Sunday, March 13, 2016

New Release - The Grandfather Cat

The Grandfather Cat - Cat Tales #7 
Just Released!

Nadia, a busy professional realtor, is excited to land a new listing: a quaint older home that she hopes will sell quickly. But after a hasty cleanup effort, the owners leave something important behind. And Nadia, already overburdened with work, must now deal with a bad-tempered, unwanted old cat.

This one is available right now on Amazon, and shortly will be available on B&N, iTunes, Kobo, and most other ebook distributors.

Let me shed a little light on how I came up with the theme for this story. My husband and I are of the age where our parents, and many of our friends' parents are nearing the end of their lives, or need to be in a retirement home shortly. And because my mind wanders is this direction, I always want to know what happens to their pets? What about the dear dog or cat who spent years giving comfort to a senior: keeping that person company, giving them emotional support and a reason for living?

Will someone take them in? Or will they be discarded like useless furniture?

The Grandfather Cat is the story of one old man's unwanted cat, and what becomes of him. I hope you like it.

And just for fun, I ended up introducing a couple of the characters from one of my earlier Cat Tales into this story. Hope you can find them!

Here's a little contest: Be the first person to identify them, and tell me what Cat Tale they were in - and I'll send you a free eBook edition of any of my other Cat Tales, or any novel of mine.

Enter your answer in the comments, and I'll contact you if you're the winner!

Thanks everyone! Hope you enjoy this one!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Gardening, Writing, and a Sneak Peek

Eeek. I haven't blogged in like, forever. What have I been doing?

Well, besides writing a new short story called The Grandfather Cat (which will be released soon) I've been clearing land of blackberries, and planting a large native plant garden.

At the bottom of our property sits a chunk of land that was almost solidly overgrown with blackberries. This non-native invasive species had killed trees and shrubs and blocked anything from growing except a few willows, alders, and a pine tree.

So, armed with a pair of leather gloves, some hand pruners, and a wheel-barrow, I began clearing the blackberries. I blogged about it last year, and in fact, I've been working on it for two years.

Although this project isn't finished, I did start replanting last fall - more than 25 varieties of native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. These are the plants that should live here instead of blackberries, and they include sword fern, wild iris, native azalea, columbine, deer fern, and many more.

I am so excited about this project, and can hardly wait for everything to leaf out and bloom this year!

Meanwhile, I am putting the finishing touches on Cat Tales #7.

And here is a Sneak Peek of the cover:

Hope you like this one! Coming Soon!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Chick-a-Holic, or The Gift Horse

Recently we got rid of our chickens. Why? Because the silly, spoiled birds kept hanging out in the garage. And on the back patio.

I did warn them. I said, "Shorty, take your hens and go roam around the acreage. Stop hanging out by the back door! Or, I'll, I'll . . . find you another home!" This was the worst threat I could come up with, because there is no actual stew-pot for chickens on this farm.

All of our chicken have names. They are all pets. No one, no matter how badly they behave, makes it to the stew-pot here.

But do you think Shorty listened? No. So one day, fed up with chicken poop in the garage, I advertised them and they all found new homes by that evening.

But what had I done? What was I thinking? I instantly missed my chickens. I actually rang the new owner several days later, to see how Elizabeth and Fluffy and Dory and Henrietta were doing. She never called me back. She probably thought I was nuts.

Ah, well. So life was simpler around here, for a short time. No chickens to feed or water. No chickens in the backyard or in the garage. But wait . . . No lovely brown eggs either.

So silly me, being a bit of a chick-a-holic (I happen to really like chickens, okay?) I answered a local ad for four free young hens. Free? (My favorite price.) But there was a catch. The ad said that these hens were egg-eaters. Oh No!

To the uninitiated, this is a very, very bad habit for hens (and usually leads to the stew-pot.) Probably brought on by a lack of something in their diet, or boredom, or maybe they accidentally break one and learn they taste delicious, or something. But the bad thing is that other hens can pick up this horrible habit, and soon you get no eggs!

But I went to look at these hens anyway, because they were just around the corner, so to speak. In country parlance, this means they were only about three miles away on a country road, and not, say ten or twenty miles away.

I asked the owner if he had seen broken eggshells. Or if he had actually seen the hens eating the eggs. Or if all of the hens were actually eating the eggs. He assured me that they all ate eggs. Then he plucked each hen off the roost, shoved them in our cage and pretty much wished me luck. (Why was I even taking this project on? I don't know. I'm a chick-a-holic, remember?)

So we loaded the hens up, and put them in our big empty coop. And I waited. Early next morning. I had one bright blue egg. No. One. ate it. Yay!

Next morning, two bright blue eggs. No. One. ate any. Yay.

And so on, and so on, and so on. So far these nice hens have been laying up a storm, and I've already sold a dozen and eaten quite a few more.

Of course I gave them names. They had not been here 24 hours when they were known as Georgia, Augusta, Carmen, and Belle.

They are Ameraucana hens, or crosses, which are known as Easter Eggers. They don't lay brown eggs, but lovely blue eggs. I've had them for almost two weeks now, and no. one. has eaten any eggs! (Hope I'm not jinxing it by saying that.)

Maybe they like this place better. Maybe they needed to have names. (Maybe they like the mister I turn on for them on hot days.) I do not know, but my husband told me not to look a gift horse (or hen) in the mouth.

I love my new hens. ;-) And I promised myself that I would not spoil these chickens. I would keep this bunch of hens in the pen, so they won't have a chance to make a habit of hanging out in the garage.

But they run to greet me now, wondering what I've brought them to snack on. So I might open the gate just a little bit for them, just so they can mosey outside to get some green grass.

You know, just once in a while.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Doorbell Bird

Often I am awakened by birdsong, which is a lovely thing. But in the spring, with all birds crazily vying for territory and trying to attract a mate, it can sometimes be, well, a little much. Especially when one of them makes a quite distinct sound, and you don't know which bird is making it.

Song Sparrow

I am fairly well acquainted with the common birds around here: robins, chickadees, crows, various sparrows, swallows which arrive in the spring, and lots of others that arrive from the south also. But this spring, I became acutely aware of a different sound. It came from high in the trees, often starting at first light, (which at the moment is 5:51 a.m. *grumble*) and carrying on throughout the day.

For lack of a better description, it sounded (to me) like a high-pitched doorbell. Ding-dong. Ding-dong. Over. And over. And over.

Then it would vary the song: Ding, ding. Ding Ding Ding.

Frantically (with some deep-seated desire to know what it was - perhaps a writers' trait, perhaps a crazy person's trait) I perused all of my bird books for an itinerant bird that came north in the spring to mate and raise its family. Of course books often give crazy, well-intentioned, written out descriptions of bird songs, such as "quick, three beers" (really?) and "Oh, dear me."

But none of them mentioned a doorbell bird. What is this darn thing? Ding-dong. Ding dong, over and over! Desperate, I found a bird identification site specific to our county. With that open on one tab, I then pulled up the Cornell Bird Identification site and began cross-referencing each bird. (Yes, I can occasionally get somewhat obsessed with research.) The Cornell site even has recorded sounds for each bird, and I played each possibility, but with no luck. I assumed it was a Flycatcher or a Vireo singing its mating song from high in the trees. But nothing sounded like my Doorbell Bird.

As a last resort, I tracked down the name of a bird specialist from the local Audubon Society. He was very helpful, and suggested I send him a recording. So quite early the next morning, there I was in my bathrobe, standing on the porch taking a cell-phone video (with audio) of the bird. Of course, it was far, far away in the trees, and the sound was faint. Anyway, long story short, the bird specialist was stumped also.

But this dang ding-dong bird was driving me nuts! Do you think I could catch sight of it? Nooo. It had to be a smallish bird, but when I grabbed my binocs to scan the trees where it was singing, I could never spot this rare bird. All I ever saw was the standard sparrows, wrens, chickadees, and the like. By now I was sure it was some rare species, totally off its course, and it would get written up in the bird books as a rare sighting. Maybe it was a never-before discovered bird, and I would even get the honor of naming it! What should I call it: The Doorbell Bird? The Ding Dong Bird? No, none of them sounded quite right.

But I was in luck. The bird specialist ( a very helpful man) agreed to come out in the morning and listen! Here was help. I would soon come to the bottom of this!

Eagerly awaiting an opportunity to show off my birding skills, and get written up the newspaper for my rare discovery (the writer's mind doth wander) I jumped back onto the Cornell site again, listening for all of the common birds around here: the sparrows, the wrens, the chickadees. We all know what chickadees sound like, right? "Chick-a-dee-dee-dee."

Lo and behold, on the song selection for a Black-capped Chickadee  were six different calls. I had never listened to them before, because I was quite sure I knew about chickadees. Wrong!!!

Call #1, listed as Pacific Northwest Whistled Song, is the Ding, ding, ding, ding sound.
Call # 4, listed as Typical Song, is the dang Doorbell Song!

So, with virtual egg-on-my-face, I emailed the Audubon Bird Specialist back and told him he really didn't have to come at all. I was absolutely certain that my "rare" bird was actually a Black-capped Chickadee!

"You are not the first person who has been stumped by the various calls of chickadees," he wrote back, probably in an attempt to make me feel better.

But I do feel much better now. I know what it is! At 5:51 this morning, when the Ding-Dong sound woke me from high in the cedar trees outside of our bedroom, I simply pulled the pillow back over my head and mumbled "Shut up, you stupid Chickadee!"

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Accidental Kitten

Announcing - THE ACCIDENTAL KITTEN - Cat Tales #6 is now available.

As you know, we accidentally acquired another kitten, which I  blogged about here. That probably inspired the title, but not the story line. This one is a bit of a coming-of-age story, as a young man moves away from his family for the first time. And then of course there's a kitten . . . oh well, here's the actual plot summary:

Brian has left his parent's ranch and struck out for a life of his own. But renting a run-down apartment takes most of his money, and finding a job in the city proves difficult. When he meets a quirky young woman and then rescues a tiny kitten from certain death, things become more problematic. Brian can't afford a pet, and besides, he doesn't even like cats. What good are they?

This one, like the others in the series, is also priced at $0.99. Here's the link on Amazon:

Hope you enjoy it! As long as you keep reading these Cat Tales, I'll keep writing them!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Girly-girl things

I have never been a girly-girl.

I hated dolls at Christmas. I wanted farm sets, with tractors and barns and horses that went into toy stalls and corrals. I played with those for hours.

I never had a sister to show me how to do make-up. Instead, I had two brothers who showed me how to be tough.

Fast forward to present day. I am about the same. I would rather clean the chicken pen than fix dinner.

 I do enjoy getting my toenails painted (in the summer) but fingernails? Forget it.

I am daily grubbing in the dirt: planting, weeding, cutting blackberries, hiking, taking care of animals and basically getting dirty. (I love dirt.)

So when my daughter decided to host a Jamberry party, with lots of designer nails to choose from, I initially balked.

Not for me. I don't wear that kind of stuff.

But being a supportive mother, I decided to at least look through the designs.

And O.M.G. I LOVE them. I find myself dreaming about being a girly-girl now, and wearing, you know, actual "outfits" (instead of just my newest pair of jeans and clean t-shirt.)

And picking out designer nails to go with my "outfits." (They even have some nails with horses on them! But none with cats, at least that I could find.) But Flowers. Yes! Lots of Flowers.

Here are my favorites so far.

But I also like:

So what do you think? Which ones should I choose?

Is there any hope for me ever being a real Girly-Girl?

P.S. To see even more spectacular nails from Jamberry, here's the link to my daughter's site:

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Botanical Oddities

Nature fascinates me, and I love all growing things.
But this one is a real head-shaker.

First, note this lovely Hawaiian Tree Fern.
Stepping back, notice the lovely blooming azalea, and the small blue-grey Deodar Cedar in the foreground, as well as the branching oak to the left.
But is all as it seems?
That Oak Branch to the left? It is actually GROWING out of the trunk of the Tree Fern.
And the Deodar Cedar tree is also.
In fact, here are some more starts of both cedar and oak sprouting just above the large oak branch.
There is a large Cedar of this variety about thirty feet away, as well as many oaks quite close. So I suspect birds sat here and dropped the seeds. Or perhaps woodpeckers planted them there.
Anyone else have some plausible explanation? *cue spooky music*
File this one under: Life Will Find a Way.
What do you think happened?