A peek behind the writing curtain
If you ever read through one of those “How to succeed in writing and get readers” articles that proliferate around the Internet, you’ll notice that a recurring suggestion is, “Connect with your readers in social media. Don’t spam them with ‘buy my books’ pleas — instead, chat with them, be engaging, and let them get to know you.”
So guess what? This is me chatting with you and letting you get to know me a little better. I am going to talk to you like I would talk to my good friend and partner in crime Stretch over an iced coffee at our local ‘Bucks. Ready? Here we go.
Why the fuck did I ever agree to have five cats?
This wasn’t supposed to happen, I swear to God. See, 12 years ago Ramón and I did discuss getting a cat after tootling around Europe and Canada for a good eight years, which is how we wound up with JJ, my black velvet purrmonster and bodyguard.
Well, I say we wound up with him, when what really happened was I walked up to his cage at PetSmart during an adoption weekend just as a couple moved away. He eyed me, then got on his hind legs so that he could reach out and boop me on the nose. A lady next to me cooed, “Oh, that’s so cute — it looked like he picked you!”
I am not one to ignore a sign.
So JJ was Cat One, and is still with us today. Cat Two arrived a few months later when Ramón decided that JJ should have a buddy and brought home a fluffy little tuxedo cat named Jordan who quickly decided that he wanted to be cuddled at all times and his rightful resting place was on my boobs.
JJ and Jordan got along for a few years, then I accidentally tore out a tuft of Jordan’s fur by rolling my office chair wheel over it. He yowled understandably in pain, and JJ came charging into the room thinking that Jordan was attacking me and went after him. Unfortunately, things remained tense between the two of them for the rest of Jordan’s life (we lost Jordan in 2013 to feline GI lymphoma), although we did manage a couple of moments of detente here and there.
Cats Three and Four came three years ago when Ramón started mooning about the idea of getting a little girl cat. I kinda blew it off as a, “Yeah, maybe someday, sweetie” thing until a writer friend of mine betrayed me most foully by cornering Ramón at a party and showing him pictures of her cat’s newest kittens, including a beautiful little grey tabby.
So we wound up over at D’s house meeting the frisky, feisty little tabby kitten and playing with her. Within two minutes, Ramón was in love and I knew we were bringing home a third cat–
Oh, and this was her little orange brother, D caroled, who did EVERYTHING with her. And they had to give away two of the kittens, and gosh, it would be nice if the kittens could stay together? I swear, the woman dimpled at me.
Which is how we wound up with Jeremy (aka Jer-Bear, The Orange Lump, and Jeremy, You Idiot when I’m trying to cook and he insists on sprawling right behind my feet) and Jessica (aka Jessica Fletcher — Murder She Purred, Jessie, and Jessicle-Bessicle). Together they’re referred to as the Twins, and their kittenhood was freaking hilarious before they turned into the big bruisers they are today.
So until September 19, 2013 we had the Boys and the Twins. After Jordan passed away we talked about getting another cat, but there was the anniversary cruise, and then the holidays, and all the while I was trying to get Breaker Zone and Two to Tango finished and off to Evernight, and frankly I was carrying a huge horking pile of guilt over not recognizing Jordan’s illness until way late in the game (we couldn’t have stopped it — cats just don’t come back from GI lymphoma — but we could have started palliative care earlier). So it was late May when Ramón mentioned that a woman on one of his gaming boards had to give away two of her cats due to life complications and did we want to go over and meet them?
Un petit problem, I pointed out. She has two cats and we only wanted one.
Oh, we’re only going to take one, he said confidently.
You already know where this is going, don’t you?
So we go over and meet this lady, her husband, and the cats. One of them, a little tortie girl, immediately captured our hearts by coming straight to us. Her sister, a tiny charcoal grey tabby girl, was also sweet if extremely shy. But since we were only going to take one (stop laughing) we said we’d take the tortie. Great, the woman said, someone else already said they’d take the charcoal tabby. We made plans to come back the next day, Monday, with a carrier.
The next morning, Ramón approached me with a very hesitant look on his face. “Um, you remember how they said that they had someone else to take the tabby?” he said.
“Well, apparently that fell through, although this family might be able to take her in a month. The problem is, C’s moving on Thursday. So…”
Because I have SUCKER written on my forehead in invisible ink that only cats, desperate owners, and my husband can see, we wound up taking both cats with an agreement to foster the tabby until the other family was ready for her. Needless to say, that quickly fell by the wayside and we decided to keep both cats, naming them Jemma and Jasmine (the vet refers to our cats as the J Crew).
But now we had a bigger problem — we had to introduce two 18-month-old female cats to a 3-year-old female cat and convince them to get along. If you know cats at all, you’re probably laughing heartily right now. Ramón did admit later on that he’d assumed would be easier to get two females because “they would get along better with Jessie than boy cats would with Jeremy and JJ.”
I was very proud of myself for not clouting him around the earhole. Instead, I suggested he look up the matriarchal structure of cat prides and set myself to get Jessie acclimatized to Jemma (the tortie) and Jasmine (the charcoal tabby). The Girls, as we now called them, lived in isolation in our guest room for two weeks until I started putting baby gates up all the way to the lintel top so that the cats could see each other. As you can guess, Jessie was not thrilled about her new sisters, and Jem and Jaz weren’t exactly impressed with her, either.
Slowly, and with at least one major setback, we finally got the Girls permanently out of the guest room and into general population. This happened on Saturday. Unfortunately, this event was accompanied by a veritable deluge of cat pee in various rooms and on various pieces of furniture as Jessie expressed her displeasure at having these little snots growling and screeching at her all the time.
As a result, since Saturday I have had to:
- Haul two couch cushions and the pull out mattress pad into the back yard, treat them with Bac-Out, rinse them and let them dry in the sun.
- Treat and wash all the couch covers. Twice.
- Treat and wash two smaller couch cushions.
- Treat and wash the dining room table, the wall next to the table, and the floor under the table (I swear I have no idea how it got EVERYWHERE).
- Throw out the papers on the dining room table that were now soaked in cat urine.
- Treat and wash Ramón’s camera bag and accessories cases (luckily his SLR was untouched. An old medium format camera that he’d bought in England, however, wasn’t quite as lucky).
- Upend the guest room bed and shampoo under it, since the Girls peed there at least three times. When that didn’t quite work, I then had to buy two gallon jugs of Nature’s Miracle Advance Formula and liberally soak the carpet with it. I know from experience that this will work, but it means I have to let it sit there for at least three days before shampooing the carpet again.
I still haven’t gotten around to treating and cleaning Ramón’s brand new luggage bag which Jessie had also peed in, bless her stubborn little heart. On Tuesday I went into our vet’s office and begged for a bag of the kitty-Prozac-laced cat food that she’d told me about last week when I had Jessie in for her checkup (I’d told her about about the integration issues). So far it seems to be calming everyone down a bit, but our old guy JJ’s GI system isn’t adjusting too quickly to the new food even though I’m mixing it with his usual stuff, so he’s had the runs for the past two days. The actual turds are making it into the litter box, mostly, but he’s wiping his butt on the carpet right outside the downstairs bathroom. So, tra la, more Bac-Out has been used (seriously, that stuff is golden when it comes to getting out vomit stains and pee smell. I only used Nature’s Miracle for the GR carpet because it came in gallon jugs) to clean up THAT mess while reassuring him that I still love him and we’ll do something about his tummy.
Did I mention that I’ve been trying to work on Behind the Iron Cross in between all of this? Argh. And yes, I know Ramón is also capable of cleaning up cat pee (and has done it numerous times), but he’s in a crunch period at work and this week has been insane for him, so the bulk of the cleaning duties have fallen on me. That being said, after Jessie nailed the couch for the second time he said, “I am buying you a present for dealing with this because it was my idea to bring them home. Anything you want, just name it.”
Not batting an eyelash, I told him I wanted a make your own violin kit (yes, these really exist). “Done,” he said. So it looks like I’ll be making a violin over the winter during writing breaks. Assuming the cats don’t pee on that as well.
So, yeah, that’s been my life for the last week. I’m so glad we had this chat, and you got this little peek behind the writing curtain. Next week, I’ll tell you all about my frigging malfunctioning ovaries and how they may have screwed up my upcoming cruise with a delayed Shark Week. Whee!