Animals on WIP Wednesday

woman-at-the-piano-with-cockatoo-by-gustave-lc3a9onard-de-jonghe-1870My friend and fellow Bluestocking Belle Caroline Warfield is fond of owls, and is thinking of putting one in her next book. She comments that she has had sheep, goats, a dog, a cat, horses, and a number of chickens, but not an owl.

My books have been relatively deficient in animals. One heroine’s daughter had a pet rooster, I wrote a short story about a pet cat, and horses are common. I had wolves in another short story, but they didn’t stay wolves for long, and were not pets. And, of course, The Raven’s Lady has a raven in it.

But animals feature in two current works-in-progress.

  • In my novella for the Belles’ holiday box set, I have a kitten. The housekeeper’s cat has produced a litter, and several of them will pop on in various stories in the set.
  • And two horses feature in the novel I’m writing at the moment: the heroine’s colt, which she has to leave behind when she escapes her bullying relatives, and the canal boat horse, Daisy.

Do any of your stories have animals? Share them here, in the comments. Here’s my kitten from The Bluestocking and the Barbarian.

When he left his chamber, three gold tassels depended from the front of each boot, and proved a tempting target. A kitten darted out from under an occasional table when James stopped to close the door behind him, and took a flying leap at the tassels, as James discovered when he felt the sudden weight.

He took a careful step, expecting the small passenger to drop away, but it buried its claws and its teeth into its golden prey and glared up at him.

“Foolish creature,” he told it going down onto the knee of the other leg so that he could reach it and remove it, carefully lifting each paw to detach the tangled claws. “These gaudy baubles are to attract my lady, not a fierce little furry warrior.” He lifted the kitten in one hand, and held it up to continue his lecture face to face. “Now where do you belong, hmmm? Have you wandered off from your Mama? Do you belong to this house, I wonder, or did you come with a guest?”

The kitten squeaked a tiny meow.

“No, little one. I will not put you down to chew my tassels, and to trip one of the great ladies or be trodden on by one of the gentlemen. You are a pretty little fellow, are you not?” He tucked the cat against his chest and rubbed behind its ears, prompting a loud rusty purr incongruously large for the small frame of the kitten.

Focused on the kitten, he was still aware of footsteps approaching and looked up to see Hythe, who looked uncomfortable in a tight fitting jerkin over short ballooning breeches that allowed several inches of clocked stocking to show between the hem of the breeches and the thigh-length fitted boots. The short robe, flat cap, and heavy flat chain gave a further clue, and Hythe had tried for authenticity by stuffing padding under the jerkin—a pillow, perhaps?

“Henry the Eighth?” James ventured, half expecting Hythe to walk past without speaking, or make another intemperate verbal attack.

Instead, the younger man nodded. “My sister Felicity picked it. Er… I wanted to speak with you… I owe you an apology, Winder… Er… Elfingham. My sister Felicity told me that… Well, the fact is I made an accusation without checking my facts.” Hythe nodded again, clearly feeling that he had said what he needed to say.

“Very handsome of you, Hythe,” James said.

Hythe ran a finger around inside his collar, flushing slightly. “Yes, well. The thing is… You will tell Sophia that I apologized, will you not?”

Ah. Clearly Sophia had expressed her discontent.

“Sisters can be a trial, can they not,” James said, and Hythe warmed to the sympathy.

“Just because she is older, she thinks she can…” He visibly remembered his audience. “Sophia is of age, and will make her own decisions. But I think it only fair to tell you that I have advised her to wait until after the hearing at the Privileges Committee before she makes any decision.”

James inclined his head. He could understand Hythe’s position. He hoped he could persuade Sophia to ignore the advice. Time to change the subject. He held up the little kitten.

“Do you happen to know where this little chap belongs?”

Hythe flushed still deeper. “So that’s where he got to. He… ah… appears to be mine. In a way. The housekeeper’s cat had kittens and this one seems to have adopted me. Little nuisance.”

But Hythe’s hands were gentle as he took the kitten from James, and he tucked it under his chin, his other hand coming up to fondle the furry head.

“I’ll just put him back in my room so he doesn’t get in anyone’s way.”

Hythe retreated back down the hall. James could not hear individual words, but from the sound of his voice, he was giving the kitten a loving scold. And James had managed to have what almost amounted to a conversation with his intended brother-in-law. He would count that as a win.


9 thoughts on “Animals on WIP Wednesday

  1. I have…actually a stray cat in my latest book WATCHMAKER’S HEART. He acts….sort of an alarm for the hero:

    Something shifted in the bushes lining the base of the staircase. Something moved in the shadows and Mortimer paused, laying a hand to the pistol concealed in his coat. “Who’s there?”
    A cat emerged from the bushes under the windows. Yowling, it curled itself around Mortimer’s ankle. He snorted and knelt to scratch the calico’s ears. “Bathsheba, what are you doing?”
    Cold steel slipped to his throat. “Come to beg your favors, no doubt. Cats don’t have no taste.”
    Mortimer glanced over his shoulder. A man with a broken front tooth smiled back at him.
    “Aren’t you going to invite me in? Ah, hands where I can sees ‘em,” his assailant said, bearing down on the knife. “We should ‘ave a little talk, mate.”
    Mortimer sucked in a breath and shifted his hands away from his hidden pistol. *Just what I need!*

    The cat hissed angrily and Mortimer couldn’t help but echo the feeling.

    Watchmaker’s Heart is available at Amazon:

  2. I have a series in progress where one of the orphans collects waifs including a one eyed cat, a three legged dog, a rat, a robin, several frogs and a donkey rejoicing under the name of Rocinante. Eventually she will grow up enough to have a book of her own featuring several motherless children, their pets and several horses. I a m considering the introduction of a goat as well as a long-suffering peacock.

  3. There are no owls in this one, but this is what the Earl of Chadbourn found when he first encountered Songbird Cottage.(from A Dangerous Nativity)

    He walked down the lane bathed in contentment, drawn by the need to absorb the place’s serenity and order until barnyard chaos upended his fanciful notions. He had stumbled onto a domestic crisis. He chuckled as he went.
    Piglets ran in several directions, while a goat charged up the hill toward him, eyes wide with panic. Two boys ran in circles trying to catch rioting pigs. The more they ran, the more they sent a flock of geese into a frenzy of honking and feathers. A dog barked frantically on one side, only to run to the other and bark more. In the center of the chaos a woman stood, one hand raised above her head and the other holding her skirts above the confusion.
    Will’s vision narrowed to the woman. Tall and serene, she put him in mind of Athena, striding above the fray to command calm. Intense longing for her serenity, for her strength, and for order filled him. For a moment, he could think of nothing else.
    Frantic bleating brought him back to earth. The goat pelted up the hill toward him. He caught the piece of rope dangling from a loop around the animal’s neck before it could charge past him. The panicked beast sent Mercury skittering to the side. A hard yank brought the bleater to an abrupt stop, and a gentle hand and soft voice calmed it. He could see that the rope had been violently torn from a longer piece. There’s a story here, he thought, a smile twitching his lips. He led the goat down the lane trusting his horse to follow.
    “Enough!” Catherine shouted. “Quiet.” The dog at least obeyed. Her youngest brother, Randy, skidded to a halt and glanced at her sheepishly while he shouted, “Behind you, Freddy. There’s one behind you!”
    “Frederick, stop this instant and look at me.”
    The older of her two siblings stopped his gleeful pursuit reluctantly and turned to look at his sister.
    “But the pigs, Cath, I—gore!” Freddy exclaimed. His eyes widened, fixated on a sight past Catherine’s shoulder. “That’s a fine beast.”
    Catherine spun on her heels and gasped. A man—and a fine specimen indeed—stood not ten feet away. Tall and broad shouldered, the man exuded the unmistakable confidence of the upper classes. Sunshine did interesting things with the lights in his soft brown hair and his eyes… She found herself momentarily at a loss.
    “This animal belongs to you, I presume?” the man asked. His deep rich voice rumbled through Catherine’s bemused distraction. She looked up at the huge bay stallion following the man as meekly as a lamb, opened her mouth to deny it, but caught sight of the ragged rope in his hands. He had dragged her irritable goat home.

    For more on the book:

Love hearing from you