Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Melissa MacVicar on Writing Real Places

So I was going to write an introduction for Melissa MacVicar, author of the awesome Secret Affinities books, Ever Near and Ever Lost (my favorite Red Adept YA PNR so far, and you know how I love YA PNR). But then she did it for me. So without further ado, I give you Melissa, and her pictures of real-life Nantucket!

Writing Real Places

When Elizabeth’s second book, Raising Chaos, came out, she wrote an awesome guest post for my blog about fictional versus real places in novels. She made a very good point about writing real places that rung particularly true to me. She said she was glad her book’s settings were fictional because she doesn’t always portray her characters and locales in the best light. There have to be evil doer in any story so I completely get this. And having real places in my books, I worry about the very same thing. 

Nantucket is my hometown and the place I still reside as an adult. I knew from other local authors like Elin Hilderbrand and Nancy Thayer that no matter how many times an author says the characters and events portrayed in their books are fictional, people will still make connections to real life. It’s only natural if your characters are fully developed and very realistic that readers will think they know them. In some ways, this can be good publicity for a book. Locals will want to read it to see if they recognize anyone or even themselves in the book. The scandal of someone possibly being secretly featured could be an intriguing sales platform and has surely been used in the past.

In Ever Near and Ever Lost, because I was writing about a girl growing up on Nantucket, I wanted to find ways to make Jade as different from me as possible so readers wouldn’t think my books were autobiographical tales. Jade is a mixed-race, sixteen-year-old who can see ghosts while I am a Caucasian, forty-three year old woman who has no mediumistic tendencies. Despite all the differences, though, I have heard from at least two people who think I am Jade. They believe I secretly commune with dead behind closed doors. Go figure. The reality is that I have never seen a ghost. To create the ghosts in my books, I used my imagination, drawing on all the the books I’ve read, and the movies I’ve seen to come up with some creepy specters. I hope the speculation about me means I did a good job bringing  them to life.

When it come right down to it, I find using real places the best and easiest way to world build a novel. In my opinion, world building is hard and if you have a solid jumping off point that is real, it makes it so much easier. I draw a lot of creative power from the people and places I interact with everyday. Nantucket is a living, breathing character to me and I hope that comes across in my stories.

Find Melissa online!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Cover Reveal for Catching a Man

Today is the day you have all been waiting for---the cover reveal for Catching a Man, my upcoming 1950s fantasy/mystery! Streetlight Graphics designed the cover, and since they did such an awesome job, I had to share it with more people than just my blog readers and facebook friends. Go check out the cover reveal on any one of these blogs, and you can enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card or signed copies of Oracle of Philadelphia and Raising Chaos.

Manuscripts Burn

Zigzag Timeline

The Gal in the Blue Mask

Mythical Books

Musings in Fiction Alley


Pembroke Sinclair

Books & Tales

Penny Dreadful Book Reviews

The Wormhole

More Romance Please

Angel's Guilty Pleasures

Corazones Literarios

Me, Myself, & Books

Book Club Sisters

Kelly Smith Reviews

3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too!

Fire and Ice Book Reviews

Indy Book Fairy Blog

Once Upon a Dream Books

Musings of the Book-a-holic Fairies, Inc.

Cabin Goddess

A bit of information before we get to the reveal. I'm hoping to have the book out in November, but I haven't seen the edits yet (this week!) so I promise nothing. To keep track, you should add it to your "To Read" list on Goodreads!

And since I am eeeeeevil (Actually, I'm not. On my worst days I am neutral aligned.), I'm going to give you the cover reveal AS A PUZZLE. If you hate the puzzle, you can check out the cover on the Valeriel Investigations tab. Or any of the sites above!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tag! I'm it!

It's been awhile since I actually wrote a post---Kim's interview on Sunday only sort of counts---mostly because I've been alternately busy and sleeping. And I wish I could say I've been busy writing, but I've mostly been gaming. But, you know, it's important for me to have a well-rounded life that doesn't just consist of working. Or something. I've actually been running games recently, which is interesting, but it requires more work than just playing, especially if one is obsessive like me. But I have made a resolution to do more work on Archangel Errant, and I plan to be doing lots of edits on Catching a Man in August and September.

Anyway, one thing I've been wanting to post about is the cake I made for my coworker at the end of June. Way back in May she told me she wanted a chocolate and peanut butter cake. So my plan was to make the chocolate cake from my birthday cake (because it is the most amazing cake ever) and the peanut butter frosting from these brownies. But then, less than a week before I planned to make the cake, I found a recipe for a buckeye cake. As a good former Ohioan, I could not ignore this, so I decided to add the peanut butter cheesecake layer and the chocolate peanut butter glaze to my original plan. 

This went... less well than intended. You see, I ran out of baking spray. (In my defense, it's very hard to tell you're running out.) And I said, "Well, I'll just flour the pan instead. It'll be fine." Yeah, it was not fine. One cake stuck to the pan and fell apart, and the other was waaaaay less done than the first one and made a total mess. This was especially sad because the cake was so, so delicious, and I had to throw it out instead of eating all the crumbs. I had similar falling-apart problems with the cheesecake, and I way overestimated how much chocolate glaze I had. 

But I persevered! I made a box cake to replace the delectable-but-fragile one and managed to get the cheesecake in between the layers. And the result was quite pleasing to all involved. Well, except me, but I got over it and ate it even though it was full of salt. 

The other thing I've been putting off. A fellow Red Adept author did one of those chain blog post things and tagged all of RA's Team Fantasy. As the charter member of this organization (and the one who pays for the buttons), I feel it is my duty to comply, even if I do so almost 2 weeks late. So without further ado...

1. What are you working on?

I've got 2 WIPs at the moment. I'm waiting on my editor for Catching a Man, the first book in the Valeriel Investigations series, which I've announced and am hoping to have out in November. You can see more details on the Valeriel Investigations tab. Cover reveal is coming soon!

I am also working on book 3 of the Earthbound Angels series, Archangel Errant. Really. I'm working on it. I swear. It will get done. Eventually

2. How does your work differ from others in your genre?

Sometimes I think Earthbound Angels doesn't really. It's just another urban fantasy about angels. But, then, I have been reading reviews of UF books lately, looking for new ones to read, and one was commenting that UF books tended to fit the pattern of the kickass "strong female heroine" solving a murder. Or sometimes there's a strong male heroine too. And I realized Earthbound Angels doesn't really fit that pattern at all. Oracle especially is more world-building and philosophy than mystery. And Carrie does not ever kick ass. 

Valeriel Investigations, on the other hand, I created because I wanted to make something as different as possible. I read Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, and I was just so amazed that she successfully made a military dictatorship the good guys. I wanted to do that, create a world that was totally different. So I made a totally fictional fantasy world that was like the 1950s with a few exceptions. 1. Women are oppressed, even moreso than they were in the actual 1950s. 2. The government is a monarchy, and the nobility are the elite of society whose exploits everyone follows in the paper. 3. Healthcare is socialized, but police investigations are privatized. So if your family member is murdered, you need to have investigation insurance and hire a corporation to solve the crime. Too different? Maybe. We shall have to see.

3. Why do you write what you do?

I've always come up with stories, and I think for the most part they reflected what I was reading. So since I read mostly fantasy, that's also what I write. Since the early days of the UF genre, I wanted to write one. Valeriel Investigations is the outcome of my many attempts to write a "supernatural detective story." For the most part, I write the plot ideas that I come up with that manage to spin themselves into full stories.

4. How does your writing process work?

Very slowly. Basically, I whine about how much I don't want to write until I get up the willpower to actually write. Then once I do that for awhile, I get more into it and don't mind so much. I've been making an effort to go into a writer cave and even go so far as to unplug my internet. (For some reason when I do this in a place my phone expects to have wireless, it won't connect to 4G, so all my notifications are stopped.) I try to write 1,000 words at a time these days. Perhaps someday I will get into a more motivated period and write more. But generally 2,000 is a super lot for me in a day.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Interview with Kimberly G. Giarratano

Hello, everyone! Today we have with us Kimberly G. Giarratano, author of Grunge Gods & Graveyards, a YA paranormal about a girl investigating the death of the ghost she's in love with. In 1996!

So, I had about half of Grunge Gods & Graveyards left, so I decided to read a bit before I went to bed. And after a chapter or two, I realized I had to know what happened and stay up and read the rest of it. Which led to much tiredness the next day at work. Do you, as the author, have the appropriate amount of shame about this?

Shame, no. As the mother of three young kids, one of whom is a newborn, it is only fair that everyone be as sleep-deprived as me. Truthfully, I am flattered. Having someone tell me they read my book instead of sleep is the ultimate compliment. Because in my house, sleep is like a depleted resource.

You chose to set Grunge Gods in 1996. As someone who went to high school in the 90s, I found this interesting, because it felt like a strange mix of the past and too close to my life to really be the past. Were there any unique challenges you faced writing about a time 15-20 years in the past? How many times did you say to yourself, “Well, she can just call someone… Crap, no cell phones”?

I actually embraced the no-cellphone rule. Having cell phones can interfere with plot points. For example, the main character received a text message that could’ve helped her avoid the killer – that sort of thing. It’s easier for me if no one can contact anyone. Busy signals. Answering machines. I can work with that. More conflict that way.

The tricky part about writing a story set in the 90s was thinking I could rely on my own memory for historical accuracy. I’d mention a song but then I’d have to go online to make sure the song was released before September 1996 (when the novel takes place). Also, because it’s historical fiction, kind of, sort of, I had to check events and dates constantly. For example, Tupac was shot and killed in 1996. I had to incorporate his death into the story even though he doesn’t have anything to do with the plot. But I remember Tupac’s death and I remember talking about it with my friends in high school. It would affect Lainey and her friends who loved his music. If I was talking about such an even in 1996, so was Lainey.
The other challenge of writing about the 90s is that it made me feel old. I’m 35, but I might as well be 95 when I’m writing about VCRs and cassette tapes.

As I understand it, you were also a high-school-child of the 90s. Did you base any of Lainey’s experiences, or those of her friends or non-friend classmates, on your own personal high school memories?

Lainey and I are the same age, but we’re not much alike. I was not such a bad girl. I didn’t drink or sneak out to riverside parties (I also didn’t live near a river) and I was a much better student than Lainey. For one thing, my Spanish grades were excelente. However, Lainey and I have similar tastes in music and TV. She watches the same TV shows I did as a teen. Like Lainey, I taped 120 Minutes on a Sunday night (on VHS – the show was on late) so I could watch it the next day. My best friend and I would watch X-Files together over the phone. I did steal something else from real life. There is one scene where Danny is flipping through Lainey’s music collection and he says, “I’m totally going to judge you by your taste in music.” I stole that line from a classmate when I was studying abroad in Spain. I heard him say it to another student as he was flipping through his CD binder. I thought if I ever write a book, I’m putting that line in there. Fifteen years later and voila.

Tell us something you know about one of your characters that never made it into the book.

I guess it’s implied, since I don’t come out and say it, but Aunt Marilyn knows a thing about ghosts. Just sayin’.

So what’s next on your writing agenda? Will we get more stories about Lainey? I know there’s at least one ghost in Grunge Gods whose mystery I’m still dying to solve!

I have an idea for the spin-off to Grunge Gods, featuring the mysterious Lady in Blue, but I haven’t outlined it yet. I’m currently working on another YA ghost story/mystery but it’s set in present-day Key West. I’ll give you the story sentence: Two seventeen-year-olds must solve a sixty-year-old murder before a malevolent ghost destroys a family-owned bed and breakfast. Told in dual POV, the story has mystery, romance, a sexually frustrated ghost and roaming roosters. Ya gotta love Key West.

You’re a bit of an expert on the young adult genre. What direction do you think the genre is headed?
I guess my first job as YA Expert is to clarify that young adult isn’t a genre. It’s an audience level. No one calls adult fiction a genre, but there are plenty of genres that make up adult fiction. Same for YA. As for where it’s headed…I don’t know. I think the trajectory it’s on is pretty awesome. Once upon a time, writing for teens was considered beneath an author. Like, “why wouldn’t you want to write for adults?” Now you have big-name authors like James Patterson and Harlan Coben writing YA. Currently, my biggest gripe is media outlets writing opinion pieces on YA without having any idea of what they are talking about. If you want to understand YA, talk to a librarian or a YA author or a reader. Don’t ask a columnist.

Okay, random question time. You’re in a YA novel, and your One True Love is a member of a supernatural race. What do you want him to be and why?

Awesome question. A witch or warlock, I guess. Someone with magical powers who can conjure up a spell to clean my house in a matter of minutes. Or fold the endless piles of laundry. Or cook dinner. I hate chores.

What’s one question you wish someone had asked you on your blog tour but no one did? Question and answer, please.

Q: Can I babysit your kids for free?
A: Sure! How about now?!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Interview with Michael Meyerhofer

I've got another interview with a fantasy author for you all today, so I know you're super excited! Michael Meyerhofer is the author of Wytchfire, the first book in the Dragonkin Trilogy, and he's here to tell us all about it! Be sure to enter the Wytchfire blog tour giveaway at the end of the post!

Sales pitch time! Tell us a little bit about Wytchfire and why it should be the next book added to everyone’s to-read list.  

Glad to… but first, thanks for having me!  I’m happy to be here to talk about Wytchfire, a dark/epic fantasy novel set in a world of murder and political intrigue, where magic is more curse than blessing.  The story is mostly told from the perspective of Rowen Locke, a sardonic mercenary who just so happens to have a conscience, though we also get to see through the eyes of an eclectic cast of characters who inhabit all sides of this mounting conflict.  While the novel is fast-paced, hopefully with enough twists and fight scenes to satisfy a pay-per-view fan, I wove in a lot of moral ambiguity and social commentary, too.  Oh, and dark humor.  I’m a huge fan of dark humor, too.  I guess if I had to boil the novel and its sequels down to one sentence, I’d say “Think Game of Thrones meets The X-Men.”

Wytchfire is first in the Dragonkin trilogy, but I know when I plan “trilogies,” they tend to, um, expand. So do you have all three books planned out? Any possible spinoffs and/or sequels? Or will you be visiting an entirely new world next?  

It’s funny you ask that because just the other day, I was looking over my series notes (which, were I to print them off, would kill more trees than lightning), and thinking about how I’d originally planned this to be a five book series.  Ultimately, I decided to condense it to a more fast-paced trilogy, but I also left plenty of room for a second trilogy to follow.  Having already written Book II of the trilogy and started Book III (titled The Knight of the Crane and The War of the Lotus, respectively), I have this first trilogy pretty well laid out.  I have some notes on a second trilogy, plus some ideas for a stand-alone novella or two, but those are still mostly floating around my brain at this point.  Meanwhile, I’ve also started working on a completely separate fantasy series.  That book is “done” though I haven’t quite ironed out where that whole series will be going yet.

Other than your own, who are your favorite fictional dragons? And fictional (or real!) witches? 

Oh, that’s a tough one! The kid in me still has a soft spot for Vermithrax from the 1981 movie, Dragonslayer, along with Heart’s Blood from Jane Yolen’s Pit Dragon Chronicles and Fireflash from the Dragonlance books.  As for witches, I think some of the creepiest were in Rosemary’s Baby and Dune, though I also have an affinity for Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter.  I also currently love/loathe Melisandre from the Song of Ice and Fire books (and the Game of Thrones TV series). As for real witches, I’m afraid I’m sworn to secrecy.  

In addition to being a novelist, you are also a poet! Do you prefer writing poetry or fiction? And which is easier to edit? 

Honestly, since both have been a big part of my life for so long, I don’t think I could choose one over the other.  They’re both my children.  They both bring me joy—and they both have their own special ways of throwing tantrums so bad that I have to pull the car over.  When it comes to editing, it obviously takes a lot of hours to comb through a manuscript of prose, then do it again, then again… then maybe do it four or five more times.  With poetry, though, the editing process is less global but still intense.  You can spend hours tinkering with just one single line.  So when it comes to editing, my cop-out answer is that both probably take the about the same effort, though they require it in different ways.

As writers, we often have preferences about language that I would hesitate to find neurotic. How about you? Any favorite constructions or punctuation marks? 

I’ve always had a soft spot for sentence fragments.  I love using them to convey action and tension, though obviously, they’re also very risky because the reader has to be able to tell that you’re using them on purpose.  If they think it’s just a typo, you lose credibility.  I’m also a near-rabid fan of em dashes, both in prose as well as poetry, so much so that I usually have to go back and force myself to take some of them out.

You’re magically transported to a medieval-esque fantasy setting. What’s one modern invention you hope you’re holding onto and can take with you?  

Well, I wanted to say my Keurig because I have a feeling I’m going to need some extra energy, but I suppose I’ll go with the obvious answer and pick some kind of handgun with an absurdly large capacity magazine, since I might have trouble finding electrical outlets.

What’s one question you wish someone had asked you on your tour that you haven’t gotten to answer yet? Question and answer, please! 

Ha, thanks! I’ve been waiting for someone to ask about the biggest inspirations behind all the different realms and city-states in my fantasy world, along with some of the different races.  Being an unapologetic documentary nerd, I’m always collecting historic tidbits and trying to work them in, or reimagine them somehow.  

In Wytchfire, the Lotus Isles obviously have some similarities to Japan, though especially with the Isle Knights, I tried to portray them less like the samurai as we see them in movies and mythology—wholly honorable, undefeatable—and more like how they actually were.  Ivairia is my take on medieval Europe, especially France.  The Dhargots (who take a more prominent role in the sequel, The Knight of the Crane) started out as a cross between the cultures of Rome and Carthage, though as I further developed their culture, I really emphasized the Roman ambition for bloody overexpansion.  

The Free Cities are patterned somewhat after ancient Greece, with a lot of influence from Archimedes, though the southern city of Atheion is probably more of a synthesis of Venice and ancient Alexandria.

As for the Sylvs of the Wytchforest, though they’re similar on the surface to fantasy Elves, I also wanted to avoid the obvious tropes and freshen up my portrayal.  The Sylvs are haughty isolationists, sure, but they’re also very different from the pristine Elves of Tolkien’s Middle-earth.  In fact, in Wytchfire, many of the Sylvs are paranoid to such a degree that they routinely engage in infanticide in order to protect their bloodlines.  That figures heavily into their conflict with the Shel’ai… those Sylvs born seemingly at random with the ability to work magic.  

I mentioned earlier that magic is seen more as a curse than a gift.  That’s because even centuries later, the whole continent is still trying to recover from the brutal reign of the Dragonkin (a previous generation of sorcerers who literally gained their powers by draining the life-essence of dragons).  The result is that even after the Dragonkins’ defeat, it’s simply taken on faith that magic is a bad thing.  An unquestioned, universal mistrust of magic permeates all social and political dealings, along with a general dislike of foreigners, leading to the core conflicts of the series.  Since the paranoia and bigotry of Rowen’s world really aren’t so different from our own, hopefully this will give the audience a special insight into a place that is not only savage, but also quite beautiful and exotic.

Ha, I just realized that my response turned into a mini treatise.  Thanks for indulging me!  I appreciate your invitation to talk about Wytchfire and I hope your good readers will give it a try.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Self-Publishing & the Brownies All Brownies Dream of Being

If you follow me on facebook and twitter, you know about a big announcement I made almost two weeks ago. But before I get into that I want to talk about something very important: Brownies. 

Several weeks back, my doctor put me on a low salt diet, which has been a tragedy to the world of baking. Or at least my coworkers and fellow gamers, who were getting used to the variety of exciting treats I literally cooked up. So I went on a quest to find recipes without a lot of salt in them, which excluded anything with peanut butter, marshmallows, baking powder, baking soda, buttermilk, candy pieces... Basically anything. But! Then I discovered that brownies had very little salt in them. And really, if you use unsalted butter and leave out the tiny bit of salt, Presto! You have delicious salt-free baked goods.

But I had this problem. You see, the Safeway near me used to make the most amazing brownies. They were amazing. I had to stop buying them because I'd eat them too fast. So when I went to make brownies, I wanted to find a recipe that was just as good, but it was hard. But I persevered. I combed the internet looking for pictures that looked like my beloved Safeway brownies, and eventually I found these. I was nervous about doing them for a while, because they require a makeshift double boiler, and that seems awfully fancy for my rudimentary skills, but I gave them a shot. I added half a cup of sugar, because the notes at the bottom seemed to suggest I would like that better, and OMG. They were amazing. The best homemade brownies I have ever had ever. I will probably now make them too much. I might even be a little bad and try them with peanut butter chips.

Okay, so now that we've gotten the important thing out of the way, let's talk about my upcoming book! The title is Catching a Man, and it's the first book in the Valeriel Investigations series. The story is about Kadin Stone, a female detective in a 1950s-esque monarchy where women are oppressed and the police force is a privatized series of for-profit companies. If that sounds a little "different" to you, that was my goal. I wanted to write something completely different than had ever been written before. To that end, I think it is very different from the Earthbound Angels series. But, then, I have seen many interviews with authors where they said their new books were big departures from their old work, and I couldn't see a stylistic difference. So I don't promise different, but if you liked Oracle and Chaos, that's all to the good.

So, self-publishing. I wrestled with the decision to do this for quite a long time. There's still a lot of stigma against self-publishing in the industry, and to do it professionally is costly. And I'm trying to do it as professionally as possible. I've hired the same cover artist and formatter who did Oracle and Chaos, so I know he's good. I have contracted with a professional editor who will be rigorous with my work. I'm looking into promotion opportunities now---Net Galley, blog tours, etc. Of course, with none of that is there any guarantee that I'll actually sell any books, but I'm actually okay with that. I mean, I definitely want to sell books, and I'm going to try my darnedest to do so. But the most important thing to me is to put out a product I can be proud of.

I've considered self-publishing from a lot of angles, including the state of the publishing industry, the marketability of Catching a Man, my own expectations and capabilities in terms of writing and publicity, and the time it would take to get into the hands of my readers. And I decided that self-publishing Catching a Man was the best choice for me and this book at this point in my life. And hopefully it will work out, because once I publish the first book, I'm going to have to write and publish all eight in the series.

"Hold up a minute!" I'm sure you are now saying. "Forget this self-pubbing or not self-pubbing. Tell us about this eight book series you have planned!" 

Sigh. Yes, my series do get to be on the long side. This week I came up with something awful to do to Carrie in the twelfth Earthbound Angels book. And I write slowly. (I'm working on Earthbound Angels 3, I promise! Just... slowly.) But I think Valeriel Investigations has a really great story arc that will unfold over the course of the 8 books. And unlike Earthbound Angels, I'm pretty sure the series will stop there and not stretch into infinity.

So when will Catching a Man hit the e-shelves? I'm hoping for November at this point, because I'd like to have it for Chessiecon, but I want to make sure I take the time to give it the editing it needs. I should have a cover later this summer, and I plan for it to be gorgeous enough to tide you over.

So. Yeah. New book. New series. Self-publishing. Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Guest Post by J. Leigh

So I was thinking about writing a post for you all this week, and I knew you'd go into shock. Because an author interview AND a post? In one week? But I was going to do it anyway. For you. But then I realized that I had another guest post scheduled for this week, and I knew if I put up three posts in one week, you might keel over dead. Or, you know, start expecting that kind of posting from me. So I decided to hold off on the post until next week. Bright side, you will still get everything I want to say about the new book I announced this week without the whining about being sick you would have gotten otherwise. Unless I'm still sick next week. Because then there will be whining. Oh, yes, will there be whining.

Anyway, today I am not talking about me. Today I am talking about J. Leigh and her new epic fantasy Way Walkers: Tangled Paths, recently released from Red Adept Publishing. Lovers of epic fantasy will definitely want to check out Tangled Paths, as well as Ms. Leigh's interactive adventure Way Walkers University, available from Choice of Games. And lovers of prizes will want to check out the blog tour giveaway at the end of this post.

Ms. Leigh has elected to write for us today about something we have in common. No, not being among the greatest fantasy authors known to man, though we obviously share that. I am talking about our love of small, furry felines. Included are pictures of Ms. Leigh's cats---Ra is the black one, Athena is the tortie, and Isis is the grey one. So without further ado, I give you

Why Cats Are Amazing,
and Why Every Author (Unless Allergic) Should Own One
by J. Leigh

If you're on the internet, you are probably very well-aware that cats need no help from me in being adored for their cuteness and general furry-awesomeness. However, as an author and cat guardian myself, I have discovered that there really are a number of writer-specific benefits to owning a cat or two. So, here are eight reasons why I believe every writer (unless allergic) should own a cat:

A cat on your lap makes you write longer.
Really, I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me. I'm typing away, not really feeling it and then, bam! cat jumps into my lap. Now I have to keep writing, to delve deep and push through whatever issue it is I was just contemplating procrastinating till later. It seems silly, but it works. Because cats usually aren't automatically affectionate, when they do bestow upon an owner their affection, there's an appreciation, if you will. This means you don't move right away when they cuddle up to you. You stay longer, you work harder, and have better writing habits because of it.

Cats give backrubs. (at least, mine do.)
If you are a writer, you're going to have back and shoulder problems. It's sort of inevitable, especially if you've made the choice that this is a career and you're not going to do anything else. About three days into a very bad shoulder injury, I noticed that if I took to writing in my leather chair with the high back, my one cat, Athena, would literally come up behind me, balance her back feet on the back of the chair, and then proceed to do her 'kneading' or 'making biscuits' trick on my sore shoulder with her front feet. Now she's a soft touch and doesn’t use her claws, so the effect was just like getting a decent shoulder rub from a person. I also discovered that she (and her sister cats) will team up and do a full body massage on me if I lay down with a particular fuzzy blanket I own draped over myself. So skip the expensive masseuse, buy a microfiber blanket and let your cats go to town.

Cats can help you write fight scenes.
This also falls into the general category of 'cats are ninjas'. I have often when stuck on a fight scene, grabbed a piece of string, lured out one to two cats and then enacted a move, counter-move saga for the ages. The fluid movements, the unanticipated reactions, the sudden flips, it just helps me to break down the play-by-play options I have when determining what two characters will do in a fight. I highly recommend it, so go, grab a feather toy and get to fencing with your furry literary inspiration!

They serve as an excellent template for villains.
As lovely, fluffy, and sweet as cats can be, they can also be the embodiment of evil. They stalk their prey, torturing their victims once they pounce in brutal heartless abandon as they pull off an arachnid's legs one by one with gleeful, kitty giggles. Okay, well, maybe not, but it's easy to imagine, and that’s my point. They offer us a glimpse into the mind of a killer, because, well cats are hunters, and the ones we feed full of dry and wet food really only hunt to satisfy their instinctual need--ie, for fun. What can be more villainous than that--and what better starting point can you have to craft a fictitious antagonist?

Forced organization
 If you've ever owned a cat, you know when they are bored or want attention, they sit on your papers, eat your pencils and knock important notebooks to the floor. Now while this might initially seem like a drawback, for me it did something that was very necessary.  It forced me to be more organized, to be more neat and methodical with my writing environment. In the past, books and post-it notes were laid out in wanton abandon, but now the fear of these items being shredded or misplaced under other furniture made me put my precious items away in folders and on shelves, far from kitty attack. It also forced me to be far, far more respectful of my laptop. I keep the cord neatly wrapped and in its bag, to avoid cats' natural tendency to chew on it's enticing, string-like appearance. I also don't leave the laptop itself open, as to avoid creative paw-induced additions by kitties seeking warmth.

Help keep you to a schedule
This again, is especially helpful if you're trying to write full-time. Who makes certain you're up every day at the same time without an alarm clock? Hungry kitty, that’s who. Who waits patiently beside your writing chair for you to get going so they may sit on your lap? That’s right, kitty! Cats can be very habit oriented-- mine know about when it's time for me to take a break, and when it's time to finish eating and get back to work. And they are far, far less dictatorial about it than any office manager I've ever known.

Physical therapy for hands
I've been having a terrible bout of carpal tunnel recently, and nothing helps keep down the swelling of my hands like scratching a cat. It's a non-repetitive moment, because the cat's head is always interacting with your hand, and it's very cathartic on top of it. Even full-body stroking of their backs is very helpful as it relieves the numbness in my hands and gets them to 'wake up' again with minimal pain. On that same line, cats can also serve as a substitute for a heating pad in a pinch.

Cats soothe the weary writer's soul. 

Let's face it, a lot of us writers are sensitive little messes. We fret, we obsess, we ponder and rehash every little turn of phrase and choice of word until late at night. Cats are, by their fuzzy, cuddly nature, therapy. A cat's purr is incredibly calming, more akin to the humming zen meditation chants of monks or crystal singing bowls. There's nothing better than petting soft fur, listening to that purr and forgetting your troubles. Granted, cats will head butt you and purr in your face when they want attention, but even the most persistent cat will leave you be if you peel them off of you and put them on the floor. And when you do get up for a break, they settle in and take your seat, warming the cushion for you while you're gone. They are there for you, day in and out, with their love of strings, warm blankets and you, their owner. You feed them, you rescue them out from the cold or some pet store window, and they rescue you right back.

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