Year of the Cat’s Eye

Meow! Pole-to-Pole Publishing just launched a new anthology, In a Cat’s Eye. And one of my own stories is in it!

catseye_final-72dpiEditors Kelly A. Harmon and Vonnie Winslow Crist have done it again, following up on the success of their previous editorial collaboration, Hides the Dark Tower. This time the theme is cats, those mysterious and independent mammals who recognize no master, but who sometimes permit human contact.

I’m pleased and honored that my story will appear amid those of authors like Jody Lynn Nye, Gail Z. Martin, A.L. Sirois, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Doug C. Souza, Oliver Smith, Jeremy M. Gottwig, K.L. Borrowman, Gregory Norris, Christine Lucas, R.S. Pyne, Joanna Hoyt, Elektra Hammond, A.L. Kaplan, and Alex Shvartsman.

My story is called “The Cats of Nerio-3.” Space outpost Nerio-3 was abandoned fifty years ago after a cosmic ray storm killed all occupants, other than some cats and mice. Now the outpost’s owners have hired Lani Koamalu and PAIGE-8 to reclaim the station. Lani is human, and Paige is an artificially intelligent super-computer who far exceeds people in intelligence…and arrogance. When Paige sends her drones into the outpost and discovers what the mice and cats have been up to, it’s time to find out if humans are so inferior after all.

For back-stories on some of the other tales in this antho, check out this post by Gregory L. Norris.

You can get your copy of In a Cat’s Eye at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes&Noble, Scribd, and other outlets. Get your paws on one now!

This is truly the Year of the Cat. I think songwriter Al Stewart would have to agree with—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Author Interview — Gregory Norris

Recently, author Gregory L. Norris stopped by my sprawling complex here at Poseidon’s Scribe Enterprises, and I took the opportunity to interview him. After all, (like me), he has a story appearing in the upcoming anthology In a Cat’s Eye.

norris-photo-1Gregory is a full-time professional writer being romanced by his muse. He has thousands of publication credits to his credit, most in national magazines and fiction anthologies. A former writer at Sci Fi magazine, he once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Star Trek: Voyager and he’s the author of The Q Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He’s had two paranormal romance novels reprinted as special editions by Home Shopping Network as part of their “Escape with Romance” segment – the first time HSN has offered novels. He has fiction forthcoming from Cleis Press, STARbooks, Evil Jester Press, The Library of Horror, Simon and Shuster, and Pill Hill Press. Gregory judged the 2013 Lambda Awards for excellence in GLBT writing in the SF/F/H category. In 2014, Gregory was hired as screenwriter on two feature films, including the terrifying horror movie, Brutal Colors. Twice, his short stories have notched Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best anthologies. Norris lives in and writes from the mountains of New Hampshire, in a beautiful old New Englander house called Xanadu. His career has been featured numerous times in print interviews, on radio, and on television.


Now, the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How did you get started writing? What prompted you?

norris-photo-2Gregory L. Norris: I grew up in a tiny, enchanted cottage situated between a lake and vast, dark woods, and was raised on a healthy diet of creature double features and classic SF/Horror TV—shows like Dark Shadows, Lost in Space, and, especially, Gerry Anderson’s deep space parable, Space:1999. The morning following the premiere of the latter, I picked up my pen, put it to paper, and wrote the first of my stories, which are still archived in my filing cabinets. I was ten-years-old then, and dabbled with writing stories, novellas, even a novel, up until I was fifteen. That summer, sadly moved from the enchanted house to a suburban neighborhood, I began work on a novel that featured my few friends as the lead characters. Those friends took stabs at writing their own stories, but stopped after the first few pages—some, following a couple of paragraphs. But they all held onto my tale, wanting to know what happened next. On a sleepover on a muggy July night, possessed by the muse, my pen tore across the page to THE END of that novel. I was so filled with an emotion I now think of as eight-pointed stars—inspiration—that I picked up the pen in my exhausted hand and started work on another story. I knew then how much I loved writing. Nearly 1200 short stories, novellas, novels, and screen- and teleplays later…

P.S.: What authors most influenced you? What are a few of your favorite books?

G.L.N.: As a young reader, I absolutely loved—and still adore—Edgar Allen Poe. And it’s been my pleasure to be published alongside him in two anthologies by the fine folks at Firbolg Publishing. To this day, I can still recite his brilliant ‘Lenore” by memory. I also loved the Dark Shadows novels by Marilyn Ross (a pseudonym for author Edward Daniel Ross). I have most of them, hand-me-downs from an uncle, in the bookcase in my Writing Room as we speak. These days, I’m influenced by my talented contemporaries. On Tuesday nights, I am blessed to sit in a conference room in my downtown and listen to my fellow creatives read their newest pages in the weekly writers’ group I helped found. Last year, I devoured author Roxanne Dent’s novel, The Janus Demon, and loved it so much that when I was done I started again with Chapter One—a highly recommended joyride of a read. Anything by Roxanne and her sister Karen Dent is a joy for the senses.

P.S.: What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

G.L.N.: I write full-time, and learned a looooong time ago how important it is to be organized. For instance, at the end of every workday I make sure to carry my coffee cup out to the kitchen sink. Mentally, when I enter my Writing Room the following day, it’s clean, organized, and welcoming me to sit and write without distraction. I’ve cleared most distraction from my home and work life as well. When I travel to retreats—I leave on October 12 for my sixth of 2016 to a luxury retreat center for writers in Vermont—I make sure that my Writing Room is immaculate and will welcome me home to continue the good work I’ve done on the road. Difficult? Years ago, I realized how important it is to get out of one’s way, to not make excuses, to just dive in and write. And to love the process. That, to me, is the easiest. I love to write. I love my stories. They’re my babies, and even the homeliest among them is a joy and I am devoted to giving them all, at the very least, a first draft, a life, even if that life is only lived to THE END in the confines of my home office and not out in the publishing universe. Granted, they howl at me in the night, all of them (at this point, as I type these words, 107 of the little incomplete bastages, all demanding my attention).

norris-photo-3P.S.: From your website it seems you mostly write horror. What other genres have you written in, and which one is your favorite?

G.L.N.: I do write a lot of horror. I love the genre, and all its sub-genres—tales of giant monsters, SF Horror, ghost stories, grand guignol, the quiet chill. But I write and publish everything, including Mystery, SF, Fantasy, Romance, Erotic Romance, Literary/Mainstream. Even Westerns! I used to say I despised Westerns, because when I was a kid, that’s what came on after the creature features. Then in 2013, I was hospitalized for five days with a cyst, and the only things on the TV during the wasteland of daytime television were classic Westerns. I wrote in my hospital bed with those Westerns playing in the background, and left the hospital with a chunk of fresh pages as well as three ideas for Westerns, all of which have been written and sold. As for a favorite, well, like individual stories I don’t have a favorite genre. I love to write, regardless of the particular world my tale is set in.

P.S.: In what way is your fiction different from that of other authors in your main genre?

G.L.N.: I suppose the easy answer is my point of view, my creativity. Every year at this time, our writers’ group is given a half-dozen prompts to write from for our Halloween meeting. If the prompt is, say, “Jack O’Lanterns,” well, my story is going to be different from the dozen others shared that night. I write mostly without fear, write what I want to write, and write with that same rush of inspiration I so remember from that July night when I was fifteen. It has, knock on wood (in this case, my desk—the dining room table we ate upon in my boyhood enchanted cottage, which was given to me when I was fifteen and confessed I wanted to be a writer to my mother), stayed with me past my fiftieth year.

P.S.: How long have you been writing full-time? (So few authors are able to!)

G.L.N.: I’ve been writing full-time since 1995, when I was hired to write sports/adventure stories for the late, great Heartland USA magazine. Over my twenty years with that publication, I traveled to the X-Games, covered Building Demolition, and interviewed tons of celebrities and sports stars. I also wrote for the Sci Fi Channel’s official publication, did articles for Soap Opera Update, Cinescape, and a significant number of national newsstand publications. At a buck a word, it was easy to write full-time. When those magazines went away, I focused on my short stories and novels, along with the occasional screenplay. I never forgot a golden bit of wisdom by author Grace Paley when she was asked the secret to writing full-time: “Low overhead,” she answered. We bought a fixer-upper and fixed her up and have no mortgage, and, through hard work and determination, have paid off all our other bills, so when writing work comes in, which it does constantly, we’re able to enjoy it, such as in the form of those six writing retreats in 2016—which included two trips to Vermont, one to the slopes of Mount Monadnock, and one to the Isles of Shoals.

P.S.: What was it like to do some screenwriting for the Star Trek Voyager series? How was writing for TV different from, and similar to, writing for the book format?

G.L.N.: Voyager was a trip! I must have pitched over a hundred ideas to nail the two. The second, which became the fifth-season episode “Gravity”, came as a result of, exhausted to the point of passing out on the night before one of those pitch meetings with Paramount, dreaming about members of the crew being stranded inside a gravity well. I woke up, jotted the notes down, and pitched it that same day. Two weeks later, it was contracted for and became the episode featuring the back-story of Tuvok, the ship’s Vulcan tactical officer. Screenwriting is another personality of writing—skeletal framework, mostly dialogue and action. While on the island retreat in early September, I belted out thirty pages of a mystery screenplay that I hope to wrap in Vermont during this coming week.

P.S.: What are the predominant themes in your fiction?

G.L.N.: That’s a very good question. So good that I struggled to come up with a clear answer. If anything, I would say that in my Science Fiction, there is wonder for the vastness of the cosmos. In my Horror, the elegant stroke of fear along the spine, which I so remember from my boyhood spent on Saturday afternoons in front of the big, boxy TV set hooked up to rabbit ears. There were days when, following movies like Attack of the Mushroom People or Majin, Monster of Terror that I was too freaked to go outside and play. And the rest of the time in my work, I hope the theme, whether in romance or erotica or any other genre, is Love.

catseye_final-72dpiP.S.: Your story, “The Neighbors’ Cat,” will appear in the anthology In a Cat’s Eye. Please tell us about it.

G.L.N.: In May, I flew out to Hollywood to attend the Roswell Awards, where my short story “Mandered” won Honorable Mention. It’s a big deal—at the Roswells, winners see their stories staged by famous actors of Film and TV. At one point, I was on stage with Dee Wallace and Jasika Nicole, who we loved on Fringe. I departed early on a Saturday morning. That morning, a neighbor’s cat was parked outside my sun porch door, harassing our two cats. We love cats. That neighbor, not so much. So I remarked, “Even their cat’s an a-hole.” ZING! By the time I landed in Hollywood and was at my hotel, an entire story developed. I put pen to page and belted out the first half of a story in which a neighbor’s cat brings warning of the nefarious goings-on in the house next door.

P.S.: What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

G.L.N.: I am, today, hopefully putting the final words down on a Space:1999 fan fiction story called “The Tomorrows” which has seriously challenged my German heritage—we’re not supposed to cry, and I’ve blubbed nonstop since starting this novella, which I wrote to read at my September 18th wedding (we had a very short ceremony, followed by an amazing all-day writers’ group salon). I’ve got various projects lined up to take with me to Vermont, including short stories and the mystery screenplay, and then I’m using November to commit to National Novel Writing Month—my goal is to write an SF novel I’ve been invited to submit to a publisher. I’ll use December to focus on short fiction and to wrap up my 2016 (my goal is to complete everything I began this year, and not send a single project to the Works-in-Progress drawer of my filing cabinets). In January of 2017, I’ll begin work on a novelization of a Gerry Anderson made-for-TV movie that I’ve been hired to pen from the original screenplay.

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Gregory L. Norris: Write from the heart, and with all your heart. Love the process—it will translate onto the page to your readers. Don’t assume writing is easy; it isn’t. But like any passion that is spun into a trade, the ‘work’ part fades, and it becomes a calling. As for rejection, we all get passes and passed over. It’s part of the process. I always, always assume the story or novel or script I’ve just hit ‘send’ on is going to get rejected. And when they don’t, when they bring home their contracts, I’m overjoyed. My formula for success is as follows: Write, Finish, Polish, Submit. Grow up and mature as writers, but never grow old.


Thanks for stopping by, Gregory! Readers can learn more about Gregory L. Norris and his stories at his website or on Facebook.

Poseidon’s Scribe

How Women and Men Yak

Do women and men talk differently? Do they use different types of words and phrases, or speak about different topics? More importantly to you fiction writers, should you have your characters speaking differently depending on their gender?

women-and-men-yakkingThis blog post comes with a giant disclaimer. I’ll be discussing general tendencies, not rules. Rather than concentrating on having a female character “talk like a woman,” focus instead on having her talk consistently with her personality, age, nationality, time period, upbringing, geographical location, and gender. In other words, the way your characters talk depends on a lot more than gender.

Let’s examine those tendencies:

Women characters tend to:

  1. Commiserate, sympathize, and seek to understand the emotions, when speaking about another person’s problem, to help the person not feel alone in suffering;
  2. Establish, when speaking to another woman, the degree of closeness (horizontally), to seek areas of agreement, perhaps by revealing a secret about herself, or a personal story, demonstrating her willingness to be vulnerable;
  3. Interrupt, when the other person tells a story, to ask questions to push the story forward, or even co-author the story;
  4. Ask more questions;
  5. Explain or justify their actions and decisions;
  6. Describe things and scenes by emphasizing appearance and other senses, using a full palette of color words;
  7. Look or ask for validation, approval, or agreement periodically as they speak; and
  8. Look directly at the face of the person they’re talking to, or listening to, alert for nonverbal emotion cues.

Men Characters:

  1. Offer a solution when discussing another person’s problem;
  2. Seek to establish the relationship, when speaking to another man, in a (vertical) hierarchy, through mild insults, jokes, and one-upmanship;
  3. Interrupt to tell his own story, when the other person tells a story;
  4. Make more suggestions and assertions rather than asking questions, but when men do ask questions, they’re specific and focused, not rhetorical;
  5. Talk about what they did or decided, without offering explanations or justifications;
  6. Describe things and scenes according to functions, directions, and numerical distances and quantities;
  7. State their facts directly without seeking approval or agreement, without significant concern about the other person’s reaction; and
  8. Gaze elsewhere when speaking or listening, rather than looking at the other person’s face.

Which gender talks more? Apparently, studies are inconclusive. Therefore, it makes sense to let a character be talkative if it fits that character, whether male or female. You can have interesting combinations of chatty characters paired with silent ones, or two loquacious ones, or two quiet ones.

For further information, there are some great blogs and articles out there, like this one by Kimberly Turner, this one by Rachel Scheller, and this article in Salon by Thomas Rogers.

Let me reiterate the disclaimer. Everything I’ve noted above is a general tendency, not a strict rule. Use the information sparingly and for guidance so your fictional characters sound realistic. If you carry this too far, you’ll end up with stereotyped characters. Let their speech style flow from who they are, rather than just their gender. It’s easy to find examples today of people who speak with the tendencies of the opposite gender without anyone else noticing, let alone caring.

I know this is a touchy subject. Still, if I’m to bring you the best guidance possible to aid you in your writing, I can’t shy away from controversy. I must boldly provide this information without worrying about charges of sexism. I cannot do or be otherwise; I must be—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Happy Birthday, H.G. Wells!

Science Fiction pioneer H.G. Wells was born September 21, 1866, 150 years ago. Although he died in 1946, his works live on and inspire us today.

The novels of his I’ve read include The Time Machine, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, The First Men in the Moon, and The Sea Lady. Most of those remain classics today.

H.G. Wells

As readers of my blog know, my main author-crush is with Jules Verne, but Wells gave us several archetypal story themes and ideas that Verne did not explore.

The two authors approached their writing differently, too. Verne strove for scientific plausibility and accuracy, but Wells concentrated on telling a good story and gave only a passing nod to the science.

After Verne read The First Men in the Moon, which includes an anti-gravity substance named cavorite, he wrote, “I sent my characters to the moon with gunpowder, a thing one may see every day. Where does M. Wells find his cavorite? Let him show it to me!”

Despite my preference for Verne’s stories, I have to say, “Lighten up, Jules. If a scientist does invent an anti-gravity mechanism, your criticism will look antiquated. Further, you knew your gunpowder cannons couldn’t really launch men to the moon when you wrote From the Earth to the Moon, so you’re not a paragon of accuracy, yourself.”

As discussed by Steven R. Boyett, this dichotomy between scientific exactitude and telling a good story with a smattering of sciency stuff persists today in the arguments between hard and soft science fiction.

Returning to Wells, you do have to overlook his personal life and philosophy as you read his books. A believer in socialism, anti-Semitism, and eugenics, he also led a sex life that was, well, complicated. Fortunately, his early, less philosophical works don’t give hints of any of this.

afterthemartians5My readers know that Wells’ The War of the Worlds inspired my own story, “After the Martians,” so I owe him a great debt.

So, happy birthday, Herbert George Wells! Your legacy is looking great after all these years. Your works remain classics today, read and enjoyed by millions, including—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Author Mission Statements and Strategic Plans

Businesses have mission statements and strategic plans. As a writer, shouldn’t you have them also? After all, writing is your business. Let’s see if these tools are right for you.

First, what are they? A mission statement is different from a strategic plan. A mission statement is a written declaration of what your business is striving to be, a vision of its intended future. It embodies the goal and vision of what the business seeks to become. It is bold, imaginative, and inspiring.

author-mission-statementA strategic plan is a detailed blueprint of how to achieve that mission. It assigns intermediate actions to complete, and dates when each action is to be done. It is a logical progression of steps toward the goal. It is achievable and actionable.

Why are these things useful to businesses? Sometimes, in the rush of things, it’s possible for someone in a company to make a decision or take an action contrary to what the company is all about. A mission statement focuses everyone in the company on the single goal. In the moment of decision, a glance at the mission statement might keep an employee from taking the wrong path.

The strategic plan takes employees out of the lofty, pretty world of grand visions and gives them a practical, measurable way to work toward the goal. It breaks down the seemingly impossible vision into concrete tasks they can accomplish.

Fine so far. It’s easy to see why businesses find mission statements and strategic plans useful. For one thing, most businesses have more than one person in them, often hundreds or thousands, and sometimes millions of employees. A mission statement helps to keep all these people focused on a single goal, and the strategic plan helps them all achieve it.

Still, one person can have a mission statement. Dr. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, advocated personal mission statements for individuals.

But, as a writer, do you need these tools? Authors such as Shannon from Duolit, Allen Watson, and Joanne Phillips cite good reasons why you do.

I don’t know.

If we were to ask the most successful authors today (use whatever definition of ‘successful’ you like), I bet few of them bother with mission statements or strategic plans. They might tell you their credo from memory or come up with one on the spot, but they haven’t written it down, let alone tacked it to the wall above their computer.

Still, just because they achieved success without these tools doesn’t mean you will. Perhaps you’d find them useful, even necessary.

Particularly if you’re the kind of writer who just wants to write, and detests the messy business side of it. Perhaps you don’t even like the word, ‘business.’ Sorry, but if you want to sell your work to readers, then your writing is a business.

Realizing that still doesn’t mean you like the idea, though. For you, a well-crafted mission statement could connect the fun writing side of it to the imagined best-seller/movie-deal/mansion-and-sports-car side of things, and remind you that dealing with the business part is your path to achieving that future.

For you, a strategic plan might be just the thing to break down all that intimidating business stuff into manageable chunks. Even though you have no staff, no other employees, a list of small tasks to accomplish can make those unpleasant business goals more achievable.

Depending on your attitude toward business, marketing, and sales, a mission statement and strategic plan could be beneficial to you. Just a couple more items in your writer toolbox, courtesy of—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Are All the Good Story Ideas Taken Already?

You’d like to write a story, but every time you think of an idea, you realize someone else wrote that one already. You figure all the good story ideas are used up. That’s it. There are no more. The last original novel has been written.

I don’t think so. New books, movies, and TV shows are coming out all the time.

no-story-ideasNo, you protest. Those aren’t new. They’re just rehashes or remakes of old ideas, with some new flair added. They’re just old stories brought into modern times, well-used story lines put in a new setting, or known plotlines with the main characters’ genders reversed.

If so, that’s great news for you. It means you don’t have to think of something completely original, either. If rehashes or slight twists work so well, then you can succeed with that method, too. That’s the message Melissa Donovan delivers very well in this post.

I think what you’re really telling me is, you’re stuck for an idea, and every time you think of one, you recognize you’d be copying what someone has already done.

There’s a particular genre you enjoy reading, and you consider yourself knowledgeable about that genre, and you’d like to see if you can write a story yourself. But you see that field as being well-plowed already. For every story idea, you immediately think of the existing, published story that used that idea.

You’re just in a mental rut, that’s all. It’s possible to climb back out.

Here are some suggestions for coming up with story ideas. These might work for you, or they might spark thoughts about other ways to accomplish the same thing:

  1. Do Internet or Twitter searches for trending key words. Combining seemingly unrelated key words might result in the nugget of a story idea. I’m convinced that’s how Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird came up with the idea for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
  2. Search websites in your genre for words or thoughts that are trending. Those might suggest story ideas.
  3. Try the Suzanne Collins method. She came up with the idea for The Hunger Games while flipping TV channels. That turned out all right for her and might work for you.
  4. Pick two books at random off your shelf at home and see if you could combine the two in some way. If not, pick two other books.
  5. Try the generational/nostalgic method. Look for what was popular 25-30 years ago, and update it. First you have a new audience who wasn’t around when the original came out. Second, the older folks in your audience will appreciate the nostalgic trip down memory lane.
  6. Take a song you like (either instrumental or voice), and think of the story that might go along with that song.
  7. Take an interesting picture or image from anywhere (web, your own life, magazines, etc.) and think of the story behind that image.
  8. Take a favorite character from a book or movie, and consider what you enjoy about that character. What if that character was completely different in appearance? For example, if that beloved character was a handsome, young, athletic man, what if you wrote about an older, plump woman with the same abilities and faced with similar conflicts?

Your next story idea is out there. Be open and receptive, and let it find you. Oh, and be sure to send a comment thanking—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Do You Know the MacGuffin Man?

What is a MacGuffin, do you want one in your story, and if so, how do you incorporate one? Read on to find out about this literary term.

MacGuffinSimply put, a MacGuffin is the protagonist’s goal. It can also be the goal of the antagonist as well. Perhaps they’re both pursuing it, or seeking to prevent the other from having it. It can be a tangible object, or an abstract idea.

Examples of MacGuffins in literature and film include the falcon figurine in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, the witch’s broomstick in the film “The Wizard of Oz,” and the Golden Fleece in Apollonius Rhodius’ epic poem “Argonautica.”

Some stories have more than one MacGuffin, and characters seek them in sequence, one after the other. This is common in fantasy stories and fantasy games. Multiple MacGuffins are termed plot coupons.

A character’s goal (the MacGuffin) is different from a character’s motivation. As author Starla Criser explains, a goal is what you want. A motivation is why you want it. We’re mostly talking about the goal here, but it’s important that you convey to the reader that your character has a good reason to pursue that MacGuffin.

There remains some confusion over the term MacGuffin. In the Wikipedia article, director Alfred Hitchcock seems to dismiss it as unimportant—“The audience don’t care.” Director George Lucas disagrees, saying viewers should care about the MacGuffin as much as they do the main characters.

Author Michael Kurland resolves this confusion well in his article about MacGuffins. He says it’s important for the writer to establish why the MacGuffin is vital to the character early in the story. Regardless of the reader’s actual feelings about the MacGuffin, it’s vital that the reader understand its importance to the character. After that point, writers should emphasize the plot and the characters to give life and vitality to the story, and the MacGuffin can fade in significance.

The Wikipedia article states that the protagonist’s pursuit of the MacGuffin often has little or no explanation. I can understand little explanation, but none? The reader has to know the reason for the character’s hunt; otherwise, why should the reader care about the character at all?

Now you know the answer to the question I posed in the title of this blog post. Yes, you do know the MacGuffin Man. He lives in Literury Lane, of course! Address all complaints about bad puns to—

Poseidon’s Scribe

What Is It With Authors and Their Pets?

Many authors have pets. I thought I’d speculate why that’s so.

File:Cat August 2010-4.jpg by Alvesgaspar
by Alvesgaspar
by Habj






I did a little online research and came up with the following table of authors, their pet type and breed, and the pet name or names, if known. For the data in the table, I’m grateful to the bloggers here, here, and here.

Author Pet Type-Breed Pet Name(s)
Michel de Montaigne Cat
Samuel Johnson Cat Hodge
Elizabeth Barrett Browning Dog – Cocker Spaniel Flush
Edgar Allan Poe Cat Catterina
Charles Dickens Bird – Raven

By Quinn Dombrowski
Jules Verne Dog Follet
Mark Twain Cat Bambino
Edith Wharton Dogs Mouton, Sprite, Mitou, Miza, Nicette, Mimi
Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette Cat
Gertrude Stein Dog – Poodle Basket
Hermann Hesse Cat
Virginia Woolf Dog Pinka
William Carlos Williams Cats
Raymond Chandler Cat Taki
T. S. Eliot Cat
Edith Södergran Cats Totti (favorite)
Dorothy Parker Dog Misty
Aldous Huxley Cat
William Faulkner Dogs
Jean Cocteau Cat
E.B. White Dog – Dachshund Minnie
Ernest Hemingway Cats (23) Snowball, Uncle Willie
Jorge Luis Borges Cat
John Steinbeck Dog – Poodle Charley
Jean Paul Sartre Cat
Wystan Hugh Auden Cat Rudimace
Tennessee Williams Cat Sabbath
William S. Burroughs Cats Fletch, Spooner, Ginger, Calico Jane, Rooski, Wimpy, Ed
Tove Jansson Cat
Julio Cortázar Cat Theodor W. Adorno
Doris May Lessing Cats El Magnifico
Charles Bukowski Cat
Ray Bradbury Cat
Patricia Highsmith Cats and snails

By Jürgen Schoner
Jack Kerouac Cat Tyke
Kurt Vonnegut Dog Pumpkin
Truman Capote Cat
Edward Gorey Cats
Mary Flannery O’Connor Peacocks (~40)

By Jatin Sindhu
Manley Pointer, Joy/Hulga, Mary Grace
George Plimpton Cat Mr. Puss
Peter Matthiessen Cat
Maurice Sendak Dog Herman
Philip K. Dick Cat Magnificat
Jacques Derrida Cat
E.L. Doctorow Dog Becky
Joyce Carol Oates Cat
Stephen King Cats and Dogs Clovis (one of the cats)
Neil Gaiman Cats Coconut, Hermione, Pod, Zoe, Princess

Obviously, the most common pets on the list are cats and dogs. However it’s notable that Charles Dickens had a raven; Patricia Highsmith kept snails; and Mary Flannery O’Connor make peacocks her pets.

Before conducting my research, I assumed authors would have clever or literary names for their pets. After all, they know how to choose words carefully. That’s why, in my table, I included pet names where known. However, for the most part, authors name their pets the same things most people do. Maurice Sendak named his dog for Herman Melville, but that’s the exception.

There are websites now for today’s authors to post entries about themselves and their pets—notably here, here, and here.

Why do authors keep pets? Likely for the same reason other people keep pets—companionship. Pets can serve other functions, of course. Dogs can protect a home or assist the blind. Cats can rid a home of mice.

Still, I think certain aspects of pet companionship appeal to authors in particular.

  • Writers spend considerable time away from others, and prefer silence or soft instrumental music while writing. Human voices (even singing) can be a distraction. Pets will lie or sit quietly for long periods.
  • A pet will provide a relaxing break from writing. Often the pet determines these intervals. But it’s thought animals may sense human emotions, and sometimes the pet might detect that the writer needs a break.
  • A writer can use a pet as an unbiased and uncritical sounding board. A pet will listen patiently while being read to, and provide no feedback. The writer has the benefit of an audience, with no need to feel self-conscious about the poor quality of a first draft.
  • A pet can serve as inspiration for a writer who is writing a story about a similar animal. The writer can observe a pet’s movements, habits, and general personality, and incorporate these in the story.

There must be other reasons as well, and I urge you to comment and offer some.

As for me, I do not have a pet. Some years ago, I kept several fish in a nice aquarium, but I gave that up. I’m allergic to animal hair, but some dogs and cats are hairless, so that’s not a real barrier. Who knows, someday a pet might offer its own special companionship to—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Yes, You Do Have Time to Write

You say you’d like to be a writer, but you’re too busy; you just can’t find the time. I think I can help you find some time, but maybe that is not your real problem.

First, let’s look at your schedule. No, don’t spend a month or even a week writing down what you do; this is a mental exercise, so we’ll do it from memory. I see each of your days has 24 hours, and each hour has 60 minutes. That’s good, and those numbers aren’t any smaller than for all the greatest authors in history. In fact, those are the same numbers for everyone. So far, so good.

Find Time for WritingSure, you say, but those great authors don’t do anything but write. Writing is their day job. That may be true for many of the great authors, but few of them started great. Most had day jobs until their books sold well.

Leaving the greatest authors aside, few regular authors make all their money from writing. Most have day jobs, families, and all the normal demands of life. Still, they find time to write. How do they do that?

If we mentally compare their schedules to yours, we see they squeeze writing into any available niche. They set aside specific periods when they can—at night when the kids fall asleep, or in the morning before everyone else wakes up. They write during their commute on the train or subway. They use a voice recorder when driving alone in their car, (though never in dense traffic). They write at work during their lunch period. Some of them—gasp!—write in the bathroom!

Even when they’re not writing, they think about writing in idle moments, when they’re preparing a meal, taking a shower, mowing the lawn, etc. That way, when they do sit down to write, they’ve already mentally planned the next scene. That’s making the most of their available time.

Again, putting their schedule side-by-side with yours, we see they have fewer time-wasting activities than you do. They spend less time watching TV, less time bantering on social media, and less time playing computer games. When they are tempted to do any of these, they ask themselves if their time would be better spent writing, and they drop the time-waster and write. They feel a little guilty when they’re not writing.

I suggest you make it a priority to find writing time in any or all of these ways. Try writing to see if you like it. If you do, time will become less of a problem. Although budding or beginning writers complain about not having time, I’ve never heard a real writer—a person with passion for and love of writing—say they can’t find time to write. They lament not having enough time, but they always find some.

That’s what I meant when I said your problem might not be time at all. You may just not have fallen in love with writing yet. When and if you do, you’ll make time for it. You won’t really have much choice.

Other writers have posted great blogs on this topic, including Janice Hardy, Melissa Tydell, Dr. Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Linda Lafferty, and—if you steel yourself for some tough truths—John Scalzi.

You’d like to be a writer, but can’t find time. As I’ve explained, the problem is the word ‘like.’ Once you love writing, finding time won’t be your problem. When you follow the suggestions in this blog post, you’ll see some new writing time has been provided to you by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Shunning the Shaggy Dog Story

Someday you might get a comment back from your critique group or an editor declaring your submitted manuscript to be a “shaggy dog story.” What is that, and is it good or bad?

Wikipedia defines a shaggy dog story as a very long tale, with drawn-out explanations of irrelevant events, culminating in a pointless ending. If you’ve written what others consider a shaggy dog story, that’s not a good thing.

Shaggy Dog Story
No Shaggy Dog Stories

The shaggy dog works slightly better, if at all, in joke form. There’s a rhythm to long, story-type jokes, and listeners are willing to settle in and follow along. After the long build-up, when the punchline is a non-humorous anticlimax, that twist on the typical joke format is supposed to be the funny. It usually doesn’t work.

As an example, when I was a boy I enjoyed telling the Bavarian Cream Pie joke. There are variations of this joke on-line, here, here, and here. In my version, a man seeks the best Bavarian Cream Pie (BCP) in the world. He travels very far, meeting people who tell him where to get the best BCP. Finally, he’s told he must climb the tallest mountain in Bavaria, which he scales. He finds a small restaurant on top, goes in and orders Bavarian Cream Pie. The waiter says they’re all out. The man says, “That’s okay, make it an apple pie.”

I’ll pause here to let you finish laughing. Oh, you’re done already? As you can see, the shaggy dog story emulates a story in many respects (character, setting, style, theme), but there is a silly or stupid resolution of the plot. The story says nothing about the human condition, unless the message is that human existence is pointless. Even existentialist literature doesn’t go that far.

You would think it would be easy to avoid writing a shaggy dog story. Here are some ways you might well fall into the trap:

  • As you’re writing, you think of new and interesting events to include, events unrelated to your plot.
  • Somewhere along the way, you forget something about your main character—an internal conflict she or he must overcome, or even what the character’s goal is.
  • You can’t think of a suitable ending that effectively wraps up the story, so your tale just peters out.

Those pitfalls suggest methods to keep from veering toward shagginess:

  • Kill your darlings. Cut out events and even entire scenes that do not advance your plot.
  • As you write, maintain the idea that your story must have a point. There are conflicts, both external and internal, your protagonist must resolve.
  • There are two ways to avoid the pointless ending problem. First, you could write (or at least outline) the ending first, and then back up and write the story that aims toward that ending. Alternatively, if you don’t want to know the ending before you write the rest, check to see if the ending you finally write does, in fact, resolve the conflicts. If it doesn’t, rewrite it.

Remember, no shaggy dog stories. Shaggy dogs themselves, however, are fine. I certify that no dog, shaggy or otherwise, was harmed, nor was its character impugned, in the writing of this post by—

Poseidon’s Scribe