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Monday, 29 June 2015

Dogs in the dark and other good things.

The other night I was a bit late getting to give the dogs their evening constitutional.

The sky wasn't quite dark but it was very black under the trees.

Tuppy doesn't care, though. As long as she can see or hear the ball she is on for a game.

"Throw it!  Throw it!"

Here she comes back, almost as fast as she goes out. It's a shame I've never got up enough enthusiasm to take her to retrieving trials.  She is truly a fiend for retrieving.  She was bred to be, from some very good working lines,  so no surprises there.
While Tuppy shoots out and back over and over, madly hunting for the ball if it goes into long grass or lands out of her hearing, Rosie waits patiently for me to have time for her in between throws.

 With her I do little games and we practice and learn tricks.  She'll go get the ball at a tittuppy canter if I tell Tuppy to wait and she knows she doesn't have to compete.  It's in her mouth there somewhere!  You can just see Tuppy's impatient head there beside me, bottom left.  She doesn't like Rosie's turns!
Between the two of them, it's not exactly a peaceful stroll!

Ah well, in the morning we just walk and that is peaceful.  This morning out on our bush walk we were lucky enough to see one of these little guys, our local version of a Robin Redbreast, and his duller-coloured family, flitting back and forth from the track in front of us to a low bush hunting insects.

The pic came from here, and there is plenty of info on them there too. Apparently they are actually called Scarlet Robins.  It is always amazing to see a flash of that bright red amongst the blue/green/grey of our local forest.  They are cheery little characters, chirping away together.  It was lovely to ask my dogs to wait beside me (good girls!) and to stand there quietly and enjoy them until they moved on in their foraging.

Then when we got home, smoke from next door's newly-stoked potbelly was drifting over our place, and the sun was slanting through it most magically.

Between the moving light and the moving smoke, the scene changed in seconds.

Very cool.  It felt all foresty and mythological.

Noticing little moments of wonder; it is one of the ways I got through the years of lyme disease, and it is a good way to stay happy even if you are busy and healthy.

According to Tuppence, the way to be really happy is to wait till the fire is super hot, then bask by it till her shiny black coat feels almost too hot to touch!

On this day, may you bask just as happily in the heat of a good fire, or the warmth of a gentle sun, and may you see many little moments of wonder.         

Friday, 26 June 2015

Horses I've loved: Sherry

Sherry was so pretty.  She always delighted my eyes.

I owned Sherry the longest of any horse I've had.  She stayed with me till the day she died unexpectedly at 22.  I thought she'd live much longer than that.  She was a registered Part Arabian, Buckskin and Australian Stud Saddle Pony, and had been very successful in the show ring, but I never really showed her after one attempt at halter where it was obvious she was bored to tears.  By the time she came to me at 11, Sherry was over showing and preferred to do fun stuff.   We did all sorts of weird and wonderful things.

This was some sort of medieval jousting demo in a huge dome thingy in town. I was the jester.  The demo itself was a bit of a disaster, since the jousting horses wouldn't actually come together to joust but Sherry was a marvel, coping with the noises and sights of the crowd and indoor space like an old hand, galloping around the arena, tail and mane and ribbons flowing.  Look at my bare feet!  Imagine the insurance nightmare that would be nowadays!
Actually I seem to be barefoot in most of these pics. I was such a feral!
We did other medieval stuff too.  I love this pic of a group of us coming home after a quest we did at an SCA event we ran at our share house.  Such a mix of costumes and we all look happy, so it was obviously time well spent.  I think I was 21 then.  I had high hands, I know. I did that a lot on her.  Something to do with the way she'd get her head down and pigroot if I didn't, maybe.  :)

Here she is, maybe pigrooting, or maybe just cantering, on the same day. Her back end was always overtaking her front end.  Sis used to say that from behind it was like watching a Staffy run, the way she'd just get those back legs working together at the same time. Argh! My hands, my hands!  
I also trained Sherry to harness and drove her about the streets.  Never used blinkers.  I'd been too influenced by reading Black Beauty.  It never caused an issue, as she was pretty much bombproof in harness, as long as you didn't canter, but then she was always a handful at canter, saddle or harness.  She was a whizz in a cart, could really skim along with that floating Arab trot.  Funny how much faster you seem to be going when behind them than when on top of them.    

By the way, that skinny horse behind us there was a rescued Tb broodmare who came from a stud that was closing down, for obvious reasons. She was fattening up by then, believe it or not!  The two dogs are my Keech and Sam. 

Sherry hadn't done any jumping before she came to me and I can't say she was ever wild about it, but we did do low level stuff and even a few small one day events.  This was at Adult Riding Club.

We did a heap of trail riding out into the bush and she was a fantastic trail horse.  That's my sister Jen riding a part Arabian, part Standardbred mare called Duchess, who she leased for a while.  She and Sherry made a great pair on the trail, being both ripsnorting hotties who liked to hurry it along.  No dawdling for those two!  Heh, we've both got bare feet in this pic.  We were such bushgrubs.     

By the way, the liver Dalmatian in some of these pics is Flicka, who was my sister's dog.  She was pretty much bonkers but very pretty.  Here she is being bonkers at Christmas in 1997.

Sherry was a 'hoon' whether saddled or unsaddled. 

But she was also very clever and sensible when it counted.
Like Misty of Chincoteague, she even got to come inside when we had a couple of bad storms here, though I didn't get any photos of it.  She ate all my hanging herbs in the kitchen and watched tv with great interest, and I'm just lucky she didn't decide to wee!

She didn't mind giving pony rides, but was never a beginner's horse.

She was complicated, funny, beautiful, opinionated and fun.  I always think of a particular Icelandic quote when I see this pic of us.
"Between a man and a horse and a dog lies a secret bond."

Between Sherry, Keech, Sam and I, there was a bond, no doubt about it.     

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Amigurumi Odin and lively Labbies

Just in time for Midwinter's Day we finally had some genuine wet and wild weather. Yay!  Good news for me, because I've been having to water the seedlings we have already planted, including some out in the reserve that I had to push a wheelbarrow full of water bottles what felt like a long way to get to!

It is finally lush and green here, and it's my favorite time of year.  Mowing and whippersnipping hasn't started yet, planting has nearly finished, and all the greenery around us is lush and happy.  The air up here in the hills above Perth is fresh and crisp and lovely!

Ahh, the beautiful eye-restingness that is green grass!

This is the summer view of our cottage from not so long ago:

And here is nearly the same view now!:
Yummy yummy green!  Yes I do get a bit silly about grass.  It is so dry and dead here for so very long.

I've been having fun being silly this week in another way, making my Odin Amigurumi to match the Mini-Sleipnir that I made last week.  I did him from scratch and had a go at writing up a pattern for the basic figure as I went along, but once I got to costume I just went free form.  What do you think?  I love him!

Whether my first attempt at writing a pattern has worked will remain to be seen when I try to use it to make another figure, but in the meantime I am chuffed with my little Odin.  If you are wondering if making an amigurumi of your personal deity is a bit frivolous, I can only answer by saying that in my own unverified personal experience of him, Odin has a great sense of humour, especially about himself.  He has told me before that I make him feel young. I guess for a deity as old as him, that is a good thing.  In actual fact I generally experience him as somewhat younger than this, with dark blonde hair turning to grey and a shorter beard, but this is kind of his iconic look.  :)

Please check in with your own deity before making an amigurumi of them. Not all are as informal as Odin!

Despite my measuring them up as I went, I think he has turned out a tad big for My Little Sleipnir.  Do you agree?

What a shame!  (Not!)  I'll have to make a bigger Sleipnir now!  Not yet, though, because my next project is a mini Cthulu for geeky Andyroo.

Speaking of Geeks, if you ever played a Role Playing Game like Dungeons and Dragons or the many newer games it has spawned, or were interested in trying, or have a kiddlie who is, you might like to watch this. Wil Wheaton's new show where they follow a group playing a game he is mastering is shaping up really well.  We watched the 0 and 1 episodes on the weekend and it was fun for both RPG old hand Andryoo and for RPG tyro me.  I know, a fantasy writer who has never played a Role Playing Game?  What can I say?  I can imagine any world I want, play every character at once, and no need to roll the dice to see what happens next. :)

Nonetheless, the fun Wil is having here reminds me very much of the fun I have writing my books.  His players are having a great time with their characters too.


A home, the girls, Rosie and Tuppence, are also having fun, with the latest configuration of our paddock jungle gym.  Who says you have to give up cavalletti when you give up horses?  They enjoy our little games and puzzles and it keeps their minds and bodies alert.

I had a few days away from anything to do with writing and am now preparing Dog Slobber! for publishing.  That shouldn't take long, and then it is over to the interesting world and creatures of Bunyip Dreaming.  It is the first really alien world I have created.  It will be good to go back there. 

We are still enjoying the Volunteer Bushfire Brigade and starting to feel like part of the team.  On the weekend we got to go practice driving the vehicles in the rough country out back of our brigade's district.  Fun!

And with all that adventure, how did I get this?
My bloody lyre hit me in the eye, believe it or not!   All I can say is, music is a dangerous hobby!

May Odin and Sleipnir ride on, and may you all find times of peace and creativity, and times of adventure, just like I have been.  What an ideal combo for a happy life!  (But watch out for killer musical instruments!)



Thursday, 18 June 2015

I've finished Freya and the Hairy Goddess, and the amazing art of Frank Frazetta.

I've finished the first draft anyway, which is really the hardest part.  Once a novel exists it is easy enough to mess with it and polish it.  That first draft is the part where you have to ride the wave of inspiration, living and breathing your writing, and where you also need to knuckle down and get those words done every day.

These are the pages where I have noted my daily word count as I went.

Each day when I start writing, I write at least 1000 words more than I noted when I finished writing the day the day before.  It occurred to me that it is a very graphic illustration of what a finished novel is really made of.  Want to be a novelist?  That is what you need: The steady word count that allows you to keep that story moving forward and stops it ending up a half-finished, much-lamented manuscript in a dusty corner of your computer's document file.

Don't stop to edit or you'll stall.  Don't go back to change things. Just make a list of notes ready for the second draft and keep writing as if those changes are already made.

You can have a couple of days off a week to rest your brain, because it is indeed hard work for the brain, but don't leave it too long. You lose the flow, you lose the feel of the characters, you lose the path of the story, and you forget all those little extras that occurred to you as you wrote but that you never bothered to write down because you were about to get to that bit.  It would be better to write 250 words a day than to leave that book sitting alone for too long.

Anyway, using such methods, my eighth full length novel is in the bag!  I hope it is as rude, funny and irreverent as my other Freya novel, but I guess I will have to wait to find that out till I am past the second draft and it gets its first outings to my usual first readers!

I'm a long way from having it published, but I must admit cover ideas are already coming to mind.  So many scenes from the book would make great cover material in the style of Frazetta. I always feel Frazetta-y when I write Freya Fjordrider.

Never come across Frazetta?  I guess you would say he is/was the master of fantasy art.  He had a wonderful imagination and a great big heap of skill to back his imaginings.  Even though his work is probably a little politically incorrect for our times, the beauty and scope of it still shines.

I think I came across it first way back as a young teen, reading the wonderful Conan the Barbarian books by Robert E Howard.

I didn't know the covers were by Frazetta then, but I did notice them.  They could be very dark and scary but they were always dramatic and wonderful.  He often used the classic and dramatic pyramidal construction to wonderful effect.

He was also a master of the dramatic front on foreshortened effect.

He knew horses too. Nothing puts me off art like a horse badly-rendered!

A lot of his women are scantily clad maidens needing rescue, like Flashman's round-bottomed passenger up there, but he also painted some very powerful ones, which are the ones I love best.

I'm not surprised that I think of him when I think of a Freya cover.  Cheeky! 
Not that Freya would ever be silly enough to go around fighting things half-clad!

Ah well, I'll keep mulling over the cover till I settle on the right one to paint. I just wish my skills came up to the level of what I can imagine, like Frank Frazetta's did!


Monday, 15 June 2015

A very crochet-y (and a little bit horsey) update

That's crochet-y, not crotchety.  :)

We had a few family birthdays here this weekend so I have some more, "no longer surprises," to post in the way of crochet.

First up, I made my sister an Amigurumi pony to match her young Irish Draft Sporthorse, Fionn.

This is Fionn. He's three and half and just beginning his education under saddle.  Being a cold-blooded sort of horse, he still has a lot of growing to do even though he is already huge, so sis is taking it slowly to look after his growing joints, as you should. 

And this is her My Little Fionn:

I'm still having so much fun messing with this pattern by Ahooka that was originally for making mini unicorns!

Jen also received her Granny Square Afghan, in the colours of her family's  favorite Aussie Rules football team, the Fremantle Dockers.  I couldn't hide it from her totally since she was going to catch me crocheting it at some point, so I basically just told everyone I wasn't saying who it was for.  It was kind of a badly kept secret.  :)

I'd originally planned to alternate the more and less detailed squares, but when laying out the complete squares ready for joining, I decided that was too 'bitty,' so I swapped things around and came up with this pattern instead.  I was much happier with it and only had a few extra squares to make. It was worth it!

For my mum I had other gifts, but I also made her one of these Mini Rainbow Owls, in Freo Docker's colours just for a little extra prezzie.


Yes I've already made her an owl before, this one, but she does love them.

I've already begun my next Granny Square Afghan.  This one is for my oldest niece on my side of the family.  She loves blues and purples, so this is my colour choice for hers.  I'm loving using them, especially that lovely teal.

It's always fun to start using a new set of colours, and it really does help to love them yourself, because you're going to be looking at them for quite a while if you are making an afghan!

Last but not least, I made myself a little present too.  Finished him just this morning! From the same pattern as Mini Fionn above, this is Mini Sleipnir.  Sleipnir is Odin's eight-legged horse, born from Loki who became a mare as part of one of his usual plots and who had an unforseen consequence to his trickery!

I got the idea to make him from this charming drawing by Mark Neumayer that I found by accident while googling images one day!

I based him on the same pattern as the one for Little Fionn, and also on the Norwegian Fjord horse, a Norse breed that is known to be at least 2000 years old. I gave him the traditional mane haircut too, if a little more overgrown and wild.  :)
Pic from here at Animal World. 

See, he even has the traditional dorsal stripe of a true dun:


I might have a go at an Odin to ride him next.  I won't have a pattern so I'll be flying by the seat of my crocheting pants.  We'll see how that goes!

Friday, 12 June 2015

A good week!

Firstly, our "sister from another mother," PJ, came to visit for a few days this week.  We share a dad but we've mostly been either side of Australia for all our lives.  It's one of those funny tricks of genetics how someone you've hardly ever met can be so similar to you.  PJ is very like my other sister, Jen. She is vivacious, principled, very intelligent and charismatic.  Like us both, she loves art, animals (especially dogs), music, trees and the environment.

I think we share a nose too!

 So, we went and saw art together.

We visited my favorite trees.

Check out the face behind PJ in this pic I took of her with the King Jarrah that I call the Faraway tree!  Cthulu?  Green Man?  We didn't notice it when we were there.

And, she even managed to get me to play my lyre and guitar for her!   Check out my loyal book ends.  It was nearly dinnertime, though to be fair, they are usually to be found nearby. :)

PJ got some video of me playing too so we'll see what comes of that. If they aren't too execrable I will post some here.

She took home the original art I did for the cover of Chicken Soup for Satan and already has it framed and up.  Looks great, though I did wonder how she will explain having a picture of a dog looking at a bowl of soup on her wall!

With her lively ways, PJ got on with everyone, and she even managed to get us all silly enough to let her take these photos.  :)

She missed her own dog, little Zella, while she was here, but she gave all of ours so much love that they followed her around like... puppy dogs. :)  I like this pic she got of Rosie's eager face as we were on our way somewhere.  I have no idea what happened to Tuppy in the background though!  Mutant blob!  Argh!

Anyway PJ is back in Queensland all the way over the other side of our huge country now (probably having a big rest).

Another cool thing that happened this week was that I got to 102 000 words on my current novel, Freya and the Hairy Goddess, and we're over the highest plot peak and on the downhill run to the end of the book.  I've had a few extra days off writing this week but will be back into it on Monday.

In more writing news, my busy nieces and their mum finally got around to reading the tween book I wrote for them. It's called "Dog Slobber!" It gets full approval, in fact they loved it, so I will be able to move onto getting that into print soon.

And lastly but not leastly, this week I received my copy of the OBOD's 50th Anniversary Celebration book, The Golden Seed.

It is beautiful and I look forward to reading it and watching the DVD that came with it, but... even more exciting than that, two of my artworks made it into the book!  Woo hoo!

I nearly didn't bother to offer them up because the standard of art amongst the OBODies is bloody high, but am very glad I did.  I'm super proud to have had my works included!

What a week!  Think I might be having a bit of a quiet time next week, but the writing and other creativity will go on of course, if at a bit slower pace.