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.
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.
I wrote a book review for Burrows by Reavis Z. Wortham. The review is over on the Austin Mystery Writers website. Go check it out and see what I thought of it! Austin Mystery Writers
Posted in Review and tagged Austin Mystery Writers, Must reads, Mysteries, Reavis Z. Wortham, Texas mysteries, VP Chandler by VP with no comments yet.
So it’s been quite some time since I had any super-fantastic insights regarding writing. I know I’m supposed to keep a “presence” on my site, keep engaged with my readers. Hey, I figure you’d rather I didn’t write just to write. I figure you’d rather I wait until I actually had something to say!
Well now I do.
Make time, not excuses.
I’ve been busy, extremely busy, and my schedule is about to get even more so. What could I possibly have to make me busy? Why, I’ll tell you. Here are the things that keep me busy on a daily/weekly/monthly basis (in no special order of importance)
Monitoring the Writer Unboxed page on Facebook. I don’t mind doing this because it is an honor to be a part of such a special group of writers. They are the siblings of my writer family. 🙂 Also check out the website at Writer Unboxed.com.
I try to keep up a daily presence on my Facebook author page (VP Chandler- Author). I try to share bits of wisdom from other writers and give updates about what I’m doing. Anything I post there is automatically posted on…
My Twitter page – I try to participate a little on Twitter everyday. I try to see what’s going on out there in Twitterville. I’ll admit that I don’t spend much time on it.
I will also fess up to the fact that I spend quite a bit of time on Facebook, on my personal page. I know, I know! (I think my friends are rolling their eyes and saying, “Yea, A LOT of time!”) I just can’t help from looking at kitty pictures. I’m really trying to cut back on it. No, really!
Church- I sing in the choir, work on the church’s FB page, website, help make the Sunday slideshow, besides being on a few committees, and sometimes lead a Bible study.
Book club– I love my book club! I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world. You wouldn’t think that reading one book a month takes a lot of time, but it does. I definitely get a lot out of it, more than I put in.
Reading for pleasure- Oh yeah, writers are supposed to be readers. When do I have time to read? I try to read a book of my own choosing in between book club books. I always keep a paperback in my car, and thanks to the wonders of audio books, I can also listen to one while driving.
Music – (Performing) I try to spend at least a couple of hours a week on learning music for voice/piano/oboe/ or other instrument like recorder. Yes, I’m that geeky girl who loves to play recorder. I particularly like Celtic or Native American music. I’m also learning how to play the trumpet.
Music- (Writing) I’ve written a few pieces and I’m trying to get those polished and copyrighted. I always seem to get little bits of tunes running through me head.
I’m a member of Sisters in Crime (Heart of Texas Chapter) – This is an great national and local organization for crime/mystery writers and fans of the genre. I intend to make more time for them. They meet once a month, so I think I can make it to more of the meetings. I also volunteered to help with some of the media, like Facebook.
Keeping up with this website. I know it needs some work. I know, it’s a work in progress.
Family- Oh yeah…there’s this thing called my family. I do have to spend some time with them. 🙂 Now that my son is a teenager, I feel like it’s a full time job just keeping him fed! Of course during the school year, I spend a lot of time helping Son get his homework done.
Household– Yes, let’s not forget those thankless, never-ending jobs like washing dishes and laundry, taking care of pets and plants, dusting and vacuuming, etc. I will give hubby credit for learning how to do some cooking for himself. We’ve been married twenty years and he’s learning some new skills…out of self-defense! He doesn’t mind too much if I’m spending that time writing. He keeps telling me, “I want to be a kept man so you better hurry up and write that novel and make a million bucks.” Yea, I’m working on it. 😉
Exercise– I gotta fit in exercise in here some where. I do when I can. Hubby and I usually take a walk in the evening.
Friends– gotta spend time with friends. (Isn’t there a Bette Midler song…?)
And the new, big thing is I’m now a member of Austin Mystery Writers. We meet about once a week to critique each other’s writing and give advice to each other. This is great for me because it has forced me to show my writing to someone else! And besides our own writing, we are working on a few group projects. I’ll keep you informed about what’s to come! Being with this group has forced me to refocus on writing and prioritize my time. So that’s good!
Writing– Oh Yeah…I’m supposed to be a writer. (And for those of you who have full time jobs, families, and are writers on the side, my hat is off to you!)
SO, what have I learned? How do I handle all of this? No, not by drinking. Although I think I know why so many writers turn to drink. Okay, I’m not a teetotaler, but I’m no Hemingway either.
It’s all about prioritizing and saying, “NO”. From now on, no more things added to the list. And to be honest, I think I’m gong to trim a few things from it. It also helps to just let some things go. The last couple of years I’ve been so consumed with learning everything I could about writing and publishing, that I haven’t spent much time actually writing! I tried learning everything I could. You can’t read the whole internet. I know, I’ve tried.
So no matter what you’re job or what’s going on in your life, prioritize.
And if you’re a friend and you’re wondering where I am, I’m holed up in my house, writing … and looking at pictures of kittens.
What about you? Do you have a lot of things taking up your time? Do you have any suggestions on how to manage your time?
Posted in Uncategorized and tagged #amwriting, Austin Mystery Writers, Facebook, Sisters in Crime, Twitter, VP Chandler, Writer Unboxed by VP with no comments yet.