Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Sandra here with a lovely pot of chocolate velvet coffee to share. There is iced tea and an assortment of fruit juices on the sideboard if you prefer.  The counters have trays of sliced meats and cheeses, platters of fresh fruit and veggies. So grab a plate and join me on this lovely deck.

There is a lovely house one can rent for weekend parties or retreats in the outskirts of Omaha, Nebraska. This house is fully furnished and features a deck overlooking acres of ranch land. They board thirty horses there most of the year, but in the summer the horses go off to the nearby boyscout camp. So let’s rent this for the day and sit on the deck and discuss why we want to use animals in our stories. We can watch the horses grazing in the fields or goggle at the wild turkeys as they gobble on by.

This little guy hops around our campsite.

I am a true blue animal lover. I have loved animals as far back as I can remember. The most influential books of my childhood were those that featured animals—Bambi, Black Beauty, Call of the Wild, Lassie. If the book was about an animal, I’m sure I read it.

My neighbor's spaniel Kiowa. Isn't he adorable?

Did you read Jeff Gerke’s article last week on the Irresistable Novel? He talked about enticing those oxytocin chemicals in our readers so they will want to keep reading. Scientific studies abound that show animals also excite oxytocin. If they are in the story will the reader want to put that book down?

Kathy's holding Ki tight so I don't take off with him.
I watched an interesting feature on the National Geographic channel showing how dogs became domesticated. Baby wolves that featured that cute little puppy dog look in their eye were fed more by our ancestors than the growly wolves. So the cute puppy dog looking wolves ended up as pets. And over the centuries, the cuter the puppy look, the more domesticated the dog became. This process happened with other species as well. So does it make sense to use animals to excite those warm fuzzy feelings we want our readers to have?

The fact that many of the most popular commercials on television feature a pet or animal is no accident. Think back on the Super Bowl lineup of commercials. The Clydesdale horses are always featured. There are always more than one commercial featuring a dog.  In fact, one of my favorite commercials running on television right now is a man crossing off his dog’s bucket list. You know the one I’m talking about?

Look at book covers? How many feature an animal? Love Inspired covers often feature puppies.  Here is Maizie featured in Janet Dean’s coming January release THE BOUNTY HUNTER’S REDEMPTION. This is a preview btw.  The cover isn't even up yet, but you can pre-order the novel.


How many book covers have a horse? There is a reason for this. Animals bring on those warm fuzzy feelings Jeff Gorke was talking about.

All of the books I have written feature an animal.  I fell in love with the hero in LOVE’S REFUGE when he brought the heroine a puppy after her beloved dog died. Skye fell in love with Danny too. Smile.

My Lab Cody who inspired Skye's Lab.

In my Christmas Novella, A HEART FULL OF HOPE within the contemporary anthology HOPE FOR THE HOLIDAYS, the characters ride horses on the beach in Spain. Also in that novella, Elena, the heroine, feeds feral cats. I do this myself, so recognized the feral cats while visiting in Matalascañas, the town where HEART FULL OF HOPE is set.  I was hoping readers would identify with the heroine when she has compassion for the kitties.

My feral cat Boo. Elena's feral was named Boo also.

Julie Lessman uses a parrot to not only bring humor into her story but that silly parrot definitely deepens our knowledge of the characters. Judge for yourself in this excerpt from:

LOVE AT ANY COST, by Julie Lessman:

Alli glanced up, her face the picture of innocence. “Rosie says Uncle Logan’s a pain in the posterior.” She gave him a wink. “Of course, the term she actually used may have been ‘rump’ . . .”
“Awk, pain in the rump, pain in the rump . . .” True to her name, the family parrot, Miss Behave piped up while she danced back and forth on her perch with pinwheel eyes.
“See?” Logan stabbed a finger in the parrot’s direction, his voice reduced to a hiss. “She’s even turned the blasted parrot against me and my nieces and nephew as well.” He scowled. “First you, the parrot, then my own flesh and blood.”
Aunt Cait rose to adjust his tie. “Don’t be silly, Logan, nobody’s against you . . .”
“No, we all love you, Uncle Logan.” Cassie’s smile was angelic. “Who else would have taught us poker?”
“Good gracious—you taught them poker?” Aunt Cait took a step back, hand to her chest.
A loud whistle pierced the air. “Awk, ante up, ante up . . .”
“Traitor.” Uncle Logan glowered at Cassie, the semblance of a smile tugging his lips.

I’ve used birds also. An eagle is featured in WHERE THE EAGLE FLIES, my novella in the anthology WITH THIS KISS. Whenever Melissa, the heroine, prays the eagle appears and gives our hero Sid ideas that help solve their needs.

This is actually a red-tailed hawk. Do you know they use its call in movies instead of an eagle  because an eagle call is not as mighty sounding as the hawk's?  Piece of trivia my hubby shared.  

I do believe God uses animals to communicate with us. Several years ago I wrote the children’s book CODY THE COYOTE. During that time I was having a particularly rough time with sick parents. I went hiking and there appeared this beautiful coyote who stood for over fifteen minutes and sang to me. He pranced his front paws and danced and sang. I felt in my heart that the Lord had sent that coyote to tell me everything was going to be all right.

Illustrator is Jeff West

When my mom was in hospice, a hummingbird built her nest on a bougainvillea branch four inches from my bedroom window. I had a sunscreen on the window so I could see the hummingbird, but she could not see me. She hatched four babies and I was able to watch the whole process as they grew until they left the nest. I believe that was God’s gift showing me birth and beginning of life as I was facing death and the end of an earthly life.

Mary Connealy and her famous baby calves.

So do any of you use animals in your stories?  Comment and let us know how you deepen your character and/or plot by using these animals.

Guess where I am? This guy weighed 30 pounds.

I have a lovely surprise for one lucky winner. They can have their choice of an autographed novel, or a children’s book, and they will also receive this lovely glass chocolate candy kiss. This chocolate has no calories.  Smile

Sandra Leesmith  writes sweet romances to warm the heart. Sandra loves to play pickleball, hike, read, bicycle and write. She lives in Arizona with her husband and during the hot summers she and her husband travel throughout the United States in their motorhome where she enjoys the outdoors and finds wonderful ideas for her next writing project. You can find Sandra's books here on Amazon. Three of Sandra's most popular books are also audio books at Audible. You can read more posts by Sandra here.

Suz was my mil's toy poodle. We adopted her at 6 when mil's alzheimer's got bad. Suz lived with us 11 more years. 


  1. I am using a white squirrel in my wip.

    I read a book recently where a dog stole the story and became such an important part to the book. It was great and I think the book will be a hit. It won't be released until September. One of the great advantages to being an early reader.

  2. Hi Sandra:

    I have three bears on the cover of my "Stranded in a Cabin with a Romance Writer" -- a mama black bear and her two cubs.

    The story opens with the heroine stuck in her mountain cabin as the three bears are banging on the door trying to get into the cabin for the food they smell.

    The hero pulls up on a noisy motorcycle and the bears run back into the woods.

    She comes out of the cabin and the first thing the hero says is, "I'm sorry if I scared your bears away."

    "Those are not my bears! Do I look like a bear whisperer?"

    She has on sweat pants and a T-Shirt that reads "Give God a Break -- Solve Your Own Problems".

    He thinks she's the maid hired to clean up the cabin for his stay. (She's not. She's been given the cabin for two weeks to finish her novel by the owner's wife.)

    The hero also has keys to the cabin given him by the owner and thinks the cabin is his for the next two weeks. He tells the heroine that she can leave and he'll finish up cleaning the cabin.

    She gets really mad and says the cabin is hers! (She was going to say: "Do I look like the maid?" when she realizes that she does look like the maid besides she has a broom in her hand.)

    He reaches down into the saddle bag and takes out his Army Glock 19.

    She is shocked. "Are you going to kill me for this cabin," she says as she fearlessly approaches him with the broom held high over her head like a baseball bat.

    She gets about fifty feet from the cabin when the hero says:

    "No, I'm going to kill those bears that are coming back to the cabin."


    So I used wild animals in that story.


    P.S. I got in the K9 section in the military because I liked dogs so much. I'm with you. I hope we hear from KC!

  3. As a reader I do love animals in stories. The interaction between the characters and animal of choice reveal a great deal.

  4. I love this! What perfect examples of how to incorporate critters and our emotions into a story, Sandra. You're absolutely right, having animals in stories creates a bond with the characters and the reader. You can tell so much about people by how they react to animals.

    Being a farm girl, I draw a firm line between pets and food, and I'm not afraid to take on anyone who scolds me for that, especially if they follow that scolding with a shopping trip to the nearest grocery store to get ground beef or boneless chicken breasts! :) But I love showing people's respect for animals regardless of the intended purpose. I actually think I saw Mary Connealy giving her cows a Kobi-beef style rubdown this past spring.

    She's so nice that way! :)

    Loving the coffee, and Vince, I love that scene, laughing out loud! Bear whisperer, LOL!!!!


  5. Wilani, a white squirrel is memorable! I've never seen one. We've got an albino deer herd up here, on a former army depot, but I've never seen an albino squirrel. How cool!

  6. I love animals in a story. In fact the very first book I ever checked out of the Library's bookmobile was about a dog, Junket: The Story About a Junk Yard Dog. I loved it so much I checked it out four more times and read it four more times. When I tried to check it our again, I was told I couldn't as it needed to be left behind for other readers.

    Thank you for the fun post. I love all the pictures.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  7. I enjoy animals in stories, especially when they do something heroic.
    Sandra, your story about the hummingbird was beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. They are special little creatures.

  8. Thanks Sandra, for a fun start to my morning with all the animal pictures. I have two cats, Big and Rich and I feed three or four more cats from around the neighborhood.

    I agree that an animal in the story is usually a good thing. :-)

  9. I'm sticking with dogs in my stories. I've loved dogs all my life and was so sad when I became allergic to them. Then we got a Westie which is hypo-allergenic. Yay!

    Sunday at work, a man came through the drive-through at work with the cutest little white dog in his lap. All work in the pharmacy stopped, and we were too busy to stop, and we fell in love with his dog. He said it was a shi-zu/pomerian mix. ADORABLE! We all felt a little less stressed after they drove off.

    Thanks for sharing, Sandra!

  10. Mary Hicks, Big and Rich!!!! I love it!!!!

    True Country Kitties!!!

  11. SANDRA ... LOVE THIS!!!

    You said: "Whenever Melissa, the heroine, prays the eagle appears and gives our hero Sid ideas that help solve their needs."

    Wow, Sandra, I never really thought of using an animal in such a spiritual way, but it adds SO much to a novel with a deeper level of thought.

    I am researching covers for my upcoming book, Isle of Hope, and I want a long dock that ends in a sunset, but when I saw one with a seagull soaring within it, the sunset instantly took on a depth of meaning. All of a sudden, it seemed to convey a spiritual sense of freedom and release from pain, thereby instilling hope. So between that and this post, I am now a firm believer in utilizing animals whenever possible.

    And in hindsight, I suddenly realize that I have used an animal in every book I've written except one, so maybe the magic of animals was drawing me and I didn't even know it!!


  12. LOL, VINCE ... cannot wait till your book is published because I love the premise, love what I read in our discussion on it, and LOVE this scene with its humor. Are you close to pitching or pubbing it, I hope??

    CINDY W SAID: "I love animals in a story. In fact the very first book I ever checked out of the Library's bookmobile was about a dog, Junket: The Story About a Junk Yard Dog. I loved it so much I checked it out four more times and read it four more times. When I tried to check it our again, I was told I couldn't as it needed to be left behind for other readers."

    LOL, Cindy, that's a hoot! The title alone would induce me to pick it up at a library. Uh ... that is, if somebody doesn't have it checked out! ;)


  13. JACKIE ... cute story about the shi-zu/pomerian in the drive-thru!! I'm glad that little guy (or gal) cheered everyone up!

    LANI ... LOVE the white squirrel!! Very cute and very clever. Does it have a big role to play or a deeper meaning?


  14. Oh WILANI, what a tease you are. You get us all excited and then tell us we have to wait. sigh

    Thanks for sharing about your white squirrel. Are they rare?

  15. VINCE I love that scene. I am laughing right now because I can so picture it. So now I want to read the rest and find out who ended up with the cabin. Maybe it was the bears. chuckle

    btw I love the t-shirt too. Have you seen that quote before? But I have to admit, I pester the Lord with the small stuff too.

    Thanks for sharing and hopefully KC will chime in.

  16. Hi MARY, Yes, I think the interaction reveals a lot. Animals can be used to show bad characteristics also. But I prefer using them for showing the good features. smile

  17. I adore animals in books. And Cindy W. -- my first all-by-myself library book checkout was Junket too!!!!!I've never met anyone else who read Junket. Love the cover of that book.

    I love animals in books -- love the interaction between them and the hero and heroine. You can tell a lot about someone by the way they treat an animal. And the minute the h/h starts talking to their pet like they expect them to talk back -- well I'm in the read for the long haul. LOL

  18. RUTHY, you are so funny. Yes, a farm girl would definitely have to have that distinction between pets and food. We went together with some friends one time when we lived in the country and raised a pig. The pig lived at our friends place. They named it Hemorrhoidia because the guys got hemorrhoids building the fence in the hard clay. lol The students at the country school we were teaching at would put the food they didn't want in a bucket and "Hemi" would get so excited when we came home. It especially loved jello day. Furtunately, I didn't let myself get attached and thankfully we were gone for the summer when our friends butchered it. sigh. So yes, you definitely have to draw that line.

  19. CINDY W. I love that story about Junket the Junk Yard Dog. And how funny that they had to put a limit on your checkouts. I hope you have your own copy of that book now. smile

  20. Hi JILL, it was very special. I couldn't get over how small they were and that mother hummingbird would stick that long beak down their tiny necks.

  21. Hi MARY H, Big and RIch. Great names for the cats. I love it. How do they get along with the ferals?

  22. JACKIE that is a great story. I hope you use that in one of your books. And it is true about how animals really make one feel good. That is why they bring them into hospitals, nursing homes, rehabs, etc. Petting them is very healing.

  23. Hi JULIE, I like how you will use the bird in the sunset scene. Yes, I agree. Bringing an animal in the mix really deepens the emotion.

    btw I love the parrot scene. Gives me a wonderful chuckle.

  24. KAV, how fun that you've read JUNKET also. I need to go to the library and find it. I'm sure I've read it to my kindergartners when teaching. They loved animal stories also.

  25. Hi Ruth:

    You wrote:

    "You can tell so much about people by how they react to animals."

    This immediately brought to mind a great animal scene I read that I never forgot. A mafia hit man has just killed a bad guy from another mob family. Of course, his name is Vinny. (If you don't have a Vinny or Vincenzo in a mafia story, no one will believe it.)

    So while his gun is still hot, Vinny is walking down the city street when he sees an injured dog. A car must have hit the creature's back leg. The dog is on the sidewalk crying. Vinny is appalled that anyone would leave an injured dog like that. He knows how to pick the dog up the way that hurts the least when a dog has a leg injury (there are two ways to do this depending on the injury) and he carefully carries the dog to his car parked down the street.

    He talks softly to the dog. He drives to the nearest vet and they know him at the vet's office.

    "Another wounded animal of us, Vinny?" the nurse says.

    "Yea, poor little guy. I just can't understand how people can be that cruel to helpless animals."

    The vet comes out of the office, shakes Vinny's hand and says, "God bless you Vinny, the world needs more people like you."

    Vinny says, "the same deal, Doc, don't spare any expense. Get the dog fixed up and find him a good home." Vinny leaves.

    Backstory: Vinny's only friend in school was his dog which was by his side all thru grade school and high school.

    How's that for using animals?

    BTW: Didn't you have a story where the lonely heroine had a cat in her small apartment and she would spill her soul out to the cat and in that way the reader would know what was on her mind without being told, per se? It also showed her loneliness.


  26. Sandra, thanks for sharing these pictures and the importance of including animals in our stories! I love that God brought a hummingbird to comfort you during a tough time.

    I didn't include animals in my stories at first as I'm allergic to cats and dogs and didn't have a pet in my own life so I didn't even think of it. A reader sent me a sweet letter telling me she enjoyed my book, then asked me to put animals in my stories, preferably cats. :-) She made me realize I wasn't providing an aspect of storytelling my readers wanted. Now we have two grand dogs in the family and with the help of an antihistamine and hand washing after every petting session, I'm loving these two adorable dogs.


  27. Thank you Sandra, great post. I love animals, stories with animals, and always use them when I write. I written about dogs, cats, horses, goats, chickens, calves and even a bull named Old Ferocious. Animals always enhance the characters and the plot. And yes, characters (and real people) always have conversations with their animals. I'll have to look for Junket. That's a new one to me.

  28. Vince, thanks for sharing your scene. I'm grinning ear to ear at the fun in your hero and heroine's first meeting, sometimes called a cute meet, the perfect term for your opening!


  29. Vince, what a clever way for that author to show characterization and ensure the bad guy is two dimensional.


  30. Wow VINCE. Rather ironic about the hit man going out of his way for an animal. But it gave the guy deep characterization. smile

  31. Hi Sandra:

    I wrote the slogan for the T-shirt to fit the character. She went straight from college to the nunnery where she taught school for ten years. She kept waking up at night screaming in pain about being in childbirth. Eventually the Mother Superior tells her god must want her to be a wife and mother. She is essentially kicked out of the convent. So she becomes a romance writer! Of course, she was secretly reading romances the whole time she was a nun. She's educated. She's an expert on the genre.

    She published five romances, HR's, but has missed two deadlines and feels burned out. She complains that she is making the minimum wage! She lives at home where her sister keeps telling her to write real books! At 33 years old she's still a virgin.

    What she really wants is some real romance in her life. So she is a really mixed up but very feisty heroine. She's as smart as they come.

    The hero is a Army Special Forces Captain on 60 day leave. He's thinking of giving up the service and starting a normal life with a wife and family.

    I have one and a half drafts done. I have a great cover already. But I need to finish RPP first as I keep learning more on Seekerville that will have to be worked back into "Cabin".

    I may shut down my real estate school and write fiction and nonfiction full time.


    P.S. I have a draft of a "Cody" type story in which the little animal wants to know which of all the animals is the wiseest. He's told to asked the wisest individual of each species he meets. All the 'wise' animals tell him with very sound reasoning why their species is the wisest. Only the owl gives him a different answer and it is the same one Socrates gave!

    How's that for teaching philosophy to kids? The logistics are holding me up because the animals come from different continents and not just he American Southwest. It needs choices on which animals to include (I have more than I need) and I don't know if it should be in verse. I love most the book you wrote in verse.

  32. Hi JANET, My sister was allergic to animal dander also. There are several breeds of dogs that are hypo-allergenic. We had a Keeshonden. They are so adorable. And JACKIE mentioned a Westie is hypo-allergenic also. Poodles are popular for the same reason.

  33. Hi CINDY,, Now you have me curious about Old Ferocious. I'm wanting to know its role. smile

  34. I sure hope that story comes out soon VINCE, It sounds like a winner. And a fun read. How clever to write the slogan. You should put it on some t-shirts. Oh wait, put it on some pens and give them out when you promote the book.

    The children's story sounds fun. Children love rhyme. And HECTOR is my most popular children's book and I think it is because of the rhyme. But rhyme is the most difficult to sell to children's book publishers. Most say in their guidelines that they don't accept rhyme in their submissions. I always think that is strange because after reading aloud to children for over twenty years I know they LOVE rhyme. Go figure.

  35. Sandra,
    I LOVE Great Danes. I raise them, but even if I didn't, I'd still love them. There's nothing quite as sweet as a big, lovable dog that doesn't know his own size.

    I like little dogs too, but I used to deliver meals-on-wheels. I've got news for you, half the elderly own ankle-biting canines. And none of them listen to their owners pleas to quit mauling the nice lady w/the food.

    Great points Sandra.

  36. I like to think that we are our most true selves with a pet. After all they can't spill a secret nor hold a grudge. They simply offer love even when the world and the antagonist is not!


  37. Hi Julie:

    That's right! We did have a consult about that "Stranded" book and I need to put you in it. I think the heroine needs to have a copy of "Romance-ology 101" at the cabin. How's that for inside 'baseball'?

    As I told Sandra, I have 1 1/2 half drafts done and the cover art finished. But I'm writing RPP right now first. At last I feel like I've learned enough to do a final draft on "Stranded" and send it to a real New York editor to do the line edit.

    I just may be going full time into writing if I close the school business.


    P.S. I have it! You can be the hero's sister who wins a RITA in the last chapter in competition with the heroine! She writes military romances and her brother is her best CP. That's why the hero is so romance savvy. And that's why, with the hero's help, the heroine is up for a RITA in the same category as his sister! He is CPing both of them!

  38. CONNIE QUEEN I am so laughing although it isn't really funny. But I know what you mean because we see the same thing in RV parks. All these old folks with tiny yappy dogs. And they don't listen to their masters. What a saint to deliver the food anywayl smile

  39. Hi STEPHANIE, Yes, a pet really loves you unconditionally. We could all learn from them.

  40. And I don't know why, but one of my first customers I ever sold a pup to always crosses my mind when I think of how people deal with their animals. I sold a puppy female dane to a lady who was buying it for her daddy--an old farmer. She told me that her daddy always had their dogs outside and, you know, treated them as dogs. But when they brought Anna home he went out a built and painted her a dog house. The daughter told how the pup had her dad wrapped around his finger.

    Most people I sell to keep their dogs in the house, but somehow hearing this lady talk about her daddy still hit home w/me more.

    That probably makes no sense at all...

  41. Good point VINCE. All of us authors need to read Julie's Romance-ology 101

  42. CONNIE QUEEN, it makes perfect sense. The dane won the man over. Great (dane) going. Sorry - bad pun.

  43. Fun post, Sandra! I have been an animal lover all my life, so it's always fun to add a horse, dog, or cat to my stories. One of my personal favorites is my ebook Pearl of Great Price, in which the heroine rescues a stray dog and her puppies before the hero razes an old resort.

    What's special to me about that story is that AFTER I'd written it, I found a stray dog at our church that looked almost identical to the dog in my story (except he's a male and there were, of course, no puppies). Shadow has now been a part of our family for more than 10 years, and his rescue story has many parallels to the scene in my book.

  44. I love that story MYRA. What a blessing that Shadow showed up after writing the book. I love stories like that.

    And i love your stories with horses in them. They are some of my favorites.

  45. More about my white squirrel. They are very rare. They are found here in the mountains of North Carolina and in particular the town of Brevard. My parents had one in their yard for awhile and I named it Fluffy. I loved taking pictures of him. I'd post a picture of him but I don't know how.

    So when I set the book in Western NC I just had to include the squirrel. Right now he does not have a big role in the book, but when I get to the point of rewriting and editing the book who knows what may happen. When I started writing this book I had no intention of having animals in the book because my main character works nights in the hospital so no time for a pet. But then Fluffy just popped into the story and it is a pet she can have.

  46. How interesting WILANI, So is the white squirrel an albino squirrel or is it a species of white squirrel?

    Don't you just love how an animal or character just pops into a story?

  47. I am not really an animal person. Recently we got a service dog for my son with Autism and it has opened up a world of animals for me. :-) I am a reader not so much a writer. . . but I love what an animal brings to a story.
    Would love to be in the drawing.

  48. We love our animals, don't we? Both of my full-length novels feature animals. Claiming Mariah actually has a parallel story of a wild tomcat whose hardscrabble life reminds the heroine of the hero's life. There's a litter of adorable kittens as well.

    Then there's a litter of kittens in Stealing Jake. Hmm, the mama cat is a "street cat", and it's cold and snowing and of course the orphanage, Livy, and the kids just HAVE to take her in, yes? And, I have another dog .... with puppies in This Land is Our Land (Homestead Brides).

    I do actually have a couple of stories that doesn't feature an animal. Imagine that!

  49. Oh BECKY I'm so thrilled that the service dog is helping your family. Would love to hear more about it. And you are in the drawing. smile

  50. PAM I can't even imagine you of all people without an animal in the story. I loved how you used the animals in Claiming Mariah and Stealing Jake.

    Yep we're animal lovers through and through.

  51. Love love love this post, Sandra.
    So fun!

    YES! We must have our critters, mustn't we?

    Jeff G's post truly resonated with me and through God's grace, I actually won a treat from you wonderful Seekers for commenting that day. Always a bonus in Seekerville.

    With our May the K9 Spy, we have her tell her own stories in first dog so hopefully we're accomplishing several things. Breaking down barriers for young(!) ones to encourage their enjoyment of reading... And tucking in little lessons here and there for everyone... Much as you & others are talking about... And teaching humans about critters too. They're not so hard to understand if you just let them. God uses all His Creation to draw us close to Him, if we will just look around!!

    And wow - what a story about the gift of time the coyote gave you. Were you in Dances with Wolves? So many things I loved about that film! That scene was one of my faves!

    Thanks for the shoutout from you too, Mr Vince! Your story is a HOOT and 1/2!!!
    Can't wait to read that one! HA!

    And Julie - OMGosh - that's absolutely perfect with the parrot.
    I just love it.
    Might have to add a parrot into the current WIP, May's 4th, since it's set on a mega-yacht in the Baltic, but we already have a cheetah. ;)

    Well, this book isn't going to finish editing itself so I'd better go.
    Thanks for the visit and the goodies.
    Time to get back to work.

    I'm having a telecon with the new fabulous illustrator in about an hour and a half, so better get some more words smithed before then. She's in Mesa, AZ by the way... Not too far!

    Y'all have a happy and blessed day. Thanks for being who you are!

  52. Sandra animals can bring so much to a story.
    I have animals of course, horses and cows. But I don't use animals with personalities enough.
    My most recent book has my best character animal. Tucker, the hero of Now and Forever has a mustang he calls Gru (grew). It's a grulla, pronounced Grew-ya, that is a silvery gray horse with black mane, tail and points.

    Tucker pulled it out of a mud hole where it was stuck when it was just a foal and nursed the weak, hungry, exhausted baby back to health. So the little filly fell in love with him and has been with him ever since. Wild as possible, a tough, dangerous animal who fights for Tucker and protects him. But Gru won't wear a saddle or a bit, she stays with Tucker because she wants to but no one can MAKE her do anything. She's a fun character

  53. HI KC, As VINCE said, we knew you would resonate with this post. You not only have animals in your stories, your characters are animals. I love May the K9 Spy.

    I forgot about the scene in Dances With Wolves. Yes, yes, I loved that movie also and his relationship with the wolf. That was a great use of an animal in the story.

    Mine was a coyote though. He just pranced with his front paws so basically stayed in same place and pranced his two front feet like he was playing the piano. He sang and sang. So special.

    Best wishes with the illustrator. I wonder if i know her. I used to belong to the local SCBWI chapter.

  54. MARY I'm so laughing because Gru sounds like all your women heroines. So of course she is fun. I'de never heard of grulla breed before. I bet she is really pretty.

    Animals not only bring much to a story, they bring so much to our lives. I can hardly wait till the day the lion and the lamb are together in the field like it pictures in the Bible.

  55. Sandra, great post. I love animals of all kinds...except snakes. As Indiana Jones said in Raiders of the Lost Ark, "Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes>"

    In some craft book I read not long ago (maybe one by James Scott Bell?) the author suggested giving your main character a pet...dog, cat, whatever...to make them more lovable. In Dreams of My Heart I included a black-and-white sheepdog named Riley after my rescue Chihuahua. Didn't think a Chi would be believable in 1875 Montana Territory though. LOL

    Loved animal stories growing up. Rememhber one of the first books we read? Spot. See Spot run.

    VINCE, you're so funny! Would love to read your bear romance. :)

  56. Hi BARBARA, Yes, many have suggested including animals to deepen your characters. We know from the examples given in the comments that it works.

    I love the idea that you used Riley in your story. And yes, it would be difficult to picture a chihuahua in 1875 Montana. Poor thing would freeze during one of their winters.

    I'm with you on wanting to read VINCE's romance with the bears.

  57. I had a red Irish Setter when I was a little girl who dogged my steps everywhere. He showed up in my 3rd novella to save the heroine--with a little help from the hero.

  58. Ahhh ELAINE. Great going. I love that your Irish Setter showed up in your novel. Yay. I bet he was a beautiful dog.

  59. Sandra, don't know.
    Her name is Alyssa M - here is her portfolio...

    When we emailed getting to know one another, I mentioned my love for Wesley Dennis and she said she ADORES his artwork.
    I *was* a horse as a young person. Can whinny with the best of them. One of the perks of being a vet's daughter... My parents never knew what I was as I crawled in on all 4's until I made a noise. Then Daddy could fix me. ;)
    I digress.

    Always admired WD's artwork and I see some of that in Alyssa's too.
    We're excited to bring the next May the K9 Spy book to life!

    It's been REALLY hard, since May herself crossed the Bridge last summer, but I'm confident God has a plan for this book too, so I forge on. It's just a later time frame than I'd hoped...

    Mary - already love Gru! We have Arabs and that's pretty much how they are. They want to be with you, but on their own terms. Now and again we have to remind them that we are the lead mare... In fact, right now, our black bay is in the small paddock while her chestnut mama is out grazing. Why? Because the daughter is a bit hefty *ahem* and she has to wear a muzzle in summer. She decided several days ago that she didn't WANT to wear it, thankyouverymuch. So - she gets to stay in.

    I keep going out and giving her opportunities to put it on. Yesterday it was about 3:30 when she finally decided maybe it would be okay. Horses are very smart if you listen... :)

    Ok - edits. Must edit!!!

    bye y'all
    have fun talking critter!

  60. Thanks for sharing Alyssa's art work. Looks like she'll be great for May's book. How exciting to be bringing it to life with art. I'm so sorry about the crossing over. That is so hard. Hubby and I have always said that when we cross over, instead of being greeted by St. Peter, we'll greeted by a pack of dogs. LOL

    So funny your adventures with the horse. That will definitely give you fodder for your stories. What a great personality the horse has.

    Happy editing. I'm doing the same thing for a novella and a novel. edit, edit, edit.

  61. Sandra, I just read Where the Eagle Flies and enjoyed it. The eagle really added to the story.

    I am not much of an animal lover. But I do have a chocolate lab I'm kind of fond of! :) I haven't written much with animals, but could definitely include an active lab in a book.

    However, I have written a children's story that was published in Pockets about the Sandhill cranes that make their stopover every spring on the Platte River in Nebraska practically in my backyard. For me, I know it is spring when the cranes arrive.

    Please enter me in the drawing.

  62. Wow SANDY, your Sandhill crane story sounds wonderfull. My brother in law lived in Alaska and we would go see them when they arrived in Fairbanks area. They travel a long way.

    i bet your chocolate lab would be a great addition to your story. Labs are so lovable. smlile

  63. I'm a big animal lover! I need to remember to add them to my stories more often. I don't know why I don't think of it.

    Sandra, thanks for sharing your photos. I have my grand dog's photo as my lock screen on my phone right now. LOL

  64. Hi Sandra:

    Here's an animal story idea to share:

    A policeman, who works with and trains K9 division dogs, saves the life of the heroine who is deathly afraid of dogs. She was bitten in the face by a dog as a four year old child. (She is mildly disfigured but in her mind the disfigurement is grave.)

    The hero falls in love at first sight! But he has to figure a way to help the heroine overcome her fear of dogs. (She shakes and trembles when she gets near a dog!)

    The hero must enlist his dog to help him on this their most difficult heroine rescue mission. In doing this he has many heartfelt conversations with his dog about strategy! He teaches the dog to beg with a tilted head and with big brown pleading eyes. When he calls the heroine's name the dog sits high, salutes with his paw, and then falls over dead. The heroine can't help but laugh at the dog's antics -- even as she greatly fears him. "I think he's in love with you," the hero says.

    When the crisis comes, the heroine must walk thru a pasture of full of aggressive sheep dogs to save the wounded hero's life!

    Do New York State Troopers have K9 officers? Emma might be a good name for the heroine.

    I'm not going to write this story but I'd love to read it. Bon Appétit.


  65. Hi KC:

    What everyone should know about 'first person dog' is that it is not just a cute version of first person human. It really is 'first person dog'! I've walked all over Paris in years past but I've never 'seen' Paris from about a foot off the ground with much of my 5-sensing coming from the sense of smell! Being in Paris with May was like seeing Paris for the first time again.

    I think your 'first person dog' scenes of May walking around familiar parts of Paris are unique in all of literature! You could do a great post about writing about all the different dog POVs. I can only imagine what "deep dog POV" would be like!

    I hope your edits go well. That's coming up for me as well.


  66. MISSY your winning novel A House Full of Hope had children and a Black Lab on the cover.

  67. VINCE you tease. Yes, you must write it. Its your idea. A great one btw

  68. Not really a pet person, mostly because they cost too much money. There was too much empty food shelf time during my childhood to ever consider having pets. Of course, I marry a man who must always have a dog. Current one is a very sweet moose of an Akita named Kaji. She's very jealous though. If I kiss/hug give love to hubby, she immediately wedges herself between us like saying "hey, this man is MINE!"
    I do love animals though. Haven't ever thought of integrating them into any of my stories though. Must look into that. I do like the idea of using "wild" animals (like the eagle - loved that in the story!!). Again, must look into using animals more. I need to up my MS oxytocin level.

    Please put my name in the draw for the children's book. I've a five year old who loves animals. He's starting to read and that would probably thrill him. He's bummed when mommy gets a book in the mail and it isn't for him. *heh*

  69. Vince - for SURE!!
    You must write this one too.
    LOVED the bear story...

    And gracious - *blush* - your dear comments on May in Paris.
    I just write what I know, like most of us do... :)

    I'm beyond thrilled that you enjoy May so much.
    She truly is/was a special being.

    Book 4 is shaping up - I've not actually written my elevator speech but...
    20 off-the-chart brilliant kids, who are already successful inventing/discovering, meet on a mega-yacht in the Baltic for the first ever international Mastermind contest...
    In addition to the competition, the kids plus May and the others, including a cheetah! - visit Estonia, Helsinki and St. Petersburg, which of course has Russian spies... and there are rare reptiles and intrigue.

    Yes - that's on my list - need to work that description too!
    Hope it's fun!

    ** ** **

    Just had a fab telecon with Alyssa, the illustrator. What a blessing she already is!
    As you've seen of her artwork, wawzah... So if anyone needs artwork, I'm glad to share her contact info!
    Let me know... One talented young lady.

    Hope your edits are going well, Sandra. I'm jumping back in after a bite of lunch, and some of that yummy coffee you provided today!

  70. Hi DEB H, Yes, using wild animals is a great way to up that oxytocin level. I love the use of wild animals when it for good of course.

    Love your pup. Yep, it isn't so much that they are jealous but that they want to be included in the lovin. A pack thing I'm guessing.

  71. Gosh KC Book 4 sounds like fun. So glad it went well with ALyssa. Happy writing. I'm off for another game of pickleball. Hubby and I just won the last game but it was much too close. 11-9. Then I'm going to write this afternoon.

  72. HI Sandra,
    Years ago, when I first found Seekerville, I won a copy of your book, Percival the Naughty Prairie Dog. My grand-kids always request we read that book to them. Thought you'd like to know it's become a family staple at Grammy's house.

    I tend to use dogs in my MS. I guess I should add a kitty once in awhile. It just that I'm familiar with dogs and dog behaviors, particularly Pomeranians, of course!

    Thanks for your post!

  73. Sandra, what a fun blog. Love all the pics!

    I included a retired military working dog in my spring book, "Stranded." Had hoped the dog would appear on the cover, but no such luck. LI was doing a K9 continuity at the time and kept the dog covers for those books. Such a disappointment. My cover featured an Amish buggy traveling through a tornado-devastated community, which worked well, but I still wanted that dog to be included! The Art Department did, however, include a portion of the horse that was pulling the buggy. So at least the cover had an animal! :)

  74. Hi LYNDEE, that tickles me no end that Percival is a favorite. How fun. It was a fun book to write. I love your photos on Facebook of your Pomeranians. They are so pretty.

    I know what you mean about being a dog lover. We've always had dogs also so I know their behavior. Cats are new to me. The feral cats are God's sense of humor. I used to hate them because they would always spritz our patio chairs. The Humane Society said the only way to fix that was to trap them, spay and neuter and feed a colony. Well we resisted for years and then these kitties were born in our yard. Well we had to do something or they would reproduce and we would be inundated. We live across the street from a park so people who don't want their pets drop them there. The pound picks up dogs, but not cats. I guess feral cats are not illegal. So anyway we finally decided to trap and that week we trapped over 40 cats. Thats how many were running through our yard. Well they decided never to come back ha ha but the kitties grew up in the yard and they did what the humane society said. They keep the other cats out and we don't have the spritzing any more. And then because they were so cute, I fell in love with kitties. God's sense of humor all right. Boo got hit by a car and his tail was broken. He is the dominant male and very cantankerous as you can imagine. It took me awhile to trap him again and when I did, I took him to the vet to bob the tail. Well our vet trains students from ASU and these girls just cuddled Boo. Now he loves to be petted. He is the one who really stole my heart. so funny.

  75. DEBBY what a sense of humor. Yes, the rear end of a horse is better than none. LOL. I would be disappointed too with the dog left out. Who cares if other covers have dogs? sigh. Well now we know there is one in the story so we'll keep our eye out for it. Yay.

  76. Oh Sandra...another reason I love you - - you're also an animal-lover like moi!
    I so enjoyed your post today (especially all the precious animal photos).
    I guess it's no surprise that I feature *cats* in each of my manuscripts, LOL.
    And in my WIP, my heroine is now realizing that the fact her ex didn't share her love of animals should've been a red flag warning to her. Thankfully, the hero in this same WIP adores animals (especially cats). :)
    Thanks for sharing with us today!
    Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

  77. Hello Sandra! Thank you for sharing your furry friends! The pictures are so cute. Stories are indeed better with fur babies!

  78. Hi PATTI JO, yes, we've had a bond of friendship for many reasons. smile. And animals are big time. I knew from your photo and name - Catmom_ That you were an animal lover. A friend of mine wrote a book called the Tale of Nine Lives and it is about her nine cats and told from their pov. They call her Catmom. Isn't that cool? She wrote that years ago so I've always liked you name.

    I love the fact you've used your cat as the red flag in your wip. Can hardly wait to read it.

    Hugs back from out west.


  79. Oh wait, PATTI JO, the cats called her Kitty mom. Not Catmom. My mistake, but close enough. chuckle I like that idea. I wonder if our pups call us pup mom and pup daddy.

  80. Hi CARYL, Glad you enjoyed the photos. Yes, our furry friends do make our day brighter.

  81. How fun that you were able to watch a hummingbird nest! They are such amazing critters. Watching juvenile hummers learn now to use a feeder is as close as I've come to seeing baby hummers. How tiny they must have been!

    I always have animals in my writing -- they just belong. As I read your post, I was thinking how odd that I don't have an animal in my WIP. Then I realized ... 3 horses, two pigs, a cat, assorted birds, a pet milk snake, and at the end of the story a dog helps in a rescue. It's a wonder I had room for the characters :-)

    Nancy C

  82. I love stories with animals who practically have their own character. The personable, definitely-have-a-personality kind. Seems like it is often a dog or puppy, but I favor soft cuddly rabbits myself. They are hard to give a character to, though. Maybe they could give soft fuzzy bunnies an "aww" moment now and then...

  83. Sandra the white squirrel is not an albino but a rare breed.

  84. A story would not be a story without an animal. Usually dogs in my novels. With a horse or two thrown n for good measure.

  85. Hi NANCY C. I'm so chuckling. I do hope you left room for your characters. How funny that you thought you didn't have an animal and there you have so many. Even a snake.

    And the baby hummers were so tiny. The size of a petite pea. So cute.

  86. SARAH did you like the little bunny that is hopping around our campsite? Last summer a black bunny had 3 babies. One was black, one was gray and the third was this light tan. The tan one must have reproduced because this little guy showed up this summer. I think his long hair on the top of his head is really interesting. I don't know much about bunny breeds but suspect the original bunny was left here as they don't seem like a wild rabbit. But like I said, I'm not sure about bunnies.

  87. Thanks WILANI, I was wondering. That is interesting. I know there was an albino squirrel in the Lake Tahoe area one year. So was wondering if the white squirrels you mentioned were a species or an albino.

  88. Yes TINA, I enjoy the dogs in your stories. Happy writing.

  89. Sandra, I love animals. Someone else commented on one of the first books they remembered reading involving an animal. I remember a book named Scruffy that is now in my basement. I include animals or children in most of my books. I love writing about dogs and their interactions with people.

    My dog Vera, however, prefers when I pet her rather than type. Our family's rabbit can climb on my laptop and his paws are light enough to wreak havoc. I haven't included a rabbit in any of my books, but if anyone ever needs information on owning a rabbit, let me know.

  90. I love dogs. Put a cute puppy on the front if you want to sell to me.

  91. Lost but won game # 3. Thanks for asking.

    How did the editing go? I finished mine and got it off to the editor. Yay.

    btw folks, KC has the best series for children. May the K9 Spy series is wonderful. You can find it here. May the K9 Spy Series

  92. Yay TERRI, You're my kind of gal.

    Happy writing. And reading.

  93. Oh TANYA I missed your post. Didn't see it there. Scruffy hmmmmm. I think I remember a Scruffy book. Don't you love seeing those old books from your childhood in the library?

    Peter Rabbit would be very happy if you put a rabbit in your stories. Good to know in case I need the info. smile

    I had pet rabbits in my classroom when I was teaching kindergarten. The girls would put the rabbits in the doll buggies and pretend they were their babies. so cute.

  94. Off for a quick swim. Will be back in a jiffy.

  95. Hi Sandra:

    Talk about swimming and games, do they have water pickleball yet? I think I could do that.

    Also, I forgot to mention that, "Where the Eagle Flies," has some really delicious snakes in it. All God's creatures and all that, you know.

    BTW: today has sure been a fun post.


  96. VINCE water pickleball would be a kick wouldn't it? They would have to develop some waterproof paddles though. Our paddles get ruined when they get wet. I'll pass that info along. Might generate some interest.

    You are too funny. Delicious snakes. They were delicious. chuckle.

    It has been a fun post. Thanks for being part of it.

  97. What a fun post today it made me smile. I feed feral cats as well. I am a cat momma, what can I say ? We took in two pregnant cats last October and they each had 3 kittens within 5 days of each other. The first momma took care of her babies for less than a week. The other momma raised and nursed both sets of kittens. Me having two pregnant cats at the same time was Gods way of making sure all the kittens survived. He works miracles every day ! A book with an animal in the cover always draws me in and I want to read it . It just has that certain appeal !
    Deanne Patterson
    Cnnamongirl at aol dot com

  98. Hi DEANNE, Yay for feeding feral cats. Does your community have a spay neuter program? Might want to get those babies fixed. Or you will really be a cat momma. Have you seen that picture floating around on Facebook? It shows about a dozen kittens in a basket and the tag on the basket says "Crazy Cat woman's starter kit" I just laugh every time I see that. And the kittens are just too adorable. You want to keep every one of them. smile

  99. Sandra, I loved the picture of that little fur ball! I agree, looks more domestic than wild.

  100. Although the idea of somebody abandoning a wee little bunny at a campsite is quite distressing.

  101. SARAH I find the idea of abandoning any animal very disturbing. It upsets me no end to think of animals left suddenly on their own. I can't even imagine doing that. The bunnies stay by the store area and seem to be surviving quite well in spite of the predators in the area. I suspect the permanent campers in the area feed them. I know my neighbor (the one shown with her dog Kiowa) feeds them. We think the little tan bunny lives under her shed.

  102. Well folks, I hear my pillow calling my name. One thing about getting up early, I go to bed early. I'm a morning person. smile I have deep admiration for you night owls.

    Anyway, I'll check in the morning in case any more comment.

    Have a blessed week and thanks again for making this day so much fun. I loved all the animal stories.

  103. Sandra,

    Loved your post! I have a wonderful Corgi, Sophie, who will play a major role in my next book (as soon as the current wip is published!)

    throw my name in the hat for the drawing, please!

  104. Fun to enjoy everyone's critter stories.
    Made my day... and speaking of THAT, dear Sandra.
    Thanks for the barkout about May's books.
    Means a lot coming from you...

    No - I'm a long way from finishing this one but gaining on it.
    Working on adding lots more tension. The elements are there but need to ramp it up several notches, do a few more things on scene and combine some scenes to get to the action faster. There IS a lot of action, but then, it's about May... What can you say?! ;)

    Glad you won game #3 - sounds like a wonderful life y'all have carved out for yourselves.
    Some work, some exercise disguised as fun and competition...

    Love it!

  105. A group of five excellent authors (myself included)produced a novella set in July, "Love in Mistletoe Springs". The premise is that the rescue animal shelter of a small town in the hills of Washington state has lost its funding, and everyone is working together to save the shelter. Naturally, every story has animals--not just dogs and cats--worked into its plot. And naturally, five couples fall in love in the process. We had fun bringing this set together.

  106. KC SAID: "Might have to add a parrot into the current WIP, May's 4th, since it's set on a mega-yacht in the Baltic, but we already have a cheetah. ;)"

    I don't know, KC, a cheetah sounds pretty cool to me! I'd save the parrot for May's next junket to the Carribbean maybe?

    VINCE SAID: "That's right! We did have a consult about that "Stranded" book and I need to put you in it. I think the heroine needs to have a copy of "Romance-ology 101" at the cabin. How's that for inside 'baseball'?"

    LOL ... that would make my day, my friend ... LOVE IT!!

    VINCE ALSO SAID: "I have it! You can be the hero's sister who wins a RITA in the last chapter in competition with the heroine! She writes military romances and her brother is her best CP. That's why the hero is so romance savvy. And that's why, with the hero's help, the heroine is up for a RITA in the same category as his sister! He is CPing both of them!"

    YES, YES, YES!! Sure sounds like a much better gig than I gave you in A Love Surrendered as the romance writing Mr. Mooney who was a catechism student in Faith's class ... ;)

    And I gotta tell you, Vince, I am SO excited to hear you may be going into writing fulltime after you close your day biz because I gotta feeling you are going to be GREAT, GREAT, GREAT as an author!! LOOK OUT WORLD!! ;)


  107. Hi EDWINA, i would love to read about the little Corgi. They are so adorable. Happy writing.

  108. Hi KC, I mention your books often because it is hard to find good books at that age level. When I do craft fairs, my books are for primary grades so when older children arrive, it is good to mention your books. Maybe I should print up some flyers to hand out.

    And the animal stories were fun weren't they?

  109. Hi LEE, That set of contemporary novels sounds like a hoot of fun. Thanks for mentioning them. I will look them up. Like I said, I love animal stories.

  110. I agree JULIE, I think VINCE is going to have some fun romance. Watch out world is right on. LOL