Writing again

Cat stories

I have basically stumbled across every cat I’ve ever adopted. The one pictured in the featured image is Merrykitten, aka Meriadoc, a cat who was with us only for one summer. Since I’ve been thinking about him lately, Imma share a bit about all my cats here.

My First Cat. (not counting family cats growing up.)

A woman walked into the pet shop I was managing (a story in its own right) and plonked a single, tiny kitten onto the front counter with the explanation, “I found homes for the rest, but not this one. I was going to leave him at the vet next door, but they’re closed already.”

When I say the kitten was tiny, I mean TINY. About 10 weeks old judging from teeth, conformation & coordination, but wee-eentsy-teeny thing. I brought him home in my coat sleeve. (I am not a large human. My sleeves were not large, but there was room to share.)

Within a year Banshee grew to be a 20 lb behemoth who loved everyone and got easily, destructively bored when left on his own. This led to the acquisition of Alexander Batwing Spook, aka “Kitten.”

Cat The Second

Kitten came from a litter someone brought into the pet store in a big cardboard box because they thought both doors went to the neighboring veterinary clinic. (The vet worked with one of the shelters in the area, IIRC.) ANYway. I asked if I could see the kittens, naturally, BECAUSE KITTENS, and also because I knew my cat really needed more companionship. So.

There were seven kittens. Six looked maybe 8 weeks along. 3 calico, 2 gray tabby, and 1 gray & white, all yellowy-eyed, roly-poly floofwobbles with cute pink noses & toe beans.

And then there was Kitten.

Kitten stood out from his siblings like an ugly duckling, only more like a Beauty duckling. He had a boop-worthy gray snoot and super-soft gray fur with a dark undercoat already coming in, and he sat with his huge ears pricked up and his alert, vivid grass-green eyes calmly watching everything.

Of course I picked him right the hell up. He immediately purred like a tractor revving.

“They’re all from the same litter,” the owner assured me. “She throws one like that every so often.”

Well. Who was I to turn down a random kitten who happened to meet every breed standard for Russian Blues?

Kitten and Banshee were best friends in no time flat. I’d expected a long adjustment period, but no. Buddies at first sight.

Now for a sad part. Banshee’s too-large body shut down on him early–idiopathic kidney, liver and heart failure all at once, around age 7. (No, he didn’t ingest anything, we didn’t keep cat-toxic plants or use pesticides in the apartment…he just wore out.)

When he started losing weight we took him to the vet, and the vet’s assessment of the bloodwork was, “I don’t know how he’s conscious with these numbers.” We nursed him along for a few weeks, but when it was clear his organs were shot and he was in pain, we said our good-byes, and we let him go.

After he was gone, Kitten grew confused, then bored, then lonely.

So now Kitten needed a buddy. By then I was working at a pet shop that basically provided a kitten adoption service to customers. Litters of kittens in cardbaord boxes were part of the routine. For months I looked over every one of a dozen litters. None of the kittens were the right match for our lonely boy.

But Wait, There’s More.

Until Bruce showed up.

Bruce was perfect little kitten. Sleek, red-blonde, and sweet-faced, Bruce was a laid-back, pretty fellow. Not the smartest cat, but he was mellow.

He was a shorthair when I brought him home (in a proper carrier, with a bag full of toy, treats on the seat beside him. A few weeks later, one of the regular Friday night gaming group noted that Bruce’s tail was looking fluffy.

Within 6 months, Bruce was a magnificent floof, with a cravat, swooshy pantaloons, and a Tail Of Unusual Size.

Cat the fourth

Years later, Kitten died and Bruce was inconsolable. By then I’d long since moved from pet retail to bookselling. Kittens no longer came my way. I actually had to go hunting.

It wasn’t much of a hunt. I found Scooter (& his mom Chloe) in the first local newspaper ad I checked out. Yes, this was still back in the days when people took out pet ads in local papers. Made of paper.

Mom and kitten both came home with me because it seemed like the right thing to do. We couldn’t keep Chloe, she was intolerant of sharing space despite Bruce being the most Tolerant Cat Ever.

Luckily I stumbled across someone who gave Chloe a wonderful home, and Scooter made a wonderful playmate for Bruce.

When Bruce hit 14, he decided to be an old curmudgeon who didn’t have to use a litter box ever again. We set him up with a senior living space in the garage for the rest of his life, and hehe was as happy as a clam there, accepting daily visits and petting sessions and

Scooter was not inconsolable. He was thrilled to graduate from Prince Of the House to King Of the Castle. So we indulged him, and when Bruce hit the end of his life, we didn’t even look for another kitten. Scooter was having age-related health issues by then, including some major arthritis, so we focused on nurturing, nursing, and babying him for as long as he seemed to be enjoying lif

The grieving after he died was bad. He’d been with us longer than any of his elder foster-sibs, and when he was gone, the house felt empty.

It’s been two years since we admitted Scooter was ready to go and found strength enough to bear his loss.

Two long, catless years followed.

The new cat era

First there was the upheaval of moving. Barely two months after Scooter’s death, we put down a deposit on a big, old house, the kind we always wanted. Then the new old house needed Big Work.

Then came pandemic. (In the middle of the big work. Yeah. GOod times, she says sarcastically.)

Spouseman & I talked things over, we knew we wanted Maine Coons, and Maine Coons (like me and Spouseman) prefer a stable, calm environment. Inflicting moving trauma and then renovation trauma on a new furbaby or furbabies wasn’t a thing we were willing to do.

So we put off the adoption search for a long time. But! The last of the Big, Noisy, Intrusive projects fnished up, and we discussed options (adult vs kitten, how many were we open to adopting at once, etc) & researching breed rescues.

And then a pair of Maine Coon kittens all but threw themselves into our lives. Their arrival resulted in a lot of posts, so I won’t rehash those here.

Meriadoc didn’t make it to 6 months, felled by a congenital gut defect that meant he didn’t grow, and didn’t absorb nutrients no matter how much he ate. We loved him to pieces, he was the bestest of baby bois, and we did everything we could to make his short life a good one.

And then there’s his brother, Peregrine Took, aka Pippin, aka Mister Pips, collector of nicknames and Bane Of Ice Cubes.

Pippin is our beloved, huge house lion.

He’s had his issues, with allergies, and a condition called entropion that big-muzzled cats are prone to developing, but overall, he’s 21 pounds of magnificent good health.

He’s a happy boi too. We worried, after Meriadoc died, but Pips decided 3 was clowder enough for him, and follos us everywhere.

He does have a disconcerting habit of yowling at the cat in the hall mirror, and he gets distressed if he falls asleep in company and wakes alone, so we still want to find him a feline friend.

With luck we’ll find one soon.

For pics of all the cats, take a look at this post.

Mister Pips appproves of the following advertisements.

Writing again

IMHO Post: Not Always an Impostor

IMHO, sometimes what some folks call impostor syndrome isn’t, actually. Take mine, for example.

Some days I am unshakably certain that those in my field with more financial success/traditional publication credits privately think my writing is irredeemably dull & crude and that I am an unprofessional hack.

Besides that, they only refrain from outright mockery & dismissal because they

  • a) like me as a person & don’t want to hurt my feelings
  • b) are polite to everyone in social settings
  • c) have past trauma from criticism nearly crushing their dreams
  • d) are leery of snubbing anyone because public opinion lightning can strike any hack & a create award-winning/ bestseller…who might carry a grudge.

But is that impostor syndrome? IMHO, no.

My writing is perfectly damned fine, thank you very much. Are my books perfect? <cue peals of laughter?> Oh, hell, no. I have plenty or room for improvement, both within individual stories, and in storycrafting generally.

But I don’t feel like a fraud, or fear being found out & exposed as a poser. I don’t feel like an imposter.

Not about my writing, anyhow. Not once I got that tenth or twentieth positive review from a total stranger. And once I leaped the qualification threshold into the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association, the impostor doubts were vanquished. I’m a SFWA member and that’s something no one can dispute.

Unless they want to, that is. Therein lies the rub.

IMHO self doubt is sneakier than anything else.

There needs to be a different phrase for persistently sensing that I am tolerated rather than welcomed. I don’t feel like a fraud. I feel like a turkey tiptoing through a flock of unwelcoming geese.

Part of it is my own fault. I disagree w/many of the SFF publishing industry’s accepted norms & traditions (Looming large among them is the 8 long years it took SFWA to loosen its clutches on the “publish two short stories in a mag on our approved list, or get a book deal with one of only 4 publishing houses in the US, or GTFO” membership model…

…but I digress. This post is not intended as a laundry list of all my curmudgeonly publishing views, thoughtfully gather over 18 years in boo publishi & now 10 as an indi auth. (If at least 10 people comment asking for those, I promise they’ll get their own post.)

No, today’s post is a grumble about the reality that my opinions on the <waves vaguely> indie author life leave me vulnerable to a lot of bad, old-fashioned self-doubt.

I am contrarian, not unskilled or ignorant, but that stance still sets me up for exhausting match with doubt weasels every time I am in a professional setting with peers–ESPECIALLY meetups with traditionally published peers.

This “Other writers (writers I respect, people I want to learn from & associate with) privately think I’m talentless and should GTFO” brain weasel family also randomly gets out of its cage at various intervals between such meetups, any time I contemplate attending such meetups, and hey, sometimes when the moon is full or the wind is from the north-northwest. Like, oh, today.

Note: this is not a plea for reassurance.

When I get into this mode, I get really, REALLY good at twisting attempts at affirmation into proof of their opposite. IMHO means I’m doing me, not asking for help.

The only strategy that works for me is writing my way through it. Like this, & also in my stories. But mostly like this, by posting my opinion in my spaces.

Here’s more of my writing, in case you’re interested:

Mister Pips appproves of the following advertisements.

Writing again

Listing life: I did things

I like listing things, so here goes today. I got up early & did ALL THE THINGS. So I feel very accomplished, also totally wiped out.

4 shopping lists. 3 stores & a gas station. Dishes & laundry washed and laundered. Then I put away, folded & distributed everything where it needed to go. In short, chores & errands dialed to 11.

Shopping Highlights:

  • a wee backpack purse big enough to comfortably hold my tablet, e-ink reader, phone & day-excursion basics.
  • bralettes that fit Just. Right. First ones I’ve found in 12 years.
    (good gobs, I have bras old enough to attend middle school, eek)
  • an even wee-er little carry bag designed as a “pet backpack” but that’s perfect for a tiny shoulderbag. With rainbow straps and an “Unconditional Love” patch.

Extra bonus? We put the pet backpack on Mister Pips and watched him walk around all annoyed for a few minutes.

I also did surprise internet troubleshooting multiple times, finished creative writing exercises and did writing research. Plus all the usual life shit, like cat care, garden maintenance, scheduling things, and paying bills.

So the funny thing is, for the last couple of hours I’ve been feeling like a slacker for sitting here like a lump on the couch watching Manifest on Netflix, when the simple reality is, I am too tired to think.

My brain is such a jerk sometimes. (This is not news.)

No more smokey nonsense today, though. Not a whiff. Crappy air quality, crappy haze, but no smoke. So I ate my lunch outside and reveled in the heat.

Anyway. This is the end of the list.

The usual footer:

Rough Passages

When getting older means gaining superpowers, life gets complicated for everyone.

Heroic grandmothers, courageous Marines, and extraordinary teens: welcome to a reality where every midlife crisis might become a national emergency.

Rough Passages is a contemporary fantasy novel told in eight short stories about five people forever changed by the powers that disrupt their lives.

In bookstores & libraries now.

Amazon (ebook & print) (print)

a selection of non-Amazon ebook vendors

More info here on my website

Writing again

Smoke and frustration.

Smoke. My house smells. My yard smells. EVERY fucking thing around me smells like smoke. I have the windows shut even though it’s a beautiful cool night, there’s an air filter running on medium-high, and still, the stench hovers.

I don’t know which bothers me most: this smell that leaves me feeling constant, low-key anxiety, or that the stench seems to be restricted to ONLY MY BLOCK.

Yeah, sure, we’re under an air quality alert, Canadian & Michigan wildfire smoke is causing particulate pollution, etcetera and so on. But when I take a walk, when I go a a quarter-mile in any direction except north on my block, the air smells like, oh, lilacs or privet, or basswood (blooming 3 weeks early, but whatever) or like, hey nothing at all.

Back home, in my backyard, the soot in the air is so thick I can feel its greasy kiss on my face.

So I don’t think the distant fires are causing my smoke bomb situation, or not only the distant fires.

No, this is hyperlocal.

If I figure out which of my block neighbors is doing open burns in fire pits–during an air quality alert and when we haven’t had rain in a month, FFS…well.

Imma be serious cranky.

I don’t give a good goddamn if they’re having a party or burning brush or sending signals to orbiting aliens. It needs to stop.

Look. I don’t hate smoke. I do hate this.

Smoke & I are old friends. I love a good campfire. I spent four summers teaching kids how to cook 3 meals a day six days a week for 15-30 people over fire pits. So why does merely smelling smoke leave me with such a bad case of grumpy, irritable fretfulness? Why can’t I ignore it and dive into the world of fiction, for example?

It’s taken me a few days of smoky frustration to figure it out. Days of inability to concentrate on writing, when that’s all I want to do. When I’ve set aside time to do it.


I can’t let go of my alertness because I associate smoke with an active fire on a deep, drilled, threat-response level. Smoke nearby means there’s a situation that needs immediate, constant, vigilant safety monitoring.

3 fires a day. 6 days a week. Thirty weeks. And that’s not counting all the other years of summer camp, or the countless other camping fires.

Smoke means fire, fire means be watchful, watchful means do nothing else, because ADHD you will get distracted if you do ANYthing else.

No amount of rational reminders can override that critical survival skill, and honestly, I don’t want to lose it.

I just want the smoke to go away.

Maybe I’m wrong about the source. Maybe it is only the plume from the Canadian fires. But I don’t see anyone else complaining about it online, I don’t see any articles about smokey smell, and it’s really gawdanged awful.

And I know, first world problems, other people have it works, blah blah blah. It’s making me miserable, Imma gripe here. As one does.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Behold, the advertising section.

Rough Passages

When getting older means gaining superpowers, life gets complicated for everyone.

Heroic grandmothers, courageous Marines, and extraordinary teens: welcome to a reality where every midlife crisis might become a national emergency.

Rough Passages is a contemporary fantasy novel told in eight short stories about five people forever changed by the powers that disrupt their lives.

In bookstores & libraries now.

Amazon (ebook & print) (print)

a selection of non-Amazon ebook vendors

More info here on my website

New Post

IMHO post: Blue curtains & reading into writing

IMHO really meaning In my NOT SO humble opinion ***

The main flaw in the way HS English classes approach lit crit lies not in the nature of textual analysis, but in the way schools measure mastery of subjective topics. If tests & grade metrics choose A Right Answer ™, interpretative reading dies.

The question of metaphor & theme has no one answer in the real world. What I’m saying is, IMHO the following meme sucks.

This unfortunately now-classic joke Venn diagram about English teachers & blue curtains has only two circles. Reality has a hundred. A thousand. There are as many intersecting circles as there are people with different interpretations.


I found this gem on tumblr and loved it so much I’m putting it here so I will never lose it. The link in the meme-takedown image takes you to the full analysis on

I found similar takedown on tumblr, although I can’t find the original to link to (I AM SO SORRY) from user kendallroy:

idk who needs to hear this but when your english teacher asks you to explain why an author chose to use a specific metaphor or literary device, it’s not because you won’t be able to function in real-world society without the essential knowledge of gatsby’s green light or whatever, it’s because that process develops your abilities to parse a text for meaning and fill in gaps in information by yourself, and if you’re wondering what happens when you DON’T develop an adult level of reading comprehension, look no further than the dizzying array of examples right here on tumblr dot com.

this post went from 600 to 2400 notes in the time it took me to write 3 emails. i’m already terrified for what’s going to happen in there

k but also, as an addendum, the reason we study literary analysis is because everything an author writes has meaning, whether it was intentional or not, and their biases and agendas are often reflected in their choice of language and literary devices and so forth! and that ties directly into being able to identify, for example, the racist and antisemitic dogwhistles often employed by the right wing, or the subconscious word choices that can unintentionally illustrate someone’s bias or blind spot. LANGUAGE HAS WEIGHT AND MEANING!

the way we communicate is a reflection of our inner selves, and that’s true regardless of whether it’s a short story or a novel or a blog post or a tweet. instead of taking a piece of writing at face value and stopping there, assuming that there is no deeper meaning or thought behind the words on the page, ask yourself these two questions instead:

  1. what is the author trying to say?
  2. what does the author maybe not realize they’re saying?

because the most interesting reading of any piece of literature, imho, usually occupies the space in between those questions.


IMHO, the author referenced in the original blue curtain meme may have just written blue curtains to match the wallpaper, but that doesn’t invalidate anyone else’s interpretation of a deeper meaning. The whole point of analysing writing is to discuss, share ideas and look at things from other perspectives. NOT TO FIND A RIGHT ANSWER AND FORCE EVERYONE TO ACCEPT IT.

***TLDR: this post is really a very longwinded way of reminding myself that people who see VERY different things in my writing than what I think I put into it are fully, entirely justified in their interpretations.

And I am fully, entirely justified in disagreeing with them, too. (I love posting rants on holiday weekends when I know no one’s really reading blogs.)

And now for a book some people think is great and others think has characters who are too flawed & “aren’t given enough agency at the start,” as if a) agency is a gift & not a hard-fought right and b) that wasn’t a real problem women have to solve in the real world too. Harumph. Anyway.

The Sharp Edge of Yesterday

A mother on the run from her criminal past can’t escape the dangerous superpower developing inside her own body.

Grace Reed just wants to be left alone with her daughters, her small business and her quiet suburban life.

Fate has something bigger planned for all of them.

A contemporary fantasy novel about coming of age in middle age, The Sharp Edge Of Yesterday is in bookstores & libraries now.

Amazon (ebook & print) (print)

a selection of non-Amazon ebook vendors

More info here on my website

link to original penguin feature image on flickr