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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A Picture’s Worth . . .

My husband, Rick, is a careful driver. I am too, but he’s on the extreme. He’ll sit at               a stop sign for nearly a minute rather than pull out in front of anyone, and he’s good   about obeying the speed limit. In fact, the first time he was pulled over for anything,           it was because he was driving too slowly!   That’s one reason it was ironic for him to          be stopped for speeding when we were at a coastal resort several years ago.

Not long before we made the trip, Rick renewed his driver’s license. He must’ve been        in a jovial mood, because he purposely opened his eyes and mouth wide, like he was really scared, when they took his picture. I was standing over to the side, realizing that’s the way to get DMV workers to laugh and smile. Rick explained to them that it’s probably the way he would look if the police pulled him over. He showed it to friends just for laughs, and I secretly hoped he’d keep it hidden most of the time.

But it did come in handy at the resort I mentioned earlier.  The island is owned by its private citizens, and there are strict rules, including the unbelievably low speed limit         of fifteen. We were in a hurry one day as we drove toward the resort’s exit, passing              a few people next to a golf cart in a crook in the road. We’d barely gotten by the area       when we spotted the white cart behind us. It was their traffic patrol!

Rick obediently pulled to the side of the road, and a rather young woman came over to   our car, looking miffed. We had gone over the speed limit, but not by much. I held my breath as she revealed this to Rick in a brisk manner, asking for his license. She took it back to her vehicle, but soon returned, laughing.

“That’s just too cute! I can’t give you a ticket. I’ll let you go with a warning.”

I was amazed when she handed the license back to Rick and basically wished us a good day. That’s when I learned that a picture’s not only worth a thousand words–it’s worth   the price of a traffic ticket!

Golf, Golfing, Golf Course, Golf Cart, Greens


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Raising the Stakes

Raising the Stakes banner

This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 1 till 7 April, you can view the complete tour schedule on the website of Lola’s Blog Tours.

Raising the Stakes CoverRaising the Stakes
by Karen Rock
Genre: Adult
Age category: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 1 April, 2015

Hiding from the world…

Tucking herself away in the Adirondack woods was supposed to keep Vivienne Harris safe. From dark memories of the Bronx,   from danger, from entanglements. But when an orphaned bear cub raids her pantry and conservation officer Liam Walsh appears with news of poachers nearby, her private, peaceful world is turned upside down!     Suddenly two forces are drawing her out—Button, the cub who needs her help, and Liam, the man who’s dead set against her rehabilitating the bear. If she can just win Liam’s support, Vivie knows she can give Button a good life. And maybe find the courage to embrace a future with Liam…

You can find Raising the Stakes on Goodreads

You can buy Raising the Stakes here:
Amazon                                                       – Barnes & Noble                                         – Kobo                                                             – Harlequin

karen in gardenAbout the Author:
Karen Rock is an award-winning YA and adult contemporary romance author. She holds a master’s degree in English and worked as an ELA instructor before becoming a full-time writer. Currently she writes for Harlequin Heartwarming and her    first novel for the line, WISH ME TOMORROW, has won the 2014 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, the 2014 Golden Quill Contest and a finalist in the Published Maggie Awards. The first novel in her co-authored YA series, CAMP BOYFRIEND, has been a finalist in the Booksellers Best and Golden Leaf awards.

You can find and contact Karen here:
Tumblr                                                                                               – Quarterly Newsletter                                                       – Amazon Author Page


He lifted her chin with a gentle finger and gazed down at her. “You’re always safe with me.”

For some odd reason, her eyes welled and a tear clung to her lashes.

He brushed the wetness away with his thumb, his hands lingering and cupping her face.

“I’m never safe,” she whispered, her voice so low he had to bend closer to hear.

“I’ll protect you,” he found himself saying, a gallant and reckless offer considering his planned move. Still, a fierce urge to reassure her filled him.  A need to kiss her full lips followed.

He captured them with his own, tasting berries, and something sweeter still. He buried his hands in her silky hair and brought her close, an insatiable hunger taking hold. The wildflower smell of her enveloped him and her mouth tantalized his. He nibbled on  her lower lip, loving her soft exclamation of pleasure. Or was it surprise?

She was early spring sunshine, a spring-fed pond, a mountain peak and everything that’d ever made him glad to be alive.

Without warning, she jerked away and sprang to her feet, backing away until her legs brushed the bushes.

My Review

Once again Karen Rock has created a beautiful story of romance, tragedy, and triumph. I felt drawn into the novel immediately, and the pages flew by as I was caught up in the unfolding drama of a bear’s well- being and future–as well as Vivie’s  and Liam’s.

Not many people would be more concerned about what happens to a bear cub who climbs into their kitchen window than in getting it out of the house, but Vivie would.

Perhaps it’s partly because she moved so much as a child, leaving everything and everyone she’d come to love, or maybe it’s her big heart. Either way, she needs to convince Liam, a DEC officer in the Adirondacks of New York, to care as much about Button’s safety as she does.

And Button’s not the only one with problems. Liam and Vivie have both been through trying times. Liam was a soldier in Kunar, and Vivie has come to the mountains to seek solitude after a brutal attack in the Bronx. They both have a lot to work through and recover from before they can consider building a life with someone.

I would recommend this well-written novel to anyone who loves nature, adventure, suspense or romance. It will touch  your heart and make your spirit soar.

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There’s a Bear–Over There!

I grew up in the northwest corner of South Carolina, and my family frequently visited the nearby Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. When I was small, probably about five, we traveled to Cherokee, which is surrounded by mountains and lots of wildlife. During our journey, we decided to pull over to the side of the road for lunch. There was a picnic area   at the top of a steep incline, and we spotted a small black bear rummaging through a trash can.

I thought that was pretty scary, and I didn’t know there’s usually a larger bear around when a cub is present. Everyone stayed at the car except the oldest person in our party– my step-grandfather, and the youngest–my little brother. I was criticized for screaming, but what can you expect from a five-year-old girl?  I think I was  upset partly because     two of our group were risking everything to get a closer look at the creature.

Alaska Bear, Bear, Black Bear

They climbed the hill together, Mr. Tom with his cane, and Johnny with his little boy legs, while the bear continued to hunt for something to eat.  The whole scene terrified me. I later reasoned that Johnny wasn’t old enough to be aware of the danger, and Mr. Tom was experienced enough to not be afraid. It took them awhile to climb up the slope while we all watched in anticipation, and when they were almost to the crest, the bear forgot all about the trash can and turned toward the two visitors. As he started toward them, Johnny and Mr. Tom decided he wasn’t that interesting after all. They did an about-face and hurried down the hill and back to the car.

My mother laughed for years about how she’d never seen Mr. Tom move so fast, and that Johnny was pretty quick too. And they all love to mention how I  screamed, especially my brothers, but at least I was smart enough to know a dangerous situation when I saw one.

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Show. Don’t Tell

Writing advice I’ve heard for years is, “Show–don’t tell.” I always had an idea of what it means, but I had trouble really grasping the concept. In an effort to gain understanding,     I pretended I was letting someone watch a movie versus telling him about it. Later on, comparing my writing to a movie caused a light bulb to come on over my head. While writing a scene in which the heroine climbs from a boat to a ladder on the side of a large ship, I wrote, “She tripped and nearly fell into the water.” At first I thought this was pretty good,  since I’d added a suspenseful element, but then I imagined watching a movie in which the action stops as the main character tries to move from the boat to the ladder.      A narrator then says, “She tripped and nearly fell into the water.”

Aha! I finally understood that I needed to describe why she tripped and how her feet dangled over the water, and what she did to save herself. We need to tell exactly what happens so the reader can imagine it as if he/she is watching a movie or TV show. Determining how much activity to disclose depends on how important it is to the scene and plot, and also how interesting or unusual or traumatic it is. We should go into more detail concerning what our characters are doing, not only in action scenes, but during conversations.

“Show–don’t tell” is related to the term “fleshing out,” which I’ve become familiar with,   but I was unsure of its exact meaning. I thought it might be making the characters more realistic and believable by telling more about them, and that’s part of it, but it’s also about adding flesh to the story itself. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines it as: Adding more details to something that exists only in a draft or outline form.

Studying an excellent article by Marg McAlister, “How to Flesh Out a Story Without Padding,”  I began to think of my early story draft as a skeleton that needs meat on it.   Just as you would imagine adding flesh, features, and other details to the skeleton, think  of doing the same thing to a story that’s just “bare bones.”

But, according to the article, we need to resist the urge to pad–that is, adding useless words and descriptions just to make the manuscript longer. We could compare padding   to the “fluff” we see on TV sometimes. Our writing needs nutritious food which will give    it muscle–not fat–facts and descriptions which will add to the overall story and let us         in on what the characters are thinking and feeling. Interior monologues help our readers  to be inside the character’s heads–like they’re in the story themselves, in a sense. In describing how a character feels, it helps to ask questions such as:  How do I know        she’s angry?  Or afraid?  Or sad?  What are her tells?

I hope this is helpful to some writers, and I’m sure the article I’ve linked below will benefit your writing in some way. It’s full of good advice, and it’s helped me to under- stand “fleshing out” better. I’m still striving to master the craft of writing, but at least     I’m going in the right direction.

Marg McAlister’s article:

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Camp Forget-Me-Not


How can a girl break a guy’s heart, then hope to be friends?  That’s what Kayla wants to know when she comes face to face with Nick Desanti at Camp Juniper Point. They were best friends three years earlier, but she did a favor for him by letting him go. Or at least she thinks she did. Now she’s not sure.

J.K. Rock has done an amazing job of capturing Kayla’s thoughts and emotions, letting    us into her world at camp. Kayla wants to talk to Nick about all that transpired that last summer they had together, but she thinks he came back to camp to punish her.  During  the years they were apart, he has become an all-star snowboarder, winning Olympic gold and showing up in commercials and on the covers of magazines.  Kayla wants to explain   to him that she didn’t drop him that summer just to become a member of Divas’ Den,     but communication with him is sparse, thanks to Brooke–a YouTube star wannabe–        who hangs around Nick any chance she gets.

And even though Kayla is “in” with the Divas, she’s not quite sure she fits.  She’s tired       of being a follower, and she wants to express herself more. Phone calls and visits from        her divorced parents have caused her life outside of camp to seem uncertain, making     the present even more difficult.

All of the girls think Nick is gorgeous, with his dark hair and hazel eyes, but he has problems of his own. His parents follow his older brother all around to watch him play baseball, practically ignoring Nick. The pressure he feels only complicates his relation- ship with Kayla, and she feels overwhelmed at times as she searches for her true self,     trying to make sense of her future.

Camp Forget-Me-Not is a fun read with thought-provoking scenes almost any teen         can identify with. I highly recommend it.

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Biltmore Estate

Biltmore from wall 001

Since I grew up in the northwest corner of South Carolina, my family traveled to            the beautiful mountains of North Carolina frequently, especially to Asheville, where          the famed Biltmore Estate is located. The first time I visited the castle, built by the Vanderbilts of New York, we parked along the driveway just in front of the entrance, and a tour guide took us through the mansion group by group, enlightening us with facts such as, “This chess set was once used by Napoleon Bonaparte,” and “These  antiques were brought over from Europe after the castle was built.”

Biltmore House closeup 001

On one of my visits with my husband decades later, we parked in a lot about half a mile away from the Biltmore House, hiking to the site. (I believe there’s a shuttle available.) There’s no tour guide now, and the admittance fee is higher, but we also get to see more    of the mansion and estate.  A winding staircase greets the guests, and to the right is my favorite part of the house: The Winter Garden. It’s filled with palm plants which reach toward a glass dome and sunlight. As we move through the house, several large bed- rooms reveal the opulence of the Vanderbilt’s lifestyle with elaborate furniture and silk     wall coverings, and bathrooms with running water.  When the castle was completed           in 1895,  after five years of construction, all of these features were rare. A bowling alley, indoor swimming pool, gardens, and green house all give us an idea of the wealth the Vanderbilts possessed.

Biltmore greenhouse 001

Greenhouse on the Biltmore Estate

There is now a restaurant and gift shop in the former stable area, and a hotel on the property. The grounds are abloom during the spring and summer, with an enormous variety of roses and other flowers. At Christmastime the mansion is all decked out with trees, poinsettias, and wreaths, and a tour at night may include Christmas music sung by   a choir or another singing group. Touring the Biltmore Estate has changed over the years, and it’s still one of my favorite places to visit. I wouldn’t be surprised if most people who go there feel the same way.

Biltmore from a distance 001

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