My dog, contemplating a swan


My dog, contemplating whether or not to retrieve a swan.

My friends, I have returned from a rejuvenating holiday weekend at my in-laws. Family is a wonderful thing, and I feel refreshed. That picture of our family Labrador retriever, Caramel, is actually related to writing, you know. My father-in-law and I took a lovely walk along the lake, and saw a swan and her gray young ‘un alight upon the water surface. The dog, being bred for this sort of a thing, began to pace on the shore, observing her potential prey. The swan was so active, and graceful, and… fetchable! From afar, it looked like a worthy target. I let my dog do as she saw fit, knowing that she will obey if I choose to recall her. Imbued with optimism, she scampered down the bank and into the shallows. It wasn’t hot yet, but we heard the humming of the freshly-hatched southern cicadas in the nearby treetops, the sun was bright, and the water sure felt refreshing to our northern dog. Caramel got all wet, and she stood in the shade of the shallows, eyeing her target with rapt attention. The target, a huge adult swan, paddled a bit closer. (Swans have a lot of confidence.) Caramel stood shoulders-deep in the water for some time, wistfully yearning for the graceful bird. The bird was half her size, and territorial, and had a sharp beak. (Retrievers have a nose for that sort of a thing.) I didn’t have to recall her at all. Satisfied with her observations, she returned to us and led us on in search of more tulip poplar trees and new morel hunting grounds for next spring. She even lent me her leash so that I could rappel down a steep creek bed and check out a potential mushrooming site (dog-mommy’s do act like that in the wild, when out of sight of impressionable human offspring).

With the perspective of two days of doing and thinking and talking, the picture of a wistful brown dog and the gorgeous white swan brings to mind a writing analogy: I am the dog, and the white swan is my spy novel. It is pristine and strong and territorial, and it will not be manipulated. It has a strong beak, and powerful wings, and it even has young. That probably means I’ll end up writing a sequel. I shall rise above my canine companion, and I will push outside my comfort zone and go after that swan. I will grab its neck in my teeth and write a book that’s well outside of my gay romance comfort zone. I will research, and outline, and edit until it’s just right.  I won’t stay in the shallows of the lake, afraid that the awesome bird will beat me under the surface of the waves with her powerful wings.

To that effect, I conducted my first-ever primary source interview with a retired CIA employee. I can’t tell you who she is, or what she did at the “company”, but I will tell you that she has a great sense of humor, is a wonderful hostess, and did enjoy my writing to date. She also helped me craft a credible professional background for my female protagonist in a way that did not have me create a dubious and *illegal* “black ops” team. We discussed the protagonist’s motivations and skill sets, and there was a time or two when my kind and entertaining source assumed a quiet, no-nonsesne countenance and said, “Well, this is something I cannot talk about.” I cannot thank her enough. The CIA should have  “FAQ for writers” tab on their website. My source thought that was, actually, a good idea. There is so much our characters can do and still operate legitimately and within both US and international law, and be exciting and get themselves in trouble, and they won’t even need to carry a gun.

Ahhh. I am blessed with a great family, and kind primary sources. On that note, I bid you all a productive week, and a good night!





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