The visitor . . .

Chap’s son Bone Head came out to work for a while then the two will go fishing, and while

Painted bunting healing in a Ferragamo shoe box--if Ferragamo can't cheer you up, I don't know what could . . .

they were getting their gear ready, we heard a loud bang!

A bird hit one of the dormer windows so hard that he left a perfect bird print on the window. I asked Chap to go outside and see if it was still alive, and he came back in with a teeny tiny, beautiful painted bunting. The little bird still had a heartbeat, but his little eyes were shut and he was panting, obviously hurt and in shock.

I put a soft towel in a box, checked the bird’s beak to make sure it wasn’t broken or cracked and let him rest awhile. Chap of course, wanted to feed him, offering him seeds and worms, and I told him the best thing to do for him right now was to give him a little sugar water and let him rest. I sucked a little hummingbird nectar into an eye dropper, and squeezed a couple of drops into his mouth, which he swallowed, and I swear, if birds had lips, this little guy would have been smacking them.

The hummingbird food seemed to be just the pick me up he needed, and he’s currently in the box, tucked safely away from Ninja Kitty, and when he’s up and trying to fly, I’ll take him down to the island and set his box in a tree.

But for now, we’re just enjoying the sheer beauty of this small, little life . . .


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Outraged–the rapist who got away

So I woke up this morning rip-roarin’ excited to tell y’all all about all

on trial

the super cool stuff I’ve learned about books in the new era, and I got the call that I have to cover the trial of a horrible, brutal rape. I covered this story when it first happened two years ago, and now this woman is finally getting justice? Let’s hope so . . . this woman has been victimized by the three men who broke into her home and beat her husband nearly to death and then brutally raped her.

The El Salvador native was indicted on two counts of aggravated sexual assault, and is believed to be the second man who raped Sandy Doyal during the brutal attack April 14, 2009.

Hernandez is still in the Burnet County jail on numerous felony assault charges along with Alvaro Caceras. A third El Salvador native, Nuana Fuentes-Sanchez, who was also indicted on a rape charge in June of 2010 is still on the run after escaping from the Burnet County jail five months after the alleged attack.

According to Burnet County investigators, Caceras, Hernandez and Fuentes-Sanchez broke into the Doyal home. As Bobby Doyal was being beaten beside her in bed, Sandy Doyal said she grabbed a flashlight.

“By the time I could see what was going on, there were three men on him, and with what I saw, he should be dead,” said Sandy Doyal.

She said her husband’s face and body was repeatedly bashed with the butt of rifles the attackers brought with them. Then they allegedly went after Sandy Doyal, covering her face with a pillowcase as they beat and raped her — while her husband lay beaten into unconsciousness beside her.

But not before she gave the rapist a good knot on the head with the flashlight and bit the living crap out of him, two pieces of evidence that may help convict the rapist.

“They tied me up after they raped me. I wasn’t sure how many had raped me, but it was over and over and over again,” Sandy Doyal said.

Three hours later, after Sandy Doyal thought the men had left, she was able to free a hand from the tight rope. She staggered to the kitchen to find a knife and some scissors to free her husband. Their cell phones had been stolen, and they had no landline to call for help.

Within 14 hours, the suspects were caught. Five months later, Nuana Fuentes-Sanchez escaped from the new Burnet County Jail.

“I was angry. Here we caught the guy, and now he’s gone again,” said Sandy.

We’re angry, too, Sandy. We hope you get justice, if not closure.

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The coolest ways to get cash . . .

Chap is constantly amazed that people actually pay me to speak about writing, life, love and the occasional dead body. Frankly, it kind of amazes me, too. And there are many times I believe Chap would pay to get me to shut up.

Uber-agent Jenny Bent fished for new clients at WLT Conference

But getting paid to speak is just one of a number of new, inventive ways to make a living, some of which might make you shake your head and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

My very favorite divorce attorney has started a business as a “Life Coach,” which means she tells people what to do and gets paid for it. Hey, I do that for free. As the oldest child in my family, I’ve been doing that since my little sister was born. I was the Dear Abby of my 4th Grade Class.

Never the less, I do get invited to speak, teach and moderate conferences, which is what I did this weekend at the Writers’ League of Texas Agents Conference. The coolest thing about this kind of speaking engagement, is that I learn new and inventive ways to foist my fiction, random thoughts and insights on life on unsuspecting bystanders.

I moderated a panel on building a successful platform with Justin Manask, a ridiculously successful  literary manager who is the darling of Hollywood, Jay Ehret and Thomas Umstaddt Jr., two talented, funny, un-geeklike techno-geeks who gave us a rundown everything we’ve been doing wrong online, offline and in the privacy of our own homes, and gave us a roadmap on how to get our online acts together–which I am currently trying to implement, but am having multiple blonde moments, and have completely alienated my computer, that has now apparently given up all hope and is currently typing up it’s own letter of resignation.

I also gave some private pitch consultations–which I am happy to report that each person I helped craft, hone and revamp their pitch got asked to submit a manuscript–a major coup in the world of publishing.

Multi-tasking wonder woman  Cyndi Hughes–WLT director, and I are going to have a chat about a free online workshop on pitches and query letters–so be on the lookout for that–details to come very soon.

I’ll be blogging this week about what I learned at the conference–so look for pretty cool, cutting edge stuff!

I had a ball, and was compensated inkind by getting to attend conference workshops (never, ever give up an opportunity to learn), attending the private author/agent party at uber-agent Jim Hornfischer’s house, and to see writer pals I haven’t seen in a long, long time.

I had a beer-break with my friend and one of the very coolest authors (and people) I know, Evelyn Palfrey and we caught up on her very funny stories about courtroom drama, and the even more hilarious drama going on as her aging mother has come to live with her. Evelyn gave me some of the very best I’ve ever been given when I was just starting out as an author–learn everything you can, and put yourself in the path of opportunity. How brilliant was that?

I am still decompressing, debriefing , and figuring out how best to implement these brilliant gems of information, regarding revamping my website, my blog and everything else I thought I knew, but obviously don’t.

When I came home, I was exhausted, and then had the daunting task of trying to explain to Chap why I was so worn out, and how spending emotional energy can be exhausting, and how I could be so super-charged with ideas, yet so spent.

In light of the fact that he had dug a new trench in granite gravel for a new waterline, moved a double-side refrigerator from the laundry room to his dad’s house and installed a humongous freezer in its stead, I decided not to argue my point.

His kind of hard work is far different from mine.

And I am glad for that.


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New and inventive ways to annoy small children

Little mischief--wonder where she gets it?

Chap’s son, aka Bone Head, ran the tractor over the waterline. Again.

So now the faucets are all spewing pea-sized gravel, and while I’m sure I could look at it as a spa-style loofah shower experience, the angels of my better nature have about flown the coop.

So he’ll spend the weekend blowing out the waterlines, and the little vacation we’d planned will now have to be an even smaller little “stay-cation.”

And I swear, if I hear the word “stay-cation” even one more time, the person who utters that word will rue the day. And as someone who has spent at least a full day of rue-ing, I can tell you there are much more productive ways to spend a day.

So I will accept my role as Wicked Stepmonster very seriously, and will take my little instant family for a day in Austin while Chap figures out how to get the rocks out of the waterline.

In the recent past, I’ve experimented with Austin’s finest tween establishments via my niece and nephews, and managed to come up with a day’s worth of activities that temporarily halts the eye-rolling and I-dunno-shrugging mastered by the denizens of tween-dom. And, as I recall, I had some fun, too.

I rolled the half-grown rugrats out of the rack early—no easy feat—and headed for Mozart’s Coffee Roasters bakery at 7 a.m. for a sugar rush that’ll last ‘til lunch.

Perched on Oyster Landing pier onLakeAustin, Mozart’s sprawling decks and ample lakeside seating puts you eye-to-eye with enormous, gape-mouthed catfish that will charm even the most jaded eighth grader.

Even the usually surely Bone Head whooped with glee when his sister got a face-full of catfish splash when she tempted fate with a French fry.

I amped the kids up on fresh-baked, melt-in-your-mouth scones and muffins bursting with fresh seasonal fruit, and went for broke with the Strawberry Kiwi Cheesecake (strawberries and kiwi—healthy, right?).

And I got myself a crispy bagel and a uber-sized iced tea with a mule-kick of caffeine.

And I got some to go—gotta a whole day of activities to keep up with those sugar-fueled mini-maniacs . . .

Then we cooled off with lunch at Shady Grove, a fun, funky Austin original nestled in, what else?—a shady grove on Barton Springs Road. Bone Head and The Princess got a kick out of the Hippie Trailer, where we hung out ‘til lunch came, and for added amusement (my own—them, not so much), the patio sports an old juke box.

Even Bone Head and The Princess thought that was pretty cool, until they saw I was actually enjoying, and I could practically hear them mentally begging me not to dance.

They got over it when the super crunchy fried chicken was presented, and I chowed down on a Tortilla Fried Queso Catfish, a crispy, tortilla-crusted fried catfish that had them eyeing my plate and opining, “You gonna eat that?”

A quick trip to Barton Springs swimming pool helped work off lunch and got the kids over the fact that I danced at Shady Grove despite their pleading and puppy dog eyes.

No matter how hot the weather, the springs are a refreshing (read: freezing cold!) 68 degrees, so if you go, expect to hear shrieks as the kiddos jump in and immediately jump right back out. But as my daddy always said, it builds character.

Now, if it could just build me some new waterlines . . . .

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To the guy who shot a widow’s kitten–beware of Ninja Kitty & Ranger the Praying Dog

A cop friend of mine called me yesterday to tell me a woman who’d just buried

Beware, Shooter Boy--Ranger the Praying Dog is on the case . . .

her husband less than a month ago reported that some scum bag had just shot her kitten in the eye.

Needless to say, I went straight to the woman’s house, where her beautiful, long-haired calico kitten was trying valiantly to purr in rusty, stuttering purrs in the woman’s lap, her soft little kitty head swollen, a nasty gash stitched over what was once a beautiful green eye. An equally nasty exit wound was shaved and patched on the backside of her head.

The kitten’s vet, who is one of the foremost animal doctors in Burnet County, said there was no way this .22 caliber wound was an accident. The jerk-off who shot her (in city limits by the way) was aiming right at her eye.

“Luckily, this kitty had a few of her nine lives saved up, because a fraction of an inch and it would have killed her,” Doc said.

“So what happens now?” I asked my cop buddy.

“Well, if we ever figure out who did it, they’ll be charged with animal cruelty,” he said.

“They can’t tack on extra charges for discharging a firearm inside city limits?” I said.

“Nope, we can’t even charge people who’ve murdered someone inside city limits with that one.”


So this poor, freshly minted widow and her newly shot up kitten gets no justice at all. Really? Does this butt-head Shooter Boy not know he lives in Texas, where even the florists are armed, and as soon as Miss Kitty is up to it, she will make reservations at the shooting range to get her Permit to Carry?

Not to mention that my buddies over at the Hill Country SPCA will be ready to relieve this idiot of whatever cajones he had in the first place.

While sitting with the woman and her injured kitten, I tried not to be angry on her behalf, and she nearly broke my heart when she reached over and took my hand and said, “You’re the one who wrote the story about that dog that prays, right?” she said, a tear streaming down her cheek. “Do you think you could ask him to pray for my kitten?”

“Of course I will,” I said, adding that if Shooter Boy ever stepped foot near my property, he’d have more to worry about than praying dogs.

“My mean little Ninja Kitty would open up a super-sized can of feline Whoop Ass all about the man’s head and neck, and Shooter Boy would be haunted forever by a yellow and white streak of pure kitty fury,” I told her.

She laughed then and I handed her a tissue and went to call Ranger the Praying Dog. My guess is that Ranger is every bit as outraged as the rest of us, and I’m fairly certain the Powers That Be will take heed of the beautiful Sheltie who has a direct line to heaven and knows how to punch in the number for Wrath of the Almighty.

All I can say to Shooter Boy is, Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid. Ninja Kitty has your number. And if Ranger the Praying Dog is on the case, I’d be looking out for lightning bolts . . .

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Puss ‘n Toots

Atticus does not like messing with the cattle.

Atti-catty is not amused

I’m not surprised, since he’s a cat, but he throws such a fit when we leave him behind that he acts like he’s going to commit kit-icide. Or, at the very least, homicide when we get back to the house–his super hero name is, after all, Ninja Kitty.

If it ever comes to that, I am certain it will be a slow and painful death, based on the way he uses his powers of evil on mice, lizards and all other now-tailess creatures that live near our house.

To demonstrate his dislike of all things bovine, he commenced to farting right after we began our trek to the back pasture.

This may have been due to nerves, but it is more likely that fact that Chap fed him Cheetos from Subway. The cat really loves Cheetos.

But hey, we all love Cheetos. Second only to bacon, it is the food of the Gods. There’s nothing better than the lingering effects of orange Doodle Dust and the salty sweet smell. But the sad fact is the puffy perfect little treats don’t smell nearly as yummy when the residuals are poofing outthe back end of a kitten, no matter how cute that kitten is. The only consolation is, that before he unloaded each Cheeto bomb, he would climb over on Chap’s lap and let’r rip. Is this a male bonding thing?

I worried about kitty’s reaction to the cattle, since his favorite prey at the house is the big dog next door (who is terrified of the little cat) and the big honking herd of white-tailed deer that meander around the back porch.

I could just see the big Angus bull flinging puss-boy’s orange and white kitty butt over the fence.

It was a moot point, however, as the mere sound of the bawling cattle sent him into fits of Cheeto farts, and caused him to streak under the bunk bed in the ranch house, yowling and growling until Chap lured him out and back into the truck with, what else? Cheetos . . .

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Does this casket make me look fat?

Mama wants me to come on down to Houston and go coffin shoppin’ with her. Again.

I don’t remember when this fascination with fatality began, but I do recall it started somewhere around the time she started referring to herself in the third person, i.e., “Mama doesn’t like it when you wear short skirts,” or “Mama doesn’t like it when you spit on the sidewalk,” or “Mama wants a margarita.”

Count me in for that one. Two if we’re going coffin shopping.

And my mother is no where near knockin’ on death’s door–my brother believes she’ll outlive all of us and he’s probably right–if only because she’s not finished planning her own funeral.

These pre-bereavement shopping sprees begin early in the morning, before the funeral homes open, so that we can stop and have a nice big breakfast and discuss the details of who she  wants invited to her funeral, who she doesn’t and why, who she’s going to cut out of the will this week, and of course, discuss what music will be played or sung, and who will be doing the playing or singing.

Then it’s off to Macy’s to try on clothes that she wants to be buried in. The style and color changes from season to season, and includes a pair of new shoes, which seems moot to me, because even in an open-casket funeral (which it will be) you can’t see the  lower half of the body, and I mentioned this to Mama.

She stared at me. “You’re not going to bury me barefoot are you?”

And then it’s off to the coffin shop, where she pauses reverently before each one, imagining which would best compliment her complection.

She discusses the way the whole affair is to be scored and choreographed for maximum bereavement.

“I want the saddest songs we can find and I don’t want Aunt Eveline singing, or anywhere near my casket, and oh, by the way, do you think this casket will make me look fat?”

And then we’re on to me, and what I will wear to her funeral, and how upon her death, I should instruct her attending physician to cut her heart out to see how many pieces we children have broken it into.

“Hm,” I finally said. “Should we get some new mascara for me, the kind that runs like a Baptist preacher’s wife and drips all down my face so everyone can see how sad I am?”

“Oh,” Mama said. “Yes, lets!”

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