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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Mica

Mica

There is a funny scene in Fiddler on the Roof, during the opening number, “Tradition” when the villagers are arguing “It was a horse; it was a mule; horse/mule/horse/mule…”

We have a Morgan, Mica, and this has become one of his theme songs. Visually, he is a stunning representative of the breed, striking the quintessential pose without cue, luxurious mane and tail, conformation and balance, black with a thin white blaze. Sighs and murmurs follow in his wake, he is that gorgeous.

But we think he had his ears docked, and maybe a brow job, because inside this handsome gelding is the heart and mind of a mule plain and simple. Mica is smart, really smart. We can see the cogs turning in his equine brain. We watch him try to pick locks. Outsmart us. Find the easy way home.

And self-preservation. Mica does not want to cause bodily injury to himself. We have witnessed him back into stacked fencing, while refusing to go where he should.

Where mere horses might have panicked and started kicking or flailing, Mica stops, thinks, the delicately extricates his feet from harm, still refusing to go up the trail. In refusing, he has gone over cliffs, up banks and into trees, never bolting, bucking or injuring himself.

Along with his many refusals to ‘work’, the word stubborn, let me say that again, STUBBORN comes to mind. We can not count the miles man and horse/mule have lounged on the trail. Like a pocket round pen. My husband has shown impossible depths of patience—I am in awe. Not to mention dizzy from all the circling.

Despite all this mayhem in and out of the saddle, Mica has got the kindest eye. He is sweet and friendly, not a malicious bone in his body. He never bears a grudge for all the ‘work’ we try and get out of him. We laugh ourselves silly over his antics. He has that much horsenality.

Vocalizations-is it a Morgan or mule thing to talk so much? Mica truly believes the world is entitled to his opinion and he shares it body and voice. Grunts, groans, sighs, exhalations. Aristotle on the trail; the great equine philosopher. Charlie McCarthy to my husband’s Ed Bergen.

We have been half owners of Mica (now 7) for almost 10 months. With my husband’s continuous tenacity, saintly patience and his own stubbornness, Mica has gone from crying, whining, shaking, sweating, diarrhea and constant refusals (Russ too!), to realizing he will not meet with some foul and devious end out on the trail. If nothing else, he is learning it is easier to walk down the trail than lounge it.

Russ and Gabe are the only people fit and capable to ride this fine specimen, and Mica may prove to be a one or two man horse. He is well on the way to becoming a truly great trail horse/mule. Maybe one day he will again deem me worthy of a ride.

So, the burning question, is he a horse or a mule?

HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY CONFERENCE

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Historical Novel Society just held its second biennial North American conference in Albany, New York at the lovely Desmond Hotel and Conference Center, June 8-10, 2007.

My thanks and gratitude to this fine organization for bringing lovers of historical fiction together through a quarterly newsletter and magazine, website, referrals and these wonderful conferences. As an unpublished author, I can connect with other writers, researchers and resources. I meet readers--potential fans--as well as exposure to agents and editors in the big wide world of publication.

Unlike other writers conferences covering everything from collectibles to cookbooks, memoir to travel, or werewolf erotica, all I need do is ask: “What time period do you write in?” Because it’s all history all the time. There might be medieval recipes (as in my own books), or poetry interspersed, but all within the realm of the past. I discovered Jack Absolute, the dashing 007 of the 1770’s, by C. C. Humphreys and met Carrie Bebris who writes the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mysteries. Yes, Jane Austen fans, that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. My daughter finished her autographed copy and is hot on the trail for more.

Good news for writers and readers, the market for historic fiction is HOT. Hottest are books with real historic characters as a ‘hook’, especially when told from the point of view of a servant or outside character. “There will always be an England” according to Irene Goodman, literary agent, hands down the most popular locale, and the Tudors continue to fascinate. Eygpt is hot, as well as biblical, and Renaissance Italy or Casanova’s Venice are popular. The bottom line is writing a great book with compelling characters, action and the right amount of erotic tension. Victorian werewolves engaged in cross species sex…if it is brilliantly written (maybe not).

One of my favorite authors, Diana Gabaldon, of the Outlander series was a keynote speaker and presenter. When I grow up and become a published author—I know what panel I want to be on! Sex, romance and seduction. Perhaps my writing is a bit over the top, the sex shouldn’t be gratuitous— Dr. Gabaldon read an excerpt from a new, contemporary novel, she is working on about the allure of jewelry and what is says about a woman wearing it. Shackle my sapphires to the bedpost, baby!

Bernard Cornwell, creator of the Sharpe series, Saxon Tales, and an Arthurian saga, was also a featured keynote speaker and presenter, entertaining and educating us in the glories and perils of fiction writing. Take heed: Writers of Arthurian legend have a unique circle of critics challenging and correcting every detail of the book. They are not the scholars, historians or grammarians that plague other writers. These critics claim to bring irrefutable proof the author got it wrong and are justified in exposing the fraud, because these critics were Lancelot, Mordred or Guinevere. No one has ever written Mr. Cornwell claiming to be a Napoleonic rifleman or Wellington or any of that ilk. But get the Round Table wrong and there’s Hell to pay.

Allison McCabe, editor for Crown books, provided valuable insider information on the care and feeding of books, editors and publishers. She is an editor who literally rips her heart out of her chest and bares it on the boardroom table. Thanks to the aid of a plastic prop provided by a cardiologist.

My other ten minute session was with literary agent, Karen Solem, of Spencerhill.

For a complete list of all the presenters, agents and editors participating, as well as workshops please check out the Historic Novel Society Conference Website. http://www.historicalnovelsociety.org/albany/conference.htm For information about The Historical Novel Society, check that website. http://www.historicalnovelsociety.org/

Sadly, I will be counting the days until the next HNS conference in 2009, to be united with my brethren in fiction. I look forward to volunteering again, and better still, having my book to promote (with shameless abandon). In the meantime, I renewed friendships from the Salt Lake City Conference, and made new ones in Albany. We have two years to talk, share, encourage and celebrate. I have a bundle of new books to read autographed by the delightful authors who wrote them. I met writers and readers from Santa Cruz County to network with locally.


It is strange to post these out of chrionological from writing and experiencing. However...better late than never.

First Horses

MY FIRST HORSES

October, 2006. OMG, without even publishing my first book, my wonderful, most exalted and loving husband has made it possible for me to have a horse…We are co-owners of two horses, two!!

At the R-Wild Horse Ranch, Platina, California, 96076 (http://www.rwildhorseranch.net/index.html), we share ownership with Gabe Selles of a lovely little Arab mare, Savannah (13 hands/17 years) and black Morgan gelding, Mica (15 hands/7 yrs). We are starting at the beginning with the round pen, ground manners, etc. and having the time of our lives. Horses are great for the almost-empty-nest.

Please see pictures in the gallery on my website (www.AnneBeggs.com).

I should have kept a better diary/journal of horse/mule ownership. However, writing time is precious and generally best used for my novels. But with experience I have come to understand the value of blogging, and it is in the hope of learning and meeting like minded people through blogging/diaries/journals. So I will start fresh, as well as fill in the back story.

First, let’s start with: A Mule, you say? The first entry clearly states an Arab and a Morgan. Not to offend the Morgan lovers of the world, I must qualify this by saying Mica has all the finest qualities of the mule. He is intelligent, has a strong sense of self-preservation, and doesn’t panic. Mica is also stubborn, stubborn, stubborn. If he weren’t so magnificently beautiful, with the most handsome face and kindest brown eyes, my husband and I would swear he had an ear bob to disguise him as a horse.

After hours and hours, over weeks Mica has learned ground manners and respect. He excels in the round pen, and loves arena work when other horses are involved. Square dancing, drill work, and horse soccer. But out on the trail…Mica has backed more miles, over cliffs, into trees and in circles than he has ventured forth. Even after my patient husband has lounged him, backed him, and circled him, Mica still ‘joins up’ like a big goofy Labrador, seeking affection and approval. No hard feelings on his part! Not a malicious bone in his willful body.

I believe he will be a problem solver. Although so far he has NO incentive to leave his pasture mates or the barn area when there are lots of people to fawn over him.

And now for Savannah, AKA: Pony, Pasture Princess, My Doll (Midol). Need I say more?

Savannah has the most enchanting face and expression-if you are a person. In human diplomacy and ground manners, she is the quintessential Arabian. Gentle, affectionate, the lap dog of the equine world. But to other horses, especially her pesky “little brother” Mica, she is pure Stink Eye, pinned ears, beak lip, slashing tail.

Slow Poke, or Pokemon may also be good nick names for her, for she is the world’s slowest walking pony. Every time we leave the barn, she inches her way up the trail as if she were walking the plank, the green mile, the death march of Bataan. Each step carefully placed as if the ground were to suddenly slip away, so sure footed is she. But…true to Arab form, at a trot and especially a gallop, Savannah is fast as the wind, and loves to be first. Rags to Riches look out, Savannah is definitely a come from behind sleeper, ‘eat my dust you losers’ kinda of girl.

Been there, done that, very unflappable, even if something startles her, she immediately regains her composure and carries on. I wouldn’t call her bomb proof, not everyone can ride her…but I haven’t found much that spooks her, not charging dogs, motorcycles, cats, loud noises, and I understand she packs dead animals—a hunters dream come true. Unless I die on the trail, I won’t be testing that claim.

Savannah is a great singleton. Our best rides have been just us. A slow walk isn’t as noticeable alone, and is safer. We have done miles of steep, narrow trail in only a bareback pad and halter.

But…sadly, I don’t feel she has bonded to me particularly well. Or maybe it is just a work ethic thing…Savannah doesn’t like to be ridden, especially away from the barn and her pasture mates. Sour is hardly the word. When she is out riding with her pasture buddies, I think she is a different horse entirely. My matronly riding schedule does not coincide with those of her buddies, however. And, of course, that is when our partner is riding, quite happily. And that is good.

Hmmm…much to think on.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Writers Block

Writers block

Perhaps yesterday I had my first glimmer of writers block. And it was not what I thought it would be at all. Somehow I always envisioned writers block (WB) to be the inability to think of anything to write. A loss for words. No creativity. A blank canvas.

Ha, WB comes in many forms, and can be quite insidious if dwelled upon. Thank goodness for antidepressants, counseling and family and friends.

My affliction came in the form of intimidation, insecurity, a veil of doubt that I was unworthy and foolish to consider myself an author of some consequence. Lack of words, failing creativity, no. Not even fear of rejection. That is easy, I say please, they say no thanks…next. But the stifling, choking dread of rejecting myself. And when “It’s All About Me” that is paralyzing. Self-rejection. (Imagine your hand saying “No, thanks, I’m turning in early. Ask Lefty.”)

In my continuing endeavors to grow and expand my skill and knowledge of the historical novel market, I have spent some time on the Amazon historical forum I discovered at the bottom of World Without End, Ken Follett’s October 9 release. Bet there are more forums about literary, contemporary, mysteries, etc. I could be doing further research for Rainmocker and Cabs for Christ…but that would take even more time from writing them!

Given the 30 or so active people on this forum and the diversity of tastes in the genre, it has shaken me up a bit, reminding me with the undeniable clarity of a 2 x 4 between the eyes that getting published is as ephemeral as the smoke from the proverbial pipe dream, not to mention satisfying a strong and loyal fan base of avid readers. Not only Is It All About Me, but I Want it all! I want to write what I love, have others love it as much as I do, and have the best sellers to fund more writing. Please and thank you.

Whining and venting aside, Roland and Eloise beckon, there are wolf cubs to feed, a bear scratching his massive behind on a tree and an anxious steward longing to sleep in his own bed come nightfall. The horses are nickering, welcoming me with armloads of hay…oh the rich life of a fiction writer. Eloise will be rubbing be her back, weary from a days hard ride, the endless questions posed by her charges, complaints and rain. Is her mother well? The harvests have been good, and so the burgeoning populace. How will they all eat? Will the stores last? The friendly nickering and soft breath of the horses warm her heart, lifting her spirit as only communion with God’s most noble creature can. “Aye, you great looby,” she sighs, seeing to their feeding, one more step, another chore complete.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

OMG

OMG

It’s been almost a month and no blog…how can that be from someone as outspoken as me and who loves to see her words in print!

Well, I was working on some other assignments, learning a lot from the historical novel forum on Amazon. Yes, Amazon.

I was on vacation for 2 ½ weeks, and had no internet service.

More importantly, I think I found my dream horse. While on vacation. And posted that blog ahead of this one--the shame.But I like the format and the element of surprise...

Russ, June, Phydough and I were up at the R-Wild Horse Ranch http://www.rwildhorseranch.net/index.html 2 ½ weeks. And yes it was hot as I imagine Hell to be. But when you can combine horses with motorcycles, not to mention good friends, family, a swimming hole and two pools…well I am willing to give up my magnificent coastal fog for some equine fun. Check out the website, there are ownerships available. It is a rustic country club without a golf course.

Russ and I currently share half interests in two horses at the R-Ranch with one of the wranglers up there. A beautiful black Morgan gelding, Mica and a flea bitten Arab mare, Savannah—our first horses EVER! Please see pix on my website http://www.annebeggs.com/about.htm.

I must write a blog about Savannah and Mica, they are worthy of their own pages! Talk about horseanility. But, this is about my dream horse…

For two weeks we discussed the pros and cons of getting another horse (for a number of reasons) for me. There are hundreds of great horses available to good homes. It is sad and frightening, actually. Returning to the Ranch, we decided to table that idea for a while, we were in no hurry, when the time is right, that sort of thing.

To beat the heat and take a break from each other, Russ and June decided to take their Buells for a road trip to Hayfork. Is that a great name for a town or what? And what a picture post card place. Like a scene from Bonanza, or some other mountainous western. June checks the bulletin board outside the Frontier Village grocery store and what does she find? An ad for three horses for sale: a liver chestnut Arab mare, a black Arab gelding, and a bay warmblood. $750 each (Shush, I’m not supposed to know that, because it was a gift!) Russ calls for more information. The mare is 14 yrs and about 14 hands; has had some Parelli ground work, is a great, fast trail horse. She was bought as a brood mare and won’t brood…sounds perfect, so Russ makes arrangements for us to go look.

Having read the previous post---this is old news! But I am missing my Black Diamond, and am worried about how he is assimilating with the other five horses in his new pasture. He is a wimpy weenie. He was pastured with cattle for the past few months because the other alpha horses in residence were exceptionally dominate and Diamond didn’t establish himself. If he can not co-exist with his pasture mates, an alternate situation can be arranged. An in/out stall with a ‘courtyard’ is available; but we all know horses are social beings thriving on space and herd mates.

We enjoyed the rest of our vacation, spreading our time with five horses (Mica, Savannah, Black Diamond, Angel, and Kilo a delightful Qtr horse I share responsibility/riding privilege with). I’m Horse Mom+

And how does this tie into my writing career? Well, I will be submitting articles to my favorite equine industry periodicals. Anything I learn about horses will find its way into my novels one way or another.

Life is about living, creating, contributing, participating, and preserving. I honestly believe the happiest, healthiest people do those things, in a myriad of ways. Managing, teaching, nursing, nurturing, helping, seeking solutions, exploring…

I’m getting too philosophical for this “What did I do on my summer vacation” blog. One of the beauties of writing is blazing a path to further enlightenment…

Friday, July 20, 2007

When Dreams Come True

December 2006

Dear Santa Hooves

Please bring me a person of my own. Someone kind and fun and gentle for me to play with. Someone who won’t forget about me; won’t ignore me. One with a kind eye that is amenable and eager to please. Well broke but not sullen.

Please, Santa, I want to be bathed and brushed and combed. Then roll in the dirt and start all over again! To explore trails, jog about and take victory laps in the arena. Like I used to.

Once I was a winner, I think. But then…I don’t know…it all went bad. I was starving, thirsty. Then shipped off among strangers in noisy pens without a friend or a familiar scent.

I was rescued. Now I am fit, healthy and have food and water. But I’m lonely. I live with cows, they call me loser.

So please Santa Hooves, please please please, bring me a person to call my own. A forever partner.

Thank you,

Little black Arab gelding

May 2007

Dear Russ

I am so happy to be a horse owner, even if it is half ownership of two horses, with a great wrangler at R-Ranch. What a fortuitous opportunity for all. Really…honest …kinda…well…

I’m ready for a horse of my own. A good, sound, fun horse that wants to be my partner; explore trails, learn new things, have fun in the arena, and walks fast! I’m not competitive, I just want to ride and keep up with the other horses. A kind eye, amenable and eager to please. 6 to 15 years old so we will have years together.

Oh, it must be a pretty horse.

Thanks,

Annibella

July 2, 2007

Frontier Village Grocery Store

Hayfork, California

“Look, Dad, Horses for Sale,” June says to Russ. “’Liver Chestnut, Arab mare, 14 yrs, great trail horse. Bay warmblood gelding. Black Arab gelding 17 yrs. $750 each.’ Do you think Mom would be interested?”

Beep, beep, beep…(the sound of a cell phone)

“Hello.”

“Please tell me about the Arab mare.” “Thank you so much, I’ll check with my wife.”

July 4th, 2007 Independence Day

Hayfork, California

The chestnut mare we originally went to see about, was limping (needed a better Ferrier). We couldn’t catch the bay warmblood. But Nona Smith had a black Arab gelding. 17 yrs. Older than I was looking for, unless it was an exceptional horse.

He was one of four rescue horses she picked up at an auction because she couldn’t leave them behind. Nona nursed them back to health with food, water, supplements and care. But on a racing farm, they were extra mouths to feed and needed to move on to good homes.

It was almost love at first sight! A dangerous thing with horses, because I want to ride them, not just look at them!

He was head turning, Arab gorgeous. Big black eyes, soft and inquisitive. Thick mane and tail. But with a drooping bottom lip, making him look older than he was. He had Casanova, Romeo and Don Juan written all over him. My daughter and I are still swooning.

My first test ride in the cattle pasture was slow and thus disappointing. Great! One horse seems lame and the other one is slow. But they were SO appealing. We made arrangements for both to be brought to the R-Wild Horse Ranch for a trial basis. Not being swayed by pretty faces are we?

Back at the Ranch as they say…Black Diamond (yes, I already named him. Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend) was a whole different horse, especially after having his feet trimmed by the master, Dave Mattocks!

Diamond rides like a dream. All leg cues, smooth gaits, more advanced than my current level, but he seems willing to teach me! Bless his patient heart.

Remember the movie “The Black Stallion”? Add two rear white fetlocks, a star, some white blemishes, no stud anatomy and that is Black Diamond! A little older than I initially wanted, but Diamond is too exceptional to pass up. What are a few years between middle age friends, right?

How does a Diamond like this end up in the equine refuse pile, unwanted even at an auction? He exudes Western Pleasure; was someone’s pride and joy. Maybe he wasn’t competitive enough, not in the ribbons? Or a lingering injury that his months off in rescue eased? Divorce, loss of job, new baby, college? Flood or other natural disaster? Repossession? Is it possible for horses to get lost, like dogs or cats, and end up at a shelter/auction?

We are very thankful to Nona Smith, of Hayfork, California for recognizing this diamond in the rough and restoring him to his true brilliance. Diamonds are selected for the four “C’s” and so was he: Clarity (distinctness), Cut (conformation), Carats (lots of the orange kind), Color (black, rare indeed). And how about, Cute, Comfortable, Calm, and Character. Or perhaps, Classy, Compliant, Caliber, Compatible, Companion.

And our heartfelt thanks and gratitude for all the horse lovers and rescue organizations out there saving fine, quality, living, breathing equines on a daily basis. I don’t have a solution for the problem of unwanted horses any more than I do for global health coverage or world peace. But I can be responsible for my horses, and graciously acknowledge the contributions of unsung heroes.

Oh, what of the mare? She has proved to be a little rough around the edges for me. Out of practice; perhaps because she has been an unsuccessful brood mare for several seasons. But others at the Ranch have shown interest. She has great potential; and is waiting for a forever partner.

This has nothing to do with my books, but everything to do with my life. As a fiction writer, most things in my life find their way into my books…I will have to research more about the precious stones used in Ireland in the thirteenth century. I am not sure Eloise would have had first hand knowledge of diamonds…hmmm…I did get my novels into this blog.