Saturday, August 26, 2017

Pets and Other Animals in a Story by Connie Vines

Today's Topic: Have you used pets or other animals in your stories? What function do they perform in the story? Do they need to have a function? Can they be a character?

Since I am an animal lover and owner of a multitude of pets (exotic, barnyard, and typical suburban) at various times during my life, it only goes to reason that I will have them peppering my short stories, novellas, and novels.  My Rodeo Romance Series (understandably) incorporates a cast of horses, sheep, cattle, dogs, cats, etc.  Some of these animals only have Cameo roles, while others are characters in their own right.

 My Fun & Sassy Fantasy Series also features a pet as a main character in each story line.  Gertie, a pet Teddy-Bear Hamster, is Zombie Meredith’s BF is “Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow”.  “Brede” Rodeo Romance, Book 2 features a horse and cattle dog.  “Lynx” Rodeo Romance, Book 1, features the hero’s horse named Texas. The next book in my series, “Rand” Rodeo Romance, Book 3 features a poodle who belongs to the heroine.  Rand’s interaction with this very unrodeo-like dog is priceless!

For realistic purposes I select animals/breeds that I either have owned, or have working personal knowledge (chickens, turkeys, quail, pheasant, pigs, sheep— bred for. . .well, dinner during my rural days).  My dogs: Greyhound (my favorite & a rescue) Poodle (AKC champion pedigree), Shepherds, Collie, Weimaraner and– my husband’s dog, a Chi-wienie (Chihuahua Dachshund mix). I also like to add my horses (Quarter horse, Arabian, and a Paint –a retired rodeo barrel racer) into the mix.  Due to my allergies to cats, my info comes mostly via friends and the Animal Channel.  Now the unconventional pet experiences, were learned firsthand (I did raise sons and have 3 younger brothers).  Pet mice, geckos, iguanas, horned toads & lizards, hamsters, parakeets, an Amazon parrot, finches, a runaway cockatiel, and canary have a way of finding a place in my life and my stories.
Future adventure with pets?  Probably.

I simply adore baby pygmy goats.  Mind you, I reside in the quirky suburbs of Southern California.  Therefore, my husband reminds me, often. “You cannot raise a goat in our backyard, there are zoning laws.”

Of course I know there are zoning laws.  I also know goats are herd animals.  “We will need to have two goats,” I say him.

“We?” He grunts and goes to his ‘man-cave’.

I watched a YouTube video and read an online article titled: Pigmy Goats.  With the opening hook: You should reconsider your choice in pets if you want an animal to stay indoors with you.

One fact was of particular interest, and brought back memories of living in an all-male household: ‘Goats are messy eaters too, pulling feed out of buckets and leaving it on the floor.  Once it’s trampled, they really don’t want to touch it.’

Ummm.  Obviously, I am not alone in my secret desire to own one of those adorable little goats.  However, since have zero desire to relocate or have two goats head-butting or chewing my maple dinning room set or my wood flooring, I guess I’ll settle for a petting zoo outing with my three-year old grandson.

While my characters do not always have pet, my characters have often had a pet during childhood, interact with an animal, or (YA stories) would like a pet.

Why, do I believe animals are important to a story line?

It is a way to show character, good and bad.

How people treat animals will give a reader insight into my main character, or my villain.  Treatment of animal hints at how he/she will treat a vulnerable person (child/spouse).  If the hero seems uncaring and selfish to outsiders, give the heroine a view into an unguarded moment he shares with an injured puppy, or his care of his horse.  His truck may be battered and dirty, but his horse is well groomed, fed, and sheltered each night.

However, my animals need to have a purpose.  Sometimes it may only be comic relief, or a confidant in a YA novel, but unless it is a Cameo role (or red herring), my animals have a personality and a place in the storyline.

Who doesn’t remember, “Call of the Wild”, “Old Yeller”, “Misty of Chincoteague”?

I believe pets, can enrich a story—my novels, as are (in my opinion) most genre novels, are about life and the human need for love and companionship.

Not every novel calls for an animal to part of the story.

Not every person wishes to be responsible for a pet.

I did a bit of research and discovered these stats (the info about fish surprised me).
*Stats: 2014, 83.2 million dogs live in U.S. households, 95.5 million freshwater fish live in U.S. household, and 85.8 million cats live in U.S. households.

So, what do you think?  How do you feel?

As a reader, do you enjoy pets in a storyline?  Do you look for authors who have a series you know will feature a heroine with a pet(s)?

Please add a comment with your opinion beneath this blog article.

Happy Reading,

Monday, August 21, 2017

"Classic Ginger" Snippets Shortcomings with Ginger Simpson

This week, I'm sharing a snippet from my Young Adult, Shortcomings.  There's a valuable message in this book about how to treat people with disabilities and deal with bullies.  Hope you'll consider sharing a copy with family this holiday.  Although the story deals with teens, the reading material is appropriate for all ages.  The description says it all, and this would make a wonderful gift for any reader on your list. Happy Thanksgiving...I'm going back to my Magic Cookie Bars.  :)

High School is hard enough without the cold stares from classmates that remind you every day how different you are. 

Our shortcomings don't define who we are, unless we let them. Cindy Johnson needs to learn that. Born with one leg shorter than the other, she has no self-esteem because of the cruel comments and cold stares she receives from her classmates. When Cory Neil, the football quarterback asks her to Homecoming, she's quite sure he's asked her on a dare and refuses. It takes more than just her mother's assurances that Cindy's beautiful before she realizes she may have made a mistake in turning him down. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Poodle Quotes

On Sundays I post an assortment of short little snippets, quotes or pictures (as listed on the side-bar of Dishin' It Out).  Today is Poodle Sunday!

Ever consider what pets must think of us?

I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul - chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we're the greatest hunters on earth!

Anne Tyler
American Novelist

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday Snippet “Gumbo Ya Ya” (Soon to be Released) by Connie Vines

September 2017 is the release date of my anthology, Gumbo Ya Ya, by my publisher BWL Publishing.  And, as always, BWL’s art director, Michelle Houston, has designed a spectacular book cover for  me—with just enough heat to pepper every woman Gumbo!

Here’s a little teaser from, “A Slice of Scandal”, the third story in my Cajun anthology!

“Hey, now, ‘dis key lime pie’s like de one I sever at my restaurant.  Simple to make and good to eat!  Key limes perk up de mouth and makes you happy.”

Producer/Director, Julia Kincaid focused on her monitor and adjusted the mic of her headset. “Camera One, tighten that head shot.”  She watched as the camera feathered over the chef to capture the best angle.  The camera should have loved Chef Franklin.  His height was average, his hair black, short and curly and his skin gook on a polished bronze color under the harsh camera lights, but the camera didn’t like Franklin.  There was something about his eyes; like dark agate, forbidding and expressionless that was difficult to erase.

“Okay.  Now hold it, while Chef Franklin pulls the second pie from the refrigerator.  Follow him back to the island.  Good.”

When the chef stood on his mark, Julia said, “Cue the music.  Okay, Two, scan the audience. Back to Franklin.”

“It’s best to serve ‘dis chilled, a twist of key lime on the top. And, boy-oh, boy, does ‘dis taste goood!”

“Camera Two, pan the audience. . .focus on the pie. . .Camera One, close-up on the chef. . .Hold it.”

Julia heard the studio audience applause.

“Now, pull back. He cuts the pie. . . he puts it on the plate. . .now wait for the whipped cream and . . .okay. . .he’d got the fork. He’s taking a bite.”

The studio audience uttered a collective sigh.

“Let’s call it a day. . .”  Julia said, pulling off her headset and allowing it to dangle around her neck.  “Hey, Hey, what’s he doing, now?” she asked J.D., “This is where he says goodnight.  What’s he doing?”  Snagging the mic that was clipped at her waist she barked, “Someone cue Franklin.  He’s off his mark.”  It was times like this she questioned her sanity at trading a career in Hollywood daytime T.V. for that of the Good Eats Network in Orlando, Florida.  

From her left, she heard J.D. groan.  “Julia, Franklin’s spitting out the pie!  Harvey’s gonna boil all of our carcasses in the stock pot for--”

Julia hopped down from the camera and took off at a full run toward Franklin, the sound of clanging pots and pans crashing to the floor barely registering.

Gone was the applause.  People jumped to their feet.  People screamed.

“He’s on the floor!” J.D. bellowed.

Julia could see that!  Kneeling down beside Franklin, her fingers felt a faint pulse. “J.D. call the medics!  Franklin must be having a heart attack.”  

I hope you enjoyed this little snippet from my next release.
More anthology snippets to come!

Happy Reading,


Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Poodle, a Wedding Anniversary, and a Opossum By Connie Vines

I had an article about the craft of writing written and ready to post.  I decided, instead, to share that post on a later date..


For those of you who follow my Twitter, Instagram, author Facebook page, or website, you know I often share stories about my little poodle-mix puppy, Chanel.

Please, no groaning from those of you who prefer cats.

Chanel, is lively, friendly, and poodle-like in her powers of reasoning.

She is also serious about her friendships.

Well, before the SoCal winter rains, there was a young opossum who would walk along the block wall several nights a week at 2:00 A.M.  I know this because this is the time I usually finish writing and get ready for bed.  Chanel dance in a circle requesting to step outside.  She would run over to the wall and bark, causing the little white-faced opossum to dart away.

I would pick her up, instructing her to leave “Harvey” alone.  (Yes, I know he is a wild animal and does not possess a name.)  Chanel, however, knows every ‘thing’, be it a person, toy (bouncy-ball, Side-kick, blue bouncy-ball), animal, or ‘food’, has a name.

So, this opossum was dubbed Harvey.

Harvey didn’t return during the rains, or afterwards.  Then, magically, one night a larger, more attractive, and braver “Harvey’ returned.

This time he sat on the wall and waited for Chanel to bark at him.  I’d pick her up, bid “Harvey” good evening.  While the two of them stared at each other for a few moments.  We’d go in and Harvey would leave.

Where does “Harvey” live?  I believe he lives in the yard next door (the owner is a bit of a zealous ‘collector’), or perhaps in the shrubby in a nearby park.  I’m not too sure if he has a family.

It has never gone past the ‘flirting’ stage with Chanel.   And ‘Harvey’ never ventures into our yard when we are about.

Today, all of that changed.

Today was my wedding anniversary.  My husband and I went to local home-style diner for an early dinner.  We bid Chanel bye and promised to bring her home a mini-hamburger patty.  No. Sorry. No riding in the car this time.

When we got back to the car, packed left-overs and doggie meal in hand, my husband voice his concern about something handing from his side bumper.

I bent over to examine it.  While my husband kept saying he would yank the piece of the plant out from the bumper, I objected.

It wasn’t a plant.

It had an odd texture.  It was a pale color.  It was a snake, no. A rat. . .oh, no!

It was the hook of a opossum’s tail.


“Harvey?” my husband questioned.

“Yes.  See, that’s Harvey’s tail.”  The tail went limp, they turned back into a hook.

“This could only happen to you.” was my husband’s only response.

“Harvey just wanted to join us for our anniversary dinner.”

My husband stifled a chuckle.  “I doubt that very much.”

“Now at least we know where he sleeps during the day.”

So, we drove home via the city streets, so not to ‘over heat’ Harvey.  When we arrived home, Harvey had pulled his tail back up into the wheel well, waiting for us to leave.

Do you have an interesting anniversary story to share?

Happy Reading,

Yes, Harvey did return several days later to visit an 'concerned' Chanel (she been looking for him every night).

Harvey appeared a little road-weary--not quite as tidy and his face appeared a little dirty, and moving like he had a few sore muscles, but otherwise, his usual Opossum self.

Monday, August 7, 2017

"Classic Ginger" Interview with Dancing Fawn (Grace Cummings) by Ginger Simpson

Interview with Grace from Dancing Fawn

Today my guest, Grace Cummings, the heroine in Dancing Fawn is here to tell us how she survived being held captive by Indians.  So, without further ado, let's begin the interview:

Just for clarification, HOST will indicate the interviewer’s questions below:

HOST:   It must have been a very traumatic ordeal for you.  Can you tell us about it?

GRACE:  It was horrid. (She shudders) I still hear my mother's screams in my head.  I…

HOST:  Do you need a moment to compose yourself?

GRACE:  No, I'm fine.  (Deep breath)  It was 1874. My family had moved around a lot because my father, bless his departed soul, was a restless man.   It was hard for a girl my age to make friends, not living in one place for very long, and just when Ma, Kevin and I thought we might settle down, General George Armstrong Custer made an announcement about gold being discovered in the Black Hills of Lakota territory.  That's all it took!  Pa loaded everything back into our Conestoga and insisted this was his chance to strike it big. 

HOST:  Why didn't you mother put her foot down?

GRACE:  You have to understand that back then, women were expected to know their place.  Ma pretty much did as Pa said.  Besides, he promised her that when he hit the mother lode, he would buy us a new house; new furniture and we'd never have to move again.

HOST:  I can see how that might have sounded pretty enticing.

GRACE:  It was.  We all had visions of putting down permanent roots, so being out on the plains, cooking over a campfire again and roughing it for a just a little longer was worth it if Pa and my brother, Kevin, found gold. 

HOST:  Tell us more about your experience, please.

GRACE:  All right.   We had made camp at the base of the Black Hills, near a sparse stand of trees.  There was a small stream nearby, so water was plentiful.  Ma and I slept on a pallet of blankets in the wagon, while Pa and Kev slept in a makeshift tent.  We had just finished breakfast one morning and were laughing and talking before Pa and Kev went off to the mine, when I happened to spy some riders on the horizon. It soon became clear from the whooping and hollering that they were being attacked by Indians.

HOST:  Oh my goodness, what did you do?

GRACE:  Pa immediately yelled for Ma and I to get back in the wagon and he and Kev grabbed their rifles and crawled underneath.  I hunkered down behind the tailgate, waiting for Ma, but she never came.  I was so scared, hearing the sound of gunfire and those blood-curdling war cries, I covered my ears, but it didn't help.  When I got the courage to peek outside, I saw the Indians circling our hiding place and Ma running in the opposite direction.  I think she was trying to draw them away from me.  I didn't realize it at the time, but Pa and Kevin were already dead.  They were easy pickings with no real shelter.

HOST:  How awful. 

GRACE:  You have no idea!  (Stopping to bite her knuckle, then staring straight ahead). They…they shot my ma down in cold blood right before my eyes.

HOST:  Oh you poor thing.  What did you do then?

GRACE:  (Dabbing at eyes with hanky) I curled myself into a ball and prayed that it was all just a bad dream, and that I'd wake up.   When I didn't hear anything for a while, I found the courage to rise to my knees and peer over the tailgate again.  I almost had heart failure when I came face-to-face with the ugliest sight I'd ever seen.

HOST:    Oh my gosh, I have goose bumps. What was it?

GRACE:  It was the person I later learned was Black Crow.  His face was painted with bright yellow lightning bolts, and he had a scar that ran from ear-to-ear.  He pulled me out of the wagon, barking orders in a strange language, and threw me to the ground.  I felt like my heart was going to pound its way right through my chemise. (Holds hand against chest)

HOST:  Oh my goodness, what was going through your head?

GRACE:  I was certain he was going to kill me, too.  I think he might have had it not been for one of his friends.  The one, called Little Elk, seemed to step in and calm Black Crow down.  Still, it was an awful thing to go through, wondering if you were going to live or die.  After Black Crow tethered my arms together and dragged me along behind his horse, like I was nothing more than an animal, I almost wished I had died.  I fought to keep up all the way to the Indian village.

HOST:  How far was it?

GRACE:  (Holding out her wrists).  I'm not sure, but you can still see the scars where the rawhide bit into my skin.  I didn't have time to get my shoes on, so my feet were pretty raw, too.  I'm used to walking beside the wagon every day, but being dragged is quite different.  It took forever.

HOST:  What happened when you got to the village?

GRACE:  I was so tired I could barely stand, but I dared not drop to the ground when it seemed like the whole village stood in a circle around me, staring and laughing.  I thought for sure I was about to meet my maker, but something very surprising happened.

HOST:  Don't stop now!

GRACE:  A beautiful green-eyed woman walked into the midst of things and protected me.  She spoke their language and dressed in their clothing, but it was evident from her flaming red hair that she was white.  If it hadn't been for her I would never have survived to tell this story, that and the fact that Black Crow's mother didn't like having a white woman share her home.  (Grace gives a half-hearted chuckle)

HOST:  What happened?

GRACE:  After only one night in her tepee, Black Crow handed me over to Little Elk. He, at least treated me with kindness, allowing Green Eyes to help me bathe and wash my hair.  I was still scared, but not nearly as much.  Pa always said I was headstrong, and it almost got me into  trouble when Little Elk gave me a new name.  (Sitting up straighter, squaring shoulders)

HOST:  Oh gosh, we're almost out of time and I hate to make you stop.  Can you give us a brief summary, and quickly?

GRACE:  Although there is so much more to tell, I'll just say that Little Elk played a big role in the decision I made when the white soldiers raided the camp. Unless you want to invite me back for another visit, I guess you'll just have to read the book.  (Holds out a copy)

HOST:  Is this for me? How nice, and it's autographed.  Grace Cummings, thank you so much for spending time with us and sharing your captivating story. I'd like to remind our readers that Dancing Fawn by Ginger Simpson is offered at  It’s also offered on her Amazon page, but you won't get the BOGO sale going on right now.  Buy one, get one Free.  What a holiday deal.  Happy reading!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Author Branding—Don’t Muddy the Waters (Part 2) by Connie Vines

Before we get to this week’s post, let me summarize last week’s assignment.

How to Design Your Author Brand

Okay, it’s scramble time.  Find a piece of paper and something to write with.  You can use the note app in your phone, but I think pen to paper works better in this case. (If you write under more than one pen name, just select one.)


Write down what your author brand is.  You have 10 seconds. Go!
Time’s up.

Were you able to write down your brand?  Did you use 6 words or less?
Good for you.  You probably have a good idea of what your brand is.

If you didn’t (you are with me) don’t worry.  We will go about fixing the problem.

Brands Need to Be Specific

If you failed, the above test the reasons are likely because:

1. You don’t really know what your brand is yet.
2. You are over-describing your brand and couldn’t write it all down fast/concisely enough.

Now is the time to sit and ponder.  Strip away the contradictions, muddiness, superfluous.

What does a brand do?  A brand is a signal to customers to know what to expect when they see it.
Once they have had experience with a brand, they (hopefully) know what to expect.  Ideally this is a favorable expectation that encourages them to purchase your product, talk to their friends, and take
chances on your next release.

How about a brand like this?

“Daring, Thrilling, Romantic, Action Packed.”

What if we change it to…

“Daring, Thrilling, Sexy, Action Packed”

A big difference isn’t it?

I selected very genre-esque words.  This was my intention because genres play a big role in branding. Brands are also about trust.

Remember genres and sub-genres are their own brands.

This is really important.    We already have a mind-set/ expectations when we select a genre to read.  If you select a “Historical” novel (unless it is a sub-genre) you do not expect or probably appreciate elements of Urban Fantasy in the story-line.  Riding in stage coach, you prim-and-so proper heroine isn’t going to mesh with a hidden magical world featuring Fae, Vampires, and Werewolves.    So, unless you plan on inventing your own sub-genre (SteamPunk/StoneagePunk) with a limited readership, consider what you are inheriting from your genre.

Following these guidelines, I will attempt to come up with a brand for my current Rodeo Romance Series (BLW, BooksWeLove, Ltd.).

Genre:  Contemporary Romance (Lynx), Romantic Suspense (Brede), Contemporary Romance/Humor (Rand), Romantic Suspense (TBT).

I’ll go with Romance as a genre.

Now to the dictionary and thesaurus.

<Suspenseful music plays now>

Will Connie discover her ‘brand’?  Will her readers like her ‘brand’?
<Music continues>

Spoiler Alert:  Connie has awakened the ‘inner series branding’ within her mind!

Author Branding, Part 2.

I know last week I said I’d continue my topic next month.  However, since we are entering the holiday season, I thought I’d provide a mini-update this week.

What series brand did I develop for my Rodeo Romance Series?

“Instant Action. Sizzling Attraction!”   Set amidst the excitement and danger of the rodeo world—Rodeo Romance Series by Connie Vines.

Each novel:
Book 1, What woman doesn’t love a cowboy? Lynx Maddox gallops into your heart in “Lynx”.
Book 2, A hard-edged rancher saves a mysterious woman’s life, placing himself and daughter in jeopardy.  “Brede”.

For my novella series:

“Sassy & Fun Fantasy Series”
Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow, novella 1.

So how did you do on your homework assignment?

Ideas?  Comments about my branding results?

Feel free to post comments or send me an email.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

My Make Believe Worlds by Roseanne Dowell (Replay Day)

I live in a make believe world. Okay, not literally, but vicariously through my characters.  I decide where they live, name their towns, and sometimes I let them live in a real city/town.  I prefer small towns, maybe because I’ve always wanted to live in one. I especially like towns with Victorian houses and apparently so do my characters, because I use them a lot.  I often say I must have lived during the Victorian area, probably as a mean old nanny. I’m sure I wasn’t the lady of the house, and by house I mean mansion. Queen Anne homes are my favorite. I love the round turrets, all the gingerbread, and wrap around porches. It was always my dream to buy one and restore it. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be and I’m past the point of wanting one now.
Back to my make believe world. I say I decide where they live, but that's not entirely true. Mostly my characters make that decision.
I’d also like to say I choose my characters, but truthfully, they choose me.  Sometimes I even get to name them, but if they don’t like the name, well believe me; they misbehave until I change it. And, yes, that’s happened several times. Just because I like a name doesn’t mean they do. The last time it happened it wasn’t even a main character. She was only in the story for a short time, but boy was she stubborn. She refused to talk to me and anything I wrote was garbage, better known as dreck in the writing world.
As some of you know, I write many different of genres, from Women’s Fiction to Romance to Mystery and even Paranormal. Most of my books are a combination of romance and another genre. As a reader, I’ve always favored mystery and romance, so it only made sense to combine them.  Mine are classified as cozy mysteries. I also love ghost stories – not evil mean ghosts though. One such story is Shadows in the Attic and another Time to Love Again. 
In Shadows, two ghosts are discovered – yep you guessed it – in an attic. During a renovation, Anna Hughes and her boyfriend uncover a hidden room complete with furniture. Two shadows hover over a trunk, beckoning to Anna.  Of course she's the only one who can see the ghosts.  At least she is until her sexy contractor arrives on the scene.

Fifty-eight year old, Rose Asbury is a recluse in Time to Love Again, not that she care. She just wants to be left alone. Enter the man next door who insists on speaking to her causing feelings she doesn’t want.  Then her sister’s ghost shows up and well….you’ll have to read it to see what happens.

. I’ve always been fascinated by ESP, hence my story Entangled Minds –
Rebecca Brennan experiences strange, realistic visions and dreams and she’s determined to find who shares her mind. Her search leads – where else – to a small town filled with Victorian homes filled with interesting people and puts her life in danger.

My character’s range from their mid twenties to middle age and even into their seventies. Yes, seniors need love, too. Geriatric Rebels is a favorite. A humorous story about seventy year old Elsa Logan and seventy-two year old Mike Powell. Their middle of the night escapades  soon turns into a loving relationship and the discovery of deception and fraud.
 It’s fun working with different characters, and I especially like when they add a bit of humor. I really form an attachment to them. Once a character chooses me, I make a character worksheet to discover everything about them, not just what they look like.
I love creating my characters, discovering their careers, anything from housewife, authors, teachers, floral designers and interior designers. Sometimes their careers play a part in the story, sometimes not. The character in my work in progress (WIP in the writer’s world) is from a previous story, Aunt Beatrice Lulu. It’s the third book in the Family Affair Series titled It Is What It Is.
Aunt Beatrice Lulu first appeared in All in the Family but not as the main character. Callie Johnson returns to her hometown to take over the police chief’s job. Aunt Beatrice Lulu decides to play matchmaker. What ensues is a string of unsuitable suitors.

Of course that didn’t sit well with her and she insisted on her own story – All’s Well That Ends Well – Known for being a busy body, Beatrice Lulu Eberhardt lives up to her name and then some. Too many things happening for Beatrice Lulu to ignore and she’s bound and determined to figure things out on her own, usually dragging her sister along for the ride. This time, she might have bitten off more than she can chew.
So there you have a bit of my make believe worlds. You can find all of my books at Amazon.

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