Pets: A Connection of Reader to the Story

By Fay Lamb

cat-71494_1280When I sit down to start a work in progress, I rarely have secondary characters in mind. My focus stays on the main characters and building their plots. As the story grows, the secondary characters come onto stage and show me their roles in the lives of the characters. Sometimes those secondary characters are pets or animals that parallel a character’s strength or weakness.

The way a character relates with the animals in their environment tells a lot about them. To date, I have included two cows, some chickens, a dog named Cletus, and a wild bear tagged Bumblebee.

In Better Than Revenge, the heroine owns a small farm. The care she and her son give to the animals shows much about the heroine’s character. She is a hard worker who’s brought up her son, teaching him not to slack his duty. She is caring, and when she is focused on keeping her son safe, he is much in tune with the care of the livestock, showing that his mother’s love has not been lost on him—and that’s a very important part of the story.

In my romance, Charisse, Cletus is a golden retriever. He is responsible for literally having the hero, Gideon, run into Charisse. Cletus’s unconditional love mirrores that of the love that the hero has for his heroine. In attempting to keep her secrets hid and to hold to her anger with regard to her husband’s death, Charisse is not easy to love, but like a dog with a bone, Gideon doesn’t surrender easily. Cletus also becomes a bridge that ties the hero to the heroine’s young son, a boy who, in his sadness, has forgotten how to laugh. At least, until Cletus mowed him over with wet sloppy kisses and a game of catch.dog-1082307_960_720

In my latest novel, Everybody’s Broken, Shane Browne has inherited a valuable piece of untamed mountain. He guards it and the wildlife with vigilance. When Shane begins to include the heroine’s young, twin sons on the hikes he and his daughter take up the mountain, they encounter Bumblebee.

Teaching the boys how to respect nature, Shane shares with the boys what to do in case the old lumbering Ms. Bumblebee advances toward them.

Yet Shane has a sense that Bumblebee is drawn to the boys. She deliberately steps into the clearing, always staying a respectful distance from them. If possible, he believes that she performs for them, but she never seems a danger to them. At least not until …

Bumblebees reaction to and her actions toward the boy mirror the feelings of protectiveness growing in Shane, and when Bumblebee does the unthinkable, Shane must trust that the bear knows what’s best for her adopted “cubs.”

In the two series that are written now, unless they come onto stage of my imagination and surprise me, I do not expect to have another animal. While I used Bumblebee to heighten the suspense for my readers, I can state that the one thing I will never do is to bring an animal into a story simply to play upon the emotions of a reader. An animal must always connect to the lead characters and advance the story forward. It is only then that they can become an emotional attachment.

A cheap shot for me, as an author, would be to take the rug out from under the reader and allow that connection to sever. Like it or not, most people will become attached to a four-legged character more readily than they will a two-legged one. As a reader, when a pet or another animal dies in a book, that’s all for me. Even if I continue to read, the message of the story is lost on me. My heart is broken. I feel I have been played, and I’m not delving too deeply into that story to have the author rip out the remaining pieces. Therefore, a reader might experience a suspenseful moment or two, but they can take a breath and relax. The animals in my stories aren’t going to die.

Now, the two-legged creatures …?


Fay LambFay Lamb is an editor, writing coach, and author, whose emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Fay has contracted three series. With the release of Everybody’s Broken, three of the four books in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series, which also includes Stalking Willow and Better than Revenge, are currently available for purchase. Charisse and Libby the first two novels in her The Ties That Bind contemporary romance series have been released.

Fay has also collaborated on two Christmas novella projects: The Christmas Three Treasure Hunt, and A Ruby Christmas, and the Write Integrity Press romance novella series, which includes A Dozen Apologies, The Love Boat Bachelor, and Unlikely Merger. Her adventurous spirit has taken her into the realm of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Future releases from Fay are: Frozen Notes, Book 4 of the Amazing Grace series and Hope and Delilah, Books 3 and 4 from The Ties that Bind series.

Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor. And, yes, there’s one more: Goodreads.

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Cats Vs. Dogs: The Debate Begins

By Jennifer Hallmark

Grumpy cat on Facebook.

Cutest Dogs pins on Pinterest.

Pet Videos on You Tube.

In today’s social media driven world, the debate of cat vs. dog has only intensified. Are you a dog person, a cat person, or both?

During the month of February, we’ll take a look at our favorite pets, how writers can incorporate pets in their work, how to be a foster parent to a pet, and much more. So whether Grumpy cat makes you giggle or you prefer babies & puppies, you’ll find fun articles and photos every Monday and Friday. Maybe even a possum…

A possum?

0426161731Yep. It all began when Mom moved next door to my daughter. Granddaughter Sadie loves cats so mom adopted two outdoor cats who Sadie christened Smokey and Kissy Kat.

Mom made the new pets a nice, warm home beside the steps at the back of the house, complete with cushioned bed and heat lamp for those cold days.

She also set up a feeding area for the cats on top of a table so the dog couldn’t reach it. But she soon found out a local possum could, so she would give the cats just enough time to eat before retrieving their food dish.

One bitterly cold night, she placed the cat food in their little home and went back inside to give them time to eat. Shortly, she returned, reached in the house and grabbed the bowl, encountering a fur-less tail.

The possum had chased the cats away and was enjoying his supper in a heated home. Sadie thought he was cute and wanted to keep him. 🙂

possum

Writing Prompt: A possum in her cat’s home? She backed away and reached inside the shed for…

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Deep, Dark Water & Monsters Under My Bed

by Betty Owens

I’ve seen a lot of confessions here since May 1st as our team of writers examine their Monster Under the Bed. Now it’s my turn. I gaze into the mirror and wonder, what is my biggest fear?

There are several things running around in my head, but they pale in the face of The One:  Deep, dark water scares me. I don’t like it.

DarkScaryWaterI’m not a great swimmer. In fact, I can barely tread water. So the thought of deep water with no visible bottom–I don’t like it.

I’m not paralyzed by the thought of an ocean voyage (except for the vertigo that plagues me). I’ve cruised the deep green waters of the Puget Sound on a ferry. I’ve been on a clipper-ship sunset cruise in the gulf. But when there’s no floor beneath me, just water, and I can’t see what’s in it or where it ends–panic sets in.

So I’m okay in a pool or in the gulf when I can see right through the crystalline waters. But don’t expect me to jump into the deep blue or anything I can’t see through. No way.

I once swam in a nearby quarry lake with some of my high school friends. We hung out on a tractor-sized inner tube. But there were things nibbling at my toes. My friends told me it was only minnows. But how did they know, really?

GuardCatYes, I was one of those kids who checked beneath the bed every night (every single night) before getting into bed. I also checked the closet. Whenever possible, I had a dog or cat with me for the night. Just to keep me company, of course. All right, not just for company. Guard cat. Guard dog. No monsters under my bed or in my closet while they’re on duty.

Yes, that kid’s movie struck a chord with me–Monsters, Inc.–I loved it. It explained a lot. Of course, by then I was grown and no longer checked beneath the bed. I don’t have to anymore, because we have a bed that sits on a storage unit. There are drawers and compartments under the mattress, no room for anyone (or anything) to hide.

I do still check the closet from time to time. But only because I have no dog or cat to protect me. Just a husband who thinks I’m very silly.

I do hope this month’s topic has helped you face your monster under the bed. Or if you’re a writer, perhaps it served to spur your imagination to round out your characters with real fears and emotions. Yes, these feelings and phobias are real. We fight them and sometimes fend them off.

Imagination is a wonderful thing, except when it runs away with you.

So what’s your monster under the bed?


Writing Prompt!

Here’s your chance to show your stuff as a writer and add a double entry to our quarterly contest for your comment/writing prompt.

After finishing her pre-bed routine (flashlight sweep beneath the bed, closet check, window-lock check), Emily snuggled into her covers. With a soft whistle, she invited Ribbet, her Jack Russell Terrier, to join her there. Lights out. All is quiet, until…

What I Wanted to be When I Grew Up

by Betty Thomason Owens

10171180_10203041015340695_307067443322518168_nA long, long time ago…about the time this picture was taken, I imagined a life filled with my favorite things (I’m the one on the right, by the way). I loved flowers and animals. I frequently invaded prize-winning flower gardens and brought bouquets home to Mom. She was not happy when an angry gardener showed up at her door. I was a sweet, girly version of Dennis the Menace, apparently.

So I dreamed of growing my own beautiful beds of flowers. I’d imagine myself sitting in my porch swing surrounded by cats and dogs who could understand every word I said. Birds sang in the trees. A peacock prowled the yard. All in my fanciful world, of course.

At the time, I lived in a magical place called San Diego. Where flowers bloomed all year round. Tangerines ripened on a tree outside our back door. We climbed date palms and ate cherries from a hedge. Not sure about that last one. I remember eating cherries, but not sure why it was a hedge.

Just blocks away, the beautiful mission of Balboa rang its bells during the day. Not far away, lions roared and elephants trumpeted from their environs at the San Diego Zoo.

Sounds lovely, I know. It was my reality at the time. So I imagined myself in whatever walk of life included beautiful flowers and taking care of cute and cuddly things. My destiny.

51hUtA3M-cLFast-forward a few years and I’m eleven years old and living in a small town in West Tennessee. A far cry (in so many ways) from San Diego. I visited the school library and found a red-and-white book, one of a series of books about Cherry Ames. Cherry was a nurse. The series followed her from candystriper to head nurse and beyond. I vaguely remember romance and intrigue. I determined to follow in her footsteps and earn the white cap.

I made it as far as nurses’ aide in a retirement home during my high school years. I was accepted to a prestigious nursing school, but never went. Life intervened. Dad lost his job a few weeks before I was set to enter. I couldn’t pay for the school, and he wouldn’t let me get a loan. I didn’t have the confidence to do it on my own.

Dreams derailed, I went to work in an office. I married, raised three sons, developed a sense of humor while raising three sons. Hey, you do what you have to do to survive.

Years later, I’ve retired from full-time work as an office manager. I didn’t have much choice, the company I worked for closed. I still love flowers. I love animals. I long to visit San Diego again. Life didn’t turn out the way I imagined way back then. It might actually be better than my dreams.

crocus-673477_1280Fast-forward to 2015. I watch the seasons pass outside my window, waiting for the first signs of spring so I can get out in the yard and dig in my flower bed. I write books and stories and blog posts. I talk to friends all over the world on Facebook and Twitter. I welcome my grandchildren and enjoy spending time with them. Dreaming with them, about what they’ll be when they grow up.

 

Here’s your Writing Prompt: 

Lois Maxwell smiled as she watched her six-year-old roll out cookie dough. “You’re doing a great job, Lily. Maybe you’ll grow up to be a baker, or a chef.”

Lily laughed as she popped a bite of cookie dough into her mouth. “Tell me the story again, Mommy. What did you want to be when you grew up?”

Complete the prompt for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments.

3 Questions Wednesday with Kelly Ann Riley

Kelly Ann Riley

Today we welcome author Kelly Ann Riley to 3 Questions Wednesday. So glad you could drop by, Kelly! First question: Which author would you never tire of and why?

Kelly: There are many authors I really enjoy, but if I had to pick one I’d never get tired of, it would Debbie Macomber. Her books provide wonderful characters, compelling plots and emotionally satisfying endings.

Not only is she a great writer, but she’s a charming and pleasant person to know. Many years ago before I knew who Debbie Macomber was, I was standing behind an author in line at writer’s conference waiting to go into the dining room. We’d seen each other throughout the conference and chit-chatted a bit. She again struck a conversation and when the line moved, she apologized for not inviting me to sit with her because but she had to sit at a table up front.  It wasn’t until later during the meal that I realized Debbie was the keynote speaker. Despite being a busy important woman at this conference, she had taken the time to make a shy unknown writer feel welcome and comfortable.

When I feel discouraged and lacking in motivation, I like to read Debbie’s nonfiction motivational book, Knit Together: Discover God’s Pattern for Your Life. In the book Debbie shares her journey and discusses finding God’s purpose for your life and to always to believe in your dreams.

Debbie has Skyped in and discussed her latest books several times with our small local book club. She’s awesome! Now let’s talk about villains. Who is your favorite fictional villain?

Kelly: It’s hard to pick just one, but generally the villains that I find most interesting are complex, intelligent and worthy of being a formable adversary for the heroine or hero.  A recent example of a villain who intrigued me was Khan from the movie Star Trek Into Darkness.  Even though Khan was one of the bad guys his motive was to save his people. His motive was noble and hit you at gut level and it also set up great tension and conflict. Captain Kirk and Khan had to work together to save their crews but if Khan was successful it would lead to the ultimate destruction of the “inferior” human race.  Another ironic twist in the end is that if they don’t spare Khan’s life, Kirk will die. The complexity of Khan and his mission made him one of my favorite fictional villains.

I love all the Star Trek movies. Science fiction books and movies are always teeming with interesting villains. How about you?  What project are you currently working on?

Kelly: There never seems to be time to work on all the projects I have planned, but currently I’m working on a romantic suspense about an ex-army medic who must team up with a Montana rancher who had once broken her heart to prove she is innocent of murder.  I’m also revising a humorous mystery series about an ex-NASA engineer and LAPD Detective that I’m hoping to sell this year.

My latest cozy mystery with Guideposts books was recently released and is available on the Guideposts website. For the Birds Book 19 in Secrets of Blue Hill Library by Kelly Ann Riley w/a Emily Thomas. Link to the book on Guideposts Books:  http://www.shopguideposts.org/secrets-of-the-blue-hill-library-185/for-the-birds-book-19-secrets-of-the-blue-hill-library-2397.html

**Something interesting about the book is that the parrot Lorenzo that you see on the book cover was inspired by my yellow-napped Amazon parrot also called Lorenzo.

I love the idea of using your own pet for the book cover model. 🙂 Thanks so much for your visit, Kelly!  If you like to win the giveaway which includes a copy of For The Birds and a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card, please leave a comment below.

For the Birds

Coraline Watson brings her yellow-napped Amazon parrot to the library For the Birds Coverone night for the Birders Club meeting, and Liddie takes an instant liking to the beautiful bird. Anne doesn’t pay much attention to Coraline’s wild stories about spies from a nearby chemical company, until the next morning, when the parrot, Lorenzo, appears at Liddie’s window. Anne tries to return the bird, but Coraline’s house is dark and empty, the front window is broken, and no one knows where Coraline has gone. Did she stumble across some actual intrigue? Are her theories true about the chemical company trying to steal a local bird refuge for its own use? Or has Coraline managed to abscond with the Birders Club funds?

Meanwhile, Liddie is taken with Lorenzo and wants a parrot of her own. There’s even a cage in the attic it could live in. When Anne examines the cage, she realizes it was built for carrier pigeons. Did Aunt Edie own them?

Anne’s research leads to a fascinating discovery in her great aunt’s past.

Since winning RWA’s Golden Heart for Best Inspirational in 2009, Kelly Ann Riley has written ten novels for Guidepost Books and Harlequin Inspired Suspense. She enjoys writing cozy mysteries and romantic suspense. Kelly Ann is a member of Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers. Her books have been finalists in numerous contests including RWA’s Rita contest and ACFW’s Carol Award.  Kelly Ann lives in rural north Alabama with her engineer husband, son, daughter and numerous spoiled pets.  She can be contacted through her web site www.KellyAnnRiley.com.