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Marker at six months together

This horse. This mystery of a horse.

Late winter and early spring have been a bit of a challenge because Mr. Boi is acting in a studly manner when he’s in turnout with the herd, and he’s been dropping his Male Appendage regularly when being handled, which is NOT good manners for a boy horse, whether intact or gelded (we have a couple of questions about how well the gelding process was–more further on). I’ve revised my mental estimate of his age to the younger side, because whether that’s true physically or not, it’s certainly true of him mentally. He acts like a seven-year-old to eight-year-old horse who hasn’t been handled consistently on the ground, and his attitude reminds me of a seventh grade boy. In other words, he can’t find his behind with both front feet, and he ranges from sweet as pie to absolute asshole, often within minutes of each other. The epitome of dorkitude. But it’s also how he’s built–even for a mostly-Arabian, he still looks to me like he needs to fill out and mature. Depending on the individual horse, that can happen from age seven to around ten. I’ve seen that degree of variance. Mocha hit physical maturity at age nine–there was one day when I looked at her and said “you’ve grown up.” But her neighbor in the stall row, Adam, a royally-bred Quarter Horse gelding from western pleasure bloodlines, didn’t hit that stage until he was ten. Which is why I’ve been cautious about distinguishing mental from physical age when talking about Marker. He reminds me a lot of Adam these days.

Under saddle, however, progress has been moving right along. We’re still a ways off with canter, at least for my purposes. Most of the time he picks up the correct lead, but it takes him a while to get into it. Eh, fixing that comes with time and he’s getting there. Arena time this summer will help a lot with that. It took a year to start getting Mocha settled into canter and it may take that long with him as well–a question of strength in part, but also just plain an issue of footing in his case. I’m introducing counterbend a lot earlier than I did with Mocha, the same for two-tracking. From the very start he’s been doing both correctly–do I think he had been trained to it previously? Not sure, but if it was, it was very lightly done. We’ve gone down the road several times and I’ve been pleased with how he handles riding out. He’s on his toes, but not the coiled spring that was Mocha, especially in spring time. He startles but listens to me, and he’s less reactive than Mocha (doesn’t hurt that he’s not yet as powerful in the front end as she was, to the end of her riding days). I can easily talk him past things that worry him–which gets to the opening line.

This horse. I’m humbled by the degree to which he demonstrates trust in me–and started doing so early on in our relationship. He showed this yesterday when we took him to the vet. He has a large divot in his neck, about the size of my palm and a couple of inches deep. The vet was amazed by it, and called several assistants to take a look at the scar. I made the rational assumption that he would be at the minimum worried about a vet visit, and at the worst freaking out, based on how reactive he is to clippers trimming his mane close to his scar.

He was worried, but that was it. Calmer in the trailer than Mocha is, with less pawing, no kicking the wall, and no screaming. He trembled in the trailer at the vet’s, but unloaded, and…immediately looked to me and hubby for reassurance. His only indication of worry was a wider flare of his nostrils. Then he would turn his head, brush a nostril against one or the other of us and…that soothed him. I walked him around and showed him several things. He followed me confidently, with only a couple of his worried honking snorts. Whenever something bothered him, he turned to us. He entered the examination area willingly, and followed me into the stocks with no fuss. Well-behaved throughout dental and sheath cleaning procedures, even though the vet felt he hadn’t had much if any work done on his teeth previously, except for the removal of wolf teeth when he was gelded. The vet cut down his canines (they were long for a horse. I have the tips, and may combine them with a chunk of Mocha’s teeth for a piece of jewelry, perhaps in combination with tail hair from both).

He stood with a minimum of fuss for a blood draw to check his testosterone status, because he’s been behaving as if there might be problems with his gelding. Or he could just be a studdy gelding. It happens. Nonetheless, we need to know if he’s throwing off excess testosterone for a horse who isn’t supposed to possess those organs. If it’s a retained testicle (worst case), then for his health it’s a good idea that we do something. The vet had a story about one case he encountered where he found a partial testicle in one gelding, then…a complete retained testicle in the abdomen. Besides being an issue for pasturing him with mares, there can be long-term implications, so…we’ll know next week.

Otherwise? It appears that I got lucky and ended up with another horse who hopefully has a low-maintenance mouth for dental work (in horses that’s an issue of uneven levels in the molars, as well as sharp points and spurs that can rub the inside of their mouth and cause ulcers there. They don’t get cavities filled, in part because horse teeth keep growing until they’re older, and they wear down because of the grinding effect from grazing). His overall health is good. And now he has all his shots on board. That’s a relief.

But most of all, he demonstrated that he trusts me, and he trusts hubby. Even though he’s only been with us for six months. Mocha has always maintained an attitude of “I trust you but I’m checking details anyway,” and it took her longer to reach that point with me. Marker is generous with his trust, it appears, and he’ll follow me just about anywhere, it seems. Which is–humbling to consider.


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And…still dealing with the slump

Well, I got all ambitious and…nope, it’s not gonna work for being aggressive about blogging.

The first two months of 2024 have been somewhat of a coming to terms with myself about writing, letting go of ambitions, and accepting the fate of obscurity. Lemme tell you, letting go of a dream of making it big in a creative field is not an easy thing to do. Nonetheless, for the past few months I’ve been wrestling with this concept.

It was rather ironic that I read another newsletter about quitting Substack and getting off the hamster wheel of chasing subscription income and developing an influencer following just this morning. The person in question was pulling back to their Patreon, deleting their Substack, and just backing out entirely.

Which–I spent a lot of time thinking about this. Whether I could draft enough blog posts to maintain a weekly schedule. After all, I used to blog on LiveJournal just about daily. However, that felt different from Substack, or even what I’m doing now, which is posting on my WordPress blog, then to Dreamwidth, then sending it to a small list of subscribers via SendFox.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I just don’t want to obsess about my audience anymore. Seriously. One of the big issues with the Substack model is that there’s an almost constant pressure to keep putting out new work, and do what you can to remain visible. I ran into the same issue with my newsletter plans at the beginning of February when I realized that I wanted to spend some time wrapping up the conclusion of Crucible and moving on to Redemption, so that hopefully I can release the three volumes of The Cost of Power later this year, and move on to other work. Thinking about doing the bare minimum of posting made me flinch, and felt like a Sisyphean chore. I–just didn’t want to do it.

The other thing is that I am mourning the loss of a dream, and have been since December. I’ve dreamed about “making it big” as a writer for damned near sixty years now. I sent out short stories in high school. Never sold a one of them, and at times I wonder if I should have mentioned that I was a high school student. However, I’m not sure that would have mattered in the early ’70s, especially since I’m female. I’ve wondered if I should have started out under a pseudonym using initials, though the obvious one is already taken, and the number of Reynoldses out there is downright appalling.

I’ve been writing and submitting off and on since then. I had started to really push hard in the ’90s, but mistakenly listened to a so-called “friend” and tried to sell essays instead of fictions. Additionally, my spouse was working long hours which left me with the primary responsibility for raising our lovely but challenging son. As it was, I probably spent more time working at writing when I should have been parenting. But I had this dream. In retrospect, I should have been parenting more, writing less, especially considering what has happened to the dream.

Look. I have a decent essayist’s voice. But I find writing essays to be a challenge. Yes, even this blather can be like pulling teeth. And it’s not my first love. I want to tell stories, not necessarily spend my time writing about the latest and greatest or coming up with clickbaity rants. I suppose I could spend more time writing about politics. However, while I’m still an occasional politics junkie at heart, I also really don’t have the desire to write political essays regularly. Political fiction…sure. Essays? Nah. Maybe I’d feel different if the essays actually sent people to my fiction, but they don’t. Not even if I write essays about my stories (look. I review my sales dashboards regularly. I know when something clicks and people try me out. I’ve had assorted peeps claim they’ve either bought the book or their reviews sold books for me–and I’m here to tell you, if it doesn’t show up on my dashboards, I have a hard time believing you. You can BS a tradpub author that way. You can’t do the same for a selfpub author.).

The other thing that went bad for me in the ’90s was a toxic writing group that killed my desire to write for a few years.

This latest block of mine hasn’t been that bad, thankfully. All the same, I’ve had to face some facts.

I’m never going to be a famous or well-known author.

I can count my known fans on the fingers of two hands and have fingers left over.

The last three attempts at entering self-published fiction contests have been disastrous. The reviewers echo my traditional publishing rejections–“well-written, an interesting and different take on the topic, and–we’re cutting it from the competition, along with the poorly-written and poorly-edited work.” Sounds an awful lot like “love your voice, love your work…can’t sell it.”

I’ve gained some perspective as to why this might be happening. I tend to find my characters and their ethical dilemmas more interesting than McGuffins or tech or high, gimmicky, trendy concepts. I mix genres freely, including using scene techniques more in line with literary than commercial work (as I learned from reading a recent guest post on Jane Friedman’s blog). The current fashion in fantasy and science fiction is for hard magic and hard science systems, with visible, known, and consistent rules for both.

I don’t write like that.

Furthermore, I don’t like the sales model of spending 9K in advertising to earn 10K.

But the other piece is that I’m downright lousy at networking, butt-kissing, and schmoozing. Success on platforms like Substack or the assorted self-published competitions requires a lot of networking and back-scratching, some of which is just plain old tit-for-tat “buy and review my stuff and I’ll buy and review yours.” A certain amount of that is to be expected. Some of the schemes, however, verge on unethical behavior and I’m just not going there. I don’t really have the time or money for the big-name workshops that would give me an insider’s support. That doesn’t mean I don’t have friends in the writing world–I do. But I’ve said “fuck you” to powerful and toxic people far too often, and, well, that’s the price I have to pay for being true to myself and what I believe.

In any case, I’ve spent several months wrestling with where I go with my writing. At this point, I’m out of the contest world. But the other piece–letting go of the dream of “making it big” as a writer–is a hard one to accept. There have been days of tears and sorrow. Lots of them. Questioning. Bargaining with myself.

Nonetheless, I have to deal with reality. I lack the temperament to market myself in the manner that will earn me more attention. I don’t want to spend large amounts of money to earn a small amount in sales. I’m not going to spend $15k on edits for a series that isn’t going to earn me even a fraction of that expense. Same for covers. I’m not an influencer sort. I’m sixty-six years old, and women my age just don’t start breaking out in my chosen genres, whether you’re talking self-pub or tradpub. Note the bold. I’ve been told otherwise, but the examples cited are either male or in another genre, and comments to that effect are likely to earn you some barbed snark because I’m sick of hearing non-matching examples.

It’s not easy to accept, however.

So yeah. Lots of blather about why you haven’t seen anything from me for a month. I do have some horse blogs written, and maybe some other stuff. But for now, this newsletter is gonna show up irregularly, when I feel like writing it, and that’s the way it’s gonna be.

If you want to subscribe so you don’t miss this blather, here’s the link: SendFox.

Or you could throw me some $$ at Ko-fi. Or not. Whatever. It’s up to you.

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Information doesn’t necessarily want to be free

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And shall we discuss pop-up ads on websites?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just another random post–digging out of a slump

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

Arrgh. It’s frustrating.

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

More than one thing going on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll see how it goes.

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

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

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

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

Hoping to see you around!

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Yay! I think things are resolved…and DUCKS!

Mallard ducks in snow-covered wheat stubblefield

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

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

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

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

Not gonna work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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One Year Ends, Another Begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What am I doing differently this year?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much change remains to be seen.

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After three months: Marker and Mocha update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully, things stay that way.

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Announcing the Goddess’s Honor rerelease

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We shall see.

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Marker Training Journal #4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Writing Accountability Post #34

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

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

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

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

Here’s the Beyond Honor cover.

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

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

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

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

And that’s it for this week’s update.



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