Well, things went from funny to not-so-funny that night when I went into my office to check email, and – oh, Lord – there was a mouse on my desk. A mouse. On my desk. We’ve lived here for 10 years and have never had a mouse in the house. In the garage, yes, because we live sort of in the country and sort of not, but we've never had a mouse in the house. It’s bad enough that it was in the house, but on my desk? My Desk?! Where I write and create and, and ... My desk is sacrosanct! And not only was it on my desk, it left droppings between Roget’s Super Thesaurus and Harbrace’s College Handbook, 11th Edition! Droppings! And do you think Rick was here to play the hero? Of course not. So I did what I always do in such situations, I called my daughter ... NOT the one who set my phone to whistle. She said what she always says in such situations, “Mom, just come over and spend the night.” It was tempting, but I just couldn’t. I had to deal with this. So with her on the line, I went to the garage to get one of the mousetraps Rick had set out there. In the process I set off the alarm, which I forgot to disarm before I opened the door. Great. But I got one of the traps, put it in a strategic place, then went to my bedroom, where I settled in to watch TV – with my feet off the floor. Not 10 minutes later I hear a SNAP! Oh. Lord. Sure enough, I’d caught the critter. So now what? I wasn't going anywhere near it. Bottom line, my son-in-law came over first thing next morning and got rid of it for me. He earned points that day, believe me, lots of points.
And then there was a December night a couple of years ago when I was sitting watching TV about 10:00, when suddenly it sounded like Santa and his reindeer had landed on the roof. As much as I hoped that was the case, I had a feeling there was another reason for the racket. So I called my daughter, said I was going outside to investigate and wanted her with me, so to speak, you know, just in case ... Again, she invited me to spend the night, and it was tempting, especially as the racket continued to escalate right above my head. But I mustered my courage and went outside to see what I could see. Which was nothing. And yet the noise continued. Which meant it wasn’t on the roof, it was in the attic space of my house. Crap. To make a long story short, whatever it was occupied that space the entire week Rick was gone, and made its presence known every single night when the sun went down. It woke me up from a dead sleep one night, sounding like it was dragging an anvil across the attic floor – right above my bed. What was it?! Where was it?! What was it dragging?! More important, could it see me through the heating and air conditioning vents? We’ll never know, because I never heard it again after Rick got home. Not ever.
Then there was my personal favorite. Several years ago, when Rick and I became empty nesters, he built a lovely home for us in the country. To me, it was like living on the backside of the moon, but Rick was in heaven. He decided to raise longhorn cattle, and got two calves to start our herd. We named those calves after our two little granddaughters, so don’t you know they were the safest cattle in the county? Not gonna land on anyone’s dinner plate. Ever. Well, Rick was in the Philippines, and the phone rang early one morning, waking me out of a sound sleep. A woman said to me, without even a hello, “Your cows are in my yard,” and she hung up. I lay there with the phone in my hand, trying to make sense of this crazy call. “Your cows are in my yard ... your cows are in my ...“My cows? Are in your yard?!? What?! ” I throw back the covers, get dressed, pop my contacts in, grab my purse, run to the car, back out of the driveway, and— Wait. Who called? Whose yard are my cows in?? I have no idea. But I drive around the “neighborhood” looking for my cows, feeling like Little Bo Peep. I can’t find them. And what the heck am I going to do if I do find them? So I go back home, wondering what in the world to do, when the phone rings again. This time it’s my neighbor, Kathy, who lived on the acreage behind our acreage, who was like the unofficial, self-appointed neighborhood watch captain. She knew everything that went on, at all times. And she said to me, “Sharon, are you looking for your cows?” Am I looking for my cows? Really? How could she possibly– I felt like I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone. “Yes, I am," I said. "I’m looking for my cows.” And she tells me they’re in so-and-so’s yard. So I drive over there, and sure as the world, there’s Haleigh and Katelyn in my neighbor’s yard, and her husband is trying to herd them back to our pasture. City girl that I am, I am not equipped to handle such a crisis. I don’t even own a pair of boots. What am I going to do? And then I remembered ... one of the guys who worked for my husband was a real, live cowboy. He came, rounded up our cattle and mended the fence so they couldn’t get out again.
It wasn’t long after that we sold the house.
What does any of that have to do with writing? It’s all fodder, my friend. All fodder.
Okay, so here’s what this post is really supposed to be about. I’m getting ready to start a new novel. I’m excited and scared all at the same time. This is the longest period of time I’ve gone without writing (several months), and I’m feeling very wobbly, hoping I’ll soon get a good grip on the handle bars. In my plot there’s a woman in her late 20s who is guardian to her 12-year-old niece, and has been since the girl was 4. She’s a good provider and very loving, but there’s a threat that she may lose custody ... and I need to know why. I don’t want the reason to be cliche, i.e., child protective services stepping in for some reason; health issues for the woman, etc. I have a direction I’m considering, but I’d love to get your thoughts. Any suggestions?