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Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces — The Story Continues

Rubicon Ranch is a collaborative and innovative crime serial set in the desert community of Rubicon Ranch and is being written online by the authors of Second Wind Publishing. Seven authors are involved in the current story — Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces.

Residents of Rubicon Ranch are finding body parts scattered all over the desert. Who was the victim and why did someone want him so very dead? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.

Although some of the characters were introduced in Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story, a previous collaboration, Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces is a stand-alone novel. A new chapter is posted every Monday.

We hope you will enjoy seeing the story develop as we write it. Whodunit? No one knows, not even the writers, and we won’t know until the very end!

Chapter 21: Leia Menendez
by Claire Collins

Leia’s heart pounded in her ears. She slid down the kitchen door to the cool tile floor. The sweat soaking her tanktop chilled against her skin in the air conditioning. Maisey’s dark eyes watched from under the safety of the table.

She vacillated between excitement at finally getting what she came for and hyperventilation at finally getting what she came for. She’d slipped into the Sinclair house through the same door the creepy Morris spinoff had exited. She’d found Morris’s stash, and  left a present in exchange for taking what belonged to her.

She took deep breaths, trying to calm herself and cease the uncontrollable shaking of her hands. It didn’t work. She launched herself off the floor to vomit in the trashcan under the sink, the pictures in her hand dropping to the floor as she went.

Her hands started to shake again and she gripped the countertop for support. With a deep breath, she turned from the counter to gather the photos from the floor. Many of them fell face up. Leia found herself looking at the images that she never wanted to see to begin with. Two girls, a younger version of an innocent Leia and the beautiful blonde, her best friend, Jasmine. Jaz. Tears slipped down Leia’s cheeks but she didn’t bother to wipe them off. She found herself on her hands and knees, sliding the pictures into a pile. There was an elbow here, a knee there. A breast. Jaz’s face, her eyes glassy, her face rubbery and unresponsive. Leia’s face the way it was before she began the series of plastic surgeries.

Some of the photos were blessedly face down. The writing on the back of the photos showed their names and ages. Both were lies they told to get the job. She became Ashley Smith, age 19 and Jaz became Brandy Miller, age 20. In reality, they both had all of the worldy charm and thoughts of the 16 year-olds they were. They thought they could break into the world of modeling and acting by responding to an ad. At the audition, they signed papers saying they were over 18 and the agent sent them for a photo shoot for a book cover.

They drove Jaz’s car for an hour to get to the address the agent gave them. The house was little more than a shack but Leia and Jaz didn’t know enough to turn around when they felt nervous about the neighborhood. They were willing to make sacrifices to follow their dreams. Then they met Morris Sinclair and his photographer.

Leia’s skin crawled as she remembered the first time she saw Morris and the way he eyed the girls. She scooped more photos into the pile as her stomach threatened to unload again.

They were each offered a soda and the photographer talked to them. Morris only leered. Within a short time of arriving, the girls relaxed. Leia thought she was becoming comfortable with the men but later, she realized the sodas were drugged.

They started posing for the photos. They were laughing and excited about the photo shoot. More sodas came from somewhere but the taste changed, becoming more bitter than sweet. They forgot all about the sparse furnishings and unease. They forgot almost everything. Leia wishes she could forget everything now.

Before the photo session was over, she and Jaz went from posing for the pictures to being posed. Leia remembered enough to know that she didn’t want to do a lot of it but her body wasn’t under her control. The sex began with her and the photographer. She didn’t know how it started but she recalled being mortified that he was suddenly on her and they were all naked except Morris. She wasn’t sure how it happened. She tried to stop but everything proceeded despite her protests. She wasn’t even sure if her pleas were out loud or only in her head. Another flash of reality involved her and Jaz while the photographer watched. Morris took the pictures most of the time. Leia wasn’t sure who was taking the pictures when Morris forced Jaz to perform a sex act on him. The next real thing Leia remembered was waking up in the house on the stained mattress, a small pile of cash on the floor. Everyone was gone except her and Jaz. She was afraid Jaz was dead because her breathing was so shallow that it was barely perceptible. She just wanted to get out of there. She managed to get Jaz up and out of the house. Leia drove the car back to her house even though she didn’t have a driver’s license. She couldn’t take Jaz home. Her parents would collapse to the floor and call in as many expensive psychiatrists and therapists as they could find. They’d never let Jaz see Leia again.

No one would bat an eye at two stoned girls at Leia’s house. Her mom succumbed to cancer when she was seven and after that, her dad only worked and drank. There was no one else.

She scooped up more pictures. Thank God she got them out of that house before the police began their search. She had scooted out the back door as Moody answered the front door.

A picture of a smiling Jaz. So young and full of life. Leia ran her fingertip over the photo. Jaz couldn’t handle what happened to them. Six months after they were drugged and raped, Jaz committed suicide using the gun Leia’s dad kept under the couch cushion.

Leia ran. She had her mother’s beauty and she used it to support herself. She knew what she had that would make money… and make money she did. She was an excellent actress. The years of plastic surgeries transformed her look enough to make her Tara Windsor’s twin and once she completed cleaning up the Morris mess, she would dispose of Tara Windsor and step right into her shoes.

She slid the last picture over to put it in the pile. It was the head shot she submitted to the agent to get the book cover job. Angry at her young smiling self, she flipped the photo over, the words on the back grabbing her attention. She read them, then dropped the photo and curled into the fetal position on the kitchen floor.

Ashley Smith- 19
Leia Menendez – 16
AKA – Tara Windsor look alike
AKA – Brandy Jasmine – Porn star

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Help Us Celebrate the Publication of Our 100th Book!!

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Second Wind Authors is the 100th book to be published by Second Wind! We have come along way since August 2008 when we published our very first title (Norm Brown’s thrilling Carpet Ride) and we are still growing.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, we will send you a coupon for a free download of an ebook in the format of your choice.  Just leave a comment and tell us which book you would like to receive. Choose from one of the following:

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Second Wind Authors. “As someone who constantly evaluates novels for publication, I was astonished at the breadth and clarity of the wonderful advice contained in this handbook. It addresses concerns as grand as plot development and as simple but essential as formatting your submission. It offers crucial advice on literary topics ranging from character development to the description of action. Virtually every subject that is of great concern to publishers—and therefore to authors—is covered in this brief, clear, humorous and enormously useful guide.” –Mike Simpson, Chief Editor

Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story. A collaborative novel written by authors of Second Wind Publishing. A little girl’s body has been found in the wilderness near the desert community of Rubicon Ranch. Was it an accident? Or . . . murder! But who would want to kill a child? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is. Read all about the ongoing Rubicon Ranch collaborative novel series here: Rubicon Ranch.

Change is in the Wind. A fresh, challenging collection of seventeen short stories by as many authors, all dealing with the theme of change and renewal. Virtually every major theme in modern literature, including romance, mystery, crime, science fiction, religion and even nature find their way into these marvelous, eclectic stories by Second Wind authors and featured guests.

Murder in the Wind. An anthology of crime/mystery short stories contributed by the outstanding authors of Second Wind Publishing. Murder, mayhem and the unexpected are rife in each riveting story. The stories range from humor to horror, from police procedurals to cozies, from suspense to more suspense, so you will find a tasty morsel to satisfy you no matter what your criminal appetite happens to be.

Thank you for your support. We couldn’t have reached this milestone without you.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to tell us what ebook you would like to read. Offer expires October 15, 2012.

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The Story Behind Rubicon Ranch by Pat Bertram

Almost two years ago, I got the idea to write a collaborative novel online. I broached Second Wind Publishing authors with the concept, and I found eight other writers willing to participate in the experiment. It took a few months to hammer out the details, which seemed an endless task back then, but now I see as incredibly swift. The story was, after all, a committee production.

We started out with what we considered the most heinous of crimes — the death of a little girl. In the first chapter: Chapter 1: Melanie Gray — by Pat Bertram, which was posted on October 24, 2010, Melanie found the girl’s body stuffed in an abandoned television console when she was wandering in the desert, trying to come to terms with the death of her husband. Poor Melanie. So much death!

Each author created a character who might have a reason to kill little Riley. And each character was hiding something.

Could Kourtney and Jeff Peterson have killed their daughter, mischievous nine-year-old Riley, to protect their secret?

Moody Sinclair had once killed an eight-year-old boy. Has she killed again?

Fifteen-year-old Dylan McKenzie is a straight A honor student. By day. Did Riley discover the other Dylan, the one who prowls at night?

Cooper Dahlsing does strange things while sleepwalking. Could he have killed and not known it?

Mark and Jamie Westbrook, self-styled private investigators, show up to help solve the murder, but perhaps they had a hand in creating the crime?

Eighty-two-year-old Eloy Franklin sits on his porch and watches. But does he do more than watch?

Forty-three-year-old Melanie Gray found Riley’s body stuffed in a television console that had been dumped in the desert. But is she as innocent as she seems?

Sheriff Seth Bryan is bitter and cynical at having lost everything he values. Is he manufacturing crimes to bring him the notoriety he craves?

So many villainous characters! And until the very end, no one knew who committed the dastardly deed, not even the writers.

The novel was supposed to be a promotion stunt, but halfway through, it got derailed by life. One author had to deal with colon cancer, including three debilitating operations. Another author had to deal with a flooded house that was uninhabitable for six months. Still other authors had to deal with grief after the loss of significant people in their lives or heavy job pressures. When we started in again, we’d lost all our readers, so there was no longer any promotional value, but still we persevered.

And now the book is finished. You can read the entire novel online for free. If you prefer to read the book on an ereading device, Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story is available as a Kindle or in the ebook format of your choice from Smashwords. It’s also available in print from Amazon and Second Wind Publishing.

But . . .

That is not the end of Rubicon Ranch! Though some of the authors went on to other projects, enough wanted to continue the Rubicon Ranch saga, so we lassoed a few additional authors into creating characters. And now we have a new story.

Three months after finding the body of the little girl, poor Melanie is again wandering in the desert, still having a hard time dealing with her husband’s death, when she sees a congress of ravens pecking at a dismembered foot. Who was the victim and why did someone want him so very dead? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.

Although some of the characters from the previous collaboration are featured in the new story, Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces is a stand-alone novel. The first chapter will be posted Monday, June 11, 2012 on the Rubicon Ranch blog, and a new chapter will be posted every Monday after that.

I hope you will join us in this new serial adventure. It should be a devious tale.

Map of Rubicon Ranch.
A) Melanie Gray
B) Moody Sinclair
C) Eloy Franklin
D) Leia Menendez
E) Ward Preminger
F) Egypt Hayes
G) the Peterson house

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. All Bertram’s books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. At Smashwords, the books are available in all ebook formats including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!

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Rubicon Ranch — The Saga Continues

More than a year and a half ago, nine authors from Second Wind Publishing got together to write a novel online. We knew nothing more than that a little girl’s body had been found in the wilderness near the desert community of Rubicon Ranch. Was it an accident? Or . . . murder! But who would want to kill little Riley? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.

From that short proposal grew a novel with intriguing and nefarious characters, each completely different because each was created by a different author.

Jeff and Kourtney Peterson are Riley’s “adoptive” parents who didn’t go through legal channels to get the child they so desperately wanted. Would they kill to protect their secret?

Moody Sinclair had once killed an eight-year-old boy. Has she killed again?

Fifteen-year-old Dylan McKenzie is a straight A honor student. By day. Did Riley discover the other Dylan, the one who prowls at night?

Cooper Dahlsing does strange things while sleepwalking. Could he have killed and not known it?

Mark and Jamie Westbrook, self-styled private investigators, show up to help solve the murder, but perhaps they had a hand in creating the crime?

Eighty-two-year-old Eloy Franklin sits on his porch and watches. But does he do more than watch?

Forty-three-year-old Melanie Gray found Riley’s body stuffed in a television console that had been dumped in the desert. But is she as innocent as she seems?

Sheriff Seth Bryan is bitter and cynical at having lost everything he values. Is he manufacturing crimes to bring him the notoriety he craves?

***

Life sometimes got in the way of this collaboration, so instead of posting a chapter every week, we went through a long hiatus where the authors suffered variously from cancer, death of a family member, house flooding, job loss, but we picked right up where we left off, and now this experimental novel is finished!

The book will be published during the next couple of months, but you can read the entire story online here: Rubicon Ranch, Book One: Riley’s Story

But that is not the end!!! Next week, we will begin posting chapters to a book in the series, Rubicon Ranch, Book Two: Necropieces — Residents of Rubicon Ranch find body parts scattered all over the desert. Who was the victim and why did someone want him so very dead? Eight Second Wind authors are collaborating to create another innovative crime novel set in the desert community of Rubicon Ranch.

Again, we will be posting a new chapter every week. I hope you will join us as the Rubicon Ranch saga continues.

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Rubicon Ranch Final Touches by Deborah J Ledford

I’ve been performing the final content edits for Rubicon Ranch: Book One Riley’s Story, the collaborative novel I’ve had the opportunity to be part of.

This was the first time I’ve collaborated on a full length novel, and the challenges were quite interesting. In the beginning I had a complete picture of what I wanted my character, retired Lieutenant Colonel Eloy Franklin, to achieve during this journey. And yet with ideas coming from eight other writers I soon realized I needed to go with the flow and not make any final decisions about what I would write until it came time for me to present Eloy’s following chapters. I enjoyed exploring the twists and turns of Eloy’s tortured life—especially the fact that he isn’t anything like the persona he presents to the public. I love this old guy!

This has been a fascinating challenge and I wish to thank my fellow collaborators Lazarus Barnhill, Eric Beetner, Nichole R Bennett, Pat Bertram, JJ Dare, Christine Husom, J B Kohl and Nancy Niles for your extraordinary efforts and talent. It has been an honor working with you.

Pat Bertram has been our fearless leader, keeping the writers on track, alerting us about inconsistencies that need to be fixed, and as all around point woman for the entire project. Thanks, Pat, for wrangling the cats!

If you’re not aware, Second Wind Publishing has been releasing individual chapters of Rubicon Ranch: Book One, Riley’s Story, so if you’re anxious to see what we’ve been working on, here’s the link to what’s available so far. The entire print version of Rubicon Ranch will be available by Second Wind Publishing later this year, so look for announcements about this upcoming release.

And a BIG thank you to our publisher, Mike Simpson, for giving us the opportunity to add another full-length novel to our publishing credits.

Since the first Rubicon Ranch has been such a big hit, Second Wind has given us the opportunity to write a continuation. Four other authors with books published by Second Wind will be added to the mix: Claire Collins, J. Conrad Guest, Mickey Hoffman and Dellani Oakes. I look forward to getting started on Book Two of Rubicon Ranch.

Deborah J Ledford’s latest suspense thriller novel SNARE, The Hillerman Sky Award Finalist, is book two of her Deputy Hawk/Inola Walela thriller series. STACCATO, book one of the serial, is also available. Both novels are published by Second Wind Publishing. To find out more about Deborah, receive a Free Download of the first chapters of her novels, and to read a few previously published short stories, she invites you to visit her website.

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Rubicon Ranch: A Collaborative Novel

I am involved in a wonderful project with several other Second Wind authors. Rubicon Ranch is an ongoing collaborative novel that we are writing online. It is the story of people whose lives have been changed when a little girl’s body was found in the wilderness near the desert community of Rubicon Ranch. Was her death an accident? Or . . . murder! But who would want to kill a child? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.

Each of us writers is responsible for the development of our own characters. My character is Melanie Gray. She has traveled the world with her husband, a world-renowned photographer. Together they authored many coffee-table books (she did the writing, he the photographs). One of the books told about mountains of the world, one about rivers, one about oceans, one about forests, and now they have a contract to do deserts. After they rented a house in Rubicon Ranch to begin their in-depth study of the southwestern deserts, he died in a car accident.

Now, not only does Melanie have to deal with the pain of losing her husband and figuring out what she’s going to do for the rest of her life, she needs to fulfill the publishing contract or she’ll have to reimburse the publishers, which she cannot do because the advance is all but spent. Since she is not a photographer, she roams the desert bordering on Rubicon Ranch, taking hundreds of photos, hoping that a few of them will accidentally end up being as brilliant as her husband’s photos always were. She finds the child’s body and takes photos of the scene after calling 911. At first she is a suspect but once the Sheriff has ruled her out, he requests her help in reading the desert and desert-related clues. Still, the sheriff does not trust her completely, thinking she is hiding something.

Chapter 26: Melanie Gray — by Pat Bertram

Fury, like wildfire flashed through Melanie. Fury at the sheriff for paying his silly games when people were dead, fury at herself for playing his fool.

She’d been flattered that he thought she could help with his investigation, but apparently the only thing he’d been investigating was her and how to get in her panties. And she’d fallen for it. Cripes, what an idiot! All her resolve not to let him get to her had been for nothing.

And that whole seduction scene—”So maybe, when I need you to help me, I won’t have to bully you. You’ll cooperate with me because you understand that getting my job done honestly is the most important thing to me.” Did he believe his own drivel? And anyway, how could she help when he wasn’t doing anything? It had been two days since Riley died. Didn’t they say that if they didn’t catch a killer within the first forty-eight hours that chances are he or she would never be caught? And the sheriff had wasted those precious hours trying to seduce her.

She’d fallen for Alexander’s crap and apparently she hadn’t learned anything, because here she was again, playing straight-woman for another unprincipled clown. Alexander, at least, had offered her adventure and marriage, and for a while he had even been faithful. But Seth? What did he have to offer? Nothing. He was married, and he was a taker. He’d take everything she had, which wasn’t much, just her integrity, and she’d be damned before she let him tarnish that with a tawdry affair. She’d seen the look in his eyes when he’d said “And I know you’d rather claw out my eyes and slash my throat than let me touch you.” And that look had belied his words. He seemed to think all he had to do was pretend to know her and she’d fall into his oh, so understanding arms.

“What?” he said, sounding as if he didn’t know exactly what was going through her mind. How could he not? He, Sheriff Seth Bryan, the great detective.

“As if you don’t know.” Melanie spit the words from between clenched teeth.

Seth’s brows drew together in an almost believable though comic look of confusion. “That’s such a typical womanish remark. I thought you were different.”

“You thought I was gullible and naïve. You thought since I put up with Alexander’s philandering, I’d put up with yours, too, but that is not going to happen. Only a fool gets involved with a married man, and whatever you think, I am no fool.”

Seth held up his hands, palms toward her. “Whoa.”

“Being a widow does not make me ripe for the plucking. I don’t need to be serviced like a bitch in heat. Believe me, the last thing I need in my life is a man, especially a married man. Calling it separate maintenance does not make you any less married.”

He flashed his teeth. “So you do like me. You’re protesting too much.”

“Not protesting enough, apparently, or else you wouldn’t have that silly grin on your face.”

He lost the grin. “What’s going on here? I thought we were having a nice meal while we went over the case.”

“You should be going over the case with your deputies. They, at least, seem to understand how inappropriate it is for you to include me in your investigation. Unless I’m still a suspect and you’re trying to get me to let down my guard and confess?”

“I told you, you were never a suspect.”

“As if playing with me, gigging me as you called it, is any better. So let’s discuss the case. What were the results of the autopsy? Was Riley murdered or was it an accident? If she was murdered, how was it done and who did it? Were there drugs in her system? Have you interrogated her parents yet to find out what they’re hiding? Have you found out who the dead man is and what, if anything, he has to do with Riley’s murder? You pretty much ignored me when I said he looked liked Riley, but then, that’s understandable. I never got a good look at the girl. All I saw was her jaw line, her nose, and her eyebrows, so whatever I blurted out after seeing the man’s corpse has to be discounted. Did the same person kill both of them? Or were there two different killers? Or . . .” Melanie paused to grab the thought that flitted through her mind. “Did he kill Riley and someone else kill him?”

Seth picked up his sandwich, dipped an end in the au jus, bit off a piece, and chewed slowly.

Melanie nodded. “That’s what I thought. You’re all talk.” She deepened her voice and mimicked him. “‘We have to solve these murders.’ Yeah, like there really is a we. Well, there was a we, but that was Alexander and me. You and I will never be a we.” A cough shuddered through her torso. She took a long drink of water, hoping she wasn’t coming down with a cold but was merely dehydrated from the strong air-conditioning and her rare monologue.

Seth gave her a searching look, opened his mouth and then closed it again with what sounded like a resigned sigh. She wondered what he’d been going to say and why he thought better of it, then she let out a sigh of her own. It didn’t matter. She had enough to do with grieving and fulfilling her book contract. She had nothing left for the sheriff and his investigation. Whatever he might think, she really didn’t know anything. Well, that wasn’t strictly true. She did know one thing.

She threw her napkin on the table and stood, ready to flee.

Seth gaped at her. “What’s going on?”

“I’m going home, Sheriff Seth Bryan. I’m through with your games. You lied about investigating Alexander’s accident. I saw the photos in the newspaper and I visited the scene of the accident. There was nothing there to indicate that the crash had been anything other than an accident. Perhaps someone had tampered with the car, but the only way to find that out was to investigate the vehicle itself. And you didn’t care enough to check it out.”

***

An additional chapter of the book will be posted every Monday. Please join in the adventure — it should be fun! We don’t even know whodunit and won’t know until the end. You can find the earlier chapters here: Rubicon Ranch

Pat Bertram is the author of Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. All Bertram’s books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.  At Smashwords, the books are available in all ebook formats including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!

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Rubicon Ranch: A Collaborative Novel

I am involved in a wonderful project with eight other authors from Second Wind Publishing — writing a novel online.  We take turns writing chapters, and each of us writes from the point of view of a character we created. The story begins with a little girl’s body being found in the wilderness near the desert community of Rubicon Ranch. Was it an accident? Or . . . murder! But who would want to kill a child? No one knows, not even the writers, and we won’t know until the very end! Here is an excerpt from one of my chapters to entice you to come join the fun. You can find what we have written so far by clicking here: Rubicon Ranch.

“Look I know you’re dressed for the desert and everything,” Bryan said, “but I hope you won’t be offended if I ask you to sit in the unit here for a minute or two and enjoy the air conditioning while I talk to my deputies.”

He could tell she was thinking over his request carefully, that Melanie didn’t quite trust him. She also didn’t act like someone who had just killed a child and was trying to cover it up, although—he judged—she might be clever enough to do just that.

“Well if I have to wait,” she said, “I guess I’m better off in here than out in hundred degree weather.”

Bryan opened the driver’s door. “One hundred and three degrees,” he corrected.

Frio and Midget were standing within a few feet of the discarded TV, as if to make sure the child inside did not get out and skip away. Midget paid less attention to the crime scene than the scrub brush and mounds of rock and dirt around him.

“Do we know who this was?” the sheriff asked as he joined them.

“No,” Frio said. “If she’s from this housing development, it won’t be hard to find out. Not too many girls her age up here.”

“They don’t know she’s gone,” Midget offered in his falsetto. “Otherwise they would have reported her missing before Flower Child over there found her.”

“Yeah, unless they killed her.” He glanced back to his Navigator. Melanie was staring at them. “So this Melanie Gray. More to her than meets the eye, you think?”

“Obviously,” Frio replied. “With all those clothes she wears, almost nothing meets the eye.”

“Yeah.” He turned back toward the TV. “I would totally discount her as being involved in any way, except for one thing. From the very first, she talked about this as if it’s a murder.”

Midget looked down at him. “You think it’s not a murder?”

He shrugged. “What is she—eight, nine-years-old? She sneaks out at night after bedtime and loses her way. No one notices she’s gone. She gets lost. She gets dehydrated. She finds the TV console and decides to sit it in for shelter. Maybe she dies of exposure. Or maybe one of those green rattlers around here bit her. Since no one could hear her crying for help, she crawled in the TV and the venom got her.” He looked up at Midget, who was gazing around them. “You don’t like snakes, do you?”

“Do you?”

He chuckled. “So let’s proceed as if this is a wrongful death investigation. What do we need to do, Frio?”

She sighed. “Well, I’ve already called for the coroner and the bus. Midget and I will cordon off this area with tape and protect the scene as much as possible. We need to figure out who the little girl is and notify her parents.”

“What if they’re dead too?” Midget asked.

***

Lazarus Barnhill is the author of Lacey Took a Holiday and The Medicine People, available from Second Wind Publishing.

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Rubicon Ranch — The Desert is Heating Up!

Nine Second Wind authors are collaborating to write a thriller online.

A little girl’s body has been found in the wilderness near the desert community of Rubicon Ranch. Was it an accident? Or . . . murder! But who would want to kill a child? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.

No one knows whodunit, not even the writers! So follow along — your guess is as good as ours. The first four chapters have been written. You can find those chapters by clicking here: Rubicon Ranch: A Collaborative Novel.

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RUBICON RANCH – The Suspects are Growing

Summer is over. Fall is upon us. Time for a new project. The second chapter of Rubicon Ranch is now available and I couldn’t be more pleased. I’m thrilled to be one of the writers involved in this collaborative novel. This innovative concept of presenting chapters online, followed by a printed version of the book may very well become a standard, but Pat Bertram thought of it first and Second Wind Publishing is enthusiastically supporting nine of their crime writer novelists in this project.

The first chapter, by Pat Bertram, features Melanie Gray, the recent widow who discovers the body of a little girl stuffed into the console of an ancient television set. Chapter two follows the path of the county sheriff as he begins his investigation. Lazarus Barnhill presents a compelling character who begins to expose the seven suspects living in the upscale California desert community of Rubicon Ranch.

Chapter eight is when you will meet my character, Eloy Templeton Franklin, an 82-year-old ex-military man who acts as sentry of the neighborhood. Riddled with arthritis, all but feeble, he is an outsider who rarely leaves his porch . . . or does he?

Eloy has been a much welcomed break as I toil through the galley of my upcoming thriller in search of dropped words, misplaced commas, inconsistencies, killing passives, all the while doing my best to approach this arduous task as if it is the first time reading this manuscript when it’s got to be the fiftieth.

SNARE is Book Two of my Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series which is scheduled for release in December. Chantelle Aimée Osman has come up with a striking cover guaranteed to entice every suspense lover. Look for “SNARE Uncovered” on this blog December 5th to get a peek at this extraordinary cover and to find out more about the upcoming release.

In the meantime, stay tuned to the Rubicon Road site where a new chapter will be presented every Monday.

 Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel STACCATO, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon and Kindle. If you’re in the Arizona area, STACCATO can be found at Borders Scottsdale Waterfront, The Well Red Coyote, and Changing Hands Bookstore.

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The Second Chapter of Rubicon Ranch Has Been Posted!

You can find the second chapter of Rubicon Ranch, the Second Wind collaborative novel here:  “Chapter Two: Seth Bryan — by Lazarus Barnhill.” Next week we will be posting a chapter by JB Kohl and Eric Beetner, authors of the wonderful noir novel One Too Many Blows to the Head. We hope you will join us in our adventure!

Here’s a taste of Chapter Two:

“Look I know you’re dressed for the desert and everything,” Bryan said, “but I hope you won’t be offended if I ask you to sit in the unit here for a minute or two and enjoy the air conditioning while I talk to my deputies.”

He could tell she was thinking over his request carefully, that Melanie didn’t quite trust him. She also didn’t act like someone who had just killed a child and was trying to cover it up, although—he judged—she might be clever enough to do just that.

“Well if I have to wait,” she said, “I guess I’m better off in here than out in hundred degree weather.”

Bryan opened the driver’s door. “One hundred and three degrees,” he corrected.

Frio and Midget were standing within a few feet of the discarded TV, as if to make sure the child inside did not get out and skip away. Midget paid less attention to the crime scene than the scrub brush and mounds of rock and dirt around him.

“Do we know who this was?” the sheriff asked as he joined them.

“No,” Frio said. “If she’s from this housing development, it won’t be hard to find out. Not too many girls her age up here.”

“They don’t know she’s gone,” Midget offered in his falsetto. “Otherwise they would have reported her missing before Flower Child over there found her.”

“Yeah, unless they killed her.” He glanced back to his Navigator. Melanie was staring at them. “So this Melanie Gray. More to her than meets the eye, you think?”

“Obviously,” Frio replied. “With all those clothes she wears, almost nothing meets the eye.”

“Yeah.” He turned back toward the TV. “I would totally discount her as being involved in any way, except for one thing. From the very first, she talked about this as if it’s a murder.”

Midget looked down at him. “You think it’s not a murder?”

He shrugged. “What is she—eight, nine-years-old? She sneaks out at night after bedtime and loses her way. No one notices she’s gone. She gets lost. She gets dehydrated. She finds the TV console and decides to sit it in for shelter. Maybe she dies of exposure. Or maybe one of those green rattlers around here bit her. Since no one could hear her crying for help, she crawled in the TV and the venom got her.” He looked up at Midget, who was gazing around them. “You don’t like snakes, do you?”

Click here to read the whole chapter: Chapter Two: Seth Bryan — by Lazarus Barnhill

If you haven’t yet read the first chapter of this novel experience you can find it here: “Chapter One: Melanie Gray —  by Pat Bertram“.

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