Persistence: When Should You Give Up?

I’ve been thinking a lot about persistence lately. When it’s a good thing. When it’s a bad thing.

I chose persistence as one of my power words a few years ago, and I have strong feelings about the concept. In fact, one of my favorite quotations is Calvin Coolidge’s famous quote on persistence (shared below). Nothing worth achieving is possible without persistence: the academic degree, proficiency at any task (be it art, sports, writing, or competency at work), the successful relationship…

But when is persistence the wrong move? When is it “beating a dead horse” and a denial of reality?

I guess to some degree, it depends on the stakes involved. The higher the stakes, the bigger the consequences of giving up. You have to know in your heart quitting is the right thing to do. Giving up has to bring a sense of relief instead of a sense of dread. Conversely, if the consequences of giving up are so minimal, you might fall into quitting by default without ever declaring your intent to do so. You don’t finish the book you were reading, or the project you started, in part because you had other, bigger demands on your time and energy and it just didn’t matter than you failed to reach a specific goal.

Last summer, someone gave me a potted orchid. My first thought on accepting it was, “I wonder how long it will take me to kill this?” Not because I hate plants and want them to die but because I have so many demands on my time and so many living things that depend on me, it’s easy to let plants take a number and wait a LONG time in line. And even though I read the care instructions that came with it, I managed to get something wrong, and sure enough, that’s here’s what this plant looked like a few months ago.

The planter is set up so that it minimizes the risk of over or under watering the orchid, but it turns out I was putting the water in the wrong slot and I drowned the plant. After six months of meticulously remembering to water it on the correct schedule, I’d nearly killed the orchid anyway. Giving up and tossing the plant out isn’t a big deal because the consequences of doing so are nil. Only a slight guilt on my part for having such a black thumb.

Quitting in this case is an easy call. But what if the stakes are higher? What if we’re talking about a relationship, or your job, or your dreams?

That’s a different ball of wax altogether.

It still comes down to the consequences of quitting, I think. In part because quitting is often the easiest part of the decision-tree. We’ve been taught if we can’t achieve something in two weeks (weight loss, master a new skill, change our lives…) then not only is not worth doing, it’s not achievable in the first place. We’re also taught the value of “being realistic” over being someone who has dreams. If we’ve chosen a difficult goal, it’s easy to get discouraged and contemplate quitting. Being persistent is a character trait that can be both good and bad depending on your point of view.

It comes down to whether being persistent is hurting you–or someone else in your life– or not.

Toxic workplace environment or relationship? Yeah, maybe that is something you should consider quitting. Persistence may not be in your favor in those situations. It may be a situation you need to walk away from even if the alternatives seem super scary (like having no immediate income or place to live). If you remain in a situation or relationship that threatens your mental and physical health, you need to carefully weigh the pros and cons of doing so. Sometimes there are no easy answers. But the questions need to be asked, just the same.

Persisting in following your dreams when everyone around you tells you to “be realistic”? Yeah, don’t listen to the naysayers. If it’s something you want to do and have faith in your ability to do it, keep plugging away at it.

What if your Number One Naysayer is you? That’s a tough one because if you don’t believe in your ability to accomplish something you set out to do, then you will never reach that goal. But if the idea of quitting, of not being a writer, or musician, or artist, or teacher, astronaut, or whatever is more painful than the idea of continuing to strive toward your goals, then you should persist. The world is full of success stories about people who kept trying, who didn’t give up, despite repeated rejections or failures. Like Coolidge says, I believe persistence is more powerful than natural talent or ability.

Even if you never achieve your lofty goals, if you persist in doing something you love, it’s never time wasted.

Three months ago, I came very close to tossing the orchid in the trash. It was mostly dead. I had no great attachment to it. But there was one shiny green leaf among the dry stalks, dead flower heads, and dull, curling leaves. So I left it on the windowsill, didn’t water it for a few weeks, and then began taking care of it, following the directions correctly this time. And that single shiny leaf was joined by another. And another.

I’m not sure why I didn’t pitch the planter in the trash, unless it was because of the persistence of that baby leaf pushing its way out of the soil when all the odds had been against it. It reminded me of how I keep writing, even when I know realistically I am not going to be the Nora Roberts of paranormal romance or cozy mysteries. Though I get discouraged at my lack of progress sometimes, writing isn’t toxic to me, and sometimes is the only thing that keeps me going.

So let’s hear it for healthy persistence.

Brushed By Betrayal by L.A. Sartor: Spotlight and Interview

Please welcome author L.A. Sartor to the blog as we showcase her upcoming release (available for pre-order) Brushed by Betrayal!

Hello! Welcome to my blog and thank you for answering my nosy, I mean discerning, questions. 🙂  First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

McKenna, thank you for having me as a return guest on your amazing blog.  Interesting questions you pose. I’ve been writing for a long time, yet only very recently discovered that I am truly a plot-driven writer. I was told this by a veteran of 40+ novels, and at first, I was insulted. Then I stepped back and looked at her criteria and realized with an enormous amount of relief that indeed I was. My stories always revolve around complex plots, at the same time I weave the theme of trust and/or finding one’s real path in life. Usually they go hand-in-hand. But I think of the creating the plot question first, then building the characters to work in it.

There is nothing wrong in either being either a plot or character driven writer, and we authors can have readers who love both. But finding my own true writer calling made a big difference. I write romance into my stories, but they are mostly not “romances.” (I do have a couple of pure romances.)

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

Colorado is now home. I was adopted in Germany as was my brother, different birth families. I’ve never thought of anyone else as my parents and haven’t been driven to locate anyone. We moved to Southern California as young children and being a stone’s throw from the ocean created a deep need to come back to it as often as possible. But while Boulder and its massive flatirons are my backbone, the ocean is my soul.

That’s so funny because I was born and raised within sight of the Appalachian mountains and I can’t imagine living anywhere else–unless it was to the Rockies!

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

I started telling stories at a very young age. Mom wrote them down and I illustrated them. I still have those which are horrible, but I love them. Then in Jr. High I was writing what is now fan fiction with a friend and loving it. But an English teacher told me and my parents that I was failing because I wouldn’t learn grammar. I immediately stopped writing. I only learned about this (apparently, I totally wiped the incident from my memory) after I told mom I was going to write and book and she said, “finally”. Then revealed the story.  I’m now in the exact right spot for me.

“Writers should write what they know.” What does this statement mean to you as an author?

This statement makes me so frustrated, both when I first heard and even now when I hear folks agonizing over it. So, I’m going to get on my soap box. We all know life’s ups/downs, celebrations/heartaches. We all have experiences. That is what we know.

But for the longest time and still today, authors and pundits say I can’t write a treasure hunting adventure or chocolate making scene or legal thriller because I’m none of those. Baloney. Research, good solid research and interviews will give us that information. Would I write a hospital driven drama, no, because I’m not interested in that kind of writing. But adventure, danger, various treasures, myths, even some courtroom scenes have all been written by me and apparently are doing well.

I agree with this whole-heartedly! I think when people say “write what you know” what they really mean is write about the forces that would drive a character to leave home and hearth to fight for all he holds dear–whether it be a Hobbit journeying to Mordor or a young man headed off to the trenches in WW1. The means by which you tell the story doesn’t matter as much as the authenticity behind the motives.

Most authors admit to feeling uncomfortable with the degree of self-promotion necessary to be successful. Are there some aspects of social media and self-promotion that make you more comfortable than others? Are there some you avoid like the plague?

I really enjoy the self-promotion that is necessary for both the indie and the traditionally published writer to do. For instance, a blog like this is fun to write. I love to teach writing and use my books (after all I know my stories best) as examples, then see the light come on in an aspiring writer’s eyes. I love creating images or memes for my books.

I have a YouTube channel for writers, but I’m getting views from folks who want to know more about how a writer works, not be one. That’s cool!

I’ve done a lot of interviews on camera and now feel comfortable talking about me.  Now if I only weighed 25lbs. less…

It’s part of the business, so I figure I might as well enjoy it and of instead of shy away from it, embrace it.

I will definitely have to check out your YouTube Channel! I confess while I enjoy spending time on certain social media platforms, I have no real desire to get in front of a camera, and I admire anyone who does!

Have you ever been intimidated by reviews?

Yes. At first I was scared to look at them and when I found one that was less than complimentary, I’d be totally crushed. Literally couldn’t write a new word. Then I realized a couple of things and grew up as a writer, maybe even as a person.

Sometimes people will just not like what you write. That’s okay. I may want to please everyone, but honestly know I can’t. Some people are meanspirited. I feel sorry for them. Some people think they’ll make me a better writer if they point out every flaw.

My approach to reviewing is that 90% of the time you can find some aspect of the book to talk about with positivity. You may not give it 4 or 5 stars, but why trash it? If you hated it, don’t buy another one from that author. Life is too short to be mean. Kindness is better. And maybe that’s a Pollyanna way of looking at life, and there are many times when I want to throw something at my TV screen for whatever reason, hey I’m human, but that negative emotion doesn’t go beyond my walls.

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

Yes and yes and yes. I spend huge amounts of time building my characters and their stories, their conflicts, their goals. Series allow me to dig deeper, put them into more revealing circumstances. For instance, in my Carswell Adventure series, I had twins, who after a tragedy became total opposites. One more meek, more comfortable by herself than out in the world. The other became an adventure junkie. Stone Of Heaven is about Tori, the city girl who keeps to herself now having to save her adventurous sister from long forgotten Maya gods. The second book Viking Gold brings in the characters again, but we focus on Abby and her quests and how it’s driving all the people she loves away. Will she survive this last treasure hunt?

What are your writing goals for 2021? Your personal goals?

I’m releasing Brushed By Betrayal May 5th. It’s the second in the Kahuna Group series. Then come Monday I’m settling down to create my new cozy mystery series. A first in many ways for me. Writing in first person. A cozy series, creating a new ski town, Angelcroft and all its peeps and fun stuff like red-herrings and most of all developing a complicated villainous character motivation. After all mystery readers like the puzzle, so …. My plan is to have that first book out this coming Fall, worst case before Christmas, since it’s set at Christmas. Then to write one or two more a year. I still have my other series…yikes, I’m going to be busy.

Personal goals, focus on the important things and say no to the rest. I don’t say no easily, but I’m learning.

That’s interesting what you say about plot-driven stories versus character driven, and how you’ve nestled into your groove as a result. And yay for a new cozy mystery series! I love the genre!

Thank you so much for dropping by for the interview and to share a little about your new release!

 

Blurb for Brushed By Betrayal

“You’re next and the circle will be complete.”

Jade Laurent, art expert and owner of the prestigious Laurent Art Brokers in Boulder, Colorado, is mourning the one-year anniversary of her father’s death when a close associate is killed and that chilling message for Jade is found by his body.

Private Investigator Malcolm Talbot is coming off his latest grueling case when he receives a request that he cannot refuse. To discover who’s put Jade’s life in jeopardy. The problem is that Jade refuses to stand by idly and let him do his job.

The last thing Malcolm needs is an amateur getting in the way and maybe getting dead. The last thing Jade needs is a professional who can’t find an ounce of compassion for her need to be involved.

While matching wits with a killer who is always one step ahead, dark secrets are revealed, putting everything Jade has believed in at risk.

If you like nail biting suspense, complicated mysteries, and characters who find their soul mates, then you’ll love L.A. Sartor’s newest story Brushed By Betrayal.

Buy it today to find new characters to love and revisit old friends from Dare to Believe.

 

Buy: Currently on Amazon  The book will go wide later in May.

 

Bio:

I started writing as a child, really. A few things happened on the way to becoming a published author … specifically, a junior high school teacher who told me I couldn’t write because I didn’t want to study grammar.

That English teacher stopped my writing for years.  But the muse couldn’t be denied, and eventually I wrote, a lot, some of it award winning. However, I wasn’t really making a career from any of this.

My husband told me repeatedly that independent publishing was becoming a valid way to publish a novel. I didn’t believe him, I thought indie meant vanity press. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I started pursuing this direction seriously, hit the keyboard, learned a litany of new things and published my first novel. My second book became a bestseller, and I’m absolutely on the right course in my life.

Please come visit me at https://lesliesartor.com, see my books, find my social media links, and sign up for my mailing list. I have a gift I’ve specifically created for my new email subscribers. And remember, you can email me at Leslie@LeslieSartor.com 

 

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Bishop’s Gambit a Finalist in the Carolyn Awards! #MFRWHooks #MFRWAuthor

I have a second email account that I’m bad about not checking on a regular basis, so imagine my surprise when I logged in the other day and discovered Bishop’s Gambit is a finalist in the Carolyn Awards held by North Texas Romance Writers of America!

As such, I’d like to share with you a little about this book and the Redclaw Origins series. The year is 1955. Rebel without a Cause and The Seven Year Itch are playing in the  movie theaters. The Chevy Bel Air is the most popular car in America. Gas is 25 cents a gallon and you can get a hotel room for $4 bucks. This flirty, fun series takes us back to the beginning and shows us how Redclaw Security got started.

In Bishop’s Gambit, Redclaw Origins 2, Bishop and Knight are back again and the fun–and trouble–is just beginning!

Newly minted secret agent Rhett Bishop would rather face down a horde of angry wolf shifters or her father’s former mob contacts than accept her current assignment: pose undercover as a suburban housewife, complete with a husband, slippers, and pipe.

But after the debacle of her previous mission, Rhett has a lot to prove.

To redeem herself in the eyes of Redclaw Security, and to carry out her mission without distractions, she must table her budding relationship with Peter Knight while the two of them uncover the secrets of Forest Grove.

Armed with her trusty ray gun, her unique little dog, and Knight’s brains, Rhett is confident she can handle whatever the suburbs can throw at her.

Until they lob a curveball.

Bishop’s Gambit was named a Top Pick by The Romance Reviews!

Kirkus Reviews describes as “thoroughly entertaining and witty, with a nicely judged mix of genres.”

Available from Amazon and these other retailers.

A short snippet: 

I gave a cursory glance into the tiny bathroom and headed to the end of the hallway for the other bedroom. As expected, boxes labeled “clothing” were stacked alongside the wall. My dresser and vanity took up the space alongside the other walls. Someone had thoughtfully put together my bed, complete with mattress and springs. All it needed was sheets and a blanket, and I could fall into it.

The sound of the front door opening and shutting sent Captain flying through the house to see who’d come in. I heard Knight grumbling at the dog as he came back toward the bedroom where I stood.

“I see she found you, rotten little beast.” Knight’s voice grew louder as he came down the hallway. “I’ve got two words for you: lizard-skin handbag. You back here, Bishop?”

“Yes.” I waited for him to join me.

“What are you—” He paused at the threshold of the door, frowning for a moment, then his brow cleared. “Ah. Looking for the bedding? I expect it’s around here somewhere.”

I placed a fist on one hip. “Is that all you have to say?”

Puzzlement wrinkled his brow again. “I don’t understand. Obviously, you found the dog. I’ll bring the luggage in while you make the bed. It’s been a long day. We should make an early night of it.”

I enunciated every word with crystal clarity. “There’s only one bed. Where precisely do you intend to sleep?”

This post is part of a blog hop, so if check out the other book hooks and teasers in the hop! 

 

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The Last Horse

Last night, I put my beloved horse to sleep.

I’d gone out to feed her and found her drenched in sweat, her coat caked with mud and clay as evidence she’d been rolling. We’d been through colics before–even bad ones–but somehow this time it felt like The Big One.

And it was. After hours of medical management that failed to make her more comfortable, and with a progression of clinical signs for the worse, it was clear that she wasn’t going to squeak through and make it one more time. At 11 pm, standing in the headlights of the vet’s truck, I made one of the hardest decisions of my entire life. I let her go.

It wasn’t the first time I faced losing her. In fact, she’d nearly died so many times in her life, we jokingly referred to her as The Mare Who Lived. At ten, she twisted her colon, necessitating surgery to save her life. Not many horses survive colic surgery. Fewer go on to be functional riding horses again. But survive she did, and went on to compete as well.

I never did get to do all the things I planned with her, though. Oh, we had such plans. She was my first ever horse raised from the ground up. I chose her parents. I carried her ultrasound photo in my wallet. The day she was due, I spent the entire day with her dam, watching her mother quietly crop grass while meadowlarks sang in the summer fields, noting the changes come over her body as she became ready to foal. It was a magical experience. One I will never forget. I was there the night she was born, imprinting on her even as she imprinted on me. Childless myself, she was the baby I never had.

She was why I got up on my days off and drove four hours round trip to spend the day training her. She was the reason I continued to ride after my car accident, after my doctors told me I should stop, and despite grinding chronic pain. She is probably the only reason I’m still functional today. She is the reason I continued to go and do despite clinical depression, and probably the reason I am still alive after surviving one of the hardest periods in my life.

I rode in weather so cold, my breath came out as a vapor, and the weight of her body crunched ice crystals beneath her feet. I rode in weather so hot I risked heatstroke again and again. We worked together in indoor arenas that had to be watered down so we wouldn’t choke on the dust. We rode in outdoor arenas baked into brick-hard surfaces that had to be dragged so they were useable again. We rode down forest trails under a leafy canopy and forded streams like we had to bring in the herd at the end of City Slickers. We jumped fences, and cleared ditches, and galloped across open fields with the Blue Ridge mountains in full autumn color as a backdrop.

She was so massive–hence the name The Moose–that I needed a mounting block to get on her. Never in all the years I rode her did I fall off–I joked you would have to run to the side and leap to fall off of her. In her youth, turning her was like steering the Titanic–I often said her name should have been Inertia. She was excitable, but she was kind. I was never in fear of my safety when riding her, even though she weighed half a ton and stood at 17 hands tall. And she was brave and honest, too. If I pointed her at a fence gave her the right direction, she’d take it without question. She might have slowed down to give it a stare, and leapt it as though it were six feet tall, but jump it she did.

Life prevented me from doing everything I wanted to do with her. She was bred to be my event horse, though we never made it to a single event or horse trial. The only competitions we made it to were the occasional dressage show. My dad developed cancer and I became his caretaker, and then she had the colic surgery, and somehow, it became good enough to know she was doing first level dressage at home, and able to jump a 4×4 oxer like it was a Kleenex box. (For the uninitiated, “first level” isn’t the beginner level–watch the link if you’d like to know more). We didn’t compete often, but when we did, I like to think there was a collective muttering of “damn” when we showed up because we came home with all the ribbons. When I unloaded her from the van at a show grounds, all heads turned to watch her move. She was simply that impressive. It didn’t hurt that she’d get lit by the excitement of a horse show, and would float across the ground with huge spectacular strides as a result.

I did achieve one life goal with her: I took a jumping clinic with a former Olympic Coach, wherein I discovered we were PB&J in the caviar world of eventing… and you know what? Sometimes PB&J is good enough. It was good enough for us.

Probably my biggest regret is never having had professional photographs taken of her. I took thousands myself, however, because she was gorgeous, she was magnificent, she was The Moose.

I can tell you funny stories that will fail to capture her shining personality: of how she was afraid of pigs, or the time when as a baby she tried to get in my car with me, or the time she spooked and cleared the length of a football field in six ginormous strides–all running toward an enormous cross country fence that she tried to jump from the wrong direction. I can tell you about the time she went galloping with the herd toward a field where someone had forgotten to open the five-bar gate at the other end. Every other horse screeched to a stop at the closed gate. She sailed over it–and cleared the water trough on the other side as well. Or about the time she was like a powder keg with a lit fuse when we competed in our first simple walk-trot dressage test, and she ended up doing airs above the ground in the chaotic melee that passes for a warm up ring–and then calming down enough to win the class by a landslide. Oh! Or how about the time we left her on the van to school some other horses and she broke her chain lead, bent the breast bar like it was a pipe cleaner, and jumped out of the van to graze quietly beside it. Oh, Moose. There will never been another quite like you.

We always knew she was on borrowed time after the colic surgery. Many don’t survive the surgery. Those that do frequently become chronic colickers, which she did. Most of her episodes were mild gas colics that resolved without treatment and were probably due to adhesions in her guts after the surgery. About four years after the surgery, I came out to feed her and noticed she was standing in her “colic corner”, the spot where she’d go when she felt bad, and would begin to paw and shift in place. As I’d approached her with a halter, she stood straight up on her hind legs and then shot into the air, kicking out in a perfect capriole, something she’d never been taught. I’d known then, we were in for a bad time.

It was a night that will live in memory. I hand-walked her for seven hours straight as we attempted medical management. The odds of a horse surviving colic surgery twice were slim to none. I wasn’t going to put her through that again. I watched as she became more and more distended and uncomfortable, and as all medical management failed. And just when I was on the point of asking the vet to put her down…. she farted. Long, loud, repeatedly. And ten minutes later she was actively looking for grass to eat.

My vet said he’d never seen any horse look so bad and yet spontaneously recover. He called it a miracle. We suspect she’d been mildly impacted because of an adhesion, which caused gas to distend her bowels but something shook loose even as the request to euthanize her stuck in my throat. That evening, I’d stood at the fence in the middle of the night, watching her graze beneath the light of a full moon, with Saturn and Jupiter blazing overhead. We’d gotten lucky once again, I knew it.

Just as I’d somehow known last night this time we wouldn’t be so lucky. She actually didn’t look as bad as she had as the previous colic over a decade ago. She initially responded to pain management, she had none of the markers that indicate you’re in for a bad time. I grew hopeful that once again, we’d dodged a bullet, even as I mentally acknowledged that sooner or later, one of these colics would get her. We’d been saying that for so long, it was hard to remember that she’d already lived far longer than anyone ever thought she would. Yet as the second round of sedation and pain meds wore off, she gradually began showing signs of discomfort again: pawing the ground, threatening to roll, looking at her flanks which were gradually distending. The parameters of her exam had changed: we now had evidence of displaced bowel, of another twist.

I wanted to believe we’d get our miracle one more time. We’d had so many near misses and spectacular recoveries. She was The Mare Who Lived, after all. She would make it. She had to make it. But as her condition deteriorated, it became clear she wouldn’t, not without surgery, something I wouldn’t do, not a second time, not for a 25 year old horse.

And so I stood in the light cast by the vet truck’s headlamps and made the decision to let her go.

I wanted to rail against the unfairness of it all. I’d had so much loss in recent years. 2017-2018 became known as The Year of Grief. Things had eased up in 2019, only to have 2020 say, “Hold my beer.” Emotionally, physically, mentally exhausted, losing The Moose last night seemed like the one thing that would finally break me. Even now, I’m not sure that it might not.

But the truth of the matter is loss is part of love. It was just an ugly trick of fate that handed me so many losses so close together for such a prolonged period of time. I am not special in my experiences, nor in my grief. And the only way to avoid this pain I’m experiencing now would be to have never loved The Moose in the first place.

Impossible.

The Moose was my last horse. I’d had to euthanize my other horse in the winter of 2018 at the age of thirty-five. Losing him was a wrench because he was my first horse, bought with my hard-earned cash as a green-broke three-year-old off a slaughter truck, and I’d had him ever since. But thirty-five is a ridiculous age for an old horse, and though making the decision to put him to sleep was hard, it was expected as well.

I’d retired The Moose a few years back–she wasn’t sound enough to ride any longer. I’d chosen to lease a riding horse instead, which I kept up until that horse too, was retired. Covid-19 forced me to take a hard look at the risks of riding during a sweeping pandemic, and I’d made the tough call to stop riding last March, at least for the time being. I still had The Moose. I was still a horsewoman. I just wasn’t riding.

Now, for the first time in over thirty years, I am without a horse. And I don’t think I will ever have another one again. This isn’t just a door closing. It’s slamming shut and locking me out. In some ways, that’s the hardest part to bear. Today I called to cancel her farrier appointment for next month. I gave away her winter blanket and sold her brand new, never-worn grazing muzzle for the summer season. I’ll pull out her bridle and saddle, clean and oil them for the last time, and donate them to someone who can use them.

If you’ve never experienced the euthanasia of a horse, it is a tough thing to watch. It’s a bit like felling a tree: done right, it happens in stages and no one gets hurt. I held her head as the vet administered first the sedative and then the euthanasia solution. I promised her that I’d seen her into this world, and that I would see her out. She breathed her last breath into my ear with a shuddering sigh, and we guided her into a controlled fall onto her side. I stroked her muzzle, but the light was gone in her eyes.

She’s being buried today. I couldn’t be there: I had to work. Perhaps that’s just as well. Though she is being laid to rest in a field overlooking the Blue Ridge mountains with the redbud coming into bloom, I know she’s not there. She’s running with her friends who have gone on before her, frisking in the pasture free of pain, ready to eat her fill of grass and snooze in the sun to the lazy drone of bumble bees. She lives on in my memories, in my photographs, and in the cameo appearances she makes in my stories.

And someday this summer, I’ll sit on the hillside beside her grave, with the dogs at my side, listening to the meadowlarks sing.

The Pandemic One Year Later: Are We Ready to Return to Normal?

This time last year, I was hunkered down on the farm, desperately counting down the days until I had some time off. We’d made the decision to split our households into Essential Workers (me) and WFH/High Risk (everyone else) and I was watching videos on how to make masks, posting about flattening the curve, and searching for toilet paper and bread yeast. I organized my personal documents and instructions for taking care of the animals in the event of my long-term hospitalization or death. TV shows, books, and movies that had been favorites before fell by the wayside as I looked for gentle, less-traumatic ways of entertaining myself. I took the dogs for long walks and obsessed over my neighbor’s baby goats.

I was terrified.

The pandemic was a terrible thing to have happen. But having it happen on Trump’s watch made it a national–if not global–tragedy.

This past weekend, as I was walking the dogs, I noticed the first of this year’s crop of baby goats in my neighbor’s field. And while I was charmed, I didn’t have that odd compulsion to stalk and photograph them. A simple, slightly out of focus snapshot with my cell phone was sufficient to appease my interest.

It made me think about how much has changed and how much has stayed the same since this time last year. My family is still divided: I have not yet completed my vaccination series and none of my other family members have been vaccinated yet. I shop online and have groceries delivered to my car. I wear a mask in public and carry hand sanitizer with me wherever I go–and I avoid going anywhere except to work.

The number of Covid-19 cases is higher in our area right now than they’ve been during the entire pandemic–by a factor of twenty–and yet so many people seem to be acting as though the crisis is over. I have a bad feeling we’ll see a huge uptick in cases nationally again once people come home from Spring Break, and I have to tell you, my bad feelings are almost always right.

I am not planning vacations, but I am making much-delayed doctor’s and dentist’s appointments for later this fall. I won’t go back to the nail salon anytime soon–if ever–but I’m looking for a hairdresser that practices Covid protocols for after I complete my vaccine series. I never, ever need to go back to the movie theater again. Between shooters and the inability to exit quickly in a fire, movie theaters always felt like death traps to me anyway. I love being able to pause my movie to use the bathroom or make popcorn that doesn’t cost $10/bag. I don’t need the “movie experience”, though I realize some people love it.

A friend wants me to take a cruise with her next spring. Ten years ago, I would have leapt at the chance to do something I’ve always wanted to do. Now the horror stories coming out of the industry as a result of the pandemic have canceled any desire I ever had to step foot on a cruise ship.

In some ways, the pandemic has forced me to Marie Kondo my life. Not in terms of physical objects but in terms of activities. How I want to spend my time. Who I want to spend my time with. This past weekend my husband and I met for a socially distanced dog walk and talked about so many things we can’t seem to manage by phone or email. It was a great day.

Other things have changed for the better too. Funny how having competent leaders in charge–despite the enormity of the mess they have to clean up–has done wonders for my overall anxiety and my blood pressure. I have hope for the first time in years, venting off some of that building pressure that made it difficult to get through the day.

One thing that has become clear: I don’t want to spend the rest of my life working at a job that is literally eating me alive. As someone tied into a narrow list of job opportunities due to my specialization and the lack of jobs in the area, I can’t just step out of the plane and hope I find a parachute on the way down. But I am getting closer and closer to the hatch.

I find in many ways, I dread a return to “normalcy.” Especially if normal means daily mass shootings or increased pressure to make bricks without straw. I shrink from the idea of businesses opening back up to the public, and of my husband being expected to go back to the office. I rage internally when I run into entire families at the store without masks. As an introvert and an empath, I find I want the distance between me and almost everyone else to be greater than ever before. I could easily become agoraphobic if it weren’t for the dogs needing to go on walks.

But I also miss hugs. I miss hanging out with my husband, who is also my best friend. I miss the excitement of traveling to a place I’ve only ever read about. I don’t want to go to the beach, but I’d like to rent a cabin in the mountains. I’d like to read books or watch movies without worrying if the story was going to hurt me in any way.

I think these things will come back again–eventually. I’m already noting a greater willingness to be more adventuresome in my entertainment, taking a chance on shows I would have deemed too dark last year at this time. I’m seriously looking into other work opportunities. I’m making plans for the future when this time last year, I couldn’t think past my next day off from work.

The baby goats are still cute and interesting, but they are just goats.

Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Slips of Yew by Carol Shay Hornung: A Dez Duchiene Mystery

Please welcome to the blog Carol Shay Hornung, as she shares a bit about herself and the first in a series of mysteries with Dez Duschiene and his new husband, Stevie.

Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Dez Duchiene is a hospitality professional who dabbles in politics and moves to New York City where he marries architect Stevie Langford and lives happily until a detective knocks on his door, asking about the death of a prominent conservative politician.
 

Whitney Travers was a former boss and friend, and despite their differing political views, Dez feels compelled to figure out who killed him, despite his husband’s objections. Wisconsin is trying to pass a religious freedom bill that would curtail gay rights, and Stevie is uncomfortable every minute they stay after attending the funeral.  


Coming of age during the Act 10 protests that rocked the city in 2011, Dez feels like he’s in a familiar fight, one the liberals lost all those years ago. He walks a diplomatic line between the conservatives and liberals to collect information – but can he solve the mystery and save his marriage before it’s too late?
 
Kindle and Paperback are available on Amazon.
 

 

Hello, Carol! Welcome to my blog and thank you for answering my nosy, I mean discerning, questions!  First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

Carol Shay Hornung – I’m a behind-the-scenes media specialist by day – I’ve worked in radio and print advertising for … many years. I went to Ripon College and was delighted to be a part of a co-ed fraternity that condemned hazing and embraced inclusion. As a result, my stories tend to have strong bonds between friends – found family – rather than traditional family structures.

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

Born in Chicago, but I’ve called Madison, Wisconsin home for most of my life. Four amazing lakes, miles of biking trails, and an inclusive, liberal brand of thinking that I find I can’t live without.  

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

I’ve been a writer since I was twelve, when a movie I loved ended “badly” and I felt the need to rewrite the ending! I’m always happiest when I’m working on a project and for the last few years I’ve always had something to work on – few dry spells!

How would you characterize your stories? As romance, erotica, or something entirely different?

I write mainstream/mystery/LGBTQ/Lit … I don’t really fall in a specific category. I want to take LGBTQ characters away from the supporting roles and make them heroes, the driving forces behind the books, and there’s always a basic mystery to solve. On a mainstream level, things that happen in one book follow through to the next, an overall story arc. I have a love/hate relationship with lit – I want to employ the same craft techniques of theme and symbolism and character development, but I want to avoid the sadness, angst, and unlikeable heroes that often come along with lit. Good stuff that’s fun, with a dash of glitter. That’s my category.

Do you have a favorite character that you’ve created? Why does this character resonate with you?

OMG. There is no one quite like Dez Duchiene. He came out of nowhere and absolutely insisted on running his first story through NaNo (National Novel Writing Month, held each November) in three weeks, then demanded a second book in December. I’ve found a voice through him that fits my heart and soul. I’ve always been drawn to writing male characters, but my critique group would say “Oh, a guy wouldn’t say/do that.” So I’d work on strong female characters. “Oh, she’s not emotional enough.” Dez came along – male presenting, with a gender neutral first name, and a husband (which fits my orientation. Stevie is damn fine) – and I’m suddenly able to do whatever I want with him since he is absolutely not constricted by pre-established gender norms. He’s smart, considerate, snarky, sometimes selfish, extroverted (I’m not), and hates Broadway musicals … and I love him.

How often does your real life experience figure into your story telling? Do you base characters or stories on your actual experiences?

Real life always factors into my stories. Each book in the Dez Duchiene series takes place in a specific city – the first is Madison, the second will be Nashville, TN, and I’m able to work in real locations to make the setting vivid. Plot-wise, I deal with real issues. In Slips of Yew, Stevie is uncomfortable in Wisconsin because he sees it as a red state and feels threatened and unwelcome by the politics. A friend of mine did, in fact say that he didn’t want to visit Wisconsin for those reasons. I also explore the psychology of conservatives and liberals interacting which has become more and more of a challenge these days. And going back to hating musicals … that came from my stylist who just groaned when I told him I was going to New York City and he said “I don’t do the Broadway thing.” What a great characteristic to help smash stereotypes! (Personally, I love musicals. But Dez doesn’t need to know that).

Editing: love it or hate it?

I delight in editing. I stress over getting the initial story written. I’m a mostly-pantser in that when I get an idea, I’ll write the first draft as simply and quickly as I can to lock down the basic story – in a way, I write a wordy outline with scenes and character development! Then I go back and flesh out the details and descriptions, enhance the subplots and make sure everything weaves together nicely. Finally, I go through and line edit the book in the extreme – I search for all those annoying crutch words and actions (look, shrug, sigh, turn, etc.) and replace them with meaningful actions and/or internalization. A few more read-throughs to make sure it’s smooth and logical (had a character put on shoes three times in one scene – that needed help!) and get it ready to be published.

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

My first two books Asperger Sunset, and Ghost of Heffron College, were stand-alone books. I had little sparks of ideas for possible sequels but nothing grabbed me. I was done. The Dez Duchiene mysteries are designed to be a series, and the characters grow and change as the books progress through time. In the first book Dez and Stevie are newlyweds, by the fifth book they are approaching middle age and all the experiences that come with that. I had books 1 and 2 written, with a solid idea for book 3 and my husband and I were on vacation in downtown Chicago. We were walking along Lake Michigan and he points and says “this is where the body washes up.” By the time we reached Buckingham Fountain, I had dozens of ideas racing through my head and had to frantically type it all into my phone so I wouldn’t forget any of it! Each book is a stand-alone mystery but they will be in a specific order, with events that happen in one book informing the events in the next. I love these characters and am perfectly content to write these stories as long as I can. It’s nice knowing I don’t have to say goodbye. I would definitely miss them.

In addition to Slips of Yew, I’ve published a paranormal mystery, The Ghost of Heffron College, and a more traditional mystery with a protagonist with autism, Asperger Sunset. All three books can be ordered through your favorite local bookstore or ordered from Amazon. You can find out more on my Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Carol-Shay-Hornung/e/B00DV3VZJS/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CarolShayHornung

Blog: https://carolshayhornung.wordpress.com/

 There you have it, everyone! I can’t wait to check out Slips of Yew–I adore mysteries and I want to meet Dez for myself! Thanks for sharing with us, Carol!

Bishop’s Gambit on Sale for a Limited Time! #MFRWHooks #MFRWAuthor

I participated in a TON of events and book fairs for Valentine’s Day this year, and as such, Bishop’s Gambit has been on sale for just 99 cents! But all good things come to a close, and the discount ends March 14th!

 

So grab your copy at this great price now! And come see what people are saying about this second installment in the award-winning Redclaw Origins Series! 

Click on the PLAY button if the video doesn’t auto-start!

 

 

This is post is part of the BookHooks blog hop so check out the other great stories available on the list!

 


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I’m Starving and I Can’t Fill Up

Photo by Criativithy from Pexels

TW for eating disorders.

 

 

The struggle is real.

I’ve always been prone to using food as a reward, probably in part because food was so often used as a weapon in our house growing up. But I mean, who doesn’t think about celebrating an important event or a special date with a fancy meal? Perhaps a bottle of champagne, or a cake ordered from the bakery? Or think about how the arrival of a box of doughnuts at the office puts a happy smile on everyone’s face–even on a Monday.

We celebrate the holidays with feasting: turkey at Thanksgiving, ham at Christmas, chocolates for Valentine’s Day, candy at Easter. Then there’s the obligatory cookouts for Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day. Mega-candy holiday at Halloween and then we’re back to Thanksgiving again. And let’s not forget birthdays, anniversaries, and New Year’s Eve.

Food, glorious food, eh?

I have long used food as a reward for making it through a crappy day and have recognized the tendency to eat (especially carbs) when stressed.

But lately, it’s been more out of control than usual.

I’m not quite sure when things changed. I went through a bad year, that became a bad couple of years, that turned into a bad four years… but the weight was already creeping up before then. I have a high-stress, high-pressure job (even more so than what passes for normal here in the US) and somewhere along the line it began catching up with me. Cortisol, produced in greater amounts when you’re stressed, has a multitude of negative effects on the body, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain
  • Memory and concentration impairment

Weight crept on, became the new norm, then stabilized.

But in this past year, stability has gone out the window. In part because I’m never full. I’m never satisfied.

Oh sure. I can eat so much I don’t want anything else. And for a while, it seems to work. But in less time than you would expect, I’m rummaging around in the kitchen again, opening cabinets in the hopes of finding something that appeals. Something that would be just right. So perfect that I would eat it and go, “Now, I’m satisfied.”

Only I never am. There’s just this bottomless pit of hunger that can’t be filled.

I caught sight of my reflection in a window today, and I scarcely recognized myself. Tonight, when I found myself in the kitchen shortly after dinner poking about the shelves and rejecting all my choices, I realized I wasn’t hungry, and yet I was starving.

And I asked myself why.

A lot of it has to do with the pandemic. What doesn’t? But right now, life consists of going to work, coming home and taking care of the animals, going to bed and getting up to do the whole thing all over again. My husband, still working from home in the house in town while I tend to the farm, said today, “I get up in the morning and think, ‘What am I going to do today? Oh. Right. Same as every day. Go to work.'” He has a ridiculous amount of leave that he hasn’t taken because work demands more and more of him but as he also pointed out, what would he do if he wasn’t working?

We’re not going to ball games or horseback riding. We’re not seeing family or traveling to places we’ve always wanted to visit. It doesn’t look like that will change for most of us in 2021, and honestly, I’m not sure 2022 will be any better. I’m hug-deprived and miss simple human contact with those I love. And if I’m really being honest here, I’m staying up later and later because going to bed only brings the next day and the endless cycle of Same back around again. The sleep deprivation only makes it that much harder to roll out of bed and face that Same Old Same as well.

And so I seem to reach for food to fill all the voids, but the truth of the matter is the food isn’t all that wonderful. It’s just accessible. And when you’re completely exhausted, accessible is good enough, isn’t it?

The thing is, most of us were already sliding down into this pit long before the pandemic struck. It’s a national problem: we take pride in working ourselves to death and doing whatever it takes to keep working at an unsustainable level. We’re like rats in a maze, running the paths just to press a lever and be rewarded with a food pellet.

I suspect I’ve been starving for a long time, it’s just taken the sheer weight of the pandemic to make it utterly clear how my life has narrowed down to work and food. And now that I’m standing at the bottom of the pit I’ve fallen into, I can see it’s going to be a bitter climb back out.

So I’m going to concentrate on the things that I know will improve the quality of my life. I’m going to strive for 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week–hey, the dogs will love that! And I ordered a plant-based cookbook–there has to be something you can make with vegetables in between steamed kale and a salad. Hopefully better food choices will result in curbing this drive to eat when I shouldn’t be hungry. I’m already meditating, but I plan to spend more time in nature–I miss my long rambles through the woods. And I’m going to strive to reconnect with friends and family–online if necessary until we can all be safe again.

The days when I could eat sugar-coated cereal dry out of the box or make a stack of cheese and crackers and call it dinner are gone. That’s kid stuff. It’s time to grow up.

Because climb I must. Because no amount of food–not even eating Fruit Loops straight out of the box–is going to fill me up. And I want more out of life than to work and eat.

 

Winter Duet by Anne Barwell: Guest Post and Excerpt

Please welcome author Anne Barwell, as she discusses her WWII series, Winter Duet!

Thanks for hosting me today.

 

At the beginning of Winter Duet, book 2 of my WWII Echoes Rising series, Kristopher and Michel leave the safety of the convent in Alexanderdorf to head for Switzerland. They are supposed to meet up with the Allied team—Matt, Ken and Liang—who were sent into Germany to retrieve the plans Kristopher now carries.  However, if their journey were straightforward, it would make for a far less interesting story. I debated having them go around the areas where the Allies were bombing, then decided it would be more exciting if they were caught at ground zero.

 

Meanwhile Matt and his team leave Berlin and take an alternate route to Switzerland.  Neither group can ignore a downed RAF aircraft in the Black Forest, and so decide to look for the pilot.  Naturally they each run into problems of their own, and become separated.  When they regroup it’s not with the person they started with, and there is a new addition to the team—an injured New Zealand pilot, Leo Dawson.

 

One of the early decisions I made when I was planning Winter Duet was to have characters working together who hadn’t before.  Also, as two of the men I was throwing together had never met, it would add an extra element of suspicion and uncertainty.

 

With writing an ensemble cast of characters, I try to have more than one storyline although they come together towards the end of the book.  Having all of the characters in the same scene tends to marginalise some of them, and I wanted them to each have a decent amount of ‘book time’.

 

These men are on the run from the SS during war time and behind enemy lines, so they cannot afford to confirm their true identities to someone they’ve just met.  Then there is the language barrier.  While most of their group speak fluent German, Ken doesn’t. He knows enough to get by but as their original mission was supposed to be a simple in and out retrieval of the plans, he realises his shortcomings could be a problem.

 

“I know my limitations, and I’m following most of what you’re saying but not all of it. As long as you don’t speak too quickly I’ll be fine.” Ken grew quiet for a few minutes before continuing. “This was supposed to be a simple mission. We were to go in, get the plans, and get out. I didn’t expect to be in Germany for this amount of time. Matt would have handled most of the conversation with the locals. He sounds like one. I know I don’t.”

 

I’d wanted to play around a bit with those issues in this story, although the men do pick up more of the language they’re lacking the longer they are together. While operatives who were sent into enemy territory as undercover agents were chosen because of their language skills, others—such as Ken who is the radio operator for this team—had different skills. For example a pilot for the RAF didn’t need to speak fluent German, just know enough basic phrases so he could surrender in case he was captured.  And that’s only if his aircraft went down. So…if he meets Michel, who speaks fluent German, but not English, it’s going to be a problem.

 

Winter Duet

Echoes Rising Book 2

 

Who do you trust when no one is who they seem?

 

Germany 1944

 

Fleeing German physicist Dr Kristopher Lehrer and his lover, Resistance fighter Michel, are caught up in an Allied bombing campaign.  Separated from Michel after discovering an injured RAF pilot in the Black Forest, and pursued by the SS for the information he carries, Kristopher is frantic to reunite, unaware that Michel has been recruited by the Allies for a rescue mission.

 

Time is running out. The Gestapo is closing in. How can they decide who to trust, when the dagger pointed at Kristopher’s back could be wielded by a friend? 

 

Author’s note: This is the third edition of Winter Duet. The first and second editions were released by another publishing house.  This story has been re-edited, and uses UK spelling to reflect its setting.

 

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08VL2LQNB

Universal Link: https://books2read.com/WinterDuetAB

 

Excerpt:

Michel parted the bushes cautiously and peered through. One glance at who had provoked the response from the soldiers and he closed his peek hole quickly and stayed as still as he could.

 

“Heil Hitler!” Reiniger returned the greeting. “Stay attentive!” he snapped at them. “Now is not the time for idle conversation. Anyone caught doing so will be disciplined accordingly. Do I make myself clear?”

 

“Yes, Herr Obersturmführer,” both men chorused.

 

If Reiniger had heard any of their discussion, they were lucky to get off with a warning. Someone in their unit at the institute had been caught shirking his duties. Michel shuddered, not wanting to dwell on the details. The man’s punishment had been harsh, without mercy, and far in excess of what was required for his so-called crime.

 

“Our enemy is close by. We’ve already caught one, and I suspect his companions will not readily abandon him.” Reiniger snorted. “That weakness can be used to our advantage, so it is important we are prepared. Do I make myself clear?”

 

“Yes, Herr Obersturmführer.”

 

Caught one?

 

Michel took a sharp breath. Surely Reiniger hadn’t found Kit? Kit was with Leo. If two men had been discovered, Reiniger would have said so. Wouldn’t he? Unless Kit had left Leo and been caught a distance from him.

 

No. Kit wouldn’t… Michel mentally groaned. Of course he would, if he thought it necessary, and especially if he’d decided Michel might be walking into some kind of trap. He’d try to warn him and to hell with the consequences.

 

Reiniger turned, his eyes narrowing as he glanced in Michel’s direction. Michel held his breath, praying, hoping his hiding place hadn’t been compromised. “What are you standing here for?” Reiniger snapped at the two soldiers. “They’re somewhere close, and I want them found.” He gestured in the direction from which Michel had come. “Get on with it.”

 

“Yes, Herr Obersturmführer.”

 

The soldiers saluted and moved off. Reiniger stood for a moment, as though thinking, his face creasing into a frown, and then he headed in the opposite direction. He muttered something under his breath, but Michel couldn’t make out the words.

 

He heard breathing behind him. Close behind him.

 

Merde! He reached for his weapon, but before he could draw it, he felt the barrel of a gun pressed against his back.

 

Author  Bio:
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand.  She shares her home with Kaylee: a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning.

 

In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

 

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes.  She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ.

 

Anne’s books have received honourable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards.  She has also been nominated three times in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—twice for Best Fantasy, once for Best Historical, and once for All-Time Favourite M/M Author.

 

Website & Blog—Drops of Ink: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/anne.barwell.1

Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/annesbooksandbrews/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/annebarwell

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4862410.Anne_Barwell

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/anne-barwell

Queeromance Ink Author Page:                       

https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/anne-barwell/

Sign up for my newsletter: https://mailchi.mp/39edaba3e3ad/annebarwellauthor

 

 

McKenna Dean: Siamese Hunter

I’ve always been drawn to nature programs. I grew up watching them as a child, feeding my love of animals with the need to know more about all kinds of species. I thought seriously about becoming a naturalist, following in the footsteps of Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall. I kept little notebooks where I jotted down observations of the species in my own backyard. I learned how to identify a wide variety of birds and mammals. Our squirrels became so tame, they would wait for me on the front step to come outside and feed them each morning. One of my fondest memories as a child was spending a snow day on friend’s family farm, and identifying a large number of different animals by their tracks in the snow.

The thing that ultimately kept me from heading off to Africa to study chimpanzees in the wild was the realization that as a zoologist in the field, it would be virtually impossible to take my dog or cat with me, and I couldn’t imagine leaving my pets behind.

As an adult, I found other ways to work with animals, but I still remain at heart an observer of nature–and a sucker for anything that shows up begging to be fed.

15 years ago, I trapped, spayed, and released an ugly female cat that kept having kittens under my porch. She was too wild to catch the first year, and her kittens scattered into the surrounding land too.

Once I caught her, I was able to catch the latest litter of kittens and find homes for them all. It took me another year and a half to catch the big male that was likely the father. Once I neutered both of them, they tamed down and hung about the property, greeting me when I’d arrive home in the evenings and following as I fed the livestock.

Over the years, other cats have showed up. Again and again, I went through the taming process. Some I could find homes for. Some were too feral even once neutered. The dad cat died last year from a combination of hyperthyroidism and kidney failure. The ugly mom cat is still with me, now creaky with age and deaf as a post. I built a catio for her because its no longer safe for her to roam at large.

It’s never been safe for them to roam, however.

One of the hardest things about making yourself responsible for a set of creatures that are largely wild animals is that sometimes there’s a limited amount you can do to protect them unless you are willing to make them indoor animals. We’re already over our indoor limit here, and the one house cat (from the second litter born under our porch) is a bully who prefers dogs to his native species.

A couple of winters ago, I lost my favorite feral cat to the road, and I vowed I wouldn’t get that attached ever again.

I’d spent months taming Ghost, and while I couldn’t pick him up, he was my little shadow around the farm. I was devastated when he died.

But then a new lot of young toms began drifting in, and the cycle of trapping, neutering, and releasing began again.

Black Jack was too nice a cat to let get hit by a car, and he was fighting with Harley, the other young tom who’d showed up about the same time, so I put him in the catio rotation with the ugly mom cat (okay, her name is Psycho Kitty because before she was spayed she would attack you). Harley seemed to be smart about the road, but I overfeed him so he’ll have no need to cross it looking for food.

 

Harley disappeared for months after I had him neutered, only to show up again when it got cold. I made a kitty shelter for him out of a Styrofoam cooler and and he sleeps in it every night. Like the others, he greets me when I come home from work, and follows me (and the dogs) all around the property.

But then Judge showed up. Talk about feral. Judge is so wild, I’m not entirely sure of his/her gender. I’ve never managed to get closer than 20 feet or so. She/he is so named because I’ll catch him or her staring through the bushes in silent judgement of me.

With the latest round of ice storms, both Harley and Judge had been showing up for meals twice a day like Swiss timepieces. But just before this last winter storm, Judge disappeared for a few days. He was gone so long, I was starting to think he was gone for good, but then he showed up right as the latest bout of weather was about to begin.

And he was injured.

I could tell from the way he held one eye closed there was something wrong but what could I do? It was too cold to set out a trap, and even if I could catch the cat, I’d only be able to put eye medication in if he was sedated. Operating on the “do what you can” model, I put antibiotics in his food and did a little fist pump when he ate them.

The following day as the storm rolled in, he appeared holding both eyes open, but dear Lord, his left eye was a mess. He must have been in a fight with a penetrating wound to the globe. And short of putting antibiotics in his food, there was nothing I could do about it. The problem is, antibiotics taken by mouth seldom affect infections in the eye because the eye is a closed system. Few medications can travel through the bloodstream and have an effect on them.

I still can’t trap the cat–he’d perish exposed in a live trap overnight in this weather. I still wouldn’t be able to medicate his eye directly if I could catch him. He’d have to go someplace where aggressive measures would have to be taken (like a third eyelid flap) and I doubt the eye is salvageable.

I managed to get a good look at the eye with a 300 mm telephoto lens, and believe me when I say if it makes me cringe to look at the photo, you don’t want to see it here. But here’s a pic of Judge eating.

So I keep putting antibiotics in his food. At some point when the weather warms, I plan to trap him anyway. He’ll probably have to have his eye removed–and that will also prove problematic if he isn’t tame enough for aftercare. All I can do is watch and worry and hope for the best.

Does this make me a crazy cat lady? Probably. But I don’t know any other way to be.