The Cat Lecturer

Musetta Clea Simon

Guest post by Clea Simon

When I thought about what to blog about for The Conscious Cat this time, I thought I’d talk  about writing. You know, a very specific kind of “this is what I do, and this is how I do it” blog. And I meant to – I really meant to – only as I started to draft some kind of introduction –I got yelled at by my cat.

I’m not sure what I did exactly. It wasn’t food related, of that I’m sure. People who don’t live with cats – maybe people who don’t live with any animals at all – tend to think that all they care about, all they need from us, is food. Well, food and treats, and while that’s a large part of our role in their world, it isn’t the entirety.  Because when Musetta – tuxedo cat who rules my roost – started in on me, her dish was full. No, I think it was that I’d gone out while she was napping.

You see, for all my talk about process, I’m having trouble starting my next book – the seventh in the Dulcie Schwartz series – and when I am at this stage of things, I tend to wander. Sometimes only from room to room, picking things up and putting them down where I won’t be able to find them later. But sometimes it is more – and when things get really bad, I have to get out of the house. I go on necessary errands, and unnecessary ones. And sometimes, I just take off – walk through the park down the street and try to commune with the squirrels.

I guess its no wonder Musetta wasn’t amused. This is inane behavior. Illogical. It wasn’t that she was worried about me. Musetta’s not a particularly sentimental soul and though I believe she’s fond of me, in her way, she knows that whenever I leave the house it’s even money that I’ll be taken by predators. And she wishes I wouldn’t upset her equilibrium this way. I’m supposed to be at my desk, you see. And then, well, I wasn’t. No wonder she was angry with me.

Welcome to my world. As I’m sure many of you know, the life of a writer is not the wildly glamorous life you’ve been led to expect. It’s a life of relative isolation, sedentary and often frustrating. The kind of life in which the daily visit from the UPS guy is a thrill. And I’ll even venture that to be a mystery writer is worse than any other kind. Serious novelists, for instance. Because unlike those High Art Literary Types, who undoubtedly really are swanning around in their satin lounging outfits, eating bonbons and waiting for inspiration to strike, we are grinding out popular fiction on deadline.

OK, so maybe I’m wrong about those High Art types. I know a few, and they go through many of the same struggles. But I don’t think they get yelled at by their cats.

Of course, one reason that I may get lectured by my cat is because I listen to her. You could argue that I’ve decided to give her a voice, to lend credence to her mews and chirps because it serves my purpose. Because I’ve created several characters, including Dulcie, who “hear” their animals. But at some level that wasn’t a conscious decision. My cat yells at me, and I have to listen.  That what she says, and the tone that she uses to say it, informs my writing is simply a side effect of the sad and subjugated life I lead.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Dulcie, for example, doesn’t often get a direct lecture from Mr. Grey, her spectral feline. Even her current cat, Esmé, is often silent. Too silent, in fact, when Dulcie could use some advice.

The key will be for Dulcie to listen very closely. And for Mr Grey to chose his words carefully. Because I’m not sure what he knows, exactly. Or Esmé, for that matter, because we know she loves to be seen as wiser than she actually is. And that of course brings up other questions. Would Esmé have actual knowledge about an accidental death… or was it a murder? Would she have overheard something that hinted at what happened? And might it be something that Dulcie wouldn’t have heard – or, no, better – something that Dulcie did hear, but misunderstood. Because she’s a mere human and thick as only a biped can be. And if its something that Dulcie doesn’t understand, then it is possible that she might be putting herself in danger. And then both Esmé and Mr Grey would have reason to worry.

But it’s hard to figure out how exactly this can work, unless I start trying to write it out – to describe the arch of a feline back or the way a tail curls at its tip, showing the immense disdain only a cat can carry off. And then thinking of the body, and how Dulcie would react… and I’m off.

As I said, my cat yells at me when I’m trying to work. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Clea Simon is the author of the Theda Krakow mysteries, the Pru Marlowe pet noirs (the most recent of which is Cats Can’t Shoot, from Poisoned Pen Press), and the Dulcie Schwartz feline mysteries, the most recent of which, True Grey, is out this month from Severn House. For more information, please visit CleaSimon.com.

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15 Comments on The Cat Lecturer

  1. Amy Shojai, CABC
    December 6, 2012 at 12:01 am (7 years ago)

    Oh, now I think that Musetta has been comparing kitty notes with Seren. Here I thought that Seren’s tirades had more to do with her elder status and (perhaps?) a wee bit of hearing loss. That, or the dog crossed his eyes at her again.

    This is delightful, Clea! I love your writing anyway, and this is a dead-on examination of not only kitty behavior but feline motivation. Their own–and how they motivate us. *s*

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 6, 2012 at 6:09 am (7 years ago)

      Isn’t it a wonderful piece, Amy? Poor Seren, blaming her age, or Magic, for her just doing her job keeping you in line! 😉

      Reply
  2. Bernadette
    December 5, 2012 at 8:23 pm (7 years ago)

    Good thing she came along, Clea! Where would you be as a writer without her?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 5, 2012 at 8:55 pm (7 years ago)

      Where would any of us be without our cats, Bernadette!

      Reply
  3. Peg
    December 5, 2012 at 5:41 pm (7 years ago)

    Delightful! And so true – people who work with cats around recognize the body language and “look” of a cat who is not being properly attended to. You can almost see them thinking how dense we are, how slow to learn the simplest tending to their needs. And like Clea, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 5, 2012 at 8:55 pm (7 years ago)

      I agree, Peg. I can’t imagine not having my girls around while I work.

      Reply
  4. Colehaus Cats
    December 5, 2012 at 1:21 pm (7 years ago)

    Fantastic post and good observations we hope to always be aware of.

    Reply
  5. Clea Simon
    December 5, 2012 at 12:09 pm (7 years ago)

    Thanks for reading, folks! And thanks, Daniela – I’ll see if I can email you. If not, please email directly at cleasimon at mac.com?

    Reply
  6. Daniela Caride
    December 5, 2012 at 10:56 am (7 years ago)

    What a fun read, Clea. I’d be happy to publish a guest post from you in Taildom blog, with link to your books. Lemme know. 🙂

    Reply
  7. Viki Worden
    December 5, 2012 at 10:30 am (7 years ago)

    It is so true, cats need more than food and water. Cats get bored and want attention. They don’t always like to be left alone either. I have one cat, Cisco, who meows and scratches on my bedroom door at night because he wants to come in. I keep my door closed because I have my other cat in there with me and if he wanders the house at night he can get aggressive and go after one of my other cats. I have 3 total. I will let Cisco in sometimes, but then he only wants to stay in there long enough to purr in my ear and make sure I am fully away and then he wants to go back out, lol. I would love to have him stay in there with me all night if he didn’t wake me up. The one that does sleep with me, Meeko, is older (almost 9), so he lays near the bottom of my bed all night. However, sometimes he decides to wake me up too batting his toys around, lol. I love them and wouldn’t live without them. When my last child moves out of the house soon I know that I will always have my furry kids there with me.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 5, 2012 at 1:16 pm (7 years ago)

      Apparently, writers’ cats are in particular need of attention, Viki. 😉 I think maybe it’s because they’re so used to having us around all day, and just typing away on the computer doesn’t look like it should be a barrier to paying attention to them…

      Reply
      • Viki Worden
        December 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm (7 years ago)

        I agree Ingrid! I actually do work away from home, but when I get on the computer at home 2 of my cats don’t let that stop them. They both will jump up and get right in front of my keyboard and my screen so I can’t see. Of course I have to hug and kiss them, lol. They always make me smile, no matter what I am doing, or what they are doing.

        Reply
  8. Bobbi Hahn
    December 5, 2012 at 8:14 am (7 years ago)

    I absolutely love the line, ” . . . the immense disdain only a cat can carry off.” Great post!

    Reply
    • Marilia
      December 5, 2012 at 9:31 am (7 years ago)

      Me too Bobbi Hahn!!!

      Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 5, 2012 at 1:15 pm (7 years ago)

      I do, too, Bobbi!

      Reply

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