If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our August Author Interviews--8/2 Maggie Toussaint, 8/9 Kellye Garrett, 8/16 Matt Ferraz, 8/23 Matthew Iden, 8/30 Julia Buckley. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

August Saturday Guest Bloggers: 8/5--Kathleen Kaska, 8/12 Triss Stein, WWK bloggers-Margaret S. Hamilton on 8/19 and Kait Carson on 8/26. Look for E. B. Davis's blog on 8/29--the fifth Tuesday of August.


“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.”

In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on October, 18, 2017. Look for the interview by E. B. Davis here on that date!

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

AN INVASION OF MARSUPIALS

                                                                                  
                                                                                 

The Virginia Opossum, commonly simply called possum, dates back to the time of the dinosaurs. It's the only marsupial (pouched mammal) in North America and fossils found here date it further back than any of those found in Australia. Our native possum, a habitant of woods and fields, is an omnivore, eating insects, plants, birds, eggs, carcasses and anything it comes across. It has adapted quite well to civilization.

In 1608, Captain John Smith described this unusual animal as "An Opassum hath an head like a Swine, and a taile like a rat and is of the bignes of a cat. Under her belly she hath a bagge, wheren shee lodgeth . . . and sucketh her young." It is cat sized with short legs and five toes with one opposable. It has sparse gray hair - lighter in the north and darker in the southern states with a white face, long pointed pink nose and large leaf like ears. Its tail is long and mostly hairless. Possums are also known to play dead, sometimes for hours to fool predators. The female gives birth to many young that crawl to her pouch and attach themselves to a teat, but only about eight survive.

Why this interest in possums? Well, as I've mentioned in an earlier blog, I live in an old farm house. The basement's main supporting beam is a log with bark still on it under the original two rooms of the house built well over a hundred years ago. The cellar ceiling is low and difficult for anyone much taller than me to walk in it. The floor in this section is a thin layer of cement with cracks that mud seeps through during rainy weather. It's only completely dry in the winter when the ground freezes and the furnace is on. New walls put in have largely eliminated the critters that were living in the basement when I bought the house. Mice are still a bit of a problem when fall comes, but my two cats usually take care of them.

Last summer when I returned from vacation, I wondered about the dirty cat dishes on the landing at the top of the cellar steps and the bag of cat food ripped open, but thought maybe my daughter-in-law, who was caring for my critters inside and out, had forgotten to feed the cats one evening. When I went to the cellar to clean their litter boxes, I noticed a small rip in the cellar window screen. Worrying a chipmunk could get in or mice, I closed the cellar window. The top of the small freezer under the window was dirty with muddy footprints. I wondered why the cats were up there, but didn't think much more about it. I also wondered about the huge racket I heard on the cellar steps one evening. When I checked, I saw the cats had knocked both of their crockery dishes down the steps. Fortunately they didn't break.

Later that week I started to smell a dead rodent odor. I couldn't locate a dead mouse, but thought it must be under the washer, stove, refrigerator or some other difficult to reach place. In time the smell would go away, I reasoned. Several weeks later when a furnace man came to repair my furnace, he told me he'd found my dead rodent. It was in a small Have-a-Heart trap I'd set in the basement over a year ago for a chipmunk I thought I had in the house. I never caught a chipmunk and forgot about the trap which now held a very dead half-grown possum that filled the small trap. Yuck! Well, at least it was dead, and I 'd discovered the cat food problem and had gotten rid of it.

Several nights later I came home from a book club meeting and as I was hanging up my jacket, I heard something rustling on the landing to the cellar steps. I glanced in the kitchen and both of my cats were sitting there. I opened the cellar door wider and turned on the light. A young possum started down the steps then turned and looked back at me. Horrors! I took the cat food out of the cellar way and closed the cellar door tightly. The next day I brought a litter box upstairs for the cats as well as their food and set a larger Have-a-Heart trap in the basement and kept the cellar door closed. The following morning I had a young possum in my trap and released it into the woods. I caught two more and released them, also, and when I hadn't caught more after a few more days, I finally decided my house was possum free.

I think every life experience is something that can be used for our writing. So far, except for this blog, I'm not sure how I can work this into at least a short mystery story, but I'm thinking about it. Do you have any ideas on how I can use it in a mystery?

Have you had any unwelcome guests in your home?



18 comments:

E. B. Davis said...

I just can't imagine having to confront opossums in your home. You are so brave! I have had mice, two of which climbed up our Christmas Tree one year and then danced around the living room. When my carpenter husband replaced and re-framed the front door--no more mice. The door was so badly hung that they were able to walk right in through cracks around it. That is the answer to the question: What is the difference between a tract home and a custom built home.

But I did have one experience with a possum.

A neighbor and I were sitting on my screen porch one dark night when we heard a noise on the outside deck. I looked over, saw a small furry animal, and commented to my friend that it was another neighbor's cat, who visited frequently. Later, after she left, I still heard noise out on the deck. From inside, I turned on a deck light and found that the "cat" was a possum who had its snout stuck in the grease-capture cup on our grill, a tasty dinner for him. Me--I knew then that middle-age had descended. I needed to get glasses!

Warren Bull said...

We've had two dead possums in our garage and my wife found a live one there which seemed distinctly unfriendly.

When I live in North Carolina a squirrel fell down an old coal fireplace chimney. I chased it through the house a few times before it noticed the door I had opened to let it escape. Then I got so clean up sooty squirrel footprints.

Gloria Alden said...

E.B. at the home I used to live in, the possums often came and ate with the cats at night in the barn. After I discovered that, I stopped feeding the cats at night. I still put my barn cat's food away at night because of possums and raccoons. No sense in incouraging them, the raccoons especially since they're more aggressive.

Gloria Alden said...

Warren, I've heard of the damage animals that fall down a fireplace chimney can cause. I miss not having a fireplace, but that would be a downside unless there was something at the top to keep critters from getting in.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Like E.B. and Warren, I've dealt with mice and squirrels, but the only opossums I've seen were on the road. When you asked about story ideas, at first, I thought of a historical tale, where people lived more closely with animals. Then, I wondered, what if a modern day protagonist had to deal with a home intruder and somehow used the presence of the opossum to fend off an attack?

Patg said...

I'm constantly under attack from critters--or so I feel. Geese, racoons, mice, rats and spiders. But that's what comes from living on a river.
You could use the opossum entrance as a clue of where a killer broke in.
Patg

Rhonda Lane said...

We once had a squirrel get inside, but our big orange cat kept it at bay like a calf thwarted by a good cutting horse.

More recently, the night before Sandy hit, the usually reserved Miss Kitty flung herself off the dining room chair and proceeded to throw down at the patio slider.

On the other side of the glass, a small possum nosed along the bottom of the doorway as if to say, "Oh, it looks so nice in there. I'd love to go inside. Maybe there's a spot I can go inside over here?"

Meanwhile, on the other side of the glass, the hissing and yowling Miss Kitty followed along and even tried to clock the little possum through the glass.

The little guy ambled off the patio. Miss Kitty was quite pleased with herself. I admit I felt sorry for him, until I read your story, Gloria. :)

Gloria Alden said...

Paula, that might work. Hmmmm. The reason you see so many dead possums on the road is because they don't have good eye sight.

Gloria Alden said...

Pat, living in the country I have all the critters you mentioned plus some. Mostly I've learned to live with them. In my case, the possums came in through a small tear in a sceened window until I saw it and closed it. But I suppose a outside cellar door could have been broken open in a murder mystery to let a possum and killr in.

Gloria Alden said...

What a story, Rhonda. Be glad Miss Kitty didn't actually attack the squirrel. I've heard a squirrel's teeth can be horrible when they take on a cat. She sounds like quite a brave cat. Don't you just love cats. They never cease to amuse and amaze us.

How are you doing with Sandy? I was wondering about you this morning. I hope you're not suffering from any flooding. Here it's just rain, rain and more rain.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

I've had bats in the eaves, bats in the stove pipes, bats in the house -- all of which drive Jan bats.

In my 1795 house in Westchester County, NY I also had chimney swifts in the chimney. Just as they were funneling into the chimney for the night the bats would pour out from the eaves. No respite for the flying bugs.

Opossums have moved north over the last few decades. They followed the highways and feasted in part upon their brethren who went before them and became roadkill.

If you were writing an historical mystery, you could use geography and the appearance of a possum north of its territory as a clue. Even today, we do not have them in our neck of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, so if one appeared at the scene of a crime (nibbing on the corpse?) finding out how it got there might point the sleuth in the right direction (say it hitched a ride with some outsiders from further south.)

One day I rescued a deer that had become tangled in a neighbor's four-wire fence trying to duck her way through. I stayed on the side without hooves and knelt on her neck and shoulders to immobilize her while I released her from her the wires.

She didn't like me much until she was free. She bolted about ten feet away and then turned around. She stood looking at me until I walked away. I figured it was her way of saying thanks.

~ Jim

~ Jim

Rhonda Lane said...

On the Sandy front, we were blessedly lucky. We also only got a lot of rain and wind, but no wind damage plus we never lost electrical power. We're about a half hour's drive from the shore, which was pulverized in the storm.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Gloria, my sympathies. We have had possums come down the two chimneys into the two fireplaces in our home. (Wrote a poem about one of those times that's on my blog for last April.) Big problem. We now have covers that allow smoke to get out but keep animals and birds out of the chimneys.

I hate to tell you, but your problems are not over. Our local university extension consulted with us about our problems and told us that possums must be released 5-10 miles away or they will return. We were trapping ours and releasing them in a park over a mile away and thought that was enough, but they kept coming back. After we took them to a park 10 miles away, they didn't. Then we had the caps put on the chimneys so no others could find their way down.

Kara Cerise said...

Like Jim, we have bats in our neighborhood. One year there was a major influx in the bat population. They were hanging from gutters, fence posts and even tall plants. My neighbor came home from work, opened her briefcase and a small bat flew out, scaring her young daughter. She called a bat rescue organization to catch and then release it in the wild.

Gloria Alden said...

What nice wild animal stories, Jim. I'm sure the deer was saying thanks in her own way. I forgot about the bats I've had in my house, but not for a long time now. I catch them either with a fishing net or by throwing a towel over them and then I release them outside. Around here we've had possums for a long time, but maybe not when I was a child. Of course, here in Ohio we're much closer to Virginia than you are in Michigan's UP.

Using it in a historical mystery might work if I could pin point the actual time it was first seen in the area of the north I wanted it to show up.

Gloria Alden said...

Rhonda, I'm glad you're having no more problems than we are. Of course, the everlasting rain is depressing, but certainly much, much better than what so many others are going through.

Linda, I always have possums around, but the only way these got in was through a tear in the cellar window screen they apparently made. The window is closed tight now and next year I'll make sure there's chicken wire or something in addition to the screen to keep them out.

Gloria Alden said...

Kara, that had to be frightening for the little girl. I've never heard of them getting in a briefcase before. Actually,as I'm sure you know, bats are very beneficial and biologists and other people are worrying because bats are dying off from an infection called white nose fungus or something like that. They eat an incredible number of mosquitoes and other insects that spread disease to humans.

Kellie @ Delightfully Ludicrous said...

Our possums aren't quite like yours, but they are just as annoying and have a tendency to move in uninvited. Ive had one living under my bathtub for years