Cat Pic

I haven’t been feeling well this week and was struggling to think of something to post here. So I decided to share a cat picture. I volunteer at a local cat cafe, which was fictionalized in my novel Fill the Empty Spaces. (The humans who work at the cafe in the book bear no resemblance at all to the real-life humans, but the cats in the story are real cats who lived at the cafe at the time I was writing the book. Some of whom are still there.)

This is one of the newer cats at the cafe, and I absolutely love her. Despite her appearance, she is so lovable and cuddly, and she purrs so loudly you can hear her across the cafe!

Her appearance is also how I feel when I’m sick and trying to edit a book (I spent the week doing final edits on Tempeh for Two).

Enjoy Shaylee!

Psychopomps

A psychopomp is a being (sometimes human, sometimes not) who guides spirits into or through the afterlife. Psychopomps appear in various world mythologies as well as in popular culture; for example, Stephen King’s The Dark Half references psychopomps represented by a flock of sparrows.

While people tend to think that a psychopomp is purely a fictional or mythological thing, there are those of us in real life who consider ourselves psychopomps.

Yeah, I said “us.”

I was about five years old the first time I “saw” a spirit. I put that in quotation marks because it wasn’t so much something I saw with my physical eyes as it was a mental image that my brain sort of projected into reality. My great-grandmother had passed away, and I saw her as my parents were discussing or preparing for the funeral. It’s been 48 years, so I don’t remember the exact context, but I do remember seeing my great-grandmother. I didn’t know why I was seeing her or why my parents got upset when I mentioned it, but I did learn pretty fast that seeing dead people wasn’t something I was supposed to talk about.

Since then, nearly every time someone with a connection to me has passed away (and even sometimes with people who have no connection to me), I’ve “seen” them in a similar way. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to identify whether they’re just appearing because they want to say goodbye or whether they need help finding where they’re supposed to go next. When they need help, I try to help them. It’s a process of visualization, mostly, in which I bring them to someplace that has meaning for them and help them find the light they’re supposed to cross into. If you’ve seen the TV series Ghost Whisperer, it’s similar to that, except I don’t solve crimes. And I do have a choice; if a spirit comes to me and I’m not comfortable helping them, I say so and my guides help them find someone else to assist. Sometimes my guides run interference for me when they believe it would be detrimental for me to work with a certain spirit, as they did last year when my mother passed away.

I know all this sounds kind of weird and “out there,” and that’s fine. You don’t have to believe in anything you’d rather not believe in. But there are those who do this work intentionally, sometimes assisting spirits after they pass and sometimes assisting them in the passing.

As I was starting work on Fill the Empty Spaces, I was also rewatching Ghost Whisperer and thought, “It would be cool to have a romance character who’s a psychopomp. I don’t think I’ve seen that in any of the books I’ve read.” And then I thought, “I’m writing a book. And I have a character who could be a psychopomp; why not?” Thus was born Lochlan, the friend-with-potential who my main character Del meets when he starts volunteering at a cat cafe.

Like me, Lochlan had his first experience as a psychopomp at age five with his late great-grandmother. The way Lochlan guides spirits is similar to how it works for me as well; after all, “write what you know” is one of the most common pieces of advice for authors. But his experiences and the spirits he guides during the story or tells Del about are not at all similar to anything I’ve dealt with. For which I’m thankful; Lochlan gets put through the wringer.

Fill the Empty Spaces is available now in Kindle and paperback formats on Amazon. To thank the Kitty Cat Cafe and Adoption Lounge in Peabody, MA, for allowing me to use the names of some of their real-life cat residents and the picture of Charlie the Sweater Cat on the cover, I am donating a portion of my royalties to the cafe, so your purchase of the book (or should I say “purr-chase”… sorry, I blame the bad pun on not having had enough coffee this morning) will help feed, house, and provide medical care for multiple furry (and, currently, one not-furry) feline friends. If you want to help support the cafe or pay a visit, you can also check out their website.

 

Fill the Empty Spaces Preorder!

Last week, I put Fill the Empty Spaces up for preorder! For the time being, Fill the Empty Spaces will be available only on Amazon, with both Kindle and paperback formats releasing on October 12. It will also be available through Kindle Unlimited as long as it’s an Amazon exclusive title. (In 2024, I will be working on making all of my books, including this one, available on a variety of platforms, which will mean not being able to participate in Kindle Unlimited.) The preorder is only for the Kindle version, since at the moment, Amazon doesn’t allow paperback preorders.

You can preorder your copy on Amazon now!

Fill the Empty Spaces Cover!

Now that I’ve done the cover reveal for my newsletter subscribers, I’m sharing the Fill the Empty Spaces cover here as well. (And if you want to subscribe to my newsletter so you get future exclusive content, you can go to my free short story page to sign up for the newsletter and get the link to download an exclusive Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat short story.)

The cat in the image is Charlie the Sweater Cat, who was a resident of the cat cafe where I volunteer. Charlie was found as a stray, with fur so matted he had to be shaved. He also had multiple health conditions that kept his fur from growing back properly. When a little girl visiting the cafe swaddled Charlie in a blanket, the cafe staff and volunteers realized Charlie felt comforted, so one of the volunteers started knitting sweaters for him to wear so he would always be warm and feel safe.

In the story, Del volunteers at a cat cafe modeled on the real-life one, and Charlie (and other feline residents of the real cafe) became characters. Charlie, in the story, winds up adopted by Del and goes home with him.

Sadly, Charlie in real life was in too much pain from conditions that couldn’t be treated. He crossed the Rainbow Bridge on July 7 of this year. The cafe has a small memorial to him on top of one of the shelves (where the other cats can’t get to it), and the cafe’s owner gave me permission to use one of my photos of Charlie as part of the cover art for this book.

To find out more about the Kitty Cat Cafe and Adoption Lounge, located in Peabody, Massachusetts, visit their website, where you can learn how the cafe operates, schedule a visit, and/or make a donation to help them care for the current kitty residents.

Fill the Empty Spaces will be available for Kindle preorder on Sept. 28, and will be released for Kindle and in paperback on Oct. 12.

Writing Updates

I’ve been working on a few things this past week, trying to get some stuff done and some stuff started as I prepare to go back to work. I start a new job on the 18th! Which I’m honestly a bit nervous about; it’s been a long time since I worked a full-time job, and part of me worries that my physical and mental health won’t be up to it. But I’ve made my employer aware that I have health issues, and I’m looking at this as a good stepping stone. We’ll see how it goes.

Meanwhile:

  • I’ve still been working on A Fighting Chance. And fighting *with* it. I had ideas of where the story was going to go, but the story doesn’t seem to want to go there. Even so, I think I’m hitting a good stride with it and hope to have the first draft finished before I start my job. Assuming all goes as planned, A Fighting Chance is slated for release in March.
  • I finished editing Tempeh for Two (Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat 5, the last book of the originally-published series). This involved scrapping a few plot points that I’d added the last time I edited, which were no longer relevant to the series as a whole; they’d come from a heterosexual romance novel I’d written that was intended to be part of the companion series to this one. Since I scrapped the hetero series, I decided the plot points I’d added to Tempeh not only didn’t work anymore but weren’t really needed, so I removed them. Which, fortunately, streamlined the story and re-increased the action. Tempeh for Two is slated for release in January.
  • I did final(ish) proofreading of Fill the Empty Spaces and created the cover for it! I wasn’t sure I liked the cover at first, especially since one of the features I needed in the GIMP program to make the cover I wanted doesn’t seem to be working on the newest version of the program so I had to find a workaround. But the cover has grown on me, and I’m particularly happy to have been permitted to include Charlie the Sweater Cat on it. Charlie was a resident at the cat cafe where I volunteer; due to a cluster of health issues, he unfortunately had to be put down at the beginning of July. He became a character of sorts in Fill the Empty Spaces, though, and the owner of the cafe approved that and granted me permission to use one of the photos I took of Charlie as part of the cover art. Fill the Empty Spaces will be available for preorder on the 28th of this month, and will be released in Kindle and paperback formats on Oct. 12! (Stay tuned for whether I put this one in KU; based on some issues other authors have been experiencing lately with KU, I’m considering not going that route with this book, but I haven’t completely decided yet.) I’ll share the cover here soon, but I’ve promised to reveal it in my newsletter first.
  • I started plotting the rewrite I’ve decided I need to do on Take Some Tahini (Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat 6, the first *new* RWDEM book since 2014!) I love this book as I’ve written it, but it’s kind of a “breather episode” of the series, and I have the feeling the lower-stakes, lower-action nature of it won’t meet reader wants or expectations. So I’m revamping it to match the stakes and action level to the previous books of the series, and I will probably be pulling the “breather” aspects of the story to release as a freebie or a newsletter subscriber perk. Take Some Tahini is slated for release in July 2024.

 

Kitty Cats!

Content notes: Partner loss, animal euthanasia

 

In my novel Fill the Empty Spaces (releasing October 12), the main character, Del Nethercott, starts volunteering at a cat cafe as part of his journey to heal his grief over the loss of his long-term partner. While I’ve heavily fictionalized the setting and humans involved in the story’s cat cafe, the cats are real. Slightly fictionalized, but real.

In my nonwriting life, I volunteer at a cat cafe near me. The real-life cafe is called Kitty Cat Cafe and Adoption Center, and it is a nonprofit organization that provides a home, care, and cuddles for cats who are the wards of two local rescue organizations. Most cats are available for adoption, though some are permanent residents of the cafe due to health concerns. Some of the cats named in the book (Ice, Lord Purrington, Piper, and Choco Chip–who in real life is named Chips Ahoy, but I changed it to avoid trademark infringement) have been adopted since I wrote the book.

One cat, though, tried to take over the entire story. In the fictional version, Del adopts Charlie, who he calls Charlie the Sweater Cat. Charlie is a senior cat with health issues, and in the story, he’s stabilized enough to be adopted. Since Del approves of Charlie’s disgruntled old man demeanor, he chooses to bring Charlie home.

In real life, sadly, Charlie the Sweater Cat was never adopted. Due to multiple health concerns, he remained at Kitty Cat Cafe on hospice care. He received plenty of pets, scritches, and treats while making it known that he was, in fact, the king of the cafe. On July 3, the veterinarian determined that Charlie was in too much pain and his health had deteriorated past the point of being treatable, and Charlie crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

I’ve kept the owner of the cafe informed about Fill the Empty Spaces. I’ll be including an author’s note about the cafe and the cats, and I will be donating a portion of royalties to Kitty Cat Cafe. The owner has given me permission to use one of my photos of Charlie on the book’s cover, and I wanted to share Charlie’s picture here as well. If you want to help support Kitty Cat Cafe and Adoption Center (or visit if you’re in or near northeastern Massachusetts), please visit their website.

And here’s Charlie:

Birthday Fundraiser

June is my birthday month, and this year I’m doing something a little different.

One of the things I do when I’m not writing is volunteering at a cat cafe near where I live in Massachusetts. This experience found its way into my novel Fill the Empty Spaces; in fact, in that book, the cats who are mentioned at the cafe where main character Del volunteers are all real-life cats who reside (or at least resided when I wrote the scenes that mention them) at the real-life cat cafe. The humans in Fill the Empty Spaces, however, do not have any real-life equivalents, just to be clear.

Anyway, I’ve been volunteering at that cafe since January. It’s a nonprofit, and most of the cats there are available for adoption, though we have a few who, due to medical concerns, will probably live out the rest of their lives at the cafe, where they can receive constant monitoring and the care they need. We have anywhere from 8-12 cats most of the time; several have been adopted since I’ve been volunteering there, but there are always others to take their place. The cafe partners with two rescue organizations in the area to bring in cats.

For my birthday this year, I’m doing a Facebook fundraiser for the cafe. If you’re inclined to provide help to feed the cats, buy them toys, and contribute to their general care, please make a donation at https://www.facebook.com/donate/654773599828408/. You can find out more about the cafe, schedule a visit, and make a direct donation to them (if you aren’t a Facebooky person) at https://www.kittycatcafema.com/.

And here’s my favorite resident of the cafe, Charlie the Sweater Cat (I am the only one who calls him that, but I’m totally trying to make it a thing), who has become a character in Fill the Empty Spaces: