Peanut the Three-Legged Wonder Cat

Peanut helping me with the grocery list
Peanut helping me with the grocery list

 

Peanut is a petite gray-and-black striped cat whose fur has an orange undertone that earned her the nickname Rusty-Butt.

She has other nicknames–Demonique, Beelzebeth, Pestilence–appropriate to the all-powerful seven-pound ruler of the household. She’s not at all shy about voicing her opinion (hence another nickname: Bansheeba) and is as stubborn as a Missouri mule. To say  the lady is determined is the understatement of the millennium, but I’m not complaining.

That determination saved her life, and has been instrumental in her amazing adjustment to losing a front leg. Seems like Judd and I are constantly saying things like “How did you get up there?”, “Give me that!” and “Quit picking on Syd!”

Syd, Master of HIS side of OUR bed
Syd, Master of HIS side of OUR bed

She’s here, there, everywhere, and I fully expect to see her swinging from the ceiling fan any day now.

One of her favorite activities is taking a leap of faith from the dining room  table to my desk, executing a (literal) three-point landing among papers, crystals and framed pictures.  Once her equilibrium is regained, the terrain is all hers.

“All your paper clips is belong to ME!”

We race each other for any stray rubber bands or paper clips.  My tea or water must be sampled and any inconvenient books or papers shoved to the floor.  Anything new or relocated since the last Peanut-ian invasion must be closely inspected at great length, regardless of what obstacles must be plowed through to reach it.

Peanut inspects a new incense burner.
Peanut inspects a new incense burner.

Next comes a critique of whatever appears on my computer screen.  Words are boring, as are pictures that don’t move.  The cursor is of mild interest when it’s in motion but becomes a Pearl of Great Price when  combined with something neat like a shark or blowfish.

But the all-time favorite is, of course, BIRDIES. After thoroughly decimating my desk, Peanut plants herself at my elbow like a furry monolith and fixes the computer screen with a steely-eyed stare until our Vulcan mind-meld finally kicks in and I click on a link that magically populates the screen with birds. For the next twenty minutes, wild horses couldn’t drag her away. She sits up on her haunches and bats at the screen with her front paw, then looks behind the monitor for any stray birdies that may have escaped.  The speakers are also inspected (“Is chirping! Is birdies in there, I know it!”)

BIRDIES!!!!!
BIRDIES!!!!!

She has two favorites.  One is a close-up view of winter birds feeding  that runs for a bit over twenty minutes.  The other is a cluster of blackbirds feeding on the ground that runs a bit over fourteen minutes.  This last one features her particular nemesis–a big, puffed-up blackbird that chirps warningly right at the camera.  She goes bat-shit crazy every time she sees him, even tries to bite the screen.  Syd watches from a safe distance on these occasions in case her head starts spinning around and I can’t blame him.

black and white cat
Syd pretending Peanut doesn’t exist

Even with my computer doing double-duty as a feline entertainment center, I can’t blame Peanut or Syd for my not keeping up with my writing…..

 

On that note, may we all be as brave and resilient as Peanut!

DF

Dust

Here’s another oldie-but-still goodie:

December 27, 2012


Right before I started this post, I caught myself worrying about dust.feather duster

Yes, dust.  The stuff I convince myself nobody else has in their house because they keep up with it.

Here I am, off work until the day after New Year’s, with tons of time to do all kinds of neat stuff, and I’m worrying about freakin’ dust.  That’s pathological.  No, worse than pathological, it’s pitiful.

I mean, what is wrong with me?

Dust didn’t bother me when I was scrambling to get ready for work last week. It didn’t permeate my thoughts while I shuffled paperwork and fielded phone calls.  It didn’t come with me to the grocery store, or settle on my shoulders like a fine gray mist while I was paying bills or falling into an exhausted sleep.

But now that I have unlimited hours to work on my book, play with my plants, rearrange my crystals, read, or just kick back and do nothing, something in me wants to worry about the dust on the bookshelves, between the knickknacks, on the stairs. If somebody came to my house, says this nit-picky little “something”, they’d get all smug and superior and think I’m a slob.

Let’s take that last sentence apart.

“Somebody”.  The only people who would ever be allowed to set foot in my house are people who were invited, by me.  In no universe would I invite smug and/or superior people to my house. Why am I worrying about something that ain’t never gonna happen?

“My house”.  Where I come to rejuvenate from time spent in The World Out There. The place where I pull up the drawbridge, drop the shields and let my inner happy little lunatic out to play.  My own precious sanctuary where things like bras, shoes, and what other people think of me do not exist.  In other words—my house, where I decide what’s important.

“Slob”.  I am a slob.  I live in a whirlwind of books-plants-notebooks-crystals-cats-pictures-CDs.  Coats tend to live on the backs of chairs.  Scarves roost on the frames of pictures and mirrors.  Multiple pairs of shoes reside under my computer desk, which is where I kick them off without thinking when I’m writing.  When the hoofware population becomes too dense, I cull out the non-seasonal ones.  (Example:  it’s late December;  today multiple pairs of summer sandals have finally been relegated to storage.) It’s how I roll, and it works for me.

Back to the dust:  I’ve decided the problem is all in my mind.

Effective immediately, I’m evicting those imaginary smug-and-superior types.

Instead, I’m going to imagine my character Rick (better known as Ricochet) has escaped from Old Wolves.  He’s a whirlwind of a young man with long white-blonde hair, outer-space eyes and a very impressive tattoo.  He’ll bound into the house like Tigger and hug everybody in sight.  If he sees dust on a table he’ll swoop down on it and exclaim, “Dude! Can we snort it?”  Then he’ll smile, draw a heart in the dust and write “I love you” inside it.

And he’ll really, really mean it.

photo credit: chickenscrawl via photopin cc

The Five-Minute Rule

Came across this post I did awhile back for an online website class.  It gave me a (literally) timely reminder of the power of increments:

When I saw the ad for a workshop in Time Management I almost didn’t take it. What little time I had was already so eaten up by responsibilities that there wasn’t even a stray minute left to manage.  Then I figured, what the heck—the workshop was online, so I could do things at my own pace; maybe I’d actually learn something helpful.  If all else failed, I could always drop out.bluesilver clock

Early on in the workshop I was asked to name something  I really wanted to do but hadn’t been able to fit in my schedule.  I was to imagine there was nothing preventing me from doing this thing, and I was not to limit my response in any way.

My “something” was writing.  I used to write all the time when I was a kid; when I was older, I had a few pieces published in a small local magazine.  Writing fell by the wayside as life became increasingly complicated, sometimes traumatic,  and always demanding.  I promised myself that “someday”, when I got everything under control, I would devote huge blocks of time to writing.  But the likelihood of getting everything under control was laughably small; whenever I  finally managed to get one tiny little piece of my life working right, another piece would go spectacularly to hell.  I was too busy putting out fires to even think about writing.

As the workshop progressed I was asked to carve out just five minutes each day to devote to writing.  Anything I managed beyond that five minutes was gravy, but those five minutes were to go to the top of my to-do list every day without fail.  At first I laughed—what could I possibly accomplish in five minutes?  Then I thought about the minutes I spent in the parking lot at work five mornings a week, dreading going in and bemoaning my lot in life.  I got a small notebook and devoted those minutes to writing whatever popped into my head, no editing allowed.

And the words came.   Slowly at first, but they quickly picked up speed.  I found myself looking forward to that parking lot time and groaned when I had to stop.  I spent my lunch hours writing.  I carried the notebook with me everywhere  in case an idea staged a surprise attack while I was cooling my heels in line at the grocery store.

I filled that first notebook, then another, and another.  A storyline unfolded, characters came to life.  Every evening I’d transfer what I’d written onto my computer.  On weekends I’d sit down to do my “required” five minutes; three hours later there would be feline melodrama over late suppertime.  Hit “save”, feed cats, back to writing.

The storyline became a book. It’s  on another tab as I’m writing this piece.  It’s called “Old Wolves”, it’s currently at—let me check—294 pages.

I’m already in the early stages of my next book.  It’s in a notebook right at my elbow.  I know I can finish it it— all I need is five minutes a day.

 

photo credit: tronixstuff via photopin cc

The Synopsis–Punishment for My Misspent Youth

I’ve been quite the busy little bee today.scissors

Up and at ’em early to get grocery shopping out of the way. Submitted a book review.  Wrote a diary for Daily Kos. Sent an email to my beloved older brother. Kinda sorted through the nuclear waste dump of my desk. Got the cats stoned on catnip. Did some Scrivener notes for an article about insane food prices/food speculation/etc. that I’ve been wanting to write for a long time.

This would all be quite laudable (well, maybe not the getting-the- cats-stoned part) except I’m supposed to be streamlining a synopsis for my novel OLD WOLVES.  To borrow a phrase from my character Martin McBride, I’d sooner have bamboo splinters shoved under all twenty of my nails.

And most of it’s my own damned fault.

I’d seen some really good articles (including The Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel ) that said one of the best things I could do for myself as a writer was to draft a synopsis before getting too far along in the creative process. I could always go back and change it, they reassured me, but at least I’d have a framework of sorts, and I’d thank them later when it came time to submit WOLVES to agents.

Excellent advice, which I didn’t take because I was totally possessed while writing WOLVES.  The words kept flowing, the characters came alive, some days it was almost like spirit-writing.  I’d created this intriguing world full of fabulously-flawed people and I didn’t want to stop for anything until WOLVES was finished.

Then came time to market the book.

Some agents wanted just a query letter.  I sweated blood over the letter for quite awhile but finally got the hang of it.

In addition to the query letter, other agents wanted sample chapters.  No problem, got ’em right here, plenty more where that came from.

But there were also agents, including some I really wanted to query, who also required–horror of horrors–a synopsis.

Synopsis: taking an 80,000+ word novel and cramming the high points of its plot line into 3, 2, or sometimes even 1 page(s) depending on the agent I’m querying, and making it enticing enough to catch the interest of someone who gets a zillion queries from hopeful authors every month.

After a pitched battle, I finally managed to get a (much too long) draft synopsis put together earlier this week. Now I have to attack it mercilessly, stripping it down to mean leanness, setting aside almost everything that makes WOLVES…well…WOLVES, at least to me.

It’s a ghastly process, easily the most difficult writing I’ve ever done in my life.

Needless to say, I’m thoroughly chastened.  My current project, MAGIC MAN, already has a synopsis.  It also has the one-sentence summary and one-paragraph description Randy Ingermanson recommends in the article I linked to above.  (Thank you, Randy!)

With that, I’m back into the fray. Wish me luck!

photo credit: mikeyp2000 via photopin cc

Moods of the Moment

Today really sucked.

I knew it would.

I was already on the thin edge of my patience when the alarm went off. Since I can no longer blame things like that on PMS, menopause, or even the possibility of hair dye leaching into my brain, I decided the planets had aligned themselves in a manner guaranteed to twang on my last nerve; ergo, this day was gonna suck, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Mood Beams, by Adam Foster

The same outfit that seemed so great when I set it out last night looked like sackcloth and ashes this morning. My hair adamantly refused to do what I wanted.  The writing that looked really good last night now was utter drek. I took it as a personal affront  that the internet was down when I wanted to check the weather. The items on my List of Hates were multiplying like loaves and fishes before I’d even finished my Cheerios, and I heartily cursed my lot in life.

It wasn’t until I’d mentally cussed out the fifth dumbass person I encountered that an old saying began to tug at the back of my mind–something like “when you meet five flaming morons in a row, maybe it’s time to take a look in the mirror.”

I’ve always hated that saying, probably because it’s true.

My day didn’t suck because of my outfit, my hair, the balky internet or the other people. It sucked because I chose to put on the mental equivalent of corpse-colored glasses. Everything I saw took on that tint, and I was too wrapped up in my angst to yank the damned things off.

Moods just come and go, if I let them. It’s only when I decide to set up housekeeping in a particularly ugly one that things get out of hand.

I’m basically a harmless little critter, but today I remembered that I do have one super-power: the ability to make myself miserable with just a flick of my mind, and, with another flick, completely reverse the process. The decision is mine.

PS–The stuff I wrote last night really is good. Take that, corpse-colored glasses!

Photo credit: Adam Foster | Codefor via photopin cc