What will be the greater challenge for Eden, working with her enemy or finding the killer?
With the afterglow of having put bully Correen Grazle in her place after solving her last case, Eden Price starts looking forward to the rest of summer. She’s made friends, and Halstead finally turns back into the peaceful town it used to be.
But tragedy strikes again when a popular teacher drowns in the local swimming pool. The authorities are quick to label her death an accident, after all the pool was full of swimmers. Only Correen thinks otherwise and Eden’s friends believe her, dragging reluctant Eden into an investigation.
Convinced that the dead woman hasn’t been the model teacher everyone considered her, Correen and her friends persuade Eden to work together before the killer strikes again. Can they set aside their animosity before it’s too late?
Toxic Intentions is the third book in the Halstead Mystery Series
Honestly, I thought about doing it several months ago but didn’t. Still, it felt like an impulse purchase.
Or more accurately, an impulse adoption.
Yes, the Bush family expanded by two last week. Two was never in my thoughts. That is, until I had to make the decision.
I went to the Caring Hand Humane Society on Thursday, September 16, to learn about the adoption process and to get my questions about adopting and caring for a cat answered. I think I knew in the back of my mind that stepping inside would be the point of no return. I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.
When I arrived I didn’t know if I would see any cats on this trip, but after visiting with a very helpful lady and asking multiple questions, she offered to take me to the cat room. Immediately an all-black cat named Mushu came up to me and we hung out.
A bit later a gray cat named Figgy and I bonded, and it was over. When I asked about the adoption process, the lady told me if everything looked good with my application I could go home with a cat that day.
I hadn’t even considered that as a possibility. I mean, I didn’t own a litter box or cat toys or cat food. I wasn’t prepared.
But I was hooked.
I filled out the application but couldn’t decide which cat. I could have taken several of them home but had narrowed it down to Ziggy and Mushu because I had bonded with them the most.
I ran to Wal-Mart and purchased the items I needed to bring cats into my home, including a scratching post. I sent my daughter pictures of Ziggy and Mushu and asked her opinion. She texted me back:
Awwww they’re both so cute!!!
Looks like you have to get both lol
So I did.
The first few days have been interesting.
I thought they were both older than fourteen months (Figgy was born on July 31, 2020) and eight months (Mushu was born on January 23, 2021) when I chose to adopt them.
I only gave them three rules. First, they have to use the litter box. That’s not been a problem as they were well trained.
Second, they need to let me sleep. If I don’t get my sleep I’m miserable and I tend to make people around me miserable as well. They struggled with this one at first. I don’t know what kind of hours they kept in the shelter. Maybe the roomful of cats was like a college dormitory and they partied all hours of the night.
At first, I heard them several times during the night running around the house, or worse, hopping on my bed expecting me to get up with them. But then they started doing better. They spend part of the night in my bed and part of it elsewhere, and when they’re in my bed they do a good job of laying still and not demanding my attention. I’m very pleased with our quick progress.
The only complaint I have is they like to wake me around six. I’m not always clear on which one is the culprit, but I think they’ve both been guilty. They do let me go back to sleep, but it isn’t a habit I want to continue.
It’s the third rule I’m most worried about. It’s an important one. They aren’t allowed to mess up my puzzles. I regularly have a puzzle in process on my kitchen table.
There are signs this will be an issue at some point. They have no problem leaping onto the table, even without the use of the chairs. I didn’t realize how high cats can jump. They both like the table, especially Mushu. I shoo them off but they’re relentless.
I’m about three-quarters of the way through my current puzzle.
I don’t know how but so far they haven’t messed with the puzzle or the pieces. They walk across the table and don’t drag puzzles pieces everywhere. I can’t see that continuing, especially when I start the next puzzle and have a thousand pieces spread out across the table. I may need to build a barrier.
Update: I purchase a spray bottle and now both cats seem content not to be on the table or my kitchen counters.
One rule I didn’t need to make was to stay off of the toilet while in use. Figgy made that mistake once and now seems content to let me pee in peace.
I’m not an impulse shopper, but I’m glad I made an exception for Figgy and Mushu. They are a welcome addition to life in my house that today seems a little less lonely.
Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop. Leave us comments. We love hearing from you!
Crossing the Line
I read Charlie’s file and my stomach hurt. No, my head hurt. No, it was definitely my stomach.
Charlie was the reason I almost quit Grim Reaper Training School.
Well, not Charlie personally. I had never heard of him before I picked up the file from administration twenty minutes ago. But his kind. I could learn to deal with a lot of what death had to offer, but I didn’t know how I would ever successfully handle watching the Charlies of this world die.
The training academy had counselors for this sort of thing, but I had wanted to graduate top in my class and I didn’t think it looked good for the valedictorian to have emotional issues directly related to his chosen profession.
So I gutted it out; told myself I would learn and adapt. It’s funny how easily we can convince ourselves of lies when we desperately want them to be true. In so many ways Reapers were no different than the humans we served.
I went straight to Charlie and confirmed what I had no reason to doubt. Charlie was two years old, healthy, and cute as a puppy.
Now, I had two days to dread his imminent death. It’s just as well that Reapers don’t sleep, because I couldn’t have gotten any if I had wanted.
I sat at one of my favorite spots, near the flowing river, tossing rocks in absentmindedly.
For a day and a half I tried to figure out a way to avoid watching Charlie die. The worst part was it would be an accident. No one would see it coming it.
Nothing reasonable came to mind. I could trade with someone—that was allowed, but it had to be for a good reason. I could say that my parents needed me, but administration verifies. I couldn’t ask my parents to lie for me.
I had exhausted all of the ways I could feel sorry for myself when crunching leaves behind startled me.
“What are you doing here?”
“I haven’t heard from you and I got worried. Are you hiding?”
I wanted to be mad, but my heart had skipped a beat when I saw her. I guess it felt good to not be alone.
I tossed another rock into the river. There was probably no reason to keep it from her. Sheila had a way of knowing things—like how I would be here.
“My next delivery. It’s a two-year-old.”
She sat, like she suddenly couldn’t stand. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m not ready for this.”
She placed her hand on my arm. “Do you want me to ask one of my siblings to trade with you? George needs the extra work because his fiancé wants a big wedding. And Margaret loves to watch people freak out when someone dies. She would love to watch Charlie’s mom discover his dead body. Margaret’s always been odd.”
The thought of someone knowing I wanted out frightened me more than the assignment. “No.”
“I would trade with you but I haven’t been trained yet,” she offered. “But then again, no one has to know!”
“No, I couldn’t ask you to do that.”
“You’re not asking; I’m offering.”
I looked at her for the first time since she had sat down. You know, if I focused on her eyes and squinted a little, she wasn’t that bad looking. I placed my hand on hers, which remained on my arm. “I appreciate the offer, I really do, but those goons from collections, last time they showed up right after Darren died. It would be too risky.”
We sat that way, in silence, for what could have been hours. Time was running out and there was no way to avoid it. If I wanted to continue as a Reaper, then I had to do my job. I had to collect Charlie’s soul.
I stood with as much certainty as I could muster. “It’s time.”
Sheila looked up and I saw compassion deep within her eyes. “Would you like me to go with you?”
Having Sheila with me might look strange to the collectors when they arrived for Charlie. I shook my head. “I need to do this on my own.”
She gave me a quick peck on the cheek and I stood there, all thoughts of Charlie gone.
I arrived a few minutes early and tried to picture Charlie’s death in my mind in order to prepare me to not look away. I had found out the hard way that not looking when someone died meant their soul could easily escape.
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even pretend to watch him die, how would I ever watch the real thing?
Charlie played in the sand box, digging a hole while filling another. He was happy, focused, and oblivious to the dangers lurking near. His mom lounged on the deck, a close eye on Charlie.
Then like a vision, I saw what would happen. A gray, stuffed wolf sat on the edge of the swimming pool. Charlie would see the wolf, toddle from his sand box, lose his balance trying to pick it up, and drown.
Immediately the sequence began. A beeper sounded from inside the house. Charlie’s mom took one last look at him before hurrying inside.
Charlie stood. “Kitty?”
It’s a wolf, but I guess that doesn’t matter. He won’t live long enough to learn the difference.
I’m not sure why or how, but I found myself racing to the stuffed animal. I picked it up.
“Kitty?” Charlie cried.
Before I had time to process what I was doing, I tossed the stuffed animal away from the pool. Charlie chased it down and returned to his sand box. A few second later his mom exited the house, looked at Charlie, then at the stuffed wolf and slapped a hand over her mouth. She glanced at the pool and tears welled up in her eyes. She ran, picked up her son, and hugged him tight.
And then I didn’t.
What had I done? I had just interfered. They were very clear that was not allowed. Very clear!
Maybe I could tell them I lost the soul. Fill out the paperwork accordingly and they would spend years searching the globe for Charlie’s soul, hopefully decades, before someone on the oversight board realized what had happened. By then I would be a big star among the Reapers and we’d all get a good laugh out of the story. Right?
What if? What if the government lied? What if aliens survived the crash? What if they escaped? What if they’re still here…hiding, waiting, preparing? What then?
I am in Roswell, New Mexico, visiting family and preparing for the UFO Festival.
The festival brings a wide variety of people, from die-hard true believers in aliens to local residents interested in the activities to vendors hoping to capitalize on the tens of thousand of people who attend the festival every year.
Of course, this year it’s hard to tell how many will come after last year’s cancellation, this year’s reformatting of events, and the current remaining threat of COVID-19. I, for one, will be in attendance selling my books and the t-shirts I recently had designed and printed.
When I lived in Roswell during the mid-1990’s, I visited the UFO Museum and read about the crash in 1947 and the prevailing theories. Basically, one group of people believes the sighting and crash was a weather balloon flown by personnel from Walker Air Force Base, which was located south of downtown Roswell. Another group believes the crash was an alien spaceship and that the government hid the aliens and aircraft and covered it all up.
My science fiction series presents a third alternative. What if some of the aliens escaped before the government reached the crash sight?
In the first book, Vetrix, I describe what I believe happened on that day of July 2, 1947. While I won’t go into details in order to avoid spoilers, I will say that I explain my theory and play it out to its conclusion in the second book of the series, Earth.
Vetrix describes how three twelve-year-old sixth-graders from Roswell, New Mexico discover the truth behind the crash and alien activity on earth. Earth describes how the whole planet learns of alien presence on the planet.
Book three of the series, Zentron, follows the main character, twelve-year-old Flipper, and a group of both human and alien friends, as they continue to battle against a group of aliens set on destruction and domination. In Sevitan, book four, I describe a lot of the background of how the aliens came to be who they are and why two species from different planets remain at war.
Though I’d guess the idea of aliens escaping after the 1947 crash isn’t unique with me, I’ve never heard the theory presented elsewhere.
So, what if aliens not only survived the crash in Roswell but escaped authorities? What if they multiplied, trained and planned and are now ready to take over the world?
The only way to find the answer is to read the Vetrix series for yourself.
Eden’s Grandma is no killer, but proving her innocence is another matter entirely.
After solving a local murder mystery, Eden Price is beleaguered by reporters, and she hates every minutes of it. Together with her grandmother Maimeo, she sneaks out of town in disguise to cheer for Halstead at the Kansas 3A State Baseball Tournament.
But what starts out as a joyful challenge turns sinister when Maimeo discovers the body of one of the umpires. With the murder weapon found by the police, Lucas and his teammates are under suspicion. Eden needs to prove the Halstead players’ innocence, but everything she uncovers points toward Maimeo as the killer.
If she can’t fit the pieces together in time, Lucas and the Halstead Dragons can kiss their shot at a State Championship goodbye. And her grandmother may sit in jail for a very long time.
Three Blind Mice is the second book in the Halstead Mystery Series.
When the pandemic and shut down hit the world, every aspect of our lives changed. An alternate reality became our norm, and each person was faced with unprecedented choices. Pandemic Devotionals is an anthology of stories collected during the 2020 and 2021 aftermath of a virus that brought the world to its knees. However, in the chaos and confusion, God remains a tower of unchanging strength. As we learn to overcome fear with faith, we can find courage that God is moving mightily on the behalf of those who love Him.
I was honored to contribute a devotional for this anthology. All proceeds are being donated to the Salvation Army.
Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop. Leave us comments. We love hearing from you!
Grit Nearly Succeeds
I was determined not to fail…again.
I had been following Darren for days. It was overkill, I knew, but desperation had overtaken me. I had to catch a soul. The authorities understood a learning curve, but mine had yet to curve.
Darren was active, but 92 and his heart would soon give out.
I knew the time and place—we all do. That’s how we can be on hand to collect the souls. It wasn’t good to have a lot of lost souls roaming the earth. It took the cleanup crew years, often centuries, to collect souls that were lost at death.
Armed with confidence from my last assignment—I had witnessed the death for the first time—I was determined not to get distracted. I would collect the soul this time around.
The higher-ups had made it clear that I was on a short leash. I had to start producing or it was paperwork for me. While paperwork sounded better watching people die, I wouldn’t survive in an office processing kills. I needed interaction with others.
Darren cried every night. His wife of 69 years had died a few weeks prior. At first his crying worried me, then it became annoying. Now it had me curious. What is it about his wife that makes him cry all the time?
Every day he tells his children and grandchildren that he will be with her again soon.
Tonight, Darren’s son brought him a glass of water and Darren drank as he sat on the edge of the bed.
“The doctor called and said your heart is healthy.”
“It’s broken,” Darren insisted.
“Your tests all came back positive.”
“It isn’t the kind of break that machines can measure.”
“Dad, I wish you wouldn’t talk that way. You should be more positive.”
“Son, I am positive. Your mom and I were never apart more than a few days since we met 73 years ago. I don’t intend to start now.”
Tears ran down his son’s face, triggering Darren’s own tears. “I promised your mom I would outlive her so she wouldn’t have to experience the pain of losing a spouse. The only reason I fought the cancer years ago was to keep my promise.”
“You still have so much to live for,” his son argued.
“You and your sister have your families, and as much as I love you and all my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, your mom is my first and greatest love. She needs me. And I miss her.”
His son helped Darren lie down before turning out the light. “Good night, Dad.”
Darren waited for the door to close then whispered, “Goodbye, Son. I love you.”
He starred up at the ceiling. “Sweetheart, I’ll see you soon.”
He was all smiles as he drifted off to sleep.
How could he be so confident that he would die tonight? I mean, he would, but how did he know?
How could a person be so full of love? I loved my family, but not as much as Darren loved his. I had gone on a date with Dale’s sister Sheila, but I couldn’t imagine ever loving her like Darren had loved his wife.
I felt myself longing to love someone the way Darren loved his wife…or even his son. I had only known Darren for a few days and I felt myself drawn to him like no one else in my life. I wish I had met him years ago so I could know more about him.
He only had a few minutes left. My excitement rose as the time neared that I would be able to talk to him. I had so many questions. I’m sure the guys in processing wouldn’t mind me spending a few minutes with Darren before I turned in his soul. After all, I hadn’t turned one in yet, so late would better than never, right?
I sat on his bed, his face full of contentment, even in sleep. At least his death wouldn’t be gruesome like the one I had witnessed. He would die in his sleep.
Suddenly he sat up. “Who’s there?”
I stood, startled.
“Who are you?” he demanded.
“You, you can see me?”
“Of course I can see you.”
“My name is G.R., and I’m…”
“You’re here for me,” he finished matter-of-factly.
His face softened and his smile returned. “I’m ready to be taken to my love.”
I was unsure what to do.
“I’m sorry. You’re not dead yet.”
“Oh.” Disappointment filled his voice. “But you are here for me, are you not?”
“Well, yes. Any minute now. I have so many questions for you.”
Everything within me wanted him to live longer. I wanted to know him better, know what made him tick. I felt like I had so much to learn from Darren.
“I’ve waited long enough.” He laid his head back down on his pillow, closed his eyes, and within seconds his heart abruptly stopped.
Darren’s soul departed the dead body. “I’m ready. Take me to my wife.”
We floated up through the roof and he stopped to take in the view of the city.
“I will, I promise, but first I need to ask you some questions.”
Suddenly two guys I recognized from collections arrived. The pair, about equal in height, would dwarf any human.
Rick carried himself like he was in charge. “Congratulations, G.R. You finally caught one. Cost me the office pool though. I thought it would be another two weeks.”
I wouldn’t have considered his stature thin except compared to his partner, Stan, whose extreme enthusiasm for his job clearly had made an impression on many of my former classmates.
“I had you at never,” Stan laughed. “Make sure you turn in your paperwork within three days to get credit. We’ll take it from here.”
“Wait…” But they were gone. I didn’t get to ask Darren any questions.
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A couple of weeks ago I had the treat of visiting the seventh grade language arts class in Cottonwood Falls.
Bill and Kinsey posing with her copy of When the Time is Right.
My cousin’s daughter (I think that makes her my second cousin, but who’s counting?) presented a book report on my cozy mystery, When the Time is Right. Having a book I wrote as the subject of a book report was a first for me, so given the opportunity I gladly agreed to appear in person.
Unfortunately, due COVID-19, I appeared via Zoom instead of in person.
It was a treat for me to watch and listen to Kinsey talk about my book. I enjoyed visiting with the students, though this group was one of the quietest I have come across. Maybe they were awestruck by my celebrity status. 🙂
Bill and Kinsey in D’Angelo’s (better known as the Pizza Parlor).
The biggest treat for me happened the weekend before my visit to the classroom. Kinsey came for a visit to Halstead with my Aunt Nyla and Abby (another second cousin, I believe). They wanted to see the actual places that I wrote about in my book.
We started by eating pizza at D’Angelo’s (better known as the Pizza Parlor in When the Time is Right). Nyla took pictures of the inside of the restaurant and I posed with Kinsey in one of the booths.
From there we walked to the hospital and took several pictures and I told them how I envisioned the story playing out as I wrote it. I showed them the house across the street that I used to begin my description of Dr. and Mrs. Emmett’s house.
As we circled the hospital, I think Kinsey peeked inside every window she possibly could. She even took a couple of pictures.
My family ran out of time and had to leave, so I didn’t get to take them up on the levee and show them where Eden and Lucas took the critical walk that led them to an understanding that they needed to work together. We’ll save that one for next time.
Maybe one day When the Time is Right will be big enough to supplant Picnic as the go-to reference for what gave Halstead its biggest exposure to the outside world. Or maybe it will be the whole collection of the Halstead Mystery series. Maybe not.
Bill and Kinsey being silly and re-enacting the break-in scene from his book.
The Snader Lord has awakened. The Chase is on. Can the companions keep him from the weapon he desires?
Allison remains trapped on the Snader spaceship. With a power struggle among leaders, she uses her dreaming ability to warn her friends of the Snader Lord’s intentions. But is the information she’s gained helping her friends or leading them into a trap?
The destination? An abandoned spaceship laboratory containing hundreds of experiments and a few dead bodies. When Flipper and his Gude friends arrive at the city-sized spaceship, they must discover what it is about the wreckage that attracts the monster’s attention.
The only clues they have come from a single visit by Allison and strange messages from a distant Prophet relaying information through Chezlor, who’s stranded on Sevitan, a planet without technology. Soon, a scarier and more urgent question arises—are they alone on the spaceship?
Can the trio use their resources to keep the Snader Lord from what he’s after?
Can Flipper turn enemies into allies in time to save the galaxy?
Don’t miss out on Flipper’s scariest and most exciting adventure yet in this fourth installment of the Vetrix series!