Author Archives: Editor Twisted Knickers Publications

Knowing Joe – Free Beach Read

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Got a beach day coming? Wanna read a scathingly cynical, disgustingly funny, modern dating satire? If you do, we got one for you:

Knowing Joe is #free right now in ePub format during the #Smashwords Summer Sale.

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Come on. You know you love a snarky take on modern romance, and don’t forget to leave a review if you do. Goodreads and Amazon are great places to love it or hate it, and you know us here at Twisted Knickers: we are all about spreading the love…

…and maybe a few chiggers.

#freebook   #freeread  #bookgiveaway  #queerpride

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Stop Ticking the Sex Boxes: Everything is on a Spectrum.

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A lot of asexual people start questioning themselves because they feel like they don’t fit in. But, those feelings aren’t the only way someone realizes they’re asexual, Doré says. Some asexual people do have sex and don’t totally hate it. But, often, they don’t feel connected to sex, would be just as happy not having sex, don’t care if they have sex or not, or might just be having sex to appease a partner. Then there are people who want nothing to do with sex at all.

All of these people could consider themselves asexual.

Asexuality is a spectrum, it’s not black and white,” Doré says. Just like there are many steps between straight and gay, there’s a whole spectrum of identities between asexual and sexual. Some asexual people call themselves “gray ace ” or “demisexual, ” because they feel that they’re in an in-between space. People who identify as gray asexual might have a very low libido, or only feel sexual attraction toward someone in special circumstances, like when they’ve formed an emotional bond with someone or are in a relationship.

 

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Knowing Joe, a Contemporary Romantic Comedy and Dating Satire

It’s pride month, and our Girl is loud and proud, but that doesn’t mean there’s no struggle. Attraction is more fluid than it seems, so come take a walk with her as she explores our very public obsession with sex via the often scathing and cynical monologue of a Girl, who could be any girl, struggling to understand how her own sexuality fits in a world that seems absurdly tormented by it.  It’s a new kind of sexual revolution, and through fits and fumbles, our Girl finally discovers that love isn’t a checkbox. Love is what you make of it.

And seriously, it should be Pride month every month. No one should have to struggle with their sexuality, or suffer Society’s prejudices and expectations. Different is beautiful; Different allows for perspective; and that’s why different is possible.

Nature: A Wonderful and Amazing Magic Show

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Last week, a swallowtail laid her eggs on our newly planted parsley.

The eggs hatched during the week and here are some pics of the 1st instar larvae. They seem to be enjoying the parsley and pooping a lot. I am not sure our tiny plant can sustain two caterpillars, so if need be, when they get bigger, I will move them to the wild parsley patch. We have several of those in the garden so they won’t be short of food.

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Not sure why one is bigger than the other since they were laid at the same time, unless they weren’t and the bigger one was there earlier and we just didn’t notice. Could be that the larger one is a week older than the other, even though neither is bigger than a grain of rice at this point. They are poopy little creatures too.

I hope they survive. Swallowtails are the longest lived because they don’t have a lot of predators. They are the most abundant butterfly we have in our garden, and it’s probably because of the parsley. We have a lot of parsley. It’s not a native, but has naturalized in our area and the flowers might be tiny, but they are quite beautiful against the purple leaves.

 

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Cryptotaenia japonica Atropurpurea from University of Vermont

 

 

Knowing Joe: Reviews

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It’s been slow going since I gave away over 100 copies of this book in March, but I recently got a couple of nice reviews over on Goodreads. It’s a niche read for sure, a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown replete with scathing sexual satire, but there is a contemporary romance story muddled up in there somewhere, with a happy ending no less.

Wow. This isn’t just a book; it’s an experience. Experimental, avant-garde, intelligent, whatever you choose to call it … this book is smoothly written and designed to make you think. Maybe to feel and laugh a little, albeit uncomfortably. — Goodreads Review

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I’d forgotten how satisfying a happy ending can be. Maybe because happy endings so often feel contrived, devised. But not here. This one has real people walking — and feeling and thinking — all over its pages, so when the end comes, it doesn’t actually feel like one. it feels like it so often does in real life, like the beginning of something new. — Goodreads Review

Garden Days

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It would be nice if the rain let up. Last night we had at least 2 inches of rain. It was slow and steady and soaked us all night long. I did manage to get the last of my mulching done on Saturday, but it was shwetty and hot. I hate working in the humidity, but what can you do. We haven’t had many weekends without rain, and I’ve got to get things done, because Things are getting a bit wild out there. I’ve got 3 nests with just born babies in them and the other boxes already fledged, so we have baby birds all over the place. And flowers. I do have flowers.

The Monarch Waystation area looks a bit weedy, but it’s wildflowers and most of those are late bloomers. Lot of chicory that I can see so far, but I am hoping that some of the milkweed seed I put down in the fall will take. It’s a very wet area lately.

 

A Day in The Garden

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My husband and I were having breakfast on Saturday morning and he noticed that the Black Swallowtail butterflies were back. He wondered why, with all the flowers in bloom, that one was hovering around the Italian parsley we had just planted, so I said,

She not looking for flowers, she putting her butt all over it. Parsley is their host plant.

That would be true, which is why I let the Japanese parsley grow wild all over the garden. More butterflies, and who can complain about that. He didn’t believe me so I went out after she was done and took a proof of life picture. See the eggs?

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Guess we won’t be eating that parsley.

Seriously, the garden feels like a jungle this year. I have to eke out minutes in between rainstorms in order to get anything done, but even still, it’s sure looking pretty out there. I’ve been a botany and gardening aficionado since I was a kid. Both my parents could grow just about anything, and they themselves were self-taught master gardeners. After 20+ years at it, I think I can safely declare myself a master gardener as well. I have certainly mastered the art of learning from my gardening mistakes, and like my father always said: Anything that can be taught in a classroom can be self taught, and nothing will teach you better than reading and doing. No amount of book learning and certificates of achievement can prepare you for all the wild and wonderful variables that happen when you are actually in the garden. Some of those variables aren’t that wonderful though, like mud and fungus and flattened plants.

Even so, his words are true. Doing and Failing teaches you more in the end. You need a fair amount of book learning too, but even then, some things work and some things don’t. As I told a friend who said she sucked at some plants:

You don’t suck. It’s just that sometimes the environment and the plant just aren’t compatible, and knowing what something needs and creating exactly that microcosm for them is sometimes impossible. Arrogance leads us to think that we can control everything, and our small successes feed that arrogance, but inevitably, nature will knock us down a peg. Classes can’t teach you that.

Sorry for the hazy pics. But it’s always rainy and hazy here lately.

Sometimes it seems like a Double Standard…

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When we talk about rescuing dogs versus cats. We can’t even seem to get the meaning of word feral straight, and that’s because the definition is misleading:

fe·ral
ˈferəl,ˈfirəl/
adjective
feral: (especially of an animal) in a wild state, especially after escape from captivity or domestication.
feral: resembling a wild animal.
synonyms: wild, untamed, untamable, undomesticated, untrained, fierce, ferocious, vicious, savage, predatory, menacing, bloodthirsty

416gDFs18wL._AC_US218_Having just read a fantastic book about dog rescue, one might assume that dog rescue and cat rescue would be handled similarly, but that isn’t the case at all. Sure, the rescue techniques are generally the same. The fostering process is the same, and the adoption process is the same. So what’s different, you ask? The difference is the circumstance of the animal in question. For dogs on the street, rescue is automatic. We have to help that poor dog. In the United States, you see few if any feral dog colonies, and I often wonder why that is because when it comes to cats on the street, the attitude shifts markedly. Is a cat on the street less deserving than a dog of rehabilitation and rehoming? Is it because dogs are “man’s best friend?” Or is it because cats are better at adapting to a life in the wild? Or so we tell ourselves. I hear the excuses all the time hidden under the guise of the above definition: Feral cats would never be happy inside. They are wild animals. They will never cuddle or be a pet. They are savage. Untamable. Should be left to roam free.

Yeah, I call bullshit right there, and for very good reason. That’s what we tell ourselves so we can turn a blind eye to the problem. Anyone who has taken care of a cat colony, even a loose community colony, knows that not all cats in a colony, even those born into the wild with limited human contact, are bloodthirsty menacing wild animals. Being born and raised in the wild does not necessarily a monster make as per the standard definition above. Cats, just like dogs and any other sentient beings, have personality types. Some are more confident, aggressive and dominant, and some are shyer, cautious and submissive. A mix of personality types is what allows society to exist. There is a social structure, albeit in a cat colony the structure is a bit looser and more adaptable than in a canine pack, but it exists, and neighborhoods like mine have found ways to work with that.

This mix of personalities and the loose social structure are what make the definition of “feral” as listed above a conundrum for rescuers. Should we or shouldn’t we rescue street cats?

Now don’t get me wrong, I DO NOT advocate for just snatching cats up off the street unless, of course, they are in dire need of medical attention and the rescue can’t wait. But I do advocate for getting as many cats off the street as possible in the most humane way possible, whether it be work programs like ferals for barn cats, or rehabilitation and indoor homing. A cat off the street is one less animal competing for food and shelter with the indigenous animal populations in an area where resources are already spread thin. Several mice a day for a cat is several mice a day less for the possum or the fox. Too many predators in an area, especially non-native predators, throws an already struggling eco-system out of balance. Haven’t we humans done enough damage?

What I do advocate for is that while working with and caring for individual cats or a community colony, we take the time to notice them. We take the time to understand their personalities and their needs. I agree that a very aggressive cat is generally not a good candidate for rehabilitation. TNR is the best option in this case. But other beta and gamma cat personality types are. Many of those cats actually want help but are not sure how to ask a human for it. Case in point, my two rescues. Moon was a nervous cat who had been TNRd but was finding feral life unsatisfactory. He didn’t like getting attacked by other cats. He didn’t like getting his food stolen. He didn’t like being wet and freezing. His life was one nerve-wracking minute after another in an endless string of miserable nerve-wracking minutes. He was so stressed that he had developed idiopathic cystitis, which eventually led to a complete urinary blockage. We cared for him and worked with him outside for 5 years before he finally walked in our back door and asked for help. His blockage could have killed him had we not been there for him. He is now a happy housecat. His anxiety has been reduced to such a degree by being inside that he hasn’t had a urinary tract issue since the first one in 2011.

Rupert was a similar situation, only Rupert was a more difficult candidate for rehab since he was so timid and fearful, he was never going to walk into the house on his own. We cared for him for 8 years outside. Watched him get attacked over and over again. Watched him limp into our yard for his dinner. We provided shelter and food and did our best to protect him all that time, but he still wouldn’t let us get near him. He’d show me his belly and put his paws on the patio door to communicate with me. He would slow blink at me, and he would often converse with Moon through the screen when the patio door was open. One day we noticed his mouth was bleeding and he was having a lot of trouble eating. We knew then that he would not survive another winter, so we had to trap to him. He’d been TNRd, so he was trap savvy, but we got him anyway. Turns out, he was FIV positive and had a severe case of tooth resorption, which is a progressive and debilitating dental disease. He had not been able to catch live prey in a long time, and if not for regular feedings, he would have starved to death or succumbed to his weakened immune system probably during the next winter due to the gum infections tooth resorption causes.

Now he is also a calm happy housecat, although he will never be lap cat, and still darts away to hide if he feels you are getting too aggressive or close with him. I can pet his belly. Kiss his butt, but I will never be able to hold him. He is what he is. A non aggressive ex-feral cat.

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They are both 12 years old now, and they probably wouldn’t have made it to this age without intervention. Dying in the wild is an awful and painful death, but because of the way we See and Define feral cats, we are able to ignore their suffering. A suffering we don’t abide in dogs, and I think that needs to change.

What I’m Reading Right Now

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Dog Book-Cover-FRONTI read a fair amount of animal rescue material. Cats, dogs, other wildlife. Books written by ordinary people and wildlife professionals alike, and so I can agree 100% that the overarching principle here in this book, as well as in many other rescue publications, is that “It’s About the Animal.” In this case, the dog, as the author puts it so succinctly here:

[…] my rescues had always been about me: about my conscience, about making myself feel better. How could I leave the dog out there? How could I sleep knowing he was hungry, or mistreated, or scared? Me, me, me. It’s not about me. Or you. It’s not about assuaging our own morals, or paying tribute to our righteousness. No, it’s about the dog. About improving their quality of life.

Now that is some truth right there, and this truth is learned the hard way, always, in the choices we have to make, in the wins and in the losses. Believe me there are losses. Lots of them, and our author doesn’t sugar coat that fact. Most people don’t understand what rescue takes: the time, the money, the emotional investment, including the often crippling frustration and sadness.

There are so many misconceptions about dog rescue. Many people see it as a fad, a sub-theme of the veganism and sustainability tree-hugging movement. Or a sort of hobby: Oh, you do rescue? That’s cool. I do crochet. Or they confuse it with fostering, or with adoption. I hear it all the time: We rescued our dog from the shelter. No, guys. The dog was already safe at the shelter. You may have adopted a dog from the shelter (something for which all of us are eternally grateful to you)—but the dog was rescued by someone else. The truth is that most people don’t know what rescuing really is. Or what it takes. (Or what it gives.

Those who know me, know that both of my rescue cats took the better part of 9 years. I did little else with my time so that I could properly socialize them, gain their trust, and eventually, hopefully, get them inside. One came in of his own volition after 5 years with an illness that cost me over $3,000 in the first six months, and the other still had to be trapped after 8 years of working with him, and his immediate medical needs cost me upwards of the same. But over the 20 years we’ve been in our house, I think at one point we were feeding and caring for something like 12 cats. The time you need to dedicate to this can be exhausting, and rescuers do it solely because we want to improve the quality of life for a creature who is having a difficult time of it for one reason or another. As the author explains in the book, rescuing is a state of mindfulness. Not about ourselves, but about the animal in need. We are in it for them, which makes rescuers a rare breed of human in my opinion, and our author talks a lot about that sort of person in comparison to your normal average sort of pet person. The differences are glaring in some areas, and certain people who might wander into reading this book, who are of the latter sort, might get offended at those realities and those comparisons, but that doesn’t make those observations any less true.

Most people, when they adopt (or otherwise acquire) a dog, do so with explicit (and implicit) expectations. They’re looking for a playmate for their kids, or a quiet companion that will fill an emptying nest, or an exercise partner, or a security asset, or an imposing specimen that will reinforce their social status. They come to the shelters already envisioning the life this new family member will enable, or enhance. And very, very few are willing to readjust that vision, even let go of it altogether, to save a growling, wary dog who looks more like s/he wants to have you for dinner than cuddle with you.

Most people do seek the “unconditional love” that is supposed to come with pet ownership, never realizing that it’s a companionship not ownership and that the unconditional love actually has to come from them, not the animal. Animals are individual sentient beings. They are who they are, and rescue animal personalities have been shaped by hardship and/or abuse or neglect.

This dog is… who he is. He might get better, he might not. But he’s begun to trust you. Don’t betray that trust by trying to make him into someone he’s not.

Rescuers understand this. We don’t want to be molded or coerced into being something we are not, so why would we try to do that to an animal, rescue or not. Many rescuers I know are just odd lots looking to accept and help the lost lots. Rescuers do what they do because compassion compels us to do what needs to be done. Even when we make our husband pull over in traffic so we can help a turtle stuck in the middle of the road, and then subsequently stuck under a guardrail, when we have no gear with us, and we have to dig the poor thing free with our bare hands in a mound of poison ivy. My husband just smiles at me and gives me the goal post when I succeed, and a shoulder to cry on when I don’t. The author here understands this through and through, and her compassion and knowledge shines through with every word on the page. Our author says the street is a tough place and it that takes a strong physiology to survive there. That goes for the rescuers as well. When you realize that you can’t save everything, and like she instructs us in the book, it’s often best to forget about the big picture and focus on the moment, the dog, the animal, the beautiful creature you are trying to help right now. Helping one animal won’t change the world, she says, but it will change the world for that one creature. Focus on that, because the world can be a stifling place and it can paralyze you into that “what does it matter” mindset. I’ve been there; it does, and you have to work through that futility. Every small gesture adds up, so even if you can only help one and there are limitations to what you can do, what you CAN DO is still something, and something is better than nothing. Our author tells us that over and over again. Rescuing is about perseverance. It’s about the animal, in this case, the dog.

This book is a bit different from some of the others I’ve read, which were basically memoirs devoted to how the person got into rescuing via their own personal struggle. These stories are often heartbreakingly sad coming of enlightenment type stories. This is not that type of book. It is most definitely a How To tutorial for people who might be interested in going down this road. It’s structured as such with chapters on gear and illness and rescue techniques, and it’s candid, often brutally and pointedly honest, and this tact is much appreciated because rescue isn’t a Hallmark commercial. A lot of very valuable lessons can be gleaned from the pages here, and the afterword will set you to tears. It takes bravery to admit our mistakes. I’ve made a ton over the years, and I wasn’t able to save every creature I tried to help either no matter what I did. Rescuing is a whole lot of planning that often turns on a dime into a whole lot of chaos. Most rescuers happen into it accidentally. We just happen to be there and we just happen to have the compulsion to do what needs to be done. With guides like this, you get better at just being there: You’ve got gear in the car. A vet on speed dial. A spare room in the house or a large holding cage.

And for those who are more adopters than rescuers, there’s some advice for you too:

The best home for a renegade dog will be with people who are open-minded, who have few preconceptions about what a dog should be like. Who are willing to put the dog first, and adapt their lives to him/her.

Of course, that’s the best home for anything really.

I would consider this a preparedness book to better help you help them (dogs, cats, possum, turtles, whatever) but the afterword might destroy you though. If it doesn’t, then you might be the sort of person who can do this thing.

A Garden Reprieve

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I had a nice long holiday weekend/vacation thing recently so that I could take a break from bookish things and office workish things. That meant 5 days of garden things, which I love above all else when it comes to creative pursuits.

There was a lot of weeding and planting and trimming. We’ve had several of our nest box birdies already fledge their babies, and there’s more to come as we’ve got nests in use all over the garden.

We also toured the Hortulus Farm during the Garden Conservancy open day program. 114 acres, and most of the flora are things we have in our garden, albeit on a smaller scale. Growing up rural for a time, I have a thing for summer fields with swaths of native grasses and milkweed. What butterflies they must have come August, and the ponds … OMG, the ponds always make me jealous. I mean, they had black swans!

Speaking of ponds, I had to redo our frog toe-dipping pool this year. We had left it uncovered over the winter and the squirrels dug the shit out of it, and in the process, they destroyed all the bog plant roots, so we lost everything except a few sprouts of lizards tail. Replanting isn’t always a bad thing though because the calla lilies were lovely this year. It’s hard to see, but they are white with soft pink pitchers and yellow.

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I also put in some New Guinea impatiens and something that looks like petunias but isn’t. Most are annuals, but I am hoping to carry the Callas over winter by covering the pond this year with hay and a plastic tarp to keep the diggers out. I hope that works.

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We also stopped off at the local park so that I could collect duckweed for the pond. We had some severe flooding two days prior, so much of the duckweed and hornwort had washed up on land because the vernal frog and turtle pond is in a low area near the dam. It’s nice because I don’t have to get muddy. Now I just hope we get some frogs. We didn’t last year since it was so wet and overcast, they didn’t have to seek out supplemental water. Our pond was also in the shade last year due to an overgrown Redbud. We had that pruned, so now the pond is back in the full sun. Even if we don’t get frogs, we do get dragonflies and other neat little things, and it is quite tranquil to look at, with my little porcelain floating koi fish, which do not require feeding or care.

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416gDFs18wL._AC_US218_Aside from that, I am working on a review for this rescue book I am currently reading. It is wonderful, and even though it’s about dog rescue, the attitudes and lessons are applicable to all different kinds of animal rescue. I’ll post a full review as soon as I am finished the book, though I have shared some quotes and some thoughts on said quotes over at Goodreads.