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Saturday, June 30, 2012

June 30: from THE MISSION


Well, today's scene isn't exactly in Tabor Heights -- but the people in it are coming to Tabor Heights:


"Is Great-Granny going to Heaven today, Daddy?" Sammy whispered. "Can we stay here until the angels come?"
"I don't know. Let's see what Granny Simone says, okay?" Paul managed to say, despite the tightness in his throat. He opened the truck door and slid out, and then reached in, holding out his arms for Sammy. He was glad that she let him carry her. He needed to hold her when they were in Shiloh, to protect her, even if the threat of someone snatching his daughter away was only in his imagination.
"Oh, sweetie," Granny Simone wheezed just a few minutes later, her eyes disappearing in the nest of wrinkles of her face. She laughed silently at Sammy's question and request, her entire soft little bird-like body shaking. "I can hear the angels hovering over the house, waiting to take me away, but I don't think they'll let you see them. Angels are big and powerful and frightening, and they love you too much to scare you."
"I wouldn't be scared," Sammy proclaimed, shaking her head hard enough to dislodge her Easter bonnet.
Paul still held her, standing at the side of the hospital bed brought in for Granny Simone. Her live-in nurse was the only one in the house. Faint sounds came from the kitchen at the back of the house where she was probably making tea, or warming broth. That was all the frail old woman could take anymore.
"Hmm, no, you probably wouldn't." The old woman nodded, wheezing a little more, and then struggled to sit up in the hospital bed. "You know what I would like a whole lot more than to have you hold my hand until the angels come?" She reached up her skeletal little hand and caught hold of Sammy's.
"Ice cream?"
"Bless you, darling." She sank back in her pillows, tears filling her eyes as she wheezed and laughed. "No. This is even better than ice cream," she said, when she got her breath back. "I want you to get your daddy out of this town, out of this county, out of this entire state. Tell him to go to school full-time and become a preacher-man. And tell him to get you a new mama. Pretty little gal like you needs a mama."
            "Granny--" Paul said, stopped by an imperious wave of that thin hand.

Friday, June 29, 2012

June 29: THE MISSION

Everyone has something unpleasant or unhappy in their pasts. But THE MISSION explores what happens when your past comes looking for you, telling lies ...

Got a minute?
Claire Donnelly flinched when the instant message screen popped up on her computer. She hated when that happened. Her philosophy was to get online, take care of her business, and get off. Invariably, there was always someone who wanted to chat right when she needed to get off and get something done.
Then she looked at the screen name, and that flinch turned into a shiver of apprehension. Ell456 was one of the few people she kept in contact with back in The Pitt. That wasn't the name of the town where Claire and her brother, Tommy had been born, but she refused to use its actual name, or even think about it as her hometown.
Better make it a couple minutes, Ellie added before Claire could start typing.
Gossip? she typed, and hit the return.
A good little Christian girl like me? <G> Warning. Maybe some crowing. Jerk Sr. is back, looking for you and 4wheel.
Claire glanced over her shoulder at the other side of the big front room of the house she and Tommy had bought two years after moving to Tabor Heights. He was absorbed in his regular bi-weekly fight with the DVD recorder. From the wiggling of his wheelchair on the hardwood floor, he hadn't quite worked himself up to the -- loud, sarcastic -- point of wanting to get a new recorder and throw the current one into the deepest fishing lake in the Metroparks.
Did he talk to you?
Wouldn't sit still long enough for him to catch me, Ellie responded. A few seconds of waiting, while Claire tried to think of a response that wouldn't fry the circuits in her computer; then more message appeared on the screen. Dared to go to our church. Big sob story. Wants to reunite his family. Per Office Betsy, almost wd 4 wd what he said 3 years ago.
Today?
She says Wed. Saw him in office b4 service. Asked her. No1 is helping. Can't. Awww. <G>
Claire grinned at the message screen. She imagined the selfish old liar, stumbling around the church where he had once been head deacon, Sunday school teacher, and part of the expansion committee. Sixteen years of absence on his part had brought many changes, most of them in the congregation, who wouldn't recognize his face or name, or remember how he had abandoned everyone and everything when things got too tough for him.
Told you gr8 when yr new pastor made clean sweep, she typed, her hands shaking just a little with the pressure of three times as many words she refused to use.
You bet. The ones who would sell you out are gone, and the oblivious ones who would try to help don't know anything. Had to tell you -- saw him after lunch. Big pot of flowers at the cemetery. Checked. Figured his mother. Yours. Shocked?
Should have given flowers when she was alive, she typed, and regretted it the moment she hit return.
                Claire closed her eyes and concentrated to wipe away the image of that man -- she had learned long ago not to put any other label on him than that man, or Jerk Sr., as Ellie referred to him -- kneeling at her mother's grave, making a show of tears and regrets. Appearances were all that had ever mattered to him. Until keeping up appearances had been too expensive, too much effort. Even if he covered her grave with flowers for the next ten years, it wouldn't make up for what he had done.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 28: from FIRESONG

As we join our heroine, Dani Paul, it is the morning after the first concert of a week-long Christian music festival out of town...

Andy emerged from the tent and sauntered over to settle on the bumper next to her. He gestured at the quiet semi-village around them.
"Not as great as you thought, huh?"
"Oh, sure, I love taking a bath standing in a little hut with no roof, dumping buckets of cold lake water on myself. Wouldn't miss it for the world. If it was anyplace else, I'd expect to see a dozen creeps looking over the walls." Dani chose not to mention the young women with security badges and radios walking patrol around the perimeter of the bathhouse, making sure no one climbed over the top to spy on or do worse to the women and girls washing inside.
Her attention was momentarily caught by two women in long dresses stepping through the gate area that led out into the main concourse of the festival. Why would anyone wear long dresses in this heat?
"That's not what I meant, brat. Maybe you should have taken Kurt up on his offer of the hotel room."
"It's fine. I'm a little old -- and tall -- for sleeping in the car like we used to when we were kids, but it's fine." She flipped her comb at him, spattering him with drops. "Besides, where would I sleep? In the tent with you guys?"
"Hey, I'm just worried about you. I promised Mom and Dad I would look after you." He put an arm around her, shaking her a little. "You know I love you, even when I yell, right?"
"Tom snores and Jim talks in his sleep and Jason has gross breath in the morning."
"Huh?"
"You want to sleep with me, right?"
"I knew it!" a scratchy voice trumpeted from behind them.
Dani and Andy turned, nearly falling off the bumper, to see two shriveled, gray-haired women coming around the side of the car. Their hair was twisted back in buns so tight, Dani wondered how they could think when their brains were squeezed like that. They wore long-sleeve dresses despite the heat of the day, heavy shoes and dark stockings, and carried Bibles bigger than phone books. Their eyes were bright coals in nests of wrinkles as they glared at brother and sister.
"Huh?" was all Dani could manage. Where had these two come from? Only performers were allowed back there.
"The minute I saw you on that stage, I knew you were here for no good reason," the tall one said.
"Besides keeping the sound system together?" Andy said with an innocent tone so fake, Dani elbowed him. Couldn't he tell these two sourpusses were nothing to fool with?
"The festival has their own sound system," the dumpy one declared in a voice so high and baby-dollish, Dani had to hold her breath to keep from laughing. "They don't need any outside help."
"Tell them that," Dani couldn't help muttering.
               "Don't you use that tone with me, you little slut." She hefted her Bible as if she would club Dani with it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June 27: from FIRESONG

Today in Tabor Heights, Ohio:

Firesong had the first concert that night; one hour of music before the main speaker. Another band would finish up the evening with another hour of music.
Three songs into the evening, Dani looked across the rolling field as dusk moved in and could see the entire audience was tuned into them. Listening and intent, ready to have fun. Still throbbing with the final chords of Witch Hunt, in a slightly mellower rendition than Petra's original. She smiled at Andy as the last notes faded into the night. Her brother bowed to her and winked as the applause crashed up from the audience, across the stage, nearly throwing them against the makeshift walls of pipes and plywood and faded red threadbare curtains.
Tom tossed the wireless microphone to Dani, who barely managed to catch it. She mimed terror, fumbling the microphone for a moment. The audience roared laughter.
"Isn't it awful how we get sidetracked?" Dani said, sauntering to the edge of the stage. "We're so busy trying to get rid of the bad things in our lives -- and other people--" More laughter from the audience. "We forget to look for the good things. We forget to be thankful for all the blessings God loaded on us. Or else we go in the other direction, and we get kind of arrogant."
"No! Not you!" Tom shouted, still several steps away from his own microphone.
The audience reacted appropriately.
"I used to be a rotten speller," Dani continued, when they had calmed a little. "How many here hated English class until you got past all the spelling and grammar and finally started reading stories?" She raised her hand. Hands shot up through the audience, out beyond the spot where all those faces and bodies turned into a blur. "Remember the old song, 'Dare to be a Daniel'? I used to sing it this way: 'Dare to be a Danielle, dare to stand alone.'" She grinned as groans swept the audience, rippling out into that blurry darkness.
               Is this where You want me, Lord? Reaching people? Speaking what's in my head and on my heart and getting through to them where nobody else can? I'll give up anything You want, Lord, to stay here, doing this, for the rest of my life.
Even as she made her silent prayer, Dani felt a prickle on her neck that meant someone watched her. Despite her resolve not to, she turned. Kurt leaned against the big support pole for the sound system, hidden by the side curtains, grinning and watching with 'that look' in his big, dark, mesmerizing eyes.
                What was she going to do about him?

Monday, June 25, 2012

June 25: From FIRESONG

What happened on this date in Tabor Heights, Ohio?

Two days before they were to head to Indiana for the next festival, a new concert schedule came from Danziger -- for every night of the crusade, in other states. Worse, he had confirmed with the concerts' organizers and took deposits without verifying the dates with Firesong first, as their contract specified.
"It's a power play," Tom said, looking around Andy and Katie's tiny living room, where they had all come for an emergency meeting.
Katie and Stephanie sat on the couch, with Andy and Tom perched on the arms on either side of them. Jim and Jason sat on the floor. Dani sat on the deep windowsill Katie had turned into a reading nook with a piano bench cushion. Aunt Betty and Uncle George had the only other chairs in the room.
"What it comes down to is this," Tom continued. "To perform at the crusade, we have to refuse all those jobs Danziger lined up for us. It'll be bad for our reputation. And you can bet he'll dig his heels in about returning the money. If the story goes around and nobody knows the truth, we could lose a lot of prospective jobs. People will think we're unreliable."
"But if we told the right people--" Jason began.
"Who are they going to believe? A bunch of kids who don't know anything except how to play and sing? Or Troy Danziger, who has all the right connections?"
"Oh." His brother nodded and bowed his head over his clenched fists again.
"On top of that," Andy said, taking up the subject, "we'll lose paychecks, from all the time we have to take off work."
"Consider the up side to it," Dani offered. "We'll actually have more time at home, plus we'll cut down on the wear and tear on our cars."
"Our contract states we have the right to refuse jobs and to accept jobs without Danziger's go-ahead," Jim added. "He signed the contract, and he's the one violating it."
"And we're doing something important," Jason said.
"Is it any different from what you've been doing before?" Katie asked, her voice a little softer than usual.
"Heck yes! It's the crusade. How many chances does anyone have to do this big a production? With all the prep work put into it, and the publicity and the amount of people they can fit into the fairgrounds... they can't do more than three crusades a year. It's the chance of a lifetime."
"But is it any better than the ministry you've had already? You'll reach more people, but I don't think God has ever worried about the numbers game."

Friday, June 22, 2012

June 22: From ACCIDENTAL HEARTS

What happened on this date in Tabor Heights?

From the August 2012 release: ACCIDENTAL HEARTS
Tyler Sloane and Abbey Morgan have had their first meeting -- or rather, he has seen her, but she didn't see him. But steps Tyler is about to take will make sure they do meet....

What Tyler wanted to do right now was run out to the parking lot and catch up with that family, and ask them -- total strangers -- if he could borrow their children. The boy and girl both looked about the right age to be playmates for Danny and Pam. The worst part of losing their home had to be losing their friends. If he could provide new ones, or at least the possibility of new ones, he wouldn't feel so helpless right now.
"Day camp." He couldn't process the words for a second. Tyler picked up the brochure from the box taped to the counter next to the signup sheets, and stepped aside as another family came up to the counter, obviously looking for the same information.
By the time he read through the brochure and decided that was just the thing to cure the new-home-and-no-friends blues, the first signup sheet was filled by excited children and equally excited parents, and half of the second one had names on the lines. Tyler stepped up and picked up a pen left lying on the counter, and hesitated. Maybe he should get a definite commitment from Danny and Pam before he signed them up? It wasn't like he had to pay anything right away. The fee of thirty dollars per child was purely for administrative costs -- tee-shirts, name tags, paperwork, and craft supplies. Maybe if the children were signed up already, an accomplished fact, they wouldn't be so hesitant when he presented the plan to them.
"Just do it," he muttered, and scribbled their names.
It occurred to him then that he had missed a great opportunity. He should have looked at the signup sheet and gotten the name of the family that had been there ahead of him. The idea of pairing up their children was still a great idea. Especially if Danny and Pam said no to spending a month with a bunch of strangers in a new town.
Too late now.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

June 21 -- LOOKING AHEAD

I'm doing NaNoWriMo this summer -- well, CAMP NaNoWriMo.

My June project is the 5th book of Year Two of Tabor Heights: A BOX OF PROMISES.

This morning, I finished the 4th story -- Bergen's story. She loves animals, especially wolves, so when she gets a chance for an intership at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, she applies to work at Wolf Wilderness. She thinks she has an "in," because she's been volunteering as a docent at the zoo for years.

Unfortunately, Bergen gets assigned to ... the elephants!

What happens when she is blocked from fulfilling the vow she made for her summer? And what happens when the visiting elephant expert who is her boss turns out to be more than a mentor and turns into a friend, and maybe something more?

Check out A BOX OF PROMISES, coming in Year Two of Tabor Heights.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 17 -- FIRESONG

TODAY in Tabor Heights:

"Green? Yeah, you hide, you slimy crook," Danziger growled from Kurt's answering machine.
Kurt sat down in his dark apartment, wondering where Danziger had got hold of his phone number. It was unlisted. Maybe he had called crusade headquarters and conned someone into giving it to him?
Panic flashed through him as Danziger let loose a string of obscenities Kurt had never heard of, some of which he couldn't follow. Had Danziger called to cancel the band's appearance at the crusade? What damage had he done to Firesong's reputation with the organization?
"You keep your hands off Firesong. They're going places and I'm taking them there. I got a contract, you sanctimonious--" The air turned blue around the answering machine. "Think you can sweet-talk Dani into giving you anything you want, is that it? You preachers are all alike, talking all straight and narrow until you can get a girl into a dark corner. Yeah, well, you might be inside Dani's pants and she thinks she's in love with you, but I got control of the music, buddy-boy. That's where she lives. You ain't ruining anything for my band."
Danziger continued on in that vein for another minute or two, until the answering machine's timing cut him off. Kurt held his breath, waiting for a second message. Danziger was just the kind of man to call back to continue the abuse.
But nothing else waited on his machine. Kurt reached to press the 'erase' button, then paused. Maybe he should save it? But what good would that do, exposing others to Danziger's filthy mouth and accusations?
Well, at least he knew Firesong had received the official invitation to perform at the crusade. It sounded like they were all for it and Danziger was against it.
"Please, Lord," Kurt whispered.
This could be the breaking point for Firesong, the moment of decision between career and ministry. Danziger would force it on them. Could they weather that crisis? Kurt believed they were dedicated enough, and would come out winners in the process.
But what about those accusations about him and Dani? How could Danziger believe he and Dani were doing anything? The closest they had ever come to a date was dinner with the entire family. And yes, he had entertained a handful of daydreams about kissing Dani -- and more.
           What had Kurt confused was how Danziger could get that idea, when the man had rarely, if ever, seen them together. Did Dani say or do something that made Danziger think -- and fear -- that she and Kurt were serious about each other?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

June 16 -- ACCIDENTAL HEARTS

Today, in Tabor Heights:
(and a sneak peek from the upcoming, August release!)

"Ty?"
At first, the shaky female voice coming from the answering machine was unrecognizable, but something inside Tyler Sloane woke up and went on the alert. He got up from the table where he and his roommate, Xander, shared a couple meat lovers' pizzas and waited for the Indians game to come on TV with two of his theater colleagues, Daniel Morgan and Joel Randolph of Butler-Williams University. A discussion of the sermon from the day before had turned into a laughing argument and what threatened to become a Bible study.
"It's Tanya." His sister's voice broke. "I really hope you're there," she said as Tyler dove across the living room to snatch up the phone.
"Tanya? What's wrong?" He swallowed down the torrent of questions that wanted to erupt, the first of which was to ask if that skunk, Pete Fenton, had finally dropped the mask Tyler always thought he wore and he had done something to harm her and their children, Pam and Danny.
"Well, you know how you keep saying I have to come out and visit you there in Ohio, and Mom and Dad were saying now would be the perfect time since they're coming for that long visit this summer and--"
"What happened? What did Pete do?"
"What makes you think--"
"He's the only one I know who could put that shattered sound in your voice. I still don't know why you love the slime dog as much as you do, or even why you married him -- no, sorry. I promised I'd never--"
"We're not married." Tanya let out a broken laugh.
In the background, Tyler heard the blare of what had to be a semi-truck horn. Where was his sister calling from?
"You divorced him? Why didn't you tell me when you started?"
"We're not married. Never were." She inhaled loudly, and he imagined her fighting tears. "He has three other families, in three other states."
"Oh, Tanya... I'm sorry."
"I'm not. You know how free that makes me? I'm not liable for any of his debts, because we're not legally married. I spent the last three days closing down our shared bank accounts and canceling all our shared credit cards so he can't stick me for any more debt than he already has and -- forget that. I can tell you all the boring and gory details when I get there."
"You're coming? Good." He turned around and looked across the living room to the three men who were trying to look like they were intent on finding Bible verses instead of listening.
                Tyler's brain froze for a few heartbeats. Just where was he going to put his sister and her children?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

June 14 -- Looking Ahead to Year Two

Greetings from Camp NaNoWriMo!

National Novel Writing Month usually takes place in November, but last year the intrepid folks from the Office of Letters and Light decided to venture out with Camp NaNoWriMo. Yep, we get assigned to cabins with like-minded authors, and grumble and gripe and celebrate with each other -- hopefully -- as we struggle to make our 50,000 words. This is my second summer doing Camp NaNo, and my third session -- I did July and August last year, and hope to do June, July, and August this year.

My June Camp NaNo project is A BOX OF PROMISES, Book 5 of Year Two of Tabor Heights.

(You knew there was a reason I brought up summer camp, didn't you?)

Today, I started the 3rd of 5 novellas that will be included in BOX. I'm going to meet my 50,000 words goal hopefully TOMORROW. Wheeeeeeeeeee!

What's BOX about?

Five college girls, dorm sisters, talk about their plans for summer vacation, and end up writing down their goals for the summer and putting them in a sealed box in the care of their dorm supervisor. In the fall, when they return for classes, they'll read their goals and the ones who don't reach their goals will pay a forfeit -- a pizza party for the others. Each story follows one of the girls, facing challenges, disappointments, surprises, and of course a touch of romance during their summer apart. I'm having fun, and I hope you will too, when you read the book one of these days!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

June 13: From FIRESONG

"You're with Firesong, aren't you?" the one in the tattered Petra shirt asked.
That was the only way Dani could tell them apart, by their clothes. They were so skinny, with the same angular faces and buzz-cut blond hair and blue eyes, she couldn't see any other differences in them. She liked them because they struck her as real; not like the pretty boy White Knights. Dani said a quick prayer these three would never become like the White Knights.
"Yep, but if I miss tonight's concert, I won't be."
"Are you busy after?" Green-shirt asked. He licked his lips in a distinctly nervous gesture.
"Sleeping, probably." Dani continued down the slope. They didn't take the hint. All three turned and followed her.
"We're heading into town for a movie. Want to come?" His eyes flicked away from her for a moment. Dani sensed someone approaching from behind her, but didn't turn; probably one of the organizers, trying to gather up wandering performers.
"Thanks, but I make a rule of never being alone with someone who isn't a relative."
"Huh?" The three nearly spoke in chorus. Their mouths dropped open in identical quizzical expressions.
"It's a purity vow," Kurt said, nearly startling Dani out of her shoes. "To protect her ministry from unfounded accusations. Something every Christian performer should do."
"But it's just a movie," Green-shirt said with a sigh.
"I have to establish a habit of purity and caution now, so when false accusations come, people will believe me and not the person trying to damage my reputation. Does that make sense?" Dani asked.
"Sounds kind of extreme," the one in the blue muscle shirt muttered, looking at his feet instead of Dani.
She suspected he entertained some not-quite-pure thoughts toward her and he felt embarrassed.
"What if -- like -- one of your cousins came along?" Green-shirt asked.
"You'll have to ask them."
That seemed to satisfy the three. They slung their guitars over their shoulders on their long, ratty straps and headed out into the field. Dani sighed and let her shoulders slump. All the good her private time had done her was completely gone.
"That was a good idea, making that vow. Saves you from a lot of well-intentioned dorks," Kurt muttered, watching the three ragamuffin musicians trudge away from them.
"Dorks?" She sputtered a giggle.
"Fits, doesn't it?"
"Maybe. Never thought I'd hear you use a word like that."
                "There's a lot you don't know about me." He glanced sideways at her. "Come to think of it, there's a lot I don't know about you, either."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June 12: From THE SECOND TIME AROUND

So, what happened on this date in Tabor Heights?

Daniel waited until Marco's footsteps vanished up the stairs out of the faculty 'dungeon' before he turned to face the corner as Bekka emerged from hiding. She had that crooked little smile he had learned to draw from his students, when they weren't sure if he was going to praise them for brilliance, or put them in their place for displaying undeserved arrogance.
He knew, as if he had been watching over her shoulder, that she had indeed seen him with Lynette on the ferry from Put-in-Bay. She had probably seen Lynette with him and the General at the Indians' game. But for some reason, Bekka had chosen to keep silent about it. He appreciated it, even as some truly nasty, cranky part of him wished she had spilled the beans long ago. He wouldn't break his promise to Lynette that he'd wait for her to tell Kat, but that didn't mean he couldn't pray someone else would do it first.
"So, that's why you think suddenly I'm an expert in dating," Daniel drawled, breaking the silence when the tension in the room rose a few more notches. "When did you guess?"
"I didn't guess, I've seen you and Kat's mom together a few times. So, about Shane--"
"He's attending my class on Biblical history. He seems sincere enough. Ask him yourself." Daniel winked. "I suppose it would be out of line to ask what you think Kat's reaction will be when she finds out?"
"Depends on what she finds out."
"Uh oh." His smile faltered. "What's going on in that amazing brain of yours, Rebekah Sanderson?"
"I kind of put some things together at Thanksgiving. You two seemed to know each other a whole lot better than people who just met, and you both studied theater at Northwestern at the same time and..."
"We're picking up an old romance. Yes."
"I haven't said anything to Kat or Amy. Swear. I figure it's your business when she finds out. And what she finds out."
"You're subtle. And thanks for not asking."
"Sure." Bekka took a deep breath. "So, how--"
"Are things going between Lynette and me? Well, I've got her coming to church fairly regularly. We see each other at least once a week, besides church." Daniel let out a deep breath that could have been a sigh. "Some prayers would be a big help."
"Okay. But I wasn't asking about that." She tried for a grin. "I meant to ask, how about the four of us double-dating some time?"
If there was ever a time he wished he could hug one of his students, it was now. Daniel thanked God for Bekka in his and Kat's and Lynette's lives, even as their shared laughter echoed out to the stairwell.

Monday, June 11, 2012

June 11 -- Excerpt: ACCIDENTAL HEARTS

From the August 2012 release:

"Hey, where are you guys going?" A tall, thin, dark-haired man waved his arms, leaning out of a candy apple red Jaguar that was double-parked on the far side of the circular drive in front of the pavilion.
Abby glanced around, wondering who he was waving to. She had never seen him or his car before, and she had picked up and dropped off her niece and nephew almost every day since camp started.
"Danny..." Pam stepped over to her brother and put an arm around his shoulders. Both children seemed to go pale under their sunburns and light coating of dust and sweat.
"What's wrong?" Abby immediately felt that tightness in her chest that she labeled her "protective mode." It always worked in her favor; last time she had been able to snatch Chad from under the wheels of an oncoming plane that was landing without the benefit of an engine. Come to think of it, Ethan Pluch had been hanging around the airport that day, but she hadn't been able to find any evidence he had caused the plane's problems.
"That's our dad," Danny blurted, and took a step backwards. The other three children moved with him, reacting to the chill terror in the boy's voice.
"Your dad? But Tyler--"
"Uncle Ty hates his guts, but he won't say it," Pam said. She stepped over to Abby, leading Danny with her, and slid her hand into the woman's. "We're supposed to go home with you, right?"
"That's what your mother said." Abby mentally kicked herself for being stuck in the realization: Tyler Sloane was their uncle, not their father. It replayed five times like a loop program, then she shook her head and broke free. "Why's he here?"
"He's not supposed to be." The little girl's hand felt damp and cold.
"What's up, guys?" Their father sauntered across the circular drive toward where they stood, ignoring the oncoming cars that honked and swerved, and the gestures directed at him. "Who are you?" he demanded, his lazy smile turning into a sneer as he looked Abby up and down.
            She could almost feel his eyes on her, trying to discern her figure through her loose coveralls. Abby remembered the wrench hiding in her calf pocket where she had slid it, just before running out the door to come pick up the kids. She almost hoped she would need it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

June 9 -- Excerpt: ACCIDENTAL HEARTS

The breakfast rush was over when Tyler pulled into the parking lot. He looked for Abby's Jeep but she hadn't arrived yet. He couldn't remember if she pulled out of the park road onto Royal on the same green light as he did. He looked around the two-thirds empty lot as he headed for the front door. His foot nearly missed the curb when he saw the baby blue Cadillac sitting next to the handicapped spot.
"No. Please, no," he whispered.
How many baby blue Cadillacs could there be on the West Side? He deliberately avoided checking the license plate and stepped up in front of the door to wait for Abby. When the door opened, he turned and prayed the Cadillac's owners would come out -- never seeing him, because he would conveniently turn invisible -- get in the car, and leave. Quickly. Before Abby arrived.
The couple coming out were both young, blond, dressed in ragged cut-offs and muscle shirts, and both were girls with rings in their noses and multiple rings in their ears. Tyler nodded to them and looked to the driveway again. He found it a little difficult to smile when Abby pulled in and waved as she drove past him to a slot just two spaces down.
"You teach?" one of the girls called, when Abby had parked and jumped out of her Jeep.
Tyler tapped one foot as he waited for Abby to dig out a business card and talk to both girls. He couldn't grudge her the chance to get another student, and the longer they took getting a table, the better the chance the driver of that blue Cadillac would leave before seeing them. Maybe he should encourage her to take a long time.
            As he thought that, Abby stepped away from the two girls and waved good-bye. She grinned at him and shrugged apology as she joined him in front of the door. Tyler bowed grandly and opened the door for her. She chuckled and shook her head.
A familiar neon green visor atop silver, short-cropped hair caught Tyler's eye. He gestured in the opposite direction, toward the counter seats, and Abby nodded.
"Tyler!" a rough male voice boomed from across the restaurant. Thomas Sloane stood up as quickly as one false leg would allow, and waved both arms like he signaled planes coming to land on his aircraft carrier during the war. "Come on and join us, son!"
            Swallowing a groan, Tyler glanced at Abby. She didn't look disgusted or amused at the spectacle of his parents in their matching Pokemon T-shirts, waving as if Tyler couldn't see them. They would have been hard to miss if the restaurant had been crowded, rather than three-quarters empty.

Friday, June 8, 2012

June 8: Looking Ahead

ACCIDENTAL HEARTs releases in August from Desert Breeze Publishing.

This is the 12th and final book in Year One of Tabor Heights. You'll get to see snippets of other stories that overlap the timeframe of the story, and see two people you've briefly met in other stories have their own romance.

If they can manage to get past all the family commitments and interference and just plain accidents that seem to happen -- as if someone is deliberately trying to keep them apart!

Excerpt:

Ten minutes later, Abby wondered who was going to win -- her client's impatience to get his package in the air yesterday, or her impatience over the traffic jam that had formed in front of her. Why in blue blazes did the road leading away from the remote Metroparks pavilion where the children were dropped off and picked up every day have to be narrow, winding, gravel, one lane, and so densely packed with trees no one could get around that dead Corvette up ahead? The collaborative day camp among the churches in the area had the entire Emerald Necklace system to spread out in, streams and meadows and pavilions to use. Why did they have to choose this one spot, out of all the available locations? And why a place with one lane leading to the pavilion, and another lane leading away? Who designed this layout, anyway?
Grumbling about the need for a law that those who drove cars should know how to fix them, Abby put her Jeep into park, slid out and sidled past the hatchback ahead of her. At least the Corvette was black and not some disgusting neon or ice cream color. The only proper Corvette color was black. All right, she would allow for white, but only because Bill Bixby drove a white Corvette in that really cool magician TV series he did, before he did the Incredible Hulk.
"Back to business, girl," she muttered, as several branches tried to grab at her light jacket and slapped her face. She tugged her cap down tighter and tucked a few straying curls out of sight.
The Corvette's hood was up. She saw a tanned arm and short green sleeve. Another step brought the back half of a male profile into view. Sleek athletic physique, clad in gray shorts, nicely tanned legs and not too much hair. She hated when guys looked like Brillo pads.
Down girl! She sighed and grinned and knew the guys at the hanger would laugh. They thought she was such a wizard with engines she had no time to appreciate other designs, and certainly not God's handiwork. Disappointment slowed her jaunty stride. The damsel in distress driving the 'vette had already found a rescuer. Abby did enjoy the surprise on other women's faces when the able mechanic tugged off "his" cap and revealed a tumble of chocolate curls. They never noticed the red bi-plane earrings until long after the shock factor. More amusing was the disappointment. They wanted a male rescuer, not just rescue.
               Abby frowned when she realized tall, lean and hunky was alone. That irritated frown thinning his lips just put new angles into his already too-long face.
"Did she bail?" Abby asked, resting her fists on the hood.
"Who?" His voice was a dark chocolate avalanche to match his eyes.
"The owner."
"I am the owner." He turned back to the puzzle of his engine without really looking at her.
Which was good -- she wouldn't have wanted him to see the dismay that flashed through her. And the chagrin.
Great -- insult the poor guy.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

June 6 -- Retrospective: THE MISSION

We come now to the last of the current Tabor Heights books. For the next few days -- at least until I have more "events" to report -- I guess we'll talk about the upcoming, August release: ACCIDENTAL HEARTS.

But for now we have THE MISSION.

Sounds kind of serious, huh?

THE MISSION is also the name of a former elementary school in Tabor Heights that was bought by Tabor Christian Church. For a while now, it's been half-empty, because of all the repairs and renovations that need doing. Pastor Glenn of Tabor Christian doesn't believe in taking on huge projects that don't have funding in place before everything gets started. So until recently, half the rooms are locked. The Mission has a daycare and a small senior center, and takes food to shut-ins, but the staff has so many dreams and plans -- a food cupboard, a place where people who need clothes can come for help, school supplies for children in families having hard financial times, a clinic, lots of other possibilities. And of course, handicapped accessibility is vital.

In FIRESONG and FORGIVEN, we read about a charity concert put on by Firesong. In FORGIVEN, Nikki James came back to town to assess the Mission for financial support/partnership with the Arc Foundation. Well, that money is coming in now, and in THE MISSION, changes are just beginning -- renovations, repairs, and new staff.

First to come is Paul Hunter and his daughter, Sammy. Paul is the new head custodian, in charge of repairs, renovations, and making the building handicapped accessible. The moment Sammy gets a look at Claire Donnelly, who helps run the Mission as Pastor Wally's right hand, she asks if Claire is going to be her new mommy.

Paul is tempted, but there is tension between him and Claire, because she realizes she feels rather ... territorial about the Mission. It's her baby, her reason to live, and here comes a newcomer with his own ideas and priorities list. But as the two come together to protect Sammy and make the Mission ready to serve God and the community, and they both face painful events and unpleasant people from their pasts, Claire and Paul find more in common than just the Mission.

Monday, June 4, 2012

June 4 -- Retrospective: WHITE ROSES

WHITE ROSES is a "companion" novel with COMMON GROUNDS, in that both books deal with the hunt for a serial killer. In COMMON GROUNDS, Hannah is targeted by a copycat, who uses the White Rose Killer's MO to terrify her in an attempt to get Xander Finley to stop setting up a branch office of Common Grounds legal clinic in Tabor Heights.

In WHITE ROSES, we have two couples -- Toni Napolitano and Curt Mehdlang, and Angela Coffelt and Chief Cooper of the Tabor Heights police. Each has a personal reason to find the White Rose Killer. Toni believes her sister, Angel, was the White Rose's first victim twenty years ago. Now that he's killing again, she wants justice for Angel. Curt found Angel's body, and he's determined to both catch the man, and keep Toni from being the next victim. Angela was in school with Angel and Curt, and the first newspaper story she helped write dealt with Angel's funeral. And of course, Chief Cooper wants to stop this man before he targets any more innocent women as his next "true love," and then murders her for "betraying" him because she reacts in fear and anger.

Especially when the White Rose Killer chooses Angela as his next target.

Behind-the-scenes note: The germinal idea of this story came from a real murder that occured in one of the towns that serves as a model for Tabor Heights. A teenage girl was strangled by her boyfriend, and her body was wrapped in a tarp by the boy and his aunt, and left in the Metroparks. The story stuck in my mind, and the question of what would have happened if they hadn't convicted the boy of the murder -- what kind of man would he have grown into, with that secret in his heart and mind? Would he be haunted by her, to the point that one day, seeing another girl who looked like her, he believed she had come back to him?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

June 2 -- Retrospective: FORGIVEN

Four years ago, Nikki James, 17 years old, ran away from home with Brock Pierson -- quite a few years older than her. She rebelled against her foster-parents and God to be with him. Not until she got pregnant and Brock ordered her to abort did Nikki realize how far she had fallen from her faith.

The long journey back -- to the things she believed in, as well as home -- almost cost her life and Brock's, and did end in the death of their daughter.

Now, Nikki works for the Arc Foundation, a philanthropical organization that is considering coming alongside the Mission, run by Tabor Christian Church. Arc sends Nikki home to Tabor Heights to evaluate the Mission -- meaning she has to face the people she grew up with, who all know what a mess she has made of her life.

Problem: Brock is out of prison and turning his life around. Part of that means convincing Nikki that he's a changed man, and to give him a second chance to love her the right way.

Bigger problem: Some of the evil from his past has caught up with him, and threatens Nikki, her family, and the town.

Staying alive is easier than learning to forgive Brock -- and herself.

Want to learn more about Nikki and Brock and the Arc Foundation? Plans are in the works for a women's fiction series called Quarry Hall to come out from Desert Breeze Publishing. Stay tuned for more information!

Friday, June 1, 2012

June 1 -- Retrospective: FIRESONG

Did you ever have a dream?

When I was in high school, my friend Lynn and I had a short-lived dream of singing together, traveling, recording albums -- you know the drill! We spent countless hours at the piano either at her house or mine, or at church, picking out songs and singing together, while she played.

Today, Lynn has a varied career as a schoolteacher behind her, along with other jobs, a great husband and two grown, married children. I studied theater and English in college, and film/writing in grad school. My "children" are my books.

But the dream lives on, in Dani Paul's story and the singing group, Firesong.

After the loss of her parents when she was in middle school, Dani dedicated her life to music and ministry. As Firesong is poised on the edge of success, their careers ready to take off, Dani is convinced that marriage and ministry don't go together. She can't serve God full-time and be a wife and mother.

Kurt Green, who is in ministry full-time, and cousin to Dani's best friend, Katie, has the same idea. Until he comes back to Tabor Heights to prepare for a crusade event that summer. As he reunites with childhood friends, he sees Dani and interacts with her, and makes it his goal to persuade Dani that not only can she be a wife and have a ministry, but chances are very good the two of them can do it together.

The only problem is, with the crusade and the wedding for Katie and Andy, Dani's brother, then Katie's illness and problems with Firesong's ambitious manager and a dozen other problems, when will they find time for Kurt to start his campaign of persuasion?