I thought that 6 years after I published my most popular novel, Lost Dogs (recently revamped with the new, badass cover below), that it would be difficult to revisit that book as I write Stray Cats, its sequel/follow-up.
“Difficult” in that it would be hard for me to get back into the groove I had as I wrote it, when I told a tale of two dogs and the end of the world. But come to find out, it’s been very easy.
The main “cat” in Stray Cats is Pimmi. Readers of Lost Dogs may remember her from a scene with Buddy, the German Shepherd protagonist, and Rex, a Border Collie. Rex has caught Pimmi (whom the dogs call a “Scratcher” and–in a derogatory manner–a “Slits,” because of her eyes), intending to eat her. Buddy orders him to let her go:
Rex is there. Waiting. His jaws clamp down on the Scratcher and it squeaks, thrashing feebly. He puts it down, holds it there with a paw.
You Slits like to play with your Prey before you kill it, he tells it, knowing full well it can’t understand him. I wonder why. Maybe it’s just fun.
Who are you talking to? Buddy asks, ambling Out. He goes alongside the barn, lifts his leg. Rex doesn’t say anything.
Well? Buddy demands, back claws raking the Ground. He scents the air. I told you to let it go.
It’s just a Slits—
Let it go.
I don’t let things go once I have them, Rex replies. The Scratcher kitten squirms under his paw.
I’m in charge, Buddy reminds him. You said so yourself.
Rex lifts his paw and the little Scratcher dashes off into the Dark. I’ll just follow its Scent and find it again.
Maybe you will. Maybe you won’t. We’ll wait here so it can get far away, if it wants.
You can’t make me wait—
Yes, I can, and we both know it.
They stare at each other for a long while. Then:
I don’t know why this is so important to you, Rex says.
Well, now we’ve found something you don’t know.
Clever, Buddy. Very clever. Are you trying to play with me?
No, I’m not playing. Now go and find something else to eat.
I will. He starts to head off.
If you catch that Scratcher, I’ll smell it on you, Buddy reminds him.
Maybe you will, Rex replies. Maybe you won’t. I’m not playing, either.
I think you’ll find that the excerpt below from Stray Cats is seamlessly similar:
Pimmi has a Flap.
It’s small—no bigger than Pimmi’s head—and not remarkable—brown on its wings and the top of its head, gray everywhere else—but Pimmi prances into the Home, tail straight up. It’s the first she’s ever caught.
She drops it on the kitchen floor. Tilts her head, admires it. It was hopping along the Yellow, stopping now and then to jab at the ground for seeds. Crouched low not far away, Pimmi held very still, except for the tip of her tail twitching and swishing every now and then.
The Flap didn’t see it, or her, until Pimmi pounced, claws out, batting down the Flap as it launched itself up. It was only stunned for a moment, but that was all Pimmi needed.
It helps that I’m once again using Lost Dogs’ “Canine Vocabulary”–the idiosyncratic way that dogs refer to people, animals, objects, and places–as a basis for a “Feline Vocabulary.”
Buzz: Flying insect of any kind.
Dim: Dawn or evening
Everything: The world; reality
Fade: Death, or to die
Flap: Bird of any kind
I am, though, changing some words here and there (to cats, the word for “cat” is not “Scratcher,” but “Other”). Doing this will, in addition to recreating the “sound” of Lost Dogs, make it easier for someone who’s read the first novel to understand Stray Cats.
I’m also keeping the point-of-view to the main character. Lost Dogs was told through Buddy’s experiences: what he heard, saw, smelled, felt, and thought. Stray Cats is Pimmi’s story, so readers will spend the whole time inside her head, just as they did with Buddy.
Stray Cats does differ quite a bit from Lost Dogs: it’s more of a spinoff than it is a sequel. It will elaborate on Pimmi’s adventures in the previous book, but it will also show more from my novels This Wasted Land and Dragontamer’s Daughters. So, if you’re a fan of those books, you’ll be happy to learn that the main characters from them return in Stray Cats.
The writing’s been fun so far, and I’m making good progress. I’m confident that I can bring you Stray Cats for Christmas. More about Pimmi later, and if you haven’t read the other books I’ve mentioned, you can find them on Amazon.
Kenton Kilgore writes killer SF/F for young adults and adults who are still young. In his latest novel, This Wasted Land, high-school senior Alyx Williams learns that witches are real when one attacks her and her boyfriend Sam, dragging him off to a nightmare world where Alyx must go to get him back.
Kenton is the author of Lost Dogs, the story of the end of the world as seen, heard–and smelled–by a dog. He also wrote Dragontamer’s Daughters, like Little House on the Prairie…with dragons! With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature. Kenton also published Hand-Selling Books to help authors better their sales.
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