Rest assured this blog is going to be liberally suffused with pictures of my cats, Odin and Thor (always Odin and Thor, but never Thor and Odin…isn’t it odd how name conventions work?). Because really, if there’s an animal or child running rampant around the house, aren’t all of the adults in the vicinity obligated to document each and every hilarious incident?
Anyway, here is a picture of Thor yawning ferociously…
That’s likely part of the reason why most of my stories contains some aspect of fauna. From dogs to cats to, in the case of The Gray Market, a semi-sentient armadillo/lizard-like robot.
All of my life I’ve been drawn to All Creatures Great and Small, as is the title of James Herriot’s novel (which I read for fun in middle school). Instead of cuddling with dolls, my childhood toys were mostly animal in nature. I had a select few Barbies (oddly nameless) used to tend to the needs of my plethora of Littlest Pet Shop critters. I wanted to be an “aminal” doctor, as I called it, and was obsessed with every creature I came across, from my first goldfish, Spot, to the d’Artagnan the hamster, Cleo (short for Cleopatrick) the cockatiel, and finally Ivy the rat terrier.
All of whom, safe for the fish, were ultimately re-homed due to circumstances outside of my control.
Which might be one of the reasons I’ve clasped onto the concept of animals as necessary companions for the characters in my stories. It’s a form of wish-fulfillment, as my ideal life from childhood always revolved around furry friends.
Thankfully, as I’ve entered adulthood I finally have the agency to begin my menagerie.
So far, and only after exerting a tremendous amount of self-control (and abiding by my lease guidelines), I’ve managed to limit myself to just the two felines; Odin and Thor.
They are brothers from the same litter, a litter I was lucky enough to meet in full, including their adorable teen mom. But ultimately it was this pair who captivated me, and they continue to bring levity and comfort to all they meet, particularly while entertaining/harassing each other. Though they also enjoy curling up with me, or any other human who sits still for more than a minute, as you can rest assured Thor is mushed against my thigh at this very moment.
Thor is also my typical companion during weekday #5amwritersclub sessions, where I wake up to the automatic coffee pot brewing (and Odin’s tap-dancing around my pillow because he knows that coffee-maker-noises equals time for breakfast) at 5am, feed the cats, sip a cup of coffee, and bang out as many words as I can of whatever my current novel-in-progress might be for an hour before getting ready for my day job working for a local nonprofit.
Which isn’t to say Odin isn’t a cuddler as well, he’s just slightly less predicable about it. Though I will say he makes a superb book-holder when one is reading.
They also both sleep with me at night, Thor weighing down the blanket at my feet while Odin nestles against my right hip where I occasionally roll over onto him, but he never seems to mind. Aside from the pillow-dancing at 5am, we have a harmonious nightly situation, all of us warm and relaxed as we drift off to sleep.
So it truly is no wonder my stories are full of creatures who give comfort and chaos in equal measure. From Fury the possible-hellhound in Making & Killing, to the armadillo-robot-thing in The Gray Market, and the puppies in between (as featured in The Marriage Clause, because what fake relationship trope would be complete without shelter puppies?).
Animals have always soothed me in the same way as books. When I was a child, often the new kid at school, I wouldn’t go anywhere without a book tucked under my arm. Looking back it’s clear that my child-brain was wrought with anxiety, but reading helped me make it through the harrowing moments of transition times between classes and spare minutes in the cafeteria waiting for the bell.
Both books and animals have always been focus objects for me; things to absorb all of the excess thoughts and feelings that inevitably rattle around in my head like so much percussive noise. To me they are inextricably entwined, each equally comforting in their own ways, but for best results used in conjunction.
I hope one day my stories might offer my audience the same kind of peace I find with a warm cat in my lap and a good book balanced on his back.