Posts tagged ‘Christian fiction’


GIVEAWAY NEWS: I was traveling back to Alaska from my mother’s memorial, and we had to spend the night in the Anchorage airport. Therefore I’m late in announcing that Trixi won the copy of Learning to Die by Amryn. Sorry, Trixi! Now back to your regularly scheduled flash fiction: 

This is week four–the last week–of my Flash Fiction Feature, introducing you to some of my awesome Christian writer friends. For the month of June, I challenged four of them to write a flash fiction piece for my blog…only I sent each of them the same photograph as inspiration. It has been fun to see how each one took the same photo and wrote such different stories!

Please welcome the fabulous Amanda Holland!!

Author Pic (1)

Amanda Holland is the author of three short stories and a 2014 ACFW First Impressions finalist for mystery/suspense. Her stories The Love She Never Had, Salt Water, and Coyote have appeared in Splickety magazine. She is currently polishing her first novel and preparing to send it to agents. Working mom by day, writer by night (and weekend and lunch break), Amanda was born and raised in south Arkansas and now lives in Texas with her husband of fifteen years, two boys, and a Yorkie. In her spare time, she runs, knits, and blogs at Grace In Our Moments


And here is the photo with which I challenged Amanda, and the other three writers.


By Amanda Holland

No escape. Mud sucked at her hiking boots as she slid to a stop. She stared up at her escape route, now covered in fog and mist, the mossy rocks too slick to climb. Well, she could scale the hill, but not fast enough to get away. Fear twisted her stomach into knots.

Voices echoed behind her. The cold, damp air muted the sounds. Impossible to tell how far back they were, but the very presence of the sounds assured her they were too close. Another glance up. The other sides of this cut were sheer walls. Her only options were to risk scaling the slippery rocks, or die here in the woods. Death might be her only way out, but she would die fighting.

“Can’t be far.” Clearer. Sharper. Time was almost up. Adrenaline pushed her to the mossy surface of the lowest rocks. Faster. The crescendoing thump of her heartbeat threatened to drown out the voices behind her.

“There’s a dead end ahead. We’ll get her there.” A shiver crawled over her. The distance and echoes warped the voice, but that sounded like—no. Sheer terror and her longing for the safety of home made her imagine things.

Why did she hike that trial? If she’d stayed with her plan, she wouldn’t have seen the body, and she wouldn’t be in this mess. A weekend on the hiking trials of her favorite state park usually erased her stress. With her husband’s “business trips” coming more and more frequently, her suspicions grew that something was wrong. She wanted a clear head when she confronted him and asked for the truth. Instead she’d stumbled across a horrible scene. She might never make it home to sort things out with him.

“Are we close?” Too close. Time’s up. Her muscles went weak. It was over. She’d be dead in minutes. Unless – a small opening, half hidden by moss and leaves, caught her eye just ahead. One more careful foothold pushed her to it. Her hands trembled as she pushed the moss aside to reveal a tiny cave formed by rocks and a fallen tree. Thank you. She breathed the silent prayer as she forced herself into the space, pulling the moss back over the opening.

“Where is she?”

The men came into full view below. Their backs were to her. That voice, the way he carried himself…no. It couldn’t be. They turned. As their faces came into view, she fought back a scream. Her husband gripped a rifle as he scanned the dead-end.

The other man circled the area. “How did she get away?”

“She knows these trails. Came here all the time as a kid. She must’ve cut back somewhere. C’mom, we’ll find her.”

The man she loved wasn’t having an affair—he was a monster, a killer. The sudden cold sweeping over her made her teeth chatter as the men retreated. Escaping this morning was just the beginning. She was going to be running for a long time.



Another fantastic author, right?

I encourage you to leave a comment below for a chance to win a handknit tea/coffee cozy from Amanda! What better to go with reading than tea and coffee, right? I’ll draw from all the commenters on Wednesday.



Blessings, Voni

Photo credit: Paul Baxter


This is week three of my Flash Fiction Feature, introducing you to some of my awesome Christian writer friends. For the month of June, I challenged four of them to write a flash fiction piece for my blog…only I sent each of them the same photograph as inspiration. It has been fun to see how each one took the same photo and wrote such different stories! Tune in each Saturday of June to check it out…and leave a comment for a chance at the weekly GIVEAWAY! I’m so excited.

Please welcome the fabulous Amryn Cross!!

Amryn Cross

Amryn Cross is a forensic scientist and author of romantic suspense novels. As a lover of college football, Shakespeare, superheroes, and traveling, she is drawn to complex characters who aren’t always what they seem. Her novels are character-driven stories of people who face down some of life’s darkest moments and learn to reconcile that darkness with God’s light. She refers to these as “between the shadow and the soul” moments. Amryn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and My Book Therapy.


And here is the photo with which I challenged Amryn, and the other three writers.

By Amryn Cross

What a beautiful place for a murder.

Detective Amelia Soren knew better than to voice that, of course, but it didn’t make it any less true. Then again, this particular killer, who she’d been one step behind for months, did have a flair for the dramatic.

The mist currently drying on her bare face and arms gave the slender branches and moss covered rocks an ethereal feel. Something nearly palpable hung in the air, surrounding her and the body nearly buried in the leaves behind her. Was it fear? No. Amelia had never had much use for that. Still, something held her back from her usual all-encompassing examination of the body. All her senses remained on high alert.

Maybe she shouldn’t have followed this lead alone. Such was the burden of being ahead of the curve. Her partner said she thought too much like the killers they were trying to catch, but that was exactly the point. He’d thought she was crazy for following hunches in the past, but now she had a body to show for it. Plunging her hand into her pocket, she pulled out her cell phone and groaned. No reception.

Well, that settled it. She’d have to take photos on her phone and try to protect any evidence from the elements until she could hike back out of the forest and call for back up.

With each step she took in a wide circle around the body, her feet sunk into the spongy ground. A sharp bite of wind prickled the hair on her arms and the back of her neck.

Amelia froze, though she wasn’t sure why. Instinct. She’d learned long ago not to second guess them. With another scan of the forest surrounding her, she noticed for the first time how much the bare branches resembled bony fingers stretching to the sky—from the grave, reaching for salvation. It was enough to make her shiver.

Behind her, a branch snapped, and she whirled, gun drawn and at ready.

“Who’s there?” She was surprised at how steady her voice sounded given that she felt anything but.

After a moment of stillness, a shadow stepped from behind a tree about ten yards from her.  She recognized the silhouette immediately, and nearly dropped her gun in surprise.

“Fancy meeting you here.”



See why I just had to introduce her to you?

I encourage you to leave a comment below for a chance to win an electronic copy of Amryn’s Learning to Die. I’ll draw from all the commenters on Wednesday.


Learning to Die


A ghost running for her life…
Emily Fox died ten years ago, but she’s not dead enough for Endriago—head of the Colombian drug cartel who murdered her brother while she looked on.
A past she can’t escape…
Now living in Miami as criminalist Kate James and under the protection of the U.S. Marshals, Emily is explosively reunited with her past, propelling her headlong into a web of corruption.
A man who threatens everything…
Two men stand in her way—one threatens her heart, the other her life. Both underestimate her. Because in the race to solve her brother’s murder, she has nothing left to lose.


Check out Amryn’s other books on Amazon, too, or connect with her here: 

And, of course…Tune in next Saturday. Amanda Holland was the next writer to accept my challenge and write a story inspired by the same photo. Another giveaway, too!!

Blessings, Voni

Photo credit: Paul Baxter

Book review: Nerve by Bethany Macmanus

The creators of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew have nothing on Bethany Macmanus. Her novel, Nerve, is a breathtaking roller coaster of a dream ride.

You’ll find yourself on the sultry hot streets of Fort Lauderdale, in secret science labs, a small house created in a van, a concrete bunker…

No one, but no one does setting like Bethany Macnanus.

Like I said: It’s a wild ride as Wren Masterson hunts for her father’s scientific invention, perhaps his killer, but no spoilers here.

A former nurse, Macmanus has both the writing chops and the medical knowledge to pull this novel off, and her faith is woven through the story in an organic, unpreachy way.

My favorite element of Nerve (besides setting): Wren’s abiding love for her father. Wren’s artistic streak. The sea turtle scene. Okay, I should have said, elements, plural.

My least favorite element: The plethora of characters in the climax, but that didn’t take away from the book at all.

Not to read this book for yourself is to sit at the amusement park and watch other people ride.

Here is the Amazon link for you to check it out!

Tomorrow, tune in for some flash fiction by ME! And or the winner of Kelli Hughett’s Red Zone. Comment on my Saturday blog featuring Kelli’s flash fiction in order to put your name in for the drawing.

Blessings, Voni


Today begins my new Flash Fiction Feature! I know some awesome Christian writers whom I’d like to introduce to you. For the month of June, I challenged four of them to write a flash fiction piece for my blog…only I sent each of them the same photograph as inspiration. It has been fun to see how each one took the same photo and wrote such different stories! Tune in each Saturday of June to check it out…and leave a comment for a chance at the weekly GIVEAWAY! I’m so excited.

First up is the awesome Heather Gilbert!

Heather Gilbert

Heather Day Gilbert writes character-driven novels that go beyond the vows, capturing the triumphs and heartaches unique to married couples. A graduate of Bob Jones University, she’s been married to her sweet Yankee husband for eighteen years. After eleven years of homeschooling and eight years of writing, she really doesn’t have many hobbies. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, she believes that bittersweet, generational stories are in her blood.


And here is the photo with which I challenged her, and the other three writers.


By Heather Day Gilbert

How many times had she come here over the past few months, trying to remember the specific timbre of his deep voice? To recall the roughness of his calloused hands, as they clasped hers? No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t summon the sounds and images to her mind’s eye.

The oversized rocks lay strangely juxtaposed, as if some giant had tossed them like dice down the hill. A heavy coating of moss confirmed that the sun rarely kissed this side of the forest. For so many years, this had been a flowerless secret garden for them, a haven that enabled them to articulate the dreams they hadn’t realized they had.

Now the rocks did not comfort her as before, but reflected the harshness of the scattered barren trees. Gently resting her head on the thick moss, she allowed her gaze to trail upward. The white sky seemed blank and closed, just like heaven had felt for her lately. No spark of love, no answers to her questions.

An anger that had tormented her began to rise like bile in her throat. This deep in the woods, she could give voice to the injustice, shout at the deaf heavens. Her scream filled the air.

“Why, God!? Why him? You should have taken me, not my husband!”

In those early days, when the news sank in that he’d been killed on assignment, she was sure God would step in visibly to comfort her. Whisper in her ear at night, maybe show her an angel…anything. Possibly she was waiting for a Lazarus-style miracle in which someone would tell her it was all a mistake, that it wasn’t his flag-draped coffin that had shipped over.

All she needed was assurance that God understood the grief she couldn’t even put into words.

Yet days went by with no sign. Casseroles and flowers flooded in, accompanied by sad looks of friends and family. No one knew what to say.

That’s when she began to return to the rocky enclave, hoping God would stoop to meet her there and kindly explain why this had to happen.

But each time, she was met with the resounding silence of nature. Not one rabbit or squirrel interrupted her earnest, yet fruitless, quest.

Today would be the last day, she had decided. Her one last attempt to break through the opaque curtain that God had drawn around Himself. Yet even as her scream died, nothing changed.


Until one still-green leaf fluttered onto her chest and landed on her heart. The leaf itself was heart-shaped. They used to lie here, marveling at the extensive shade that very catalpa tree could provide in the heat of summer.

As she clutched the leaf, deflected sunlight broke the cloud cover and shafted directly onto her. Some would say this was a coincidence. But she knew what it was.

Her refreshed soul sang the words of truth. “He has always loved you, and He always will.”



See what I mean? Awesome, right?

I encourage you to leave a comment below for a chance to win an electronic copy of Heather’s latest book Trial By Twelve. I’ll draw from all the commenters on Wednesday. 

Trial by Twelve


Tess Spencer loves her low-key job at the Crystal Mountain Spa, which allows her plenty of down-time with her one-year old daughter and lawyer husband, Thomas. But when a pool installation turns up eight skeletons in the spa’s back yard, Tess becomes entangled in a sleuthing job destined to go awry.

As the investigation gets underway, someone dumps a fresh body near the excavated burial site, confirming unspeakable fears. A serial killer has returned to Buckneck, West Virginia…a skilled hunter with a unique taste in prey.

When Tess agrees to help the cunning Detective Tucker gather clues from the inside, she discovers the posh spa hides more than dead bodies. Even as she sifts through layers of deceit, Tess realizes too late that the killer’s sights have zeroed in on her.

Unpredictable psychological mystery replete with memorable characters, Trial by Twelve is Book Two in A Murder in the Mountains series.

This novel is written from a Christian worldview.

Check out Heather’s other books on Amazon, too.

And, of course…Tune in next Saturday. Kelli Hughett was the next author to accept my challenge and write a story inspired by the same photo. Another giveaway, too!!

Blessings, Voni

Photo credit: Paul Baxter

Flash Fiction Friday: That’s All It Took?

Balloon ride


Flash Fiction by Voni Harris

He was nervous.

That’s why he slopped the dollop of mustard down the front of his shirt. Went perfectly with the already stinking baby spit-up from his last client’s baby.

He’d shouldn’t have stopped at the sidewalk vendor on his way out to his car, even if it was destined to be a late dinner. Now there was no time to change before he met her.

Fortunately, there was an extra shirt in his car.

Unfortunately, it was his yellow shirt with large dots of many shades of green. Perfect for alumni events, with jeans. Not so perfect with his blue pin-striped suit pants.

Better than smelly baby spit-up and a mustard blotch. He quickly switched shirts at the side of the road. Glancing at his watch, he saw he was cutting it close, and he needed to impress tonight. She was looking for romance tonight; she’d made that clear.

He pulled up outside her office. She gave his clothes a quizzical look through the window, then waved and came lightly running out to the car with a smile, full skirt flowing behind her. He got out and walked around to open the door for her…

…just in time to knock her off the curb and send her rolling onto the lawn.

“Are you okay?” he asked, reaching to help her up.

She dusted the grass off her backside.

“Perfectly fine,” she answered, then frowned. “However, my shoe is not.” She held it up for his inspection. The heel of the left shoe was rolling in the gutter.

“Sorry about that,” he mumbled, embarrassed.

“That’s okay.” She opened her voluminous purse and pulled out a pair of flats. “I came prepared.” She slid onto the car seat and slipped on the flats, tossing the heels in the back seat.

Great. Just great. This date was supposed to knock her socks off, not break her shoes!

He closed her door for her, then walked around and started the car. She teased about his clothes, chattered about her day, and there had never been a faster 45-minute drive. With her in the car, even the pot holes after they turned onto the dirt road didn’t annoy him.

This was a woman he intended to impress and keep impressed.


They pulled up in front of a barn and parked. She took one look at the sign and squealed. “A hot-air balloon ride? Seriously? I can’t wait.”


She dug a ponytail holder from the depths of her purse and pulled her hair back to combat the wind while he walked around the car and opened the door for her.

The balloonist came walking over. The man rocked back and forth on his heels as he greeted them. “Sorry to give you bad news. I was hoping this wind was going to die down by the time you got here, but it increased instead. It’s too heavy for us to go up tonight. We’ll have to reschedule.”

He looked up to see her face fall, and his stomach fell to his feet.

“I’m sorry.” he told her, grinding his toe into the dirt.

“Not your fault.” She deliberately put a smile on her face. “Nor yours,” she told the balloonist, who smiled back in relief.

She turned to look at him. “Now what?” she asked.

He hoped she didn’t just write off the whole date. “We could go on to the restaurant. I was a little worried we wouldn’t make our reservation, anyway, and it’s quite a drive.”

“Let’s do it!” They waved to the balloonist as he drove away and slid into their seats.

That’s when the car refused to start. It wouldn’t even turn over. He got out, muttering a prayer, and looked under the hood. He saw the problem and hooked the loose wire back up.

The car still wouldn’t start.

He got out of the car again. That is when he noticed the pool of liquid under the gas tank; one of the pot holes must have caused the obvious hole in the tank.

At least they came across a field of wild flowers as they walked around, waiting on the tow truck. A girl seeking romance had to have flowers, right? He picked her a mess of them and hoped she’d not notice that he’d forgotten to order a bouquet for the night.

Sitting between him and the tow truck driver on their way back into town, she rubbed her arm where she’d been stung by the bee he’d unwittingly picked along with the flowers. Loud and twangy country music on the radio kept them from any conversation, but she did he reach over and take his hand.

They left the car at a repair shop near the restaurant and walked down the street, still holding hands.

That’s when they were deluged by the storm the wind had been blowing in. They took off jogging and pushed into the restaurant soaking wet.

The maitre d’ inside looked them up and down and gave a self-satisfied smile as he tapped his notebook. They’d missed their reservation time after all.

They ran to the restaurant next door. The wait was over ninety minutes. She tapped his arm, “It’s getting late at this point. McDonald’s is across the street.”


McDonald’s. I am such a clod.

But he couldn’t take her home hungry after all he put her through. He sighed in agreement, and they ran through the rain once more.

McDonald’s. So this is where our perfect date ends up.

Fifteen minutes later, she took a huge bite of her burger as she ran her fries through a pile of ketchup.

She threw her head back in laughter. “This has been the most perfect date night!”

His jaw dropped.

“I love being married to you,” she said, her sky-blue eyes sparkling.

With no idea what to say, he just grabbed her hand. And held on.


The end





Flash Fiction Friday: The Valentine’s Mistake


“Will you be my Valentine?”

His hand paused above the send button on the text message he’d just typed; it was shaking, if you looked hard enough to notice.

He looked around his office. Empty. Through the open door he could see several people gathered at the water cooler, but no one was watching.

He clicked send, then tossed his phone on the desk.

Quickly turning to his computer, he got back to work, putting out of his mind the consequences of what he had just done.

Two minutes later, the phone buzzed, alerting him that a text had come in.

The consequences.

His whole body felt like a giant exclamation point. He shook it off.

I’ll check it later. I’ve got work.

And he did work.

For about forty-seven seconds.

Could be that text I’m expecting from Mr. Houghton over at Houghton Associates.

Unable to ignore the firm’s biggest client, he pushed his chair away from the computer and picked up his phone.

It was from his wife. What does Sheila want to nag me about now?

Suddenly, his body went on high alert.


But how could she possibly…

He rotated his shoulders to relieve the sudden tension. Might as well get it over with.

He clicked through to her text.

“Yes! Of course I’ll be your Valentine, Samuel! You’ve been sooo distracted lately, but then I know how your job can get when you’re closing a big deal. How about we go to Italiano’s for supper? I’ll call Debbie to babysit. She could keep the kids at her house for the night.”

Frowning, he pulled up his original text.

Yup. He’d sent it to Sheila.

He’d meant to send it to Allison. Kind of an icebreaker for the obvious attraction between them.

He returned to Sheila’s message and was surprised to find himself smiling. She’d always insisted on calling him Samuel and not Sam. With the smile, a thought dawned on him.

He grabbed his phone before the idea could leave and began tapping keys.

“Call Debbie, but instead of Italiano’s I think we’ll go through the driveway at McDonald’s and eat in the car at the harbor and watch the ships come in. I love you, Sheila.”

He found himself blushing at the remembrance of taking her to the harbor for the first time on their first date. McDonald’s included. He’d been embarrassed at his lack of funds.

But they’d stayed there in the car, talking, until 2 AM.

Scrolling to Allison’s name on the contacts list, Sam quickly punched “delete contact.”

He’d have to find a different spin class.

He wasn’t going to make this mistake again.


The End



P.S. My Barometer Mountain 52-week Photo Challenge will be posted on Monday. Unless I post it on Tuesday like I did the last two weeks. 🙂 At any rate, please check it out! No guarantees, but there may be sunshine in this picture.

Flash Fiction Friday: Rory’s Story Cubes, Week 3


The shadows grew like monsters behind the little boy as Jeremy took his hand. They went deeper into the alley, ducking under the clothesline where the boy had been playing.

Jeremy wanted to ask, where’d you get that tattoo on your hand, but thought it better to ask, “What’s your name?

The boy looked at him oddly. “My mama has your cell phone.”

Great. The cell phone with my passwords and bank account apps, and my credit card info. “Where’d you get that tattoo on your hand?” Jeremy asked.

The boy shrugged. “Where’d you get yours?”

“I don’t have one.”

The boy looked at him oddly. This time, Jeremy gazed back at him. Just in time to walk into a spider web. He brushed it from his face quickly with a fling of his hand.

Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole! Nevertheless, he decided to try the conversation again. “How much further?”

“Not much.” The boy made it sound like Jeremy should know how much distance was left.

Sighing, Jeremy made one last attempt. “How old are you?”

The boy looked at him oddly. “Here we are.” He took a sudden left and brought Jeremy up some crumbly concrete steps into a brick house with blue trim standing on the corner of the alley and the main drag toward which they’d been headed.

They stood in a run-down, but clean, living room, with the only light coming from a naked bulb overhead. The TV, or was it a radio, spoke softly from the next room.

“Mom! We’re here! The man stirred.”

The radio came off, and out came a woman, drying her hands on an apron as she entered the room. It was the woman with the parachute. And the Box-L tattoo.

“But, Mom,” the boy continued, “he didn’t know how old I was.”

She cocked her head in mild confusion. “He’s six,” she informed him.

Jeremy opened his mouth to make introductions, and the woman did too, but they didn’t get a chance.

“Mom, the man didn’t even know my name.”

How could I? I’ve never seen you before!

The woman looked at Jeremy oddly. Runs in the family. He rolled his eyes.

“His name is Ari.”

“Short for Antares,” the boy piped up. “You know, the star? In the Scorpio constellation? The Breast of the Scorpion?”

Jeremy opened his mouth to politely compliment the name, but the boy wasn’t finished talking.

“Mom, he said he doesn’t have a tattoo!”

“What? He doesn’t?” The woman’s ears turned red, and she pursed her lips.

Jeremy recognized the dare in her eyes from the rooftop parachute jump and didn’t dare move. Ari ran into the other room and returned a few seconds later with a flashlight that burned blue with some sort of black light.

“Show me your palm,” Parachute Woman demanded. She held out her hand like a mother checking her child’s hand cleanliness before a meal.

I am a grown man! “What are …”

“I said, show me your palm.”

Tune in next week for more! And check out the Rory’s Story Cube app on your phone. What fun! You’re welcome to share your own results in my comments section.