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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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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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. 🙂

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

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An Alabama-Inspired Thanksgiving

img_20141012_173651690By Jennifer Hallmark

Thanksgiving Day will soon arrive. I’ll wake early, eat a bowl of Cheerios and savor my morning cup of tea. As I hold the steaming mug, I’ll find comfort in its warmth and the sweetness of the honey-laced liquid inside. But only for a moment. Soon, thirty to forty people will crowd inside our home and there’s still much to do.

I’ll prepare part of the food on Wednesday. It releases some of the stress and flurry from this day and gives me more time to relax, be thankful, and maybe watch part of the early football game. But this morning, we’ll finish cooking. The savory smell of baked turkey permeates the air. It will soon be joined by cornbread dressing, pinto beans, sweet potato casserole, and yeast rolls. My husband, Danny, always makes the dressing, a recipe passed down from his mother. I scurry and pour the sweet tea in our three-gallon beverage dispenser. I’ll make a gallon of unsweetened tea but hardly anyone will drink it with the well-sugared kind around. We work as a team, making sure everything is just right.

thanksgiving-231781_960_720Around noon, we usually finish the last-second tasks and sit for a moment to eat a turkey sandwich. Around two o’clock in the afternoon, my husband and I will open our home to a hodgepodge of family, friends, and a few others who have nowhere to go. Everyone is welcome at our annual Thanksgiving feast.

By one o’clock, a few of the family has already arrived. Danny’s sister will open the front door and shout, “knock-knock” and I know the fun has begun. Each person arrives with different delectable dishes of food and we arrange them the best we can on the kitchen counters and stove top.

Football is still on the television but no one’s really watching as people drift from room to room. Handshakes and hugs abound as many catch up on old times. The garage doors have been shut and the space has been transformed into a dining room/fellowship hall. Large tables are set up for the adults. A special kids table, complete with coloring books and crayons sits by its side.

Mamaw Avon’s Pink StuffAt the appointed time, we all squeeze into the kitchen where my son or daughter will welcome everyone. One of the grandchildren will say “grace” before the long line forms to tackle the cafeteria-style selection of meats, vegetables, and casseroles that take up every inch of available space on the counters. Everyone loads their Chinet plates to the brim, grabs the plastic flatware and napkins and hunts a place to sit.

In the garage, large tables of sweet delights line one wall and hold twenty or more desserts, many new recipes that someone wanted to test on the crowd. Last year, I tried two pie recipes but neither turned out. I was teased over my pie “soup”. This year, I’ll stick with a cake and maybe some cookies. 🙂

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Not my pie…

Before the afternoon is over, everyone will have eaten more than enough and recipes will have been swapped. Some will be scouring the day’s newspaper, planning to brave the crowds and start their Christmas shopping later in the evening. As a few linger behind to help me and Danny clean up, my heart swells with gratitude. I wouldn’t trade our Thanksgiving for anything.

For the next few days, we’ll munch on leftovers and when we warm our plate in the microwave, the fragrance of Thanksgiving will return. I’ll sit in the recliner and sip another cup of tea, content.

And thankful.


Someone usually makes a macaroni casserole at Thanksgiving. Here’s the recipe for you to try…

Macaroni Casserole

8 oz. package elbow noodles
1 jar chopped pimentos, drained and dried
1 jar sliced mushrooms, drained and dried
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 lb. Kraft American Cheese, grated (set one cup aside)
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup chopped onion

Cook noodles; drain and place in large bowl. Grate cheese and set aside 1 cup. Stir together noodles, pimentos, mushrooms, soup, cheese (minus the cup), mayonnaise and onion. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove and sprinkle remaining cup of cheese over top. Bake 10 more minutes.


Writing Prompt: I pulled the spice cake from the oven. The aroma of nutmeg and cinnamon flowed through the house and set my stomach to rumbling. As I started to carry the heavenly confection across the kitchen…

Happy_Thanksgiving_sign


Jennifer Hallmark writes southern fiction and fantasy. Jennifer’s website and blog she co-founded focus on her books, love of the South, and helping writers.

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Filming Bears in Alaska

DSCN0653By Jennifer Hallmark

Bucket List-a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.

Close to the top of my bucket list was to spend vacation time in Alaska.  I’ve wanted to visit my brother and his family in Anchorage since he moved there twenty-two years ago but something always stood in the way. You know the kind of things: money, taking time off work, having to travel with children, fear of flying, and did I mention money?

Who would guess that not only would I get to go but I’d also end up filming bears while there?

During the first week of June, 2016, I journeyed to Alaska with my husband and mother to attend my niece’s wedding. Yes, the “I hate to fly” Alabama girl boarded an airplane for a nine–hour flight. That’s nine hours in the air, not including layovers in Atlanta and Seattle. We went from Central Time to Eastern Time then back to Central Time, on to Mountain Time, Pacific Time, and finally Alaskan Time. Talk about adjustment.

Anyway, we had eight days (two spent in travel) of a glorious, jam-packed adventure in the Last Frontier. I thought I’d share some of the five hundred photos I snapped while there. And tell you what I found most interesting during our Alaskan vacation, including the bears.

Mountains. They were everywhere. Massive, snow-covered and, in places, reminding me of the movie, Lord of the Rings. In Anchorage, you can go from busy city to wilderness in minutes.

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The highest temperature was 74 degrees while we were there. I wore a jacket most of the time and a sweatshirt and jacket while we explored the mountain areas. My brother ran around in short sleeves and shorts at times. The water from the tap was so cold. All the rivers, lakes, and streams were either clear and icy or clouded with glacier silt and icy.

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Wildlife is all around you. And I don’t mean possums and rabbits like around here. I’m talking moose, bears, and wolves. We did a small amount of hiking and we’re given a bell (to warn animals we were coming) and bear mace to take with us. Hence, the small amount of hiking. Here is the Momma bear and her two babies…

We saw so many glaciers; everywhere we drove, on the train ride, and on our boat cruise around the bay at Seward. It actually snowed in the mountains while we were there and you could tell the difference between the fresh snow and what basically is permanent ice in the high altitudes. Right over my shoulder is a photo of a glacier we hiked to. We couldn’t get on it because they’re very dangerous but we did make it to some icy snow…

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The Restaurant

Alaska abounds with artsy communities like Talkeetna. We enjoyed the craftsman and eclectic places to eat there. We ate at the Roadhouse restaurant. It was set up family-style with just a few big tables for everyone. We had beef pasties, reindeer sausage and Marion berry jelly on homemade sourdough bread. Yum!2016-06-03 11.42.47

There are a lot of ethnic groups in Alaska and lots of international grocery stores, restaurants, and shopping. I wish we’d had more time to explore the different cultures found here.

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I loved this painting in the Anchorage Museum

There was drive-thru coffee shops every few blocks. Linda Yezak, you would be so happy. I would’ve tried to count them but they were almost innumerable. 🙂

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9:30 at night

And from the time I left Seattle at 10:30 p.m. on June 1st until we reached Seattle in the wee hours of June 8th, I never saw darkness. It truly is the land of the midnight sun.

I could go on for days about all the sights, sounds, and smells that were so different than what we experience in the Deep South. I hope at some point to go back and visit my family again and this time stay several weeks so I can visit Fairbanks, Juneau, and Homer. I can highly recommend Alaska in June as a place to visit. And while you’re there, stop in and visit my brother. Tell him I’ll be back…

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Thankfulness and a Sweet Potato Casserole

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By Jennifer Hallmark

The holiday season has begun for many people around the United States. Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. I’ve had my house decorated in pumpkins, autumn flowers, and harvest items for a while now and soon I’ll be switching them out for Christmas. Today, however, I have much to be thankful for.

A family and friends who loves me and accepts me for who I am.

A God who delights in me and does everything for my good with a plan and purpose in mind.

The basic necessities of life and far beyond.

A church home where I feel safe.

Work that keeps my mind and body healthy.

A home in Heaven awaiting me one day.

What do you have to be thankful for? My list could go on and on, but I wanted to take a moment and post a recipe I cook every year at Thanksgiving. I guess you could call it a Thanksgiving tradition. Enjoy!

Writing Prompt: While you are at a holiday dinner this year, soak in the sights, smells, and tastes of the event and later record it. This could be a great scene in an upcoming bestseller!

 Sweet Potato Casserole

3 large cans sweet potatoes ( I prefer mashed)

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 stick butter or margarine (softened)

 Drain and mash potatoes if not already mashed.  Add 1 cup sugar, 3 eggs, 1 tablespoon vanilla, and 1 stick butter (softened); mix well.  Spread into pan.

Topping:

2 cups brown sugar

2/3 cup flour

2 cups chopped pecans

2/3 c. butter or margarine, melted

Mix brown sugar, flour, pecans, and melted butter; crumble on top of casserole.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

 

 

 

 

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