Farewell, Pugsley

Farewell, Pugsley

On February 4, 2020, we said goodbye to our almost-18-year-old cat, Pugsley.

 

Saying Goodbye

Along with her sister Wednesday (who passed away a few years ago), Pugsley came to us as a kitten. She was a feisty but sweet little cat her whole life. Late last week, she started to signal to us that she was ready to leave all this earthly BS behind. Rather than let her deteriorate into a painful or frightening existence, we elected to let her go peacefully at home, among the people and things she loved most.

Thank you to the staff at The Cat Hospital of Media, especially Dr. Kersting, who gave her such compassionate care, and Dr. Peltz and Val, who were so gentle and patient with her in her final moments. It was a blessing to be able to keep her at home until the end.

 

The Little Princess

Love always

We’ll miss you, Puggles. You’re with your sis, now, over that rainbow bridge, running and jumping with the speed and grace that you had when you were a kitten, and keeping watch over us the same as you did when you were by our sides.

Feline Care

We recommend the Cat Hospital of Media for superior feline care.
https://www.thecathospitalofmedia.com/

Looking to 2020: BonusParts from A to Z

Writing Year in Review: 2019

Aside from publishing “Number Seven and the Life Left Behind,” my thriller novella, I didn’t achieve any writing milestones in 2019. On the other hand, I did write several thousand words in my sci-fi action novel, Riding Through the Dark. I started tearing apart Fearless, my romance novel, and sewing up a more thoughtful outline for it. I also hired an editor to do a developmental edit of my coming-of-age novella, “Finding Mister Wright”, and I started work on revisions there. But I don’t have anything concrete to show for those projects, yet.

Part of my difficulties with meeting goals this past year had to do with work and life interruptions. We can’t help those. One thing I discovered, though, was that my writing mindset increased whenever I got a little win. This usually came in the form of a reaction or comment to some kind of prompt. The tricky part of prompts is that they don’t always mesh with my stories or characters. So, I got to thinking: Why not control that by making my own prompts?

How to Prompt?

There are lots of different kinds of writing prompts: photos, phrases, key words, character traits. I don’t think I could name even most of them, let alone all! I know I need structure for my prompts, as well as variety. When considering which way I wanted to go, and taking into account my habits and style, I knew I couldn’t stick to just one format. Then I thought about time. The year has 52 weeks in it. The alphabet has 26 letters. Every two weeks, I could focus on one letter. That seemed easy, straightforward, and variable enough that I decided to go for it. Get ready for…

Writing in 2020: BonusParts from A to Z

letters and numbers

I love writing stories. I also love talking about my stories. Nobody wants to listen, though, which is where this website comes in.

Every 2 weeks or so, I’m going to talk about my stories, from A to Z. The first post will be based on the prompt of “A”, and what “A” makes me think of when it comes to my stories. The next post, I’ll move on to the prompt “B”, and so on. I’m putting no restrictions on what I’ll write: It could be an article, a character sketch, a story excerpt, or some idea I haven’t come up with, yet. I’ll keep my focus to stories finished or already in progress. This is not the time to start completely new stories! I simply don’t have the time, haha.

My hope with this year-long challenge is that readers like you will learn something new about my stories and process, and maybe leave me some feedback. Even if I end up just shouting into the void, I think the more regular attention I’ll need to pay to my stories to keep these prompts going through the year will help me stay on-track with my larger writing endeavors.

What say you, friends and followers? Want to join me on my 26-week writing adventure? What are your writing goals for 2020?

Why I Stopped Writing Fanfiction (for the most part)

Let me start by saying this post is not to pooh-pooh fanfiction or the many writers and readers who enjoy it. I believe fanfiction is a valid and important writing form that produces many wonderful stories that bridge borders and offer opportunities for readers of all types.

That’s not what I’m going to talk about, though.

 

My Fanfiction Writing Life

I think the very first story I ever wrote was a fanfic. For those unfamiliar, fanfiction is stories about characters and worlds already established through media like television, movies, comic books, and videogames. From the rebel hideouts of Star Wars to the high school hallways of Persona 4, I loved wandering through them all. Moreover, I loved the people in them. Their stories sparked a light in me that would often keep me up long into the night, when I would scribble out side stories of my own leading them into new adventures and romances.

Over time, I took an interest in creating my own characters in those worlds: people who could support, antagonize, romance, and challenge the pre-existing characters I already adored. In the fanfiction realm, we call those homemade creations “Original Characters”, or OCs for short.

In the beginning, my OCs were supporting characters only. I felt like readers wouldn’t want to read about my original characters butting into the lives of their well-known favorites. For the most part, that held true. Feedback from readers showed that they didn’t care about the side characters I was creating. Some readers got so offended by my OCs that they wrote me hate mail! I decided the hassle simply wasn’t worth it.

But there was more to my leaving fanfiction than just some petty reader backlash.

 

What Changed

The more I wrote my OCs, the more attached I became to them. I realized I loved many of them more than I liked the pre-existing folks. My OCs started to take on lives, loves, and destinies of their own, sometimes completely separate from their source material. After not very long, the fanfiction roots for many of my OCs started to lose their luster. I wanted my characters to be my characters alone, with no ties to someone else’s (read: some company’s) world or story.

In 2017, I began the process of taking down most of my fanfiction. Two years later, only a handful remain on public sites like Fanfiction.Net and AO3. With only 1 or 2 exceptions, nobody seemed to miss them.

Now, it’s not like I don’t care about those stories. I’d spent time and effort – weeks, months, sometimes even years of my life – writing, crafting, drafting, and editing. Still, it felt good to reclaim them from the cavernous depths of the Internet*. Now, they’re just mine. Their being mine allows me to go back and rewrite, repurpose, or just reread at my leisure without the pressure to make them match my current level of skill. That means a lot of them stay ugly and amateurish, but I’m fine with that.

 

What’s Next

I haven’t completely given up on fanfiction. At the same time that I was taking down other fanfiction stories, I wrote a completely new one based on the Metro:2033 series. I recently revisited my “Doctor Who” Songbirds stories for sharing here. I’m sure my joy will be sparked by some pre-made world or character again in the future. I look forward to it! Until then, I will enjoy and take pride in the worlds and people of my own creating.

To those still writing fanfiction: Keep writing it! There’s a lot of joy and support to be found in the fanfiction writing community. I found and made good friends through sharing those stories.

And for those looking to move from fanfiction to original fiction: You can do it! Your fanfiction writing roots will serve you well in creating your own worlds and characters.

* Nothing is ever completely gone from the Internet, but the stories aren’t easily accessible anymore. That said, there are some stories I’ll never share again, for varying reasons of time, file size, and text.

 

What about you?

Have you ever read fanfiction? Written it? What are your favorite fanfiction genres, series, or characters? Let me know in the comments below!

My book – My sister – My tears

My book

In case you missed it, I published my thriller novella “Number Seven and the Life Left Behind” in early January 2019. The story follows bodyguard Number Seven and his charge Kirill, a young athlete training for Olympic gold, as they weave in and out of high-stakes conspiracies and low-key romantic encounters. It’s a story I never thought I could write – thriller has never been my preferred genre for reading or writing – but once the first inklings of the original plot settled into my brain, I had no choice but to run with it.

This post isn’t about Number Seven’s story, though. Not directly, anyway.

My sister

My sister is three years older than me. I spent a lot of my childhood wanting to be like her. She was certainly my best friend growing up. In a lot of ways, she still is.

She taught me how to tie my shoes, and how to write my name. She taught me to read, through Little Golden Books and comics she let me look at from over her shoulder. She always read harder stuff than me, stuff with words and concepts I didn’t yet understand. When I’d ask her about them, she wouldn’t roll her eyes or push me away, though; she’d patiently explain them until I did understand. And, of course, we’d play: make-believe school, make-believe knights, make-believe fairies, and make-believe starfighters. She was my first and best example of someone who loved stories. Simply put, I’m a writer because of her.

I’ve talked before about the tradition my sister and I had of trading stories on Christmas morning. But it wasn’t just Christmas stories. There was a time when we traded stories just because we wanted to share our ideas with each other. I remember marking in the margins of my written pages where she’d left off the last time she’d read, and how many lines I’d written since then. She was my first reader, my first critic, the first person whose opinion of my writing mattered so much to me that I felt giddy when she liked it and crushed when she didn’t.

We don’t share stories like that anymore. Her storytelling journey took her on a different path from me. Now, she creates interactive stories, told live with plenty of improvisation from the friends who join her at her gaming table. It makes her happy, and that makes me happy, too.

My tears

When I shared the news that I’d published my novella, I was surprised by the encouraging words and actions from family, friends, and colleagues. Many of these were people who had, until this point, never read any stories of mine or even knew I wrote stories at all. I finally felt like the world was seeing the Me that had been here all along. My heart swelled seeing the Congratulations! messages pop up. Then I saw a message from my sister. “I’m so proud of you!” it said, and I burst into tears. This woman who’d taught me so many things, including how to make stories, was proud of me for the story I’d written.

It was satisfying to finish Seven’s story. Publishing it made me anxious but also excited. Hearing from friends that they enjoyed the story has made me happy. Making my sister proud, though, has been one of the greatest joys I’ve ever felt on this journey of becoming a writer. Who knows? Maybe I can even do it again.

Little Miss Gogo and the Gang

Just Jho

 

 

Back in the spring, this mister started to appear on our front porch. Being the tenderhearted folks we are, we began putting out regular bowls of food and water. Since he would eat pretty much anything we put out, we named him after the monster-eater in the Monster Hunter games, Deviljho, or Jho, for short. Jho came around pretty much every day. He actually got to the point of knowing us that we could pet him – gently – as he ate or lounged on the concrete. Then, one day in the summer, this entourage showed up:

From left to right, that’s Cal, Gogo, Mama, Stripey, and Bro (in the bushes). Mama and the babies took Jho’s place for a while as the primary users of our front porch…and eaters of the food we put out. Needless to say, we quickly went through a couple of bags of kibble with so many mouths to feed! We thought that maybe Jho had been displaced by this sometimes-rowdy crew of kittens, when we looked outside one early evening and saw this:

If Jho wasn’t part of the family (either the papa or a big brother), the entourage definitely welcomed him.

We’ve never been sure to where these cats go when they leave our porch. Sometimes, they just run to the neighbor’s yard, lounging on their porch or under the wheel wells of their truck. Other times, they race across both our yards into some other place, too fast for us to follow. We just knew that they’d come back as long as we put out food for them.

One day when the gang came by, they were short by one. Stripey never showed up again. Maybe s/he was picked up by someone; maybe s/he got hurt or sick. Oh, well, we thought. That’s life in the outdoors.

Gogo

Fast forward several weeks. The gang was still coming around regularly…but we noticed something amiss. One of the white twins, the girl, who we’d called Gogo, was limping very badly. She’d lie on her side in the grass to poop, her little sides heaving. This broke our hearts, and while we’d known before that we should try and trap these cats for neutering, that little girl’s trauma made us quadruple our efforts.

We purchased a couple of humane traps, covered them with towels as camouflage and to keep the cat calm while it was inside, put in some food as bait, and set them out early one morning. Even in the dark before sunup, we saw Jho walk out from the bushes and straight into one of the traps. (We’d picked up Jho previously, in an effort to take him to a shelter. The shelter was full, though, so we ended up bringing him back to our neighborhood and letting him go.) The white brother, who we started calling Bro, followed soon after into the second trap. We were disappointed we didn’t catch Gogo, but two of the boys were better than nothing. Leaving the traps draped, we put them in the back of the car and took them to the clinic for fixing. While I was filling out the necessary paperwork, my husband peered under the towels, to make sure the boys were all right. Jho was fine if somewhat sullen, but he was surprised to see this in the second trap:

Gogo had gotten into the trap, too! She must have limped in first, and then Bro followed her in, springing the trap with his heavier weight. We were so relieved to have Gogo in custody, since now a vet could take a look at her legs in addition to getting her fixed.

When we picked them up the next day, Bro was antsy and Jho was still grumpy.

Little Miss Gogo’s diagnosis was not good, though. She had severely limited mobility in her left leg, and almost no mobility at all in her right. We brought them back home, where we set the boys free. We brought Gogo into the house, putting her in our back room where she’d be safe, with food and water and a tiny litter box. We called our local vet, who offered to see her the next afternoon after we gave them the explanation of her condition.

Here’s Gogo at the vet:

She was very small – only 3 1/2 pounds – and had tapeworm and a heart murmur in addition to the issue with her hips. The vet recommended X-rays to see the true extent of the damage, and we agreed. For the next few hours, we walked around town and worried and discussed what we’d do if the vet came back with a too-serious diagnosis. When the X-rays were finally done, they brought us into the exam room and gave us the facts: Gogo’s pelvis wasn’t shattered, but it had been broken, likely because of a car injury. Her hips were severely out of joint, preventing range of movement. That is not good for a cat who lives outdoors.

There was a small chance that kenneled recuperation would help little Gogo. But there was no guarantee. She was also very afraid of us and did not enjoy being inside, even for the single night that we’d kept her. It might seem cruel, but we decided to do what we thought was best for her, and so asked the vet to put her to sleep. It’s very hard even now for me not to cry when I think about Gogo. She was so small and so sweet when she’d romp around our yard with her brother and sister and Jho. But she was a feral, not an indoor cat, and we didn’t want to prolong her pain.

The staff at the vet office was very compassionate. I often think that vets are kinder and more empathetic than human doctors because their patients have no articulate voice to tell them what’s wrong; vets have to feel their way. Gogo was already sedated for the X-rays, but they held her and stroked her and said soft things to her when they gave her the injection. And off she went over the rainbow bridge.

I like to think that Gogo is in a place open and free, with no roads or scary predators, where she can run and jump and play like she could when she was a kitten.

About a week later, we received a sympathy card from the vet, and this:

It’s a little watercolor painting made with Gogo’s paw prints. It’s going to go into a frame as soon as we find the right one, and stay with us forever, just like Gogo will stay in my heart.

 

If you were moved by Gogo’s story, please consider donating to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation’s Veterinary Care Charitable Fund, which provides veterinarians with a simple and effective way to offer charitable veterinary services to clients facing personal hardships as well as a means to support animals who are injured or rescued from abuse and neglect, or to your local no-kill shelter or veterinary clinic. We were able to fund Gogo’s medical needs, but not everyone is so lucky.

That Chocolate Kiss

On October 1, 2013, the online writers group LimeBird Writers UK posted a fun little writing contest for their second anniversary:

[C]omplete this sentence: “Chocolate is…”. Write your sentence in the comments section below. We will allow up to 3 entries per person. After the deadline, the Limebirds will decide on which sentence is the most creative, and that person will win a yummy box of Celebrations chocolates!

I submitted the entry below….

…and, I won! It was just a box of Celebrations chocolates, but it felt great to try my hand at something and get chosen as a winner. Winning doesn’t happen that often, for me. Plus, those UK chocolates were darn tasty!

I miss the days of fun challenges like this one. My weeks used to be full of exercising my writing skills between WIPs. Back in those days, I got so much joy out of writing stories, sharing them, hearing what others thought and reading theirs, too. Nowadays, I write and I share, but I don’t get a lot of feedback. I don’t read a lot of other people’s blogs, either. I’m not sure if that’s because my life has gotten busier, the temperature of the writing groups online have changed, or I’m simply not as interested any longer.

I miss my friends the LimeBird Writers, too. I do stay in touch with many of them, and I’m always happy to hear how they’re doing, what successes they’re having, and how they are meeting the challenges in their lives. It’s become more personal, where we know each other as more than just writers. (“Just writers.” Like that’s a thing.) There was a tender simplicity to that old way, though. Maybe what I miss is that feeling of not being as much of a grown-up concerned with politics and global issues. It was fun to be “just a writer” for that little while of my life.

It’s also funny to me, though, to think that the outwardly innocuous act of reading and becoming engaged by an informal online writers group could bring me into touch with so many talented, wonderful people. These are folks for whom I feel no envy, only gratefulness for being allowed to get to know them. They were like family, for a time. They came to know me, too, I think.

Maybe that’s what I really miss, what I really long for. The connection that existed once between me and these would-have-been strangers who found a common thread in our lives as writers poking and pulling at our art and craft.

Happy anniversary, LimeBirds, wherever you are. Your time may have been brief, but I, for one, enjoyed it.

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