Much (I think!) to my husband’s chagrin, I am a cat person. I always have been and I always will be. Without boring you with too many details, let me just say that cats have always been a big part of my life.
Before moving on, let me also assure you that this post is not just about cats, so please bear with me.
Back in 2007, a beautiful gray cat with white markings got it into his head that he wanted to be a part of our family. We already had a cat—a sweet black Manx kitty with more health issues than you could shake a stick at—and another part-time kitty (let’s call him Old Faithful) who stayed in our house when it was cold but enjoyed the outdoors the rest of the time. Oh, he liked our food too. (Old Faithful spends a lot more time with us as he’s gotten older!)
But this gray kitty—a skinny little guy we affectionately called Dusty—refused to just be a visitor. I’ll never forget it. It was October, and I was still a smoker (good news—I quit the next year), so I was having my morning cigarette and coffee on the back porch before getting ready for my day. It was pretty chilly—a cold wind was blowing through the backyard and I could feel fall settling in for the long haul. As I puffed on my cigarette, I saw this gray cat approaching me, one who’d visited a time or two before, and he meowed and meowed and meowed but I wasn’t going to let him in. Later that morning, that damn cat was at the front door, meowing and meowing and meowing to be let in. We discussed it and decided, “Why not?” And he fit in perfectly with the family. He was sweet and, if ever there was a cat who felt like an old soul, it was him. We were convinced he was already seven or eight years old, but when we finally got him to the vet, we found out he was only about a year.
That cat…man, did we love him. He was a huge part of our life, and I even had another cat literally rip me to shreds (so much so that I needed emergency medical care) when I rescued Dusty. But he loved us and we loved him, and he was with us through a lot of big parts of life.
A couple of years ago, though, he started coming home less and less. You see, after our Manx kitty passed away (a cat we rarely let outdoors because, when we adopted her, she had been declawed and I was afraid she wouldn’t be able to defend herself), we took the “if you love it, set it free” approach. We let our cats come and go as they pleased. We didn’t want to be like a zoo, holding our pets in captivity for our own pleasure. Yes, that has meant that some cats have never come back, but our focus has been on quality of life. (Yes, even for a cat!) At first, I was worried. I was certain that something bad had happened to him. After all, he always came home at night. As I hoped, he returned all right, but the times he came home grew further and further apart.
I still see Dusty now and again—about once a month, if I’m lucky. You see, he’s discovered a greener pasture. Some neighbors across the street have adopted him and, as much as it has broken my heart, I’ve had to let him go. He’s alive and well cared for and that is all I ever wanted for him. Yes, I miss him, as do my kids…but I don’t want to force him to stay. It violates my “if you love him” rule, and locking him in the house would only be for my own selfish purposes. Instead, when I see him, I stroke his gray fur, tell him I’ve missed him, tell him I love him, and wish him well…inviting him to come back again soon.
In June of this year, our next door neighbors sold their house. We were saddened by it, because a lot of our really good neighbors have been moving, people we’ve developed relationships with, but we also know how much it means for them to move to places they want to be. Anyway, the folks next door had adopted a cat when they moved in—a pretty orange cat with the softest fur I have ever felt and the sweetest disposition ever. In fact, I always called him aggressively affectionate. Anyway, they adopted him, this kitty who’d just been kind of a neighborhood cat before, a pretty fella my daughter has always called Spice (I’m not sure why) and he’d been their cat for years and years. The neighbors were getting ready to move pretty far away and they were moving into the mountains. The mom of the family asked me if we’d keep Spice fed and watered if he stopped by, and they would come get him later on. So I did. I started putting bowls of food and water on our front porch, and sure enough, Spice started visiting often. In fact, he started sleeping in the bushes just out front and would come greet me whenever I came out, whether I had food or not.
The neighbors never came to get him and he has since moved into our home and our hearts. Old Faithful is still with us too (as well as a cat we call Fluff—long story). And Dusty? Well, I saw Dusty in mid-November, and he ran across the street like a bat out of hell to come over but he didn’t stay.
2013 was the last year he was a regular part of my household. 2013 was also the year Bullet was published, a year that made me more well-known than ever before, the year that made me think, “Hey! I could retire doing this!!!” It was amazing, and I made more money that year than any other year in my life. I could go on and on about it, but let’s just say that, for this humble, hard-working gal, it felt like why I’d been working my tail off my whole entire life. I’d already been getting to know some of my readers, but then I got to know more and more of them, and seriously…my life online felt like a never-ending party. The follow-up to Bullet became my second bestselling book, as did book number three in the series (becoming my third bestselling book), but not a single book ever, before or after, did as well as Bullet, and my sales today have settled down and are very similar to what they were when I first started out as an indie writer.
For the past year, I’ve whined and moaned and groaned about my numbers; I’ve struggled, trying to understand; I’ve done all kinds of “stuff,” trying to figure out how to get back where I was. I certainly can point to a lot of factors that I know got me there in the first place and why I can’t utilize those same strategies today. I can get angry or upset or sad, but none of those things will change what has happened or why, but let me tell you what I am changing today.
I am going to stop whining about it. Here’s why. Bullet is like my Dusty. Bullet and the attention it garnered (and, most importantly, the readers it brought) were so welcome and loved and made me so happy, but if I keep dwelling on those glory days and the people who read and loved that book but have never read anything else, I am, in effect, ignoring my Old Faithfuls, the readers who were with me before and are still there, and I’m also ignoring the Spices, the ones who came around during or after and have chosen to stay. If I keep crying about Dusty, how the hell does that make Old Faithful and Spice feel? It could make them feel unimportant or unloved…and if you’re one of my faithful, loyal readers and you’re reading this right now, I want you to know that you are important to me. Yes, I miss Dusty, but it doesn’t change the fact that YOU are STILL HERE. You are in my life and reading my work, and crying about the readers who have left does nothing for you. So, from here on out, I am celebrating all of you—all of you who have been with me, who read my books, who share them with others…those of you who have never stopped believing in me. I want you to know that I am here to stay. I will continue writing for you, and I want to thank you for your continued support. May 2016 be your best year ever—because it’s going to be mine! Thank you sincerely and from the bottom of my heart for your continued support. Thank you for being my Old Faithful.