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Author Archives: Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

About Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

Bonnie's Blog Posts invite our readers and free spirits everywhere to share life's adventures with us. I talk about writing my novels, reading books, chatting with other writers and John's and my journeys around the world. We welcome your anecdotes to our experiences and discussions.

RITA GERLACH, Author of Inspirational Historical Drama/Historical Romance

RITA GERLACH, Author of Inspirational Historical Drama and RomanceRita Gerlach fell in love with the American History near her Maryland home and her novels have evolved from that fascination. Through the past ten years, Rita has published six novels and her seventh one is just released. It is the third in a series called DAUGHTERS OF THE POTOMAC published by Abingdon Press. Many of her faithful fans have been anxiously waiting to find out what happens next. What does Rita say about this last book in her trilogy. “I think Beyond the Valley is my favorite out of the three. Sarah seemed to resonate with me on so many levels. She is a wife and expectant mother, a loyal friend, a grieving widow. Her faith is shown in a way relevant to the times she lived in, not just a Sunday Christian, but a virtuous woman whose daily walk with God required ultimate trust. I hope for those who have read books 1 and 2 in the series will read Beyond the Valley to discover how Sarah came to River Run and the many trials she faced and the love she finds in a compassionate physician, Alex Hutton.”

Reviewers believe this book is her best as well.

Beyond the ValleyRomantic Times BOOK REVIEW: Creating characters with intense realism and compassion is one of Gerlach’s gifts. Her books typically involve dramatic situations, giving her characters a chance to rise above their adversity. Beyond the Valley is a shining example of that, reminding us that we are never forsaken. This is the third in the Daughters of the Potomac series. Sarah’s character was introduced in the first novel, Before the Scarlet Dawn, and now she has her own heartwrenching story that takes us from England to Virginia and Maryland. The historic setting is vividly descriptive, bringing the story to life, almost becoming a character unto itself. You may shed some tears, but you’ll come away with deep contentment and satisfaction of a story well told.

MaryLu Tyndall, author of the Surrender to Destiny Series: Beyond the Valley is a delightful escape of adventure and romance and a sweeping saga of tragedy and hope that you won’t want to miss!

* * *

Here’s a little about Beyond the Valley.

When Sarah Carr’s husband Jamie drowns, her young life is shattered and takes a turn that she never expected. Pregnant and widowed, she reaches out to Jamie’s family for help, but they are unwilling. Instead they devise a plan to have her kidnapped through deception and taken to the Colonies to live a life of servitude.
 
In Virginia, Sarah is auctioned to a kindly gentleman to serve his eccentric wife. After she meets Dr. Alex Hutton, and is loaned to him to help with his orphaned nieces, hope comes alive he will find a way to free her. But when The Woodhouses go bankrupt and sell off all they own, Sarah is sent away. She faces hardships in the wilderness, and is soon surrounded by a family’s whirlwind of secrets, praying the young doctor she loves will find her again and bring her freedom

Beyond the Valley, BOOK 3 in the DAUGHTERS OF THE POTOMAC series is available in ebook and paperback in all fine book stores. Amazon http://tinyurl.com/8dta3o2

Rita's Books

Buy the entire series from Christianbooks.com http://tinyurl.com/aclvcl8

To see Rita’s blog, please go to Inspire: The Musings of an Inspirational Historical Novelist

 

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Finding Serenity and Sanity with Leslie Raddatz

In FLASHBACKS in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Surviving the Flood–a healing and inspiring memoirImage, Leslie Raddatz has written a book vital to the medical community and medical schools, to students of psychology, psychiatry and social work as well as to fellow victims of abuse and military veterans suffering with PTSD. For someone who has never experienced abuse, it is a revelation to see what victims endure and suffer through. Many social workers, for instance, don’t understand why women who have been abused by their husbands keep returning because it is not logical, but Leslie explains how the victim feels along with what is happening inside her mind–the flashbacks that bring the past into the present and make it feel just as dangerous as it did originally. Personally I can’t imagine having such things replayed over and over again in my mind. Leslie’s courage to take back her life and her renewed faith in God combines to rebuild her life and her family’s life with healthy positive skills replacing self-destructive behavior. This “road map” back to sanity is a must read for everyone. What’s more, told as a personal story, “Flashbacks…” has far more value than dry scientific text books that fail to empathize with the horror and trauma victims experience. Instead it draws you in and keeps you glued to each episode to find out what happens next. How will she overcome this living hell? It’s not a sob story though. Leslie does not want you to pity her. She wants you to understand what it is like to live in her shoes. It also helps readers see that anyone can suffer from PTSD if placed under “breaking-point” conditions. Kudos, Leslie! In time, Leslie’s journey and advocacy may become the hallmark of fellow suffers’ healing and recovery.
ABOUT LESLIE RADDATZ
Leslie has lived in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, most of her life. She has three children, two daughters and a son, and is happily married to a supportive man. She has had many traumas and abuse in her life but she also has had many mentors who helped her along the way. She started working for a fast food restaurant at 16 years old and today she works for an administrative office as an office manager. When she was 18 years old, she became pregnant while still in high school. She was on welfare and received WIC (Women, Infants, Children), Federal help which gave food stamps and a monthly check. She experienced first-hand how people judge and mistreat others in need of help. She dedicated herself to working hard to earn society’s respect and to beat the odds again. Her education includes four degrees: Office Assistant Degree and Administrative Assistant Associate Degree -specializing in software support from a Technical College. She also graduated from the E-Seed program to help her start up her own business.
She received The Achievement Against the Odds Award in 2002 because three of her instructors nominated her. She also has a Bachelor in Business Administration and Bachelor in Marketing. She accomplished all these degrees while battling with her Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, conversion and somatization disorders while also raising a family, working and going to night classes full-time. She has beaten all the odds that were stacked up against her. She is proud to be a Survivor. Her mission in life now is to help others like her with mental illness and to give them hope, encouragement and inspiration that if she can heal so can they.

BACK COVER BLURB:

Flashbacks in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Surviving the Flood

Childhood for Leslie Raddatz is one continuing nightmare. To survive, she represses her memories until one day, when she is a 34-year-old woman, a wife and mother, her past erupts into the present with a full blown flashback. It is the onset of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it threatens to destroy what mental and physical endurance she has salvaged through the years. But, her child within cries out for recognition and mercy. More psychological disorders emerge — somatization and conversion. Is she to lose everything and everyone she loves to the madness of her past?

She agrees to relive her childhood under the protection of a professional counselor and comes to understand how her parents’ neglect made her an easy target for predators who sexually, physically and emotionally abuse her over and over again. She graduates from victim to survivor while detailing today’s sophisticated techniques that help her heal: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), attachment and ego state therapy, Brainspotting, positive imagery, resource building, coping skills, art therapy, task therapy, and counseling.

Once you read Leslie’s story, you can take comfort in the hope she offers and follow her example on your own healing journey.

GO TO: amazon.com Book is available on Kindle and as a paperback.
 

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The Radio Murders: The Caller by Chuck Collins

In 37 years as a broadcaster and Addy Award winning writer and producer of commercial radio, I noticed something bubbling just beneath the surface of every successful performer: a desire to push the art to the very limit. When I was able to take some time to follow a passion for writing, I used radio as backdrop for a story that had been growing in my soul for decades. In 2002 The Radio Murders began.

“You are only as good as your last show.”  Bill ‘Crash’ Kradich is a competent talk show host in an industry that is rapidly changing. He knows that the only way he can survive is to take his show national. But the field is crowded and he needs something to stand apart from the rest. As if on cue, a murder in his family puts his show, his Chicago radio station and his future on the national stage. His sister, and only family, is both victim of an apparent abduction and suspect in the murder of her husband. Soon after, a disturbing pattern emerges implicating some of Kradich’s closest associates. Meanwhile the victim, Peter Janich, has crafted a swindle against a secret and dangerous force known only as The Collectors. What happens next is a torrent of bad choices leading to worst consequences.

The nationally syndicated Radio Murders with Bill Kradich is born, but at what price?

EXCERPT

Part One, Chapter 28

Molnar and Flowers found Harris Richards cooperative and genuinely in the dark about Rivillo’s involvement in the Janich murder. He handed them off to the station program director, and Kradich’s direct supervisor, Jerome Bennett, whom Richards called ‘Jerry.’

“By the way, call me Jerome. Harris is the only person on earth who calls me Jerry.” The men exchanged introductions as they walked into a large glass lined conference room in the interior of the studio complex. Flowers looked with amazement at the layers of casual activity visible through shared interior windows that exposed nearly the entire operation.

“You mentioned Dani hadn’t arrived at the station yet?” Molnar sat down at the wide table and began the interview.

“Yes, she is usually here by now. We have a standing appointment at ten to discuss the Crash Kradich show. I was about to call her when you arrived.”

Flowers watched Bennett carefully. “I don’t have to tell you, Jerome, this is a serious matter. We’re not totally convinced Renko was acting alone.”

“I pulled his file,” Bennett clicked a few keys on one of the computers that were scattered on nearly every surface. “He’s from Racine, no next of kin listed, but I know he has a father, whether he’s still alive I can’t tell you.”

“Did you ever get a hint that Rivillo was capable of committing a serious crime? Someone you would consider unstable?” Molnar asked.

“You know, in this business you run into some strange characters.” Bennett reared back in his chair. His thin frame seemed to sink into the soft leather.

“There’s always something bubbling under the surface. Could Renko do something stupid? Absolutely! Could he hurt anyone? That I find hard to believe. He was bordering on OCD and I think he was completely dependent on Crash, Dani and his girlfriend.”

Bennett scratched his black beard with nibbled fingernails as he spoke. “Everybody knows if you want to screw with this guy’s head just move something around in his studio or do anything out of the ordinary.”

“Did you know him to have money problems?”

“Detective, we work in radio, only the top guys are getting rich from this pricey little toy. I’m sure he lived paycheck to paycheck like most of us.”

“Jerome, we have to tell you that there’s evidence that this crime involves more than just Renko.” Flowers explained. “You might want to prepare yourself.”

“What do you mean by that?” Bennett was incensed.

“We mean that we have reason to believe that if Rivillo was involved in this murder he sure as hell didn’t act alone.”

Molnar said. “Now either this guy has some secret life even you don’t know about, or there is a real stink in this place.” Molar leaned forward, trying to disarm the programmer.

“You suspect Kradich had something to do with this?”

“You don’t seem surprised.” Flowers said.

“Nothing that guy does surprises me.” Bennett looked at the shiny surface of the conference table then up, past the detectives. “Have you ever heard of Guerilla Radio, detectives? ”

“C’mon, Jerry.” Molnar quipped. “We aren’t here for a class in radio. Is this guy off the reservation or did your evening show suddenly go psycho?”

Psycho.” Bennett let out a little chuckle. “Some might think it’s the equivalent. It’s the way some do radio. The way some of us were taught.”

Bennett continued. “Had a boss once who told me, we don’t go to work, we go to war. And it’s only gotten worse.”

Bennett rose from the chair and walked to the windows of the conference room. Large, boney hands disappeared into the back pockets of his jeans and he looked at the line of studios. “People listen to the radio ready to pounce, they want to hate you and love you at the same time. I counsel those who want to do this silly job to be ready. You are now a target, I tell the kids. Even the veterans need reminding. Your biggest fan is predisposed to despise you, yell at you while driving on the expressway, and call you every name in the book.”

Bennett turned, his face twitched into an odd smile that melded into his usual sullen expression. “Or worse, not give a shit at all.”

He pointed, without looking up, toward the acoustic tiles and the recessed lights in the ceiling. “We have dozens of satellites shooting hundreds of radio shows down to cities all over the world, and every one of them, every no-talent buffoon with a microphone is falling all over himself trying to out-gross, out-shock or out-disgust the next guy. Whether you’re talking about some guy who practically has sex on the air, having strippers measure his dick with a ruler, to another pair of geniuses who compel people to do profane and dangerous things for a t-shirt, to the guy who slaughters an animal under the pretense of proving a point.”

The programmer leaned his knuckles on the conference table. “There is no point to it, detectives. It’s become de rigueur, a constant circus, ugly and perverse, with all nine rings of hell in every car, every kitchen, on every so-called smart phone, filling every willing ear.”

“That’s quite a speech, Jerry.” Molnar said. “Where do you and your station fall in all this? What ring of the perverse circus, as you put it, does the Crash Kradich show perform?”

Jerome Bennett sat down. A weight seemed to push him down. He took a deep breath. “Do I think a clown like Kradich could be involved in murder? Why not, Detectives? Like I said, this is war. How far a leap would it be to murder?”

He watched the investigators’ eyes. “And don’t call me Jerry.”

Molnar smiled and looked at Flowers. “That could be probable cause. Enough to serve a search on this place and his apartment, Jerome.”

“You know, I was out of this for a while. Had enough to move to Mexico and live on the beach with enough fish, beer and pussy to last a lifetime. I must have been nuts to come back.” Bennett stroked his beard and soaked in the memory.

“Can we see where Rivillo works?” Flowers asked.

“I’ll be happy to show the detectives, Mr. Bennett.” Torsha Lofton, KCI news director, was in the conference room door. It was as though she had been there all along.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CHUCK COLLINS: Broadcaster; Writer; Photographer; People Lover; Story Teller; Gadgetphile; Husband; Father; Recovering Alcoholic; Human.

Why read The Radio Murders: The Collectors and soon The Radio Murders: The Caller? The idea of talk radio going beyond any reasonable limits has never been explored quite like this. While the mystery is captivating, it is the people you will come to know that makes reading worthwhile. The Radio Murders is home to some of the most interesting and vivid characters you will find in a mystery/thriller series. As one critic put it, “the reader is rewarded.”

You can purchase The Radio Murders at My Bookstore, http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/chuck_collins
at Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/The-Radio-Murders-Collectors/dp/0557394937/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1330895536&sr=8-8
Barns and Noble (Nook and Hardcover) http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/the-radio-murders-the-collectors?store=ebook

Chuck Collins
Author, The Radio Murders
Operations Director
Rubber City Radio Group
Program Director 1590WAKR
Akron, Ohio
Twitter: @chuckcollins

 

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Dead Comic Standing by Karen Vaughan

Forced to endure someone who uses your personal foibles as fodder for a comedian’s act can take its toll on your psyche, especially when that comic is your ex-girlfriend. Hank Cavanaugh has had enough. Only, what can he do? At the threshold of his endurance, Hank swears the comedians in town better stand up and take notice when he starts slashing his way through the comedy clubs.

 

EXCERPT

 

Prologue     Present Day 2008

He slammed his glass down on the bar.

The barkeep filled the glass and passed it to the dude.

“Good show” the bartender said, nodding to the comic on stage.

“He’s okay, but I’ve seen much better,” the stranger replied.

“You know comedy?”

“I was comedy, years ago. Then I started my own club, hosted the best up-and-comers.  I guided Carey, and Myers, on their way up. I was the Simon Cowell of the comedy world. I discovered more new talent than Cowell can shake his finger at.”

“So what happened?”

“I lost it, son. I lost my faith in humor. Too many bad things happened to accept that laughter can pull you through the worst. Sometimes it can be a curse.”

The stranger looked up at the comic who was finishing his routine, before turning back to the bartender. “That kid probably does have talent. He could be destined for Last Comic Standing. The problem is I am just too jaded to see it.”

“So what actually made you lose your vision?”

The man took a sip of Scotch, and said, “My wife died of cancer—a quick death.  We didn’t see it coming.You’d think that would be enough for a guy to have to deal with…But then five years ago, some asshole lost his sense of humor, and all hell broke loose.”

Summer 2003

Chapter 1     Back in the Day

An up-and-coming comic was just exiting The Laff Attak. The comedian usually left through the alley after his sets, usually two per night, 30 minutes per set. Like other wannabes, he worked two clubs per week whilst working part time at an upscale Coffee Emporium. This guy didn’t want to spend the rest of his career as a part-time Barista /Comic. Oh no, this dude had plans, he was going to be the Robin Williams for the next generation. Well, skip the ‘Na-noo-Na-noo’ bullshit that Robin had to tout, in his early years.

In the meantime, bills had to be paid and the comic had a wife to support as well.  Debbie worked as an insurance adjuster for a huge HMO management company. She technically supported him and his “hobby.”  At least it was a marginally paying hobby.

The young man walked around the corner down another alley, a supposed short cut on his way home. He feared nothing, although he would never have let Deb do this, day or night. Her argument was why should he? Did he think he was “Iron man” or something? The young dude lit up another smoke, a filthy habit and Deb hated it. Another reason she thought he might die young. She just didn’t get the part about a good smoke, after coming off stage. Comics had to be the worst chronic smokers. He had to do it here because once he stepped into the house, no more ciggies. He might as well smoke now ‘cause Deb wouldn’t let him smoke after sex. Smoking brought him back from the adrenaline high of being ‘on.’  No matter what shit hit you throughout your day, you hit the stage running with a smile, ready to show the crowd the time of their miserable lives. He stood in the shadows taking a few pulls on the Camel, dropped it and ground it into the asphalt with the other discarded cigarette butts. Debbie, as much as he loved her, had her phobias. She was convinced that some guy would jump out of the shadows and knife him to death, when, in reality, the worst killers came wrapped in cellophane and cardboard.

The next step he took into the alley was his last. A hand holding butcher knife came out of nowhere.  If this weren’t the end for real, he would have found a place in his act for the scenario. He felt the knife blade plunge into his stomach, and he went down on his knees, and then fell onto his back.

“Fuck man, if you want my wallet, just ask.” Dave was gasping for air.

“It’s not about the money, asshole.  I just didn’t know how else to tell you……”

“What?” Dave croaked weakly.

The stranger grabbed the hilt of the knife, and yanked it out of his victim’s gut.

He looked straight at him and said,

“YOU JUST AIN’T FUNNY!”

Then the killer slit the young man’s throat.

©   Karen Vaughan 2008

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Vaughan is also the author of the novel Dead on Arrival. She lives in Peterborough, Ontario, with her husband, Jim, and their two cats. Her hobbies include crafting and, of course, enjoying the humor of stand-up comics.

AVAILABLE IN KINDLE AND PAPERBACK.

 

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God Does Have A Sense of Humor by Rob Ballister

At the Crossroads of Humanity is found many challenges and conflicts. Author Rob Ballister has focused on those times in his life when his belief in God and his sense of humor have saved his life. In this special book, he delivers a touching and entertaining portrait of his journey through dating, growing up in New Jersey, and surviving cancer. Along the way, he learns that God Does Have a Sense of Humor. Follow him: 

Through surgeryMy understanding was that the doctor, while hopping up and down on one foot and singing the national anthem, was going to remove my lymph nodes using a butter knife, a hacksaw, and some 10W-30 motor oil.

Into the confessionalThere sat Father Riener, who was technically old enough to have been one of the original apostles. As I began reciting my list, Father began falling asleep. Being only in the fourth grade, I did exactly what I did at home when my younger sister fell asleep. I kicked him.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Image of Rob Ballister

A native of Martinsville, NJ, Rob graduated the United States Naval Academy in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering, and served on the Joint Staff for six months before heading for flight school in January 1995. He was redesignated as a Civil Engineer Corps officer in December of that year, and his first CEC duty station was at Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA, as deputy head of the planning section. Following that tour, he moved to California for duty with the Navy Seabees. While with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion FORTY, he served as Charlie company commander, Air Detachment officer-in-charge (during two separate deployment cycles), and Civic Action Team Pohnpei officer-in-charge. His experience as company commander earned him the Pohnpei OIC billet during his second deployment, where he led a team of Seabees on humanitarian missions in a third world country. He also deployed to operations in support of the US Support Group East Timor. After his battalion tour, LCDR Ballister transferred to Engineering Field Activity Chesapeake, where he worked in the construction office at Andrews Air Force Base. During this tour he was also assigned temporarily to the White House Military Special Programs Office.

Rob has also done extensive work with community youth, beginning well before his military career when he coached little league baseball for three seasons while still in high school. At Quantico, he coached three sports over five MWR seasons, and recently resumed his coaching “career” in San Diego with the local MWR organization as a basketball coach. In addition, he has been a volunteer religious education teacher for four years, and has taught math, english, military drill, religious doctrine, morality, and a variety of sports to children ranging in age from 6 to 17.

In addition to his undergraduate degree, he holds a Masters of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Maryland, and is a registered professional engineer in the state of Maryland. He is also a member of the Society of American Military Engineers.

The publishing of “God Does Have a Sense of Humor” was the culmination of over ten years of writing and re-writing Rob’s experiences from his life, including his military experience and his surviving cancer. Rob is married to his beautiful wife, Ivy, and they reside in Maryland with their daughter Kyla and their dog Toby.

Book is available at the Military Writers Society of Amerca.

 

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Stairway to the Bottom by Michael Haskins

In Chapter One of Stairway to the Bottom, the fifth in the Mick Murphy Key West Mystery series by Michaek Haskins, we see the beginning of Mick’s dilemma. At the moment, he isn’t even aware he is at the crossroads of his life.

Chapter One

If I hadn’t gone to watch the comedy showcase at the Key West Fringe Theater, I wouldn’t have silenced my cell phone. If I hadn’t silenced my cell, I would have answered Dick Walsh’s first call at 1:10 A.M., and then things might not have gone so badly. If is a damn big word for only having two letters.

I unplugged the cell from its charger in the morning and the lighted screen reminded me it was on silent mode and that I had five messages.

Each of Dick’s messages was more frantic and pleading than the last. He needed help, but didn’t say for what. By the third message, he was cussing but still wanted me to call and that was at 3:15. He didn’t sound drunk, like most three-in-the-morning callers do. He sounded scared.

The fifth and final message came at 5:36. He had calmed down, asked me to come by his house as soon as possible and gave me the address. His composed voice assured me I would understand the problem after I arrived and he would be in touch later.

“Mick, I need you to believe me, it isn’t what it looks like. Please help me,” his message ended with a quiet plea.

I dressed quickly in last night’s clothing and swallowed cold water from a bottle out of the cooler. Before I got into my Jeep and drove to Dick’s house on Von Phister Street, I called his cell but it went to voice mail and I left a message. We were playing phone tag.

Von Phister is a narrow, tree-lined street in a quiet neighborhood of old and new houses. Dick’s was an old two-story house with a large gumbo-limbo tree in front and two more in back. He actually had a decent-size backyard, something that is at a premium in Key West.

The house was dark. It was almost six-thirty, about an hour since his last call. The sky was a light gray with a reddish-purple sunrise pushing the dawn westward. Only a large yellow tomcat crossed my path on the empty street.

I parked in front and noticed Dick’s scooter was gone. I went up the steps to the wraparound porch, rang the bell, and then knocked. Nothing. I looked into the living room window. Nothing. I knocked again and when no one answered, I tried the door. It was unlocked so I went in.

The stench that greeted me in the hallway was familiar. The smell of death was strong and that told me somewhere in the house, death was very recent. Death, if left alone long enough cloaks all other odors, especially in the tropics – violent death even more so.

I called Dick’s name but no one answered. I walked into the living room and it looked lived in – a big screen TV, stereo with CDs stacked next to it, a sectional sofa set. A hallway led to a kitchen, small dining room, and bathroom. The stairway on the right went upstairs to the bedrooms.

Dick used the dining room as his office – medium-sized desk that was too big for the room, a computer, a printer, and a two-drawer file. I walked through into the kitchen. There was a table for two off to the side, dirty dishes in the sink and a woman’s body on the floor.

She lay face down and a large part of her head was gone. Pieces of shattered skull, along with parts of her brain and blood, tarnished the otherwise clean kitchen wall.

Blood and human waste soaked the tile floor and stained her clothing.

The stench of death filled the kitchen. I didn’t bother looking for a pulse.

An automatic with a silencer attached lay on the floor, her arm stretched out toward it as if reaching for the gun that had a small stream of brownish blood curled up next to it.

I ran upstairs to check the two bedrooms, calling Dick’s name. Both rooms were neat and the beds made. Nothing broken or seemingly out of place. Dick’s closet looked full with only a couple of empty hangers in the mix. The guestroom closet was empty.

Dick shot this woman, I thought as I looked down at her body. Whose gun was it on the floor? I didn’t touch anything, though I wanted to. My curiosity was getting the best of me.

I’m Liam Murphy, a semi-retired journalist and fulltime sail bum, some say. Key West has been my home for almost eighteen years. Before that, I lived in Southern California and reported on Central American civil wars and when they ended I covered the drug wars for a weekly newsmagazine so a dead body wasn’t something that frightened me, it intrigued me.

In Key West, I’ve made friends with all kinds of characters, including the chief of police, Richard Dowley. We have a two-sided relationship. One side is Richard the cop, the other is Richard the friend. He considers me a friend but always thinks of me as a journalist. He says I only have one side. I called him on my cell, sure of catching him at home, and knew I’d be talking to his cop side.

I told him where I was and what I’d found.

“What are you doing at that nut’s house?” I could hear him banging around in the kitchen.

When I explained about the messages and Dick’s plea, he sighed loudly enough

 for me to hear on the phone.

“Don’t touch anything and I’ll call it in,” he said. “Best thing is go outside and wait for the first unit, and I’ll make it there too.”

“Okay, Richard, but tell the ambulance it doesn’t have to hurry,” I said and he hung up without replying.

Outside, I sat and waited, thinking of Dick’s last message telling me it wasn’t what it looked like. It looked like murder.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Haskins has lived in Key West for more than 15 years. He came to the island as the daily newspaper’s business editor/writer and after five years left to take the newly created city position as public information officer. He’s written seven Mick Murphy Mysteries and had three Mick Murphy short stories published as well. Two in the series have appeared in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and one in the Saturday Evening Post

Michael’s Mick Murphy Key West Mysteries are popular with locals and with the many visitors to the island, who often write after reading a book and comment on how it helped them remember the good times they had in Key West.  

To find out more about the author and sample his published writing, go to www.michaelhaskins.net

 

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Running with Chaos by Elicia Clegg

Elicia Clegg’s suspenseful novel “Running with Chaos delivers an unsettling rendition of a pivotal moment when three characters stand at the crossroads of destiny and freewill.The following excerpt features one of the three main characters. Sam is at a crossroads of epic ramifications. She has been warned. She either allows eight-year-old Raven Clayton to die, or allows for a stranger to take her place. As you will read, Sam will go against everything she has been taught to break the chain fate has already forged. 

. . . . .

Sam stood outside of Animus’s house for nearly five hours. She warned her several times of the ramification of what was to happen, yet Sam’s mind was made up.  Sam finally started walking toward the elementary school, wishing it would hail in order for the Earth to suffer as she now did. Each step she took brought her further and further from her circle of friends. She felt trapped in this new reality, no longer rational, running off pure emotion. Something wasn’t right, but this didn’t matter. She loved Raven, she couldn’t explain why, but when she heard her laugh it was the first time she had felt alive. She liked this sensation. To her, killing him equated saving her. Even if time had to stop, she would complete this.

The night air was not cold, yet it chilled her all the same. Unaware of what her heart demanded, Sam walked on with raw intent. She paused as she reached the school. Time had frozen and somehow shifted backwards.  She didn’t know how, but her group and Erin were suspended during this shift. She half surmised they were all shifted to another dimension, but this, this could not be, so her mind accepted time was bent, and a handful of people were the only ones to know.

A life for a life.

The words Animus had said; her intent not an evil one, although the outcome would remain the same. They could not create a paradox. A child was killed. It changed the community, and it changed the life of the murderer. Too many had been touched; another child would have to take Raven’s place. his was equality, this was Sam’s job.

“This is not right, it couldn’t be right.”

“You are not the judge of right or wrong,” Animus’s words stung and endured in her mind.

“Then who is?”

She stepped on the same curb she would be stepping on in approximately eleven hours. She would shield herself from the pain, walk away, and let an unknown person take Raven’s place. The morning wind picked up; the smell of death swirled all around. She had to close her eyes. Concentration built in her mind; she could see and feel everything as though time did not exist. And then she heard the new mother’s tears mixed with the fathers; their shallow breathing, a pain so agonizingly real that even now Sam could feel it.

No, no, no. Her mind screamed. She clutched at her chest. She couldn’t do this; something had forever changed inside of her. She could no longer live like this, she was no longer levelheaded, and no longer did she understand the delicate balance she herself had pledged to keep.

She waited, catching his murderous scent. The vengeance which had seared through her soul the day she killed Chuck now boiled up again, frothing and foaming out, covering her with the hatred of wickedness. She was the hunter and her prey’s disgusting lust lingered in the air making his location easy to find. She walked quickly, never hesitated as she navigated down the streets. At first walking until he was closer and then she ran. Her speed that of a trained sprinter. He was so near, she wanted to weep from the strong emotions flowing in and out of her.

“You are not the judge of right or wrong,” Animus’s words stung again. 

“I am this morning!”  Sam yelled into the vast emptiness of the morning hour as though someone, anyone could hear.

Her body stopped. She didn’t need to catch her breath, just take hold of her wild thoughts and keep them in check. She felt him, her body turning toward a small house. The trim was neat, painted yellow, baiting salesmen to come. The front door was red, commanding power. Even if he lacked it, he would not let the world know he was nothing more than a poltroon. The yard, green and cut to an enviable length, dawned tiny yellow flowers, most appropriate for a man who envied all those around him. 

She wanted to vomit, perfection, order, no chaos, just order. She could not put the scale in check, for inside, in his mind, chaos ran free, equality, order, utter disorder… she could not go against her nature, against her job, but then again, she hadn’t been feeling like herself lately, and she felt, maybe she could twist herself inside enough to change everything. Her dramatic mood of disgust was conspicuous to her, clearing out her mind, clearing out the ability to follow orders blindly. She would and could do this. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elicia Clegg, who was born in the small town of Spanish Fork, Utah, affectionately known as happy-valley, moved at age four to Ogden, Utah; a town riddled with a dark past of opium dens, brothels and businesses with underground tunnels constructed for criminals’ and prostitutes to escape police raids. Not only was Elicia’s environment surrounded in historical intrigue, her family has long whispered about a Curse as many have died in strange events. To name but a few: her grandfather was thrown off a building in New York City, her great-grandfather “fell” off the historic Radisson in Ogden, her father was shot in the head, her brother died in a work explosion, her great-uncle had a truck load of lumber crush him to death, her maternal great-grandfather was hit by car and died, a cousin who served two tours in Vietnam died on route home from his heart bursting, her maternal great-great-grandfather disappeared without a trace, and her grandmother, while volunteering, was stabbed to death at the State Mental Health Institute. 

It is no wonder she grew up with an overactive imagination and soon began to write many psychologically-thrilling suspense novels including Vexation, Castigate My Sins, and Running with Chaos.

 

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