Remembering SkyHawk

Part of me is somewhat saddened that the issue with my eyes has forced me to write less on the computer. Among other things, I had hoped to participate in the A-Z Challenge this year, but (obviously) that isn’t going to happen anymore.

What I am going to share today is a memory, and to this day it remains one of the strongest memories I have of my first horse, SkyHawk. I spent about 2 hours today going through my personal journals looking for the entry, and at length I found it.

I’ve been talking recently about stories where people rescued horses, but there’s also a place for stories where horses rescued people. Physical rescue is heroic, but so is emotional rescue. I know almost as little about therapy horses as I do about rescue horses, with one exception. I’ve been rescued before, and this is my story.

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The last photo of SkyHawk and Me.

July 7, 2004

A couple months after I first got SkyHawk, my brother started showing the first signs of what eventually (i.e. four years later) led to his diagnosis of bi-polar disorder. At the beginning, though, we didn’t know what was going on. We just thought my brother was going through some weird form of rebellion, so when the first real blow came that something was seriously wrong, I fell apart.

You must understand, before my brother started changing he was my best friend hands down. We did everything together, shared all our secrets, and valued the other’s opinion more than anyone else’s. The day I realized I’d lost that, I almost broke.

I ran to the only other place I had (I was 16, but not driving at the time and thus couldn’t escape that way)–I ran to my horse’s stall. Hawk was still relatively new to me, and I didn’t know him that well. I wasn’t sure if I really trusted him yet, but I was in a bad way and willing to take my chances just to be with something living and outside the house.

I sat down in the corner and started crying hard, silent tears, my face buried in my knees and my arms wrapped around my legs. After a few minutes I heard Hawk moving around, then I felt this light pressure on the back of my neck. I opened my eyes and looked up, and through watery vision I saw he was standing over me with his nose pressed against my shoulder. I cried even harder then, and he stayed with me, nose to shoulder, for what felt like ages.

I’ll never forget that night. It was the moment I knew Hawk and I understood each other. I trusted Hawk completely after that.

Hawk and I went on to do all kinds of things together. I took a fancy to bareback jumping and bridle-less riding (but not bridle-less jumping, because I wasn’t quite that brave). We went for trail rides through acres of apple orchards and vineyards, taught each other the passage and piaffe, and consumed large amounts of root beer (me moreso than him, but he did enjoy the occasional swig).

I miss him.

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My Horse Sprenkil has another rejection! Time to send out more queries…

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Earl Assam to the rescue!

tea-1170551_640Today as I prepared my quiet time tea (I have 5 kids…quiet time is mandatory for EVERYONE, including Mom), I thought for quite a while what I should blog about (because quiet time is when I blog, or write stories, or otherwise use the computer). It’s worrisome to me that often times I don’t have a blogging plan, and with my lack of a plan I have little hope for ever getting ahead. You can’t get ahead on a track you haven’t laid out, and all that.

In the midst of my pondering I reached for a new sample tea. I tea-1132529_640absentmindedly ripped it open, only glancing at the package briefly as I placed the teabag (yes, bag, don’t judge me) in my pretty countryside mug. “Numi Aged Earl Grey, Assam aged with real bergamot”.

Wait. Assam? Didn’t I just read this fabulous review about Assam and comment on how I would need to try it? And what is Assam doing in an Earl Grey anyway?

I love tea (quarts of it kept me company through many an all-nighter during college), but I confess my knowledge of it is relatively limited. Turns out that bergamot oil is the defining factor to Earl Grey, and the black tea element is not at all as fixed as I thought. Go figure.

And so, I am rather enjoying my Assam Earl Grey as I pen out an outline for “Sprenkil Visits the Zoo.”

Questions I must answer:

  1. Big city zoo or smaller city animal sanctuary? Leaning towards the latter, as that would make a little more allowance for introducing a rescue horse.
  2. I know my rescue mare is a former high jumper who sustained a leg injury. Breed? No clue. I need to research high jumping a little more.

On that note, I loved stadium jumping, but high jumping is downright scary looking!

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Updates on The Sprenkil Adventures:

“My Horse Sprenkil” now has 4 rejections! The last one surprised me a little…the agent was very kind and encouraging. I wasn’t expecting to encounter that in a rejection letter. Onward, onward…

“Sprenkil Goes to the Moon” is back from the beta readers, now it’s time to par down and edit. Draft #4, here we come!

Well, Sprenkil made it to the moon.

africa-16831_640Now I just need to get him and Kathi home in one piece!

The initial edit of “Sprenkil Goes to the Moon” is almost done, and my goodness it looks better already! The first drafts always leave me a little appalled. (I wrote that? Seriously? What was my tea-sloshed brain thinking?)

Once the second edit is done, it will be a matter of polishing up, which means I can start thinking about the next book in The Sprenkil Adventures: “Sprenkil Visits the Zoo”. Now, this story is important because it introduces a new horse. She’s a very special horse because she’s a rescue horse.

Here’s where my readers will come in, because I have yet to write her specific history. I don’t know what breed of horse she is, and I don’t know what exactly her troubles are. Once I’m actively working on this, I will be polling you for ideas!

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This morning I received my 4th rejection letter! This is actually exciting because I’m now averaging slightly more than 1 rejection a week. Given the general 4-6 week turnover rate, I’m also a little surprised, but definitely not complaining!

Attitude

Waiting, waiting, and waiting. (But not doing nothing.)

reiter-913736_640Edit: Changed the title of the post. I wrote it late at night, and the next morning it struck me as rather misleading in meaning. Apologies to anyone else who thought so too!

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It’s difficult sometimes to know what the next step is as a not-yet-published author. It’s kind of like the time my horse and I found ourselves ankle deep in a surprise swampy mire of ick. We slipped and slid our way out of it, sometimes slowly choosing our steps, sometimes wildly stumbling about in an effort to find lost footing. (It was an adventure of a trail ride, and both of us got serious baths when we got home.)

Right now I feel somewhere in between the two sensations. I’m not quite sure of where I’m at with The Sprenkil Adventures, but I’m not hanging on for dear life, either. Two rejections and counting! At least I know where I stand with two agents, so that’s something.

There are a number of websites and articles that have helped me learn about publishing, query letters, marketing, and formatting. Since I haven’t really an update about the book, I though I might share some of the resources I found especially helpful. Continue reading

Pinterest Reveal

L.J. Potters is now on Pinterest!

There you will see photos that inspire the setting and characters within the Sprenkil Adventures. You will find learning resources for kids related to elements within the books (currently this means a board on nature learning and a board on the solar system).

As I write more books, more Pinterest boards will develop. Already there are two new character boards secretly waiting to be revealed!

Curious? I suggest you begin by checking out the character board for Sprenkil!

Flying horse! (in space)

No, not talking about the constellation. I’m referring to book #2 in The Sprenkil Adventures: Sprenkil Goes to the Moon!

When I was 8, I loved more than just horses. I wanted to be an astronaut. I loved space, I loved NASA. It made perfect sense to me at the time to combine my two interests into one story, and to this day the original tale of Sprenkil on the moon makes me laugh more than the others due to its sheer absurdity.

I’m not sure readers are interested in sheer absurdity, however, and since I’m trying to bring some realism to my whimsy, I recently took to researching the current state of space exploration. (As one of my writing instructors said, “NEVER write about something you know nothing about.”)

What a cool age we are living in! Between NASA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Boeing, there are all kinds of exciting things afoot! Reusable rockets, private spacecraft, more planned missions to the moon, Mars, and beyond…

…I almost want to be an astronaut again.

List of Space Missions to Watch for 2016

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The first draft of Sprenkil Goes to the Moon is done! Onward to the first edit. Then the second. Then maybe it’ll be ready for the Beta Reading Team.

Lastly, I have updated the About Page, Twitter, and Facebook to include an author photo.

Consolation in a Bavarian Teacup

“There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea.” (Bernard-Paul Heroux)

ConsolationTeaI’m an officially recognized author now! This is the positive that I’m taking away from my first rejection letter. Yes, I felt some disappointment, but I’m not taking it personally.

To bolster my resolve and increase my motivation for today, I’m giving my afternoon tea something prettier than a heavy mug to rest in. Irish Breakfast, meet Bavarian china.

I pulled out a couple of the Sprenkil sketches from last year, hoping that would offer some extra encouragement. I still have no desire to illustrate my own book (and am very happy with the illustrator I’m currently working with!), but sometimes seeing the visual helps motivate the writing.

And so, Sprenkil flies on!

 

Why animal tracks?

Animal-Illuminerade-Figurer-Woodland-Rabbit-3-1000x699One of the elements in My Horse Sprenkil is Kathi discovering woodland nature, specifically identifying animal tracks. I could have picked any number of woodland aspects to include, so why critter tracks?

It goes back to 2010, when my family moved to a rural, wooded, and mountainous area. I knew very little about tracks, but I quickly realized that it would be advantageous for me to educate myself (and my little ones).

Animal-Jardine-Puma-1000x611During the snow-fallen winters, it was grand fun following the rabbit and deer tracks around the yard with the kids. I secretly giggled every time a skittering of mouse prints darted across my path, and the dog took particular interest in the coyote trails, which remained long after their midnight chorus ceased.

When 4 sets of bear tracks appeared at the top of our long driveway, recognizing tracks became less about entertainment and more about awareness.

When the cougar tracks appeared 10 feet from the house, awareness took over completely for a while.Animal-Deer-Educational-plate-Male

One time I went for a walk with the faithful dog and discovered a track I’d never seen before. It was a very distinct, “Wait, what’s that?” moment. It turned out to belong to an elk, and in the 4 years we lived there, that was the only evidence of them I ever saw.

Learning about animal tracks resulted in a much greater awareness of my surroundings, and having that now allows me to see all kinds of things I would otherwise have missed.

Do you have a tracking story? I’d love to hear about it!

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If you are interested in learning more about tracking, here are a couple resources I’ve compiled: Continue reading

Sprenkil and magical realism

“…I saw another reflection in the water. It looked like a white flying horse!

I stood quickly to my feet and looked up, my eyes getting wider and wider as the horse flew closer and closer. He circled in the air like the eagle, and then in one graceful dive he landed on the other side of the pond.” (My Horse Sprenkil)

One of the comments I received during the “test reading” phase of My Horse Sprenkil mentioned the simple acceptance of a flying horse in an otherwise real world. The young protagonist is practical and sometimes literal, yet she has no trouble believing that the horse she meets really exists.

01Sprenkil

By LJP at age 8

For a time I contemplated trying to explain Sprenkil’s presence, but I realized doing so would shift the project more towards fantasy, which I don’t want. I don’t want magic. I don’t want to dampen the sense of “this could actually happen.”

A related anecdote: I remember watching Toy Story in theaters with my family. I remember being awed and impressed by the movie, and at the end when Buzz and Woody free themselves from the rocket and sail back to Andy, I cheered to myself because yay! They made it!

You know what my mom was thinking at that moment? “That could never happen.” She laughed about it coming out of the theater, because of course nothing in the movie could actually happen. It wasn’t until that point, though, that her mind actively told her this.

It is excellent story telling when you can keep your readers and viewers accepting and believing your words, even when they don’t match the real world. Part of the success in that, though, is not thinking about it too much.

And so I decided not to think too much about why Sprenkil is in the mountains, where he came from, or why he has wings. He just is, and he just does. Kathi accepts it, and her family accepts it.

It remains to be seen if all the other upcoming characters accept it too.

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Guess what? The first batch of query letters is out! Now begins the waiting game.

While I wait, I’m hard at work on the second adventure Sprenkil Goes to the Moon. A horse in space. What could possibly go wrong?

Click here to read more about The Sprenkil Adventures.