Monthly Archives: June 2014

A Tale of Two Quails and the Red Menace

In my last post I talked about pushing through the common obstacles that can derail a budding writing career. I also acknowledged that once in a while life throws us a curve that sends our best-laid plans and good intentions skidding off the highway. This past weekend I hit one of those curves. It wasn’t fatigue or writer’s block, but what I would call a “collision with Nature.”

It was late last Saturday morning and, having resolved a particularly perplexing section of my latest novel, I decided to take my bike for a spin. At the end of my ride I stopped to inspect some flowers I had transplanted the previous evening and noticed quite a number of little red ants meandering throughout the flowerbed. Given their close proximity to the house, I decided I’d better nip this impending invasion in the bud. I got some spray and bait out of the garage, sprayed the ants and scattered the bait, then went inside for a shower before getting back to my book. I tossed my sweats on the bathroom floor and after my shower gathered them up to put in the hamper. A half-dozen of those little ants milled around on the floor where the clothes had been. I figured the little devils must have hitched a ride in on my socks and wet a tissue to wipe them up. But—the more I mopped, the more ants appeared. They seemed to materialize out of the floor, especially near the corner where the vanity joined to the wall.

Now, had they come bearing greenbacks and an offer to chip in on the rent, I might have reconsidered my position. Instead, they displayed a definitive resistance-is-futile-we-will-bury-you attitude that raised my hackles, and as they took up battle formations in the bathroom doorway I went for my spray can. The skirmish was brief, but brutal. Wherever they appeared I aimed and fired. (With a spray-spray here and a spray-spray there, here a spray, there a spray—well, you get the picture.) After the fog settled I cleaned up the carnage, but now another platoon marched out of the linen closet and I saw a bunch of squatters making themselves at home in my walk-in closet. I saw no holes or cracks. Where were these things coming from?

Brandishing my can, I fired again but now only a sputtering ssssst issued from the spent nozzle. The ants howled with laughter. Their mocking, high-pitched titters annoyed me worse than a squeaky violin. Shouting, “I shall return!” I bolted to my Trailblazer and raced to Fred Meyer for some heavier artillery. A half-hour later, armed with a large can of ant spray and more bait, I doused the foundation, scattered the bait, and then treated the perimeters of the bathroom and closets and as much of the crawl space as I could reach. That done, I checked the rest of the house and discovered, to my relief, that only the bathroom had been affected. The onslaught appeared to have ceased—at least, for now. But somewhere underground legions of the Red Menace huddled in a big war room, devising another plan to take me down.

With the ants off licking their wounds, I went into the living room to get back to my book. I plopped down in my favorite chair and as I reached for my laptop glimpsed an inquisitive quail peeking through the patio door. His cute little topknot waved cheerily as he bobbed his head from side to side. How precious! Calmed somewhat by this gentle presence, I decided to take a minute to step outside to my garden. It had been a couple of days since I’d even looked at it. Most places I had lived provided little or no room for vegetables, so gardening never entered my domestic routine. My current home, however, boasts a large sun-washed spot and good rich soil which I promptly filled with corn, onions, peas, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, watermelons (which really aren’t doing much), and zucchini (which is thriving and even now threatens to become a bigger menace than the ants).

The quail scurried away as I put my laptop aside and rose. As I opened the patio door another quail toddled across the lawn from the garden and, together with the first quail, ducked under the fence. I continued to the garden and stood at the edge of the lawn, hands in my pockets as I proudly surveyed my spread. Everything appeared to have grown two inches since I had last seen it, and both tomato plants abounded with small green fruits. Then my gaze wandered to the two raised boxes where I had planted the peas and carrots. My jaw dropped. Something had been nibbling my peas. Those in the first box didn’t look very bad, but the peas in the other box had been eaten almost to the ground and there was a quail-sized depression at the end of the row where the bird had nestled into the soft earth. Cruel betrayal! That sweet little bird didn’t come to my door to offer a friendly greeting. He was just keeping an eye on the old lady while the other rat with wings dusted her feathers and stuffed her beak. I knew they were simply doing what quails do, but I wanted at least some of those peas for myself! Muttering, I hopped back into the Trailblazer for another trip to Freddy’s.

Laden with netting, posts, wires, and a half-dozen shiny wind spinners, I set to work. It was not an easy task for me. The balmy breeze had accelerated to a gale; I possess no carpentry skills whatsoever; and even on a good day I am not noted for my patience. In addition, the sight of my ravaged peas, my earlier confrontation with the Red Menace, and the fact that my book wasn’t getting written had soured my mood. Nevertheless, in about two hours I managed to erect a rather unconventional-looking structure that didn’t look too much like a scrap heap and provided adequate protection for my garden.

Fast-forward to today. I am making progress on the book. My chemical force field seems to be keeping the Red Menace at bay. My anti-quail cage is doing its job and the peas are growing fat and happy again. Also, I had a new visitor. As I walked from my garden to the house this afternoon I heard a plaintive meowing from beneath a big fir tree on the other side of the fence. Calling softly, I slowly approached and knelt down to find a beautiful black and white cat staring back through the branches. I held out my hand but the cat turned and slipped away. Rising, I went back to my house. Maybe the cat does not want to be friends. Maybe he’s a feline assassin like that Puss in Boots character in the Shrek movies. . .and maybe he’s been hired by the ants and quails.

Gulp!

© Everthedreamer, 2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts an links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.

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Nurturing a Fledgling Writing Career While Keeping a Full-Time Job

My Dream Beckons

I have always been a writer.  Even in the first grade I scribbled out products of my fertile imagination on the wide-ruled tablet paper we were supposed to be practicing our letters on.  Later in life, when my career path took a direction that afforded little time for writing, worlds and characters and intriguing plots continued to burgeon within me.  My imagination never shut down and the stories just wouldn’t go away.  Finally in 2002 I decided to follow my dream and become a serious writer.  But—and this is a mighty BIG but!—I needed to keep my day job.  Food and a home and new clothes once in a while are pretty nice; and one never knows when life is going to throw a big nasty monkey wrench into an otherwise well-ordered routine.

My dream stood before me, a shining beacon soaring high above the depths of my humdrum life.  Brimming with enthusiasm and resolve, I gave it my all and for the first four years managed quite well.  I’d come home, take a walk, and then settle into my den and spend the rest of the evening writing.  I seemed to get my second wind around 8:30 in the evening.  That surge of energy kept me going until well past midnight and I pounded out two novels and part of a third.  After four years, however, 8:30 found me ready to crawl into bed.  Too many things coming at me at once left me nonfunctional and just sort of fibrillating in my chair.  As a computer programmer, I had already spent eight to ten hours hunched over a keyboard; and tight deadlines raise the stress level which, in turn, drains energy.  Even on those evenings I did feel like writing the ideas that flowed so well during the day simply evaporated the minute my manuscript appeared on the screen.  And living in an area blessed with lots of sunshine, fresh air, and ready access to myriad recreational opportunities didn’t exactly propel me to the keyboard on a beautiful summer evening.  Besides, this business of writing encompasses more than simply turning out novels; an author has to network and market as well.  Just looking at the entire package all at once overwhelmed me.  Meanwhile, on the far horizon, aloof and unattainable, my dream shrouded itself in shadow.  Its cries for realization grew fainter in the gathering gloom. . .

Shadowed Goal

OK, that’s a bit melodramatic.  But I still wanted to write and yet most evenings I did nothing.  How could I reenergize and get motivated again?

We’ve all heard the expression, “If wishes were horses, beggars could ride.”  Daydreams might produce the plot for a best seller, but they don’t actually write it.  Wishing alone won’t make it happen–I think we all know this.  But when you come home tired after a long day at work, it’s too easy to sink into a comfortable chair in front of the TV and give yourself the night off.  For me, however, the moment of truth had arrived.  I asked myself:  “How bad—really—do you want this?  Bad enough to put in the work and effort necessary to make it happen?  Bad enough to make some sacrifices?”  A few years ago I had the ambition, but somewhere along the way lost sight of the mission.  However, one of Ben Francia’s blog posts puts it very well:  The distance between your dreams and reality is called Action.  Several writers’ blogs I have visited offer basically the same advice:  Write something every day.

It’s sound advice.  Granted, there are evenings I am stressed out and, whether it be taking a drive, tearing down the bike path, or simply sitting and staring at the walls, I need that break to let my brain cool off.  You have to listen to your body, too.  Excessive fatigue like I experienced a few months ago may signal a medical issue.  Fortunately mine proved minor, and since my diagnosis and treatment I’ve regained enough energy to resume attaining my dream.  I’ve found a happy medium again:  A walk or bicycle ride after work followed by a hot shower and then at least a couple of hours of writing.  Ideas come as my fingers move, and even if I tear it all apart the following day I’ve planted seeds that blossom into new ideas.  Many a night I find myself “on a roll” and accomplishing more than I thought possible in just a few hours.  Another thing I’ve learned is to focus on one task at a time.  As noted earlier, this business has several, but if I’m working on a novel, for example, and stewing over all of the other things that need doing I don’t really get anything done.

Once again my goal is in view—and now there’s a road leading to it!

On My Way