Extra. Extra. The Case of the Missing Elf is free at Amazon today. Melanie Hart and Ginger Black are knee deep in mystery as they try to figure out what’s become of this elderly man. He was hired to keep order in the Downtown Business Association’s Santa’s Cabin, and Ginger is lost without him. She also must step into his shoes and take on babysitting duties so happy parents can shop local stores unencumbered with offspring. But Ginger and babysitting, to Melanie’s mind, is a bad mix. Something must be done and Melanie makes up her mind to do it. This mystery series can be read in any order. To download your free copy of The Case of the Missing Elf today click this link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00RFX5BIQ
My main writing efforts now go into the Melanie Hart Cozy Mystery Series. I’m currently writing the third Melanie Hart book. The series features the madcap sleuthing adventures of small town reporter, Melanie Hart, and her beautician sidekick, Ginger Black. The books are a lighthearted romp filled with murder, and mayhem, along with a few laughs. But sometimes, I prefer writing something a bit heavier, a bit more serious. That’s when small town sheriff, Delton Ross, steps in.
So far, he lives only in my short stories. Road Trip is the latest such tale. In this story Ross unexpectedly finds himself caught up in what could quickly become a dangerous situation.
Snow drifted down onto the wet highway. Sheriff Delton Ross shifted in his seat. Welcome to early March in Illinois. And he had another three hours of driving to go.
Ross had spent four long days in Chicago at a sheriff’s convention. Booze had been drunk, stories swapped, but little of much importance had happened. He sighed. The sheriff didn’t enjoy those pursuits as much as he once had. These days, he’d rather make plans for his approaching retirement.
In the distance, the glow from a brightly lit sign of an all night Mini-Mart loomed out of the darkness. Thoughts of hot coffee and a dwindling supply of gas in his tank floated into his mind.
Ross eased off the gas pedal and listened to the splash of his tires as they rolled across the wet highway. After giving his brakes a quick tap, he nosed his SUV into the Mini-Mart’s lot. Not much activity there. An old Ford Taurus sat off to the side in the shadows. A rusting pickup stood near the front door. The lot was about as deserted as the highway had been.
The sheriff pulled his vehicle next to a gas pump and climbed out. Snowflakes drifted onto his shoulders and neck. Ross tugged his coat collar up, unscrewed the gas cap, freed the nozzle at the pump, and shoved it into his tank. Leaning back against the vehicle, arms folded over his chest, he watched the dollar amount on the pump spin rapidly higher, then shifted his gaze slightly and studied the store.
The building was just like all the others spawned by this kind of chain. Red brick. Lots of windows. Lots of posters taped to the inside of those windows, all advertising beer, cigarettes, whatever. Not much glass left uncovered to get a good look inside, though.
Behind Ross, the flow of gas stopped. He swung around, pulled the nozzle free, and returned it back to its cradle. After recapping the tank, he headed off for the store.
Ross swung the door wide and stepped inside. He sensed the trouble before he actually saw it. The air nearly crackled with tension. The hairs on the back of his neck snapped to attention. If he’d been one instant faster, he might have retreated, gotten himself out of harm’s way. But it was too late now. He’d seen the gunman. The gunman had seen him.
There were two people in all. One male, one female. Both scrawny. Ross figured the woman was probably the cashier. The man with the gun stood behind her with one arm clamped round her shoulders. His free hand held a handgun to her head.
“Don’t you do nothing stupid,” the gunman barked.
Ross raised his hands into the air. “Don’t worry. I have no desire to get myself killed. Whatever you say, son, that’s just what I’ll do.”
The gunman chewed his lip. Nodded. Waved his gun in the direction of a pair of coolers. “Over there. Keep your hands where I can see them.”
Ross nodded, moved off slowly toward his destination. He took care to make no sudden movements and kept close watch on the pair out of the corner of his eye.
She was a young thing. Stringy blonde hair. Sheer top over a pair of washed-out, old blue jeans. Makeup a mess. Smeared by her tears.
Her captor looked to be a few years older than her. Dark hair, plaid shirt, sharp chin. He appeared to be nearly as frightened as she was. And both sets of eyes were riveted on him. He reached the coolers, turned, kept his hands in the air.
“What’s happening here?” Ross asked, struggling to keep the tone of his voice neutral, non judgmental.
“None of your business,” the man snapped. “Just ignore us, and maybe, you won’t get hurt.”
“Please, Joey,” the girl sobbed, “don’t do anything foolish.”
“And you,” he said, his lips next to her ear, “you keep your trap shut. I’ve heard enough outta you for one night.”
She whimpered. “What are you going to do to us?”
Next to the cooler, Ross stirred. He’d wondered the same thing himself.
“I don’t know,” the man roared. “You got that?” He waved his automatic weapon randomly about the room, aiming at nothing, endangering nearly everything, including the woman and Ross. “Just shut the hell up. Give me a chance to think, would ya?”
Through a small patch of glass, where nobody had managed to slapped up a poster, Ross watched another car roll into the lot. He hoped the driver only needed gas. And he prayed the guy would pay for his purchase out at the pump. The last thing Ross wanted was another person or two added into the mix inside the store. More numbers would make the gunman feel increasingly threatened. That could heighten the chances for a bad outcome in here.
Right about then, the gunman spotted the threat, too. And both he and Ross watched as two men, joking and laughing strolled into the store, saw the gunman, and froze. One was short, the other tall. Both were built like defensive linemen. Ross figured they’d probably come in to grab a quick case of beer.
“Hey, you two,” Joey snapped.
The men nodded, raised their hands in the air. “We don’t mean any harm, here,” the taller of the two said. “Whatever you’re up to, it’s none of our business.”
“Yeah. Just… you just take the money and run… if that’s what you’re after,” the other one stammered. “It’s… it’s no skin off our nose.”
A vein pounded at the gunman’s throat. His face flushed a deep red. His eyes bulged. “Is that what you think of me?” He roared. “That I’m some kinda thief?” His gaze flashed back to his captive. “You see the mess your cheatin’ has landed me in? They think I’m a crook. A thief.”
The woman panted for air. Fresh tears streamed down her cheeks. “Honest, Joey. I’ve been nothing but faithful.” Her voice trembled. “You got it all wrong. You gotta believe me. Please, sugar, put the gun down. Think of our daughter. What happens to her if you shoot me?”
“I told you to shut it.” He turned his gaze back to the strangers. “Over there,”he told them. “Line up next to the old fart. Go.”
Hands still raised, the two linemen shuffled over and joined Ross next to the coolers, their gaze never leaving the sight of the deranged man with the gun.
Ross shifted uneasily. Three men against one now. Factor in the woman and it came to four against one. The gunman had to be feeling the pressure. “What do you want, son?” Ross asked, still keeping his voice neutral. “What can we do to help you out here?”
“What do I want?” the gunman screamed back. “I don’t have a clue. I thought I did. I wanted my life back. I wanted her dead. Now, I’m not so sure.”
“Then, let her go,” Ross said.
“Why should I?”
“Because she’s your child’s mother. You can’t want your daughter to become a ward of the state.”
The guy raised his chin. “The state’s got no say in this.”
Ross shook his head. “It might, if the child’s mother is shot dead and her daddy’s sent to prison for murder. Is that what you want?”
The two guys who had stopped in for beer licked their lips. They exchanged nervous glances, obviously wondering, if bullets started flying, whether they’d become what’s called collateral damage?
Joey’s right shoulder twitched.“Yeah, well, none of us would be in this mess ‘cept for this little tramp.” He shook his head and scowled at his wife. “Her and Terry Beemer, that is.”
“Joey, you got it all wrong,” she said. “There was never nothing between Terry and me. Honest.”
“I ain’t no fool, Becky. It’s your fault. Every bit of it.” He stared at the automatic gripped tightly in his right hand.
“Whatever she’s done,” Ross said, “she’s paid for it tonight. Look at her. She’s terrified. She gets it. She knows how you feel.”
The young woman offered her husband a wan smile. “Honest, Joey….”
“Shut up. Shut up. You think you can walk all over me and not get some kind of crap back?”
She opened her mouth. Came up with nothing. Closed it again.
“Well, do you?” he demanded.
Her lip trembled. “No, Joey. Of course not.”
The gunman scowled. “You got that right.”
“Look at me,” Ross said. He waited for the man’s gaze to shift to him. “You need to know. This can be over. You can walk out of here.”
The gunman scoffed. “You don’t think the minute I’m gone you and your buddies won’t be calling the police?” He spit out a sharp bark of laughter. “Sure. Right.”
Ross took a small step toward the gunman. “I can’t say you’re not right, son. But I’m pretty darn sure walking out of here with a cop on each elbow beats getting chased down and shot dead in some cornfield. What I’m saying is let’s call the cops now.”
“What good would that do me?”
“Look, so far, nobody’s been hurt. That’s a good thing. You haven’t done anything you can’t work out with a judge. You’ll probably do jail time. But you’ll live to see your daughter’s next birthday. Your best chance for tonight is to put that gun down and let me help you talk to the cops.”
The woman glanced at Ross, a glimmer of hope in her eyes. “He’s right, Joey.”
“Shut up, woman,” Joey yelled. “I lose you, I lose half my grief. You got that?”
“But I never….”
“Just… shut… up.” The man snapped the gun back to her temple.
“Joe, take a step back,” Ross said. “Don’t blow it now. She’s not worth it.”
“You know what,” Joey said, waving the gun in random directions again. “I think maybe I already figured that out. His gaze returned to the woman. “Just how special do you think you are? I could get myself a gal twice as good looking as you. One who wouldn’t cat around on me behind my back, either.”
Becky sniffled. Wiped her eyes with her hands. “That’s right, Joe. Don’t you think I don’t know it? I sit up nights worrying you just might do that.”
“I do,” she replied.
“Put the gun down,” Ross said. “Set it right there on the counter.”
Joey’s shoulders slumped. The adrenalin he’d been pumped up on visibly fled from his slender frame. He slid the gun onto the counter and nodded. A whipped dog. A defeated man.
Ross crossed the room slowly, his gaze locked on the man. The sheriff reached out, snatched up the weapon. Heaved a sigh of relief. Silently cursing that he was without a set of handcuffs, his gaze flicked across the store shelves looking for something to secure his prisoner with. Saw some clothesline. Couldn’t believe his good luck.
“You there,” he said to the shorter of the two linemen. “Toss that rope over here.”
By the time Ross had secured Joey’s hands, Becky had crossed the room and cuddled into the taller lineman’s arms. “I was beginning to think you’d never get here,” she whispered, gazing up at the handsome and obviously well heeled man.
“Babe,” he answered, relief echoing in his deep voice. “I said I’d come by and see you tonight. You never doubted me, right?” He nuzzled the top of her head with his chin.
Thank you for reading the Delton Ross story. To view my other stories and novels at Amazon, click here. Most of them are available as free reads with Kindle Unlimited.
We’re happy to have you join us today. Please, tell us a bit about your latest book.
The newest book is called “Lies in Shadows”. It is a Paranormal, psychological thriller. It also has a touch of romance. Lucretia has a mental block and at 32, can’t remember a pre-eleven life. Her mother dies and Lucretia’s block begins breaking down and the lies she was told about her lack of memory lie in the shadows of her mind begin to surface. Deputy Sheriff Max helps her to find the truth, along the way they discover a closer relationship than either expected.
With nine novels and a collection of children’s stories, you are obviously a prolific writer. Where do you find inspiration for your works?
My ideas come from mostly life and my vivid imagination. I also can’t sleep at night because the story unfolds in my mind and until I put it on paper it won’t go away. My characters have lives of their own and have the biggest say in where my story goes.
Do you have any tips to share for writers who’d like to follow in your path and expand into children’s books?
Just have fun. The children’s books are so fun to write. Kids have great imaginations and you can take the books to any level. I am working now on a sequel to “Stretched Stories” and it is so much fun to write the humorous tales and try to write from an child’s perspective. I think it keeps me young and that is a great plus.
Is there one central message you’d like your readers to take home with them when they finish reading one of your books?
I want the readers to get lost in the books. When they finish I hope they say wow, that was a great journey. I have a book of short stories and poems called “Heartfelts” which is a bit different than my others. ( I also include my own drawings) “Heartfelts” takes a hard look at some sad subj takes a hard ects ( death of a child, alcoholism, breast cancer) but also have uplifting messages. A reader told me they cried through the whole book and I was so touched.
You say you’d be writing books no matter whether people read your stories or not. What keeps you going during the periodic slumps we all experience?
I can’t stop writing because it makes me happy. I write all my stories long hand and once my pen hits the paper the words flow. I do get depressed when sales are down, but the writing is not about money it is about sharing the love of what I do and hopefully even one person will come back and say thanks, your book made my day. One reader told me she had a daughter who was pregnant and having problems that ended her in the hospital. On the monitor the baby’s heartbeat was irregular. The reader pulled out her e-reader and began reading out loud one of my children';s books and the baby’s heartbeat returned to normal and things turned out well. I have never been so touched. What a reason to never give up this journey.
Many of us are influenced by our surroundings. I know I am. I’ve spent most of my life in a rural setting, and it’s those people whose stories I like best to write. How has your surroundings influenced your writing?
Almost all my stories take place in small towns because that is where I have always lived. I mention bigger cities in my books but I love the atmosphere of a small town. When I am traveling and driving through a small town my mind goes into overdrive because I imagine all kinds of things going on in the places I drive by.
If you had one tip you’d like to share with fellow authors, what would it be?
Believe in yourself and don’t give up. If you enjoy writing for the actual process of writing itself, then that is what is important. If I wasn’t a writer I would be doing something else that makes me happy. I love to paint, draw and do hobbies so I will always do that too because when all is said and done you have to do what makes your life more enjoyable, even if it is a hobby and not your job.
Any questions I’ve not asked that you’d love your readers to know about you or your work?
I just want readers to know how much I thank them. A book isn’t complete until someone reads it. It has been a wonderful experience for me, this journey of being an author. Everyone has given me positive feedback both in reviews and stories shared. I am still waiting for the day when I have to deal with a bad review or a reader who gives me bad feedback. I hope it never happens and right now I am just so happy to write and be involved in this whole crazy world of being a writer.
You may visit P.S. Winn at her website.
Originally posted on Saga of Menyoral:
Your work is not original.
The good news is, that doesn’t matter. It’s not about being original.
I hear this kind of question all the time: has it been done? Of course it has. Listen and listen well. You are not a special snowflake. You cannot originate anything, in the strictest sense of the word. Your ideas do not spring from the void, no matter how little media you consume. You are human and your brain is infected with stories. Why do you think the TV Tropes wiki is such a lumbering monster? You cannot avoid any and every element of trope and still tell a coherent story, because you are human and humans have been doing this thing for thousands of years. Before we could even write, we were telling stories.
It’s not about originality. It’s about conversation, by which I mean responding with your own art to the…
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Apparently Penguin books is known for putting edgy covers on some of the books in their Modern Classic editions, but this time a lot of people are questioning this one. I’m referring to the cover on Penguin’s new edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Penguin officials seem to be standing by their decision. But the cover has come under some criticism in forums where its been posted. Some people have suggested it reminded them of Jon Benet Ramsey. Others have said they thought the cover more appropriate for an edition of Lolita. Me? I’m mostly stunned.
I’ve long been fond of short stories. In truth, I enjoy writing them. So I’m pleased to announce the first book in my suspense series is now available in Kindle Select. I expect the second book in the series to go live sometime tomorrow. When it does, I’ll post its link here.
The series features Angela Clark, a recent widow, who is struggling to regain control over her life. A Chicago native, Angela now lives in a small town, where a killer brutally murdered her husband, Jeffery Clark, and now plans to kill Angela, too.
This is a short suspense story, not long enough even to be listed as a novella or novelette. It’s intended as a quick read during a dull lunch, or, perhaps, as a brief shot of fiction before bed. But be careful of nightmares. In this piece a murdered husband’s past and a crazed killer create problems for the young widow.
This work is available for free to readers enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.
Access the story here.
Hi, I’m Melanie Hart, the newly-minted crime solver and ace reporter being created by mystery writer Anna Drake. My first episode isn’t out yet. My creator, the slow poke, is still writing it. Sometimes I have to give her a kick in her behind to get into gear. Ugh. Anyway, please watch for my release. I’ll do what I can to keep my author-child tooling along and writing good stuff. But you know how it goes. Some days are better than others. In the meantime, let me treat you to a view of my first book’s cover.