Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Get Yer Free Book Here!

Trade you!!!

If I can hook you up with a FREE copy of a Tabor Heights book, would you do me two favors? First ... Tell AMAZON where you get it free, so they'll get on the ball and make their copy of this book free? For some crazy reason, Amazon won't post a book as free unless they see it posted elsewhere as free, even if the publisher asks them to.

Second, could you write a review? Please? Pretty please?

THE SECOND TIME AROUND, the very first Tabor Heights novel, is FREE on Barnes & Noble, as
well as on the Desert Breeze Publishing website. Please go and get your copy, and then pester Amazon until it's free there, too, okay?


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Time to Consolidate!

I hope you'll come over to my "main" blog and check out new and upcoming books, read excerpts, learn about upcoming Quarry Hall books.

I won't be shutting down the Tabor Heights blog for some time, but since there aren't any plans in the near future for any "new" Tabor Heights books, you can look back through the archives and read about the existing books -- there's plenty to read right now, with 20 books! On my main blog, I'll still post excerpts and talk about new books, and post announcements of booksignings and opportunities to maybe get some goodies, participate in contests, and other news.

So please join me at the Living Proof blog:
It'll be fun!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

ANNE'S OGRE: Excerpt

The big German Shepard performed with precision, ears and tail up, almost prancing as if he was in a dog show. He leaped from the back of the truck, then reared back on his hind legs, barked three times, dropped forward, and trotted halfway to her. Then, responding to more gestures, he turned around three times, sat down, got up again, ran to her and ran circles around her and Hal, weaving in and out between them twice. Hal's jaw was nearly dragging on the parking lot pavement by the time Argus finished his performance and sat down. Anne was grateful the parking lot had been scraped clean and was only a little slushy, as she bent down to hug and stroke Argus, praising him.

"How long did it take to teach him all that? What language were you using?"

"That's classified data. If I told you, I would have to kill you," Anne responded, keeping a perfectly deadpan expression.

Hal grinned, obviously thinking she was joking, but his smile faded after a few seconds when she didn't react. Then Anne laughed and he joined her, looking more than a little relieved. She answered some of his questions as they headed around the front of the building to go back inside.

"Our head of security trains our dogs. He also teaches us self-defense and gives us a refresher course every time we go home, beating us black and blue most of the time. Many of our dogs are born at Quarry Hall, our headquarters, but we get a good number from places like the DEA, ATF. We have a couple cadaver dogs, bomb dogs, border patrol dogs."

"I can't imagine road work for a philanthropic foundation can be that dangerous," Hal said as he pushed the door open for her.

"You'd be surprised how nasty some people can get when you come between them and the innocent and defenseless. It's like they think their rights are being violated."

"Uh huh. Not sure we want to put that in the story. If we run the story."

"We'd prefer the enemy not to know we're prepared for them," she offered with a half-smile, as she reached forward and pushed open the door into the front of the office suite. Her smile widened as she thought about the receptionist's reaction, wondering how she had gone into the back and then appeared at the front of the office without going past her.

Argus growled and pushed past her, sliding through the gap between door and frame before it was wide enough.

"What's--" Hal began.

A gun fired.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Quarry Hall, Book 7: ANNE'S OGRE

George, Quarry Hall's mechanic, is a broken man, haunted by dreams of a life he can't remember. Vincent fights to keep George from remembering the soulless killer he once was -- until a trip to distract George gets his picture in a magazine, and awakens the past.

Anne's past again haunts her and she struggles to regain her peace. The Ogre who molested her and killed her parents is gone -- isn't he? The Black Prince who rescued her returns, but her delight in seeing her hero is crushed when she learns the Ogre escaped and is closer than she could have guessed.

As Anne re-fights the battle of forgiveness and healing, Quarry Hall and Vincent's former commando team race to find the mystery man hunting George. Will his trail lead to an enemy from decades ago? At what point can a monster be considered truly dead and gone?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

CHARLI: Excerpt

“No, no, no,” Charli growled. Her hand shook, but she reached into the holster on her hip and pulled out the flare gun. “Please, God …” She only hesitated a second before pulling it out and pointing her arm straight up in the air.

The flare arched up high with a shriek like the cub’s, and for a moment vanished among the cloud cover before exploding in brilliant blue and gold.

“Rangers!” one of the poachers shouted. He dove into the back of the Jeep, over the buck’s carcass.

The others cursed and shouted and scrambled to get into the Jeep, nearly forgetting the guns and the flashlights. Charli stared, unable to believe their reaction. She leaned out further, watching them as the Jeep bounced and jolted out of the clearing. The grinding of gears nearly drowned out the thudding of her heart. She leaned out as far as she could, following the bouncing and sliding of the headlights until they vanished entirely.

Too far.

Charli let out a little shriek as she overbalanced and lost her grip and slid down the slope. She twisted, trying to miss that lump that was probably a boulder, then another, long dark shape that was definitely a tree knocked down during the winter storms and heavy ice load. She flipped over onto her side. Her good leg hit something hard and she pushed off, grunting at the impact.

Then suddenly she was down, rolling across the clearing, until she landed in a depression on her face. A wet depression. Charli lay still for a few seconds, catching her breath. A gasping chuckle escaped her. Then she struggled to her feet, pulled her backpack straight, brushed herself off and hobbled over to the cub. He whimpered when she bent down and touched the top of his head.

“It's okay,” she murmured. “Nobody's going to hurt you anymore.”

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Wouldn't You Rather Be a Minion, Too?

Actually, you're not going to be a minion, but part of my Croo.
No, that's not spelled wrong. That's a revision and deliberate twisting to get your attention.

I need a CREW to help me promote my books. Because honestly, there's just too much to do, too many places to reach, and I have too many commitments to handle it myself.

So, would you join my CROO?
It's just in the planning stages, but here are some definites:
Inside news on upcoming books.
Sneak peeks at artwork
A chance to weigh in on works-in-progress
Goodies, like T-shirts, mousepads, and other fun stuff as I find it.
A chance to voice your opinion on stories and characters and offer suggestions/requests for future stories, and advice/volunteer to help me promote my books.
And .... FREE books. Actually, ARCs -- Advance Review Copies. You'll get the uncorrected ARCs for my books when I get them, when my publishers send them to me for last-chance-to-fix-that-really-STOOOOOOPID-glitch-before-you-embarrass-yourself-in-public.

Well, maybe the books won't be free, and not everyone in the CROO will get one -- just the people who are interested in that particular series -- because I will ask you to very kindly write and post REVIEWS of the books you get to read before everyone else. Yeah, places like Amazon and Goodreads and B&N and other review sites. Be honest, but be nice??? Okay???? If you don't like the book, if it let you down completely, hmmmm, maybe just don't say anything? I'm not asking you to lie through your teeth and be like the worst used car salesman in the world, but if you could convince other people to read the book, that would be splendiferous!

Here's how to join:
Go to Facebook, find either of my pages, either personal or writing -- they're both public. Send me a message saying you want to join the CROO, and then send me a friend request. When I approve the friend request, I'll send you the invite to join the CROO page -- because this is a private, closed group. Only people who join can see what everyone is saying, can join the fun, participate in our plotting for world domination. You know, like Pinkie and the Brain did every week for three seasons ...


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Quarry Hall, Book 6: CHARLI

Years ago, Charli Carson and her father surprised a thief searching his laboratory. She was crippled and he died.

Nightmares plague Charli, so a reclusive life is easy. Joan Archer comes to the Carsons’ hidden forest lab, seeking to save her father’s life and prompting Charli and her mother to reevaluate choices they have made.

When they shelter the children of friends in danger, a chain of events leads to the enemy striking once more. Charli must conquer her fears and nightmares to protect the children and find answers before it is too late.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

NIKKI: Excerpt

"Please, Lord, help me. Show me what to do." Nikki shook her head and watched the teardrops fall on the Bible's pages. "I know what I have to do, but I don't want to. I'm a coward. I'm selfish. I'm--" She slid to her knees again, resting her head on the open Bible, sobbing.

She didn't hear the door open, didn't feel anything until Brock caught her by her elbow and lifted her to her feet.

"You are pathetic! How long are you going to lay around, crying and talking to a God who sure isn't listening? Can't you figure out what you need to do? What's it going to be, Nikki? Me or that baby?"

Later, all that she could remember clearly was that he called it a baby, not a thing, a problem.

She knew what she had to say, what she should say, but the words still caught in her throat.

"Are you gonna abort it, or not?" He dropped her on the bed. "How long are you going to put us through this?"

"I can't--"

He swung back, agony twisting his face. Time slowed, but she couldn't move out of the way as his hand came down and connected hard with her face. Her vision shattered, her neck snapped back and half a heartbeat later she was airborne. The thud when she hit the wall seemed to deafen her and knock the air from her lungs. Nikki slid down, gasping and blinking.

Brock snatched up her Bible and tore it apart at the spine. He yanked and ripped and threw pages across the bed, then across the room.

"Choose!" He threw the cover into her face and stormed out.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Quarry Hall, Book 5: NIKKI

Nikki lives a faerie tale existence, but after a chance encounter with Joan Archer, she starts to rethink her choices. Brock has changed since convincing Nikki to run away from home. Now his goal is to protect her from his drug lord boss. When his DEA contacts say they can't protect Nikki, Brock must act. He must break her heart to drive her away to be safe.

Ashamed to be the prodigal, Nikki doesn't go straight home. Joan and the Quarry Hall sisters find her and start her healing and the journey home. When the drug lord decides to bring Nikki back use her to camouflage the organization's activities, he kidnaps her. Quarry Hall and its friends marshal their resources to find her before it is too late.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

DARCY: Excerpt

"Coals," Josh murmured. "A new gang," he flung over his shoulder as he broke into a run. Vincent followed. They were only half a block away from Darcy, but right that moment it seemed like miles.

Knives flashed. The three Coals blocked Vincent's view of Darcy. The sidewalk cleared and the traffic on the cluttered street seemed to come to a standstill. A little old lady shrieked. It sounded more like injured pride than pain to Vincent's ears. Then he heard dull thuds and sharp smacking sounds; flesh against flesh.

"Darcy!" Josh shouted as he flung himself onto the back of the nearest Coal. The two went down in a heap.

A second gang member turned, swinging his knife at Vincent. From this close, it looked more like a short sword than a knife. Vincent ducked and turned, kicking high. His foot hit the target, bones snapped, and the Coal went down, shouting in pain, holding his hand. The knife went flying. Vincent turned, looking for the third -- Josh had his opponent well in hand, kneeling on his back and twisting an arm behind him.

The leader of the trio faced Darcy. He had her backed into a doorway, surrounded by barrels and crates of trash, with the Plinkney sisters cowering behind her. Darcy held a four-foot length of rusty, one-inch pipe in a two-handed grip, crouching low, eyes narrowed as she studied her opponent. Her sweatshirt sleeve gaped where it had been sliced and blood soaked into the material, radiating out in a spreading stain, turning the green cloth purple. Darcy seemed not to notice the wound.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Quarry Hall, Book 4: DARCY

Black Ops doesn’t begin to describe Vincent’s former paramilitary team.

When a friend of the Arc Foundation requests help for a rescue mission facing scandal, he learns two former teammates are involved. Vincent must investigate for the sake of his conscience, but can his instincts be trusted? Who has reformed, and who still waits to destroy those who betrayed him years ago, when their team disintegrated?

Joan comes along, to provide balance and a second pair of eyes. Josh is in charge of renovations. Karl is the fundraiser. Darcy, Josh’s daughter, is an idealistic young woman ready to give her life for what she believes. As Vincent and Joan track down the enemies of the mission, they uncover lies and an insidious scheme, with Darcy as pawn and prize.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

KATHRYN: Excerpt

Regina muttered her farewell and scrambled into the truck. Kathryn stayed leaning against the front of the truck, scratching Bea behind the ears and talking with Pastor Small. She knew her companion wanted to get out of there, but she also knew the minister had questions. He had been patient and helpful and accepted what she told him. She couldn't repay him any other way except with as many answers as she could safely give.

"I really appreciate this," she said. "Not many people these days will help strangers with such a flimsy explanation."

"That isn't reason enough?" Pastor Small laughed and gestured over his shoulder at the white steeple with the gray metal cross on top.

"It should be, but--" She decided not to get into that area.

Sometimes the nastiest, most uncooperative people she had run across in her journeys were people who claimed to be Christians. Nine times out of ten, they based their long lists of what a "real" Christian should be on their own opinions and schemes to earn their way into heaven, and never checked what the Bible said.

"What really convinced you? Back when we were talking in the sanctuary, there was a moment when I thought you were going to throw us out or call the police, then you changed your mind."

"Those." He pointed at the shoes the custodian had given her.

"Oh. Sorry." She went to one knee and started to untie the paint-spattered sneakers.

"No, you ought to keep them." Pastor Small bent down and caught hold of her arm, tugging her upright again. "Four years ago, our youth group put together a time capsule as a joke when they renovated their classroom. Those are my shoes. It was quite a mess, with all the painting we did. We had a great time." He winked. "Those shoes should be in a locked metal box three feet underground, sealed in plastic wrap and cement."

"You're kidding." Kathryn felt a chill race up her back, but it was a good chill.

"Plus," he continued with a lopsided smile, "we don't have a custodian right now. The deacons and trustees and the ladies mission groups and other committees take turns with the upkeep and cleaning. The place hasn't looked this good in years..." Pastor Small tried to laugh. "Whoever -- or whatever -- helped you, he wanted you to be here. Who am I to argue?"

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Quarry Hall, Book 3: KATHRYN

Kathryn's retreat for relaxation and contemplation is interrupted to take a fugitive to safety, beyond the reach of authorities who may be compromised. The injured woman knows her name is Regina, but not why people were shooting at her. The journey to reach a friend in the FBI is complicated when Kathryn's illness requires frequent stops, permitting Regina's pursuers to nip at their heels.

When the mountains interfere with cell reception, and she can't stop long enough to make a call for help and advice, Kathryn has only her companion dog, her own wits, and prayer to depend on. Deception waits around every corner and Regina's attitude tests Kathryn's sympathy and her faith.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

NIKKI'S TEST -- Excerpt #15

Nikki sighed when she put her phone back in her pocket, caught between a flicker of resentment and that odd, full-chest-and-can't-breathe feeling that came over her sometimes when dealing with Joan. So this was what it was like to have a big sister. She liked having a big sister, instead of being big sister, as she had been all her life to the constantly changing stream of foster-children the Holwoods had taken in over the years. Sometimes Joan got overly protective of her -- or at least that was how Nikki felt. Sometimes she liked it, sometimes she resented it. Especially when it seemed like Joan was still trying to make up for all the years they hadn't been together. Or even make up for not stopping their mother from putting Nikki in the car and shoving it into the storm-swollen Rocky River to drown her when she was a baby. How could Joan have stopped her? She had been only thirteen at the time.

"We are major league messed up, huh?" Nikki murmured to Gray. "Come on, help me find signs of Brooklyn."

She stepped off the tiny front porch of the neat white and blue-trimmed bungalow, and went clockwise around the house. The garage was detached, set back ten feet, so she made a separate circle around it, trying to watch Gray, for any signal of something to investigate, while she studied her surroundings. The neatly trimmed flowerbeds and immaculate mulching looked and smelled fresh enough, that was probably what Brooklyn had been doing for the last two weeks of her visit.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

NIKKI'S TEST -- Excerpt #14

"That was fast," Joan greeted her as soon as the connection opened.

"Brooklyn's not here. Did she call you with any changes?"

Silence for three thuds of her heart. Nikki had enough time to wonder if this was what happened to Brooklyn's phone -- someone nearby had some futuristic gizmo that George hadn't thought of yet that could interrupt the phone signal.

"Maybe they went to the sheriff's office. If there's something wrong at his house, maybe they don't want anyone to see you picking her up. Lose you in the traffic. Brooklyn said it was in the center of town."

"That makes sense." A nervous chuckle escaped her. "And here I stand, knocking and ringing the doorbell and getting the attention of every busybody on the street." Nikki looked up and down the street, both sides as she spoke. "Not that there's a single sign of life. Actually, kind of creepy."

"How does Gray feel?"

Nikki's face heated as she glanced down at her companion. Gray sat on his haunches next to her, looking perfectly calm. If anything, as he tipped his head up to meet her gaze, he wore his "So, what are you waiting for?" expression. He definitely showed no signs of alertness or awareness of any trouble or threat.

"He's just about to get bored." She felt better when that earned a chuckle from her sister. "I'll go check the sheriff's office and let you know."

"I'd take a walk around the house, in case Brooklyn left you any kind of message."

"Hey, I was just about to do that."

"Uh huh. Be careful, Nikki."

"I will."

Thursday, March 31, 2016

NIKKI'S TEST -- Excerpt #13

"Now is not the time to go overboard and tie myself into knots, or blame everything on waking up way too early," she told Gray. "Ready?"

Her companion nuzzled her shoulder, shifting to a definite shove with his head. Nikki laughed and roughed up his fur. She made sure of her keys, slid her phone out of the charging/connection station, tucked it into her back pocket, and opened the door. Gray leaped out after her and waited until she locked and closed the door. After all, what good would it do to be sweeping Brooklyn away to safety if the enemy managed to get into her Jeep during the ten minutes she was inside the house?

Nikki never got into the house. She rang the doorbell and heard it clearly -- several windows were open. She waited. No one came.

She rang the doorbell again. This time she pulled out her phone and watched the seconds tick by until a full two minutes had passed. She rang the doorbell, and then knocked immediately afterward. It wasn't like there was any music playing in the house that the doorbell chimes couldn't penetrate, but knocking would.

Besides, Brooklyn would be ready to go. She wasn't a late sleeper to begin with.

"Unless…" Nikki didn't want to give voice to the rapid montage of possible reasons why Brooklyn wasn't answering the door. She still had the phone in her hand, the screen turned on. Her hand didn't quite shake as she tapped through the menu to get Joan's phone. Was her sister at breakfast by now, or had she prolonged her morning run with Ulysses? Nikki couldn't remember if Joan had any early morning meetings planned. Wouldn't she be waiting for word that Brooklyn was safely out of Harper's Point?

Monday, March 28, 2016

NIKKI'S TEST -- Excerpt #12

Willow Avenue turned out to be a dead end, with a cluster of willow trees and three park benches in the empty lot, behind a pretty picket fence instead of the usual metal barrier and an ugly "dead end" sign. Nikki found Sheriff Holmes' house easily enough, since there were only twenty houses on the street. She pulled into the driveway and looked up and down the street for activity from the neighbors before getting out. Just in case there was someone unfriendly watching, to take notes on who came to carry away the sheriff's visitor. All was quiet. Maybe too quiet? It was just past eight on a school day. What were the chances that no one with school-aged children lived on this street?

That reminded her of the little girl she had glimpsed while heading down the mountain. Nikki shivered, feeling as if she had been told something and forgot the exact words, but knew they were important. Back before she messed up her life, choosing Brock over her family and God, she had what she believed were guiding dreams. Answers to prayers over important decisions or steps she needed to take, or just answers to problems facing her. Those dreams stopped after she ran away with Brock, but she had ample evidence that the dreams had returned during that terrifying time when Ringo's men dragged her back to be used as a distraction and shield for Ringo's drug-running activities -- as Brock had testified during the trial. Nikki had disobeyed the clear instructions in the final dream, and was convinced, despite everything Joan and her foster-parents told her otherwise, that it was her fault Kathryn had died and she had lost her baby. She had vowed to always listen to her dreams from then on -- which, of course, meant she hadn't had any.

Until last night, maybe? Yet if she had a guiding dream, wouldn't God have made sure she remembered it? Something about that little girl, or something else she saw, coming down the mountain?

Friday, March 25, 2016

NIKKI'S TEST -- Excerpt #11

Harper's Point reminded her of Mayberry reunion shows, with clean streets and no building taller than four stories and wide sidewalks. Benches waited at every intersection, where people could watch the traffic, with lots of trees to shade them. A square only two blocks in marked the "center" of town, with a fire station and sheriff's office on one side, the mayor's office around the corner from them, facing various little storefronts, including a barber shop -- right next to Caroline's Diner, open twenty-four hours a day. It looked so pretty, Nikki could almost taste a big platter of scrambled eggs, and waffles with strawberries and whipped cream. She shook her head and turned her head so she wouldn't see it. Chain restaurant drive-thru for her -- and maybe if she was a good girl, Brooklyn would have one of her miraculous waffle-sausage-fried egg breakfast sandwiches waiting for her. Concentrate on the scenery, dummy! There was a gazebo in the middle of the bright green grass in the square, right next to a glossy black-painted cannon and an old hand-pump that Nikki suspected still worked, gushing icy water that tasted of iron on hot summer days. Too bad this was a quick in-and-out retrieval. She would have liked to spend a day just wandering around the center of town, letting Gray run loose -- a town this small wouldn't have leash laws, would they? -- and lie in the sun to read for an hour, or maybe in the shade of that gazebo.

The turnoff to get to Willow Avenue arrived before she reached the fast food places and her longed-for breakfast. Nikki laughed at herself for the momentary groan of disappointment that escaped her. That would teach her two important lessons. First, always make sure she kept her cooler filled with ice and healthy drinks and snacks. Second, and more important, learn to ignore her stomach. She had gotten by on far less food when she had been living on the road, trying to work her way home, and entirely too proud and ashamed at the same time to call home and ask for help. Besides, according to the map and GPS display, the road out of town was much shorter if she continued up this road, where it widened to five lanes and offered highway on-ramps. When she picked up Brooklyn, they would head out this way and get breakfast.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

NIKKI'S TEST -- Excerpt #10

Harper's Point appeared in a break in the trees just when she said "distracted." Nikki grinned, muttered a prayer of thanks for the timing, and concentrated on the town as it slowly grew closer. It sat in a wide, flat valley between the mountain she had just come down and the next three in the chain. The patchwork quilt of greens and browns, the white and black and brown and blue of houses, slowly took on detail. The blocky appearance faded away as the road rolled past under her wheels. Ten minutes later, Nikki came around the last curve of the mountain road and saw the sign welcoming her to Harper's Point. Just after the welcome sign was a menu board of businesses and arrows pointing which way to go, but not how many tenths of a mile away each one was from that point. Nikki saw two familiar chain fast food restaurants. That was one prayer answered. If she ran across either restaurant before she had to turn off the road to go to Willow Avenue, life would be wonderful.

"Breakfast, Gray. How about that?"

The Akita let out a grumbling woof. Nikki reached up and stroked his head.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

NIKKI'S TEST -- Excerpt #9

Nikki frowned, sensing there had to be something wrong there. She couldn't really tell how old the little girl was. Young enough not to need to be in school? Still, it was spring -- why be camping during the school week? She had been comfortable enough in her Jeep, with her sleeping bag and blankets and Gray for warmth, but she wouldn't have chosen to camp last night if she didn't have to.

Nikki gnawed on the question for another mile, then made a conscious effort to push it aside. It was none of her business. She had to find something to eat -- quick, cheap, but healthy enough that Vincent wouldn't know from eight hundred miles away and scold her as soon as she got home. Then she would find Brooklyn and get out of Harper's Point.

First, she had to get into Harper's Point. This was the main road into town, and according to the GPS, she had another twenty minutes once she crossed the city limits before she got to 5639 Willow Avenue. Brooklyn would be packed and ready to leave -- but would she assume Nikki would pass up breakfast to get there, and have something ready?

"Definitely need to get something in my stomach. Low blood sugar equals easily distracted."

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

NIKKI'S TEST -- Excerpt #8

There was no one else on the road that early in the morning. Everything in shadows, shapes indistinct, gave her surroundings a slightly spooky feel, with the sun barely able to penetrate the thick branches of pines that lined the road on both sides. Behind the dark silhouettes of the trees, and anywhere a thin spear of light penetrated, everything glistened with dew, shining softly with the reflected, hidden light. Nikki let her mind wander to the town waiting for her at the end of the winding, narrow road. Was it too much to hope Harper's Point had a chain restaurant of some kind? If not, she might have to go into a restaurant and hope they had carry-out. Or would that be taking too big a risk? Lingering too long in one place might get her too much of the wrong kind of notice. She was a stranger, after all. Maybe no one would pay any attention to her if she went in during the morning rush. Her chances were better if it was a decent local diner. Not one of those dives that always looked like a messy crowd of hockey players had just left. A place where she could order what she really wanted for breakfast instead of settling for whatever they chose to offer.

"Stop thinking about your stomach, dummy."

Gray snorted as if in agreement. Nikki lifted her gaze to the rearview mirror, almost missing a flash of pink moving through the trees up ahead, at the bend in the road. She let her eyes follow the movement while she coasted around the curve.

Just ahead of the curve there was a break in the trees where the mountain slope flattened out into a narrow sort of meadow, high with grass, almost blinding white with the thick, cold dew. A blond little girl in a pink shirt and shorts wandered through the grass that was over her waist. She didn't look around until Nikki was almost even with her, though the sound of the Jeep had to be loud that early in the morning, crunching on the gravel and broken asphalt on that side of the road. Nikki waved and smiled, but the child just gave her a blank look and continued her slow meander, heading across the meadow.

"Kind of funny, huh, Gray?" Nikki muttered. "I thought the map said there weren't any campgrounds on this road. We would have stopped there instead of doing the Gypsy thing in the middle of nowhere, wouldn't we?" She laughed when the Akita shook himself and adjusted his curled up position on the seat behind her. "Who would let their kids out this early in the morning, anyway? Besides, it seems kind of early in the season for family camping. Especially when school hasn't ended yet for the year."

Sunday, March 13, 2016

NIKKI'S TEST -- Excerpt #7

Nikki's stomach ached a little from emptiness as she started down the mountainside an hour later. There was still plenty of melt-water in her cooler after washing her face, but something nudged her not to use the rest of it. She chewed some sugarless gum that promised to whiten her teeth, and hoped it would be enough to trick her stomach into thinking she was eating. Just a little over half an hour to Harper's Point city limits. If she was desperately hungry by then, maybe the town was big enough to have a drive-thru where she could get a breakfast sandwich. Even a carton of milk or orange juice would help her. She smiled at the mist shredding in swirls as it seeped across the road in front of her, and could almost hear Vincent lecturing her on taking care of her body. How could she be on the alert, ready to look after Brooklyn and performing at her peak if she was hungry?

This would certainly teach her to plan ahead, to have stores of food for emergencies, even if they were just packets of crackers or a jar of peanut butter. She needed to carry a gallon jug of water with her at all times, even if she never had need to camp by the side of the road in the future. When she got home, she would probably find out Vincent or Joan or Elizabeth had given her just that sort of advice, but she hadn't listened or had forgotten. If she had stayed at the hotel last night as planned, she wouldn't be facing this sort of inconvenience, would she? Yet that was the point, wasn't it? Planning for emergencies. Now she understood how Su-Ma felt, berating herself every once in a while for messing up the little details.

Well, she could certainly do something about preventing a lecture from Brooklyn when she showed up with a growling, loud stomach.

"How about it?" she said, glancing in the rearview mirror at Gray. "Double sausage biscuits, the first place we find, in and out. You get the sausage, I get the biscuits. Sound like a deal?"

Gray woofed and bobbed his head, making her laugh.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

NIKKI'S TEST -- Excerpt #6

"So… how often are they able to get together?" Sophie said. "Do you think the trouble is from that far back?"

"It could be why they're sitting still," Carter said, after a short, thoughtful silence. "We will know better once that package from Brooklyn arrives."

"So, should I call Nikki?" Joan said.

"At this point in her training…" He traded glances with Elizabeth. She nodded. "I can't see how further information would help her. She already knows the situation is ticklish and time is of the essence. Sharing our speculations might just make her uneasy, awkward. The less she has to lie about, the safer she'll be. I'm sorry. This is a point where too much information could be crippling."

"There's no such thing as too much praying, though," Elizabeth said. She held out her hands for Carter and Joan to clasp. Joan took Sophie's hand, and she took Carter's, completing the circle as they bowed their heads and closed their eyes.

Monday, March 7, 2016

NIKKI'S TEST -- Excerpt #5

"All right. So… what's their story? Brooklyn has confessed even less than Vincent." Joan grinned at Sophie. "Does Brooklyn really have an English accent, or is that just part of her disguise?"

"Please say no," Sophie hurried to say. "If she loses the bet, she has to turn over her complete set of 'Firefly.'" A chuckle escaped her when Carter just sighed and raised an eyebrow.

"What do you have to pay up?" Elizabeth said.

"Her entire Stuart Granger collection," Joan said.

"Excuse me?" Carter sat up, his tone thickening with pretended pique. "You have a collection of Stuart Granger movies and haven't shared them?"

"Talk to Joan," Sophie said. "They're hers now. I assume you're trying to be gentle, telling me Brooklyn is English, born and bred."

"Sorry." Elizabeth stood up to unwrap the teapot and start pouring for all of them. "Brooklyn and Preston were junior MI6 operatives and were burned, essentially, very early in their careers. Through no fault of their own, they became too hot to handle, and came to the U.S. about thirty-some years ago under multiple layers of assumed identities. When one was shredded, they took up another and moved on. They realized fairly quickly that they were safer if they separated. Preston took up the identity of Preston Holmes and worked his way up from deputy to sheriff. Brooklyn stayed mobile until she met up with us."

Friday, March 4, 2016

NIKKI'S TEST -- Excerpt #4

Joan signaled her stepmother to stay seated while she took care of replenishing the tea. Elizabeth would need to be brought up to speed on everything said during the conversation with Brooklyn, and what they had arranged with Nikki, as well as the new suspicions she and Nikki had both come up with. Because of the constant experimenting with Dr. Carson's herbal treatments for Carter's condition, a new addition to the kitchen was a hot water tank. Near-boiling water was always ready, on tap. It was a matter of a few minutes for Joan to clean out and refill the infuser ball and rinse the teapot, then refill it with steaming water. She inhaled the first gush of spicy tea-scented steam and put the lid on, then wrapped the pot in the quilted cozy before carrying it back across the hall. Sophie was still talking, relating what they had discussed with Nikki.

"Should we call Nikki and tell her to bring Preston back with her?" Elizabeth said, after a few moments of silence once Sophie finished. "Brooklyn's brother," she explained, before Joan could ask.

"Sheriff Holmes is Brooklyn's brother?" Joan said, just to be clear.

"I think if the situation is bad enough…" Carter shook his head, still staring unseeing at the point in the air. "If it's bad enough to get out of there, it might be too dangerous for him to flee. That would be letting whoever is his enemy know that they have been detected. If they're able to get to Brooklyn's phone, and she fears she has been compromised, then they might have the power to strike. There might be innocent people he's protecting. After all," he added, finally blinking and raising his gaze to meet Joan's, "Brooklyn could have just left, as soon as she realized something was wrong. I fear the two of them are hip-deep in alligators, as the saying goes."

"Then Nikki shouldn't be going in there. She isn't trained for this."

"If Brooklyn and Preston are involved, you should feel sorry for the alligators," Elizabeth said. "If the situation was unsafe, they would have found a way to tell us not to let Nikki come. She'll arrive early enough, and she and Brooklyn can pack up and get out of there before anyone realizes what's happened." She rested a hand on Joan's and squeezed. "They'll both be fine."

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

NIKKI'S TEST -- Excerpt #3

The Carsons only stayed for another hour. Joan and Elizabeth walked them out, to take Frankie to the kennels and then to the parking area by the stables. When they came back in, Carter and Sophie were still in the breakfast room, dividing up the last of the lukewarm tea. Sophie nodded to her, and Joan guessed that her father had been filled in on the call from Brooklyn and what they had surmised.

"You made the right call," Carter said. "Brooklyn called," he added, as Elizabeth slid back into the seat beside his wheelchair. "In Butterfly McQueen mode, her phone missing, presumed stolen."

"Ah. And speaking in code because she feared someone was listening in on the unsecured line." Elizabeth took the lid off the teapot and glanced inside. "Are we going to need a fresh batch while we talk?"

"I'm guessing Brooklyn has been in a situation like this before? Butterfly McQueen?" Sophie said.

"Prissy, from 'Gone with the Wind,'" Joan explained. "We were wondering if there was something going on we didn't know about. Something in her past, maybe whatever is going on between her and Sheriff Holmes?"

"I should hope not," Carter murmured. He frowned, staring at a spot in the air a few inches above the table's surface. "Yes, dear, I think we'll need another pot."

Saturday, February 27, 2016

NIKKI'S TEST -- Excerpt #2

Charli blushed and laughed when she looked up and caught Joan watching her. Frankie followed her into the breakfast room, and ignored her when she ordered him to sit next to Ulysses. The older dog let out a woof and some silent canine communication passed between them. The overgrown pup instantly settled down on the floor, head on his paws, eyes big and pleading.

"You big fraud," Charli said, settling into the chair next to her mother. "How come he's letter perfect when we're training with Vincent, but the second he walks away, Frankie acts like he doesn't know what I'm saying?"

"Typical teenager," Elizabeth offered.

"He knows he has you wrapped around his … well, not his little finger," Dr. Carson said.

Joan suspected Frankie was acting out, punishing Charli in his own way for leaving him in the kennels at Quarry Hall, even though everyone acknowledged she was his person. The apartment where Charli and her mother lived didn't allow pets. Maybe in another year or two, when they were more securely settled in the Akron area, they might buy a house. For right now, it only made sense for Frankie to stay at Quarry Hall because Charli spent so much time there, anyway, working in the greenhouse and tending her mother's plants. Joan kept her theory to herself. No reason to make Charli any more uncomfortable than she already was, missing her dog and embarrassed over his disobedience.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Newest Quarry Hall: NIKKI'S TEST -- Excerpt #1

Joan and Ulysses took the stairs while Sophie used the antique brass cage elevator to get to the ground floor. Voices coming down the hall from the kitchen and the breakfast room guided them in their search for the two people who knew the most about Brooklyn -- Harrison and Elizabeth Carter. They found the Carters sitting at the table in the breakfast room with Dr. Rachel Carson. Elizabeth was just finishing pouring from the glossy brown antique teapot that Joan was positive held at least a gallon. From the crumbs scattered across the matching platter and the absence of cookies, Joan guessed Dr. Carson had been here at least an hour. It wasn't time for her bi-weekly check of the growth of the specially bred plants in Quarry Hall's greenhouse, or Carter's response to the latest tonic made from those plants, so Joan guessed this was either a special occasion, good news, or just a social call.

No matter how much a part of the family at Quarry Hall Dr. Carson and her daughter had become, Joan wasn't about to bring up Brooklyn's activities and questions about her past in front of them. She and Sophie exchanged a glance of agreement, and settled in to be sociable. Ulysses' ears perked up just as Joan crossed the hall from the kitchen with another platter of cookies. She looked down to the servants' entrance to see Charli Carson approaching, paying more attention to the half-grown chocolate Lab scrabbling on the tile floor than where she was going. Despite the slowly growing worry pressure, Joan grinned at the sight of the dog, who seemed to be in a perpetual clumsy stage. The difference between him and the wolf that had accompanied Charli in the wildlife preserve where she used to live couldn't be bigger, but Joan thought Frankie suited the girl perfectly.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Excerpt: Nikki's Test

Suddenly, the feeling of being in a revised Mayberry popped and shriveled up like a shredded balloon. If Chester, who looked so jolly and friendly, could be a liar and untrustworthy, what did that say about other people here? Who could she trust if Brooklyn and the sheriff could both vanish, especially when Brooklyn was expecting Nikki to come get her?

"I'll go check into the hotel and come back, check if there's any news," she said. "Thanks."

"No problem, darling." Chester winked at her and nodded like a genial old grandfather.

Nikki felt like his eyes were digging holes in her back until she had stepped outside and moved beyond the glass doors. She shuddered. Maybe Chester was mental, or just slow but functional? Shouldn't he have at least asked for her name, since she was looking for the sheriff and Brooklyn? Shouldn't he have figured that she would have a cell phone, so she wouldn't need a hotel room number where she could be reached? Besides, no matter how small this town was, Nikki seriously doubted anyone could check into a hotel room at barely nine in the morning.

Gray whined and leaped ahead of her, tugging her down the sidewalk. He led her to a telephone pole, where a man was using a manual staple gun to attach a legal-size sheet of neon pink paper to the pole. Nikki stayed a few steps back from him, waiting until he finished, glanced at her, then headed down the sidewalk. He had a sheaf of those pink sheets tucked under his arm. Nikki stepped up to the pole to see what was on the sheet. The color sparked a sense that she should know what was on the poster already.

The picture was of a little girl, with "Lost" in big letters that spanned the entire width of the paper, above and below the picture.

A chill washed over her, then her heart skipped a few beats and started racing.

That was the little girl she had seen just a few hours ago, wandering through the meadow by the side of the road. She was positive.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The new Quarry Hall book -- NIKKI'S TEST -- coming this week!

Coming this week from Desert Breeze Publishing..

The EIGHTH Quarry Hall novel, women's fiction with mystery, danger, action/adventure and a touch of divine intervention -- or maybe call it interference?


Nikki’s first courier job included picking up Brooklyn from vacation and bringing her home to Quarry Hall. Before she got there, Brooklyn called, speaking in code, hinting at mysteries and danger. When Nikki arrived in Harper’s Point, Brooklyn was nowhere to be found.

Staying in town to search for Brooklyn while pretending not to suspect anything was harder than it sounded. Her questions never got the same answer twice, and it wasn’t long before she decided people were lying to her, and then spying on her.

A letter from Brooklyn provided some answers and Quarry Hall got to work. Joan hurried to Harper’s Point, fearing for Nikki’s safety. Before she could arrive, the enemy struck. Now the question was if Nikki’s training would keep her and Brooklyn alive until rescue came.

Monday, February 1, 2016

New Book Trailer: QUARRY HALL

This month, the newest Quarry Hall book will release: NIKKI'S TEST.

This is probably one of the first Quarry Hall books I ever wrote, maybe 15 years ago, before I even had the name, Quarry Hall. This is before I knew that Joan and Nikki were sisters, or all the backstory of some of the other characters, when Elizabeth was referred to as "Mother" by all the girls and -- get this! -- they wore rings to identify them to other "agents" of their organization and had fish tattoos on their hands and other silliness and secret agent-ish gimicks.

Whew! This is why you want to think a loooooooong time about a series before you start writing, and especially before you get the books published, because when you establish something as a characteristic or key element of a series, you're kind of stuck with it!

NIKKI'S TEST releases next week from Desert Breeze Publishing. You'll get to see the cover art next week, and for about six weeks I'll be posting excerpts from the book every three or four days. Then in late March/April we'll return to the pattern of featuring one book each week, until we get through the whole series.

Right now, though, a book trailer with thumbnails of each book in the entire series.

For your edification and temptation -- QUARRY HALL.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

ANNE -- Excerpt

"I'm your first hold-up, huh?"

He nodded. Anne held out her hand again. He looked at her hand, looked back over his shoulder at the grocery store, looked at Argus. The big dog was quiet now, still standing on alert, teeth still bared, advertising his willingness to bite the minute the young gunman did anything wrong. Just because Vincent trained all the Quarry Hall dogs to never bite, that didn't mean they couldn't or wouldn't threaten to bite. It was amazing, Anne reflected, what the power of suggestion could do in a tense situation.

"Look, couldn't you just... like forget I was here?"

"I'm soaking wet. Tomorrow's lunch is in a puddle. I'm going to have one doozy of a bruise in the morning. Getting held up after a day of driving in the rain is not going to be easy to forget!" She managed a grin, though the shakes were working their way up from her guts.

Please, Lord, don't let me get stupid, now. My guardian angel has already been working overtime lately.

"No, you have to let me go."

"You need help. Nobody decides just to take somebody else's total worldly goods without some kind of reason." Anne reached into her pocket.

"What're you --"

"Just let me give you my card. It has a number you can call for help. That's what we do. We help people. Even dumb ones." She grinned wider, and pulled out her wallet. The keys came with it, falling to the ground with a jangle-splash sound.

"How about you give me all your money and I let you keep the truck and we call it quits?" he said, his voice shaking a little. The gun lowered a tiny bit more. Still not low enough to suit Anne. She had a mental image of the gun going off, the bullet bouncing off the pavement and hitting her somewhere totally embarrassing.

The grocery store door squeaked open, distracting them both. He turned a little, raising his gun. Argus growled.

"Argus --"

"Hey, what's going on over there?" a man shouted. He stepped out into the parking lot lights, revealing himself as tall, balding, dressed in dark slacks, white shirt, and the long red apron the store workers wore.

"Don't tell them anything!" the gunman demanded, his hand shaking now. He took a step backwards and pointed the gun at Anne.

Argus leaped, aiming for the gunman's chest, to knock him to the ground as trained.

"No! Down!" she screamed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Quarry Hall, Book 2: ANNE

After a rough assignment catching people out to destroy battered women's shelters, Anne needed a break. Being assigned to observe operations at Common Grounds Legal Clinic seemed like a cake assignment. Xander Finley, the head lawyer, was a friend of Joan, already supported by the Arc Foundation. Arc was simply expanding its support.

But then Anne was carjacked, her guard dog, Argus, shot. She was already off-balance, worried about Argus and wearing borrowed clothes, and things got worse from day one. Face-to-face with someone from her painful past and feeling antagonism from Xander's employees, Anne stumbled into one problem after another. Her frustration grew when allies became enemies, and she was accused of entrapment and then attempted murder. How come prayer was her last resort, when it should have been her first reaction to every problem?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

JOAN -- Excerpt

What kind of villain used twine to tie up his victims?

Joan's wrists itched from the fibers as she hobbled down the aisle between tall metal shelves full of grimy crates and packing boxes, and gave another experimental tug with her wrists bound behind her back. A sharp sensation flashed up her arm, followed by warm wet. Either sweat, or she had cut herself with the effort. She was betting on blood, because she had sat for four hours in a dark, grimy storage shed, sweating. The only thing that kept it from being a sweatbox straight out of a prison break movie was that it was made of plastic, not metal. All the time she sat there, no one had asked her any questions. She could have been another crate stored in the shed, for all the attention her captors paid her.

That was about to end, obviously. She would have preferred that they had put a hood over her head, but maybe that was a waste of time, since she had seen three of them. They didn't care what she saw, meaning they could keep her quiet and unable to use what she knew against them.

The man leading the way opened a door at the end of the shadowy aisle. Joan guessed the room was a pre-fabricated module, meant for dividing up large spaces to make them usable. All that mattered was that this room sat near the center of the warehouse. The man walking behind her grabbed her shoulder and half-guided, half-shoved her into the room. She stumbled, but the man who went in first, the beardless, taller one of the two, caught her. He copped a feel before pivoting her around, shoving her into a chair in the corner.

Matt sat in the other corner, hands bound behind him, his ankles tied to the battered wood-and-metal-tube chair with the same brown twine her captors had used on Joan. From the sweat and grime marking his face, darkening his clothes, matting his hair, he had been given the same temporary storage shed treatment. He had some bruises on his face and his bared arms, but no other signs of rough treatment. What was happening now, that they were brought together?

His eyes asked a thousand questions, but he didn't say anything.