Monthly Archives: February 2020

Writing process: THE RUBY PROJECT

One thing that any novelist worth her words soon discovers is that every book has its own process. Even though I have a more-or-less coherent and somewhat consistent process of outlining after fourteen or so books, I’ve discovered that each story warps that methodology in its own unique way. Just in the past year, Beating the Apocalypse effectively defeated me because in trying to take the novella/borderline novel Seeking Shelter at the End of the World to a larger story, I discovered a hole deep within the storyline and had to put that book aside because I wasn’t getting anywhere with it and I had other books to write. Choices of Honor (Amazon, Draft2Digital) refused to fit into my usual outlining mode after the first quarter of the book–and I figured out at about 60,000 words that this was because there was another story in the Goddess’s Honor series and I couldn’t finish the series with Choices. Judgment of Honor (Amazon, Draft2Digital) was reasonably well-behaved and fit the process, cooperating nicely with the scene-by-scene outline and not pitching me any big surprises (well, except for some of the things that Katerin learns about her parents).

And then I learned about an opportunity and came up with The Ruby Project. From the beginning, Ruby has had an energy and life of its own. Instead of my usual scene-by-scene outline and detailed worldbuilding and backstory processes, Ruby demanded that I start writing quickly. So I started with a rough outline. This changed to a synopsis once I’d finished three chapters because I was pitching the book.

Thank God that particular email got lost and that the particular person it’s going to understands the writing process. Because yesterday, on the verge of 40,000 words, Ruby jumped off of both the rough outline and the synopsis, big time. Now that particular word count is significant, because it’s usually at that point in the game where a writer realizes The Book Has A Problem. It’s normally because she’s tripped over the Muddle in the Middle and needs to rethink everything.

Fortunately, that’s not my problem with Ruby. Because Ruby is near-future science fiction with significant extrapolation from the rapidly evolving field of agricultural technology, I’m reading research as I write (literally, new things are being released weekly which affects the book!), which has…introduced some interesting plot twists that I didn’t foresee when I wrote the outline and then the synopsis. I had some rough ideas but the details are coming into focus. At this point, not only have conflicts shifted (and a new character I didn’t foresee introduced), but I now have a stronger concept of how the storyline specifics play out. But…while I have a general idea of where the story is going, and where it will end up, I have completely invalidated the current road map as expressed in both outline and synopsis. And with a novel like Ruby, which is literally ripping out of my fingers, not having a road map is somewhat…immobilizing.

I’m not a pantser–that is, I write much better when I know where I’m going, in part because I like to write twisty plot lines that require tracking details. Most of the time, the story innovations that evolve as a part of the writing process do not require significant modification and at about 60,000-80,000 words, I’m somewhat accustomed to throwing away the outline because the story has changed enough by that point that I don’t need it to write those last words. The only other story that has veered this much since I started the detailed outlining was Apocalypse, and it had other issues.

I finished my words yesterday and looked at the synopsis and went “oh, shit,” followed by many other swear words because I realized that the projected synopsis was completely invalidated by words I had written over the past week. Don’t get me wrong. They are good words, there’s some great plot twists, but…because this is a complex and twisted plot with a logical progression, in order to avoid plot holes and the need for an extensive rewrite once I was finished, I not only needed to rewrite the synopsis (which I need to resend), but because I’m pitching the book, I also needed to revise the first chapters to match the new synopsis. Now I’ve been scribbling extensive notes on the synopsis about projected revisions. I suppose the first symptom of “hold on, we’re going someplace else” was when I started crossing out entire synopsis paragraphs because I had already dealt with that issue. I realized that I had some pacing considerations to keep in mind, but the biggest thing was that with all the new stuff (that has emerged over the past week).

I literally had no idea where I was going to go with the words today.

So I went to the gym, fiddled around with stuff, and let things simmer. Then, about 11 pm last night, I sat down with Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel and a notepad. By the time I was done, I’d scribbled six pages of specific notes about Ruby backstory needs, things that needed to go into earlier chapters, things that needed to be cut, and…most importantly…where I was going to go with today’s words. And it was 2:30 am.

I got up at my usual time. My brain is sluggish, but I had promised myself that not only would I get my words down today advancing the story (fortunately I think I’ve got 2-3 days worth of notes), but that I would go back and polish up those first chapters and then revise the synopsis. Now that I’m done with this blog post, I’m going to post, then the rest of the day is all about the words.

Wish me luck.

Comments Off on Writing process: THE RUBY PROJECT

Filed under The Ruby Project

Riding log day 17–Feb. 21

Riding log day 17–2/21/2020. Snaffle, English saddle. Melting snow with some ice.

Back to a reasonable approximation of normal life the day after getting back from the RadCon/Portland trip disruption. The horses were up around the fence, and Mocha’s head shot up when I called her while pulling her halter off of the gate. She walked partway to me, then waited because the yearlings had decided to mug me for scratches and beg for cookies. They got their scratches but no cookies. This batch is very friendly and social, and will walk up to me to have their heads scratched as well as their neck and withers. The fact that it’s warming up and that long hair is getting itchy doesn’t hurt, either.

Mocha’s still not releasing any more than a handful of hairs yet, but it’s clear that shedding is not far off. Her coat just has that look. I decided that the next decent sunny riding day is going to start by not just clipping her bridle path but trimming the long hairs on her throatlatch, windpipe, and chest. It’s time, and those are the places that sweat the worst on warmer days with any exertion.

We started off by shooing away a new horse who apparently LOOOOVES Mocha. He nickers at her, tries to follow us, and when she was turned loose, trotted out to join her and her buddy. She seems to tolerate him when it’s just her and Sweetie, but if I’m around and dispensing treats, ear-pinning grouchy mare happens. When we were done discouraging him from trailing along behind us, though, Mocha let it be known that she was in March Mare Mood and did not want to settle into work. She wanted to run. I did let her do two fence lengths of canter, on opposite leads, and March Mare Moment meant she wanted to take the lead SHE wanted to take, so discussions happened. Then we settled into serpentine work at walk and trot, followed by two-tracking before a spell of loose rein. Then we did a decent backing in figure 8. Even though she was grumpy about it, at least this time the circles matched…yay. Followed with spirals in and out and bowties, with appropriate long rein walk spells. Ended with the line of shoulder and haunch turns, and then it was four lengths at the canter. Of course she wanted to insist that the leads were HER choice, not MINE, so we Had A Discussion. All typical March Mare. Ended with spins, still better going to the right than the left.

But she was not gimping like last time, and she had good energy throughout.

I attribute March Mare to itchy skin and seasonal hormonal stuff. She’s sweating enough that combined with hair that’s ready to shed makes her really itchy. I pulled off her halter during the post-ride groom to give her face a thorough brushing. Horsey bliss, with half-closed eyes, soft expression, head extended toward me and leaning into the brush.

Overall a good day.

Comments Off on Riding log day 17–Feb. 21

Filed under 2020 riding log

RadCon 2020

For the second year in a row, there’s been oddball weather around RadCon. Last year it was a late and heavy snowfall that made it difficult for people from the west side of the Cascades to arrive (the Canadians and east side folks managed to make it, however). This year was a dramatic set of floods that could have affected us if we hadn’t known about the alternate routes.

Nonetheless, our usual route over Tollgate (OR 204) was closed due to washouts and landslides from the weekend before. Amazingly, this was done by a small seasonal creek that dries up during the summer. While it did open up again during our stay at RadCon, it’s only open with a pilot car and one lane traffic through a narrow track around problems and road work. Having seen what even a small creek can do during a flood when I was young–the impact of the Christmas Week floods of 1964 on Highway 58 over Willamette Pass–I was not surprised that a seasonal creek could wreak such havoc, especially after hearing that the flows in the Umatilla River were the highest on record. Lots of wet, heavy snow-frozen ground-hard rain and fast temperature rise…yeah. Also elements in the floods of 1996 on the Willamette and 2011 on the Sandy.

But the other difficult stretch was the washout area on I-84 between Stanfield and the intersection with I-82. One lane traffic at 45 mph, and the morning we left, I saw a picture of the damage. A road worker stood at the edge of the freeway, reaching up to touch the road surface with one hand at full extension. Not sure how tall he was, but that suggests at least seven if not eight feet of washout. However, in spite of the weirdness of our GPS, we managed to find our way through Stanfield and Hermiston to hook up with OR-730 and make our way to Washington through the Wallula Gap, so we avoided that area.

Once we arrived at the Best Western (the other hotel, much quieter and with a much better breakfast that’s free) and got settled in, it was time to think about the con. And writing. I’m actively working on a new book in first draft right now, The Ruby Project, and wanted to hit 30,000 words if not more by the end of the weekend. That meant I needed to get at least 2000 words in for at least two of the four days of the trip. I finished off the 2000 for Thursday after we got to the hotel, and Friday I easily hit the goal. Saturday was 1000 words, maybe more since I did some writing in the Green Room. Sunday was nothing, but I did get 3000 words in today, so I’m still on track, more or less.

I had ten panels for the weekend, one of which was a group reading. Most of the panels were heavy on the writing side, with a lot of editing discussion. Fortunately, with the exception of Sunday, my panels started later so I had time to wake up/eat a leisurely breakfast/visit over breakfast with friends/get my words in. Sunday I started early, but since it was the last day of the con, I wasn’t too worried about that. I was more concerned about dealing with the Art Show, since I hadn’t really worked with this Art Show in person (years ago I shipped jewelry to RadCon for a couple of shows. But that’s an entirely different process).

The panels were all fun. I didn’t walk out of any of them feeling like there were issues. Alas, the Social Media panel had light attendance due to registration hassles (3 pm on Friday with long lines at Reg….yeah). I was surprised at how pleasantly well the “I’m A Liberal and I Own Guns” panel went. Nothing toxic happened, but then again, the general consensus was that “yeah, it’s a tool, yeah, we take them seriously, and OMG the muzzle discipline of some of those protesters!!!!” It could have been different, but then this is a convention being held in an area which is still pretty much rural. Most of us had tales about scary moments–all of us were female, and our tales either involved isolated camping incidents or else intruders in an isolated area. The Horses panel went as such things do, with anecdotes and repetition of “horses are NOT motorcycles, LEARN about them before you write about them.” But we all had funny stories.

I didn’t do the party scene at all this year. I am finding that pacing myself and having quiet evenings really does make a difference, as I’m less likely to feel just totally trashed out and half sick if I get back to the room and chill out before crashing. Plus I was running the infuser with an essential oil that the son’s girlfriend gave us for Christmas. At the very least, introducing a little humidity into an otherwise dry hotel room is a good idea.

So overall, a good time. I had one of the cool moments, too, when after a panel a fan introduced herself to me and said “I came to this panel so I could meet YOU.” SQUEE. SQUEE. SQUEE. It doesn’t matter what side of the panelist table I’m on, those moments are still SQUEESQUEESQUEE and make my day. I hope I never get so successful that I get jaded by these moments! I’m so grateful when they happen.

And…I sold a book, and three bowl cozies in the Art Show. SWEET.

A good con. I came home with new books to read, and caffeinated marshmallows to nibble on as needed over the next few weeks. Heh. I ate one before a panel on Friday and started gibbering a little bit later, to the teasing of some of my fellow panelists. That’s all right, it was fun. And they helped me through a late night panel.

I have a nice glow after RadCon, which is always the sign of a good convention. Smile.


Comments Off on RadCon 2020

Filed under science fiction conventions

Riding log day 16

Riding log day 16. Snaffle, English saddle. Slight and occasional gimp on right fore, but not consistent, occasional step at the trot and seemed to work out of it though she trotted off with a mild bob when turned loose that didn’t stop her from cantering on her right lead when she figured out where her buddy was. It may just testify to the need for the latest Adequan shot, which she got today. Last I saw she was assembling her Windbreak of Friends.

Fresh snow last night that thankfully waited to fall until after we got back from RadCon. New horses in the field, one of whom appears to want to pester Mocha. Well, that one learned later that pestering Mocha with a rider on her is Not A Good Idea. Mocha gets pretty enthusiastic about herding other horses if they want to chase her when I’m up. Luckily, said horse also took a clue pretty easily.

She’s not in full shedding mode yet. I managed to loosen a few hairs but no, no sign of shedding. Probably a good thing if the current long range forecast holds, especially in light of tonight’s temps that are supposed to be in the low teens.

In spite of the gimp she moved out pretty enthusiastically. We are getting better at consistent serpentines at both walk and trot, including serpentines with counterbend. Oh, there’s still a few wobbles, but judging by the evidence in the snow, we’re improving. She’s becoming straighter at the two track in walk, with less of that issue of leading shoulder than it’s been. Backing in a figure 8–well, the circle to the right is still smaller and funky, but not as bad as the last time. And the spiral in and out at the walk was a bit closer in size than it was last time. Our bowties are consistent in trot for the most part (just one stretch of one of them was a little rushy, but improved).

She was really thinking about using herself during the spirals, with the low head, focus, and light contact on the rein with a little bit of stretching that goes along with it. I was having to make some minor corrections, but a lot of that felt more like she needed the support of rein or leg rather than any actual resistance, which is good. After a week off due to convention and other stuff, I suppose it’s to be expected. But it felt good and it felt to me like she was using the exercise for what it is supposed to be. Yay.

And I am really, really liking the snow this year for how our riding patterns are coming up. I guess it speaks to the lack of actual schooling that I was doing before that I only noticed how well snow holds working patterns. Either that or I wasn’t really focusing/paying attention to the patterns in previous years, which is also possible since I was focusing on straight line conditioning then. The serpentines looked a little bit like a DNA helix when we were done with them (well, except for the later trot and canter across them), and the spirals looked pretty good. It is a lot easier to track patterns in snow than in dirt, even freshly tilled dirt. There’s a lot more contrast in snow.

Mocha felt comfortable enough with the footing to stretch out in our finishing canter. Right now I am reluctant to do schooling work in canter…but a nice rousing canter that might edge into a gallop…well, the old gal still likes that. And today’s spins to the left were much better, once I waved the right rein a little bit.

We finished off with ground schooling. She’s starting to get back to the pattern of stopping square or close to square again. Consistent work, that’s what it takes.

Comments Off on Riding log day 16

Filed under 2020 riding log

Riding log day 15

Riding log day 15: bareback pad and snaffle, short pre-farrier ride.

I always like to get out and ride the arthritic girl around a bit before her farrier comes. Even though she’s out to pasture and does get meds to help with the arthritis, getting her moving beforehand just loosens everything up.

She knows what’s going on, of course. Different halter. And while I do ride her occasionally in the bareback pad, that usually comes out just before the farrier. Even though her spine has a nice bit of padding on it…she’s still a sharp-spined horse and not as comfy as, say, a Shetland.

There were drifts in the little triangle right-of-way (the old road used to have very sharp curves and is now sharp but still gentler S curves). Deeper than what we’d encountered in the pasture but a good pre-farrier workout. We’d done some warm up walks and were starting on serpentines when the farrier came. Because the main area was very icy (Mocha minced across it with the clear attitude that she didn’t trust the footing), we shod her under the patience tree, on the mats. Safer for everyone involved, and easier to clean up (although this guy is much, much neater than others I’ve encountered in the past).

I don’t know if it was the location or the workout through deeper snow, but for once the old lady was pretty chill. She rested her muzzle against my hand and drowsed a little bit. Of course she did her usual thing and touched her nostril to the farrier’s back–just that gentle brush she does to handlers she likes, and she does really like this farrier. Even if he gets after her if she’s being a stinker (which does happen sometimes).

Still winter shoes in the front only, but odds are that next time in March, she’ll get shoes on all four hooves again. Then we can start road riding in earnest.

Comments Off on Riding log day 15

Filed under 2020 riding log

Riding log day 14

Riding log day 14. Snaffle bridle, English saddle. Mid-30s F, 2-4 inches of snow over ice.

I missed a couple of regular riding days due to weather, meetings, and doing the sale thing at Hurricane Creek Grange this Friday and Saturday. That said, the conditions on Thursday were downright crappy, and even though Wallowa County missed a lot of the nasty flooding that hit Pendleton, Walla Walla, Stanfield, and Hermiston (and which shut down I-84, which is only open now as a detour due to washouts), it was still of the sort that after my Soroptimist meeting at noon, I wasn’t about to strap on the chinks and ride in rain with melting snow and ice. Friday, I was at the sale and searching out flood videos on Facebook as the implications of what had happened in Pendleton became more clear. Saturday, I was at the sale again. So today was really the first day to ride for me since the weather went cockeyed.

Mocha was being standoffish and her buddy got on my stinky list by encouraging her to walk away. We did a somewhat longer straight line stretch because of the length of time away, and because I wanted to get a sense for the footing. In some places there’s ice under snow, in others it’s not as icy. Plus a long section of trot is a decent warmup.

So yeah we did the usual serpentines. My eye is getting better at being more consistent, though the counterbend segments are still smaller and wonky and need work. Two-tracking. Long rein walk, then gather the reins and back in a figure 8. That…needs work as well. Not Mocha–she’s back in the groove and doesn’t throw her head up to resist and bend as much as she used to. But while the first circle backing to the right was pretty decent, the second circle to the left….needs work. Pilot work.

Then we worked in trotting serpentines, then did the bowtie trot exercise, with appropriate walk breaks in between. The bowtie is becoming a relaxing trot routine for her, because she drops her head and picks up a consistent pace throughout. So it looks like I can ask her to do a bowtie when she’s tense at the trot, and she’ll slip into a relaxed mode because this is supposed to be a relaxing exercise with a consistent pace. Yay!!! After that we worked a spiral in and out at the walk. Once again, the circle to the right is very nice and reasonably precise. The left…oh, that so needs work. Again, it’s the pilot error. Nonetheless, she was also stretching and relaxing into the spiral, just as I’d hoped. What trotting we’d done to this point had shown a mild soreness in her right shoulder. She was doing everything right…I just wasn’t as accurate (circles become ovals to the left, or so it seems, both forward and backward).

Another walk break, and then the canter sets, with plenty of walk between. Still four sets. Footing was not such that I wanted to work on canter serpentines, and with shoulder being cranky I didn’t think it was particularly a good idea. Straight line canter, though, with me up in the stirrups and off of her back, hands on her withers like I’m galloping a racehorse? Yeah.

On the way back we did the half turn lines–forehand to haunches, ending with two full turns on forehand and haunches at the end, in both directions. And then we did spins. She’s getting evasive and self-protective spinning to the left, moving her hind end around too much. But the difference between a greenie and an experienced, finished horse? I waved a rein end off of her right side after the unsatisfactory three spins to the left. All of a sudden I  had LOVELY spins. MARVELOUS, CORRECT spins to the left. No, girl. Gotta do it the right way. If you don’t do it the right way, you’ll end up hurting yourself.

I thought those were still in the old girl, especially since she is whipping them out hard and fast in the other direction. She just needs to practice them correctly.

Then we did some ground schooling with the same issue on the ground, only forehand turns to the right and haunches turns to the left. All require her to use that right shoulder, so we’re gonna slow things down and take it piece by piece.

All the same, it was a nice riding day. The next two weeks will be funky due to convention and travel, and then hopefully the weather gets better and we get more training time in. Soon it’ll be time to add in conditioning rides as well. Looking forward to that. Right now it’s pretty much just maintenance schooling.

Comments Off on Riding log day 14

Filed under 2020 riding log

Riding log day 13

I know, I know, I keep promising other blog posts and then here I am with yet another riding log post. Sorry not sorry. A lot of effort is going into juggling stuff right now. But tonight I stepped out on the front porch to watch sparkling crystal snowflakes idly floating down and hearing nothing but the roar of Prairie Creek. So very nice. The second or third best part of the day, behind what it felt like after spending some time on the acupuncture table and what this blog is about…today’s ride with Mocha (the acupuncture part may switch places…).


Riding log day 13. Snaffle and English saddle.

Mocha was grumpy and I was grumpy. I’m not sure why she was grumpy, except that the yearlings started pressing in before we walked away from the herd, but she was grumpy. Me, I was grumpy because of delivery problems with some books coming in and neck pain that just decided to show up this week. Ugly neck pain. Arrgh.

Anyway. We had some discussions about where I wanted her to stand during grooming and tacking. I noticed she was still kind of stiff along her back after Saturday’s ride. Nonetheless, we headed out. Footing had improved since the temperatures had dropped and we’d gotten more snow. I took her out to the far riding area, and asked her to trot once we passed the arena. Then we dropped down to a walk and did the serpentines at walk and trot, followed by two tracking. And there was a backing figure 8 in there, as well as a couple of bowtie patterns. I’m getting a notion to try turning the bowtie into a star at some point…what a quilter thing to do, because there’s several different possibilities that could end up making some nice patterns in fresh snow…but I digress. Still, the notion of translating some quilting patterns into schooling patterns is…um…interesting to contemplate.

Then we did the zigzag trot and turn exercise. Somewhere in the mix we did a line of canter serpentines. But she was getting rushy heading into deep snow, that same left-to-right lead change that can be difficult. So after that line we dropped back to walk and trot work, saving the canter for the very end where we just did a straight-line stretch and extend on each lead. That rushiness told me that she was struggling a little bit with the snow depth, so why push it?

On the way back we did some spins. She’s wanting to move around too much when spinning right-to-left. But I finally got some correct spins out of her in that direction. But it’s not just spins I have to watch with her. It’s the regular forehand and haunches turns. At some point she gets anticipatory and wants to step out of them. I just have to remember to slow down, take a deep breath, and focus on what she is doing.

After untacking and grooming, we did some showmanship schooling. I’ve been doing this all winter with varying degrees of intensity…mostly alternating rate of walk speed and halting to move into standing square. Lately, I’ve upped the ante a bit, with doing forehand turns, haunches turns, and sidepassing in each direction. Yeah, I get a bit of the horsey equivalent of the eye-rolling teen with this stuff. But I notice that she is paying more attention to me when I’m leading her around. Pairing the ground schooling with schooling under saddle (as opposed to mostly hacking and occasional schooling) helps bring out her old self. And even though she’s giving me the ‘tude about it, I think she actually likes being back in the working structure. She’s a lot more relaxed this days, and I can’t help but think it’s a factor.

Yeah. An old show horse is sometimes still a show horse.

Comments Off on Riding log day 13

Filed under 2020 riding log

Riding log day 12 and the January summary

2/1/2020–Snaffle and English saddle. Road ride, approximately 6.5 miles

The mileage on today’s ride is about two miles more than we’ve been doing in the field, but somebody is clearly not just fat but fit. We had unseasonably warm temperatures and the pasture was water over ice, so I opted for the road. Mocha was immediately energized…boy, was she ever energized. It’s been several months since we’ve gone down the road, it felt like March instead of February, and we had a steep rise in temperature followed by (tonight) a swift drop.

Of course, this meant that once we were on the gravel road, there were Many Scary Things. Lots and lots of Scary Things. Then again, she was already UP, as characterized by her sticking her nose into an empty tub of vitamin mix by the pasture gate (something she has seen many times before, and licked mix out of herself) and snorting that deep, roller snort that means This Eats Horses, Be Alert. I was rolling my eyes because she had her nose deep inside the Scary Blue Thing, but also fully aware that it was going to be A Ride.

Which it was. We ended up making many circles in certain places because she wanted to be silly. Some were understandable and others were being reactive for reactiveness’s sake. Luckily the gravel roads are sufficiently soft that we could trot and canter in stretches, as well as work schooling figures. The bowtie pattern is one where she’s clearly starting to settle into as relaxing…yay.

So. Eleven rides in January, one an indoor ride, ten outdoor with schooling. We’ve been able to work at all three gaits. Mocha’s demonstrating energy and a certain degree of fitness, which makes me wonder if she just needed to put on that extra fifty pounds, at least for winter. I lost about a week and a half due to being sick the first part of the month. Not sure if I’m going to get many more rides in during February than I did in January. Besides weather weirdness, I have a bazaar that will eat up two days, a science fiction convention, and a quick trip to Portland. But we shall see.

Comments Off on Riding log day 12 and the January summary

Filed under 2020 riding log