Cats, The Writer’s Familiar


Pawpurrazzi and me

I’m a cat person. I just seem to have been born that way. Some of my first memories are of the family cat, a big gray tabby named Tiger. I wanted desperately to win his affection and can vividly remember inflicting upon him kisses, hugs, and vast quantities of unsolicited loves. As you might imagine, this did little to impress him. My sister, who was older than me – and therefore gentler – was Tiger’s favorite, but I loved him anyway. I just love cats. I always have.

When I first started writing at about the age of eight, I even put cats in my stories. Lots of them. In fact, my tales most often revolved around unmanageably large casts of talking cats, so it wasn’t too surprising that when I got published many years later, cats began showing up in my novels.

Pawpurrazzi and Sir Purrcival, looking thrilled to have their picture taken … again

Enter Sir Purrcival, star (or so he likes to believe) of the Vampires of Crimson Cove series. He makes his first appearance in book one, The Crimson Corset, when Cade Colter and his older brother Brooks are out for a jog in the woods behind their cabin. I didn’t plan to put a cat in the book, he just kind of showed up, and I’m glad he did – later, Purrcy’s presence helps bring things together so that Cade and company can confront the bad guys.

I described Purrcy as a chubby tuxedo cat with golden-green eyes, and I had no idea that a couple years later, I would meet him in the real world. I was looking for a friend for Pawpurrazzi, the female tortie who showed up at my house a few months before and decided we belonged together. Pawpurrazzi is a very affectionate and friendly cat and I thought she might like some feline company – so I began checking out the local Humane Societies. I didn’t have to look far. I found him at the first place I stopped. He looked just like the Purrcy from The Crimson Corset and I knew right away that’s who I’d name him after (of course, I don’t tell him that. I tell him that the fictional Purrcy is named after him, not the other way around.)

Sir Purrcival, “star” of the Vampires of Crimson Cove series

I soon found out I’m not the only writer besotted by felines. Not only do the vast majority of my writer friends own cats, but apparently, cats and writers have a long history together. Margaret Atwood, Gloria Steinem, Joyce Carol Oates, and Neil Gaiman are all said to be cat lovers. Not to mention Dickens, Twain, Burroughs, Hemingway, Chandler, Capote, Churchill, Plath, and Poe, all of whom famously claimed a deep appreciation of their feline familiars.

From Kerouac to King, cats seem to be a writer thing, and I’m not sure how to explain it. It’s not as if they help the writing process. Ask any author who owns cats and they’ll tell you how Muffin or Fluffy or Jezebel just loves to nap right on the keyboard.

Purrcy, giving me a high-five after a hard day of writing

Or maybe cats do help writers write in some mysterious way. Maybe there’s more to them than meets the eye. Maybe the ancient Egyptians were onto something, after all …

If nothing else, they provide excellent distraction. When Tamara and I are writing together on Skype, our kitties love nothing more than when we turn on our cameras so they can see and talk to each other. It gives us a nice excuse to spend a few minutes relaxing between chapters.

Pawpurrazzi, helping me write

Today is the First Day of a New Book


Today is the day I began a new book. With The Black Wasp (book 3 of the Vampires of Crimson Cove series) in the editor’s hands, and not a lot going on besides some book marketing and the disposal of an old sofa, I figured I might as well do some writing. Since I’m dying to find out what happens next, I’ve decided to dive right into book 4 of the Crimson Cove series which, for now, I am referring to only as TMR.

TMR picks up where The Black Wasp leaves off, and given that it hasn’t even been released yet, I can’t say a whole lot more about it except that things have really changed for my protagonist, Cade Colter. The Black Wasp not only introduced new characters, but new motives as well – and those motives are what will drive TMR and leave poor Cade with some pretty big fish to fry. And by “pretty big” I actually mean huge.

To simplify it, he’s in way over his head, and when The Black Wasp comes out (this summer!) you’ll see why. Even as I was writing today, I realized just how much Cade is underestimating his situation and how little he actually understands. I’m currently feeling very bad for him, but I can’t help it – I’m a sucker for the drama. There’s nothing more fun than a character who’s bitten off way more than they can chew (insert evil laugh here.)

The Black Wasp is coming soon

With so many endings on the horizon, I’m feeling especially excited about the new project (not only was The Black Wasp recently finished, but Tamara and I are creeping up on the climax of our next Thorne & Cross standalone, Spite House, as well as wrapping up the final scenes in Shadowlands, book 4 of The Ravencrest Saga), and no doubt adding to my excitement is the fact that this, the beginning, is my favorite part of the book. It might sound strange to say I prefer the beginnings and (and even the middles) to the endings, but I do – and not just in the books I’m writing, the ones I’m reading, too. Endings just kind of depress me, I guess, but the good news is, you can always start the next one – so, that’s what I did.

I wish I could tell you more about it, but for now, I need to keep its secrets close. When The Black Wasp comes out in the next month or two, maybe I’ll be able to say more …

Until then, happy reading, writing, or whatever it is that makes you shine, and just because, apropos of nothing, here’s me with my familiar, Pawpurrazzi, who oversees all my writing.

Pawpurrazzi and me, sometime last year

Avoiding Unexpected Feline Fatherhood


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It came to me a year ago, and looking back on it now, I suppose it showed up at the appropriate time. It was just a few weeks before Halloween – and a few weeks after Tamara Thorne and I began digging into the witchcraft elements of our novel Grandma’s Rack that the creature of darkness – like a punishment from the terrible gods we were researching – made itself known to me.

At first, the beast merely called to me from some bushes outside. I’d hear it from my window, crying, bemoaning the increasing cold – no doubt attempting to guilt me into the shamefaced and spineless quivering mass of man-pudding that I am now. Valiantly – and mistakenly – I thought if I ignored it, perhaps the thing would tire of me and go away. But this was not to be.

For soon, it then began following me. The creature moved silently and – appearing as if from nowhere – it was quick on my heels, stalking me each day as I power-walked from the car to the front door, my eyes fixed forward – for I knew that once eye contact was established, I would surely be unable to resist the powers of its dark and inescapable charms. And for several days, this method worked. I was winning! But then one night, I let down my guard.

As I said, it was October – that month which bounces back and forth like an indecisive lover between nights that are too warm and nights that are too cold. On this night, October had chosen the warmth for its companion, and I – with a foolish and displaced sense of security – cracked a screen-less window to let some cool air in. The cool air, however, was not the only thing that crept inside that fateful night.

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Within moments, the creature was in my window, pinning me in place with its wide, golden gaze. Our eyes locked. For several seconds, we were statue-still, then, very slowly, and with great trepidation, I approached.

With no warning, the creature lunged from the window sill, and then suddenly, somehow, it was in my arms, meowing at me as if to say, “You stupid, stupid man! Don’t you know you are my human?” and rubbing its silky black head into the crook of my neck. When she raised a paw to touch my cheek, the night-cooled padding of her little cat-hands warmed my heart forever, and I knew then that I had fallen prey to an all-too-common problem.

Whereas many men in my position might choose to simply say they “got a new cat,” and quickly change subjects in hopes of avoiding the disapproving glances and/or emasculating commentary of their fellows, I’ve decided to break the long-suffering silence and call this situation by its more honest – and less cutesy – name: I am the victim of Unexpected Feline Fatherhood.

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What is Unexpected Feline Fatherhood, you ask? Unexpected Feline Fatherhood, or UFF, is defined as the infliction of affection and/or forcible joint inhabitation of any feline personage upon any adult male member of human origin. UFF is real, and there is no shame in it. In fact, statistics show that every 2.7 seconds in America alone, a man in falls victim to UFF. And if it happened to me, it can happen to anyone.

Anyway, I was suddenly an Unexpected Feline Father – whether I liked it or not. I accepted the fate that had befallen me with relative ease, naming my new pet Pawpurrazzi for her incessant, stalker-like ways, and though she rarely comes when called, I assume she doesn’t mind the name.

She was no more than four months old when she violated me and my personal space, and though I was originally reluctant, it is the nature of UFF that I slowly began feeling affection for my feline captor. In fact, we have since bonded over much; a spaying, two very stressful episodes in which she ran away, the swallowing – and passing – of some near-fatal Christmas tree decoration, a few worming debacles, several trips to the vet for shots, and the writing and editing of one and a half novels, as well as the ongoing writing, editing, and publication of several installments of a serialized novel. Perched on my shoulder for several hours each day, she is as much my writing companion as Tamara Thorne is, and to any oblivious onlooker, we would appear at ease with each other, companionable, even. But make no mistake: I am a victim. A victim of Unexpected Feline Fatherhood.

In the year since being victimized, I’ve learned a few things about the nature of Unexpected Feline Fatherhood which I will now list in hopes that it might be of some assistance to unsuspecting future UFF victims everywhere.

Don’t Let Unexpected Feline Fatherhood Sneak Up On You….

By Alistair Cross

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  1. Stay Alert. Whenever you’re walking to the car, getting the mail, or moving the garbage cans, keep your wits about you and observe your surroundings. Take a moment to glance around you. Do you see any evidence of feline intrusion such as flickering tails from concealed areas or little kitty prints on your windshield? Is there any meowing coming from a nearby bush? Your first defense against Unexpected Feline Fatherhood is awareness of it. 
  1. Determine Whether or Not You Are Actually Being Stalked. If you do see a kitty, try crossing to the other side of the street or sidewalk. Does the kitty cross, too? Speed up or slow down. Does the kitty do the same? Never assume that just because a kitty seems unaware of you that he or she isn’t following you. Always trust your feelings. 
  1. Use Positive Self-Talk. If you suspect you are being selected as an Unexpected Feline Father, the last thing you need to do is lose your cool. Tell yourself: It’s okay. I do not need a cat. I do not need a cat. Or: He must belong to someone. It is not my problem. Or: I’m sure he can take care of himself – cats are very resourceful. Things like this often help. 
  1. Never Look a Potential Feline Captor in the Eye. Direct eye contact communicates interest and acknowledgment yes, but more importantly, it makes you, the human, vulnerable to the cuteness of the feline face, a condition that will cloud your judgment. 
  1. Finally, If You Do Fall Prey to UFF, Wear Your Title With Pride. Worst case scenario, you can’t resist the kitty and you end up taking the poor thing in. So what! Not just anyone is Unexpected Feline Father material, and you should be proud. If your friends are giving you a hard time, it’s only because they’re jealous. Be a proud Feline Father, Unexpected or Otherwise! After all, it’s not as if you have any say in the matter anyway, now is it…

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Gross Encounters of the Absurd Kind


My collaborator, Tamara Thorne, and I have been sitting down together to write everyday for months. We’ve gotten a lot done, and we still have much to do. On top of the Belinda serial, we’re finishing up a horror novel  and have another novel  to edit and publish around the holidays. Needless to say, we don’t really have time to play around. And yet, that’s exactly what we do. Play is the reason we can Skypewrite together for 12 hours a day, every day. It keeps us sane and snickering.

We don’t wake up chomping at the writing bit every morning. In fact, most mornings we spend a little time waking up, gossiping, looking over media stuff, working on interviews, and, always, reviewing and tweaking our storyline. Then it’s time to get to work.

Sometimes, we still have trouble focusing first thing in the morning – and there are always a few brain freezes during that day. That’s when we often start writing freestyle; we just let the words go where they want until we find our way back to the true course of the story. These passages are, to us, hilarious, twisted, and – in some cases -sickeningly disturbing. What the hell is wrong with us? We don’t know and we don’t care. We do this both to jar our brains loose and to crack each other up. This is not the kind of material we can use in an actual book (with a few exceptions – we’ll let you guess what they are when you read the books, maybe even have a contest).

Because of the pleasure these passages have given us, we’ve decided to stop throwing them out. Why not share the joy? The sick, demented, twisted, repugnant joy.

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So we had an idea. What if we post these ridiculous meanderings on our blogs? Many contain portions of real scenes you find in the books, which we think makes this extra fun.

So we’re going to do it. We’re going to begin posting our outtakes and bloopers today. They work for TV shows specials, so why not here? We may even include some of the best evil autocorrects from our texts, as appropriate.

With that in mind, here are yesterday’s best outtakes:

Belinda lay in her bed, her body deliciously warm under the down comforter, as the morning sun shot thin rays through the crack in the her buttocks. And her drapes. Her drapes were fucking ugly. She stretched and yawned and decided she’d buy new drapes. But not until the sun finished shining out of her ass.”

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* * *

Omar, a sleek, plump Siamese cat, snuggled into his mistress’s lap, then flehmened, mouth hanging open, eyes half closed, when he realized his human had forgotten to change her tampon for at least a week. He couldn’t contend with a stinking bloody human and decided he’d get a new one just as soon as she finished petting his glorious head.”

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* * *

“The room was large, luxurious, and honestly breathtaking, and every time Belinda stepped inside, she felt a little as if she were floating. This might have been due to the design of the floor, which was cobalt blue tile, patterned with gold stars, giving her the impression that she was walking on the midnight sky. Or it could have been the fact that she’d shot herself up with a homemade combination of absinthe, super-glue, and weed-killer, using a needle she’d found under the sofa. That might have accounted for the floating feeling in her head. But probably not. It probably really was the design of the bathroom.”

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* * *

(Warning: If any of the above grossed you out, skip this one.  It’s our favorite…)

“Margaret Massey stepped into the tub. It brimmed with sweet-scented lilac bubbles and as she settled into the water and rested her head against the cool rounded porcelain lip of the huge mint-green tub. “Heaven,” she said as she pinched her nipple and stuck an entire bar of Ivory up her wrinkled twat. “If only I’d remembered the toilet plunger,” she lamented as she queefed 100% natural bubbles that rose to the surface and popped like Lawrence Welk’s champagne music. Then her 70-year-old anus, the victim of one too many rounds with the local Hell’s Angels, sharted, but just a little. It didn’t even smell and what you couldn’t see beneath the bubbles couldn’t hurt you. She knew that from long experience.”

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Kitties and Belinda


The latest Belinda meme from a reader!

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Two installments of The Erotic Adventures of Belinda are now available in e-format. The third installment, Darker Shadows, is underway…

But it can be done…


It’s after four in the morning on Friday and for the second night now I’m sitting in front of my computer watching YoutTube videos with the notorious feline stalker, Pawpurrazzi. From the safety of her perch on my shoulder, together we behold the wonders of funny cat videos, Oprah Winfrey interviews, and clips expounding on everything from the success of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, to racism in Switzerland, to the barely-remembered and very outdated music videos of Lita Ford. I especially can’t explain that final choice of entertainment except to say I think Stalker Kitty has developed a great fascinated respect for Lita’s ’80s bouffant, so of course – as any half-decent kitty guardian would do – I have to let her keep watching.

But that is neither here nor there.

The point is, it’s been another sleepless night which might have been spent doing more constructive things, but alas, was not. Usually, the degree of self-loathing I experience when I waste time this way would send me into a dizzying spiral from which I can barely pull myself out of, but tonight was different. It was different because, tonight, as I watched with glazed-over eyes while Oprah awarded each audience member with a ‘brand new totally redesigned, 2012 Volkswagen Beetle!’… I was able to (as we so often are in the idle moments) get to the core of what’s really bothering me.

It is nothing as interesting as Volkswagens or Oprah that have me buzzing till the wee hours… nor is it a sudden addiction to funny cat videos (although I do believe I may be teetering on that one), and no, not even Lita Ford’s hair – or her shiny black leotards for that matter – are responsible for my unfortunate state of awareness at this hour. These things, I’ve determined, are just new ways I’ve discovered in which to distract myself. And I am distracting myself because I’m trying to figure out how I am going to get done all of the things that need getting done.

The past couple of days have presented me with some writing opportunities that, while truly awesome, are a little scary. These new ventures in and of themselves are in no way unpleasant or foreboding, but coupled with the plans which have already spoken for a good deal of 2014 (Grandma’s Rack and the erotic serial, Belinda, with Tamara Thorne, plus my solo project The White Room – which just really needs to get done),  it’s overwhelming.

I should be thrilled and I won’t lie: I am. These are the things of daydreams… these are things you don’t say no to. These are things that could lead to many other wonderful things. But… these are also things I’m not sure I can fit into my already filled-to-overflowing, seemingly endless to-do list, and – needless to say – I spent a lot of quiet time doing some heavy mental filing, organizing, planning, plotting, and prioritizing. I also spent a lot of time on the phone today hashing out plans with a lot of different people. I assumed I had made peace with the rigor of my new schedule, but apparently, I had not.

One of the people I spoke to was my collaborator. Tamara is far better than I am in these situations, and as several of these projects include her, I was grateful to have someone with which to construct a strategy. We started at the beginning and planned out the best method in which to proceed, keeping ourselves open, of course, to the possibility that things can – and often do – change. The good news is that we concluded it was possible. It will require the sacrifice of something I already feel a great shortage of, and that is time. But it can be done. I just have to remind myself of that.

After talking to Tamara, I made some other calls. I re-arranged things, I confirmed things, I straightened some things out, and I called some things off… and in the course of about 24 hours, I came to an entirely new understanding of the way things are… and of how hard I’m going to have to work for this.

But it can be done…

The hardest part, I think, is the realization that the lackadaisical age of joy-writing is basically over. That isn’t to say I don’t love writing. It isn’t even to say I won’t enjoy it. I will. Profoundly. But the days of I-just-don’t-feel-like-writing-right-now are gone… at least for a while.

I remind myself that I’m very lucky, though. I have great support from all directions. I have the resources I need to do this and I’m not at all alone. I have an absolutely wonderful collaborator who knows this drill, and has the unprecedented ability to tranquilize my fits of frenzy and white-knuckled, hand-wringing (though rarely-occurring) dithers. I realize that as overwhelming as this might all be, it will also be very exciting and very prosperous for me. I will do my best…

And on that note, I think it’s time to say goodnight to Oprah, X out of YouTube, detach Stalker Kitty from my shoulder, and hit the hay. I’ll wake up tomorrow… and I will begin. It’s going to be a busy year with plenty of deadlines and a fair share of frustration, but it’s also going to be a lot of fun… and if I do this right, I know I’ll be very glad I did.

This is what I wanted, and I never really expected it to be easy. And I don’t think it’s going to be very easy at all.

But it can be done…

And so it will.

Sweet dreams,

~AC

http://www.alistaircross.com