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Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Next Big Thing: Gritty Christian Fiction

This is a kind of new thing for me here at Urban Fiction Unreleased, but I was invited by dear friend, Donna Fletcher Crow:, to participate in this month's books and blog promotion. As some of you know, I recently released NHI: No Humans Involved under the new title NOTORIOUS. I am very happy to announce that during the week of November 17TH NOTORIOUS ranked at #47 on the Amazon.COM’S African American Authors' listing. Due out later this month or early next is the second installment of the new look Nate Richards' series DEAD LIST. My newest book, due in December 2012, is being produced under the title I.A.I.(Internal Affairs Investigation) and will be the third book in the Nate Richards Mystery Series. As a 23-year veteran of law enforcement, one of the things that hang heaviest over the head of a police officer is the dreaded I.A., internal affairs. I wondered what it would be like as an officer to experience this type of grind; and being on the inside; I had the chance to interview several different officers from many different agencies and then combined their experiences to create the story-line. As a work of Christian fiction, the entire Nate Richards Series is a reflection of Noir, Urban fiction, Christian crime thriller/drama. If I had the pleasure of seeing Nate Richards realized as a TV drama, the actor I would most imagine playing him would be Michael Ealy. As a rich diverse actor, I feel Ealy has what it takes to pull off the diverse cultural, both cop - civilian and church - civic, that is integral to the Nate Richards. I don’t know about you, but I always love the one word or short phrase descriptions done for books. (Cynicism) But, if I had to give a short phrase description for NOTORIOUS it would be Gritty Christian Crime Fiction. How did I do? While I have nothing against indie-publishing, I preferred to use NCC Publishing, LLC out of South West Idaho, the Treasure Valley. I pursued the more traditional route for NOTORIOUS. To complete my book took me just shy of five months to finish the manuscript's first draft, but to clean it up for print ready I'd have to add another two months. Working with NCC gave me a great opportunity to fine-tune the work with the use of an objective perspective. As I look around the landscape of Christian Crime fiction, the books that most remind me of NOTORIOUS are Dee Henderson’s Full Disclosure, and Joshua Graham’s, The Accidental Hero. The thing that drove me to write NOTORIOUS was my desire to bring my readers into the world of the active duty police officer. So many books talk about the cop world and about the cops themselves, but what I wanted to do was bring my readers in the mind and heart of the cop by experiencing that world through the eyes of Nate Richards. If you enjoyed NOTORIOUS and I know that you will, you will love the books by these other authors, check them out they are some of my favorites. Gideon's Call, by Peter Leavell, Winds of Wyoming, by Becky Lyles, Scent of Lies, by Debra Burroughs, Nadia's Hope, by Lisa Buffaloe, A Midsummer Eve's Nightmare, by Donna Fletcher Crow, D.R.T. (Dead Right There), by Ray Ellis,

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Christian Fiction

Someone asked me recently what I thought of the concept of Christian Fiction. This question caught me off guard to a certain degree, because the purpose for the question appeared unfounded. Let me say it this way: To ask for the need of Christian Fiction is like asking why create Christian music, or paintings depicting the glory of God. I never hear anyone wonder of the need of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel or wonder at that miracle in marble of the sculpture of David, or the depth of sorrow, loss, and hope captured in the Pietà.
In every culture and in every ethnic group recorded in human history, the chief vehicle of education has been the story. First in the oral tradition and then as civilization grew, the story grew right along with it and evolved into the written form; and finally in the forms of movies and cinema we enjoy today.  But the question before us is why should we as Christians’ leave our generation’s stories in the hands of an unbelieving populace.
When we consider the mechanism of story, of course, even the Bible tells of the use of the oral tradition, but the question to us is that of fiction. For that, let us look to the New Testament and the use of parables.  According to, a parable is a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. This was the chief tool used in instruction by Jesus.
As writers of fiction, we have at the tip of our fingers the ability to carry on the tradition of Jesus by using stories to teach about the principles and philosophies of Christianity. Consider the wonderful lessons of creation as described in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The With and the Wardrobe or the power revealed in General Lew Wallace’s Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ, and ask yourself where would we be without them.
Now think of the power of hope and salvation woven in the pages of Francine River’s Redeeming Love as the lead character, Michael Hosea, loves and established the heart of his wayward wife in the truth of Christian love.  In my own story, NOTORIOUS, the lead character, Nate Richards, deals with contemporary problems in a metropolitan setting and the reader is allowed, through Nate’s interaction, to experience the leadership and guidance of the Spirit of God as he deals with real life situations.
This is the power of story. We have at our disposal the means to bring our readers along into any of life’s situations and allow them to experience the truths of Christ. As writers, if we fail to do this, I wonder if we won’t be among those who will find themselves numbered with those giving an account to Jesus for the talents we left unused.  Just saying…. Think about it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Finding the Message – Part VI

I had the pleasure of seeing a part of God’s creation brand new to my eyes—I saw buffalo. While driving through the majestic vistas of Yellow Stone, I saw things that were more beautiful than I could ever describe before.

Sunrise over tree-covered mountains, steam snaking from the ground like hungry fingers, deep reds and subtle ocher contrasted against the vivid greens made the shallow valleys picturesque in the least bordering on the ethereal. Then came the buffalo…large, powerful…majestic. So much strength that as over half ton of beef wondered along the bank of the river—it paid no attention to either me or the several other dozen or so of its patrons.

I watched as steam built then erupted from deep underground stores. It made me think again of the story and the way a true message builds up and then erupts into the story and the way that, even though it is beneath the surface, and for the most part unseen, without the park, it would have been just another shallow valley, so would the story be just another collection of words placed together on a page.

So, a word from the road, from me to you—I know I said my last installment would be the last on the message, but this one just spoke to me. Steam from beneath, buffalo above, and God’s creation all around. The message. Think about it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Finding the Message – Part V

In this fifth and final installment of Finding the Message, I would like you to consider again your favorite story. As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my favorite stories as a child was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum. While in the ninth grade, I checked the book out of my Jr high school library at least 47 times in the course of that school year alone. And yes, I read it each time, at least most times.

What was it that kept me coming back? Was it the tornado, the famous yellow brick road, the fanciful creatures, the Kalidahs—the ferocious half bear half tiger creature that hunted in the deep woods; or maybe the Hammerheads with their elastic necks. Or maybe it was a combination of them all.

But what was true for me, and I am sure it is true for all readers and lovers of good books, is that the message of true friendship and a love of family and friends is the thread that holds the entire story together. How many times did I imagine having a pal like the straw-stuffed Scarecrow, or a compassionate buddy (ready to lay his life down for me) like the Tin Man; and how could anyone ever forget the powerful comrade, like the Lion, that lets you hang on to his back as he carries you over life’s deep ravines when you don’t have the power to do it yourself.

This is the same message of romance, of deep friendship enjoyed by the command crew of the Star Trek series. No matter what happened, including Spock’s death, you always knew the team would be there for one another. This was their message. This is what held them together and what held us as viewers glued to our tubes.

Now we won’t all be a L. Frank Baum or a Gene Roddenberry, but we all can be the very best “Me” we can be. Go on now and create your new stories and build your masterpieces of creative thought, but in the doing so, don’t forget to weave in the threads of a message worth living. Think about it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Finding the Message – Part IV

I was asked recently what I thought was the most important thing about writing. After a moment or two of thinking, the only answer that came to mind was the simplest of all…the story.

Think of the best stories you have read or heard; or even watched in a movie. It is not the great prose, or the finely crafted sentences, but rather the human element; the story that first hooks you and then draws you into its mythos.

Consider the book Raptor Red by Robert T. Bakker. In this story where there are no humans involved—sound familiar—but soulless animals only; nonetheless, Bakker creates a sympathetic character in Red and causes you as the reader to care for her and her struggle for life.

What was the message that Bakker so craftily conveyed? That life has value; and life is worth the struggle, worth the fight for the right simply to be “you.” In addition, what is it that draws the reader across the dusty ages and into the valley of a long Jurassic struggle? It is the message imbedded in a very well written story. Think about it.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Finding the Message – Part III

Okay, here we are with the third installment on the message. To some degree we must first define what we mean by “the message.” According to Google a story is, “An account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.” While a message is, “A verbal or recorded communiqué designed to convey specific information.”

Consider Josh Snell’s new short story Beyond a Beating Heart, published by Snellster Publishing. While the story, in a very poignant manner, deals with the tragedy of a teen death and the horror it brings to a family, the message is about the quality of life, and how and why we make certain choices over others.

The message is so skillfully wrapped into the story that the reader doesn’t realize he/she is being forced to ask and answer the question until the narrative has reached its zenith.

So as you are creating your manuscript, consider what the message might be. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, one of my childhood favorites, tells the story of an over the road adventure. But at its heart is the message of friendship and a kernel of truth that there really is “No place like home.” Think about it.

You can find Josh Snell’s book on Amazon by clicking here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Finding The Message - Part Two

The more I consider the “message of the story”, or as I am coming to see it, “the life’s blood”, the more I am compelled as a writer, who is also a Christian, to reveal the subtle truths that run through life almost unnoticed.

Would we care that the goose laid the golden egg, or that The Little Red Hen baked bread, if it wasn’t that the farmer learned that greed was bad, and that the farm animals learned that laziness had its own reward…lack.

My point? When I began writing N.H.I., I knew that the message that ran through the core of the story dealt with how we saw and treated people juxtaposed to how God commanded that we should. Then in D.R.T. came the question of the value of a human life and just who it is that gets to set that value. Of course, the real message there is: What will you do with the coming judgment between you and the Lord?

Then finally in I.A.I., while the message is ostensibly to police officers who’ve gone through an I.A.I. (Internal Affair Investigation), it is in the greater sense to anyone who has ever felt abandoned or cut off from a core group or family.

The message is what drives me as a writer and pulls you as a reader from page to page.

If we lose touch with the message, then we have, in effect, lost touch with our story. We’ll talk again later about discovering the true message within the heart of the manuscript. Until then, think about it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Out of Two Comes One: 18

As I near completion of I.A.I., book three in the Nate Richards series, I have been musing on the realization that what is really important about any story is its message. I don't mean the simple storyline, but rather what is the deeper truth that the story itself is trying to convey.

Consider the parable Jesus told of the vineyard. Remember how the owner of the vineyard hired a group of men to care for his property?  And they, being the crooks that they were, began to plot how they could steal the land for their own.  They even killed the property owner's son in a mad dash for power.

Well, ultimately the owner of the land returned and killed them all; it would have made a great movie.  Enter voice over guy, "A grieving father returns to take revenge on the men who killed his only son.... And this time there won't be any peace in the valley."

But I digress.

The point is that when we are creating our manuscripts, we have to fight to first discover then keep that message alive. In the case of the parable of Jesus, the story may have been about greed, but the message was much larger: salvation and the price of redemption.  Think about it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A New review of the short story, "I"

I by Ray Ellis is a gripping but disturbing short story. The story explores the sins and punishment of the sinner without any sugarcoating. Facing the memories of his transgressions, the main character suffers torment for false repentance. Excusing his own bad behavior leads the main character farther from the salvation he seeks.This story  will leave sinners, especially the self-righteous types, squirming as they are faced with the excuses people commonly present for their sins in life. I is raw and unrelenting in its execution. Ellis writes in a manner that keeps the reader on edge but still hopeful for the main character to repent and find mercy.

Thank you for letting me read and review it.
 All the Best!
 T. L. Cooper, Author of All She Ever Wanted

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Out of the Two comes One - Part Seventeen

As an author, my life is quite simple, but couple that with my new role as CEO at NCC Publishing ( and it puts me in mind of my dual roles as pastor and police officer. (What is it with the split personality thing and me anyway?) But I digress. My point is, as I execute my duties for the city in which I work, I am often confronted with issues of service and not merely enforcement.

It’s those moments when I get to touch a life with service…dare I say kindness, that the true beauty of being a cop shines through.  Now, compare that to being a pastor: How cool is it when you’re the one that gets to lay your hand on the newborn child and pray the blessing of the Lord on this tiny new person. Or be the only one in the entire church with a ringside seat for the very first kiss of husband and wife.

Too many times the dualities of life can be seen as bad or harmful, but sometimes it’s just plain fun.  I think the choice is up to you—or in this case, me. I choose to continue to serve both as pastor and as police officer, and now, I get to add to that—author and publisher.  Who knows, it might just be fun for you too.  So come along with me as I travel this new road in a world where two very different ideas make one very beautiful reality.  Just saying…think about it. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Out of the Two comes One - Part Sixteen

As I embark on this journey as a publisher and author, I am humbled by the enormity of the responsibility. With the imminent launch of NCC Publishing pending, we released our first project, “I” (a short story). It seemed fitting to me that our first release is a work dedicated to reach the heart of man and draw it to the light of God’s redeeming love.

The official launch date is set for July 1st 2012. We will celebrate with the re-release of both NHI: No Humans Involved, and DRT: Dead Right There. Those will be followed by the third book in the Nate Richards series, IAI: Internal Affairs Investigation; due to be released in late summer early fall 2012.
NCC Publishing will be divided into two sections: commercial and ministry. The goal is to have the commercial side up and running first so that it might sustain the ministry outreaches. (More to come on that later.)

But for now, I just wanted to get the word out that the blessing of the Lord is making room for us.  Look for great things from NCC Publishing. In the meantime, go out and purchase the inaugural release, “I”. In fact, buy several copies and make sure your friends and family read it.

When once you are done reading “I”, be sure to drop by and post your review. That will help get out the word about “I” so that others might read it and find hope and direction in its short pages. Besides, I’ve been told it’s a pretty good read….Just saying.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

A New Release. My newest book, a short story/

Check it out! A thought provoking short story by Ray Ellis and the cover is illustrated by Ray Ellis II. It's only 99 cents on Amazon!
Heat, cold, loneliness, and fear...One man’s journey as his soul rediscovers the path his life has followed. Will he find triumph or tragedy? “I”, one man’s story, will it be yours as well?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Out of the Two comes One - Part Fifteen

In the 22 plus years I’ve worn the uniform of the public servant known as a cop, police, or law enforcement officer, there is one thing that always strikes a nerve with stinging clarity and a sensation of pain. What is this ever present and palpable thing….The death of a fellow officer.

I just had the displeasure, yet the honor, of reading about Englewood, Colorado Police Officer Jeremy Bitner who died as the result of being struck by a drunk driver. He was only 39 years old and left behind a wife and two small kids. We all wear the uniform with the knowledge that death could claim each of us at any given time, and this is a part of the job we accept with a sober and clear mind. But, the idea of this valiant young man’s life ending as the result of the carelessness of a drunk driver makes the sacrifice…the loss, just that much more pointed.

Whenever I’m asked about the comparison between law enforcement and the ministry, this is the one that comes the closes. The willingingness of laying down one’s life for those he or she serves.

Yes, out of two comes one, but I am always quick to remind you that it is out of the ultimate ONE, Jesus Christ, that we get our truest meaning, and deepest identification.  It is why we can say yes to the profession where the very people we come to serve are the ones who threatens our lives. Just saying…think about it

Monday, April 23, 2012

Out of the Two comes One - Part Fourteen

Perhaps the hardest part about being both a cop and a pastor is that I know what the Lord has said about the nature of man; that he is basically evil. It is when I’m dealing with “the good people” in our community that don’t know they need the Lord, is the hardest part of all. This is the essence of the struggle I deal with in my novel N.H.I.

As I have contact with common everyday people, dealing with their common everyday problems, that I see the greatest struggle. I know the answers they are looking for are in Christ, yet I am restricted from sharing that tidbit of information. Therefore, I lace up my boots, and strap on my gun and go to work and serve the two peoples of my bi-cultural world. And yes, I do love serving my community, and I love serving my congregation. With this being true, then the only thing left to do is go forward bringing the best of both my worlds into balance in one: me.

My point? We are all on a journey traveling through life. Along the way, I've met a lot of different people and have gone through lot of different situations. The question I have had to answer is: Am I being the best “me” I can be? When I go to work or stand in the pulpit, I always know I have the opportunity to share the essence of Jesus in me—and so do you….Just saying.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Reposted from the blog of Christina Suzann Nelson ( Too good not to share)

Conference Season – part 2 – ACFW

April 13, 2012,
Author: Christina,
Categories: ACFW, conferences, guest blogger

Tags: ACFW, conferences, guest blogger, Lisa Buffaloe

A Buffaloe’s Roamings Through the ACFW Conferences

By Lisa Buffaloe

In 2007, I attended my first ACFW conference in Dallas. Bolstered by friends I had met through Lena Nelson Dooley’s critique group, I came in with wide-eyes and pen poised ready to learn. The worship every morning, incredible classes each day, and the fellowship with old and new friends were amazing blessings. I even had the chance to visit with (*ahem* stalk the agent) I wanted for representation.

Unfortunately during that time, due to Lyme Disease, my white count was being monitored weekly by doctors. My second day at the conference, my results came back at a dangerously low levels. I hurried to the prayer room, where Mary DeMuth and Brandilyn Collins prayed over me. In the midst of hundreds of people, God used these wonderful ladies to cover me with His protection.

Brandilyn Collins and Lisa – ACFW 2010

Unfortunately, the time spent in the prayer room caused me to be late for an editor appointment. I didn’t explain my reasons for my tardiness; I just tried to pitch my book. The editor wasn’t very impressed. Whimper.

In 2008, the conference in Minneapolis was again a wonderful opportunity to visit with friends, learn the craft of writing, and engage in incredible worship. The Mall of America book signing was a fun way to spend an afternoon watching author friends interact with readers. And I was blessed to visit with Tamela Hancock Murray who eventually became my agent.

Lisa and Tamela Hancock Murray – ACFW 2010

The 2009 conference in Denver, was again an awesome opportunity to visit with my buddies, attend wonderful classes, meet new friends, worship, hug my agent, and pitch to acquisitions editors.

I call the 2010 ACFW Conference in Indianapolis, The Amazing Divine Setup. My manuscript, Nadia’s Hope placed as a finalist in the Genesis contest, and I wondered if my time for publication had come. For my all-day flights, I purchased Jim Rubart’s novel, Rooms. I started reading at the Boise airport and finished when the plane touched down in Indiana. The book is basically a metaphor for how God walks us through past experiences (rooms) on our way to healing and to Him. God used Jim’s book to prepare my heart.

One of my appointments was with the same editor from 2007. Needless to say, I was scared stiff. However this time, as I walked into the meeting room, she cocked her head, smiled and said, “I remember you.” God had prepared the way. She asked two questions, one personal and one about my writing. And those questions I knew weren’t just from her. God was gently nudging me forward regarding my past and my writing. My manuscript didn’t win the Genesis contest, but I’m still smiling about God’s divine setup.

That night during the Harp and Bowl prayer session, I kept my head down in prayer as songs were played and others prayed. I cried, laughed, praised, and listened. I surrendered my ideas and my thoughts as I opened myself to whatever God desired to do with me and my writing. I’m still smiling.

The 2011 conference wasn’t what I expected. In many ways, the time was more than I could have hoped—laughter and hugs with friends I don’t see often enough, giggling until midnight with my roommate, howling over the ideas of goofy genres a publisher would never consider, and sweet times of praise during worship. Classes, meetings, opportunities to learn, and even the mortified snickering over food caught between my teeth at the lunch table prompting a scenario that could lead to a hilarious scene in a romantic comedy.

Lisa and Lynne Gentry – ACFW 2011

Then there were tears of dashed hopes, and the longing for hugs that didn’t come because of schedules, sick children, and the interruptions of life.

However this conference wasn’t just about writing. Before I had left home, I received a phone call about an opportunity. The offer wasn’t anything on my radar and not where I thought God was leading. During the entire conference I prayed for guidance and finally received the answer before I flew home.

I sat in the airport and peered around the corner of a different, unexpected, exciting God-orchestrated turn. Today I’m hosting Living Joyfully Free Radio, and I marvel at God’s goodness and the ways He has been working. My writing continues with daily blogs and articles, and my fiction waits in the wings for God’s perfect timing on publication.
When God says He knows the plans He has for you, trust Him. His ways are always the best, and exceedingly, more than we could ask or imagine.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD…” (Jeremiah 29:11-14 NIV).

Lisa Buffaloe is an avid blogger, writer, speaker, and radio host for Living Joyfully Free Radio. She is a contributing author of The One Year Book of Joy and Laughter. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications and in e-zines. Her fiction manuscripts, have placed as finalists the last two years in the Women of Faith writing contest, and also finished as a runner-up in the 2010 American Christian Fiction Writer’s (ACFW) Genesis Contest, and finaled in various other contests. Lisa is represented by literary agent, Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency.
I’m so pleased that Lisa took the time to share here. The ACFW conference is a life-changer. I’ve attended the last four years and strongly recommend this conference to fiction writers of all levels.

The ACFW 2012 Conference is open for registration.

Dates: September 20-23, 2012

Location: Dallas, Texas

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New Author Interview with Christian Bookshelf Reviews

Christian Bookshelf Reviews

Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Interview & Giveaway! Ray Ellis ~ Author of N.H.I.: No Humans Involved!!

Welcome to Christian Bookshelf Reviews, Ray! Will you tell us a little about yourself?

Hi, thank you for having me. I began my writing career while working for the Orange County Sheriff's Department in Orange County, California in the spring of 1989. After working for a number of years in the maximum-security facility, I transferred to patrol working along Orange County's coast as well as the inner canyons and barrios. After 8 years there, I moved to Idaho and continued my law enforcement career, serving as an instructor for the Idaho POST Council.

I was ordained into the ministry while living in Orange County and now serve as the Associate Pastor in my home church. I also served as a United States Marine in the early 1980’s prior to Desert Storm. I now do public speaking to groups of all sizes on the topics of writing and the creative process, as well as community and personal safety. I am currently working as an active duty police officer, having worked as the lead sex crimes investigator for almost 10 years and am now back on the streets in patrol. I have been married to the same beautiful woman for 28 years, have three grown children, and live with my family in Idaho.

See more and sign up to win a copy of NHI: No Humans Involved

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Just Back From NYC

This is not my normal type of blog, but I just had to say a few words about my trip to the City. The trip was amazing. The city was amazing. I walked the those ancient streets and could feel the history mingled with the current of electricity.

As a writer of Urban Fiction, I could feel how the grittiness of the streets and how it feeds the storyline. It was easy to see how Nate Richards, my character, would bump along through Mid-town, finding his way through the bowels of the City on the subway. What a setting for a story, no wonder there's so many cop stories are set in the City. Check out the images on Face Book page.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

NHI is free today and Friday on Amazon

Hey, for the next two days StoneHouse will have N.H.I.(No Humans Involved) up for free on Amazon. Be sure to get your copy this Thursday and Friday.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Out of the Two comes One - Part Thirteen

It wasn’t my first time dealing with death and it sure wouldn’t be my last.

The first time was when I, as a newly ordained minister, was sent to do a hospital visit. The plan was that I go and visit with an elderly church member and pray with and for her—but when I arrived, I was directed by hospital staff to the basement because my parishioner was downstairs “donating.”

My first time as a cop was on a trip to the morgue. In the fridge, which was the size of a small apartment, had bodies stacked like cordwood along three of the four walls from the floor to just shy of the ceiling. This was my first autopsy.

While working the streets, I have seen many more bodies in death; some as a result of violent confrontations, some due to natural causes, and some at their own hands. The common denominator, they were all dead. As a cop, you have to be distant…hold yourself back so you can study the event from an objective perspective. As a minister, I have to get close; I need to lower my walls so that I can help the church member to get through the difficulty of their time of loss.

The point? We all die—the good guys, bad guys, and the indifferent. So if we all have to die, the question really becomes not how we shall expire, but rather, how shall we live. Think about it….Just saying.

Friday, March 9, 2012

2012 Idahope Christian Writers' Conference

Pre-conference registration available on our website: http://www/.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Out of the Two comes One - Part Twelve

Sometimes my two worlds collide. Sometimes they explode into and upon one another. And sometimes they overlap to the point of blurring the lines. There are times when, at the very last minute, just before you’re ready to go 10-42—end of shift—something will happen and the entire rest of your day is shot.

The same is true in the ministry. There are times when you are just settling in to enjoy the evening; or you’ve just gotten into bed when the phone rings, and everything you had planned just got pushed to the side. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a complaint but an observation.

It is when we stop and realize the reasons for which we endure the trials of life that really give us, or reveal to us, the value of the time we have spent. When I am called upon to work late or deal with a particularly trying event, a family or individual in crisis, it is when I see what value I can possibly be to that situation that adds life to me. When I can bring a peaceful resolution to a family or direct a soul to those peaceful green pastures that David wrote about in Psalm 23, then all the trouble seems very much worth it.

We cannot avoid the troubles and trials of life, but we do get to decide if we will be made by them or if they will destroy us. In the end, when my two worlds collide, I am left with the choice of whether I will be the cop who’s a preacher or a preacher that’s a cop. Either way, the choice is mine and I choose life. Think about it….Just saying.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Out of the Two comes One - Part Eleven

Too many times I have found myself in situations where I wish I had been better: a better cop, a better minister, a better husband and father, a better man. When I look at the volume of the penal code, all the laws that are used to govern this great state, and I only deal with the criminal code, I am humbled by the great amount of information that there is to know…let alone do.

Then I consider the Bible, God’s penal code, and I see in its 66 books all that make up the fullness of its counsel, and again, I realize it is a great volume of information to try to master. As I’m working the streets as a patrolman, or even when I prepared cases as an investigator, I would think of all the possible lines of attack or of defense, depending on my starting position. I stop and just think about the expectations of those depending on me to do my job correctly so that they can then do theirs.

Now consider this as a minster: I have not only the burden of knowing what the Bible teaches, but the obligation to live it in real time for all those around me to see. They watch and see where I step and, if I do my job correctly, then they, too, can know where it is safe to stand. When I’m working as a patrolman, the citizens also watch me, hoping that I will be an honest purveyor of the laws of this city and state. Why? Because when they see my brothers and me, they feel that their own existence is made just a little bit safer, a little bit more secure.

For this reason, every time I strap on to ride out on patrol, or steal away in quiet prayer and Bible study, I am pleased to be that guy who gets to stand in the gap for the rest. It really is a great honor and in its own way a big deal. Think about it….Just saying.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

***Special Announcement ***Special Announcement***

2012 Conference

You! Please join us for our 5th Annual Idahope Christian Fiction Writers conference – bigger and better than ever!

Keynote speaker: Author, editor and founder of Marcher Lord Press, Jeff Gerke — “The Last Class on Show vs. Tell You’ll Ever Need” (2 sessions)

Workshop leaders:
➢ University of Phoenix writing instructor and author Laurie Bower: “Building Believable Characters”
➢ StoneHouse Ink acquiring editor and author, Chris White: “eBooks Can Change the World!”
➢ Idahope president and author of the Nate Richards Series, Ray Ellis: “Walking Through a Crime Scene.”
➢ Singer-songwriter Rebecca DeBore: “The Art of Creating and Writing Music and Worship Songs.”
➢ YA fantasy author and blog tour expert, K.C. Neal: “Successful Blogging & Blog Tours.”
➢ Idahope vice-president and author of the Kate Nielson Series, Rebecca Lyles:”Self-Editing for Savvy Writers.”

A panel of experts representing all aspects of writing and publishing will discuss “The Future of Publishing”

Lunch! Sandwiches, salads, snacks and drinks will be provided with the cost of the conference.

To see a PDF version of our flyer, click here!

Cole Community Church, Boise, Idaho
8775 Ustick Road (corner of Ustick & Maple Grove)

March 17, 2012

For God’s Eternal Glory

Register online at
See PAYPAL buttons below!

Or send a check to:
PO Box 922
Meridian, ID 83680

$55.00 for the entire day, if registered by ___.
$65.00 late registration.
$75.00 at the door

Friday, February 24, 2012

Out of the Two comes One - Part Ten

There are many situations that began as though it would be just another day. But like it often is for me as a police officer who is also an active Christian, the true battle was happening beneath my level of immediate awareness. I once had a neighbor, to which I’d been witnessing to about the Lord, and one day at the end of a very long shift, I looked up to see him standing against the wall. I hope you never experience this, but believe me when I say, it is a very bad feeling to look up and see a person that you’ve entertained in your home and been entertained in his, handcuffed and lined up on the wall of the condemned.

This image brought to my mind the day when all the unsaved would be found standing before the Great White Throne, and I wondered how many people I knew who would be in that fateful crowd. Too many times, as I execute my duties on the streets, meeting with several people from all different levels of our society, the image comes back to me again.

When I confront a violator, whether it be for a mere infraction or a felony offense, it always amazes me that some are defiant up to the end, while others admit their fault and are really sorry. Now, I’m not the county magistrate, and I am truly not God, but I can see how much better it is when we freely admit our guilt and seek forgiveness rather than arguing for why we should not be held accountable for our violations. Remember the real-time life lesson I referred to earlier? Well, think about it. If we can be found guilty and condemned for breaking the mere law of man, how great an offense it will be when we, if we are unrepentant, have to stand before God. Remember, I’m not the judge and I’m not God. I’m just a cop who is also a Christian looking forward to the end of shift. Think about it….Just saying.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Out of the Two comes One - Part Nine

I guess the only struggle—the one worth actually fighting about is the one we most often overlook: the human struggle. I saw it first while growing up in the dusty red dirt streets of my Selma, Alabama hometown, but failed to recognize it as such. I saw it again when I joined the U.S. Marines, but thought it was just boys being boys. Then in becoming a peace officer, I saw this struggle in a whole new light.

On becoming a police officer, if you will remember my mentioning in an earlier post, one of the first things you experience is the heavy badge. You get this belief that you’re great—that you’re awesome. Not unlike the young Marine who believes he can take on the entire U.S. Army and Navy alone, with one arm tied behind his back just to make the fight fair. Well in transitioning into that world of good guys verses bad guys, cops verses robbers, I saw this human struggle again. This time in the faces of the wives, husbands, children, mothers and fathers who were left to try to put life into some form of normal once their loved one had decided to cross that line.

I watched as young brides kissed dirty glass windows, because the lips of the person they loved were on the other side. Women exposing themselves to hands that would never caress them, and children crying for a daddy they might never know. This was the same struggle seen in the faces of the empty-eyed deputies who slept in the bunkroom because he or she could not face going home to the person they vowed to love forever. Or hearing the latest gossip of two married officers caught having sex in the parking lot just outside the HQ.

This…is the human struggle.

My point—it wasn't until truly seeing “people” in the light, or rather the darkness of their fallen condition, consumed and blinded by sin and its effects, was I really able to see myself in the proper light. For after all, I too am human and have my part in the human struggle. Think about it….Just saying.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Out of the Two comes One - Part Eight

As a peace officer I am constantly asked to make moral decisions, decisions where my judgment is the sole basis on what action I should or should not take. For instance, on a routine traffic stop, do I issue a citation or do I give a warning? Even in the matter of a misdemeanor arrest, do I take my arrestee to jail or do I issue a citation and release them in trust that they will show up at court?

A misdemeanor is a secondary level offense where the punishment is limited to a maximum of one year in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines. On the other hand, a Felony is the highest level of offense where the violation is punishable of any fine amount and can result in sentencing of a minimum of one year in State Prison up to life, and or death as deemed appropriate by the court. The lowest level is an infraction and is only punishable by a fine. So there it is the three levels.

In my 22 plus years of service, I have never had to shoot anyone in the line of duty. However, while working in Southern California, I was once involved in a group of officers that took on random gunfire as a part of a local New Year’s Day celebration: No one was hit and no suspects were ever identified. But, with that said, to shoot or not to shoot is a question I had to answer over two decades ago. This, like any other, is just one of many moral decisions I have to make on a daily basis. If you think about it, it is not too unlike what each of you are called to everyday: to decide the right or the wrong of any given matter. Think about it….Just saying.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Out of the Two comes One - Part Seven

The question of the spiritual is one that often comes up. Let me assure you, it is very real. This is perhaps the one juncture where my two worlds have their greatest overlap. When you think about it, aren’t all the moral questions, the questions of right and wrong, questions of the heart— not the heart in the romantic sense, but in the sense of judgment, of truth—of what we see ultimately as being right or wrong.

There was an occasion when a gentleman had been booked in for a rather heinous crime involving the rape and torture of a child. This man was demon possessed. He would often sit in his cell and have conversations with his unseen host. Now, I know there is such a thing as being mentally ill, but a person who is truly enduring a psychotic episode does, not respond to the verbal command to stop. Verbal commands have little effect in derailing either auditory or visual hallucinations.

This particular inmate was self-destructive and violent. He was known to cut himself and use his own blood to paint his cell walls and write inscriptions on the walls. On this particular day in question, he had taken his reinforced plastic lunch tray and snapped it into several pieces—pieces that could be used as a weapon. It was my job to escort the doctor into the cell in order to administer his medication…i.e., something that would make him sleep.

Because it was my job and pleasure to be the one wearing the badge, I entered the cell approximately three minutes before the doctor. When I entered, this man was growling and cutting himself with a shard from the tray. I stood a safe distance away for him, which was only about five feet in this small cell, and addressed him. I began by saying, “I know you know who I am, and I know you know who Jesus is.” Then I told him that because he knew who Jesus was, I knew he knew he could not touch me. I then told him that he was bound by the power and authority of the name of Jesus, and that he was not allowed to speak or interact as long as the doctor was in the cell…that I only wanted to hear from and speak to the real person whose body it was.

He immediately sat and the growling stopped. He then looked at me with the most pitiful eyes I’d ever seen. Just about that time, the doc walked in and did his routine. On the way out he thanked me for my ability to work with the mentally ill. I laughed and told him the same story I just told you. He nodded, giggled, and walked away shaking his head.

I turned and looked back up at the cell I had just secured behind the doc and myself to see that same inmate raging at an unseen guest, cursing at the world. Of course a few minutes later, he was sound asleep, curled in a ball on the floor. But the point of the story is yes…oh yes, the spiritual is very real ….Just saying.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Book Review***Book Review***Book Review

Book Review: Reflections in Silhouette: Poems by T.L. Cooper

The last time I read poetry Ronald Regan was still in his first term as president. Now comes T.L. Cooper’s Reflections in Silhouette and as I read her sometimes haunting and sometimes light and lyrical stanzas, I found myself caught up in the spirit of reflection. In pieces like “Today I Remembered” and “Hands”, T.L. captures the readers in a wreath of emotions both turbulent and free, forcing one to observe the pain and the triumph intrinsic to the human spirit.
In Reflections, T.L. creates a safe place from which the reader can observe the journey through the dark recesses too often ignored by those who wished evil didn’t exist in the world. Brave enough to lower the curtain into her own heart, T.L. gives the reader that certain leverage where one might be able to find the strength, upon reflection, to go forward into the bright sunshine of their own new day.

Ray Ellis, Author of N.H.I.(No Humans Involved) & D.R.T.( Dead Right There)

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Special Post on Bullying

Bullies: Too Frighten to Unveil

When the topic of bullying was presented to me, several images immediately came to mind; some from over the course of my career in law enforcement and others from my life. From this collection, I would like to share a piece of my own story.
I grew up as a black child in Jim Crow’s South. I remember going to the ticket window at the local movie theater to purchase tickets to see Disney’s, “The Love Bug” and having collected my tickets having to exit the building, walk around to the rear and making my way up the back stairs to the balcony…the Colored section. Even with a child’s heart, I realized this was bullying.
Yes, but not from an individual, rather from a system that was set on the perceived dominance or stronger power based determined to keep the smaller brother disenfranchised. As I grew older and experienced more of the world, I began to see this was true on many different levels: the middle school in- crowd, the high school jocks, and, in the workforce, the chosen inner circle. Even in the world of writing, there is the perception of the “haves” and those of the “will-have-nots”. Bullying is nothing new. And like in the world of my childhood of invisible walls and see through ceilings, we have but to join together and persist in righteousness- or resisting the efforts of the bullies- to see the triumph of the perceived “Little Brothers” .

Ray Ellis, Author of NHI (No Humans Involved) & DRT( Dead Right There)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Best selling author Vincent Zandri's review of D.R.T.

“Ray Ellis’s DRT or Dead Right There is one of those rare crime novels that not only keeps you teetering on the edge of your chair, but reminds you that the jagged line between good and evil is as narrow and painful as the razor’s edge. Penned with blood red imagery and the haunting grace of an old poet, this young author is sure to thrill legions of fans for years to come.”

--Vincent Zandri, bestselling author of The Innocent and Scream Catcher

Monday, January 30, 2012

Out of the Two comes One - Part Six

The one thing that is always true of my duel professions is that there are always intersections where the two worlds are poised for conflict. (You know what they say about phrases with the word always in them…they are always false. Smile.) The experience that gives substance to the lie is my working in the jail. Whenever a new inmate arrived, especially when that inmate was charged with a particularly horrible crime, I was challenged to be something different than that which was common around me. Where my fellow deputies might give into a lower impulse…nothing illegal, but still lower than what would be acceptable to the Lord, I would have to forgo that impulse.

There was an occasion where on one night an inmate came in and was offensive in almost every way you might think, even to the point of his attacking a fellow deputy. At this point, it was my duty to stop the threat while assisting my fellow officer. The hard part was in having to stop before I went too far. The impulse to give into anger, to become the punisher rather than the administer of justice. Conflict.

The question of how to institute the higher law of grace and mercy where doing things “the normal way” would not be questioned. On most of these occasions this conflict did not register with anyone else, for the battle was solely within myself. Do I apply that control-hold for that one extra heartbeat; do I ignore that inmate’s reasonable request just because of what he’s done or who he might be? These are the battles I fought and still fight. But then again, in reality, it is the battle we all fight: Will we do the right thing when it is time for the right thing to be done? Conflict….Just saying.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Out of the Two comes One - Part Five

One of the more common questions I’m asked is how do I blend my two worlds into one. The question is generally posed as if there really did exist a separation between the spiritual and the secular; as if I could be one person at work and another at home and church.

It became one of my constant goals to be congruent— to have my words and actions agree with my testimony. This brings to mind a day that I failed.

On a crisp Saturday morning the shift progressed as usual. I was working in the medical ward. In this ward there was a particular block where those inmates with contagious diseases were housed separate from other sick inmates. On this particular day there was one inmate, who being rather obstinate, provoked me to wrath. [Smile] In police-talk we call this heinous crime Contempt of Cop, and in most jurisdictions, it is considered a serious felony.

Well, after being repeatedly disrespected, disobeyed, and challenged—yes, I lost my temper. I stalked out of the control booth and stormed up to the inmate’s cell and snatched open the door. At this point I challenged the man to the fight he had been begging me for all morning. But, like with most inmates, once the door opened, his glass-courage evaporated. Glass-courage is that courage an inmate has when he is locked safe behind the cell door glass.

When I walked into his cell and stood over him, I could see the fear in his eyes and only then—once the eyes of all the other inmates and the nursing staff and the other deputy—did I mention I had been telling this deputy about the love of Jesus? Back to the story. I finally heard my partner calling me over the intercom and reminding me that this inmate was not worth my job.

Then the truth of the matter settled over me. I had put my testimony on the line. It seemed the Lord was always using the situations of my day to teach me about Him and about myself….Just saying.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Out of the Two comes One - Part Four

When asked what stands out about wearing the badge while living in the light of the empty tomb, what comes to my mind is an event that taught me more about the nature of grace than all the lectures I’ve heard on the subject combined.

It was early in the shift. I can’t remember what season, but I think it might have been summer— either way it was Southern Cal and all the days are beautiful. Two days prior to this, I had received a novel as a gift and discovered it to be one of those that I just could not put down. On the morning in question, I’d brought the book with me to read on my breaks. During the morning count, it fell to me to run the count on the first floor in booking. While making this round, I came across a single male inmate sitting in a cell designated for at least 20 persons.

When I opened the cell to confirm this inmate’s identity, I saw that he was reading a copy of “my” novel. No, not the one I’d written, but the one I was reading at the time. During this early stage in my career, I was still enamored with my shiny new badge and I couldn’t see how anyone of “these people”— these inmates, could have anything in common with me.

Time stopped.

I stalked to where the inmate sat reading a tattered copy of “my” novel and snatched it from his hands. Fear washed over the young man’s face as his color drained. He went rigid on the stone bench. “Where did you get this?” I demanded.

The inmate stuttered, “I-I-I found it on the floor. I didn’t mean to do nothing wrong, sir. I’m sorry. You can have it. I don’t want no trouble.” With that, he stretched both palms toward me as if to push me away.

In the breath of that moment, I realize the truth of the statement, “Except for the grace of God, there go I.” I just stood there and looked at the fear on the man’s face, shocked at the anger in my voice.

I stopped. I prayed. I repented. Then I gave the book back and apologized.
I left that cell a humbled man. The point? The only difference between us and “those people” is God….Just saying.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Out of the Two comes One - Part Three

I remember when I was a child we lived right up the hill from a ditchThe ditch. My grandmother always told me to stay away from that ditch, or I would fall in. Well, being the full-blooded American youth growing up in the 1960’s South, you might well imagine that I took that admonishment to heart.

Well, it was not so different from when I began my career in law enforcement and continuing my walk with the Lord. As an ordained minister, I was always aware of my reputation: What we call a testimony in the church, and the effect it would have if I failed. The key was to not play around the edges of trouble. There were many times when I had to walk that thin line of not giving into the impulse of anger or just plain dislike, but I knew I was being watched; watched by not only my fellow officers and staff, but watched by the Lord.

This reminds me of one morning in particular. My oldest son was two years old, and I had just kissed both him and my wife good-bye for the day. I made my way to briefing, and as I sat there, the duty sergeant gave us the details of our day’s assignments. Mine? I was tasked with watching an inmate that had been booked in overnight and was currently on suicide watch. What was so hard about that you might ask? Well, this particular inmate had killed his two-year-old nephew after molesting him and then partially decapitating the small body and hiding him in a trash bag. As the sergeant gave me instructions to watch this man, to guard him, to make sure he didn’t kill himself, I wonder aloud, “Why should I stop him?”

Immediately I knew I was wrong. The sergeant stopped, looked up and said to me, “Because you are one of the few people here that I can trust to do it.” As the team filed out, I sat there for a moment and talked to the Lord about it. I made my peace with the fact that I was not to be his judge, but rather his jailer. I was not to be his jury, but rather his guard. I had looked down and found that I had been standing near the edge of that “ditch.”

This is what it was like to work in the jail and walk with the Lord. At times, I did it quite well and soared over trials. At other times, I had to fight through…and sometimes I failed. But then again it’s kind like Grand-Ma said, “If you play around the edge of that ditch, you gonna fall in.” I did. You want to know something else? Ditch mud really stinks….Just saying.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Out of the Two comes One - Part Two

As I’ve said before, I began my law enforcement career working as an Orange County Deputy Sheriff; station 18 for those in the know. It was while still assigned to my JTO (Jail Training Officer; the senior officer responsible to assure that you make the shift from academy graduate to functional field officer.) — that I first realized I would have to earn my right to hold my testimony in Jesus Christ and still be accepted as a viable field officer. However, most challenges I experienced were presented on a subconscious level; people just being who they are and expecting me to be like them.

One of the first challenges an officer has to overcome is whether or not he/she will engage in battle. Now it is true, most officers over the course of their entire career, very few will ever draw their weapon as an act of aggression. However, as a jail-officer, that same officer will have to go hands-on in a combat status at least once a week on average. My first challenge came during my second week of training. In those moments, you don’t have time to stop and pray for a Godly mindset, so one is best served by being prayed up and prepared ahead of time.

There are two stations where a fight was most likely to happen: Uncuff or Court Transfer. Uncuff is where new intakes arrive at the jail, and the booking process begins. In this stage, inmates have just come off the streets, transferred from state prison or other city or county jails. On the other hand, Court Transfer is where inmates, already housed in jail, were brought down and transferred to and from court while still in custody.

Now, another thing that was very real in the jail was that the different ethnic groups had to be kept separate. Well, actually, the Whites and the Mexicans had a truce that held up in lock-up, while the Blacks and Asians teamed up to create a precarious balance that allowed the jail to operate just this side of chaos.

Back to my challenge: It was in Uncuff where a transfer inmate decided to challenge me. He knew I was a rookie, and as such, had not been tested. If he caused me to cower or back off, he gained points in the jail. If I prevailed, then I made my marks with my JTO. This all happened in a moment, kind of like scripture — in twinkling of an eye. You either pass or fail. No retest.

I passed.

Then comes the self-examination where I had to check my heart before God. Did I say or do more than was necessary? Did I, even in the heat of combat, say or do anything that would be displeasing to my God. After assuring that I had not lowered my standards, came the act of living with the praise. Not giving into the power and adulation that is inherent to wearing the uniform is a battle I had to fight every day, not so much with others but rather in my own heart. The fight was actually easier to handle….Just saying.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Out of the two comes One:

Back in 1989, as a very mature 26 years old, I was both ordained into the ministry and sworn in as a deputy sheriff in Orange County, California. I joined the staff of the Eagles Nest Christian Ministries – under the leadership of Dr. Gary Greenwald as his leader of Youth Ministries. At the same time, although several months apart, I pledged an oath to uphold the laws of the great county of Orange under the leadership of then Sheriff Brad Gates — not to be confused with his distant relative, Daryl Gates, who was the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Since that time, people often ask me how I can do both jobs and not confuse their missions or become hypocritical in the service of one or the other. For me this has never been an issue. You see, I see myself as a Christian first; Christian before a law enforcement officer, Christian before husband, or father; and here it is: ¬¬Christian before a Blackman in America. Christ first, Christ always, Christ only.

This reminds me of the time when I was testing for the position of sex crimes investigator. My supervisor, which shall remain unnamed, pulled me aside to voice his concerns. In his typical fatherly tone, he expressed his concern that my being a Christian would disallow me to see anyone in a bad light, thus inhibiting my ability to judge rightly a sex offender as evil. He saw my Christianity as a hindrance to the performance of my duties.

I took pleasure in explaining that my faith is what gave me the proper understanding of the true nature of what it meant to be man: That all of us were evil by nature, and it was only the grace of God that set any of us apart. Well that was almost 10 years and many hundred investigations ago. Water under the bridge as we say.

In this new post, I would like to explore with you my journey through this blended world of mine. As in all things, I would love to hear and share your thoughts. Out of the two worlds came one unique perspectives; it makes for a wonderfully exciting adventure. Come along for the ride and let’s see what we see….Just saying.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Here's a sneak peek of DRT

Wet snow looked like a spilled cherry snow cone spreading from beneath the man’s downturned face. Detective Nate Richards of the Treasure Valley Metro Police looked down at the body stretched out on the ground at his feet. A quick glance suggested a single blow to the side of the man’s head had ended his life. Nate shook his head, dislodging snow from his loose curls, the white flakes contrasting against the coffee-colored tone of his skin. He shivered, I hate winter. Nate looked up, momentarily drawn by the halo that encircled the streetlight as its russet glow illuminated the night sky.
His partner, Detective Chris MacGilvery, worked a short distance away, talking to the on-scene patrol officer. The unbroken surface of the snow, pristine in its whiteness, made the whole scene eerily bright. MacGilvery cupped his hands and blew into them, attempting to thaw them out, his gray-blue eyes reflecting the light from the snow. He had been assigned as Nate’s partner when Nate’s previous partner, twenty-year veteran Sabrina Jackson, retired after being shot in the line of duty by a rogue cop.
Looking up with the memory, Nate flexed tight muscles in his jaw and stooped to better examine the body. Remembering his scripture reading from that morning, Hebrews 9:27, “And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Nate wondered where this man’s soul was now.
He looked over the crime scene, trying to decipher its secrets. Shaking his head from side to side, he considered the snow. It was not helping; no footprints led to or away from the body. The snow will have to be collected and sifted for possible evidence. He rubbed gloved fingers across his chin.
“Mac,” Nate called out, “witnesses?”
“None. A man walking his dog found the body and called it in.”
Nate made his way over to Chet Baraza, the patrol officer in charge, and looked in the direction of the sirens sounding in the near distance. “I guess we can tell the paramedics to downgrade,” Nate said, extending a hand to Baraza.
The group of patrol officers laughed. Baraza chuckled and shook Nate’s hand. “He’s DRT. Dead right there, man; this one’s not going anywhere on his own. He must’a dropped like a sack of potatoes. Farrumph!” the officer said and gestured as if dropping a heavy load.
Wheels crunched in the snow as the paramedic van pulled up and rolled to a stop just outside the crime scene. The overhead lights flashed brilliantly against the snow, perforating the velvet drape of the night sky. The already too bright landscape sparkled like an oversized diorama as the red and white lights of the van played against it. The driver, a middle age balding man, stepped from the van. “What’d’ya got?” he asked nobody in particular.
Nate dipped his chin toward the body. He looked back at the driver and shook his head from side to side in a slow sweep.
Pulling on rubber examination gloves, the paramedic bent over and examined the four-inch gash in the temple of the victim, paying particular attention to the jagged edge. He stood and whistled, blowing air through pursed lips. “Wow, that’s…,” he began. “That’s…that’s bad.” He looked over his shoulder at his partner who was quickly pulling gear from the van. “Bag it, Jeff, this one’s DRT. Better call the coroner, Nate.”

Mac finished talking to the witness and, after getting his contact information, released him to leave. Turning to face the group of officers, he jogged-skidded his way back across the thin sheet of ice on the street to join Nate and the others near the body.

Nate locked eyes with Mac before they both turned to face Baraza. The veteran street cop pulled his note pad from his breast pocket and frowned as he prepared to check his information against what the detectives already had.
“The old guy,” he said, indicating the RP (reporting party), “called in a medical assist man down at about twenty-fifteen hours… just after the first call came into dispatch about what sounded like a single gunshot being fired.”
Nate looked back at the body of the unidentified man lying face down in the snow. “Anybody pull I.D. yet?”
“Naaa, it was obvious he was dead. Thought we’d wait for five-one to call it, and of course you guys.”
“So, you’re a doctor now, Baraza,” Mac chided.
Baraza frowned, feigning injury. “You don’t need an M.D. in front of your name to know you can’t live with a hole like that in the side of your head. I’m thinking long gun, .22 caliber maybe.”
“That much damage from a twenty-two?” Mac asked, arching a brow.
“Heavy load, low velocity at close range,” Baraza finished. “Maybe a tumbler; of course it’s just my guess. But I’m only a lowly street cop, not like you bright boys up there in Criminal Investigation Division.” He smiled sarcastically and, with a tap of his fingers, tucked his pad back into his jacket pocket.
Nate cupped Baraza on his shoulder and pushed him, causing him to slide on the ice, barely managing to keep his balance. “I’ll see you in the morning, wise guy.”
Baraza laughed. “Heck, we’ll be back for morning briefing before you even finish your paperwork.”
The men laughed, and Nate turned his attention back to the dead man belly down in the snow. Looking up, Nate saw the coroner’s van pulling into the intersection. The deputy coroner, a tall dark haired man in his mid to late twenties, got out and prepared to bag the body.
“Hold on there, cowboy,” Mac called to the deputy coroner.
Nate waved a hand to get the coroner’s attention. “We haven’t finished here yet—crime scene’s still mine.”
“Works for me, I’ll wait in my wagon. Too cold out here for me anyway,” he said and hefted his bulk back into the van.
Flipping open his cell phone, Nate called the on-call crime scene tech. Rosie answered on the second ring. “Hey, sorry to bother you this early.”
She cut him off. “I’m already en route. Got in late and heard the call go out. I should be on scene in about—Now.” She honked her horn as she parked her van across the street from the crime scene. Rosie, a fifty-something Hispanic woman, was almost as tall as she was round, with a personality just as big. She was a no-nonsense, fresh-off-the-streets type girl.
Bumping the van door closed with her hip, Rosie opened her bag and began to set up her camera. “What do you want?” She asked over her shoulder.
Nate and Mac smiled knowingly as Rosie sorted the varied baggies and evidence containers. “Better get everything. We don’t know what we have yet,” Nate answered.
“You can get me the heck out of here,” MacGilvery added sarcastically and glanced over at Rosie.
As Rosie began to create a photo log of the crime scene, recording the location and placement of items of interest, Nate and Mac stepped back to consider what they had discovered. A half hour passed, and Rosie signaled that she had finished with the preliminary photos and was all set to begin evidence collection.
“Ready?” Nate asked.
“Nope,” Mac said joking.
“Oh, shut up,” Rosie cut in. “We’re ready.”
“Okay,” Nate began, “I’ll walk the route. You watch Mac and Rosie you—”
“I’ll stand by for collection and tagging. It’s not my first ride on this train you know”
Nate smiled.
Standing near the head of the body, he looked at the scene again. Studying the body’s position, Nate moved around it, trying to determine the victim’s direction of travel at the time of attack. Beginning at the corpse’s feet, taking slow steps moving in a spiral search pattern, he progressed outward from the body. Nearing the head again, he stopped, feeling something hard beneath the toe of his shoe. “Mac…I think I got something.”
Nate knelt down and retrieved a small rectangle shaped piece of plastic from beneath his right foot. Reading the writing on the side of the object, he recognized it to be a sixteen-gigabyte thumb-drive.
Holding the thumb-drive between his index finger and thumb, Nate dropped it into a small evidence bag held by Rosie. She cut her eyes at him. “Next time use rubber gloves, Sherlock.”
He exchanged glances with Mac. “What’d’ya think?”
“I think you should wear gloves.” He cleared his throat and chuckled. “I don’t believe in coincidences,” he answered. “Let’s get it back to the lab, and see what the boys in cyber tech can do with it.”
Rosie didn’t smile. “Let’s just get it dried out, and see if there’s anything on it.”
Nate nodded and continued the swirl pattern outward to about ten to twelve feet from the body. Mac tracked his progress from the side, looking for anything that Nate may have missed.
Nate positioned himself near the shoulders of the body, directing Mac to the opposite side near its knees. “Okay, let’s roll this fellow over, and see who we have here.”
Aided by the cold and rigor mortis, the body rolled easily and rocked onto its back like a saucer settling into place. Its hands and arms splayed, frozen above his head. Blue eyes stared unseeing through ice crystals into the night sky.
“Whoa,” Nate said, “you know who this is?” He reached into the dead man’s pocket and retrieved his wallet. Opening it, he passed the ID to Mac.
Mac forced air through pursed lips. “So, justice finally caught up to old Bobby.”
“When did he get out of prison, anyway? I thought he got fifteen to life on his last jaunt to State.”
“Yeah, fifteen, but only two fixed. He must have made parole.”
“Only two years for child rape.” Nate shook his head. “Maybe he should’a stayed in prison.”