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 (+Cat Cafe)

June 16, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

I suppose you’re wondering why I called you all here today.

Nope, I was wondering if that green stuffs out der is catnip

Hmm your wonders is relevant to my interests, be right over. *

I was wondering if I could kill you with my mind!*

I was wondering about quantum entanglement and string theory.*

I was wondering about why dis cat friend is not very comfy.

*Extra guest cats supplied by Menomonie’s new cat cafe Tabby’s.

Rita the rolly-polly, Primrose of the lawn, & Sherman McSnugglemuffin.

Friday Cat Blogging Farewell to Ash Part 2

June 3, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, In memorium, Laura McCullough, Pets and other friends

Laura’s tribute to our much missed Ash plus more pictures below.

Ashbless, my gray girl


Ashbless was the last of our kitty quartet. We had had all four since 2003 or so. When we got her she was a tiny gray cat, and she came home in the same carrier as Nutmeg. Ash never liked to be held, but over her years with us she learned to live with it. She was our writher, flopping down next to a person and rolling about in abandon. Couches were her places. Downstairs she had her preferred couch, but any person on any couch MUST be sitting there to pet her. Upstairs she had her place between Kelly and me on the TV couch. She could get pets from both of us there. Sitting on people wasn’t her thing; she always preferred to be next to someone.

She was the one who got to clean out my cereal bowl every morning. Dairy milk was best, but she accepted soy milk and almond milk. Cashew milk made her turn away. She also got to clean out my other bowls and plates. Never had any food issues, never was trouble.

Ashbless was the lowest cat in rank, beaten up by everyone else. Whenever a rare cat fight broke out, she ran TOWARDS the altercation, because this was her only chance to get in a few hits. She’d swat someone a few times then run away. We built her a little shelf so she could eat up away from the other cats. If there was anyone near, she would insist on getting pets before eating—a sort of petting jump-start. Each morning she would stand on the ledge next to me as I brushed my teeth, asking for pets before eating.

Her face was beautiful, hinting at Russian Blue heritage. Her ears were enormous; I called them her big bat ears. She had prominent fangs until she strangely ejected them—some cats do this though why is a mystery. Until she lost her fangs, she was our best hunter. Bats, mice, moths. One time a bat was flying around in circles in the media room and the other cats were popping up and down like popcorn trying to get it. She simply climbed the cat tower, watched as the bat circled twice, leaped, grabbed it, broke its neck, landed. Then she gave the other cats a look as though to say “you guys are an embarrassment!”

My gray girl had resting anxious face. She always looked nervous, even when writhing in happiness. She had pink jellybean toes and a little pink spot on her gray nose. She loved belly rubs and after not too much petting she would get over-stimulated and start writhing even more, sometimes with a poofy tail. Her sleeping positions were adorable, either curled into a ball or with some legs straight out as if diving. Most of our pictures of her show her on her side on a couch.

Her last twelve hours were very hard. About 9 pm we realized we hadn’t seen her in a while. We searched the house thoroughly, finally locating her in the far corner under the guest bed. I called to her, and she stumbled towards me. When she came out from the bed, she could barely walk or hold herself up. She also could no longer see. An after-hours vet visit meant she got some steroids, which can sometimes help in the case of a stroke.

We brought her home to see how the steroids would do, but she was very upset. If we weren’t touching her, she would freak out and try to run. She ran into a few doors and walls before we figured out we had to keep touching her. So I spent the night on a few cushions, with her curled up in a warm down blanket next to me. Kelly piled pillows against every corner or hard edge in the room. I kept one or the other hand on her all night. When she tried to move, I would either restrain her or help her stand. But she would always fall over again. She ate a little come morning, and drank a little. But there was no real improvement and it was time to let her go.

Having lost two cats quickly and two slowly (all in 19 months) Kelly and I agree it’s easier to lose them quickly. But it’s very hard even so.
I miss her when I sit on the couch upstairs. I miss her when I finish a bowl of food and set it down. When I see her special feeding ledge. When I see a dark kitty walk past me and it’s not her. I miss her when I brush my teeth in the morning. I miss her when I tidy up her couch. Oh, how I miss her.

Fresh from finishing Laura’s cereal milk.
I love this shot of Ash and Isabelle sharing the cat chair.
Is MY sock, MINE!
I think I tied my legs in a knot, a little help here?
The kind of concentration only a chipmunk can generate.
This is such a perfect cat’s cat shot. All poise and dignity.
Not that she couldn’t be undignified.
I put a spell on you, and now you’re mine.
On her favorite chair on the porch with all the pink jellybean toes.
On her couch looking perfectly poised in front of her kitty quilt.
As the only one of our cats spry enough to there quickly she he loved the
counter and the opportunities it brough to spend time with her people.
She delighted in eating cobwebs even if they did muss her whiskers.
She never did learn to operate the remote.
More pink jellybean toes.
I love the way the sun lights her eyes here. She was so beatiful.
Here she is with Laura’s glasses and a bit of resting anxious face.
More anxious face, though I don’t have a picture of her at her most concerned.
She loved the spot on the media room couch lying between us.
She was highly tolerant of the occasional visitor.
She never really got the hang of the cat pod, though it matched her fur.
Here she is claiming an extension cord for her very own.
And again on the couch between us.
In her last months she came to love the heated cat bed.
This is the face of cat who totally didn’t lick that powdered doughnut.

And I’ll end with Ash and  her favorite person in the whole world.

 

Friday Cat Blogging Farewell to Ash Part 1

May 26, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, In memorium, Pets and other friends

I still don’t really have the heart for this post, but if I waited until I stopped hurting it would never get done. On May 12 we lost our beloved Ashbless kitty, better know as Ash or our gray beauty. She was mostly Russian Blue, though, like all our rescue kitties, a bit of a mutt and a mystery. She adored people and was a favorite with visitors as she was born without the aloof gene and would treat anyone who sat down on one of our couches as her very own personal thumb-monkey. She had resting anxious face, and everyone always wanted to make her feel better. When we first got her she didn’t like to be picked up or to sit on a person, but in the last year of her life she became a regular part of my catvest, going so far as to sleep on my chest for long periods. We loved her completely and miss her so much. I’m sure Laura will have more to say on that when her heart is a bit less broken.

This our first picture of her from 15 years ago.

Here she is with our beloved Meglet.

They came into our house together and they are both gone now.

Here she is on HER couch. Anyone who sat there belonged to her.

In her younger days she was an amazing hunter of bats and mice, but it

got harder when she lost her fangs. Here she is one fanged.

She could be amazingly beautiful and dignified.

She could also be quite tolerant. That’s totally not the expression of a cat

plotting to murder anyone.

Here she is on her favorite of Laura’s sweaters. She adored it so much

that Laura eventually gave it to her for her very own.

On cold winter mornings she was always part of the radiator gang.

They’re all gone now and it’s so hard.

Quick, throw in the all time goofiest Ash shot to turn tears to laughter!

Derposaurus Ashblessus.

Pretty sure I should follow that with her plotting her revenge for it.

“But, what makes you think I’m a revenge-minded kitty?”

She did a great sleeping dragon pose.

She could be clingy.

She spent some years as a professional dream high diver.

We built her this shelf so she could have her own food bowl up high.

The other cats picked on her sometimes and we wanted her to feel safe.

I miss this face so much.

Did I mention tolerant?

When you gave her really good skritches she went all poofy-tailed.

I was okay in a pinch but Laura was HER person.

“Can I really have this mousie for my very own?”

Another shot of our girls together as they so often were.

I’ll close with this. She could be mysterious.

But she was always reaching for the sun.

 

 

Friday Cat Blogging Lost Another and I’m Out Of Cope

May 12, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

We lost our cat Ashbless this morning. She was a dear sweet thing who never caused us any trouble and I’m devastated. I will post a longer remembrance and a photo tribute when I’m feeling human again, but that could be a while. We’ve lost 4 beloved cats in 19 months and I am completely out of cope. This is the most recent picture I have of her on my laptop.

Friday Cat Blogging

May 6, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

I’m the queen of the world!

I’m a huge manatee!*

I’m trapped on a monkey, helllllllp!

I’m indifferent to your plight.

Not as indifferent as I am. zzzzzzzzzzz

I am also SUPER dignified!

Thee!

*With thanks to Daisy and Andy and Neil for extra cats.

 

Mike Levy’s Memorial—A Few More Words

May 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

My friend Mike Levy died a few weeks ago and his memorial was this weekend. I spoke at the funeral and this is what I said.

Hello,

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Kelly McCullough and Mike was one of my closest friends. My designated job today is to try to lighten the mood a bit, because we all know Mike would have wanted there to be smiles and laughter here along with the tears and the mourning. Wherever Mike went he carried his wit and wisdom and a profound sense of silliness. He was a man who brought light into dark places—a sort of human phial of Galadriel if you will allow me the reference.

That is the thing I would like us all to carry away from this celebration of his life today, light, wit, silly joy. I can’t imagine anything that would make him happier than to hear his friends and loved ones laughing as they remember him. Over the sixteen years I knew Mike he was a frequent presence at the small gatherings we often have on Friday evenings, and he was always a merry one. Even when he was feeling terrible, and that was too often over the last few years, he was always quick with a joke or a smile and he always wanted to be in the circle where merriment was happening.

There are two pictures of Mike on my social media that I loved more than any others. In one he is standing in my living room with one of my cats on his shoulder and a huge smile on his face. For me it’s the perfect image of happy, kind, Mike, taking joy in communing with a silly little cat. In the second, he and our friend Jonny are both in my kitchen wearing stuffed turkey hats with their arms thrown wide, greeting each other like they were brothers in the International Order of the Turkey—silly Mike in all his goofy glory.

He could be serious too, of course. A scholar, a reviewer, a teacher, a man of words and deep thought who was loved by so many for very good reason. I want to touch on that too, if more briefly. Mike and I have had a number of good natured debates over the years. One of them involves my work.

For the last decade when Mike taught his yearly science fiction course, one of the assigned books was always my WebMage. Every time he taught it he would invite me in to speak with his class about the work, which was invariably a pleasure. Now, I think of myself as a commercial writer first and foremost and that is how I generally talk about my work at places like Mike’s class. But it’s not something he was ever willing to let pass unchallenged. When he spoke about my work he would argue for me having a great passion for politics and ethics in my writing, a tendency to slip deeper topics into light books, and even my literary merit. He always took my work more seriously than I do, and believed in it in ways that I am not generally willing to. My gratitude for that is boundless.

On another matter, though, I have a minor bone to pick with him. I am a fitness buff. I lift weights, run, and do various other things to keep in shape. As I’ve grown older, Mike was quite vigorous in warning me that I need to learn to be gentler with myself, or that one of these days something was going to go pop and stop working. I, on the other hand, have maintained that I know exactly what I’m doing. It’s been a gentle tug of war with no resolution until quite recently. Coincidentally, the same week that he went into the hospital for the last time, I was doing pull-ups when, sure enough, something went pop in my shoulder and stopped working. As was too often the case in arguments with Mike—as I’m sure you all know—it turns out that he was right. It vexes me deeply that he didn’t get the chance to give me that sly smile and gently and kindly say I told you so in a way that made me laugh at myself.

He was a good man and a funny one and I will miss the laughs most of all.

Friday Cat Blogging

April 29, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Is this where you apply for the cat blog?

Has anyone mentioned to you that you’re not a cat?

Sure I am, look at my shadow.

Can’t. Eyes closed. Sleeping.

But I do really good cat shadow.

Shadow or not, I am skeptical.*

With huge thanks to Shari Emerson, who did this amazing rendition of Dragon’s Cat as part of the not so secret Dragon Diaries project.

Friday Cat Blogging

April 14, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

I comfortable. Really.

You don’t look comfortable. Dis look comfortable.

Dat look stupid.

Yeah have bad taste, unlike me. I taste great!

You wound me, sir and madam, you wound me.

 

 

On The Matter of Jim Frenkel

April 11, 2017 in Professionalism, Publishing

I’ll start with this. Jim has no business being a guest liaison for any convention. Full stop.

Now, on to the nuance. I understand the impulse to give second chances to people who’ve done us a good turn, or to ignore reports of behavior we’ve never witnessed when it’s a friend on the grill. I even understand it in the specific case of Jim Frenkel. He was my first agent and, some years later, he was very nearly my editor. He’s bought me dinner, we’ve laughed together, been in business together and for years I thought of him as a friend.

None of that excuses his reported behavior toward women.

None of that is a reason to give him a pass on this.

One of the reasons why serial harassment happens in our society is the tendency to forgive or ignore behaviors that don’t affect us directly or that happen out of sight, if that’s more convenient for us. It’s uncomfortable to call out someone you know and have liked. It feels like disloyalty to turn away from someone who helped you out when they’re in trouble. But, sometimes, that’s exactly what we have to do.

I don’t remember ever seeing Jim make unwelcome advances or any of the other reported behaviors that have given him his reputation as a serial harasser, but I don’t have to witness a behavior myself to condemn it. All I have to do is believe the accounts of the women who were affected, and I do. It’s that simple. So, though it gives me no pleasure to say this about a man who advanced my career and who I thought of as a friend, I will repeat myself.

Jim has no business being a guest liaison for any convention.

ETA: In case it wasn’t clear, he shouldn’t be anywhere else on the concom either.

ETA 2: Corrected “I never saw” to “I don’t remember ever seeing”.

Friday Cat Blogging

April 8, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Plot

Make sure you get my good side.

You’re so vain, you probably think this blog is about you.

Well, duh. Everything is about me.

Wrong. This monkey is all about me.

Here, try this one. Still life with me. Also, fork. Perfect portrait.

No. I’m a perfect portrait.

Okay, y’all are weird. Everyone know this is how portraits work.

Thanks to Kim, Jonny, Neil, and the National Gallery