Friday, October 29, 2010
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
www.rustywhitener.com and www.aseasonofmiraclesmovie.com. Videos and book club discussion questions are also available at www.aseasonofmiraclesbook.com.
“A Season of Miracles is a must read for anyone who has ever played youth baseball. I read the book, and was reacquainted with my childhood. In the midst of an enjoyable read that took me down memory lane was a touching, challenging and beautiful story about how God can use the unlikeliest among us to draw us to Him.”—Matt Diaz, outfielder, Atlanta Braves
“Baseball, inspiration and childhood memories—a great combination. I couldn’t put it down!”—Richard Sterban, bass singer for The Oak Ridge Boys
“Rusty Whitener weaves a deft tale of young friendship and the curve balls of faith, the whole story seasoned with sunshine and the leathery scent of baseball gloves!”—Ray Blackston, author of Flabbergasted
“A Season of Miracles is a heartwarming all American story of small town boys and Little League baseball. You’ll be cheering this captivating bunch of characters all the way home both in their game of baseball and the bigger game of life.”—Ann Gabhart, award-winning author of The Outsider
ABOUT THE BOOK
Gunning for the championship is all that matters until twelve-year-old Zack meets Rafer, a boy whose differences make him an outcast but whose abilities on the baseball field make him the key to victory.
Admired for his contribution to the team, Rafer turns everyone’s expectations upside down, bestowing a gift to Zack and his teammates that forces them to think—is there more to life than winning or losing? And what is this thing called grace?
If you would like to read the first chapter of A Season of Miracles, go HERE.
I'm not a sports fan, per se, but this book made me want to cheer for Zack and his Little League team!! These young men learned about life and all of its complexities as they played for the championship in 1971. They wrestled with unfairness, prejudice, learning about God and how grace makes the difference in every life you touch...so many precious, precious life lessons, all set amongst the excitement of Little League baseball games.
This story will appeal to young and old alike, because many of the adults in the story (Zack's parents particularly) must wrestle with some pretty in depth issues as well as they attempt to teach their children how to successfully and rightly navigate through the issues that face them that summer. And lest I forget...one of the stars of the book is captured within the character of Rafer. Oh that we would all be as honest and forthright - demanding that life hurl only fast balls across our plate so that we can smack a homerun!
I highly recommend this story, folks, and I look forward to more stories by this gifted author.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
About the Book: (from the publisher)
Mercy Land has made some unexpected choices for a young woman in the 1930s. The sheltered daughter of a traveling preacher, she chooses to leave her rural community to move to nearby Bay City on the warm, gulf-waters of southern Alabama. There she finds a job at the local paper and spends seven years making herself indispensable to old Doc Philips, the publisher and editor. Then she gets a frantic call at dawn—it’s the biggest news story of her life, and she can’t print a word of it.
Doc has come into possession of a curious book that maps the lives of everyone in Bay City—decisions they’ve made in the past, and how those choices affect the future. Mercy and Doc are consumed by the mystery locked between the pages—Doc because he hopes to right a very old wrong, and Mercy because she wants to fulfill the book’s strange purpose. But when a mysterious stranger shows up, Mercy begins to understand she may have to choose between love and loneliness . . . or good and evil . . . for the rest of her life.
Mercy Land is a woman born in tumult, raised in relative tranquility and thrust back into tumult when a mysterious book – a book containing light, and names, past and present choices and a host of mysterious circumstances – makes its appearance in her life. The story of Mercy Land is told by River Jordan in a lyrical prose that begs to be savored and relished. The story itsefl is like the name of the town it takes place in – Bittersweet. It is a story all of us can relate to, because we all have a book of our own life choices stored within our hearts and minds, and the ending is known only by God Himself.
Folks, The Miracle of Mercy Land is a very unique and unusual story. I must admit, at times I was confused by the abrupt change in the point of view that took place periodically within the story. I understood the reason behind it eventually, but initially it threw me off a bit. I loved the characters and their quirky personalities. I particularly enjoyed Mercy’s quiet strength. She was much more than people perceived her to be, and I think she knew that in her heart. The events that take place within the story reveal that strength very plainly to Mercy, so that she is able to boldly state to her Aunt Ida, “I am Mercy Land, born in a lightning bolt on the banks of the Bittersweet Creek. And, Aunt Ida, I will never forget it again.” (p. 300)
I doubt readers will quickly forget Mercy’s lightning bolt strength after reading her story. The truth of it sort of niggles into your mind and heart, and makes you realize the power of your own choices – and how important it is to make them wisely.
Check it out.
About the Author:
RIVER JORDAN began her writing career as a playwright with the Loblolly Theatre group. She teaches and speaks nationwide on ‘The Power of Story’, is a monthly contributor to the southern authors’ collective A Good Blog is Hard To Find, and produces and hosts the weekly radio program CLEARSTORY with River Jordan, in Nashville, where she and her husband live. She is the author of Saints in Limbo and this is her fourth novel.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
A Note From Wanda:
Ever since I was a child, I wanted to be a writer. When I was in the second grade, I wrote my first poem about a moth. Luckily, I received encouragement from my teacher. During my teen years, I wrote skits that my church teen group performed during special holidays.
It wasn’t until 1980, that I took a course on writing for children and teenagers. I became serious about a career as an author. Soon after that, I began to write stories, articles, poems, and devotionals, which appeared in a variety of Christian publications. Later, I had 5 books of puppet/ventriloquist scripts published. *These books are currently available by contacting me. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
My first novel was released by Barbour Publishing’s book club, Heartsong Presents, in Dec. 1997. I have now written nearly fifty books, with over 4 million books in print. Many of the novels I've written are Amish-themed.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Levi Stutzman, another newcomer to the area, is the only one in his family not handicapped by dwarfism and has dedicated his life to caring for them. As fall colors the countryside, will anonymous gifts left for Lydia bring her hope for a new life and romance, or will another tragedy flood her with infinite despair?
If you would like to read the first chapter of Lydia's Charm, go HERE.
This is a very traditional Amish story in many ways, but it takes a very realistic look at the problems women in this particular society face when they become widowed and are left to care for family and children. When Lydia is forced to move to Charm, Ohio to live with her mom and grandfather, she has a lot of doubts that she has made the right decision. Circumstances grow dark indeed, and Lydia's faith is shaken to the core when she has to face the future alone.
However, God has been making a way, and Lydia must trust His plan, even though she doesn't understand. What looks like an obvious answer turns out to be only one step toward a more fulfilling future.
Fans of Amish stories will find much to love in this book, and Lydia's trials will serve as a poignant reminder that God does indeed work ALL things for our good and His glory.
Watch the book trailer:
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Frontline Pub Inc (September 21, 2010)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***
Okay folks, this is the second book I’ve read about a national figure written primarily by Stephen Mansfield. The first was “The Faith of Barrack Obama” and now the second, “The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin.” Mansfield does not understand the meaning of the word faith. AT ALL. If you want to understand Sarah Palin, don’t read Mansfield’s work.
Oh, you’ll get a general idea of the influences that played a role in forming Sarah Palin’s foundational beliefs. You’ll get a good idea of her political career development. But you will NOT get an honest, unbiased viewpoint of the truth and faith that governs Palin’s life. Why? Because Mansfield holds her in derision as all those who don't like their politics exposed to truth.
So, if you want to understand the “history” of Sarah Palin’s rise to the political spotlight, you will find it here. But if you want to understand her faith and values, I’d look elsewhere. Mansfield’s work comes across to me as critical, biased and, quite frankly, unkind.
Just so you know, I have the utmost respect for Sarah Palin, and I think she offers a blessed change from the socialists that currently fill our US political seats of power. I pray that the Lord allows this woman to have a powerful voice and influence for change that will turn this nation away from its current direction of destruction.
Stephen Mansfield is the New York Times best-selling author of The Faith of George W. Bush, The Faith of Barack Obama, Benedict XVI: His Life and Mission, and Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill, among other works of history and biography. Founder of both The Mansfield Group, a consulting and communications firm, and Chartwell Literary Group, which creates and manages literary projects, Stephen is also in wide demand as a lecturer and speaker.
Visit the Stephen's website.
David A. Holland is an author, speaker, media consultant, and award-winning copywriter who writes the popular blog BlatherWinceRepeat.com and the satirical ChrisMatthewsLeg.com. He is the co-author of Paul Harvey’s America, as well as numerous articles, essays, and opinion pieces. David makes his home with his wife and daughters in Dallas, Texas.
Visit the David's blog.
List Price: $22.99
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Frontline Pub Inc (September 21, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.1
—Robert A. Heinlein
It is a warm summer day in June of 1964, and at Christ the King Roman Catholic Church in Richland, Washington, a tender moment is unfolding. A small group of the faithful has gathered before a candled altar and a patiently waiting priest. Though the church is spare, it is transformed into regal splendor by the color of deep green evidenced in the vestments of the priest and in the cloth that adorns the altar. This is the color that the Christian church has used for centuries to signify the liturgical season of Pentecost, in which the coming of God’s Spirit is celebrated, in which refreshing and new birth are the themes. It is a fitting symbolism for today’s event, for a child is soon to be baptized. When all are settled, the priest steps to the fore and nods his head to a young family. They move, solemnly, to the baptismal font—a father, a mother, a two-year-old boy, a one-year-old girl, and the infant who is the object of today’s attention. “Peace be with you,” the good priest begins.“And also with you,” those gathered respond.“And what is the child’s name?” the priest asks. “Sarah Louise Heath,” comes the answer.
“And what is your name?” the priest asks the parents.
The answer comes, but it is obvious to all that the energetic part of that answer, the one filled with eagerness and faith, has come from the child’s mother. She is a striking figure. Slightly taller than her husband, she is lean and feminine, possessing a sinewy strength that is unusual for a mother of three. Her eyes are intelligent, slightly wearied but quick to flash into joy. Her mouth is wise, reflecting a sense of the irony in the world and yet disarmingly sweet.
It is her voice, though, that her children and her friends will comment upon most throughout her life. It has a musical lilt that rises and falls with meaning and emotion. It makes the most mundane statement a song, transforming a book read to children before bed or a prayer said before a family meal into a work of art.
This young mother was born Sally Ann Sheeran in 1940 and so took her place in a large, proud, well-educated Irish Catholic family in Utah. As would become the pattern of her life, she would not be there long. When she was three, her family moved to Richland, Washington. Her father, known to friends as Clem, had taken a job as a labor relations manager at the Washington branch of the Manhattan Project, whose task it was to perfect the atomic bomb sure to be needed before the Second World War, then well underway, was over. From her father, Sally acquired a passion for doing things well, a love of sports, and unswerving devotion to Notre Dame, a loyalty questioned in the Sheeran home only at great peril.
It was Sally’s mother, Helen, who taught her the domestic skills and devotion to community that would become her mainstays in the years ahead. Helen was widely known as a genius with a sewing machine and made clothes not only for her own family but also for dozens of others in her town. She also had an uncanny ability to upholster furniture. Neighbors remember the astonishing quality of her work and how she refused payment, though her fingers were often swollen and bleeding from the hours she spent stretching leather over wooden frames or forcing brass tacks into hardened surfaces. Helen taught her children the joy of the simple task done well, that the workbench and the desk are also altars of God not too unlike the altar at the Catholic church they attended every week.
Sally came of age, then, in a raucous, busy family of overachievers. There were piano lessons and sports and pep squads and sock hops. Achievement was emphasized. All the Sheeran children did well. Sally’s brother even earned a doctorate degree and became a judge. Sally herself finished high school and then began training as a dental assistant at Columbia Basin College.
“What are you asking of God’s church?” the priest intones from the ancient Latin text.
“Faith,” respond the child’s parents.
“What does faith hold out to you?” he asks.
“Everlasting life,” they answer.
“If, then, you wish to inherit everlasting life, keep the commandments, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’”
At this moment the priest leans over young Sarah, still in her mother’s arms, and breathes upon her three times. “Depart from her, unclean spirit, and give place to the Holy Spirit, the Advocate.” It is then that he traces the sign of the cross upon the child’s forehead and prays, “Lord, if it please you, hear our prayer, and by your inexhaustible power protect your chosen one, Sarah, now marked with the sign of our Savior’s holy cross. Let her treasure this first sharing of your sovereign glory, and by keeping your commandments deserve to attain the glory of heaven to which those born anew are destined; through Christ our Lord.”
At these words, some who have gathered shift their eyes to the young father of the child being baptized. His name is Chuck. He is a good man, all agree, and he loves his family, but he is only tolerant of his wife’s faith. He does not share it. He keeps a distance from formal religion, and those who know his story understand why.
He was born in the Los Angeles of 1938 to a photographer father and a schoolteacher mother. His father, it seems, had gained some notoriety for his work, and there are photographs of young Chuck with luminaries of the Hollywood smart set and even with sports stars like boxer Joe Louis. Something went wrong, though—this is the first of several unexplained secrets in the Heath story—and when Chuck was ten, his father moved the family to Hope, Idaho. His mother taught school again, and his father drove a bus and freelanced.
As often happens after a move to a new place, the Heath family was thrown in upon itself. And here is where the tensions likely arose. Chuck’s mother was a devoted Christian Scientist. She believed that sin and sickness and even death were manifestations of the mind. If one simply learned to perceive the world through the Divine Mind, one would live free from such mortal forces. It likely seemed foolishness to a teenaged Chuck, who was not only discovering the great outdoors and finding it the only church he would ever need but also discovering his own gift for science, for decoding the wonders of nature. There was tension in the home, then, between this budding naturalist and his mystic mother. Arguments were frequent, and from this point on, young Chuck seemed intent upon escaping his parent’s presence as much as possible.
He soon discovered his athletic gifts too, and, though his parents thought such pursuits were a waste of time, he chose to ride the bus fifteen miles every day to Sandpoint High School and then hitchhike home again just so he could play nearly every sport his school offered. He found gridiron glory as a fullback behind later Green Bay Packers legend Jerry Kramer.
These were agonizing years, though. He routinely slept on friends’ couches when he just couldn’t face hitchhiking home. He was nearly adopted by several families of his fellow players. Everyone knew his home life was torturous and tried to help, but for a boy in high school to have no meaningful place to belong, no parents who loved him for who he was without demanding a faith he could not accept—it was, as Sarah Palin herself later wrote, “painful and lonely.”
After graduation from high school and a brief season in the Army, Chuck enrolled in Columbia Basin College. Now he could give himself fully to learning the ways of nature, long his passion and his hope. He collected rocks and bones, found the insides of animals and plants a fascinating other world, and thrilled to his newly acquired knowledge of geology and the life of a cell. He was a geek, but a handsome, athletic geek whom girls liked. It was during this time that he enrolled in a college biology lab and found himself paired with that lanky beauty Sally Sheeran.
“Almighty, everlasting God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the minister implores, “look with favor on your servant, Sarah, whom it has pleased you to call to this first step in the faith. Rid her of all inward blindness. Sever all snares of Satan, which heretofore bound her. Open wide for her, Lord, the door to your fatherly love. May the seal of your wisdom so penetrate her as to cast out all tainted and foul inclinations, and let in the fragrance of your lofty teachings. Thus shall she serve you gladly in your church and grow daily more perfect through Christ our Lord.”
It says a great deal about Chuck and Sally Heath that after they had married—after they had brought three children into the world and begun working in their professions and coached sports and enjoyed their outdoor, adventurous lives—there was still something missing. Sandpoint simply wasn’t enough. Chuck, ever the romantic, had begun reading the works of Jack London—The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and The Sea Wolf—and through these the great land in the north—Alaska—began calling to him. As a neighbor later reported, “The call of the wild got to him.” This neighbor did not mean the London novel, but rather that mysterious draw to the raw and untamed that has lured men to Alaska for centuries. It did not hurt that Alaska was in desperate need of science teachers like Chuck, and that the school systems there were offering $6,000 a year, twice what Chuck was making in Sandpoint. With a growing family and dreams that Idaho could not contain, Chuck Heath turned to his wife and said, “Let’s try it for one year and see what happens.” Sally should have known better. They would never come back to Idaho again. Alaska was the land of Chuck’s dreams and always would be.
It also says a great deal about Chuck and Sally Heath that they ventured north to Alaska just days after the state had been rocked by one of the worst earthquakes in history. On March 27, 1964, what became known as the Good Friday Earthquake shook Alaska at a 9.2 Richter scale magnitude for nearly five minutes. The quake was felt as far away as eight hundred miles from the epicenter.2 Experts compared it to the 1812 New Madrid earthquake that was so powerful it caused the Mississippi River to run backward, stampeded buffalo on the prairie, and awakened President James Madison from a sound sleep in the White House. The Good Friday Earthquake did hundreds of millions dollars in damage, cost dozens of lives, and vanquished entire communities in Alaska, but even this devastation could not keep the Heath family away.
They would live first in Skagway, then in Anchorage, and finally they would be able to afford their own home in the little valley town of Wasilla. Chuck would teach sciences and coach, and Sally would do whatever paid—work in the cafeteria, serve as the school secretary, even coach some of the athletic teams.
This is what they did. Who they were is the more interesting tale.
The Heaths were determined to create an outpost of love, learning, and adventure in their snowy valley in the north. Their lives were very nearly a frontier existence, as we shall see, but their learning and their hunger to explore lifted them from mere survival. Chuck found Alaska an Elysium for scientific inquiry, and as he hunted and served as a trail guide, he collected. The Heath children would grow up in a home that might elsewhere have passed for a small natural history museum. Years after first arriving in Alaska, when their famous daughter had forced their lives into the international spotlight, the Heaths would welcome reporters who sat at their kitchen counter and marveled at the skins and pelts and mounts—dozens of them—that adorned the house. There were fossils and stuffed alligators and hoofs from some long-ago-killed game and samples of rock formations and Eskimo artifacts. The reporters had been warned. In the front yard of the Heath house stood a fifteen-foot-tall mountain of antlers, most all from game shot by Chuck Heath.
Yet what distinguished the Heath home was its elevated vision, its expectations for character and knowledge. There would come a day when Sally’s spiritual search would lead her in a different direction than her husband had chosen—his conflicts with his Christian Science mother distancing him from traditional faith—and this would have to be managed. But there was complete agreement about the other essentials. Work was sacred. Everyone was expected to labor for the good of the family. Knowledge was paramount. Theirs was a home filled with books, and nearly each one was read aloud more than once. Since both Chuck and Sally were teachers, dinner-times were often occasions of debate or discussion, which Chuck frequently began by reading from a Paul Harvey newspaper column or by quoting from a radio broadcast he had heard during the day. So intent upon the primacy of learning were Chuck and Sally that when a television finally did make its way into their home, it lived in a room over the unheated garage where a potential viewer had to have a death wish to brave the cold. Rather than what Chuck and Sally called the boob tube, in the warmth of the house were the poetry of Ogden Nash and Robert Service, the works of C. S. Lewis, and most of the great books of the American experience.
There was also love. It was deep, transforming, and infectious in the Heath home. When friends of the Heath children missed their school bus home, they routinely made their way to the Heaths’ house. Their parents knew and understood. It was the place where strangers were always welcome, where a story was always being told, and where you merged seamlessly into the family mayhem the moment you stepped through the door. Some of those friends of the Heath children, now adults, recall that the closest thing they ever experienced to a healthy family was in Chuck and Sally’s home.
And so the Heaths did it. They carved out the life they had dreamed in the frozen wilds of Alaska. They took the best of their family lines and, refusing the worst, built a family culture of courage and learning and industry and joy. And this was the family soil from which Sarah Palin grew.
Thus, the reverend father comes to an end:
Holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, source of light and truth, I appeal to your sacred and boundless compassion on behalf of this servant of yours, Sarah. Be pleased to enlighten her by the light of your eternal wisdom. Cleanse, sanctify, and endow her with truth and knowledge. For thus will she be made ready for your grace and ever remain steadfast, never losing hope, never faltering in duty, never straying from sacred truth, through Christ our Lord.3
The service concluded, the Heath family and their near relatives walk out into the northwestern sun. It is June 7. Already there are tears, and they are not tears of joy. The Heaths’ presence in Richland is not just for the sake of the baptism. They have come to say good-bye. Alaska calls to them, and they will leave in a few short days to make the nineteen-hundred-mile drive to their new home in the land of the north. Their relatives grieve, but the Heaths, particularly Chuck, cannot hide their joy at the looming adventure. Nor can they hide the sense that they will be changed by their new land, that somehow they will become one with it, and that it will become mystically intertwined with their destiny in ways they could never imagine.
In a matter of few days then, attended by the tears of their loved ones, the Heath family step toward the great land of their dreams.
Monday, October 25, 2010
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Realms (October 5, 2010)
Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar is a certified Christian life coach and speaks at writers’ conferences and for women’s groups. She has taught workshops at such conferences as: Write-To-Publish; American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW); Oregon Christian Writers Conference; Mount Hermon Writers Conference and many local writers conferences. Another of Andrea’s accomplishments is co-founder of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) organization. For many years she served on both its Advisory Board and as its CEO.
Visit the author's website.
Andrea Boeshaar's work is new to me, but oh what a delightful discovery I've made within the pages of her latest novel, Uncertain Heart! I had no trouble relating to Sara McCabe's desire to be her own woman. After all, being the only girlin the family gave her way too many protectors! :) However, Sara wasn't quite as prepared as she thought herself to be. When she winds up as the governess in Captain Brain Sinclair's home, Sara not only finds that the four children capture her heart, but she becomes emotionally invested in Sinclair's accountant, Richard Navis, and eventually in Sinclair himself. Will she be able to discern what her heart desires above all else?
I know, I know, I've read a lot of historical romances lately. And I like them. But there are some stories that just immediately draw you in and don't let you go - and Uncertain Heart is just such a book! I loved the characters, the budding relationshipbetween Richard and Sarah, the children....even the grumpy house staff that kept picking on Sarah! I just loved the feel of this entire story! I think you will too, and I am eager and happy to recommend it to you!
The great thing is...the story isn't over yet! Unexpected Love is due out in January of 2011, and I think we're finally going to find out what ever becomes of the rakish Captain Sinclair! I can't wait!
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 5, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Stepping off the train, her valise in hand, Sarah McCabe eyed her surroundings. Porters hauled luggage and shouted orders to each other. Reunited families and friends hugged while well-dressed businessmen, wearing serious expressions, walked briskly along.
Mr. Brian Sinclair . . .
Sarah glanced around for the man she thought might be him. When nobody approached her, she ambled to the front of the train station where the city was bustling as well. What with all the carriages and horse-pulled streetcars coming and going on Reed Street, it was all Sarah could do just to stay out of the way. And yet she rejoiced in the discovery that Milwaukee was not the small community she’d assumed. There was not a farm in sight, and it looked nothing like her hometown of Jericho Junction, Missouri.
Good. She breathed a sigh and let her gaze continue to wander. Milwaukee wasn’t all that different from Chicago, where she’d visited and hoped to teach music in the fall. The only difference she could see between the two cities was that Milwaukee’s main streets were cobbled, whereas most of Chicago’s were paved with wooden blocks.
Sarah squinted into the morning sunshine. She wondered which of the carriages lining the curb belonged to Mr. Sinclair. In his letter he’d stated that he would meet her train. Sarah glanced at her small watch locket: 9:30 a.m. Sarah’s train was on time this morning. Had she missed him somehow?
My carriage will be parked along Reed Street, Mr. Sinclair had written in the letter in which he’d offered Sarah the governess position. I shall arrive the same time as your train: 9:00 a.m. The letter had then been signed: Brian Sinclair.
Sarah let out a sigh and tried to imagine just what she would say to her new employer once he finally came for her. Then she tried to imagine what the man looked like. Older. Distinguished. Balding and round through the middle. Yes, that’s what he probably looked like.
She eyed the crowd, searching for someone who matched the description. Several did, although none of them proved to be Mr. Sinclair. Expelling another sigh, Sarah resigned herself to the waiting.
Her mind drifted back to her hometown of Jericho Junction, Missouri. There wasn’t much excitement to be had there. Sarah longed for life in the big city, to be independent and enjoy some of the refinements not available at home. It was just a shame the opportunity in Chicago didn’t work out for her. Well, at least she didn’t have to go back. She’d found this governess position instead.
As the youngest McCabe, Sarah had grown tired of being pampered and protected by her parents as well as her three older brothers―Benjamin, Jacob, and Luke―and her older sisters, Leah and Valerie. They all had nearly suffocated her―except for Valerie. Her sister-in-law was the only one who really understood her. Her other family members loved her too, but Sarah felt restless and longed to be out on her own. So she’d obtained a position at a fine music academy in Chicago―or so she’d thought. When she arrived in Chicago, she was told the position had been filled. But instead of turning around and going home, Sarah spent every last cent on a hotel room and began scanning local newspapers for another job. That’s when she saw the advertisement. A widower by the name of Brian Sinclair was looking for a governess to care for his four children. Sarah answered the ad immediately, she and Mr. Sinclair corresponded numerous times over the last few weeks, she’d obtained permission from her parents―which had taken a heavy amount of persuasion―and then she had accepted the governess position. She didn’t have to go home after all. She would work in Milwaukee for the summer. Then for the fall, Mr. Withers, the dean of the music academy in Chicago, promised there’d be an opening.
Now, if only Mr. Sinclair would arrive.
In his letter of introduction he explained that he owned and operated a business called Sinclair and Company: Ship Chandlers and Sail-makers. He had written that it was located on the corner of Water and Erie Streets. Sarah wondered if perhaps Mr. Sinclair had been detained by his business. Next she wondered if she ought to make her way to his company and announce herself if indeed that was the case.
An hour later Sarah felt certain that was indeed the case!
Reentering the depot, she told the baggage man behind the counter that she’d return shortly for her trunk of belongings and, aft er asking directions, ventured off for Mr. Sinclair’s place of business.
As instructed, she walked down Reed Street and crossed a bridge over the Milwaukee River. Then two blocks east and she found herself on Water Street. From there she continued to walk the distance to Sinclair and Company.
She squinted into the sunshine and scrutinized the building from where she stood across the street. It was three stories high, square in shape, and constructed of red brick. Nothing like the wooden structures back home.
Crossing the busy thoroughfare, which was not cobbled at all but full of mud holes, Sarah lifted her hems and climbed up the few stairs leading to the front door. She let herself in, a tiny bell above the door signaling her entrance.
“Over here. What can I do for you?”
Sarah spotted the owner of the voice that sounded quite automatic in its welcome. She stared at the young man, but his gaze didn’t leave his ledgers. She noted his neatly parted straight blond hair―as blond as her own―and his round wire spectacles.
Sarah cleared her throat. “Yes, I’m looking for Mr. Sinclair.”
The young man looked up and, seeing Sarah standing before his desk, immediately removed his glasses and stood. She gauged his height to be about six feet. Attired nicely, he wore a crisp white dress shirt and black tie, although his dress jacket was nowhere in sight and his shirtsleeves had been rolled to the elbow.
“Forgive me.” He sounded apologetic, but his expression was one of surprise. “I thought you were one of the regulars. They come in, holler their orders at me, and help themselves.”
Sarah gave him a courteous smile.
“I’m Richard Navis,” he said, extending his hand. “And you are . . . ?”
“Sarah McCabe.” She placed her hand in his and felt his firm grip.
“A pleasure to meet you, Mrs. McCabe.”
“Miss,” she corrected.
“Ahhh . . . ” His deep blue eyes twinkled. “Then more’s the pleasure, Miss McCabe.” He bowed over her hand in a regal manner, and Sarah yanked it free as he chuckled.
“That was very amusing.” She realized he’d tricked her in order to check her marital status. The cad. But worse, she’d fallen for it! Th e oldest trick in the book, according to her three brothers.
Richard chuckled, but then put on a very businesslike demeanor. “And how can I help you, Miss McCabe?”
“I’m looking for Mr. Sinclair, if you please.” Sarah noticed the young man’s dimples had disappeared with his smile.
“You mean the captain? Captain Sinclair?”
“Captain?” Sarah frowned. “Well, I don’t know . . . ”
“I do, since I work for him.” Richard grinned, and once more his dimples winked at her. “He manned a gunboat on the Mississippi during the war and earned his captain’s bars. When he returned from service, we all continued to call him Captain out of respect.”
“ I see.” Sarah felt rather bemused. “All right . . . then I’m looking for Captain Sinclair, if you please.”
“Captain Sinclair is unavailable,” Richard stated with an amused spark in his eyes, and Sarah realized he’d been leading her by the nose since she’d walked through the door. “I’m afraid you’ll have to do with the likes of me.”
She rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Mr. Navis, you will not do at all. I need to see the captain. It’s quite important, I assure you. I wouldn’t bother him otherwise.”
“My apologies, Miss McCabe, but the captain’s not here. Now, how can I help you?”
The young man raised his brows and looked taken aback by her sudden tone of impatience. This couldn’t be happening. Another job and another closed door. She had no money to get home, and wiring her parents to ask for funds would ruin her independence forever in their eyes.
She crossed her arms and took several deep breaths, wondering what on Earth she should do now. She gave it several moments of thought. “Will the captain be back soon, do you think?” She tried to lighten her tone a bit.
Richard shook his head. “I don’t expect him until this evening. He has the day off and took a friend on a lake excursion to Green Bay. However, he usually stops in to check on things, day off or not . . . Miss McCabe? Are you all right? You look a bit pale.” A dizzying, sinking feeling fell over her.
Richard came around the counter and touched her elbow. “Miss McCabe?”
She managed to reach into the inside pocket of her jacket and pull out the captain’s last letter―the one in which he stated he would meet her train. She looked at the date . . . today’s. So it wasn’t she that was off but he!
“It seems that Captain Sinclair has forgotten me.” She felt a heavy frown crease her brow as she handed the letter to Richard.
He read it and looked up with an expression of deep regret. “It seems you’re right.”
Folding the letter carefully, he gave it back to Sarah. She accepted it, fretting over her lower lip, wondering what she should do next.
“I’m the captain’s steward,” Richard offered. “Allow me to fetch you a cool glass of water while I think of an appropriate solution.”
“Thank you.” Oh, this was just great. But at least she sensed Mr. Navis truly meant to help her now instead of baiting her as he had before.
Sitting down at a long table by the enormous plate window, Sarah smoothed the wrinkles from the pink-and-black skirt of her two-piece traveling suit. Next she pulled off her gloves as she awaited Mr. Navis’s return. He’s something of a jokester, she decided, and she couldn’t help but compare him to her brother Jake. However, just now, before he’d gone to fetch the water, he had seemed very sweet and thoughtful . . . like Ben, her favorite big brother. But Richard’s clean-cut, boyish good looks and sun-bronzed complexion . . . now they were definitely like Luke, her other older brother.
Sarah let her gaze wander about the shop. She was curious about all the shipping paraphernalia. But before she could really get a good look at the place, Richard returned with two glasses of water. He set one before Sarah, took the other for himself, and then sat down across the table from her.
He took a long drink. “I believe the thing to do,” he began, “is to take you to the captain’s residence. I know his housekeeper, Mrs. Schlyterhaus.”
Sarah nodded. It seemed the perfect solution. “I do appreciate it, Mr. Navis, although I hate to pull you away from your work.” She gave a concerned glance toward the books piled on the desk.
Richard just chuckled. “Believe it or not, Miss McCabe, you are a godsend. I had just sent a quick dart of a prayer to the Lord, telling Him that I would much rather work outside on a fine day like this than be trapped in here with my ledgers. Then you walked in.” He grinned. “Your predicament, Miss McCabe, will have me working out-of-doors yet!”
Sarah smiled, heartened that he seemed to be a believer. “But what will the captain have to say about your abandonment of his books?” She arched a brow.
Richard responded with a sheepish look. “Well, seeing this whole mess is hisfault, I suspect the captain won’t say too much at all.”
laughed in spite of herself, as did Richard. However, when their eyes met―sky blue and sea blue―an uncomfortable silence settled down around them.
was the first to turn away. She forced herself to look around the shop and then remembered her curiosity. “What exactly do you sell here?” She felt eager to break the sudden awkwardness.
“ Well, exactly,” Richard said, appearing amused, “we are ship chandlers and sail-makers and manufacturers of flags, banners, canvas belting, brewers’ sacks, paulins of all kinds, waterproof horse and wagon covers, sails, awnings, and tents.” He paused for a breath, acting quite dramatic about it, and Sarah laughed again. “We are dealers in vanilla, hemp, and cotton cordage, lath yarns, duck of all widths, oakum, tar, pitch, paints, oars, tackle, and purchase blocks . . . exactly!”
swallowed the last of her giggles and arched a brow. “That’s it?”
grinned. “Yes, well,” he conceded, “I might have forgotten the glass of water.”
Still smiling, she took a sip of hers. And in that moment she decided that she knew how to handle the likes of Richard Navis― tease him right back, that’s how. After all, she’d had enough practice with Ben, Jake, and Luke.
finished up their cool spring water, and then Richard went to hitch up the captain’s horse and buggy. When he returned, he unrolled his shirtsleeves, and finding his dress jacket, he put it on. Next he let one of the other employees know he was leaving by shouting up a steep flight of stairs, “Hey, there, Joe, I’m leaving for a while! Mind the shop, would you?”
She heard a man’s deep reply. “Will do.”
At last Richard announced he was ready to go. Their first stop was fetching her luggage from the train station. Her trunk and bags filled the entire backseat of the buggy.
“I noticed the little cross on the necklace you’re wearing. Forgive me for asking what might be the obvious, but are you a Christian, Miss McCabe?” He climbed up into the driver’s perch and took the horse’s reins.
“Why, yes, I am. Why do you ask?”
“I always ask.”
“Hmm . . . ” She wondered if he insulted a good many folks with his plain speech. But in his present state, Richard reminded her of her brother Luke. “My father is a pastor back home in Missouri,” Sarah offered, “and two of my three brothers have plans to be missionaries out West.”
“And the third brother?”
“Ben. He’s a photographer. He and his wife, Valerie, are expecting their third baby in just a couple of months.”
“How nice for them.”
Nodding, Sarah felt a blush creep into her cheeks. She really hadn’t meant to share such intimacies about her family with a man she’d just met. But Richard seemed so easy to talk to, like a friend already. But all too soon she recalled her sister Leah’s words of advice: “Outgrow your garrulousness, lest you give the impression of a silly schoolgirl! You’re a young lady now. A music teacher.”
Sarah promptly remembered herself and held her tongue―until they reached the captain’s residence, anyway.
“What a beautiful home.” She felt awestruck as Richard helped her down from the buggy.
“A bit ostentatious for my tastes.”
Not for Sarah’s. She’d always dreamed of living in house this grand. Walking toward the enormous brick mansion, she gazed up in wonder.
The manse had three stories of windows that were each trimmed in white, and a “widow’s walk” at the very top of it gave the struca somewhat square design. The house was situated on a quiet street across from a small park that overlooked Lake Michigan. But it wasn’t the view that impressed Sarah. It was the house itself.
seemed to sense her fascination. “Notice the brick walls that are lavishly ornamented with terra cotta. The porch,” he said, reaching for her hand as they climbed its stairs, “is cased entirely with terra cotta. And these massive front doors are composed of complex oak millwork, hand-carved details, and wrought iron. The lead glass panels,” he informed her as he knocked several times, “hinge inward to allow conversation through the grillwork.”
“!” Sarah felt awestruck. She sent Richard an impish grin. “You are something of a walking textbook, aren’t you?”
Before he could reply, a panel suddenly opened, and Sarah found herself looking into the stern countenance of a woman who was perhaps in her late fifties.
“Hello, Mrs. Schlyterhaus.” Richard’s tone sounded neighborly.
“Mr. Navis.” She gave him a curt nod. “Vhat can I do for you?”
Sarah immediately noticed the housekeeper’s thick German accent.
“’ve brought the captain’s new governess. This is Miss Sarah McCabe.” He turned. “Sarah, this is Mrs. Gretchen Schlyterhaus.”
“A pleasure to meet you, ma’am.” Sarah tried to sound as pleasing as possible, for the housekeeper looked quite annoyed at the interruption.
“The captain said nussing about a new governess,” she told Richard, fairly ignoring Sarah altogether. “I know nussing about it.”
grimaced. “I was afraid of that.”
Wide-eyed, Sarah gave him a look of disbelief.
“Let’s show Mrs. Schlyterhaus that letter . . . the one from the captain.”
Sarah pulled it from her inside pocket and handed it over. Richard opened it and read its contents.
The older woman appeared unimpressed. “I know nussing about it.” With that, she closed the door on them.
Sarah’s heart crimped as she and Richard walked back to the carriage.
“Here, now, don’t look so glum, Sarah . . . May I call you Sarah?”
“Yes, I suppose so.” No governess position. No money. So much for showing herself an independent young woman. Her family would never let her forget this. Not ever! Suddenly she noticed Richard’s wide grin. “What are you smiling at?”
“It appears, Sarah, that you’ve been given the day off too.”
Friday, October 22, 2010
About the Book: (from the publisher)
One man lives to see her dead--the other is fighting to keep her alive.
Twelve years ago, forensic anthropologist Jamie Cash survived a brutal kidnapping. After years of therapy, she has made a life for herself--though one that is haunted by memories of her terrifying past. She finally lets herself believe that she can have a close relationship with a man, when signs start appearing that point to one frightening fact--her attacker is back and ready to finish the job he started all those years ago.
Can she escape his grasp a second time? And will she ever be able to let down her guard enough to find true love?
Filled with heart-stopping suspense, gritty realism, and a touch of romance, Don't Look Back pulls you into its twists and turns to hold you there until the very last page.
“What?” She blinked. “Oh sorry. I was just thinking.”
“About security and how truly fragile it is.”
Jamie Cash knows first-hand, in some of the most horrific ways, how truly fragile human efforts to provide security can be. She has gone to the brink of death and insanity at the hands of a madman. As Lynette Eason’s latest thriller , Don’t Look Back opens, readers find that Jamie now looks at her horrifying past through the eyes of God’s grace. Thus, when her past – and the madman who wrecked such terror in her heart – shows up in her present circumstances, Jamie is able to say, “…we can’t rely on humans or security systems or any other thing of this world to be our security.” (p.162) Her testimony to God’s faithfulness in all things is powerful and realistic, and it carries her through another terrifying time of life in ways she never dreamed.
Folks, Don’t Look Back is not a story you should read at night or when your alone. I love suspenseful thrillers, and this book literally had me jumping at the slightest noise! Eason has created a bad guy that is the stuff of nightmares, and he is the CREEPIEST villain I’ve encountered lately!
Yet Eason has also created strong, believable characters who withstand this nut job, and Jamie, her sister Samatha, Conner and Dakota are determined to put an end to this enemy’s reign of terror. There is a lot of action in this story. There is a thread of romance. There is a beautiful portrait of friendship, family and loyalty. Don’t Look Back has something to offer to everyone, and I highly recommend this story!!
Check out my review of Eason's first book in the Women of Justice series - Too Close To Home!
About the Author:
Lynette Eason is the author of Too Close to Home and three other romantic suspense novels. She is a member of American Fiction Christian Writers and Romance Writers of America. A homeschooling mother of two, she has a master's degree in education from Converse College. She lives in South Carolina
Thursday, October 21, 2010
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)
Expertly weaving together fantasy, romance and Biblical truths, Donita K. Paul penned the best-selling, fan-favorite DragonKeeper Chronicles series. After retiring early from teaching, she began a second career as an award-winning author and loves serving as a mentor for new writers of all ages. And when she’s not putting pen to paper, Donita makes her home in Colorado Springs and enjoys spending time with her grandsons, cooking, beading, stamping, and knitting.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $14.99
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)
This story has a classic Christmas feel to it while also containing Donita Paul's trademark shade of fantasy and a slight feel of something "other-worldly" taking place. But it's more than that - it's a true feeling of God working in the small details of our lives to bring about what is for our good and His glory! This is a story that will warm your heart and prepare your spirit to celebrate the true essence of Christmas! It would make a great gift for any reader on your list!
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
With snowflakes sticking to her black coat, Christmas lights blinking around shop windows, and incessant bells jingling, Cora should have felt some holiday cheer.
And she did.
Just not much.
At least she was on a Christmas errand this very minute. One present for a member of the family. Shouldn’t that count for a bit of credit in the Christmas-spirit department?
Cora planned out her Christmas gift giving in a reasonable manner. The execution of her purchasing schedule gave her a great deal of satisfaction. Tonight’s quest was a book for Uncle Eric—something about knights and castles, sword fights, shining armor, and all that.
One or two gifts purchased each week from Labor Day until December 15, and her obligations were discharged efficiently, economically, and without the excruciating last-minute frenzy that descended upon other people…like her three sisters, her mother, her grandmother, her aunts.
Cora refused to behave like her female relatives and had decided not to emulate the male side of the family either. The men didn’t buy gifts. They sometimes exchanged bottles from the liquor store, but more often they drank the spirits themselves.
Her adult ambition had been to develop her own traditions for the season, ones that sprouted from the Christianity she’d discovered in college. The right way to celebrate the birth of Christ. She avoided the chaos that could choke Christmas. Oh dear. Judgmental again. At least now she recognized when she slipped.
She glanced around Sage Street. Not too many shoppers. The quaint old shops were decked out for the holidays, but not with LED bulbs and inflated cartoon figures.
Since discovering Christianity, she’d been confused about the trappings of Christmas—the gift giving, the nativity scenes, the carols, even the Christmas tree. Every year she tried to acquire some historical background on the festivities. She was learning. She had hope. But she hadn’t wrapped her head around all the traditions yet.
The worst part was shopping.
Frenzy undid her. Order sustained her. And that was a good reason to steer clear of any commercialized holiday rush. She’d rather screw red light bulbs into plastic reindeer faces than push through a crowd of shoppers.
Cora examined the paper in her hand and compared it to the address above the nearest shop. Number 483 on the paper and 527 on the building. Close.
When she’d found the bookstore online, she had been amazed that a row of old-fashioned retailers still existed a few blocks from the high-rise office building where she worked. Truthfully, it was more like the bookstore found her. Every time she opened her browser, and on every site she visited, the ad for the old-fashioned new- and used-book store showed up in a banner or sidebar. She’d asked around, but none of her co-workers patronized the Sage Street Shopping District.
“Sounds like a derelict area to me,” said Meg, the receptionist. “Sage Street is near the old railroad station, isn’t it? The one they decided was historic so they wouldn’t tear it down, even though it’s empty and an eyesore?”
An odd desire to explore something other than the mall near her apartment seized Cora. “I’m going to check it out.”
Jake, the security guard, frowned at her. “Take a cab. You don’t want to be out too late over there.”
Cora walked. The brisk air strengthened her lungs, right? The exercise pumped her blood, right? A cab would cost three, maybe four dollars, right?
An old man, sitting on the stoop of a door marked 503, nodded at her. She smiled, and he winked as he gave her a toothless grin. Startled, she quickened her pace and gladly joined the four other pedestrians waiting at the corner for the light to change.
Number 497 emblazoned the window of an ancient shoe store on the opposite corner. She marched on. In this block she’d find the book and check another item off her Christmas list.
Finally! “Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad, Books,” Cora read the sign aloud and then grasped the shiny knob. It didn’t turn. She frowned. Stuck? Locked? The lights were on. She pressed her face against the glass. A man sat at the counter. Reading. How appropriate.
Cora wrenched the knob. A gust of wind pushed with her against the door, and she blew into the room. She stumbled and straightened, and before she could grab the door and close it properly, it swung closed, without the loud bang she expected.
“I don’t like loud noises,” the man said without looking up from his book.
“Neither do I,” said Cora.
He nodded over his book. With one gnarled finger, he pushed his glasses back up his nose.
Must be an interesting book. Cora took a quick look around. The place could use stronger lights. She glanced back at the clerk. His bright lamp cast him and his book in a golden glow.
Should she peruse the stacks or ask?
She decided to browse. She started to enter the aisle between two towering bookcases.
“Not there,” said the old man.
“I beg your pardon?” said Cora.
“How-to books. How to fix a leaky faucet. How to build a bridge. How to mulch tomatoes. How to sing opera. How-to books. You don’t need to know any of that, do you?”
“Wrong aisle, then.” He placed the heavy volume on the counter and leaned over it, apparently absorbed once more.
Cora took a step toward him. “I think I saw a movie like this once.”
His head jerked up, his scowl heavier. He glared over the top of his glasses at the books on the shelves as if they had suddenly moved or spoken or turned bright orange.
“A movie? Here? I suppose you mean the backdrop of a bookstore. Not so unusual.” He arched an eyebrow. “You’ve Got Mail and 84 Charing Cross Road.”
“I meant the dialogue. You spoke as if you knew what I needed.”
He hunched his shoulders. The dark suspenders stretched across the faded blue of his shirt. “Reading customers. Been in the business a long time.”
“I’m looking for a book for my uncle. He likes castles, knights, tales of adventure. That sort of thing.”
He sighed, closed his book, and tapped its cover. “This is it.” He stood as Cora came to the desk. “Do you want me to wrap it and send it? We have the service. My grandson’s idea.”
Cora schooled her face and her voice. One of the things she excelled in was not showing her exasperation. She’d been trained by a dysfunctional family, and that had its benefits. She knew how to take guff and not give it back. Maintaining a calm attitude was a good job skill.
She tried a friendly smile and addressed the salesclerk.
“I want to look at it first and find out how much it costs.”
“It’s the book you want, and the price is eleven dollars and thirteen cents.”
Cora rubbed her hand over the cover. It looked and felt like leather, old leather, but in good repair. The book must be ancient.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“Which?” the old man barked.
“Which part of the statement am I sure about? It doesn’t matter because I’m sure about both.”
Cora felt her armor of detachment suffer a dent. The man was impossible. She could probably order a book online and get it wrapped and delivered right to her uncle with less aggravation. But dollar signs blinked in neon red in her mind as she thought how much that would cost. No need to be hasty.
Curtain rings rattled on a rod, and Cora looked up to see a younger version of the curmudgeon step into the area behind the counter.
The younger man smiled. He had the same small, wiry build as the older version, but his smile was warm and genuine. He looked to be about fifty, but his hair was still black, as black as the old man’s hair was white. He stretched out his hand, and Cora shook it.
“I’m Bill Wizbotterdad. This is my granddad, William Wizbotterdad.”
“Let me guess. Your father is named Will?”
Bill grinned, obviously pleased she’d caught on quickly. “Willie Wizbotterdad. He’s off in Europe collecting rare books.”
“He’s not!” said the elder shop owner.
“He is.” Bill cast his granddad a worried look.
“That’s just the reason he gave for not being here.” William shook his head and leaned across the counter. “He doesn’t like Christmas. We have a special job to do at Christmas, and he doesn’t like people and dancing and matrimony.”
Bill put his arm around his grandfather and pulled him back. He let go of his granddad and spun the book on the scarred wooden counter so that Cora could read the contents. “Take a look.” He opened the cover and flipped through the pages. “Colored illustrations.”
A rattling of the door knob was followed by the sound of a shoulder thudding against the wood. Cora turned to see the door fly open with a tall man attached to it. The stranger brushed snow from his sleeves, then looked up at the two shop owners. Cora caught them giving each other a smug smile, a wink, and a nod of the head.
Odd. Lots of oddness in this shop.
She liked the book, and she wanted to leave before more snow accumulated on the streets. Yet something peculiar about this shop and the two men made her curious. Part of her longed to linger. However, smart girls trusted their instincts and didn’t hang around places that oozed mystery. She didn’t feel threatened, just intrigued. But getting to know the peculiar booksellers better was the last thing she wanted, right? She needed to get home and be done with this Christmas shopping business. “I’ll take the book.”
The newcomer stomped his feet on the mat by the door, then took off his hat.
Cora did a double take. “Mr. Derrick!”
He cocked his head and scrunched his face. “Do I know you?” The man was handsome, even wearing that comical lost expression. “Excuse me. Have we met?”
“We work in the same office.”
He studied her a moment, and a look of recognition lifted the frown. “Third desk on the right.” He hesitated, then snapped his fingers. “Cora Crowden.”
He jammed his hand in his pocket, moving his jacket aside. His tie hung loosely around his neck. She’d never seen him looking relaxed. The office clerks called him Serious Simon Derrick.
“I drew your name,” she said.
He looked puzzled.
“For the gift exchange. Tomorrow night. Office party.”
“Oh. Of course.” He nodded. “I drew Mrs. Hudson. She’s going to retire, and I heard her say she wanted to redecorate on a shoestring.”
“That’s Mrs. Wilson. Mrs. Hudson is taking leave to be with her daughter, who is giving birth to triplets.”
He frowned and began looking at the books.
“You won’t be there, will you?” Cora asked.
“At the party? No, I never come.”
“I know. I mean, I’ve worked at Sorenby’s for five years, and you’ve never been there.”
The puzzled expression returned to Serious Simon’s face. He glanced to the side. “I’m looking for the how-to section.”
Cora grinned. “On your left. Second aisle.”
He turned to stare at her, and she pointed to the shelves Mr. Wizbotterdad had not let her examine. Mr. Derrick took a step in that direction.
Cora looked back at the shop owners and caught them leaning back in identical postures, grins on their faces, and arms crossed over their chests.
Bill jerked away from the wall, grabbed her book, rummaged below the counter, and brought out a bag. He slid the book inside, then looked at her. “You didn’t want the book wrapped and delivered?”
“No, I’ll just pay for it now.”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like to look around some more?” asked Bill.
“Right,” said William. “No hurry. Look around. Browse. You might find something you like.”
Bill elbowed William.
Simon Derrick had disappeared between the stacks.
William nodded toward the how-to books. “Get a book. We have a copy of How to Choose Gifts for Ungrateful Relatives. Third from the bottom shelf, second case from the wall.”
The statement earned him a “shh” from his grandson.
Cora shifted her attention to the man from her office and walked a few paces to peek around the shelves. “Mr. Derrick, I’m getting ready to leave. If you’re not coming to the party, may I just leave the gift on your desk tomorrow?”
He glanced at her before concentrating again on the many books. “That’s fine. Nice to see you, Miss Crowden.”
“Crowder,” she corrected, but he didn’t answer.
She went to the counter and paid. Mr. Derrick grunted when she said good-bye at the door.
“Come back again,” said Bill.
“Yes,” said William. “We have all your heart’s desires.”
Bill elbowed him, and Cora escaped into the blustering weather.
She hiked back to the office building. Snow sprayed her with tiny crystals, and the sharp wind nipped her nose. Inside the parking garage, warm air helped her thaw a bit as she walked to the spot she leased by the month. It would be a long ride home on slippery roads. But once she arrived, there would be no one there to interrupt her plans. She got in the car, turned the key, pushed the gearshift into reverse, looked over her shoulder, and backed out of her space.
She would get the gift ready to mail off and address a few cards in the quiet of her living room. There would be no yelling. That’s what she liked about living states away from her family. No one would ambush her with complaints and arguments when she walked through the door.
Except Skippy. Skippy waited. One fat, getting fatter, cat to talk to. She did complain at times about her mistress being gone too long, about her dinner being late, about things Cora could not fathom. But Cora never felt condemned by Skippy, just prodded a little.
Once inside her second-floor apartment, she pulled off her gloves, blew her nose, and went looking for Skippy.
The cat was not behind the curtain, sitting on the window seat, staring at falling snow. Not in her closet, curled up in a boot she’d knocked over. Not in the linen closet, sleeping on clean towels. She wasn’t in any of her favorite spots. Cora looked around and saw the paper bag that, this morning, had been filled with wadded scraps of Christmas paper. Balls of pretty paper and bits of ribbon littered the floor. There. Cora bent over and spied her calico cat in the bag.
“Did you have fun, Skippy?”
The cat rolled on her back and batted the top of the paper bag. Skippy then jumped from her cave and padded after Cora, as her owner headed for the bedroom.
Thirty minutes later, Cora sat at the dining room table in her cozy pink robe that enveloped her from neck to ankles. She stirred a bowl of soup and eyed the fifteen packages she’d wrapped earlier in the week. Two more sat waiting for their ribbons.
These would cost a lot less to send if some of these people were on speaking terms. She could box them together and ship them off in large boxes.
She spooned chicken and rice into her mouth and swallowed.
The soup was a tad too hot. She kept stirring.
She could send one package with seven gifts inside to Grandma Peterson, who could dispense them to her side of the family. She could send three to Aunt Carol.
She took another sip. Cooler.
Aunt Carol could keep her gift and give two to her kids. She could send five to her mom…
Cora grimaced. She had three much older sisters and one younger. “If Mom were on speaking terms with my sisters, that would help.”
She eyed Skippy, who had lifted a rear leg to clean between her back toes. “You don’t care, do you? Well, I’m trying to. And I think I’m doing a pretty good job with this Christmas thing.”
She reached over and flipped the switch on her radio. A Christmas carol poured out and jarred her nerves. She really should think about Christmas and not who received the presents. Better to think “my uncle” than “Joe, that bar bum and pool shark.”
She finished her dinner, watching her cat wash her front paws.
“You and I need to play. You’re”—she paused as Skippy turned
a meaningful glare at her—“getting a bit rotund, dear kitty.”
Skippy sneezed and commenced licking her chest.
After dinner, Cora curled up on the couch with her Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad bag. Skippy came to investigate the rattling paper.
Uncle Eric. Uncle Eric used to recite “You Are Old, Father William.” He said it was about a knight. But Cora wasn’t so sure. She dredged up memories from college English. The poem was by Lewis Carroll, who was really named Dodson, Dogson, Dodgson, or something.
“He wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” she said. “There’s a cat in the story, but not as fine a cat as you. He smiles too much.”
Skippy gave her a squint-eyed look.
Cora eased the leather-bound book out of the bag. “The William I met at the bookstore qualifies for at least ancient.”
She put the book in her lap and ran her fingers over the embossed title: How the Knights Found Their Ladies.
She might have been hasty. She didn’t know if Uncle Eric would like this. She hefted the book, guessing its weight to be around four pounds. She should have found a lighter gift. This would cost a fortune to mail.
Skippy sniffed at the binding, feline curiosity piqued. Cora stroked her fur and pushed her back. She opened the book to have a peek inside. A piece of thick paper fell out. Skippy pounced on it as it twirled to the floor.
“What is it, kitty? A bookmark?” She slipped it out from between Skippy’s paws, then turned the rectangle over in her hands. Not a bookmark. A ticket.
Admit one to the Wizards’ Christmas Ball
Dinner and Dancing
and your Destiny
Never heard of it. She tucked the ticket in between the pages and continued to flip through the book, stopping to read an occasional paragraph.
This book wasn’t for Uncle Eric at all. It was not a history, it was a story. Kind of romantic too. Definitely not Uncle Eric’s preferred reading.
Skippy curled against her thigh and purred.
“You know what, cat? I’m going to keep it.”
Skippy made her approval known by stretching her neck up and rubbing her chin on the edge of the leather cover. Cora put the book on the sofa and picked up Skippy for a cuddle. The cat squirmed out of her arms, batted at the ticket sticking out of the pages, and scampered off.
“I love you too,” called Cora.
She pulled the ticket out and read it again: Wizards’ Christmas Ball. She turned out the light and headed for bed. But as she got ready, her eye caught the computer on her desk. Maybe she could find a bit more information.