Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Great Baby Bunny Rescue!

Not much writing this week either, due to upcoming family gatherings to prepare for and garden projects to wrap up. So the story I have today indirectly involves the latter. My husband and I have worked stupidly hard to try to tame just a corner of our property for flower beds and other signs of civilization. Perhaps followers who have been around a while will recall the pics I've posted showing off my gorgeous back yard. To keep folks up to date, I live on a natural creek on the edge of a very small town, so we have our raccoons and opossums, coyotes and armadillos that come traipsing in from time to time. We also have our domesticated visitors that liven things up when they meet face to face with my beloved large cats. I have three very large, fat cats who do actually earn their keep. When we first moved into this place, the yard was riddled with gopher mounds and tunnels. Within a few months, the local population of these pests was next to nil. We also rarely have issues with rats or mice. The occasional bird also meets a bloody doom at the pointy end of a cat's paw.

Then there are the rabbits. Those little cottontail cuties that, for the most part, have learned to stay outside the territory of my hungry tigers. Readers will find in my archives from last March pictures of the two domestic bunnies we adopted. Since that time I've grown a soft spot for the critters. My bunnies are now far too big and caged up for the cats to do them damage, but since we brought those big-eared critters home, the cats have vowed revenge on us for not letting them eat the domestic bunnies. Or perhaps vowed revenge on all rabbit-kind.

So yesterday morning, James and I were preparing to head to the green house in the city for a few more plants I needed for the pots on the back patio when we heard the high-pitched squeal of an animal in distress. Gabriel, the stately, suave hunter who looks like he's wearing a tuxedo (sometimes I think of him as a gelded version of a 007 in the cat realm), had snatched a baby bunny from under a woodpile. Now, we had no reason to think that any rabbit-mother would be stupid enough to set up house anywhere near these prowling monsters, but she must've been the daring kind.

At the sound of the squeal, Raphael and Sonora came running, tails high. So did James and myself. I'm sure Gabriel would've made fast work of that tender morsel had not a snake intervened. Yes, a two-foot-long bull snake (that's small, by the way) happened to be in the killing zone and convinced Gabriel to drop the bunny and swat a few times at the red flicking tongue. No doubt the snake had been eying the same bunny and took issue with a cat sneaking in and stealing its breakfast. So the cat and the snake conducted a stand off. In the meanwhile, James threw me a bucket so I could put the bunny in it and run. But that part of the property is wooded and overgrown, and the bunny took good advantage of it and hid from all of us. I hadn't had time to throw any shoes on, so there I was picking through the leaves and brush barefoot, with bunnies, snakes, and poison ivy under toe. What a way to start the day.

The snake eventually grew tired of this game and retreated, under the very leaves I'm standing on. So I too retreated, taking the cats with me. They get shoved into the garage for the few hours we were gone, in the slim hopes that they would forget about their morning adventure. That afternoon, when we returned with our lovely flowers for the pots, I felt sorry for the buggers stuck in the house and let them outside. Yes, a half hour later we heard the squeal again. This time, both Gabriel and Raphael came running up from the woodpile, both with baby bunnies locked in their jaws. "No!" I scream and James runs after them. I'm not far behind. "Whoa!" James cried. "Look at that." That daring mother rabbit charged from the woodpile after Raphael. A good attempt, I'm sure, but Raphael was more daunted by me running after him. I chased him to ground, pinched his jaw and forced him to release the bunny. Now, I'm talking a tiny thing, no more than four inches long and still likely in need of mama's milk. With the darling in hand, I returned to find James holding Gabriel by the scruff until he released the second bunny. *whew* Now we have two baby bunnies in a yellow bucket. What to do with them?

James threw the cats back into the garage so they couldn't see where we took them. The mother had run off at last; James wanted to deliver them to h
er; I just wanted to return them to their nest where mother will find them. But so might the cats. It's not a hopeful situation, so I snatched the bucket and dumped the bunnies back under the woodpile. They skittered off, grateful.

So much for the great bunny rescue. I'm not sure how long-lived it will be, for between 007, Raphael, and Lucifer the Serpent in the underbrush
, I'm betting those bunnies are bound to find their way into some predator's gut. Just as long as I don't have to see it or hear it (or find an ooey-gooey present by my front door), so much the better. And for now, I'm happy I got to help them survive another day. Maybe they'll make it. *fingers crossed*

Ah, the joys of living in the country.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Progress Report and Goodreads

Project: Falcons Rising
Pages Rewritten: 6
Pages Cut: 4
New Scenes: 0
Bad things that happened: replaced romance with brutality. Fun times.
Good things that happened: We're over the climax, baby!

Back to the novel project, thank God. This feels normal, comfortable, after all the new territory I've crossed in the past couple of weeks. So, after "Mists" was uploaded and published on Smashwords and that hurdle jumped, I dived into Goodreads. I love books, the smell of them, the feel of them, so entering into a place that is all about books hasn't felt too alien. Adding my own book to the roster there does, however. When I compare my little novella to the other books on my bookshelf, I have to admit that I'm in some intimidating company. Hemingway, Steinbeck, Le Guin, Anne Rice, Amy Tan, Tolkien and J.K. Rowling ... yowser! Quite the company to keep. All for the sake of self-promotion. No pressure, though. I'm enjoying this exploration of new stuff. Though I have to remind myself to stop clicking on links, tweets, blog entries, etc. by 11:30 and get to work. The stack of novel pages is still quite fat, and it's almost May.

If you are a Goodreads reader or author, you may want to visit my author page. You'll find it here: - And be sure to leave me links to your pages, too.

Monday, April 11, 2011

"Mists" Now Available!

Okay, here it is! "Mists of Blackfen Bog" is now available for download at Smashwords in every format they offer. Find it for purchase >HERE< I've set the price at the stupidly low $1.99, but those who visit my blog between now and May 11 are invited to use this coupon code for the 50% off promotional price: TR89N

Ideally you should be able to enter that code somewhere prior to checkout and only pay $0.99 for the novella.

Also, as I don't own an e-reader of any kind, I need to know if the format is okay on those devices. So if you download a version for your phone or Kindle or other e-reader, it would be nice to know if there are any glaring problems with the way the novella looks or something. Please report any issues you find here at the blog, and I'll do my best to fix them for future issues.

Now, about celebrating. You don't publish a book just every day, so I was pondering how I was going to celebrate this big event. I have cocktails regularly, so popping open a bottle is nothing special. Going out to eat is too expensive these days, and too far away and gas is ridiculously high. So I was at a loss. James got home and said, Forget the diet, let's get ice cream and we'll go watch the sunset and just be happy. So that's what we did. I got a pint of Cookies 'n Cream, he got a box of Lil' Debbie brownies, and we drove out west to the highest hill in the area and we watched the sun go down and the stars come out and also got to see a pack of coyotes raising a raucous in a wheat field. They were yipping and chasing each other, and we got stuffed on junk food, then drove home. On the way, we stopped beside the place that has the miniature horses and watched them romp for a bit. Three little colts that are smaller than my dog came up to check us out. So it was a good time to just relax and be grateful.

I'm guessing that may sound a bit dull or weird to some folks, but it suits me just fine. Best thing of all, when the sun went down, I didn't see a single ghost walking out of the twilight. Maybe that only happens in bogs. What do you think?


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Mists" To Smashwords

Well, it's been a while since I posted a progress report on the novel project, b/c writing on it has been hit and miss, and I need a new vision for the scene coming up. It's nasty. Really nasty. So I'm pondering.

In the meantime, I've decided to test the self-pubbing waters earlier than I expected. Sometime ago, CL Stegall and Brian Fatah Steele, two self-published writers at LegendFire, mentioned something about a place called Smashwords. I'm sheltered enough that I was clueless, so I checked it out and that knowledge has been stewing for months.

Recently, I got to freaking out about the size of this novel project and decided that I should test the whole process with something smaller first. "Mists of Blackfen Bog" was published in Silver Blade, an online fantasy journal, in 2009. The serialized thing was cool while it lasted, but now I would like to see the whole novella published in one streamlined unified volume. I tried to find another journal to do it the traditional way, but the prospects have shrunk to one or two unsuitable options. So, I said, screw it. I'll do it myself.

The last two days I've been studying the formatting guide offered at Smashwords and reformatting the novella to be compliant. (I am NOT looking forward to reformatting three epic-sized novels in this manner!) I've also been researching reviewers who might say something nice about the story. The reviews, of course, would go on the cover of the print version that I'm readying for CreateSpace.

Blah! This entry is all over the place. My brain is firing randomly b/c it's packed with so much new stuff. Sorry about that.

Anyway, the Smashwords edition first, then the print version at CreateSpace. Here's a sample of the cover I'm working on. Will likely alter a few more things, so advice would be handy at this point.

As soon as the first edition is available on Smashwords, I'll be tweeting and blogging like crazy.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Margaret at the Symposium

I discovered Margaret Atwood during a poetry seminar about twelve years ago. Our assignment was to choose any poet from our assigned reading material and for the rest of the semester research their background and explore the way they expressed themselves through the craft of poetry. I must have read a poem or two of hers for a different writing course, because I was just familiar enough with her work to be greatly intimidated by it. As I wrote in the end-of-term paper, she is “beyond my league.” I craved the challenge, I suppose, so I paired up with Atwood. What a rewarding treat that exploration turned out to be. By the end of the semester I was able to report, “I am no longer afraid of her” and “I feel intimate with much of her poetry.” To this day, she remains one of my favorite writers.

Though she is known best for her novels, I’ve had trouble thinking of her as a novelist as well as a poet. I hope to break that mental block soon as I begin reading The Blind Assassin.

That I would have the opportunity to hear her speak on the same college campus more than a decade later is fitting and satisfying. When my husband and I arrived at the auditorium, a big screen was scrolling through a slideshow of photographs taken over the course of Atwood’s life, from illustrations of stories she and her brother wrote when they were children, to Atwood’s meeting with Queen Elizabeth II.

Shortly after 7:30, Atwood took the stage and thanked us for having her so she could “play hooky” from writing. Then in her dry alto voice, she captivated her audience with tales of her early life in isolated rural Canada and her early writing career. I was pleased that her speech reflected the style of her poetry, passages of descriptive storytelling undercut by sarcasm, satire, or witty humor. The tale about teaching grammar to engineers by having them read Kafka was especially pleasing to her literate audience.

Early in the evening she stated that she was pleased to be speaking to us because “starting a novel is so hard.” Then why do it? she asked. “Why write? Why expose oneself to “the cannibalistic ordeal of publication?” Her descriptions of the revision process elaborated on the difficult task writers face. “After bouts of despair and soul-searching” and wondering if it were too late to take up another profession, she tossed out a particular novel, not once, but twice, and at last changed the narrative from third person to first and “was able to proceed.” No small task as anyone who has attempted the same knows. “If you get it wrong,” she added, “someone is bound to send you a snippy letter.”

So why write? Her answer was this: “to joyously create a world whose door someone will wish to enter.”

That works for me.

After her speech, a microphone was set up to receive questions from the audience. Atwood’s replies were practical and encouraging. One woman asked what advice Atwood might have for those of us who may have novels lurking unfinished in drawers somewhere. Atwood replied, “Take it out of the drawer…. Go at it day by day, page by page, hour by hour. Unless the words go down on the page, there is no book.”

In response to whether Atwood values literary poetry over performance poetry, she said, “It’s not a question of what you do, but whether you do it well.” There are good examples of both and lousy examples of both.

Concerning her speculative novels like The Handmaid’s Tale and The Year of the Flood, she emphasized the distinction that “a cautionary tale is not a prediction. … It’s like a blueprint. Do you want to live in this house? If not, design another house.”

About a writer’s audience she stated, “You can never predict who will read your book. … Your job as a writer is to make your book the best example of itself it can be. … Your duty is to the book, and then it goes off and has a life of its own.”

But my favorite quote of the evening was in response to a question I can’t recall. She said, “[Writing is] work. It’s not like having stuff pour out of you like automatic toothpaste.” That is a quote for the ages. On those days when the words simply won’t come, I’ll recall this tidbit of wisdom and remind myself, “It’s okay. You're not incompetent. Keep plugging away.”

Of course, my husband and I were inspired. We came home, made some fancy floral tea, the kind that blooms in a clear teapot, and talked poetry until it was time to get some sleep. An evening well spent.

P.S. Yes, she signed both my new copy of The Blind Assassin and my prized beat-up copy of her poems.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Art and Shakespeare

It's been a while since I posted for Art of the Week. Everything else I've been clamb'ring to learn caused art to slip my mind. So here goes.

My favorite art movement is the Pre-Raphaelite. It appeals to my love of melancholy, drama, beauty, and history, I suppose. A favorite subject for these 19th painters was Ophelia, the tragic heroine of my second favorite play by Shakespeare (my first being Macbeth). Many a
Pre-Raphaelite artist had a unique vision of this fragile, lost little soul, but nearly all these visions revolve around her death, described in lurid and lovely detail by Queen Gertrude in Act 4, scene 7, of Hamlet.

"There is a willow grows aslant a brook
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them.
There on the pendent boughs her crownet weeds
Clamb'ring to hang, an envious sliver broke,
When down the weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And mermaid-like a while they bore her up;
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes,
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and endued
Unto that element. But long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death."

Three paintings to contrast:

Arthur Hughes, 1863

Alexandre Cabanel, 1883

John Edward Millais, 1852

I had not seen the Cabanel painting before today. I love it for catching Ophelia in the actual fall. For still more paintings to compare and admire, there's a wonderful entry >HERE< at blogspot.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Progress Report, 3-28-11, and Stress

Project: Falcons Rising
Pages Rewritten: 4 1/2
Pages Cut: 1
New Scenes: 0
Bad things that happened: a secret lurks
Good things that happened: nearing the emotional climax now! While this bodes bad things for the characters, it means excitement for readers. Well, it does for me anyway. :)

It's Monday, thank God! That sounds backwards, doesn't it? This weekend was so stressful and nasty that I have to get to Monday for recuperation. Not sure I'll go into detail, but I was . . . not well. Physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It was rough. Really rough. But I am on antibiotics now and have had a good talk with the Lord Almighty.

He is faithful. And this bedraggled little writer is on the mend.