DEAD HEAT is now available

A man who longs for a son and a boy who can’t escape his father’s violence.

Even death can’t break their bond.

 

Alex is a machine whisperer. He can tell what’s wrong with a broken-down car with a touch. But his gift can’t save him from the brutality of his meth-addict father. For two years, Alex experienced kindness through Cole, his mentor. Now Cole’s dead, and the violence in Alex’s life is escalating.

When Cole reappears as a ghost, Alex clings to the tenuous link. Then he learns Cole might’ve sacrificed his chance to cross over. Jade, the first girl to look beyond Alex’s past, assures him Cole can reach the Other Side—if Alex escapes from his dad. But a previous terrifying attempt has convinced Alex it’s impossible. Unless he can find the courage to try, his friend may be earthbound forever.

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Dead Heat blew me away. It’s a gritty ghost story interwoven with all-too-real subject matter that will make you cry for Alex, ache for Cole, and thank God for Jade. I was invested in these characters’ lives and you will be too.”

~ Stacey Wallace Benefiel, author of the Zellie Wells trilogy

I’m excited about this book because not only does it deal with important social issues, like child abuse and the murky waters surrounding how best to deal with it, it also features a main character who struggles with a learning disability. This is a completely different type of book than any of my others. It came about after an agent told me he couldn’t sell Driven because it wasn’t edgy enough. I took my favorite type of story—one about the relationship between a kid and his mentor—and cranked the heat up a few dozen degrees. What if a boy who needed his mentor even more than Cody needed Race suddenly lost him?

I really hope you’ll enjoy it, even though it’s considerably darker than my Full Throttle books. For those of you who prefer paperbacks, I should have that out sometime in November.

Posted in News, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Character Interview with Rachel Sullivan

Today I’m doing a guest post over on Literary Rambles on how to choose your publishing path, so I’ve asked Mark Petruska to let me interview Rachel Sullivan, the protagonist of his book, No Time for Kings, which is currently on sale on Amazon. I hope you enjoy the post!

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Hello, readers – Rachel Sullivan here, taking over Lisa’s blog for the day. If my name looks familiar, it’s probably because I’m a reporter for the Portland Journal. My recent story on Earth Fights Back, a radical group of eco-terrorists that had been wreaking havoc throughout the West, made the front pages when I came face-to-face with their brutal leader. If you want to read an account of that, Mark Petruska has written a thriller, No Time For Kings, available for sale through online bookstores everywhere in paperback and e-book formats. If you’ve got a Kindle, it’s only $2.99! It talks about my personal crusade to put a stop to the group while locked in a cat-and-mouse game in which there is only one winner. The critics like it, too; Portland Book Review says, “If a thriller is defined by the strengths of its villain, No Time For Kings is in dastardly hands” and San Francisco Book Review wrote, “Petruska’s debut novel is of a quality not usually seen in self-published books…(it) is engaging and well-written. (His) future as an author looks bright.”

That was a traumatic time for me; I still have nightmares over the ordeal! So I’m going to keep this interview lighthearted and talk about “safer” topics instead.

What is your most notable physical attribute?

My red hair. No, it doesn’t come from a bottle; I’m Irish! I’ve got the freckles to prove it, too. People are also drawn to my green eyes. I’m in decent shape for a woman in her mid-30s, but could definitely work on losing a few pounds. My butt’s too big for my liking. I blame it all on Voodoo Doughnut. Their maple bacon bar is impossible to resist!

Who is your best friend?

My daughter, April. Her father and I divorced years ago, and until my boyfriend Alex came along, we only had each other to rely upon. We love to go shopping and cook meals together, and gossip about people. April is in middle school now, and beginning to feel like she’s too cool to hang around with mom. I hope it’s just a phase! She adores Alex, by the way. That has been a real balancing act, considering he was her 6th grade teacher!

What is your biggest fear?

That Alex will fall off the wagon. He’s a recovering alcoholic, and sometimes struggles with his desires for booze. But he’s doing great, and instead of wine, we drink lots of grape soda or sparkling cider.

What is your greatest flaw?

I will go to extremes to champion a cause I believe in, occasionally putting myself in harm’s way without thinking things through clearly. I blame that on my Irish heritage. I’m very passionate and have a fiery determination, a combination of traits that means I’ll never back down from a fight – for better or worse.

What is your deepest regret?

Marrying Paul. Not only did he turn out to be a lying cheat, but he wasn’t even original. He’s a lawyer who ended up bedding his paralegal. How cliché! Having said that, if I hadn’t married Paul, I never would have had April. That softens the blow quite a bit.

Where were you born?

Right here in Portland! I’ve lived here my whole life, and love it. The people are friendly, the air is clean, the scenery is amazing, and the politics are liberal. What more could a gal ask for?

What is in your refrigerator right now?

Uh-oh! {Laughs nervously}. Grape soda and day-old Voodoo Doughnuts? No, I’m kidding. I’m sure there are some fantastic leftovers that Alex whipped up. Probably something with chanterelle mushrooms or truffle oil. He’s the cook in the family! I can barely boil water.

What’s in your immediate future?

A pedicure, hopefully! I haven’t pampered myself in ages. We’re planning a camping trip this weekend. April has never slept in a tent! I’d prefer a cabin myself, but Alex is all about “roughing it,” so we’ll go ahead and let him have his back-to-the-wilderness weekend…but next time it’s the Hilton!

There’s also a new story unfolding that I’m working on. A new drug has hit the streets of Portland, and is turning into an epidemic. We’re not sure how it’s making its way into the city right under the noses of law enforcement. There’s rumor of a connection to the old Shanghai Tunnels underground. I’m going to look into that. If it turns into anything big, maybe Mark Petruska will end up writing another book!

Posted in Featured Books, Guest Posts | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Late Summer Serenade

I’m having a hard time letting go of summer this year. Usually by early September, I’m anticipating fall. I’m looking forward to the change in seasons, the coming rain, the holidays. But this year, it seems like summer’s ending too soon. I think part of that is because I missed some of my August rituals. We humans seem to need that sort of marker to process the passage of time.

With the exception of the past two sultry days, the mornings have been cooler lately, the warmth of the afternoon lingering for only a few brief hours. The darkness is coming too early, catching me by surprise and making me feel sleepy when it’s only eight o’clock. I’m just not ready to let go of the warmth and sunlight quite yet. I’m not ready for this change.

I took a walk last night in the it’s-still-80-degrees-at-10 o’clock darkness. I wanted to feel the balmy air on my bare legs and arms, experience those odd areas of warmth that hover along certain spots in the road. I had to hear the crickets singing their summer serenade and a train wailing in the distance. I didn’t want to go inside because I knew a few short weeks from now, days like this would be lost to us forever, or at least until next July. I needed to soak up every whisper of the season, revel in each nuance—etch it indelibly into my memory, so I could pull it out in January and relive it all over again. I wanted to lay down on the still-warm concrete of my driveway and look up at the stars. Because they’ll soon be cloaked in clouds, and the night will be longer than the day. And the rains will come again.

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And now, your “Moment of Wee.”

Posted in Musings | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Staycation Update and DEAD HEAT Cover Reveal

My staycation is over, and it didn’t work out the way I’d hoped. That’s probably because instead of relaxing or getting out of town, I spent the entire time working on Dead Heat. The good news is, I got halfway through my edits. The bad news is, I ignored everything else I wanted to get caught up on, so when I went back to landscaping a little over a week ago, I was plunged into a stress-a-thon trying to get it all done. The lesson I’ve taken away from this is that it’s impossible to balance everything. My only hope is to eliminate and streamline as much as I can.

The big news today is that I have a cover for my stand-alone book, Dead Heat. Steven Novak, who’s done a lot of the Indelibles covers, put this together for me. Pretty awesome, huh?

I haven’t written my sales copy yet, so I can’t give you a knock-your-socks-off description. Basically, the story is about what happens when a dead man risks his chance at a peaceful afterlife to protect the boy who’s become like a son to him from his violent, meth-addict father. It’s really dark, edgy, and intense. In fact, my whole reason for writing it was to spite an agent who said he couldn’t sell Driven because teens wouldn’t buy books that weren’t edgy. In a weird, twisted way, I really owe that guy. Dead Heat is the best thing I’ve ever written. If I had another week off, I could probably have it ready for my copy editors. As it is, I expect I’ll be able to release it sometime in October.

So how does this fit into the Full Throttle series? It doesn’t. I still have hopes to get book 4, Redline, out this year, but Dead Heat was closer to being ready for publication, so I decided to work on it first. I hope all of you who are waiting for Redline will bear with me.

The other thing I’m working on, when I have time, is nailing down my brand a bit better. I’ve been wanting to put a website together, but I needed some ideas to get started. Indelible and branding expert Ali Cross helped me hammer out a tagline, and I’m working on getting a logo designed. I’m really excited about moving forward on this because I have all kinds of bonus material I want to present when I publish Dead Heat, and the free WordPress format is pretty limiting. One of my goals for this year is more interaction with readers so I can make my fictional worlds come alive. Now that I’ve figured out what doesn’t work as an indie author, it’s time to cast all that aside and start working on the fun stuff.

Posted in News, Writing | Tagged , | 12 Comments

A Time for Re-evaluation

Today is August 20, one year, seven months, and sixteen days since I began to entertain the idea of self-publishing. One year, two months and eighteen days since I took the plunge by uploading my first book to Smashwords. I feel like I’ve been running wide open ever since (no pun intended). That’s a long time to be operating at full throttle, and let me tell you, it’s exhausting. I’m out of fuel and looking at ways to change things so I can slow down a little and do more of what I enjoy. Part of this process is looking back at the last year and a half and evaluating what I’ve learned and how I can do things differently now. I know some of what works and what doesn’t. I’ve set goals and achieved them.

Most of my goals over the past year had to do with teaching. I wanted to present at an SCBWI event and wrangled my way into two, the spring conference and the summer picnic. I wanted to teach at a community college and did so both winter and spring terms through Gladstone school, which operates under the Clackamas Community College continuing education program. I wanted to present at the Willamette Writers Conference, and submitted three potential workshops. The one on ebook formatting was selected. One of my main reasons for teaching was to become respected as a person of authority on the subject of indie publishing in the Portland area. I accomplished that.

But when I look back on all of this, it’s hard to feel any real sense of satisfaction. I think that’s a product of being so stressed and exhausted. There’s no room in my schedule for reflection or enjoyment. When one task is accomplished, it’s time to get onto the next thing because there’s absolutely no way to get everything done, even if I never take a break. I’ve always been known for trying to stuff ten pounds into a five pound bag, but since I started this indie thing, I feel like I have to cram an additional five pounds in there. It’s absolutely insane. That brings me to having to do things differently.

I started my indie voyage with research, and that research led me to believe that certain things are necessary, like marketing and platform building and networking. I did tons of this, both online and in person, and I really wore myself out, not to mention learned to resent just about all of it. But the number one thing I’ve discovered is that indie publishing is still a young industry that hasn’t shaken itself out. The collection of data we have to show whether or not something works is so small it’s not an accurate scientific sample. What we take for a cause and effect relationship may, in fact, be coincidence. Beyond that, what works for one person doesn’t work for another, and what’s successful for one book might not be for subsequent books. The people who’ve been doing this longer than I have all say the same thing: the best marketing you can do, the best use of your time, the best way to get noticed, is to write your next book.

But every time I try to evaluating my life, what’s working and what isn’t, what I want to do and what I don’t, I draw blank. I look at the things I’m doing and it doesn’t seem that there’s anything I can cut. I can’t ignore my landscaping clients, and if somebody new calls me, it would be irresponsible to turn them down. I can’t say no to the favors I’m doing, because even though I’m not getting paid for them, they’re trade, and later on I’m going to need the services those people have to offer. I can’t stop writing because—well that’s the whole point of this venture, not to mention, my passion. Where do I find time for the things I want to do—build a website, connect with my readers online, update my blog so it’s visually what I want it to be? And where do I find time for the things I’ve been neglecting the past year, like visiting other people’s blogs, socializing with my friends on Facebook—and most importantly—writing the kinds of funny or emotionally stirring blog posts I used to write. I feel like there’s so much noise in my life, I’ve neglected the things that truly matter to me. And I’m not sure how to get back to where I was.

Normally I take a break around this time that helps me reset myself. But this year, I canceled my usual four-day jaunt to Eugene and the camping trip I take in late August, because I’m afraid to be away from Wee Cat that long. He’s doing really well, for those of you who are wondering, but because he got sick so suddenly last time, and because, several years ago, my cat Newt died while I was on vacation, I just can’t bear to leave him overnight. So what I’ve done is given myself a staycation. I’m taking time off to write and reevaluate things. I’m not sure how it’s going to work out, since I’m already four days into my time off and still feel like I’ll never get caught up with all the things I’ve been neglecting over the summer, but at least I’m making progress on Dead Heat.

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Guest Post: Happy Belated Birthday, Dream Smashers by Angela Carlie

Today I’m doing an interview over on One Writer’s Journey to celebrate Christmas in July. Meanwhile, Angela Carlie is doing a guest post here to reveal her new cover. Take it away, Angela …

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Dream Smashers celebrated her first birthday all alone in March. I’m a horrible book parent and didn’t even throw her a party. To make up for it, I gave her a facelift. I hope she likes it. And I hope her readers like it, too.

Take a look. Isn’t she pretty?

Dream Smashers has needed a new cover for a while now. It’s an important story, but often gets overlooked. The original cover, which I love, wasn’t sitting well with the readers. It even was nominated for a most ugly cover list over on Goodreads. The second cover was an experiment, something I whipped up myself, and not very professional.  I believe this new cover captures the emotion of the story, but also has appeal for the readers. I adore it!

About Dream Smashers:
Letting go is hard to do, but sometimes, it’s all you can do.
Sixteen-year-old Autumn is a human heartache. Everywhere she turns people are stomping on her hopes and dreams. Her mom’s a tweaker. She’s lived with her chain-smoking grandmother for as long as she can remember. Even her best friend has issues. Autumn seems to be the only responsible person she knows and she’s sick of putting up with it all.

When she meets Evan, a hot guy without a worry in the world, she can only wonder if he’s for real or just another Dream Smasher.

A girl who no longer wants to care and a boy who cares enough for the both of them. Dream Smashers is a love story, but most of all, it’s about letting go.

Thanks to my good friend, Megg Jensen, for inspiring me to get ‘er done, and Rashelle Workman who referred Megg who then referred me to the cover artisan Steven Novak. Go check him out. He’s awesome.

Dream Smashers is available on Amazon Kindle and wherever else eBooks are sold.  It may take a day or two for the new version to be available.

So tell me, do you like it?

Posted in Guest Posts | Tagged , | 2 Comments

INDIEpendence Day: Celebrating Dalya Moon


This INDIEpendence day, the Indelibles would like to celebrate indie authors (self-published and small-press) as a whole by holding up examples of outstanding indie works. The 25 Indelible authors all believe that amazing works of fiction can be found in indie novels. By highlighting and bringing greater awareness to quality indie books, people find great books to read, indie authors get support, and we continue to change hearts and minds about the gems that can be found among self-published and small-press novels.

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I discovered my featured author, Dalya Moon, when I downloaded her book Charlie Woodchuck is a Minor Niner (now simply called Charlie) from Amazon this spring. As soon as I read the sample, I was impressed. Dalya is one of those indie authors who sets a great example with her well-written and carefully edited books. The voice is excellent, the characters quirky and charming. Charlie is every bit as good as the traditionally published novels I’ve read.

Charlie  is about a high school freshman who causes a stir when she signs up for wood shop (something girls are not allowed to do) and is admitted to the class because of her boy’s name. Though Charlie bucks the trend at her school, she doesn’t come by the role of rebel easily. She struggles in her shop class and questions her decision. As she works her way through the year, developing the reputation of a student activist, she’s also preoccupied with unraveling a family secret about her birth.

One of the things I liked about the book is that it’s set in the ’80s. Dalya paints a great picture of the decade, highlighting both the music and the culture, and at several points I found myself feeling nostalgic or groaning over the references. If you want a fun, thoughtful read that steps outside the realm of the paranormal romance that dominates the YA shelves these days, give Charlie a try.

Dalya was pursuing a traditional path with her second book, Practice Cake, when she decided to self-publish her “trial run” book Charlie on a whim. She had plenty of entrepreneurial skills from her consulting business, including experience with graphic design, HTML code, marketing, and creating spreadsheets. Once she learned the ropes with Charlie, she began to wonder whether she’d be better off handling the publication of Practice Cake herself. She pulled it from consideration with a literary agent, put it up on Amazon, and since then has published four other books. One thing I admire about Dalya (other than her obvious writing skill) is that she’s so professional about every aspect of her publishing. Indie authors like herself will be the people who one day cut through the stigma and stereotypes of self-publishing.

Here are some facts about Dalya from her website:

Dalya Moon, author and writer, lives on the west coast with her husband and two cats.

She’s a proud auntie to three energetic nephews and one darling niece.

When she’s not writing, Dalya dabbles in art: painting (acrylics and watercolor), pottery (wheel and hand-building), paper cut-outs, and gluing things to other things.

Some random facts about Dalya:

  • Looks really good in hats.
  • Was obsessed with drawing the Easter Bunny as a child.
  • First job was washing dishes at a truck stop.

Dalya answers the three questions everyone asks writers:

How do you write?

I used to write longhand, but I’ve switched to the computer, for speed. To deal with distractions, I use the Pomodoro Technique, which means I’ll set a timer for 25 or 50 minutes at a time and turn off instant messaging.

When do you write?

I write all day long. I’m a night owl, so my day doesn’t start early. On a first draft, I have a target number of words I want to write every day. I’m very stubborn, so setting a specific goal works great for me.

Most days I’m excited, other days it’s hard work. When I come upon a scene where something upsetting happens, I feel sick in my stomach for the character.

Where do your ideas come from?

I buy them from a mail-order place.

Just kidding!

All my stories start with just one small piece, be it a title, an emotion, a setting, or a what-if type of question.

My idea for Charlie came from wishing I’d done something memorable during my first year in high school, which is pretty abstract. Woodworking popped into my head, so I ran with it.

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To check out all the other INDIEpendence Day authors, visit the Indelibles blog and see the linky at the bottom of the INDIEpendence Day post. (Sorry, but WordPress is not cooperating with me about posting the code here directly.)

Posted in Featured Books | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Playing it Close to the Vest

When I set up a Facebook account and started blogging back in fall of 2008, I knew from the beginning that as an aspiring YA author, I’d have to be careful about what I posted. Swearing, sexual references, and joking about drugs or alcohol could potentially alienate my audience. I also elected not to say anything overtly religious or political. While others staked out their territory on Facebook by filling in the blanks for religion and political party, I left mine blank. A friend of mine did me one better, and her response is the best I’ve seen. For “politics” she put “just as private as my religion,” and for religion she put, “just as private as my politics.”

For a long time I felt a little uncomfortable about my stance of neutrality. After all, if I have a belief, shouldn’t I own it? But I’ve mulled it over a lot lately, and I think my position makes sense. And not just from a business perspective. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying people shouldn’t voice their beliefs publicly. That’s their right, and I understand the need to feel like part of a community. I just wonder if they realize the full ramifications of what they’re doing. Do they really want people to make snap judgments about them based solely on who they voted for in the last election or how they choose to worship? Is anyone’s personality really that cut and dried?

Probably every one of us has at least one friend or family member with drastically different religious or political views. And yet we accept them in spite of it. This is because we got to know the whole person, not just a single label. No individual is as simplistic as the stereotype of one group. We’re all a wild and crazy hodgepodge. Even within the walls of a single congregation of a single denomination of a single religion, there will be vastly different takes on dogma. And each member of each splinter group of each political party has her own nuanced take on various policies. I have friends on both sides of the political fence and of various spiritualities. When I think of what I’d have missed out on by jumping to conclusions, I’m so glad I sat back quietly and watched long enough to discover who these folks really are.

It only makes sense that people on social networks want to connect with those who share similar beliefs, and Facebook makes this particularly easy with its groups. But lately I’ve noticed that the names of some of these groups have become increasingly controversial—even insulting. They seem to be titled specifically to get a dig in against the opposing viewpoint. And why? Just so people can feel all buddy-buddy and superior? But at what cost?

I suppose it’s human nature to have an us vs. them mentality. It probably comes from our very early days, when anyone outside our own tribe was a threat to our existence. But just because we’re wired that way doesn’t mean we can’t override the circuitry. And really, why are these subjects so important, anyway? Think about all the TV shows and movies you’ve watched in the past week. Of all the books you’ve read. Chances are, you couldn’t pigeonhole the majority of the characters into any particular religion or political party. And it doesn’t really matter, does it? It doesn’t affect how you care about them.

For a moment, consider Harry Potter. Of all the things we know about him, of all the things that are important to his character, the one thing that makes absolutely no difference is whether his political leanings were liberal or conservative. Just something to think about.

(This post was cross-posted from the Indelibles blog.)

Posted in Musings | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

The Artemis Rising Blog Hop

Author Cheri Lasota—On the Magic of Ebooks

Ebooks: either you love ’em, you hate ’em… or you publicly adore paperbacks and secretly gobble up ebooks when no one’s looking. As the years pass, I notice more and more die-hard paperback fans falling in love with ebooks. This is to be expected as ebook prices drop, the world is becoming more budget-conscious, and e-readers become more feasible and convenient when traveling, etc.

I publicly adore ebooks and have for many years. I see a potential with ebooks that paper books just cannot touch.

Immerse yourself in the experience

Ebooks have the potential to engage readers more. Enhanced (interactive) ebooks are just beginning to make a splash. They work incredibly well for nonfiction and once easier, more advanced platforms become available, the ease with which we can design enhanced ebooks will make them more mainstream. Truly, e-reader technology is still “growing up.” To design a quality ebook, it still takes authors and publishers quite a bit of skill with coding and graphics.

Some examples of interactive “enhanced” content

  • Audio files of the author reading or speaking
  • Hyperlinked glossaries or links to websites
  • Video that offers background or new knowledge in a more engaging way
  • Graphics/maps

What is effortless on the web with plugins or widgets takes much more time and effort with an e-reader. But new platforms are hitting the market, which allow for drag-and-drop capability. This is a welcome evolution. Often when we see poorly designed ebooks, it’s because a budget was not in place to account for the learning curve inherent in the process. This is changing. And it’s changing fast.

Learn the technology

Often readers and writers will shy away from the e-reading experience. There are many reasons, but one is that they simply don’t wish to learn to use a new device or reinvent the wheel. They don’t have to learn anything to sit and read a paperback. This, I’ll grant them. But soon will come a day when e-reading will vastly eclipse paper-reading. It is inevitable and when you look at the statistics of how fast we’re moving in that direction, it can be staggering. I think the last statistic I read was that within five years, e-books will amount to fifty percent of the market.

We are all surrounded by tech-savvy friends, family, and colleagues. Have them show you what this e-reading thing is all about. Borrow their Kindles and Nooks and see how they work. Decide after you’ve used one what you think of e-readers…instead of before. You might just be pleasantly surprised.

You can order the paperback on Amazon.comBuy.comBook Depository, and Barnes & Noble.

Watch Dr. Veronica’s interview of Cheri Lasota on the Author’s Forum

To continue on the blog hop, please click here to jump over to  Lucas Beechinor’s blog.

Posted in Featured Books | Tagged , | 4 Comments

My Wee Cat

This is Wee Cat. His real name is Keelan, but that became Kiwi and then just plain Wee. He’s my BCF (Best Cat Friend). I’ve had lots of cats, and many of them have simply been cats (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But Wee is different. He’s one of those who bonds with you, adores you, becomes your kitty soul mate. (I know—he’s supposed to be aloof, right?) Pets tend to show us unconditional love, something we can’t help but respond to, yet some are better at this than others.

On the night of March 11th, I’d just wrapped up some marketing stuff and sat down with Bob to watch an episode of Family Guy on our DVR. The day had started out sort of difficult as far as my work on Driven was concerned, but had finished up on a more positive note, and I was feeling confident. Even happy. And then Wee Cat started making this horrific wail in the back room. When I went to see what was wrong, he threw up. He’s thrown up plenty of times—with my cats, it’s practically a competitive sport. But the howling this time was different and disturbing. He stopped, though, and like most of us who don’t want to think anything bad can be happening, I told myself he was okay. I went back to watching TV. A few minutes, later Wee came into the main room of my office and stretched out behind my desk chair. Not his typical laid-back flop, but something that bordered more on a collapse. He stretched out on his side, drooling and panting, eyes wide. I yelled at Bob to find the number for Dove Lewis, the emergency vet in Portland, and while he fumbled around for a phone book, Wee started shuddering. Not a seizure, exactly, but like he was in a lot of pain. I remember this moment so precisely, and it’s like a knife every time it comes back to me. “Hurry!” I yelled. “I think he’s dying.” In that moment, I honestly thought I was watching one of my best friends leave me. It was so sudden, so shocking, so utterly out of nowhere, and I can’t begin to describe what it did to me then, or when I think of it now.

Bob found the number for VCA, which is another emergency clinic much closer to us, and we rushed Wee there. An X-ray revealed blood in his belly, so we consented to emergency surgery. At 1:30, three hours after we arrived, we went home. I didn’t really sleep. Every time I started to drift off, I went to a better place, a place where my cat wasn’t dying, and then my mind would pull back into consciousness where this horrible, shocking reality was taking place. The jolt of it was so awful it was better just to stay awake—stay where it was real. The vet called around 3:30 to tell us Wee was still in surgery. They’d found a mass between his pancreas and spleen that the surgeon was trying to remove, but the blood supply to his intestines and stomach was involved. Up until that point, we had hopes he’d maybe just swallowed something that had perforated his intestines. A dangerous situation, but one that could be fixed. Now we were looking at a worst case scenario. How could life go from happy to this in a few hours?

Another call told us Wee had made it through surgery but was critical. The tumor wasn’t like anything the surgeon had seen, and she couldn’t remove all of it. Over the next twenty-four hours, I dreaded another call, visited Wee twice, and tried to get used to the idea that my cat very likely wasn’t going to be in my life much longer. My Wee Cat who sits in my lap or lays across my legs or wedges himself between me and the back of the chair when I write. My Wee Cat who can’t comprehend that there’s not room for him and a laptop in my lap. My Wee Cat who looks at me like I’m his whole world.

Wee loves to snuggle when I’m writing.

Wee was in the hospital for three days, and once he got over the worst of it and was taken off the heavy meds, it was clear he was terrified. He’s a very timid cat with anyone but me and Bob. His last night there, I hated having to leave him, seeing how scared he was—the way he jumped every little noise. The next day I brought him home, even though he wasn’t completely ready, because I knew he’d do better without all that stress. He did do better. I didn’t. Taking care of a sick kitty who needs twenty-four hour supervision is a formidable task.

The night he came home, Wee put his little paw on me. Broke my damn heart that he wanted so much to be near me.

I slept on the floor with him (something he loved because one of his favorite things is to lay on my legs) waking up every time he moved. The first night, he tried to sit in my lap and his 8” incision started leaking, which made for a frantic call to the vet. That was when I learned he was supposed to be kept from climbing around and jumping on things. Ever try to explain something like that to a cat? The second night, he started licking his staples. In the time it took me to go into the other room to feed his brother, he’d turned one around and started opening the incision. Up until then, he’d shown no interest in the staples, so we didn’t have a collar on his neck. I put it on him, and because it was too big, got about three hours sleep that night. Even though he didn’t mind it much, he had a terrible time navigating. He couldn’t get into the litter box, which he desperately needed to do because they’d pumped him full of fluids in the hospital. I had to lift him in and out, being careful to grip him under the legs and chest so as not to hurt his belly. That meant sticking my hand right in a fresh puddle of cat pee. The next morning, we trimmed the collar so he could deal with it better, and he was okay until he decided to start jumping up on the desks. The collar made that almost impossible, so one of us had to be with him every moment to lift him up and down.

I spent a total of two weeks sleeping on the floor with Wee, living a roller coaster existence where I’d watch his every whisker twitch and be filled with relief or dread based on how he was doing at any given moment. Through all this, I kept writing Driven. I let myself slide on just about everything else, but I didn’t back off with that. And somehow, I managed to get my butt over to the Oregon Writers Colony E-Publishing Workshop to give a presentation on social networking with Stacey Wallace Benefiel.

For the first eight of those days, I stayed with Wee around the clock, leaving him only for a half hour here and there to take a shower or a walk while Bob watched him. Stressful as that was, there was something beautiful about it, too. And there was a part I marvel at—how a human being can be so stressed, so scared, and still reach deep and find an incredible well of strength right where you thought there was nothing left. There’s something sacred in those moments. Something words can’t touch.

The biopsy didn’t come back until the following Tuesday. Ten days of wondering whether it was cancer, telling myself to be ready for the worst but wanting to expect the best. Ten days of just not knowing what to feel or think or hope. The report came back with a diagnosis of pancreatic duct cystadenocarcinoma. Don’t bother to Google that. You won’t get any real hits. It’s a rare form of pancreatic cancer that tends not to spread the way the common form does, but none-the-less is cancer and will come back. The oncologist estimates he has 3-6 months to live without chemo and 9-12 months with chemo. He’s actually a very good candidate for treatment, but because they couldn’t remove all of the tumor due to its involvement with the arteries to his intestines and stomach, he’s at risk for having another bleed if the cancer erodes away those blood vessels.

Thirteen days after his surgery, Wee took a dramatic turn and started acting like his old self. I attribute this to him recovering from his crisis. He’s looking really good these days. But that’s deceptive. Now that I’m past the point of fearing that Wee is going to die today, I’m left with the challenge of figuring out how to deal with the fact that he’s going to die soon. There was a brief window of calm and acceptance. A gratitude that the crisis was over. But now I have to look at him knowing that I can’t ever relax and let go of my knowledge that he’s dying. How do I delight in the joy that he’s still here, and at the same time envision a world without him? How do I look at my happy, loving boy and imagine what it will be like when I’ll never see him again?

Wee is naturally cute.

I’ve lost cats before, but it was always in a more gradual way. There was a fear that their condition might be terminal, but no certainty. Now I know for sure. I don’t know when, and I don’t know how. He could have another bleed, which would mean I’d have a matter of minutes or hours to say goodbye, or he could go more slowly, giving me days to lavish him with my final love. I’m the type of person who considers denial one of the best tools for dealing with life. That’s how I cope with having a husband eighteen years older than me. It’s how I’ve gotten through the last couple of years knowing Wee was approaching the age at which I’ve lost most of my cats.

Wee loves his mommy.

I’ve had this little guy for almost twelve years, and I can’t imagine a world without him. But for now, I just go on loving him every day. When I was discussing chemo with one of the vets, I said if I went that route, it would be for me, not for him. He doesn’t know he’s dying. He doesn’t care. The vet agreed. “He’s here today,” she said. And I’m not sure she knew how comforting those words would become. I say them to myself all the time.

He’s here today.

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