It’s January, which apparently means that people stay inside and talk to me rather than going outside to garden, run marathons, or exercise their gryphons. I’m interviewed this week on two hour-long podcasts. (So now I’m really tired of talking.)

Authors Love Readers is a brand new podcast program, created by my friend and colleague Patricia McLinn. She has so far interviewed about a dozen authors, with more to come. The podcast is aimed at readers who’d like to know more about how and why their favorite authors (or authors who are new to them) create the stories they write. If you could spend an hour talking to me or some other writer whose books you enjoy, these are (we hope) the kinds of  questions you might ask or the things you’d like to know.

Here’s a link to the interview in iTunes.
Title: Absolutely Go For It, with Laura Resnick
Date: January 24, 2018
Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/authors-love-readers-podcast/id1329846041?mt=2

I’ve known Patricia McLinn for many years, but we got to know each other much better about a decade ago when we served together on the Board of Directors of Novelists, Inc. (NINC), an international organization for career novelists. We worked well together and I developed a great deal of respect for her.

That said, I must nonetheless point out that Pat’s yardstick for the ideal length of any podcast, including this one which she now produces, is based on how long it takes her to walk her dog.

 

And the second podcast this week is:

David Afsharirad of Baen Free Radio Hour hosted some of the contributors to the new Baen Books anthology, The Cackle of Cthulhu.

The authors David interviewed included Alex Shvartsman, who also edited the collection; Esther Friesner, Jody Lynn Nye, and Gini Koch.  (And me. But in that company, obviously, I tried to listen more than I spoke!)

We talked about H.P. Lovecraft, his creation Cthulhu, horror, humor, and how we came up with our stories. (I’ve also discussed my story for the anthology, “Cthulhu, P.I.,” in a previous blog post here.)

So here’s the link to the podcast, January 26, 2018, on iTunes:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-baen-free-radio-hour/id625313693?mt=2

A few years back, I released Rejection, Romance, & Royalties: The Wacky World of a Working Writer, a collection of my columns for Nink, the in-house monthly publication of Novelists, Inc.

I recently realized how many columns I’ve written since then (precise figure: a whole bunch) and decided it’s time to sort through them and start preparing another volume describing the trials and tribulations of this weary writer’s wacky world. 

Here’s a sample of one of those pieces. I hope you enjoy it!

Convention Diary

Thursday

Leave home for weekend away, to be guest at writers convention.

At airport security, am mistaken for terrorist and am required to become uncomfortably well-acquainted with security team.

Am eventually released to go sit in lounge, trapped among people screaming into cell phones (“I’m at the airport now. The airport. The airport. Where are you?”) and televisions screaming thrilling world news (Obama puppy learns to walk on leash). Then airline employee starts screaming out “group numbers” for boarding plane.

Employee never screams my group number, evidently having grown weary and disillusioned before reaching it. So I board without permission, moments before plane pulls away from gate.

Flight attendant barks at me: “Bag! There! Now!”

I stare in blank confusion. “Pardon?”

She again barks, “Bag! There! Now!”

“Pardon?”

We do this several more times.

I then propose she experiment with complete sentences. She does (and I am now Troublemaker). It turns out I have been assigned only seat on plane without place to stow cherished personal belongings, which I must now give to barking flight attendant for duration of flight.

We fly to distant airport, where I have five-year layover among screaming cell phones and TVs before boarding next plane. Upon “deplaning” at final destination, sturdy young soldier recently returned from Iraq untangles himself from his tiny seat next to my tiny seat and says he feels like we’ve been imprisoned on a slave ship. I agree.

Arrive at convention hotel. Having spent entire day in transit, I unpack suitcase and fall into hotel bed.

Friday

Hospitable convention committee takes guests sight-seeing. In vehicle, I wind up sitting next to colleague of one of my former agents. (I have so many former agents, this sort of thing bound to happen.)

Also on today’s tour is editor from publisher that dumped me. (Ditto.)

And a tall youngster, too shy to make eye contact or talk, accompanies us. Turns out to be another New York agent, not teenage son of local convention volunteer. (Oops.) Works at one of my former agencies. (See?) Also turns out not to be shy, just unwilling to waste conversation on me.

Return to hotel in time to do workshop where another agent (from agency I once queried), another editor (no one I know!!), and I evaluate attendees’ prose. I am always uncomfortable commenting on other writers’ work. But acquit self as best I can, then head for bar.

At dinner, am required to sit at assigned table and be available to interested attendees.

Overhear attendees say, “All the good seats are taken, I guess we’ll have to sit here,” a moment before they sit down at my table.

Table gradually fills up with disappointed attendees who had hoped to sit with someone better than me at this meal.

No one at table sits next to me. The chairs are empty on either side of me. I suggest someone might like to sit closer to me. No response.

Nearest person on left asks me, “Are you any relation to Mike Resnick, the science fiction writer?”

I respond, “Yes, he’s my dad.”

Ten minutes later, nearest person on right asks me, “Are you any relation to Mike Resnick?”

(Old man will enjoy this. Must make sure he never finds out.)

Otherwise, not much said to me throughout meal.

I go to bar after dinner. Friends who live nearby (and who know from long experience where to look for me) show up at hotel bar to say hello. Nice surprise!

Later, preparing for bed in hotel room, discover that—due to national shortage of terrycloth?—only one towel in bathroom.

Saturday

Give morning workshop that is surprisingly well attended, considering that no one at convention, as far as I can tell, has ever heard of me.

Also give luncheon speech. Realize halfway through speech, which is aimed at writers, that literary agents—of whom there are about ten in audience—come off slightly less well in speech than, for example, diseased pimps. Notice that, for rest of weekend, no agent makes eye contact or comes within thirty feet of me.

However, many compliments on speech from attendees. Therefore, confidently expect better dinner experience tonight…

At assigned dinner table tonight, overhear attendees say, “All the good seats are taken, I guess we’ll have to sit here,” a moment before they sit down at my table.

Not much said to me during dinner.

Dinner speaker is bestselling novelist Jeffrey Deaver, who gives hilarious speech in manner of Bridget Jones Diary. Decide to steal idea for this column.

Sunday

Arrive at airport for epic journey to humble home. After obligatory mistaken-for-terrorist incident, am trapped in lounge among people screaming into cell phones (“I’m at the airport. The airport. Where are you?”), televisions screaming thrilling world news (Obama puppy resolves Middle East crisis), and airline employee screaming at all of us (“Do not board the plane until your group number is called!”).

Spend full day in transit. Return home to find… have received invitation to be guest at another writers convention.

Heigh ho, the glamorous life.

I’m writing a series of blog posts about my volunteer work in cat rescue with Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.). Part 1 discusses how I got involved and outlines how it works. Part 2 talks about the happy endings that are so rewarding in this work, as well as the sad ones (and also the appallingly infuriating ones) that make some days very hard.

There is another kind of outcome to pet adoption, too. Despite good people trying hard, sometimes things just don’t work out. A cat turns out to be a bad fit for a family, or the family’s life changes in tragic ways that make keeping the cat impossible… and they return them to C.A.T.. This is sad for everyone, but it is absolutely the right thing to do in such circumstances.

I cannot stress this strongly enough: if family decides not to keep a pet, they should return the animal to us (and any responsible rescue group has this same policy). The most important thing to us is that the cat should always be safe. By rescuing the cat, we made a promise that we will never abandon this animal or allow it to return to the condition from which we rescued it, alone and forsaken in the world. Do not break our promise by abandoning the animal we entrusted to you at the time of adoption. Return it to us.

To date, out of the 65-or-so cats I’ve fostered, only one of my own fosters had been returned to us. The family tried hard, but they finally returned him to us. I was sad it had not worked out, but it must be admitted that Airy is a pretty challenging cat. He has also been through a lot.

Airy turned up in a feral trap as a starving young kitten on his own, looking for food, a couple of years ago. Before long, it became apparent that something was very wrong with him. It turned out to be an ear polyp, a growth in the middle ear that affects balance, which is why he carried his head at a tilt, was always falling off things, and hated being picked up (it was disorienting). The polyp was also painful (the surgeon described it to me as “like having a low-level migraine all of the time”). It would cause recurrent (and painful) ear infections, and it would eventually cause deafness. The polyp had to be removed, but Airy was too young for the surgery, so he stayed with me for a few months, then had the operation when he was big enough. Here’s a photo of him afterward, with “the ugliest haircut you’ve ever seen,” as the surgeon warned me. His leg was shaved for the IV, and his neck was shaved because the entry point for the surgery was under his jaw.

He recovered well and didn’t have any of the possible side effects (such as nerve damage), but he never lost his head tilt. Since he also has a clipped ear (common practice in Trap-Neuter-Release programs like the one where he entered the system) and an overbite, he’s a slightly odd looking fellow. He also has a very forceful personality, as well as some behavior issues. He was returned to me because he had started urinating outside the litter box and around the house soon after moving into his adoptive home, and no matter what accommodations they tried to make, they couldn’t get him to stop. When they decided to give him up, I was very glad they brought him to me rather than abandoning him or passing him on to someone who’d abandon him. They cared about him, but just felt they couldn’t live with him.

When Airy came back here, now an adult rather than a kitten, it was a difficult adjustment all around. He was very upset and disoriented (and even now, I’ve no idea whether he remembers having lived here before). Achilles, one of my cats, was appalled by an adult male moving in, and Airy never backs down, so the two of them had violent fights daily. Poe, my pathologically shy cat, hated him (and hates him still), and so Poe had shrieking fits daily for a while, whenever Airy upset him. Airy didn’t even get along with Hector (Achilles’ brother) when he came back—and almost everyone likes Hector. Before long, the stress ensured that I was having the same problem his former family had—he began urinating outside the litter boxes.

At one point, a kindhearted adopter expressed an interest in Airy… but as I heard myself describing him on the phone honestly, because I wanted to be sure the next adoption succeeded–which meant knowing exactly what they were dealing with… I thought, “Oh, good God, who is ever going to adopt this cat?” (That person did not follow up.) 

Finally, though, after about four months, things started settling down. Airy and Achilles stopped fighting and learned to ignore each other most of the time. Airy and Hector became friends. Poe stopped shrieking every day. Airy was using the extra litter boxes I had added to the cat area in the basement. He also stopped being so high strung, anxious, and fussy, and he started to relax, play, and purr more often.

Strangely, the turning point for Airy occurred, as far as I can tell, when he established a small cardboard box as his territory. I received a package one day, opened it, and left the box sitting on the kitchen counter for a few minutes. When I came back, Airy was sitting in the box. i figured he’d get tired of it soon, and then I’d recycle it. But, in fact, Airy has never gotten tired of that box. He sits, nests, rests, and sleeps in it. He also seeks it out as his “safe” place when he’s upset, scared, angry, or not sure what to do with himself. The box seems to be Airy’s security blanket, and ever since he chose it as his spot in the house, he has been doing much better here.

And once he adjusted and was doing so well here, I realized that adjusting yet again to another home would be very hard on him—even harder if it again didn’t work out (and potentially deadly if the next family wasn’t as conscientious about returning him safely to C.A.T.). And he was trying so hard here, and finally succeeding.

So Airy has his happy ending, too. I adopted him in November. And although we still have our moments of hair-tearing, he is doing well in his furever home.

The box, by the way, is so absurdly small, he has to cram himself into it. Yet when I have offered bigger boxes, he’s not interested. This is his box, thankyouverymuch. It’s still sitting on the counter, months after he chose it. Having a cat-in-the-box on my kitchen counter isn’t ideal… but if this is what it takes to get him to stop fighting, use the litter boxes, and feel secure, it’s a compromise I can live with.

Prospective adopters can find our adoption applications and our available cats via C.A.T.’s website or our Facebook page.

Also, please check out our How You Can Help page. Obviously, we welcome donations, but there are other ways to contribute, including something as simple as linking your Kroger card to C.A.T. so that Kroger will donate to our rescue every time you buy groceries—at no cost to you!

In some future posts I’ll talk about our criteria for rescuing cats and dealing with behavior issues.

 

 

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Cthul.
Cthul who?
Exactly! I’ve come to tickle your funnybone.
Oh, and also to eat your soul…

The Cackle of Cthulhu
ed. Alex Shvartsman
Baen Books, January 2, 2018
Available now!

So last year at Christmas dinner, my dad (science fiction writer Mike Resnick) says to me, “I’m going to have a story in this Cthulhu anthology that Alex Shvartsman is editing for Baen Books. I hear that you’re going to be in it, too. Since when are you a Lovecraft fan?”

As the old man knew, I’m not.

Alex Shvartsman did not invite me into the book on the basis of my non-existent Lovecraft expertise, but rather because I’ve written some humor stories for him in anthologies published by his own company, UFO Publishing.

As it happens, when I said, “Sure, I’d love to be in the anthology!” I had never read a word of Lovecraft’s fiction—a fact I refrained from sharing with Alex.

So I did my research. That is, I got some Lovecraft fiction from my local library, particularly stories that are considered Lovecraft classics and/or central to the “Cthulhu mythos.”  I typically turn down a short story commission that involves more research time than I can spare (ex. a short story for an anthology based on a series of novels I’ve never read), but Lovecraft didn’t write novels, and you can get a good handle on his tone, the subjects or themes he often used, and the Cthulhu mythos by reading just a handful of his short  fiction.

Also, the assignment seemed like a good opportunity to open some of the best-known works by an influential author whose writing I’d never read.

H.P. Lovecraft, who died in 1937, wrote fantastical horror fiction in the early 20th century. An American writer, he was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe, his own nightmares, and various writers of his own era. In turn, writers influenced by Lovecraft include Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, and Jorge Luis Borges, to name a few. Filmmakers, anime scriptwriters, and manga authors have also cited Lovecraft as an influence. He is often named as one of the most important or influential writers of his genre in the 20th century. Yet despite all that, and despite being a prolific writer, he experienced very little success in his lifetime, and he died in poverty at the age of 46.

Cthulhu, the Unspeakable Eater of Souls, is a dread dark god, a cosmic entity approximately 100 meters tall. Lovecraft describes him in “The Call of Cthulhu” as: “A monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind.” A figure or force in various other Lovecraft stories, Cthulhu dwells deep beneath the sea in the sunken “nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh…[which] was built in measureless eons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars.”

I enjoyed exploring a little Lovecraft, though the work isn’t to my taste. Lovecraft’s stories are creative, but he tends to portray everything as so menacing, evil, and horrifying that I kept involuntarily blurting, “Okey dokey.” The author’s prose is often imaginative (ex. “great Cyclopean cities of titan blocks and sky-flung monoliths”), but the text dwells so frequently on unimagined, lurking, nameless, unthinkable horrors from the deepest, darkest denizens of the nightmarish corners of the most tormented, unnamed terrors… that his prose often reads to me more like parody than horror.

The story I liked best, “Imprisoned With the Pharaohs,” was unrelated to the Cthulhu mythos I was researching, though it’s typical of Lovecraft’s tone and style, and it gives the reader a good feel for his work. Lovecraft wrote it on commission for Weird Tales in 1924. Interestingly, the first-person narrator in this story is the real-life magician and escape artist Harry Houdini—who encounters an ancient Egyptian deity and sinister rites older-than-time, etc., after being abducted while traveling in Egypt. Houdini (the real one) liked the story and wound up commissioning Lovecraft to write several works after that.

“The Call of Cthulhu,” certainly one of Lovecraft’s best-known works, seemed like essential reading for me, given that I was committed to writing a story for The Cackle of Cthulhu. I also read “At the Mountains of Madness,” and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”  I picked up various shiny bits from these works and rolled them into my story, “Cthulhu, P.I.” in which my love of old-fashioned hard-boiled detective movies is revealed, as well as my slight addiction to Airplane-style cheesy jokes.

So I hope you like the story and enjoy the anthology, whether you are unfamiliar with Lovecraft, a devoted fan of his work, or someone prone to muttering “okey dokey” while reading his stories. Other authors in the anthology include my dad, Neil Gaiman, Esther Friesner, Ken Liu, Jody Lynn Nye, and more!

 

I’m writing some blog posts about volunteering in cat rescue. (In the photo on the left, me and two of my fosters, both since adopted.) See Part 1 to find out how I got involved and what it basically entails.

My last post took us up to adoption, the point where someone with an approved adoption application can take home whichever cat(s) they choose or have already chosen from Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.), the rescue group where I volunteer and for which I have been fostering cats and kittens.

I get to see a lot of happy endings, which is the rewarding part. I send my fosters home with people who are so excited to get them, and in our follow-up exchanges days and months later, they tell me how much they love the cats, send me photos so I can see how they’ve grown, and say this pet is a member of the family. That is a long, long way from the ditches and cardboard boxes and sewers and dumpsters where many of our fosters were found. And that happy ending is the best part of animal rescue.

Here is a small sample of the photos I receive updating me on my former fosters.


It’s not always such a happy outcome, though. Sometimes, it is truly heartbreaking. Of the many kittens I’ve fostered, some have died. A couple of them were living with me when it happened; three died after adoption, in their forever homes, where they were cared for and mourned by people who had looked forward to having years together with them, not just weeks or months. There are diseases that strike without warning, such as feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), killing kittens who seemed perfectly healthy only a few weeks earlier. There isn’t an effective vaccination against FIP, nor is there a cure.

There are also mystery deaths. My foster kitten Chili, an adorable little bobtail kitten with an affectionate, playful personality, had some sort of catastrophic collapse the same night that Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida. I rushed her to the animal ER, where they were puzzled by her condition. She died there 12 hours later, and all they could determine was that she had some sort of brain damage or neurological disorder, either infectious or congenital. (The rest of the litter is still fine.)

As painful as it is to see them die, it’s even worse to learn they’ve died in their new homes. I have felt every time that  I have unwittingly brought sorrow to those families, though I had no idea that the apparently healthy kittens I sent home with them would die within weeks or months.

Some of the ones who didn’t make it. (Top row: Chili and Polar. Bottom row: Scarlet O’Hara and Ziggy Stardust.)

​​

Additionally, adoptions sometimes also result in appalling outcomes that frankly make me hate people.

Despite the thoroughness of our adoption process, one of the saddest things I do multiple times each year is go to kill shelters to collect our adopted cats after they have wound up alone in the world again, this time abandoned by the adopters we sent them home with. C.A.T. remains the contact associated with the microchips our fosters all get, precisely so that we can re-rescue them in these situations. (My own cats, all adopted from C.A.T., all have microchips registered to C.A.T.) 

We have a clearly stated and written policy that we want our fosters back—no questions asked, no problem, no matter when—if the adopter decides not to keep the cat. Despite this, there are some people who dump or abandon them.

The very worst or these situations is when we get the phone call from a shelter to re-rescue only one of a pair of kittens or cats that we adopted out, and we’re never able to find out what happened to the other cat. When our former fosters turn up at shelters, it is extremely rare that the adopter is frantically searching for them, or wants them back, or has a good explanation, or even answers the phone number we have for them.

Those are very upsetting events. And they happen to every rescue, no matter how careful we are. (And we’re so careful that a number of adopters comment on it… and some have walked away from the process in an angry huff. Which is fine. I went through this process to adopt my cats; if it’s too much for you, then I don’t want to send home my fosters with you.)

Finally, despite good people trying hard, sometimes things just don’t work out. A cat turns out to be a bad fit for a family, or the family’s life changes in unforeseen ways that make keeping the cat untenable… and they return them to C.A.T.. This is sad for everyone, but it absolutely the right thing to do in such circumstances.

I will talk about returned cats in my next post about cat rescue.

Meanwhile, check out Cat Adoption Team’s How You Can Help page. We welcome donations, but there are other ways to contribute, including something as simple as linking your Kroger card to C.A.T. so that Kroger will donate to our rescue every time you buy groceries—at no cost to you!

In some future posts I’ll talk about returned cats, the criteria for taking in cats, and related topics. I’ll post all of these under “Cat Rescue.”

As people who follow my Facebook page know, I volunteer in cat rescue. (This is a photo of me trying to read the morning’s emails while the Wild Bunch, one of my foster litters last year, make themselves comfortable.)

Since I get a lot of the same questions over time about how I got involved in cat rescue and what it entails, I decided to write a series of blog posts about it. So here we go.

To date, I have fostered approximately 65 cats and kittens in my home (which is why my upstairs carpet looks like it belongs in a crack house). Although I have fostered a few adult cats, I mostly focus on kittens–for several reasons. Kittens are easier to place (that is, more people want to adopt them), and so I can save a greater number of feline lives by fostering kittens; they move through here at a faster rate, making room for more fosters. Also, this is a small house that already has 4 permanent cats, so I favor fostering kittens because, again, they’re more likely to find homes elsewhere, rather than go unadopted and remain here the rest of their lives. Finally, my adult male cats accept the presence of kittens–they even like kittens and help me socialize them. But two of my cats are very hostile to adult cats moving in here, which creates a lot stress for everyone (including me).

Kittens very often arrive without a mother. Sometimes the mother is feral (doesn’t want contact with people, can’t be adopted), so she’s spayed, vaccinated, and released. Often the mother isn’t around; the kittens are at the age where she has stopped caring for them or is about to stop. Sometimes the mother is dead. And sometimes the mom comes into foster care with the kittens (I’ve had two such mom-cats here with their litters; one got adopted, the other is still awaiting adoption).

I got into fostering by adopting a couple of cats from a rescue group. While researching pet adoption (I am a writer; I research everything I do), I read that black cats are hard to place (and therefore have a very high rate of euthanasia), and also that bonded pairs of cats (and dogs) are harder to place than solo animals. I was perfectly willing to adopt both/either kind of cat, and Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.) had a bonded pair of black cats available, estimated age 8  months old, probably brothers. I  named them Hector & Achilles; I am a Bronze Age geek and a fan of Homer’s Iliad. They were two heroic little fellows who had survived on their own, as far as we know, until they were about 5 months old, when they turned up together at a kill shelter during one of the harshest winters on record here. I adopted them a few months after C.A.T. rescued them. Several years later, they are still inseparable.

(As it happens, by the way, I would describe myself as a dog person, but I love (almost) all animals, and cats are more suited to my current lifestyle—though I would eventually like to get a dog.)

Then, although I had only planned to adopt two cats, I got interested in another cat fostering with C.A.T. who was so pathologically shy he had little chance of being adopted, Poe. For whatever reason, I felt like this was the right home for him and adopted him, too. It took more than a month for Poe’s foster mom to catch him (though he lived inside her house) so she could transport him here, and it was another month before he would even let me see him. A friend asked during that time how I knew he was still alive, and I said, “Because I haven’t found his body.” Poe now allows me to see him regularly, and I am once in a while even allowed to pet him (briefly); but no one else ever sees him—to the extent that my father refers to him as my “fictional” cat.

Hector & AchillesPoe

 

Well, by the time Poe arrived, I knew some of the people in Cat Adoption Team and was increasingly interested in the work they were doing. I started following their Facebook page, and one day when they needed an immediate foster for two kittens who had turned up at a kill shelter that had no facilities for cats, and time was running out for them, I found myself raising my hand. My two tiny new fosters had multiple infections, which is common in rescue cats, and  had to be kept isolated for a few weeks. So I started learning how to medicate and care for young kittens. They both survived and, a couple of months later, they were adopted by a wonderful family that stays in touch and supports our work.

And since then… there have been oh-so-many more. Below is a small sampling. With so many kittens passing through, it reduces confusion if we name the litters thematically. In these photos, you see (in descending order): the Donuts (Sprinkles, Powder, Cream, Glaze, etc.), the Gone With the Winds (Ashley, Scarlet, and Rhett), the Bollywood stars (Rani, Kajol, Rishi, Raj, Shakti, and Dev), and the French Girls (Chanel, Colette, Simone, and Piaf).

   
  
 

Our group rescues cats from the street, kill shelters, hoarding situations, and similar circumstances. Many of our cats come through a system of rescuers who have working relationships with foster groups like ours. Although I do sometimes go to a kill shelter to get cats we’re rescuing, most often, my fosters arrive via other rescue organizations we partner with, such as Ohio Alleycat Resources,  to get cats who are abandoned and alone in the world to a safe place.

C.A.T. is an all-volunteer nonprofit group and a registered 501(3)(c) charity. It covers all the medical expenses and prescriptions for my fosters and provides all the supplies they need (dry food, wet food, litter, over the counter medicines, etc.). I’ve purchased some toys, blankets, litter boxes, food bowls, cat carriers, syringes, etc., but I sometimes get those supplies via C.A.T., too—or via donors.

We operate on donations, and we do a lot of fundraising to pay for all this. Most of our funds go to covering the fosters’ medical bills, which can get very high; this year, for example, we’ve had multiple fosters who’ve needed life-saving surgeries. We receive donations of money, food, litter, and various supplies from generous individuals and companies. There’s also an excellent organization here in Cincinnati, the United Pet Fund, which serves as an umbrella organization and central network for many local rescue groups and orgs here. I’ve attended seminars at UPF, and we occasionally collect much-needed donations of food, litter, and other supplies from them. (A litter of six kittens with chronic diarrhea can run through a lot of cat litter.)

We get our fosters spayed, neutered, vaccinated, and healthy (which takes time, money, and a lot of care in some cases), then post them for adoption. Prospective adopters find our available cats via C.A.T.’s website, our public adoption events, our Facebook page, and our adoption centers. They file an adoption application, their references are checked, and they get interviewed—and, yes, we do turn people down. (Additionally, I told one applicant I turned down that she needed a fish, not a cat.) After the application is approved, they can take home whichever cat(s) they choose or have chosen, and they pay C.A.T. the adoption fee.

And when enough cats have been adopted to make room for more, we rescue more.

Check out our How You Can Help page. Obviously, we welcome donations, but there are other ways to contribute, including something as simple as linking your Kroger card to C.A.T. so that Kroger will donate to our rescue every time you buy groceries—at no cost to you!

In some future posts I’ll talk about the happy and sad endings in rescue adoption, the criteria for taking in cats, and related topics. I’ll post all of these under “Cat Rescue.”

 

I have a new short story out, “Lost & Found,” in the sixth annual installment of writer/editor Alex Shvartsman’s popular Unidentified Funny Objects series.

My story in UFO5 was a satirical mash-up of The X-Files, Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who, and the classic movie, Casablanca. “The ∏ Files” (“The Pi Files”), featuring Special Agents Mully and Scalder, was great fun to write.

This time, though, my story for UFO6 is a little more personal.

I used to work part-time at a community newspaper. It should have been a great job. The hours, the location, the work, the community, and the rest of the staff were all pleasant, and the pay was okay.

Unfortunately, though, the boss (who was the editor, publisher, and owner of the paper) was an incredibly toxic person, which made working there miserable and stressful, despite all the positive attributes the place otherwise had. In addition to his stunning incompetence, he was also prone to frequent tantrums and irrational rages, he was jaw-droppingly rude, and he regularly insulted and gaslighted the staff.

Unsurprisingly, the place had a comically high turnover rate. Departures were an even mix of quitting and getting fired. I was only there for a few months before I was fired, during which time we ran through 5 office managers, for example. One very nice person quit after just one day, telling me as she left how appalled and astounded she was by the boss’ behavior.

Well, at one point, the boss wanted to print some “joke” stories in the newspaper. He presented staffers with a few real news stories that he wanted us to riff on. I selected one about NASA, wrote my story as directed, and turned it in. After reading it, the boss informed me that this story was not at all what he had wanted. In fact, it was what he had asked for, but now he was asking for something else. So I wrote another draft. He sent this one back to me with some notes. I revised the material in accordance with the notes and turned it in. Now he gave me all-new feedback, stuff he had not said on any previous iteration, and had me revise it again. I did so. And then he did the same thing again.

Next, he told me to start all over from scratch. He couldn’t articulate why, he just knew he wanted something else. I pointed out that I had already done 5 versions. He said I would probably have to do 10 or 12 versions before we were done. 

It was the “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it” school of editing. I had consoled various writers friends about situations like this over the years, but this was the first time I had dealt with it myself. This is a well-known gambit of completely incompetent and/or malicious editors, and it always goes very badly for the writer.

Then he told me I didn’t know how to write humor. He also said I wasn’t creative. He gave me a contemptuous look and said, “Aren’t you supposed to be a science fiction writer or something?”

At which point, I finally lost my temper. I don’t remember exactly what I said, though I do recall working into my tirade the information that I’d never before been asked for 5 rewrites because I’d never before worked with such an incompetent editor. I took my work away from him and stalked out of his office after telling him my next version of it would be final, period.

Not long after that, I later learned, he posted a want-ad for someone to fill my position, and after he arranged a start date with the new hire, he fired me.

The sad part, so to speak, was that the pieces he kept spiking were funny, and none of them ever saw the light of day.

So when Alex Shvartsman asked me to participate in UFO6, I decided to turn my ideas  for that article into a short story. The result is “Lost & Found,” in which some surprising visitors emerge from a UFO orbiting Earth.

And apparently someone thinks I can write humor, since Imagine A Book SF gave my story 5 stars and said, “So many different layers of humor. Wonderful.”

Yep, getting published is still the best revenge.

 

 

I had the pleasure this summer of doing a radio interview with the delightful Patzi Gil, creator and host of Joy On Paper, a syndicated radio program “for writers and those who dream of writing.”

I meant to post this interview several months ago, but I have been run off my feet all year. And so I am doing this exactly the way I’m doing everything else in 2017, i.e. months after I meant to do it.

A writer and radio pro, Patzi Gil interviews writers and agents “to learn the story behind the book.” She talked with me about the years it took to get Esther Diamond published, the mishandled first release which led to my contract being canceled, and the second chance at life that the series found at my current (and wonderful) publisher, DAW Books. We also talked about how I first got started writing while living in Sicily years ago, why I chose to write about an actress, and what it’s like to be my father’s daughter.

Patzi is a charming, welcoming, and enthusiastic host. You can hear the interview here:

The Graphic Audio adaptation of Vamparazzi (Esther Diamond #4) goes on sale April 5! Available for pre-order now.

Meanwhile, here’s a 5-minute sample of the production.

While you’re waiting for the April 5 audio release of Vamparazzi (or for better news about the book publication of Goldzilla than, “I’m way behind schedule and still working on it”), check out the podcast interview that Colleen Delany and I recently did for Graphic Audio.

That’s the Graphic Audio site link. Here’s the iTunes link (and then look for my name; date of the interview is Feb 17, 2017).

Colleen is the actress who plays Esther in the audio versions, as well as directing the productions. We talked about audio, Esther Diamond, writing, my working relationship with my editor, Hugo Award winner Betsy Wollheim, my (fun!) part-time job as a historic walking tour guide, and other stuff.

If you haven’t explored the Graphic Audio adaptations of the Esther Diamond series yet, check out this series trailer to get an idea of how cool these full-cast audio productions are: