Category Archives: Cricket and Grey

The Themes Guiding Cricket and Grey, Book 2

spider web

Before I turn my attention to sewing today or working on my Sugar & Pith website as I did all day yesterday, I want to do a little exercise for book 2 of Cricket and Grey. No one need stick around for this. I want to focus my attention on what themes dominate book 2, what the feeling of it needs to be, and words that encapsulate those things. A stream of consciousness activity to focus my energy back into the book. Feel free to adios yourselves if this is not something you want to read.

The theme of book 1 was death and sleeping dogs. It was about maturation, stripping away of old selves and old lives and old lies to reveal truth and through truth, deaths that make way for new life. Winter. This is what winter is.

The theme of book 2 is hunger. Scarcity, desperation, PTSD. Planting seeds for the future, making blueprints with which to build something new from the bones of the dead. Reorganizing family roles. Exploring purpose, leadership, and vision.

When we’re connected with the seasons through nature we find out that spring is the hungriest season. Most people think winter is the lean time  because it’s cold and nothing is growing but the truth is that what we harvest in the fall usually sees us through the winter but by the time spring comes along the stores are low and most food is still just in seed and seedling form. Spring is a strange paradox between desperation and hope. In early spring the sap of plants begins to flow allowing new leaves to bud and seeds to rise through soil to the light, signs of life and renewal humans find hopeful and happy. At the same time, many beings are weak with hunger and more vulnerable to disease. Disease is more prominent with a combination of moisture and warmth, spring weather, depending on where you live.

Cricket and Grey have gone through hell and torture during the winter and in early spring are still recovering from the damage to their bodies. They have each other but what the future holds after all the changes and deaths the winter brought is unclear. They don’t know the way forward and before they have a chance to explore it a stranger arrives in their life that causes deep waves in more than just their own lives. Waves that reach out to other families and the community at large. While struggling with PTSD and the monotony of dried fish soup they are propelled forward mercilessly by other people’s needs. Cricket makes a rash decision that separates her from Grey, Julie, and Matt. In a much harsher environment from which there is only a 50% chance she’ll survive, she begins to see her path forward, her greater purpose.

As a side note, I don’t believe that one needs a “higher purpose” to make life meaningful so it’s curious to be giving a higher purpose to my main character.

Cricket has always been an able follower of the discipline her parents imposed on her, a capable soldier who doesn’t question her leaders. In book one she experiences a devastating disillusionment and realizes she’s believed her parents, not questioned them, and finds they’ve lied to her. She realizes how sheltered she’s been from having to be truly independent. It’s actually in her nature to be independent but she’s leaned heavily on her parents as guides. In book two others start seeing her as the natural leader she is but it takes her time to see it for herself. She inspires people to action but learning to do it with purpose is the growth she experiences in book 2.

The atmosphere of “Spring” shifts subtly between light and dark. Bright green and streaks of warming sun shimmer through days of cold rain. There is a feeling of oppressive anxiety shot through with points of hope and action.

To pinpoint the actual atmosphere I’ll need to do a free-write on its own with the proper soundtrack.

Babushka Nation

happy babushka

Five years ago, wearing my favorite fashion accessory of all time – the Babushka. You’ve all seen this pic a thousand times but sometimes the only picture that will do for a post is an old favorite one.

I’ve always been a rustic old peasant lady at heart. I love simple food best. I need a strong connection to dirt* to feel whole. I love beets. I mean, I LOVE BEETS AND EVERY TIME PEOPLE MAKE SNARKY REFERENCES TO RUSSIANS SMELLING OF BEETS I EXPERIENCE THE FAMILIAR PANG I ALWAYS DO THAT I’M NOT AT ALL RUSSIAN AND ALSO THAT I DON’T EVER SMELL OF BEETS EVEN WHEN I’M ELBOW-DEEP PICKLING THEM.

toothy smile 2

My soul smells of beets, wet dirt, black wool, and rope soles.

Today it was almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I was covered shoulder to shoe in mostly black. Was I uncomfortable? Hell yes. But I could have been naked and I’d have been just as uncomfortable. My pants are long and drapey with an attached over-skirt. It has a Muslim or Indian feel to it. But mostly I felt like an old Greek woman today. An old Greek woman missing her babushka. A babushka is a brilliant accessory. It protects you from religious outrage against bare heads, against scalp sunburn, against the dreaded bad hair day, and it achieves membership in a non-exclusive club of super-gritty street smart women (and perhaps a few men?) who know how to pickle EVERYTHING and throw darts and get a mule to co-operate and other things way more important than world domination or gun ownership.

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Why fight it when you’re finally old enough to pull off the person you’ve always been? I’m fat, middle aged, and I haunt the local farm. I wear mostly black and yet I’ve become too lazy to apply makeup and arrange a babushka over my head? I’ve been an old lady out of context for my whole life UNTIL NOW.

stupid contrast

Many years now I’ve been most at home haunting my local farms. Breathing in the dust of hard dry tractor paths, collecting yellow tomato dust on my dry dirty fingers, saying ridiculous things only geeks or old ladies would say while my vegetables are being weighed. Uncomfortable with my Carson McCullers soul living in a Stephenie Meyer world, finding the farmer’s skull scars oddly attractive, crushing slightly on the farmer’s daughter slowly morphing into the farmer’s son.

Nowhere else am I more myself than in the middle of a mile long row of farm tomatoes. Nowhere else am I more myself than when I’m aproned, grimy with vegetable juice, hair covered in a scarf, and singing working class ballads into the hot summer breeze.

That’s a lie. The other time and place I’m most myself is during torrential downpours, out in the open, streaming with mountain water, laughing like a fucking loon and dancing like someone who knows hollow shadows. I AM rain. I AM snow. I AM bird.

I’ve been wearing a babushka since I was a teen. I’ve let it slide lately. Let it fall by the wayside. My national attire is a babushka, a fitted jacket, an ankle length voluminous skirt, Ghillie brogues, and red lipstick. Give me my office, I can rip your soul from your skin if you can’t give me room to breathe.

Just kidding. I don’t have power over you.

Much.

Knowing what you’re made of gives you power over the outcomes of your actions.

I’m not your cheerleader, I’m your grandmother. I tame kittens, make the best spinach pie, can stop your knee from bleeding faster than the ER, and I’ll shed my ghosts so they’ll only haunt you when you most need them. I come with a stick of butter in my spoon and olive oil in my pot.

 

*I’m sorry Dennis, it’s more satisfying sometimes to call it dirt than “soil”. I cringe in your honor every time I say it.

Book Trailer Idea Post

brokedown horse fence

This post is meant as an inspiration board for a book trailer.  That is all.

water hemlock 2

field of camasbroken fencedust cloudhorse and petals

real American home squalor Yamhill riverscatter shot   The unnamed bent shot Starting image is broken down rural scenery going by?

***

She moves like an immature leopard.  Restless.  Wonder what it would take for me to see her teeth?  She’s hungry for more than food, that girl.

She’s sniffing the air to see which way my scent is coming from.

Her skin smells exactly like her mama’s did.

Before I touched it.

***

Stack of old photographs fall from a shelf floating to the floor of a rustic room

***

Seeing my work spread across her bedroom caught my breath.  Touching the photographs brings me back.  I can almost taste the burning.

The necklace smells like her mother.  I went back to the place where I waited.  I couldn’t find it.  She was there.  I know she found it.  I know she found it.

***

There’s a gold necklace with a thistle pendant on the forest floor – a hand reaches down and picks it up – you see just from the torso down, hand hanging at side with the necklace hanging down in hand with blood dripping from the hand and down the necklace.

***

Little leopard moves like I move.  She feels me in her muscle now.  She’s low to the ground and invisible, like I’m invisible.  The boy rots her at the edges, like a sandwich gone soft at the crust, falling apart in her fingers.

***

Feet rush through the forest – shot just of feet (with old work or combat boots on them) – the angle is as though the viewer is crouched down hiding from the person in the forest.

***

You think it will come down to drawing fastest.

But you can’t outrun me.  You can’t lose me.   Those photographs are your garrote.

***

Hands holding a pistol fires off three shots

***

I’ll never be full without you.  I’ll never be finished without you.

Finding the Perfect Disease: 20 facts and thoughts on human diseases

mustard in field

I spent more than 5 hours reading about infectious diseases yesterday because syphilis just might not be the disease I need for my novel.  Or it might not be the only one my character has.  I was looking for the following qualities: urgent symptoms, curable, fatal if not cured in time.  The problem with syphilis is that in the first two phases (when it’s still treatable) the symptoms tend to be so mild that people often don’t even know they’re really sick.  Each phase also has the potential to last from a few weeks to years and years.  So there’s no urgency for fictitious purposes.  For people like me, who are slightly possibly a little bit prone to catastrophizing absolutely every physical pang or headache into a brain tumor, doing medical research can be dangerous.  The thing is, I find medical research irresistible.  My curiosity is insatiable.  I want to know ALL THE BAD CREEPY STUFF THAT CAN HAPPEN TO HUMAN BEINGS!!!

Here are some things I learned yesterday

1.  Typhoid Mary was a real person named Mary who spread typhoid to a ton of people because she was a carrier that didn’t ever get sick and was also a cook who didn’t believe in washing her hands.

2.  Only 1 in 10 people infected with tuberculosis ever have an active infection.  It is believed that 1/3 of the world’s population is infected with M. Tuberculosis.  That’s 1 in 3 people who have latent tuberculosis.  Could YOU be harboring the bacteria in your tissue?*

3.  If you read about a lot of diseases and their symptoms it becomes impossible not to see that the job doctors have of diagnosing is a lot more complicated than people in distress will ever admit.  You think it should be obvious to people with really extensive and expensive educations but the symptoms of HIV are a lot like the symptoms of TB which are a lot like the symptoms of syphilis.  So don’t be an asshole to doctors because they don’t know EVERYTHING.

4.  Smallpox was a badass health villain.  I mean – it is a nasty nasty virus.  I knew it was a nasty virus but I didn’t realize what a pandemic it was and the word “vaccination” was coined because of the improved inoculation against smallpox that came about by a doctor discovering that cows get a smallpox humans can’t get but that introducing the cow’s smallpox virus to humans would protect against the human smallpox virus with a high rate of immunity.  The root of the word “vaccination” is cow.  I never knew that.

5.  Smallpox vaccinations were made mandatory in many developed countries and it was because of this that smallpox was eradicated and all vaccination programs for it were deemed no longer necessary by 1976 with the US being the last to discontinue it.  When you think of vaccinations being evil – you just read the statistics on rate of the smallpox vaccination killing patients compared to the rate at which smallpox kills people who aren’t vaccinated.  If you still think they’re evil then I think you haven’t read enough about smallpox and how likely it is to kill everyone you know.

6.  I saw pictures of people infected with smallpox.  They should show these pictures to people in school when learning about plagues that have killed off large populations of people.  It really hits home.  This is no little “rash” as I always thought.  It’s gnarly.  I mean, you don’t have any regular skin left while infected.  I was shocked and also – no “rash” looks like that that I’ve ever seen before.

7.  Pandemics aren’t funny and they aren’t a government conspiracy and vaccines against them are one the most significant contributions scientists have made to human health.

8.  It’s incredible what a difference just washing our hands after going to the bathroom can make on keeping disease from spreading.  Such a simple thing.  So easy.  Soap, it does us all good!  No need for antibacterial soaps either.  Just plain soap and water.  Do it today.

9.  Humans are disgusting.

10.  I like to claim that I’m not germaphobic but this is not strictly true as reading about STD’s and other infectious diseases reminds me.  I don’t think mouths and genitals should ever get together.  I know it’s like the ultimate in sexual pleasure for many people but the thought of how many mouths and genitals are mixing it up all over the world makes me so uncomfortable that the thought makes me pretty sick and makes me want to come back as a cockroach.

11.  I also don’t think mouths should be doing a lot of other things they do.

12.  I have now told you something very private about myself and I’m going to have to kill you to keep you quiet.

13.  Humans are worse than ticks and mosquitoes with regards to spreading disease.

14.  If the Black Plague is going to kill you it’s going to do it within 4 days.

15.  If you think getting TB in these modern days is no big deal, you’re a fool.  If you’re prone to anxiety and fear of diseases like I am, don’t read about why it’s still a really bad-ass problem for humans with a respectable fatality rate.

16.  Sex is really dangerous.

17.  Scarlet fever seems like a mere cold compared to smallpox.

18.  The Chinese were recorded inoculating against smallpox as early as the 10th century.  Though inoculation techniques may have been used by Egyptians as early as 1000BC by making a powder of the dried scabs of smallpox sores to be snorted.  Yum.  How’s THAT for natural medicine?!

19.  Nature has some pretty fierce moves.

20.  Maybe these anti-vaccine and anti-modern medicine people have the right of it.  Maybe it IS better if half or all of the human population is killed off by smallpox and the Bubonic Plague and Tuberculosis and Typhoid.  I’m not a real fan of humans and nature has very distinct ways of controlling overpopulation amongst animals which includes starvation, disease, and fights over territory resulting in culling down of packs and cutting off defeated males from access to females.  Tell me this hasn’t been happening with humans for thousands of years now?  Unlike other animals we’re too stupid to scale back our reproduction activities

This cheerful post is brought to you by RESEARCH and EDUCATION.

*As you have probably already guessed, the bacteria is not spread evenly throughout the world’s population.  In the United States the number of people infected are much lower than in Asian and African populations.

My Book is Available on Amazon!

CandGcover-EUPHEMIA

You can now  buy my book directly from Amazon:

Winter (Cricket and Grey)

This is only for Kindle formats.  If you want to buy it for Nook or other epub formats you can got to Smashwords and get it here:

Winter (Cricket and Grey)

Eventually you should be able to buy my title directly from Barnes and Noble and Kobo but for now these are the two places you can get it.

Laundry day near Stockton

A Journey of Magical Discovery: Syphilis

Laundry day near Stockton

I spent half of Sunday reading about Syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases.  I learned what serous fluid is and that serum is specifically the serous fluid from blood but that another serous fluid is saliva and also the clear liquid that rises to the surface of cuts and abrasions on the skin and that looking at serous fluid in a microscope is essential in the diagnosis of syphilis, though not necessarily the only test you need to administer to make a definite diagnosis.  I learned that the real danger of many STD’s, whether they are curable or not, is that they are often asymptomatic so that people don’t get tested and spread it to many others but also that by the time they are detected they have often gotten to a stage of irreparable damage to the body.

I also saw a picture of a dark slide of syphilis and the bacteria is kind of cute, this thing that can ruin your life and make you go crazy and even distort the shape of your head all before it kills you.  It’s a cute little corkscrew shape – looking cheerful on its slide like a clever lush early in the evening who’s the life of the party.

My conclusion after reading 75 facts and statistics about STD’s is that none of us should ever have sex again.  This has the additional blessing of fixing the overpopulation problem at the same time.

If you would like to know how to diagnose syphilis too I invite you to read the paper I was reading:  The Laboratory Diagnosis of Syphilis *

Today I ate an obscene amount of cheese.  I feel sick about it.  I can’t even understand why I did that to myself.  From now on I will keep only Parmesan and feta in the house.  Perhaps an occasional ricotta will find its way into my fridge.  None of these are cheeses I can eat on their own as a snack.  I also met an old man working in the Italian deli downtown who revealed that he is a vegan and I was impressed and surprised.

In talking about my nightmares here and also on facebook I have come to accept that while I do wish I could sleep better more regularly I believe my dreams  are the more perfect expression of the world stripped down and lit with naked luminescence  than my waking life.  It is the link between my primal language and the language of the everyday human.  It is a bridge between sanity and insanity and provides me with a comprehension I couldn’t otherwise have of the minds of the more tortured members of my tribe (the mentally ill).  I don’t want to lose that.  My dreams keep me somewhat raw and connected to something wild in myself that I need access to.

That is all I have tonight.

*This will need to be put in a separate post for the research link posts I like to do for my books for reference so if you don’t feel like reading this riveting paper now, there will be future opportunities to be reminded of this illuminating document waiting for you.  I think Sunday is the most proper day to read it.

pidgeon

Brainstorming Book Cover Ideas for Cricket and Grey

Today I’m going to read the style guide for publishing on Smashbox.  It’s time to get Cricket and Grey into e-book and print-on-demand formats for buying.  I’ve been dragging my feet with indecision but I just need to do it.  I can’t afford a professional editor – not even part of one – and I’ve done all the editing I can personally do.  I don’t believe there’s a single spelling error in the manuscript though Microsoft Word has argued with my use of commas versus semi-colons and my use of fractured sentences pretty much as aggressively as it can.  For the record – I think Word is much too keen on semi-colons when commas work just as well in many situations.  Also: people talk in fractured sentences ALL THE TIME.  Fractured sentences are useful for dialog, a sense of urgency, and can add a rhythm and emphasis to narration when used efficaciously.

Do I use fractured sentences to good effect?  I think so, but I would, wouldn’t I?  It’s really for you to judge if you read my novel.  Which I hope you will since I’ve worked so damn hard on it and fought Word so valiantly for my artistic license.  It won’t embarrass you, I promise.  People with discerning taste have read it and said it was good.

A book cover is an important thing.  It doesn’t matter if you publish through traditional routes or self publish – a good book cover is essential.  It’s the first point of connection a reader makes with your work.  A crappy cover can turn a person away without giving your story a chance.

That’s why I’m going to have Philip illustrate a buxom half naked Cricket carrying an AK-47, her hair flowing in an obvious wind and she’ll be snarling sexily at an impossibly buff oily-skinned Grey.  This will be a great way to lure people into thinking my book is super sexy and full of long breathy descriptions of Cricket’s double D knockers brushing up against Grey’s rock hard abs.  BECAUSE THAT’S TOTALLY WHAT YOU GET WITH MY BOOK.

(Except for the part where Cricket is small breasted and Grey has a fairly normal musculature and according to my friend Dave there is not enough SEX in the book.  That’s his only complaint.  That and the fact that he really thinks I should have had Cricket choose and M16 instead of an AK47.)

I took a poll on facebook to find out if people generally preferred illustrated or photographed covers.  Everyone aside from my cousin Carrie prefers illustrated.  I insist on photographs for cookbooks but for everything else I prefer illustrations.  My friend Aimee mentioned her pet peeve of covers that have nothing to do with the story and I share that pet peeve.  So how does one go about coming up with a great cover if you can’t hire a professional?

I live with a professional artist and an excellent one at that.  One who has agreed to illustrate my cover.  But he’s not a professional cover designer.  How do we channel his skills into a great cover design?

I guess the place to start is with what the book is about.  What symbolized the story?  What are the key scenes in the book?  What are the key elements?   What is the landscape and what kind of mood is the book?  What is most memorable in the story that can be conveyed well with an image?

Here’s my concept and key elements brainstorm:

  • Landscape is wintery and gloomy
  • Cricket’s cabin in the woods has a dovecote and they keep carrier pigeons.
  • There are several scenes at the dinner table where a lot of preserved foods are eaten as it’s mid winter – a lot of pickles and cured meats.
  • Death is an over-riding theme of the book.
  • Cricket’s memory and dreams of her mother are a big influence on Cricket in the beginning.
  • There are a lot of weapons in the book.  Pistols and hunting knives and semi-automatic rifles.
  • It’s a book about an apothecary turned armed guard.  A major theme in the book is the uncomfortable contradiction in being both a healer and a soldier.
  • There are drying herbs and a still-room and scales for waxes and bottles and jars for mixing herbal medicines and soaps.
  • There’s quite a bit of drinking.  Home made fruit wines, whisky, and clear vodka-like hard alcohol called “white” that Shockey Robbins makes both legally and illegally.
  • The woods figure pretty big in the book.
  • There’s a dead grouse as a peace offering.  How about a dead grouse on the cover?  Right?  That would get your attention!  You’d totally want to read a book that featured a dead grouse!

Now – an attempt to translate those themes and ideas into possible book cover images.  Remember that this is a brainstorm so any ideas you think are stupid – just move on.  Brainstorms are about putting all your ideas on the table and then discarding the silly ones as you evaluate them.

Cover image ideas:

  • In the middle of the cover there is a hunting knife (pointing up) with a pickle impaled on the end.  Why?  It’s a book about people having to be self sufficient and tough but they spend plenty of time at table eating pickles and jams and meats.
  • Mairead’s at 3/4 view looking away from you her red curly hair characteristically falling out of a chignon and you can see the bleeding bullet hole in her forhead.
  • A landscape showing High Heaven Road – the small ribbon of road showing in the center of the cover and the looming glowering trees crowding it from either side.
  • A pigeon in flight carrying a message.  A little off center and motion blurred.
  • An apothecary table with Cricket’s gun on it.
  • A rough wood table surface with a tiny bottle with a single violet in it on the left and lined standing up next to it extending to the right are bullets.

All of this doesn’t begin to address the style of the illustration.  I don’t know how to describe what I see in my head because I’m not an artist.  I can visualize things but don’t have the language to describe it.

But first – what cover idea do you like best just based on my rough description?  If you happen to have your own ideas (particularly if you’re one of the few who have actually read it or are in the middle of reading it) please share your ideas.

The Last of the Cricket and Grey Research (this time around) (originally published on CandG site 11/3/2011)

I have the last research links from writing the third draft of Cricket and Grey.  I offer them up with no preamble:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heckler_%26_Koch_MP5

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AK-47

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/patientinstructions/000315.htm

http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/portland/

That’s it, actually.  More guns and how to dress wounds.

Avtomat Kalashnikova (originally published on CandG site 6/25/2011)

(This is not an AK-47 pictured above, but it may be an AK-74 or something like that)

One of the bigger challenges for this book has been gun research.  I did a lot of it.  Including going shooting for the first time in my life.  When trying to decide which guns my characters would carry I had to consider which guns would not only suit their purposes but also how likely they would still be around in the future, which ones are the sturdiest and can take rough treatment?  Which ones are the easiest to press your own bullets for.  How hard is it going to be to find replacement parts.  I agonized over which assault rifle Cricket would carry and ended up choosing the M16.  I was very happy with this choice until my 10 year old son told me it was an inferior rifle in every way to the AK-47.  He offered up lots of reasons.  I decided to think about changing Cricket’s gun to an AK-47 when I got to the chapter where she cleans it in the 3rd draft.

So today I got through chapter 7 and talked to the kid about this again.  Then I looked it up and discovered that everything he said is true and I’m left wondering how the hell I could have ever chosen and M16 over and AK-47.  They are apparently sturdy, reliable, cheap to make, have standard bullets (unlike the proprietary bullets used in the M16-that fact alone makes it ineligible for use in the book) and are one of the most popular assault rifles in the world.

AK-47

Avtomat Kalashnikova

That’s the loveliest name for a gun ever.  Makes me want to learn to speak Russian.  I’ve always wanted to.  Russians are sexier than the French.

The things writing this novel have taught me are startling.

This Russian guy who calls himself a “professional Russian” is a madman with weapons.  His videos are actually pretty funny and if you’re interested in guns, you have to watch these videos:

FPSRussia’s Channel




The Trouble With Architecture (originally published on CandG site 5/30/2011)

I’m working on chapter two of the second draft and two main things keep sucking up all my time in research.  Plus a few little things.

1.  Trying to construct one small conversation between Cricket and Grey in Scots.  Hours of research for one tiny bit of true color.  Now, if only I had my own Scottish person from Glasgow or the little towns immediately near it I could simply say “Here’s what I want my characters to say… please translate” and it would be done.  Sadly, I’m Scottish friend free at the moment.

2.  I’m not an architect and never until writing this book have I considered that a shortcoming in myself.  I can picture the cob cottage that Peter built in the woods but only bits of it, like what the individual rooms look like, what the outside looks like, and where the pigeons live, but not how all these rooms are connected.  When I try to sketch how I see it, it is clearly an impossible design.  Does there really need to be a single bearing wall?  It’s like my brain keeps hiccuping every time I try to really bring it into focus so that I can be more clearly descriptive in the story and give a better sense of scene.  How hard can that be?  Apparently, pretty damn hard.  Am I really going to need to get some graph paper out and work it out to scale?  Do I need to get a degree in house design before I can finish writing this book?  The charm of cob construction is that you can practically make it any way you like with some simple building considerations.

The cabin layout question is made further complicated by the fact that it also has to house the pigeons the Winters’ keep.  I had it clear in my mind until double checking old style dovecotes and realizing that some functions necessary to raise and keep homing pigeons might not have been accommodated in the “design” I came up with for one.  My mother pointed out to me that dovecotes are for doves and not pigeons.  She is not actually correct.  The term is for a structure built to house either doves or pigeons.  However, in modern day pigeon keeping it seems you keep them in a “pigeon loft” rather than a dovecote.  But I can have my characters build a dovecote if I want.  It’s fiction.  And they’re individuals.  That’s not the point.

The other slightly minor distraction is that I needed to finally decide what the hell Shockey’s “White” is really distilled from.  It’s his cheap all purpose moonshine.  But moonshine can be any illegally distilled hard alcohol.  I think grains are too hard to come by and he saves the grains for his rarer expensive quality whiskey (for sale to the few who can afford it or those lucky enough to have become personal friends with him).  The white isn’t grain but I thought it equally problematic to have it be made from potatoes.  This has to be something he can make from abundant produce.  Grapes.  This valley is full of vineyards and in this period of time I don’t see many of them having survived.  I think many vineyards will go derelict and be abandoned to overgrowth and a return to the wild, so to speak.  I think finding feral grapes will not be hard.  I think the White will be made from whatever he can get his hands on cheaply and in abundance.  So predominantly grapes.  But sometimes other crops like maybe potatoes or corn.  So White is very much like grappa or Aqua vitae.

A few things I learned in research today: homing pigeons can fly distances of as far as 1, 118 miles and fly an average of 50 miles per hour over more average distances (500 or fewer miles).  For very short distances they can fly up to 110 miles per hour.  Quite a few pigeons earned medals of honor in World War l and World War ll.  I’m including the links to a couple of those birds.  I also learned that Mike Tyson is a lifelong pigeon fancier.

About the Scots language (which is NOT Gaelic but the dialect of English Scots speak), it is notable (to me) for having about a hundred words for “drunk”, “dirty”, and “crazy” but very few for “rude”.  It also has about five thousand ways to call someone stupid.

Homing Pigeon

Mary of Exeter a pigeon who won a medal for flying important message across the English Chanel from France while injured.

G.I. Joe a pigeon who won a medal for saving over a thousand lives by delivering a vital message in time.

Scottish words and phrases

Common Useful Scottish Phrases

Useful Scots Phrases

Scottish Vernacular Dictionary

Some Fine Old Scottish Sayings

Scots Online this one has a translation feature that is cool

Glossary of Scottish slang and jargon

Glaswegian this one is really funny.  Be sure to observe the pictures used for illustration and read their examples of use and translation.

Scots Dictionary

Speak Scots

Some Glaswegian/Scottish phrases

You see how sucked in I was?  You start reading through these sites you’ll be sucked in too.  Maybe not.  I guess you have to love Scottish people, Scotland, and colorful language.  These links represent hours of (mostly) useless research.  Or maybe once my book is published someone will give it a review in which they say “…her use of Scots is exemplary and clearly represents painstaking research which the readers will appreciate…”

For all the time I spent looking up cob cottages I found no useful links and am still hung up on the seemingly insurmountable problem of not being an architect.  Onward, then.