Mysteries

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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.

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https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

Risks and Rewards

Bandera, Texas rancher Maudeen Marks took risks. She was a single, never married cattle rancher. No, correct that quickly because Maudeen did not ranch cattle—she ranched Texas Longhorns.

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“I never married,” she told me, “because World War II started and all the strong men left to fight the war and never came home. It would take a strong man to handle being married to me.”

Strong man, because she was a risk taker. She continued her father’s legacy of raising pure longhorn cattle after her daddy died. She bought a ranch in the Texas Hill Country and turned it into a dude ranch. Guests were welcome—but they had to mingle with Maudeen’s iconic Texas Longhorn Cattle. Maudeen’s longhorns were recognized as the standard for breed purity. They were also her pets. It was amazing to see the petite rancher wander into a sea of imposing horns and disappear behind them as she hand fed treats to her cattle and scratched their heads.

Maudeen led trail rides well into her eighties. Her risk-taking garnered her rewards: being honored as Woman of the Year, being selected as parade marshal, being inducted into the Bandera County Museum as the woman who put the mark in remarkable.

A may come before R in the dictionary, but risk comes before award in life.

My new Christian cozy mystery-romance-suspense was inspired by Maudeen who would have loved to buy the State of Texas, fill it with longhorns and Texas Rangers, and hold nightly dances from windmill to windmill. She never experienced the joy of marriage and having children in this life, but she is dancing with Jesus in Heaven now and celebrating her eternal reward.

Tweets

 

Alan goose friendsEven if they don’t have a Twitter account, most folks know what tweets are. I love Twitter. Even though I’ve never met them, I feel as if I have some awesome friends on Twitter. I love retweeting and retweets and I’ve found some great new authors from Twitter tweets—and thankfully, some folks have found my books.

I’m very particular about my Twitter account. There are books I won’t retweet regardless of how many times those authors retweet me. I don’t want vampires, werewolves, witches, porn, same sex romance, or profanity on my Twitter page. I give preference to Christian authors, wildlife and nature photos, Bible quotes, and people whose books I have read and enjoyed—although there are so many other wonderful books out there that I haven’t had time to read yet. Most of the new authors I’ve discovered have been through Twitter. I won’t name them here, because I don’t want to forget anyone and hurt their feelings. Actually, I believe that every new book I’ve read for the past two years—I found through Twitter.

Sometimes I wish life were like my Twitter page and I could have control of what goes on and what stays off. This is one of those times. My sweet husband, author Alan McKean, has kidney cancer and is facing the removal of is left kidney. I wish I could just leave that tweet out of our lives. Fortunately, he and I both believe that God is in control, that all things happen for a reason, and that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord—so we will get through this with God’s help, comfort and healing. But if it were a Twitter Page and I were in charge—I’d leave this one off.

Alan has just had his next book accepted by Reagan Rothe and Black Rose Writing. I’m so proud of him. He spent a year researching WWII and writing the book. So in honor of him, I’m putting a special tweet out for him, my husband and hero. The link to his books is below. (The WWII book, What the Ocean Divides, has not been released yet.)

alan and waterfall

https://www.amazon.com/Alan-T.-McKean/e/B00BR1PM5Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1526276595&sr=1-2-ent

Conversation Stopper

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote about Jesus some 740 years before Jesus was born. Isaiah may have been martyred—sawn in two—during the reign of Manasseh for speaking truth. He condemned the wealthy for oppressing the poor; he condemned women who neglected their families in the quest of carnal pleasure; he condemned priests and prophets who became drunken men-pleasers instead of teaching and keeping God’s law.

Isaiah declared God’s displeasure with sin and endeavored to turn his generation away from disobedience to God. He paved a foundation of hope and promise for those who remained true to God by telling them about the birth of Jesus, Savior and Redeemer.

Speaking out against sin and injustice, Isaiah said, “Woe unto…” Yet after he had a vision of the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, Isaiah said of himself, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5) Faced with God’s holiness, Isaiah realized that the same sinfulness he had prophesied against in others was found within himself.

That’s why I wrote gritty, real “Killer Conversations.” I’ve been criticized because the narrative of child abuse creating a serial killer is not a fairy tale—it’s painful and haunting. It’s the only book I’ve ever written that has received a one-star review. As Christians, we sometimes use what we perceive as our goodness as an excuse to criticize others. We use the fact that we don’t smoke, drink, curse, etc. as a battering ram against other believers. It’s a temptation to set ourselves up and put others down. We forget: “There by the grace of God go I.”

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.

Grasshopper cover #3

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.

Grasshopper cover #2

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0787RWNSG/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1513147845&sr=8-1&keywords=I%27m+the+Grasshopper+stephanie+parker+mckean

No Fear…Absolutely

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There are no easy answers for why bad things happen to good people, and why a loving God allows them to happen.

There are a lot of chipper, upbeat standard answers that sometimes make those afflicted with pain and suffering angry. Sure, they may be true – but in the midst of pain who wants to hear: Everything that happens in your life is a consequence of the decisions you’ve made and your actions. True or not, I can’t imagine walking into a hospice ward to visit a person with lung cancer and saying, “Well, this is your fault for smoking.”

True or not, in the center of a storm of pain, hardship, and suffering – telling someone that God created a perfect world, which was ruined by sin, and that God never intended bad to enter His perfect creation is not much comfort. Action to help the person is needed more than all the glib clichés one can deliver.

Please, I welcome your prayers, but the following is Not a plea for sympathy. When my hip pain started a few years ago, I ignored it. I declared stoutly, “I don’t need to go to the doctor. Even if an x-ray shows a problem, I will never let anyone cut me open. So why go?” So I exercised, ran, and prayed the pain away. I was a Texan, after all, and just like my character Texas Miz Mike in my mystery-romance-suspense “Bridge” series, Texans stand up to crisis. They don’t back down even from rattlesnakes.

Prayer works. From the time I was a new Christian and God removed my warts, to the time my son was scheduled to have a metal rod inserted in his spine and God healed him instead, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever – and Jesus heals. Prayer works. But sometimes we don’t get the answer we want or expect. Sometimes God answers “No.” Sometimes He answers “Wait.” For me this time, God’s answer was “NO.” For whatever reason, God did not heal me and I became increasingly worse. By worse, I am on crutches. I can’t open my mouth to take a bite of food without throwing the utensil down and hollering in pain.  Sneezing, yawning, coughing – the pain is so intense that it would knock down an elephant. Fortunately, I’m a Texan.

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The MRI showed a “huge” bulging disc in my spine that presses directly into the nerve. Instead of my right hip, the pain has spread to both hips and makes it impossible for me to drive because I can’t lift my foot and press down on the clutch. Why do I have this pain? Why has God not healed me? I don’t know. I do know that the Bible says to give thanks in everything, because this is the will of God for me in Christ Jesus. So I give thanks. I know that everything works together for good to those who love the Lord. Everything. How is this horrific pain working together for my good? I don’t know exactly, but I have an idea.

No fear. The greatest fear a person faces in life is death. Once that fear is eliminated – there’s nothing to fear. I lost my fear of death when my 37-year-old son died in a plane crash four years ago. He’s in Heaven and I will get to see him again when I get there. Everyone must walk through the valley of the shadow of death to get to Heaven. But shadows aren’t real. They can’t hurt. Shadows are an illusion. No fear.

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However, I love mobility. I want to walk, run, swim, climb mountains – keep moving. Therefore…I was determined that no doctor, no surgeon was ever going to touch my spine. Until…the pain. It took severe pain to grow me past the fear of having surgery. My surgery is scheduled for next week and I would be jumping in joy – if jumping didn’t hurt so much and if I could lift my feet. I am thrilled. I am totally unafraid and totally ready to surrender my life, health, and spine to whatever surgeon God provides. Trusting God totally and totally without fear.

I can’t answer the question of why bad things happen, or why Jesus didn’t heal me this time as He has in the past. Mysteries belong to God, even though I write them in books. But this I know, pain has pushed me to grow beyond fear. Totally.

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

Non-Verbal Communication

Our dog Angel Joy is skilled in non-verbal communication. Without using words—or even her voice—she chooses directions on walks, tells us when to refill her food dish, when to stop everything and spend time with her, and when it’s bedtime. Sometimes she uses her voice to remind us of when it’s time to take her pills or when she deserves a treat, but those reminders are elucidated without benefit of words.

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Words are not needed to convey the emotions behind a child’s tears, a smile, a hug, a kiss. Without words, a person’s face transmits messages: a grimace of pain, a glimmer of amusement, joy and expectation, despair and disillusionment. Words are powerful, the swords of our spirits, but non-verbal communication can be equally powerful.

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Even silence speaks. The quiet of an enchanting forest, the sparks of glory in a sunrise, the rolling splendor of an unspoiled landscape, the marvel of flower faces.

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As a writer, I love words. It’s hard to admit that the world can survive and continue without the addition of my words. Foolish pride. No matter how much time I put into crafting a perfect sentence, my words fall short of describing or explaining this marvelous universe created by God.

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“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1. A witness without words.

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Yet, as writers, we use our words. Words keep us alive. Thankfully, sometimes they are needed.

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

Write What You Know

18362492_1238027982976551_1361060936_o“Write what you know,” the weathered writing instructor with grey-streaked red hair and periwinkle glasses told us, holding up two lackluster books that had probably not sold more than 30 copies each. Still, her two-day class was cheap, and at 20-something with a gathering stack of rejection slips, I figured some knowledge was better than no knowledge.

Wrong! I was quick to realize that at 20-something, I basically knew nothing. I should have given up writing then. Because by the time I knew enough to write books—reaping that knowledge had imprinted bloodstains on my heart. Some people like pain. I don’t.

When I attended those writing classes, I didn’t know God. When I started to realize God might be real, I prayed for Him to remove every doubt. He did. Accomplishing that meant sending me into the desert at night with a young child to support, no money, no job, no place to stay, and no vehicle. When you’re crying your heart out in the desert at night matching coyote wails, and the next day you receive everything you prayed for—it kind of removes the doubt element. Except, it’s mighty scary and uncomfortable at the time. Oh…almost everything. The vehicle arrived a few weeks later after we had started attending church and my four-year-old son said, “Mom, why don’t you pray for a truck?” I didn’t have enough faith to pray for that, but he did—and the next day—we had our truck.

A failed first marriage, fleeing and hiding from an abusive husband, supporting a child by myself, and working two to three jobs—knowledge is costly.

I must confess that my newest book, “Bridge to Texas,” is a comical mystery-romance-suspense not based on personal knowledge…exactly. I’ve never done a nude calendar shoot and at my age and weight—no one would buy the calendars. However, I covered a story when I was working for a Bandera, Texas newspaper that gave me the idea. Older women raising money for charity took off their clothes and made history, so to speak, plus a lot of money!

I must thank my husband Alan T McKean, talented author in his own right, for “Bridge to Texas.” The entire story grew out of a comment he made: “You should write another Texas Miz Mike. You could have Evan get kidnapped.” Does he get kidnapped? Read the book. Oh, and here’s a link to Alan’s books: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alan-T.-McKean/e/B00BR1PM5Y/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

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The differences between Scotland and Texas spin comedy effortlessly in “Bridge to Texas,” and the characters are a bossy bunch who grab a’holt of a story plot and corral it for their own rodeo. So you can say the book wrote itself. I say God wrote and I typed it. But whatever your personal outlook, you will probably enjoy this romping mystery-romance-suspense that can make you laugh…yes…out loud!

Even the cover and cover blurb are the result of knowledge: photographer Don Davis’ genius with a camera; Paul Garrison III’s mule training advice, and friend Shawn Petersen’s riding skill.

So that jaded teacher was right. Write what you know. And if you’re too young yet to know a lot…be thankful and wait. Don’t rush the knowledge—unless you’re one of those peculiar folks who enjoy pain.

Moving Chair

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We first spotted it in the woods along a dog-walking path. A strange place to find a wooden chair from someone’s dining set, but the mystery deepened when the chair moved to the beach.

Being a writer, my head spun stories about the moving chair: a thief stole it and abandoned it when spotted. Said thief went back to retrieve the chair, but was caught again. Or perhaps one ex was getting back at the other by cleaning out the house, one chair at a time. Or an angry teen with a lazy parent moved the chair to make the parent question his or her sanity when things vanished. Being lazy, said parent would never go looking for the missing item. Or perhaps some kind person thought older dog walkers would appreciate a comfortable place to rest.

My favorite story is dedicated to the memory of Bandera County, Texas pioneer Edwina Boyle—because it mirrors her real life story.

An old woman lived in the woods near the beach. She couldn’t watch the sea from her house, but each day she walked through the woods to the beach. She threw stranded starfish back into the waves. She rescued baby seals. She carried injured sea birds home with her and nursed them back to health…until…until the day she suffered a stroke.

Usually a mild person, the old woman experienced anger when she heard negative, disparaging words about her condition. “It was a severe stroke,” the doctor said. “She’ll never recover. She’ll never walk again. She needs to go to a nursing home.”

Family members were just as pessimistic. “She can’t walk. She can’t even move her legs. There’s no choice. She will have to go into a home.”

The angry woman mounted a secret campaign against her bleak prognosis. She prayed, asking God over and over to heal her legs. Daring even to demand that God heal her! Every time she was alone, she concentrated all her thoughts and energy into making a toe move, then a foot, then a leg. One day before her scheduled hospital release, she slipped out of bed and teetered around the room.

Once home, the determined woman continued her self-imposed physical therapy. She propped her back door open and carried one of her kitchen chairs out to the porch. The next day, she carried the chair down the steps. Each day, the woman carried the chair further, sat in it to rest, then returned home. Before long, she was sitting in her chair at the beach reading moments of joy and fury from the voice of the waves. Neighbors stopped to ask her to forecast the weather because they knew the water talked to its faithful friend.

Writing is like that moving chair. At times, it’s hard not to listen to the negative, derogatory predictions for success. Rejections, lack of sales, bad reviews—it’s enough disappointment and broken dreams to send authors to retirement homes.

Don’t give up and surrender yourself to a retirement home. Keep moving the chair. Oh—and when it gets too heavy for you to carry, ask God to help.

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

Pee on Crabs

Our rough collie is a lady. If she became homeless and had to “dumpster dive” for food—she would starve.

So, too, with her bathroom habits. She simply will not do her business on: a road, a sidewalk (pavement in the UK), the golf course, or manicured lawns. Heck—she will hardly defecate in her own yard!

A dead crab on the beach, however, fails to benefit from her gracious habits. She will pee on it in a heartbeat. It seems unseemly to abuse a corpse, but Angel Joy shows no remorse. A dead crab shell on the beach is a fair target. Most uncouth, but there you have it.

So I looked up information on crabs to find out what’s wrong with them—from a doggy perspective. Nothing. They wear a thick exoskeleton, which they shed and replace as they grow, and range in size from the aptly named tiny “pea crab,” to the Japanese spider crab with a leg span of 13 feet. They are renowned for their sideways walking, but that’s no different from politicians skirting questions. Crabs are aggressive, yet they are also known to work together to provide food and protection to their families.

And there you have it: the secret to writing interesting fiction characters that will nab readers. Complex. Layered. Not all good, not all bad. As a writer, don’t hesitate to pee on the crab.

As to why Angel Joy, who is not a writer, pees on crabs…well, I will probably never know.

seagull eating crab

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