My book, Daughter of Deep Silence, is out today! Feel free to click on this link and go buy it 🙂
But, I figure that release day is probably one of the largest blog traffic days of the year for me, and there’s something I’d rather celebrate more than my book today and that’s my cat, Sam. As many of you may know, he was diagnosed with an aggressive oral cancer just before Christmas and I had to put him to sleep this spring.
And I think it’s appropriate to talk about Sam today because that cat has been by my side – literally – for every book I’ve written. Every. Single. One. Even the two romance novels I wrote in 2000 but never published.
(Holy cow, I’m tearing up just writing this – argh!)
My first year out of college I worked at a boarding school in Virginia and lived in the attic of one of the dorms as a resident advisor. I’d known that the moment I moved out on my own I’d get a cat, but I waited until Labor Day weekend so that I’d have the long weekend to acclimate the cat to his new home. Bizarrely, finding a cat that weekend proved difficult and I ended up at a PetSmart several towns over.
There were three cats I was interested in: two kittens outside, one orange and the other white & tabby spotted, and a blue adolescent cat inside. I went back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, totally undecided. Until the orange was adopted and I panicked and grabbed for the white & tabby.
His name was Sam (actually his name was something else so ridiculous that the vet who first saw him re-named him Sam). And the moment I officially adopted him, he began to let out the most bizarre meow. The kind that folks shopping in PetSmart would stop and stare as I browsed the aisles for new kitty accouterment.
One of the things about Sam that’s hard to put into words is how he saved my life. Not in any dramatic or extreme way, but just in the fact that I was so miserable and so lonely during that year, and yet every day I’d come home to this living creature who adored me and who kept me from feeling isolated.
Sam was a cat who demanded to sleep with me, and I mean, under the covers with my arm tucked around him. I remember a day last year when JP was on a business trip and the dog was still boarded because I’d also been out of town and so for the night it was just me and Sam (and the other cat, but she always sticks to her own). And I swear there was a moment when Sam was like, “I wiiiiiin!!!!” because finally it was back to being the two of us like the old days.
Sam was a cat who loved his mom. No questions asked.
And we used to joke about Sam disliking JP, but nothing could be farther from the case. When JP played video games Sam would curl up beside him, or in his lap, or draped over his arms, or stretched down his shoulder. Of course, Sam would also drink out of JP’s water glass at every opportunity.
For a long stretch of time we’d gotten into a routine in the morning. JP would get up, turn on the faucet in the bathroom and then feed the dog. Sam would drink out of the faucet by essentially placing his head under it and letting the water dribble down into his mouth. Then he’d come to bed and head-butt me with his cold, wet, fur. Until I let him under the covers of course.
Sam played fetch. But also wanted to make it clear it was on his terms (even when it really wasn’t). To the point where we had to hide his toys at night or else hear him howl as he dragged them through the house looking for someone to play with.
He’d come when you called him (well, when I called him). Except again, he wanted it known it was always on his terms. So I’d call him and he’d come racing through the house only to pause at the door to whatever room I was in and then stroll casually in as if saying, “Who me? I was totally coming in here – oh hey! You happen to be here as well! What an unexpected coincidence!”
There were few things Sam loved more than paper. Even the day before I put him to sleep when I was working on taxes, he got up from his spot in front of the fire and jumped onto the couch so he could curl up on the papers I’d carefully laid out. If there was a manuscript, he was on it. Especially if it was something you needed to be able to look at.
And when Sam was displeased, he made it known. Usually by licking plastic. Which, I know is bizarre, but I couldn’t stand the sound. If he was unhappy or upset, he’d find plastic — tape on a box, a bag, whatever — and start licking. I’d hiss for him to stop and he’d just tuck his ears back and squint at me before giving whatever it was another lick. He was totally that cat who would glare at you while batting something to the ground — the very thing you’d just told him to leave alone.
But like I said, Sam was a cat who loved his mom. During the day, he was always in the same room with me if not by my side. While I wrote, he curled up beside me on the couch (so that when I went shopping for a new office chair, one of my requirements was that it be wide enough for Sam to fit next to me). If I was working on copy-edits or first pass pages, he generally curled up on top of the manuscript beside me. Even when I wrote my first book, all the way back in that attic apartment at that boarding school, Sam spent most of the time curled up in my lap, draped over my arms, or trying to hog the keyboard.
Karnelius in The Map to Everywhere is wholeheartedly based on Sam. His orneriness. His glares. His constant head-bonks. And his absolute adoration of his mom. Because of that, Sam continues to live on in the magical world of the Pirate Stream. Which is something that will always make those books very special to my heart.
Thank you, my friend, for being by my side through every word. For your head bonks and love through celebration and tears, frustrations and joys. I was so, so lucky to have you in my life. I’m sad that you’re gone and am going to miss you terribly.
But oh, how much richer my life has been for having you in it.