Six impossible things

Kittens and roofing and 4th street, oh my

As some of you already know, this is a rather busy weekend for me. I lost my elder cat, Nimue, to a combination of kidney failure, hyperthyroid, and general old age (she was 19) a couple of weeks back, and on Wednesday I acquired an 11 week (or so) kitten to keep Caz company. She’s a rescue kitten, part of a litter found in a window-well; gray tabby shorthair and barely more than a handful at the moment. She is tentatively named Karma, and is totally fearless…and fascinated by Cazaril’s tail. Caz, in turn, was rather dubious to begin with but is rapidly warming to the idea of having a self-propelled chase toy, even if it means his tail gets chewed on from time to time. I have put the breakables in the cupboard for the forseeable future.

On Thursday night, we had terrific thunderstorms; I woke to crashing at 3:30 a.m. and went downstairs to discover my living room ceiling raining on my good rug. Luckily, the water landed mainly in the open part of the room and not on any of the good furniture, but there was still a lot of scurrying around to make sure everything was pushed back and I had enough buckets and bowls in place to catch what was still coming in.

I spent the rest of the night ferrying buckets from living room to kitchen and back, in between getting books and papers and other easily portable stuff that might get water-damaged out of the living room. Friday, I spent on the phone with roofers and insurance people.

By 6 p.m. Friday, the roofer had put a temporary patch on the quarter-sized hole that the falling cottonwood branch put all the way through the roof – not just the shingles, the board underneath was splintered, and you could see daylight in the inside of the eaves where no daylight should have been. Now I’m waiting for the insurance claims adjuster to set up an appointment, which could be a while – there are a LOT of damaged homes in the area (apparently the wind blew the third story off a three-story building in a small town west of here – not just blew the roof off, blew the whole third story off. Not a tornado, either). I’ve had power off and on, and it seems mostly to be back by now, but there’s more thunderstorms expected tonight, so who knows…and my sister called because her power’s into its second day of being out and if it doesn’t come back on, she may want to spend the night in my air-conditioned spare room, cats or no cats (she has allergies).

And it’s 4th Street Fantasy Con weekend, which means I’m juggling panels and convention stuff on top of all this. And the kitten is doing gravity checks as I type (batting pens, hair clips, book marks, flash drives, scissors, paperbacks, and other small items off the edge of my desk to make sure gravity is still working properly). I will pick them up later.

All this is in aid of explaining why this is a somewhat disjointed post today. My brain is full of a jumble of fascinating 4th street stuff, plus insurance and cleanup stuff, plus remembering to call the vet on Monday to schedule the second round of kitten immunizations, and so on.

Protagonists rarely have this kind of jumble of events to deal with all at once (OK, it’s rare to have it all happen at once in real life, too, so this is reasonable). But the characters in a book, if they’re at all realistic, have as many roles to juggle as actual people: personal, career, family, friends, community, etc. Often, one or more of these possible roles gets ignored in the course of the story, or subsumed into some other role. A fantasy hero who’s busy saving the world isn’t expected to go to work at MacDonalds or volunteer at the food shelf – her/his job and contribution to the community is Saving The World, and that’s plenty enough to be going on with.

Nonetheless, it can be extremely useful to think about all the other things the protagonist could or should be doing, all the stuff he/she is neglecting in order to Save the World. Because some of it will have consequences. Maybe those consequences won’t come home to roost within the confines of the particular story the writer is telling, or maybe they’ll all show up at once, but if the writer never stops to think about them at all, they’re very unlikely to show up on their own even if it would be extremely useful to the story.

Of course, it’s at least as difficult to juggle a bunch of miscellaneous events, their setup, and their aftermath, as it is to juggle a bunch of characters all onstage at once. Some of the techniques are the same – keeping track of the various threads and making sure that each one gets some time onstage every few hours/paragraphs so that no balls get dropped. (This works pretty well in real life, too, though this writer is a lot more comfortable when it’s happening to fictional characters.)

11 Comments
  1. “And the kitten is doing gravity checks as I type.”

    I laughed. My kitten doesn’t do gravity checks, but she does spawn rubber bands. As fast as I take them away from her, she finds more. And it’s not that she fishes them out of the drawer where I put them after I take them away, either. I’ve got quite a number of rubber bands by now, and more keep appearing. She spawned paperclips for a while, too, but it seems that rubber bands are more interesting. I guess this is the cheap way to get office supplies?

  2. I’m so sorry to hear about Nimue. Losing a cat you’ve had for so many years is really hard.

  3. Oh wow, you have a lot going on. I’m sorry about Nimue, and your roof. But I’m glad you got a new kitty 🙂 Good luck juggling all the balls you have up in the air, and here’s to hoping that your next couple of weeks run smoother!

  4. Hope everything comes together smoothly.

    Though this is one reason why we read fiction, because life happens so much more elegantly there.

  5. Oh dear. Best of luck on the home repairs.

    Regarding characters juggling multiple responsibilities: that’s something I really liked about Seanan McGuire’s Discount Armageddon, that it’s one of the urban fantasy books in which the main character does in fact have a job, AND she does professional dance on the weekends, AND she’s trying to save the world (or at least NYC) in around the edges, as opposed to the Harry Dresdens, or even the Mercy Thompsons, (who, don’t get me wrong, are also enjoyable) who can drop everything and rush off when the world needs a bit of saving.

  6. Condolences on cat and roof. Some years back, we had a pine tree decide to visit our living room, via the window. It’s a 22×22 foot room. The glass sprayed all the way to the other wall… We’re still finding glass shards now and then. *SIGH*

    I hope that you have/had a good time at 4th St.!

  7. I am sorry to hear about Nimue. I am happy to hear about your new kitten, the nameless one.

    “self-propelled chase toy” and “doing gravity checks” are great expressions!

    If you have not named the kitten yet, what about Chase Toy or Gravity?

    Disjointed? Oh, yes, very much so. This is probably the worst post of yours that I have ever read, and it is still not bad at all. You are a real pro. Your consistency is excellent. I have just started blogging, and I am wondering how well I will do in the long run. I hope I do at least half as well as you do.

    I hope your neck of the woods gets better quickly.

  8. Sympathies on Nimue. And joy on the kitten, because kitten! I was sorry we didn’t get a chance to chat more at 4th Street, but roofs totally get priority.

    An upcoming character of mine may just have acquired a leaky roof or recalcitrant plumbing or some such. He’s not going to thank you for that. 😉

  9. So sorry to hear about your kitty. I hope this comment will cheer you a bit. I’ve been researching you and reading your books because my 12 year old daughter has become infatuated with your Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Always looking for good role models – and you are looking better everywhere I look 😉 Anyway, my daughter’s piano teacher has been encouraging the kids to compose, to create. My daughter has found this difficult – until this week. She woke up with a song in her mind, inspired by your books. She sat down and wrote a beautiful song, based on a scene in one of your books. Of course I’m biased, but when she played it for her piano teacher, she sat back and said, “wow. There is no other word.” So thank you. She is busily working on writing out all the chords right now, actually. So thank you for inspiring creativity, especially the creation of such a beautiful piece of work that I get to listen to every day!

  10. I am sorry to hear about your cat. The same thing just happened to my roof. It was actually perfect timing though. I am having a few friends that are roofers in Honolulu coming out to visit me next week and they said they would fix it free of charge since they are staying with me anyways.

  11. I am sorry about Nimue, loosing someone is very hard. Hope you cat soul is rest in peace. God give you strength.

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