My Reason For Blogging

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Brandilyn Collins one of my favorite authors posted on her blog about this young girl and her mother. This story has captured all of our hearts. I am so incredibly inspired by this young girl and her drive to stay positive with all that is going on. She and her mother were homeless on Christmas! Their Christmas dinner was . . . McDonald's! While we were enjoying our families, and wonderful dinners they were in they're car and wondering where they were going to sleep! I challenge you to go and read their story Here and do whatever you can to help them! Even if you can only send a couple of dollars, that is something! We serve an Amazing and Awesome God and I know He is going to do something wonderful for this mother and daughter!

Some Thoughts for The New Year

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I Then Shall Live

By: Gloria Gaither & Jean Sibelius

I then shall live as one who's been forgiven

I'll walk with joy to know my debts are paid

I know my name is clear before my Father

I am His child and I am not afraid

So greatly pardoned, I'll forgive my brother

The law of love, I gladly will obey

I then shall live as one who's learned compassion

I've been so loved, I'll risk loving, too

I know how fear builds walls instead of bridges

I'll dare to see another's point of view

And when relationships demand commitment

Then I'll be there to care and follow through

Your Kingdom come around and through and in me

Your Power and Glory, let them shine through me

Your Hallowed Name, oh may I bear with honor

And may Your living Kingdom come in me

The Bread of Life, oh may I share with honor

And may You feed a hungry world through me

The Winter of Candy Canes

Monday, December 22, 2008



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The Winter of Candy Canes

Zondervan (October 1, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Debbie Viguié has been writing for most of her life. She has experimented with poetry and nonfiction, but her true passion lies in writing novels.

She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing from UC Davis. While at Davis she met her husband, Scott, at auditions for a play. It was love at first sight.

Debbie and Scott now live on the island of Kauai. When Debbie is not writing and Scott has time off they love to indulge their passion for theme parks.


The Sweet Seasons Novels:

The Summer of Cotton Candy
The Fall of Candy Corn
The Winter of Candy Canes
The Spring of Candy Apples


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310717523
ISBN-13: 978-0310717522

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Candace Thompson was once again eye-to-eye with Lloyd Peterson, hiring manager for The Zone theme park. This time, though, she felt far more confident. She had already spent her summer working as a cotton candy vendor, and she had worked one of the mazes for the annual Halloween event. She had even saved the park from saboteurs.

Now she was back, and this time she was interviewing for a job working the Christmas events at the park. Surely after everything she had done for the Scare event, she had nothing to worry about. She tucked a strand of red hair back behind her ear as she gazed intently at the man across from her.

“So you want to work Holly Daze?” he asked.

She nodded. Christmas at The Zone was a big deal, and the park began its official celebrations the day after Thanksgiving.

“You keep hiring on for short bursts of time and then leaving. Do you have some sort of problem committing to things?” he asked, staring hard at her.

She was stunned, but answered, “I don’t have any problem with commitment. I signed on to do specific things, and the jobs ended. That’s not my fault. I didn’t quit.”

“So, you plan on making a habit of this?” he demanded. “Are you going to show up here again in a -couple of months expecting me to give you some kind of job for spring break?”

“No, I — ”

“I know your type,” he said, standing up abruptly. “You’re just a party girl. No commitments . . . no cares . . . just grab some quick cash and get out. You think you can handle Holly Daze? Well, you can’t! You’re weak and a quitter. You’re going to bail on me as soon as your school vacation starts, and then what? Well, let me tell you, missy. You aren’t wanted here. So just pack your bags and get out!”

By the end of his tirade, he was shouting, eyes bulging behind his glasses and tie swinging wildly as he shook his finger under her nose. Candace recoiled, sure that he had finally flipped out. I’m going to end up as a headline: Girl Murdered by Stressed-Out Recruiter, she thought wildly. Well, I’m not going down without a fight! She jumped to her feet and put some distance between her and the wildly wagging finger.

“You need to calm down!” she said, projecting her voice like her drama teacher had taught her. Her voice seemed to boom in the tiny office. “Pull yourself together. You’re a representative of this theme park, and there is no call to insult me. Furthermore, I’m not a quitter. I’ll work for the entire Christmas season. Then the next time I come in here, I’ll expect you to treat me with some respect. Do you even realize what I’ve done for this park so far? Seriously. Take a chill pill.”

She stopped speaking when she realized that he had gone completely quiet. She held her breath, wondering when the next explosion was going to come. Instead, he sat down abruptly and waved her back to her chair.

“Very good. You passed the test,” he said, picking up a pen.

“What test?” she asked, edging her way back into the chair.

“The ultimate test. You’re going to be one of Santa’s elves.”

“Doesn’t Santa, you know, have his own elves?” she asked, still not sure that he was completely in charge of his senses.

“Of course Santa has his own elves. However, when he’s here at The Zone we supply him with courtesy elves so that they can continue making toys at the North Pole,” Mr. Peterson told her.

“So, I’m going to be a courtesy elf?” she asked.

He nodded and handed her a single sheet of paper. “Sign this.”

She took it. “What? Just one thing to sign?” She had expected another huge stack of forms that would leave her hand cramped for hours afterward.

He nodded curtly. “You’re now in our system as a regular seasonal employee. All of your other paperwork transfers.”

“Regular seasonal” sounded like some kind of contradiction to her, but she was still not entirely convinced his outburst had been a test. She scanned it, signed her name, and then handed it back to him.

“Good. Report to wardrobe on Saturday for your costume fitting,” he said.

“Okay, thank you,” she said, standing up and backing toward the door.

“Welcome back, Candy,” he said, smiling faintly.

“Thanks,” she said, before bolting out the door.

As soon as she was outside the building, she whipped out her cell phone and called her friend Josh, a fellow employee of The Zone.

“Well?” he asked when he picked up.

“I think Mr. Peterson has seriously lost it,” she said. “He totally flipped out on me.”

Josh laughed. “Let me guess. You’re going to be an elf.”

“So he was serious? That was some whacked-out test?”

“Yeah. Elves are considered a class-one stress position, and it can get pretty intense.”

“How hard can it be to be an elf?” she asked.

She was rewarded by a burst of laughter on the other end.

“Josh, what is it you’re not telling me?”

He just kept laughing.

“Okay, seriously. You were the one who convinced me to work Holly Daze. I think it’s only fair you tell me whatever it is I need to know.”

“Sorry!” he gasped. She wasn’t sure if he was apologizing or refusing to tell her.

A girl bounced around the corner and slammed into Candace.

“Josh, I’ll call you later,” she said, hanging up.

“Sorry,” Becca apologized.

Becca was one of Candace’s other friends from the park, one who had some sort of bizarre allergy to sugar that made her uncontrollably hyper. Candace looked suspiciously at Becca. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes were glistening, and she was hopping from one foot to the other.

“You didn’t have sugar, did you?” Candace asked, fear ripping through her.

“No! Promise,” Becca said.

“Then what gives?”

“Roger made me laugh really hard,” Becca explained.

Roger had a crush on Becca and had wanted to ask her out since Halloween. It hadn’t happened yet.

“Oh,” was all Candace could think to say.

“So, are you working Holly Daze?” Becca asked.

“Yeah. I’m going to be an elf.”

Suddenly, Becca went completely still, and the smile left her face. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“Why?” Candace asked.

Becca just shook her head. “I’ve gotta get back to the Muffin Mansion. I’ll catch you later.”

She hurried off, and Candace watched her go. Okay, now I know there’s something -people aren’t telling me.

She debated about following Becca and forcing her to spill, but instead she headed for the parking lot where her best friend Tamara was waiting. She walked through the Exploration Zone, one of the several themed areas in the park.

The Zone theme park was created and owned by John
Hanson, a former professional quarterback who believed in healthy competition at work and play. His theme park had several areas, or zones, where -people could compete with each other and themselves at just about anything. Almost everyone who worked at The Zone was called a referee. The exceptions were the costumed characters called mascots. Most of them, including Candace’s boyfriend, Kurt, were to be found in the History Zone. -People visiting the park were called players, and the areas of the park they could reach were called on field. Only refs could go off field.

Candace cut through an off field area to get to the referee parking lot. She waved at a few other -people she recognized from her time spent working there. Finally, she slid into her friend’s waiting car.

“So are you going to be the Christmas queen?” Tamara asked.

“What am I, Lucy VanPelt? There’s no Christmas queen in Charlie Brown’s Christmas play, and there’s no Christmas queen in The Zone,” Candace said.

Tamara fake pouted. “Are you sure? I think I’d make a beautiful Christmas queen.”

Candace laughed. Tamara was gorgeous, rich, and fun. Her whole family practically redefined the word wealthy, and, with her dark hair and olive skin, Tamara was usually the prettiest girl in any room. She didn’t let it go to her head, though. Anybody who knew Tamara would vote for her as Christmas queen.

“Although I think you would, they’re only hiring elves.”

“You’re going to be an elf?” Tamara smirked.

“Hey, it beats being a food cart vendor,” Candace said.

“But you’re so good at it. Cotton candy, candy corn . . . you can sell it all.”

“Thanks, I think. So, what are we doing tonight? Kurt’s going to swing by at six to pick us up.” Just mentioning her boyfriend’s name was enough to make Candace smile. She closed her eyes for just a minute and pictured him as she had first seen him — wearing a Lone Ranger costume. With his charm and piercing blue eyes, she had fallen for him right away.

“You told him my house, right?” Tamara said, interrupting her thoughts.

“Yeah. So, who’s this guy you’re taking?”

Tamara sighed. “Mark.”

“Uh-huh. And?”

“Remember my cousin Tina?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, she broke up with him over the summer, and he’s been all shattered since then. He won’t date other girls; he just mopes over her.”

“Attractive,” Candace said sarcastically.

“Tell me about it. Well, Tina asked me if I could help him get his confidence back and get over her or something.”

“A pity date? Are you kidding me? You want Kurt and I to double date with you on a pity date?”

“You don’t think I’m about to go by myself, do you? No way. That’s the best-friend creed. When you’re happy, I’m happy. When I’m miserable, you have to be too.”

“Great,” Candace said, rolling her eyes. “So, where are we going?”

“That’s the problem. I was thinking dinner, but then we’d have to talk, and frankly, I don’t want to hear him go on about Tina. Then I thought we could see a movie.”

“You wouldn’t have to talk to him,” Candace confirmed.

“Yeah, but what if — ”

“He tries to grab a hand or put his arm around you.”

“Exactly, and I don’t think me giving him a black eye was what Tina had in mind.”

“I guess that also rules out any kind of concert possibilities?” Candace asked wistfully.

“Yup. Sorry.”

“So, what did you come up with?”

“I was thinking . . . theme park?”

“No way. Kurt doesn’t like to spend his downtime there.”

“I thought he took you to that romantic dinner there over the summer.”

“It was the nicest restaurant he knew, and he got an employee discount.”

“Charming,” Tamara said.

“Plus, ever since we got trapped in there overnight, he’s been even more adamant about avoiding it when he’s off work.”

“I can’t believe you two get to be the stuff of urban legend, and you don’t even appreciate it.”

Candace sighed. It was true that she and Kurt had spent one of the most miserable nights of their relationship trapped inside the theme park. Urban legend, though, had since transformed the story so that they were supposedly chased through the park by a psycho killer. It was still embarrassing to have -people point at her and say that she was the one. Around Halloween she had given up trying to correct -people. They were going to believe what they wanted.

“Earth to Candace. Helloooo?”

“Sorry. So, what does that leave us with? Shopping?”

“No need to torture both our dates,” Tamara said.

“Then what?”

“I don’t — miniature golf!” Tamara suddenly shrieked, so loudly that Candace jumped and slammed her head into the roof of the car.

“Tam! Don’t scare me like that.”

“Sorry. Miniature golf. What do you think? Built-in talking points, lots of movement, and zero grabby potential.”

“I like it. I’ll have to borrow one of your jackets though.”

“At least you’ll have an actual excuse this time,” Tamara teased.

A few minutes later they were at Tamara’s house and upstairs raiding her wardrobe. As Tamara considered and discarded a fifth outfit, Candace threw up her hands.

“Maybe if you’d tell me what you’re looking for, I could help.”

“I’m looking for something, you know, nunlike.”

Candace stared at her friend for a moment before she burst out laughing. She fell to the floor, clutching her stomach as tears streamed down her face. Tamara crossed her arms and tapped her foot, and Candace just laughed harder.

“I don’t know why you think that’s so funny. You know I don’t go past kissing.”

“Tam, nuns can’t even do that. And if you’re looking for something that will completely hide your body, then you’re going to have to go to the mall instead of the closet. You don’t own anything that doesn’t say ‘look at me.’ I’m sorry, but it’s true.”

“Really? Maybe we should go to your house. Think I could find what I’m looking for in your closet?”

“Not since I started dating and mom made me throw out all my old camp T-shirts,” Candace said with a grin.

“Then hello, you’ve got no call to laugh.”

Candace stood up, stomach still aching from laughing so hard. “Tam, I’m not criticizing. I’m just telling you, you’re not going to find what you’re looking for.”

Tam reached into the closet. “Oh, yeah, what about this?” she asked, producing jeans and a black turtleneck.

“If you’re going for the secret agent look, it’s a good choice.”

Tamara threw the jeans at her, and Candace ducked.

“I could wear some black pants with this. Would that be too funereal?

“For a pity date? Go for it.”

Candace opted to borrow Tamara’s discarded jeans instead of wearing the skirt she had brought with her. They turned out to be slightly tighter on her than they were on Tam, and she had to admit when she paired them with her red scoop-neck top that she looked really good.

When Kurt arrived a few minutes later, he whistled when he saw her.

“Keep the jeans,” Tamara whispered to her. “Obviously, they work for you.”

Kurt then looked at Tamara and frowned slightly. “Did you just come from a funeral?”

“No, but thank you for thinking so,” Tamara said with a smirk.

“I don’t — ”

Candace put her finger over his lips. “Don’t ask,” she advised him.

He smiled and kissed her finger, which made her giggle.

The doorbell rang again, and Candace turned, eager to see the infamous Mark.

Tamara opened the door, and Candace sucked in her breath. Mark was gorgeous. He had auburn hair, piercing green eyes, and model-perfect features. He was almost as tall as Kurt, and he was stunning in khaki Dockers and a green Polo shirt.

“Hi,” he said, smiling.

Tamara glanced at her and rolled her eyes.

“Hi, Mark.”

Kurt drove, and Candace was quick to slide into the front seat with him, leaving Tamara and Mark to the back. She shook her head. Mark was not her idea of a pity date in any sense of the word. Maybe Tamara would come around if she actually talked to him.

They made it to the miniature golf course and were soon on the green. Candace got a hole in one on the first time up to putt, and Kurt gave her a huge reward kiss.

When they moved on to the next hole, Tamara whispered in her ear, “Thanks a lot. This is supposed to be a no grabby zone. Now Mark will be getting ideas.”

“Tam, you really need to relax a little.”

They made it through the course in record time, and Kurt gave Candace another kiss for winning by one stroke. After turning in their clubs, the guys headed inside to order pizza while Candace and Tamara went to the restroom.

“This date is the worst,” Tamara groaned once they were alone.

“What’s wrong with you? He’s gorgeous.”

“Really? I guess I just can’t see past the Tina mope.”

“What mope? He hasn’t even mentioned her, and he’s done nothing but smile all night. You should totally take him to Winter Formal.”

“No way. This is a one-date-only kind of thing. I’m not taking him to Winter Formal.”

“Fine. Suit yourself. I’m just telling you that if it weren’t for Kurt, I’d be taking him to Winter Formal.”

Tamara laughed.

“As if. There’s no way you’d ask a guy out.”

“I don’t know. You might be surprised.”

“It’s a moot point anyway. I’ll find someone to take.”

“You could always take Josh,” Candace suggested.

“You’re not setting me up with Josh, so just forget it.”

“Fine.”

“Find out for me, though, if Santa needs a Mrs. Claus,” Tamara said.

“You’re going to find some way to be the Christmas queen, aren’t you?” Candace asked.

“Even if I have to marry old Saint Nick.”

They both laughed.



Before The Season Ends

Sunday, December 21, 2008



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Before the Season Ends

Harvest House Publishers (December 1, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Linore Rose Burkard lives with her husband, five children, and ninety-year-old grandmother in southeastern Ohio. She homeschooled her children for ten years. Raised in New York, she graduated magna cum laude from the City University of New York (Queens College) with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature. Ms. Burkard wrote Before the Season Ends because she could not find a book like it anywhere. "There are Christian books that approach this genre," she says, "but they fall short of being a genuine Regency. I finally gave up looking and wrote the book myself." She has begun four other works of fiction in the category.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 12.99
Paperback: 348 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (December 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736925511
ISBN-13: 978-0736925518

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chesterton, Hertfordshire

England

1813

Something would have to be done about Ariana.

All winter Miss Ariana Forsythe, aged nineteen, had been going about the house sighing.

“Mr. Hathaway is my lot in life!”

She spoke as though the prospect of that life was a great burden to bear, but one which she had properly reconciled herself to. When her declarations met with exasperation or reproach from her family—for no one else was convinced Mr. Hathaway, the rector, was her lot—she usually responded in a perplexed manner. Hadn't they understood for an age that her calling was to wed a man of the cloth? Was there another man of God, other than their rector, available to her? No. It only stood to reason, therefore, that Mr. Hathaway was her lot in life. Their cold reception to the thought of the marriage was unfathomable.

When she was seventeen, (a perfectly respectable marrying age) she had romantic hopes about a young and brilliant assistant to the rector, one Mr. Stresham. It was shortly after meeting him, in fact, that she had formed the opinion the Almighty was calling her to marry a man of God. Mr. Stresham even had the approval of her parents. But the man took a situation in another parish without asking Ariana to accompany him as his wife. She was disappointed, but not one to give up easily, continued to speak of “the calling,” waiting in hope for another Mr. Stresham of sorts. But no man came. And now she had reached the conclusion that Mr. Hathaway--Mr. Hathaway, the rector, (approaching the age of sixty!) would have to do.

Her parents, Charles and Julia Forsythe, were sitting in their comfortably furnished morning room, Julia with a cup of tea before her, and Charles with his newspaper. A steady warmth was emanating from the hearth.

“What shall we do about Ariana?” Mrs. Forsythe, being an observant mama, had been growing in her conviction that the situation called for some action.

“What do you suggest, my dear?” Her husband reluctantly folded his paper; he knew his wife wanted a discussion of the matter and that he would get precious little reading done until she had got it.

She held up a folded piece of foolscap: the annual letter from Agatha Bentley, Charles’s sister, asking for Alberta, the eldest Forsythe daughter, for the season in London. It had arrived the day before.

Aunt Bentley was a childless wealthy widow and a hopeless socialite. For the past three years she had written annually to tell her brother and his wife why they ought to let her sponsor their eldest daughter for a London season. She owned a house in Mayfair (could anything be more respectable than that?) and knew a great deal of the big-wigs in society. She had, in fact, that most important of commodities which the Forsythes completely lacked: connexions. And as Charles’s family were her only living relatives, she was prepared--even anxious--to serve as chaperon for her niece.

Much to the lady's frustration, Julia and Charles had annually extinguished her hopes, replying to her letters graciously but with the inevitable, “We cannot countenance a separation from our child at this time,” and so on. Charles was unflinching on this point, never doubting his girls would reap a greater benefit by remaining beneath his own roof. They knew full well, moreover, that Aunt Agatha could not hope, with all her money and connexions to find as suitable a husband for their offspring as was possible right in Chesterton.

Why not? For the profound reason that Aunt Bentley had no religion whatsoever.

And yet, due to the distressing state of affairs with Ariana, Julia wished to consider her latest offer. With the letter waving in her hand she said, “I think we ought to oblige your sister this year. She must be lonely, poor thing, and besides removing Ariana from the parish, a visit to the city could prove beneficial for her education.”

Ariana’s father silently considered the matter. His eldest daughter Alberta was as good as wed, having recently accepted an offer of marriage--to no one’s surprise--from John Norledge. Ariana, his second eldest, had been irksome in regard to the rector, but to pack her off to London? Surely the situation was not so dire as to warrant such a move.

“I think there is nothing else for it,” Mrs. Forsythe said emphatically. “Ariana is determined about Mr. Hathaway and, even though we can forbid her to speak to the man, she will pine and sigh and like as not drive me to distraction!”

Taking a pipe out of his waistcoat pocket (though he never smoked), Mr. Forsythe absently rubbed the polished wood in his fingers.

“I recall other fanciful notions of our daughter’s,” he said finally, “and they slipped away in time. Recall, if you will, when she was above certain her destiny was to be a missionary--to America. That desire faded. She fancies this, she fancies that; soon she will fancy another thing entirely, and we shan’t hear another word about the ‘wonderful rector’ again.”

Mrs. Forsythe’s countenance, still attractive in her forties, became fretful.

“I grant that she has had strong…affections before. But this time, my dear, it is a complicated affection for in this case it is the heart of the ah, affected, which we must consider. It has ideas of its own.”

“Of its own?”

Mrs. Forsythe looked about the room to be certain no one else had entered. The servants were so practiced at coming and going quietly, their presence might not be marked. But no, there was only the two of them. She lowered her voice anyway.

“The rector! I do not think he intends to lose her! What could delight him more than a young, healthy wife who might fill his table with offspring?”

Mr. Forsythe shook his head.”Our rector is not the man to think only of himself; he must agree with us on the obvious unsuitability of the match.”

The rector was Thaddeus Admonicus Hathaway, of the Church in the Village Square. Mr. Hathaway was a good man. His sermons were grounded in sound religion, which meant they were based on orthodox Christian teaching. He was clever, and a popular dinner guest of the gentry, including the Forsythes. If these had not been true of him, Mr. Forsythe might have been as concerned as his wife. Knowing Mr. Hathaway, however, Charles Forsythe did not think a drastic action such as sending his daughter to the bustling metropolis of London, was necessary.

Mrs. Forsythe chose not to argue with her spouse. She would simply commit the matter to prayer. If the Almighty decided that Ariana must be removed to Agatha’s house, then He would make it clear to her husband. In her years of marriage she had discovered that God was the Great Communicator, and she had no right to try and usurp that power. Her part was to pray, sincerely and earnestly.

Mr. Forsythe gave his judgment: “I fear that rather than exerting a godly influence upon her aunt, Ariana would be drawn astray by the ungodliness of London society.”

“Do you doubt her so much, Charles? This infatuation with Mr. Hathaway merely results from her youth, her admiration for his superior learning, and especially,” she said, leaning forward and giving him a meaningful look, “for lack of a young man who has your approval! Have you not frowned upon every male who has approached her in the past? Why, Mr. Hathaway is the first whom you have failed to frighten off and only because he is our rector! 'Tis little wonder a young girl takes a fanciful notion into her head!”

When he made no answer, she added, while adjusting the frilly morning cap on her head, “Mr. Hathaway causes me concern!”

Mr. Forsythe’s countenance was sober. “’Tis my sister who warrants the concern. She will wish to make a match for our daughter--and she will not be content with just any mister I assure you. In addition to which, a girl as pretty as our daughter will undoubtedly attract attention of the wrong sort.”

Julia was flustered for a second, but countered, “Agatha is no threat to our child. We shall say we are sending Ariana to see the sights, take in the museums and so forth. Surely there is no harm in that. A dinner party here or there should not be of concern. And Ariana is too intelligent to allow herself to be foisted upon an unsuitable man for a fortune or title.”

Too intelligent? He thought of the aging minister that no one had had to “foist” her upon. Aloud he merely said, “I shall speak with her tonight. She shall be brought to reason, depend upon it. There will be no need to pack her off to London.”

FAITH AND FICTION SATURDAYS

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Each week Amy posts a question and we answer it. This weeks question is:

So today's topic, to wrap up the year...what are your favorite Christian fiction books that you read this year?

Here are my top reads for 2008 are:

A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman - This book was full of passion, action, and purity. I love how Julie pulls everything together for God's glory.
A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman - Book 2 of the Daughter's of Boston series. Again Julie took the passion that was geared in the wrong direction and once again Julie takes the passion and turns it toward God.
The Healing Stones by Nancy Rue & Stephen Arterburn - This book was just a beautiful book of redemption and forgiveness.
My Soul To Keep by Melanie Wells - Wow! This book had a lot of supernatural activity and was one that kept me up late at night to finish it!
In The Shadow Of The Lions by Ginger Garrett - Anyone who is a fan of historical fiction will love this one. I am and really enjoyed the way this was written. It had a fresh take on an old story that we all have heard before of Queen Elizabeth.
The Hunted by Mike Dellosso - All I can say about this book is - don't read it at night. No! Just kidding! This was an awesome suspense thriller, and I absolutely loved it! Kept me up til 3am to finish it!
It's Not About Me by Michelle Sutton - I've said before and I'll say it again - I'm not fit to say anything about this book. Michelle writes what is so needed for today's generation. She hits every nail right on the head in this book. I loved it from the beginning and couldn't finish it fast enough.

Honorable mentions would be - Quills and Promises, Dark Pursuit, Washington's Lady, The Painted Dresses, The Making of Isaac Hunt, House of Wolves, Isolation.

I have to say a big THANK YOU! To all the authors who have made my reading this year fun, inspiring, and a wonderful experience. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Healthy and Happy New Year!

CHRISTMAS MOVIES

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Here are the Christmas movies I love

White Christmas -

Bing Crosby "White Christmas

It's A Wonderful Life

The Christmas Shoes

YouTube - The Christmas Shoes

My Sister's Dog howling to Taps Too funny!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Where Do I Go?

Thomas Nelson (December 9, 2008)

by

Neta Jackson



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
As a husband/wife writing team, Dave and Neta Jackson are enthusiastic about books, kids, walking with God, gospel music, and each other! Together they are the authors or coauthors of over 100 books. In addition to writing several books about Christian community, the Jacksons have coauthored numerous books with expert resource people on a variety of topics from racial reconciliation to medical ethics to ministry to kids in gangs.

Dave and Neta live in Evanston, Illinois, where for twenty-seven years they were part of Reba Place Church, a Christian church community. They are now members of a multi-racial congregation in the Chicago area.

They're trying something new! Not just new for them, but something completely new in Christian fiction: “Parallel novels,” two stories taking place in the same time frame, same neighborhood, involving some of the same characters living through their own dramas and crises but interacting with and affecting one another … just the way it happens in real life.

It’s something that only a husband and wife writing team could pull off. While Neta has Where Do I Go?, her husband Dave has written Harry Bentley's Second Chance.



ABOUT THE BOOK

A story of seeking-and finding-God's will in unlikely places.

Gabrielle Fairbanks has nearly lost touch with the carefree, spirited young woman she was when she married her husband fifteen years ago. But when the couple moves to Chicago to accommodate Philip's business ambitions, Gabby finds the chance to make herself useful. It's there she meets the women of Manna House Women's Shelter; they need a Program Director-and she has a degree in social work. She's in her element, feeling God's call on her life at last, even though Philip doesn't like the changes he sees in her. But things get rough when Philip gives Gabby an ultimatum: quit her job at the shelter or risk divorce and losing custody of their sons. Gabby must take refuge, as in the song they sing at Sunday night worship: "Where do I go when there's no one else to turn to? . . . I go to the Rock I know that's able, I go to the Rock."

Romantic Times Book Reviews says, “Exquisite characters coupled with God's mercy and love emanate from each page.”

Publisher's Weekly adds, “Jackson's Yada Yada series has sold half a million copies, and this new offshoot series ... promises the same.... The book's dramatic ending ... leav[es] readers eager for the next installment in the series.”

To read the Prologue and first Chapter of Where Do I Go?, go HERE

Sunday, December 14, 2008



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Desire and Deceit

Multnomah Books (September 16, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., has been recognized by such influential publications as Time and Christianity Today as a leader among American evangelicals. In fact, Time.com called him the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.”

A theologian and an ordained minister, Dr. Mohler serves as the ninth president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

In addition to his presidential duties, Dr. Mohler hosts a daily live nationwide radio program on the Salem Radio Network. He also writes a popular blog and a regular commentary on moral, cultural, and theological issues. Called “an articulate voice for conservative Christianity at large” by the Chicago Tribune, Dr. Mohler’s mission is to address contemporary issues from a consistent and explicit Christian worldview.

Dr. Mohler served as pastor and staff minister of several Southern Baptist churches. He came to the presidency of Southern Seminary from service as editor of The Christian Index, the oldest of the state papers serving the Southern Baptist Convention.

A leader within the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Mohler has served in several offices including a term as chairman of the SBC Committee on Resolutions. He currently serves as chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council of Seminary Presidents. Dr. Mohler is also a frequent lecturer at universities and seminaries and currently serves on the boards of several organizations including Focus on the Family. He also serves on the Board of Reference for The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

He is married to the former Mary Kahler. They have two children: Katie and Christopher.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (September 16, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601420803
ISBN-13: 978-1601420800

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


P R E F A C E


Sexuality is now a major fact of public life in America and around much of the world. In one sense, this is hardly new. After all, sexuality is a major part of human existence—an unavoidably complex and potentially explosive dynamic of human life. But sexuality is now a public issue—front and center in some of the biggest and most contentious debates of our times.


Sex and sexuality now drive much of our advertising, entertainment, and the cultural scripts that citizens use in common conversation. The sexual revolution of the 1960s was, in retrospect, only a signal of what was to come. By the early years of the twenty-first century, issues of sexuality were seemingly unavoidable. Elementary school students are being introduced to “family diversity” curricula, and major newspapers report on the phenomena of sexual promiscuity in homes for the aged. There seems to be virtually no part of the culture that is not dealing with sexuality in one way or another—and often with significant controversy.


Christians have a special stake and stewardship in the midst of this confusion. In the first place, Christians know that sex is both more and less important than the culture of laissez-faire sexuality can understand. Unlike the naturalistic evolutionists, Christians believe that the realities of gender and sexuality are intentional gifts of the Creator, who gave these gifts to His human creatures as both a blessing and a responsibility. Unlike the postmodern relativists, Christians cannot accept the claim that all sexual standards are mere social constructs. We believe that the Creator alone has the right to reveal His intention and commands concerning our stewardship of these gifts. Unlike the marketing geniuses and advertising gurus, we do not believe that sexuality is intended as a ploy to get attention and to create consumer demand. Unlike the pandering producers of sexualized entertainment, we do not believe that sex is primarily about laugh lines and titillation. Unlike the sexual revolutionaries of recent decades, we do not believe that sexuality is the means of liberating the self from cultural oppression.


In other words, we believe that sex is less important than many would have us believe. Human existence is not, first and foremost, about sexual pleasure and the display of sexuality. There is much more to human life, fulfillment, and joy. Sex simply cannot deliver the promises made by our hypersexualized society.


On the other hand, sex is far more important than a secular society can envision. After all, the Christian worldview reveals that sex, gender, and sexuality are ultimately all about the creature’s purpose to glorify the Creator. This frame of reference transforms the entire question and leaves the creature asking this: how do I celebrate and live out my stewardship of my sexuality and my exercise of this gift so that the Creator is most glorified? Needless to say, this is not the question driving the confusion in our sex-saturated culture.


This book is an attempt to look at many of today’s most controversial and troubling issues concerning sexuality from the perspective of biblical Christianity. Every one of us has a stake in this, and Christians are responsible for a special witness to the meaning of sex and sexuality.


And all this, we know, is not only about how we are to think about these issues, but how we are to live.


1

FROM FATHER TO SON

J. R. R. Tolkien on Sex


The astounding popularity of J. R. R. Tolkien and his writings, magnified many times over by the success of The Lord of the Rings films, has ensured that Tolkien’s fantasy world of moral meaning stands as one of the great literary achievements of our times.


In some sense, Tolkien was a man born out of time. A philologist at heart, he was most at home in the world of ancient ages, even as he witnessed the barbarism and horrors of the twentieth century. Celebrated as a popular author, he was an eloquent witness to permanent truths. His popularity on university campuses, extending from his own day right up to the present, is a powerful indication of the fact that Tolkien’s writings reach the hearts of the young and those looking for answers.


Even as Tolkien is celebrated as an author and literary figure, some of his most important messages were communicated by means of letters, and some of his most important letters were written to his sons.


Tolkien married his wife Edith in 1916, and the marriage was blessed with four children. Of the four, three were boys. John was born in 1917, Michael in 1920, and Christopher in 1924. Priscilla, the Tolkiens’ only daughter, was born in 1929. Tolkien dearly loved his children, and he left a literary legacy in the form of letters. [J. R. R. Tolkien, The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Christopher Tolkien (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000)]. Many of these letters were written to his sons, and these letters represent not only a prime example of literary quality but a treasure of Christian teaching on matters of manhood, marriage, and sex. Taken together, these letters constitute a priceless legacy, not only to the Tolkien boys, but to all those with whom the letters have been shared.


In 1941, Tolkien wrote a masterful letter to his son Michael, dealing with marriage and the realities of human sexuality. The letter reflects Tolkien’s Christian worldview and his deep love for his sons and, at the same time, also acknowledges the powerful dangers inherent in unbridled sexuality.


“This is a fallen world,” Tolkien chided. “The dislocation of sex-instinct is one of the chief symptoms of the Fall. The world has been ‘going to the bad’ all down the ages. The various social forms shift, and each new mode has its special dangers: but the ‘hard spirit of concupiscence’ has walked down every street, and sat leering in every house, since Adam fell.” This acknowledgment of human sin and the inevitable results of the Fall stands in stark contrast to the humanistic optimism that was shared by so many throughout the twentieth century. Even when the horrors of two world wars, the Holocaust, and various other evils chastened the century’s dawning optimism regarding human progress, the twentieth century gave evidence of an unshakable faith in sex and its liberating power. Tolkien would have none of this.


“The devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favorite subject,” Tolkien insisted. “He is as good every bit at catching you through generous romantic or tender motives, as through baser or more animal ones.” Thus, Tolkien advised his young son, then twenty-one, that the sexual fantasies of the twentieth century were demonic lies, intended to ensnare human beings. Sex was a trap, Tolkien warned, because human beings are capable of almost infinite rationalization in terms of sexual motives. Romantic love is not sufficient as a justification for sex, Tolkien understood.


Taking the point further, Tolkien warned his son that “friendship” between a young man and a young woman, supposedly free from sexual desire, would not long remain untroubled by sexual attraction. At least one of the partners is almost certain to be inflamed with sexual passion, Tolkien advised. This is especially true among the young, though Tolkien believed that such friendships might be possible later in life, “when sex cools down.”


As any reader of Tolkien’s works understands, Tolkien was a romantic at heart. He celebrated the fact that “in our Western culture the romantic chivalric tradition [is] still strong,” though he recognized that “the times are inimical to it.” Even so, as a concerned father, Tolkien warned Michael to avoid allowing his romantic instinct to lead him astray, fooled by “the flattery of sympathy nicely seasoned with a titillation of sex.”


Beyond this, Tolkien demonstrated a profound understanding of male sexuality and the need for boundaries and restraint. Even as he was often criticized for having an overly negative understanding of male sexuality, Tolkien presented an honest assessment of the sex drive in a fallen world. He argued that men are not naturally monogamous. “Monogamy (although it has long been fundamental to our inherited ideas) is for us men a piece of ‘revealed’ ethic, according to faith and not to the flesh.” In his own times, Tolkien had seen the binding power of cultural custom and moral tradition recede into the historical memory. With the sexual revolution already visible on the horizon, Tolkien believed that Christianity’s revealed sex ethic would be the only force adequate to restrain the unbridled sexuality of fallen man. “Each of us could healthfully beget, in our 30 odd years of full manhood, a few hundred children, and enjoy the process,” Tolkien admonished his son. Nevertheless, the joys and satisfactions of monogamous marriage provide the only true context for sexuality without shame. Furthermore, Tolkien was confident that Christianity’s understanding of sex and marriage pointed to eternal as well as temporal pleasures.


Even as he celebrated the integrity of Christian marriage, Tolkien advised Michael that true faithfulness in marriage would require a continual exercise of the will. Even in marriage, there remains a demand for denial, he insisted. “Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification. For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify and direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains. It will not satisfy him—as hunger may be kept off by regular meals. It will offer as many difficulties to the purity proper to that state, as it provides easements. No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial.”


Tolkien traced unhappiness in marriage, especially on the part of the husband, to the church’s failure to teach these truths and to speak of marriage honestly. Those who see marriage as nothing more than the arena of ecstatic and romantic love will be disappointed, Tolkien understood. “When the glamour wears off, or merely works a bit thin, they think they have made a mistake, and that the real soul-mate is still to find. The real soul-mate too often proves to be the next sexually attractive person that comes along.”


With these words, Tolkien advised his middle son that marriage is an objective reality that is honorable in the eyes of God. Thus, marriage defines its own satisfactions. The integrity of Christian marriage requires a man to exercise his will even in the arena of love and to commit all of his sexual energy and passion to the honorable estate of marriage, refusing himself even the imagination of violating his marital vows.


In a letter to his friend C. S. Lewis, Tolkien advised, “Christian marriage is not a prohibition of sexual intercourse, but the correct way of sexual temperance—in fact probably the best way of getting the most satisfying sexual pleasure.” In the face of a world increasingly committed to sexual anarchy, Tolkien understood that sex must be respected as a volatile and complex gift, bearing potential for great pleasure and even greater pain.


With deep moral insight, Tolkien understood that those who give themselves most unreservedly to sexual pleasure will derive the least pleasure and fulfillment in the end. As author Joseph Pearce, one of Tolkien’s most insightful interpreters explains, sexual temperance is necessary “because man does not live on sex alone.” Temperance and restraint represent “the moderate path between prudishness and prurience, the two extremes of sexual obsession,” Pearce expands.


Explicit references to sexuality are virtually missing from Tolkien’s published works, allegories, fables, and stories. Nevertheless, sex is always in the background as part of the moral landscape. Joseph Pearce understands this clearly, arguing that Tolkien’s literary characters “are certainly not sexless in the sense of being asexual but, on the contrary, are archetypically and stereotypically sexual.” Pearce makes this claim notwithstanding the fact that there is no sexual activity or overt sexual enticement found in Tolkien’s tales.


How is this possible? In a profound employment of the moral spirit, Tolkien presented his characters in terms of honor and virtue, with heroic men demonstrating classical masculine virtues and the heroines appearing as women of honor, valor, and purity.


Nevertheless, we would be hard pressed to appreciate Tolkien’s understanding of sex, marriage, and family if we did not have considerable access into the realities of Tolkien’s family and his role as both husband and father. Tolkien’s letters, especially those written to his three sons, show the loving concern of a devoted father, as well as the rare literary gift Tolkien both possessed and employed with such power. The letter Tolkien wrote Michael in the year 1941—with the world exploding in war and civilization coming apart at its seams—is a model of fatherly concern, counsel, and instruction.


From the vantage point of the twenty-first century, Tolkien will appear to many to be both out of step and out of tune with the sexual mores of our times. Tolkien would no doubt take this as a sincere, if unintended, compliment. He knew he was out of step, and he steadfastly refused to update his morality in order to pass the muster of the moderns. Writing to Christopher, his youngest son, Tolkien explained this well: “We were born in a dark age out of due time (for us).

But there is this comfort: otherwise we should not know, or so much love, what we do love. I imagine the fish out of water is the only fish to have an inkling of water.” Thanks to these letters, we have more than an inkling of what Tolkien meant.



This book is an eye opening experience. As a woman who is currently going through a divorce, with a husband that is obviously addicted to porn, and a daughter that has chosen the homosexual lifestyle, I thought I knew quite a bit about the sexual moral decay in America. I had no idea what I was in for when I began this book. With the recent election that has just happened in our country we are headed for change, and it's not going to be "good". I urge every Christian American family to pick up a copy of this book and read it. Discuss it with your teen children. This is important. Do not shy away from it. They are hit daily with sexual messages and they need to know the truth, not societies truth, the BIBLICAL truth. I give this book a lighthouse and shine a light on it for not only a great book, but a educational book as well!

The UnSeen by T.L. Hines


http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/410WXOZCJSL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_.jpg

Lucas has lived most of his life being unseen. He likes the small hidden crevasses above the office spaces in the metro D.C. area. Being able to spy on others is one of his passions. Although he means no harm to them. Since Lucas has no permanent address he sleeps in underground tunnels and vacant buildings. He meets another "infiltrator" Donovan, and is drawn to him. Donovan introduces him to the Creep Club whose members watch and record people in their homes . . . The one place Lucas never wanted to do. While this is something he doesn't want to do he is drawn to them. As with all things, plans spiral out of control and Lucas is forced to figure a way out of the mess.
This is the first book I've ever read by T.L. Hines, and let me tell you it was a thrill ride from page 1! I give this book a lighthouse and shine a light on it for a great book.

CURSEBREAKER

Saturday, December 13, 2008



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Cursebreaker

Whitaker House (January 5, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Born and raised in Colorado, award-winning author Nancy Wentz graduated cum laude from the University of Colorado. Two of her short stories, Henry Cushing and Babi Yar, were winners in the National Writers Association Short Story Contests. She has also written plays for the youth group to perform at her church and has freelanced articles for her current employer. Nancy has a great love for history and English literature, and, in their pursuit, found her creative outlet by incorporating aspects of both into her writing. Her voice is unique in that it refl ects a classic nuance not typically seen in modern writing.

Nancy became a Christian in her childhood and for years has prayed for God s will in her life. Through trials of brokenness and faith, God has shown her that He uses the most insignifi cant, the most defeated, to bring about His will and glory. This theme was the inspiration for her first novel that God chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. Nancy and her husband have a wonderful young son. She and her family are active members of Littleton Baptist Church in Littleton, Colorado.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 9.99
Paperback
Publisher: Whitaker House (January 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603740805
ISBN-13: 978-1603740807

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prologue

Winter, 1565

Italy


A turbulent wind assaulted the night, moaning through the graveyard, enjoining dead leaves to swirl about his feet.He steadied his lantern, squinting at the tombstones that stretched before him. They rose like apparitions, enlivened by the shadows of barren trees caught in the light. Twigs clutched at his hooded cloak. He pulled at them impatiently.


Stealing upon a humble grave, laid amidst murderers, paupers, and the unbaptized, he knelt to decipher the etchings.Worn by time, the tombstone almost denied him the name of its dead. He pushed back his cowl and traced the engraving with his finger.


Frate Domenicano Salvatore Ansaldo

1471—1550

Dio ha la compassione sulla sua anima maledetta


Swinging a canvas bag from his shoulder, he extractedfrom it a shovel and a pickax. He tossed his cloak over the tombstone. The night air felt good against his flesh as he labored to exhume the grave. He stopped once at a sound. His dark eyes scanned the eerie monuments leaning askew before him—silent witnesses watching without eyes, listening without ears, curious and apprehensive at his presence. Ignoring the uneasiness that stiffened the hair on his arms, he continued digging.


The shovel struck the coffin with a hollow thud. He fell to his knees, swept the dirt from the box, and grabbed the pickax, stabbing the corroded wood repeatedly until the lid lifted with no more resistance than a groan. The stench of mold permeated the air. He reached for the lantern, which reflected off the shaved crown of his head. Startled shadows leaped from the grave like souls before the judgment.

Death had paid the Dominican friar no homage. It had robbed him of his flesh and feasted on his bones. Fragments of the burial shroud remained adhered to their owner, as did gray hair to his skull. His gaping mouth, lacking several teeth, protested in silence the desecration of his grave.

Upon the corpse lay a wooden crucifix, the rosary entwining the fingers. The robber scanned the body, hesitantly patting the shroud. Finding nothing, the hope of discovery waned until he slipped his hands beneath the corpse. At his touch, the rib cage crumpled, rippling around his wrists as he delved, until his fingers grasped two scrolls. Shaking off the human remains, he placed the scrolls in the bag, climbed from the hole, and reburied the defiled dead.

He made haste to the monastery. In his cell, he barred the door and released his cowl to the floor. After lighting several candles to alleviate the darkness, he pulled the scrolls from the bag, gingerly spreading them across a wooden table. Though they had lain in the grave with corrupting flesh, he was amazed to find them unsullied, written upon with an odd shade of russet ink. He drew a candle closer.

Choosing one, he read:

Et ait ei tibi dabo potestatem hanc universam et

gloriam illorum quia mihi tradita sunt et cui volo

do illa tu ergo si adoraveris coram me erunt tua omnia.

The pounding of his heart quickened. The legend was true—he had found the scrolls. The Gregorian chant of distant choristers broke the early morning silence. He gasped—he had forgotten the Eucharist!

He glanced at the painting on the stone wall, the fair Madonna enfolding the Christ Child in her arms, then looked back at the scroll. The reddish ink was smudged. He peered at it suspiciously.

His eyes widened. Blood. It was written in blood.

Invitarme che cerca il potere e la fortuna nell’abbondanza. Invitarme che cerca i misteri del buio. Inviterà Lucifer.

Chills crept up his back. He crossed himself. Were not these words against the sacred Scripture? It was blasphemy. Heresy. Was he not risking his soul? Yet the words were so clear; did they not offer him the world? He glanced at the Madonna and Child again, then back at the scroll. The garnet rosary about his neck tapped against the table.

Chiunque invita Lucifer offrirà la sua anima, e ciò del secondo maschio nella sua casa per tutte le generazioni.


All the power of the world and the glory thereof was at his fingertips—his, Luccio Frattarelli—the abbot of the church of the Spirito Santo. With the heightening of his voice, the words fell from his lips: La mia fedeltà, la mia anima, il mio corpo che do a Lucifer. Invito Lucifer a essere il mio padrone. Visito il suo demone potentemente, Il Governatore del Rotolo, vivere nel mio corpo.

Death took Luccio by surprise. The scroll slipped from his hands as he grasped at his heart. He tumbled backward over a chair, his sandaled feet kicking the floor in wild succession. A trembling cold seized his frame, congealing the blood in his veins. Then, struck with the conviction of his fate, his eyes opened in terror upon the Madonna and Child, and his breath ceased.

Moments passed as he lay there, his body not feeling the cold morning air. Then, a blistering gust swirled through the cell, scorching the wood, singeing the cowl, burning the painted images beyond recognition.

The eyelids began to flutter, the eyebrows to twitch, the chest to rise and fall with regular breathing. The muscles in the arms and legs stretched as if released from bondage.

When the eyes opened, the life behind them was not that of Luccio Frattarelli.


Chapter One

Winter, 1931

Colorado, United States of America

A scream escaped the boy’s lips. The startling pain across his left ear and cheek jerked his head to the side. His eyes snapped open. Looking around with the shocked confusion of broken sleep, he cringed to see the black pillar leaning over his bed.

“I ain’t done nothin’, Pa!”

“Get up.”

He glanced out the window. A breath of air shook the broken pane, scraping the ice-frosted curtains against each other. Beyond them, the stars were bright against the sky.

“I ain’t heard the rooster—”

Even as he spoke, he threw up his arms to shield his face. The hand came down hard against his head. It knocked his arms out of the way and found his throbbing ear once more.

“Get up, or I’ll throw you down those stairs.”

Shielding his ear, he strove to sit up. It wasn’t fast enough. That hand seized him—“No!”—yanked him from his narrow bed—“Not the stairs again!”—and flung him toward the bedroom door. The blanket strangled his feet. He reeled across the floor, collided with the washstand, and fell on his back. Wresting away the blanket, he just escaped his father’s boots as they stomped an inch from his fingers.

“Start the fire.”

Coiled against the wall, he watched his father’s rigid silhouette leave the room. He listened to the tread on the staircase, the steps through the kitchen below, and the slam of the back door. All was silent. Only then did he move. He stood on trembling legs, the warped floorboards creaking beneath his weight.

Testing the movement of his jaw, he cupped his ear and swallowed against the pain that traveled down his neck. His face felt hot.

“You all right?” a voice whispered from the darkness.

He looked at his two older brothers lying huddled together under a single blanket. The head of the oldest lifted, his youthful profile barely discernable.

“Yeah.” The boy rubbed the bones of his chest through a tear in his long underwear.

“Stay clear of Pa.” The profile sank back into the bed.

“Today’s the day Ma died.”

The recollection shocked him. He felt sick to his stomach and wondered how long that pillar had stood over his bed. Picking up his overalls from the floor, he maneuvered his feet into the threadbare pant legs. While securing the straps to the bib with safety pins, he slipped his naked feet into his boots, scrunching his toes against the cracked soles.

Not having heard the squeak of the back door, he went downstairs without fear, pulling a woolen coat across his shoulders. Finding a lantern burning in the kitchen, he took it and stepped outside.

The November chill seeped through his clothes. He looked at the moon, blew a warm stream of air from his mouth toward it, and watched the steam evaporate. The moon’s glow beautified the farm to a shimmering, snowy landscape, but he saw no beauty there, only the skeleton of the plow, the empty corral, the sinister corner behind the chicken coop—a myriad of hiding places where his father might lurk. It was then his fear returned; somewhere in that darkness was his father.

He crept along the snow-covered path, afraid the sound of his boots would give him away. Placing the lantern by the door of the woodshed, he paused to wipe his bangs out of his eyes, his gaze traveling to the barn set against the open prairie, an expanse of blackness where nothing moved. A lantern burned within, emitting light between the loose-fitting boards. He heard the horse’s neigh, the worried screech of a chicken, and the thud of an ax against wood. He had found his father.

Snatching an armload of wood, he ran back inside the house. As he hurried to build a fire in the kitchen stove, his mind raced to find places where he could hide. The root cellar?

No, too easy to be found. What about the barn down the road, or the lake? Yeah, the lake. He could break through the ice. Maybe if he caught some fish, Pa wouldn’t beat him that night.

No sooner had he decided where to run than the warmth of the fire encouraged him to linger. Daring to place an additional stick on the quivering flames, he dragged a chair from the table before the stove. He would run when he heard his father’s step on the back porch, but for now, the glow of the crackling wood was too good to leave.

He fell asleep.

He did not hear the steps. He did not hear the door open. For a surreal moment, he hovered between dreaming and waking, feeling the brush of his mother’s apron, the smell of bread. Then the door slammed. A rush of air stirred his hair like an icy hand. With a gasp, he spun around. Gazing up into the beardless face, an image flashed in his mind of the scarecrow suspended in the cornfield—that frayed figure no threat of storm could move. He feared its claw-like arms that stretched out for an embrace; he knew well the terror of that embrace. He bolted from the chair, knocking it over.

“Pick it up.”

The words stopped him cold. Returning, he righted the chair, keeping his eyes averted and his hands ready to push it forward if his father made any abrupt movements.

“Sit down.”

He teetered on his feet, debating whether to run out the back door or the front, when he noticed what was in his father’s hands. In one dangled the downy body of a freshly killed chicken; in the other, the bloody cleaver.

He sat down.

“Remember your Ma?” His father tossed the chicken and the cleaver on the table.

“Yeah.” The sight of the headless chicken set off a nervous spasm in his stomach.

“It’s been three years. I reckoned you’d forgot.”

An anxious moment of silence hung between them.

Risking a glance, he found his father’s unblinking gaze fixed on him. Yellow flames from the lantern quivered in his green eyes. When he spoke, his mouth revealed the bottom row of his stained teeth.

“She was a good woman. Kept this place nice. Didn’t have much, but she made it stretch.”

Removing his straw hat, he began to pace the floor. The sound of his boots scraping the wood sent a shudder down the boy’s spine. He looked back at the chicken.

“I miss her cookin’. I miss her gettin’ mad when I tracked in dirt. I miss watchin’ her wash her hair and dryin’ it front of the stove. She never fussed over nothin’—” he stopped his deliberate tread, “—except you. ‘My baby’s sick,’ she’d say.”

The hat slipped from his soiled fingers to the floor. He leaned close to the boy’s ear.

“Then you got the fever.”

His father’s breath on his neck caused him to look around wildly. His shoulders flinched with expectation.

“She made me sell the cow to pay the doctor. I told her she already had two strong boys. Better to keep the cow. Then she got the fever.”

The hand seized the boy’s neck and squeezed.

“She died…and you got better.”

With a jerk, his father spun him around, knocking the chair over. He lifted the boy close to his face.

“Why ain’t it you rottin’ in that graveyard?”

“I’m sorry, Pa.” Tears stung the boy’s eyes. His chin quivered.

“I should’ve drowned you in the river like a runt.”

The fist rose like a pendulum.

“No! I’m sorry!”

It hailed on his head, cutting short his screams, blurring his vision with flashes of red. He felt his body being thrashed back and forth. The hand twisting his clothing nearly choked off his breath.

“Stop it, Pa!”

The beating stopped. Warmth trickled from his nose and mouth as he sagged in his father’s grip. Through the spinning room, he saw his brothers in the doorway in their long underwear, their brown hair mussed.

The oldest stepped forward. “Let him go. It ain’t his fault, and you know it.”

“He killed her as true as I’m standin’ here. He’s got every bit of it comin’.”

“It ain’t his fault, and beatin’ him ain’t gonna bring her back. Nothin’s bringin’ her back. She’s dead.”

Staggering as if struck from behind, he pressed the boy backward against the table, his neck on the chicken’s carcass.

“I know! I know, but she was everything…all I had…since we were kids…all I wanted.” Anguish creased his tanned forehead. Sobs he could no longer control heaved in his chest until he laid his head on the boy’s chest, wailing.

The boy dared not move. He shot his brothers a terrified plea with his eyes, but they, too, stood motionless.

“It ain’t right that she died.” He lifted his head, his face flushed, wet, the veins in his forehead and neck pulsating. “It ain’t right that he lived.”

He seized the cleaver and lifted it high. The boys shrieked in unison, “No!”

Still caught in the trap of that great hand, the boy threw up his arms. Light glinted off the cleaver as it plummeted, its edge slicing across his uplifted palm. He felt no pain, just the keen sensation of his flesh opening, sending a streak of blood across his father’s face.

The cleaver rose again. His brothers rushed forward. In a skirmishing blur of hands, he saw the cleaver pushed aside. His father reared back, shouting. Saliva dripped from his lips. One brother fell to the floor. The cleaver rose again. He closed his eyes. Screaming. A crack. A grunt.

He felt himself pulled to the floor by the hand that would not let go. Blood sprayed in every direction as he kicked and screamed, helpless until his brothers freed him and dragged him to the other side of the kitchen.

“Stop squirmin’!”

The oldest held his brother’s wrist, forcing open his clenched fingers to inspect the gash while the other tried to soothe him. Too terrified to be calmed, he continued to scream, to struggle, even though his father lay motionless on the floor, the fire poker beside him. Turning him away from the sight, they held him close until he settled into a quiet sob. The oldest then brought him to his feet. Grabbing a rag from the table, he wiped the tears that rolled down the boy’s cheeks.

“Listen,” he said, wrapping the rag around the bleeding hand. “You need your wits. Run away. He’ll kill you next time. Go to town. Find Uncle Harald. Here’s your cap.”

Their father groaned. All stared at him for a silent moment, then rushed to the door.

“Run fast. Don’t tell nobody your name. Don’t let the sheriff catch you neither. He’ll bring you back or put you in the orphanage and work you till you drop dead.”

His brothers hugged him, then sent him out into the cold. He ran with one glance back, one final look at his brothers standing in the doorway. Into the darkness he ran, leaving a scattered trail of tears and blood behind.


HANNAH GRACE

Thursday, December 11, 2008



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Hannah Grace

Whitaker House (January 30, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Sharlene Maclaren is an award-winning novelist , retired elementary school teacher, wife, mother, and grandmother.

Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $ 9.99
Paperback
Publisher: Whitaker House (January 30, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603740740
ISBN-13: 978-1603740746

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Sandy Shores, Michigan • August 1903

The minute hand on the nickel-cased Waterbury clock ticked away the seconds as Hannah Grace Kane primped in the mirror. She leaned back and squinted with displeasure when her unruly, rusty-colored curls refused to cooperate, poking out all over like a bunch of broken bedsprings. “Aargh!” she muttered, throwing down her comb and watching it bounce off the wood floor with a ping before landing on the braided wool rug.

“Supper’s almost ready!” wailed the youngest of the Kane sisters, Abbie Ann, from the foot of the stairs.

“Abbie Ann, you’ll damage my hearing,” Jacob Kane muttered.

Even from the upstairs bedroom, Hannah heard her father’s newspaper rattle and sensed that his tone bordered on brusqueness. She pictured him sitting in his plush blue velvet chair, as he always did at six o’clock, the Sandy Shores Tribune spread in his lap, his reading spectacles perched low on his longish nose. “Why is it that at seventeen, you’re still screaming like a banshee?”

“Seventeen, Papa? Have you forgotten that I turned eighteen in May?”

There was a lengthy pause. “Eighteen? Are you sure?”

Her high-pitched giggle drifted upward. “Of course I’m sure, silly. A lady never forgets her age.”

“Well, then, all the more reason to cease with your howling.”

“Sorry, Papa.”

“Besides, Hannah Grace isn’t even eating at home this evening.”

“Oh, how could I forget? That ol’ Stuffy Huffy’s coming to call. I suppose they’ll take a long stroll in the moonlight. Blechh.” Her voice danced with unrestrained sarcasm, and Hannah could only imagine the look of disapproval on her father’s bearded face. “I don’t know what she sees in him, do you, Papa? If you ask me, he’s boring and unfriendly.”

The newspaper crackled. “Abbie.” He heaved a breath, which echoed up through the register. “Doctor Van Huff seems like a nice enough gentleman. There is no call for judging him. And besides, your sister seems to like him.”

“I’m not judging. I’m merely expressing my view on things, which I happen to think is more fact than opinion. Personally, I suspect she just likes him ’cause he’s just about the only eligible bachelor around.”

Hannah bent down to retrieve her comb and sighed in the process. Everyone knew sounds carried faster than a windstorm in this two-story, foursquare structure. Was there no respect? Why, had she wanted, she could have walked to the twelve-inch heat vent in the floor and peered through its narrow slats to give her sister a snarling glower, but she

wouldn’t, for that was exactly what Abbie wanted her to do. All three Kane sisters had played the “spying game” through that heat register as children, but Abbie seemed bent on continuing it till kingdom come.

“Abbie Ann, you mind your manners. Hannah will hear you.”

Well, it’s about time someone thought of that, Hannah mused, thankful for her grandmother’s scolding tone. Helena Kane, Jacob’s mother, had tirelessly tended to the entire family since shortly after the girls’ own mother had succumbed to pneumonia and died just days short of Abbie’s second birthday. “Ralston Van Huff is a fine, upstanding citizen, and you had best show your respect.” Even after all these years in Michigan, her British accent still lingered like a fresh aroma.

“I do, I do,” Abbie insisted. “But he’s always talking about himself and that stupendous medical practice he runs. After a while, one grows downright weary of it.”

Jacob snapped his paper and exhaled noisily. “The man is doing his best to make a success of himself. I would think taking on the task of town physician would require a bit of ambition…speaking of which, shouldn’t you be out in the kitchen helping your grandmother and sister?”

“I’ll second that,” said Grandmother. “Take the napkins out of the bureau, Abbie.”

“Do you suppose he’s a true Christian, Papa?” Abbie asked, ignoring his inquiry.

“Well, I would hope so. Hannah Grace wouldn’t settle for anyone who didn’t claim to have a faith of his own. May I please read today’s news now, Abigail?”

Keeping one ear to the conversation downstairs, Hannah picked up her comb and resumed her hair-styling task.

“I, for one, think Dr. Van Huff is charming.” Maggie Rose spoke up for the first time that evening. From the kitchen wafted her habitually melodious voice—melodious in that she spoke in pleasant tones rather than melodious from a musical standpoint, that is. Sadly, Maggie thought she could carry a tune quite well, but after years of sitting beside her in church, Hannah knew otherwise. “He picked two roses from our garden last week and gave one to Hannah and one to me. I’d call that rather sweet.”

“Oh, poke me with a stick!” Abbie whined. “He should rather have picked flowers from his own garden—or bought some at Clara’s Flower Shop.”

“Abbie Ann Kane, stop being so persnickety,” Grandmother said. “My goodness, what side of the bed did—?”

A deafening scream sounded through the house when something metallic made clanging contact with the linoleum floor.

“My giddy aunt, what a gobblin’ mess we have here! Don’t burn yourself, Maggie!” Grandmother screeched. “Abbie, come in here this minute and lend a hand. Noodles are everywhere.”

“What’s happened?” Jacob asked.

“It looks like a pig’s breakfast just landed on our kitchen floor. Oh, forevermore and a day! Supper will be delayed, I’m afraid.”

Abbie’s uncontrollable giggles lent to the clamor of rushing feet, running water, Grandmother’s stern orders to stop laughing and fetch some rags, and Maggie’s pathetic verbal attempts to vindicate her clumsiness.

From her cushioned bench in front of the vanity, Hannah stifled a smile, glad to be upstairs and away from

the commotion. She leaned forward to study herself in the mirror. After this close scrutiny, her slightly upturned mouth curled into a pout. Grayish eyes, neither true blue nor clear green, stared back at her as she viewed her thin, longish neck and narrow shoulders, pointy chin, square jaw, and plumpish lips. To top matters off, she had a skinny frame with very little up front to prove her womanhood. As a matter of fact, she’d thought more than once that if she wanted to pass as a boy, she could pile all her hair under a cap, if ever there was one big enough, don a pair of men’s coveralls, work boots, and a jacket, and no one would be the wiser.

She thought about her sisters’ attractive looks—Maggie’s fair-haired beauty and Abbie’s dark eyes, olive complexion, and flowing, charcoal hair. Assuredly, they both outshone her pasty features by a country mile, Abbie’s assets originating from their mother’s Italian heritage, Maggie’s coming from their Grandmother Kane’s long line of elegant features. To be sure, Helena was an aging woman in her sixties, but anyone with an eye for beauty could see that with her high cheekbones, perfectly set blue eyes, well-chiseled nose and chin, and remarkably smooth skin, she must have been the picture of youthful elegance and charm.

But where did she, Hannah Grace, fit into the picture? Certainly, she’d inherited her grandmother’s curly hair, but where Helena’s lay in perfect, gentle waves, gathered into a tidy silver bun at the back, Hannah’s crimped and frizzed atop her head like a thousand corkscrews. And nothing she did to tame it seemed to work. She’d even lain her head on an ironing board some years ago, like a sacrificial hen, and allowed her sisters to straighten it with a hot iron—until they came too close to the skin and singed her scalp. The silly recollection made her brow crinkle into four straight lines.

She pulled her shoulders back, dipped her chin, and tried to look dignified in her ivory silk afternoon gown with the button-down front and leg-o-mutton sleeves.

“Hannah Grace Van Huff,” she whispered, testing the name aloud and wondering how it would feel to say it for the rest of her days.

Tonight, they would dine at the Culver House in downtown Sandy Shores, and, afterward, perhaps walk down to the harbor to watch the boats come and go. Along the way, they would pass the closed shops on Water Street and probably do some window gazing. Ralston would speak about his practice and tell her about the patients he’d seen that day—the broken bones he’d set, the wounds he’d wrapped. He would tell her about his dreams of constructing a new building—one that would allow him to relocate his practice away from his residence. Not for the first time, he would mention his hopes for a partner with whom to launch this undertaking, someone who shared his passion for medicine, of course, and had the financial wherewithal to pitch in his fair share. There would be a placard above the door and maybe a more prominent sign in the front yard. They would hire a nurse, of course, and, down the road, a bookkeeper to keep the multiplying records straight.

He would ask Hannah about her day at Kane’s Whatnot, her father’s general store, and inquire as to how sales had gone. She would be vague in her answer, knowing that the details would bore him to tears. Nevertheless, he’d smile and nod, appearing deeply interested, but then quickly resume speaking about his medical practice.

Perhaps Abbie was right in calling Ralston stuffy and boring, if not a trifle selfish, but he had ambition on his side, and Hannah admired that. Even Papa recognized it. Besides, she’d reached the ripe age of twenty-one, and hadn’t Grandmother once said that when a woman reached her twenties, her chances of finding a genteel fellow slimmed considerably? It was best not to listen to Abbie’s foolish musings. What did she know about the subject? Dr. Ralston Van Huff would make a fine catch for any woman.

“Hannah wouldn’t settle for a man who didn’t claim to have a faith of his own.”

Her father’s words circled in her head, almost like a band of pesky mosquitoes out for blood. Well, of course, Ralston had an active faith. She’d met him at a church gathering, after all. True, he rarely speaks about the Lord, but these things come with time and practice, she told herself. One doesn’t grow strong in faith overnight.

As the racket continued downstairs, Hannah proceeded to pile her mass of red curls on top of her head, using every available pin to hold them in place.

“Thank heaven for hats,” she muttered to herself.

Gabriel Devlin tipped his dusty hat at the woman he passed on the narrow sidewalk, then scolded himself for stealing a glance backward after she passed. What was he doing? He was done with women! And he had Carolina Woods to thank for that. No, I can thank the Lord for bringing our impending marriage to a halt, he rephrased in his head.

A horse whinnied and kicked up a swirl of dirt as it galloped by, carrying its rider through the street, a barking dog on its heels. Since stores closed at precisely five o’clock in this

small but thriving community of Dutch settlers known as Holland, Michigan, the dog and horse were about the only sounds he heard as he made his way toward an open restaurant, stepping down from the rickety-planked sidewalk and crossing the heavily trodden, dirt-packed street in the middle of town. He removed his hat and slapped it across his leather-clad thigh, letting loose a cloud of dust he estimated was almost as big as the horse’s. Setting it back on his head of sandy-colored hair, he stepped up onto a slab of newly laid concrete and saw that one entire block of sidewalk looked freshly poured. Evidently the town council had started a beautification project, at least on this side of the street. He surmised the other side would follow, perhaps before the first blast of winter weather.

He passed several storefronts, glanced in a few windows, and then saw something out the corner of his eye that brought his steps to a halt as his gaze fell on the object of interest. Across the street and another block over, a young lad was crawling out from under a tarp that was stretched over the back of a wagon. He put his hands on his hips and twisted his body from side to side, stretching as if he had just awakened from a long nap. Then, he rubbed his neck and looked at the trees swaying overhead. The horse that was hitched to the front of the wagon turned and granted the boy a disinterested glance, then swished its mangy tail.

Wondering what the boy was up to, Gabe feigned interest in a window display, embarrassed to discover that it was laden with feminine wares and frilly garments. Still, he kept up the façade so as not to miss the boy’s next move. With deft hands, he was plundering through the items under the canvas, stuffing things into every pocket, front and back.Hannah Grace  17

Instinct told him to yell at the lad, for surely he was stealing from some unsuspecting citizen, but something held him back—the tattered clothing hanging off his skinny shoulders, the uncombed mop of black hair, the spattering of dirt and grime on his face and arms, and those shoddy-looking boots.

When the little vagabond had filled his pockets with who knew what, he took off on a run down an alley between two buildings, disappearing within seconds like a fox daunted by daylight. Gabe shook his head, vexed at himself for not caring more but feeling too exhausted after his long day’s ride to muster up much indignation. Maybe once he crammed his stomach with beef stew and bread and gave his horse and mule a period of rest at the livery, he’d go looking for him to see if he could figure out his story.

Pfff! Who was he kidding? After a quick bite and a bit of respite, he planned to finish his trip, following the path along the railroad tracks to Sandy Shores, his final destination. There’d be no time to look for a tattered boy who couldn’t have been a day over nine years old.

A few restaurant patrons cast him curious looks when he found a window seat in the smoke-filled room, but most kept to themselves, faces buried in newspapers or hovering over their suppers. They were likely accustomed to summer tourists, although, by all appearances, he probably resembled a bum more than anything else.

Certainly not Sandy Shores’ newly appointed sheriff.

“What can I do for y’, mister?”

He gazed into the colorless eyes of an elderly woman whose hard-lined face, slumped shoulders, and pursed mouth denoted some unnamed trial of the past. Gray hair fell around her stern countenance, straight and straw-like, reminding him of a scarecrow—the kind whose expression would chase off the meanest bull.

“I’ll have a bowl of beef stew and a slice of—”

“Plumb out.”

“No beef stew?”

“You hard o’ hearin’?”

“Chicken noodle?”

“No soup atall.” With hooked thumb, she pointed behind her. “Menu’s back there.”

His eyes scanned the chalkboard behind the counter where someone had scrawled several words with creative spellings: “Chikin liver and onyuns – 50¢; potatos and gravy on beef – 75¢; cheese sanwich – 25¢; pork sanwich on toasted Bred – 35¢; Ted’s specielty – 50¢”

“What’s Ted’s specialty?” He had to ask.

“Fish. You want it?”

“Is it cooked?”

She gave him a scornful look. “What kind o’ lame-brained question is that? ’Course it’s cooked.”

“I don’t know. Some people eat raw fish.”

“Not ’round these parts they don’t. Where you from?”

“Ohio. Columbus area.”

She sniffed. “Long ways from home, ain’t ya?”

He grinned. “It’s taken me a few days’ ride.”

Lifting one brow as if to size him up, but keeping her thoughts to herself, she asked, “You want the fish? It’s fresh out o’ the big lake, pan-fried.”

His stomach had been growling ever since he walked through the doors, and, in spite of the grit and grime beneath his feet, the dark and dingy walls, and the fetid odors of burnt onions and cigarette smoke, he had a feeling this Ted fellow could cook.

“I’ll try the fish.” He smiled at the killjoy, but, as expected, she just nodded and turned on her heel. “Can I have some coffee, too?”

Another slight nod indicated she’d heard him.

“Ohio, huh?”

From the table next to him, a man sporting a business jacket, string bow tie, and white ruffled shirt, lowered his newspaper. A half-smoked cigar hung out the side of his mouth directly under his pencil thin moustache. He removed the cigar and laid it on an ashtray. “What brings you to these parts?”

Always wary of shysters, Gabe examined the fellow on the sly. Experience had taught him not to trust anyone until he’d earned that right. “Work,” he replied.

“Yeah?” The man massaged his chin, and Gabe knew he was getting equal treatment, a careful scrutiny. Suddenly, the stranger reached across the four-foot span that separated their tables and offered his hand. “Vanderslute’s the name. George.”

Gabe stuck out his arm and they shook hands. “Gabriel Devlin. Good Dutch name you’ve got there.”

Vanderslute chuckled. “You’re definitely in Dutch territory. Pretty near half the town, I’d say. Maybe more.” He looked out over the small, dimly lit eatery. “Not Ted, though. He’s English, through and through. That there was Eva, his

aunt. She owns this place, has for thirty years.” He leaned forward. “She comes across as an old crank,” he murmured in hushed tones, “but on the inside, she’s nothing but mush. Known the two of them since I was this high.” He stretched a palm out level with the tabletop. “Used to stop by here on my way home from school. Depending on her mood, Aunt Eva—that’s what everyone calls her—would pass out free cookies. On good days, that is.”

Vanderslute took a sip of coffee, then took a giant drag off his cigar and placed it back on the tray. Gabe felt the tension roll off his shoulders. He glanced out the window and spotted the little ragamuffin again, his lean frame bent over a barrel as he rifled through the garbage within. “Who’s that little waif over there?” he asked.

“Huh? Where?” Vanderslute pitched forward to peer out the smudged glass.

“Oh, him. He’s been hanging around for a few days. He’ll move on. ’Spect he jumped the back of a train coming from Chicago area. Vagabonds do that from time to time.”

“Vagabonds? He’s just a little kid. Hasn’t anyone tried to help him?”

“He runs off every time. Like some wild pup. Some of the ladies leave bowls of food on their doorsteps, and he’ll run and get them whilst no one’s watching, providing some mongrel mutt doesn’t beat him to it.” He laughed, as if what he’d just said was unusually funny.

Just then, Eva brought a steaming cup of coffee to the table and George slid back in place. When Gabe looked out again, the boy had vanished—like some kind of apparition. He blinked twice and shook his head.

Silence overtook the two for the next several moments as George dug into the plate of roast beef and potatoes Eva had dropped off at his table when she’d deposited a mug of coffee under Gabe’s nose. Gabe’s mouth watered, his stomach grumbled. He sipped on his coffee and ruminated about the boy.

“What’s your trade, anyway?” George asked between chews.

Gabe took another slow swig before setting the tin mug on the table. “You ever hear of Judge Bowers?”

“Ed Bowers, the county judge? ’Course I have. I work the newspaper. I’m a line editor, not a reporter, but I read the headlines before anybody else does. I hear he just appointed a new interim sheriff up in Sandy Shores—someone from…” A light seemed to dawn in his eyes. “Ohio.” Gabe grinned. “You wouldn’t be…?”

“You should be a reporter,” Gabe said. “You’ve got the nose for it.”

“You learn, you know. Well, I’ll be. Too bad about Sheriff Tate, though. He was a good man, honest and fair. Heard his heart just gave out.” George shook his head. “The law business is hard on the body. Good thing you’re young. What are you—twenty-four? Twenty-five?”

“Twenty-eight.”

George nodded, as if assessing the situation. “You can handle it. Most of what happens in these parts is petty crimes, but there’s the occasional showdown. Not often, though,” he added hastily. “You watch yourself, young man. You’ll do fine.”

“Thanks. I appreciate that.”

Not a minute too soon, Eva returned, this time plopping a plate of pan-fried fish in front of Gabe. On the side were cooked carrots drizzled with some sort of glaze and a large helping of applesauce. The most wonderful aromas floated heavenward, and his stomach growled in response. “Eva, you are an angel.” He smiled at her and felt a certain pleasure to see one side of her mouth quirk up a fraction and the tiniest light spark in her eyes.

“Pfff,” she tittered. “Go on with you.” She swiveled her tiny frame and hobbled off toward the kitchen, still looking like a scarecrow, but with a little less severity.

As he always did before delving into a meal, Gabe bowed his head and offered up a prayer of thanks to God. Then, he draped a napkin over his lap, knowing George Vanderslute’s eyes had taken to drilling holes in his side.

“You’re a praying man, I see.”

Gabe took his first bite. “I am. I pray about everything, actually.”

“Huh. That’s somethin’.” Seeming stumped, George forked down the rest of his meal in silence, the smoke from his cigar making a straight path to the ceiling.

As much as he would have liked taking his sweet time, Gabe wolfed down his plate of food, thinking about the miles of road that still stretched out before him. If he didn’t arrive before nightfall, he’d have to camp alongside the tracks again, and the thought of one more night under the stars didn’t set well with him.

The image of the mysterious little imp who’d stolen from the back of a wagon, rummaged through a waste barrel, and disappeared down an alley materialized at the back of his mind. Would he be shivering in some dark corner tonight, half starved? Gabe swallowed down the last of his coffee, determined to chase him out of his thoughts.

Protect him, Lord, he prayed on a whim, suppressing the pang of guilt he felt for not taking the time to search for him.

Sandy Shores came into view at exactly a quarter till ten, three hours after he left Holland. It had been the slowest, steepest, and most precarious leg of the entire trip, requiring him to navigate gravelly slopes in the light of the moon. Not for the first time, he thanked the Lord for his sure-footed mule, Zeke the Streak, who could not run if his life depended on it but still had strength enough to pull a redwood from its roots; and for Slate, his dapple-gray gelding, calmly bringing up the rear but possessing the speed of a bullet if the situation called for it.

A cool breeze was coming off the lake, bringing welcome relief from an otherwise long, hot day on the trail. Gabe cast a glance out over the placid lake, amazed once more by its vastness. At first glimpse, one would never suppose its distance across to be a mere one hundred miles; it seemed more like an ocean. Gentle waves licked the shoreline, making a whooshing sound before ebbing back into the chilly depths. The Sandy Shores lighthouse, sitting like a proud mother at the end of the pier, flashed her beacon for incoming fishing boats and steamers.

Electric streetlights lit the way as Gabe turned east off the railroad path onto Water Street, which led to the center of town. On the corner to his right stood the three-story Sherman House, the hotel he would call home until he found permanent housing suitable for his budget, if not for his taste. According to Ed Bowers, who had made all his room arrangements, he had a view of the Grand River Harbor and the big lake from his third-floor window. Nice for the interim, he thought, but not a necessity for my simple lifestyle. He’d grown up in affluence and decided he was ready for humbler circumstances. His father’s money had been well-earned, and it had reaped him warranted respect in the community and surrounding areas. Even so, Gabe couldn’t live off his father’s wealth and still respect himself. Besides, he’d had enough of women pursuing him for his family money—Carolina Woods, for one—and it was high time he moved away from Ohio, where the Devlin name didn’t make such an impact every time folks heard it mentioned. Furthermore, a smaller town meant smaller crimes, he hoped—the kind that didn’t require gunfire to resolve them.

Boisterous piano music and uproarious laughter coming from a place called Charley’s Saloon assaulted his senses after two hours spent with nary a sound, save for Zeke’s occasional braying, some sleepy crickets’ chirps, and a gaggle of geese honking from the lake. Gabe wondered if he should expect a run-in or two with a few of Charley’s patrons.

His eyes soaked up the names of storefronts—Jellema Newsstand, Moretti’s Candy Company, Hansen’s Shoe Repair, DeBoer’s Hardware, Kane’s Whatnot—and he wondered about the proprietors who ran each place. Would they accept him as their new lawman, particularly since the late Sheriff Watson Tate had held the office for well over twenty years?

When he spotted Enoch Sprock’s Livery on the second block, he pulled Zeke’s reins taut. Slate snorted, his way of exhaling a sigh of relief for having reached their destination.

“I know what you mean, buddy,” Gabe muttered, feeling stiff and sore himself. He threw the reins over the brake handle and jumped down, landing on the hard earth.

“You needin’ some help there, mister?”

A white-bearded fellow with a slight limp emerged from the big double door.

“You must be Enoch.”

“In the flesh.” The man extended a hand. “And who might you be?”

“Gabriel Devlin.”

“Ah, the new sheriff. We been expectin’ ya’. Hear your room’s waitin’ over at the Sherman.” They shook hands. “Nice place you’re stayin’ at.”

Gabe grinned. “News gets around, I take it.”

Enoch snorted and tossed back his head. “This ain’t what you call a big metropolis.” He took a step back and massaged his beard even while he studied Gabe from top to bottom. “Awful young, ain’t ya?”

Is this how folks would view him? Young, inexperienced, still wet behind the ears? He supposed few knew he’d been responsible for bringing down Joseph Hamilton, aka “Smiley Joe”—a murderous bank robber who wielded his gun for goods throughout Indiana, Ohio, and parts of Kentucky. His last spree was on February 4, 1901, when Gabe received word in his office via telegraph that undercover sources determined Smiley Joe had plans to rob the Delaware County State Bank at noon that very day.

It hadn’t made national headlines, but every Ohioan had the best night’s sleep of his life after reading the next day’s headlines: Gabriel Devlin, Delaware County Sheriff, Takes Down Notorious Middle-West Bank Robber!

Having watched the entire robbery out of the corner of his eye while pretending to fill out a bank slip, Gabe, who had placed two plainclothes deputies at the door in case the villain tried to escape, confronted him while the deputies aimed their guns. “Smiley! It’s the end of the line for you, buddy,” he said coolly. “Drop the bags and turn around slowly, hands in the air.”

At first, it appeared Smiley would comply. His shoulders dropped and he started to turn. “Drop the bags!” Gabe yelled. “Hands to the sky!”

Other deputies, all placed strategically around the bank, surrounded him. The bank stilled to funeral parlor silence as customers scattered and backed against all four walls, terror pasted on every face.

But Smiley Joe wasn’t one to surrender, and, in a rattled state, he went for the eleventh-hour approach: he drew his gun. Wrong move. Shots were fired, and, when it was over, one wounded customer lay sprawled on the floor, groaning and bleeding from the shoulder, while Smiley Joe Hamilton lay dead, Gabe’s gun still hot from the bullet he shot through his head.

“That’s all right by me, you bein’ young,” Enoch was saying. “Time for some new blood ’round here. ’Sides, any friend o’ Judge Bowers is a friend o’ mine.” A slight accent from the British Isles colored his tone.

“I appreciate that.”

“Want I should take your rig inside and tend to your animals?”

“That’d be mighty nice of you.”

Gabe made a move to retrieve his money pouch, but Enoch stopped him. “You just get what you need out o’ your rig, and we’ll settle up in the mornin’.”

“You have no idea how good that sounds.” Gabe reminded himself to retrieve his carpetbag from the back of the wagon. All he needed was a change of clothes for tomorrow, his shaving gear, a bar of soap, and some tooth powder. Right now, nothing sounded better than a soft bed. Shoot, I might even sleep through breakfast, he mused. Ed Bowers didn’t expect him in his office until mid-afternoon.

Slate sidestepped the two as they went to the back to remove the tarp. When they did, they got the surprise of their lives.

“Wull, I’ll be jig-swiggered. What is that?”

Gabe stared open-mouthed at the bundle of a body curled into a tight ball.

“Looks to be a sleeping boy,” he murmured.

 
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