Heroes & Heartbreakers – Authors Share The Words That Squick Them Out

I was one of 32 authors photographed at RWA for this blog post about words we hate. I’m in good company with Sylvia Day, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Megan Erickson and more…I’ll also have to remind myself not to use some of these words ever again.


Horse Rescue – and Real Life Dark Water

Rescuing Haplo

When I went out to feed Thursday evening, I was one horse short. The other three horses in that pasture were up at the barn and ready for dinner, but Haplo, my Friesian/Percheron cross didn't come when I called. I walked as much of the property as I could as the sun was going down and realized I was going to have to go creekside and needed reinforcements.

My friend Cat, who has started working part time at the ranch came over and we drove down to the pasture beside the creek. At this point, we needed flashlights and were busting through hip-high weeds and brush. We called to Haplo over and over. No response.

Cat saw him first, and it's a minor miracle because he made no noise. Just a black horse butt in the darkness below. The rain washed out a section of the creek bank and the fence was suspended over NOTHING. Haplo must have been grazing along the edge of the pasture and slipped into the gap. He had a large wire twisted around his leg.

His amazing disposition probably saved his life. If he'd thrashed around when he got stuck, he probably would have died before we found him. He didn't panic (outwardly), so the fence hadn't cut off all his circulation to the leg. He stood still and allowed me to lean out over the gap and cut the fence away.

He was still 8-10 feet below us on a ledge above the creek. He wouldn't be able to climb the sheer edge, and there appeared to be a fallen tree in the water so getting him down into the creek and across to safety didn't look like a good option either. Cat and I looked at the ledge below, and she was the braver of us. She let me lower her to the ledge to unwrap the last of the wire from his leg in case it was cutting off circulation. She also haltered him and got a black eye and lost her contact lens in the process when he knocked his head into hers.

We ended up calling the Bandera Fire Department to rescue him and Cat. My mom drove from San Antonio to help look for Haplo, and she guided the rescuers to the right spot. They flooded the creekside with spotlights, and one of the men waded into the water to assess the situation.

They moved the downed tree in the water away from the bank so that the horse wouldn't get tangled in it. They brought a 20-foot lead rope that we clipped to his halter. After quite a bit of persuading, as Haplo hadn't been in the water many times and certainly not in the dark, he threw himself into the creek like a hippopotamus. They led him through the water and to the safety of the other side, where he could be tied and assessed. During all of this, even with the fear and floodlights and lots of strange people, he was not hard to handle. I was so proud of him.

All the lights went away with Haplo, and we hollered at them that we still needed to get Cat up the rise or down through the water. One of them came back and helped her into the water. He held her hand to keep her from falling, as the algae are really slippery. The light shone on them in the middle of the creek, and it looked like they were about to bow to each other and waltz. Then Cat slipped. Or the fireman, I'm not sure. There was a lot of shouting and laughing. And several falls.

The Bandera Fire Department is a volunteer crew, but they were outstanding. They had a woman on the crew that was a horsewoman. She was able to direct them based on her knowledge and their training. They were helpful and friendly. I hope I never need to call them for a rescue again, but they helped avert tragedy.

Haplo had some cuts and swelling, but nothing that required veterinary attention. I took my truck around to the other side of the creek, and we began the process of getting him home - a hilly 1.5-mile trek in the dark. He limped slightly at the beginning, but walked it off and was ready to trot to his buddies by the time we neared home.

He's home. He's safe. It's seriously a miracle. The horses are penned away from that pasture until I can fix the fence this weekend.

Things that were essential to our success - Haplo's calm demeanor and that he accepted handling by multiple people and strangers. He was easy to lead and willing to trust. Heavy duty wire cutters, a knife, flashlights, cell phones (though the signal sucked down by the water), a halter and lead (and in the future, I will have a 20-foot rope). Also, contact lens solution and a case. Cat ended up carrying the lens in her mouth for the better part of the evening. I told her I'd happily replace her contacts.

Today he's doing fine, eating well and showing no signs of distress from the event. Thank goodness.

Hilary Practicing on Haplo
Hilary Practicing on Haplo
Riding Haplo at Archery Practice
Riding Haplo at Archery Practice

It’s Texas and the Buzzards are Always Circling

Every day in Texas is a triumph over all the things trying to kill you – the weather, snakes, fire ants, spiders, politicians, passive-aggressive drivers. I could go on, but I’ll focus on snakes for the moment.

There was a snake. In. My. House.


This morning I woke up to a snake in my house. As far as snakes IN MY HOUSE go, it was about three feet long, which is way too big for a housepet. No rattle and probably not venomous, but its mere presence in the house meant that my cat and three ferrets all failed to do something about it. Freeloaders.

After muttering under my breath at the vermin hunters that share my house full time and failed, I did what any prudent Texan would do. I touched the snake to make sure it was alive. Yup. And it really didn’t like me looming over it and being all handsy.

Then I began the troubleshooting process. No other people around, so my problem to solve. What else will catch and kill a snake? A chicken! I have those! Do I want to bring a chicken in my house and then have to catch it, too? Not really.

Did I have anything like a snake handler’s hook in the house? The creature was right by my front door. I hadn’t had any caffeine, so I needed to resolve this – stat. Plus, if I took my eyes off the snake for long, it could hide. Anywhere.

I finally settled on a metal curtain rod and a purple dressage whip and used them as a set of gigantic tweezers to grab the snapping thing and let it free into the yard…where the buzzards were circling overhead.

Harmless but angry rat snake goes free

* I adhere to a live-and-let-live policy regarding non-venomous snakes and other critters. Since this was a rat snake (identified after the fact), I left it to pursue its fortunes outside.

** Buzzards always require investigating. In this instance, something had killed one of my chickens and maimed another. That’s for another day’s tale.

Book Reviews – 2017

Reading is one of my absolute favorite pastimes. When I used to commute to work every day, I had two hours of time to either seethe about the traffic or listen to audiobooks. In that regard, Audible has been a life changer.

According to their stats, I've listened to 3 months 8 days 12 hours and 56 minutes of audiobooks. I have 406 titles in my library. (I also really like statistics and badges in apps.)

Now I work from home most of the time, so I don't get to listen as often and I'm reading more digital and paper books. As a writer, I think reading voraciously and in as many genres as possible is critical to improving craft, supporting other authors, and keeping an eye on industry trends. Plus I want to be entertained. I'll be honest. I read serious literature and non-fiction, but a lot of the time I just want someone to tell me a great story.

I'll share some reviews here. Most of the time, they'll be books I loved or books I've rated highly, but sometimes there are thought-provoking reads that might not rank as high, but may be worth recommending.

I will never trash other authors or their books on my site. If something is less than 4/10 or I did not finish it, I won't review it.

Want to recommend something I might like? Leave a note in the comments, or visit my page on Goodreads - the other site with stats that I love.

The Silence of the Lambs  (Hannibal Lecter, #2)The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

9 out of 10
9 stars out of 10

I loved the movie, but for some reason never read the book. I got it on audiobook, and even though I knew the story, it was still engaging with some additional depth. It didn't deviate significantly from the movie (from my recollection), but the way it was tied up at the end made Hannibal Lecter lose a bit of his mystique. If almost all of his knowledge of the serial killer is based on the fact that the man was once one of his psychiatric patients, then he doesn't have to be off-the-charts intelligent, he mostly has to have a good memory. That said, it was still creepy and suspenseful and well worth a read. Even if you've seen the movie.

View all my reviews
Bob Honey Who Just Do StuffBob Honey Who Just Do Stuff by Pappy Pariah
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

4 out of 10
4 stars out of 10

This is a short, free listen from Audible which left me wondering what the hell... It was full of complicated words for a very simple man. The mix of of assonance, consonance, and other poetic devices (not to mention bits of actual poetry) was sometimes so over-the-top that it was hard to get back into the story.

I think the premise was interesting and timely. Maybe on a second listen it would work better. It felt a bit like "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" - the short story, not the movie. Now that I look at IMDb, though, I see that Sean Penn had a part in the movie, so perhaps that had something to do with it. Lots of promise, but ultimately left me feeling 'meh.'

View all my reviews

What the Heck is a Kelpie?

Kelpie art by Jana Heidersdorf

Who better to explain these mysterious water horse shape-shifters than Rez, the kelpie stallion in "Dark Water"?

“The tales of kelpies were told to keep children away from the water, morality tales about trespass and trusting strangers.

A horse of incredible beauty would emerge from the water, or from an area near the water. Remember in those days, horses weren’t just
pets or companions. They were status, transportation, help in the fields. A good horse could elevate a family’s fortunes, so the mysterious horse was a powerful lure.

Usually, they were white but not always. In some stories, they have coats that always drip water. In others, their manes and tails are seaweed or their hooves are turned the opposite direction compared to land horses.

“The point was that the horse was supposed to lure the unsuspecting person onto his back or into the water. If the children, or men, or women touched the skin of the kelpie, their hands sank into the creature like tar. They could pull and struggle, but would end up bound tighter to the kelpie, which would gallop into the sea and drown them.”

--Excerpt from "Dark Water"

Interpreting Writing Contest Judges Comments Without Losing (Much of) Your Sanity

I’ve spent a lot of time judging or coordinating writing contests, and one entertaining part of that is reading all of the comments the judges put on the score sheets. Sometimes the preliminary or professional judge just doesn’t “get” the entry. Sometimes the writing really is hard to understand.

Well, it sounds like that story had plenty of conflict.

For your reading pleasure, I compiled some of my favorite comments (one or two might be mine, but most aren’t) from actual score sheets, so if you’re confused by a review comment or a contest score, this should encourage you.

  1. I was slightly disappointed that this wasn’t about cannibalism, given the title!
  2. The poem is marathon long.
  3. There are some really great phrases in this poem, but it’s not quite enough to hold together amid some of the “huh?” moments.
  4. I liked the use of complete sentences.
  5. Just a suggestion, you might spend more time fleshing out the doctor.
  6. Again, this reads more like a dry newspaper article than like an interesting story.
  7. Evidence of syntactical grace.
  8. I clearly have no idea where this is going, but I would guess the author does.
  9. The protagonist is conflicted. That’s clear. But, again, I don’t know where this is going.
  10. The title said there was a villein…who is it?
  11. I am a Browncoat.
  12. Did you really mean “mice”?
  13. What do you mean the house is “known for its groans”? it’s haunted or it’s poorly constructed?
  14. If this were a first chapter, I would give it great marks for creativity- but as it is claimed as a memoir, it lacks engagement.
  15. However, the content bothered me because the observer is highly judgmental about someone he/she has never met.
  16. Instead, we see an all too common debate end in random, senseless death.
  17. I assume – I really don’t know if Stuyvesant had a peg leg.
  18. Not a bad idea but it needs to be flushed out.
  19. there should be something in front of Jesus’s lines of dialogue that are continued from His previous line of dialogue
  20. What happens in the garden other than just walking around smelling things?
  21. I did not count off, but most authorities now believe it was probably a fig tree rather than an apple, based on the location.
  22. Interesting concept, though somewhat abstract. Poetry about poetry.
  23. The irony of this is that it’s a very clichéd description of a person who stereotypically employs a lot of clichés. Or is it meant to be ironically ironic?
  24. When you back your car into a post, the sound is horrendous. What does plane wing on tarmac sound like?
  25. The author clearly has mechanical talent, but characterization, conflict, plot and interest are, unfortunately, lacking in this piece.
  26. the narrative reads like it has ADD
  27. I know many people who will not read present tense. Archery practice is not gripping.
  28. he is his worst conflict, but doesn’t know that
  29. finds her son, tells us she found her son, tells she is going to tell us she found her son
  30. I am unsure how the protagonist can know Amelia’s feet are tough.
  31. There is an awful lot of peeing in one chapter – 3 times in the first 10 pages. Is this intentional?
  32. You are confused between internal monologue and deep third person.
  33. “What is this memoir saying to you?”
  34. I had to remind myself that this is poetry and the use of the proper scientific term would distract from the poet’s meaning.
  35. Don’t know much about Louise, except that she cries and this irritates the narrator.
  36. Horrible things happened to you, and it’s just…move on to the next atrocity.
  37. I also wondered initially whether “my drainpipe” was some kind of euphemism!!!
  38. There’s a dead body. What did that smell like?
  39. Thumbnail sketches of characters followed by a hammer to the thumb.
  40. What personal significance, other than occasionally cutting its hair, does the statue have to the narrator?
  41. While there are periods throughout the poem, there are no verbs, only participles. Thus there are no complete clauses or thoughts, only descriptions.
  42. Be cautious about putting your name into poems submitted for contests.
  43. If the poet gets a few of the pesky minnows in this poem out of the way, it will be a much stronger piece.
  44. This piece doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. The second part of the piece read like a clickbait story on a pseudoscientific website that someone posted on a blog or Facebook.
  45. I don’t have a clear idea of each character’s character
  46. A good story idea and good conflict hampered by execution.
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