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“Well, hey, if it ain’t our resident author,” the waitress greeted them, cracking her gum between her teeth. Her bright eyes turned predatory upon examining the handsome elegance of the man accompanying Corinne. “And who’s this? Ain’t one of yer brothers, is he?”
“No, Tansy, this is Uberon,” Corinne answered with a laugh. “ He’s just visiting.”
Ignoring the cool look the tall man gave her, the waitress tapped Uberon’s shoulder and said, “Well, y’all can visit me any time, good lookin’.”
An unaccustomed feeling of jealousy surged through Corinne, spurring her to respond, “Get your own man, Tansy. This one’s taken.” The waitress lauged and leaned forward. "You let me know if he’s got any brothers.” She winked and got to business. “Y’all know what ya want?”
Corinne shook her head and relaxed, not quite knowing why she’d staked her claim to Uberon like that. It simply wasn’t like her. So, she placed a generous order that included a slice of the coconut cream pie that was the diner’s specialty. Tansy looked expectantly at Uberon who simply replied, “I’ll have the same.”
“Sure thing, handsome.” She winked at Corinne with irrepressible good nature and sauntered off to place the order.
“Forward woman,” Uberon commented in an undertone.
“Tansy wants a husband so badly she can taste it,” Corinne explained with empathy. “She barely managed to finish high school and good jobs are scarce around here. But she’s goodhearted; there’s no malice at all in her. She’d make some farmer a devoted, hardworking wife.”
“You are kind.”
Corinne shrugged. “Her prospects aren’t good. She deserves a man who will love her and treat her well—and there just aren’t that many eligible bachelors in Winterset. Most kids here grow up and leave for college and never come back. Those who don’t leave either can’t or they’re tied to family farms.”
She looked around the diner, silently noticing that most of the patrons were a generation or two older than she. She returned her gaze to Uberon’s and held it. “This village is dying. It’s too far from Athens to catch the university crowd.”
Uberon listened as his mate explained.
“About six or seven years ago, the village council decided to sponsor a farmer’s market to capitalize on what this area does have, a lot of vegetable gardens, farms, and old-fashioned handicrafts. The Christmas fair gets in some regionally acclaimed folk artists and visitors from a pretty large area, but it’s not enough to sustain a hotel or do more than add a temporary boost to the local economy.”
Corinne paused and realized she’d been lecturing him. Blushing, she took a breath and apologized. “Sorry, Uberon. I got a little carried away there.”
“You care about these people as a good queen should,” he replied.
“Queen?” she spluttered and shook her head. “I am no queen.”
His eyes took on a far-away look and he added so quietly she had to strain to hear the words, “I lost the caring of my people and left them to my son, who never cared at all.”
“Your son?” she echoed.
“Marog. He is dead.”
Overcome by sympathy as well as confusion, Corinne reached across the table and covered his hand with hers. “Oh, Uberon, I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories.”
He turned his hand to curl around hers. He lifted it and leaned forward to press a kiss to the knuckles. “You bring me naught but joy.”
So, the search for a solution to the "Diva problem" continues.
I thought I'd found a sensible swap: a 10-year old, well trained Halflinger mare for my 11-year old, green broke Morgan mare. I liked the mare well enough and she suited my purpose, but I didn't feel any sort of connection to her. The deal fell through, as the Halflinger's owner decided she couldn't bear to part with the horse. It's probably better that way. The Halflinger's owner offered to purchase Diva for a price much lower than what I paid for her.
I've invested almost $10,000 into Diva (purchase price + training fees). If I sell her, I at least want to recoup the purchase price.
Another person contacted me, offering to swap her 18-year old, "performance trained" Quarter Horse mare. I drove 100 miles one way on Sunday afternoon to see that horse.
The mare is indeed well-trained, not pretty. She ties. She appears unflappable. She also has a calcified knee that makes me leery of accepting. The horse's age isn't a deal breaker. The lovely Lady Anastasia was 19 when I brought her home 15 years ago. But I have never known a Quarter Horse to live past its mid-twenties, so I'd have to be prepared for only a few years of being able to use the horse. (Morgans tend to be a long-lived breed and I anticipated getting 20 years out of Diva before needing to retire her.)
The Quarter Horse appears to be exactly what I want: not too large, well-trained, and a mare. Except ... she doesn't make my heart go pitter-patter. My heart flutters with excitement when I look upon "the monster." Despite my difficulties with her, I like Diva. This Morgan is what my dreams are made of, and I very badly want to make it work.
(A lot of other equestrians are puzzled by why I prefer mares to geldings. People forget that mares, like stallions, still have all their hormones. I find them more responsive than geldings. I don't mind a mare's moodiness; I understand it. I'm rather moody myself.)
But I can provide the home the old Quarter Horse mare needs, the kind of home her owner wants for her.
What to do? What to do? I discussed this with my husband Sunday evening.
I've already decided against a straight swap. However, I have another option brewing in my mind. Now I just have to see whether the Quarter Horse's owner will go for it. It will mean that I spend more money on Diva, probably a lot more money. It might mean that I end up with three horses to feed--at least until Stasia passes away. (Sure, it's morbid, but Stasia's 34 years and declining rapidly. I have to keep that in mind, because death will come for her sooner rather than later.)
In another update, I finished a short story written for an anticipated second compilation of stories in collaboration with Russ Towne. While the stories will still fall under the "western fiction" umbrella, we're focusing more on romantic storylines, i.e., western romances. They'll continue to be sweet, meaning not explicit and suitable for a general audience. I have to admit, writing convincing romance without getting down and dirty is a challenge.
This week's blog prompt--yes, I missed last week--asks if we are our own worst enemies when it comes to a fear of failure. That prompt leads me to this old joke:
Q. What's the difference between a pessimist and an optimist?
A. A pessimist moans, "Things just can't get any worse." An optimist cheerfully responds, "Sure, they can!"
We all fail. Failure and I are old, intimate friends. Some of us fail more frequently than others. Some of us handle it better than others. I think that we handle failure better as we get older because we learn our limitations, we understand what we cannot control vastly outweighs what we can control, and we have more practice in failing. We've figured out how to pick our challenges and battles so that the odds favor us.
I could be wrong.
I see this new writers who cling desperately to their manuscripts, the manuscripts they've worked on and tinkered with for years, the manuscripts they can't ever seem to finish, the most dreadful manuscripts ever produced. Let's face it, folks, no one's very first manuscript is any good. Mine certainly weren't.
Anyway, such authors cannot bear the thought of failure, so they refuse to admit they've learned everything they can from those experiments and take what they've learned to a new story. They won't abandon those first manuscripts.
I've long since outgrown that. I have a directory with over two dozen started-and-abandoned stories. I have old floppy disks full of manuscripts that will never see the light of day. I have a credenza with drawers full of printed manuscripts that will never be published. Because they suck. Each and every one of them sucks.
When I look failure in the face, I admit its supremacy and then try something else. The general outcome (e.g., publication) might be the same, but the specific goal and route to get there differ. For a non-writing example, let's take Diva, my "problem child" of a horse.
She's my latest big failure. I brought home a horse that I erroneously thought I could handle. I was wrong. I hired three trainers in succession. The first wasn't up to the challenge. Failure. The second never showed up. Failure. The third didn't do what she promised. Failure. So, I'm trying different tactics to either bring Diva to the point at which I can use her or to transfer her to the care of someone who can handle her. A teenager approached me about leasing her. That didn't work out. Failure. I've got a call scheduled with someone who is willing to trade her for one of her horses. We'll see how that works out. I've already tried that one and it didn't work out, but with a different person there's a chance for success.
Here's another example: I consider the 2019 Summer Book Fair a failure, although some of the participating authors don't, bless them for their kindness. However, we'll try again and apply what we've learned.
Are we our own worst enemies? Probably. But each failure teaches us lessons if only we remain open to learning. It's that learning process that justifies optimism, that irrepressible hope for success when we turn our focus to that next endeavor.