For years, all I wanted was a few things: A small office in my backyard overlooking my mini-ranch of rescue animals, to write novels, to get them published, and to be happy working from home so I could be available as a single parent to raise my two children. My one-minded goal was to ‘go out the back door to work’ every day.
I achieved all of that! I turned my kids’ playhouse into my writing studio (photo above), wrote non-stop, got two of my fantasy novels published, and even fixed up the old falling-down corral and moved the goats, pig, and pony in from their rented stable. I named the animal rescue at my home Pixie Dust Ranch and wrote about fairies. I lived the author lifestyle of writing in my backyard office, going to weekly writing groups, then, once I was published, I booked speaking engagements and spoke at writer’s conferences, libraries, book stores, fantasy conventions…my dreams all came true! I even arranged to edit and publish other people’s books for a steady paycheck, all the while going out the back patio door to traverse through the garden to work every day.
Unfortunately, I never calculated how difficult it is to sell and market books, how writing is the fun part, but creating a valid marketing plan and selling one’s novel is an entire other job. So while I accomplished my goals, in an often round-about way, I did not garner the paycheck I expected to go with it when sales plummeted. Luckily the kids were grown and in college around the same time the steady money stopped coming in, and while the corral residents still demanded my daily attention, traipsing daily to my cute little office to work as an author just didn’t seem to fit any longer.
There are a few things that coincidentally coincided with the demise of my monthly paycheck and author status abandonment. Three major changes came into my life. A baby peacock we named Rad arrived at my privately owned animal rescue, a big classic red 1976 Cadillac Eldorado serendipitously became my new ride, and I met my long-distance boyfriend who opened my horizons by getting me (and the peacock!) out of the house and into the world. I reclaimed my rusty carpentry skills and went to work with my boyfriend (whose online moniker is ‘Rad’s Dad’) at his roving handyman job to make ends meet. We traveled to far away job sites with the peacock and our dogs, towing our trailer, like gypsies on the fly. The word ‘author’ rarely crossed my lips anymore. I stopped going to the writing group I had attended for over a decade, because I decided to stop myself from writing another book until I could effectively market the two books that were already published. I lived in a sea of possibility, with no anchor.
Fast Forward 4 years since my last published book:
While I was never able to pop my book sales enough to make a living as a writer again (even though I worked at it endlessly), I was able to stay solvent by doing odd jobs: construction work, pet-sitting, dog training, freelance editing, and the like. Meanwhile, Rad the Peacock, as he came to be known, continued to grow and flourish, against all odds. Around his first birthday was the test: peacocks usually become violent and are untouchable in the wild and on bird ranches, but Rad had to continue to travel with us for his own survival. We were able to work through his aggression period, and after he hit the year and a half mark, all was well with our moody exotic road-tripping bird. We realized we were traveling with a growing male peacock that would cap at about 9 feet long. We needed more room as our Cadillac seemed to grow smaller as Rad grew longer. We began to search for a schoolbus to turn into an RV, because meanwhile, Rad was becoming popular. We started taking him to schools, botanic gardens, Boys and Girls’ Clubs, and libraries to enlighten kids and adults alike about these majestic but noisy fancy pheasants. Soon Los Angeles Magazine, local newspapers, and even a video production team at the local college wrote about him and filmed this unusually tame pterodactyl-like creature that strangers could walk up to and actually pet. As far as we know, Rad is the only adult male peacock that can be safely approached. Rad even joined our ventures into the local music scene, and is known by several rock bands because he frequents, with us of course, a few music festivals each year year. Rad loves the attention, expects people to fawn over him, and even earned a title as ‘Peacock Ambassador of Palos Verdes.’ When I wasn’t paying attention, my life was pulled into the Rad Vortex, because I am Rad’s only handler. There was no one else who could take over.
Mr. Curious, a.k.a Radagast the Peacock
While the home rescue Pixie Dust Ranch always had its own Facebook page, soon Rad was such a mini-celeb he needed his own Facebook page, and Instagram, and Twitter (because he likes to tweet)! He even has his own hashtag, #radthepeacock. His life is charmed in a way that is difficult to describe, but as a result, I have somehow become Rad’s secretary and driver. Each month I get a few calls (even though my contact info is unlisted) about Rad’s ‘availability’ to attend events near and far. I check his calendar, book the event, and get him there (an arduous task until the schoolbus RV arrived). We were so grateful when the schoolbus we were hoping for materialized (#moonshinethebus). Rad takes up four seats on the sleek built-in-ex-party-bus couch, but he is more than happy to spend time in the schoolbus and hit the road. We even started a ‘Where’s Rad’ campaign, documenting his travels through online memes.
In the true sense of adventure in reinventing oneself, I didn’t fight it, any of it. If Rad gets a call and his calendar is clear, we book the event. Even though we don’t usually get paid for Rad’s appearances, Rad enjoys the traveling, the attention, and meeting new people, so why not? As word of Rad the tame ambassador peacock got around, I started getting interviewed more: about him, Pixie Dust Ranch, and even the local coyote problem. I was now becoming known for what was real and prevalent in my life: Animals. Even as a young child, I was called on as an animal whisperer of sorts, as I was the only one who could approach my neighbor’s stallion that got loose way more than it should have. The owner would call me and I would go catch the horse by talking quietly to him, throw a halter on him, and lead him home. Working with animals is my truest calling. But while I am both a writer and an animal handler, few who know me as Rad’s mom realize I am a published author, too.
Recently Rad was booked in another state, this time to a Washington retreat center to join me for my speaking engagement in a workshop I created called ‘Transcendent Animal Relationships.’ We packed up the bus, loaded up the polar bear white dog (#drinianthebigwhitedog), and the feral but traveling kitten (#athenathekitten), and we hit the road in our Party Bus-turned-RV for a 3,500 mile, 4 state, 20 day road trip, following a peacock’s lead. And it was perfect.
Rad being a couch hog on #moonshinethebus
Recognizing that we would be meeting a lot of new people on our journey, I wrote a dog training book called The Wolf Pack Guide to Dog Training that had been in the back burner of my mind and promoted it as a free download while I was on my road trip to Washington. Now I was officially creating my platform as an animal handler. While I may not get hired by movie sets to wrangle beasts or anything like that, I do wrestle a french-fry loving 12 pound 8 foot long peacock from the bus to his tent to his portable aviary cart (The RadMobile) to a classroom, so if that doesn’t qualify as ‘animal handler’, I don’t know what does.
Rad the Peacock per se is not earning me a steady income, but I am starting to be paid for the events he attends, and he is gaining online followers. He certainly is bringing me to new places, allowing us to travel as a weird little human and critter pack on our ex-party-bus-now-RV schoolbus. Because of Rad’s unusual schedule of having to be put into a safe garage aviary at night due to coyote threats, I do still work from my home so I can be nearby at sunset each day. In fact, I work in my bedroom office nook, with the feral kitten at my side so I can watch Rad relaxing on his perch outside my window all day long. And even though I can see the sweet little office I once wrote my fantasy novels in just past Rad’s aviary, I don’t really miss it, because being Rad’s mom has its own rewards. Reinventing myself as Rad’s handler has been a fun and often unpredictable ride. But who knows, maybe there is yet another book brewing inside me, a crazy non-fiction one about a young peacock named Rad who eats In N Out french fries, has traveled to five states, goes to schools on a schoolbus, and enjoys listening to the Grateful Dead.
Rad perched in his day time aviary in front of the writing office
Addendum photos: For ‘Car Guys’ (and ladies who enjoy automotive delights)
The Phoenix: Rad’s ride until he outgrew her!
Moonshine the Bus, a much-beloved work in progress and Rad’s bigger ride
Cat Spydell is the author of The Fairies of Feyllan, The Time Traveler’s Apprentice at Hollywood High, and The Wolf Pack Guide to Dog Training
Available on Amazon.com!
The Wolf Pack Guide to Dog Training can be read on this blog for FREE!
Check back after August 1, 2017