Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


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How a Real Life Love Story Propelled Christmas Carol Prequel, ‘The Red Button’

Did you know that a recently released prequel to A Christmas Carol is based on a real life love story?

Join us for a fascinating, wide-ranging interview with Keith Eldred as he explains the why, how, and who behind his A Christmas Carol prequel, The Red Button. (For our full review: New Novel Reveals Untold Story Behind Scrooge Romance.) Take it away, Keith!

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Hello, Kristine and Kimber fans! I am grateful to K & K for inviting this guest post and for reviewing The Red Button, my prequel to A Christmas Carol that focuses on the doomed engagement of young Scrooge and his fiancee, Belle.

I appreciate the opportunity to tell why I wrote it. You might be able to guess some of the reasons but probably not all.

First reason: I love A Christmas Carol!

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4 Blogging Do & Don’ts To Keep Readers Reading

Kimber here. Mom says it’s time for a little bloggish housekeeping. (She calls it “housekeeping.” I think it’s more like Rants From the ‘Ole Curmudgeon. Don’t tell her I said that, okay?)

Here’s the deal. Mom gets tons and tons of jun… um, stuff in her In Box. Every day. You probably do, too. Lots goes straight to the big kitty litter box in the sky.

If you’re a book blogger or other writing humanoid, listen up! The blogosphere is crowded. You have seconds to grab and keep your audience’s attention. You don’t want to lose them right out of the gate, right?

So we’re offering, at no extra charge, four handy-dandy blogging dos and don’ts (especially if you’re trying to get Mom’s attention):

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New Novel Reveals Untold Story Behind Scrooge Romance

The Red Button (2020)

A Novel That Tells What Became of Belle & Scrooge

By Keith Eldred

“I release you. With a full heart, for the love of him you once were. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!”

Belle Endicott’s goodbye to her fiancé, Ebenezer Scrooge, is perhaps one of the best known farewells in all literature. But what happened to this couple? Who was Belle? How did she meet Ebenezer? How and why did the two fall in love?

A delightful new prequel to the Dickensian Christmas classic reveals the untold story “of how the young lovers found and then lost each other. And how their doomed union stayed with Scrooge daily and ultimately prepared the way for his famous redemption.”

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‘Olive the Lionheart’: Roar or Whimper?

Olive the Lionheart: Lost Love, Imperial Spies, and One Woman’s Journey into the Heart of Africa (St. Martin’s Press, 2020)

By Brad Ricca

Non-Fiction/Biography

In 1910, a strong-willed, flame-haired Scottish woman travels to Africa in search of her missing fiancé. Olive MacLeod was engaged to Boyd Alexander, one of the most famed naturalists of his time. When Boyd’s work leads him to Africa – and he goes missing – Olive teams up with explorers Mr. and Mrs. Talbot and sets out to find him.

What follows is the true story of the Talbot expedition across 2,700 miles of Africa. It made history.

Large chunks of the story are told by Olive herself through the extensive use of her diaries and correspondence. Included are detailed, vivid descriptions of Africa – its flora and fauna, tribes and villages and mind-melting heat. Bats. Rampaging hippos and crocodiles. Snake bites. Villages and chiefs and colonial powers vying for control.

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Hop Into Adventure With ‘Summer of the Toad’

Summer of the Toad (2019)

By DM Scharwtz

Fiction

And what a task it is.

Mr. Toadley Smith of Toad’s Hollow is a “jolly but eccentric man toad with a talent for finding trouble or creating trouble when there was none to be had.” He’s also obsessed with chemicals, experiments, blowing stuff up, and sarcasm. The latter is a thing of beauty.

Toadley reluctantly hires an orphaned mouse named Vernon as a laboratory assistant. Later, Toadley grudgingly deems Vernon a fine mouse when Vernon saves his life. But when the plucky little mouse is kidnapped by the renegade Four Fingered Raccoon clan, Toadley and his lady toad friend, Maria Ponderly, hop off to rescue Vernon.

Their grand adventure includes evading ravenous Hognose snakes who are expert at bureaucratic bumbling (who knew?), escaping bloodthirsty lisping bats, enduring the plucky but inept 99th Royal Fusiliers, and surviving their most hair-raising encounter of all: a human child with grubby fingers and a glass jar.

Hotly pursued by pretty much everyone, Toadley faces a double-challenge during the final climatic battle: He must not only outwit multiple enemies simultaneously, but Toadley must also battle his own shameful secret first. Will the toads’ daring rescue mission succeed or wind up killing them both?

Great green globs of algae!

Public domain

This captivating, imaginative romp features writing that’s jolly and quick. It also has a warm, homespun flavor reminiscent of E.B. White. Generously dosed with wry wit, the prose is clever and colorful. It’s chockful of memorable phrases like, “The moment lingered like a head cold” and “His pride was running a low grade fever.” The plot is redolent with memorable characters like Snidely Axelrod, Grand Theft Otto, Mabel Syrup, T. Benictus Smith, and Finnegan Dawdler the box turtle.

Indeed, the scene in chapter eight in which Toadley acts as his own legal counsel while defending himself and Maria from a bunch of voracious Hognose snakes is worth the price of admission alone. (I laughed so hard!)

But then, all’s fair in ponds and puddles.

Young readers and the young at heart will fall in love with this enchanting story and its loquacious hero as they discover that sometimes a keen wit, an expansive vocabulary and a burlap rucksack are invincible. Or pretty darn close.

Never underestimate a toad. Or this delightful story. I can’t wait for more!

Our Rating: 3.5

Our review first appeared on Reedsy/Discovery.


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‘What’s in a Name’? Author Ricky Dean Wyrick Shares From the Heart

When we offer an author a guest post, most submit something about how or why they wrote their book. Or what they’d like readers to take away from their work. When we reached out to Bag of Lies author Ricky Dean Wyrick, however, he responded with something different. Something… unique. Something we didn’t expect.

This may be the most thoughtful, eloquent guest post we’ve ever received. Read on for more:

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What’s in a name? Given at an early age, it’s more than who we are. It’s who we will become. Our names outlive us in the memories of those that love and care for us. We name our children, our pets, the songs we sing, and the books we read. Even fictional characters are given names.

Over the years I’ve used various versions of my given name, Richard, Rik, or Ricky. Each one uniquely identifies me, yet conveys a very different feeling. One casual, one formal, one somewhere in between, choosing my professional pen name was not something I took lightly. I wanted something people would remember, something that rolled off the tongue. 

Parents often struggle choosing the perfect name for their children. They select names from friends or family who hold a special place in their heart and pass that name onto their kids. Authors can identify with this challenge as they are faced with naming each of their characters in a work of fiction.

As I wrote my first novel, Bag of Lies, I randomly pulled names wherever I could find them.  The hero, the villain, the soldier, the spy… They each got a name that suited them.  But one of my characters, a minor role at best, was renamed just before the book was published.

Major Tickner’s small stout bulldog originally had a different name. There wasn’t anything wrong with it. I just decided last minute that I wanted a certain name in the book, a name that held a very special place in my heart.

I remember sitting in an empty parking lot, almost ten years ago, holding the miniature piebald dachshund in my lap. She was wiggly and cute like most puppies anxious to explore the world around her. We had originally picked her out for one of my wife’s coworkers, so they named her and took her home. They picked out the silliest name, or at least I thought so at the time. Why would you name a dog after a type of cheese?

I would never have dreamed that the puppy would be returned to us a year later, but she was. I thought for sure we would find her another home, so I tried to not get too attached. But it didn’t take her long to wiggle her way into our family. She unexpectedly found her place in my heart.  

The year 2020 was a difficult year for us all. The world changed, and many of us experienced loss in one way or another. The world kept spinning but it left emptiness in our lives. For some the repercussions were minor, for others they were great.

It’s been a year now, since we lost our little Colby. We still don’t know exactly what happened. She just suddenly got sick and the vet couldn’t tell us why. We said our goodbyes May 4, 2020. She wasn’t the small stout bulldog described in my book, but she was a sweet dog and very precious to me. I miss her.

Sweet girl.

It’s so easy to get caught up in daily routines and long term goals. If we aren’t careful ambition can rob us of something we don’t even treasure until it’s gone.

Now, I’m not saying that your career goals and ambitions aren’t important; that your to-do list doesn’t need to get done. But the relationships of the ones around you should take precedence. The ones around us that make our world a better place may not always be there, so take every opportunity to wrap your arms around them. Let them know how much you love and appreciate them. Take the time out of your busy world to stop and enjoy the time you have with that friend or loved one. I promise you, there is no better way for you to spend your time than investing in the relationships around you.

My name is Ricky Dean Wyrick, and thank you for lending me your ear. For all who’ve lost loved ones and had their world shaken, I pray that God comforts and gives each of you peace. And should you find time to open my novel and enjoy an adventure, I hope that Tickner’s stout bulldog, Colby, brings warmth and a smile as you remember the good times and treasure the memories shared by those you love.

Ricky Dean Wryrick, Author of ‘Bag of Lies.’

To learn more about my latest novel and read my free novelette visit rickydeanwyrick.com

See our review of Bag of Lies here.


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6 Adventure-ish Titles For Great Outdoors Month

June is Great Outdoors Month. I love this month because… well… um… I love June because Mom loves June. And I love everything Mom loves. (Except broccoli. Gag me with roughage!)

Back to June. Check it out: Hiking! Frisbee tossing! Swimming! Canoeing! Frisbee chasing! Kayaking! Fishing! Frisbee-ing! Picnicking! Biking! Frisbees! The beach, the mountains, the desert, the plains!

Did I mention Frisbees?

Anyway, when it comes to books about The Great OutdoorsGary Paulsen titles top our list. Every time.

Mom says Paulsen’s a three-time Newberry Award-wining author. I have no idea what that means. Can you eat it?

More importantly, Paulsen is a super duper dog lover. Told you he’s brilliant.

Paulsen’s writing style is spare and lean to the point of terse. No excess fat. Brisk as an autumn breeze. Quick as a greyhound. Or me.

Reading any of the Paulsen books below would be a great way to celebrate Great Outdoors Month. You still have time to knock out a couple or more this month.

Some of our favorites:

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GUEST POST: Author Raena Rood Talks Writing & “What Ifs?”

Today we’re chatting with Raena Rood, author of the Subversives trilogy. (Read our review of her latest book, Sanctuary, here.) Take it away Raena:

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Hi Kimber and Mom! Thank you so much for the opportunity to guest post on your blog. This is the first time I’ve been asked to do a guest post and I’m very excited. 

A Few Quicks

A few quick things about me:

  • I’m a wife and mom of three boys.
  • I attended college at Penn State University.
  • Upon graduation, I commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. I moved to Ft. Rucker, Alabama and trained as a helicopter pilot.
  • After the Army, I moved home to Pennsylvania with my husband and worked as a probation officer for five years.
  • I actually wrote a novel in between appointments with my probation clients!

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‘Only My Horses Know’ Rides Tall

Only My Horses Know

By Cinda Jo Bauman

Middle Grade Fiction

Setting: Montana horse ranch and vicinity

Kylie Hannigan is being held prisoner by a secret. It’s a secret she only shares with her horses.

Once upon a time, the twelve year-old and her horse trainer mom dreamed of starting a rescue horse ranch. But that dream has gone up in smoke as Mom’s behavior has become so erratic, Kylie barely recognizes her. She doesn’t understand why her mom’s acting so weird. It’s embarrassing.

When Mom quits taking an interest in the horses, Kylie knows something is wrong. Something big. But what? How can she find out? Who can she talk to? Or should she?

Kylie can’t even talk to Joey ”the human vacuum cleaner” McLagan, her neighbor and best friend since childhood. But if Kylie doesn’t speak up to another person, who’s going to help Mom? How long will fear and shame keep Kylie captive? As Kylie’s life begins to spin out of control, she wonders if she’ll ever feel safe again. Will her life ever get back on track? How?

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‘Read Aloud Stories With Fred’ Charms Audiences Young & Old

Read-Aloud Stories With Fred (Editor-911 Books, 2021)

By Fred Olds

Children’s Fiction

Looking for uplifting, thoughtful stories you can read aloud to the kids or grands that are both enjoyable and engaging? Check out Fred Olds’ Read Aloud Stories With Fred.

Stories begin with a question for the reader and/or listener to ponder as the story unfolds. Each tale also includes an age-appropriate message and is hemmed with themes like kindness, honesty, or friendship.

Stories are lively and relatively short so as to keep the interest of little ones and not over-tax young attention spans. Vivid imagery and colorful illustrations combine with expert pacing and edifying themes to communicate specific, positive character traits or virtues.

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