Monthly Archives: August 2013

Plein Air Day One

Sooo….since Worldcon is not in the cards this year, I signed up for a combined Artist and Writer Plein Air Paint and Write Out in Hood River. Writing en plein air essentially means using the impressions of the moment around you to write something, just as painters paint what they see in the moment out in nature during painting en plein air. I’m only able to participate in two of the five days, but I’ve taken in two venues and will do a third (as well as repeat one of the others) today. I have to submit two 500 word pieces. Both will go into the online anthology and one will go on display in the Columbia Center for the Arts gallery along with the featured works of the other writers and artists

Yesterday, we all met at the Gorge White House for a quick reception and goody bags before dispersing around the grounds to paint and write. I got a Netwalk Foundations piece written, which if I can get cut down will be one of my submission pieces. I also wrote a bit on another Foundations novella, then went to downtown Hood River for lunch and some more writing–this time impressionistic notes for a later nonfiction competition, not the Plein Air exhibition.

Roughly 2500 words in all, 1700 or so of them fiction.

Today I’m thinking about either Rust and Flame stories (“Coming Home“), or else Alice Mary (“Beer Goes to War”, from How Beer Saved the World).

I do have some pix.


Painters painting. Lots more of ’em.


An interesting selfie. The trusty Innovator tablet/detachable keyboard at work.

Hmm. Just got two anthology calls in the email today. Methinks I’ll be taking notes for stories.

Anyway, writing is happening and it’s fun.

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And so another school year begins

It’s always a nice feeling when the teacher’s first week back results in a sense of getting stuff done to get ready for the job of teaching. Those systems that get set in place during teacher workdays before school starts can make or break a teacher’s year sometimes. The ability to work out plans with colleagues, develop themes, share some common discipline techniques for consistency–all are little pieces which can contribute to the possibility of a great year ahead.

But that building of a consensus can’t be forced, or administrated, or driven. It thrives when there’s been a bit of continuity, when the team has a history of relationships and experience and is not afraid to try new ideas. Add in a range of ages, gender and experiences, and…stuff can happen.

I’m holding my breath because, of course, sometimes the magic doesn’t work. But there’s a delicate bubble of a school year ahead with potential.

A lot of my feelings also come from several major changes I’ve made in my setup as well as some successful planning time. First of all, the rattly old overhead with the dying and loud fan (which replaced the overhead that didn’t focus) has been replaced by a projector and document camera, cobbled up from various sources. This means I have a wider range of visual materials to use without scrounging around for transparency films (and praying that the copier will cooperate). I rearranged the room to accommodate and protect that technology plus create a teaching work center in the front of the room. I can have a more accessible active teaching center and a more private sped work center.

The tables got replaced by desks. I prefer using desks, but when you have to crowd a lot of kids into a room, tables are easier. Well, I don’t need to crowd kids now (our population is dropping) so it’s back to the desks. They’re less clunky, more flexible to configure, and the kids have a place to put their binders out of other peoples’ way.

There’s an entirely new grading, attendance, and IEP program. The learning curve on this one is HUGE, because it’s an extremely powerful database and can do a lot. I can see the potential with this program, but wow. Figuring it out is going to take some time, and it’s also a complex one to develop. I spent six hours this week in training and…wow. Lots of pieces, but it’s an easy program to work with.

I brought prep work home for the weekend. But when I walked out of my classroom this afternoon, I felt comfortable about kids being in there soon.

That’s a dang good feeling.

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Mocha groks the hill–progress!

I think the circling work we did last time on the slope helped Mocha understand her balance a lot more this time on the hill. For the first time since we’ve started riding down that short little slope, she’s moving more like a horse I’d feel comfortable riding on trails.

The big problem has been that she’s been slamming down hard on her forehand, letting gravity carry her downhill instead of taking short, careful, balanced steps and using her rear end. While it’s been suggested that I lean forward downhill, um, no, not when she’s moving like that. I don’t want to encourage that method of downhill movement with a rider. She’s also really fussy about weight on her shoulders sometimes, and I think that’s another issue she’s had to adjust to because she’s been hollowing out her back when she slops around going down (saddle does not slip forward but it does slip back, her breast collar is always loose when I put the saddle on her but not when I take it off, otherwise it fits her well).

That changed today. She arched her neck, rounded her back, shifted her weight to her rear, and FINALLY started taking short, careful, balanced steps instead of plopping down the slope, mincing along carefully but in control, using her rear end and back correctly. There were a couple of instances when she started to rush again and I stopped her, paused, and then we went on. I could feel her shoulders work through the saddle and braced myself up a tiny bit to unweight her back, and moved off of her shoulders while leaning forward from the waist up. Balanced and controlled. Yay!

Then we circled in both directions going uphill, and again, I could tell that she was more confident in her balance and starting to understand where to put her feet better. She was not hesitant at all about turning in either direction and in fact felt more and more confident the more we did it. Not a whisper of any issue with that right side. So we circled about halfway up, then two-tracked a little bit before just walking up the slope.

Not sure how much more hill riding I’ll be able to do before the rains set in. I really don’t want to ride her downhill on blacktop when it’s wet–that would undo a lot of this careful working with her to understand her balance. I go back to work next week and it then becomes a race against the dark before we go back to Standard Time and I lose that extra light. But I am very, very glad we’ve gotten to this point before I started up work again! If I can get a couple more sessions like that, then I’ll be happy to let it rest until spring. Yay.

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Crosspost testing

Testing, testing….

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Schooling a finished horse through a training hole

Even the best-trained horses can come up with a training hole, especially if their experiences have been pretty much in the arena. While I’ve been pretty firm about Mocha being able to open gates, step over objects (or jump), and walk/trot through water, I’ve not thought much about walking her downhill. There’s a little downhill driveway section that goes past the barn and I’d not thought much about it. Mocha had been reluctant to go down it before and I laid that to barn sourness, focusing on other training things in past summers.

This summer I decided it was time to change that state of affairs. I figure every saddle horse needs a few basics, no matter if most of the time they work in an arena, and one of them is walking downhill under saddle. Not every horse is cut out to be a trail horse, but there really wasn’t a reason in my mind that an athletic horse like Mocha couldn’t do it.

Mocha had different opinions on the subject. She’d start down, then stop, fuss, and either sidepass or back up, but she would NOT go down that hill. Because we were working on blacktop, my priority was to figure this out without freaking her out and getting both of us hurt.

So I broke apart the task, much as I would do as a special education teacher. Antecedent, behavior, consequence. What was the triggering factor or factors? What behaviors was she showing in her resistance? Why was she objecting? Balance, footing, something spooking or frightening her, a combination of that, confusion, worried, or simply stubborn Idontwanna!

I rejected Idontwanna right off. When Mocha shows those moments of resistance where it is a difference of opinion in what she wants to do from what I want to do, that usually comes up in pattern or rail work. Loose rein hacking doesn’t get Idontwanna. She doesn’t balk, usually, she starts speeding up in Idontwanna. A balk during a hack is something else, and there’s a reason for it other than overruling rider judgement.

Spook or fear got ruled out because she was relaxed until we started going downhill. She might have been a bit anxious about going out of sight of the barn, but that didn’t feel like the issue. She was worried, not excessively so, but generally worry on her part is specific to one particular sight or noise that triggers the worry. Worry was a part of what was going on but it was not a frightened worry–which made me think about the other cause of worry, confusion. What was confusing Mocha?

Balance was one part of it. She resisted going downhill both on the grassy edge of the driveway and on the blacktop. Footing not an issue. She would move forward a few strides, then stop on either surface.  If I led her she’d walk right down, nice and balanced, no problem. So balance under a rider–aha.

Mocha is particularly sensitive to a rider’s weight and balance in the saddle. I am conditioned to lean back as a horse goes downhill, to help with balance. The only lean back cue Mocha really knows means slow down or stop. So my job was clear. I had to overlay that cue with programming “except when walking downhill.”

But she was stubbornly resisting going downhill under me, and I didn’t have someone around to lead her. What to do?

She would back downhill. She’d even sidepass, but that was too iffy. So backing it was. When she resisted going downhill, once she got turned around, we backed up about ten feet. I asked her to turn to the right (note this, important) and she resisted. Backed her up about twenty feet, asked her to turn to the right, and she resisted going downhill. More backing up, and then I asked for a left hand turn (note this). She walked the remaining twenty feet to a flat spot. We stopped, I praised her, we walked up partway, turned (I can’t remember right or left) and she walked back down. Rode up further, turned, walked down.

The next time we encountered the hill, she walked down, no problemo, long rein, a little fast. I kept my weight upright and only very slightly back. I didn’t like that feel but getting her down the hill was important. She was walking fast and landing hard but not sliding, not ouching. I just wanted her to get down that hill in one piece on a long rein.

Third time, she started fussing when I leaned further back and pushed my feet slightly forward. I thought we were going to have to redo the backing piece, but I turned her to the left. Aha. More to the puzzle. She’d turn and go downhill going left but not right. I thought on this, both that time and the next time, with similar issues. She was still walking a bit fast and coming down hard on her feet, but I wasn’t ready to work with that. We needed forward without resistance or at least a clue as to why the resistance first.

And then today. I leaned back but didn’t put my feet as far forward as I would for a sliding stop. She accepted that, though she did try to stop a couple of times. I paid attention to the difference between left and right and yep, girl did not want to turn right. Left, no problem. When she was that way on the flat piece I decided this wasn’t a pain issue, it was a particular Mocha brain lock. So we circled left and right on the flat until she’d go on. Then we meandered up the hill, working on circling to the right, turning left when she’d get stuck and not want to go downhill, but moving from a very slight incline to a steeper incline as she did more of it. By the time we were done, she could circle in either direction and stay balanced.

Now keep in mind through all of this that Mocha is a pretty much finished reining horse who can change leads on the rail every three strides or so (it ain’t smooth enough or collected enough to call it a tempi change). I’ve owned her for eight years now and I know her reactions and thought processes pretty well. I know she’s a balanced horse and that rider balance is important to her. Most important, we have a horse-rider bond which extends beyond superficial cues to very deep reading of each other’s mood through seat, leg and hand. With a horse I knew less well or a greener horse, I’d be doing things a bit differently (and not on blacktop).

We’re not finished. I wouldn’t call her a finished trail horse after this, but I definitely want that skill imprinted in her brain and in her muscles. To my mind, it’s a basic safety issue. One way or another, we’ll get it solved.

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Announcements, writer squee!

Various announcements here.

First of all, no Netwalk: Foundations this month, primarily due to website hijinks. Hijinks are now enroute to being remedied and we’ll have the last piece of the Daughters cycle for the first September posting, followed by some truly awesome vignettes. A peek into Sarah’s relationship with Francis Stewart just before the Gizmo discovery, and what Nik and Angela’s private life can really look like (Security in love, right?).

Second, Netwalk: Expanded Edition will be released either late this week or early next week.

And third–drum roll here, though most folks on Facebook have already read this….

I am now under contract to eTreasures Publishing for two completed works; my fantasy novel Pledges of Honor and my science fiction novella Seeking Shelter at the End of the World. Squee! They’ll first come out in ebook but if there are enough sales, there will be hard copies. I’m actually quite excited about this. Pledges is set in a world I’ve been developing for thirty years, and it has empathic horses that are grouchy, temperamental, green-broke and ripping stalls apart, heroic, protective, and so on. Let’s just say that if you get a mental image of buffalo dung from Mira, you’ve just been seriously dissed by a certain gray daranval mare.

Seeking Shelter first came into being in the early 90s, about the same time that I was working on early Netwalk ideas. The McGuffin in this story is the presence of genetically modified environmental modelers, known as Canaries, in a world where toxic clouds descend unpredictably and habitable space is getting short. I’ve not done a lot of development in this world, just one short story, until a few years ago when I wrote a novella, “Pink Cats Dancing at the End of the World,”  for some contest or another (for Samhain?) and it didn’t make the cut. The “Canaries” short story, meanwhile, had managed to win an Honorable Mention in Writers of the Future so I knew the concept had potential. I played with the story, revising and resending it. The novella I tucked aside, planning to send it to the right market when I had time to research novella markets. I sent “Pink Cats”  to a private editor this spring thinking I might self-publish the story. I’d retitled it “You Don’t Get Perfect at the End of the World” because the “Pink Cats” aspect wasn’t working.

Instead, I met the acquisitions editor for eTreasures at EPICon and ended up with her expressing interest in the story (I was at EPIC because the River anthology was up for an EPIC Award and I went with the editor).  She bought it, along with Pledges. But because Perfect was a little shorter than she wanted to publish, she asked if I had something to go with it.

I did–the “Canaries” story, which is set just before Perfect.

And so, we now have Seeking Shelter.

I am very happy about this.

But I also have more words to write, plus a horse post.

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Tap-tap, tap-tap. Anyone there?

Well, yeah, the WordPress site had problems. Long story short, for various reasons including cost, I’ve switched hosts and we’ll see how this does for crossposting to DW and LJ. I still had LiveJournal access and put up a few posts there, but it wasn’t what really worked well. I’m debating about posting the last “Daughters” story this month or waiting until next month and calling August a draw. But that will give me some breathing space on Netwalk: Foundations stories because I’ve just about got enough ahead to last for the rest of the year.

There’s a lot of other stuff going on writing-wise, but I can’t talk much about it yet–some of this is contractual, other parts are in very early development stages. If I can pull this all together, then let’s just say that Good Stuff Is Happening. And…cover squee!

netwalk-ee-cover   Yes, Netwalk: The Expanded Edition will be going live soon!

Besides an updated Netwalk (to include the Gizmo additions), I’ve reprinted two previously published Netwalk Sequence short stories (“The Ties That Bind” from Random Realities and “Cold Dish” from M-BRANE SF 9as well as added two more short vignettes tied into the first two chapters of Netwalk in this expanded edition. As I’ve said before, this is the only time I plan to do this significant a rewrite and reissue of something already published, and the main reason I’m doing it is to insert some major series material that I developed in the second book.

Netwalk Expanded will also be available in trade paperback through Createspace. It was only available in ebook format before. I do plan to have all of the main Netwalk Sequence novels available in both ebook and trade paper from now on, but any novellas or short stories will be in ebook format only, though I will probably do some collections later on.

One project I can talk about is that I do plan to print a collected edition of some Netwalk: Foundations pieces in ebook format this fall. I plan to issue a collected version of The Daughters Cycle and a serialized Foundations piece, Problems at the Andrews Ranch for late fall Christmas sale.

Meanwhile, in other areas, I’ve finished my summer classes and am now getting ready for the school year.

Mocha is doing well, though we discovered a training hole that I’ll be writing about later (going downhill with a rider). The problem-solving around that is interesting. I’ve finally found the right stuff to treat her hooves with, and she’s showing much improvement. We’re gearing up for a show in late September, if everyone stays healthy and sound….

On that front, I bashed my foot pretty badly last week on a bedpost. It was a L-brace that I whacked between my fourth toe and my big toe. The picture is on Facebook, I won’t subject folks to it but suffice to say the colors were interesting. I don’t think it’s broken but now that the swelling’s gone down, there’s definitely been a significant strain to my tendons and ligaments. I’ve whipped out the Vetwrap (I wish, it’s actually the boring taupe human version. I’m planning a tack store visit for something cheaper and more colorful tomorrow) to bind it for support. Otherwise the tendons/ligaments ache worse. With school starting up next week, I’ve got to be able to walk soundly so I don’t bung up my hips. Again.

Growing old ain’t for sissies, but it sure beats the alternative. 😉

We’re at the stage of summer now where evening cooldowns are more likely. Cricket summer. My favorite part of the season.

Anyway, onward to working on stuff. Let’s see how this baby posts.

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