A year ago I wrote about a fabulous writing retreat I went to in Old Orchard Beach. Four writers with the same agent and new contracts to write mysteries. What a difference a year makes! Now two of those books are out. Edith Maxwell wrote here earlier in the month. Now it’s Liz Mugavero’s turn. Her book, Kneading to Die, A Pawsitively Organic Pet Food Mystery was published in May.
Here’s a description of the book.
“Maybe the best thing that ever happened to Kristan “Stan” Connor was losing her high-stress public relations job. Now there’s plenty of time to spend in her sleepy new Connecticut town working on her dream: baking healthy, organic pet treats!
Before long the neighborhood dogs are escaping their yards to show up at Stan’s doorstep, begging for the kinds of special homemade treats her Maine coon cat Nutty loves so much. And Stan’s pet-loving neighbors are thrilled with the new organic options available to their furry family members. But not everyone loves Stan and her newfangled organic ways…
Includes Gourmet Pet Food Recipes!”
Liz’s Maine Connection? Maine coon cats, of course.
When I developed the idea for my Pawsitively Organic Mysteries, I knew immediately which of my own cats would take the spotlight as a main character – the Maine coon, of course. In the book, his name is Nutty. But in real life, he’s Tuffy, a stray who turned up one day and never left. It’s not that all of my rescue cats don’t deserve the spotlight. They do. But there’s just something special about a Maine coon, which I know cat lovers – and Mainers – understand.
Tuffy lived in the neighborhood when we moved in. Not feral at all, he was close pals with members of the street feral colony. They had each other’s back. Crafty as he is, I believe he was in charge of finding the next feeder for the group. He had his eye on us from day one, and staked out the house from afar while the moving trucks unloaded, assessing the situation. I imagine the questions ran through his head: Can I get food here? Will they let me hang out on the back porch, perhaps have some shelter in the bad weather?
He must have decided we looked okay, because he ventured closer. I would come home from work and find him sitting on the rock out front, pretending not to notice me as I drove up. He would eat dry food we left out back, but only when no one was around. Eventually, he ventured up to the garage door and accepted wet food. He became chatty, too. But he always took off, back to forage in the woods and chase his feral friend, affectionately named Lion because of his golden mane of fur, around the yard. He would share a spot on the porch (and his food) with one of the neighborhood possums, too, in the evenings. He didn’t have a name yet, because it seemed too soon in the relationship. Instead, he was known as “handsome cat.”
One evening he didn’t show up for dinner. Even though he had no obligation to do so, he always did. It was a sleepless evening. He didn’t show up the next day, either. The third day, he came into the yard as always, but his regal tail drooped. His eyes looked glassy. He came in the house for once and slept on the porch. At that point, he’d already become part of the family, so a trip to the vet was the next step. After learning he’d had some kind of altercation, most likely with a car, he got a pain shot and some special food and returned to the homestead.
But now that he felt better, he wanted back outside. Conversations ensued. He turned a deaf ear. The economics of the situation didn’t move him either, despite the rationalization that every time he went out into the wilderness, the possibility of vet bills rose even higher. Nor did the threat of disease that he could bring back to the other cats, who were strictly indoors. He wanted his way and was determined to get it. He made this known by sitting at doors and windows screaming and howling every night.
So, he got his wish – the option to leave. And leave he did. Sprinted across the yard like he’d been held prisoner for years…and then he stopped. Looked behind him. And turned around and came back. Yes, I know it sounds like a sappy Lifetime movie for animals, but it’s true. He’s been an indoor cat ever since, dubbed “Tuffy” because of his fearless nature.
I’m not one to get fixated on breeds when it comes to cats – I prefer the “rescue” breed. But since Tuffy wandered into my life, I’ve done some research on Maine coons because I’ve found him so delightful. It was lovely to find out that Maine coons are the only cats with U.S. origins – Maine, of course. The rumor is they are derived from Marie Antoinette’s angora cats, who made the journey to America without her. Hence the trend to act like royalty!
They are identifiable by the “M” on their forehead (note Tuffy’s example) and the longest whiskers ever recorded. On average, they weigh 17 pounds and have oversized paws, designed to help them walk in Maine’s snowy winters.
And for the Harry Potter fans out there, remember Mrs. Norris, the Maine coon who caught Hogwart students when they were misbehaving? Typical Maine coon behavior: Self-righteous, in charge, spotlight stealer. But it’s why we love them.
Readers, who has a great experience with a Maine coon? Share it here.
Welcome, Liz, and please extend a welcome to Tuffy from Nefret and Bala (aka Lumpkin and Glenora in my Liss MacCrimmon series). No question–Maine Coon cats are one of the most affectionate and loyal breeds around. And some smart, too.
Thank you! I am looking forward to meeting your fictional babies too 🙂
I adopted my Maine Coon Ashley almost two years ago. She was 11 at the time, and her owner had to give her up when she moved into a rest home. I was told that she didn’t like other cats (at all), wouldn’t sit on furniture or sleep with me, was very vocal and didn’t sit on laps. She sits everywhere except for laps, is very vocal, and has been a wonderful pet. Like Tuffy, Ashley and I had a “I guess you’re OK” moment where she finally gave in and adopted me. A wonderful breed.
Julie, they’re so funny, aren’t they? Nothing happens unless they okay it! Ashley sounds delightful. I’m sure Tuffy would love to meet her.
Welcome, Liz. Thanks so much for visiting us at Maine Crime Writers.
There’s a Maine coon cat in Clammed Up, the first novel in my Maine Clambake Mystery series. It’s a cameo role. Perhaps he’d be jealous of Nutty’s fictional prominence. I got the idea when I attended a real Maine clambake on a private island and spotted the island cat. What a life! I thought. No natural predator and surrounded by people who have more seafood in front of them than they can eat. Hence, Le Roi, the king of the island.
That’s such an awesome idea. I can’t wait to read all about him!
What a lovely coincidence. I am reading your book as we speak and truly enjoying it. A friend we have in common recommended it to me. I am thrilled to ‘meet’ the real Nutty.
Maine Coons are the kings of the cat world.
Wishing you all the best with this series.
Thank you so much! Delighted to hear you’re enjoying the book. I won’t tell Tuffy though – it’s all starting to go to his head!
I never heard of Maine Coons before I adopted a kitten from a shelter. I knew something was up when, at only sixth months old, those paws were huge. When I discovered about the habits of Maine Coons from the internet, I couldn’t believe that a cat could act just like their breed said they would. Murray is seven years old now–a little asthmatic–but at 22 pounds, he’s the big loveable goof that all the literature said he’d be. I couldn’t ask for a more loving companion–except my hubby, of course.
Aww, Jeri, he sounds awesome 🙂 Tuffy is not quite that big, but he’s a good size!
I’ve had two Maine Coon wannabees, i.e. cats who fit the description but aren’t pedigreed. They’re lovely cats. I’ve seen some utterly enormous ones at cat shows.
Not to nitpick too much, but the Marie Antoinette story certainly can’t be proven and doesn’t even seem to be offered much these days, any more than does the story that Ragdolls are go limp because the mother of the breed had suffered an spinal injury. The more usual explanation offered now is that they were possibly offspring of Scandinavian cats who were used as mousers aboard ships. They certainly bear more than a passing resemblance to the Norwegian Forest Cat, though Maine Coons are larger as a rule. MCs are largely known as working cats, used for years to keep barns free from mice, hence the heavy coats and big feet.
The M is also NOT a breed characteristic. The “M” shape is common to most tabby cats, be they longhair or shorthair; and not all Maine Coons are tabbies, even though the “classic” look is a brown tabby (I say classic because that’s usually the one chosen when a representation of the breed is called for, just as a Japanese bobtail is usually depicted as a calico.) You can have solid colored MCs, all white or all black or tuxedos or whatever. In fact,the much more common bit of fancy about the “M” is that tabbies have it because there was a cat in the sable who purred so soothe baby Jesus and Mary petted the cat, giving all tabbies the M for Mary. Alternately, it’s a sign from the cat loving prophet Mohammad who cut off his sleeve rather than disturb his sleeping cat.
I’m off to the bookstore this afternoon and will take a look for your book. Glad to hear that Tuffy picked just the right house hang around!!
Yes, the Marie Antoinette story is just a fun legend. Since Lea Wait lives in “marie Antoinette’s house,” she tells us the full story here. http://mainecrimewriters.com/uncategorized/marie-antoinette-maine-me
Very interesting! I’m one of those people who “learns” from novels and I sort of worry when I see something that’s a little dubious. . .I mean, it makes me second guess other things the author asserts as true, and takes me out of the story.