A coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous.
Buying the 1920s farmhouse south of Phoenix, where the rumors of John Dillinger’s gang hid out in the 30s, is supposed to be Grace Evanheart’s way of escaping an old romance. When she finds an ancient diary with a map under the bedroom’s floorboard, the rumors solidify into fact. She doesn’t know who to trust with the news; Micah Stevens, the handsome deputy and the great grandson of the original landowners with whom she’s attracted, or Jerry, the young historian who seems too intent on learning about her new home?
Micah seems convinced their paths cross exactly at the right time and in the right place for them to fall in love. Now he just has to convince Grace of the same thing before suspicions of his real motive have her running again.
Dark loneliness sank deep into my stomach as I watched Chelsea’s taillights fade down the highway. Old memories flooded my mind, suppressed visions of watching my parents driving away, leaving my brother and me, yet again, with anyone willing to babysit while she went into the hospital for another test, or for surgery. I could never remember whole events, just bits and pieces, but what never left my memory were the intense feelings of abandonment and isolation whenever something flicked on that mental switch.
Mine was the oldest house in the area and still had the original driveway off Highway 84, now renamed East Frontier Street. The only reason anyone would turn at that crossroad would be to visit me, or they’d made a wrong turn. In the darkness I could see my neighbors’ lights burning. The houses were a good distance away. Charlotte said the original land was sold in seven-acre lots. I tried to imagine what the farm looked like before the son greedily broke the land into smaller pieces. Looking at all the houses in the distance, I guessed it had been huge.
The whole house had smelled musty when I’d first walked inside. Now it stank of new plastic furniture. It was kind of a unique fragrance, not unlike a recently unpackaged shower curtain. Between leaving the front door standing ajar and opening the kitchen door, I thought nature would bring in the fresh and take out the rank while I pumped up my air mattress.
To save money, I’d bought the kind of bed that didn’t have the automatic pump included. Sometimes being thrifty took more work, but for the next few weeks saving every dime I could would have priority over comfort.
With the doors opened I couldn’t use the candles, but I left the flashlight off, not wanting to use the batteries up all in one night. The bedroom I’d declared as the Master sat closest to the kitchen. Charlotte told me the house was built in the early 1920s, and although it had been renovated in the seventies, the owners hadn’t thought about adding a master bathroom.
A floorboard squeaking froze me in the mid pump. My first thought was Chelsea had changed her mind about staying the night, but why, then, didn’t she say anything? Then I noticed faint illumination in the hallway. Whoever came in must’ve had a flashlight; my heart leaped against my ribs in panic.
I listened. Were the footsteps getting closer? Or maybe they got farther away into the dining room? I couldn’t tell for sure with how my pulse beat loudly in my ears, interfering with my hearing. My cell phone was inside my handbag by the fireplace. Considering I only had the plastic pump and a half-inflated vinyl bed, I didn’t have anything to defend myself with—or hide behind. I knew I needed to get outside and run to a neighbor for help.
I just had to get my body to agree with my brain.
Fear had an ironic way of paralyzing important muscles. With my mouth open, I took a slow, deep breath—at least I took in a breath and convinced my feet to turn toward the bedroom door. The floorboard in the dining room creaked. I took off and rounded the corner, heading for the open front door. Heavy footfalls ran behind me.
“Stop!” a man shouted.
I didn’t stop. He grabbed my arm, slowing me down. I threw my best punch at what I hoped would be his head. His flashlight hit the floor—and so did I. He tackled me face first onto the dusty hardwood floor with my arm shoved up my spine. When I took in another breath, I realized the frantic screaming I’d heard a moment before had been my own.
“Pinal County Deputy Sheriff, ma’am. Stop struggling.”
His breath was next to my ear, his heavy body pressing down mine, but his words were spoken softly.
“Let me go—you’re hurting me—”
“You need to stop struggling.”
Nodding, I did what he said. After a moment, he let my hand loose and got up off me. I slowly moved my arm around and rolled onto my side, pulling up my knees. Squeezing my wrist didn’t squelch the pain, but at least I knew my hand was still attached and not lying next to me. I cradled my arm to my chest with my eyes closed and tried not to cry while his hand stayed on my shoulder. I guess he didn’t want to chance me getting away. I didn’t know if I could anymore. A bright light shined in my face.
“Do you have any weapons on you?”
I shook my head.
“How about some ID?”
“In my purse... by the fireplace.” I could feel the pressure ease up, if only slightly. The so-called sheriff didn’t want to let me go, but I knew he couldn’t reach it from where we were.
“Why did you run?”
He still had his light full in my eyes. I lost my temper and yelled, “What right did you have to come into my home without permission?”
“Your home?” The light swept over to the inflated loveseat sitting in the corner.
“What did you think?” I yelled that, too. It was that temper thing, and at the moment I didn’t feel like controlling it.
“What’s your name?”
“Grace Evanheart.” I closed my eyes again, prompting tears to drip down the side of my face. “And this is my house as of noon today.” He stopped pressing my shoulder and gently lifted me until I sat upright in front of him. With the flashlight pointed at my arm instead of my face, the ambient illumination made it possible for me to finally see the shiny star pinned to his shirt, along with about a dozen dark blind spots floating in the center of everything. I kept blinking, hoping they’d disappear.
“Are you injured?”
I held my arm closer to my chest. “You threw me to the floor and wrenched my arm. What do you think?”
He reached out and touched my hand. “I’ll call for the fire department and get a medic to take a look at you.” He pinched a microphone attached to the top of his shoulder.
“No, don’t, I...” I shook my head. “It’ll be... okay.” He grasped my hand and pulled it toward him. I didn’t make it easy. The short tug-of-war we had didn’t last long before I begrudgingly let him win.
“Does your wrist hurt?”
I nodded. I decided I’d better keep my mouth shut now, since he was a real cop. After all, I did have the right to remain silent.
Changes of the Heart is available for purchase on Amazon
When and why did you begin writing? In 2003 I watched Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl about 2 dozen times—in the theater. I wanted a sequel, so I wrote one just to see if I could. I was so impressed with that novella, that I continued to write, except I wrote a full-length novel, and then another, and another.
When did you first consider yourself a writer? I actually considered myself a writer after I had my first contract with a real publisher. I was inexperienced then, and I don’t use that marker anymore. I think anyone who has the desire to write a story is a writer—period.
What inspired you to write your first book? After finishing that first novella, I think I caught the writing bug. My first book was inspired by a dream I had. The only part I can remember is one scene of a woman jumping off an outdoor staircase in Paris, trying to get away from someone chasing her. I used that feeling—that scene—and wrote an 800-page manuscript around it. I’m just now publishing that story in 3 parts entitled Window of Time Trilogy.
What books have most influenced your life the most? Several years ago I met a woman named Kerry Blair, who is a mystery writer. She encouraged me even though my writing was less than professional. I’ve read everything she’s written—multiple times. “This Just In”, is one of my favorites. “Ghost of a Chance”, Mummy’s the Word”, I’ve also read every Sarah M. Eden’s historical romance novels: “Seeking Persephone” plus the others in that series. A more mainstream novel that influence me into creating more complicated novels is a book called “Lucifer’s Hammer” by Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle. It’s a comet, end-of-civilization book.
What authors do you like to read? I read Joyce DiPastena, Donna Hatch, Sarah M. Eden, Marsha Ward, Sariah Wilson, Teya Peck, Heather (HB) Moore, Liz Adair, Donna K. Weaver, HB Moore, Dean Koontz, (some of) Steven King, and Ray Bradbury for when I want to be creeped out.
What book are you reading now? I’m reading Solstice by Jane Redd (Heather B. Moore’s pen name while writing for Kindle Press). This was a Kindle Scout winner!
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? I just finished See Me For Me, by Teya Peck, and Don Carey’s Into The Wind.
What are your current projects? I’m currently working on Window of Darkness, Book 3 in the Window of Time Trilogy. Window of Death, Book Two has just been released, and I’m very excited about the reviews, so far.
What was the hardest part of writing your book? The hardest part of writing Changes of the Heart was letting the characters be themselves. In it, Grace isn’t so… um, graceful. I’d have to say that she really is a lot like me. Or, I wrote myself, my life, onto the pages of this book. I’m a natural klutz. I’ve sprained my ankle, several times, and all my toes one time or another tripping over stuff, and I drop things all the time. While I may have exaggerated things just a little with Grace, it wasn’t by very much—sadly.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it? One of the biggest things I learned with writing this story came while I wrote the scene about Grace having the epiphany about her mother dying. My mother died when I was only 24 years old, not much older than Grace when her mother passed. My mother had been sick with cancer since I was 6 years old. I essentially wrote about my mother’s illness and death in this story, but while I did it, I realized that all the innocent prayers of a child that I’d sent up to Heaven to heal her, they didn’t go unanswered. She’d lived—she’d lived long enough to raise her four children and see them all married before she finally died. That was my epiphany.
Do you have any advice for other writers? Write what you love! Write what you can’t get out of your head.
What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing? Kerry Blair’s mystery books have had a big influence on my writing. She’s kept them very clean yet so intriguing that I can’t put them down. While I like reading other books, I can’t say that they’ve influenced me, necessarily.
How many hours a day to you devote to writing? Sometimes I write for only a few minutes a day, but when I’m “on a roll” I can spend up to 12 hours at a time—if I can get away with it. My kitchen suffers for it, though. So does our diet. And the laundry…
Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard? I mostly write on my laptop. But there have been times when I’ve used spiral bound notebooks, like when I don’t have access to my computer and I have ideas for my story. I know better than to delay writing them down. With my memory, I sometimes forget what I walk into another room for.
What do you like to do when you're not writing? I draw. In fact, one of my portraits I entered at our local county fair just won two ribbons: “Best of Class”, and “Outstanding”. Can’t get much better than those. Well, maybe a little better. Last time I entered a portrait, it won “Best of Show” and I received a nice check. Money is always nice. Here’s a link to my blog’s painting page: http://debraerfert.blogspot.com/p/my-paintings.html
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? I was surprised that I could actually write a book. You know, that had a beginning, a middle, and an end, and they all fit together with a nice cohesive story arch. I surprise myself each and every time I write “The End” on a story.
How many books have you written? My first book, the one that was over 800 pages long, I overhauled and rewrote 4 times. They had the same characters in them, but they were essentially different books. In all, I’ve written 13 books. Maybe 14, not including several short stories and novellas.
Which is your favorite? My favorite book is the Window of Time Trilogy. It’s that 800-page monster that morphed into a 3-part series. Main character CIA Agent Lucy James is my alter-ego—my super-ego. I’m her in my dreams.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they? We’re all still trying to become better writers—always! I’m going to writers’ workshops, and writers’ conferences, taking copious notes, and absorbing anything and everything that is involved with writing a better story. If it sounds good to me, then I take it to heart and use it. I encourage every writer to attend these conferences and workshops when they can. Even being around other writers can be good for the soul.
What was the hardest part of writing your book? The hardest part of writing my books comes after typing “The End”. That’s when the real work begins. Finding unbiased beta readers to take on the challenge of reading your manuscript, and give you good feedback. And then, and painful as it is—paying a professional editor to edit your book. AND… then, once, twice, and even three times, having good proofreaders go over the edited book to find those typos that inevitably slip by. Even after it is published, don’t take offense when a reader finds even more typos or missing words. Thank them, and, if it’s in your power, correct those mistakes.
Debra lives in Southwest Arizona, and has been married to Mike for 36 years. She's the mother of two awesome sons, who married their forever loves, and she's a grandmother to three beautiful grandchildren with one more on the way.
Debra wrote her first novella thirteen years ago just for grins. That brief taste into the world of an author started an undeniable writing obsession rivaling only her love of chocolate. She's an award-winning fine artist, and loves traveling with her husband.
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Facts About Debra
1) I have an intense fear of flying, bad enough I need medication to even walk toward a plane.
2) I have an unreasonable fear of heights. I’m pretty sure this has an impact on my fear of flying.
3) I’m terribly claustrophobic. That might have something to do with my fear of flying—maybe.
4) I’m a multiple-award winning fine artist specializing in portraits. I received a drawing kit for Christmas when I was seven or eight years old, with a drawing pad, pencils, one of those silly gum erasers, and an awesome book that had step-by-step examples. I drew a little boy wearing a sombrero, and my mother used the side of a pencil and shaded it, making it pop off the paper. I used this memory in one of my books.
5) This little known fact is one that my husband dislikes; I love bags—handbags, tote bags, and messenger bags with sayings on them. I can’t pass by a display of bags without Mike grabbing my elbow and hurrying me by them. The top shelf in my closet is solely for bag and purse storage. I’m pathetic. It could be worse, I suppose. I might have the same obsession for matching shoes with each bag.
6) I’m married to a retired cop, who’s brother was a cop/latent identification expert, and who’s dad was a cop for 34 years, and now we have a son who’s in law enforcement. I’m never at a loss for experts when writing.
7) I was a volunteer with our local police department for several years. I rode with willing officers, went on calls with them. On occasion, I even helped in taking report information and traffic control. They didn’t let me carry a gun, although I did design their shirt patch.
8) I write a little bit of myself into every story. In Changes of the Heart, poor Grace deals with my clumsiness. Really! Once, I sprained my ankle so badly, the doctor told me that it would’ve healed faster if I would’ve broken it. My foot turned black from my toes up to my knee.
9) Changes of the Heart was a top 3 finalist in the 2014 Marilyn Brown Unpublished Novel Contest. Marilyn and her husband have set up an endowment at Utah Valley University to honor superior works of fiction written by literary artists.
10) I dislike coconut. I mean, really, sincerely, honestly dislike coconut.
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