It all started when I spotted this allusive cat near my home. Always a sucker for calico cats, I had no idea what this would lead to. It seemed harmless to leave a little cat food on the edge of the deck. At first she came at night, accepted my offering, and returned to the safety of the woods. Weeks passed and she became more bold as I watched from my deck chair. After tossing bits of tuna in her direction, I finally had her purring and eating from my hand. It all seemed so good at the time. A feral cat no longer, she began sleeping on the cushion of my front porch swing allowing me to stroke her back as I read. I called her Marmalade, after the cat in my Bailey’s Chase novels. It was nice to have a cat after so many years of cat-hating dogs.
Then she showed up one day with a family. Okay, I thought, I’ll just find homes for them.And I did, except for Storm, the little wild-eyed stiped one. Storm refused to conform to domestication and never allowed human touch…only food. Being responsible, I had Marmalade spayed. It wasn’t long until two grown females from Marmalade’s previous litters showed up at the edge of the woods, sneaking onto the deck at night searching for food. She showed great affection for these two daughters and longed to share her good fortune. Of course, I felt sorry for these hungry, wild cats, so I sprinkled more dry food about.
Imagine my shock when they both brought up families. Now I had three grown females and six half grown kittens…all desperately wild except Marmalade. I could only imagine how many cats I would have when the young reproduced. Someone told me the adults have two litters a year. Yikes! I could have a hundred cats in a year! They would decimate the songbirds and small wildlife population in my area. With the growing tribe, Marmalade moved entirely to the front porch, avoiding the upcoming drama.
I called the Animal Shelter in Vincennes. They told me of a free spay & neuter program for feral cats. All I had to do was catch them, bring them in early on a Tuesday for surgery, pick them up later the same day, and return them to the wilds…my backyard and woods.
Now. How to catch them? I moved my dog Gypsy’s kennel onto the back porch and began leaving cat food near it. Suspicious eyes watched, leery of the new black cage. However, hunger prevailed and one by one, they crept up, grabbed a mouthful of kibble and dashed to safety under the deck. A few days later, I moved the bowl of feed near the door of the kennel. They cautiously came, darting in and out when they saw me or heard the door open. I decided it was time to introduce tuna, so I left some sprinkled about.Then I mixed tuna with catfood and put the bowl inside the kennel. It was too much temptation for the felines. I waited until I knew they were good and hungry for my move. Imagine their shock when I slipped out and slammed the door shut trapping four inside.
It was not pretty, my friends. The captives screamed and yowled, crashing into the sides of the pen until I feared they would break it down. With foam dripping down their chins, the frenzied cats bit at the sides of the kennel. Only when I covered it with a blanket did they settle down. The next morning they hissed and bit at me as I carted them to the friendly vet, warned him, and left. When I returned I learned how the vet tranquilized them through the cage, then removed them for the procedure. Smart. Repeating the process, I caught them all, each coming home with a cropped right ear to signify they were sterile. My son said I was a responsible citizen. It felt good.Only on the last catch, did I rush the cage so quickly I lost my footing and sat down hard on the concrete porch. Nothing broke, but I walked funny for a few days. I think my feral cats enjoyed that part of the whole business.
Last week four other authors and I (all educators) shared a table at the Knox Co. Fair. The purpose was to bring a little literary flair to the otherwise agricultural event. The plan was to meet and greet, sell and sign books. Actually, more meeting and greeting took place than selling and signing, but it was a fun week. Book lovers came and shared titles of beloved books. Old friends surfaced with memories and handshakes.
The best part of being an author has been meeting other writers. As the “Old Soldier” of the group, I shared favorite conferences and outlets to these first-time authors. (The KY Book Fair being my favorite venue.)
Jim Beery, local teacher and journalist, compiled his articles, including pictures of family members. Dr. Dale Glenn of Bloomington shared memories of summers with his grandparents in small, nearby Decker in his novel, PURCELL STATION. Wini Frances and Linda Miller of Daviess Co. published read-alouds for children.
Thanks to all who dropped by our table. Keep reading and sharing those good books!
A friend suggested the Ivy Malone mysteries by Lorena McCourtney. I enjoyed the feisty retired librarian/amateur sleuth, so I found the author on FaceBook and asked to be her friend. After a brief chat, this fan asked for an interview on my blog. Lorena agreed and I hope my friends will soon be engaged in Ivy Malone’s adventures.
MARLIS DAY QUESTIONS
- When did you start writing?
- Oh, my, this was so long ago! Way back in the dim, dark ages of time. I made my first “professional” sale when I was in high school, an article called “Dad Has Plans,” about my father’s desire to move to Alaska. It was published in a magazine called The Alaska Sportsman. Then in college, where I majored in Animal Husbandry, I wrote a few articles on agricultural subjects. Marriage and motherhood then intervened, but by the time I returned to writing I knew I wanted to write fiction. I then had some 250 children’s and teenage short stories published, plus another 150 of the old “confession” magazine stories. Then I went to book-length, mass-market romances, then to Christian romances, and finally to where I am now (which is where I really feel at home), writing Christian mysteries. So I might say to anyone who is just now starting writing, it may take a while to find your niche!
- Did you pattern Ivy after someone?
I think every writer puts a part of herself in her characters. I didn’t actually pattern Ivy after anyone, but she probably has more of me in her than any of my other characters. Not that I’m as adventurous as Ivy is! Nor do I go around getting involved in murders. But Ivy and I are of the same generation, and her “invisibility” comes from my personal experience. Ivy has a “black thumb,” and mine is pretty black too. And, of course, we both have our strong Christian beliefs.
- How do you plan a new book?
Hmm. Good question. I think it would be easier, and perhaps take less time, if I planned more. But I just can’t get into the details until I’m into the writing. When I’m working with characters I already know, like Ivy, I mostly work with details of the plot – who got murdered, why, who did it, how Ivy solves the mystery. Although I’ve been known to change the killer halfway through a book! If I’m working with new characters I spend much more time thinking about personality traits and previous events that affected their lives.
- When & where do you get your best plot ideas?
Sometimes it seems as if plot ideas are everywhere; sometimes it seems as if my brain is a barren desert of ideas. They may come from anywhere: something I read, something that happens to someone I know, sometimes just a lot of “what-if”ing in my head.
- How much time do you spend with a book before submitting to editors?
I like to have a year to work on a book, but editors I’ve worked with usually set deadlines not more than 9 months apart. I’ve never submitted a manuscript to other readers before sending it to the editor.
- Any plans to retire?
Actually, I consider myself semi-retired right now. I’m not really retired, because I’m still writing and publishing. But I’m retired from what is generally being called “traditional publishing” now. Meaning I’m still writing, with the intention of publishing e-books myself, but I’ve retired from dealing with publishers now. Which does not mean I was unhappy with the publisher of my Ivy books, the Julesburg Mysteries, or the Cate Kinkaid files. My editor there was great. It simply means that various problems, mostly medical for both my husband and me, have made trying to stick to publisher deadlines just not possible now.
- Who do you read?
Well . . . I read most anything that looks interesting. Since I’ve been writing mysteries, I read more in that genre than I used to. I’ve never been fond of historicals, but occasionally I read one of them too (and surprise myself by enjoying it).
- If you ever tour the Midwest, will you stop and visit our book club in so. Indiana?
I never have done any touring, so I’m not likely to start now. But I’ll be glad to answer any questions your book club might have.
- What are you working on now? (this is a question I added myself)
Right now I’m finishing up Book #5 in the Ivy Malone Mysteries, “Go, Ivy, Go!”, mostly just waiting for a cover before I can put it up on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo.
I’m also in the process of getting some of my other books, which were published in print only, formatted for availability as e-books. The one I most recently finished is “Your Chariot Awaits,” Book #1 of my Andi McConnell Mysteries, which is now available on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. Andi has just been downsized from her job, dumped by her boyfriend, and is depressed about her upcoming 60th birthday. Good news! She inherits a sleek black limousine. Bad news: that dead body that soon turns up in the trunk.
My Christmas village graces my window seat from Thanksgiving until Spring. I’ve become familiar with the streets, shops, and homes in this tiny community. Carefully, I place the citizens and imagine each role and personality. Lately, I’ve gazed into this turn-of -the-century town and considered it as a possible setting for a mystery.
My head hurts. Too many dreary winter days. I think it’s time to put the village away. Come on, Spring!
I asked if I could interview him for my blog and he agreed.
Dale, why did you decide to write this book?
People often ask me how I came to write the novel, Purcell Station, and I tell them it was an idea that simmered on the back burner of my mind for over forty years. It began when I would spend my summers with visits to my grandparents in Decker, a small town in Knox County, Indiana. It was there I discovered my family legacy in a town that was rich, not in material wealth, but in character and characters, some of whom were rather eccentric, and I realized they had a story to tell. It wasn’t until I retired that I found the time and motivation to write it.
How would you describe this book?
It is a heartwarming, coming-of-age story of l950’s innocence, compassion, redemption, and rebirth. Garrett, the twelve-year-old narrator, discovers his family legacy and is absorbed into the culture of the town, until one day in the basement of Slinker’s General Store he stumbles onto something he wasn’t supposed to see and nobody wanted to talk about. That’s when he realized Purcell Station has some secrets it was hiding. In his pursuit of the mystery, he realizes what his Grandmother meant when she said, “Life is one trial after another to see who has the mettle to stand up and do the right thing.”
Would you share a little background with my readers?
Born in Knox County where my family roots go back to the 1880’s, I began my career as an English teacher at Speedway High School in Indianapolis. Since then I became a principal in Huntingburg and Bloomington, and an adjunct professor at Indiana University. I still reside in
Bloomington. My website is: purcellstation.com.
Last week I visited the fourth and fifth grade classes at Villa Grove Elementary School in north central Illinois. These fourth graders were excited about The Secret of Bailey’s Chase, which their teachers had just read to them. The students were good listeners and had lots of questions for this author. I hope they continue to read and love books. I thank the teachers for reading my books to their classes and hope they will enjoy the sequel as much as the first book. (I always leave a free book for the teacher who invited me.) It was a lovely drive through the autumn farm land of Illinois, and I always enjoy spending an afternoon with young readers. After six hours of round-trip driving, two hours of speaking and answering the questions of a hundred eager, bouncy youngsters, this retired teacher was glad to put her feet up at the end of the day. However, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat!
Just out of college, I taught reading to third graders. However, I spent most of my career teaching language arts to seventh grade students. My three mysteries were penned during my teaching tenure, working on weekends and summer vacations. After I retired I wrote the two Bailey’s Chase novels for middle grade readers. Since then, I’ve not written any new books but have written a few short stories and enjoyed blogging and speaking at schools. This fall I was asked to volunteer at the local elementary school and listen to children read. So one afternoon a week, I sit in the hallway outside a third grade classroom and listen to children giggle as they read funny books. This little girl asked, “Are you really an author?”
Life has taken me in a full circle, the years rich and rewarding. What a blessing and privilege to teach eager young readers and later to share my love of books with reluctant seventh graders, transforming some into lifelong readers. I consider it an honor to have touched so many lives. Now I’m back in the saddle again and it feels good.