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This Banner Is for the Birds!

Cat in the Flcok Banner 2.0

You might have noticed: We updated our blog banner... again. Here's the story.

Back in January, we had swapped out my fantasy author avatar in favor of the image of a cat disrupting a flock of birds. Those of you who've been coming to www.catintheflock.com since the early days of the Dreamslippers series probably guessed where that image came from - it was the original cover of my first book, which bears the same name as this blog. (Shout out to our commenter Ali's Grammy, who was the first to guess the image's origin story when we posted on the blog about it back in January). The original Cat in the Flock book cover was designed by yours truly, and by yours truly, I mean Anthony did it, not me. His Photoshop skills are better than mine. The cover looked like this:

FINAL COVER ART CATINTHEFLOCK

It worked rather well as a DIY cover, sure. But when pro cover artist Monika Younger took over and redid the first book - and designed the three subsequent covers after that (two sequels + the boxed set) - we were totally thrilled. Anyway... back to the banner. 

When I pivoted the Cat in the Flock blog into the lifestyle arena last year and then decided to change up the banner at the start of 2020, the image of a cat disrupting a flock of birds seemed right. After all, I wanted Cat in the Flock: Lifestyle with Teeth to be a disruptor in the lifestyle space. What I don't want to do with this blog is fill it with "content" that is thinly-disguised advertisements or blather on about high-end renovations, vacations, products, or "experiences" that most of us regular people could never afford. I've been there, my friends: You discover a quirky, fun, refreshingly DIY blogger only to have her make it big and drop the flea market find posts, go on for months and months about a million-dollar home design with high-end fixtures, and clog up her blog with annoying video popups.

We're all about repurposing here, and reusing the cat in the flock image also seemed like a fun way to call back to my first published novel, in that 'easter egg' kind of way.

Cat in the Flock LIFESTYLE w_CAT 2020

HOWEVER, pretty much right away, I began to worry that the cat-attacking-birds imagery wasn't going to be a good fit for the blog long-term. There's disrupting, metaphorically speaking, and then there's a literal cat attacking birds.

And, well, we couldn't really have that

Chaco, our Dragon Flower Farmhouse cat, is strictly indoor-only. I know some people think cats need the freedom to roam, but this is, first and foremost, for his protection. He is a special breed called a Devon rex. They are much smaller (one-half to one-third smaller) than the typical domestic cat, and they also have a very innocent, curious, friendly disposition. This doesn't mesh well with the realities of life all around us: a family of red-shouldered hawks roosting in nearby trees, possums and rabbits that are three times Chaco's size, a street that gets fairly busy during morning and afternoon rush hours (or did, before the quarantine). 

Devon rex's are also famously referred to as being very much like "a monkey in a cat suit," and that fits Chaco really well. You've just never seen a cat with a stronger climbing drive. Last year he mysteriously tore his ACL... we can only guess during one of his many antics here in the home. We've actually had to monkeycat-proof the house.

Chaco_Up_High
This is Chaco's high-five, up high.

So that's reason enough to keep him indoors, but the birds are also of concern. Grave concern.

According to a study conducted in 2013 and published in the journal Nature Communications, cats kill billions of birds per year. Since birds are basically "vanishing from North America," doing everything we can to reduce negative impacts on birds is important - even if it means curtailing Fluffy's freedom. This is kind of a big thing for even some of my most environmentally-minded friends to wrap their heads around.

Maybe there are things you can do to allow the cats outside... Garden writer Tammi Hartung says in The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Garden that she only lets her cats out when she's also outside and can monitor them, and that works for her. There's also at least one type of collar that can foil cats in their pursuit of birds. But for us, it really is better to keep the little furry prince indoors. 

Chaco_Zipped_In
He's pretty content with his life inside... my vest.

The cats-outside debate aside, we want to do everything we can to promote responsible attitudes toward birds and other pollinators - not just because we like having birds around for our own enjoyment and quality of life, but because birds and insect pollinators are critical to our food production, and therefore, they're necessary for our own survival.

Hence, the new banner. Maybe it's not enough; maybe encouraging any interactions between cats and birds - no matter how fantastical or metaphorical - isn't good. But at least our intention is clear. It's all for the birds, folks. Thank you for paying attention.

Cat in the Flcok Banner 2.0

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A Banner New Year for Cat in the Flock

Cat in the Flock LIFESTYLE w_CAT 2020

By Lisa Brunette

How do you like the new banner? Those of you who've been with me for the long haul might recognize the imagery from somewhere... be the first to shout it out in the comments below.

Twenty nineteen has been a strange year for this blog, mostly because its spinoff, Brunette Games, stole the limelight. Last year at this time, I was a solo game writer who'd made my first forays into business expansion by hiring a few contractors to help with the increasing workload. But soon, that wasn't enough, and a full year later, we're a company. You can read more about that over yonder. Here at Cat in the Flock, I just want to say that because Brunette Games took so much of my focus over the past year, the blog writing has been hit and miss, and I'm sorry for that.

It's not for lack of desire. Every day I think of some topic for the blog, but I've had to be honest about what I can reasonably accomplish in a day, a week, a month, a year.

I'm sure you can relate. How are those New Year's resolutions coming along? ;)

I got sick just before the week of Christmas. It's really no fun to do conference calls with clients half a world away while feeling like you've got a railroad spike embedded in your forehead. Luckily, I have a team now who can help, so I didn't overdo it, got some rest and fluids, and recovered in time to host the fam's big Christmas Eve party. But I've been hibernating ever since. Maybe that's not how I pictured spending my coveted time off, but hopefully in 2020 I can do better.

Dec snow 2019_1
Dragon Flower Farm in December, after a deep (and surprising) snowfall. I was sick the whole time and didn't get to make snow angels, which is why this shot looks so pristine.

When I gave up Facebook this fall, I acquired some letter-writing pen pals, and one of them suggests instead of setting New Year's resolutions, simply resolve to be 10 percent better.

I like that idea. So I'm doing two new things with this Cat in the Flock blog for 2020:

  1. Adding some help, in the form of my partner in business and life, Anthony Valterra. You've already read his how-to on fat rendering and the lovely tribute he wrote on his father's Walla Walla garden. Look for more in the future. I'll also introduce you to other voices with some guest bloggers on specialty topics, such as wildlife study and travel.
  2. Resolving to do 10 percent better than last year. This means in every respect: better photos, better writing, better focus... and at least 10 percent more content.

I wish I could promise greater, sweeping things, but since this is a labor of love, and I'm responsible for another business that now provides a livelihood for three of us, that is my stretch goal. But Anthony and I have a vision for our project here at Dragon Flower Farm, and it fits into greater, sweeping things, and we'd love to discuss them with you. So stay tuned.

I hope you'll stick with this blog through thick and thin, my friends. Now help me welcome Anthony for reals... and tell us, how's your 2020 outlook? 

Dec snow 2019_2
This Japanese lantern has been with me since Tacoma in 2003... I brought it here covered in moss, and now it's buried in snow. Happy New Year!

Big Blog Changes That Affect Our Readers!

Potato-671040_1920

By Lisa Brunette

Last year was an epic one for me personally, with the launch and steady ramp up for Brunette Games. I like judicious, nimble startups, testing and tweaking as I go, which is why I didn't opt to spend a lot of resources on flashy things like a new web site and branding last year. Since I found myself knee-deep in inquiries without those things, I thought it best to focus on what makes a business successful: its people. And I'm glad I did. I'm smack dab in the Midwest quietly building the best narrative team in the casual game business ;).

But now we're at that flex point where the original blog, Cat in the Flock, can no longer contain Brunette Games. So it's time to split the sites.

As you can see from last week's countdown of the top 10 blog posts of 2018, our game content is popular--but so are our lifestyle stories, such as the ongoing saga of Dragon Flower Farm. We can see the quirky connections between these two topic areas, as I tried to articulate last week:

...the real-world design play we engage in with the farm mirrors the virtual farms and gardens of the games we love to play and design, such as Gardenscapes, Matchington Mansion, My Beauty Spa, FarmVille 2, and more. One inspires the other. 

This cross-inspiration is really me. I'm a total generalist with a lot of varying interests and an abiding curiosity about SO MANY THINGS. I tend to resist compartmentalizations. 

HOWEVER, we admit it's a bit of a leap to put the two disparate worlds of gaming and lifestyle together (unless you've practiced D&D-themed yoga?). Some readers might just want advice on how to craft better game storylines, without the updates on how the farm is doing. Other readers have been with me since the Dreamslippers days and are only mildly curious about my game work--bless you for your loyalty and ongoing support--but I don't want to inflict you with a lot of game industry stuff if that's not really your jam.

So... On to the nitty-gritty.

We have a new site for Brunette Games. It's a work-in-progress for now, but the aim is to showcase the studio's activity as a whole and give insight into the team's background, projects, obsessions... anything that has to do with our game writing and design. A new company logo is in the works, designed by Monika Younger, the same brilliant artist who created the covers for every book in the Dreamslippers Series. (Speaking of that book series, it may reappear on Brunette Games if we adapt it to the interactive novel format.)

Supporting the site are a new Instagram account (@brunettegames) and Facebook page. We will also send out an email digest for readers who prefer to get their blog content in one monthly wrap-up. Here's the really important part:

We will migrate all Brunette Games clients past and present to this list, along with anyone else who looks to us like obvi gamer types. If you don't think you fall into those categories and would like to sign up for the Brunette Games list anyway, please do so here.

So, what happens to Cat in the Flock? I'm rebranding her as the lifestyle blog she always dreamed of being. If you click back through the content, you'll see lifestyle has been a constant theme throughout, whether that's pointing out the virtues of native plants or giving wellness advice based on a longtime yoga practice. The seeds of this go back REALLY far, as I once handled all the lifestyle content for the Northwest news site Crosscut, and I have always really loved gardening, yoga, and interior design. "Cat in the Flock: Lifestyle with Teeth" will cover these topics, with a few other lifestyle themes woven in as well. My author Insta account will continue to serve Cat in the Flock, as will the Facebook page. The newsletter will continue to go out as it has, minus the game content. So if you're on the list and want to stay on the list, don't do a thing! We'll take care of you.

OK, to recap! If you want to keep reading about games, sign up for the Brunette Games email list here. That's it!

Thanks for sticking with us through this exciting time of growth and change for me personally and for Brunette Games. We can't wait to share more!