·         Walking the Pipeline Along the James (Pictures and details on my Facebook page Martha G. Davis) Researching for kayaking scene in ENVY GAMES, read online one can see up close the kayakers on Class III-IV Pipeline Rapids in the James River. The online blog did not say walking the pipeline came with warnings. It was a bit scary—at first.

·         Shoot/Don’t Shoot Simulation at Richmond Police Academy with Sister in Crime group. Captain Harvey Powers presentation was both entertaining and informative. Picture below of Captain Powers demonstrating for me a hold used to subdue an individual in order to cuff him.

police academy


·         Struggled this week with revising hostage chapter in ENVY GAMES to the point of making my brains feel like scrambled eggs. I must learn to get down the entire first draft and then go back and revise. I’m working on that!


THE GOOD ASSASSIN by Paul Vidich. I chose this novel because I was enticed by the period in Cuba in the final months of 1958 during the last phases of the war between the Batista regime and Castro’s rebel forces, a war going on, yet, a time when Americans could still enjoy the decadence and beauty of the country.

·         Not an action-packed, suspenseful plot like THE POISON CUP. For a spy story; more a study of character: how the men who kill for a living wrestle with their conscience and with the bureaucratic hypocrisy of their bosses.

·       found Vidich’s description interesting. You can see what you think. Following are some excerpts: 

·         “Mueller saw it was a colonial hacienda. A portico of arches and stone pillars wrapped the ground floor and at intervals there were clay pots to collect rainwater…lush plants hung from black iron rods that swung to catch the sun. A frieze of painted tiles scored the second floor’s stucco walls…This sprawling home had once been a magnificent manor house, but it had fallen on hard times…Pink stucco walls were veined by water damage and wood window frames were bleached and cracked.”

·         “Pryce affected preoccupation with his cigarette, holding it before him, studying it, then put it between clenched teeth.”

·         “Pryce stood. He hitched his belt over his lumpish gut and thrust his shoulders back like a displaying turkey.”


·         “Mueller looked for the metaphor in things. The right image, he told his students, was an aid to unreliable memory.” (THE GOOD ASSASSIN)


·         Neurosurgeons have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the speech center of the brain controls the whole body. (James wrote that over 2,000 years ago in the New Testament.)

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My suspense/thriller THE POISON CUP abounds with lawbreakers. Pete Turner, the protagonist, takes the law into his own hands when he arranges a murder for hire; Orville Wooten “befriends” kids as a pedophile. Angel Corelli sells illegal assault weapons in his New York gun shop. Probably every person who breaks the law can justify his actions with reasons that make sense to him. How about the last time you drove over the speed limit?

            Controversy polarizes people today in a debate implicit in how we view laws, and ultimately, how we see our U.S. Constitution. Is it the law of the land, based on principles true for all times, or is it an outmoded document that should evolve and keep up with the times? Are there foundational principles that are true for all times? Does human nature change? Is human nature basically good—or as the Bible declares—a fallen nature? (The question of whether the Bible is outmoded for modern times is also part of the debate.) In addition to Roman law, an English jurist, Sir William Blackstone and his “Commentaries” guided our founding fathers’ preparation of the Constitution. Blackstone based his ideas on the Bible.

            Isn’t it possible that if there are no true-for-all-times principles, the day may come when murder-for-hire and pedophilia are accepted practices? Our founding fathers designed our Constitution to protect us from vigilantes and criminals. Without laws that do not change, are we not removing the secure foundations of these protections, even the foundations of a civilized society?

            An ongoing debate is about whether our government should build a wall, (whether an actual, physical wall or simply more stringent law enforcement) to protect our borders from illegal immigrants, some of whom are criminals and purveyors of illegal drugs comimg into our country. Although one may sympathize with those illegals who try to join family members already here, does sympathy negate the need for upholding the law? Is there a greater question here with larger ramifications—the undermining of the foundation of an ordered and civilized society?

            My daddy came to this country on a boat from Ireland. He became a citizen and did it legally, as have many other immigrants. Is the issue about keeping out immigrants like those who have helped make this country the great nation it is, or about respecting and upholding the laws, without which we can only have chaos? When people believe they are an exception for whatever reason, can we say they respect the laws that make for a civilized society? Like Pete Turner and Orville Wooten who justify their actions, does that make their right supersede the larger good and the rights of everyone to live under the laws that make for peace and stability?

            I heard one view for not building the wall. Don’t laugh. It seems some environmentalists are concerned that birds and bats will not be able to fly over it. Apparently, some birds fly too low to make it over. To that, a friend of mine retorted, “If they aren’t chickens, they ought to be able to make it over okay or stay on the other side.”

            What do you think? Should we worry about the birds and bats not being able to fly over? Can anyone make a sensible argument on behalf of the birds to reasonably conclude we should not lawfully protect our borders? According to Matthew 6:26 we are more valuable than birds…but then maybe the Bible is just another outdated viewpoint.



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If you’re confused or stressed following the goings on in Congress over health care, relax and read my blog! 

·         Upcoming Event: The Brushy Mountain Apple Festival, October 7 in Wilkes County, North Carolina where much of THE POISON CUP takes place. The sponsors boast over 100,000 visitors attend this annual event, the largest one-day festival of its kind in the country. We have secured a space. More about this later 

·         Recent Event: Teen Challenge North Central Virginia. The leaders, Mike and Cindy Zello, spoke to our congregation at Clover Hill Assembly of God in Midlothian, Virginia. We heard a testimony from Lauren, one of the girls who has been through the program in the Beauty for Ashes Women and Children’s Home in Fredricksburg. She is now interning with the Zellos to join their staff. The Beauty for Ashes residence is unique in that there are not a lot of options for women on drugs who have children. There is also a men’s residence in Fredricksburg that offers a twelve-month program. 

·         I am always moved by the testimonies of these young people who have come out of the darkest hell into God’s marvelous light! Now this ministry is seeking prayer and support to acquire land and buildings for a men’s residence in Richmond. For anyone interested in becoming a part, you can visit this site at

·         Writing ENVY GAMES; Back to tweaking Part I. In Chapter One, The Rally, Jason Grimes, a thirty-something guy with an attitude, rushes after the kook who rudely bumped his wife getting out of the hotel elevator, and ends up in the middle of a hostage situation. 

·         Reading: Finished Grisham’s THE WHISTLER. It was a struggle to stick with it to the end. The plot begins skillfully enough with Lacy Stolz and Hugo Hatch driving to meet their next client. They investigate judicial corruption, not usually a dangerous job, but this one is mysterious. The client won’t identify himself or the whistler who hopes to expose a crooked judge. The rest of their investigation is pretty predictable. The problem for me is that characters seem flat, not up to par with Jake Brigance, A TIME TO KILL or Mitch McDeere, THE FIRM. Lacy, the protag, never expresses a thought more interesting than the next step in her investigation or whether or not she wants to sleep with her latest male acquaintance. 

·         If you’ve read THE WHISTLER, can you offer a different perspective? 

·         Joseph Prince Quote: Just a groan will reach God’s throne.

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Who doesn’t say they want to write a novel or book “someday”? I hear that all the time, but most will sit on the sidelines and wish without ever doing it. You don’t have to be one of that group.        

Or, maybe you’ve begun your first novel, but you’ve stalled out somewhere along the way. How do you get going again and finish your novel? Here are some techniques that worked for me in writing my suspense/thriller, THE POISON CUP: 

·         Set a specific time and place to write every day. See this as an appointment just as certain as the one you make to get your hair cut or your teeth cleaned.

·         Keep this appointment every day; establish a routine, even if it’s just for thirty minutes, until you have to pull yourself away from your writing desk to take a break.

·         Did I say “write something every day”?  The longer you wait between writing sessions, the more difficult to pick up the thread where you left off.

·         Keep a brief diary noting “what I accomplished today” and “what I need to do next.” Check it each day before you begin. That helps to “pick up the thread.”

·         Before you begin a new writing session, read your last chapter aloud.

·         Try clustering or stream-of-conscious free-writing to get your right brain cranked up.  I use clustering to brainstorm plot timeline, character backstory, whatever I need to brainstorm. You will be surprised where your mind will take you on a clustering adventure. (For more info on clustering, see Rico’s WRITING THE NATURAL WAY.)

·         Shut out the critic in your head. Once you get down the first draft, tweaking is the fun part.

·         Find a critique partner who will give constructive criticism without destroying your confidence. Set a certain number of pages to write each week; Exchange pages with your partner in time to critique before your next meeting. This helps establish accountability.

·         Avoid the ever learning, never writing trap. Evaluate all those writing clubs and classes you attend and eliminate most of them. The most effective way to improve your writing is to write. Nobody can do that for you.

·         Finally, push on to the finish line, one step and one day at a time. Just do it!

What are some of your roadblocks to writing?

Do you have techniques to share that re-start your writing engine?






How have you survived a tragedy? Have you chosen to put aside your pain and reach out to others, or have you been pointing fingers and driving yourself deeper in the ruts of self-pity?

            In my suspense/thriller THE POISON CUP, the protagonist, Pete Turner, has been blaming others for the course his life has taken, and when the story opens, he finds himself in a heap of trouble. 

            Three days of torrential rain and high winds throughout much of the state of Georgia had filled roadways with broken limbs and debris. In Grimly, the sheriff drew upon the occupants of his jail to clean up the mess. He referred to them as a work crew because chain gangs were now illegal in the United StatesApparently, he enjoyed lording it over his helpless victimsHe (Pete Turner) had spiraled down to this, a vagrant and a convict on a chain gang.  

            Pete blames his troubles on everyone but himself. If his daddy hadn’t met an untimely death, if Farley had never come to the farm, if his mother hadn’t allowed it, if his sister hadn’t died by Farley’s doing, Pete would still be as contented and carefree as he was as a boy living on the family farm.  

            Pete chooses to deal with his problems by wandering for ten years, nurturing his pain and carrying his anger like a keg of dynamite ready for the match.

            According to the Bible, blaming someone else for one’s unfortunate circumstances began in the most famous Garden with our earliest ancestors. After eating the forbidden fruit just before God expelled Adam and Eve from their beautiful home, Eve blamed the serpent. Adam blamed Eve. Speaking to God, Adam said, “It was the woman YOU gave me.”

            Blaming others for our problems may afford us some emotional satisfaction, but is it worth the consequences? It can become a pattern, an emotionally crippling crutch, a way to shift responsibility from ourselves?

            Sometimes I believe people blame others and get angry or depressed because they see no escape from their problems. They don’t believe it is possible to pick up the pieces of their lives and turn lemons into lemonade.

            The Bible says that all things are possible with God. Paul said in Philippians 4:13 (NKJV ), “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” Maybe believing this helps some people pick up the pieces of their lives after a tragedy and do something positive.

             Candice Lightner chose to do something to help others after her thirteen-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver. This California woman formed MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. According to Wikipedia the purpose of MADD is to stop drunk driving. The organization supports those affected by drunk drivers. They campaign against underage drinking and strive for stricter impaired driving policies.

            Abraham Lincoln is reputed to have said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it,” implying that while we may not be able to erase the past, we have the power to shape the future if we have the courage and the will to do so.

            What is your story? How have you dealt with tragedy?

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  • Events: Vacationed at Wrightsville and Carolina Beaches July 1 through July 4. On Sunday evening we met for dinner, my college roommate and classmate since fourth grade, Mary Perry Smith. Lucky her, she’s building a condo near Carolina Beach. She recommended Michaels Seafood Restaurant at 1206 Lake Park Blvd. N. Carolina Beach. This place boasts less salt and fat in the cuisine, no fried food, and they serve an award-winning seafood chowder that is the best! On a different note, when we later passed Britt’s Donuts on the boardwalk, the line was probably a hundred-people long. The smell of those hot, glazed, yeast donuts always takes me back to my childhood when I used to be able to eat them.
  • On Tuesday evening Spencer and I returned to Michaels for another bowl of chowder. Then we went down to the beach to walk on the boardwalk and strand. We got there around nine o’clock just as the fireworks show was beginning, and to our surprise, since the date was July 3 and not July 4. It was awesome. For thirty minutes without pause, we watched a kaleidoscope of lights and colors in the night sky. Getting through the crowd and back to our hotel in Wilmington proved less exciting. A wreck kept us waiting in traffic for an hour.
  • Reading: The Whistler (2016) John Grisham. I can’t get used to the almost flippant tone which makes it difficult for me to care about the main characters. This novel is an okay read, not on a par with The Firm or A Time to Kill.
  • Writing: Have completed several more chapters of ENVY GAMES. My son-in-law, former fireman, EMT, Homeland Security, Army and presently National Guard, helped me with details about what would be the condition of a body, dead for around seventy-two hours, discovered on an island in the James River by two kayakers. In the novel, an ambitious political operative discovers deadly secrets of powerful people who subsequently decide to make him their next victim.
  • Motivational Thought: Seek out a teacher, coach, mentor; a manual, book, or audio program of internet resource to help you achieve one of your major goals. Jack Canfield
  • Joseph Prince Quote: You are probably familiar with the story of how David, with a sling and stone, slew Goliath, a 10-feet tall Philistine warrior. But have you ever wondered why David succeeded while the others in the army of Israel did not even dare to face Goliath? David’s secret was that he was only conscious of victory and not defeat because he knew a God who had rescued him time and again.


Shhhh! We Can’t Talk About It!


#Subtext in life and fiction often refers to the words not said, words, we can’t express to others and sometimes, not even to ourselves. It relates to those buried thoughts and emotions we try to hide.

            Pete Turner, the main character in my #suspense/thriller #THE POISON CUP, can’t talk about what really drives his hate for his Uncle Farley Oaks, a man the entire community professes to admire and respect. He can’t speak of it to his brother, Robert, or his best friend, Jennings. In a conversation with Robert that propels Pete on a dangerous journey for revenge, Pete cannot, as Robert puts it, state his case against Farley. 

“…Daddy’s opinion of Farley is not something I’m going to carry on. I have nothing against him.”

Pete looked up. “You should. You should have something against him.”

“Are you going to let Daddy’s dislike of Farley affect your life forever?”

“It’s more than that.”

“Then what? If you’re going to abuse the man, you have to state your case.”

Pete began to pace. “It’s…It’s…” But he couldn’t find the words to express his guilt, his failure to protect his sister and the Turner name. It was too hideous to reveal. If he didn’t speak it, if no one knew…but Farley knew, and that’s why he had to die. Pete swallowed. “Daddy could see beneath Farley’s exterior. We should both hate him.” 

            Pete thinks he wants to kill Farley, and like Ahab’s great white whale, Pete is willing to risk everything for the chance to get that imagined satisfaction. In actuality, he wants peace of mind; he wants a life; he wants romance with Myra Claire, but the past and Farley loom large, and he cannot see beyond them.

            In life, we try to project an image, that groomed side of us we want others to see. We protect our egos with a cloak of pride to cover our humiliations, fears, and deepest wounds from truths about ourselves we can’t face so that we can keep them imprisoned as deep in our subconscious as Eurydice in Hades. According to #Charles Baxter in #THE ART OF SUBTEXT, “we are all obtuse about the self-contradictions that are closest to us and that we are most sensitive about.”

            But alas! Our secrets slip to the surface when we unconsciously avert our eyes or slump our shoulders, tap nervous fingers or take on a faraway look. Believable characters also give away secrets through body language or giveaway actions like nervously changing the subject when the conversation is getting too close for comfort. Also, the writer can use excessive detailing to signal subtext. In THE POISON CUP, the scene where Pete is shackled to a ball and chain is “staged” to suggest his deeper, emotional imprisonment.

            Baxter defines #staging as “putting characters in specific strategic positions in the scene so that some unvoiced nuance is revealed.” Staging may include how close or how far away the characters are from each other, what their particular gestures and facial expressions might be at moments of dramatic emphasis, exactly how their words are said, and what props appear inside or outside the scene. Excessive detailing is a signpost.

A visual example Baxter gives is from #Robert Frost’s poem #“Home Burial” about a deep, ongoing domestic quarrel. The “prop” is the cramped stairway signaling the couples’ stunted relationship; the wife’s imprisoning, pent-up emotions and inability to express them.

            Subtest, what a character does not say, can be more revealing than what he says.


ferocious dogcowardpic2

The first time the reader meets Pete Turner, the protagonist in THE POISON CUP, he is a prisoner on a chain gang in a remote part of Georgia where due process was not the order of the day. His worst enemy was within. Fear of his uncle, fear of his past were shackles as real as those that kept him a prisoner in the sheriff of Grimley’s jail. Like a scared animal driven into a trap, circumstances conspired against him while he was on the run from his enemies.

At an early age, my mother taught me a lesson about running from my enemies. When I was in the second grade, we moved into a new neighborhood where I first encountered Pattie Vaden. Out skating on the day we moved in, I saw this kid about my age. Hoping to make a new friend, I spoke to her. Pattie Vaden was a freckled-faced girl who liked to act tough, and she told me if I ever said anything to her again, she was going to beat me up. I skated home with my heart racing faster than my skates.

The next week, my first time walking home from my new school, Pattie met me on the path. In the presence of an audience of several others curious spectators, she blocked my way. With hands on her hips and a snarl on her face, she described what she was going to do to me. Backing up like a frightened mouse, I turned around and raced through yards and unfamiliar streets until I managed to find my way home, all the time fearing Pattie Vaden was close on my heels. When I reached the porch all out of breath, I found my mother had locked the front door. In a frustrated rage, I banged and screamed for her to let me in, still looking behind me for Pattie Vaden to appear at any moment.

About the third time I came to the door after school and stood outside screaming that Pattie Vaden was after me, my mother angrily let me inside, but she said if it happened again, she would keep me locked out and let her beat me up. Mother ordered me to stand up to her.

Well, caught between the devil and my mother’s threat, I went to school the next day fearful of ever getting home alive. Sure enough, Pattie met me on the path after school and blocked my way, expecting to send me home crying. At first, I tried to dodge past her, but she shoved me back. Desperate to save myself, my female instinct led me to reach over and grab a handful of her hair. I yanked it with all my strength–and to my amazement and satisfaction–she yelled bloody murder. When I finally let go, she ran off crying.

After that, we became best friends!

While my story is funny, at least to me, I relate it to the much more serious bullies that America faces today with far more serious consequences to our national defense. Yet, maybe the same principles apply to any bullies and the fear that makes us a prey for them. I wonder where people get the idea we can win from a position of weakness over those who proclaim they mean to destroy us. If we pet them, maybe they won’t bite us? Really? Or does showing weakness only embolden them?

Some would call defensive action, aggression. Some fear defensive action will draw us into a full-scale war. That would make defending ourselves against those who threaten us the cause of war rather than a solution. No one wants war, but can we afford peace at any price, enslaved by those who would rule over us without mercy?  Did the Jewish people cause the Holocaust because the Nazis chose to send thousands of them to the gas ovens? If we stick our heads in the sand, will our enemies just go away and never carry out their threats. Adolph Hitler made a point worth pondering when he said, “What luck for rulers that people do not think!”

Those among us who call us the aggressors, who abuse our flag and criticize our right to defend ourselves would not have this freedom of life and speech without the price others have paid for it with their lives. And if this country and the Judeo-Christian heritage upon which our Constitutional government was founded is such an anathema to them, they have the freedom to leave and live elsewhere.





Taking a page from Denise Sessous blog,, here is my first Bullet Journal:

  • Events: #THE POISON CUP book Signing last Saturday at Barnes and Noble Chesterfield Town Center was a good success, thanks to family and friends who supported me. Shion Fenty, my marketing mentor, took great photographs.
  • Saturday, (6/24) attended for first time a meeting of #Sisters in Crime, an association of women who write mysteries. The program for this meeting was a special law enforcement panel featuring Mike East, CSX Railroad and Alberto Medena, Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries. My indispensible and gregarious critique partner, Catherine Brennan, saved me a seat on the first row. I also met a friend from writing classes way back when at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Vivian Lawry.
  • Reading: As research for my work in progress, ENVY GAMES, I am reading SHATTERED, by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, explaining why Hillary Clinton had everything going for her (according to the authors) but lost the election.
  • Writing: My new critique partner, Catherine Brennan, must have motivated me. This week I wrote three new chapters for ENVY GAMES.
  • Motivating Thought: Standing still and contemplating the immensity of the mountain will never take you to the top. Taking one step at a time will.
  • Joseph Prince: Through the tree in the #Garden of Eden came the curse; On the tree at Calvary the curse was reversed!