Little Cat Adventure

Last weekend, Little Cat (LC) had herself a furry freakout. While I worked on Hidden Sanctuary all day, my husband decided to take the time to tackle our pond out back. 

It is a lovely addition to the yard and provides a soothing sound when we run the waterfalls. Unfortunately, water evaporates by the gallon in the summer. In the winter, it collects leaves and pine needles and then turns it all into algae and frog eggs in the early spring. We try to take all the eggs to a local wetland before the draining and cleaning take place. This year we relocated a frog along with them. One final pouch of eggs is still in a bucket out back—it was found late in the process. 

I say “we,” but all of this work was 99.9% him working over about eight hours. A few patches of pond armor are still needed, but it looks amazing. We have a skimmer and a new vacuum, so we are hoping we can keep it sparkling this year. 

Looking good for summer entertaining!

Little Cat Explores 

LC has some squirrel friends she’ likes to watch during the day as she sits in front of the back sliding door. My cats are indoor cats, but every now and then we let them into the backyard to sniff around, usually with the harness and leash on. 

As much as she loves the backyard, she is terrified of people. Whenever friends or family stop by—or even a delivery person—she bolts from whatever sunny spot she found to go hide under a blanket. We have no idea what drives her to be so afraid, but we let her calm down in her safe place.

On Sunday, her split personalities collided in spectacular fashion. After finishing with the pond, my husband found LC in front of the screen door, sniffing and listening to the outdoors. Mowers and trimmers were going, our pond vacuum had been on and off for hours. Despite all of that, she remained interested in the yard.

We put on the harness and leash and led her out back to show her the nice clean water. The trickling of the waterfalls raised her anti-water hackles, so she started pawing off between a couple of bushes. Everything was normal, calm… then the neighbor behind us yelled at his dog.

LC freaked the fluff out. She bolted so fast that the leash pulled out of my husband’s hand. Leaping over the grill, she was halfway up the window screen by the time he reached her. He caught her as the screen pulled out and away, starting to fall, only to have her scratching his arm up in her panic to bolt yet again.

She sprang away from him and climbed nimbly up the screen door, clinging to the top as the two of us worked to hold onto her while gently peeling her off her perch to bring her safely back inside.

Finally, she came loose. I had her scruff and bent to set her gently inside the doorway. The moment she saw her safety blanket through the opening, she decided to use my face as a springboard. Her back claws pierced my cheek and lip as she tore forward.

The leash caught her again, but inside she held still for me to remove it and take her to another safe spot upstairs. LC calmed quickly after that, and we three—including Big Cat—sat with her for a few minutes as she peered around cautiously. I palpated for bruises, finding no pain response. A half-hour later she was back downstairs, once more staring out the back window. 

No permanent harm. The harness and slightly elastic leash kept her from hurting herself or running so far that she got lost. Her trust in us kept her from being traumatized. My face should heal fine, and you can bet your bum we will be scouting for stranger danger before she gets to sniff around out back again.

Don’t worry, I live to fight another day!

Big Cat Problems

Big Cat is unofficially seventeen years old. I say “unofficially” because I celebrate his adoption day in early March rather than his birthday. Every year, he gathers more old-cat problems.

His kidneys have been slowly worsening for a few years now, but the vet thinks it is still relatively stable based on his numbers. He has difficulty “concentrating his urine,” which, in our case, means he drinks more and uses the box more often.

Not too bad. We have an automated litter box, so I only need to change the bag out more often. At least, until I periodically start finding puddles in front of the box.

The mystery begins…

He is not spraying or peeing all over the house. It is just in front of the box. Also, while we think it is Big Cat, there is a chance Little Cat developed some inappropriate bathroom habits, so we decide we must identify the problem to find the correct solution.

Brilliantly, we move the indoor Ring camera I received for a work anniversary to dangle over the boxes, trying to catch the piddler in the process. Days pass and puddles happen, but the camera picks up only a few jumps in and out of the box, no damning evidence. Its sensor is not sensitive enough to trigger with their sneaky little bodies.

Time for the next level: we borrow my father-in-law’s nature camera, stringing it up with rubber bands and twist ties. We catch the piddler in the act not even a day later! Big Cat sticks his head in, sniffs around, and proceeds in no further. With his front half inside, Big Cat lifts a leg to make a horrendous mess on the floor.

I have a theory…

Little Cat had just gone, and the machine had not turned yet. I’m thinking he does not like to use it dirty. I shorten the time between going and turning. Then, today, we spent an hour dismantling and scrubbing that machine down to get it nice and clean again.

I bring this thing in, calling out in a sing-song voice, “kitties!” Big Cat comes running. He eagerly jumps in the clean litter box, all four feet in, his butt still sticking out… and pees all over the floor.

*Pained sigh* It looks like he also has arthritis. It can cause them to no longer squat when they pee.

The vet talked about some gummies many people are raving about working well for dogs and cats, so I will reach out about getting some of those. Mr. Picky Pants (Big Cat) will probably turn his nose up at them, meaning I’ll need to get creative.

I love him still, and I continue to hope I have him for many more years, but cleaning up cat urine is getting exhausting. Fingers crossed we have this resolved soon with meds and intensive remedial litter box training.

Hope you all enjoy the weather this weekend!

Paperback and Progress

I feel like I have been playing catch-up lately, and it has been forever since I have done a general status update, so here is all the stuff that I have not shared since the holidays began!

Holidays

I spoke before about seeing family for the holidays, which was great. I also received some great gifts from everyone. One was a cool cover for my ReMarkable2 notepad that can support it in different positions. It makes me feel better knowing it has something to protect the screen when I’m not using it. I’m currently wearing a blanket/poncho thing my parents gave me. Big Cat enjoys it as well for his lap time. A third thing I’m excited about is my new minimalist wallet arriving in the mail this week. I purchased it with a gift card received to pick one I liked. 

After Christmas, I was cat-sitting for my parents during their visit with my brother and family in Florida. That mission was complicated by the week of snow we had in the area. They live within walking distance, so I made the trip every day. Footing became a bit treacherous on the ice and more effort than usual tromping through the snow, but the cat was not without company. 

Going without trash service for three weeks during that period due to snow and ice became a bit more daunting. We don’t usually have too much trash, but a mix-up on recycling dates a month earlier meant we were already two weeks behind on that pick-up. Boxes were piling up in the kitchen with recyclables. When the bin emptied this week, we immediately filled it again. Hopefully, this catches us up for good this time. 

Business

You may have noticed some picture changes on the website already. If you did, you may already suspect I had some professional pictures taken, and you would be correct. I contacted a photographer to take a handful of “casual, professional headshots” for my author materials. A couple of the pictures are on the website, I changed my Facebook profile photo, and one is on the back cover of my paperback. 

This one is on another page, but Big Cat wanted to make an appearance here too!

That’s right! Hidden Memory is also out in paperback as of this week! I ran through a couple of author proofs to make minor formatting adjustments, and my first few author copies are on their way—probably still in the printing stage—now! If you signed up for my newsletter, you should have seen it in your inbox earlier today, and it includes a chance to enter to win a signed paperback! If you did not sign up in time for this giveaway, do not lose hope. There will be more in the future, so go to the home page and sign up now so you don’t miss out!

With the paperback complete, I’m focused on finishing up the current draft of Hidden Promise. I will pass polished chapters to my alpha readers and then revise Hidden Sanctuary in preparation for beta readers. On the business side, I’m learning about advertising on Amazon and hoping it does not cost me too much for the education!

I will end on a celebratory note this week. It has been just over a month since the book was released. I had a relatively successful launch, thanks primarily to word of mouth through my friends and family network to their networks. My advertising has resulted in eight additional sales. I have five reviews on Amazon, and I have two preorders for the next-in-series! Thank you all for your support!

White Christmas

Snow on Christmas day is rare in the Puget Sound area. We’re more likely to see it in January or February, but there was some falling yesterday and has collected a fair amount as of this morning. We opened the back door for the cats. They are both indoor cats, but they find padding around in the snow intriguing. By “padding around in the snow,” I mean that if we carry them out they might slowly move about, and when we open the door they cautiously creep around on the first step. Either way, they are cats, with snow on their fur, so they are adorable.

“It’s so cold out there!” – Little Cat back from her snowy adventure.

I’m glad the snow held off yesterday though because it meant we were able to visit both parents and in-laws. This is the first time we sat down with some of them in a couple of years now. It’s challenging because not everyone is able to isolate as well as we can, and we are still trying to do our part by being careful. Our intent is to mini-quarantine for at least the next week just in case. Any risks we took should end with us.

Yesterday morning when my sister arrived with her kids, I just about–did–freaked out at them when my niece walked in saying nonchalantly “I got COVID-19 for Christmas.”

I looked at my sister with fire in my eyes. “Then what the F are you all doing here?!”

The two of them shared a look and started cracking up. I, of course, am unamused. They are not that selfishly irresponsible. I know they are not. But, there are so many people who are, and you hear stories like that all the time. For that moment, I believed they would do it.

It turned out my niece received a GiantMicrobe plush toy representation of COVID-19 in her stocking. The two of them conspired their little scene thinking about how hilarious it would be to get a reaction out of me. I can’t say I was sorry to rise to the occasion, and I’m glad they, and others, got a laugh out of it. As I said on Instagram, “well played, little one. Well played.”

We are big fans of Giant Microbes. The regular size plush tags always include interesting facts about the microbe in question.

Publication Update

My book was released just under two weeks ago. After the initial surge, sales have dwindled to a trickle. This is both expected, and not as bad as it sounds. You expect an initial surge driven by preorders, followed by a reduction. The sales still coming in are primarily due to social media sharing by friends and me. I have also had three of my ARC readers post reviews in various places along with one “verified purchaser” review. Through it all, I maintained a reasonable star rating.

I also set up a targeted keyword ad on Amazon Advertising, and I got my first sale from that effort on Friday. The cost per click and advertising cost of sales are…not great, but for my first book, it is going to be more about volume and bringing people into the series and along for the ride. I’m hoping for a preorder for book two to come in from one of these initial sales. I will have another little celebration at the sign someone likes the first enough to immediately sign up for the second.

Sales might see another little surge when I finish the paperback version. I have all the formatting done, and I’m going to try to order an author test copy in the next couple of days to see how it looks once actually printed. Barring any issues, I might have it out by the middle of January, ahead of the February target.

Reminder, I’m going to be doing a paperback raffle of sorts in my January newsletter (around mid-month), so if you are interested in trying for a free paperback and have not already signed up for the newsletter, you can do so below or on my home page.

For now, I’m back to editing and writing. Come back next week for another installment of the dream journal short story!

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T-Minus 10 Days!

Hidden Memory Status Update!

As of today, December 4th, there are less than ten days until the official release of my first book. Also on today’s agenda is sending out a reminder to my ARC readers that they should be downloading their copy so they read it in time to get a review posted in that first week of release (hopefully).

For the last week, I have been looking into creating some social media images to post in advance and on the day of release. Right now, I am playing around with Canva’s free version. You can see some of the preliminary results as the cover image for this post as well as here:

Posted on Instagram with hashtags. One like from a random person? I call that a win!

I’m enjoying the program so far. It is easy to use and does a great job of providing a color palette that coordinates with any images I upload rather than making minor adjustments constantly until it is what I think looks good enough.

Paperback Version?

Yes, I am now also looking at the paperback version process, and it is just as complicated as I imagined it would be. As I don’t think I’m going wide distribution at this stage, I’m probably going to use the KDP cover creator to use my ebook cover and use a solid color for the spine and back. I might get fancy with a future release, but I have already spent a fair bit of money on this whole endeavor.

The other piece I waffled on was trim size. I usually bought mass-market paperbacks, so all of the books on my shelf were pretty small. If I went with that size, it would mean more pages and, therefore, more expensive to print while simultaneously appearing cheaper. Online guidelines are somewhat helpful, but this morning we went to the local bookstore (B&N) to see what fantasy authors are publishing trade paperbacks at these days for both trim size and price.

Based on my quick assessment, this is either 5”x8” or 5.5”x8.5” with a price range between $11.99-$21.99. The higher end of that range was for well-known or currently trending authors and series. I have decided to try 5.5”x8.5” and $12.99. We will see what the author test copy looks like once I put it all in the system and order one. I think I also need to purchase a barcode for this ISBN to put it on the cover, but that will be part of my final paperback research.

In Other News

We are going to have five weeks between the D&D game this week and our January session, so I’m in the process of setting up a little Jeopardy trivia game to play via Discord between sessions to keep info top of mind for everyone. I have set up the questions and the reward system. It is just for fun, but I’m hoping everyone finds it engaging and informative!

Our little tree is up. I wonder how long before one of the cats swipes the first ornament off.

We are hosting a little potluck for my immediate family in a couple of weeks. It is something we do every year to include my grandparents. We skipped it last year for obvious reasons. Everyone is protected now and being very careful, so we are moving forward with it for 2021. It will be good to have our little group together again.

Next week for the blog, I’m debating talking more about the imminent publication or sharing the next installment of my dream story. Time shall tell! I hope you are all having a great holiday season so far!