Sunday, July 30, 2017

Preview our Newest Romantic Suspense

IMPERFECT LIES is the newest romantic suspense from the writing desk of Elizabeth Noyes. Right now, the e-book is available for pre-order at a 40% discount.

Catch Elizabeth Noyes discussing the category of suspense with Write Integrity Press's executive director, Marji Laine Clubine, on Publishing Laine on Tuesday, August 1, at 7PM Central on Blog Talk Radio. Here's the LINK.

And as a special gift, enjoy the first chapter:

Mallory clapped a hand over her mouth, startled by how loud her shout sounded in the empty house. She wanted to giggle, jump up and down, and shout to the world. The New York Times had seen her article! They knew her name. Chicago and Seattle, too. They wanted her to come for job interviews. Her. Mallory Cameron, from Hastings Bluff, Idaho.
A dozen twirls around the kitchen left her a little breathless, but did nothing to slow the adrenaline rush. She flopped onto one of the tall barstools, jumped up again, and paced the kitchen. Of all the times for her family to disappear on her. Here she’d just received the biggest news of her life and had no one to share it with.
She could talk to TJ, but her brand-new sister-in-law wouldn’t be free until late in the afternoon. The principal of the elementary school in Challis where TJ taught frowned on cell phone use during class hours.
Jonas was an option. Mallory considered a run over to the big barn, but decided against it. The youngest of her brothers had left out before dawn that morning, concerned about one of the mares due to foal. If he took the time to listen to her, all he would offer was a caveman grunt, and then they’d both feel weird.
Her thoughts turned outside the family to her friend, Shea, who worked at the diner, but a quick glance at her wristwatch nixed that idea. By the time Mallory finished her chores, got cleaned up, and drove into town, the lunch rush would be in full swing there. Shea wouldn’t have time to breathe between orders, much less sit down and chat.
Mallory tapped her lips with an index finger and smiled. Hazel eyes came to mind. “James, it is,” she said aloud. “Even sheriffs have to eat sometimes, right?”
Her oldest brother, Garrett, had brought him home more than two years ago to recuperate from an injury. A shudder went through her at the memory of the ragged gunshot wound in his side. He’d been grumpy at his helplessness, but also grateful for help in his vulnerable state. She’d fallen a little in love with him that day, and sank deeper with every day that passed.
Regardless of whether he reciprocated her feelings, James was a friend. She tapped out a quick text and hit send. Free for lunch?
His reply came back seconds later. Sure. Come by the office.
Her stomach lurched. Would it upset him to know she might move away, or would he wish her well and say goodbye? She’d find out soon enough.
Be there at 11.
Chores first. Rascal, their foreman and her dad’s oldest friend, had asked her to feed and water the animals in the small barn adjacent to the house this morning. She didn’t mind, but it worried her a little. Rascal never asked for help. The foaling mare must have a problem.
In the mud room off the kitchen, Mallory slipped her cell phone in her jeans pocket and donned a heavy jacket. She stomped her feet into well-worn boots and stepped outside into the brisk morning air.
A flock of birds drew her attention as she walked to the barn. The black mass swooped and wheeled in complete synchronization, until they lit among the treetops behind the barn. Bare limbs swayed in the light breeze. Denuded branches coated with hoarfrost glistened in the weak sunlight and framed the dark clump against the gray sky.
A moment later, the birds erupted from the branches in a furious cloud, and disappeared beyond the forest.
Uneasiness made her skin crawl. Ravens had long been considered harbingers of bad luck, probably because of their glossy black plumage.
She shoved the superstitious thoughts away. Anything could startle a flock of birds—rustles in the underbrush, a glint of sunlight on metal, a sudden wind … or perhaps the primal instinct all animals possessed when danger loomed.
The same intuition that made the hair on her arms stand on end.
Unnerved by where her imagination led, she ended that train of thought and entered the heated barn through the small door on the side. The big sliding doors stayed closed in the winter months, opened only when the horses were taken out for riding or exercise.
Soft whinnies greeted her. The horses knew breakfast was late.
Mallory chattered, aware of how her voice soothed the animals. “I know, I know. I’m late. Bet you guys are hungry, huh? Well, hold your horses.” A laugh burst out at the pun Rascal always used.
Using the scoop in the barrel, she measured oats into one pail and fortified feed into another, enough for all seven horses. Let the feeding frenzy begin. Thank goodness, one of the hands would come over and muck the stalls later.
When she reached the empty stall at the end, her throat tightened. Buffy’s loss had hit her sister, Cassie, hard. All of them, really. Such a senseless waste.
Mallory blinked away unexpected tears and headed outside to tend to Edwina, the ornery old billy goat she and Cassie had rescued once upon a time. With everything stored away again, it was time for a much-needed shower.
Three steps outside the barn, the stillness made itself known. The wind had died down, but everyday sounds should still remain—bird titters, rustling branches, small animals in the underbrush, whinnies from the pastured horses.
That same awareness she’d felt on her way out here returned, a sense that if she turned at the right moment …
Wow, her imagination had a mind of its own this morning. She put a clamp on the wayward thoughts, but did a slow, three-sixty sweep of the surroundings anyway.
All of nature seemed to hold its breath.
Unnerved again, she hurried for the safety of the house.
Inside, the deadbolt on the kitchen door complained from lack of use. The family seldom locked up given the distance of the ranch from town. They’d even given up on the state-of-the-art security system that her middle brother, Wade, installed two years past. No one came this way unless they had a reason to. And when they did, the locked gate at the property’s entrance announced their presence.
Mallory considered rearming the security system as she shrugged out of her coat. Garrett always said you should trust your gut. She pulled off her boots, patted her pocket to make sure she had her phone, and started toward the front of the house. Whether imagined or real, she would feel better with locked doors and windows between her and whatever lurked out there.
The quiet snick of the front door lock and chain fed her uneasiness. She finished a sweep of the first-floor entry points, windows included, and decided to rearm the security system.
Jonas would probably set the alarm off when he came home. He’d get mad, and then make fun of her.
She headed upstairs.
The grandfather clock in the foyer struck a double four-count of Westminster quarter chimes. Half past ten. Feeding the horses had taken longer than she expected.
She made short work of checking all the upstairs windows and hurried through her shower. Time for her battle gear. The black skinny jeans should get the job done, the ones Dad called ‘vacuum-sealed.’ Paired with her new Lively boots and the sapphire turtleneck that made her eyes pop, James wouldn’t stand a chance. He was, after all, a man.
Fifteen minutes later, Mallory pulled on her new Shearling jacket and a pair of leather gloves, and started for the barn again. Alert and wary, her eyes strayed from side to side, in constant motion.
She covered the distance between house and barn in record time, surprised when her anxiety didn’t return. What also surprised her was the big F-150 Super Crew Raptor in all its shiny black and chrome Ford beauty parked next to her sister’s little Ranger.
Jonas must have come back while she showered.
Mallory changed directions and stepped inside the barn. “Jo?”
No answer.
Her footsteps slowed. Diablo’s stall stood empty. Jonas had taken his horse and ridden into the mountains again. Which meant something bad must have happened.
Wade claimed Jonas had nightmares and sometimes just needed time alone, to find peace and quiet. Curious how her two oldest brothers had seen a ton of deadly action in the Middle East, but didn’t feel the same need for solitude that Jonas did.
These solitary jaunts of his had increased in frequency. Lately, his jokester nature made fewer and fewer appearances. How long would he stay away this time? Two days? Three? That thought made her worry grow. Jonas knew how much she hated staying alone in the house.
She whipped her cell phone out and pressed pound-five, the speed dial number for Jonas.
The call went straight to voice mail.
Of course, it did. She dialed pound-eight next.
Rascal answered on the first ring. “H’lo.”
“Why is Jonas’s truck parked at the house?”
A long silence. “We lost them both, the dam and the foal.”
Both? The news crushed her. How much worse for her brother. Jonas put his heart and soul into the Triple C breeding program. “He took Diablo.”
“Figured he would. Let him be, honey. If he’s not back in a couple of days, I’ll go check on him.”
“Thanks, Rascal. I’m so sorry.”
“Me, too, little girl.”
The thrill of the phone calls she’d received that morning disappeared. Her eagerness to see James receded. She almost sent him a text to cancel, but then wondered why. Not seeing James wouldn’t bring the mare or the foal back. And she still wanted to share her good news.
She climbed in her sister’s truck. After Cassie lost her driver’s license and Mallory totaled her Honda, there didn’t seem to be any urgency in replacing her car. A quick twist of the key and … nothing. Not even a click. A second attempt yielded the same result.
“Are you kidding?” Dad took it in for the 60,000-mile service last month. It should work fine. She pounded the steering wheel. “Aaaagh.”
Okay, now what?
Had the weather not turned bitter cold, she’d consider riding one of the horses into town. But that would take too long, plus she’d end up smelling like Eau de Horse Sweat. Ugh.
She could call James. He would come get her, but she wanted her own way home if things turned awkward between them.
She turned her head and stared at Jonas’s truck.
These jaunts of his typically lasted one or two days, sometimes more. He’d kill her if he found out. Jonas had named the darned thing, for Pete’s sake. He didn’t let anyone, not even Dad, drive Darcie.
But he wouldn’t know.
With a silent promise to be uber-careful, Mallory entered the small office inside the barn and twisted the combination on the lock box. An array of keychains hung on hooks inside, one for each of the family vehicles—a horsehead for Dad, a tiny BMW logo for Mom, and giant letters for the rest of them. She grabbed the “J” and hurried back outside. One click and … beep-beep. The doors unlocked. Lights flashed.
It took her several minutes to readjust the seat and mirrors to fit her more diminutive five-feet-five height. Jonas took after their dad and the other brothers. At well over six feet, they all had legs that stretched into tomorrow. “Please, Lord, help me remember all the settings so I can put everything back the way it was.”
Darcie’s roar made her little Ranger sound like a sewing machine. Mallory reached for the gearshift. She hesitated. What if Jonas did come back?
An old gas receipt nestled in the cup holder between the seats. A pen that had teeth marks on it lay on the floor. She scribbled a quick message and made a mad dash to secure the note under the Ranger’s windshield wiper.
Guilt assuaged, she climbed back inside and shoved the truck into gear. Time to go.
The drive from the house to the main road spanned not quite two miles. She slowed as the double-entry neared, and punched every button on the visor until one triggered the opening.
The left gate jerked, out of sync with the other one.
She made a mental note to tell Rascal, and then drove through in the middle of the lane.
A thump and a crunch sent a shockwave through the truck.
“No, no, no.” Mallory glanced in the rearview mirror and saw the faulty gate rebound off the rear of Jonas’s truck.
Once clear of the entry, she hopped out to check the damage. The glass bulb of the taillight remained intact, thank goodness, but a pile of red plastic shards lay on the ground, all that remained of the cover.
“Agggh!” She threw her hands up in the air. “Jonas will kill me.”
Her mind jumped into problem-solving mode. Toby, down at Wrangler’s Auto Parts and Service, could order a replacement. She’d pay to have it overnighted. Maybe he would deliver and install taillight cover, and take a look at Cassie’s truck while he was there.
Behind her the defective gate closed flush with the other one, but then it drifted ajar a good two-feet. A swift kick wouldn’t accomplish anything, except maybe bruise her foot. She squatted and gathered up the plastic fragments instead. Now, she was late, and Mr. Punctual, a.k.a., Sheriff James Evers, would give her grief about it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Yoruba Proverb isn't Always True

Missionary kids are "playing" together again after twenty years.
by Harriet E. Michael

"Ogún ọmọdé kìí ṣeré ogún ọdún.”

This is a Yoruba proverb which translated into English says, “Twenty children cannot play together for twenty years.”

The Yoruba people are native to the country of Nigeria, West Africa where I was born and spent my childhood. They use proverbs often to explain the world around them. This proverb belongs to the category of “simple truth”—proverbs used to explain simple truths. It means people grow and make new friends. They move away and do not stay with the same group of people who were their childhood playmates. Some English expressions with the same meaning might be, “life goes on”, “times change and we must change with them”, or “nothing stays the same.”

Well, my group of childhood friends is the exception to this truth. Though we grew, changed, moved apart, and became very different individuals living in many different parts of the USA and even the world, we nonetheless managed to remain close friends. This unique group of individuals, who shared a common childhood in Nigeria in our beloved tropical homeland half a world away from where most of us live now, grew up calling each other’s parents aunt and uncle. Even as adults, we still feel a kindredship as though we are family—cousins perhaps.

One of my missionary cousins is Shirley Crowder. Some years ago, at a mission reunion, she handed me a book to which she had contributed. That was the first time I knew she was a writer. I don’t know when she discovered that I was a writer, too, but a few years ago, she suggested that we prayerfully consider writing a devotional book together. Through that experience, we learned that we work well together. We have similar views on scripture but different strengths when it comes to writing.

Since that first book, we have worked and continue to work together on other projects. She wrote a STUDY GUIDE to my book, PRAYER: IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU, and now we are working on two more books in our prayer series which will be released in the coming months by Write Integrity Press's nonfiction line, PixNPens.
So, I guess it could be said that I am once again “playing” with my childhood friend in spite of a lot more than twenty years having passed since we played together happily beneath the shade of mango trees.

About the Author:

Harriet E. Michael is a writer, gardener, wife of over 35 years, mother of four, and grandmother of one. Her first book with Pix-N-Pens Publishing, PRAYER: IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU, began an unexpected series she now calls the Prayer Project.

In coming months, this project will release its third book, a devotional on prayer. In 2018, she and her writing partner, Shirley Crowder, will release the final book, an anthology of prayer and the stories around them.

Learn more about Harriet and her books on her author page at

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

This New Release Will Have You Belly-Laughing!

Deborah Dee Harper has expanded her Road's End Mishap series. Her newest book delves into politics and romance - strange bedfellows, but not compared to the quirky collection of citizens in Road's End.

Be prepared to laugh aloud as you're reading and read it in public places at your own risk!

Here's the short version of FAUX PAS:

What would you do if you discovered, by accident, no less, that the President of the United States was attending your daughter’s wedding in less than two weeks?

Panic. You’d panic, I tell you.

That’s what the parents of the bride, Pastor Hugh Foster and his wife Melanie did. Add in a severe storm, crazy senior citizens who believe the POTUS lied his way into office, a crumbling, but historic church you happen to pastor, a cranky Secret Service agent, a four-year-old grandchild-to-be you know nothing about, and a son-in-law-to-be whose faith in the Lord has waned, and well … you’ve got yourself a humdinger of a wedding. Not to mention that same future son-in-law is a University of Michigan Wolverines fan (gasp!... not a Michigan State Spartans fan) and prefers sweet tea to unsweetened. My gosh, what is the world coming to? Talk about a FAUX PAS! Well, good luck with all that, Pastor Foster.

Oh, and Heaven help the president.

Enjoy the first scene:

The man in the doorway stood about as tall as your average redwood. He wore a navy-blue suit, white shirt, and a red and white striped tie. Put a few stars on his forehead, and he’d have made a great flag. You could slice carrots with the crease in his pants, but I doubted he had much experience in the kitchen aside from maybe bench pressing the stove. The old-fashioned cast iron kind, not one of today’s namby-pamby appliances.

I stood and walked toward him. “I’m Hugh Foster, sir. Welcome.”

He whipped out a snazzy-looking badge holder, flashed it in my face, then snapped it shut. Efficient.
“Ross MacElroy,” he said. “Pronounced Mack-el-roy. Accent on the ‘Mack.’ I’m from the government.”

Government? Take our county job handing out church basement repair permits seriously, do we?
“Nice to meet you, Mr. MacElroy. I’m the pastor here.” I stuck my hand out. He looked at it. Okay then. He’d fit right in around here. He had all the charm of my unconventional, and some would say, demented elderly neighbor, Sadie Simms, and the rugged good looks of … oh, I don’t know, maybe a T-Rex?

“From the church,” I added, as if I should own up to it. “The Christ Is Lord Church. Only church in Road’s End, I might add. My wife and I also run The Inn at Road’s End on the corner.” I gestured behind me. “Back there. Other side of Rivermanse Lane.”

“How many entrances?”

“Pardon me?”

“Entrances. To the church.”

“Oh. Well, just the two—front and back.”

He peered at me as if I had an escape hatch built under the pulpit for those moments when a pastor needs to make a quick getaway—one I wasn’t about to let him in on. “You sure about that?”

I nodded. “Yep,” but it sounded lame even to me. It came out more like “I’m pretty sure, but I suppose I’d crack under torture, so please, no thumbscrews.” I cleared my throat and tried again. 

“Yes, that’s it. Say, would you like some coffee before we get down to business?”

Mr. MacElroy, from the government, scanned the sanctuary from side to side and back to front without appearing to move his head. How did he do that?

He nodded; I wasn’t sure if that meant he wanted coffee or the coast was clear or he’d decided I wasn’t withholding valuable egress or ingress data. So, I went out on a limb—coffee it was.

“Well, we can either sit in here or go into my office.” I pointed to the sanctuary doors behind him. “In either case, the coffee’s back there, so I’ll just go get us some. Take anything in it?”

Silence. I took that as a no. I left him and his X-ray vision to their probing evaluations and scuttled out. I peeked in on Grace, our church secretary, before heading into our micro-kitchen. “We have a visitor, Grace. Our inspector guy, Mr. Ross MacElroy, accent on the ‘Mack’. Bit of an odd duck. 

Flashed a badge at me; says he’s from the government.”

She shrugged. “Not sure why’d he’d admit that, but then some folks take their work seriously, I guess. At least, he’s prompt. I didn’t think he’d be here for another half hour or so.”

“That’s all well and good, but I hope he doesn’t take his job so seriously he denies our permit. If we don’t get this building shored up pretty darned soon, we’re gonna find ourselves working eye-to-eye with Roscoe and the rest of the gang out in the cemetery.”

She sighed, shooed me away with the flick of a finger, and said, “Least Roscoe’s quiet. Go away.” 

Grace is a subtle soul.

I started to walk away then remembered my manners. “Coffee?”

“Shoo!” Guess not.

I gave her a mock salute and left. I poured two mugs of coffee from our ten-year-old Mr. Coffee and returned to the foyer. I spotted Mr. MacElroy in my office. He stood with his hands behind his back, rocking on his heels, peering out the wavy-glassed front window at the parking lot. I wondered if he’d had time to peruse my files or hack into my computer. Hope he didn’t find my miserable Solitaire scores.

“Here you go,” I said, setting the mug in front of him. “Nice and hot. Grace makes great coffee.”

He nodded. “I know.”

Right. I motioned to the chair in front of my desk and sank into my own. He sat—I marveled that the chair didn’t collapse—took a sip of coffee, then set the mug down and pulled out a small leather-bound notebook and expensive-looking pen. “Let’s get down to business.”

I nodded. “Shoot.”

His head snapped up. “That supposed to be funny?”

“Uh, no, I don’t think so. Do you want it to be?”

He glared at me for a few more seconds then tapped his pen on the pad, cleared his throat, and scanned the information in his book. “All right then. You’re Hugh Foster, recently retired Air Force chaplain. Married to Melanie Foster.”

I nodded.

“Your parents and in-laws are still living in Michigan where you and your wife grew up and eventually met at Michigan State University,” he continued. “Melanie majored in horticulture; you went on to become a pastor. You served in the Air Force for twenty-seven years then retired here to Road’s End, Virginia, bought The Inn at Road’s End—a lifelong dream of both you and your wife—on the southeast corner of Gloucester Street and Rivermanse Lane. Shortly after opening up for business, you assumed the pulpit at the Christ Is Lord Church across the road from said inn on the southwest corner of the aforementioned Gloucester Street and Rivermanse Lane.”

Right. The very church we’re sitting in, on the only corner in the entire town. I hoped he couldn’t read minds.

He stopped to take a breath. I would have, too, but I was fresh out, so I blinked vigorously instead.

He flipped back a few pages in his notebook and continued with my life story. “While in the Air Force, you were stationed at eleven bases, lived in thirteen different houses, and served in both Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. Lived outside the country for a few of those years, raised your three kids—now all grown. One of them is getting married this June—on the 20th. A daughter. I have their names,” he glanced up, “but then you know them, don’t you?”

I gulped. I had a moment before, but I wasn’t so sure anymore.

“While in the military, you and Melanie were active in your communities, had numerous friends, and visited Virginia—Colonial Williamsburg and its environs, in particular—every chance you got.”

“Wait, wha …?” That was me, always the glib one.

He held up his hand. “There’s more. As recently as this past winter, you and your wife and most of the townspeople were involved in an altercation in which … uh, let’s see, a late model Hummer was blown up by a person named Sherman DeSoto. I see he had an accomplice named Sophie who was never charged.” He paused and made a notation in his notebook; I wondered if Sophie was about to be arrested. Good luck with that, Ross.

“Shortly after, a hostage situation occurred involving several senior citizens,” he droned on, “one man was shot, though not fatally. Coincidentally, shortly after said altercation, renovations were made to the church with monies collected by one Bristol Diggs, former homicide detective who served a year in prison on felony charges before being released under mysterious circumstances, retiring from the police force, changing his identity, and moving to Road’s End to become a part-time church caretaker and town handyman. Am I correct so far?”

I nodded. Stupidly.

“Is there anything else you want to tell me?”

I tried to think of something he didn’t already know. “I had Cheerios for breakfast.”

He stared at me with those beady, T-Rex eyes. “You find this amusing, Pastor Foster?”

I shrugged. “Well, yes, I guess I do. I mean all this to dig out of the mess we’re in? To shore up a crumbling foundation? All we’re asking for is clearance. Should be a simple enough operation.”

“Is that what you call it? A mess? A crumbling foundation? And you’re asking for clearance for just what operation?” He said the last word as though he were vomiting.

This guy was starting to get my goat. I ignored his questions. “According to the information I’ve been given by Bristol Diggs—and given his expertise in this area, I trust his judgment—this is necessary, even urgent. This situation needs immediate attention before everything falls in around our heads. And the operation I’m talking about is simple. Out with the old, in with the new. You know about these things. What’s so difficult about fixing what’s broken? After all, you’re with the government, right?” It occurred to me that I was probably asking the wrong guy considering that part about working for the government.

His glare could have boiled water. “Let me get this straight. You’re admitting that you’re planning to undermine the current foundation and replace it with a new one, right? And this Bristol Diggs you’re collaborating with—would that be the same Bristol Diggs involved in the altercation this past December?”

I stared at him. “How many Bristol Diggs can there be? And no, I’m not undermining anything. The damage is done. Decades of neglect have brought us to this point. Bristol assures me it'll be a relatively painless procedure. The transition from old to new will be seamless, and once we’re finished, no more worries about the world crashing down around our shoulders.”

The man literally puffed up like one of those pans of popcorn you heat on the stove—probably the same stove he bench presses—and pulled himself to his full height, about nine feet from my angle. “I’m afraid, Pastor Foster, that I can’t allow this to go on any further.”

When I stood, I noticed that even though he wasn’t nine-feet tall, I was still considerably shorter. It crossed my mind to stand on my chair so I could address him at eye level, but then I remembered it was on casters. Just my luck, I’d pitch backward through the window to the parking lot behind me and frankly, the building had enough things wrong with it without me adding a broken window to the list. I settled for standing on tiptoes. “Listen, Mr. MacElroy, we seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot here. If your agency can’t accommodate me, I understand. You have bosses, too. All I seem to be doing is shooting the messenger.”

Hard to say what happened after that. One minute I was standing behind my desk with my head thrown back at a forty-five-degree angle admiring Ross the Redwood, and in the next, I was sprawled face down on my desk with my nose pressed into my first draft of Sunday’s sermon. Hulk’s little brother and his beefy knee seemed bent on smashing my spine through my lungs and nailing my ribs to the oak desktop.

I remember wondering, as I drifted toward asphyxiation, if he’d turned green.