People have been telling me that I should write some of the true stories that are behind the story of my novel, Gilt Ridden, and other stories that inspire my writing. So, I’m writing a series of blog posts that I’ll call The Stories Behind the Stories.
This is the story of the first rattlesnake that I found in our house when we first moved to our Double Mountain ranch. I included it in some of the first drafts of the book, but later I omitted it and just referred to it in dialogue. People said I had too many rattlesnake scenes already.
We had moved to our ranch Easter weekend. The weather had been hot and dry, but a cold front brought much-needed rain and a drop in temperature. Unfortunately, rattlesnakes were looking for a warm place too.
My husband was off at work at his job in Sweetwater, a 45-minute drive away, and my son and I were playing on the floor of the playroom. We had been playing on the floor for probably a couple of hours and I decided to plug in the phone. (Yes, that was back in the days of phones in the home.) I was looking for the phone outlet and pivoted the couch away from the wall to get to it. I was shocked to find a curled-up rattlesnake. I looked at it for a couple of seconds because my mind didn’t want to register what I was seeing. It was happily asleep, no worries.
I picked up my son and placed him on his bed. He was three at the time. I told him to stay on the bed and I explained the situation. He wasn’t having it. He wanted to stay by my side.
I went back to the playroom to check on the snake. I think it was awake now and not happy with me, but it still not moving. At this time in my life I had seen many rattlesnakes. We had also lived on another West Texas ranch years before, but I had never killed one. My husband had always been around to do it. I tried calling him from the kitchen phone but his employer had not paid their phone bill so my husband’s business phone was not working.
I probably said a lot of cuss words, at least mentally. (Son was still stuck to my leg, not wanting to leave.)
I knew there was a shovel on the porch because we had killed a rattlesnake on the porch a couple of days prior. It had been raining when we were moving in (of course) and it had come up onto the porch. The door had been wide open as we brought things inside. I remember thinking at the time how lucky we were to have found that snake before it had gotten into the house!
So, I got the shovel, went to the playroom, kid still stuck to my leg. I told him to move away and he wouldn’t let go. I yelled at him and stomped the floor to emphasize the importance of listening to me. That only made him hold on tighter. And the stomping on the floor was irritating the snake and he started uncoiling to move to another location.
I think I actually said some curse words aloud at this point.
So, I moved forward and planned my attack. I remember standing there, thinking that I was glad that he was a regular-sized snake, maybe two and a half feet, so his striking distance wouldn’t be far. Even though the shovel was a regular-sized shovel, my arms are really short, I wanted as much distance between us as possible. As I planned my attack, I learned something. Sometimes the more that you think about doing something that you’re afraid to do, the more you can start scaring yourself. I didn’t want to be there. But if I left, then who knows where the snake would hide? And then we’d still be faced with having to get rid of it.
I knew I had to attack before I got too afraid. I hit it with the flat side of the shove, and it got really mad. The second thing I learned that day, killing a rattlesnake on padded carpeting is a lot more difficult than you think it would be. All I did was make it really mad. It started winding and unwinding himself, trying to figure out who the hell I was, why did I wake him up, and what did I have against him?
Since that wasn’t working, I used the edge of the shovel blade. I placed it right behind his head and pushed down. Nothing. So, I pushed harder and sawed back and forth. As my son was still grasping my leg, I was thinking that at least if it left a bloody spot on my new carpet that it would be hidden under the couch. (Hey, I worked really hard to find that good carpet at a decent price!)
I think at this point I had it incapacitated enough that I scooped it up and take it outside to finish the job. After it was over, I had a discussion with my son about the importance of listening to me. Unfortunately, over the next six years we were faced with the same dilemma six more times. But every time I told him to get on his bed until I gave the all clear, he did it. He also got very good at spotting rattlesnakes that I didn’t see.
Maybe for the second story I’ll tell you about the second half of this day and how I learned about the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup.
Thanks for reading this if you’ve made it this far! One of the reasons I write the stories about West Texas is to show the world what it’s like.
Posted in Observations, Writing and tagged Double Mountain, Gilt Ridden, Ranch life, Rattlesnakes, VP Chandler, West Texas, Westerns by VP with no comments yet.
Yesterday a dream came true for me. I got to discuss my book, Gilt Ridden, with my book club. No, you didn’t miss the publication date. It’s not published yet. They agreed to be my beta readers (aka guinea pigs) and give me feedback.
And since we met at my house, I thought I’d have some fun with it. I decided to make it a themed party! Check out those gold coins, delicious chocolate of course.
For food I tried to make snakes with the cinnamon rolls but the eyes didn’t quite turn out right. The nonpareils I used melted and the color ran. Even though they looked like they were hemorrhaging dark blood from their eyes, they tasted good! (Hence, no closeups of the “snakes”.) Yes, that’s a typical result of cooking experiments for me.
The beer you see is some of my favorite. It’s Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy. I thought it was a Texas beer, alas, it’s not. But it has a German name so it also goes with my story. 😀 One of my protagonists has a German name. The wines are Texas wines. I didn’t get a chance to taste them. But I’ve heard good things about them. I liked the labels.
We had such a good time sitting around and chatting. It was neat for me to ask, “What did you think about…?” “Were you confused by…?” “Did you catch the hidden mystery with…?” If was so fun! They said they couldn’t put it down. (Whew!)
They gave me constructive feedback and I’ll use it to tighten up my story. Hopefully I’ll be shopping it around soon. I surely know that their comments and encouragement helped me immensely!
If you read the book and would like to host your own Gilt Ridden party, I’ve made a Pinterest board full of ideas! Gilt Ridden Book Club board.You’ll also find other Gilt Ridden pictures on another Pinterest board. I also have boards on History, and Texas History, among other things.
Posted in Book Club, Event and tagged beer, Book Club, chocolate coins, Gilt Ridden, gold, snakes, Texas wines by VP with 3 comments.
One thing I like about being in a book club is that I get a chance to read books that I hadn’t heard of. And since I hadn’t heard of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s story, The Secret Lives of Cats, I’m glad that it came to my attention and I had a good excuse to read it.
Amazon describes it as: Winner of the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Readers Choice Award for 2008, this Anthony-nominated story was one of the most talked about stories of the year.
I can believe it. I was drawn in by its first sentence. “Homer Ziff didn’t believe in old adages, but after his long and eventful spring, he couldn’t help but think that whoever put the words “curiosity,” “cat,” and “kill” in the same sentence had to be onto something.”
I like curiosity, cats, and of course crime fiction. So I’m there! You got me. (And look at this awesome cover. I love it.)
I like the premise. Ziff wonders where his cats go during the day so he attaches a small camera to each cat’s collar. The camera takes still photos, not video. (This was written when GoPro was still new and incredibly expensive.) Every day he downloads and saves many of the photos to see where they go. He notices that they go to a place where other cats congregate and sit there. Are they looking at something? What are they doing? He’s fascinated and after several days it becomes apparent that what they are looking at are bones, human bones.
He calls the police. “When the operator answered, he said, “I think there’s a dead body in my neighborhood.” And that brought the detectives to his door.”
He has to explain to them that the cats have found a dead body, but he doesn’t know exactly where it is. And he has to do this without sounding crazy or guilty. Fortunately for him, one of the detectives understands right away.
I’ll let you read the rest of the story to find out what happens. I thought it was a full-length book so I was a little disappointed that it was a short story, only 33 pages long. I wanted more! I liked everything about it, the characters, the descriptions, and the plot. I thought it moved right along.
I highly recommend this short read and I’ll definitely be reading more by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I was curious to see what else she has written and was thrilled to find that she also writes a lot of sci-fi. I’ll confess that I’m a bit of a Trekkie so I was tickled to see that she’s written a few ST books too! (Insert The Original Series music here. Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ahhhh.)
So go check out The Secret Lives of Cats and the other books listed on her site. https://kriswrites.com/
Happy hunting and live long and prosper!
Posted in Review, Writing and tagged Anthony Awards, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Sci-fi, Star Trek, The Secret Lives of Cats by VP with no comments yet.
Today I wrote a little something about one of my favorite book stores. So click on the link and head on over to Austin Mystery Writers and check it out!
Posted in Austin Mystery Writers, Book store, Writers and tagged Alexandra Burt, art, Austin Mystery Writers, books, Dutch Curridge, George Wier, Joe Lansdale, Kathy Waller, Laura Oles, Nacogdoches, Scott Montgomery, Tim Bryan, VP Chandler by VP with 1 comment.
These books look so good that I wanted to share this with you. Parts of my book, Gilt Ridden, also take place in West Texas during this era. CrimeReads is a great source for learning about old and new books.
Posted in Writing and tagged #amwriting, CrimeReads, fiction, history, Must reads, Mysteries, writer research by VP with no comments yet.
Here’s the Goodreads description:
Can a person ever really disappear for good by going off the grid? And what happens when vanishing is no longer an option?
Sarah Keller is a single mother to five-year-old Zoe, living quietly in Oklahoma. She’s also a skip tracer, an expert in tracking people who’ve gone on the lam to avoid arrest, prosecution, or debt—pinpointing their locations to bring them to justice.
When a school bus accident sends Zoe to the ER, their quiet life explodes. Zoe’s medical tests reveal what Sarah has been hiding: Zoe is not her daughter. Zoe’s biological mother—Sarah’s sister, Beth—was murdered shortly after the child’s birth. And Zoe’s father is missing and presumed dead.
With no way to prove her innocence, Sarah must abandon her carefully constructed life and go on the run. Chased by cops, federal agents, and the group responsible for Beth’s murder, Sarah embarks on a desperate journey. Can her knowledge as a skip tracer help her stay off the grid, remain one step ahead of her pursuers, and find a way to save her daughter?
And let me add, the “group responsible for Beth’s murder” are some of the scariest people I’ve ever read about. The Fiery Branch of the New Covenant, is a cult that spreads across four states, led by Eldrick Worthe, who is a creepy and scary SOB. You know, kind of guy that gives white trash a bad rep. And although he’s in prison, he still rules the clan/cult very effectively. They are determined to get Zoe because they think she’ll be the one to herald the new era for the cult. This family is full of meth heads and terrorists that have no qualms with doing whatever they think is necessary to get Zoe. And the creepiest of the family were Fell and Reavy. *shudder*
Keller is a good and solid character. I learned some things about being invisible to “the system”. And I enjoyed her relationship to Zoe. Zoe is a little mature for her age, but it worked for me. I assumed that if her mom is a skip tracer and knows the constant danger they could be in, she’s going to teach a thing or two to her kid along the way.
Throw in an FBI agent looking for vengeance, a U.S. Marshall who helped Keller years ago, and a few other characters, and you have a great cast. I’ve seen some other reviews that say this isn’t her strongest book so that whet’s my appetite for more from Gardiner.
So what’s the verdict? It’s a wham-bam, edge of your seat thriller! This book had me rushing through the pages until the very end. It was going by so fast, I felt I could hardly catch my breath.
Posted in Review and tagged Meg Gardiner, Signet Books by VP with 1 comment.
A big thank you to Hopeton Hay and his interest in our anthology, Lone Star Lawless. It was my first time to be on the radio! I was so nervous that I forgot to talk about more stories and I forgot to mention that all proceeds will go to the Port Aransas Library. I also want to thanks Scott Montgomery and Molly Odintz for letting me be a part of it.
Posted in Austin Mystery Writers, Interview and tagged Austin Mystery Writers, Hopeton Hay, KAZI, Lone Star Lawless, Molly Odintz, Scott Montgomery by VP with no comments yet.
I just finished Not A Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie. It’s the first Crombie book I’ve read and I enjoyed it. I know, I know, it took me a while to get around to reading one of her books, but I can tell you, it certainly won’t be the last.
The body of a rower, who has been training for the Olympics, in found in the Thames. Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid gets the case. Soon after, his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, indirectly joins the investigation by means of working on another case. The victim had been a police officer in James’ jurisdiction so the team has to walk a fine line while investigating other officers.
The story has many suspects and twists and turns, but not too many. It was easy to keep track of who was doing what. There’s corruption, heartbreak, scandal, PTSD, many things that kept my interest and had me turning pages. Oh, and if you’re a dog lover, you’ll like it. I was particularly interested in the process of rescue and recovery using dogs. She goes into it in some detail and she showed the personality of the two dogs in the story. One of the dogs also helps a character with his PTSD, which I liked and found interesting.
Crombie also delved into the world of competitive rowing. What little I know on the subject is from reading The Boys In the Boat, by Daniel James Brown. (I highly recommend the book. It’s about the young men who competed on behalf of America in the 1936 Olympics.)
So this story was much more recent and it showed how the British upper class revere the sport. The terms Blue Team and Blue Boat figure prominently throughout the story. Learned a thing or two. Apparently rowing for Cambridge in the blue boat carries quite a bit of prestige, which I assumed it would.
As a side note, I find it intriguing that Crombie writes about Britain and British society since she was born an American and is currently living in Texas. I see in her bio that she lived in England for a while, so I think that explains why she’s so adept at it. I find the whole process of writing about another culture interesting.
So go check it out. It’s a quick read. Trust me! If I can breeze through it, you can too. Enjoy!
Posted in Review and tagged Blue Boat, Boys in the Boat, Cambridge, Daniel James Brown, Deborah Crombie, No Mark Upon Her, rowing, V.P. Chandler by VP with no comments yet.