Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Cat Self-Help?




HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Do you have a cat? Yeah, when I met Jonathan, I had my dear cat Lola. Lola, who I got at the shelter in maybe...1987? Maybe? Hated everyone in the world except for me. I cannot begin to describe the depths of her disdain for everyone in the world. Except for me.

When Jonathan arrived, she would not leave him alone. Everywhere he went, she went. She followed him, trailed him, teased him, sat on his lap, purring.

Was it because she knew, with her cat superpowers, that he was the one for me? Oh, dear, no. You know cats.

Jonathan is allergic to cats. And she totally knew it. I could just see her smiling with the anticipation of the sneezing.

She was fabulous, though. And I still dream about her. 

Anyway, the brilliant and hilarious Alice Loweecey has some thoughts about cats. And, um, chihuahuas. 

And I bet you do, too.


ALICE LOWEECEY: Hi. My name is Alice and I read cat porn.

Don’t look so shocked! You’ve seen those cute book covers. The ones with bright crowded flower shops or libraries or bakeries or craft stores or picnics or, or, or…

Yay Lucy! And cats.
They’re everywhere. And they’re staring out at the reader with a coy expression. Or an “I know more than you do” expression. Or a “Worship me, human, as your distant ancestors did” expression.

They’re usually fluffy and always cuddly looking. They make you want to reach into the book cover and pick them up and stroke their soft fur and lay your head against their warm bellies and feel them purr…Like Lucy's new book.

See what I mean?

I have my own feline balls of fluffiness. They object to my lack of worship and only allow me to cuddle them when they feel like it, which is approximately 35 seconds every second Tuesday. Unless it’s past 6:30 am on a weekend, at which time they climb up my legs like I’m a miniature Mount Everest and PLOP all 13-15 pounds of their weight on my back until I rouse myself to feed them.

Alice's actual cats

My friend and fellow writer/cat owner Barbara Early introduced me to the “cat porn” aspect of cozy mysteries.So I thought, I’m obviously missing a crucial aspect in my cozy mysteries. Enter the Cat!

That was the plan, at any rate. First, a character gave my sleuth a chameleon. There is nothing cuddly about a miniature dinosaur. The whole color-changing thing doesn’t count. I did learn a lot about chameleons for that book, though.

When I sat down to outline Nun afterthe Other, I was bound and determined to get a cat in there somehow. You know what I got? A Chihuahua who fakes a limp when he meets people so he gets extra TLC and sympathy. There’s no Chihuahua porn in cozies.



My brain hates me sometimes.

So is this a fail as a cozy writer or do I get props for bending the cat rules? (The Chihuahua is a Rescue; that should count for something.)

Now that I’ve cursed everyone reading this to think “Cat Porn!” when they browse the cosy section of the bookstore, help a writer out? Is a cat on a book cover a guaranteed sale? What about dogs? What about ghost cats and dogs? I’m truly curious.

I have another question for the writers which has nothing to do with cats: What’s the most memorable way a character has derailed your story? Up until Steve the Chihuahua, mine was when a character turned around and revealed to me—the writer—he wore a yarmulke. I finished the chapter and started another research angle. Because what else could I do?

HANK: Now, truly, this is the burning question of the day. Cats on the cover? Does it sway your book-buying judgement?  And who is your very favorite cat?



Nuns and murder and ghosts, oh my! Here comes Giulia Driscoll again, and boy, is she in for it this time. 

It all starts when a frenzied Chihuahua leads Giulia and Frank Driscoll to the body of a nun in the street near a convent. The nuns fear they’re being harassed by the biggest developer in town and quickly embrace Giulia as their savior. Of course, the former nun who exposed the drug ring run by a priest and nun will save their home and discover the murderer. And of course, Giulia not only takes this job, but also all the other jobs clamoring for her attention. The result: Driscoll Investigations is pushed to its limit. 

Then Giulia’s brother falls into a coma and she brings his kids to her house. Talk about a crash course in parenting for pregnant Giulia! Did we mention the convent ghost? She loves the house, hates the nuns, and chain-smokes. Why couldn’t Giulia’s first honest-to-goodness ghost be shy and sweet? More important, does the ghost hate the nuns—or the developer—enough to indulge in a bit of murder to liven up the afterlife?

50 comments:

  1. Congratulations on the new book, Alice. I’m looking forward to reading “Nun After the Other” . . . it sounds delightful.

    I love that most cozy mystery stories include a cat or a dog, but I’m not certain that putting a cat [or a dog] on the cover will make any particular difference in sales. I think cozy readers have come to expect the animals to be there and the inclusion of a cat [or a dog] on the cover illustration may not be the thing that draws readers to the book. [On the other hand, it couldn’t hurt.]

    My favorite cats? Evinrude and rescue cat Eddie the Bookmobile Cat . . . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don’t know Eddie! What is he? And I think I read somewhere that a golden retriever or lab on the cover is a big deal, have you heard that?

      Delete
    2. Eddie is librarian Minnie Hamilton’s rescue cat. Laurie Cass writes the Bookmobile Cat Mysteries, the first of which was “Lending a Paw.”
      I hadn’t heard that about Golden or Labrador Retrievers, but considering how beloved these dogs are, I’m not surprised to hear this . . . .

      Delete
  2. Cats on the cover? Not so much. But NUNS! That's a whole nunther thing!

    We used to have five cats, and when one passed on to that great Cat House in the sky, we backfilled. And then we stopped. Presently we have just one, Eliot, named for George Eliot, because she has some gender dysphoria. She also has 24 toes, evenly divided, weighs about 8 pounds and walks like John Wayne. She and Penny Lane, our baby girl Pomapoo are the same age, and they groom each other. Good for clean faces but not so much for hair balls. Toby, our 12 year old senior Pomapoo is disdainful of the pair of them, enfants terrible that they are.

    Kudos on the new book and welcome, Alice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, and, sounds like a never a dull moment! I have never heard of the Pomapoo, but I can guess! And those are such great names..

      Delete
  3. Sign me up, Alice, for Nun After the Other. Sounds like it's going on the shelf next to my favorite nun story A Nun in the Closet by Dorothy Gilman. As for cat porn, I like animals in a story when they are a character in the book. Show some personality, in other words, not just there as a prop.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! Lola used to get into the sink and lick water from the faucet. And she liked it when I turn the faucet on a little bit harder. But I weird that wonderful cat! (And she is in memorialized in my Jane Ryland books as Coda.,)

      Delete
  4. Good morning! Does Nyone remember the 'Sylvia' comic strip? I have several of her collections and in one she spologized to her other cat, the one she never drew in the strip. I worry my cats will demand equal time soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, so funny--when I got a second cat, Leon, who I rescued from the street (long story) Lola completely ignored him. Seriously. For fourteen years, she never even looked at him!

      Delete
  5. Congratulations on your latest book!

    Two standard poodles run my house, so of course I write about them.

    I've enjoyed the exquisite Dancers and Dogs photos--dancers from various ballet companies and dogs of all sizes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, so great! What are the poodles' names?

      Delete
    2. "Boo" Boudreaux and Jazz, for that NOLA vibe.

      Delete
  6. Hi Alice! Like Ann, I'm more excited about the nuns than the cat. Nun After The Other sounds like fun.

    I guess I'm a contrarian. I might read a cozy mystery in spite of the cat on the cover, rather than because of it. There are a lot of cozy mysteries I like, and I'd even say I am a regular cozy mystery reader. But then there are some that just become too cutesie for me, kind of drawing a shudder. I have to admit, too prominent placement of cats on the cover tends to signal to me that it might be THAT kind of cozy. I also agree strongly with Flora's point -- if the cat (or dog) is a well-written character, integrated into the story, that's almost always good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And it's not too difficult to give a cat or dog a personality, right?

      Delete
  7. Alice, I'm on record as loving your Giulia character and books, as a reformed Catholic and camethisclose to going to a convent for high school person, as my aunt and cousin had. Until I realized, you know, no boys there. Looking forward to her next adventure, especially with a limping Chihuahua. Hilarious.

    Since I'm so violently allergic to cats that the closest I've ever been to dying was when I went into anaphylactic shock from one, I'm not a fan. And of course they instantly want to jump in my lap and smear their cat dander as thoroughly as they can on my body. Which is why I'm super suspicious of cats and their motives. Wouldn't you be?

    We had a cat when the girls were small, though: Peaches and Cream Tiger Lily Maslowski. She was a pretty little thing that showed up in a raging blizzard, crying and hiding out under my car. The girls begged us to keep her (no tag, of course), so a friend took her to the vet to get spayed, etc., and brought over a padded cat shelter to keep out on the porch. The girls knew she was not allowed in the house, but my middle daughter, now 33, admitted that she'd brought her into the house to "show her around", carrying her in her arms. She stayed with us for about a year, and vanished as suddenly as she had appeared.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, that's so poignant, Karen! Maybe PCTLM (a compromise name, perhaps?) looked at your house as a Cat Air BNB. I love the idea of showing her around, too. awww..

      Delete
  8. I'm actually less likely to buy a book if it has a cat on the cover (unless it's by an author I already know/love). I like cats--I have one. But I don't like the cozies that use the cat as a character to solve the mystery. If he's a pet, that's okay, and he might even lead the sleuth to a clue, but I don't want to hear the cat's thoughts or see him as a main character and that's what I'm afraid of when I see the cat taking a predominant position on the cover.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So interesting, Amy! I often wonder if there is really a cat in the book, or whether they just put one on the cover to lure people in :-) And now, they can tell, it doesn’t always work, right?

      Delete
    2. And it would be pretty boring to hear a cat thoughts, don’t you think? I mean isn’t it clear that all they think is: where is the food, leave me alone, and everything here is mine?

      Delete
  9. Cat Air BnB? I may have found my new business!

    Thank you, everyone, for all the book love!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don’t tell anyone about this new business proposition! I mean there are cat cafés, right?

      Delete
  10. I have to say the presence - or absence - of an animal of any kind on a book cover does not affect my purchasing decision.

    But they are cute.

    Mary/Liz

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lots of dogs very prominent on covers, though… But a dog on the cover means it is more likely that the book is actually about the dog, right?

      Delete
    2. Hmm, interesting idea. I never paid enough attention I guess. Too wrapped up in the story.

      Mary/Liz

      Delete
  11. I am SO guilty of the “buying a book with a cat on the cover” thing that I can’t even name a favorite literary cat because I love so many! My husband and I have two cats and adore them but I also love dogs. Since I grew up with a standard poodle I’m also a sucker for books with standard poodles on the cover. Here are just a few authors I love with critters in their series: Ellery Adams (By the Bay series), Krista Davis (Paws and Claws series), Sofia Ryan/Sofie Kelly, and Delia James.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, they will be so pleased to hear that! Hurray!

      Delete
    2. How about Lillian Jackson-Braun's "Cat Who..." series?

      Delete
    3. I *love* the “Cat Who” Series!

      Delete
  12. A cat or dog on the cover would make very little difference. I generally read books whose author I have liked in the past. With serial books, I sometimes would read the whole series. I have so many books in my little apartment that I tend to refrain from buying books unless I want a hardcover edition for my collection or there is a crazy sale on Amazon. I will, if I can afford it, buy used books on Amazon.
    I do however really like when the cat or dog(s) are integral to the story being told. (Like the dogs in the James/Kincaid novels.)
    When I was young, I had a cat that loved to play fetch. We would take some aluminum foil and squeeze it into the shape of a ball and let it fly. The cat whose name I can not remember would chase it across the room and return with it for another turn. She could play this game endlessly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't that SO cute! I always wonder if they are playing, or thinking they are intrepid hunters, or trying to please you, or wondering: why the heck do they keep throwing that thing away?

      Delete
  13. I would definitely NOT read a book by an author unknown to me just because there's a cat on the cover. If the author is recommended by someone whose opinion I trust, then I'll give it a try. I'm always wondering if the cat/human interactions will be too cutesy. I'm slightly allergic to cats, and I also admit that I'm a little afraid of them. However, I must say that I have read and enjoyed many recommended books with cats or dogs as members of the protagonist's family. They were normal, by my standards! (And I must also admit that when my niece was growing up, I made up stories for her about her stuffed animals, and she still talks about them!)

    DebRo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shows you the power of storytelling, doesn’t it? Love this!

      Delete
  14. Sadly, I'm allergic to cats, but we did have a cat when I was a child who I loved. She was a beautiful Siamese named Bijou. Congrats on the book, Alice! It sounds like a wonderful read!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, they are so exotic! And so… Inscrutable, right?

      Delete
  15. I don't buy books because of cats on the cover, but I am certainly noticing the cat porn aspect of cozies the more I read them. They almost make me want to buy a cat except for the fact that I'm allergic to them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good reason not to, Mark! They are really funny, and endlessly entertaining. But cat allergies are no fun. Just ask Jonathan!

      Delete
  16. You know, Mark, you could always buy one of the hairless cats. 😸

    ReplyDelete
  17. Love the Gulia Driscoll series, and I'm delighted to see NUN AFTER THE OTHER is here. (Will the force behind the evil real estate developer be a famous pop star princess named Patty Kerry? I can but hope.)

    It does seem the image of a cat on the cover is more of a sales charge than that of a dog. The one thing that drives me crazy? When the cat is shown standing on a table of cupcakes or a wedding cake or, really, any food preparation area. I have cats, I clean their litter box, and I know where those paws have been. No cats on surfaces where people eat/ make meals!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm allergic to cats, too, but I do appreciate their special and unique natures. They are quite interesting, and don't allow their humans to take them for granted, as withholding affection demonstrates. And, I love seeing friends' pictures of their cats and hearing the stories. I also enjoy the cats on the cozy covers and the cats in the characters' lives.

    I am a dog person as pets go, but I've been without a doggie for three years, since our fifteen-year-old Australian Cattledog died. That may change soon, as hubby is semi-retiring, and we both are ready for another dog to steal our hearts. We have applied for a Brittany Spaniel in the national rescue base, a seven-year-old named Cooper. I think there might be others vying for his affection, too, so we are in a wait-and-see holding pattern on it now.

    Alice, I have been meaning to start your series for a while now, and I am planning to soon. Giulia sounds like such a great character. Nun afterthe Other is going on my list.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Cats on the cover wouldn't really influence me. But I do like characters in books to be involved pet owners!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes--because it proves they are good people, right? Or--not. :-)

      Delete
  20. I'm a dog person. Cats or dogs on the cover don't really catch my eye anymore so no influence there! Our block has a cat. She actually lives across the street but she makes the rounds. She particularly likes the bench on our front porch. We like her as she is friendly to us and to our dog Jack.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A block cat! Love that. Does everyone call her the same name?

      Delete
    2. Her name is Mrs Fields shortened to Fields. I just call her Black Cat since I can’t always think of Fields. Scratch her head and she doesn’t care.

      Delete
  21. Congrats on the the new book, Alice!!! Cats - they are like no other - for sure! Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  22. *whew* Home from work and survived the dentist appointment. What a day. Our 15-year-old cat, The Load, is purring beside me as I say Thank You for all the great comments! I'm deep into writing the next Giulia mystery and alas, no cats here either. Maybe the book after that?

    Steve the Scenery-Chewing Chihuahua is named after a friend who rescues Chihuahuas. Thing is, I'm not really a dog person. I like them to visit, but I'm happy when they go home. So of course my oldest son has a GINORMOUS Goldendoodle which we are volunteered to babysit on occasion. The dog is 9 months old and can put his paws on my shoulders to lick my face! I suppose he'll be in a book soon too.

    Perhaps a ghost cat will appear in a book. (See what I did there?)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. GHOST CAT! I cannot wait...thank you, darling Alice!

      Delete
  23. Having a cat or a dog on the cover doesn't influence me to buy the book, though I've enjoyed Carole Nelson Douglas Midnight Louie series and Rita Mae Brown's Mrs. Murphys. My favorite cats are my two adopted black beauties, Archie Goodwin and Billy Boyle. Though named after favorite detectives all they detect around here is the food bowl and the toy basket.

    Thank you Jungle Red Writers. I subscribed to your list a few months back and the posts are always interesting.

    ReplyDelete