21
Jun

He said… She said. Why does it matter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1
Jan

Excerpt from Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer

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

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

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

Kimberlee banged around the kitchen, following orders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14
Oct

Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer

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Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer will publish about November 1, 2014. Signed paperback copies are available from me for $13.00 (free postage).

In this story, Thumper and his family visit Kimberlee’s grandmother’s Texas horse ranch. Grandmother has promised to choose a beneficiary to inherit her estate. But things aren’t always as they seem.

Grandmother’s attorney is embezzling Grandmother’s money through a false Children’s Society. Someone’s true identity is called into question and he may be involved with a cold case murder. Could things get any worse? Indeed they can. Thumper uncovers a murder plot and most face a killer to save Grandmother. She is family, after all, even though he knows the unscrupulous reason she brought the family to Texas…

The only good thing about wretched Texas vacation is meeting the love of his life, Noe-Noe. (Below is an edited passage from the day they met.)

A delightful scent wafted across the room, teasing his nostrils and making the hair on the back of his neck stand erect. The scent tasted familiar and yet…evocative and foreign.

Oh, moment of discovery, sweet love’s fantasy revealed. He poked his head from beneath the sofa and lifted his nose, drew in the bouquet, rolled it around his tongue and teeth, seeking to identify the tantalizing bouquet. Aha. The flavor of a feminine flower, not a figment of his furtive fantasy.

She drew him as if by magic−teasing, taunting, beguiling, until his senses reeled. He followed the fragrance into the library, his gaze traveling up the bookcases. Their eyes met as the fascinating creature peered down from the top of the bookshelf, her front toes curled beneath her breast. The sun streaming through the window shimmered off her silken ears. Her fur, like rows of buttercups set in a field of marigolds, shot through a summer sunset. Her eyes, midnight slits peeking through golden moons. Her sensuous tail coiled around her nose, rising and falling in a hypnotizing rhythm, matched the thud of his heart.

Electricity crackled. She was not a gossamer dream, but a lissome feline goddess. She stared down from atop the shelf −a living, breathing, challenge to his masterful art of woomanship.
His interest in this golden-haired vixen was both perplexing and titillating.
He’d had his share of lady friends, though he was not obsessed with romance. He fancied himself a diplomatic lover, not given to one-night stands, but more discerning in his treatment of female companions. But, this enticing creature was something a cat could sink his teeth into. This lady begged a more committed long-term relationship.

Now, to put his best foot forward…but which foot? All four of his nimble black legs ended in elegant, snowy white feet with multiple toes. He stretched, raised his rear to display his muscular posterior and tight gluts. He then twisted into a three-point pretzel-like position and licked his inner thighs. These contortions were calculated to demonstrate his strongest attributes and yet reveal a willingness to concede control, a maneuver that had never failed to impress a lady cat yet.

“Howdy, stranger. New in town?” The sound of her voice, like the thrum of a hummingbird’s wings.

He stared into her enchanting face−the angle of her teasing whiskers−the slant of taunting ears−her tantalizing eyes, tinged ever so slightly with green, glittered in the sunlight. Her tiny pointed teeth−perfection.She twitched her tail.

Okay, you’re up, Thumper. Remember, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. “Thumper’s the name. Brought the family to visit the grandmother. Care to show me around?” He licked his bib and stared out the window. “Not that it matters one way or the other if you do or don’t, you understand. Just sayin.’” Please say yes, oh please, please, say yes…

“Thumper? What kind of name is that? Sounds like a rabbit.”

His heart crumpled. There it was again, that silly name. Thumper−like the bunny. How many times had he wished they had named him Butch or Cruncher. But no−he had to go through life as−Thumper. His dream of a romantic fling with this straw-colored vixen had as much chance as a balloon at a porcupine’s birthday party. He sighed.
Might as well leave before things get ugly. He turned and shuffled to the door.

“Wait.”

He stopped. His ears perked, whiskers taunt, and glanced back. “Yes?”

She stood and rearranged her sumptuous body. No question. All her curves were in the right places. “Don’t go yet, Thumper. I like rabbits...”

4
Mar

BLACK CAT'S LEGACY - AVAILABLE NOW

EXCERPT from BLACK CAT’S LEGACY: See BOOKS FOR SALE TO ORDERcover_cat_eyes-realistic-face-3

Kimberlee pulled her suitcases from under the bed and flipped them open.
“What are you doing, Mama?” (Amanda, four year old daughter)
“Let’s go now. We can visit the elephants tomorrow morning.”
“I don’t want to go,” Amanda whined, clasping Thumper to her chest in a death grip. “I don’t want to weave Fumper. He’s my fwiend. He woves me.” Tears puddled in her eyes. Her little mouth quivered.
Kimberlee put her arms around Amanda and the cat. “We were just staying for a little while to visit, Amanda, and now it’s time to leave. When we get settled, I’ll get you another cat, just like Thumper.” Her smile felt forced, but for Amanda’s sake, she’d do anything to make her smile.
“I don’t want anovver cat. I want Fumper.”
She tried to pry Thumper from Amanda’s arms. Amanda clung tighter. “Don’t you want to see the ocean and the wild animals in the park?”
Amanda nodded. “Yeesss.” She pulled away from Kimberlee’s grip. “But I wove Fumper. Can he go wif us, Mama?”
“Oh, I don’t think so. He belongs to Mrs. Herman.” Kimberlee stared at the cat, looking like a furry toy, his black tail swishing across Amanda’s tummy, his long fur spilling over her arms. As she stared, Thumper’s big gold eyes locked on hers. In that instant, he became the symbol of Herman’s Motor Lodge and Brett and the two-faced jealous twit, Dorian. She trembled.
Mrs. Herman’s ugly voice echoed in her ears. ‘There has always been a Black Cat at Herman’s Motor Lodge.’ She’d been so proud, her chest all puffed up like a turkey gobbler. ‘Why, I think we just might go out of business if we didn’t have our very own Black Cat.’ The old bat!
Kimberlee’s hands shook, her chest heaved. Her heart beat so fast, she thought it might burst through her chest. Go out of business? Hell. The place could burn to the ground for all she cared. Here was something she could do to strike a blow for all the pain they’d caused her. It would serve them right if their precious Black Cat disappeared in the night and the lodge went broke because of it.
“Good idea. Let’s go.” She picked up the two suitcases. Amanda clutched Thumper around his middle and waddled to the door. His long body hung loose, his legs reaching almost to her knees.
Kimberlee slammed the cabin door a little harder than needed and propelled her daughter toward the car. She flung the suitcases into the trunk with a thud and slammed the lid.
She snatched Thumper from Amanda and tossed him into the front seat.
She strapped Amanda in her car seat, slid under the steering wheel and slammed the car door. She glanced toward Brett’s cabin.
His cabin door blurred through her tears. Where was he? He might at least come out and say good-bye. Maybe try to stop her. Maybe not. But, could she blame him after the way she spoke to him? She wiped her eyes on the back of her sleeve, turned the key and gunned the engine. Gravel flew, her tires spun as she barreled toward the street.
At the edge of the sidewalk, she brought the car to a stop. What about the motel bill? They had her credit card. They could charge her credit card for the blasted motel room. Her tires peeled rubber on the asphalt. “We’re going to Oregon.”
Kimberlee glanced in the rear view mirror. She caught sight of Amanda waving good-bye to the lodge. Hadn’t Jack told her about a little girl waving from the back of a yellow taxi? And now she understood how her mother could abandon her house, her friends, everything that Fern Lake represented. She, too, wanted to forget. Mother could not leave it behind. Whatever happened that night had followed her day after day until it destroyed her.
Would she ever forget her father’s sins? Probably not. Could she forgive herself for Jack’s tragedy? Not likely. She pressed the gas pedal to the floor and reveled in the roar of her engine, every minute taking her further and further away from Fern Lake, Herman’s Motor Lodge.
Kimberlee clutched the steering wheel, her head thrust forward, her eyes scanning the road, rocketing down the road toward the freeway and Oregon.
Thumper stood on the seat, his front paws on the window ledge. He leaped over the seat and snuggled down beside Amanda. His purr, a throaty purr, rattled through the car in a steady rhythm that sounded content. Perhaps he understood the symbolism he represented and had aligned himself with the Resistance. For, surely, he had gone willingly with his captors into the night.

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Available at Amazon by April 1, 2014

16
Dec

The Christmas Bird

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The air grew crisper, the nights longer and the whisper of leaves falling on the roof began to awaken each Christmas tree bird from their yearlong slumber. They wiggled with joy, crinkling the crepe paper walls of their divided cubicles in the ornament box. Soon, the Christmas bird ornaments would be lifted from their crinkly crepe paper beds where they had slept in the attic since last Christmas.

As the special day grew nearer, the thrill of the season crept through their springy wire clips, their porcelain gold and silver bodies and their fluffy feather tails.

The youngest Christmas bird lay in the middle cubicle under Gold Bird, wrapped snugly in soft white tissue paper. “Christmas is coming!” He shook with excitement. Soon, he would be high on the tree with his Christmas bird friends and the round ones, who weren’t nearly as beautiful as his Christmas bird friends with their feather tails and pinchy clips.

He closed his little red eyes and dreamed of Christmas Eve. From the top of the Christmas tree, his family would gather by the fireplace. He could almost hear the music and smell the cookies.
“I’ve been thinking that I am the most beautiful Christmas bird,” he whispered to Gold Bird, who lay wrapped in tissue above him.

Gold Bird’s tail feathers quivered. “Really? What makes you think so? Blue glass bird is made of hand blown glass and has a lovely feather tail. Antique bird is missing his tail feathers, but he’s so fragile, you can see through his porcelain body. Most of us are much more beautiful than you.” He shook as he scolded the young bird.

“I don’t care. The Christmas tree wouldn’t be as beautiful if I wasn’t right near the top.” The little bird twitched all over.

Gold Bird huffed. “It would serve you right if you were left behind this year. You don’t know anything about the true meaning of Christmas. You don’t deserve to hang on the Christmas tree.”

The Christmas bird trembled. That he might not celebrate the season scared him a bit, but not quite enough. His voice trembled. “I didn’t mean to be conceited. It’s not that I think you aren’t very handsome, but my tail feathers are longer and softer and fluffier than yours, and… my… paint is much shinier−”

“Tut tut,” Gold Bird said. “I won’t listen to hear another word.”
For several days, the young bird lay in his cocoon of crinkly paper, haunted by Gold Bird’s words. “You conceited fellow, it would serve you right …” and he would shudder. Unthinkable! Not to be on the Christmas tree? Not to be part of Christmas Eve? He couldn’t bear the thought.

The days grew shorter and the nights longer. Snow blanketed the roof. The wind whistled through the trees, their bare branches just visible through the tiny attic window. The long days of November edged into December.

One morning, the Christmas birds awoke to footsteps clunking up the attic steps. The Christmas bird held his breath, not daring to wiggle. “It’s time! Soon we’ll be on the Christmas tree!”

One by one, his friends were lifted from the cubicles beside him. He heard them squeal as they were hung on the tree. Beneath his tissue coverings, he faintly heard the music. He could hear the children chattering; he could even smell the cookies.

“It’s nearly my turn,” he whispered. But, there was no answer.
Gold Bird’s fluffy tail no longer tickled his nose. He waited. The box was tossed into the corner; empty except for the littlest Christmas bird, hidden under the tissue in the middle cubicle.
His comfortable box now a prison, his beautiful body and fluffy tail lay beneath the crinkly tissue paper. A tiny plastic tear formed in his little red eye. Gold Bird was right. I’ve been conceited and proud, and now I’ve been left behind.

He lay alone in the corner through the entire month of December. The faint sounds of Christmas filtered through his tissue paper. The Christmas season was nearly over and he had missed everything.

On Christmas Eve, the Christmas tree bird imagined the tree with his Christmas bird friends hanging with the others, the ones he had scorned. They may not be as beautiful as I, but they are on the tree, and I’ve been left behind.

He heard the little girl’s voice. “They wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and lay Him in a manger.”

I’m wrapped in swaddling clothes, like baby Jesus. He imagined the tiny baby wrapped sung and warm, lying in the straw, surrounded by the cows. He imagined the shepherds bringing their sheep down from the hills to worship the babe. He thought of the Wise Men who brought gifts to welcome His birth.

He heard the daddy tell how Jesus came to earth as a tiny baby and if we loved and trusted Him, He promised to come again and take us to heaven and we would not be left behind. The Christmas bird blinked back a tear. I know what it’s like to be left behind. How terrible to be left behind from Heaven.

Then, the tissue paper lifted. “Look, Mommy! Here’s another Christmas birdie, all alone in the box. Oh, he looks like he has a tear in his eye! Can I hang him on the Christmas tree?”

The Christmas bird was whooshed up to the top of the tree where his hook fastened to a branch next to Gold Bird. Looking down from his lofty perch, he saw the family gathered around the tree. There was such love in the room! He even smelled the Christmas cookies! At last, he was exactly where he needed to be.

Gold Bird gave him a stern but loving glance. “Did you learn anything, my little friend?”

As he swung from side to side on the pine branch, the light from the fire reflected in the gold tear in the little bird’s eye. “I understand,” he whispered to Gold Bird. “Christmas is not about who is more beautiful or cookies or even the gifts people give to one another. The true meaning of Christmas is God’s gift to the world, the birth of Jesus Christ. When we accept God’s Gift of love, one day He will come back for his children and we will never be left behind.”

Gold bird swung around on his hook. “Welcome to Christmas, Christmas bird!”

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