Friday, July 09, 2010

writing group weekend, the new blog photo, noveling, and Backseat Saints

Somehow, writing group weekend has rolled around again, and while I'm excited for all the usual reasons, I'm extra so this time because I have been on a nice roll editing this week and will move into the weekend with some momentum, which is nice.

Otherwise, horses are good, donkeys are good, cats are good, Corgi is good. We are all good, although we are also all sweating. Last night I woke up to a thunderbolt that shook the planet, or so it seemed, and husband dashed out into the night to let horses in.

It thundered and there was much lightning and we lost power, which stressed me out off and on until I decided to trust that it would be back on in the morning and it was. But the internet was out until this afternoon.

All that lightning reminded me that I'd promised to share why I chose the background photo for the blog. A few years ago, a writer friend, Joshilyn Jackson, wrote something to me about hoisting my metal umbrella and marching around on a golf course waiting for lightning to strike. This was about selling my first novel, which had gotten an agent in no time flat and when that agent didn't quite work out, it got another one in even less time flat. And there was nothing I could do at that point but wait, while the new agent shopped the book and I wrote the next one.

Hence the talk about metal umbrellas and golf courses and lightning striking.

Although I keep writing bits and pieces about November Hill Press and Kindle and the first novel, claire-obscure, being close to available, this is not yet an announcement to that effect. But it IS getting closer, and I AM working on it, and so when I saw this background photo on Blogger I felt I needed to put it right up, as an emblem of lightning striking and this book gaining some reader momentum when it gets out there in the world.

As it turns out, I did not have to march around on golf courses but I have been marching about the fields of November Hill, and have been quite happy doing so.

And, as an added bonus, I won Joss's newest novel, Backseat Saints, which she signed for me and sent, and it is right here by my keyboard where I am hoarding it a little longer, as I have heard from reliable sources that once I start I will not be able to stop reading until the very end.

Thanks, Joss - for the very sweet inscription, your books, and all those good words over the years on the working novelists' email list. It was fun and it kept me writing. And may lightning still strike!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


Yesterday I put three things on my docket for the day. Three things *I* wanted to do, not three things that need to be done. (although I feel that all three of these do in fact need to be done - for my own sanity and peace of mind, body, and spirit).

What I always forget is the power of synergy that happens. I did my Pilates yesterday morning. I worked up a sweat and it felt good to be working my core muscles. But even more, after putting my mat away I had extra energy and when I came back in from barn chores, instead of feeling I needed a break, I couldn't wait to get to the next good thing: my hour of writing.

I did a few household chores, ate lunch, and then indulged in an hour of editing, which is what my writing time is devoted to right now.

By the time I finished the hour I was so energized I jumped right into my household chores again, and got a HUGE amount done in a very short, cheerful time.

After dinner, I waited for the magic moment when the biting flies leave and the heat starts to fade. Keil Bay was not very amused with my bridling him just before his dinner tub, but he put up with the bareback ride (short, and just some big walking, halting, backing) until I asked him to stand by the barrel so I could dismount. (not my usual way of dismounting but I decided to do it that way last night)

The Big Bay was grumpy. It was dark, there were still a few insects about, and it was dinner time. And now I was asking him to do something we have never done before, and although it wasn't a hard thing, and he was perfectly capable of doing it, he bobbed his head. I wanted him to do what I was asking, He didn't want to. We had a little conversation, during which I decided I could push things and possibly have to deal with riding it out bareback, or I could get off and do some work in hand to see if there was something wrong - sometimes when he bobs his head when I mount it means he needs the chiropractor.

I got off normally and asked Keil to walk with me around the arena. Nothing amiss, and in fact, he went into his best behavior mode. He was my shadow as I walked, turned, backed, halted, etc. He licked and chewed. He was connected.

So I'm not sure if he was just grumpy due to the timing of my ride, or if indeed he does need the chiro. I'll try again with the saddle this time so I can check it out. Interesting thing, though - after his dinner tub, instead of power-walking out to the back field, he stood at the gate to the grass paddock and waited for me to come say goodnight. That's the Keil Bay that loves his work. I suspect I just surprised him with the night-time routine.

And the synergy of doing three things that make me happy? When I woke up this morning my son asked me to come look at something. I'd moved a dresser into the dining room in hopes that he might use it to store all his craft materials, and after I went to bed last night, he did it. Each drawer is full but organized. A treat to see all those materials sorted and arranged and ready for use - but out of the way of our dining table!

So the synergy of doing a few things you love goes even further.  And now, it's time to go do my Pilates.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

three things

I've done this before and it's time to do it again. Periodically I get completely off the track of doing the things I really want to do in the course of a day. Not the chores, not the lists of things that must be done, but the things I REALLY want to be doing. The things that make me happy.

Don't ask me why it is that the things that make me happy sometimes get shoved to the bottom of a long list of routine chores, mundane tasks, and the work of keeping up a house and barn and farm.

There IS a lot of work, but it's all for naught if the happy things don't make an appearance for weeks on end.

Years back I developed (probably when I had children, and realized my days could get away from me in the blink of an eye) a tactic to help me get back to the business of incorporating the important things into each day. It's easy to take this technique and overwhelm yourself, which I absolutely did initially, but the remedy for that is to limit the number to three.


Every day I pick three things I want to enjoy. Often mine are the same three, but there's no reason they can't be new each day, and different. The point is to plug in three things you really want to do, that aren't chores, or work, or longstanding items on that To Do List.

My three things right now are:

Pilates in the morning
an hour of dedicated writing time
a ride on Keil Bay

There is no earthly reason why I can't get these things into my days. The work will manage to get done, and if necessary, one or two of the chores can wait. It will never happen if I don't make it happen.

Right now we're moving back into heat wave mode, so the riding will need to be done very early in the a.m. or well past sunset. The biting flies are out too, so the best time to ride is night-time, with the arena lights and the bats. That's not my favorite time to ride, but I'm going to give it a whirl and see if the pleasure of the ride overcomes the fact that it's not ideal.

And if anyone has other techniques that help you incorporate the good stuff, please share!

Monday, July 05, 2010

birds of a feather

Yesterday my daughter and I took a day trip to visit a waterfowl park that also focuses on conservation of eco-systems and breeding of endangered species. Daughter had camera in tow, and I was her assistant, juggling lenses and operating as a spare set of eyes for when she was taking photos.

"Look, look! Quick! It's a perfect shot!"

I'm not sure I was all that helpful in that regard, as my idea of the perfect shot and hers are sometimes different.

However, we had a wonderful day, making our way through all the different areas of the park several times, enjoying the many bird species and being able to get very close to them, as many of the habitats have walk-through sections where there is no fence between humans and birds.

Most of the birds were quite social and curious. They all looked well-fed, well-cared for, and the habitats were clean and yet for the most part, completely natural, with lovely pools and water elements incorporated beautifully into the landscape.

We were able to see a staff member cleaning a habitat, which involved careful, very slow raking of bird poop and feathers into small piles, which were then scooped into a big bucket. I was impressed that the caretaker was so attuned to the birds, moving slowly and not rushing, so there was minimal disruption.

We happened to be at the flamingo area when one of the curators came by, and he not only answered my questions but took us to a private area so we could see the flamingo nesting shed. The flamingo builds a nest by pushing mud into a mound, then making the top concave so the egg won't fall off. There were four two-week old flamingos in the flock, and he said they had seven more in the nursery. He pointed out the father flamingo of two of the babies, who was ensuring they could explore without being bossed around by the other adults.

He also took us to the back of the owl habitat so we could see the owl baby, who keeps leaving the nest to stay down on the floor of the habitat. They decided to leave him there, as they were worried he would injure himself trying to fly before he's ready.

They have birds from all parts of the world. The toucan was incredibly beautiful, almost like something from a shop, painted by hand. As were the rainbow lorikeets, who were incredibly social and one in particular seemed quite taken with my daughter and her bright blue shirt and red hair.

Judy the azure macaw was taking a walk on the shoulder of one of the keepers, who told us she takes a walk every single day and refuses to go back into her cage until the walk is complete.

A favorite moment was the incredible sound made by a pair of kookaburras, who absolutely put on a show for a small group of us who formed to listen. 

I often have negative reactions to zoos and places where animals are captive, but this place had a different feel to it. Every employee seemed truly thrilled to be there, and focused on the birds. The birds themselves seemed in good spirit and each one was beautiful and healthy. I don't know much about birds, but I do know they can get very ragged and unkempt looking if not healthy, and it's easy enough to look at a habitat or cage area to see if it's being kept well or not. Every area had private spaces for the birds, shade, water and food, in many cases space to fly as well as actual trees and plants and terrain for the birds to enjoy, and in the smaller habitats there was fresh, clean foliage and branches that approximated the natural environments.

I still find it difficult to see birds in cages, and a few were: the owls, the tropical birds, the kookaburras. But the fact that they were so beautifully feathered and not stressed in any way I could see made me think they are relatively happy there, and I'm sure anyone who passes through leaves with a new appreciation of these gorgeous creatures, and hopefully a kernel of resolve to protect any birds they encounter in their daily lives.

Of note: very few insects! Butterflies were everywhere, but no flies, gnats, or anything else. I suspect all the ducks had a hand in that.

It was a wonderful day - and interesting after hours of being with birds to come home to cats, Corgi, and horses. Such different animals. The eyes of birds are very very interesting to look into. But utterly different than equine eyes.

I'll be adding photos as I get them from daughter - she came home with many amazing shots.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

an important note for July 4th

If you plan to use fireworks at home, before you do, please consider how the loud noise and flashing light will affect the animals - those that live with you, those that live around you, domestic, and wild.

Those of us with horses particularly appreciate the consideration.

CLICK HERE for more info on fireworks and the effects on animals.