Chris Phipps

All about books: Reading, Writing, Editing

Haunted by the Innocent

Posted By on September 28, 2017

The third book in the Wagner-Callender series will be published within the next few months. “Haunted by the Innocent” follows Dee Callender as she works with Dave Wheeler and other detectives to solve a baffling murder case. But she’ll reconnect with Sarah Wagner in an interesting way. If you haven’t already signed up on my e-mail list, be sure to do that, so you’ll be notified when the book is published on Amazon.


Snowbound is on Amazon

Posted By on January 7, 2017

Snowbound is on Amazon, and I’m getting good feedback. It was slowed considerably by too much editing work. I suspect I’ll set a more relaxed schedule for the third book in the series. The working title for it is “Emerald Creek.” , but that may change. Sometimes a more appropriate title pops out, usually somewhere near the end of the book.

Snowbound delays

Posted By on October 4, 2016

The publication of Snowbound will be a little later than expected. We decided to have all the covers done, to draw them together as a series, and that has taken a little more time. It’s a big project–two books, plus the one currently in progress, and for each book, there is a cover for the print version, the ebook and a large print version. We’re looking now at late fall.


Posted By on July 10, 2016

The Sequel to Love, Murder and a Good Bottle of Wine is currently in the hands of editors. It should be out by early fall.

First Chapter of Love, Murder and a Good Bottle of Wine

Posted By on February 12, 2016

Love, Murder and a Good Bottle of Wine

Chapter 1

Allison turned off the two-lane highway into the casino parking lot, drove past several open parking spaces and maneuvered the 1996 Ford Explorer onto the adjoining unpaved lot, parking out of range of the security lights. It wasn’t likely he’d look for her here, but she’d rather not chance it. If it did occur to him, it would be a while, so she had some time.

She sat in the darkness for a few minutes, watching the casino, then turned on the dome light and glanced at her reflection in the rear-view mirror. God, she looked pale. And her hair had a serious case of bed head. Out of habit, she reached toward the passenger seat for her purse. It wasn’t there.

“Damn him,” she muttered, subconsciously rubbing her arm where he’d grabbed it.

She opened the glove compartment. Amid the usual clutter of flashlight, tire pressure gauge, and car manuals, she found a tube of lipstick and seven dollars and eighty-three cents. The lipstick tasted rancid. How long had it rattled around in the car? Well, it wasn’t like she planned to kiss anybody.

Her reflection in the mirror looked like a ghost, or possibly a vampire, with straggly red-blonde hair, pale face, and lips like a bloody gash. Wiping at the lipstick, she blended a little from her fingertips onto her cheeks. Better. Not quite so pale. She ran her fingers through her hair, trying to untangle it. Impossible. It would help if she had something to tie it back. She glanced at the camping gear in the rear of the Explorer. She wasn’t likely to find anything there.

She spotted an old sneaker and eyed its lace. Not exactly cutting-edge style, but better than nothing.

When she finished with her hair, she sat still for a few minutes, watching the parking lot.

Habit, long ingrained, compelled her to reach for her purse before she got out. When her fingers again failed to make contact, she automatically turned to look, and her gaze settled on the cup holder. She flipped it open, exposing the change and small bills Scott kept there for parking, netting a five-dollar bill, seven ones, and five quarters. A little more than twenty dollars, total. At least she wasn’t flat broke.

After she’d turned off the dome light, locked the Explorer, shoved the keys in one jeans pocket and the money in another, she headed across the lot to the casino.

The flashing neon, clashing red and purple decor, and a cacophony of loud voices and electronic slot machines started a dull ache behind her eyes. Edging around gaming tables and heedless gamblers, she found her way to the food court and a cup of too-strong coffee. Sipping it, she tried to plan her next move. It was a little after ten; in a few hours, it should be safe to go back.

“Buy you a drink?”

“What? Oh, no thanks. I’m getting ready to head home.”

A husky, tanned man slid onto the chair beside her, setting his drink on the table. He looked up at the keno board. “How’d you do? I cleaned up pretty good at the blackjack table. Sure you don’t want a drink?” He leaned toward her, his leg pressed against hers. “Or we can go somewhere else.”

She moved her leg away from his. “No thanks. Not interested.”

“Well, okay. But if you change your mind–like I said, I’ve got money.” He laid a hairy hand near hers, exposing ragged, dirty fingernails. His leg moved against hers again. She shifted away.

“Look. I told you I’m not interested.”

Her raised voice caught the attention of a man walking by the table—one who looked like he could be a linebacker. He stopped in mid-stride. “Everything okay here?”

“I don’t think he understands the meaning of the word no. I just want him to leave me alone.”

The man with dirty fingernails got up, raising both hands, palms outward. “Hey, I’m leaving. I just wanted to buy the lady a drink.” He turned, pushed through a group of gamblers, and worked his way toward the poker tables.

Her rescuer’s gaze traveled from her tousled hair to her face, making her all too aware of her bedraggled appearance. “Are you okay?”

“I’m good. Thanks for getting rid of the jerk.”

“No problem.” He hesitated, gave her a brief nod and went on his way.

She took her time finishing the coffee, then found a penny slot machine. The cocktail waitress came through and took her order for water. “Could I get something for a headache, too?”

“Sure.” The waitress moved on, taking drink orders from other gamblers.

“Headache?” The guy with dirty fingernails slid onto a stool at the next machine, startling her. “You look like you’ve had a rough night.” His stare lingered on her hips and waist for several seconds, then moved up to her chest. Resisting the impulse to cross her arms across her breasts, she turned her back to him, stood and cashed out.

“Little thing, ain’t you?” he said. “What are you, about five feet one or two? Don’t look to me like you’d weigh much more’n a hunert pounds if you was sopping wet.”

She ignored him and headed for the bar.

“What can I get you?” the bartender asked. He pointed at a rectangular pin on his lapel, black with white lettering. “I’m Alan, by the way.”

“Hi, Alan. Is a guy following me? A husky guy, kind of dark? Maroon sweatshirt?”

Alan looked across the casino floor. “I don’t see anybody. He give you that bruise?”

“Bruise? Oh.” She raised a hand to her jaw, then dropped it. Was that what the scumbag had meant by a rough night?

“No, that was kind of an accident.”

Alan raised an eyebrow.

“It isn’t what you think.” She stopped, impatient with herself. “Never mind.”

Alan nodded, like he’d heard it all before. “What about the guy following you?”

She swiveled on the stool. “He’s still there?”

“No. You said some guy is following you.”

“Oh. Him. Just some creep who keeps hitting on me. Doesn’t understand no.”

“Give me a description. I’ll call Security.”

He filled orders for a drink runner and waited on several customers before he came back. “Security hasn’t seen the guy. Looks like he’s gone, but they’ll keep an eye out for him.”

“Thanks.” She headed for a ladies’ room to check out the bruise, a darkened area spreading upward from beneath the left side of her jaw. It didn’t do much for the overall image. Maybe if she tried to do something with her hair? She shook her head. Not without a comb.

She went back to the casino floor, where she strolled around, playing a few coins here and there, watching the other gamblers. She found another penny slot machine and played it slowly, just a single line at a time, not really interested, just killing time.

Was Scott still looking for her, or had he given up for the night? He was probably sprawled across the bed in a drunken stupor, only a few feet from the chair where she’d unwillingly abandoned her purse. She might be able to sneak in and grab it without waking him. If he was asleep. What if he wasn’t, if he was waiting for her?

She had no choice. There was no way to get into Caro’s house without the key. Unless . . .

Caro, years ago, had shown her a spare key, hanging from a tiny hook screwed to the bottom of a patio bench. “In case you get locked out again.”

That was thirteen years ago, when she had been sixteen, a year after Caro had given her a home. Would the key still be there, or had Caro moved it?

She glanced at her watch. It was almost midnight, late to be calling. She hadn’t wanted to get Laura mixed up in this, but she might know about the key and, under the circumstances, she wouldn’t mind a late-night call from her cousin.

Now if she could just find a telephone.

Laura answered on the second ring. “Where are you? Scott called, and I kept waiting for you to phone, or to come and crash.”

“Damn! I didn’t think he’d bother you. He must know you wouldn’t tell him anything. I didn’t go to your house because that’s the first place he’ll look for me. For all I know, he’s staked out there right now.”

Silence on the other end. She could picture her cousin holding back a section of drape, peering at the cars parked along the street. “Laura, I was kidding.”

At least, she thought she was. Could he really be there? No, he didn’t have the patience to sit still, especially in the cramped seat of her Corolla, with binoculars trained on Laura’s house. But he might drive around, looking for the Explorer.

Had he found the letter? Of course. He couldn’t have missed it when he dug into her purse, looking for her set of keys. Something else for him to be angry about.

“Where are you?” Laura asked. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” Her hand moved up to stroke her bruised jaw. “I thought I’d go down to Caro’s house and spend a day or two there, but I don’t have my key. She used to hide one on the patio. Do you know if it’s still there?”

“I’d forgotten all about that key. It was there two years ago. Caro called when you were in Hawaii, and asked me to go down and get some stuff to mail to her. I didn’t have my key with me, and I was showing houses in Orangevale, if I remember right. Anyway, she told me about the key under the bench. It’s probably still there.”

“Great. I’ll head on down. Thanks, Laura. Now, go to bed and get some sleep. I’m okay.”

In her peripheral vision, she caught a glimpse of maroon. She turned, searching for the husky man. Had he been watching? Listening? She didn’t see anybody who looked like him. Just jumpy nerves.

She worked her way to the door, then strode across the lot, wishing she hadn’t parked so far away. There was nobody close by, and only a few cars remained in the outer parking slots. She picked up her pace as she stepped off the asphalt into the unpaved lot, and squinted into the darkness for the outlines of the Explorer.

“Heading out?” The voice came from the half-lit area behind her. She glanced over her shoulder. Dirty Fingernails. He was close. It was too far to go back and she couldn’t outrun him—not with her short legs.

She had no other options, so she ran, and with every desperate step, she swore, “Damn you, Scott. Damn you to hell.”


Happy Halloween

Posted By on October 31, 2015

It’s too bad we can’t just slow down and enjoy the holidays. I went to Home Depot this week and they already had a full Christmas display up. Before Halloween. What was wrong with enjoying Halloween, with the trick-or-treaters, the pumpkin patches, and haunted houses, all by itself, leaving all the other holidays out of it. Then we could slowly transition into the turning leaves, football, and Thanksgiving dinner, with all the family gathered, leaving Black Friday out of it. Then on to Christmas, or Hanukkah, or whatever your holiday may be, and truly enjoy it, without it already being stale before it begins, sick of Christmas carols and commercials. And while we’re at it, we could call it by it’s real name. I don’t want a “holiday tree”. I want a Christmas tree.

The way it used to be when I was a kid.

Just thoughts.



Progress? Or not?

Posted By on October 4, 2015

I’ve been chugging away, turning out page after page of my second novel in the Sarah Wagner series, feeling very good about my productivity. Then my writers’ group wanted to take a look at the first 100 pages. So, as a result of that, I’m going back, chapter by chapter, fixing places where I came out of deep POV, where I had a little too much description in one place, where I had time gaps, not enough characterization . . .

I know all that. In fact, I might have known it while I was writing. But I was in a hurry.

Lesson learned. Slow down and get it right.

Nobody ever said writing was easy; a book has never been written by accident.

Too many books, too little time

Posted By on July 12, 2015

I have a completed family saga I keep meaning to edit for publication.  But first, I had to finish my mystery, “Love, Murder, and a Good Bottle of Wine. Then I had to write the sequel, so I could offer the first one for free on Kindle.  Then, a fourth of the way into it, I realized another book had to come in between, so I’m now fifteen pages into that one! Am I just trying to challenge my vision loss? Saying to fate, “Hey, I’ll show you!” I wish I knew.

The Blind Writer

Posted By on June 28, 2015

Over the past two years, I have been steadily losing my vision to glaucoma. Thus, I’m spending as much time as I can writing, rather than maintaining my blog. Stay with me, and sign up for updates. As you can see by my posts, you won’t get them very often!

April Fool

Posted By on April 2, 2015

Well, not really. My intentions were good. I really meant to post more often. But a bout of eye surgery, then hospitalization with pneumonia, torpedoed all my good intentions. I’m recuperating now, and working a little on the new book. Bear with me. Please?