Friday, November 11, 2016

Kinzie, Kibblestan and American Sniper

When you're writing a novel it's important to know your characters inside and out, including their backstory. In writing my second book, The Chronicles of Kibblestan: Canines, I really struggled. I had a good story -- a dog that's gone missing in a Kibblestan that has drastically changed since the first book in the series. Kibblestan is no longer a happy place, there's something sinister about the canines, and my eleven-year-old heroine, Kinzie, is determined to find her missing dog, no matter what the cost. But for some reason there was a disconnect. While Kinzie's actions and story flowed onto the page, her heart and soul stayed just beyond reach. I couldn't figure out her backstory and the writing showed.

Then I went and saw the movie American Sniper, and Kinzie's backstory hit me hard. I came home that day, went straight to my computer and typed out that first chapter like it was nothing.

I recently attended a Veterans Day event at my son's school, and my heart twisted when the speaker asked the kids to raise their hands if they had a parent in the military and close to a hundred kids raised their hands. They sacrifice, too, and I hope that my book can play a small part in showing my appreciation to our military families.

In honor of Veterans' Day, I'd like to share an excerpt:

“Dad?” Kinzie said. “Do you really have to go again? Can’t you get out of it somehow and stay here where it’s safe? With me? Please?”

Dad squeezed Kinzie’s hand. “I’m sorry, punkin. I’ve got to go. I’m a soldier. It’s what I do.”

“But I’m going to miss you so much.” Kinzie blinked back tears. “And Ria will, too.”

Dad squeezed her hand harder. “I know. It’s going to be rough. But you’ll be moving into that new house with your mom and Nate. It’ll be exciting.”

Exciting? Yeah, right. New house, new school, new stepdad and stepsiblings. Even Mo was gaining two new step dogs.

“And we’ll video chat as much as we can. Time’ll fly. Before you know it, I’ll be back.” Dad smiled but Kinzie knew better. This wasn’t like the last time he left, when she was too young to fully understand. This time she did understand, a little too much. She understood that sometimes, soldiers don’t come back, and this knowledge was like an icicle lodged deep in her heart that refused to melt.
Kinzie sat up and reached for her father, hugging him around his neck while she wept on his shoulder.

“I don’t want you to go, Dad. Why do you have to go? Why? Why can’t it be someone else’s mom or dad? Why does it have to be you?”

Dad returned Kinzie’s embrace, gently patting her back. “There, there, punkin. It’s okay. It’s all going to be okay.”

Kinzie lifted her head and stared into Dad’s eyes. “But what if it’s not? What if you don’t come back?”

Dad took a finger and wiped the tears from Kinzie’s face. “Look. A wise man once said that the only way for evil to win, is for good people to do nothing. And unfortunately, there’s evil in the world. Lots of it. And to keep it from spreading, to keep our own country and freedoms protected, well, the good guys can’t do nothing. Understand?”

Slowly, Kinzie nodded. Dad pulled her close and she leaned her head on his shoulder. “Sweetie, America may not be perfect, but make no mistake—we’re the good guys. And when evil’s a threat, we can’t just sit back and do nothing.”

To read the entire chapter click here for Amazon's Look Inside feature. 

For other patriotic children's books, including a special book for the younger set called "Veterans: Heroes in Our Neighborhood" visit

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