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I love mysteries. When I was a child, I read every Erle Stanley Gardner “Perry Mason,” and “Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine” I could find.

Recently I purchased a kindle book with an intriguing title, only to be disappointed that it wasn’t a mystery. I finished reading it and left a review for the author, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoy mysteries.

So much of life is mysterious, especially in our human relationship with God. I’ve often asked God, “How do you do it? How do you give me ideas for books and help me write them?” Some might mistakenly claim that I labor under false humility. I don’t. God writes; I type. I have 19 published books.

My hope is that readers will enjoy “The Fog Busters—Old Bones Detectives.” Alec is nearly blind, John and Peg are nearly deaf, Morag is on a crutch, and the two youngest members of the amateur detective agency—Rory and Susan—are 60. The clean-reading, Christian cozy mystery is intended to entertain older readers, but the gentle humor should entertain readers of any age.

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When the Lord gave me the idea for the new mystery series two years ago, I made excuses for not writing them. I told God that I couldn’t write older Scottish characters because, having grown up in Texas, I wouldn’t understand Scottish-born people well enough to write convincingly. When I quit making excuses and started writing, the Lord took over.

“Black Pudding Murder” will be released soon. It’s been fun to write, but the real mystery isn’t in the book…it’s in how the Lord got involved to make it happen.

Jesus told His disciples, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God.”  I guess even God is into mysteries.


Things I Love, Things I Hate

I hate cold, I hate winter, I hate snow – I hate Santa. That sounds more like an opening line for “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” than my usual upbeat, positive blog, yet all these statements are true.

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I hate snow because it’s cold and I hate cold and being cold. Probably dates back to childhood, surviving in sub-standard houses, some of which had no heat. Then cutting and gathering firewood in the ice and snow with no gloves or warm outer garments. As for Santa, he gets bashed because if you teach children Santa brings them gifts and then they learn it’s not true, will they believe in God?

Thanks to all of you who read my blogs. I love and am thankful for each one of you. And I’ll forget about stacking icy firewood with raw bleeding hands and take a positive turn.  I’ve just released a new mystery-romance-suspense book, “I’m the Grasshopper.” Releasing a new book always raises my cheerful volume, even in the cold, cold winter.

Newspaper staff writer Stacy Estes has never forgotten the fate of her childhood pet – a grasshopper – when it encountered a spider. Her failed romances make her view herself as the grasshopper and men as spiders. She. Is. Done. With. Romance.

Stacy is a runner and hider. Until she trips over a body at her grandmother’s house and goes from reporting the news to being the news. Stacy fights to keep her secrets intact, including her physical disability, especially from the first love of her life who has moved back to the community. Lost treasure? Gold mining in Texas? Flying saucers on her grandmother’s hill? And what about the men who go into the Comanche Cliff store – but never come out again? Mysteries entangle and endanger Stacy. When a local poacher is jailed for murder, Stay’s life unravels.

Her investigation into the murder victim on her grandmother’s property takes her to the strange world of boanthropy, where people believe they are cows. It sends her into a confrontation with satanic worshiper “Snake.” And she is slated for the next sacrifice.

“I’m the Grasshopper” is a great Christmas read, clean enough that the kids or Grandma can pick it up and read it, yet packed with excitement, adventure, mystery and love. Stacy has a physical disability, but does that make her a “cripple,” as a heartless co-worker labels her?

To give credit where it belongs, the Bible promises in Romans 8:28 that “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord.” Being in extreme pain and on crutches for months gave me the idea for the story and characters. God is always faithful to His word. I’ve since had successful spinal surgery, so it will be a very Merry Christmas for me.

To all of you reading this blog, have a Very Merry Christmas and a Deeply Blessed New Year. Thanks for being there! God bless.

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History, Mystery, Endurance

When I found a branch of a wild rose growing through a stone wall it made me ponder the history and mystery of endurance. I had just left the Groam House Museum in Rosemarkie, Scotland, which contains Pictish carved stones dating back to the 6th century AD after the Picts converted to Christianity.

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The Picts are mysterious, thought by some to have been fierce warriors who painted or tattooed themselves. After carving beautiful, intricate patterns and designs that included Christian crosses, the Picts simply disappeared from history in the 9th century, leaving behind place names like Pitlochry, Pittenweem, and Pitsligo, and enigmatic standing stones which—lacking a written Pict language—have never been interpreted.

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The recently discovered Pictish monastery in Portmahomack proves that at least some of the Picts were educated and capable of great art and architecture. Amazingly, the monastery, which housed 150 monks and workers, was built to the proportions of “The Golden Section,” or “Divine Proportion.” This 1.618 to one ration of dimension is found in spiral seashells and was used to construct the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the Acropolis in Athens, and the Egyptian Pyramids. Along with the single-line carvings of wolves, salmon, and eagles, a piece of broken stone was found at Portmahomack with the Latin inscription: “This is the cross of Christ in…”

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Scotland thrives on history and mystery. As enduring as the rose growing through the rock wall are the Highland Travellers, also called Gypsy/Travellers. Descendants of ancient Roma, they date back to the 12th Century and up until the 1950s, Travellers continued to traverse the Highlands in their brightly painted horse-pulled carts, supporting themselves with metal working and seasonal labor. Plastic replaced tin, motorized vehicles replaced horses, and the Travellers gave up Gaelic as their first language, replaced horses with motor homes and travel trailers, and learned new trades. Their nomadic way of life is a part of their ethnic and cultural identity. Unlike the Picts, they have not vanished into the pages of history—but their numbers continue to decline.

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In his book “Highland Folk Tales,” Bob Pegg credits Travellers for keeping Scotland’s rich resource of folklore alive. Alec Williamson was born to Gaelic-speaking parents and knew only three English words when he started school. He and his parents traveled through Ross-shire—where the Groam House Museum stands—by horse and cart and lived in tents. His father taught the art of storytelling to Alec.

One of Alec’s stories involves Roddy from the “wee glen” of Glutan who left his wife and family to go to America. He never returned, never wrote, never sent money. The eldest son went looking for his dad. Passing a bar, he heard a familiar Gaelic song. Thus, he found his father and sent him home by ship. The father never strayed from home again.

Then there was a young man who went to Aonghas Donn (Gaelic, Brown-haired Angus) for a horse. He walked through the hills looking for the horse, and was approached by what he thought was a stray dog. The dog caught him by the arm. His only weapon was a wee penknife. He sunk the knife into the dog’s neck and twisted it until the dog let go of his arm, sank down to the ground, and died. His arm was so badly mangled that he couldn’t catch the horse. He used his shirt for a sling and went back home to tell everyone about the tiger-striped dog that had attacked him. He continued telling the story years later because, as he explained, “I’d never seen a dog that color before—tiger striped. You’d be surprised at what you might see or meet in the hills even yet.”

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History, mystery, endurance. The rose in the wall brings me back to Picts. As a Christian, it’s comforting to know that Christianity was so strong in the Black Isle of Scotland as far back as the 6th century that Picts carved their faith in stones. We still carve our faith today. Stones not needed. We carve the same message of God’s love in our hearts.

What Puzzles a Monkey?

Stately Chilean Pines hide away in the Scottish Highlands not far from where we live. They are also called “Monkey Puzzle Trees.”

Monkey Puzzle Trees were brought to the UK as ornamental trees in 1850. Seeing one of the intriguing trees for the first time, a person purportedly said, “It would puzzle a monkey to climb that.”

With twisted, interlocking branches and broad, sharp needles, it might indeed prove difficult and puzzling to climb one of the trees.

Monkey Puzzle trees mainly serve as distinctive focal points for gardens. They have edible seeds, but it takes up to 40 years for the trees to produce seeds. While they are labeled “hardy,” Chilean pines can not tolerate exposure to pollution.

Monkey Trees share parallels with Christian life. Consider a popular cliché, “God works in mysterious ways.” When bad things happen in the world and when bad things happen to good people, even Christians are puzzled. We are often asked by a disbelieving world to elucidate the inexplicable. Jesus told his disciples, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God.” (Mark 4:11) That mystery, according to 1 Timothy 3:16, is “the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among unbelievers, Believed on in the world, Received up to glory.”

While we understand that Jesus left Heaven and lived on this earth as both man and God so He could die for our sins and be raised from the dead victorious over sin and death, it still puzzles us when bad things happen to good people. Perhaps the best answer is found in a poem written by an anonymous author:

Not until the loom is silent

And the shuttles cease to fly

Will God unroll the pattern

And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful

In the Master’s skilled hand

As the gold and silver

In the pattern which He planned.

Without pain and sorrow, would we appreciate joy? Without hardship, would we enjoy comfort and success? Without the shadow of death casting itself over our lives, would we live each day to the fullest? Would a lack of opposites turn us into apathetical, ungrateful people? That’s a puzzle. God holds the connecting pieces.

Like Monkey Puzzle trees, Christians should produce seeds in our lives: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Just as it takes years for Monkey Puzzle trees to produce seeds, it takes time for believers to produce Christian fruit.

Like Monkey Puzzle trees, we should be hardy. We are instructed to “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (2 Timothy 2:3)

Finally, we should be as sensitive to soul pollution as a Monkey Puzzle Tree is to environmental pollution. We must guard what we see and hear. Philippians 4:7 instructs, “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”

A Monkey Puzzle tree might puzzle a climbing monkey, but as Christians – we should not allow unforeseen and unexpected tragedies and trials to puzzle us. We may not be wise enough to know the answers to all lives puzzles, but we know Jesus. He holds the connecting pieces.


Twisted Perfection

Bandera, Texas, “Cowboy Capital of the World,” used to be called the place where misfits fit. It still is (as Three Prongs) in the Christian mystery-romance-suspense book Bridge to Nowhere, published by Sunpenny.

Ross was a deaf mute. He rode his tractor up to the main road and caught a ride into town, visiting with friends at the coffee shop. He talked with his hands and everyone understood him.

Harold Jenkins was so twisted and gnarled from birth that he frightened children. His hands were like claws and his arms were bent and deformed. His face looked like it had been trampled on and then half-eaten by a wild hog. He had a heart of love that made him beautiful. He loved Jesus and told everyone. He was a volunteer ambulance driver and firefighter.

Occasional unkind remarks claimed that Gerald wasn’t much smarter than a mop. But even those who questioned his mental capacity lauded him as honest and hardworking. He rode his bicycle into town each day and waited until someone hired him for the day. He was always positive and never complained, even when he was dying of cancer.

Lou Colburn was long labeled a “hopeless alcoholic.” Then he got saved and exchanged the bottle for Jesus. He led trail rides, entertained guests at a local dude ranch and eagerly shared his salvation experience. Lou had TEXAS written in gold across his teeth.

Three sisters. I’m the author of Bridge to Nowhere, Love’s Beating Heart, Heart Shadows, Shadow Chase and Until the Shadows Flee. I’m blessed to be married to author Alan McKean, author of time travel adventures The Scent of Time and The Scent of Home. I am also blessed to have an extraordinary son, Luke, in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Leslie P. Garcia is the author of Unattainable. She has four lovely, talented children – all teachers and coaches – and nine great, lovely and talented grandchildren.

Vicky Potter is a talented editor and animal trainer. Her dogs visit in nursing homes and children’s homes, bringing joy to the housebound. Her dog Lucius is a star now in the musical Annie.

Abortion advocates believe that children in the mother’s womb who might experience physical or mental problems should be killed. Scientists are taking two or three human eggs, removing genetic imperfections, and putting the eggs together to create perfect babies. Had they tested us three sisters in our mother’s womb, we might never have been born. All three of us inherited a genetic weakness in math.

And how much poorer the memories of Bandera without its “misfits” – who fit?

Today I was feeling honored and blessed by God for having been allowed to write the pro-life teen & up action, adventure, romance Love’s Beating Heart. I was thinking about a world in which only perfect people were allowed to live. (Yup. I’d be out!) Without the Harold Jenkins of the world, how would we learn that true beauty is on the inside, not outside? How would we learn to look past the face and see into the heart?

Without a Ross, how would we learn to really listen, even without words?

Without a Lou Colburn, life would be boring.

Without a Gerald, how would we learn that God creates gifts and places them inside each individual and a person doesn’t have to graduate at the top of the class to be a success.

Without people who are allowed to live in spite of their imperfections, would we learn kindness? Would we learn to be thankful for our own strengths? Would we have the chance to be a blessing to others by helping someone less fortunate than us? Every life is precious. Every life is a gift from God. A world of perfect people would be horrible and twisted…and incredibly sad and empty place.