Bodie and Morris

For the Love of Critters

October is adopt a shelter dog month, and today is World Animal Day, so it’s a stellar time to talk about my dog, Bodie, and my cat, Morris. Bodie wasn’t adopted from a shelter like Morris, but he was rescued from a very bad situation. Both of them rescue me from the doldrums of life.

I call Bodie and Morris critters, as does my protagonist Rowan Layne. My furry companions star as themselves in the Other Worldly novels, in which I’ve had literary license to determine various flora and fauna on Earth that actually originated on another planet, star, or—like domestic cats—hailed from another galaxy entirely.

As Rowan says in Alienable Rights, we humans with feline companions probably could have deduced that about cats. In this first book of the series, we also learn that dogs originated on Sirius, or Alpha Canis Majoris, as in canine or the “dog star.”

It makes sense. My novels are about aliens among us and the extraterrestrial within us all. How many folks often feel like they have aliens living with them in the guise of their beloved critter companions?

My adopted dog and cat are so much a part of my daily life of writing that I use their photo for an author headshot. Primarily because I haven’t invested in a professional photo shoot, and it could be a generational thing, but I’m not fond of taking selfies. These days, my critters are decidedly more photogenic than me, and offer endless opportunities for funny photo moments.

That’s the great thing about pets, they gaze at you adoringly, or with flattering curiosity, as if you are the most beautiful and fascinating creature in the universe—unless you’re late serving up breakfast or dinner.

Then again, their obsessive focus can also be a hindrance when you’re trying to write. Yet Morris and Bodie are a big help with my craft, given they provide antics that readers can resonate with. So it’s actually quite appropriate for them to star in my novels and be photo-featured on the back covers.

Morris the kitty, after all, makes executive decisions about what should go in the next chapter, or next novel, by chewing up my notes. And walking Bodie brings inspiration for action scenes.

You never know what ominous clouds might be hiding, or what those mysterious murmurings portend. My pooch can be just as skittish as I am when it comes to loud noises, or that sensation of being watched. Not coincidentally, Alien Sensation is the title of the currently-in-the-works fifth novel of the Other Worldly series, coming next spring.

The critters are sitting quietly, staring at me while I write, and one has to ponder what Morris is cooking up in that devious feline mind of his. Will he next torture me, or the dog? And how many more times this morning will Bodie insist on being let outside and back in again while I try to draft this blog post?

Dogs and cats, as well as moths, have auditory abilities far greater than humans. If only we could hear everything they did. Not that I’m sure I’d want to. Life is cacophonous enough as it is—for me, and for my protagonist Rowan Layne with her extrasensory hearing. So much so she creates imaginary superheroine Luna Moth Woman to battle heinous humans out to silence her for what she knows, and who she can hear.

When it comes to other animals among us, each Other Worldly novel reveals a few that don’t actually originate from our world. In Alienable Rights, we learn how alien genetically engineered species on Earth are those with sonar capabilities, meaning they can emit ultrasonic frequencies, including dolphins, toothed whales, and bats.

When pressed for unintended results of genetic mutation, a Red Orbiter alien marine scientist explains, “Well, the bat did not turn out precisely as intended. But the beaver and duck-billed platypus are two examples of unanticipated mutations in semi-aquatic creatures.”

Rowan Layne notes, “You can sort of see that in a beaver, what with buck teeth and an obsession with damming water bodies with felled trees. And merely looking at a duck-billed platypus ought to have given us all a clue.”

When Rowan later learns about the origin of antelopes, it’s no surprise. She’d always suspected their elaborately long eyelashes were misplaced. And as for hummingbirds that have chirped at her insistently for years? Tell her something she didn’t know. Also not a shocker, coyotes are alien.

In book three, Aliens Abound, Rowan will finally get confirmation about the origins of armadillos, who she describes as a creature that looks like an armored knight crossed with a possum.

And in Being Alien, book four released last week, Rowan learns more than she ever dreamed about unicorns while touring the Highlands of Scotland. Wait, what? Unicorns are not real animals, you say? They’re fictitious creatures usually depicted as purple and pink and festooned with rainbows?

If that’s true, then why on earth would unicorns be grouped with a variety of our planet’s animals as emoji on my phone? Why indeed.

Mystical, magical creatures abound in Being Alien. And like our beloved dogs and kitties, they may be classified as animals to humans, but these critters are so much more than meets the earthbound eye.


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