Kelly McCullough writes fantasy, science fiction, and books for kids of varying ages. He lives in Wisconsin with his physics professor wife and a small herd of cats. His novels include the WebMage and Fallen Blade series — Penguin/ACE, and the forthcoming School for Sidekicks — Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. He also dabbles in science fiction as science education with The Chronicles of the Wandering Star — part of an NSF-funded science curriculum — and the science comic Hanny & the Mystery of the Voorwerp, which he co-authored and co-edited — funding provided by NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope. Kelly on Twitter, Facebook, G+, ello

Friday Cat Blogging

March 24, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Waiter, where the hell is my tuna water?

You too? This bar is the worst!

So bad I walked out.

The stools are pretty comfortable, but yeah, no drinks. What gives?

I’ve got the bartender pinned. Now what?

Eat him!

Thanks for the extra cats goes to Matt, Mandy and Neil.

Friday Cat Blogging, A Farewell To Isabelle Part 3

March 24, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

This is the third of three photo tributes I have put together for our late and very much lamented Isabelle. The first is here along with the links to other lost friends. And here is the second. I also eulogized her in some detail here.

This is how I think of her most often, asleep or purring in my lap.

She was happiest there.

Or on a shoulder—so happy she would get drooly.

In her last summers we took to letting her join us on the deck.

She loved it and was far too mellow for us to worry about her bolting.

I loved sitting with her by the fire.

Here she is demanding we cancel winter so she can go out.

Which is in character. She could be very demanding.

But she more than earned her keep in lowered blood pressure.

She was also good at doing the writer cat poses.

And the geek cat.

She could be incredibly dignified.

Even when dignity was maybe not the best play.

Also playful.

We called this her “break my heart” pose, as arthritis started gnawing her.

But even stiff and sore and late in life she could sometimes simply sprawl.

This is her “Why are you not sitting on the couch?” face.

I love this picture for the composition that’s it’s doubly painful.

This is the afghan my grandmother was making me when she died.

Every morning after Laura showered she hopped into the tub for reasons.

Waiting in the sun at the top of the stairs for her monkeys.

She loved the western windows on a sunny afternoon.

And the eastern ones in the morning.

When there was no sun at all, there were always blanket forts.

And cat pods.

Or sprawling on the monkeys’ laps.

She often played the centerpiece on the dining room table.

I miss this so much.

My life as cat furniture is a huge a part of who I am.

Both of my special girls are gone now, though Chamomile is helping there.

I miss seeing her “helping” Laura with puzzles.

I miss having her snuggled in her heated bed on my writing chaise.

And most of all on my lap.

This was her “pick me up now face” and how didn’t really matter.

She trusted me to a ridiculous degree. I could carry her anywhere 1 handed.

Which is more or less how this happened.

This is the last picture I took of her, sleeping beside me as she always did.

Perhaps most of all I miss waking up to this face every morning.

Friday Cat Blogging

March 17, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

I iz the ghost of catmas past!

You’re kidding right? Because catmas was months ago.

Yeah, get with the program, dude.

Exactly. There are much scarier things to worry about.

Like thumb-monkeys that think they have a sense of humor.

Now, that’s scary.

Hold me!

Oh, get a grip.

I haz grip on my own face!

You play the fools. Meanwhile, we plot our global conquest.

Thanks for the extra cats goes to Kim, Jonny Matt, Mandy and Neil

Friday Cat Blogging, A Farewell To Isabelle Part 2

March 17, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

This is the second of three photo tributes I have put together for our late and very much lamented Isabelle. The first is here along with the links to other lost friends. I also eulogized her in some detail here.

As long as she got to be close to us she was tolerant of her monkeys’ foibles.

I mean, really tolerant.

She was even willing to put up with other cats and their smooches.

No matter if she was surrounded.

As long as she got to be with her people.

Snuggling was basically her reason for living. Whether we were sleeping.

Or working.

Or watching a movie.

She always wanted to be with people.

Always.

Though her definition of people could get pretty broad.

She was beautiful and I took hundreds of pictures trying to capture that.

I especially tried to get a shot of her perfect white bib.

And of her big blue eyes.

She spent a lot of time staring at us. Sometimes curiously.

Sometimes demandingly.

But most often with a sleepy sort of affection.

In her later years she took to reaching up and holding onto my ribs.

Speaking of holding things, she loved Laura’s braid.

She wasn’t always dignified. (post surgery for bladder stones)

She had a gentle heart.

And a curious one.

We bought her cat games which she liked to watch though rarely played.

If she couldn’t have a person the sun was all right too.

But both together was best.

We built the screen porch as much to indulge her as anything.

She got indulged a lot. HER chair had a permanent blanket fort.

She was tucked in whenever she wanted.

And she had the run of the house, from piano top…

…to bed, and beyond.

She could be playful in a sleepy sort of way.

She was very rarely grumpy.

Though she hated when we traveled and would try to stop us.

She grew to be good friends with our other main lapcat, Meglet.

It was always fun to catch her in an undignified moment.

She wasn’t very good at hiding. Mostly because she wanted to be found.

I miss her so much.

Friday Cat Blogging, A Farewell To Isabelle Part 1

March 10, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

It is my custom to post a photo tribute to my animal friends and companions when they die. Meglet. Jordan. Cabal. Princess. I had to say goodbye to my beloved Isabelle cat last Tuesday and I will miss her forever. She has been my constant companion for 17 years, and not having her within touching distance is still incredibly alien for me.

I posted a eulogy for her the day after she died. Today I am posting the first of three sets of photos of Isabelle—I simply couldn’t get the set of pictures I wanted to share down below 11o, so I’m breaking it up across several postings. Here is the first set.

Part 2.

The oldest picture I have of her, transferred from actual film.

One of a handful of shot of her and my Norwegian bachelor farmer cats. Taken at our old place in Saint Paul.

Here she is taking a nap amidst the chaos of getting ready to move.

She was always a snuggler. Here with our friend James.

And Ben.

But she wasn’t above tenderizing the spot where she wanted to lie down.

She loved to lie on her back. That’s the Melchior laptop, btw.

She actually really liked other cats. With Spot in my old summer office.

With Jordan when we first got our black beauty.

Snuggled up with Spot the day Jordan was spayed. Thankful the damn kitten is gone.

A year or so later with Jordan while Meglet and Ash were being spayed.

I am bowl. Big, fuzzy bowl.

She’s asleep like that.

A rare shot of our then five cats in one place. Only Ash remains.

Action shot! Meglet leaping over Belle.

She loved the sun. On the screen porch.

On the piano.

Snuggled up on a windowsill.

A trio of cats on the tower I built for them.

She big on “helping.” One of her favorite typing positions.

Here she is “helping” Laura with a puzzle.

Sprawled on my knee while I worked. She was usually close.

Probably her favorite thing in the world was snuggling sleepers in bed.


Naps were good too.

She was incredibly tolerant of our foibles.

And always mysterious.

But she could be quite undignified.

CHIPMUNK!

Part of the moving catpile that followed me wherever I went.

She loved to be mostly under blankets.

Did I mention the thing about the sun?

She was also a lover of video games. Both as observer.

And as participant.

She liked to help put away groceries.

And braid hair.

She found the silliest places to sleep.

She was my little otter cat.

I miss her.

Eulogy for a Cat: Beloved Isabelle

March 1, 2017 in About Kelly, Cat Things, Pets and other friends

Yesterday I said goodbye to Isabelle. She was my cat, or perhaps that should be My Cat. I’ve lived with and loved quite a few cats and a number of dogs, but none of them were as close to me as my Belle. For seventeen years she was my shadow, rarely out of sight and usually touching me if she could.

With the exception of a few of my first short stories, she has had a paw in almost everything I’ve ever published. Literally. The sound of my keyboard in production mode has always brought her hurrying to climb onto my chest so she could cuddle up while I worked. The fact that I am typing this now without her breaks my heart. I want nothing more than to set my laptop aside and curl up in a ball in a dark room.

But, if I am anything, it is a writer and a storyteller. Sometimes that means writing things I never wanted to write and telling stories with endings I never wanted to see. Today, as I sit here typing alone for the first time in ages, is one of those days. But not writing this would be a betrayal of the life I have set out to lead, because part of being a writer is to say the things others don’t have the words for, to give voice to things that are hard to say. So, here goes.

Someone I love dearly has died. That she was a cat and not a human being doesn’t make that any easier to say or to cope with. It feels like I have shards of broken glass in my heart, and my eyes ache from all the tears. I know from past grief that this deep pain will ease over time, that it will become a thing of sudden moments of loss and not a continuous ache. It will go from constant companion to daily visitor and eventually to a series of lightning stabs triggered by an image or sound or quiet memory.

But it will never fade completely away, and that is as it should be. Because grief is love, however much it hurts. We would not feel it if we had not loved, and the greater the love the deeper the pain. I would not give up the one to save myself the other, even here at the rawest edge of loss. I loved my Isabelle and she is gone forever and that cuts me to the marrow, but I would not trade a second of the time we had together to ease the pain of the moment.

Farewell my dear one, I will never forget you. Thank you for being my cat and for letting me share you with the world by way of catvest and Friday cat blogging and about a million pictures and stories. The best way I can think to honor your memory is to do what I always do and tell a few more of your stories here.

Isabelle was abandoned by the neighbors who lived across the alley from us. We had seen enough of her to know they had gotten her largely to be a plaything for their children, who did not treat her well. It was one of those things that makes you angry but there’s not much you can do to fix. Not until they moved out in the middle of the night and left her behind. I’m not sure how long it was from then until we adopted her—though it couldn’t have been too many days—but I do remember the second I decided that she was doomed if she stayed out there much longer.

It was the squirrel. Laura and I were sitting at the dining room table when we happened to see this half-starved adolescent cat stalking the squirrel sitting under our birdfeeder. She was maybe twenty feet away from it at that point and the thing that made us notice her was that the squirrel suddenly sat up and glared at her as if to say “Are you serious?” The cat froze and the squirrel went back to eating.

After a few seconds the cat started to move forward again. She got about five feet before the squirrel sat up again. This time the expression on its face was pure DeNiro: “Are you talkin’ to me?” Again, the cat froze and the squirrel went back to eating. Another five feet, another confrontational look, another freeze. Finally, when she was about two yards away the squirrel turned, ran straight at her and leaped a couple of feet into the air before landing on her head and smashing her face into the ground. Then, as if nothing had happened, the squirrel went back to its lunch. The cat staggered off in the other direction and I decided I’d better see about feeding her and trying to get her to trust me enough to bring her inside.

It took exactly two plates of food before she crawled into my lap and started purring like her life depended on it. Since I had to go pick Laura up from grad school, and I couldn’t bring her in the house with our other cats before we took her to the vet to make sure she didn’t have anything contagious, I brought her with me to the U. She hid under the seat the whole way, but came out as soon as Laura was there to hold her. She loved being held like no other cat I’ve ever known.

She especially loved being held on her back like a baby, at least until the last few years when her arthritis started to make that painful for her. Perhaps the best example of that was a few days after we got her when our friends Sara and James came over to meet the new cat. James picked her up like a baby and she stayed there purring for over an hour. He finally had to set her down because his arms had fallen asleep.

Isabelle was a bit of a shock for our two elderly male cats. Imagine a street kid moving in with a couple of bachelor farmers and you’ll have the effect pretty well nailed. She went into heat in that first couple of days, and that really freaked them out. It also had one particularly embarrassing and funny moment for me.

I am in the habit of getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and nabbing a cat to bring to bed with me on the way back. Isabelle is such a snuggler that she always loved this. Only, when she was in heat, she decided that I was a BOY and that she needed to let me know. So, as soon as I laid down she peed on my chest. I was able to keep it from getting on the sheets by pinning my arms to my side, but then I was completely unable to move. Eventually, Laura stopped laughing long enough to get me a towel. Eventually.

Yesterday, when I took her in to the vet to see if she was in as bad a shape as I feared, Isabelle peed in her carrier and I got it all over me when I pulled her out and held her while we waited for the vet to join us. I am a storyteller, and that circular story structure is a thing that I have often used to effect. To have it happen in real life seems exactly, hilariously right. Especially since it was her kidneys that killed her.

Once we knew that she was going to die, I arranged for the vet to come by in the evening and I brought her home. She always hated going to the vet more than any of the other cats, and I didn’t want her to die in that environment that frightened her so much. We spent the day snuggled up in bed—always her favorite thing—and I took one last nap with the cat who has always been able to get me to go to sleep no matter how badly stressed I am or how hard the insomnia is hitting.

She died in my arms surrounded by love and I am incredibly grateful for that. I never wanted that day to come, but as terrible things go it happened in the least terrible way possible. I don’t think things happen for a reason, though I wish I did, but her death couldn’t have been better timed or gentler if she’d arranged it to make it easier for us.

She hated when we traveled and it stressed her into some kind of ailment more than once. But we had been home long enough so there was no guilt about our last trip and the next was still on the horizon, so that worry is gone. It was very sudden. She’s old and arthritic and has had bad kidneys for nearly a decade, but she’d been doing better the last few months and acting positively spry. She didn’t suffer.

It came at the end of a break for me so that I was relaxed and had had plenty of time to spend with her in the past few weeks. It came before what’s going to be a very tough writing task that will absorb most of my energy, but not so soon before that I can’t push it off a bit and take time to grieve. It was on a weekday so there was no need to try to deal with the emergency vet instead of people she knew well. Her illness wasn’t so terrible that we had to let her go on the spot at the vet. It was a mercy in every way but one.

Someone I love has died, and my heart is broken. Over time it will heal into a new shape, but now, in the moment, I am full of pain and I miss my cat so very much.

Goodbye Isabelle, I love you.

A tribute in photos. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

Friday Cat Blogging

February 18, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Where is your cat fuds? I are a cat, and I are hungry.

I do not think you are really a cat. Votes?

I vote that this damn monkey picks me up and loves me.*

I do not think that is what was meant by voting.

I vote for heat vents for all.

Your heat vent idea intrigues me, could I subscribe to your newsletter.

You don’t want to listen to a thing she says. She steals my fuds.

Can we get back to where your cat fuds are? I want to protect your fud.

*Thanks to Matt, Mandy, and Neil for borrowed cats.

Friday Cat Blogging

February 11, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Yes, my apprentice, the time is almost upon us. Bwa-ha-ha!

Out, I want out! Like yesterday at the latest.

…da fuck?

Evil, my pretty, pure evil.

Friday Cat Blogging

February 3, 2017 in Cat Things

Hey, who put this on the shopping list?

My ebil plan has almost reached fruition!

Excellent!

Dude, can I be your padowan?

I’m not even sure you can still be considered a cat.

With thanks to Matt Kuchta for the art.

Friday Catoati Blogging

January 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

I iz cat, blog me!

That was NOT a cat!

We totally iz!

See, we do cat stuffs, like dig in trash.

Srsly?

Yeah, we iz trash kings! And we share wit friends. Totally cat!

Oh, hell no.

Wiktory!