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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Precious Pup

by Harriet E. Michael

They say a really great dog may only come around once in a lifetime. In my life, Buckles was that dog. He was a brown English Field Cocker. My husband drove to Chicago to get him when he was just a pup. He was the runt of the liter, the leftover puppy, the one nobody else wanted. The first time I laid eyes on him, I thought he was either the most beautiful pup I had ever seen or the ugliest—and I wasn’t sure which. He looked a little like a baby cow. But soon it became clear to me that he was indeed beautiful! So much so, that in the years that followed, people always commented on how striking he was.

But the best thing about him was his personality. He was gentle, loving, obedient, and completely non aggressive with children or anyone. But when he got out in a field hunting with my husband, he was a great retriever—aggressive, obedient, faithful and worked tirelessly.

My husband’s high school friend and hunting buddy, Jim, liked Buckles so much he made the trip to Chicago to get an English Field Cocker for himself. She’s solid black and named Ziggy. One of Jim’s reasons for getting a female was to someday get a puppy out of Buckles.

That is where we ran into trouble. For reasons unknown to us, Ziggy and Buckles were not able to conceive. Over a period of four years, at every possible opportunity the dogs were put together hoping Ziggy would get pregnant–but to no avail.

Ziggy was getting older and Buckles was quite old, so in desperation, Jim took the dogs to a vet and had Ziggy artificially inseminated by Buckles. And that is how at eleven years old, Buckles became a father and we were given our pick of the liter. buckles-and-colt

Buckles and Colt (father and son)

Each time we went to Jim’s house to look at the pups, I was, of course, hoping to find one just like Buckles. There were no brown pups–only solid black ones and white with black spots, so I had to judge by their personalities. The personality was more important to me anyway. My husband wanted a male and there were four possibilities. The first time we were there, when the pups were only a few weeks old, one little solid black male kept wagging his tail. I picked him up and he immediately stretched his little neck to try and nuzzle against me–something Buckles did!

“Look!” I exclaimed pointing to the mannerism we both knew so well. My husband took the pup out of my arms and held him up, placing the pup’s nose against his nose. The little guy’s tail wagged a mile a minute. I laughed and took him back. Holding him to my nose, I told my husband to look at his tail. Then we held each of the other male pups and none had either mannerism–none tried to nuzzle and none wagged their tails when held up to our noses.

On the next visit, this same little black male came running to us, wagging his whole body. Again, I laughed. Because, again, this was a Buckles’ characteristic. Buckles was double jointed and when he wagged his tail, which he did most of the time, it looked like his back legs had come unhooked from his body and the whole back part of him would move back and forth vigorously.

It only took two visits to know which pup was most like his father in personality, and that’s the one we wanted! We have not been disappointed. He is laid back, sweet-natured, gentle, and loving–just like the old man.

A couple of Christmases ago, we had one very old, very sweet, brown dog who we have loved completely for going on twelve years and one small, active, happy, precious pup running circles around his dad. On Christmas Eve when I saw that adorable puppy running to my husband with a chewed string of lights in his mouth, bringing it to him and proudly dropping it at his master’s feet, like a faithful retriever should, I didn’t even get annoyed with him. Instead, I laughed and thought how blessed we were to have one of Buckles’ pups running around our house, chewing up our Christmas lights.

They say a really great dog may only come around once in life … but then again, they may be wrong!

colt

Writing Prompt: What was your favorite pet in your lifetime? What made him or her special?

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3 Questions Wednesday with Nike Chillemi

Nike Chillemi 2017

Nike Chillemi

Welcome to 3 Questions Wednesday, Nike Chillemi.

I met Nike Chillemi several years ago, through an ACFW critique loop. Since that time, I’ve been privileged to work with her on some of her latest releases. So, I’m excited to have Nike here today. She writes mysteries and romantic suspense. Check out her bio (below) for more about her writing life and why she’s called the “crime fictionista.” You can leave a comment for a chance to win Harmful Intent, the first book in her latest suspense-filled series. She recently released Blood Speaks, the third and final book in the trilogy. But I’ve heard a rumor, we haven’t heard the last of Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels and Dawson Hughes!

Nike, I have to ask (because it’s our first question):

What inspires you?

Nike:  Good question, and I have to think about this. I actually got up and walked away from my laptop to make a cup of tea. I guess I felt I was supposed to come up with something pithy and significant. I mean, I fashion myself a fairly deep writer. Buried within my action-packed detective stories are hopefully “meaningful” subthemes. But the truth is little, many times off-hand things inspire both my novel and blog writing. Several years ago I was totally taken by a pair of cardinals who were flying north for the summer and how they related to each other for the two days they came to my backyard. I’ve put a red cardinal and his mate in two of my novels as a symbol of love between spouses.

I love that. I’m a big fan of cardinals, and where I live, you have to be careful where you say that (really big basketball rivalry in Kentucky). We have a couple of the birds living in our backyard. Of course, in our mild climate, they don’t go anywhere for the winter, so we have them throughout the year. They seem very dedicated to each other. Funny how the simple things in life touch us so deeply at times.

Hey…

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Nike:  Right away I thought “purple” and I don’t know why. I don’t wear purple, there isn’t any purple in the décor of my home, to speak of. I guess it would be the deep amethyst purple. I do have a couple of earrings in that deep amethyst. In fact the first “good” pair of earrings I ever got were from my mom and they were small amethyst studs set in gold.

I’m not surprised by your choice. Lovers of the color purple tend to be unconventional, unique, different…umm…sound familiar? Purple is also dignified and royal.

I love this last question and can’t wait to hear how you’ll answer–

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Nike: I wanted to be Barbara Walters. I thought she had the most fascinating job, and of course she did. Today, interviewing famous people doesn’t interest me. I sometimes think I’d like to be a producer/interviewer for a cable TV station and go around to different towns and small cities in America and ask folks on the street, who is the most interesting, most respected, and/or most loved person in this town? Then I’d walk into that fascinating person’s hair salon, or restaurant, or catch them as they deliver the mail and interview them about their life in that place. My readers tell me that Bertha is the most loved character in my Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels/Dawson Hughes detective series. And of course she’s a very strong secondary character in the final book of the series, BLOOD SPEAKS.

Barbara Walters! She did have a fascinating job. I think your idea is a good one, though. Sounds like fun–catching someone unaware, in everyday moments of life, then letting your reader see the real person. Bertha is a fine example of a strong secondary character. She’s real, and lovable. The good neighbor or best friend we all desire.  

Thanks Nike, for taking the time to answer our 3 Questions.


Nike Chillemi 2017 Like so many writers, Nike Chillemi started at a very young age. Her first major work was a Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned as a little girl (colored might be more accurate) about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista. Her passion is crime fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better.

Nike is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and is its Chair, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She has been a judge in the 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories; and an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category. Her four novel Sanctuary Point series (out of print), set in the mid-1940s has finaled, won an award, and garnered critical acclaim. The first novel in the Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels/Dawson Hughes series HARMRUL INTENT won in the Grace Awards 2014 Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller/Historical Suspense category. She has written book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and John 3:16 Marketing Network.

Nike’s website:  http://nikechillemi.wordpress.com/

Readers, Nike is giving away a copy of Harmful Intent, the first book in the Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels/Dawson Hughes series. Just leave a comment in the comments section below to be entered to win the Kindle version of the book.

Here’s more information about the book:

harmful-intentBetrayal runs in private investigator Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels’ family. So, why is she surprised when her husband of one year cheats on her? The real shock is his murder, with the local lawman pegging her as the prime suspect.

Ronnie Ingels is a Brooklyn bred private investigator who travels to west Texas, where her cheating husband is murdered. As she hunts the killer to clear her name, she becomes the hunted.

Deputy Sergeant Dawson Hughes, a former Army Ranger, is a man folks want on their side. Only he’s not so sure at first, he’s on the meddling New York PI’s side. As the evidence points away from her, he realizes the more she butts in, the more danger she attracts to herself.

Sweet, askance romance, warm intimacy, sophisticated themes presented tastefully.

Her latest release is Blood Speaks, Book 3 in the The Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels/Dawson Hughes Trilogy

blood-speaks-coverVeronica “Ronnie” Ingels, Brooklyn gal PI, waited a long time for the solitaire on her finger. When her sometimes boss, a shadowy figure and director of a secret government organization, offers a one-week bridal shopping vacay in Virginia, she jumps at it.

Joined by bridesmaids, Sandra Daube and Bertha Dagney, Ronnie sets off for the village of Heritage Cove on Arrowhead Lake, Virginia. Their joyous stay at the rustic yet luxury Heritage Cove Inn is shattered by a murder with tendrils and a clandestine motive stretching back to the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

It doesn’t take long for Ronnie and her gal-pals to become targets of the killer. It goes without saying, Taylor County Deputy Sheriff, Lieutenant Dawson Hughes leaves Texas to protect his bride-to-be. He’s joined by Sandra’s employer, conservative political activist Ben Cohen. Neither hell-nor-high-water can keep Gabby Hayes look-alike Hoot Dagney from the side of Bertha, his new bride.

 

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Memories of a Dog

By Tammy Trail

My Dad thought it important for kids to grow up with a dog. After we left city life and lived in a rural community, we got a dog. We named him Duke. He was a little terrier, and he followed us kids wherever we went.

One memory that is special to me is that of myself, my youngest brother, Tom, and a brave little dog. The town post office was just a few blocks from our home. We used to walk there almost everyday.

While inside the post office, “Dukie”, would patiently wait outside on the stone porch. The Post Mistress liked to strike up a conversation, and my little brother was always good for a laugh. If someone approached the post office while we visited and retrieved our mail, our little dog went into protective mode. No one wanted to test his little stand-off at the entrance. After we left, Duke would back down and follow us home.

I don’t remember how long we had Duke. He got sick one day and my Dad took him to the vet. He finally came home, and his little tail never quit wagging. My brother Derrick made a fuss over Duke providing him with a comfortable bed on the back porch, a whole can of dog food, and fresh water. A few minutes later my brother began to wail as Duke died in his arms. I don’t remember what illness or accident may have taken our Duke from us, but to console us our Dad told us that Duke had held on until he got home. He wanted to see his kids one last time before he died. Who knows if it was true. Forty years later, I’d like to think so.

Later as teens, Sandy would be 16730897_10212091702318755_532903841_nthe dog who followed us around. She was a German Shepard/Golden Labrador mix, and human smart. She learned new tricks faster than any dog we ever had. Her job was to retrieve the newspaper from the drive way in the mornings. She would get a pillow off the bed and bring it to you, which made lying on the floor to watch T.V. much more comfortable.

Years later as we all grew up and moved away from home, Sandy stayed with Mom and Dad. While making wedding plans, my Mom asked me what I wanted as a gift. I told her I wanted Sandy. They brought her to me and she lived with me, my husband and my daughter until she was thirteen years old. She could hardly hear, her eyes were misted over with blindness, and her hips made her move slow. She died in her sleep in a quiet house. Tim found her when he came home from work for lunch. I cried buckets. We buried her in our back yard under a huge tree.dog-1194083__340

Sandy had the habit of laying her head on the bed to stare at me until I woke up. Then she would get excited and dance in circles. It was time to go outside.

After she passed one morning I woke up to feel the edge of the bed to see if it was warm I was certain she had been there.

Our pets can be annoying with the constant need for us to take care of them. The shedding hair and occasional accidents will drive one crazy. But there has never been a substitute for a more loving, constant companion than a dog.soldier-870399__340\\

Writing prompt: A busy day at the shelter……..

Fiction and Fur Babies

By Gail Johnson

And God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the ground after its kind: and God saw that it was good Genesis 1:25 ASV.

How’s your WIP coming along? Making progress? Or stuck on how to make it better?

How about adding a fur baby?

I know dogs and cats are not unusual or exotic like a monkey or a boa constrictor. Eww! But when you take the perfect breed and add a quirky personality you can create a unique story. Especially if you allow the reader to hear the pet’s thoughts!

Some of the most memorable movies starred a cat or a dog. Remember these?

Cat Movies
The Aristocats
Garfield
Oliver and Company
Homeward Bound I and II

Dog Movies
Lady and the Tramp
101 Dalmatians
Turner and Hooch
Marley and Me

The most recent one made is A Dog’s Purpose starring Dennis Quaid.

As you can see it would be just an ordinary movie without the dog. The dog is the reason you want to watch the film!

Do Your Homework
If this pooch and kitty idea sounds like something you’re interested in, the first thing to figure out is what kind of dog or cat your main character would have. Then ask yourself the following questions:

dog-450543_1280What type of a person is my main character? Athletic or sedentary? City boy or country girl? Park runner or trail hiker? Apartment or house dweller? Truck or car? Once you’ve answered all your questions, then the next thing you’ll want to do is find the breed that will best fit the lifestyle of your main character.

This step also begins with questions. Does the animal help with work, either on the job or on the farm? Heelers are ideal for sheep and cattle. German Shepherds are used in military and police work. Labrador Retrievers are workers and companions, whereas a Shih Tzu is just for companionship. They make perfect fur babies. I should know. I own one.

You may want to go deeper and ask about the sensitivity of your character’s nose. Individual dogs smell worse than others. My sniffer is extremely sensitive. Is your character a clean freak or a slob? Clean freak, here. Some cats and dogs shed worse than others. A Shih Tzu doesn’t shed like an average dog but rather like a human. Their hair must be cut.

cat-1551783_1280For cats, you ask the same questions. Work or play? Some American Shorthair cats make great mousers on the farm whereas the Persian Cat, like the Shih Tzu, make great fur babies. Some cats are elegant while others are fat and lazy. Think Garfield.

As you can see, whether you mean to imply it or not, the animals tell a lot about their owners. And it’s a great way to add another layer to your story.

Researching the Breed
According to reference.com, there are 340 recognized dog breeds of which only 167 are acknowledged in the United States. Additionally, there are 55 cat breeds allowed in competition, with the officially accepted number varying between associations. That’s a lot of cats and dogs! So where do we begin?

dog-220393_1280Why not start with cattime.com/cat-breeds and dogtime.com/dog-breeds/profiles? Both sites share pictures and information about each animal. Another idea would be to visit the local kennel or ask a veterinarian.

God created an array of animals to add an interesting layer to our world. Adding an animal to your WIP can and will add layers to your story and to your character. So which one do you have in mind? Cat or Dog?

Writing Prompt:

She had only been gone for twenty minutes. How on earth could one Labrador puppy do so much damage? Nancy checked her watch. Thirty minutes before her guest would arrive. Where could she get a new…

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3 Questions Wednesday with Jennifer Slattery

biophotocroppededited2016Welcome back to 3 Questions Wednesday,  author and speaker, Jennifer Slattery. Jennifer and I have been friends for a while and we try to meet at conferences when we get a chance. I love all her books and I know you’ll love them also…

First question, my friend:

What inspires you?

Jennifer: I’d have to say Jesus Christ as I seem to get a great deal of writing ideas and feel a strong pull to write on Sundays. This makes me chuckle as I always take Sunday off—except for one time when something urgent came through I needed to deal with as an editor. I suppose I could also say down time inspires me, too, as that might be a reason my creativity gets charged on Sundays.

I also tend to get ideas as I research. So, I’ll start with an idea, and honestly, I’m not sure what sparks it, and then I begin to research. The more I research, the more my imagination flows, which in turn requires more research, with leads to more ideas, which leads to …

Kind of a never-ending cycle. Great answer. Now…

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Jennifer: Oh, my. This is hard. I’m trying to think of my wardrobe. Right now I seem to be in a dusty pink or blush phase, though I suppose those aren’t new additions. Honestly, I can’t think of a color that hasn’t already been included in the large packs. Maybe your readers can help me out on this one. Haha!

Dusty pink sounds like a good color for you. 🙂 Last question:

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Jennifer: This might make you laugh, but an Olympic gymnast. I was convinced if I worked hard enough, I could make that happen. (And I wasn’t even that good, so I suppose that says a lot about my imagination and ability to live in a make-believe world. Haha!) After that—this dream died by seventh grade or so—I don’t really remember having any dreams. Except maybe meeting Bon Jovi or George Michael. Yes, I had a slight infatuation with both.

I could picture you as a gymnast. Thanks for stopping by!

Here’s more information about her latest book:


Restoring Love

Mitch, a contractor and house-flipper, is restoring a beautiful restoringlove_n174111old house in an idyllic Midwestern neighborhood. Angela, a woman filled with regrets and recently transplanted to his area, is anything but idyllic. She’s almost his worst nightmare, and she s also working on restoring something herself. As he struggles to keep his business afloat and she works to overcome mistakes of her past, these two unlikely friends soon discover they have something unexpected in common, a young mom who is fighting to give her children a better life after her husband’s incarceration. While both Mitch and Angela are drawn to help this young mother survive, they also find themselves drawn to each other. Will a lifetime of regrets hold them back or unite them and bring redemption along with true love?

Buy it on:

Christian Book Distributors

Barnes and Noble

Amazon


biophotocroppededited2016Novelist and speaker Jennifer Slattery has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, (http://whollyloved.com) she and her team put on events at partnering churches designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact.

She writes devotions for Internet Café Devotions, Christian living articles for Crosswalk.com, and edits for Firefly, a Southern fiction imprint with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com and connect with her on Facebook , Twitter, or Pinterest.