May 182014

Doranna & DuncanThis is Doranna Durgin’s WordPlay Blog. I’m glad you’re here–whether it’s to learn more about my books, or chat about dogs, horses, and reading.

On Fridays, The Write Horse usually stops by for life with horse training, written by Patty Wilber.

If you’d like to reach my Webstead, you can clicky on that link you just passed. Right there. Behind you! The one that said Webstead.

PS although I use a plug-in that allows commenters to sign in, it’s easy to post as a guest and guest commenters are welcome!

May 182014

by Doranna

Dun Lady's JessSo I’ve been published since ’94…and have over 40 titles’ worth of author copies sitting on garage storage shelves, snug and safe…and taking up a LOT of room. I’m going to run a bunch of giveaways, but I’m also offering these books first come, first serve, for the cost of postage. If you prefer hardcopy and now can’t get it, this is your chance! Not sure how long I’ll run this…depends on how well it works out on my end, basically…

I made a completely nifty form–it’s behind the cut–integrated with PayPal and including credit card payments through PayPal (so there’s no need to have a PP account). Get there first, grab what you want, and spread the word! (There’s a little social sharing dingie down at the bottom of the post.) Continue reading »

Nov 212014

By Patty Wilber

I have a soft spot for Tennessee Walkers because I leased several from a lady who rescued them when I was in high school. I ended up getting to ride a gob of them.

At Rainbow Ranch. 

Mardigras, a  Tennessee Walker, me and my cousin Amy, in 1977 or so

Mardigras, a Tennessee Walker, me and my cousin, Amy, in 1977 or so.

So, when I got the chance to work with Dusty, it was like old (37 years ago old) times!

Dusty came here at two to get started and he’s back at five for a tune-up.  One thing he needed was a little face-time with cows.

Continue reading »

Nov 172014

by Doranna

cb.dart.visiting.848My lesson for the month: Plans mutate.

(Probably my lesson for life, but let’s just stick with the month.)

I’d intended to blog about the treadmill thing again today, especially in the wake of my aggravated feet.

Then again, this fall I’d also intended to adopt a socialization-resistant kitten as a barn cat (yes, this cat sleeping here on my office chair), get caught up on my paperwork, get a book started/finished before the end of the year, target completion of Connery’s PACH title, and figure out how to relax when it was time to relax.

And in the really big picture, I once thought to keep beating my head against traditional publishing until I finally found where I fit.

One thing at a time, I guess.

In any event, I’m not writing about the treadmill thing today.  Because things change, and yesterday I went tracking, and as it happens the tracking was all about things changing.

(The meta here is just killing me.)

Continue reading »

Nov 142014

By Patty Wilber

A lot went on last weekend: Judged a 4-H show (what a great group of kids and parents!); helped a friend help a woman ride into the Sandias to find the site of her grandfather’s house on an old homestead (found it!)

The corner of the old homestead!
The corner of the old homestead!

and rode with Troy Rogers to continue to improve LT’s skills as a reined cow horse.

Thursday morning the thermometer read 17F at 7 am and I had two lessons scheduled.  At 8:30 am we were up to 18F and the lessons went on. I have some impressively tough clients! Good grief. I think I would have stayed inside.  By 11:30 it was 30F– heat wave…

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Nov 122014

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to submit a story to editor Becky Kyle for the anthology Tails from the Front Lines.  Hard to resist, when the proceeds are slated for donation to TADSAW (Train a Dog, Save a Warrior).

Right.  Service dogs for our wounded, whether physically or emotionally or both.  So I was very happy when I got the word that Just Hanah would be part of the anthology.  And naturally I was curious as to how it all came about, so…I asked!  And discovered that I’m not the only one out there who’s still a hippy-era kid at heart…


I was a hippie-era kid. At twelve, I wanted to go to Woodstock. I protested Viet Nam. Every few months, we got word another soldier was gone. As I got into high school, my male classmates worried about what they’d do after graduation and if their number would be called.

Around that time, we stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance. I still stood, still held my hand over my heart, but I couldn’t speak a word of it. Most everyone had a friend, a family member, even a brother who’d done to war and didn’t come back.

Already, I felt like I was stuck in a dystopia.  I was sixteen and there had never been a time my country wasn’t at war.

The one thing I never did was blame the troops. None of them approved the Declaration of War or signed it. They just went to war when our country called them to.

Years later, when I was in Library School, I got involved with the Operation Paperback collections. From there, I started sending care packages to the troops as an extra Christmas present. In 2003, when a friend’s husband went to Iraq with only one pair of underwear and socks, we took up a collection to get him and his men the supplies they needed. It’s nothing heroic—it’s just saying thanks for an often thankless job.

A year ago, my phone rang. My husband answered it, covered the mouthpiece, and said:

“It’s Cindy, you should answer this.”

My heart fluttered. Cindy is an ER nurse in Indiana. She’s funny, good-hearted, and one of the most unflappable people I know.  When I got on the phone, Cindy was sobbing. It took a bit for her to calm down enough to be coherent.

The son of one of one of her fellow nurses, twenty-two years old and just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan two weeks before, had shot himself. What was worse was that his Dad’s firefighter company had been to the ones to transport him to the ER.

Every emergency worker who tended this young man as he died knew him. They watched him grow up. They cheered when he did well and they were all grateful when he came home safe and seemingly unharmed.

The only good that came of this tragedy was that the young man had signed an organ donation card. Doctors and nurses who knew him performed the last surgeries on him and sent the organs to new homes where they’d save lives.

By the time Cindy was done, I was sobbing.

Being a research nerd, I started looking into veteran suicides. What I didn’t know was that twenty-two soldiers killed themselves every day.

This was more than books and underwear. I had to do something.

I’d been reading about therapy dogs and how much they assisted soldiers with PTSD. An animal can get a soldier outside and into the world again without feeling alone. The presence of a dog can literally reduce their prescribed medicines by half.  I found TADSAW (Train a Dog, Save a Warrior) online and was highly impressed that they got many of their dogs from shelters or used the warrior’s own pet to train.

It was sheer luck that I mentioned wanting to do something to the right person, Carol Hightshoe, publisher/editor at Wolfsinger Press. Carol was onboard quicker than I could have imagined. While I have served as part of the editorial staff for several venues, I never expected to have only my name on the masthead. Carol was wonderful to provide support and helpful hints whenever I needed them.

Tails from the Front Lines became available on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2014. The anthology is comprised of twelve short stories written by well-known veteran authors to two first-time publications.  They cover everything from fantasy realms to the future. Best of all, proceeds will go to TADSAW to help provide soldiers with companions who will help them re-enter society and lessen their chances of falling into despair.

Tailsfromthefrontlinescover.144So yeah. Becky didn’t do it, but I’m going to.  The anthology is freshly available at Amazon (including a trade paperback version) and Nook.

Meanwhile, I’ve got the happies.  It’s cool to have the opportunity to help!

Nov 072014

By Patty Wilber

A while back, our neighbor behind us offered to sell a little 1.44 acre strip of land between our back fence and the arroyo.  That seemed interesting, so we starting looking for property in our area so we could understand how much that bit was worth.

The 1.44 acres was behind

The 1.44 acres was along the back (left) of our place. The arena would be at the bottom of this picture but it is cut off below the parking area.

Continue reading »

Nov 032014

0711.connery.teeter.LJAs one part of Connery Beagle’s Overcoming Very Bad Luck Journey through this life, he was given steroids through his adolescence.  This wasn’t particularly good for his developing tendons and ligaments.

We shifted him to Atopica as soon as it became an option, and then he was getting prednisone on the side as necessary.  But when he was 3 ½, after the final attack by yet another dog four times his size and amidst various other trauma, he went into a cortisol crisis with many ramifications and was declared off-limits to steroids.

Fast forward to another big part of the journey when he was seven.  Skipping the details (because there are so many of them), he ended up on a doggy inhaler.  These steroid drugs were not supposed to be systemic, so were thought to be okay. Continue reading »

Oct 312014

By Patty Wilber

Last weekend I took LT (Saturday) and Stetson (Sunday) to the Jack Brainard Clinic at Four Winds Equestrian Center.

Beautiful Stetson and some sideways work!

Beautiful Stetson and some sideways work! Marcia is on  my left with Junior.  Junior stayed at Four Winds and Marcia stayed with us! That was fun!


LT with a dust coming up off her little slide after her little canter (she is a little horse you know!) Like that girl.

LT with a dust coming up off her little slide after her little canter (she is a little horse, you know!) Like that girl.

Four Winds is located about 30 miles south of Tijeras on Hwy 337 (Old S 14 if you’ve been around awhile).  It is at a lovely hill-top location with barns, arenas, houses, RV hook-ups, boarding pens and about 200 acres.  The facility was empty for many years and I personally thought it was too remote to be a successful public barn.  I am so impressed with Colleen and John Novotny and the execution of their vision.  Four Winds is busy, beautiful and a really fun place to be.  (I was especially thankful for the indoor arena on Sunday when the wind picked up!) Click the link above for more info on Four Winds.

Continue reading »

Oct 242014

By Patty Wilber

This was probably our last Back Country Horsemen project of the season–paint a bridge.  We were big on painting bridges this year.  This one was right down from our staging site, so we didn’t even get to ride to get there!

We rode later.


Before painting!


After! Keith, Mary Ann, Erin and Siri.

We were very tidy painters. Or not.

Continue reading »

Oct 172014

By Patty Wilber

The sun was just suffusing the sky with light when two cow elk stepped out of the golden-leaved aspen grove into the meadow above the East Tank.  They were 300 yards away and didn’t hear us.  The little herd of cattle did.  They skittered and plowed across the landscape with no grace and lots of noise.  For some reason the elk glanced up and then ignored the cows.

Those two elk moseyed across the meadow: graze, pause, look, walk, out of our range.

As we watched, two more appeared from the forest, but instead of heading across, they stopped to snack.  We crept one step at time, from tree to tree, until Richard, who had the only cow elk tag, moved ahead. Jim and I breathed slowly and held still.  The aspens we were in were sparse enough that we still had a good view.

The first two elk melted away into the trees on the far side of the meadow and the newest two, wary now, heads up and looking away from our position, circled in a high trot.  We thought they were going to leave, but they settled and went back to breakfast.  Richard sighted in.

Only one elk disappeared into the trees.

Continue reading »

Oct 102014

By Patty Wilber

Jim’s elk hunt was last week and we went to Camp Kingsbury in the Cruces Basin in Northern New Mexico.

Cruces Basin trail head and camping area. Twenty-three miles on dirt road, three on 4-wheel drive road. Bring your own water.

Penny reading the Cruces Basin trail head and camping area sign. To get here we drove twenty-three miles on dirt road and three on a 4-wheel drive road. Bring your own water.

The camp itself was three miles in on a trail and all the gear (and water) was carried in (and out) by equine. There was a lot of gear!

Two wall tents, with wood stoves, people food, animal feed, and a guided hunt were all provided.

The Camp. Two wall tents, with wood stoves, people food, animal feed, and a guided hunt: all provided!

We took Penny, Lacey and Cometa and they joined nine other  four-leggeds that had come in a few days earlier.

Lacey: "i am really good at this."

Lacey: “check me out! i am really good at this!” Cometa:”yeah yeah. just wait til u r my age u young whipper snapper!”

Elk hunting at Camp Kingsbury means up at O dark thirty, a quick hot breakfast of oatmeal and coffee in the yellow beams of the propane lanterns, and then heading off in the white light of the LED head lamps (until you can see just enough to avoid major catastrophe–then the lights go off) to where you hope the elk are going to be.

On day one, we loaded Molly mule with a wheel chair and Dave (Richard’s brother to whom said chair belongs) rode Milford (also a mule). Richard claimed I would not need a chain to lead Molly, but as soon as we got her untied, she rolled her eyes at my head lamp and bolted.  Very few items fell out of her panniers–at least not any of the important wheel chair parts...not that we could really see much as it was dark anyway.

Molly came back.  “ok. over that.  i’m good.”

We headed out.

Being able to hunt with people that know that land means being able to hike in the dark without getting lost, getting oriented more quickly and finding elk more easily.

We went directly to Dave’s spot and set him up as the sun appeared on the horizon.

Ok, this was about noon, but you would not be able to see the set up when we first did it.

Ok, this was about noon, but you would not be able to see much when we first did it at dawn.

View at Dave’s place at dawn.

We moved the mules off  a ways,  gave them black feed bags full of alfalfa pellets and wrapped their dark leads ropes around the white bark of  two aspens.  I craftily let Richard do the tying.   Two hours later, the mules were spotted, feed bags and all, hightailing it straight back to camp. (Plausible deniability for me!)

Meanwhile, while the mules were plotting their escape, we stalked up on a bull in the yellow leaved aspen (we hit the  fall colors  just perfectly).  We were as still as the trees for a while and then, we moved a little too fast and spooked the bull and the two cows.

Regroup and a snack.





While were were camo’d in a shady glen eating string cheese, Hershey’s chocolate and sweet and salty granola bars, a herd bolted into the grove just a few yards away and hesitated.  We leapt up (a calculating stealthy bunch aren’t we?) and went for the guns. This convinced the herd to…

re-bolt! At once.

I was beat, from the altitude I guess, so I didn’t go with the hunting party  in the afternoon.  Instead I helped Amber get some supplies back at the trail head (I rode Lacey), and when we returned to camp, we cut dead branches to fuel the wood stoves. Having a heated bedroom (even if you are sleeping on the floor) was great. Even better if one of your mates does all of the stoking through the night!

Heated living quarters.  Wow!

Heated living quarters. Wow!

We still had to feed and water the stock.

We had everyone (equidly speaking) high-lined –not to be confused with zip-lined–and feed bagged. (Thanks Mom and Dad for the high line kit!)

High lined and feedbagged!

High-lined and feed bagged!

Then they needed drinks.  (No beer for them, but we people did go for a little whiskey.)  To get the the whole cavalcade to the water, we kept the two lead mares (Penny and Belle) and two geldings on line and let the other eight free.  As soon as we started to the tank (about a 1/4 mile away), Cometa and Lacey broke and ran, NOT toward the water, but off into the gathering gloom.  Gathering gloom pretty much described my reaction to those shenanigans.  Fingers crossed the on-line lead mares will call them home.

The by the time we had our seven-strong homebody-herd at the tank, the five mavericks were happily finishing and Cometa and Lacey high-stepped to the tank’s berm.  Cometa was the ring leader. Messing with my head.

It was dark now and hard to see much in the moon light except shadows, but as we got close to the camp, Penny started calling and within moments I heard galloping hooves on the edge of the herd and Cometa and Lacey unmelted from the dark into their solid selves!

It is amazing that they know she is the lead mare even though at home they are never penned together or even nose to nose across a fence line.  Four hours in the trailer can be a bonding experience!.

Once we got back, and they were all hooked to the high-lines, we brushed our teeth and hit the nice warm sack to dream…yeah ok I dreamed but I also tossed and turned a lot.  I am sorry, but a thermarest is NOT as comfortable as my bed at home.


Tune in next week for the riveting conclusion to Camp Kingsbury.  Do we actually get any elk? What have bears got to do with it? Can Lacey pack meat? (if we got any elk that is) and What got into Ben?