Tag Archives: The Miracle Cats and the Case of the Purloined Passport

Holiday Weekend

For those of us living State-side, this past weekend was a national holiday.  When I was growing up, it was called Decoration Day because you decorated grave sites with flowers on that day, and it  was always on May 30th. It has since been more formally known as Memorial Day and it now falls on the last Monday in May, giving us the first 3-day weekend to officially kick off the summer.

Memorial Day weekend is when I usually go buy my summer flowers for the flower pots, because everyone’s got the flowers on sale. And this Memorial Day weekend was no different!

Well, the only difference being that I seemed to have trekked off to the store with only half my brain this time because I came home with a car chock full of petunias that I didn’t realize I’d bought…

I wanted a ton of impatiens for the front of the house because it not only faces north but also has that enormous maple tree to contend with, so the flowerbeds in front get no sun, and impatiens do really well in no sun.  Well, I only wound up buying half a ton of impatiens, because I’d accidentally bought all those petunias.

But I made do. And I also decided not to plant any impatiens in the actual flowerbeds in front because I think the beds need better soil and I wasn’t prepared to go to all that expense this year. So they are only in flower boxes (along with begonias):

While I had hoped to have lots more impatiens on the front porch than I wound up with, you’ll note that I tried to cleverly conceal as much of the cracking cement as I could with the flowers I had. I’m hoping to get the cement repaired this summer, but I’m not positive if I will.  I’ve got such a long list of outside repairs.

You’ll also note just how close the front of my house is to the street. The window behind St. Francis there looks in on my family room. (If you click on the photos, it gets larger.) The front door apparently hasn’t been opened in, literally, decades. It’s been painted shut many times over. At first, I thought I would want to get that front door opened and put up a new screen door, but then I realized it is really close to the street. Anyone walking by on the sidewalk is basically in my family room. So now I know why no one bothered to open that door all these years.

It’s a really cool old door though. The door, the iron door knob, and the inside lock appear to be original to the house, making them all 117 years old. The inside lock is a big old iron hook & eye thing. Too cool.

Anyway, here’s the side porch! The plethora of accidental petunias are in flower boxes down there at the front of the porch step.

The sagging gutter is where the starling built her nest. I think she had 3 babies. It was quite a busy & noisy affair for awhile there. But the birds flew the nest just a couple days ago and so all is silent again.

I was actually taking these photos for a friend in Brooklyn, who wanted to see more photos of the house, so I’ll regale you with a few more pictures.

The guest room, with Francis!

Her nickname is Peanut, because she’s as cute as one and is teeny tiny. The table is there so that many cats can conveniently perch there at once and look out the window!

And now,  3 shots of my sanctuary!!

My bedroom! Complete with stain on carpet that came with the house!
The wall next to the bed there was where the old coal-burning fireplace was a long, long time ago. It’s plastered over now.
My desk is at the foot of the bed.

Long-time readers of this lofty blog will no doubt recall that this desk has been appearing on my many blogs and on my various websites since 1998. The desk is actually 37 years old. It was a wedding gift to me from my first husband. He bought it from a small furniture store on 8th Avenue, where everything in the store was handmade, from pine.

When we got married, we lived on the corner of W.45th Street and 8th Avenue, in the Camelot Building in Manhattan’s theater district. I used to sit at that desk and type on my IBM Selectric typewriter, and look out over the gay hustler bars that were on the opposite corner of 8th Avenue back then. I bought the Selectric at a pawn shop, also on 8th Avenue, and thought it was the absolute coolest thing!

I always just assumed that I would buy a bigger, more professional desk at some point.  Especially in the late 90s, when desktop computers were enormous and took up the whole desk.  But the years went on, and I wrote 5 novels, edited 7 anthologies, wrote 4 or 5 novellas, about 100 short stories, 3 TV pilots, and countless essays, blog posts, letters, etc., at this very small desk!

I’m closing in on 60 years old, gang. I’m getting the feeling this will be my Forever Desk… Ah well. It works.

Okay, gang! It’s hot as blazes out here in the Hinterlands today.  I’m planning on staying inside for most of the day, working on story notes for The Miracle Cats and the Case of the Purloined Passport.  Then, at some point, I’ll probably just collapse from the heat and stare into space.  What could be better?

I leave you with this. I was playing it really loud in the car the other day and having a ball. I hadn’t heard this song in probably 20 years! And I suddenly realized that the chorus somehow became the story of my life — I don’t have TV anymore, I don’t read newspapers, I became a non-denominational ordained minister, moved to the country, planted a garden, etc., etc. I highly recommend it, folks! It worked for me…

Okay. See ya! Thanks for visiting!

Updates on Happiness, Raccoons, Writing & More!

It’s a stunning morning here in the Hinterlands! Hard to believe it’s supposed to be raining, yet again, by this evening.  I guess we’ll see. The only thing I don’t like about the rain, is that I have to go around and close all 22 of the windows I had already opened.

Since I last posted here, there have been all sorts of interesting things going on. For starters, my friend Diane came out to the Hinterlands and helped me FINALLY get my main barn door OPEN.

Yes! That means I was finally able to get into the main section of my barn. The part where the horse was kept long, long ago. The other section, the part where the buggy was kept, was really easy to get into from day one. And inside that section was the half-door for feeding the long-ago horse once  kept in the stall side, so I could at least look into that side of the barn. But what a cool feeling to actually be able to get into the other side and look at all the ancient stuff that’s still in there.

For one thing, we discovered that the barn had a front addition built onto it at some distant point in the long ago past. So the current (really old) front of the barn (pictured above) has perfectly preserved the original old front of the barn that was built in 1910.

I was going to get you photos of all this, but as it happened, at the last minute, a friend needed a place to store his 1965 VW camper van as he headed out to Yellowstone National Park for the summer. Since I can’t really afford to do the thousands of dollars worth of work that the barn needs right now, I offered him the use of the barn since we were finally able to get the door open, and now a great big VW camper van is taking up the entire space for the next few months…

Not this one — but this is a very reasonable facsimile!

 

There is enough room left along one side of the inside of the barn to kind of get one of the side doors of the camper open a smidge. So my friend generously offered that anytime I wanted to just hang out inside  the camper, I could!

Well, that was too cute! While it is often really fun to hang out inside those old VW camper vans, I have an entire new house to hang out in, as well as a really cool porch! But I did appreciate the offer, nevertheless.

My porch, by the way, is wonderful. Quite a few friends have already come by my new 117-year-old house in the Hinterlands  and they all immediately head for a chair on the side porch, plop down and get comfortable.  Not only is the porch really welcoming, but the screen door also opens right onto the kitchen, where the fridge is always stocked with beer. (Not the kind of beer that I drink, btw. Everybody around here seems to like Bud Light. Whereas, loyal readers of this lofty blog will no doubt recall that I like Newcastle Brown Ale — a far cry from Bud Light. My guy-friend was over the other day to say farewell before heading off to Alaska for a big fishing tournament, and he accidentally helped himself to my one and only bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale. He said, “What the hell is this??!!” And I replied, “It’s MINE!!!” and I grabbed it away from him. My hostessing politeness only extends so far…)

Anyhow.  Not only is it so cool to finally have a great porch of my own that people actually stop by and hang out on, regardless of how deep into the Hinterlands I have gotten, but it is also cool that neighbors drive by — neighbors that I have not met yet — and they all smile and wave.

I don’t know, gang; I think I somehow ended up in Mayberry…

Mayberry — The Andy Griffith Show TV town

Yes, I am so happy here.

And for those of you waiting with bated breath on any updates regarding my raccoon… Ah yes. The dear little thing is indeed a female, and already has a pack of little cubs down inside the hollow of the tree.

No not these kinds of raccoon cubs…

These kind!!

And these kind get up onto the roof and create havoc a lot more frequently than the other kind do… Well, we’ll see how it goes as the unbelievably cute destructiveness pervades the upcoming summer months.

Meanwhile, I have been getting literally tons of inspiration for both of the mystery books I’ve had on the back burner for nearly 2 years (The Tea Cozy Murder Club: A Murder at Parsons Ridge (also a TV pilot), and The Miracle Cats: The Case of the Purloined Passport).  I just need to get some breathing room from the theater projects and the Cleveland’s Burning TV pilot. However, all of those projects are looking so incredibly promising right now, that they all seem to need my attention before I can get back to writing novels.

I can’t go into detail on the blog right now re: the one-woman musical I’m working on with Sandra Caldwell in NYC, but it is a really exciting development connected with the workshop/staged reading of the show. And it continues to bode really, really well for the stage adaptation I’m working on of  Tell My Bones, the play about Helen LaFrance that I’m writing as a vehicle for Sandra.

However, regarding my TV pilot, once titled Cleveland’s Burning but now known more affectionately as Untitled Cleveland Drama, I can say here that we have had interest in the project from several places within the last few days, including OWN, ABC-Disney, and Act 4 Entertainment. This is all just initial interest, gang, but it still excites me beyond belief.  I came so close to simply shelving the project forever, after working with several other producers who wound up not really sharing my vision for it and who completely exasperated me. But after I hooked up with the EVP of Development at Bohemia Group (for the Tea Cozy Murder Club pilot),  things with Cleveland’s Burning came back to life with them, specifically with the EVP’s all-out enthusiasm for the Cleveland project.

Well, as usual, the morning has now pretty much evaporated while I’ve been sitting here blogging at the computer! I must scurry, gang, and get some other stuff done.

Hope you have a terrific Monday that leads into a really amazing week, wherever you are! Thanks for visiting, gang.  See ya!

“That’s all, folks!”

 

 

R.I.P. Cleo & Charlie

Loyal readers of this lofty blog will no doubt recall that I have written here many times over the years of my good friend Val in Brooklyn, who pens the Paws for Thought Comic strip.

She & I have been great friends since 1982, and we are collaborating on an illustrated mystery book series, The Miracle Cats. The first installment will be titled The Miracle Cats and the Case of the Purloined Passport.  We started working on the book well over a year ago. It was going quite well until all sorts of tragedies and extreme challenges began popping up in both our lives, including numerous deaths, and so the writing/illustrating of the book went down to slower than a snail’s pace.

Well, earlier this week, another tragedy struck! 2 of Val’s cats died in the same afternoon.  Charlie had been diagnosed with cancer about one year ago. In fact, my cat, Fluffy, was diagnosed with cancer a month or so after Charlie had been, but Charlie outlived Fluffy by 5 months.

Val and I have a long history of adopting and/or rescuing cats. In fact, way back in 1983, Val rescued a little black & white kitten who lived around the train tracks in Long Island City, out in Queens, NY, where Val lived back then. Val brought the kitten to live with me in my apartment in Manhattan. I named her Kitty, and she was a sickly kitty, but she lived to be 18 years old! And a very dear companion to me. She passed on December 13th, 2001.

Anyway. I digress. Val rescued Charlie as a teeny kitten. In fact, she rescued his whole family! Cleo, the mom, had 2 tiny kittens (Charlie and Pickles) and I believe they were all sort of sickly,  barely surviving under a freeway overpass in Brooklyn. This was 15 years ago. And, although Charlie was expected to die at any moment because of the cancer, his mom, Cleo, who seemed fine and healthy, wound up dying suddenly on the same afternoon as Charlie did. Completely unexpected and so very sad. Losing 2 furry friends in one day, and of course, leaving a 3rd cat, Charlie’s sibling, Pickles, to mourn the sudden loss of a whole family.

Val has several other cats, as well as a rescued dog, and many ferals that come and go in her backyard sanctuary in Brooklyn, yet it is still so sad to lose any members of our families, regardless of how many critters there are! My heart goes out to all of them.

One of these days, things will finally calm down. The clouds will pass, the sun will shine, and we’ll finally finish creating The Miracle Cats! But in the meantime, we ponder the loss and the very meaning of life, even as life goes on. Thanks for visiting, gang.

Cleo and Charlie, in the early years.
Cleo and Charlie, in the early years.

 

A most perfect day!

Yes, not only is it snowing here today (yay!), but all I have to do today is sit at my desk and write!!

I also have a wonderful photo of Tommy to share! It is extremely difficult to get good photos of Tommy, because she is incredibly timid and the trauma of the recent move lasted longer for her than it did with the other cats in her colony.

Tommy on the bed yesterday
Tommy on the bed yesterday

If you click on the picture, it will enlarge. And then you will see that the table lamp next to my bed is, indeed, nearly 60 years old!!

Like all the other cats in Tommy’s colony (as well as my two tame cats who recently died), Tommy is a character in my upcoming book, The Miracle Cats and the Case of the Purloined Passport, illustrated by Valerie Wares.

In the book, Tommy is “Sister Thomasina” and she worries a lot.  She often says things like, “oh dear,” and “dear me.” And, of course, she wears a nun’s habit because, in the book, she’s a church cat….

"Sister Thomasina" by Val -- but without the habit
“Sister Thomasina” by Val — but without the habit

On the “very fun” front — I needed to come up with a pen name for another book I’m writing and decided to use the Wu Tang Clan nickname generator this morning and it gave me the most AWESOME nickname EVER!! The irony screams out on several levels. It is too good to be believed. Honestly, it could not be more perfect for me, it felt like it came straight from God, and it set the tone for my whole morning. Sadly, I cannot share the name with you here because then it would no longer be a “pseudonym” in the strictest sense of the word… (If you have never used the Wu Tang Clan nickname generator, do it today!)

All right, on that note, I’ve got to go to the kitchen and grab another cup of coffee and then get some more writing done here! As we enjoy our snowy day, I leave you with the song that’s been in my head for several days running (it’s even been in my dreams! What’s that about??). Enjoy, gang!

Okay. See ya! Thanks for visiting.

So many great projects, too little time!

First and foremost: There is more snow falling here in the hinterlands, even as I type!! Yay! It won’t amount to more than 2 inches, so it’s no big deal that later today, I will once again have to drive into town… While it’s falling, it is just so darn pretty. Especially now that most of the neighbors have their Christmas lights up.

I was assured by the director of production at the company that will be developing my TV pilot, Cleveland’s Burning, that we will begin the re-writes and development of the pilot right after the first of the year.

I’m expecting this project to seriously challenge my storytelling abilities and take a lot out of me. In other words, most of my life will likely come to a grinding halt, once I begin working on the revisions. So Val (in Brooklyn) and I decided to spend December getting back to our book, The Miracle Cats and the Case of the Purloined Passport. Since both Fluffy and Bunny, my beloved and recently departed cats, have prime roles in the book, I was having trouble writing it. I couldn’t get past the fact that both my cats had died this year, so unexpectedly. And Val’s Dad died, followed quickly by her Uncle, so things were just emotionally rough for both of us. Well, once we decided we were both ready to tackle the book again, another dear member of Val’s family suddenly passed away, so the  book has shifted to the back burner once again.

I thought, okay, I’ll make some progress on my memoirs before January rolls around. But suddenly, out of the blue, after about 14 months of researching Caiaphas, James the Brother of Jesus, and the Talpiot Tomb (in order to write my one-man play about Caiaphas in a seriously modern re-telling of his role in the death of Jesus), I sat down at my desk yesterday morning, and lo & behold, the play started coming out! Astonishing. I was so not expecting that.

My play is titled, In the Days of the Flesh. The title is taken from the Book of Hebrews, in the New Testament, and refers to the days when Jesus walked among men. It took me all day, but I got 2 killer pages done. I can’t imagine it will be finished by January, even though it will only run about 55 pages. Nevertheless, if it’s ready to come, I’m welcoming its arrival with “open laptop!!” — however many pages end up coming before the New Year.

So, on we go! And that said, I want to get back at it! Thanks for visiting, gang, and I leave you with this splendiferous Ode to Today!! See ya!

Yes, I’m Happy

We’re adjusting to life without Bunny and Fluffy and finding that life does, indeed, go on.

The shrine to Bunny, Fluffy, and Buster on top of my dresser.
The shrine to Bunny, Fluffy, and Buster on top of my dresser.

And we are adjusting to a much smaller living space (discovering that we actually like the smaller space better!) and adjusting to the endless, endless, ENDLESS driving in order to get anywhere.

In case I wasn’t clear before — I am only renting this faraway house until I find a townhouse I want to buy back in “town,”  as it were. So the endless driving won’t go on forever.

I am in the process of trying to streamline my schedule in order to settle back into writing again. I’m still a bit discombobulated by the many changes in my life — all during the last several months. The fact that I will have to move again in the not-too-distant future keeps me from really feeling settled in, but we’re getting there.

Also, just FYI, by “we” I mean myself and 8 cats…  (The cats who will soon be earning their keep by being featured prominently in my upcoming mystery book, The Miracle Cats and the Case of the Purloined Passport.)

So. Speaking of mysteries…Two of my favorite worlds are colliding! Johnny Depp is slated to appear in yet another remake of Agatha Christy‘s Murder on the Orient Express!!

I’m guessing that with both Oscar-winning Judi Dench and oft-nominated-though-never-Oscar-winning Johnny Depp in the cast, their budget for creating a really splendid re-creation of the Orient Express train will undoubtedly be through the roof!! (YES! Diagram that sentence if you feel foolhardy enough!)

Also, at least in the tabloid gossip, Johnny Depp is rumored to be re-attached to his ex-common-law-wife, Vanessa Paradis. I have no idea of this is even partially true, gang, but I, for one, think it would be so great if it were true! For reasons I cannot reveal here, I am a Certified Expert on the number of times Johnny Depp has smiled in his entire life — the number is 5, by the way. And 4 of those times occurred while he was with Vanessa.

(Do you recall this photo?? This was the 2nd known  time he smiled in his entire life…)

2nd known time Johnny Depp smiled in his entire life
2nd known time Johnny Depp smiled in his entire life

 

We shall see, right, gang? Meanwhile, life goes on… Have a terrific November 10th wherever you are, whatever you’re doing — and, most importantly these days, to wherever you might be driving!!

catdriving

See ya, folks, and thanks for visiting!

 

Life, Unexpected

You may recall that I recently wrote a post about my art project — a “Chore Chart” I made for my cats (see somewhere below) in order to get help with the housework around here and about how poorly the cats were doing with keeping up their ends of things.

Finally, it all came to a head the other day, when I unhappily discovered that all my cats had fleas and all the housework had to be done, by me, alone, posthaste. Yes. Cats that never go outdoors; cats living in a house that has had the central AC on all summer long; a house that sits on a property that has had professional lawn care (including certain insecticides) all summer long. And still all 10 cats had fleas.

8 of the 10 cats are either feral or semi-feral rescues that no human being on earth can touch because they are terrified of people touching them, including me, so they require oral, tuna-flavored, meds that I have to buy in bulk from out of state. Luckily they arrived within 2 days.

Friends tried to comfort me in all this by assuring me that it wasn’t somehow “my fault” and that “fleas are really bad this year,” but it didn’t make the chore of getting rid of the fleas any easier. It took about 4 1/2 hours to  launder all the various bed linens, furniture throws, throw rugs, etc.; then vacuum everything, wash down the floor, and then spray everything with Knockout flea spray. (Oh, the things you learn while eternally fostering a feral cat colony in your home. It used to take me several months to get rid of fleas, now it takes me about a quarter of a day…)

When I was finally done, and after I’d taken my shower and collapsed on the bed, ready to get lost in a terrific Erle Stanley Gardner Perry Mason mystery that I’d gotten from the library, my little cat, Fluffy, the one who has cancer, promptly had a stroke right there next to me on the bed.

The immediate after-effects of the stroke lasted nearly 2 hours and required two more loads of laundry from all the projectile vomiting and temporary loss of bladder control (hers, not mine) and then she settled down into a very deep sleep.

However, in the middle of the night, for two nights running, she woke up with a burst of energy and was doing weird things around the bedroom that she hadn’t had the energy to do for several months and it kept me from getting any decent sleep. At every weird sound she made, or every unexpected thing she collided with and knocked over in the dark, I kept lurching awake, saying, “Oh my God, Fluffy, why are you doing that?” as if her little bewildered self needed to explain to me that she’d very recently had a stroke and was also dying from cancer.

She has since settled way down and is somewhat “back to normal,” all things considered.

Then, yesterday, it was my turn to crash. I didn’t wake-up until 9 a.m. — I  am usually up by 5 a.m.  Twelve hours of sleep. And I was still exhausted. So, unexpectedly (and rather happily, as it turned out) I stayed in bed all day, read my library book in its entirety — The Case of the Stepdaughter’s Secret-– and even began re-watching a series of Midsomer Murder DVDs. I watched 3 of them — a total of 6 hours’ worth of Midsomer Murders in one lovely, rainy summer day. I’d been wanting to re-watch them because I’d recently read Caroline Graham‘s terrific mystery that launched the Midsomer Murders TV series, The Killings at Badger’s Drift.

So it was a day full of mysteries on every front — and I found myself making all kinds of notes for The Miracle Cats series, the series I’m writing with my friend, Val, in Brooklyn. (Sadly, her dad passed away over the weekend after a really long illness, so our series has been on hiatus.) As well as notes for my current novel-in-progress, The Tea Cozy Murder Club: A Murder at Parsons Ridge.

I also managed to eat an entire 14 ounce container of Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream. All by myself. While spending an entire day in bed.

I have to tell you, gang, it was not the worst way to spend 24 hours! I had a blast. And thanks to the flea infestation, I had an extraordinarily clean house to waste all that time in. I couldn’t have asked for a more delightful day.

kittensleep