Sunday, December 26, 2010

Excerpt from The Cat Before Christmas

Here’s the excerpt I promised from The Cat Before Christmas:

All week long Wiki hunted the spider. He knew its scent, dry and desiccated like a cicada casing, faintly ashy from hanging out in the flue. He searched, he stalked; he lay in wait still as a statue for hours near the fireplace, by the dining room window where he picked up the spider’s scent Wednesday afternoon.

Friday morning a hastily spun web caught his right ear as he shook his paws stepping out of his litter box in the back hall. He whirled, ready to pounce, and heard only an echo of eight eyes’ laughter coming from -- the sun porch!

The door to the sun porch had a glass top half. The tallest thing in the hallway was the old microwave cart Cary parked outside the kitchen. An ivy plant in a blue ceramic teacup sat on the top of the cart. It was a tight space, but if he gauged it just right…

Wiki dug his back claws into the braided rug in front of his box and vaulted onto the cart. He turned carefully to avoid knocking the plant onto the floor and saw the spider swinging by a thread of silk from the ceiling in the sun porch.

How did you get out there? Wiki growled.

Wouldn’t you like to know, furball?

Little chilly out there for the likes of you, isn’t it?

I find it bracing.

The furnace cycled. The blower came on, and warm air fluttered up from the wall vents in the hallway. From the vents Cary kept open all winter on the sun porch, too, stirring the silk suspending eight eyes on the other side of the window.

“I’ve got the world on a string,” the spider sang, his voice raspy enough to pass for Frank Sinatra past his prime.

Wiki hissed. If I promise not to eat you will stop singing?

Eight eyes started on the second verse. Wiki raced into the bedroom. He snagged the spread with his claws, tugged it down and stuck his head under Cary’s pillow to drown out the spider’s voice.

He was still there when she came home from school, happy and humming because it was Friday and she was going to a movie tonight with Tina. Wiki had heard them making plans on the phone last night.

“I had a hypothetical, what would you think if I went skiing for Christmas chat with mom today,” Cary had told Tina. "Her face almost hit the floor, but I planted a seed for next Christmas. If you and Pam want to take another ski trip then I can go."

Ski trip? Wiki had pricked his ears. What ski trip?

Cary sat with her ankles crossed on the window seat in the dining room talking to Tina on the cordless phone. Wiki sat on the floor pretending to clean his ears. His hearing was sharp enough to pick up Tina’s reply.

"Awesome," she'd said. “For next year we're thinking about a weeklong Caribbean cruise. You'll have the time off from school, and Pam and I can save up our vacation days."

"Oooh,” Cary sighed. Wiki sat close enough that he could feel the thrill of gooseflesh that shot through her. "I'd love that."

Wiki stared at Cary. Was she crazy? She wasn’t going anywhere at Christmas! Thank the catnip gods for Lorraine. She’d put the kibosh on the ski trip. He could take care of the cruise.

That’s what starts all the trouble for Wiki, the cat who loves Christmas, and launches his plan to keep Cary from going skiing. To paraphrase the Scottish poet Robert Burns, the best laid plans of mice and men -- or in this case cats -- often go askew.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading The Cat Before Christmas as much as I enjoyed writing it.

And remember: From now until January 31, 2011, I’m donating 15% of all proceeds to Wayside Waifs and The Humane Society of Kansas City.

Happy day after Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Real Cat Before Christmas

Yes, he’s real, and he’s now a member of our family. He’s not Siamese like Wiki in The Cat Before Christmas, he’s just a cat, a big gray grown-up boy. He showed up the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

A few days before the idea for The Cat Before Christmas hit me like a lightning bolt. I hadn’t given a single thought to writing anything but a grocery list in four years. Interestingly, that’s what I was doing when the idea struck -- making a grocery list for Thanksgiving dinner.

That Saturday our youngest son Paul and I took the list to the grocery store and did the shopping. When we pulled into the driveway the cat appeared, a big, beautiful gray cat with green eyes and a shiny, groomed coat. He wasn’t a stray; he was healthy and well cared for. We assumed he was just strolling by and stopped to say hello.

But he kept hanging around. I’d see him when I went out to get the mail. On Mondays and Wednesdays when I met our grandson Zachery at the school bus the cat was also there to meet Zack. Zack loves cats. So do I. Cats know who loves them and who doesn’t.

The cat wasn’t obnoxious or pushy. He sat politely, looking up at Zack and me with his big green eyes. He followed us to the front door. Each time I saw him he looked thinner and rougher. This went on for two weeks. I was starting to worry. Where was his family? Why was he now, obviously, homeless? What had happened?

I checked the online lost and found notices, the bulletin boards in the grocery stores -- no gray cat with green eyes lost in our neighborhood. I was really worried about him now -- and the big coyote that sleeps in our backyard on sunny days.

When we lost the last two of our three cats, The Little Queens, Michael and I swore off cats, but this guy’s plight was driving me crazy. I talked to Michael. “If you want to let him in the house, go ahead,” he said. “But just one cat.”

The next day was Wednesday. I was prepared. I had cat food and a cat box ready. When Zack got off the bus, there was the cat. He followed us home. Zack petted him while I filled bowls with water and food. I fed the cat and I petted him.

I went in the house and came outside a few minutes later and petted him some more. I did this three times. The fourth time I simply opened the door. He looked up at me with his big green eyes, meowed and stepped delicately into the living room.

Michael named him Smokey because he's like a puff of smoke; one minute he’s not there and the next he is. Michael also calls him Senor Smoke (after the Minnesota Twins pitcher Juan Berenguer) because he’s not a kid -- he’s a grown-up. Zack calls him Gray Stripe. I call him Smoke.

He has impeccable manners. He has all his claws, but he doesn’t use them. He’s very careful if he jumps in your lap, and he hasn’t scratched one thing in my house. He goes outside, but he always comes back. He loves to be brushed. He puts his chin on my shoulder and purrs when I pick him up.

Life imitates art so be careful what you write about. I wrote about a cat, and now I have one. And I’m glad.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A New Book -- At Last!

Just in time for Christmas, barely in time for Christmas, The Cat Before Christmas is available on Amazon Kindle!

I'm so excited about this I can hardly stand it. This is the first thing I've written in 4 years, since my husband Michael won his battle with RA; it's the first sweet romance I've ever written, and it's my first published straight to e-book novella.

If that's not enough firsts for you here's a couple more. This is the first Christmas story I've written, and the first time I've written a story with a cat as one of the main characters.

I love cats so giving Wiki, the Siamese cat of the title a point of view was great fun for me. I love cats so much, and dogs, too, that from now until January 31, 2011 I'm donating 15% of the proceeds from The Cat Before Christmas to the Kansas City Humane Society and Wayside Waifs, two no-kill shelters in the Kansas City metro area.

My good friend and very talented artist Judy Johnson designed the cover. Here's a link to the book in the Amazon Kindle store, and here is the blurb:

Wiki the cat loves Christmas. Batting the ornaments, basking in the blinking lights -- he even helps choose the Christmas tree each year!

But this year there's trouble in Wiki's yuletide paradise when his mistress Cary decides to go skiing in Colorado instead of staying snug at home with him in Kansas City, Missouri.

To derail her plans, Wiki escapes to the Christmas tree lot where he's sure Cary will find him.
He doesn't count on a blizzard or a huge German shepherd with a handsome and stubborn master named Ben. All three conspire to trap Wiki on the lot. For his own good, of course.

Cary is frantic, searching everywhere for Wiki -- everywhere except the Christmas tree lot where Wiki waits to be saved, and Zeus' master waits to sweep Cary off her feet. Can Wiki escape and get home to Cary in time to save Christmas?

That's the big news for now. Tomorrow I'll post a short blurb from the book and tell you a little bit more about the story. Promise! The post is already written.