Paws That Refresh
by Carolyn Hart
What made you think of that?
Readers often express delight, puzzlement, and a touch of concern (Is this author rational?) after reading a book. I have a confession which I think may be true for most writers. Fiction draws on an author’s real life experiences, enthusiasms, and fears. Contrary to what one author replied when asked where he got his ideas, they don’t come from the five-and-dime store.
In my Death on Demand series, Annie and Max Darling have two beloved cats, sleek, imperious Agatha, who reigns at Annie’s Death on Demand mystery bookstore, and fluffy, white Dorothy L., who directs activities at their home. I have loved cats all my life. One of my earliest memories is petting Baby Face, a gray-striped tabby and loving companion. A home without a cat is to me no home at all. Annie and Max Darling share and reflect my love affair with cats.
The series also has recurring characters, including Laurel, Annie’s ditzy mother-in-law, who has a new enthusiasm in each book. In Dead by Midnight, Laurel is happily engaged in creating Cat Truth posters. Beneath stunning photos of elegant cats pictured in various pursuits, Laurel adds captions. Laurel’s aim is to see the posters hanging in the bookstore.
When I was writing the book, I was enchanted by the fun of creating the Cat Truth posters. However, to afford myself the indulgence of Laurel’s new hobby, the posters had to figure in the book’s denouement. I had no idea how that would work out since I am not an author who plots.
For a peek into Laurel’s salute to cats, here are some of the posters from Dead by Midnight.
A Sphynx, its hairless gray skin wrinkled, stared with obvious reproof. Uneven pink letters inquired: Who you lookin’ at, dude?
A multicolored Manx, mostly white with a black half-mask and black back with a dash of orange, stood with his head twisted staring over raised haunches: Nobody sneaks up on me!
. . . the pictured cat had sleek black fur, glittering green eyes, and an uplifted (to swat) paw. The caption read: British Black Shorthair My Way or the Highway.
A rectangular-muzzled, green-eyed, chocolate-colored cat appeared as brooding as a Gothic hero. The legend read: Always say yes to adventure.
. . . a silky-furred, mitted, and bicolored Ragdoll stretched out on a red silk cushion, looking as comfy as Eva Longoria in a Hanes ad: Go With the Flow.
. . . a thick-furred, piebald Siberian Forest cat, its white front a brilliant contrast to a charcoal head and back. In a side view, the cat’s broad face appeared almost angelic. Always try a smile first.
. . . an elegantly marked European Brown Tabby chewing blades of grass with evident relish: Don’t Knock It ‘Til You try It
A muscular Louisiana Creole Cat with a thick long coat, gold shading to brown on the face and back, white shoulders and paws, stood upright on his back feet, front paws pressed against a windowpane, and stared with unwinking intensity at a bullfinch: Keep your eye on the prey.
. . . the elegant long-haired cat with soft, plush, curly ringlets and amber eyes, a Selkirk Rex, on Laurel’s Cat Truth poster had its mouth agape: “Hey, listen to me.”
A red-brown Abyssinian, tail high, stepped through dew damp grass: Come with me to the Casbah
A magnificent Golden Shaded Persian with a malignant expression stared haughtily from pale golden eyes: “All we know are the facts, ma’am.”
An Egyptian Mau, round green eyes bright in a wedge-shaped face, fine silver-tan silky coat marked with random black spots, lay on his back, tummy exposed, feet in the air: Lighten up. Serious is so yesterday.
A Bombay tom, black as pitch, looking satisfied as a gambler with a royal straight, bright yellow eyes gleaming, and on the floor a broken fish bowl: Don’t look at me. I was at the vet’s
An American Short Hair Snow Shoe with intent blue eyes and the tell-tale four white feet was perched on a brick wall, oblivious to pelting rain, fur plastered down, drenched to the skin. He peered at a svelte Siberian Forest Cat, elegant and unattainable behind a windowpane: Hey, Babe, come on out, the weather’s fine and I’m a heckuva guy.
A cinnamon apricot Oriental Shorthair, a striking Siamese with no pointing, green eyes huge in a big-eared triangular face, back arched in a crouch, poised to spring, mouth agape in a hiss: I’m warning you, back off.
. . .a silvery Chartreux in an attitude of attack, ears flattened, golden eyes glittering. Behind her, only the tip of a tail exposed, another Chartreux huddled beneath a shawl: Don’t even think you can get him, he’s my brother.
A Highland Fold with an aura of age appeared comfortably settled on a red cushion. Perhaps it was clever photography, but there was a hint of a satisfied smile on the aging cat’s large, rounded face: All cats are gray in the dark.
An elegant Havana Brown, its mahogany- colored coat thick and short, lifted its irregular muzzle to stare with large oval green eyes, Are you paying homage yet?
A Colorpoint Persian with a short, cobby body and fluffy black legs and tail stood next to a fine-boned, long-haired Brown Spotted Tabby-and-White Siberian. The two cats stared in reproof at a delicate, elegant Seal Tortie Tabby Point with one paw firmly planted on a mouse: Don’t think you’re on our level. Obviously, it’s beginner’s luck.
And yes, one of the posters points the way to the crime’s solution. I hope you will read Dead by Midnight and perhaps you will figure out the villain before Annie does.
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