Like Cats… On Mescaline

Any owner of cats will know of what I speak. Cats come at dawn to sit on your bed. They may not nip your nose or inhale your breath or make a sound. They simply sit there and stare at you until you open one eyelid and spy them there about to drop dead for need of feeding. So it is with ideas. They come silently in the hour of trying to wake up and remember my name. The notions and fancies sit on the edge of my wits, whisper in my ears and then, if I don’t rouse, give more than cats give: a good knock in the head, which gets me out and down to my typewriter before the ideas flee or die or both. In any event, I make the ideas come to me. I do not go to them. I provoke their patience by pretending disregard. This infuriates the latent creature until it is almost raving to be born and once born, nourished.
                                                                                                             Ray Bradbury

Listen, can we talk?  I think I’m in trouble.

Okay, I’ll just pull the couch over here and stretch out.  Forgive me Freud, for I have neurosis. (A chocolate to the first young man telling me where that quote is from.)

So… ideas.  How do they come at you?

I once met a writer – ONE in my entire career – who, sitting at a panel with me, told the crowd she would write more, if only she could have ideas.  I think she was lying to make herself more interesting.  Had to be.  What kind of misbegotten word-slinger has a paucity of IDEAS?  Most of us can’t get rid of the stuff.  We produce three novel ideas while cooking breakfast, four series assail us while brushing our teeth.  We shed short story ideas like my cat Havelock (a bioengineered organism designed to turn tuna into fur) sheds balls of fluff.  They gather ignored in the corners of the room, collect under the bed and generally make a mess of our mental plumbing.

In a way it’s a lot like when we first decided we wanted a cat.  We didn’t know anyone who had cats or kittens, and this was way pre-craigslist, and the time machine was broken – makes note  time machine/craigslist/kitten story – so I spend weeks moping about wailing about not finding kittens.

Then the same weekend a friend called to say her daughter, in a college dorm, had a highly secret cat who had dropped a litter of kittens… who wouldn’t remain secret much longer.  I agreed to take the orange twins (Pixel and Randy) ALL while my husband drove an hour away to visit family friends … who were getting ready to take a found-kitten to a dumpster to “fend for himself”.  That fender-for became Petronius the Arbiter about two seconds after he met Dan and wrapped him around his scruffy black paw.

And then, despite our best efforts to limit our household to “two cats only” tm, we’ve never had fewer than four.  I refuse to admit how many we had at one time – though to be honest three of them weren’t ours.

It is as though having lit the sign that says “Cats accepted here” we became a beacon for these multi-universe-hopping fuzzies to converge on.

Over the years, as we got better at feeding-on-the-porch but not letting them in the cats have become more creative and shown up on our doorstep (or friends’) orphaned, three weeks old and sick.  Or showing up at a mini-golf course, undernourished, covered in grease and with a broken tail.

My ideas are much like that.  It’s as though once I threw on the light going “writing stiff working here” the ideas converged from everywhere in the multiverse going “whoop, whoop, whoop, cranium space on isle four.”

In self defense, I’ve learned to treat them like we treat stray cats.  You don’t run out to meet them on the street.  You don’t invite them in.  You don’t lay a trail of crumbs to your door.  Instead, you sit a bit aloof, you feed them – sometimes – but you don’t let them fully in, and you watch if they can find another head to fester er… develop in.

You learn to avoid spaces where stray cats ideas hide.  You don’t approach the feral ones who attach to your mind with sharp claws and don’t let go till you write them.  Of course sometimes one of those – A Few Good Men – lurks where I least expect it – I was in the bathroom.  READING A ROMANCE FOR FONZI’S SAKE – and has its grubby claws in me before I see it.  Then I have to let it ride to the end, pushing everything I was supposed to be doing aside.

And then, if the ideas are “your sort” and have hung around long enough, and have grown and shown they can live with you and you with them, you let them and write them.  THAT is how it’s supposed to work.

You don’t go looking for them.  You most certainly don’t ask your friends for ideas.  You learn to avoid the conversations that are trending in a certain way.  (The phrases to watch for are “what if” and “wouldn’t it be neat” and also “Hey, I just thought.”  Words are also dangerous.  Words like “Imagine” and “think” and “time” and “space”.  After a while, when talking to other writers “The” “a” and “and” are not trustworthy either.)  – My friend Kate cautions you to never say “there’s a story in that” because there is, and it will happen to you.

My ideas and I have reached an uneasy truce.  Several uneasy truces – a series of carefully negotiated detentes eventually ending in surrender for either writer or story.  They understand I have only one set of fingers, and can only write one novel at a time.  (The whispers in the night that I should learn to type with my toes don’t really help.)  And they allow me a little peace if I write them down.  Which is why I have scraps of paper everywhere with scrawls like “the guy with the glass eye and the woman with the bionic arm.” – note: story about writer who dies and whose unwritten stories haunt his house, the characters battling it out for existence while trying to attract someone who will write them.– Sometimes, I think the more feral stories make me write them in my sleep.  At least I have no explanation for the entire (MEDIEVAL ROMANCE) novel in my hard drive that is undeniably mine but which I don’t remember writing.

The typical writer has loving thoughts about the cartoon character Calvin and his machine for turning earthworms into replica Calvins.  If only… oh, if only.  (Note – short story about writer who enslaves alternate universe selves to write for him.)

And sometimes you manage to give the idea to a friend and walk away whistling.  I know, btw, that the author who said she didn’t have enough ideas was lying, because when I offered to mail her my excess ones, she looked horrified.

But as I said, I’ve worked out an arrangement with my ideas, where I sometimes – rarely, I grant you – have time to you know… sleep.  Oh, and go to the bathroom. That last one is important, since graphomania doesn’t seem to doctors a good reason to insert a catheter.

Until this morning.

Okay, so I understand having four writers in a house is the same thing as having two cats… in the universe.  Something happens, where one of them is fine, but two or more… warp reality and things start happening that are really weird.  (Like, why is there Havelock fur inside the SEALED PLASTIC BAG for the t-shirts I just brought home from the store weird.)  One of the weird things is that ideas get discussed – and that’s fine.  Once an idea is halfway to being adopted and you’ve picked out a name, you might as well discuss it.  It’s the equivalent of buying another litter box.

BUT the ideas have broken detente.  They’re not playing fair.  This morning, as I huddled over my tea, trying to revive enough brain cells to write this blog, my older son came downstairs and said, That idea you wanted to write, you know, the sf YA series, based on the nursery rhyme…  Mind if I borrow a part of it?”

And when I said “I don’t have any YA series based on a nursery rhyme.”  He described it.  And he gave me the rhyme: Vintery Mintery Cutery Corn:”Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn, Apple seed and apple thorn;Wire, briar, limber lock,Three geese in a flock.One flew east, And one flew west,
And one flew over,The cuckoo’s nest.”

I’m not going to describe the idea for the series, because I know y’all and you’ll demand I write it all tomorrow.  Let’s just say it’s that rhyme meets Childhood’s End meets Darkship Thieves.  And when Robert told me the idea, I knew two things with absolute certainty: I’d never had this idea before.  And it was mine.  It was mine like my arm is mine or my eye is mine.  Undeniable.

Oh, a third thing – it was there, all six books and ready to be written.  SOBS.  How could it come in through my SON’S head?  What have I done to deserve this?  They’ve broken detente.  They’re on the path to assured Sarah destruction.

Forgive me Freud, for I have neurosis.  And ideas.  And now I’m going to run to the office and try to catch up on the backlog of ideas before they find more creative ways to ambush me.  What’s next?  Coded messages on the street lights?  Dirt patterns on the ceiling?

If they’re so smart, why don’t they write themselves?

101 thoughts on “Like Cats… On Mescaline

  1. I’m ashamed to admit that I had to Google the “Forgive me, Freud” quote, thereby disqualifying myself from winning the prize. Clearly, I have some reading to catch up on. 🙂

    1. I did, once. When I was a teenager. Or, more fairly, I had a number of beginnings and no endings. (In my case, the middles can fend for themselves once the endings can be glimpsed in the mist.) Or I had a concept that was Way Too Mature for my experience level. (And I don’t mean the smut. 😉 I mean the… maturity.)

      Or when I was younger; I used props to tell my stories, not words. (Those plastic swords you could get in drinks? They were sapient, gendered according to color-code (why, YES, I read McCaffery as a wee thing; why?), telepathic, and levitated. And would sometimes be wielded by my three or four Barbie and Barbie knock-off dolls. Or sometimes by the Heroic Baby Kangaroo. Meanwhile, the plastic tigers, lions, and other large-predator cats were having battles to determine their place in the pride.) Trying to tell a story without props would have been… extremely difficult. Much as very few books-without-pictures could catch my interest for long, at certain ages.)

      These days, it is not ideas; it is a brain functional enough to develop them. *sigh* So I must give plot-bunnies to other people. (…I am hoping, hoping, hoping the Amon/Tarrlok fanfiction urge will fade. It may yet. I may be able to put it off long enough that it will subside. Maybe. The other ideas, better-rooted, may be able to fend it off like they try to fend off me reading other books that might temporarily squish them into the back of my brain.)

      1. Much as very few books-without-pictures could catch my interest for long, at certain ages.

        Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations.”

        The secular book I had long ago decided I would probably choose to memorize should the book burners come.

      2. Endings are my problem, too. Where to cut of and wrap it up is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma, hidden beneath pages upon pages of words.

        Ideas NEVER were a problem. One of my teachers in high school gave us an assignment one time to write down, in one sentence, an idea for a short story. Most kids turned in a page with five or six sentences. I turned in four PAGES. It’s working an idea into a book, with plots and sub-plots, characters and placements, and all the words needed to make those alive to others that’s the hard part… 8^)

  2. One thing I have noticed about ideas.
    When I’m driving, or walking, or even lying bed, they seem to gather around like hungry mosquitos biting, and whining in my ears.
    The second I’m alone with work station – they all run for it, and hanging on to even a few is a task.
    Darned annoying.

  3. For thou’rt the Miller’s Daughter and the straws wouldst into gold be spun?

    Many have ideas; indeed, modern pedagogy seems mostly about strangling them in their cradles. Some leave their ideas lying about to rot, others know what to do to dress them up and send them out into the world, there to make their way and find their fortune.

  4. In regard to having only one set of fingers thus only being able to use one keyboard at a time. Chord keyboards only need one hand to use, so in theory you could use one in each hand, thus doubling your output and letting two ideas out at a time.

    It would be interesting to see what writing two stories at once did to your style (yes I am a bit of a sadist, and very very selfish).

    1. I do this all the time. I always have several stories going at once, and I go back and forth depending on my muse that day, or sometimes even that moment. In interviews I get asked all the time, “Don’t you ever get confused?” and I reply, “No, that would be like confusing your close friends.” And yes, the styles can be different.

  5. Wow. Shirley Jackson freaked because she found three words typed in her typewriter in the morning. One of the three incidents that resulted in “The Haunting of Hill House.”

  6. I used to have a cat that was not shy for her morning meal. She would claw my big toe and sort of kitty chuckle when I leaped from the bed (about six feet I think). As for ideas they crowd me in my sleep. When I write I have less nightmares.

    1. The cats in my life have been of many cat personalities. Two were particularly aggressive about getting their breakers. Clyde (short for Clytemnestra) would flick things off the night table until someone got up and fed her. If that didn’t work she would chew on The Spouse’s mustache. Gray (Mittens, the Gray Cat, Overhead, Underfoot, Purrbucket, Leadbutt, formerly called Jake) also would do the night stand trick. When that didn’t work for him he would jump heavily on one side of the bed, plod over us, jump down and repeat until we gave up.

      1. Pixel — I know this is going to sound gross but it’s the only way to describe it — crawled under the covers and deep-throated my big toe. This got me instantly awake and having the screaming heebies.

  7. Lucky. My idea well is going through a dry spell, probably provoked by having two non-fiction projects ganging up on me. I’m back into research mode, which tends to kill fictional fancies. Although I have an idea for something involving Kiowa ghosts, a cafe in Oklahoma, and a new espresso machine that is probably utterly un-PC and that I should tackle pretty soon.

    However, I do have a superabundance of four-colored cat hair which I would be happy to share. Anyone want a house cat starter kit made from calibby fur? (Calico tabby double-coated part Maine Coon mostly G-d knows, so you could end up with anything after you clone the material.)

  8. We had a cat named Pixel… AFTER he started showing up in our bedroom with the door closed.

    1. The weird thing is that we named Pixel for the Heinlein character (His brother Randy was Random Numbers) but the one who walked through walls was Pete. He was indoor-outdoor because… well… how could he be otherwise? Yes, sometimes he made us open the door for him, but most of the time he just… went.

  9. If they’re so smart, why don’t they write themselves?

    Any Pratchettite should tell you that is what they are doing.

    Beware, for the wall to the Dungeon Dimensions is none too thick is places… Having neither proper fingers or toes of their own they intend to use yours.

    1. Oh, trust me, I know this. Part of the problem writing the second of Sword And Blood is that I felt it was trying to take me over. Possibly an effect of my being somewhat ill. But that’s what delayed it so much they cancelled it. I shall finish it when I feel stronger, I guess.

      1. Your announcement of the canceling of the second Sword And Blood resulted in the shifting of my pleasure reading pile. The next will now be a mystery: Dipped, Stripped and Dead. 😉

        1. Works. Third and fourth of that should come out oct and dec this year. Second of DST — DSR — comes out in December and A Few Good Men in spring (which I think means April?)

  10. Ideas come in waves for me, trying their best to knock me off my feet and suck me out to sea. Then there are times where I’m left high and dry and struggling for anything to write. To solve this, I have a mindmap file that is entirely made up of ideas (and a notebook for the car that is later transferred into the mindmap) so that when it’s time to start another novel I have my choice of lovely little ideas to grow. 🙂

  11. I spend anywhere from 30-60 minutes a day running, cycling, or walking my dogs. In that time, it’s very easy for my mind to wandern into the “new idea” territory, and I’m sure we’ve all experienced the rush that comes with “OH MY GOD, THIS IDEA IS AWESOME!” But as you point out, it can be a double edged sword.

    It hurts you sometimes when you’re working on a piece. Being a guy, it’s hard for me to multi-task. If I have too many things going on at once, I lose focus and less gets done. I’ve had to intentionally shut down the idea factory and force myself to concentrate on what I’m currently writing. That’s not to say that if I had one of those moments where I’m sitting in a beam of light with angels singing that I don’t at least write it down – rare, but it has happened – but I can’t allow myself to do my usual spinning off into the possibilities(to the layman, this looks remarkably like daydreaming). If I do, my current project will get mad at me from all the neglect. I even wrote a post on this called The Problem of Too Much Imagination.

    What I really need is one of those Pensieves from Harry Potter where I can deposit ideas for examination at a later, more convenient time. 😀

  12. i like to imagine i’m hiding inside a locked closet with story-ideas banging on the door demanding i let them in.

    Could the indie writer do cat/idea selection algorithm based on sales potential? Perhaps one could catalog the kitties, run them past a trusted focus group, then measure whether the black & white ones sell better than the calicos.

    1. Two things — how do you determine sales potential? Even in my limited experience with indie it’s a “WTF? THAT sold?” Like, the joke story no one ever bought… Or nuns in space. While the stories published in Analog, etc? Languishing. So…

      1. We’ve talked about this before. And you’ve pointed out that asking readers is dangerous, because they’ll get mad if you say, “I’ve got this nuns in space story idea” and after they say, “Yeah, i’ll buy that” they would have to wait too long to get it.

        Now, if instead of the reading public, you were to find a trusted cabal of representative readers–a focus group–to whom you could present N story outlines, then you’d only disappoint the focus group when you failed to write the stories they rated most highly.

        The traditional publishing corpse has interminable delays built into the system they created. But the indie writer defines her own workflow and production schedule. If you need to compress a schedule, some tasks like editing, proofing, book design, and art can be jobbed out if you need to. Remember that Barbara Cartland wrote 723 books and in 1983 wrote 23 novels. That’s, just over 2.26 weeks per novel.

        Suppose your readers are like kids waiting for Christmas morning. OK, make them wait the equivalent of Black Friday to Christmas Eve. Kids do that every year and they still believe in Santa Claus.

  13. I’m a dog person. If ideas are cats, it explains why I get scratched when I do an alpha roll on them . . .

  14. Only one set of fingers? Maybe you could do the Earl Stanley Gardner thing – you know, stroll up and down an aisle of multiple typists, giving each a verbal phrase or graf to type and going on the the next. (Or is that story a myth?)

    1. Among the Fangs and Reinas and Woolas that have trotted after me faithfully over the years, there was Roku, with his cross-eyed blue stare and his yowl mighty enough to make the furniture dance. A moose among Siamese, according to his vet, and if he wanted you awake, you would be awake. You, and the neighbors three blocks over. Fortunately, they always thought it was the tornado siren 😉

      1. I had a mute Siamese. It was the only siamese in the village (which, due to his personal charm and never leaving a fight unfought or a tom run off town, is now awash with Siamese-looking kittens) and the only one I ever SAW till my twenties. So when I found out that Siamese were supposed to be talkative, it shocked the living daylights out of me. At least, he couldn’t be PHYSICALLY mute. His mom died when he was two or three weeks old, and he was given to us to raise. We actually dropper-fed him — I read in my kitten rescue group this is impossible, because you can’t feed them enough. (Rolls eyes.) He NEVER meowed, never battle-cried. BUT he lamented, twice in his life.

        1. My first siamese mix — part manx, part pointed, whose descendants we had for three generations — was actually very quiet. But recently we acquired an absolutely lovely gray-and-white pointed longhair Siamese (of no certain pedigree; Siamese points seem to be fairly dominant in my experience), with crossed eyes (though no kinked tail)… And MY GODS SHE TALKS. Hungry? “NAO! NAO! NAO!” Is Timmy in the well? “MYAO!” Does Friskie want Meow? “MEYOW!”

          Her son, who is black-and-white and not obviously Siamese in any way — is clearly a Siamese when he talks. “MUWOW! M’WOW!” You’d think he was five times his size, from his voice. (And he taught our very soft-spoken Maine Coon (or cross thereof; he, too, was without portfolio when we got him) how to sound virtually identical. At least the Maine Coon has the mass for the size.)

          And, sheesh, silly rescue group. Dropper-feeding kittens works, though it helps if you can hold them. (They get milk and gunk all over their faces if the adult in the house has delusions that “if it doesn’t smell like human we can give it back to the mother.”) Tuffy, my lovely gray girl who lived to 20 or 21, was hand-raised with an eyedropper. Subsequent abandoned/orphaned kittens that I hand-raised, I used a bottle. Much easier!

          1. I’ve used bottles here, they didn’t exist or we couldn’t find them in Portugal. But we held Calimero. And my mom made him a series of little embroidered bibs. 😛

            Talkative — Pixel could make an enormous amount of sounds and did. He had a vocabulary of maybe 20 human words, though we include the dubious ones like “mom” and “now.” But he also managed a mangled Robert — WOWBEWT and a rather clear MINE! (Like the seagulls on Nemo.)

            1. Sapient cat, sapient cat! O_O

              I think I once used doll bottles in a pinch? Or I was thinking I might need to, till a pet store happened to have the right stuff. (Mall open, vets closed.)

          2. I had a pure black cat that was obviously part siamese (freebie at the supermarket) she had the head and body shape of a siamese, and quite definetly the voice of one. At about the same time I got a black and white part manx tomcat kitten (also a freebie, a friend of mine picked up the whole litter at the store, and I took one kitten). Their descendants are still running around here(2nd and 3rd generation, with 4th currently about a week old), while the manx shows in about half the cats the siamese does not. EXCEPT when they are in heat, then OMG I swear they can be heard from a half mile away 😉

            I have never hand raised kittens, but have raised a few litters of puppies by hand, both with a bottle and dropper. Also have used a feeding tube on newborns that were to weak to suck. I have a recipe for puppy milk replacer that is far superior to any boughten, and will not give them the scours like cows milk will; if anyone needs it.

            1. I raised pigs as a 4-H project during high school. I had a brood sow that would drop anywhere from eight to fifteen piglets, twice a year. There are only 12 teats, so you end up bottle-feeding baby piglets. Baby piglets are the UGLIEST things in the world – so ugly they’re cute, if you understand. Pigs are also about twice as smart as a cat, and about three times as smart as a dog. I trained Emily (the sow) to come, fetch, sit, lay down, roll over, heel, and ATTACK. If you want to put the fear of God into someone, train a 700-pound pig to attack them. Just be prepared to replace windows when they leave the area supersonically.

              You can teach a pig to go in one spot, but you CANNOT teach them not to wallow in mud in the summertime. Don’t even try.

              1. Piglets are the ugliest? Baby Gerbiles look like malformed rubber erasers. And baby opossums? Ugh.

            2. Lessee… My first cat, Soshabul (sic), was a dark-pointed Siamese Manx (her mother and two siblings showed neither, IIRC). Her daughter, Kippy, was a tabby bobtail (IIRC, Kippy’s brother, Simon, was Siamese-pointed). Her daughter, Cleocatra, was a “lynx point” (gray tabby) bobtail. And her daughter, Julicat, was a long-haired dilute tortoiseshell with more eyes than brain, and a Siamese-kink in the tip of her tail. Julicat had… a tortie-point full-tailed daughter, I believe, but we didn’t keep her.

              Thus, well, lots of Siamese, skipping a generation!

              (Romeow, Juli’s brother, was a long-haired “reverse siamese.” He had white and brown on his face, a small white bib, white feet, and a white tip on his tail; the rest was charcoal-and-black tabby (so close in color you could barely tell the stripes). Sadly, I think that was just the white-spotting gene cropping up with some great points instead of actual reversal of the genetics of the Siamese part.)

              The current pair of SIAMESE (all caps, yes…) are spayed and neutered, respectively, so I am not going to find out if Dickens has any Siamese points left under his tuxedo.

        2. We had a truly lovely cat who looked like a Maine Coon and had a beautiful temperament. He was the son of Clyde, a feral cat which The Spouse adopted the day we met. We believe the father was an neighbor’s black Persian that would hide in the storm sewer in front of our first apartment. He was named Imperious Primo (see the opening poem to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) and we called him Imp. He was largely silent until the day he got a broken leg. After that he roared. Yes, roared.

          1. The Spouse tells me that I should have mentioned that Imp was either hit by a car or attacked by a dog, dragged himself up onto our front porch and yelled for help. After that, while recovering he would lie on the back of the couch watching out the front window and roar at the birds (He was a birder, once having brought us a full grown Blue Jay.) and squirrels to let them know he would be back.

            (There are numerous more stories, but this is not my blog.)

            1. Deetee. Dejah Toris — btw, a lovely, mild-mannered calico — brought us a blue jay. Pete — old p*ssy b*stard that he was hunted ONLY endangered wild life. We lived in fear. You know shoot/shovel/shut up… We didn’t shoot but we did an awful lot of shoveling. I did save a couple of raptors off his maw — young ones — and raised them. OTOH he loved bunnies, and I don’t mean as food. The mother rabbits in our backyard would leave him babysitting while they went about their normal business. When his friend Cuddles from down the street viewed this as an opportunity and snatched one of the baby bunnies, Pete beat the tar out of him and brought me the baby bunny to fix. (I saw it all from door step.) I fixed. (Disinfected wounds and finished raising bunny — bottle raising. Pet, of course, after that.) I don’t know what had happened to that cat to make him think bunnies were same species, but he came from a feral background… so, who knows? maybe he was raised by mama bunny.

        3. We actually dropper-fed him — I read in my kitten rescue group this is impossible, because you can’t feed them enough.

          A local animal rescue will place kittens who need to be dropper and preemie bottle fed with carefully selected families. They predict that most will not make it. (A friend’s family, with two adults and two children taking turns at feeding, managed to keep two of a litter of three alive.)

            1. Don’t he ever sleep?

              (And I am not offering chocolate to anyone who gets that reference. I am nowhere near so generous as our host. My chocolate is Mine, Mine, All Mine, Nobody else but Mine. I’m rich. I’m rich. I’m fabulously wealthy. I’m comfortably well off…….)

          1. The only time I lost an orphaned kitten was when I was a kid and didn’t have car access and wasn’t getting KMR bought. Milk is not enough. (A protein-milk mix might do for a few more days than milk alone.) Keeping them in a box near one, or in a purse-nest, works pretty nicely…

              1. SO MANY things to say, but I have a mouthful of soap. Where’s the Madoc Pope when puns want punting?

              2. Well, when I’m sleeping, they went in the box on my bed (or on the shelf right-up-against my bed, for one set). Carrying them around, it was the purse. Never had enough room in my bra! 😉

  15. If they’re so smart, why don’t they write themselves?

    Oh, they do, they do! Sometimes, anyway. My first novel was like that. I wrote 75,000 words in six days. It took me six months to clean up all the minor plot errors and get it smoothed out enough to offer for sale.

    Even worse is when the characters take over completely, and you’re just along to record the action. THAT happens, too. Those usually make pretty good books, because the author’s prejudices don’t get in the way. They do take a bit of editing.

    We’ve always had cats. As a kid, we had barn cats. When Jean and I got married, one of the first things we got was a kitten. We’ve had cats in Germany, England, and all over the US. The cat we had during our first Germany tour was a black-and-white that weighed about 18 pounds. He’s the one that brought moles, voles, mice, and once a cock pheasant, to my window — eight feet off the ground. We’ve had others — many others — but never another Sunshine. Although Gadget came close…

    1. Sword and Blood. A Few Good Men. To a great extent Darkship Thieves. I KNOW that phenomenon, trust me. I meant, they should TYPE themselves in, too.

  16. Sarah, think of yourself as an analogue of the old-fashioned farm family. They had kids at least partially in order to get help with the chores…

    Outline the books, give it to Robert, and say, “No, you can’t have part of the idea. Get to work. That cow won’t milk itself.”

  17. I have been known to get up in the middle of the night to write ideas down. I have so many ideas I have books in series plotted out for years. And now Travis is pulling me into his…

    1. I remember reading that one of the big-name SF authors kept a notebook and pen beside his bed, and would wake up three or four times a night and jot things down.

        1. Asimov didn’t bother jotting things down. In I. Asimov, he mentions one time when he woke up in the night with a great idea for a story. ‘Write it down!’ his wife told him. He said he didn’t need to; he would remember it in the morning. And he did. It drove her crazy that he was able to do that.

          However, Asimov was a compulsive writer who had trained every fibre of his being to generate and retain interesting ideas. For us mere mortals, writing it down is a good thing.

          1. I lost a lot of my memory when I started chemo. I got a chunk back, but it doesn’t work as well as it used to… so NOT Asimov.

          2. I TRY to forget the bloody things. My retention rate is still above 90%. I can forget them IF I write them, but mostly it requires I write them fully.

            1. I used to have great retention – until the chemo. Since I have been changed to a lighter chemo, my retention is getting better. I have learned to like myself w/o my brain. it was really hard at first.

              1. I had issues after I gave myself concussion, so I know exactly what you’re talking about. But honestly, losing more of the stupid things BEFORE I write them would save my sanity. Losing them after I write them (which I do constantly, so it’s not a matter of good memory, more obsession) just loses me income.

  18. Forgive me Freud, for I have neurosis.

    Cyril Kornbluth, ‘The Marching Morons’, wasn’t it? And the psychoanalyst wore a Freud mask in the ‘confessional’.

    (Alas, no longer being a young man, I do not qualify for chocolate.)

    1. Tom, being older doesn’t disqualify you for chocolate. Haven’t you heard? Dark chocolate is the new wonder-cure! Cures everything but the problems I have… 8^)

      1. Which is why when I got my own dod-derned chocolate, I got dark chocolate. Always liked it better than milk chocolate anyway.

        I hear you about the New Wonder-Cure. It doesn’t cure my problems either, but it gives me a moment of pleasure, which makes the other wretchedness a little easier to deal with.

  19. I have to giggle a bit with sympathy. As they say, “I know that feel, bro.”

    I very, very rarely have the problem of running across a story it’s obvious I’ve written but have no memory of having written. Generally, I’ll remember having written it, but haven’t read it in so very long that it’s like reading it as someone who’s never seen it before.

    I wish they’d write themselves… I’m still trying to get myself back into a normal sleep schedule (I haven’t been on one for almost a month now – see also about how long it’s been since I’ve written) and there are hours where I’m either incapable of sleeping or sleeping way too much that either could be useful as a writing period and neither are. >:B

    PS: The nursery rhyme story sounds wonderful. And a bit awesomely spooky about how it arrived.

  20. Oldest Cat: “MRRAH! MRRRRRRRAH! MRRRRRRRAH!” (Siamese/calico mix, female)

    Middle Cat: “‘OW!” (Silver tabby, poss. with wildcat or Maine Coon, male)

    Youngest Cat: “MEW! MEEEEWWWWWW!” (Siamese/tabby mix, male)

    Story ideas: Just wait until you find one spelled out in a clump of Havelock-fur…. >:)

    (I have many ideas — I also have a 4WPM typing speed, because every keyboard made these days is designed for people with tiny fingers…. >:| )

    1. I understand, CF. That, and they’re not made out of recycled durasteel from a Bolo hull. I kill keyboards about every eighteen months. Part of the neuropathy thing – I don’t have total control of the typing pressure.

      I DON’T have the 4wpm problem. I once worked in a position where I needed to produce 400/500 words per hour, neatly and correctly typed, eight hours a day, five days a week. At one point, my typing speed was around 120wpm with ONE error (40+ years ago, when I was young…). On a full-sized keyboard, I can get three sentences ahead of any word processing software I use. They don’t have that much internal memory, and I have to go back and replace what didn’t print – if I can remember it.

    2. … every keyboard made these days is designed for people with tiny fingers

      Because communicating via keyboard is becoming a requisite social capability I predict the human race will evolve to having teeny tiny hands.

    3. Try typing a story on a blackberry, I wrote a couple thousand words on one last week (I was camped out for work, and it was all I had availabe). I do not recommend it. (edited to remove ALL the stuff the commenter didn’t type in. I have no idea how that happened, bearcat)

  21. Since there appear to be a lot of cat lovers reading this post (and ALL of us are book lovers or we wouldn’t be here), this might be a good place to ask for advice. I just picked up a load of books at a library’s used book sale. Most of them are in great condition, but there’s one whose first forty pages were mildly stuck together at the corner, where they had come into contact with liquid at some point in the past. I was able to separate the pages without damage, but in the process I got a good whiff of them and was able to identify the liquid: it was cat pee.

    Anyone have any suggestions to offer as to how to get old cat pee smell out of a book?

    1. Dip the page-corners in orange juice and air them out a lot? Or scan the suckers… Or, if you can without losing data, snip the corners.

      1. Dip them in vinegar, or better, put a cloth damp with vinegar on the underside, one dry on top. Press each page, switching sides. If you want to go fancy go the pet store and get a cat pee odor removal liquid and use that instead of vinegar, so that the pages don’t smell like salad when you’re done.

        1. Will vinegar work on carpets, too? We tried all kinds of things back when some of the cats thought the sofa was a litterbox, and nothing really worked — but we didn’t try vinegar. (And right now, due to things like Not Enough Litterboxen while the basement is being finished, we have a slight Corner Of Room issue. *mutter*)

          1. A friend of mine who’s a doctor and a mom taught me the “like dissolves like” principle, that for acidic stains you want to use vinegar to clean them rather than soap (which is basic unless you have a really unusual formulation). She has a dog who’s getting on in years and has a habit of throwing up for no apparent reason, usually on the carpet. Her solution (heh, accidental pun there) is to mix white vinegar and water, then use dilute-vinegar-soaked rags to clean the carpet. She also noted that vinegar is good for most kinds of food stains… and both vomit and poop count as “food stains”. 🙂

            So yeah, diluted vinegar on the carpet (if it’s a food-type stain) is probably worth trying.

          2. a cup of vinegar, three table spoons of hand dishwashing detergent, a half bucket warm water. Soak it. If it’s old let it sit. Then stand on successive dry towels (to suck the water up). Same process with straight water. Let dry. if it still smells, repeat. Might take a couple to five times, if it’s old. Our vet back in Charlotte told us about this, and it saved our sofa. Might have saved the set the boys ruined too (boy cats. Sons are not that crazy) but it was leather. Does not work on leather.

            1. Alas, the carpet in question (the couch is long-gone, and was in another state besides) is integral to the floor. (Somewhat literally — I was clearing out stuff from the area and had to fish some dimes out from between the floor-trim and the carpet. There’s a gap down there! O_O ) I’m not sure that soaking it is a good idea with mold-allergic people in the house.

              I may scrub with a vinegar-water mix, though, and soak up again quickly.

              1. Vinegar should reduce the likelihood of mold developing. Also, see if you can get the use of a wet-dry shop vacuum to remove as much of the solution after soaking. And see that the room is as well ventilated as you can possibly manage.

                We used to purchase water in five gallon glass jugs, which we used on an office dispenser. One day, after bringing some home along with other shopping, I believe The Spouse was unloading the car and I was putting things away. The Daughter, who was very young, was dancing in the living room. We have no idea exactly what happened, but there was a sudden and very big pitiful wail.

                Rushing to the living room we found The Daughter in the middle of a sizable pool of water and glass. (No, I do not recall the sound of breaking glass, Mr. Lowe.) Thankfully the only thing that was cut was the panda applique on The Daughter’s favorite sweatshirt. We never did figure out what happened.

                Up shot: we somehow managed not to start a mold and mildew garden and that run was never cleaner.

    2. I was going to suggest the vinegar routine. We used it around here after we found one of our neutered cats was still coloring the walls. We ended up finding a home ‘far away’ for him, where he’s learning to be a barn cat. Vinegar is great for getting rid of a lot of odors. Do NOT, however, use it in the cat litter box without changing the litter. Your cats will murder you.

    3. Pet Mart sells some enzyme stuff in gallon bottles that works well although I have never tried it on a book.

  22. I typed too soon. Ideas for an entire new story series, set on the alternative-history Earth of my main series, just exploded into my mind starting yesterday. With cat-like timing, I might add, because I have to copy-edit 350+ pages of non-fiction tomorrow and Monday! Drat, drat, just wait, quit meowing, be patient, I’m hurrying, I’m hurrying, . . .

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