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.

 

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

 

 

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?

6
Apr

Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot Historical Fiction

How many people download books on their reader when they hear that the book is free on a particular day? For the past three days, Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot is FREE at Amazon (04-03-19 through 04-06-19).You can access this free book at http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv

This hysterical, historical novel is set during WWII and elderly, busybody Mrs. Odboddy considers herself a hometown patriot, fighting the war from the home front. Having served as an under cover agent during WWI, she assumes that the homeland has Nazi spies as well as conspiracies that must be routed out and she's the one to do it.

Knitting sox for the soldiers, collecting cans and newspapers, serving cookies at the USO, and keeping watch at the coast watchtower for enemy invaders keeps her plenty busy. Imagine her surprised when her old WWI lover shows up with romance on his mind. Distracting as he may be, he doesn't keep her from solving what she believes is a ration book black market conspiracy or coming to the aid of Mrs. Roosevelt when she comes to town.

Toss in several lesser known historical events and a romance with her lovely red-headed granddaughter and the town doctor, and you have a rollicking novel that will keep you laughing.

Once you've met Mrs. Odboddy, you'll be glad to know that there are two more Mrs. Odboddy novels available at Amazon for $3.99
Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier, and
Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was a Tiger
(and a fourth to be published soon.

21
Jan

Shoko Interviews Ling-Ling from Mrs. Odboddy Adventures

    Mrs. Odboddy And Then There Was a Tiger

Shoko, a lovely Canadian Siamese cat who writes a daily blog at CANADIAN CATS MEEZERS AT LARGE interviews Ling-Ling, the cat in the book Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was a Tiger
Ling-Ling - Interviewee

>

Shoko – InterviewerSurmising a rodent intruder in the package, I promptly extricated said rodent by tooth and claw, thus eliminating smelly threat level to zilch.
(a) Did you kill that thing in the package?
Unfortunately, no. It entered the house and in my ensuing pursuit, many household items were severely damaged and it got away. (Not my fault!)

2. Does Mrs. Odboddy's antics ever get in the way of her feeding you on time? Or providing you with enough attention?

Mrs. Odboddy knows better than to neglect my head scratches. But, on rare occasions, when Mrs. O. doesn’t come home at night, I must rely on others to provide my victuals.

3. What is it like living with an eccentric old woman who 'fights the war" from the home front? What makes her a hometown patriot? Feeling compelled to expose conspiracies and spies, and her multiple volunteer projects, Agnes is often away from home. Her amusing tales ‘after the fact’ almost makes up for it, though she is prone to stretch the truth when it puts her in a better light.

4. Since we are both Siamese, we sort of look alike. Is it possible we are related? Descended from royal blood myself, it is doubtful that we are related, though I suppose it is possible. Have you done a DNA test through Ancestry.com yet?

5. When your former mistress, Lilly, is released from Japanese Internment camp, will you go back to live with her or stay with Mrs. O.? Agnes assured me that after the war when Lilly comes home, I will remain here. Now that I’ve blessed their home for some time, I’m sure Agnes would miss my sparkling personality and humble nature.

6. If Mrs. Odboddy can't find a home for the tiger, Shere Khan, any chance she'll bring him home to live with you? How do you feel about that? Oh my stars! It’s one thing to bring a homeless cat into one’s life, but I don’t think Shere Khan would fit in our bed. I don’t plan to give up my spot any time soon.

7. Which of Mrs. Odboddy's three published books is your favorite? My biggest role was in Hometown Patriot (http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv), so I suppose that’s my favorite. When Mrs. O put six chickens in the bathroom, I did a pretty good job of messing with that project, if I do say so myself. MOL!!!

8. Should an elderly lady like Mrs. Odboddy have a boyfriend? Do you want her to marry Godfrey? How would you feel about calling Godfrey…”dad?” Every old lady should have a boyfriend, or a ‘friend-boy,’ as the case may be. Godfrey’s pretty cool but Mrs. O will never marry him. She’s too set in her ways and I expect Godfrey would cramp her style.

9. Why does Mrs. Odboddy keep getting in trouble with Chief Waddlemucker? Because she can’t keep her nose out of everyone’s business and the Chief often gets in the way of her shenanigans. In spite of it all, they are still friends.

10. What can you tell us about Mrs. Odboddy as a secret agent during WWI? Does she still consider herself a secret agent? If I told you all I know about her WWI activities, I’d have to kill ya’. Without a doubt, she’ll never stop tracking down Nazi spies and wartime conspiracies, even though I’d prefer her home scratching my head or knitting! Oh my! There she goes again, and it’s time for my dinner.

Mrs. Odboddy - And Then There Was a Tiger (http://tinyurl.com/y96qshuv)

Check out this and the two other Mrs. Odboddy books available at Amazon $3.99 ebook.
Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot
Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier

9
Dec

Thumper Reviews Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer


Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer

A book review by Thumper, the cat with the memories.

Thumper’s the name. We just got to Grandmother’s Texas 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.

After a brief courtship and an ‘understanding,’ Noe-Noe and I were hanging out by the river where we overheard Grandmother’s lawyer and the stable master talking. Seems the lawyer was upset that Grandma plans to change her beneficiary from the Children’s program he sponsors to either my person, Kimberlee, or her cousin, Dorian. Worse yet, he intends to kill Grandmother.

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. She has an ulterior motive to destroy Kimberlee’s family. In spite of Grandma’s wicked agenda, Noe-Noe and I agreed we had to protect the old biddy. She is family after all, and isn’t it every cat’s duty to protect his family?

What happened to our fun-filled family reunion? Grandma’s on a roll to disrupt Kimberlee’s life. The attorney plans to kill Grandma and now we’re suspecting the stable master is hiding a secret identity! It’s turned into a series of cat-astrophies that shouldn’t happen to a dog.

Speaking of a dog, cousin Dorian brought her dog to Texas, too. When Kimberlee took him for a walk out on the desert, 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.

If I was of a mind, I could clue you into what’s behind some of the mysteries around here. If you read my first book, Black Cat’s Legacy, you already know that with the aid of 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. Thanks to my great grandfather’s memory, I know that he was involved when Kimberlee’s father was murdered. And, what about Grandmother’s sinister plot with regard to Kimberlee’s little girl? Things are going from bad to worse and there’s only so much a cat can do.

I can’t wait to go home to Fern Lake. Here’s the problem. When we leave, Kimberlee says I have to say farewell to my soul-mate, Noe-Noe. (Big cat sigh). Kimberlee once said, ‘Why do we lose the things we love and things that bring us grief, hang around like warts on the end of your tail?’ That was paraphrased, of course, but you get the drift. Perhaps the fates will intervene and things will turn out okay. Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer is a cozy mystery, after all!)

***

Elaine Faber’s short stories have appeared in multiple magazines and fourteen anthologies. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Cat Writers Association, and Northern California Publisher and Authors. Elaine enjoys speaking on mystery panels and book signing events. Black Cat’s Legacy and Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer are light romance and cozy cat mysteries. who with the aid of his ancestors’ memories, Thumper (Black Cat) helps Kimberlee solve the mysteries. The third book in the series is Black Cat and the Accidental Angel.

All novels are available at Amazon in print and digital. http://tinyurl.com/q3qrgyu

23
May

Excerpt: And Then There Was a Tiger (WWII novel)

This is an edited scene from my next novel, coming this summer. And Then There Was a Tiger. Watch for announcement of publication.

Agnes took Maddie’s hand and marched her down the aisle towards the back parking lot to the tiger exhibition. “Morning, Mrs. Williams. So, you’ve come to see the tiger, too?”

“I’ll admit, the idea makes me a bit nervous. You don’t suppose it’s a wild one, do you?”

“Can’t imagine they’d let it perform out in the open if it was.” Agnes grinned down at Maddie and squeezed her hand. “I suspect it hasn’t eaten any little girls for a while.”

“Grandma!” Maddie sidled closer to Agnes’s leg. “That’s not funny.” Her eyes were as bright as sparklers on the Fourth of July.

Agnes’s heart warmed, seeing Maddie’s pleasure. It wasn’t likely she had ever met a tiger face to face. For that matter, meeting a tiger was a first for her too.

The spectators gathered in front of a boxcar-like caravan with a painted canvas draped over the front bars. Brightly colored yellow spoked-wheels jutted from beneath the wagon.

The crowd heard grunts and grumbles behind the canvas. They eagerly awaiting the first sign of the emerging tiger.

Roar!

The tiger’s cage creaked and swung open. A young man emerged, dressed in a blue and yellow shirt and red trousers. He stepped down the metal step carrying a short red and white striped stick resembling a magician’s wand. He bowed to the audience, then glanced back toward the open door, drew a whistle from his pocket and blew a shrill note. “Don’t be shy, Shere Khan. Come on out and say hello to the nice people.”

Scratching sounds came from behind the canvas, like the sound one might imagine a tiger would make as it rises from a metal floor, intent on hunting its prey. An orange nose appeared through the open door and the beast leaped onto the ground. Yellow eyes roamed the crowd.

The spectators murmured and took a collective step backwards. Coming to see a tiger was one thing–actually seeing one three feet away, unchained and unrestrained, was quite another.

“Shere Khan.” The trainer waved his stick in a circular motion. “Wave hello to the nice people.”

“Is he dangerous?” Someone called from the audience.

“Only when he’s hungry.” The trainer chuckled. “Up! Shere Khan!”

Shere Khan sat back on his haunches, lifted his front feet and waggled one foot.

A wave of oohs, aahs and nervous titters broke out in the audience.
They inched forward, clapped and laughed. They weren’t afraid. Not really. They knew he was tame. Heads nodded and smiled.

For the next ten minutes, the trainer put the tiger through his paces. After each trick, he gave the cat a treat from the bag at his waist. At one point, the tiger lay on the platform, gazing at the crowd, looking like an enormous, striped housecat.

Agnes dabbed her hankie across her forehead again as her thoughts turned to Shere Khan’s distant furry relatives. Too many had fallen prey to the hunter’s guns and the clothing industry, now that Hollywood starlets fancied fur coats. Shere Khan’s native cousins should be thankful that fox fur coats had more recently become more fashionable this season than tiger. Even so, the threat imposed by poachers was still very real. She envisioned wealthy and unscrupulous hunters stalking an unsuspecting prey, seeking tiger skin rugs and tiger heads mounted over their bars.

It was hard to imagine this gentle giant pursuing an antelope, leaping on its back, killing it with one snap of his jaws. Hard to imagine his jowls covered in the life’s blood of the still warm antelope, snarling to fend off predators determined to steal his bounty. Hard to imagine the beast dragging his kill through the underbrush, perhaps to a nearby den where two or three cubs awaited their first taste of meat. Such was a wild tiger’s life in the jungle.

This tiger was probably hand-raised, likely declawed and now totally dependent on a human to provide his meat on the end of a stick. It was doubtful he’d ever seen an antelope, and even if starving, wouldn’t know what to do if he saw one.

The trainer’s voice snapped her back to the present. “Does anyone want to pet Shere Khan?” The trainer pointed to Maddie. “You?”

Maddie glanced up at Agnes.

“What do you think?” Agnes touched Maddie’s cheek. “Do you want to pet him?”

“I…I…think so. Yes!” She pulled away from Agnes and stepped closer.

Maddie reached out her hand and touched Shere Khan’s head, then ran one finger over his ear. “He’s so soft.” She stroked down the tiger’s neck and scratched his ear.

Shere Khan turned toward the caress, opened his mouth and yawned, showing long sharp teeth. His eyes sought Maddie’s face and their eyes locked in a gaze that seemed to connect their soul. At last he blinked and lowered his head onto a giant paw.

Seeing Maddie’s delight, several other children rushed forward.

The trainer motioned them back. “Just one at a time.”

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

Indeed, Shere Khan stood and ambled back toward his caravan, apparently he'd had enough public adulation. Within seconds, he was up the steps and out of sight.

Agnes reached for Maddie’s hand. “Are you ready to go back now?”

Maddie's gaze was fixed on the spot where Shere Khan had disappeared. She rubbed her fingers together, seeming unable to relinquish the sensation of the tiger’s ear, reluctant to forget the rumble in his throat as she stroked his face. The child seemed lost in the memory of a special shared moment with a creature from the wild, reluctant to return to her life where troubling events were a daily occurrence. “Shall we go, sweetheart?”

Maddie blinked. “I remember, before I was born, we were in Heaven and we played in a meadow with baby lambs and goats. Was Shere Khan remembering, too, Grandma?”

“What strange ideas you have, child. Where do you come up with such things?” Played together in Heaven? What could have put such a thought into her head?

Maddie’s eyes were aglow, her smile as innocent as an angel. She looked as though she was truly catching a glimpse directly into Heaven where she had played in a meadow with a tiger.

Goosebumps crept up Agnes’s arms. Maybe Maddie was remembering. Hadn’t Pastor Lickleiter just preached on this text and encouraged the congregation to memorize the Bible verse? 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)

Wolves? Leopards? Lions? Who’s to say there wasn’t a tiger among them?

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