Saturday, August 30, 2008


I don't know what came over me, but today I revisited "The Quest," which I've renamed "Quest Schmest." The idea for this story was sparked by a session at the Willamette Writers Conference a couple of years ago.

No one asks the horses if they want to go on quest in magical lands full of magical dangers. So "Quest Schmest" includes the observations made by one sassy red mare who isn't too excited about traveling through Khodjian (The Land Beyond) but will take her Princess anywhere she wants to go.

Frantiska, the red mare, is based on my own chestnut mare (now grazing in greener pastures). Princess Vanda rides Frantiska on an adventure intended to demonstrate to her father that she doesn't need a husband to help her rule the kingdom when the time comes,

When I heard agents and editors indicate that talking animals were "out" I went back through the story to edit out Frantiska's commentary.

However, I've decided to be true to my original concept and I'm returning to other drafts where Frantiska voiced her view of events.

Yeah, I know. I should have worked on "Water Tribute" today. But "Quest Schmest" was calling to me. I'll probably bounce between both stories as inspiration strikes. What can I say? I'm a Gemini.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I have no idea where this sign is located. but I thought it was a hoot!

"Small horses." Hmmm. Is that 15.2 hands and smaller? Guess I'd better get an accurate measurement of Phantom, but I'm pretty sure we can park there.

Move over, bicyclists!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Skin Cancer

My mother is in the midst of a series of visits to the dermatolgist to have questionable moles looked at and biopsied. After having four spots "scraped" for testing, today the doctor removed significant chunks from two of them. We'll be back in a couple of weeks for treatment of spot three and removal of today's stitches.

My mother was born in Oregon and grew up in southwest Washington. She returned to Oregon in her very early 20s and has lived here ever since. So don't think skin cancer affects only those who live in hot, sunny climates. Back before we knew how serious sun exposure could be, my mother did a lot of yard work in shorts and sleeveless tops without a hat. As did a lot of people. Little did they know that folks would be paying for it later.

My uncle is also paying the price for hours and hours spent outside and on the water in southern California.

Curiously, skin cancer wasn't an issue for my father. He was the half Swede with fair skin that burned and never tanned. He spent three years in the tropics during WWII. As a young person he loved to swim and spent time at the old Jantzen Beach amusement park outdoor pools. never knows what will "catch" you years and years later. My generation was the baby oil in the sun to broil ourselves into a tan. I spent one summer trying to get a semblance of a tan. So the clock may be ticking for me. I inherited my father's sun-sensitive skin, but after the sunburn I do acquire a little color. However, the burn part has never been much fun. And with the increased awareness and education about the effects of the sun on our skin, I've been keeping in the shade or covering up (the only way I can be assured of not burning). We'll see if it's too little, too late.

I cringe when I see people laying out in the sun for hours in skimpy swimwear. Worse yet are the tanning booths. But when we're young we can't imagine that our actions will have consequences decades later.

Anyway -- take the skin cancer warnings seriously.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Hoo boy! A drop in the temperature and a series of overnight rain storms -- and the horses are feeling GOOD.

Phantom was waiting for me near the gate when I went out to collect him. He had the weekend off per usual and I think the trail ride must have done him some good. A change of pace from drill in the arena. We're all waiting for harvest of the corn field planted behind the property so we can venture out that direction to "get the cobwebs out." No trailer required. :-)

Anyway, tacked up Phantom, longed him briefly outside, and went to the covered arena for our work session. The arena had been watered and dragged and was beautifully smooth. Our resident teen and NW Buckskin champion was cleaning out the owner's tack room. She made a noise that startled Phantom. When I completed my circuit of the arena I could see in the arena surface where Phantom had done his "tap dance." Such a goober!

Phantom starts out at a brisk walk. His trot is quick and inverted. He's looking out the open door at the others geldings in their paddocks. Phantom tries to canter but he's so discombobulated he can't hold it. Serpentines didn't settle him, so I moved on to spiral circles. Finally settled for forehand pivots to make sure he was listening to seat and legs. Seemed to do the trick. After that we gradually worked into a semi decent posting trot on spiral circles. Got our ugly canters out of the way and went into sitting trot work. Got some nice leg yields and shoulders-in and a couple of not-so-ugly canters. Finished with posting trot on a long rein to release the kinks.

Phantom was definitely a keeper today.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dorm Life

My friend Emily returned to campus yesterday as a sophomore. Here she is with her mother, Karen, at her new dorm in the midst of the "College Stuff Dump." I am envious of her dorm apartment. It accommodates four with individual sleep/study rooms, two shared bathrooms, and a common area with kitchen.

I must say...the kitchen in their dorm room beats the one I had in my first studio apartment. Between the four of them, the girls must have every kitchen appliance ever invented and enough dishware to feed half the campus. :-)

I helped Emily and Karen unload their cars and tote stuff up more flights of stairs than I care to count. I offered my "expertise" gleaned from hours of watching HGTV to suggest a different arrangment for the furniture in the sitting room as well as guidance in hanging artwork. Lianne's original artwork is collected on one wall with an original painted by one of Emily's best friends. Opposite is a fabulous "Moulin Rouge" poster. More wall decor will be added. We'll see how long the furniture arrangement lasts. At least it gave them some ideas for getting the sofa and two arm chairs out of the institutional "everything against the wall" look.

This should be a fun and exciting year for Emily. Freshman jitters are done with. She has a great group of friends to chum with. And she's"focusing in" on a major -- Photography. [Sorry about the pun.] Check out her photos on her Flickr site (see link below). Emily has a natural eye and I'm eager to see her develop her talent.

Forty years ago just about this time I was arriving at Linfield College as a freshman. Very quiet and shy, lacking the social experience of most of my dorm mates. So I envy Emily more than just her fabulous dorm room.


Here's evidence that Phantom actually left the barn on Friday. We all had our hands full during the ride, so I didn't take a chance on getting the camera out for pictures of us on the trail. :-(

Oh well, I'm hoping to make an appointment with Emily to snap pictures of me and Phantom. Something for my album and her growing portfolio.

That's Phantom's traveling companion, Lefty, in the background. Lefty may have objected to trail signs and tree stumps, but he was AHA Region IV dressage level 2 and 3 reserve champion the previous weekend. (I hope I got his placements right. Anyway...he did darned well in the dressage court.)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Happy Trails

Trainer Tracey, Kim, Genevieve and I ventured south to Willamette Mission State Park for a trail ride yesterday (State Parks generic photo to right). This was Phantom's first major trail ride since we partnered up. We've taken a few short trips in the neighborhood but that's about all. And it was his first trailer ride since we arrived at Canby Equestrian Center (in about 4-5 years).

Phantom was a very good boy! Took a little coaxing to get him into the trailer going and coming, but the promise of a treat seemed to do the trick. Once at the park -- which, by the way, has wonderful accommodations for equestrian types -- Phantom unloaded well, waited patiently to be tacked up, and set out looky but willing.

Guinness turned out to be the star of the day. Lefty demonstrated an immediate distrust of all signs, logs, and anything else that might suddenly come to life and attack. So Guinness stepped in to serve as our fearless leader. Phantom was content as long as he was with the herd, and Zorro ambled along at the rear. Lefty provided the most entertainment of the day, NOT to Tracey's riding pleasure. However, by mid-trip he was getting a little too tired for shenanigans. Phantom started out on ALERT, but he settled down and enjoyed the change of scenery. Zorro got tired of bringing up the rear and on the return swing he started a little ex-racehorse jig.

The weather was perfect -- low 80s. Much of the trail was in forest habitat. The trail makes a couple of swings by the Willamette River with access to the water at one spot for a quick sip. Our arena horses weren't quite sure what the huge water hazard was all about. We encountered a couple of "killer" squirrels and one "attack" bunny. The "Alfred Hitchcock" osprey caused a bit of concern. But we weathered all the hazards, had an enjoyable two-hour break from arena work, and safe drives to and from the park.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


The City is doing periodic street maintenance by applying a smelly, black, asphalt slurry to the surface. Today was our turn. Until the goop sets, there is no driving on it. So if you don't move your car beyond the barricades, you're trapped. I did park down the street but since we couldn't pull into the driveway to unload we had to postpone a needed trip to Costco.

So what does an author-to-be do when trapped at home? WRITE.

I made good progress today on "Water Tribute" with my one-step-back project, and I've almost caught up to where I was when I decided I needed to make a few changes before continuing.

Still feeling good about my work. Sure it will need a lot of revision, but I think I've got a good project.


Those in the know advise writers to read, read, read in the genre of their choice. Since I'm focusing on Young Adult fantasy/adventure, that's what I've been reading. I take notes of my observations as I read, and jot down ideas inspired by my reading.

I just started "The Sword of Shannara" by Terry Brooks. I have to admit that I bought TSoS years ago and couldn't get past the first page. Modeled after "The Lord of the Rings" -- I found the opening to be corny and not up to the quality of TLoR. Well, as part of my YA research project I'm revisiting it. I've got to say, within the first couple of chapters Brooks has done several things that agents and editors warn us against at the writers conferences. Like the dreaded "info dump" and the notorious "as you may already know...." Maybe we're all a little more sophisticated than we were in 1977 when TSoS first appeared. Since I'm only on chapter 3, I can't really judge the book and minor problems may be over-shadowed by an exciting plot and action.

Then again, what do I know? Brooks is published many times over and his Shannara books are very popular. Since I'm just beginning to explore the world he created, it may well be that he evolved as a writer and improved with each book. That's my goal. So I may as well see how he did it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

One Step Back

And two steps forward, I hope.

I realized I wasn't doing an adequate job of developing the relationship between Jezhene and Rakihm as I progressed with "Water Tribute." So I jotted down some ideas and I've backtracked a little to fill in the gaps.

My most recent rewrite hit the point where I'm not exactly sure what occurs next to lead in to the climactic scenes that I already have in mind. But I'm not really ducking the issue by backtracking. The relationship between Jezhene and Rakihm is important to some of the future actions Jezhene takes. So I figure going back to develop it correctly will help set up the "ohmigoshwhatsnext" section.

They say you should write what you enjoy reading. Sheesh! I don't yet have the chops to deal with the dense fantasy/adventure stories that I like to get lost in. But my goal is to develop my writing skills and work my way up to such a novel. I already have in mind a trilogy that I think will fit the bill, but I'm definitely not at the point where I can write it.

But I think I'm beginning to "get it" as far as writing and developing a novel is concerned.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

AiM Sport Horse Classic/Region IV Championships

The main outdoor arena at Devonwood Equestrian Center in Sherwood, Oregon.

Trainer Tracey and Aaperizcion (Lefty) preparing for a test.

Lefty says "It's hot!" Our string of hot weather with temperatures near or above 100 degrees continues.

This year Arabians in Motion (a chapter of the Arabian Horse Association) combined its Sport Horse Classic show with the Region IV Sport Horse Championships. As you can see, the setting at Devonwood is fabulous. The facility is terraced and has several outdoor sand arenas in addition to the covered arena with its adjacent warm up ring. The site easily accommodated dressage, hunter/jumper, sport horse in-hand and under saddle, as well as carriage classes. And all in great style.

I volunteered to assist and was assigned the warm-up ring and main dressage arena gate. Little did I know that I would be expected to spot check equipment. So every third rider got a "Mind if I stick my hand in your horse's mouth?" Not really. But we did spot check bits, spurs and whip length on a third of the horses when they finished their tests. I lucked out...we had a canopy at the warm up arena so those of us who took a shift didn't have to bake.

One of the banes of an outdoor horse show. You never know if you'll be drenched to the bone or melting under record-breaking high temperatures.

Anyway, I got to see Trainer Tracey and former boarder Jewel warm up...though I didn't see much of their tests because I was lining up the next riders.

When my shift ended I checked out the hunters. Sad to say, the Arabian hunters still seem to lag behind "real hunters." Turnout has improved and the jumping isn't nearly as scary as it used to be. But several of the rounds I witnessed lacked rhythmic pace and consistent impulsion in addition to nice finishing circles before exiting the arena. Granted, I only saw a very few rounds. I'd say the local Arabian hunter/jumper folks need to compete in Oregon Hunter/Jumper Association shows to learn how it's done. The area Arabian dressage enthusiasts compete in Oregon Dressage Society shows, and this experience is obvious.

Regardless, it's heaven for an Arabian horse lover to spend a day surrounded by gorgeous and athletic horses.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Took down the "for sale" sign. I never actually put one up, since Phantom's bad days are few and far between.

Monday was a walk day with forehand pivots, side passes, leg yields and shoulders-in work. Just a reminder to get off the leg. Phantom gave the open end door the hairy eyeball, but didn't do anything but counter bend a little which I worked on correcting.

Today we had a quicky ride, since the temperature is on the rise. I wasn't at my best form, so I made allowances for Phantom. But we ended with some nice sitting trot work once I got my seat. Serpentines got him bendy and he gave me a "beach ball" ride (lifting and rounding his back). Called it good.

The shoer comes Friday, so Phantom will have twinkle toes. The temperature is predicted to push 100 if not go higher. Ack! Northwesterner webbed toes dry up and crinkle in hot weather! So Phantom will likely get a day off with a hose down for a brief cooling.

I volunteered to assist at the Arabians in Motion/Region IV sport horse show (see the AiM link below). I may be sorry, since temperatures will still be in the 90s. However, I should see Trainer Tracey ride as well as former Boarder Jewel. Shows are much more enjoyable when you know the participants. If I can manage to get up and around early enough I may be able to catch some of the hunter/jumper action before I report for duty at the main dressage arena where I'm to serve as warm-up and gate steward. Even though I'm riding dressage now, my roots are in hunters.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Miscellaneous Stuff


You know those days when you wouldn't sell your horse for a million dollars? And then there are those days when you want to slap a "for sale" sign on the front of the stall as soon as you dismount. Well, Friday was one of those rare days for Phantom and me.

We started out with a quick longe in the outdoor arena. It was overcast and pleasant following our Northwest "heat wave" so I considered riding outside. We began with a walkabout up the alley to the turnouts and back. Thought I'd take a spin around the round pen when Phantom saw...the Blue Tarp of Death. This is a tarp covering a corner of the "pig palace" to provide our porker friends some shade. But to Phantom it looked deadly. It moved! So I began easing him toward it and we were doing okay until a bird flew up out of a brush pile. Snort and quiver. I held Phantom in place, and then he gave me the worst spook I think he's done since we teamed up. I stayed with him, then I dismounted and put the longe line back on him to make him stand and walk past the Blue Tarp of Death. Of course, once the pigs emerged from their palace Phantom didn't know which was worse. But I got him to walk past the tarp on the line.

So I rode him outside and it was one of the worst rides we've had in ages. Apparently a result of Phantom's vacation of sorts and tension on my part. I just could not get a decent connection. Phantom popped up in front several times when frustrated, an old issue I thought we were over. We were NOT on the same wave length at all. I finally got some okay work to the left, but he couldn't hold it to the right. So I traded the saddle for the surcingle with side reins and trotted him for about 5-10 minutes until he stopped bracing. At that point I called it good.

Sheesh! As I said, I know I contributed to the situation. Phantom isn't normally such a space cadet. We'll hope both of us are in a better frame of mind tomorrow.


Made some progress yesterday on "Water Tribute." At the moment I'm feeling confident about it. That will change, of course. Part of the writing process.

I'm a little bummed because by the time I have a first draft and revise it, my First Readers will be back in school and dealing with homework. *sigh*

Got the 2008-09 schedule for The Northwest Author Series held at the Wilsonville Library. The series of presentations is organized by a local author and gives folks a chance to hear a variety of writing-related topics presented by area writers. I didn't make it last time, but I hope to correct that this season.


Managed to squeeze in some time in the yard. My mother is the gardener, but she's less mobile than she'd like to be. So I'm the designated yard maintencance crew. Me, who lived in apartments for 25 years. I trimmed a few limbs, pulled a few weeds and sprayed more with Round Up (at least I THINK they were weeds).

We like to have flower baskets on the front porch, which I planted this year and try to remember to water. So far so good. Managed to salvage the planters after a faltering start.

We have no design. Our attempt at a yard of wooly thyme started out promising, then it was overrun with unwanted grass. Ended up removing what was left of the thyme and now have barkdust atop a weed barrier that sort of works. Beats mowing.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


I gave Indy a bath yesterday when I got home from the barn before changing out of my already dirty and damp barn clothes. He fills up our utility tub! Anyway, he was nice and clean for an application of Bio Spot at bed time.

This morning his downy undercoat loosened by the bath was floating atop his outer coat. After breakfast I took him into the garage to give him a good brushing. I used the metal comb and the Furminator and I'm sure I could have spent HOURS removing fluff from Indy's coat. Ptui! I even used the new Wahl pocket clippers to trip up his paws. I made a few gouges in the fur (oops) but he now has "petite feet" that will even out with time.

I know, I know. I wanted a Sheltie. Poor Lacey had a thyroid condition that made her coat greasy, so Indy is my first experience with a normal Sheltie coat. See above reference to "Ptui!" Hair in my mouth, nose, and stuck to clothing not covered by the grooming apron. But at least the Fluffy Puppy enjoyed the brushing.

I enjoyed the shower afterwards to remove the fluff from me!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Remember Me?

Had to reintroduce myself to Phantom. My schedule the past few weeks has altered my riding routine, which still isn't back to normal this week.

We had the arena to ourselves today, which can be nice every once in awhile so I don't have to worry about getting in someone's way. Phantom gave the open end door the "hairy eyeball" but didn't scoot or get silly. The end door is open for a cross breeze during warmer summer days -- so several of the horses use it as an excuse to evade imaginary horse eaters undoubtedly lurking outside. During the winter, summer storms can make the door rattle. We can't win. :-)

Phantom and I had a minor skirmmish over "giving" instead of elevating his head into my face. We came to an understanding and ended up with some nice lateral work at a sitting trot. My recent efforts with "forward" have resulted in a nice, swingy walk to start with (no connection...making connection during a walk later in our session resulted in our dispute). Same forward exercise at the trot from which Phantom volunteered canters. Not surprisingly, our left lead canter was gangly and took several attempts to maintain it. Phantom gave me a right lead without his characteristic head flip. But we managed to eventually settle into a decent canter both directions.

Once loosened up with the canter we settled into sitting trot work. Takes me a bit to get into the groove but Phantom is patient and we worked our way into some nice, round, connected work. Whatta guy!

Gave Phantom a quick sudsing and let him dry in the sun before returning him to his turnout. I think he appreciates the hose down. He has strict instructions not to roll after a bath until I'm off the premises, but he doesn't always wait.


I just heard on the local news of two confirmed cases of West Nile in horses in Washington. One in Prosser had to be put down. :-(

Thank goodness Phantom is are most of his barn buddies.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

WWC, Day Three


Today I finally attended sessions that got the juices flowing. Every conference has good sessions, but there is always one that seems to invigorate me and revives my confidence. Today I attended two.

Laura Whitcomb ("A Certain Slant of Light") gave a presentation on Getting at the Gold in Your YA Novel. She presented her "shortcuts" to getting to the emotion of a scene and the essence of the characters. Her approach turns out to be an expansion of the journaling exercise that I started doing. :-) It appears I was on the right track. Laura is compiling her ideas into her second book on novel writing and I can't wait for it to come out. I'm going to apply her exercises immediately.

Marc Acito is the author of "How I Paid for College," and "Attack of the Theater People." He has a theatrical and operatic background and is therefore an animated speaker and has a sharp wit. His first session was on Writing a Page Turner. This contained information I've heard before but presented in a slightly new way, and also provided a few new ideas. His second session was Making Your Manuscript Sing...applying the structural elements of Broadway musicals to fiction. It was great! A whole new way of assessing the role of the characters in a story and determining pivotal moments of the story. He demonstrated his concept with film clips from classic and more modern Broadway hits. On the drive home I was applying Marc's concept to "Water Tribute." Hmmm.

Attendance may have thinned out today...but I'm glad I attended the final day of the conference.

The agents I pitched to reassured me that my story idea for "Water Tribute" is interesting and has potential. And today's sessions will help me pull it off.

I think we're fortunate to have one of the best writing conferences in the U.S. in our own backyard.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Day Two, WWC

Today's pitch was with Kelly S. with the Dijkstra Literary Agency. She was very interested in "Water Tribute" and liked the premise that water is a source of power. She requested sample chapters and a synopsis! Whoopee!


When asked the most common problem with submitted material, Pamela Smith Hill replied that it was sending the work too soon. That is, too early in the writing process without the editing and rediting that polishes the work. Hmmm. That's exactly where I am with "Water Tribute." But that means I need to place posterior in chair and WORK.

The good news is, agents like my ideas for novels. And I've got plenty of ideas.

The sessions I attended today included Self-Editing the YA/Middle Reader Novel, a panel on Why I Stop Reading, Publicity for Pennies, and The Magic is in the Details/Speculative Fiction.

Self-editing was a repeat of information I've read and heard before, but each time more and more of it sinks in. It's a good thing to be reminded. After my pitch I attended the panel that included an author, editor and agent. The thing about attending a writers conference is that you're surrounded by smart, witty people. The panels can be absolutely hilarious while at the same time imparting excellent information. Such was the case here. As for low-cost publicity, publishers focus on their best-selling money makers when it comes to marketing. The remainder of their authors must do more and more of their own promotional work and I picked up some good ideas...for when the time comes.

Today's inspiring session was Magic in the Details. Elyn Selu used images downloaded from the web that represented the speculative fiction genres to inspire out imaginations for individual and group creative sessions. Now, we're all told to use all the senses when new news there. But she discussed how the emotions of the characters can color their observations of their created world. So a scene that could be welcoming under one set of emotions may be menacing under another. All this made me realize that my journaling exercise was an attempt to get inside the heads of my characters to capture how each person in the scene viewed what was occurring. So I've been moving in the right direction. Once again, the creativity and imagination of the participants was amazing and amusing. We inspire each other in our flights of fancy.

The luncheon speaker was Luke Ryan from the film industry. His picaresque tale of his entry into the film business was hysterical. But the bottom line was, hone your skills for your chosen genre so you will be ready when opportunity arrives unexpectedly from left field.

Looking at tomorrow's schedule, it appears I may be spending more time in the Children's/YA track.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Day One, Willamette Writers Conference

A three day weekend with fellow word geeks! Heaven!

I scheduled two pitches with literary agents who handle YA (young adult) novels. Today I met with Jennifer L. with the Andrea Brown Agency. She's new to the agency and trying to build up her client base. I told her about "Water Tribute" which I described as Patty Hearst meets Lawrence of Arabia and gave her a brief description of the plot. Unfortunately, Jennifer is not into YA fantasy, although she enjoys the "kiss ass" heriones of Tamora Pierce's novels. However, she said my story was intriguing and suggested I research their agents and sent a query to the most appropriate one for my type of story and indicate I met with her.

So...some encouragement. I must say, the folks I've met from the AB agency have treated me very well during our 15 minute pitches. In fact, the few times I have pitched at this conference the agents/editors have been very polite and encouraging. Apparently some of the film representatives were not so polite and kind in the past and have not been invited back.

I have another pitch scheduled for tomorrow.

Today I attended sessions on "How to Query and Pitch," primarily focused on queries for nonfiction publication but much applicable to fiction. Smartly scheduled as one of the first sessions of the conference. I attended two sessions presented by Pamela Smith Hill (YA author) on "Confessions of an Eavesdropper" and "Too Much Information." The first about writing dialogue and the second on weaving exposition into the action and drama of the story. Both sessions with good visual aids (DVD scenes and a Power Point presentation). She had a funny story about being caught eavesdropping and commiserated with the first chapter blues...even published writers still struggle to get it right.

The fun and eye-opening session for me was "Introduction to Graphic Novels" presented by Diane Shutz with Oregon's own Dark Horse Comics. This is a whole new area for writers to consider. Although artist/writers have the advantage -- they do need good scripts and will pair up a good writer with an artist. Classically associated with super heros and young males, comic books and graphic novels do include all genres.

Barnes & Noble is the on-site book seller of tomes related to the sessions and published by presenters. Strategically placed in the center of the action, conference attendees repeatedly walk past the tables covered with books. Today I bought a book about comics and graphic novels. Will I resist further purchases over the next two days? Unlikely.