A Harrowing Birth


20180914_181225Maybe more so for me than for the butterfly.

I noticed that the chrysalis was starting to turn clear on Saturday morning, but in my attempt to move it to the birthing enclosure, it fell off the string. Thank goodness I had insurance with a bunch of towels in the enclosure, so it dropped onto something soft, but I had to get it rehung before it attempted to emerge. As you can see, this baby hung itself by a single thread of silk. It was bound to drop, and better it had done so before emergence because if the butterfly fell on its way out, that could result in damaged wings and a doomed butterfly. I am sure this happens in nature all the time, but not this time, not on my watch.

Thank goodness for Elmer’s Glue (which I probably should have used in the first place.) I managed to rehang it with glue and a bit of napkin so that the knot in the dental floss was attached to something more stable. Then I paced around for an hour waiting for the glue to dry, all the while whispering to the butterfly to stay put for just a few minutes longer. They need to hang in order to inflate their wings, otherwise, they are done for and can’t fly. 20180915_122903

After an hour the glue was strong enough to rehang the chrysalis, which I did, and I gave it some fake flowers to hang onto just in case. By the time we got back from our shopping trip, it was out. They need to relax in the enclosure for at least 24 hours, then if it’s sunny, you can release them. I have a recipe for food should they need to stay inside past 24 hours. Though I did put some fresh-cut Buddleia in there just in case. Sunday was a lovely sunny day, the first we have had in months, so after a bit of warming in the sun, it’ll be ready to head out on its way into the great wide yonder.


I had ALL THE FEELS. It’s such a joyous thing to watch, though a little bit sad as they fly away because you know you won’t ever see them again. The whole thing amazes me so. When they are caterpillars, they don’t travel far from their birth. They eat the same thing all day every day, until one day, they know it’s time to go to sleep for a bit, throwing their skin off like a dirty old shirt. Then in those 14 days asleep, they completely change everything about their entire body, their entire being. How do they know where Mexico is? How do they know how to get there? How do they know what to eat? They’ve only ever eaten very specific leaves.


It’s inspiring when you think about it. The possibility for change. The possibility to become something better than you were.

This has been a learning process for me since my getting involved in this was mere happenstance. I am perfecting my techniques for future years though (not just for monarchs, but any caterpillar I find.) I also spent the day yesterday digging new beds for more milkweed and other host plants not to mention that I get to watch 5 more do this, one of them might emerge today, and I am sure I will be awestruck and in tears each and every time.


Just When You Think You Can Relax…


Mother nature can be pretty brutal. On Saturday, I awoke to find one of my monarch chrysalis had turned black. It had only been pupating for a week so that means the black death (NPV), which is a fairly nasty virus. Last year we lost a couple of caterpillars to it. It’s a naturally occurring virus that affects all caterpillars, so there really isn’t anything you can do about it aside from rinsing your milkweed in hydrogen peroxide and water before feeding.

Anyway, I had to remove it before it exploded all over the cage, along with disinfecting the cage, which means I had to move all the others as well.

As a first timer, I can say that it’s  nerve-wracking experience. I don’t think I took a breath until I had them all safety tied up. But I did it, without casualty thanks to many articles and several YouTube videos.

Then it started to rain. Then it got cold.

I was concerned since the habitat was in the garage. I wanted to bring them in, but the husband wasn’t thrilled with that idea. I did it anyway, at 5:30 in the morning so he couldn’t fight me about it. Then I went outside to check the waystation area we planted from seed in the fall. That area tends to flood a little bit (perfect for swamp milkweed but not for caterpillars on tiny plants.) Needless to say, I found 2 struggling caterpillars, so now they are inside as well.


I am hoping the weather, the cold, and my moving them hasn’t traumatized them too much and that they survive. I have enough milkweed to feed them since they look like 4 or 5th instar already. Keep your fingers crossed that we don’t lose any more.

20180908_152739My hubs thinks I am a little caterpillar crazy ( I am. Look at all those cute little feet) but I only get this involved with the August/September eggs. Those are the last generation for the year and the generation that migrates to Mexico for the winter. They are also the ones most disadvantaged. The weather can turn any minute, as it did from 90 to 56 in 48 hours, and much of the milkweed is old, tired, moldy, and shitty tasting by this time of the year. When it’s going to seed, it ain’t worth eating. If they don’t have anything to eat, they starve. As a naturalist and an environmentalist, it’s something I can do. It may seem inconsequential, but the little things add up to big things when everyone does what they can.

And So, We Have Babies…


Five actually, even though Miss Monarch laid about 10 eggs. One wandered off the other day and I thought I’d lost it to the wasps, but he reappeared this morning. The others are getting close to the change. Maybe another 8 days, so I wanted to make sure they were safe. I moved everyone to the enclosure and switched them over to native common milkweed because the leaves are bigger. 20180830_162049

One lady over at Monarch Watch calls them piggapillars, and now I know why. Apparently common milkweed tastes much better than the tropical stuff and has bigger leaves. They are mowing the shit down. I just collected a bag of leaves from the local park on Thursday and I am almost out, which means another trip to the park after work either today or tomorrow. (Getting your supply from a state park or nature preserve ensures that they have not been sprayed with poison of any kind.) It lasts about a week to ten days in the fridge, not that it’s going to last that long. If I had known it was caterpillar crack, I would have brought home a bigger bag.


What I’m Reading Right Now…


416OV052bpL._AC_US218_Just finished actually with this macabre little story collection, and by macabre, I mean suspenseful not full blown horrifying. I am a fan of the author: Handling the Undead is my all-time favorite zombie story, and Let the Right One In is right up there on my favorite vampire story list; that said, I felt pretty meh about most of the stories in this collection. I’m not much for monsters under the floorboards or in swimming pools or as an unknown force chasing people through the woods. I’m more a psychological horror girl, and there were a few in this collection that really worked for me. The Border was one because I love grim fairy tales about the persecution of those who are different. The reveal was surprising. Then there was Final Processing (sequel to Handling The Undead), which was stellar and very very frightening on so many levels, and lastly, Let The Old Dreams Die (sequel to Let the Right One In) was, well, it was lovely, almost awkwardly out of place as it was a dark romantic tale with only the idle mention of Oskar and Eli. I anticipate that vampire fans will be disappointed with that one. Basically, all the stories were good in their own way, but there was one that knocked the air out of my chest, and that was Equinox, which was pure brilliance in the way this story addressed the loneliness and longing of a wife and mother whose life had become a bit more than mundane. The thrill seeking. The desire to be someone else. There were scenes that made my skin prickle all over. The suffocation this woman feels is palpable, and her reaction to it at times is obscenely disturbing. This story is frightening in a way that is really difficult to describe, and the second person narration only adds squirm to the mix. I have to go back and read that one again.

No one knew if you had been dead from the beginning. They couldn’t even identify you from the remains. But there were mitigating circumstances. Many.
I am satisfied with my punishment.

– Lindqvist, John Ajvide. Let the Old Dreams Die: Stories (p. 100). St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition.

Resuscitating a Deeply Discharged Battery…


I think this summer has been the most suck-assed summer on record for me. Rain, rain, and more drowning rain and gloom. When it wasn’t raining, it was oppressively hot and humid, which made gardening virtually impossible this summer. Lord knows I tried, but apparently jungle proportions were on order this year.

When I can’t be outside in my garden, I get heart-sick, and eventually, I get very cranky and depressed and run down. This past weekend, though, I got a small break. Two days of windows open, cool nights, breezy bliss. I haven’t had the windows open since May. Seriously.

I took those two days and put the DO NOT DISTURB sign out so that I might get some sun on my face and some dirt under my fingernails. I’m at my best when I am dirty.

Now I don’t really consider anything in my garden a weed (except for crabgrass) but things can get a bit unruly. In that case, thinning and pruning is necessary to prevent mold, plus it gives me an opportunity to get up close and personal with the flora and fauna. A late summer garden is a busy garden.

Anyone familiar with Monarch butterflies knows that up here in PA, it’s time for the 4th Generation to emerge and then migrate to Mexico. I watched this lovely lady lay about 10 eggs on my Tropical Milkweed. I may have to do some roadside recon/harvest because the native plants I seeded last year are too small to feed that many caterpillars.

Then I had to relocate a few little guys because I had to deal with an overgrown barberry. These bushes are a menace, so these two didn’t mind being moved to sunnier quarters. We aren’t supposed to like Chinese Mantids, but like other immigrants, they found their way to my garden through no choice of their own, and Eden is always open here.

But the best moment of the day came when I was giving the patio pots a bit of a reshuffle, snipping off dead leaves, etc. when I spotted a black swallowtail caterpillar on my parsley. I had taken pictures of some 1st instar babies earlier in the year. They moved on a long time ago, so these are the last of the season, and they will overwinter in the chrysalis stage, which is why they are some of the first butterflies you see in spring. Weird thing about this pic is that the pillar looked a bit off. I feared that it had gotten baculovirus, which liquefies caterpillars before they can change. It’s nasty, and rainy summers help spread it. I lost a few Monarch pillars last year.

I was wrong though in the most wonderful way possible. The little guy (or girl) was just molting. Not sure what the ant was doing, but he seemed to be annoying so I flicked him away. The best part was when it shook its little caterpillar butt to get the rest of the skin off. That is what makes gardening so rewarding, especially for naturalist gardeners like me. We enjoy being out there. We are plant people, but the greatest joy and sense of accomplishment comes from the fact that we are doing it for them. Habitat loss is a very serious thing. Every square inch you can give back to nature is a good thing because it all adds up. Nature won’t exist without our support, and we won’t exist without it.

This is my own personal gardening motto, though it really does apply to all things in life. As a writer, it’s my job to pay attention to the minutia, and this applies doubly so in that arena:

If you don’t pay attention to the little things, you will never understand the big things. — Cheryl Anne Gardner

Thoughts on Handmaid’s Tale-Season 2


TheHandmaidsTale(1stEd)Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has always been a book more horrifying than actual horror for me, and a book I never wanted to revisit after reading it the first time in my twenties, so when Hulu decided to bring that tale to the screen, I was a bit reticent, considering the scenario hits very close to home these days. That scenario being:

Emasculated men use their interpretation of scripture to take back the power they perceive to have lost, and we know how that goes because typically, throughout history, when men feel they have lost power, they resort to violence in order subjugate those who they feel have oppressed them. In the case of the Handmaid’s tale, that means Women, because, well, women have simply forgotten their place.

Yes, all this makes me want to vomit, hard. Watching the show is excruciating. The feeling of hopelessness is unrelentingly suffocating, but you get through it because of June Osborne, who, to me throughout the show, has been presented realistically as a woman, as a mother. She’s sad, she’s angry, she’s frustrated, conflicted, terrified, brave, manipulative, and sometimes even submissive. At any given moment, she might lose her footing. Sometimes she does, with terrible consequences. She doesn’t always think clearly in a moment, she grasps blindly, punches and kicks wildly, and her actions often result in an equal and opposite reaction because June, like the rest of us watching, have no comprehension the depths of depravity these people will sink to in order to hold on to the precarious power they think they have. Desperation station isn’t an easy place to be, and after a meandering second season, I felt that I truly understood June’s desperation, and male insecurity to a degree.

9780525435006Through much of the second season, June is physically unable to fight, so she resorts to manipulation when her escape doesn’t go as planned. She resigns herself to the fact that that was probably her only chance, and she failed. All she wanted to do was save one baby, and she couldn’t even do that, but as expected in any society created through subjugation, there is always a tipping point where the rational folks make a stand. June had been convinced that the resistance was dead, all hope of freedom lost, and that survival was the only option left. Futility is a stark lonely space, as portrayed by the snow-covered forest and the black wolf staring her down. “Come get me,” she says into a few shotgun blasts, because the only thing she can do is stay and try to protect both her children. It seems contradictory to her original resignation when she was confronted with the possibility of escape: If I can only save one, so be it. But again, that was desperation talking. That’s resigning yourself to a choice you really didn’t get to make in the first place. If this is all I can do, then it’s all I can do. That’s not really a choice, and it was all she could do during the first escape attempt, and it’s all she could do on that snow covered lawn.

She wasn’t strong enough to fight that wolf at that particular moment, but the tipping point moment does come, through the purity and sacrifice of a child, and that sacrifice hit home for many who had resigned themselves to mere survival. In those final scenes of the season, many questioned their choices, questioned their oppressors, questioned the laws they had pledged their allegiance to, and stepped up to resist. Many took risks they wouldn’t or couldn’t take up to that point, including June, whose daughter’s words stabbed into her as her escape from Gilead was finally on the horizon. When she saw with her own eyes that the resistance was not dead, the idea of ‘this is all I can do’ was no longer part of the equation. She had a real choice in front of her. A difficult one, obviously, but I understood why she would choose a suicide mission. She had just witnessed one child willfully sacrificed; she wasn’t going to be guilty of sacrificing another, especially her own.

Sure, the season had its issues, like the superhero transformation ending, which seemed ridiculous to me and diminished the impact of the moment at hand, but all in all, I felt the writers took the story in a logical direction. Everyone is weary from the burden of their convictions, and a third season might get tedious if the writers can’t find a way to further June’s story beyond Gilead. Overthrowing a regime is a slow process; I get that, but a third season will need way more movement otherwise it risks desensitizing the viewers just like Walking Dead has done. Dragging out that sort of violence has its pitfalls. Sacrifice has to mean something.

OMG! A 4 Star Review from Mrs. Giggles


Mrs. Giggles is a notoriously hard-assed reviewer, and that’s why I love her: Her honesty. She’s reviewed two of my books prior to Knowing Joe. She loved The Kissing Room, and felt a bit Meh on Splendor of Antiquity, but even though she is mostly a romance genre reviewer, she adores honest and snarky characters, so I asked her if she’d be interested in Knowing Joe even though it’s Satire and not Romance.

She agreed, and I am having the best day ever as a writer today.

[…] there is a story here, and it’s actually a very romantic one in a raw, down to earth way. Matt is quite a dreamy hero, if you ask me, although I suspect that it isn’t the author’s intention to make him that way, heh.

Copy of Knowing Joe BookCover Facebook

Knowing Joe works like a charm – the author has this apparently effortless knack to draw me right into her characters’ heads and get me to understand what they feel and what makes them tick, even if I personally don’t relate to these characters much. This is a fine kind of vicarious head trip, and the deceptively rambling narrative is actually tightly constructed to enhance the whole “Wow, I’m really inside that woman’s head… and you know, it’s actually quite a nice place to be!” feel of the novella. Remarkably, the author does all this without making the whole story feel pretentious or deliberately opaque.

The author doesn’t dabble in the romance genre, and I suspect she doesn’t want to be, but after reading Knowing Joe, I suspect that she can easily serve up some sweet romantic stories on a good day. After all, this one is one of the cutest, quirkiest, and sweetest romantic tales I’ve read in a while.

You can read the rest of the review here at Hot Sauce Reviews.

To say that I am thrilled is putting it mildly. Mostly because it seems that Romance Readers, who won the book through Goodreads, hate it, and that’s probably because it isn’t romance in the traditional “naked man on the cover” definition of the genre. It isn’t romance at all in a Literary Fiction: Satire way, even though there are romantic elements at the heart of the story, so I am always thrilled when a genre reader is willing to take a chance on my work, and gets it in the end.

Garden Days, Redux


Can’t believe it’s August already. That said, there’s always something to do in the garden if you try hard enough, and no one’s ever accused me of not trying. I’m not in writing mode at the moment other than doing a little bit of fix-up writing, as I plan to re-launch The Kissing Room next year, its 15 year anniversary. It was my first, a reader favorite, and a novice effort, in my opinion, so I’ve always wanted to spruce it up but had other things on my plate at the time. Now I don’t, so I am slowly muddling through that. I also had a great dream the other morning that would make for a pretty awesome novella, but I just don’t have the energy to devote another two years of my life to writing and editing full time. I soooo can’t even. Even if I decide to ‘not even’ ever again, no one can call me a quitter when it comes to writing. I’ve got enough published words under my belt to feel like I accomplished something, and lately, I’d rather be picking my nose or staring into a rusty bucket than writing. I’d rather be in the garden, which seems to be the only place I can find any peace these days.

I had a little mini vacation, because those are the only vacations I get from the office it seems, but I can do a lot in 4 days. My big project this time was to attempt to give the frogs a proper dipping pool since I had to fill the stock tank in due to wildlife irritations. This one is a small 17 gallon thing. I don’t plan for plants other than duckweed, that way, no digging. I reserved the empty space in the stock tank for my pitcher plants that need a bigger, boggier home.

The few pond snails that hitchhiked in with the duckweed seem to like their new accommodations. So much so that they had a bunch of babies. I like snails, had a few as pets over the years, so I don’t mind. Gives the pond a bit of life since the frogs are scarce this year due to the constant rain.


Knowing Joe – Free Beach Read


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.

Copy of Knowing Joe BookCover Facebook

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

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


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.



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.