Marji Laine

I Love a Good Mystery!


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Spotlight #5

This was to be our final day of our WE LOVE OUR READERS sale and sweepstakes, but our prize is such a great one, we’re extending the giveaway for a week to make sure everyone who wants to enter gets the chance! So today, I’m spotlighting some ladies who have become dear friends. They cowrite the Glimpses of God devotional series and have a brand new book coming out in three weeks (August 13 to be exact).

Shirley Crowder and Harriet E. Michael grew up together on the grounds of a medical mission in Nigeria. Though the live several states apart, they have stayed good friends. When Harriet wrote her outstanding Bible study on prayer, PRAYER: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU, Shirley used it for a unit in a small group. To help dig deeply into the book and into Scripture, Shirley created a STUDY GUIDE ON PRAYER for it. After that, they collaborated together to complete the Prayer Project with a devotional and an anthology.

Shirley is passionate about disciple-making. She is Biblical counselor commissioned by, and serving on the national Advisory Team for, The Addiction Connection. Several of her articles have appeared in “Paper Pulpit” in The Gadsden Times’ Faith section, and in a David C. Cook publication. She also writes articles for Life Bible Study, Woman’s Missionary Union, and InspiredPrompt.com. She has authored or co-authored six books.

Harriet is a wife and mother to four grown children, grandmother to two precious grandchildren, and an award-winning author. She has authored a growing number of books, including “Prayer: It’s Not About You,” a finalist in the 2011 “Women of Faith” manuscript contest. She is also a freelance writer with numerous published pieces, including more than a hundred devotions in various magazines.

Collaborating on devotionals was a perfect fit for the lifelong friends. With the launch of their coming book, GLIMPSES OF GOD: an autumn devotional for women, they will complete their second series of books with our company.

Sadly, GLIMPSES – AUTUMN isn’t available yet, but their anthology, PRAYER WARRIOR CONFESSIONS, is not only available, it’s only 99¢ today! Here’s a little about this great collection:

True accounts of prayer in action.

Read the stories of warriors. Prayer warriors. Those who have struggled with the enemy, fighting on their knees through tragedy and triumph. Cry with them. Laugh with them. Learn the insight they have learned about prayer. About themselves. About God.

Experience the reality of prayer in a new and deeper way with the true and candid stories of experiences from the battle.

Get your copy of PRAYER WARRIOR CONFESSIONS HERE!

Don’t forget to take advantage of the final day of our sale HERE!

And sign up to win our great giveaway HERE!

https://www.writeintegrity.com/sweepstakesHappy dog running through a meadow


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Spotlight 4

We’re almost done with our We Love Our Readers week at my publisher, Write Integrity Press, but if you haven’t entered our Sweepstakes for a $50 Amazon card, a new Kindle Fire, and a bunch of books, read on to find the link!

An amazing group of authors sponsored this giveaway, and I’m giving them the spotlight on my blog this week. They so inspire me.

One of the most inspirational is Joan Deneve. Her book, LOVING BROCK made it to my top ten list a few years ago when it first released, even though it isn’t a mystery, and is still there! Here’s what Joan says:

“I am one blessed woman. I’ve had the privilege to share my life with Rene’, my best friend and husband of more than forty years. We live in a small town in Alabama and together, we have a son and a daughter, seven phenomenal grandchildren, and two very spoiled dogs. I teach in a Christian school, and my passion is to help young people fall in love with Jesus and then equip them to become all God wants them to be. My other passion is writing. I love to show how God changes and restores broken people and relationships through His amazing, transforming grace.”

Learn more about Joan at her website: JoanDeneve.com

Her award-winning book Saving Eric started her “Redeemed Side of Broken” series. Here are the details:

Templetons don’t break down. Even when their worlds are falling apart.

Eric Templeton’s well-ordered life as a top CIA agent is shattered when a traitor within the agency plots to have him eliminated. Sent on a bogus mission to Africa, Eric is ambushed and critically wounded. A helicopter pilot flies him to a remote mission hospital where Dr. Brock Whitfield and his daughter, Ellie, work to save his life.

If Eric survives, his life may never be the same, and he still has to deal with the traitor who wants him dead. Eric wants justice, but Brock and Ellie know that Eric’s survival is the least of his worries. What he needs most is mercy and truth.

The completed, three-book series is on sale right now for only 99¢ per book because WE LOVE OUR READERS!

Cynthia T. Toney is another inspiring author, and she makes me laugh! She writes fiction with hope and humor that addresses issues important to tweens or teens and contains elements of mystery and romance. She says, “I love writing for tweens and teens, particularly those who speak without thinking, make poor decisions, and have love to give but don’t always know where to direct it. Young people I’ve encountered over the years inspired me to write novels that show them how wonderful, powerful, and valuable they are. Today’s tweens and teens can identify with the emotions, needs, desires, and challenges of characters in my historical as well as contemporary novels.”

You can contact Cynthia through her website: CynthiaTToney.com.

Her completed “Bird Face” series contains books that won multiple awards. Book one is called 8 Notes to a Nobody. Here is a description:

Anonymous sticky-notes, a scheming bully, and a ruined summer send fourteen-year-old Wendy down a trail of secrets and self-discovery.

“Funny how you can live your days as a clueless little kid, believing you look just fine … until someone knocks you in the heart with it.”

Wendy Robichaud doesn’t care one bit about being popular like good-looking classmates Tookie and the Sticks—until Brainiac bully John-Monster schemes against her, and someone leaves anonymous sticky-note messages all over school. Even her best friend, Jennifer, is hiding something and pulling away. But the spring program, abandoned puppies, and high school track team tryouts don’t leave much time to play detective. And the more Wendy discovers about the people around her, the more there is to learn.

When secrets and failed dreams kick off the summer after eighth grade, who will be around to support her as high school starts in the fall?

You can reach the purchase link by clicking the cover or HERE! All of the Bird Face series as well as Cynthia’s historical THE OTHER SIDE OF FREEDOM are only 99¢ each because WE LOVE OUR READERS!

And don’t forget to enter the WE LOVE OUR READERS sweepstakes by clicking HERE!


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Spotlight #3

We still love our readers this week! In case you haven’t heard, we’re giving away a $50 Amazon gift card, a Kindle Fire 8, and a selection of our Write Integrity Books to one winner. You can register at WriteIntegrity.com, but I’m spending the time highlighting the authors who have sponsored this giveaway. They are some special people!

Today’s authors both have new books coming out through Write Integrity Press!

First, meet Ruth Buchanan. Her newest book, Socially Awkward will launch in October this year. She is a Christian freelance writer who holds degrees in ministry and theology. After years of classroom teaching in the United States and overseas, she left education to pursue creative endeavors. She currently produces fiction, non-fiction, dramas, and a regular succession of fussy little to-do lists. She’s an eager reader, an enthusiastic traveler, and the world’s most reluctant runner. Ruth loves Jesus, coffee, family, church, and friends.

She lives and works in South Florida, but she’s often wandering the world in search of the perfect cup of coffee. Keep your eyes peeled, and you just might spot her. Barring that, you can always find her online: @Ruthette and https://ruthbuchananauthor.com.

Her non-fiction publication, The Proper Care and Feeding of Singles is part of our sale this week.

Every week across America, single members filter into their local congregations to worship, minister, and serve alongside their brothers and sisters in Christ. Although a minority in most

congregations, singles nevertheless compose a significant cross-section of the church body. Each blessed and challenged with individual circumstances, Christian singles not only bear a unique burden but also offer diverse perspectives on the Christian life.

Unfortunately, many Christian singles attest to feeling overlooked. Pastors and church leaders, many long married, often find themselves ill-equipped to understand the particular relational, emotional, and spiritual needs of long-term Christian singles. Worse, they’re unaware that they’re underequipped. Married church members, though sympathetic to the needs of their single friends, nevertheless struggle to bridge the divide.

Written by a dedicated Christ-follower and long-term Christian single, The Proper Care and Feeding of Singles addresses the issues with humor and grace, offering practical solutions to strengthen the bonds of love and fellowship within local congregations.

Get your copy at this LINK!

Betty Thomason Owens loves being outdoors. Her favorite season is spring, when she can work in the yard or take long walks, while thinking through a troublesome scene in one of her stories.

She is a multi-published, award-winning author of historical fiction, and fantasy-adventure. She has two full series with Write Integrity Press. Her “Legacy” series follows three generations of women who find themselves in trouble that sometimes their own choices created. Set in the early decades of the twentieth century, these historical stories have heaping helpings of romance and sprinklings of suspense.

Here “Kinsman Redeemer” series follows Annabelle Cross and her daughter-in-law Connie through tumultuous times of heartache, prejudice, and hope through a gentle way of life in the 1950’s.

In Betty’s newest book, releasing in March of 2022, she plunges into the deep end of espionage, mystery, and suspense. Watch for Still Water, the first release of her new “Home Found” series.

Her award-winning book, Annabelle’s Ruth is only 99¢ right now as part of our We Love Our Reader’s Sale.

“If you think you can come back here and throw yourself on my mercy, you are quite wrong.”

After their husbands perish in a fishing boat accident, Connie Cross determines to follow her mother-in-law, Annabelle, from Southern California to Tennessee. Her misgivings begin as they cross the bridge over the muddy Mississippi River. In their new town, where living conditions are far below their previous expectations, they must set up a household and hunt for work to survive. Thanks to the kindness of Annabelle’s handsome, young cousin, life begins to settle down. But Connie has a secret that could uproot them once again.

Inspired by the Book of Ruth, Annabelle’s Ruth is a 1950’s era “Ruth” story, set in western Tennessee.  How will Connie adapt to her new life amid the cotton farms, racial tension, and culture shock? 

I’m so thankful for the authors who are sponsoring our Sale and Giveaway. I hope you’ll take advantage of their generosity and grab their books. Oh, and by all means, enter our Sweepstakes! HERE is the link!


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Snapshot #2

Yesterday was the beginning of my publisher’s annual We Love Our Readers Sale and Sweepstakes. The publishing company does a lot to bring this opportunity to you, but many of our authors contribute and sponsor the event as well. I want to share about two other of our sponsors – these two both write mystery/suspense!

Julie Cosgrove is an award-winning author of sixteen novels as well as short stories. She developed a passion for words at a young age. She began with word search puzzles. Then she solved the word games in the daily newspapers. She and her mother shared many fun hours playing Scrabble and Hang Man.

Then, another passion developed―whodunnits. She loved the Charlie Chan, Sherlock Holmes, and Hercule Poirot movies that played on Saturday afternoons on TV. Nancy Drew and the romantic mystery novels of the late Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt kept her eyes dancing over the pages through her school years.

Later in her adult life, her passion for Christ spurred her to write faith-based fiction and devotionals for several publications, which she has been doing since 2009. Her blog, Where Did You Find God Today?  now has readers in over fifty countries.

But her passion remains mystery, the cozier the better. Now, she has mysteries stacked up on her watchlist on Britbox and a long list of cozies on her e-reader’s to-be-read list. She loves to write them as well.

You can find all of her fiction and nonfiction books as well as her blog’s link on her website, www.juliebcosgrove.com.

Her completed “Relatively Seeking Mysteries” is on sale this week because We Love Our Readers! Click the image to find out more about these three friends that get into some deep, hot water when they innocently begin investigating their ancestries. Who would think that something as benign as looking back into history could be so terribly dangerous? Learn more about book 1, One Leaf Too Many, HERE!

Suspense author Dena Netherton has a three-book series as well. “The Hunted” series is an edge of your seat psychological suspense dealing with a stalking situation that was inspired by real issues from the past. Now based in Wyoming, Dena writes with a goal to give you stories that are compelling neough to keep you up all night.

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She studied music and theater in the Midwest and in Colorado and taught music for thirty-five years. In the 1970s, when Dena was just a teenager, her family took a road trip through the Pacific Northwest, ending with a stay in Anacortes, Washington, and a ferry ride through the San Juan Islands. She was captivated by the beauty of Washington’s west coast and vowed she’d one day move to the area. Forty years later, not only did God move her to the beautiful area, He inspired her with stories set there.

Dena’s prayer as a Christian author is that her stories inspire and encourage your faith. Her goal is to write stories compelling enough to keep you ‘up all night.’ Find Dena on her website: denanetherton.me.

Her series begins with Haven’s Flight.

How can you flee from an unseen enemy?

Haven Ellingsen enrolled in Life Ventures Therapy Camp in the Cascade Mountains to help her heal from horrible memories of her mother’s violent death at the hands of an armed robber. But now, a greater fear dogs her steps. The rustle of leaves or the snap of a twig could be nothing. Or it might signal the sinister presence of the stalker who won’t stop following her. It seems like a cruel trick from God to throw Haven into another dangerous situation only a year after her mom’s murder.

He hides near her tent and listens to the girl talk with the counselor. Mostly she talks about her father. She’s unhappy, and he can’t stand to listen and do nothing about it. He needs to rescue her. He needs to make sure she doesn’t ever go back to that man. His own father was the cause of his mother’s death. And Ruth’s. He can’t let that happen again. Not with this girl. When the time is right, he’ll take her away to his hidden cabin where she’ll be safe. And he will feel peace for the first time in years.

Can one month of survival training equip a girl to face all that the rugged wilderness and a madman can dish out?

All three books of the series are on sale this week. Click the image to reach the series page on Amazon HERE.

Don’t forget to also enter our sweepstakes. We’re giving away a free Kindle Fire, a selection of books for it, and a $50 Amazon gift card to boot! You’ll not want to miss out on this opportunity. Visit WriteIntegrity.com for the scoop!


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Snapshot #1!

Today begins our Write Integrity Press annual WE LOVE OUR READERS contest. Eleven different authors are bringing this contest to you and I want to highlight two of them today.

Jerusha Agen imagines danger around every corner, but knows God is there, too. So naturally, she writes suspense infused with the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ.

With a B.A. in English and a background in screenwriting, Jerusha is a speaker, writing instructor, and Fear Warrior who sounds the call to battle against fear in our everyday lives.

Jerusha loves to hang out with her big furry dogs and little furry cats. You’ll often find her sharing irresistibly adorable photos of them in her newsletter and on social media.

Get a free suspense story from Jerusha and find more of her thrilling, fear-fighting novels at www.JerushaAgen.com.

Jerusha’s Sister’s Redeemed series is about broken people finding their way with the help of God and others. Here’s a tidbit from her first book, THIS DANCE.

No love, no pain. No God, no games.

A tragedy three years ago destroyed Nye’s rise to the top of the dancing world as an upcoming tango star, and in the process destroyed her reason for living, too. She survived the pain and built a new life resembling nothing like the one she left behind, determined never to hurt again.

Nye’s emotional walls hold up perfectly until she meets a handsome lawyer and an elderly landowner. They seem harmless, but one awakens feelings she doesn’t want and the other makes her face the God she can’t forgive. Will these two men help Nye dance again?

Kristen Hogrefe is an award-winning author and life-long learner. An educator and mentor, she teaches English online and is an inspirational speaker for schools, churches, and podcasts.

Kristen and her husband live in Florida and enjoy sharing their lake home with family and friends.

Connect with her at KristenHogrefeParnell.com where she blogs under her married
name.

Kristen’s award-winning, young-adult speculative is a dystopian book with hope. That seems an oxymoron, but it works. And clearly others agree. Two of her three books won the coveted Selah Award for speculative fiction.

Here’s a little about book 1, THE REVISIONARY from her series “The Rogues:

A Revisionary rewrites the rules.
A Rogue breaks them.
Which one is she?

Nineteen-year-old Portia Abernathy plans to earn a Dome seat and rewrite the Codex rules to rescue her exiled brother. Her journey demands answers from the past civilization, but uncovering the truth means breaking the rules she set out to rewrite.

Where will the world be in 2149? If citizens forget their past, they will be lost in an identity crisis. That’s exactly the state of the American Socialists United (ASU). This dystopian story opens in Cube 1519, a ghetto where the only use for obsolete cell phones is to throw them like rocks at mongrels. Portia and her father survive like many other citizens, with no electricity or technology and no expectation for a better life.

Written for young adults, THE REVISIONARY offers a suspenseful plot, flashbacks to America’s Revolutionary era, and a rediscovery of the founding values needed to rebuild Portia’s unraveling world. Blockbuster novels like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Giver popularized the dystopian YA genre. THE REVISIONARY builds a dystopia of a different kind—one that looks backward to find wisdom and moves forward to offer an underlying message of heritage and hope.

Both of these authors have new books out and coming out! You can learn more about them at their author pages. And be sure to enter our Sweepstakes at WriteIntegrity.com


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Who Stole Cinderella’s Slipper?

Today is the fifth day of the release fun for the Ever After Mystery series. You can find the beginning of this mystery HERE on Cathe Swanson’s blog! I’m so excited as mine is the second book to be release, A Giant Murder. All the stories have their roots in a fairy tale. Can you guess mine?

The first release, The Last Gasp is available now HERE. Squee! The Last Gasp is based on Cinderella, so to celebrate that book release, all of the Ever After authors are doing a short blog hop – complete with a mini-mystery and prizes.

Someone has stolen Cinderella’s glass slipper.

Why Rebekah Jones thought it was me, I’ll never know. (Read her post about it HERE!) But I was sure shocked when an officer showed up at my door.

“You are Marji Laine?”

“Yes.” I peeked across the street where Mrs. Myers was pretending to water her plants with an empty pitcher. Ugh. Gossip central. I stepped outside and waved in her direction as if I hadn’t a care in the world.

The officer barely paused. “And you picked up and have in your possession a glass slipper belonging to Cinderella?”

Mrs. Myers shot me a suspicious look and went back inside her house. At least, if I did hear gossip, I would know where it came from. “Yes and no.”

“You did not pick up the slipper?” The short man lifted an eyebrow and pierced me with a suspicious gaze.

“I picked it up all right. I hate spiders.”

“Excuse me?” Obviously, I had lost him, but I had no idea how. Seemed perfectly clear to me.

“I was wearing sandals when I visted that mine. I didn’t want to take the chance that the creepy bug would skitter onto my toes.” And that little thing was speedy, too. “The glass slipper was just there on one of the displays at the little souvenir store. I picked it up and smushed that bug, quick as a wink.”

He looked at me like he was waiting for more.

I glanced back toward the Myers’s house just in time to see the blinds on one of her windows drop back into place.

“And.”

I let my head roll back and looked up at the ceiling of the porch. “I didn’t mean to take it. I didn’t even know it was in my bag. It had slipped down to the depths of my mammoth purse and I didn’t even uncover it until I got off the plane at DFW airport.”

“Then?”

“Well, I couldn’t take it all the way back. And I didn’t want to keep it. I might be willing to murder a wandering bug, but I’m no thief.” Of all the nerve. “Besides, if the thing got busted, I’d have felt horrible!”

“So?”

If I didn’t get this man out of here, my whole neighborhood would be spinning stories in no time. “I took it into the airport restaurant and left it next to a pile of menues. That’s all I know about it.”

The eyebrow rose again as he jotted something into his notepad. “Can anyone corroborate your story?”

I lifted my chin and raised an eyebrow at him for a change. “As a matter of fact, April Hayman can. She was seated next to the hostess stand where I put the slipper. I left it there, found my baggage, and zipped back home.” So there.

As you can see… I am not the guilty party.

Thankfully, the officer left and Mrs. Myers was robbed of her juicy, spreadable tidbit.

But apparently, some princess’s prom shoe is still missing. Maybe April knows something about it? You can find out what she has to say on her blog HERE, tomorrow!

Follow the clues each day to discover the culprit. And click THIS LINK to enter to win an Amazon gift card!


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Breaking Point

I’m so excited to share this book with you. It’s literally been over a decade in the making. But after 5 full rewrites, 8 editors, and countless revisions, I’d like to share the opening scene from BREAKING POINT. (BREAKING POINT is only 99¢ right now on Kindle. Get your copy HERE.)

BREAKING POINT – Chapter One

“What do you mean he’s missing?” Lt. Jason Danvers set his fishing pole aside. Myra Stone wasn’t given to panic. He’d never even noticed the lady flustered. Until this phone call.

“I found a note this morning. I thought he’d taken an early walk, but then I saw that his car was gone and found the note taped to the kitchen faucet that he’d gone to the store for some of his hot chocolate.” The older woman’s voice broke, though she struggled to lower her volume. “And I called his phone, but it was plugged into the charger in the office.”

He pulled a pad out of his jacket pocket and the stub of a pencil. “When did you see him last?”

“I went to bed last night at about eleven. He was watching a baseball game that we’d recorded earlier.”

“And you don’t know when he left?” Who ventured out in the middle of the night for a silly can of cocoa? Jason jotted the quick details in case he needed to remember them later.

“No. I didn’t hear him leave, and didn’t … Oh, dear.” She was losing control.

“Myra, I’ll call Chief Tate, and we’ll start a search.” He needed to do better than that if he wanted to settle her tension. “He probably ran out of gas or maybe had a flat. With no phone, he couldn’t very well call for help.”

She stayed silent for a moment. “Yes. I’m sure you’re right about that. Please find him for me.”

Her plea ripped at a piece of his heart. He ended the call and reeled in his empty line. He’d pack stuff up later. Palming his phone, he jogged to his black Jeep and climbed in.

Pulling onto the gravel road that ran alongside this forgotten branch of Grayson Lake, he called Heath’s Point Chief of Police and filled him in on the details. “I’m north of town, but I can swing west a few miles and try some of the back roads from Dallas.” That late at night, Ellis would have had to go into the city or at least the suburbs to find his favorite chocolate powder.

“You take that side, and I’ll check in town for his car.” Chief Dell Tate’s normally gruff voice held a tone of worry. “Chances are he came in for donuts or something and just forgot to pick up the note he’d left before going fishing.”

Reasonable. But Jason would still feel better when they found the man. He turned onto the county road and tuned in his police radio. He tried to keep the darn thing off on his free days, but this situation warranted his monitoring the feed. Setting it to scan the local agencies, he tried to relax. Ellis Stone would be found. He’d be fine. This would be a non-issue.

But something in his gut argued against all of that.

God, please, calm Myra right now. Help us find Ellis, so she doesn’t have to worry.

The Lord knew where Ellis was. Given a little time, He’d allow Jason or Dell to find him. And Jason had the time—part of the charm of working for a small-town police department. The fish probably wouldn’t even know they’d been stood up.

He traversed one country road after another, each slick and shiny from the overnight rains, but found no little white sedan stopped alongside the asphalt.

“Cruiser 10, single-vehicle accident near Farm-to-Market 457.” His gut clenched with the call from the county dispatcher. But there was no reason to assume that Ellis had an accident.

Still, Jason wasn’t far from the area. He’d travel that direction if only to get a look at the vehicle and ease his mind that it wasn’t Ellis. Jason glanced at his dashboard clock. Almost ten. He’d have been tired of fishing by now anyway.

His cell buzzed from the pocket of his gray-green shirt and gave his normal greeting, “Danvers.”

“You hear that call?” His superior’s gruff voice barely echoed over the background sounds of his noisy patrol car.

“Yes, sir. I’m already headed in that direction.” Thankfully, he hadn’t picked up his cruiser. Nothing official. Maybe the deputy he always seemed to butt heads with wouldn’t be too hostile toward him since he wasn’t in the uniform or the painted car.

“I’ll meet you there.” Chief Tate snorted. “Those county boys don’t like you much.”

“I know how to play nice.” Too bad the sheriff’s office treated every accident and crime as some sort of competition with all the local agencies. “Besides, they don’t like you either.” Antagonizing them didn’t take much.

“That’s because they think I’ll toss my hat in the ring for sheriff someday.”

Sheriff Beauregard Kindrich had been in charge of the county for almost two decades, and he wasn’t about to relinquish his power to anyone. Especially not to Chief Dell Tate, fifteen years younger than Kindrich and exponentially better at his job. Tate had hinted more than once—even within the sheriff’s hearing—that he might like to run for the elected position.

The chief scoffed. “But they still don’t dare shove me around the way they do you.”

Who would shove a rattler with his bare hands? Jason kept the image to himself. After all, he was still the newcomer to the HPPD, only here for a few years. An outsider to many people, even in town but especially to the sheriff and his deputies. “I’ll stay out of sight until you arrive, then.”

He turned onto County Road 457, a narrow strip of asphalt still glistening in the morning sunlight. This wouldn’t have been a direct route to the store that Myra claimed her husband visited, but it might have been his choice to avoid the more direct route, which often flooded in a heavy sprinkle.

After following it for a few miles without spotting anything, he resisted the urge to turn off and head for Myra’s place, Sunrise Inn. Maybe Ellis had returned home by now.

Cresting another hill, he sighted a small gathering of county cruisers. Looked like he’d located their accident. He pulled off the road some distance from the other vehicles. No need to poke the brown bears, as the local police tended to call them.

Jason did a quick, three-point turn and found a wide area on the other side where he could park. He jogged back to the curve and stood at the crest of the hill overlooking a sorghum field which was soggy from last night’s showers. Sounded like the entire sheriff’s department was down there except for one sad lackey on the far side of the curve who’d been stuck with traffic duty.

From his position, Jason couldn’t see any accident. The curve jutted out a bit, blocking his view. But he could hear the men talking. Unfortunately, one voice rang out above the others.

Deputy Martin Cain. The man practically worshiped at the feet of the sheriff, probably in hopes of being his successor someday. Cain, one of the senior deputies, had probably taken charge of the scene.

Jason wouldn’t get a blade of grass from that guy.

Before the traffic lackey turned toward him, Jason eyed the incline off the side of the road. Steep, but with little flat areas spaced at good intervals. Jason dropped off the edge of the embankment and cut downhill to a grove of leafy cottonwoods on the edge of the sorghum field. If Deputy Cain searched, he might distinguish Jason’s pale mossy shirt or his light tan hat in the undergrowth, but Cain missed more than he caught.

Jason had a clear view of a white sedan resting on its roof in the gully at the edge of the field.

A sick feeling punched his gut. He’d held out hope for any other color. But even so, this was East Texas. Every third vehicle was white to reflect the blistering, summer sun.

None of the county people seemed to be moving very fast. He wanted to believe that they’d already transported the injured driver away, but he knew better. This was a new scene. The fact that they weren’t moving could only mean one thing. Someone was dead. No need to hurry. Even after almost a decade of law enforcement, he’d never gotten used to seeing the dead. Especially after what had happened to him in Chicago.

But even without that tragedy, he couldn’t fathom how law enforcement professionals were supposed to simply shrug off the ending of a life, callously discarding the dreams and potential of the victim? That went for any victim, but especially for a nice, old man who had made Jason a member of the family, welcoming him with a goodhearted laugh and a firm handshake.

Not that the driver was Ellis. Maybe Chief Tate had found him by now. Jason pulled out his phone and texted in order to keep things quiet. “Found the accident. Deputy Cain’s in charge. White car. Tell me you’ve found Ellis.” With nothing to do except wait for his boss’s response, he picked a wide leaf from a nearby branch and absently tore it into thin strips while he listened to the discussions from those at the scene.

“Been dead since about midnight, if I had to guess.” The county coroner, Dr. Barnes, was a plumpish, middle-aged man with dark hair under his trademark Texas Rangers Baseball cap.

“Don’t want chur guessing Charlie. I could do that misself.” Deputy Cain didn’t tend to make friends even within his department.

“Medical Examiner’ll get closer.” The coroner pulled off the cap, scratched his bald spot, and put the cap back on. “Take a while to hear from him.”

Un-Ax-ceptable.” Cain’s volume rose. “This case’ll be wrapped up with a bow by Sunday’s paper.”

Two days? Cain was dreaming. This was probably a simple accident, but the county ME, Doc Umbridge, wouldn’t even see the data before sometime next week. Maybe the week after if he was busy.

“Like I said ….” The coroner looked meek and amiable, but he had enough gusto to stand up to Deputy Martin Cain. “’Bout midnight. Maybe one. Best guess you’ll get for Sunday’s paper.”

Jason edged to the right, staying in the tree line but hoping to get a view of the driver. He spotted the chief’s cruiser coming around the bend.

Good, he’d get some answers.

The county crime scene investigators measured, marked, and photographed every aspect of the scene. Cain stood to one side with his arms folded.

“What you got going on down here, Cain?” The chief made his way down the hill, and his booming voice seemed to fill the entire valley.

“Nothing you LEOs need to worry about.” Cain might have jurisdiction over the local Law Enforcement Officers, but he had no sense when it came to talking to the chief.

Jason strode from his camouflage and climbed through the slats of the fence. “I should think after all the help we gave the county a few months ago, during those drug raids, that Deputy Cain would at least extend respect, Chief.”

“Great, so the outsider is here, too.” Cain glared at Jason.

“The important people show respect, Jason. Others show immaturity.” The chief sniffed in Cain’s direction as he rounded the car.

Jason joined the county coroner who stood taking notes in a little booklet. “One occupant?”

The coroner didn’t even glance at Cain’s thundercloud face before nodding. “Late sixties, maybe earlier seventies.”

Not what Jason wanted to hear.

“And that ain’t none of their business, Charlie.” Cain stepped between the two, bending over the shorter coroner as if chastising an errant youth.

Dell scratched at his whitish beard. “Son, you need to learn how to work and play nice with others.”

The coroner snickered.

Dell continued, laying his palm on the deputy’s shoulder. “Normal for a cop like Jason to be concerned about something like this.”

“He ain’t got no jurisdiction here.” Cain used that mantra like a business card. “And neither do you.”

“Shoot, son. Just because a career officer is hanging around don’t mean he wants to take over. Stop getting your shorts in a wad about a fight that ain’t even there.” Dell’s comment raised a rumble of chuckles from the others working the scene and a couple of firemen sent to retrieve the body.

The chief bent over to peer through the shattered back glass. “So. This Ellis Stone’s car?”

Jason’s gut twisted. He waited, hoped, for someone to say, No, it belongs to some stranger.

This time the coroner glanced at Cain. The deputy shook his head, but the older man turned toward Dell. “You recognize the man’s car in this condition?”

“Good friend.” Dell’s tone lowered.

To both of them. The knot in Jason’s gut tightened. He squatted, avoiding the view of the man who had been his friend hunched against the passenger window.

“I’m sorry, Chief. Wallet belongs to Ellis Stone. Picture matches.” The coroner continued to speak about details to the chief and the deputy. Jason stopped listening.

Victim. Ellis was the victim. And Jason needed to see him in that way to stay detached enough to let his observations connect.

He glanced around the interior of the car. No wires on the accelerator. The car was in gear. The victim wasn’t belted into the seat. That was strange. Ellis was always automatic in buckling his seatbelt. His blue jeans were soaking wet in places.

Jason put a knee down in the wet grass.

“Keep your fingerprints to yourself, Danvers.” Cain stepped around the car from the other direction.

“Just making observations.”

The chief knelt beside him. “Awful way to go.”

Jason pointed to a puddle of water that soaked the headliner. “Where did all that water come from?”

“It rained last night, of course.” Cain hadn’t bothered to get a glimpse of it for himself. He would’ve seen how unlikely that was.

“Didn’t rain that hard last night. Less than a quarter-inch.” The chief stood and pointed it out to the coroner.

The man bent down next to Jason. “I’m not an investigator, but it looks strange to me.” He turned to Cain. “You should make a note. There’s more than an inch of water pooling near the dome light.” He stood and looked expectantly at Cain.

“This is a waste of time.” But the deputy pulled out his tablet and tapped a few keys.

“Maybe.” Jason took another look, particularly scanning the backseat. A smashed Whataburger cup was near the back window. A discarded receipt with a burger wrapper was near it. “Maybe not. You going to collect all of the items in the car?” Jason stood.

“This is an accident scene, Lieutenant.” Cain narrowed the gap between them, elbows back like a banty rooster and staring up from the height of Jason’s chin. “And this ain’t none of your business.”

Jason stood firm, looking over the man’s head at the chief.

The older man patted Cain on the shoulder. “There’s no call for that, son. Procedure says you collect everything from the scene, even of an accident. Insurance, you know.” He patted him again, persuading him to turn away from Jason. “And I tell you what, you make sure all of those little details get collected and we get access to them, and we’ll go tell the family about their loss.”

Cain huffed but released his attitude. “The sheriff will appreciate that, Chief.”

“Of course.” Dell eyed the junior bear. “Rather it come from me.”

“Sorry for your loss.” To Cain’s credit, he delivered his condolence with a semblance of regret instead of a victory dance. “If it’s any comfort, he went quickly.”

The coroner chimed in. “Broken neck, head wounds. Didn’t have time to even be afraid.”

“Probably saw the Lord before he even saw the ground.” Leave it to Dell to put things into perspective, but that wouldn’t make the loss any easier. He nodded at the two men. “Jason and I will break the news to his wife.”

Cain nodded then raised one eyebrow. “But you’ll need to contact the sheriff right after you’ve spoken to her and let him announce it to the media.”

So much for Cain’s credit. His intention to use Ellis’s death to secure voters for the sheriff left a putrid taste in Jason’s mouth.

Dell lifted his eyes heavenward but agreed and gestured for Jason to join him on a trek back toward the road.

“Not the way I’d hoped to find Ellis.” Jason dug his hiking boots into the soft dirt of the incline.

“Me neither, though I’d never known the man to disappear. Knew something had happened.” He fingered his tuft of beard again above his light-blue uniform shirt. “I hate what this is gonna do to Myra.”

“Especially with no family around.” Though they had a daughter, maybe two, he’d never met them. Myra’s closest friend, Cat Alexander, was out of town. “Should we let Cat and Ray know?”

“No. they deserve to finish their honeymoon in ignorant bliss.” Dell shot him a look. “And until they get back, we’ll make sure Myra has plenty of help and support, starting with you taking her out to Howie-Mem to wait for her husband’s body.”

Howerton Memorial Hospital served as a temporary morgue until the county could build one of their own. “I’ll take care of her.” Jason ached for Myra. Losing a soulmate was hard enough without having to go through the loss all alone. He knew the feeling well.

A position he’d vowed to never relive.


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So Proud of My New Writer!

house-930940_1920Okay, the truth is, she won’t let me call her a writer. My daughter, code-named Spunky, has a sharp wit and a great imagination, but she’s determined to go into missions or ministry.

Nevertheless, she’s agreed to let me post her most recent assignment for her college English class. The students were given a picture of an old house, much like the one you see, and a list of Halloween-type words they couldn’t use. This was her 20-minute offering.

If you enjoy her flash fiction, please leave her some love!

Moving on

“Gone but not Forgotten,” Jane read the words from her beloved Aunt Ruth’s tombstone out loud.

“I know I should have come sooner; I just couldn’t bear the thought of you not being here.” Jane pulled her sweater closer to herself as a chilled wind rustled through the yellow leaves. She turned to face the place she feared.

The screen door had fallen partially off its hinges. The beautiful yellow paint was almost completely stripped away. Oh, how she had loved this place when she was young, always so warm and inviting. Now it was dark and cold.

She turned back to the grave, “I should have been here for you; if I hadn’t ditched you for my friends, you would still be here.” Jane wiped an unwanted tear from her face. “I know you wanted me to take care of this place, but I don’t deserve it. I let you down. It’s my fault.” Her voice broke at her last word, and she collapsed to the ground weeping.

It had been three years since Ruth had died. The doctor said it happened in the kitchen. One minute she was baking cookies; the next her heart stopped. Aunt Ruth had died alone.

“I should have been here; I could have saved you.” Shaking Jane stood, and walked back to her car. Opening the trunk, she pulled out a toolbox and a bucket of yellow paint. “I’m here now. I’m done hiding. I will not let you or this place down.”

Her knees wobbled as she climbed the steps. Setting the toolbox down, she removed the screen door, grasped the door handle, took a deep breath, and stepped in.


Heart Sparks is Free

heartsparks-coverI love romance. Any season is perfect for a juicy, clean love story with hardships and misunderstandings. Give me a strong man, made unexpectedly vulnerable by a confident woman, and a woman failing to stifle her growing feelings for the man of her dreams …. Oh, yes. I can get wrapped up in the deliciousness in no time!

And I have a collection of stories just like that, and I’m giving it away FREE! This is an e-book, to be viewed in a Kindle reader. And it’s a special bonus for anyone who pre-orders my newest release, COUNTER POINT, before October 30. It’s easy! After you order COUNTER POINT, forward the Amazon receipt to FreeBookForPreorder@gmail.com.

That’s all there is to it!

Not only will you be able to enjoy a great romantic suspense when it releases on November 1, but you’ll have several short stories and novellas to tide you over until then!

Here’s the LINK to purchase COUNTER POINT. I hope you enjoy both of your books!