Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Art of Faking …


The Art of Faking Exhibition Poultry, now there’s a title for you. I went on a search, one of my erratic repeated sniffings for the book I remember from my second grade days. It was a book my father owned because he was teaching agriculture and agronomy to classes in the Nigerian University. Brown buckram with a rectangular black spine block with the dropped out title Poultry Husbandry. That’s what I recall. That, and black and white photos of wonderful things like the different shapes of meat birds versus layers, the look of a healthy pullet versus one out of ‘condition’.

But memory, that marvelous tool, has deceived me about this book over the many decades since I last held it. Those of you who’ve read my brief bio here or on Amazon know that my first entry into the world of writing was my opus Chickens and Their Diseases, a classic cribbed copy plundering existing texts, back when I was the ripe age of seven, before I understood the word plagiarism. I’ve been searching through the pages of books on chickens for this old text of my father’s for a long time, and never found myself satisfied that I had indeed found it. Until today. On Amazon, for whatever concatenation of the planets, chance and favorable winds, I found not one but two copies of what looks like the book of my memory and now I must hold my peace and patience until a brown paper box arrives. Will the volume fall open as only an old used book can do, to my favorite page on the treatment of leg mites (you dip the bird’s legs in petroleum jelly)? Will the paper have the right musty chemical smell? Will memories wake? I’ll tell you when I know.

But I’ve led you away from the title I started with. The Art of Faking Exhibition Poultry caught my eye during my search, and my imagination too. Anyone who’s read Albert Payson Terhune’s collie books has knowledge of many sleazy tricks that the exhibitors of dogs have been known to use before the time of plastic surgery and steroids. But poultry — I hadn’t imagined a world of faking exhibition poultry. Now I have visions of carefully applied beet juice or maybe carmine from those little sap sucking cochineel bugs. I have imaginings of feathers delicately sewn to puff the fluff of scant poultry wings, thin filaments strengthening the rich play of feather against feather. What do you suppose the fakers get up to? Much more than baby powder sifted in between feathers.

I hope I haven’t inadvertently been encouraging these bad actors. I love chicken exhibitions, just ask my husband, and the kid. If there are chickens to see, I must see them. It’s one of those things. There are people who must charge into any shoe shop that their paths cross, and there are people who must ogle every poultry show. I don’t have great feet (though don’t tell my feet I said so; I have to live with them) so for me it’s the birds.

I will saunter down the aisle of cages, craning my neck after the little plump pullet and giving her that soft chortle of a conversational hen until she twists her head sideways in response. I’ll admire the neat little claws, the puffy leggings, the bright comb and alien reptilian eye. I wonder what she sees when she looks back. I will chuckle over spotting a strawberry or walnut comb, laugh in recognition of a Frizzle or a Silky, let my eyes dawdle over the smooth patterned slope of a Silver-Laced Wyandotte’s back. I am not super fond of the fighting cocks, but their extravagant legs and tiny bright faces make me think of aliens among us. And I will coo for a big Buff Orpington. They are really packed with muscle too — buff, you might say.

I have a patient family. But I think they try to avoid driving by County Fairs lest I start sniffing for feathers. It’s one of those things that’s hard to prove, but I need to keep an eye on them, an a watch on the road signs.

And you, my friends, don’t be deceived by the feather-stitcher, or the carmine smudger, or the hackle-dyer. Now that we know about this book on fakery– we’ve got their number. See you by the Buff Orpingtons– you’ll recognize me as the woman clutching a copy of The Art of Faking Exhibition Poultry.



Filed under science

Guest Blog: John M. Daniel

Today it is my great pleasure to share with you a guest blog from my dear friend and mentor John M. Daniel who has a resume as long as my Main Coon cat’s tail. I first met John at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference many years ago, where he led a delightful late night Pirates’ session that went on until three AM. Let me assure you none of us were bored. John’s an inspiring Pirate Captain, but he’s also a small-press publisher, a poet, a writer of novels, especially mysteries richly threaded with humor, a freelance editor, a teacher of creative writing and a lover of cats. Here he is to introduce his latest novel, Hooperman, a delightful read for all lovers of books, cosy mystery, and characters you’d like to take home to dinner.


                       Choice, Change, and Consequence

To paraphrase Rust Hills, the former fiction editor at Esquire and the author of the book Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular, a story can be defined this way: “Something happens to somebody.” That’s it, and that’s enough. This definition works for any kind of fiction: short stories, movies, plays, and novels, including mystery novels. They all tell of something happening to somebody.

Hills has pinpointed the two necessary ingredient of any story, of any length, in any medium: plot (something happens) and character (to somebody). For extra credit you can add “somewhere,” so that the terse description of a story would be “something happens to somebody, somewhere.” But scene is optional. Plot and character are musts for a story.

And what it is that happens? What gives any story a plot? The character has to change. Our somebody is, at the end of the story, a different person, subtly or dramatically, from the one she or he was at the beginning.

How does that change come about? It could be because of chance (a trolley runs over somebody’s foot, so somebody is never able to tap dance again); but more often, and more interestingly, it’s because the character has made a choice. The choice was probably a response to some sort of conflict. The story will be about how the character changed because of an important choice he or she made to deal with a conflict, and the change has consequence of its own.

Of course this little lesson deals with only one aspect of story, and much, much more could be said about what makes fiction work (and play). I don’t pretend that the writing process is a simple formula. But it’s good to keep in mind these three basic C’s of storytelling: Choice, Change, and Consequence.

In my new novel, Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery, my shy, stammering hero makes a risky choice that opens the plot: he chooses to give up a steady minimum-wage job as a pizza cook and take a job across the street working as a bookstore cop (a spy in street clothes who catches shoplifters in the act) for far less than minimum wage. It’s an unwise choice, perhaps, but it sets off a domino chain of consequences that over the course of the plot change Hoop for the much, much better. I won’t give away any more than that, but here’s an excerpt from late in the book that recalls Hoop’s rash decision.


Almost every afternoon during the spring and early summer of 1972, Hooperman Johnson, the late-shift pizza chef at ’At’s Amore, spent a couple of hours before work browsing the shelves of Maxwell’s Books across the street. By the arrival of summer, he was noddingly acquainted with the stock of the store, and he knew the poetry shelves by heart. More and more, as that spring went on, he spent the hour between three and four up in the front of the store, where he could glimpse the smile of the evening clerk who came on at three, and where he could hear her sassy talk and raucous laugh until he had to cross the street to his own job, which started at four.

By the arrival of summer, Hoop knew enough about himself to recognize that the reason he showed up at the store almost every day was no longer to read the titles of the spines on the shelves, no longer to pet the store cat, no longer to laugh with the members of the Maxwell’s staff, but to be in the same building with Lucinda Baylor. She was the reason that whenever the Maxwell’s evening shift ordered a pizza, he not only cooked it with extra ingredients, he delivered the pizza himself. He also knew enough about himself to keep his distance and limit his conversations. A crush is one thing, but one broken heart was enough for one lifetime.

But when the sign appeared in the Maxwell’s front window in early July, Hoop was tempted. He saw it, more than literally, as a sign. He would have snapped at the chance to work in Maxwell’s Books, even if there were no Lucinda Baylor. And there was.

So on Monday, July 10, two days after the sign went up, he sauntered across University Avenue and walked into the store grinning.

“Hey, it’s Hooperman!” she said from behind the front counter. “Haven’t seen you here since yesterday.”

“The deh,deh,day’s young yet,” Hoop said. “How you dud, how you dud, how you duh,duh,dud…ooing, Luce?”

“Day’s young yet. So far so good. You?”

“That ssssss…hign in the window. You guh,guh,guh,guys got a juh,dge…ob for sss hale?”

Lucinda shook her head. “Yes, but you wouldn’t want it.”

“Are you ki,ki,ki,kidding?”

Hoop thought: you have no idea how much I want this job.

“Elmer doesn’t want to hire a clerk,” she explained. “He wants a policeman. A pig.”

And Hoop thought: Whatever. It’s a cloven hoof in the door.


Book synopsis

Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery celebrates the joy of books and bookselling and also explores the many ways people get into trouble—deadly serious trouble—when they fail to communicate.

Hooperman Johnson is a tall, bushy-bearded man of few words. He works as a bookstore cop, catching shoplifters in the act. It’s a difficult job for a man with a severe stammer, but somebody’s got to do it, because Maxwell’s Books is getting ripped off big-time. And, more and more, it looks like the thief works for the store.

Set in the summer of 1972, the summer of the Watergate break-in, Hooperman is a bookstore mystery without a murder, but full of plot, full of oddball characters, full of laughs, and full of love, some of it poignant, some of it steamy.

“Pleasant and unusually good-natured, this novel from Daniel harkens back to a time when printed books mattered and an independent bookstore could be a social club for passionately eccentric bibliophiles.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

Buy or order Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery from your local bookstore, from Amazon, or direct from the publisher:

Oak Tree Press

1820 W. Lacey Blvd. #220
Hanford, CA 93230


For more info about Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery:


photo credit Clark Lohr

Author bio

John M. Daniel is a lifelong bibliophile, having worked in eight bookstores. He’s also the author of fourteen published books, including the well-reviewed Guy Mallon Mystery Series. He lives among the redwoods in Humboldt County, California, with Susan Daniel, his wife and partner. They publish mystery fiction under the imprint Perseverance Press (Daniel & Daniel).




Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized