FLASH DRIVES: THE ARK

FLASH DRIVES: Flash narratives and random contemplations imagined while driving from one place to another.

Photo by Joshua Tsu on Unsplash

I won’t be on the ark. Too old, no special skills. Not a doctor, scientist, or woman of breeding age.

Noah was old, but he got to go because he built the boat. He took cats and elephants and cockroaches. The unicorns and dragons were off somewhere else, thus were lost forever. Maybe they were flood-deniers. Maybe they didn’t think God wasn’t going to cleanse the Earth. They had their chance.

That was the past—who will build the boat this time? Will it be a starship? Will only humans of great wealth be allowed on? Or will it be a bomb shelter for presidents and potentates like the ones from the 1960’s? If it’s truly God’s business, will the choices be fair and just, or will they be arbitrary? Evolutionary?

All I know is that we’ve done bad things and seem to have no intention of stopping. We’ve lit a fire we cannot control. We’ve used our brains for evil. We’ve invited punishment.

But what about the good guys? The Dalai Lama? The firefighter who risked his life to save a kitten? My infant great grandson? Surely there are some who should be spared. And the animals—what about them this time around? I doubt the humans on the spaceship will give up their seat to a pair of koalas, no matter how cute they are. No matter how innocent.

I would give up my seat for cats, except I won’t be on the ark.

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POEM: THE BOND

Feeling Thankful for cats.

 

How does he know—that precious cat who shares my home and life?

Is my anxiety tangible?

Does my grief give off a scent—

dead roses and cyanide?

Or is it something more tangible?

Shivers on the nerve endings?

A disturbance in the Force?

Does my rage exude heat

that my cat can feel

on his fur as he passes?

Why does he care—

that aloof beast descended from gods?

But as he sits,

facing away,

just out of my reach,

I sense beyond all doubt

he loves me.

 

Posted in Cats, Poetry, Secret Soul | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Who are the Cat Writers’ Association: KATHY MANDELL

My guest today on Who are the Cat Writers’ Association is writer, blogger, and sometimes photographer Kathy Mandell.

 Tell us a bit about your writing, Kathy.

Currently, I am writing a daily newsletter for Patch.com (the Myrtle Beach Daily). I do have my cat and dog blog, TravelingDogLady, but I haven’t posted there in a long time. I advocate for shelter cats in the Myrtle Beach Daily newsletter every day. Also, I contributed to Cuteness.com for about a year during the pandemic, re-writing or “punching up” cat, dog, and pet bird articles that were outdated. I am also a photography buff, so I take daily photos of my own cats “just because”.

How do cats inspire your creativity?

My writing described above is not really “creative” per se, but I do try to be as cute as possible when writing about shelter cats in my local newsletter. Cats are so beautiful. My own two cats are so cute, I’m always taking pictures of them just living their lives!

What do you enjoy about belonging to CWA?

It is such an honor to be included as a member of CWA because I often feel “imposter syndrome”! The networking and the community is great. Being connected to writers like you and following each other’s work on social media is great. I also like following along with the personal stuff—such as if someone’s cat is ill, or if another one of the members’ cat passed away, or even fun stuff that we all post on our personal social media pages.

Please answer a few arbitrary questions for us.

  1. Did you grow up with cats?

I have had cats ever since I can remember. So, yes! I grew up with cats!

  1. What cat-themed item is sitting on your desk right now?

Oh dear! The only pet items on my desk are dog-themed!! Sorry! LOL! I do have my CWA business card right on top of the desk, it just so happens to have landed there! haha

  1. Does cat love run in your family?

Yes, everyone in my family has cats!! We have all loved cats for as long as I can remember!!

  1. Do your cats get along with each other?

All of my pets MUST get along with one another. It’s a prerequisite for living here! LOL

Please give us the names and short descriptions of your cats.

Tux: a 10-pound bundle of love who enjoys head butts, lengthy petting sessions, FOOD and who looks like he is wearing a tuxedo—bow tie, spats, and all!

Newman: (No, he’s not named for the Seinfeld character!) A fluffy, tiny grey and white floof ball who thinks he is a dog! Newman comes when you whistle, and he follows me and my dogs on our daily walks. (Don’t worry, we live out in the country and there is no traffic.) Newman’s favorite activity is knocking stuff off the kitchen counters just for fun!

Include your sales and social media links so we can keep up with your work.

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/TravDogLady

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TravDogLady

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/travdoglady/

 

 

 

Posted in Book Talk, Cats, Interviews | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Who are the Cat Writers’ Association: MARJORIE DAWSON

My guest today on Who are the Cat Writers’ Association is Photographer, Blogger, and Literacy Tutor Marjorie Dawson.

Marjorie and Silver

Tell us a bit about your writing and blogging, Marjorie.  

I have been a cat blogger for almost ten years but set off in my current direction when I got my new DSLR camera and realised all the ‘pet’ photography posts were about dogs! No one encouraged cat lovers at all except as an afterthought. This had to change!

So, I grabbed my camera and began to practice with my own models(!), took courses, and searched out ‘in person’ photography tuition which helped me round out my skills. I was able to pinpoint the kind of things beginners struggle with, and my first tip was ‘you don’t have to learn alone’!

How do cats inspire your creativity?

Their good looks, their quirky behaviour, and the moments of pure magic I can capture. The totally insane things they do mean I carry my camera (or my smartphone) around most of the time.

Last year we fostered a beautiful ginger boy who we took on as an emergency foster from a family who struggled to keep him. He was a natural ‘meowdel’ and I spent weeks taking photos of his journey from tattered to triumphant. [He’s gone to a truly loving home!]

What do you enjoy about belonging to CWA?

The Cat Writers’ embraces its worldwide community with its vibrant social media presence. Members are able to gather through the Facebook group, Twitter, Instagram, and (last year) the virtual world for the Conference which was exciting.

A huge thing for me is that those of us overseas receive our beautiful certificates from the Communications Awards, and I was also honoured to win the Kuykendall Image Award. No other organisation is so inclusive of its members and honours so many different talents.

The range of talent in the ranks of the Cat Writers’ association is immense. We have authors, artists, photographers, rescuers, and poets. These people produce work that challenges, delights, and inspires our love of cats. Each person advocates for cats in their own way, with humour, challenging writing, and video. If I can encourage people to take cat photos that get cats adopted or inspire them to take better cat photos at home, it is thanks to the CWA.

Miranda with Muse® Medallion

Please answer any 3 (or more if you’re inspired) of the following questions.

  1. What is your favorite cat movie and why?

There are dozens – right? New movie ‘Luck’ on Apple TV+ is a delight and has a black cat but, my favourite is an old movie called ‘The Incredible Journey’. It’s based on the novel by Sheila Burnford and includes a Siamese cat who travels with two dogs. I sat agog as a small child watching the movie and was in tears when I thought the bull terrier had been lost. Anyone who watches the final reunion and doesn’t cry buckets of tears has a heart of stone.

  1. Did you grow up with cats?

No, we travelled a lot and did not have a regular pet until I became an adult.

  1. What is your earliest memory of being around cats?

Peanut, our tabby and white, inveigling her way into our hearts from her hideout in the Anderson shelter hidden at the bottom of our garden. Anderson shelters were erected during WWII so people could hide during the many terrifying bombing raids on London. You can find them in hidden corners even now.

  1. What crosses your mind when someone tells you they don’t like cats?

I have no time for cat haters. You cannot convert them from their hidebound and narrow-minded beliefs, so I just make absolutely sure they know I have cats (lots of cats) and I love those cats, then I make my excuses and walk away. [The alternative scenario might entail spilled blood and me in an orange jump suit….]

  1. What do your cats think of you?

I have my uses, they say. I serve a nice range of food, although never the right one at the right time. I always remember to serve the Puree Kisses on a saucer as they refuse to lick from the sachet, and I keep the Royal Canin bowl full at all times.

~Sam~

  1. Tell us a true cat story.

Cat’s have a plan when they are going to move into your home. I observed this with our visitor Thomas (who is not our cat). He started by observing the family dynamic from a distance. Slowly, over a period of weeks, he moved closer and closer as the family became used to his presence and the fact he was a total doofus and no threat.

Then the weather turned wintery and cold. He began to slip inside the house along with everyone else. As he was a known ‘entity’ he was pretty much left alone. Thomas was also sensible enough to let everyone else eat before he approached one of the food bowls.

In case you worry about Thomas jumping ship. Yes, he does go home. His mum knows where he is, and spending time with us must save her a fortune in cat food. We also have better heating than many New Zealand houses. Wood burners are still common and central heating is not – we have heating, so Thomas hangs out with the Dash Kitten Crew!

  1. Do you sing to cats? If so, what songs do you sing?

I am terrible with songs as I don’t listen to pop music. Our cats have silly names and that is bad enough.

  1. What cat-themed item is sitting on your desk right now?
  • One Photograph of Dash Kitten
  • One small statue of Arthur the Sweetshop Cat (Border Co.)
  • Two Swarovski Crystal cat statuettes
  • One hand painted mini Matrioska cat
  • One hand painted cat stone from a Twitter buddy.
  • One Retro 51 Cat pen (from Kansas City).
  • One kitty Bandana (for Jack) from Bionic Basil in the U.K.
  • A deck of Tarot cards designed by Karen Kuykendall who designed the CWA Muse® medallion. I don’t read decks, but the images are so inspiring. I wrote a post about her on the blog, and it is still one of my top posts after a year.
  1. What is one thing you will only do in front of your cats?

Sing

  1. What famous cat or cat person have you met?

I met Summer at Blogpaws. She is such a petite little Somali and so talented! I wanted to meet Sockington, because he shouted out to us when Dash Kitten was killed. I had no idea until a friend linked it to me.

  1. If you were a cat, what breed would you be?

An Oriental Shorthair or a Siamese!

  1. Have you taken a cat first aid course?

Yes, there is a company here in New Zealand that specialises in pet first aid, and I took their course. I would like a refresher, as you should always be prepared.

  1. Where are you sitting right now? From where you are, how many cat-themed objects can you see? How many cats?

Four cats, nine items (unless I move my head then I can almost double the number of items.) …

  1. In your cat’s words, tell us how you would save the world.

Toulouse speaks :

“Miss Mollie, the world needs more than cat help but here goes…

  • First, stop taking the world for granted—it may look pretty but it is being choked by fumes and mass production. Think carefully about each purchase – do you need it?
  • Humans need to use much MUCH less plastic and buy clothes that last a lot longer. Fast-fashion is wrong and abuses the environment. Re-use and Recycle as much as you can.
  • Stop wrapping Christmas gifts in paper. (This is a huge thing with my family.) Use Furoshiki, the Japanese art of wrapping in fabric. It’s really pretty and saves trees. Look it up online!”
  1. Do your cats get along with each other?

Mostly – yes. With the new kid, it’s an ongoing work in progress. New kid Teddy is still learning boundaries and that jumping on his senior napping mate is not a good idea. Miranda shouts at all the boys, and Jack is considering entering when they make napping an Olympic sport.

~Dot Kitten~

  1. Is your cat an unofficial (or official) emotional support animal?

Cats are always a support. If we talk ‘inclusive’, I would say most pets are. The affection I saw for huge dogs and small rats, as well as cats at a recent pet expo was genuine and heartfelt. Every cat, pedigree or plain, looks to us for love and is a support.

  1. What would your life be without cats?

Empty. tidy, and devoid of subject matter for my photography.

  1. Have you ever seen a ghost cat?

Seen? No, but I felt Harvey jump up on the bed after he passed away.

  1. “Adopt, Foster, Volunteer, Donate, Educate” is a common slogan for animal rescue. What do you like to do?

I love to help people feel closer to their cats, so I foster and  take photos. Cats go to a home friendlier and more at ease after being fostered. I donate when I can.

However, Education is the most critical element for me:

  • If a person knows neutering stops kittens, and gets it done, that’s fewer lives at risk, fewer cats in shelters. Fewer deaths in kill shelters.
  • If a person knows a cat needs an annual vet visit it keeps a cat healthier.
  • If people know how expensive a cat (or dog) can be, maybe they will think twice before buying, then realising too late and dumping at a kill shelter.

Finally, a thing that I believe is underrated is sharing cats in need on social media, a branch of the education theme.  I have seen cats pulled from New York’s ACC to live happy lives thanks to sharing on Twitter.

Toulouse Climbing

  1.  What’s the craziest thing your cat’s ever done?

Toulouse climbs up the palm tree in our garden. It is a vertical climb up a straight trunk to the fronds at the top. It is still growing and has reached over 4 metres high (13 ft). Yes, he can get down. There is a video reel on DashKitten Photos to prove it!

His fearlessness stems from the cat café he was adopted from. They had a 2.4 metres (8 feet) tall sisal climbing post he loved and navigated up and down with ease and confidence.

  1.  How would you identify your cat in a lineup?

Toulouse (Tabby with long legs) – would not stand still unless he was asleep on my neck.

Sienna (Senior opinionated tortoiseshell) – would freeze your blood with her tortitude.

Jack (Chubby ginger senior) – would be demanding his raw food (only he eats it).

Phoebe (Dark brown semi-longhair) – would be humming “la la la” to herself. She’s a total flake.

Natasha (Black and white) – would be hiding (she is NOT a people cat).

Silver (Silver tabby) – Well, you wouldn’t be able to find him to put him in the line up anyway….

Miranda (Tuxedo)- stroke her, she’d dribble. Total giveaway.

Teddy – Check out his feet. This chonk’s paws need their own hairdresser!

Dash Kitten (Founder Cat)

 You can find Marjorie Dawson at these links:

Dash Kitten Web Site: https://DashKitten.com

Blog: The Cats’ Notebook https://dashkitten.com/the-cats-notebook/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DashKitten

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/DashKitten

Instagram : Photos https://www.instagram.com/dashkittenphotos/

Instagram: Rescues with Dash https://www.instagram.com/dashkitten/

Brand new mailing list: subscribepage.io/QNm6yN

 

Posted in Blogging, Book Talk, CAT WRITERS, Interviews, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

CAT’S PLAY IS LIVE – HERE’S THE STORY

Happiest of National Cat Day to you all!

For several years now, I’ve launched my Crazy Cat Lady cozy mysteries on this day, in honor of all the cats we have taken into our homes and hearts, as well as all those cats who are still looking. May they find them now.

I’ve featured lost and homeless cats in my books before, but Cat’s Play looks at a different tragedy that may come into a cat’s life, the death of their cohabitor. In this story, Winter Orange (Winnie, for short) arrives into Lynley’s care when her person is murdered. What Lynley never guessed when she took on the cat sitting assignment was that Winnie was psychic. Winnie, an opiniated little diva, communicated her whims and desires in no uncertain terms for Lynley to follow and obey, but then her clairvoyance comes in handy  however when life in the mansion take on a dangerous edge.

A clairvoyant cat and a covert cult place Lynley and her feline ward in the path of danger!

Eccentric recluse Roderick Payne has bequeathed his vast estate to little Friends of Felines cat shelter, but the gift comes with a catch. Friends of Felines must “find Payne’s killer,” but since the man died of natural causes, that will be a trick.

I remember the exact moment I came up with the idea for Cat’s Play. I was at the beach with my husband and the cats. It was evening, and there was a fire in the fireplace. I don’t know where the thought came from- it was just suddenly there.

It took time and work to move from a one-line synopsis to a fully fledged book. Winnie came first, because there is no story without a cat. Then the setting, a mansion based very loosely on a combination of Piggott’s Castle with its hilltop turret and the Pittock Mansion, a French Renaissance-style château in the West Hills of Portland, Oregon. The Masonic thread insinuated itself into the storyline from my own past, my father having been a Mason. The killer? Well, they arrived from a series of conclusions and illusions to be someone that surprised even me.

Book Notes:

The “All-Seeing Eye,” or Eye of Providence, while not designed by Masons, has been used by the group to represent the omniscience of God.

Potassium chloride is a drug specifically is used for patients with low levels of potassium in their blood. A potassium chloride overdose causes severe heart arrhythmias and mimics a heart attack.

The tri-color coat of the calico cat can be found in many cat breeds. Calicoes are rarely male.

Now for the drawing!

The winner of the a paperback copy of Cat’s Play, plus the winner’s choice of two other paperbacks from the Crazy Cat Lady Cozy Mystery series, plus a black cat pendant is….

Nancy S!

Nancy has been notified. Thanks to everyone else who took the time to enter the contest. You may not have won a free copy of Cat’s Play, but you can still buy it  here, both for Kindle and in print.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BFMBSMKD

Posted in Contests, Events, Giveaways, Giveaways, My Cat Cozies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

CAT’S PLAY CELEBRATION – GIVEAWAY ANNOUNCED!

10 days until Cat’s Play launches!

In my last blogpost, I asked for thoughts on how to celebrate the launch of Cat’s Play, my newest Crazy Cat Lady Cozy Mystery! Some people picked a favorite from a list I included, while others came up with their own ideas.

So. Many. Ideas!~

I wish I could fulfill all of them, but I think I’ve come up with a fun compromise.

Since most people voted for books, I’ll be giving away a paperback copy of Cat’s Play, plus two other paperbacks from the Crazy Cat Lady Cozy Mystery series—your choice. Books need not be read in order, so pick whatever sounds fun! Someone suggested adding a piece of cat jewelry as “…a lovely constant reminder of your books,” so I’m including a sweet black cat pendent as well.

To enter, send me an email at molliehuntcatwriter@gmail.com with “Launch Contest” in the subject line. (US addresses only) Winner will be announced on National Cat Day and Cat’s Play Launch Day, October 29th, 2022.

Now for the sales pitch.

Pre-order Cat’s Play (Crazy Cat Lady Mystery Book 9) now, and it will be auto-delivered wirelessly to your Kindle on October 29, 2022. Paperback versions will also be available.  Of course you needn’t buy anything to enter the contest.

Just for fun, here’s an excerpt:

 

Prologue

“Come along,” I whispered to my companions as we tiptoed up the stairs of the haunted mansion.

“It’s not haunted,” I added quickly.

“Then why are you whispering?”

Why indeed? If anything, I should be excited. After all, the house and its contents now belonged to Friends of Felines. The gift would pay off bigtime for the cat shelter once the items were sold and the stipulations were met.

Besides, our guide on this house tour was a calico cat. What could possibly go wrong?

 

Chapter 1

A man was dead, and I was supposed to find his killer. No, I’m not a private investigator or an officer of the law. My name is Lynley Cannon, and I’m a cat shelter volunteer. I know cats, not murder.

The venture did start with a cat, however—Winter Orange, the dead man’s cherished puss. Her wealthy cohabitor had made elaborate arrangements in case of his demise and put Friends of Felines in charge. When asked to look after the calico, I responded with enthusiastic candor. But I’m getting ahead of myself. How could I have guessed the simple request to foster a bereaved kitty would turn into tragedy?

* * *

Friends of Felines Cat Shelter was about to come into something huge. It was all anyone could talk about, staff and volunteers alike, so when Helen Branson, the shelter’s executive director, called me into her office, I assumed it concerned the bequest. In a million years, I’d never have guessed what she would ask me to do about it.

I’ve been a volunteer at FOF for some years. It’s a quiet, happy place where humans help care for and adopt out homeless cats. There is a restful routine to it: seven a.m. cats get fed; seven-thirty medications given; eight o’clock kennels cleaned, litter boxes swapped out, water bowls filled, and so on. Cats are creatures of habit, and suddenly finding themselves in a shelter blows their life-long schedule all to bits. We try our best to make things easy for them until they move on to their new forever homes.

Jasper, an elderly red tabby, had been adopted earlier that morning, and I was mopping down his kennel to make way for a new arrival when the call came.

“Lynley, you’re wanted.” The staff girl in her print scrubs put the phone back in its cradle and smiled teasingly.

“Is it my Prince Charming come to take me away from all this?” I joked, pushing my glasses up off my nose.

The girl rolled her eyes. I guess the idea of the handsome prince and a sixty-something cat lady who couldn’t be troubled to wear makeup, let alone color her hair, seemed farfetched. “It’s Helen. She said to tell you to come up and see her when you have a chance.”

“Meaning right now,” I translated.

“Yeah, or five minutes ago.” The girl laughed. “I’ll finish setting up the kennel for you.”

She came over and took the cloth and pet-safe disinfectant spray from my hands, then sent me on my way. I didn’t linger. In all the years I’d been at the shelter, I had never once been called to the office.

Pausing briefly in the volunteer locker room to pick up the tote I called a purse and check that my apron was on straight, I proceeded upstairs to the second floor where the corporate side of the rescue was housed. The atmosphere was subdued, the long corridor vacant, and the doors to the workplaces closed. At the far end was a balcony that looked out across the lobby. The executive office sat across the hall where the director could watch over the goings-on below.

The top half of the Dutch door was ajar, and I could see Helen working on her computer. In her inbox lounged a large and formidable black cat.

I felt a shiver of excitement as I gave a little knock on the jamb. “You wanted to see me?”

Helen looked up, flashing her signature smile. “Lynley, yes. Come in and sit down.”

I obeyed, folding my hands in my lap like a schoolgirl, sudden memories of being called to the principal’s office flitting unbidden through my mind.

Helen Branson, now in her sixties, had been with Friends of Felines since its inception some decades ago. As the place grew from a tiny volunteer-run concern to a prestigious cat shelter with forty employees and several hundred volunteers, her position had grown with it. She earned a generous salary, much of which she funneled right back into the shelter. FOF was her life; she nursed and protected it like a mama cat with kittens.

Helen leaned forward, fingers steepled and elbows on her desk. From afar, with her carefully coiffed brown curls that hung precisely to her shoulders and a touch of warm-toned makeup, she didn’t look her years, but close as I was, I could see the lines. They were happy lines; I’ll give her that.

Her gray eyes sparkled, and her lips curved in a wicked, cat-like grin. “You’re an adventurous person, aren’t you Lynley?”

It’s true I seem to find myself in situations that one might consider bold or daring, and word gets around, but to have the executive director of Friends of Felines call me on it… well, that was totally unexpected. As I sat in that stiff office chair listening to Helen unfold a tale that was more fit for an Agatha Christie novel than real life, I became increasingly enthralled.

“You may have heard,” she began, “the shelter is to be the recipient of a generous bequest. Extremely generous.”

“There’s been talk,” I said tactfully. “We’ve all been wondering.”

“There is a reason there’s been no official announcement as yet.” She paused for my reaction. I gave none. “The reason is this, Lynley—it’s possible FOF may have to forfeit the gift.”

Helen reached over and stroked the cat. “Meet Odin. He helps me think. Keeps me centered on the important things.”

“Cats do that,” I uttered, my mind still trying to solve the mystery of what could keep the shelter from receiving their due.

“Are you familiar with the name Roderick Payne?”

I started. “Roderick Payne, as in the notorious recluse? As in the noted millionaire eccentric? As in…”

“…the enormous Payne fortunes?” she finished for me. “That’s the one. Mr. Payne has passed away, leaving the bulk of his estate to Friends of Felines. Not only is there an unfathomable sum of money, there are stocks, bonds, gold, jewelry, and a houseful of valuable items as well. Not to mention the mansion itself. Payne House, one of the largest and most notable homes in the West Hills, is also bequeathed to FOF.”

“Wow!” I muttered. “That’s wonderful! Isn’t it…?”

“Well, yes it is. But there is a stipulation in Mr. Payne’s will, one we may find impossible to meet.”

“I don’t understand.”

Helen pried a fat blue packet from underneath Odin, wiped off a few black hairs, and handed it to me. The cover read Last Will and Testament of Roderick Martin Payne.

For a moment, I studied the neatly calligraphed words, impressive all by themselves, then I pulled back the cover and turned over the crisp pages one by one. When I got to the end, I gave Helen a puzzled look.

“I still don’t get it. The part about caring for his cat is straightforward enough—that’s standard with our Friends Fur-ever program. And the list of assets, well, it’s overwhelming, but I’ll take their word for it. It’s this one that makes no sense.” I flipped through, found what I was looking for, and held it out to the director. “What does it mean?”

“And therein lies the conundrum.”

Helen rose. Moving to her front window, she gazed across the balcony down onto the kitten room in the lobby below. For a few moments, she watched the antics of the young cats at play, then she turned back to me.

“You have to understand, Lynley, we could really use this gift. It could mean the groundbreaking of the new hospital wing we’ve wanted for so long. And to lose it over a technicality…” She harrumphed and returned to her desk. “I don’t know about the rumor mill, but only a few people have been told of the bequest itself, and even fewer about this… twist.” She flicked the document with a blunt-cut fingernail. “We want to keep it that way. No point in getting everyone’s hopes up until we’re more certain of our footing. That’s where you come in, Lynley. I need three things from you.”

Three things? My curiosity ramped up as I tried to envision what they might be. I had a hunch about the first two, but as to the third, I dared not guess.

“Number one has to do with Mr. Payne’s possessions. I understand you know something about antiques.”

“A bit. I’m no expert, but I have friends who are. I’d be happy to arrange for someone to come have a look, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Yes, exactly. We are thinking of doing an online auction at some point in the future, and first we need to get an idea of what is there.” Her face scrunched into a mock frown. “I’m useless at that sort of thing. I wouldn’t know the difference between Art Nouveau and eighties’ kitsch!”

“Unless the items are terribly obscure, that shouldn’t be a problem.” I was thinking of my friend who ran the antique mall on 42nd street. What Gil, pronounced Ghee in the French manner, didn’t know about old stuff you could fit into a gold 1890s sewing thimble.

“Perfect. See what you can find out and let me know.”

She scribbled something on a notepad.

“Next, I was wondering if you would foster Mr. Payne’s cat Winter Orange—Winnie for short. She’s a calico and has proven herself to be somewhat of a diva. It will take someone with your expertise to make sure she is cared for properly. Are you interested?”

“Of course. I was about to ask Kerry if there were any cats who needed fostering. I can take her today if she’s ready.”

“There is a catch, Lynley, and it may be a deal breaker. According to Mr. Payne’s wishes, the cat must remain in her own home.”

“You mean the Payne mansion?” I spluttered.

Helen nodded. “That’s the agreement. Everything Winnie needs is already there—beds, toys, food. Human meals will be provided as well, and Mr. Payne left a generous allowance for whoever takes on this job. Are you up for a little live-in cat sitting?”

I opened my mouth to say something, but no words came out. Things were flashing through my mind: How long would it be? What about my other duties? What about my own cats—all nine of them?

“I’ll do it,” I exclaimed before I could stop myself. “As long as I don’t have to be there twenty-four-seven, I think I can manage. I’d probably be putting in some hours there anyway working on the estate auction.”

“Are you sure? I know it’s a lot to ask. And don’t worry—if it gets to be too much or if something comes up, I can arrange for someone else to take over. I don’t want you to feel pressured.”

“Yes, I’m sure. You asked me if I was adventurous—well, I’d say this is bound to qualify.”

“That will be a great relief to the staff. Winnie has been staying here since Mr. Payne’s death, and to put it nicely, she’s not a happy camper. Hopefully once she’s back home, she will feel better. When do you think you’d be ready to begin?”

I did some quick calculations. “Is tomorrow afternoon soon enough?”

“Whatever works for you, Lynley. I’m just grateful you’ve agreed. You’re doing us a big service.” Helen picked up her desk phone and punched a number. “Good news, Kerry. Lynley Cannon is going to foster Winnie. Can you get her set to go for…” She put a hand over the mouthpiece. “Three o’clock tomorrow? Will that work for you?”

I nodded.

“Yes, that’s fine… I’ll tell her.”

Helen hung up, giving a sigh of relief. “You’ve made the foster department very happy. Apparently our little Winnie is a screamer. There’s a booklet of instructions that go with her, but it’s back at Payne House. If you need anything that isn’t already provided, I have a number you can call. Mr. Payne wanted to make sure Winnie’s sitter was cared for in every way.”

Curiouser and curiouser, I thought, trying to picture myself in a mansion, and failing.

“That brings us to the last item on the list, the codicil.”

I took up the will once more. “How did they put it? ‘Codicil one: Stipulation to be met before the beneficiary organization can inherit, recorded on video.’ There’s a video?”

Instead of replying, Helen pulled a remote controller from her drawer. She clicked it, and the flat-screen TV on her wall came to life.

At first there was only flickering, accompanied by soft, classical music, Brahms if I recalled correctly. I was about to comment when someone cleared their throat. They coughed and gave another ahem. The picture cleared to reveal a man at a massive antique desk holding a blue folder. His face was in shadow but the tapestry behind him bloomed with rich color and light.

He began to read, an elderly voice, low but rising as he went along.

“I, Roderick Martin Payne, a resident of the County of Multnomah, State of Oregon, declare that this is a codicil to my last will and testament, which is dated as aforementioned. Whereas I now desire to make certain changes in my last will and testament, now therefore, I do hereby make, publish, and declare this as a first codicil to my said last will and testament by adding thereto…”

Payne paused, grunted, then in a flurry of frustration, tossed the folder at the camera. “Aw, heck, Debon! I can’t read this stuff. It’s all gobbledygook to me.”

“Uh,” said a voice off-camera. “Just say whatever you want, Rod. It’ll be fine.”

“Okey-dokey. That I can do.”

Payne straightened his posture, folded his hands in front of him, and began again.

“I, Roderick Martin Payne, being of sound mind and all that legal rot, want to issue this codicil to my will. It’s simple, really…”

But it wasn’t. Payne seemed to feel it necessary to include his views on politics, religion, and the state of the world as a preface. As the voice droned on, my interest shifted to the picture itself. Since I could see nothing of the speaker beyond his silhouette against the bright cloth, I began to study the other things within the frame. Beside the tapestry hung a painting: an autumn hill, bright crimson and gold intermingled with dark blues and forest greens. A Tom Thomson—original I presumed. A bronze statuette of a bucking horse might have been a Remington. A glass paperweight contained an intriguing inset, a gold pyramid with an eye at the top. Egyptian? I wondered. I’d recently had occasion to learn a bit about ancient Egyptian relics, but those were mostly in the theme of the cat god Bast. This motif was unfamiliar to me.

My attention jerked back to Payne as he rang the small prayer bell on his desk. He giggled, seeming very pleased with himself. I didn’t need to see his face to know he was grinning.

“All points of this bequest will become null and void if the recipient does not fulfill this stipulation in a timely manner. Now listen carefully. The beneficiary, Friends of Felines Cat Shelter of Portland, Oregon, will be responsible for the following: the discovery and the arrest of my murderer.”

There was a pause, then the voice took up again, louder than ever. As he leaned in toward the camera, a beam of light hit his face, a mask of wrinkles and rage. “You got that, Helen? Find my killer or you don’t get a dime!”

Helen clicked off the machine and sat back in her chair. The document dropped from my hand, and I gave a little squeak.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I blurted. “Mr. Payne knew he was going to be murdered? Why didn’t someone stop it? The police? Why wasn’t he given protection?”

I paused as another question came clear. “And why ever would he give the job of finding his killer to us?”

Helen put up a hand. “I can’t answer any of that, Lynley. I have no idea what went on in Mr. Payne’s final days nor what he was thinking when he made this record.”

She paused to pet Odin, an indication of her thought process. Then her eyes fixed on mine. “I can tell you one thing, however. According to the Oregon State Medical Examiner, Roderick Payne died of natural causes.”

Posted in Contests, Crazy Cat Lady cozy mysteries, Events, Events, Giveaways, Giveaways, My Cat Cozies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Who are the Cat Writers’ Association: T. J. BANKS

Today’s guest on Who are the Cat Writers’ Association is writer and journalist T. J. Banks.

 

Tammy, tell us a bit about your writing.

For me, writing has always been a lot like play. I don’t mean that it always comes easily to me. But when I’m truly engaged with my subject, I lose all sense of time and place. Only the story itself exists.

I started out in journalism. I had a long-running arts column in a monthly paper called Hartford Woman, and I did feature stories for them as well.  I loved every minute of it. You learn so much from working for a small paper because you get to do a lot of different types of writing. Shortly after Hartford Woman closed up shop, I got the chance to write for Just Cats!, another wonderful publication that Nancy and Bob Hungerford were just starting up. I wrote book reviews, features, and “Making a difference…,” an award-winning monthly column about people helping cats in many and often unusual ways. It was as exciting a gig as Hartford Woman, but there was one vital difference, no pun intended. I was being paid to write stories about cats, something that I’d been doing ever since I was a kid. Now, that was trippy.

I have written for many publications since then – some of them cat-oriented and some of them people-oriented. A lot of my work has been anthologized, and I’ve published seven books, both fiction and non-fiction. But here’s the thing about the books: no matter what the subject, what the genre, a cat is sure to appear somewhere in it. Someone once told me that if I wrote an algebra book, there’d be a cat in it…assuming, of course, that I could write an algebra book.

How do cats inspire your creativity?

When I first began freelancing full-time, my cats were – or so I thought – simply my kindred spirits in fur suits, providing me companionship and comic relief while I struggled with my first stories, which were historical fiction and had (mostly) all-people cats. The cats, however, soon began making inroads into my writing. The very first all-cat story was “Tikvah’s Kitten,” based on my beloved Tikvah, who had come to us as a stray.

Finally, I got big and brave and decided to write the kind of cat book I’d always enjoyed reading as a kid. The result was Houdini, which starred a Flamepoint Siamese hero:  his story was, with some alterations, that of the abandoned kitten that my uncle’s friend had found for me when we were out in Oklahoma. Writing the book allowed me to travel back in time to what had been an especially magical spring and summer with an especially magical cat.

Since then, many of the other cats I’ve known and loved have found their way into my writing, including the novel I’m currently working on. Many of the odds and ends of my life go into my work:  it is, in a sense, one big patchwork quilt of experiences and remembered emotions. My felines are a big part of my life, so it seems only natural that they go into the quilt, too.

What do you enjoy about belonging to CWA?

The CWA is very important for a number of reasons. Each one of us is celebrating the human-feline bond in his/her own way. We work hard at what we do, and being part of a highly professional group where our efforts are recognized is “a shot in the arm,” as my mom used to say.

Writing about cats is generally regarded as a niche writing. Well, the CWA has expanded that “niche” to include illustrations, videography, cartoons, and more. There’s mentoring, as recognized by the Shojai Mentor Award. The organization has essentially given us a place to call home, to connect, and to share our work. All these things are vital because regardless of the type of work we do, it’s mostly solitary in nature. The CWA gives us a way of feeling less alone.

To me, what really makes the CWA stand out is its determination “to improve the quality of cat information for the general public and to inspire, educate, and inform.” People know so much more about cats than they did back in the day when most cats lived outside, seldom if ever saw the vet, and lived much shorter lives. Thanks to the work of CWA members, cats are living healthier, longer lives. They’re better understood. The bottom line is, they’re no longer the second-class citizens of the pet world.

 Now for some completely arbitrary questions. 

  1. Did you grow up with cats?

Yes, my brothers and I always had cats. Mostly barn cats — our grandparents had a farm where cats and kittens were always being dumped, and many of them came home with us over the years. (My mother never should’ve told us that story about my dad bringing her a puppy tucked in his jacket when they were courting.)

Our cats lived outside in a good-sized tool shed that my dad had cut a cat door in. They could come into the house for visits, but they weren’t allowed to stay inside unless they were sick. Many of them got hit by cars or simply vanished. The first cat who got to live inside was Christy, my Siamese. Not because she was a purebred but because she had to have a front paw amputated after her own tangle with a car. She was also the reason why we began taking our cats to the vets’. Before that, my dad, who’d grown up on a farm, did any doctoring that was necessary. So Christy, bless her, was a trailblazer in more ways than one.

  1. What crosses your mind when someone tells you they don’t like cats?

You know, after all these years, I still don’t get that. But I just shrug it off and go about my business. It seems to me that some people out there still think it has to be a-cat-OR-a-dog thing, and it doesn’t. I like dogs just fine, and there have been a few that I’ve really loved — I just don’t happen to have one. Years ago, I had a side gig as a dog-walker, and it taught me how much more work dogs were.

I do sit up and take notice whenever a man tells me, “I don’t like cats because they’re too damn independent.” I don’t need my secret decoder ring to translate that one. Men who say that don’t like women who are independent either. And such men are to be avoided at all costs.

  1. What would your life be without cats?

There have only been two times in my life when I’ve been cat-less. Both these periods were short, but they made me realize how empty my world was without a few purring presences in it.

They have given me so much over the years – love, companionship, and inspiration. They’ve kept me going through some pretty major rough patches, especially my husband Tim’s death and my mother’s dementia. Cats are, as I wrote in my book Abys Among Us & Other Stories for the Feline-Inclined, “the heart-and soul-menders, our kindred spirits, poetry on four paws, and we humans would be lost without them.” I certainly would be.

MY CAST OF FELINE CHARACTERS:

Phoebe – A long-haired gray cat. A former stray, she has been Chief Cat for the last 12 years. She is very intuitive and a feline Earth Mother, looking after many of the kittens who have shown up here over the years.  She’s 16.

Cheshire – A big burly dark-gray tabby cat. Very sweet and a little on the anxious side. He and his littermates were found under an older couple’s deck. He’ll be 14 in September.

Magwitch – A Snowshoe Siamese from the Westfield Homeless Cat Project in MA. He is loving and clever, and he gets more Siamese-y with age. He used to steal small objects during his kittenhood. He’s 13.

Freya – An all-black cat and Magwitch’s honey. She came here as a foster kitten and ended up staying. She’ll be 9 in September.

Violet – A crazy calico who came here as a boarder. Two years into the arrangement, her owner decided that she didn’t want Violet anymore. It didn’t seem fair to uproot her again, so she stayed. She’s 10.

­– Solstice II – A Ruddy Abyssinian and former breeding queen. Initially, she was very high-strung; but she has mellowed considerably since being spayed, and she’s very loving now. She’s 8.

Tansy – Solstice’s daughter and also a Ruddy. She’s loving and lovable, and she has a jealous streak a mile wide. As far as we can tell, she has no short-term memory, so scolding her is useless. She’s 6.

Emrys – A Ruddy Aby and former stud cat. He is highly intelligent and has a wonderful disposition. When I was breeding Abys, one man was so taken with him, he wanted to buy Emrys as well as one of his children. Well, that was a no go, so the man and his wife now have three of Emrys’s sons! Lord Em, as I sometimes call him, is 6.

Lady – A Ruddy Aby and Emrys’s former mate. She has a friendly, affectionate personality and usually sleeps by my pillow… and on it when I’m not there. She’s 5.

Juliet – A white cat with black splotches. She came here when her owner was diagnosed with dementia and went into a memory-care facility. Juliet was shy and rather reclusive at first but has really blossomed in the past year. She’s 7.

You can find T.J. Banks at her following links:

Amazon profile — https://author.amazon.com/profile

A Time for Shadows, my FB Author Page — https://www.facebook.com/A-Time-for-Shadows-302018420057 (This started out in 2009 as a page about my then-newly-released historical novel A Time for Shadows, but I later expanded it to include excerpts from and postings about my other books.)

My LinkedIn profile — https://www.linkedin.com/in/t-j-banks-87008913/

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CAT’S PLAY LAUNCH GIVEAWAY: WHAT SHOULD IT BE?

I’m excited!

I’m always excited when a new book goes live, but this time it’s even more of an event. This has been a long year, with two even longer years before it. 2022 has produced a new Tenth Life mystery, a Vella story in forty episodes, a memoir awaiting publication, an almost finished Cat Seasons sci-fantasy, a 9th Crazy Cat Lady mystery (Cat’s Play), and four chapters of a 10th.

My aspirations for next year? Not so much!

But right now, I just want to be happy at the end of another project, and to bring Cat’s Play into the world in some style.

I’m not attempting an in person launch this time, though I’m thinking of doing something on Zoom. Be honest—would you come?

What I will do for sure however is a giveaway. October 29th, National Cat Day. But I need your help. In the past, I’ve given away all sorts of prizes, from cat-themed items to autographed books. For my last launch, I gave away the proof copy of the book with all its messy red chicken scratches. What should I give away this time?

An autographed paperback copy of Cat’s Play?

The one and only proof copy of Cat’s Play?

A cat-themed item such as a purse, mug, cat toy or _____ (you fill in the blank)?

A trio of Crazy Cat Lady Mysteries (PB)?

A full set (PB)?

Vote for your favorite by shooting me an email at MollieHuntCatWriter@gmail.com with “Cat’s Play Giveaway” in the subject line, and be the first to be entered into the contest, whatever the prize turns out to be.

Pre-order Cat’s Play (Crazy Cat Lady Mystery Book 9) now, and it will be auto-delivered wirelessly to your Kindle on October 29, 2022. Paperback versions will also be available.

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CAT’S PLAY: SHOW ME YOUR CALICOS!

   There’s a new Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery about to hit the shelves.

Cat’s Play, #9 in the series takes Lynley into a dead millionaire’s mansion to care for his cat Winnie. If you’ve read other of my books, you’ll know I get quite involved with the cat characters, and Winnie (Winter Orange) is no different.

Winnie is a calico with an attitude, but she also has a gift. She can communicate with humans. Without Winnie, Lynley might not have made it through the…

But that would be telling.

As I worked with the imaginary Winnie, I began to notice real calico cats all around me. I’d love to see more, and to hear your calico stories! I know you can’t put photos in the comments, but you can describe them. Does your calico have catitude or are they sweet? A little of both? Winnie is a “diva.” What about yours? Have you read other fiction involving a calico? I can think of a few right now, such as Patricia Fry’s new Calico Cat Mysteries.

Cat’s Play launches on National Cat Day, October 29th. Pre-order Cat’s Play now, and it will be auto-delivered wirelessly to your Kindle on October 29, 2022. Paperback versions will also be available. 

Here’s an excerpt where Lynley meets Winnie for the first time…

“Hi, Lynley,” said Kerry, the foster department director. “You’re here to see Winnie, right?”

I nodded.

As she leaned over the computer and pulled up a page on the monitor, her ponytail bobbed in rhythm to the music coming from the shelter’s speaker system. I truly appreciated the young foster coordinator who had the energy and boundless enthusiasm to keep her optimistic in the face of a tough job.

“We’ll be glad to get Winnie back home, believe me. She’s been unhappy ever since she was brought in when Mr. Payne passed away. It took a while for the retrieval team to get her out of the house, which I’m sure didn’t help her attitude. We’re hoping that once she’s back in a familiar environment she’ll settle down.”

I stood, stretched my foot, which had begun to fall asleep, and came over to the computer. “Tell me about her.”

Kerry scrolled through the pages on her screen. “She’s a seven-year-old calico. Her full name is Winter Orange Blossom Güzel.”

“Güzel?”

“The note says it’s Turkish for beauty.” Kerry glanced at me and chuckled. “Payne had her DNA tested. It turns out she has Turkish Van roots. I’ll include the results with her paperwork. It doesn’t tell much. Ninety-nine percent of Felis sylvestris are basically mutts, but it’s interesting all the same.”

Kerry tapped another key, and the printer began to clack.

“The behavior department has been working with her since she came, but they haven’t been able to make much headway. They tried to figure out whether her symptoms of extreme stress were from being in a new place or if there was more to it. According to her biography, she’s never been off the Payne property, not even for vet visits. Doctors always visited her! But she was with Mr. Payne in the garden when he died. She stayed with him all night until the gardener found them the next morning. An experience like that could have affected her deeply.”

Kerry sighed. “The only thing that’s helped soothe her at all was putting her in the Tranquility Room by herself and leaving her alone, but that’s not a solution—according to Payne’s notes, she is very loving and craves human companionship. I guess we just haven’t found the right human. Hopefully you’ll have better luck.”

I took a deep breath. “Anything else, besides that she’s a diva?”

Kerry looked up in surprise. “Where did you hear that?”

“From everywhere. And that’s all I’ve heard. Please, tell me something good.”

“Well, she has no medical issues, no special diet or picky food preferences, though Mr. Payne left arrangements for her to be given some fancy noms made in the Netherlands. She doesn’t claw the furniture, and she’s one hundred percent fastidious—no litterbox issues. According to Mr. Payne, she’s the sweetest, gentlest, friendliest kitty on this Earth. And here’s a funny thing—Mr. Payne claims she’s clairvoyant, that she communicated with him all the time.” Kerry gathered the papers from the printer tray, tamped them even, and clipped them together with a glittery pink paperclip. “I’ll let you be the judge of that one.”

She placed the document in a file folder and handed it to me. “You might want to run through this before you pick her up tomorrow. Forewarned is forearmed, so they say.”

I stuffed the file in my tote beside the one I’d collected from Helen. “That bad?”

“Yes and no. If anyone can tame the savage beast, it’ll be you, Lynley. Now, please follow me.”

Kerry led me through the door marked employees only and into the back of the foster department with its kennels of cats going into or coming out of their temporary homes. I stopped to say hello to a little gray whom I recognized from her intake exam. She seemed rested and happy, all signs of her upper respiratory infection resolved. She could go up for adoption now, the potential adopter assured she was healthy and ready to start a life with a new family.

Kerry continued down a side hallway, then stopped.

“Hear it?”

I listened, and sure enough, coming from a room at the end of the corridor was the scream of a cat in distress. Or maybe it was a cat in frustration, or a cat in rage. Whatever the reason, this cat was upset and didn’t care who knew it.

“Is that her?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

Kerry nodded. “Now you see why we’d like to get her out of here. She’s upsetting the other cats, to say nothing of staff and volunteers who have to listen to that while they work.”

“I’m sure it’s not much fun for her either,” I suggested.

Kerry harrumphed, then conceded, “Of course, you’re right. She’s obviously having a terrible time here.”

We continued down the hall to a door with a plaque that read Tranquility Room. Underneath was taped a handwritten note, Enter at your own risk! From there I could pick out every screeching nuance of Winnie’s protestation.

“Well, I’ve got to get back to the office. Go ahead and say hi, but don’t expect too much. She’s been singularly unresponsive to everyone so far. I really do think she’ll come around once she gets back home,” Kerry added apologetically.

“And if she doesn’t?”

“Let’s cross that bridge if we have to,” she shot over her shoulder. With a flip of her ponytail, she was gone.

I hesitated on the threshold of Tranquility listening to the uproar inside. The cat sounded like she was in dire straits, but they were of her own making. I needed to remember that. I needed to be cool, calm, and most of all, confident. Taking a deep breath, I opened the door and stepped inside.

In a very large kennel was a cat unlike any I’d ever seen before. Her calico colors veritably glowed with brilliance—glossy black, pumpkin orange, and a white so bright it was almost blue. Her fur was medium length and looked silky as cashmere. I wanted to run my fingers through that luxurious coat but caught myself. Such an intrusion on her personal space would be anything but welcome.

I inched toward the kennel, making soft sounds and giving love blinks. She just stared at me—no love there. At least not yet, I told myself. Still, there was something about her eyes, something odd…

I gasped, realizing those round, wide pupil-filled orbs were of two different colors—one amber and one bright blue. With her color-splotched face, the effect was kaleidoscopic. What a wonder, I couldn’t help but think to myself.

Winnie stopped her crying for a few moments while she studied me, then she took up again full force. I was shocked by the intensity of the sounds. More than mere unhappiness, there was an urgency behind them, a need.

“Me-oooutttt nnooowww!” she shrieked into my ears and into my mind.

Was it my imagination or had Winter Orange just spoken to me?

 

Posted in Cats, Crazy Cat Lady cozy mysteries, My Cat Cozies | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Introducing FLASH DRIVES: Flash narratives and random contemplations imagined while driving from one place to another

FLASH DRIVES: Flash narratives and random contemplations imagined while driving from one place to another

I don’t drive often, but when I do, my thoughts go wild. Whether I’m crossing a bridge, heading down a highway, or making my way through a neighborhood, the strangest things come to mind. The subject matter varies widely, the contemplations forgotten once I reach my destination. Through Flash Drives, I plan to remember them and share them with you.

Photo by Alexandru Boicu on Unsplash

ROSES

There must have been a house there, I realized as I drove by the other day. It had nagged me, why every time I drove down Hawthorne, passing the cinema at the jog on 20th, I thought of roses. Red trellis roses, blooming profusely on white lattice, overtop our heads. A night as soft as cat fur.

Now there is only a blocky building, some sort of condos, with an empty storefront facing the street—another COVID victim, I suppose. It had been there a while. So why the thought of roses?

Then it came to me. Before COVID, before the storefront and the condos, that corner must have held a house.

But I need to go back. Summer, maybe 1977. Had we been to a movie and then were walking home? All I recall is the warmth of the night and the shadow of the roses.  It must have been important to me though, because to this day, every time I drive by, I smell their intoxicating scent.

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