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Does That Bug You?

I need to tell you a long but worthwhile (I promise) story about how Dubia roaches escape their confines, and if you are squeamish, this tale may displease you. I am going to warn you right before the part that might make you want to smack me and in order to be polite and not run you off. You can choose to read the creepy part or not!

But we need to talk about bugs. Specifically, bugs that bearded dragons like to eat.

a perky bearded dragon who likes it if dubia roaches escape
Did someone say BUGS??? Also, guess what? I’m a spokesdragon.

Exotic Pets

Becoming ‘exotic pet’ owners has been quite the experience. We’ve only ever had cats and once a betta fish. Growing up, we rehabbed a few chipmunks and squirrels but never a pet that would fall under the ‘exotic’ category. So caring for our bearded dragon, Kevin, has included some hurdles.

The first hurdle was overcoming our squicky feelings about bugs. When Kevin was young, we learned to feed him crickets. Young beardies need a LOT of protein and crickets are the cheapest. We would order 500+ through the mail in a BOX and then empty them into a 20 gallon tub with a screen lid to hop around and smell like the devil until it was time to go see the big dragon in the sky. Crickets smell AWFUL after a few days, even when you keep their habitat as clean as possible, and we all hated them.

But we did get used to them, and grabbing a stupid cricket became an everyday, flinch-free occurrence. Kevin would eat 25-30 crickets at a go, at least once a day. We even researched how to breed crickets because ordering those boxes is fraught with peril for various reasons, like mail delays, cold weather, hot weather, and escapee situations. I will be linking to another person’s cricket situation at the end of the email, but for now I want you to stick with me :).

Crickets Are Terrible

However, beardies get better nutrition from other bugs, such as Dubia roaches, black soldier fly larvae, and certain types of worms (mealworms, superworms, not earthworms). Beardies are also supposed to grow up and become 70% vegetarian, too, so the amount of bugs they eat eventually slacks off. And the other bugs? They don’t smell like crickets of death. OMG that smell. In the winter we had to move the cricket farm inside, in the basement utility closet under the stairs, so anytime you were going up and down the stairs, you would be huffing cricket dooky smell whether you wanted to or not. I started taking those stairs REALLY fast, and I’m too old to be running up and down some stairs that often.

Thus we redirected our interest, and Kevin’s, toward Dubia roaches. These tropical critters don’t smell bad like crickets and don’t hop and aren’t great at climbing and aren’t particularly fast. While they do need to be kept warm, you can just stick them in a tub with some egg crate material for them to hide in and feed them fruit or veggies every day. A lot of people would have trouble deciding what was worse — crickets or roaches, but these are, well, they grow up to be sizeable. They remind me of pill bugs (roly polies, doodle bugs), except bigger. They don’t really remind me of the roaches I’m used to seeing, which are gross. They’re pretty delicate, and Kevin is a huge fan. We get ours here.

But it isn’t as if the roaches NEVER manage to get free. And did I mention we have cats? Probably not — in this essay — but we have cats. The cats are hugely fond of escaped bugs and sometimes the bugs escape. Including the 2 inch long yes 2 inch long Dubia roaches.

This is a baby Dubia roach and sometimes dubia roaches escape
This is a baby Dubia roach because our Dubia roaches got super friendly and, well, you know. Adult Dubia roaches are…bigger.

The First Incident…and Stop Reading Here If You’re Squeamish!

The first Dubia incident was me on the couch in the basement (like Clue, except I’m clueless). The cats had been scrabbling at the back of the couch all day. I ignored them, because the cats in question are 2 young dudes who scrabble at everything all the time. But then, a while later, in the cool silence of my basement, I hear the noise. Scrittle, scrittle, tick tick tick.

I glance to my left and there, sprinting along the back of the couch headed straight for my face, is a GIANT ROACH! COMING RIGHT AT ME! OMG Dubia roaches escape!

Luckily I recognized this roach as one of our friendly neighborhood Dubia roaches and only kind of flung my laptop into the floor as I bolted off the couch, hollered, and then accidentally flipped the roach into the garbage can before I could trap it in my empty coffee cup. I did apprehend the escapee in a timely fashion and take it back to its Rubbermaid home which is 2 rooms away from where I work.

The Second Incident

The second Dubia incident was less invasive. One of the cats was just going to TOWN on a cardboard box of DVDs. Closer inspection of said box revealed, you guessed it, a roach in the box. How did the roach meander across 2 room and hide in that box? Nobody knows. This roach was also rescued and sent back to her home.

The Third Incident

The third Dubia incident takes a little more telling. We have two old lady cats and two young man cats. The young men were rescued from a feral colony when they were kittens together and about 6 months ago, at age 18 months or so, both started playing fetch. Out of nowhere. I had never known a cat to play fetch and it was a delight!

But one day Magnus, the flame point Siamese looking idiot, came running to my husband and me when we were cuddled happily on the same couch watching TV with our teenage daughter, who owns the bearded dragon. Magnus leapt into our lap — how sweet! — but then he presented us with his prize because he wanted to play fetch.

I am not a dummy!

It was a living 2 inch long Dubia roach. The hubs, NOT being as accustomed to the bugs as me and the teenager, flinched himself off the couch, but I calmly picked up the roach, looked him in the eye, and said, “How did you get out?” The roach would not tell me, so I put him back and discussed with the teen that maybe, just maybe, we might want to think about a more secure top for the roach tub than an upside down oversized lid that she wasn’t bothering to fasten because it was, as mentioned, oversized.

Fourth and Final…I Hope

And the fourth Dubia incident, well, you need to be sitting down for this. Peeking at what I’m about to tell you between your fingers. And every word I’m about to say is true.

I was asleep. This blessed state is sometimes interrupted by harrowing cat vs toes battles or the hurk hurk hurk of the 4 am hairball. But this night the blessed state was interrupted by the feel of a cat’s moist nose on my cheek and something…biggish…crawling….ON MY FACE.

“Magnus!” I yelled, batting at the assumed culprit and fumbling for the bedside lamp. I also vaulted mostly out of bed since that one time I found a bug in bed, it was a brown recluse, but that’s another story for another time.

The light went on. Magnus was on the floor, staring at me with very dilated pupils and a whippy tail. I turned, slowly, to inspect my pillow.

Yep.

Magnus had carefully placed a huge Dubia roach ON MY FACE in the middle of the night, and the roach was now nestled into my pillow and ready for a nice nap.

The husband did roll over to get further away from the roach as I protested the situation at the top of my lungs. Then I picked up the roach (they really aren’t very fast…they’re like the turtles of the roach world) and escorted him back to his roach tub with prejudice.

This is a not quite adult Dubia roach, a sexy lady. They get a little big bigger than this.

Now that you’ve read about my roaches, here’s another buggy tale:

Man’s mail order crickets escape — SFW!

Also if you want to know more about the roaches, email me and I’ll send you more pics and tell you alllllllllllllllll about them! It’s been…interesting.


Jody Wallace’s 30+ titles in sf/f and contemporary romance feature diverse protagonists, action, adventure, and plenty of cats. Visit her at www.jodywallace.com and the cats at www.meankitty.com

Did That Truly Happen?

Recently one of the ‘change of life’ experiences I’ve had is that my brother and sister and I reached a point where we needed to sell my mother’s house and property after she passed away. Though we had all grown up there — it was purchased in 1971 and we never moved as a family — the property was too far away from us, too difficult and expensive to maintain, and too depressingly much of a burden.

So this might sound like a sad story, but the part I’m going to talk about today isn’t that sad. It’s just strange.

an old milk parlor turned into a house where i grew up
This was the milk parlor, where the cows came in to be milked and then existed through what is now the so-called ‘master bedroom’ hahaha.

Old dreams…or were they?

As we rehashed our dreams or memories and prepped the place for the new buyer, we realized pretty quickly this wasn’t going to be an ordinary sale because it wasn’t an ordinary property. It was a converted dairy farm built in the 40s and 50s with only two owners in its lifespan. It was in a rural area with some decent acreage and a lot of peculiarities that went beyond simple family history.

Such as, in the woods around the property were located many trails. Not just animal trails but former wagon and logging trails that were distinct. One of those trails emerged right in our front yard. Now, while we as a family enjoyed using those trails to walk to friends’ houses and just wander in the woods, the trails were also travelable by vehicle. Car, even.

A view of a rolling field and trees that inhabits the authors dreams or memories
This is actually not where the trails were. This is our back field that our neighbors mowed several times a year in order to get hay for their working farm. Not like we needed it! We did have horses and a burro for a long time, but they didn’t eat everything.

As my sister and I were discussing what stories to relay to the new owner one night, I told her that some of my most vivid dreams of the property, dreams I’ve been having as long as I can remember, was of cars just rolling up into our yard out of the woods. Sightseers, randos in trucks, you name it.

My sister practically screamed because it turned out SHE HAD THOSE DREAMS TOO! And you know what? I’m five years older than her and what I know is…they were not dreams.

They were memories.

People used to just drive through our yard sometimes because they wanted to see where that road went. Well, the answer is, our yard, and get out of it.

I have solved a mystery that has haunted my sister all her life. Did that really happen? Yes, yes it did. I doubt the dreams OR memories are going away anytime soon, though.

(((Note: I do not think that our shared dreams brought these incidents to LIFE, though, like the premise of my Dreamwalkers book! LOL)))

Jody W & Meankitty

The cover for blue guard by jody wallace on a fancy blended blue background

Jody Wallace’s 30+ titles in sf/f and contemporary romance feature diverse protagonists, action, adventure, and plenty of cats. Visit her at www.jodywallace.com and the cats at www.meankitty.com

Booger Green

Heyyyyyyy, friends, I tweaked my website some and have a new and interesting color scheme! Do you think it’s kind of a cross between army green and booger green? Because I do. But at the same time, nobody else is using this color, I bet, so I stand out. At least I’m not using this “Booger Green” — right? But the names of all the greens on the righthand side of that page are a hoot.

Granted, if you are cruising my site on your phone, you probably aren’t seeing the gorgeous color I picked for my new background to match the cool header. How does the site look on your phone? My phone is so old that it’s grown wrinkles. I can’t gauge by that, though I click incessantly between “desktop” and “mobile” when I’m previewing a page prior to posting. (Say that five times fast.)

A picture of a grey tabby smelling the head of author jody wallace and thinking it smells like an interesting color scheme if that scheme is loser

But mostly this post is about getting back into the habit of blogging. I don’t always have something of great significance to say, but I always want to chat! What kinds of things are your favorite blog topics–that I might be capable of satisfying, that is. Doesn’t necessarily have to be writing related. I am a multitude. I also like yarn and cats and coffee.

Drop me a hello in the comments to encourage me to rev the blogging motors…about something besides my dubiously interesting color scheme.

Jody W & Meankitty

Also check this out, I learned how to do a “reusable block” —


Jody Wallace’s 30+ titles in sf/f and contemporary romance feature diverse protagonists, action, adventure, and plenty of cats. Visit her at www.jodywallace.com and the cats at www.meankitty.com

Zombie…or Cat?

dial v for vampire by isabella norse is a paranormal romantic comedyMeankitty Interviews Zombie, the main character in Dial V for Vampire, about a paranormal romantic comedy series

Recently a Meankitty human friend, Isabella Norse, released the first in a new paranormal romantic comedy series, Dial V for Vampire. The series feels like a cozy mixed with a sweet romance — fade to black or no sex scenes, good natured characters, light drama. After this post, if you have any other suggestions in this vein (LOL) of romance, please let us know!

But for now, the premise of this book is that our heroine, Maggie, has a snarky blog about living with a zombie, but when she comes up with the idea for the blog, she has no idea that supernatural creatures actually exist…

1) So, Zombie, how did you select the heroine of the paranormal romantic comedy to be your new human?

When you find yourself living on the streets, you learn to read people quickly or you don’t survive. Maggie had a good heart – she was always stopping to check on me and to bring me food. Sometimes, she even brought me treats from the diner. Life in a sewer drain was hard on these old bones. Once I earned Maggie’s trust, I gave her the opportunity to take me home with her. How could she resist?

2) Are you really as friendly as you seem in the book or are you biding your time?

I’m a pretty chill guy, but I don’t have the patience for drama. I’m not above raising a paw to a youngster in need of a bit of an attitude adjustment. *cough* Van Helsing *cough*

zombie the cat is a white fuzzy cat who appears in a paranormal romantic comedy series3) Do you have plans for the author/heroine to write future books about your adventures? You can include your methods of brain control or inspiring the non-fictional cats in the author’s life if needed.

I’ll make appearances in future novels but I’m enjoying being out of the lime light. My biggest decisions now are deciding between napping on the window seat (great view) or on Maggie’s laptop (it’s warm and guarantees that I get attention). When I feel the need to intervene, my preferred method of mind control is to sleep on Maggie’s head. She thinks the purrs are relaxing – little does she know that the vibration allows me to transfer my thoughts directly into her mind. I just try to act surprised when she acts on the ideas I implanted.

4) I notice the “heat” level of this paranormal romance book was on the sweet side of things. How do you plan to interrupt any hanky panky the hero and heroine try to get up to in order to keep the books PG rated?

That’s almost too easy! There is always the pile of strategically-placed barf (I can barf at will) or a well-timed swipe at Noah’s dangly bits. However, my favorite is the simple sit-and-stare. It weirds the humans out every time!

5) How did you inspire the heroine to be so smart that she was able to help the hero figure out there was a plot against him?

As much as it pains me to admit, I can’t take credit for that one. Maggie is a sharp girl and she had the advantage of looking at Noah’s situation with fresh eyes. However, I will take full credit for bringing them together. *wraps fluffy tail around paws smugly*

6) Can you share a sample blog entry the heroine wrote about you, Zombie, before she found out the truth about zombies?

Gladly. Just don’t let Maggie know that I can use her laptop – she still thinks she is coming up with all of these ideas on her own!

The care and feeding of zombies:

Well y’all, nursing a zombie back to health is easier said than done. I mean, just how healthy is a zombie anyway? Let’s face it, even on their best days, most zombies could use a facial if not a full-body seaweed wrap.

It has taken some experimentation but, in the event that you also find yourself caring for a zombie and don’t have any fresh brains on hand, (in this economy, who does?) canned tuna will work in a pinch.

Next post: Zombie Hygiene

***

Thanks for having me, Meankitty!

Zombie and Isabella (Izzy) Norse

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Jody Wallace’s 30+ titles in sf/f and contemporary romance feature diverse protagonists, action, adventure, and plenty of cats. Visit her at www.jodywallace.com and the cats at www.meankitty.com

Dragons of Tarakona Get a SpokesLizard

The cover for blue guard by jody wallace on a fancy blended blue background
A brown bearded dragon on a pink blanket and a yellow quilt is the mascot for dragons of tarakona novels
Kevin would like a roach as a reward for being the dragons of Tarakona romance mascot, please.

Kevin is a bearded dragon who is now the dragons of Tarakona romance novel spokeslizard. He came to live at our house a year and a half ago after the Husband took The Second Child to an exotic animal show. The appearance of a large lizard in a Tupperware box was both unexpected and fraught with peril, as bearded dragons and other exotic pets are not cats. They have nitpicky needs, like cages and heat lamps and BUGS that they need to survive. The result was a mad scramble to learn about bearded dragons and the eventual inclusion of Kevin into our family’s hearts.

I love Kevin. We all do. He is very dumb. He likes to go without eating for just long enough to freak everyone out and sometimes hurl himself across his cage and hurt his leg. One time Kid1 left his cage open and we found him clinging to the curtains in the office next to the front door, just hanging out. The cats are curious about him and we have had to make numerous modifications to his cage in order to ensure his safety–and theirs.

Anyway, exotic pets are a lot of work, but rewarding! I have released a Very Special Newsletter with a story about Kevin and his Very Special Roaches, and if you email me I will send you an exclusive copy!


Jody Wallace’s 30+ titles in sf/f and contemporary romance feature diverse protagonists, action, adventure, and plenty of cats. Visit her at www.jodywallace.com and the cats at www.meankitty.com

Tropey Romance Novel Tropes!

Been a lot of criticism lately of the way genre novels (and others) often employ “tropes” – what MW online calls “a common or overused theme or device.” Are romance novel tropes bad?

The assumption, of course, is that the occurrence of a trope in a book means the author is full of cliches, has no imagination, and cannot write their way out of a soggy paper bag. I mean, if you were a REAL writer, you’d come up with stuff that was so unexpected and meaningful that nobody has ever thought of it before!

Except…

We’re humans, and we think up shit constantly. No matter what it is, somebody already thought of that. Tropes are actually, for writers, more of a shorthand way of identifying or including elements in a story that readers are known to seek. Tropes are akin to genre fiction itself, except in more detail — they’re like going to a restaurant that has things on the menu that you recognize. You order spaghetti (or romance books) because you want some damn spaghetti. And you order meatballs on your spaghetti (or a best friends to lovers trope) because you like you some damn meatballs.

Spaghetti and meatballs in a heart shape to represent romance novel tropesThe meatballs and spaghetti at this restaurant, and the best friends to lovers story by this author, taste different from other restaurants. And you love them more or less. You might even recommend them to friends. And you love spaghetti and meatballs regardless, even if you just had a plateful last week.

Because spaghetti. And best friends to lovers romances.

Am I right?

Hint: yes, I am right about romance novel tropes.

ANYWAY, this is all just because I found this list of tropes on author Mindy Klasky’s website and I wanted to share it!

https://www.mindyklasky.com/index.php/for-writers/romance-tropes/

I’m also going to start including the tropes I sprinkle into my books at the bottom of the blurb, for those of you looking for spaghetti WITH meatballs.

Jody W.

PS — Best friends to lovers is one of my favorites. My stories that employ this trope are: Kiss the Bride, Liam’s Gold, Holiday on Ice, and Pack and Coven. Check out my books at the Books Page!

Meet My Character!

I was tagged for this meme or hop by fellow author Veronica Scott! Last week, she posted a Q&A about her female protagonist in a science fiction romance, so today I’m going to post a Q&A from MY female protagonist in a science fiction romance…of sorts. My work in progress just so happens to be a science fiction romance SPOOF written in interactive fiction style.


For the interactive romance a photo of a furry white cat about to whack the photographer
Killer Kitty would like to be “interactive” with you.

Interview of Mari Shu

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

Mari Shu Nine Million is the name of the titular character in what will probably be titled The Interactive Adventures of Mari Shu. She is made up.

2) When and where is the story set?

Most of the story occurs in a tarnished, grungy, polluted future, on Olde Earth as well as other planets, except for one thread where I plan to have Mari Shu travel into the past with a swashbuckling swashbuckler of some sort.

3) What should we know about him/her?

Mari Shu needs your help to make decisions that affect the course of her whole existence!

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

In the beginning, her main conflict is that her salary at the widget factory has been reduced and she can no longer afford to support herself and her sisters or pay rent in their small, shabby apartment. Mari Shu’s first choice is to become a sexxorer, relocate herself and her sisters to another planet, or go out to a seedy bar for dinner in search of inspiration, which I can assure you she does indeed find.

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

Mari Shu would like to feed, house and otherwise care for herself and her two darling younger sisters, who never cause any trouble at all, except for the trouble they cause her in the introductory section which I’m not going to spoil for you because IT’S. SO. SHOCKING!

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The Interactive Adventures of Mari Shu doesn’t yet have a page on my website, but it probably should.

7) When can we expect the book to be published?

Before November 2014. (Uh, ETA, the series is published now.) Finding people willing to copyedit it should be…interesting. Not to mention commissioning JUST the right cover! Or more than one cover, because this book is turning out to be oh so long.

Meankitty Wants to Know: Abbott and Costello

A black and white cat staring at the camera

This is an interview of author Angela Campbell. Sort of.

ON THE SCENT by author and cat friend Angela Campbell has some humans in it and romance and mystery, but more importantly the protagonists of the book are Abbott (the cat) and Costello (the dog). Well, mostly the cat is important, but the dog plays a significant role in the book too. Today we’ve interviewed Abbott and Costello about the book, their feelings about the humans in the book, and life in general.

1) Abbott, you’re described as furry, black and white. Can we see a photo?

2) Costello, you’re described as some kind of mixed breed or a genetic experiment with short legs, a long nose, and golden fur. Can we see a photo?

3) Costello, what is it about human legs that gets you so excited? What was the best humping you got in through the course of this particular book?

Um, I don’t know what any of that means. Hey, I saw a squirrel today.

4) Abbott, what do you think of Costello and his odd habit of humping human legs?

He’s an idiot. End of story. (licks paw)

5) Abbott, tell me why you and Costello always follow the human, Hannah, around the house now, including when she goes to the bathroom.

You never know when she’s going to whip out a can of tuna. Maybe she has tuna stashed in the bathroom. I dunno. Also, I still haven’t figured out what humans actually do in bathrooms. It’s kind of fascinating–tuna aside. I mean, why do they go and just sit? Why do they take off their body blankets and stand in water? It’s kind of like watching a train wreck. You’re horrified, but you can’t look away.

6) What are the perks of being the richest cat and dog in America?

Costello: Hey, I saw a squirrel today.

Abbott: The only good to come from it so far has been our bodyguard, Zach. Don’t get me wrong–he’s an idiot–but at least he listens. If I’m feeling a little hungry and there’s no food around, all I have to do is threaten to expose some stupid secret of his and, bam, I’ve got food. Yeah, I have a slave. It’s all good.

The cover of Angela Campbell's On the Scent with Talking Cats and Dogs

7) Near the beginning of the book, your human Hannah mentions she hasn’t even unpacked. All those unpacked boxes! Abbott, why is she so cruel to you that she won’t unpack the boxes for your amusement?

Let’s be fair. I have to take some of the blame. Any time a human tortures a cat, it’s because the cat hasn’t properly trained his humans. Know what I mean? Don’t worry. I made sure she knew the boxes were my play castles. I don’t expect to have that problem again.

8) The human, Zach, used to be on a reality TV show called The Psychic Detective. What do you two think the best reality TV show would be?

Abbott: Hey, dog. That means what do you want to watch on the big light box that shows moving pictures?
Costello: Oooh! Squirrels.
Abbott: Oh brother. (licks paw) Me? I think it would be cool to have my own reality show. They could call it Keeping Up With Abbott. Maybe I would get more slaves that way. More petting, but not too much petting. More tuna. More naps. For kicks, I’d run off and hide and see if they could keep up with me.

9) Costello, tell me about the obedience classes Hannah thinks she should put you in? Does she really need that much training?

Costello: Um, I don’t know what that means.
Abbott: Remember the park? She made you sit for a treat?
Costello: Oh my god, that was torture! I thought she was playing a game. I thought I would starve to death!
Abbott: Let’s just skip to the next question. Make it about me. That’s just easier.

10) If you two could talk to Angela, what would you tell her about the next book you’d like to be featured in?

The Cover of Angela Campbell's Something Wicked

Abbott: She just put us through an awful story where the idiot girl who works for Zach came and took care of us while our humans went away. Three weeks without my slave. Can you imagine? I hope she never does that again. We had to wait endlessly to be fed–
Costello: I thought I’d starve to death!
Abbott: And the idiot girl kept staring out the window and talking to us about serial killers and ghosts. (Human Typist’s note: That was in SOMETHING WICKED, another Campbell book that is excellent reading.) Sheesh. Humans. What are you gonna do?
Costello: I want to be able to chase squirrels in the next book. And eat them. I’m hungry. Got any food?
Abbott: Tuna?

***

Sincerely,

Meankitty and the Typist
www.meankitty.com * www.jodywallace.com