I struggle with research. When I set out on this work, my inner voices invariably ask me the following questions: “But aren't you just procrastinating? I could understand it if you were writing nonfiction tomes, but you're writing talking cat fantasies! Shouldn't you be writing chapters or at least brainstorming an outline? How much of this material, if any, is going to make it into the book?”

I always try to answer these voices. If I don't, they just get louder. So these are my standard responses: “Maybe. My books will be better if I know more about cats. All in due time. Perhaps very little. But I believe that even a fact or two here or there will make my book more interesting, more fun for me and the reader.”

So last night I watched Catwalk, a documentary currently streaming on Netflix, all about the cat show world. And I did think of a way it might show up in one of my talking cat fantasies at some point. There's a character, Roxanne, who first appears in The Sharpest Claw (Book 2 of the Cats of the Afterlife series) who may have been a show cat in her last life on earth. In fact, I think she was, and I hope to fit that into Book 3 in some way. I can imagine her in this setting. In Catwalk, these cats fly all over the world for competitions. If they win, they are lifted up by the judge, shown off to everyone, while the judge proclaims, “For me, this is the best cat.” Roxanne would have basked in this attention.

Now I think our three cats are the best cats on earth, but they could never be show cats. In terms of physical criteria, Scooter is a silver fox, but he's nineteen years old with arthritis in his hips. And Indy is jaunty, and I'd say his tuxedo fit him perfectly, but the judges would ding him for extra poundage. Sam would probably be our best candidate. She is petite, muscular, athletic. She has dramatic black-and-white coloring with a Cindy Crawford beauty mark on the left side of her nose. But she would fight back, claws out, with any stranger who tried to pick her up. We are happy when she doesn't struggle with us, and we're her people.

Actually none of our cats would “behave appropriately” in this setting. Scooter hates cages. By show time, he would have lost his voice from yowling constantly to express his dissatisfaction with being confined. Our young cats, Samantha and Indy, bonded siblings, two years old, are known for hiding under the covers if they even hear a delivery man outside. The UPS guy will say, “I have a package for you,” hand it to my husband, and these cats will have hidden themselves away by the third word. Even though that is the end of the transaction and the delivery person is long gone, Sam and Indy will stay under the covers for at least an hour. But the cats in the documentary seemed comfortable and happy. They apparently have the temperament and the looks to live in this world. We occupy a different planet, but it's nice to check in for an hour and take a glimpse of that culture. And I do think it could very well be a part of Roxanne's story later on in the series. Research is worthwhile.