Friday, March 5, 2021

First Friday! Eldering. Whitaker. Vidler

 Finally! It’s First Friday and three authors post their 150-word stories based on a single photo.

Photo by LM Whitaker


Ghost in the Graveyard

Gracie loved playing hide-and-seek with her older brothers, but not the regular daytime one; the one played at night called ghost in the graveyard.

One night the brothers agreed to be the seekers and allowed Gracie to hide.  She quietly snuck over to the old stump; the remnant of a tree taken out by lightning many years prior.  She crawled through the brambles and sat propped up against the stump.  After looking for about an hour and not finding Gracie, they finally decided it was getting too dark and cold and went into the house.  They all agreed that Grace was probably in her bed.

The boys checked on Gracie but could not find her.  All the neighbors, family and friends went on a search for Gracie.  For many days, the search continued.  No one ever found Gracie, slumped in eternal sleep hidden behind the old stump and brambles.


 Erin looked in dismay at the derelict, ivy-encased cabin.  At one time the property must have been lovely, but that was years, decades ago. Mounds of vinca, leggy azaleas, and escaped irises competed for the dappled sun, scarce under the sprawling live oaks.

Walking gingerly through the tangle of vines, Erin yelped as her foot struck a hidden birdbath.  An oakleaf hydrangea sheltered a painted stone: Kitty’s final resting place.

She continued her trespass through the memory cemetery of a stranger’s life, uncovering a turtle, a bunny, an angel.  Next to a stump she found a headless child, half buried in the sandy soil.  The statue, now upright, grasped its flowing skirt, creating a dirty bowl.  Erin sat on the stump and wondered if these effigies should be, could be, displaced.

She stood to leave, giving the statue one backwards glance. The bowl was no longer empty, the child’s head having found its way home.

Erin screamed.


When the Bough Broke

Drawn by memories, Caroline followed the rutted track to the once-proud house. She parked the car and stared at the blackened ruins. Vines climbed the pillars and sprouted from the chimney, all that remained. She’d hoped never to come here again, but Simon’s passing forced her return. Over the years, he’d refused many offers for the land. He said his heart was buried here, and it was.

She saw the ancient oak as if it still stood, the old tire swinging from the huge limb. Heard Julia’s delighted shrieks as she swung higher and higher above the little white figure she called her friend.

Until the bough broke.

Their hearts broke with their daughter’s neck. Simon cut down the oak the next day, and they buried Julia nearby. A year later, in a final blow, lightning burned the house.

Caroline fell to her knees by the broken figure and wept.

 About the Authors


At Amazon
Ms. Eldering is an award-winning author.  Her stories “Train of Clues,” “The Proposal,” “Tulip Kiss,” “Butterfly Halves,” and “Zombies Amuck have placed in a variety of contests.  Her story “Bride-and-Seek” was selected for the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop (SCWW) anthology, the Petigru Review. 

Ms.Eldering makes her home in upstate South Carolina and loves to travel, read, and crochet.  When she’s not busy working her full-time job, she can be found at various book or craft events.

You can find her at and

The Ties of Time

Moving to a new town was difficult enough, but that was only the beginning of what life had in store for Kelly Watson. Soon, a strange connection to her old family home led her down a path riddled with family secrets and mystery. 



Linda M Whitaker is a retail data scientist, and a writer of science and technology thrillers, as well as a few creepy short stories.  By day she plays with numbers, by night, with words.


Linda started writing around 2011 when she took her first mystery class with Ellen Hart, a prolificMinneapolis mystery author. Though Linda lived in Minnesota only a few years, she quickly learned the benefits of writing fiction as a means to hide from the long, dark, cold winters.

The Crucible of Steele

Fast forward a decade, and the many years of learning and perseverance have finally led to her debut novel. The Crucible of Steele is a fast-paced techno-thriller filled with unexpected twists, ethical entanglements and provocative science.  Buy here, or visit her website,, or facebook page, for more details.

Today Linda resides with her husband in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  She loves running in the forest, gardening, cooking, and playing with her dog and cat.


Free 5/5 at Amazon
Ellis is filling in for someone who couldn’t make it this month. She’s the author of five suspense novels (one with Jim Christopher) and two short story collections.

Haunting Refrain

Suspense, a little romance, a touch of paranormal . . . (Free this weekend)

Photographer Kate McGuire hopes for a little fun in her life when she joins a parapsychology experiment--visions of murder aren’t part of the plan. Then her eccentric friend Venice, a complication all by herself, leaks the story to a reporter, and Kate’s life turns upside down. The police don’t take her seriously, but the murderer does.


If you’d like to join in, leave your 150-word story in the comments. Or let me know you’d like to participate. I’d love to have you. Ellis at ellisvidler dot net.

Monday, February 1, 2021

The right words have impact

By Lloyd Arnold, Public Domain
This is a story I’ve read and heard about for years (you probably have too), but not even Snopes can really confirm it. It doesn’t matter; it’s still a great story. In a discussion about brevity, someone bet Ernest Hemingway he couldn’t write a story in six words. He took the bet. This is the story attributed to him.

For sale, baby shoes, never used.
Can six words bring you to tears? They can me. At least these six words can. This story has images, pathos, tragedy, and despair. It shows, it doesn’t tell. It’s a magnificent story. Hemingway is also supposed to have said it was his best work. I might argue with that, but it’s certainly a powerful work.
Based on Hemingway’s words, someone put together a little book about life in six words. (I really need to find the name and get a copy.) One that stuck was “I still make coffee for two,” by Zak Nelson. Another poignant tale.
Okay, got off my duff and looked for it. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon. (Since I looked, the Smith Magazine site has gone down--thanks, Donnell, for letting me know.)

It’s all there, making this blog completely superfluous (maybe not entirely—how often do I get to use that word?).
Have any you’d like to share? I’m thinking but to no avail. (Is that six words?)

NOTE: Sorry, no First Friday stories this month. EV

Friday, January 1, 2021

First Friday, First Day of 2021! Barley, Blackburn, Drier!

First Friday! What a fun way to start the New Year! Three talented authors give their ideas on one photo. 


"Savannah.  Are you out there?"

"mmhmm mmm . . . "

"What are you doing out there?  Come in and start getting ready for the party."

"       ."

"It was your idea to have this shindig. Let's get this thing going.  People will be here soon."  Tom walked out the door onto the patio, stopping when he saw his wife on the ground.

He rushed to her side, noticed the tea slopped over into the saucer, next noticing the potent smell as he caught sight of the empty bottle next to Savannah's horizontal body.

"Aw, jeez."  he mumbled.

A burp and a giggle from Savannah.

"You finished off my bottle of Pappy Old Van Winkle?! "

"Yesh. Twenty-two toushand dollahs."

"You raised hell and said it was a ridiculous waste of money.  Gone.  Unbelievable."

" . . .  Jan. 20th.  Ish a speshal day.  Biden deserves nuthin' lesh than ol' Pappy."  burp.

Tom nodded.  "Try to get yourself together.  I'll go get us another bottle."


"My Sister Shirley"

“What was your relationship to the deceased?”

Was. I kept staring at Shirley. What was my relationship.

“Ms. Baker, I need you to concentrate,” the cop said, probably for the second or third time.

“She was my sister,” I said. “Shirley Baker.”

“You say she called you this morning?”

I nodded. “She wanted to show me something. She invited me over for tea.”

“And that’s when you discovered her?”

I nodded again. “She said it was important.”

“What was important, Ms. Baker?”

“Tea, of course!” I smiled. In fact, I laughed. The cop, however, was not laughing.

“What’s so funny?” he asked me.

“Tea!” I pointed. “What a find.”

Okay, so now the cop was outright frowning. “Find?”

“She finally found our grandmother’s china pattern. She must have gone antiquing again yesterday.” I smiled at the cop. “My sister Shirley died happy, sir. Whatever killed her.”

“Correction, Ms. Baker. Whoever killed her.”


“Tragedy,” Belle said.

“And he was so young,” her sister, Janie, said.

“Do you think it was a heart attack?” Belle’s forehead wrinkled.

“Probably,” George said, eyeing the overturned cup of tea. “He was only having a quiet breakfast.”

“It’s so sad, he always worried about dying in the winter. He hated dead leaves, felt like it was an omen.” Belle started to reach for the cup, to set it on the saucer.

“Don’t you think we should wait for the police?” A stern look from George.

“Police? For what? Did you call them?” Belle jerked her hand back.

“I didn’t call them.” George looked at the two sisters. “Isn’t it what you’re supposed to do? All the mystery novels and TV shows have the police showing up and announcing it may be murder.”

“Murder!” Belle gasped, looked at her sister and husband, George.

Janie smiled.

 About the Authors

Kaye Barley 

Kaye Wilkinson Barley is the author of WHIMSEY: A Novel. She lives with her husband, Don, in the North Carolina mountains along with Annabelle Barley, the Princess Corgi.

Kaye is the author, along with being co-photographer with husband Don, of the new photo essay book "Carousels of Paris."

They are also contributing co-authors/co-photographers of the book "My Name is Harley and This is My Story," a photobook written by Harley about his life in the North Carolina mountains, his travels and escapades.

Kaye was a contributor to "Blood on the Bayou" - The Anthony winning Bouchercon Anthology 2016 edited by Greg Herren, published by Down & Out Books.

Kaye was also a contributor to three regional Western North Carolina anthologies - - - "Clothes Lines," "Women's Spaces Women's Places," and "It's All Relative." All edited by Celia H. Miles and Nancy Dillingham.

Author Webpage:



Carousels of Paris

I’ve been fascinated by carousels since I was a little girl.

The French are also lovers of carousels, as witnessed by the many seen in parks and even on street corners.

Donald and I have managed to capture images of several of those carousels.

Our book captures the colorful motion of everyday life in the City of Light while chronicling the history and characteristics of these unique attractions.

Carousels are much more than amusement rides. They are emblematic of the fantastical and the fun, the wild and the tamed. With their varying degrees of ornamentation and craftsmanship, Parisian carousels have for more than a century signaled delight and merriment for children while igniting the still small spark of whimsy among adults.

Cindy Blackburn

Cindy Blackburn writes cozy mysteries because she thinks grim reality is way overrated. When she's not thinking up unlikely plot twists and ironing out the quirks and kinks of her lovable characters, Cindy is feeding her fat cat Betty or taking long walks with her cute hubby John. A native Vermonter who hates snow, Cindy divides her time between the south and the north. Most of the year you'll find her in South Carolina. But come summer she'll be on the porch of her lakeside shack in Vermont. Yep, it's a place very similar to Lake Elizabeth. Cindy's favorite TV show is Young Sheldon, her favorite movie is Moonstruck, and her favorite color is purple. Cindy dislikes vacuuming, traffic, and lima beans. 



Welcome to Lake Elizabeth, Vermont, where Santa Claus is due to arrive any day now, and Cassie Baxter is going nuts. Who wouldn't go nuts? This is her first Christmas with her adopted son Truman, and she's determined to make it memorable. But that human skull the kid found when he was searching for Christmas decorations in the attic wasn't exactly part of the plan. And Joe Wylie, Cassie's supposed boyfriend, isn't making life any easier during this frantic week before the holiday either. Then there's Cassie's father, and her best friend Bambi, and her other best friend Sarah, and all those crazy, quirky, kooky neighbors that make Lake Elizabeth--Lake Elizabeth! Santa's sure to have a jolly good time when he finally does come to town! Ho Ho Ho

 Be on the lookout for Unaware: The fourth Cassie Baxter Mystery will be coming your way this spring!!

Michele Drier

Michele Drier is a fifth generation Californian. During her career in journalism, she won awards for investigative series. She is the past president of Capitol Crimes,a Sisters in Crime chapter, the Guppies chapter of Sisters in Crime and co-chaired  Bouchercon 2020.

Her Amy Hobbes Newspaper Mysteries are Edited for Death, (called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review), Labeled for Death and Delta for Death. A stand-alone, Ashes of Memories was published May 2017.

Her paranormal romance series, SNAP: The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, named the best paranormal vampire series of 2014 by PRG. Currently writing Book Eleven, SNAP: Pandemic Games.

Her new series is the Stained Glass Mysteries, Stain on the Soul and Tapestry of Tears, and she’s working on the third, Resurrection of the Roses.

Visit her webpage,

Or her Facebook page, ,

Or find her on her author page at


Tapestry of Tears

History had always been a strong magnet for Rosalind Duke.
She took up the medieval craft of making stained glass and was building a solid international reputation, taking on larger and larger commissions. Her idyllic life with her husband, Winston Duke, an art historian at UCLA, was cut short when he was gunned down in a drive-by shooting.
After moving to a small town on the Oregon coast, she’s offered a commission to translate the medieval embroidery, The Bayeux Tapestry, into stained glass for a museum at a small Wisconsin university. Roz jumps at the chance. Not only to try to transfer the Tapestry into a new medium, but to spend time in Southern England and Northern France, tracing the path taken by the invading Normans under William the Conqueror.
But the 21st century drags her back when she finds a body crumpled against a wall in an ancient stone church in the small town of Lympne, on the southern coast of England. Has she walked into a contemporary murder?


Won't you join in? Post your 150-word take in the comments. We'd love to see it.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Author Showcase: Charles Dougherty

 The inspiration for the J.R. Finn Sailing  Series

I was alone, tying my dinghy to a marina dock in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia. Looking down at the cleat as I secured the bow line, I was surprised when two bare feet came into view.

"Coming or going?" a girl asked.

Glancing up at her, I saw that she was deeply tanned, with shoulder-length hair bleached by sun and saltwater. She wore cutoffs and a plain, white T-shirt. A worn backpack hung from one shoulder. Smiling, she looked me in the eye. She was an appealing young woman in her early twenties — about my daughter's age.

"Sorry," I said. "What's that?"

Holding my gaze, she grinned. "Are you just arriving, or are you about to leave St. Lucia?"

"I've been here a couple of days," I said.

"I'm looking for a ride. Are you by yourself?"


"Got a lady aboard?" she asked.

"My wife."

"That's cool," she said. "I'm flexible if you guys are."

I shook my head. "We aren't planning to leave any time soon. Sorry."

"No problem, but if you hear of anybody looking for crew, they can find me in the bar."

"Where are you headed?"

"Anywhere," she said. "I need to get out of St. Lucia. Thanks."

I nodded, and she turned away, heading for the bar in the marina.

That was twenty-plus years ago, but the memory is vivid. She was living dangerously. Did I look harmless to her, or was she so desperate to leave that she didn't care?

I've often wondered what became of her. Every time I hear about a woman going missing, she comes to mind.

Early in 2018, I decided to write a third series of sailing thrillers. My first two series, the Bluewater Thrillers and the Connie Barrera Thrillers, were well established. The Connie Barrera books are a spin-off from the Bluewater series, so I was looking for something different. I needed a new challenge. I settled on a male protagonist, as both of my established series featured women in the lead roles.

My protagonist is a retired government assassin named Finn. He lives on a beat-up old sailboat in the islands. Maybe Finn's not really retired. He does a little contract work for his old employer sometimes.

Needing an opening scene for Finn's first adventure, I drew on memories of my years sailing the Caribbean. That young woman I met in St. Lucia had promise. What if she wasn't as clean-cut as she appeared? She might have been looking for trouble. What if she approached Finn instead of me?

And that's how Assassins and Liars began. The young woman found Finn tying up his dinghy in Puerto Real, Puerto Rico. She introduced herself as Mary O'Brien and told him she was looking for a ride.

And so the J.R. Finn Sailing Mystery Series began. Eight books later, Finn's still trying to understand what Mary's game is, but he's enjoying her company. She seems to be fond of him, too, but there's still plenty of trouble ahead for both of them. I'm working on the ninth book in the series, and I'm enjoying their company more with every chapter.

For more information on the Finn books, go to

Sharks and Prey


Kidnapping, Sex-Trafficking and Betrayal in the Islands

Sharks and Prey is the eighth and latest book in the J.R. Finn sailing mystery series. The series begins in Puerto Rico with Assassins and Liars, when Finn meets Mary O'Brien.

"People just call me Finn," he says, by way of introduction.

Finn is retired after a 20-odd-year career as an assassin with an unnamed government agency, but he still handles a contract job for them once in a while.

He's about to leave on a mission when Mary appears out of nowhere and asks to hitch a ride on his sailboat. She doesn't care where he's going; she just wants to leave Puerto Rico in a hurry.

Finn agrees to take her along, thinking she'll provide cover for his clandestine mission. The trouble begins before they even leave port. Mary isn't at all what she appears to be, but somehow, she and Finn become a couple over the course of several books.

In Sharks and Prey, Finn’s daughter, Abby, disappears from a beach resort in Antigua while on a semester break. Finn and Mary have just arrived in Antigua aboard their boat, Island Girl, to relax between missions. They learn that Abby’s missing when they see a poster in the Customs and Immigration office.

Finn has never met Abby; her mother divorced him while he was on a clandestine mission over 20 years earlier. He hasn’t spoken to his ex-wife since he left on that mission, but he’s followed his daughter’s life from afar. Distressed, Finn calls his ex-wife and offers his help.

Join Finn and Mary in Antigua as they wreak havoc while looking for Abby and her roommate.

Another page-turner in the J. R. Finn series, Sharks and Prey is perfect for fans of mystery / thrillers set in the Caribbean.

Learn more at

Author Bio

Charles Dougherty has written over 35 mystery/thrillers in three series set in Caribbean sailing world, plus two non-fiction books about life as a full-time cruising sailor, and a few other stand-alone novels.

Dougherty is a lifelong sailor; he's lived what he writes. He and his wife spent over 30 years sailing together. For 15 years, they lived aboard their boat full-time, cruising the East Coast and the Caribbean islands. They spent most of that time exploring the Eastern Caribbean. Dougherty is well acquainted with the islands and their people. The characters and locations in his novels reflect his experience.

A storyteller before all else, Dougherty lets his characters speak for themselves. Pick up one of his sailing thrillers and listen to the sound of adventure as you smell the salt air. Enjoy the views of distant horizons and

meet some people you won't forget.

These days, Dougherty and his wife are living in Texas to be close to their two children and eight grandchildren. As he says, "The sea and the islands will always be there, but little ones grow up quickly."

Find out more about his books at

Friday, December 4, 2020

First Friday in December-Dougherty, Iyer, Vidler

 It’s First Friday, when three authors post their 150-word stories based on a single picture. Read them! You may find a new author to follow. Here’s the inspiration.

Nick Fewing, Unsplash


It Ain't So Bad, Really

Me and the dogs, we seen better days. Worse days, too, though. Just now, it ain't so bad. We got one another for company, and to keep warm. Out here's a pretty good place to be; it beats them shelters all to hell. That's for sure. Shut up in there with all them bums, that ain't so good. Ain't so healthy, either. Not with the virus goin' round. Better out here, where the air's fresh and clean.

Yep, I been in worse places. The dogs, too. People think it's dangerous out here, but they got no clue. It's like a damn park compared to some of the places I been.

The only problem now is the restaurants bein' closed. Dinin' from their dumpsters ain't what it once was, what with all that carry-out business. But don't worry about us. We're gettin' by, and Christmas is comin' soon.


As I approached the man and his dog, I looked straight ahead. If I didn’t see the homeless I could convince myself they didn’t exist. That wasn’t true, of course, and I was ashamed for thinking it. As I passed, the old dog left his master’s lap and inched toward me. He seemed to know me. I stooped to scratch his neck when I noticed the white spots on his ears. I knew that dog. I gave the lab to someone many years ago. I studied the man. He raised his gaze, and our eyes met.

“Richie?” I said.

The man lowered his head and covered his face with his arm. My heart sank and soared simultaneously. “Richie,” I repeated. “I’ve searched everywhere for you.”

“I couldn’t let you see me this way,” he said.

“Now that I’ve found you, little brother, I’ll never let you go again. Come home.”


The dog did it. No one noticed Wilder. People focused on Harpo, and Wilder kept his head down. Folks were generous at Christmas, especially with the dog on his lap. A little boy offered Harpo his hamburger. Iffy situation, that one—the dogs were trained to never accept food from strangers. Wilder whispered firmly and Harpo scarfed it down. The kid beamed.

They’d collected quite a bit in the cup. But it was cold, the concrete was hard, and they’d been here for three days. Was it worth it? Street gossip said Bully Bill met with his dealer here, and Wilder and Harpo were ready.

And there he was, the fat man with bulging pockets. Harpo’s hair rose, and Wilder felt the silent rumble in the dog’s chest. Harpo’s muscles bunched. Wilder lifted the Glock from under the blanket. “GO!”

Harpo sprang.

Surveillance was a bitch, but it paid off.

 About the Authors

CLR Dougherty

Charles Dougherty has written over 35 mystery/thrillers in three series set in Caribbean sailing world.

Dougherty is a lifelong sailor; he's lived what he writes. For 15 years, he and his wife lived aboard their boat full-time, cruising the East Coast and the Caribbean islands. They spent most of that time exploring the Eastern Caribbean. Dougherty is well acquainted with the islands and their people. The characters and locations in his novels reflect his experience.

A storyteller before all else, Dougherty lets his characters speak for themselves. Pick up one of his sailing thrillers and listen to the sound of adventure as you smell the salt air. Enjoy the views of distant horizons and meet some people you won't forget.

Find out more about Charles Dougherty and his books at

Sharks and Prey

Kidnapping, Sex-Trafficking and Betrayal in the Islands

Sharks and Prey is the eighth book in the J.R. Finn sailing mystery series.

Finn’s daughter, Abby, disappears in Antigua while on a semester break. Finn has never met Abby; her mother divorced him while he was on a clandestine mission over 20 years earlier. He hasn’t spoken with his ex-wife since he left on that mission, but he’s followed his daughter’s life from afar.

 Finn and his friend Mary visit Antigua aboard their boat, Island Girl, for a short holiday. They discover Abby’s missing when they see a poster in the Customs and Immigration office.

 Distressed, Finn calls his ex-wife and offers his help.

Join Finn and Mary in Antigua as they wreak havoc while looking for Abby.

Sharks and Prey is perfect for fans of mystery / thrillers set in the Caribbean.

Learn more at

Polly Iyer

Polly Iyer is the Amazon bestselling author of ten books of suspense. They include Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, we are but WARRIORS, Kindle Scout winner Indiscretion, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series: Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash, and The Scent of Murder. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and monthly on the Blood Red Pencil Blog. Website

we are but WARRIORS


Her latest book, we are but WARRIORS, is about an Israeli publisher whose Middle East peace plan divides his country into supporters and enemies. Some even want him dead before he speaks at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. It’s up to General Benjamin Lowe’s Security Agency and his twin sons, one a disabled Afghanistan vet, the other a covert military operator, to thwart a wily assassin and the sinister cabal behind an operation that could change the face of the Middle East, with a shrinking timeframe to prevent it. 

Ellis Vidler

Ellis is filling in for someone who couldn’t make it this month. She’s the author of five suspense novels (one with Jim Christopher) and two short story collections.

Cold Comfort

After being dumped by her faithless fiancé, Claire Spencer abandons her dreams and settles for a quiet life as a Williamsburg Christmas shop owner. So how does she become a killer’s target?

Sometime security consultant Riley, burned out and haunted by a young girl he couldn’t save, vows never to work with women again. But when a thug tries to kill Claire, Riley's plans go all to hell. Knowing she’s in danger, he can’t walk away.

While dodging speeding cars, ducking bullets, and escaping through murky swamp waters, conventional Claire and freewheeling Riley struggle against their powerful chemistry—if she’s picket fences, he’s barbed wire.


Join us! Post your own version in the comments--150 words. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

First Friday! Woohoo--Alexander, George, Helms!

 It's First Friday again, and time for a welcome distraction from the news. Three 150-word stories based on a single picture by three very different authors. Read them and find some great authors to love.

Dreamstime by @Raggedstonedesign


"The Tree"

I come here every year on our anniversary. I come to remember the day I carved our initials on the trunk of this old tree. How her blue eyes sparkled and the wind tossed her long blonde hair across her face. Her excitement was contagious and I laughed at her sassy commentary on how together we’d change the world.

We built our house close enough so we could watch as the tree grew older and bent with age while we did the same.

I turn and walk back home. I stop on the bottom step, remove my boots, and enter the warmth of the kitchen.

“Come out of the cold, you old fart.”

My beautiful girl still puts a smile on my face. Her hair is silver now but the sparkle hasn’t left her eyes.

Did we change the world? She changed mine.



"Now what: A Retelling"

My start was great. Dr. Frank, as I call him, selected only the best parts. When he connected me and I sprang to life, I almost laughed at Igor’s startled reaction.

I was put to work immediately, tidying, scrubbing. I had a purpose in life. I was fulfilled.

You could have knocked me over with my feather duster when Dr. Frank presented me with my Bride. My solenoids overflowed with joy.

We awaited All Hallows Eve with almost unbearable anticipation. That would be our big night. I didn’t know it would be the end. I thought our happy life would go on. And on.

Dr. Frank drove us to the huge, crumbling mansion and gave us our instructions. I loved turning my head, raising my hand, and intoning, “Run.” My Bride would cackle.

This morning, though, we were dumped here. My power is failing.

Now what?


"The Tree"

Then came a day when the boy returned to the tree. The tree was overjoyed to see the boy, now grown into a man, but the boy seemed troubled.

The boy said. “May I use your limb?”

The tree said, “For what purpose?”

“I want to throw this rope around it,” the boy said, and he held up a thick hemp rope onto which he had fashioned a noose.

The tree felt sympathy for the boy and could not keep its silence. “Boy,” it said, “We can find another way…”

“What?” the boy said. “You think this is for me? It’s for Rocco, the guy stuffed in the trunk of my car.”

“Ah,” the tree said. “Of course. Rocco is a rat. He deserves whatever he gets. You are welcome to my limb.”

The boy tossed the rope over the limb and walked back toward his car.

And the tree was happy.



Jerrie's characters weave their way through death and danger to emerge stronger, because of, and on occasion, in spite of, their love for each other. If they’re tough enough, they live happily ever after.

The author of eleven romantic suspense books, she's added the contemporary erotic romance genre to her booklist.

Jerrie lives in Texas, thrives on sunshine, children’s laughter, sugar (human and granulated), and researching for her heroes and heroines. Find a complete list of her books at or contact her at

Come Hard

Permanent isn’t in my vocabulary…until she walks through my door.

My brokerage business built me billions, and my clubs wet my appetite. Not many women can handle the kind of kink I crave. When fate has Morgan knocking on my door, all I want to do is take her to Club Silken and make her scream.

Relationships are for the weak…so why do I want to give up control the moment we meet?

I’ve only experienced sex in shades of vanilla, but Zack…oh God, Zack…he turns me inside out with desires I’ve never known I had, but I sure as hell want to explore. 

Come Hard is available for preorder for $.99 until November 10 when it changes to $3.99.



Kaye George is a national-bestselling, multiple-award-winning author
of pre-history, traditional, and cozy mysteries (her latest is the
Vintage Sweets series from Lyrical Press). Her short stories have
appeared online, in anthologies, magazines, her own collection, her
own anthology, DAY OF THE DARK. She is a member of Sisters in Crime,
Smoking Guns chapter (Knoxville), Guppies chapter, Authors Guild of
TN, Knoxville Writers Group, and Austin Mystery Writers. She lives and
works in Knoxville, TN.

Deadly Sweet Tooth

Second in the series: Vintage sweets, a deadly surprise, and a
mischievous Maine Coon cat—Deadly Sweet Tooth is the delightful cozy
mystery you’ve been waiting for!

In a darling tourist town like Fredericksburg, Texas, a vintage sweet
shop offering delicious old-fashioned favorites is a perfect fit—until
someone decides to debut a recipe that’s lusciously lethal…

Kaye George, National Best-selling & Agatha-nominated mystery author~~
REVENGE IS SWEET, 1st in new series~~
DEADLY SWEET TOOTH, 2nd, out now~~
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Derringer and Thriller Award Winner

Richard Helms

Former college professor and forensic psychologist Richard Helms is the author of 20 published novels, including Brittle Karma, coming in November from Black Arch Books. He has been nominated eight times for the SMFS Derringer Award, winning it twice; six times for the PWA Shamus Award; twice for the ITW Thriller Award, winning it in 2011; and once for the MRI Macavity Award. He is a winner of the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award for his novel Paid in Spades. His short story "See Humble and Die" (The Eyes of Texas, Edited by Michael Bracken, Down and Out Books, 2019) was selected for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Best American Mystery Stories 2020. An avid woodworker, gourmet cook, and fan of the Carolina Tarheels and Panthers, Richard Helms lives with his wife Elaine in Charlotte, NC.

Brittle Karma

Eamon Gold is your basic meat-and-potatoes San Francisco private eye. He's a blue-collar sleuth just trying to keep his head above water in a tough, knuckles-and-know-how business.

Abner Carlisle spent a quarter century in a ten-by-six cell on twenty-three hour a day lockdown, serving a sentence for a botched armored car robbery. After he is released, he asks Eamon Gold to find the wheelman for the robbery, Eddie Rice, who disappeared years earlier with the take and Carlisle's daughter Lydia. Gold suspects that Carlisle intends to murder Rice, and refuses the case.  Carlisle is found murdered in his hotel room days later, piquing Gold's interest. Gold discovers that the insurance company that paid off the armored car claim will pay ten percent for any amount of the heist money that is recovered.

Gold, temporarily bucks-up but ready for a challenge, takes up the search for Eddie Rice on spec, trying to make a little quick bank on the coldest of cold cases he's ever investigated. As usual, things become complicated.

Brittle Karma, an Eamon Gold novel, coming in November from Black Arch Books!


Feel free to join in--150 words for your take. Post in the comments. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

October First Friday--Bell, Carenen, Manning

Edward Howell on Unsplash
 It's First Friday again, when three talented authors with different voices give their take on one photo in 150 words. Take a look at the authors--you'll want to see their books too.


Well, that didn’t work out so good. My name is Frank Pushman and I’m a confidential PI. The last thing I remember Vinnie the Snake Marconi hires me to investigate his wife. Seems Vinnie believes Lucille, the Las Vegas showgirl he married, is being unfaithful. I know Vinnie ain’t no rocket scientist, but he may be clairvoyant. Cuz, not even 24-hours into the case, I discover Lucille has a liaison on every corner. I deliver my report to Vinnie, and the next thing I know, Vinnie’s crying buckets. He calls in his goons, accuses me of disparaging the Missus. Now, with all those guns aimed my way, I admit I may need my eyes examined. I offer to write another report. I beg him to give me another chance. All I can say is, Vinnie and the Big Guy must have connections, cuz here I am in the body of a cat.


"The cat waited, knowing that all he had infected would eventually find their way to the cemetery he patrolled. During daylight, his smoky color allowed him the benefit of fitting unseen into shadows under porches, in bushes, near bird feeders. Then, at night, he would slip into unguarded homes and hunt for someone to infect with his blood-evaporating burden, the curse inflicted on him by The Evil. He liked having the weight lifted a little as he sank his teeth quickly into human flesh and rid himself of the terrible pressure. This night, several teenagers trying to scare each other among the tombstones would come by and he'd go up to one of the girls and purr and she would pick him up and rub his ears. And take him home."


The man in the tattered overcoat handed the thumb drive to the woman in the red dress. “Are you sure this is safe?”

She glanced around the graveyard. “There’s no one here but the dead and a cat. The cat won’t talk.” She passed him an envelope.

The cat, seated on a gravestone, stared with cool yellow eyes.

The man shrugged. “Can’t blame me for being nervous. If they catch me handing off the security protocols….Treason, you know.”

The cat’s tail twitched.

“It would ruin my plans, too. Why we’re meeting here. Schedule of production next week?”

He nodded. “I’ll be here, same time.”

They left separately.

The cat gracefully leapt off the stone and trotted two blocks where a blond man waited. The man offered her favorite treats on a plate and removed the collar with the camera and microphone. He rubbed behind her ears. “Good cat.”


Donnell Ann Bell

Donnell Ann Bell gave up her nonfiction career in newspapers and magazines obsessed with the idea she could write a full-length novel. Years later, she’s an award-winning author, including 2020 Colorado Book Award finalist for her latest release Black Pearl. Donnell’s other books include Buried Agendas, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and The Past Came Hunting, all of which have been Amazon bestsellers. Currently, she’s writing the follow up book to Black Pearl and her cold case suspense series.
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John Carenen

John Carenen is a native Iowan and graduate of The Iowa Writers Workshop in Iowa City. His work has appeared in numerous periodicals. A novel, Son-Up, Son-Down was published by the National Institute of Mental Health. His three-part Thomas O'Shea Mystery/Thriller series has been called by William Kent Krueger, "the very best in midwestern noir." Carenen is a retired English professor living in a little cottage just a tad bit south of Travelers Rest, South Carolina. You can find his books at

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  S. Lee Manning

S. Lee Manning (Sandy to her friends), a reformed attorney now living in Vermont, writes espionage thrillers and does the occasional stand-up routine, depending on whether she feels like torturing people or making them laugh. Her first thriller, Trojan Horse, debuts on October 16 from Encircle Publications, and introduces her protagonist, Kolya Petrov, a Russian Jewish immigrant to the United States working for American intelligence. (Kolya also makes an appearance in the above short story.) In Trojan Horse, Kolya is betrayed by his own agency in a devious plot to thwart possible terrorism by an anti-Semitic neo-Fascist Romanian.  Trojan Horse questions how far an American agency should go to fight terrorism, and also whether unspoken and unacknowledged bias can be as problematic as open and violent prejudice. Kirkus Reviews calls Trojan Horse "A remarkable tale that makes espionage rousing, demanding, and occasionally terrifying."  Diane Donavan, Senior Editor, Donovan's Bookshelf and Midwest Books, states: "Thriller readers looking for powerful plots replete with strong characterization and international intrigue are in for a treat.” The first chapter is available on S. Lee’s website, and Trojan Horse is available for preorder from Amazon, from Encircle Publications,, or from independent book stores.

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Join in! Leave your idea in the comments--150 words.