I’ve been asked a number of times why I chose to write in the voice of Cal Sheehan, a male deputy sheriff, and not a woman. My first (unpublished) manuscript was about woman who suspected her deceased husband had killed someone when he was a child and her quest to find the truth. In that first work, Cal was a secondary character, and I liked him so much he became my protagonist in the next novel I wrote. But while revising The Equalizer seven times, I did try one version in the voice of a female investigator. Although I liked her character, I found she was too serious, and I didn’t want to mess with her private life like I do Cal’s. Perhaps I will try a female protagonist again someday.
When I chose to use Cal, I wanted to avoid the stereotypical detective (a rogue, smart-aleck, violence-prone alcoholic who skirts the law in his job.) I wanted my character to represent what most cops are: honest, hard-working, dedicated, and honorable individuals.
When writing Cal’s stories he is in my head nearly 24/7, so I chose to make him someone enjoyable to have around and look at. He’s handsome, but not conceited; a big guy, 6”3″, 220 pounds; a family man, although he’s struggled with finding the right woman; and intelligent and witty with outstanding detective instincts, of course. (Although, it may be interesting and challenging to write about a detective with poor instincts.) Cal’s a good guy who steps up to help people in his community.
But! He has flaws. He’s been known to hold a grudge especially against three men: his absent father, a jerk of a co-worker who went after his women, and one of his wife’s former lovers. He’s a rule follower and rigid in some ways. His need for order and tidiness wreaks havoc when he has children. Unfortunately for Cal, he is stupid concerning his love interests and makes poor choices in women he dates or ends up in a love relationship. I give the poor guy lots of trouble with his relationships, but I have plans for allowing him to be happy in upcoming novels. Happy endings and all that.
2021 just has to be better than 2020. Right?
What are some phrases and words that make you shake your head? I dislike misleading phrases and some of these are used frequently. “Half a million” is one. Folks, it’s half way to million. Five hundred thousand is not close enough to warrant the million label as it’s just as close to 100,000. It’s used to make you think 500,00 is more than it is. Another phrase used in sports is “the first time.” Mostly when it’s used, it is not really the first time, it’s just that the team hadn’t won in a number of years and sometimes it’s not that many. The first time in five or ten years? Not that big of a deal. They could say the team hadn’t won since 2015. I prefer accuracy.
Overused words bug me and are often part of a trend that may or may not disappear over time. Often the younger generation start using a word or phrase and other generations pick it up to sound cool. Some had been considered offensive or “bad words” at some point and are so frequently used in conversation, that they have lost their original meaning. One that bothers me is “perfect.” When I give my order to waitstaff at restaurants or answer questions of clerks in stores or businesses and they say “perfect.” Seriously? (I just used one of those overused words, didn’t I?) What’s so perfect about my choice for salmon salad or no starch on a shirt? “Like,” was a teenager’s word thrown in conversations mindlessly. Then the adults picked it up. Why? It dumbs down the discourse.
“Bathroom words” were no-nos in my younger days. Poop, fart, pee, piss. Not anymore, which in my opinion is not necessarily a bad thing. Pissed off and pisser have become so frequently used one doesn’t connect the slang word with urine anymore. “Piss” was considered vulgar for centuries, now it is used everywhere by many people to express anger. The f-bomb is another. You would get in BIG trouble if you used that word in many situations. Now, conversations, movies, cable television shows are loaded with it. There have been some movies where every other word is fuck. That’s annoying to me. Too frequently used and it looses its punch, and then what word can replace it to show anger, shock, and frustration quite as well?
Word choices can make us sound dumb, vulgar, and uninspired, or intelligent, classy, and thoughtful. Shouldn’t we be more mindful and choose our words wisely? Fuck yes.
Since September of 2018, I hadn’t been motivated to write novels. That’ll happen when your spouse is diagnosed with a terminal disease. In June of 2019, we lost him from complications after a bone-marrow transplant, the supposed “cure.”
In September of this year, fifteen months after his death, a couple of things happened which sparked me to want to write again. I had people ask more frequently when the next book would be out, people shared with me how much they enjoyed my books, and I was invited to a book club in Woodbury. The day after the book club I began to revise number five in the Cal Sheehan novel. It feels really good to be writing again.
I would never have predicted wearing a mask during a pandemic would become a controversy. But what was I thinking? This is the age of controversy and divisiveness.
Although we are all tired of the Covid-19 virus, it is not done with us, folks. The CDC recommends we all wear masks when out in public, and I find it disconcerting there are several individuals who chose not to do so. This indicates to me they are not buying the seriousness of the matter. Some of the reasons I have heard are: They believe the pandemic isn’t real, “a farce” as a shopper said in a local jewelry store where I was getting a watch battery replaced. (Note: he was the only individual not wearing a mask in the store.) I’ve heard people say it’s just the flu, only old people in nursings home die from it. Some don’t think the masks help, or they don’t like wearing one. Breathing through them does take a little getting used to and having to wear one for hours can cause chafing. Asthma sufferers may have difficulty breathing through a mask, but if they get the virus they can get a severe case. What a Catch-22.
Then there are these explanations for not wearing a mask. A young person told her aunt she believes you can get sick from wearing one because you breathe in germs and carbon dioxide. I believe there’s a “coolness” factor wherein some don’t like “the look” or think it will make them look weak. I’ve also heard people say being required to wear a mask violates their rights. Never mind you can make other people sick if you are asymptomatic or symptom free in the early stages of infection. Do you feel your rights are being violated when you have to buckle your seatbelt or not use a hand-held phone while driving?
Whatever their reasons, they evidently haven’t seen the videos showing the particle spray from talking, shouting, coughing, and singing and how it is greatly reduced with masks. The reality is, unless you are wearing an N-95 mask which is made to protect the wearer, you wear a mask to PROTECT OTHERS, and it works only if EVERYONE DOES IT, coupled with social distancing. The reality is it’s not just old people who are at risk, several young people are also if they’ve had cancer, have asthma, or compromised immune systems. Young people have died with no underlying health issues which is scary. And with the surges in many states, the average age of infection is dropping. Why it’s deadly for some and asymptomatic for others is a puzzle for the epidemiologists at this point.
This Covid-19 pandemic has become politicized, and it’s disheartening to know that we as a society have become so polarized that even a public health crisis prompts people to take sides and advance conspiracy theories, so much so, that many don’t trust the advice of our health care professionals and public health officials.
That being said, I want to thank the businesses who have their employees wear masks and wipe down carts and counters. I feel safer and it makes me believe they care about their customers. If a business makes it optional for employees and shoppers, what does that tell you about the executives/owners/managers of that company? It tells me not to shop there unless I have no other choice. So, I’m doubly grateful for those employees and citizens who care enough about others to wear a mask.
My wish for you is to stay safe and, please, help protect others and wear a mask in public. What have you got to lose? You could unknowingly save someone’s life. But then you’ll believe what you want to believe, and do what you want to do.
My husband said Juni, our mixed-breed rescue dog, was the best dog we’ve ever had, and we’ve had some great ones. I concurred. We based this on the combination of attributes that make her an easy dog to have around. She’s smart but not naughty like some intelligent dogs. She’s affectionate but not overly needy for attention. She likes to be around people, but yet will go off to be by herself. She will generally “go potty” on command. She barks some, but not constantly.
When we first brought her home, she was about a year and a half. We assumed no one had worked with her on basic commands like sit because she sure wasn’t following those commands right away. But one afternoon Tim was in the front yard with Juni. She was behind the big tree in front and he just happened to say “aqui” which means come here in Spanish. She took one look at him and raced across the yard and sat before him. It was enlightening to say the least. He looked up Spanish commands for dogs and by golly she was able to follow most of them. It wasn’t that she wasn’t trained; she wasn’t trained in English.
We believe her to be part Border Collie and German Short-Haired Pointer and who knows what else. She points and is a hunter. She’s caught moles by leaping into snowbanks on our walks, killed a squirrel or two, brought a severed goose head into the front yard and no, I have no idea where the rest of the goose was and why the head ended up in our backyard. I have to be careful when I walk her because her strong prey instinct kicks in and at times lunges at prey bold enough to run in front of her. We’re working on tamping it down while on a leash.
On the Border Collie side, she lies down when other dogs approach. This could be submissive behavior, but it also could be the herder instinct as well because she waits until they get close then stands. Also, she likes to secure the yard and runs the border of our property, and when excited, she runs around in circles. She wants to herd other dogs but thankfully not children as other herders tend to do. She’s gentle with little ones, lies down as they approach, and relishes their attention.
The worst thing she ever did happened in the first few days after we got her. She found a new black ink computer cartridge (my fault for storing it low to the ground) to chew on which left a huge puddle of black ink on the carpet in my office. By the way, ink comes out with rubbing alcohol. I Googled it. That big of a stain took a few bottles of alcohol and several days of elbow grease, but it came out. Mostly. She also has dug holes in my flower beds. Nice soft dirt.
So no, Juni’s not perfect, but damn near. She’s a great companion and a real keeper.
Here she is. Meet Juni. Five years ago, we had to put down our beloved yellow lab, and we vowed we weren’t going to replace him. It was easier to travel and go about the business of our active retirement years. When one of us was weak, the other reminded the other of all the reasons not to have a dog. But we missed having a dog around, my husband more so than me, I think. My kids and grandkids are all dog people and kept the pressure on us to buy a dog, mostly my daughter. Last summer, she and her family were in town the few days before Fathers Day. She navigated dog rescue sites on the Internet and showed us photos of the dogs needing homes. Of course, their pitiful faces tugged at my heart and nagged at my thoughts. After my daughter and her family had breakfast with us on Fathers Day, they left for Illinois. When they were gone, my husband said he couldn’t get the Humane Society out of his mind. Weak at the same time, we grabbed a leash and drove over to the St. Paul Humane Society “just to look.” You know how that goes.
Two of the dogs we’d been interested in had already been adopted, but “Joan” an eighteen-month-old border collie mix was still there. She was in the noisier room: dogs lined up, jumping up on their kennel walls, barking like mad. But “Joan” was quietly lying on her mat at the back of the cage and when we crouched in front of her cage, she meekly walked over. We asked about her story: She’d been a stray in Oklahoma and had been spayed four days earlier so she was still recovering. My husband asked to be alone with her in a room. When they brought her in, Joan was sweet and gentle. She rested her head on my thigh, and that was it for me. We filled out the paperwork, paid the money, had her chipped, bought a collar, then took her home with only a bag of food sent with us.
We named her “Juni” after a character in one of my novels as “Joan” didn’t seem quite right for a dog’s name. I sat in the backseat with her and could feel her shaking all the way home. We made a stop at a pet store and filled up the cart with supplies, toys, treats, chews, and a bed. Within a few days we had her to the vet for her exam, then back for kennel cough and a tapeworm.
Juni’s turned out to be one of our best dogs ever. She’s a nice size (55 pounds), and a great mix of intelligence and sweetness. When we first got her, she didn’t seem to know how to sit, come, etc. Shortly after Father’s Day, I left for New York to visit my son and his family and when I returned home, my hubby had her sitting, etc. A few months later, he was with her in the front yard and called to her in Spanish saying “Aqui” (come here). She looked and came running. Later, he tried abajo (down), sentarse (sit down). She followed the commands. We were blown away. She understood Spanish! Who knew?
Although Juni has rearranged our lives, she’s filled us with such joy, gets us out for frequent long walks, and now sleeps at the bottom of our bed. (Which none of our other dogs had been allowed to do. Ahem.) Oh, and she doesn’t really shed much.