@sprightlyamyanne Instagram photos

@sprightlyamyanne Instagram photos

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The First Escape by G.P. Taylor!

Super cool! What a unique book. If you have a-hard-to-please tween boy (or girl), this is a perfect book. Both my kids read it. My son (11) read it first and then my daughter (1o) picked it up after hearing him talk about the story. This is the FIRST book that they have both read.
The format is half novel, half graphic novel and wholly great!

ABOUT THE BOOK:
G.P. Taylor and the book: The First Escape SaltRiver (August 20, 2008)

The Dopple Ganger Chronicles
BOOK ONE: The First Escape
At Isambard Dunstan’s School for Wayward Children, life is trouble for 14-year-old identical twins Sadie and Saskia Dopple and their friend, former thief Erik Morrisey Ganger. But what starts out as a perfectly normal day of food fights, rioting classmates, fires, and (yawn) threats of expulsion goes suddenly and horribly wrong when a mysterious, wealthy woman appears at the school and adopts Saskia . . . without her sister.

On her own in a mansion full of dark secrets, Saskia stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens her very life. Meanwhile, in a desperate attempt to find her, Sadie and Erik escape from the orphanage with a gang of enemies in hot pursuit. Faced with madmen, wild dogs, treasure seekers, and an otherworldly visitor with a secret message, the trio must decide who to trust—and what to believe—if they are to survive long enough to find each other again.
Visit the official website
Download Chapter One


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


A motorcyclist and former rock band roadie turned Anglican minister, Graham Peter (G. P.) Taylor has been hailed as "hotter than Potter" and "the new C. S. Lewis" in the United Kingdom. His first novel, Shadowmancer, reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list in 2004 and has been translated into 48 languages. His other novels include Wormwood (another New York Times bestseller which was nominated for a Quill book award), The Shadowmancer Returns: The Curse of Salamander Street, Tersias the Oracle, and Mariah Mundi. Taylor currently resides in North Yorkshire with his wife and three children.

Visit the author's
website.





Product Details:

List Price: $ 19.99

Hardcover: 288 pages

Publisher: SaltRiver (August 20, 2008)

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

































Monday, November 17, 2008

White Christmas Pie

Love that title. So old school...1880's. Sleighbells ring...can't you hear them? Doesn't that title just put you in the Christmas mood?


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

White Christmas Pie

Barbour Publishing, Inc (September 1, 2008)

by

Wanda E. Brunstetter



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Fascinated by the Amish people during the years of visiting her husband's family in Pennsylvania, WANDA E. BRUNSTETTER combined her interest with her writing and now has eleven novels about the Amish in print, along with numerous other stories and ministry booklets. She lives in Washington State, where her husband is a pastor, but takes every opportunity to visit Amish settlements throughout the states.

This year Wanda also publishedA Sister's Hope


ABOUT THE BOOK

Step into Amish country for this bittersweet holiday romance. Here you'll meet Will Henderson, a young man tortured by his past, and Karen Yoder, a young woman looking for answers. Add a desperate father searching for his son, and you have all the ingredients for a first-class romance that will inspire and enthrall.

Abandoned by his father, Will Henderson was raised by an Amish couple. Now he's about to marry Karen Yoder but is having second thoughts. Can Will overcome the bitterness of his past in order to secure his future? Karen cannot break through the barrier her fiance has suddenly constructed around his heart. When she seeks the advice of an old boyfriend, Will begins to see green. Has he already lost his chance for happiness?

When an accident threatens Will's life, the strength of blood ties is tested. Will a recipe for White Christmas pie contain the ingredients for a happily-ever-after?

If you would like to read the first chapter of White Christmas Pie, go HERE

Watch the book trailer:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I LOVE Blissfully Domestic!

I'm waiting for them to bring Blissdom to the rainy city (that's Seattle girls)! But for now, I'll have to admire from afar!

Over at Blissfully Domestic they are giving away, yep giving away, an Espon Printer...a very cool Espon Printer!


Yes, it is sleek and beautiful, but just look at more of the cool features-
Smart, 7.8″ touch panel — large display lights up the buttons you need; includes a 3.5″ LCD to preview and print images. You can edit your photos on the printer, no laptop needed!

Fax, even in color — send and receive faxes right at home WiFi— um, yeah, wifi! We love wifi!

Bring old, faded photos back to life — easily restore the color to faded photos

Make sweet CDs/DVDs— print right onto CDs/DVDs

Cool projects — easily create note paper, cards and coloring books using your own photos

Many of the Domestic Divas have told you how they used it and of course, how they love it. You know it is the best printer ever. Now, what you really want to know is how to win this most excellent machine, right?

Oh, I would so love to win this...for starters I'd be making my own Christmas cards this year and fun calenders for the family. Then I'd be volunteering to make everyone else's Christmas cards and fun calendars!

So cool girls! THANKS.

So head on over to check it out and enter for yourself!

I love this Mag

Title Trakk has the BEST indepth interviews and reviews. They are always my first go-to when I want the skinny on a book, movie or tunes. I HIGHLY recommend them! And now they have great prizes...what could be better!

Welcome to the 1st ever
TitleTrakk.com Blog Tour!


This week we're chatting about:



The Fantastic Fall Giveaway Contest!


Just in time for the holidays, you could win over
$335 worth of books, cds and dvds!

Sponsored by our friends at:


The Grand Prize Winner will receive:

BOOKS:

Whispers of the Bayou by Mindy Starns Clark
Rachel's Secret by BJ Hoff
Beach Dreams by Trish Perry
Playing God by Michelle McKinney Hammond
White Soul by Brandt Dodson
The Legend of the Firefish by George Bryan Polivka
Finding Marie by Susan Paige Davis
The Power of Praying Through the Bible by Stormie Omartian
A Man After God's Own Heart by Jim George
Evidence for Faith 101 by Bruce Bickel & Stan Jantz

CDS:

Wake Up! Wake Up! by Everyday Sunday
Rock What You Got by Superchick
Sunday by Tree63
Houston We Are Go by Newsboys (Live CD/DVD)
Nothing Left To Lose by Mat Kearney
I Am Free Worship Collection
Salvation Station by Newworldson
Not Without Love by Jimmy Needham
Pages by Shane & Shane
Colors and Sounds by Article One

MOVIES:

Love's Unfolding Dream
The Ten Commandments Animated
Between the Walls

But that's not all!
We're giving away even more!


During this blog tour (November 10th - 16th) we'll be drawing 2 winners daily from the contest entries to win an additional free book or cd!

Visit the TitleTrakk.com Contest page today to enter the contest and place yourself in the running to receive the Grand Prize, plus all the daily prizes! Deadline to enter is November 17th.

About TitleTrakk.com:
Founded in 2006 by Tracy & C.J. Darlington, TitleTrakk.com is an interactive website spotlighting Christian books, music & movies. Updated weekly, we feature author and musician interviews, album and book reviews, music videos, movie reviews and interviews, book excerpts, surveys, polls, and fun contests. Learn more: http://www.titletrakk.com/

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I need a turkey!


Come vote for me!

I submitted a turkey poem over at Robin's Pensieve blog. The winner gets a $15 turkey coupon. YUM.

I've got stiff competition...there are some great wordsmiths out there!

Go here http://pensieve.typepad.com/pensieve/2008/11/turkey.html to read the entries and vote (for mine of course!)

Thanks Robin for hosting this contest! Love you.

Just in time for the holidays...


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

One Holy Night

Sheaf House (April 1, 2008)

by

J. M. Hochstetler



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


J. M. Hochstetler writes stories that always involve some element of the past and of finding home. Born in central Indiana, the daughter of Mennonite farmers, she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Germanic languages. She was an editor with Abingdon Press for twelve years and has published three novels.

One Holy Night, a contemporary miracle story for all seasons, released in April 2008. Daughter of Liberty (2004) and Native Son (2005), books 1 and 2 of the American Patriot Series are set during the American Revolution. Book 3, Wind of the Spirit, is scheduled for release in March 2009. Hochstetler is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, and Historical Novels Society.



ABOUT THE BOOK

In 1967 the military build-up in Viet Nam is undergoing a dramatic surge. The resulting explosion of anti-war sentiment tears the country apart, slicing through generations and shattering families. In the quiet bedroom community of Shepherdsville, Minnesota, the war comes home to Frank and Maggie McRae, whose only son, Mike, is serving as a grunt in Viet Nam.

Frank despises all Asians because of what he witnessed as a young soldier fighting the Japanese in the south Pacific during WWII. The news that his son has fallen in love with and married Thi Nhuong, a young Vietnamese woman, shocks him. To Frank all Asians are enemies of his country, his family, and himself. A Buddhist, Thi Nhuong represents everything he despises. So he cuts Mike out of his life despite the pleas of his wife, Maggie; daughter, Julie; and Julie s husband, Dan, the pastor of a growing congregation.

Maggie is fighting her own battle--against cancer. Convinced that God is going to heal her, Frank plays the part of a model Christian. Her death on Thanksgiving Day devastates him. Worse, as they arrive home from the gravesite, the family receives news of Mike s death in battle. Embittered, Frank stops attending church and cuts off family and friends.

By the time a very pregnant Thi Nhuong arrives on his doorstep on a stormy Christmas Eve, Frank is so filled with hate that he slams the door in her face, shutting her out in the bitter cold. Finally, overcome by guilt, he tries to go after her, but driving wind and snow force him back inside. With the storm rising to blizzard strength, he confronts the wrenching truth that what hate has driven him to do is as evil as what the Japanese did all those years earlier, and that he needs forgiveness as desperately as they did ...

Frank doesn't know that what God has in mind this night is a miracle. As on that holy night so many years ago, a baby will be born and laid in a manger--a baby who will bring forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing to a family that has suffered heart-wrenching loss.

If you would like to read the first chapter of One Holy Night, go HERE.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Plain Perfect by Beth Wiseman

Beth Wiseman and the book:

Plain Perfect Thomas Nelson (September 9, 2008)

ABOUT BETH:

Writing has always been a part of Beth Wiseman’s life. When she was introduced to the Amish, she gained an appreciation for their simpler way of life and began writing novels featuring this endearing group. Her first novel was Plain Perfect. She and her family live in Texas.



As a newspaper reporter, Beth has been honored by her peers with eleven journalism awards in the past four years - most recently, first place news writing for The Texas Press Association. She has been a humor columnist for The 1960 Sun in Houston and published articles in various publications. However, writing novels is where her heart is. Following completion of five manuscripts, Wiseman's inspirational fiction series set in Pennsylvania Dutch Country is where she found her voice.

"It took me a while," she says. "But I knew right away that Plain Perfect was the one. Writing about the Amish lifestyle within a fictional love story has been a wonderful experience. The Amish and Mennonite contacts I have established in Lancaster County help me to keep the books authentic. These very private people might dress differently, avoid the use of electricity and modern conveniences, but they are just like everyone else. They love, hurt, have daily challenges and struggles, and strive to be the best they can be. An often misunderstood sect of people, it has been a privilege to learn about their ways."

Visit the author's website.


ABOUT THE BOOK:

A search for peace in Amish country proves anything but simple for a woman on the run from life . . . and herself.

On the rolling plains of Lancaster County, PA., Lillian Miller is searching for her grandparents’ house . . . and so much more. After years of neglect and abuse, she’s turning to a lifestyle of simplicity among the Amish to find herself.

As she discards the distractions of her former life, she befriends the young boy working on her family’s farm and his attractive widowed father, Samuel Stoltzfus. Despite Lillian’s best efforts to the contrary, her feelings for Samuel—and his for her—deepen. Will Lillian find her faith in Plain living, or will she be forced to return to her former life?

Plain Perfect is the first in the Daughters of the Promise series . . . a charming story of simple truths and simpler times. Of reconciling the past and restoring hope for what lies ahead.


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


LILLIAN PEELED BACK THE DRAPES AT THE FRONT WINDOW and squinted against the sun’s glare. She’d called the taxi almost an hour ago. If her ride didn’t show up soon, she would have to forego her plan and spend another night with Rickie. Biting her lip, she worried if she would have enough cash to change her flight if she didn’t make it to the airport on time.



She lowered the drape and paced the living room in Rickie’s house, silently blasting herself for ever moving in with him in the first place. Her stomach writhed at the thought of one more day under the same roof with him. And yet her window of time for her departure was closing, she realized, glancing at her watch.



She tugged at the drapes again. Relief fell over her when she saw the yellow cab pull into the driveway. Snatching her red suitcase and purse, she bolted for the door, shuffling toward the driver as he opened the trunk.



“Please hurry,” she said to the driver, handing him her suitcase.



The driver stowed her luggage without comment and was climbing into the driver’s seat when she saw Rickie’s black Lexus rounding the corner and heading up the street. Her heart sank.



“Where to?” the driver asked.



“Intercontinental Airport,” she answered. “Hurry, please.”



As the driver made his way down Harper Avenue, Lillian watched out the rearview window. Rickie’s car slowly neared the house.



The cab driver turned at the corner. She’d made it. A clean getaway.



Irma Rose Miller couldn’t help but notice the bounce in her husband’s steps. The cancer kept him down and out on most days, but not today. Today Lilly was coming, and his anticipation and joy were evident.



“Danki,” Jonas said as Irma Rose poured him another cup of coffee.



“You’re welcome.”



Her tall husband, once muscular and strong as an ox, sat hunched over the wooden table between them. His healthy load of gray locks and full beard were now thinning and brittle. Dark circles under his eyes and sunken features revealed the many sleepless nights of pain he had endured over the past few months. God had given her husband of forty-eight years a challenging road to travel, and he was making the trip with dignity and grace.



“Our Lilly will be here this afternoon.” Jonas smiled and raised the cup to his mouth. His hands trembled, but his eyes twinkled with a merriment Irma Rose hadn’t seen since the first mention of their granddaughter coming to stay with them. She hoped he wouldn’t be disappointed. They hadn’t seen the girl in seventeen years, since she was ten years old.



Irma Rose stood to retrieve some donuts from a pan atop the wooden stove.



“It will be wunderbaar gut to have her here.”



Irma Rose placed two donuts on her husband’s plate. “Ya, that it will. But, Jonas, you must keep in mind how different our ways are. We will seem like foreigners to our Englisch granddaughter.”



“These donuts are appeditlich,” Jonas said.



“Danki. But, Jonas, you need to prepare yourself. Sarah Jane raised Lilly in the outside world. We don’t know her. As a matter of fact, we don’t know exactly how Sarah Jane raised her.”



The thought twisted Irma Rose’s stomach in familiar knots. It had been hard enough when her daughter chose to leave the Old Order Amish community at the age of eighteen, but even more difficult when she wrote to tell them she was in a family way soon thereafter . . . with no husband.



“She was a glorious child,” Jonas said. “Remember how quickly she learned to ice skate? What a joy she was. What a gut Christmas holiday we all had.”



Irma Rose shook her head at her husband’s ignorance of the obvious. Lilly wasn’t a child any more. She was a grown woman. Jonas had talked about that last Christmas together until the next season came and went. When Sarah Jane and Lilly didn’t show up the following year, he merely shrugged and said, “Maybe they will visit next year.” And each Christmas thereafter Jonas anticipated a visit that never happened.



Jonas never uttered a negative word about Sarah Jane’s choices. But she’d seen the sadness in his eyes when their daughter left home, and she knew the pain dwelled in his heart over the years. But he only said it was impossible to always understand God’s direction for His children—their child. Their only child. The good Lord had only seen fit to bless them with one. A beautiful daughter who had chosen a life rife with hardship.



Irma Rose had prayed hard over the years to cleanse herself of any discontentment with her daughter. Sarah Jane’s choice to leave the Amish faith was prior to her baptism and church membership. Therefore her daughter was never shunned by the community. She had chosen to avoid visits with her parents. From the little Irma Rose gathered over the years, Sarah Jane and Lilly had lived with friends and moved around a lot.



An occasional letter arrived from her daughter, to which Irma Rose always responded right away. More times than not, the letters were returned unopened. It was less painful to assume Sarah Jane had moved on and the letters were returned by the postal service. Although sometimes it cut Irma Rose to the bone when she recognized her daughter’s penmanship: Return to sender.



She was thankful her last letter to Sarah Jane had not been returned. She couldn’t help but wonder if the news about Jonas’s cancer had prompted her granddaughter’s visit. When Lillian’s letter arrived over a month ago, Irma Rose had followed her instructions not to return a letter but to call her on the telephone if at all possible. She wasted no time going to the nearby shanty to phone her granddaughter. The conversation was strained and the child seemed frantic to come for a visit.



“I’m a teacher and when school is out in May, I’d like to come for a visit,” her granddaughter had said on the phone. “Maybe stay for the summer. Or maybe even longer?” There was a sense of urgency in the girl’s tone.



Irma Rose feared her faith had not been as strong as her husband’s and that a tinge of resentment and hurt still loitered in her heart where Sarah Jane was concerned. She didn’t want any of those feelings to spill over with her granddaughter. She would need to pray harder.



As if reading her mind, Jonas said, “Irma Rose, everything will be fine. You just wait and see.”



It wasn’t until the plane was high above the Houston skyline that the realization of what she’d done hit Lillian. After landing in Philadelphia, she caught a train to Lancaster City and hopped a bus to Paradise, which landed her only a few miles from her grandparents’ farm. She was glad there was a bit of a walk to their property; she wanted to wind down and freshen up before she reacquainted herself with her relatives. Plus, she’d had enough time on the plane to wonder if this whole thing was a huge mistake. Her mom hadn’t wanted to be here, so why think it would be any better for her?



Not that she had much choice at this point. She had no money, no home, no job, and she was more than a little irritated with her mother. When her mom had begged Lillian to loan her the money she’d painstakingly saved to get away from Rickie and start fresh, Lillian reluctantly agreed, with the stipulation she got her money back as soon as possible. But her mom had never repaid a loan before. Lillian didn’t know why she thought it would be any different this time. When the promised repayment never came, Lillian quit her job and made a decision to distance herself from her mother and Rickie by coming to a place where she knew neither of them would follow: Lancaster County.



Lillian shook her head, wondering if she was making a bigger mistake by coming here. She didn’t know if she’d ever understand what ultimately drove her mother from the Plain lifestyle. From what she read, it rarely happened—Amish children fleeing from all they’d ever known. The circumstances must have been severe to drive her mother away.



Although . . . it didn’t look so bad from Lillian’s point of view, now that she was there. Aside from having a dreadful wardrobe, she thought the Amish men and women strolling by looked quite content. They seemed oblivious to the touristy stares. The women wore simple, dark-colored dresses with little white coverings on their heads. The men were in cotton shirts, dark pants with suspenders, and straw hats with a wide brim. Box-shaped, horse-drawn buggies were abundant.



Ironically, it all seemed quite normal.



She took a seat on a bench outside the Quik Mart at the corner of Lincoln Highway and Black Horse Road and watched the passersby. Clearly, Paradise was a tourist town, like most of Lancaster County, with everyone wanting to have a look at the Amish people.



Watching them now, she wondered if the Amish were all as peaceful as they appeared. Despite her initial thoughts, she decided they couldn’t be. Everyone had stress. Everyone had problems. Surely the Plain People of Lancaster County were not an exception.



But they could have fooled Lillian.



Samuel Stoltzfus gave hasty good-byes to Levina Esh and Sadie Fisher and flicked his horse into action, hiding a smile as his buggy inched forward. The competitiveness of those two widow women! First Levina had presented him with her prize-winning shoofly pie. Not to be outdone, Sadie quickly offered up her own prize-winning version. Stalemate. The two of them had stood there glaring at each other while he tried to think of ways to escape unhurt . . . and unattached.



He might have to rethink his shopping day. Both women knew he went to the farmer’s market on Thursdays . . . Once he cleared town, he picked up the pace. The road to his farm near the town of Paradise was less traveled, and he was particularly glad of that on this day. It was a glorious sunny afternoon, perfect for a buggy ride through the countryside.



Pleased he had chosen his spring buggy instead of his covered one, he relished the warmth of the late afternoon sun. Rachel had loved this time of year, when spring gave way to summertime and all the world felt full of promise.



God’s soil was tilled, and corn, alfalfa, and grain had been planted. Life would be busy as he awaited the bountiful rewards of spring’s labor. There was the garden, with peas to pick. The strawberries would be ready. Lots of canning and freezing. Much time went into preparing a garden for harvest.



And Rachel’s garden had always been lush and plentiful. Gardening was work for the womenfolk, but Samuel had done the best he could the past two years. He was thankful his sisters took care of most of the canning and freezing.



He closed his eyes, his shoulders lifting with his sigh. He missed Rachel the most this time of year.



Lillian felt like a fool. Didn’t “down yonder a spell” mean right down the road? The friendly Amish boy had pointed down Black Horse Road and uttered those exact words when she’d asked for directions to her grandparents’ farm. She’d thought the walk would do her good—help her shed some of the calories she ingested while sitting at the Quik Mart with a large cinnamon roll and cola.



Evidently, she’d mistranslated “down yonder a spell.” There wasn’t a farmhouse in sight.



She really should have considered the strappy sandals she was wearing before opting to venture down the road to nowhere. Her capri blue jeans and short-sleeved pink-cotton shirt were good choices, however. The clement sun mixing with a soft breeze made for a perfect day. An excellent day for a walk . . . if only she’d had better shoes.



Setting her red suitcase on the grassy shoulder of the paved road, she plopped down on top of it and scanned the farmland surrounding her. It was so quiet. Peaceful. She could only hope that some of the peacefulness the Amish were known for would rub off on her during her stay. She needed it. Life had not been easy to her the past few years.



Her mom’s idea of parenting had left much to be desired— jumping from one man to the next looking for something she never seemed to find. All the while she’d toted Lillian along. Lillian had grown up changing schools, saying good-bye to friends, and continually hoping Mom’s next boyfriend would be better than the last. At the first chance, Lillian had bailed on the situation, telling herself she could do better.



Despite her good intentions, she’d ended up close to following in her mother’s footsteps. After putting herself through college while living with three other girls in a small apartment, she’d landed a teaching job. There had been boyfriends, and she’d definitely made her own share of mistakes.



But always, something had whispered to her that there was another way to live. Sometimes she’d listened, sometimes not. But she never felt comfortable enough to ask herself just where that voice was coming from—she just didn’t know enough to form an opinion. She didn’t listen to the voice when it cautioned her not to move in with Rickie. But when the voice became too strong to ignore, she knew it was time to get out of that situation.



Despite the complete lack of religious upbringing, she always suspected there might be a God looking down on her. But in light of her mom’s thoughts on church, she couldn’t ask her about it. Her mother seemed angry at religion. While she heartily encouraged Lillian to attend various churches with her friends when she was a child, she herself would have no part of it. It was a huge contradiction in parenting, and Lillian didn’t understand it to this day.



Now, knowing the Amish to be solid in their faith, Lillian decided it might be best to keep her suspicions about a possible God to herself around her grandparents.



“Guess I better get moving and find out how far ‘down yonder a spell’ really is.” She jumped off the suitcase, gave it a heave-hoe, and started back down the paved road, gazing to either side where the acreage stretched as far she could see. The sun pressing down on the horizon left her a tad worried about how much further the farm was.



“Whoa, boy!” Samuel yelled to his horse. The animal slowed his pace to a gentle trot, bringing the buggy alongside an Englisch woman cumbersomely toting a bright-red suitcase. She was minus a shoe . . . if you called a flat-bottom sole with two small straps a shoe. Certainly not a good walking instrument.



“Can I offer you a ride?” He pulled back on the reins and came to a complete halt, as did the small-framed woman. When she turned, he was met by radiant green eyes in a delicate face.



Delicate, that is, until she grimaced and blew a tendril of hair out of her face.



Then she smiled, and her face transformed, lighting up like the morning sun. He was momentarily struck dumb.



It didn’t matter. The woman was focused on his horse. Deserting her suitcase on the side of the road, she stumbled over to Pete and reached out to stroke his nose without so much as a “May I?”



Thankfully, Pete was a gentle giant.



“He’s beautiful,” she said, glancing briefly in Samuel’s direction, eyes sparkling.



He cleared his throat. “Ya. And a fine work horse too.”



What an interesting woman this was. Unafraid. And beautiful, he had to admit. He watched as her long brown hair danced in the wind, framing her face in layers. She wore no makeup and seemed lacking in the traditional Englisch look, although her brightly colored blouse and calf-length breeches certainly gave her away. A tourist, most likely. But a tourist walking alone down Blackhorse Road?



The woman’s mouth curved upward in delight as she cooed over Pete. The horse gently snorted, nudged her, and she laughed heartily, her head thrown back. It was a thoroughly enchanting scene.



Suddenly uncomfortable at his thoughts, he straightened and coughed. It was enough to bring the woman’s attention back to him.



“I would love a ride!” With a final kiss on the old horse’s muzzle, she went back for her suitcase. “Where should I put this?”



“Ach, my manners.” Samuel jumped out of the buggy and made his way to the woman. “Let me.” He took the suitcase from her, quite surprised at how heavy the small bundle was. After stowing it behind the double seat, he offered his hand to assist her into the buggy.



“Thank you.” Now she was studying him . . . seemingly from head to toe. At her open glance, he felt a flush tint his cheeks.



“I’m Samuel Stoltzfus,” he said, extending his hand but avoiding her questioning eyes.



“I’m Lillian Miller.”



Her hands were certainly that of an Englisch woman, soft and void of a hard day’s work. The Plain women in Lancaster County tilled gardens, shelled peas, kneaded bread, and a host of other necessary chores uncommon to Englisch women from the city. City women’s hands were not only smooth and manicured, but pleasing to the touch.



Returning to his seat, he started up the buggy again. The woman was obviously tired and happy to be resting; with a slight groan she stretched her legs out. He found his eyes wandering her way and silently remonstrated himself.



“Where are you from, Lillian? Or, more important, where are you going?”



“I’m from Houston.”



“Ya, Texas,” he said, slightly surprised. They didn’t usually get Texans walking the roads out here. “Lots of farms in Texas. What brings you to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania?”



“I’m coming to stay with my grandparents for a while.” She smiled. “They’re Amish.”



Amish? He was once more at a loss for words. Not to worry— the Englisch woman wasn’t.



“Actually, I guess I’m Amish too,” she added.



Discreetly glancing at her Englisch clothes, he wondered how that could be so.



“My grandparents are Irma Rose and Jonas Miller. I’ll be staying with them for a while.” She looked his way as if waiting for a response that never came. “I’d like to adapt myself to the Amish ways. I need a peaceful, calm lifestyle away from the city. Anyway, I’ve decided to be Amish for a while.”



Samuel had been trying to connect this vivacious outsider with the staunch Irma Rose and Jonas he knew, but these words jostled him out of his musings. “You’d like to be Amish for a while?”



“Yes. Although I don’t plan to wear one of those dark-colored dresses or white caps like the women I saw strolling by earlier.”



In spite of himself, Samuel chuckled. “Do you even know what being Amish means?” He didn’t mean the remark as harshly as it sounded.



Lillian slanted her eyes in his direction, as if slightly offended.



Unexpectedly, the buggy wheel hit a rut. With an oomph, his new friend bounced in her seat. She was a tiny little thing. Luckily, she didn’t catapult right off the seat and onto the pavement.



“Yikes!” she said when her behind returned to the seat. And then she giggled. As Pete’s ears swiveled back to catch the commotion, Samuel couldn’t help but grin. The woman’s enthusiasm was contagious.



He decided to drop the subject. He knew Irma Rose and Jonas well enough to figure they’d set her right about being Amish and what it really meant. Samuel reckoned they’d have their hands full with their granddaughter.



As Samuel righted the buggy, he asked, “When is the last time you saw your grandparents?” He hadn’t even known Irma Rose and Jonas had a granddaughter.



“When I was ten. Seventeen years ago. It was the first time I saw snow. Real snow.” Her eyes twinkled from the memory.



“Anyway, I know things will be different from what I’m used to. But I can live without television. There’s too much bad news on TV anyway. And I know Amish women cook a lot. I’m a great cook.” She shrugged. “I’m a hard worker in general. I know Amish get up early and go to bed early. I know they work hard during the day. And if that’s what it takes to feel peaceful and calm . . . I’m in!”



Samuel found her enthusiasm charming, no matter how misdirected it was. “Lillian, I’m sure Irma Rose and Jonas will appreciate you helping with household duties, but it will take more than chores and giving up worldly things to provide you with the peacefulness you’re lookin’ for.”



“Well, it’s a start,” she said, sounding optimistic.



As for that . . . who was he to argue?



Lillian remembered the Christmas visit with her grandparents at their farm, especially the snow. Unlike the icy mix of sludge found rarely in her hometown state, snow in Lancaster County glistened with a tranquil purity. Almost two decades later, she could still recall the towering cedar trees blanketed in white and ice skating on the crystalline pond in her mother’s old ice skates.



The presents had been few. She remembered that. And while she recollected her grandparents as warm and loving, she also remembered the tension between them and her mother. Her grandfather had kept the mood festive, suggested the ice-skating, and seemed to make it his mission for Lillian to have a good time—even carting her to town and back in his gray, horsedrawn buggy. It had been the highlight of her trip.



“I remember liking the way my grandparents talked,” she recalled to Samuel. “I didn’t understand a lot of things they said. Things like ‘Outen the lights until sunrise when we’ll redd-up the house.’ And ‘It wonders me if it will make wet tomorrow.’ Mom translated those to mean ‘Turn out the lights until in the morning when we’ll clean up the house’ and ‘I wonder if it will rain tomorrow.’”



“That would be right,” Samuel said.



Grandma and Grandpa both spoke another language she’d later found out was Pennsylvania Deitsch. Lots of times they would commingle their language with English. “Danki, Sarah Jane, for bringing our little kinskind for a visit,” her grandfather told her mother that Christmas. To which Sarah Jane Miller forced a smile and nodded.



“Grandma, why are you and Grandpa wearing those costumes?”



Lillian recalled asking her grandparents.



Grandpa had just laughed and said, “It is our faith, my kinskind. We wear these plain clothes to encourage humility and separation from the world.”



At ten, Lillian had little understanding of what that signified. Except somewhere in the translation she knew it meant they couldn’t have a television or a phone. Several times after their one and only trip, Lillian had asked her mother if she could call her grandparents. Mom reminded her no phones were allowed at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.



“Evidently, my grandparents came to Houston a couple of times before our visit at Christmas, but I don’t remember,” she told Samuel. “That Christmas was my last trip to Lancaster County and the last time I saw my grandparents. Until now.”



“I reckon Irma Rose and Jonas are really looking forward to seeing you.”



“I hope so.”



Lillian tried to keep her gaze focused on the road in front of her. But her eyes kept involuntarily trailing to her left. Samuel Stoltzfus was as handsome a man as she had ever seen in the city. His plain clothes did little to mask his solid build and appealing smile each time she glanced in his direction. But it was his piercing blue eyes Lillian couldn’t seem to draw away from.



“So, how long have you been married?” Nosey, nosey. The astonished look on his face confirmed her worry. She was crossing the line. “I’m sorry. I just noticed that you have the customary beard following marriage.” She’d done her research before arriving here. “And . . . I was just . . . curious.” And curious why? He’s Amish, for heaven’s sake.



“I’m not married. I’m widowed.”



“Oh,” she said softly, thinking how young his wife must have been when she died. “ I’m so sorry. When did your wife die?”



“Mei fraa, Rachel, passed almost two years ago,” he answered without looking her way.



“Again, I’m so sorry.”



Samuel continued to stare at the road ahead. “It was God’s will.”



There was no sadness or regret in his tone. Just fact. Lillian knew she should leave it alone, but . . . “I’m sure you miss her very much.”



He didn’t glance her way. “There’s Irma Rose and Jonas’s farm,” he said, pointing to their right. “I better take you right up to the house.” He coaxed Pete down a long dirt drive leading from the road to the white farmhouse.



“Oh, you don’t have to do that. I can walk.” She wondered if Samuel Stoltzfus was ready to be rid of her. His eyebrows edged upward beneath his dark bangs and he glanced at her shoeless foot.



Point taken. “A ride to the house would be great.”



As Pete trotted down the dirt driveway toward the farmhouse, reality sank in. This would be her new home for the summer—or however long it took to accomplish her goal. At first glance, everything seemed lovely. The prodigious fields on either side of the lane were neatly mowed, and the white fencing in good repair. But unlike the farms she passed on the way, there were no signs of new life planted. It wasn’t until they drew closer to the farmhouse that she spotted a small garden off to her left enclosed by a wire-mesh fence. Parallel rows of greenery indicated vegetables would be forthcoming.





Also off to her left was a large barn, the paint weathered and chipping. Another smaller barn to her right also was in need of a fresh paint job. She recalled the barns they had passed on her journey down Black Horse Road. Most were a bright crimson color.



The white farmhouse appeared freshly painted, but with flowerbeds absent of flowers or shrubs. They must have been beautiful at one time. But now they—and the rest of the yard—lent an air of neglect to the farm.



A wraparound porch with two rockers looked inviting. But while the idea of curling up with a good book in one of the rockers was appealing, Lillian knew it was the inside of the house and its inhabitants she feared most. Her grandma had seemed pleasant enough on the phone, but what if she and her grandfather were too set in their ways to make room for her? And what if she couldn’t adjust to their ways? No electricity meant no hairdryer, curling iron, or other modern convenience she considered a necessity. How would she charge her cell phone? And she couldn’t imagine a summer without air conditioning.



Grimacing as the thoughts rattled around her head, she reminded herself why she’d come. She’d had a month to consider all of these factors. She thought she had. But as her fantasy of leaving everything behind for this became absolute, her tummy twirled with uncertainty.



She was still attempting to envision her new way of life when Samuel brought Pete up next to a gray buggy parked on one side of the house. Samuel moved quickly to get her suitcase from behind the seat and extended his hand to help her out of the buggy. Towering over her, he promptly released her fingers.



“Thank you for the ride. Maybe I will see you again.” She could only hope. But his lack of response as he quickly jumped back in the carriage left her wondering.



Lillian waved good-bye and watched until horse, buggy, and man were back on the paved road. She knew she was stalling. Her grandparents would be strangers to her, and she would be a stranger to them. Yet they had encouraged her to come and stay with them. “For as long as you like,” her grandmother had said.



Striving to cast her worries aside, she turned around, picked up her suitcase, and headed up the walk toward what would be her new home . . . for a while.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Until We Reach Home

Wonderfully well written. Rich character development...a true joy to read! This was my first Lynn Austin book...but it won't be my last!


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Until We Reach Home

Bethany House (October 1, 2008)

by

Lynn Austin



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband's work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she'd earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. She has published twelve novels. Three of her historical novels, Hidden Places, Candle in the Darkness, and Fire by Night have won Christy Awards in 2002, 2003, and 2004 for excellence in Christian Fiction. Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005.

Lynn's novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.

Among her lastest books are A Proper Pursuit and A Woman's Place


ABOUT THE BOOK

Life in Sweden seems like an endless winter for three sisters after their mother's and father's suicide. Ellin feels the weight of responsibility for her sisters' welfare and when it circumstances become unbearable, she writes to her relatives in Chicago, pleading for help.

Joining sixteen million other immigrants who left their homelands for America between 1890 and 1920, Ellin, Kirsten, and Sophia begin the long, difficult journey. Enduring the ocean voyage in steerage and detention on Ellis Island, their story is America's story. And in a journey fraught with hardships, each woman will come to understand her secret longings and the meaning of home.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Until We Reach Home, go HERE

Friday, November 07, 2008

Recommended...FUNNY!


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Out Of Her Hands

Tyndale House Publishers (September 22, 2008)

by

Megan DiMaria



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

I was born and raised in New York State and have since lived in Maine, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, New Jersey, and now I live in Colorado. My husband and I have three delightful, adult children and an old Jack Russell Terrier named Belle who seems to find her way into my novels. My resume will tell you I graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with a degree in Communications, and after graduation I worked as a radio and television reporter, freelance writer, editor and marketing professional.

I'm a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and am assistant director of Words For The Journey, Rocky Mountain Region.

But what's most important to know about me is that I am a follower of Jesus, wife, mother, friend, reader and writer.

Life’s a journey, enjoy the adventures!


ABOUT THE BOOK

In this second novel by Megan DiMaria, Linda Revere is back and continuing to struggle with the turmoil of contemporary life. Linda has been praying for her children's future spouses since they were very small. Confident that her prayers will be answered, Linda is not prepared for the young woman her son brings home. But Linda soon learns that while everything she once controlled is out of her hands, God is still in control. Megan uses her trademark humor while dealing with issues to which her readers will relate.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Out Of Her Hands, go HERE

"No sophomore slump for DiMaria! This novel (Out of Her Hands) is as engaging and meaningful as her first, Searching for Spice. Her realistic portrayal of the characters' lives should endear them to readers and help Christians to feel less alone in their daily trials."
~Romantic Times Magazine, 4 ½ stars TOP PICK!

“Life in Linda's world is messy...but filled with love, laughter, struggle and faith. Megan has created a most real heroine for us to love...and I adore her!”
~Deena Peterson, reviewer: A Peek at my Bookshelf

“Megan DiMaria crafts a novel so compelling, so real, you forget you're reading fiction.”
~Darcie Gudger, reviewer: TitleTrakk

"This is a great read for a quiet afternoon or in those times when you feel your own life spinning out of control and need the reality check of knowing you're not in it alone."
~Amazon reviewer

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips

by Stephen Baldwin and Mark Tabb

About the book: The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips FaithWords (November 5, 2008)
When Officer Andy Myers met Loraine Phillips, he had no interest in her son. And he certainly never dreamed he'd respond to a call, finding that same boy in a pool of blood. Even more alarming was the father standing watch over his son's body. Myers had never seen a man respond to death-particularly the death of a child-in such a way. When the father is charged with murder and sentenced to death, he chooses not to fight but embrace it as God's will. Myers becomes consumed with curiosity for these strange beliefs. What follows is the story of the bond these two men share as they come to terms with the tragedy and the difficult choices each one must make.

ABOUT THE AUTHORs:

Stephen Baldwin, actor, family man, born-again Christian. Through an impressive body of work, Stephen continues to be a popular and sought-after talent in the film and television industry. Stephen makes his home in upstate New York with his wife and two young daughters.


Mark Tabb is the author of twelve books including Living with Less and Out of the Whirlwind. He and his wife, Valerie, live in Knightstown, Indiana with their three daughters.




Visit Stephen's website and Mark's website.


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


ANDY MYERS DIDN’T want children. That was one of his conditions when he married my mom. No kids. Period. Case closed. You would think someone so adamant about not reproducing would have gone out and had a vasectomy, but Andy didn’t think that way. He didn’t want kids; keeping that from happening was my mother’s responsibility. When she failed, he immediately made an appointment for her at an abortion clinic in Indianapolis. He didn’t ask. He just assumed she would terminate my life before my feet ever hit the ground. She refused. He walked out. And I didn’t hear from him until I was thirteen. I think he sent money to my mother every month, at least while he was able. I’m pretty sure he did. The courts probably made him, and a cop like my dad wouldn’t risk going to jail, at least not over something as insignificant as money.



I guess that explains why I always hated my old man. Despising him was imprinted on my DNA just as surely as my dark brown hair and blue eyes. The girls always loved my blue eyes. More than one lost her moral resolve when I put those baby blues to work. I got my eyes from Andy. I think they may have been part of the hook he used on my mom. I’m not sure. My mom never talked about him that way. For that matter, she hardly talked about anything that happened before she and I moved to St. Louis from her hometown in Indiana when I was really little. I didn’t even know I had my dad’s eyes until I looked into them for the fi rst time ten years ago. There was no mistaking the eyes, even with that thick sheet of glass between us.



I think of that hatred in a different way, now that I am on the other side of the equation, with a son of my own. And I think about Andy Myers a little different as well. You know, life is funny. If my life had gone the way it was supposed to, I wouldn’t be sitting here with you right now. I would be somewhere, assuming I survived as long as I have, but I wouldn’t be sitting on the beach of Lake Michigan, watching my wife and son play in the water and talking to you. When I stand back and look at my family in this place, we look like the happy ending of one of those Hallmark Hall of Fame movies my wife loves to cry through. My life shouldn’t have turned out this way, not that I’m complaining. But it strikes me as sort of hilarious to think that if my father hadn’t walked out on me, none of this would have happened. I hated him for what he did. Who would have ever thought it would have led to this?



It all goes back to when I was about the same age as my little boy. Back then my dad worked as a cop in Trask, Indiana. Believe it or not, my wife and I live there now. We moved there a few years ago, but that’s another story in itself. As for my dad, everyone in town knew him when he lived there.



That doesn’t mean they liked him, but they knew him. He grew up just outside of town, and made a name for himself as the star athlete in the local high school. In a school as small as Trask High, it doesn’t take a lot of talent to stand out from the pack. After high school, my old man got it in his head that a career in sports was in his future. He tried walking onto the Ball State football team, but didn’t make it past the first few days of practice. After Ball State, he tried a few of the local small colleges, without success. Eventually he quit college altogether and joined the navy before the army could draft him. Vietnam was still going on, so my old man figured spending a couple of years on a boat beat getting shot at in a jungle. My dad wasn’t a violent man, but he never lost that star athlete swagger he carried around the high school campus.



I’m not sure why he moved back to his hometown after the navy. I guess there are worse places to live. He met my mother soon after, but that didn’t turn out so well. Around the time the two of them got married, he joined the local police force. No one ever told me why my dad became a cop. I don’t know if a career in law enforcement was his lifelong goal, or if he just sort of fell into it. At this point, I guess it doesn’t matter. All these years later I occasionally hear stories about him, but I think that has more to do with the way his career ended than anything else. No one ever signed off from police work quite like my old man.



I came along less than two years after my parents got married. By then my mother was a single mom. My dad walked out on her when he found out she was pregnant. Now I could understand him leaving if she’d been out whoring around, but my mother wasn’t like that. No, my dad walked out because my mother made the mistake of giving birth to his child. Like I said, Andy Myers didn’t want children, and my arrival did nothing to change his mind. He was gone by the time I was born, and my mom moved the two of us to St. Louis not long after.



Like I said, when I was about the same age as my son, Andy Myers (and if it is all the same to you, I would prefer calling him by his given name. I’ve already called him “dad” more in the last few minutes than I have in my entire life) worked as a cop in our beloved metropolis of Trask. I don’t know if living alone was making him have second thoughts, but he started seeing another woman. He’d been with other women before Loraine Phillips, if you know what I mean, but those relationships were all very short- lived. Loraine was different. His time with her could actually be measured in months, not hours. The way he tells it, they weren’t so much dating as using one another to cure one another’s loneliness. That sounds like a load of bull to me, but, hey, it’s his life. He can tell himself whatever lies he wants. The two of them met in a bar, and they ended up in bed back at his apartment the same night. Again, that wasn’t exactly a remarkable event for Andy Myers. He thought of himself as six feet one inch, 205 pounds of sex appeal. And he had those killer blue eyes. Throw the whole package together, and look out. At least that’s what he says. He seems to think he was really something back in the day. But I don’t think getting Loraine into bed had as much to do with my old man’s charms as it did with her sexual appetite.



After that first encounter, he tried to play the gentleman and begin a real dating relationship with her. But the first time he went by her place to pick her up, she met him at the door wearing nothing but a twelve- pack of Bud and a seethrough gown from Frederick’s of Hollywood and started clawing at his clothes. I’m thirty- two, and it still creeps me out to think my own father told me this stuff, but he did. I guess he needed to. My story doesn’t really make sense without it.



That night pretty much set the tone for the rest of their relationship. They never went out on actual dates. For that matter, they never really had an in- depth conversation, either live or over the phone. They would go as long as two or three weeks without talking, but then she would call and ask my dad if he had time to drop by. He knew what that meant. And he never said no. At times he felt a little guilty about the whole thing, but the sex was good and Loraine never seemed to want much more than a purely physical relationship. Besides, with a body like hers, few men would have complained. Andy’s friends thought he’d fallen into every man’s fantasy: a hot woman, wild sex, and no strings attached. What could be better? He knew the answer even then, although he couldn’t admit it to himself.



Andy didn’t know Loraine had a kid until he’d been with her for several months. The boy was never around when Loraine called, and she kept any signs of him out of view when Andy came by. Her system worked pretty well until the kid walked into the kitchen one Saturday morning. Andy was sitting there, eating a bowl of cereal in his underwear, when the boy came up, stuck out his hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Gabriel. Gabriel Phillips. What’s your name?” Finding a strange man sitting in his underwear in my kitchen when



I was Gabe’s age would have sent me running down the hall screaming for my mother, but the sight of Andy didn’t seem to faze Gabe. He sounded like he was running for mayor at eight years of age. I bet my old man nearly crapped his pants at the sight of him. Then the kid said, “You like Cap’n Crunch, too? It’s my favorite, but my mom hardly ever buys it. Says too much sugar is bad for me. But it sure does taste good.” Andy fumbled over his words and said, “Yeah, they’re real good,” or something like that. He always was a great conversationalist.



I don’t know which is weirder: the fact that Gabe wasn’t scared by a strange man in his kitchen, or that Andy wasn’t scared off by discovering the woman he was seeing had a kid. Neither one makes much sense to me. I guess I should be jealous of Gabriel Phillips since he was the only exception to the “no kids allowed” rule my dad ever made. I should, but I’m not. Not anymore. Andy told me there was a quirky, awkward charm about Gabe that drew people to him. He was a little guy, really small for his age, which he came by naturally—the kid’s dad wasn’t exactly Shaquille O’Neal. Once you got to know Gabe he didn’t seem so small; he almost seemed like an adult. Keep in mind, I got all of my information secondhand several years later, and time has a way of glossing over any faults and amplifying people’s good qualities. Be that as it may, Gabriel Phillips, I am told, genuinely cared about people, especially people others overlooked. People were just drawn to him. Maybe it was something supernatural. I’m not sure. But it sure cast a spell over my old man. Meeting Gabe didn’t make Andy run away. If anything, it made him more of a “boyfriend” than he’d ever been before. He started going by Loraine’s house on a more regular basis.



And not just for sex. He tried taking both mother and son out on something like dates. When Loraine feigned headaches, Andy still took Gabe. They went to ball games, or to the local hamburger stand, or wherever. Andy often said, “I’d never met another child quite like him.” And the first time he said it to me, I walked out on him. The last time they were together, Andy drove Gabe down to Cincinnati for a Reds game. Loraine was supposed to go, too, but she didn’t. I doubt if she ever said why. Maybe she didn’t want to be stuck in a car with the two of them for two hours each way. Or maybe, like me, she thought it a little strange that my dad took such an interest in the kid. Andy wasn’t trying to replace the boy’s father. Gabe already had one of those. I like to think maybe Andy saw in Gabe a little of what he could have had with me, but that’s more wishful thinking than anything else. And wishful thinking only makes things worse, not better.



About a week after the Reds game, Andy was fighting to stay awake while working the graveyard shift. The Trask police force was always woefully understaffed, then and now, which meant Andy had to pull all- nighters at least one week out of the month. On this particular night he couldn’t shake the cobwebs out of his head. It wasn’t just because of the late hour. He’d been over at Loraine’s house right before reporting for duty, and was still in the fog that sleep usually takes care of after such activity. He was so out of it that the police dispatcher didn’t get a response from him until she radioed a second time. “Trask 52- 2,” the dispatcher said, “we have a 10- 16 at 873 East Madison, apartment 323. That’s a report of a domestic disturbance at eight- seven- three East Madison, number three- two- three.” He switched on the car dome light and fumbled for a pen and paper to write down the apartment number. They didn’t have fancy in- car computers back then.



Andy suppressed a yawn, picked up his mic, and radioed back, “ 10- 4, dispatch. Trask 52- 2 is 10- 8.” 10- 8 means “in service.”



“10- 4, 52- 2 at two- oh- six. By the way, Andy, we’ve had three calls from the same location. You want me to get the sheriff’s department headed that way to back you up?” “Naaaahhhh,” Andy yawned and said. “Let me check it out first. Probably nothing. No sense dragging anyone else out at this godforsaken hour if we don’t have to.” The mic hung in his hand as he stared at the apartment address he’d written down. He cursed under his breath, then said to no one, “Good old Madison Park Apartments. What would an overnight shift be without at least one call from there?” He let out another yawn, arched his back in an attempt to stretch the fatigue out of his body, then started his patrol car. Andy and every other Trask police officer could make the drive to the Madison Park Apartments from anywhere in town in their sleep. Late- night calls came from there at least once or twice a week. The walls were so thin that when someone coughed in one apartment, the people next door shouted, “Shut the hell up.” Most of the emergencies turned out to be nothing more than blaring televisions or couples arguing a little louder than they should. Andy figured this call would be more of the same.



A handful of people milled around under the only working streetlight in the complex parking lot when Andy pulled in. A woman wearing an oversized T- shirt came running over as soon as he stepped out of his car. Immediately she started chewing on his ear. “What took you so long?! I called half an hour ago.” Andy recognized the woman everyone in town called “Crazy Cathy,” although she didn’t recognize him. At least not right off. About a month earlier he’d arrested her for public intoxication. One day around noon she’d gone for a walk down Main Street, bombed out of her mind, screaming obscenities at the lunchtime crowd going into the diner. She was notorious for that kind of stunt, which is why everyone called her Crazy Cathy, although Cathy wasn’t her real name. Even when she wasn’t drunk, she would walk around town, acting all nuts. All the kids in town thought she was hilarious, especially when she’d been drinking. They would yell things at her to try to get her riled up. She died a few years before I moved to town. The way I hear it, she wandered out into the street while drunk and was hit by a truck. That’s not much of a way to die, even for Crazy Cathy. But she was cold sober the night she got my old man out in the middle of the night. At least she appeared to be. She kept yelling at Andy, “I know no one gives a damn about what happens out here. You think we’re all just a pain in the ass.” Her call to the police couldn’t have been much more than ten minutes earlier, but time slows to a crawl when you are waiting for a cop to show up. Andy didn’t try to defend himself. He just kept walking across the parking lot, growing more coherent with each step. There’s something about the gravelly sound of a chain- smoking woman’s voice that yanks you back to reality. “I’m sorry, ma’am. It’s been one of those nights” was all he could say. “Like hell it has,” she yelled back. “You think your night’s been bad? You should have to listen to that kid carry on. He was screaming so loud it sounded like he was right there in my apartment with me. Sounded like something out of that damned Exorcist movie. Kid couldn’t have screamed any louder even if his head had been spinning around. Made my skin crawl. And it wasn’t the first time I heard that damn kid yelling. It gets worse every time he’s here. I called you people about him before. Called last week. But nobody did nothing.”



She didn’t stop yelling until Andy got to the stairway leading up the outside of building three. He did his best to ignore her. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but you’re going to have to stay down here,” he said to her as he reached the stairs. “Don’t get too far away because I will need a full statement from you as soon as I check everything out.”



Andy went about the business at hand. He went up the stairs of building three in search of apartment 323. Another neighbor waited for him at the top of the stairs. “Oh, Officer, I’m glad you’re here,” the woman said. To Andy, she looked like she may have been maybe twenty. As it turns out, she was a twenty- four- year- old single mother. Seems like half the population at Madison Park has always been made up of single moms. “My son came running into my room scared and crying, which is why I called,” she continued. “I started to go over and knock on the door myself, but I was a little nervous about doing it. I’ve met the guy a few times. Our boys play together when his son stays with him, but I don’t know him well enough to knock on his door in the middle of the night, especially after what my son heard.” “That’s probably wise, ma’am,” Andy said. He felt a little funny about calling someone “ma’am” who looked like she had just graduated from high school. “You said your son heard something that shook him up?”



“Yes, sir. My son, he’s eight. He came running into my room. He was shaking, he was so scared.” “I’ll check it out. You should go back to your apartment, miss. I’m sure everything is fine. There’s probably nothing here for your son to be afraid of, but if there is, I will take care of it. Which apartment are you in, just in case I need to get a statement from you?”



“I’m right next door in 325.”



With that, the woman went back into her apartment. Andy heard the dead bolt turn and the slide of the chain into the extra lock. “These people sure are jittery,” Andy said with a sigh. He’d never seen so many people get so shook up over a blaring television. Calls like this at this hour always turned out to be someone asleep in front of a blaring television stuck on the late, late show. Even before twenty-four hour cable networks, local stations broadcast late into the night, usually filling the dead air with old movies. Andy walked over to apartment 323 and listened at the door. He didn’t hear anything. No yelling. No banging. Nothing. He looked at his watch: 2:17 a.m. All the local stations would have switched from movies to test patterns by now. No wonder it was quiet. “Police department,” he called out as he knocked on the door. No response. He could see a light shining through the peephole. He knocked again, with more authority this time, and called out even louder to wake up the sleeper in front of the television, “Police. I need you to open the door, please.” As he waited for a response, he heard the muffled sound of a man’s voice on the other side.



Andy reached up to bang on the door again, when it opened. A man in his mid- thirties motioned him inside as he continued talking on the phone. “Yes. Yes,” the man said, “thank you, Father.” The man turned his back and continued talking on the phone as though no one else was in the room. Andy took a quick glance around. A brown couch with oversized cushions, along with a ratty recliner, were the only furniture in the room. Andy also noticed the living room didn’t have a television. He looked closely at the man on the phone. He was wearing a faded polo- type shirt and a pair of Levi 501’s, but no shoes or socks. He was walking around barefoot on the linoleum tile of his apartment. “Sir,” Andy said, “I need you to get off the phone.” “Amen. Thanks, Eli. Hey, I gotta go. The police are here now. Thanks for praying. Keep it up.” The man spun around to untangle himself from the extra long cord, then hung up the phone. “I’m sorry, Officer. I was just about to call. You were next on my list. He’s back here.” The man turned down the narrow hall toward the smaller of the two bedrooms. “It happened so fast,” he said with a matter- of- fact tone, “there just wasn’t any time. I ran in there as fast as I could, but by the time I got to him, it was already too late. I just had time to tell him good- bye and then he was gone.”



Andy felt like he’d walked into the middle of a conversation. The guy’s words didn’t make any sense and his demeanor just didn’t seem right. At least that’s how Andy remembered it when he told me about that night. He had trouble reading the guy, which set Andy’s nerves on edge. As a policeman, he prided himself on his ability to figure people out in an instant. I never thought he was as good at it as he did. “He’s in here,” the man said as he motioned into a small bedroom. Andy thought it odd that the man wouldn’t move past the doorway.



When Andy looked into the room, the entire floor appeared to be painted red. The room was pretty small, maybe seven feet by nine feet, and most of that was filled with furniture and toys, which made the scene look bloodier than it really was. The remains of a shattered goldfish bowl lay near the dresser, the bottom drawer of which stood open. A small boy, maybe eight years of age, was on the bottom bunk. His skin had a bluish gray tint to it. Even before he got to him, Andy knew the boy was dead. Blood soaked the pillow under the child’s head, with a smear running along the side of the mattress up from the floor. Andy’s feet slipped as he hurried across the room, his adrenaline kicking into high gear. Instinctively, he knelt down beside the child and felt for a pulse in his neck. Nothing. Then he laid his head on the boy’s chest and listened for sounds of breath, but didn’t hear a thing. “How long has he been out?” Andy shouted toward the boy’s father.



“Ten . . . maybe fifteen minutes. I . . . I’m not sure,” the man replied. “I don’t know how to do mouth- to- mouth, but I didn’t think it would do any good. I knew he was gone right after I got to him.” The man’s voice cracked just a little as he spoke. He swallowed hard and said, “I just knew he had already gone home.”



Andy shook his head and muttered something under his breath that questioned the man’s emotional stability. He reached under the boy’s body to lift him off the bed and start CPR. As he raised him up, the boy’s limbs hung limp and lifeless. Most of the bleeding had stopped, although a few drips fell from the back of the boy’s head. The pillow was soaked crimson and the boy’s hair and shirt were wet.



“My God,” Andy said as he looked for a place to lay the boy



on the floor. About the only time my old man ever mentioned God or Jesus was when he was really upset. Even then, they were nothing but words, not divine beings. “Holy, holy Christ,” he said as he laid the boy on the floor and squared himself around to try to revive him. He reached under the boy’s neck to raise his head up for the three quick breaths he had only performed on Resusci Anne, the CPR dummy, up until that day.



Only then did Andy take a close look at the boy. He looked him right in the face and it hit him. “Wait a minute. No . . . Gabe?” he said. Suddenly adrenaline gave way to nausea. A lump of bile hit him in the back of the throat as Andy fought to keep his composure. “Gabe?” he repeated. “You knew my son?” Gabe’s father asked. “How?” Andy kept staring into the boy’s face. “I’m a friend of his mother,” he replied but didn’t elaborate. “How did . . .” Andy cleared his throat and tried to speak again. I guess in all the excitement he forgot about trying CPR, not that it would have done any good. The kid’s lips had already turned blue and his body was slightly cool to the touch. “How did this happen?”



“I— I . . . I’m not exactly sure,” the boy’s father replied. “It all happened so fast. My boy had night terrors, and he would wake up screaming all the time. I guess you sort of get used to things like that after a while. They got even worse after his mother and I split up a while ago. I heard him screaming, but I thought I was the one having the bad dream. I woke up just in time to hear him fall. I ran in here, but I couldn’t do anything. I tried. Really, I tried, but I could feel his life slipping out of him, felt his spirit leaving. All I could do was kiss him good- bye and promise I would see him soon. Then he went home.” The boy’s father paused, then said, “Do you know what my son’s name means, Officer?” That last question really got to my pop. He didn’t know what the meaning of a kid’s name had to do with anything, especially with the man’s kid lying dead on a cold, bloody linoleum floor. My old man also found the dad’s lack of emotion rather odd. This was far from the first time Andy had dealt with a family member after a death, but this was the first time he’d seen a parent show so few signs of grief. A couple of years earlier he’d had to break the news to a couple closing in on retirement age that their thirty- seven- year- old son had died in a car crash. A doctor had to come to the house to sedate them both. But this guy was calmer than a televangelist during a tax audit. Maybe he was in shock. Everyone responds to death in different ways, that’s what I think. My old man, he wasn’t so sure.



“God is my strength,” the father went on. “Gabriel means ‘God is my strength.’ His mother wanted to name him Keith, after Keith Moon, the drummer from the Who. She’s a big fan of the Who. The name just didn’t seem to fit. I took one look at him and knew I had to name him Gabriel. It took me a few years, but I finally figured out why. God had talked to me through my son, Officer. Didn’t know it at the time. God was telling me to make Him my strength. Right now I don’t know what I would do if I hadn’t listened.” Andy made a mental note of how the father seemed to keep his distance from the boy. He never moved from the doorway as he spoke, while Andy stayed on his knees next to the body, his pants legs soaking up the liquid on the floor.



As Andy looked down, Gabe seemed much younger to him than eight— younger and smaller. The boy’s mother had once said something about how the other kids picked on him because of his size. Now he seemed smaller still. Andy knew the boy was dead, but he felt a strong urge to reach out and protect him. He grabbed his radio with his left hand, the hand that was covered with blood from the back of the boy’s neck. “Trask dispatch, 52-2. I have a 10-100. Request you get the coroner and Harris County started out here right away.” 10-100 means a “dead body.”



“ 10-4, 52-2,” the radio crackled back. “Are you sure you want to make the call on the body, Andy? I can have a paramedic and ambulance to you in no time.”



Andy paused for a moment. I don’t know what he hoped to accomplish, but he told the dispatcher, “Okay. Do that. I guess it couldn’t hurt.” Maybe he wanted the kid to still have a chance. More than likely, he just didn’t want to be haunted by the “ what- if” questions that follow emergency responders even when they do everything they possibly can. “What- ifs” are about as useful as wishful thinking, but they can sure be hard to shake in the middle of the night. Andy reached over and lightly stroked the boy’s head with his right hand, then stood to his feet. I think it was his way of telling Gabe goodbye. Once the paramedics and sheriff’s deputies showed up, he wouldn’t have another moment alone with the boy. Well, almost alone. The dad was still standing in the bedroom doorway.



“Did you know my son long, Officer?” the father asked.



“No, not too long,” Andy replied as he let out a long sigh. Turning from the boy, he scanned the bedroom. Toys were scattered across the floor, along with a variety of clothes.



Typical kid’s room. The sheets and blankets of both bunk beds were strewn about, which seemed odd if Gabe slept in the room by himself. “Did you stay in this room with your son, sir?”



“No, he’s a big boy. He’s able to sleep in his room all by himself,” the dad smiled and said.



If my old man wasn’t already about to pop, that smile put him over the edge. He couldn’t figure out how any father worth a dime could carry on a normal conversation right after his son died in his arms. “Which bed was your son sleeping in?” Andy asked. He also wondered why such a small room had bunk beds if Gabe was the only child in the house.



“I tucked him into the bottom bunk, but I guess he climbed up on top sometime during the night. You know how kids are.” That’s just it. Andy didn’t know how kids were, but he nodded his head as if he did and kept studying the father. About that time he heard the dispatcher notifying the local ambulance service, which back then was run by the volunteer fire department.



“I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t catch your name,” Andy said.



“John, John Phillips. And you?” he replied with a smile as he stuck out his hand. Andy refused it, using the blood on his hand as a convenient excuse. Funny. I’ve never known anyone who shakes with his left hand. “



“Officer Andrew Myers,” he replied.



“Are you the same Andy Myers who took my boy to a ball game a few weeks ago?” Andy nodded. “Oh, I have to tell you, my son never stopped talking about that game. He had the time of his life. Thank you for taking him.”



Andy didn’t reply. The ball game felt like a lifetime ago. I guess in a way it was, because nothing was ever the same after my dad walked into that apartment. Nothing.



Copyright © 2008 by Stephen Baldwin