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Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 31: THE SECOND TIME AROUND

Loooooong excerpt warning!

"Morgan!" Max Randolph darted out of the doorway of Stay-a-While and snatched at his arm.
"Nice to see you, too, Max," he said, chuckling. "Where's the fire?"
"Are you busy? Can you sit with us? Just ten minutes?" She pulled on his arm hard enough to dislocate it.
Whatever Max wanted, Daniel could see with one glance that she was excited, not worried or upset or afraid. Whatever she wanted from him meant a lot to her. Besides, he didn't have anything pressing. He wanted to walk down the street to Blooming Miracles and see how soon Lynette was getting off work, so they could go to Lodi for some shopping at the outlet stores, but no hurry for anything. Nodding, Daniel let her lead him into the coffee shop.
Steve Coheny, one of the new technicians at Homespun sat in a booth with Tony Martin. Daniel was a little surprised to see the two young men together. During the production of Shrew, and afterward, Steve's interest in Max had brought out some latent jealousy in Tony. Daniel had approved of the jealousy and hoped it would lead to another step upward in Max and Tony's relationship.
"Morgan, this is... well, you know Steve," Max said as they approached the booth. "And this is--"
"Daniel, it's been a long time," Carlo Vincente said, leaning out from behind Steve. He held out a hand, which Daniel gladly shook.
Carlo Vincente had been a romantic lead in Hollywood thirty years ago. He had starred in half a dozen movies with Emily Keeler-Randolph. One of the elder statesmen of Hollywood, he worked behind the scenes nowadays, promoting education and charitable efforts and bringing dignity to an increasingly hedonistic profession.
"You know each other?" Max, Tony and Steve said almost in unison.
"Yes. Daniel was stage manager when I worked that summer stock production in Long Island... oh, sixteen years ago, wasn't it?" Carlo smiled and nudged Steve. "Get a chair for him, would you? You can stay and talk a while, can't you?"
"I'd love to," Daniel said, and snagged a chair from the table behind him before Steve could get up. "It's been a long time. What are you doing in Tabor? It's great to see you again."
"Now you've gone and spoiled all my fun," Max grumbled.
"Fun?" Daniel looked at the four at the table and felt that odd little shiver up his spine, warning him that he had walked into something extremely interesting.
"Well, it's kind of complicated," she began.
"Tell me about it," Tony grumbled. "I'm in the middle of it, and I'm still twisted around sometimes."
"Okay." She glanced at Carlo, who winked at her. Max blushed, which she didn't do very often. "You know that Dad -- I mean, Joel Randolph isn't my real father. He didn't marry Mom until I was five."
Daniel felt like the entire balcony of Homespun Theater had fallen on his head. He rested his elbows on the end of the table and looked back and forth between Carlo and Max. The idea that burst into his mind made too much sense.
"Carlo is my father and Steve is my brother. I have five brothers all of a sudden. It's just disgusting," Max added with a snort of laughter.
"As soon as things settle down after Our Town is over, and Joel and Emily are both up to full strength, we're trying to talk Max and Tony into coming out for a visit," Carlo said. "Her stepmother and her other two brothers are very eager to get to know her. And her fiancé," he added, nodding to Tony.
"This is a dream, right?" Daniel said. From the grins on Tony and Max's faces, he knew it was too real, but he couldn't resist teasing them. "I thought you two would never figure it out. I even have a bet with the General, to see how many years it'd take you two to wake up."
        "I hope you lost," Max growled. That earned laughter from Steve and Carlo.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 30 -- Retrospective: BEHIND THE SCENES

I was a theater major. Northwestern College, Class of ... (you don't need to know that part!)

Butler-Williams University is mostly based on Northwestern, along with portions of Baldwin-Wallace College. Just like bits of Orange City, Iowa (home of NWC) and Berea, Ohio and Troy, Ohio are the foundation of Tabor Heights.

Let me say right here that even though we had three incredible professors in the theater department at NWC, BWU's theater staff of Morgan, Joel Randolph, and the General are NOT based on any of them. I swear!

BEHIND THE SCENES is the story of Joel Randolph's family in a time of crisis, which shows up in quite a few of the Tabor Heights stories. When Joel and Emily are seriously injured in a traffic accident, their daughter, Max takes up the reins of the household and the theater, getting a production on stage on time, looking after her brothers, and trying to meet her next book deadline and handle her part-time job at the Tabor Picayune. If only her best friend and writing partner, Tony, were home to let her lean on his shoulder from time to time.

As for Tony, he is just starting to realize that taking a writer-in-residence job on the West Coast was the worst choice he ever made -- and the feelings he has for Max are a lot warmer than best-buddies-and-writing-partners. But how does he tell her, when she's so busy keeping a dozen balls up in the air and trying not to fall apart?

So he devotes himself to showing her, and leaves the telling for later. And he's there when Max can't find any way of avoiding a new problem -- and a threat to her writing career -- that has exploded in her life: There's a chance her biological father might find out that Max exists, and right now, that's the last thing she wants or needs.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 29 -- Retrospective: A QUIET PLACE

One of my favorite songs "way back when" was A Quiet Place, written by Ralph Carmichael and sung by the Imperials. (Please, tell me you know who Ralph Carmichael and who the Imperials are!)

Getting away to somewhere quiet, private, to think and pray and wait for God to speak and meet your questions and needs ... and gather up the strength and peace to head back out and face the world, that's what we all need, right?

Jeannette Marshall needed a quiet place more than most people, when her world fell apart. Not even married a whole year, newly pregnant, she became a widow. When Brody's family should have gathered around her, they lashed out at her, demanding she get out of town and not look back.

She was only too glad to retreat to Tabor Heights, to her friends and her church, and the people who had made an orphan part of their family from the beginning. And to Nathan Lewis -- park ranger, National Guardsman, and big brother from their orphanage days.

Problem: Nathan wanted more than to be big brother to Jeannette, and always regretted sending his Afghanistan War buddy to Jeannette and Tabor Heights when Brody got out of the service. By the time Nathan got home, determined to win Jeannette's love, she and Brody were already planning a life together.

Nathan couldn't compete against a ghost, so he pledged to be there for Jeannette and her son, and someday, maybe, when her heart had healed in that quiet place ...

Then Jeannette's ex-in-laws showed up in Tabor Heights, multiplying their lies, determined to take her son away from her. Nathan was there for her, like always, but the fallout would change their relationship forever.

Monday, May 28, 2012

May 28 -- Retrospective: THE FAMILY WAY

The next book in our look backwards at currently available Tabor Heights books is THE FAMILY WAY.

Romance is the story of love -- and in this case, regaining or repairing lost or damaged love.

Todd and Lisa are essentially still newlyweds, and at what should be one of the high points of their marriage of only a few years, damage occurs that could split them forever.

When Lisa tells her husband -- newly returned from an exhausting, strained business trip -- that she thinks she might be pregnant, his unthinking response of, "Is it mine?" starts them hurtling down a slope that could finally destroy their fragile marriage.

Or lead to healing and the end of a bitter, hidden family "tradition," if they are both brave enough to follow scripture and deal with the problem as Christ would want them to do.

Insider look: Just how did I get the idea for this painful story? Blame "better living through chemicals." My doctor had me on a prescription for hormone treatment, and the pharmacy accidentally doubled the dose one month, putting me into (the simple description) temporary depression. You know those awful scenarios that spill through your brain when you're half-asleep? Yeah, that's where the ignition scene came from.

Let's hope we all learn something through this -- controlling our tongues, learning to really think about and when necessary discard the innuendos and veiled accusations people spill into our ears, and paying attention to prescriptions!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

May 26 -- Retrospective: DETOURS

News Flash!!!

From now (Saturday) until the end of the month (Thursday), DETOURS will be on sale for 99 cents from Amazon.

If you've been wondering which Tabor Heights book to start with -- or you want to get another one, and can't decide -- let your wallet help you out this time.

Actually, DETOURS is a good book to start with, because it covers a full year in the life of three girls sharing an apartment and suffering through school and family crises and the ups and downs of their love lives and careers and going to school. And you get to meet a lot of people in Tabor Heights and catch glimpses of their stories at the same time.

Our three heroines are Bekka, Kat, and Amy.

Bekka is a perpetual student, trying to support herself with three or four part-time jobs, take some college classes, and sell her scripts and novels.

Amy is the poet and temperamental artist. She's in love with Joe, but sometimes it's hard to tell, because she and Joe are constantly arguing and making up.

Then there's Kat. Bekka invited Kat to live with her because she senses something very ... wrong with Kat's stepfather, Mike. Something that makes it hard for Kat to go beyond two dates with any guy, no matter how great he is. Especially if he's the guy Bekka has her eye on, but can't seem to connect with. Once Shane dates Kat, Bekka knows she'll never see him again.

Or will she?

You see, Shane is having just as much chaos in his life as Bekka, and every time he tries to catch up with her, to get to know her, someone or something gets in the way. Like the jerks on campus and at church who insist Bekka is practically engaged.

Somehow or other, despite all the detours in their lives ... well, you'll just have to read the book to find out what happens!

Don't forget the sale at Amazon! Now until the end of May.

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 25 -- Retrospective: SEASONS

The first Tabor Heights anthology, but not the last!

In Year Two, we'll have 2 anthologies of short stories.

The first will be A BOX OF PROMISES, covering the vows a group of dorm sisters make regarding their summer goals and dreams.

The working title for the second book is simply BUTLER-WILLIAMS UNIVERSITY, and will have 3 stories about 3 couples finding love amid the chaos of academia.

But right now, you can read SEASONS: A TABOR HEIGHTS ANTHOLOGY.

We have "Cops and Bobbers" -- what happens when a cop and a summer rec director finally take those first stumbling steps and venture past longing glances and actually ... gasp! ... TALK to each other!

Then there's "Troubleshooting" -- a corporate troubleshooter comes to track down discrepancies and problems in a manufacturing company before they make a big upgrade. The problem is when one of the prime suspects is the girl he followed down the street one summer Sunday morning, right into church!

"In the Air, On the Air" is something of a sequel to "Troubleshooting," because the best friend of the heroine in "Troubleshooting" is our heroine here, in the story of a radio DJ who finds out that his biggest rival is his on-air personality. Kind of like how Clark Kent feels about Superman when it comes to winning the heart of his Lois Lane.

Then we finish up with "From Turkey to Mistletoe." The office "good girl" is the subject of a nasty joke that lands the "new guy" at the office at her apartment for a canceled Thanksgiving day dinner. Between then and Christmas, the two of them become good friend ... and longing for much more.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 24 -- Retrospective: Common Grounds

The second Tabor Heights book to be published was COMMON GROUNDS.

It ties into the serial killer storyline of WHITE ROSES.

Our hero and heroine, Xander Finley and Hannah Blake, run Common Grounds Legal Clinic, partially funded by the Arc Foundation (which you will learn about in other Tabor Heights books such as THE MISSION and FORGIVEN, and the upcoming women's fiction series from Desert Breeze, Quarry Hall -- look for it maybe in late 2013/2014).

Common Grounds is ready to expand from its original office to a branch office in Tabor Heights -- and Hannah is ready to step back and give up on Xander seeing her as anything more than his Gal Friday and partner-in-crime ... justice? ... running the legal clinic. Then the nastiness from another lawyer in Tabor Heights, who attends their church and doesn't want Xander setting up business in town, takes a back seat to a bigger problem: Hannah finds herself the next "true love" of the White Rose Killer.

He stalks his "angel," leaving her notes and white roses, never showing her his face or letting her hear his voice, and demanding her purity and loyalty. After kidnapping and strangling the previous three girls who logically reacted in fear and anger, the White Rose is looking at Hannah. But is he really? She doesn't fit the pattern established with the previous three girls.

Xander realizes he has been wasting a lot of time, and maybe he was an idiot not following up on his feelings for Hannah. The question is if this is "foxhole love," like "foxhole religion," and if it will fade away once the crisis ends.

Will it?
Will they find the White Rose Killer before he punishes Hannah for not giving her heart fully to him?

Read it and see!
Get it from Desert Breeze Publishing -- and other online vendors.
Visit my web site for a sample.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 23 -- Retrospective: The Second Time Around

While we wait for "something" to happen in Tabor Heights, let's look back at the books that are currently available.

THE SECOND TIME AROUND was the first book published -- and one of the first books taken into paper when Desert Breeze Publishing expanded from solely e-books to dipping the proverbial toe into the "traditional print" waters. Thanks to the intrepid staff for their faith in my stories!

What's it about?

Second chances. Lost-and-found-love. College sweethearts, separated by mistakes and bad choices, reunited years later -- and how they got over the pain and misunderstandings and fear that come as a result of those years of separation.

Daniel Morgan and Lynette Teague were theater majors in college. Fell in love. Had plans for a bright future in Hollywood or Broadway. When Lynette realized she was pregnant, Daniel was more than ready to put his dreams aside to take care of her and their baby -- but she wasn't. She used her powerful mother's lawyers -- or rather, the threat of legal action -- to send him away. She thought she was making the right choice, putting his brilliant career ahead of their life together. She thought he would become a star and then come back for her and their baby.

Instead, Daniel became a theater professor at Butler-Williams University in Tabor Heights, and got his life right with God. Lynette eventually married Mike Tyler and they settled in a town near Tabor Heights. Her daughter, Kat, was not at all happy with Mike for a stepfather.

Then Kat walked into Daniel's theater history class her first day of college. In time, he became her advisor, because Kat had inherited his writing talent. But Daniel didn't know Kat was his daughter until a fateful Thanksgiving dinner when he was invited to spend it with Kat and her roommates, and Lynette showed up.

What happened after that?
You'll just have to read it and find out, won't you?

If you care for a sample of the beginning of the book, go to my web site sample page, or the Tabor Heights page, and open up/download the PDF.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 22 -- from DETOURS

What's happening on today's date in Tabor Heights?

Well, how about the resolution of one couple's long journey to "the big question" while another couple has just taken the first few steps?

Bekka hurried into the office and nearly tripped over Xander kneeling in front of Hannah, who was sitting on the side of her desk. Hannah looked as startled as Bekka felt. Neither of them noticed Bekka standing there, slightly sweaty and trying not to breathe like a stevedore. Xander's attention was focused solely on Hannah's face, and Hannah stared at the ring he held out to her.
Bekka knew about the agreement between Xander and Hannah, that they would date for six months before taking the next step in their relationship, which meant there were still seven weeks of dating to go. She decided to cheer for Xander, that he didn't want to wait any longer.
"Yes," Hannah whispered, and her stunned expression changed to a blush and a shaky smile.
Bekka waited for Xander to get to his feet and pull Hannah into his arms before she backed out of the office. She almost forgot to reach up and catch hold of the bell over the door so it wouldn't jangle and interrupt. She muffled laughter, realizing that Xander and Hannah certainly hadn't heard the bell ring when she came in.
"Hey, you," Shane called, pulling up to the parking spot right in front of Common Grounds' door. "I sure hope that big grin is for me."
"Well, yeah. Kind of." Bekka stumbled when she wondered what it would be like to kiss Shane, just like Hannah and Xander were doing right that moment. At least, she assumed that was what they were doing.
"Kind of?" Shane looked over her head, frowning at the front door of the office. "Something wrong with your bosses?"
"No, why?"
"Looks like he's holding her. Is she crying or something?"
"I don't know. I don't see Hannah as the type who cries when she's happy." Bekka sighed and swallowed down a giggle that tried to emerge. "I think they're kissing."
"Are you allowed to do that at work?"
"It is if you just got engaged."
"Oh." A slow grin brightened his face and Shane tipped his head to one side, studying her. Bekka felt her face get much warmer than the exertion of riding all over town had done.
"What?"
"Nothing."
"Liar." She punched his shoulder. "What are you thinking?"
"Believe me, you don't want to know."
Bekka opened her mouth to protest that yes, she did want to know. Then it occurred to her that if Shane was thinking about something even remotely similar to what she had been thinking a moment ago... maybe it was better if neither of them mentioned it. At least, for right now.

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 21 -- Sneak Peek: From Common Grounds to Teddy Bears


COMMON GROUNDS was the second Tabor Heights book to be published by Desert Breeze Publishing.

Xander was a lawyer, and Hannah his Gal Friday. Both of them had wondered from time to time, "What if ...?" Then a serial killer's copycat set his sights on Hannah, and it was the wake-up call Xander needed to finally say what was on his heart!

But it took some timely intervention from Rene, Hannah's roommate, and her business partner, Vic, to slap some sense into both of them.

Coming up in Year Two, we'll have THE TEDDY BEAR DANCER, which is the story of Rene and Vic facing some dark moments from their pasts while teaming up to take care of a little girl who -- accompanied by her teddy bear and some dangerous secrets -- lands on Vic's doorstep. He owes her brother his life -- in several different dimensions -- so Vic is determined to take care of the little girl, no matter what.

But really, what does he know about little girls?

That's where Rene comes in. And just maybe the short taste of family life will help them get past their fears and reluctance and follow where their hearts have been tugging them for years now.

Does anyone remember the short-lived USA Network TV series, "Matrix," starring Nick Mancuso? THE TEDDY BEAR DANCER was originally a script I wrote, to submit to the series -- which got canceled before I could send it in! I turned the script into a fanzine story, graciously published by Solstice Press, in the Stingray/Mancuso fanzine "Small Favors," and eventually Stephen Matrix's story migrated to Tabor Heights, where he got a new name and identity ... but the same problems!

Keep this in mind, when TEDDY BEAR DANCER comes out ... I think in 2014.

Can you wait that long?
I can't!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

May 19 -- Beforehand

Since there's "nothing" happening on today's date in Tabor Heights -- at least, nothing the residents are willing to talk about -- let's go back in time.

Nine years before the Tabor Heights books occur, here's what starts out as an ordinary night in Dani Paul's young life, before she joined the band called Firesong:

                The fourth through sixth-graders met outside that evening at Tabor Christian. Mrs. Olentangy handled announcements and finished by asking for prayer requests and volunteers to pray. The same girls made the same requests, the same girls volunteered to pray, and the same girls sat on the grass and drummed their heels on the ground, impatient to get through the lesson and be free.
                Dani was bored. She wished she could spend the evening with her brother and cousins, practicing their band's music in the barn behind the Gibsons' house. Sometimes the boys let her listen. She had an idea for lyrics to go with a melody her brother, Andy, had been working on for three weeks now, and she hoped if it was good enough, the boys would let her join the band.
"All right, girls," Mrs. Olentangy said, when the prayer ended, "how about our missionaries of the month? That's Dani's parents, the Pauls, doing short-term service in Columbia. Does anybody know what they do? Sue-Anne?"
Sue-Anne Ehrenbull stood, struck a pose and pursed her lips. She was the only girl in the group who wore jewelry and makeup. Dani despised her; not for the makeup or jewelry, but because Sue-Anne was desperately in love with Andy.
Half the girls in the middle school classes at Tabor Christian Church were in love with Andy. The other half were in love with the three Gibson brothers. Dani was pretty sure that was because they had a band, and they were good enough that they were allowed to play for the youth group parties four times since they were formed.
"Mr. Paul flies airplanes to take supplies to the missionaries in the jungle," Sue-Anne announced with appropriate hand gestures and widening eyes, as if it was the most amazing thing she had ever heard of.
"Mom flies the plane and Dad is the mechanic -- stupid," Dani muttered, just loudly enough for Katie and a few other girls to hear. They giggled and rolled their eyes. Sue-Anne was a favorite with no one.
"That's right." Mrs. Olentangy gave Dani and her friends a reproving little frown. "Everybody remember to pray for them this week."
Then Mrs. Randolph had the lesson, a story acted out with puppets, asking the girls to think about what it meant to them, personally, to stay true to God and serve Him. A few minutes into the discussion, a handful of girls decided that meant sacrifice, making changes in their lives, even giving up something that meant a lot to them.
"Like what?" Sue-Anne challenged. "What does God want us to give up? And why do we have to give up anything, anyway?"
"Like make-up and jewelry and getting new clothes every week," a girl called from the back of the group. Dani didn't turn around fast enough to see who it was, and she didn't recognize the voice. She was pretty sure the speaker was one of the girls who practically never spoke up in girls' club. There were four or five who only came because their mothers made them. They would have preferred to be on the other side of the church lot, playing baseball with the boys.
             "Why would God want me to do that?" Sue-Anne whined, her eyes wide with horror.

Friday, May 18, 2012

May 18 -- Who's on First?

So, which Tabor Heights book was first?

The easy answer is the first published book: The Second Time Around.

The first book I wrote? Don't ask! I've been working on these stories for so long, I can't remember back that far -- and I don't have my old notes. I would tend toward either Behind the Scenes or Detours, back before I realized all these individual stories were happening in a mythical little town called Tabor Heights!

But don't quote me on that -- I could change the story in a couple months. These old brain cells aren't as reliable as they used to be ...

But in terms of chronological order in the series? Hmmmm, that's a little easier, and yet a little harder, too.

Maybe because the story that starts the furthest back isn't a book at all -- it's a short story. The free short read (you can go to the Desert Breeze Publishing site and download it for free, or check my web site on the samples page or the Tabor Heights page for the PDF) HOMESPUN.

What happens in HOMESPUN?

You've met Joel Randolph and his wife, formerly Hollywood starlet Emily Keeler-Randolph? They run the Homespun Theater, a community theater that has a good reputation for discovering new talent, producing quality dramas, and giving back to the community. Joel also happens to be the tech teacher in the theater department at Butler-Williams University.

This is the story of how they met and fell in love, during summer stock, and came up with the dream of Homespun Theater.

It's also the story of how a little girl named Max found just the right daddy.

Try it -- you'll like it!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 17 -- Inside Look at Tabor Heights

Do you have places that just "stick" with you, and maybe you want to preserve as you remember them? Share them with others? Even when they change?

That's the case with the locations I use as the "foundation" for the mythical town of Tabor Heights, Ohio.

I took my favorite pieces and features of Berea, Ohio; Troy, Ohio; and Orange City, Iowa, to create Tabor Heights.

Butler-Williams University is partly based on Northwestern College, in Orange City -- my alma mater. Go, Red Raiders! -- and partly on Baldwin Wallace College, in Berea.

If you know the geography of Berea, past and present, you can get a good idea of the streets that I sort of ... copied over and renamed. And the names of the Tabor streets somewhat hearken back to their original names. Along with some notable shops and other landmarks.

For instance, the local newspaper, the Tabor Picayune, starts out at the same location on the side of the river, behind a shopping center, as the newspaper that I worked at for nearly 10 years.

The municipal complex housing the police station, city hall and library is pretty much the same place in Tabor as it is in Berea.

As for the people and political and social situations ... hmmmmm, not so much similarity between the real towns and Tabor. For instance, Tabor Christian Church is right next to the Post Office, which is in the same spot in Berea, but there is no church there in Berea. At least, there wasn't the last time I looked! I wouldn't use the location of an actual church, just because I don't want people wondering if I'm talking about them when I mention troublemakers, or I somehow know about their personal issues when I mention something my main characters or sideline characters are going through.

Nope, I stay away from that completely.

Any similarities between actual people, living or dead is ....... accidental at best. At least, people in Berea.

Let that be a warning: Anything you say and do could appear in my next book!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May 16 -- Weddings!

Let's look ahead to weddings we can see in Tabor Heights Year Two.

Xander Finley and Hannah Blake were planning a Christmas/winter wedding the last time we checked in with them.

Shane Hopkins and Bekka Sanderson got engaged at the end of October and are planning on a wedding a year later.

Dr. Daniel Morgan and Lynette Teague eloped in New York, but how about a delayed wedding celebration in the spring?

Curt Mehdlang and Toni Napolitano are heading toward an engagement ring. Any suggestions for when and how Curt should propose? Or maybe Toni should ambush him with a proposal?

What do you vote for?

Then there's Jeannette Marshall and Nathan Lewis. He's been waiting to ask her for six years now. Should they have a long engagement?

Votes, please!

Then there are our most recent hero and heroine, Paul Hunter and Claire Donnelly of THE MISSION. Sammy really wants a new mother for Christmas -- should she get one?

Let's hear from all of you -- who are your favorite couples, and when should they get married?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 15 -- Who are YOUR favorite characters? Favorite places?

Today is YOUR chance to contribute to Tabor Heights.

Who are your favorite characters?
They don't have to be the heroine and hero of the story.
They can be the best friend, the older sister, the co-worker, the roommate.
Who do YOU want to see as the hero of the next story?
Do you have any favorite characters you want to match up? Say the best buddy of the hero in Book A, matched up with the kid sister of the hero in Book B?

Feedback, please!! Speak up in the comments section.
Who knows? A pairing YOU suggest could spark a book in ... Tabor Heights Year Three?

How about places?
Where are your favorite places to "visit" in town?
Is there a store you've always wanted to visit in real life, but just can't find?
Tell me about it in the comments section. Tell me what the store sells, or the services a shop offers. Tell me the name. Describe how it will look when it's open for business.
You will get credit in the book where the store first appears, if I use it!

Talk to me! I want to know what YOU like and want to see again, or want to see show up.
It's your town, too!

Monday, May 14, 2012

May 14 -- Preview: ACCIDENTAL HEARTS

According to my official Tabor Heights calendar, NOTHING is recorded as happening on this date in Year One.

So let's look ahead.

Coming in August of this year: ACCIDENTAL HEARTS

The 12th and final book of Year One of Tabor Heights.

Our heroine: Abby Morgan. Pilot, owns a small courier plane, teaches flying. She's busy helping her widowed brother, Al, raise his children, Candy and Chad. She is also cousin to Dr. Daniel Morgan, hero of THE SECOND TIME AROUND, so if you've read that book, you've already met Abby, Al, Candy and Chad.

Our hero: Tyler Sloane. You met him when he moved to town to be Xander Finley's roommate in COMMON GROUNDS. Tyler runs the Royal Community Theater, so he's friends with some of the theater people in the area, including Homespun Theater, and Butler-Williams University's theater faculty. Tyler is having some domestic upheaval -- his sister's husband vanished, and in the effort to find him, she discovered that he has several more identities, lives, and wives! When Tanya needs help, Tyler takes her and her children, Pam and Danny, into his home. It's a good thing Xander has moved out in preparation to marry Hannah, because Tyler needs the condo to shelter his family.

Candy and Chad meet and make friends with Pam and Danny during summer camp. This helps, yet causes untold problems when Tyler and Abby meet and are attracted to teach other -- because family obligations keep taking priority. What's it going to take for the two of them to have some time together, with just the two of them?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 13 -- from FIRESONG

Ah, the perils of being an up-and-coming band ...

Today in Tabor Heights, Dani realizes that the guy who has been chasing her -- who won't take 'no' for an answer -- is also being chased. Time for a wake-up call!

Dani grinned as Kurt's familiar, dark green sedan appeared over that rise in the fields that partially shielded the house from the road. She stood, clutched her notebook and stepped back into the house to let Aunt Betty know she was leaving.
When she stepped back outside, Kurt had already turned the car around so the passenger side door lined up with the flagstone walk. Dani felt a flicker of mixed disappointment and relief that the back door hung open -- no one was making her sit in the front seat, alone with Kurt.
"Get a move on, shorty!" Andy called, sticking his head out the front passenger window.
Dani's retort that the honeymoon was over died on her lips, as she bent to slide into the back seat and saw Katie in the middle and a stranger next to the window, directly behind Kurt.
"This is Belinda Kain," Katie said when Dani paused. "She just showed up, a surprise visit. Kurt couldn't leave her all alone, could he?" She smiled -- but it was her 'I'm only being nice because it's the Christian thing to do' smile.
"Hi," Dani muttered, got in and pulled the door closed behind herself. Katie slid over a little so their hips bumped. The two friends exchanged glances -- Dani's, questioning, and Katie's, resigned.
Belinda was gorgeous, with her glossy, curly black hair and violet eyes -- those had to be contacts, right? -- and perfect figure. Who in the world wore make-up at this time of the morning? She just got into town? She didn't look like she had been traveling. She looked like she had just stepped out of the dressing room of some fancy store that specialized in 'country club chic'. That simple little blue gingham sundress was disgustingly modest, with its wide straps and high, square neckline and the lace-edged hem falling past her calves. Dani didn't want to know if Belinda wore nylons. She suspected this newcomer wore high-heels and had polish on her toenails.
Then Belinda opened her mouth, and her voice was gorgeous. Rich and flowing, sweet but not verging on being so high only dogs could hear. Dani knew she could have liked the newcomer better if she had at least one flaw.
"Fiancé?" Dani blurted, realizing she hadn't heard a word Belinda said, until that word.
                "We're not engaged," Kurt said, almost growling, when Belinda's face brightened and she started to nod. "There's no ring, there's no date set, and I never asked her."
                 Dani could almost hear him thinking, 'and I never will.' She felt dizzy with the relief that slammed her.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

May 12 -- from BEHIND THE SCENES

I promise, there are more books in the Tabor Heights series than Behind the Scenes -- it's just that all the really good action is happening in that book right now. In fact, the last 20 pages of the book happen on May 12.

But here's the last snippet from Behind the Scenes. You'll just have to be satisfied with other books for the rest of the year....
 
"All right, that's enough for now," Chuck said. "You have an hour to rest, then wash up and get ready for dinner."
"No time for sightseeing?" Max mumbled as she struggled to her feet.
"Yeah, I want to walk up Hollywood Boulevard and get some really stupid souvenirs or something," Tony said.
"Tomorrow." Chuck gestured down the hall. "Get moving. Don't make me call your parents and tattle on you."
Max barely mustered the energy to stick her tongue out at him. She managed a lopsided smile when Chuck laughed. It widened when she realized that she walked lopsided, too.
"Please tell me the floor is crooked," she said, as she passed Tony's guest room.
"Nope. Hey, aren't you forgetting something?" He caught hold of her arm, nearly pulling her off her feet when she wanted to keep walking the last five steps to her own room.
"Forgetting?" Max's heart went into overdrive when he grasped her by her shoulders and pulled her up against him. "Oh, yeah, that," she whispered against his lips. One kiss turned into three. She liked how their lips buzzed against each other with Tony's soft laughter.
"Excuse me?" Chuck turned on the hall light.
Max stumbled backwards from Tony, pressing a hand over her mouth. The expression of shock on her agent's face made her want to giggle, but she was afraid if she started, she wouldn't be able to stop.
"Is there something the two of you want to tell me?" he continued, jamming his fists into his hips.
"You're our agent, not her father," Tony said. He winked at Max, stepped into his room, and closed the door.
"Uh huh." Chuck tipped his head to one side, looked at the closed door, then at Max, then back at the closed door, then at Max. "What'll you pay me not to tell your mother you've been necking under the bleachers?"
"My mother will know you're lying. I'm not worried."

Friday, May 11, 2012

May 11 -- from BEHIND THE SCENES

Today in Tabor Heights, lots of secrets are becoming uncovered .... who will be next?

Max slid to a stop on the empty stage and kicked off her sandals. Her feet ached from all her walking today. A shiver ran up her back, that sense of being watched. She took a deep breath and turned to face Steve, framed in the light streaming through the backstage door.
"Why are you here?" she asked, trying to make her voice disinterested. She failed, miserably.
"What, you mean here, backstage? Or in Tabor?" He pulled the door close behind him, leaving them in semi-darkness. She could only shrug her answer. "Dad wanted answers--"
"What have you two decided to do? Besides destroying my career before it gets started."
"That's not fair! Dad doesn't even know I'm here, for one thing. Your folks just figured it out, called me in to confront me."
"Hopefully to hand you your walking papers. You've got no right to be here."
"Now, see, that's the first thing you'll learn about Dad. Family means everything."
"I'm not your family."
"Look, you think it's easy for me, finding out I have a little sister all of a sudden?"
"Little?" Max choked.
"Yeah, five years between us. It's a long story." He waited, obviously expecting her to ask him to elaborate. He shook his head, a glint of amusement in his eyes when she kept her silence. "You aren't the only one Dad messed up, you know. I was mad at him for a long time, too, but at least I gave him a chance. That's all I want. Give our Dad a chance, okay?"
The door thudded open and Tony emerged from the darkness.
"You okay, Max?" Tony rested a hand on her shoulder and gripped hard.
"I'm fine." She didn't know if she should laugh or be angry with him, running to her 'rescue' like he had.
"You know," Steve said, "you might be her boyfriend--"
"He's not my boyfriend!" Max shouted.
"Oh, yeah?" Her unwanted brother grinned.
                 Steve reminded Max too much of Carlo, in a movie scene with Emily when they had been arguing one moment and kissing passionately the next. Max shuddered. Steve was a figure from her most ardent dreams of romance and adventure. Just her luck -- bad -- he had to be her half-brother.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May 10 -- Insider Peek

Well, according to my calendar of Tabor Heights events, NOTHING happened today, May 10.

So, how about some inside information?

In Year Two of Tabor Heights, we will have TWO books that are loosely based on screenplays I wrote years -- even decades -- ago.

The first book you'll encounter will be TRUCK STOP ANGEL. Based on a screenplay by the same name that I wrote maybe 2 years ago.

The screenplay is based on a tear-jerker little story that was going around the Internet for months, about a woman in the mid-1960s whose husband ran out on her, leaving her with a handful of children, a broken down car, and no money to feed or clothe them. She went to work at a truck stop, working long hours, barely making ends meet. On Christmas Eve, she came out to her car to find it stuffed full of clothes and toys for the children, groceries, and even new tires to replace the bald ones on her car.

In translating that story to the screen and then to the town of Tabor Heights, I moved it from a truck stop on the highway to a diner on the edge of an industrial park -- called the Truck Stop Diner. (Hey, it's MY universe, I can do what I want, as corny as it might sound!) I also "realized" that the ex-husband was a local bad boy who got in trouble in a previous story and had to skip town. Our plucky heroine only has three children, not six, and the owners of the diner are her foster-mother and three foster-brothers. And of course, some regulars from previous Tabor Heights stories show up from time to time. And this time, our hero/romantic interest has a rival. Who is it? You'll have to read the book and figure it out.

And I have to finish writing the wretched thing....

The second book based on a screenplay will be WHEELS, the unofficial sequel to my current new Tabor Heights release, THE MISSION. Claire Donnelly is the heroine of the first story, and WHEELS is the story of her brother, Tommy. Tommy has been in a wheelchair since he was twelve. When he's put in charge of Handicap Awareness Day at the Mission, he realizes that he has bitten off more than he can chew -- especially when a girl he knew a long time ago shows up to cover the event for a national magazine. The last time he saw her, she had braces and freckles and he pushed her around. Now the braces and freckles are gone ... and she gets to push him around.

WHEELS is based on a TV script of the same name that I wrote back in the late 80s/early 90s ... for MacGuyver! Not going to tell you who gets MacGuyver's role in the story, but it ain't the guy in the wheelchair! And of course, since it was a MacGuyver story, there's some danger, some tricks (anyone for barricading a door with a crutch, or building a pyramid of wheelchairs?) -- and romance, since it's a Tabor Heights story. Naturally.

So stay tuned and see what develops in these stories in Year Two of Tabor Heights!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May 8 -- from BEHIND THE SCENES

So, what happened today in Tabor Heights?

Anyone for a pillow fight?

Max came home for lunch, surprising her parents in the middle of a discussion of what to do about her imposter. They agreed with Chuck Winters, that eventually Max would have to go to Hollywood. Convincing Max to go, and figuring out how to cushion the shock of meeting her father and revealing her identity to protect her career would be the hardest thing they would ever have to do. They had just agreed to call Pastor Glenn and bring him in on the whole long, old story and get his advice before they did anything else, when Max came home. Joel and Emily shared concerned glances as their daughter stormed into the room, dropped the mail on his lap, and settled down in the couch facing them with a large manila envelope. Obviously, she hadn't heard what they had been discussing, too caught up in whatever she had received in the mail. Joel and Emily traded relieved grins, and a moment later fought not to burst out laughing.

"I'm seriously considering some violence," Max offered as she shuffled through the stack of papers from the envelope.

"To who? Doing what?" Emily asked.

"Jake Holt, or else this character in my book who isn't behaving. I figured I'd start out with tar and feathers and work up from there."

"Sounds like fun," Tony said, coming in through the kitchen door. He chuckled when everyone jumped at his sudden entrance. "Who are we maligning this week?"

"Never mind," Joel said. He had to stop this before it got anywhere near out of hand. "You look awfully cheerful."

"I ought to be." Tony grinned wider than before, if that was possible. He flopped down onto the couch next to Max and tugged his Club Paradise shirt away from his chest. "Hot out there. I'll miss the air conditioning."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Max hitched a few inches away from him, her expression turning wary even if she still smiled.

"The McCafferty place across the street is being sold."

"Huh?"

"Old Sam didn't say anything to me about that," Joel said. "When did this happen?" He glanced up as Rose came into the room with the iced tea pitcher.

"Actually, we've been talking about it since last winter." Tony glanced around, eyes sparkling. "The place is too much for him to handle and I want a place close by--"

"You're buying it?" Joel blurted. He burst out laughing and scooted forward, holding out his hand. Tony grinned and nodded, and got up to shake hands. "Welcome to the neighborhood!"

"How soon is Old Sam moving?" Emily asked. She beckoned and Tony leaned down for a hug.

"Yes, how soon?" Rose asked. "How much help do you need moving?" Her tone was light and convincingly casual. Almost.

"You mean how soon am I getting out of your hair?" Tony slid back into the couch and made a show of putting his feet up on the box of costume boots to one side.

"I wouldn't put it that way."

"I would," Max said. She put her back into the corner of the couch among all the throw pillows.

"Guess I've been a royal pain, huh?" Tony kept smiling.

"Kind of hard to strangle somebody who's so helpful," Joel said.

"I know." A muffled snort of laughter escaped him. "It was great, watching you all fighting to be nice and polite and not tell me to mind my own business. Max, I thought you were going to burst a few times."

"Oh, really?" Max said, her voice like syrup.

        Joel smothered a chuckle. He saw the way she slowly reached behind herself for the throw pillows, the tight thinness of her lips, the deadly sparkle in her eyes.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Looking Ahead!

Believe it or not, NOTHING happened on this date in Year One of Tabor Heights.

Well, yeah, something did happen, but nothing to show up in one of the books!

So, let's look ahead to Year Two of Tabor Heights.

Coming titles:

Invitation to a Wedding -- When the childhood friend who should have been Maid of Honor isn't even sent an invitation to the wedding, the bride's brother intervenes. What happens next ... well, it's a long-distance relationship, until he decides, like Dorothy, his heart's desire is in his own back yard.

Cooking up Trouble -- Audrey Hathaway isn't just a pretty face and a romantic lead at Homespun Theater. She's also a gourmet cook. But when she joins forces with Steve Coheny to derail the paparazzi's plans to  share Max and Tony's wedding with the world, there's more than souffle at stake!

The Wrath of  Bubbles -- Rose Weinberg and Andrew Coffelt's courtship hits a few snags when he offers her the Dateline: Tabor Heights column and some disgruntled loonies in town turn ... homicidal.

Truck Stop Angel -- Combine one struggling singler mother, a new diner at the edge of the industrial park, a thieving ex-husband, small town gossip and one former high school sweetheart cop. Stire with old scores to settle, regrets to make amends for, and interference from people who have no idea what the truth is.

A Box of Promises -- Dorm sisters at Butler-Williams University write down their goals for their summer apart. The penalty for not fulfilling their promises is a pizza party in the fall, but the reward is different for each one, whether she succeeds or not. More details to follow!

BWU -- Three stories of students at Butler-Williams University during the school year. More details to follow!

The Teddy Bear Dancer -- Vic Thomson has secrets and a dark past, and so does Rene Ackley, his partner at Gold Tone Gym. When a little girl shows up carrying dangerous Mob secrets, Vic and Rene join forces to protect her, and finally find the courage to share their secrets, their wounds, and their longing for love.

Wheels -- Tommy Donnelly is running the Mission's first-ever Handicap Awareness Day. The reporter who comes to cover the day brings echoes from the past, not all of them pleasant -- especially since she was his first kiss, before he landed in his wheelchair. Or maybe those memories are pleasant after all?

Stay tuned for more details in the months to come!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

May 6 -- from BEHIND THE SCENES

On this day in Tabor Heights, Year One:

"We need to talk." Max handed him that ivory and gold-speckled booklet he had seen her take out of the mail last week.

"About what?"

"Just look." She leaped to her feet and backed away when Tony dropped the booklet on the cot and reached for her. "You'll figure it out in a second. I just felt you should know this. You know everything else. You're about the only person I'm not keeping any secrets from," she added with a shaky little laugh.

Tony wanted to wrap his arms around her, but he could see how much this meant to her. He nodded, opened the booklet, and read the introduction from the Gabrielli Fellowship. Then the short paragraph under the picture of Carlo Vincente's family. He started to turn the page, wondering what Max wanted him to see, when a familiar face caught his attention. He studied the photo again.

"He's your brother." He looked at Max, then at the photo, with Steve Vincente, not Coheny, smiling from the back row of the family photo. Tony could almost laugh at how oblivious he had been, not seeing the resemblance between Max and Steve until now. "So... I'm guessing you haven't faced him down yet."

"Not for anything in the world." She scrubbed at her face with her fists, then frowned. "What's that big grin for?"

"I'm just... relieved, I guess." Tony handed the booklet back to her. "All this time, I thought he was getting ready to make some moves on you. Trying to impress you, be your hero."

"Nope. You're the only white knight in my life." She let out a gusting sigh. "Just like you were tonight. I couldn't think straight, after everything Chuck told us. I probably would have agreed to go to Hollywood, if you hadn't been there. Thanks. You keep rescuing me."

"Any time. Forever."

Just a few minutes later, after Max had hurried up to her bedroom and Tony turned off the lights and finally stretched his achingly exhausted body on the cot, he groaned.

Yet another perfect opening he had missed, to tell her how he felt, promise he would always be her white knight, her hero, and that he loved her.

What made him think he could write romances?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

May 5 -- from FORGIVEN

What's happening today in Tabor Heights?

Well, there's the aftermath of that attack in the park, when Brock and Nikki were just taking a walk and getting a few details in their relationship straightened out ...

"Nikki," Rich finally moaned, "that's a lot of money, and you're just giving it away?"

"I don't need it. Arc pays all my bills."

"Yeah, but what about when you retire?"

"I'm taken care of." She thought of the three funerals she had attended during her year of training; of Kathryn, who had died at Ringo's hand while trying to rescue Nikki from him. She had known that retirement was something she might never have to worry about, if she worked for the Arc Foundation.

"Well, just think of the people who could really use that kind of money!"

"I am," she hurried to say, cutting him off before he could make a list, with himself at the top. "That's why I gave my share of the reward to the Mission."

"Bet good old Brock has big plans for his half. I still don't believe he's innocent. I think he turned on his pals just to look good for you." Rich slumped against the wall, almost in tears, glaring at her.

"Yes, he has big plans for it. A new copier for the office. Computers for the senior center. More phone lines installed. A freezer for the kitchen. To start out." Nikki acknowledged her nasty delight in Rich's shock and refused to be ashamed of it.

"He's just trying to buy you, Nikki. Can't you see that?" He hurried back to the doorway where she leaned against the frame, enjoying the fresh air coming through the door that glorious, warm, bright Monday morning.

"Buy me?"

"You gotta believe me. He's just putting on a good act to get you back. But he's not worth it, understand? He's no-good rotten slime and he's sure not good enough for you."

"That's not your judgment to make."

"Nikki!" For half a second, she thought Rich would burst out crying. "Come on, honey, give me a chance. I'm doing the best I can. I just gotta get a better paying job, and move on up in this world, and you and me, we'll be great together. Just like in high school."

"We're not in high school, Rich. I'm not the girl I was, and you certainly aren't the guy I knew in high school." At least he had pretended to listen to people back then. She couldn't believe he was using this same tactic, when she had already made it clear that they weren't getting together. What was wrong with him? Had he experimented on drugs and fried his brain, maybe destroyed his short-term memory? Would she have to kick him in the jaw, like she had Angelo, before she finally got through to him?

"Why can't we be like we were before?" He rested his hands on her shoulders, just like Brock had the day before. Nikki shuddered. His hands were like cold globs of heavy clay, burying her.

"Because people have to grow up. You either become a better person or you become a worse person."

"Oh -- and since I didn't graduate from college, that makes me dirt? I suppose your ex-con hero went to college?"

"Yes, Brock went to college." Nikki caught his wrists in her hands and shoved his hands off her shoulders. She stepped out of his reach. "But that isn't what makes him a better man than you."

"Now he's a better man than me! Next, you're going to say you love him and not me!"

"Brock is a better man than you because he admits his mistakes and he tries to fix them. He doesn't have to be beaten into a corner before he accepts responsibility for the stupid things he's done. And yes, I love him."

"What about me?" he wailed, and reached for her again.

Nikki twisted away, hands raised, ready to pound him if he so much as laid a finger on her. She could do it, she knew. After yesterday, she knew she could take on any opponent and win.

Friday, May 4, 2012

May 4 -- from FORGIVEN

A little bit of action/adventure for you.......

"I hurt you. I almost got you killed. Our daughter's death is my fault, in a lot of ways. I'll try to be happy if you just let me be your friend. Maybe I can help you with your work. Who knows?"

"What if I fall in love and want to get married?" Nikki stopped them at a spot on the asphalt walking path where it curved into the leading edge of the forest, hidden from passing traffic until cars were almost on top of them.

"You mean, once I get over wanting to curl up and die?" Brock managed a grin, but his chuckle sounded sick and weak. "I'll try to be noble."

"I can't do that to you. You mean too much to me." She had to laugh when light blazed in his eyes and he froze and just stared at her. "You'd better convince me you're the one, or we're both going to be miserable."

"Do you mean it?" Brock grasped her shoulders, to draw her close to kiss. She was sure of his intention this time.

Another green Bonneville, perhaps even the same one, roared past, spitting up more gravel as it swerved off the road for a few seconds. It vanished around the bend in the road.

"That guy's timing--" Brock sighed as tires squealed. Nikki imagined the Bonneville swerving into oncoming traffic.

It reappeared a moment later, and jerked sharply to the right, crossing the other lane and flying across the grass straight at them.

"Nikki!" Brock grabbed her hand and ran.

The Bonneville swerved, narrowly avoiding a tree. The door flew open and Angelo leaped out as the car skidded to a stop. Brock flung Nikki away from him. Angelo lunged at Brock and brought him down with a bad, but still effective tackle.

Nikki stumbled but didn't fall. She kept going a few steps before she could turn back. Fists clenched, she braced herself to leap on Angelo -- but Marcus emerged from the car's driver side. The click of his gun cocking to fire echoed hard through the clearing. He said nothing, just grinned, begging her to move so he could shoot her.

A dark gray blur broke from the trees along the river, leaped, banged off the trunk of the Bonneville and landed on Marcus before he could even start to turn to face it. Gray made no sound as he took the man down, teeth clamped around the wrist of his gun hand. Nikki jumped, hitting the trunk with her hands and flinging herself across the trunk to follow up. She grinned, giddy with terror, refusing to let it master her -- and knowing Vincent would applaud that move. It definitely had to be God moving her body, because she had messed up that move every time she tried it in practice sessions.

Nikki kicked the gun from Marcus's hand at the same moment Gray released the bleeding wrist. Marcus broke his silence with shrieks and a filthy stream of curses.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May 3 -- from FIRESONG

Whew! There are a LOT of things happening "today" in Year One of the Tabor Heights books.

On this morning, Kat, Amy and Bekka wake up to an apartment full of costumes and props for summer theater, and Kat realizes she agreed to go on a date with TWO different guys. Then there's the cleanup from the break-in at the Mission, and the assault that sent Pastor Wally to the hospital.

But more important, there's a wedding taking place today:

So that every member of Firesong could participate in the wedding, and to reduce the fuss of instruments cluttering the platform, they had recorded the background music. Only Dani and Andy would perform today. Dani concentrated on matching her footsteps to the beat as the opening strains of Pat Terry's "That's the Way" filtered through the sanctuary.

As they had practiced, she came through the archway between narthex and sanctuary as she sang, "With this ring, I thee wed." All her nerves vanished as she slid into the well-rehearsed music. As long as Dani told herself this was just another performance and not the wedding between her brother and her best friend, she knew she would do just fine.

Andy took up the second verse, letting her catch her breath. Walking and singing somehow took more out of her than all the jumping around she did during a concert. Dani smiled, trying not to laugh as she realized that strange, illogical truth.

She looked up and straight into Kurt's eyes. He sat in the second pew, right behind Katie's parents.

He smiled and his eyes flickered as he looked her up and down -- and up and down again. His eyes widened and his lips parted a little and then his expression grew totally unreadable. Dani lost her pace for a moment as something twisted inside her chest and her heart skipped a few beats and she couldn't seem to look away. Kurt turned to follow her with his gaze as she passed the pew.

Dani swallowed hard, relieved to be torn free of his imprisoning, electrifying gaze. And nearly missed her cue to start singing again. Worse, she had to turn and climb the steps to the top of the platform to sing with Andy -- and that meant looking at Kurt again.

She focused on the rest of the guests as she poured her heart into the song. On the last refrain, Katie rustled into the narthex, leaning on her father's arm.

The bride glowed, surrounded in a mist of gauzy white and lit from behind by the first rays of afternoon sunshine slipping through the back windows. It was hard to believe Katie was sick, with her pink cheeks and sweet smile and the glow in her eyes. Still, the signs had been there, visible when Dani had helped her get dressed. The wedding dress that had fit perfectly two months ago now had an extra inch of room in it. "Room to pig out on our honeymoon," Katie had joked as Dani buttoned her into the elegant, long gown.
Please, God, I'll give up everything and spend the rest of my life on the road, singing, if You'll just let them stay together until they're both old and gray. Please?

Andy missed a note. Dani let go of her bouquet of roses and trailing ivy with one hand and gripped his hand. His palm was sweaty and he squeezed her hand hard enough to hurt, but they got through the last few lines of the song without either one faltering. As the last taped note died away, Mrs. Ogden slammed the organ into a triumphant, blaring rendition of the "Wedding March".