Thursday, 27 November 2014

Cats v Dogs

If you're reading this the chances are you like cats and probably have at least one of your own at home, perhaps sitting on your knee right now, but what do you make of the other four legged friends, man's best friend? Dogs? I don't have one myself but my elderly neighbour has and unable to take care of it herself I step in to help feed and walk the dog each day. Her name's Dolly and she's a Breton Spaniel. She's a good girl on the whole but this afternoon she made another Great Escape from her enclosure in the garden. That's perhaps the third hole she's now made and I'm beginning to tire of fixing them back up. Squeezing under the gate like Peter Rabbit from Mr McGregor's garden, she then races round to my house ready for play time. Dog's are very different like that compared to cats. Sure the kitties like to play and hang out with you but a dog is in constant demand of your attention. The limitless energy Dolly has tires me out!
My cats are my allies, my best buddies, and like me they're pretty chilled out. There's no fetching sticks, running through wet grass and jumping in puddles. They're sophisticated, relaxed, undemanding, tidy. I look across at Archie, my cat, and he's asleep or lounging in the sunshine, content. I look at Dolly and she's looking back - ready for yet another walk. So as the sun fell beyond the horizon I put Dolly back to bed and I just hope that she doesn't squeeze out of a new hole before I've caught my breath!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Breakfast Photo Shoot

Don't you just love the way your cat says hello to you in the morning? My cat Teddy practically head butts me in his attempt to get as close as possible when I pick him up and he dances in my arms, rubbing his nose against my nose, my shoulder, in my hair, until I'm grinning from ear to ear. It's a great way to start the day! He is also one of those cats that likes to wander and it is not unusual for him to disappear for a day or two and when he does return he is more excitable than ever, as though he's been on holiday and is so pleased to be back home.
This morning however I was met with a number of very confused faces when I failed to fill their food bowls.  The truth was we were out of cat biscuits and they were at the top of my shopping list, I just hadn't been to the shop! The cats followed me round, wondering what was going on. Does she realise she's forgotten to feed us, I could almost hear them whisper. We're not seriously expecetd to go and catch a mouse are we? They were steadily gathering as they smelt something fishy going on (or rather smelt nothing at all!)
I dashed to the shop and grabbed a couple of bags but whilst I was there picked up something for myself too; a new telephoto lens from my DSLR! I had fun this afternoon testing it out, taking lots of photos of my cats, who have, I'm pleased to say, now got full tummies!

Meet Roux!

 Maybe I'll climb this tree...

 Maybe not.


 Feeling shy.

Is that a bird?

See you again soon!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A Lot of Cats...and Even More Steps!

Have you ever seen the town of Rocamadour ? If you ever visit France it is certainly a sight not to be missed! As soon as you see the towering cliff face and the buildings clinging to the rock, you cannot help but feel your jaw drop. Looking at the town from afar down the valley, anyone would be enchanted by its beauty and in awe of its magnificence.

The upper stages of Rocamadour are comprised of a number of chapels and has long been a place of pilgrimage for Christians. Buildings date back hundreds and hundreds of years and in days long gone monarchs of Britain and France amongst others would journey there and climb the great staircase on their knees. Don't miss the fabulous wall paintings of the skeletons and the sword wedged into the rock high above your head, and throughout the city are a number of ancient stone gateways which look like something out of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. If it wasnt for the ice-cream stands (I recommend the chocolate flavour) you would think you'd travelled back in time!

Rocamadour is also a wondrous place for people who love cats, like me! There are many to be seen sleeping on stone walls or sitting in open windows, rolling around on the cobbles or exploring the dustbins. Cats of all sizes, of all colours and all patterns. I knelt down to fuss a couple who were eagerly gathering around the doorway to a shop at closing time, knowing that the owner of the shop would soon present them with a saucer of milk.

Despite the extraordinary sights at Rocamadour, the cats were very popular with many passers-by. I, like so many, took many photos of this magical city but couldn't help but sneak in just one or two of the cute little moggies sunning themselves on the famous steps!

Friday, 14 November 2014

The World of Writing...with a cat on my knee!

I'm returning to my blog after a couple of days furiously tapping away at my laptop, writing several thousand words to meet a tight deadline. It's been tiring but worth the effort in the end and of course I had my cats to keep me company through it all. Writing is a craft I have always enjoyed, right from a young age. I wrote my first book when I was barely ten years old and presented it proudly to my younger brothers to read. I probably still have it in the house somewhere.
It is a tremendous feeling you get when someone tells you how much they have loved your book and a moment that will stay with me forever is when, earlier this year, I saw my name and the title of my book, The True Story of a Not So Crazy Cat Lady in the list of short-listed entries in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. It was the first time I had entered the competition and having been a bundle of nerves as I checked the second round list first thing that morning, I was overwhelmed with delight.
The stakes raised, I counted down the days until the quarter finalists were announced and I couldn't help but get a little emotional as I again saw The True Story of a Not So Crazy Cat Lady on the list. It felt tremendous. Out of 10,000 submissions worldwide I had made it to the top 100 in my category! The top 95%
It was also a nerve racking time too. Amazon released the first chapter for anyone to download and review and despite my achievements so far, I felt anxious about what lay ahead. In the end I needn't have worried. Before I knew it I began receiving 5 star ratings and praising reviews from readers on the other side of the world. I can't imagine I am the only writer who struggles sometimes with confidence in their work but everything about that competition boosted my optimism and motivation. I watched with a smile as my book climbed ever higher in the charts until it was sitting at the top of the results when you typed ABNA 2014 into Amazon. I may not have won the ultimate prize but what I won was confidence. It proved that people all over the world liked my book and wanted to read more and then of course there was the review from Publisher's Weekly who said, 'The prose is contains some striking images.'
The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award was certainly a roller-coaster ride of emotions for me. Will I enter again? You bet!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Drawing from Real Life

Hi there, hope you had a good Monday! I decided that it was about time that I introduced to you the cats I share my life with properly. There have been a few that have come and gone over the years but in residence at the moment there are six. The eldest in Isla, a very shy but incredibly sweet girl with a short tail and bright blue eyes. She has a fluffy white coat with splodges of pale grey and is the mother of three of the other cats that live here; Debbie, Hercules and Roux. All three of these are ginger and white and get on so well. They love tumbling around and chasing one other and when it's chilly they like to seek out your knee and curl up on it! The remaining two boys are their cousins, Archie and Teddy. Although brothers they look nothing alike. Teddy is also ginger and white with a very refined handsome face, whereas Archie is a long haired, very fluffy black and white cat who squeaks like a mouse when he sees me in the morning.
Six! I hear you cry. Well they all came to me as stray cats and not one to turn down a cute face, I decided to take them in. They have grown up in the countryside, roaming the fields and exploring the pathways, and it is not unlike Teddy to disappear for days at a time. This morning he turned up for breakfast for the first time in a week and I have a sneaking suspicion that he has found another home, a holiday home if you like, that feeds him on all those other days that he doesn't show his face here. Perhaps, I wonder, he takes it in turns to visit each house on the street, getting the best of the grub in exchange for the cuddles.
All of these cats have played a part in the creation of The True Story of a Not So Crazy Cat Lady, whether it be their appearance, their character, or the times, good and bad, that we've been through. In the book Harriet has five cats; Modi, Bea, Cocoa, Flicks and Mona. Some of these characters are a concoction of several cats combined, others drawn straight from real life. As I continue with the blog perhaps I will share a few more of their secrets with you :)

The True Story of a Not So Crazy Cat Lady is available now in paperback and eBook!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Unusual Cat Beds

I walked outside this morning to find a cat sleeping in the wheelbarrow. She looked very comfortable curled up on top of the grass clippings I'd collected in it yesterday afternoon, the wheelbarrow itself sitting in a warm pool of sunshine beside the vegetable patch. It wasn't until I'd got stuck into some weeding that I realised another cat was curled up under a box plant and, baring all her teeth as she yawned, she stretched her toes and came over to say hello.
Cats really are adaptable creatures, their ability to make a bed from almost anything the source of much fun. Every day I see photos on-line of cats sleeping in unusual places, ranging from the bathroom sink to an open drawer, empty boxes and old buckets. For their owners it certainly provides a great photo opportunity.

I have accumulated a number of cat beds over the years, ranging in shape, size and colour, but it doesn't cease to surprise me when my cats wrinkle up their noses at each of them. They look perfectly warm and cosy to me but the cats have their own ideas. They want to make a nest in the airing cupboard, squeeze into a space on the bookshelf or perhaps the laundry basket. Why sleep in a cat bed when you can have a pile of old newspapers? Or an old shoe box? Or for this little kitty...a bag of compost! 

Where do your cats like to sleep?
I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Cats and their Nicknames

Have you ever walked into the room and found your cat looking very guilty? You look around, wondering what they were up to just before you opened the door and then you see it- the cake you just spent ages baking has got small cat teeth shaped nibbles out of it! For one moment you want to scream but then you look down at the cat at your feet and realise you can't get angry with something so cute. So instead of telling them off you call them a trouble maker, or a rascal, as the frown disappears from your face.
We have so many nicknames for our cats, ranging from the obvious to the ridiculous; Darling, Sweetie, Titch, Tinker, Flower, Cutie, Poppit, Mr Fluffy, Handsome, Princess, Fella', Little'un, the list could go on and on. I sometimes wonder how cats have managed to wrap us humans around their little fingers...or paws. How many of us let our cats win in every situation? If the cat's on your chair do you turf them off? I doubt it. What if they want your breakfast? Yep, they get it! And if you want to get up but they're very happy sitting on your lap?...
Is it those big eyes that win us over? Their little noses? That contented purr or sweet meow? I swear I never used to be such a pushover but when it comes to cats they know they can always win. So even though I've been sitting here too long and I want to stretch my legs, Roux's looking pretty comfy so I'll probably just stay put! The Little Tinker!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

A New Wardrobe

November is here, the nights are drawing in, and to coincide with the change of the seasons my kitties have each grown their lovely winter coats. For Archie, there's no better time of the year. He stands out in appearance a great deal from the others, and not just because he is black and white rather than ginger, but also because he has a very thick, long-haired coat.

He was one of those kittens that everyone commented on more than the others. "I love the black and white one," they would say. Four years later he is still a popular fellow and his is the first name anyone will call when they want a cat for company. He's a gentle sort with a petit meow and this afternoon he is lying on the garden wall soaking up the November sunshine. I am very tempted to follow his example!

Showing off his handsome coat, autumn suits Archie well. The only trouble is of course, is that after a wander through the fields and the hedgerows, he comes back home looking like a mobile compost heap. There are leaves, seed pods, grass, all sorts of things tangled up in his fur and I have to dig out the brush. He doesn't mind this; naturally who wouldn't enjoy being brushed and pampered, but he has a limited attention span. Before I can finish tidying him up he's off again, a leaf or two still stuck to his tail.

Those people who know me will say that wherever I am, Archie is never far away. His existence in my life was another stepping stone towards writing the book, The True Story of a Not So Crazy Cat Lady, and so I had to squeeze in his name somewhere. And so... QUIZ TIME!

QUESTION; Which character in The True Story of a Not So Crazy Cat Lady had a cat called Archie?

If you don't know then it's not too late to find out!

Sunday, 2 November 2014