Books · Craft · Excerpt · Quilting · West Virginia

Crafting Moment from Safe and Sound

With March being National Craft Month, I’m featuring some crafting…and love of handmade items…moments from my novels. In Safe and Sound, Hannah is drawn to venture inside a store that sells handmade goods.


Hannah tugged open the door and stepped inside. A sense of calm filled her as she allowed the love used to make the items wrap around her. She smiled. She could live in the store. Reaching out, she trailed her fingers through the fringe of a cashmere scarf knitted in a mix of red and gold shades.

“Can I help you?”

Hannah gasped and spun around, pressing her gloved hand to her chest.

“I didn’t mean to scare you.” The woman looked her up and down then peered out the window. A frown developed on her wide face. “Are you hiding from someone? Do you think you saw the shooter from this morning? I’ll call the sheriff for you.”

Word sure did get around the small town quick. “A little rattled. Walking by your store, I saw all the lovely things and they called out to my heart. I had to come in and look and touch. I’m calmer already.” Hannah shoved her hands into her pocket. “I promise not to ruin anything.”

The woman smiled. “Don’t you worry none. Just noticed a busybody hovering outside and figured she was bugging you. Please take a look around. I’m Beverly, the owner. Are you looking for anything in particular?”

“The quilts and fabric caught my eye. Nothing says love like a beautiful handmade quilt.”

The woman beamed. “I have some made by a local artisan and a few others I picked up at some quilting shows. The quilts are all on the second floor. There’s a latch at the top of the stair gate, pull it up and it’ll open. Don’t forget to close it.”

Beverly started walking her to the staircase when the front bell jingled. A familiar looking young woman with brown hair stepped inside. The owner rolled her eyes. “Let me go see what Miss One-Thousand-Questions wants this time. Just call down to me if you’d like a closer look at any of the pieces hanging.”

“Thank you.”

Grasping the wooden rail, Hannah went up the stairs. When she reached the top, a gasp once again escaped her. Beauty left her awestruck. Slowly, she walked over to the first queen sized quilt hung on a large wooden hanger and drifted her gloved hand over the intricate hand-stitching on the front of the quilt. A precise line of stitches dipped and swirled over the soft pink and bright green shades of material, the fabric a mix of patterns and solid. A cream border surrounded the quilt.

Using her thumb and index finger, Hannah took hold of the edge of the quilt. She moved it forward on the rack. The next one was black and white with a red border in a contemporary style.

Hannah moved on to the next one. She fell in love. Navy blue and soft silvers complimented the winter scene of a cabin at night. The shimmery fabric used for the stars made the picture life-like. The artist used a silver, cotton fabric to create wisps of smoke coming from the chimney. Hannah could almost hear the fire crackling in the hearth. Smell the comfort of smoke wafting up the chimney.

Soft, almost buttery flannel backed the quilt. Yielding to temptation, Hannah raised a corner of the quilt and rubbed it across her cheek. It felt like home. Love. Safety.

The amount written on the price tag made her sigh. Out of her price point though it was worth every penny being asked. She stroked the fabric one more time and went to a rack with lap and crib-sized quilts. Maybe she’d be able to afford a smaller one. A lap quilt with a Christmas tree appliqué caught her eye. She lifted up the quilt and examined the tiny stitches used to puff out the ornaments. Beautiful.

The bell jingled.

Hannah smiled and gently released the quilt. She knew her husband would come after her.


The hope for a future for the broken begins in Mourning.

Four years ago while deployed, Connor’s new bride lost her way in a blizzard and the mountain claimed her. Grief-stricken and injured, Connor returned home to wrestle with guilt and begin life as a widower. When a woman’s body is uncovered, Connor learns his beloved was murdered…and the murderer has his sights on another woman. Connor’s past and present are pulled apart when the woman claims she’s Hannah.

The murderer who sent Hannah Stratford on the run has tracked her down. Now, the only way to stay alive is for Hannah to prove she didn’t die in a blizzard. Connor offers her safety and protection in his home, but keeps his heart guarded from her. Hannah wants more than to save her life. She wants Connor.

To read more of Hannah and Connor’s story, Safe and Sound can be found at:


Barnes and Noble


Desert Breeze

This Spring, the New Beginnings series will be available in print.

Books · Craft · Excerpt · Scrapbooking · West Virginia · Writing

Crafting Moment from Cropped to Death

With March being National Craft Month, I’m featuring some crafting…and love of handmade items…moments from my novels. In this scene, Faith is teaching homicide detective Ted Roget some basics of scrapbooking.

CROPPED front smExcerpt:

Since he wanted to play student, I’d oblige. I pulled the band from my hair and allowed it to fall to my shoulders. “I chose some neutrals paper for the background. If you want, you could pick out a different color or we can find a complementary color of cardstock to use as the photo mat for your project.”

“And that would be?” His gaze roamed around the store.

“Are you asking what is your project or what is card-stock?”


I let out a huff of breath. “The project is up to you. The cardstock I can show you. It’s a type of paper we carry. It’s down this aisle.” I pointed.

“How would I know cardstock from wide ruled paper?” He asked, humor lacing his words.

“For one thing, we don’t sell wide-ruled paper. We’re not a stop for back to school shopping.”

“I’m a guy. Paper is paper.”

Gesturing toward the multitude of color paper, I stepped aside. “This, Detective Roget—”

“Can you call me Ted?” He gazed into my eyes, the green of his a vivid forest. “The detective title sounds out of place.”

Flustered by the intensity in his eyes, I looked away. “Sure. Why not, that’s your name isn’t it?” What is it about Roget—Ted—that caused words to start flowing before the mind engaged?

His lips twitched into a smile and then slipped back in-to a straight line.

“This is cardstock. It’s heavier. Paper. Acid-free…” I clamped my lips shut and stopped the stumbling speech. Hard to inspire confidence when a person sounded like they didn’t know what they were talking about.

“I’m supposed to choose one from all of those?” He looked terrified at the prospect.

“It’s just paper.” Why did men get so bent out of shape by hues? I stood in the middle of the aisle and pointed at the reds and then the blues. “What color is predominant in the photo you’re using for your layout?”

He grimaced. “This was a spur of the moment decision. I had nothing else to do tonight.“

“I figured that.” I refrained from rubbing my hands in malicious glee. It was time to turn the tables. Let him feel uncomfortable and out of his league.

He reached forward and pulled out a burgundy sheet, the color closest to his reach.

The best way to know a person was to see what their private life was like. And this was my opportunity, so I went through the wide open door. “If you’re not going to enter into the contest, I’m willing to waive the subject of the photograph for your layout. Do you have an idea of what kind of picture you’d like to put on the layout?”

“Not really.” He returned the burgundy and removed a sheet of Christmas red.

“Please don’t tell me you’re not a picture-taking kind of guy.”

“Not too much in life to take photos of.”

I gaped at him. “Of course there is. Everyone’s life is worth documenting. What about holiday celebrations, mile-stones in your life, your work, or family?”

Sadness appeared in his eyes. He pivoted and continued down the row of paper. “My little girl loves green. The brighter the better.”

Questions tumbled through my mind about his daughter, but it was none of my business. Besides finding out what shade of green his little girl preferred. A jade green color caught my eye and I pointed it out to Ted.

With a blinding grin, he shook his head. Squatting down, he grabbed a handful of neon green cardstock from the bottom slot of the paper rack.

“This is Claire.” He waved the stack at me. “Can I use this as the major color and then use tan as the mat? Or whatever is the technical term you used. I’ll make something for her to hang in her room.”

The love in his voice for his daughter touched me. I felt my attitude softening toward Ted. Maybe his ulterior motive for stopping by was a good one. Not that I had any clue what it would be.


Former US Army JAG specialist, Faith Hunter, returns to her West Virginia home to work in her grandmothers’ scrapbooking store determined to lead an unassuming life after her adventure abroad turned disaster. But her quiet life unravels when her friend is charged with murder, and Faith inadvertently supplied the evidence. So Faith decides to cut through the scrap and piece together what really happened. With a sexy prosecutor, a determined homicide detective, a handful of sticky suspects and a crop contest gone bad, Faith quickly realizes if she’s not careful, she’ll be the next one cropped.
Cropped to Death is available in print, ebook, and audio. The book can be purchased at:
Books · Excerpt · West Virginia

Release Day: Far and Away, Book 5 New Beginnings Series

FarandAwayCoverArt72dpiIt’s a bittersweet day. Far and Away, the fifth book in the New Beginning Series is now available. Release days are always exciting but this one holds a tad bit of sadness as Far and Away is the last book in the series. I’ve enjoyed writing about these characters, and the town of Mourning, and am a little disheartened to have to say goodbye to the characters and the town. During the course of the series, the town of Mourning took on a greater role and in a way became its own character.

This last book features Priscilla Thorn and Edgar Fritz. Originally, the last book was going to feature a different heroine and an unknown at the time hero. But as it came time to write book five, I knew in my heart the story that needed told was Priscilla’s and Edgar’s. In a way, the series began with Priscilla Thorn and seemed fitting to end with her. I was thrilled that Gail, Editor-in-Chief, of Desert Breeze allowed me to change the story not just from the original heroine but also to feature an older couple. Older couples aren’t usually featured in romance, especially in romantic suspense, but this book had to be about Priscilla (62) and Edgar (70). I hope readers enjoy reading about a non-traditionally aged couple.


The hope of a future for the broken begins in Mourning.

Priscilla Thorn’s heart broke when her son killed his wife and now shatters when her son takes his own life. Priscilla’s grief-stricken soul finds little comfort knowing before he died, Samuel turned his life over to God. Priscilla believes for Samuel to receive forgiveness from the Heavenly Father, she must give it to Samuel’s earthly father…her abusive ex-husband.

Edgar Fritz is stunned when the woman he loves takes her dying ex-husband into her home. While Priscilla sees caring for her ex-husband as showing God’s love, Edgar believes Stephen will use the opportunity for revenge. Edgar risks losing Priscilla’s friendship by insisting the man hasn’t changed his ways and has come back to hurt her one last time.

Is Priscilla risking her life by insisting her ex-husband changed so the world — and God — will know her son had changed?


Behind the coffin, the plain wooden cross stood tall and proud. Reminding Priscilla Thorn of all lost and then found when the Savior sacrificed His life on Earth so all had a chance for eternity in Heaven. All. Priscilla held that word tightly in her heart. All. The Lord promised it for all.

Priscilla clutched the single red rose. A thorn bit into her skin. Her son was gone from the Earth. Tears blurred her vision. She blinked to clear them from her eyes. The door to the sanctuary opened and a gust of wind skittered through the church. Strands of gray hair had escaped from the bun and hung down her back, fluttering toward her face. She tipped her neck back, hoping the wind God sent dried the tears on her face.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” a sweet voice broke into her thoughts.

Priscilla startled. Emma Haywood’s compassionate eyes meet hers. Emma squeezed Priscilla’s hand then slipped into the pew behind her.

“You came.” She didn’t know what else to say.

“Of course we would.” Sheriff Haywood’s voice rumbled from the doorway.

Priscilla pivoted in the seat and stared. Friends, neighbors, and the ones she hoped to see but already forgiven if they couldn’t, walked through the door.

“Sorry for interrupting, Pastor,” Sheriff Haywood said. “A car slid into the valley and delayed a lot of people as it got towed out.”

Hannah Stratford slid into the pew beside Emma. “Connor sends his condolences and regrets. They need his search and rescue skills, along with his dogs, to find the driver of the vehicle.”

Angelina Stratford took the vacant seat beside Priscilla while her husband Todd joined Emma and Hannah. “We decided it was best for Renee and the baby to stay at Connor and Hannah’s. Alex decided he needed to go help in the search so Jonas went with him.”

“I appreciate everyone making the trek to Mourning. This isn’t easy for your family.” Priscilla clutched the Bible to her chest, hoping it helped settle the roiling of her stomach and pounding heart.

“It isn’t for you either.” Angelina rested a comforting hand on top of Priscilla’s. “You were there for us in our grief. You took the anger Alex and Renee lashed out at you.”

“They needed somewhere for it to go.” Priscilla rubbed her fingers over the worn leather. “If I could’ve stopped it…”

“I knew that.” Angelina took hold of her hand. “Regardless of the fact Samuel took Melody’s life, he’s still your child. Your heart broke once when Melody died, and now it breaks again. We couldn’t let you go through that alone.”

Priscilla nodded, fighting back grateful tears. They had come. Her friends hadn’t forgotten her or allowed her son’s actions to keep them away when she needed them most.

One of the heavy weights on her shoulders slipped off, the other remained and skipped into her head as a situation played itself out. A car skidded into the valley. She had notified Stephen of the funeral.

Was her ex-husband the missing driver? Stephen drank during times of stress and this qualified. People changed. She had. Samuel had.

Buy Links:


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Desert Breeze Publishing

Books · Excerpt · Scrapbooking · West Virginia

Celebrating Valentine’s Day: A Little Romance from Designed to Death

Thank you so much for spending time with me this weekend to help celebrate Valentine’s Day. This is my last celebration post and is from Designed to Death, the second book in the Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery series.

Designed to Death:

Blurb: Faith Hunter planned the perfect event at her grandmother’s shop, Scrap This, featuring local scrapbooker and Life Artist Diva, Belinda Watson. But the extravaganza goes up in a cloud of glitter when Belinda and her cousin, Darlene, brawl over scraplifted designs. Faith attempts to break it up, but only makes things worse. Then when Belinda turns up dead behind the Scrap This store, Faith’s involvement goes viral.

As accusations against her turn vicious, Faith sets out to prove her nemesis, Darlene, committed the crime, only to realize they are both innocent. Now they must team up or the murderer’s plan will come together seamlessly with the frenemies sharing a jail cell–or worse, a funeral.

DESIGNED TO DEATH front under 2mbExcerpt:

Steve’s lips turned up slightly. “I know this isn’t my business, but my advice is don’t trust Darlene again.”

I let out an unladylike snort. “There’s a warning I don’t need.”

“I’m thinking I should check your place tonight. I don’t like knowing Karen had the photographer following you around.”

This was one of my concerns of ‘officially’ dating Steve. He’d think it was his duty to protect me and look after me. I didn’t need looking after, or being told what was in my best interest. “She had him watching the store. Not me. I’ll be fine.”

Steve fought a frown.

I knew he meant well. And, I did like the fact he was annoyed with Karen. “It’s nice knowing I have someone I can count on. I kind of feel like I’m using you and I hate it.”

Steve faced me. “You can count on me. I’m here for you.”

“I know.”

Steve cupped my cheek. “That means a lot to me. I wish though you could trust me. I want the wall down between us.”

“There’s no wall.” I inched back, hating breaking the contact but also terrified of it. Butterflies had taken flight in my stomach and a heated feeling raced through me. Relying was enough at this point. I fooled myself for over a year, believing my only interest in Steve was in admiring him. One unexpected and soul-shattering kiss from Steve during my last “investigation” had me reconsidering my stance on no romantic entanglements ever. I still found myself wavering between forever single or trying again. Every guy wasn’t Adam.

“Don’t lie to me. Or yourself. You don’t mind talking as long as the conversation doesn’t steer toward defining what we are to each other.”

“You’re important to me. We’re friends.”

“I want more than just being your friend.”

I knew that. So did practically everyone else. I wanted more but then I didn’t. “You don’t want to be friends?” I gave him an innocent smile.

“I’d like more than friends.” Steve settled back into the driver’s seat. “If friends are all we’re meant to be, let me know. I’ll respect your decision.”

Why did I have to make a decision right now? I liked being friends and the flirting. Liked the will-we-or-won’t-we become an actual item aspect of our relationship. How long would Steve keep waiting for me to make some kind of declaration? Did he want the type of relationship I was satisfied with? What about Steve? Ted? Were all my confusing signals fair to him? Them?

Karen was making her intentions quite clear. So was Steve. He wanted a real relationship. Get married someday. Have children. Steve was a great guy. Successful. Nice. Considerate. Honorable. Hot. I couldn’t blame Karen. I’m surprised there weren’t a few more women trying to win his heart.

He deserved more than my insecurities. Heck, I deserved more than my insecurities and allowing Adam control of my life. People made decisions all the time and changed their minds. I married Adam, realized the huge error of that choice, and got it annulled. If I could alter that, I could decide to edit my rule about no more romantic relationships ever. Life should be more than living from guilt. Everyone made mistakes and deserved forgiveness. Including from myself to myself.

I undid the seatbelt and gave into the impulsive thought zipping through my head. Kneeling on the passenger seat, I leaned over the console separating me from Steve. I placed my hands on his shoulder for balance and kissed him. Good. I wanted him to know I was interested. Very interested in him.

Steve’s hand tangled in my hair, encouraging me. My blood was getting way too heated considering our location, a parked car near Scrap This. I did not want to be caught by Ted, or anyone else, making out in a car behind Home Brewed.

“Thank you.” I whispered the words onto his lips before pulling back. “I should go.”

I needed to tread carefully. Not for my sake, not because I viewed all men as untrustworthy, but I didn’t want to break Steve’s heart. He didn’t deserve it. When I made a commitment to him, I wanted to jump into it with my whole mind, heart, and soul. Not holding anything back.


If you’re interested in reading Faith’s adventure, Cropped to Death is available at:

Mystery Loves Company (print copies)


Barnes and Noble



Books · Excerpt · Scrapbooking · West Virginia

Celebrating Valentine’ Day: A Little Romance from Cropped to Death

Today, I’m wrapping up my celebration of Valentine’s Day with excerpts from my Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery series published by Henery Press. The first one is from Cropped to Death.

Cropped to Death:

Blurb: Former US Army JAG specialist, Faith Hunter, returns to her West Virginia home to work in her grandmothers’ scrapbooking store determined to lead an unassuming life after her adventure abroad turned disaster. But her quiet life unravels when her friend is charged with murder, and Faith inadvertently supplied the evidence.

So Faith decides to cut through the scrap and piece together what really happened. With a sexy prosecutor, a determined homicide detective, a handful of sticky suspects and a crop contest gone bad, Faith quickly realizes if she’s not careful, she’ll be the next one cropped.

CROPPED front smExcerpt:

At least I didn’t think so. I didn’t want anyone control-ling or managing my life for me. I’d make my own decisions, good and bad. I needed support, not advice. Well-meaning or not.

“I won’t be used.” Steve walked around the desk and stood behind his office chair, the desk a barrier between us.

“I’m not…” The remainder of the sentence stuck in my throat. The intensity in Steve’s fathomless brown eyes rendered me silent.

He leaned forward, never breaking eye contact. “Your grandmothers raved about you and I was intrigued. When I saw you the first time, I knew I wanted to get to know you better. But you were reserved, leery of me and everyone else, except for Cheryl and Hope. I didn’t know why, but I knew you needed space. I respected that.”

“I appreciated that.”

For the first few months, he treaded carefully around me and my grandmothers, not wanting to force himself into my life. It was hard as my grandmothers had depended on him for so long and he was a part of their life. I liked having a hot guy around. He was wonderful to look at and having my grandmothers’ focus on him gave me the breathing room I needed.

He offered friendship. I accepted it. Even added in some harmless flirting. It was nice knowing a handsome man found me attractive. Steve was safe. He never crossed the line I drew, which was both disappointing and a huge relief.

“I apologize for overstepping your boundaries,” Steve said. “I never intended for my concern to come across as controlling. Your grandmothers wanted you safe. I wanted you safe, and like most males, figured if physical harm came from your investigating, I could handle that better than you.”

“I know you meant well.” I twisted my fingers in the hem of my shirt. Steve and I never had a conversation like this. We hinted around about our feelings and joked with each other. I wasn’t sure how I felt about laying it all out like this. Or at least Steve doing it. My contribution so far was clichéd one-liners.

“I want you to need me, Faith, because you need me. I want you to want me, Faith, because you want me.”

“I don’t think you understand me,” I croaked out. “I want you in my life. Need you.”

With each word I said, Steve walked closer. “I don’t think you understand me.”

Steve wrapped an arm around my back and pulled me closer. His mouth settled over mine. Shocked, I remained still except for my trembling knees, threatening not to hold up my weight. Not a real problem as one of Steve’s arms tightened around me while the other hand trailed up my back and cupped the back of my head.

My hands inched their way from his chest, to his shoulders, then clasped around his neck, increasing the pres-sure of his mouth on mine. Reality was so much better than fantasy. Steve’s lips left mine and disappointed swelled in me. The feeling left when his fingers tangled into my hair and he dropped a feather-light kiss onto my cheek.

“Steve…” I breathed his name.

He cradled my head to his chest. “When you come to the place where you’re ready to trust again, Faith, let me know.”


If you’re interested in reading Faith’s adventure, Cropped to Death is available at:

Mystery Loves Company (print copies)


Barnes and Noble



Books · Heroine Interviews · West Virginia

SRP Heronie Interview: Abigail Van Buren Masterson from Raspberry Beret

Today on the Self-Rescue Princess, I’m talking with Abigail from the novel Raspberry Beret written by Lisa McCombs.

raspberry beret1. What made you want your story to be told?

I just want everyone to know that even when life seems unfair good things happen. My dad died before my little brother was born so Mom decided to educate us by travelling around the state and appreciating what God has given us. Because we were always moving around I never had a chance to make a friend like other girls my age. That was really okay because I had my journal to write in. This year I made a real life best friend, though, and I am happy, happy, happy!

2. In your life, what has empowered you?

I really don’t think I am very powerful, but this year I got the idea to start a club at school for kids who do not feel like they belong. It’s really been fun and I cannot believe how many students have joined. TAGU stands for Teens Against Growing Up. That’s exactly how I feel sometimes. I think being a kid is much easier than dealing with all those teen age things like dating or getting a job. So, I think realizing how important my life is right now.

My mother was diagnosed with this silly disease called multiple sclerosis right after we moved in with my grandparents. I was really scared, but she is so awesome. She gives herself a shot every day and went back to college to finish her education. And she still has time for us. I want to be just like her.

3. What are strengths and weaknesses?

I like to read, so I guess that would be a strength. Sometimes I get depressed (at least I used to) so I supposed that’s a weakness. I like school and my English scores were so good that I was selected as one of only two seventh graders last year to be accepted in the eighth grade French class. So, I guess that’s strength, too. I never had a boyfriend until this year and I’m not always sure he’s always my boyfriend. Is that a weakness?

4. Describe what being a self-rescue princess (a strong, confident woman) means to you.

Wow and viola! This is a good question and I feel so honored to be considered a “self-rescue princess”! This is so cool. I think my mother is definitely someone to fit this description. When my father died she was still pregnant with my little brother but instead of looking for someone to take care of us, she cashed in the insurance money that he left her and moved us around the state of West Virginia so we could learn to appreciate where we live. When she found out she had multiple sclerosis she didn’t give up. She buried her pride and took us “home” to live with her parents who she hadn’t seen since my dad died. Then she started her MS treatment and without  batting an eye she went back to college to finish her degree. She never complains about her disease, even when she can’t get out of bed in the morning. I think I want to be like my mother when I grow up…just without some weird disease.

5. What one advice/wisdom would you like to pass onto young women?

Be more like my best friend Jesse James. She’s different…like, she has a strange accent and she wears dresses and bobby socks all the time…but she doesn’t let all the teasing get to her. Even when Ex-Head cheerleader Sheila gives her a hard time, she just ignores it and goes about her business. I think this makes Sheila try even harder to give us a rough time, but Jesse doesn’t get involved in all the drama that Sheila’s friends create. I admire her for that. Jesse, not Sheila.

6. Favorite quote or Bible verse.

I don’t think it’s a Bible verse, but my mom always says “God doesn’t throw us more than we can catch”. I like that.

7. If your story had a theme song, what would it be?

There are too many great songs out there to choose from. I just love music. In fact, I don’t think life would be so great without music.

8. Will you be continuing your journey in written form? 

Raspberry Beret is actually the second book in a trilogy focused on the same heroine. The first book Abby, was written as a student-issued challenge. When a seventh grade class challenged me to write 30 pages a week for an entire semester, I accepted their dare and ended up dedicating this book to that class. The third installment is calledOpening Pandora’s Box and is actually the result of a collaborative effort between me and one of the original members of that seventh grade class. I did the writing and he spent most of the summer before his freshman year in high school proofing, editing, encouraging, and cracking the whip.

9. Is there anyone in your life (friend, family member) who will be sharing their life? 

Actually, Christina, I think that my brother Joey has a story to tell one day. He is so freakin’ smart. He was double promoted after the first grade and he helps me with my math homework all the time. He’s such a brainiac. I can really imagine him writing the next great American novel!

NOTE: The author has told me that Abigail’s tale will be free on Amazon from November 25th to the 27th. You can download a copy at this link: Raspberry Beret by Lisa McCombs.
Books · Excerpt · West Virginia

From Designed to Death: Preparing for a Costume Party the Darlene Johnson Way

DESIGNED TO DEATH front under 2mbThe door banged open.

“What are you two doing here?” With gun drawn, Detective Ted Roget stepped into the house.

I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me whole. Of all the police officers to explain this to, it would be Ted.

“Picking up something I need for a party,” Darlene said.

“Really, a party?” Ted’s eyes narrowed and he looked Darlene and I up and down, very slowly and suspiciously. He holstered the gun. “Interesting choice of outfits. All black.”

Darlene straightened her posture and stared back at Ted. I wanted to squeeze my eyes closed, and cover my mouth and ears. I couldn’t quite pull off the see-hear-speak-no-evil stance by myself.

“It’s a costume party.” Darlene emphasized the word costume and threw a look at Ted that spoke of his lack of intelligence.

I blocked a moan from escaping. Of all people, why was Darlene challenging Ted? Okay, I did have my share of words with the man but we kind-of-sort-of got along, and I had been in the right in those situations. There was no way Darlene and I could pass this off as a good choice.

Costume party or not.

“You except me to believe you’re having a costume party with only two guests?” Ted eyed us suspiciously. “In Ms. Watson’s home?”

Darlene licked her lips, squared her shoulders, and thrust out a hip. I knew this position. She was readying to start one of her verbal beat-downs.

I wanted to launch a sidekick at Darlene, but that would really give us away. The neck of the black long sleeved shirt I wore seemed to tighten the longer Ted stared, and Darlene prepared. I eyed the door. Could I make a break for it?

Ted focused those angry eyes on me and shook his head once. I needed to work on my poker face.

“Of course not.” Darlene huffed at him. “There are four people attending. My mother, my aunt Hazel, Faith and I.”

“How unknowing of me.” Ted rested his hands near his gun and handcuffs. He really had a thing for placing his hands at those locations of his belt. “That’s quite an unusual guest list.”

“We like to keep it to a foursome and with Belinda gone…” Darlene trailed off and drew in a deep breath.

“You decided to include Faith.”

“Of course I did. My mother said it was the polite thing to do considering the little scandal I created at the store.” Darlene rolled her eyes as she emphasized the word scandal.

“I’m sure Faith appreciated the invite.” Ted’s eyebrows shot up and he stared at me, almost willing me to say something.

I pressed my lips together and nodded.

“Neither of you thought it was a horrible idea to come into the house of a murder victim.”

“That would be a bad idea,” Darlene said. “But I was coming into the house of my cousin.”

Ted rolled his eyes. “Well, forgive me. I didn’t know there was a difference.”

“I forgive you.” Darlene bestowed a smile on him and hefted her purse strap back onto her shoulder.  “Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll just get my fondue set and we’ll be on the way.”

“I don’t think so.” Ted maneuvered around us and stood in front of the kitchen entryway.

“Come on, Darlene.” I grabbed hold of her arm and tugged. “We’re going to be late. We’ll just grab some frozen appetizers.”

“Frozen!” Darlene squealed and placed a hand against her heart. “I do not serve frozen food. How dare you accuse me of such a thing!”

I drew back and held up my hands. “Didn’t know it’d be an insult.”

Ted stepped between us. “Ladies, ladies. Let’s remain civil.”

“Of course you’d take Faith’s side.” Darlene pivoted sharply, directing herself toward the kitchen. She charged forward.

Ted grabbed hold of her arm.

“Darlene, don’t…” I started to warn her to listen to Ted, and then tried changing it when the large bag slipped down her shoulder. Too late.

Darlene yanked away from Ted. The bag slipped, tipped over and items rained from her purse onto the floor. Lipsticks, pens, a glue gun, glue sticks, Chap Stick in different flavors, beads, scrapbook gems, paperclips, eyeliners. I watched in amazement at the variety of make-up and scrapbook supplies housed in her bag scattered across the floor.

Books · Excerpt · Scrapbooking · West Virginia · Writing

Designed to Death Excerpt

DESIGNED TO DEATH front under 2mbIn one week, September 10, Designed Death will be out. I’m nervous, excited…and a little scared. I always feel this way when a new book comes out. This will be Faith’s second case and I hope readers love it as much, if not more, than the first book in the Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery Series.

Today, I’m going to share a little excerpt from Designed to Death:

The buzzer by the employee door sounded then stopped. After a gun-carrying criminal surprised me a few months ago, my grandmothers had Steve Davis add a security system by the back door. If the code wasn’t punched in quick enough, a warning alarm went off at the police station and in the prosecutor’s office where Steve―my grandmothers’ appointed knight-in-shining armor for me―worked.

“Belinda must have arrived,” I said.

Oliver drew in a breath and quickly rushed toward the front of the line.

“The end,” I called out to him.

I watched one of our customers snag Oliver’s arm and draw him to her side. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder and flipped through the magazine. No one else in line seemed to care so I’d let it slide, and Belinda had promised not to leave until every magazine was signed.

Cold wind snaked through the building and I fought back a shiver. October could either be an extension of a warm fall or the beginning of a cold winter. Two years in a row, trick-or-treating had to be postponed because of snow. The October breeze swirled around the room and I scrambled to grab the class schedules and other advertisements that tumbled from the heavy plastic tables.

Belinda waltzed into the store, waving like a teenage girl crowned Homecoming Queen. My grandma Cheryl followed after her, doing her best not to roll her eyes. A few customers began whispering, straining their necks to get a good look at the newest Life Artist Diva.

“Please don’t let this title go to her head.” I muttered.

“Belinda, look over here! Over here!” A customer jumped up and down, holding her cell phone out as she tried to snap a picture.

“Belinda, the library thanks you for the generous gift.” Oliver waved his copy in the air.

“I must speak with Faith first.” Belinda gave another queenly wave, blew a kiss at Oliver, then headed for me.

When she spotted Karen and the photographer, she froze for an instant. In that moment, I saw uncertainty cross her face. The shy woman, who needed her mom to book her signings and appearances, shone through the new confident, celebrity “Belinda.”

“Belinda,” I almost screamed her name to draw her attention, “can you give me some pointers on the class?”

Belinda shook her head. “I can’t give out any secrets. Only those who paid for the class will get to learn this technique. I hope you have some way of making sure those who haven’t purchased a spot don’t get a free lesson.”

Did Belinda expect us to empty out the store when the class started? Or put up a huge partition? I cast a glance over at my grandmothers. Hope looked confused by the request and Cheryl beyond annoyed.

I was both, considering I had to now figure out how to incorporate this new demand from Belinda. “I’m not expecting any secrets. I just want to know which layout is the inspiration for your class.”

Belinda wagged her finger at me. “No sneak peeks. Not even for you.”

I heard Karen’s unladylike snort from across the room. I refrained from giving her the evil eye, and also swatting Belinda with the magazine. Yesterday alone, I had spent three hours on the phone making sure everything was just the way Hazel’s “baby” needed it. Talk about helicopter mom. I had been instructed on the noise level permitted in the classroom area, the temperature best suited for Belinda’s creativity, and how instructions couldn’t be included in the class kit because Belinda feared her idea would be distributed without her permission.

Neither my grandmothers nor I liked the last rule but we went along with it. When Belinda was named a L.A.D., scrappers within a four hour drive-time radius began calling, asking if we had any classes taught by Belinda on our schedule. Everyone considered Scrap This her home store, so they contacted us first and we didn’t want to disappoint them.

“Hard to set up the class properly without the instructions.” I picked up a copy of the magazine featuring Belinda and flipped through it. There couldn’t be too many designs that needed glue, boas, glitter and a hammer.



Books · Excerpt · Scrapbooking · West Virginia · Writing

In Celebration of Chick Week – Chapter One of Cropped to Death

Facebook Profile Chick Week 2013

Henery Press is celebrating summer with Chick Week. To help celebrate chick week, I’m sharing the first chapter of Cropped to Death. I hope everyone enjoys it (and wants to read more!)


CROPPED front smChapter One:

The industrial sized straight-blade trimmer sliced through the air. Even from across the room, I heard the blade going through paper – whoosh, whoosh. I poked a finger into my left ear and pressed the cell against the other. My grandmother Hope’s instructions garbled through the device, the words loud and then soft, an effect that had nothing to do with being in a technological dead zone. Not that keeping a cell phone connection was easy to do in Eden, West Virginia.

Since we started the Scrap This employee crop two hours ago, the whacking hadn’t stopped. The blade, like my sanity, was near breaking. I covered the mouthpiece and leaned across the front counter, trying to catch Marilyn’s gaze as I avoided jamming my side into the cash register.

“Could you adhere something for awhile?”

Marilyn Kane picked up the useless part of the picture and dropped it. My gaze followed the fluttering photo cast-off to the ecru colored linoleum floor. A discarded pile of Michaels littered the area beside the eight-foot table.

My friend and fellow employee discovered six weeks ago that her husband, Michael, did more than just commute with his co-worker. I didn’t know if she was more upset about the affair or the fact the twenty-two-year-old harlot would give birth to Michael’s baby in four months.

“Faith, are you there?” Hope asked. “Are you taking notes?”

“Yes.” I tried to keep the chipper in my voice and the exasperation out as I reached for a pen and piece of paper. My grandmothers had as much trouble leaving me in charge of their store as they did remembering at twenty-six, I was a grown-up.

“We still need layouts for the back display wall. It’ll be off-white so use vibrant colors so they’ll pop. Also, bring the box of flyers and business cards.”

“I know.” I rolled my eyes, thankful there were no security cameras to catch my attitude.

“Cheryl and I wish—”

“That you could handle the booth.” I was perfectly capable of handling a booth at the community art benefit show. I’ve handled the store just fine. Okay, there was that one incident involving the paper racks but that was almost a year ago. “Grandma, you have to help Cheryl host the show. You can’t let her do it on her own.”

Not that Grandma Cheryl wasn’t qualified to host. She had hosted all of my slumber parties growing up. With a sharp look and even edgier words, Cheryl whipped everyone into shape. I learned the fine art of snarkiness at her knee.

“You’re right.” Hope sounded resigned to her fate. “I’m just worried about tomorrow. Did you remember—”

“Grandma, I read the list you taped to the front counter by the register. I read the one in the break room. And I’ve taken my own notes. We’ll have everything we need.”

“Including the prizes for the contest?”

I squeezed my eyes closed. “What contest?”

Hope sighed. “I told Cheryl to leave a written note rather than a voice mail.”

My forgetfulness for checking phone messages was legendary in my tiny family. No amount of scolding from my grandmothers—or from myself—corrected the flaw.

“Since we’re closing the store for the Art Benefit Show, we decided to hold two contests to make it up to our customers. And hopefully, it’ll draw in some new ones.”

Business was down across the county, especially for those of us who offered consumers the non-essentials in life. Hobbies were the first items cut from a budget.

“One contest will be opened for seasoned croppers and the other for novice scrappers,” Hope said. “To encourage new scrappers to enter, we’ll hold two teaching crops next week. I also need sign-up sheets for those.”

I jotted down the time and cost for the crops, then snapped the cell phone shut.

Car lights flooded through the slats of the blinds covering the large display windows. Tunnels of beams bounced off the jars holding fabric flowers and ribbons lining a row of shelves. Shadows flickered across the walls, doubling the inventory of the overstocked store in a dark and menacing hue. We had to start moving the product. A store morphing into a warehouse didn’t do well for the bottom line.

“I should’ve brought sunglasses.” Sierra Brodart squinted as the harsh light hit her face. She wiggled her fingers over a glass jar then moved to the next. Fifteen small jars filled with various embellishments were scattered around the work surface. She plucked out two forest green brads from a jar and then pressed them through the cream cardstock.

Whoosh. Whoosh. The slicing and dicing resumed. I held in a long-suffering sigh and glanced at tomorrow’s work schedule. In the morning, my grandmothers wanted all the employees at the Art Benefit Show.

Knowing our receivables for the last quarter, I worried about that decision. Scrap This had two full-time and two part-time employees. My grandmothers, Hope and Cheryl, believed part of their purpose in life was helping women through financial transitions. Marilyn was facing a divorce. Sierra’s three boys were all in elementary school and her husband Hank was once again out of work. Linda Anderson was an empty-nester who lost her beloved husband of thirty years in a car accident eighteen months ago. I was their prodigal granddaughter who joined the military to take on the world only to have the world slap me back home. Hard.

Eden was a great place to live—well, start over—as no one held high expectations. Here it made sense to go from working in JAG to helping in my grandmothers’ scrapbooking store. No one thought a scandal caused the switch in my career path. Here, everything boiled down to family.

Marilyn slapped another picture onto the trimmer. With a whack of the guillotine style blade, she was single.

I ventured from behind the counter and headed toward Marilyn. We needed professional layouts on display tomorrow to demonstrate scrapbooking as a legitimate art, not just a mommy-hobby. The best way to increase income was tap-ping into the professional art market. I doubted a collage of body parts would entice people into the store. Emerging serial killers probably weren’t interested in keeping a scrapbook. Even if they were, they weren’t quite the clientele I wanted for Scrap This.

“One day, your children,” I stressed the last two words, “might want an intact picture of their father.”

The evilest of gazes landed on me. I never knew Marilyn’s wide blue eyes could look so beady and narrow. “And what would you know about that? Maybe the only good husband is a…”

“Forgiveness, Marilyn. It’s a good thing.” I stole a look at Linda who sat beside the chopping diva.

Linda hunched over her page, lips pinched together, complexion pale except for two red splotches on her cheeks. Her hands shook as she placed a picture of her twenty-something son onto a piece of cardstock.

“What would you know about forgiving a husband?” Marilyn shoved disheveled blond curls away from her face. All the better for me to see her glare.

A lot, actually. But I kept the thought to myself.

“Faith’s just trying to help.” Sierra punctuated her sentence with a snap of her wrist. Two yards of brown and blue grosgrain ribbon furled out. A click of the lethal-tip scissors separated the perfect length of ribbon and completed the page starring her three elementary school-aged sons Harold, Henry and Howard, affectionately known by the greater community as the Hooligans.

Sierra swore they took after their father. Having heard of Hank’s pranks, which usually ended with a ride in the backseat of a squad car, I agreed with her assessment. Hank was a good guy, but one you never really trusted. The bad boy from high school still lurked inside of him.

Marilyn snorted and returned to hacking her philandering husband from the photo history of her life.

Who was I to judge? I didn’t trust anyone with anything other than the sanitized version of my past. Yep, I served in the Army. Yep, I worked in JAG. Nope, it’s not like it was on TV.

I wandered back to the counter and picked up my crop tote. I could only procrastinate so long with administrative duties. My insides squirmed as I dropped myself into a vacant seat at an empty table and pulled out a pack of photos. Public scrapbooking always left me a little anxious as I opened snip-pets of my life to the scrutiny of others.

Sierra draped herself over my shoulders and stared at the photos. She tapped a manicured nail on the picture of my grandmothers and me at a Renaissance Festival. “Who took the photos?”

I flicked the flap of the packet. “Steve.”

“Ah, say no more.” Sierra launched a knowing wink at me before returning to her layout.

Steve Davis, my neighbor two doors down, and the one man who could make me think about reconsidering my commitment phobia. Nothing would please my grandmothers more than Steve and I becoming a couple. Nothing could be less likely to happen. A woman couldn’t maintain a lifestyle of confidentiality with a significant other in her life.


I cringed. I would fall asleep hearing that sound in my head. “I think you should give the cutting tools a break.”

Marilyn continued her violent scrapbooking techniques. She held up a picture of a holiday gathering, placed it on the trimmer, and pressed the handle. Michael was dismembered from Thanksgiving dinner.

“You can’t cut him out of all the pictures,” I said. “It’s really ruining the composition.”

Marilyn’s evil glare returned as she eliminated her philandering husband from two more family portraits. “Yes, I can.”

“Think of the children,” I said.

“This is my private book. I can crop off whoever I want,” Marilyn said.

Linda packed up her supplies and flicked a desperate gaze at me. Unlike her, I didn’t have a choice. I had to stay offer guidance and suggestions. We needed layouts, not body parts.

“It won’t look good, Marilyn,” I said.

“I think it looks great!” Sierra giggled. “Go, Marilyn, go. Crop that hubby!”

The stress in Marilyn’s face evaporated as she laughed. She grabbed more pictures. “Crop you. Crop you. Crop you!” Marilyn slammed the blade down the middle of a picture of Michael. The man fluttered to the floor in two pieces.

If you’d like to read Cropped to Death, it can be found at the following places:

Purchase Links:


Barnes and Noble


and also through the iTunes store.

Scrapbooking · Vacations · West Virginia

Preparing for a Crop

Designed PS and crafts 008 I’m leaving tomorrow for a three-day scrapbooking retreat. All of these bags are filled with my scrapbooking supplies and tools for the event. One bag isn’t pictured, the pink duffel bag housing the Cricut Expression, as I was still using it at the time I took the pictures. Oh, and the bag with snacks and drinks is upstairs. Hmm…no wonder my family is wondering if I’m moving. My suitcase is still in my room.

I’ll admit I’m a little nervous about this trip, and also taking my Cricut out. It’s the first time it’s leaving the house. I didn’t have a proper bag for it so it’s never ventured outside. So tomorrow it will take its first trip and it’ll be a long one, a three hour drive. It’s been a while since I’ve gone to a weekend scrapbook retreat where I “left” home. I’ve been to a couple of local ones but this time I’m going to be spending a few nights at a hotel.  I’m looking forward to it but also nervous as I’m going alone. I’ve never attended a big scrapbooking event like this on my own. When I went years ago, I always went with a group so this is really outside the box for me.

And after seeing how long it takes for me to get ready (I’ve been packing since Saturday), it’s no wonder it’s been a long time since I’ve been to a weekend retreat away from home. At least with the close weekend crops, if I forgot something I could come back home and get it…or call and ask my husband to bring it. This time, whatever I forget I must do without. Kind of scary.

Now, I must go double-check my bags (and I think I’m going to do a little shuffling of items) then load the car. I’ll be working on a Disney Cruise album this weekend so it was a little easier to pack as I just grabbed everything Disney related…which I have a lot of. I’ll share some layouts next week. Off to… Designed PS and crafts 009