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Sunday, March 31, 2013

March 31: FORGIVEN


           Gray got in her way, when Nikki stepped into the willow garden, keeping her from going directly to Mercy Grace's marker. She reached down to grasp his collar to turn him aside, but something in the big dog's eyes made her shiver and pause. She saw Brock move past her and turned to watch him.
            His legs wobbled a little. His shoulders hunched, just enough to be noticeable. He clenched his fists.
            "Oh, please," she whispered.
            What bothered her more? The tears that touched her eyes as she realized this moment hurt him? Or her anger? What right did he have to hurt for their murdered child? He had ordered her to abort when Mercy Grace was little more than a handful, not even visible inside her mother's body. He had slapped her and tore up the Gideon Bible she had found in the nightstand and devoured, begging God for guidance and strength.
            "I'm sorry, baby," Brock whispered, and bent over, reaching out as if to touch the bronze marker and the new carpet of cherry blossom petals strewn across it.
            A tear fell off the tip of his nose, sparkling in the afternoon sunlight as it tumbled down to the marker.
            Lord, please help me forgive him. I can't accept Your forgiveness to me, for all the stupid, selfish things I did, until I can forgive him.
           Nikki choked on mixed laughter and tears as her prayer echoed through her mind and heart. How many times had Joan and Vincent and the Carters counseled her on being forgiving and accepting forgiveness during her year of training at Quarry Hall? So many times, she had lost count.
           She thought she had forgiven Brock, until she saw him again.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Looking Forward: COOKING UP TROUBLE

The next Tabor Heights novel, Book 2 of Year 2, is COOKING UP TROUBLE.

Sometimes when you help others make dreams come true, your own dreams start to come true, too.

As you will find out in COOKING, there is a huge old black iron stove in the basement/kitchen of Homespun Theater. It was there along with other junk that was left in the barn when Joel and Emily Randolph bought it to turn into the auditorium for Homespun. Most of the junk was thrown out or sold off, but they kept the stove -- because Joel had a dream to someday have dinner theater attached to Homespun.

Audrey, the heroine of COOKING, is a trained chef. She went to culinary school. She has a dream of someday having her own place, or maybe just doing catering. Right now, she is perfectly happy working in someone else's restaurant, having the freedom to experiment with recipes, and indulge in her love of theater at Homespun.

But when Joel decides it's time to pursue the dinner theater dream, and Audrey falls in love with the big, black iron stove -- which she names Herman, by the way -- and she helps Joel make his dream come true, suddenly her on-the-side baking and cooking jobs start adding up. She gets more business. Could her dreams be coming true too?

Check out COOKING UP TROUBLE this May, and find out!

Friday, March 29, 2013

March 29: THE FAMILY WAY


              Lisa tried to do as Pastor Glenn suggested, once she calmed down from the excitement of her plan and Anne's interest and her promise to pass the information on to Arc's directors. She avoided the wedding album at first, choosing to pull out her college scrapbooks. Todd had figured so prominently in all of them because he had come into her life in her freshman year. Looking through them, she couldn't find any gaps to show where she and Todd had broken up, sometimes for months on end. He simply seemed to be everywhere.
Photos of days on the beach on Lake Erie or walking the trails in the Metroparks. Or trying to sail a boat. Or at Cedar Point amusement park. The two of them always together, no matter how many other people were around them.
              Picnics. Dorm parties. Family picnics she had agreed to attend, even after she met his father and knew the man despised her because she was an artist. Lisa looked at the pictures of Todd's sisters and wondered why she hadn't seen the stiffness and coolness between Mr. Montgomery and his daughters even then.
              Had she been that much in love with Todd, she couldn't see beyond the rosy dazzle he put on everything?
             They did have good times. Lots of good times. Tears came to her eyes, but she managed to laugh as she remembered all those silly good times they had together. Back when it was enough just to walk down the bike trail through the Metroparks and talk.
             Lisa remembered how happy she had been the day Todd put that gumball prize ring on her finger because he couldn't afford an engagement ring the first time they became engaged. Later, she learned he had asked his father for a loan and his father had refused.
            She had been so happy with just a bit of cheap plastic and glass on her finger.
            The day after she moved into her apartment, Lisa had looked at her wedding band and the diamond engagement ring Todd gave her right after his first big raise at DeWitt-McGregor, and contemplated taking them off. It wouldn't be hard. She had lost enough weight already they tried to slide off. But no, she had decided to keep her rings. Was that her subconscious telling her to keep hoping?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

March 28: THE SECOND TIME AROUND


             It was cowardly, and Lynette knew it, but that didn't stop her from scheduling moving day for Daniel's busiest class day. It meant losing Kat's help for several hours, but Lynette didn't mind. To her delight, Bekka and Amy volunteered to help, and the moving company took care of a large part of the grunt work. Kat was there to help with unwrapping newspaper-wrapped dishes and running them through the dishwasher, and to help put out rugs and hang pictures at the end of the day. When Kat left for rehearsal, Daniel showed up with a Chinese banquet and helped her set up her TV, VCR and stereo system.
            Maybe he was just as relieved not to have Kat see them together. She hoped. This was all going to take some time to get used to, but she wanted it, with an ache like a leg regaining feeling after being asleep for hours.
            Maybe years.
            They met for lunch at Stay-A-While or the Bluebird CafĂ© once a week. Never on the same day. Making a routine implied more than Lynette was willing to admit, even to herself. And always at the restaurant. She never met Daniel at his office and he never came up to Blooming Miracles or her condo to pick her up. Daniel never suggested it, though such a practice would have been easier on them both. Lynette chose to believe he felt the same as she did. Uneasy about Kat seeing them and asking questions they weren't prepared to answer.
             That was a comfort.
             So why did she feel a little disappointment, every time he gave in to her wishes without a murmur?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Connections, Past and Future


Let's talk about connections. Between Tabor Heights and Quarry Hall, and between past and future books.

Right now I'm polishing up the final revisions of ANNE, the next Quarry Hall book. In fact, I have to turn it in next Monday, April 1, to be published in August.

In Anne's story, she is sent to Tabor Heights to assess Common Grounds Legal Clinic for further funding by the Arc Foundation. Reference is made to Anne's visit in the Tabor Heights novel, COMMON GROUNDS. At that time, Anne notices Hannah's feelings for Xander -- and the fact Xander is totally oblivious. Or at least, he appears totally oblivious. This comes back to haunt Xander and Hannah during their story.

Also, in Anne's story, she meets up with a young art student at Butler-Williams University, who is having boyfriend problems. The couple? Lisa Collins and Todd Montgomery, the main characters in THE FAMILY WAY. During Lisa and Todd's story, Lisa and Anne about Firesong, the band that Dani Paul belongs to in the Tabor Heights novel, FIRESONG -- and the fact the band is doing a benefit concert for The Mission. This is where Anne gets the idea that maybe the Arc Foundation should investigate helping with the Mission. The investigation takes place during the Tabor Heights novel, FORGIVEN -- which is Nikki and Brock's story.

If you've read the first Quarry Hall book, JOAN, that's where Nikki initially runs away from home -- this takes place four years before the events of Tabor Heights Year One, and FORGIVEN.

Confused yet? Don't be -- one of these days, I'll have a chart up on my web site, detailing the timeline of all the Quarry Hall and Tabor Heights books.

But here's something to look forward to: During JOAN and ANNE, everyone is praying for Nikki to come home. In a future Quarry Hall book, you'll get Nikki's homecoming story. In fact, Nikki will have several adventures with Quarry Hall.

Stay tuned for more insider information!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March 26: FIRESONG


           "We're sending Nikki back to Tabor. First to check out the Mission, see if we'll be partnering with Tabor Christian." Joan tipped her head to one side. "Do you have any idea what we're talking about?"
           "Yeah, the Mission is in the old Eloise Elementary. The church bought it a few years ago, to use as an outreach center. Daycare, senior center, food pantry, lots of other ideas."
           "That's it," Nikki said. "Lots of ideas, not enough funding. It was all Anne's idea."
           "Her friend, Lisa Montgomery," Joan corrected. "Lisa is an artist, she works at the Mission, and she's also doing the cover art for Firesong's new CD. They're doing a fundraiser concert for the Mission, and it all came together into a brainstorm, which she passed on to Anne. And we lost you, didn't we?"
            "Considering I'm here just to arrange for Arc to be headquarters for all the pre-crusade meetings of the local pastors. Did you say Firesong?" Kurt sat down on the couch facing Joan.
            "They're a band that basically operates out of Tabor Christian," Nikki said, moving over to join him on the couch, with her companion dog, Gray, settling down immediately at her feet.
            "I know who they are." Kurt shook his head, grinning, feeling a little blindsided. "My cousin, Katie, is engaged to one of the guys in the band."
             "That's right -- Katie Green." Nikki laughed. "We were in school together. So Katie and Andy finally got together. I wonder if Dani arranged it."
             "Dani is the drummer?" Joan said.
             "Dani is Andy's sister, and the other three guys in the band are their cousins." Nikki scooted off the couch and darted into the next room.
             "I take it this is turning into old home week," Joan said.
             "Yeah, and nobody warned me when I walked through the door this morning." Kurt chuckled and settled back, stretching out his legs. He flinched when Gray let out a rumbling woof, and shifted his legs a good foot away from the dog.
            Joan snickered. "He won't bite you."
            "You say."
            "Our dogs are trained not to take food from anyone but their assigned persons."

Monday, March 25, 2013

March 25: THE FAMILY WAY


         "History repeats itself," Emily murmured. She shared a long look with Joel, and Todd was surprised to see tears glisten in her eyes. "Oh, Todd, you need to talk with Lisa right away. Both of you are long overdue for a long, deep talk. You have to get everything out in the open."
         "Months ago," Joel added.
         "Yeah, I kind of figured that out." Todd sighed and studied his hands, pressed flat against the slightly sticky surface of the table. "The thing is, I keep telling myself Lisa should have spoken up a long time ago and told me what I was doing. But then I wonder if I would have listened."
          "It's a start." Emily dabbed at her eyes with a corner of the pale yellow scarf that had been holding her hair back. "Todd, you have to talk with Lisa. I did exactly what she did, a long time ago. I was in love with a wonderful man, and I let all my little resentments and hurts build up and didn't say anything because I knew they were petty. And I knew I was wrong, because we were living together but we weren't married. Everything built up and it became easier to stay silent and just get angrier. And it turned into a wall between us. A wall that has remained for twenty-five years. I left him when I left Hollywood. I made it impossible for him to find me. And Max's father doesn't know she exists. Because of my anger and my choices."
            A tiny, bitter, thin smile was Emily's only response when Todd's mouth dropped open in shock.
           "She wouldn't -- Lisa wouldn't run away with the baby, would she?" he choked out. His stomach twisted as he remembered his father's threat of getting custody of the baby -- and Lisa's promise that he would never see their baby if he tried anything.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 24: THE FAMILY WAY


           "What are you doing next with your strip?" Pastor Glenn asked, when they had finished the soup and turned to the cookies Lisa had bought that morning in the bakery.
           "I don't know. Maybe big confessional time?"
           "You were much more honest with Katie than you realize. It was quite obvious that even though she was the injured party, she wasn't giving her husband a chance."
           "You think that's what I was doing with Todd?" Lisa shrugged a little, knowing the answer already. Pastor Glenn didn't say anything. "I guess I was just tired of having to do all the work to keep our marriage going."
          "Once you put your hand to the plow, you can't look back."
          "Huh?"
          "I tell every couple who comes to me for pre-marital counseling that marriage is a one hundred and one hundred proposition. Remember?" He winked at her, and chuckled when Lisa blushed. She did remember. "Each partner is expected to give one hundred percent. Period. No conditions on how much the other partner gives. Their complete effort isn't just between them and their spouse, it's between them and God. Do you think God accepts the excuse that just because your partner dropped to ten percent, that means you can drop to ten percent, too?" His eyes twinkled as he asked the question, but Lisa knew he was serious.
           "No. God doesn't accept any excuses," she murmured.
           "I don't think that baby of yours will accept them, either. If he -- or she -- could talk right now, what do you think he'd say about how you and Todd have been treating each other?"
           "He'd cry. He'd be mad. He'd probably laugh at how stupid we've both been."
           "You're on your way to healing." Pastor Glenn reached across the tiny table to pat her cheek.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

March 23: THE FAMILY WAY


           Dr. and Mrs. Holwood came to the apartment after church, bringing chicken stew and fresh bread, fruit salad, and a card signed by everyone in Lisa and Todd's Young Marrieds class. Lisa managed not to hesitate or stutter as she thanked them, but her thoughts kept circling back to the same questions while they visited for a few minutes: Was Todd in class when someone passed around the card for her? What was the story going around the church, and especially among their friends? How many knew she had left Todd? Lisa had welcomed the quiet and lack of visitors, except for the small circle of those who had supported her from the beginning, meaning Bekka and her roommates, and her sisters-in-law. The enormity of what she had done, the thought of the division she was probably causing among her and Todd's friends in church, struck her with enough force to make her feel as hollow and dizzy as she had just before she slid down the post office steps.
            It didn't help as much as she had thought, when Dr. Holwood and Doria both gave her tentative support in her decision. Their reasoning came from the viewpoint of being part of the foster parenting system, and considering the needs and rights of the children.
            "There is a lot of good in Todd, and we've spent quite a bit of time in prayer, trying to see beyond our problems with his father," Doria admitted with a deprecating little shrug and smile. She reached across the shallow trunk that served as a coffee table in the cramped living room-office. "But we've also seen too much hurt done to children by parents who stayed too long. The ideal is for children to be raised by two parents who work together, who put the needs and the good of the children above their own. Unfortunately, in this sinful world, that doesn't happen, even in Christian homes."
            "Sometimes it's better if the family is dissolved, or at least temporarily divided, until the parents can grow up and heal from their wounds," Dr. Holwood said, taking up the line of thought. "Sometimes it's better if a child has foster parents, or only one parent, rather than subjecting him or her to the constant tension, the battles, the toxic environment. It's not your life anymore, Lisa. The moment the Lord entrusted that child to you, your life changed. It's up to you to trust in him, and obey, and make sure that change is for the better. For you and Todd, as well as for your baby."

Friday, March 22, 2013

March 22: FORGIVEN


           "How do you feel about going away for a while for a project?" Joan said, meeting Nikki on the massive natural stone patio of Quarry Hall when she came back from her morning walk around the estate.
           "What kind of project?" Nikki grinned at her half-sister and knelt on the top step. Her companion dog, Gray Brother, obediently raised one paw after another to let her check for any mud he might have picked up, to clean his feet before they went indoors. "Where?"
           For just a moment, their matching hazel eyes locked gazes and Nikki shivered slightly from the sensation that struck at the oddest times: that when she looked at Joan, twelve years her senior, she looked in a blurred mirror. The same wide cheekbones, shoulder-length dark hair with a touch of red in bright sunlight, hazel eyes... and the same ghost pain in those eyes. Today they had even dressed similarly, though Nikki was sure it was pure coincidence. For those who worked behind-the-scenes at Quarry Hall and the Arc Foundation, faded jeans, hiking boots and plain tee shirts were the uniform of the day.
           Joan shrugged, offering a crooked smile, and tucked her tangled, dark hair behind an ear. "Tabor." She turned to go indoors with her Akita, Ulysses, a silent, watchful shadow.
           "How long?" Nikki followed her through the french doors, through the Great Hall, to the hidden stairway that led upstairs to the living quarters for Joan's father and stepmother.
           "We won't know until you're already hip-deep in it," was all Joan said.
           Nikki bit back a smart remark about being hip-deep in alligators. Her first solo mission for the Arc Foundation, last summer, was supposed to just be a courier run, a visual check-and-report drive-through of a few locations where the foundation considered setting up women's shelters and free clinics. What was supposed to be an easy assignment became complicated when she stopped in a small mountain town to pick up Brooklyn, was falsely accused of kidnapping, then was kidnapped herself and held prisoner with Brooklyn and the local sheriff. She had never been so grateful to have a big sister, when she learned how Joan had dropped everything to drive cross-country, ready to tear the little mountain town apart with her bare hands to find her.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

March 21: THE FAMILY WAY


           Kevin and Karla came to the hospital to visit, just after the doctor decided to keep Lisa another day, to make sure she was a little stronger before sending her home -- with strict orders to do nothing but rest and eat and avoid stress for the next week, before resuming her normal activities. By this time, Lisa felt embarrassed by the balloons and bouquets and planters that filled all the horizontal surfaces in her room. At the same time, something quietly gloated and gloried in the proof that people cared about her. Bekka, Kat and Amy came by the night before with flowers and her favorite trail mix, and offers to loan her DVDs and videos and books when she got home from the hospital. Jeannette Marshall had visited that morning before the doctor had stopped with his orders, and nearly burst into tears when Lisa asked her for advice on raising a baby on her own.
             "You won't be alone," Jeannette had insisted. "You'll have the entire church behind you, just like I did. But I'm sure Todd will straighten up and do what's right."
             Lisa hadn't been able to argue with her, but she had given up hope of Todd ever proving his love, so she didn't agree with Jeanette, either.
             She was too tired to pay much attention when Kevin and Karla got the same report and orders from the doctor. If only she could get warm. The air felt and tasted thick and smelled like a greenhouse, thanks to all the flowers and planters. Lisa tugged the blankets a little higher and wished Terri had brought her winter robe instead of her summer one. Why couldn't her room be as warm as a greenhouse, instead of just smelling like one? Would she ever feel warm again?
              "I know the doctor said to avoid stress," Kevin said, once the doctor had gone down the hall, finally leaving them alone.
              "What?" She blinked several times before realizing Karla held out some folded sheets of paper to her.
              "The restraining order against our father," her sister-in-law said quietly. "And one for Todd. I think in the interest of future reconciliation, you should just keep it on hand, don't sign it right away. I do want you to sign the first one. Kevin and I, and the other girls, have signed it already. It takes your signature, since you're the one in danger."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March 20: THE FAMILY WAY


               "I wish I drank champagne," Tyler said, after glancing over her folder full of sketches. He laughed at her little frown of confusion, his smooth, deep voice bubbling and his dark brown eyes sparkling. "Your talent is worth celebrating. And my good luck in finding someone like you. I'm a firm believer that every tiny detail makes a big difference in a production. With you to design my posters and programs, that's one less thing I have to worry about. More energy and time to devote to bigger concerns. Not that your artwork isn't an important detail. Are you going to say something so I can stop tripping over my tongue?"
                 Lisa laughed. It hurt her chest a little, and her throat, as if she had forgotten how to laugh. She choked a little and Tyler patted her back as she snatched at her water glass and sipped it to help steady herself. The icy water hit her stomach hard, sending a reverberation up into her head.
               "I'm sorry. I just -- I love your voice -- and I didn't see any need to say anything so..." She shrugged.
               "Don't let me steamroller you. When I get excited, I have a tendency to do that. It's okay with arrogant freshmen, because they come into my classes thinking they know everything. By the time they're seniors, they have the talent and the discipline, and I've beaten some manners into them, but they don't want to stand up to me by then." He winked and fanned himself with the pale blue menu. "What's good here?"
               "I have no idea. I haven't come here since I was a freshman myself. Todd used to date the owner's daughter, so he avoided this place once we started dating. Stupid, I know, but what can you do?" Lisa managed a smile and reached for her water glass again to hide the tremble in her lips.
                "Todd?"
                "My husband."
                "Ah. The lucky Mr. Collins."
                "Montgomery. Collins is my professional name -- my maiden name," she added. If God didn't intervene soon and fix things, Lisa suspected it would soon be her only name again. Lisa wouldn't put it past Mr. Montgomery to slam a divorce through so fast she wouldn't know what hit her.
                 Lisa thought back to the pain in Todd's eyes and voice, and his stumbled apology. What would have happened if she had let him apologize? If she hadn't held onto her hurt and anger like a shield?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March 19: THE FAMILY WAY


               "Dad?" Todd stopped short when he saw the man sitting in one of the three chairs facing Pastor Glenn's desk. "What are you doing here?"
              "Your father wants me to, as he puts it, talk some sense into Lisa," Pastor Glenn said. "I explained that I have been talking to Lisa for weeks now, and you're the one who won't talk. It's a little hard to help with marital problems unless both spouses are willing to talk."
              "I'm willing," Todd began.
              "See? I told you. Todd has never been the problem," Mr. Montgomery rumbled in that rich, satisfied tone of voice his son suddenly hated. "It's that Lisa. How anyone can be an artist and claim to be a Christian is beyond me."
              "Todd might be willing," Pastor Glenn said with that forced smile that always made Todd feel guilty. "However, he never follows through when we make appointments for counseling. In fact, I asked Lisa why you two missed the last appointment we made, and she said you never told her about it."
              "That's true, unfortunately," Todd said quickly, to halt the angry denial he saw in his father's eyes. "I keep forgetting."
               "It makes me wonder if you really do want to save your marriage."
               "Of course Todd wants to save it," his father snapped. "But as I keep telling you, it's Lisa. She abandoned her own husband, the father of her child. If it really is his child."
               "Dad!" Todd's face burned. He could hear echoes of that confrontation with Lisa, the night he got home from that awful business trip. "Of course it's mine. Lisa would never cheat on me."
               "That's not what Lisa says you believe about her," Pastor Glenn said.
               "A genetic test will solve the whole problem," Mr. Montgomery said. He stretched his legs out as he settled back in his chair. "We should arrange a psychiatric evaluation while we're at it. It'll save time later."
               "What do you mean?" Todd didn't like that satisfied little smile on his father's face.
               "Your father wants to file court action to take custody of Lisa's baby as soon as it's born," Pastor Glenn explained.
                "No! No way." Todd threw himself down into the chair next to his father. "That would -- that would kill Lisa. It's bad enough I said what I did, but to force her to go through that -- I can't. I won't."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sneak Peek: ANNE, Quarry Hall #2

Ssshhhhhh!  Don't tell my publisher.
Want a sneak peek at a book I'm still working on?
Here's part of a scene from ANNE, the next Quarry Hall book, which I have to turn in to Desert Breeze Publishing on April 1 -- due to be published in August this year.


Later, she couldn't decide if it was the prayer over their burgers, or she was on the other side of the street, or she had never been down this section of Sackley before. She glanced idly into the yard of a body shop and car repair business as they passed on their way back to campus.
There was her truck.
"Lisa -- pull in," she said, gesturing hard to her right. Fortunately, the body shop business where her truck sat was big enough to have two entrances on the street, and they had only passed the first.
Lisa barely glanced at Anne, but flipped on her blinker and turned, hitting the brakes just enough to avoid skidding as they went from forty and pavement to twenty and gravel. Anne gestured at the nearest parking slot. They pulled in. She closed her eyes and prayed hard for several seconds after Lisa put the car into park.
"What's up?" her friend asked, keeping her voice down. She glanced around, as if expecting something to happen.
"That's my truck," Anne said, hooking a finger over her shoulder at the cars inside the locked chain link fence on the other side of the parking lot.
"Your truck?"
"Dark green with the gouge in the left rear hubcab and the dent in the bumper where the white fiberglass shows through. It's a prong shape, pointing up. And that's my license plate. The idiot didn't even bother switching plates!" she blurted, and finally opened her eyes.
"What are we going to do? You can't just walk into the body shop and tell the owner that your stolen truck is there."
           "The crook probably brought it here to have it painted. Why is it taking so long to get it done, though?" A moment later, she shook her head, grinning at her petty attention to little details. The important thing was to be grateful she had seen it. "For all we know, this is the center of operations for some carjacking ring."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 17: DETOURS


             The three roommates were still talking about Lisa's moving day and the strange encounter with Todd when they met for a late lunch at the student union that afternoon. Bekka was willing to believe that Todd really had rented a house for him and Lisa as a surprise. She knew he was just that oblivious to how things looked to other people. It would never occur to him that Lisa would know their lease had expired and she would worry about where they would live. And she could believe that Mr. Montgomery had made threats to Lisa.
             Amy and Kat wanted to believe the worst of the situation, and they were all for devising means to torture Todd for the rest of the year. Amy wanted to do some baking as an apartment-warming gift for Lisa.  The three sat in a booth in the snack shop at the student union, discussing whether to go shopping for Amy's supplies or totally blow off an early start on term papers due after spring break and go to a movie, when Shane came by.
               "So, what's the news?" Shane said, eyeing the empty seat next to Kat.
               "Men are scum," Amy declared, thumping her half-empty shake cup down onto the table. "The sooner we learn to do without all of you, the better the world will be!"
               Shane took a step back, then paused when Kat and Bekka burst out laughing.
               "Amy's in a snit -- again -- because Joe's talking about taking a job in Nashville and he hasn't mentioned taking her with him," Kat said, wrinkling up her nose and turning her words into singsong teasing.
              "Joe who?" Amy said, tossing her head.
              Bekka noted there was more hurt than rage in her attitude, which was a good sign. She expected Amy and Joe to get over their latest argument by that evening.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

March 16: THE FAMILY WAY


          "Lisa?" Doria Holwood stepped into the kitchen at Tabor Christian Church, where Lisa was busy scooping ice cream, assembly line-fashion, onto dozens of paper plates holding slices of apple and cherry pie. The Autumn Fellowship luncheon for the senior citizens of the church was nearly over for another month. "I haven't seen Todd anywhere. Isn't he helping today?"
           "He had to put in a command performance at his father's house, as far as I know," Lisa said, summoning up a smile.
           Obviously, that smile was even less steady than it felt, because concern creased the older woman's dusky features and she came further into the room.
          "That man," she said on a sigh, then pressed her lips together as if to hold back angry words, and shook her head. "Then can I give you a ride home? Rance just stepped outside to help Mrs. Sommersby out to her car, and he said that threatened storm is about to hit."
           "Thanks, but I'm practically home already." Lisa felt her smile grow a little steadier and warmer. She adored her new little apartment, despite the mess of boxes and bags everywhere. She had awakened to the delicious aroma of baking bread and donuts from downstairs, and had actually laughed at the whimsical thought that she would gain fifty pounds during her pregnancy, just from breathing the air.
           "And that means?" Doria slid three plates at a time onto the wheeled cart to take the desserts out to the seniors who had stayed for the musical program.
           "I'm renting the apartment over Rick's. One hundred yards down the hill from the post office, and I'm home. I won't even feel the cold by the time I'm inside again."
           "That's a very small apartment." She chuckled and paused in sliding more plates off the counter. "Rance and I stayed there when we were first looking for houses in Tabor, and he had to start teaching before we found anything. Why did you and Todd move?"
            Lisa sighed. She adored Mrs. Holwood, and she had dreaded telling her former advisor's wife that she had left Todd, just because of the disappointment she would cause the woman. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

March 15: THE FAMILY WAY


           Todd got up early Saturday morning and got dressed while Lisa still lay with her back to him, debating how to tell him before his sisters got there. Or should she just let Todd make a fool out of himself in front of the entire family? She flinched when she heard the apartment door slam. What was Todd doing? Where was he going? Was he going to leave her here to face the movers alone when they arrived? Technically, he didn't need to be here. At least, as far as he knew, he didn't have to do anything. He was leaving her to direct the movers.   The movers had said they would pack everything, and she didn't have to lift a finger or do any work except to tell them where everything was to go in the house at the other end of the process.
            Lisa knew where all her possessions would go at Mr. Montgomery's house -- into the basement or attic, until he looked things over and decided what could stay, what he could use, and what he would not permit inside his household. Such as her art tables and books, her computer and anything else that would give her pleasure and escape.
            She refused to accept any of it. A feeling of lightness, almost giddy euphoria, washed over her as she remembered yet again that by the end of the day, she would be free. Todd might gladly let his father run their lives. She never would. She had done a lot of thinking while waiting for one word of apology from him, one sign that he wanted to make things right. Lisa had thought that being a good Christian wife meant ignoring all the little hurts and sorrows. It was easy when they were just little things, like forgetting to empty the trash, not helping with the dishes, forgetting to tell her he used the last stamp, or not putting away the butter. The problem was that the little things grew into big things.
            Like Todd thinking she became pregnant by someone else.
            No more. She couldn't take it anymore. She had tried praying, tried leaning on God for comfort and wisdom and strength. It wasn't working. Todd's sisters offered the only help, the only advice that made sense. Move out, break away from Todd before he ruined her life and their baby's life completely.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Quarry Hall: JOAN, Book 1


"You're scared, aren't you?"
"I'm realistic." She slid sideways when he reached for her again, and skipped three steps up her stairs. "Matt, don't ruin things. We don't belong together."
"Yeah? Then what's been going on the last three, four years?" He jammed his fists into his hips and took a step toward her. She went up two more steps, so he had to tip his head back to see her.
"That's friendship. Not... not lifetime. Besides, you have the golden ticket, I don't. That means we shouldn't be together."
"All you have to do is ask!"
"It's not that easy."
"Yes, it is. Look, let me call Xander --"
"If you sic Xander on me, I'll never talk to either of you again." Joan wanted to run up to her apartment, but if Matt chased her up the stairs, he would catch her before she could get her door open. Taking a deep breath, she plunged down the steps. By some miracle, Matt stepped aside instead of trying to catch her.
Joan ran, crossing the street against the light, and down the street leading to Heinke's Grocery. The queasy feeling grew stronger. Her lungs labored and her muscles felt weak, bruised deep inside. She slowed as she reached Aspect and looked back. Matt wasn't following her. Joan stepped into the grass and braced herself against a tree while she struggled to breathe.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Quarry Hall: JOAN, Book 1


Joan had decided, after only two months in Tabor, Mandy was what mothers were supposed to be like. Slightly nosy, always there with advice, always glad to see her, always armed with milk and cookies and an amusing or touching story, and a penchant for caftans in eye-watering shades and dizzying patterns.
Even more important, Mandy didn't gossip. She enjoyed a juicy story just like anyone, and she might talk a little too much, but Joan had learned quickly that Mandy never broke a trust. She was a pillar of her church -- a loudly dressed, jolly pillar -- and her observations of people were spot-on. Joan had no hesitation to share with her what she had learned the day before about Nikki, Brock Pierson, and the Holwoods' concern for their foster-daughter.
"Well, I hate to say it, but it's probably about time. That Nikki is a sweetheart, but she's about due for some stupidity in her life. After what that Rich Thomas did to her, I'm not surprised she took up with someone who doesn't live in town."
"Oh, yeah. Him." Joan broke a cookie in half and dunked it into her mug hard enough to slop over the edge.
Rich Thomas was -- or rather, had been -- the golden boy at Tabor Christian Church. Head of the youth group, an example to the younger children, aiming toward a sports-related teaching job. He and Nikki had been an item for almost two years. Then he went away to college last fall and from all reports, turned his back on everything he believed in and broke Nikki's heart. Joan had fought the temptation on several occasions to mess up Rich's financial standing, and transfer all his scholarship money and savings to someone more deserving.
"Consider Nikki surrounded by prayer. I'll contact my prayer chain -- no names, of course -- and we'll get to work on protecting her." Mandy patted Joan's hand. "You're a good girl, Joanie, looking out for her."
            "We have a lot in common," she offered.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Quarry Hall: JOAN, Book 1


"You know, usually the only people who insist on paying in cash are either the men Open Doors sends to me, to help them get on their feet after prison. Or people who are in trouble." Mandy Gordon dunked her fresh chocolate chip cookie in a mug of milk, and took a bite.
Joan just smiled at her landlady and dunked her own cookie. She had never learned the habit of milk and cookies before she settled in Tabor.
"I've turned down a lot of people who wanted to pay cash, but when you showed up four years ago..." Mandy took another bite of her cookie and sat back, folding her hands in her violent orange and purple caftan-clad lap. "My gut told me you weren't trouble. Maybe God sent you here." She patted her ample belly. "The bigger the gut, the louder it is, but it's never wrong." She chuckled.
"Maybe God did send me here." Joan shrugged.
            Mandy was one of the few people in town who didn't make her itchy and eager to pick up and run when she started in with her half-spoken questions about Joan's past. The big, pillowy, always-cheerful woman had taken Joan under her wing since the day she knocked on her door, asking about renting the apartment. Joan hoped she never had to leave Tabor Heights, because she didn't want to disappoint Mandy. That would definitely happen if the woman ever discovered all the security measures she had installed in her apartment without permission.

Monday, March 11, 2013

March 11: SECOND CHANCES


               "I live two blocks over," Daniel said, hooking his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of Kiln Street. "You ought to consider that before you sign the lease."
                It was on the tip of her tongue to ask him why he thought she would change her mind if she knew he lived so close. Then a wave of heat flooded her, scrambling her emotions and thoughts for several seconds.
               Daniel thought she wouldn't want to be that close. Either he was being considerate, or he was afraid she would be angry. He gave her warning, so if this comfortable, comforting relationship turned sour, she could be prepared to see him everywhere.
               She would see him everywhere, wouldn't she? At the grocery, the hardware store, the bakery, the coffee shops and bookstore. A dozen other places. And every time she came to see one of Kat's productions at school.
              That brought up another thought she had been playing with since he strolled back into her life like a slightly dusty, relaxed white knight.
               "I don't think Kat should know we're... seeing each other." She blushed. How could she call it dating, when they had only gone out for pizza once, and the rest of the time Daniel had been helping her pack and tote unwanted things to resale shops, and look for a new place to live?
               "How does that lead into us living two blocks apart?" Daniel smiled, but she could tell her words had knocked him off balance.
              "I want us to get used to being together before Kat sees us together. I mean, it's not like she's upset about Mike leaving us." That earned a snort from him, and he had the good grace to look away so she wouldn't see his wry grin. "If we live in the same town and Kat happens to see us together, she'll think we just ran into each other. I want to make sure she likes us being friends before we tell her there's something more."
               "More as in dating, or more as in I'm her father?" His smile was more bared teeth than humor. At least he wasn't furious with her.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Quarry Hall: JOAN, Book 1

A third excerpt from JOAN, Book #1 of Quarry Hall.


A rattle at the door sent her stumbling across the room, snatching up a leg from Matt's broken chair for a club. Joan looked back at the table with the chair under the hole in the ceiling, and wished she had taken it down. Too late now -- the door was opening.
She crouched down, wishing for some furniture to hide behind. The door creaked softly as it swung open.
"Clear," a man said.
Three men in black -- jeans and long-sleeve tee-shirts -- with rifles slung over their shoulders and handguns at their belts, stepped into the room. The last man inside turned to face out the door. The second stepped over to look up at the gap in the ceiling. The first man in crossed the room halfway and held out a hand to her.
"Joan Archer?" His mouth tipped up in a one-sided grin when she nodded and adjusted her grip on her makeshift club. "Colonel Sidarkis sends his compliments."
"Where's your friend?" the second man said.
"Finding a way out." She set the club down and let the nominal leader reach down to help her to her feet. He whistled and shook his head, and turned her wrists to see the damage the twine had done.
"How bad off is he?"
"Other than some bruises and his wrists..." She shrugged.
"We have most of the warehouse secure, but not all the tangos are accounted for," the third man said. "It might be touch-and-go, and we don't want to shoot your friend."
"Cap?" The man at the door looked over his shoulder at them, then gestured with his rifle out into the darkness. A few seconds later, he stepped out, and Matt came through the door, his hands raised to shoulder height, with another man escorting him from behind, a gun pointed at the middle of his back.
"Your friend?" Cap said. When Joan nodded, the man holding a gun on Matt stepped out of sight again, down the hallway.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Quarry Hall: JOAN, Book 1

Another excerpt from JOAN, Book #1 of the Quarry Hall series.


Matt made short work of the ties on her ankles. Then he laughed.
"What?" There was something in the sound that made her shiver, despite the heavy heat of the stale air.
Matt didn't answer, but she heard him get up and walk away from her. A moment later, light flooded the room and she muffled a hiss from the sharp pain in her eyes.
"Should have done that first," he explained, and hobbled over to the table to pick up her phone. He made a move to toss it to her, then shook his head and crossed the room to hand it to her.
Joan pressed the sequence and powered up her phone. She wasn't surprised to see five emails from Sophie in her inbox, and pulled up the last one first.
"Sophie says to sit tight, the cavalry is on its way."
"What cavalry?" Matt had climbed up on the table to investigate the ceiling tiles while she worked on her phone, and he paused with his arms raised, lifting a tile out of the frame.
"Hopefully not the kind that shoots anything that moves." She got up, groaning when her hips didn't want to move.
"Joan..." Matt grinned and shook his head.
"What?"
"You know I love you, but there are times I want to just shake you until your eyes rattle."
                "You have to catch me first." She stuck her tongue out at him and was grateful that he turned back to the ceiling tiles before her eyes filled with tears.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Quarry Hall: JOAN, Book 1


And now -- An excerpt from the series that ties in with Tabor Heights: Quarry Hall
Book #1: JOAN

The next few minutes were filled with the sounds of Matt struggling to break free of the remains of the chair. He provided a running progress report as he maneuvered around, trying to slam the pieces of the chair against the floor to break them. They both laughed when he reported that he got his feet free first, and was able to stand. Joan suspected they were going loopy from thirst. When Matt separated the back of the chair from the seat, he could bring his bound hands and the chair back under himself and slide his legs through the loop of his arms. Then he banged the chair back against the floor until it splintered and set his hands free.
All the time he worked and banged and struggled, no one came running to investigate. Joan mentioned that little detail as he struggled to untie the knots in the blood-soaked twine.
"I know. It makes me wonder where everybody is," Matt said. "Either they've abandoned this place, or they're too busy somewhere else to hear, or they're waiting to spring something a lot worse on us the moment we step out the door."
"Then let's not step out the door."
"Uh huh. And just what do you suggest?" He grunted. "And we're on our way."
Joan jumped when his feet shuffled towards her and he touched her shoulder, then followed the line of her arm down to her hands.
"What were you saying about not using the door?" Matt prompted, when he had settled down behind her and got to work on her wrists.
"This room is a module. They put it together from pre-fab pieces brought into the warehouse. I bet we can climb up through the ceiling, and from there work our way along the shelves. Nobody ever looks up anymore. Even if we can't walk the shelves all the way to the door, we'll be able to see them coming."
"If they leave the lights on in here."
"Pessimist."
                "Not on your life. We are proof that God answers prayers." 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

March 7: THE FAMILY WAY


            "Sometimes we have to let go, Lisa," Pastor Glenn said.  "Sometimes we have to take a leap of faith and ask God to help us do the impossible."
             "What if I don't want to? What if I just want Todd out of my life?" A teary laugh escaped her. "He started talking about our summer vacation yesterday. We never go on vacations. We get hip deep in travel brochures and guide books, trying to decide what we want to do. We end up not going anywhere because we want to be careful with our money ...  but just planning is fun. Was fun. Dreaming." Lisa squeezed her eyes shut, fighting tears. They trickled down her cheeks anyway, two solitary, scalding drops, in defiance of her vows. "I think I've forgotten how to dream. Todd took that away from me."
             "Maybe you should give him one more chance. A trip might be a good idea. Getting away from everyone and everything might be what you two need."
             "He's not sorry," she whispered. "He's just trying to buy my forgiveness. Why can't he just say he's sorry? Why can't he explain why he's so selfish and ... and suspicious?" she choked out. "I don't want flowers and candy and dinners out if he doesn't love me anymore!"
              "I think Todd does love you, Lisa. The two of you just don't speak the same love language. You use several love languages. You tell people how you feel, and you serve. Constantly. You're always giving. I think you've drained yourself dry."
              Lisa nodded. Drained dry was a good description for how she felt. Emptied even of anger. And fear.
              Discovering that Mr. Montgomery was her mysterious caller and the nighttime intruder had killed her fears. She wasn't going to let him affect her life any longer. And if it meant pushing Todd out of her life, she would do it. She wasn't going to let either Montgomery man push her into a nervous breakdown, like Todd's mother.
              "Todd only knows how to express his love with material things," Pastor Glenn continued. "Buying love, as you said. You have to teach him to express his love with apologies and changing his behavior. Even the way he thinks about things."
              "Does Todd think at all?" Lisa shook her head. "I'm sorry. That wasn't nice."
              "That's how you feel. Part of the healing process includes bringing all the poison and hurt to the surface so you can wash it away."
               Pastor Glenn continued talking. They were new words, nothing rehearsed, full of caring. No pre-packaged homilies used on dozens of people in similar situations. Lisa tried to listen, but the words meant nothing. She didn't want to ask God for help in saving a marriage that didn't exist anymore. She felt no guilt for moving out on Todd. He had abandoned her long ago.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Coming Up: ANNE -- The Next Quarry Hall Book

It's time for a sneak peek.

Right now I'm in the process of revisions of ANNE, the 2nd Quarry Hall book.

If you read JOAN, the 1st Quarry Hall book, you met Anne, who has come through some pretty horrific childhood problems and learned an important secret: The best way to heal is to help others heal.

The story starts out in a shelter for battered women. Anne is sneaking around in the middle of the night, installing micro-miniaturized cameras and microphones. It seems there's a threat to local women's shelters, and Anne and other representatives of the Arc Foundation are making the rounds, trying to improve security and hopefully stop the gang attacking the shelters before anyone else is hurt.

If you haven't met read JOAN, you might have met Anne anyway, by reading some of the Tabor Heights books where Anne is only a phone call away from friends she made when she was assigned to work with Xander Finley of Common Grounds Legal clinic. Two of those books are THE FAMILY WAY, and COMMON GROUNDS.

In fact, Anne's story -- which I have to turn in to my publisher by April 1 -- was written years before any of the Tabor Heights books were written. Interesting, the tidbits you learn along the way ...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March 5: THE FAMILY WAY


               Amy, Bekka's blonde poet roommate, pounded on the door ten minutes later. She rushed into the apartment and wrapped her arms around Lisa before the door was more than halfway open.
              "I was just getting home from class when you called, and I couldn't get to the phone in time and then I couldn't move when I heard your message and ..." She released Lisa and shook herself, letting out a sound that was half-growl and half-shriek, her cheeks still red from the cold outside and her hair flying. "I hope you're taking everything, not leaving a single thing for that scumbag lying brat!"
             "Legally, I can't. But you know what's funny? Most of the stuff that belongs to him, I wouldn't want to take with me anyway."
             "Honey, you should take the jerk to court and take him and his dictator father for everything they've got. For emotional abuse, if nothing else."
              Half an hour later, Amy scurried back to her apartment, leaving Lisa amused at her outpouring of fury on her behalf, and her avalanche of outrageous, vicious, totally impossible plots for revenge on Todd. Lisa laughed, her throat aching from fighting tears for so long, and hurried to her office to make notes before she forgot everything Amy said. She could probably use some of the scenarios in future panels. Amy was so outrageous, always on an emotional roller coaster, so sure that what she believed and felt was right, and yet so giving and supportive. How could anyone hate her, even for her extremes of opinion and her razor-sharp tongue? It warmed Lisa to know that she had the support of all three roommates.
             Amy's parting remark, though, had her puzzled, and a little ashamed.
            "After what happened with Kat and that creep her mother married, you'd better believe we'll help you get out while the getting is good."
            Lisa wondered what had happened with Kat that related to her situation and made Amy so adamant that leaving Todd was the right thing to do. She felt ashamed that she had been so wrapped up in her own life and concerns that she hadn't noticed when one of her friends was having trouble.
            "Please, God, when this is all cleared up…" Lisa sighed, knowing this mess Todd had made of their marriage might never be cleared up. "Please, make me a nicer person, and help me see when other people are hurting and need help. Help me see more than my tiny little life."

Monday, March 4, 2013

The "real" Quarry Hall -- parallel series to Tabor Heights

Have you checked out JOAN, Book One of the new Quarry Hall series from Desert Breeze Publishing?

Take a look at that incredible cover, created by our talented art department at Desert Breeze.

If anyone out there is familiar with the Akron, Ohio area, you might recognize the scene. It's from the lagoons at Stan Hywet Hall, the Seiberling estate, looking up at the tea houses. At least, that's what those stone pavilions were called when I took a tour of the estate several years ago. (Please, click on the link above and go visit. You'll be enchanted. Of course, I highly recommend going to the estate, instead of just looking at pictures!)

Stan Hywet is listed among America's Castles -- yep, that's an actual list. And if you ever come to Akron and take a tour hear some of the history of the place, you'll agree. It's incredible. Come at Christmas to see the decorations. Lights everywhere. Inside and out. The grape arbor is lit to look like it's full of grapes and leaves. The greenhouse is full of lights and decorations. One time I was there, it was full of moving decorations, a train, poinsettias for sale. And inside the house, they usually decorate for a specific year -- like the year one of the daughters got married at Christmas. Or during the War -- which war? come to Stan Hywet at Christmas and find out!

Here's the fun part -- Stan Hywet Hall is the "anchor," or more accurately, the model, for Quarry Hall, the headquarters of the Arc Foundation. So when you see cover art that includes pictures taken at Stan Hywet, you're "really" looking at Quarry Hall.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

March 3: THE FAMILY WAY


             Monday morning, listening to a niggling voice of suspicion, Todd got online and checked on the balance of his and Lisa's joint bank account. It wasn't what he expected. Over a lunch he barely tasted, he did a few calculations and guessed what money was missing. Lisa's last royalty check wasn't in the bank. There was only enough money in there to cover the electric, water and rent payments through the end of the apartment lease. He needed that money for the security deposit on the dream house.
             "What's going on?" he demanded when he got home that night. Lisa was in their bedroom, folding laundry. "There's money missing from our account. What did you do with it?"
            "It's still in my account."
            "Why?"
            "It's my money. I earned it. I put in enough to pay for my share of things." She swallowed hard and looked away a moment. When she met his gaze again, her eyes were unusually bright. "I'm not taking anything that belongs to you."
           "I wasn't accusing you!" He flinched when his voice echoed off the ceiling. "I just want to know why you're doing this," he said, trying to use a reasonable tone.
          "I have to plan for the future." She concentrated on the laundry she folded as she spoke. "I have a baby to protect."
          "For God's sake, Lisa, I'm not some drunk that's going to drink up our savings on a binge!"
          "I know that. I still have to protect my baby."
          "It's my baby, too!"
          "Since when?" Lisa whispered. She kept folding the laundry. Her hands didn't shake at all.
          Todd realized he wished her hands would shake. He wanted to look into her eyes and see tears and know she hurt just as much as he did. He had the horrid fear that if he looked into her eyes he wouldn't see any pain at all.

Friday, March 1, 2013

March 1: THE FAMILY WAY


             "What do you mean, it's cancelled?" Todd stared at the Sears clerk and slowly took back his credit card.
             "The order was entered in the computer yesterday." The man looked up from the terminal that refused to process Todd's purchase.
             Todd had remembered the baby furniture Lisa circled in the catalog that went into the trash. He went to Sears after his father's house, found and ordered the complete set to surprise her -- but now he couldn't pay for it.
             "Was it reported stolen?" Maybe Lisa had lost her credit card and had been afraid to tell him. That would explain why she was so quiet and avoided him. She was ashamed and afraid he would be angry. After that fight Thursday night, he really couldn't blame her for being afraid of him. He hadn't know that fury was there. But her fall had been an accident. Just an accident.
            "No... the joint account was cancelled," the clerk said. "Do you have a credit card in your own name?"
            "Sure." Todd started to dig through his wallet for his separate Sears account card. He and Lisa had a joint account for things they both used. The separate accounts were for things like clothes and gifts. An angry little voice whispered that the baby furniture was something for the joint account, not his.
            "Can you hold this?" he finally said, when he had stood there and thought long enough to get the attention of the roving floor clerk and two customers, who now stared at him.
            "Of course." The clerk punched the orders into the terminal. Todd waited until all the details were entered correctly, holding a pleasant expression, thanked the clerk for his help, then strolled away.
             Going through the mall, he stopped at a bookstore kiosk and picked out a few baby books and prenatal care books. He would show Lisa he really did care about this baby. He would study up on all the things she needed to do or avoid to stay healthy during her pregnancy.
            The computer refused his credit card. Another joint account. Todd gritted his teeth, pulled out his MasterCard and paid for the books. He was halfway to the car before he wondered if he should have left the books there.