cat mysteries

A day in the life of an author’s cat

Fred, Lorna Barrett's cat

Guest post by Fred, owner of
New York Times bestselling author Lorna Barrett

Hello, my name is Fred. I’m a Tuxedo. That means I’m black and white. And very handsome. I know, because my author told me so.

Yes, I own an author. She wasn’t always an author, but when I came to live with her, her luck changed. Who says black cats are unlucky! She started selling lots of books. She has lots of author names: Lorna Barrett, Lorraine Bartlett, and L.L. Bartlett.

Why do people think black cats are unlucky? Okay, I do have some white fur, too, but I’m mostly a black cat. (Unless I lie on my back, and then my mapmaker—that’s the husband of my author—says I’m mostly white. Go figure!)

As an author-owner, I lead a pretty busy life. My day often starts at 3 or 4 in the morning. Sometimes I get restless and like to walk around the house talking to the cupboard. It holds lots of cans of cat food and kitty treats. I tell it to feed me, but it doesn’t listen well. So I walk around the house and talk to the furniture and the walls. Sometimes I talk (and scratch on) the bedroom closet door. For some reason when that happens, water comes squirting off of the mapmaker’s bedside table. Go figure!

I like to go back to bed about half an hour before everybody else gets up. Then I like to have a lie-in while my author and mapmaker play on their computers before breakfast.

I show up for breakfast every morning, but sometimes I don’t like what’s on the menu. I refuse to sit up and then I walk away. (But I sneak back when no one is looking. Hey, I gotta eat ya know.)

After breakfast, I like to jump on my author’s lap to take make sure she is correctly answering her email. Then I take a long nap on my mapmaker’s extra office chair. Sometimes I go sit under his 200 watt light bulb in my kitty bed. It’s too small for me, so sometimes I have to hang over the edges.

At lunchtime, I like to go see what my author is having. Sometimes she cuts up onions and celery and that means tuna will happen, and I get to drink the tuna water. I like that. (Doesn’t happen enough, though.)

After lunch, it’s nap time. I need to stay well rested because, like I said, I get up at 3 or 4 in the morning to talk to the walls and furniture. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

My favorite part of the day is Happy Hour. My author and mapmaker like to read (and my author often edits her work in progress at this time of day). Sometimes cheese happens. Yum! Chester (their other black cat) is good about telling them that WE NEED CAT TREATS NOW! Sometimes Betsy (one of the two sisters that live here—I like to chase or LOOK AT HER and make her SCREAM) leaves her treats. I’m fast. I clean up her leftovers.

During happy hour, I like to run around the house and pretend I’m a bullet train. (Only I can jump over chairs and knock over tables. It’s fun!) I have kitty OCD which makes my skin ripple and makes me run fast. The only thing that calms me down is my author petting me and telling me I’m a good and handsome boy. (I am!)

In the evening, I like to walk around the house and let everybody know that I’m in charge. (Chester doesn’t believe it.) I like to jump on the back of my author’s office chair and purr in her ear. She seems to like it.

If my author stays up too late, I have to remind her that it’s my bedtime. I start talking to the walls and furniture in her office until she says, “Alright already! Bedtime!” I sleep at the bottom of my author’s bed. I have an afghan my people-grandma made me and I have a little pillow, too. I like to rest my head on the pillow.

When I’m not doing all these things, I bring my author lots of luck to sell her books. That’s why she calls me her little prince (and her tiny son). She loves me a lot.

That’s my happy life. I hope your life is happy, too!

Lorraine Bartlett with Fred

Fred’s author is New York Times Bestselling author Lorna Barrett of the Booktown Mystery series. Sentenced To Death, #5 in the series, was relesed June 7th. Lorna also writes the Victoria Square Mysteries under the name Lorraine Bartlett and the Jeff Resnick Mysteries under the name L.L. Bartlett.

You may also enjoy reading:

An interview with Lorna Barrett

A mystery author and her cats

We are not (always) amused: Musetta on the challenges of living with mystery writer Clea Simon

Clea Simon's cat Musetta

Guest post by Musetta Simon

Do we have to do everything around here?

Staff was supposed to blog today. Something about those books she’s always letting into the house, those boxes that make such an unpleasant noise when she drops them on the floor. But staff is, as is her wont, a little overwhelmed and so yours truly is filling in.

Let me set the record straight. Staff is busy doing that which she calls “work,” which as far as we can tell is really just an excuse to sit in one place ignoring me in all my magnificence, until we are forced to pierce her self-involved little mindspace with a well-placed claw. It is true that sometimes when we do this, she yelps, which can be harsh to the ear. And that sometimes she responds by pulling us onto her lap. On principle, we object to this – so undignified – but if she rubs our chin just right, well, we will permit such indignities.

Perhaps it’s just as well, really, that we have been forced into such menial service. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t deign to explain ourselves to you, more incipient or present Staff to felines present, past, or future. Why should we? We are a cat. However, since we have taken control – or are, at least, dictating this to staff while we have her under the most stringent form of feline mind control – we shall set the record straight.

To start with, we are not a hapless kitten. Although we may have had some unfortunate misadventures in our earliest youth, we have never been as foolish as that kitten Esmé in Grey Zone. Truth be told, that whole episode with the fireplace, when Esmé stamped soot pawprints all over the apartment, including the Forbidden Places of the counter? That was my predecessor, the original for Mr. Grey. So there. And all that other stuff and nonsense: snoring. Sliding off the pillow as we slept? Not us, and if Staff says otherwise, we shall bite her.

Nor are we Wallis, the tabby who aids her Staff person, Pru, in the despicably named Dogs Don’t Lie. Wallis has the right attitude: condescension with just a soupcon of disdain. But she is a tabby. And really, aren’t tabbies common? One would think that for the occasion of a mystery novel, one would assume a more formal attire. Black and white, for example, which is always impeccably in style.

But let us dispense with such minor complaints. We understand that Staff is incapable of capturing us in our perfection. Like the poor humans in that old Greek’s book, she is only able to portray us as shadows of our greatness. Reflections of ourself. Pale purring imitations. We are beyond Staff’s ken.

For Staff is, of course, not the real creator of these books. Yes, we allow her to put her name on them, much as one would allow a child to stamp out the last cookie – or a kitten to scratch over her mess in the litterbox. We allow her to go forth and do signings or readings, or whatever excuse she uses to come home late and a little flushed. She is an adequate amanuensis, after all, and deserves to be let play.

Besides, we need our privacy as well. And when Staff is off doing such things as signings or gathering the cans that we require at regular intervals, we are replenishing our creativity. For we are the muse, the little muse – the Musetta. And there would be no books without us.

Musetta’s Staff is Clea Simon, the author of the Dulcie Schwartz and Theda Krakow mysteries and the nonfiction The Feline Mystique – On the Mysterious Connection Between Cats and Their Women as well as several other nonfiction books.  For more information about Clea, please visit her website or her blog.

For more about Clea Simon’s books, please read:

Book review: Dogs Don’t Lie

Book review: Grey Zone

Book review: The Theda Krakow Series

My 10 favorite cat books of 2010

 

Reading is as essential as breathing to me.  I usually have at least two or three different books going, and at least one of them will have something to do with cats.  I’ll read anything from books about cat health to stories about cats who changed their owner’s life to murder mysteries featuring cats.

Here are ten of my favorites from this year, in no particular order:

  • Grey Matters by Clea Simon is a cat-themed murder mystery and the second in a series featuring Harvard grad student Dulcie Schwartz and the ghost of Mr. Grey, her beloved deceased cat, who offers his wise and comforting, but often veiled and cryptic advice.  While the premise of a ghost cat may sound like a bit of a stretch for many readers, Simon makes this work by combining it with immensely likeable and multi-dimensional characters, exceptional plotting, and a fascinating academic setting.  I’m a huge fan of all of Simon’s books, and she just keeps getting better.
  • Your Cat – Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life by Elizabeth M. Hodgkins, D.V.M., Esq.  is a comprehensive guide to feline health and nutrition.  From kitten through adult life to the senior years, Dr. Hodgkins explores the full spectrum of cat care, and offers a closer look at the common chronic diseases that afflict so many cats.  Hodgkins believes that the underlying cause for many of these diseases, as well as the key to managing or even curing them, is nutrition.  I loved this book because it approaches feline nutrition from a perspective that makes sense to me.
  • The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie by Alan Goldstein is one of the most unique cat books I’ve ever come across.  As much as I love cat books, I never expected to find one I actually couldn’t put down until this one.   Written from the perspective of an orange long-haired cat named DooDoo, this is the account of how a sudden impulse sends the self-confessed catnip addict into the wilds of San Francisco and beyond, and his subsequent six thousand mile, year-long journey across America, trying to find his way home again.  Along the way he encounters a subway cat named Rass who becomes his new best friend, helps a homeless drunk find his way home, a minor league baseball player and a small town TV reporter find the big time, and a widowed pilot find peace.
  • Complete Care for Your Aging Cat by Amy Shojai.  I have a soft spot for senior cats, and I was thrilled when I came across the newly released and updated edition of this book.  This comprehensive guide on caring for senior cats is a must have for any cat owner’s cat care library, and the “golden moments” stories from real life cat owners caring for senior cats are heart touching.
  • The Cat, the Professor and the Poison by Leann Sweeney is the second mystery in the author’s Cats in Trouble series featuring amateur sleuth and quilt maker Jillian Hart and her three cats, Merlot, Chablis and Syrah.  I loved that this book was not just a highly entertaining and fun mystery, but is also interspersed with plenty of fascinating facts about cats.
  • Houdini by T.J. Banks is the story of Siamese kitten who goes from the despair of being abandoned to the joy of finding happiness when he meets a young girl who smuggles him home on a plane.  I was touched by the author’s deep connection with the feline soul that comes through in every word.  It melted my heart over and over again.
  • Dear Sparkle – Cat to Cat Advice from the World’s Foremost Feline Columnist edited by Janiss Garza is a beautifully designed and unique cat care book that provides solid information from a cat’s point of view on the various problems Sparkle is asked to address by fellow cats.  Presented in a humorous fashion, it gives the reader insight into how cats think and provides a fresh new look at some of the same old problems.
  • Cleo:  The Cat Who Mended a Family by Helen Brown is a sweeping memoir of heartbreak, changes, new beginnings, and ultimately, happiness.   When Brown is faced with the unthinkable – the loss of a child – this small black cat becomes the thread that holds Brown’s family together through devastating grief, illness, moves across continents, and other challenges.   This one goes on my list of best cat books ever, right along with such classics as A Snowflake in My Hands and The Cat Who Came for Christmas.
  • The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care:  An Illustrated Handbook by Celeste Yarnall and Jean Hofve, DVM is a beautifully designed guide for cat owners interested in natural remedies such as herbs, homeopathy and flower essences, hand-on healing modalities including chiropractic, acupuncture and Reiki, as well as some more esoteric therapies such as Applied Kinesiology, crystal, color and sound healing, and magnetic therapy.  The photographs in this book are stunning.
  • The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle is not strictly a cat book, but since it features a very cool, cranky, but ultimately loving three-legged one whose life was saved by the protagonist, and since I loved this book so much, I’m including it in this list.  Blessings is a beautifully written and plotted relationship drama featuring a veterinarian who finds solace and healing from her animals as she deals with some of life’s challenges.

What are some of your favorite cat books of the year?

Book Review: Murder Past Due by Miranda James

Murder Past Due is the first in the new A Cat in the Stacks series by Miranda James.  Set in Athena, Mississippi, it features librarian Charlie Harris and a very unique rescued Maine Coon cat named Diesel who, among other things, walks on a leash.

When bestselling crime fiction author and former classmate of Charlie’s, Godfrey Priest, returns to Athena to promote his latest book and make a bequest to his school library, Charlie is less than thrilled.  He remembers Priest as being an arrogant, manipulative jerk, and he’s not the only one.  Priest’s homecoming causes quite a stir in the small Southern town:  by lunchtime, Priest has put a man in the hospital, and by dinnertime, he is dead.  Since it seems as though every last one of Charlie’s friends and coworkers was connected to the murder victim, Charlie gets involved in the investigation into Priest’s murder.

I was drawn to this book by the irresistible cover, and I wasn’t disappointed.  This was an entertaining, well-crafted mystery with a likeable hero and interesting secondary characters, but what really makes this book is Diesel.  I feel in love with the big cat from the beginning.  What’s not to love!  Diesel is friendly, loves attention, walks on a leash, and warbles and chirps rather than meows.  And best of all, Diesel is all cat. He doesn’t talk, he doesn’t help solve the murder, he’s just a thoroughly lovable feline who is central to the story.  I’m looking forward to the next in this series.

Miranda James is a pseudonym for author Dean James, who also writes under the names of Honor Hartman and Jimmie Ruth Evans.

Book Review: The Cat, the Professor and the Poison

In The Cat, the Professor and the Poison, the second book in Leann Sweeney’s Cats in Trouble series, we once again join Jillian Hart and her beloved three cats, Merlot, Chablis and Syrah.  Jillian, busy with her cat quilt making business, is settling into the small town of Grace, South Carolina, where she moved with her husband, looking forward to a long retirement.  Within a few months of moving there, John died from a sudden heart attack and Jillian found herself alone in a strange town.  But now, she has found a new best friend in Deputy Candace Carson, and once again, she gets involved in helping solve a murder.   It all begins with a missing milk cow from a friend’s farm, which leads to the discovery of fifty stray cats and a dead body – a victim of cold-blooded murder. 

As Jillian gets involved with helping to save the stray cats, even taking one calico mother and her kittens home with her, she also gets drawn ever deeper into the murder investigation.  And if that weren’t enough, in the middle of all of this, her husband’s daughter arrives for an unannounced, and apparently open-ended, visit.  A former journalist, she becomes intrigued with the mysteries hiding in the small town of Grace, and also begins to look into clues to the murder and possible suspects – and there are plenty of those.  Even the cats get in on the act!  From academic research to dysfuctional family dynamics to cat food, the investigation takes Jillian on a wild ride as she comes ever closer to helping solve the mystery.

This book will delight readers of amateur sleuth stories and cat lovers alike.  Interspersed with plenty of fascinating facts about cats, this book is a fun and entertaining read and is very hard to put down.    It’s the purrfect book for curling up with your favorite feline for an afternoon of suspense, cat trivia and small town charm.

The Cat, the Professor and the Poison will be released on May 4.

Leann Sweeney was born and raised in Niagara Falls and educated at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Lemoyne College in Syracuse, NY. She also has a degree from the University of Houston in behavioral science and worked for many years in psychiatry. Currently a school nurse, she began writing about fifteen years ago, fulfilling her lifelong dream. After perfecting her writing skills with classes and a small fortune in writing books, she joined MWA and Sisters in Crime. Her short fiction won many awards and several mysteries were published in small market mystery magazines. One novel and another mystery novella went straight to audio. Leann is married with two fabulous grown children, a wonderful son-in-law and a beautiful daughter-in-law. She has lived in Texas for almost thirty years and resides in Friendswood, Texas with husband Mike and her three cats.  You can learn more about Leann and her books at http://www.leannsweeney.com.

FTC full disclosure:  I received an ARC copy of this book from the author.

Book Review: The Theda Krakow Series by Clea Simon

I previously reviewed Probable Claws by Clea Simon, which is the fourth in a series.  All books feature Boston freelance writer Theda Krakow and her cat Musetta.  Since it’s always more fun to read a series from the beginning, I thought I’d provide reviews for the first three books for you.

mewisformurder

Mew is for Murder is the first in the series.  In addition to a great mystery, which begins when Theda shows up at a local “cat lady’s” home to interview her and finds her dead, and which features suspects ranging from the coffee-bar waitress who helped the murder victim take care of the cats to the victim’s schizophrenic son, Simon also shares her love of Cambridge, the setting of the story, as well as her forays into the Boston music scene. Filled with well-developed and likeable characters, this book is a thoroughly enjoyable read that leaves the reader wanting more. Thankfully, there are three more books in this series.

catteryrow

Cattery Row is the second book in the series.  In this book, we get to enter the world of show cats and the Boston area rock and roll scene. When show cats are being stolen, and Theda’s friend Rose, a breeder of pedigreed cats receives threats and is eventually implicated in the thefts and then found murdered, Theda begins to investigate because she refuses to believe that her friend had anything to do with the cat thefts. While she delves into solving the cat thefts and her friend’s murder, a musician friend of Theda’s is being blackmailed and becomes increasingly withdrawn. Are the two situations connected?

This is a well-crafted mystery with an immensely likeable heroine and the combination of cats and rock and roll make this a thoroughly enjoyable read. I particularly enjoyed this second glimpse into Theda’s world because of Simon’s excellent character development. Theda continues to grow as we get to know her better. And let’s not forget Musetta, Theda’s feline sidekick, who always has a paw in solving the mystery.

crieswhiskers

Cries and Whiskers is the third in the series, and it’s the most intense one yet. While Theda is investigating a new designer drug that is threatening musicians, fans and her friends in the growing Boston area music scene, an animal activist is killed by a hit-and-run driver while rescuing feral cats. As Theda and her friend Violet try to rescue the semi-wild cats from being outside in a freezing New England winter, it becomes apparent that the activist’s death was more than just an accident. As Theda begins to investigate, her boyfriend, a homicide detective, is recuperating from a broken leg and not at all thrilled with Theda’s involvement in these investigations. On top of that, she begins to suspect one of her friends, and finds her loyalties tested on all fronts. When her beloved cat Musetta goes missing, Theda risks everything to get her back and to solve the case.

Once again, Simon manages to combine a great mystery with wonderful, multi-dimensional characters. By now, we feel like we know Theda, and yet, we’re always surprised by the twists and turns of both the plot and Theda’s life.

For more information about Clea Simon and her books, visit her website at http://www.cleasimon.com

And coming soon on The Conscious Cat – an interview with author Clea Simon, who is getting ready to launch her first book in a brand new series, Shades of Grey.

Book Review: Shades of Grey by Clea Simon

shades_of_grey_145

The first book in the brand new series by Clea Simon, Shades of Grey features Harvard grad student Dulcie Schwartz, who is fascinated by 18th century Gothic novels.  Dulcie is not having a good summer.  She recently lost her beloved pet cat Mr. Grey, her best friend and room-mate has gone away for the summer, and she has sublet her apartment to an unpleasant business school student.   One day, Dulcie comes home from her boring temp job at an insurance agency and is about to enter her apartment when she sees a cat that looks just like her beloved Mr. Grey, and she clearly hears a voice in her head warning her “I wouldn’t go in just now, if I were you.”  Is it he spirit of her pet?  Dulcie ignores the warning, and finds her room-mate murdered with her own kitchen knife. 

This sets up a multi-layered plot in which our heroine deals with murder, someone hacking into computers at the insurance agency she temps at and at Harvard, and research for her thesis on Gothic novels.  Throughout all of this, the ghost of her cat continues to appear, offering his cryptic advice.  Is it a ghost, or a spirit guide?  You’ll have to read this extremely well-crafted and enjoyable mystery to find out for yourself.  This book has everything a mystery (and cat) lover could want:  a great story, a likeable heroine, a spirit cat, a little bit of romance, exceptional story telling and multi-dimensional secondary characters.  I can’t wait for the next book in this series.

For more information about Clea Simon and her other books, visit her website at http://www.cleasimon.com.