Category Archives: blather

Lots of stuff going on….

As usual, June is flying by. Between MisCon and 4th of July, it always seems like I’m flying around getting things wrapped up for the end of the school year and then jumping into summer stuff. It’s no different now that I’m working online instead of in a classroom. OTOH, I’m less tired from working online, so that’s a win.

The late spring meant we’ve been dragging on getting the garden running and getting in the wood. But at last, we got the garden finished off in early June and it is happily growing at our friend S’s place in Clatskanie. This past week in Enterprise, we did get two loads of wood hauled, plus horse show stuff…

But there’s so much to blog about and I keep putting it off because, well, who wants to spam the linkage? I’m thinking now that I need to write some things but just not publish them. The alternative is not blogging at all…and I am discovering that I really don’t like that option, either.

So yeah. Time to start writing blog posts and timing them. I will post one soon talking about the two short pieces I have available on preorder right now. I also want to post about politics, because I’m contemplating a few things. I also want to write and post something about a few things I’ve been considering about writing process that has solidified to some extent by now. And then I also want to blog about the horse.

Meanwhile, I’m putting this one up. Hopefully we’ll see a flurry of posting soon.

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Coming up on two years

Two years ago we were on the final stages of beginning our new retirement life split between two houses, and contemplating the Big Scary Move hauling the horse on the longest trailer ride she’d had in her life. While we still had things to do with both houses to reflect our changed lifestyle, including moving the son around in the Portland house, and setting things up there, we were taking the big leap and going back part-time to the place we had fallen in love with thirty-four years ago–the place where we started our post-college life, the place where we committed to each other and began our walk together through life. We knew that the transition would take time. In small places like Enterprise, you can’t force your way into the local scene. While we still had friends here, we knew that it would take time to settle in and get to know people and make connections.

What we didn’t know was if we would miss the urban life, or what shape our lives in Enterprise would take. I knew that I needed to do some sort of work, but what, I wasn’t sure. I had hopes of substituting in the local schools, but soon found that there was a lot of competition. I’d considered trying to tutor and offer classes, but early overtures didn’t quite mesh. So I settled back, focused on my writing, and adopted a “let it flow” mentality.

So far there’s been no regrets. I’ve been working online for my old school district for a year and a half now, an endeavor that started when I was called back to do special education assessment to fill in a big hole that circumstances popped up in February of 2016. Sub jobs are starting to drift my way. I may have some other things coming but haven’t signed any paperwork as yet…so….possibilities abound.

And there are more things. Today was the first day this spring where I took the laptop onto the front porch to write, finishing off the Exile’s Honor novelette that I hope to release by late May. I wrote and watched birds at the feeders we’ve finally gotten set up, and kept an eye on a storm moving across the mountains. Yesterday I took Mocha on one of the long road rides we are starting to do again this spring. We saw bald eagles, redtailed hawks, magpies, red-winged blackbirds, a blue heron, California quail, a ringnecked China pheasant rooster, and lots of deer. We went down a road new to us so she was on her toes, full of energy and lining out in a big, bold, forward walk with her head and neck level, ears pricked forward on a loose rein.

Is it the life I’d visualized and anticipated during all those years in Portland dreaming about returning? Yes…and no. It was a different place between then and now. In many ways it is much sweeter–our little house on the hill has a gorgeous view and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed studying the mountains in all their moods. There are more artists and writers here than there were before. We’re not involved in one of the small town businesses as employees. If we want to hole up and be antisocial for a few days, we can. Or if we want to get out and do things (mostly me), there are things to do. I’m starting to take up quilting, and have discovered that I can be somewhat decent at it. I’ve joined the Soroptimists, and am getting caught up in their activities locally to improve things for women and girls. I’m getting to be known as one of the local writers, and have had a couple of occasions where someone has asked me how my writing is going when out and about in the local shops. The past two Christmases I’ve participated in local craft shows, and hope to do more of it.

My asthma is happier here. I’ve adapted and enjoy the slower pace of life, which includes the possibility of running into people we know at the grocery store and stopping for a chat.

Not all is sunny and perfect, though. The son has had health problems. We fret about making it down to Clatskanie to cultivate the garden with our friend, especially in a damp and cold spring like we are having here. Sometimes the six hours between here and Portland seem like forever.

But then the sun comes out between the clouds, and we get a different glow.

We go down to Portland and get our taste of urban life, and then retreat. Right now we seem to have a decent balance, and I hope that continues. There are times when I think I should be more driven, more ambitious, and fill my days with more activity…and then I look at what I’ve actually been doing, and decide that perhaps I’m all right after all.

Summer will soon be here, with the frenetic activity that comes with it being the main money-making/food cultivation/food harvest/woodcutting season.

I think it’ll be all right.

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Rant: Why aren’t there more good horse novels for adults?

This particular rant got set off by my reading of Lord of Misrule, by Jaimy Gordon. It’s won some literary prizes, is highly acclaimed and…it pissed me off so much when I read it that I’ve spent some time this afternoon composing this particular little rant in my head.

The problem with Lord of Misrule for anyone who has grown up reading any standard juvenile and later on adult horse fiction is that it hits damn near every. single. solitary. cliche in the hardbitten adult horse novel subcategory. Broken-down racehorses at a bush league track, so of course you have corrupt trainers and grooms, fun and games with claiming races, doping, Magical Negro grooms, at least one gruesome horse death, a girl determined to save a broken-down horse, and, and….yeah. Except, of course, it’s all done in a particularly artsy literary style where there are no marks to delineate dialogue (no dashes, no colons, no quotation marks), no character whether human or horse is redeemable, and it attempts to replicate the writer’s perception of racetracker dialogue. And, dear God, the particularly gloomy portrayal it has of horses and humans involved with horses would send a sane person screaming away from any sort of involvement with the equestrian world. There’s damn little joy in the relationship between human and horse, much less love between human and horse or the ongoing nonverbal communication that exists in a good horse/human relationship.

Not that this book is a singular offender. With few exceptions, primarily in genre, when horses show up in adult novels, they’re either poorly written, part of a Spiritual Experience, are unrealistic adult versions of juvenile horse novels or are gritty hardbitten looks at the dark side of commercial equestrian industry. The horses don’t get to show up as horses, complete with equine humor and varying temperaments. Good grief, dogs and cats get better representation than horses in adult fiction. You’ve got to pick up Rita Mae Brown, Natalie Keller Reinert, or perhaps even Jane Smiley to get a more balanced look at the horse world in non-genre fiction, and Brown is more crime fiction, ergo, genre, than mainstream when it comes to her horse lit. And don’t get me started on The Horse Whisperer. That was another book I wanted to throw across the room (but was saved by it being a library book). Yes, you can find good horse fiction in genre–fantasy and romance in particular (though I’m not much of a romance reader).

So why aren’t there more good horse novels for adults? I’ve tried. I picked up one Western-themed romantic suspense novel that was part of a series and ended up wanting to chuck the book across the room because of the inaccuracies in it. Currently my top favorite adult horse book is actually two books, Rider at the Gate and Cloud’s Rider, a short science fiction series by C. J. Cherryh. The nighthorses in these books are carnivorous (and have a love for bacon that any horseperson who’s seen an equine reaction to peppermints will recognize). They’re a telepathic protection for humans in a world where telepathic wildlife would drive humans insane–and the nighthorses associated with humans due to their own curiosity about human minds. The nighthorses are fascinated by human minds–and Cherryh’s nighthorses are a heckva lot closer to horses I’ve known than many non-genre horses I’ve read. Judith Tarr also writes some dang good horses, especially in A Wind in Cairo.

Is it because there are only so many plots that can be told about horses and humans? Somehow, I don’t think so.

What I find myself missing are the stories where the horses are there as companions for their people. Not Companions as in supernatural beings in horse form, but horses as the opinionated, quirky, humorous beings they are. Horses that are well-treated, that have jobs they enjoy doing (yes, there are horses who like to work and be ridden), and empower their humans to succeed in everyday, regular ways. Stories that show the ordinary part of horse world where you spend more of your time mucking, grooming, and schooling than in cutthroat competition. Where the drama of human life that drives fiction is not dependent upon something awful happening to the horse.

I mean…today on Facebook I watched a video clip of a horse kicking butt on an alligator in Florida. Horse saw gator lurking near its herd in a park, and…aggressive horse stomping ensued, with gator slinking away. How likely are you to see this scene happen in a story about horses? Or a story with horses in it?

So, you may ask, why aren’t you writing these stories, Joyce?

Answer: I am, just mostly in genre. And I break my own rules because I’ve done horrible things to my horses in fiction–but the horses are performing heroically before the Awful Thing happens, rather than being forced to perform and getting hurt because of human frailties. They are in partnership with their humans. They’re joined with their humans in battle. Missy in Alien Savvy is not taking any guff off of those aliens, by golly, because she can herd them like she can cows. Mira in Pledges of Honor is fighting right alongside her bonded human Katerin. Narasin in Beyond Honor provides emotional and magical support for her human. Sox in my as yet unpublished ghost story “Lost Loves” confirms for Joni B that what she is seeing is real. Drinker of Wind and Sleipnir in “Tricksters, Horses, and Beer” have an agenda of their own, and who’s to say is manipulating whom…the horses or their Trickster owners?

I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m sick to death of depressing and poorly researched adult horse books, and there ain’t enough of the other stuff around unless I dip into my stash of horse juveniles. Or racing stories from the 1930s. Somehow along the way, the horse stopped becoming what it is–a quirky, opinionated being with an interesting sense of humor–and became an item to exploit in literature. Instead of being a generous companion, it became a shadowy icon representing the baser nature of humanity.

Somehow I think our literature is poorer for this lack.

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Transitions, new promo banner, and trails on foot and horseback

The big transition news isn’t really news to people on Facebook and all. Like many others, I’m leaving LiveJournal for Dreamwidth. The new terms of service from the Russians are just over the top, especially for a writer person like me. I’d previously stayed on LJ in support of the Russian dissidents who use it as a platform, but this last bit….no, I couldn’t do it.  So I’ve been busily adding new people to my circle on DW, and hope that this means perhaps we’ll be seeing some more action there. I’m sad to leave LJ, but knew this was coming. I’d started crossposting from my main blog to DW, and had DW crosspost to LJ. This week I severed the DW/LJ link, then imported all my content to DW. In a few weeks I plan to delete my LJ account entirely, or perhaps just delete all my entries.

The banner news is more fun. This winter, I joined the Wallowa Mountain Quilters Guild and started learning about making quilts. Up until a few days ago, though, my endeavors were limited to making the block of the month, with a vague sense that maybe I wanted to make a book advertising banner that I could have at readings, signings, craft shows, and what-have-you. But it wasn’t until I worked on the April blocks that I realized I had the perfect block pattern to make a quilted banner…and if I followed the basic concept of a table runner, I’d have a banner. I also had leftover space fabric from the curtains I made for the Enterprise bedroom as well as black and silver moon and stars fabric left over from pieces I’d gathered from an old job to help provide craft materials when I was a 4-H leader.

So here it is:

I used it today for a lightly-attended Grange author breakfast. Now I’m thinking about sf-related art quilt ideas….of the wall hanging size, using beads, and perhaps something to take to convention art shows. Have to think about it.

Hubby and I are starting to get out more and hike. Our first year here was full of moving and getting settled in. Last year, the sub testing job in Portland required that I spend at least a week testing students every month, along with working on my current online teaching job. Plus we were busily digging a lot of razor clams–a good thing as the domoic acid levels this winter and spring have kept us off the beach. It is looking now like the season may not open at all this spring/early summer. So this spring we are trying to get out and do more hiking. We’ve done three major hikes–one in Devil’s Gulch near Big Sheep Creek, another at the Chico Trailhead near Sled Springs, and the third with the horse on the Aneroid Lake trail.

All three hikes were fun, but the Aneroid Lake hike with Mocha left me smiling. I had been worried that she might be silly or weird, but instead, she marched right up the trail, was not worried about being with only her human herd, and showed lots of potential for being able to handle a longer hike on a non-icy trail (we ran into patches of packed snow and ice which made us turn back sooner than we might have otherwise). She picked up pretty quickly on the pacing of the husband staying on foot and was willing to stop and wait without fussing. I was worried that the steepness of the trail and some of the things she did to stay upright on the ice (kicking her toes into the ice to gain a foothold) might have made her sore, but no.

Of course, a few days later she was a total idiot on the roads, calling and calling and feeling like a coiled spring under me. But the weather was unsettled, with squalls blowing off of the Wallowas, and a couple of miles of long-trotting on a soft gravel/dirt road took some of the edge off. While we had wind here, it wasn’t as bad as it was further west in the Willamette Valley. All the same, we got hit with gusts that made me sway a little in the saddle. So I can’t blame her for being on the muscle and worried about her herd.

She has moved to a spring pasture with three other horses. It’s set up with two bigger chunks connected by a smaller corridor. I often find the four of them in the back, and bring her up front. What’s funny is she will then call and call until her friends come up front to join her, and then she settles. This is new behavior for her–but they will come. She also starts calling to them when we get close to the place, and they will answer–and come up to hang out until she goes back out with them.

I’m still just amazed about the difference that a couple of years makes. Two years ago, we were preparing to move her here. She was still struggling with the white line disease and I think was in pain from arthritic joints in the process of fusing. She was depressed and sad. The whole change completely upset her, but given all she had been going through the previous year, in retrospect it wasn’t a surprise. Now, as she prepares to enter her third summer in the Wallowas, she’s completely recovered. There aren’t many 17-year-old horses who feel like they’re seven years younger on a stormy day like yesterday energy-wise, and I’m thrilled to have it happen–I’ve ridden a number of horses her age in lessons, and she just doesn’t feel that old under saddle. Her topline has filled in. She still shows a little rib, but the vet has pronounced her as being in good weight.

Mentally, she’s much more independent than she used to be. That comes with running with a big, stable herd over a rough winter. I’m glad to see it because I notice that it seems to contribute to her being more confident on the roads and trails. I would not have dared take her out on the roads in conditions like yesterday last year. Everything would have made her nervous and worried.

So all that is going well.

I’m working slowly on the writing right now. I’m not sure why that is. I can get going in small pieces–I have a couple of short stories out there that will be circulating, and all, plus I am contemplating what Challenges to Honor will be about. I think part of the issue is that I’m not seeing a lot of sales and I just haven’t had it in me to get out there and do the promotional work. Perhaps the cold, harsh winter? Or just a need to recharge? I’m not certain. Part of it may just be that I am dedicating a lot of energy to defeating the myofascial pain syndrome that has been intensifying over the past year and a half. I think I’m on track for a solution, but I’ve thought that before. One problem is that no one solution works for very long. Whatever it is, though, it interferes significantly with my sleep.

On the other hand, perhaps just putting energy into building my community networks in Enterprise may be part of the situation. I don’t know. It may just be recharge and recovery from the intensity of the past few years. It may be recovering from being totally pissed off at being slammed back into the situations of the Reagan administration politically, with less competence at higher levels (and that’s a scary thing to consider). I do think that this last election has uncovered issues that have been festering since Watergate, and need to be dealt with. I really, really didn’t want to live through these sorts of time at my age–oh well, it is what it is.

I do know that I need to get a newsletter out soon. I need to blog more. I need to do many other things.

And maybe it’s just that I am finally settling in and giving myself space to do so. We shall see.

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Slow dancing toward the apocalypse…or is it snowpocalypse?

 

March 1 in the Winter That Never Ends. Winter 2.5 in the Wallowas, with the weight still tilting heavily toward cold and snowy rather than less cold and less snowy. Of course, this winter is closer in severity to the winter of 1981-82 that we spent here before moving to Portland. But then we left before the chinook and the melting and the transition toward temperatures around freezing. Tonight, I sat out in the porch at 31 degrees F and felt perfectly comfortable. Almost tropical. Then I had to laugh at the idea of 31F feeling warm. But it does, after subzero temps and serious cold like we went through this winter. It’s rewarding to be here during the sloppy wet not-quite-mud-but-still-mud season. Beats the pants out of the early spring season allergies plus mud on the Wet Side.

But we aren’t done with snow. It’s snowed twice since we came back from the last trip to Portland. One time was a dusting, the other a snowfall of about 3 inches. It all melted. We still have the big piles of glaciated snow from the earlier snow, but it’s not like it was. Mocha and I can romp in the field and even play with a little bit of lope in the current soft snow that she can brush through without postholing. We’ve both learned a lot more about dealing with snow under saddle this winter.

The writing proceeds slowly. I  look at my publishing plan for this year and shake my head. But when I made this plan back in January, I still wasn’t accounting for the change that my decision to become more active in community affairs makes in my writing schedule. Also, I didn’t anticipate the sudden rise of anthologies–humorous and political alike–that I want to submit to.

I have decided that short stories take longer to write than their novel versions. In the novel, I plot aggressively and in detail, but in executing the work, I have about 2000 words a day to play around in. I can rack up that word count.

Not so with the short story. I’ve figured out that if I try to plot a short story as rigorously as I do a novel, then I start throwing everything but the kitchen sink of backstory into the short story and…um, that doesn’t work. I have to have a rough idea and then pants it from there. Let the story flow from my fingertips, and fix it after I’m done.

The current project is for Alma Alexander’s Children of a Different Sky anthology (see here for the Indiegogo–please contribute as the proceeds from the anthology’s sale go toward refugee programs). A modern witch going through an experience similar to a Jewish person during the Hitler era…with inspiration from Jo Walton amongst others. Next, I have another possible political theme, plus a humorous anthology to think about. None of these little projects have been accounted for in the writing plan, but…things change.

At times I feel like the main character in my story “Slow Dancing in 3/4 Zombie Time” that came out in Zombiefied I. Things are happening. The world has changed so quickly that I don’t always grasp it.

But then things happen that I can understand and relate to what I am doing, and I get a quick glimpse of what could be.

I just wish those glimpses were more than ephemeral.

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The days are too freaking short

Yeah. I know, it’s wintertime. I live most of the time in a mountain valley that’s had a LOT of snow in it since early December or so. I should have lots and lots of time to write, do crafts, and blog, right? That was my plan.

Weeelll, instead it’s been OMG the social whirl! Part of this has been connected to dealing with the weather, of course. We got socked with serious subzero temps in December along with big dumps of snow and downright crappy weather outside of the valley (not that the valley was necessarily without winter). There were a number of December nights where I entertained myself by looking at the weather forecast on the smartphone that claimed the temps would go up 10 degrees in the next hour…only to see that hour pushed further and further out. When you are talking about the difference between -14 and 4 degrees F, well, that’s significant.

Then there was dealing with the snow. And cold. Even though things have warmed up, several weeks ago we got the warning that ground frost levels had dropped to the depth of the city water mains, and we needed to keep running water 24/7 to keep the mains from freezing. After having a brief flirtation with frozen pipes early in December, we took that warning seriously. Still, we’d get a drop of around 4 inches of snow, which meant we needed to dig out the driveway to keep things open. One thing we discovered about the first winter here was that ice tends to form right off of the bottom step out front. Well, it didn’t this year, possibly because we kept digging it out. All the same, days on end of subzero temps where the daytime temps might break single digits above zero…MIGHT…led to a certain amount of survival prioritizing.

First of all, the snow was too deep and it was too cold to safely ride. I spent a lot of time just going out to the barn (if the roads weren’t too bad) to give Mocha petting and grain. We sure didn’t do a lot of riding this winter as a result. But part of my going to the barn also meant checking the big trough for the pasture horses, because they were sucking it dry 2-3 times a day. The water trough is heated, and there’s not a lot of moisture in hay. They were eating 35 pounds of hay a day or more during the worst weather. Mocha went through it just fine. One day I brought her into the barn because it was icy, she had front shoes on, and between freezing rain and wind she was having problems staying on her feet. I took several blankets out to the barn, figuring I’d need to blanket her.

Um. Nope. Even though she had ice in her mane, ice on her back, ice in her tail…no shivering. And she made it clear that She Was Not Staying In Any Stinking Barn. In her past life as a stall princess, you could leave her stall door open and she’d stay put. Not now. I went to fetch her some grain and hubby went to get her more hay, leaving the door closed but not latched (it was a gate, not a sliding door). Little Miss pushed the gate open and marched out, heading for the pasture in spite of hay in the trough. I intercepted her, put her back in, and once she was done with her grain, she tried to push that gate open and leave once again. We ended up leaving her in the barn for the day, but by late afternoon she was ready to go back out. Hey, she’s holding her weight just fine, she’s sound, and today we went for a short ride in snow that’s still deep but not too deep for a short ride, especially with conditioning time coming up.

Secondly, just keeping the house warm and keeping ourselves warm could be interesting. We use wood heat with radiant oil backup, and have winterized the heck out of the place. The woodstove will hold a fire most of the night, especially with a pair of oldsters who wake up in the middle of the night and throw a log on. Still, when temps dropped to the subzero level, there would be a period where things got cold. Hubby and I got really coiled up together at that point. When it’s that cold outside, even insulated walls radiate the chill.

Thirdly, getting out and walking around, while doable, also required caution because of ice and slick spots, as well as burning calories in the cold.

But add to all that my getting involved in some local groups, and yeesh. I’m liking it, but I’m also finding that the community (as I already knew) had a lot of things going in the depth of winter.

Now things are getting warmer. Oh, temps in the high 30s still feel positively tropical. Mocha is having to relearn how to carry a rider in something other than a tractor track and that breaking through crusty snow does not mean she’s sinking into a deep morass. Grass and plants pop out green from under the snow. One of our local roads has turned into a roller coaster due to frost heaves over every culvert.

And now, suddenly, it seems to be easier to focus.

Interesting how that works.

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Winter moods

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Today one of the neighbor kids told me she was tired of all the snow. I smiled to myself, remembering when I heard that from Government Camp kids who lived for skiing and snowboarding. Only in the case of the Govvy kids, it took until April, of a rather cold and snowy year, for them to tire of it. This year certainly seems to be shaping up to be one of those years.

And yet I’m still not really tired of the snow. I am tired of the -20 temperatures, simply because they make everything so hard. But teens and twenties with the snow? Not so bad…if I could only get my ski boots on so that I could enjoy it. But both my ankles are rebelling against going into the boots, so I’m working with them twice a day to see if that will help (and they are Really Nice Boots, too!). If it doesn’t? Guess the skiing days are over. I’ll miss that, but I’ve lost my condition and strength, plus the way the ankles are stiff? Not necessarily a good sign that I should be doing it. I didn’t think it would be ankle flexibility that would put an end to my ski days.

On the other hand, there are simple moments to enjoy even without the skiing. I’d much rather march through snow than rain. Cold rain that sends tendrils of wet ice into your muscles and bones is no fun at all. Snow in a dry climate doesn’t act like that. The cold, even the subzero cold, is a weight shoving against you that can be kept at bay with enough shielding and heat. Even when it crawls into the house at 20 below it doesn’t possess the sharp, bitey edges of damp icy rain. The boots I have now are much less slick than the boots I had 35 years ago, when I remember slipping and sliding around Enterprise at 20 below. Then again, it’s a newer era and I bought good snow boots for skiing and work with an eye toward safety and comfort.

This snow can be easily swept or scraped out of the way.

But there needs to be routines to deal with it and the cold. Below about 10 degrees, it’s time to turn on the water to a trickle at bedtime so the one junction where the water comes into the house doesn’t freeze (or the meter, either). Turn the thermostat so that the furnace switches on in the early morning, when the last heat from the wood stove fades. Watch the thermometer on the wood stove to keep the temps running as they should.

Remember to drink water. In the dry cold it’s easy to forget about keeping hydrated. Until Mocha went through her first winter at pasture I worried that she might not drink enough. I shouldn’t have worried. She took to drinking from a heated trough easily and continued the trend I noticed early on of drinking more than I remember her doing in Portland. This year, I notice more how she savors the warmed water when she drinks, dipping her lips in the water and drinking slowly. Last year, true, she was low in the herd hierarchy and ran with a herd member who wanted to fight everyone. This year, she’s friends with the herd alphas and has a comfortable place in the hierarchy. That comfort gets reflected in her relaxed behavior at the water trough.

Going outside in subzero temps definitely requires forethought, layering and planning. Scarf/neck gaiter, hat, gloves, sweater, coat, boots. One set of clothing for the barn–heavier because there’s more wind out there and I’ll be out longer than I would be walking around town. Another set for going to meetings or walking around town. Still another set for inside the house where the wood stove makes it quite temperate.

And yet I won’t trade one whit of it for the damp and the rain.

 

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The social whirl of a hard winter

Once New Year’s faded and another wave of sub-zero temps descended upon Enterprise, it seems like suddenly I’m finding all sorts of Things To Do. I joined the Soroptimists, visited the local dressage chapter’s meeting to find out about their shows this year, attended a presentation about local historian Grace Bartlett, had a writing date with another local writer, and went to the Quilter’s Guild Sew Day. There hasn’t been much opportunity to do anything with the horse because it’s either been too cold to ask her to do much, or I was down with a 24 hour bug plus all those social things I was doing. And, oh yeah, working on the production side of Netwalking Space plus starting a new Goddess’s Honor short story to help me work out some worldbuilding elements.

It has been beautiful and sunny. But even in the sun, the highest temps have been single digits, and at night they’ve been approaching -20 F in places. We drove up to Wallowa Lake the other day and saw rafts of loosely forming ice floating on the surface. There’s a foot and a half of snow on the ground, more where it has drifted–but thankfully nothing like the Grande Ronde Valley on the other side of the Wallowas. Traveling outside of the County is a challenge right now. The road to LaGrande is closed at Elgin. Even if we could get to LaGrande and I-84, 84 is closed to Pendleton. The Tollgate pass from Elgin to Weston and then Pendleton is closed. The only way out is north, over a twisty pair of grades descending into the Grande Ronde River, then climbing back out to get to Clarkston…and even so, the way the weather is throughout most of the West Coast, I’m not sure anyone can get anywhere right now.

It’s been a tough winter so far. Lots of people report frozen pipes, stubborn vehicles, and other weather-related mechanical issues. The deep snow makes it difficult for ranchers to feed, and it’s deep enough that the deer are struggling and getting into haystacks or eating landscaping in town. The other day, I saw one of the town fawns hunkered up next to an evergreen bush, not even trying to eat but shivering (at -4). I’ve seen town deer right up next to people’s houses eating shrubs.

This is the weather we expected when we bought the place in Enterprise–foot and a half snow, periods of significant subzero cold–but didn’t see the first two winters we owned it. It’s much the same as what we went through 35 years ago–lots of snow and cold. But this house is much more sturdy than our little rental was (although the same vintage), and we winterized it pretty thoroughly. So far it seems to be working. On those cold subzero nights, the radiant oil heat (yes, in old-fashioned radiators) kicks in for a few hours once the wood stove dies down. During the day, the little stove heats the house up pretty well. We’ve also been baking to supplement the house heat.

Mocha is doing well so far in this weather. She’s relaxed, calm, ready to eat anything that presents itself as horse food, and has the energy to be a bit snorty when I ground drove her the other day. Too cold to ride, too slick to ride, too deep to ride–I realized that I could do some bending and suppling work by ground driving her for five to ten minutes. If the footing hadn’t been slick, I think she would have broken into a trot. She’s got a good solid fur coat and looks good. Her attitude is good as well–she’s coming up to me in the pasture and is ready to get her grain and a little bit of work. I mix her grain with a bit of water and crushed peppermint, and these days she comes up to where she can watch me in the grain shed.

Arrgh, this post seems so flat and prosaic. I had visions of it being vivid and descriptive and wonderful…and it’s just bleh. Oh well. It’s wintertime.

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Wintertime, writing, new short story release up on Amazon, and other stuff

New fantasy short story release on Amazon with other sources (Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iBooks, etc)  to follow! The Goddess’s Choice is more relevant to the next book in the Goddess’s Honor series than it is to any of the stories I’ve published in that universe so far. You’ll be seeing Vered there. In any case, here’s the cover, link, and blurb:

cover

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N6IN53D

Vered desperately wants to become a Sorcerer-Captain so that she can command a ship free from the demands of her cousin, Emperor Chatain of the Miteal. But first she has to prove her worth to the Goddess Terat. Will she succeed?

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As for other things. This winter looks a lot more like the kind of winter I anticipated in Enterprise. We just went through a short period of sub-zero temps, including two nights of 20 below 0 (Fahrenheit) which led to our water meter freezing up as well as the place where the water line comes into the house. That meant yesterday was a bunch of excitement and drama, starting with the discovery of the problem at 5:30 am, the scavenging of water sources around the house, the pilgrimage to Safeway to buy more water when it opened, the calling of the plumber, the calling of the city public works emergency line, and lots and lots of the boiling of the hot water. Plus the buying of the small heater to thaw the link inside the house. Nevertheless, everything got thawed, the meter got more insulation, and we are taking other preventative measures. This was a blockage that had all the experts scratching their heads, but I’m just grateful we didn’t have to dig through a foot of snow to dig up the water line and thaw it that way (it’s all plastic, folks, which is actually more forgiving than metal but still…fewer thawing options). The freezing happened between midnight and 5:30, which did surprise us, but hey, it got fixed and all is good.

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Mocha mare is getting along just fine with the herd. The picture is her on one of those subzero days. I’d given her some grain mush and turned her back out, and she was in no hurry to move on, especially since the herd was close by. I thought about riding today since the temps are warmer than it’s been for a while, but I’m still tired from yesterday’s excitement and hey, this is the first day of my official school break. Plus my gut is kind of grouchy today, so I just decided that I would vege out inside for once.

Besides, I finished a short story yesterday and that drug on until 9 pm. It’s a ghost story set at a horse show, playing with the all-too-common tropes of sex, drugs, and horses. I approached it as more of an exercise–one of those picture prompt types of stories. The ghost story is hopefully enough for me to tweak for genre publication should it not be picked up at the first market. I might try a couple of more literary markets first, but we’ll see. I’m somewhat allergic to paying to submit electronically, especially since genre markets don’t charge in comparison to the small press literary market. No matter what, it’s an addition to my inventory, a good one to replace The Goddess’s Choice. I’m going to give myself a week or so before looking at it again. I’m just pleased with myself because I wrote it in four days. Go me.

I’m poking around at Klone’s Folly and it’s about time to get back into it full bore. Then it’ll be on to Challenges to Honor, the next book in the Goddess’s Honor series. After that, probably the Weird West book. It feels funny not to be thinking about a Netwalk Sequence book–this will be the first time in about ten years that I haven’t been writing something in the Sequence. But that’s the life of a writer. I do want to put out an omnibus edition of the Alex and Bess novelettes, and will do that as soon as I get around to it. I do have a followup SF series, but the Star Shepherds book is significantly far-future and will be different. It might be a series…it might not. I’m just thinking about it now and chewing at the idea.

Maybe it’s the Solstice thing. I just want to hang out and chill a bit, read a book or four or five….I have been reading a lot this year, and tracking my reads on Goodreads. It’ll be interesting to see how many more books I add before December 31. We’ll see what plays out.

Meanwhile, I feel an urge to go curl up by the fire and work on the current book…..

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A hectic three weeks and some political musings

This morning I took a deep breath and finally unpacked. It’s been an intense three weeks, between Orycon and the Jingle through Joseph Christmas bazaar, especially given we’re at the beginning of winter with all the uncertainty that carries with it. Orycon was the weekend before Thanksgiving and was quite a good time, enough that I’m still catching my breath and need to update all my contacts gained as a result of the con. Then, even though I didn’t work the week of Thanksgiving, I plunged into the last rewrites of Netwalking Space so that I could get it off to the editor. Thanksgiving day, we had a quick brunch with the son and then hit the road so that I could run up to Joseph and set up my table for Friday and Saturday. Sunday, I caught my breath, then plunged into a week of work where I ended up working not just the regular part-time gig but one day of substitute teaching as well. And riding horse, and finishing up Netwalking Space, and seeing friends…then back to Joseph for an intense Friday and Saturday of selling books and jewelry as well as working on an embroidery project.

So today, almost three and a half weeks after I first packed up for both Orycon and the bazaar, I unpacked everything. I still have some work to do to get the office back in order, and things organized with an eye toward beginning work on Klone’s Folly. Plus there have been some local volunteering projects of interest, and I discovered a local organization that has Sew Days, and I may have finally hooked up with an organizer of the local bazaar circuit…

And then there’s the political stuff. I made a decision last week not to stress myself out for the pre-inauguration preliminaries. It’s going to be a long four years of outrage, and pacing is going to be important. I sent some extra horse stuff with a local person to Standing Rock. I’m involved in discussions and planning about activism. But another choice I have made is that I will be locally active as a volunteer to help build and sustain the community. Not so much PDX as Enterprise, simply because there are fewer people in Enterprise and so more hands are needed. I am not getting involved in political organizations. I applaud my friends who are, especially those involved with reforming the Democratic Party (mess that it is in Oregon). But I did that in the 80s and 90s. It’s time for those who didn’t do it then to do it now. I don’t have the energy or the patience to deal with the repeats of the fights of those days, and from what I’m seeing it’s the same old shit all over again.

That said, there are things which can be done to help the local community. That’s where I’m going to start.

Oh, and phone calls once we’ve got actual confirmation hearings. And Medicare/ACA-gutting bills.

Community, though. That’s where it starts. Community.

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