Character Sketch: Rev. I. Merrill Bishop

This month we are  taking a closer look at the Reverend Doctor I. Merrill Bishop, introduced in A Body in the Belfry.Merrill small

Character Name & brief background: Merrill, born Indigo Merrillanne Rose to hippy parents, has two brothers; older brother Wolf and younger brother, Sage.  After spending their preschool years living in a tepee, a caravan and a couple of communes, the Rose children and their now middle-class parents moved to the Southern California suburbs.

Called Indigo as a child, Merrill decided the moniker “Indigo Rose” sounded more like an exotic dancer than a serious student and began using her abbreviated middle name in college, where she met and married William Bishop who was attending a nearby seminary.

Role in Story: Protagonist in the second book in the First Ladies Club series.

Occupation: After enjoying many years as the wife of a pastor, Merrill felt the call to ministry and went to seminary, obtaining her Master’s Degree in Theology. She assisted her pastor-husband until his death from cancer. As a widow, she joined the staff of a large Bay Area inner-city church. When we meet Merrill she has just been called to her first senior pastorate, the struggling First Baptist Church of Bannoch, Oregon.

Physical Description: Merrill has shoulder length blond hair, sprinkled with gray, blue eyes and a trim middle-aged figure. She is petite,  but stronger than she looks.

Personality: Fun-loving and mischievous by nature, Merrill feels a responsibility to maintain a more serious demeanor befitting her role in the church and community.

Habits/Mannerisms: Merrill is determined to maintain her physical health with regular exercise, including long daily walks on the beach. She plans her wardrobe so as not to appear frivolous, but to seem approachable. Aware of the prejudices some hold against women pastors, she walks a tightrope trying to avoid offending anyone.

Internal Conflicts: Loneliness may be Merrill’s greatest conflict. As a still-vibrant woman, she longs for companionship and intimacy, but fears that becoming involved in close relationships would distract her from her ministry or even undermine her position in her church.

External Conflicts: Someone is killing people in her new hometown and may be targeting her church, the congregation, or Merrill, next.

If you read A Body in the Belfry and wonder what happens next for Merrill,  you will be able to catch up with her and her friends in the First Ladies Club in the next book in the series, A Corpse in the Chapel, scheduled for publication this summer. 

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Christmas in Bannoch

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Christmas is next week, so today we are checking in on our friends in Bannoch, Oregon to see how they are planning to spend this Christmas. It should be interesting because for Bunny and her friends in the First Ladies Club Christmas is a highlight of the year.

Bunny (Bunny Elder Adventures series) is packing today for her trip to Boise, Idaho, where she will spend a white Christmas with her sister, Linda and family.  She smiles as she tucks a small nativity set made of seashells and driftwood into  her bag to add to Linda’s collection. It is sure to bring back memories, fond, not-so-fond and hilarious, from the sisters’ trip to Italy to acquire a special Neapolitan crèche.  (You can read about their adventures in Vain Pursuits.)

Across town, in the Bannoch Community Fellowship parsonage, Bunny’s good friend Naidenne Davidson (The First Ladies Club) is happily baking gingerbread men with her small daughter, Talitha Joy, while husband and father,  Scott, with the help of his brother-in-law, Len Spurgeon, wrestles the family Christmas tree into place in the high-ceilinged, old-fashioned dining room .

“We’ll miss you and Rosie this Christmas, Len,” Scott says, standing back to check the tree. “I think it could be just a hair straighter, but it’s a real beauty!”

“It should be, after lugging it half a mile down the hillside,” Len replies. “but you’re right. When it’s decorated, it will be a stunner. Rosie says you absolutely must take dozens of photos of the tree, the Christmas Eve service, Christmas morning and all…and she wants you to post them on Facebook, so we can see them right away.”

“Are you sure you two want to travel all the way to Southern California for Christmas?” Scott asks. “My sister has never had a Christmas away from home, you know.”

“Oh, I know, but this is Rosie’s idea. Ever since she was a youngster she’s dreamed of Christmas at Disneyland. My brother’s family live in the area, too, so we will get to fulfill her dream and catch up with my family at the same time.”

“Oh, Mommy! Come look at the tree! It’s so big…it didn’t look so big when we picked it out,” Talitha cries, running into the room and flinging her flour-covered arms around her father’s legs.

Scott sweeps his daughter into his arms with a laugh.

“As soon as we are through with the baking…and get washed up…we can decorate the tree,” Naidenne says, walking into the room wiping her hands on her apron. “Will you need help bringing the decorations down from the attic, Scott?”

“Can I help, Daddy?” Talitha asks, patting him on the cheek.

“I thought you wanted to finish the cookies, first,” Scott says.

“It takes too long. Mommy can do it. Right, Mommy?”

“Sure. You have been a big help with the baking, but now it’s Daddy’s turn to have a helper,” Naidenne grins at her husband as she speaks.

The happy family continues with their holiday preparations just as many of their Bannoch neighbors are doing.

Few of the town’s ministers and their families will be traveling during this special Holy season. Their lives will center around their church, congregation and the special services of celebration. There is no need to remind any of them of the true reason for the season.

Rev. Merrill Bishop (A Body in the Belfry) and her nephew, Ryan, are in the grand First Baptist Church sanctuary where Merrill is helping the ladies decorate the pews and altar rail, while Ryan and his friend and church musician, Peri, practice the special music for the Christmas Eve communion service.

In the midst of this happy work, a woman staggers in from the foyer, backwards. She’s pulling something. Dressed like a gypsy with a many-layered full skirt and flowing shawls, she tugs a large wicker basket up the aisle.

“Judy! What have you got there?” Merrill cries to her friend, Judy Falls, wife of the Presbyterian church pastor (read Judy’s story in A Corpse in the Chapel coming in 2016).

“Do you need help?” Merrill asks.

Giving a last mighty tug and losing her grip, Judy plops down on her backside with a laugh before responding.

“I’ve been trimming the wild holly bushes for the hanging of the greens and seem to have gotten carried away. We have all we can use at my church, so I’m toting the bounty around to see who else can use it. It would be criminal to snatch these beautiful branches from their home in the woods and then just throw them away.”

“You’ve come at just the right time. Look ladies! More greenery, just what we needed,” Merrill calls to the other women.

Joyful scenes like these are taking place in all the churches and parsonages in town as these friends from the First Ladies Club share the special happiness each experiences in her own way while celebrating the birth of their common Savior.

May I join them in wishing you all a Blessed Christmas and a spirit-filled New Year!

If you want to keep up-to-date on all the happenings in the lives of these women and their friends, please sign-up for my periodic email newsletter.

The Big Day, Dec. 1

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Click on the Book image to buy now

On December 1, 2015, A Body in the Belfry will be available in all formats.  I’m discounting the digital version (Kindle, ePub) to only 99 cents for a limited time during the launch. After that, it will return to the regular price of $4.99.  Those who have pre-ordered will get the $.99 price.

I’m excited to have this book “out there” because I think it shows how I’ve grown as an author.

Please share the promotional discount with your friends who read cozy mysteries and Christian fiction, so they can take advantage of the low price.

If you read and enjoy this, or any of my books, please consider posting a review. Reviews really do make a world of difference to authors.

It’s a poor writer who blames her tools…

This has been an interesting week. I’ve spent a lot of time watching webinars on improving my skills and craft, and keeping up on world news.

My activities intersected when I read this quote from Carly Fiorina (posted on Townhall.com, 11/20/15, from a speech following the Paris terrorist attacks)

This Is a War We Must Wage and Win

…ISIS is becoming increasingly technologically sophisticated. They are utilizing encrypted communications that allow their recruits to disappear. They have established a 24-hour help desk to help fighters evade law enforcement.

How does this quote relate to my time spent learning the tools I need to become a better writer? It shows how important it is to keep current on technologies as they become available to us.  We can be more successful, whether for good or evil, by utilizing new skills and processes.

tools1One of the tools I had been dragging my feet about is the writers’ software, Scrivener. I continued to struggle with all the complicated formatting issues of Word because I was afraid of Scrivener’s learning curve, even though fellow writers raved about it.

When I asked my son, here on a visit from Italy, to help with a problem I was having formatting a Word file, he suggested I use Scrivener. He uses it in his translating work.

I finally bit the bullet and downloaded the free trial. It looked just as complicated as I’d feared and seemed to dry up my creative juices as soon as I opened the program. However, after walking through the help files, followed by watching a webinar, I’m flying through the outline and first draft of my current work in progress, A Corpse in the Chapel.

My latest book, A Body in the Belfry, releasing in all formats 12/1/15, is the last I will produce the old way. I’ve become a confirmed Scrivener fan.

This year, my list of things to be thankful for, as we sit down to Thanksgiving Dinner, will include the Scrivener program and all the wonderful training videos out there.

Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving.

 

A Body in the Belfry Now Available in Print from Amazon

The long wait is over. Print copies of A Body in the Belfry are now available. The digital version is in pre-order from all the major dealers for release December 1.

View on Amazon

Now I’m in the crucial (and dreaded) promotion/marketing phase.

Thanks to my launch team and all my supportive fans for sharing news about my books and posting positive reviews. What would I do without you?

I am being interviewed for 30 minutes on the Rave Reviews Book Club radio show, Rave Waves, this coming Thursday, November 12 beginning at 9:00 a.m. (Pacific Time). Listen in by going to Bring on the Spotlight. You can submit questions during the live broadcast by tweeting with the tag: #RRBCBringOnTheSpotlight.  The program archives are available at http://hosts.blogtalkradio.com/ravereviewsbookclub.

I’m learning to create trailers (video snippets) for my books. The one for A Body in the Belfry is below:

Be sure to watch for next week’s blog when I interview the team writing as Maureen Kovach, authors of Sunny Side Up and other cozies featuring life on Lake Erie.

Progress Report: A Body in the Belfry Launch Update

In response to the generous, encouraging fans who have asked about my upcoming release in the First Ladies Club series, I am happy to report “A Body in the Belfry” is on track for an early release.

Thanks to hard work by my beta readers and editors, I am reviewing the proof copy this weekend and anticipate publication of the print version to happen mid-November, just in time for Christmas gift-giving ;-).

The digital version for Kindle and other ebook-readers will be in pre-order until December.

There is still time to join my launch team and receive a free Advance Review Copy (ARC) in exchange for an honest review.  If you would like to participate and are willing to read and post your review when the print copy releases in November, drop me an email, telling me a little about yourself, to: jbhawker@jbhawker.com and I will send you a PDF copy of the book.

Besides posting reviews on Amazon, members of a launch team are encouraged to promote a book on social media and share with family and friends.

No writer can be a success without the generous support of fans like you.

Thanks so much.