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

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.


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. 🙂


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


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:

**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





Why Write About Pets?

By Betty Thomason Owens

Why would we choose to write about pets? These (usually) quadruped members of our families add so much to our lives and have become wildly popular. Why not write about them? Stroll around any bookstore or library and I guarantee you will find books about animals/pets. I’ve found several books written from the animal’s POV. Seems like a stretch, but could be entertaining, which is probably the point. Those of you who are writers may often include a pet in your stories. Why? Because most of us have them. To describe a family situation without some sort of pet is almost un-American.

An odd sort of person who lives down the hall and has not one—not two—but a dozen cats in her tiny apartment might make an interesting side character. You’d just have to provide the occasional glimpse of the character, maybe a peek at the many cats. You’d have the smell and the noise to round out your sensory points. Odd character could be an ugly old crone or a sweetly gentle octogenarian.

One of my absolute favorite movies includes several dogs owned by an old Italian man. In an incredibly cute and funny scene, he’s walking all the dogs under a gorgeous moon. Care to venture a guess? Yes, it’s the one with Cher and Nicolas Cage: Moonstruck. The dogs add so much to that movie. I’m still smiling at the memory.

Yes, I live in the Bluegrass State!

Yes, I live in the Bluegrass State!

There are dogs and there are cats and then there are…horses. Beautiful animals! Horses can be as loyal and loving as any dog. They can also be mean and/or dangerous (as can dogs). Horses figure highly in the movie industry, from National Velvet to War Horse. Who didn’t fall in love with that wonderful horse in War Horse? These are also considered pets and they can become as much a part of our life as any dog or cat, but they usually eat more and require a lot more care. And the pooper-scoopers are a lot bigger (been there…).

When writing a family style story, you want to appeal to everyone, so why not include an animal and give it humanlike characteristics. Animals tend to communicate very well through actions and eye-contact. Have you ever been stared down by a cat? I have. Have you ever been licked by a cow? That has also happened to me. I mothered a couple of calves in my youth. So cute as calves, they’re just plain scary at a thousand pounds plus, especially when they’re running at you in the pasture. They come to a dead stop directly in front of you and toss their heads. “Just kidding—snort!” Yes, they are actually quite the kidders. I’ve had my heart stop on several occasions.

When writing their characters, you can use some of the same principles as when writing human characters. They have names, hair and eye color, height and weight, distinct voices, and oh yes, instinct. Their natural instincts can get them into a lot of trouble or deliver them to hero status. They can scare off a burglar or bite the hand that feeds them. An animal can be gentled in much the same way your heroine gentles her man. And a woman’s immediate rapport with a guy’s dog is akin to a guy’s immediate affinity with a woman’s child. Oh yes, that’s great romance.

And how much fun would it be to write a Milo and Otis-type story? One of childhood’s great adventures (my guys loved it). So next time you’re mulling over a list of characters for your WIP or you want to pump-up the humor in a story, you might consider adding a pet or two into the mix. Don’t hack the job though, as they can take away or distract from the plot. It’s a little like scratch cooking. You have to know how much to sprinkle in and sometimes it’s ok to add more sugar.

In looking over our articles this month, I thought you cat owners out there might be feeling slighted, so here’s some cuteness to tickle your funny bone at These pictures prove there are some pretty clever cats out there.

If you have a few minutes, complete the prompt below or send us a comment to take part in this month’s contest. Thanks!

Friday Prompt: Numb and shaken, Doug stared at the stirrup. He’d seen this done, but had never actually ridden one of these critters. But his buddy needed help, and the horse was the quickest and best solution. So he sucked in a deep breath, grabbed hold of the pommel, stuck the toe of his boot in the stirrup, and…

Should I Get a Dog?


Pet Article courtesy of

The short answer is, of course, yes! If you never had the fortune to grow up with dogs, or to know a friend who had a dog, you do not know the amazingly fun times you are missing. Depending on where you live and what kind of dog is right for you, you can take it swimming, hunting, walking around, on the bus, on a jog, or simply just to the dog park to meet other like-minded dog owners. While there are many considerations to go over as to whether a dog is right for you and your current situation (Do you have the space? Do you have the time?), dogs are scientifically proven to be good for the person who owns them and their family. So, if you have a house with a nice backyard and have a spare hour a day, get looking for a new sidekick! Following are some of the most impressive reasons that owning a dog isn’t just a costly endeavor.

One good thing about owning a dog is that they will help you live longer. That’s right! While pets provide their owners with the love and company they so desire, it is difficult to say exactly why people who own dogs live longer. There is evidence that dogs can help you reduce your blood pressure! This article probably does not have to tell you how fun it can be to play with your dog, cuddle with your dog, or just hang around and watch your dog experience new things. Well, owning a pet can lower your blood pressure as effectively as if you were to start eating a low-salt diet or restricting how much alcohol you drink. So get a dog, then grab a beer. This is why many hospitals and retirement community centers hire on a dog to come in and engage in “animal therapy” with the patients and residents: not only does it help old people by reducing their blood pressure and offering them a distraction from any worries or sad thoughts in their lives, but it also acts as a calming presence that eliminates loneliness. At this point in the article it is already clear that dogs are somewhat of a wonder cure for many of life’s ills!

Studies by the US Department of Health have come to the conclusion that pets helped victims of heart attacks–the study reads that 28% of heart patients who also had pets survived “serious heart attacks”, while only about 6% of people without pets made it through. If that’s not enough, you can also measure how much good it does you to own a dog by measuring your before-and-after waistline. A recent study has concluded that pet owners had 2% lower cholesterol than those without pets, and those pet owners’ chance of going through cardiac arrest was reduced by 4%.

Not only are dogs good for you, but they are good for your kids, too. You do not need to read studies to view the delight on children’s faces as they play with dogs. But, just in case that was not enough evidence for you, a few studies have been done to prove how good it is for kids to own pets. A certain study showed that children who were in the vicinity of a dog during their physical examinations had reduced blood pressure, less behavioral problems or distress, and lower heart rates than when a dog was nowhere to be found.

In conclusion, a dog is sometimes hard work. If you’ve never owned a pet before, you may have to become accustomed to picking up the feces of your companion at the most inopportune times. The dog, depending on what type it is, may be aggressive or too timid, very easy or very hard to train, and may either be too smart for its own good or not live up to your standards of intelligence. These are the facts. However, if you give them love, they will return it with all of their energy–it is what they were bred to do and why the humans have let them stick around for the past thousands of years.

Today’s Writing Prompt: “But, Mom.” Taylor placed her hands on her hips, frown in place. “You said I could have a dog.”
Mom closed her eyes in silent prayer before she answered. “No, I said…