posted on July 31, 2013 by Jean Johnson

Authors, Cats, & the Chairvonian Wars (aka Tweet Inspiration)

HellfireDon’t get any cats.  Just don’t.  Get some goldfish instead.  Or guppies.  Guppies are very quiet and peaceful.  They float, wiggle their fins, open and shut their mouths, and in general are colorful but restful creatures.  They’re not as much fun to Tweet about, but…

Well, okay, 1 or 2 cats might be okay.  But for the love of concentration, don’t get 4, and don’t get any kittens or hyper cats.  Or rather, as I like to call them on my Twitter feed, Combat Advance Troops.

It all began with my cat, (just 1 cat), an aging feline named Kitty by her previous owner.  I could give her more room in my home, more time for love & cuddles, and so her owner gave her to me.  After the rough initial week of getting used to each other, Kitty gradually melted…somewhat…and stopped being quite as grouchy and crotchety to me.  (Notice I said “quite as”, given that she still has a somewhat crotchety, grumbly persona.)  Since welcoming her into my home, I’ve had her in my life almost 3 years now, and we know each other and get along quite well.

Except for Chairvonia.

It took me a long time to get my Combat Advance Troop (unit 1) to stop attacking the arms of my office chair.  She’d stretch up and dig her claws in and strrrrretch downward.  When she did this, it wasn’t the furry paws tickling my elbow or the threat of claws near my skin that bugged me.  Nope, it was the little ridges and bumps her claws left in the armrest which annoyed me to no end, because it felt like I was resting my forearm on sandpaper.  *sigh*

A few months after Kitty came into my life, I got a Twitter account (@JeanJAuthor), and was trying to think of something to tweet about.  I’m not the sort to tweet #justpickedmynose #yesIwentthere #cmonyoudoittoo type things.  No, I wanted to share something interesting and witty…and that’s when Kitty reared up and started her claw-prickle-stretch attack on my chair arm.  *headdesk, sigh*  “Kitty, stop tha–”

*IDEA!*  She was an invading soldier attacking the…the, uh…the Sacred Seat of Authorial Buttocks, Chairvonia!  So I started tweeting about her, because the idea amused me, and if something amuses me in a literary sense, I tend to run with it.  While snickering.

Best-Scratching-Posts-CatsThat’s when “cat” evolved into Combat Advance Troop.  It made sense to take things in a militaristic bent, because I was working on my military science fiction series at the time.  (Militaries are full of acronyms and abbreviations, but I have mercifully kept them sparse in my novels.)  So her little cushion-padded box next to my keyboard became her “diplomatic quarters” on the “desktop heights”…and we would have moments of détente, even peace…and then moments of outright warfare, where I’d have to get out the “hydrocannon” (water spray-bottle) and chase her out of Officeland.

Then I got roommates to help make ends meet…and that’s when I got Combat Advance Troops 2 & 3.  They were a younger set of cats, just into their adult years (which for cats is around 2 years old, then it slows down to a speed of aging 3 or 4 years for every 1 human year), a brother and sister team.  At first I named the boy-cat unit 2, but then got them mixed up and swapped around so that he was called CAT unit 3, and have carefully stuck with that ever since.

Unit 3 gets into trouble from time to time.  He’s a cross between a scrapper and a scaredy cat, and when he swings toward the former, he keeps trying to assert his combat skills and battlefield dominance with drill displays, mock-battles, and so forth.  Unit 2, his sister, will then assert her own authority from time to time, and…

…Notice how at this point I’m not getting as much writing done?  I’m busy watching Combat Advance Troops involved in hissing fits and territory-warning growlings and…

But still, it was fun, and since units 2 & 3 (yes, they have names, but they’re not my cats so I’m not exposing their identities online) mostly fought off in the front half of the house, away from my office, I could get enough work done.

Then the brother of one of my roommates had a change in his living situation, and he needed a place to temporarily board his cat, preferably not a kennel since kennels are expensive and he was in the middle of getting a job.  Now, I love cats.  I certainly wasn’t going to force him to give up his cat while dealing with all of that…so I agreed to take in unit 4.  Combat Advance Troop unit 4 is a spastic lovebug of a teenaged boy-cat with the memory span of a flea, who doesn’t understand Personal Space, Territorial Boundaries, or that older cats Just Don’t Want To Play As Much.

The Chairvonian Wars were on.  Ohhh, how they were on.  If he wasn’t trying to explore the Desktop Heights (the exclusive territory of Kitty, er, CAT unit 1, who is an experienced, polite diplomat-cat), then he was trying to conquer Dining Tableland or exploring the absolutely forbidden, do-not-even-go-there zone of the Kitchen Countertop Mesas.

Did I forget to mention that at this point, I was the only one home?  Oh yes, my two roomies had taken off for a vacation.  4 CAT units.  1 Human to wrangle them.  Deadline & Concentration = Tossed Out The Window.

Don’t get 4 cats.  We all treasure the image of the writer typing away at his or her keyboard, a sedate, graceful, elegant cat curled up on a window seat nearby, purring as the grey light of a rainy day lets everyone know how wonderful it is to be an author and a cat inside a warm, cozy study…  Yeah.  That ain’t happening.

It certainly didn’t happen here.  This was taking place all over the house in the middle of a heat wave.  No, no peaceful cozy study or quietly productive office; I got a ramped-up warzone instead.  I was so happy to pick up one of my roommates from the airport last week (the one with the brother, owner of unit 4), because when we finally got home, she provided wonderful new-person distractions for unit 4, and I was finally able to get a lot of writing done in one solid block, without worrying so much about things being knocked off shelves or hearing the hisses and growrrrs and even the thwapping of claw swipes and accompanying rawrrrls every hour or so.

Or just cringing in anticipation of *crash* *kerthump*  *RARRWW!*  *hssssss!*  *scamperscamperscamper*  and having to join in the chaos with shouts of “DOWN!”  and “Oh, no, you di’n’t!”  and *squirtsquirtsquirt!* and the *thunk* of the door shutting on Solitary Confinement for a while, aka Bathroom Penitentiary, following the worst repeat offenses.  (Where he had water, food, and his very own litter box; I don’t believe in making the little dears do without.)

Now both of my roommates are back, providing an extra body for distraction and cat-wrangling (cat-herding, even)…and…  They’re still fighting in Officeland.  Not as often as before, but it still happens.  And while Combat Advance Troop unit 1 has ceased most of her stretch-attacks on the sacred armrests of Chairvonia, unit 4 has started doing it, among everything else.  I actually had to reload the hydrocannon (spray bottle) at one point.

I’m not a cruel tyrant; I’m not a total despotic dictator.  I’ve snuggled with the spastic lovebug, and petted him, and praised him whenever he’s done something good.  He does have his sweet moments, and he’s one of those rare cats that assumes everyone will instantly be friends with him and give him pettings and snugglings.  But he has far too much energy, and seems to think I’m the one he should expend it near.  I try to burn it off by giving him the Red Dot of Doom (laser pointer) to chase down…but as the RDD is the avowed enemy of all Combat Advance Troops everywhere, pretty soon I have all 4 units trying to guard against the swift-flying menace as it swoops along carpets and halfway up the walls.  3 & 4 do the most chasing, while 1 & 2 tend to anchor certain points along the routes.

…Aaaand I’m not getting any writing done while doing that, either.  But I am getting in some good quality giggling time.  Guppies would definitely be more restful and would allow me to write in peace.  Provide them with some plants and some rock formations, dust tiny pinches of food twice a day, listen to the soothing burbles of the aerator pump…

However, I wouldn’t have nearly as many entertaining Tweets to post online.  But seriously, 4 Combat Advance Troops is just too many.  As soon as roommate’s brother has a place of his own, unit 4 will get shipped out to explore and claim his very own territory, with no other competition and all the love of his true owner to be lavished upon him.  I may give said owner a hydrocannon to help him defend his own Chairvonia, but I’ll miss the little spastic lovebug.

When I’m not writing.  Unless it’s a Tweet that’s been hash-tagged #ChairvonianWars.


P.S.  TL;DR version, You can always find inspiration for entertaining posts just about anywhere, whether it’s for Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, or any other blog/chat/whatever.  I’m sure if I had guppies in a fish tank, I’d be doing some sort of Jacques-Cousteau-submarine-adventures style Tweets, and chatting about swapping out little sunken castles and new types of plants, and…  Just don’t get a bunch of hyperactive cats if you want to write anything longer than a Tweet, that’s all I’m sayin’.  Enjoy!


Jean Johnson

Jean Johnson

Jean Johnson currently lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest, has played in the SCA for nearly 20 years, sings a lot, and is currently teaching herself to play the violin. She loves flirting, sewing, cats (though not necessarily flirting with cats who can sew), cooking (but not cooking cats), and has a distinct sense of humor. She also hopes to live in a castle some day...but only if it has decent plumbing, central heating, and internet access.

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