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: