We all leave before the morning light

It’s been one week since Quinn the kitten got her first real vet visit, and – if my husband’s food scale can be believed – she’s gained almost exactly one pound. She now weighs in at 2.11 pounds, and she’s obviously feeling much, much better than when she first arrived. The wee stinker has gone from a feeble little sleeper who needed a boost to scale a 6-inch litter box lip…to an intrepid explorer with the usual boundless kitten energy and a passion for climbing.

She’s no longer projectile-pooping, and after some fits-and-starts re: her potty manners, she’s now gone a good 36 hours with zero accidents. It took some trial and error to find out what worked for her; in the end the magic formula seems to include one large box with NO top on it, because who wants to poop in a cave, I guess – and two smaller boxes: one in the den, one in our bedroom. For cat reasons.

I am relieved to note (no pun intended) that she’s losing interest in the smaller boxes as she gains confidence and becomes more comfortable with having the run of the house.

As for my husband, he generally likes her – but hasn’t had a chance to interact with her much. He’s been very busy since his return from Seattle (which turned out to be around midnight on Saturday, contrary to my previous report); in fact, he’s not home right this moment, as he’s out meeting an old friend. But it is my fervent hope that – given time – he’ll fall in love with her as thoroughly as I have. Perhaps while I’m off at DragonCon next week(!!!) they’ll get in some good cuddle-time.

He is a nice man, who is fond of kittens and very kind to them.

* * *

Anyway, speaking of DragonCon – my schedule for that is downright punishing, but I’m sure I will have a marvelous time … doing two signings (only one of which is on that schedule right now) and about a dozen panels over several days. When the event draws closer, I’ll post the whole thing, don’t worry. Or, if you’re so inclined, you can look me up on the DragonCon app – which is very shiny and actually quite useful.

* * *

In other news, as far as we can tell, the misadventuring chimney swifts seem to be doing well. I followed the rehabber’s instructions – observed and reported, and left them alone – then got the go-ahead for a more invasive check-in on them yesterday. The husband and I had heard the adult birds swooping down and feeding the squealing babies on a regular schedule, and nothing had fallen down into the fireplace again … so I went ahead and pulled off the iron summer cap, held my breath, and shined a flashlight up in there.

Thank God, I didn’t see a thing except for the underside of a couple of nests. I don’t think either of the wayward babies were still hanging on to the wall within my reach, and they definitely hadn’t fallen any farther. I am forced to assume that they made it back up into those nests (only a couple of extra feet) or, perhaps, the larger of the two babies has fledged and vacated the premises.

Live long and prosper, little birds. Party hard. Eat many mosquitoes. Feel free to hang around the yard, and maybe come back to nest with your own tiny families next year – after we’ve repaired the chimneys and stuffed the flue with insulation. (We plan to install screens deep in the chimneys so the birds can still install themselves, but the babies can’t fall down into the house.)

But for the love of God, hurry up and grow up – and get the hell out. I would love to get some freaking sleep, and right now it’s like trying to rest with half a dozen dying fan belts squealing six feet from my pillow. I love you guys, but kindly move along.

* * *

But back to the kitten, because I know what you people are really here for – and I’ve had a number of folks ask how the other household residents are adjusting to her presence. Obviously, no one is terribly worried about Greyson; he’s been thrilled to have her here ever since she arrived.

But the Elder StatesCat is a harder sell.

Spain the Cat is kind of okay with Quinn, most of the time. The baby very badly wants to be Spain’s friend, and she persistently, gently, submissively approaches her. So long as the kitten is careful, Spain will tolerate the attention. But when Quinn tries to play, Spain hisses her away. As far as our little old lady is concerned, the best kittens are sleepy and/or quiet kittens who do what they’re told.

But yesterday, she tolerated a kitten-adjacent nap.

Yes, Spain knew Quinn was there. At one point, she rolled over – looked her dead in the eye – sighed, and returned to her original position. They stayed that way for maybe ten minutes, before the kitten felt like she’d pushed her luck far enough, and beat a discreet retreat.

That little Quinn, she’s no dummy. And gradually, she’s making herself at home.

In closing, I swear to God, I did not stage the following picture. I realized that the cats were hanging out together in the kitchen, and then Greyson noticed too. I called his name to get him to look up, that’s all. Otherwise, this is just a meeting of the pets that I interrupted for a photo op.

So that’s all for now, folks. Thanks for reading, and I’ll try to keep up with regular posts, even as I am eyeballs deep in revisions for The Family Plot and trying to brace myself for DragonCon. But we’ll see how it goes, eh?


And the gods laugh

Last Saturday my husband left town for a business trip, and I’ve been all by myself ever since. (He returns late tonight). Usually when he’s gone for a few days, I get a lot of work done – housework, writing work, etc. etc. etc. This time, I’ve been running around like a maniac, trying to keep the world from exploding and/or anything from dying.

First of all, there’s our Grande Dame Feline, who needed a lot of bloodwork due to apparent kidney failure issues…which turned out to be non-issues when that bloodwork returned because apparently the cat is a freak of nature. Her numbers have all improved since six months ago – there’s literally nothing wrong with her – but we didn’t learn this without a couple of vet visits and a crash course in how to give IV fluids to a little old kitty.

Then the next day, some old friends of ours heard a funny noise coming from their car, so when they got home (after an 8-10 mile drive) they checked under the hood…and found this.

My friends are lovely people, but they are not cat people. They had no idea what to do with the greasy foundling, so…I bet you can see where this is going. I collected the little booger and ran it to the ER vet (it was Sunday, natch) where I learned that “it” was a “her,” and she was miraculously unharmed. The ER didn’t even charge me for the visit; they just sent me home with instructions to take her to my regular vet ASAP for further inspection.

I got lucky, and my usual cat vet worked her in first thing next morning. It turned out that the kitten weighed just 1.12 pounds, although she’s at least 8-9 weeks old. (Ideally, she’d weigh twice that.) She was severely flea-bitten and malnourished, and she was having digestive issues – probably from trying to clean motor oil off herself, before she was retrieved and bathed. On the upshot, she was FIV and FIP free (hooray!). So there’s that.

For the next few days, I was on kitten patrol. Not only did she not know what to do with a litter box at first, but her terrible bowel issues exacerbated the problem. Once she DID get the general hang of hygiene, she cried, cramped, and sprayed poo all over the wall behind the box with every visit. And the less said about the kitten piddles the better, for it took another day or two for her to realize that ALL back-end business needed to go down in the box. Not on the couch, not on the rug, not on that other rug. not on that rug over there, I SAID not on the couch, not under the bed, not on that book, not on…Jesus, how many rugs do we have, anyway?

But before long, she was feeling much better – and getting into the swing of the household.

She made a fast friend in Greyson, of course. He adores all kittens, and he’s the world’s best babysitter to this one. Every time she squeaks, he comes running to make sure she’s okay – then snorfles her all over until he’s satisfied that she’s unharmed. She purrs throughout this examination, then pats his nose or headbutts him.

Then they go lie down for a nap. No outright cuddling yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

As for the Elder Statescat, she’s taking the newcomer surprisingly well – which is to say, she hasn’t actually tried to kill her. On the contrary, she waits until the kitten is asleep, then sneaks up and sniffs her…then wanders off. When the kitten is awake, the two follow each other around and sit in close proximity, each pretending that the other one doesn’t exist.

If the kitten gets too close or too friendly, she can expect a brief hissyfit. But only sometimes. And last night, I watched Spainy let the kitten play with her tail for about 90 seconds before deciding she’d had enough – and walking away. So I think they’ll be okay together, especially with the Nanny Dog running to intervene, every time he thinks the kitten is in any kind of peril. If he hears Spainy hissing at the baby, he runs to stand between them, and separates them with that big ol’ cinderblock he calls a head.

He is the best of dogs.

So the question on everyone’s mind is, “Will the kitten stay?” And the answer is, “Definitely maybe.” My husband still hasn’t actually MET the little fool in question, but he’s game if the other four-footed members of the household are game.

Ergo, the kitten’s tentative name is “Quinn.” Today she got her third bath, to clear up some poo residue and the very last of the motor grease.

She was not super-enthused by the experience, but oh well. She’s clean and dry now.

You’d think having a sick kitten projectile-pooping all over the house for a week would be adventure enough, but noooooo. The night before last, I realized something was terribly wrong in the bedroom fireplace. [Note: It doesn’t work. It’s a total wreck, and we couldn’t use it if we wanted to. I know, I know…but it’s on our Fix It When We Can list.]

We knew we had a nest of chimney swifts up in there, but that’s fine. They’re great birds. Eat a shit-ton of mosquitoes, they do. Usually we can’t really hear them, because we’ve stuffed insulation up in the [broken, and therefore not-shut-able] flue; but we’d removed it all the other day when we thought we had a mouse or something stuck inside it. We turned out to be wrong, thank God. It was only a bug the size of a mouse. Did you know that these things chitter and sound just like rodents when they’re upset about something? Well, I didn’t. And now I do. But I was so glad he wasn’t *actually* a mouse that I could’ve kissed him.

Note: I restrained myself. I did, however, turn him loose under a shrub in the front yard, and he went on his merry way with my blessing.

Anyway, we hadn’t replaced the insulation because it was filthy, so we threw it out – and I hadn’t yet picked up more. So I heard LOUD AND FUCKING CLEAR when one of the swift babies somehow misadventured itself into the bottom corner of the fireplace.

It opted to do this at 7:30 p.m. on a weeknight. I spent the next four hours calling every alleged rehabber, facility, and 24-hour vet office in the county, to no luck. Eventually with some advice from qualified friends, I got the little dude in a towel in a shoebox, on top of an electric blanket, in the den closet so nothing furry would bother it.

The next morning, I drove out to the county’s licensed rehab facility over at Warner Park Zoo – and surrendered the grouchy little bird to the experts. I figured my work here was done.


Yesterday afternoon, I got a phone call from a guy at the rehab facility, asking if there was any way on earth they could hypothetically reinstall the bird in its home nest. I didn’t think it likely, considering it’d fallen [as far as I knew] a story and a half down a narrow chimney [I think it’s 14 x 9 inches] around a broken fire brick, into a ratty fireplace. But the gent on the phone asked if he could possibly come take a look – because he lived quite nearby, according to the address I’d left on the intake form.

I figured the odds of success were very low. I mean, maybe if he had a guy with a crane and a really, really skinny dude on a rope or something?

But what the hell. He was very persuasive, and I am a sucker for a grown man begging on behalf of a baby bird, so I told him to come on over. So he did, and between us we got the fireplace open and we moved the basket/grates out of the way…upon which we discovered exciting new development in the baby bird situation: Another goddamn baby bird.

This one wasn’t all the way down on the floor, but up beyond the broken fire brick, wedged on a ledge up to the left. Even to my untrained eye, this one was larger, older, and in no distress whatsoever. It was, in fact, just chilling.

I don’t have a picture of it. Everything was covered in ash, dust, soot, and bird poop at this point – including me and the rehab guy, whose name eludes me now – so I didn’t bother to snap anything. But here’s what I learned: We had not one but TWO nests in the chimney…both of them barely five or six feet above the fireplace floor. How the hell the adult swifts are swooping down vertically almost a story and a half under very tight circumstances to raise their little families I don’t know, but ain’t nature a miracle?

[:: sigh ::]

The rehab guy had the original bird in the car; it’d been fed and cared for all day, but apparently swifts are a “long-haul” rehab that can be rather tricky, and they can often be put back near the parents. I am told that these little dudes can – and do – climb, once you get them to “attach” to the brick. Tiny feets like velcro, they’ve got.

So now I have two misadventuring chimney swifts a bit too close to the ground, but I’ve been listening – and it *sounds* like they’re getting fed, and are not in any distress. At least as-of a few hours ago. The rehab guy was kind enough to follow up this afternoon, so the plan at present is this: I keep an ear out for them overnight, and if it gets too quiet in there, or if the birds start sounding weak, then I collect them in the morning (pretty sure I can reach them) and bring them back to the center. If I am repeatedly regaled with a chorus of screaming baby birds accompanied by the flapping wings of their daredevil parents, then we leave them alone and trust that they’re either getting fed – or they might’ve even made it back into their nests.

Fingers crossed.

BONUS UPHEAVAL: Of the professional kind. Not the bad kind, just the kind that was coming down the pike any day now, and has finally arrived. Which is to say, I’ve gotten my editorial notes on The Family Plot and must now drop Drawing Fire to work on a new draft of the former. I’m aiming to have this done within a month, but with DragonCon throwing a grenade into my schedule (as well as Chapelwood‘s release), we’ll see how it goes.

Wish me luck, eh?

I could probably go on – it has been one SERIOUSLY action-packed week – but this post has run long enough, so I’ll restrain myself. I have a couple of friends coming over any minute now, and we’re going to play kitten meet-and-greet, then grab some grub. I need to get out of the house. I need to open the windows and spray Febreeze around the house again, because this kitten is still farting like a diesel engine. (And she had a little accident about an hour ago. Nobody’s perfect, and she finished up in the box, so. Win some, lose some.)

Good night, everyone.
Let us hope and pray for far less Interesting Times in the coming days.

Not through love but through revenge

Here’s recent progress on my young adult haunted house story about a long-lost adventure pulp comic manuscript that’s guarded by a good ghost and a bad ghost; now with Bonus! gentrifying drama, golden-age mystery, Hollywood intrigue, fallout from The Storm, and an agent who’s just trying to do the right thing, goddammit:

    Project: Drawing Fire
    Deadline: November, 2015
    New words written: 2445 (multi-day total)
    Present total word count: 24,287

    Things Accomplished in Fiction: Finished up the very first comic section, wee! Also wrote a pretend Wikipedia entry and performed some basic LogicSpackle(TM).

    Things Accomplished in Real Life: [In general, since last post] Neighborhood jaunts with the dog; went shopping with a friend and picked up awesome polka-dotted jammies; did more online pre-DragonCon shopping than I’m prepared to confess to; went out to supper with husband and a couple of old friends at a cool new spot in town; went to Walgreens; went to the bank; took primary vehicle in to get serviced (twice, long story); made appointment at vet for YowlyCat, who is having some YowlyProblems and also maybe some kidney issues; did not hate the end of True Detective as much as everybody else seems to have, but I didn’t love it, either.

    Publishing Other: Well, you saw the last post about Drawing Fire, so I won’t rehash it here – except to note that yes, my first real draft of this thing is due in November…which is kind of tight, yes, considering I have two other books to hand in by spring of next year. But there are Official Reasons, and hey, I agreed to it, so…don’t cry for me, Argentina.

    Number of fiction words so far this year: 80,290

And in closing: