Michaeline: Saturday, Caturday

Sorry, my writing news is very boring, but the cat news continues to be quite exciting! We saw Millie’s kittens this week!

For regulars of the blog, you may remember that Mama Tabitha (aka Tabby Kate) had four kittens in Auntie Milk’s bathroom on April 16. Three tabbies, one black kitty. Don’t ask me about the sex of any of them; I can’t tell until puberty.

Mama Tabitha had three kittens in 2020 – Large Lars, Medium Millie and Chibi Momoko.

Mama Tabitha next to the screen, Daughter Chibi next to the reed curtain on the porch. In the window is a wind chime greeting card ringing gently in the wind. (E.M. Duskova)

Chibi suddenly got skinny in May, and then showed up at Auntie Milk’s house next door with one baby, an adorable striped thing on May 25. They took up residence in the upstairs landing. The kitten was quite stable on its feet and its eyes were open, so I’m guessing it was about one week old. (Mama Tabitha’s babies also opened their eyes early.)

I kept notes on Millie. She disappeared June first, and then showed up the next day very svelte. But we hadn’t seen her babies . . . the big question for six weeks was: Where are the babies?

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Michaeline: “Cat Person” and Identifying Details

This week, Twitter’s been a-flutter about this Slate article, where a woman realized she’s in a not-very-flattering short story published by the New Yorker. Alexis Nowicki details the facts and feelings of when people she knew texted her to say, “Is this you? Is this your boyfriend?” Read the whole article; there are nuances in there that can’t be captured in a headline or a few tweets.

Cats dressed as humans in an illustration, enjoying a musical evening. Viola, piano, singers, bass violin.
No, not that kind of Cat Persons. (Image via Wikimedia Commons, H..J. Overbeek, 1877)

It’s a running joke in the writing community: “Don’t piss me off, or you’ll wind up in my next novel.” It’s also a truism. Pissed or not, bits and pieces of people we know (and even people we’ve only heard about, as in the Nowicki case) show up in our work.

And they have to! We can’t make nothing from nothing. We need to incorporate little pieces of real life into our stories to make them feel real, even if they are outlandish fiction.

I don’t know about other writers, but I have very little control over what my subconscious throws up. The Girls in the Basement can take a very nice woman with a few quirks, and twist her around to an evil villainess with plans to take over the world. “The quirks make her human and relatable, not pure evil,” my editing mind reasons.

It’s got to feel awkward for the person who is reading a work by a friend, and stumbles upon their own doppleganger. It may even cause lasting discomfort that crosses the border into harm.

“Am I really like that?”

“No, it’s just fiction.”

“But I twiddle my hair just like that, and sometimes eat a sundae instead of lunch. But not every day! Not like that!”

“Yeah, no, but . . . .”

“And I certainly don’t program robots to sabotage people’s mental health! I teach Roombas to clean more efficiently! That’s all I do!”

“It’s fiction . . . .” The writer has no excuses except that she’s a writer, and it seemed like a hilarious idea at the time.

It’s been part of the writing game forever. I read somewhere (I think in one of Jane Austen’s biographies) that Austen would take the details and motivations of a person, then flip their gender, and allow that to change the details radically enough that people didn’t recognize themselves (maybe). It also helped that she wrote anonymously in her lifetime, and she wrote characters that many people can recognize in their own lives (even in the 21st century! I know a Mr. Collins, even though he’s a boring English teacher, not a churchman).

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Michaeline: Procrastination and Kittens

Mama Tabby is a short-haired farm cat. In this picture, all four of her babies are varying shades of tabby. You can see the cute little face of one, and the pink little feet of another. The other three are buried under Mama, looking for milk.
Mama Tabby, inspiration for Tabby Kate in my current WIP, had kittens in Auntie Milk’s bathroom last night! Hooray! Mother and babies are doing fine, but bewildered. (E.M. Duskova)

I’m going to tell you a dirty little secret: I like to procrastinate. If I don’t have an idea for the Saturday blog that thrills me, I’m perfectly willing to wait and see if something fresh pops up Saturday morning (which is still Friday night in the Americas, so something fresh often does pop up in people’s exuberance for the weekend). Procrastination often serves me well.

But when it doesn’t, it’s awful. A ton of pressure to produce 500 words of crap . . . I could have done that Thursday afternoon and saved myself the pressure!

And then there’s today, when something so wonderful happens that all thoughts of writing and blogging are driven out of my mind.

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Michaeline: The Pandemic and Your Writing

Well, it’s been a little more than a year of lock-downs and warnings, sickness and death, constriction and austerity as a result of the global pandemic sparked by the COVID-19 virus. Big, big changes. Have you had enough space to see how this is all affecting your writing?

The pandemic bubble is represented by the arc of a rainbow. Inside are two goddesses and two peacocks. A tree completes the arc. Outside under the tree are two little cherubim, pointing at the goddesses.
Inside my pandemic story bubble, the story shrunk to two characters, with possibly another couple on the side. OK, and maybe a pair of peacocks playing minor roles. But compared to my pre-pandemic stories, the cast was limited. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

For me, I’ve seen a shift to smaller casts – people with more localized problems, and only two to four people in a story. You can see this with my Christmas story last year – a crappy boss, a heroine wallowing in loneliness, a mystery man passed out on the pavement, and a touch of Mother. This is

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Michaeline: Behind the Scenes in Poughkeepsie

Harlan Ellison, an SFF writer, at least once said when asked that he got his ideas from Poughkeepsie. “$25 a Week and they send me a fresh six-pack of new ideas fifty-two times a year” (Shatterday: Stories by Harlan Ellison).

Where do you get your ideas?

I’m getting mine from the cats these past few months.

Half-grown long-haired kitten who looks like a Norwegian Forest cat (tabby) sits on a leopard print fleece blanket that's been placed on top of a big pot of soil (if you are curious, it used to be a turmeric plant). Ears forward, whiskers forward, eyes bright and curious. Very regal sitting position.
Princess Charlotte, also known as Charli with a soft ch (シャーリー). Here she lords over the houseplants. (EM Duskova)

Our new cat, Princess Charlotte, looks like a Norwegian Forest cat or a Maine Coon cat. Both breeds are friendly, chatty giants with long fur and athletic ability. Princess Charlotte (or Charli for short) showed up in our barn on February 15.

She holds herself like a princess, but attacks dem fishies like a warrior queen. And Norwegian Forest cats come with their own mythology and legends, so it’s natural

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Michaeline: Pet Inspiration for NaNo and Other Writing

I’m writing short stories for National Novel Writing Month, and here’s the elevator pitch for my work in progress:

Tabby Kate, caterwauler at the Brawler’s Grate, is on the run from her boss and former lover, Tuxedo Jones. Stowing away on Captain Alphabet Greebo’s ship seems like an easy solution for getting off the planet without getting noticed, but this stickler for the rules notices right away that he’s got trouble on his hands.

–Weird and Wonderful Stories for Every Holiday (WIP)

It’s about cats in space.

Tom cat looking in the window with his tabby lady cat friend. Both cats have ears perked forward and interested whiskers. Tabby is ready to run, though.

The Dynamic Duo: Captain Alphabet Greebo and Tabby Kate. Unlike their fictional counterparts, they don’t fight crime: they commit it. (E.M. Duskova)

 

Now, let me backtrack a little bit. We have two housecats and two dogs who have been featured on these screens before. But staying home this summer, I came to realize we’ve got at least seven outdoor cats. One mostly stays in the barn, and I rarely see him (a Tuxedo boy who is white and black), but the others hang around our house and the house next door, waiting

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