Multi-passionate writer, author and solo-preneur

Month: April 2013


sashaSasha first came into my life — or rather, I came into hers — in January of 2005, not long after Matt and I started dating. It was my first visit to his apartment, and we were both excited for me to meet his only pet, this dainty little black and white kitty that he’d gotten as a kitten only two years before. She was a cutie, all right, and she clearly adored Matt — and she HATED me on sight.

I spent a lot of time at that apartment over the couple of years that followed, and I tried everything I could think of to get Sasha to like me. Every now and then, she’d seem to soften toward me. She’d let me play with her, trying to catch my hand as I wiggled my fingers over the arm of the couch, or losing her cool (in the good way) over a piece of yarn whenever I brought my knitting over. Every now and then, she’d even let me pick her up for a cuddle.

Except that the games were usually considered “won” once she  managed to inflict pain and draw blood, and the brief cuddles usually ended with her hissing and slapping me in the face. It was abundantly clear that, to her, I was merely “the other woman” and she had no use for me, but I just never learned. Or rather, I was determined not to give up, because it was also abundantly clear that Matt and I would be together for the long haul, so she just had better get used to me.

A few months before our wedding, Matt’s apartment complex caught on fire. Worried that the fire might reach his apartment, he brought Sasha over to my place, and since we were already planning to live there after the wedding, we decided to leave her there and give her time to adjust to living in a new place and get used to my pets — Niblet, my brown tabby, and Fizzgigg, my toy poodle (who I suspect was actually a malti-poo). Fizzgigg had been over to the apartment a few times, so he and Sasha were well acquainted, but this was the first time she’d met Niblet, and, excepting a short time spent at her grandparents’ house and being exposed to their cat, it was her first time having to put up with Another Cat.

Sasha was not a happy camper. We tried to introduce her and Niblet slowly, but somehow, the pet gate between them got torn down and the fighting commenced. Niblet didn’t know what hit her. She was almost twice Sasha’s size, and yet Sasha was a tiny spitfire who kicked her hinder up and down my loft, jumping her at every chance. Eventually, Niblet learned to fight back, and Sasha became less prone to ambushing her, but they still fought like… well, like cats. Once, poor Fizzgigg got caught in the middle and took a claw in the eye. Eventually, they all learned to get along, albeit grudgingly, and we settled in as a family. Except that Sasha still wanted very little to do with me.

2008 brought with it a series of events that once again rocked Sasha’s world. First Fizzgigg, the one family member she seemed to like other than Matt, passed away, and then a few months later we moved into our current house. Shortly after that we got Pete. Sasha spent the first six months or so in our new house hiding behind the living room couch, only coming out to eat. Just as she was starting to come out of hiding for more than just long enough to eat and pee, Boudica showed up and sent her scurrying right back behind the couch. But gradually, she started venturing out, and getting to know the new cat, and she and Boudica eventually became buddies. More amazingly, Sasha even started to tolerate and occasionally even play with Pete. And she no longer fought with Niblet (at least, not often).

And she still didn’t like me much.

Then, something amazing happened. I caught Sasha clawing at the carpet, and Matt wasn’t readily available to get onto her about it, so I had to do it myself. At this point, I had been part of this cat’s every day life for five years, and she still acted like I was an annoying stranger. But once I took charge and disciplined her, it was like a flip got switched, and suddenly she acknowledged that she was my kitty, too. After that, she started letting me love on her, and she even got in my lap a few times (though she was never much of a lap kitty). She even submitted to letting me do things like trimming her claws, and medicating her sores when she developed flea dermatitis.

All the same, though, she was always kind of a loner, and kept mostly to herself. Which is why we didn’t notice the tumor growing inside her armpit until it became the size of a golf ball.

Matt wasn’t available to accompany us the first time I took her to the vet to get it checked out. So it was just her and me in the truck on the way to the vet’s office, her exploring the cab and meowing with a mixture of fear and curiosity, me trying to reassure her while navigating the freeway, and then she ended up in my lap, then up on my shoulder, clinging to me while she watched out the window. She kept clinging to me in the vet’s office in between examinations and medications.

Surgery followed, and we thought maybe that had saved her. Then there were follow-up appointments, and when it became clear that the cancer was back, weekly appointments to get her medicated and hydrated. Matt went with us on most of the subsequent trips, and Sasha quickly got to where she enjoyed the ride, stretched out on the bench between us in the sunlight. With Matt on crutches, I was the one who held her during the exams, the one she clung to once the vet finished poking around on her. It touched me, the way this cat who for five whole years wanted nothing to do with me was holding onto me for reassurance. It also tore at my heart, because I could feel her growing lighter with each passing week as she began wasting away.

We started letting her go outside when the weather became warm. She had been an indoor kitty all her life, so to her it was like a trip to Disney World. It didn’t take long for her to start asking to go out on her own, and she’d just go out and lie down in the grass and sleep, contentedly, in the sun. Sometimes we’d go sit with her, and she’d rouse and go back and forth between us, head-butting our legs, before settling down between us, purring and kneading her claws in the grass. We also started giving her canned food to help keep her hydrated, and she instantly became addicted, following Matt every time he went into the kitchen and demanding her food. She had a voracious appetite for the stuff.

On Sunday, it became clear that her illness was finally getting the better of her. She was walking more slowly, and she couldn’t jump up on the couch by herself, and stumbled when she tried to jump down. That didn’t keep her from following Matt into the kitchen, but she couldn’t eat as much as she had been. By the time we went to bed on Sunday night, we half expected that she wouldn’t make it through the night.

And yet, on Monday morning, she was there to follow Matt into the kitchen. She ate an entire can of Fancy Feast, which gave us hope, and afterwards she begged to go outside, where she lay down in the grass. After a while, when she hadn’t moved, Matt went to check on her, and she couldn’t even lift her head to greet him. I went out with them, and we just sat there with her for a long time, petting her and telling her how much we loved her, what a good kitty she had been, and saying our goodbyes.

But then she found the strength to get up, and we all came back inside. We settled her on the couch, on the quilt she liked so much, and spent the day just being with her. Every now and then, Matt would bring her a bite of food, and she managed to purr as she ate it. Later, we took her back outside to get some more sun.

When we went to bed that night, we both kissed her, and told her again how much we loved her, and that we hoped to see her in the morning. But she left us in the night. Matt found her Tuesday morning in her bed, a bed I had knitted for her and the other cats. We wrapped her up in it and took her out to my mom’s, where we laid her next to Fizzgigg in a part of the yard that serves as a pet burial ground. It’s a pretty, shady spot, quiet and peaceful, with the sounds of the lake lapping against the shore down the hill as background music to the neighbor’s wind chimes.

If you had told me five years ago that I would be so heartbroken to lose Sasha, I might have been a little dubious. Of course I would have been sad, but at that point I still thoroughly thought of her as Matt’s cat, just as she did. But she has been my kitty as much as his these past few years, and especially these last few months. She still adored Matt more than any other human, but she made it clear that she loved me, too, that I was no longer the Other Woman. Somewhere in there, I had become Mom.

Good night, Sasha girl. We love you and we miss you, but you’ve earned your rest. Say hi to Fizzgigg for us, and try not to poke his eye again when you two play together up there.

18 Years Ago

18 years ago today, I was working as a retail clerk at Dillard’s department store. I had just started my lunch break, and was passing through the electronics department on my way to the break room. Sales clerks and customers alike were standing around a big screen TV, staring in shock at scenes of chaos. First responders rushing to and fro, small children being carried by firemen and paramedics, the federal building with its face sheered off behind a mountain of rubble and smoke. I had never seen anything like it before, at least outside of the movies, and I never thought I’d see anything like it again.

How wrong I was.

It’s fascinating to me, the way the Internet and social networks have evolved the way we deal with things like this. In 1995, we didn’t have text messaging or Twitter or immediate access to the Internet in our workplace. As news of the bombing spread through the workplace, everyone was shocked. How does this happen in Oklahoma? Oklahoma City is not a major city. Apart from oil, Oklahoma’s not really that important on a global or even national scale. We thought we were safe from that kind of attack. But our illusions of safety and insignificance were shattered in the blast, and the only ones we had to talk to about that, at least until our shifts ended and we could go home and be with our loved ones, were each other. In the meantime, we relied on the Electronics department clerks to keep us informed about new developments.

On 9/11, the Internet had grown up a bit, and my world had gotten somewhat smaller. I had friends all over the country now, and we kept in constant touch via group e-mails and a Yahoo! list. I found out about the first plane from one such e-mail, sent to the group by a member who worked in downtown Manhattan. A plane had crashed into a nearby building, she said, and her building was being evacuated. I was attending college then, and was late for class, so I fired back a response that I hoped she’d let us know when she made it home okay, and went to class, assuming that it had been a freak accident and nothing more. I didn’t find out that the nearby building was the World Trade Center, or about the second plane, until I got to class. A while later, someone came in and told us about the Pentagon. In my next class, there were rumors about a fourth plane headed for the White House.

All of this information came to us from faculty who were listening to the radio. It was also on the radio, on the drive home, that I learned the fate of that fourth plane, and that the first building collapsed. I got home just in time to see the instant replay on TV. I spent that day glued to the TV, and exchanging horrified and frightened e-mails with my group of distant friends.

On Monday, we had been home from running errands for about half an hour before I saw the first phone pic a spectator had taken of the bombing site re-posted on Facebook. I clicked over to Twitter, and saw a stream of confused and horrified tweets from people wondering what was happening. Those were followed by tweets with helpful information: the best way to find out if your loved ones were okay; where to find free WiFi in Boston if you needed to check in; where to hang out and get free drinks until authorities said it was safe to go home. There were messages of support, offerings of prayers, and, later in the day, more practical help: people offering up their homes to stranded survivors, people offering to buy pizza and takeout for that first group of people to help them feed the survivors. The world had gotten very small, and suddenly, for a while, the nation was one big community, taking care of each other, making sure those who needed it were taken care of.

That was not something I had ever even imagined 18 years ago when my fellow employees and I felt isolated and cut off, completely helpless, constantly taking turns going upstairs to Electronics to see if there was any new news.

We live in a different world now. After such a tumultuous week, it’s nice to be reminded that, in some ways, it has changed for the better.

Throwing in the towel on Camp Nano — and on even trying to cope with this week.

I think it’s time to throw in the towel and admit defeat on this round of Camp Nanowrimo. I haven’t had the time or energy to write in a solid week, and I don’t think I’m doing my book any favors by trying to force a daily word quota. I think it would be better served by sticking to my “at least 30 minutes a day” goal and remembering that a little progress is better than no progress.

So what’s been keeping me so busy for the last week? Taxes and tragedies, pet trauma and illness and vet appointments, scrambling to wrap up projects so I can get paid and to find new clients and projects to replace the ones I’m finishing, weather woes, prayer and reflection and Bible study, and a lot of just sitting here feeling numb and hugging on my husband and furbabies and wondering what the world is coming to. And tea. Lots of brewing and imbibing of tea.

The entire week has been stressful and surreal, starting last Thursday when I ended up spending the entire day going over my accounting records and making sure everything was in order, thanks to procrastinating on it for an entire year. Friday was all errands and making up for the freelance work I skipped on Thursday.

Saturday started out with accidentally sitting on my tiny dog, who was sleeping under a blanket on the couch. He wasn’t seriously injured, but he was sore and pretty sore with me for a while, and I of course felt like a horrible human being and pet mom. Saturday was also doing our taxes day, which we elected to do ourselves this year to save about a hundred dollars by using Turbotax instead of a professional tax preparer, and let me tell you, that extra hundred dollars to let somebody else who knows what they’re doing do all of the paperwork while you just sit there is well worth it if you can afford it. And between having underpaid my 2012 estimated self-employment taxes and having to pay back a portion of our first-time homebuyer’s credit from 2008, we owed quite a bit more than we expected to, and Sunday was figuring out what to do about that, along with housework and yard work.

Monday was when it took a turn for the surreal and tragic, which I’m sure you well know. We had just gotten home from a morning spent running tax-related errands about half an hour before the first tweets from Boston started circulating, and like pretty much everyone else I spent the rest of the day in shock and failed to get much else done. Tuesday was Sasha’s vet checkup, and we also took Pete for his annual and to have him looked over to make sure we hadn’t missed any hidden injuries from Saturday’s incident, and it was also a day of trying to catch up on client work. Wednesday, yesterday, was all about client work, and, not having slept well the last two nights, I was very tired and ready for bed when we finally turned in.

And yet, I was not so tired that the storms didn’t keep me awake, which meant I was up to hear the tornado sirens go off around midnight. I got up and ran into the living room to turn on the TV and check the weather to see if I needed to wake Matt up and take cover (I didn’t – the worst of it was well south of us) and spent the next hour on the floor in front of the TV watching the radar and praying for all of the Tulsa suburbs in the path of a tornado and making sure that we were out of danger. Finally, they gave the all-clear for the city of Tulsa proper, and I turned off the TV and went back to bed. And the tornado sirens continued to blow for another hour or so after that. My nerves, they were wracked.

This morning, I awoke to the news that the tornado had touched down again in some small towns to the east, but thankfully, nobody was seriously injured, although some folks, including the son of a friend of mine, lost their homes. I also saw the news about what’s happening in Texas, and I think that, on top of everything else this past week, is what finally broke my brain. I have work I need to do, but I have not slept well for the last three or four nights, and I’m very tired, and I’m very sad, and I just want to sit here and curl up with a cup of tea and my dog (who loves me again, although he jumps down from the couch when he sees me coming) and look at pretty things on Pinterest and maybe get off the computer and go make something pretty with my own two hands.

But: I have work to do, and my clients need their websites, and I need to get paid, and I need to find my focus and get it done. I will take a moment to count my blessings, because I know I have so much to be thankful for, make another cup of tea, go kiss my husband, and get to work.

A Tiny Glimmer of Hope


Project: Radium Town, the Steampunk Weird West adventure set in my hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma at the dawn of statehood and featuring Will Rogers and Tom Mix.

Writing stage: First Draft

Today’s Word Count: 485. It came really close to being zilch, so I’ll take it.

Total Word Count: 5,030

What happened: Betty met Mary Bayless, the richest woman in town, who invited her and the professor to dinner.

Favorite line(s):

Still smiling, she extended her hand. “I’m Mary Bayless. My husband John was a great admirer of the professor’s.”

“Was?” Betty asked as she shook the woman’s hand. “Did the professor do something to sour Mr. Bayless’s admiration?”

“Not at all.” Her smile wavered only an instant as she said, “Mr. Bayless passed away earlier this year.”

“Oh.” Brilliant deduction there, Agent Blake. “I’m so sorry to hear that.”

C25K/UFYH: Not a durn thing, on either count. But I was right about yesterday’s Pilates workout leaving me sore, so I don’t feel too bad about it.

Other: Took Sasha back to the vet for a checkup. The vet told us that she attended a seminar the other day and learned about an experimental treatment that might help. She ran tests and Sasha’s blood count’s not quite high enough to qualify her for it, but the vet is going to do some more research to see if we can do anything to build up her red cell count enough that we can go through with the treatment. It won’t necessarily save her life, but it sounds like it has a good chance of slowing things down and buying her some time and relieving her pain.

Otherwise, I finished the development stage of my client’s website, and now we just need to load in the content. I don’t know how close she is to having all of the copy written, but I’m hoping it’ll be ready to launch by the end of the week. I also got a call from my husband’s cousin, who had a new client lead for me, which if it pans out will shore up the rest of this month for us, so my fingers are crossed that that’ll work out.

Camp Nanowrimo: Day 8


Project: Radium Town, the Steampunk Weird West adventure set in my hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma at the dawn of statehood and featuring Will Rogers and Tom Mix.

Writing stage: First Draft

Today’s Word Count: 625. And I didn’t write all weekend, either. I need to hustle if I’m going to catch up.

Total Word Count: 4,545

What happened: Betty checked into her hotel room. Exciting!

Favorite line(s):

The lobby of the Hotel Sequoyah was grand bordering on ostentatious, with mahogany paneling and marble floors and gilded electric sconces and chandeliers, all polished to a such a sheen that Betty could see her disheveled appearance in any surface she looked at. The decor was a blend of native art and artifacts and Art Nouveau, with a large portrait of Sequoyah himself done in oils gracing one side of the front desk, and a Mucha painting on the other. All of these small town hotels that often served as Betty’s home away from home tended to project a sense of trying a little too hard to look like something you’d find back east, but she appreciated the way this one made at least a cursory attempt to acknowledge the town’s heritage.

C25K/UFYH:I’ve given up on waiting for the weather to stabilize so I can do C25K. If this year follows the same pattern as the last two years, we’re going to have a long rainy spring that goes right into Too Dang Hot To Do Anything, Ever. Also, my knee has been acting up again for no apparent reason, and between that and the weather I think maybe somebody’s trying to tell me I’m just not meant to run a 5K. So since I’d like to be able to wear my birthday jeans without any muffin top sometime this year, today I made myself do Pilates. I went through the whole workout for the first time since I can’t even remember. I’m going to be in so much pain tomorrow.

What else: Came close to finishing the development stage of the YA book series website I’m doing, and wrote a blog post about it. Paid some bills and made some Asian coleslaw for lunch. I need to give Sasha the rest of her vitamins and help Matt give her her nighttime meds, clean the cat boxes, and eat dinner, not necessarily in that order. Then I’m going to fall into bed alongside my husband and dog and watch Justfied (we’re about eight episodes into Season 2) — or possibly catch up on Vegas and/or check out Hannibal — until we can’t keep our eyes open.

It Are My Birthday!

nom-nom-nomAnd my Birthday Book Sale is still going strong! You can pick up my scary-fun ghost story Restless Spirits, which seems to be picking up a bit of a following, or my significantly more angst-filled “vampires staving off a zombie apocalypse” drama Dominion of the Damned, at a steep discount. E-books are only 99 cents* and paperbacks are down to $9.99* through Sunday. Get ’em here, here, or here.

*Those are US prices, by the way. They’re also discounted on the international Amazon and Barnes & Noble sites.

Now I am going to get dressed and ready to be taken out for Chinese and birthday sushi. NOM.

Camp Nanowrimo, Day Four


Project: Radium Town, the Steampunk Weird West adventure set in my hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma at the dawn of statehood and featuring Will Rogers and Tom Mix.

Writing stage: First Draft

Today’s Word Count: 664

Total Word Count: 3,920

What happened: The professor had a conniption when his mystery machine got dropped, but Betty smoothed things over with the workmen.

Favorite line(s)

“Agent Blake,” said the professor, “arrest these men.”
“Arrest them? What for?”
“Sabotage! Incompetence! Utter buffoonery! I don’t know, invent a reason!”
“That’s not quite how it works, Professor.”

C25K/UFYH:Did (well, am doing) laundry and wrangled the recycling. Also, the sun came back out so we spent some time in the back yard tossing the football.

Elsewise: Did some troubleshooting on the client project I thought I finished yesterday, and made good progress on the other client project. Didn’t get as much done as I wanted to today, either writing-wise or work-wise. I’ve been pretty scattered and a bit lazy and low on energy for the last couple of weeks. I think it’s probably a combination of the weather, sadness over our sick kitty, and watching the final days of my thirties slip away. At any rate, next week I’ve got to snap myself out of it and get organized, because there’s stuff that needs doing and it won’t get done at this rate.

Birthday Book Sale!

happy birthdaySo I’m staring down the Big Four Oh on Saturday, and to kick off this new chapter of my life I’m having a sale on all of my books. From now through Sunday, all of my e-books, including Restless Spirits and Dominion of the Damned, are only 99 cents on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and the paperbacks are only $9.99. If you’ve been planning to pick up one or both of my books, now’s a great time to do so. It’s also a great time to recommend my books to people you know, which would be the best birthday present you could give me.

Camping Out in Radium Town (Camp Nano Day 3)


Project: Radium Town, the Steampunk Weird West adventure set in my hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma at the dawn of statehood and featuring Will Rogers and Tom Mix.

Writing stage: First Draft

Today’s Word Count:  1,282 today (only 681 yesterday, so I’m a bit behind)

Total Word Count: 3,256

What happened: Betty and the professor got off the train at the Claremore station, where Betty got a surprise hello from her old friend Will and had a surprise ready for him in return. His involved a lasso. Hers involved a stun gun.

Favorite line:

Now here she was, Agent Blake of the BDD, tall and confident in her tailored suit with a skirt just full enough to hide things best left concealed in mixed company, with a slit just high enough that she could get to them quickly if she needed to.

UFYH: I don’t know how much un-messing is going to get done during Camp Nano. I used the time today that would’ve gone to starting a load of laundry to take a shower instead.

What else: Finished a client project and made an experimental chicken salad with leftover chicken breast from Saturday’s fried chicken feast, leftover Easter egg and avocado. It turned out well. My only regret is that we’re out of bread so I didn’t have any toast to go with it. Also, it’s only the second day of this cold and wet weather and I’m already sick of it. Bring on the sunshine! Oh! AND I received a birthday package from Matt’s cousin Stevie — a canister of white hot chocolate. I’ll be mixing up a mug of it after dinner.

Camp NaNoWriMo, Day One: Monsters & Mayhem


Project: Radium Town, the Steampunk Weird West adventure set in my hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma at the dawn of statehood and featuring Will Rogers and Tom Mix.

Writing stage: First Draft

Today’s Word Count: 1,270

Total Word Count: 1,270

What happened: Right now I’m just writing out a detailed synopsis, then I’ll go back and flesh out each scene. Synopsis-wise, I’m up to the part where the monster reveals itself.

UFYH: I watered the plants, and added some moisture to the turtle’s habitat, and sat our poor, wilted snake plant outside in the hopes that sunlight will perk it back up. I need to vacuum and do more laundry, but those will probably have to wait until later in the week. I need to go get dressed so we can take Sasha back to the vet to see if her new meds are helping.

Later: After the vet, I need to deal with e-mail, then start building the custom WordPress theme I designed for a client last week. This evening, I’ll cook up a big batch of salmon patties for dinner, then we’ll watch the season finale of Walking Dead. Still haven’t watched Doctor Who yet. We’ll either watch that or start the second season of Justified before we head to bed.

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