Jan 06

Yesterday’s Event…

Posted: under Craft, Horngard, Life beyond writing, Submitting, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  January 6th, 2023

…was sending NewBook, Horngard I, back to my  agent in the hopes he doesn’t find I’ve left a large chunk of orange text (or even one orange word) in it so it can go straight on to a potential publisher.   (Orange, I’ve found, is what will catch my attention and remind me that I had doubts or concerns about a passage.)

It’s down to 175,026 words, 802 pages from its greatest length (which I think was north of 185,000.)  And it’s a lot better since my agent Said Things and sent it back twice for more work.   In the sheer glee of being able to write fiction again at all, and trying out the new Plot Thing (which isn’t the Plot Daemon I had before–feels completely different) , I let it run very freely.  So it acquired a lot of–attached bits, as on a ship that’s been at sea a long time–and while some of the barnacles were interesting in themselves, they were slowing down the story too.   My agent didn’t tell me to cut it–in fact, said “Don’t worry about length,” but I knew it was kind of baggy or shaggy in spots and needed trimming.  In the final version, having gotten some problems fixed, I was able to be firm with myself: “Does the reader need to know this stuff *right now* ?  Prove it.  No?  Chuck it out.”  Running alongside that was the internal command to cut one word per page (or more, but at least one.)

I rediscovered all those techniques I hadn’t needed to use for five years (mid-February will be the 5 year anniversary of the latest concussion)  to cut wordage without cutting meaning.  Of course, the familiar “cut extra modifiers,  cut “there is/are” phrases, change inactive to active verbs where possible” cuts, always useful.   But also the sneaky versions of weakening verbs: progressive tenses (“He was beginning to think…” vs. “He thought” or “She was running as fast as she could” vs “She ran as fast as she could.” ), subjunctive voice (not always a problem but it isn’t always needed when it shows up), any time you see a “helping verb”…question it.

Today is gray, chilly, gloomy.  Yesterday was a glorious sunny, clear, just cool enough day.  So as soon as I sent it off, I went out for a walk on the land.  Without binoculars or camera, just walking (and resting a couple of times) for almost 2 hours.   I’m going out again this morning, but probably not as long.

In the “always longer than I want” sequence from writing to seeing a book printed and on shelves, where are we now?  Into the realm of conjecture and the unknown:   it’s out of my hands at this point (unless of course agent sends it back, but I don’t *think* he will for more than “typo on page 497, line 18” kind of thing.)   It’s Agent’s job to find it a home with a publisher or declare he can’t.  This finding it a home can take anywhere from a week (if someone’s panting in the wings, eager to grab it) to months (if everyone’s attitude is “She uses to write some decent books, but our list is full and we don’t know when we’ll have an opening and anyway she’s probably lost her following and she’s old and it may not be that good…”

If  one of my former publishers wants it, then it’s “always longer than I want” for it to go through the steps of publication:  assignment of an editor for that book and tentative scheduling,  Editor’s editing, my changes to satisfy Editor,  the cover art discussion, etc, etc,  shift to Production, where it will get on the formal production schedule  (the one that is “hard” as opposed to “sorta squidgy), a copyeditor, and then I’ll get the copy-edited version to check over and return, then the Production questions if any, then it goes to the printer, and then to the binder where it’s married to its cover and shoved into boxes and then the release date comes.  Whoopee.

If one of my former publishers doesn’t want it, and neither does anyone else, then the decision comes down to further discussion and…dunno yet.

 

 

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Dec 18

Another two days….

Posted: under Life beyond writing, Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  December 18th, 2022

December 18, 11:43 pm and I’m at 178,644 words, p. 551 of 811, after some hours off today, working in the “picnic grove” to trim snaggy bits off the lower trunks of trees, and then the barn leveling more decomposed granite in the east stall, pick up manure in the south barn lot, feed, and yes, pet and give treats to the horses.  Progress is slow, my brain’s tired of staring at the text and trying to find words to cut.  Still finding them but not as fast now.  I think the writing was getting tighter in this part maybe.  I hope.  Clock’s ticking, calendar’s turning, I need to get this finished so I can get on with the wildlife management report and turn the book back to my agent so it has a chance of finding a publisher.

This is the season of trimming trees, too, and even though some of the bur oaks still have green leaves on them…most of the trimming’s being done right now on the cedar elms in the near meadow.  The picnic grove looks more and more like a grove of actual trees every year–not only are they taller, but the trim is defining, as I’d hoped, the “rooms” in the grove.  We won’t live to see it mature–and a later owner can of course just destroy it–but we should be able to use it a little this year.  The part of the near meadow between the grass waterway and the original fence of the house and lots, east of the main maintenance path, I hope to fence as an additional horse lot soon.  The south horse lot is turning into a “dry lot” (just dirt, which means it erodes in heavy rains, is badly compacted by constant use, and has very little grass left after several years of drought.   It needs a year or several of rest & recovery, with reseeding with a good shortgrass like buffalo or a buffalo/blue grama mix.

Outside work to accomplish these things eats up writing time; writing time eats up work /maintenance/housekeeping time.   But better to have too much to do than be bored and think there’s nothing to do, right?  Right!

Must be in bed in 5 minutes. Bye now.

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Nov 30

Back To Work On Horngard I

Posted: under Characters, Editing, Horngard, Life beyond writing, Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , , , ,  November 30th, 2022

Having turned in the stuff I needed to turn in  for legal reasons, I’m now back at work on my agent’s requested changes to Horngard I, current (not necessarily final) title of Dragon’s Price.   I’m incorporating additional research into the effects of big memory loss…the character has lost everything before waking up after prolonged treatment and unconsciousness.  Fortunately, I’ve added Tribel as a possible replacement for Twitter, and one of the people there offered me some of their experience with someone with massive memory loss.    This wasn’t something my agent suggested, but works well with one of his requests.  I’m going to check a few more sources as well, because although this is not intended as a book *about* memory loss itself it still needs to be plausible (if the reader accepts the idea of an imaginary creature able to magically heal–at least partly–brain injuries.)   It’s *about* a bunch of other things in addition to what the main characters are doing visibly in the book.  Most books are.

This set of changes will take longer than the previous, because it’s requiring reconsideration of just about every conversation in 800 plus pages of ms.

Meanwhile, Horngard II has lain down and gone to sleep.  I opened it yesterday after taking the stuff to the post office and it yawned, rolled over (never opening its eyes) and gave the impression of someone who’d gotten bored waiting and is now soundly asleep.   So what to do when the brain hits the wall in revision, as it does at some point in every work period?  Organize the next collection of Paksworld short fiction, I guess, since when I do wake Horngard II back up, I need to be prepared to stay with it as the primary activity for at least six weeks to get its engine past the pocketa-pocketa……pock…pock… stage when it can try to go back to sleep.  It’s only interrupted books that do this to me; the ones that are allowed to gallop on without any interruption longer than 48 hours aren’t going to stop completely once over 75-1oo pages.  But until they’re past the halfway point, interruptions that last a week cause a hiccup and interruptions that last a month are flameout time.

Friday morning is “horse hoof trimming time.”  I’m hoping for a calm and cooperative pair of horses.  At least it’s not raining (not supposed to rain again until Saturday night) and they’ll have big hay nets the night before.  They have hay nets tonight because it’s going to be in the low 30s in the morning…a forecast guess of 33F in the weather we’ve got could end up in the upper 20sF instead.

 

 

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Oct 25

Agent Said….

Posted: under Horngard, Life beyond writing, Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  October 25th, 2022

So my agent and I had a good long talk on the phone last Friday, and yes, NewBook IS a book, and IS publishable, BUT (there’s always a BUT.  Always, from every level of alpha reader, beta reader, agent, and editor)  there are Things To Be Fixed.

Which I’m working on.  Started early Saturday morning.  Everything he said made sense to me (another change since late May of this year is that I can “get” what the “could be better if” is about again.)   So the fixes are a matter of finding the places to put the fixes in the right place, in the right words, and remove the less-right words in a way that leaves everything looking like it grew there in the first place.  That’s never as simple as it sounds (just take out the wrong words, put in the right ones)  because the simple form means cut-and-patch…and the new “better” words often clash in some way with nearby words (sentences, phrases, tone, prosody, etc.) that also need some work to make the patches truly invisible.  But it’s doable; it just takes (always) more time than I hope.  I’ve already made considerable progress.

Meanwhile, though, NewBookII is having to sit on the inactive line, and it’s about as patient as I’ve been when an earlier delay has meant the passenger train I was on had to be held on a siding so a series of long, slow freight went by.   (We had had a collision with an idiot work truck parked on the tracks; it damaged the locomotive’s cowling–it was dragging on the tracks–so we had to crawl slowly to a siding where a welder could come cut it off.  No fault of Amtrak, it was the company that owned the rails’ work truck that had parked there when the train was due to come whizzing through at full speed.  SNARL.)  Anyway, NewBook is being grumpy and trying to push its words into my “fix this” tool, and that it not really a help at all.

All thanks to my percipient agent for pointing out what I think were the two biggest things that needed fixing, one of which is now completely done, and the other one far ahead (but the small fixes in between are necessary to set up the big later fix, so it’s not sitting there outlined in fluorescent orange screaming “Look at me!  I’m where the dead story bit was!” at the reader.)   I’m now eyeing the first POV section of Gwennothlin Marrakai, whom some of you will remember as one of Dorrin’s squires, last seen about to enter the Bells school for young knights.   She’s a knight now.  But the first POV section didn’t please my agent and what seemed to me a reasonable and seamless transition didn’t work for him.  So I’m looking at home to make it obvious that it should be there.  And one thing is to put an obvious link to her brother, who has (just previously) been the most vivid of characters.

So the morning’s work goes on and I will get back to it, now, and you, later.

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Oct 16

And Next….Horngard the Second Has Begun

Posted: under Good News, Life beyond writing, Progress, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  October 16th, 2022

So all the stages of revision (the big three) got done and in the process of the last one I realized that I’d lost something somewhere…cut & didn’t paste, and since I’d chosen “cut” the something was long gone lost.  I’d have to write it again.  Which I did one day this past week and I like it better than the first version.   Then I went on with the spit-polishing of the surface and finished that Friday.  Yesterday morning, Saturday, I was primed for a day of loafing–or at least working on other things like having actual *space* in the study, nothing on the floor (!!!) instead of the Useful Books now there, along with the many not-useful things.

But wait!  Something was stirring.  Something had hold of my brain and was yanking at me.  “Come here!  Don’t do that!  Come HERE and sit DOWN and put fingers on the keyboard and get going!!!”

And out came…the start of NewBook II or Horngard II.   “But, but, but,” I stammered.  “I have other things to do!  I need to go do this, and go do that, and go do the other thing, lots of things have gone undone since I started NewBook I!”

And the book said “Nonsense.  Keep going.”  Ten pages later that was it for the day.

It’s not even noon yet and another ten pages has appeared in the file.

“But I have to do these things…”

“No, you don’t.  Shut up, quit arguing, and get going…this train is leaving the station, toot-toot-toot, and you’d better be on it or be sorry.”

“But I haven’t heard back from my agent, and shouldn’t I wait until…?”

“NO!”

“But there’s a weather change and it might finally rain and I need to spread seed, and…”

“NO!”

You know what’s really, really, really fun…is the feel of being on a fast-moving book with the story pouring into your head and out through your fingers.  Even if you’re eating unhealthy food, your neck hurts, your finger joints are beginning to burn, one leg’s going to sleep…it’s really, really fun to have live characters doing their thing right there in front of you, and the book’s  plot daemon prodding you in the ribs: “Hurry up!  Get that bit—right there–that’s good, keep going, don’t stop, yeah!!!”

I do have to go feed horses their lunch, even if the book’s hollering at me.  I’ll be back.  How many pages today?  I have no idea.  What’s going to happen?  I have no idea except that I’ll be spending time in this chair and more Story will be in the file. and I’ll be grinning at times and tapping my foot and thinking how very lucky I am in some back corner of my mind while the rest is occupied playing all the instruments in the orchestra at once.  Hooyah!

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Sep 12

First Draft: Done. First Revision Draft: Done

Posted: under Craft, Editing, Life beyond writing, Progress, the writing life.
Tags: , , , ,  September 12th, 2022

NewBook isn’t *finished*, but it is complete in the sense of beginning, end, middle untangled so the segments are in the right order, some major side issues that belong in the long arc but not this volume sequestered for the next (or after that), and sufficient interior notes to do the next stage.

So…what are we looking at?  It starts the day the two major characters look down from adjoining mountains, one facing east, one looking south.   Everyone in it–whom I thought I knew from the previous books–surprised me at least once and sometimes more than once in the course of the book.  They showed up not when I expected them to, but when they just did.,..they were different than when I saw them last in Crown of Renewal.  Stuff has gone on behind my back, so to speak.  Because of characters’ physical separation, while each character’s plot line is briskly going on about its business, there was “braiding” to be done in this first, structural, revision draft.  Some of that may still be revised in the next revision draft.  But most of the characters are people that veterans of Paksworld, especially the Paladin’s Legacy group, will know, will have seen before…just 5-6 years on from where they were in age, experiences, locations in some cases.

From here–as fast as I can make it happen–NewBook will get its second revision draft, which will deal with remaining structural issues (a few gaps, now clearly marked on the first revision draft) , and its first “construction” revision (where something needs to be built better, so to speak…design is fine but that bit right there is crooked or unsound)  and then its third revision draft, which will deal with its more surface issues: the polishing part.  Third draft should be ready to submit, after a final run past some readers.  If the dental stuff hadn’t slowed me down, I’d be sure it would be done by Oct 1, but now I’m not…this dental thing is supposed to take several more days in the chair, I’ve been warned, and if they break the molar it will have to come out.  Last time I had one pulled it cost me 4-5 days of misery & no work on anything.  However, the later drafts usually (used to) go faster than the first revision, the structural one.

Once it’s clean enough to satisfy me, it goes to my agent, and if it passes him it goes out wherever he sends it (to start with, Del Rey, we’ve already decided) and I start the next one.  Then the decisions are up to someone else, and I’ll just work on what’s next and hope for the best.  It WILL come out in some form or other, if not from a trad publisher then Indie.   It’s certainly not perfect at this point, but it’s complete enough that I’m convinced it’s a real, and satisfying, story.    Right now I’m also having problems with my regular email but I can still access Earthlink’s WebMail, though the book is very close to its size limit on attachments, while Thunderbird was gulping it right down.  Another thing to fix when I have time.  No snippets today–apologies–but I have to feed horses, dress, etc. and get to the dentist this morning.

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Aug 24

150,000 And Bouncing

Posted: under Good News, Life beyond writing, Progress, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  August 24th, 2022

Yes, this afternoon I reached 150,000 words-and-a-bit, which is the “about right” length for a Paksworld book.   Was so gleeful I made a batch of fudge brownies (forgetting that with a temporary crown on one tooth, fudge is not the best idea…)  Celebration time.  We had fried chicken for supper,  brownie with ice cream to follow.  It’s not all done…one major component needs to be written, and a dull boring blob of a beginning needs to be ripped off and replaced with a crisp, sparkling, start, but…it’ll be a much easier balancing act with 150,000 *mostly* right words keeping it on track and zipping along.

Today’s snippet is also posted in the elizabethmoon.com blog, so you needn’t look there for extras today.

……………………………………………………………………………

By dark, he had achieved, he thought, the ugliest point ever put on the end of a pole, but it would hurt if it hit you right, and it didn’t fall off or break when he jabbed at a tree section with it.

…………………………………………………………………………

This is Aris, the not yet qualified blacksmith, king’s friend, duke’s third son, horse trainer, and former squire to Duke Arcolin until a series of unfortunate events sent him….well, you’ll have to find out in the book itself.

 

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Aug 11

News, Views, and Other Stuff

Posted: under Life beyond writing.
Tags:  August 11th, 2020

Whoa, it’s been WAY too long since I was back here.   There’s both good news and sad news on several fronts, so let me get to it.  Since the last post here was about Tigger, I’ll update horses first.  Tigger was doing better and better until October 11 last year, when something panicked him while I was leading him, saddled, as part of his ground work before trying to ride him again (which was going to have to be bitless, because of the permanent injury to his tongue, found at teh vet visit.)   He broke loose from me, raced around the north lot, either flat out or bucking, alternately, and the tack began to fall off in sections…stirrups, saddle pad 1 and 2.   In a final burst of speed, he headed for the 5 foot plus fence between the two lots and tried to jump it.  He didn’t make it, (broke the top pipe at a weld with his chest) and the impact threw him over backwards.  He was, as you might imagine, badly injured.   He’s alive, but not riding-sound and probably never will be.  I’ll spare you the description of all the injuries, but the one that hasn’t healed up is in his back.   Injuries like these *can* heal in enough years (the spine fuses) but in addition when he fell over, he whacked the back of his head–where head and neck meet, on the ground too.   He lost all the confidence he’d gained in the months here, and the two weeks in the vet hospital being treated for multiple cuts (some very deep), an injured eye, and so on did not help his mental status.  He’s still beautiful, though.

He now has a companion that I *can* ride, a black and white horse of no known parentage, a “steady Eddy” personality, named Ragtime (Rags, in daily use.)   Rags is smaller than Tigger and of a completely different build.  Conformationally, he’s an inferior horse, but in practice he’s a pleasant horse to walk around on, and easy to manage though somewhat pushy.  He’s six this year.

May, 2020,  Tigger and Ragtime when the grass was green

Meanwhile, I had started a new book–not a Paks book, but a book I thought might be easier to write, set in the Vatta universe.  It was intended to be the third book in Vatta’s Peace, but I knew I’d have to let it develop any way it wanted to, and not push for the same speed of writing that I used to have.   It’s still just called NewBook (no title) and it’s now just over 100,000 words.  Slowed down somewhat but not completely by the pandemic and moderate self-quarantine: everyone in our family is at increased risk (R- and I by age, plus pre-existing conditions that *some* politicians think make us unworthy of care) and our son as a disabled person whom some politicians also consider not worth saving.  This is a GOP-dominated state, and some of our state leaders and other political talking heads have been eager to say that this group and that group don’t really matter.    When our governor decided to re-open the state (after a late and incomplete closure and no real “wear a mask” statement) our case numbers were still rising, and Memorial Day was right in front of us.   To say I was angry at this gross disrespect for human life is to put it too mildly.  Our national and state leaders kept making it clear that the rising death toll didn’t bother *them* because they insisted the deaths weren’t that important.   As one right-wing pundit in Texas said about the increasing deaths, “It’s mostly elderly and Hispanics.”  Thank you so much, you smug arrogant scum, I thought.   I was not surprised, but definitely angry, when the recommended emails, letters, and calls to my representatives at both state and federal level has zero effect.  A story began to take shape in my head in  June, but I tried to stick to the book.

Even as a friend in New Zealand was describing the approaching end of their shutdown because of rapidly declining cases (NZ now has had no new cases for over 100 days)  and I was anticipating being an online program participant in their WorldCon, we experienced spike after spike,  including in my hometown and its county and those adjoining, down on the Border.   And then my husband’s younger brother and his wife came down with  COVID-19 in Houston, his wife went into the hospital, was intubated, and died.   We were not close, but that was the week they moved morgue trailers into our state, and shipments of body bags, and of course I was sad (and angry) about their situation even before she died.    I couldn’t write at all at first, or think clearly enough to do the prep work for the panels I was supposed to be on or moderate, so I withdrew from programming, and when my brain started functioning better…the story came out.

That story is now up on my website (link on the front page) at http://www.elizabethmoon.com

I expect to get comments on it either on Facebook or on the Universes blog, also housed on the website, but if so moved you can put them here.

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Sep 13

Tigger’s Progress

Posted: under Life beyond writing.
Tags:  September 13th, 2019

Tigger is revealing himself to be smart, alert, interested in communicating and gaining facility in that, and athletic.  We have passed some critical milestones.  About a week after the previous post, my then vet became my former vet, and I went back to some vets I’d had before.  Tigger has now had his first full-on visit to that vet clinic, where everything went very well indeed, and things said by former vet became more obviously false.  Tigger has continued to mellow, but mellow-for-him, not what everyone would call mellow.  The big vet visit turned up the reason for his bitting difficulty…an injury to his tongue that’s left a transverse groove (probably actually a scar) across his tongue.  So for the present, he’ll be retrained to go bitless.   In the meantime, he’s stretched his neck a lot, and is less likely, even when excited, to suck it back and imitate a giraffe with it.  He’s fed at ground level, even though it means wasted hay, is outside grazing a lot, etc.  He is trusting us more, comfortable with the routine, though still not fond of being brushed.  We’re doing some desensitization by a slower process than many trainers, because I have the time…no rush to get him “finished.” If you want to read about the current challenges, they’re detailed on my FaceBook posts.

Pictures follow:

Relaxed and moving forward in a disunited canter…better use of his neck and back

But in the presence of something scary…the head’s higher and the tail stiffly upright, the gallop 4-beat but correct in form

And in the suspension phase those hooves are *really* off the ground

He’s a lot of fun and takes up quite a bit of my time.  It will be well into October before I can expect to get on him.  I’ve ridden completely trained horses in a halter and shank but he’s going to be a challenge.  The Marrakai horses in Paksworld were not modeled after pure Arabians but they were modeled after part-Arabs.  They do look something like this but with a bit more bone.

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Aug 01

Tiptoe to the Barn….

Posted: under Life beyond writing, the writing life.
Tags: ,  August 1st, 2019

Where the new resident now appears to be headed for permanency….a ten year old gelding whose new barn name (didn’t have one before that I know of) is “Tigger.”  Tigger looks somewhat like Kallie, except that he’s shorter in the back with a longer hindquarter…in other words better basic structure.   Here he is at the training facility where I bought him, all spiffied up for his portrait.

And here he is at home, very cautious about those dangerous-looking jump blocks. Who knows what horrors might be in them?

A week plus later, he’s more relaxed, turning to come toward me in the late evening light.  ‘Oh, it’s you…got any of those carrot things?”


Like all horses, he has some dings and some training challenges.  He injured one leg as a young horse and has an impressive scar on his left knee that does not affect his action at all.  He also has a splint bump on the cannon bone of the same leg, also not affecting his movement.  No data on whether these injuries occurred at the same time.  These are blemishes that interfered with his planned halter career, but not a problem for the use he will have here.

More challenging is a clearly very settled habit of balling up his tongue behind the bit.  As this is not good for him, or for me as a rider,  and convincing a horse that automatically balls up his tongue when the bit enters his mouth is known to be a difficult fix, I’ve decided to retrain him for bitless riding.  So far, at the groundwork stage, using his usual flat webbing halter and clip-on reins, it’s going well.  Having his tongue balled up behind the bit would certainly explain his rather, um, strong contact when being ridden (both observed with another rider and while riding him for the test.)   I was told “You have to keep a tight hold on him, and really pull to stop him.”  I love his forward-going nature, and his alertness, but prefer to have a horse light in the bridle.  Without the bit in his mouth, he seems to need only consistent training to be light.

He also needed dental work that will be done this coming week, within his first month here, and the vet may find an explanation for the bitting problem other than someone not doing a good job of introducing him to it.    I know his mouth is small, with a flat palette, so it may be the bits being used with him were simply too big.   If the vet thinks he might ever carry a bit,  I’ll work him bitless for 6 months or so and introduce a different, thinner bit designed for horses with small, sensitive mouths.   In about two-three weeks, if all goes well with the prep work, including at least a week of ground driving with the saddle on, I’ll be on his back using a halter with reins attached (the mildest form of bitless)  and with my trainer’s help we’ll decide which of the several bitless bridles might suit him best…he gets a vote, of course.  Sidepull, rope halter with reins, flat halter with reins, Micklem Multibridle, Dr. Cook’s Bitless Bridle, etc.

In the meantime, ArmadilloCon starts tomorrow and I’ll miss several days work with him.  Love the people at DilloCon but will miss my new horse.  He’s a real character, and I can hardly wait to be riding him when he’s showing off like this, taken at the training facility and shown on his sales page (now removed, alas.)

On the writing side, after he arrived and began settling in…I wrote the first new fiction (very short, very rough draft) that actually finished a story since the concussion.  And I’m starting slowly on the next Vatta book, the third in Vatta’s Peace.  Horses are not a distraction…they’re inspiration.

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