Author's Blog

Posted 4/30/2017 by Pat Frayne

 

Topaz and the Green Fairies wins Reader's Views 2016 - 2017  First Place Classics Award in children's book

       

 

Topaz and the Green Fairies
by Pat Frayne (Goodreads Author)   

Reader Views's review

it was amazing

Reviewed by Faryal Jabbar (age 15) for Reader Views (2/17)        Mar 19, 2017

“Topaz and The Green Fairies” by Pat Frayne takes place in a magical world of green fairies, lovable animals, and a strong King Conjure Cat ruling over the desired land Knownotten. Bozel, a young green fairy must save his entire species from a treacherous storm that is threatening to destroy their island and its inhabitants. He embarks on a rocky journey, braving the desolate Barren Island, home to the black fisher bats. He makes friends and finds new species on his journey to find a new home for his people. Will King Topaz, Bozel, and the rest of the gang be able to rescue the green fairies before the island is swallowed by the great Slewnecky River?

While reading this novel I had the recurring feeling of warmth and intrigue, a perfect combination for a bedtime story. The book reminded me of a big book of classic children stories I used to have and the magical animals that lived in those pages. Though I thought that the story was stretched to a slower pace in some chapters, this book would be excellent for fantasy loving children around the ages of seven to twelve. Bozel is easy to relate to and I think anyone could see a part of themselves in at least one of the diverse characters. The written thoughts of the characters helped me empathize with the characters, as I believe many children will. I would advise readers to go in without any presumptions–I went into the book with the image of talking animals who acted like people. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the author added realistic animal behaviors to the characters making them feel more real.

Mrs. Frayne effortlessly switched through different points of views, each character nicely developed, however, I was left wondering about the mysterious spirit on Barren Island and King Topaz. I especially loved the beautiful imagery and the map included in the book. The morals I found in the book included friendship, family, and above all–not to judge a book by its cover. For those looking for an exciting story for their children, or frankly, anyone who loves a fresh classical adventure, I recommend “Topaz and The Green Fairies” by Pat Frayne.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1946084936

 

Posted 10/16/2016 by Pat Frayne

Topaz and the Green Fairies is Awarded the Silver Medal by Literary Classics

 
Bozel, a genuinely likable young fairy, sets out on his own in an attempt save his family and their community. Torrential rains are causing his village to slide into the river and their homes and land are being destroyed by mud slides. Young Bozel has been selected by the green fairies to find a safe-haven before they all perish.

Can such a young boy save his people? Does he have what it takes to overcome the obstacles and trials he must face? Youngsters will thrill at the adventure and excitement of this delightful fantasy for children. Along the 
way makes new friends who will help him on his journey. In their
travels they meet Topaz, a magical cat with mystical powers. Together with his new friends they devise a plan to rescue Bozel’s community.

Author, Pat Frayne, introduces young readers to an eclectic group of animals, including the ever-so-unusual
 
buckwetcher, and the enchanting ghostbird. With just enough suspense to keep children on the edge of their seats, this marvelous children’s book will enthrall young audiences.
 
 
Posted 10/8/2016 by Pat Frayne

 Give Your Best Book Reading Ever

Arrive early and bring a bottle of water. I'm always more comfortable if I give myself a little time to become familiar with the setting before I begin the reading. Being there ahead of time gives me a chance to adjust the microphone and organize my papers.  Appearance is important. Dress appropriately and put on your happiest face. Let your audience know you want to be there.

You can begin by thanking your audience for their support and thanking those who worked so hard behind the scenes to make the event possible, but please don't bore everyone with a long list of names.

By now you should have practiced your reading until it's pitch perfect. That means you won't be tripping over difficult sentences. That's why, when you practice it's "crucial" to read aloud. If you can't recruit a family member or a friend to listen, you can always read to your pet.

When you read, think like Dan Holloway. "- read with every ounce of passion that drove you to write in the first place."

Another point he makes is this - Great readings need to do three things:

1. hold the listener's attention from beginning to end

2. make the listener crave more

3. spotlight the author's writing skills.

Mr. Holloway also says: few passages in a (book) or a novel will do this.

That’s why he suggests keeping your reading short, but reading enough to "- demonstrate your skills at pacing, description, and dialog."

You will want to keep an eye on how your listeners are responding as well. Are they getting restless? Always leave your listeners wanting more rather than boring them with too much. A proper reading should last about thirty minutes for an inexperienced speaker. In most cases, the time is determined by the event organizer. Be sure you have an idea of how long you're expected to read. Whether the reading is ten minutes or thirty, read only those passages that will encourage your listeners to want to buy your book.

Choose four or five short passages you'd like to read; however, you may read only a couple. Many authors, Brad Phillips for one, prefer not to devote their entire time to reading from their book. After reading a short "compelling passage" they tell their listeners something about it. You can use this technique throughout your reading.

If your audience has time to ask questions at the end, be sure you've anticipated what they're likely to ask ahead of time and be prepared to give a short informative answer. Some questions might be:

• How did you decide on your title?

• How did you decide on what to put on the cover?

• Did you model your main character's personality after someone you know?

• Why did you become a writer?

• Where does your creative inspiration come from?

When answering questions, it's always a good practice to repeat the question in case there are members of the audience who didn't hear it clearly. This is helpful if the event is being recorded.

Most importantly, don't forget to say something to remind the audience just how unique your book is while reminding them of what you want them to do before they leave - buy your book!

If doing a presentation of your work in front of a group makes you nervous, Try this amazing new app. http://www.mrmediatraining.com/2016/08/15/a-brand-new-way-to-practice-your-presentations-really/

My thanks to authors Chuck Sambuchino, Brad Phillips, Dan Holloway, and Alan Rinzer, for their very informative articles on this topic.

References: writersdigest.com. mrmediatraining.com thecreativepenn.com alanrinzer.com

 

 

Posted 10/1/2016 by Pat Frayne

Topaz, the Yellow Conjure Cat

As I've already mentioned, Topaz is not just an ordinary cat. He's very much a product of the mystical world he lives in. His luminous topaz eyes, a trait characteristic of his breed, are quite unsettling to those beings unfamiliar with conjure cats.  At times, those eerie eyes may be a bit unnerving for close friends as well.  This happens when Topaz appears to be looking through someone rather than looking at them. But that's by far, not the only reason others find them so disturbing.

Aside from his strange luminous eyes there are other traits that set him apart. He has quite a long tail, and his short buttery yellow fur is striped with pale orange. Topaz is a large, lean, muscular cat that weighs more than the Elf king. His shoulders actually come past the king's waist. This would make him roughly one hundred and fifty pounds.

Unfortunately, Topaz is the last cat of his kind. Even so, he's committed to the ancient Code he swore to uphold as did his forefathers before him. The Code governs the use of his unique conjure power. Nevertheless, this power has its limits. Armed with only a basic understanding of how this power works, Topaz struggles with this insecurity even as fights to protect the kingdom and all its inhabitants. These are but a few of the challenges our conjure cat faces when confronted with other beings who threaten the peace and safety of his beloved Knownotten.

Nevertheless, Topaz's dedication does not end here in the Kingdom of Knownotten. He's often called upon to defend the powerless victims of evil and injustice in other lands. Because he is wise, he's not above accepting the advice and companionship of others as he strives to fulfill what he sees as his duty to all Fairies and Elves as well as other mystical beings.

Topaz, for all his good points, is not a perfect being. Like some of us, he's been known to lose his patients and to speak without thinking. As you learn more about him, I'm sure you'll find these aren't his only failings. All the same, he's well loved by his friends and by readers, young and old alike.

Although these tales were written for the entertainment of those who enjoy fast-paced mystical adventures and original fairy tales, there is an emphasis on the value of courage, commitment, friendship, and loyalty.

* Fairy and Elf are capitalized because they are the name of a nationality in this series.

Posted 10/1/2016 by Pat Frayne

Life in Northern Arizona

Once the novelty of living in the high Arizona desert wore off, I was desperate to go back to northern California where we'd lived for nearly sixteen years. I missed the Henry Cowell Redwood Forest and Roaring Camp Railroad, only a mile and a half from my house. I missed Santa Cruse Beach and Boardwalk just six miles down the winding two-lane HW9. I missed the year-round perfect weather, everything green, and my beautiful thirteen-mile drive to and from work in Scotts Valley. I missed my children and my grandchildren.

On days when my spirits were especially low I questioned my sanity for ever having left. California was the place I'd dreamed about when growing up in Philadelphia. It was the paradise I hungered for when scraping several inches of snow off my windshield at night in 40 degrees below freezing in Alberta, Canada before I could drive home after the 3-11 pm shift at Edmonton General Hospital. OMG, why had I left California?

Twenty-two years later I can look back and smile. Moving to Arizona wasn't such a bad idea after all, and I've learned to love it all over again. I often remind myself of how grateful I am to be here, especially when I look out my kitchen window and see a dozen javelina meandering down the hill behind my house. I watch them graze on the roots they dig up from the loose rocky soil. Usually, there are several youngsters in the herd. Sometimes there's even a pair of twins that may be as young as days or only hours old.

 I no longer mind it that the javelina have dug up and eaten every hybrid tulip I planted in my front yard. I now plant day lilies and iris instead. 

Posted 10/1/2016 by Pat Frayne

Daisy

Daisy, the young fawn, is one of my favorite characters to write, mostly because she was suggested to me by my Granddaughter, Caitlin. Cait was about nine years of age at the time. As Daisy's personality developed, I was surprised to discover this little fawn had taken on some of Cait's behaviors and attitudes. I have to admit this made Daisy's character easier to write, and it was a lot more fun.

When the first book, Topaz and the Evil Wizard was written, Daisy had not yet come on the scene; however, when I wrote the revised edition of this book, I felt compelled to at least give her a mention. For all intents and purposes, Daisy should have been in the first book. When you read it, I'm sure you'll see why.

Daisy was hardly more than two hours old when Otis, the great owl, rescued her from a flash flood in the Mountains of Scarford. Unable to save her parents, Otis brought the tiny creature to the Knownotten Castle where he knew she'd be well cared for until she could fend for herself. The old Elf king loved her from the moment he saw her, and so Daisy became a permanent resident. Not only did she have the run of the castle, Daisy (unlike my granddaughter) was spoiled beyond belief. King Kittle could find no fault with her no matter what she did.

Fawns are one of the world's most adorable animal babies, and I love to collect pictures of them on Pinterest. http://pinterest.co/talesoftopaz/  The Gestation period for a fawn is about ten months. Most fawns are born with white spots that fade by the time they are a year old. Although families stay together, young fawns are cared for by their mothers. Deer may birth one or two fawns at a time. Triplets are rare.

A mother deer wastes no time cleaning her newborns with her tongue. The youngsters must be as scent free as possible if they are to avoid detection by predators. Newborn fawns take their first steps within the first twenty minutes after birth. It's important for fawns to get their legs under them soon after they are born. They need to stand in order to nurse.

All deer are members of the herbivore family. They are designed by nature to derive their nourishment from living plants, and they are selective about what they like to eat. Fresh, easily digestible greens and tender young twigs are more suited to their four-chambered stomachs. They also like lichen, fungi, and fruit. The deer around our way love our neighbor's new rose buds. And because deer are such excellent jumpers, the barbed wire fence that separates my neighbor's back yard from the wild landscape behind it is no deterrent.

I was surprised to learn that deer are indigenous to every continent in the world with the exception of Australia and Antarctica. On Wikipedia, I also learned that deer have facial glands in front of their eyes that contain a scent used to mark their territory. They do this by rubbing their faces against trees around their home site. Unfortunately, following these 'rub' marks is one way hunters can track deer.

Another thing I didn't know is that all deer have antlers. Hence the need for a calcium-rich diet in greens. The female deer have what is better described as small stubs. The female reindeer, however, are the exception. They grow the real deal.

Deer have excellent night vision. This is due to a layer of specialized tissue behind the retina that reflects visible light and increases the light in the photoreceptors. Not only does this increase the animal's night vision, it's also responsible for 'eye shine', giving the pupils that spooky glow in the dark feature.

 

Posted 10/1/2016 by Pat Frayne

I Love Raccoons!

Raccoons are cute, curious, nocturnal, interesting, intelligent, and have good memories for a lesson once learned. Here in Arizona, raccoons live along the riparian waterways and on the outskirts of towns and cities. You won't find them where a permanent source of water is not readily available. A raccoon's most outstanding feature is its front paws. Each paw has five fingers, and raccoons are capable of using their paws in much the same way we use our hands. This makes them adept at opening coolers, back doors, backpacks, or almost anything that promises to contain something edible.

Their appetites are just as flexible. They eat insects, snails, worms, crawfish, frogs, nuts, berries, and a variety of plants, small birds, and mammals. They have even been known to make a meal on garbage, carrion, or birdseed. So be careful about what you leave laying around the back yard that might attract these opportunistic characters. They will take advantage. They have entered homes through pet doors to finish off any leftovers to be found in pet bowls.

If they really like a newly discovered territory, they will make a home close by, perhaps in you woodpile, in your shed, or under your porch. Before you know it there will be a den of cubs or kits, anywhere from three to five of them. Raccoons mate all year round and the average gestation period is about sixty-five days. The youngsters are raised by the mother. In the wild, raccoons are only expected to live for one to three years; however, as pets or in captivity, they can survive for much, much longer. Some have lived for as long as twenty years or more.

Not all raccoons have a black mask like the Procyon lotor. There is another breed called Bassarucus astutus. These raccoons have whitish rings around black eyes. The rest of the raccoon's face is a plain gray color. That brings me to Dooley. This rambunctious critter is a member of the later breed and a beloved character in the Tales of Topaz the Conjure Cat Books for middle school children. Dooley makes his first appearance in the Mountains of Scarford when he bumps into Topaz. In this tale, Topaz is searching for the Wizard's Tomb in Topaz and the Evil Wizard. Dooley, although quite likable, has a few unfavorable characterizes as well. Because of his natures to be curious, he often appears nosy. He's also blunt to the point of rudeness when he feels his patience is being tried. All things considered, Dooley's heart is in the right place and he seeks to do good whenever he has the opportunity.

Posted 10/1/2016 by Pat Frayne

More about Great-Horned Owls:

Owls Rock!

Great-Horned Owls are adaptable creatures. They can be found anywhere in the United States and that includes parts of Alaska as well. Their diet consists of a wide variety of critters. They have been known to dine on almost anything from fish, bugs, and reptiles to birds and mammals. Some of these as big or bigger than they themselves, mammals like skunks, raccoon, and opossum. They kill their prey by crushing them with their powerful feathered talons before they swallow them whole.

Owls prefer to nest in the natural openings they find in trees, or they will take over the abandoned nests of other birds or animals rather than building a nest from scratch. Where they nest is just as versatile as what they choose to eat. Cliff edges, small caves, low bushes, tall grasses, bushy places on the desert floor, and hollows inside cacti are but a few. They have nested in a coyote's den or inside the entrance to a badger's burrow. Sometimes they have even chosen to nest in man-made structures.

Not far from the small town where I live is the larger town of Prescott Valley, Arizona, and the local Home Depot. For years now,  owls have nested on the very top storage shelf of the outdoor garden mart. The area they chose is against the wall and under an overhang. Their nest is safely nestled between a large stock of cardboard boxes.

Home Depot has become their private sanctuary. Store employees avoid going anywhere near the site until the nestlings are old enough to move out of the nest and hang out nearby. By this time, the youngsters are about six weeks old. At seven weeks they can fly a little, but owls aren't competent enough to fly well until they are at least ten to twelve weeks of age. Parents continue to feed the juveniles until they are about five months old. And growing young Owls eat a lot!

Eventually, It takes both parents to keep them fed. This means that hunting times are extended to include daylight hours as well. The parent owls usually have large caches of food stored close to the nest. This place is where the owls bring their prey first. Here is where they discard the unwanted parts, things like heads, wings, and feet.

These discards they leave for the Home Depot employees to deal with at a later date.
To learn so much more about these fascinating raptors go to Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_horned_owl#Territoriality_and_movements

Posted 10/1/2016 by Pat Frayne

Great Horned Owls

Otis, The great owl, as he is so often referred to by his friends, is unusually large for a Great-Horned Owl. His wingspan is immense, measuring nearly ten feet in diameter. Three to five feet is the average wingspan for most owls. He's extremely loyal to Topaz and may take on a paternal role in his efforts to stop Topaz from doing something he considers dangers or foolhardy. The great owl's loyalties do not stop there. He's protective of the Fairies and Elves of Knownotten Kingdom as well and will do anything for them. Although Otis is the conjure cat's closest friend, he oftentimes pushes his friend's patients to the point of annoyance with his overly critical points of view.

Owls are birds of prey, and Otis is no exception. He prefers to begin hunting at dust for an hour or two and again before dawn. His diet consists mostly of fish and mice when living in the wild. Over time he's made it a learned practice not to prey on the inhabitants of the kingdom, simply because most of them have become his friends. As a result, Otis has developed an appetite for the finer foods he finds at the king's table, and he takes full advantage of his standing invitation to Sunday teas at Knownotten Castle.

Owl Facts:

Owls are skillful hunters. Their hearing is quite exceptional; however, owls are best known for their binocular vision. This extraordinary gift allows them to see great distances. Their powerful feathered talons are another outstanding  asset, making it possible for owls to crush the bones of their prey and swallow it whole once they've removed the unwanted parts with their beaks. Because the feathers in their wings are stiff, an owl's wings are virtually silent. This enables them to pounce on their prey without notice. Perhaps this is an owl's greatest advantage.

Posted 10/1/2016 by Pat Frayne

Imagination

In the beginning, my imagination seemed to flow with ease.  I finished the first draft of each of the first two stories in less than a week after I'd begun to write them. Sometimes the ideas flowed so fast I found I’d written myself into a corner and had no recourse but to backtrack.

At other times the dilemmas I created for my characters would take a few hours or even a couple of days to resolve before I could move forward. This was especially true in the third Book, Topaz, and the Green Fairies. Yet the passion for writing never waned. I love the challenge. It's like trying to solve a difficult puzzle. My biggest problem is spelling. Thank goodness for spell-checking.

As a newbie to writing, I had to learn the craft as well. So I joined a writers group,  attended multiple workshops on writing, read several books on the subject, and scoured the internet for articles written by accomplished writers.

All in all, writing about Topaz and his friends has been an enjoyable experience for me. It's also been many hours of hard work with seldom a day off. I've put in more hours  per day writing than I ever did when I worked as a full-time RN. The truth is, most days I barely notice how long I've been in front of the computer until my husband says, "are you ready to  for something to eat?"

Thankfully, he's quite self-sufficient, and he actually likes to make his own meals!

 

Posted 10/1/2016 by Pat Frayne

Topaz, the Yellow Conjure Cat

As I've already mentioned, Topaz is not just an ordinary cat. He's very much a product of the mystical world he lives in. His luminous topaz eyes, a trait characteristic of his breed, are quite unsettling to those beings unfamiliar with conjure cats.  At times, those eerie eyes may be a bit unnerving for close friends as well.  This happens when Topaz appears to be looking through someone rather than looking at them. But that's by far, not the only reason others find them so disturbing.

Aside from his strange luminous eyes there are other traits that set him apart. He has quite a long tail, and his short buttery yellow fur is striped with pale orange. Topaz is a large, lean, muscular cat that weighs more than the Elf king. His shoulders actually come past the king's waist. This would make him roughly one hundred and fifty pounds.

Unfortunately, Topaz is the last cat of his kind. Even so, he's committed to the ancient Code he swore to uphold as did his forefathers before him. The Code governs the use of his unique conjure power. Nevertheless, this power has its limits. Armed with only a basic understanding of how this power works, Topaz struggles with this insecurity even as fights to protect the kingdom and all its inhabitants. These are but a few of the challenges our conjure cat faces when confronted with other beings who threaten the peace and safety of his beloved Knownotten.

Nevertheless, Topaz's dedication does not end here in the Kingdom of Knownotten. He's often called upon to defend the powerless victims of evil and injustice in other lands. Because he is wise, he's not above accepting the advice and companionship of others as he strives to fulfill what he sees as his duty to all Fairies and Elves as well as other mystical beings.

Topaz, for all his good points, is not a perfect being. Like some of us, he's been known to lose his patients and to speak without thinking. As you learn more about him, I'm sure you'll find these aren't his only failings. All the same, he's well loved by his friends and by readers, young and old alike.

Although these tales were written for the entertainment of those who enjoy fast-paced mystical adventures and original fairy tales, there is an emphasis on the value of courage, commitment, friendship, and loyalty.

* Fairy and Elf are capitalized because they are the name of a nationality in this series.

Posted 10/1/2016 by Pat Frayne

How My Granddaughter Solved My Writer's Block

Cait loved the decorative shoe box I'd made for her, and she liked the story about the young fairy girl so much I promised to complete the second story by Christmas. I began writing it within a few days of our visit. The plan was to expand on the world I'd created in the first story. Cait liked the characters, and I felt as if I was just getting to know them myself. I wondered where they would take me next. This time, when I began to write, the creative energy didn't flow as easily as it had with the first tale. I couldn't seem to develop a decent plot and found myself stuck on page one. The problem was - I needed a dilemma. I put the story aside.

One or two days later I received a letter from my granddaughter. Inside the envelope was a handwritten note:

"Dear Nannies

 Im not sure what to say next so I want you to finish it for me"

 There was no comma, no apostrophe, and no period. I have typed it just as Cait wrote it, and I will keep this letter forever.

 Further down the page, she had drawn a big heart in the same purple fine-point marker she'd used to write the note. The heart was well drawn for a nine-year-old, I thought.  Next to the heart was her name, "Caitlin". This was paper-clipped to a computer typed note. I found out later, that with a bit of help from her mom, Cait had typed the letter herself. It reads as follows:

 "Topaz and the wizard 2

 Wake up Topaz wake up yelled daisy. Daisy was a young white fawn. When Topaz awoke he silently ate his breakfast, for his owner King Kittle had passed away. Then Bumper came in and broke the silence Topaz he yelled Ollie has been stuck in a tree and cant get down you have to help him. So Topaz followed Bumper when Topaz got their he soon saw ollie up in the tree he yelled up to Ollie are you okay Ollie replied:"

 The letter you see here is just as it was written by Caitlin, so capitals and punctuation are mostly missing. As you may have imagined, I teared up when I read it.

 Not only was this act adorable, heart touching, and terribly sweet, it was the dilemma I needed to move this story forward. Ollie and Bumper were characters from the original story. But Daisy, the white fawn, was an entirely new character, and she was perfect. Eventually, Ollie, a Great-Horned Owl, and Bumper, a rambunctious raccoon, became Otis and Dooley; however, Daisy's name will never change.

Now, the thing I had to figure out was how a Great-Horned Owl could end up getting himself "stuck in a tree"! And it didn't take me too long to come up with a reason that got my imagination up and running again.

 As the story moved along I found myself writing Daisy in my granddaughter's character. This was unintentional. When I finally did realize what I was doing, it worked out even better. I would think to myself: now what would Cait say in this situation?

Cait's title, "Topaz and the wizard 2" was a take-off on the title of the first story I'd written, Topaz and the Evil Wizard.

 In Topaz and the Evil Wizard, fairy and elf children are missing. Nevertheless, Topaz only learns about this when Orange Blossom's older brother goes missing and Topaz's long time friend, Ollie, the Great-Horned Owl, finds this out and calls on him for help. By now ancient rumors about The Wizard of Scarford have begun to resurface and circulate amongst the forest folk, and this is how the name of the book comes about.

 The first edition of these two tales was published under one title, Tales of Topaz the Conjure Cat Part 1 and Part 2. And so the second tale began as a continuation of the first. Later, when I decided to make each tale a standalone book in a series, I revised the stories. The latest revision will be out soon. In the meantime, book three was written, Topaz and the Green Fairies. But more about that book a bit later.

 Since the first two short stories were written, Topaz as a mystical superhero has evolved. To begin with, he was never an ordinary cat. He started out as a descendant from a particular breed of cat known as Yellow Conjure Cats, large muscular cats with eerie luminous eyes who were endowed with a unique mystical power. Due to circumstances, I won't go into now, Topaz had little knowledge of how to wield this power and was forced to learn through trial and error, or  in fact, to die trying. Follow this blog to find out more about Topaz and the world he lives in.

 

 

Posted 10/1/2016 by Pat Frayne

Have you ever wanted to become a writer?

I wasn't always a writer. Writing came about quite by chance. It happened eight winters ago when we were visiting our daughter and her family in northern California around Christmas time. One snowy afternoon while were all sitting around the fireplace drinking our hot chocolate, our grandson, Sam, began to tell us a story. It was a story Sam had just made up on the spur of the moment. After Sam finished his story, each of our other grandchildren made up  a story of their own. The adults even gave it a try. When it came to my turn, my mind was a complete blank. Yet, that afternoon around the fire stuck with me, and on our thirteen-hour drive home, I thought about the sort of stories I'd like to make up.

By the time I got home and back into my work routine I'd forgotten all about it until I began work on a project for my granddaughter, Caitlin's ninth birthday. I was making her a decorative box from a new shoebox and some of my scrapbook materials. On the lid I created a large yellow cat sitting in a meadow surrounded by wildflowers. The cat was talking to a young fairy girl. The fairy girl, without wings and no higher than the cat's chin, was blond and wearing a pink dress.

Now I have no inkling where this idea came from other than the fact that Cait and I both adore fairies and cats alike. All the same, I was having fun with this project, and because I happened to have some shinny gold paper laying there on my table, I decided to make the cat a crown. As I stared at the scene on the lid of the box, it came to me that I ought to write a story to go along with it. Only I didn't get around to mentioning the crown until six months later when I wrote the second story for Cait at Christmas.

At the time I began this story, I had no concrete thoughts about where it was going. I merely began to write. As it turned out, my first draft became my outline, and I've been writing stories in that manner ever since. I called the young fairy, Orange Blossom. The cat, my super hero, was named for a lake we often passed on the way up to our daughter's cabin when we traveled the back way to Dorrington. Eventually, the series became known as Tales of Topaz the Yellow Conjure Cat. As for the tales that followed and why I finally published - well, that's another story. Follow this blog and find out.

 

Posted 10/17/2012 by Pat Frayne

When I was Nine 

when I was nine and growing up in Philadelphia, Fairmount Park and the Philadelphia Zoo were just a few city blocks from where we lived on Poplar Street. I loved to go to the park, but sometimes I had to do a lot of pestering and whining to get my mom to give up her evening on the front porch and take me.

Our special time to go was after supper. Five or six of the neighborhood kids would always tag along. Most of the time we'd go to the Horticultural Building. It was an enormous  glass and iron structure filled with hundreds of trees and plants from all over the world. We called it  "the greenhouse".

It was closed by the time we got there, but that didn't matter to us. We'd been inside the green before. We'd come to play on the grounds and pretend we were on "safari" somewhere in India or Africa. Forty acres of trees, flowering geometrical gardens, walkways, statues, and lots of big bushy shrubs surrounded this magnificent building. Best of all were the large rectangular ponds, slippery with green algae, and covered with water-lilies.

Most of us remembered to bring a clean mayonnaise or pickle jar complete with a lid that had a few air holes hammered into it. The jars were for grasshoppers or lightening bugs. Anyone could catch those, but catching a tadpole was the real challenge. The boys were best at this. To catch one with legs was a real prize, and if you were lucky, it might live long enough to turn into a frog.

The greenhouse wasn't the only attraction on our evening excursions. Sometimes we climbed trees, waded through shallow rocky streams, and collected rocks. We stuffed our pockets with the most exotic ones we could find.

 Mosquito bites were a small price to pay for a couple of hours of picking wild cherries and crabapples, or for gathering a handful of wild purple and yellow violets for my mom. She called them nosegays.

For detailed information about the history of Fairmount Park, its geology and natural recourses, museums, monuments, mansions, the monastery, the zoo, and many other points of interest, go to Fairmount Park and the international exhibition at Philadelphia - GoogleBooks.url Here you can download a free ebook which includes a number of original black and white sketches.

 

That's a Tarantula!

It was late in the afternoon when my husband, Ron, came into our small office. I was seated at my computer facing the window, and I was absolutely engrossed in trying to figure out how to wrap text around a picture I'd just dropped into a word document.

"Have you got a minute?" he asked. Well, I really didn't want to leave what I was doing. I had just gotten the hang of how to position the picture on the page and now I wanted to reduce it down to the proper size. "One minute," I said. The actual process took a bit longer than I expected it to. Ron was patient, a little too patient. My husband isn't prone to displaying much emotion about anything, but he is almost never that soft spoken. I should have suspected something was up.

When I stood up from my chair and turned to face him I thought I saw the tail-end of a vanishing smirk. Feeling a little like Frodo being led by Gollum, I followed Ron through the laundry room. There are three wooden steps from our laundry room to the garage floor. When I saw what was waiting at the bottom. I decided to stay exactly where I was.

This tarantula was bigger than the one I'd stumbled onto two weeks ago. It was "burly" by comparison. That particular morning two weeks ago, I'd entered the garage from the driveway with the intention of sweeping up the dried hunks of mud that had been tracked in on our hiking shoes. My husband wears Merrill, size thirteen. They are tan and dark brown. I guess that's why I didn't notice the tarantula right away. That is, not until his long forelegs started to probe the air like a pair of feelers. Then all of his legs were in motion at once, and he started coming toward me.

The unexpectedness of finding myself so close to this creeping arachnid brought on a sudden fear I can't explain. I felt a loud involuntary scream burst from me. It was only after the scream began that I recognized the creature for what it truly was and realized that I wasn't in any real danger. Even though the fear had already left me, the scream seemed to go and on. I thought this would bring every neighbor on our road to our driveway, but not a soul heard me.

Now that the initial fright had worn off, I found the young tarantula to be fascinating. In fact, I thought him beautiful. He was a combination of tans and browns in a pattern similar to my husband's hiking shoes. Fleetingly I pictured the tarantula nestled down inside one of them, cozy and undetected, as my husband…. I made a mental note to ask Ron to build a shoe rack.

In retrospect, I imagine this tarantula was about three and a half to four inches long, legs not included. Because he was so attractive, I didn't mind that he spent all that day in our garage. Several times throughout the afternoon I went to the garage just to look at him. He was always tucked into the corner where the bottom step joined the wall. That night, as usual, Ron left the garage door up about one or two inches. It keeps the garage cooler. It would also be convenient for our guest should he decide to go out for a walk and grab a bite to eat.

When we looked in the next morning, the tarantula was gone. Surprisingly, I discovered I was disappointed to find he was no longer there. More to come…

 

OMG, That's a Tarantula, Another One!

Our second visitor was much larger, and he was entirely black except for a disk-like indentation on the top of his head. It was either brown or dark gray. I've seen a few tarantulas in my twenty years as a resident in Dewey, Arizona, but none so plump and furry.

As I stood there in the doorway between the laundry room and the garage staring down on our new guest. I found myself wondering if he would make a good mouser. We haven't had a cat around for some time. Then I thought about Charlie, our ten-year-old black lab, and decided it was probably a bad idea. Charlie wouldn't tolerate it. I didn't want to imagine what would happen if their paths crossed.

Tarantulas are good jumpers. I've never seen one jump, and I'm not sure I'd want to. It would depend largely upon what direction he was headed. I know they like to hunt at night and they are good stalkers, much like a cat, with slow purposeful deliberation. When they finally do pounce, it's with a "deadly" accuracy. That's because they're equipped with something researchers call "image defocus". With this exceptional eye capability, they are masters at judging distance. That's a feature some humans might find handy for parallel parking, myself included. I wonder if it matters if you don't have four pairs of eyes?

Did you know that tarantulas are classified as arachnids and not insects and that they can be found across the globe? In fact, they prefer the tropical and subtropical climates. I looked them up on the National Geographic Website later that night and discovered that there are hundreds of different species that differ in size, color, and habits. South America has a supersized tarantula called the gargantuan tarantula. He also likes supersize meals. These monsters go after mice and small birds. The more I read about these creatures and their habits the more I wondered why anyone would keep one of for a pet, unless it's my brother, Toby, or my son-in-law, Mike. My brother bought one at a pet store when he came to visit us in California a couple of decades ago. And Mike once owned a python. But I guess you could say  there is an upside to keeping a pet like that;  you only have to feed it once a month.

Between the National Geographic website and Wikipedia, I also learned a few interesting facts about tarantulas in general. They are burrowing spiders. They make their homes in the earth. For these heavyweights, a web wouldn't be practical, but Tarantulas do spin a web on the ground outside their burrow. It's much like installing their own personal alarm system. When another creature makes contact with the web a vibration alerts the tarantula that he's about to have a guest for dinner, and it's been home delivered.

 Tarantulas snatch their prey with their "appendages", then inject them with a paralyzing venom. If the creature is lucky it will die from the poison in the venom before the tarantula has time to inject the digestive enzymes that turn its insides into soup.

The tarantula's only known natural enemy is the Parasitic Pepsis Wasp. Its name explains everything. After the wasp stings the tarantula to paralyze it, the wasp lays its eggs on the tarantula's body. When these eggs become larvae the tarantula becomes dinner, and the tarantula, sadly, is still alive. You might be thinking, "What goes around, comes around."

When it comes to being eaten, the male tarantula does have one other predator he should  watch out for, the female tarantula. I was surprised to learn black widows weren't alone in this practice, but they are polite enough to wait until after mating. Males might consider the advantage of taking their mates to dinner, first.

When the time comes, female tarantulas weave a cocoon around their eggs to protect them. The eggs may take as long as six to nine weeks to hatch. When they do, we're looking at 500-1,000 baby tarantulas, possibly in my yard. More astonishing than that, tarantulas have an incredibly long lifespan. In the wild, tarantulas can be expected to live for as long as thirty years.

Getting back to our guest, he hung around for about an hour and then was gone. The next time I saw him, it was a few days later. He was resting on the far side of the garage  near my husband's truck. The only reason I saw him at all is because I had to look under the truck to find something I had dropped on the floor. His appearance was as grisly as ever. I shuddered slightly and went into the house.

www.patfrayne.com

references: nationalgeographic.com, wickopedia.com (videos included)