Door Pulls – #WatchCats 1

door pulls

#WatchCats (artist unknown)

Lydia scanned the neighborhood from their perch on the roof of a local apartment building, while Amadeus groomed himself. She froze as she spotted a man walking in the street, two blocks away. He was testing the door handles on parked cars as he walked. So far, none of his “door pulls,” as the police call these, bore fruit.

It was Lydia’s responsibility to spot trouble. Well, not all the time, of course. Cats need their haps! Right now, though, she dispatched the neighborhood WatchCats. She nudged Amadeus, who looked up from licking his paw. The grey tabby knew what the nudge meant. He looked up, scanning below. When his eyes spotted the walking thief, Lydia nudged him a second time.

Amadeus nodded and nuzzled his WatchCat partner. He walked over to the fire escape and cautiously jumped from their perch onto its step. Lydia yawned and scratched as he made his way down the stairs. Amadeus jumped to the sidewalk and trotted down the street. He let the man walk to him, but then changed plans, as one of the car doors he pulled popped open! The WatchCat crossed the street, positioning himself behind a garbage can. He waited for the man to lean into the car, then sprinted across the street.

The man wore sweatpants and running shoes, with no socks. Amadeus targeted his bare ankle, slashing it with his right paw as he dashed under the car.

“Fuck!” The man said, loudly. His complaint drew attention from two folks who lived in that block. One was a teen, just walking out her front door. She looked at the house next door as her neighbor yelled at the man.

“Get the hell out of here! Stop trying to steal from my friends!” the demand came from a woman in her late-40s, one of the stay-at-home moms on the block.

The thief flipped the thief off, turned, and walked back the way he came. Amadeus stuck his head out from the front of the car. He saw the thief’s feet as he retreated, then came out to verify his departure.

“Amadeus! I didn’t see you there. Did you stop that man?” the girl asked, walking over to the cat. Amadeus purred loudly as she scratched behind his ear.

“I knew it! Good kitty!” the girl said. Amadeus rubbed against her leg, then trotted off. A few minutes later, he was back on the perch. Lydia groomed his back, then left the perch. A Maine Coon named Penelope joined him, as he took over the spotter’s position.

© 2020, Edward J. Branley. All rights reserved.

Envisioning Editors – who they are and what are their roles

Envisioning editors: I’m starting to think I’ve got it wrong.

envisioning editors

Envisioning Editors

My understanding of editors took a turn over the last couple of days. I replied to a tweet from a writer. They said they were struggling with cutting down a piece to fit a publication’s 5K word limit. I suggested, maybe have a freelance editor look at it. After all, taking a chainsaw to our well-loved words is what editors do. The reply I received was that the piece had already been “workshopped” and an editor would not be necessary.

I try to empathize with people hitting a snag in their work. My Firstborn regularly calls me, using me as a sounding board. I don’t offer advice as much as an ear. So, when my suggestion was summarily rejected, part of me said, well, this writer has hit a snag, it’s not me. I couldn’t help saying, “yet here you are, editing,” when told an editor wasn’t necessary, though.

But the part about “workshopping” in the context of talking about editors struck me as odd. I thought about the different roles an editor performs.

My Editor

envisioning editors

Dara Rochlin, my editor. Connect with her at

Dara Rochlin keeps me going in the right direction. She functions as both a copy editor and developmental editor. She’s also a friend. Because of the friend part, she bounces ideas off of me. Look for a snippet based on an image she sent me shortly. Her long-suffering husband, Jeff, gave me the idea for a location on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles for Dragon’s Discovery. The lovely and talented #flutegirl, Alyson Rochlin, has been my Dragons beta reader for a while now. Jason, Aly’s older brother, provides needed expertise for gaming. I also flip the role with him, reading and offering notes on his work. So, the family is part of the team.

That’s why maybe my perception of what an editor does for others is skewed. But here’s the thing, naturally I work with other editors. I’ve worked with acquisitons and developmental editors on nonfiction projects, from the Arcadia books and The History Press. Then there are all the editors for tech publications. So, It’s not like my exposure is to a single person.

Editors Edit

I had a time getting the Introduction to one of the Images of America books down to 1200 words. Dara got me there. She “workshops” my stuff. Editors offer suggestions. Sometimes, they insist on things. It’s part of the process.

What are your experiences with editors?

Soldier Litanies – Mother of Sorrows

Soldier Litanies – Mother of Sorrows

Soldier litanies are common timing and coping mechanisms

soldier litanies

Soldier litanies

Timing mechanisms are useful for folks in many professions. Invoking the deity is quite common as well, particularly among military personnel in stressful situations. That’s why it wasn’t surprising to me when an ex-military character on “FBI Most Wanted” used “Mother of Sorrow” as a litany.

Hail Mary

If you were raised in a religious household, you may know one or more litanies connected to your family’s faith. Catholics in particular are able to recite numerous parts of the Mass that they said over and over and over as children, weekly, if not more often. That’s why following the Star Wars line, “May the Force be with you,” with, “And with Your Spirit,” strikes the Catholic funny bone.

Then there’s the Rosary. While kids attending Catholic school don’t pray the rosary as often as older generations, those that did have it stuck in their heads forever. A Catholic child got their first rosary beads when they made their First Communion in second grade or so. They prayed a decade (ten Hail Marys) before class in many schools. Say the Hail Mary that often, well, you get the idea. The rosary has potential for numerous soldier litanies.

Military Timing

The most memorable example of using a religious litany as a timing mechanism is in the book/movie, “A Bridge Too Far.” In the push by the US 82nd Airborne Divison to take the Waal River Bridge at Nijemegen, Netherlands, then-Captain Julian Cook led an assault to the far side of the bridge by boat. To keep timing while paddling, he said, over and over, “Hail Mary, full of grace…” Soldier litanies help focus and keep those reciting them alive.

Prayer as timing assistant happens to this day.

Mother of Sorrows

One of the ways folks pray the rosary is to reflect on the “Mysteries” of Mary, Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious. They’re a great way to take a long, meditative prayer even longer. So, when a former Army sniper with mental health issues invoked “Mother of Sorrows” on the FBI show, it wasn’t a big surprise. He repeats “Mother of Sorrow” over and over, while loading rounds into a magazine. It’s a particularly dark reference. While non-religious and/or non-Catholic folks may roll their eyes, if you recited the rosary as a kid, it’s less odd than you think.

Of course, it doesn’t fit for a guy loading up a weapon of human destruction to reference the Joyful or Glorious items. Sorrows strike the dark chord. I got it immediately, but my memories of this particular visualization of Mary was fuzzy. I was always more of a positive/happy Catholic than a suffering Catholic. So, I needed to look back on Our Lady of Sorrows. This image is the first thing that hits you on Wikipedia:

soldier litanies

This is “Seven Swords Piercing the Sorrowful Heart of Mary” in the Church of the Holy Cross, Salamanca, Spain. It’s a particularly violent and dark image. When you stop and think about it, though, it’s reflective of the grief of a mother. Four of the seven sorrowful mysteries touch upon the Crucifixion of Christ, from his mother’s perspective. Women will tell you, many would rather suffer and die than see their children come to harm. All of a sudden, an incredibly violent statue of a woman being pierced by swords hits home.

I’m not sure how this will all fit into a story, but it may well. Catholic themes pop up at odd times for me as a writer.