Category Archives: Essays

The Volunteer Cat

This essay was sent out with my Christmas cards. I meant to post it for you not long after and here it is almost May…


When the kids were little, and they got bossy and demanding, we’d tell them, “Sorry but the servants are off today.” Of course, the DH and I would declare that to each other as well, embellishing whenever possible. “That scullery maid! Last I saw she was on her way to Brighton, she was. I don’t think she’ll be back,” we’d exclaim, in our best Monty Python delivery.

Sad to say, every once in a while the rejoinder was not comically rendered. Instead, it would come out with the full despair of one who has washed a zillion dishes, a billion loads of laundry, and too many floors. “Servants?” we’d say, “You want servants? Well don’t we all.”

One day it got serious. “I am NOT a servant,” was to be heard…loudly, imbued with years of pent up indignation. “Well of course not,” came the immediate reply. “If you were a servant you would be getting paid. What you are is a volunteer.”

We haven’t stopped laughing yet.

“Is there a volunteer?” has quickly become the most frequently asked question around here, and “No, I am not volunteering” the most frequent response.

Which brings us to Dude, the cat in the picture. When we bought our home five years ago, we would sometimes see him lurking in the backyard. Our cat Pooh did not like him there and chased him away while he was still fit enough to do so.

After Pooh passed on, Dude (because that’s what you call someone when you don’t know their name) started lurking again. We didn’t pay him much attention, especially since the DH had vowed we’d never have another cat and we assumed he lived near by. We enjoyed him from afar until one fateful day when the DH fed him… and before we knew it, that cat was volunteering to be our cat.

We believe he was abandoned, although it’s possible he’s severely neglected and likes us better. While he isn’t feral, he is a bit wild and he doesn’t use a cat box. A great hunter, we don’t need to feed him (or at least not so much–he’s put on several pounds).

It’s no surprise that he likes having servants–especially someone to open and close the sliding glass door whenever he wants. Because he doesn’t use a cat box, it’s rather imperative that someone do so, even if it’s 2am, a situation that existed for several months before the servants got so tired they decided they had to do something.

Something turned out to be a sequence of cat doors that led from the kitchen to the garage then out of the house (and back in again), which is handy for when it’s raining or we’re gone. The new doors required a nose-push to get through, and for that, someone had to be trained with kitty treats.

But, like the servant thing (and the volunteer thing), it turns out it wasn’t Dude who got trained. While he quickly learned how to manipulate his new doors, these days his devoted slaves can be seen dispensing treats on demand as well as opening the sliding-glass door even though he has two perfectly good cat doors that only he can fit through.


More Pictures of Dude can be found on Instagram

*My* Readers

It’s every author’s dream to connect with their readers…the ones who “get” them, love their story, and are transported to a different place and time, away from the problems and cares of their life; readers who are dying to read the next book whether it’s been published or not.

But finding those readers isn’t as easy as one would hope.

Publishing a book is a bit like sending a child off to kindergarden, although it also has similarities with tossing manuscript pages into the wind. You can do your best–by having it edited for content and grammar, giving it a great cover, and an excellent blurb. You can light candles, take out advertising, blog-hop, have launch parties–online and off. But none of that guarantees that the book will fall into the right hands. Especially not in today’s incredibly full marketplace with traditional publications and indie publications all vying for attention.

Although I have participated in them, free promotions seem to be a particularly difficult way to find one’s readership since some people will take advantage of any free book (those are the reviews that start: I don’t usually read books like this…) and some people never do.

I admit that I have not exactly been able to find my readers. Although I do feel like I’m getting close, and by that I mean I have found some of them. (Waves!)

And I’m finally beginning to understand the importance of branding. Although it sounds terribly painful, it’s supposed to ease the connection between the consumer and the provider by making what is offered completely accessible, traditionally by a logo or a slogan. Since writer’s products are composed of words, it tends to be a slogan. I’ve come to realize my slogan is:

Richly Textured Historical Romance

Interesting–and obvious–when I think about it. I have always been captivated by textures. When I used to sew for a living and bought fabric it not only had to look good, but I always walked through fabric stores fondling every bolt that I liked and if it didn’t feel right I didn’t buy it. One of the things I love about history is that each time and place has unique sights, smells, sounds, and tastes.

Having a brand with only the one book out is not an easy thing to do. Unless one hits it big out the gate (a notable example is my critique partner Lisa Valdez and her first book, Passion) making an impression is usually done over the course of several books.

Trust me, I’m working on them. The Unsuitable Earl is coming along, just not as rapidly as I would like. It’s going to be a smashing good book when it’s done. And now there’s a third book for my Restoration series that is begging to be written. Soon, I’ll have a series title for the three of them.

Meanwhile, it turns out that like many authors, the best way for me to connect with my readers is word of mouth. So, if you liked my first book, I’d appreciate it if you would tell someone about it if you think they would also like it. In both the short and the long run, finding one’s readers takes help.