Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Unconventional. Unafraid. Unwelcome. A female physician with an
adopted black daughter? The townsfolk of Idaho Bend will never accept
Dr. Mercy Gabriel—even when faced with a deadly cholera epidemic. But
all Mercy needs is one man willing to listen…and to trust.
Four years of war command turned Lon Mackey into a footloose gambler
who can't abide attachments. Yet he can't help getting riled by the
threats Mercy keeps receiving. Her trailblazing courage could reignite
his faith and humanity. And his loyalty could make her dream—for the
first time—of a family of her own….
Here's the kernel from the RT review: "Her Healing Ways (Four Stars)
is a wonderful love story between two people with different outlooks
on life, who together bring out the best in each other. Cote knows
what will keep readers interested in the story and uses this knowledge
throughout her story. Don't miss this wonderful book."
Thanks and Merry Christmas!
Her Abundant Joy 6-1-10
For the latest Christian Fiction Market Update
Friday, December 10, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
A Daughter for Christmas
By Margaret Daley
Love Inspired, November 2010
A Daughter for Christmas is the third book in the Helping Hands Homeschooling Series. Matters of the heart start at home.
Blurb for A Daughter for Christmas:
Dr. Max Connors had no idea he'd fathered a child thirteen years ago. Or that his baby girl had been given up for adoption. He locates his daughter in a small Oklahoma town and moves there, hoping to become a part of her life. But when he meets her widowed mother, Max is unsure how to reveal his identity. As he helps Rachel Howard with her plans to homeschool the girl, he's welcomed into the family. But with the holidays approaching, Max must tell Rachel who he really is. Can he make his dreams of family come true by Christmas?
Excerpt from A Daughter for Christmas:
On his second day in Tallgrass, Oklahoma, Dr. Max Connors opened his front door to discover the one woman he wasn't quite ready to meet. Rachel Howard. Mother of his child.
Although she didn't know that. Yet.
Prim, proper Rachel, with her reddish-brown hair pulled back in a twist, held up a plate full of fudge. "Welcome to the neighborhood."
The smile that graced her full lips transformed her plain features into radiance and needled his conscience. His reason for being in Tallgrass would totally shatter her world.
When he didn't say anything right away, she added in a cultured voice, "I'm part of the welcoming committee for Ranch Acres Estates."
"There's such a thing as a welcoming committee?" In New York City he couldn't have envisioned anything like that. Certainly not in his apartment building where he'd hardly known his neighbors. But then he'd worked long hours at the hospital as an emergency room doctor.
"Yes, especially for the doctor who's going into practice with Dr. Reynolds. I promised Kevin I would give you a proper welcome."
"You know Kevin Reynolds?" He knew she did, that her deceased husband had been Kevin Reynolds's partner, but he couldn't think of anything else to say.
"He's a good friend." She bent a little closer, as though she were imparting a secret. "In case you haven't figured it out, Kevin is very excited you've decided to move to Tallgrass. And wants to make sure you stay around."
A whiff of lavender teased Max's nostrils. "Come in." He quickly stepped back to put some space between them. He hadn't been prepared to meet her in person yet, and her close proximity only reinforced that. "Please excuse the mess." He waved his hand toward the boxes stacked around his living and dining areas.
"I've got some of the kitchen put together. Let's go back there."
When Rachel entered the kitchen, she stopped a few feet inside.
"You've been here a day, and you've already got this in order. I'm amazed. When I moved into my house, it took me a week to do that."
"I figure if I don't tackle the kitchen this weekend I won't get it done and I love to cook."
"You do? You sound like my granny and my sister, Jordan."
He gestured toward a chair at his round glass table. "You don't like to cook?"
"I do it because I have a family to feed, but I'm not passionate about it like Jordan is." She sank onto the seat and placed her housewarming gift of fudge on the table, her movements precise, graceful.
And for a few seconds they captured his attention. He mentally shook his head and finally asked, "What are you passionate about?" Again, he knew the answer before she said it because he'd made a point to find out as much as he could about the woman raising his daughter.
"Why?" He took the chair across from her, still needing the distance to keep his perspective. Her photo didn't really do her justice. It'd captured her features but hadn't conveyed the warmth radiating from her, the twinkle in her blue eyes, which reminded him of the color of a lagoon he'd swum in on a rare vacation to Tahiti a couple of years ago between working in the Middle East and New York.
"I love telling a story through a quilt. At church a group of us are working on one that tells the story of Christ. It'll go on the wall in the rec hall, hopefully by Thanksgiving." Her voice conveyed her excitement. About quilting or Jesus? Or both? He knew she was strong in her faith. She attended Tallgrass Community Church, or at least that was what the private detective's report had said.
He forced himself to relax back in his chair, but his gut tightened as though he were preparing for a punch. What was he doing here? Doubts began to assail him about his plan—one that might not have been thought out as well as it should have. What he'd come up with in the safe confines of his apartment in New York City mocked him now. His actions would affect a lot of people.
"This fudge looks delicious." He touched the piece closest to him, needing to do something to take his mind off his doubts.
"It's a secret family recipe handed down through the daughters. The first few times I made it I messed it up bad. It was a soft blob of chocolate. It tasted fine, but it didn't set up. Granny had to come to the rescue. A Masterson has to be able to make this fudge, according to her. It's a family tradition. I've been trying to teach my daughter, but she doesn't want to have anything to do with cooking."
Tension whipped down his length. He clamped his jaws together for a few seconds, drew in a deep breath to ease his stiff muscles and said, "How many children do you have?"
"Three. Taylor, my daughter, is thirteen. And I have two boys, twins, who are four."
"That sounds like you've got your hands full."
The gleam in her eyes dimmed. "It isn't easy being a single mom, but I have family here which helps."
"Ah, that would help. Who's giving you problems? The thirteen-year-old or the twins?"
Her chuckles sprinkled the air like powdered sugar. "It's obvious you haven't dealt with a teenager."
He nodded, stamping down his anger simmering beneath the surface. Rachel Howard wasn't at fault, but she could be hurt by his presence in Tallgrass. "Guilty as charged. I haven't had the pleasure other than as a doctor." His deceased ex-wife hadn't given him a chance to find that out. Leaning slightly forward in his chair, he snatched a piece of fudge. "But I have it on good authority they can be a challenge to raise."
Do Not Reproduce Without Permission
A Daughter for Christmas is available at :
Monday, November 15, 2010
The Sound of Sleigh Bells
Beth Hertzler works alongside her beloved Aunt Lizzy in their dry goods store, and serving as contact of sorts between Amish craftsmen and Englischers who want to sell the Plain people’s wares. But remorse and loneliness still echo in her heart everyday as she still wears the dark garb, indicating mourning of her fiancé. When she discovers a large, intricately carved scene of Amish children playing in the snow, something deep inside Beth’s soul responds and she wants to help the unknown artist find homes for his work–including Lizzy’s dry goods store. But she doesn’t know if her bishop will approve of the gorgeous carving or deem it idolatry.
Lizzy sees the changes in her niece when Beth shows her the woodworking, and after Lizzy hunts down Jonah, the artist, she is all the more determined that Beth meets this man with the hands that create healing art. But it’s not that simple–will Lizzy’s elaborate plan to reintroduce her niece to love work? Will Jonah be able to offer Beth the sleigh ride she’s always dreamed of and a second chance at real love–or just more heartbreak?
2010 Inspirational Readers Choice Contest winner
CBA and ECPA Bestseller
To read the first chapter and/or for purchasing info, go to http://www.cindywoodsmall.com/books/sound-of-sleigh-bells_excerpt.php
She is also a veteran homeschool mom who no longer holds that position. As her children progressed in age, her desire to write grew stronger. After working through reservations whether this desire was something she should pursue, she began her writing journey. Her husband was her staunchest supporter as she aimed for what seemed impossible.
To visit Cindy’s Web site, go to http://www.cindywoodsmall.com
For information on how to receive free bookmarks and autographed bookplates, go to http://www.cindywoodsmall.com/bookplates.php
Friday, November 12, 2010
Up in her grandmother's attic in Stony Point, Maine, Annie Dawson finds a stack of old letters from her childhood friend Susan Morris. Annie remembers Susan fondly and would like to get back in touch, but nobody seems to know what's become of her. Her friends at The Hook and Needle Club aren't much help either. All they remember is that Susan left town more than twenty years ago to marry a very wealthy man, but none of them is quite sure who he was. And Annie can find no record of any marriage.
The more Annie searches, the more she begins to wonder if something has happened to Susan. Something bad.
"Well paced, well constructed, and explosive in the end. A 5-star rating."
-- Robin Hardy, author of the Annals of Lystra and the Streiker Saga
"What do you think?"
Annie held up the beginnings of her sweater for the ladies of the Hook and Needle Club to see.
"That's really nice." Gwen stilled the clicking of her knitting needles to give Annie's creation her full attention. "Looks like it'll be warm, too."
Alice fingered the worsted yarn and grinned. "That'll be warm enough for a Maine winter."
"Oh, good!" Peggy dropped her quilt block and clasped her plump hands together. "Annie's decided to stay."
"Hold on! Hold on!" Annie laughed and shook her head. "You're all going to hurt yourselves jumping to conclusions like that."
Mary Beth nodded wisely. "You're making a sweater, not a commitment, right, Annie?"
"Well, we'd like you to stay." Kate shyly lowered her head and went back to work on the delicate crocheted vest she had almost finished. "It's been so nice having you here."
Annie beamed at the younger woman and went back to work on an azure stripe in her sweater. "I've loved being here. I guess getting Grey Gables fixed up and de-cluttered has been more of a job than I expected, but getting to know everybody here has been a nice fringe benefit. It kind of reminds me when I used to visit here in the summers when I was young."
With a hint of a smile, Alice made a french knot in the intricate floral bell pull she was cross stitching. "When you and Susan Morris were such good friends."
"Susan Morris?" Gwen tilted her blonde head to one side, thinking. "I remember her. Didn't she lose her parents in a car accident?"
"Yeah, she did." Mary Beth sat in one of the comfy chairs in the circle of crafters. "She'd just come back from college and was living at home again when her mother and father were killed. It must have been so terrible for the poor girl."
"I had no idea. Poor Susan." Annie had met Susan's parents only a couple of times, but she knew how close to them Susan had been. What had her life been like after their loss? "You don't know what she did next, do you?"
"I thought she went off and married some rich guy." Gwen pulled more yarn from the ball in her knitting bag. "Can't remember his name now."
"That's right." Mary Beth bit her lip. "What was his name? He was some bigwig in shoes or something. I could pick him out if I saw the name again. Anyway, she sold the family home, that house out on the far end of Elm Street, and left to get married. Never came back to Stony Point as far as I've ever heard."
"I knew her parents." As usual, Stella had been nearly silent for most of the meeting, but now she shook her head, not looking up from her knitting. "That house had been in the Morris family for almost two hundred years, but young people, well, they don't understand what family means anymore."
That was just like Stella, and in spite of herself, Annie smiled a little.
"I don't know, Stella. From what I remember, Susan loved that old house. She always said she never wanted to leave it. Ever. I guess Mr. Right, whoever he was, didn't want to live in little Stony Point."
"I wonder if that's the house that other handyman lives in. He's way out on Elm, I know that much." Peggy stopped to cut out another piece of fabric to add to her appliqué flower. "Sometimes, when somebody needs a handyman and Wally's busy, he has them call this guy. His name is Tom something. Maxwell, I think. Of course, until now, there hasn't been enough work to keep Wally busy."
"Until now?" Gwen asked.
"Wally got a job installing kitchens. Should be pretty steady work for a few months. Maybe more."
Everyone looked up at Mary Beth, and her face turned a little pink.
"Oh, no, I don't mean I'm not happy for you and Wally, Peggy." She patted the younger woman's arm. "I was just hoping he could put in my new cabinets. That is, if the place I ordered them from ever gets me the right ones."
Annie shook her head. "Didn't you get that straightened out yet?"
"As far as I can tell. If they do, I'd like to get them installed as soon as possible."
"I hope so." Kate frowned. "All the new inventory and extra supplies are such a mess down there."
"And that's exactly why I want these new cabinets. A place for everything, and everything in its place."
"And after he's done, Wally can come work for me again." Annie finished up the azure stripe and fished in her bag for her crimson yarn. "He did a great job on my kitchen, and I'm going to have him work on the upstairs bathroom once I decide what I want done."
"Really?" Peggy's eyes lit up. "That would be great. You know how tight finances have been for us lately."
Kate sighed. "Tell me about it. At least your Emily is still little. Vanessa will be wanting to go to college before long, and I don't know how I'm going to swing that on my own."
Mary Beth gave her a motherly hug. "One day at a time, hon. That's about as much as any of us can really handle."
"Yeah, I know." Kate smiled. "One day at a time and a few good friends."
And they were good friends. Annie blinked hard, clearing the mist out of her eyes so she could see her crochet hook again. These were good people, and she was glad to know them. Still, she couldn't help wondering about who had been there for poor Susan after her parents' accident. Did she have friends who cared about her now? Well, wherever she was, she couldn't be that hard to find.
Annie started crocheting again, the rhythm of her hook brisk and determined.
Copyright 2010 DRG – Do not reproduce without permission.
Step Into Time . . . Historical Fiction by DeAnna Julie Dodson
* * *
Simple Deceit: The Harmony Series
Harmony, Kansas has grown on Gracie Temple, including its Mennonite residents. She decides to stay and take on freelance graphic work, but when her new client is a developer intent on bringing tourism to the area, Harmony residents become divided. Many believe the opportunity will strengthen their businesses and help their families, but some are afraid the small town life they love will be destroyed. When the deal begins to fall apart and the man she loves, Sam Goodrich, seems to turn his back on her, Gracie starts to wonder if she really heard from God. And when other strange events lead her and the people she loves into danger, she faces a decision of the heart. Will she run back to the city or stay and fight for all she has come to love?
Sarah pointed toward a small table with two chairs. "Why don't we sit down for a minute? I'd like to talk to you if you don't mind."
"Of course I don't mind. You're my friend."
Sarah sat across from me, folding her long blue dress under her. Her dark hair matched the black apron over her dress. White ribbons on the sides of her prayer covering touched her smooth unblemished skin. Her natural beauty had no need of makeup. I envied her in this respect. Although I didn't use much makeup myself, I was certainly too insecure to go out in public au natural.
"This is where Papa and I have our lunch," she said. "Sometimes we go to Mary's, but Papa doesn't like to spend money in restaurants."
That sounded like Gabe. "Where did you and your father sleep last night?" I looked around the room. There didn't seem to be any place to bed down.
"Oh, Papa brought the blankets in from the carriage. We always carry some in the winter. And John Keystone brought us a couple of cots he keeps in his shop. When he first moved here, he actually lived in the back of his store for a while. Now he has a nice little house outside of town. Papa and I were quite comfortable." She flushed at the mention of John's name.
"I saw John briefly when I got into town. He seemed to be doing well."
She cast her eyes down and wouldn't look at me. "Oh? I'm pleased to hear that."
I didn't say anything. Sarah had never confided in me about their relationship. Not directly anyway.
She raised her head and looked toward the door to the shop. "I—I wonder if I could talk to you, Gracie. About something…personal." She swung her large, doe-like eyes back to me. "I haven't really had any friends for such a long time. Papa kept me away from everyone except the people in our small church group for the past several years. He's afraid I'll leave him - like my mother did." She reached up to wipe away a tear that slid down her cheek. "I could never cause my father that kind of pain. I know how much it hurt him. I wonder if being abandoned by the person you love isn't the worst thing that can happen to a person." She let out a deep sigh. "You know, I've wondered for many years if she left because of me. Perhaps I was too much trouble. It hurts me to think that might be the reason." She gave me a sad smile. "I realize I don't know much about the world. I'm sure there are things much worse that people must bear."
I reached over and put my hand on hers. "There may be," I acknowledged. "But losing a parent is right there at the top." I squeezed her hand. "Your mother left because she was unhappy with herself, Sarah. Not with you. Perhaps not even with Gabe. She may have gone away with another man, but there was something wrong inside her. A healthy person doesn't walk away from their family. You should never, ever blame yourself for her choices."
"It's hard not to. In all these years, I've never heard a word from her. If she cared about me, I would think she would contact me, don't you?"
I didn't know how to answer the beautiful Mennonite girl so full of grace, dignity, kindness and pain. I thought carefully. At that moment the idea of having about ten minutes alone in a room with her so-called mother for some real "come to Jesus" justice sounded very appealing. But that probably wouldn't set well with someone like Sarah who believed in peaceful solutions. "I have no idea why you haven't heard from her. But wondering about things you can't control or situations you have no direct knowledge of is useless." I smiled at her. "There is one thing I do know. Missing out on being with you should be the greatest regret of her life. You're a wonderful person. Any mother would be proud to have you for a daughter."
Another tear coursed down her face. "Oh, thank you, Gracie. You're so kind. And such a dear friend." She hesitated and looked toward the door again. "I'm so torn. I need some advice, and you're the only person I feel safe enough to confide in."
I knew where this was going, and to be honest, I wanted to get up and run away. Instead I gave her a smile of encouragement.
"There's a…situation," she said, almost whispering. "And I'm afraid Papa will be very upset if I tell him about it." She shook her head. "He was so angry for so many years. I'm afraid. Afraid if I'm honest with him, life will go back to the way it was before. When he had nothing to do with others, and I had to stay inside all the time." She stared deeply into my eyes. "I can't cause him more pain, Gracie. Yet I can't continue to deceive him either. I don't know what to do." She took a deep breath. "You see, I am in love. I am in love with John Keystone."
From behind us came a strangled sound – more of a groan really. Sarah's face turned deathly white. I turned around to find Gabe standing in the doorway, his expression one of incredible rage.
In December, you can buy "Simple Deceit" at your local bookstore. You can also preorder "Simple Deceit" at www.amazon.com or www.christianbook.com. For more information about Nancy Mehl visit Nancy's Web site at www.nancymehl.com. Do not reproduce without permission.
Monday, November 08, 2010
Callahans of Texas, Book 2
Emily Rose Denny is only in Callahan Crossing for a little while. Her five-year plan is all laid out, with the goal of landing an assistant curator position at a big city museum. She isn't about to let a certain handsome rancher/builder change her mind. But Chance Callahan is as determined to win her heart as she is to be a success. Is there room for both in her life?
Man meets woman. Man loves woman. Man marries woman.
Chance Callahan looked down at the three cartoon scenes he'd drawn on some scratch paper a few days earlier. A scruffy cowboy and pretty lady running from an old building, a raging fire behind them. Pretty lady smiles at tired, dirty cowboy, and his heart pounds out of his chest, stars in his eyes. Beautiful bride and love-struck groom standing before the preacher.
If only it were that simple.
It was only the second of February, and he already had spring fever.
Shaking his head, he turned his attention back to the notes he'd made that afternoon while he and the insurance claims adjuster inspected the old museum. As a building contractor, Chance had figured out before the man arrived that the structure couldn't be saved.
Which meant the Callahan Crossing Historical Society meeting tonight was going to be about as cheerful as a coroner's inquest. He wished he could tell them—and his pretty lady—that the building could be repaired at a reasonable expense. But it couldn't. It had suffered too much damage from the fire that ravaged their small town a week earlier.
The building was almost a hundred years old, and most of it had been affected in some way by the fire. The whole thing would have to be brought up to current fire and health codes. It would cost far more than what the insurance would cover.
In many ways, worrying about a museum when a third of the town had been destroyed seemed just plain wrong. So many families had lost everything; some both their homes and businesses. Ranchers and farmers had lost livestock, pastures and miles of fencing.
The only blessing was that no one had been killed or seriously injured. Though badly shaken by the experience, folks would pick up and get on with their lives. Most planned to stay in Callahan Crossing. But a few had no way—or no heart—to rebuild and had already moved away.
His mom felt that opening the museum again after a decade long closure would lift folks' spirits. She thought it might even bring in a little money from tourism and give the town a boost. Particularly if it was done right this time, with good displays and organization instead of a bunch of odds and ends thrown together in a jumble.
He didn't see how that little ol' museum could do much for the town, but setting it up would keep Emily Rose Denny around for a while. And that was something he wanted. Badly.
Satisfied that he'd included everything in the report, he clicked the print icon on the computer screen and waited as the laser printer zipped out thirty copies. He didn't know how many people would be at the meeting tonight, but he believed in being prepared.
He couldn't think of any suitable options for the museum right off the top of his head, though surely there must be some. He owned a building downtown that he'd been fixing up, but it was four times the size of the one they'd planned on using. His mom had been concerned because they'd barely had enough items to put in the old one. They had less after the fire. Even if he offered to donate his building, it wouldn't be suitable. Two big rooms with a handful of odds and ends would look dumb. And it sure wouldn't draw tourists.
For now, Emily was busy trying to salvage what she could, but he didn't know how long that would last. Though only part of the building had burned, there was extensive smoke and water damage to the contents. He doubted there was much worth keeping. They might have to abandon the whole project, and she'd skedaddle back home fast as greased lightning.
He'd find a way to stop her from heading back to San Antonio, even if he had to propose marriage to do it. Courting her first would be better, of course, but sometimes a man had to charge out of the chute to win the prize.
And hope he didn't land in the dirt instead.
Copyright 2010. Do not reproduce without permission.
Emily's Chance is available online at www.christianbook.com, www.bn.com, www.amazon.com and other online retailers. It is also available through most local bookstores.
Visit Sharon's website www.sharongillenwater.com to learn more about previous and upcoming books.
* * *
Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense
Home to heal...and reconcile?
When wounded marine Devlin Sloan comes back to Aspen Creek, he's surprised by his late mother's will. His new business partner for the next six months will be Beth Carrigan. His ex-wife.
This might prove to be Dev's most difficult mission yet. He never stopped loving the sweet bookstore owner, but his military career broke them apart. Now, as they work together at helping others get a new start in life, he hopes he can break down the walls between them....and explore the possibilities of renewing the life they had with each other.
Beth Carrigan took a last glance at her cell phone, shoved it in her pocket and heaved a sigh.
A crisp, sunny, October weekend in Aspen Creek, Wisconsin, usually brought crowds of tourists from Chicago, Minneapolis, and all parts in between. It didn't bring unexpected calls from Washington DC, California, and the Henderson Law Office. Calls that now had her stomach doing crazy cartwheels.
What on earth was she going to do?
But everything is going to be fine, Lord. It's going to be fine, right? She surveyed her bookstore, breathing in the beloved scents of books, dark roast coffee and apricot tea as she walked to the back, where her friends were already settled in an eclectic mix of comfy loveseats and rockers she'd pulled into a circle before unlocking the entrance for them at nine o'clock.
Their voices fell silent as five pairs of worried eyes looked up at her. Their concern was so palpable that she forced herself to dredge up a nonchalant smile. "How's the coffee? Is it better this time? I bought a new fair trade brand and--"
"The question is, how are you?" Olivia Lawson, the oldest bookclub member at fifty-two, had been a high school English teacher for years, and was well known in town for keeping her students in line. Her brows, dark in contrast to her short, silver hair, drew together in a worried frown. "If this is a bad time, we can all leave, dear. Unless, of course, there's something we can do to help."
"It's...well, a little complicated."
For five years, they'd been meeting twice a month on Saturday mornings, an hour before the store opened. They'd been friends in good times and bad, and she knew she could count on them for support and the utmost discretion. Still, she stumbled over her thoughts trying to frame her news in the best light.
"The first call was from my mother. She's on her way here from California, and will arrive next weekend--probably on the 10th. Isn't it great?"
"Maura?" The glint in her eyes betrayed Olivia's true feelings behind her smile. "How wonderful. You two can spend some quality time together, and catch up."
"Definitely." I hope. If things go better, this time. Beth took a deep breath. "The second call was from Dev. He's coming back next week."
Olivia' mouth dropped open. "Your mother and ex-husband. In the same town."
"If he stays that long. But he never does. After a few days, he's always headed for the Middle East...or wherever."
Toni shuddered. "This should be interesting."
Beth managed a smile. "With luck, she won't run into him, and all will be well. I doubt he'll be out and about much."
A hush fell over the group. "I-is he all right?" Toni ventured after an awkward pause.
"He's had some sort of serious shoulder injury. Nothing life-threatening, but enough to land him at Walter Reed for a few weeks. He's on medical leave right now."
Hannah Dorchester's brow furrowed. "Will he end up with a discharge, then?" Petite, blonde and vivacious, she worked as a physician's assistant at the local hospital. "Even a rotator cuff can take six months to heal. A battle wound could be much worse."
"I did ask, but he vehemently denied it." She felt a twinge in a small, scarred part of her heart as she recalled just how dedicated Dev was to military service.
There'd been a time when she would've given anything for him to come home for good. But those romantic feelings were long gone, and now she only felt sympathy for a man whose entire adult life had been focused on covert Special Forces operations that he could never explain. If he had to leave the service, she could only imagine how difficult the adjustment would be.
Olivia shook her head. "That has to be tough."
"Definitely. Still, his parents owned one side of an entire block of valuable property here in town, so he'll have a lot of options. That third call a few minutes ago was from his family's attorney."
Toni's dark eye's filled with worry. "That doesn't sound good."
"Just a formality, because he's the only heir. Dev was home briefly for his mother's funeral last spring, but now he's finally coming back for the reading of the will. Apparently Vivienne was very specific about both of us needing to be present, even if it meant a long delay because of his military service."
Just the thought of the meeting gave her jitters.
Dev would soon own an entire block of property on Hawthorne--including her bookstore. He'd always made it plain that he wouldn't ever want to live here again. Would he decide to terminate her lease? Sell everything to the highest bidder?
If he did, she'd lose her home, her livelihood. Her customers and the members of the book club were her only family now, and she'd lose them as well, if she couldn't find an affordable place to close by. And as for her biggest dream of all...it would go up in a puff of smoke if she ever had to move.
The bitter end of their marriage made it a distinct possibility.
Keeley North, owner of an antiques shop a few blocks away from the bookstore, sat forward in her chair and shoved a wedge of gleaming, honey streaked brunette hair behind her ear. "Maybe she left everything to you."
"The divorce ended any future claims to their property." Beth shrugged. "I'll show up at the meeting, say hello, then slip away so Dev and the lawyer can get down to business. If I can just get past this next week, then Dev should soon be gone and everything will go back to normal. I hope."
And she would be praying on it, every single day.
The book is available at:
Monday, November 01, 2010
and other favorite Christian authors
Settling the vast open prairies, weathering winter storms, and finding joy to celebrate during Christmas epitomizes the pioneer experience. In a unique collection of nine Christmas romances, Barbour Publishing brings readers A Prairie Christmas Collection where they can relive a prairie Christmas with all its challenge and delights as penned by multi-published authors, including Tracie Peterson and Deborah Raney. Featuring deckled-edge pages and a foil-stamped cover with fold-under flaps, the collection makes an ideal gift for the romance reader.
In this holiday romance collection, the warmth of Christmas will radiate new love from the high plains of Minnesota and Dakota Territory, across the rolling hills of Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois, and down into the flats of Kansas. Filled with inspiration and faith, each story will become a treasure to be enjoyed again each year. Along with Peterson and Raney, other contributing authors include Tracey Bateman, Pamela Griffin, JoAnn A. Grote, Maryn Langer, Darlene Mindrup, Janet Spaeth and Jill Stengl.
For more information see Deborah Raney's website at
Available in bookstores everywhere, or order online at CBD.com, amazon.com or other bookstores online.
Friday, October 29, 2010
by Mindy Starns Clark
From the bestselling author of Shadows of Lancaster County comes an exciting new romantic mystery set in Amish country.
Sienna Collins owns a Bed and Breakfast out in Lancaster County, built in a house she inherited from her grandfather. Run by an on-site manager, her B&B turns just enough profit on a regular basis to make it her only solid investment.
As the book opens, Sienna learns that she has been suspended from her job in the city and is under investigation by the US government. When she hears from Troy, an ex-boyfriend who is calling from her B&B, she realizes the investigation has something to do with him—and with her inn.
Desperate to figure out what's going on, she drives out to Lancaster County to confront Troy and to question her B&B's manager, Floyd.
This excerpt begins as Sienna nears the B&B.
Traffic ended up being exceptionally heavy, and by the time I turned from the main road onto the street that led to my final destination, it was after 7:00 p.m. Even in my current state of mind, the beauty of the scenery took my breath away, as it always had.
Passing one patchwork farm after another, barely visible now in the fading light, I couldn't help but think how different my life would have turned out if my grandfather hadn't broken away from the Amish faith back in the forties and gone down a different path. If my father had been raised Amish, would he have stayed in the fold? If so, if he had raised me to be Amish too, would I now be living on a farm of my own somewhere, wearing a kapp and picking vegetables with my five children and cooking meals on a propane-powered stove? Would the man who took me in his arms after a long day have a beard with no mustache and wear broadfall trousers I had sewed for him with my own hands?
Slowing as I reached the entrance to Harmony Grove Bed and Breakfast, I put on my blinker and turned into the driveway. Flanked on the right by thick woods and on the left by an open pasture, the long driveway made for a spectacular sight when there was light enough to see.
Despite the little bell that jangled over the door as I stepped inside, no one seemed to realize I was here.
"Troy? Floyd?" I called out both men's names several times, and when they didn't reply I checked the kitchen and the office, both of which were empty. Then I went to the far end of the hall and knocked on the door to the downstairs room Troy usually used when he was here. He didn't answer, but I pushed it open anyway to see that his suitcase was near the window and what looked like a wallet and keys were on the dresser. The bed was made but not neatly, as if he had simply gotten out of it and smoothed the covers. His window was open, and white lace curtains fluttered gently in the evening breeze.
I closed the door and returned to the main sitting area, coming back around to the door of Floyd's room. I knocked but he didn't answer, and so again I opened it up anyway and peeked inside. Floyd's bed was neatly made, with a navy duffel bag sitting on top. Floyd was nowhere in sight, though, and through the open door to his darkened bathroom I could see that no one was in there, either.
I decided they must be outside. Taking one more quick look in the kitchen just to be sure, I saw that at least one of them had recently been in there making themselves a sandwich. On the counter was an open jar of mayonnaise with a knife sticking out of it, and beside that a bag of bread and a plate with half of one sandwich made.
It was growing so dark out that I flipped on the exterior lights. Going down the back steps. I didn't see or hear anyone, but I called out their names again several times, each time progressively louder. When still no one answered, I stood there in the silence for a moment, trying to see if I could hear anything.
Unlike Troy, I had always appreciated the outdoors and enjoyed getting back to nature, but that didn't mean it didn't take some adjusting for me too. Ears used to city noise always had trouble getting a handle on such complete country silence.
With only the chirp of crickets as accompaniment, I called out the men's names yet again and decided they must be further out back or maybe over in the grove.
Thinking of my aborted call earlier with Troy, I was gripped by a disturbing sense of urgency. I dialed Troy's cell phone one last time, but he still didn't answer. Taking a deep breath, I decided to try Floyd's phone. If he didn't answer either, I would call the police. Hoping it wouldn't come to that, I punched in Floyd's number and waited for it to ring at the other end of the line.
Much to my surprise, however, not only could I hear it ringing through the phone, but I could also hear an actual phone ringing somewhere not too far away.
"Floyd?" He didn't answer, so I followed the sound, moving toward the solid fencing that surrounded the pool area. Could he be inside there? If so, why? It was too late in the year to go swimming, that was for sure. His phone went to voice mail, so I disconnected the call and then redialed it again.
"Floyd!" I yelled as I reached the gate and pulled it open. That's when I saw Troy's body. He was lying on his back beside the pool, dripping wet, with a huge, gaping wound that had been ripped through his trousers and clean into his thigh. There was blood in and around the wound and also around his mouth. His eyes were open, frozen in a horrifying death stare.
Troy was dead. Looking at him, there was no question that he was dead. Yet still, instinctively, I ran to him—or I tried to, anyway. My foot caught on something on the ground beside the gate, something soft but solid that caused me to trip. I fell forward, landing on my knees and on both hands. Screaming from the surprise more than from pain, I turned to see what had caused me to fall.
It was Floyd, lying on the ground, facedown, a gun clutched in his lifeless right hand. Near his other hand was his cell phone, face up on the cement, and still ringing from my call. After one more ring it stopped, no doubt having gone into voice mail again. As I sat trembling—from pain, from fear—rocking back and forth, I couldn't help thinking, absurdly, that it didn't matter if I left a message or not.
He wasn't going to be answering it now anyway.
Once she finds the manager unconscious and her ex-boyfriend dead, Sienna's life and livelihood begin to spin wildly out of control. She soon begins to doubt everyone around her, even the handsome detective assigned to the case.
As Sienna tries to clear her name, she is forced to depend on her faith, the wisdom of her Amish cousins, and the insight of the man she has recently begun dating. She'll need all the help she can get, because the secrets she uncovers in Harmony Grove end up threatening not just her bed-and-breakfast but also her credibility, her beliefs, and ultimately her life.
Visit Mindy's websites at www.mindystarnsclark.com and www.morefrommindy.com, and her blogs at www.amishreader.com and www.thehousethatcleansitself.com. Secrets of Harmony Grove is available wherever books are sold, including christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, and amazon.com.
Copyright © 2010 by Mindy Starns Clark
Harvest House Publishers. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Secrets Buried Deep!
Evidence from a decades-old murder is the last thing Nicole Keller-Mattson expected to find in her grandmother’s back yard, but the finger-pointing and accusations leveled at her family came as no surprise. Everyone in Ellington is eager to blame the Kellers—but after an attack leaves Nicole’s grandmother in a coma, only Nicole can clear the family name. With the assistance of police chief Rich Hendricks, she stands a chance of solving the mystery . . . if she’s willing to
accept Rich’s help. Nicole lost her policeman husband in the line of duty—getting close to another cop is too painful. But keeping her distance could be deadly.
WORDS FROM THE AUTHOR ABOUT LEGACY OF LIES:
I’ve always been fascinated by social dynamics in a small town. Having lived in rural communities all my life, I’m intimately familiar with the unique politics involved. Crafting a story about the shadow cast over a town by its founding family came readily to me. I was particularly interested to explore the affect past sins and secrets can have on a tight-knit community and how the illusion of power is always trumped by the immutable laws of God. We do reap what we sow, no matter how grand and invincible we imagine ourselves to be.
The scripture I used at the front of the book was Psalm 37: 10 – 11 from the NIV version of the Bible: A little while and the wicked will be no more; Though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. I comfort myself with these words quite often when I see the injustices in the world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jill Elizabeth Nelson writes what she likes to read—tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith, earning her the tagline: Endless Adventure, Timeless Truth. She was delightfully astonished this year to receive the prestigious Carol Award in the Short Contemporary Suspense category for her 2009 release, Evidence of Murder. Jill speaks regularly at conferences, writer’s groups, library associations, and civic and church groups. When teaching classes for writers, she thrills to bring the Ahah! moment to her students as they make a new skill their own. Jill and her husband live in rural
Jill Elizabeth Nelson
~~Endless Adventure, Timeless Truth~~
Calculated Revenge (April 2010) and Legacy of Lies (September 2010) from Steeple Hill
Evidence of Murder - 2010 Carol Award Winner
Friday, October 22, 2010
by Susan Meissner
"Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner: The pacing, perfection. Transitions between centuries, seamless. Capturing the nuances of relationship, flawless. Put anything written by Susan Meissner on your "must read now!" list, right beside Barbara Kingsolver and Elizabeth Berg. I couldn't put this elegant novel of love and choice down. A completely satisfying read."
-Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning author of A Flickering Light and An Absence So Great
Love is a choice you make every day
Content in her comfortable marriage of twenty-two years, Jane Lindsay had never expected to watch her husband, Brad, pack his belongings and walk out the door of their Manhattan home. But when it happens, she feels powerless to stop him and the course of events that follow Brad's departure. Jane finds an old ring in a box of relics from a British jumble sale and discovers a Latin inscription in the band along with just one recognizable word: Jane. Feeling an instant connection to the mysterious ring bearing her namesake, Jane begins a journey to learn more about the ring-and perhaps about herself.
Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the Best Books of 2008. She is a pastor's wife and a mother of four young adults. When she's not writing, Susan directs the Small Groups and Connection Ministries program at her San Diego church. Visit Susan at her website: www.susanmeissner.com
The mantel clock was exquisite, even though its hands rested in silence at twenty minutes past two. Carved-near as I could tell-from a single piece of mahogany, its glimmering patina looked warm to the touch. Rosebuds etched into the swirls of wood grain flanked the sides like two bronzed bridal bouquets. The clock's top was rounded and smooth like the draped head of a Madonna. I ran my palm across the polished surface, and it was like touching warm water.
Legend was this clock originally belonged to the young wife of a Southampton doctor and that it stopped keeping time in 1912, the very moment the Titanic sank and its owner became a widow. The grieving woman's only consolation was the clock's apparent prescience of her husband's horrible fate and its kinship with the pain that left her inert in sorrow.
She never remarried, and she never had the clock fixed. I bought it sight unseen for my great aunt's antique store, like so many of the items I'd found for the display cases. In the year and a half I'd been in charge of the inventory, the best pieces had come from the obscure estate sales that my British friend, Emma Downing, came upon while tooling around the southeast of England looking for oddities for her costume shop. She found the clock at an estate sale in Felixstowe, and the auctioneer, so she told me, had been unimpressed with the clock's sad history.
Emma said he'd read the accompanying note about the clock as if reading the rules for rugby.
My mother watched now as I positioned the clock on the lacquered black mantel that rose above a marble fireplace. She held a lead crystal vase of silk daffodils in her hands. "It should be ticking." She frowned. "People will wonder why it's not ticking." She set the vase down on the hearth and stepped back. Her heels made a clicking sound on the parquet floor beneath our feet. "You know, you probably would've sold it by now if it was working. Did Wilson even look at it? You told me he could fix anything."
I flicked a wisp of fuzz off the clock's face. I hadn't asked the shop's resident-and-unofficial repairman to fix it. "It wouldn't be the same clock if it was fixed."
"It would be a clock that did what it was supposed to do." My mother leaned in and straightened one of the daffodil blooms.
"This isn't just any clock, Mom." I took a step back too.
My mother folded her arms across the front of her Ann Taylor suit. Pale blue, the color of baby blankets and robins' eggs. Her signature color. "Look, I get all that about the Titanic and the young widow, but you can't prove any of it, Jane," she said. "You could never sell it on that story."
A flicker of sadness wobbled inside me at the thought of parting with the clock. This happens when you work in retail. Sometimes you have a hard time selling what you bought to sell.
"I'm thinking maybe I'll keep it."
"You don't make a profit by hanging on to the inventory." My mother whispered this, but I heard her. She intended for me to hear her. This was her way of saying what she wanted to about her aunt's shop-which she'd inherit when Great Aunt Thea passed-without coming across as interfering.
My mother thinks she tries very hard not to interfere. But it is one of her talents. Interfering, when she thinks she's not. It drives my younger sister, Leslie, nuts.
"Do you want me to take it back to the store?" I asked.
"No! It's perfect for this place. I just wish it were ticking." She nearly pouted.
I reached for the box at my feet that I brought the clock in along with a set of Shakespeare's works, a pair of pewter candlesticks, and a Wedgwood vase. "You could always get a CD of sound effects and run a loop of a ticking clock," I joked.
She turned to me, childlike determination in her eyes. "I wonder how hard it would be to find a CD like that!"
"I was kidding, Mom! Look what you have to work with." I pointed to the simulated stereo system she'd placed into a polished entertainment center behind us. My mother never used real electronics in the houses she staged, although with the clientele she usually worked with-affluent real estate brokers and equally well-off buyers and sellers-she certainly could.
"So I'll bring in a portable player and hide it in the hearth pillows."
She shrugged and then turned to the adjoining dining room. A gleaming black dining table had been set with white bone china, pale yellow linen napkins, mounds of fake chicken salad, mauve rubber grapes, plastic croissants, and petit fours. An arrangement of pussy willows graced the center of the table.
"Do you think the pussy willows are too rustic?" she asked.
She wanted me to say yes, so I did.
"I think so too," she said. "I think we should swap these out for that vase of gerbera daisies you have on that escritoire in the shop's front window.
I don't know what I was thinking when I brought these." She reached for the unlucky pussy willows. "We can put these on the entry table with our business cards."
She turned to me. "You did bring yours this time, didn't you? It's silly for you to go to all this work and then not get any customers out of it."
My mother made her way to the entryway with the pussy willows in her hands and intention in her step. I followed her.
This was only the second house I'd helped her stage, and I didn't bring business cards the first time, because she hadn't invited me to until we were about to leave. She'd promptly told me then to never go anywhere without business cards. Not even to the ladies' room. She'd said it and then waited, like she expected me to take out my BlackBerry and make a note of it.
* * *
Two Tickets to a Christmas Ball
By Donita K. Paul
Christmas. Cora had been trying to catch it for four years. She scurried down the sidewalk, thankful that streetlights and brightly-lit storefronts counteracted the gloom of early nightfall. Somewhere, sometime, she'd get a hold of how to celebrate Christmas. Maybe even tonight.
With snowflakes sticking to her black coat, Christmas lights blinking around shop windows, and incessant bells jingling, Cora should have felt some holiday cheer.
And she did.
Just not much.
At least, she was on a Christmas errand this very minute. One present for a member of the family. Shouldn't that count for a bit of credit in the Christmas spirit department?
Cora planned out her Christmas gift-giving in a reasonable manner. The execution of her purchasing schedule gave her a great deal of satisfaction. Tonight's quest was a book for Uncle Eric-something about knights and castles, swordfights, shining armor, and all that.
One or two gifts purchased each week from Labor Day until December fifteenth, and her obligations were discharged efficiently, economically, and without the excruciating last minute frenzy that descended upon other people . . . like her three sisters, her mother, her grandmother, her aunts.
Cora refused to behave like her female relatives and had decided not to emulate the male side of the family either. The men didn't buy gifts. They sometimes exchanged bottles from the liquor store, but more often they drank the spirits themselves.
Her adult ambition had been to develop her own traditions for the season, ones that sprouted from the Christianity she'd discovered in college. The right way to celebrate the birth of Christ. She avoided the chaos that could choke Christmas. Oh, dear. Judgmental again. At least now, she recognized when she slipped.
She glanced around Sage Street. Not too many shoppers. The quaint old shops were decked out for the holidays, but not with LED bulbs and inflated cartoon figures.
Since she'd discovered Christianity in college, she'd been confused about the trappings of Christmas, the gift-giving, the nativity, the carols, even the Christmas tree. Every year she tried to acquire some historical background on the festivities. She was learning. She had hope. But she hadn't wrapped her head around all the traditions yet.
The worst part was shopping.
Frenzy undid her. Order sustained her. And that was a good reason to steer clear of any commercialized holiday rush. She'd rather screw red light bulbs into plastic reindeer faces than push through a crowd of shoppers.
Cora examined the paper in her hand and compared it to the address above the nearest shop. Number 483 on the paper and 527 on the building. Close.
When she'd found the bookstore online, she had been amazed that a row of old-fashioned retailers still existed a few blocks from the high-rise office building where she worked. Truthfully, it was more like the bookstore found her. Every time she opened her browser, and on every site she visited, the ad for the old-fashioned new and used bookstore showed up in a banner or sidebar. She'd asked around, but none of her co-workers patronized the Sage Street Shopping District.
"Sounds like a derelict area to me," said Meg, the receptionist. "Sage Street is near the old railroad station, isn't it? The one they decided was historic so they wouldn't tear it down, even though it's empty and an eyesore?"
An odd desire to explore something other than the mall near her apartment seized Cora. "I'm going to check it out."
Jake, the security guard, frowned at her. "Take a cab. You don't want to be out too late over there."
Cora walked. The brisk air strengthened her lungs, right? The exercise pumped her blood, right? A cab would cost three, maybe four dollars, right?
An old man, sitting on the stoop of a door marked 503, nodded at her. She smiled, and he winked as he gave her a toothless grin. Startled, she quickened her pace and gladly joined the four other pedestrians waiting at the corner for the light to change.
Number 497 emblazoned the window of an ancient shoe store on the opposite corner. She marched on. In this block, she'd find the book and check another item off her Christmas list.
"Finally! Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad, Books," Cora read the sign and grasped the shiny knob. It didn't turn. She frowned. Stuck? Locked? The lights were on. She pressed her face against the glass. A man sat at the counter. Reading. How appropriate.
Cora wrenched the knob to the side. A gust of wind pushed with her against the door, and she blew into the room. She stumbled and straightened, and before she could grab the door and close it properly, it swung closed, without the loud bang she expected.
"I don't like loud noises," the man said without looking up from his book.
"Neither do I," said Cora.
He nodded over at his book. With one gnarled finger, he pushed his glasses back up his nose.
Must be an interesting book. Cora took a quick look around. The place could use stronger lights. She glanced back at the clerk. His bright lamp cast him and his book in a golden glow.
Should she peruse the stacks or ask?
She decided to browse. She started to enter the aisle between two towering bookcases.
"Not there," said the old man.
"I beg your pardon?" said Cora.
"How-to books. How to fix a leaky faucet. How to build a bridge. How to mulch tomatoes. How to sing opera. How-to books. You don't need to know any of that, do you?"
"Wrong aisle, then." He placed the heavy volume on the counter and leaned over it, apparently absorbed once more.
Cora took a step toward him. "I think I saw a movie like this once."
His head jerked up, his scowl heavier. He glared over the top of his glasses at the books on the shelves as if they had suddenly moved or spoken or turned bright orange.
"A movie? Here? I suppose you mean the backdrop of a bookstore. Not so unusual." He arched an eyebrow. "Shop Around the Corner, You've Got Mail, 84 Charing Cross Road."
"I meant the dialogue. You spoke as if you knew what I needed."
He hunched his shoulders. The dark suspenders stretched across the faded blue of his shirt. "Reading customers. Been in the business a long time."
"I'm looking for a book for my uncle. He likes castles, knights, tales of adventure. That sort of thing."
He sighed, closed his book, and tapped its cover. "This is it." He stood as Cora came to the desk. "Do you want me to wrap it and send it? We have the service. My grandson's idea."
Cora schooled her face and her voice. One of the things she excelled in was not showing her exasperation. She'd been trained by a dysfunctional family, and it had its benefits. She knew how to take guff and not give it back. Maintaining a calm attitude was a good job skill.
She tried a friendly smile and addressed the salesclerk.
"I want to look at it first and find out how much it costs."
"It's the book you want, and the price is eleven dollars and thirteen cents."
Cora rubbed her hand over the cover. It looked and felt like leather, old leather, but in good repair. The book must be ancient.
"Are you sure?" she asked.
"Which?" the old man barked.
"Which part of the statement am I sure about? It doesn't matter because I'm sure about both."
Cora felt her armor of detachment suffer a dent. The man was impossible. She could probably order a book online and get it wrapped and delivered right to her uncle with less aggravation. But dollar signs blinked in neon red in her mind as she thought how much that would cost. No need to be hasty.
Curtain rings rattled on a rod, and Cora looked up in time to see a younger version of the curmudgeon step into the area behind the counter.
The younger man smiled. He had the same small, wiry build as the older version, but his smile was warm and genuine. He looked to be about fifty, but his hair was still black, as black as the old man's hair was white. He stretched out his hand, and Cora shook it.
"I'm Bill Wizbotterdad. This is my granddad, William Wizbotterdad."
"Let me guess. Your father is named Will?"
Bill grinned, obviously pleased she'd caught on quickly. "Willie Wizbotterdad. He's off in Europe collecting rare books."
"He's not!" said the elder shop owner.
"He is." Bill cast his granddad a worried look.
"That's just the reason he gave for not being here." William shook his head and leaned across the counter. "He doesn't like Christmas. We have a special job to do at Christmas, and he doesn't like people and dancing and matrimony."
Bill put his arm around his grandfather and pulled him back. He let go of his granddad and spun the book on the scarred wooden counter so that Cora could read the contents. "Take a look." He opened the cover and flipped through the pages. "Colored illustrations."
The door handle rattled, followed by the sound of a shoulder thudding against the wood. Cora turned to see the door fly open with a tall man attached to it. The stranger brushed snow from his sleeves, then looked back at the two shop owners. She caught them giving each other a smug smile, a wink, and a nod of the head.
Odd. Lots of oddness in this shop.
She liked the book, and she wanted to leave, before more snow accumulated on the streets. Yet something peculiar about this shop and the two men made her curious. Part of her longed to linger. However, smart girls trusted their instincts and didn't hang around places that oozed mystery. She didn't feel threatened, just intrigued. Getting to know the peculiar booksellers better was the last thing she wanted, right? She needed to get home and be done with this Christmas shopping business. "I'll take the book."
The newcomer stomped his feet on the mat by the door. As she turned, he took off his hat.
Cora did a double take. "Mr. Derrick!"
He cocked his head and scrunched his face. "Do I know you?" The man was handsome, even wearing that comical lost expression. "Excuse me. Have we met?"
"We work in the same office."
He studied her a moment, and a look of recognition lifted the frown. "Third desk on the right." He hesitated, then snapped his fingers. "Cora Crowden."
He jammed his hand in his pocket, moving his jacket aside. His tie hung loosely around his neck. She'd never seen him looking relaxed. The office clerks called him Serious Simon Derrick.
"I drew your name."
He looked puzzled.
"For the gift exchange. Tomorrow night. Office party."
"Oh. Of course." He nodded. "I drew Mrs. Hudson. She's going to retire, and I heard her say she wanted to redecorate on a shoestring."
"That's Mrs. Wilson. Mrs. Hudson is taking leave to be with her daughter, who is giving birth to triplets."
He frowned and began looking at the books.
"You won't be there, will you?" Cora asked.
"At the party? No, I never come."
"I know. I mean, I've worked at Sorenby's for five years, and you've never been there."
The puzzled expression returned to Serious Simon's face. He glanced to the side. "I'm looking for the how-to section."
Cora grinned. "On your left. Second aisle."
He turned to stare at her, and she pointed to the shelves Mr. Wizbotterdad had not let her examine. Mr. Derrick took a step in that direction.
Cora looked back at the shop owners and caught them leaning back in identical postures, grins on their faces, and arms crossed over their chests.
Bill jerked away from the wall, grabbed her book, and rummaged below the counter, bringing out a bag. He slid the book inside, then looked at her. "You didn't want the book wrapped and delivered?"
"No, I'll just pay for it now."
"Are you sure you wouldn't like to look around some more?" asked Bill.
"Right," said William. "No hurry. Look around. Browse. You might find something you like."
Bill elbowed William.
Simon Derrick had disappeared between the stacks.
William nodded toward the how-to books. "Get a book. We have a copy of How To Choose Gifts For Ungrateful Relatives. Third from the bottom shelf, second case from the wall."
The statement earned him a "shh" from his grandson.
Cora shifted her attention to the man from her office. "Mr. Derrick, I'm getting ready to leave. If you're not coming to the party, may I just leave the gift on your desk tomorrow?"
He glanced at her before concentrating again on the many books. "That's fine. Nice to see you, Miss Crowden."
"Crowder," she corrected, but he didn't answer.
She went to the counter and paid. Mr. Derrick grunted when she said good-bye at the door.
"Come back again," said Bill.
"Yes," said William. "We have all your heart's desires."
Bill elbowed him, and Cora escaped into the blustering weather.
She hiked back to the office building. Snow sprayed her with tiny crystals, and the sharp wind nipped her nose. Inside the parking garage, warm air helped her thaw a bit as she walked to the spot she leased by the month. It would be a long ride home on slippery roads. But once she arrived, there would be no one there to interrupt her plans.
She turned the key, pushed the gear shift into reverse, looked over her shoulder, and backed the car out of her space.
She would get the gift ready to mail off and address a few cards in the quiet of her living room. There would be no yelling. That's what she liked about living states away from her family. No one would ambush her with complaints and arguments when she walked through the door.
Except Skippy. Skippy waited. One fat, getting fatter, cat to talk to. She did complain at times, about her mistress being gone too long, about her dinner being late, about things Cora could not fathom. But she never felt condemned by Skippy, just prodded a little.
Once inside her second floor apartment, she pulled off her gloves, blew her nose, and went looking for Skippy.
The cat was not behind the curtain, sitting on the window seat, staring at falling snow. Not in her closet, curled up in a boot she'd knocked over. Not in the linen closet, sleeping on clean towels. She wasn't in any of her favorite spots. Cora looked around and saw the paper bag that, this morning, had been filled with wadded scraps of Christmas paper. Balls of pretty paper and bits of ribbon littered the floor. There. Cora bent over and spied her calico cat in the bag.
"Did you have fun, Skippy?"
The cat rolled on her back and batted the top of the paper bag. Skippy jumped from her cave and padded after Cora as her owner headed for the bedroom.
Thirty minutes later, Cora sat at the dining room table in her cozy pink robe that enveloped her from neck to ankles. She stirred a bowl of soup and eyed the fifteen packages she'd wrapped earlier in the week. Two more sat waiting for their ribbons.
These would cost a lot less to send if some of these people were on speaking terms. She could box them together and ship them off in large boxes.
She spooned chicken and rice into her mouth and swallowed. The soup was a tad too hot. She kept stirring.
She could send one package with seven gifts inside to Grandma Peterson, and she could dispense them to her side of the family. She could send three to Aunt Carol.
She took another sip. Cooler.
Aunt Carol could keep her gift and give two to her kids. She could send five to her mom.
Cora grimaced. "If she were speaking terms with her sister or my sisters that would help."
She eyed Skippy, who had lifted a rear leg to clean between her back toes. "You don't care, do you? Well, I'm trying to. And I think I'm doing a pretty good job this Christmas thing."
She reached over and flipped the switch on her radio. Christmas carols poured out and jarred her nerves. She really should think about Christmas and not who received the presents. Better to think, my uncle, rather than Joe, that bar bum and pool shark.
She finished her dinner, watching her cat wash her front paws.
"You and I need to play. You're . . ." She paused as Skippy turned a meaningful glare at her. "Getting a bit rotund, dear kitty."
Skippy sneezed and commenced licking her chest.
After dinner, Cora curled up on the couch with her Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad bag. Skippy came to investigate the rattling paper.
Uncle Eric. Uncle Eric used to recite "You Are Old, Father William." He said it was about a knight. But Cora wasn't so sure. She dredged up memories from college English. The poem was by Lewis Carroll, who was really named Dodson, Dogson, Dodgson or something.
"He wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," she said. "There's a cat in the story, but not as fine a cat as you. He smiles too much."
Skippy gave her a squinty-eyed look.
Cora eased the leather-bound book out of the bag. "The William I met at the bookstore qualifies for at least ancient."
She put the book in her lap and ran her fingers over the embossed title.
How The Knights Found Their Ladies.
She might have been hasty. She didn't know if Uncle Eric would like this. She hefted the book, guessing its weight to be around four pounds. She should have found a lighter gift. This would cost a fortune to mail.
Skippy sniffed at the binding, feline curiosity piqued. Cora stroked her fur and pushed her back. She opened the book to have a peek inside. A piece of thick paper fell out. Skippy pounced on it as it twirled to the floor.
"What is it, kitty? A bookmark?" She slipped it out from between Skippy's paws, then turned the plain rectangle over in her hands. Not a bookmark. A ticket.
Admit one to the Wizards' Christmas Ball
Dinner and Dancing
and Your Destiny
Never heard of it. She tucked the ticket in between the pages, and continued to flip through the book, stopping to read an occasional paragraph.
This book wasn't for Uncle Eric at all. It was not a history, it was a story. Kind of romantic too. Definitely not Uncle Eric's preferred reading.
"You know what, cat? I'm going to keep it."
Skippy made her approval known by stretching her neck up and rubbing her chin on the edge of the leather cover. Cora put the book on the sofa and picked up Skippy for a cuddle. The cat squirmed out of her arms, batted at the ticket sticking out of the pages, and scampered off.
"I love you too," called Cora.
Pulling the ticket out, she read it again. Wizards' Christmas Ball. She turned out the light and headed for bed. But as she got ready, her eye caught the computer on her desk. Maybe she could find a bit more information.
Visit my site: www.donitakpaul.com
Monday, October 18, 2010
Byrd's ability to provide a fun story that incorporates biblical truth will help teens relate to this new series. Readers will identify with the struggle to fit in while staying true to one's convictions.
Romantic Times, 4 star review
Book Three, Don't Kiss Him Goodbye, finds Savvy, now established in her quirky British village, working hard to get an article with her own byline published. When an attractive and mysterious boy asks her for help with his school work, Savvy is slowly pulled into his circle and soon finds out that the wrong set of friends—boys and girls—can influence her own behavior. Following her own advice to cut ties with a charming bad boy would mean abandoning her dearest wishes, and it just doesn't seem as wrong as it feels. Is it? Read on for surprise twists throughout the book!
In a shocking turn of events, all writers for the Wexburg Academy Times will cast their votes for next year's editor—and it looks like Savvy's vote will be the tie breaker! In Book Four, Flirting With Disaster, Savvy must choose between a nasty-girl-turned-nice, with a sudden interest in letting Savvy get what she wants, and the prickly Hazelle, who promises nothing at all. Savvy then finds herself wrapped up in a new, seemingly innocent but potentially dangerous activity. It's all at risk in this book: her position on the paper, the boy she likes, the ministry she wants to go well. At a critical moment, Savvy must figure out how to rely on God rather than luck and to overcome temptation before it is too late.
London Confidential is a new series for tweens and teens where British fashion, friendships, and guys collide as an all-American teen girl learns to love life and live out her faith.
Please visit Sandra online at http://www.sandrabyrd.com/ The books can be purchased at amazon.com through her website or at other fine online or local bookstores near you. If they're not stocked, just ask!
London Confidential Books 1 and 2 were featured in Focus on the Family's Thriving Family Magazine ... click here:
Friday, October 15, 2010
By Bill Myers
"When one of the most creative minds I know gets the best idea he's ever had and turns it into a novel, it's fasten-your-seat-belt time. This one will be talked about for a long time." Jerry B. Jenkins, author of Left Behind:
About the book
A cranky, atheist philosophy professor loves to shred incoming freshmen of their
faith. He is chosen by a group of scientists to create a philosophy for a computer
generated world exactly like ours.
Much to his frustration every model introduced from Darwinism, to Existentialism, to Eastern beliefs fails. The only way to preserve the computer world is to introduce laws from outside their system through a Law Giver. Of course this goes against everything he believes and he hates it. But even that doesn't completely work because the citizens of that world become legalists and completely miss the spirit behind the Law.
The only way to save them is to create a computer character like himself to personally explain it. He does. So now there are two of him -- the one in our world and the one in the computer world...(sound familiar?).
Unfortunately, a rival has introduced a virus into the computer world. Things
grow worse until the professor in our computer world sees the only way to save his world is to personally absorb the virus and the penalty for breaking the Law. Of course it's clear to all, including our real world professor, that this act of selfless love has become a complete reenactment of the Gospel. It is the only possible choice to save the computer world and, as he finally understands, our own.
In this section, Nicholas has downloaded his personality into his computer double who is healing members of the community by transferring their suffering into himself. This infuriates those watching from the lab because of the extra computer power necessary to keep him alive. The `life units' spoken of are a type of food. And Nyrah is Alpha's estranged daughter who has broken his heart by joining the Law Breakers as a prostitute.
Travis and Nicholas stared at the screen in astonishment. Once again Travis had pushed the program, fast-forwarding it. This time it was to find the next encounter between Alpha and Nicholas's double. Up on the monitor a large crowd had gathered. As planned, the digital Nicholas was reducing all of his philosophical knowledge into small digestible pieces so the people could better understand. But it wasn't the teaching that made both Travis's and Nicholas's jaws drop.
Travis could barely get out the words. "What . . . has he done?"
Nicholas pushed up his glasses and stepped closer to the screen. "With that boy you gave him the ability to transfer power."
"Yeah, but not this. It was supposed to be a onetime thing. Not this . . ."
The air was crisp but not cold. With no breeze, the winter sun slowly soaked into Alpha's body. It had been his idea to come. He could not forget the tugging he felt inside when the stranger spoke. Nor could he ignore the reports of the man's deep and somewhat troubling teachings. Finally, there were the healings. All reasons enough to leave the Temple to see and hear for himself.
Of course, Orib would not let him go without an entourage of Council Members. And, of course, they had to sit on an outcropping of rock to the left and above the proceedings so citizens and Breakers alike would know of their presence.
They had barely settled themselves before he saw Nyrah. He was certain she'd also seen him. Yet, sitting less than seventy lengths apart, both father and daughter pretended to ignore the other's presence. A task that, at least for Alpha, was nearly impossible.
"Look at them," Orib said scornfully. "They cling to every word, in spite of his gross deformities."
His son was right. The stranger was grotesque. Besides a monstrous face, which he supposedly acquired by healing a small boy, he had a gnarled left hand, a hunched back, and his right leg had shriveled into a stump. And, as late as this morning, it was reported he'd lost his sight to a man who had been blind.
Still the crowd grew.
Although some came for the novelty, Learis and other Members insisted it was his clever spinning of words and perverting of the Law. Perhaps. But as the stranger spoke, Alpha felt something much more.
"If you are poor in understanding Programmer's thoughts"— the man took a wheezing gasp—"then you are open to receive them."
His ragged breathing made it painful to listen. And his twisted mouth made him difficult to understand. Nevertheless, there was something about his words that was captivating.
"But if you think . . . you are rich in knowing our ways, then you are poor."
There it was again, the not-so-subtle claim that the stranger and Programmer were somehow related. Alpha closed his eyes against the blasphemy.
"If you are humble"—he gasped another breath—"you will inherit life as we designed it."
"If we're humble," someone shouted from the back, "we'll be destroyed."
"No!" The stranger's shout sent him into a fit of coughing. The crowd grew silent, waiting. At last he continued. "You've lived upside down for so long, you don't know the difference."
Alpha leaned forward, listening intently.
"If you want to be a leader, you must serve. If you want wealth—" He coughed, then continued, "Give away false riches so your heart has room for real treasures."
Alpha caught himself quietly nodding. Amid the heresy there were great truths.
"If you're hungry for good, we will feed you."
"How?" a young mother cried from the center of the crowd.
The stranger turned to her voice. "By offering you real food."
"You offer nothing but words," a Breaker yelled.
"He's right!" another shouted. "If you really had something to offer, you'd give life units—not your fancy ideas."
Others in the crowd murmured in agreement.
"Good." Orib turned to his companions. "Someone has finally challenged him."
They nodded, but Alpha watched, not entirely convinced.
The stranger turned to Nyrah and those closest to him. It was impossible to hear what he said, but it was obvious his inner circle of followers were confused. Finally one of the Breakers stepped forward and stretched out his robe. The stranger motioned for another to pour the contents of a small basket into the robe. As he did, a dozen life units tumbled out.
The crowd buzzed in surprise. They reacted more loudly when the Breaker turned and began distributing the units to them.
Meanwhile, another Breaker stretched out his robe. The same follower tilted the same basket and another pile of units poured out.
Orib rose to his feet as the second Breaker turned to the people and began distributing the life units. The crowd grew louder as a third Breaker received his supply of units. And a fourth, his. And a fifth. All from the same basket and all being distributed to the people.
"This is not possible." Orib turned to his fellow Members.
"He's a trickster! An illusionist!"
But it was a different illusion that caught Alpha's attention. With every basket the stranger ordered to be poured out, he seemed to be getting a little weaker.
"He's transferring energy again?" Travis shouted. "Into life units now! When's this going to stop?"
Nicholas stared up at the screen. "I . . . don't know."
"What do you mean, you don't know? That's you up there!"
"Yes, it is. Down to the tiniest synapse!"
Nicholas shook his head. "He's different. Something's happening."
"To him. He's changing."
"He won't be winning any beauty pageants, if that's what you mean."
Nicholas looked back to the screen as the people hungrily received the life units—some in greed, others in gratitude, a few even with tears.
"We've got to stop this," Travis said, "or he'll die. He's got nothing left to give."
"There's no way to transfer additional energy into him?"
"Computational powers are maxed out. And there's no place left I can steal them from. I'll have to go inside the program itself. Redistribute from there."
"Sure. It won't be pretty, but it's possible. And once he's restored, we gotta have another talk. Make it clear to him. No more miracle-man stuff—no way, nohow."
Nicholas nodded and turned back to the screen, hoping they weren't too late. Hoping it was still possible to reach him.
All rights reserved. The God Hater can be found wherever books are sold.
More Than Words
by Judith Miller
Amana Colonies, Iowa
More Than Words is the second book in Miller's Daughters of Amana series. Steeped in period details that only a seasoned historical novelist can provide, this heartwarming story will meet the expectations of her fans as well as please critics new to the "bonnet" subgenre.Extensive research backs every page of this meticulous, well-crafted work." ForeWord Magazine
About the book:
Gretchen Kohler can't help but dream of life beyond the Amana villages. She enjoys creative writing and believes she has a talent, but artistic pursuits are frowned upon in the community. Gretchen confines her stories and poems to her journals, permitting only close friends to read them. But when a young reporter comes to the general store where she works, she believes she's found a kindred spirit. Is he truly a man she can trust or will Gretchen lose her job, her reputation, and the love of her childhood beau all because of one unfortunate decision?
"Come down from that tree, Oma!" I'd done my best to sound firm. Taking a sideways step, I shaded my eyes to gain a better view among the bloom-laden branches of the apple trees.
My grandmother peered down at me with a devilish grin, her leather-clad feet wedged into a crook of the tree. "Nein, Gretchen! I'm going to get an apple." She pointed a gnarled finger toward a spindly branch bearing a few spring blossoms.
"Don't go any further, Oma. There aren't any apples, and that branch won't hold you."
Ignoring me, she grabbed another limb and hiked her right leg toward a scrawny branch that would surely crack under her weight. The old woman's addled brain might be willing to make the climb, but her aged and fragile body was going to end up on the ground.
After steadying the ladder that Oma had placed against the tree trunk, I lifted my skirt and stepped onto the bottom rung. "Just wait until Stefan gets home!" I issued the muttered warning from between clenched teeth and cautiously began my climb. No matter how often I scolded my brother, Stefan never put anything away. He'd used the ladder to retrieve a ball from the roof yesterday afternoon, and instead of putting it back into the shed, he'd left it sitting outdoors. Out where it created an alluring diversion for Oma, who had somehow managed to drag it across the yard and balance it against the apple tree.
A low-hanging branch snagged my finely knit black cap, and Oma chuckled as she watched my attempts to disentangle the head covering. After finally grabbing the cap and giving it a one-handed shove onto my head, I glanced upward but quickly averted my eyes. "Oma! Put your leg down. I can see your undergarments."
She leaned forward and peeked down, as if she intended to check the truth of my statement. Her body listed sideways, and one foot slipped from the branch. A snowstorm of flowering blossoms showered down on me.
"Hold on, Oma! I'm coming up to help you."
"Don't bring the blackbird," she shrieked. "It will eat the apples."
My frustration mounted as Oma continued the childlike behavior. For all of my life, my mother's mother had lived with us, and we shared a special bond. But when these bouts of dementia took hold, there was no dealing with her. "There are no blackbirds and there are no apples, Oma." I took another step up the ladder and reached for a thick branch. The rough bark dug into my palm as I tightened my hold. If I inched a little closer, I could grab hold of her leg.
"Go away! You're bringing the blackbird with you."
She climbed higher into the tree, and I gasped in fear. Now I couldn't even reach her foot. "There are no birds in the tree, Oma. I've frightened them all away. Come back down to me."
She peered over her shoulder. A flash of terror shone in her dark eyes. Her once-gentle lips twisted in a menacing jagged line. The look would have held a stranger at bay, but I wasn't a stranger, and I wouldn't be deterred.
"There's a blackbird on your head," she cried. "Get it away! Shoo it off before it eats my apples."
Utter defeat shot through me. Would I ever learn to deal with Oma's episodes? If I didn't get her out of the tree within the next few minutes, my father might discover the dilemma. That thought alone propelled me back into action. I yanked the hat from my head. "The blackbird flew away. See, Oma? Look at me!"
Lips curved in a toothy grin, she leaned forward, peered around my shoulder, and cooed, "Pretty boy, come and get me."
"Oma! Please come . . ." I lifted my foot to mount the next rung but was stopped short when two strong hands encircled my waist. I grabbed hold of the ladder and glanced over my shoulder. "Conrad." I exhaled my friend's name along with a silent hallelujah.
"Come down, Gretchen. I'll get her." His hands remained clasped around my waist while I descended to the ground. With one sympathetic gaze, I was enveloped in comfort. He touched a finger to my trembling lips, and warmth spiraled up my spine. "You should have come for me when you first discovered her."
"I know, but I thought she'd listen to me."
He tilted his head toward the ladder. "Did she drag this from the shed by herself?"
"Stefan," I said.
He nodded his understanding. "He's a boy. In a few years he will begin to remember what you tell him."
I thought it would take more than a few years before Stefan remembered anything other than how to have fun, but I didn't say so. "I don't know who creates more problems, Oma or Stefan. Neither one of them will listen to me."
With a chuckle he mounted the ladder and waved to my grandmother. "I've come to rescue you, Sister Helga. Let me help you out of the tree."
I stood below and prayed this wouldn't take long. For a brief moment Oma eyed Conrad with curious suspicion—a strange occurrence, for she usually fancied him her beau when in a delusional state of mind. I immediately feared the worst.
Finally she pointed to a far branch. "First an apple I must pick."
Conrad wagged his finger and shook his head. "Nein. It is too early in the year for apples, Sister Helga, but I promise I will pick you a large red apple come September."
"Ja?" She gave him a toothy grin that creased her aged skin into a thousand wrinkles. "Then I will come down to you, pretty boy."
Please visit Judy at her website at www.judithmccoymiller.com where you can sign-up for her newsletter and discover more information about her writing life.
More Than Words is available at bookstores everywhere and may also be purchased at www.bethanyhouse.com; www.christianbook.com; www.barnesandnoble.com and www.amazon.com; and at your local Christian bookstore.
Copyright © 2010 by Judith Miller
Bethany House Publishers
All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.