When the Bridge Breaks

To celebrate the release of “Bridge to Xanadu” in paperback, I’m offering a glimpse into the third Texas Miz Mike Christian mystery-romance-suspense. The backdrop is imaginary Three Prongs, Texas, not unlike the real Bandera, Texas, “Cowboy Capital of the World.”

Mystery writer Michal Allison Rice follows a porcupine in an attempt to get a picture for the local newspaper. The porcupine climbs into a dumpster. When Miz Mike peeks inside to get a shot of the critter—being Miz Mike—she finds a murder victim. She is convinced that the man she saw in a local restaurant with a child is both killer and kidnapper. But since no one believes her wild accusation—she must prove it herself.

“Bridge to Xanadu” is dedicated to Native Americans. Chief Alan Bitterroot is an unforgettable hero:

The chief himself came to meet me. He was impressive; tall, and bare-chested, with beaded necklaces around his neck and fringed beige pants traveling down the length of his long, straight legs. His skin glowed a healthy brown, and even though tufts of grey infringed on the long, wavy mass of reddish-brown hair, his face looked eternally young. I looked into the verdure depths of his eyes and fell in love—with the eyes—not with the man I had only just met. Now was an unfortunate time to remember that I had not engineered an excuse for my intrusion. His hand clamped around mine and I couldn’t have spoken anyway.

As always, Miz Mike’s talent for minding her own business throws her into the path of danger:

Later, I remembered the sudden increased tempo of footsteps and the rush of movement behind me. But then, standing at the edge of the world alone, I received scant warning before a rodeo bull-like kick to my back sent me sailing momentarily against blue sky and clouds. Then the sky fell out from under me and I tumbled over rocks and through prickly pear cactus in an endless terror-filled plunge down the mountain.

No challenge is greater than Miz Mike’s determination to meet and defeat it:

It was pure insanity. I dropped Matilda’s leash, hoping that the borrowed dog would follow me. Like a football player going in for the tackle, I tore across the uneven ground, grabbed the child, flung her over my shoulder, and ran.

Cowboy hero Marty (who would be any woman’s hero) can’t believe he has lost Mike’s love:

“I don’t know, Marty. It was a magical, amazing world. I had never walked there before. I got lost. Now I can’t find my way back. It’s like there was this bridge there…Bridge to Xanadu, in my mind. The bridge washed out. It left me stranded.”

The killer-kidnapper catches up with Miz Mike:

Something with all the solidity of a metal stick thumped my ribs from the back and a voice that instantly turned my insides to ice growled, “Don’t turn around writer-lady. Just back up and get into my car, just like you planned on taking a little trip with a good friend. Cause we’re gonna be really good friends…until I get tired of you.” He laughed uproariously, but no joy bounded up and down the notes of his laughter. Instead, the smell of death spilled out of his mouth. He planned to kill me and I had stupidly walked into his trap.

http://www.amazon.com/Bridge-Xanadu-Stephanie-Parker-McKean/dp/1530764483/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=old bridge

Seeing the Wind

For some reason, people like believing impossibilities. For example, they say, “You can’t see the wind. It’s invisible. No one can see the wind.”

I can. I learned to see the wind from my seven-year-old son. We were living in the Nevada desert helping friends run a small gold mine. Luke kept insisting that he could see the wind and I kept parroting the impossibility. “Luke, you can’t see the wind. It’s invisible. No one can see the wind.”

Luke led me through the sagebrush to a vantage point that gave us a clear view over 40 miles of desert and described what he was seeing. Then I saw it too; the dips, swirls, circles and waves of wind playing tag with mountains and sky. It’s a gift from my son that I treasure.

Luke was told he couldn’t climb scrubby cedar trees in the Texas Hill Country because the branches would snap. Yet when we saved a baby possum, Luke climbed upside down in the cedar trees, going from tree to tree without touching the ground, teaching the baby to climb. Not a single limb broke.

When we moved back to the desert, Luke invented “wind surfing.” He tied ropes to the corners of a huge black tarp and let the wind skate him along the ground. One day a sudden gust picked Luke up off the ground, flew him into the window of the house next door, then whisked him into the plowed field behind.

Luke was told, “People can’t fly.” But he did, and with lasting benefits. The alcoholic next door was sitting at the table drinking when Luke flew past the window. The man gave up drinking. “I knew I had to,” he told us, “the day I saw a boy fly past my window.” Somehow…we kept a straight face and never explained about the flying boy!

Luke never believed impossibilities. He was told, “Your ears were damaged by severe ear infections. You can’t do music.” So he learned to play the trumpet and the piano.

Luke was told, “You can’t learn to fly an airplane. Your math isn’t good enough. You’ll never pass ground school.” He learned to fly a plane and flew from North Carolina to California. Then he bought his own plane.

Luke was told, “The Marine Corps will never accept you. You won’t pass the physical. You have scoliosis. You need a metal rod in your back.” Luke prayed and Jesus healed him. He was 37 and just short of retiring from the Marine Corps as a Major when his plane crashed.

My mystery-romance-suspense “Bridge Beyond Betrayal” is dedicated to Luke and includes the prophetic poem he wrote a year before his death. Not only is Texas Miz Mike’s son Ron loosely patterned after Luke (who always gave sound advice and was almost always right—even as a child), but Luke was a constant inspiration in negating impossibilities. Texas Miz Mike learned from his example!

When Miz Mike spots a dead body in the back of a pickup truck, no one believes her. She is told that people don’t tote corpses in the back of their trucks. When she identifies the dead man, no one believes her. His business partners insist he is alive. When energetic Doc is arrested for murder and the town celebrates, no one believes Mike that Doc is innocent. Mike must thrust aside her own dislike of Doc and prove that he is innocent.

Not even romance is safe from impossibilities. Mike and her cowboy hero are just about to get hitched when Doc teaches Mike to dowse for bones. Believing it is witchcraft, Marty is scandalized and breaks off their engagement.

When Mike gets locked in an office building with a nefarious night watchman, it is artist Frank—not Marty—who rescues her. That’s when Texas Miz Mike faces the greatest impossibility of all—choosing between two suitors…if she gets out of being arrested and survives the killer who is determined to make her disappear forever.

http://www.amazon.com/Bridge-Beyond-Betrayal-Mike-Book-ebook/dp/B00NP3RVB0/ref=sr_1_2_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411134397&sr=1-2&keywords=bridge+beyond+betrayal+stephanie+parker+mckean

Luke_Raven

Texas-Tall Valentine

A Texas Hill Country rancher erected a 101-foot tall metal cross on the highest hill on his ranch in 2008, near Pipe Creek Texas.

The rancher called it his Valentine Card to God. He explained that Jesus had done so much for him that he wanted to do something big for Jesus.

The rancher won accolades from some for the impressive structure which can be seen for miles. He was also slammed with criticism. Some complained that the rancher should have used the money spent erecting the cross to feed the poor. Some said they resented being subjected to the symbol of his faith on their drive through the hill country.

Jesus faced the same sort of hostility and criticism. When Jesus ordered the demons out of a naked man who lived at the tombs, townspeople ordered Jesus out of town. When Jesus told the woman at the well how she could receive Living Water, people complained that Jesus did not know about the woman’s depleted moral standards. When Jesus visited with the lowest echelon of people, He was accused of eating and drinking with sinners. When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, it sealed His death warrant.

The Song of Solomon says that “Jealousy is as cruel as the grave.” (8:6) Even so, it was love, not jealousy and hatred that sent Jesus to the cross.

“For God, the greatest being, So Loved, the greatest love, The World, the greatest creation, That He Gave, the greatest act, His One and Only Son, the greatest gift, That Whosoever, the greatest invitation, Believes In Him, the greatest promise, Should Not Perish, the greatest salvation, But Have Everlasting Life, the greatest assurance.” John 3:16.

I love Valentine’s Day. I love giving cards and eating chocolate. I love celebrating love. Being a writer of romantic suspense books, celebrating the gift of love motivates me. I’ve written a young adult pro-life adventure book, “Love’s Beating Heart.” I’ve written “Killer Conversations” about a serial killer, a book that probes our tendency to pass judgment on others and questions, “Do serial killers go to Heaven?” I’ve written five quirky Texas Miz Mike mystery-romance-suspense books in the “Bridge” series. But I can never write any love story as strong, noble and true as Jesus wrote when He died on the cross because of love.

http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

cross on hill

Year Without Fear

As we journey through 2016, it’s a good resolve to live the New Year without fear. There are 365 “fear not”s in the Bible, one for every day of the year.

When I arrived in Scotland from Texas four years ago I was told “Don’t talk about your Christian faith openly because UK folk are reserved and expect others to act with the same restraint. Advice I ignored.

Four years later I have told countless people, “God bless.” I have stopped to pray with complete strangers. I have exclaimed repeatedly, “Praise Jesus! A beautiful day!” I’ve suffered only two verbal rebukes, one from a woman who said she wished I hadn’t asked God to bless her, and one from a person who informed me, “We don’t want any of your American Fundamentalism over here.”

Had I blindly accepted the advice to keep quiet, I would have missed both blessings and opportunities to share God’s blessings with others. God has provided occasions to pray with others for healing; the healing of pets, recovery from alcoholism, rescue from depression, mending after the loss of a loved one.

Fearing what people might say or think above what God had directed would have robbed the past four years of meaning and blessing.

There are other ways to walk in God’s love. The Christian walk is a designer walk. Tell the maintenance person he or she is doing a good job. Thank the post person. Thank the folks who come to pick up the garbage. Compliment a person on his or her parenting skills. Commend a teacher for a job well done. Tell the cashier to have a lovely rest of the day. Smile. If words freeze between the brain and the lips…just smile.

Live the New Year without fear. Smile! A smile is the same in every language, easily given and almost always returned.

http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

chapel at night

Thanksgiving

Scotland folks don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but we will be having a quiet one of our own. There is so much for which to be thankful!

Every breath we take, every step we take, everything we see, hear, touch, feel, or taste is reason enough for an attitude of gratitude. Add to this family, friends, pets, shelter, food and other provisions – and we are blessed beyond measure.

This Thanksgiving we will thank God for health and provision. We will pray for others less fortunate, and do what we can to help them. We will pray for the world’s return to the love, peace, and joy that comes as a gift through a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the “Reason for the Season,” and Christ is in CHRISTmas, but the gift of Jesus’ love, joy, power, and salvation is not reserved for one day a year. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life every day.

Another thing on my list of Thanksgiving praise is the publication of my fourth Texas Miz Mike mystery-romance-suspense, “Bridge to Brigadoon,” set in Scotland. I’m excited!

To thank readers, I am offering a choice of gifts to the first five folks who review “Bridge to Brigadoon” on Amazon: either signed copies of “Bridge to Nowhere” or “Bridge Beyond Betrayal,” or a Scottish mug. When the review is posted and the reader has sent me his or her physical address and indicated which gift he or she would like to receive – I will send it immediately…with a grateful and thankful heart!

 

In one of the wackiest Miz Mike adventures ever, successful writer Michal Allison Rice is packed off to Scotland by her son and daughter-in-law for a vacation. They believe the trip will heal her broken heart—and hope that it will teach her to mind her own business. Mike does not want to go to Scotland. It is COLD there. And once in Scotland, she doesn’t want to stay. Hotdogs come in cans, dill pickles are non-existent and driving on the wrong side of the road terrifies her. However, when elderly Ross Granger is killed, Mike feels responsible and sets out in search for the killer. Nearly killed herself, Mike is faced with a dilemma: no one believes her. She is viewed as “an American stushie-maker.” But the gravest danger of all proves to be Rev. Alan Evan Kirkland, a Scottish widower who befriends her, then demands the one thing in repayment that she is unwilling to give—her heart.

http://www.amazon.com/Bridge-Brigadoon-Stephanie-Parker-McKean-ebook/dp/B0186YKIGW/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1447939591&sr=1-1&keywords=bridge+to+brigadoon+stephanie+parker+mckeanBridge_Brigadoon_Final_Kindle_downsized

Waltzing Across Texas with Love & Murder

I don’t usually blog about my books unless a new one has just been released. I’m making an exception this week because my first in the Texas Miz Mike series – “Bridge to Nowhere” – is reduced in price. I’d like everyone to know so they can buy it, laugh at Miz Mike’s many “pickles,” and then move on to the other books in the series if they like it.

“Bridge to Nowhere” is a Christian mystery-romance-suspense sparkling with humor. “Forty-something” Miz Mike tries to mind her own business, really she does. But how could she turn down the pleas and tears of a lovely young girl who comes to her for help in solving her sister’s murder?

Solve it Miz Mike does, along with solving a few minor mysteries along the way, and breaking up a brutal dog fighting ring. But success sports a steep price tag. The killer comes after Mike.

Besides surviving attempts on her life, Mike survives the near-death of the romance of her dreams when ex-Hollywood actor Marty Richards (Marty and Mike, M&Ms in her mind just like her favorite chocolate candy) misinterprets her kindness to rescued “misfits” at her ranch as evidence of sexual promiscuity.

Then in an event that tests her Christian faith, Mike’s young grandson is kidnapped. Catching the kidnapper and getting the child back seems impossible – even with prayer.

Enter Clint Flavors who loves to fish and whose mind possesses the ability to follow hidden, serpentine paths that no one else can follow. Some mock Clint for not being the sharpest tack in the box – but this is Three Prongs, Texas, where the misfits fit and where strange events are near about as common as bucking Brahmas on the rodeo circuit. Clint solves a mystery that baffles the experts.

Will evil win? Will good win? Will Miz Mike ever get that first kiss from cowboy hero Marty? You’ll have to read “Bridge to Nowhere” to find out – and fortunately for you – it’s on sale!

Eleven 5-Star reviews can’t be wrong!

BTN_FRONT Cover_full size

http://www.amazon.com/Bridge-Nowhere-Miz-Mike-Book-ebook/dp/B00904MBS6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444824478&sr=1-1&keywords=bridge+to+nowhere+stephanie+parker+mckean

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bridge-Nowhere-Miz-Mike-Book-ebook/dp/B00904MBS6/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1445070595&sr=1-1&keywords=bridge+to+nowhere+stephanie+parker+mckean

Is a book about a Serial Killer a good Valentines’s Day read?

Yikes! Why would someone equate a book about a serial killer to Valentine’s Day? I won’t answer that question. It’s better if the answer comes from readers of the Christian psychological suspense thriller, “Killer Conversations.”

Without argument, the Christian Bible contains the greatest love story ever told. No author could pen a more inspirational love story. Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this – than a man lay down his life for his friends. I am your friends.” Then Jesus died.

God wrote a Love Card for all ages in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

No matter how many or how few Valentine’s Day cards you received on February 14, God has already given you a Love Card that is for today, every day, and all eternity. No human-crafted earthly creation can beat that!

Back to the serial killer question. A synopsis of “Killer Conversations:” He walks a lot and is a loner. She pegs him as a serial killer. People in the small Scottish village don’t believe her. They attribute her suspicions to a “writer’s imagination.”

Then there’s a new murder.

She stalks him looking for evidence. He stalks her to find out if she has evidence. When the two collide, it’s in a deadly life and death struggle.

Texan Kevyn Skye Lamar’s quest to find a story and write the “Great American Novel” may end up with her as the serial killer’s next victim. What a tragedy that would be after she has finally found love. And…she wonders…do serial killers go to Heaven?

No, I didn’t answer the question about why “Killer Conversations” is a good book for Valentine’s Day. To do that, I would have to add a spoiler. I never give away the twists and thrills that make for good reading.As encouragement, “Killer Conversations” made it to Amazon UK’s top 100 best sellers’ list within hours of its release!

U.S. http://goo.gl/HkXYc0 or U.K. http://goo.gl/Qua7H0

KillerConversations_Cover

Rocks, Roses & Sea Breezes

It was hard when I first arrived in Scotland from Texas, USA. Even though it was “summer,” it was 25 degrees cooler and I went from wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts to wrapping up in three layers of clothes, a coat and a wooly hat.

Cars drove on the wrong side of the road. There were roundabouts – paved circles with no stop signs or traffic lights. Cars spin in and out of roundabouts without stopping and drivers use right turn signals – even though vehicles turn left entering a roundabout. Many roads are poorly marked or not marked at all. Signs are in both Gaelic and English, with the Gaelic on top. Since the lettering is small, it’s nearly impossible to read it.

Meals are called “tea,” so when you are invited over for tea, you don’t know if you’re joining friends for a cup of hot tea (which I don’t drink anyway), or a meal. Cookies are called biscuits and biscuits are scones. Toilet paper is “loo roll” and dish soap is “washing up liquid.” Sidewalks are called pavement. While waiting for a bus, the driver shouted at me, “Get on the pavement.” I was confused because I was standing on the pavement.

Favorite is spelled favourite, color is colour, program is programme, and long lines are called queues. Oh – and dog owners don’t like to have their dogs called “pups” unless they are actually puppies.

Church services are strictly timed to finish within an hour. Songs are usually accompanied by slow, ponderous organ music. Following human traditions is more important than following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

There are virtually no convenience stores and long trips are miserable because of the lack of public restrooms. Once, out of sheer desperation, I hunkered down in the back of a store that hadn’t opened yet, squatting between wire racks. Existing restrooms usually have thick-walled stalls from the floor to the ceiling with such painted-over metal hardware that I never lock the door because when I do – I either cut my fingers or am afraid I won’t be able to unlock it again.

When you order Italian food like lasagna in the U.S., you get hot bread, a salad, the main course, and refills of iced tea or soft drinks. In Scotland…you get lasagna. No refills on drinks.

Words like schedule, proven, resume and laboratory are pronounced differently. Words like garage and aluminum are pronounced so differently that I didn’t know what they were at first.

God brought me to Scotland. He’s helped me bloom. I still say “y’all,” and haven’t said “aye” yet, but I actually invited someone to have “tea” with us – meaning a meal! The hardness and trials have translated into blessings. We live where everything that is green blooms, and everything is green because of the surplus of rain. In any direction one looks, there is no blight, no ugliness. The people are warm, friendly, generous and independent. They remind me of Texas folks.

And my second Miz Mike mystery-romance-suspense is about to be released by Sunpenny Publishing Group, here in the UK. God has transformed hardness and confusion into rose petals and sea breezes.

It is possible to bloom amid rocks and hardness. Trust God to turn the hard circumstances in your life into garden spots.

http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Image

Faulty Hearing

Because of severe ear infections when I was a child, whenever I hear something one way and another person hears it another way – I am almost always wrong.

For example, I can’t tell the difference between Wales and whales. I almost never come up with the correct song lyrics until I see them in print. All my life, I thought that the Popeye cartoon featured a baby named “Sweet Pea” instead of SweePea, and Brutus instead of Bluto. I was totally amazed to discover that the mean non-charmer’s name was Bluto.

I can’t tell the difference between my Texas accent and Scottish accents. My y’all has a tendency to announce my non-native status here in Scotland. The Scot’s frequent use of aye and pronunciation of garage as garerugze, aluminum as alyouminemem, and resume as reezoome would garner attention in the U.S. Even though I can’t tell the difference in accents, I must sound different because I’m always being asked, “Where are you from?”

Nor can I sing. I can’t tell the difference between the way everyone else is singing and the way I’m singing. In elementary school, I was told that I could stand on stage and “sing” with the rest of my class as long as I opened and closed my mouth without making a sound. When I sing in church, I follow voices going up and down on certain words. The music everyone else is following is lost to me, and if the words vary from what I have memorized with the tune (as is so often the case with the Scottish version of hymns), I can’t sing it at all. The only flat I understand is a tire or a piece of ground and sharp means that if I keep messing around with it, I’m gonna get cut.

Recently, I realized what a blessing my faulty hearing is. It has made me more thankful that Jesus came into the world as a baby and grew to manhood, only to be nailed to the cross for my sins and the sins of the world. Before I was a Christian, I mocked the idea that one perfect, sinless Man would need to die for me – or anyone else. I didn’t want someone dying for me. I didn’t ask anyone to. But after I met Jesus in person and asked Him into my heart, spiritual blinders fell away and I realized the beautiful simplicity of God’s plan of salvation and why it is the only fair and just way of determining who goes to Heaven.

If people had to sing their way into Heaven, I’d never make it. If they had to work their way into Heaven, it would exclude anyone who was born with mental or physical disabilities. If people had to achieve Heaven through knowledge, it would exclude people who never had the opportunity to get an education. If people could pay their way into Heaven, it would exclude the poor. Instead, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Anyone and everyone who asks Him into their hearts is saved and gets to go to heaven – whether they are young or old, rich or poor, whole or broken, talented or ordinary – and no matter what race or nationality they are. The ground at the cross is level.

And fortunately, God hears prayers of the heart and spirit. One doesn’t need a certain accent, a certain formation of words, a certain tone of voice, for God to hear his or her prayer. He smiled at my prayers and answered them even when I used to say, “Our Father Who art in Heaven, hollowed be Your name.

http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Image

Why Winter?

Here on the Black Isle of Scotland, everyone is rejoicing now that the sun is staying visible longer and snowdrops are pushing timid white heads up to look around while royal purple crocuses snap to attention along the sides of narrow lanes. Winter is fleeing, following the freezing breath of snow and ice into last year’s memories.

Some people hate winter. I’ve always hated winter. I hate being cold. I used to mix cement and build with rocks in 100-plus degree temps in south Texas. Ironic that I should now live in Scotland where it rarely makes it to 70 degrees even in the “summer.”

Winter brings cold temperatures that kill people, animals and plants; traffic-snarling storms; massive banks of snow that must be moved, and increased heating costs. So, why winter?

Psalm 74:17 says that “God made summer and winter.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Winter provides a Sabbath for the land. Most people get at least one day a week off work to rest. Rested employees are less likely to have accidents or get sick. Manufacturing equipment that shuts down for at least one day a week is less prone to malfunctions. Jesus said that people were not made for keeping the Sabbath to please God, but rather, that the Sabbath was made for the benefit of people to give them rest.

I had a lovely rough collie named Scot in the southern U.S. Scot visited nursing homes. He made friends with everyone and everything he met including deer, a wild rabbit, a feral cat, a baby bird, a turtle, a possum, cats in the neighborhood. He was so friendly that even small animals were unafraid of him. Scot got protothecosis; there is no treatment, no cure, and it is 100 percent fatal. Dogs in Scotland don’t get protothecosis. It’s too cold for the cannibalistic algae. Nor are there mosquitoes, fire ants, venomous spiders or a plethora of other aggravating and dangerous insects. This is a winter land. Winter provides surcease.

Tulips must be kept cold to burst into energetic flames of spring color. Peach trees need numbered winter days of extreme cold to ensure a plentiful summer harvest.

Like God’s creation of nature, our personal lives cycle through seasons, from joy to despair, from busyness and fullness to emptiness and boredom. Why winter? Sometimes it takes a cold, barren winter wilderness experience to turn our hearts fully to God. To make us appreciate the benefits He daily loads into our lives. If every step of our path through life was lined with fabulously blooming flowers, we would quickly turn aside to grass.

Before we lament the winter wilderness experiences in our lives, we should read about history’s first recorded Christians in Acts 5:40-41. “They called for the apostles and beat them…and the apostles departed, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name.”

These early Christians rejoiced in winters – trusting that earthly hardships were short and nothing to be compared to the eternal blessings of Jesus.

We should enjoy spring and let the winter go – but when it comes around again – we should embrace it like an old friend who is walking us into the kingdom of God.

Image