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The aftermath!

New dock location

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I’m not busy planning a contingency response for the world’s next great disaster, I can be found at my little cabin on a lake in central Minnesota. It’s not much, but it is comfortable. Fishing, having a cold drink on the deck, writing, reading, or watching the many birds and animals that stop by for a visit are favorite past times. It is this last activity that I want to discuss today.

When I go to the cabin, I take my two, 14 pound feline children along. I could leave them alone at home and they would be okay for two nights, but I prefer to have them with me. So I crate them up, load them in the truck and head north. Hermann, the tuxedo, curls up and sulks in his crate while Marble makes sure that I know how much he despises me for locking him up by meowing every three seconds for the entire drive. If he gets really upset, he will puke or leave me other forms of displeasure to clean up once we get to our destination.

However, once we arrive, all sins are forgiven. There are birds, and chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits, other cats and assorted wild game to attract “the boys” attention. And for the next forty hours, noses are glued to the window panes, tail tips twitching, muscles tense, and ears alert.

Captive audience!

Captive audience!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When faced with a ruthless enemy such as the heinous Blue Jay or the vicious Chipmunk, the Boys will chatter as their bodies quiver with excitement. The chatter is a reflex action to seeing something that they want to bite. Their solid bodies seem to vibrate constantly and at times I think they might start to cramp up from the continuous strain.

Chipmunks love sunflowers too.

Chipmunks love sunflowers too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For some reason, they chatter at the Jays but not the red-headed Woodpeckers that nest in the nearby tree.

Red-Headed Woodpecker feeding her young.

Red-Headed Woodpecker feeding her young.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the action outside slows down, the boys burn off the tension by chasing each other around the small cabin. Two 14 pound cats, running full-bore around a 960 square foot cabin, makes on hell of a racket.  The “Thundering Herd” can go on into the wee hours of the morning ensuring that I get as little sleep as they do. As the weekend draws to a close, i stuff them back into their respective crates where they repeat their afore-mentioned routine of sulking and hurling insults at me as we drive home.

After they escape their traveling prisons and have a bite to eat from their normal bowls they slip into the living room and curl up in their favorite chair. They will sleep for nearly 24 hours and an exploding stick of dynamite will not wake them as they recover from the thrills of the previous two days.

Too much excitement...

Too much excitement…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That is one full chair!

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Posted by on April 20, 2015 in Musings and Odd Thoughts

 

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Write what you know?

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“Write what you know!”

Almost every ‘How To’ book on writing preaches this advice. For most non-fiction writers, this is sound advice usually is taken straight forward. Whether it is memoir, historical, How-to or any number of other topics, you should write about things that you know something about, are interested in or even want to know more about. It gives the reader a feeling of comfort knowing that the author isn’t just pulling information out of a hat.The author’s ‘expertise’ adds weight to the written words.

However, this advice can be very interesting advice when given to a fantasy fiction writer. Few of us routinely wield a sword or cast a magic spell. Fewer still have actually passed through a portal to find themselves in another realm where dragons, elves, wizards, and goblins walk the land. Most of the individuals that I have met who have taken the aforementioned journey are either sitting quietly in a catatonic state because they have left their material bodies behind. Or, they are unable to write about their journey because the medication they are given makes writing anything except their name difficult. So, how does a modern author use this advice and write about what they know?

Fantasy is created in one’s imagination. So, having a vivid imagination is a standard prerequisite. Those of us whose teachers wrote on our report cards that we spent too much time staring out the windows daydreaming were pretty good candidates. However, to draw a reader into your fantasy story, there has to be some measure of reality. Something familiar. Maybe it’s making a campfire, baking a loaf of bread, riding a horse, dressing a wound, or bartering with a merchant at the local farmer’s market. These types of skills obtained in modern society, can be easily converted to a fantasy story and in doing so, bring a sense of realism to the reader, drawing them into your world. If you are lucky enough to have hobbies like, archery, martial arts, herbalist, camping, astronomy, Chemistry, or being some form of entertainer, you have real expertise in areas that can easily be incorporated into a fantasy setting.  Your knowledge will, if used moderately and with skill, add authenticity to your world,

Another excellent source of knowledge for the fantasy writer is to have been immersed in a culture foreign to their own. Dealing with language, customs, food, clothing, and belief differences gives the writer unique insights and tolls to use when describing their world to the reader. Not only the differences themselves, but the feelings of having to deal with a foreign culture is a form of expertise that can be invaluable to the author.

If you still are not sure that you ‘know’ anything, here is an exercise to help you. Get a pad of paper and a pen, Give yourself 30 minutes to and hour of uninterrupted time. Write down things that you know about. Leave nothing out whether you think they can be related to your story or not. Start with your education. What did your like or do well at in school? What sports or social activities did you participate in? What did you do after school for fun? How did you fill your time during summer vacation? What did you do on the weekends? What do you do to relax, What do you do for fun? List places you have traveled to. What did you do there? What experiences did you have? What was the food like? Music? Dress? How did you feel being the outsider? What do you do for employment? Be specific and list tasks you perform. What are your hobbies? What are your chores around the house? By now you should be getting a very long list of things where you have some level of knowledge. Maybe even expertise. Keep this list handy and refer to it often to remind yourself that you do know something!

A very short list of my interests and knowledge base, that I use regularly when writing, includes: Cats, Native American Spirituality, Archery, knife-making, emergency medicine, herbal remedies, gardening, contingency planning, woodsmanship and fishing. My actual list filled two pages of a legal pad.

Now that you have determined that you do know something, look at the list and think about how you knowledge can be used to help strengthen your story. Maybe you need to add skills to one or more of your characters. Maybe you should add detail to your descriptions of scene.

NOTE: A word of caution! Adding too much detail about mundane tasks is a sure way to lose your reader. Remember that not everyone cares how many coals are required to bake peach cobbler in a cast iron dutch oven. (I seem to recall it was eleven on the bottom and seven on top. it has been a long time.)

Add just enough detail to add realism. If the details are important to your story then you have a little more leeway. Your beta readers or writing group can help you with how much is the right amount.

So, don’t be shy. Write about what you know. You know a great deal!

Let me know what you know. I’d love to hear it.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on April 6, 2015 in Thoughts on Writing

 

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Just Weird!

Have you every sat down to do something and the next thing you know a whole day has gone by? It’s been eleven days since my last post and for the life of me, I have no idea where the time went. It’s not like when I was unemployed for five months and would play Harpoon on my IBM Model 50z from 9:00 PM until 3:00 AM. I knew what I was doing then. I was a conscious choice. I was trying to escape the fact that 250 resumes were sent out to 250 companies and only two interviews were generated. If you have to take off your shoes to figure out the numbers, that’s 248 reject letters!!! But I digress.

I got a flash update on MAVEN ans the next thing I know it’s Friday morning a week later and I don’t know where the time went. There is some good news. Wherever the time went, at least some of it went towards the WIP. Progress is being made and the writing habit I set out to create this year seems to be working. As you’ll see later even that had huge amounts of weirdness. Now that I know I lost time, I’ve been trying to find it. It’s strange there are just blank spots that I can’t account for. All of the important stuff got done like paying bills loving on the cats, and going to work. So, I was at least functioning physically. Quite strange.

Have you ever gone back to review your writing progress and determined that your word count for the last week has been EXACTLY the same everyday? I kid you, not! Every day since the 3rd the number of words spilling out of my head and into the laptop as been EXACTLY the same!!! The time spent writing varies from day-to-day by anywhere from five to twenty minutes.

So, what gives? Any ideas? Today is the full moon so that can’t be it. The waxing moon is my high energy period of the month. Maybe that plays into it? But, why do I write the same number of words? The scenes have been different in nature and feel. The one constant, which has been so for well beyond the period in question, has been writing have been fun. I like what’s coming out and it seems to be working. The muse is not fussing and the internal editor has gone south to get out of the extreme cold we’ve been dealing with.

Maybe this weirdness is a good thing? Oh, oh. i got an idea for the beaded moccasin scene, gotta go. See you later.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Other Strangeness

 

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Night Moves

“Woke last night to the sound of thunder,

How far off, I sat and wondered,

Started humming a song from 1962,

Ain’t it funny how the night moves?”

Bob Seger – “Night Moves” 1976

The fact that I remember where I was the first time I heard songs like, ‘The Wanderer” and “Johnny Angel” is more than a little frightening.

Anywhoo, I awoke last night to the sound of thunder. The sky was clear and is wasn’t raining. No lightning either. There is was again, rolling through the house, up the bedposts and into my spine. No wind could be heard during the silent interlude between the rolling crashes. Hmmm, what could it be, I sat and wondered?

Have you every heard two 20+ pound cats chase each other throughout the house, wrestling, falling off furniture onto the floor, and then pausing for a few moments to groom themselves before starting in again? I waited to hear the crash of antique dishware or Easter decorations. None came…they are learning to steer clear of certain items in the house.

I had a cat in 1962. Smokey liked to hide under the bookcases and attack our bare feet as we ran through the library on our way to bed. She thought it was great fun in the dark. That Siamese was on a mission. Her favorite time to set the ambush was at night. I was once asked where I learned my dance moves? By trying to dodge an attacking cat in the night.

Ain’t it funny how the night moves?

 

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2013 in Musings and Odd Thoughts

 

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The Boys!

Those of you who follow this blog know that back in November, I had to put down the last of the three cats who lived with me for more than 20 years. It was hard on my wife and me. We view our cats like most people view their children. I some cases, better. We had set aside the bowls and litter boxes and tried to get used to not being greeted at the door at night or have someone laying on our lap while we watched TV.

Sunday morning, two weeks ago, my wife and I set down our coffee cups and in unison, looked at each other and said, “I think I’m ready for more cats.” It was a little creepy but not unusual for us to be on the same wavelength without previous conversation. We actually waited for the animal shelter to open before we showed up on their doorstep looking for our new “children”. We must have been patient that day.

We didn’t find anything that day. However, after surfing the web a little, my wife found a pair of cats who needed to be adopted together as they are inseparable. They survived the tornado that tore through north Minneapolis last year and were placed into a foster home with the Humane Society.

They are inseparable!

They are inseparable!

One visit was enough. These big boys (20 pounds each) are typical two-year olds. Marble and Herman love to play and get into trouble. They will be indoor cats so the rabbit that these two are watching has nothing to fear from them.

""Rabbit!"

Life is good as we get to know each other. Thankfully, they have not learned to walk on my keyboard while I write…yet.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2013 in Musings and Odd Thoughts

 

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Tribute to my “daughter” Libby

I woke up Monday and went about my morning routine. That is, of course, until I went downstairs to feed Libby. But there was no meow saying “Good morning, I’m hungry”. There were no bowls to fill with water or dry food. There were no pee pads to pick up and throw away. There was no furry little face looking at me through the bars of the gate. Only the darkness and silence of the family room at 5:30 AM. You see, Friday, after I got home from work, my wife and I took Libby to the Vet for the last time. I had no intention of putting her down when we left the house. But, I had no idea how far she had deteriorated in the last three months.

Libby was the last of my three “children”. For the past twenty-two years, there has been at least one and for a long time three feline members of my family. My middle child, past away from kidney disease at the age of seventeen. My eldest child succumbed to fluid on the lungs at age 22. And my youngest, Libby, left us Friday night due to complications from thyroid disease.

Libby came to us on a spring morning. I found her hiding under the house. We call her our unwed mother because at the ripe old age of nine months, she was VERY pregnant. She looked like she had swallowed a softball. She was half-starved and was the most pitiful creature you ever saw. We fed her for a day or two and then had to make a decision. She was ready to deliver and we were on our way out-of-town for the Memorial Day weekend. I did not want to leave her and come back to a litter of kittens or worse. Based on her obvious malnutrition, I doubted the kittens would be healthy. The alternative was to take her to the animal shelter and place a finder’s hold on her. She would be examined, fed, and cared for until we could get back from vacation. We could then make a final decision on whether to bring a third cat into our home. The down side was, if she had the litter while we were gone, we would not be told the fate of the kittens unless we placed a hold on them as well. This I’m told is standard procedure for animal shelters. This decision was almost as difficult as having Libby put to sleep 18 years later. We finally chose to only hold Libby and prayed the Shelter would do what was best for the kittens.

When we returned from our trip, we prepared the house of the new arrival. Our existing children were locked in one area of the house with their food, water and litter boxes and the rest of the house would be free for Libby to explore for a few days until she was adjusted to her new surroundings.

When we picked Libby up from the shelter, she was a different cat. She had indeed delivered while we were gone. (That is how I wish to think it happened. I do not know what happened,nor do I want to know.) She was five pounds lighter than when we dropped her off. Half of her body weight had been kittens! But, she was healthy. We paid for vaccinations and care. Then, we took her home.

Over the next few days, there was a lot of sniffing under doors and paws being stretched under doors trying to reach each other. Libby roamed the house at will and chose to mostly, ignore the bedroom. There were obviously two very interested felines wanting to find out who had invaded their territory. Finally, on Friday night we let the three of them see each other for the first time. There was a few minutes of hissing and posturing with me standing by to separate them if necessary. Fortunately, a pecking order was soon arrived at and peace returned to the household.

I treated the cats like family. Each had their own food and water bowls. Each had their own litter box. My wife and I made sure we spent quality time with each one every day. It may have been wrestling with the big male, or having them chase a light around the room, or maybe just giving them a special massage of their own. Whatever it was they each returned to attention they received many times over.

I treated the cats like family and they reciprocated. After a serious car accident that left me on my back in a recliner for thirteen weeks, my children would take turns getting up on the recliner and laying, spread eagle, over my shattered knee. The warmth of their little bodies and their energy covered my knee. The added weight also helped during rehab exercises. 🙂  I believe to this day, that they were a big part of my knee healing. They knew I was hurt and made sure that at least one of them was with me 24/7 for entire recovery.

Sometime in the future, we will again add a couple of furry members to our family. Once the pain of loss has subsided and we are ready, we will find two felines who need us as much as we need them. Until then, I will remember, “Little Mr.”, “The Lover”, and the “Unwed Mother” and know they are waiting for my wife and I at the rainbow bridge.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Musings and Odd Thoughts

 

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