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

 

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?

24
Mar

The Sure-Fire Cozy Mystery Template

Let’s pretend for a minute, we’re an author considering writing a new cozy mystery series. What is the secret of a successful cozy mystery series? After careful analysis of numerous successful cozy mystery series,’ we begin to notice a certain template to the storyline of each novel.

If we follow this template of success, our story should begin with a beautiful, blonde, female sleuth, recently divorced with, or without child. She must have a dog or a cat to capture the hearts of animal lovers. The pet doesn’t have to solve crimes, but it helps. Her sweetheart, (who likely resists a committed relationship) is connected to an inept police department, which gives her access to official information and documents generally withheld from the public. She must have a quirky friend, either of another race, gender or combination there-of.

She also needs an unusual profession or hobby. The best jobs or hobbies have already been snagged by other popular mystery series’. These include book store owners, catering services, dog groomers, travel agents, writers, pet sitters, private detectives, cruise ship directors, bakeries, college professors, librarians, etc.

For any hope of a successful series, she’ll need a career that hasn’t been done to death, but one that gives her access to plenty of potential murder victims or crimes. It is a series, remember? She will need lots of suspects. In the end she must succumb to temptation and make terrible judgment choices and at the last moment be rescued by her boyfriend.

We begin the cozy mystery template. Let’s have our potential sleuth own her own septic tank truck giving her access to plenty of overflowing back yards where she is able to spot various, nefarious ‘going’s-on’.
The lady septic pumper-outer and her quirky sidekick find a body in the pump house. Proceed to red herrings, unrequited love, and suspicious characters. Sadly, all have alibis.

Toss in some plumbing trivia, stopped up toilets, (a humorous scene or two involving overflowing toilets, or embarrassing bathroom scenes) and move right on to the climax where our heroine agrees to meet the Home Depot plumbing salesman in the plumbing warehouse, but neglects to tell anyone where she’s going. This is vital to any cozy mystery, a must-be-included situation.

The killer-plumbing salesman strings her up to the rafters, because she’s ‘flushed him out.’ Her death is imminent. However, her dog (or cat, raccoon or gerbil), tracking her scent, leads her detective boyfriend, having finally realized his true commitment to her, to the warehouse.

He arrives just in the nick of time. The killer is apprehended, every toilet is unstopped, and the heroine rides off into the sunset in her sewer truck.

This is a sure-fire formula to a red-hot New York best seller. Several folks have suggested I write this novel, and, stay tuned, I just might do it.

Check out my already published books on Amazon:

Black Cat’s Legacy, Thumper pursues a cold case murder. http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm

Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, Thumper goes to Texas and confronts an embezzling attorney. http://tinyurl.com/q3qrgyu

Black Cat and the Accidental Angel, Black Cat and his companion are left behind following an MVA... http://tinyurl.com/y6vhncq

Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot, Eccentric Mrs. Odboddy encounters Nazi spies and conspiracies on every hand. http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv

Mrs. Odboddy-Undercover Courier, Mr. O carries ‘secret documents’ by train to President Roosevelt. http://tinyurl.com/jn5bzwb

Mrs. Odboddy-And Then There was a Tiger, Falsely accused, Agnes seeks the missing war bond money. https://tinyurl.com/v96qhuv

All Things Cat, Twenty-one short stories about cats. http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htaj

http://www.mindcandymysteries.com

26
Feb

Angels Shall have Guard Over Thee

(This is a much edited scene from Black Cat and the Accidental Angel -- due to space on the website.)

The flagman flipped his sign to STOP.

John stomped his brakes. 9:50 A.M. Why hadn’t he left sooner? Work delays along the mountain highway between Nevada City and Reno were not unexpected this time of year.
Reno - 62 miles

John’s throat tightened. He had to get his Emu hatchlings to the airport by 12:30 P.M.! If they missed the flight, what could he say to his buyers? “Yeah! You trusted me, but I didn’t account for delays, so we missed the plane.” If he lost the sales, like dominoes, he could lose everything. His ranch–his business–even lose the custody of his daughter.
Reno - 60 miles

Traffic crept forward. Another flagman. John whacked the steering wheel. “Let’s go!” Perspiration beaded his forehead. They have to fix a landslide today. I have to make the flight in time. Lord, show me the way.

Another road worker stopped traffic. John’s truck inched forward and came to a stop beside a hitch-hiker. What was a hitch-hiker doing on a mountain road so far from Reno?

The hiker caught John’s eye and extended his thumb.

I suppose he wants a ride. What could he say? 'I’m going your way at two miles an hour with an empty passenger seat, but somebody once said hitch-hikers might steal your money or kill you.’ What harm could this kid do? If he was planning to rob someone, he chose the wrong pickup truck full of baby Emus. John rolled down the passenger window. “Ride, Mister?”

The kid’s expression seemed to say, “Life isn’t so good lately. Can you help?”

John unlocked the door. “Get in.” What did he have to lose besides his money or his life?

The hiker dropped his backpack to the floor and slid into the truck “Thanks. I’m Peter.” He needed a haircut and a shave. His jacket was frayed and stained with perspiration. Oddly, his fingernails were clean and trimmed.

“I’m John. Nice to meet you. Where you headed?”

“My uncle’s ranch is right on the main highway, just outside Reno. Could you drop me there?”

The cars crept forward. John checked his watch. “I’ve got a plane to catch at 12:30 P.M. If I miss the flight, I’m cooked.” He jerked his head toward the chicks in the rear.

Peter tapped the dashboard clock. “There’s plenty of time. Once we get past the roadwork, it’s less than an hour to Reno.”

“You don’t understand what’s riding on getting my chicks on that flight.” John waved toward the flagman.

“Couldn’t you ship them tomorrow? What difference would one day make?”

John huffed. “Ever hear of an Emu? They get six-feet-tall. The airlines won’t take them past two weeks old. That’s today and they’re already 30 inches tall. I could lose everything if I…” Whoa! Hold it. He’d just met the guy ten minutes ago and was spilling his guts to him. John shrugged. “Look. I shouldn’t dump on you. Let’s say, I have to make this flight, and leave it at that. Okay?”

Peter leaned back and sighed. “You’re not the only guy in this truck with troubles.”

“You’re too young for troubles. What’s your story?”

Peter nodded toward the floor frowned. “Huh! See this backpack? That’s everything I own. I’ve got the world’s troubles on my shoulders, and that’s the truth.”

John shrugged. “If you say so.” The cars inched forward. 10:22 A.M. Just over an hour to make the flight.

“By the way. Do you know your Bible?” Peter asked.

John cheeks flushed. “I…I…I guess so. Maybe not as well as−”

“What you said about your chicks reminds me... Listen… He is my refuge and my fortress: He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.”

John’s shoulders relaxed. “Under His wings shalt thou trust... Say! That’s good.”

Before long, they were in the valley with traffic moving along at normal speed.

Reno - 13 miles

John checked his wristwatch. 10:49 A.M. “I’m going to make it!”

Peter pointed to a red marker on a driveway beside the road. “That’s my uncle’s place.”

John stopped beside the marker. “Should I drive you up to the house?”

“Nah! I don’t want to keep you. You’ve got–”

“Uh-oh! What’s going on up there?” Another long line of cars had stopped a short way ahead. “Must be an accident. I'll never make it now.”

“Don’t worry. See that dirt road?” Peter pointed off to the right. “It goes about a mile and doubles back to the highway, beyond all that traffic.”

“Sounds good. Thanks…and for the encouragement. Means a lot…”

Peter waved and trudged up the driveway.

John’s truck kicked up dust as he turned onto the dirt road. “Wait!” Peter’s backpack lay on the floor! He hit the brakes. Why hadn’t he taken it when he got out of the truck? "There’s just enough time to get to the airport. If I go back, I might miss the flight. But, it’s all he owns… I have to go back.” John turned the truck, raced back down the dirt road and turned into Peter’s uncle’s driveway where he spotted a woman watering flowers.

“Morning.” John hefted the backpack. “Could you give this to Peter?”

“Peter?”

“Yeah. He left it in my−”

“I don’t know any Peter.”

John’s eyebrows rose. “I just dropped him at the end of your driveway. Said this was his uncle's place.”

The woman shook her head. “Not in my driveway.” She backed toward the house.

“Sorry. I must be mistaken.” Back at the road, the red marker flapped on the pole. This was the right place. John unzipped Peter’s backpack to look for a phone number or an address…. He pulled out underwear, toothbrush, a notebook. A paper fell from in John’s lap.

Highway 20 - August 31 - 9:50 AM Red pickup truck
There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague
come nigh thy dwelling.
For He shall give His Angels charge over thee…to keep thee
in all thy ways.

Chill bumps careened down John’s neck. Today was August 31. He’d picked up Peter on Highway 20, at exactly 9:50 A.M. “He was waiting for me! How is that possible?”

Lightning slashed overhead. Dark clouds gathered beyond the foothills. There’d be rain by nightfall. John glanced at his watch. 11:15 A.M. .There was just enough time… time to get the chicks to their flight. Maybe he’d even get home before the storm hit.

Faith! For He shall give His Angels charge over thee…

Check out my books at Amazon in print and e-books
Black Cat’s Legacy http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm
Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer http://tinyurl.com/q3qrgyu
Black Cat and the Accidental Angel http://tinyurl.com/07scsm2
Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv
Mrs. Odboddy – Undercover Courier http://tinyurl.com/jn5bzwb
Mrs. Odboddy – And Then There Was a Tiger http://tinyurl.com/y96qshuv
All Things Cat – (short cat story collection) http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak

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

3
Jul

How to write a Best-Selling Mystery Novel


There is a simple template for how to write a best selling mystery novel.
The Plot

Chapter one must have a hook that compels the reader to keep turning pages. Perhaps it’s a hard-boiled detective bringing the killer to justice, or a romance with the boy next door. Along the way, you’ll laugh or cry, be scared or surprised, along with the hero. When the story ends, you hope there’s a sequel because you want to spend more time with the characters.

Conflict

A compelling story must have something that prevents the main character from easily fulfilling his goal–conflict! If the CIA agent catches the villain on page one, there is no adventure. If the girl’s heart is broken in the first chapter, where is the romance? If someone isn’t looking for the lost puppy, he’s just a puppy.

Supporting Characters

Besides the intriguing main characters, a good story has compelling supporting characters. They are the friends, relatives, or even the protagonist’s pet–someone to interact with the main character. They may provide the conflict or help bring about a resolution, as in my Black Cat Mysteries, where Black Cat aids in solving mysteries.

Beginning-Middle-End

A good book has an exciting beginning, a compelling middle, and a satisfying end. The beginning of the story jumps into an event that convinces the reader to travel this journey with the main character. A mystery to solve, a romantic conflict or a specific goal must be revealed within the first few pages to keep the reader turning pages.

The middle is the crux of the story, where the character struggles to overcome the obstacles, but events go from bad to worse, and when all seems lost, we come to the exciting conclusion. The reader leaves laundry in the dryer and dishes in the sink to see how our hero solves the problem.

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

The Satisfying Conclusion

In a satisfying conclusion, the hero gets the girl, the killer is revealed, the interplanetary six-headed monster is relieved of at least two of his heads, or the puppy finds a home. The conclusion leaves the reader satisfied and wanting to buy the sequel.

The Right Editor

Now, the nuts and bolts: An author needs a good editor to look for spelling errors, poor punctuation, poorly written sentences or scenes that don’t make sense. She suggests corrections in a constructive manner to help the reader becomes one with the protagonist or at least travel alongside the hero.

The Book Cover

The book cover is snappy, good looking, brightly colored with an easily read title and intriguing picture, which suggests the story line. The appealing cover tempts the potential buyer to read the summary on the back and then, to buy the book. Mission accomplished.

That’s all there is to writing a best seller. Easy-peasy, right?

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?

19
Feb

The Conscientious Objector


One of the stories from my book - ALL THINGS CAT HTTP://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak
The Conscientious Objector
The old woman, Broomtilda, took me in when I was a wee kitten and named me Tinkleberry. Her idea, not mine…Over the years, as she grew frailer, it became difficult for her to find enough work around the village to buy bread and cheese. Were it not for the old cow in the byre, we would have no milk for my breakfast and Broomtilda’s dinner.

One night, Broomtilda tucked her shoes under the bed, pulled the covers up to her nose and went to sleep with only milk for her dinner. Come dawn, being too weak to rise, she called me to her side. “I have provided all your needs until today, Tinkleberry. Now, you must go, my friend, kill a small beast and bring me meat, for I no longer have the means to feed us. If you fail, I shall perish.”

That she should ask me to kill a living creature went against my very soul, for unlike my feline brethern, I have long been a conscientious objector. “You know I would do anything for you, dear Broomtilda,” I said, “but to kill even the smallest living creature, I cannot do. Please do not ask me to pay such a price in return for your kindness.”

“How can you answer thus, when I am ill and hungry? Have I not always provided for you?”

The tears in her eyes wrenched my heart, and yet I trembled in horror at the thought of killing even the smallest vole. “Isn’t there another way to meet our needs?”

“Only one, but I dare not speak of it. It’s far too dangerous,” she wept.

“Whatever it might be, I shall do as you demand, if it keep me from breaking my vow as a conscientious objector.” I bowed my head, my hair bristling in dread.

She lifted her frail hand. “You must make your way to yonder mountain. High on the top beside a river, you’ll find a cave where a wicked leprechaun dwells,” she said. “Perhaps you can trick him into revealing where he hides his gold. Even if you can steal one small coin, it would feed us for many weeks. Go, now Tinkleberry. My life is in your paws, small friend.” My mistress fell back upon the bed, her voice a bare whisper. “If you cannot bring back a piece of gold, our days on this earth are numbered.”

I set out to do as she had bid. Though against my conscience to kill, my wits would be tested if I was to fool the evil leprechaun, steal a coin, and live to tell the tale.

The trail to the mountain was steep. With each step, I cast about in my mind how to fulfill such a task. And with each step nearer the cave, I had no clear plan how to dupe the leprechaun from his gold.

“Halt. Who goes there?” The shrill voice of the wicked leprechaun called out from beneath the log that spanned the river. His words chilled my heart. It was now or never! “Answer, Cat, or I’ll turn you to stone.”

Panic seized my heart. And an idea popped into my furry head. “I’m just a harmless pussy cat out for a stroll in the woods. My, what a lovely river you have here, Sir Leprechaun. I love what you’ve done with the place.” A little honey-talk goes a long way toward soothing a malevolent spirit, or so I’m told. I sashayed across the log, humming an Irish ditty, and bowed low. “My name is Tinkleberry. (Her idea, not mine.) Pray tell, what might your name be, kind sir?”

The leprechaun’s demeanor softened somewhat. “My name is Merichandrick. What do you seek?” He grumbled.

“A spot of tea would be lovely. I’m weary from my travels.” I looked wistfully toward the gnome, hoping to convey abject vulnerability and candor. To my great relief, he invited me to step inside his abode.

“Come on in and I’ll light the fire.” I followed him into the grotto, aware that he might have a trick up his sleeve. Was he planning to toss me into the stew pot once inside? My nerves tingled, prepared for the worst.

“Sit over there.” The imp shuffled toward the fire as I scanned the cave.

Fearing treachery, I kept one wary eye on my host as I gazed around. A green and red parrot in a cage, hung from a golden hook. “Oh, what a lovely bird,” I posited, sidling closer to the cage. Where was he hiding that blasted pot of gold? Near the back of the cave, something lay hidden beneath a red blanket.

The little man turned. “Will you be after spending the night?” said he, with a wicked glint in his eye.

He likely plans to kill me as I lay sleeping. “If I’m so invited,” says I with a yawn, patting my paw against my mouth, giving him a good view of my sharp fangs, in case he had any funny ideas. “Let us drink our tea and I’ll curl up for the night just yonder on your lovely red blanket.”

He shook his mop of green curls. “Not there,” he shrieked, panic shining from his wicked eye. “Best you should sleep closer to the fire.”

“As you wish, and I thank you kindly for the hospitality,” says I. Oho! The gold is beneath the blanket. Once the little man sleeps, I’ll snatch a coin and be on my way. He’ll be none the wiser from the loss of one coin.

My host set out two mugs, poured the tea and shoved one toward me. Expecting a trick, I sneezed, and as he reached for a handkerchief, I switched the mugs. Indeed, my mug was drugged, for the evil goblin drank and fell immediately into a stupor.

As I reached to snatch a gold coin from the pot beneath the blanket, the parrot shrieked, spewing vile curses. Murderous rage filled my heart. Would the cursed bird ruin everything? All I needed was one small coin to save my mistress.

A conscientious objector no more, I leaped at the cage and knocked it to the dirt floor. The door flew upon and the now repentant parrot squawked and flapped on the ground. One swift snap of my jaws, and the bird would curse no more.

Broomtilda traded the gold coin for six chickens and a second cow. Bossy gives us enough milk to sell and pay for bread and vegetables.
As a recovering conscientious objector, only occasionally must I venture into the woods, highjack an unsuspecting rabbit and fetch it home for the stewpot. If our fortune changes for the worse or the old cow dies, the wicked leprechaun still has a pot full of gold coins, and I know where he lives.

If you enjoyed this story, I urge you to purchase the book, All Things Cat, with 21 of my short stories about cats or in this case... written by the cat!

21
Oct

Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier - Excerpt on a Train


Mrs. Odboddy - Undercover Courier - Agnes travels by train and carries a package to President Roosevelt that she is sure contains secret wall documents. This is a scene from her first morning after sleeping on the train. Full of righteous pride, she is off to a bad start this morning...

Agnes hurried down the aisle before anyone else could beat her to the washroom. After brushing her teeth, washing her face, and smearing cold cream across her face, Agnes glanced into the mirror. She chuckled, noting that the cold cream made her face resemble a clown. Mid-chuckle, her smile faded. My purse! She’d left it in her berth, with the secret documents for President Roosevelt inside!

Agnes threw open the bathroom door and plunged down the aisle, cold cream still smeared over her face. What had she done? Oh, Lord above. Protect this idiot from her foolish ways.

The empty berth shrieked condemnation for her carelessness and neglect. Her purse was gone.

Oh, nooooo! Where was the porter who was supposed to be on guard, watching their belongings?

Agnes raced toward the far end of the car and found the porter, his head lolled to the side, his chair tipped back against the wall, sound asleep,.

“Porter! Wake up!”

The young man jerked. The legs of his chair slammed to the floor. He jumped to his feet, his eyes blinking. “Yes, ma’am?” He touched his cap, his eyes wild, scanning from left to right. As he came to full wakefulness, he peered at Agnes, her cold-creamed face contorted in rage. His eyes looked like black marbles floating in pools of milk. He stepped back, his trembling hands outstretched. “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again!”

“Porter! Did you see someone getting into my berth? I’m the second one from the end.” Agnes pointed down the aisle.

The porter’s face turned several shades lighter. “No, ma’am. Sorry ma’am. I…I… I’m afraid I fell asleep.” He hung his head. “Are you going to tell my boss?” He lifted his head.

Agnes reached up and touched her cheek. “Oh, my goodness!” I didn’t even wash my face. No wonder I scared the living daylights out of him. She pulled a tissue from her pocket and wiped at her cheeks. “I left the bathroom in such a hurry… But, then I discovered my purse missing from my berth!” Her heart raced as she uttered the dreadful words. And vanity clouded my good judgment! I’m such a fool.

His mouth trembled. Was he more concerned about her purse or getting caught sleeping on the job? “Missing? You’re sure you didn’t misplace it?” He hurried down the aisle toward her berth.
Agnes followed on his heels.

The porter yanked back Agnes’s curtain and glanced around her bed. Only the Bible lay on her pillow–. He slid the suitcases from side to side and tossed the pillow to the other end of the bed. “Have you checked in your suitcase?”

“Don’t you think I’d remember if I put it in my suitcase?” Agnes huffed. What kind of an idiot does he think I am? On the other hand, what kind of an idiot was she to leave her purse sitting on the bed with secret documents inside and run around the train with cold cream smeared on her face? Chill bumps raced up her arms as the realization of the loss hit home. She had failed the President of the United States of America on the first day out the door. She blinked to hold back tears as the porter rifled through both of her suitcases.

“Can you describe it, ma’am? What was inside?”

Agnes shrugged. “It was black…um…well, never mind what it contained. It had my wallet and my money and…and…my train ticket and passport.” Tears trickled down her cheeks.

“I’ll question the passengers before report it to the conductor.” The porter’s face contorted again.

Weren’t they two of a kind? Both brought low by their own carelessness. “I’ll finish up in the washroom while you look.”

The porter nodded and hurried off, leaving Agnes to return to her interrupted ablutions.

Agnes washed the cold cream from her face and stared into the washroom mirror. The wrinkles in her forehead had deepened over the past few minutes and the sparkle that folks said she carried in her eyes seemed to have abandoned ship.

Agnes straightened her shoulders and forced a smile. She gave her hair a final pat and stepped out the washroom door, climbed into her bunk and pulled the curtain. She laid her head back on the pillow, clutched the Bible to her chest and began to pray.

Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier Purchase this book at Amazon (e-book $3.99) at http://tinyurl.com/jn5zwb

13
Jun

Mrs. Odboddy and The Tuskegee Soldiers

An author must take great care when mixing fiction with history. We should not attempt to alter history, but where’s the harm in tossing our character into the action with actual historical events?

In Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, while volunteering time at a watch tower on the beach, elderly Agnes Odboddy spots a Japanese air balloon bomb headed for shore. She uncovers a ration book conspiracy and becomes romantically involved with an FBI agent searching for missing Hawaiian funds. And she meets Mrs. Roosevelt. Our fictional character and our plot weave around these historical facts, as the story moves forward.

In my latest WWII era humorous mystery/adventure, Mrs. Odboddy – Undercover Courier, Mrs. Odboddy, continues to fight the war from the home front in a small California town. In her bumbling charming way, she is determined to thwart conspiracies and expose Nazi spies.

Agnes and her granddaughter, Katherine, travel by train from California to Washington DC to join Mrs. Roosevelt’s Pacific Island tour. Agnes is asked to hand-carry a package to President Roosevelt. She believes it must contain secret war document! (Obvious, right?) She expects Nazi agents to attempt to steal her package. (Could happen!) Of course, along the way, she meets some intriguing characters who hinder as well as aid her in her mission.

Agnes befriends David and Samuel, two black soldiers bound for the Tuskegee Air Base, where they will be trained as pilots with the first all-Black fighting flying squadron.
And here is a bit of REAL history about the Tuskegee soldiers who became pilots.

Due to the many black men who wanted to volunteer, and the extreme loss of pilots in battle, it became expedient to set up a program to train Black fighter pilots, bombardiers and air support staff. A number of Black men with higher education and pre-war flying experience were selected to train as fighter pilots, but in a segregated squadron.

The most successful all Black squadron was the 99th squadron. They began to fly bombing missions in the spring of 1943.
Nine hundred ninety two Black pilots were trained in Tuskegee from 1941-1946. They were credited with 1578 combat missions, 179 bomber escort missions, destroyed 112 enemy aircraft in the air, and another 150 on the ground. Nine hundred fifty rail cars tracks and motor vehicles were destroyed. One destroyer was put out of action. Forty boats and barges were destroyed. Multiple citations were awarded along with many silver, bronze, air medals and 8 purple hearts.

Segregation of the troops ended in 1945.

And back to our story… When the train reaches Tennessee, Agnes’s friends run afoul of the JIM CROW laws and when she arrives in Washington, she faces trials that challenge her determination as a home front warrior.

Read Mrs. Odboddy - Undercover Courier and get the full story about Agnes and the Tuskegee airmen. The book will amaze and amuse all the way from California to Washington, D.C and shed a bit more light on more American history that may not be too familiar to many readers.
E-book available at Amazon for $3.99
Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier
http://tinyurl.com/jn5bzwb

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