Friday, May 28, 2010

Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa; Predator

PREDATOR, by Terri Blackstock

The murder of Krista Carmichael's fourteen-year-old sister by an online predator has shaken her faith and made her question God's justice and protection. Desperate to find the killer, she creates an online persona to bait the predator. But when the stalker turns his sights on her, will Krista be able to control the outcome?

Ryan Adkins started the social network GrapeVyne in his college dorm and has grown it into a billion-dollar corporation. But he never expected it to become a stalking ground for online predators. One of them lives in his town and has killed two girls and attacked a third.

When Ryan meets Krista, the murders become more than a news story to him, and everything is on the line. Joining forces, he and Krista set out to stop the killer. But when hunters pursue a hunter, the tables can easily turn. Only God can protect them now.

Excerpt from Chapter 3, after the funeral for Krista's fourteen-year-old sister, who was found murdered.

The house filled up quickly with friends, relatives, and strangers, armed with casseroles and offering hugs and tears. At twenty-five, Krista had had little experience with funerals, except for her mother's. She supposed they'd done the same the day they'd buried her, when Krista was eleven, but she hadn't been expected to host them then. When she'd locked herself and the newborn Ella in her bedroom to insulate them from shattering condolences, no one had forced her to come out.

Today she felt an obligation to welcome people in and help them when they didn't know what to say. Their struggles to make sense of such a senseless death drained her, and she longed for them all to go home and leave her and her father to their grief. But relatives had traveled long distances and were determined to stay, and the teen girls from the Eagle's Wings ministry needed some reward for coming. Most of these teens were middle-school dropouts, their parents in prison or on the streets with needles in their arms. Those who were privileged to have at least one parent who loved and cared for them were alone most of the time, as their parents worked two and three jobs just to provide a moldy apartment for them to live in. Some were pregnant, some tattooed, some were on drugs themselves. They didn't fit in with Krista's relatives, but she was moved by the fact that they would come. That meant that all the seeds she and Carla had planted in their lives were beginning to flower. It moved her to tears that they would risk their own discomfort in order to comfort her.

She didn't want to break down in front of them. They needed to see her strong, courageous. They needed to see a peace that passed all understanding.

But inside, a silent rage boiled, threatening to ruin her ministry and her image. Worse yet, it threatened to ruin God's image.

When the girls finally left, she breathed relief, no longer feeling she had to be the mature, settled one. While her relatives talked quietly among themselves, she slipped into her bedroom and turned on her computer. As soon as it was fired up, she navigated to GrapeVyne, the online community that had occupied so much of her sister's time. Signing in with her sister's name and password, she brought up her page.

Friends had posted hundreds of notes to her dead sister, so many that they'd pushed Ella's final Thought Bubbles far down the page. Krista scrolled down and found her sister's last public thoughts.

Thinking about becoming a brunette.

Krista smiled. Ella was never satisfied with herself. A real blonde dyeing her hair brown? Her friends responded by telling her she was crazy.

The Thought Bubble before that made her smile fade. It was the statement that might have cost Ella her life.

Riding my bike to Sinbad's. Dying for a soda, and Dad won't keep them in the house.

Ella had never come home from Sinbad's. Her bike had been found overturned in the street near the convenience store, her cell phone and purse lying on the ground. Some of the contents of her purse had scattered out, and her hand mirror was shattered into dozens of pieces.

Any predator with a computer would have been tempted by that information. Why had Ella felt compelled to tell everyone where she was going and when?

She scrolled down as she'd done so many times since her sister's disappearance and saw Ella's habits and schedule posted in various Thought Bubbles throughout the day. She'd posted dozens of pictures of herself, some with her school jersey on. Some of her posts mentioned her school, her teachers, her after-school activities, her friends … She posted often during the day using her cell phone.

The killer had access to this information, and he was somewhere here, hidden among her GrapeVyne friends. She clicked on Ella's friends, and saw a list with pictures of over eleven hundred people. What had her sister been thinking, to post private thoughts to over a thousand strangers? Why hadn't Krista realized it and stopped her? She'd tried to give her sister her space, but she should have been spying on her, demanding to be added to her friends list so she could monitor what was going on.

She scrolled down through the faces, looking for someone who looked evil. Someone who could stalk and rape and murder, and bury a young girl in a shallow grave out in the woods.
The friends all looked benign and young, but it was subterfuge, she knew. He was there, somewhere. He was watching, enjoying the fallout. He may have even added his condolences to the others on her Vyne.

Then it hit her. She could talk to him. If she posted a note to him, he would read it.
An inner fire hit her face, burned her eyes, tightened her lips. Her heart kicked against her chest. She put the cursor in Ella's Thought Box, and typed:

You think you got away with this, but I'll find you. I'll hunt you down like the animal you are.
She hit send. There was a 140 character limit, but she had more to say. She waited for the box to empty and her note to flash up on the screen. Then she added:

You'll wish you'd never heard the name Ella Carmichael, and you'll suffer the way she suffered.
Then she signed it, Krista Carmichael. She hoped he was reading it already.

Buy Predator at your local bookstore, or order at:
To see the Predator book video, go to
Do Not Reproduce Without Permission

* * *

"Melanie Dobson weaves an extraordinary slice of history and a unique setting into a charming love story that will captivate your imagination and create a yearning for the simple life of the old Amanas."—Judith Miller, author of The Daughters of Amana series

Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa

By Melanie Dobson

Times are hard in 1894. Desperate for work, former banker Jacob Hirsch rides the rails west from Chicago with his four-year-old daughter, Cassie. When a life-threatening illness strands the pair in Homestead, Iowa, the communal Amana villagers welcome the father and daughter into their peaceful society. Liesel, a young Amana woman, nurses Cassie back to health, but Jacob's growing interest in Liesel complicates his position in the Amanas. Will he fight to stay in the one place that finally feels like home, even if it means giving up the woman he loves? Or will Liesel leave her beloved community to face the outside world with Jacob and Cassie at her side?

Chapter 1

July 1894, Chicago The morning fog lingered in the alleyways and draped over the iron palings that fortified the row of saloons along Harrison Street. At the corner of Harrison and LaSalle, a gas lamp flickered in the mist, its yellow flame spreading light over the alley tents. Only a few more blocks until they were safe in the depot. In the distance, the station's clock tower glowed like a beacon, beckoning him to hurry, and Jacob Hirsch patted the back of his daughter, asleep on his shoulder, before checking his breast pocket. The two train tickets were tucked safely inside. Adjusting the strap on his satchel, he took a deep breath and hurried toward the train that would take him and his daughter far away from Chicago. Cassie squirmed against his chest and lifted her head. "My throat hurts, Papa.""I know, Pumpkin." She tried to smile. "I'm not a pumpkin." "You're my pumpkin," he replied softly. He put her down for a moment to shift his satchel to his other arm before he picked her up again. Laying her head back on his shoulder, her breathing deepened as she drifted back to sleep. Shivering in the morning air, he pushed himself to walk even faster to get her into the warm station. Almost a week ago Cassie had started complaining of a sore throat, and he felt useless to help her. His money was almost gone, and they were just two among thousands who had no place to sleep tonight. This city was the only place Cassie had ever known, but there was no future for them in Chicago. Tens of thousands were unemployed—strong men willing to work and educated men who could no longer provide for their families. These men walked the dirty streets during the day, searching for work, and a tent housed them and their families at night. A tramp lay sprawled across the sidewalk in front of Jacob, inches from the door of a saloon. He stepped over the man, but a familiar queasiness clenched his gut. So many people were struggling to survive while others tried to drown the country's economic depression by drinking themselves to death. He'd considered the latter himself, using the last of his money on liquor instead of train tickets, but the streets in Chicago were already crowded with children who'd lost both of their parents—he couldn't think about what would happen to Cassie if he weren't here to protect her from the scum who patrolled for orphans. Jacob's stomach rumbled, but he ignored it. Cassie was the one who needed to eat. Cassie and the other young victims of the financial tsunami that had hit the East Coast last summer and swept across the plains and mountains, devastating families and businesses and farms in its wake. Jacob checked his pocket again for the train tickets. They were still there. He'd pawned the last of their furniture along with Katharine's wedding ring to buy these tickets and garner two additional dollars to buy Cassie food during their journey west.

Three months had passed since he'd lost his job at the bank, and almost a year had passed since he'd lost… He shook his head, focusing on the depot's bright clock tower instead of drowning himself in the past, for Cassie's sake. They would take the early morning train to Minneapolis and then on to Washington State, where there were jobs waiting for men willing to work. He was more than willing. Someone tugged on his trousers, and he looked down to see a young girl not much older than Cassie's four years. Her hair was matted against her head, and tattered rags hung over her shoulders. "Can you spare a nickel?" she whispered. Behind the child was a row of tents in the alley. "Where are your parents?" Her scrawny finger pointed toward one of the tents. "Mama's in there." "You hungry?" She nodded, blinking back her tears. The New York Stock Exchange was eight hundred miles away, yet the impact from its crash trickled down to the least of these on the streets of Chicago. The pain wasn't in their wallets. It was in their bellies.He couldn't spare a nickel but— Cassie lifted her head in her sleep and snuggled into his other shoulder. What if it was his daughter begging for food? The girl stepped back, her head hung with resignation, and he couldn't help himself. Digging into his pocket, he pulled out one of his precious nickels and handed it her. "Buy some bread when the bakery opens." "Yes, sir," she replied, the strength returning to her voice as her fingers clenched the coin. "Thank you, sir."

During the colder nights, swarms of homeless slept in the hallways of city hall or in the basements of the saloons, and when those got overcrowded, the chief of police opened the doors to the station and crammed people young and old into cells alongside the criminals for the night.

A jail cell was no place for a child. He shifted the leather bag on his shoulder again and Cassie stirred, coughing against his suit jacket. He rested his hand on her back until she stopped coughing and then turned the corner toward the station and the passenger train that would take them west.

For most of his life, he'd respected the power of a dollar. Even more than providing for his family, it was his livelihood, and he thought he'd understood its worth. But he didn't truly understand it until most of the bank's reserves were washed away in the Panic of '93 along with his salary. Never before had he known what it was like to have the future obliterated, to have only two dollars to his name. Nor had he understood real desperation—the need for money because of the love for his daughter and the hunger in his own belly. And now here he was, on this chilly summer morning, afraid that thieves might steal a measly two dollars from him. And even more afraid that he might be tempted to steal like them if he didn't find work soon and provide for his daughter.

More information about Melanie Dobson's books and information about the Amana Colonies is

available at Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa can be purchased at bookstores, Wal-Mart, or online at and
Excerpted from Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa by Melanie Dobson. Copyright 2010 by Melanie Dobson. All rights reserved.

No comments: