This past week was pretty consumed with setting up the critique group discord, dropbox etc. And for some reason, focusing at work was really difficult. I really need to get over that and figure out how to make it work better for me. I think I just need to find the perfect place to work but that is quite difficult.
Since I didn’t have much of an update as far as my progress for working, I figured that I’d put a tiny piece of the chapters that are being critiqued by my group for you all to read. This chunk came from when I was reworking the first 5,000 words last year before the writing conference I attended. It got the best reaction from the professionals who read it. I’m pretty proud of how cool of an opening chunk it is. Now if I could just get the rest of my words to feel like this!
Kamille leaned against a tree, trying to breathe deeply. Her eyes burned but she didn’t let any tears fall. She took another breath and finally looked at the body lying prone in front of her. The shadows had stretched across the ground more, obscuring some of his features. She could still see the distinct tattoo on his shoulder that had given away his identity. She could also see the dark stain of blood spreading across his chest.
This wasn’t the first corpse Kamille had seen, nor even the first one she had caused. But it was the most problematic.
She pulled a cell phone out of her pocket. Her fingers shook slightly as she dialed the only contact she had in the address book.
“We have a problem.” She said. The light of the sun fell completely away as it dipped beneath the horizon. She continued to stare at the body as she said the next words. “The coven has found me.” She stuck the phone between her shoulder and head. She grabbed the arms of the corpse and heaved it up. Moving carefully, Kamille pulled backward until the body was further in the bushes. It was hard to move a huge body and try to get as little blood on herself as possible while listening to the person on the other end of the phone. “Okay. I understand.” She stood up and brushed her hands off on her jeans. “Yeah, okay. No. I’m fine. But I do have a body we need to get rid of.”
She ended the call and clenched her eyes shut. Everything was going to change now and the only thing she could do was do her best to survive. Kamille opened her eyes and glared down at the corpse, barely visible now that the sun had fully disappeared. “Too bad I can’t kill you twice.” She muttered as she settled in to wait for help disposing of the body.
Friday was the only day I did anything horse related this weekend. Saturday we had some friends visiting and Sunday I just really needed to be lazy. I feel a little bad because Scarlet doesn’t leave his stall if I don’t get him out but I don’t think he is going to worry too much about one day less.
Friday morning I didn’t want to do anything too complicated. At first, I thought I was going to work on lateral work but that’s not really what happened in the ride. Instead, we did a bunch of canter work. I wanted him hotter off my aid for the canter rather than trotting several steps and then cantering. So we did a few transitions and I praised him for anything under two steps of trot. This is a work in progress like anything having to do with transitions.
We also did some more difficult counter canter work. Scarlet has zero issue counter cantering around the arena and can turn down the diagonal fine. Since it’s so easy for him, I wanted us to do some counter canter circles, trying to make them smaller and as well balanced as possible. He did really well with it. I thing we got to around a 30 m circle. He didn’t try to break or swap leads and we were relatively well balanced.
I try to make sure that we don’t end our rides on canters. Scarlet sometimes thinks he’s done after we canter for warm up. I don’t want to encourage that thought process. So we did some trot figure eights and serpentines. I focused on getting some good bends out of him. But we encountered a problem. My sitting to change direction made him think that we were stopping. Even when my legs were on. So we had to have a discussion about that. He’d toss himself on the forehand as well so it took forever to get back to a good trot. More stuff to practice.
While we were cooling down, I had us back up and walk a few steps forward around the rail. Scarlet hates backing up. He curls his neck and angrily chews his mouth. I’m praising when we’re doing it so its not that he is anxious that he doesn’t know the correct action. He just hates it. We need to do it more often so that he gets used to it.
Saturday I cleaned my brushes and then went to the zoo with friends and Sunday I lazed and did some chores. One of the chores was replacing the laces on one of my boots. It had snapped and was slowly wiggling itself loose. So I unlaced it and laced it back up with a cheap lace I got from CVS. It doesn’t look too bad. I’m quite pleased with myself. Whenever I have to do it again, I know how to lace it in an easier fashion than attempting to do it backwards. So while I may have been lazy as far as leaving the house, I at least got things done.
One thing that I try to keep in mind when I’m riding is that I’m not able to have lessons on my own horse. I’m hoping to have lessons for myself on a lesson horse but that isn’t going to happen very often. So I try to keep in mind that I want to improve myself and Scarlet when I ride.
Mondays are days for improving myself. Trying to at least. I rode bareback again on Monday. I had my stretchier breeches on and they definitely aren’t the best option for attempting to post bareback. They move around a lot and really mess with the feel when trying to grip. I didn’t want to do continue posting after trying it but I told myself to suck it up. So I posted. Which sucked but I did it. And I didn’t end up feeling as sore as I had the first time. I hope that means my muscles are getting back into shape.
One thing I have noticed after having ridden bareback much more frequently over the past year or so. I can actually ride while being bareback. When I first started to do this, it was all I could do to keep myself on the horse. I could maybe steer if we weren’t trying to do anything serious. But now I’m able to ask for bending. Or for smaller turns. Or for keeping his back engaged and his haunches in line. Just being able to be more effective. It’s kinda cool to realize that I’ve leveled up a bit.
Wednesday I wanted to try out something L. had discussed with me last weekend when I had complained about the eternal problem of canter transitions. She suggested trying to do a downward transition within the trot before asking for a canter transition. So transition from a slow trot to a canter. It was worth a shot. Scarlet is better at transitions within the trot than anything else.
I worked on w-t-h transitions and transitions within the trot. Scarlet wanted to throw his head up in the working trot to slow trot transitions at first but after we did then for a while, he started working into them. They didn’t quite help our canter transitions though. I’m not sure if that is because it wont help or because the whole thing is hard. I did transitions within the canter as well.
Speaking of the canter, I had to give him two huge whaps when I first asked for it. Not only did he throw his head up but he tried to run-trot instead of actually cantering. He knows so much better than that. That was the only time that day that he tried that. He was definitely offended by the whap but I felt like he respected my aids much more.
I really really had to hold Scarlet in the short stride. I was so freaking tired after the ride due to literally needing to have my legs on 100% of the ride. I do think this is something that deserves more attempts. We need to focus more on transitions within the gait as well as between the gaits so its a good thing to look for after we build up more muscle. I’m hoping that once I don’t need to literally hold Scarlet in the gait that the trot-canter transition might benefit.
Thursday I was tired and I’m sure Scarlet was tired as well. I wanted to do some jumping for fun. I also wanted us to get some stretching as I’m sure he was tight due to the work from the day before. The guys started feeding early that day. I got to the barn around 7:12 and by 7:15 all the horses had been fed. Scarlet’s in about the middle of the barn stalls and he normally doesn’t get his hay tossed to him until around 7:25 ish. Since I knew that pulling him away would make our life hard, I just groomed him in the stall. He got roughly half of his alfalfa flake before I was done which made for a happy pony.
I had us walk around the barn to warm up. I don’t normally do that in the morning any more as it takes longer than I want for a walk warm up. But the goal was relaxation and fun for this ride. After that, I headed into a trot in the arena. I kept my reins super long. Scarlet started off with his head in the air and wanting to twist around to get away from the monsters outside the rail. I put him into a 15′ figure eight with the loose rein and it didn’t take that long for Scarlet to actually reach down and out into the reins.
He was really loving the stretching and kept himself down without much urging. He did have more of a lazy trot than I would have liked but that was not a hill I wanted to die on. After a brief walk break, I did a few transitions to warm him up for more work. We then went to the canter.
We were warmed up and I trotted us toward the small X. And immediately flubbed it. I expected him to jump it and he trotted over it. I wasn’t prepared for that and flopped ALL over his back. I hopped off and fixed the poles. I was much more prepared the next time and we had no issues. Cantering was super smooth. I cantered us over the bigger X and he was super good with it. Not really rushing and we got a really smooth take off.
I was feeling pretty good about us so I decided we’d try the oxer. I got a good canter going, focused on not jumping for Scarlet and the oxer came up smooth. It’s really easy to jump when you’re not trying to do your horse’s job. I felt so good about it that we went around and did it again. Scarlet was so good and we did it great. I called it then since it was such a good result. I ended up being a bit late to work but that’s what happens when your ride is just fabulous.
So many fails from the flower photo
So many fails from our flower photo shoot. So many.
I actually got some writing work done this week. I’m quite proud that I’ve made myself start back up.
My current schedule is I’m writing/editing for about 30 minutes during my lunch break. There isn’t really a separate break room with seating area in my office so I’m sitting in a common area. This results in my attention being distracted by people walking by. It’s not the greatest place to work but its better than not doing anything at all.
I’ve gotten through a couple more chapters while editing during lunch. I’ve still not figured out what feels the best with the power/consequences stuff. But I’ve decided to just leave it for now. I want to finish the rest of this editing pass. I’ll leave it till the next pass. Or maybe even the one after. I’ve got other plot threads that need more help than this one element.
The online critique group is spinning up. So far we have three participants (including myself) and two who aren’t ready to be critiqued but want to critique. Our first submission time is going to be this next Monday. I’m really excited for this.
I’m especially stoked about the extra people to get critiques from. I want lots of feedback on the stuff that I’ve written. I want to take what I have out on submission to agents and I feel like having someone else look at it will help give me fresh eyes. After having created and almost finished an edit pass, I don’t know if I can see all the things wrong. Or even if the things that I see as wrong actually are.
I submitted the first 5k to a professional review at the writing convention I went to last year. While not everything they said felt right to me, I definitely did rewrite part of that 5k to fix the problems they had seen. And I personally feel like they are much better because of it. I’m excited to see what I learn from these critiques.
I got a lot of riding done this weekend. It definitely made up for some of the crappy days this last week.
Friday started off the “weekend” quite terribly. I got up at my normal early morning time and came out of the bathroom in the morning to the dulcet tones of rain on my window.
Luckily Friday was the only day I had to crawl back into bed in a cranky mood due to rain. Saturday was a pretty nice day, back up in the mid-70s. Saturday is the only day Holly and I have that we can manage to match up our schedule for riding so the time is erratic.
This time we ended up riding in the evening. Holly was setting up some jumps when I arrived. She’d changed some heights and made a two stride up the diagonal. The two stride was set higher than Scarlet and I are ready to ride at this point. We did set up the rest of the jumps at heights we are able to do as well as a mini oxer for fun.
Scarlet was definitely excited to ride with his friend. We warmed up and then trotted over the mini fence set at the bogey fence. No problems there or at the canter with it. I tried the X we’d set up that was much higher after that. It went super well too.
Then the next time I pointed Scarlet at it, he charged it. We went over but it was definitely not graceful. I think he was just excited because he listened a lot better for the rest of the jumps. We went over the vertical we’d set up a couple of times. I think it’s about 2’-2’3”. We also attempted the oxer but knocked down a rail each time. First time was the back rail and the next time was the front. I’m pretty sure I caused those rails so I pointed him at the larger cross rail and called it a day.
Then Holly and I hopped on each others horses. Uno feels so weird compared to Scarlet. He also really didn’t want to go forward. We figured it out and then I aimed him at the mini x. He didn’t lock on like Scarlet does so we turned toward it and then continued in a circle. After that, I TOLD him we were jumping and though we faded to the side, we made it. I did it again and it was much better. I want to try again at some point and see if I can ride better next time. It’s so weird riding a horse that isn’t mine though.
Sunday I got to hang out with L! We started at my barn, had brunch and then moved onto her barn for a full barn day. Can’t beat that.
It’s really awesome to have a ground person while jumping. L adjusted the jumps so that I could keep going around. It was pretty fun to show that Scarlet and I only had a mess up day the last time she saw us. She also is quick to tell me I don’t have enough pace.
We also got to try the two stride set up as a cross rail and a vertical. It was a bit too forward for us so we tried to do it in three strides. The first time I tried that, we chipped in badly so I turned us out of the combination. L scolded me for that, as it could teach Scarlet to run out. So I tried again. We got it, though it wasn’t great. The next time through we tried for two but Scarlet was NOT up for two. I did kick him on but he was determined to not do two and launched himself off of one foot just to get the last stride in. I’ll have to try two strides with poles or something to work on actually getting the two strides in.
After that L had a lesson on Dante. I got to cuddle him quite a bit before the lesson and then I went down to the arena with them to be their paparazzi. I got so many videos for her. It’s great to see Dante growing up and improving in his jumps. He looks so smooth doing it, even with his baby moments. He learns from them which is the important part.
A weekend with friends and horses is always the best weekend. I’m glad I got to have so much fun jumping with them.
This week was an odd week for riding. My nephews came to visit and as I wasn’t able to take time off of my new job, I had to maneuver my schedule around a bit to get a good time to fit them in. Having them here kinda threw off my whole week.
I’ve decided I need to pick back up on the bareback riding. I was trying to do it once a week before the rain started and I was pretty consistent. Its good practice for balance and a good muscle work out for me. I’ve decided Mondays I will do a bareback ride and then Tuesdays will be my typical day off riding. That way, I can give my muscles(and hip flexors) a break after killing them for a day.
Scarlet was not up for the bareback ride on Monday. I think he got used to not having me pull him out in the morning over the weekend and was cranky. He was also very obstinate to bending aids. We had to have a mild discussion about bending.
When doing bareback rides, I generally sit the trot. Trying to post without stirrups is the worst thing in the world and I figured it was good practice. But since I’d decided that bareback rides were about improving me, I did one lap at the posting trot. My legs were shaking for the rest of the day. I always find myself asking why I do this to myself for the whole day after a bareback ride.
Wednesday was… well it was pretty much a literal series of unfortunate events.
As I said before, my nephews were in town. My husband picked them up Tuesday so they were at the house Tuesday night. He had also gotten a poster tube in the mail for a really nice print he ordered. So he was trying to open said tube to check to make sure it arrived correctly. And he was using a chisel to remove the staples. And didn’t have his hands out of the way.
SO! Tuesday night I ended up bundling husband and THREE nephews all under the age of 11 into the car and driving to the 24hr urgent care to get him stitches. It was taking a while so I ended up taking the kids home and putting them to bed. Then I tried to sleep myself but didn’t get to sleep until well after he got back via Uber.
Then in the morning, I realized I needed gas. So I got gas on the way to the horse. And ended up at the barn super late due to that and not having gathered my stuff together the night before for work. So I had maybe 20 minutes to ride. And had forgotten my watch due to not being able to see in the dark. We live in an apartment so the only place to put the boys was the living room. Thus I couldn’t turn on lights.
So my ride itself wasn’t horrible but it was short and rushed. And Scarlet wasn’t willing to work in any sort of connection at all and I really couldn’t take the time I needed to get us working into it.
So Wednesday didn’t work out well. Thursday I went to work early and left early so I could give the boys rides on Scarlet. My husband managed to get out to the barn earlier than I had planned on him getting there so I’d just finished tacking Scarlet when they rolled in. So I warmed him up for 10-15 minutes and then proceeded to give the boys rides.
They actually did really well, even the one who was kinda scared to try it. The two older boys trotted a little and walked around me on a lunge line by themselves. I do like giving kids pony rides. I always hope that I spark the horse bug and convince one of them to become obsessed like I am.
But by the time I was done with them, both Scarlet and I were annoyed and tired. And then I had to rush the grooming process so we all could go to dinner before it got later than late at night.
So, while the nephews visiting was a good thing, it really threw my whole world out of wack. I cannot wait till I can return to my routine and just have nice rides again.
I’ve gotten a bit of editing in this last week. I need to find a better way to take my tablet into work that isn’t just stuffing it into my purse. I forget it quite often when I do that. I think I’ve figured out my blockage on the power level. At least, I’ve decided on a path and I’m moving forward. We will see how it looks when I’m finished.
I also started an online critique group. I’ve wanted to find a critique group for a while but the hours for the ones I could find were always during working hours. So I decided to make an online one. I have a few online friends who wanted to join. Currently we have three people, possibly a fourth. We haven’t done any critiquing yet as I just formed it but I’m looking forward to it. Outside opinions are super useful.
I’m hoping that with a critique group I can feel more confident in the work that I’ve done. I also believe that my work will be better for it afterward. I want to send out the best work possible to agents when I’m trying to be published.
My muscles are still sore but I figure that’s going to continue for quite a while. I’m not going to let that stop me from riding though.
Friday I jumped. I forgot to look at my jump exercises book (again) so I just raised some of the jumps rather than setting any real exercises for myself. I raised a couple of cross rails and put one jump up to a vertical. Pretty much everything was under two feet. I think one cross rail was maybe 2’3″.
Scarlet’s getting used to being hauled out of his stall in the morning before breakfast. He was quite a butt at the beginning of the week but its become routine for him now. We warmed up without too much issue. Since it’s still cool/chilly in the morning, once I warm up I can’t see at the walk. My glasses fog up! It’s a bit annoying but the breeze at faster gaits helps so its not much of a problem.
Scarlet was so into jumping. We trotted and cantered over a single fence to warm up and then jumped pretty much everything else I’d set up. I kept eyeing the yellow fence we’d refused at last time. I’d set it up as the highest cross rail in the arena. It was then that I realized I made a mistake. I wasn’t ever going to jump it like that. That fence was a bogey fence in my mind. Scarlet might not give a shit but I did. And my hesitation wouldn’t support him to the fence.
So I need to not do that again. I’m going to keep that fence as the baby warm up fence and put the higher fences as other ones. It probably wont be for forever but it needs to start like that. I need to get over whatever is in my head that’s making me worry about refusals.
Even though we didn’t jump that fence, we jumped so many others. Scarlet was very good and we got to the base of most of the fences. The four stride line had been moved slightly and the striding was a bit short. We had to keep throwing a short last stride in and it was very choppy. I’ll have to move that one when I jump next.
Saturday I wanted a super relaxed ride. I wanted to get out and be with Scarlet but I was in no shape to really work hard. Luckily Holly was totally up for a trail ride.
Scarlet seemed to know that we were being chill because his energy was low the whole time. We walked around the barn first and decided Uno might need a bit of trot work in the arena to chill before the trail. There were some trot poles set up on the diagonal. We normally only have 4 but this time it was 5! So many poles! I couldn’t resist trotting Scarlet a bit and doing the poles. Having 5 really made a difference. We actually got a lot more nicer steps because he didn’t just find his nice form and then we were done. I definitely want to set up multiples like that again.
Holly switched to an actual saddle and we headed out onto the trail. Scarlet had no tension at all.
He was such a chill pony and that is super weird for him. He doesn’t like the trail. He’s better with a friend but he usually has some sort of tension in his body but he just didn’t. I couldn’t get over how good he was being and kept talking about it. It was one of the best loops around the trail that I’d ever had. I’d love to get out on more trail rides and do ones that aren’t just a loop. I’d need someone else with me and hopefully someone who knows the trails around my barn. Something to think about for the future. For now, I’ll just bask in how awesome he was on Saturday.
After a month and a half of inconsistent riding due to rain followed by two weeks out of town, it’s safe to say my riding muscles are pretty much gone. I’ve been riding a lot this week and I can feel the results.
Monday I wanted to go to work without worrying about time for my first day back in office. Tuesday I went out before work. The morning rides seem to be working pretty well. Im not ending up too tired during my day and I can get a reasonable ride in before I have to leave. Scarlet isn’t as much of a fan. He’s pretty annoyed that he doesn’t get breakfast before I pull him out. I do give him grain while grooming him so he can just suck it up.
Wednesday I was super focused on transitions. I tried to not make it drilling but more like we were doing transitions all over while we were riding our normal things. Transitions really get Scarlet back on his haunches and forward so I love doing them but it’s pretty easy to get him too tense as well. We got some pretty good walk-trot-halt transitions. I’ve really made the connection (a very basic one but better late than never) of how exactly I need to keep my legs on for the downward transitions. I could feel more of the squeezing to a halt type thing. It killed my legs though.
Our trot-canter transitions are still quite terrible. I need to make a point of working on those more. Scarlet really wants to throw his head up for upward and throw his whole body into the ground for downward. I think we should do some concentrated practice on half halts and then going back forward to help with the downward but I don’t know what to do about the upward. Something to think about.
Thursday I was planning on jumping but I didn’t get out to the barn when I wanted to so I had much less time to ride. I want to move the jumps to various heights of xs instead of just using the mini ones set up right now which takes time.
So I changed my plan and just did a basic short ride with circles, serpentines and a bit of counter canter. Scarlet has almost always been good at that. He has zero problem going across the diagonal and cantering around the arena. I do need to try doing some smaller figure eight type things to really make us work at it.
My overall focus for the weekday rides was forward. I wanted Scarlet to move forward at all gaits. Forward requires leg. Leg requires muscle, which I don’t have yet. Ugh I’m sorry and tired. But I’m getting rides in and they are pretty awesome.
Still no actual writing from me (get it together Alex!) but I do have some interesting things in the realm of writing.
My new job has allowed me financial freedom again. This means that I recently purchased tickets to the Nebulas. They are in LA this year so it was killing me that I might miss it due to not being able to afford it.
The Nebulas is a writing conference out on by SFWA, the science fiction and fantasy writers association. They are a professional organisation that helps writers in their careers. They have an emergency medical fund, legal help, advice columns, advice for non members and more. They obviously have their problems like any other organization but they’re working hard to make the changes they want to happen. Membership is limited to writers who have made at least a novel or two professional rate short story sales. So in my mind, being able to join is a huge sign you are making it.
I loved the last writing convention I went to. This time it’s a conference so I believe all the panels will be focused on business aspects. I also signed up for the mentor program they have. Established writers link with newbies to give them info and advice. I’m super excited to see how that goes.
I’m asking for the Friday off from work, though I’m still going to be quite new to the office. I think I can get the one day off. I’ll miss some things on Thursday but I’ll be able to be there period which is awesome.
Also in the interest of learning more about writing, I read 45 Master Characters. It’s a book describing feminine and masculine archetypes and how to have a character arc using these archetypes.
Overall, I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be based on recommendations. I think it might have helped if I’d watched more of the movies and TV shows the book used as examples of the characters. The archetypes seemed flat. Sure I’ve seen many of them in stories before but the basic description seemed to be missing something. I think combining a few examples might help with the flatness.
What I did find interesting was the character arc write up at the end. There were two main arcs, the feminine and masculine. Theses aren’t necessarily male or female arcs but more of internal and external. Feminine arcs generally consist of finding your inner strength/truth while masculine arcs are the heros journey, saving the world etc.
I liked how the author broke down the arcs and gave a “gender bending” example as well.
Overall, it gave me a lot to think about. Books aren’t the magic answer. They are tools and should be used as such. Even if it’s not my favorite, I really enjoy reading books about writing as well as writing.