Cats and First Sentences

This past week I have been babysitting my daughter’s cat. Isabella Rose is a sweet brown tabby. My daughter watched Perry once for a week, so Izzie knows Perry and they get along fine. At one point, I thought Perry was in love with Izzie, but that ardor has cooled and they are just “parallel play” buddies, like toddlers. The other day I let Perry go in the bedroom alone with Izzie because I was busy and thought he would babysit her for awhile. Hah!

When I went back to look for him, I couldn’t find him anywhere. I started to think the gardener had let him out of the bedroom and had forgotten. I searched the whole house. Nada. Then I remembered something. The bedroom was once his bedroom when he was new to our house. At that time, he clawed a hole in the bottom of the box springs so he could climb up in there.

Sure enough, I found him up under the bed. With the boards and the fabric bottom surrounding him, I thought he was stuck up there. If you want to see a very dark video, check out my Instagram. If you have an account, please follow me, and I will follow you back if you “like” Perry’s pic/video (so I know you’re legit haha).

Come to find out, Perry just didn’t want me to take him out of Izzie’s room. He got out of there just fine when he wanted a treat.

Before I let you go, tell me if you think this is an appalling first sentence for a chapter (because I do):

The first hint of fall filled the crisp late afternoon air.

It’s boring, but that’s not the problem I find with it. What the heck is the “first hint of fall”? Huh? WHAT specifically fills the air. I can’t imagine it. There is no image so of course I can’t imagine it. Is it a smell that fills the air? A sound? Please share it with me, writer.

I discovered this annoyance in Rita Mae Brown’s Tall Tail, one of the cat mystery series Brown writes with Sneaky Pie Brown (her tabby who MUST have passed on by now). It’s a Bantam Book and Brown is a big-ass writer. Years ago, I read her influential lesbian novels Rubyfruit Jungle and Six of One. She’s a good and prolific writer, but I’m really appalled at the poor editing (on the part of an editor?) that would allow this sentence to go to press.

Why am I sharing my frustration? I tend to think that if the book has a big publisher it’s been well edited. But I guess not. This is not my first disappointment of this nature either. Is this a new development in the world of books or have I not noticed it before?

OK, done, time to think about other things.



Love and light to you and yours!




Filed under #AmWriting, Books, Cats and Other Animals, Editing, Writing

55 responses to “Cats and First Sentences

  1. Beautiful picture. I love when cats get along. I have three who sleep in front of the fireplace when it’s going and it makes me feel so “Currier and Ives” especially at this time of year. I agree with you on the sentence. Hint wasn’t the right word or maybe the sentence should be different. As for editing, did you read any of the Fifty Shades of Gray books? Only got part way through the first one. The writing was atrocious! I couldn’t believe that an editor let it through. I have a lot of respect for editors. I edited a friend’s book once and never again. It was disjointed and very hard to explain to her tactfully. She was self publishing. I would expect that Rita Mae Brown has the best of the best when it comes to editors.

    • I have not read any of those books. I believe you! A famous book that is poorly written but compelling anyway is Still Alice about a woman who gets alzheimers. So I finished that one! Yeah, “hint” of WHAT? Love the Currier and Ives image! Merry Christmas, Kate.

  2. Val

    I have a problem with a ‘hint’ being able to ‘fill’ something, but other than that am okay with it. I assume it’s the smell of the leaves as they turn – they have a (to me, wonderful) smell about them that gives away the season.

    Perry has found an interesting place to hide! I’m not surprised, though,that you managed to entice him out with a treat.

    Happy Christmas, Luanne. And I hope you have a wonderful 2019 with all you wish for it.

  3. Merry Christmas to you and your family Luanne, including the beautiful Perry. I don’t mind the sentence, particularly if it was followed by some nice description, but I do often wonder how some books are published as the writing seems so bad!

    • I see what you mean: so that the hint would set up for the next sentence. But it doesn’t, unfortunately. And a waste of words, if you ask me (you didn’t haha). Merry Christmas to you and yours, Andrea!

  4. Agreed: Show don’t tell…first rule of writing teachers everywhere…

  5. I enjoyed the cat story more than the first sentence

  6. Merry Christmas to you and your family, Luanne. xo

  7. I so agree with you on the first sentence. Elmore Leonard stated in his rules of writing, “Never open a story with the weather.” You have pointed out is why he made that rule. Merry Christmas, Luanne.

  8. I loved Rubyfruit Jungle and Six of One, but I’ve never read any of Brown’s Sneaky Pie books. I recently had a similar experience with one of my most favorite authors, someone who has 14 novels under her belt now. Anyway, I wonder where her editor went to because this latest novel wasn’t nearly as well-written as her earlier ones. I suspect that once an author starts turning a profit for the publisher, they just go with whatever the author sends in. I’ve been feeling that way about a lot of best-seller books for a long time now. 🙁
    Happy Holidays, Luanne!

  9. Don’t you just love all of their little hiding places? The IG video was wonderful! I look forward to seeing more. Merry Christmas to you, Perry, and all!!

  10. I’m too tired to care about that sentence – but I’m sending you and Perry and everyone else loads of happiness for Christmas and all the days beyond. <3

  11. I agree with you about the first sentence, Luanne. I feel harsh, being critical like this, but since you asked what we think, I have to say I agree.

  12. I’m glad the cats get along. As far as appalling sentences–I’ve seen worse. At least it has nice alliteration. 😉 I want to know what the next sentence is–does it explain? Merry Christmas to you and yours, Luanne!

    • The next sentence does NOT save it! I’ve seen worse, too, but it started out the chapter so I really noticed it. ICK. Merry Christmas to you and yours, too, Merril. xo

  13. I’m in the same boat as Pauline. Too tired to make a reasonable comment. I’ll be thinking about it all day as I prepared the feast of Christmas. Merry Christmas, Luanne. I can see I’m going to learn a great deal here.

  14. Love and light to you and yours as well!

    It took me months to figure out my tiny kitten was crawling under the scrollwork on the desk legs. One of those things where you can’t even vacuum in there, need the slotted attachment, but she’d crawl under there and sleep under the bottom drawer. One day I was frantically calling for her and out she wriggled. I was so surprised! I’m glad you knew where to look, the panic is real!
    (Also the first time I truly understood how mice and bugs compress to gain access.)

    Opening the door, I felt a shiver of goosebumps and picked up the early, earthy decay of leaves gathering around my old maple tree.
    I’ve written worse things, and I’m sure I could edit the crap outta myself, but yeah, if you’re gonna describe, please evoke.;)

    • The panic is so real. And ever since Sloopy Anne got out that one time, I am pretty OCD about it. I was fully prepared to camp out all night to protect her from coyotes!
      Yes, SO MUCH BETTER! Thank you for understanding!!!

  15. The first hint of fall is always a leaf that has turned yellow but is still attached to its branch. So the sentence is quite substantive. In those few words, the author has the narrator declaring him or her to be a very small insect crawling on a yellow leaf: the leaf is so much larger than the insect that the leaf seems to the insect to “fill the air”. Perfectly straight forward, and conveying much in a few words.

  16. I meant to write “himself or herself”.

  17. Love and light to all of you, Luanne – Perry looks primed for the New Year!
    I was equally appalled by the editing done by my university press, too. The whole process was frustrating, and I actually found that my smaller presses paid at least as much attention to the editing as the large press. Go figure. While I am, as you would imagine, a huge fan of Rita Mae Brown, I was never able to read her later work. I heard her speak many years ago at a fundraiser in Charleston, South Carolina and while I wasn’t writing back then, I have to admit I have modeled my speaking attire after what I remember about her snazzy outfit minus the elegant watch and jewelry.

  18. Hi Perry! I have been thinking about you and wondering how you are doing. Hoping that your next year of life will be wonderful too!

    • He is such a hoot! He’s been driving us nuts in the mornings with his antics, but in the afternoons he sleeps in such cute positions! I will tell him you said so!

  19. fivecentsmatter

    That would be the scent of cinnamon apple candles in the air!

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