Easter Greetings

As my readers know, I write about Christians in various stages of their faith walk. Believers who sometimes stumble when encountering temptation or confronting evil, but who get back up and keep pressing on.

All of my main characters, from Bunny Elder to Naidenne Davidson, Judy Falls and the other pastors’ wives of the First Ladies Club, and the ordained ministers, Merrill Bishop and Elizabeth Gilbert, are currently preparing to refresh their spirits and revive their faith in the upcoming celebrations of Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Their church sanctuaries have been decked out with banners and lilies by their church women’s groups, the musicians have been practicing cantatas and other special music for weeks, the choir robes have been cleaned and the instruments are tuned in anticipation of the glorious event. Sermons have been prayed over, practiced and polished to present on this special day.

While the worldly may think Christmas is the highlight of the year, Christians know Christmas is just the prelude to the fulfillment of the Resurrection.

If you have the opportunity, I pray that you will take advantage of all the preparation and anticipation and share in all this joy and excitement by attending worship at a church near you this Sunday.

Happy Easter, dear readers, and a Joyous Resurrection Day to you all!

Silhouettes of Three Crosses


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. 

New Year + New Friends = New Opportunities

This month I have the honor of being the Spotlight Author on the fun website “FolksTalesThings”,  a joyous, eclectic site run by my author friend, Barbara Martin. A visit to the site is like wandering among the merchandise in a great old country store and bumping into friends, old and new. I’m excited to have a featured spot in such a charming atmosphere and to have the opportunity to make new friends for Bunny and the quirky bunch of pastors’ wives in the First Ladies Club.
     As you might suspect from the characters in my books, I’ve spent much of my life in small town churches, many of those years as the pastor’s wife. My characters tend to be compilations of people I’ve actually known. Like those real people, they have struggles with their faith in good times and bad. The bad may not have been as bad as the troubles I give my fictional characters, but the strength of faith they use to surmount them is as real as real can be.
     I hope you will explore the worlds I’ve created and enjoy the thrills and chills along with the humor and warm fuzzies I provide to help balance the scary bits…and as you read, please don’t be too hard on my characters when they stumble. Many of us in the real world have scars and bruises from similar slip-ups, as well.
     To learn more about me and my books, please drop by my website http://jbhawker.com/, anytime.  And have a joyous, blessed New Year!

Christmas in Bannoch


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.

indieBRAG Christmas Blog Hop


Hello, wonderful readers! Bunny Elder Banks here to welcome you to J.B.Hawker’s B.R.A.G. blog party. J.B. is too shy to brag about herself, so, since I was in town, I offered to be your hostess.

I actually don’t mind, since J.B. never would have won her two B.R.A.G. medallions without my help.

If you think it is easy being the heroine of one of J.B.’s books, well…you can just think again. The things she puts me through!

You know, she looks like such a sweet little church lady, but some of the things swirling around in her imagination…my dear, I mean, really! It’s all right for you who only read about these things, but I have to live them.

Dealing with the serial killer in Hollow, her first Medallion winner, was an eye-opener, believe me. She took an innocent story about a small town Halloween decorating contest and almost got me killed.

When she took me off to Italy in Vain Pursuits, her second award-winner, I thought it was going to be my reward for what she did to me in Hollow…no such luck. She got me kidnapped by the Mafia in that one. Well, she did give me a few romantic scenes with my Max, so I guess I will forgive her. Still…you should just read what she gets me up to in Seadrift and in …and Something Blue.

I thought when she concluded that series with such a nice, happy ending, Max and I could retire in peace. But then what does she do? She kills him off! And brings me back to Bannoch in The First Ladies Club to help rescue her latest victim (what does she have against pastors’ wives, anyway?).

Oh, I know, she hints in A Body in the Belfry that maybe Max isn’t quite as dead as we were led to believe (led to believe by you-know-who), but with her fascination with dead bodies, what am I to think?

Now, where was I? Oh yes, I’m here today to welcome you to J.B. Hawker’s BRAG Christmas Blog Hop… and to brag about her, I suppose. Hmmph! I don’t think so.

Oh, well…it is the Season of Peace and Joy, so I guess I can cut her some slack. The poor dear probably doesn’t have much excitement in her own life and needs to live vicariously through mine.

Best wishes to you all for a Blessed Christmas and happy reading.

The next stop on the indieBRAG Christmas Blog Hop is tomorrow, December 8 with Vinnie Hansen  who is probably much kinder to her characters than you-know-who.

Until next time…bye from your pal, Bunny.

New First Ladies Club Cover Reveal

First Ladies Club final new cover revealed!

We went inFLC Final Cover a lot of directions with this one, but thanks to some super advice from my friends and supporters, including the Sweet Cozy Mystery Writers Support Group and Clean Indie Reads Facebook groups members, we found the yellow brick road, at last.

A special shout out of thanks to author Amanda Lee for her wonderful design and generous spirit. Traditionally published authors have many advantages over us indies, status being one of them, but they don’t get to experience the incredible sharing and support for those of us banding together to live our common dream of being successful authors.


I currently have one weekly Christian devotional guide published and am working on a daily version. These are written under my full name, Jonna Hawker Turek, and are taken mostly from my weekly inspirational blog, Power Walking with Jonna, on WordPress.

devotional guideWriting and promoting nonfiction is completely different from producing my novels. In the novels I can try on and discard one persona after another, but nonfiction calls for authenticity and transparency. With one genre I exercise my imagination and with the other my character.

Publishing anything makes a writer vulnerable, but I am learning to take the critical reviews of my fiction without flinching; looking for the helpful within the hurtful. I haven’t promoted my devotional guide since publishing it a few months ago and I haven’t received any reviews, yet, but I’m afraid I will be completely defenseless when the unflattering ones inevitably do arrive.

This writing game isn’t for sissies.

Reader Reviews: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Since setting the digital edition of Hollow, the first book in my first series, as free, it has had a gratifying number of daily downloads. I’ve noticed during previous free promos of my books that readers tend to be harsher critics of books they’ve downloaded for free. This phenomenon was brought to mind this week when the first freebie reviews of Hollow were posted on Amazon.

I think my fellow writers will agree that receiving a negative review of their work is as painful to us as it is for a mother to be told she has an ugly baby. So, why do we continue to offer our precious creations up to the two-edged sword of public opinion?

I remember the elation I felt upon reading my first good review from a stranger. What validation! What joy! …and what a let-down when the first critical comments were posted.

Some writers avoid this emotional roller coaster by refusing to read their reviews. They only want to know how many reviews and how many stars. Others, like me, cannot resist the temptation to read every new word, in the hope of once again experiencing the affirmation of a rave review.

With Hollow I was lucky to receive only good reviews in the early days after publication. I was well into my second book before the first negative review arrived. That reader complained because I had not listed the book as a Christian Mystery. She felt I’d tricked her into reading it by calling it a Mystery/Thriller. Shortly after that, a reader took the book to task for “too much religious content,” although the book description clearly states the lead character is a pastor’s wife. Taking these comments to heart, and following marketing advice to narrow my metadata to improve my sales rank, I changed the category for my books to Christian Suspense.

In the years since Hollow was published, I’ve received numbers of good reviews from Christians, pastors’ wives and others, appreciating the book’s portrayal of a flesh and blood, flawed, though sincere, Christian woman.

The first negative comment in the latest batch of reviews complained about aspects of the plot which weren’t actually in the plot…that’s the sort of critique I consider a “bad” review. There’s nothing helpful when the comments seem to be about a different book. I was surprised later in the week by this terse one-star review: “Trash. NOT a Christian book.”

That grim denouncement was followed this morning with five stars from an obviously discerning and thoroughly admirable reader, “Loved this book— kept me in suspense the whole time, I could not put it down!!! I bought the rest of the series, can’t wait to read them!”

Go figure.

Prologue and Chapter One of Work-in-Progress, The First Ladies Club

If you read this excerpt, please let me hear your comments and suggestions.  I’m currently a bit more than half-way through the first draft, so now is the time when you can influence the story.


 An aged gray van winds along the two-lane highway meandering through thick stands of evergreen forest on the west side of the Northern California Coastal Range; the road’s curves occasionally breaking through the trees, revealing breathtaking vistas of the Pacific Ocean below.

These impressive views are unseen by the half-dozen passengers in the windowless back of the van. Hardened criminals ─ the worst of the worst ─ these men care little for nature or scenery as they make their way to an extended stay at Pelican Bay, California’s notorious super-max prison.

Chains clank as the shackled men shift uncomfortably. A few of the prisoners manage to maintain desultory conversations with their bench mates, but most preferred to remain silent, only muttering occasional curses in complaint about the hard seats or the guard’s driving.

Heavily muscled and tattooed, Carver Schramm is one of the most silent of the prisoners, as no one shares his bare metal seat.

Schramm is headed for a long stretch in solitary confinement as the result of his bad behavior while in the San Francisco County Jail awaiting sentencing for a murder conviction. His shackles do not connect to those of the other men, but, instead, anchor him on either side to stout iron staples welded into the van’s frame. His feet are similarly restrained.

Even his fellow inmates recognize this man as a character best avoided. No one has ventured a word to Carver since they entered the prison shuttle.

Schramm wasn’t bothered by this lack of conversation. He had done time in solitary before, more than once. He was comfortable with his own thoughts, thoughts that would make those around him decidedly uncomfortable, if they were aware of them.

At this moment, those inner voices raged about only two things: revenge and escape.

Inside Carver’s mind images swirled without structure. His unfocused fury prevented his thoughts from coalescing into coherent plans. His desire to strike out at anyone and everyone grew with each mile the van covered.

Although outwardly calm, inside he was like a newly caged predator, gnawing on the bars of its cage and taking a swipe at anyone who approached.

Pelican Bay was built for just such human aberrations as Carver Schramm. No one has ever escaped from the maximum security portion of the prison, although a few have broken away from the lower level security of the outer ring of the complex reserved for non-violent offenders.

The van took a hairpin turn too fast, throwing the passengers against one another and initiating a round of obscene catcalls.

Carver’s spirits lifted at the thought of the van crashing and giving him an opportunity to get away. He never considered the possibility of being killed in a wreck. Like most sociopaths, Schramm thought of himself as invulnerable.

As it happened, the van and its malignant cargo made it to the prison without mishaps.

Their chains unclasped from the van, the men shuffled out and were escorted into the processing center for body searches, showers and prison clothes, before being taken to their cell assignments.

Carver Schramm felt his desperation rising as each step brought him closer to the clang of his solitary cell door. He knew from past prison experiences he wasn’t willing to endure more years of the jungle atmosphere among the prisoners or the constant prying eyes and bullying of the guards. He would escape, somehow.

The escorts were being given instructions by one of the prison staff who was holding a tablet computer containing the new prisoners’ cell assignments.

Carver began to follow the others, but his guard was stopped and directed to take him down a different corridor.

Schramm supposed this must be a short-cut to the solitary confinement he was promised, so he was surprised to find himself being led out into the minimum security courtyard.

“What’s this? A tantalizing glimpse of how the other guys live before being plunged into Hell?” he muttered under his breath.

He was incredulous when the guard handed him a packet of “house rules” and thrust him into what looked like a cheap motel room, already occupied by a small middle-aged man.

“Here’s your new roomie, Halverson. Show him the ropes and keep him out of trouble,” the guard instructed before shutting the solid security door with a slam.

Rather than the bars he’d expected, Schramm saw a small wire-mesh reinforced window in the door.

Halverson, who had been sitting at a desk reading, observed his new roommate with some alarm.

Carver’s dark shoulder-length hair, framing a face and neck covered with tattoos, was an unusual sight on this side of the prison.

When Halverson stood to attempt to shake Schramm’s hand, the newcomer towered head and shoulders above the smaller man.

“William Halverson here, uh…welcome,” he said, looking up.

Carver sneered contemptuously at the man’s outthrust hand.

“Well,” William said, drawing back his hand, “I think you will find things pretty comfortable here. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to help.”

He returned to his chair and Carver threw the packet of personal items onto the nearest bed.

“That’s my bed. You can have that other one. They are identical,” Halverson said.

“Then you won’t mind moving, will you?” Carver said.

His voice was soft, but the look accompanying it pierced Halverson to the marrow.

William was certain this room assignment was a mistake. All his previous roommates had been decent sorts. He decided to fill out a new roommate request later that day, during the recreation period.

“No, of course. Not at all. I’ll just take the other bed. Um, er, I didn’t get your name.”

“Schramm,” Carver replied, looking out the mesh covered window and fighting down an urge to beat the smaller man to death with the metal desk chair.

He knew it must be some sort of computer snafu bringing him to this room, instead of to a concrete block hole in solitary. Sooner or later, the mistake would be discovered and he would be moved. In the meantime, he didn’t want to draw attention to himself.

Feigning an uncharacteristic congeniality and attempting a friendly smile, Schramm sat on his chosen bunk and leaned toward William as he spoke.

“So, what’s the drill around here?”

The little man gulped, barely swallowing down a scream, as the oddly grimacing visage loomed near.

“The drill? Um, you mean the regular routine?”

Carver wanted to smash his fist into this stupid pipsqueak’s idiot face, but, instead, forced his mouth into an even more grotesque contortion and nodded.

“That’s right. What sort of activities you got? Do you ever get out in the fresh air?”

“We will be released to the yard and recreation center in mid-afternoon, just before dinner.”

“You got a cushy set-up here. So nice, they probably don’t even have many guards, huh?”

“Oh, we have plenty of guards. The security staff here is very competent. Of course, there are security cameras covering most of the grounds and buildings.”

“Most? Where don’t they cover?” Schramm asked.

“A few years ago there was a fellow who walked away from the garbage dump, when it wasn’t covered. I imagine that situation has been rectified by now, though.”

“Just walked away, huh? Did they catch the guy?”

“Oh, yes. He was moved to the super-max. I don’t know why anyone would ever want to risk that. One hears such horror stories about the place…and, of course, no one’s ever escaped from in there.”

“Yeah, that’s what I hear, too. What sort of activities you got in that rec center?”

“Oh, it’s very well equipped. There’s the gymnasium with workout equipment…you’ll probably like that,” Carver gave him a look and Halvorson hurried on, “and there’s the library and the TV lounge area.”

“Library, huh? You got computers? They let you go on-line?”

“Only certain sites. There have to be filters or some of the men, even here, might take advantage and indulge their baser instincts.”

“Oh, sure. Ya gotta guard against them basic instincts. Well, thanks. Guess I’ll take a rest before rec time.”

To Halvorson’s relief, Schramm swung his feet onto the bed and turned his face to the wall.

An hour later, the doors buzzed and opened.

A loudspeaker directed the men to leave their rooms and go out to the courtyard.

The inmates were mustered for a head count while the rooms were being inspected then were free to jog around the outdoor track, toss footballs or shoot hoops. Those who preferred could use the recreation center facilities.

Carver followed William into the library, elbowed a smaller man out of his way and grabbed a seat in front of a computer.

Entering a search on “Northern California prisons,” he was able to pull up an overhead view of Pelican Bay, including the area in which he was housed.

After getting the information he wanted, Carver stood up and left, turning the computer over to the next impatient inmate.

Newly hired prison security guard, Boyd Lenninger, leaned against a green metal dumpster. Being low man on the seniority totem pole, he was assigned to patrol the trash collection area during recreation times until a new security camera could be installed.

Bored and resentful of the tedious duty, he was taking advantage of the rare privacy to take an unauthorized smoke break.

He did not hear the man creeping up behind him, until it was too late.






ink sketch girls-at-tea-party

Chapter One

 Naidenne Davidson, her wild red-gold curls bouncing with every step, jogged down the potholed side street, hurrying to get to the crosswalk before the only traffic light on Oregon’s Highway 101 changed to red.

She knew the crosswalk light stayed green only long enough for a person to dash desperately across, before it switched back for another interminable through-traffic cycle.

If she missed that light, she was going to be late, again.

Eskaletha hated it when any of the women arrived after the meeting began, and she wasn’t shy about letting everyone know it.

Naidenne was in luck! The little walking-man symbol was still glowing when she stepped between the lines of the crossing.

She increased her pace when the red hand began to flash its warning, just as a white and black Cooper Mini, anticipating the green light, surged forward and struck her a glancing blow, spinning her around and sending her skidding along the pavement.

Naidenne scrambled on all fours to the sidewalk and sat on the curb gasping for breath. When she pulled her toes up to protect them from the vehicles now rushing past, she noticed blood running down her legs, jagged holes in her capris and a painful throbbing in her knees.

By steadying herself on the signal pole she managed to ease to her feet.

Dazed, Naidenne wobbled along the sidewalk toward the meeting location; an old dockside processing plant converted into the town’s shopping mall, and a hoped-for tourist magnet, it was only a block away.

Once inside the mall, she made her way to the Boatworks Coffee Shop and stood swaying in the entrance, trying to regain her composure before joining the others.

Jostled from behind, Naidenne turned to see her friend, Judy Falls, another tardy member of the group.

As usual, Judy’s lank and faded blond hair had escaped its elastic scrunchie and drooped messily over her chubby cheeks.

Naidenne was happy to see her kind-hearted friend, even though Judy’s wrinkled organic all-cotton blouse and peasant skirt were badly in need of a wash and her leather thong sandals revealed toes coated with dirt.

A throw-back to the hippy era, who somehow managed to maintain her voluptuously unrestrained figure on a strict vegan diet, Judy’s politics were extreme, but her genuine love of the Lord earned her a grudging tolerance, if not outright welcome, from her husband’s conservative Presbyterian congregation.

“Excuse me! Oh, Naidenne, you look awful. What happened to you?” Judy asked. “Come on, we need to find you a chair.”

Naidenne allowed the shorter woman to lead her into the café’s banquet room.

She eased onto a chair near the doorway. As she’d feared, the meeting had already begun.

“Just a minute, Olivette, I don’t think we have everyone’s attention,” Eskaletha Evans arched her eyebrows as she addressed the tiny woman standing beside her at the front of the room.

“You can resume reading the minutes when Judy and Naidenne finally get settled.”

All eyes turned toward the late arrivals.

Realizing something was the matter, many of the ladies left their seats and surrounded Naidenne and Judy, asking questions and exclaiming in dismay over Naidenne’s bloody knees and ruined clothes.

“Ladies! Please, can we have some decorum?” Eskaletha spoke over the commotion and clapped her hands.

Her commands ignored, she strode toward the back of the room, a glower forming on her handsome ebony features.

In high dudgeon, Eskaletha bore a striking resemblance to a bust of Queen Nefertiti, only without the headdress.

“What’s going on here? Can’t you girls ever take our meetings seriously?”

The group parted, allowing their president to see what was causing this uncharacteristic display of anarchy.

“Goodness, Naidenne! What’s happened to you?” she exclaimed.

Turning to the others, she asked, “Is someone getting a first aid kit?”

Eskaletha crouched down and whispered, “Do you need to see a doctor, Deenie? Ooh, your poor knees.”

Elizabeth Gilbert gathered up napkins and a glass of water and dropped to her knees on the other side of Naidenne to dab at the wounds.

While not a large woman, Elizabeth’s upright posture, neatly tailored shirtwaist dress, and sensible shoes, with her iron gray hair twisted into a tidy knot, provided a strong, capable presence appreciated by the members of the United Methodist Church where she and her husband were co-pastors.

“These cuts don’t look very deep, but she’s lost a couple of layers of skin,” Elizabeth explained to the others.

“Well, you’re the nurse practitioner in the group, so I guess you should know, but they look pretty bad to me,” Judy responded. “Darn it! I forgot my bag when I left the manse. I always carry a jar of my homemade organic herbal salve. Do you think we should get her to the ER?”

“No, Liz is right,” Naidenne said. “It’s just road rash. Sure does burn, though.”

One of the women came back with the first aid kit from the Boatworks kitchen.

Elizabeth soon had Naidenne’s wounds cleaned and bandaged.

“We can’t do much for your pants, I’m afraid. Were they favorites?” Judy asked.

“No. Just a pair I found in the last tag sale we ran at our church. I liked them because they are supposed to be cropped, so no one can tell if they are too short for my long legs, but no great loss. Thanks.”

“So, tell us what happened,” Eskaletha, now back in control, prompted.

“I guess you could say I was the victim of a hit-and-run,” Naidenne said, shaking her head.

“What? You’re kidding. Someone knocked you down and just drove off?” Judy asked.

“I was crossing the highway, when this little car jumped the light and sort of side-swiped me and just kept going.”

“Did you get his license number?”

“What kind of a car was it?”

“We should call the State Troopers.”

The women were all talking at once, until Naidenne held up her hand, so she could reply.

“I didn’t get the license number and don’t have much of a description of the car, except it was some sort of two-toned compact, or sub-compact. Anyway, it wasn’t going fast enough to do any real harm. It just knocked me off balance and I fell.”

“Well, if you’re sure…I still think we should report it,” Olivette offered.

Olivette Vernon was the oldest member of the little group. She and her husband, Kendall, had served the Bannoch Reformed Church for his entire career. Her small stature and mouse-like demeanor belied her tremendous faith, which was matched by her hard-work and dedication to her church.

“If all the excitement is over, perhaps we can resume our seats and get on with our meeting,” Eskaletha stated, walking back to the podium.

Olivette scurried closely behind.

“I think it is just awful the way these tourists speed on the highway through town, polluting the air and scattering trash all over creation. Sometimes they don’t even stop for that light,” Judy commented.

“I know visitors mean more income for the town, but it was nicer before we had so much traffic,” Elizabeth agreed.

“Tourists, traffic and all the riffraff coming from California; the Coast isn’t the same, anymore,” Gwennie Barthlette, wife of the Trinity Nazarene Church minister, spoke up.

“And what about all the underpaid and exploited workers commuting to that new big box store between here and Tillamook?” Judy added.

“Ladies! If we can please return to our seats?” Eskaletha called out.

“You may resume the reading of the minutes of our last meeting, Olivette.”

“I’m afraid I don’t remember where I left off, Madam President.”

“Just start over at the beginning. Some of us missed that part, anyway.”

“Oh…good idea,” Olivette smiled in relief, squared her narrow shoulders and began reading the minutes of the last meeting in her high, reedy voice.

After the earlier commotion, the ladies sat obediently through the formalities, followed by an orderly discussion of plans for their next community project.

When they were finished, Eskaletha asked a blessing on the refreshments and adjourned this monthly session of the Bannoch First Ladies Club.

Jostling around the snack table to get first dibs on one of Olivette’s famous homemade Danish pastries, the women filled their plates before settling in for a serious gabfest, the real purpose of the gathering.

“How are your knees, now, Naidenne?” Judy asked around a mouthful of pastry.

“Much better, thanks.”

“I blame all the yahoos coming north from California these days. They all drive like they own the road,” Gwennie said.

“Could you tell if the car’s plates were out of state, Deenie?” Olivette asked.

“I’m afraid I didn’t even look. I was trying not to fall on my face.”

“My cousin says she went to LA once and all California drivers are insane. I wish they would just keep their wild rides down there and leave us alone,” Gwennie said.

“And it’s not just their bad drivers, either. What about all the crime we are seeing these days along the southern Oregon coast. I just know we have the stupid California Prison Realignment to thank for most of it,” she continued.

“I read where some of the hardest hit communities refer to it as a catch-and-release program, like with fishing, when they let the small fish go…even though they are cruelly damaged by the nasty hooks and probably traumatized for life. Blood sports should be outlawed…But, as I was saying, in California now, some criminals are arrested, released and re-arrested for new crimes all in the same night. No jail time, let alone counseling and rehabilitation. What can they expect?” Judy added.

“That’s just crazy,” Elizabeth Gilbert agreed. “My husband was preaching a series on Responsible Love just last month. It is no kindness to enable a person to continue in their sins.”

“That’s right. We are not to be a stumbling block,” Olivette nodded emphatically.

“Well, their prisons are so over-crowded. What can they do?” Naidenne asked.

“Not send their problems up here, that’s what,” Gwennie replied.

Her comment serving as a benediction on that particular topic, the ladies moved on to the more gratifying practice of sharing the frustrations and joys of small town life in the parsonage and manse.

This club began shortly after Naidenne and Scott married. Eskaletha had come to the Bannoch Community Fellowship’s parsonage to welcome Naidenne into the ranks of local pastors’ wives and the two became instant friends.

Over the days following, they frequently met for lunch, when Naidenne would seek Eskaletha’s advice on her new role. Occasionally, one or another of the other pastors’ wives would join them.

Eventually, they decided to schedule regular gatherings and invite the wives of all the pastors in town.

When it came time to name their group, Eskaletha and Peggy Burt, wife of the Missionary Baptist pastor, suggested The First Ladies Club, after the title conferred upon the wife of the senior minister in their churches. Everyone loved the suggestion, so they had been The First Ladies Club, ever since.

The women represented a wide range of religious traditions and styles, and agreed to concentrate only on their commonalities.

Theological discussions were not encouraged; especially any debate of the prophetic books of Daniel and Revelation. Pre-millennial, post-millennial, and amillennial-isms, were strictly avoided, by common consent.

All the women shared a love of God and a desire to serve Him in their community.

Sometimes more than a dozen women were at the monthly meetings, however, busy schedules and responsibilities meant that at other times, only five or six could attend.

The club held regular fund-raisers for various community improvement projects, always being mindful not to compete with fund-raisers or other activities of the local churches.


In deference to her chewed-up knees, Naidenne accepted Eskaletha’s offer of a ride home when the meeting broke up.

Relaxing into the soft leather seats of her friend’s Lexus, she took a deep breath and allowed herself to think about her accident.

It was a very close call and could easily have resulted in serious injuries, or worse. Remembering the experience made her just a little light-headed.

Eskaletha was looking at her oddly, and her expression brought Naidenne back from her woolgathering.

“uh, did you say something, ‘Letha?”

“I asked are you going to the Women of Faith conference in Tillamook, next weekend,” Eskaletha repeated.

“Maybe. I haven’t asked Scott what we have planned for that night. Saturdays can be tricky, as you know. I think my sister-in-law, Rosamund, will want to go, though, if she isn’t busy.”

“Well, since Scott won’t be going, I can’t see what difference his plans make. It can’t interfere with his sermon prep just ‘cause you aren’t there.”

“No, but he may have accepted an invitation for us to call on a member of the flock. He sometimes does on a Saturday. If it’s a single woman, you know he can’t go alone. I’ll just have to check with him.”

“It’s a crying shame a pastor can’t call on a widow woman in her home these days without a chaperone, just so he won’t be accused of some impropriety,” Eskaletha said.

“I agree, but that’s the way it is, shame or not. It frightens me to think of what one false accusation can do to a man’s career…but, on the other hand, unfortunately, there actually are predators in the pastorate. I’ve encountered a wolf in sheep’s clothing myself.”

“I suppose it just takes one bad apple…still, it’s too bad,” Eskaletha commented.

“Thanks for the ride,” Naidenne said, as they pulled up in front of the drafty church-owned two-story Victorian house she shared with her husband and his sister.

“Call me tomorrow and let me know how you’re doing. I’m thinking, by then, you are going to hurt in places you never knew you had,” Eskaletha predicted with a grin, before driving off.

Naidenne entered her home and was immediately enveloped in the rich aroma of roast chicken with rosemary.

“That smells wonderful, Rosamund! What can I do to help?”

Her sister-in-law turned from the stove as Naidenne entered the kitchen.

“You can make a nice salad and help me decide what to fix for dessert, if you want…what in the world happened to your pants?”

“Oh, I fell down crossing the highway. A car jumped the light and sort of bumped into me.”

“Oh, Naidenne! You’re hurt! Are your knees cut up terribly under those bandages?”

“It’s not too bad. Could have been much worse, if I’d been any later for the meeting. The car clipped me from behind. I think I was just late enough not to get flattened.”

“Don’t you worry about helping with dinner. Go have a nice soak in the tub and then rest. Let me know if you need help with fresh bandages.”

“Thanks. I’d like to get out of these clothes. A bath sounds nice. But I’ll come back to help when I’ve changed.”