Saturday, February 28, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #9

He paused while they turned a corner and got out of the main stream of traffic. Kristen headed for the stairs to the second floor without thinking. From the corner of her eye she glimpsed Kathleen and Peter standing by the double doors halfway down the hallway, visibly watching the people coming into the building -- probably waiting for her. Resolutely, she turned her attention to her three companions, praying that Peter's paranoia over "making scenes" would keep him from trying to drag her away from the three Wharton cousins before they reached the stairs.

"Tamela said you were one of the nice church kids in the dorm, not a preacher," Steve continued. "We had a bet--"

"Contest," Aaron corrected. He gestured at the door to the stairwell and Kristen nodded without thinking.

"Right." He stepped ahead of them to pull the door open, letting Kristen and Tamela walk through ahead of them. "We had a contest over what you would say if we talked about you being an example and our guide or whatever. Tam won."

"Okay, I think I'm getting a little weirded out," Kristen admitted, and felt her face relaxing into a grin that probably mirrored theirs. They were odd, but it was a good kind of odd, and she decided right then and there, she wouldn't mind hanging with the Wharton cousins for the rest of the year. The rest of her time at BWU, however long that lasted.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #8

"Hope you don't mind," Aaron added.

They all had the same grin, wide and bright and threatening trouble of the fun kind.

"Ah, I don't think so. I mean, I don't think I mind." Kristen started down the aisle, walking with Aaron, with Tamela and Steve trailing behind them. "So, you figure things out together, watch out for each other -- you all have the same major?"

"We don't go that far, no," Aaron said. "But we figured this was the best church in town, after talking to a lot of people and trying other churches all last semester. Most of our professors come here, so that kind of is a good recommendation, you know? The good professors, anyway," he added with a grin. "Tamela is into art history, Steve is heading toward music composition, and I'm planning on working in publishing. We all managed to end up with Dr. Holwood for our advisor, and Tamela heard you attended here, so she latched onto you, to kind of ride your coattails. Hope you don't mind."

"Well… I just have to warn you, I'm not that great of a Christian. So don't look at me for an example."

"Told you so," Tamela crowed, making Kristen turn around, even as she kept walking. Her new friend grinned at her, then held out her hand. Aaron and Steve both dug into their pockets and pulled out some change, which they handed over to her.

"Uh, what's going on?" Kristen asked, trying to walk, turn forward again, get out of the flow of traffic in the hallway, and watch what they were doing, all at the same time.

"We had a bet going -- can you talk about betting in church?" Steve added with a grin.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #7

"Kristen." Tamela caught hold of her arm as soon as the postlude music blared through the sanctuary, on the heels of Pastor Wally's benediction. "These are my cousins, Aaron and Steve. They're going to the U with us."

"Nice to meet you." Her smile felt awkward. Kristen prayed she wasn't blushing, and that her face didn't show her relief and embarrassment over what had been in her thoughts during the sermon.

 "They're keeping me on the straight and narrow," Tamela added, rolling her eyes again. She seemed to do that often, along with twisting her corkscrew curls around her fingers whenever she wasn't writing notes.

"Straight and narrow?"

"We kind of bullied her into her making her New Year's resolution to get her life straightened out," the taller one said. His hair tended more toward platinum than Tamela's strawberry blond. He also had wider shoulders, and his eyes were bluer, while Tamela's and the other boy's seemed more greenish. "I'm Aaron," he added, holding out his hand. "Steve and Tamela and I are all only kids of triplet brothers, and we were all born within four months of each other. We figure it makes us almost triplets ourselves, and the rest of our cousins all pick on us, so we stick together, know what I mean?"

"Uh, no, not really," Kristen offered with a chuckle. Why was he telling her this? Unless he was just as fun-dizzy as Tamela? "So you all decided to come to BWU to watch out for each other?"

"My idea," Steve said, holding up his hand. "None of us knew what we wanted to do for a career, so we took classes at a junior college last year while we looked around, then transferred here. I'm the organized one. Aaron is the conscience, the one who keeps us from getting into trouble. Tamela is the social one, who finds out what's fun to do, and who the good friends are. So guess what, you're stuck being friends with all three of us. We're a set."

Thursday, February 19, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #6

In church, just as the prelude music faded out and the choir stood up to sing, two hulking shadows hurried up the aisle and came to a stop at the end of Tamela and Kristen's pew. Tamela let out a squeak and stood. Kristen thought her new friend was about to leave, but Tamela gestured for her to move down. She complied, and the two newcomers slid into the end of the pew with them. From the grin on Tamela's triangular face, she knew both of the young men, who looked enough alike to be brothers. Kristen sighed, suspecting Tamela was one of those girls who could dangle multiple boyfriends and not only avoid trouble, but make the boys think they were being infinitely reasonable as well as lucky to share her attentions. The last time Kristen had anything even remotely resembling a boyfriend, she was in third grade and it only lasted until she ran out of Easter candy. She learned her lesson then not to be so generous with everything she possessed, no matter how much it would please Jesus for her to share.

She kept her attention focused on Pastor Glenn's sermon, but she kept sneaking glances at the two sitting on Tamela's other side. They weren't whisperers or fidgetters, fortunately, but she caught them passing notes back and forth among the three of them, and felt more left out than she thought possible. It was a given Tamela would vanish after the service with her two boyfriends. Kristen fought to listen to Pastor Glenn teach on his overview of the book of Hebrews, which would be his topic of study for the next two months. It was hard, when her thoughts kept jumping every few minutes to trying to figure out how to get Tamela to stay with her. At least, long enough to convince Kathleen and Peter, if they caught up with her, that she had plans and people depending on her. She knew they didn't really want her around, any more than she wanted to be around them, but it was the power thing, the chance to try to influence her life and make her think like them.

Sorry, Lord, that isn't really good motivation or reasoning, is it? she prayed silently, after the third attempt to yank her thoughts back onto Pastor Glenn's sermon failed. I should be trying to figure out how to get them to go to Sunday school with me for their own sakes, not for mine.

Pastor Glenn mentioned angels, and that hooked Kristen's attention. Multiple times this last week, she had thought about or heard someone mention angels. Guardian angels. Praying for angels to protect her and intervene. What was this? A conspiracy?

Monday, February 16, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #5

It occurred to her, as Tamela fumbled through her purse -- how had she jammed so much into that tiny bag, anyway? It looked like all the contents of Mary Poppins' bag were trying to squeeze their way out the drawstring opening at the same time -- that her classmate might have seen some of the special treatment she had gotten in the last week and thought maybe she had an 'in' with the professors.

"Somebody said you're from around here, right?"

"Yep. Grew up in Tabor, went to Tabor Christian all my life. Why?"

"Great. See, I'm trying to straighten out my life. That was one of my New Year's resolutions. And going to church and getting hooked up with God again, that's at the top of the list. But I'm a total ditzoid." Tamela grinned and rolled her eyes. "I also feel like that guy from the Lil Abner comic strip -- do you know what I'm talking about?"

"There was a musical called 'Lil Abner'--"

"Yep, it's based on the comic strips. Anyway, there was this guy who was followed around by a black cloud and anything that could go wrong with him, did. Of course, I can't remember his name, Joe something… but I'm kind of like that guy. I break things without meaning to. I know if I depend on the alarm on my iPod to get me up on Sunday morning, I'll wake up right after lunch and realize I set it for pm instead of am. Or it'll run out of power an hour before it's supposed to wake me up, because I'll forget to recharge it. Things like that. Could you maybe call me on Sunday morning, get me out of bed when you do? Help me get to church on time, at least?"

For some reason, strains of the song with the same refrain from "My Fair Lady" decided to stream through Kristen's mind. She muffled a giggle at the non sequitur, because the song had nothing whatsoever to do with Tamela's goals and request.

"I'll try, but the way my life has been going lately, I'm kind of in the same boat with you. If something can go wrong in my life, it will."

"Okay…" They trudged along in silence for a dozen or so steps. Then Tamela chuckled. "Maybe your bad luck will cancel out my bad luck, and working together, we'll finally have some things go right for a change. We'll be each other's guardian angels."

"Sounds like a plan."

Friday, February 13, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #4

Tamela looked down at her feet. The boots were the same style. Ankle boots that zipped up at the heel. But one was glossy black, with silver braid detailing the faux lacing from the toe upwards, while the other was a glossy, rich brown with gold lacing. Tamela stared at her feet for two seconds, then bent down and tugged up the zippers, yanked her coat straight once more and shrugged.

"That's what I get for dressing in the dark." She grinned and gestured with her head of tangled, strawberry blond curls. "Did I hear you talking to your roommates last night, that you go to Tabor Christian?"

Kristen nodded, and before she knew it, they were hurrying down the sidewalk together while Tamela buttoned her long, fire engine red coat, pulled out matching gloves, and jammed a daffodil yellow knit cap down on her head. Her sack purse stuck out of her left pocket. Her new companion grinned and pulled a cinnamon roll from the vending machine out of her right pocket. They munched in companionable silence as they left the crossroads of sidewalks on campus and reached Sackley Road where Church Street dead-ended into it. They had crossed the street and were already to the corner where Dr. Holwood's big white Century house sat before they finished eating.

"Do me a favor?" Tamela panted as they crossed the second street and the steeple of Tabor Christian came into view over the trees lining Church Street.

"Depends." Kristen thought she and Tamela were in three classes together. It was hard to remember, with the last week being such a whirlwind of orientation and figuring out where she was on campus and finalizing things like work study and meeting people and getting involved in various groups on campus. It helped that several of her professors attended Tabor Christian and knew her from growing up. Plus they were part of the prayer group among the faculty and staff, so they knew all she had gone through at the university. They were cutting her some slack in sympathy -- but for how long, she couldn't be sure.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #3

"Think positive," she muttered as she trotted down the stairs to the lobby and tugged her knit hat down over her pinned up hair. She decided she would just wear her hat all day. It looked cute, fortunately. "God has been surrounding me with guardian angels for so long, and I never even knew it. I will think positive and stop complaining about everything I lost and be grateful for what I do have." She glanced at her watch. "And get up half an hour earlier, so I can get fed." She grinned at herself in the glass of the door separating the lounge from the residence floors.

Five minutes later, she had selected a fruit pie from the vending machine in the lobby and turned to hurry out the front door.

Item for gratitude: apple pie, at a relatively decent price. The air wasn't so cold her fingers would turn numb while she ate, so she could take her gloves off and protect them from the hard sugar coating on the pie.

Item two: the walk to church would rev up her metabolism and burn up some of the sugar and fat from the decadently delicious, but oh-so-bad-for-her fruit pie. Who had ever decided that something that was over 400 calories per serving was good for a child's lunchbox?

Item three: a short walk, down sidewalks that were always shoveled, to get across campus. Hopefully the sidewalks on the other side of Sackley would be shoveled all the way to church.

"Hey, Kris -- wait up," a semi-familiar voice called as she paused to throw the wrapper in the trash barrel at the bottom of the steps outside the dorm front door.

Kristen took a big bite and looked back to see Tamela Wharton stumbling after her. Something was wrong with her feet. She chewed quickly and stared. It was hard to focus, with Tamela's feet moving so fast, taking two steps at a time. She stumbled to a stop when she reached Kristen, grinning and panting, and tugging her coat straight. Then Kristen realized what it was.

"Your boots don't match -- and they're not fastened."

Saturday, February 7, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #2

Kathleen finally broke her silence to call Kristen five times in two hours on Saturday afternoon, refusing to leave a message each time, to make arrangements to pick her up for church. As if Kristen couldn't walk four blocks from her dormitory, across Sackley Road, to Tabor Christian Church. Or maybe Kathleen thought since Kristen wasn't under her roof and control, she would immediately become a heathen and stop going to church altogether.

"I'm going to church with my friends from the dorm," Kristen said, when her sister had finally stopped scolding her for not answering the first four times she called her cell phone, and stated why she was calling. "Lots of kids from our church go here, and I'll walk with them. The Singles even have a lunch group that goes from class to lunch and back to campus."

Kathleen actually stumbled and stammered a few times, indicating Kristen had accurately guessed what her arguments would be and neutralized them. That allowed Kristen to state she was dead tired from spending the afternoon helping put away Christmas decorations at church, say good-night, and hang up. She had actually finished up with the cleanup at church at five that afternoon, but had spent the evening with Bekka Sanderson, Rene Ackley, friends from church, and their roommate, Kat Teague. Bekka and Kat were students at Butler-Williams and Kristen would be working with Kat for part of her work study. If Peter and Kathleen dared to criticize her, Kristen could honestly say she had been preparing ahead for her duties.

As she turned her cell phone to vibrate, Kristen reflected that she would have enjoyed the cleanup at church and the evening spent at Bekka's apartment if she hadn't had to constantly think ahead to neutralize the expected, constant criticism.

Gotta find some sort of service project to get involved in to give me excuses not to spend time with them until Mom and Dad come home, she decided as she picked up her toiletries basket and headed for the floor bathroom. You understand, don't You, God? I really do like going to our church, it's not just to shut them up.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #1

She inhaled, held her breath a few seconds, and exhaled deeply. How come the exercise only seemed to work when she was involved in some sort of stage production or audition, and not in the rest of her life? She turned on her iPod again -- she had a letter to dictate and only half an hour of privacy until her roommates returned from third period class. A sharp rap on the room door startled her just as she pressed the button to start the recording.


"Kristen Farman?" The voice was a woman's, unfamiliar, and even through the door she sounded tense, brisk. An "official" voice.

"Yes?" She got up off her desk chair and took the few steps to the door of the four-plex room to tug it open. "Can I help you?"

"Jody Daniels," the woman in the navy suit said, flipping open a leather folder to reveal a badge. "FBI. I'm sorry to inform you, but your Professor Endicott has been arrested for smuggling, and as his assistant--"

"I'm new. I just started working for him four weeks ago. I didn't know, I swear." For a second, Kristen thought about snatching at that badge as the women put it away, to somehow prove it was fake and this was just a bad joke, but what good would it do? No one she knew was that kind of prankster. Besides, she wouldn't know a genuine badge from a fake unless the fake was battered plastic and had "not a real badge" printed on the back.

"We know." Agent Daniels' somber expression softened and warmed a little. "We've been working on cracking his operations long enough to know you aren't involved. However, you know enough to be of some help to us. We need you to come down to our office."

"Right -- right now?" She thought of the tests she had to study for. How long would this take?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The NEW Tabor Heights novel: BWU STORIES

This month, Desert Breeze releases the 6th book in Year Two of the Tabor Heights books:


As you can probably guess from the cover, the stories are related to the theater. Specifically, the two heroines are students in the theater department at Butler-Williams University.

First we meet Kristen.
At first, she thinks her only problem is surviving Christmas break, because her parents are out of the country for two years on a short-term mission trip, and she has to spend vacations with her overbearing sister and pharisee brother-in-law. Before she knows it, her entire academic career has unraveled. When her professor is arrested for smuggling, Kristen loses her semester abroad and her scholarship money. With the help of friends back home, she attempts to start over, transferring to BWU for winter semester. She discovers the college-age students who attend Tabor Christian during the school year are very different from the kids she grew up with, who come home for the summer. As Kristen attempts to make a place for herself in the dorm, at church, and on campus, she learns some things about herself, about service, and the big differences in how two very different young men show their interest in her.

Then for the summer term, we get to visit with an old friend: Kat
Her life is still in turmoil, from learning her favorite teacher and student adviser is actually her father. Now, Kat's parents are married and still acting like newlyweds -- and because of administration regulations, she can't be Morgan's student assistant any longer. She has the summer term to train her replacement. Things aren't so bad, though. She's busy with an experimental theater program, her trainee is a great guy, she's too busy to worry about her deteriorating romance, and she's preparing for a cool internship in the fall ... but then a "slaughter blog" starts attacking local theaters -- community theaters, professional theaters, and college theater programs -- and some of the stories strike a little too close to home. As Kat and friends try to put on an experimental outdoor drama and track down the source of the slaughter blog, trouble turns to threats. Who can she trust?

Come check in for excerpts from BWU STORIES all through February and March!