Talking Love With Gail Pallotta


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When I was in college I used to run into an atheist in the small cafe where we gathered for Coca-Colas, hamburgers and French fries after class. I tried to avoid him, because he always hopped over to my table and started an argument about my faith.

Perhaps he comes to mind on the release day of Breaking Barriers for several reasons. One, he was angry at me because I am a Christian. Even though today I can’t recall which verses he used, he’d take passages from the Bible and try to make me say they weren’t true. When I wouldn’t, he’d retort with a scientific argument and claim it had to be right.

The second reason he comes to mind—it was the mention of God’s love that finally silenced him. One day I grew so frustrated I asked, “If there’s no God, where does love come from? Why don’t you mix me up a little bowl of it? If scientists could do it, they would, because they could sell a ton of it for lots of money.”

His mouth gaped.

He never trotted to my table again.

Since then I’ve read that we have chemicals in the brain that produce love. I’ve often wondered if he came up with that theory. Even if that were true, the chemicals in the brain came from somewhere, and that would still lead back to God. I hope it wasn’t him. I hope he thought about God’s great love for us and decided to read the Bible.


Check out Gail’s contribution to Prism Book Group’s new Love Is series…

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Breaking Barriers

“…love is not easily angered …” 1 Corinthians: 13:5

Gunshots ring out as Ann Jones enters the church. She hides in the bathroom until they stop, then stumbles into the sanctuary. The congregation lies dead in pools of blood. To rebuild the church, she starts True Light Guardians. At the first meeting, she’s attacked by a terrorist, but rescued by James Crawford. He melts her heart, cold from her father’s abuse, and they fall for each other. She’s afraid to commit to love that might grow angry later, like the type she knew as a child. James yearns to stop other attempts on Ann’s life, but can’t. Tormented by her constant risks, he breaks up with her. When an assault sends her to the hospital, an unlikely ally shares Ann’s plight with James, but he reveals a lead that puts all three of them in even more danger.


Time Trap

When problems arise during a field exam, Director Peter Matthews and Dr. Laura Nelson are sent through a time portal to investigate. While they search for their missing cadets, they encounter an enemy who is calculating and brutal—a mysterious nemesis who is holding a grudge against the TEMCO program. As Peter and Laura race to unravel clues directing them to their kidnapped cadets, their own survival comes into question. A deadly trap has been set, and they are forced to pit their wits against a serial killer who is intent on playing a deadly chess game through time itself.


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Copyright 2016 © Danele J. Rotharmel


The soft sound came again. Standing to her feet, Laura tried to calm her breathing. The furtive sounds could only mean one thing—their captor was approaching.

“Whatever happens,” she said quietly, laying a hand on Peter’s shoulder, “don’t tug against your cuffs. You can’t afford to lose more blood.”

“Keep your head and take your time,” Peter said stiffly. “Be patient. Stay out of his reach until you see an opening. If he has a gun, you can use a roundhouse kick to disarm him, but you’ll have to be quick. If he gets you down and starts kicking you, curl into a ball and protect your head and stomach.”

 Laura squeezed Peter’s shoulder. She could hear the tension in his voice, and she knew he was terrified for her. She also knew that his inability to protect her was ripping him apart.

 Peter spoke quickly, “If he manages to get his hands on you, use the heel of your palm and thrust it up against his nose. Don’t be afraid to be vicious. Go for his eyes, throat, and groin.”

 “Don’t worry,” she said in a focused, determined voice. “I’ll fight dirty.”

 The door opened.

 Moving to the center of the room, Laura took a solid stance.



Dumpster Dicing


As Janie and Betsy Ann go for their morning jog, the city sanitation vehicle follows its normal five-mile Tuesday morning route through their retirement community of Sunset Acres. The two Bunco-playing biddies spot a leg dangling out of the dumpster when the truck lifts the trash container high in the air. Someone diced up one of their newest residents—a grouchy loner named Edwin Newman. Did he unpack too much of his dicey past when he moved in last weekend?

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Copyright 2016 © Julie B. Cosgrove


Betsy Ann Hunt huffed up the hill, breathing in time to the slap of her sneakers on the early morning dew-dampened pavement. The lavender, velour-covered backside of her neighbor and Bunco playing buddy, Janie Manson, wobbled ahead of her, her elbows swinging in sync with her steps, no doubt to some early Beatles song on her I-pod. Janie claimed to be one of the privileged few who squealed on the first row of the band’s concert at Sam Houston Coliseum during their first British Invasion tour in April of 1965. But Janie bragged about a lot of things, such as her physical stamina—which appeared to be ebbing at the moment as a result of the sultry Texas humidity.

Betsy Ann urged her sore calves to accelerate on the incline. With every ounce of gumption mustered in her quivering ligaments, she edged alongside Janie. Exhaling a slight wheeze, she tapped her friend on the shoulder. “Can we slow down?”

“Huh?” Janie pulled out the left ear bud. She waited at the top of the lane near the entrance to the club house parking lot in their fifty-five-plus community of Sunset Acres. The rumble of the sanitation truck on its Tuesday morning rounds to empty the dumpsters drowned out Betsy Ann’s breathless response.

“What did you say?” Janie jogged in place as she leaned closer.

“Have…to…stop.” Betsy Ann raised a hand with fingers spread and then pressed it to her thigh as she bent over. Her ample breasts bounced with each chest heave under her fuchsia zip-up jogging jacket.

“Okay, all you had to do was say so.” Janie clicked off her music. “It’s only been three weeks since you slipped on your tailbone, Betsy Ann. I realize you gained six pounds lying around, but are you sure you should be power walking so soon? Dr. Pearson gave me strict orders about exercising when I chipped my hip bone two years ago.”

Always knows everything. With gritted teeth to keep her from speaking her mind, Betsy Ann straightened upright in slow motion as she counted to ten. But the sincere concern on Janie’s apple-cheeked face dissolved her angst. She edged up to her friend’s ear and spoke louder to compensate for the trash vehicle’s droning engine. “I’m fine, really. Just need a breather for a moment or two.” A whiff of three-day-old, fermented garbage combined with diesel fumes left her a tad lightheaded. She waved a hand over her nose. “Whew, away from that monster.”

“Oh, okay.”

The two widows eased to a bench under one of the many sprawling live oak trees dotting the community. Their eyes followed the commercial dumpster as it rose in the air. The sanitation lorry’s built-in forklift maneuvered the box up and over the cab.

“Amazing how they lift and dump, isn’t it? The dumpster must weigh several tons.”

Janie nodded. “Hydraulics, no doubt. My brother became a mechanical engineer, you know. Explained them to me one Thanksgiving, oh, back in 1972…”

Betsy Ann’s eyes glazed over. Janie exhibited the epitome of a walking encyclopedia. Her mind, even though encased in seventy-two-year-old wrinkles, still resembled a sharpened pencil lead.

Her attention left her jogging mate’s diatribe on modern mechanics and turned to the labored whir of the metal arms grasping the garbage container. Black plastic sacks, white ones, and various cartons tumbled into the truck’s receptacle like upturned chocolate-covered mints into a wide open mouth. Then, something long and blue-jean colored caught Betsy Ann’s eye. She jolted to her feet.

“Oh, my word. A leg! With an orthopedic shoe attached.”

“Dear, I thought you quit taking oxycodone for pain.” Janie pushed a sweat-dampened silver curl off her brow.

“I’m serious. Look.”

Janie’s gaze followed her friend’s finger. “Oh, my heavens. It is!” She jumped up as she waved her hands over her head. “Stop. Stop.”

Her words didn’t reach the city worker’s ears over the automatic grinds and thunks.

Betsy Ann dashed in front and proceeded to slam her hands onto the driver’s door.

A middle-aged man knitted his thick black eyebrows. He jerked the lift to stop and rolled down the window. “What?”

The community’s trash receptacle dangled at a precarious angle.

The senior citizens sputtered in unison. “Stop. There’s a body.”

Answering Sarah

After a fire destroys their home when she was a girl, Sarah’s family rebuilds their lives, yet the echoes of the fire’s damage remain. Sarah learned to turn inward, and keep her curious mind to herself, asking God all the questions that her own father used to delight in. But the fire silenced her father, and spread the stillness to the rest of them. Yet Sarah longs to express herself, to find answers to all her questions. A new, young pastor arrives, and captivates her heart. The prospect of a challenging and unexpected life dances before her, but then is held out of her reach. And with the new possibilities come questions she’s never asked herself before. Is she ready for the answers?

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Copyright 2016 © Nancy Shew Bolton


A rest in the shade was tempting, but one glance at the sunlit road ahead changed Sarah’s mind. She bumped her elbow on her little brother’s arm.

“Let’s play road-hop, Joe.” Now that she’d turned nine, the time for games would end soon enough. She had to fit some in whenever she could.

Joe made up the game last year, and it fast became their favorite. They left the cool shelter under the pines to Ma and Pa and scampered out on the dirt road. The sun blistered the top of her head, and its harsh rays highlighted every dried grass stalk and weed in the hard-baked ruts of the road. Dry heat shimmered from the ground.

Sweat sprang out on her forehead. She should rest. They still had an uphill trek to get home from their visit to friends, followed by chores for all of them once they arrived. But she couldn’t resist having some fun.

What a long, dry summer. She and Joe spent their free time splashing in the creek at home, which was now a weak ribbon of its former strength, dwindling in the daily onslaught of heat.

“It has to rain soon,” Pa repeated every day, scanning the cloudless sky. Sarah was sure it would, since Pa said so.

Joe hopped on one foot back and forth over the wagon ruts. A large clod of dirt crumbled into the rut along the edge of his planted foot, challenging his balance. Joe teetered on the edge while his arms sliced the air in erratic, frantic circles. The sight of that, coupled with his grimace and wide eyes, made Sarah chortle and point at him.

Pa chuckled. Joe scowled at Sarah, regained his balance, and said, “Ha-ha. I didn’t fall.”

“Don’t tease each other, children.” Ma’s tone of admonishment made Sarah quench her giggles. But he looked so funny, and when they were alone, most of the enjoyment of the game was the teasing part while they tried to outdo each other.

“Sorry, Ma.” Joe hopped four more times and finally lost his balance. Both feet touched the ground while Joe huffed out an exasperated sigh.

Sarah clapped and jumped in delight. “My turn.”

“Bet you can’t beat eight straight jumps.” Joe crossed his arms, a slight scowl tightening his face.

Sarah wanted to taunt him back but knew Ma wouldn’t like it. She hopped and counted to herself, eyes trained on the ground. Her confidence rose when she made it to her sixth successful jump. Hectic sounds above made her stop, stay balanced on one foot, and gaze up. A large flock of geese honked and sped above the treetops. Why? It wasn’t time for them to fly north.

Thrashing noises escalated from the thick woods on both sides of the road. Pa hadn’t brought his rifle. Cold fear gripped a hammerlock on Sarah’s middle as the noises grew louder and thoughts of bears filled her mind. But bears traveled alone, unless it was a mother with cubs.

Oh, no. Her heart raced. The hopping game forgotten, she ran to Pa. He put his hand on top of her head and peered into the woods.

“Stop shaking now.” Pa patted her head. “It’s only a herd of deer passing.” One of them broke through the trees and took to the road, thundering by them as though they weren’t there. “Something spooked them, that’s for sure. All of you stay here. I’m going up the bend and see what’s going on.”

The noise in the woods faded, and Sarah’s heart began to slow back down.

“Children, come stand next to me.” Ma held her hands out to them. Pa strode to the bend in the road, his long legs swallowing up the short distance in a few moments. His back went rigid before he turned and dashed to them.

“Get Joe. I’ll get Sarah.” Pa scooped her up and onto his back. He commanded, “Run! Fire. We’ve got to get to the lake.”

Fire? Where?

Navy Blues


Her fiancé cheated on her…in paradise. Broken hearted and confused, Emma flies home to Fort Worth, Texas not sure what life without him will entail.

Ryan is being discharged from the Navy to join a gastroenterology private practice in Fort Worth. New city, new life. The last thing on his mind is falling in love. Until a forlorn lady sniffles in the seat beside him on the flight.

A storm, an emergency landing and an out of control ex-fiancé thrusts Ryan and Em into a dilemma. Each must make some tough choices, but will those involve each other?

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“Stop! I’ve changed my mind,” I wanted to shriek. I hated this part more than anything.

Instead, I shuffled with fifty other passengers, each overloaded with carry-ons, toward the tunneled ramp which led to our plane. The first embarking of an eight-hour puddle hop—Honolulu to San Diego to Phoenix to Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The only route back home available on a moment’s notice.

I probably looked a fright after an hour of non-stop crying. The airline clerk took my boarding pass with a sympathetic lip-tuck once she saw my swollen, red eyes and runny nose. So much for my romantic three-day weekend in Hawaii. Fate, or maybe God, dictated otherwise.

“Thanks.” The word squeaked from my throat. I blinked back more tears from working their way up from my heart. Sideswipes of life came fast and furious without warning. And this had been a doozy.

“Excuse me. Pardon me.” I huffed out the sentences in between residual sniffles. Inching down the aisle, my designer carry-on bag thrust in front of my abdomen, I snail-paced after the other travelers. Shuffle. Stop. Shuffle. Stop, as each ahead of me found their designated too-narrow-for-most-human-bodies place in economy class. Ah. At last, row fourteen.

A quick glance at the ticket confirmed my assigned seat. The man behind me rammed his briefcase into my left kidney. He grumbled. “Sorry.”

I nodded in reply as I pivoted to toss my carry-on in the bin above my head before scooting sideways to my tackily-upholstered, cushioned cocoon, complete with safety belt, drop-down tray and ear phones. I leaned back as far as possible in my upright position and detached myself from the chaos stirred by the rest of passengers in Group B. A two minute lull ensued as the din level diminished to one couple two aisles up and over whispering in soft tones and the flight attendants clamoring in the tiny onboard kitchen.

But, as soon as I had steadied my breath, the remaining on-boarding mob invaded the brief tranquility. The aisle-tango continued in front of me until each found places for their belongings, and then their rear-ends in the narrow seats. I scrunched further into number 14E—a window seat in a row of only two—glad to not be participating in the oncoming melee of humanity. I craned to check who my assigned traveling companion might be, praying it wouldn’t be someone hugely overweight, with bad breath, or a strong body odor.

A thirty-something man, with a soft smile and tired eyes, plopped into 14D. He gave me a slight nod and leaned his back into the cushion with a deep, closed-eye puff of his cheeks. He wore casual, buckskin colored shorts and a hunter green and off-white striped collared knit shirt, displaying the proverbial little embroidered alligator. A left hand, sporting a simple gold band, gripped the armrest between us. Married, clean-cut, wants quiet. Okay, I can deal with that.

Just as I mouthed a thanks to God, an eardrum-stabbing wail occurred two rows back. “Why can’t Daddy sit with meeeee?”

The man huffed and twisted toward the sound. “Because the airlines said Daddy’s seat is here. You stay with Mommy.”

The child’s whining persisted as people jabbed and jostled through the claustrophobic cabin. It would be a full flight. My temples began to pulse.

One baritone voice pierced the din. “I’ll trade with you.”

I turned to see sandy hair, a chiseled jaw, and piercing blue eyes on the face of a military man. He held his boarding pass in one hand and a khaki duffle bag in the other. It matched his uniform. The Naval emblem on his brass belt buckle glimmered in the late afternoon light as it streamed through the airplane’s portal. Well, this was Hawaii. A bunch of the men onboard wore Navy fatigues. He was being transferred like the rest of them, no doubt.

“Really?” The father lost half of the worry lines on his forehead. “Thanks.”

The sailor hoisted his duffle and a briefcase into the compartment above us and shrugged. “No problem. A seat is a seat.” His eyes dropped to scan me. I pulled my skirt over my knees and shifted my gaze to the tarmac beyond the double-paned oval window.

From the outer edge of my vision, I saw the two exchange positions. In mid-movement, they shook hands. The Navy man smiled. “You should be with your family, man. It’s only right.”

He sat down, adjusted his position to dig the seat belt out from the cushion, and then leaned into my space to click it. The insignia on his left collar resembled a gold tree with a green stone in it. On the right, perched a silver maple leaf. Even though my father was in the Naval Reserves most of my early childhood, I never mastered deciphering rank and emblems. I did remember those two meant he was an officer of some sort and, by the khakis he wore, he’d been out to sea.

I shot him a semi-warm grin. “That was nice of you to do that, um, Lieutenant, is it?

“Actually, it’s Doctor.”

My mouth formed a small “O.”

He whispered in my direction. “And it was a purely selfish act. Why would I want to sit next to his kid while she blubbered the whole trip?”

My mouth readied to spill my thoughts about his brash remark, until I saw his wink. Instead, I inched my lips to the right in a fake chuckle. “Very funny.”

“I had you. Admit it.” Those crystal blue pools twinkled with mirth. He extended his hand. “Name’s Ryan MacKenzie. Lieutenant in the Navy, for another 48 hours or so.”

I kept mine in my lap and nodded. “Emma West. My friends call me Em.”

“M? For mystery woman?” The sides of his mouth curled upward. His attention briefly focused on my left hand. It was bare, though it had yet to feel that way to me.

A Note About Internal Dialogue

A Note About Internal Dialogue

Susan M. Baganz

Author & Acquisitions Editor


As an editor I’ve seen the use of internal dialogue used well, and not so well. So I figured it is time I wrote about this. Mostly for my own sanity so authors don’t make me lose more hair in correcting this issue. I’m not expert on this but bear with me. . .

Internal dialogue is NOT deep point of view. Let’s be clear on this. Just because you put something in italics and change the person and tense doesn’t make it deep point of view. (that’s a different blog post—or book).

Here is an instance from an upcoming historical where I used internal dialogue that should just be thoughts:

Phillip’s eyes narrowed as he considered her words. Was this a manipulation? Surely she wasn’t trying to trap him into marriage herself, was she? From what he understood . . .

He is thinking these things but he’s not really talking to himself.

Here’s another from that same manuscript:

Any chance of keeping Beth out of the papers and her situation hushed up was moot. Beth? Since when did he start thinking of her as Beth? He grinned at his own foolishness . . .

Here again, these are mere thoughts. The first Beth could be an internal dialogue and italicized but ideally, none of it should be. He’s just thinking, not talking to himself.

Internal dialogue IS the way someone talks to themselves in their mind. It is not their thoughts. Those may be prolific. The reality is we don’t often speak directly to ourselves silently. This is entirely different from the unspoken but powerful messages that unconsciously run through our minds as referenced in psychology. When we are aware of them and think them to ourselves—then they become internal dialogue.

Here’s an example from Salsa & Speed Bumps:

After the singing was done, Stephanie jotted notes in her bulletin and doodled as her mind wandered from Pastor Andrew’s message to the possible confrontation with Luis that might be forthcoming. She willed herself to take deep breaths.

It was just a nightmare. 

It was just a nightmare.

 It was just a nightmare.

“Are you okay, Steph?” Renata leaned over to whisper in her ear.

“Terrified, but I’ll be fine.”

Here she really is speaking to herself. It’s not a mere thought. She’s reassuring herself that her nightmare was not reality to calm herself.

Internal dialogue CAN be silent prayers. In essence you are talking to God but it’s written the same way. Italicized font. Here’s an example from my upcomingnovella The Baron’s Blunder:

“He is blessed in his friends.”

“Blessed? Not so sure about that. Lucky, perhaps.”

“Someday you’ll find the Lord worthy of your trust and your heart.” Henri whispered and then remained quiet for the rest of the dance. Lord, show Michael who You are so he could trust in You too.

In first person you won’t have a need for internal dialogue because all your narration is pretty much in the character’s head. It can be somewhat of a stream of consciousness type of thing. This example is from a short story of mine called My Beautiful Nightmare (from a compilation called Little Bits O’ Love):

I can’t believe I did something so stinkin’ stupid. I was out riding my bike as usual. Kind of my way to feel the wind in my face and to move faster than I would if I walked and got the benefit of some exercise. Not that it’s changed my waistline, mind you. If I could only give up the potato chips and M&M’s I’d fare much better. But regardless, I was riding my bike and enjoying the scenery and somehow did not see the car parked right in my way. As in right. In. My. Way.

Third person past tense is where I see the most problems with this concept.  Here are a few examples:

This is an instance where I did it WRONG from the rough draft of a story I’m working on right now:

He grinned and bent down to cover his lips over hers savoring the softness of her body against his and the acceptance and love she poured into that kiss. Everything dormant in him for the past four years roared to life. What are you doing? He stepped back, holding her arms to steady her.

“Wow, Piper. You fight dirty. Didn’t expect guerilla warfare on home turf.”

I’m correcting that to: What am I doing?  Here the issue is that he can say that to himself but it should be in first person, not 3rd.

Here are some correct uses of internal dialogue (other than silent prayers).

From Pesto & Potholes:

Tony started the bike, took off and she held on with her arms around him. Dangerous, her mind cautioned. Unavoidable, she answered back, and I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

Here she’s clearly having a conversation with herself.

From Feta & Freeways(Due in September):

She glanced at him again as he slept. He was muscle and poetry. Grace and strength. Everything she ever desired in a man. Get it through your silly heart, girl. He’s not yours and never will be. She backed out of the room, closed the door softly behind her, and locked it.

If I didn’t want that as internal dialogue it would have read: She needed to get it through her silly heart, he wasn’t hers and he never would be.

Some editors would say you should never use internal dialogue. At Prism Book Group we disagree. We love internal dialogue and use it ourselves as authors, however, it should be used sparingly for maximum impact.



Susan M. Baganz chases after three Hobbits, and is a native of Wisconsin. She is an Acquisitions Editor with Prism Book Group, specializing in bringing great romance novels and novellas to publication. Susan writes adventurous historical and contemporary romances with a biblical world-view.

She has published several of her own novels and novellas with Prism Book Group. In her Orchard Hill Romances series: Pesto & Potholes, Salsa & Speed Bumps and soon Feta & Freeways (Sept. 2016). Her historical novellas include: Fragile Blessings and soon The Baron’s Blunder (Aug. 2016). She has published a compilation of short stories and flash fiction in a book titled Little Bits O’ Love.

Susan speaks, teaches, and encourages others to follow God in being all He has created them to be. With her seminary degree in counseling psychology, a background in the field of mental health, and years serving in church ministry, she understands the complexities and pain of life as well as its craziness. She serves behind-the-scenes in various capacities at her church and also serves as President of the local ACFW WISE chapter (American Christian Fiction Writers – Wisconsin Southeast). Her favorite pastimes are lazy…snuggling with her dog while reading a good book or sitting with a friend chatting over a cup of spiced chai latte. You can learn more by following her blog, her Twitter feed @susanbaganz or her fan page,

Never Tomorrow


A compelling mystery with a powerful theme of forgiveness and healing…

Journalist Whitney Barnes investigates the mysterious death of her mother and three women from Cortland City seeking the thread that links them to an enigmatic killer. Why are women being murdered with no apparent motives for their death? Police are mystified at the lack of clues and a growing sense of fear surrounds the community. Who will be the next victim?

Determined to find the killer, Whitney discovers these women were dealing with wounds from their troubling pasts, but what was their connection? She teams up with Dr. Sarah Stevens, an expert on women’s issues, to ferret out information while TV talk show host Rich and real estate broker Jordan vie for Whitney’s affection.

Whitney discovers new strength within her but is it powerful enough to cope with this dark force of evil? Suspense escalates as Whitney becomes the killer’s next target.


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Copyright 2016 © Judith Rolfs


“I don’t believe this. What are the chances of running into you twice in two days?”

“No way. I thought you were going to the Ring of Kerry?”

“The rain made me change my plans. How nice to find you. I’d hoped I would. I’m about to go on the Cliff Walk. It’s a lovely site. Did you read about it in your guidebook?”

“Yes. I saw the cliff when I drove in.”

“Want to join me?”

“Isn’t it terribly steep and rocky?” Kendra was cautious by nature.

“Climbing the trail is perfectly safe. It’s one of the best sites in Ireland.”

“But it’s raining.”

“You have an umbrella and a rain jacket, don’t you? We’ll stay dry. This will be an adventure.”

Kendra tossed her head back. “How often will I have such an opportunity? Let’s.”

They hustled along the two blocks from downtown to the start of the trail. A painted sign at the base read “Caution On Windy Days.”

Kendra appeared to hesitate. “Maybe I shouldn’t after all.”

“Nonsense. There’s only a little wind today. Just mind your step. I’ll go first. You’ll see how easy it is.”

Kendra followed tentatively. “I wish my daughter, Whitney, were here. As a child, she loved playing in the rain.”

Lily smiled. “How nice. We’ll do the walk for her. The view will be incredible.”

The gradual incline seemed to relax Kendra.

Lily pointed toward the sea. “Look at those majestic waves beating against the cliffs.”

Two other tourists who had hiked to the top passed them on their way down.

At the summit the two women stood alone, leaving the other less adventuresome tourists below. Kendra snapped pictures. “Did you ever see anything so gorgeous?”

Lily laughed. “I’m queen of the mountain.” She glanced back at the trail. No one else appeared to be coming up. She waited a few minutes to be sure then pulled her camera from a zippered black case around her waist.

Ignoring the “No Trespassing” sign at the edge of the cliff, Lily climbed over the three-foot high guardrail. “I can get a better picture from here.”

“Be careful,” Kendra murmured, her voice catching.

Lily moved within inches of the cliff’s edge on the pretext of taking pictures.

Kendra looked away. “I can’t bear to watch.”

“I’m fine. This is my new Nikon.” Lily waved the camera.

Kendra turned her back completely.

Lily took advantage of the moment to stomp and thud to the ground about eight feet past the railing. She cried out, “Darn! I’ve twisted my ankle and can’t get up. Help me, please.”

Kendra snapped around, covering her mouth with her hands. “Oh no. I’m sorry, I can’t.”

“Come a little way past the railing so I can lean on you to get up. Ouch.” Lily moaned again. “It hurts terribly.”

Kendra edged closer to the metal railing and gingerly leaned over.
“Grab my arm. I’ll pull you back.”

Lily planted her palms on the ground and feigned pushing herself up. She collapsed and grimaced. “I can’t get up. I need you to help me stand. It’s quite safe. Stay on the level ground.”

Still Kendra resisted climbing over.

“Owww,” Lily moaned louder.

Kendra blinked rapidly. “Okay, I’m coming.” She lowered her head and inched over the rail.

Kendra edged slowly over to Lily’s side. Lily jumped up like a tigress and whipped her arms against Kendra’s chest. Lily’s advantage of surprise and size prevailed.

Kendra tottered, regained her balance a few seconds, then Lily shoved again, another strong, swift thrust. Kendra gasped and fell backward, her legs folding beneath her. Lily peered over the ledge as Kendra’s arms scrabbled for a root, a branch, anything. No foliage grew along the barren precipice.

Her victim tumbled, thrashing wildly.

Kendra’s scream echoed briefly before being lost in the sound of the crashing waves beating against the rocks.

Family Lies Deadly Ties


Rylee Shepherd’s secret desire is tethered to a thirteen-year-old letter and the promise it holds. Penniless yet hopeful, she keeps that letter close to her heart and takes a nanny position on the lush island of Kauai. She’s soon charmed by her employer’s estranged son who walks her through doors she never intended to open.

Noah Logun has a shameful past, and his wealthy drama-queen mother orders him to stay away from their property and their nanny. Trapped in the crossfire, Rylee must choose between Noah and his generous mother.

Entrenched wickedness is preventing reconciliation and blocking love. Only in surrendering to the Spirit can Rylee overcome the prevailing darkness.


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Copyright 2016 J.A. Marx


Behind her, a hollering child descended the stairs. She closed the French door and turned around.

“Miss Rylee?” Eight-year-old Theodore skipped out of the hallway and across the white-tiled living area. He had his pointer finger cocooned in the opposite hand. “I need a Band-Aid.” He unfolded his digits and blood dripped.

Catching her breath, Rylee guided him toward the kitchen, holding her hand beneath his to net the droplets. The crimson fluid matched the ribbons of red etched into the tile, and she would have to mop the whole area to not miss a spot. “What happened?”

“Jonathan tried to cut a window in the fort with the X-Acto knife.”

Hiding that knife in the cabinet above the fridge should have been sufficient, but Jonathan proved too precocious for his own good. Even so, the combined energy of these sheltered twins couldn’t hold a candle to the kids Rylee had left behind. She lifted Theo onto the counter.

His velvet brown eyes matched those of his twin brother, the only trait they had in common. He smiled. “I like your curls.” His bloodstained hand reached for her blonde hair.

“Heavens to Murgatroyd.” Catching his wrist, she rerouted his mucky paw toward the sink. “And I like your freckles, Theo.”

His nose crinkled. “Who’s Murgatroyd?”

“It’s part of a phrase from an ancient cartoon.” She didn’t bother trying to explain Snagglepuss and Yogi Bear to a boy who only knew Disney characters. Those Hanna Barbera ’toons lived before her time anyway.

“Ancient?” Theo frowned. “How old are you again?”

“Eighteen.” She turned the water on to a gentle stream.

“You’re older than my sisters.” The boy washed off the blood then rubbed his nose with his uninjured wet hand, leaving dribbles. “They’re in England. Have you been there?”

“Nope.” Holding Theo’s cut finger under the water, she handed him a dishtowel with which to dry his face. “I never crossed the Colorado border until I came here.”

Despite the presently nagging doubts, she had no desire to return to her former predictable and dull existence. Before this yearlong commitment to the Loguns ended, she aimed to send out her college applications. Nothing but death could stop her from becoming a schoolteacher.

She finished rinsing the wound and then wrapped a paper towel around the boy’s pointer and squeezed to stop the flow. Her ample experience at dealing with minor emergencies had earned her the status of First Responder back home. She could distinguish the serious injuries, and this cut did not require stitches.

“I bet Noah would like you.” Theo’s bare feet kicked against the egg-yolk yellow cabinets.

Rylee quieted them with her leg before his heels left grime marks. “Who’s Noah?”

“Our big brother.”

Her stomach tightened. They have a brother?

Why had the Loguns never mentioned another son? They bragged about their two teenage daughters who attended a private equestrian school in England. They’d boasted about their show dogs, two Afghan hounds that won blue ribbons six years in a row before someone stole the canines.

 Wondering if the boy was making this up, she narrowed her gaze. “Where is Noah?”

“Don’t know.” Theo snorted and spit in the sink. “He’s tall like you are. He always hits his head in the toy room.”

Rylee giggled. She still had a bruise on her skull from bumping into the angled ceiling above the Lego table. “Why do you think Noah would like me?” Keeping the boy’s mouth moving calmed his bouncy legs.

“’Cuz he’s a sheep.”

Baffled, she stared at Theo’s pretty face, which would never qualify as handsome. If this kid had long hair, he could pass as a girl. “What do you mean?”

“You’re a shepherd. And sheeps like shepherds.”

Beginning to make funny sense out of the boy’s statement, she rinsed his finger again and examined it. Her surname was Shepherd. But the other half of his reasoning had her guessing. “Do you mean Noah is a…black sheep?”

Talking Love With Paula Mowery

Photo frame or gift card with valentines heart shaped ribbon

We’re told in Scripture that God is love. He definitely proved His kind of love is an unconditional and undeserved type through sending His Son to die for our sins.

Some love isn’t hard to conjure. God just helps us to enhance it. For example, I am still head-over-heels in love with my husband of twenty-six years. But through God’s Word and leading, I’ve learned to love my husband more like God planned for a wife to love her husband.

When my little girl was born, I was in love, even though it took a lot to get her here. But God has shown me how to love my daughter through example and discipline.

I struggled with infertility issues before finally conceiving my only daughter. My bitterness heightened each time I would hear about a young woman or girl who conceived out of wedlock and by accident. I cried out to God that this wasn’t fair. I wanted a baby and would care for that child and love that child, giving her a mother and a father.

Some years later I was approached by the director of our church association’s Pregnancy Crisis Center to become their devotional leader. I struggled with my answer for a bit but knew God was pushing me to do this.

As I shared about the love of God and then listened to these girls tell their stories, I had to repent of my former bitterness. God taught me to love and care for these girls and their babies. They each had a story with hopes and dreams of their own.

Everyone deserves to know about the unconditional love God offers. This is what I hope readers see in the story, The Crux of Honor.

Since God is love, when we allow Him to teach us His kind of love, we can’t help but be richer and enrich others.



Check out Paula’s contribution to Prism Book Group’s new Love Is series…

LoveIs_CruxofHonor arr

The Crux of Honor

“Love does not dishonor…” 1 Corinthians: 13:4

Chelsea Wilson’s life is a constant reminder of what living dishonorably looks like. At every turn she continues to prove her mother’s shunning must be deserved.

Dr. Kevin Alley returns to the old home place to establish his medical practice.

After running into Chelsea, he knows his love for her is still strong.
Chelsea is ousted from her small rented room when her mother bursts in, proclaiming Chelsea’s pregnancy.

Kevin takes Chelsea in, giving her space to live on the upper level of his house.

When Chelsea’s baby displays life-threatening symptoms, Chelsea must face her mother. Secrets unfold about Chelsea’s parents. Can Chelsea and Kevin uncover the secrets linked to Amish heritage in time to save the baby? Can the two find love together despite their history?

Barely Above Water

An illness comes out of nowhere and strikes Suzie Morris. Her boyfriend dumps her. She has no living family, and her physician can’t diagnose the malady.

Suzie relies on her Christian faith as she faces the uncertainty of the disease, and turns to a renowned alternative doctor in Destin, Florida. She takes a job coaching a county-sponsored summer swim team. She’s determined to turn the fun, sometimes comical, rag-tag bunch into winners.

Her handsome boss renews her belief in love, but learns of her mysterious affliction and abruptly cuts romantic ties. Later he has regrets, but can he overcome his fear of losing a loved one and regain Suzie’s trust?

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Copyright 2016 © Gail Pallotta


Suzie shivered at Carson Snotte’s words, not the March air with its hint of lingering winter.

“Under the circumstances, I don’t think we should see each other.” He threw their relationship to the wind whipping around the Bradford pear tree in her small, grassy yard. Everything spun out of control. Suzie struggled to stand upright on the cement drive in front of her brick condo.

An image of her and Carson entering Blue Mountain, North Carolina’s largest charity event as the King and Queen begged her to hold on to her destiny. The grandeur of his black and white tuxedo, the promise of being seen as the ideal couple, hovered over them as she had floated next to him in her long purple gown. “Don’t say that. I promise I’m going to get to the bottom of this. I’ll fix it.”

Carson’s thin lips snarled, ruining his fine features, his blue eyes staring at Suzie like pieces of stone. “You’ve made a mess of our lives. Who introduced you to drugs? Are you seeing some hood on the side?”

“No, I told you the doctor said I have a foreign substance in my system.” She didn’t add that the physician had said he couldn’t treat her because the labs couldn’t identify it. Carson was already upset.

He guffawed. “Right, can’t they figure out cocaine, or is it heroin?”

Suzie’s heart broke in a million pieces. “I’ve never taken illegal drugs in my life. I don’t even take prescription medicine, and no, I haven’t seen anyone but you in three years.”

Carson waved his long, thin hand then blew air from his mouth. “Seriously, our relationship has deteriorated beyond repair. I’m not sure if you’re actually hooked on something, or if you’re a hypochondriac. Let’s say hypochondriac, and we’ll both be lots happier.”

The fair-haired, athletic guy with broad shoulders pivoted and walked away. Suzie stood with tears rolling down her cheeks. Maybe he was right. There was nothing wrong with her. The ailment was all in her head. Why look even more foolish trying to find someone to cure a disease that didn’t exist? She plunked down on her front stoop and wiped her eyes. The azalea bush beside her blurred with her tears and morphed into an Impressionist painting.

See Dr. Granger. Was she losing it? See Dr. Granger. Who was Dr. Granger? She’d heard the name but couldn’t recall him. See Dr. Granger. You need to see Dr. Granger. The words persisted as though they resounded from a stuck CD player.

Day and night, the message repeated in her head for a week. She sat in the rocking chair with the gold flowered cushion in her bedroom when the revelation hit her like a bullet. She shot straight up. Dr. Granger was the chiropractor who treated Madelyn Demms, Mom’s friend, ten years ago. “What do I want with a chiropractor?” Oh, Madelyn saw him for an internal health issue, not a back problem, and he cured her. Madelyn had raved about him. She slapped her forehead then stood and called Madelyn.