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.|
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
|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.|