by Janis Patterson
I envy and am astonished at those people who can write with small children around – or big children, for that matter. How do they concentrate?
I am fortunate enough to be able to work at home in my own office, but always accompanied by our furbabies – one demanding cat and one prissy diva of a little dog. They are both rescues from horrific situations (curses be forever on the heads of those who abuse animals!) and though both our furbabies have been with us for several years they still bear the psychic scars.
In the everlasting attempt to be able to concentrate uninterrupted on my writing, I tried locking them in their rooms. (Yes, they each have their own, generally better furnished than The Husband’s and mine.) Ours is a reasonably large house, but totally insufficient to block the chorus of demanding barks, aggrieved howls and pathetic whimpers engendered by such obviously unjust incarceration. I doubt if Blenheim Palace would be large enough.
Failing that, I let them into my office, which though they enjoy it is not the best thing for me. Chloe the cat will sleep for hours, then demand to be taken into my lap just when I am trying to concentrate on a particularly difficult scene. ‘Demand’ is not a word I use lightly; a large cat, she stands on her hind legs and paws at my lap. (She was declawed when she came to us, but her little ‘fingers’ are incredibly strong. If she were not declawed I would be positively anemic from bloodloss…) If I don’t stop and take her up, she starts to sing the aggrieved song of her people at ear-splitting decibels. On the rare times that doesn’t work, she becomes more direct and simply bites me on the leg. Seldom hard enough to draw blood, but definitely hard enough to get my attention. Once ensconced on my lap, she takes offense if I go on typing; she wants all the attention.
Now Mindy Moo the dog will sleep though all this, until I pick up the cat; then suddenly the cat is trespassing on Her Mommy, and she makes her displeasure known. I have to divide Lap Time equally between them, which can be vexing, as I can only hold one of them at a time. As Mindy Moo is a terrier (I say she is half terrier mix and half pure diva) she is most decided about her wants. Any attempts to train her have gone unfulfilled by the wayside – with two exceptions. She does use her pee-pads. We don’t dare let her out, as we have both coyotes and red-tailed hawks in our neighborhood and at ten pounds she would be a tasty morsel for either. She also has made a fine art of obeying to ‘sit’ and ‘ask’ and getting a treat for doing so. Anything else – hah!
What is most alarming for me – as a writer of mystery and occasionally horror – is that she will sleep quietly for hours, only to explode into frenzied barking and snarling without warning – usually when I am deep into an unnerving and/or frightening scene. Perhaps she just wants to make sure my heart is working properly. It hasn’t exploded yet, though sometimes I wonder why. Despite the dark places in my mind, though, it is useful to know that neither postman nor UPS man nor marauding moth can approach the front door without Mindy’s noisy alert. I really don’t know if she thinks she is protecting the house or if she regards the postman and UPS man as a sophisticated, self-ambulatory version of meals-on-wheels for dogs. The moths are probably just for fun.
However – I love them (most of the time) and the three of us can rub along together tolerably well. Again, most of the time. But I still am in awe of those who can write with children around. My hat is off to all of you!
(By the way, A KILLING AT EL KAB, a Janis Patterson mystery, and CURSE OF THE EXILE, a Janis Susan May Scottish Victorian Gothic Romance, are on sale for only $1.99 each at most major ebook outlets through 18 February)