Writing humor comes naturally for me. I’m married to the funniest man I've ever met, whose skewed take on Life has kept me laughing since age eighteen, and I live with enough cats that CBS wants to invade my home for a feline spin-off of Big Brother, called Big BroFur. And so my books have quirky characters put in off-the-wall situations...most of which I’ve actually lived through.
I grew up the oldest of three girls in St. Clair Shores, Michigan where Mom sold Avon and Dad was the high school principal. My sisters were spawns of Satan sent to ruin my idyllic childhood. Although looking back, I now realize they were instrumental in my creative development, be it signing Lilith’s name to a drawing on the hood of Dad’s new car, or waiting until halfway through dinner to ask Medusa why she’d spent the afternoon in school detention. You can read the details of my life as a pathological storyteller under My Life as a Pathological Storyteller after the Wonderpurr Gang biographies.
At twenty-two, I married the funny kid and moved south. There, my career as a Florida restauranteur, enriched my skills for creating quirky characters. My award-winning romantic comedy, Southern Exposure, features many of my former clients, including the pig. I wrote six novels, reviewed books for two magazines, published ‘The Character Interview’ and presented my ‘Launching the Novel’ workshops at writer conferences. When I decided I didn’t want to feed strangers anymore, I returned to the real world where I kept notes on coworkers for use in future novels.
Today I write full time, and when I'm not writing I’m a cat magnet. With a lifetime rescue tally of 70+ cats, I thought I was trying to save the world ~ one kitty at a time. I now realize I suffer from OCD: Obsessive Cat Disorder. I currently live outside Memphis with Mr. Funderful and The Wonderpurr Gang featuring Herman who inspired my successful, 5-star rated children’s book, Finding Mya. Not only does he have more Twitter followers than I do, he also has a better life. And a better face, so I used his photo for the book cover. I’d use his face for my author photo if I thought I could get away with it. I’m proud of how this book has touched so many people. The best part for me is hearing adults confess that they so loved the story, they read it out loud to their pets.
~ Kimberley KozFollow Kim on...
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Herman spent his first ten years as a cute, but exasperating member of my fur family. At approximately eight months old, he arrived with a blizzard that shut down Lexington, Kentucky and the nearby town where we lived. As a sticky substance had hardened his long hair like a turtle’s shell, I ran him to my vet during a lull in the storm, and when I picked him up two days later, Herman was nekked! When his hair grew in, with dark-ginger markings and a lush feathery tail, we were perplexed as to how such a gorgeous cat became a stray. Then spring arrived, and Herman demonstrated how that happened by bolting out the door.
Fast forward to 2011 when Herman joined Twitter’s Anipal community as @TattleCat and catapulted from exasperating to exceptional. My dad had suggested I write a children’s book about Herm, saying his “stuffed toy” appearance would appeal to kids. That book became Finding Mya, published in 2014. But it wasn’t Herman’s face that made him exceptional. It was his remarkable love of riding with me on long drives from Tennessee to Michigan, seated in my lap throughout the night, fascinated by brightly lit trucks as they roared past. He then sat beside me on the flight to Las Vegas for Blogpaws 2014, and walked on a leash for the first time around the hotel grounds, as well as on the red carpet for the awards dinner.
Herm continues to amaze me with his human-like perception, and animated facial features that clearly reveal his joy, boredom, anger or disgust. He is the most amazing cat I’ve ever known, and that’s why he has three exclamation marks after his name.
She makes the day brighter, she leaves a little sparkle wherever she goes. And because she’s high-spirited, clumsy, and loves to climb, she also leaves a trail of broken tchotchkes. Yet her happy-go-lucky personality and beautiful face charms me, even as I sweep up the pieces of my lost treasures. Dori arrived in my yard as a tiny kitten accompanied by her mom, dad, twin sister and two brothers. I threw myself on the mercy of a rescue group to find them homes. Dori had five offers, but when my husband began calling her ‘Peanut,’ I knew she wasn’t going anywhere. I named her Adorapurr for her adorable face before I discovered she’s a tomboy who loves to wrassle. I should have called her Elly Mae [Clampett]. I thought she’d outgrow it, but at two she’s still Indian leg-wrestling her fur-sibs, with bunny kicks to the groin.
Dori is a cave-dweller. Every bag, box, drawer or closet becomes a potential hideaway. At least twice a week I open a door or drawer to find her inside, patiently waiting for me to release her. That’s why she wears a bell. If it’s too quiet in the house, I look for her. She shadowed Herman during her first year to learn the protocols required of living inside a house. Now, with the addition of Frank, it’s her turn to teach him indoor etiquette. Dori tweets as @Adorapurr where she collects tuxedo man-cat admirers like @ArcherPaws, @Slinky_the_Cat, and @HRMeownessWills (who wants to make her his princess.)
One night in January 2008, I spied a tiny orange kitten in my yard eating kibble alongside raccoons and opossums. When he trotted toward a mama fox and her kit, I stopped him from becoming dessert. He wasn’t feral, just scared, and his undernourished body made him look younger than three months. For the first week he ate lettuce, spinach, greens of any kind as he had survived on plants. Today he is sixteen pounds, so clearly he suffered no lingering harm from early starvation.
Opie hangs out with Chauncie Marie and Gidget atop the kitchen cupboards. Secure in his masculinity, he took for himself the pink bed I put up there for the girls. His sweetheart is Peaches and he has a bromance going with Jack. However, Opie is jealous of the attention Herman receives, and will step on his tail or poke him in the ribs if he thinks I’m not looking. Although Opie is a big boy, he’s still gotz da mooves. His first toy was an orange rubber ball, and as a youngster he would drop it from a table, then chase it as it bounced around the room. Seven years later that ball still does it for him. He loves having it thrown up the stairs so he can race after it, and then will drop it back down the stairs to us. He also enjoys carrying the ball in his mouth around the house…while crying…at two a.m.
About Chauncie Marie
Chauncie began her life Elsewhere, circa 2005. Named Chauncy by my neighbor, she had to prove she was a girl by having kittens. As motherhood wasn’t her thang, she left her kittens with my neighbor and moved into my yard. There she would hide in the bushes, and then jump out to smack Peaches or Opie on the bottom, sending them flipping tail over head with surprise. She had a good life as a yard cat. She lounged in the empty 3-tier fountain, nommed my rubber flip-flops, and shredded fragile plants for pure enjoyment. In winter she had a cozy shelter on our porch with a deep camp chair, blankets and a heat lamp. In 2013 we had a vacancy. She applied, was accepted, and moved indoors where Opie and Peaches eventually (4 or 5 months later…) forgave her for smacking their bottoms. However, the other day Chauncie thought Opie was being a bit harsh on Dori and launched a stealth attack, sending Opie to ricochet off the wall. Her kittens, Bucket and Barney, still live with my neighbor. They are both girls.
What do you do if you are an unwed mother of two and just lost your home? You move in with me, of course. After giving birth under my neighbor’s deck in 2009, Peaches found the entrance and exits blocked to keep her out. So she moved her kittens to my porch where she gradually learned that not all people have cat issues. She soon requested permission to enter our house, and would come and go at her leisure. When she moved indoors permanently, she became the first female Alpha of the Wonderpurr Gang. Though loving and easygoing, she never forgot her Mom-skills and uses them to keep the peace. She extends her dominance to include me if I’m not fixing her breakfast by six a.m., and will launch onto my chest to wake me. Peaches is the mother of Jack and Jesse, and possibly the grandma of Gidget. While her sweetie is Opie, she doesn’t play favorites and is friends with all of the cats, including the new guy, Frank.
Born under my neighbor’s deck in 2009 to Peaches, the tabby kitten I’d named Jack accepted my attention right away, and allowed me to carry him inside the house to cuddle, especially during storms. With a full belly, shelter, and no reason to be afraid, Jack had a good life. A year later, he disappeared. When he returned weeks later, he walked in circles, off-balance. Diagnosed with a double ear infection that damaged his inner ear canals and left his neck permanently crooked with a head tilt, he had no coordination and would run into walls.
The lengthy stay at the hospital also damaged his ability to trust people, including me. When Jack made friends with Opie, my husband, Ray, and I used that relationship to show Jack he had no reason to be afraid. He would watch Opie enjoy our attention, and seem no worse for it. It took three years, but Jack’s fears finally faded. Not enough to receive physical attention, but he no longer runs if we look at him or talk to him. Ray had a breakthrough last fall when Jack willingly stretched out his paw to touch Ray’s finger. Jack has also begun to dance on his back legs in hungry anticipation of dinner, and will allow me a quick neck rub while his attention is on his food. He seems genuinely happy. He gets along with all of his fur sibs, but his friendship with Opie is beyond special. Every night the two of them crawl into their chair and sleep wrapped in each other’s arms. It’s been slow progress, but we are certain Jack will eventually learn to trust again.
Within a few weeks of moving to my yard with Peaches and Jack, the black kitten I’d named Jesse disappeared during a tornado that fell a huge tree on our roof. I feared the worst. About three months had passed when I saw Peaches on the porch, staring into the woods. Her body language implied danger, but then she shot across the yard with Jack in tow to greet a young black cat. Jesse had returned! He never did say where he went, but his homecoming was celebrated with his mom and brother licking him clean of his adventure stink. He continued to come and go for a couple weeks, but when he returned for good, he brought with him a tiny black female kitten.
Quiet and dignified, he isn’t one to roam far from the yard. He gave up his carefree lifestyle when Yum Yum, a semi-feral Siamese stray, bedazzled him with her exotic looks and ocean-blue eyes. They had two glorious years together. Then, as suddenly as she arrived, she left. I tried to explain how wild women just can’t be tamed, but his heart was broken. Today he shares a garage bachelor apartment with Dori’s dad, Nikolas; content to bask in sun puddles in summertime, and heat lamps in winter. He tells me he’s done with women for good.
The kitten Jesse brought home looked like him, sleek and black with bright green-gold eyes. Though shy, she had an affectionate personality with quirky, non-stop movements that made photographing her nearly impossible. For the first year all I got was blurry pictures of her lying on her side, because she would start flip-flopping the moment she saw me. My vet said her miniscule size made her a target for hawks, so inside she came. Her favorite room in the house is the kitchen. That’s how she came by her Twitter name, @Chef_Gidget.
Until we adopted Dori, Gidget was “the baby.” But Dori’s arrival upset Gidget. They ignore each other, but on occasion will have slappy-paw girlie fights with closed eyes and turned heads. Gidget is jealous of the time I give to Dori, just like Opie is jealous of my time with Herman. Each cat wants a part of me, and there often isn’t enough of me to go around. But Gidget will take advantage of when I’m seated on the sofa to perch behind me and head-butt my hair. She will do the same at night, flip-flopping across my pillow…head-butting my hair. I love her dearly, but to put it kindly…Gidget is weird.
Nik brought his family to my yard in January 2013. While he waited for adoption, he hung out in my spare bedroom with his baby mama and four kittens that included Dori and her twin, Patsy. Sweet and silly, he loved to play laser light chase, surf a rug I pulled around the room, and like Gidget, would flip-flop when he saw me. His high-pitched squeal of delight reminded me of my beloved Nicholas who had died in 2012. I’ve never given two cats the same name, but I wanted to honor Nick’s memory, so this time I did with a slight change in spelling.
Nikolas’s favorite perch is atop my neighbor’s roof where he surveys his territory, and will occasionally jog through the house to see what everyone is up to, then jog back outside to see what he’s missed. His goofball personality gained him the nickname, Nikolas Ridikolas. He look so similar to Jesse that I cannot tell them apart until Nik opens his mouth. Nik is a talker. He’s also long-winded. I hate to be rude, but sometimes when he’s droning on and on…describing his day on patrol in infinite detail, I really need to be elsewhere. But when I try to excuse myself, he will grab my ankle and hold on to keep me from leaving. Nikolas enjoyed a close relationship with his daughter, Patsy – Dori’s twin – but when she left with Yum Yum, she broke her daddy’s heart. Nik eventually found companionship with Jesse. They became a couple of bachelors, eating together, sunning together; arguing their Repawblicat and Democat differences with loud pawlitical debates at dawn. Life was good. Then a shabby tabby named Frank rolled into town.
In the spring of 2014, a rough-looking tomcat swaggered into my yard with the attitude of an outlaw. Clearly he had won a few brawls, despite his chipped ear. Nik and Jesse blamed Frank for their womenfolk leaving, but since neither of them were trained in combat, they did no more than sit atop the fence and cuss at him. Meanwhile, a sick ginger cat named Joshua arrived. Territorial with a capital ‘T’, Frank decided to take him out…and I don’t mean for bacon beers. He wanted him dead or gone. Didn’t care which. Whatever Joshua had been through in his life had taught him to be wary of strangers, and he would flee when he saw me. He also had cage phobia, so until I figured out how to trap him, he was at Frank’s mercy. I recall the day Frank was hell bent on mauling poor Joshua. I grabbed a broom to sweep Frank back while he tried to dodge me to get to Joshua. At one point, Frank became so enraged, he decided to attack me. Still, I continued to sweep him back until, after a good twenty minutes, he heaved a big sigh, and flopped down. I then offered him lunch and he followed me to the house.
It took months of patience, and a good snip to his personal business, but Frank gave up his outlaw lifestyle to join the Wonderpurr Gang. Today he has the best of both worlds. As an outdoor cat he patrols the borders for stray toms, and joins Nik and Jesse in their sunrise pawlitical debates as an Indepawndent. As an indoor cat, he enjoys privileged access to Ray’s Man Cave where he used to sleep until he recently crawled into our bed to sprawl between us. He also has Beans, a giant yellow catnip mouse knitted by @NerissaTheCat’s mom. Frank loves Beans, as much as he loves hanging out with Dori. When his indoor borders expanded beyond the Man Cave, Frank quickly learned that in order to stay inside, he could not push Dori around, or rip after Opie, who looks a lot like Joshua. When Frank accepted his place at the bottom of the hierarchy, the Wonderpurr Gang accepted him. Though three years of age, his former lifestyle took a physical toll in the form of hip dysplasia and arthritis that makes him walk slowly in cold weather. He didn’t have a good start in life, but Frank now has a life worth meowing about.
And that’s why I’m proud to be a Cat Magnet!
My Life as a Pathological Storyteller
My career as a storyteller began in the third grade. I told my classmates that Bozo the Clown was my father. They were impressed. Dad, a community principal, was horrified. Mom hurt herself laughing.
The life of a child storyteller requires taking creative license. I didn’t have ‘Fun’ With Dick and Jane. I thought them boring; one dimensional. So I rewrote their stories and had them steal penny candy and spy on neighbors.
In 8th grade I joined Drama to perfect my facial expressions. Mom said I could lie with a straight face. I took that as a compliment. I told my school counselor my job babysitting for Aretha Franklin didn’t allow time for studying. She said I would make a career out of telling stories if I wasn’t careful. I liked that and started charging classmates to write book reports. But the real money was in fake notes from parents excusing Jack or Jill from class due to a contagious disease, or grief from sudden loss of grandparents. I made enough money to quit babysitting for Aretha and bought a typewriter.
During my early working years my Grandma died many times, enabling me to take days off to write without eating into vacation time. At one job I suffered such horrific loss, my boss changed my schedule to a four-day work week to cope. I used my free Fridays to write a pirate romance, a sexy detective mystery; a ghost story. Eventually it occurred to me to not only write stories, but mail them to publishers. Rejection letters flooded in. So I got married and moved a thousand miles south to open a restaurant that soon evolved into three.
There is nothing that stirs my creative juices more than cooking for strangers six days a week for years on end. I imagined emotional love scenes while fondling tender Bibb lettuce. I plotted murder mysteries while hacking limbs off chicken torsos. Scraping thick frost build-up from casket-like ice cream freezers gave power to my vampire dramaedy.
Then I joined RWA and had my natural storytelling ability pounded out of me. I learned the RULES on how to write. I also made lifelong friends, won contests, networked at writer’s conferences and increased my knowledge of the publishing biz. Life was wonderful. Too wonderful! So I left suburban Florida for rural Kentucky. There I bought The Money Pit, and increased my collection of stray cats. You can read my fish out of water adventures in The Whiner, an upcoming new feature. Stay tuned!
My new website should be up and running soon. Please follow this site, along with my Facebook Author Page so you don’t miss the Grand Unveiling with wonderpurr Giveaways and funny, new stories. Thanks so much!