A New Short Story for you

I’m waiting on feedback from my critique partners, so decided to write a quick short story for you. I have fun with Noira and Speed. I hope you enjoy them, too.

A Debt Paid

(a Noira and Speed mystery)


Judi Lynn

Noira tried not to wake Speed while taking a shower and brushing her teeth.  She tiptoed out of the bathroom and into the closet.  Her guy had worked overtime, manning the EMS all weekend, and he was dragging.   He was off today, and she was tempted to use vacation time to be with him, but she had to get to the courthouse to work with Judge Herschel.  The judge had a big trial coming up, and Noira had to set court dates and organize crime photos. 

She went into stealth mode getting dressed and leaving the room, being careful not to clunk her cane on anything.  Stupid leg.  It didn’t work right since the accident.

Looking in the hallway mirror, she pulled her unruly chestnut hair into a ponytail and slapped on mascara and blush—good enough for a Monday—then headed to the apartment’s tiny kitchen.  Not that size mattered, at least, not in this instance.  Noira didn’t cook.  All she needed was a fridge and a microwave.  Empty cartons filled the overflowing wastebasket.  She’d picked up all of them, and Speed would take them to the trash. 

She was pouring coffee into her to-go cup when she glanced out the kitchen window and saw a guy carrying their neighbor’s TV to his pickup.   What the heck?  She fought to remember who lived there.  Erik…something.  That man wasn’t Erik, and Erik didn’t appear to be home.  Was he getting robbed?

She thumped out the back door and headed toward him.  “Hey!  What are you doing?”

He lowered the TV onto the hood of his truck and turned to her.  Not much taller than she was with a stringy build, he started to answer, but after one glance at her cane, gave a dismissive shrug.   “Butt out, lady.  It’s none of your business.”

It had happened to her before.  When people pigeon-holed her as an invalid, they didn’t take her as seriously.  A foolish mistake.  She held up her cellphone.  “Put the TV back or I’m calling the cops.”

He made a grab for her phone, but she raised her cane and jabbed him in the stomach.  Lips curled down, he started toward her.  She gripped her cane, ready to swing it.

“Keep your distance!”  Speed ran to stand beside her, jeans yanked on but barefoot and shirtless.  An impressive sight with his hard abs and broad shoulders.

The guy spread his arms.  “Hey, she’s the one hassling me.  I just came to grab a few things, and she’s threatening to call the cops on me.”

“Where’s Erik?”  Speed glanced to the apartment’s open door.  “One word from him, and we’ll be on our way.”

“That’s the thing,” the guy said.  “Erik’s dead.  I’m just trying to get what he owed me before the cops lock down his apartment.”

Speed glanced in the truck bed.  “How big was his debt?”

“A hundred bucks.”

“You’ve got a lot more than that you’re hauling away.”

The man’s jaw set.  “So what?  He’s dead.  It’s not like he needs any of this anymore.”

“He’s dead?”  Noira only knew him in passing but was curious.  He wasn’t much older than they were.  “I waved to him yesterday.  What happened?”

“The dumbass stumbled into a guy at the bar last night.  When the guy pushed him away, he fell and hit his head on a table, going down.  Didn’t get back up.”

Speed raised dark eyebrows, looking doubtful.  “What are the odds of that?”

“Don’t know.  Don’t care.  All I want is to collect what he owed me.”

“You’ve got more than enough already.  Put the TV back, Fingers.”

Noira shook her head.  Speed and his fellow EMTs used nicknames for each other.  It had become a habit with them.

“Fingers?”  When the guy started to argue, Speed reached for his cellphone.  “Are you going to try to take mine, too?”

The look on the guy’s face said he was considering it, then he shook his head.  “Nah, your girlfriend will call for backup when I take you down.”

Fat chance.  Speed lifted patients in and out of vehicles for a living.  He didn’t just look strong.  He was strong.  She and Speed stood and watched while Fingers returned the TV.  As he stalked toward his truck, Speed called, “I don’t work today.  I’m keeping an eye on Erik’s place till the cops get here.”

Looking none too happy, Erik’s “friend” slid behind the steering wheel and drove away.


Walking back to their apartment, Speed groused at her.  “What were you thinking going out there alone?  That man would have knocked you on the ground and kicked you while you were down to steal a TV.  Why didn’t you wake me up?”

“You needed your sleep.” 

“I could have gone back to bed after things got settled.  You could have been hurt.  Don’t do that again.”

She frowned at him, surprised, then gave a sideways smile.  “It’s sweet that you worry about me.”

“I don’t need any more worries,” he grumbled.  “You’re not a martial arts expert.  Don’t push your luck.”

“I have my trusty cane.”

He grabbed her shoulders and turned her to look at him.  “I know you don’t like being told what to do, but if someone kicked your cane out from under you, you’d go down hard.  Either that, or you’d have to hop on one foot to get help.  That man would have left you in the dirt and driven away with his TV set.”

She sighed.  For once, he might be right.  “Okay, I get it.  I’ll be smarter next time.”

“Good.”  He walked her to her car and gave her a quick kiss.  “Have a good day at work.  I’m going back to bed.  Bring home something good for supper.”

“But I thought you were going to watch over Erik’s apartment.”

He shook his head.  “So gullible.  Let’s hope Fingers is worried I might.”

At work, over lunch break, she told her friends about what had happened. 

Kitty’s green eyes grew wide with wonder.  “And Speed rushed out to rescue you?  With no shirt on?”

“Don’t drool,” Noira warned.  Kitty was only twenty-two and had a crush on him.  Not that Noira blamed her.  Her man was easy on the eyes and fun to hang out with.  Kitty didn’t drink enough or cuss enough to interest him, though.

Natalie, older than both of them with dark coloring and a tongue that dripped acid, smirked.  “I wish Fingers would have gone at it with Speed, then we could see his picture in the paper from his hospital bed.  Great nickname for him, by the way.”

Laughing on their way back to their offices, Noira put the matter behind her.   On her way home from work, she stopped to grab barbecue from Shigs and Pits, one of Speed’s favorites.   No pizza for a knight in shining armor, wearing low-riding jeans and nothing else.

He was in a good mood when they sat down to eat.  “I’ve worked with one of the cops who came to check Erik’s apartment and told him about this morning’s incident.  When I described Fingers to him, he said it sounded like the friend Erik went to the bar with last night.”

Noira sniffed.  “Some friend.”

“Yeah, I guess he stayed to answer questions about what happened and then split.  The man who pushed Erik off him was more upset than he was.”

“What happens now?”  Noira took a sip of wine to wash down her pulled pork.  “Does Erik have family close by?  Will someone empty out his apartment?”

“I guess his family’s scattered all over the place, and no one’s close enough that they want to bother with it.  A cousin asked if he left him any money in a will, and when the answer was no, he lost interest.”

“Sad.  What about his parents?  No brothers or sisters?”

“No one who wants to come.  His dad asked if he had enough money to be buried.  When they told him he had life insurance to cover it, the dad said ‘good enough, then I don’t have to send anything.’”

Downright cold.  But then, it wasn’t fair to judge.  Who knew what history the family had?  It looked like Erik would be stuck in the ground, and that was that. 

She and Speed decided to watch a movie to relax.  Noira poured another glass of wine and Speed got another beer.  They were watching the old Batman and Robyn when a light flashed around their darkened living room.  Speed got up to see what it was.

“You’re not going to believe this, but Fingers is back with a flashlight, trying to break into Erik’s apartment.”

“He’d risk going to jail over a TV?”  Noira paused the movie and pushed to her feet to see for herself.  Sure enough, Fingers was trying to jimmy Erik’s door open, using a credit card and a pocket knife.  “What an idiot.”

When he couldn’t get in, they watched his light bob as he made his way to the back of the apartment, thinking he’d have more luck with the sliding doors.  He didn’t, but they heard the tinkle of breaking glass.  Then the light moved around inside the building.

“That’s it.  I’m calling him in.”  Speed punched 911 on his phone. 

A short time later, a cruiser turned off its lights and quietly parked a few doors down from Erik’s apartment.  They watched the cops cautiously advance to the back, pull their guns, and call, “Freeze.”  Within minutes, they watched them lead Fingers to the back of their squad car, then drive away.

Speed shook his head.  “If Fingers had a brain, he’d have grabbed the TV and gotten out of there.  Instead, his flashlight beam bounced all over in the back of the apartment, the bedrooms and bathroom.  He must have been looking for something.”

“I doubt if Erik had anything worth the bother.”  She went back to the sofa to finish watching the movie. 

Speed came to stretch his legs on his corner of the sectional.  “We’re having a good night.  Double the entertainment.  Wish you didn’t have to work tomorrow.  We’d stay up late and party.”

“No such luck.”  She raised her legs, too, so that their feet met.  She wiggled her toes against his.  “A paralegal’s work is never done.”

He turned off the TV.  “Then we’d better hit the big finale before you’re too tired.  Poison Ivy’s tempting, but I’m not ready to go green.  I’d rather enjoy home comforts.”

He pulled her to her feet and they headed to the bedroom.


She was busy at work the next day when Hunter strolled to her desk and dropped a folder on it.  The beefy detective nodded at it.  “Your dead neighbor didn’t die hitting his head on a table.  He was a goner before his face met the floor.  Heart attack.  The thing is, we talked to his doctor, and his ticker was just fine.  Made him suspicious.”

She told him about Fingers breaking into Erik’s apartment last night.  “And he wasn’t there just to grab the TV.  Speed thinks there’s more to it than that.”

“Interesting.  Think I’ll stop by where Erik worked and chat up some of his co-workers.  Thanks for the tip, Crip.” 

His new nickname for her since she limped.  She wasn’t complaining, though.  After the car accident, she was glad she still had a leg that sort of worked.  That night, when she went home, she found Speed at the grill, babysitting two steaks.  The only time she cooked was when Speed worked his grill magic.  And then, it was nothing to brag about.  She opened a bag of salad and put a container of Ranch dressing on the table.  Then she nuked a bag of frozen corn and added butter and salt.  When Speed carried his steaks to the table, his eyes lit up.

“We’re feasting tonight.” 

She loved the man.  It took so little to make him happy.  “You know that Kitty worships you, and she’s a great cook.”

He patted his firm abs.  “I love food.  I’d eat too much and get fat.  Better to have a drinking buddy who loves pizza as much as I do.”  When she laughed at him, he arched a brow.  “Do you realize how pretty you are, and that there are men who wear suits and make lots of money who’d be happy to keep you in style?” 

She grimaced.  “You ruined it right there.  Suits.  What would I do with a man in a suit?  He’d tell me I drink too much wine instead of kissing me and putting me to bed.”

“I only do that when you drink too much red.  You get mouthy when you down wines that are too dry.”

“See?  You love me as is.  Who can ask for more?”

With a shrug, Speed raised his beer in a toast.  “I guess we’re meant for each other, then.”

She cut into her steak—perfectly medium rare.  “You have too many talents for me to ever leave you.”

His chocolate-brown eyes sparkled with humor.  “And you’re too interesting for me to settle for less.”

They’d finished eating and were sitting on the back patio, enjoying the evening, when Hunter walked around the building to join them. 

“Care to search Erik’s apartment with me?”

Speed blinked.  “What are we looking for?”

“Seems every time Erik had too much to drink, he bragged about having a key to a lock box with information in it that could make him rich.”

Noira snorted.  “Then why did he have to borrow a hundred dollars from Fingers?  And why did he live in a two-bedroom apartment across from us?”

“Because one of the guys he worked with said he was too chicken to actually blackmail whoever it was he had the dirt on.  Either that, or he wasn’t desperate enough.”

“That’s what Fingers was looking for?  The key?”  Speed was on his feet, ready to help look for it.

She sighed.  It was a beautiful night.  She still had a half glass of wine to finish, and her lawn chair was comfortable.  She didn’t want to move.

“Come on!” Speed said.  “Let’s go.  Let’s find the thing!”

Oh, rats!  She pushed to her feet, grabbed her cane, and grumbled.  She didn’t really know Eric, so this whole thing could be a joke.  But Fingers had believed him.  And he’d died suddenly from a bad heart he’d never had a problem with.  Grumbling more, she followed the two men to Erik’s apartment.

Hunter let them in.  “Where would you hide a key?” he asked.

The men opened drawers and began searching.  She went to the key ring lying in a bowl by the back door.  She held it up and pointed to a smaller key than the rest.  “What do you think?”

Hunter snarled an unkind remark.  “Who’d just put something like that on his key ring for anyone to see?”

“Hey, I always forget where I hide things,” Noira told him.  “I need to keep things simple.”

Speed studied it.  “Okay, so we have the key.  Maybe.  What now?  What does it unlock?”

Noira turned to Hunter.  “What bank did Erik use?”

Hunter looked in his notebook and made a call.  “He has a lock box with them.  Want to ride with me?”

Both men were surprised when they unlocked the box and found incriminating photos and papers for a major player in town.  It made her like Erik more.  He was like her.  Forgetful.  And he couldn’t make himself blackmail someone when he could have.  He must have had too much to drink and shared his secret with someone who didn’t have the qualms he did.  Someone like Fingers, who was with him when he died. 

“Have you gotten any info from the medical examiner yet?” she asked Hunter.

Her friend pressed his lips in a tight line.  “It looks like someone slipped eye drops in his drink.  Maybe a whole bottle of them.”

“And his drink didn’t taste funny?”

Hunter grunted.  “He probably couldn’t even tell, he was so drunk.”

“And he was at the bar with Fingers?”

“Bright girl!”  Hunter gave her a fist bump.  “You’re not bad, Crip.  You’d make a good detective.”

She wrinkled her nose in disgust.  “You enjoy what you do.  I enjoy sitting at my desk, scheduling and organizing.”

“What are you going to do with the stuff from the lock box?” Speed asked.  “That could put someone behind bars.”

Hunter shrugged.  “Not my case.  I’ll give it to my superior and he can decide.  The guy’s just going to lawyer up anyway, and it will be a miracle if he’s convicted.”

“But the trial would ruin his reputation.”  Speed glanced at the top photo and winced.  The woman in bed with him wasn’t his wife, a baggie of coke on the nightstand clearly visible.

“I’d say he deserves that.”  Hunter collected his evidence and then drove them home. 

Back in their apartment, Speed bent to give Noira a kiss.  “Good work, Holmes.  You helped solved Erik’s murder.”

“Not me.  We’re a team.  All I was worried about was Erik’s TV.”

He smiled and wrapped her in a hug.  “But it’s never that simple with you, is it?  There’s always more, and that’s what makes you interesting.”

Whatever made him happy worked for her.  She started to the kitchen.  She still had half a glass of wine to finish.

#MKTG 16 – Rafflecopter

For any writers out there, Jan Sikes’ Story Empire posts on marketing have been wonderful. She’s listed links for all of them, so I thought I’d share if you’re ready to think about marketing your work.

Story Empire

Hello, SE’ers. It’s Jan again with another marketing tool to share with you.

I’m sure you’ve all participated in Rafflecopters, but have you ever created one?

Rafflecopter Logo

First, maybe I should explain what a Rafflecopter is, just in case you don’t know.

It is a contest and a super effective way to gain new followers, gather new email addresses for your newsletter, and increase your readership. All you have to do is be willing to give something away.

Image courtesy of Pixabay thehaladesign

When I decided to experiment with a Rafflecopter, my goal was to increase my BookBub and Goodreads following, blog subscribers, ask readers to add Jagged Feathers to their reading list, visit my Facebook Author page, follow me on Twitter, and sign up for my newsletter.

I chose to give away two $10 Amazon gift cards. You can offer free books or a…

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The End

I finally wrote the last chapter of the first draft of my second Karnie Cleaver mystery. Whew! A mouthful. Now, I can send it to my critique partners and wait to see how much work it still needs. But for now, it’s DONE! Happy dance! Sing praises to the heavens. Drink a glass of wine!

Tomorrow, not today, I’ll start trying to think of ways to promote it. I’ve slacked off on that for my last two books. I was buried in family stuff and couldn’t get the motivation. But this time, I’d like to give the poor book a little bit of a push. I hope.

The Story Empire blog did a great series by Jan Sikes on marketing, and it reminded me of some of the things I’ve done in the past. Here’s a link to one of her posts: https://storyempirecom.wordpress.com/2022/05/04/mktg-14-book-blog-tours/.

Anyway, Karnie’s story is finished, and now I can start working on plot points for another Jazzi and Ansel novel. If I can keep to my plan, (which doesn’t always happen), I’d like to write a Jazzi mystery, then a Nick and Laurel, then a Jazzi, then a Karnie, then a Jazzi, and another Nick and Laurel, and on and on. But things don’t always go according to plan.

This Karnie got a little more dramatic than I’d intended, but plot points don’t always clue me into the TONE of a book, just the events. I know WHAT will happen but not always how the characters will react to the events. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? But it’s true. Even though I put my characters through their paces, they do what they want about it. And they often surprise me. That’s part of the fun of writing.

Hopefully, soon, I can polish the book and publish it. And maybe even market it. Wish me luck!



Do you have a preference? Or do they all suck?

Happy summer solstice! And happy writing!

Life, Interrupted

Lately, I was on a roll. I was helping HH work on putting down a new bathroom floor AND getting a couple of hours writing time each day. I was a dynamo of energy. On track. Close to finishing my WIP. And then, at ten-thirty Tuesday night, a Durango wind and rain roared through Waynedale and toppled trees and knocked out electricity. It left a path of destruction in its 45-minute wake, then the temperature soared to 95 degrees.

When the sun came up, almost every road in and out of the area was blocked with trees and limbs. Residents emerged from their houses and did their best to pull limbs to the side, but big trucks and gear were needed for the trees. The city called in crews from out of town, and the poor tree and electric men arrived in a caravan of trucks. They worked for hours on end in the sweltering heat. And I learned that I was never cut out for life without electricity. I love turning on lights with the flick of a switch instead of relying on flashlights and lanterns. And I love my air conditioning. We melted. Our phones eventually died, and we couldn’t recharge them. There was no hot water for showers. Luckily, I have a gas stove, so I could “light” our burners and cook, but I dripped sweat with the added heat when I stirred whatever was on a burner.

And no internet. No writing…when I was SO close to finishing the last chapters. We slept in the basement because it was cooler than the rest of the house, and we sat down there to read with flashlights in the evenings. Our young neighbor teased that it was a lot like camping. I don’t like camping. When the heat got too much for us in late afternoons, we went shopping to enjoy air conditioning for a couple of hours.

Our power finally came back on after supper last night. The first thing we did was take long showers. Then we had to throw away EVERYTHING that was in the refrigerator. It felt like burning money. It hurt. All of the meat in the freezer survived, though. A blessing, because I’d recently stocked it, which helped. All of the frozen solid pork loins and roasts kept it cooler for longer. The tilapia thawed the first hot night, so I cooked it. The chicken breasts thawed the next night, so I cooked those, too, and we shared them with our young neighbor.

Anyway, I hope we never experience no electricity again, but it reminds me how much I admire the many, many people who labor through heat waves and storms and blizzards. They’re heroes.

It’s such an honor

I have friends who are wonderful writers, and they trust their books to me to critique. It’s such an honor. It means they trust me with something they already know is really good. My friend Julia Donner sends me her Regency romances, and I can’t wait until she finishes one, because then I get to read it. She recently put an older Regency on Bookbub and got lots of hits. A ROGUE FOR MISS PRIM tickled my funny bone through the entire book. She got rave reviews for it when she put it on sale this time.

I read a few other authors in my writers’ group, but not that many. It takes time to critique a book. And occasionally, people don’t appreciate what you have to say. One author I critiqued had a beautifully and powerful written story, but her formatting was all wrong. When I mentioned that, she didn’t change it, just sent it to agents anyway. Agents can be picky these days. They didn’t appreciate it that she hadn’t properly formatted the book, and she got lots of rejections. And then, she gave up. Instead of fixing the problems, she walked away from the book. And I felt horrible. But everyone has different breaking points, and she’d reached hers.

I’m not sure what kept me writing when I got one rejection after another. Maybe I’m too stubborn or optimistic than is good for me. It’s hard to hang in there when there’s only a slim chance of success. But the truth is, I love to write. So I probably keep doing it because it makes me happy. Some people do it to deliver a message or to make money or both. I had no such illusions. I knew it would be a miracle if I ever found much success.

My writers’ group is pretty idealistic. Our members say things like “Don’t change what you write just to sell. Stay true to your dreams.” I believe those things, but I also wrote six romances because my agent asked me to. Why not? To me, writing is writing. There are things I’d NEVER write, because I’d be awful at it or because I’d be ashamed of it. But if it’s something I might pull off? Why not try? I found out I really enjoyed writing romance. It’s not like my novels sold well. They didn’t. But boy, did I learn a lot! I really believe romances is what taught me to concentrate on relationships more in my stories. A big, solid plus.

Everyone measures success in different ways. Some people only look at dollar signs. Some people look at how many good reviews they garner. Some ask if you have an agent or a publisher. Whatever you use to measure your worth, I hope you FEEL successful. I hope your writing makes you happy. Some days, I love mine. Some days, I wonder what’s wrong with me. But I love to write. I hope you still love it, too. So good, bad, or ugly, happy writing! And wishing you much luck!

Jazzi would be proud of me

This is a little gross, but life happens. Our chihuahua is getting old, just like us. And he can’t always make it through the night without having to potty. Unfortunately, he’s started using the bathroom floor as his “to go” place. We bought puppy pads to put down for him, but he stands on the EDGE of them, so that he misses. He’s trying. He just doesn’t get it right. And he’s missed enough, he ruined our bathroom tiles. So we decided we needed to replace them.

HH wanted to use money for another project, so we decided to do the work ourselves. We’ve lived here for 50 years, and we put down new tile three times, but HH never wanted to take up the old tile. This time, to do the job right, we had to pull them up. First, we used a thin trowel to hammer it under the top tile. Then once we got the tile a little loose, we hammered a 15″ utility bar under the rest of the tile to lift it And we had to do this tile by tile for three layers.

It would have taken HH forever to do it himself, so I helped. And I still have the knack. I can still swing a hammer and use a crowbar. And my knees work better than his, so I did a lot of the work in hard-to-reach corners. I think Jazzi would have been proud of me. Yes, she can do a lot more things than I can, but I’m considering the last two days of hard physical labor as research.

Hope you’re writing and NOT doing home renovation:)

Slow As Molasses

My sister loves the movie Romancing the Stone. In the beginning, the villain asks if the girl he’s followed wants to die fast or slow as molasses. That line’s always stuck with me. Maybe for a reason. My writing seems to be “slow as molasses.”

When I say that, people disagree. “You’re already up to the last fourth of your book,” they say. Yes, I am. But it takes FOREVER to get there. And I only make the progress I do because I’m retired and try to write every weekday. I start with doing rewrites of the previous day’s work. And sometimes, that takes me right up until it’s time to stop for lunch. Why? Because I try to ADD details to the scene I wrote yesterday AND I work to polish it. I can spend a couple of hours reworking a scene, adding something, then tightening it, then changing word choices. I fuss over the pages until I’m sick of them and move on.

Usually, after lunch, I start working on NEW words. And I’m slow at that, too. I know people who come up with huge word counts in one day. I’m not one of them. If I finish 7 new pages a day, I’m happy with myself. That’s a little over 1600 words a day. For a manuscript, I aim for 70,000. If everything goes well, that’s 44 days of writing. Except that I don’t write on weekends. And I don’t write on Writers’ Club Day, and who knows how many other things that interfere? IF I was lucky, and my brain didn’t freeze up, I could finish a rough draft–in theory–in 2 months. But it never happens. Life isn’t that cooperative. And when I finish a manuscript, then I give it to my critique partners and wait for them to read it. Then I have to fix what they find. So, if everything works out PERFECTLY, I might have a book done in three months. But does your life ever run perfectly? Mine doesn’t. So, if I’m LUCKY, I can finish a book in four months. That’s my best scenario. And I’m hoping for that with The (Steaks) Stakes Are High.

Who knows? My horoscope says my planets are starting to look less grouchy. I hope so. I’m ready for some happy vibes for a while. But I learned long ago, you get what you get and try to make the best of it. I’m crossing my fingers and hitting the keys. (I know. A little tricky). And I hope to make serious progress this month. Hope you can, too!

Happy writing!


It was a dark and stormy night. I sat, hunched over my keyboard, forming letters into words and words into paragraphs, when a loud pounding sounded at my back door. My husband wasn’t home. Who’d venture out in this weather to visit us? Reluctantly, I went to see who was at the door.

I turned on the back porch light but could see no one. Had I imagined the noise? I was about to turn back to my office when a woman walked through the door. No, not a person. A nebulous being who didn’t wait for me to open the door for her. Not that I would have. I’m not stupid. Who shows up on your doorstep during a terrible thunderstorm?

I frowned at her. I recognized her but had never seen her. Still, she looked familiar Who was she? And then I realized she was Maxine from my first Laurel and Nick mystery.

She put her hands on her hips. “You killed me in the first chapter of POSED IN DEATH. Why? I was a good mother, a good friend. I did volunteer work, for heaven’s sake.”

“That’s what got you killed,” I said. “I needed a sympathetic victim for this book. In mysteries, I try for victims everyone is happy to see dead or victims no one wants to see killed. You were the perfect sympathetic victim.”

“Not fair!” Maxine said. “Being a good mother and a nice person shouldn’t get you killed.”

I shook my head. “How many mysteries have your read? You can’t choose just any victim. I needed someone wonderful or horrible and chose you.”

Maxine shook her head, looking slightly dumbfounded. “So, being a good person is what got me killed?”

I shrugged. “”Let’s face it. You chose a loser for your husband. That put you higher on my list of people to kill. And then you were best friends with my protagonist, Laurel. If you died, she’d be motivated to find who killed you.”

Maxine blinked. “I didn’t know Laurel was your protagonist. That doesn’t seem fair.”

I gave her a sorry shake of my head. “I’m sorry, Maxine, but you don’t seem to realize that you’re just a character in my story. And you had to die.”

“I’ve never been real?” she asked

“Only in my imagination. And thank you for showing up. You were perfect for my story.”

She finally smiled. “Did I make a great hook?”

“It would be hard to beat you. I was fond of you myself. You were only in a few chapters. but drove the story.”

Her smile spread. “I might be remembered?”

“By me, for sure.”

She turned to walk out the door. “How many can claim that at their deaths? To be remembered. I’m grateful, author. Thank you for memorializing me in your manuscript.”‘

I nodded. “You were perfect in your part. Thank you for advancing my story.”

“Any time. And if you ever need a good victim again, change my name and give me a try.”

I nodded. “I’ll remember you, but in the meantime, go to character heaven. You deserve to be there. You did an outstanding job, Maxine.”

She smiled and started to the back door, slowly morphing through it. I admired Maxine. A perfect victim in literature. But maybe not so happy about it in real life. I understood. But then I’d worked hard to find justice for her. And at the end of Posed in Death, her killer was revealed.

On Sale

The podcast of Nuts!, my Laurel and Nick short story, performed by the Down and Out team of T.G. Wolff and Jack Wolff, comes out tomorrow at 1:30. It’s the first story in a series they’re going to perform. I can’t post a link until the link goes live, so I’ll put it up tomorrow, June 3, once it’s available.

But to celebrate, I made Posed in Death, my Laurel and Nick novel, FREE from June 2 – 6. It’s darker than a usual cozy, and that’s why I chose a darker type of cover for it. No friendly pug in front of a murder scene, but it was fun to write. If you try the podcast or the book, I hope you like them!

Happy Memorial Day!

We live in a little town that was swallowed by the city, but we still FEEL like a little town. Our tiny local newspaper office used to sell T-shirts that said, “I wasn’t born in Waynedale, but I couldn’t wait to get here.” Everything’s convenient. The store’s five minutes from our house. The drugstore’s four minutes away. The wine store’s even less. All of the important points covered. There’s a Pizza Hut, a diner, a Wings Etc. and a few other small restaurants. Friends laugh at me when I balk at driving half an hour to get something. And every year, for Memorial Day, a parade goes right down the street in front of our house. There’s no sleeping in. The sirens start at nine a.m. People line the street with their lawn chairs, and the nice family across the street invites us over for sausage gravy and biscuits when the parade’s over. What more could a human being want?

When I was a kid, my parents packed us in the car every Memorial Day, and we went to put flowers on EVERY grave of ANYONE in the family in a reasonable distance. We drove to Bluffton, out north, southwest–anywhere a family member was buried. I hated it. It was a tour of one gravestone after another of people I didn’t remember. Now, the “family” in town is pretty much my sister and me. Mary still takes Memorial Day very seriously. This year, she bought pots of flowers to put on our parents’ graves, another for Aunt Phyllis, and another for our sister Patty. They’re all in a long row at the same cemetery. For the first time, she’s not putting decorations on our grandparents’ graves or anyone else’s. Only those four.

Me? I don’t decorate graves. When I die, I’ve moved on. I don’t care if anyone puts flowers on my grave. I hope they remember me and think about the things I did that made their lives better. And then, I hope they pass it on. I’m going to be in Heaven (because I DO believe in heaven, not hell), and hopefully, having flowers on my grave won’t make any difference to me. I’ll be happy, and I’ll hope that my loved ones are happy, too.

I grew up with a lot of “dying” in my life, and I think that made a difference. My dad had multiple myeloma and took ten years of slowly declining to pass away in his late 50’s. A year later, HH’s dad died from emphysema, then my mom got Alzheimer’s, but she lasted ten more years–sort of. Death or dying has been with me a long time, so being kind to people while they are alive matters a lot more to me than putting flowers on their graves when their dead.

I wrote a book, EMPTY ALTARS, about gods who are old and out of fashion, so no one offers them anything anymore. And you know, what difference does it make? Some of the gods–like Tyr, Freya, and Diana–still stuck it out and helped mortals, because that’s what gave them purpose. And some of the gods retired and walked away. I like Memorial Day. Don’t get the wrong idea. I believe in remembering what people made a difference in our lives. And the people who made sacrifices for our freedom. They deserve to be honored. But I’m not a sentimental person, so no flowers on graves for me. And maybe I’m wrong about that. I’ve been wrong before. How do you celebrate Memorial Day?