10
Mar

Life Versus the Novel

Thumperandbook

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

trufambercabin

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?

Truffie.jpg

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.

23
Aug

Why I Write

Boots
I’ll bet if 100 people were queried, at least 75% of them would claim that someday they plan to write a book, most likely a memoir. The remaining 25% likely would admit, humbly, that though they may never get around to it, and the world will be the lesser for it, deprived of reading about their fascinating lives, they could if they wanted to. The thousands of hours required to write, edit and format a book for publication is never considered. Yet a frightening number of us do spend the time and energy, and a zillion books DO get published every year. Most of them are available on Amazon where they are buried as deep as a sticker in a cow plop among a million other Amazon books. Occasionally, one actually sells!

Now, instead of becoming a writer, where was I when someone got the bright idea of creating a website where anybody could sell his book, and the website would earn more on the sale of the book than the publisher and the author combined. What a concept! I was probably standing behind the same door when someone said, ‘Do you want to invest in this driving-sleeping thingy we’re calling Winnebago?

Now, I’ve become one of those people who decided there was a book in me that the world would be the lesser for, did they not delve into its pages. After about a skillion hours of writing, rewriting, editing, mentoring, and more rewriting, my novel was finally completed, formatted, published and made available for sale to the millions of folks clamoring to be amused, entertained, charmed and delighted by my scintillating characters. I called this cozy mystery-romance Black Cat’s Legacy. In this yet to become a New York Times Best Seller, there is even a nonplused cat who knows where the bodies are buried. He wants desperately to share his knowledge with the inferior humans who are either too busy running afoul of the antagonist, or preoccupied with trying to solve a 25 year old murder without sullying anyone’s good name…good luck with that… Well, it’s quite a ride involving jealousy, greed, unrequited love, a smattering of downright stinkerisms and a cat that is appalled that these no-good-niks can’t understand a clue when he puts it right under their inferior noses. And yes, it’s available on Amazon in e-book for only $3.99. http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm

So, why do I write when the hours are long, the glory is nonexistent and the financial rewards are few and far between?
I guess I write, because these characters in me, are screaming to get out and even if I don’t have a Best-Seller, many of those good folks who have read Black Cat’s Legacy come back and tell me about their reading experience. For just a little while, they are able to leave their own troubles behind, travel to a little resort town and experience my make-believe world where the good guy wins. For a few hours, they frolicked through the pages with a cat on a mission to help Kimberlee solve her father’s cold case murder. Then my friend tells me how much she loved it and asks, “When is the sequel coming out?”

That’s when I know. That’s why I write. That’s why it’s all worth it.

25
May

Romance-Mystery Writer, Karen Rose Smith

meandzoiekaren

Today we have a guest post from a prolific romance and cozy mystery writer, Karen Rose Smith. Karen is also an animal lover.

Caprice De Luca, home-stager extraordinaire, loves her big Italian family--parents, two sisters, brother and Nana. She likes to cook, wears vintage fashion and is a retro music fan. But most of all, she is an animal lover.

There's a lot of me in Caprice. But never more so than when she's taking care of stray animals and finding them homes. Thirteen years ago, I brought home a very sick black kitten from a friend's family farm. Ebbie and I bonded those first nights when I stayed up with her, applying acupressure to her sinuses so she could breathe. She's been my constant companion ever since, more like a sister than a pet. When we brought her half-sister London home to live with us a few months later, my husband and I thought two cats were enough!

Then two summers ago, we found Zoie Joy in a bush in our backyard. The temperature was 100 degrees. She was dehydrated, starved and needed love and care. She weighed 1½ pounds. She's the baby of the house and lives up to her middle name every day. Because I worried about her mom in that big world without care, we> began leaving food in feral feeders. That brought a sweet yellow tabby to our door who needed love, care, and medical assistance. Lance was only with us a short while, but he wrapped himself around our hearts and gave us an appreciation for living each day to its fullest.

Animals are part of what I write because they're a huge part of my life. I care for them, but they care for me too. Their unconditional love and affection brightens my days and brings comfort when arthritis pain keeps me awake at night.

After writing romance for over twenty years, I'm enjoying branching out into mystery where I can delve into everyone's relationships as well as create an intriguing puzzle. Including my love of animals into my storylines invests my heart in an integral way that I believe brings a core honesty to my novels. In STAGED TO DEATH, the first Caprice De Luca mystery, you will meet her long haired calico cat Sophia and Dylan--a stray part Shiztu and part Pomeranian who is adopted by Caprice's best friend. Two yellow tabby kittens also make an appearance. In DEADLY DECOR—book 2, Caprice takes in a pregnant stray cocker spaniel. In book 3, GILT BY ASSOCIATION—February 2015—you'll meet Lady, a cocker who becomes Caprice's sidekick, as well as Valentine—a gray tabby kitten she finds on a cold winter night in her backyard.

I love to hear about animal rescue stories. You can share them with me anytime on my Facebook page KarenRoseSmithBooks, on Twitter @karenrosesmith or through email at my websites www.karenrosesmithmysteries.com and www.karenrosesmith.com.

STAGED TO DEATH is available on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble

DEADLY DECOR will be released on June 3. You can pre-order a copy on Amazon or on Barnes and Noble

21
Feb

Meet Thumper - Black Cat's Legacy

Boots-HR
I opened my eyes this morning and found a black and white cat lying on my bed, casually washing first one large white foot and then the other. At first I didn’t think anything of it, and then realized it wasn’t our cat, Boots, but a cat that resembled him so closely as to be easily mistaken. It was Thumper, the cat from my book, Black Cat’s Legacy!

I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. “Thumper? What are you doing here?”

“I figured since Black Cat’s Legacy was due out next month, you should introduce me to your readers.”

For the past three years, I’ve researched, ate, laughed, cried and slept with this cat while working with three different teachers learning how to improve my craft and fine-tune the novel. Thumper flopped next to my hip. “What shall we talk about?” I scratched his back.

“Why don’t we start with my character and explain why I’m so important to your plot.” He lifted his head and blinked.
“Well, your cat family has lived at Fern Lake for generations. Apparently twenty-five years ago, your ancestor witnessed a murder, but the killer was never found. The Fern Lake cats made a pact, that one day, when the chosen one returned, they would help her solve the crime.

Sure enough, Kimberlee shows up at the lodge with her little girl, and your character realizes it’s his legacy to help her solve her father’s murder and unravel several other dastardly deeds that occurred so long ago.

But someone at the lodge begins to harass and make life miserable for Kimberlee with accidents and threats. If it wasn’t for Brett, the charming author she falls for, she would have hit the road the first day. Brett convinces her to stay and help him solve the case.”

“What about Dorian, the pretty cold case detective who also has the hots for Brett? She and her Search and Rescue dog join the investigation. They influence the story line as well. Should you tell about her? “Thumper licked his left shoulder.
“Dorian creates some angst in the story with her; I can’t get over my gorgeous self.”

“Tell that I help narrate the story and the reader gets to view the situation through my eyes.” Thumper pulled his whiskers back in a cat-grin. “We’re going to give Sneaky Pie and Midnight Louie a run for their money with our cat mystery. Where can the reader get the novel?”

“Black Cat’s Legacy should be available on Amazon before the end of March or folks can pre-order it now, directly from our website and get it autographed with my name and your footprint. www.mindcandymysteries.com The folks can send in questions if they want to know more about you or any of the other characters. Maybe we’ll do another interview. What do you think?”

“Sounds like a plan.” Thumper jumped off the bed. “When are you getting up? I’m hungry.”

Isn’t that just like a cat? Even imaginary ones.

To Purchase Black Cat's Legacy, go to the header BOOKs. Special price and free shipping within the USA

4
Feb

What Three Survival Books Would You Choose?

Westerngardenbook.2

Recently I watched the movie, the Time Machine. At the end, as the hero returned to live in a world with no technology, he took along three books. The question was asked, “Which three books did he take back to his ‘new world?’”
Which three books would I want to inspire and teach a new world to become a community such as we have in the USA? (With all the good things we experience, freedom, good food, clean air; not the bad parts such as crime, nuclear threats or poverty). It is my responsibility, remember, to create this entire new society from scratch.
It was difficult to decide on just three books, as my mind went to at least ten ‘types’ of books I think would be necessary to create my perfect world.
1. FOOD: Something about crops, planting, nurturing, crop rotations, etc. Add animal husbandry-how to keep animals fed properly, with the addition of dealing with veterinary issues. To start with, we need at least four chickens, cows, pigs, horses, rabbits, fish, (all kinds) cats and dogs. Must have cats. What perfect world has no cats? Maybe the animal book is a completely separate book. (We are assuming we have means to grow crops, and access to tools, seed and all of our animal species).
2. COOKING – A basic cook book dealing with various ethnic foods recipes, including lasagna, chow Mein, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and a plethora of food choices. The book must have several recipes that heavily rely on chocolate. We want to know how to eat well to stay healthy, right? Our world will have access to all types of food, but we will have to learn to grow our own crops sooner or later…preferably later.
3. SURVIVAL SKILLS; We need a book relating to basic survival skills – building a fire, a shelter, getting water from point A to point B, First Aid, building a trap, a fishing pole, etc.
4. HEALTH: This book must teach about herbs and natural products to use for medicinal purposes. We have no Obama care in our world.
5. RELIGION: The Holy Bible – to build a faith- based society of Judeo=Christian values.
6. LAWS: A copy of the Constitution – We must have law and order.
7. ENLIGHTENMENT: A dictionary, thesaurus, school books to teach reading, writing, ‘rithmatic.
8. ART and SCIENCE: Several good books come to mind: You can only have three or choose your own. a. Don’t Be All Washed Up-Water Colors and You; b. Thrill at the Pottery Wheel; c. What was Einstein Really Thinking; d. Rembrandt–Not Just Toothpaste; e. Weather-Should I take My Umbrella Tomorrow? f. How to Create Electricity with a Potato; g Nuclear Fission-Better Not Go There; h. Was Picasso Really Crazy?
9. HISTORY: Digital Version of Encyclopedia Britannica with Smart Phone Reader.
10. INTERNET: Connections to Amazon and EBay with limited access, only for wise people over 35 for the purpose of ordering Cozy Mystery novels, and chocolate.

What kind of world would you create and what books would you bring if you had this opportunity?
..

30
Nov

The Year of the Christmas Stick

Christmas Stick

In the early 1980’s, when my kids were young teenagers, we had to close our business, leaving us in debt. Collection agency calls came almost daily. I paid my house payment with the Visa card. We gave up a 1972 Cadillac convertible to settle a business obligation. The IRS emptied our meager bank account (without notice) to pay the overdue California sales taxes, resulting in bounced checks all over town.

Christmas came and we were in a bad way, financially. No way was there money for a Christmas tree.

My husband brought home a beautiful manzanita branch, mounted it on a base and decorated it with red Christmas balls. Not the traditional Christmas tree, to be sure, but pretty. We set our few presents underneath.

Hubby and I were prepared to deal with the substitute tree, trusting that things would be better next year. The kids hated it, calling it the Christmas Stick. They were embarrassed when their friends came to visit.

We muddled through that financial disaster, took a second mortgage on the house at 14% interest (true) and paid off all the debts. The next Christmas we were back on our feet and had a real Christmas tree.

I was thinking the other day that sometime in our life, we should all have a Year of the Christmas Stick. A year when we can’t afford to buy the children expensive gifts that break before New Year’s Day. A season where we do without the luxuries we’re used to, Christmas trees, lights in the front yard, presents and expensive holiday outings. A year when we become one with folks out there, by virtue of unemployment, natural disaster or illness, who are without a tree, without gifts, for that matter, maybe without a home with a chimney for Santa to slid down.

It’s been over forty years since the Year of the Christmas Stick. On Christmas Day, as our family stumbles from the table loaded down with turkey and all the fixings and we gaze at our ten- foot- tall Christmas tree with gifts piled high, we’ll laugh about the Year of The Christmas Stick. But we remember its message.

We are grateful for the important things. We are blessed with our families, our health, our faith, all gifts from God. We remember to share our bounty with those who are in need. Folks who might think they were blessed to have a Christmas Stick with a few presents underneath even if it was just sweaters and pajamas and sox, like my kids got that year.

I remember how hard things were when we closed the business and struggled to make ends meet, wondering how we could make good on our business debts, keep our home and feed our kids. We struggled and persevered and made do with a manzanita branch for a Christmas tree. Looking back, I remember and thank God for the Year of the Christmas Stick. We all learned lessons I hope we will never forget.

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