Sunday, January 20

Cats

Since the topic of the week here is pets, there shouldn't be any doubt what *I* will be discussing.

I did have a cat, briefly, when I was a little girl, but it wasn't until I became an adult that I truly became A Cat Person. From 1983-1999, I always had one cat or another: Willie White Paws and Tiger Tom, Spike the aquatic cat, Skook (named for the titled character of a book about a man who gets trapped underground and relies on the imagined Skook to keep alive) and Milo (named for James Crumley's noir-ish detective Milton Milodragovitch).

The last one to die was Skook. He died on a hot morning in July 1999 and later on that same day I heard my daughter's heartbeat for the first time. This has always left me convinced that there's a little bit of Skook's spirit in Jackie. (Please don't cart me away to the loony bin for saying that.) Skook was all white except for a small spot of gray on his forehead, which we referred to as his personality. Jackie was born with an odd beauty mark - not brown or black or even red, but gray. Are you with me on this now? And then there's the fact that both cat and girl (at least when she was a toddler), if I went to the bathroom and forgot to leave the door open, would hurl their little bodies at that closed door: "I just know you are doing something fascinating in there - let me in!"

Once I no longer had living cats, I began inserting fictional cats into many of my books: Punch the cat and Kick the cat in THE THIN PINK LINE/CROSSING THE LINE; Steinway, the black-and-white cat Charlotte finds living in the house she goes to work in in Iceland in HOW NANCY DREW SAVED MY LIFE. My characters always talk to the cats too. Well, of course they do! As for the cats, they always talk back, speaking in various emphases of "Meow!" and yet it's obvious that the heroine is hearing something far more involved than the reader is. Man, those cats are opinionated!

But I've never quite gone as crazy with using cats as I have in the forthcoming series for young readers, THE SISTERS EIGHT, a projected nine-book series I'm writing with my husband and daughter, the first two of which will be out this fall. TSE is about eight little girls, octuplets, whose parents disappear one New Year's Eve when Mom goes out to the kitchen for eggnog, Dad goes to the woodshed for firewood, and neither returns. The Eights must then endeavor to learn what happened to Mom and Dad by discovering their own powers and gifts - a mysterious note tells them to do this - while keeping the wider world from realizing eight little girls are living home alone. The girls' names are Annie, Durinda, Georgia, Jackie, Marcia, Petal, Rebecca and Zinnia. And, oh, would you look at that? There are eight gray-and-white puffball cats in the series too! One for each sister: Anthrax, Dandruff, Greatorex, Jaguar, Minx, Precious, Rambunctious and Zither. And what do you know? As each sister gets her power, the cats get powers too. Man, those are some cats!

Friday, I saw the covers for the first two books, ANNIE'S ADVENTURE'S and DURINDA'S DANGERS, and it may have been the single greatest moment of my writing career. Seeing those amazing covers, realizing the series will in no small part be defined by the illustrator's work both outside and in, knowing how my girl would be bouncing off the walls here when she got home and saw them, and seeing that on each cover, along with showcasing the girl at the center of each story, the illustrator also featured each girl's cat in full power-yielding mode. She got the cats right. Thank you, Universe!

Wow. All this talk about cats. I think maybe it's time I broke down and finally got myself another one. Or two. You know, so they can have companionship and stage kitty coups when I'm gone too long, doing things like knocking over fully stocked dressers and heavy TV sets with their powerful back paws.

So, tell me your experiences with cats or about your favorite pets. Really, even if it's not about a cat, even if it's about - *gasp*! - a dog, I'll listen.

Be well. Don't forget to write.

25 comments:

TinaFerraro said...

Lauren, I, too, am a cat lady. I half-envision myself in my later years crowded into a house full of cats and spending my social security and pension on their vet bills!

I only have one at the moment, a year-old male named Rascal (after one of the characters in TOP TEN USES FOR AN UNWORN PROM DRESS). He likes to sit on my lap while I am writing, and I am pretty sure he thinks my Spring release is not THE ABC's OF KISSING BOYS as much as THE ABC's OF KISSING KITTIES. But he's weird like that. :)

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Hey, you! I might've known you'd be a cat lady. Btw, I bought my copy of your latest this week. I may not get to it for a bit - that TBR is like Bear Mountain! - but at least money has been spent.

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga said...

Lauren and Tina, Our champagne Burmese cat Meow adopted us as a stray by banging on our sliding glass door every morning for weeks, demanding to be let in. She knew this was the right home for her and now we're convinced too.

We've had her for a little over a year now and she is a big part of our lives. She does sometimes sit on my desk or at my feet when I write. She hadn't yet come into my life when I wrote MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT, but I'm sure a kitty character will emerge in a future book.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Meow??? What a perfect name for a cat!

Alyson Noel said...

Hey Lauren-
When I met my husband- he had a cat- and I'm big time allergic! But I was so determined to get past it, and be with the man of my dreams--I invested in loads of tissue and allergy meds--put up with years of puffy eyes--and in the meantime, actually grew quite fond of him (the cat!)-- especially since he (don't hate me for saying this!) acted more like a dog than a cat- since my husband had no idea how to raise a cat when he rescued him!
When he passed a few years ago, I was the first one to find him--and that's when I realized how attached I'd become . . .I cried like a baby.

PS- Your new series sounds AMAZING!
CONGRATS!

Christa said...

Always a dog person, I married a cat person. Shocking to discover there is no place safe from cats..tops of refrigerators, the junk drawer--how Amelia manages to flatten herself into a pancake and compress her head to squeeze into the drawer is a feat beyond comprehension.

Even though I leave for school some mornings wearing a carpet of her hair, I've learned to love my writing companion. Amelia leaps into my lap when I'm writing, and I find her warm presence comforting. Especially on those days I wonder if the torture will ever pay off!

Amelia will actually reach her paw to my face and tug on my cheek. My husband, the veterinarian, says she wants to lick my face because she likes the taste of my make-up. I think he's jealous.

I plan for her to make an appearance in my books as well. I promised hubby I'd have her like him in the book.

Can't wait to read the series! What a great premise. I'm the mom of five, and some days I think they'd choose NOT to look for me!

Joanne Levy said...

I define myself as a "Pet" person, since I have a house full of many species other than human. Our beloved "Big Cat" passed away this week at the ripe old age of 18 (or so). He lived a very full life and had been running from the grim reaper, quite successfully, for about half of those 18 years. He's had two major surgeries and over 3 years ago, was scheduled to be put down after a lengthy illness. When he caught wind of the imminent injection, he suddenly perked up, begging to come home. Anyway, this is not meant to be a sad post, but a tribute to the big teddy bear of cats who wiggled his way into our hearts. When began dating my (now) husband 15 years ago, my meeting the cat was the test of my worthiness, and thankfully, the cat approved.

TinaFerraro said...

Hey, Lauren, thanks for adding my latest to your TBR pile. I ordered yours and am awaiting the delivery of it to my door!

Wendy, loved the story about Meow!

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Alyson, I just got KISS & BLOG - looking forward! I was so worried when you began your cat saga, was sure it was going to end, "And then, after going through all that cat agony for the man of my dreams...and then we got divorced." So while I'm sorry to hear about Kitty's demise, I hope it was timely and am relieved that the marriage survives.

Christa, too funny about the kids - I'm sure they'd look for you! As for the cat-hair/clothes problem, as I say, Skook was white and a good part of his life covered my younger days when I was A Cool Girl With A Predominantly Black Wardrobe. Well, you can just imagine how cool I looked - not - when I'd go out to shoot pool in a black minidress covered with little tiny Skook hairs.

Joanne, I'm so sorry to hear about Big Cat! I can tell you have a good attitiude about it, though, and it sounds like he lived one heckuva life.

Tina, well of *course* I bought your book? What do you think I'm made of, if not money to spend on all my friends' books??? Damn, though, I may need to become a misanthrope so I have a little scratch left when I turn up my toes.

Jessica Burkhart said...

I'm a crazy cat person, too! My 15 year old Siamese (Jazz) passed away just over a month ago and I'm finally starting to think about getting a kitten. In my third book in my Canterwood series, my character might get a Siamese named after Jazz for her birthday. :)

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

That sounds like a great present, Jessica! Was Jazz named after the Toni Morrison book or something else?

Bailey Stewart said...

Tina invited me because she knows about me and cats. At one time I had eight of the furry creatures.

Sorry about Big Cat and Jazz.

One of my cats, Seamas (also known as Bubba the red-necked kitty) loves to be spanked - hard. He also doesn't like closed doors, especially if momma is behind one. But my most special cat was Devlin. His mother abandoned him on our back porch the day he was born. I bottle fed him, burped him (yes, bottle fed kittens need to be burped) and help him potty (much like a "real" mother). I sang to him, snuggled him. Mine was the first face he saw, the first voice he heard. Unfortunately, there was a reason that his mother left him. One year and 6 days after he was born, he died. I have never felt a loss like that in my life.

There are always cats in my books.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

So sorry to hear about Devlin, Bailey. But may I say, that stuff about Seamas is hysterical: your cat puts the M in S&M!

Bailey Stewart said...

Yes, that's Bubba's other nickname - Bubba the BDSM kitty. I'll be buying him some leather pretty soon. LOL

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Oh, that would make quite a pic! You could do a whole gift picturebook of S&M cats. "Fluffy, the Dominatrix, is more than just your average housecat..."

Sara Hantz said...

No, not a cat person...... we've always had dogs. And in my books if there's a pet it will be a dog.... I never think of adding a cat!!

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Rebel!

Marley Gibson said...

I love this post, Lauren! I'm totally a cat person, too. It's been too long since my Puddy Tat crossed the Rainbow Bridge. We can't have pets in our condo building, which cheese me to no end.

I, too, have cats in my upcoming GHOST HUNTRESS series. And my cats have, shall we say, some powers. I named them after my sister's cat (Natalie) and two of mine (Buckley and Eleanor.) It's great to be able to do tributes to our furry friends.

BTW...just bought SECRETS OF MY SUBURBAN LIFE and have it in my bag to read next week on the commute!

Marley = )

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Marley! Sounds like my endless self-promotion is working! From one Cat Lady to another: thanks for buying.

Authorness said...

Hi, Lauren! I was a dog girl but now I'm a proud cat lady. I wouldn't trade my cheeky cats Pinklepurr and Possum for anything. One them fetches, opens doors, and always runs to greet me when I come home from work.

Vanessa

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

It is good to be loved, Vanessa, is it not? And while cats will give you the back if they feel at all slighted, they still always somehow come through when you need them most.

Gerb said...

Sadly, since my husband is allergic, the only cats I get to snuggle belong to friends. My sister has two regal cats, Habibi and Rey and I swear they are the most intuitive animals I have ever met. And beautiful. And graceful. *sigh*

Wendy Toliver said...

I heart cats. :)

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Gerb, it's like a book: you are trysting with other people's cats!

Wendy, did you say 'heart'? Hmm...maybe I should get a new cat for Valentine's Day...

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