Our Favorite Toys

I was trying to come up with a topic for today’s post, and as I sometimes do, I asked my cat what I should write about. As she always does when I ask her what I should write about, she said “me.” Well, maybe it was closer to me-ow, but I got the point. So, why not?

My cat has a flippin’ lot of toys:

Sorry, I don’t have enough to share…

I say this as though she went out and spent her own money on an exorbitant amount of cat toys. No, I bought them for her, because I spoil her. She also gets a Kitnip Box every month, adding to her collection. My son is an adult now but my apartment sometimes looks like I have a toddler because of the toys everywhere.

The thing is, as many toys as she has, a few are her favorites. Whenever she wants to play she almost always picks the same ball or plushie, and she loves to maul anything with feathers attached to it. My son sometimes engages her with the lesser-played with toys, but she always ends up going back to her favorites. I’m sure they smell like her and she finds them the most interesting and entertaining.

As writers, we have our favorite ‘toys.’ That is, plots we love to write variations of, character types we enjoy working with, and formulas we feel comfortable sketching out. Also, the genres we tend to work in. Even with a huge box of ideas to choose from, we pick our favorites. Sometimes we try out a new idea, or something we don’t usually toss around, but it’s not always as rewarding to play with as the one that squeaks, or the one that rattles, or the super squishy one that’s fun to chew on.

Is this a bad thing? No, not at all. Many authors are known for the plots and types of characters they write. Some authors even bank hugely on the fact that their readers fully and eagerly expect them to bring the same toy to play with, if in slightly different colors with different jingles and whistles on it. They want the same plot and formula, and the author knows how to build it, twist it around a bit so it’s not identical every single time, and keep readers coming back for more.

We feel comfortable with the things we like to write, the things we’re good at writing, the things we understand in our heart and can turn into stories. It’s okay to think outside the toybox too, and find something new to play with from time to time. And what if all the toys are your favorite? That’s okay too. Have a blast!

But if you just like the one with feathers, pounce on it!

The Christmas Spirit Is Here!

I put my Christmas tree up yesterday. A lot of people I know decorate on or directly after Thanksgiving, but I always wait until December begins because I don’t want to get sick of Christmas too fast. This is the first year I’ve had a full-sized Christmas tree, because I live in a bigger place now and I have room to put it. I always had a table top tree before. That means it’s my cat’s first year coexisting with a full-sized Christmas tree as well…

Look how sweet and innocent I am. How dare you insinuate that I would assault a Christmas tree.

We’ll see how she gets along with it. So far, she’s been ignoring it, but sooner or later she’ll get bored, I’m sure.

Do you celebrate Christmas? Have you decorated yet? Feel free to show off your tree/decorations in the comments!

On a completely different note: Black Mountain Magic got an awesome review at Up Til Dawn Book Blog. Stop by and check it out!

Ten (More) Life Lessons We Can Learn From Our Cats

One of the most popular posts on this blog is Ten Life Lessons We Can Learn From Our Cats. Since, like that day, I’m struggling to come up with a topic, I thought why not find ten more lessons to keep you laughing? So here we go:

Ten (More) Life Lessons We Can Learn From Our Cats:

  1. If you don’t like your food, complain until someone gets you something better.
  2. Sometimes you just have to let the hairball it all out.
  3. If you hear a weird noise at night, it’s best to be over-alert and anxiously on guard. It might have been just the wind, but it’s probably an axe murderer breaking into the house to chop you to pieces.
  4. On that note: always overreact and hide from most noises.
  5. The most comfortable sleeping positions are weirdly the ones that twist you into strange shapes.
  6. Find a high spot and watch the world from above, with an air of superiority. That’s why you’re up there, after all, because you’re better than everyone else.
  7. Don’t wait for treats, find them and take them.
  8. A sunbeam is a good place for a nap.
  9. If someone accuses you of something, just give them big eyes and make cute noises, they’ll forget about it.
  10. If you don’t want to be touched, bite.

Have a great Wednesday!

Fiction and Furry Friends

I always love a good story with a pet in it. Adding a furry (or feathered, or gilled) friend can add charm and whimsy, or comic relief, whether the animal plays a pivotal role or is just there to provide your characters with companionship. From Harry’s owl Hedwig in Harry Potter, Dog from Good Omens, or the much less friendly Church in Stephen King’s Pet Semetary, animals in fiction is a common theme.

In my own work, a very important kitty plays a role in my Siren Song series. Serendipity is the pet cat of a supporting character named Cindy, but she takes a keen liking to my protagonist, June Coffin, and they become steadfast pals, to the point June eventually becomes her owner. ‘Dipity’ for short (June also calls her Dip), she ends up playing a vital role in saving June’s life (and playing tongue-in-cheek homage to an urban legend). Dipity is a tortoiseshell, and I openly admit she’s modeled 100% after my own tortoiseshell kitty. I’m not sure, however, that my own cat could stop being lazy long enough to become a hero…

Save someone? Maybe after my nap.

In the paranormal romance series I’m currently working on, there’s also a Basset hound belonging to the hero, who ends up playing a very important role. I guess I like writing about pets who are more than meets the eye.

Even if your animal companion doesn’t play the part of a hero or end up having secret magical powers, including a pet is a fun touch. A lot of cozy mysteries include, and even revolve around pets, I’ve noticed.

Do you have a favorite book or series that includes an animal companion? Do you include animals in your own writing?

Side Note: Right now I’m giving away a copy of The Burning City at All Things Urban Fantasy! Stop by and find out my top 10 favorite ghost stories and enter to win. Contest closes tomorrow!

Organizing A Story

The other day I was sitting on the couch and looked down, and noticed my cat matches my rug. I was so amused, I had to take a picture.

I didn’t plan this, of course. I saw the rug in the store, liked it, it was a good price, and so I bought it. I wasn’t thinking about my cat at the time. It was just a funny coincidence. But, my brain happens to love organization and coordination. They’re my favorite things to do, and sorting things, putting things in order, and making things ‘go’ together gives me a sense of happiness and relaxation.

I promise this has something to do with writing!

I think that’s how I create stories too. And maybe, how many of us do. Writing is about making everything go in its place and work together. It’s about organizing ideas so they form something neat and beautiful, hopefully.

When you’re about to sit down and start a story, it’s like you have a big box of stuff that goes in all different rooms in your house. Like when you’ve moved, and you have to figure out where to put everything in your new place. You dump the box out on the floor and get to work.

New writers may be under the agonized impression that seasoned writers–those who have been at it for a long time, are very skilled, and may have tons of publications under their belts–receive this box for each new project already organized, labeled, and easy to put away. This is not true at all. We all get the same jumbled box every time, and what’s worse, some of what’s in there we may end up throwing or giving away instead of finding a place for. Which things? You won’t even know until you try to put them somewhere and they won’t fit.

As you write the story, one by one, you put the objects somewhere in your house–a character’s backstory, a plot point, some foreshadowing, a little bit of humor. You might place them somewhere only to realize later they look better on a different shelf or wall, but that’s okay. Unpack the box piece by piece, and put things where they seem right at the time.

At the end, things might looking really uncoordinated and you might need to go out and buy some new things to tie it all together, but that’s okay too. That’s what editing is. You’re going to adjust things and toss things out, and add pieces.

But one day, you’re going to look down and realize without even intending it the cat matches the rug, and you’re going to smile, because it’s all coming together.

Ten Life Lessons We Can Learn From Our Cats

While I was trying to come up with a post for today, I was petting my cat and wondered out loud what I should write about. My cat gave me a look like, “you should write about me, the most important thing on earth, duh, human.” And so here we are.

Ten Life Lessons We Can Learn From Our Cats:

  1. It’s easier to get what you want if you act sweet and cute.
  2. Get plenty of rest.
  3. Groom yourself daily (but it’s okay if you have one weird tuft of hair that always sticks up).
  4. Sometimes the packaging is more interesting than what’s inside.
  5. You may have lots of toys, but you will often find the simplest things make you the happiest.
  6. When you meet new people, sniff them get to know them better.
  7. Sometimes you need to just vanish and not let anyone figure out where you are for a while. Have an air of mystery about yourself.
  8. Leave your mark on as many things as you can.
  9. Get wild and crazy for no reason at all sometimes.
  10. If you make a big mess, blame the dog.

I promise a more substantive post on Friday. Do you have any to add?

My Fuzzy Muse

My fuzzy muse is very spoiled, as you can see…

My toys, all mine!

My fuzzy muse is a nine year old tortoiseshell named Francis. She’s a she, though many people mistake her for a boy because I guess Francis is a boy’s name? (She’s named after an old friend, who is male, but it’s his last name.) Almost all tortoiseshells are girls because their coloring comes from the X chromosome. I got her has a kitten, and she’s always been a rather small cat, if you don’t count her circumference.

My fuzzy muse has a wonky eye…

Eye see you.

She was born with a permanently dilated eye, something that makes her look pretty funny in the light. The vet says she’s fine though, and probably still sees better than most humans. She also has a malformed septum that makes her snore a lot, but she’s healthy and happy and just a little damaged, and we love her all the more for it. She often closes her dilated eye in direct light, which makes her look like she’s winking at you.

My fuzzy muse is very much a momma’s baby. She always needs to be touching me. If I’m sitting or lying down she stretches out so she can be pressed against me, and when I’m standing she often leans against my legs. It must be torturous for her when I’m not home! She’s there when I write, and when I edit, and helpfully stretches herself out on my writing planner so I can’t see it or wedges herself between me and the laptop so I have a soft place to rest my arms. Quite helpful!

Now, my fuzzy muse is tired and needs a comfortable-looking nap…

Looks so comfy!

Do you have a fuzzy muse in your life?

Talisman by Colleen Charles

Today I’m hosting Colleen Charles and her sweet paranormal romance Talisman. Colleen is giving away a $20 Amazon or B&N gift card, so make sure to comment, check out the other stops on the tour, and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! Colleen is also here today to talk about her novel’s central character–Talisman the cat!

Enter to win a $20 Amazon/B&N Gift Card

Leave a comment and check out the other stops on the tour for more chances to win!

Talisman the Cat
by Colleen Charles

I’ve been blessed to be owned by two purebred Ragdoll cats named Bingham and Finley. They can be arrogant, demanding and fussy but they’re also loving, creative and hilarious. Because of their antics, I was inspired to write my #1 Paranormal Romantic Comedy, Fur Magic, starting with Book 1 – Talisman. The narrator is based on my cat, Bingham.

Really, all I have to do is observe him for a few minutes and the dialogue just comes to me. If he could talk, I’m sure I’d be shocked by his articulation of his wisecracking, feline sense of humor, directed at me and the annoying dogs. He probably resents their mere existence.

I’ve been an animal lover my entire life so my writing just naturally evolved to include pets and their unique voices. The banter between Talisman and Sage is some good comic relief. Of the many books I’ve written, this one is truly my favorite because it’s really me on the page. When it hit #1 in romance short reads and stayed there for almost 30 days, I cried. I’m so proud of this book and I call it the little book that could.

The other great thing about Talisman is that it’s clean. My mom, my grandma and my godson could all read it without the censure and the blushing J.

From the bottom of my heart, I hope reading Talisman helps to brighten your day with a little feline humor!



If you like your romances steamier, I gift a full-length, standalone novel to new subscribers of my newsletter at!

Just one kiss to break the spell…

That’s all she needs.

Cursed by a jealous witch, Penelope DeLacroix’s spells are all going wrong and backfiring, creating havoc in town. The vengeful witch won’t quit until she has all of Penelope’s powers. And all it will take is one perfect, heartfelt kiss from Penelope’s one true love to put an end to all this turmoil.

The only problem? Penelope has no idea that Dr. Lucas Collier, the compassionate local veterinarian, is in love with her. Nor does he know that she’s in love with him. They’re both too stupid to figure it out.

But I know.

And I have to do something about it.

But what can I do?

I’m only her cat.


Every witch has a cat.

I’m hers.

I’m Talisman.

And I’m going to fix this.


I trotted around the house as fast as I could and rang the doorbell before I realized I had forgotten an extremely important fact. The most important fact of all. When one morphs in to human form and they aren’t wearing any clothes, then they aren’t wearing any clothes. That’s right folks. Standing buck naked at the front door with Penelope three feet from swinging the door open and Amelia hot on her heels. I was just going to have to go with it. Just as Penelope flipped the dead bolt, I noticed the American flag flying proudly on the front porch.

George Washington and all our founding fathers, please forgive a desperate cat for what he’s about to do.

I ripped the flag down and off its wooden pole just in time to wrap it around my waste so Penelope wouldn’t see my, er … assets. I’d seen them before and they were spectacular. Poor Dr. Luke couldn’t possibly be as well-endowed as I was. It had to be at least five inches.

“Ami,” she said as she swung the door wide. “There’s a present on the doorstep and it’s not even Christmas.”

Ami skidded up behind her and then peered at me through the space between Pen’s arm and rib cage.

“Hmm …,” she said as her brown eyes got as wide as saucers. “It’s a great present and its wrapping is so unique, so … patriotic.”

Pen motioned for me to step over the threshold and in to the foyer as she spoke, “I think it’s time I know your name, mystery man. Also, what do you want with me and why do you keep appearing at the strangest times. Almost like you know when I need you.”

Shoot. I didn’t have an answer to that question. Because, I didn’t have an answer to anything. I blew by both of them, not only because I didn’t have the gift of speech to make small talk but because I was on a time constraint. I’d already wasted five minutes getting clad in my USA team gear and using the front door.

As I trotted in to the living room and picked up the book of love spells, I hitched the flag up around my flanks and made sure it was secure. I didn’t want to flash them a glimpse of my perfectly round behind. That view would ruin Penelope for anyone else.

I opened the book and slapped it down on the engraved coffee table. The one that Pen adored because it had been handed down for generations. Her grandma had just presented it to her for her twenty-fifth birthday. As I shuffled through the pages to find the one I wanted, the one at the beginning, Ami reached me and peered around me.

I pointed, hard until my finger was white from the effort of pressing against the page. She read it over a few times and then looked at me in confusion.

“Hot guy,” she said. “I have no idea what you’re trying to tell me.”




Colleen Charles is the pen name of Tami Stark, #1 Bestselling Author on Amazon.

After 26 years in Corporate leadership at a Fortune 500, I discovered people within the organization lacked integrity. I’d always known deep in my soul that I was trying to fit a square peg in to a round hole since I’m the typical creative type. I miss my staff but I don’t miss the corporate world. It’s been said that the Universe will let you know if something isn’t right for you. The first time, it will hit you with a pebble. Then a brick. Then a boulder. Let’s just say that I got flattened. When my fifteen pound toy dog, Nigel, was threatened, I knew it was time to say goodbye.

It’s sad but true.

Here’s what I found within the first thirty days of being free. Writing stories from my heart that readers love means more to me than working myself in to an early grave for people who only care about their bottom line.

My heart has never been more full and my soul has never been more satisfied.

I’ve never worked so hard in my life but it doesn’t even feel like work. It’s worth it. All of it. Because it’s about the joy that’s found within the journey. The highs and the lows because I get to write stories for all of you.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading, enjoying and recommending the stories that I write. When you share my work with others, nothing is more rewarding. Your word of mouth is my very best friend … that, and your reviews. There is nothing more important to me than all of you.

I love to hear from my readers and answer all communications personally. You can find me at:


Site: – VALUABLE STARTER PACKAGE for new subscribers
Twitter: @booksbycolleen

Enter to win a $20 Amazon/B&N Gift Card

Leave a comment and visit the other stops on the tour for more chances to win!

Careful what you wish for…

IWSG badgeThis post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. The awesome co-hosts for the November 4 posting of the IWSG will be Stephen Tremp, Karen Walker, Denise Covey, and Tyrean Martinson!

Right now I have so much writing-related stuff on my plate, I feel like I’m standing at a buffet, slapping spoonful after spoonful on, screaming maniacally, while the entirety of the restaurant (aka everyone in my life/on my Facebook feed) looks on in wide-eyed horror.

I have TWO new releases this month! *screams, slaps two huge mounds of mashed potatoes on*

ALL the publicity that comes with that. *dumps gravy over them*

THREE blog tours–how many blog topics can I possibly pull out of my head before I start writing about something insane like techniques for teaching my cat how to say human words? *cries, dumps meatballs on top* (I am actually doing that, no I’m not crazy, I’ve taught her how to say two words.)

Interviews! *More meatballs? Oh, what the hell.*

Contests! *butter*

More guest posts/interviews on various blogs! *Morrrre butter…* (No really, I’ve taught her how to say ‘Mommy’ and ‘party.’)

Prizes to put together for the publicity/contests/blog posts. *bacon?* (I trained her using food, and those are both words you can sort of meow out, but I swear when she makes the sounds it sounds like she’s saying the words.)

Oh, and I decided to do NaNoWriMo too, so I could finish the next book in my series! *JUST SLAMS THE WHOLE PLATE RIGHT IN HER FACE WHILE LAUGHING HYSTERICALLY*

But really though, isn’t this what I asked for, back in those days when I was crying about “I’ll never be a real writer?” One has lofty dreams of what the writing life will be like, but in reality it’s a lot of hard work, juggling, and organizing. Oh, and sometimes you actually get to just sit down and write (that’s why I added NaNoWriMo in there). It’s happy work, and it makes me feel good. I enjoy talking to people and sharing my thoughts and ideas (and talk-talk-talking about myself). A full plate is much better than the sad empty plate I once had. This is truly what I wished for. And though my schedule may be packed tight, I do it all joyfully.

But seriously, I’m running out of guest blog topics…

Oh, by the way guys…I’ll also be an IWSG co-host next month! CAUSE WHY NOT?

What’s coming up for me (clicky all the thingies to learn moresies):

November 10th, the second novel in my Siren Song series!







November 18th, my second contribution to the City Nights series!







The corresponding tours (the third one is being organized through my publisher, so I don’t have full details on it yet):












Places I’ll be doing more guest posts/interviews this month:

Wanna buddy up on NaNoWriMo?






Okay, I gotta go now, lots of stuff to do–and I gotta clean up this mess on my face!

Show me your pets!

I thought I’d have some fun here on the blog today and get to know my followers a little better in the process. Do you have pets? Any kind of pets: cats, dogs, fish, birds, snakes, *shudder* tarantulas? I want to see them! Show me what your darling babies (past or present) look like. Horses and farm animals count too! All animals are awesome. Tell us a little bit about them, too.

If you don’t have pets, that’s fine. You can still play too. Show me a picture of something you really like or enjoy doing!

At present, I only have one cat. Her name is Francis, she’s about 8 years old, and she’s a Tortoiseshell (also known as a ‘Tortie’). Fun fact: did you know almost all Torties are female? This has to do with X chromosomes producing the orange color in their fur and you can read all about it here because it’s super science-y and hard to summarize.

Here’s some pictures of my kitty:

She blends in well with the fall scenery!

Sometimes you don’t know if you want to lay inside or outside…so why not both?

I swear she does more than sleep…

…sometimes she sleeps GLORIOUSLY (and clashes with the decor).


Your turn! Let’s see your pets!