Friday, January 25, 2013

Do you like thrills and chills?  Below is an excerpt from our Suspense Short Story Collection   KILLER AT THE DOOR

Doris must make a life-or-death decision when a blood-splattered stranger pounds on the door of her isolated cabin. Is he a desperate victim or a deranged killer?

     Doris, irritated by a knock on the door, remained at the computer to finish her sentence. She hadn't expected or wanted anyone to disturb her. That's why she had rented this isolated cabin fifteen miles from the small town of Manning. The cabin was located on a lonely road where few passed and nobody lingered.
She had left Sioux Falls three weeks ago, right after the funeral, car filled with stacks and stacks of her husband's notes. It seemed natural that she would return to the district Jim and she knew best, on the edge of the Pine Ridge Reserva­tion. Jim's work had started here; here she would find the solitude it would take to finish it. She would herself complete his book, the culmination of his vast and brilliant study of Native American culture, a work that would keep him alive. Doris, alone, understood his message well enough to give his book real form and meaning. She knew she must publish it at once while the memory of the young professor still glowed brightly in the minds of his colleagues.
     The knock became louder, a pounding. Total return to reality brought with it the familiar headache, the stiffness caused from long hours at the computer. Probably a stranded motorist wanting to use the phone, she thought.
     Almost midnight‑‑she wasn't surprised; often she lost track of time. She switched on the porch light and lifted the heavy gray drape from the glass panel.
Eyes, close to the glass, frantic, glazed, bored into hers. Blood, all over him, sprang from a deep, jagged gash on his head. Blood flowed into the sandy hair, drenched the white shirt. He raised a large, imploring hand, leaving splotches of blood on the pane.
     “My God!”
     Doris snatched her fingers from the night latch she had been about to open and shrank back toward the phone. The sheriff from Manning could be here in fifteen or twenty minutes. Since she had arrived, no one had called her, nor had she made any calls. The receiver tight against her ear sounded dead. Had the phone ever worked? She tried again and again to get a dial tone, but heard only the same stillness that engulfed the room.   
     The pounding started again. The erratic banging of fists frightened her more than the silent phone.
     Doris approached cautiously and looked out again.
     “You must... ” he gasped. “You must help me!”
     Even since her last glimpse of him, he had grown weaker. What if he died and she had not even tried to assist him? No matter how she felt about it, no matter how frightened she was, she must open the door. She had to admit him, attempt to stop the flow of blood that if not quelled soon would surely kill him.
     Doris unlocked the latch and reached out to assist him. Just inside the doorway, he staggered and despite her frenzied efforts to catch him, fell. She stared at the wide shoulders, the thick hair, tawny in the direct light, at the blood soaking into the carpet. As she turned him around, his eyes opened, light eyes, a blue‑gray. She watched them fill with pain, flicker, close. He attempted to speak, but his words were muffled, incoherent.    He kept repeating what sounded like the same warning over and over. Doris bent closer, straining to obtain some meaning. “You must... lock... lock the door!”
     With stiff, nervous motions, she whirled, slammed the door shut and clicked the lock. Turning back to him, she spoke with voice as muffled as his. “Who's out there?
His answer was impossible to comprehend. Plaintively, like a child, he stretched out his hand to her. The effort seemed to exhaust him. As his arm dropped, his eyes fell shut.
Doris headed to the bathroom to get a towel. Carefully she washed blood from his face, a broad face that probably always had upon it the outline of a beard.
     The cold water momentarily revived him. “I stopped to change a tire.” Ragged intakes of breath cut into his words. “When he stopped, I thought he was going to help me. He hit me with the tire iron.” A gurgling sounded deep in his throat. “My wife started screaming. He struck her down right in front of me. He killed her.”
     “She's dead? Are you sure?”
     His moan and the word, “Yes,” ran together.
     “How did you get away?” Doris gave him no time to answer. “Did he follow you?”
     “I'm on foot. This is the only house anywhere around. He knows that. He has to kill me.” His voice shook with pain. “I can identify... ”
     You had better not try to talk.”
    “Janet's dead!” His hands clutching at her possessed overwhelming strength. He clung to her, desperate sobs racking his body.
     “No matter what's happened,” she said, “you must be strong. Janet would expect that of you.” She continued talking to him softly, her words comforting, but untrue, the way she had talked to Jim. After a while his raspy breathing began to grow calmer, more rhythmic. She eased him back against the carpet, wiping at damp blood on her blouse.
     His eyes opened again, helpless, entreating. “Do you have a gun?”
Jim and she had spent many an afternoon at target practice competing for first place. She had become as good a shot as he, and  she had stuffed the revolver that they shared into her suitcase before leaving the university. Obediently, she went into the bedroom and with trembling hands placed shells into the cylinder before returning to the front room.
     Had his breathing become dangerously faint? She knelt beside him, listening. His breath was barely audible, but steady. Doris laid down the gun and searched his clothing for some clue to who he was. Her fingers shook as she opened his billfold‑‑a picture of a pretty, dark‑haired woman, lots of cash, a South Dakota driver’s license: Gordon Litel, born l959, Mission, South Dakota. She didn't know much more about him than she had before, except that the picture of the sweet‑faced wife made her hear the screams and envision the brutal blows.
     A sharp rapping sounded at the door. The gun felt icy as she gripped it, rising. She could sense the presence of the person who stood on the other side. She felt her heart begin to beat irregularly and the strength drained from her legs. “Who's there? Who are you?”
    “You must let me in!”
     Doris raised the drape and let it fall back in place. In this instant of vision she glimpsed strong, well‑defined fea­tures. Sensitive dark eyes, the tense way his lips compressed, made her think of Jim. Jim's face began merging with his, began urging her to throw open the door and be safely enfolded in strong arms.
Doris backed away. She could no longer trust her own eyes. Had she become that frightened‑‑beyond reality or logic?  She must not allow herself to give into panic.
“I know he's in there! There's blood all over the porch.”    

Bargain Deal:  Purchase Killer at the Door on Smashwords    8 short stories for $1.99!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Welcome to the NEXT BIG THING blog hop!  This is a fantastic new way for readers to discover authors they may not find in their local bookstore.

Here you will discover information about us (Loretta Jackson and Vickie Britton) as co-authors and a sneak peak at the book we are currently working on, AN ICY DEATH, which will be part of our Jeff McQuede High County Mystery Series.  Here’s a review of the second book in the series: WHISPERS OF THE STONES:

"Whispers of the Stones" is a multi-layered mystery that should prove a strong addition for genre fans--
Midwest Book Review

In this BIG BLOG HOP, Loretta and I will answer ten questions about our current work in progress.  You can learn a little about the latest novel we are working on as well as some insight into where our ideas come from.  Then check out the links below this post to our fellow authors at their blogs to find out more about their works in progress. 

We’d like to thank Pat Browning for inviting us to participate.
 Pat Browning is the author of ABSINTHE OF MALICE, a Penny Mackenzie Mystery.  Her books are cozy/amateur sleuth mysteries set in Central California.   Her main character could be characterized as “Miss Marple in pantyhose.”  Her romance angle is a second time around love affair between two characters pushing fifty.  Pat’s work in progress with the working title METAPHOR FOR MURDER, has a Chinese angle, and centers around China Alley and mystery within an old Chinese cemetery. Read more about her and her works at

Here is our Next Big Thing!


1. What is the working title of your book?

Our first book in the High Country Mystery Series is MURDER IN BLACK AND WHITE published by Avalon Books.  The second and third books in the series are WHISPERS OF THE STONES and STEALER OF HORSES.  All of them have recently become available through Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint.
Our work-in-progress has a working title of AN ICY DEATH.
2: Where did the idea come from for the WIP
The idea grew out of a trip we took through Wyoming in the winter.
3: What genre does your book come under?
 Mystery, Cozy. 
Jeff McQuede is the sheriff of Coal County.  He is a real character, who always tries to do the right thing, but is sometimes  plagued by doubts.  His hero and inspiration was his relative and Old West namesake, who battled early-day outlaws.
4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 
He would have to be rugged, capable, yet very human.  Maybe on the order of the old Bonanza star Lorne Greene, Edward James Olmos, or Tommy Lee Jones.  

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
(Well, it’s a long sentence....)
When a woman is found frozen to death in her car on an abandoned road, McQuede believes it is an accident until evidence points to cold-blooded murder, making his main suspect her husband, who against all odds has stumbled to safety and stands to profit.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

Our books in this series were published by Avalon.  Recently the company was bought out by Amazon, who now is handling the series.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Because we write together, a novel takes about six months, a little longer when a lot of research is involved.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

We both love the novels of Tony Hillerman and his good-hearted hero, Joe Leaphorn, and have always looked to him for inspiration.  We also enjoy the works of  Margaret Coel, Jean Henry Mead, and Craig Johnson, who also write about Wyoming.
9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
In Laramie, Wyoming, hypothermia is common and we read about many instances of people freezing to death from exposure to the icy temperatures.   When I (Vickie) lived there I read about a woman who froze to death walking home from work.  Another body was discovered in the woods.  A perfect site for a murder novel.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Sheriff Jeff McQuede has for a long time has been attempting to bring to justice a local ruffian named Ruger.  When he arrests him for murder, however, he doesn’t believe Ruger is guilty of this particular crime.  McQuede now faces a moral dilemma--he has done his duty by making the arrest, but is that all there is to his duty?  Should he delve deeper and work to release a man that for years he has been trying to apprehend?
Also he is deeply in love with the Loris, the local museum curator who can’t make up her mind whether to marry him and settle down in Coal County.  She is extremely ambitious and rebels against ending with in a small, dead-end job when she has been offered a position at the Smithsonian by McQuede’s handsome rival, Arden Reed.

Below you will find the authors who will post their Q&A on their own blogs next Wednesday, Jan. 23.  Be sure to bookmark and add them to your calendars for updates on WIPs and New Releases!

1. Lille Ammann is the author of DREAM OR DESTINY and A STROKE OF LUCK.  In her suspense DREAM OR DESTINY, Marilee Anderson dreams about a murder and wakes to find  it really happened. She and David Nichols, the victim’s brother, become the prime suspects. Though they have their secrets and aren’t sure they can trust each other, Marilee and David team up to find the killer.  As they take it upon themselves to question a  host of suspects, will they they end up in jail—or dead?

Lillie also writes nonfiction e-books such as Preserving Memories: How to Write a Family History, Finding the Information you Need: Research Tips and The Secrets of Fantastic Houseplants.

Visit Lillie’s blog A Writer’s Word, and Editor’s Eye, at

2. Michael Thal is the award-winning author of middle school and YA novels.  He is the author of THE LEGEND OF KOOLURA and GOODBY TCHAIKOVSKY, about a young violin virtuoso who must cope with severe hearing loss.

Koolura is a girl with extraordinary powers.  She has the COOL.  The sixth grade Armenian girl has the ability to dematerialize at will and reappear wherever she wants.  She can also move objects with her mind and  defy gravity.  But she also has doubts about herself and the ability of her special powers to save her from a talker intent on her destruction.  KOOLURA AND THE MYSTERY AT CAMP SADDLEBACK, the second in the Koolura series, will be published sometime in 2013. Currently, Michael is working on a third Koolura book.

To read more about Michael and his books, visit his website:

3. Elizabeth Delisi
Elizabeth is a multi-published, award-winning author of romance, mystery and suspense. Her time-travel romance set in ancient Egypt, LADY OF THE TWO LANDS, won a Bloody Dagger Award and was a Golden Rose Award nominee. Her romantic suspense novel, SINCE ALL IS PASSING was an EPPIE Award finalist and Bloody Dagger Award finalist.
Her paranormal mystery, FATAL FORTUNE, was a Word Museum Reviewer’s Choice Masterpiece.  In FATAL FORTUNE, no one in Cheyenne, North Dakota believes in Lottie Baldwin’s psychic abilities; especially not Harlan Erikson, Lottie’s boyfriend and Chief Deputy in the Sheriff’s Office. When a friend’s husband disappears, Lottie can’t leave it to Harlan to discover what happened to Harry. Armed with her courage and her tarot cards, Lottie tries to solve the mystery herself, regardless of who attempts to stop her: Harlan, her friend—or the criminal.
Elizabeth is also an instructor for Writer’s Digest University. She is currently at work on DEADLY DESTINY and PERILOUS PREDICTION, , the sequels to FATAL FORTUNE, and KNIT A SPELL, a paranormal romance. Elizabeth lives in New Hampshire with her husband and feisty parakeet. She invites her readers to check out her website at