Writer’s Feedback Please: Feral Cats

We have dogs, but I am secretly a cat person. I’ve had close to twenty (all indoors). When poverty prevented vet trips, I became petless and stayed that way until I met Joe. Joe hates cats. He keeps saying they are noisy, due to once upon a time being kept up by a stray cat in heat. I keep telling him the dogs are a thousand times louder, but then he starts talking about smells, and what if they attacked his dogs, and so on.

But he’s not here, he still works in New York, so I stared feeding the strays.

We have a cat population so thick, they’ve made their own trails running under storage sheds and between our houses, burrowing under and and leaping over from place to place where the cat ladies feed. I’ve become one of them, but I have an end game. I am gaining their trust and keeping them close.

There are no real birds to speak of here, only a handful in the entire neighborhood have escaped the cats. When I first moved in, I was delighted to find a few snakes and a turtle, signs that wildlife migrates through the area from nearby railroad tracks, and I got excited at the chance to nurture a little urban diversity.

But, the cat colony kept growing. There is no diversity here, just cats and the few birds that have learned how to avoid them. I haven’t seen a bunny in over a year.

There are dogs though, the large, aggressive ones that people in shabby neighborhoods keep to protect them. When I first moved in, I thought the cats had Manx blood and were inbreeding, until I noticed the ones whose tails had healed permanently mangled from narrow escapes. Now I see the limping, the scars.

I love cats, and I love nature, so I want to act, even if I only manage to help a little. I know no-kill shelters are overrun, and I know many of these cats aren’t likely to be adopted, so working with a catch-and-release spay and neuter program seems the best option.

Now, Joe is currently making a comfortable amount of money. However, because of our mutual goals, I’m on a small allowance while we finish paying way too much for this place, so we will be allowed to move it to land (which also means we need money for land). There is no way the cat-hating Joe will help me with this goal, unless I’m also contributing my own funds, then he might think about it.

My own funds being limited, this will be a slow process that might not help much, unless I do the weird thing all the people with real jobs are doing and earn my own money. In my current situation, the best way to do that is with my writing. It will still take patience, in the meantime I can continue doing what I can with my own money to help.

Obviously I can submit my work and use that money to buy the vouchers I will need, but I’m still at the stage where I don’t have much material worthy of submission. I’m working on correcting that right now. In the meantime, I still wish to keep up my fiction blog, and my uninterrupted writing time is short.

Here is where I need your feedback. I could simply do my normal weekly flash, working hard in the background on a novel that features a cat, then self publish and then use those book sales to raise the money. In essence, leaving my blogging out of it, but the project would result in my first novel, a simpler story than the one I will talk about below.

Or, I can blog the occasional cat-related flash with a donation button in the P.S., and possibly weave that flash into a flash novella, occasionally making one of my little films to illustrate some of the flash to promote novella sales. If I did that, the novel I work on could be the idea I already have, character sheets and all, but it has an aspect that I would find challenging as a writer. It’s a little intimidating, and I’ve been either working to developing my skills or been procrastinating, I’m not sure. Both projects would be more complex and challenging this way.

Maybe I won’t be able to raise any money in a decent amount of time, I might end up just paying out of pocket until we eventually move, but I can continue to donate to the cause. Any money I make from either cat project would be donated, forever and ever, amen. It might not end up a huge amount, but I will be doing what I can.

Okay, writing community. What would you do?

Black and White

My experience with photography started with me purposefully taking bad photos to correct them in photoshop, or to find things to play with trick photography. Having a lousy camera never held me back, because it was all intended for the web. Or at least, that’s what I told myself to make me feel better. My limited equipment is really probably why I only ever dabbled in it occasionally over the years.

Now I have a 4k camcorder that takes still images clear enough to enjoy on a large screen. My eyes limit me more than my equipment. I can actually approach photography/videography as a hobby for it’s own sake, even if it’s just to capture things that will illustrate my fiction.

This is all to let you know why yesterday was the first time I’ve ever tried limiting myself to shooting in black and white. I mean, I figured if I wanted a black and white photo, I could just edit a color photo to suit what I wanted.

I so wish I tried this sooner. I’ve been in such a funk every time I look around me and try to find something to photograph. This time of year, the grass is patchy where the summer heat sucks the life out of everything, temperatures in the hundreds over plains full of hard-packed, clay filled soil. Then autumn brings some rain, and a little flush of green, but mostly everything is still a dull olive fading to brown and everything looks a little frayed around the edges.

Taking the dreariness out of our landscape by only seeing it in light and shadow was awesome. I mean, I like dreary, when it has atmosphere. But a color photo needs a little something interesting about those colors, and that’s been a little scarce lately.

Being able to ignore color completely freed me; I began to enjoy interacting with my surroundings. My lousy little trailer (so disappointing a subject after spending the summer in a small mansion) started looking gloriously shadowy, and my lousy housekeeping started looking interesting and expressive instead of embarrassing. That’s fucking magic, right there.

I took my daughter to the park for some fun shots to send to daddy, and the ugly landscape and scenery this time of year didn’t hold me back. I got a ton of great photos of her, and the cracked pavement and tattered buildings were fun to collect along the way. I’m looking forward to more outings with my camera now, and it’s definitely eased my funk.

All in all, I have decided black and white photography is cheating a little, by making the medium simpler to use. And that is fine with me.

Picnicking With The Dead

It’s October, so naturally I must write again. I mean, there is nothing about this month that is not cool in some way. It’s full of entertainment for families, for lovers, and so many fans of things that slink in shadows. Creative types are allowed leeway in expression in their film, stories, music, and oh the beauty of those who break free in expression through costume, bless your talented souls.

If your imagination does not stir this month, you are dead inside. Which, this month, should stir your imagination.

This year, best of all, someone had the brilliant idea to fill a gap, a spot where writers have been wanting. If you’ve admired #Inktober or #Drawlloween on Twitter, now there’s #GrimList2019. When I first saw it a couple of days ago, it seemed fortunate as some of my Long Island carnival footage kept popping into my head and I wondered what to do with it. There it was, in the first prompt: “carnival”.

I took two and a half days to finish the first prompt, but I had to learn to edit the pitch of my voice for I sound nothing like a teenage girl, and not quite like a man (but close). I’m an amateur, but I’m learning. The written story is already on my fiction blog.

Which brings me to this post. Not only was it fortunate that I had a little carnival footage, it was also quite pleasing to see the next prompt was “cemetery”. I kept thinking a tour of the local bone yards might be just the thing to lift my spirits about leaving New York, as a tour of cities for the dead was on the wish list for Long Island.

In Staten Island, I saw gravestones made of clay to mark the dead of the first settlers to the Dutch colonies. Their names were crumbling and falling away, on headstones made of clay topped by hand carved angels. My camera is much higher quality now, still too much for me to handle with a great degree of skill really, and I hoped to find nice treasures to illustrate and inspire my fiction.

Our graveyards aren’t quite as rich with history and atmosphere, they reflect more of the prosperity that even early Tulsa had. This town was built on oil and art deco. Even so, there were a few stones crumbling beneath colorful lichens to keep me happy. I could see some angles probably looking lovely in the fog.

Unfortunately, the day was pleasant. There were a few fairy rings and withered, dead trees around though, but there was still the backdrop of a highway and the nearby (comparatively wussy and boring) skyline. Sorry, I’ll shed this “good-bye New York” chip on my shoulder soon, I swear.

We picked Oaklawn, the oldest cemetery in Tulsa, if you don’t count the one that no one talks about under the BOK stadium. The one that apparently people slacked off on when moving the bones, some still being found in construction sites to this day.

The kids had fun. I put Lacy in her hotpants because I didn’t want her disrespecting the graves, but I still I felt odd taking a puppy and a toddler to a graveyard for tourism.

It didn’t feel odd to me when I went alone in Staten Island, even though it was for photographs, just like today. I mean, it’s one thing to be a tourist to the dead, but to bring a toddler who climbs on the fallen gravestones, and a puppy, and actually walk across the bones of strangers? In Staten Island, I took respectful photos at a distance through the iron bars.

Except, it was interesting when I stepped out of the car. This is only emotions I’m going to talk about here, nothing more than a wave of sudden emotional responses filtered through a creative mind (right?), but it was interesting when I finished getting the whole family out of the car and we started walking over the bones of those who have gone before us.

First, there was the probably to be expected feeling of relief at being alive, among so many dead. Similar to walking by a row of homeless people when you’ve been through shit yourself, but are far removed from the struggle now. You know; the relief that comes tinged with guilt and even more guilt when you realize there is nothing you can personally do to help the disaster of a life you are blithely waltzing by.

It’s okay though, waves of emotions had my back. There was an immediate expression of gratitude at the presence of life, of joy at a visit, even if it was the equivalent of watching a cute family ramble down the sidewalk by your window, when chained to your home by ill health. I know that emotion, I’ve had that chain, that’s why I recognized it. And… well, it felt like a response.

I mean, I’m not saying it wasn’t an expression of my subconscious, a way to deal with the presence of death. I am saying that when my daughter started sitting on graves, I started nervously telling her to get off of them, it was disrespectful (while snapping pictures quickly because fairy ring nearby and why didn’t I dress her in something white and flowing?) But, I had the feeling that someone nearby had that “stranger at a distance enjoying your children” (in a good way) attitude.

You know, the one you get when someone’s kid nearby is being a little rude, but they mean nothing by it and it’s kind of adorable, and as you watch the mother’s embarrassed panic you heart just grows warm with memories. Also like walking through a nursing home with a little one just learning to walk, the feeling of those eyes.

It seemed a strange emotional reaction to my own daughter running wild. Yet, I had to recognize that I just brought a cute puppy in pink pants and a little barefoot tomboy to the home of those who would have pleasant memories, if their minds were still there to have them. So, I guess next time I’ll bring a picnic, and maybe a ball for the puppy to play fetch. Because even if it’s my own imagination, it’s still worth having a picnic with.