I is for Imagination


Illustration by Louise Kimber

Which a writer like Sue Ranscht has oodles of. Not just her – Harlan too. In Cat Artist Catharsis, Sue’s story in Cat Tales, the anthology drawn from last year’s Book a Break short story competition, Harlan doesn’t just imagine the cats, he imagines them into life. How’s that for the power of imagination? Phew!

By the time he was fourteen, Harlan’s bedroom walls were two-thirds covered by drawings of cats and parts of cats. He’d switched from crayons to two sets of coloured pencils, one set left dull-pointed for soft and blended colours, keeping the other set’s points pointy with his little pen knife, perfect for detailing claws, fangs, raspy tongues, and whiskers. And eyes—green or blue, yellow or orange, brown or copper, deep and speckled, flecked with gold, shiny and wise. Diligent practice had elevated his skill to a level of realism Harlan found quite satisfying. When he chose to imagine the whole cats to life at night, he was careful to imagine a door as well, so they couldn’t escape to other parts of the house. He imagined two black panthers to guard the non-existent door.

Since reading that, I’ve been doing a lot of imagining. The other day I imagined a bowl of my favourite nosh, fried gizzards. It was easy enough to imagine. I have a little green plastic bowl which Sam and Sam put my food in. So first I imagined that, and then I just added the gizzards, deep fried and extra specially crunchy. The next bit was harder – the Harlan bit, imagining them to life. Or rather, into the bowl for real, since a live gizzard would need to be inside a live chicken and that would be a different kettle of fish.

I screwed up my eyes and concentrated and imagined as hard as I could. The smell of the gizzards came to me so vividly that I was sure I’d succeeded, so I rushed over to my bowl, drooling with anticipation, and lo and behold! Two trout heads.

Isn’t that extraordinary? Never mind that it wasn’t quite accurate – the point is, it worked! Now I just need to fine tune the details, get the gizzards to turn into gizzards instead of trout. There’s nothing wrong with trout heads, mind, and I went to work on them with gusto, but if I want to be more ambitious, I need to perfect the skill.

But I digress. Let me move on to brains. Not one of Sam and Sam’s staples – in fact the only time I eat them is when I crunch on a mouse’s head, but I’m delighted to say that Sue Ranscht has another story, Sarcasm Font, in the 2016 To Hull And Back Anthology, and that one’s about zombies. Indeed she has a zombie alter ego, Romero Russo, who did last year’s A to Z. If you take a look, I guarantee you’ll find it irresistible.

Furthermore, Sue is doing this year’s A to Z as well. This time she’s a snail called Elliot who, like me, is going on a journey. In fact he’s got further than me, because I haven’t even started yet, while Elliot has positively raced away to find adventure and fortune. But no matter – the point is that when it comes to Sue’s imagination, you’re spoiled for choice. I don’t think even she knows how many oodles she has. Far too many to be counted, that’s for sure.

Since it might be difficult to know where to start, might I suggest you start with Cat Artist Catharsis? Which Atthys Gage, the judge, called an especially compelling and imaginative tale, and well-written, too. So there you go. If you buy Cat Tales, you won’t just find out what those panthers of Harlan’s get up to (not to mention all the other cats in all the other stories), you’ll be helping to make the world a better place. Thank you!

The proceeds from Cat Tales go to two charities, Cats Protection and the Against Malaria Foundation. So please don’t hesitate to spread the word (reblog, twitter, faceboook, sandwich board, Times Square illumination – all and any means are welcome) and help us raise all we can. 

In a special promotion deal, the price of Cat Tales is just $1.99 for the whole month of April. Available as a PDF (or epub / mobi) complete with colour illustrations directly from this site* by clicking the button below. Also available in print (black & white, $9.50).

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*Buying from this site results in $1.61 after the PayPal commission, as opposed to just $0.70 when buying from Amazon. An insecticide treated mosquito net, which protects on average 2 people for 3 to 4 years, costs $2.50. PLUS, if you buy from this site, you’ll get a personal message of thanks from Curtis along with a short story of his own (in which Nibbles the cat, I’m sorry to say, comes to a rather unfortunate end).