Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Final Excuse ~ By Leah St. James #amwriting #blackcats

Looking back over my last several posts, I’m wondering why I haven’t offered readers some cheese to go with my “whine,” especially after I read Jannine’s Recipe for Success a few days ago that featured her talented and super-hard-working daughter (like mother, like daughter!).

Yes, it seems my recent posts have fallen into a bit of a pity-partying pattern of reasons–excuses–for my lack of writing productivity over the last couple years. For any newcomers, here’s a brief recap:

First there was the Year of the Wedding.
Okay, that was true, and a joyful event. No regrets.

But here, ranked in order of most influential, are the rest.
1. A crazy full-time job that sucks my time and energy.
2. Lack of focus
3. Followed closely by focusing on business during my “creative time”
4. Losing my writing voice (probably from lack of writing)

I think there was another one in there (overall fatigue maybe?), but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that except for having to work full-time for financial reasons, these are all fixable conditions, and they’re in my control to fix. But before I move on, I’d like to wrap up this unintended series with one final roadblock.

I almost hesitate after reading Chris’s heartbreaking post about losing her beloved cat Shikari, but I hope this will give her a chuckle and help her remember the fun times they shared

Because my fifth (sixth?) and final excuse is none other than HERCULES THE CAT.

It’s been some time since I’ve written about Hercules, who is fast approaching his second birthday, and he's even bigger than he was then. Son No. 1 describes him as a “30-pound brick.” (He might not actually be that heavy, but he sure feels it when he’s sprawled across half the bed in the middle of the night.) The Plot Master (TPM) has nicknamed him “Thunderfoot” for the thuds he makes when he jumps and lands on something. (On a positive note, we generally know where he is!) He runs down the stairs down in a two-legged gait, but not the usual two legs. Instead of left/right, he vaults down front/back, like a bunny rabbit!

Hercules will celebrate his second birthday on May 15!

He hasn’t been a cuddler since he outgrew my lap about 15 months ago, but he is a people cat. He rarely spends time alone, and will follow us from room to room. He loves playing tag, fetch and catch, and is quite the outfielder with miniature tennis balls!

Unfortunately, his favorite time to play is 4:30 a.m., which, as I recently discovered, is my “creative” time. This has resulted in a standoff between the two of us since I altered my morning routine.

Where previously I got up and exercised first thing–while he watched–now I get up and start to write (sitting on the couch in the blessedly quiet living room). This apparently bores him, so he starts wreaking havoc everywhere he can within my vision and earshot. 

He jumps on TPM’s sacrosanct (and overly neat) desk in the corner and starts swiping things onto the floor. Pens go flying, as do neatly stacked notebooks and folders. Once he actually got his claws on our checkbook and sent it tumbling into the narrow space between the desk and wall. (That was NOT a fun morning.) 

He's watching and waiting to make his move.
When he tires of the desk, he starts attacking what little artwork remains hanging on our walls (after we purged the walls of anything he could reach except for a few larger pieces I refuse to take down). Or he jumps on me.

In the tiny space next to the couch (where I'm sitting), poised to snag me!

This behavior goes on until TPM comes downstairs for the day to guard his desk and the artwork, but that’s a good 60 or 90 minutes of Hercules’ playfulness to work around. And usually by then he’s tired and ready for his first nap of the day.

After a few frustrating weeks of that, I moved to the dining room where the worst he can do is rip apart my printed outline and story notes while I’m trying to read them. Have I mentioned he eats paper and cardboard? Like a billy goat? He doesn’t actually swallow, just rips with his fangs and spits the pieces out. I think he likes the shredding noise. Maybe Son No. 1 should have called him Shredder instead of Hercules.

He is NOT liking this new setup.

So that’s where things stand now–an uneasy truce with me stationed each morning at the dining room table and Hercules waiting and watching for an opportunity to get some attention. I’m counting my blessings since I never know when he might find a new method of torture–I mean fun– to try! 

And I should mention, he's giving me some great material! In my current WIP, my heroine has a black cat named Romeo. I might need to give Romeo an expanded part!


Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love–-that is, if Hercules lets her. She blogs here on the 6th and 22nd of each month. Learn more at or visit her on Facebook.  


Margo Hoornstra said...

Well, yeeehaaa, Leah. You’re writing again. I’ll pick up the whine now. Life is sooo busy lately i’m struggling to find writing time. Although, I recently was asked to sub at a job where I know i’ll have lots of down time and can flourish! No Hercules involved though. The little darlin is all yours. Enjoy!

RE Mullins said...

Pets are a wonderful source of inspiration. My late dog, Sabu, is being featured in my current WIP.

Diane Burton said...

Your pity party is well-deserved, Leah. With everything that's gone on and is going on, you have a lot on your plate. Been there. Don't discount fatigue. So, you have 2 choices: quit writing and get more sleep; or write on in spite of everything. I'm so glad you chose option #2. Yes, I think Hercules needs a special place in your wip. Good luck!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Um. I never know what to say about animal mayhem when I know you need some peace in your busy life. Using the cat in a novel is one way to make him useful...keep at it Leah. You're finding your groove.

Jannine Gallant said...

I'm glad to hear you're writing again...or at least trying to! My solution is to cat-proof a room (bathroom, spare bedroom?) and lock the little menace in there. Then wear earplugs so you can't hear him howl and get down to business. Ginger is a pain in my butt when I'm writing at home. She asks to go in and out about 50 times a day. And if I ignore her, she scratches the finish off the door. I write at the end of the dining room table where I can lean back to open the deck door without getting up. Saves time that way. LOL

Alison Henderson said...

I got a big laugh from your description of Hercules' antics. For nineteen years, I lived with a big black cat OG called "Thunderhoof, Warcat of the Prairie." (We were living in Kansas at the time. LOL)

Leah St. James said...

I'm trying, Margo! Slow and steady wins the race...or at least has a shot at finishing the race. LOL. I hope this new subbing opportunity will give you some quiet time!

Leah St. James said...

Sabu is a fantastic name, Robin! I'll bet writing about him (her?) brings you lots of happy memories.

Leah St. James said...

Diane, I can't say that I haven't thought seriously about Option 1 (taking a break for a couple years), but I'm afraid I'd never go back to it, and I'm not willing to give it up. Thanks for the pep talk! I appreciate it.

Leah St. James said...

So far Romeo has been a much more subdued character than Hercules, but he hasn't yet had a chance to spread his fictional, uh...paws...either! So there's lots of room to grow. :-)

Leah St. James said...

Oh, Jannine, I have put him in time out in the bathroom (and made sure I put his water and litter box in there). The hard part is catching him! He knows exactly what he's doing. In fact, he baits me and watches for my reaction, so by the time I set the laptop aside, push myself to a standing position and turn in his direction, he's already hiding behind the couch, thinking we're playing a game. I like your solution for manning the door for Ginger's outside breaks. Very efficient!:-)

Leah St. James said...

Alison, I love OG's name for your kitty! I think he and TPM think a lot alike! And actually, TPM really loves Hercules. He's always been a dog person, and I never thought i'd see the day when he was taken with a cat. But Hercules is such a fun "little" guy (when he's not terrorizing us), it's hard not to laugh!

Andrea Downing said...

Oh, how I know exactly how you feel. Daughter's wedding, quickly followed by sale of home, accompanied by purchase of new one with huge remodeling job. . . OK, too old for full time job but life is pretty hectic. Started work on story due Oct. 1, got to 10K and realized I have to ditch most of it. Wish I had your cat for inspiration!

Brenda Whiteside said...

Well, at least you are owning your excuse list and moving on. Yay. I'm sure Hercules will make a fine character. He could totally destroy evidence of a crime...or maybe uncover it!

Leah St. James said...

Oh no, Andi! I'd be panicked. Oct. 1 sounds so far away, but it's not! And you've had a ton of major projects to deal with. I know you'll make your deadline though!

Leah St. James said...

Hercules could star in his own series, I think, Brenda! :-) I like your ideas...might have to borrow them!

Anonymous said...

Your Hercules reminds me of the 3 black cats I've loved: Panther, Agate, and Ebony, who once brought me a gift of a squirrel eyeball. Shouldn't Son #1 be helping you solve this problem? Maybe Hercules should stay in HIS bedroom until your writing time is done. Ha! So glad you're working on your sequel.

Leah St. James said...

Hi, Marissa! Thanks for stopping by! In an ideal world, Son No. 1 would keep his "child" busy, but as a doctoral candidate, his schedule is "a bit" different than mine. He's probably going to bed about an hour before I get up! For whatever reason, Hercules has gravitated toward my schedule. ... Yay me. But actually he (Son No. 1) is busy spring-cleaning his room right now, so maybe Hercules will have a change of heart!

Christine DePetrillo said...

Ha, your black cat's antics DID give me a chuckle!

Leah St. James said...

I'm glad, Chris :-)