Adventures in Critter Sittin’ Day 1

This month I happily volunteered to care for a friend’s menagerie of 3 chickens, 2 cats and a dog, while she spent a week away with friends of hers. She showed me the morning and evening routines, and I was excited to care for the animals!

Day 1; The dog, Petunia, is a very sweet, quiet girl, always ready for her walk. Since my friend didn’t leave until early afternoon, I only needed to go over in the evening. Fortunately Dave insisted on coming to assist me.

Walking Petunia, feeding and watering her and the cats went well. Now, to put the chickens to bed.

To our dismay, we saw that the chicken run door had been left open and 2 of the 3 chickens were strutting loose in the yard. One ducked under the chain link fence and wandered into a neighbor’s yard. I quickly closed the chicken run door then called my friend while Dave and I tried to wrangle the wayward chickens.

ME: “The chickens are loose!”

FRIEND: “Oh my God! I must not have latched the door!”

ME: “I gotta help Dave. I’ll let you know when we catch them.”

While Dave is trying to corner one of the wayward fowl, he yells, “Open the door so they can run back in.”

“No, ” I contradict. “Then this one will get out.”

Mercifully, before I did close the door, one of the chickens ran back into the safety of the chicken run.

Traipsing through 2 neighbors’ yards, we finally corner the second naughty bird between the chain link fence and a clump of ivy. Dave grabbed her by both hands and we backtracked across the neighbors’ yards, back into the chicken run.

The hens scurried into their coop and once they were secured for the night, I again called my friend and gave her the good news the situation was remedied.

We drove home in silence as the sun began to set. Thinking how glad I was Dave had insisted on accompanying me, I glanced at my fowl-wrangling husband. Before I could thank him, Dave turned to me, a look of tired surprise mixed with satisfaction on his face.

“I touched a live chicken,” he said with hints of pride and wonder. “I’ve never touched a live chicken before.”

Meet Author Michael Jason Brandt!

I met Michael several years ago when we were both signing books in a local bookstore. Besides being an author he also owns his own publishing company. Read his interview below!

1. According to your bio,you’re a specialist in history and geopolitics withdegrees in both business and international relations In addition, you’ve lived in both Spain and England. How did your education fuel your creative writing?
Great question. The business and IR degrees seeped their way into my first novel, which is set in contemporary times, far more than in any of the fantasy novels I’ve done recently. Some readers will tell you that Plagued is far too filled with history and international politics. This was by design, as I wanted there to be a story-within-a-story about how the world works today, but the reviews for that novel serve as a great reminder that readers have diverse expectations and not everyone wants their narratives mixed with information. Conversely, living in Spain had a greater impact on the worldbuilding of the fantasy novels I moved into. The setting in that series is flavored by the European cultures such as Spanish, French, German, and Roma that I was exposed to while living there. Some of the locations in the story, particularly castles, are heavily inspired by real-life sites like Schloss Neuschwanstein in Bavaria and La Alhambra in Granada.

2. Your first novel, Plagued, With Guilt, deals with a pandemic inadvertently released to the world. You’re obviously very knowledgeable about the science of diseases. In light of COVID, do you see any parallels in your novel and what the world has been coping with this year?

2020 has been terrifying, to say the least. Before this year, I would have said the most relevant aspect of Plagued is that it predicted the rise of ISIS. The Covid pandemic, however, has been eerily familiar. Not so much that the diseases are similar, which they’re not, but much of the focus of Plagued was how society reacts to a crisis in unpredictable, often irrational ways. It’s been intriguing, though not in a good way, to see that up close. And of course all the research into diseases I did in order to write Plagued gave me an early healthy respect for how serious the novel coronavirus truly is.

3. You also own your publishing company, Casus Belli Books. Do you publish books on specific topics?

Casus Belli Books was started by a couple friends and I, and originally we intended to publish a mix of fiction and non-fiction books related to war and history. Plagued might not seem to fit at first glance, but there is a strong theme of terrorism and civil war mixed in with the pandemic. The fantasy series I’m working on now is largely military fantasy.
As often happens, however, life intervenes and my partners have not finished their books…and I have plans to write a mystery or three next, so the original scope of CBB is likely to evolve.

4. What are you currently working on?

I’m working on the second trilogy of the Empire Asunder fantasy series (there are 9 books planned in all), plus a few short stories in the same universe. And working with a talented narrator to get them turned into audiobooks (currently, only the first is complete).
Thank you so much for taking the time to come up with these questions and giving me a chance to think them through. I think we often get so caught up in the now that it’s good to stop and reflect on the path that got us here.

October Book Recommendations

This afternoon the Red Hat Zoomers held their 2nd monthly Book Recommendations discussion and we got quite a variety of titles!

CHRISTINE O’s RECOMMENDATION: The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz. Christine is interested in self-improvement (although, in my opinion, she doesn’t need much improvement!) and she likes how this book explains the power of your thoughts and how eventually they will manifest.

CHRISTINE C’S RECOMMENDATIONS: Like last month, Christine is happily reading Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series set in Victorian/Edwardian times dealing with Egyptology.

LEIGH ANN’S RECOMMENDATION: Leigh Ann has moved on to Book 2 of Joy Johnson’s Boob Girls series. She finds these books “funny as hell” and will probably be enjoying this 12-book series for years to come!

BERTHA-ROSE’S RECOMMENDATION: Bertha-Rose chose The Pull of the Stars, a novel that takes place during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. Three women in Ireland–a nurse, a doctor and a volunteer–are quarantined together (timely, huh?) and touch each other’s lives in unexpected ways.

KARI’S RECOMMENDATION: As she mentioned last month, Kari is still enjoying Nora Roberts’ MacGregor Series.

CAROL ANN’S RECOMMENDATIONS: Carol Ann suggested 2 very different novels; Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford deals with America’s shameful past of Japanese interment camps during World War II. Her 2nd choice was John Grisham’s The Rooster Bar, dealing with law school scams leaving aspiring attorneys to fight back against a hedge-fund operator who also happens to own a bank specializing in student loans.

PENI JO’S RECOMMENDATION: I didn’t realize actress Hedy Lamarr was a genius until I read Marie Benedict’s The Only Woman in the Room. She fled the Nazis and gained fame as a starlet but also invented “frequency hopping,” which prevents third parties from jamming radio signals. Her inventions helped bring about WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth technologies.