Woo-hoo! Coming Soon!

Woo-hoo! Coming Soon!

birthdays-weekend-trip-to-wi-018

“What are you going to tell Dragon?” My husband, Miles, looked at me, his brow furrowed and the corners of his usually smiling mouth turned down.

looking for dragon“Shhhh!” I poked my head out of the laundry room and scanned the hallway. Hearing Dragon snoring in the conference room, I returned to Miles and took one end of the fitted sheet he was trying to fold. “Keep your voice down. I don’t want her to hear us.”

Miles lowered his voice. “She’s going to find out eventually. It would be best if you told her. Remember how she reacted before?”

I nodded. I remembered the hurt in her eyes, the scorn in her voice, the look of betrayal on her reptilian face. I didn’t want to go through that again.

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/dragon-or-green-eyed-monster/

“Well? What are you going to tell her, then?” Miles gave me a searching look.

I furrowed my brow and chewed on my lower lip as Miles and I finished folding the sheet. “I’ll think of something.”

Dwarf and hamA short while later, I was in my office with the door closed. My Old Dwarf shouldered the door open, turning the doorknob with one hand while munching a ham he held in his other hand. He plopped down in a chair next to me. “Be ye busy, lass?”

“I would have thought the closed door would convey that impression.” I gave him an icy glare.

“Oh, did tha door been closed? I dinna be noticin’.” He looked at my computer monitor. “What be ye doin’?”

I immediately minimized the window, hiding the image that had filled the screen. “Nothing important.”

Dragon with smoke“Good. Then we kin be chattin’.” He took a big bite of the ham, then continued talking around the mouthful of food. “Lass, I be worried aboot tha big beastie.”

I tried to ignore the bits of ham that fell from the dwarf’s mouth onto his grizzled beard. “Dragon? Why are you worried about her?”

“She be seemin’ out o sorts tha past few days.”

I sighed. “She gets this way every winter, you know that. She’ll spend the rest of the winter huddled in front of her illusory fireplace, grumbling and fuming about the cold.”

Smoke drifting from Dragon's snout

“Ye think thet be all there be ta it?” The dwarf looked relieved.

“I’m sure of it.” I gave him a big smile and a reassuring pat on his hand.

He jumped out of his seat and headed out the door, humming around another mouthful of food.

After my Old Dwarf left, I got up, closed the door, and returned to my computer. I brought up the image I had been viewing before the interruption.

Promo for anthology

“Is that about the book where your new dragon lives?”

I jumped up, almost knocking over my chair. I shot a quick glance at the door – it was still closed tight. “How did you get in here?” I gaped at Dragon.
Dragon asks about book
“That matters not. I am here.” She looked pointedly at the image on the monitor. “Is that about the book where your new dragon lives?”

I nodded, not knowing what to say.

“It is to be published soon?” Thin tendrils of smoke drifted from her snout.
Coming November 27
“Yes.” I pointed to the monitor. “It will be available online starting November 27.”

JourneysDragon stared at the image for several long minutes. “It states that the anthology explores the topic of journeys.”

Dragon looked at me, and I nodded my affirmation.

Dragon narrowed her eyes. “To what wondrous and exotic places does your new dragon go?”

I wrinkled my forehead. “He does not take a literal journey. The dragon in that story is on the journey of life, a journey of discovery.”

Dragon studied the image again. “The other stories, the essays, the poems in this anthology – do they all involve dragons?”

I laughed. “No.”
Dragon with smoke
Dragon frowned, and the smoky tendrils drifting from her nose darkened. “Are they all about journeys of life and discovery?”

second story - cowboy taleI tilted my head and rubbed the back of my neck. “Well, no. Each story, essay, and poem in the anthology is a unique interpretation of the concept of a journey. Each author has their own understanding of the topic. I, myself, have a second story in the anthology that involves a cowboy’s journey from grief, guilt, and blame to understanding and acceptance, and on to romance.”

Dragon remained silent as she digested this information. “Your new dragon is not in that story?”
My other dragon 2
I smiled. “No. He had no place in that story.”
Dragon with smoke bubbles
“As I had no place in his story?” Her voice was soft, but a note of petulance crept into her words. Her distress was plain to see, as she morphed to blue and started dripping smoke bubbles from her nose.

I nodded. “As you had no place in his story.”

dragon looking rightDragon snorted and returned to an angry shade of red. “Because, as you once told me, I am not right for the part? You claimed I was too noble, too experienced, too good, too playful. You claimed your new dragon did not have my knowledge, my compassion, my sense of fair-play, or my humor.” She glared at me.

“That is correct, my friend.” I reached out and placed my hand on her scaly arm.

Dragon stopped glaring. “You also once told me I could not meet your new dragon then, as you claimed I would be a good influence on him, which would be bad for your story…his story. But you also said I might meet him someday.”

I nodded, remembering the exchange.

“May I meet him now?”

I shook my head. “He is not like you. He lives only within the words of the story. You will have to read the story to meet him.”

“Then, may I read the story?”

“You may read that one, and all the other stories, essays, and poems in the anthology – after it is published on November 27. At that time, specific information will be released, detailing where and how it will be available.”
Promo for anthology
Dragon nodded. She turned back to the image on the computer monitor and stared at it again. “Tell me about the others whose stories, essays, and poems are in this anthology.”

I felt a big smile spread across my face. “They are a wonderful, diverse group of writers. We met in cyberspace some years ago when we all participated in an online workshop – the 2015 October Platform Challenge. That was a Writer’s Digest workshop presented by Robert Lee Brewer, then Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community. The workshop was designed to teach writers how to develop or improve a writing platform and promotion plan, as well as to cultivate a positive presence on social media.”

“That was three years ago.” Dragon seemed surprised. “Is that not when you started writing your blog?”

I nodded. “Starting a blog was one of the tasks for the workshop.”

Dragon eyed me curiously. “And your group has remained together since then?”

I nodded. “We have. We formed a writer’s group on one of the social media sites, and we still offer each other support and encouragement. This anthology was a major project for that group, and the members who served as editors gave tirelessly of their time and expertise to ensure the completion and eventual publication of our work.”

Elf clericDragon nodded. She began to shimmer and slowly shape-shift into her accustomed guise of an elf maiden.

“I look forward to reading their work.” She smiled at me. “Perhaps, when the anthology is released, my fellow characters and I can throw you a small party, celebrating the publication of your two stories in this anthology.”
My other dragon
I grinned and winked at her. “You would celebrate the publication of my new dragon’s story?”

Dragon tilted her head and paused a moment before answering. “Only if you promise someday we will be celebrating the publication of our stories.”

I sighed. “I will do my best.”

I hope you will all come back next week to find out how to get your copy of this anthology, called on the platform, waiting. I know all my readers will enjoy these works by my fellow writers and me. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Working on the Calendar

Working on the Calendar

Month of Novembermarge.jpg“Wow! I can’t believe it’s already the middle of November!” I could feel the beginnings of a real panic attack.

My husband, Miles, nodded. “Five weeks from this Sunday is Christmas.”

I could feel myself start to sweat. “Did you have to remind me?”
Miles
Miles grinned.
Days turn into weeks
I frowned and raked my hand through my hair. “I have to get working on my presents for my sister and my son! I have to get them done in time to mail them.”

Elf facing right“Are you making calendars for them again this year?” Cleric had been listening and now joined the conversation. “The ones featuring your wonderful photographs of the birds we have seen this past year?”

Calendar“Well, I don’t know how wonderful my photos are, but, yeah, that’s the plan. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to work on them. And I didn’t take nearly as many photos this year as I have in past years, so it will be harder to find photos I can use.”

“Mayhap I can help?” Cleric shuffled her foot back and forth. She ducked her head and peeked at me, eagerness showing in her soft cornflower eyes.

“Well, I guess two pairs of eyes are better than one.” Before Cleric could get too excited, I added, “It’s tedious work. We have to look through an entire year’s accumulation of photos and pick out the best ones for each of the 18 months, plus one for the cover.”

Cleric furrowed her brow and rubbed her neck. “Eighteen months, Mistress? I thought your years had only 12 months.”

I chuckled. “They do, but I usually do an 18-month calendar. It will have the 12 months of one year, and the first half of the following year. That way, I can use more photos . . . presuming I have enough.” I frowned. “This year, I might have a hard time finding enough for a 12-month calendar.”

“I am certain you have more than 12, or even 18, photos you can use, Mistress!”

“Perhaps, but I usually try to use more than one photo per month, sometimes as many as four.”

gypsy-facing-right“Why do you use so many?” My Gypsy, who had been listening quietly from his chair by the window, came over and joined the conversation. “Why not just one per month?”

“Mostly for aesthetics. One big photo per month might be beautiful, but if I prefer to vary the number. Some months I place two photos side-by-side, some months I position two photos with one under the other. Some months I arrange three, and some, four. I just think it makes the calendar more interesting.” I paused, then mumbled, “Besides, in past years I have had too much trouble picking just 13 to 19 photos from an entire year’s worth of images, not that I will have that problem this year.”

“Then, it is a good thing that Cleric and I are going to assist you this year.” My Gypsy waggled his eyebrows and gave me a lopsided grin.

I turned to Miles. “If anyone is looking for me, Cleric, or my Gypsy, we will be in my office, working on the calendars.”

Miles dropped a quick kiss on my forehead, winked and commented, ‘I didn’t think there was enough room in that office for more than one person.”

office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002

* * *

office - getting down to workAfter spending more than a few minutes clearing off some chairs and moving an assortment of files and papers from my desk, the three of us sat down facing the computer monitor.

computer mouseMy Gypsy started to reach for my computer mouse. “How do we begin?”

I gave his hand a gentle slap. “We begin by not touching anything.”

He frowned. “Then how do we see the photographs?”

“I think Mistress means you and I do not touch anything.” Cleric raised an eyebrow at the lad.

“Exactly.” I reached for the mouse. “I have all the photographs stored on the external hard drive, arranged in files according to date. We’ll start with the ones from last November and December, any photos taken after I created the calendars last year.”

I clicked on a few icons and brought up the files of photos from 2017. “Hmmm…”

“What is it, Mistress?” Cleric tried to see what I was looking at.

Thumbnails“It seems I was late doing the calendar last year, too. So, we can’t use any photos taken before November 28. The next date I took any photos of birds was December 29.” I opened the file, and the monitor was immediately filled with thumbnails of the photos.

“These are hard to see.” My Gypsy craned his neck and squinted.

Song Sparrow“No problem. I’ll bring them up one at a time and we can see them.” I clicked on the first photo, making the single image fill the screen.

My Gypsy nodded as he looked at the image. “That looks like a Song Sparrow on the deck eating the millet spray you offer.”

Cleric examined the photo. “That would be a good image to include. It is a bird we see a lot here in the yard and on the deck.”

I frowned and shook my head. “Yes, it’s a good bird to include, but the image is not good enough. It’s not sharp enough. I want images that are crisp.”

White-breasted NuthatchWe passed over several others, including an image of a White-breasted Nuthatch taking a peanut from a bowl. “That’s a good one.” My Gypsy argued. “It’s very crisp.”

“No, it’s just not good enough. I didn’t get the entire bird in the photo – I cut off part of the tail.”

Cleric sighed. “You are very fussy, Mistress! The picture looks good enough to me.”

I nodded. “Yes, I am fussy. I know I took better photos. We just have to look for them. I told you this was a tedious job. Are you sure you want to help?”

Cleric blushed. “Oh, yes, Mistress! I did not mean to complain!”

We went back to examining the first set of photos. The only one all three of us could agree on from this set was a Red-bellied Woodpecker in a snowy tree.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

“Well, let’s see what I took in 2018.” I opened another file.

It took us a while to find enough photos for the cold-weather months. I scowled. “You know how much I hate the cold! So, the only photos I take in the cold are those I can take through the glass windows on the French doors to the deck.”

American Tree SparrowMy Gypsy was glad when I accepted one of his favorites, an American Tree Sparrow sitting on the deck railing. “It is a good, clear image. You can see all the identifying marks – the rusty cap and line through the eye, the dark spot on his chest, and the two-colored beak. Also, the expression on his face makes it look like he was posing for the camera. I really like this image!”

Blue JayCleric smiled when I also accepted her suggestion, the Blue Jay who was sitting in a tree. “I like the varying shades of blue, violet, gray, and black on the Jay. And, even though I enjoy the photos of the birds on the deck and in the feeders, I love to see them in the trees. I also like the way this bird is looking straight at the camera. He almost looks amused at having his picture taken.”

Dark-eyed Junco (1)I included one of my favorites, too. “I love this image of the Dark-eyed Junco. They’re known as snow birds and arrive here shortly before the cold weather sets in for the season, so this one is perfect for one of the winter months of the calendar. And this image is interesting with the bird holding one leg up underneath him to keep it warm. You can also see the safflower seed he’s eating.”

Once we had all the photos we needed for the winter months, I was hoping it would be easy to find the ones we needed for the warmer months. We had many more photos from which to choose. When Cleric and my Gypsy took a trip down memory lane with each set of photos, though, it slowed things down to a crawl.
Sandhill Cranes
“Oh, I remember this nature walk! It was at Carver Park Reserve, and we found these two Sandhill Cranes in a field right near the entrance to the park.” Cleric smiled and clapped her hands at the memory.

“I do not remember that.” My Gypsy frowned.

Cleric wrinkled her brow and tilted her head. “I do not believe you went with us that day. You remained here, to work with your horse. Mistress took me with her to help convince the birds to pose for her.”

The lad nodded. “Oh, of course! I remember you telling me about it when you returned home.”

GoslingAs I opened another folder and started going through the photos, my Gypsy pointed to one he remembered. “I was with you that day. It was early spring at the Arboretum. Most of the Canada Geese were still sitting on their nests, but two pairs already had goslings following them around. They were extremely protective of their young, but Cleric finally convinced one pair to let you take this picture of their smallest baby.”

DucklingI nodded, remembering. “This will be a good photo for the calendar, along with that late-hatched Mallard duckling we saw at Shakopee Memorial Park in July.” It took me a few moments to find that image. “Were you with us that day?”

“No, I missed that one, too. But I am sure Cleric was there.”

Cleric nodded. “I remember how surprised you were when we saw the fuzzy duckling. You said it must have been from a second nesting, as all the others were older and already fully feathered.”

I nodded and brought up two photos of the older ducklings. “I don’t think we’ll use the images of the older ducklings, though. We have better photos to use.”

Bald Eagle on office buildingAs we looked through some photos from Purgatory Creek Park, Cleric pointed to an image of a Bald Eagle on the roof of an office building adjacent the park. “Are you going to use that one?”

“No, I used a similar one last year. I think this year I should use a picture of that young eagle that was making a practice nest on the streetlight.” I quickly found those photos.


“I remember that!” My Gypsy chuckled. “The branches and vegetation he was using kept sliding off the light!”

As we continued to go through the photos, Cleric furrowed her brow. “We have a good number of photos of birds we saw on our nature walks. We should balance that with images of birds at the feeders. You should use this one of the young Baltimore Oriole on the hummingbird feeder, and the one of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird on the same feeder later that day.”

“And I like the Gray Catbird and the Yellow-rumped Warbler on the feeder poles.” My Gypsy pointed to the images.

American Robin (3)“Okay, we’ll include them, and this close-up I got of the American Robin. But there are still some from our walks I want to use. I want to include a few of the Eastern Bluebirds and two of the Common Yellowthroat.”

Cleric looked at the photos I had chosen and nodded. “And do not forget some of the photos you have taken of waterfowl.” She pointed at several images. “You took wonderful images of the American Coot, the Lesser Scaup, and the Pied-billed Grebe at Memorial Park in Shakopee.”


“And the Horned Grebe and the Ruddy Ducks at Purgatory Creek,” my Gypsy added, also pointing at the images on the monitor.

“I will include them,” I agreed.

Wild Turkey (2)I checked the images we had chosen and the spreadsheet where I listed the photos according to the month for which they would be used. “We still have a few months to fill. I think I’ll include that image of the Wild Turkey I took at Westwood Hills Nature Center. It would be perfect for November.”

It took us all day, but we finally found enough images for the calendar, including three of Red-winged Blackbirds (an adult male, a juvenile, and an adult female), one of a White-throated Sparrow, and one of a Swainson’s Thrush I would have overlooked if it hadn’t been for my characters helping me.

“This was so much fun! Now we have to start thinking about the calendars you will create next year.” Cleric smiled. “We need to plan lots of nature walks!”

We look forward to all our readers joining us for next year’s nature walks. Who knows what we might find! Of course, that’s a long time from now, so meanwhile, be sure to return each week to see what my characters are up to. We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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Which Way Did They Go?

Which Way Did They Go?

dragon looking rightDragon looked around cautiously. She stuck her head through the open conference room door and looked, first down the hallway toward Mistress Writer’s office, and then up the stairs toward the front entry. She sniffed the air, then tilted her head and cocked her ears, listening carefully. “I think they are gone.”

Stu-04-NatGalShe turned back to the conference room, where the companions had gathered. Sorceress nodded. “Yes. Mistress Writer and Master Miles left the house about 15 minutes ago. They said they would be gone all day. They told Cleric they are going to spend the day shopping, and then they plan to go to a restaurant and maybe to a movie after that.”

Dragon drew back her lips in a wide, toothy grin. “Good. We may commence.”

* * *

“Hey, Nolan! I thought you said that couple we’re watching left the premises.”

“They did, Johnson, about a half-hour ago.”

“Well, then, who’s that?” The man called Johnson pointed to a car leaving the garage of the property they were watching.

Walkie-talkie“I don’t know! Let me check. Maybe they came back when we were patrolling another area.” Nolan picked up his walkie-talkie. “Hey, Davis, you there? Over.”

The radio crackled, and a scratchy voice replied. “Yeah, I’m here. Who’s this? Over.”

“Davis, this is Nolan, at the stakeout. Are you still tailing that pair in the car? Over.”

“Sure, Nolan. Jakoby and I are right behind them. Why? Over.”

“Well Johnson and I just saw a car leave the garage. It looks the same as the car that left earlier, the one you say you’re following. We thought maybe they came back when we weren’t looking. Over.”

“Don’t know what to tell you. They didn’t return to their house. We’ve been following this car ever since it left your location about a half-hour ago. It’s heading east on 212, and it’s never been out of our sight. Over.”

“Okay. Stay with that car. Don’t lose them. Out.”

Nolan turned back to his partner. “Davis said . . .”

FedJohnson cut him off. “I heard. Contact Pruse and McFadden. They’re at the end of the street. Tell them to tail this new car.”

Nolan contacted the other team and relayed the message.

After a few seconds of silence, a reply crackled through the walkie-talkie. “Nolan, how long ago did you say this car left your location? Over.”

“Maybe five minutes. Why? Over.”

“You putting us on, Nolan? If it left your location five minutes ago, it should have passed us by now. There hasn’t been a car go past since the one Davis and Jakoby are tailing. Now quit trying to be funny! Over and out.”

Miles waving from carBefore Nolan could say anything, he and Johnson saw the garage door open again, and another car leave, identical to the first two. This time, they got a good look at the driver, who smiled and waved as the car drove slowly past them.

Johnson’s jaw dropped. “That’s the guy! That’s the guy we’re supposed to be watching. The one who left here earlier with his wife. The one Davis and Jakoby are tailing.”

Johnson grabbed Nolan’s walkie-talkie. “Davis and Jakoby! Pull that car over! Make sure the occupants are who you think they should be! You hear me? Pull it over! Pruse and McFadden, if a car tries to go past you, stop it!”

* * *

While Johnson and Nolan were trying to make sense of what was going on with the car, Deputies Whitewash and Dawg were patrolling the street east of the stakeout location.

“Whitewash! Look! There’s that crazy old coot with the suit of armor and the axe!”
Dwarf and rabbit
Deputy Whitewash looked in the direction her partner was pointing. She saw the armored dwarf sprinting down the street. He was cussing a blue streak and brandishing an axe at a large rabbit that appeared to be enjoying the chase. Several times, the long-eared critter slowed down and looked over its shoulder, almost appearing to be waiting for the rotund figure who was puffing and panting after it.

As the rabbit led the Old Dwarf closer to the deputies, Whitewash and Dawg heard the dwarf yelling. “I be gittin’ ye this time, ye ornery little beastie, ye jest be seein’ iffin I do na! Thet be tha lastest time ye be getting’ in Mistress Writer’s carrot patch!” He waved the axe wildly over his head.

The two deputies eyed the approaching figure with trepidation. As the dwarf continued chasing the rabbit toward them, they both removed their pistols from their holsters and released the safeties.

“Sir? Sir! Please put down that weapon.” Dawg dropped to one knee and aimed his gun at the dwarf.

“Sir, we don’t want to hurt you, but you must put down that weapon!” Whitewash stood with her feet planted firmly apart and took aim at the approaching figure.

Suddenly, the rabbit and its pursuer made a quick turn and disappeared between two houses. The deputies gave chase.

“Where did they go?” Dawg looked down the side yards separating the houses. Nothing was there.

“They couldn’t have run the length of the houses and gotten to the back yards so quickly!” Whitewash gaped in the direction they had seen the dwarf and the rabbit running.

Dwarf, rabbit, and deputiesSuddenly, they heard a commotion behind them. The rabbit was loping down the side of a house on the opposite side of the street, coming straight toward them. The dwarf was hot on its heels, still cussing and yelling and waving the axe around.

“How did they get over there?” Dawg’s eyes were as big as saucers.

As the two deputies raced toward the dwarf, the rabbit turned right and streaked past several houses before turning again and running between two buildings. The dwarf was still right behind the creature.

“Stop! Stop or we’ll shoot!” Dawg yelled at the back of the departing figure.

When Whitewash and Dawg reached the side yard the dwarf had run down, they saw nothing. Once again, they heard a commotion behind them. They turned and looked just as the rabbit and the dwarf popped out from between two houses on the other side of the street.

Whitewash blanched. “That’s not possible!”

Using their shoulder microphones, Dawg and Whitewash contacted several of the other law enforcement agents who were manning various stakeout locations throughout the neighborhood. Soon, four sheriff’s deputies and six federal agents were chasing the dwarf and the rabbit around the neighborhood.

Dwarf and rabbit 2The dwarf and the rabbit always seemed to disappear between two houses on one side of the street, only to reappear a few seconds later, a little further down the road, running from between two houses on the other side of the street. They kept leading the law enforcement officials further and further down the lane, heading east, away from the house under surveillance.

* * *

Half of the task force was chasing the dwarf heading east, and all but two of the remaining members of the team were at the far western end of the street trying to figure out what was happening with the car that was being tailed, and the other identical cars that Johnson and Nolan swore they had seen leave the garage. Only two agents were still watching the dwelling when Dragon, in her customary elven guise, left the house with Cleric and Sorceress. The agents watched as the three figures crossed the street and hurried to the house of their neighbors, Mace and Gloria.

Dragon tapped on the door, then opened it just wide enough for her and her two companions to slip through. The two agents immediately ran over to the house. One agent crept up onto the porch of the house the three figures had just entered while his partner stayed on the sidewalk and used her walkie-talkie to contact the team leaders. “Johnson? Nolan? Denhurst here. Over.”

The radio crackled. “Nolan here. What’s up, Denhurst? Over.”

“Three of the people from the house we have staked out just left that house and entered the home of our two informants, Mace and Gloria. Over.”

“Stay there. Try to keep them in sight. Mace and Gloria could be in danger. Johnson and I will be right there. Out.”

Moments later, Johnson and Nolan joined the other two agents on the porch of Mace and Gloria’s house. Johnson placed his right index finger over his lips and pointed with his other hand. The front window was open a few inches, just enough to let the agents hear what was going on.

In the living room, Gloria was throwing a hissy fit, screeching and waving her hands around. “What is this? What are you three doing here? How dare you come into my home?”
Confronting Gloria
Dragon narrowed her eyes. “We want to know what is going on, Gloria. We know you are the reason the task force is here, watching us.”

“Get out!” Gloria ran to the window and peeked through the curtains. “Get out now, before you bring them here!”

Sorceress snorted. “And why would you not want them here?”

Gloria’s face contorted into a snarl. “Get out! Get out! You’re going to ruin everything! It was the perfect plan. We convinced the sheriff’s deputies those annoying neighbors, Marge and Miles, and all you people constantly visiting them, are involved in illegal activities. When they saw all of you, particularly that crazy old coot that goes around in the suit of armor and an axe, it was easy to get them to open an investigation. Then, Deputy Dawg called in the feds and they formed a task force. They staked out that house and have you all under surveillance. That way, everyone’s attention is on that house, and nobody notices what Mace and I do. We can’t risk having them come in here and finding . . .”

Gloria’s voice trailed off, and she looked around the room, her eyes wide with fear. She wiped her damp palms on her jeans and sweat poured down her face in rivulets.

“Finding what, Gloria?” Cleric advanced on the woman. “What is it you do not want them to find?”

Just then, Dragon yelped. “I hear someone out front. Come, we must leave. Head for the back door!”

Johnson jumped. “They’re running! Denhurst, you and your partner get to the back of the house and stop them. Nolan, we’ll take the front door.”

Johnson and Nolan waited until Denhurst radioed that she and her partner were in position at the back of the house. Then they drew their weapons and kicked in the front door to Mace and Gloria’s house.

Gloria was just coming down the hallway and into the living room with a hamper of laundry when two federal agents burst through the front door with weapons drawn. Gloria screamed, and dirty socks and wet towels went everywhere.

* * *

neighborNeighbor 2 facing leftLater that afternoon, Mace and Gloria met with federal agents. They threatened to press charges against the members of the task force. Gloria was almost hysterical. “They broke our front door, and they tore our entire house apart! They kept saying over and over and over that the jig was up, that they had heard everything! They claimed that right before they broke in they had seen and heard me talking with three people from my neighbors’ house. They’re wrong! I was alone in the house when they broke in!”

Mace was not much calmer than his wife. “Gloria said they pointed weapons at her! I think they’re all crazy!”

Every member of the task force was brought in to be debriefed by their superiors. Four sheriff’s deputies and six federal agents all claimed they had been chasing a suspect going east through the neighborhood. Deputy Dawg kept babbling about the chase. “It was that crazy old coot in armor. He had an axe, and he was chasing a rabbit. We called to him to stop, to drop his weapon, but he wouldn’t. He just kept chasing the rabbit. They would run between the houses, but then they would disappear and pop out from between the houses on the other side of the street!”

The deputy’s nine colleagues sat there with him, looking dazed. They all kept nodding at Dawg’s account.

Meanwhile, Agents Johnson and Nolan, along with four of their fellow task-force members, were gibbering about a car that kept leaving the garage over and over and over, without ever first re-entering it. And Agent Denhurst and her partner kept blathering about people who had been in a certain house, talking with the owner, and who just disappeared.

Their superiors frowned. One sighed and raked his hand through his hair. “Maybe it’s time for some of these people to be put on leave.”

Another answered, “Maybe it’s time for them to check into a nice, quiet rest home.”

 

* * *

dragon talking

Dragon smiled at her companions. “That was a good day’s work.”
Arrogant One
The Arrogant One nodded. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands, puffing out his chest with pride. “I told you I was an illusionist extraordinaire.”

“You did a great job with Master Miles and the car!” The Gypsy’s voice held a grudging admiration for the elf.

Cleric chuckled. “And with our little chat with Gloria as well! Do you think Gloria was able to convince the authorities that she never saw us in her house, let alone spoke with us?”

Sorceress smirked. “Serves her right if she cannot!”

The Old Dwarf doubled over with laughter. “An’ tha looks on tha faces o them deputies! I couldna be belivin’ me ownest eyes, as ye been havin’ tha illusion ye been creatin’ o me be chasin’ thet fool rabbit all o’er tha place! Do ye be thinkin’ tha deputies be still tryin’ ta be catchin’ me?”

Dragon smirked. “I do not believe we will have to worry about the deputies or any of the others ever again.”

* * *

Easter 128Backyard 050As Miles pulled the car into the driveway, I commented, “I hope my characters had a nice, quiet day today and didn’t get into any trouble.”

Miles looked at me as if I had grown a second head. “Yeah. Right. Like that would ever happen!”

We both sighed.

So now that my characters have taken care of the intrepid Deputies Whitewash and Dawg and the other members of the task force, what’s next? Be sure to come back next week and see! We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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Are They Still There?

Are They Still There?

Suits“Are they still out there?”

I was referring to County Sheriff ’s deputies Melody Whitewash and Dustin Dawg, and a slew of federal agents, who had been skulking around the neighborhood for the better part of two weeks. They plainly had our property under surveillance but would not tell us why.
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/21/what-have-my-characters-done-now/

making dinnerMy husband, Miles, shrugged. “I’m not sure. They’ve become so much a part of the scenery, I don’t even notice them anymore.” He took the potato peeler and started working on the mountain of spuds. “We better get dinner in the crock pots, so we can go rake the leaves. In the past two weeks, I think every tree and bush has shed every one of their leaves.”

I chuckled. “Yeah. It’s getting harder for the Keystone Kops to find hiding places.”

I took the Santoku knife and began cutting up the rest of the vegetables. “I still don’t know why we are under investigation.”

“Deputy Dawg stated that he didn’t say we are under investigation,” Miles reminded me.

“He also stated that he didn’t say we aren’t.” I frowned. “If it was just him and Deputy Whitewash prowling around the neighborhood, I wouldn’t be too worried. I would figure our nosy neighbors, Mace and Gloria, were behind it, and it would blow over as soon as the deputies couldn’t find any evidence of whatever the busybodies had accused us of this time.”

Miles nodded. “I agree. But with the alphabet soup of federal agencies involved in this alleged taskforce, I tend to think it’s something much more serious, something that’s not going to blow over any time soon.” He finished with his potatoes and started adding them to the slow cookers.

I stopped chopping and brushed the hair out of my eyes. “I’m still worried that it somehow involves my characters. I know they all deny doing anything that would cause us to be under investigation, but I also know you and I haven’t done anything illegal.”

Miles sighed. “And if it isn’t you and me, that only leaves your characters. Whenever there’s trouble, your characters seem to be right in the thick of things.”

Book manuscript“Honey, you know if I could, I’d send them all back into my manuscripts. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to do that. I still don’t understand how they all fell out of my manuscripts and ended up here, so I have no way to reverse the process.”

“I know, sweetheart. I don’t blame you.” My husband reached over and patted my hand.

* * *dragon talking

“I know Mistress Writer and Master Miles blame us for these people, these law enforcement officials, watching this property.” Dragon addressed a gathering of her fellow characters.
bounty-hunter-facing-other-direction
“They may accuse us, but we are blameless.” The Bounty Hunter slouched against the wall of the conference room. He spoke softly and without rancor.

Arrogant One facing rightIn contrast, his compatriot, the Arrogant One, drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands. When he spoke, it was in an annoying high-pitched screech, a peculiar combination of arrogance and petulance. “They have no right to accuse us of anything. We are entirely innocent of all transgressions.”

foreman-facing-left“We all agree that we have done nothing to validate Mistress Writer’s lack of faith in us in this instance. However, this has not always been the case.” The Foreman narrowed his gray eyes and glared at the Arrogant One. “Some of us have caused Mistress Writer and Master Miles much grief in the past. It is no wonder they do not believe in our innocence.”

sorceress-facing-rightThe Arrogant One turned beet red and opened his mouth to reply, but Sorceress cut him off, holding up her hand like a cop stopping traffic. “This is unproductive. Does it really matter whether Mistress Writer blames us? Does it even matter whether we are innocent? If these law enforcers remain in the area and continue to observe the activities of Mistress Writer and Master Miles, sooner or later they will discover us.”

Dwarf facing right“An’ why would thet be so bad?” The Old Dwarf rubbed his shield with a soft cloth, buffing it to a shiny finish. He smiled as he saw his bearded face staring back at him. Then he stood, picked up his battleaxe, looked at his friends and scoffed. “Wot could tha law enforcers be doin’ ta us iffin they be discoverin’ us, anywho?”
Elf facing right
“I do not fear what they could do to us, but what they would do to Mistress Writer and Master Miles.” Cleric spoke softly, her words catching in her throat, and tears stinging her cornflower blue eyes.

Gypsydagger - bullseyeThe Gypsy nodded. “It would not be pleasant for them, trying to explain who we are and whence we came.” His arm snaked out, and his stiletto flew across the room, scoring a perfect bulls-eye on the target mounted on the far wall. “I propose we do something to rid the area of these intruders.”

Young hero 2The Young Hero’s eyes widened, and his jaw dropped. “Surely you do not propose murder!”

“Of course not!” His friend frowned. “But a few well-placed pokes with a dagger might deter them.”

“No.” The Young Hero shook his head. “Violence will only make them determined to find the perpetrator. They would never leave the area.”

Dragon with smoke“There will be no violence.” Dragon’s tone of voice left no room for debate. “We must employ some other means to get these people to abandon their investigation and leave the area, and we must do it without involving Mistress Writer or Master Miles.”

“I suppose you have a plan?” The annoying elf sounded more like he was accusing the big reptile, rather than asking a question. He stood with his arms folded tightly against his chest, and he tapped his foot impatiently.

“Mayhap.” Dragon’s eyes closed to slits, and dark smoke wafted from her nostrils.

* * *

The brittle brown leaves crunched and crackled underfoot as Miles and I raked them into sizeable piles.

Pretend bird watchers“Yup, they’re still there.” I jerked my thumb toward our neighbor’s yard. Deputies Whitewash and Dawg, along with several men in suits, seemed fascinated by something they had apparently spotted in one of our trees. They all stood there along the property line, focusing their binoculars on the bare tree at the edge of the yard.

“What are they watching?” Miles turned and raised a hand to shade his eyes, so he could scan the tree. Then turned back toward me, lifted his palms and shrugged. “I can’t see anything.”

I grinned. “Don’t be fooled by the phony bird watching act. They only bolted from their hiding places and pointed their binoculars at that tree when they realized we had spotted them watching us again.”

Miles sighed. “This is getting more than a bit annoying. We can’t even rake leaves in our own yard in peace.”

“Maybe we should talk to them again?” I leaned on my rake and inclined my head toward the group. They were in a huddle, whispering and glancing over at us.

Miles snorted. “I doubt it would do any good.”

We continued raking as the men in suits wandered off in groups of two and three. Soon, only the deputies remained.

Deputy Whitewash“Excuse me, ma’am, sir.” Deputy Whitewash waved at us and beckoned us closer.

“What can we do for you, Deputy?” I called to her from my position in the middle of the yard, not taking a single step in her direction.

“My partner and I would be more than happy to assist you with your yard work.” Her smile did nothing to warm her expression; rather, it made her look like a vampire trying to mesmerize its victim.

“Thanks for the offer, but Miles and I can manage.” I hoped my smile didn’t look as contrived as hers.

Miles nudged me and whispered, “Hey, if they want to give us a hand . . .”

I cut him off, shaking my head. “They don’t want to help. They want permission to come onto our property, so they can snoop. And if we let these two on the property, all the others will take it as tacit permission to do the same.”

Miles raised his eyebrows and sighed. “I never thought of that.” He paused, giving me a searching look. “You know, either you have become a lot more cynical lately, or you’ve been reading way too many police procedurals.”

“I laughed and winked. “Both. Now let’s get these leaves raked.”

* * *

dragon looking right“Does everyone understand?” Dragon looked from one character to the next. Each nodded in turn, but Dragon saw reluctance in some faces.

“Some of you do not approve?” Smoke drifted from her nostrils.foreman-facing-left

“It is risky.” The Foreman frowned.

Dragon shook her reptilian head. “There is no risk. The elf and I will be doing most of the work.”Gypsy close-up

The Gypsy snorted. “And therein lies the biggest risk – the elf.”

The others murmured their agreement. Dragon lifted an eyebrow. “Elf, you and I share the most important roles. Are you quite certain you can manage? It must be done with perfect timing.”

Arrogant One facing rightThe Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands. He looked down his nose at Dragon and the others. “Of course I can manage. I am, after all, an illusionist extraordinaire!”

“Very well. Tonight, you will study the rest of us. You will need to know every detail of our appearance. Tomorrow, we will commence.”

What is Dragon’s plan? And will it work, or just create more problems for Mistress Writer and Master Miles? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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