Care, Feeding, and Training of Your Muse

I Googled the above title and found out I am not the only one who wants more control over my writing instinct and inspiration. I go to my critique group and get the best advice for the story in its current shape. I want to write! I want to use what they told me and manage at least 10k words. But by the time I go home, after stopping at one or two stores along the way, I have to put groceries away and take care of birds and clean the kitchen and get the laundry moved along. When at last I sit down at my desk I have to get up again and find where I put my laptop bag, unpack it and connect it to everything. By then my muse is sitting in a corner playing with dust bunnies. Bad Muse! No biscuit for you. Continue reading “Care, Feeding, and Training of Your Muse”

I’ve Got the Black Lung, Pup

Yes, I stole that line from Zoolander, modified it, and I don’t care who knows it. For years, every end of winter in to spring, I would get a cold that would become bronchitis. I missed a whole month of work one year. I never went into pneumonia, luckily, but I might as well have coughed up a lung. One time I went to urgent care and they decided I was so dehydrated, they put me on IV fluids. That’s the time the doctor told me to stop taking decongestants, to use saline spray once an hour while congested and twice a day when not. Continue reading “I’ve Got the Black Lung, Pup”

Who’s Your Poodle?

I have a dog, a bunch of birds, and a couple feral cats. I walk with another dog owner. I meet with bird lovers every month. My Goddaughter has a sweet cat. I check out cat pictures on the internet. And I have friends who have horses, goats, aquarium fish, tortoises, snakes, and lizards. I know very few people who do not have pets of some kind. So if all my characters do not have pets, they seem less human, somehow. I mean, how many times have you seen something mentioned in the last two years about the only president to not have a dog? Continue reading “Who’s Your Poodle?”

Another Pause

Sorry to stall our trip around the world by books again. But I need time to scope out the remaining countries and find the best stories set there. To fill this spot, let’s see if there are fun things to learn and look at involving vacations.

Books! Maybe your first thought isn’t pleasure that you can read on your vacation, but I could not go anywhere without a book. And if I were going to be gone more that two days, I would need a couple of books. And a word search book. So there are lists of books to read on vacation. Because doesn’t everyone take two weeks in Hawaii or the Bahamas? Sorry, going to the Hawaiian BBQ or the Caribbean booth at the street fair does not count.

Fodor is a name associated with travel books and such. But here’s a great list they put together on 10 Books to Read on Summer Vacation: I want to read them all, but numbers 5 and 7 top the list for me.

The New York Post is selling you the 29 Best Books of the Summer: I do like their definition of R&R.

I notice a little over-lapping of titles, which is good. This list is mostly unique from the other two:

Of course, there are some pretty awesome movies about vacations. My favorite is Weekend at Bernie’s. And I’m glad to see it at the top of the list, even though I disagree with a few of Complex’s other choices.

Rotten Tomatoes has a similar list: and just in case you aren’t a single young adult or a teenager, here is a list of vacation movies for the whole family: (nice to see some foreign language films in there)

There are other things to take care of when planning a vacation trip. Especially if you have pets. And if you want to take your pets on vacation, you can always claim the animal is a service animal. Bring Fido can give you some ideas of places that welcome a dog without subterfuge.

If you’re visiting the western states, Sunset Magazine has a list of the top 22 places to bring your dog. and Pets Welcome has information about traveling with cats for the masochists in the audience.

What about the house while you are away? Or what if you can’t afford a fancy hotel or time share? You are in luck. There are a number of services that will match you as a home owner or a sitter, like House Carers. And then there’s Home Sitters America.

Let’s say you only want to watch really nice, over the top estates and such. Look at Luxury House Sitting for a job just about anywhere, from Honolulu to Normandie, France to – La Mesa? Wait, I was born in La Mesa. That can’t be a luxury house area, can it?

Check and see if you have the luggage you need. These days, it’s pretty hard to get everything you will need packed and checked onto a plane, even if you are only sleeping over at a friend’s house. Fodor (remember Fodor?) has a list of luggage they reviewed with an eye to checking it on the plane.

And here’s a similar list from Smarter Travel for carry-on bags:

Of course, when you get back, you’ll have stories like these to tell:

Possibly these, if you are flying.

I am assuming you already have a camera to take on vacation, and not leave somewhere. So you can look at photos like this to remind you forever of the trip.

I’ll see you on Wednesday to announce the look of my heroin. So far, there have been no votes for any of the choices. That means I can pick my favorite. Have a good week.

Chance Encounters

I met my husband on-line. This was many years ago before the internet was such a big deal. We both belonged to a bulletin board system, a BBS, that specifically wanted people to get to know each other and make matches. I’d been on there for a couple years, and Mike had been on before that. He just happened to log on again, and we played in the nightly trivia game.

Many other things had to happen, and did, and we are still happy together, but I sometimes marvel that the chances of a moment brought us together.

I’m sharing most of the first chapter of my Regency Romance, The Dandy’s Wager. The chance encounter of Lady Elizabeth Underwood and Lord Robert Coleman in an old church yard sparks an attraction neither looked for. They are both there for a wedding, following which Elizabeth sneaks away in her quest for Roman artifacts and ruins. She is behind a hedge when Lord Robert and his friends come out to the yard. I hope you enjoy it.

The Dandy’s Wager

Voices from the other side of the hedge startled her out of her meditations. Smoke, too, drifted past the leaves. Some gentlemen had come out to the churchyard to smoke cigars. She shrank back to the wall, thankful for the lush coverage and concealment.

“Thank your brother for us, Rob,” one man called. “This wedding has inspired our mothers to push us toward parson’s mousetrap.”

A chorus of laughing agreement and ridicule followed. Then a different voice answered, “You know I tried to talk him out of it, Will. Being the last unmarried child, both my parents are on me now to settle down.”

Yet another man chuckled. “Perhaps we should just pick one of the pretty girls here today. None of them are hard on the eyes, and none too silly. If we have to marry, we can do worse than these, and we can make it interesting.”

A fourth man, at least Elizabeth thought this one had not spoken before, said, “We court then, wed them, and bed them–”

Shouts and comments interrupted him, mostly things she could not understand. Then Rob, the first speaker, said, “We must have heirs. Then our parents will be satisfied, and while the woman takes care of the child, we are free to return to normal life.”

“Gilbert, what say you? How can we make this interesting beyond the eventual bedding?”

“That’s simple. As long as we can each agree to which female we wish to pursue, the first one to marry will win the wager.”

Rob laughed. “A marvelous plan. Pick your intended bride and the first of us to wed will have twenty pounds from each of us.”

“Twenty pounds? And we still need to be leg shackled?”

“Indeed, Toby, a high price.” She thought this was the first speaker again, Will. “Surely 20 schillings would do?”

“Miss Twigg for me!” one of them called out. “And twenty pounds that she will marry me in three months!”

“Lady Elizabeth,” Rob pronounced, making her jump. “The only title in the bunch, and therefore my match.”

Elizabeth could not stop a gasp at this, but she covered her mouth in the next instant. The arrogance of the man!

“I will gladly try for Miss Sebastian. That leaves Miss Preston for you, Will.”

“She will do as well as any.”

A noise from the church put an end to this conversation. Elizabeth waited for the footsteps and comments to fade away. One more glance at the Roman well, and she hurried toward the gate.

She collided with something firm and unyielding as she rounded the end of the hedge. Her eyes traveled up several inches. Somber gray eyes studied her.

“Lady Elizabeth,” Lord Robert Coleman steadied her with a hand on her arm, but did not let her step back from contact with him. “You are in the habit of eavesdropping?”

“No! I wanted to see the well. Excuse me.” She managed to get her hands up to his chest and push herself away. She took a step back, and straightened her gown. Anything to not meet his disturbing gaze.

“If I promise not to court you, would you–” he hesitated and reached to take her chin in his firm grip. “Promise to not reveal what you heard?”

“I don’t know what you mean, my lord.” Elizabeth returned his look steadily. His hand, ungloved, burned against her skin, with heat and with steely strength. “But I vow I will not repeat a word of it, no matter what you do.”

He grinned and let her go. She walked around him, but before she passed the hedge, she looked back. A smile escaped her. “Perhaps I wish for you to court me.”

His eyebrows rose, causing a flutter in her chest, and giving wings to her feet as she hurried away.


The little vixen! Rob watched until the last flash of her peach muslin skirts were gone from his view. God, what a delicious pocket Venus she could be. Did she have any idea of the danger she flirted with?

He chuckled and glanced back at the well. Antiquities seemed an odd interest for a titled young woman. Intriguing.

Footsteps in the yard drew him out from behind the hedge. William St. James, his closest friend, had come back to look for him.

“Did you scare off the chit?” he asked, looking around.

“Apparently I did.” Rob clapped Will’s arm. “Come, let’s go wish the happy couple well and proceed to drink ourselves blind.”

They walked to the front of the old church. Rob’s brother, Viscount Miles Coleman, and his new viscountess Cassandra, nee Jennings, continued to talk to family and well wishers. The coach waited in the road, the flashy pair of bays showing signs of restlessness.

“Robert,” Miles flashed a strained smile while giving him a firm handshake. “Can you distract the crowd so we may leave? Cassie can’t stand much longer without collapsing.” He nodded amiably to William.

Rob looked at Will, smiling. “I don’t doubt we can think of something.”

“I know just the thing,” said Will, and he hurried off toward the church. He returned in a few minutes with his arms full of very young orange tabby kittens.

The women in the crowd sent up oos and ahs and moved in on Will. This shift opened the path to the carriage. Cassie smiled and took the arm of her husband.

“Thank you, brother.” She stretched up to kiss his cheek.

“I wish you both joy, sister. And if he does anything you do not like, be sure to send word to me. I will thrash him soundly.”

Bride and groom laughed, with Miles adding a low-voiced, “You would have to stand in line behind her uncles, you know.”

Rob managed a thoughtful look. “I suppose I will have to settle for thrashing whatever they leave of you, then.”

He watched them step into the carriage, watched the crowd realize the couple were making an escape, and watched the shower of flower petals follow the dust of their departure. An arm extended out of the carriage and coins rained down on the crowd.

William appeared, still clutching a kitten. “One left. Does she not touch your heart, Rob?”

He looked at the animal in horror. “Do you think I would allow orange fur on my black velvets or silks? Surely not!”

“I suppose I will take her, then. Perhaps Miss Preston likes cats.”

With a theatrical shudder, Lord Robert pulled a lace-edged handkerchief from his pocket and dusted the arms of his coat. But his thoughts turned to Lady Elizabeth and what sort of things she liked. With a surge of anticipation, he decided he would find out soon.

Your Hero Needs Horses, Your Heroine Needs Lap Dogs! Part 2

Hedgehogs were probably kept as pets in Regency England and Europe by little boys who found them while hiking around in the countryside. Old tales probably still existed about the hedgehog skewering fruit and other food on its quills and carrying it home that way. Hedgehogs were supposed to have two anal passages, and to mate standing up because their spines got in the way otherwise.

For a time, you could claim a three pence bounty on hedgehogs, due to the menace they posed to dairy farms and chicken coops. I haven’t uncovered how the little creatures were able to steal milk right from the cow, but they were also blamed for stealing eggs. Hedgehogs often like a little egg, with or without toast, but they are incapable of breaking a chicken egg shell.

The hedgehog is the original predictor of spring, but as there are no hedgehogs native to the New World, we switched to the groundhog. The hedgehog was also a good source of nutrition for many people. I read that some Gypsies still consume hedgehogs, and that would not surprise me. More civilized people are a bit too squeamish about eating cute little animals. But on the edge of survival any food will suffice.

Monkeys could have been kept as pets. Many royals did so, and as the Navy went to ports in the Mediterranean and Africa, sailors naturally could have bought or obtained a monkey to enliven the boring days between ports or action. If a hero was in the Navy, or the heroine from a naval family, a monkey would not be out of place at all.

Lots of material exists documenting the use of monkeys, baboons, and other primates as farm laborers, gathering everything from coconuts to rhubarb, and even pounding rice. Can you picture a Regency household with a trained monkey serving at table?

Deer became a very popular pet in the US Colonies, second only to squirrels. Taken young, they could be completely tamed for a few years. When puberty dawned, however, the animal became a bit harder to maintain. If a character in a story came from the Colonies or had served there, chances are good a deer may be a logical pet to introduce.

However, most people in Regency England were content with dogs and horses, and some cats. The more exotic animals they saw after paying a few pence in menageries or circuses. Astley’s is the most ofter referenced entertainment, and seems to have been quite a show. One could see breath-taking equestrian events, and a pig doing math. But for exotic animals, you must go to the Tower of London and see the Royal Menagerie. You might see the grizzly bear, the lions, or the alligator. You might also be unlucky enough to be there when an animal made an escape, and be a victim or see a worker there killed or maimed. How exciting!

Less bloodthirsty, the leopard at the Tower loved to jump and steal parasols, umbrellas, and anything else she could get to. She was so quick and agile that the person who lost the item didn’t always know it until the leopard had completely shredded her prize.

Some country homes had their own collections, which I bet delighted any visitors. Knowsley Hall of Liverpool had an impressive collection, started by the 13th Earl of Derby 20 years before the Royal Zoological Society began. When sold in 1851, it was advertised as the largest living collection in existence. Reproduction was the sole reason for the earl’s collections, and he occasionally turned down a single specimen if he felt he could not reasonably obtain a mate for the animal. The earl also hired Edward Lear to catalog and illustrate his collection. During this time, Mr. Lear composed The Owl and the Pussycat for the children in the Knowsley nursery. (This link will take you to a site where some of the beautiful color plates of the animals and birds can be seen. )

Traveling menageries satisfied the more common folks’ desire to see exotic animals. A showman headed the troupe, and the number of animals ranged from a few to many. In 1804, George Wombwell, a shoemaker, bought a pair of boa constrictors from a sailor, and began showing them around in drinking establishments. He made good money, and expanded his collection. Soon he had the largest in England. But being trained as a shoemaker and inclined to be a showman, he knew little about the care of these animals. The mortality rate was high, but he could still profit by either selling the body to a taxidermist or museum collection, or having the animal mounted so he could continue to show it.

An interesting note, Wombwell bred the first lion in England. He also took his collection regularly to Bartholomew Fair where he competed for an audience with another exhibitor. At one of these fairs, Wombwell’s elephant died unexpectedly, so the competitor put up a huge sign advertising that he had the only living elephant at the fair. Wombwell got the better of the situation by advertising he had the only dead elephant at the fair. Seems people were more thrilled with the thought of seeing a deceased pachyderm which they could poke and touch and get very close to, if you didn’t mind the smell.

Now I return to the question of which animal to have my heroine chase through the halls of an inn. If I return to that manuscript, at least I know I have made the choice much more difficult through my research. But I am tipping the scales towards a boa constrictor, pun intended.

Next week I will muse on the usefulness of entering contests.

Your Heros Need Horses, Your Heroines Need Lap Dogs!

Is the title of today’s blog a true statement? Well, in historical novels, the first part is mostly true. You need to explain how your people get around. If the Main Characters are well off and aristocrats, they will no doubt have a stable of horses for different needs, such as carriages, riding, hunting, and so on. But if your hero is an impoverished third son taking Holy Orders, he most likely will walk everywhere, which explains his trim and muscular physique, and will hire a chaise or borrow a cart when the need arises. Your penny-pinching villain will do the same, and your heroine governess will be lucky to afford the mail coach.

Pets are a different matter entirely. Not much before the Georgian era, which ushered in the Regency, animals were not kept as pets in Europe. While researching for this blog, I learned that archeologists have found a paleolithic era tomb in which the human was laid to rest with his companion dog (and I do not want to think that the dog was likely killed for this honor, but it seems likely) resting in his or her arms, a hand affectionately placed on the animal’s shoulder. This burial is in Northern Israel, and provides the earliest recorded link of the respect and bond between humans and domesticated animals.

But in most of the world, dogs were kept for herding, hunting, and eliminating pests. Cats were welcome for the last task as well. During the hardest times for humans, these servants were the first to go. In fact, cats were a sure sign that the old widow who barely stayed alive at the edge of the woods was, in fact, a witch. So while the companionship of pets would have brought some comfort to many, they also brought an opening for scared neighbors to take some horrible actions.

Regency Romance heroines often have lap dogs, because this was a fashion at the time. If they live in the country, they may have a cat, or have to rescue kittens when the mother cat doesn’t come home. One of my earliest writing teachers felt the use of pets in Regencies was a cliché, and we should avoid it like, well, like the plague. My first Regency romance needed to use an escaping pet to bring the MCs together. I had to think of a smart animal to use in place of a puppy or a kitten.

Understand, this was before I became a crazy bird lady. I don’t know that a parrot or mynah bird would have worked. I chose to use a piglet. (Side note: A Chinese ideograph for “home” combines pig under a roof.) I could not find any sources in my research documenting the keeping of any pigs as pets until very recently. I know there had to be a rare and unusual person or two who did keep a pet pig. But that would not have been normal or usual, and as evolved in my story, the piglet eventually had to be placed in a farm where it would live probably less than a year before transforming into yummy things like bacon, ham, and sausage.

While researching the pig, Uncle Google continuously offered me links to guinea pig information. A guinea pig, or cavy, certainly is a period pet for the Regency era, and would have worked fairly well in my story. Except that they aren’t very affectionate until a relationship has developed, and that didn’t work with my plot.

Parrots would work in the plot, but that would be a border-line cliché. Song birds were not that common as pets until the early 20th century when canaries ruled. Mynahs would have worked, again as period with the trade and administration of government in India, but a mynah escaped would be difficult to recover.

Reptiles? Oh, yes, picture a Regency heroine chasing a monitor lizard or iguana through a hotel. Picture the hero getting up the courage to touch the thing. Seriously, had he a gun at hand he would shoot it, most likely. Miniature horses were kept only by the really rich, royalty, and not the same as the mini horses we have today. Monkeys were period, having been kept by sailors for a few centuries, but not very lady-like. Another issue with both monkeys and parrots would be the constant deposits of, shall we say, guano on the shoulders of the pet keeper.

I want to look further into animals like the hedgehog and more domesticated animals, but that will have to wait for another day. I will take time here to say that I see a correlation to the rise in popularity of pets, dogs especially, to the way children were raised at the time. Not to say there weren’t deep and loving relationships between parents and children, but the mode of the day for the middle and upper class was to pass your children off from birth to others. Wet nurse, nanny, governess or tutor, and so on. These main members of the child’s world might often pass away or leave for reasons unknown. And the nanny or tutor might not be a cheerful or affectionate soul.

Where could a lonely boy or girl turn for unwavering affection, devotion, and companionship? A dog would fill the space admirably. A kitten or cat might possibly do, but dogs were more reliable. Cats were rarely kept in any safe place at night, and could be killed by local foxes or under coach wheels while out prowling. But dogs usually had a bed in the kitchen if not in someone’s bedroom, or at the very least in the stables or kennels. I know from my own childhood that the presence of a pet can make up for the lack of many things, and I believe this held true in other times.

Next week, I will explore more pets and look at the various collections of exotic animals in Regency England.