Dee Stewart is a respected book critic and freelance writer for various publications, among them “Spirit Led Woman”, “Romantic Times” and “Gospel Today” magazines. She also hosts her “Christian Fiction Blog”, “Third Thursdays”, and “The Perfect Romance Reader Event Series” in Atlanta. She has coordinated the Christian Fiction Workshop Panels for the 2007 Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention in Houston, TX.
Dee currently resides in the North Atlanta suburbs with her family and Girl Scout troop. She can give you the scoop at http://christianfiction.blogspot.com or you can find her on Mondays at “The Master’s Artist” (aratus.typepad.com/tma).
You’ll enjoy this!
Here’s the blurb for her WIP:
Blessed to Kill is the story of a former reporter who reopens a church scandal investigation to catch a killer.
(Blessed to Kill, an excerpt)
At two in the morning my sister Ava showed up on my doorstep. She wore a floor length silk, peach marabou robe, my niece and nephew strapped to her hips, and the most apologetic pout a twin could make. The only thing that stood between us was my locked screen door and a year of resentment. I prayed to God to help me get over the latter and let her in. Besides, tonight felt scorching hot, even for an Atlanta September.
Ava stood in the foyer a few steps ahead of me. Her kids were still asleep and as comfortable as ever. I wondered how she managed to keep them from sliding off the silk. All my life I’ve wondered how she constantly kept her life on such a perfect a pedestal …until tonight.
She peaked down the foyer and looked up toward the staircase, which compelled me to check my foyer and search my staircase. Wait a minute. I shook myself together. You know what’s in your house, girl. What’s wrong with you? My older sister-- by a mere four minutes-- still had the knack of making me second-guess myself, even when the obvious hit me smack dab in our thirty-four-year-old faces.
I turned toward her, really looked at her, and observed the situation. She comes to my house unannounced, before day in the morning with her children, but without her husband…
I asked her the only obvious question anyone would ask in my situation. “What are you doing here, and where is your husband?”
No reply. Not a good sign for a preacher’s wife, or at least the ones I knew.
My brother-in-law, Dietrich ministered the largest church in Atlanta. Big Atlanta Faith to be exact. 30,000 members. Six years ago a local paper botched a tax scandal news investigation of the church. Since then anywhere Ava went or anything she said, my cronies from television and radio were sure to note and file away.
I was once a reporter. I know the game.
So, this infamous, provocatively dressed, preacher’s wife sneaking out in the middle of the night with the celebrity preacher’s kids to a sister she promised to never speak to again doesn’t look like big faith is involved at all. Looks more like big trouble.
I don’t like any kind of trouble, big or teeny tiny.
“What are you doing here, Ava? Is something wrong?” I asked her again.
Ava shifted her kids on her hips, and spoke so soft I had to read her lips. “I don’t know.”
Granted. It’s not hard for me to read lips. All it takes is a basic knowledge of the human face and some Bayesian logic. But, I was confused.
We’re in the North Atlanta‘ burbs. Ava’s safer than an angel at dawn here. Yet she’s scoping my place like Satan’s lurking behind the couch. She’s searching my eyes like our being twins never mattered. Like I hadn’t battled Hell to save her or that Bible spouting husband of hers six years ago. And the best answer she could come up with was a puzzle. Now that didn’t make sense at all.
“You don’t know what? Why you’re here or where your husband is?”
She bit her lip. “I don’t know anything anymore.”
“Well, you’ve come to the wrong place. Honey, you know I’ve been fresh out of answers since Y2K.”
She chuckled and shifted the kids again. “How about a fresh pot of coffee and a place to rest until I figure some things out.”
“Now that I can do.” I pointed toward my staircase. “Why don’t you put the kids upstairs? Lil D and Katy can sleep in the guest room next to Bella’s. I’ll pull out my generic instant brand and some stale coffeecake that’s been hovering in the back of my fridge.”
She hesitated before she nodded. “Sounds perfect.”
As we approached the stairs, I listened for Bella. She’s my five-year-old, who has longed for another sister or brother since she realized all her friends had sisters and brothers. Why we women can’t be satisfied with what we have is beyond me. So she’ll get her wish tonight.
From where I stood all I heard was her soft snore and her Vacation Bible School music stampeding down the floor. This year’s theme was Western Roundup. We had to giddy up by eight in the morning, so I needed to be asleep like now.
“Let me help you.” I outstretched my hands to take one of the kids from Ava.
She turned away from me and clutched them tighter. It reminded me of the time she didn’t want me to play with her porcelain dolls. It reminded me of how awkward and unworthy I often felt around her. Why did I let her in my house?
“I wouldn’t hurt them. You know that,” I said.
She nodded, but wouldn’t release one bambino. Whatever.
I pointed toward the stairs. “After you.”
Ava floated up the stairs. The moonlight created a warm peach halo around her body. It followed and so did I. To me, she looked like a 1940's starlet, not a preacher’s wife. I wanted to look just like her when I grow up. Wasn’t too keen about marrying a minister, though. But I wished I had the faith to run to my sister in a time of need like she just did.
When the shoe was on the other foot all she offered was a thirty-minute prayer meeting with her Big Faith Divas Missionary Group and a pedicure. My own problems needed more than Big Faith and cute feet to solve. I wonder what would have happened had I agreed to that mani-pedi?
I stopped at the top of the stairs. “I’m going to check on Bella real quick. Okay?”
She nodded with a slight hesitation again, then continued toward the guest room.
An old statistics professor of mine once taught me that over sixty-five percent of communication was nonverbal. Fifty-five percent of what a person meant was in their facial expression. Ava hadn’t looked me in the eyes since she got here, and that last bob was suspect.
“Avalyn Marie McArthur?”
She turned around and winked at me. “I’m good, Angel.”
I sighed. That Betty Boop-esque wink of hers still calmed me down. For a moment we were little girls again, sneaking off at dawn to fish in Granny’s Creek. No puberty, boys or any of those things that eventually separated us. We were in sync. It had been a long time coming.
Prayer changes people, including me.
I winked back, and went to check on my child. Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions again.
That’s the only negative about being a retired reporter. I can't stop questioning every doggone thing. Like lately I could swear that Ms. Hattie Mae, my neighbor across the street, stays up at night watching passersby out her window. Or Darlene Eades, the mother of three under three two doors down. I have never seen without a well-rested smile. Creepy.
I walked to Bella’s room. At night the walls appeared a dreamy blue. She loved mermaids, so I painted a kingdom under the sea mural for her. I used a pearlescent paint that made the walls shimmer once the lights were off. The sparkling wall was a big hit with her Daisy Scout troop, but not with her. I had hoped the lights would help her get over her fear of the dark. Yet the last few mornings, I’ve found her at the foot of my bed.
She told me she left her room, because… something about witches in the water.
Witches? I'm thinking about changing the wall.
Woo. Woo. Clickety Clack.
A weird noise near her closet made me jump out of my skin. I stepped back, ready to pounce until I found where the creepy noise was coming from. It was the great oak tree in the backyard. Its branches clawed Bella’s window near the closet. Those leaves intertwined in thick Spanish moss whistled with the clacking every midnight summer’s breeze.
Woo Woo Clickety Clack. The witches in the water. I grinned.
The first time she told me about the witches I thought she was watching too much Kid TV. Guess I was wrong. Sometimes I forget that some people tell the truth and you don’t need logic to prove it.
I hope I don’t forget that I need to call a tree trimmer first thing in the morning.
I kissed her cheek and left for downstairs. When I got down Ava wasn’t there. So I went back upstairs to see if she needed any help with my niece and nephew.
But when I got up there I couldn’t find her. I searched the guest room. No Ava.
Searched my room. She wasn’t there either. Then I heard a car door slam outside. You gotta be kidding me. I ran to the window and looked outside. My stomach quaked. Sure enough my perfect sister politely backed out of my driveway.
My heart pounded. My feet turned to jelly. I raced out the room, slid down the banister—Never do that. It’s not pretty and it chafes-- and yanked the front door open. But I was too late. She peeled off into the night just as I hopped off the porch steps.
“Avalyn!” I screamed. “I can’t take care of three kids.”
The only sound I heard was the oak tree wooing and clickety-clacking behind me.
Taken from Blessed to Kill (2005-200?; written by Dee Stewart)