In 1994, I lost my beloved Keeshond,
Talbot. He was diabetic, blind and nearly 13 years old, so when he went to the
Rainbow Bridge, it wasn’t unexpected, just devastating. Through my sobs of
grief, I told my husband I didn’t want any more dogs, it was just too hard to
lose them. We’ve all been there so you can image what happened next. I lasted
exactly two weeks, and the empty, silent – hairless home became unbearable. We decided
to get another dog. Because of the research I’d done on Labrador retriever so
my humorous mystery The Colors of Death, we decided to get a Lab. But wait – we’d
always had two dogs, why not get two from the same litter? Let me tell you
right now – NEVER get two – or more dogs, from the same litter! They are very
bonded and hard to train and what’s worse, when one goes, the other is not far
behind. But that’s another story.
We came to love the breed and our
two pups, Clark and Molly, even though they were a challenge. With all my
previous dogs, I’d just put out dry food and let them eat when they felt like
it. I learned quickly, you do not do that with Labs! They tend toward being
overweight to begin with, and if you free-feed them, they’ll eat until they
blowup or throw up. By the time they got
through that Lab puppy stage at about four (Labs mature WAY later than most
dogs) we found we had two HUGE dogs, both over 110 lbs! Yes, they were chubby
but also just BIG! I switched to low calorie food, supplemented their grub with
fresh veggies, walked and play with them more but….Labs seem to live on air and
it’s hard to get them to lose weight.
While all this was going on, I’d
started to write another humorous mystery.
I have at least one dog in all my books, so decided to put a chubby Lab
in this one. For some reason, he told me he was a big yellow boy and his name
was Chauncy. The name of that book is, FINDER
“I need a
good idea on how to kill someone,” Carol Reston said.
husband, David, fiddled with his wiry beard for a moment a faraway look in his
eyes, quiet, thinking.
“Don’t you have a notebook full of ways, not only on how
to kill people but methods for getting rid of the bodies, too?”
right.” She looked down once more at the large brown envelope clutched in her
sweaty hand resting on her lap. “Okay, I guess what I need more of a story
idea, a plot, but something really weird.”
first time, David looked at his wife and noticed what she clutched in her hand.
manuscript rejected by a publisher, honey?”
“Yes.” Depression clung to Carol like a
big wet dog. “I give up.” She blinked to clear her watery vision
. “It’s no use.
I’m going to stop writing.” She worried open the end of the envelope but didn’t
have the heart to pull the rejection letter out.
sound of Carol’s voice, Chauncy, the couple’s overweight yellow Labrador
retriever moseyed out of the bedroom to join his humans in the family room. He
sidled over and leaned against Carol’s thigh. She dropped her hand to his silky
head and rubbed.
it. I write my brains out day after day send out my work and all I get back are
rejection letters. Who needs it? I quit.” She wiped the tears from her cheek
with the back of her hand and almost put an eye out with the sharp corner of
the envelope. “I will never write again!”
David’s muted reply echoed out from behind the curtain of newsprint.
word squeaked out. “I thought you wanted me to be a writer?” Carol nudged
Chauncy away. He flopped on his butt then stretched out with a groan. She
jumped up, walked to the adjoining kitchen, dropped the envelope on the center
island, went directly to a cupboard and pulled out a chocolate candy bar.
“How do you
expect me to succeed when you don’t support me?” With a rip, she tore the
wrapper off with her teeth and demolished the bar in four huge bites. Every
time another one of her manuscripts was rejected, she ate like a team of
Clydesdales. If she kept eating like this, she would be a three-hundred-pound
divorced woman...and soon.
the curtain of newsprint came down. “You know I only want you to do what will
make you happy. If you want to write, fine, do it. If you don’t, well, that’s
okay too. All this rejection makes you so miserable I can’t imagine why you
want to keep it up.”
“I have to
write.” Carol gulped down creamy chocolate along with the emotional tears that
threatened to close her throat. “I love it.” Carol felt hot breath on her knee
and looked down to find the adoring Lab gazing up at her. “Sorry, Chauncy, I
ate it all. You know chocolate is bad for you. It kills dogs. I probably just
saved your life.” He didn’t look convinced. “I still think you should help me,”
she told her husband, not the dog.
you’re the writer. Not me.”
plastered what she hoped was a seductive smile on her face, ran her tongue
across her front teeth to remove any traces of chocolate and went to kneel in
front of her husband. “It’ll be fun. We’ll write the world’s first romantic-mysterious-science
fiction-pornographic novel set in the west.” She plucked a piece of left-over
from lunch taco chip from his beard and slipped it to the waiting dog. David
out and stroked her short blond curls. “What? No horror? No humor?”
the heck, we’ll put everything into that sucker. It’s bound to sell. What do
tilted his head, tugged at one of the tangled hairs on his beard and grinned.
“Okay. But I get to do the research for the pornographic part.”
a face at him and smacked him playfully on the knee before she jumped to her
feet. David reached up, took her hand and drew her onto his lap. She snuggled
her nose into his neck and inhaled his clean, fresh scent. He kissed her cheek
as he stroked her hair again.
wonderful writer, honey. I know some day you’ll publish a book.”
“I know I will.” Carol couldn’t help the well
of tears that flooded her eyes again. “It’s so hard. I try and try. I write
every damn day. I submit manuscripts and I get nothing but rejections.” She
paused for a moment, a thought wandering through her mind. “Perhaps I’ll write
another romance. They’re hot right now; fifty percent of the books bought in
this country are in the romance genre.” She sat up straighter and her gaze
wandered off. “Something with a ghost. What do think?”
head bobbed and she sniffed loudly. “Of course. You know I value your opinion.”
reached up and wiped a tear from her cheek with his thumb. “Then I think you
should write what you know. Use your own experiences.”
you’ve written what? Six novels?”
you count the sci-fi novella. You know the one with the puce people who have
started. That was the one with the Gloto people fighting with the Platusas.
Remember? You said you refused to read anything about one sentient people
eating another, even if they were from another planet.”
brown eyes looked like two chocolate drops floating in whipped cream behind the
thick lenses of his horn-rimmed glasses. Carol smiled and thought longingly of
her chocolate stash in the kitchen cupboard. The rejection letter remained
perched on the island, mocking her. She decided to ignore it a bit longer.
shifted her weight on his lap and grimaced. “Sheesh, where do you come up with
that stuff anyhow?”
shrugged. “I don’t honestly know. Ideas just come to me.”
shifted his position again and Carol took the hint. She got up went and flopped
in her chair. She really would have to cut back on the candy or he would never
let her back on his lap.
what I mean, honey. Write about what you know.” David smiled his encouragement
at her. “Isn’t that what the teacher in your writing class said?”
them, I think.”
David folded his newspaper, set it on the end table and
straightened in his chair. "You keep writing what you think will sell, instead
of what you love.” David leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees.
“Tell me something. Which book did you enjoy writing the most?”
didn’t have to think about it for a second. Death
my mystery novel. I loved that book. It practically wrote
“Then I think you should stick to writing
mysteries.” Leaning back, arms across his broad chest, David reached up and
started fiddling with his beard again. His eyes were focused somewhere over
Carol’s left shoulder. He was going into his professorial mode and her heart
nearly burst with the love that filled her for the big goof. “What did the
editor say in her rejection?”
and snatched up the brown envelope again. Instead of a standard form letter, it
was personalized. Well, she’d gotten those before too. Big Deal. Her eyes
scanned the test and she read aloud.
your writing is very good and professional, your story isn’t believable.’ Ha,
what does she know?” Carol clumped back and flopped in her chair.
continued to play with the wiry hairs of his beard. Without looking at her he
said, “Write a mystery but give it a local slant. Make up a small community,
like Oakdale. Have the main character do something you’re familiar with.”
Laundry? Grocery shopping? Tutoring adults to read? Cripes, David, I’m a
housewife living in a suburb of San Diego. I never do anything exciting.”
tell me last week that one of your students from the Literacy Center
disappeared? Maybe you could do something with that.”
rolled her eyes. “Nothing mysterious there. They go missing all the time. Either
they find a job, or discover learning to read is too difficult.” Carol shrugged
again and her head turned toward the cabinet with her stash of chocolate. No,
she’d better not. She had barely been able to zip up her blue jeans this
morning. “I’m glad you mentioned it though. I should call Mrs. Ortega in the
morning and see if she has a new student for me yet.”
You need a new student.” David picked up the newspaper, and turned several
pages until he found what he was looking for. “Okay, how about this. There’s an
article in the paper today about a young woman from Lakeview who’s been missing
for a week. The gal came home from Bible College, to help her sick mother. No
boyfriends locally that anyone is aware of. She went to the pharmacy to pick up
medicine for her mom and hasn’t been seen since.”
missing girl wasn’t as exciting as a rich woman in New York who’d married a
multimillionaire and then disappeared on his private island...
Hello, are you there?
She bumped back to the present.
you think about that idea?
well it’s an idea.”
the newspaper back on the end table. Have you checked with your writing friend,
topics of your books. She still reads and critiques them for you, doesn’t she?”
she has time.” Elizabeth Sherwood was Carol’s best friend. Even though she only
lived a few blocks away, the two hadn’t seen one another for over two weeks,
and that was unusual. Elizabeth worked full time at a public relations firm and
was on the fast-track to the top, leaving her little time to spare for reading
yet another set of Carol’s manuscript pages. Elizabeth and her third husband,
Brian, had a volatile relationship that didn’t seem to be working. Carol was
worried about her. The last time she’d seen Elizabeth, her friend had a shiner.
Carol suspected that Brian had hit her, although Elizabeth denied it. She said
she ran into a door. Yeah, right.
seen her for a couple of weeks. When I called Brian on Tuesday, he said she was
back east visiting her mother.” And, Brian had been quite evasive, now that she
thought about it.
told David about the suspected abuse. First of all it was only that one time
that Carol was aware of. She didn’t want to tell David because he’d go over
there and knock Brian’s head off. A burble of uneasiness churned the chocolate
in her stomach. It was very strange that Elizabeth would leave town and not
up fast, took a step and tripped over the dog. Poor Chauncy leapt up, barked
furiously before turning around three times to resume his nap. David took the
time to pat the dog’s big head then kept going.
“I have the
perfect plot for you.” David snatched a huge pair of binoculars off the fireplace
mantle, walked over to the sliding patio door and went into the back yard.
Carol followed him out, came up beside him and slipped her arm around his
how I told you there was something strange about the couple who moved into that
house down at the bottom of the hill?”
were at your tutoring session last month, they had a hell of an argument. I
almost called the cops.”
“And I told
you to stop spying on people or you’d be the one hauled off in handcuffs.”
Carol took the binoculars from her husband and looked at the blank windows of
the stucco house. “It looks deserted, like no one lives there anymore. Are you
sure they didn’t move out? Although, I don’t remember seeing any ‘For Sale’
signs posted out front.”
move, I’ve seen him in the yard, but I haven’t seen her since that night.” A
cool breeze blew across the yard, raising gooseflesh on Carol’s arms.
“It’s like that Hitchcock movie.” David took
the glasses back, wiggled the knobs and scanned the property down the hill from
,” Carol whispered. “Quick,
check the yard. Are there any new flowerbeds? Or a rock garden that wasn’t
there before?” She leaned over the fence and stared into the area below them.
“I’ll bet they had a fight, he hit her on the head harder than he thought and
killed her.” She paced back and forth on the small cement patio in the middle
of their grassy yard.
the middle of the night, when everyone was sleeping, he put her in the bathtub,
got a hacksaw from the garage and....”
“Stop! I don’t want to hear
any more.” David’s face had taken on a distinct green tinge. “I’m going to take
Chauncy for a walk and run him around up in the hills for a while.”
sure. Good idea.” Her mind had already started wandering and her imagination
was poised to create.
about making something for dinner, huh? I’m getting hungry.”
a distracted hand over her head, her mind a whirl of ideas. She picked a
scratch pad and pencil off the kitchen counter as she headed down the hall. She
had at least six pads of paper in various sizes and colors scattered around the
house. She made sure there was paper handy so when good ideas popped into her
head she could write them down. At the present time she had two shoeboxes full
of paper scraps. Someday, when her novels started to sell, she would hire a
secretary to help her go through the mess. There were tons of good story ideas
office had been set up in the spare bedroom, nothing fancy. A card table with her
ancient computer, several reams of paper and a printer sat on a TV tray in the
middle of the room. She would get a better more up-to-date computer and a desk
after she sold her first book; maybe a fax machine and a scanner, too. That
would make it easier for her to communicate with her big New York publisher.
She chuckled at the thought. Well, it could happen.
on her computer and opened a new document.
missing woman, missing woman.” Carol stared at the screen but nothing came to
mind. She rested her chin on her left palm and drummed the fingers of her right
hand on the edge of the desk. “Okay, what if...what if...” Soon her nimble
fingers flew across the keys as ideas, names and bloodied bodies flooded her
She was so
lost in her work, that when the front door slammed open forty minutes later,
Carol jumped in her chair. She glanced at her watch and hurried toward the
living room feeling a bit guilty. She’d forgotten all about starting dinner.
panting inside the front door his face the color of slate. She could smell his
acrid sweat clear across the room. Chancy crouched at his side huffing and
drooling, his large pink tongue lolling out the side of his mouth.
through Carol. She knew that rattlesnakes were active in the brown hills around
their house. One bite could kill Chauncy. And at forty-two, David was entering
heart attack country. “David, honey, are you all right?”
bobbed up and down and he struggled for breath.
“A body. In
the hills. Woman. Dead.”
that’s pretty good. I can work with that. Okay, you win.”
about your book, Carol! It’s real!” He bent over, resting his hands on his
knees, sucking in air, trying to catch his breath.
Call nine-one-one. I found a woman’s body up in the hills.” A glaze of moisture
filled his eyes. “She didn’t have a face, Carol. The woman didn’t have a face.”
That was a long
first chapter, so here’s a short, quick doggy tip. Whenever you go for a walk
with your dog(s), be sure to take an umbrella along. If a stray dog attacks,
just open the umbrella in front of your dog. An animal won’t attack what it
can’t see, so you’ll both be safe.
Till next time.
Don’t forget to check out my latest book, How to Write a Mystery,
available at www.amazon.com