22
Jan

MORNING MATCH - A short story by a visitor - Judy Vaughan

Today, I'm sharing a short story by my writer friend, Judy Vaughan.

Judy  grew up in Northern New Mexico surrounded by sacred mountains and engrossed in the lives of horses and other animals. She left the family ranch for boarding school in Colorado and then attended Carleton College and the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. She has composed stories since childhood, and began to hone the craft of writing after forty years practicing neurology.

Morning Match  

This morning, before I raise my eyelids, the cat’s paw-steps crinkle the surface of the comforter pulled to my chin. His indentations push down. They are somatosensory taps along my thigh. He might be walking in snow while I am the ground below.

A dream vanishes into the ringtone of the smart phone alarm, set today to prompt me to meet the washing machine repairman during a “window” from eight to one. “Ask him to come as early as possible,” I had told the receptionist yesterday though I have no other deadline short of their arbitrary “window.”

Awake now, I give Match his morning hug and cue him back to his sleep-spot on top of the fuzzy acrylic coverlet, folded at the end of the bed. He bypasses it, and jumps to the floor, his crepuscular self on the move at daybreak.

I don a tattered robe and hobble to the kitchen. I push the start button on my single service coffee maker.

Bangs and scuffles make me imagine the repairman at the door, sounds not unlike someone organizing their tools outside the home of a scheduled client. But it’s way too early; It’s just Match banging the door of the linen closet.

I think of all the poems that begin with the author at the breakfast nook, ceramic cup in hand, interrupting their writing to muse over the décor, the kettle or some bird outside the window. On a segue way to a solitary mood.

And there’s my bird through the sliding glass door. In the yard, an overgrown lavender shrub feeds the local hummingbirds through the damp spring. Last year’s nests stand out in the skeletons of my neighbor’s trees, and a green male Anna’s clicks as he explores the clustered back yards in my cul-de-sac. The click call, generated by a pop of air from his throat is as loud as a mobile phone notification.

I open the glass door.

The cat hears it. I let him slip through a narrow opening and crouch behind the locked screen. That’s his catio. He can’t see the bird clearly at his age, but he chirps his attention. I check the latch. Match wants to go out---the loamy smell and the swoop of the birds lure us both. Volunteer lettuce has sprouted in the wine barrel; I might broadcast a few more seeds later today.

He rattles the screen latch again and meows.

“I get it Match, but, no.” I close the sliding glass and distract him with fresh water. I push a cup of Sweet and Creamy coffee through the machine into a souvenir mug that uses three x-es to write “Relaxxx in Ireland.”

Match never wanted to be an indoor cat. As a kitten with a demanding meow, he appeared at my daughter’s home, black with white markings, the most prominent of which was a 5-millimeter spot on his forehead. A dot. Like Match.Com, the dating service that was easing me into grandmotherhood twelve years ago.

Adopted into my home, he was exhausting. His dog-like demand for my attention included biting and scratching to initiate communication. If I kept him busy, he was a lot of fun. As in tricks. He would retrieve small toy mice or bring me a toilet paper roll as a gift. I easily taught him to jump when cued around furniture or through a hoop. Escape was his favorite game, and one day he succeeded. He disappeared.

I sip the coffee and relive the grief I felt. How I let my neighbor convince me to take in an elderly stray and made her take him back the next day. How I told everyone about my “Labrador retriever cat.” For years. Tearing up every time.

Five years later, I got the call. “Did you lose a cat? ‘Match Dot Com’ on his microchip? He’s at the County Animal Shelter. He’s injured. Do you want him back?”

“I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” I said.

When I lifted his skeletal body from the shelter crate to my bosom, he snuggled and purred. He’d been found eleven miles from my house.

I move aside to let the repairman do his job. I get a rag and clean the grimy surfaces of the washer revealed during the repair. The technician, Gregor, is polite, but not as chatty as I’d want. I’ve only recently learned to restrain myself from asking about national origins. The price is as quoted, and the app on his smart phone processes my credit card. Match leaves his strangers-are-here hiding place seconds after Gregor’s van pulls away.

I reheat the last ounce of Sweet and Creamy, sit back down and open the Mac. Match jumps to the other chair then onto the kitchen table where he looks at me with an owl-like stare. His eyes, once pure green, are now checkered with iris atrophy. They look like the mosaic eyes of a Byzantine virgin. A scar has widened one tear duct. A larger one in his right axilla leaves a patch of skin devoid of hair and warm to the touch. It marks the site where an open wound almost sent him to euthanasia when he was brought in from his five years of feral life.

I must have half a dozen pictures of him on Facebook in this very pose, the owl stare hinting at a possible stealth attack, or maybe just a wise proof-read.

I suspect all those poets had a cat.

*******

Judy lives in Elk Grove, California, and writes with Elk Grove Writers and Artists. Works in progress include her New Mexico memoir, Strawberry Roan. Her stories have placed in short story contests and have been published in NCPA Anthologies.

She is a member of the California Writers Club, Northern California Publishers and Authors, and the New Mexico Book Association.

Contact her at jfbvaughan@comcast.net.

 

26
Dec

Remembering the story of The Christmas Bird

The days grew shorter, the air crisper, the nights longer, and the whisper of leaves on the roof began to awaken each Christmas tree bird in their tissue paper in the attic. Something sang to them, called them, until they wiggled with joy, crinkling their crepe paper walls. Soon, each Christmas bird ornament would be lifted from his crinkly paper bed where he had slept since last Christmas.

As the days of the year neared its end, the Christmas birds felt a thrill from their springy wire clips and gold porcelain bodies to their bright feather tails. The littlest Christmas tree bird lay warm and snug beneath Gold Bird. How he anticipated the coming holiday season. Soon he would be on the Christmas tree with his fragile glass friends and the others. The others…the round ones with bright colored paint. They were not nearly as beautiful as his Christmas bird friends with their springy wires, delicate glass and pinchey clips that clasped them firmly to each branch. And though all his friends were lovely, he felt he was the most beautiful Christmas tree bird in the attic.

He closed his little red eyes and dreamed about Christmas Eve. From the top of the tree, he would look down upon the family gathered by the fireplace singing Christmas carols. Being part of the Christmas celebration made him feel truly alive. Would mother bring their boxes from the attic today and hang them on the Christmas tree?

“I’ve been thinking,” he whispered in a trembling voice filled with self-admiration, “You are lovely, Gold Bird, but I am the most beautiful Christmas bird.”

Gold Bird’s tail feathers quivered. “Really? Blue glass bird is made of hand-blown glass from Germany, with a fine blue feather tail. Antique bird is missing some tail feathers but he is so fragile, you can see right through him. We all have unique qualities, and most are more beautiful than you.” He fairly shook as he scolded the young bird, wrapped in pink tissue beneath him.

“It may be true what you say,” said the saucy little bird. “But, the tree won’t be nearly as beautiful if I’m not right near the top.”

Gold Bird, being older and wiser, turned his head. “You obviously don’t understand the true meaning of Christmas. You don’t deserve to be included in the holiday events. You conceited fellow, it would serve you right if you got left behind this year.”

The Christmas bird trembled. The idea of being left behind scared him a bit. With a slight tremble, he said, “That couldn’t happen, could it? It’s not that you aren’t handsome, but my tail feathers are longer and softer and fluffier than yours, and…my…paint is much shinier.”

Tut tut,” replied Gold Bird. “Not…another…word.”

For several uncomfortable days, the young bird lay silent in his cocoon of crinkly paper. Gold Bird’s warning haunted him. “You conceited fellow, it would serve you right …” Not to be there on Christmas Eve? He could not bear the thought.

The days grew shorter and a soft sprinkle of snow blanketed the roof. The wind whistled past the attic and the dark days edged toward December. Early one morning, footsteps on the attic steps awakened the Christmas birds. They held their breath, as their box was lifted from the shelf. “It’s time! Soon we’ll be on the Christmas tree and enjoying the Christmas season,” the little Christmas bird whispered to Gold Bird.

One by one, the weight of the Christmas birds was lifted from above. The young Christmas bird lay under Gold Bird, wrapped in his soft tissue wrapping. He heard the squeal as his friends were hung on the tree. He faintly heard music and children laughing. He even smelled the cookies!

“It’s almost time,” he whispered to Gold Bird. “It’s nearly my turn.”…but Gold Bird’s fluffy tail no longer tickled his nose. The ornament box was tossed into the corner; empty, except for the little Christmas bird. “Wait! What happened? I’m still in here.” Overlooked in mother’s haste, he was left behind, alone and upside down in the corner.

His comfortable bed, now a prison, his beautiful body still swaddled in crinkly tissue paper. Muffled Christmas sounds reached his ears. A tiny plastic tear formed in his little red eye. “I was conceited and proud, and now I’ve been left behind.”

Christmas Day approached and he missed the entire Christmas season, alone in the box in the corner. On Christmas Eve, the family gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Christmas tree bird lay in his box, imagining the tree with his friends hanging on its branches. Even the scorned round ones were part of the celebration. “The round ones may not be as beautiful,” he lamented,” but they are on the tree, and I’ve been left behind.”

After supper, the family gathered by the Christmas tree. The little girl read from the Bible. “They wrapped him in swaddling clothes and lay Him in a manger.”

Christmas bird thought, “I’m wrapped in swaddling clothes, like the baby Jesus,” and he imagined the tiny baby sung and warm, lying in a manger, warmed by the breath of the surrounding animals. He heard the daddy tell how Jesus came to earth as a tiny baby, and if we loved and trusted Him, He would take us to heaven and we would never be left behind.

The Christmas bird sniffed, “I know what it’s like to be left behind. How much worse it would be, to be left behind from Heaven.” Then, his box jiggled, the crinkling tissue paper lifted away and the warmth from the fireplace touched his cheek.

The little girl lifted Christmas bird from his box. “Look, Mommy! It’s another Christmas birdie. He has a red tear in his eye. Can we hang him on the Christmas tree?”

Daddy lifted her up and she hung the little bird near Gold Bird. Looking down from the tree, the joyous Christmas bird felt the love in the room as the family shared gifts with one another. Carols played on the stereo. The spicy aroma of gingerbread drifted in from the kitchen. The family laughed and sang. Christmas bird wiggled with joy. At last, he was exactly where he wanted to be. Gold Bird swung around from a nearby branch and gave him a tender glance. “Welcome to Christmas, little bird. Did you learn anything?”

Christmas bird turned to his friend. The light from the fireplace reflected the tear in his eye, shimmering like a drop of gold. “I understand,” he whispered. “Christmas is not about who is most beautiful, who is round or who has the brightest springy tail. It’s not about carols or turkey dinner or gingerbread, or even about presents under the tree. The true meaning of Christmas is God’s love for each of through the birth of Jesus. When we accept His Gift, and believe in his Love, we will never be left behind.”

 

13
Dec

And, a Little Child Shall Lead Them.

An Amended scene from Mrs. Odboddy - And Then There was  a Tiger. Available at Amazon in e-book for $3.99  https://tinyurl.com/y96qshuv

Grandma took Maddie’s hand and marched her through the carnival. The crowd increased as they got closer to the stage where the tiger would perform. Grandma nodded to her neighbor. “Morning, Mrs. Williams. So, you’ve come to see the tiger?”

“They say it’s not even in a cage. You don’t suppose it’s wild, do you?”

“Can’t imagine they’d let a tiger perform outside if it was,” Grandma squeezed Maddie’s hand. “I suspect it hasn’t eaten any little girls for a while.”

“Grandma!” Maddie sidled closer. “That’s not funny!” Her eyes were as bright as twinkling stars and her smile held the delicious anticipation of a child entering a Halloween haunted house.

It was unlikely Maddie had ever experienced meeting a tiger face to face. Though, she had to admit, meeting a tiger was a first for her too.

The crowd gathered in front of a boxcar-like wagon covered with a painted canvas depicting a ferocious tiger leaping through a fiery hoop. Brightly colored red and yellow wheels protruded from beneath the canvas.

The crowd stilled as grunts and rumbles came from inside the wagon; as if a tiger was scratching its claws on the floor of its cage. All eyes turned toward the door, watching for the emerging tiger. A gentle breeze blew strands of hair into Maddie’s face. She shivered. Grandma squeezed her hand.

Roar!

The crowd froze and then anxious titters broke out. A baby wailed. The door of the tiger’s cage slowly swung open. A man emerged, dressed in a yellow shirt and red trousers. He tipped his hat to the crowd as he stepped off the metal step. He bowed toward the open door, drew a whistle from his pocket and blew a shrill note. The crowd waited. Ten seconds, then twenty. No one spoke. Someone coughed. Where was the tiger? The trainer leaned toward the door, expectantly. “Come on out and say hello, Sher Khan!”

Sher Khan! Like the Jungle Book tiger! Grandma grinned.

Another scratching sound came from behind the canvas. Again, the crowd tittered. Feet shuffled. And then, an orange and black striped nose appeared through the open door and the beast leaped onto the platform, its eyes roaming the crowd.

The crowd murmured and those closest to the platform stepped back. Coming to see a tiger perform was one thing; actually seeing one three feet away, unchained and unrestrained, was quite another. Maddie cringed against Grandma’s leg.

“Sher Khan. Wave hello to the nice people.” The trainer made a circular gesture with his wand. Sher Khan sat back on his haunches, lifted his front feet and waggled one foot. The trainer pulled a bit of beef jerky from his waist and slipped it to the big cat.

The crowd clapped and laughed. They knew the tiger was tame, their smiles declared. They weren’t the least bit afraid. Not really.

“Sher Khan! Up.” The trainer’s short stick tapped a large rubber ball. The tiger leaped onto the ball. The ball rolled across the stage with the cat balanced on top. The audience exploded with hoots, claps and whistles.

For the next ten minutes, the trainer put the tiger through his paces. At one point, the tiger lay on the platform, looking like a giant striped pussy-cat.

It was hard to imagine this gentle giant stalking an antelope, leaping, killing it with one snap of its jaws. Hard to imagine its jowls covered in warm blood, fending off predators determined to share his bounty. Hard to imagine the beast dragging its kill through the underbrush to a den where cubs might await their first taste of meat. Such was life in the jungle.

Not this tiger. This one was as tame as a pet cat. He was probably hand-raised as a cub, likely declawed and totally dependent on a human to provide his food on the end of a stick. He’d never see an antelope and even if he was starving, wouldn’t know what to do with it if he saw one.

“Does anyone want to come and pet Sher Khan? He’s very friendly.” The trainer pointed to Maddie. Maddie glanced at Grandma. Was she asking for permission, or seeking a way to decline?

“Do you want to pet him?” Grandma touched Maddie’s cheek.

“I…I…think so. Yes!” She pulled away from Grandma’s hand.

“Good!” Grandma nodded. “That’s my brave girl.”

Maddie stepped onto the platform, put out her hand to touch Sher Khan’s head, then ran one finger over his ear. She grinned at the crowd, sheer joy on her face. “He’s so soft!” She stroked down his neck and scratched behind his ear.

The tiger turned toward the welcome stroke and yawned, showing long sharp teeth. His eyes closed and he lowered his head onto his paw, a rumble in his throat expressing pleasure.

Several other children had gained the courage to approach the stage. The trainer touched Maddie’s shoulder. “Can the other children have a turn, honey?”

Maddie returned to her grandmother. “He just likes me. See how he’s turning away from the other children?”

Indeed, Sher Khan had stood and was ambling back toward his cage, apparently having had his fill of public adoration. He looked ready for a nap and within seconds, he was up the steps and back in his cage. “Well, guess the show’s over. Our star needs his beauty sleep,” the trainer chuckled.

“Ohhh!” The crowd mumbled and then drifted away, toward other carnival events.

“Are you ready to go back, Maddie?” Grandma pushed a lock of hair off her face.

Maddie stood, unmoving, a faraway look in her eyes. She gazed at the door where the tiger had disappeared. She seemed unwilling to release the memory of the tiger’s ear, reluctant to forget the rumble in his throat as she stroked his head.

“Maddie?” Grandma whispered, looking at Maddie’s face. The child was lost in a shared moment with a creature from the wild, reluctant to move past it, to return to present day. “Shall we go?”

“I was remembering," she said. "Did you see how he looked at me? I remember him. From before, when we were in Heaven together and Sher Khan and I played in a meadow with some baby lambs and goats. Do you think he remembered me, too, Grandma?”

“What strange ideas you have, child. Where do you come up with such things?” Grandma grasped Maddie’s hand and hurried her away. Played together in Heaven? What could have put such a thought into her head?

Grandma glanced at Maddie’s face. Her eyes were aglow. Her smile was as innocent as an angel. Her face looked as one might imagine if she was remembering standing at the pearly gates, catching a glimpse directly into Heaven. Grandma swallowed a lump in her throat. Goosebumps crept up her arms and a tear pricked her eyes. Maybe…maybe she was remembering. Wasn’t there a verse in the Bible…?  The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.

(Isaiah 11:6 KJV)

Leopards? Wolves? Lions? Why not tigers?

 

24
Oct

REPRINT: Harvest Jack's Rebellion A Halloween Story


“If I’ve told you once,” Papa Red Warty Thing said. “I’ve told you a dozen times not to stray so far way. Look at you. You’re already at the end of your tendrils and into the road. The tractor is coming. You’ll be smashed flatter than a fritter!”

 

Turning toward his parents, Papa Red Warty Thing and Sweet Sugar Pie, unruly Harvest Jack huffed, “I’d rather be a fritter than bored to death, lying face up in the sun like my cousins, Baby Boo, Wee-be-Little, and Jack-be-Little, who never stray past the first twist in their vines.”

 

Harvest Jack’s cousins gasped in horror. Such disrespect! Such defiance! Unheard of in polite Cucurbita Pepo society! They turned away from the disobedient cultivar and buried their tendrils and stem under their prickly leaves.

 

“That child of mine shall be the death of me yet,” Sweet Sugar Pie declared. “How does he ever expect to become a Harvest banquet pie acting like that? It’s your fault. Your ancestors never looked like the rest of us. They were always rebellious.”

 

Papa Red Warty Thing shivered. “If the lad doesn’t change his attitude, he’s likely to end up gutted, with an ugly face carved in his skin.”

 

Sweet Sugar Pie waved her sticky leaves in dismay. “Don’t even think such a thing. My family has a proud history of becoming harvest pies for the past 72 generations. Grandma Sirius Star would roll over in her mulch if she heard of such a vulgar future for one of our clan. I know that some of the Rock Star and Howden crew across the field plan to be gutted and carved up. Some even look forward to lighted candles stuck where their innards used to be. That’s not the future I want for our boy.” A drop of morning dew trickled from her stem, down her rounded middle, and plopped into the dirt.

 

“Now. dear. Don’t carry on so. The season isn’t over yet. It’s just growing pains. I’m sure he’ll come to his senses when he matures a bit.”

 

Papa Red Warty Thing was wrong, for by now, Harvest Jack had wandered into the road again and lay directly in the path of the giant tractor grinding its way down the road, swooping up all in its path, and dumping the unfortunate ones into a hopper to be carried off to an uncertain future. Sweet Sugar Pie shrieked, “It’s coming! Beware!”

 

Harvest Jack heard the engine and turned toward the sound. “Uh Oh!” The seeds in his belly shook in terror. Papa Red Warty Thing was right, after all. He was about to be crunched into a fritter and there was nothing he could do about it.

 

A raven swooped down and landed on his stem. “It serves you right for being disrespectful and wandering into the road. Papa Red Warty Thing warned you.”

 

How he wished to be alongside little, white, cousin Baby-Boo, or little cousin Wee-be-Little’s tiny, orange body. Their future was assured. They would become cute little decorations, perched alongside a costumed vampire doll in the middle of a mantle, or maybe in a wheelbarrow surrounded by harvest leaves and acorns and a couple Rock Star or Howden’s. Even his distant cousin Lil’ Pumpkemon with his white body and orange stripes might end up on the front porch with his larger relatives.

 

It appeared that Harvest Jack, on the other hand, was going to be smashed flat and ground into pulp by the tractor tires.

 

Suddenly, guttural, humanoid sounds reverberated through his stem. Harvest Jack felt himself lifted and then he felt the cool, earth beneath his bottom. What happened? He was lying just inches from Papa Red Warty Thing and Sweet Sugar Pie. Somehow, he’d escaped the wheels of the tractor and was back in his own row of cultivar cousins. “Oh, Papa Red Warty Thing! You were right,” Harvest Jack cried. “I’ll never disobey again. I promise I’ll grow up and become a Harvest dinner pie, but…can I choose which kind of pie I want to be?”

 

“Of course you can, my dear,” Sweet Sugar Pie cooed, stretching her loving tendrils over her son. “Your great aunt was a pumpkin streusel pie with a gingersnap crust, and your great-grandfather was a pumpkin cheesecake.”

 

“Good! When I grow up, I want to be…let me think! I know just the thing. I want to be a cherry pie!”

 

Sweet Sugar Pie glared at Papa Red Warty Thing and shook her sticky leaves at him. “I knew this would happen. This nonsense is your fault.”

 

“What’s wrong,” Harvest Jack cried. “You said I could choose what kind of Harvest pie I wanted to be.”

 

“You can, my dear, but you can’t be a cherry pie, because you’re a pumpkin.” Papa Red Warty Thing patiently explained.

 

“That’s what you think,” Sweet Sugar Pie screamed. “According to politically correct social media, if the lad wants to be a cherry pie, then he’s a cherry pie!”

 

“You’re to blame, Sweet Sugar Pie. You were always too lenient with the boy. I should never have married someone from the other side of the field!”

 

16
Sep

Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey's Diary

 

I just published the fourth cozy Black Cat mystery.

Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary is a dual tale that takes place in California and also in Austria. While Black Cat and Angel are embroiled in village intrigue and riveting drama along the shores of a No. California resort town, Dorian and Kimberlee seek a long-lost treasure they believe is still hidden in Hopfgarten, Austria.The story moves back and forth between Black Cat’s wisdom and Angel’s snarky wit in Fern Lake, and Kimberlee’s unexpected challenges facing a stalker in a foreign country.

 

It all started with a message in a WWII diary from a soldier who befriended a German soldier during the battle of Normandy. Following the war, Dewey receives and records in his diary, a mysterious message from his friend… The treasures is in Hopfgarten….touch the feet of the babe…

 

Kimberlee reads Dewey’s diary just before she and Dorian embark on an Austrian vacation. Of course, they must go to Hopfgarten to follow the clues to a treasure missing for more than 50 years. And also, of course, she encounters a man who has spent the last 50 years searching for this lost treasure. When he overhears Kimberlee talk about a 'missing treasure in Hopfgarten, he begins to stalk the girls... and.. well, if I told you any more, you wouldn't need to buy the book. Amazon $3.99 for the e-book.   http://tinyurl.com/y2tyyeh5

 

Contact me for a reduced price on the paperback copy.

 

Kimberlee’s Austrian adventure includes many of my own 1987 personal experiences when I traveled through castles and villages, saw cows wearing bells around their necks, visited 1000-year-old churches in Salzburg, and finally into Hopfgarten where I experienced many of the events included in Kimberlee’s adventure, and first imagined the story of a missing treasure, and wrote the poem in Dewey’s diary.

 

At last the story is in a novel, something I've wanted to do for years.

 

If you buy and read Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey's Diary, be sure to leave an Amazon review!

 

18
Aug

A,B,C's of writing a Novel

A reader spends four to five hours, immersed in a book from cover to cover. If the story is well written, for a time, she forgets her personal life. She sees herself either traveling alongside the main character or, if the writer is talented enough, the reader ‘becomes’ the character as the story moves forward.

She may wish to be transported into a romance where she feels loved and cherished. She may be a frustrated crime fighter who receives satisfaction from following clues and perhaps solving a mystery before the end of the book. She may hope to experience the thrills and chills of a thriller-suspense novel. Or, perhaps to experience life in a different world, or a different time in history. She may hope to learn more of the traditions of people from other lands or other cultures, presented in a fictionalized story.

How do these various types of books come about? Does the reader ever think about what was involved before this story could magically appear on the pages, and land on a bookstore shelf for the reader’s pleasure?

Unless a reader is also an author, it is doubtful she could conceive of the time and energy that goes into writing a novel–plotting, writing, researching, editing, reviewing, formatting, and finally to cover design and publication. Each step takes hours and hours.

The author must first come up with a premise for the story. Some authors outline the entire novel before they ever put fingers to keyboard. Others have a general idea of the story line, and let the story evolve as they write, figuring how to bring it all together in a cohesive manner. She thinks about the characters and the story line most days and often into the night. Every little thread must come together in the end. It is essential to keep the suspense or momentum throughout the middle, lest we lose the attention of the reader. She must keep each reaction and comment true to the personality of the characters as she envisions how they might respond to a certain event. She must make the reader understand the motivation and actions or comments of the character through the dialogue.

The end must make sense, and preferably reach a satisfying conclusion, leaving the reader wishing there was another hundred pages in the story. She wonders where the sequel can be found, if there is one. In ideal circumstances, the characters have become real enough that she can almost see them as next-door neighbors or someone in her circle of friends.

What a challenge and what a victory when a reader comes back to the author and asks, “When is the next book coming out?” That is an author’s highest compliment.

Sometime within the next month, I’ll publish Black Cat’s next adventure. Black Cat and the Clue in Dewey’s Diary, a dual tale taking place in Fern Lake with the cats, and in Hopfgarten, Austria, as Dorian and Kimberlee follow the clues to a missing treasure. (Pictured above. Hopfgarten Church - Austria)

 

22
Jul

The Cat's Side of it

In 1960, I wrote a poem that was published in my high school newspaper- Analy High School, in Sebastopol, CA. It was probably the first time I thought of cats having a  human 'voice,' and the first time I was 'published.' Many years later, I began to write  Black Cat cozy mystery series. For a change of pace, here is my poem -

 

The Cat's Side of It

The alley cat lives a lonely life, mad at his friends and mad at his wife.

When you're mad at the guy, and mad at the gals --Who's a cat go, he can call his pals?

The lonely vigil on a backyard post, unto the night, playing the host

a bottle, a brick, soon lay at your feet.., but who's a cat got? Again, I repeat.

Why ya sleep all day and you roam all night, your nerve as soon be in a terrible plight.

But ya gotta' have friends, be it only the moon, so ya open yer mouth to let fly a tune.

Oh! Then the things you can hear folks say, those sleeping away the best part of the day.

You'd think they'd enjoy hearing my song. After all, what does a human do all day long?

But gamble and smoke and loaf in the park and ruin the day with some foolish lark.

They waste the day.., then curse in the night when I try to inform them of MY pitiful plight.

So what's a cat do when he hasn't a friend and he hasn't a wife on whom to depend?

You'd think folks would be helpful, but instead they just gripe,

When I cry out my sorrow on the fence post at night!

 

(OK! I was 16 years old! Maybe I wasn't meant to a poet)

Check out the Black Cat mysteries at Amazon

Black Cat’s Legacy, Thumper meets his 'person' and helps pursue a cold case murder. http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm

 

Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, Thumper goes to Texas and confronts an embezzling attorney, a conniving grandmother and a sneaky stable master. He also meets his lady love. http://tinyurl.com/q3qrgyu

 

Black Cat and the Accidental Angel, Black Cat and his companion are left behind following an MVA and confront increasingly dangerous pranks with the family that takes them in.. http://tinyurl.com/y6vhncq

 

 

11
Jun

Preview from Black Cat and The Clue in Dewey's Diargy

If you've been following my blog you know I have another novel coming this Fall - Black Cat and the Clue in Dewey's Diary - a dual tale of adventures in Fern Lake with Black Cat and Angel, and Dorian and Kimberlee as they ,pursue a lost treasure   in Austria and Germany. Kimberlee's adventures in Austria mimic my own experiences in 1987 when I visited the area. The church pictured IS the Hopfgarten church in the story. Here is an excerpt with Kimberlee, the day she leaves Dorian at her conference and strikes out on her own.

*****

On the outskirts of Salzburg, Kimberlee stopped at an endearing pension. She followed the path to the front door and rang the bell. A stout, older woman answered. “Wilkomen! Kumm in! (Welcome. Come in).

Kimberlee held up her overnight case. “Do you have a room?”

The woman smiled. “Ya. I hef nice room. This way, please.” She led Kimberlee to a room next to the garden filled with pink and yellow tulips and tall gladiolas. The room contained plain, solid wood furniture. A thick feather comforter and feather pillows lay atop the double bed. A vase of fresh flowers adorned the nightstand. French doors led out to the garden. “Is good?”

“Yes, it’s lovely. How many Euros?” Kimberlee pulled out several bills.

The hostess took two bills. “Is enough. Breakfast is 7:00 A.M.”

“Thank you. That will be fine.” Kimberlee set her overnight case on the floor. She opened the French doors, stepped into the garden, and was immediately enveloped by the scent of flowers. A green, carved wooden bench sat beside a fish pond where red and black koi fish bobbed. How she wished Brett could see this. Wouldn’t it have been better to wait and share this beautiful experience with a loved one? Her first day in this beautiful country had already presented so many wondrous sites.

She sat on the bench and watched the koi glide back and forth across the pond, nibbling at a mossy rock, pausing to bask in a ray of sunshine. Would she have experienced the day the same way if Brett had been with her?

The spacious, green, lush meadows, the sense of oneness created by the similarity of the houses, the tinkle of the cows’ bells and the serene agelessness of the castles high atop the hillsides. The way the church bells rang every hour. How the peaceful countryside had affected her! The violinist’s song had touched her heart. The fairytale town transported her to another time and place. In truth, the day’s events left her feeling as though she had stepped into another dimension. Her soul felt refreshed and her faith reaffirmed.

A sudden thought! Spending the day alone had provided such unexpected reactions. As pleasant as it would be to share with a loved one, would she have experienced it the same way? Perhaps, a day spent in solitude was as rewarding as when shared by another.

She revisited the events of the day, from meeting the little cat, to the musician on the church steps, to the castle on the hill, to the mists in the meadows and the cows in the field. And, finally, to a bench beside the koi pond, remembering each beautiful moment in the beauty and stillness of the garden.

She closed her eyes, breathed in the scent of flowers,. In the distance, a church bell chimed. Resolved not to forget a minute of the day’s events, Kimberlee picked up a pen and filled her journal with all she had seen and felt this wondrous day.

*****

Black Cat and the Accidental Angel is Free at Amazon June 12, 13, 2019.     http://tinyurl.com/y6vhxncq

 

30
May

CREATING A BOOK COVER

 

 

 

There are as many ways to design a book cover as there are books. Nonfiction book covers, particularly political books seem to lean toward THE TITLE against a plain background and the author’s name. Many cozy mystery novels present an artist’s rendering of a scene, often including a dog or cat. I prefer using photographs on my book covers and believe the book cover should suggest the plot of the novel. There should be a consistency in the design of a series. Using the same color and size font for the title and a similarity in design helps readers recognize a particular series.

This fall I will publish a cozy cat mystery, the fourth in the Black Cat series. Black Cat and the Clue in Dewey’s Diary is a dual tale that takes place in California and also in Austria. While Black Cat and Angel are embroiled in village intrigue and riveting drama along the shores of a No. California resort town, Dorian and Kimberlee attempt to find a long-lost treasure they believe is still hidden in the small Austrian town of Hopfgarten. The story moves back and forth between Black Cat’s wisdom and Angel’s snarky wit, and Kimberlee unexpected challenges in a foreign country.

It all started with a message written in a WWII diary from a soldier who befriended a German soldier during the battle of Normandy. Following the war, Dewey records in his diary, a mysterious message he receives from his friend… The treasures is in Hopfgarten….touch the feet of the babe…

Kimberlee reads Dewey’s diary just before she and Dorian embark on an Austrian vacation. Of course, they must go to Hopfgarten to follow the clues written in a diary more than 50 years before.

Kimberlee’s Austrian adventure includes many of my 1987 personal experiences when I traveled through castles and villages, saw cows with bells around their necks, visited 1000 year old churches in Salzburg, and finally into Hopfgarten. It was there I encountered many of the events included in Kimberlee’s adventure, and first imagined the story of a missing treasure and Dewey’s diary.

The novel is currently being edited with an expected publishing date this fall. So, finding the right photographs for my Black Cat mystery was very important. I wanted the photos to suggest both parts of the story. It had to include a cat to represent Black Cat. I wanted his foot on a diary to suggest that important plot point. It must also suggest the other half of the story in Europe. There are plenty of Europe pictures, but the search was on for the right black and white tuxedo cat.

I requested photographs, from an online cat group, of black and white cats with their paw raised so a diary could be photo shopped under it. I received over 100 lovely pictures. Sebastian, pictured above, was the closest to my need. However, another picture was eventually selected from Shutterstock. The cover will include the cat with his foot on a diary and a shadowed castle behind.

I’m looking forward to publishing Black Cat and the Clue in Dewey’s Diary. I think my readers will enjoy this new and exciting dual story. Let me know how you feel about a book with basically two stories interwoven throughout.

3
May

ALL THINGS CAT - A short story - The No Fly Zone

My latest book, All Things Cat contains twenty-one short stories featuring cats from diverse walks of life and varying periods of time. Some are ‘first-person’ accounts, written by anonymous felines, abandoned by his master, as the prize in an Old West poker game, routing a burglar in a WWII meat market, or adopting the First Family in the White House. Other stories, inspired by news events, contest prompts, holidays, like the story below, were inspired by the legend of an alien space ship in Roswell, New Mexico.

All Things Cat sells on Amazon for just $2.99. http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak

The No Fly Zone - A short Story from ALL THINGS CAT

Growing up in Roswell, New Mexico, I heard everything from alien crash sites to alien autopsies in secret labs. Dad renamed our business The Alien Bakery in the 50’s when the tourists flood into town, hoping for a UFO sighting. We specialize in decorated cookies shaped like UFO space ships, the Cat from Outer Space and flying saucer shaped cookies.

In the 90’s, we took to the internet and advertised our cookies on UFO blog sites. Our cookies are a big hit with the Roswell tourists.

Every 4th of July, Roswell holds a three-day UFO Festival that attracts thousands of tourists from around the world. Our seven employees work ten-hour shifts, cutting out cookies with cloud-punch cookie cutters, gearing up for the holiday crowds. Dad and I stayed up way past our bedtime last night, putting final colored frosting on the Cat from Outer Space’s collar, and red-hot candies around the bottom of the space ship cookies.

Folks get a kick out of Grandpa’s original sign over the door: SHUT THE DOOR. THIS IS A NO FLY ZONE!

Old Man Foster, blind since childhood runs the newspaper stand next door. He sells papers from all over the country and souvenir copies of the Roswell Daily Record July 8, 1947 issue announcing RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region. The military debunked the story, declaring it remnants of a weather balloon. To this day, UFO-ers are convinced the government covered up a crashed space ship. Dad and Old Man Foster, both experts in astronomy, spend hours talking about the solar system.

Old Man Foster was a child when the alleged space ship landed on his dad’s ranch. Once the word got out, tourists flocked to his news stand, asking questions. Though glad to talk about the solar system and probability of intelligent life in outer space, when questioned about his father’s ranch in 1947, he’d decline. No amount of bribes or persuasion convinced him to break his silence.

This morning, Mirabel sold cookies at the counter. Jocelyn rang up the sales. Dad and I were frosting cookies when there was a commotion at the new stand. We rushed out and found Old Man Foster on the sidewalk, his hair matted with blood, a brick beside his head. I called 911 and we knelt beside him. Dad pulled Old Man Foster into his lap. He began to mumble. “Gotta tell before I die.”

Dad smoothed his hair. “You’re not going to die.”

“The day it crashed. Dad and I…out in the field. It burst through a hole in the cloud, flames shooting out behind... Headed straight for us. Dad pushed me down. ‘Don’t look,’ he yelled. I watched it come down…. So bright! Tried to cover my eyes. A giant flash and…and… I woke up in my room…blind ever since. The military came and took it away. They told Dad not to talk...or they’d put him in jail…”

“Rest now, Mr. Foster. Help is coming.” I patted his hand. Could his story be true? Blinded by the UFO the world declared a myth? An ambulance pulled to the curb. Two men loaded Old Man Foster and roared off down the road.

After dinner, I called the hospital. They said Old Man Foster was never admitted. He wasn’t in any hospital in neighboring counties. Someone said the ambulance headed toward Edwards Air Field where Area 51 is located, but why would they take him there? He’s just an old man with a head injury. Did someone hear him talking about the crashed UFO in 1947? Why would it matter what he said? Who would believe him?

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