Blue Coyote

I had this dream, you see.

I was inside the house and David stepped out onto our patio, with his hands outspread. He was warding off the coyotes, I realized. There they were, streaking through the draw just below us. Only they were blue. Blue like jays.

The coyotes have become an odd subconscious symbol for me. I love to see them, in all their wild and beautiful glory. I’m also afraid of them. Not for myself, but for the cats. One day – the day of this photo, actually – one had a fresh-caught bunny dangling from its mouth. The coyote happily tossed the dead rabbit about. And I pictured Isabel in its place.

I can’t deny Isabel and Teddy the joy that going out into the sun gives them. And yet I fret about them being unsafe. It’s the eternal push/pull of suffocating what we love by keeping it safe.

And yes, I know I’ve written about this before. I said it’s become a major symbol for me.

The blue coyotes, though – they were different. Both more fantastic and more dangerous. How David could hold them off, I don’t know. I’m just grateful he could.

Perhaps that’s my valentine today, to David, the man who keeps us safe from the Blue Coyotes.

(Thanks to the amazing and fabulous Tawna Fenske for saving my whiny behind and helping with with this pic. All hail Queen Tawna!)


This is from our bedroom window, just a few minutes ago – at 9 in the morning.

I used to put up decorative flags. Oh, I still have them all, but since we moved to Santa Fe, I haven’t put them up. Decorative flags somehow just look wrong on an adobe-style house. But on our old house in Wyoming, I’d change the flags every two weeks or so. I don’t know that anyone cared but me. Still, it was a way to celebrate the changing of the seasons, the passing of holidays. This weekend I would have taken down the flag with the New Year’s sparkly champagne glasses and put up the silkscreen one with the wolves.

Something about early January makes me think of the scavenging wolves, their distant howls on the long, cold nights. Now there are coyotes out my window. One had a rabbit. The long-ago peasant in me wants to stoke the fire and bar the door.

It’s easy to let fears hold us back, reasonable or not. Every time we set foot outside our safe homes, we risk the wolves. Or, so our atavistic selves tell us. The adrenal system doesn’t know wolves from business meetings – it just hears that we’re stressed and fires up.

Some friends and I started up a new venture on January 1 – the Word Whores – and I put up my first post yesterday, explaining why I’d identify myself as a whore in front of all the world. It felt scary and uncertain. Was that a wolf calling in the distance? The last line was maybe too much, too over the edge. I may be bold, but rarely brash. My grandmother’s voice reminded me to be a lady. Being tacky was her greatest sin.

Worse, none of my usual writing buddies were around to consult with me. I wanted someone to tell me it wasn’t too much. I needed to get the post up.

I actually dithered and I really hate dithering.

So I hit the button. PUBLISH POST. There it went, into the immortality of nothing-ever-truly-dies-on-the-internet. Scary, but also liberating. Something like ten minutes later, one of my friends came back from making breakfast, read it and gave me the thumbs up. By then I didn’t need it. I’d made my choice. There’s always strength in a decision made, I think.

I might get criticized yet. The scavengers are always hungry. But I won’t hide in my house.

The world belongs to me, too.


One of our morning visitors.

The trio of coyotes came by again, at almost exactly the same time. Tomorrow I’ll have my camera ready and try to get all three. They look like a mom and two teenage pups. Completely fearless. Beautiful and yet…

It puts me in mind of this:

Deliver my soul from the sword,
My darling from the power of the dog.

That’s from Psalms, but it came to my attention as the flyleaf quote in Thomas Savage’s The Power of the Dog. Really wonderful book, if you’ve never read it.

I like that as an analogy – the power of the dog in our lives, the shadow that lurks, that we close the doors to. We turn away and think about other things.

So, here’s an other thing.

Author Jim C. Hines often interesting statistics on his blog, about his publishing history, etc. This is an fascinating one that he cross-posted to SF Novelists about the myth of the Overnight Success. If you haven’t looked at it, it’s well-worth the time. Inspiring, even.

In that spirit, I thought I’d share some statistics on on Petals & Thorns. (Like Jim, I’m a graph and stats geek, too. Apologies if you’re not one of those.)

This shows my sales since the release day in July. As you can see, there were a lot of initial sales, which then tapered off. I pretty much expected that. The numbers were higher than I’d anticipated for a first-time author in the genre, no name-recognition, etc. These were all sales through Loose Id. When I saw my October statement, I though, eh, it’s run its course.

So, what happened in November? All Romance Ebooks started selling it. Quite the sales jump there. They were kind enough to give it a top rating and a staff pick, which I’m sure helped a great deal. You can see my royalties per book aren’t quite as high with the reseller – it’s about 20 cents per book less – but the higher traffic is certainly worth it.

I don’t know how this system works, if Loose Id typically sells a book exclusively for four months and then offers it to All Romance. My statement from Loose Id also includes columns for other resellers: Lightning Source, Fictionwise, Amazon, Sony eBooks and Barnes & Noble. It will be interesting to see if they are gradually added.

At any rate, I’m close to making RWA’s criteria for published author status. Nice return for my little 26K erotic novella. And replete with irony, I know. Petals & Thorns might get me there where my essay collection and two novels have not. I’ll take the promotion, however.

One thing I’ve learned, and as Jim Hines’ graph illustrates, too – the road to our goals seldom unfolds the way we think it will. Every success is another step, another brick in building the palace.

It’s only in fairy tales that wishes make palaces appear overnight.

In life, we build them through persistence and endurance. Always guarding against the power of the dog.

Tao of Kitty

Bougainvillea from Thanksgiving in Tucson. No need for autumnal tradition there.

Every day my cat Isabel waits for her chance to go outside. It’s her very favorite part of the day. She loves to stalk the birds, roll in the dirt sit in the sun. With these short days, she has to wait longer and longer to go out, because I won’t let her until the sun is high enough that there are unlikely to be coyotes hiding in the shadows.

Fifteen minutes ago, just after 7, three coyotes trotted by. Well after sunrise, but the shadows are still long. Isabel wanders into my office, mewing with charm, coaxing me to let her out.

Not yet.

Because it’s colder now, and sometimes blustery, she doesn’t stay out long. She’s spoilt with me working at home. Ten minutes after I let her out, she’s outside my office window, asking to come in. I don’t mind – it gets me out of my chair, after all. I’ve threatened to tweet every time I let her in and out, with cheerful encouragement to bring it on.

And they say Twitter has no real substance.

Every morning, though, Isabel seems to head out with supreme confidence and joy. Sometimes a cold gust will hit her and she’ll crouch down, flattening her ears. Other mornings are still and she’ll venture out with tail high, but come in sooner to warm up.

I wonder what she understands of the seasons. Does she have a sense that we’re just heading into winter and that there will be a long cycle of cold before her hot summer days return? Perhaps every day is new and immediate for her. She could be expecting to walk into flowers and heat any day now.

It’s likely more that she has no expectations. If animals live in the moment, then things are what they are. Yet, I know she misses us when we’re gone and she remembers good hunting spots. I watch her making the rounds of places she’s caught mice and gophers in the past. From the moment the alarm goes off, she’s prancing around, excited to start her day. I believe she understands past and future.

Some people say you should never let cats outside at all. That if you never do, they can’t miss what they’ve never experienced. I’m not sure I believe this. The world is the natural habitat for all of us. We retreat to shelter, for warmth, for safety, but that’s not where any of us belongs, cloistered for our entire lives.

So, I wait for the sun to get bright enough – not yet, and it’s almost eight now – and I watch her go embrace the world for what it is.

I try to do the same.

Wiley Coyote

This is our patio, for those who don’t know. We keep the feeder stocked and lots of birds come in. Ground feeders visit, too, packrats, mice and bunnies gleaning the spilled seed.

David has a night-vision camera with a motion detector. He hangs it on the near portal post.

This is what the area under the feeder looks like at night.

And here’s a bunny coming to visit.

In the classic cycle of nature, where there’s prey, predators follow. (Note coyote tail disappearing into the brush.)

After a suitable amount of time, the bunny returns.

What? You didn’t believe me before about the coyote? Couldn’t see him?

Here he is!

Wondering what that clicking sound is.

He hunts through the night. Leaving with dawn and the stirring of our household.

These two are from another night, but I like the sequence.

Last clear shot at 4 am.

And our dog, Zip, investigating the invisible evidence.

The Great Backyard Bird and Coyote Watch

All the animals are out and about now.

Spring may not begin until March — which I quibbled about previously, so I won’t reiterate my arguments, much as I enjoy reiterating my favorite peeves — but the wildlife around Santa Fe is gearing up for warm weather.

Tuesday evening, as dusk fell, a couple of bunnies came out to hit up the game bird block out front. And a jumping mouse hopped by. Then, yesterday morning, I awoke to fog outside the window — and a coyote walking by. Last night, a bobcat came up on the porch to nose around. And sniff around the game bird block.

Predators following prey in the eternal cycle.

The flickers have been diligently hammering on the house. If you’ve never heard a woodpecker at work on your house, well it sounds like the roofing crew showed up again. Maybe just the finish crew. But you could swear someone’s out there pounding nails. If you look behind the suet feeder in this photo, you can see the fresh hole in the portal post that this selfsame bird drilled into it.

I assume that’s her, anyway. She refused to give her name.

Being a woman, I decided food was the answer. The gal at the local Wild Birds Unlimited was dubious.

“Are you sure they’re not looking to carve out a nest?”

“It’s about the size of a quarter,” I say. “If so, they’ve got a ways to go.”

I’d walked in and asked for the Woodpecker’s Friend. Which makes sense to me, but I apparently live in my own delusional world. I’m at peace with that. At any rate, the thing I thought I saw at Christmastime wasn’t what I thought it was and it wasn’t called that anyway. The upshot? I have to be my own woodpecker’s friend. So I got the basic suet frame and the recommended suet and made David install it all over the hole, so the flickers would eat the suet and not the portal.

Right, he thought I was nuts, too.

And for a while, all we got on there were the bushtits. Which turned out to be really neat because they hadn’t visited us other wise.

Then, a couple of days ago: the flickers found the suet. They’ve been happily cracking away on it — and no other part of the house — ever since. I know. I am totally vindicated. I *am* the Woodpecker’s Friend. One day all you people learn not to scoff.

The Great Backyard Bird Count starts on Saturday. No qualifications required to participate. This year, if you tweet, you can use the hashtag #gbbc to report bird sightings. Hey, it does NOT get more fun than that people!

Nobody seems to sponsor the Great Backyard Coyote Count. But we caught one on the night-vision camera last night. It’s actually an amusing sequence as he and the bunnies visit throughout the night. Tonight we’ll see if we can’t snap one of the bobcat and maybe I’ll post the whole sequence tomorrow.

Oh, in this photo? I’m pretty sure he’s looking at Isabel in the window.

She’s hiding in the laundry basket today.