The Box of Shame

Zim in the box of shame. As you can see, he’s showing no remorse for his deeds.

Last year I took my two cockatiels to the vet after the older bird, Peachfuzz, became listless for a couple of days. One off day isn’t a big deal, and they were molting, which usually means they’re grumpy and sleep a lot, but Peachfuzz is about 21 years old and I didn’t want to ignore something that might be serious. So I packed them up in separate paper shoeboxes and took them to the vet.

Now, Peachfuzz is a real trooper. He put up with having to stand on the scale to be weighed, allowed the vet to listen to his heart (and discovered there were buttons on the vet’s shirt — buttons!), and even toughed it out when it came time to have a blood sample drawn. The only reaction he had was to clench his foot, and having blood drawn is not a small issue for a small bird! But Zim, who is 10 years old, is literally a bird of another feather. He screamed his head off the entire time that the vet was handling him and I’m sure some (I mean, all) of the squawks were the equivalent of four-letter words. Worse, he bit the vet. Twice.

So this year when I took them for a yearly physical I hoped it would go easier. Nope. Peachfuzz just hung out and smiled at the vet’s assistant (yes, animals do smile), but Zim wouldn’t even allow himself to be weighed. This horrible activity consisted of having to stand on a plastic perch attached to a support, which was then put on a scale. Really, it was a bird toy, but Zim flew around the exam room in terror of the multi-colored plastic monstrosity until he was exhausted and landed on the floor, where he promptly tried to hide under a chair. I scooped him off the floor, and that’s when the assistant pulled out the plastic bin. Yep, the plastic box of shame. In you go, Zim!

Of course, he bit the vet again (twice), but the squawking was a bit less than last year’s fiasco. This year I boarded the birds at the vet’s while we went to the Maine Astronomy Retreat and they reported that both birds were well behaved, and had enjoyed whistling with the vet. My husband had worried there would be a Band-Aid surcharge on top of the board fees, but happily everyone survived the ordeal with minimal distress. There’s real hope for next year’s exam!



You Mean I’m Not Rich?

This morning I was checking the spam folders on my email accounts and discovered that the White House Chief of Staff had sent me an email to let me know that I won a whole lot of money. Woot!

And it must be real! I mean, if the email were from a Nigerian prince I wouldn’t fall for it, but if the White House says it’s true, I guess I should be watching my mailbox for that check to arrive. And here I thought Monday was going to be filled with work and no play!

In other news, I’ve put in an application for Corrugated Sky to do a day table at the Baltimore Book Festival in September. The show is juried, which means that just because I sent in an application doesn’t mean that I’m automatically getting a spot under the big tent — and there may be a waiting list, too. I’ll post more about the festival when I get more information.

Thursday Writing Prompt No. 145

We’ve had some record rainfalls in the Maryland area and some nasty flooding. While there have been jokes about building an arc or buying a boat, the floods have had devastating effects on some areas, such as Ellicott City, Maryland.

I don’t want to make light of a serious situation, but the constant rain and overcast skies are taking their toll in more ways than one. And so for today’s Thursday Writing Prompt your topic will be rain. (Surprise!) And to mix things up even more, I’m asking you to write a short poem about rain. Even if you never write poetry, do the exercise and see what you come up with. It doesn’t have to be an award-winning verse, just write whatever comes into your head.

One way to approach poetry is to pick up a pen and paper rather than use a computer or tablet or phone. I find that doing things old-school tends to slow me down, but for writing poetry that’s just the mindset you want to cultivate. Typing fast is great when I’m on a roll with a story or novel, but sometimes it’s just better to take the extra time for musing.


More Steam!

This week we are promoting our Steampunk anthology, Smoke and Steam, Corrugated Sky’s second title. The four stories are novella length, and yes, there are airships!

I’m answering the question about what inspired my story “Hekatite.” When we first decided on a Steampunk theme for the second anthology I began thinking about Victorian adventure stories, which is something that’s always had appeal for me. Journey to the Center of the Earth? Check. The Time Machine? Check. The Mysterious Island? Check. Check.

Combine that interest with the fact that I’d written about Arctic and Antarctic exploration a couple of years back for an encyclopedia that is coming out this year, and I suppose the germ of an idea was hatched. Oh, and throw in a James Bond-esque island with a hidden warehouse inside it, and you have Seacombe.

My story “Hekatite” takes place in the same world that my novel Seacombe Island is set, and includes three characters from the novel. The events in the novella take place roughly five years before the events in the novel and the story fills in some back story for the characters as well as information about Hekatite, the mysterious fuel that everyone wants to get their hands on. Hekatite is a volatile energy source that is refined from the Hekate orchid, a fictitious plant that grows only on Seacombe. Unfortunately, while the Hekatite is a great source of energy, it’s also quite poisonous.

Ha! You knew there was a catch, didn’t you? Well, there wouldn’t be much story if everything was so easy!

Now as it happens, I wrote “Hekatite” before I finished the final round of drafts on Seacombe Island. I found myself stuck on a few details about the protagonist and his interactions with a few of the characters, and writing the short story helped me sort out quite a few plot issues that I hadn’t managed to get a handle on. “Hekatite” is a fun read and I think you’ll be hooked and want to read the novel. Or, if you’ve read the novel, pick up the anthology. And if you haven’t read either, get both books! It won’t matter if you read the story or the novel first; while “Hekatite” fills in some blanks, it won’t spoil the plot of the novel and you’ll feel superior when you have an inkling of what’s happening while the novel’s protagonist, Thomas Ashton, is still trying to figure out what’s going on at Seacombe Island.

And actually, I’m still trying to figure out Seacombe Island. I’m sure the island is big enough for a few more mysteries — and a few more stories.