Monthly Archives: May 2012

Dark Things: Cat Crimes Vol II (book review)

I know I’ve already mentioned enjoying this collection, but I wanted to go a bit more into it, because 1) it’s a great cause; 2) the theme is near and dear to my heart; 3) it’s an indy published work, so more signal boosting is awesome; 4) I’m typing under duress, half-surrounded by felines with lethal claws there are some wonderful stories to be found within.

So, what is Dark Things II: Cat Crimes? It’s a collection of twenty-one feline themed stories, from criminal cats to selfless, adoring cats, to vampire kitties, to shape-shifting cat spirits, to . . well, let’s just say naturally carnivorous kitties, shall we? The stories all range in length, and the end result is a pretty solid book (I believe the print version runs some two hundred and fifty pages) with some pretty solid writing. Nay, some pretty creepy writing, in places. The book is very professionally done (let’s here it for indy publishers who do the work! May I always be a not-lazy indy publisher, too) and the writing is top-notch.

As a cat lover, I can get behind stories told from animal points of view, though I’ll be honest — I was wary at first. I’ve read some great animal fiction, but I’ve also read some terrible animal point of view fiction, and I know it can go either way. But even the light stories in here (if one can call them such, in such a collection) were not overly cutesy and unrealistic. And that’s the rule for me, I guess. Even if we’re dealing with vampire cats or goddess servant feline spirits, I need the catlike beings to be, you know, catlike. And, in these stories, they were.

My favorite stories were, hands down, What Sekhmet Keeps by J.D. Revezzo (and not because I’m biased!); Roscoe and the Succubus by Margaret Phillips (want to read more of her stuff, if anyone knows any more of her work, let me know?); The Boardwalk Cats by Ken Goldman; and Free to a Good Home by Shanna Germain, which creeped the hell out of me, and likely because . . .*looks around at her pride* Well. We won’t go there.

The proceeds from this collection goes to two different cat sanctuaries, one in Florida and one in California. As someone who has rescued cats and knows the plight of strays and feral kitties, I know just how important this is. So, do yourself a favor: buy a great collection of stories and, in doing so, give money to a just cause!

Dark Things II: Cat Crimes is available for Kindle and in print and for ePub at Lulu.com. Go, click, buy, read, and imagine yourself surrounded by the lovely, comforting purring sounds as you read.

Be good. Do as they tell you. Don’t make them pounce. Don’t end up like the brownies:

brownie displacement theory: cat + momentum + freshly out of the oven brownies = bad.

Library trip for the win!

Granted, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a library trip that hasn’t resulted in a happy haul. Be that as it may, thanks to Lazette Gifford putting out her fabulous 2YNovel segments, I am rediscovering how awesome writing and world-building is. Last night I was nodding off while trying to work on backstory building, and it was surreal and awesome and amazing. The WiP that has been wavering back and forth a bit (not like Angela’s story wavers, dear gods I do not have over three years of baggage with the new one, yet) solidified itself with a big THUNK. I keep backing away — it’s intimidating and scary, and there are things that I don’t think I can handle as well as I think they ought to be handled, but the story refuses to give on this matter, and not wanting to write it because I’m intimidated is Not Okay. Not wanting to write it because I don’t believe it is a solid concept, because I don’t believe it’s the best thing for the story, because it’ll make the story worse? Those are reasons to not write it. Because I’m intimidated? Hell, no.

Three book series (possibly two, unsure, but very likely three, it’s just that I don’t know the second book well yet) and the over-arching serial title? Yeah, that hit with a THUNK too. Which, you know, really helped the whole thing solidify, conceptually.

And I can’t wait to see it finished and wonderful, exposed in all its glory.

Because the first book takes place nominally in a coastal town/village along the Oregon coast (hey, the land here has been good to me, I have to pay homage) and I’m thinking somewhere between Newport and Tillamook. To that end, I took out Nehalm Tillamook Tales and Oregon Coastal Access Guide. I’m hoping to incorporate a flavor of Pacific Rim folklore feel (specifically northwest American and a touch of Japanese/Chinese, but we’ll see how it ends up) to this book, too, so we’ll see how that goes. There are a ton of books to be had, between the public library and the University, but for now this’ll do. I also brought home some Joseph Campbell because, at this point, I’m in a nonfiction space, and I haven’t read much of his work. Heh, I also brought home No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting because I am that sort of nerd.

(And for those of you who are also into knitting and fiber: Beth over at Fensalir Fiber is starting up a newsletter, so sign up! You won’t be disappointed. Her stuff is amazing!)

This week, Lazette Gifford and Neil Gaiman are elevated to personal heroes of mine status. Very timely work hitting me at a very timely, erm, time, and I cannot thank either of them enough. (Even if my sleep is suffering because if them both.)

Writing Ups and Downs

I refuse — refuse!! — to say that I’ve failed at my goals with regards to writing, this year. The end of May is staring me in the face, and I realize that the first draft that I wanted to have finished by the end of April is still barely started. Since I want to be nothing but honest with myself, as I try to figure out what works for me, I will point out that it’s not like I haven’t been working steadily on it. It’s not as though I don’t have something like 35k words written on the book. So they imploded and I can’t use but hardly any of them? That’s not failure, it’s just, um. Not super-efficient.

I can think up excuses, right? I work full time. I have animals to snuggle with and dote on. My partner is going through some medical issues. I have other interests besides writing that takes up time, too. I’m reluctant to give up all of my reading time. I’m easily overwhelmed and prone to depression, and worse, migraines, and migraines make writing . . . interesting.

And, really, these are all true.

Once upon a time I wrote a fantasy novel, from beginning to end, with story-building and world-building as I went. It was amazing, and it took me the better part of a year, and I loved it. I still love it. And then I wrote another book, but I never polished that one up like I did the first one. And then I wrote a lot of short stories, and discovered that I really love writing short stories.

But I miss writing novels, and I have an ohmygodIcanttakethepressure!! boat-load of novels waiting for me to get around to writing them, and that’s where this “Will get a rough draft done in three months!!” goal came from.

But, I’m discovering that writing like that? Makes me absolutely miserable and makes me hate writing.

Am I writing to get published? It’ll be a neat side benefit, and certainly I’ll want to work on getting my stuff published. But when I focus on that as the goal? I don’t want to write. The stories suffer. I’m too busy looking outward rather than inward.

I’ve picked up Lazette Gifford’s first three sets of the 2 Year Novel writing courses. I’m not planning on taking the full two years with them, but — so, back when Angela’s story stalled out again (been working on that one in various incarnations for three years now and I do NOT WANT TO GIVE HER UP) I decided that once I finished the current WiP, I’d work through those workshops with her material and see if I couldn’t shake myself free of all the baggage that’s coming with them. And I read a bit of the first set, and discovered it was going to be fun. It was going to remind me of the joy and wonder of story-building.

So, I’m using them, now, at least until I get caught up with the three sets (if the rest aren’t out by then) with the current WiP. Because how I wrote The Fosterling isn’t working for me right now, and I need to stop thinking it will.

Novel-gazing (or, currently reading?)

It’s raining today! Raining!! Yes, I had plans to mow the lawn and go sit outside and read, but who cares? It’s raining!! After a whole two weeks of no rain — you should see me at the the first rain of the wet season! Ha!

In order of importance: Zerky is much improved. Amazing Doctor Bonnie proves to continue to be amazing. He required an extra week on the full dosage of the prednisolone before starting to taper him off, and it was during week two of full dosage that he decided we thought he was a stupid cat, and proceeded to prove to us that he knew there were pills in the pill pockets by eating around them and spitting them back out. *sigh* No amount of our swearing that we already knew he wasn’t a stupid cat could persuade him to eat the pills in the pill pockets. Of course, he still came and demanded his new morning medication routine, and he made his token protests, but he didn’t fight, didn’t run away, at one time couldn’t be arsed to even sit up for the pill . . . while making said token protest. He’s having a difficult time, mentally, now that we’re on the “skip a day, give half a pill, skip a day,” schedule.

Beth attended Camp Pluckifluff a few weeks ago, and we learned that 1) I am thoroughly attached to our Ashford Traditional wheel (mine!MINE!) despite the fact that I don’t spin at all. It’s enough, I think, that I was the first mechanic of the two of us, to figure out what was going wrong when and how to fix it, and the wheel and I bonded. I do not like her not being in the house. 2) Beth was born to spin. She picked up a few tips from Leslie, but mostly the workshop seemed to bolster her conviction that this craft is for her, and renew her already pretty strong excitement about spinning. I absolutely love seeing her love something this much.

I’ve been reading. A lot. Most notably, I’ve read both The Walking Dead and Demon Hunts by C.E. Murphy — books four and five respectively in the Walker Papers. I would not have started to read these books without one coworker coming into work one day and praising the author’s work, so yay for coworkers. C.E. Murphy’s work has quickly joined the ranks with Charles De Lint’s work in terms of go-to books to remind me that the world does not suck, for all that it is dark.

I’ve rediscovered the Dresden Files, and am enjoying them this time around. Why a decade makes a difference, I don’t really know. I also read — nay, devoured — Dark Things II Cat Crimes which, as I mentioned before, is a great anthology of spooky stories — better, the proceeds of the book go to various feline-charities around the country. I was pleasantly surprised by this Indy book — some stories were charming, others spooky, one or two down right dark and twisted, and while my good friend Juli has a tail tale in the collection, it does not mean I’m wrong. This is a great book for any feline lover!

Read, too, a number of books I did not care for, alas.

What about you? What have you been reading?

Can we get some life in here?

or, long time no write-y!

And it’s true, too! It’s been a while since I posted — this is your standard “I’m a terrible blogger” catch-up post. Well, and this is about learning what works and what doesn’t work, right? Only, publicly, so others can see, too. Yes?

Mid-to-late April I hopped a plane and went far far away from home to visit loved ones. Aah, New England. Even with the wet season’s appeal tapering off here in the Willamette Valley, I am thoroughly besotted with my home state, but there is something special about returning to a place where all the names are familiar (and I can trust that I’ll say them correctly, despite their improbable and untrustworthy spelling) and architectural designs span centuries, yet complement each other rather than looking out of place. Being near that many loved ones, too, is pretty awesome.

But I wouldn’t be me if, by the end of the trip, I was nearly climbing the walls with the need to see my puppy! (Home is, after all, where the dog is, oh keeper of my heart) At one point during our nightly conversations, Corbie tried to get between Beth and her phone, apparently hearing me on the other end. “Where is she??!?” Ah, the dog.

Returning home, I found Zerky much worse off than he’d been when I left, and we had the Amazing Dr. Bonnie out to see him (seriously, if any of my readers are local, Dr. Bonnie is fabulous, I can’t recommend her more highly. If you can’t trust my word, you must be told that even Her Ladyship approves, and if you can’t trust a Persian, you can’t be trusted, obviously). Allergies, it seems to be, and he’s responding well to medicine (even if he’s finally caught on the pill pocket trick. Luckily, we are well acquainted with the towel-wrap-and-torture pill delivery system, too. After all these years? Beth and I have it down to an art form) and his hair is growing back, and his sores are almost all gone.

And in all this? I’ve been reading up a storm — some books I’ll review, others not — and getting some knitting down and . . . oh. Writing? Um. Heh. Oops. Not so much.

Mother’s Day is almost here, which in retail speak means, for our store anyway, near-Christmas numbers, so, I’ve pretty much been exhausted after work. Between the stress of travelling — because I love people, I do, but that much visiting on top of that much traveling in so short a period totally shuts me down for a week or so afterward — I’ve been, you know. Reading, and knitting, and mostly reading.

Coming soon: Dark Things II: Cat Crimes, a review of this neat collection of dark, twisted feline stories. (Short version — it was good, go buy it!)