Another Cat-Sitting Gig. Another Catch Up Opportunity.


Like an oasis.

Every year around early June, I come to this house to cat- and house-sit for a week. The responsibility is an oasis that removes me from my own non-writing duties at my home to come here where all I have is the cat, picking up the mail and bringing in the trash tote after garbage day.

The writing to-do list grows.

A month prior to arriving, I make a list of books, magazines and writing materials to bring and the agenda of what I want to accomplish during the seven days I’m here.

The bad part is I delay doing some necessary writing by putting it on this list rather than getting it done at the time.

When I arrive.

I fill the dining room table with notebooks, laptop, iPad, papers and pens. The first two days are overwhelming. My to-do list may have become impossibly long, at least it feels that way when I look at it all spread across the table.

Finding the groove.

The key is to steadily work through the priority of items. Make progress.

By the second day, I love this world where it’s only me and words.

I’ve submitted short stories to e-magazines, proofread one short piece and sent it out, researched other possible submission sites, read up on blogs and writing sites.

Started a new story inspired by the neighbor’s hot tub.

I feel good.

Thanks to the cat loving travelers.

When not under contract with an agency or editor, I don’t have any outside deadlines. All is done through self-motivation.

The fear is without deadlines, I let myself get taken further and further away from the writing life. The easier it becomes to not write, to not blog, to not research sites, not submit short stories, not query agents.

What a relief that at least once a year, I count on the folks who ask me to stay in their homes, eat their food and watch their cats to provide the catching up.

Not only do I make a big dent in my writing to-do list, but I get reinvigorated about writing as well. The pull is strong enough to keep making writing a big priority when I get back home.


“Motivation will keep you going forwards. Hesitation will only drag you backwards.”   ~Mouloud Benzadi


*All images are my own unless noted.



Being Mermaid: Manatee Born


I’ve written a yet-to-be-published novel about a mermaid in today’s ocean whose story is as much about being a woman as it is about being a mermaid, maybe more. Being Mermaid: Creating Story

I’ve spoken about worldbuilding in previous “Being Mermaid” posts. Today’s focus is about the mermaid herself.


Characterization is an element of the writing craft referring to the description of the characters in a story, which can encompass a wide range of personality traits, actions, looks. My mermaid character needed to be as plausible as possible, so I went looking for researched facts and my imagination to develop this half-fish, half-human creature.

Mermaid as Manatee

As legends go, sailors on the old wooden ships declared they’d seen mermaids, and in some stories they’d said they were sung to and lured into the sea, whereupon these mermaids would attempt to drown them. Such deadly woman-fishlike creatures were also called Sirens in mythology Being Mermaid: From Out of the Sea

Have you ever seen a manatee? Hard to imagine anyone, except maybe a sailor who’d been on the sea for months and months, could mistake a manatee for a mermaid.

Yet, there had to be something to the stories, and the legends were where I sarted to develop the background character of my mermaid. As a result, three main aspects of a manatee’s life became a part of a mermaid’s life: diet, environment and reproduction.

Vegetation Diet

Like manatees, the mermaid characters eat strictly sea plants, particularly the sweeter seagrasses.


Manatees have a wide range of travel in the U.S., going as far north as the Carolinas and west to Texas but they tend to live mostly in and around Florida’s waters and canals, especially during winter. The key to their envrioment is the temperature of the water. They can die from cold stress if water temperatures drop below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Manatee facts have become a part of the mermaid’s character as well. She is more at ease in salt water than the versatile salt or fresh water manatee, but a mermaid cannot survive long if the ocean temperature drops below 68 degrees Fahrentheit.

To ensure the lifespan of the mermaids in my novel, I’ve located them on an isolated island in the Caribbean Ocean, unless something freaky happens to drop the temperature.


A significant issue in my mermaid novel is the role of the female mermaid and her ability to reproduce, the key to the survival of any species.

The mantatee gives birth to one calf every two to five years; twins are rare. After a gestation period of almost a year, a mother nurses her young for one to two years before the baby becomes independent.

Reproduction is a problem for the mermaids on my made-up island of Little Mangrove. A mermaid has an on- and off- fertile cycle. If she does get pregnant, her gestation period is one year, and she cannot become pregnant again until two years after giving birth. Twins are a much-heralded birth when they occur, which, like the manatee, is rare.

About that Tail

A manatee is a slow-moving, gentle, playful animal who normally swims at three to five miles an hour but can hit up to twenty miles per hour in a short burst. Its tail looks as thick as its fleshy, barrel-shaped body.

A mermaid is not the same, except for having a tail. Somewhere along the evolutionary trail of the mermaid, she grew fish scales on her bottom half, not the fleshy skin of the manatee, and though the mermaid has a tail, it is lighter, filmier and more fishlike than a manatee’s.

A mermaid swims fast, very fast, able to keep up with the dolphin at twenty-one miles per hour and the shark at thirty-one miles per hour. However, some of the big game fish, such as the marlin at fifty miles per hour and the sail fish at sixty-eight, can out-swim a mermaid in the long run.

Building Character

Building characters is a challenge for any writer. Sometimes the details of a character’s life come quickly; othertimes, there’s a lot of research necessary to make a character believable, especially when that character is a mix of legend, heresay and reality.

“Believe in your character. Animate (or write) with sincerity.” ~Glen Keane (Animator for Walt Disney, incuding “The Little Mermaid.”)

[Photo credit: Andrew Imanaka vis]