4
Jul

Fourth of July Celebration

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Agnes pulled into the driveway and stepped out of her Prius.

Her neighbor, Millie, hailed her from across the street. “Yoo-hoo! Agnes! Wait up. Happy fourth of July!” She scurried across the street.

Millie was the last person Agnes wanted to talk to. They had nothing in common. Millie and her husband, George, were antique buffs. Her house looked like a museum full of relics from the Revolutionary War. Why did Millie put up with such nonsense?

Millie, out of breath from rushing, said, “Are you coming to the Independence Day celebration at the Vet’s Memorial Building tonight? They’re having a military band, Viet Nam veteran speakers, and then fireworks after the meeting. You’re welcome to ride over with us.”

Agnes lifted her grocery bags from the back seat. “Sorry, can’t make it. Gotta’ get these things inside. Frozen stuff. Talk to you later.” She hurried into the house. A twinge of guilt gripped her chest. It wasn’t very nice, snubbing Millie like that. But, Millie was so gol-darned boring. Every conversation somehow turned to her latest E-Bay purchase. A Minute Man rifle. A battered sword. A faded shirt. Agnes sighed. Who cared about all that stuff anymore? What difference does it make, anyway, two hundred years later? Who cares?

The fourth of July was such a nuisance. The fireworks just got all the dogs in the neighborhood barking and the streets were a mess the next morning.

Agnes preferred closing the blinds and going to bed early.

****
The boom-boom of fireworks turned into the sound of a beating drum. The sun blazed down on men dressed in brilliant red jackets. Sweat poured from their faces. They marched in a straight row toward an outline of shadowy figures in buckskin, hiding behind rocks and trees.

Agnes ran back and forth on the battlefield, as the soldiers moved forward with guns drawn. Redcoats? From England? A battlefield?

Agnes jerked and twisted, thrashing her pillow. How did she get in the middle of a Revolutionary War battlefield? I don’t belong here! Wait. I can’t be here. The field will soon be littered with dead and dying men. She turned and tried to run. Wake up! Wake up!

Someone grabbed her arm, dragged her from the line of fire and pulled her down behind a rock. Her heart pounded. Perspiration trickled down her forehead. She crouched beside the men, so close she could smell their sweat. Older soldiers grimaced, their lined faces knowing what was soon to come. “Hold the line, men. Steady now.” Younger soldiers, terrified of the unknown, sniffled as the enemy advanced, step by step to the beat of their drum. Though the ragtag soldiers were outnumbered by the advancing troops, the advantage lay in their favor, as they took advantage of the cover of trees and rocks. The men primed their guns with powder and ball and squatted in the dirt, waiting, waiting as the formidable enemy advanced closer and closer.

I’ve got to get away. This can’t be real! I must be dreaming! Why can’t I wake up?
The drumbeat stopped. Silence! She peeked around the rock. There stood the enemy, immobile on the field, guns at the ready, feet in mid-step. The flag drooped unmoving, despite a brisk breeze. The young drummer’s drumstick hung suspended in mid-air, above his drum.

Agnes lifted her head toward the brilliant sky scattered with patches of clouds as though suspended from wires on a stage. Overhead, a bird hung motionless as though frozen in time. What happened?
She opened her eyes, blinked against the darkness as she lay in her bed. The boom-boom of the fireworks had ceased. A nightlight glowed across the room. I was dreaming! Dreams were, after all, just snatches of thoughts and memories, sounds and sights stored willy-nilly in one’s mind and pulled into a fractured scenario to haunt our restless nights. She shuddered. There was a day when her dream had been another’s reality.

She turned toward the window. It had begun to rain and rivulets streaked the glass, curving and twisting as it traversed the pane. Outside, the tree in the backyard wavered in the wind of an unseasonable summer storm. The celebrations had ended and fireworks ceased.

Agnes put her hand to her pounding heart. It was just a dream. Everything was fine. Just a dream. It doesn’t matter now.
Agnes rose from her bed and found a book on the Revolutionary War in her library. She sat in a rocker and began to read: For the sake of independence, farmers, storekeepers, bankers, men from all walks of life, rebelled at the tyranny England imposed on their fledgling nation. Ill equipped, with antiquated guns and untrained, the Continental soldiers chose to fight a highly-trained army made up of Englishmen, German mercenaries and Hessians.

The Revolutionary war lasted over eight years.
The estimated population in America in 1776 was three million.
80,000 militia and Continental Army soldiers served at the height of the war
25,000 Revolutionary soldiers died during the war
8,000 Revolutionary soldiers died from wounds inflicted during battle
17,000 Revolutionary soldiers died from disease
25,000 Revolutionary soldiers were estimated to have been wounded or maimed
1 in 20 able-bodied white free males living in America died during the war

All for the sake of following generations, so we could have the freedom to make laws and live by our own rules as established by the Declaration of Independence.

Agnes left a message on Millie’s answering machine. “This is Agnes. Sorry I couldn’t make it tonight. I hope you had fun. I promise I’ll come with you next year. Our freedom is important, isn’t it? We need to remember what the holiday cost our forefathers. It really matters.”

Agnes returned to her room with her cat. The rain had stopped.

Boom! Another fire-cracker cracked in the night. “Does he have any idea why he’s celebrating, or just having fun?”

Agnes’s cat blinked and though he had no answer to the provocative question.

21
Jun

He said… She said. Why does it matter?

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Readers love books with lots of dialogue and not so much narrative. Good dialogue should never just be idle chit-chat or casual conversation. Dialogue moves the storyline forward and is written specifically to create a certain mood.

In the following edited conversation between Brett and Kimberlee, from Black Cat’s Legacy, she shares her darkest secret.

Kimberlee took a deep breath and sighed. “I’ve had nightmares all my life. I never thought they had anything to do with my father’s death.”

“Nightmares?” Brett wrinkled his forehead. “Go on.”

“I remember now. In my dream…maybe it wasn’t a dream... My father is lying at the foot of the stairs and there’s someone standing in the shadows!”

Brett leaned across the table and took her hand. “You were there? You saw the killer?” His grip tightened on her hand. “You know who it was?”

She shook her head. “I heard voices. I came down the stairs. I remember something red, maybe a piece of clothing? I heard a shot and then I saw his…his… body. That’s all I remember.” She laid her head on her arms. “I never realized what it meant. I thought it was just a nightmare.”

“I can’t imagine how you must feel. I want to help get to the bottom of this. What can I do?” Brett’s voice shook
.
She lifted her head. Tears ran down her cheeks. “There is one thing, but I hate to ask.”
“Anything. Just name it. How can I help?” A flicker of concern swept across his face. He squeezed her hand.

“Maybe get me a tissue?” Her eyes crinkled in a smile.

What does this dialogue reveal?
In a few short sentences, we learn that Kimberlee never understood the connection between her nightmares and her father’s murder. We feel empathy for her pain. We see Brett’s increasing attraction to her, and suddenly during this tense moment, she delivers a one-liner that hopefully, if I did my job well, makes you smile.

Even more than the narrative in a story, good dialogue can create drama, romance, angst, or humor. If you can put it all in one conversation, go for it!

The reader doesn’t understand the creative effect of what a writer has done or admire their skill of their craft. They just know that as they read, the dialogue makes them feel they are watching the scene unfold, or better yet, they become one with the characters, feeling their joy, their pain, or their sorrow as they are pulled into the story.

The mark of a good book is when the reader reaches “THE END” and wishes there was another 100 pages. The mark of a GREAT book, is when that same reader searches for the sequel or another book by this same author.

Beyond a good plot, a charming setting or appealing characters, writing dialogue that sings is essential to creating this kind of reader’s response. It contributes to the success or failure of a book and to the writer’s career.

27
Apr

All Aboard the Friendship Train

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While doing research for the WWII novel I’m currently writing, I often find information of little remembered history from WWII. I recently learned of the Friendship Train sent to France and Italy following the war.

Much of Europe was devastated during WWII and following the war, the people continued to suffer years of deprivation, limited food supplies and a slow reconstruction of their towns.

While Drew Pearson, a popular journalist of the time, visited Europe during 1947, he heard that the Communists were being thanked for sending a few carloads of grain to the Europeans. Feeling that the United States could do more to help our European neighbors; he conceived the vision of the Friendship Train. His suggestions appeared in his newscast columns on October 11, 1947. He asked our citizens to donate food and clothing to help the people of France and Italy. I’m sure he must have been amazed at the response to his request.

Immediately, towns, cities, and the citizens of every state in the USA collected food for the Friendship Train. The plan was met with such enthusiasm that competition among the communities, counties, and states began for collecting and sending the largest contribution.

Five weeks later, on November 7, 1947, the Friendship Train began its trek beginning in Los Angeles and ending in New York City. Although the train traveled through only eleven states, every state sent boxcars or trucks filled with goods to meet the Friendship Train at a junction. When it arrived in New York, we had collected and shipped $40 million in food and supplies to Europe aboard the 700-car American Friendship Train.

No money was ever spent in the process. The transportation by rail and truck, the loading of the boxcars and trucks, the loading and the use of the ships was all provided by volunteers and donations. The train's mission was an incredible display of goodwill from the people of the United States to France and Italy.

Every package had this label: "All races and creeds make up the vast melting pot of America, and in a democratic and Christian spirit of good will toward men, we, the American people, have worked together to bring this food to your doorsteps, hoping that it will tide you over until your own fields are again rich and abundant with crops." Also on every label were these words, "This gift is sent to you by: 'first and last name and address of donor.’” This message was written in Italian and French and printed beside the American flag.

In 1949, France reciprocated by collecting 49 boxcars full of gifts donated by the French citizens and returned to the USA in their Merci Train as a thank-you for our generosity. One boxcar went to each state. Upon arrival, the gifts were distributed in various ways. Some freely given, others auctioned off and many items placed in local museums. The boxcars, called 40 and 8 boxcars were vintage, having been used to transport troops during WWI and then again during WWII. Many veterans remembered being transported across Europe in these boxcars. The Merci Train cars were restored and kept in museums across the country as memorials to those who had fought and died. Most of these boxcars have survived, many now over 100 years old, and are on display in museums in 43 states.

More information about the Friendship Train and the Merci Train can be found on the internet.

16
Apr

Writing A Series - Black Cat Mysteries

cover_cat_eyes-realistic-face(smallforemail)The novel: Authors write from our hearts and can’t help but inject many of our own ideas, humor, personality, fears or interests into our characters, particularly the protagonist. Though limited to the physical capabilities of a feline, Thumper, the cat in the Black Cat Mysteries, is best described as having human emotions, thoughts, ideas, and knowledge. With this in mind, Thumper, therefore, is much of me.

>As a POV character in Black Cat’s Legacy, Thumper has waited for someone to return to solve the cold case murder from 25 years ago at the lodge. With the aid of his ancestors’ memories, he points out clues to help Kimberlee and her associates solve the mystery. Of course, someone stands in the way and creates chaos. Throw in a bit of romance and intrigue, a touch of espionage and a smidgen of fantasy and you have a real page turner.BCLL_Cover_Front (2)

The sequel: The author engages in a clever dance, writing a sequel to create what happens next. Assuming a mixed audience of fans from our first book and new readers starting with book two, we must give enough of what happened before to understand why this and that is happening in book two without spoiling book one.

Thumper plays a bigger POV role in the sequel, Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer. By meeting his soul-mate, Noe-Noe, a cream tabby with eyes the color or mustard and stripes the color of marigolds, he has opportunity for more POV scenes and humorous conversations. Set on a Texas horse ranch, Thumper must stop a killer bent on harming Grandmother, even though he doesn’t like her very much as she has her own wicked agenda.

The third in the series: The third novel in a series must tie up all the loose ends within the three books, leaving the reader contented with the conclusion. As authors, we must answer all the questions satisfactorily and yet leave just the hint of a possible future plot. BCAA_Cover_Front_for_web

In the novel, Black Cat and the Accidental Angel Thumper and Noe-Noe are left behind following an MVA. Thumper suffers a head injury and memory loss. For whatever reason, Noe-Noe says, “Call me Angel. I’m here to take care of you,” refusing to share their previous life. What follows is a journey where Thumper, now called Black Cat in their new home on an Emu farm, experiences a spiritual journey of human emotions that include fear, loss, grief, shame, faith, jealousy, despair and joy as he learns, with the assist of divine intervention, that there are more important things than knowing your own name. (yes…there is an angel)

What’s next? In spite of my intention that my journeys with Black Cat are finished, one never knows what tomorrow brings. After all, as the muse for his character, he still lives within me, kicking and screaming to get out, wanting to share yet another adventure, even as I turn my attention to another series set during WWII.
****

Elaine.Faber@mindcandymysteries email
www.mindcandymysteries.com
http://facebook.elainefaber2 facebook
http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm Black Cat’s Legacy - Amazon
http://tinyurl.com/lg7yvgq Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer - Amazon
http://tinyurl.com/nczzkd6 Black Cat and the Accidental Angel - Amazon

10
Mar

Life Versus the Novel

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The Book Cover

A buyer picks up a book with a snappy, good looking, brightly colored cover with an easily read title and intriguing picture suggesting the story line. An appealing cover convinces the potential buyer to check the back for the book summary which should convince him to purchase.

How we present ourselves to the world when we go out in public, our clothing, our hair style, and our countenance is like a book cover. People have an impression of us based on appearance. It may not be fair, but it’s true. They instantly decide if they want to know us better or not. If, on first meeting, we are carelessly dressed, with poorly styled hair, and messy clothes, we create a poor impression. We may be the most likable person in the world, but if our appearance gives the wrong impression, who wants to take the time to find out? A nicely dressed, clean appearance and pleasant demeanor provides a good first impression, just like a well-designed book cover.

The Right Editor

To be successful, an editor goes through a manuscript looking for spelling errors, poor punctuation, poorly written sentences or scenes that don’t make sense. She inspires the author to dig deeper, to help the reader experience the story better, suggesting corrections in a gentle but constructive manner. She suggests changes that move a story to a journey, where the reader becomes one with the protagonist.

We all need an ‘editor,’ a ‘best friend’ brave enough to point out our faults, to tell us when we need to change our deodorant or pick the spinach from our teeth. She may point out the need to lose weight, stop drinking, or apologize when we’ve crossed the line. These are hard to hear but if we listen to our ‘editor,’ we can become better friends, parents, siblings.

Supporting Characters

Besides the main characters, a good story has interesting supporting characters. They are the friends, relatives, or even the pets of the protagonist. They provide the main character someone to interact with. Often they lead to the conflict that drives the story or help bring about the solution.

The supporting characters in our lives are much the same. They are our friends, neighbors, sisters, or the person that gets under your skin. They perform a role in our lives, not as close as our ‘editor,’ but close enough to add companionship or drama to our life. They keep life interesting. Without them we’d be like the guy on the island, talking to his beach ball.

Reviewing the Plot

The plot is the action in the story. It is about a hard-boiled detective, bringing the killer to justice, or the romance with the boy next door. A good plot sucks you in and takes you willingly along an adventure with a particular protagonist. During the journey you experience the adventure, both good and bad as if you were the character. You laugh or cry, are scared or surprised, just like the hero. At the end, you wish the story wouldn’t end and you look for the sequel so you can spend more time with these characters that have become friends.

Our lives are each a plot that varies from our neighbor. Our individual experiences could fill a library. We’ve raised children, had long and varying careers, raised families, overcome illness or grown up in rural America, maybe without electricity or running water. The list goes on and on.

Creating Conflict

A good story must have conflict or it isn’t a story. The girl next story must have a rival for her boyfriend. The CIA agent must have a villain to pursue. The puppy can’t find his way home. All these examples create conflict; something that prevents the main character from easily fulfilling the goal of the story line. If the CIA agent catches the villain on page one, where is the adventure? If the girl’s boyfriend doesn’t flirt with her best friend and break up with her, where is the romance? If the puppy isn’t lost, he’s just a puppy.

In our lives, things come along to give us grief. None of us has lived without conflict, whether it is in the form of lost loved ones, business reverses, children that disappoint, a sick pet, or a missed opportunity.

Without conflict we would not experience joy. If everything went totally right every day, we’d cease to appreciate anything. We have to experience pain to know joy, conflict to know triumph, and overcome problems to appreciate success, just as a book must have conflict so the hero can prevail.

Beginning-Middle-End

A good book has a beginning, a middle that holds your attention, and an end. An author writes his story with these things in mind. The beginning jumps out with an event that convinces the reader to travel this journey with the main character. A mystery must be revealed within the first few pages to keep the reader’s interest. A romantic situation must present itself quickly to draw the reader in. This brings us to the middle.

The middle is the crux of the story, where the character struggles to overcome the obstacles, but events go from bad to worse, and when all seems lost, we come to the end. The reader leaves the dishes in the sink to see what happens next.

The ending must tie up all the loose strings, solve all the puzzles and reach a conclusion that is acceptable to the reader. Did you ever read a 300 page novel and the main character dies on the last page. You want to heave the book against the wall!

As children, walked, then learned to run, got educated and grew up, leading us to the middle.
During our middle years, we usually married, raised children, and worked. Some of us divorced, overcame tragedies, lost loved ones and reacted to these events in ways that were affected by left-over impressions from our childhood.

As we age, our lives are now the result of experiences that affected us in the middle years. We may have retired, became widows or widowers, live alone or with children or pets. Thoughts of mending personal fences, writing wills, visiting that long-lost friend begins to occupy our minds. Whether we think of it consciously or not, we’re creating a satisfying end to our life story.

And the Satisfying Conclusion

In a satisfying end to a novel, the hero gets the girl, the killer is revealed, the interplanetary mission is successful, the puppy finds a new home. A satisfying ending leaves the reader wanting to spend more time with the characters. The challenge for the writer is to keep creating stories that satisfy the reader and keep him wanting to buy the sequel.

In an attempt to create a satisfying end, we question. Are there still things we want to do, places we want to go, folks we want to see? Have we accomplished all we hoped for or are there still unfulfilled dreams that might still come true?

Why not follow your dream? What better time than now? What are you waiting for? It’s never too late to start.

17
Feb

Here, Kitten, Kitten

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They were feral cats, living next to my work site at Kaiser. My daughter and I fed the mama cat every several days as her tummy swelled. As the weeks passed, she came to our call, knowing she would be rewarded with food. Finally, she was skinny and we knew the kittens were born. Several weeks passed. Each day we thought, “Today we will see the kittens,” but days followed days and we gave up and thought the kittens must have died.

One day, we saw the three skinny little waifs. The rose colored kitten and the black kitten both had sticky eyes. One of the black kitten’s eyes was completely shut. The third kitten, a tortoiseshell, looked like her mother. All had multiple toes on each foot. We fetched a cardboard box and filled it with towels. I crawled under the bushes, trying to catch them.

“Here kitten, kitten,” The rose-colored kitten came to me. I placed her in the box and went back for the other two. “Here, kitten, kitten.”

How could they know how their lives would be changed if they let me catch them? Toys, good food, immunizations, no sticky eyes, no fleas, and a warm bed to sleep in.

“Here, kitten, kitten,” and I had the tortoiseshell sister by the scruff of her neck. The box trembled with their mewing and insistent scratching. Their cries inspired me to go back for the black baby. I crawled further into the bushes, closer this time to the little black cat. The tips of my fingers brushed his soft fur and he scampered away. My lunch hour was nearly over and I had to leave him behind. I couldn’t help thinking how his decision to run could change his life forever.

Several months passed and the rose-colored kitten and her tortoiseshell sister became comfortable in my house. They frolicked up and down the cat pole, sprawled napping across my lap, kicked and fought mock battles, and attacked catnip mice. At night, with full tummies, they curled together on a soft bed.

“Here kitten, kitten.” The sisters hear my call and run to me, no matter where they might be. They reach up my leg, purring and rubbing their little heads into my hands begging to be picked up. They don’t remember the day I left their brother behind. But, I do and it hurts me to think of him, living in the bushes, perhaps hungry, perhaps sick, never knowing the joy of a human touch.

He’s still there, they tell me, those who catch a glimpse of him from time to time. He’s a feral cat now, one of the untouchables that scoot into the bushes at the sound of a human voice, frightened and hungry.

There is so much suffering in the world. I think of all the sick bodies I cannot heal, the hungry mouths I cannot feed, the people living in oppression I cannot free. I have no power to change these things. But, I have the power to heal this little cat’s body, a mouth I could feed, a life I can change. Because I cannot do even this simple thing, I feel a sense of personal failure.

And so from time to time, I return to those bushes, and with a prayer, I crawl beneath the stickers on hands and knees. Lord, this time, let me catch this little kitten. Let me change just one small injustice in this world.
“Here, kitten, kitten. Please come to me.”

5
Feb

Does God Love Cats?

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I love my cat, Truffie. She’s part of the joy in my life. Every day, she brings a smile to my face and makes me laugh. She loves me unconditionally, even when I’m not wearing lipstick or my hair is a mess. She loves me when I’m grumpy or had a bad day. She even loves me when I accidentally step on her tail.

This spring, Truffie stopped eating. She lost weight. She’d been to the vet twice. My credit card vet charges were up to $600. The vet scratched his head. “All the lab tests and x-rays are normal. I don’t know what’s wrong with her. Maybe we could−”

“No,” I said. “I can’t spend any more money. Not if we don’t even know what’s wrong or how to fix it.”

She had already been sick for five days. If something didn’t change soon, Truffie would die. I took her home. She still wouldn’t eat. She had a fever. None of her medications had helped so far.

I wondered. Does God care if Truffie is sick? Sure, we know He cares about our health and our finances and foreign affairs and the troops fighting in far-away places. But does God really care if my cat is sick? Will He have time to hear my prayers, considering His busy schedule of healing folks and finding work for the unemployed, and protecting our loved ones and trying to make our politicians get along? You see, I’ve prayed about all those things for a while now, but Truffie’s fever? Does He really care? Do I dare pray and expect God to heal her?

I asked my pastor, “Do you think God answers prayer when our animals are sick? Would it help of I prayed for Truffie?” He said that on a certain day, people bring their animals to the Catholic church to be blessed, but he couldn’t think of a verse that specifically says God heals cats.

I tried to find a verse in the Bible that would suggest that God cared about the animals and would answer our prayers when they’re sick. Matthew reminds us… 'Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?… Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. (Matthew 10:20 NIV)' Sparrows. Cats. Not quite the same, but if He loves birds, maybe He loves cats, too.

We’re all familiar with God’s blessings and promises. We know God gives us everything we need. Our home. Our loved ones. A job...–well, most of us have a job, or we had one, before they downsized the company and now some of us have unemployment. But, not many of us are going hungry or sleeping in the streets, so even in our adversity, God supplies our needs. But, that didn’t answer my question. Could I really ask Him to heal my cat?

I moved on, reading more about prayer and faith. 'Ask and it will be given to you. (Matthew 7:7 NIV)'.

Really? Was that the key? And faith the size of the mustard seed could even move mountains? 'For truly I say to you. If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move and nothing will be impossible. (Matthew 17:20 NIV)' That sounded promising.

And lastly… 'How much more will the Father in Heaven give good gifts to those (his children) who ask Him. (Matthew 7:11 NIV)' Now, we were getting somewhere. It was a matter of prayer with faith, not the specifics of what we pray for.

What did I have to lose? So I prayed for Truffie. “Lord, you know how much I love her. You know how much joy she brings me and you know how it would grieve me to lose her. I’m calling on Your promise, 'Ask and it will be given…'. I place this little cat in Your loving hands, Lord, and ask You to heal her and raise her up again. I’m asking because You’ve promised if I have faith…”

Now, I’m not going to tell you that a bright light surrounded the house or that Heaven opened and God’s voice rang out, “Truffie. Rise up and walk,” but the next day, Truffie started to eat. Her mood brightened. She purred. She was on her way. She would recover!

I know that God cares for our cats and dogs and rabbits and horses and all our pets. Not because there’s a verse in the Bible that specifically says so, but because we love them and He loves us enough to want our joy to be complete. He promises that if we ask and have faith, we can move mulberry trees into the sea, or move mountains from here to there, or maybe it’s all about teaching us to take all our cares to the Lord, no matter how big or small.

Truffie is living proof. God gave me the victory. God answered my prayer, and yes, I’m convinced.

God loves cats.

1
Jan

Excerpt from Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer

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Here is a scene from Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer.The family is at Grandmother'sTexas horse ranch. She is teaching Kimberlee and Dorian how to make Apricot Jam when the trouble starts. .

“What should I do while Dorian picks the apricots?” Kimberlee looked around the large kitchen, ready to assist in the jam making process.

“Get a big kettle from under the counter and several large mixing bowls. The sugar and Sure-Jell is in the cupboard over the oven. The jars are already washed and stacked on the counter. We’ll have apricot jam before you know it.”

Kimberlee banged around the kitchen, following orders.

“Fix up a large kettle with cold water and ice. After the apricots sit in the boiling water for a few minutes, we’ll drop them into ice water. That loosens the skins so they slip right off. Once the pits are cut out, we’ll be ready to start the jam.”

The kitchen door squeaked open and Amanda came in, clutching the black and white cat to her chest. His long black hair covered his body. His legs with snowy white feet, dangled almost to her knees.
“Fumper says he’s hungry, Mama.” She staggered across the room, her arms wrapped beneath the compliant cat’s black legs.

Kimberlee shook her head. “I don’t think so, sweetheart. Daddy Brett gave him breakfast early this morning.”

“Uh-huh. He’s hungry. He tode’ me so. He wants some bacon.” Amanda squinched up her mouth and glared at her mother.

“Amanda. Don’t make naughty faces at Mama. Now, you run on and take Thumper outside to play. There’s a good girl.” Kimberlee gave her head a pat, and a little push toward the back door. Confrontation with a five year old in front of Grandmother wouldn’t impress anyone.

“Amanda, you come on back here.” Grandmother spread her arms wide. “Come and give Grandma some sugar.” She turned to Kimberlee. “If Amanda wants to feed da kitty bacon, that’s dust’ what her can do, ’cause Grandma says so.”
Amanda stood by the door, the cat clutched against her chest. Her gazed moved from her mother to Grandmother.

Kimberlee stepped between her and Amanda. “Please don’t contradict me when I discipline her, Grandmother. It just confuses her and makes it harder for me.” She knelt beside Amanda. “Now run along, Amanda. Go find Nanny.” She gestured toward the yard.

The muscles tightened in Grandmother’s face tightened. How dare she chastise me in front of the child, right in my own kitchen?
Amanda sidled across the room and put her hand on the refrigerator handle. She paused, waiting for the winner of the tug-a-war to make the final decision.

Grandmother couldn’t hide her smile. See how well her plans to take Amanda from Kimberlee were already working? Amanda was already accepting her authority and turning against her mother.

Kimberlee gave Amanda’s shoulder a shove toward the door. “I said, take Thumper outside!”

The warmth crept up Grandmother’s cheeks. She made a half-hearted effort to control her voice, without much success. “Kimberlee, where are your manners? You’re still a guest in my house. I said the child may do as she pleases. If Amanda wants to feed the cat caviar, she can feed the cat. I won’t hear another word on the matter.”

Kimberlee’s cheeks flamed. The kettle slipped from her fingers and clattered to the floor as Dorian stepped through the door with a pan full of apricots.

“What’s the matter? What’s wrong?” Dorian set the apricots on the table, picked up the kettle and placed it on the counter.

"Amanda and I are having a difference of opinion as to whether Thumper needs bacon. Grandmother feels that since it’s her kitchen, she should make the final decision, and I feel that Amanda and Thumper should get outside before one of them gets spanked. Now, if you’ll excuse me…” She rushed through the swinging door. Her feet pounded up the stairs. A bedroom door slammed.

Grandmother turned toward Dorian, the faint smile of success on her lips. “Just a little disagreement. Nothing to worry about. Now, if you’ll wash those apricots and put them on to boil for a few minutes, I’ll show you how to get the skins off in a jiffy.”

Dorian glanced between Grandmother and the door Kimberlee had disappeared through. “Perhaps we can get back to this later. I think I’ll go see if she’s okay.”

“She’s just having a snit…” The swinging door between the kitchen and the hallway sprang back and forth as Dorian hurried from the kitchen. “I swear, I don’t know what she’s so upset about. What difference does it make if the child feeds the cat or not?”

“Grandma?” Amanda dropped Thumper, her hand still on the refrigerator door. Her eyes were wide.

Margaret turned. “Amanda?” The inside of her head felt like a bottle rocket on the fourth of July. She lifted her foot off the pillow, stood and shuffled across the kitchen. She yanked open the refrigerator and grabbed the bacon. “Here! Feed the damn cat.” The plate of bacon clattered onto the counter.

Amanda set the plate of bacon on the floor in front of Thumper. “Here, Thumper. Eat you bacon.”

Grandmother limped out of the kitchen into the library. The fax machine on the desk hummed, and then began to spit out a printed report. Her heart thumped. Was it the information from the detective agency? Information that would prove Kimberlee an unfit mother and lay the groundwork to get custody of darling Amanda? She ripped the paper from the fax machine as the library door squeaked open.

“Grandma?” Amanda stood in the doorway, holding Thumper upside down in both arms.

Grandmother whipped her head around, shoving the paper behind her back. “What is it, now? Can’t you see I’m busy?” She felt her cheeks warm. How silly to feel guilty. The child couldn’t know what I’m looking at.

Amanda shifted the cat to her shoulder like a baby and patted his back. “Fumper’s not hungry. He doesn’t want any bacon.”
****
Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer is available at Amazon in print or e-book... even free under the Kindle Unlimited program.

28
Nov

Thoughts in Progress Book Review - Lethal Lawyer

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Thoughts in Progress Mystery Blog 11-28-14
Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer

Cat lovers know how intelligent felines are so it’s no wonder Thumper, the black cat with superior intellect, steals the limelight in author Elaine Faber’s latest release, BLACK CAT AND THE LETHAL LAWYER: A Tale of Betrayal and Greed with a Splash of Fantasy.

This is a delightful story of intrigue with twists of suspense, family and murder. Added to the mix is humor and moments that will have you holding your breath.

Kimberlee and her husband, Brett, are settling into their new life together when an unexpected letter from Kimberlee’s grandmother arrives. It seems her grandmother wants to name a new beneficiary to her multi-million dollar horse ranch in Texas and ask Kimberlee and her family (complete with pets) to visit, along with cousins she didn’t know about.

Arriving at the ranch with daughter, Amanda, and their beloved cat, Thumper, Kimberlee and Brett soon make some startling discoveries involving the ranch and Kimberlee’s family. Meanwhile, Thumper encounters his soul-mate, Noe-Noe, and they overhear a murder plot.

BLACK CAT AND THE LETHAL LAWYER takes readers on a journey of greed, lies, murder, embezzlement and dark secrets. It’s up to Thumper and Noe-Noe to help Kimberlee get to the bottom of all the lies before another murder is committed.

The author has crafted likable characters that are well-developed and fun to like. The setting draws you in and holds your attention. The feline stars of the story are cuddly and lovable.

This is a charming story you won’t be able to put down until you know Thumper’s outcome. Non-cat lovers will also enjoy this fascinating story for its captivating mystery and suspense.

Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer: A Tale of Betrayal and Greed with a Splash of Fantasy by Elaine Faber, Black Cat Mysteries Book #2, Elk Grove Publications, @2014, ISBN: 978-1940781068, Paperback, 272 Pages

Posted by Mason Canyon (Thoughts in Progress Cozy Mystery Blog)
View Mason's blog at: http://masoncanyon.blogspot.com/2014/11/black-cat-and-lethal-lawyer.html

23
Nov

Thumper's Book Review of Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer

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Thumper’s the name. We just got to Grandmother’s Texas horse ranch and I met this babe…a cream tabby vixen with eyes the color of mustard and stripes the color of marigolds. Yowza! It was love at first sight.

Noe-Noe and I were hanging together out by the river and overheard Grandmother’s lawyer and the stable master plotting murder. Seems the lawyer was upset that she plans to change her beneficiary from the Children’s program he sponsors to either my person, Kimberlee, or her cousin, Dorian. Worse yet, we heard him tell the stable master, he intends to frame one of them for the murder!

Well, let me tell you, it was enough to twitch the whiskers off a striped skunk! Noe-Noe and I vowed to keep the old gal safe, even though Grandmother’s reason for bringing the family to Texas isn’t the sweet family reunion she claimed it would be. She had her own ulterior motive and if her plot succeeds, Kimberlee will be devastated. Well, in spite of her wicked agenda, we’ll protect the old biddy from the lawyer. She is family after all, and isn’t it a cat’s duty to protect his family?

This vacation was supposed to be a fun family reunion, but it’s turned into a series of cat-astrophies that shouldn’t happen to a dog. Speaking of a dog, Dorian brought her dog to Texas too, and it’s a good thing she did. He was walking with Kimberlee out on the desert when she almost stepped on a rattlesnake. Yikes! Good thing I wasn’t with her. I’d rather face a killer any day of the week. A rattlesnake? ...not so much.

With the aid of my ancestor’s memories, I could clue you into some of the mysteries around here. If you read Black Cat’s Legacy, you already know that with my ancestors’ memories, I helped Kimberlee solve some of the Fern Lake mysteries. Same thing here in Texas. There’s the stable master, for instance. Kimberlee suspects he might have been involved with her father's murder. And what about Grandmother’s sinister plot regarding Kimberlee’s little girl? Things are going from bad to worse around here and there is only so much a cat can do to ‘fix things.’

can’t wait to go home to Fern Lake. Only thing, when we leave, I’ll have to say good-by to Noe-Noe. Sigh. Why do we lose the things we love and things we don’t love, hang around like warts on end of your tail? It is a mystery, isn’t it?

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