E-Force by James D. Kellog, A Political Thriller

Wow! I’m sooooo jazzed. What a story!!!

Take the plunge into the world of eco-terrorism!

If you like David Baldacci, this novel is up your alley!



Colt Kelley, a disillusioned employee of an environmental organization in Aspen finds his life shifting into high gear when he stumbles into an unexpected romance with a beautiful woman with a turbid past. But the newfound bliss is obliterated by E-Force, a clandestine group of militant radicals engaged in an escalating campaign of destruction against the Colorado assets of AmeResort Corporation. A dark conspiracy lurking below the eco-terrorist thugs and corrupt cops. Pressed into a race against time and ruthless evil, Colt must stop E-Force from hurtling toward the unthinkable act of terror. The fate of the nation hangs in the balance.


The suspension on the mountain bike reverberated from the relentless descent of the Scout Trail. With teeth rattling, Colt squeezed the brake levers and slid into a sharp switch-back turn. At the right instant, he hopped his back tire to the outside, changing direction. A steep path studded with rocks and roots loomed ahead, ready to punish rider and bike alike.

Colt charged forward. With the skill of a trials rider, he negotiated the obstacle course constructed by nature. His movements were instinctive, refined with balance and timing. Reaching a smoother stretch of trail, he cranked hard and the bike shot on down toward the next challenge that stood between him and the town.

Victorious, Colt finally entered Glenwood Springs and ground to a halt. After a refreshing shot of water, he pulled a cell phone from his CamelBack. His temporary escape from the consequences of his poor judgment with EcoFriends was over.

“I haven’t heard from you. What’s going on?” Colt asked

“I’m getting the hell out of this mess.” Deb tone was that of a suffering mother, driven to her wits end by a colicky baby.

Colt detected stress in Deb’s voice. “You’re going to go to the FBI?” Colt imagined himself being marched into a courtroom to face a federal judge.

“I’ve already talked to someone named Price. He’s sending some of people out.”

“Then it’s over for EcoFriends.” Colt was somber. “We all have to face the music.”

“Colt, it’s the only way.” Deb voice started to break. “The cat’s out of the bag, and I’m scared. I have these terrible premonitions about Cain. In the nightmares, he’s coming for me. I can’t go on like this.”

Colt’s mind flashed back to the parking lot encounter with Zed Cain. Did Cain know about Deb’s revelations to him?

“I understand.” Colt felt helpless. “You’re doing the right thing. And you’ve got to protect yourself.”

“Price said the FBI will keep me safe.” Deb’s voice steadied. “When they get here, I’ll be fine.”

Colt paced next to his bike. “Maybe I should come up there with you.”

“You don’t need to do that,” Deb said in a gentle tone. “You’ve always been there for me, Colt. I’ll make sure the FBI understands you’re on my side in this.”

“Thanks, Deb.” Colt’s confidence was bolstered a little. “Just stay safe.”

When the call ended, Colt walked over and picked up his bike. As he mounted, he wondered if he could escape the morass of quicksand he found himself in before he sank too deep. He was filled with self-loathing and guilt.

Colt muttered a quiet reprimand to himself, “This is all your fault.” He bent over the handlebars and pedaled toward his Land Cruiser, parked several blocks away.

* * * *

Carrie Forde was breathing hard as she leapt across a little stream. Her running shoes kicked up sand when she landed and charged after her loping dog. This was the farthest she and Bandit had ever advanced into the canyon that was carved into the ancient rock of the Uncompahgre Plateau. The rock walls contrasted with the green desert plants, adorned with spring flowers.

After a few hundred more yards of climbing, Carrie decided she had come far enough. There was nobody around to invade her space…to see her weakness.

Carrie sat down on a boulder worn smooth by water flowing eons ago. She placed her sweaty face in her hands and cried. The tears flowed silently. The evening wind ebbed. Bandit trotted back and sat near her feet. His gaze suggested that he shared her pain.

It was one of those rare days when Carrie felt hopeless. Tough and independent, she was used to dealing with problems. But sometimes she just felt alone. The self-built wall around her kept the painful past at bay, but it was also a prison that prevented striking out anew and forging fresh relationships. Shame goaded Carrie to continue paying penance, keeping the barricades erected. Some days they were close to crumbling.

For several minutes, Carrie let her emotions pour out. “You’re so weak!” She boiled with self-deprecating anger. It was as if the tears inside had sublimed into pressurized steam. Leaping to her feet, Carrie picked up a rock and hurled it at a cliff. Crack! The impact echoed off the canyon walls.

When Carrie sat back down, her tumultuous feelings flowed as wild as a mountain stream. Likewise, they were slow to recede. The beauty of her surroundings helped ignite the embers of hope. It was a reminder that God’s creation was full of wonderful things that transcended the darkest hours of personal crisis. In reality, problems were fleeting, and Carrie asserted that her faith would be the key to perseverance.

You’ve got to live day by day, minute by minute, she affirmed, standing up.

When Carrie glanced at Bandit, he was sniffing at a paw print. It was from a mountain lion…a large one. The big cats started hunting at dusk. With unease, she looked up and down the canyon. The waning light revealed nothing. She was glad she had the dog along.

“Let’s go, Bandit.” Carrie started the retreat toward the mouth of the canyon. “We’ve still got a lot to live for.”

Her cadence was broken by frequent anxious glances over her shoulder.

* * * *

The vintage Dodge Charger’s engine rumbled. Trigger Ruddock loved the sound of a predator. It was ominous, emanating power. The mechanical vibrations of the muscle car racing along a rural road transformed the passenger seat into a massage chair. The experience tempered Ruddock’s impatience. Gravel crunched under the wide tires when the vehicle veered off the road onto a driveway. The name Olson was painted on the side of a metal mailbox.

A hundred yards from the pavement, Cain parked near a weather-beaten barn. The structure appeared on the verge of collapse. Ruddock lifted his dark glasses and studied the house. It was a sturdy looking place surrounded by a picket fence. A contingent of pinion and juniper trees occupied the rolling ground behind the building.

“It looks pretty quiet.” Ruddock turned to Cain. The fresh haircut and professional attire made him snicker. “That suit is you. You look like the most tight-ass FBI agent ever.”

Cain didn’t bother with a response. “Go to the front door. I’ll take the back.”

Wearing sunglasses, the two men got out of the car and straightened their suit coats. Ruddock tugged at his tie. “We could be the damned Beatles in ’62.”

As he neared the dwelling, a breeze carried the odor of cut grass and fresh-turned earth to Ruddock’s nostrils. The flower beds were tilled and awaiting planting. A mower was on the front lawn. When he placed his hand near the machine, heat radiated from the engine.

“Little Debbie’s home.” A cruel smile creased Ruddock’s face.

Wood planks groaned and creaked when he ascended the steps and strode across the porch. Ruddock pushed the doorbell and listened. Reverberating chimes were followed by silence. When he rapped on the door, the result was the same. Eyeing the knob, Ruddock resisted the temptation to force his way inside.

With his footsteps echoing off the overhanging roof, Ruddock stalked to the end of the porch. Glancing in the windows, he saw no sign of Deb Olson. Peering around the corner of the house, he noted a shed tucked in the trees. It was about the size of a single-car garage. A window on the building was bronzed by the low-hanging sun. The door was open, swinging gently in the evening draft.

“Are you hiding in there, Little Debbie?” Ruddock whispered. The pistol in his shoulder holster suddenly seemed to strain against the confines of the suit coat.

Sounds of movement escaped the little building as Ruddock advanced. Cain materialized off to his side. The leader’s harsh expression conveyed his demand for an explanation at the change in tactics. Without a verbal response, the lean subordinate motioned toward the open door.
Cain nodded, giving notice to proceed.

Ruddock called out. “Is anybody in there? We’re with the FBI.”

“Go away! Nobody’s home,” a cracked voice said. The scratching in the shed didn’t abate.

“Don’t be alarmed.” Ruddock’s hand was on his weapon. He eased closer to the entrance. “We’re here to help you.”

“Go away. We don’t want any.” The doorway remained vacant.

Ruddock drew his gun and leapt into the shed. Deb Olson wasn’t among the clutter of lawn furniture, garden tools, and flower pots. Frantic fluttering of wings pulled his eyes and aim to the birdcage on a workbench below the window. The incarcerated parrot settled back onto the perch and faced the muzzle of the pistol.

The bird cackled, “Nobody’s home.”

Ruddock resisted the urge to pull the trigger and darted back outside. “It’s a freaking bird!”

An engine came to life with the squealing of a serpentine belt. Cain and Ruddock whipped around. It was in the old barn.

“Son-of-a bitch!” Ruddock cursed as the pair sprinted to prevent their quarry from escaping.

A loud crash was accented by splintering wood. By the time the would-be assassins reached the driveway, Deb Olson’s Subaru was tearing out of the driveway. Gravel sprayed until the tires screeched on the road asphalt. A piece of the wrecked barn door careened off the vehicle and cartwheeled into the weeds.

“Damn it!” Ruddock leapt into the Dodge Magnum and slammed the door. “She’s getting away.”

Without a spoken word, Cain jammed the accelerator to the floorboard. The tires ripped across splintered boards, flinging one into the empty space of the barn.

* * * *

There were two sharp raps on Price’s office door. Before he could bark an annoyed response, Malcolm Hill burst into the room.

“What is it?” Price asked from his desk.

“You wanted me to keep tabs on Marla Wells.” Hill’s breath came in sharp gasps. “She’s taking a little trip to New York.”

“Denver shopping doesn’t cut it anymore?”

“She’s got a meeting set at the UMN offices.” Hill raised an eyebrow. “Her contact is Ted Rogers.”

Price scoffed. “Let me guess. Rogers wants to make her part of his team.”

“That’s a pretty good bet.” Hill nodded. “I expect Marla Wells will jump at a promotion to the network.”

“How could she refuse?” Price had a vile taste in his mouth. “She’s looking to make the big time. That means E-Force is going national.”

“We’re in for trouble. She could become a real problem.”

“You let me worry about Marla Wells. I know how to deal with her. Besides, there’s been a positive development.”

“What are you talking about?” Hill lowered his voice and stepped closer to Price’s desk.

“The EcoFriends informant called again.” Price leaned back in his chair and pressed the palms of his hands together.

“Did she tell anything new?”

“EcoFriends is linked to E-Force.” Price couldn’t resist a smug smile. “She wouldn’t say more over the phone, but we got her name and location.”

Hill made a fist and drove it into his other hand. “That’s the break we needed.”

* * * *

Deb Olson didn’t apply the brakes until she was streaking into the curve. The car threatened to launch off the road. It took all her strength to cling to the steering wheel. Beyond the windshield, the mangled hood vibrated and threatened to tear loose from the tenacious grip of the safety latch. The vehicle held together and Deb escaped from the bend unscathed.

When Deb hit the gas, the Subaru resumed the reckless pace. Her speed on the undulating ribbon of pavement was double the limit posted on the steel sign that flashed past. But fear pushed her to flee faster…screaming for abandonment of the last shreds of reason.

Deb moaned. “My God, this can’t be happening. I don’t even have my cell phone.”

Only luck had placed Deb in the barn, car key in her jeans pocket, a moment before the black car arrived. Her dash for survival was spontaneous, fueled by primal fear. There were only a few more miles until the intersection with a busier road that led into the city. She had to get to a police station, a grocery store, a bowling alley…anyplace where there was a phone.

“I’ve got to call Price.” A tear streaked across Deb’s face. “If his men don’t stop Cain, I’m dead.”

A glance in the rearview mirror sent icy fingers down her spine. The black demon car was behind her. Deb’s speedometer needle refused to rise. “Come on, come on,” she begged.

A formula racer couldn’t have negotiated the curves better than Cain. And through each straight stretch, the horsepower under the hood of the vintage car propelled it forward like a rocket. Deb was no different than a swimmer being chased by a shark. It was hopeless. The Dodge Magnum drew closer to the Subaru.

Deb screamed when Cain and his cohort were only a few feet from the rear of her car. “Leave me alone!”

The Magnum drifted left and shot forward. Deb reacted too slowly to block the opening. The roaring vehicle filled the gap and pulled alongside the fleeing wagon. She kept a two-handed death grip on the steering wheel, but tore her eyes from the road to chance a glance to her left. The smoked glass of the passenger window slid down as if it were a guillotine. Cain’s henchman was brandishing a pistol. He leaned toward the opening, the hair on his head thrashing in the wind.

In a flush of panic, Deb stepped on the brake pedal. The bigger car instantly followed suit and stayed abreast of the Subaru. One side of the road dropped into a rocky ravine, terrain carved over eons by the creek far below. A mountainside adorned with trees and brush boarded the other edge of the pavement. There was nowhere to go. She was a gazelle, culled from the herd by a cheetah. In a desperate bid for life, she stomped on the accelerator again. The Magnum was as inescapable as a shadow. Tears clouded Deb’s vision. The paint of the dark car was nearly scraping against the metallic blue tint of her fleeing vehicle.

“Get away from me!”

Ruddock sneered and beckoned her to come closer. Cain turned his head. For a brief second, Deb’s gaze locked with that of a killer. With the dark glasses, his expression revealed only indifference…an exterminator dealing with an insect.


Nike:  How did you come up with the idea for your story?

James:  The story of E-Force came about as I contemplated how radical groups, and sometimes the media, justify outrageous acts that are ostensibly committed to “save the Earth”. I started thinking, what if some powerful entity utilized this reality to enable its own hidden sinister agenda for America.

Nike:  What do you hope readers take away from your story?

James:  The media has a huge influence on our culture, shaping public perception and opinion. After readers enjoy the excitement of E-Force, I hope they will make a point of really analyzing the world around them instead of simply accepting media talking points as truth.

Author Bio:

James D. Kellogg holds a B.S. in Biology and a M.S. in Civil Engineering, both from Virginia Tech. His professional engineering experience encompasses ski area development and water resource management in western Colorado. Passion for adventure and imagination was the impetus for his thriller novel, E-Force. James’ life experiences served as catalysts for conception of protagonist, Colt Kelley. An outdoor enthusiast, James enjoys skiing, mountain biking, backpacking, rock climbing, and kayaking. He and his wife Kristen are raising their four kids near Glenwood Springs. Contact James at jameskellogg@comcast.net or visit http://jamesdkellogg.com.

Purchase Links:

Amazon (including Kindle). http://tinyurl.com/6mrunez

Barnes & Noble (including Nook).  http://tinyurl.com/6wpkso5

Wild Child Publishing. http://tinyurl.com/7dg3qdu

Who’s A Recipient of the Sweetest Award? ~ Moi, Ain’t That A Kick In The Head?

I’ve been called a lot of things, but not often “sweet.” Perhaps…intense, stubborn, opinionated, but I digress.

Of course the one who deemed this blog to be the recipient of the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award is indeed a sweet lady herself. And she’s prone to baking awesome strawberry shortcake. That’s Barbara Robinson, writing as BJ Robinson. Author of SOUTHERN SUPERSTITIONS and LAST RESORT. Check out her blog, Christian Inspirational Fiction, also nominated for the Sweetest Award. http://barbarajrobinson.blogspot.com/

The rules for the Irresistible Sweet Blog Award are that nominees thank the person who nominated them,  nominate at least ten other blogs and contact them to let them know, share seven random things about yourself/your blog.  Here goes…

My Ten Nominees for the Sweetest Award…

1. FAY LAMB ~ http://faylamb.com/ontheledge/on-the-ledge/  On The Ledge, an interesting, topical blog surveying the writer’s world, with tons of humor

2. LORILYN ROBERTS ~ http://lorilynroberts.com/blog.html An inspirational blog about homeschooling, animals, biblical topics, parenting, politics, and of course writing

3. STACI STALLINGS  ~ http://stacistallings.wordpress.com/ Books From The Heart, reader reviews, Bible study, fiction/non-fiction, and more.

4. LINDA WOOD RONDEAU  ~ http://www.lindarondeau.blogspot.com/ This Daily Grind, author interviews, inspirational topical articles

5. JANALYN VOIGHT ~ http://janalynvoigt.com/blog/ Live Write Breathe, creating worlds of beauty and danger, living a writer’s dream

6. TRACY KRAUSS ~ http://www.tracykraussexpressionexpress.com/ Expression Express,  author interviews, the arts and inspiration

7. VIRGINIA TENERY ~ http://agatharemembered.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?orderby=updated Agatha Remembered, showcases the best in faith-based fiction

8. WENDY L. YOUNG ~ http://wendylyoung.wordpress.com/ reviews, interview, guest posts, author resources

9. ELLEN C. MAZE ~ http://thejudging-ellenmaze.blogspot.com/ Curiously spiritual vampire tales-the blog, geared to the discerning reader, reviews, author interviews

10. TERIC DARKEN ~ http://tericdarken.blogspot.com/ Dark Domain, a really sweet guy blogging about faith found in the darkest of places.

Here iare seven random things about me and/or the Crime Fictionista blog…

1. I have a passion, go absolutely bazonkers for a suspenseful, page turner of a crime fiction novel. And I go round the bend for detective novels.

2. I’m a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology (NYC) and worked in the bridal industry. In the world of fashion I used to hear the term “fashionista” bandied about. So, I thought, why not a Crime Fictionista? And the idea for the blog was created as well as a neat moniker for moi.

3. I love the quality of contemporary inspirational crime fiction (mysteries, romantic suspense, thrillers, detective novels) and can’t wait to showcase these new novels when they come out. I love finding a new author I’d not been to familiar with before.

4. I enjoy immersing myself in research in the post WWII era in American history. My Sanctuary Point series showcases that period in this country’s history in my breakout novel BURNING HEARTS (arson/murder and romance) and GOODBYE NOEL (Christmas/New Year’s/winter themed).

5. I’m fiercely loyal to other authors. When I really like a book or author I’ll promote that author with vigor.

6. I’ve been an animal rescuer for about 28 years. In this time I’ve found homes for about 40 cats and dogs. I have a house full of the less adoptable one, the quirky ones, more antisocial and reclusive one. I’ve also rescued and released baby squirrels who fell out of the nest.

7. I’m very proud of my social worker husband who’s assistant director in the substance abuse program of one of the craziest public hospitals in New York City. If I need an off the wall druggie character, I simply ask my DH for a profile for a particular drug and its effects on a person. I’m equally proud of my teenage daughter who has auditioned for three of NYC’s public art high school and also applied to one oceanography high school, as weather and oceans is her other passion.

Ain’t That A Kick In The Head by Dean Martin

The Other Side of Darkness by Linda Wood Rondeau

Romantic Suspense

These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them (Isaiah 42:16).

After setting out on a forced vacation, and literally running into a moose, Manhattan Assistant D.A. Samantha Knowles finds it’s not so bad being stranded in a quirky but intriguing Adirondack town. But when her three-year prosecution against convicted killer, Harlan Styles begins to unravel, she’s thrust into a whirlwind of haunting memories, fear, and danger. And suddenly, Haven isn’t so safe, after all.

 With no future in Haven, and no way to escape the small town, teacher Zack Bordeaux fears he’s doomed to a life of mediocrity.

Haunted by the deaths of his wife and son, landscape artist Jonathan Gladstone feels bound to an estate he both loves and loathes. But when Zack and Jonathon meet Samantha, their lives take on a different course.

Three lives intertwined, tied together by dangerous circumstance and the faint echoes of an elusive hope. To make it through, each must find their way to the Light that’s found only on the other side of darkness.


He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed…and He guided them to their desired haven.

Psalm 107:29-30

Spaghetti legs, Daddy called them, spindly appendages that kinked when stressed—like now.

Samantha Knowles leaned against the table for support as Bailiff Don Hunter came to the front of the courtroom. “All rise.” Judge Normandy entered, his limp necessitating a much longer plod from his chamber to the bench. Soon, the wait would end—three years of sleepless nights, endless days of preparation, postponements, and courtroom theatrics by defense attorneys. After three interminable years, Justice would now show its face.

As the judge took his bench, the crowd silenced to await his summation. Sam glanced at the defendant’s table where a calm Harlan Styles sat, a wart on the cheek of humanity, an insulated icicle against the rising heat, tried and convicted—the rest up to Normandy’s guillotine.

She fingered her notes, though she didn’t need to see them—the image of Kiley’s tiny, battered body tattooed on Sam’s brain, a brazen scar, indelibly etched on her heart.

Judge Normandy spewed his rhetoric—penal codes entwined with case facts, cold, distanced from the victim, yet succulent to Sam’s ears. In spite of their dry, unflavored essence, she feasted on his words—each pursuant finding heaped upon the other and topped with the last morsel, “The court can find no other just rendering than life imprisonment.”

Victory should taste better, like syrup over pancakes—not this metallic aftertaste.

A woman’s scream silenced the murmurings, and Sam turned with the rest of the throng toward the source. Kiley’s mother, Brenda Smith, had leaned over the rail and grabbed Styles’s sleeve while Don Hunter ordered her to step back.

Brenda was weak—just like Mama was weak. Brenda Smith deserved the same fate as Styles. Too bad stupidity wasn’t a felony.

The DA stood in the back of the courtroom. Without a word, Abe Hilderman, her boss and second chair, abandoned Sam to shake the DA’s hand. A simple, “Good job, Counselor,” would have been nice, even a slap on the back. Nice, but not necessary. Abe often said that Justice was its own reward.

Emboldened, Sam stepped closer as the deputy handcuffed Styles. He saw her, pulled free, put his shackled hands on the prosecutor’s table and leaned into Sam’s face, his cologne lethal… a designer blend—suede, water, and moss—like Daddy’s. Sam fixed her stare into steel-gray eyes, magnets that drew her headlong toward a spinning saw—Styles’s demeanor, a calloused calm…except for his lips… parched, purple–tinged lips that formed his threat. “Keep your light on, Miss Knowles.”

Her spaghetti legs wobbled. Three years of lamp-lit nights had failed to chase away the recurring dreams—dreams Sam kept secreted from everyone, especially Justine, Sam’s best friend. How, then, did Styles know she kept a light on all night?

Nike:  Linda, I know you pretty well and we’ve become friends in real-time and real life, not only online professional friends. I’d like everyone to get to know you the way I do. So, let me ask you a couple of questions about your writing. You utilize humor in this novel right from the get go when your heroine, Manhattan Assistant D.A. Samantha Knowles encounters a moose. Tell us about humor as a writing technique in this novel.

Linda:  I tend to be a humorous person myself and infuse humor into all my novels, subconsciously as well as intentionally.  I’ve never been able to take myself too seriously. I believe no matter how bad things get, if I can laugh, I’m okay! Once, when I really thought I’d lost my sanity completely, God sent a unique person my way to make me laugh at myself. I call him my angel on a supermarket bench.

My character, Samantha Knowles, also has a strong wit. She sees the humor even in the darkest of situations. In contrast, Jonathan Gladstone, a Rochester type character, struggles to find wit within himself, but is drawn to Sam’s sense of humor.

Nike:  What do you want your readers to take away from THE OTHER SIDE OF DARKNESS?

Linda:  When God called me to write over a decade ago, I sat down and wrote a poem called The “Song of Peace.” On my first presentation of my book at a ladies’ meeting, I read the poem and stumbled upon a line that said, “there is light on the other side of darkness.”

The working title of this book was Dawn’s Hope. The publisher changed the title not knowing about my earlier poem. God seemed to be saying, “See. I knew what the title of your first book would be, even then.”

As Sam learns, God is control. He knows what we need even before we know we have need of it. I hope readers will learn the value and beauty of trust in God, a God who comforts us, even when we forget to call on Him.


Praise the Lord most when
you cannot sing
Though broken, you are

Praise the Lord when Hope
seems foolish
There is light on the other
side of darkness

Praise the Lord and believe
His goodness

Look at His creations and
give Him praise
for the stars shine
brightest in the night

Though defeat seems imminent
Praise Him still
Praise  Him though sorrow
seems endless
The vast Horizon meets the
sky undefined yet limitless

Your Deliverer hears
He will lift you High above
the troublesome sea

This is the Song of Peace

Copyright ©2000 Linda Rondeau

A native of Central New York, Linda Wood Rondeau graduated from North Syracuse High School and later Houghton College. She moved to Northern New York where she met and married Steve Rondeau, her best friend in life, and managed a career in human services before tackling professional writing. After thirty-four years of marriage, she has relocated to Jacksonville, Florida to start a new adventure…leaving rural America to live in a city of one million. Of course, the more favorable temperatures allow her to follow another great passion–golf.

While writing is her greatest passion, the author takes even greater pride in being a wife of one patient man, the mother of three, and the grandmother of nine…not to mention the owner of a very adorable cat.An award winning author, The Other Side of Darkness is Linda Wood Rondeau’s first published novel. She is the founder of an on-line support group for writers, Pentalk.

Purchase Links:

Amazon (including Kindle).  http://tinyurl.com/7yg5gmh

Barnes & Noble (including Nook).  http://tinyurl.com/783m5at

First Chapter of GOODBYE NOEL

Not just a Christmas novel…New Year’s themes. A story about new beginnings.

The best way to decide if you’ll like a novel is to read a chapter.

Chapter One

Long Island, NY

December 1946

Katrina Lenart nodded toward a break in the leafless maples and snow-covered pines lining Hill Street then pointed with her black cable knit glove. A fat blue jay sat on the tip of a pine branch and quirked his head at her, almost mocking. The sun, more the color of wheat than yellow, floated in the pale, cloudless, winter sky, surrendering little heat.

“It might seem like we’re almost there to you, but we still have to climb that hill.” It wasn’t high, but steep, as if a pitiless hand had gouged earth from its side. She turned her head back and squinted against the glare off the snow, adjusting her black velvet earmuffs, stitched into a floret on one side, all the rage since the war.

“Said just like a female.” Willie Brogna grinned, pulling the toboggan behind him, his rubber boots stomping deep impressions in the fresh fallen snow. Pivoting, he gave her a wide smile. “I know you’re just being nice, helping me try out my favorite Christmas present. With my sister on her honeymoon and all, I don’t have anyone to be my guinea pig.” He resumed his climb, out-pacing her, and chuckled under his breath.

Determined to put her best friend’s teenage brother in his place, Katrina lengthened her strides and arrived at the top of the incline breathing hard. “People often comment on how nice I am… and courteous. Willing to help those in need.” She tossed off a teasing smile.

The tall, lanky teen snorted then tugged on his hand-knit gloves, securing them, and flexed his fingers.

Shading her eyes with a glove, she gazed south, unable to see the village of Sanctuary Point or the Great South Bay through the trees. Though she knew icy wind whipped them both. The weather forecast said a storm was headed their way. Directly below, the ground dropped away into an empty lot. Beyond that, Hill Street and the tiny Bauer cottage.

“Are you ready? I’ll steer and you take the rumble seat.” Willie knelt and positioned the toboggan for the first run down the steep hill. “Don’t forget to hang on tight, I’m gonna let ‘er rip, if that won’t bruise the dignity of Memorial’s most promising nurse.”

Katrina gave him a playful smack on the arm. “How you do go on. Just watch out for that huge bump down there.”

“Aw, that’s not even a blip on the radar.”

She hunkered down behind him and clasped her arms around his waist. The toboggan sped down the hill, her hair airborne behind her. Icy snow crystals flew into her face. They hit the bump and went aloft. “Willieee,” she shrieked.

They landed so hard her teeth clattered.

When they came to a stop, Willie jumped off. “While we were in the air, I saw something near Mrs. Bauer’s cottage. Does she have a pet? A cat, maybe? It looked like a hurt animal… something bloody.”

He trotted across the street. “It’s not in the yard. It’s away from the house. Closer and to the side of the road.” He hastened down Hill Street, slipping and sliding, to the edge of the Bauer property.

Katrina hurried down the sloping street after him, her arms stretched out for balance. If this were his idea of a practical joke, she’d let him have it.

Willie bent over the object on the ground. Rising, he twisted toward her. “Well, it’s not an animal. It’s a piece of soiled cloth.”

Rushing to his side, she tried to catch her breath. “That’s blood on a kitchen towel. Not a lot, but sufficient to warrant concern.” Please, Lord, let everything be all right in the Bauer house.

“Do you suppose Mrs. Bauer cut herself out here? But why would she come all the way out here with a kitchen towel?”

“We’d better check on her.” Katrina raced back up the hill after Willie along the length of the lot, as fast as she could. She slipped but regained her footing on the Bauer’s icy walk. When she reached the stoop, she panted in short painful gasps.

Willie hurdled the two steps and came to a stop on the miniscule porch. The front door stood ajar.

Uneasiness halted her winded, ungraceful gait. Yet, Katrina followed until she stood before the door and called out, “Mrs. Bauer, hello.”

Willie nudged the door and shouted. “Mrs. Bauer, are you in there?”

She peered between the door and its frame into dimness. “Mrs. Bauer… Noel, it’s Katrina, your neighbor.”

“This is getting us nowhere.” Willie gave the door a shove.

The living room was chilly and silent — something definitely not right. Mrs. Bauer wouldn’t leave the door open on such a cold day, not even a crack. Katrina eased in. “Hello, anyone home?” She stepped around the couch and froze.

Noel Bauer lay on her living room floor, in front of a decorated Christmas tree. Blood pooled beneath her head.

“Oh, my Lord.” Katrina rushed to the woman and knelt, applying two fingers to her neck. “Willie, she has no pulse.”

“I mean, I know you’re a nurse, but are you sure?”

“She’s dead.” Katrina’s voice shook in her throat. “She’s not breathing and her body temperature isn’t warm.”

“The telephone lines come up here, so I’ll bet she has a phone. We’d better call the police. This is awful.” His eyes darted around the room. “There… in the kitchen.”

Katrina took a deep breath and calmed herself. How strange and brutal life could be. Yesterday, gay and carefree, she stood as maid-of-honor in Willie’s sister’s wedding. Today she’d found Noel Bauer’s corpse.

She hurried to the phone, dialed the village operator, and asked to be connected to the police station. After relaying the information to young Officer Classen, whose mother worked with her at the hospital, she sank onto a chair at the table and held her head in her hands. There was something peculiar about the position of Noel Bauer’s body Katrina couldn’t put her finger on, as if she were reaching for something.

Cries of an infant came from the bedroom down the hallway.


Standing by the Christmas tree, Katrina rocked the baby wrapped in a pink blanket. She took a small green and white glass ornament from the top of the tree and dangled it before the tiny face. “Look how pretty. Your mommy made such a lovely tree for you.” Her eyes misted, and her gaze slid to the lifeless form on the floor. The house reflected the woman’s efforts to turn a meager cottage into a comfortable home with touches of handcrafted style and elegance. On the wall above an aging sofa, a needlepoint wall hanging in a simple frame depicted two swans floating on a lily pond that could well have hung in a fine gallery.

“Detective Daltry’s here.” Willie turned from the window and hurried to open the door.

Ian Daltry entered with rookie-officer Robert Classen at his heels. The detective removed his brown fedora freeing a riot of salt and pepper hair. He nodded toward Katrina. “Miss Lenart, you phoned the station?”

“Yes, Willie and I found Mrs. Bauer.” She glanced at the teen, who stood by the front window, a stricken look on his face, and her heart went out to the boy. Her gaze shifted to the detective and then down to the body. “She’s gone.”

Detective Daltry placed his hat on the coffee table and bent over the still form. The blood on the floor, dark and thick, had begun to coagulate. It gave off a metallic smell. Straightening, he looked at Katrina, his lips in a tight line. “You’re right. She’s dead. I’d guess less than an hour.”

Katrina took a halting step toward the body, but the detective put up a staying hand to stop her. She cleared her throat. “Severe trauma to the head. She couldn’t survive a wound like that.”

“That’s my take on it. I’ll phone the medical examiner.”

Willie pointed. “Phone’s in the kitchen.”

Katrina took a quick step forward. “Is it murder?”

The detective pivoted, and the intensity of his eyes pierced her soul. “I really can’t say Miss. It’s very early in the investigation.” He turned on his heel, crossed the living room, and disappeared.

Katrina followed stiff legged part way across the room. She felt cold, and it wasn’t just because the door had been open. She wanted to do something, but didn’t know what. It wasn’t illness that had killed Noel Bauer, and it wasn’t accidental death. What else could it be but murder? She shuddered. How awful for Mrs. Bauer and this poor dear baby.

Officer Classen stepped forward and blocked her path. “You can’t go into the kitchen.”

She stopped in her tracks, stroked the infant’s soft hair, and held her closer. “I had no idea Mrs. Bauer had a new baby. She closed the house in early spring last year and was gone over six months. She’s been back only about three months.” Since then, she’d been reclusive, but why?

The baby grabbed for the ornament and cooed.

Katrina lifted the glass bulb away from the tiny hand. “Oh no, you don’t. You’re a quick little lady, aren’t you? Yes you are.” She made an exaggerated smiling face and shook her head. “Such an energetic little thing, you are.”

The baby started fussing.

“And now your mood has changed. Are you cold, sweetheart?” Katrina pulled the blanket tight around the infant, rubbed her tiny hands, and blew warm breath on them.

“I’d like to throw a log on the fire for the baby, but can’t touch anything until we complete our investigation.” The young officer shifted from foot to foot.

“I understand. You can’t make an exception for the baby?”

“No, if we disturb things we might be destroying the fingerprints of the killer.”

“I see. I think she’s cranky more than cold, though it is chilly in here.”

Detective Daltry emerged from the kitchen and advanced toward her. He touched the pink blanket. “A girl.” A tremor ran through his fingers, and he dropped his hand to his side.

“Isn’t she pretty?” Katrina stroked the infant’s face. When she glanced up, she thought she saw pain flicker in the detective’s eyes, and then it was gone.

“Her mother was lovely. By all accounts a cultured lady. Such a shame.” Officer Classen stood over the body with a camera. “Detective, do you want me to start taking photographs?”

He cleared his throat. “Yes, begin with the body and work out to the periphery of the room. Don’t spare the film.”

The child gurgled, squirmed, and kicked her legs against the coverlet wrapped tight around her.” Aren’t you a feisty one?” Katrina kissed the baby’s little fist. “You’re going to be fine. Somehow, I’ll make sure. I promise.”

The detective rocked back on his heels and raked his hand through his hair, mangling it. He cast a quick glance at the hearth. “With the fire nearly out and the door opening and closing, perhaps the child shouldn’t be here. I can phone my neighbor. She watches my daughter when I’m working. I’m sure she’d look after the little one until we figure out what to do with her.”

The baby made a face and fidgeted, her knees pumping.

“No. That’s not necessary.” Katrina held the baby tighter, her need to protect this infant growing by the second. “I live down the street, and I’m a maternity nurse. If you consent, I’ll take her home. I’m sure my mother will agree to mind her while I’m working at the hospital.”

A huge wail came from the tiny mouth.

“Maybe she’s hungry.” Willie took two quick steps. “Let me see if there’s milk in the kitchen.”

The detective shook his head. “Sorry, off limits. You can’t touch or remove anything. We haven’t done a walk-through yet, and they’ll want to brush for fingerprints.”

Katrina placed the baby on her shoulder and rubbed her back in a circular motion. “This child can’t drink bottled milk. I’m sure her mother nursed her, most do. We’ll have to make formula from evaporated milk.” What did men know about babies?

“Won’t you need a baby bottle?” Willie plunked both hands on his hips.

“Yes, or something similar. I need to get this baby home where Momma can help me.” Katrina bounced the fussing infant in her arms and checked the seat of the diaper. “She’s dry and didn’t leave us a present in her pants.”

Detective Daltry moved to Katrina’s side and stroked the baby’s back. “Officer Classen can drive you home.” He turned toward the rookie cop. “Wait up on the photos and take this young woman and the child down the hill. When you get to the edge of the Bauer property, drive on the wrong side of the street. On your way back, get that cone out of the trunk and mark the spot. I’m calling the troopers station to see if they can get any tire impressions near where we picked up the bloody towel.”

“If Lorne Kincade was finished with trooper training, we’d get that done right quick.” Robert opened the door and held it for Katrina.

“You bet you would.” Willie tried for a grin, but only one side of his lips lifted. “Thing is, he won’t even start the training until he and my sister get back from their honeymoon.”

Katrina rocked the baby whose face had turned bright pink. “Heavens to Betsy, let’s not rush the newlyweds home in our talk.” She tried for a smile and managed a small one.

The detective pivoted toward the window. “Mr. Brogna… Willie, I’d like you to stay. I have questions for you. Miss Lenart, I’ll question you later.”

The infant emitted a piercing cry.

Katrina hurried toward the door. “Our house is the first one on the right side.”

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Happy New Year 2012!!! ~ Best Crime Fiction Novels List, Read in 2011

Many toiling away in inspirational literature have great plans for 2012.

I send them my best wishes for a new year that is profitibale in all ways imaginable.

Since I haven’t put out my “Best Faith-Based Crime Fiction Read in 2011” list yet…here it is. This is my list of novels read in 2011, not necessarily released in 2011. I tend to fall hard for detective novels and police procedurals.

1. Pattern of Wounds (Roland March series, book 2) by J. Mark Bertrand

2. The Rook (Patrick Bowers series, book 2) by Steven James

3.  Simple Deceit: (The Harmony Series, Book 2) by Nancy Mehl

4. Revenge (A Travis Mays Novel) by Mark Young

5. The Clouds Roll Away (A Raleigh Harmon Novel) by Sibella  Giorello

6. The Pawn (Patrick Bowers series, book 1) by Steven James

7. Medical Error (Prescription For Trouble, book 2) by Richard Mabry, MD

8. The Kevlar Heart by Janice Cantore

9. Muslin Mystery (Patchwork Mysteries, Vol 3) by Vera Dodge

10. Deceit by Brandilyn Collins

11. Pursued by Lillian Duncan

12. Last Resort by BJ Robinson