Thursday’s Throwback with Marilyn Leach

Up From the Grave

A Lenten sod turning ceremony for a new water feature in the back garden of St. Aidan of the Wood Parish Church goes utterly pear-shaped when the upturned soil reveals a human skeleton. With Berdie Elliott at the helm, the whole of Aidan Kirkwood digs into the mystery. When the bones held life, just who was this person? Who is the mysterious contessa that arrives on the garden scene? And what does the young and beautiful Robin Derbyshire’s wedding have to do with the grave? Unearth the answers in this fun spring romp.

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Read an excerpt:

Excerpt from Chapter Two of Up From the Grave: A Lenten Mystery by Marilyn Leach Published by Pelican Book Group, Nicola Martinez Editor


“And furthermore,” was all Wilkie managed to get out when another booming voice interrupted.

“Wilkie Gordon, do sit down.” The tall and commanding Colonel Preswood was on his feet; shoulders squared and jaw tight, spitting the words in the old dissenter’s direction. “For heaven’s sake man, get a grip.” Though his suit was nicely tailored and pressed, his broad features were sour as he addressed the crowd. “Our guest can do whatever she chooses with her money. Now let’s get on with what we’re here for.”

In haste Mr. Webb half whispered words of reassurance to the Countessa, “Don’t pay any mind to them,” and he pushed the shovel handle into her palm, pointing to the ground. “Now!” commanded the harassed council president.

Berdie watched Hugh who had now also risen to his feet. She knew he’d put things in place and restore the calm. But before he could speak, the countessa pushed the polished tool up to the hilt into the soil. Despite her spike heeled shoes, and with some labor, she turned its contents over. The woman’s face went pale. A voluble shriek escaped from the pink shimmering lips of Countessa Santolio.

All heads, as if observing a tennis match, moved from the Wilkie Gordon-Colonel Preswood drama to the elegant woman who threw the shovel down with such force it almost made a direct plant on Mr. Webb’s Italian leather shoe.

The head of council peered into the newly made hole. His face became morose.

Berdie watched Hugh place himself delicately to take a peek at what was causing such a reaction. Indeed, half the audience was now straining forward as if to catch a glimpse. The very proper Mrs. Plinkerton, a respected member of the parish council, was seated closest to the cavity and peered into the soil.

“Bones,” she screeched. Her aging face whitened and she fell back against her chair, as if to faint, sending her large pink hat on a tumble.

“Bones?” Berdie said aloud.

The council members next to Mrs. Plinkerton grabbed the hat and worked furiously to fan her.

Hugh raised his hands calmly. “Let’s keep our sensibilities. First, Edsel, would you please get Mrs. Plinkerton a glass of water?”

Edsel Butz made way to the church.

Hugh’s’ voice was clear and strong. “All our lands are open grazing. It’s very likely nothing more than the remains of a sheep.”

“You’ve desecrated a grave,” someone yelled in the crowd.

“Let’s not rush to judgment,” Hugh urged.

Berdie sensed someone bending towards her.

“What’s going on?” Dr. Loren Meredith’s voice could melt butter. “I just arrived. Looks a bit of a mad house.”

With Lillie’s love interest, the pathologist Dr. Loren Meredith, being so near, Berdie became aware of his unique scent. It was a combination of fresh scrubbed soap and a touch of mountain air. What a shame, she thought, that the rest of the afternoon wasn’t as pleasant as Dr. Meredith’s presence.

“I’m afraid the whole affair has gone a bit pear shaped,” Berdie responded. And not just before Constable Goodnight poked his considerable finger into the doctor’s shoulder.

“Need your services if you please,” the large law enforcement officer grumbled. “Come along.”

The handsome physician, shoulder length black hair pulled back from his slightly graying temples and fastened at the nape of his neck, followed Goodnight to the gauged earth.

The constable bellowed forth making his rotund shape heave. “Everyone sit down or I’ll arrest the lot of ‘ya.”

The constable’s boom sent baby Katy Donovan into a great crying frenzy which soon became a chorus when Dotty Butz and several other infants joined in. Few paid attention to Goodnight’s command.

Dr. Meredith bent close to the earth and pushed aside additional dirt revealing more remains.

Berdie’s curiosity got the better of her and deftly she stepped to the sight the doctor examined.

“Human, a little one,” the pathologist said discreetly and stood.

“Well, I never,” Berdie exhaled, “of all times and places.”

“Quite,” the doctor agreed.

The animated voice of Mr. Webb sounded. “Surely there’s been some mistake.”

Goodnight, standing next to Berdie, grunted, took a deep breath, and trumpeted across the crowd, “I’m declaring this a crime scene. You lot go home now.”

“Albert,” Mr. Webb challenged, “is this really necessary?”

“Do pigs grout?” Goodnight spurted.

There was the sound of a toppled chair and a voice cried out, “Reverend Elliott, Wilkie Gordon’s collapsed.”

Berdie caught her breath as Hugh, quite fit for a man his age, nearly hurdled the chairs to get to Mr. Gordon. A small group had gathered round.

“I appreciate your concern, but please stand back, give him room to breathe,” Hugh ordered.

Edsel, who had just given the glass of water to Mrs. Plinkerton, was next to Hugh moving people along as the vicar attended to the old gentleman.

“I said go home!” Goodnight bellowed like an evening fog horn.

Whipped by the swirl of events and Goodnights’ volume, a mad migration of people took flight for the front road. Chairs tipped and children were swept up. Mr. Webb hurriedly escorted the countessa and her aide back to her limousine and Dave Exton, who seemed to relish the action, went snap happy with his camera.

Dr. Meredith turned his attention to Hugh and Mr. Gordon. He took a step.

“Stay right here Doctor,” Goodnight barked, “Vicar’s doin’ a fine job.”

“Are you mad, Goodnight?” Dr. Meredith frowned, and moved quickly to Wilkie’s side.

Berdie took in the policeman. “Shouldn’t you be doing something to help Mr. Gordon, Constable Goodnight?”

“More important I keep an eye on this.” The law officer stabbed his thumb in the direction of the skeleton. “I shall be calling the Yard in on this,” he rumbled.

About the author

At the age of nine, Marilyn wrote her first play with a childhood neighbor, “The Ghost and Mr. Giltwallet”. It was a mystery. And she’s been writing in one form or another, hobby or livelihood, since. As well as teaching art, she’s had the opportunity to co-author several plays that have been performed on both church and secular stages, as well as two screenplays. Marilyn has had the good fortune of “discovering her roots” while visiting England where she developed lasting relationships with wonderful people there. It has greatly impacted her writing. A keen fan of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and David Cook’s Hetty Wainthropp series, Marilyn was inspired to write her Berdie Elliott Mystery series. It takes place in a small English village where the vicar’s wife, Berdie Elliott, is the divine sleuth. Marilyn lives lakeside in a cottage on the outskirts of Denver near the foothills.


Inspiration for Up from the Grave









These photos are of the local churchyard in the small village of Lastingham, Yorkshire, England. (Photos courtesy of Lillie Harris.) When we visited the church there, I was taken with how well groomed the churchyard was. And I’m sure there were no shallow graves with un-entombed bodies like there is in my story Up from the Grave. Still, it was a pleasure to view. Adding a water feature to a church garden isn’t especially common, but there are some English church gardens that have them, especially at historic abbeys. The English have long practiced burial of church members in the church garden, though it’s not as common today. It’s fascinating to see and read these ancient monuments that honor people from the past. It helped inspire my mystery. Cheers.

Wednesday’s Writer with Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Counting on the Cowboy

Today I have Shannon Taylor Vannatter talking about her new release, Counting on the Cowboy. Keep reading because Shannon is doing a Giveaway! Please be sure to leave a comment for her. One lucky commenter will be chosen to win their very own copy of Counting on the Cowboy! See end of post for Giveaway details

Shannon, being from Texas and growing up in the country, this sounds like my kind of book. Let’s get started with our interview.

When you were young, did you ever see writing as a career or full-time profession?

No. I had a creative writing class in the 3rd grade. I loved it and my teacher was very complimentary on my work, but I never had more classes like that. I read a lot in my teens and had a story in my head. I’d add twists and tweak the ending. But I never thought of it as a book. I saw it as a movie, but I had no desire to go to Hollywood.

I never realized it could be a book until I was in my thirties and I couldn’t find any clean romance at the library. It hit me then that the story in my head could be a book and I should write it. Once I did, I realized it wasn’t only clean, it was Christian. It took me 9 1/2 years to get published. And then another 4 years for that story in my head to get published.

What an amazing testimony of perseverance! I think a lot of us can relate to taking years to get published. I know I can!

Out of all the characters you’ve written about, is there one that is your favorite?

I still love Garrett Steele from Rodeo Song. I love men with long hair and he had it. I always fall in love with each of my heroes though and Brock McBride from my latest is no exception. I base all of my heroes on aspects of my husband, so it’s okay if I fall in love with them.

Have you ever won any award for your writing?

My first book, White Roses won the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award

Do you have a special place where you like to write?

We just remodeled our house and added on an office for me. I used to write in a corner of the living room. With the new office, I have my own space and get to decorate the way I want – pale, beachy green walls with seashells galore. The door hasn’t been installed yet, my seashells are still boxed up from the move, and it still needs flooring and trim work, but it’s functional and I love it. My husband and son love it too since my seashells are out of the living room.

Have you ever received a rejection?

I stopped counting at 200 on 8 different books before I got published. I still have them in a thick manila envelope and I often take them to writers’ conferences when I speak. I tell aspiring authors that getting rejections means you’re working at getting published. I’ve gotten four or five since I got published too.

Great advice!

What is another piece of advice you would give to an unpublished writer?

Go to big national conferences geared toward your genre. I spent several years not going to any conferences. I finally realized I wasn’t getting anywhere, then attended several local conferences geared toward everything from short stories, to poetry, to secular novels. I learned a lot, but it still seemed like I wasn’t getting anywhere. I expanded my horizons and found American Christian Fiction Writers. That’s where the real deep learning started. Three years later, I got my first 3 book contract after pitching a book to an editor there.

Do you take time to plot and outline your books? Or do you like to write by the seat of your pants?

I’m a pantser. But since I’m published, I have to plot a proposal in advance. Writing the synopsis before I write the book is like pulling teeth for me.

Do you ever talk about your next project or do you keep it a secret?

If it’s contracted, I talk about it. If it’s not, I talk about it with my trusted writer friends. We often brainstorm and get the story fleshed out.

How long does it take you to write a book?

If it’s flowing, I can write a book in five to six weeks. If it’s not flowing, it takes every bit of time I have until the deadline to turn it in. I like at least two weeks to revise, so if I have a four month deadline and the book isn’t flowing, it’ll take me three and a half months to write the first draft.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Spend time with my family. If my son is home, I’m not writing, unless I’m close to deadline. He’s sixteen, so I try to get in as much time as I can with him. Also, my husband and I have a flea market booth. We love repurposing and crafting. It rests my brain to have a creative outlet that doesn’t require words. And all the really cool stuff goes in our house. It’s really fun because we can make a coffee table and use it for a while. Then see something we like better and put the old one in the booth.

Where do you get your ideas for your books?

Everywhere. The news, conversations with friends and family, other books, TV shows. I’ll take a snippet of something and craft a new story around it. For Counting on the Cowboy, a young woman in our church had to move out of apartment on short notice. The only place she could find quickly was out in the country and had been uninhabited for a while. Every week at church, she had a story. About mouse traps going off all night, and being in a quandary when one got its tail caught. A skunk crawling in her heater vent, spraying, and dying. Cows surrounding her car and licking the windshield—so that once she finally got them to move, she couldn’t see out. I told her someday all of it was going in a book.

Is there a message in your book you hope readers will relate to?

The message in all of my books is that love doesn’t make the world go around, Jesus does. All of my characters have to turn their lives over to God before they get their happily-ever-after. Brock and Devree are no exception.

I love that message, Shannon.

Do you have a mentor author or a particular author whose work inspires you?

I love everything Denise Hunter has ever written and I hope to be her when I grow up.

What kinds of research do you do for your books?

I’ve researched everything from the florists to rodeos. When we visit places where my books will be set, my husband says I’m not really there with him, I’m in the book. With this book, I researched carpentry, wedding planning, and high risk pregnancy. It’s set in Bandera, Texas. My husband has family there, so I’ve visited countless times.

Do you have a full time day job? If so, how do you find time to write?

I used to have a full time job before our son was born. I wrote 8 books in 3 years. I got off work at 5:00 and my husband didn’t get off until midnight. I used that time to write almost every evening. I also made notes or wrote scenes during my breaks and lunch hour.

Once our son was born, I became a stay at home mom, but didn’t write anything new until he started preschool at 3 years old. For the next four years, I wrote 2 new books and spent a lot of time, rewriting old books, as I learned more about writing.

He was 8 when I finally got my first contract. Since then, I’ve had fifteen books published and some of them were my first efforts, but I still had to practically rewrite them since I didn’t know what I was doing back then.

These days, I write every day while our son is in school and my husband is at the church he pastors. During the summer, I write from 10:00 pm until 2:00 am, then sleep til 10:00 am.

Ranching is his whole life… until he meets one special city girl.

Texas Cowboy Brock McBride knows better than to fall for a city girl. She’ll leave and break his heart—just like his ex-fiancée did. But his job at Chasing Eden Dude Ranch requires working alongside Dallas wedding planner Devree Malone. And despite fierce resistance, he’s falling hard. Yet with Devree’s business back in the city, can he convince her she’s found her home…with him?

Get your copy now: Counting on the Cowboy

Giveaway details:

Comment to enter the drawing for a copy of Counting on the Cowboy. Ten copies will be split among names drawn during the blog tour from March 13 – April 10. One winner will get to pick the theme for a custom made memory board personally crafted by the author. Deadline April 20. Winners will be revealed on the author’s blog on April 21. Go to my website and sign up for my newsletter to enter more giveaways and get a free book download.

Follow my blog tour for more chances to win Counting on the Cowboy:

About Shannon:

Award winning author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter writes contemporary Christian cowboy romance and has over a dozen published titles. A romance reader since her teens, she hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as she demonstrates that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does.

She gleans fodder for her fiction in rural Arkansas where she spent her teenage summers working the concession stand with her rodeo announcing dad and married a Texan who morphed into a pastor. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her husband and son, flea marketing, and doing craft projects.

Connect with her: Shannon’s Website, Shannon’s Blog, Shannon’s Facebook, Shannon’s Goodreads, Shannon’s Pinterest, Shannon’s Twitter, and  Shannon’s Amazon Author Page.

Tuesday’s Teaser with Leeann Betts

Thank you for being here, Leeann. Let’s talk about your new book, Petty Cash.

How would you describe your main character(s)? Carly is feisty but compassionate, nosy but also private about her own life by nature. Her husband Mike says the only exercise she gets is jumping to conclusions, but Carly also likes digging for answers, jumping the gun, and sometimes even passing the buck.

What is the problem your character(s) face in your book?

Carly’s main problem is find out who killed the good doctor. And she only as a long weekend to do it in.

What would you like your readers to know about your character(s)?

My characters tend to be people I’ve met somewhere else. I tell folks to be nice to me, or they may find themselves in my next book.

Thank you, Leeann. Now, let’s give everyone a sneak peek at your new book!

Leeann has graciously offered to give away a free copy! Your choice of print (US only) or e-book  Click here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Read moreTuesday’s Teaser with Leeann Betts

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