the barn in fall

the barn in fall

Monday, July 30, 2012

It's An Honor To Be Nominated!

I didn't win a gold statue, but I have my blue and gold flag that proves I was a finalist!  Well, it does unless you happen to come across one by accident.  I was operating on half a brain most of this week, and like a ditz, I left my flag at the Pocket signing when I had to dash off early to Rita rehersals.  When I checked later, it was gone.  I asked if it had been turned in, and RWA officials took pity on my addled state and gave me a new one.  Then I ran into my editor who told me she had my flag.  I could lie and pretend I finaled twice, but that's no fun.  So I told her to keep it - she's had many Rita finalists and winners over the years, and she deserves a flag, too!

For those who have never been to an RWA convention, many publishers hold a signing event, giving out their authors' latest books free to conference attendees, with authors on hand to autograph.  I signed and gave out 2 cases in the hour I was there - about 75 books.

There's another stack of books on the other side of me.  The flag is beside my computer monitor now, where I can continually distract myself with my past glory.  And thanks to Cherry Adair, (another Rita finalist) who sat next to me, noticed my sad state of preparedness, and whipped off a huge roll of gold foil stickers to put on my book covers that said, "signed by the author."  the extra touch  that says I'm a professional, even if I need to be steered in the right direction.

It was a similar scene at the Literacy book signing:

With my buds after the Ritas.  Cheryl Ann Smith on the far left writes Regencies for Berkley; Patti Shenberger writes for several e-publishers, and Beppie Harrison is published in non-fiction. 

 And now it's back to work on something new.  As soon as I finish the laundry, buy groceries, pick beans in the neglected garden, clean the barn . . .

Thursday, July 26, 2012

RWA Literacy Signing

You know that rush you get when you snort a line of coke right after chugging a Red Bull?  Me either.  But I imagine it would get you as charged up as I felt at last night's Literacy Signing at the RWA national convention here in Anaheim.  For three hours I got to meet readers and hear how much they enjoyed my books - that's a big enough high to be illegal.  And for others who were attracted by the book cover, I got to introduce them to my new series and my past books.  I hate promoting myself, but when they actually come to me...well, I can be persuaded to brag a bit.
That blue flag announcing me as a Rita finalist helped.  It's like a flashing neon arrow saying "Other authors loved this book!"  Maybe that helped get me a corner lot, too, right on the main aisle.  I met so many wonderful readers and authors! 

The books are donated by the publisher, and all proceeds go to literacy organizations.  RWA donates tens of thousands of dollars a year through this event, thanks to the generousity of the publishers and readers.  And I get an entirely selfish high by connecting with my readers.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Still Waiting...

I keep hoping I'll have a happy update on Fritz's condition, but we are, incredibly, still waiting for the abscess to find a path out of his hoof.  Whoever thought good, strong hooves could be a problem?  He is more sore than ever and the skin above his coronary band is puffy and hot - something is happening, but not enough.  I am more nervous every day, because this has got to be putting added stress on his other feet.  Heck, on his whole system, just from dealing with the constant pain.  To allay my fears a bit, I had a compelte blood panel done to check the general health of his organs, and all is well, just an elevated white count from infection.  So we wait.

I am more uneasy each day, because I have to be gone next week.  On Tue. I leave for the Romance Writers of America's national convention in Anaheim, CA.  This is the BIG EVENT for me, as my book Silver Sparks is a finalist for best single title contemporary for both the Rita award and the Booksellers Best.  This may never happen again.  Fritz was supposed to be well by now.  Talk about conflict.  My husband will be here and will do his best to care for him, but Fritz is my baby.  I'm going to be a distracted, nervous wreck. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Right Job (You thought I'd say Write? I don't do cliches.)

I finished my novel!  Big cheer!  I'm on vacation!

Day One - no looming deadlines, no contract obligations.  Total Freedom!  I can do whatever I want, starting with the long-neglected laundry and vacuuming.  Ha!  I knew that carpet was beige!

Day Two - God, what do people do all day?  My head feels empty - no plots playing out in the background, no characters getting themselves into sticky situations.  How can I enjoy a novel when all I see is some other author beating me to a juicy plot line?  Unemployment sucks.

That, people, is how you know you're in the right line of work.  That, and when your husband says he's looking forward to retirement, and panic seizes your gut, and you blurt out, "But I don't want to quit working!" 

Did those words just come out of my mouth?  Yes.  I love my job.  Never saw that one coming.

But Starr, you say.  I thought writing made you frustrated, anxious, and constantly distracted!

I said I was happy, I didn't say I was sane.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Ultimate All In One Product!

I was walking through my local Tractor Supply store, and saw a large bottle of clear liquid with a name that gave no clue to its purpose.  So I read the label.  And what a revelation!  I can throw out both the Tide and the Mane and Tail shampoo because this stuff will wash both my panties and my horse!


Second Opinion

My farrier winced in sympathetic pain when he watched me lead Fritz from his stall.  Every symptom I reeled off and every observation he made led to one conclusion - a deep abscess caused by a stone bruise, probably under the coffin bone, and working its way upward to the coronary band.  As if to confirm it, today the hoof was warm in that area from the infection.

He trimmed the affected hoof to help put more weight on the back, to ease Fritz's pain a little.  He also trimmed the back feet, but couldn't do the other front hoof because Fritz could not bear to put that much weight on his sore left foot in order to pick up the right one.  But he moves a little better tonight. 

My job is to watch for a bulge along the coronary band where the infection will try to find an exit, and pop it.  It'll probably save him a day of pain before it breaks through on its own.  It can't be worse than the abscesses I've drained in cats.  Those things can be nasty.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Grasping At Straws

Three weeks into Fritz's mysterious lameness, I still have a horse that can barely hobble and no clue why.  Lots of clues why not, though.

We eliminated more possibilities today when Dr. DeWitt injected the coffin joint (just above the coronary band of the hoof, a place you wouldn't normally recognize as a joint.)  The idea was to see if the pain originated in the deep flexor tendon by blocking (numbing) the area.

At the same time she also injected a steroid to act as an anti-inflammatory and pain killer.  If this area was the cause of the lameness, we would have seen an improvement in 10-15 minutes. 

We didn't.

We are now at the point technically known as shit-out-of-luck.  Outside of a one-hour trailer ride (with a horse that can barely stand on 4 feet) to the vet college at Michigan State University for a $2,000 MRI, we are out of options.  My bank tells me this is not a real option. 

Tomorrow my farrier will trim Fritz's hoof to help shift weight to the back rather than the toe, relieving as much pressure and pain as we can.  We will also see what he thinks about that bruised-looking area that may or may not indicate a deep abscess.  Vets have a lot of respect for a good farrier, who sees nothing but horses' hooves and knows a lot about their problems.

Meanwhile, Fritz eats less, and has been lying down more often to relieve the constant pain.  For a horse who usually lies down no more than 5 minutes at a time, it's alarming to see him down for one to one-and-a-half hours at a time.  My poor baby.

Through all this, I am re-writing the last chapter of my book, which is due by the end of this week.  That would be the Happily Ever After part, where all the nail-biting issues that kept the hero and heroine apart are neatly resolved, and we know that everything will work out for them from here on out.  Because life is like that - or so we like to think. 

I can be a fatalist if pushed into it, but I prefer to be an optimist.  I am living for the HEA.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Contenders

I said a couple months ago that two tom cats were contending to be the new barn cat.  I'm not sure I won't get stuck with both, since they seem to come and go at the same time and never fight. 

I call them Black Cat and White Cat - being a writer, I'm creative like that.  Black Cat is very ordinary, with one spot of white:

White Cat is different.  He's mostly white with a couple black spots on his body, a dark raccoon tail, and black that spills across his head and face like the result of a horrible accident with an ink bottle:

I hesitate to call him ugly, but that face is difficult to look at.  He's also a stalker.  He's waiting here on top of the chicken yard for Zoe to come out of the coop for the day.  He used to wait in the weeds, but he's getting bolder.  He's often there at night, too, when I put her in.  She used to trot out happily to see him, but now she lingers inside the coop, apparently waiting for him to leave.  Can't blame her - who wants a needy, clingy boyfriend?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

X-rays, Poultices, and Nerve Blocks, or What I Did During My Summer Vacation

I thought strangely rippled horse flesh was going to be my veterinary mystery for the summer.  I wish I'd been right.  (Update - the fungicide from TSC worked.  Thanks, Laurie.)

Nine days ago, Fritz came up lame in his hind leg with no obvious reason.  I gave bute (sort of like asprin for horses) and it got better.  Then came back.  Then went away.  Then came back, but this time it was the front foot and he was dead lame.  Time to call the vet.

We had a mystery - Fritz didn't respond to pressure tests and we couldn't localize the problem.  So she took X-rays for a better look at the foot.  First, front and side views:

The X-ray machine is the yellow box in the foreground.  Results are displayed within seconds on a laptop computer:

Cool, huh?  The third view was from a different angle:
Results: Fritz gets an A+ in feet.  They look better than expected, like a horse much younger than 30 years.  Wonderful!  Now, if he could only walk...
So the vet used a nerve block to numb the foot.  It's like when you get your mouth numbed at the dentist.  First she did part of the foot, and when he still couldn't walk, she numbed the whole foot.  This was the first injection - two, actually, one on each side of the leg above the hoof.  The second was about an inch higher:

Success!  Suddenly Fritz could walk.  Perfect - Dr. DeWitt can go home now.  Hahaha.  No.

Now we've localized the pain, and it must be an abscess we can't see and can't make him feel with pressure.  So if you've hung around these pages for long, you know what comes next - the poultice.

This stays on for three days to soften the hoof, so she can cut away more hoof wall and hopefully find the sore spot so she can let the infection drain.  That was Friday; I'm supposed to call in with the progress report Monday morning.  Meantime, I can increase the bute to see if it makes him more comfortable.

It didn't.  But it did give him an allergic reaction - irregular flat, raised areas all over his neck and sides.  Hives!  Great; cut back on the bute.

And by Monday - today - no change.  He's still hobbling, hesitant enough to make you cringe in sympathy.  So the poultice came off and she did more cutting away at the softened area.  (Not too soft, really - in this dry wether, hooves get especially hard.)  A bit more success - she made him flinch and jerk away.  Now we know where the abscess is, but it still needs to make its way through the hoof, and drain.  So we have another poultice, another green and black clubbed foot, and another three days to wait.  I sure hope this one works.