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Oct 30, 2009
This week was sheep shearing at Twin Willows Farm. Here is a Youtube video that shows the process well. The sheep being shorn in the video is a Border Leicester, the same breed I raise.

I shear my sheep twice a year because Border Leicesters grow 10" to 12" of wool in a year. My wool customers prefer the fleece length between 4.5" and 5.5". That's the optimum length for many types of preparation before spinning.

Enjoy the video of this nice gentleman shearing. I do my shearing solo with no photographer in sight. It's just me, the sheep and my bottle of Aleve.
Oct 28, 2009
Today the podiatrist took an x-ray of my gimpy foot and discovered that I have an extra bone. Running along the outer tarsal bone is a wimpy, little, tarsal-bone-wanna-be. I was born with it, but for 47 years it lay dormant, waiting to pounce at just the right moment. That moment came last June.

I like to give Mother Nature a good shake at healing without interference, but after 4 months, it was time to get this pain checked out. It seems the tarsal-bone-wanna-be is now irritating a rather major nerve in my foot. (In point of fact, it's irritating the rest of me as well!) Dr. Z. gave me a shot of cortisone and the, "We'll see you in two weeks," pep talk. Then he sent me lumbering back to work on a numb foot. Aside from my Frankenstein-ish gate, I was feeling pretty good. However, if the cortisone doesn't do the trick, that bone is going to have to come out.

The writing process can be equated with this whole situation. A writer struggles to get his/her story down in whatever format; scribbling or typing in a mad rush to get all their thoughts down in black and white. Then comes the editing. Reading back through the pages and pages (or screens and screens) the writer finds all sorts of "extra bones."

These may not be bad bits of writing. They may, in fact, be very good bits of writing. For whatever reason, in the context of the story, they are only wanna-be bits contributing nothing vital to the actual story itself. The more the writer reads over these "extra bones" the more they begin to irritate. They don't fit. They aren't needed. They may slow down the pace or muddy up the story. What's a writer to do?

Before doing major surgery to remove these "extra bones" the writer should see if a little shot of "literary cortisone" can salvage them into workable scenes. Only, of course, if they are worthy to be salvaged. If they are not or if they cannot be, if they add no intrinsic value to the whole or part of the story, if they become a Frankenstein in your Amish romance... "Scalpel please!"
Oct 26, 2009
Writing is an amazing craft, the more I learn about it, the more I want to improve what I do. I want my story to sparkle and shine, polished as a pearl. Then, and only then, will I send it out into the cold, cruel, literary world. That world is literally papered with rejection slips. Very few book proposals are accepted when first pitched to an editor. Rejection slips are part and parcel of a writer's life. How will I handle these inevitable rejections? Someone asked that question at ChristianWriters.com this weekend. I hope I'll be able to look at the rejection slip, shrug it off, and get back down to work. It's either that or stuff myself with chocolate. Hershey may appreciate my rejections slips.
Oct 22, 2009

This week has been filled with more reading than writing. I've spent an inordinate amount of time at storyfix.com. There is a wealth of information there about how to structure a story for the best "story telling" effect. If you are writing or planning to write, I highly recommend visiting there for a week or so. I know I'll be back to see what else I can learn from Larry Brooks. I appreciate his humor and interesting examples that keep the articles fun, not dry and boring.

What started me on my reading venture was a book I read last weekend. It is written by a well known author and it sold very well. However, in all honestly, I didn't think it was all that well "written." Despite the fact that the writing wasn't anything exceptional, the story was compelling and well told. This confirmed what I've often thought about good books. Readers will ignore or forgive mediocre writing as long as the story is gripping and is told in an engaging way.

This isn't to say that lazy writing, poor grammar or weak sentences should be acceptable. I still want to do my best, writing a tight, well worked story, but now I feel better prepared to tell that story in a way that readers will enjoy. I want my readers to set the book down with a sigh of satisfaction. That, I think, is a wonderful goal to have.
Oct 19, 2009
Relocating family and farm, we moved 225 miles in late fall of 2000. The month was November and winter knocked at our door. A vast, sprawling barn that once housed dairy cattle needed immediate attention. One exterior wall had to be rebuilt and space converted to suitable shelter for the horse, sheep and farm dogs. Snow swirled overhead as the last board was nailed in place. With everything safely out of the elements, we settled into a new routine and put the remaining necessary repairs on hold until spring.

Two enormous willow trees flanked the tri-level house, inspiring the name Twin Willows Farm. The same trees caused considerable damage to the roof shingles. With each snowfall pieces of shingle would slide off into the deep drifts below. Roof repair hit the top of our home improvement project list. We prayed it would stay sound enough until spring. It did. The roofing crew arrived on the first weather permitting day. They stripped and shingled the entire roof, all three levels, in one day. Mission accomplished!

Spring brought not only rain, but layers of melting snow. The driveway, we discovered, lacked gravel. It lacked gravel so much that our little car sank halfway to it's axles during one particularly heavy downpour. Home improvement project #2 presented itself. The paving crew arrived shortly after the roofing crew left.

The sound of metal ringing against metal filled our weekends for the next month. Metal posts driven into the rocky, uncooperative ground as the base for new fence to be stretched. Horse fence consisted of three strands of electrified wire and went up quickly. Sheep need more protection from coyotes and roaming dogs. Woven wire requires more posts and must be stretched and clamped to each one. Electric wires, both above and close to the ground inside the woven wire, are also needed to keep coyotes from going over or digging under the fence. During the summer our pastures took shape.

In the following years our little farm has continued to improve. One project at a time, it's becoming the place we want it to be. From killing thistles to patching barn roof holes to fixing gates, it's a never ending job. We keep a dozen or so Border Leicester sheep, a dozen or so Silver Fox rabbits, three horses, three dogs, a couple of cats and one geriatric duck named Herb. Life is good.
Oct 12, 2009
The gals over at AuthorCulture shared this video today and I about split my sides laughing. Oh... if I ever get to the point of having a book to sign... I surely hope I do NOT do something like this!

Oct 10, 2009
Wow... it seems incredible that my dear husband turns 50 today. Where have the years gone? We've been married 27 years and that's hard for me to believe. Like the twinkling of an eye, the days are here and then gone. How can so many years go by but so few things change? Other than hair color and skin texture... he's still the same ol' sweetie I married!
Oct 5, 2009
I've often heard it said that one should, "write what you know." This makes sense, especially for my first attempt at a novel. So it's no surprise that my story involves some rural living. Tonight I was banging out more of my story when I mentioned a pair of African Geese named Abner and Abby. Well that's great, I know about African Geese... sort of. How tall are they? Dang!

The Internet is a great research tool. Research is vital to creating a good story. Just because I don't know how tall an African Goose is, I can't assume that my readers won't know. So tonight I Googled away, cross referencing in a couple of different places, and I learned more about African Geese than I will ever use in my story.

The downside to this is that I found them quite intriguing fowl. We've never had geese on the farm. Yet. "Michael, honey..."
Oct 4, 2009
Years ago I took an oil painting class. Oil paints dry very, very slowly. This allows the artist to fiddle and fidget with her work over a period of time, making changes here and there until the painting is “just right”' Or until she drop-kicks it in the dumpster and finds another canvas... whichever comes first.

Now I'm writing and I've found that, like oil painting, authors can fiddle and fidget with their work endlessly. Computers make this both easier and more difficult. Easier because cut and paste are wonderful inventions, wasting neither paper nor ink. More difficult because it's hard to set the brake and say, “it is finished.”

How many ways can you say the same thing? More than I'd dreamed possible! Take something as easy as a character entering a room:

Donna turned the knob slowly, nudging the door open enough to peer inside. Finding the room empty, she walked in.

With a sharp kick of her high heeled pump, Donna burst into the room expecting to find her family. What met her was an empty room.

Donna knocked twice before juggling both grocery bags to one arm and fishing her house key out of her coat pocket. She pushed open the door and yelled for help, only to discover nobody was home.

Is it any wonder writing a novel takes so long? So many choices, so much to fiddle and fidget with until it's “just right” or until it meets the delete key... whichever comes first.