Saturday, May 19, 2012

In memoriam: Win The Cat Sitter's Pajamas

I was so sad to hear about the passing of Blaize Clement last summer. She was the author of the wonderful Dixie Hemingway mystery series. Her son, John Clement, will be taking over writing the series, and has kindly offered one lucky reader a copy of his mother's last book, The Cat Sitter's Pajamas. The following are John's thoughts on taking over for his mom...

My mother was a strong proponent of the idea that words feed both the mind and the soul. So even before I was born, she read to me. She started with Rudyard Kipling's Just So stories, reading out loud while I lolled about in the womb. After I was born, it was Mark Twain, Agatha Christie, John Steinbeck. Out loud every day, while I sat in her lap, or the crib, or the playpen. She kept reading to me until the time came that I could read to myself, at which point we took turns.
Me: "'I know some new tricks,' said the cat in the hat."
Her: "'A lot of good tricks. I will show them to you!'"
Words kept us together. When I was a teenager, no matter how obnoxious she thought I was, and no matter how square and boring I thought she was, we still had the grace to tolerate each other long enough for a game of Scrabble a few times a week. Then when I left home for college, we played the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle over the phone, and for decades after we worked on it together during visits and holidays. Even in her last days, with me sitting in a recliner next to her hospice bed, we played Scrabble on our iPhones and passed the crossword puzzle back and forth between us.
My mother passed away in July, and I can say with absolute certainty that she did so peacefully. It was her intention to "die well," so that's what she did. It also happened that a few weeks before, her friend and editor at St. Martin's Press, Marcia Markland, called with a couple of questions: One, how would she feel about the Dixie Hemingway mystery series continuing after her death? And two, would I write it? I was horrified. My mother was thrilled. The idea that Dixie would live on filled her with joy.
Now, instead of working on the crossword puzzle every morning, I wake up, make some coffee, and sit down to the world my mother created, the world of Dixie Hemingway, the world she created with nothing but words. She left me with three first-draft chapters for the next book and a computer brimming over with notes, random dialogue for future books, and various observations about Dixie and her cohorts. Every day, I lay some more words down. I move them from one chapter to another. I copy and paste a passage here, I change some words there, maybe I change it back. Sometimes the words fit. Sometimes they're rejected--by me, or my mother, or Dixie herself...I'm not sure which.
One thing I know for certain: it feels like a game. In fact it's a word game, and I'm playing it with my mother. We're still passing words back and forth between us. Mulling them over, arguing about them, competing with them. It's the most amazing and unexpected thing, and I feel so lucky. It's got to be one of the best gifts a mother ever left a son.
“Heads of warring nations could learn a lot about how to achieve lasting peace by watching dogs and cats who live in the same house.” 
― Blaize ClementRaining Cat Sitters and Dogs

To win a copy of THE CAT SITTER'S PAJAMAS by Blaize Clement, send an email to, with "Cat Sitter's Pajamas" as the subject. Make sure to include your name and mailing address in the US only. This contest is open to all adults over 18 years of age. One entry peremail address, please. Your email address will not be shared or sold to anyone. All entries, including names, email addresses and mailing addresses, will be purged after winner is notified. This contest is going to run for two weeks, so please get your entry in by June 2, 2012. Good luck!

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