Now What? (and Other News)

hurry-spring

Now is the winter of my discontent

Okay, maybe I’m being Shakespeare-dramatic. Monochromatic seasons can bring that out in me. Here on the prairie, the only visual break from tan grass stretching to the horizon is when it turns white for a while. I’m grumbling, but the truth is that I can use a break from my hectic pace, every ten months or so, to cozy-in at my farm.

But this winter, I mourned some excruciating good-byes. If you are a woman of a certain age who thinks too much, the changes can add up. Not that it’s good or bad; just that I noticed and needed time to acclimate. I think there’s some rule of diminishing returns that says that with each day I grow older, the world becomes more precious. The beauty in ordinary things has become nearly debilitating. But then, I think too much. No apologies.

I’ve been prodded into action after reading that there is legislative action to make it legal to shoot hibernating bears, along with their cubs. It seems to follow that the dogs and I could be mistaken; we’ve been doing a decent bear impression. Besides, the weather is having mood swings and I’m counting days till the time change. Hurry spring.

BOOK NEWS: My books are now available on two new online sites. Check out the Equine Network Store for a great collection of equine literature, and for international readers, Lavender and White publishers, based in the UK, now carry all three books.

COMING EVENTS: I’ll be at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo March 10-12 in the Author Corner. (Discount tickets here.) I’ll be signing books and meeting new friends. *** I’ll be at my favorite indie bookstore, Covered Treasures, in Monument, CO, on March 18th, 3-5 pm, signing books. Please come by. *** Who’s going to the World Cup in Omaha? Look for my books in the Equine Network Booth and I’ll be there, too. Let me know if you want to meet-up.

I’ll be presenting at the Region 10 PATH conference May 7th. This isn’t open to the public but it’s a reminder that I am available for public speaking engagements, on topics on horse advocacy and training, women’s experience, and writing. Please contact me if you’re interested in having me speak to your group or clinic at your barn. Join with groups in Washington, California, Virginia, and Illinois-Indiana.

NOW WHAT? Well, I have a stack of ideas; I’m investigating doing something on the topic of responsibility and care of therapy horses. *** One of my readers encourages me to consider a children’s book, with Arthur, the goat, as the main character. She found a great illustrator, too. *** Others are encouraging me to compile a book of quotes from my blogs. *** Still others are asking about a book of photos and poems. *** And I have a few book outlines including a sequel to Stable Relation and another book about Love, Men, and Dogs. What do you think?

THEN THIS: I always thought I’d write something, but it wasn’t easy. At first, it was nothing but masochistic. I’d read a fresh paragraph aloud and I’d tried so hard to be clever that I was nearly unintelligible. Adverbs were lost in verbiage. There were runaway pronouns. But I stuck to my keyboard, hoping an intention in my mind would somehow intersect with the right group of words. Then I edited liked a mad dog with a chainsaw.

babybird-3Do you feel the pull to write? If there’s interest, I’m thinking about starting an online group to encourage those of us who are certain there’s a book (or blog or story) in us but we’re having a time squeezing it out. Like an egg. That will hatch into something real. Like a fat-lipped baby bird.

Want to write with us? (Email me at anna@annablake.com)

Again, for those of you who have left reviews for Barn Dance, or the other books, thank you so much. It breathes life into search engines and that is gold for indies like me. I appreciate every single review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads.

HURRY SPRING.

….

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

BARN DANCE *Book Launch*

behind-me

Excuse me. Um. Barn Dance is now avail…

***

Speak up. Enunciate. 

***

He’s right behind me, isn’t he?

***

What you want to do is take a deep breath, relax your ears, and then PROJECT!

***

He is a donkey-publicist of strong opinion and this isn’t the first time he’s corrected me in public.

***

Get to the point, old girl.

***

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BOOK LAUNCH:

BARN DANCE

available AT AMAZON now,

AT BARNES AND NOBLE,

or SIGNED books available on HERE!

***

Bray it out! That’s me on the cover.

***

Paperback and ebooks at Amazon now and Barnes and Noble.   Signed copies on my website. (Slower than Amazon but comes with a bookmark, too!)

***

Buy Barn Dance now. Thank you. The goat says thanks, too.

***

And please consider writing a review of Barn Dance or Stable Relation or Relaxed & Forward. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads.) Your words will kick-start the search engines in our direction. Self-published books gratefully rely on word-of-mouth support. Thank you.

***

YOU should bray it out, too. Help her. She’s only human. 

***

Well. Isn’t that the truth?

….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

A Word from My Publicist (Cover Reveal)

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My name is Edgar Rice Burro. I’m the publicist for Prairie Moon Press. I got the job because I have the loudest voice, and I’m not afraid to use it. Also, I’m not afraid to tell humans what to do. I’m helpful that way. 

***

I am the human and I used to think I had a thin veneer of control on this farm. I might have been exaggerating.

***

My human finally took my advice and put my handsome face on a book cover. She’s slow on the uptake, but she gives a good ear rub, so I’m patient with her. This book will sell like cold carrots on a hot day.

***

I do the hard jobs for Prairie Moon Press. I wrote the book, for instance. I paid for everything. He just came in at the end and brayed about it. Like it was all his idea. Okay, maybe it was.

***

This book has stories about all of us in the barn. And the barkers and mouse-killers that live across the paddock in the human-barn.  Even goats, and if she let goats in, she has very low standards, but like I said–my human gives good ear rubs.

***

We’re a farm that also fosters and re-trains rescue horses, as well as rescue dogs. The book also includes memories of those who didn’t stay with us forever but are still part of the extended herd. The thing that they don’t tell you about rescue is that it’s an inside job–I think I’ll probably always need it.

***

And when my human wants to rant–and she does love a rant–about being an awkward age, whatever that means, she calls herself an old gray mare. Something I respect, by the way.

***

Final proofs are being finished now but publishing is slow this time of year. In order to expedite the process, I’m not letting the goat help. Stay tuned; I’m publishing as fast as I can.

***

Look into my eyes. Now it’s my job to say, “Buy this book!” But how can you resist? There are words and stuff, but the cover is the real deal–photos don’t lie! Intelligence, sincerity, and donkey scruples. I’m irresistible. 

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Equine Pro

Word Geek Needs Prom Date

“She’s insufferable with this stupid human game. What’s wrong with tossing a ball. What an embarrassment. We try to sleep through it.”
“She’s insufferable with this stupid human game. What’s wrong with tossing a ball? We try to sleep through it. This woman is an embarrassment.”

I was once on the very brink of practically passing as sophisticated. It isn’t the same as actually being sophisticated, but I swear, this blog is like a trashy “True Confessions of a Dork” tell-all. Bad boundaries? I was routinely accused of that, but I’ve moved beyond that to shameless.

I’m winding up to brag about my vocabulary. That’s what all this honesty has come to. Someone, please, stop me before I drag out comments from my grade school teachers!

First, just because I’ve never played a computer game in my life, doesn’t mean I don’t understand the theory. I want to announce I have just taken up something remotely like a computer game, only obscure and arcane and, well, it has the stench of a long over-ripe Honor Society membership.

Okay, here goes.

I call it writing but that’s a poor description. I spend a few minutes gathering words around an idea I have, and then hours editing them. I move them around like furniture, I replace words with better words. I struggle with punctuation and adverbs and pronouns. Then I check for words that I repeat too often or not enough. Writing is the very tiny part of the job.

Sometimes I use software programs like Word, but more often, I like the software here on WordPress. Their spell check is powered by an elderly English teacher with a very sharp ruler. For longer work, I like Scriveners, a writing software for arranging a book that is no less than co-author worthy in its ability to hold it all together before it actually exists. Even if their spell check is a bit more like a Junior High English teacher who also coaches soccer.

I’m getting to the part where it’s all as exciting as playing Call of Duty. (I had to google a game title. Is this a good one?)

Some word geeks play scrabble and call it good, but the game I dream of is software that can tell that I should have used to instead of on. You can’t imagine how invisible those little words become during editing. Oh, of course you can. You see those mistakes in my writing all the time. I’m the blind one.

Obviously, I troll around on word software sites because I get their solicitations… that’s how I stumbled upon Grammarly. I downloaded the free version and then had a picky judgment fest about it. I’m that kind of crazy on a Saturday night. There is a page switch aspect that I don’t like, but it wrangles commas pretty well. In my dorky opinion.

It all changed when I got an email summary from Grammarly that used the word “Mastery” in relating that in the last 39,620 words I’d written, (more words that 99% of users did in the same time period,) I had used 1424 unique words (a larger vocabulary than 97% of users).

Okay, I like this game. I think you can see why. I would never be the kind of person who liked statistics. That’s math and I would rather fanatically over-tip a server than do math.

It was WordPress who taught me to love statistics. I check them all the time, it’s a compulsion. Because they flatter me. Something math has never even tried to do. “Readers in 161 countries.” Wow. Humbled and flattered. It’s getting remotely close to 1,000,000 hits. (It would have been easier to type a million hits, but I wanted to gloat over all those zeros.) This is how it came to pass that I bored the dogs into a coma.

Like all good embarrassments, I was standing there at the corner of No One Cares! and Do You Know Who I Am? And smiling like a fifth-grader in cat-eye glasses and a buttoned-up sweater because Grammarly is my new best friend.

“Pathetic,” the dogs mutter in unison.

gold-shiny-hrReal Life Update: This Friday, I fly off to the Miami Book Fair International to receive my award for Stable Relation. This is an awkward invitation to be my prom date. Please. There’s a Saturday night formal event and as usual, the dogs weren’t invited and I think no one else will ask me to dance. So will you come? If you can’t show up, will you talk me through it on Facebook? I’ll be posting about it on my author page here. 

“Like” the Facebook page and follow me there, so you can share my angst of not wearing barn clothes and sleeping dogless. But know it won’t be as much fun as editing, just so you can prepare. 

Barn Dance, the next book, is still on track for January release. I think we have the cover photo nailed down, just looking for that perfect, witty tagline. Oh, and some more obsessive-compulsive editing. I know there are some stray commas and semi-colons roaming aimlessly through the text, but at some point, you just have to hold your nose and jump.

Okay, in an attempt for fairness, it wasn’t all hearts and flowers with Grammarly. I confess that Grammarly also noted that I missed commas in a compound sentence 274 times. I made 94 mistakes with missing articles. Perhaps most tragic, there were 168 mistakes in comma splices. I didn’t even know that happened to commas. Let’s just state the painful truth. I have comma drama.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Equine Pro

 

 

The Devil Is In the Details

 

wm-lateral-lilith-fauxcoverHow to create a homemade project that looks professional and inviting and even artistic–that’s the dilemma.

I would love to weave a romantic tale about my dilettante author life; that my groom delivers my horse while I pose on the mounting block in my baby-seal-skin riding boots. That I write at dusk by a sapphire pool while owls perch on my shoulder. That my personal masseuse/bodyguard/Corgi wrangler travels along in my Lear jet, as I flit to book talks in Paris, Rio, and Commerce City.

Can I just say there is nothing romantic about writing? It’s more like a bad habit. I start at 3:30 in the morning because I actually have a real job. If you can call horse training a real job. I’m not great company by dinner time, either. But if there is something less romantic than writing, it might be publishing. A friend suggested I write about this part; she thought it would be interesting. I’m dubious.

I’ve spent hours this week laying on the ground in pens here on the farm. I’m trying to take a photo for the next book cover and there are new power lines from a huge wind farm that cross-hatch all my backgrounds, not to mention miss-matched fence panels and a flotilla of wheelbarrows. So I was trying to get an angle where there is little background (like the llama in this photo) and just sky behind. Of course, when I lay on the ground in a pen I get dirt in unforeseen places. Then I wait, while the animals all tilt their heads at odd angles. Eventually, they saunter over to begin the C.S.I. work. In this photo, Lilith thinks I might be a bit unbalanced, but she doesn’t want me to die before lunch. The activity behind the camera makes her look absolutely sane.

If the devil is in the details, then so is the art.

I’ve done the same thing with a few different animals, at odd times of the day for a couple of weeks now. I’m not sure who be on the next cover. There are a few hundred photos. The photos have to have the right kind of spacing so the title works. Remember the cover for Stable Relation? Hundreds of shots there, too. Nubè was catatonic by the time I gave up.

It wasn’t my intention to use my photography at the beginning. I have friends who are professionals and I respect their work. Besides, I’m not very sophisticated. I use my phone and if I need a tripod, I use a donkey. My books are as homemade as canned beans.

I do work with a book designer in the UK; she started with the first book, Stable Relation. I gave her some random ideas–like I liked the original cover for Wild with the hiking boot. I told her the covers I liked in her portfolio, and sent a couple of “kinda like this” photos. She did six mock-up covers, five of them with commercial photos and one of my photos. I shared them around to friends for their opinions. I loved one of her ideas especially… but eventually decided on the black and white idea because the “feeling” was right. I also learned that I could disappoint people (friends) before the book even came out.

When it was time for a cover for Relaxed & Forward, I was all set to skip the group-vote folly and just use that spare cover from the first book. My designer sent me six mock-ups again, different colors and fonts on that first image, along with similar images from online photo stock. Then she pulled one of the interior chapter photos out, did a mock-up, and, well, she was right. It was perfect.

UPDATE: I’m a little over half-finished editing the final draft of Barn Dance. Then I’ll read it one more time, trying to pretend I’ve never read it before. I’ve set up the ISBN numbers for the new print and ebook, I’m wrangling interior photos, and chanting bad would-be tag lines. I have to write one small perfect paragraph describing the book, making it sound so indispensable that strangers will buy it instantly, form a cult, and send me all their goats. And then there’s the matter of the cover… I’d like Edgar Rice Burro, but he shuns the spotlight. Clearly, some of these tasks are more challenging than others. I’m hoping for a publish date in January for Barn Dance

I’ll be collecting an award at the Miami Book Fair International in mid-November. Anyone else going? There’s book shopping!

And one more time, I want to thank everyone who posted a review online, at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Goodreads. It means the world. Literally, people around the world read them. Now that you have a view inside of my fabulous publishing dynasty, it’s probably obvious that readers are my publicity budget. Thank you for poking the search engine into a grinding, squeaking rattle with the question, “Anna who?” Thank you! The reviews that slowly trickle in now are from people whose names I don’t recognize. It worked!

Now I’m down to details on the new book. Idiosyncratic editing. Numbers, dimensions, and abbreviated descriptions. I’ll head out in early light in the morning and hit the dirt again. No baby-seal-skin boots. No Lear jet warming up. And if I had an owl on my shoulder, she’d be checking my hair for mice and grubs. Romanic, isn’t it?

….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Equine Pro

Going Where You’re Invited

Lately I’ve been haunted by this drumming thought: Now would be a good time to do something smart.

It doesn’t come naturally to me. To be honest, I have a tendency to do things the hard way. I spent a fair amount of time beating down doors, back in the day. If easier methods existed, they never occurred to me. For instance, I liked the idea of winning the lottery but I don’t actually believe in a free lunch, so I never bought the ticket. See what I’m working with here?

Lousy financial decisions have been a constant. Like hiring that financial planner/ex-IRS agent who helped me lose all the profit I made selling a house… to the IRS. And you wouldn’t want to take me along to buy a used truck. And oh yeah, there’s that barn full of un-rideable horses next to my house.

Maybe I got lost on the way to take the road less travelled and that has made all the difference. (Apologies, Mr. Frost.)

All of this is to say that writing a book fit perfectly into my long-term plan. First, I warmed my fingers up by blogging regularly for the last seven years. Readers came one at a time. I was a tortoise-like sensation. Then it took two years to write the first book, Stable Relation. Not a get-rich-quick scheme by any stretch of judgment.

Research told me that ninety percent of self-published books sold less than a hundred copies, but still I took the advice of two publishers and a book publicist and decided to self-publish. Hello, Prairie Moon Press.

Being the publisher meant writing press releases and blurbs. Promoting a reluctant author and entering book contests. And the biggest challenge of all: Talking good about the author in public. It’s enough anxiety to turn your tongue into a Dorito. How did someone who mucked barns and wrote every spare moment get this PR job?

It’s been fourteen months since Stable Relation came out. I’ve been making the whole thing up as I go and it’s been surreal. But is it time to let it rest? I love this book but is it over? Am I turning–even more than usual–into that balding guy rocking out in the cliché-red Corvette?

I figure just around this time my guardian angel got out of rehab.

And then Stable Relation was awarded a gold medal from the Readers’ Favorite book awards, in the Non-Fiction, Animals category.

The publisher (me) is happy because now the author (me) has the title of  Award Winning Author. I’m flattered but still more likely to come to “Hey, you!”

They hold a ceremony/mini-conference during the huge and wonderful Miami Book Fair, November 18-20th. They invited the winners to come, hobnob a bit, and perhaps snag the ear of an industry pro. And going to a book fair sounds like about as much fun as you can have without goats or donkeys. On Saturday night, there’s a formal event to present the awards. Think rhinestones on my Crocs.

Like I said, I’d really like to do something smart, if I could tell what that was. I try to keep an open mind. Life is like working with donkeys; you end up someplace else but had little control about how you got there.

So, obviously my category wasn’t the biggest, and I won’t know a soul there, and I don’t sleep well in dog-less hotel beds. But I’m going to try something out of character. If you have a history like mine and don’t know what to do next–it’s crazy notion–but maybe you try going where you’re invited.

…Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Equine Pro
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When I Met You.

20160313_140155-1Welcome to the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo. Let me start by saying it was never my fantasy to spend a few days standing on the cement floor of a convention hall, under fluorescent lights with no windows. It came with the extra tease that people walked by all day long, on the way to the barn where the horses are stalled, while I stood behind my book table.

The other authors did a great job of hawking their books, confidently asking people passing to stop and look, and I just couldn’t start the conversation with buy mine!

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not retired and I don’t have a trust fund. I need book sales just as much as anyone. At the same time, I can only do this selling thing the way I can do it. If I start to feel like the guy at the state fair selling the Chop-o-matic… well, it won’t work for me. It’s awkward; I’m the one who hates it when people try to sell me things. Clearly, I have issues. So I was cross-dressing as an author, wishing I was in the barn where I belong, and trying to find the words that wouldn’t betray my books or me.

That was when I met you.

You were the Mom who knew nothing about horses, but came along with your daughter who was transforming herself in this horse world you don’t understand. All you could see was how beautiful and competent she’s becoming.

You were the husband of the woman who stopped to tell me she loved my blog; you were quiet until we compared dirt bikes to horses, and found we had a sense of humor in common.

You were the lonely horse owner who came back a few times to tell me again about how your rescue horse chose you, and follows you, and shares your heart in a way that has never happened before in the history of mankind.

You were the elderly woman who no longer rides, but still belonged there with us.

And maybe my favorite: the teen girl whose friends competed, while she stayed loyal to the leased,  lame, and un-rideable horse who was her best friend. What a horsewoman she’ll make!

Thanks for the reminder that authors, even a memoirist like me, need to tell the personal story that is a shared experience. Sometimes we get so wound up in our own subplot, that we can’t see the bigger story. (Replay the famous Rick-Ilsa Hill of Beans speech from Casablanca one more time!) I could have written a chapter for each of the people I met. Is this where the term Dear Reader comes from? It’s a term I’ll use will full heartfelt affection from now on. I loved meeting you.

In the meanwhile, it’s springtime on the high prairie! It isn’t green yet, but the birds are back and the hibernation is over. We’re all a little itchy to get on with Our Upcoming Events!

  • Midwest Horse Fair, April 15-17, in Madison, WI. I will be in the Horse’n Around Magazine booth, #2304. Drop by and tell me about your horse!
  • Mountain of Authors, April 23, 11-5, Pikes Peak Library District, at Library 21c, located at 1175 Chapel Hills Dr, CS, 80920. This is an informative day with speakers and a wealth of local talent.
  • WEBINAR Calming Signals: Are you Listening?, May 10, 7pm ET, 5pm,MT. Windrush Farm in Massachusetts invited me to create a webinar. It’s available for anyone to watch live, or taped at a later time, with proceeds to benefit their therapeutic riding program. Who knew making this presentation would be so much fun?
  • Horse Symposium, Oslo, Norway. October 29-30. International speakers on horse welfare. I’ll present on Leadership that Builds Confidence and Ulcers and Stress. I’m very excited about meeting the people at this event.

This week I’m off to Madison, WI, for the Midwest Horse Fair. Please stop by and distract me from myself!

For as solitary as writing is, it’s also the thing that brings so many intriguing people into my experience. I am so profoundly grateful to you, DEAR READER, for the stories you share with me, as we exchange notes on this horse/life. It’s the thing I never expect but appreciate the most–the reminder that we are all more alike than different. Thank you.

 

 

Donkey Skills for the Recovering Introvert

Critically acclaimedThey say you always remember your first. Back then you were worthless for anything but daydreaming. Tossing in damp sheets at night, waking to a full moon, and playing it out in your head, over and over again. Then up in the wee hours, clutching a cup of tea, and worrying about how it would all work out in the end. I’m talking about book writing, of course.

“There is a romantic notion to writing a novel, especially when you are starting it. […] A lot of 50-page unfinished novels are sitting in a lot of drawers across this country. Well, what it takes at that point is discipline […] It’s largely an act of perseverance […] The story really wants to defeat you, and you just have to be more mulish than the story.”— Khaled Hosseini

Stubborn? Being more “mulish” than the story? Ha! We totally own that; us donkeys are the stuff that inspired mules in the first place. Let the writing romance continue!

If you ask me, writing is the easy and fun part. The challenging part–the Big Girl Panties part–came later. Yes, I created this blog to whine about my dysfunctional relationship with the scary bits–the publishing and promotional aspects.

Silly me. It ends up that experience really is the best teacher, and to my surprise, even the business parts are wild fun. I’ve become absolutely chatty. Maybe I’m channeling Edgar Rice Burro.

Here are my upcoming events. Come and introduce yourself…

  • Rocky Mountain Horse Expo, Denver, March 11-13, NE corner of the Expo Hall. I’ll be in the Author’s Co-op booth, signing both my books and talking about horses.
  • Mile High Mustang Club, Elizabeth, CO, March 22, 6:30pm: Speaking on Relationship Advice from Your Horse: Leadership that builds confidence in both partners.
  • Midwest Horse Fair, Madison, WI, April 15-17, with the Horse’n Around Magazine (booth 2304 in the main hall of EXPO building) signing book and still talking about horses.
  • Mainstay Farm Clinic. Richmond, IL, April 18th, private clinic.
  • Mountain of Authors, Pikes Peak Library District. Colorado Springs, CO, Saturday, April 23.
  • Webinar for Windrush Farm, May 10th, Calming Signals: Are You Listening? (info here: http://wp.me/p2G3Wf-66 ) Anyone can join us; proceeds benefit their therapeutic riding program!
  • Horse Symposium, Oslo, Norway, October 29-30. Presenter, more details to follow.

If you belong to a group that might enjoy a presentation or clinic, contact me through the link at the top of the page. I’d be happy to talk about any ideas you have.

And please, the usual heartfelt request to please take a moment and post a review–Stable Relation if you haven’t already, or Relaxed & Forward, when you’ve finished it–to Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble. Indie books only stay afloat by word of mouth, so I count on you. Reviews keep the title alive on the search engines and that means that my books come up on other pages as a recommendation. It’s incredibly valuable in getting them in front of brand new eyes. In this way, Amazon and Barnes and Noble actually advertise for me, and in case it isn’t obvious, my advertising budget could use the help.

Whether you leave a review or not, most of all know that I appreciate each of you taking the risk on my books. Reading time is a precious commodity and sharing that means so much. Thank you for letting me be on your nightstand.

At the beginning of this adventure, I was waving a white flag and whining about being an introvert. Shame on me. I was mulish enough to write the books in the first place; I just needed to adjust my ears a bit. I’ve got some old time donkey traits that serve me well. I’ll bray it out just like Edgar, with confidence, honesty, and when required, stubbornness. Why, it’s a compliment when you look at it in the right light.

Is there some dream that your past is keeping you shy about? Because I’m pretty sure we all have an inner donkey if we look. I’d bet my ass on it.