Holiday Gift suggestions

How about music and magic for the holidays?

Evolution Device front cover♪♪♪♪♪  Evolution Device ♪♪♪♪♪

Do you remember when music was magic? Do you remember being spellbound, in thrall to the power and glory that stole your soul and made you high?

Do you still listen? Is a part of you still there?

Guitarist Eddie Edmunds is rising to fame in 1970s London’s hothouse of rock music.  He has a Muse who is part spirit and part human; a guitar that is part electronics and part… something else; and a heroin addiction that doesn’t quite let him hide from the power he’s never learned to control.

He’s a man who is fighting his power. She’s a Muse who’s losing her power. Evolution Device is a band that’s finding its power. And only the guitar knows what power Eddie evokes when she sings for him.

Evolution Device. A man, a band, and a promise.

___

Read the Big Idea behind Evolution Device on John Scalzi’s blog

Evolution Device is available at your favorite bookstores, including Barnes & Noble   
Get Evolution Device at:
Amazon US    
Amazon UK  
Powell’s 
KOBO
Booktopia (Australia) 
Waterstones (UK) 
Strand Book Store (no relation to me!)

 

♪♪♪♪♪ Mage Music: The Blog ♪♪♪♪♪Mage Music front cover

Mage Music: The Blog Writings on Magick and Creativity is not a grimoire. It does not contain spells and invocations. Sorry, but if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re likely never going to find what you need.

Mage Music is a compilation of selected posts from jimmypagemusic.blogspot.com from May 7, 2012 through November 22, 2014 (other posts don’t address magic directly, so the book is the better way to go). Begun with the intention of discussing and analyzing the music of the extraordinary guitarist, Jimmy Page, it evolved into a broader look at the creative nature of Magick and the connection of Magick with music and other forms of art. This book is the text of those aspects of that blog.

You will find no spells or instructions for making magical objects or invoking entities because the focus is the ur-Magick: the source of the energy and the fundamentals common to all specific practices of Magick.

You will, however, find out how to connect with your own Magick, and to appreciate the Magick of the Mage Musician, Jimmy Page.

More gift suggestions coming!

Five things that aren’t in the media right now

Red licorice package

Temptation, thy name is Wiley Wallaby

Five things about Life with Lif that the major networks haven’t picked up on yet (that’s a joke, OK?)

1. Sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do

And in my case, it means I succumbed to temptation and bought a package of Wiley Wallaby Soft & Chewy Classic Red Natural Strawberry Flavored Licorice. And then I tore it open. And, well, you know what comes after.

I tell myself that what the label claims is true and therefore this red licorice is a form of health food:  Fat Free! Vegan! Less sugar! No high fructose corn syrup! No dairy! Chewy goodness!

I know what the fine print says though. Even though I tell myself to not read that stuff on the back of the package, eventually guilt takes over and I do. Each one of those evil bits of sweetness is 30 calories and I can’t just eat one. Or two. I’m lucky to stop at ten. But who’s counting?

The first ingredient is sugar. It’s hard to imagine what “less sugar” means in this context. Particularly when the next ingredient is corn syrup. But hey, it’s not high fructose corn syrup so it’s all good. We’ve got a bit of wheat flour in there (sorry, not gluten free), and then the next ingredient is water and after that… cane syrup. But come on, it’s candy. I’m a big girl. I know that means sugar. 

But this is healthy sugar, right? I’m just going to ignore the part about “contains a trivial amount of fat”. I mean, really — fat free and less sugar are only words, after all.

I love red licorice (and how could it be called licorice when there’s no licorice in it?) and sometimes I just gotta have these nasty little bits of healthy fat-free sugar. But I will not buy another package ever again. Or at least not soon.

Badger

Mr or Ms Badger saying “go away”

2. Who knew so many people love badger photos

As of the moment I write this, nearly 500 people have Liked my photo of a young badger I posted on Facebook (the one you see here) and another fifty or more have done so on one of my Facebook photo albums. Why that photo? Is there something special about badgers? Or just that one cutie?

I took the picture when I was hiking with the dogs the other day. Bubz likes to do about five miles for every one mile we walk (that is, I walk — he sprints, gallops, trots, and bounds). I let him run but I keep a close eye on him so he doesn’t go off too far, doesn’t chase cattle, doesn’t argue with things he shouldn’t argue with. Badgers being one of them.

Bubz was about a tenth of a mile away when I saw him chasing something smaller than him, something brown and long-bodied and fast. Or maybe Bubz wasn’t trying all that hard to catch it. Whatever, it went to ground. I knew if I could see it at that distance it was no prairie dog, but given that there were prairie dog holes all around I pretty much figured it had to be something that liked to eat them. I doubted coyote just because the legs weren’t long enough, and so I figured it would be badger, especially since I’ve seen other badger before in that area.

I didn’t want Bubz to start digging to get at whatever it was, so I went over to call him away. Much to my shock, when I peeked into the hole, the badger was peeking back at me. I stood quite still, began talking to it — sorry to bother you but long as you’re there would you mind if I took your photo I promise we’ll move on and stop bothering you if I can just get a photo — as I slowly raised my cell phone and took a couple of shots.

The critter cooperated and I decided to move on as promised. No point in aggravating a badger, plus I didn’t want yet another visit to a veterinarian if Bubz — and Rosie, who’d finally caught up with us — got into it with this one.

3. Rosie is amazing

Speaking of Rosie, she truly is amazing. As I’ve blogged before, I got her August of last year. She was in terrible shape. Aside from overweight, she had no endurance, she was hampered by brachycephalic syndrome, skin allergies, and mental sluggishness. The vet estimated she was six years old but she acted twice that age. I had her spayed, had surgery done on her elongated soft palate, put her on a diet, and got her going on Golden Paste.

But as good as all those things were for her — and believe me, they made an incredible difference — nothing has been as good as Bubbaz entering Rosie’s life.

I adopted him this past June from Round Valley Animal Rescue.  At first Rosie was indifferent to him. She could take him or leave him, long as he didn’t look at her food (she lives for food). But Bubz is an incredible gentleman. One or two curled lips and he never again so much as glanced at her food dish.

But he looks at Rosie (Mom! He’s looking at me! Make him stop!). He comes up to her and sniffs whatever body part is closest, then bounds away. He’ll follow her around like a puppy (Bubz is 8 years old). When we go for walks Bubz runs back to check in with me and soon as I acknowledge him he always runs up to Rosie and bestows a couple licks on her face.

At first Rosie would turn away. But Bubz has wormed his way into her heart as he has into mine. Now when we go on walks Rosie is wildly enthusiastic. She puts some effort into keeping up, and because of that she’s getting in shape.

She loves him.

This morning Rosie was bouncing around like a puppy. I’ve never seen that in her before. I think Bubz is an angel in disguise. I know that Rose doesn’t turn her face away from his kissy-licks anymore… though she does squeeze her eyes shut.

tomato blossoms

Oh tomato, wherefore art thou?

4. The tomato saga

Every year I try to grow tomatoes. It’s become a Major Challenge that I can’t resist even though it’s hardly worth it. It’s just that homegrown tomatoes are so awesome. Store-bought don’t hold a candle to a ripe tomato fresh from the vine. Not that I would know. Every year I try to grow tomatoes and every year I pretty much fail.

It really gets to me, too, since when we used to live in CA I had volunteer tomatoes growing all over the place. I had enough tomatoes to eat, to can, to just let go to compost. Tomatoes were like zucchini — anybody could grow them and so nobody wanted or needed to take a neighbor’s surplus.

Now I live in New Mexico and tomato growing has become a Big Deal. I’m not alone in this, mind you. There’s a lot of whining about growing tomatoes around here, and those who succeed are far and few enough between that there aren’t a lot of free tomatoes being handed out.

The growing season’s short and even after the last frosts of spring night temperatures are low. When, towards the end of May, it’s warm enough, it’s generally also super windy and dry. Tomatoes will grow but even with ample watering the air is so arid that the plants don’t really thrive and the days are so scorching hot that fruit won’t set. Plus every critter that can reach them wants to eat the lush green growth for the moisture it provides.

Finally the rains come. And the hail. The plants have to be protected or they’ll be beaten to death. But you can’t leave them covered or they’ll roast.

And then, when the heaviest part of the rainy season is finally past (note: this is for a normal year, not like this drought year of hardly any rain at all), when the daytime temperature is more conducive to fruit setting, and when the air’s not so dry — then nights start getting cold again and if plants aren’t covered every night the first killing frost, generally in mid-September, will kill them just as dead as anything else.

I figure if you add up my time spent on my plants — even at minimum migrant worker wage — each individual tomato I harvest is going to cost anywhere from $50 on up. Per tomato. Some years I might manage to harvest one (1) fruit. I’ve been as lucky as getting around twenty a few years back, but that’s because I brought in the vines and hung them from the beams till the green fruit ripened enough to eat. 

You don’t want to know the heartbreak of discovering a frost-killed almost-ripe tomato on the vine the one morning after the night you thought for sure it wouldn’t matter if you covered the plants or not… 

And still she persists.

Evolution Device final cover

5. What’s that I hear?

This year Evolution Device, my novel of music and magic, was published in the middle of COVID when nobody was going to bookstores or author events. Of course it was. But okay, still better than not being published at all. However, COVID means being more on-the-ball with digital promotion of all kinds, not only marketing at every opportunity, but exploring other ways to get my book in front of people.  New formats. New presentations.

I don’t listen to audio books much so it had never occurred to me to do one. Until the day I walked into the feed store and the owner asked me where he could buy an audio copy. Hmmm.

I went home and looked into it and, to make a long story short, I decided hell yeah.  I checked and made sure I had the audio rights (my publisher said I did) and after further research I signed on with Audible from Amazon. Yeah, yeah, I know the objections to Amazon but have pity on me. I’ve self-published print books using Amazon’s service so I at least know they provide newbies with decent instructions on how to do it.

I started by recording myself reading from the book and quickly decided that hiring a pro was in order. Trust me — it was the right thing to do. It’s not as easy as it might seem to read the words naturally, with emotion, and without all the usual ums, ahs, coughs, starts and stops, etc. I’ll stick with writing, thank you very much.

So I picked a section of the text and provided it as a sample script, and then put out audition call. An audiobook call isn’t that much different from any casting call — a director is looking to select a certain type of person for a particular role in whatever’s being produced. The call will be for people that meet a list of criteria – sex, age, looks, speaking accent, and ability to read the script and become the person the director envisions.

So my audition call was for a female, adult, American English neutral accent (except that there would be a tinge of English accent to the voice if possible). My script included dialogue, not just narration, because some of the characters have London accents, one has Scottish, one with a tinge of Native American, plus some are male, some female.

Also, the book takes place in the 1970s. You wouldn’t think that would matter but it does. People — especially younger people — speak differently nowadays than they did fifty years ago. For one thing, back then people didn’t end sentences with rising inflection (a.k.a uptalk) as so many do today.  

The very first audition I listened to, the voice of the person carried no emotion at all and every sentence ended in a rising inflection. I suggested she submit another reading but she didn’t.

Another I got was a man. Who didn’t even read the script, just talked about how wonderful he was.

Then there was the one with household sounds in the background. Another with badly handled accents. One high-pitched little girl voice. One voice where the narrator sounded bored and slurred her words. And so on.

Until I got to A Person Who Will Remain Nameless Until The Time Is Right. She’s a pro, born in England and raised in the US. She’s got wonderful timbre (tone quality), enunciates her words — and the emotion! She knew what the words were saying! She giggled at some point — and the giggle was implied but not stated! I fell in love right then. But it was when I heard her with the other characters’ voices that I was sold. She’s… no, I’m not going to keep raving about her. You’ll hear for herself when we publish the Audible of Evolution Device.

I’m grinning as I write this — I can’t wait!

A rock star’s life

“This is Suzy Savoy,” Terry said, tugging her forward by an arm. “I’m sure you recognize her.” Suzy had fixed a grimace on her face that may have passed for a smile. The director pointed to each of the other band members in turn. “Eddie Edmunds, Gene Prideux, Laurel MacRae, and Erik Amundsen. And this is Evolution Device’s manager, George Westfall.” George had pushed me aside to step up next to the director. Richards began to point at me, but dropped his hand, frowning.

He turned back to the waiting crowd. “They’ve got a plane to catch, but they kindly agreed to stop by and meet you all for a few minutes.” With that the director abandoned us to our fate.

Eddie and the others were lambs facing the abattoir. Suzy’s face was positively stormy as she shrugged off yet another actor’s arm, and I could see Eddie’s distress blossom as he was surrounded by diamond and gold encrusted women — and men — who wanted to touch and be spoken to by the famous guitarist. Erik and Laurel fended off the worst of them by linking arms and sticking together.

Gene and George, though, wallowed in it. They sported beautiful women on their arms and plenty more waited for a turn. I checked Gene’s waistband.  Where had the panties gone?

 

Excerpt from Evolution Device, a novel of music and magic.

Evolution Device: The Big Idea

Evolution Device front cover

Shameless self-promotion: I’m on John Scalzi’s The Big Idea today!!!

THE BIG IDEA is a regular feature on Whatever, the blog of multi-award winning science fiction author John Scalzi.  The Big Idea features essays by authors about the ideas behind the writing of their latest book — the why and how of the writing rather than about the book itself.  Scalzi’s been offering this fantastic book promotion opportunity since 2008 and I am absolutely thrilled to have been given the opportunity to gush on about the evolution of Evolution Device.

Scalzi prefaced my essay with this: “Music can be life changing, but as Lif Strand found out in writing Evolution Device, turning that life-changing feeling into a novel can be a challenge worthy of the gnarliest of musical performances. Read more

 

 

 

Critters update

I was going to write about Bubbaz, but realized I would have to include Rosie. And then I would need to talk about the cats, and hey, while I was at it what about the horses?  And the elk and the ravens, and… yeah, like that. I’ve got critters, lots of them, and they’ve all got a story.

So here’s a bit of everything critter-related since the last time I posted, the day after Bubbaz arrived.

Photo of Bubbaz the dog

Bubbaz

Bubbaz

I’m starting with him because I mentioned him first – no favoritism here!  

Just a refresher: on June 26, 2020 I picked up Bubbaz from Round Valley Animal Rescue in Springerville AZ.  I was told he was part Great Dane.  Given his love for running – and by that I mean the dog never walks when he can trot, and never trots when he can barrel along at full speed – I’m more inclined than ever to think that there’s Greyhound in him, too.  Bubz does not act like any eight year old dog of that size I’ve ever met.  He does acrobatics when he walks next to me and thinks I’m going too slow, leaps over every obstacle he can find and with room to spare, and when we set out on a walk he runs circles around me.

Bubz has huge feet.  Just sayin’.

He is a happy dog.  His philosophy is whatever, it’s good.  Thunder and lightning?  No problem.  Last one to get breakfast.  That’s fine.  Look in my ear?  Well, if you must.

Except for one thing:  He doesn’t like being left behind.  His whines can be heard a quarter mile away. 

Bubz is sensitive.  When I get excited (usually that means yelling at my computer) he reacts. If I need to correct him, clearing my throat will get the message across.  If he’s running out too far from me, I swear I can just think my concern and he comes zooming back. 

When I first got him he had full access to the interior of my house and to a dog yard with a 6’ fence.  We walked on leash.  In a month’s time he has graduated to no leash, and I am super happy with him.  The dog not only knows what it means when I call him, he actually comes!

Unlike with Rosie, who has to be cajoled, bribed, and sometimes escorted to get her to come — even when it’s for dinner.

Rosie

The introduction of a new dog to Rosie’s established territory was painless.  What might take weeks and months with other dogs took hours and days with him and Rosie.  Bubz is just a super dog, and Rosie is happy to have a companion again.  When she was rescued from the backyard she had been abandoned in (nearly a year ago) she had a toy poodle friend who got adopted immediately.  It was good to have nearly a year to ourselves with no other dogs around.  It gave Rosie, who is submissive to the extreme, the chance to relax and expand her wings to whatever extent possible. But when Bubz came into our lives it was like I had gotten him as a gift just for her.

In a way, I did.

One great thing about having such an energetic new companion is that Bubz encourages Rosie to put a little more effort into keeping up on our walks.  She still takes her own sweet time, mind you.  Bubbaz and I will have reached the one mile point and be turning back towards home when Rosie’s only covered a half mile.  And then, when she sees us coming, she just sits down and waits. 

Bubbaz & Rosie sleeping

Bubbaz & Rosie

I can’t blame her, though.  It’s not just that she’s got such short little legs (I just measured them – her front legs are 9 ½” long from elbow to foot) so that she’s got to work harder to keep up with long-legged Bubbaz.  It’s simply hard for her to breathe.  In spite of the surgery last February, she still suffers from brachycephalic syndrome.  She’s not as bad as she was, but I still have to be careful to not let her get overheated or stressed. 

She also seems to be developing arthritis.  We don’t know how old she is, but even young dogs can suffer from it.  Rosie walks with a side-ways lurch, as if her feet hurt.  She can’t jump into a car.  Going up and down stairs seems to be a challenge.  Lately she’s been peeing and pooping inside the house near the back door.  It took me a while to get the message:  She doesn’t like going down and then back up the stairs to the dog pen but if I leave the back door ajar she goes outside just fine – there’s only one low step for her to negotiate to get to the back yard.  I guess I need to install another dog door for Rosie’s sake.  And also because if I leave the back door open anything can come in.

Birdies

photo of a Say's Phoebe

Say’s Phoebe

Today a bird took the open door as an invitation.  It’s a Say’s Phoebe, a favorite of mine because of the vocalizations. I know the “clear, slurred whistle” that’s repeated over and over drives some people crazy but I like it.  Plus phoebes are flycatchers and anything that eats flies is a good thing in my book.  I was able to catch the little bird easily with my nekked hands (usually I toss a towel over a bird I’m trying to catch).  Phoebe was very patient while I grabbed the cell phone, got the photo app activated, and took a few shots for posterity.

Meanwhile, my valley’s extended raven family members (sorry, I refuse to call them a murder of ravens) are done with their courtship flights and most have gone off elsewhere, leaving a core pair that “owns” the valley and its contents.  These ravens spend a lot of time around the horse pens.  Sometimes just for the fun of driving the dogs to distraction they’ll hang out on the porch railing or a fence near the house. 

Some people feed ravens and the birds get quite tame.  I don’t feed the wild animals around me.  If they became dependent and then something happened to me, they’d go hungry.  Plus, well, wild animals should be wild.  That’s what I think and I’m sticking to it.

The only thing is I wish they were just a wee bit less wild.  I don’t want them to stop being wild, I just want to get a few good photos.  Okay, a lot of good photos.  I swear, every time I touch a camera or cell phone they wait just till I’m ready to press the shutter and then take off.  Clever little devils.

Cats

Coming around full circle, Lili took only a few days to decide that Bubbaz wasn’t going away.  She whacked him a couple times on his nose just so he knew who was boss, and since then she’s pretty much ignored him just as she ignores Rosie.  They’re merely lesser beings she’s forced to share space with.

Tux, on the other hand, has not been so accepting.  First he growled and attacked poor Bubbaz.  After he’d sufficiently demonstrated that he was really the boss, Tux relented some.  He’d go with us to the barn, talking the whole way (he’s quite the talker, Tux is) and on walks.  It was getting downright friendly around here. 

And then Tux disappeared. 

He is prone to that – he is a tomcat, after all.  He was gone so long this time that I started thinking maybe he wasn’t coming back.  Finally, after nearly a week AWOL, I heard him talking as he approached the house.  It was weird, though — I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t come in right away.  He had to be hungry.  And then when he finally did come in, he made a bee-line for the kibble bowl, scarfed down his food, and split.

Tomcats.  I figured he had a girlfriend he was courting somewhere and was in a hurry to get back.  I was right… and oh boy, was I wrong.

A couple nights later I heard a teensy mewling from outside somewhere.  And I heard Tux talking back.  Obviously, to a kitten. 

Yes, Tux had brought home his very own kitten. 

It bears mentioning that the nearest inhabited house to mine is several miles away.  I haven’t heard anyone talking about missing a kitten from a litter so I’m more inclined to think this kitten is feral.  Either way, I have to think Tux had been courting its mother who, given the size of this bit of fluff and the timing of Tux’s disappearance, had come into her post-partum heat.  Since this wasn’t the first time Tux had gone walkabout this year, I also have to wonder if maybe he’s the father of the kitten.

I also have to wonder if Tux is so clever that he figured out if he had a kitten of his own here it could grow up to be a female cat he could breed without missing any meals.  Or maybe, if he’s the father, he just wanted his own flesh and blood to hang with.

While it’s a mystery to me how he convinced a wee little kitten to follow him home, I have to say I’m kind of happy Tux did so.  Lili and he have become indifferent mousers.  She’s too old and toothless, and he couldn’t be bothered.  But a young cat might well find mouse steak tartare to be an excellent repast.

To that end, I’ve been feeding the kitten in a have-a-heart trap, rigged to stay open and placed near the hole she scrambles into when I try sneaking up on her to see what she looks like.  When she gets old enough to get spayed, she’ll be used to the trap and thus easier to catch.  I don’t feel any need to tame her.  She’ll tame if she wants to, and if not – well, she won’t be the first feral cat I’ve had in my life.  On the other hand, I don’t think this kitten means to live outside the rest of her life.

Every night Tux attempts to to talk her into the house.  If he can get her in, he retreats to my bed and lets her explore.  Last night she made it into the kitchen.  Lily was up on top of the cabinet watching.  Bubbaz watched me to see what he was supposed to do rather than join Rosie in going after the small intruder.  I called Rosie off before she was halfway across the room (pretty nimble for a dog that finds it hard to go up stairs). 

The kitten skeedaddled out the dog door and I thought for sure that would be the last I’d see of her for days, but no.  Tux followed her out, had a chat with her, and within minutes she was back inside, back in the kitchen where she had left off.  I tried for a photo but that was just too much.  She ran out and stayed out, no matter how much Tux tried to get her back.

She will be back, though.  She already stuck her head in the dog door earlier today.  It’s not hard to know when she’s around because she’s got to talk about it. 

Just like her daddy does.

Horses

Sometimes I despair because each one of my five horses has got a problem.  I keep forgetting that four of them are senior citizens and these issues crop up with old age.  I’ve got an Arabian horse retirement and rehab facility here, and I can’t expect twenty and thirty year old horses to act like yearlings.

SE Kelsey Grae.  At thirty three, Kelsey is the oldest.  She’s in good health except she’s become a hard keeper.  Even so, she moves as fluidly as ever, always reminding me why we had been such careful breeders back in the day, looking for athletic ability rather than just another pretty Arabian face.  I haven’t been on her back for nearly ten years but I bet she wouldn’t fuss at all if I hopped on her back – except for that spine that sticks up.   

SE Bint Tazala and SE Sofia.  The next oldest – nearly thirty — are Tess and Sofie, neither ever started under saddle due to physical issues early on.  Tess injured her left fore fetlock joint when she was one or two.  It healed badly and she can’t flex the joint.  Tess’ bloodlines are superb and we could have bred her, but we never did.  She is still the most beautiful mare, even in her late twenties, and she’s got a personality to match.

Sofie developed severe lordosis (sway back) between two and three years old.  We didn’t see it develop as we were in the process of moving to New Mexico then and all our horses were boarded out.  Imagine our astonishment when we saw her next and she looked like an old plug!  The vet told us that it wasn’t painful for her and that she could be ridden – or even bred.  We had too many horses to ride as it was, and had no desire to pass on the possibly recessive genes involved.  Sofie became a pet. 

SE Kokopelli Kid.  Koko, now twenty three years old, was going to be my endurance horse and breeding stallion.  He’s the son of my soulmate stallion, Ben Nasrif, who I miss every day.  Sadly for Koko his breeding career got cut short with the collapse of the economy in 2008, and I had some health issues that resulted in my never doing more than sitting on his back.  No training, mind you.  Aside from athleticism, we bred for intelligence and personality.  The day I first sat on Koko’s back it was because I was sitting on the fence rail and he came up and stood next to me, essentially telling me to hop on.  And I did.  Sadly, Koko had an accident last fall – we never did figure out what he did to himself – and was severely lamed.  He’s improved since then but he’ll never be sound again.

Photo of Sonny as a foal

Sonny at six months

SE Redhill Sonetta.  Last but not least is Sonny.  She was the end result of an unplanned and unnoticed pregnancy, born long after Koko was retired from stud.  He had been lonely and we had an old mare who’d shown no signs of coming into heat for years.  You can imagine the rest of that story, but I’ll just go ahead and tell it.  We let Suletta live with Koko.  Never saw any sign of breeding activity.  Koko was happy to be with her, Su was content to boss him around, as mares will do.  A year passed.  And then another.

One frigid January morning, New Year’s weekend I believe it was, I went out to feed.  Su and Koko were turned out at night, but that morning only he came in for breakfast.  I hunted for Su, but it wasn’t till I had given up, fed the other horses, and come in to warm up before going out again, that she showed up.  When I went back outside there was the reason… a foal. 

Talk about shocked! 

Sonny grew up to be a promising endurance contender (her full and half-siblings were killer on the trail) until one day she came into breakfast lame.  Not yet ten years old and she was suffering from laminitis.  Out here it’s a major deal to get a vet to make a ranch call or to haul a horse the hundred miles or more to the nearest vet clinic where she could be x-rayed.  Much treatment and many dollars later, she still suffers periodic laminitis bouts and when that happens I freak out, grit my teeth, and we start the whole recovery process yet again.  In-between the bouts she travels up and down the mesa sides with the old lady horses and it’s tempting… but riding her wouldn’t be fair, not with those feet. So while Sonny is gorgeous hunk and an otherwise healthy middle-aged mare, she’s permanently retired.

None of my horses will ever have any other homes than the one they have now.  That’s true for all my critters.  Rescue dogs, stray cats, bumbling birds, and crippled ancient horses — doesn’t matter.  I’ve got my own issues and I don’t want to be sent off to live somewhere else, so I won’t do that to them.  We’ll all grow old together.  Family.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. Oh wait — I forgot to describe what it was like one dark night when a herd of elk cows and calves wandered by the house, calling to each other in their weird high-pitched whistles for nearly an hour. Or the recording I made of spade-toed toads (say that three times fast) singing their love songs.. Or…

Maybe next time.

#amwriting

EvoDev cover

Evolution Device front coverBack in 2012 when I hit a bit of a writer’s block for the novel I was working on — the one that would become Evolution Device (fondly nicknamed EvoDev) — I started fooling around with ideas for the cover. I knew that publishers don’t generally give authors much say in what the covers look like but this was early days. Publishing was  just a distant dream.  

For a while I played with digital images instead of working on my novel. Most of them I used in Mage Music, my first serious venture into blogging. I’m not going to lie — at first I just used images I found on the web. Pretty soon I started using NASA images because they are mind blowing.  But it wasn’t long before I started getting creative. I started using digital art I put together myself. They were based on or inspired by Jimmy Page, because his work was what inspired me to start the blog.  

I wasn’t interested blogging as a fan, however. Mage Music is about the magic of creativity, and while I mostly used Jimmy Page’s work for examples the blog was not about him. Which brings me to EvoDev.

Eddie Edmunds, lead guitarist and founder of the band my book is named for — Evolution Device — is very decidedly not Jimmy Page. Anybody who thinks “inspired by” is code for “about” is going to be disappointed.

Eddie is part Apache, a fact which few people are aware of and most people wouldn’t care about if they knew. But that fact makes all the difference in who Eddie is and what he becomes.

And so when I started playing around with book cover ideas I looked to guitarists’ body posture, and then features from Apache and other native faces that appealed to me. When I had created an image of what seemed to express a truth about Eddie I placed it on an image that had started out as the Horsehead Nebula. 

I liked it. And then I pretty much forgot about it until eight years later when I thought to send it to my publisher. Who liked it, too.

Here, then, are some images from my files that might give you and idea of my process.

Evolution Device is almost here!

Cover proof for Evolution Device

I am absolutely thrilled to share the cover proof of my novel, Evolution Device.  It will be hitting the bookstores JULY 28, 2020.  

This book gave me chill bumps, it was written so well. It pierces the world of the rock star, the rock band, and the audience of each.

I particularly liked the characterization of the Muse. She, too, was so real I felt I could touch her. And if I did she would’ve escaped my fingertips as she does in this remarkable novel.
~ Gerald Hausman, author of The Evil Chasing Way

Evolution Device is the story of British rock guitarist Eddie Edmunds in the wild times of the 1970s. His muse, Lily, is an entity of pure energy drawn into physical existence by what some might call magic.   She is the only one who recognizes the other side of the energies that Eddie flirts with:  if he doesn’t face the music, all the drugs in the world won’t shield him from the danger of uncontrolled power. 

This baby’s been a long time coming.  My first file save was in 2011, so the late summer release date will make it a 9 year labor.

Evolution Device will be published under the Positronic Publications Imprint, which has published authors like George R. R. Martin, Harlan Ellison, and Roger Zelazny.  

I’m SO EXCITED!!!

On Writing

Many words written in journals and on scraps of paperI’ve been addicted to the written word forever.  I blame it on my father’s mother, who read to me soon as I was old enough to appreciate it.  She sat me on her lap and followed the words with her finger, and that’s how I learned to read (for a very brief while I could read some Swedish, too).  

I’m not sure when I started writing, but it wasn’t long before I submitted my first story to be published in my school’s creative writing publication.  That was a long, long time ago, but I never stopped either reading or writing.  I’m not sure I could do so and stay sane because TV and movies just don’t make it for me.  I haven’t lived with a TV in my house since 1993 and I don’t stream either.

photo URL https://public.fotki.com/hypoint/arabians/arabian_album_cmk/bennasrif17317378cs.html

Me & Ben Nasrif on the endurance trail in the 1980s

I wrote about horses a lot in the 1980s and 1990s because we were breeding and endurance racing our Arabian horses then.  Somewhere amidst all the junk I’ve got stored I’ve got stacks of magazines with the equivalent of blog posts in them — mostly stories about how I screwed up, since that seems to be the most entertaining kind of story of all.  Like the time we drove half a day to a ride camp, only for me to discover I had forgotten to bring my saddle.  Ha ha. I was the camp entertainment as I walked from rig to rig hoping someone had brought an extra saddle that would work for me and my horse.

It was around then that I ventured into my first self-publishing experience, creating trail guides for the biggest, toughest 100 mile endurance race in the world — The Tevis Cup — which uses the trans-Sierra portion of the Western States Trail. I sold more copies than I expected and actually recovered the publication costs.  

It wasn’t till after 9/11 that I turned pro — and that was only because I couldn’t stand one more day of my brief stint as a substitute teacher (sorry, but I just do not like kids).  I have no idea why the newspaper hired me, but suddenly I was a reporter and feature story writer for a weekly regional here in western New Mexico. My beat was the county I live in — all 7000 square miles of it.  I attended every meeting I could get to, showed up at every accident that I found out about, covered every oddball incident I could discover — but best of all, I interviewed a lot of… um… fascinating locals.  My county is full of them.  

Fast forward to spending about a decade writing for a natural resource research and analysis institute in southern New Mexico, and then a few years after that of working as a contract writer for my county (and several others). The politics of it — OMG. It was worse than being around kids all day. So I waved goodbye to a real income and, with the help of NaNoWriMo, plunged into writing novels.

Note that breaking into the field of fiction writing is not something I recommend for anyone who plans on supporting themselves or their family.  I could do it because I was by this time a senior citizen and receiving Social Security.  It’s not going to be a get-rich quick scheme for me, since I only recently found a publisher for one of the two novels I’ve completed (Evolution Device).  But besides a few self-published chapbooks and two (2) short stories , that’s it.  And yet I’m writing all the time.

Writing is not what I do, it’s what I am.  A state of being. Lines of dialogue and narrative float through my brain as I scoop horse poop, a mindless task that has become a kind of meditation for me.  Some of what free-associates its way into my consciousness is actually useful. Sometimes it just gets lost, like dreams upon waking. Ideas come from all over the place. I’ll be standing in line at the grocery store and get caught staring. I smile and find something else to look at, but I really wasn’t staring so much as forgetting to look away.  A story has captured my attention, you see — sparked by the person, or the conversations around me, or who knows what — and it’s unfolding in my mind and I’m lost to the real world.

I have a tiny field notes book with me almost all the time, though I seem to more often end up scribbling ideas on the backs of envelopes, receipts, or paper napkins. I’ve found that dictating my thoughts to my phone as I hike works, too. When I get home I put the phone’s speaker next to my laptop’s mic, open Google Docs to a new document, click on Tools/Voice Typing, and let Google do the transcribing.  Oh yes, the transcription is ugly — Google is a riot with its interpretations of what I’ve said, not to mention all the oh sh*ts and ums and backtracking and such — but at least I’ve got someplace to start.

I may have been born to write, but that doesn’t make it easy. Those words bubbling around inside are delicate things that need to be lured onto the screen or paper. Skittish things that will dissipate if handled roughly. Elusive and shy, even when they demand attention. They can’t be forced, but they can’t be ignored, either.

Writing is like being a slave to words. 

Evolution Device – a novel of magic and music

 

Mock-up of Evolution Device coverI am absolutely thrilled to let you know that my novel, Evolution Device, will be hitting the bookstores late this summer.  

Evolution Device is the story of British rock guitarist Eddie Edmunds in the wild times of the 1970s. His muse, Lily, is an entity of pure energy drawn into physical existence by what some might call magic.   She is the only one who recognizes the other side of the energies that Eddie flirts with:  if he doesn’t face the music, all the drugs in the world won’t shield him from the danger of uncontrolled power. 

This baby’s been a long time coming.  My first file save was in 2011, so the late summer release date will make it a 9 year labor.

Evolution Device will be published under the Positronic Publications Imprint, which has published authors like George R. R. Martin, Harlan Ellison, and Roger Zelazny.  

I’m SO EXCITED!!!

 

Rosie and me – settling in

Here it is nine months since Rosie came into my life and I am pleased to tell you I have nothing special to report about her.  As the weather gets warmer I do have to be more careful about letting her come with me on walks, given her compromised respiratory system.  She’s way better now than before her surgery, but she’ll never be an athlete.  I can’t take her far and I can’t expect fast.  Heat + effort + a partially blocked trachea  = potential for over-stress.  For Rosie it could be fatal.  When I take her with me I plan on short, slow walks, with plenty of stops to wait for her to catch up on her own time.

I am still taking it slow and careful when it comes to how I behave around her, too.  No harsh words.  No thoughtless actions.  She’s still automatically submissive, but I’d like to think maybe not as much as she was.  I don’t expect this aspect of our relationship to change much over time.

Rosie is settling in nicely.  She appears to feel this really is her home and that means she’s bolder.  She’s become more demanding about getting attention, which I take as a positive.  She barks more, which I also see as positive — though I must say I don’t always have a clue what she’s barking at.  But she doesn’t take anything too far.  She only once chewed a shoe.  She doesn’t go in the garbage, though she seems to feel the compost pile needs thorough and regular examination.  No cat chasing.  No horse chasing.  Bunnies… well, that’s another story.

She also has taken it upon herself to remind me when it’s time to do things.  Time to get up.  Time to feed horses.  Time to feed Rosie.  Hurry up and feed those blasted cats so Rosie can get fed, would you Lif?  Time to lay her night-time bed on the floor.  Time for a treat.  Time for a pet.  Who knew Rosie would be such a task-master!

All in all, I’ve got a good little dog here.   She’ll likely never be “normal” but so what.  Neither am I. 

I have other news to report.  Check out my next post!

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