Chapter One: The Beauty of Tribulation by J.A. Cox


Title: The Beauty of Tribulation

Author: J.A. Cox

Publisher: J.A. Cox

Publication Date: August 28, 2020

Pages: 98

Genre: Christian Nonfiction

The Beauty of Tribulation was written to provide answers based upon scripture to help us understand things such as:

  • The purpose of tribulation in the life of a believer.
  • Reasons why it is necessary.
  • How God uses it for our edification and his glory.
  • How God is not the author of our tribulation.

At the root of it, the greatest purpose is to depict the beauty of our painful, frustrating, and most hopeless moments when we allow God to complete the work he is trying to accomplish through them. As you turn the pages of this book you will be taken on a journey that will delve you deep into the tribulation process and come away with a firm understanding of it, perhaps like never before. Every premise is backed with scripture, focused on what the bible says rather than my own ideas.

J.A. Cox hopes that all who read will walk away with a greater appreciation and devotion toward the Lord in regard to this troublesome subject and inevitable part of our lives.


“…I think The Beauty of Tribulation will be relevant for Christians seeking a deeper understanding of their faith, as well as for those grappling with questions about the presence of evil in the world and the nature of divine justice. Cox’s approach which blends insightful queries, scriptural citations, and logical explanations, facilitates a comprehensive and engaging learning experience. The book encourages a connection to the experiences of Jesus and offers a perspective on suffering as a path to dignity and honor, both in heaven and on earth. Its insightful and reflective nature makes it a valuable read for people looking to deepen their understanding of Christian theology and the human experience within it.” – The Literary Titan

You can pick up your copy at Amazon or Kobo.

Chapter One:

Tribulation is the most abundant commodity that everyone is looking to sell but no one is willing to buy.  It is an experience so common to mankind that it transcends social, cultural and language barriers.  It requires no introduction or explanation.

We commonly associate the following with it:

1.                   Suffering.

2.                   Adversity.

3.                   Trial.

4.                   Pain.

5.                   Temptation.

6.                   Infirmity.

It is safe to assume that the general perception of tribulation is not positive, and we desire to avoid it as much as possible.  This places a Christian in a precarious position. 

This is the case when we consider what God’s word exhorts:

1.                   To count it all joy, James 1:2,3.

2.                   To greatly rejoice in it, 1 Peter 1:6.

3.                   To not think of it as strange, 1 Peter 4:12.

4.                   That we glory in it, Romans 5:3.

5.                   Paul expressed exceeding joy in it, 2 Corinthians 7:4.

6.                   We must experience much to enter God’s kingdom, Acts 14:22.

In regard to such maybe you have thought the following:

1.                   Okay Paul, I know you were a great man of God and had endured much hardship but I’m having a difficult time finding joy in this.

2.                   Is there something wrong with me if I have no joy in suffering?

3.                   Why must we go through tribulation?

4.                   Why does God allow us to suffer?

5.                   Do we experience tribulation as a form of punishment?

6.                   Does tribulation mean that God has forsaken me?

I realize that these are thoughts believers scatter from as roaches do from the light.  This is done out of a fear that entertaining such could give authority to them as well as make it a reality.  While there is truth in that line of thought, the realization of that reality is on a conditional basis.  In other words, those thoughts would not manifest without effort being put into making them so or a lack of effort to bring them about.  There is also an equivalent level of danger in believing that a Christian is above such lines of thinking.  It is also devastating to deny their reality. Those types of thoughts are a natural and unavoidable occurrence generated from our unconverted body. Also, another truth needs to be realized, your tribulation is not being orchestrated by God.

A Matter Of Perspective

Understand this, believers and people in general don’t always view tribulation in a negative light.  This is true when it is painful, humiliating or even exhausting. 

Hush my mouth, right.  That must have been a Freudian slip. 

Relax, it was deliberate.  The reason this is so has everything to do with personal gain.

Do you like math?

I know that I am not fond of it, but we will use some basic greater than less than to convey a point.

The following involves tribulation in regard to personal gain:

1.                   When the view of the tribulation experience is considered greater than the view of personal gain this equals a rejection of the tribulation being experienced.

2.                   When the view of the tribulation experience is considered less than the view of personal gain this equals an acceptance of the tribulation being experienced.

Let’s first take a look at some instances that people accept the tribulation being experienced because the view of perceived gain is greater:

1.                   Our first example is a professional body builder.  They are willing to endure agonizing soreness of muscles, perspire heavily, and undergo rigorous training for several hours to obtain their well sculpted body so that they can receive financial compensation, fame and trophies.

2.                   Next, we have the ambitious entrepreneur.  They will exhaust the health of their mind and body and work long hours, even at the cost of depriving loved ones of needed time, to the extent of separation or infidelity.  It doesn’t matter how obvious the deterioration of their physical health is, they will continue to burn the candle at both ends just to acquire that promotion, million-dollar deal or admiration they are seeking.

3.                   Let’s talk about Thrill seekers.  They are willing to go on national television and face their worst fears, suffer public humiliation or even tempt fate attempting death defying feats all in the name of fame or fortune and many times both.

4.                   Last, we have the expecting mother.  Not many women after cuddling with that newborn bundle of joy would not be willing to say the weight gain, dislocated organs, emotional roller coaster and so on was not worth it or that they are not willing to do it all over again for the joy set before them.

Now let’s look at some instances in which people reject the tribulation being experienced because the view of perceived gain is less:

1.                   Let’s say that things have been hard financially, and you get a raise, bonus, or just come into a large sum of money and then all of a sudden, a major repair is needed on the house or vehicle.  Why is it that this scenario seems to be tied to financial gain so often right?

2.                   Perhaps you made plans to meet up with a special someone or go let off some steam with a buddy and as you happily dart out of the house you just so happen to notice that one of your tires are flat or maybe you locked your keys in the vehicle and you don’t have a spare.

3.                   Maybe you are excited to go see family you have not seen in quite some time and the plane tickets are already purchased but you suddenly get urgent news that one of your family members are in ICU and you are asked to get there as soon as possible.

4.                   Possibly you have been suffering with an infirmity for years and no matter how much you or others have prayed God does not take it away.

In the instances mentioned above, when an individual perceives a much higher personal gain for what they must endure to obtain it tribulation is viewed in a positive light.  This is indicative of our human nature for sinner and saint alike, to view tribulation in such a light.  Under normal circumstances there is no error in doing so because it is natural.  The problem is when we only perceive tribulation in this manner.  This is especially so for a Christian in light of what the scriptures that have been shared have to say about tribulation.  The question that needs to be addressed is why is it when we don’t perceive our gain of reward to be significant enough that we reject the tribulation being experienced? 

Let’s address some things that distort the believers view of tribulation:

1.                   We fail to realize that tribulation is not God motivated but a result of the presence of sin in this world.

2.                   Because of sin: the world is cursed, things must be gained by much labor, disease exists, there is death, there is sorrow, we suffer, we are divided, and natural disasters occur.

3.                   Even though God initiated the curse, man was warned of the results of his disobedience but rebelled anyway and God by his righteous nature kept true to his word.

4.                   We have a misinterpretation that just because God blesses our obedience that for some reason we are excluded from further tribulation, God is love after all right.

The greatest problem with Christians in general is just as the ancient Israelites from the fourth plague of flies to the ninth of darkness, we desire to remain in the safety of Goshen while Egypt is destroyed.  Here is the news flash, God never intended to leave them in Egypt nor its vicinity, which is why he passed over all the land with that final deadly plague.  Also, when we look at Matthew 5:45, we come to understand that the rain falls on both the just and unjust alike.  Also, in Matthew 7:25 – 27, we see that both the house of the foolish and wise man was subjected to the rain, floods, and wind.  One may respond and say that we are exhorted by God’s word that fervent faith based prayer avails much, read James 5: 15,16.  We are also provided with the example of Elijah praying for the rain to cease and then later on for it to begin again.  God makes it clear that he answers prayers and that is not being spoken against.  Scripture clearly tells us to seek, ask and knock as found in Matthew 7:7 and to pray and not faint as it says in Luke 18:1 and that God will avenge those who cry unto him such as stated in Luke 18:7.

However, let’s consider this:

1.                   Just because he answers prayer it doesn’t mean the rain will be stopped immediately.  The rest of Luke 18:7 says that God will avenge though he bears long with his children.

2.                   In Matthew 7:7 it does not say after you seek, knock or ask a specified number of times that you will then receive.

3.                   In the account with Elijah it was not until after the seventh time that his servant checked that he saw the little rain cloud.

4.                   Paul sought earnestly for the thorn in his flesh to be removed but it was not.

It is clear that God answers prayer.  It is also clear that even when he delays or doesn’t that we must remember as Isaiah 55:9 says, his ways are higher than ours and 1 Corinthians 2:16 who hath known his mind.  In other words, whether we like it or not or understand it or not, things are the way they are because he has a plan that he is working.  An essential part of that plan lies in us enduring the tribulation instead of it being resolved.  You will come to understand a reason for this as well as gain meaningful answers and conjecture to the negative thoughts and questions surrounding tribulation as we make our way through this book.

About the Author:

J.A. Cox is a husband, father and disabled veteran. He is passionate about Jesus Christ and has a desire to allow God to use his writing to bring glory to his name and reach others for him. His other passions lie in: 1) Empowering people by teaching about things that he is knowledgeable in in a simple and fun as well as interesting manner. 2)Inspiring others that they may realize how the true potential to overcome their perceived dilemma lies right between their ears and how they allow it to manipulate what their eyes behold. 3) Helping people to realize that being healthy truly begins with realizing how important it is for them to be intimately acquainted with their own body in order for others to help them resolve its maladies that beset it. Along with those, he enjoys entertaining with fiction based on the concept that fact is stranger than fiction and then stretching it just a tad to create some memorable page turning moments that you will likely recall for some time to come.

Author Links  

Website | Facebook | Goodreads



Chapter One: Better Safe Than Sorry by Mike Martin

Title: Better Safe Than Sorry
Author: Mike Martin
Publication Date: May 10, 2024
Pages: 251
Genre: Mystery

Winston Windflower is (sort of) enjoying his retirement from the RCMP in Grand Bank, Newfoundland, happily spending time with his young family, but feeling a little restless. Corporal Eddie Tizzard is running the Marystown detachment and struggling with the demands of the role while his own family grows. When a new kind of drug threatens the community, a body (the wrong body) is found dead in a hearse, and then another drug-connected mysterious death occurs, Tizzard knows he’s dealing with a deadly menace in their quiet, close-knit community.

Windflower finds himself inexorably (and not unhappily) drawn back into the action, first in an unofficial role to help snare the dealers and then back to active duty in a community that desperately needs his steady hand and good judgement. 

Our favorite Mountie, Sgt. Windflower and his fellow courageous cops in small-town Grand Bank, Newfoundland are back to fight a new threat in this compelling page-turner. Award-winning author, Mike Martin once again brings us a stirring story, blending down-home Newfoundland charm with the warmth of family life. 

You can pick up your copy at Amazon.

 Chapter One:

Some say that April is the cruelest month, but Winston Windflower was pretty convinced that it was March. At least in Grand Bank, Newfoundland. They’d had a relatively mild winter up to this point but now they were getting slammed. Not once but twice. By winter storms that started the day before St. Patrick’s Day and were just ending now on March 19. The locals called the second storm “Sheila’s Brush” as a nickname given to a storm that seemed to occur right after Paddy’s Day. It came from an old Irish legend that claimed Sheila was the wife or sister or mother of St. Patrick and that this dumping of snow is a result of her sweeping away the old season of winter.

Supposedly, that was to prepare everyone for Spring, which the calendar said was about to begin in a week or so. But judging by the current weather and Windflower’s years of experience in Grand Bank, that new season was quite a way off. As he surveyed the banks of snow and checked the weather on his phone, there was more of the white stuff coming. He didn’t mind really. He actually liked the snow and living in this small town on the easternmost tip of Canada.

Until recently Windflower had been an RCMP Officer, a Mountie, but now was the Community Safety Officer for Grand Bank and a number of other surrounding communities. When the local RCMP detachment closed because of budgetary concerns, they needed someone to look after their local policing. The Mounties would look after the big stuff from nearby Marystown, about 40 minutes away, while they hoped Windflower would serve as a deterrent to local criminals who wanted to take advantage of the situation.

So far, so good on the crime front, thought Windflower who had actually spent most of his time doing outreach and crime prevention. In Marystown, however, things were not going so well. Windflower’s friend, Acting Inspector Eddie Tizzard, was the interim head of the larger detachment and he was really struggling with a number of recent crimes and a disgruntled workforce that had been short-staffed since forever. 

They were now in almost daily rebellion and were refusing overtime which was the only way Tizzard could manage all the competing demands. He was at the end of his rope and had told his boss, Superintendent Ron Quigley, that he’d had enough, and he should find someone else to replace him. Quigley asked him to hang on, but that rope he was holding was pretty thin. It snapped with the latest incidents that crossed his desk.

First was a brazen armed robbery at a pharmacy in nearby Burin where three hooded men had forced the on-duty pharmacist to hand over a quantity of prescription narcotics. The men fled in a van that they’d recently stolen from a car lot and took off. By the time his officers had gotten there, they were long gone. They found the van hours later abandoned on a side road past the local nursery.

There was also a drug alert that had started in the city of St. John’s but now spread all across the island of Newfoundland. It warned of the presence of a new and potentially lethal drug concoction that was believed to have already caused two overdose deaths in the Bell Island area, near St John’s. Tizzard read it again. “Reports indicate that a combination of Fentanyl and Xanax, called Green Monsters, were in circulation across the province. The tablets which are green have been made to look like Oxy 80’s, a popular name of Oxycontin. They are extremely dangerous and increase the risk of overdose for anyone using them.”

“Just what we need,” Tizzard murmured to himself as he called his Executive Assistant Terri Pilgrim into his office.

“Terri, can you make copies of this for everyone and make sure that it gets posted everywhere around town? Send it over to Windflower in Grand Bank, too, Thank you.”

“No problem,” said his assistant. “But there’s someone here who insists on seeing you.”

“Who is it?” asked Tizzard.

“It’s the guy from Mitchelmore’s Funeral Home,” said Pilgrim.

“What does he want?” asked Tizzard. That’s when his bad day got a whole lot worse. 

Frank Mitchelmore claimed that the body in his hearse was not the one he expected. He had sent his hearse and driver over to North Sydney to pick up a deceased person and when his man came back, they discovered that it wasn’t the late George Dollimont. Not even close. It was a woman. Young, beautiful, and very dead. He wanted to know what the RCMP was going to do about this outrage. Tizzard nodded and did the only thing he could think of at that time. He called Terri Pilgrim and asked her to bring them both a cup of tea.

Windflower, on the other hand, was having a very good day. He had few worries and his family life was just about perfect. His wife, Sheila Hillier, no relation to the character or temperament of the lady from Sheila’s Brush, was moving her business to the next level. Literally. She had developed a co-op of local suppliers who were making Newfoundland crafts and clothing and shipping them all over Canada. She was taking over a section of the old Marystown Shipyard that had fallen into disuse and was going to use it as a warehouse and shipping hub. She was over there today, in fact, to look over the premises, and if all went well, to sign a lease. 

Windflower’s two daughters were at school. Stella, the six and half year old was going to Grade One in Fortune while four-year-old Amelia Louise was in a pilot junior kindergarten program in Marystown. It was a bit of a commute for such young children, but she was on a minibus with six or seven other kids from Grand Bank and was quite happy to be grown up enough to travel by school bus. Today, Sheila would pick her up before she headed back.

His only concern, and he knew that this was a first world problem, was that he was bored at work. He knew he shouldn’t complain, and he wouldn’t tell anybody this, but he missed being a police officer. It was, after all, what he had done since he was a teenager. First, with the tribal police in his home community of Pink Lake in Northern Alberta, and then as an RCMP officer in British Columbia and Nova Scotia and for over 10 years in Grand Bank.

But that was over now. He thought he wouldn’t miss it, but after less than a year as Community Safety Officer he had already run out of ideas to keep the kids entertained and out of trouble and he certainly didn’t enjoy the small talk he had to make every week with the mayors who were his bosses. He wasn’t ready to pack it in, but he knew it wasn’t enough.

Someone who definitely had enough was Eddie Tizzard. After calming down the funeral home guy by assuring him that the Mounties would investigate, he was now dealing with the irate Deputy Mayor of Marystown, Brian Hodder, who was screaming at him about a traffic light, the only traffic light in Marystown, being out for the last two days. Tizzard explained that the roads crew were waiting on a replacement bulb that was coming from St. John’s, but that did not slow down Hodder one bit.

Finally, he really did have enough. He stood up from behind his desk and pointed at the door. “Get out,” he said.

“What did you say?” asked Hodder. “You can’t talk to me like that. We pay your salary.”

“Get out before I throw you out,” said Tizzard, his voice barely under control.

Hodder started yelling again but quickly turned heels when Tizzard started walking towards him.

“You’re a witness,” said Hodder to a startled Terri Pilgrim who was about to come in with more tea. “He is threatening me. I’ll have your badge for this,” he said to Tizzard as his parting shot before storming out of his office.

“That went well,” said Pilgrim. “Want some more tea?”

“No thank you, Terri,” said Tizzard. “But can you get me Superintendent Quigley? I need to talk to him before Hodder gets to him.”

About the Author:

Mike Martin was born in St. John’s, NL on the east coast of Canada and now lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a long-time freelance writer and his articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online across Canada as well as in the United States and New Zealand.

He is the award-winning author of the best-selling Sgt. Windflower Mystery series, set in beautiful Grand Bank. There are now 14 books in this light mystery series with the publication of Better Safe Than Sorry

Mike is Past Chair of the Board of Crime Writers of Canada, a national organization promoting Canadian crime and mystery writers and a member of the Newfoundland Writers’ Guild and Capital Crime Writers.

His latest book is the mystery, Better Late Than Never.

Author Links  


Chapter One: The First Girl: Detective Katie Scott Book 11 by Jennifer Chase

Title: The First Girl: Detective Katie Scott Book 11
Author: Jennifer Chase
Publication Date: December 19, 2023
Pages: 354
Genre: Crime Fiction/Thriller

The cold night breeze slams the barn door shut with a sickening crash. The girl curled in the corner wakes with a start. Her gold butterfly necklace catches the pale moonlight as she clutches it tight, thinking of her family. Will she ever escape? Or is this the last face she’ll ever see?

Detective Katie Scott stares in horror at what she and her service dog Cisco have discovered: seven shallow graves, the bodies of young women each wrapped carefully in a blanket and buried in makeshift coffins. Miles of abandoned farmland stretch out from the treeline behind her. Has Katie uncovered the horrifying graveyard of a monster who has been stealing Pine Valley’s daughters for years?

Katie quickly identifies one of the victims as Abigail Andrews, a beautiful young woman who disappeared fifteen years ago. Katie is heartbroken that she’ll have to tell Abigail’s mother her darling girl is gone.

When Katie is ambushed working late at the scene, fired upon by an unknown assailant, she knows she must be close to finding the killer. But the shooter vanishes into thin air. And when a new young woman is taken, dark haired and dark eyed like the others, Katie realizes her time is running out. Can she stay alive long enough to track down this twisted murderer before another young life is stolen too soon?

“Fast paced, characters intelligent and had each others back. The plot was a bit harrowing, but from what plot entailed I was confident one of the main protagonists, Katie had the situation under control. At least the best of her capabilities as the situation warranted. This ebook was fresh, tasteful and powerful. It was a boon to read about a female with military experience who maintained a level head and who put her knowledge to practice.” ~Amazon 

The First Girl is available at Amazon & Other Retailers.

 Chapter One:


Tuesday 0945 hours

Detective Katie Scott drove with purpose as she steered the police sedan. She merged onto a country road off the main highway leading out of the Pine Valley area to meet with the family of a missing cold-case victim, Abigail Andrews. She glanced at her partner, Detective Sean McGaven, and smiled as he busily scoured his tablet looking for more information surrounding the case. She loved the way he was so thorough before they talked to anyone.

The landscape quickly changed to the dense forest that Pine Valley was known for. The morning was overcast with clouds obscuring the sun and a blustery wind blew. The view began to darken as they weaved along the country road where in addition to the dreary weather the tall pine trees acted as a giant canopy. The automatic headlights switched on, casting shadows among the dense trees.

“Anything?” Katie asked McGaven.

“Nothing new,” said McGaven. “Hopefully, Mrs. Andrews will be able to give us more insight into the time her daughter disappeared. Maybe she’s remembered something.”

Katie had read the missing person’s report several times. It wasn’t as detail-oriented as she would have liked, but there was the basic information and leads had been followed up. Apparently, Abigail had left her house with her dog and said she was going to see a friend. It was unclear where she went or who the friend was until her car had been found a week later parked in a rural area.

Katie couldn’t get Abigail’s face out of her mind. The photo in the file showed a beautiful young woman with long dark hair and dark eyes. Her smile was slight and there seemed to be a sadness about her.

“The file said that Abigail was falling in with some bad influences. Like substance use?” Katie asked.

“Yeah, but the two friends considered the bad influences were ruled out when the original investigation began.”

“Still,” she said, “there may be other friends her family didn’t know about and she was going to meet up with them. And people are more likely to talk about things when enough time has passed.”

“True. We’ll see if we can track them down. If they kept doing bad things, they might not be around anymore either.”

Katie frowned. “We need to check out where her car was found and triangulate the area to see what pops.”

“Don’t worry, we will. A little bit longer isn’t going to make any difference.” He smiled at his determined partner. “Wait,” said McGaven. He turned up the scanner to hear the dispatcher. They usually had it turned down or off because they weren’t on patrol.

“Motorist reported a woman on the south side of the Pine Valley Bridge. Appears to be a jumper,” said dispatch.

“We’re close,” said Katie.

“Dispatch, this is Detective McGaven and I’m less than three minutes from that location. We’re on our way. Request assistance.”

“Ten-four. Backup on the way.”

Katie pressed the accelerator harder, and they headed for the bridge. “Maybe a kid or a prank.”

“Maybe, but we can’t take any chances.” McGaven’s face was solemn as he watched the road in anticipation.

As they jetted around the sharp turns in between the thick tree line, the sky seemed to lighten up ahead. They were just seconds from the historical Pine Valley Bridge, which connected Sequoia and Pine Valley counties. The bridge was sturdy, constructed with concrete supports with large rocks anchoring it, not like a county passing. It was almost a hundred years old but had been renovated twice. The bridge traffic was generally light, so they were lucky the concerned motorist had been passing at the time.

“We’re almost there,” Katie said.

“There,” said McGaven.

They could see a woman standing on the bridge on the left side—she was still, with her arms at her sides and her head looking straight ahead. She wore a pale yellow, full-length dress and had long dark hair loose and blowing behind her. The breeze rumpled the dress. She was barefoot, her shoes lying on the ground neatly placed next to each other. She looked more like a subject in an expressionist painting than a woman in distress.

Katie pulled to the side of the road just before the bridge entrance. “I don’t want to spook her,” she said as she cut the engine.

“How do you want to proceed?”

She eyed her partner and decided it was best for her to confront the woman—McGaven was tall—over six-foot, six-inches—and might seem intimidating.

Both detectives got out of the car.

“Keep your cell on after my call so I can hear the conversation,” McGaven said as he called his partner’s phone.

Katie nodded, answering the call and keeping it open. She carried it in her jacket pocket. “Can you hear me?” she said.


“How long before backup arrives?”

“They said about fifteen or eighteen minutes. Hurry,” he stressed, feeling his partner’s concerns and hoping for the best. “I’ll see if I can get a unit to stop any traffic from the other side.”

Katie gave McGaven a quick look before she turned and faced the bridge. The woman was still standing on the ledge and seemed to be unaware of their presence. Dread filled Katie. She had never been a crisis negotiator, but they couldn’t wait for backup. They needed to get this woman off the bridge in order to obtain the help she obviously so desperately needed.

Katie felt her pulse quicken as she walked toward the woman. The closer she got, the more she realized that the woman was young, about her age. It struck a chord with her. She remembered what it was like for her when she received the news that her parents had died in a car accident. We are all faced with tragedies at some point in our lives, but sometimes people don’t know how to reach out. Maybe this was the case for this young woman.

As Katie neared, she saw that the woman’s legs were shaking, and her toes gripped the edge of the bridge. Katie kept her distance. Not quite knowing what to do or say, she said, “I’m Katie. What’s your name?”

The woman didn’t move or respond.

Katie could hear the water rushing from below.

“I’m a detective with the Pine Valley Sheriff’s Department.” Katie thought she sounded lame, but she wanted to try to build trust by telling the woman the truth and giving her support. “My partner and I were on our way to interview someone.” Katie took a deep breath. “Can you tell me your name?”

For the first time, the woman turned her head toward Katie. Her light-colored eyes were puffy, obviously from crying.

“I’m here to listen. Why don’t you come down and we can talk?”

“You’re a cop,” said the woman.


“You’ll just arrest me.” Her voice lowered to barely a whisper.

“No, I won’t. I’m here to help you.” She paused a moment, not quite knowing what to say. “Is there someone I can call for you?”

The woman shook her head.

“Do you live around here?”

She nodded.

“Is it far?” Katie didn’t see any car or a way the woman had come to the bridge.

The woman turned her attention back to the deep ravine, ignoring Katie’s question.

Katie took two steps closer.

“It’s best you leave,” said the woman. Her voice was calm and even now.

“I can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“I’ve sworn to protect this community—protect all citizens and to obey the law.”

“Just walk away.” Her voice began to crack. “Please…”

“I can’t do that,” said Katie and she took another step forward. “What’s your name?” She glanced behind her to see that McGaven had moved closer to the bridge. “Please tell me your name.”


Katie was relieved. “Lara… I’m Katie. Why don’t you come down and talk? I will do everything I can to help you…”

“No one can help.”

“Lara, I’m here to listen.”

The woman began to cry.

“It’s okay. Whatever it is, we’ll work it out—together.” Katie took another couple of steps.


“Lara, please come down so we can talk.”

“I can’t…”

Katie estimated her distance and how fast she could grab Lara to take her down safely. She had to do something to disarm the escalating situation.

Lara leaned slightly forward and almost lost her balance.

Katie, with quick thinking and fast reflexes, took the opportunity and lunged toward Lara, grabbing her around the waist and pulling both of them safely to the ground.

Instead of Lara fighting her, the woman broke down and cried. Katie sat with her, comforting her until she stopped.

McGaven had run down the bridge to meet them. “You okay?” he managed to say, breathless.

“Yes, we’re fine.” Katie helped Lara up, still holding her.

McGaven stopped and stared in disbelief. “Lara?” he said. “I can’t believe… it’s…”

Katie watched her partner’s reaction, intrigued by his response.

Slowly the woman turned her gaze and looked at McGaven, glancing at his badge and gun. She seemed to search his face for a few moments. “Sean?” she said.

“It is you, Lara,” he said.

Katie watched the recognition spark in their eyes. “You know each other?” What a surprise.

“Uh, yeah,” said McGaven gathering his thoughts. “We grew up together. I haven’t seen Lara in years. I thought you’d moved away a long time ago.”

Lara suddenly moved toward McGaven and hugged him tightly. “Please, Sean… please help me.”

About the Author:

Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning and USA Today Best Selling crime fiction author, as well as a consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology & criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent psychopath, providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling. Her latest book is The First Girl.

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Chapter One: Mastering the ABCs of Excellent Writing by Randy C. Dockens & Robert Irvin

Title: Mastering the ABCs of Excellent Writing
Author: Randy C. Dockens & Robert Irvin
Publication Date: April 4, 2024
Pages: 250
Genre:Writing Skill Reference/Authorship/Fiction Writing Skill Reference

The authors of this book (one a writer/author; one an editor) explain what they wished they had known when they began their writing journeys. This book will speed up your writing proficiency and aid your goal of being published with excellent material your readers will enjoy.

Why this book on writing? There are two things we learned the hard way and want you to gather the easy way. One, rules are made to be broken—but you want to break them only with intentional purpose. And two, you, not the rules, are what make your stories, your writing, unique from all others.

We cover various writing techniques and how to make your writing something readers will keep enjoying, but we also help you with the artistic side of writing, meaning what’s inside you, your writing technique, and your brand.

This easy-to-enjoy manual is written in a unique alphabetical style, filled with tips and extra-information boxes at the end of each chapter, and has a number of helpful additions following the final chapter.


Chapter One:

All verbs, as every English teacher we had in school drilled into us, are action words. That is true.

But not all verbs are created equal. And that also is true.

So let’s start, as a very famous old song once said, at a very good place to start: the beginning. And great stories start with great action. And that means verbs.

Think of verbs as the engine of strong writing. No compelling story is told without action, and thus without verbs. From one of my (Bob’s) favorite books, The Day Christ Died, by Jim Bishop, I pulled just one paragraph. It’s not a pretty picture in the mind’s eye—this is when Jesus is under arrest by Roman guards shortly before going to Pilate—but notice the action words.

Someone in the group had a more amusing idea. He got a cloth and blindfolded Jesus. The guards danced around him, cuffing his face and simpering: ‘Act the prophet, please. Who is it that struck you?’”

The first two sentences are setup for the scene. (The verbs are usual ones to get the paragraph moving: had, got, blindfolded.) But look at the next sentence: it teems with writing that captures the mind: danced, cuffing, simpering. What if Bishop had chosen, say, the verbs moved, hitting, and asking? (Quick exercise: replace Bishop’s three verbs with the latter three. Done that way, the sentence then isn’t even one-tenth as impactful.)

As this simple paragraph illustrates, all verbs are far from equal. Spend some time with your action words, and it will help drive your writing. But let’s explore more.

Not only are verbs quite different, the terminology can be confusing. Ever hear the terms “strong verb” and “weak verb”? Even those tags can be confusing, and not everyone means the same thing when they use these terms. Let’s keep digging.

Weak verb is a term meaning the root of the verb doesn’t change when you go from present tense to past tense to its participle form. Typically, all that happens is an -ed or -t ending is added. Here are a few examples (present – past – participle forms):

Walk – walked – walked

Look – looked – looked

Sleep – slept – slept

Strong verb, on the other hand, is a terminology meaning the root of the verb does undergo a transformation when its root is changed to its present, past, or participle forms. A few examples:

Run – ran – run

Bring – brought – brought

Swim – swam – swum

One takeaway here is the writer needs to understand that different verbs have different forms when their tenses change. After all, you want your writing to have strong grammar. Believe us, even readers who say they don’t judge a book by its grammar do judge a book by its grammar. They may not realize this is what they are doing, but if your sentences “read funny,” as some might say, their interest in your work will wane quickly. Only a few loose uses and you may well lose them.

So how can you tell which classification the verb is in? Unfortunately, you just have to learn them. There is no particular rhyme or reason. It just is, as they say. Therefore, if you don’t know, then look it up. That’s the best advice.

For writers, though, when one says “use a strong verb,” they are likely meaning to use a more appropriate verb, or one that conveys what you are really meaning, or one that brings forth the strongest action. Here are a few tips that, hopefully, you’ll find helpful.


First, even if you have a strong feel for what an adverb is, let’s define it. You can find a more complete definition at The heart of an adverb is a word that modifies (expands on, explains further) a verb, adjective, another adverb, a preposition, a phrase, a clause, or even a sentence. But let’s stay focused on verbs and modifying verbs here.

If you’ve used an adverb, see if you can think of a verb that conveys what you mean without the adverb. For example:

Harriet closed the door angrily.

Probably not a sentence one would normally write, but let’s make the point more vividly here. So you can probably quickly think of a verb that coveys this meaning without having to use an adverb at all. Here’s a somewhat obvious one:

Harriet slammed the door.

The verbs closed and slammed would both be considered weak verbs, by definition, but clearly slammed is a verb that conveys a door being closed in an aggressive manner and most typically in anger. This would, then, be considered a better verb to use. Some might say a stronger verb (and you could make that argument easily), not because of the definition that we just gave, but because slammed conveys the action you are meaning much better than does closed.

Another way to look at this is whether you must mentally ask yourself, as a reader, the how or why behind the word used. How did they close the door? Did they gently close the door, slam the door, or just close it in a normal fashion? Why did they close the door: to prevent someone from hearing them, because they were mad or angry, or it was just a normal everyday thing to do? If your verb itself doesn’t convey this, then think of a more appropriate verb to use that conveys what you’re really intending.

You may sometimes read to never use adverbs, but don’t get caught up in this trap. I (Randy) did in the beginning. Here’s a tip: when you read a blog from someone talking about writing and they use the word never, substitute never overuse in that spot instead. All forms of speech are needed to have strong prose and dialogue. However, as a writer, you need to master when to use each one. Granted, adverbs are to be used sparingly since there is typically a better or more appropriate verb you can use to convey the action (making use of the adverb unnecessary). So, the better advice, I think, is to use the verb that best conveys what you want the reader to take away from your writing. And make it a sentence in which the reader can get in the moment with you and not have to think about what you are saying, but be with you in what you are saying. You want your reader inside your story, seeing and feeling everything you are writing. You don’t want them above the story, seeing it from a distance and having to analyze sentence structure to understand what you are trying to say.

Here is an example where an adverb is needed to convey what you really want to tell a reader:

Amanda sat quite still, daring not to breathe as the footsteps came closer, their sound hauntingly familiar.

Now one can get rid of the word hauntingly and change the sentence structure to avoid it. Yet most would find the sentence below doesn’t convey the same tone and feel:

Amanda sat quite still, daring not to breathe as the footsteps came closer, their sound haunting her memory.

So, to reiterate this simple but key point, but said in a different way: be purposeful in how you use adverbs. Are you using the adverb to convey something (a tone, a scene, a feeling) that you can’t do with a verb alone? If you can find a more powerful verb that conveys the same, then use it. If not, use the adverb to get your reader immersed in your story. Use them sparingly, though. A good adverb can enhance; too many can detract.

Passive Voice

I’m sure, like we both did, you also heard from an English teacher to always use active voice and never passive voice. Despite the bad rap, there is nothing wrong with passive voice, but again, it should be used purposefully and sparingly. Typically, passive voice does not get your reader immersed in your story. Active voice does. An example:

Greg had written the story for Ruth to enjoy.

Not a bad sentence as sentences go, right? But there is no real action here. Therefore, the following sentence would typically be better:

Greg wrote the story for Ruth to enjoy.

Or, if you can get it in present tense, it is even more impactful:

Greg writes the story in the hope that Ruth will enjoy it.

It just has a fresher feel to it and is more engaging. Doesn’t it?

But judging passive voice by sentence alone does not quite do it justice. There are definitely times to use passive voice. Once again, though, with a purpose. Remember to always be purposeful in whatever you do as a writer.

Here’s a trick to the “dreaded, to be avoided” passive voice: it can be extremely effective in setting a scene. One example:

John’s travels had been torturous and taxing. He had received not a wink of sleep for three days. None of his travel companions understood the stress he had been under before he left. They were so absorbed in their own problems they had no time to consider his.

So this sets up a scene. Now, if the whole scene would be written in this manner, it would become quite boring. But this can set up an action scene. The passive voice fills the reader with knowledge, and then an active voice pulls them into the story with that knowledge. Again: be purposeful.

A  A  a  A  A  A  A

More Tips and Information (Summing Up, and Perhaps a Bit More)

From Randy, the Author
Always use verbs that best paint the action you are trying to convey.Adverbs paint a mood or setting. Use them sparingly so they have maximum impact.Attempt to use active voice when possible.Avoid passive voice, when possible, except for scene-setting or to show that a large amount of time has passed between scenes.
From Bob, the Editor
Are you using verbs as the engine of your writing? Drive your writing forward with impactful verbs.Ask yourself: does this verb feel a little flat? Try another, or another. You might find another action word works better. Actively compare.Avoid doing this all day long, however, with every verb. That’s not possible, and you need to get on with your writing. But do go after the ones you know can be improved. Usually, you’ll find them. (Or maybe a good editor can help in certain cases. Do the work on the front end, however, and your product will be better for it.)

About the Authors:

Dr. Randy C. Dockens
has a fascination with science and with the Bible, holds Ph.D. degrees in both areas, and is a man not only of faith and science, but also of creativity. He believes that faith and science go hand in hand without being enemies of each other.

After completing his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Auburn University he went on to graduate school at Auburn and completed his first doctorate degree in Pharmaceutics. He began his scientific career as a pharmacokinetic reviewer for the Food and Drug Administration and later joined a leading pharmaceutical company as a pharmacokineticist, which is a scientist who analyzes how the human body affects drugs after they have been administered (i.e, absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and excreted).

Through the years, he has worked on potential medicines within several disease areas, including cardiovascular, fibrosis, and immunoscience to seek and develop new and novel medicines in these therapy areas.

He has also had his attention on the academic study of the Bible. He earned a second doctorate in Biblical Prophecy from Louisiana Baptist University after receiving a master’s degree in Jewish Studies from the Internet Bible Institute under the tutelage of Dr. Robert Congdon.

Randy has recently retired from his pharmaceutical career and is spending even more time on his writing efforts. He has written several books that span dystopian, end-time prophecy, science fiction, and uniquely told Bible stories. All his books, while fun to read, are futuristic, filled with science to give them an authentic feel, have a science fiction feel to them, and allows one to learn some aspect of Biblical truth one may not have thought about before. This is all done in a fast-paced action format that is both entertaining and provides a fun read for his readers.

He has also written some nonfiction books as well. One is to show how all humans are connected from God’s viewpoint by looking at biblical prophecy. This book shows how all scripture is connected and inclusive of everyone. In addition, he and his editor have written a book about writing. This book not only addresses the techniques of writing, but what makes writing unique to each author. It conveys not only how to better hone one’s craft of writing but also the brand an author wants to portray. This helps an author make their writing unique as well as captivating for his/her audience. A companion book to this one regarding self-editing techniques will also soon be available.

You can visit Randy’s website at Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Instagram

Robert Irvin has been a professional writer and editor for his entire adult life. He started in journalism and worked in all levels of newspaper reporting and editing, from the proverbial cub reporter to bureau chief, night city desk editor, and newsroom editor. Under his leadership, the Middletown (Ohio) Journal won several top state newspaper placements in 2003-2004. He has written award-winning pieces for several magazines.

In 2005 he chose publishing and went to Standard Publishing (Cincinnati) where he worked with authors from across the nation and internationally on youth ministry materials for the former Christian-based publisher, which had a rich history serving American and Canadian churches dating to 1869. In 2011, Robert went independent. He helped develop a homeschool curriculum site for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine during a two-year period in which he worked for this trailblazing homeschool organization. He does the majority of his work with Christian Book Services. He has ghostwritten long portions of books for authors and entire books for a World War II veteran’s memoirs (written 2013-2015 at age 89-91!) and a former NFL quarterback’s story of mentoring his high school football star son.

Robert has edited virtually every type of book, from business to novels to theology to sports to memoirs to abuse survival stories, and much more. His credits include scores of books. He has spoken at or served as faculty at various writing conferences.

He enjoys family, running, the outdoors, bad golf (like many, he has the bug, which just won’t go away), a heated game of Scrabble, virtually any sport, and reading any book that even remotely interests him.

Robert has a BA from Ohio State University in Journalism. He and wife Joan have four children. Reach Bob at

Visit him on Facebook at and LinkedIn at

Chapter One: Ten Gold Coins by Joni Parker

 Title: Ten Gold Coins: Book Two of the Golden Harvest Series
Author: Joni Parker
Publication Date: March 3, 2024
Pages: 354
Genre: Fantasy/Scifi

Lady Alexin (Alex), the Keeper of the Keys for the Elfin Council of Elders, returns home to Eledon to help her grandmother clean out the warehouse, but she’s kidnapped and forced to use the magical Keys of Eledon in a series of life-or-death missions with consequences that span across the realms. Her captor, Lord Fissure of the Rock Elves, demands her magical help, but once he’s done with her, he turns her over to the Marsh Elf Sawgrass, a criminal, who sends her into the treacherous depths of Hades’ kingdom in the Underworld for his own benefit. To save herself, Alex calls upon the powers of Poseidon, but he enlists her help with the Golden Harvest for Olympus before the Mentors arrive. His brothers, Zeus and Hades, are the only ones who know where the gold is stored, so Alex follows their trail into the mortal world, only to find they aren’t ready to return. What must she do to get them back to Olympus so she can return home to Eledon?

You can pick up your copy at Amazon at .

Chapter One:

Cleaning out the warehouse wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for my vacation, but my grandmother thought it was a great idea. Several years ago, my grandparent’s house in the Elf city of Meridian had burned down, but the contents in the basement had been spared and moved to a local warehouse. No one knew how the fire started, but I suspected arson, especially after someone reported seeing a group of Rock Elves nearby. 

The Rock Elves had this vendetta against me—I guess because I had one against them. They had yet to provide one knot of actual gold for the Golden Harvest, even though they were supposed to be the Elfin experts on mining. Go figure. They claimed they couldn’t provide any gold because they were too busy moving from Tulon on the southern continent of Sudin to Nexus Island. Come on. It wasn’t that far, and they had nearly 4,000 years to prepare for this Golden Harvest, just like the rest of us. So, I didn’t buy their excuses. 

And the Mentors arrived early to collect our gold because of them and the Star Elves, after they tried to steal our stored gold. We already told the Mentors we didn’t have the full amount, but they came to stop anyone from trying something else. The Mentors’ ships showed up slowly at first, but now, there were a dozen or more in our skies every morning. 

Since the Mentors didn’t need my help with this phase of the Harvest, my grandmother thought it was a perfect time to empty the warehouse. She assumed the leadership role of our inventory team. Lady Anteron, a Crystal Elf and the Antiquarian for the Council of Elders, and my grandmother would inventory the items, while I opened the boxes and moved them around. In addition, we had help from Vortex and Scala, two androids given to me for my heroic acts on the planet of Oltria. They had proven to be a godsend to my grandmother, who had trouble taking care of our house by herself. In the warehouse, they would provide whatever manual labor we needed to move our stuff around. My grandmother estimated the warehouse project would only take a week. Famous last words…

Whenever we finish, I will then have time to kick back and relax before I return to the mortal world. I really needed to decorate my new flat. I had bought it with the help of Andrew Miller, my manager, and the owner of the modeling studio I work for. I knew nothing about buying property in the mortal world, but Andrew did. He had dabbled in real estate before he got into the fashion business years ago. He even had the previous owner leave all his furniture in the flat since I didn’t have any. The only problem was the color scheme, which was white with brown and gray accents. I needed more color.

My vacation was scheduled to last three months until the end of August, which was longer than normal, because my mortal boss, Étienne, a world-famous fashion designer in Paris, and his boyfriend, Philippe, got married on June the first, followed by a long honeymoon to some tropical island I’d never heard of. To get the time off, we crammed six months of work into three after finishing the spring show in February. We stored the fashion collection in a vault, only to be opened on September first, three weeks before the fall show, but with enough time to make any necessary changes and adjustments. 

On June the first, Étienne and Philippe held the largest wedding I’d ever been to. There were thousands of guests, with celebrities and non-celebrities alike in attendance, and with extensive press coverage. It was the social event of the season in Paris. The next day, the ecstatic newlyweds left for their honeymoon, while I went to my flat in London. I lived there because it was closer to the portal I used to get back home to Eledon, and I wasn’t fluent in French. 

I arrived late in London on the Eurostar, the bullet train from Paris, and spent the night in my flat. Early the next morning, I jogged to Hyde Park with my travel bag and strolled over to the bushes where the portal to Eledon was hidden. After I made sure no one was around, I said the spell to make the portal appear and stepped through the glowing white arch. I closed it quickly to prevent unwanted visitors from wandering in. It happened before.

The sun was just rising over the horizon in Eledon as I strolled through the meadow near the Council building. It was one of the largest structures in the city of Meridian, measuring two hundred feet across and another two hundred feet high. It looked like a giant white cube with a pyramid on top that housed the huge crystal needed to communicate with our Mentors, the Elf guides. The Council of Elders had twelve members, the most powerful Elves in Eledon, which included my grandfather, Lord Odin. Not only did they govern the Elves, but they also kept in touch with the Mentors every day. I was a staff member for the Council, the Keeper of the Keys, the youngest one ever selected and the first woman.

Sunrise was my favorite time of day because it was so quiet. As I stared up the hill at my grandparent’s house, I hardly recognized it. The two-story house had been painted beige with green and black highlights while I was gone. Although it was a lovely house, it wasn’t like the old one, which had burnt down and was conveniently located across the street from the Council building. I reminisced about the good old days as I climbed to the top of the hill.

When I strolled in, my grandparents were sitting at the dining table, eating breakfast. My grandmother got up and smiled.  

“There you are!” She kissed me on the cheek. “I’ll have Scala bring you some breakfast.” She left, so I kissed my grandfather on the cheek. My grandfather was the Tree Elf Representative on the Council of Elders, one of its senior members. He was tall, blond, and extremely handsome, looking younger than his three thousand five hundred years. He was younger than any other member, and had been on the Council for over two thousand years. A few years ago, he married my grandmother, Lady Lestin of the Water Elves, and became my grandfather. I had known him all my life since he delivered me when I was born. 

My grandmother was one of the most beautiful women in Eledon, with blond hair and blue eyes. The only trait we shared was the color of our eyes. I was of mixed race, part Elf and part mortal—my hair was as black as coal, and my ears were rounded like a mortal. According to my grandmother, I resembled my grandfather, Themius, who was a Titan.

My grandmother returned with Scala, our android servant. Last year, I’d received three android servants as a gift from the Oltrians for saving their President’s life. I took Ratio to my brother who lived about fifty miles away, where he stayed, since my brother’s family needed the help and Ratio had been with our Oltrian family the longest, but Scala and Vortex remained with us in Meridian, taking care of my grandmother’s house. 

“Welcome back, Keeper.” Scala set a plate in front of me. She’d made me an English breakfast with eggs, bacon, beans, roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, and toast. I had shown her how to make it on my last trip home and gave her a book of recipes as a gift.

My grandmother poured me a cup of tea and sat down at the table. “So, are you ready for our historical adventure?” she asked. 

“Historical adventure?” My grandfather raised his brows. “I thought Alex came back to help you clean out the warehouse.”

“She did, but the items stored in those crates are at least a thousand years old; some may even be older.” She smiled. “We could even find some items of historical significance to donate to the museum.” 

I covered my mouth and laughed. “And why did it have to be done this month?”

“The annual renewal is due, and I can’t see paying for another year of storage.” 

“You know what? I’ll pay. How much is it?” I had some Elf coins tucked away. As the Keeper of the Keys, I received a small stipend from the Council. 

“Don’t be ridiculous. I don’t want to buy the place,” she said. “It’s an ugly building. Now, change your clothes. You’re going to get dirty in there.”

“Give me a break, Grandmother. Let me finish eating. Then I’ll be happy to help you.” 

“You’ll have plenty of time to relax later. The warehouse caretaker is expecting us in ten minutes. Go change. Now!” She strolled out of the room.

I sighed and looked over at my grandfather, who pressed his lips together to keep from laughing out loud. “What have you done to my grandmother?” I asked him, and we burst out laughing. 

“I suggest you do as she says before she casts a spell on you.” His blues eyes twinkled as he smiled.

In defeat, I raised my hands in the air. “All right. I’m going.” I stuffed the last of my breakfast in my mouth and went upstairs to change into my jungle camouflage uniform, which I had brought from the mortal world for this job. It was sturdy, warm, and wouldn’t show any dirt. I also had a pair of steel-toed boots that would be useful, manhandling the wooden crates. I got the uniform a few years ago, when I first got to the mortal world and wanted to join the British Royal Marines, but after they turned me down, the clothes remained hanging in my wardrobe, useless until now. 

When I rejoined my grandparents at the dining table, my grandmother stared at my uniform. “What kind of outfit is that?”

“It’s called a jungle camouflage uniform. Mortal soldiers wear it in the jungle, so they can blend into the background, and the enemy would have trouble seeing them.”

“I can see you perfectly,” my grandmother said. 

“We’re not in a jungle.” I smiled at her.

“By the way, here are your keys, Alex.” My grandfather slid over the leather pouch holding the magical Keys of Eledon.

“Can’t you hold them while I’m working in the warehouse, Grandfather?” 

“It’s your job. I told you I would hold them when you’re NOT here.” My grandfather had once been the Keeper, so he knew what to do if I was gone. But even he didn’t know their full magical abilities until I found out.

Over the years, I learned the keys were part of the maintenance system for Eledon. Our Mentors, the Elf guides, created this land for us when we were forced to leave Earth. We lived inside of a globe on a flat surface somewhere in space. We knew very little about our globe—we didn’t know if we orbited a sun or if there were other planets around us. Our skies were artificially created by the Mentors and projected on the interior surface of our globe, copying the patterns seen on Earth. So far, none of the mortal scientists, who used to live here, could find us on any known galactic map, so no one was sure where we were. 

In addition, myths and legends surrounded the Keys of Eledon. There were thirteen of them, and one old Elf myth claimed the keys were so powerful a person could rule Eledon if he or she had them. I doubted that was true because I wasn’t even in charge of cleaning the warehouse. I picked up the leather pouch holding the keys from the table and stuffed them into a pocket on my left leg. This uniform had pockets everywhere.

“It should take us only a week or so, maybe less with Scala and Vortex helping us,” my grandmother said, trying to reassure me. “Lady Anteron will meet us at the Council building when we take your grandfather there for the morning meeting.” My grandmother reached over and placed her hand on mine. “Thank you so much for helping me, Alex.”

“You’re welcome, Grandmother. It’s my pleasure.” Okay. So, I lied a little—I wasn’t too thrilled about the project.

As we headed down the hill toward the Council building, Lady Anteron, the Council’s Antiquarian, stood on the steps waiting for us. She maintained her residence in the building since she was single and didn’t own a house in Meridian. I considered her to be part of our family because she had been engaged to my grandmother’s brother, Lord Carver of the Water Elves. He was one of the twelve Dukes in the King’s Fleet, but someone murdered him before the wedding took place. Lady Anteron had yet to find someone else to marry even though she was beautiful and kind, with long dark hair and large green eyes. 

We left my grandfather at the Council building so he could attend the morning meeting. I felt a twinge of envy as he left. I should go with him, but I had to skip the meeting, so I could… clean the warehouse. Ugh!

Vortex and Scala followed behind us. Vortex was a tall, male android with dark hair and piercing blue eyes. He had broad shoulders and powerful arms, looking like he could take someone’s head off in a fight, even though he was extraordinarily gentle. On the other hand, Scala could be testy. She was tall and thin with brown hair. Her facial features were plain, and her eyes were light blue. She did her job well even if she complained about it. I couldn’t figure out how to turn the complaint feature off, but there had to be a way. It didn’t matter. My grandmother loved them anyway, and they were a great help around the house. 

The warehouse was near the harbor about a half mile away from the Council building. We meandered through the docks, strolling past the wooden ships of the Water Elves. My cousin, Prince Darin, was the Duke of the First Seas, and protected the city of Meridian and the continent of Easton with his fleet of ships. I wasn’t sure how many he had, but over a thousand at least. 

The warehouse caretaker met us at the door. He was a short stocky Elf, wearing the clothes of a worker—sturdy britches and a blue shirt with a brown jacket and boots. He doffed his hat and bowed to us as he showed us to our section inside. 

From the outside, the warehouse looked like an old wooden barn—it probably was at one time. It had no windows, but a large barn door and a wooden floor. An old pot belly stove stood in the corner, empty and cold. My grandmother asked the caretaker to light a fire to take the chill off, but I was already removing my jacket. The cool air felt good to me.

I counted fifty wooden crates, stacked high along the wall. Vortex and Scala climbed up to get the crates from the top and brought them down. From there, I pushed them over to a spot near the stove where the ladies planned to work. I popped the lids off with a hammer and crowbar and told the two androids to bring more. As the two ladies began sorting, anything salvageable went in one stack, and items to be burned went in another. Anything questionable was set aside for a decision later. In my humble opinion, nothing was worth saving. Everything was too old.

As the ladies sorted through another crate, they ooh’d and ah’d over some old gowns, once worn by my grandmother’s mother and her mother. They liked the styles and wondered if the dressmaker could reproduce them, so they set them aside to take to the dressmaker later, since it was still too early for her to be open for business. 

The crates with men’s clothes didn’t bring a similar reaction, except for one jacket, worn by my grand-uncle on the night he proposed marriage to Lady Anteron. It meant a lot to her, so she kept it. The rest of the men’s clothes were put in the ‘to be burned’ bin.

Other crates contained old books, many of which were disintegrating, so we set those aside to be burned, and those in better condition were separated for the librarian to review. We also set aside all the old documents we found to be read by someone who could determine if they were important enough to keep. Some could be historic, as my great-great-grandfather signed them—he was once the King of the Water Elves. 

After sorting through a dozen crates, the ladies took a break for lunch and a stop at the dressmaker’s stall in the market, while I remained at the warehouse to finish sorting the crates. Vortex carried an armful of old dresses to the market for them, while Scala went to buy us lunch. They were coming back later, so we could eat lunch on the patio table nearby.  

The caretaker appeared as I threw the last armful of clothes onto a pile. “What are these, Miss Keeper?” 

Like most people, he addressed me by my title, Keeper, instead of my name. Many considered my position as Keeper of the Keys to be ceremonial, with little responsibility except to hold the magical Keys of Eledon. As time passed, I’ve found my position was hardly ceremonial and put my life in jeopardy on several occasions. 

“These clothes are to be burned, Master Caretaker.” I pointed to the stack I was building. “They’re at least a thousand years old and falling apart.” I held up a shirt and ripped the collar off with ease. 

“Is there more?” He stuffed his hands into his pockets.

“There will be. You can burn them later. We still have a lot of work to do.” I stretched my arms overhead and yawned. “Is there any water nearby?” 

“Aye, Keeper. I forgot to mention it earlier. There’s a fountain ‘round back. Good water.” He pointed to the far side of the warehouse.

As I turned away, the caretaker tackled me from behind, knocking me to the ground. I screamed as he flipped me over and covered my face with a cloth soaked in ether, a drug used by the healers for sedation. I had no desire to be sedated, and kept turning my face away from him until he leaned his arm against my head to keep me still.  

“What are you doing, Caretaker?” Why was he doing this? Was he going to rape me? Less than a year ago, I had been sexually assaulted and never wanted to go through that again. My feelings of panic escalated to anger, and I used my legs to leverage him off me. Then I scrambled to my feet. He rose and held his hands out.

“I don’t want to hurt you, Keeper. But they told me they needed you, and they’ve paid me well.” He lunged for me once more, and we tumbled to the ground.

“Who paid you?” I squirmed in his grasp and broke free. 

“Not saying.” He pushed me against the wall, so I kicked him in the balls. 

“Ow!” He covered his private parts; his eyes opened wide.

“Who paid you?” I stomped on his foot to demand an answer.

When he didn’t, I unleashed a series of punches and kicks to his body, starting with his face, his legs, and torso. He fell back and cowered, hiding his head under his arms. He wasn’t a trained soldier like me, but he was strong and durable. Even after he endured my beating, he had the strength to grab my arms to stop me, until I spun out of his grasp. 

He lunged for me again and caught me, but I tripped him, and we tumbled to the ground. A green pouch, made of soft suede, fell out of his pocket, and ten gold coins flew out onto the wooden floor.  

“What’s this? You did this for ten gold coins? You bastard!” I screamed and threw the pouch at him, forcing him to duck for cover. Then I kicked him in the chest, making him fall backwards onto the floor, giving me time to spin away for help. If I could get outside, I could run to the sailors on the ships, anchored less than a hundred feet away.  

As I ran toward the door, an enormous Elf appeared out of nowhere and blocked it. He was so tall his head brushed the top of the door opening, and so wide I couldn’t get around him. I’d never seen anyone so big in my life; he was literally the size of the barn door. Could he be a Fire Elf? No, he couldn’t be—Lord Ashur was the last of the Fire Elves. 

Before I had a chance to ask, the giant Elf swung his arm, knocking me to the ground, but when I clambered to my feet, he backhanded me, sending me tumbling across the floor. The caretaker scrambled over and placed the ether-soaked cloth over my face—I inhaled and was woozy in seconds. My world turned blurry, before I blacked out.  

About the Author:

Joni Parker was born in Chicago, Illinois, but moved the Japan when she was 8, so her father could become a professional golfer. Once he achieved his dream, Joni and her family returned to the U.S. and moved to Phoenix, Arizona. After high school, Joni served her country for 22 years in the Navy and another 7 years in federal civil service. She retired and lives in Tucson, Arizona, devoting her time to writing, reading, and watching the sunrise.

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Chapter One: The Edison Enigma by Thomas White

Title: The Edison Enigma
Author: Thomas White
Publication Date: February 29, 2024
Pages: 196
Genre: Scifi/Mystery

Edison, a Chicago physicist, manages to successfully transport an object through time. Almost immediately following this success Dr. Edison is shut out of the facility and told by benefactor Raphael Barrington, to take a vacation. He is contacted by Don Rivendell, a grizzled old man with a secret. Rivendell explains to Tom that he is not the first person to discover time travel. Someone else went back and changed history by saving a young girl from dying in an internal combustion engine explosion.

Dr. Edison is tasked with going back and fixing history. He travels back to 1904 to find the younger version of Rivendell and stop him from saving the girl. 

You can purchase your copy of The Edison Enigma at Amazon at

Chapter One: 

The sun reflected off Lake Michigan, projecting a silvery shadow on the buildings along the shoreline as a serene Spring breeze drifted in from the lake. Southbound Lakeshore Drive was as it always was at 8:15 AM: bumper to bumper and moving along at a torrid three miles per hour. Dr. Tom Edison checked the dashboard clock, banged his palm against the steering wheel, and hit the phone button under his left thumb.

“Call the lab.” He barked at the car computer. The number dialed, not fast enough for him, and he heard the chimes through his car speaker. 

 Off to the side of the road, about five cars ahead, he saw a dark gray sedan with the hood popped and smoke billowing out. Clearly, this was one of the reasons for the traffic jam, but he could hardly blame this everyday occurrence on that poor vehicle. The fire department was approaching on the Northbound side, lights flashing. 

“Barrington Scientific Research Center. How may I direct your call?” The male operator asked with professional precision.

“Dr. Bruce Reeves, please.”

“I’m sorry. Dr. Reeves is unavailable. Can I take a message?”

Tom took a deep breath and reminded himself that this fellow was just doing his job. 

“This is Dr. Edison. I need to speak with Dr. Reeves.”

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t recognize your voice. One minute, Dr. Edison.”

The big fire engine stopped opposite the concrete barrier separating North and South bound traffic. Eager firefighters jumped out and began to set up their gear on that side of the highway. Tom could see that this action would completely stop the flow of traffic. He could only hope to move past the car fire before the fire department shut down the drive in both directions.

The on-hold sound was the local radio station WBBM-Chicago. Lizzo was finishing “It’s About Damn Time,” and the station shifted to a news report.

“The EPA reported today that air pollution from auto emissions has continued to rise. Despite legislation, it has been estimated that each of the one billion automobiles on the road today emits 12gm of pollution per mile. In the greater Chicago area alone, that amounts to nearly 5 million tons of pollution daily. The EPA also reports that petroleum by-products continue to clog up our landfills by resisting the natural bio-degradable break-down process. Citizens are urged to use less plastic whenever possible and are encouraged, as always, to recycle. Meanwhile, on a more upbeat note, a twelve-year-old Evanston boy won the National Spelling Bee yesterday. He correctly spelled “annihilation” to capture first place and the ten-thousand-dollar prize.”

The phone buzzed, and Dr. Bruce Reeves was on the line. 

“Tom. Where are you?” The harried scientist said.

“I’m on Lakeshore and there’s a car fire. Spewing smoke everywhere. It’s sinful.”

“What the hell are you doing on Lakeshore?”

“Good question. Maybe I had an aneurysm. I should have just hit the 90. I’m coming up on Jackson. I’ll jump off here and take the 290. Look, I should be about another thirty minutes. Get the advance work prepped and I’ll be as quick as I can. It was stupid. I should have just stayed there.”

“No. You needed the break. You can only go so many days without quiet and a shower, particularly the shower. You aren’t in here alone, you know.”

Tom chuckled. “Yeah, it did feel good. Okay, just finish the prep, and I’ll see you soon. I have to check some data in my office, and then I’ll be with you in the lab. It’s a big day, Bruce! All the marbles are on the table.”

“Yeah, so is the watermelon. See you soon.”

The phone went dead just as Tom rolled past the burning car. In the rearview, he saw firefighters leap the center divider and begin closing down the road. He let out a grateful sigh as he rolled past the obstacle on his way to making history.

Twenty-two minutes later, he pulled into the parking lot at the BSRC. The BSRC was on 47th St. between Central and Hyman in Cicero. The building was a refurbished refrigeration factory, built in 1948 and acquired by the Barrington Corporation a decade earlier. Tom made his way to the front of the building and pulled into the third parking spot from the front door. The concrete bumper had a large chunk chipped out of the left corner, and the name, Dr. Tom Edison, that had been painted on it ten years earlier was now faded and worn. 

Dr. Tom Edison was thirty-nine years old, stood a hair under six feet, and, while not having an athletic body, had been able to maintain a slim waist. He had been the recipient of the Barrington Scientific Research grant a decade ago and was on the precipice of taking his theories to fruition. The funding provided by The Barrington Research Facility allowed him to develop a technique that could easily change the world as we knew it. Today was the day he would find out if his theories worked. 

Tom entered through the electronic door, slid his ID card into the turnstile reader, and crossed to the elevators. Once inside, he placed his palm against the glass pane mounted on the wall and leaned in for his retinal scan. He saw his reflection in the glass scanner and noticed that, mixed with his black mane, a few grey hairs had popped out. A nano-second passed while the AI operating system, known as the Quint, verified his identity.  “Welcome, Dr. Tom Edison. You may push the button for your desired floor.” Tom reached out and hit the LB button on the bottom of the panel. 

The elevator door opened and Tom moved confidently down the long, white corridor. The fluorescent lights, apparently mandatory in any industrial facility, adequately illuminated the hallway, even if the irritating glow made him wish he had his sunglasses. 

Tom’s office was down the hall to the left. It had a spacious reception area where his secretary held court. His name was Jerzy Bartley. He was astoundingly proficient with scientific jargon and held a unique understanding of quantum physics, not to mention being the most organized individual he had ever met. Jerzy held a master’s in physics and was, without a doubt, overqualified for this job. His deep loyalty to Dr. Edison, his dedication, and his fascination with the good doctor’s work kept him attached to Tom. He had refused three different promotions, and Tom had been so very grateful each time he did. In his early thirties, Jerzy was an African American male who stood six feet nine inches tall with a shaved head and a short, trimmed beard. He dwarfed everyone in the facility. However, his affable smile never failed to start Tom’s day on a good note. Tom entered the office.

Jerzy looked up from his computer.

“Hey, boss. Glad you were able to make it.”

“Very funny. It was stupid to go home last night. I should have stayed. Anything new happen in the last couple hours?

Jerzy shook his head as Tom moved past him. 

“Nope, I got in about an hour ago and everyone was just sitting on pins and needles waiting. How’s it looking?”

Tom zoomed into his office, yelling over his shoulder, “I’ll know in a few minutes.”

Tom sprang into his chair and opened his computer. He saw his reflection in the dark screen. His black hair needed a cut, but who had time? His hazel eyes were a tad bloodshot from over-work, but the dark circles that resided under them were less pronounced thanks to a shower and five hours of sleep in his own bed.

There were several last-minute equations to confirm. Precision was everything if this project was to succeed. Tom immediately became engrossed in his work, and the rest of the world slipped into his rearview mirror. 

Absorbed as he was, Tom failed to see or hear the subtle noises coming from the ventilation shaft that sat at floor level behind him. Had he turned around, he would have seen a beam of light periodically flashing across the back of the vent. As Tom worked, the light grew closer and closer.

Inside the vent, she moved as stealthily as she could. It was cramped, but she was comparatively slight, so she moved with little resistance. In her hand was a small uplink device called The Quince. It was a remote device connected to The Quint. The Quint ran everything in the facility, and she was using The Quince to bypass the security within the ventilation system. The BSRC was a full-security building with redundant security protocols. These shafts were part of the original design when the building was constructed in 1948. Large metal tunnels that webbed throughout the facility carried cool or heated air to every part of the building. In each room, an ornate bronze vent cover sat at floor level. When the BSRC retrofitted the building, the decision was made to install electronic barriers along the shafts rather than replace the entire ventilation system. Because they were electronic barriers, she could use the Quince to override each one as needed. The fact that she had managed to get this far was no small feat. The journey had started one flight down and on the east side of the building. She had to climb up one flight and maneuver to the west side to get here. 

A holographic image floated above the handheld, detailing her route and giving her data on her position and distance to her destination. She approached the next gate, read the number from the top of the frame, and entered it into her handheld Quince. The gate swung open. She continued her crawl forward. 

Three gates later, she peered through the vent that would open into Dr. Tom Edison’s office. She could see the light from the computer casting a silhouette around Tom’s head as he fixated on his screen. She read the number at the top of the vent cover and entered it into the Quince. The vent silently swung open. Now was her most significant moment of danger. As she entered the room, she would have to be completely silent; the tiniest scrape or bump could alert this man, and her jig would be up. Inch by inch, she slithered forward, remaining completely quiet. She managed to get out of the vent without alerting the subject and lay on the floor directly behind the clueless scientist. Placing the Quince on the carpet next to her, she slowly moved her legs under her and stood up, careful not to sway into his peripheral vision. She stood straight up and took two cautious steps forward. Raising her arms over her head, she placed both hands over his eyes and yelled, “Guess who!!!”

Startled, Tom jumped from his seat. He spun around, preparing to defend himself from whoever had just broken in. As he leapt, his fist raised, and just before he swung, he had that moment of recognition.

“Oh, for Chrissake, Lori! What the hell?”

Dr. Lori Pellitier was the scientific officer on this project and one of the country’s sharpest computer/mechanical minds. She was in her mid-thirties, had a slight build, thin but curvy, with dark black hair pulled back into a ponytail. At five foot three inches tall, with blue eyes and an olive-brown complexion, she perfectly complimented her multi-racial background. She had a quirky sense of humor, and this stunt was well within her wheelhouse. She wore baggy, gray overalls that she acquired for her trip through the ducts. There were dirt stains on her elbows and knees, and was overall, just plain dusty from the crawl through the vents. 

“Just checking out the security protocol in the ventilation systems while we all wait for you. This one needs work, obviously.” She unzipped her overalls and let them drop to the floor. Underneath, she wore a blue silk shirt, black designer jeans, and red, bedazzled tennis shoes. Knowing her destination, she had prepared accordingly, and her subtle yet effective makeup had been undisturbed. She attempted to brush off the dirt with her palms, creating a small cloud of dust that swirled around her. She pulled the scrunchie out of the ponytail she needed for the crawl and shook her head. Her black hair cascaded around her glowing face.

Tom didn’t notice. “Yeah, sorry about that. For some reason, I thought I had enough time to go home. Stupid.”

Lori folded the overalls, picked up the Quince, and wandered around to the front of his desk. She walked a bit slower than usual, accentuating her hip movement. 

“I told you Montrose Beach was too far. So, how’s it coming?”

Tom smirked at her reference to his home location, unwilling to address this topic again, and said, “I just need to input one more piece of data, and I’m there.” Tom continued typing while he talked. “So, you can override all those vent protocols remotely? Seems odd; why would they want that to happen if the intent was to keep people from crawling through?” He looked up at her as she slightly tilted her head and smiled.

“Well, it could be a way in, which no one wants, but it could also be a way out in the case of emergency and they wanted to be able to control who’s coming and going.” 

Sitting in the chair, she put her feet up on the edge of his desk. She opened the Quince and was searching through a variety of sites. Holographic images began popping up. Some were schematics, and others were pictures and graphics. 

A picture of a couple on the beach making out popped onto her screen. She looked at Tom to see if he noticed. He hadn’t.

She decided to be a bit more obvious.

“This Quince can access the vents, the elevator shafts, and the hallways. I can see the entire security video feed through this little baby, and it comes with some interesting attachments.”

A video popped up, and the audio caught Tom’s attention. He raised his head and saw a couple falling onto a bed as they began to make love. He chuckled and turned back to the screen.

Frustrated again, Lori turned the video off and said, “So, this thing gonna work? Or are we all just prepping for a picnic lunch?”

“Well, if it doesn’t, we can use your skills to become industrial spies. I hear there’s money in that.” He leaned in quickly toward the screen.

“There it is,” cried Tom. “I’ll send this down to Bruce and we are good to go. Are you all set?”

“Darlin’, I haven’t been awake for thirty-six hours for nothing. Let’s do it.”

Tom and Lori both stood and looked at each other. Tom took a deep breath as a moment of clarity struck him. He started to sweat slightly and leaned on the desk as though he was about to pass out. 

“Whoa, you okay there, cowboy?” Lori came around to steady him. 

He leaned against his desk, hands clenching the edges, overwhelmed. “We’re not messing with Mother Nature, right?”

Lori took his hand and held it tight. Her nails were surprisingly short but well-manicured. Tom squeezed her hand, and its sheer warmth calmed him. It felt good to have someone who understood. He noticed her nails and was gratefully distracted. Looking at the hot pink, he said, “It always seemed incongruous that your nails are so short. For whatever reason, I’ve always expected long, dangerous, and bejeweled.”

She chuckled, “With as much time as I spend on a keyboard, I don’t have a choice. But if I did, I can’t tell you the wonders you would see on the ends of my fingers!”

They both laughed. A moment passed between them. He looked into her blue eyes, felt better, and then anxiety smacked him across the face. 

Tom said, “We can accomplish so much good if this works. I just want to be sure we’re not mixing the pasta and the antipasta.” 

“Kinda late to be asking that question, and it’s antipasto, but okay, no, we are not messing with Mother Nature. If we can accomplish this, then we have to see it through.”

Tom squeezed her hand again, now doubting every decision he’s made. “Is it really best to send a watermelon through first? I mean, is that the best choice?”

Lori chuckled. “Hell yeah! What could be better? Whatever we send has to be organic. We don’t want to use an animal, too messy with the activist groups. Using an orange would be cliché’. Watermelons have size and weight. I’d say it’s perfect, and if we succeed, we can throw a picnic and eat it afterward.” Lori indicates her stomach and traces a line down to her crotch, “Or we could play connect the dots with the seeds?”

The computer beeped behind them. Tom turned and looked at the screen. “Bruce has everything ready. Time to go.” Tom raced out into the outer office. Lori took an exasperated deep breath and followed. Jerzy turned to them as soon as the door opened. 

Tom smiled at him and said, “Want to see history in the making?”

Jerzy laughed, “You know I do!” He began to gather up his notepad and phone.

“Then let’s get moving. History waits for no man!” 

They all headed to the lab to attempt to send a watermelon through time.

 About the Author:

Thomas White began his career as an actor. Several years later he found himself as an Artistic Director for a theatre in Los Angeles and the winner of several Drama-Logue and Critics awards for directing. As Tom’s career grew, he directed and co-produced the world tour of “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Coming Out Of Their Shells”. The show toured for over two years, was translated into seven different languages and seen by close to a million children. Tom served as President and Creative Director for Maiden Lane Entertainment for 24 years and worked on many large-scale corporate event productions that included Harley Davidson, Microsoft, Medtronic Diabetes, and dozens of others. The Edison Enigma is Tom’s third novel following up Justice Rules which was nominated as a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association 2010 Literary contest, and The Siren’s Scream.

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