cringe (which was also a factor in redoing the Netwalk books–similar issues). And there were typos–oh dear God, were there ever typos in the last two books, Choices and Judgment.

Third, there were continuity errors. One of the biggest were two characters that went under one set of names in one book, another set of names in the following book. Others were minor, predominantly geographical. Between the continuity errors and the typos, I felt the need for a new edit.

Fourth, I had written several worldbuilding short stories, novelettes, and novellas tied to the series. I thought it might make things easier for readers if I combined the shorter works with the main books so that it would be possible to read the series in order. Most of those short works provide backstory that help with understanding the overall series, especially with regard to Alicira. What happened to her and how she not only overcame it but conquered it is important to the overall story. As a result, Beyond Honor was expanded to include one short story that is a bit of an Easter Egg for later in the series (Vered the Sorcerer-Captain of a magical sailship plays a role in the last three books), as well as what happened to Alicira after the Beyond Honor novella.

I was pleasantly surprised when I went through these edits. Yeah, I needed to fix continuity stuff. I needed to fix typos. I needed to cut out repetition. However, overall, the stories are strong and better than I realized they were. They also possess stronger gay, bi, and lesbian elements than I initially realized. I was just writing characters and going with what seemed to fit within the framework of the story. It confirms my initial decision to withdraw the original first book of the series, Pledges of Honor, from a small press (I was already having issues with them with regard to editing and meeting contract deadlines for another book) on the grounds that since they had taken a turn toward publishing work with a Christian focus, this book would require the rewriting of a pivotal character to match the press’s new standards. I wasn’t about to rewrite the relationship between Haran int Mershaunten and Orlanden en Selail, because those two men play a significant role not just in that book but throughout the entire series.

But the overall story–the two cousins in leadership roles, their long-term struggles, the roles that their children play in battling the impact of a corrupt Empire on their world–holds up throughout the entire arc of the series.

I’m quite pleased with it, and I hope that these new covers and the combination of short works with the longer ones will attract attention.

We shall see.

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Marker Training Journal #4

Isn’t that just a boopable nose? He certainly thinks so.

The Boi keeps on making progress. Sometimes he surprises me because he picks some things up faster than Mocha did at the same stage of training. And then I have to remind myself that he’s three years older than Mocha was when we started doing this work, and has had a lot more exposure to the world in the course of eight years than she had encountered when she was five and a half…even when she was eight.

But part of it is also his sunny temperament. He genuinely likes people and would happily move into the house with us if he could. Though he’s happier and better off outside, really.

Some of the progress which is going on has to do with his relationship with Mocha. She’s becoming more confident around him, though he is still in the process of being indoctrinated into The Mocha Way, which includes “don’t steal my treats,” “give me space, especially on my right side,” and “be mannerly with humans.” However, it’s starting to show up that she also depends on him for alerting to potential problems in the pasture. She also is starting to park out a little bit, on her own, which amuses me. Not sure how or why that’s happening.

Under saddle, he continues to gain conditioning. I’m starting to see the existence of withers as his back muscles up. This week, he was clearly tired by the time we had put in five days of work. Well, this week I had upped the conditioning phase of our training, and introduced frequent walk-trot transitions. It took me a couple of years to get around to doing that with Mocha, and I’m not making that mistake with him. He picked it up faster as a result, and doesn’t seem to get quite as frustrated with being asked to shift gaits every ten strides or so. But I think I’m modifying the exercise where we do smaller circles as part of a larger circle. I generally do the larger circle with the smaller circles in one direction, then change. I think I’m going to change that out and alternate the smaller circle directions. He bends better on his stiffer side when I do that–tried it on Friday and liked the results.

But he still struggles with making turns going downhill, especially at the trot, and wants to break into a canter because it’s easier. He doesn’t do that if I remember to provide support with rein and leg to put him in the proper mode for making that downhill turn.

This week I also saw some of his spooky moments. He was startled by three fawns bursting out of cover in the field, and jumped sideways. That was all he did. Afterward, he eyed the spot but didn’t get reactive. In the same situation, Mocha would have been skittery and spooky. And his jump was nowhere as big as hers would have been. Then we had a bicyclist come by after he was untacked, and that made him whirl and do his big roller snort, which sounds scary but which I’ve figured out from him is commentary. We “chased” the bicyclist after he went by, so I’m hoping that bodes well for our next encounter. It took Mocha some time to adapt to bicyclists, so we’ll see how Marker adapts–and as for the snorts….

A big roller snort from Mocha puts me on alert, because that’s a prelude to old mare pulling a big spook-and-spin. From Marker, that’s one way that he discharges anxiety. But he also uses it to comment on things–an unfamiliar scent, something he sees, as well as releasing tension. I’ve heard more roller snorts from him over the past month than I normally hear from Mocha over the course of a year.

The clippers continue to be a matter of discussion. At this point, I’m also cracking down on behaviors which have annoyed me but needed to be sidelined in favor of dealing with other things first. Now we’re working on two evasions that I particularly dislike–tossing his head from side-to-side to keep me from placing the clippers on his crest (and other things he doesn’t like doing), and backing up when he doesn’t want to do something. He’s picked up on my corrections pretty quickly for those, so now it’s a matter of reinforcement. The clippers have moved from open fear to “I don’t like this.” As a result, I’m comfortable becoming more insistent about his tolerance. But his ground manners have improved. Ground tying is pretty solid, except when he thinks he might get some cookies. He relaxes when I drop the lead to the ground. He will walk on a long lead without needing to get into my space, though he still likes to touch his nose to my wrist occasionally as we walk. He gives me space when dealing with gates. Defensive resistances are starting to fade as he becomes more accustomed to us.

He also has his Moments of Cuteness. Unlike Mocha, who seems to have a weird bias about not eating windfall apples, Marker has discovered the apple tree in their field. I’ll occasionally see him rooting around looking for windfalls. Yesterday, when we turned them both loose, instead of hanging out in the lower field, he made a beeline to cross the ditch and head for the apple tree. Hubby joked that he probably heard an apple fall. Very likely. Yesterday, when I was grooming him, Marker twisted himself sideways to show me a particularly itchy spot he wanted scratched. The degree to which he can lean without moving a step also cracks me up. The horse can contort himself in an almost catlike manner, though in temperament he’s more like a dog. And oh does he like to have his head scratched.

I’m happy with the Boi. It’ll be interesting to see how things unfold as he becomes more fit.

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Writing Accountability Post #34

Well, I’m starting to see the value of this exercise, something like…thirty-four weeks into it? Because this week is suddenly all about projects getting completed and coming together. I wouldn’t have realized just how big an accomplishment this was if I hadn’t been tracking everything I’ve been doing as a writer, trudging away week after week with what seems to be little or no progress until…BAM! There it is. Stuff gets done. I have to remember that I’m doing a lot of incremental stuff that just doesn’t seem like much is happening from week to week, until it’s done. And then I can step back and go “wow. Guess I was getting stuff done after all.”

This is also the week where I start making transitions from spring/summer setup to fall/winter. I’ve started rearranging the office. It’s a process that will probably take a couple of weeks, but when it’s done, it will be done.

Federation Cowboy releases this week, available from all the usual suspects at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords. I’ll probably get the paperback done this week but I have to (big sigh) buy more ISBNs from Bowker first. Ouch. That’s gonna hurt. However, I’m in the homestretch for getting the older projects finished and put into paperback. Most of the current ones can be updated as second editions, and I decided it was time to push on the Goddess’s Honor series to get as much of it uploaded in paperback as I can this month, so I’ll have a Goddess’s Honor omnibus to promote by Christmas. I’m hoping I won’t need to purchase another block of ISBNs. I look at my first ten and flinch–but then again, back in that era, the received wisdom was that each book needed to have its own ISBN, including the different ebook formats. Not so much a deal now. I’m only using ISBNs for work I’m putting up on Ingram. On the other hand…um, what I have to put up in paperback now could run through a new purchase. Sigh.

Speaking of which…Beyond Honor and Other Stories is now live. One thing I’m doing is incorporating all of the worldbuilding stories into the new editions of the Goddess’s Honor books, so that they can be read in sequence. There are also minor continuity errors (including one big blooper between Choices of Honor and Judgment of Honor) that I’m correcting as I go through these edits and start building the synopsis for the Goddess’s Vision books. Beyond Honor now contains the short stories “The Goddess’s Choice,” “Delian’s Gift” (previously unpublished), “Exile’s Honor,” and “Birth of Sorrow” as well as the title novella. It is now definitely Book One of the Series, because this is Alicira’s story from her flight to Keldara through the birth of her daughter. The first story, involving the sailship captain Vered, time-wise belongs here as well, even though Vered doesn’t come into play until later in the series.

Here’s the Beyond Honor cover.

There’s a story about that background picture. It’s a sunset cloud reflection over Ruby Peak, shot using an automatic filter, plus some tweaks in Book Brush. I played with the transparency filter for the figure because I liked the effect of being able to see the mountain kinda sorta through her. She comes from uploads by majorgaine, I think from 2015.

But I’m also figuring out that one reason why I haven’t started Goddess’s Vision before now and got so thoroughly distracted by the Martinieres was that I really run out of plot about halfway through the second book–kinda sorta (which appears to be the Phrase of the Day). I need to keep poking at it because I know there’s more there. The first book came to life when I made it about Betsona and Heinmyets and their relationship/role in revising the world, specifically the Darani Empire. However, deconstructing Empire is hard. This second book is about Katerin and Witmara, and their relationships/roles in confronting the Divine Confederation–which comes to a forefront in this book, because the first book is more about deconstructing the Empire. Yeah, the Divine Confederation has a role in what happens in the first book–Vision of Alliance. But this second book, Vision of Chaos, is still a struggle to put together. And I’m not sure about a third book, though I’d like to have all four–Betsona, Heinmyets, Katerin, Witmara–wrap things up in one book. However it works out, I think these books will be the last ones in this world.

If Goddess’s Vision turns out to be a duology instead of a trilogy, then that is what it will be. I think it’s unlikely but Chaos may simply need some time to simmer while I work on Alliance, The Cost of Power series, and the Goddess’s Honor edits. In any case, I’m getting off of the planning horse and onto the drafting horse right now.

Speaking of horses, for those of you who are Marker fans, he will get his update after this. Timing and all.

And that’s it for this week’s update.



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Writing Accountability Post #33

Cranky internet today, darn it.

When I look at what I got done this month it doesn’t seem like much…and yet I know it is.

I finished the outlines for the second and third books of The Cost of Power series. I’m almost done with the first book outline for the Goddess’s Vision series, and hope that the second and third ones go as well (I may start drafting…something…this week if I get stalled again on the GV outlines).

The Beyond Honor new version is ready to go into Vellum and be proofread. I’ve made front covers for the rest of the Goddess’s Honor rereleases, so they’ll be ready to roll and they’ll match the Goddess’s Vision covers as well.

But…sales outside of organized ones such as the Narratress sale are sucky. No one’s buying, in spite of me buying advertising. I think I probably need to be getting more aggressive with promotion again on my own, and I spent some time planning timely price reductions. I just need to start selling and focus on that plan. Sigh.

In any case, I’m also now in the novella competition as well as the SF indie book competition. The second one has me slightly grumpy, however, because there’s already been talk of doing a tit for tat review swap setup and that just isn’t kosher in my book. I think my objections may have caused some folks to step back, but…in any case, I won’t be a part of that sort of mentality. It can lead to problems down the line. And some of the marketing chat sounds an awful lot like 20Books and I have issues with some of those recommendations. Oh well. Maybe I’m just being grumpy–which seems to be something common right now.

Then again, it could be just as simple as spending time plotting and worldbuilding instead of actual writing. While some people really enjoy creating elaborate worlds including moodboards, languages, and so on, I…just want to tell the stories of that world I’m working in. So perhaps I’m just getting grumpy about planning instead of drafting.

Oh well. It has been a somewhat productive week, including training time with the Marker boy. He still zigzags back and forth when it comes to making progress in some areas–today he was cranky about doing some clipper work, but he’s also showing some improvement in that his objections are tied more to throwing his head up and down rather than trying to get away from it.

The office has been in disorganized planning mode, and that might be another factor as well.

Or maybe I just need to spend more time reading. We’re half-planning a trip for later on in October, and maybe that will inspire me.

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Writing Accountability Post #32–and thoughts about similarities between horse show success and writing success

This has actually been a reasonably successful week, accountability-wise. I broke through the block I’ve had with outlining the Goddess’s Vision series by giving in to the desires of two of my characters and foregrounding them for the first book, at least. Again, like The Cost of Power series, this is going to be a trilogy. However, I think Goddess’s Vision is going to focus on specific characters while advancing the trilogy/series arc. So this first book will feature Heinmyets and Betsona, and how their relationship impacts the growing crisis in the lands of Daran and Varen. The second book probably will be about Witmara’s mother Katerin, dealing with the threat from the Divine Confederation, with perhaps some POV from Witmara. And book three…sigh, it will probably be all four–Heinmyets, Betsona, Katerin, Witmara–as they deal with the crisis of empire and the threat of the Divine Confederation. I don’t know why, but now that structure seems to make more sense than running with so many different POVs scattered around two continents. By book three, we’ll have enough going on that the multiple viewpoints will go quickly. But there’s enough of a foundation needing to be constructed before the third book that this structure makes sense.

Federation Cowboy is ready to launch. All that is left now is promotion.

I’ve also decided that I’m not going to put much effort into getting the remaining Netwalk Sequence books into paperback, at least not right away. There’s not a lot of interest, and with the Goddess’s Vision series becoming a reality, the Goddess’s Honor series takes priority over Netwalk. I need to revise the versions in Ingram before my Alli membership runs out for the freebie uploads. Once I get Goddess’s Honor done, then I can deal with what’s left of Netwalk.

Actually, my biggest hurdle right now is promotion. I’m part of the Narratress sale with The Heritage of Michael Martiniere and Justine Fixes Everything and so far, it’s been a bust, in spite of this being the best pricing yet on these books. They are both available for $1.99 until August 30th, at all the usual suspects. Which leads into the other part of this particular essay.

Last night, in a funk about how poorly I’m doing in a sale where people are openly bragging about buying 50+ books but none of them include mine, I had a big glass of absinthe and thought about things. Because I’m spending a bit of time these days meditating on the Marker boy and where his training might go once he’s conditioned, I started thinking about big horse shows, and had this revelation–big success in writing is very much like big success in high-end horse shows. You can’t do it alone. Oh, it’s possible to do well at smaller open shows and local shows without a trainer presence and supervision, but success at a big regional or national show (much less the rarefied air of the international circuit) requires networking and the knowledgeable trainer or guide.

It’s not about the training in horse show world. Many of us are sufficiently competent that we could train ourselves to compete with the big names when performance is the only criteria. But the high-level success depends on presentation for horse and handler/rider, and the insider knowledge of little tricks in the show pen that get passed around by word of mouth, as well as knowledge about particular subjective fads that could make a difference. The color and fit of the handler/rider’s clothing, for example. Specific grooming and trimming tweaks for the horse. Placement of rider hands. Style of horse tack. Helmet or hat styling. Heads up from the trainer about what needs to be done in competition, including such things as “don’t get caught up in the middle of a big group but stand out in a good way.” And so on.

In writing world, the equivalent is connections with groups, mentors, workshops, writing programs, and associations. In traditional publishing, a connection with someone who is known and sells well can open a lot of doors. Introductions to editors and agents. Recommendations that ensure a manuscript gets a second look. Credentials that boost someone above others. But–there’s a caveat there. Just because someone says “yes, you’re almost there” doesn’t mean squat unless they’re willing to commit to providing references and recommendations for a work that the person thinks meets the target. Talk is cheap, and you’ll hear a lot of that. Someone with clout who is willing to promote you and actually does that is something else, and relatively rare.

Oh, I know, I know. There are lots of people who will splutter and fuss at the above, citing circumstances where an amazing unsolicited manuscript manages to scale all of the publishing walls. And if you believe that, welp, I have a bridge or two for sale.

But the same thing happens in independent/self-publishing circles as well. I’ve been around enough to recognize that the folx who are selling well in these specific sales have a connection to specific indie publishing circles and contests. They’re part of a particular in-group, and being sufficiently present to recognize the linkages makes that awareness really stand out, especially this time around. It doesn’t hurt that I see the same thing happening over on Substack, where certain groups and affiliations lead to more subscriptions and greater notice. I’ve read enough of those journals to be aware that it’s not necessarily writing quality that is winning the game, it’s who you know and what they do to help you. You can be a superb writer but if you don’t have the connections, you aren’t going to stand out from the crowd in a positive manner (I refuse to go the edgelord route).

Which…throws me back onto the horse show analogy, because that’s very true for high-level competitive success. You can have the best-bred, best-trained horse in the world, but you ain’t necessarily winning at the Worlds or Congress if you don’t have the dialed-in connections that help you look credible.

Yes, it’s very subtle and subjective, but…isn’t that true for promoting writing as well?

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