Is Your Manuscript Too Short?

Writing

Earlier I wrote a post on “fleshing out” our stories, citing Marg McAlister’s extremely helpful article on doing so without padding. (http://wp.me/p1Nylx-r8)  As I continued     to work on improving my writing, I received advice from a couple of wonderful writer friends concerning the length of my manuscripts, which always seemed to be too short. For years I felt frustrated by the designated lengths for novels, since I felt I had a com- plete story, but I still had to abide by those standards. Thanks to the wise words from these friends, I’m finally catching on. My new strategy is related to and involves fleshing out (adding more detail), as well as avoiding the overuse of dialog tags, and it has given me surprising results.

Below are examples of avoiding overused dialog tags, i.e. “He said,” “She asked,” etc.                                                                                                                                                                   “What time are you going?” he asked.

Add some action:

He grabbed his hat and started toward the door, then he stopped and turned. “What time are you going?”

Not only have we avoided a dialog tag, but we’ve made the sentence longer with more detail. That’s three accomplishments by adding only one element!

Another example is:

“I don’t know,” he declared.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Again, give some details concerning what is happening:

He bent down, scooped up a stone, and skipped it across the lake. “I don’t know.”

It’s easy to see what a difference this makes. In knowing the person’s actions, we get a hint of his emotions, and we’ve made our story a little longer. We’ve also avoided another dialog tag. (Not that we don’t need them occasionally–they have their place–but we don’t want our writing peppered with them.)

And, of course, we don’t want to stick in useless words just to make our work longer. (You can find this addressed in McAlister’s article: http://www.writing4success.com/How-to-Flesh-Out-a-Story-Without-Padding.html.)

One of my writer friends also suggested that I extend my characters’ conversations, adding richness as well as length to my stories, since they’re expressing themselves more, revealing more about what they’re thinking.

As I add more detail to my writing, make conversations longer, and spend more time describing the action that’s going on, I’m amazed at how quickly my wordage increases. Even a few words per page can make a difference, not only in length, but in the overall story, eliminating excess dialog tags and improving writing quality at the same time.

 

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His Kind of Cowgirl

 

                    Would he still love her…if he knew?

Tanner Hayes smashed Claire’s life to pieces when he chose the  rodeo over her ten years ago. And now he’d wrecked her truck!  Fantastic. She’d lost her husband, the family ranch was mired  in debt, her father was recuperating from a stroke and her son  was being bullied. Why not throw a reckless bull rider into the  mix?

All she’d wanted was a safe, stable life. But with Tanner back in town—and staying on her ranch—nothing was safe, or under control. Not the feelings she’d fought so hard to forget. Not the son she was determined to protect. And certainly not her long-held secret…

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Excerpt-Banner

Everything happened at once and in slow motion.

A crushing jolt shuddered through the truck. Her wheels skidded sideways. She         smacked against the window when her pickup rolled down an embankment, as if punched by something large and lethal. Glass rained deadly sharp. The earth tumbled around her, her truck in spin cycle. When a massive tree loomed, the Chevy slammed into it then stilled. Winded and stunned, she hung upside-down in her lap belt, blood, metallic and warm, on her tongue, a rushing sound whistling in her ears. Her heartbeat changed and grew slow and rolling in darkness. Something hurt, a long way away. Then nothing.

“Ma’am. Ma’am. Are you all right?” A man’s voice shouted, rousing her. She tried turning her head but pain held it in place. When she opened her mouth, silent panic   flew out.

“Hold on. I’m getting you out of there.”

Acrid smoke pierced her consciousness. She closed her eyes against the billowing grit. This wasn’t happening. It was a dream. No. A nightmare.

A tugging motion jerked her right and left, followed by a ripping sound. Large hands halted her sudden fall.

“Got you.”

Her rescuer cradled her against his chest, his breaths heaving beneath her ear. After carrying her some distance, he lowered her slowly to the ground. Grass scraped against her stinging cheeks and she opened her eyes.

“What?” she croaked, then swiped at the trickle leaking from her mouth. A man     wearing  a cowboy hat hunched over her, his features blurred.

“You’ve been in an accident. We have. Our trucks collided in the intersection.”

“My truck!” She bolted upright and clutched the swirling ground.

An arm snaked around her back and eased her down. “I called the dispatcher.                 The fire department’s on the way.”

A wail sounded in the distance and Claire wanted to shriek with it.

Her special day. Her anniversary. Ruined. No. Demolished by this…this…

She squinted upward and focused. A dark swirl of hair brushed across the tall man’s forehead; a light scar zigzagged down his square jaw. Recognition zapped through her.

It couldn’t be…

“Tanner?”

“Hello, Claire.” His mouth went up, just a fraction—the same ready-for-anything smile that had once undone her.

She closed her eyes, heart thudding. Ten years since she’d vowed never to see him again…and now here he stood, two for two in wrecking her life.

 

About The Author

Karen Rock is an award-winning YA and adult contemporary romance author. She holds a master’s degree in English and was an ELA instructor before becoming a full-time writer. Currently she writes for Harlequin Blaze and Harlequin Heartwarming. Her novel, A LEAGUE OF HER OWN, won the 2015 National Excellence in Romance Fiction award in contemporary romance series and the 2015 Bookseller’s Best award for contemporary romance, long.

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My Review

Karen Rock has opened up yet another realm for her readers with her deep, heart-           felt writing, this time taking us into the world of ranching and bull riding via Claire Shelton and Tanner Hayes. Tanner is a successful bull rider with lots of fans, but just how much did he give up for his dream? Success alone won’t keep him warm at night. Doubts concerning his ten-year-long career are jarred awake when he literally runs       into his ex-girlfriend, Claire.

Their trucks collide at an intersection and they are re-acquainted, but Tanner was   already on his way to the ranch Claire shares with her father. Recovering from an     injury, Tanner doesn’t mind taking time out to work at Denton Creek Ranch, hoping       to save it, but Claire is slow to accept his offer. She feels he causes problems when       he’s around, and she’s terrified that he will find out her secret.

The author’s effortless writing style makes it easy for the reader to imagine the story,   and the details concerning both Tanner’s and Claire’s professions are impressive. Their   emotions are evident through their actions as well as their thoughts, and we realize     right away how strong these two characters are. Claire is fiercely independent, never wanting to accept a favor from anyone, but she loves her family and the husband who was taken from her. Could there be room in her heart for the person who has hurt her   the most?

Tanner is immediately likable, with his strong cowboy good looks, but he’d always thought all he could do was ride bulls. Working on the ranch causes him to wonder           if everyone was wrong about him and he can achieve more.

The deeper I delved into the novel, the more intrigued I felt, wondering if Tanner           and Claire would be able to work around all of the obstacles concerning the ranch, Tanner’s career, and their relationship. His Kind of Cowgirl is definitely an enriching reading experience I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys romance.

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WHEN LOVE MATTERS MOST

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Now More Readily Available in Print

This is an exciting time for Harlequin Heartwarming. Thanks to the loyalty of our   readers, for the first time, our January releases, including When Love Matters Most, are available as mass-market paperbacks through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Harlequin.com. Also, When Love Matters Most will be available in select Walmart stores in the United States in February! Please check the Harlequin website for the location nearest you. Thank you to all our readers who made these advancements possible for us!

— Kate

When Love Matters Most

(K-9 Trilogy #2)
by Kate James
Adult Contemporary Romance

Paperback & ebook, 368 pages
January 1st 2016 by Harlequin Heartwarming


Keeping her safe at all costs

Could their backgrounds be any more different? Rick Vasquez, a K-9 unit sergeant with the San Diego Police Department, fled drug-related violence in Mexico as a boy. Madison Long, who recently became primary veterinarian to the SDPD’s canines, is the privileged daughter of a judge. Rick has dedicated his life to curtailing cross-border drug trafficking and preventing other young boys from being drawn into the dark world of the cartels.

But everything Rick and Madison value, and the growing love between them, is threatened by the dangers of Rick’s job, and the risks he’s determined to take…

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My Review

I was immediately drawn into Kate James’ novel, When Love Matters Most, and my enthusiasm lasted all the way through the last page. The author’s excellent writing style conveys to us an intriguing story concerning the plight of a narcotics officer working with a K-9 dog named Sniff. Haunted by a childhood trauma, Rick Vasquez has a heart for kids who are forced to deal drugs, and he also visits schools  in an effort to warn youth about the dangers of these substances.

A drug bust gone bad is the beginning of a virtual war between the police and the cartels, and Rick rescues an injured officer’s dog in the aftermath of a trap. Taking Zeke to Mission Bay Veterinary Clinic, Rick meets Madison Long, but he fails to make a good impression. Fortunately for him, because of the nature of his work and hers, he gets another chance.

Madison has a dog of her own, and she has dedicated her life to caring for and rehabi-       litating animals. The daughter of a Supreme Court judge, she has distinct values and   strong work ethics, as well as a great respect for policemen and their dogs, which makes   a relationship with Rick a natural fit. But will her strict adherence to the law and the sensitive nature of Rick’s work come between them? They have some issues they need       to work out, and the extreme circumstances of the battle with the cartels makes this even more difficult.

The author shows knowledge concerning K-9 Units, and she has artfully woven police business together with a romantic story. When Love Matters Most is a book that’s difficult to put down, and I can honestly say this is my favorite of the Kate James novels I’ve read so far.

Kate James spent much of her childhood abroad before attending university in Canada. She built   a successful business career, but her passion has always been literature. As a result, Kate turned her energy to her love of the written word. Her writing has been recognized with a number of awards, including first place honors for Silver Linings in both the First Coast Romance Writers’ Published Beacon Contest and Ancient City Romance Authors’ Heart of Excellence Readers’ Choice Award. Her November 2014 Harlequin Heartwarming release, A Child’s Christmas, received first-place honors from Southern Magic, the Birmingham Chapter of the Romance Writers of America, for the 2015 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, placed second in the Ancient City Romance Authors’ Heart of Excellence Readers’ Choice Award, and was a finalist in RWA’s Desert Rose Chapter’s Golden Quill Award and the Colorado Romance Writers’ Award of Excellence. Finally, her October 2015 release, When the Right One Comes Along, the first book in her K-9 trilogy, has received a Best Book of 2015 award in the contemporary category.

She and her husband, Ken, enjoy traveling and the outdoors with their beloved Labrador Retrievers, Harley and Logan.

 Kate would love to hear from you! You can connect with her by e-mail, through her website, her Facebook page, Twitter, or mail at PO Box 446, Schomberg, ON, L0G 1T0, Canada.

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We hope you found out more about the characters and the research behind the K-9 Trilogy, and also enjoyed all the reviews! If you missed any of the stops, go back and check them out now…

“I especially enjoyed the various elements to this story. There’s a mystery/suspense angle that plays well into the romantic angle, which is complicated. I enjoyed the family relationships, the new friendships, and the loyalty to each. This is definitely a series I plan on continuing to read!”

Becky on Books – Interview

What inspired you to write this book?

I have tremendous respect and appreciation for law enforcement personnel who dedicate their lives to keeping us safe, and I love all animals, with a particular fondness for dogs. Combining these two things, the K-9 trilogy was a natural outcome for me.

Sunrise Avenue – Review

“Still, ‘When Love Matters Most’ is a heartwarming novel. They’ve got that part down pat! The content is clean and still romantic. Madison is a strong female character and Rick is a man with jaded past and a big heart. Together they tackle obstacles and come to realize that perhaps what is matters most, is love. :)”

Reading Is My SuperPower – Review

“A sweet romance with a dash of suspense, When Love Matters Most gives another fascinating peek inside the world of police dogs and their handlers. While it starts out a bit heavy on narrative, the dialogue eventually evens out and the pace flows smoothly from there. Kate James has obviously done her research, and readers will appreciate K-9 officers on a whole new level after reading When Love Matters Most.”

Singing Librarian Books – Review

“This engaging and entertaining story will delight readers, along with fun and easily-relatable characters. I would recommend this story to readers that enjoy contemporary novels with a mix of romance and mystery thrown in.”

Getting Your Read On – Review

“Overall, this was a good book. I enjoyed it from beginning to end. It was good to get to know Rick and Madison and also to see the characters from the previous book in this series. I’m looking forward to the next book!”

deal sharing aunt – Interview

What would you like my readers to know?

I would like your readers to know how much I sincerely appreciate that they choose to spend their valuable and limited leisure time reading this post or one of my books. I am also very grateful when a reader posts a review or reaches out to me to let me know how they enjoyed one of my books.

Colorimetry – Ten Character Traits of A Veterinarian

Madison Long, the heroine from When Love Matters Most, is a veterinarian. Not only is she the primary caregiver for the San Diego Police Department’s police service dogs, she is conducting ground-breaking research involving platelet-rich plasma therapy, to help animals heal from injury.

I Am A Reader – Ten Reasons to be a K-9 Officer

Rick Vasquez, the hero from When Love Matters Most, is a sergeant with the San Diego Police Department’s K-9 Unit. His job is to thwart drug trafficking. He’s been partnered with narcotics detection canine, Sniff, since he joined the K-9 Unit. Rick and Sniff are as close as is possible for any person and dog to be. Here are ten reasons why it’s advantageous to be a K-9 officer working with a police service dog partner.

Mel’s Shelves – Review

“I loved watching their relationship develop! It felt natural and they had some great conversations. Those did lead to a huge issue that came between them and I honestly wasn’t sure if they would be able to resolve it. There was also mystery and suspense in this book, which made me love it even more. I loved this book from beginning to end!”

Slice of Life – Review

“The author shows knowledge concerning K-9 Units, and she has artfully woven police business together with a romantic story. When Love Matters Most is a book that’s difficult to put down, and I can honestly say this is my favorite of the Kate James novels I’ve read so far.”

“Another great one that wrenches at your heartstrings! The 2nd book in The K-9 Trilogy did not disappoint. I loved meeting Rick and Madison and it was great to see Cal & Jessica again from the first book in the series.”

Falling Leaves – Review

“When Love Matters Most is a story that touches the reader so closely that this book was so easy to fall in love with. I really like the characters because of their heartwarming personality.”

Tour Giveaway

– $40 Amazon eGift Card & signed copies of The Truth About Hope and When the Right One Comes Along
– 3 winners of signed copies of When the Right One Comes Along
Open US/CAN only
Ends January 23rd                                                                                                                         Enter here to win!                                         http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b9a55db3122/?

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Look Out for Deer

Red Deer

My husband, Rick, and I lived in the country for nearly six years, and we experienced things there we never had before. Hardly anyone owned a cell phone at the time, so people sometimes stopped by our house to use the phone if they’d had an accident or some other minor emergency. Early one afternoon a large lumber truck stopped next to our home and the driver came to the door. He informed us that a woman down the road had hit a deer with her car and asked him to let us know, since we were acquaintances.

We hurried to our car and started in the direction he indicated, soon spotting a small car on the side of the road. Tire marks on the grass let us know right away that she’d tried to swerve and avoid the deer. Tammy stood next to her car, and she seemed glad to see us. She said that shortly after she left her house, the deer ran in front of her car. Tammy slammed on her brakes to avoid it, and her sunglasses flew off her face and out the window as the car spun around. The animal attempted to leap over it, leaving a long, broad scratch on the windshield, either from a hoof or antler.

We listened to Tammy’s story as she tried to calm down, then she made the under-statement, “It’s been a bad day.” I’m sure she didn’t mean to sound lighthearted or comical, but it almost came across that way, considering how close she’d come to calamity. We took her to our house so she could call her husband and the insurance company. She asked the claims representative, “Am I covered?” then she seemed   relieved at the good news.

When we dropped her off at her house, she relaxed some, and I believe her husband was on his way by then. Some local people removed the deer from the shallow ditch it ended up in, and we were all reminded of how careful we needed to be while driving.   One thing that surprises me is that I never saw a deer wandering around the area the entire time we lived there, even though they were prevalent.

 

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When the Right One Comes Along

Intro to the Series

My October 1st release, When the Right One Comes Along, is the first book in         my K-9 trilogy.  It is the story of trauma surgeon Jessica Hansen and San Diego Police Department search and rescue officer Cal Palmer. Although I have always had a profound sense of gratitude for the men and women who dedicate their lives to law enforcement, through my research for this trilogy, I gained an even greater appreciation for the bravery and dedication of canine officers, and the intelligence and resourcefulness of police dogs.

The second book in the trilogy, When Love Matters Most, is scheduled for release on January 1st and will be available in select Walmart stores in February. This book tells the story of SDPD K-9 unit sergeant Rick Vasquez, veterinarian Madison Long, and Rick’s narcotics detection dogs Sniff and Nitro. If you enjoy When the Right One Comes Along, this book will provide an opportunity to revisit old friends, Cal and Jessica.

The third book is tentatively titled When the Sky’s the Limit, and is planned for release in June 2016.It’s the story of K-9 unit captain Logan O’Connor and San Diego International Airport chief of security, Ariana Atkins.  When these two come together, their interaction promises to be explosive!

— Kate James

When the Right One Comes Along (K-9 Trilogy #1)                                                    by Kate James

Adult Contemporary Romance, October 1st 2015 by Harlequin

When the Right One Comes Along (K-9 Trilogy, #1)                           Brought together by disaster. Kept together by love.

In the aftermath of a deadly earthquake, it’s chaos for trauma surgeon Jessica Hansen. Among the many victims, one patient stands out—San Diego Police K-9 search and rescue officer Cal Palmer.

Cal vows to help Kayla, a child orphaned by the disaster. But he needs Jessica’s help. Will their shared concern for Kayla and for Cal’s canine partner, Scout, allow them to put aside their personal torments and discover the difference love can make?

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Kate James 2.jpg

Kate James spent eight years of her childhood living in foreign countries as her professional parents traveled on business. She lived in four countries and spoke five languages before settling down in Canada again to attend university. After graduating with a degree in civil engineering, she held a variety of positions in the field of real estate development and operations, and ran three substantial organizations. While her writing during this period was mostly business related, including presentations and speeches she delivered both nationally and internationally, her passion is and always has been fiction.

Kate’s business and personal experiences enable her to write fiction with a deep, often first-hand knowledge of what she is writing about. This approach makes Kate’s stories richer and more vivid.

Kate’s goal is to entertain you with well-written, engaging stories, set in intriguing places and with strong, likeable characters. “I hope my stories bring you pleasure and entertain you. Nothing pleases me more than receiving feedback from people who have chosen to spend their valuable leisure time with one of my books,” notes Kate.

Kate married her husband, Ken, in an elegant, ocean-front wedding on a tropical island. When they are not traveling, they split their time between their properties in southern and central Ontario in Canada.

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Tour Giveaway

Grand Prize: Spa Gift Basket and a print copy of When the Right One Comes Along (US/CAN only)

2nd Prize: $50 Amazon gift card and a copy of When the Right One Comes Along (print if US/CAN, ebook if international)

3 – 3rd Prizes: copy of When the Right One Comes Along (print if US/CAN, ebook if international) Ends October 16th

Raffle Link:

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My Review

Why would a dog who looks like a German shepherd but is actually from Holland have     a baseball card? It’s really quite simple. Scout is a search and rescue dog who has helped   to save lives. Working with the San Diego Police Department’s K-9 unit, Scout is Calen Palmer’s canine partner. We’re introduced to the pair right after a massive earthquake     in San Diego. As first responders, Cal and Scout put themselves in a dangerous position in order to save victims from the quake, and Cal receives a serious injury. Sent to Ocean Crest Hospital, he receives care from Jessica Hansen, a trauma surgeon, but he doesn’t make the best impression.

Cal is ordered to stay off his leg for at least a couple of weeks, but that means he can’t give Scout the exercise he needs. His brother agrees to keep the dog, but after one night Drew brings him back, since he has no control. Jessica had a way with Scout when she was treating Cal, so he asks her to take him for a while. Thus begins a friendship which grows into something more, but doubts and fears plague the couple, sending their relationship into a turmoil.

This well-written novel depicts the problems and dangers which can occur after an earthquake, as well as rescue operations, and the author also shows much knowledge concerning K-9 dogs. I would recommend When the Right One Comes Along to anyone who is interested in action and romance.

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Whitewater Rafting: An Unforgettable Adventure

Air

It had seemed like a good idea: Whitewater rafting in Virginia in October. On the last weekend guides offered a ride down the James River, my husband, Rick, and I drove   over to Richmond with a group of eight. None of us had been rafting before, but we felt confident we would have experienced guides. We followed directions to the headquarters, but instead of a flowing body of water, we reached an old shack next to a highway. Our first question when we arrived was, “Where’s the river?”

Hopping out of our van and heading inside, we found the building filled with people, paddles, and life jackets. Our names were checked off a reservation list, and we received help in picking out our gear for the trip, including helmets. Next, a fit-looking guide gave us a safety talk on how to survive the day. Wait a minute. Survive? We were just there for a fun run down the river.

We learned that whitewater rafting really can be dangerous–especially if there are many rocks, which there are in the shallow James River. We were taught everything from how to sit in the raft, to getting into the “swimmer’s position” if we’re thrown overboard, and we learned to hold onto the handle of our paddles at all times. That way, while the water tossed us about, we wouldn’t whack ourselves or anyone else.

The only other adult in our group gave us a sideways glance, conveying the message      that she didn’t want to be in that situation, then we found out the roughest whitewater would be level 4. Rick and I tried to assure her everything would be all right, but we weren’t so sure about it ourselves.

We boarded an old school bus with other rafters and endured a bumpy ride through the woods to the James River. Our group was then divided, with our teens in one orange   raft, and the adults, along with a scout leader and two boys, in another. Bruce, our guide, pushed us into the water effortlessly. As the river gently flowed along and birds in the trees sang, it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. It wasn’t long, however, before the birds disappeared and we paddled down a roaring river topped with, you guessed it, white water.

Rafting 3

I felt some apprehension as we approached our first set of rapids, but I stuck my feet under the plastic tubing in front of me, holding onto my paddle as if my life depended   on it. We were instructed to keep paddling while going through white water. Our raft bumped and dipped, jostling us a little, but it was okay. It was really kind of fun. One      of the boys said with enthusiasm, “Let’s do it again!”

Bruce chuckled. “Don’t worry. We’ll do it again.”

It wasn’t long until another patch of angry water loomed in front of us, a little whiter than the first. It lifted us up and set us down, turning us to the side, then we reached a calm stretch. After several more, just as I felt more confident with my navigating skills, we came up on something I’d never even imagined. We were about to zip through two large boulders toward something that looked like the ocean in a whirlpool.

I couldn’t believe we were headed right for it. We’re never going to make it, flashed through my mind, then I could only think about paddling and staying inside the raft at the same time. We were thrown about mercilessly, then pushed to the right with such force, I was thrown to the opposite side of the raft. The boy scout leader asked if I was okay, so I guess my feat looked dramatic.

I didn’t think it was possible for our journey to get any rougher, but soon Bruce told us we were approaching a broken dam. Everyone in the raft seemed to scream, What?!  Sensing our discomfort, Bruce added, “Don’t worry. It’s a small dam.”

Small or not, the water rushing between two brick walls into another churning ocean sent a surge of fear and doubt through me. We bounced through, however, and a wave of icy cold water came in on my side of the raft, threatening to submerge it, and shooting up  the arm of my waterproof jacket. I didn’t see any more treacherous sections ahead, and I’d started breathing more easily when a voice caused me to look behind us. The craft holding our teens was stuck on a large flat stone!

It took a while for the wayward raft to get back into the current, then the rafts were all strung together for a leisurely ride to a dock. In a way, it was the most fun part of the day. We learned from the others that one of our teens took a dip in the river, but their guide reached in and pulled her out in a flash. I’m glad there were no other problems during our outing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself rafting again in the near future. Just not in October.

 

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Can Cats Talk?

Many people think cats just say, “meow” or “mew,” but the more time I’ve spent with them, the more I realize how much they understand and how much they use actual words. Beginning with Annabelle, a black part-Persian my family had for about fifteen years, I began to notice just how good communication can be between cats and people.

Annabelle in Batesburg 001

She came to live with my husband, Rick, and me when she was about nine, and already quite experienced. When we wanted her to go outside, we’d simply say, “Out,” and she got the message. One day, when she was relaxing on the floor, I gave her the command when we needed for her to go out, expecting her to immediately obey, and she responded with, “No.” (It wasn’t a clear word, but I knew what she meant.)

Slightly taken aback by her lack of respect, I said, “Annabelle, out.”

She turned her head toward me and blatantly repeated, “No.”

Hardly believing her impertinence, I again commanded, “Annabelle, out!”

This time she said “No” so emphatically, she moved her head to make sure I understood, then she nonchalantly licked her paw as if the matter were settled. I finally got my way,   but not without a stream of mumbled words as she trudged toward the door. She did like going outside sometimes, especially when Rick and I went for a walk. She kept up with us all the way to the end of the street and back. Sometimes one of us would say something about going for one, and Annabelle would be at the door, waiting. We couldn’t figure out how she knew, but she probably thought, You said you were going for a walk. What do you take me for?

Years later, after we’d acquired a Siamese, I knew Coco was intelligent, but he sometimes amazed me. When he’d gotten a little older, he would sometimes say, “I want” when he desired to go outside or when he needed food. One day I called him when he was outside,  and was just about to close the door when he showed up several yards from the house.   He said with clarity, “Rail?” (D’s seem to be difficult for cats to pronounce.)

Coco or Mocha 001

Another time, he sniffed a spot on the floor, and I wondered if a ladybug had come inside, since we’d been having trouble with them. I asked, “What is it, Coco?  A ladybug?”

Not only did he understand, but he casually turned away from the spot and said, “Water,” almost as well as a person would have.

The other cat we had at the time, Velvet, liked to sit next to me outside. I would look down at her and say, “Velvet,” then she’d stare up and say something back without fail. We did this regularly, and I finally understood that she was saying, “Dale” in her own way. She got what I was doing.

Velvet in New Ellenton 001

Velvet was on a diet and couldn’t have dry food for a while, so we kept it in a cabinet most of the time. One day Coco let me know he wanted something, and I thought he wanted out, but that wasn’t it. I said, “What do you want, Coco?”

With great effort he formed his mouth into an O and squeezed out, “Food.”

Although the “F” wasn’t distinct, I knew that’s what he was saying. He wanted some dry food. I got  it for him, and he was satisfied. I guess he’d heard me say it so many times when I fed him, he knew what it was.

We now have a large Siamese who also says, “I want.” A lot. In fact, it’s not unusual for him to say it several times in one day. He usually wants food, but occasionally he desires    attention or a door opened so he can look through the storm door.

Choco on couch 001

I try to use the same words over and over when addressing the cats, so they can capture their meaning. When I occasionally speak a little French to them, they look at me like, “What on Earth are you saying?”  They can definitely tell the difference. I’m glad I finally understand just how much they understand. It makes me appreciate them even more.

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