Monthly Archives: March 2016

Missing Miss A

Our Last Basenji

Wednesday, March 30, 2016IMG_1353

This will be the last day for our sweet basenji girl Acacia, whom we usually call Miss A. For I have an appointment for us with the vet at 5:30 this evening.

This day has been coming for quite a while. About a year and a half ago, our vet showed me an x-ray and diagnosed Miss A with a mass, probably cancerous. “Okay,” I said soon after that. “We won’t do anything expensive for her like dentistry. But as long as she’s not suffering, we’ll keep going.” And so Miss A and I have kept walking around our tree-lined neighborhood, especially lovely this spring.

Progressively she’s lost weight, down to between seventeen and eighteen pounds from nearly thirty pounds when we began her diet and exercise program the day after we had to put our Cory boy, our second basenji, down almost exactly three years ago today. (Varlet was our first.)

(In case you might not know, the basenji is an African breed, and the smallest of the hounds, used in packs to hunt lions and other big cats. Basenjis have distinctive, curled tails and sharp-pointed, foxy ears. And they don’t bark. That’s the very best thing about them. They do, however, make some weird sounds or yodels. Cory was vocal for a basenji. As for Miss A, she sometimes whimpers, sometimes growls, and occasionally she can be teased into giving a hoarse “woo.”)

Now, Miss A is mostly skin and bones except for the mass, not as big around as a soccer ball, but not much smaller either. And she’s very weak. When she jumps off my bed, for instance, she totters around or even sits down at first.

Still, until this week she ate fairly well and walked with me two or three times a day except when it was rainy or very cold. But then on Monday she ate only one out of her three meals. Yesterday she ate nothing but three treats after the last of our walks. Amazingly, in spite on this, we walked three times yesterday, a lovely spring day, for a total of fifty-five minutes altogether. Then this morning, she wouldn’t walk and she didn’t eat her breakfast. She did eat some of her lunch, a tempting mix of warm water, canned dog food and dry cat food. We walked for fourteen minutes this afternoon.

But I know very well that she will continue going down hill and so today’s her last day.

I already miss her, just thinking about that appointment. And I’m also thinking about what to do when she’s gone.

Some of that involves a pedestrian, rather heartless to-do list.

1) Now we can keep the doors open to the study and my daughter’s bedroom so Miss A won’t get in and eat the covers off the books in the bookcases.

2) I can put a quilt my mother made back on my bed and leave that door open, too, now that Miss A won’t be here to try to turn the bed covers back on her own. She was never very good at that and so I have no bed covers, blankets or top sheets that aren’t torn.

3) I can give away the last bag and can of dog food, and the rest of the marrowbone treats.

At this point, you might ask, “Aren’t you going to get another dog?”

If you’d asked me that question up until very recently, I would have said, “Of course I am. And she will be a basenji, possibly about two years old like Miss A was when we got her as a rescue dog to keep Cory company.”

But now I’ve decided that probably I won’t get another dog for assorted reasons.

1) My mother’s practical voice that speaks to me inside my head from time to time says, “A dog ties you down.” This didn’t keep her from adoring our Dottie, a beagle-dachshund mix (we think) we had back in the 50’s and 60’s.

2) Caring for and feeding pets can cost a lot.

3) Walking a dog might be too dangerous for me, now seventy-four.

Here’s why I say that.

A few weeks ago on a beautiful afternoon, as Miss A and I were walking down the next street, I was gawking at a neighbors’ yard looking for signs of spring instead of where I was going. So I didn’t see that the pavement ahead was uneven. I tripped. I fell–so hard that I thought I’d broken my nose. Suddenly I couldn’t see from all the blood in my eyes. After a minute, I sat up and found a paper towel in my pocket to staunch the flow. I managed to stand up and head toward home. Luckily I met up with some neighbors who got me more paper towels and walked me and Miss A home. Soon after that, my daughter drove me to the Emergency Room where the doctor on duty put eleven stitches in my forehead. That, the worst of my injuries, came from my sunglasses grinding up my nose and into the soft flesh of my forehead as I skidded along the pavement on my face. The cranberry-juice colored bruises faded away in about two and half weeks, but I’ll be hiding that scar with bangs and make-up the rest of my life.

Luckily, I had no broken bones. I didn’t have a concussion. But here’s the thing. Next time I might not be so lucky. So chances are slim to none that I’ll get another dog, basenji or otherwise. I have walked a basenji in my neighborhood for thirty years, but Miss A will be the last.

Goodbye, sweet girl. We will miss you.

Marching On

WiP Report # 17

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Sorry, but I couldn’t resist the pun in my title. You see, the current Work in Progress, the third in my Calendar Mysteries, takes place in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago, in March 1900 and it’s called Mischief in March.

One of the most fun things about this WiP is working on it in springtime. Now I realize that probably daffodils and other flowers are blooming in 2016 three to four weeks earlier than they did in March 1900. Still, my heroine Minty Wilcox might very well see crocus like those pictured above blooming in a sheltered spot in front of her house.

Now, I must admit that I’m pretty far behind schedule on this book from where I’d hoped to be. My original concept for the series was to bring out a book a year during the month in the title. I managed to bring the eBook version of January Jinx out in January 2014 and the print version in January 2015. But I didn’t get Fatal February out until November 2015. (Sigh.)

Here are some reasons why I’m behind schedule.

1) If you’ve kept up with my periodic WiP Reports, you know that I wrote a 54,000 draft of Mischief in March during National Novel Writing Month 2015. But due to one thing and another, I didn’t get back to it until February 18.

2) And even then, it took me quite a while to regain my momentum. Tip to all you other writers out there: do it every day, so you don’t lose your momentum. So far my progress has been slow with an average production of 835 words per day. This is about half of the NaNoWriMo goal of 1,667 words a day.

3) As you might be able to tell from the photo of a corner store around 1900 below, I’m doing research as I go along. (In Mischief in March, Minty Wilcox, two of her country cousins, and the series villain visit a neighborhood grocery store similar to this one. Researching as I write also has slowed me down.

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But let’s shift to the upside here.

I’m telling myself that doing research as I go along might save me time in the long run since I’ll probably write fewer drafts than the ten or twelve January Jinx required. In fact, even though I did some research as I went along, Fatal February required only four drafts plus an overall line-by-line edit.

Some good news: last week my process sped up, and without even noticing, I blew through plot point 1, that is, the moment at which the hero (or heroes) begin the journey or the detective (or detectives) actively take on the case. That happened at 19,418 words on page 70. Multiply those stats by four and you get 77,672 words and 280 pages, a very nice size for a first draft. If I keep up the pace of 835 words a day, I should finish the current draft around the end of May.

If you haven’t read the first two in the series, January Jinx is available as an eBook at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4 and Fatal February is available as an eBook at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM. Both are available as trade paperbacks through Amazon.com.

If you have read the first two Calendar Mysteries that tell the story of Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond, please review them on Amazon and Goodreads. As the old wisdom goes, word of mouth sells. (Of course sex sells, too. I’m working on getting some sex into Mischief in March. Minty and Daniel are definitely up for it.) And online reviews are the 21st Century version of word of mouth, one kind at least. Just a few sentences of positive comments help and I would appreciate it very much. All the best, Juliet

Encouraging Feedback on Fatal February

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My dear friend and fellow writer Anne Bauman recently wrote me this letter of praise for Fatal February, the second calendar mystery. (I’ve omitted or rephrased here and there to avoid spoilers.)

Dear Juliet,

 Congratulations on Fatal February, another terrific read. Yes, I enjoyed it immensely, both as a reader and a writer. Between the lines, it reveals lots of work, thought, skill and care.

It seems to me that your characters were even better developed than in January Jinx, though the characters were well-done in [it], too. In the second novel I enjoyed the actions and especially the dialogue. Each character is distinctly developed as his own person.

Minty seems to be maturing and improving as a character. I like the way you played off [Daniel Price, the love interest] to help develop the personality of each. It helps the reader to see Minty more clearly as she interacts with the other characters.

Of course, I always enjoy reading about Kansas City around the turn of the century. Since my grandmother was a young woman at the time of your books, it’s pleasant to imagine what K. C. was like at that time and how it helped her develop her independence and self-assurance. I like the details you use to develop Kansas City as a character, too.

All in all, Juliet, you’ve created a masterpiece and I’m now looking forward to March.

Thank you so much, Anne. And I’m happy to tell you and other readers that I’m working on Mischief in March, the third Calendar Mystery featuring Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price in Kansas City, a downright dangerous place a hundred years or so ago.

If, dear reader, you haven’t read the first two in the series, January Jinx is available on Kindle at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4 and Fatal February at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM. Both are also available as trade paperbacks through Amazon.com.

And if you like these books, please review them on Amazon and Goodreads. Just a few sentences help. I would appreciate it very much. All the best, Juliet

P. S. Didn’t my daughter do lovely work on the cover of Fatal February?