Conversation with my muse: follow up




Marco is the protagonist in my (yet to be published) children’s book, The Dead Cats’ Society.  He’s also a real cat. See photo at left. 

Marco has another role in my life, being that of my muse. It’s a complex relationship, but it works. He’s the one I talk to when I need a sounding board for something I’m writing. See A Conversation with my Muse. and “How to explain cyberspace to your cat.”

So, knowing he’s the hero of my story,  my hidden partner has suddenly decided he wants some of the limelight. Being a subtle cat, he didn’t make a lot of noise about this desire of his. Instead, he left me the following note in my ‘Suggestion Box’.

“I’d like people to know I’m more than just a furry paperweight. Have you told them I am a Reader cat? You could share something about my favorite books with your readers? They might find this interesting.   Marco”

Furry paperweight
Furry paperweight

I didn’t have the heart to tell him I hadn’t got around to writing a post specifically about him. Up ’til now he’s only appeared in the form of my muse. But Marco definitely deserves a blog post of his own. Not only does he fulfill that warm, fuzzy pet need and the higher calling of a muse, but Marco is also one of the endangered species of cats who can read.

You read that right and there’s others out there. Your cat might be a reader too, but you might not be aware of it. Cats will wait until everyone is asleep before cracking a book, since they hate it when everyone makes a big deal out of it. They embarrass easily, so if you do catch them, just pretend like you don’t notice or that it is normal. If you’ve encountered books scattered out on the floor when you get up in the morning, now you know how it happened. Whatever you do, don’t try to make your cat put the books back on the shelves. They will absolutely balk at this and probably never pick up a book again.

I like to keep my cat happy, so I will post things that he leaves in the Suggestion Box from time to time.  A recent read on Marco’s bookshelf is  The Palace of Laughter, by John Berkeley. I picked this one out myself, but he finished it before me. (He has loads more reading time.) Marco liked this book, but not quite as well as I did. I found Palace of Laughter well written with a great cast of characters and just the right touch of the wicked evil. 

The story begins when the Circus Oscuro comes to town in the dead of night. Miles, an orphan boy who lives in a barrel, is the only one who sees their mysterious arrival. When Little, a tiny circus performer who is actually a 400 year old winged girl, escapes from the sinister circus, the duo sets off to rescue two friends from an even more sinister sideshow called ‘The Palace of Laughter’.

With characters named Lady Partridge, the Great Cortado, The Null and Baltinglass of Araby what’s not to love? Marcos’ favorite characters were Lady Partridge and Miles. We agreed on that much. We tried to work out a compatible book rating system, but they don’t quite mesh. (Marco’s ratings are from one to four paws. Mine is on a scale of 1-5 stars.)

Marco rated The Palace of Laughter is:  three paws.  He would have given it four, except he said there were no cats in the story. I mentioned the tiger, but he said it wasn’t the same. I didn’t argue with him, but I gave the book a big 5 star rating. I would highly recommend for any younger reader.

Thankfully, Mr. Berkeley kept on writing. Palace of Laughter is part of the “Wednesday triology”. The next one is titled The Tiger’s Egg which we will review soon.

Do you suspect your cat reads? Please share your story.

How to explain cyberspace to your cat

“What are you writing?” asks my cat, who leads a double life as my muse.

“A blog post,” I answer.

There’s small silence while he considers admitting his ignorance. “O.k. what’s a blog post?”

“Hmmm,” I murmur. How do I explain this to a cat? “Blogging is writing down your thoughts on subjects you are passionate about,” I begin.

“I can understand that,” he says.

“Then you publish it on the internet where, with the click of a mouse, it flies off into cyberspace and you hope someone will catch it and read it and maybe even write back to you.”

This time there’s a longer silence. Whether it’s the clicking mouse reference or just the concept that has him most confused is hard to tell. I wait to see if his curiosity will win out over his need to appear all-knowing.

“What’s cyberspace?”

Now I’m in for it. What can I tell him when I don’t really understand it myself? I give him an evasive answer. “It’s kind of a mystery.”

“I love a good mystery. Go on.”

“All I can do is try to give you an analogy. You are familiar with analogies?”

He gives me that look; the kind that means the question is too ridiculous to answer.

“Cyberspace is a very ethereal place. You can’t see it or feel it, but there is so much going on out there. Millions and billions and gazillions of words and thoughts and feelings that people have typed onto their keyboard to share with others. Friends and strangers. Lost words swirling in a vast unseen world. Words waiting to be found. Words begging to be read by someone who will understand their passion.”

My muse finishes the analogy for me. “So, cyberspace must be something like cosmic space and the words are bits of stardust floating everywhere. No,” he pauses as he collects his thoughts on the subject. “More than stardust. Words and thoughts clustered together like galaxies waiting to be discovered.”

“Oh, that’s perfect! Can I use that in my blog?”

“I think you already have.”

He purrs and I scratch behind his ears. Having a cat for a muse is nice.

A Conversation with my muse

For the life of me I cannot figure out why certain things catch my attention and others float past with barely a mental nod.  Odd little things, like commas. First it was the Oxford comma.  Now it’s the Comma Splice.

“Why commas?” I asked my muse. “Why do I care? It’s a little strange, don’t you think?”

There’s a deep silence, then a barely perceptible shrug .  “Why not?” he purrs.

“But it’s not earthshakingly important. It’s not like commas affect the global template of things like politics, banking or the environment.”

“It’s a power thing,” he says.

“What? Power? Are you crazy?”

“Maybe,” he says, ” but look at it this way. You don’t have any control in the political arena, and it’s hard to save an iceberg when you live in California, unless it’s lettuce in the garden. But commas. You do have power over those. It’s the little kingdom of grammar and punctuation that you can do something about. Ooops.”


“Ended a sentence with a preposition. Hah, you didn’t even notice.” 

“Did too.”

“Right. So, take your pick. Feel helpless at not being able to save the world. Lie awake at night worrying about bailouts,  global warming, or which despot might set off a nuclear bomb….or get control of your commas.”

“I see your point.”

So, what’s the comma issue this time?


“Is that something like wire splicing?”

“How do you know about wire splicing? You’re just a cat.”

“That’s rude. Be nice or I’ll leave.”


“You forget that I pay attention to everything. You should know better. Isn’t the old man an electrician? All these years I’ve been watching. You think I haven’t picked up a few things about the electrical trade? I’m going to leave and find a good napping place.” 

“No, no. Don’t leave. I just didn’t figure you’d be interested in electrical wiring.”

“You know you’ve digressed quite a bit here in this blog. Why don’t you get to the point?”

“Yes, thanks. So…I was reading articles on grammar tonight and the one that caught my attention was about comma splices. It wasn’t a term that was used when I was in school, so I looked it up. It’s really nothing more than a run-on sentence, but the term bothers me for some reason.”

“Please go on. This is fascinating,” he says, no longer purring, but getting heavy lidded.

“You’re being sarcastic, but I have no one else to tell this to, so try to stay awake.”

A deep sigh from my muse, but I plunge forward. “A splice is the joining of two things, like wires and wood. Now I’m all for the joining together of things, but not when it is two independent clauses joined together by a weak little blip of a comma. It’s like two sentences trying to get in on one ticket. It’s not ethical.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Give me an example.”

“I thought you’d never ask, I have one right on the tip of my tongue.”

“Aha! I caught you.”

“You are paying attention, aren’t you? O.k. Here’s another one. 

“Wire connectors are ideal for splicing multiple electrical wires together, they come in a wide variety of sizes and types.”

“You couldn’t resist the electrical plug could you? No pun intended.”

“You’re so funny.”

 “O.k. Grammar Geek. Pray tell, how does one solve this grammatical atrocity?”

“It’s so simple. Usually a period works. Or, when appropriate, a connecting word like ‘and’ or ‘but’.  But it’s the term ‘comma splice’ that still grates on my senses. It doesn’t fit. It draws all the attention to the comma giving it some misplaced validity.”

My muse’s eyes are closed, so I’m on my own. Then it comes like a flash.

“Oh wait! I know why it bothers me. A splice usually refers to the joining of two things that are meant to be together, like rope or wire or film. But in this case, splicing together two complete sentences is a grammatical error. Only in the use of commas is a splice not a good thing. What were they thinking?”

He opens one eye, looking askance at me. “You know, my purpose here is to inspire creative flow, not to be a sounding board for your meditations on these technical anomalies.”

“I’m almost done. I was just thinking that the term ‘run-on sentence’ was what we used when I went to school. That term actually defines and identifies the grammatical problem. ‘Run-on sentence’ was good enough for me and my generation.”

“I think your showing your age.”

“Hmm. You might be right.  Maybe I’ll take a nap with you.”