cats, children's fiction, Fantasy fiction

Warriors Update: Omen of the Stars

Warning: I am breaking all my rules about no spoilers. I just have to.

Also, this is probably going to be an extremely long post. Pull out that comfy sofa and grab some tea and biscuits, and a box (or two) of tissues.

Last night, I finished reading The Last Hope, which is the final book in the Omen of the Stars series, which is considered the last “regular” series of Warriors. (Really, it wasn’t, because there were already many plans for super-editions, and the prequel, Dawn of the Clans, which answers a lot of questions about the beginning of this society and its ways.) Anyway, the point is, in Omen of the Stars, storylines and character arcs that have been going on since either at least the Power of Three, or even the very beginning, are resolved.

I hadn’t really planned on reading through till the end of the book last night, but I hit a point where I just couldn’t stop; it was time to find out what happened. And yet, I’d really been dreading reaching the end of this series. For some reason, I found myself outright resisting reading too fast, or too much of one book at a time. I just…didn’t want this storyline to come to an end.

Just one of the many, many fantastic fan-imagined art images you can find by spending (way too much) time on Google.

This is most likely why I spent so much time looking for all the images I included in this post…

Okay, am I actually going to start reviewing now?

Throughout Omen of the Stars, it’s clear that a lot of things are coming to a head. There is an evil enemy gaining power, the Dark Forest cats. They are the cats that were just real, complete (read unprintable swear words here) in life, and when they die — quite often in bloody battle — they don’t go to a nice, peaceful afterlife (which is StarClan) — they go to (makes sense) the Dark Forest.

(Dovewing and Ivypool) If only it could always be like this…

As we read through the Power of Three, we’ve been introduced to Lionblaze, Jayfeather, and Hollyleaf, who are siblings (from the same litter, so, littermates). There’s a prophecy about a trio who will rise to become more powerful than any other cats in living memory, and it’s so that they can defeat this terrible enemy. Because there were three in this litter, it’s just assumed that all three complete the prophecy. (Remember what I said about breaking my spoiler rules? Hold onto your hats, everyone; this is just the start.) Turns out…the prophecy is not that simple and clear-cut.

Lionblaze and Jayfeather are part of the trio; the third is a cousin of theirs, Dovewing. They all have special abilities and skills, apparently from birth, and they hone them to become the greatest threat the Dark Forest has ever seen.

And they’ll need all the help they can get. There are several formidable warriors on the villains’ side, and since they died, they’ve been stewing in what they see as wrongs the Clans did to them. So, the bloodthirsty desire for revenge has been growing; and of course, there’s nothing but time for these lost souls…

Oh my gosh, look! …Where was I? Sorry, just admiring the fan art again…

So, of course, the Dark Forest tries to trick otherwise loyal Clan cats to join the wrong side of the Great Battle…

And the worst part, for me, is that StarClan, which has always watched over the living cats, and not let Clan rivalries divide them, has let the Dark Forest encroach even on that.

One of the major issues throughout the books is the fact that the warrior code — which is basically their laws and regulations — is shown to have some pretty big flaws, and it creates tension not only between the Clans, but within the Clans, too. It means that if you belong to, for example, ThunderClan, you can’t take a mate from, say, RiverClan. But do cats from different Clans still fall in love? Of course. Do some cats take huge offense to that type of thing? Oh, my, yes.

A perfect example is when Tigerstar (think WORST GUY EVER) came to power, back in The Prophecies Begin. He decided that all “half-Clan cats” (meaning mixed parentage) didn’t deserve to live. (Yes, I’m talking genocide.) So, needless to say, he had to be stopped. However, it raised the very important question — how many cats kind of agreed with him that half-Clan lineage was dangerous to the society as a whole?

Gasp… Thank you so much for sharing your creations with us, guys, seriously.

So, I completely love it that Lionblaze and Jayfeather are in fact half-Clan themselves. And Dovewing’s grandfather (Cloudtail) actually started out life as a kittypet. That’s right, he was born to a housecat and then he grew up in the forest and became a warrior. But to many, that makes his origins and his blood tainted — and then his granddaughter is one of The Three! Well, guess what — kittypets are more than good enough for StarClan!

This is the other thing Tigerstar hates: kittypets. Since Firestar, one of the best leaders ThunderClan has ever had, was born a housecat (Cloudtail is his nephew), Tigerstar has had it out for Firestar from day one. And since The Last Hope really states a lot by its title, you get the idea that not only are The Three going to be majorly needed, but, chances are, so is the cat that was once prophesied to save all the Clans.

(Yes, we mean Firestar. Of course we do. To me, this was really a no-brainer. Some of the other cats are really shocked by just how important a former kittypet is to the salvation of their families and civilization as they know it. A really good lesson about not judging a cat by his origins.)

The all-powerful trio first alluded to in the Power of Three series.

So, as we draw closer to the Great Battle… As a reader, there were a whole lot of cringe-worthy moments. For example — as the Dark Forest (literally) gets their claws into nice cats, and tries to turn them, figuring out which ones may be traitors, and may not be, became priority number one. There were some cats that, if they turned out to be traitors, it would simply have broken my heart. (And of course that of the other characters… Er, really, I know it’s just a story…)

The other big thing was needing StarClan to get it together. In StarClan, there aren’t supposed to be boundaries, enemies, grudges or resentments. There are no separate territories to fight over; no reason to remember your differences. It’s all one big hunting ground, and the cats who lived noble, honorable lives — and that’s most of them — get to enjoy each other’s company and watch over their descendants and the friends they left behind. So when StarClan split, it was devastating. The living cats needed them more than ever, and… Oh, my gosh…

Both sides poised for battle!

But here comes in a very interesting thing (that I honestly didn’t think was that big a deal): the Ancients. (Wow, was I wrong.)

The Ancients are the cats whose descendants formed the Clan system. Their history has mostly been told through Jayfeather’s experience (and some time travel moments worthy of Star Trek). But in The Last Hope, there are some major players from that group that really step up to the plate, in the present time. Just amazing.

And, yes, StarClan gets its act together. Never doubted it. (Okay, for a bit there…)

A montage of some of the big plot points from the other series.

All of the information in the last 4 series have been leading up to this point…

From The Prophecies Begin, when Firestar receives his nine lives from StarClan.

And so, we finally reach the Great Battle…

Before I get into the outcome of that: This is literally what I think of the Dark Forest leaders. (I have never sworn so much while reading juvenile fiction.)

  • “Mapleshade, you witch!”
  • “Darkstripe, you bastard!”
  • “Hawkfrost, you a—–e!”
  • “Brokenstar, you wanker!”
  • “TIGERSTAR!” (read unprintable words here)

Begin major spoiler alert:

Hollyleaf, a lost but not forgotten warrior, who more than deserved a chance at redemption.

Hollyleaf thought she’d naturally be the third cat in the prophecy, since she was Lionblaze and Jayfeather’s littermate. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the truth. And being half-Clan really wrecked Hollyleaf. She made some very bad decisions, and ran away from ThunderClan, and was believed to be dead. Not only is she not, but she saves the lives of others in the Great Battle.

Get the tissues out. There was so much crying last night…

Since I generally only have time to read when Muffin is in bed or eating, I usually end up reading late in the evening or very early in the morning. Sometimes, this means I have to keep my feelings about a twist quiet, so that I don’t wake other family members.

Sometimes at 6 a.m. in my house, you might hear shouted out, “YELLOWFANG RULES!!!”

Last night, the tears flowed freely, and my husband asked me why I kept talking to the book.

(Totally worth it.)

Yellowfang came back to defend her adopted Clan in grand style. The Ancients were just awesome. Warriors like Whitestorm and Longtail and Honeyfern returned from their afterlife to kick serious evil feline behind. So…much…crying…

And Spottedleaf…oh, my, Spottedleaf…

Firestar and Spottedleaf, dear friends in life, dear friends forever.

Spottedleaf and Firestar were close friends — okay, almost more than friends, but Spottedleaf was a medicine cat, and she was supposed to not take a mate or have kits, in order to serve her whole Clan and treat every single cat as family. It’s a medicine cat rule. I think it’s kind of an unfair rule. But Spottedleaf chose to abide by it completely, and she never acted on the love she felt for Firestar. There’s a lot of honor in that. Firestar respected her decision; plus, he fell in love with Sandstorm. It all worked out. And after Spottedleaf died, she kept visiting Firestar in his dreams to help, warn and guide him when he became leader. What she wanted most for him was happiness.

So, when it came time to save Sandstorm…Spottedleaf made the ultimate sacrifice.


Firestar and Sandstorm, great mates for all of Firestar’s lives.

More tissues, please.

It was time for Firestar to move on. We all saw that one coming. But it doesn’t feel tragic. It feels right. The Dark Forest was defeated; some of its leaders utterly destroyed (and, man, did they deserve it). A new day dawns for the Clans; so much has been lost, but so much resolved, forgiven, and it’s been proven that they can go on.

As I watch my own kittypet (his name is Toby) sleeping so peacefully on the recliner, I can’t help but wonder, if there really was a Clan system in the woods behind our neighborhood, would he join it, become a warrior, defend their way of life? Would those cats welcome him? Even make him a leader?

The majestic leader of Thunderclan, Firestar.


cats, Encouragement

How To Get Through Life Like A Cat

Take the road less traveled. Sure, it’s tempting to go down the path others have already been on for ages; the pawsteps before you are clear and easy to follow, and most of the dangers that may come, you’ve been warned about. But nothing will make up for what you’re supposed to do in your own life, for jumping onto the path destiny has set for you and you alone, regardless of whether it’s planned or prepared or expected or not. Don’t worry too much about what others think you should or shouldn’t do. Find your own road, and proudly put your pawsteps on it.

Remember to play. Chasing that butterfly or leaf is valuable. It reminds you to let go of worry and fear; you can’t control the world, you can only control how you react to it. The sun may not always shine, the butterflies may not always be in the mood; but keep memories of those times in your heart, and bring them to your mind when the wind is cold and the dark is frightening. The playful moments will come back.

Sometimes we all just need to sit in the grass. When it’s a warm, lazy summer afternoon, and the desire to lie in the grass and roll on your back and splay your claws outweighs the obligation to change the litter box or fill the food dish, you have reached pure serenity. Take advantage of it. Revel in it. The duties will still be there later; and guess what, maybe they can wait.

Stop and breathe. Don’t think so much about that impending rainstorm or whether your humans will remember to take you to the vet for those shots, that you forget to appreciate that comfy couch or the fact your fellow cat let you have his treat the other night. Life is not always a bowl of shrimp; so we need to decide to live calmly, with dignity and confidence. Keeping your head is only for the better.

Get yourself a chair that fits. Don’t automatically try to squeeze yourself into the worn out lawn chair they’re throwing out next week, because it seems the couch and the beds are always taken up by human kittens or a laundry basket (that sleeping in means getting yelled at). Don’t think you have to settle for less than the best just because it seems to be the only option. Dig a little and discover an unused corner of a closet where you can knead an old afghan into the right position, or the top of that shelving in the basement where they store the camping supplies. Find what works to give you a little bit of heaven.

Naps are important. We keep telling our humans how much they need their sleep — and how much we need ours, and somehow they don’t quite get it. Sleep brings rest to muscles weary from climbing trees, soothes frayed fur, and rejuvenates our ears and tails, so we can maintain that amazing balance and awareness of our surroundings. We imagine it provides similar benefits for humans. So, everyone, nap.

Whatever you’re facing, you can do it. You are stronger than you think. Don’t just hide behind the garage or in the bushes and wait for another cat or a human to come chase away that neighbor dog or the nasty crow trespassing on your turf. Bristle up that fur and raise your voice in your most intimidating yowl. You have it in you; the blood of lions and tigers runs in your veins. Don’t forget it.


Autism, cats, children's fiction, Fantasy fiction, movies, reading, Science fiction, writing, Young Adult fiction

My Writing Influences

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Good morning, everyone! Per the poll on my Twitter account, oh, only about a hundred months ago (no, really, about a week, I think), I will be selecting the next few blogging topics based on the feedback from those of you who actually read these posts!

The top choice was *my writing influences*. So, I present you with the answer to said subject. (Disclaimer: I did warn you ahead of time that you asked for this…)

Cats. And other animals, but a lot of cats. The tricky thing about trying to write about animals is that, as humans, we can only get inside their heads so much. Or, so I believed.

For a long time, I’d wanted to include talking animals in my writing, and my attempts fell flat. Then I started reading Warriors by Erin Hunter. I’ve waxed poetic plenty about that series in other posts, so I won’t go full throttle here, but suffice it (for the sake of this topic) to say that it completely changed my mind on what was possible.

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Mythological creatures and tales. Since I was old enough to read on my own, I was hunting down stories of the ancient Greek legends, Grimm’s fairytales, and pretty much anything involving unicorns, dragons, and mermaids. I gobbled up almost everything I could find centering on all the species of faeries and animals that don’t exist. I’ve adapted what parts of the legends work best for my story when it comes to The Order of the Twelve Tribes.

Music. I do have a writing playlist (which changes to fit with my current WIP). As those of you who have read Masters and Beginners will know, I’ve placed song lyrics at the start of each chapter throughout the novel. These are homages to my playlist while I was writing/editing Volume 1. So, that will be different in each installment. But it gives you a pretty good idea of what I’ve been listening to.

My previous life in England, and all the English authors I’ve read since forever. Charles Dickens, Peter S. Beagle, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, JK Rowling — it’s a kind of a small miracle there are any American authors on my shelves. (And, yes, there are a few.) But these Brits developed my craft, the type of pacing I follow, the use of (hopefully) clever humor, and reinforced my passion not just to tell a story but to tell it well.  

And since I spent 4 years in Great Britain, I’m just used to thinking in both American and the Queen’s English at the same time, and so many of my characters started morphing into people who originally came from London/Cornwall/Oxfordshire/Edinburgh, and I didn’t fight it.

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Doctor Who. I would flat out be lying if I claimed my writing hadn’t been influenced by Doctor Who. (I have at least three TARDIS references in Volume 1 alone, for the love of Gallifrey.) And while it may seem a bit too ambitious, I truly hope that some day, in some way, I can create something on a parallel with the beauty of some of the early episodes of the show’s reboot.

Warehouse 13. If any of you have seen that TV show, you’ll probably recognize bits of the Warehouse in the Annex, and the sort of structure of the Regents in the idea of the Council and the Order’s hierarchy. (And this is as close to spoilers as I get, I swear.) I’ve had a few really favorite programs, but few have truly stayed in my heart as much as DW and WH 13. 

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Theories on lost knowledge or cultures. Again, for those of you now familiar with the plot of Masters and Beginners, you’ll know that I’m fascinated not only with the mythology and legends of different civilizations, but you may have noticed that I’ve dug pretty deep to find some unique twists for my story. My ideas about the origin of faeries and the Nephilim are actually not completely my own; they’re developed from some very old (think the Middle Ages) and rather obscure Celtic and Hebrew lore. But I took the jist of a lot of research and bent it and molded it until it was shaped like The Order’s world.

Autism. It’s impossible for me not to see life through the lens of autism. And since I’ve read about 62% of the YA/fantasy novels ever printed, I can tell you with some authority that there really aren’t that many healthy, realistic depictions of autism out there. So I decided to write my own. In Volume 1, I’ve introduced not one but two characters on the spectrum (one it’s stated early on, the other will probably be a surprise to most of you). In Volume 2 and beyond, there will be a much greater focus on them.

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My furry angel. You’ve all seen this picture by now, as Toby is my muse for the artwork on the series. (Feel free to ooh and aaw over his cuteness.) Having a real life model for cat behavior was very helpful for putting together the characters of Jules and Sammy.

Pretty pictures. It sounds almost trite, but if you think about it, it’s really important to surround yourself with beauty when you’re hoping to be creative — especially when you’re writing about really serious things like discrimination and losing loved ones and staring down your own imminent demise. (And here you thought I was just writing about fun and glittery faeries and talking cats!) It helps to remind you that — as Samwise Gamgee would say — there is good in the world, and it is worth fighting for.

So, there we are! I hope this appeals to your sensibilities of what you wanted to know about what influences my fictional work! Don’t forget to put a specific question for me in the comments for next week’s post, Author Q & A!

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Autism, blogging, cats, community, Fantasy fiction, humor, Mental Health, reading, writing, Young Adult fiction

Things I Don’t Like About Writing

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Okay, I know I’ve whinged all week about the impending start of NaNo… But I just can’t help myself. Also, due to my participation in NaNo, my appearances on this blog may be a bit irregular in November. Everybody, follow me on Twitter, because I’ll be popping in there, and eventually I’ll get new posts out here (I promise, don’t throw things at me).

So, today, before I force myself to be really positive about this whole experience, I’m going to be a mardy mandolin, and espouse about the things about writing that bug me.

For example, shipping. For those of you who aren’t aware of this book blogging term, “shipping” means reading a book and deciding which characters you think should end up as romantic couples. I have rarely done this while reading, and most of the time I just go along with what the author has established, because, hey, it’s their work and they know it best, right?! Turns out this is not the case. There are still tons of readers in the book-blogisphere who, in fact, aren’t necessarily happy about Ron and Hermione in Harry Potter, or about how people paired off in The 5th Wave trilogy, and apparently hearts are still breaking for fans who desperately wanted Bella to be with Jacob (Twilight) and for Katniss to be with Gale (The Hunger Games).

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As I write my characters and their plans/interests/goals, I am far more practical than trying to figure out who they’re in love with. I am much more concerned with how their family will view their choices in life, how their decisions will affect their career or relatives and friends, and whether they need to change their major or their fashion style. Not their boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe it’s because of the autism spectrum thing, but I am self-admittedly terrible at determining that two of my characters are a perfect love match because of the wooziness and risking everything for each other and all the emotions. 

So, I’ve already decided that my readers will be shipping for me. Seriously, the beta readers I choose for the rest of the series can give me feedback on who they think should be together and the whys. It’s just better that way.

Real life getting in the way of creating a literary masterpiece. Okay, this probably isn’t a novel that will be a gold standard of fantasy/YA fiction a century from now. But to me it is the entire world, and when I desperately need to reach a 1,000 word count by the end of the day, I don’t need to care that I had pretzels and minestrone soup for breakfast, or that my children may not have had a veggie with their supper. Someone else can take care of the pesky things like paying bills and tidying the kitchen and letting the cat out of the basement.

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Crafting the villain. This is one that probably many writers can relate to. You want your antagonist to be believable, but still an evil (insert bad words here), and you don’t want him/her to be cliche, super-scary but yet not impossible for readers to connect to their motivations/reasons for committing the horrible things. Voldemort is a great example. He was terrifying, and yet you could see that he thought he was doing the right thing — in a very sick and twisted way. The villain you love to hate.

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After reading Warriors, I have a few really good examples of villains to look to — Mapleshade, Thistleclaw, Hawkfrost, Darkstripe, Brokenstar, and definitely Tigerstar. (Look up my review of Warriors: Omen of the Stars for the details of my feelings on these particular devious beings that totally deserved to wander alone forever in the Dark Forest.) Ahem…

Obvious plot holes slipping through my fingers. This is exactly why I take notes when I write. There are scraps of paper on my desk/kitchen table/forehead that make no sense to anyone but me, but that’s all part of the plan. As I edit my draft (which is already on its 57th incarnation), I see another missing piece every day. ARGH!!! I mean, at least I’m catching them now before I’m heading to the printers…

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This is the first time I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, and I’m certainly not doing it alone (waves to all the fellow bloggers also freaking out right now). I’ve got my outline prepared (mostly), and supplies like plenty of pens (even if I have to steal them from other rooms) and extra paper (hey, White Fang won’t need all of it for school), and plenty of PAW Patrol on TV these days to keep Muffin occupied.

So, please keep me in your positive thoughts and well wishes as I undertake this craziness. And if, on December 1st, you happen to come across me looking like this…

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…just bring me a fuzzy baby swamp dragon and tiramisu. I’ll perk up soon enough.

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blogging, cats, family, humor, The Invisible Moth

Furtration Nation


Definition of “furtration”: When a cat is experiencing extreme frustration with his or her owners, lifestyle, habitat, or, really, anything.

“Once upon a time,” thinks my cat, “my life was so simple. Get some food, have a wash, go curl up on the couch or bed of my choice.

“Then the small human came along.”

The baby. And then the baby began crawling…and then walking…and getting into everything. Including the cat’s food, water, tail, paws, ears…

“Now I have to look all over for my food. Who knows where they put it this time? The countertop? The table? Over there? Up here? What the heck, people!

“Forget about sitting on the couch without being disturbed. I had to sleep in the basement for a month! The basement, folks!

“Now at least they let me go in the bedrooms again. They just shut the doors. Luckily that little terror isn’t tall enough to reach the knobs. Ha!”

The Polecat has come up with some creative ways to get a little peace and quiet. If I leave a closet open (so that Muffin can play with the coats — hey, don’t judge me), when Muffin goes down for nap, and I forget about said open closet, Furry Boy will soon be visible asleep on the pile of coats on the floor. Win, win, he thinks.

In the basement, he found a bunch of old sheets and curled up in those. (Now they’re covered with cat hair. Whatever; we just used them for painting the kitchen.)

Now that spring is here, the Polecat will simply be spending more of his time outside. And he is allowed to roam much farther than the toddler is, so getting out of arm’s reach won’t be difficult.

Finding his food can be a challenge. Sometimes I have to pick him up and carry him to the dishes, which we placed somewhere off limits to Muffin, like the bathroom, or the room with all the Legos. (White Fang and the cat are bonding a little over their shared dislike of the grabby toddler stage. Not all that long ago, White Fang was the one to avoid. Now he’s an ally in the battle of Keeping Away From the Runt.)

Hang in there, Furness. I promise it won’t be this way forever.

“And the cat’s in the closet and a silver spoon, Little Boy Blue in demand of a horn…” (Wait, wasn’t it a cradle? Whatever; it works.)