Category: Dogs

Letter Y: Yukon Quest

YI don’t think there is such a thing as a greyhound-type sprint race for sled dogs. “Sprints” in dog mushing are races from 3 to 30 miles in length – up to Marathon distance for a human. Even mid-range races are 75 to 300 miles. But there are two really long-distance sled dog races in Alaska: the Iditarod Trail and the Yukon Quest. (The only other truly long-distance race is in Norway.)

The Iditarod, the older of the two Alaskan races, was initiated in 1973 as a memorial to the original Iditarod serum run in 1925. That was a dog team relay from Nenana, the closest place to Nome reachable by Alaska Railroad, to Nome, where a diphtheria epidemic was raging. The original serum run was a pony-express style relay, with the emphasis on speed and keeping the life-saving antitoxin from freezing. No one team or musher traveled the entire distance.

The memorial race was run from Anchorage, far south of Nenana, and was a race between teams and mushers going the entire distance. But the emphasis was on speed, with relatively light sleds and frequent checkpoints with food (for mushers and dogs.)

The Yukon Quest was founded in 1984 to be a different test of dogs and mushers, with mushers carrying much of the gear and food they would need to survive in the Alaskan Wilderness. There are food drops at the widely spaced checkpoints, but these must be prepacked by the musher, and no help with dogs is allowed on the trail. (The middle, mandatory rest, checkpoint is an exception, as is help from other mushers on the trail.) Sleds must be capable of carrying this extra weight, and the original idea was to replicate the dogsled mail that helped build Alaska during the gold-rush days. The race is also international, going from Fairbanks, Alaska, USA to Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada in even years, and in the opposite direction in odd years. The race is over 1000 miles in length, with substantial distances run along the Yukon River.

Although the original intent of the Yukon Quest may have been to emphasize the utility of dogs as transportation before the days of snow machines (which still are behind dogs as far as finding their way in tough weather), today’s competitive mushers not uncommonly run both long-distance races, with the same teams. In fact Lance Mackey was the first musher to win both in the same year, in 2007. Those dogs—and mushers—are tough!

All the photos I could find were copyrighted, but the Flickr site is here.


Horse Power cover

(It’s FREE next weekend, June 15-16, at Amazon.)

I put “Horse Power” on Kindle primarily in order to learn how to do it. It turned out to be surprisingly easy, at least for a book which is primarily text.

The first step is to edit your work. Fully. Carefully. This is a sample of your work, and you want it to attract readers.

“Horse Power” had an additional function. It is a bridge, set 20 years after the end of Tourist Trap and relating an important incident in the history of the planet, Horizon, which is central to the trilogy I am now writing. As such, its primary function is to introduce the two books I have published, Homecoming and Tourist Trap, and provide the opening of the trilogy.

Horizon in the trilogy is a planet on which horse and dogs are critical to the stock-rearing economy. The planet has no fossil fuels, and in the wider world of the colonizing company’s owners, horses and dogs were merely luxuries. Stock was to be handled by imported vehicles, powered by fossil fuels imported at high prices. Horse Power was written to explain the transformation.

But it’s only a short story, and one on which I never expected to make any money. I’d give it away happily if it led to interest in Homecoming and Tourist Trap, which explore the earlier relationships among Roi, Amber and Timi. It was a natural to learn how to use Kindle Direct publishing, and the $.99 minimum price and the KDP Select Program, with 5 days free each 3 months, seemed well-suited to my needs. Eventually I want to take it off KDP Select and put it up on Smashwords as well as getting a few hard copies using CreateSpace, but the Kindle Direct program looked like the easiest place to start.

Once I had the edited story, the next step was to write the front matter, the short summaries of Homecoming and Tourist Trap explaining the background of the story, a short teaser for the trilogy, and create a table of contents which would link to each section. This was all done in Microsoft Word 2004 for Mac, using standard Word features such as bookmarks and hyperlinking. When I was sure everything worked, I “printed” the file as a PDF.

I then made the following metadata file, so that I could cut and paste into the Amazon metadata page:

Title: Horse Power

Description: Rumors have reached the Inner Council of the Jarnian Confederation that the Horizon Company is illegally exploiting the colonists. Roi has been sent to find out what’s happening, and he asks his old friends, colonists Timi and Amber, for help. But the Company’s behavior is legal, if immoral. Can the three find a solution to the problem?

Contributors: Sue Ann Bowling

Language: English

Publication date: leave blank

Publisher: Sue Ann Bowling

ISBN none

Categories: science fiction, animals?


Horses, Dogs, Science Fiction, Jarnian Confederation, Fiction, Colonization, Space travel, Debt slavery

DRM no

Cover? I’d seen some work I liked on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Saturday blog hop, and I contacted the artist ( She worked with me to create the cover for Horse Power at a very reasonable price.

With all complete, I filled out the metadata page and uploaded the PDF and the cover. Somewhat to my surprise the book, including the linked table of contents, worked fine on all of the viewers on the testing page, with one exception. I had bookmarked the centered section heads and table of contents title (which must be given the name toc.) As a result, whenever I used the “go to table of contents” or linked to a section from the table of contents, the centering of the title disappeared. I know enough HTML to suspect that the way I bookmarked did not nest the tags correctly. When I next do a revision I will put the bookmarks on the line before the centered titles. It would help I I could figure out how to remove an existing bookmark in Word; I may have to remove and retype part of the text.

I’ll be taking it off KDP Select once I learn other publishing options, but for the moment I still have five free days for this three-month period, and two of them are scheduled for the coming weekend: June 15 and 16. Download a free copy and play with the index and go to index functions, and watch how the centering of the section heads changes as you jump to them as opposed to scrolling to them. Minor, but something I will correct eventually.

The sun will rise today at 8:38 and set 8 hours, 56 minutes later at 5:33 this afternoon. We’re still gaining about 6 minutes and 49 seconds a day, though the rate of gain is gradually slowing. The weather warmed a little last week, though not enough to make it excessively slippery; but this week looks as if the highs will barely make 0°F, with the nights as cold as 30 below. We’ve had very little additional snow, and very little is forecast for this week. But the sun is much higher in the sky; it’s almost 14° above the horizon at noon.

Sheltie with frisbee

My first dog, Derry. I’d forgotten how he always turned a frisbee upside down to carry it.

March and April are going to be busy; I signed up for 10 adult learning classes, thinking I wouldn’t make the draw in all of them. Well, I did. In March I have a class on Andrew Lloyd Wright’s musicals, one on the 1964 Alaska Earthquake (which I vividly remember as it lasted about 2 minutes in Fairbanks), health Issues and a harmony singing class. Then in April I’ll have 6 classes spread over 4 days a week. I’d better get some posts pre-scheduled, or I won’t have time to do them. At least there is no homework and no tests!

I have most of the slide scans indexed now: only a disk and a half to go. Still haven’t heard back on the super 8 film, but it may not have reached iMemories yet. It’s been a trip down memory lane, even if the vast majority of the slides are pretty hopeless. The group I sent out last week included some 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 slides I couldn’t get digitized locally, taken with a camera I owned before I even got the 35 mm.

Snow Stake

We don’t need this! As of 3 pm it’s raining. In North Pole, Alaska, in January. Pity the poor voles. And the snow “curtains” in the second photo have collapsed.

As of 8:37 the temperature is at the freezing point and we have intermittent freezing rain and snow. It is way too warm for this time of year!

The sun will “rise” at 10:30 this morning and “set” at 3:30 this afternoon for a whole 5 hours 5 minutes of alleged daylight. We’re gaining almost 6 minutes a day, now, and the sun is 8 times its diameter above the horizon at noon. I should be able to see the sun from the south windows, once the clouds clear up. Like maybe the end of the week?

We’ve finally had a little snow, though not enough to make up for the settling. It’s also turned warm – too warm for this time of year. No actual icicles yet, but my thermometer was up to 30°F yesterday, which is far too warm when the roads are covered with snow and the forecast calls for mixed rain and snow. I stayed home. Sadly, because yesterday was my critique group – but it’s half an hour away, and the driving conditions were too bad to risk.

Snow Curtain below hoopThe moderate warmth last week caused the thin piles of snow on the raised bed hoops to start clinging together and at the same time weakened it enough that it gradually began to sag over and hang from the underside of the hoops. It didn’t look quite as striking yesterday, as the new snow on the beds just about eliminated the space between the bottom of the hanging snow curtain and the top of the snow beneath it. It’s hard to see from the photo, but the snow here falls so vertically that those thin plastic tubing hoops leave grooves in the snow on the actual beds, as they keep the snow from reaching the bed beneath them. The snow on the two by fours atop the lattice has leaned over on both sides of the lattice this year, giving a scalloped look.

Shetland sheepdog in snowI received the second round of slide digitizations, and once again found out how poorly sorted my slides are. And how much some, but not others, have faded or developed blurriness. I tried to clean this one up with iPhoto, as it’s one of the few I have of Chanty (Deryni Enchantress.) She was only about 6 months old in this one.

Well, I did it.

HORSE POWER Working A 2aI just clicked the “save and publish” button on Amazon Direct for my short story, “Horse Power.” It should be available for purchase at $.99 by this evening — I’ll update and link the cover to Amazon when it goes live. Update 10 pm: it’s live at Amazon.

I firmly believe that e-books should be less expensive than mass-market paperbacks, especially for new authors. I’ve been fighting with iUniverse on this (they want to price e-books at $9.99) and finally got Homecoming and Tourist Trap down to $4.99 each in e-book form at their site. The e-books should be even less at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but it will probably take a while. (If they don’t show a lower price by the end of the month, complain to them.) Meanwhile, I have a story between the end of Tourist Trap and the start of the trilogy I’m editing now, so why not get it out, and learn to use Amazon direct at the same time? Thus “Horse Power.”

If you’ve read Tourist Trap, you may have wondered what happened to Timi and Amber after the end of that book, and this is their story, 22 years later. To quote from the blurb I’ve put up, “Rumors have reached the Inner Council of the Jarnian Confederation that the Horizon Company is illegally exploiting the colonists. Roi has been sent to find out what’s happening, and he asks his old friends, colonists Timi and Amber, for help. But the Company’s behavior is legal, if immoral. Can the three find a solution to the problem?”

The trilogy will be about a future war between the Confederation and Horizon, and the events in this story will be pivotal to that future, innocent as they seem at the time.

The cover, which I’m showing here for the first time (Ta-da! Cover reveal!) was done by Like it? I do!

P.S: I’d love reviews on any of my books — especially if you like them!

Plans for 2013

Ever start a project you’ve been putting off and find it leading you in totally new directions?


This one was taken when I was a postdoc at NCAR in the early 70’s.

I did a lot of photography at one time. I have stacks of 35 mm slides taken with my old Nikon through-the-lens reflex and older 2 ¼ x 2 ¼ slides taken on 620 film. I’ve wished before I could use them on the blog, though sadly many were lost in the fire, as was the camera. I did get a batch of what I thought were wildflower photos converted to digital at Sam’s to see how good a job they did. (Some of the digitized photos from the first round are on this blog, and as you can see they weren’t all wildflowers, and included some I knew I’d taken but thought were lost.)

I decided to get the rest of the slides digitized. This has involved going through a number of poorly-labeled boxes, in the course of which I discovered that while none of my finished, spliced-together super 8 movies had survived the fire, a number of bits from the late 60’s and early 70’s have. I haven’t been able to view them yet (no projector) but I have some ideas on that.

(3 pm update: a friend loaned me a super 8 projector, which is currently warming up enough that the condensation on it evaporates. Also a screen. Remember those? I should know by this evening if I have anything left on the film.)

(Not quite 4 update: I definitely have content, and some looks good enough to put on YouTube–if I can just get it digitized!)

Derry and Bonny

Thought I’d lost this one. My first two Shelties, Derry and Bonny, with their obedience trophies from the 1978 National Specialty.

The first step is to see what’s there, and then I hope I can get the good ones digitized. And if I can, why not make them into videos and share them on YouTube? I have iMovie and GarageBand on my Mac, but I’ve never used them. So I fired them up a few days ago, and discovered that I had video clips on iPhoto. Mostly they’re accidents when I hit the video switch on my camera without realizing it, but a few with the iPhone were deliberate. I can’t seem to view them on iPhoto, but iMovie lets me go through them just fine. I also confirmed that iMovie will accept still pictures, even giving me a sort of movie when I put individual burst shots together.


Then there was the flower garden I planted while I was living at Wynfromere Farms in the early ’70’s. Again, I knew I’d taken pictures, but didn’t know where they were.

Then I started thinking. Didn’t I have a video camera somewhere? A Flip I got a couple of years ago, tried out on several subjects, and then put away when I couldn’t figure out how to do anything with the video? That was before I got iLife ’11 installed, and when I found the Flip and plugged it into the Mac to charge it, it proceeded to open iPhoto and download itself, giving me numerous clips I’d totally forgotten I had from the dog show a year and a half ago.

At the moment, I think I need something to bring me up to speed on iMovie and GarageBand, so I’ve ordered the iLife ’11 Portable Genius. Paper. I don’t really like manuals on-screen, particularly if I may need to be flipping back and forth between several pages. But I think I might be able to do something with snowflake images and “Six-Pointed Snowflakes,” just to get my feet wet. And learn how to post on YouTube, of course.

Alaskan winter

On internal evidence, this was taken in the ’70’s. Good example of the pink and blue effect I’ve been talking about. I think from the angle I probably took this from the back of my horse, Challenge.

Guess I know what I’m going to be doing new this year besides writing, editing, and uploading a short story to Amazon direct!

More on Pocket Herders

Because Bounce has become such a popular character on my Six Sentence Sunday snippets from War’s End, the third book of the trilogy I’m working on, I thought I’d post the first scene in which the pocket herders appear. This is from Rescue Operation, the first book of the trilogy and they are on Horizon, which is at war.

Kilravock Lassie

This is Kilravock Lassie, the first Shetland Sheepdog imported to the US to leave descendants here. I think I had her in mind when I invented the pocket herders, though they average a little larger — Lassie was only 12″ tall at the shoulder.

The planet looked misleadingly normal. Its population was low and well spread out, and in this relatively affluent section, most families lived in separate houses on their own slices of land. The planetary love affair with horses was even represented by several stables and sheds, often with attached small paddocks in which horses dozed. The sun set as they walked, but it was still daylight by the time they reached a walk gate on which a sign was hanging: CLOSE THE GATE! They were a little early, as Roi had planned, but he let himself and Mark in, shutting the gate, and started toward the house.

They were intercepted.

The dog that came tearing around the corner of the house was small, its pinned-back ears below Roi’s knees, but clearly determined to protect its territory and its mistress. Mark backed up a step; Roi simply broadcast friend, more emotion than thought, at the oncoming dog.  The animal slid to an astonished halt and lifted its ears, the expression on its face, Roi thought, probably mirroring that on his own.

Animals generally responded to broadcast emotions and simple visualizations, but not as sharply as this dog. Roi opened his mind and listened to the dog. A bright dog, about as intelligent as a wolf, but not sentient in the legal sense of awareness of itself as separate from its environment. And undeniably and very strongly telepathic.

Roi handed his share of the baker’s packages to Mark and dropped to his heels in front of the dog. Projective as well as receptive telepathy, he thought. Probably strong enough that such a dog could manage two-way communication with even a latent telepath. Certainly the dog was telepathic enough to provide Merle with the comfort she needed in a form she could accept. But was this an anomaly, or was the whole breed telepathic?

“Misty!” A middle-aged woman was running toward them down the path, a woman wearing rumpled clothes that looked as if they had been selected to hide dog hair. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t expecting anyone quite this early, or I wouldn’t have left her out in the yard.”

They were shown into the house in a flood of apologies and thanks for their contribution to the refreshments. “But we were just getting acquainted,” Roi protested, and insisted that the dog not be banished on his account. “I thought I was going to be looking for a replacement for a girl who lost her dog, but if Misty’s typical, I’ll be looking for breeding stock as well.”

I’ve just passed the files on this on to my editor, so there may be changes. But Roi’s interest in the pocket herders is going to remain.

This is actually three posts in one. First is an abbreviated version of my normal Monday “Weather in Alaska,” followed by the GUTGAA Meet and Greet biography and questions, followed by seven facts about myself for the Lovely Blog Award. You may wind up knowing more about me than you want to!

North Pole Weather

North Yard, 9/2/12

The leaves are starting to turn.

First, the weather. The sun rose this morning at 6:39 and will set this evening at 8:59, for 14 hours 20 minutes of daylight. Maximum solar elevation today will be only a little over 32°, but tomorrow for the first time we actually have astronomical night, with the sun more than 18° below the horizon. We’re still losing 6 minutes 42 sec a day, and it’s only about 3 weeks to the equinox. The forecasts for the foreseeable future are partly cloudy to cloudy, with showery rain, so I hope we won’t get frosts yet. I’m still hauling oversized zucchini to the food bank.

Meet and Greet Biography

Portrait, Sue Ann Bowling

Author Sue Ann Bowling in July 2009

I’ve spent most of my life as a scientist, an atmospheric scientist with a physics background to be precise, at the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks. Fourteen years ago I retired, partly because of diabetes-related vision problems that prevented my driving at night. (Up here, that prevents driving in winter except right around noon.)

I started writing poetry in grade school, and did some popular science writing (as well as professional papers) while at the Geophysical Institute. At the same time I wrote quite a lot on canine color genetics and Shetland sheepdog history, much of which went on the web (in Netscape 1) or was published in breed journals.

My fiction writing had a slower start, though I did submit a short story to John W. Campell. (It was turned down as too much fantasy, but with an encouraging personal letter.) I did continue to write science fiction in my head, and started writing it down about 20 years ago. I finished two books and tried sending them out to publishers, but they weren’t really ready then.

Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Time suddenly looked short. And I went to the local Festival of the Book, where I attended a session on self-publishing. I contacted the editor I’d worked with on my popular science articles, and together we reworked the first book I had written, Homecoming. iUniverse gave it Editor’s Choice first round. It later took second place in science fiction in a contest for small press and self-published books. The sequel, Tourist Trap, got me into a fight with the editorial staff at iUniverse. I insisted on having the book my way rather than making it into more conventional science fiction, and standing my ground later earned me a best fiction book of the year award. Both books also have 5 star reviews from ForeWord Clarion reviews—and they don’t give out many of those.

The trilogy I’m polishing now was actually written in rough draft before Homecoming was published, and I’d like to investigate publishing it more conventionally.

Finally, connections:
Twitter @sueannbowling
Author website

Questions for the Meet and Greet

-Where do you write?

A spare bedroom I’ve turned into an office, with four computers, four printers, a large desk, bookshelves, and an overflowing filing cabinet. Usually at least two of the printers are not working, but which two (or three or all four) varies. I usually have things piled on what’s left of the floor.

-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?

Blood glucose test kit.

-Favorite time to write?

Generally computer work (blog, twitter, email) first thing in the morning, then writing, mostly blogging now. Being retired gives me more time and freedom, but establishing a platform cuts heavily into the time I actually spend writing.

-Drink of choice while writing?

Diet Dr. Pepper to wake up in the morning, then Clear (fruit-flavored no-calorie beverage.)

-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?

I generally prefer silence.

-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?

All of my stories have been growing in my head for years. They’ve changed with time, of course—Horizon War was written in a few months after it occurred to me to change the sex of one character. Building the planets comes out of my professional work.

-What’s your most valuable writing tip?

Give your characters a certain amount of freedom. (Unless you’re writing non-fiction, of course.)

Lovely Blog Award

One Lovely Blog logoKenra Daniels sent me the Lovely Blog Award over a week ago. The requirements are to thank the blogger who nominated you, give seven facts about yourself, post the blog award badge on your site, and nominate 11 noteworthy blogs. I am appreciative of the honor, but this last requirement is basically a chain letter/Ponzi scheme without the money. I’ve blogged about this use of exponentials before, so I’ll just link back to my post on how fast the award would increase if everyone actually sent it on to 11 others, and all of those 11 others did the same. It would hit the entire population of the Earth in a shockingly short time. So if you feel your blog is worthy, you are welcome to consider yourself nominated. The 7 facts, however, fit nicely with the theme of this blog: letting you know me. So on to the facts!

1. I am a type 1 diabetic, and have been for 43 years.

2. About the only TV I watch is PBS. I have a rowing machine and stationary bike set up in front of the set, so between television and DVDs I get a fair amount of exercise.

Me on pony at 4

67 years ago!

3. Next year I’ll have lived in Alaska for 50 years.

4. I have a Ph.D in geophysics, and wrote my dissertation the year after I was diagnosed with diabetes. Talk bout taking your mind off your health problems!

5. As a child my parents had to pry me off a pony owned by an itinerant photographer. Later I had two horses of my own. Now it takes a strong man to boost me onto a horse!

6. For many years I bred, trained and showed Shetland Sheepdogs.

7. I’m still signing up every spring and fall for adult learning courses.

And I didn’t know it when I wrote and scheduled this, but I became a great-aunt for the 4th time yesterday!

I’ve had quite a few comments about Bounce, Coralie’s dog, on the six sentence snippets I’ve been posting on Six Sentence Sunday. So I thought I’d post a somewhat longer excerpt on how Coralie got Bounce, the better part of a year earlier. This is from the second book of the proposed trilogy, which I’ve given the working title of Horizon War. That will almost certainly change, since that title really applies to the whole trilogy. Anyway, here’s some background on Bounce. (Soot is Kevi’s pocket herder.)

"Rose" of galaxies (Hubble photo“How is Coralie getting along with Bounce?”  Bounce was my wedding gift to the couple, a herder puppy.  I’d done her dam’s owner a favor months before, and he’d agreed to let Coralie see if any of the pups would take to her in repayment.  Bounce, a bright sable bitch with hardly a white hair on her, had taken one look and flung herself into Coralie’s arms.

Kevi shook his head, grinning.  “Hard to believe Soot’s only a month and a half older.  Bounce has helped heal a hurt I didn’t even know about.”

“Coralie seemed so taken with Soot–and she’s good with all the pocket herders.  But what hurt do you mean?”

“She had a herder, as a young girl.  When it died of old age, she was so torn up she decided never to let herself love a dog again.  That’s a lesson I had to learn a long time ago — you don’t forego love because sooner or later the love will end in death.  For a while, maybe, though I’ve found it’s easier if the loves overlap.  But she was ready for another dog.  I’m glad you pushed her into it.”

Not that it had taken that much pushing.  I looked around.  At this elevation, the air was beginning to be cool in the mornings, and a few leaves were even starting to turn.  The sun was warm enough today, pouring down from a brilliantly blue sky, but once the fall sales were over, we’d be heading to lower elevations for the winter.  The nomads moved their winter camp from year to year, mostly to spare the grazing but increasingly to avoid slavers.  Mik already had scouts out, looking for a good wintering area within a day’s ride of Doc’s cave.  “Come on,” I said as I legged Idaho back into motion toward the next herd. Kevi pushed Smokescreen up by my side.

I might add that Kevi does not age – he’s over 250 years old – but most of the people surrounding him age as we do. Let me know if you’d like to see more excerpts, perhaps as a substitute for Six Sentence Sunday when that goes away late this year.

Once again I am offering a piece, contiguous with last week’s, from War’s End. Coralie is mentally linked with her dog, Bounce, who is searching for the others stranded on this strange planet. Last week wound up with a comment that the dog’s vision seemed blurred and colorless to Coralie.

WR136 tears apart a shell of gas: HubbleBut Bounce’s vision did seem brighter ahead, and when Coralie pivoted in place she could see that it was lighter in one direction–the direction Bounce was heading toward.  Then Kelty’s voice rang out again.  “Bounce!  I can see Bounce!”

The dog hadn’t seen Kelty yet, though she heard him and his scent surrounded her.  Coralie urged her to look up at the same time she shouted, “Wave your arms if you can.”

This snippet is part of Six Sentence Sunday, a web ring of authors who post six sentences from something they have written in any stage from first draft to published. This one is part of a trilogy in the polishing stage.  To find other snippets, click on the logo below.Six Sentence Sunday logo