Author Archives: joyceusagi

Announcing the Goddess’s Honor rerelease

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We shall see.

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Marker Training Journal #4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Writing Accountability Post #34

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

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

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

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

Here’s the Beyond Honor cover.

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

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

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

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

And that’s it for this week’s update.



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Writing Accountability Post #33

Cranky internet today, darn it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Mocha update

With all the updates about the New Boy, I haven’t been saying much about Mocha. Part of that has been that I’ve said a little bit about what is going on with the old lady, but not put it out in a single post.

Essentially, she’s twenty-three years old, and old age has come for her. I didn’t really start noticing a change until about April. Up until then, she had been going great guns, sometimes a little slower than usual, but nothing that would raise a warning flag other than “she’s getting older and slowing down.”

Then April happened. Besides losing weight in the seasonal transition, which is normal for her, she started slowing down. Instead of galloping, she wanted to canter easily. This was a change that happened in a span of two weeks. And yet–she had good days where her energy levels were back up to what they had been. However, I also saw that her knees had started getting even bigger–arthritis bone spurs.

She started tripping in May. Most of the time, I was able to catch her and keep her from going down, except for one time on a busy road. But I started riding with two hands on the reins, putting her back in the snaffle so catching her wouldn’t be hard on her mouth. She was still engaged in going out on the road, enjoying looking at things and snoopervising the neighborhood like she’s been doing for the past few years. When we took her to the vet, however, the first thing he commented on was how big her knees had gotten–and he hadn’t seen her for a year. She was reluctant to go into the clinic, reluctant to go into the stocks. Another warning flag. It took her longer than before to recover from the very mild sedation she had been given for her dental work (a quarter dose of the usual amount given for her weight). Still another warning flag.

I rode her up to summer pasture and everything felt all right. Perhaps things weren’t as bad as I feared, and once she was on summer pasture, my hope was that she would gain her weight back and have more energy.

Despite grazing the pasture more aggressively than in past years, she was slow to get her weight back. There were days when she clearly had issues. When she just felt tired. It was rapidly becoming clear that this would be her last summer for regular riding, but I hoped that maybe we could make it last for one more year.

She fell a second time.

I started riding her more in collection because it became clear that this was happening when she was strung out going downhill (but that didn’t explain the first fall). Both falls clearly upset her. I think that was the worst part, feeling her caution afterward and the distressed expression on her face. It was rapidly becoming clear that despite my hopes, retirement for the old mare was coming quickly.

She fell when I was leading her down the road before getting on her.

Two weeks later was the last ride. She didn’t go down, but I was catching her a lot and it was clear that she just didn’t have a lot of energy. Going uphill, she would surge forward like she wanted to break into trot, then slow down. Surge, then slow.

That wasn’t the Mocha mare I know. I rode the last hundred yards in tears, knowing that this was it. I couldn’t keep her going. It wasn’t just the tripping, it was the lack of strength. I had put her on supplements and that wasn’t helping–and more grain wasn’t an option because while the girl likes her grain, she only likes to eat about a pound and a half at a session. More than that and she just seems to get bored with it.

I had already been talking to the barn owner about looking around for a new horse, preferably inexpensive who would need some polishing and could be ready for a new home about the time I get too decrepit to ride. Marker appeared as a possibility at that time, and it was a relief to know that I had a prospect to work with and provide company for Mocha.

It was the right choice. Since retirement, she’s started putting on weight. While there’s a wee bit of jealousy about the new horse, the husband has been spending time with her (he’s coming out with me just because juggling two horses, especially a new one who really really likes people and wants to have lots of attention, can be complicated. Plus just basic safety until the two of us get to know each other better. Even though he’s a good boy, stuff happens). She sometimes watches while I school Marker, but not always. The husband started taking her for walks, but reported that she really doesn’t want to do them more than a couple of times a week.

She’s surprising me because I thought she would be more difficult about going out of work. Not as much as I feared. She’s happy to be hanging out in the field, with daily grain and attention, plus TWO geldings hanging out with her. At the moment she is busily informing Marker that She is the Boss and he’d better keep a respectful distance from her. Having him in the field with her means that she’s moving around more during the day. By herself, she tends to stay in a few places–another horse’s presence in the field with her makes her move around more, which she needs.

I’m not sure how many more years she has. I don’t think this fall is her time, just because she has perked up and gained weight once riding was off the table. However, my guess is that it may be next fall.

Or not.

At this moment, we’re not seeing anything that suggests she needs anything more than retirement from work, lots of attention, and a blanket when necessary. Given the speed with which she flipped from active saddle horse to must retire–now–I suspect things could change very quickly.

This one will be hard. We just passed eighteen years together, six days ago. I had thought we would age out together, but it appears that isn’t going to be the case. Until the end, however, I’m gonna do my best to spoil the old lady and let her know she’s still loved and is important to me. That even though I have another horse and am working with him and loving on him, I still have enough space in my heart for both of them.

And at least I’ll have Marker’s neck to cry on when the time comes. Given his attachment to her already–I can pat him on the butt when we’re done for the day, have given him his last cookie of the day and the final scratch, then tell him “Go find Mocha” and he’ll be off to join her–he’ll be mourning her too.

I just hope that day isn’t as soon as I dread it may be.

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Marker Training Journal #2

What a difference a day makes. If I had written this journal yesterday, I’d be raving about what a perfect day it was with Marker. He was cooperative, trying, and I even got a few strands of bridle path trimmed.

And then there was today. He was being pushy and challenging when we were working with Clipper Acceptance, to the point where I pulled out Ms. Dressage Whip because I was tired of him pushing his shoulder into me as an evasion when I was holding the clippers up to his neck. It’s a safety problem, and we’re now at the point with each other where he’ll accept that correction. Nothing major, just popping the whip against the shoulder when he tries to shove it into me. He accepted the correction as fair, but he still was mad about it. Plus, after such a good day like yesterday, I knew it was about time for a reaction.

Oh, he wasn’t being completely difficult. I looked back at Mocha’s training journals (which really didn’t start up until I’d been blogging for writing, about three years after I got her) and she was being a right royal pain in schooling even after several years together. In a lot of ways, he’s doing better in some aspects than she was, mostly because his current objections have more to do with not understanding what I’m asking/not being fit enough to do what I’m asking very well rather than her “I know better that you do” attitude that she had from the beginning. He’s now at the point where he will stand ground-tied while I pick things up for grooming and tacking–it took her a lot longer to get to this point. My focus right now is to get him to realize that His Pickup Truck is where a lot of stuff happens, and hope to get him to consider it a place to go. Always useful if something weird happens.

The foot-stomping temper tantrums aren’t happening as frequently, and not under saddle, at least not with me up. But he still had a bit of tension left over from the clipper discussion. That piece was a major reversion from the previous day, even before Ms. Dressage Whip came into play to keep his shoulder from pushing into me. I figured that this might mean he would be a little sparky under saddle, and yep, he exploded into the biggest bucking I’ve seen him do so far when I started him out lungeing. Then he tried to drag me–um, no, buddy, that doesn’t work well with a lunging cavasson. That made him even more mad and frustrated, so he took off in a gallop. Not pulling against the lunge line anymore, but running hard because he had that frustration to burn off.

So I let him do it. Then, when he slowed and wanted to trot, I pushed him back into the canter. Dude, I’m the one who determines the pace. Then we did a bit of schooling with the reverse command, at a walk, until sulky boy complied. After taking off the cavasson, I rubbed his forehead and told him he was a good boy and I still liked him, but There Are Boundaries. We went through our regular undersaddle schooling after that. He felt a bit stiffer than usual to the right, but I lowered my hand to about my knee when working on our circle of pearls exercise, and that seemed to help him bend when doing the small circles. And he was trying his best to bend.

He’s pretty responsive to seat and legs, almost equivalent to Mocha and has the potential to become even better. He accepts contact except for some head-tossing toward the end of schooling, which tells me it’s more of a fatigue thing than anything else. He stands quietly for grooming without being tied, and we have gone three days where he willingly gives me his hooves for cleaning and checking. He can be tacked and untacked without being tied or held. He has no issues with wearing a fly mask.

Most of all, Marker’s overall good nature means that he tends toward being cooperative and wanting to be cooperative with humans. But he’s also very affectionate and thinks that means he has to be right in the middle of whatever the human is doing. Which…can be problematic if you’re wrestling with a wire gate. A lot of what he needs to learn on the ground has to do with respecting human space. I suspect he has to learn that with other horses as well since Mocha has been pretty assertive with him about staying out of her space. Old mare can be pretty opinionated on that subject.

In any case, he’s a very “touchy” horse. He wants to put his nostril on a human to touch base. It helps soothe him when he gets nervous.

We started riding out of the field this week. Short rides, after schooling, which right now is lungeing, then several large circles to settle in, followed by circle of pearls (small, connected circles in a larger circle, in each direction) and serpentines, then a couple of circuits in each direction at the trot. After that, we went down the road.

Marker shows promise of being a decent road horse. Years ago, Gregg had told me that I needed to treat road rides as a post-schooling treat for Mocha. They were schooling exercises as well, because she needed to learn how to move outside of an arena. Marker moved off in relaxed mode, on a long rein. He likes looking at things, including cows. We had a group of them come running up to the fence yesterday. I turned him toward them, and they went running off. He got into the notion and now looks for cows. But what is nice is that he isn’t as reactive to the same stuff as Mocha is. We’ll have to see what does set him off, but so far he seems to be pretty chill, at most raising his head before checking in. And he’s as curious as Mocha about stuff.

A very promising start, overall. Even if today started with a temper tantrum, that’s to be expected in training. I’d be worried if I didn’t see the occasional pushback from a smart, sensitive horse because that might mean I’m being too heavy-handed with him.

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Writing Accountability Post #31

In spite of the nasty heat this week, I managed to get some big stuff completed, finally. The synopses for the remaining Cost of Power books is now done, though I had a brainstorm that will require me to revise it next week but that shouldn’t take very long. Maybe a couple of hours on one day. That’s how my synopsis process works. It’s never etched in stone.

I also finished the edits of Federation Cowboy and am ready to move on to production, just in time for a September release.

Then I also made some major leaps in getting volunteer project work done. This means there’s some major stuff off the lists, which is nice.

But what didn’t get done? Promotion and production. Some of that was due to gut stuff acting up, tied to the hot weather and all.

Basically, it’s all about keeping on keeping on.

I’m tired tonight, and not wildly impressed by the notion that I can do this review and summary in the evening. Granted, I got out of bed fairly early today, but all the same, I’m still pretty darn tired. I think I’m moving this summary back to Sunday morning/midday as a result. Even though I suspect that part of what is going on is just weather, especially since we’re due to be getting the remnants of the hurricane hitting here tomorrow. 1-2 inches of rain in the forecast, which is a lot for August in NE Oregon.

Nonetheless, I’m pretty much done with the summer of 2023. So not a fan of our new world of weird weather and hot summers, especially since I remember the predictions that this was gonna happen.

Tired and going to sign off now. Joints are starting to ache, which suggests that we’re gonna be getting hit by the storm soon enough. Sigh. Hopefully I will feel better once it’s passed by and everything stops aching.

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Writing Accountability Post #30–Hot Weather, Planning, and Horses

Chestnut mare and bay gelding in a grassy field, both looking toward photographer.

Well, it looks like it’s the Pacific Northwest’s turn in the really hot barrel this summer. It’s probably a good thing that I’ve blocked out this month for planning, although the speed at which it is happening is painfully slow. On the other hand, I’ve basically completed a 25 page synopsis for one book, and have gotten things going for the second one.

This past week was also busy with appointments–acupuncture (for me), farrier (Mocha), and moving Marker to join Mocha in the summer pasture. While there was some drama, they’ve pretty much settled in. But I don’t necessarily have that horse time to ride and think like I did with Mocha, and I’m missing that. Now that I’m back in horse training mode, my full attention has to be on the horse while I’m working him. Add in temps in the 90s, and, well…much isn’t getting done. Except thinking and planning. On the other hand, these hotter nights give me an excuse to hunker down behind the retaining wall in the backyard and watch for meteors until I get too cool for comfort. Or something. I usually last about an hour, and last night I saw twenty meteors, eight of which were fireballs.

Some of this is also just due to hacking my way through the planning process. Getting my head into Prodigal’s Redemption turned out to be more difficult than I thought, and revealed a hole in my process. I do tend to handwave later books in a series unless I’m on top of the process. I managed to avoid that with the Martiniere Legacy series, but it shows in the Netwalk books as well as Goddess’s Honor. This is really the first time I’ve done detailed series planning beyond a brief sketch. However, I reached a breakthrough when I started listing the book/series endpoints, then went back to the starting points. Now things are starting to come along. Just slowly.

My gut is also being cranky–in part due to stuff I’m taking to ensure better sleep, in part due to the heat. I’m taking a probiotic right now and I think it’s helping, but it’s gonna take time. It’s also an issue that I can’t eat dairy yogurt. Plant-based yogurt isn’t the same thing.

It doesn’t help that I’ve been groggy when waking. That seems to be a greater problem more and more and I’m not sure if it’s a summer pattern due to heat or if it’s a sign that I need to be more active in the morning. With the temperatures forecast this next week, I think I need to set an alarm to get up, then plan on napping during the heat of the day before going out to work with the horses. I’m not riding Marker in these temperatures–yes, he is part-Arab, but he’s out of shape and we have lots of other stuff to work on. Like maintaining human space bubbles, standing square, yielding to pressure when being worked on the ground (he does it reasonably well under saddle) and all that stuff. He’s getting better at standing without being tied, though I’m not gonna drop the rope.

I think it’s telling that the last point on my “Solutions” section of my weekly executive meeting notes is, simply, this: Survive.

Survive heat.

Survive horse training.

Survive planning.

We’ll see how this next week goes.

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Horses! Writing! Writing! Horses!

Bay Quarab gelding with thin blaze and white sock on right hind

That’s actually a pretty good summary of the day; in other words, an excellent day in Joyce world.

On the horse front: yesterday, we moved Marker to the field where Mocha is. There’s a Paint gelding next door, over the fence, who has an intense attachment to Mocha (it doesn’t hurt that she’s the only mare in that area, near as I can tell). That led to much gelding posturing in the latest installment of “As the Pasture Turns.” Squeals, bellows, and of course, The Girl is in heat. But nobody appeared to be hurting today and the three of them seem to have settled. Mocha’s due for a ground driving session this weekend so we’ll see if the two boyz console themselves or if both go into a freakout because The Girl has gone somewhere. Neither of them are all THAT energetic, however, so it won’t last for long.

(if you’re reading this for horse stuff, scroll down. There’s more at the bottom. I’ve bolded the sections to make it easier. But hopefully you’re reading both!)

On the writing front: over the last couple of years of serial drafting, I started a process where I would outline a few chapters ahead in each book I was working on. One–the Martiniere books–was serialized weekly on Substack. The other–all sorts of other stuff–was serialized three times a week on Kindle Vella. I’d work on one project until I hit a wall/had a month’s worth of Vella episodes loaded, then switch to the other. Both books were also different in tone or genre.

I found I kind of liked writing in this process. Generally, I’d get ahead to some degree before I hit a plotting wall. Interestingly, switching to a different book often helped things stir in the stalled project. I’d make notes about the chapters.

Alas, however, I’m not only reaching the end of the already considered projects that I want to put up on Vella, but the Vella bonuses and payouts seem to be diminishing. That also fit into my calculation because with something new like Vella, it either does well for a while until it doesn’t, or else it keeps building momentum and becomes the Next Best Thing. At this point, I needed to stop and consider how I was going to proceed in the future.

I have two trilogies that I’m actively planning to work on. One is a kick-out-the-jams science fantasy trilogy set in the Martiniere Multiverse. One book of that trilogy is already written. The other is the long-avoided Goddess’s Vision trilogy, a continuation of the Goddess’s Honor series because while I resolved one series arc, there’s still a bunch of stuff hanging around. Because I have the one book of The Cost of Power finished, I decided it would be a smart thing to outline the remaining two books, and…I finished that middle book outline today.

Well, perhaps it makes sense to say that it’s more of a synopsis than an outline. One thing I had started doing was writing chapter synopses that I tuck under the research tab in Scrivener. I like the process of having both Scriv and Word open, and draft chapter-by-chapter in Word rather than the entire document. When the chapter’s done, it gets pasted into its own chapter in Scriv. I’m finding that makes things a LOT easier if I need to retcon something while writing. Or if I need to look something up for continuity reasons. I’m really liking this process and am grateful I figured this out.

Then there’s the process of chapter synopses. Instead of deleting changes, I’ve been striking them through. Sometimes I rewrite the whole outline because something has changed. That’s the flexibility of this process. However, I decided that since I’m working in a series, I wanted to have more than the first few chapters outlined. So I sat down after devising some series arcs using my favorite tool, the endless roll of paper, and began to break it out for the second book.

It’s taken longer than I thought to plan out this first book, but the notion is that this way, I can hit the major chapter and character beats, and if something ends up getting pushed into the next book, then so be it (the first book in The Cost of Power, Prodigal’s Return, has had that happen). Fourteen chapters should bring me in at around 90,000 words, maybe a little more.

Anyway, today is one book down, four more to go. I’m glad I planned on just doing planning, production, and editing for August, no drafting or work on anything new other than these blogs. That should give me enough time to get this done. Especially since I also have the new horse to work with.


On the horse front Part Two: Marker’s training progresses. He had a meltdown when husband led Mocha away (we’re concerned that she will feel abandoned and jealous if we don’t transition her appropriately to sharing me with Marker and I wanted a second person on hand to be with her during these early days in a new setting). One thing about this boy is that he needs to move his feet when he gets worried. A LOT. I knew this about him, and had ridden and handled him for several days before making the final decision to buy him. He also tends to be clingy to other horses. Not a big deal; that’s pretty common and I expected there would be some fireworks this first day of working him when his life has suddenly changed. Once he got his bridle and then the saddle on, he settled down.

Then it was taking him down to the area where I want to work with him. Of course, he was tense and worried about the new space. I lunged him a little bit, matching the routine we had established in the round pen and in riding at the ranch. My goal in all this is to get him to relax and chill out before we start riding. It’s a good practice for a horse who is going through a rehab training process, because it helps them get their head into the work. Eventually we’ll stop doing it. Mind you, I don’t believe in the wild careening at high speed either on the lunge line or in the round pen that some people do. What I’m looking for from him right now is calmness and relaxation when we work, and if lunging ends up being the only work we do for the day because it takes so long to get to relaxation, then so be it. He’s not in working condition yet so it’s way too early to ask him for anything too demanding. I’m riding him five days a week because I know we’ll lose days in the fall and winter due to weather, and I want him to get somewhat fit before then. I have to be careful about doing this, though, until his back muscles up like it should.

Husband and Mocha came back as we started to work in the field and I asked him to bring her into the field, for both horses’ sake. It took me a while to get Marker past his meltdown in the field–okay, maybe about fifteen minutes, not a big deal. He kept hanging up on lunging in his good direction, but I just persisted. A few loops on that side, and then I hopped up for a short ride around the field. He settled quite nicely and was relaxed. Of course, Mocha was around and visible.

On Mocha’s part, husband reported that she seemed to be disappointed at just being handwalked down the road. But she’s just reached the point where riding regularly is not a good idea for her comfort. It’s her retirement time. He also reported that she spent a lot of time watching me work Marker. He seemed to pass her standard for acceptable behavior because she reached out to sniff his nose when I dismounted, and didn’t ignore him when we walked back up to the pickup.

(The Mocha girl can get pretty opinionated about horses acting up when being schooled. I’ve observed her pulling mare face–pinned ears and glare–at misbehaving horses.)

Things could have gotten a bit wilder, but what I’m pleased about is that it wasn’t that difficult to reinstall his brain after the meltdowns. That, combined with a productive writing day, makes me feel pretty good.

Sigh. Now I just need to figure out what size of riding jeans I need to replace my Auras that are wearing out. The measurement chart online for Wrangler doesn’t work worth a hoot. Or, as I said to the husband tonight–“I’m too damn old and too damn married to be wearing buckle bunny jeans.” I suspect I’m spending tomorrow morning trying on jeans at the Grain Growers.


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