Monday, June 30, 2008

Two Featured Books and Contest Theme Announcement

Many of the books featured this coming month on Pix-N-Pens are represented by fellow writer, friend, and publicist Don Otis.

Don is president of Veritas Communications, Inc., a marketing communications and consulting firm specializing in author and corporate publicity. Don has over 20-years experience managing successful marketing communications, author and corporate publicity campaigns.

Otis is also the author of numerous magazine articles, and five books with Fleming Revell, Chosen Books, Shaw/WaterBrook and AMG Publishers. Don and his wife, Jill, live in CaƱon City, Colorado.

Otis’s credits also include:

Co-founder of the Voice of Hope Radio Network and Middle East Television
Associate producer for over 200 television programs
Radio talk show host at KVOH, Los Angeles, CA

Now to the books!

With Independence Day approaching, I chose two patriotic books to feature this week.

I realized when I read this first book that I would have to confess a passion when I shared it with you. I wasn't big on American history when I was going through high school. My teachers tried to interest me, but the boring facts and figures never captured my interest. It was only after I became a parent, and started homeschooling that I discovered how interested I was in the human interest stories of our past. American history began to come alive for me as I delved into the childhoods or marriages of our Presidents, or into the travel modes of the various decades.

So one of our featured books this week THRILLED me.

The Faith of America's Presidents by Daniel J. Mount explores the beliefs and religious practices of our Commanders in Chief, from George Washington to George W. Bush.

I found this book intriguing for several reasons, besides its subject matter. The author was a homeschooled student himself, and researched this book while he was homeschooling and then while he was earning his bachelor's degree in American History and Political Science. His age while completing this book was impressive.

Secondly, each President receives a chapter devoted to their lives. Mount narrates a summary of their service, adds historical controversies faced by each one, and then draws an overall conclusion of their faith, based not only on their statements, but also on their actions throughout their lives.

Mount also includes two appendices: one entitled Character, and the other "Our Presidents Who Were Masons."

The opening paragraphs in "Character" state the author's guidelines for the entire book, and I'd like to share them with you:

"Why would an appendix such as this be included in a book on the presidents' religious beliefs? I include it for two reasons:

First, I cannot in good conscience paint a president as a holy, righteous man when the facts suggest otherwise. I have no desire to deliberately misrepresent a president's character.

Second, we know a tree by its fruits. One measure of how deeply a president held his religious convictions is whether his actions line up with his words."

Overall - this book is FASCINATING and would make a tremendous addition to any library.

Our second book being featured this week is The Pledge: One Nation Under God written by William J. Murray.

I haven't yet had time to read this book, but I'm impatient to do so. I've prayed for William J. Murray for MANY years, and have followed his career with interest, and a bit of pride. I thank God for this man's life, for his dedication to the Lord, and for his courage with which he has lived his life. Mr. Murray is the son of the notorious atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair - the woman who fought so hard, and so successfully, to remove prayer from public schools. Her son is now chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition, and works non-stop for the rights of Christians in America and around the world.

Now the Pledge of Allegiance is under attack and William J. Murray has written The Pledge: One Nation Under God to show how you can fight back. From the back cover:

America was founded on Christian principles, and our system of government is based upon the belief that we are a nation "under God." Our rights come from God, not from government.

Learn what the Founding Fathers believed about God and government - and why the idea of "separation of church and state" is nothing more than a myth created by one Supreme Court decision in 1947. Yet, that one decision has resulted in dozens of ill-informed rulings that have undermined religious freedom and exalted secularism as the state-protected religion in America.

The attack on the Pledge is simply one part of this ongoing war against religious freedom in America - a war waged by [atheist Michael] Newdow, the ACLU, and others.

We must take back our nation from the secularists who seek to deny religious liberty.

I cannot wait to read this book. I'll come back here and leave another comment when I finish.

Feel free to leave comments about either of these books any time this week.

Now, FINALLY, for the contest. I hope you weren't holding your breath as I rambled on. I am a passionate American - what else can I say.

The contest theme this week - PATRIOTISM. And since the 4th is on Friday, I'll take entries until noon, Saturday, so you can get in your 4th firework photos, or photos of small town America during parades.

Remember - every entry gains you an entry into the drawing at the end of the month. I explained what we're doing in another post so check here for all the details.

We have a winner!

Congratulations to Debbie Roome, the winner of this week's Unique Character/Setting, for her entry #4 - Flower Power.

Special Thanks to our guest judge Debra Ullrick, who said, "All the stories were amazing!"

July Contests - Enter to Win!

Here at Pix-N-Pens, we've declared July SHOWCASE month and we've gone BOOK MAD!

Because of the summer months, vacations, VBS, and a host of other fun activities, we're going to feature a different kind of contest this month.

Each week during July, I'll announce a new theme. You submit an entry with that theme - it can be photos, poems, essays, short stories, scenes, blurbs, or perhaps even just an opening sentence - as long as it fits the theme for that week.

The entries will be posted as they arrive, but this month, they will not be judged. This is SHOWCASE month - send us your best work, to show it off. We want to showcase YOU, your books, your ministry, your business, your family - whatever you'd like to share with us, we want to showcase it.

When you submit your entry, also submit a brief bio (100 words or less), links to your Web site, and one photo if you wish (for the bio portion). The photo can be of you, or a book cover image, or your logo, or your family or dog.

Each week, when I announce the theme, I am also going to be featuring a few books, and of course, we'll be posting our regular CFBA reviews as well.

At the end of the month, everyone who has submitted an entry will be entered into a random drawing for a huge box of books. This box will be added to all during the month, so I can't tell you how many it will have by the end of the month, but it is starting out with 12 books - hardcover, softcover, fiction, non-fiction, adult, young adult, best-selling authors, debut authors. (I don't think there are any children's books in it at this point, but if I add any during the month, I'll let you know.) Some of the books featured during the month WILL be in box, but others will not.

A few rules:

  • Maximum of 3 photos per entry, if you choose to send photos.
  • Maximum of 2 entries - written and/or photographic - per person per week.
  • If you wish to combine a written and photo entry, you may do so, but it will count as two entries.
  • Maximum of 1,000 words per written entry.
  • Maximum of 25 lines for poetry.
  • Deadline for each weekly contest is Friday, midnight.
  • Kind, encouraging comments for entries are welcomed and encouraged.
  • Submit entries to tracyruckman[at]gmail[dot]com.

I'll be announcing our first theme momentarily, so come back and check out the details.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Entry #4 Unique Character/Setting: Flower Power

Flower Power
by Debbie Roome

Rose paused for a moment, enjoying the deep throated rumble, the sheer power that vibrated beneath her. If only she was leaving on a road trip instead of arriving at work.

“Morning, Rose."

“Morning, Jennie.” Why are you outside?

“Would you mind posing with Halley for a customer?”

I should have known. “No problem. Send him through.” She dismounted, tugging her helmet off as she did so. She was tired of being a legend, tired of curious tourists, tired of not having a man in her life. She supposed it was her own fault really. What kind of man would fancy a forty year old biker who sold Harley accessories and flower arrangements.

The customer walked into the private parking area at the back of her shop. “Sure appreciate this, Ma’am.”

She recognized him at once. He was a regular customer and handsome in a brawny muscled, droopy moustached way. She glanced at his empty ring finger. Stop it, Rose.

“96 model?”

So he knew Harleys. “Yep. 96 Ultra Classic, Electra Glide, 1340cc engine, six-speed manual, custom painted cobalt metallic blue.”

He circled the bike, running his hand across the bodywork. “The paint job is excellent. You must really enjoy her.“

Rose softened a little. “I call her Halley – Halley Harley after Halley’s comet. When I open her up on the road, she really flies.”

“Do you mind if I photograph you with her?”

Rose swung her leg over the bike and crouched forward, gripping the handle bars.

He clicked away, taking several shots from the front and side.

“Never seen a jacket like that.”

Rose straightened her spine allowing him to capture her back view. The jacket was black leather appliqued with a giant red rose. Tiny silver chains were stitched here and there, giving the appearance of being woven through the petals.

“Thanks for your time, Ma’am. That’s a superb machine you’ve got there.” He hesitated. “Could I pick up a flower arrangement while I’m here?”

He went to browse in the store while Rose changed into working clothes. So what am I? She asked as she shrugged off leathers and pulled on jeans and a floral smock. A feminine rose or a butch biker? She looked in the mirror, pulling a face at her neat features and cropped caramel hair. Her parents had named her Rose. Not Rosemary or Roseanne, but Rose. She ran a finger over her unlined skin. People said she had a complexion like a rose petal, dewy and soft, and she certainly loved flowers. But she also loved the thrill of opening Halley to full throttle and hurtling down an open road. Do I really need to choose one or the other to be happy?

Her assistants were already busy in the shop. Josiah Kane was an expert on Harleys and Jennie Milford was a qualified florist. Rose was competent in both areas and worked between the two sides.

“Right, Mr...?”

“Jack Sherwood. Call me Jack.”

“What sort of arrangement are you looking for?”

“It’s for a special woman. She’s a biker but I think she has a soft feminine side to her.” Rose thought quickly. “How about something bold with strong features? I can soften it by adding in some delicate flowers.”

After showing him buckets laden with blossoms, he decided on a creation of spiralled drift wood, creamy arum lilies and tiny sprigs of gypsophila. Rose wound some fine gold cord around the driftwood and sprinkled a little glitter on the arums. “Will you need a card to go with that?”

He nodded, looking across at the rack. “Could you choose one for me?”

“You say she’s a biker?”

“Sure is. I’m hoping she’ll go on a date with me.”

“This is one of my favourites. If she’s into biking, it should go down a treat.” She handed him a large card that displayed a magnificent Harley Davidson against a flower strewn street. The caption at the top read ‘Flower Power’.”

His smile stretched from ear to ear. “That’s perfect.”

She handed it to him, along with a big red envelope. “Would you like delivery?”

“No thanks. I’ll be delivering this myself.” He pulled out his wallet and paid for the items before striding out of the shop.

Rose felt a pang of jealousy as she watched him disappear. If only I could find a man like that. One who loves bikes but is gentle enough to buy a woman flowers. There must be someone out there. Her thoughts persisted as she went to the cool room to collect materials for an order. Marigolds, tulips, ferns. When did I last receive flowers from a man? A circle of oasis and some florist tape. I can’t even remember. Scissors and ribbon.

“Rose,” Jennie popped her head through the door. “Someone to see you.”

She set the supplies in a corner and pulled her smock straight as she walked back into the shop. Jack was standing there, arrangement in his arms.

Oh dear. I wonder what’s wrong.

“Madam Rose,” he placed the arrangement on the counter with an exaggerated bow. “Special delivery for you and a special message.” He handed her a large red envelope. “ I’ll be back later to hear your reply.”

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Blog Tour: Calico Canyon

Happy Thursday, Pixels. (It is Thursday, isn't it?) Continue to send in your Unique Characters/Settings entries for the contest this week.

Calico Canyon is this week's feature for CFBA - and I LOVED this book. It was fun, creative, and an overall great read. Mary is one of the funniest writers I've ever read, and I found myself laughing at the most inopportune times. (My hubby yawned quite a bit the next day!) I was truly disappointed when the book ended and I couldn't keep hanging out with this fun family. I'm hoping there's a sequel so I can find out what happens to them! (Mary, if you stop by, please let us know!)

This week, the

is introducing

Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2008)



MARY CONNEALY is an award-winning author and playwright, married to Ivan a farmer, and the mother of four beautiful daughters, Joslyn, Wendy, Shelly and Katy. They live in Decatur, Nebraska. Mary is a GED Instructor by day and an author by night. And there is always a cape involved in her transformation.

Mary has also written Petticoat Ranch, Golden Days, and her latest, Alaska Brides that will debut in August.


Let yourself be swept away by this fast-paced romance, featuring Grace Calhoun, an instructor of reading, writing, and arithmetic, who, in an attempt to escape the clutchs of a relentless pursuer, runs smack dab into even more trouble with the 6R's - widower Daniel Reeves, along with his five rowdy sons. When a marriage is forced upon this hapless pair - two people who couldn't dislike each other more - an avalanche isn't the only potential danger lurking amid the shadows of Calico Canyon. Will they make it out alive? Or end up killing each other in the process?

Running from her Abusive foster-father, a man intent on revenge, the prim and perfectly proper Grace Calhoun takes on the job of schoolmarm in Mosqueros, Texas.

As if being a wanted woman isn't bad enough, Grace has her hands full with the five rowdy and rambunctious Reeves boys─tough Texan tormenters who seem intent on making her life miserable. When, in an attempt to escape from the clutches of her pursuer, Grace is forced to marry widower Daniel Reeves, father of the miniature monsters, she thinks things couldn't get any worse. Or could they?

Daniel Reeves, happy in his all-male world, is doing the best he can, raising his five boys─rascals, each and every one. Since his wife's death in childbirth, Daniel has been determined never to risk marriage again.

When God throws Grace and Danielt together─two people who couldn't detest each other more─the trouble is only beginning.

Will this hapless pair find the courage to face life together in the isolated Calico Canyon? Or are their differences too broad a chasm to bridge?

If you would like to read the first chapter go HERE.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Entry #3 Unique Character-Setting: Coastal Crisis

Coastal Crisis
By Karri Compton

As Candace crested the dune, cerulean ocean waves welcomed her like an old friend. She breathed in the salty, fishy aroma she had grown used to over the last two years.

Oh no. What a way to spoil the scenery. Fellow lifeguards Dave and Trip came into view, sporting muscles, tans, and goofy grins.

“There she is. Our resident geek.”

“Hacked any government websites lately?”

And so the banter began. Dave and Trip chuckled as if they’d worked all night on their one-liners. Nothing like early morning on the Atlantic with a couple of comedians.

“You’re just jealous,” Candace said.

“I might be if you’re ever rich and famous. Like that’s gonna happen.” Dave laughed at his own putdown.

“Yeah, you’re like, Bill Gates in a surf princess’ body. Weird.” Trip elbowed Dave to assure a response.

Candace sighed. The ribbing never stopped, but she had learned to brush it aside like a gnat buzzing around her ear. Not often did a beach lifeguard pursue a computer science degree and remain glued to her laptop every weekend. The party-going no-brain stereotype didn’t apply to Candace. And she let everyone know.

“Whatever.” Candace tossed her hair back and put on a serious face. “I’ll try to remember you little people when I make it big.”

“Yeah, okay. We’re taking the jeep on patrol while you keep watch in your stately tower, oh Queen of the High I.Q.,” Dave shouted as he and Will loped toward the vehicle.

Candace rolled her eyes. “No problem. You boys keep your minds on the job and off the hot bodies, ‘kay?”

Trip saluted. “Yes, ma’am.”

“The things I put up with.” Candace shook her walnut brown hair, then pulled it back and secured it with an elastic band.

Six-foot waves crashed in a waterlogged symphony as surfers waited on their boards for the perfect swell. Gulls squawked at playing children, begging for a snack. She should be watching the swimmers, but her thoughts were miles away.

The guys annoyed her, but she loved the sand and surf too much to change jobs. The beach came second only to software development--her first love. The world would recognize her computer genius as soon as she finalized her original snafu-free operating system. Only a few more modifications and she should be able to pitch it to a major company. Move over, Bill Gates.

Candace jumped as her cell phone chimed, indicating a new message from her roommate. It was against lifeguard policy to have her phone on while working, but sometimes she set it to silent. She would sneak a peek at the screen before stowing it away in her backpack.

Robbery Called 911
Get here quick Mac stolen
So sorry

Her head throbbed, stomach roiled, hands shook. She managed a prayer as she buzzed Dave’s walkie-talkie, willing panic not to set in.

“Dudette, what’s up?” Dave’s voice came through loud and clear.

Candace barely forced the words out. “I have to leave. It’s an emergency. Cover for me.”

“What’s wrong? A seagull poop on your head?” Laughter.

“No, you moron. My whole life is ruined.”

Entry #2 Unique Character/Setting: Adjustments for Myla

Adjustments for Myla
By Sara Harricharan

I feel like frozen chocolate. The thought scrolled through my head as I trotted down the hallway after my first-year handler. I’d enrolled in Vision Academy, compliments of Arlyn, student recruiter.

She said I’m lucky to be alive, because I’m the youngest human female to survive thirteen Splices. Splices: a DNA morphing serum used to heal and repair things. As a former cheerleader, I used it for broken legs and twisted ankles. There’s nothing lucky about thirteen. It certainly didn’t land me any special favors, such as my handler. I’m five feet, six inches. She’s about waist high.

“Myla, could you try to keep up?” Carrie sounded annoyed and frustrated.

I hurried to catch up. For a midget, she was fast. I guess it made up for mousy-brown hair and bulldozer yellow cat-eyes.

One minute I was walking down historic main street and skipping over broken sidewalk. The next second, everything was either white and curved or so well-polished that I could see my reflection scowling at me. I was told my admissions application was processed, I’d been transported to the school grounds, and my handler would be along shortly.

I figured I’d get lost in here before the day was over. Every hallway looked alike, with the same round white lights and no floor or hall numbers.

Carrie waited at the elevator, brows scrunched and lips pulled into a pout. “I have extra training and curricular classes to attend, which you do not.” Her cat-eyes flashed red. “As your handler, I demand a decent level of respect, which includes looking at me when I’m speaking-”

I looked down, trying to focus her instead of her crooked ponytail.

“-keeping up so I do not earn demerits for tardiness because you are otherwise occupying my immediate attention.” She swiped the I.D. card clipped to her shirt pocket. “This is the elevator. Seniors have first rights, meaning if there are new students, such as yourself and a senior arrives, late for class or something, you are required to step aside to allow them first use.”

“What if they aren’t really late?” I watched her punch numbers on the glowing, blue keypad. “What are you doing?”

“Whether they are or not, the right is theirs. I’m entering my clearance codes. You’ll get your own soon enough.” Her appraising look swept me from head to toe. “When you’re a senior, you’ll wish others wouldn’t give you such a hassle about it.” The doors slid open and we entered. “Rule of thumb, be careful what you tell a senior. If a newbie ticks us off, we fuss about it, naturally.”

“Naturally.” I tucked the info away.

Carrie readjusted her ponytail. Now it was even more crooked. “I’m a 4-year senior. There are 5-year seniors. Everyone knows them, you‘ll like them right away…but steer clear of them. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Never get into an argument with them either.”

The elevator chimed as we exited. Carrie led me through white double doors, zipping her I.D. card at another security kiosk.

That was another thing to add to this space-age academy: there were no windows. Security was like cluster of ninja’s guarding the tool shed out back. There was nothing terribly interesting inside, but it warranted heavy guard.

Silver, heavy-duty doors slid open before my wondering eyes. Carrie nudged me forward. “The guy with the ponytail is Master Quinn. Be nice, good luck!” She patted my elbow, darting off before I could protest.

Bright lights clicked on, streaming down unmercifully as I inched inside. It was a domed room with everything white and blinding.

“Myla Roberts?”

I turned, staring straight into gray eyes. “Yeah?”

“Pleased to meet you.” His handshake was firm, followed by a faint smile.

He had a nice face for an old guy, classic salt-and-pepper hair in a short ponytail. He let go of my hand and reached over, tipping my chin up.

For a moment, I felt nothing, just cool smooth fingers and then everything.

Colorful shapes danced before my eyes, an exploding pain inside my head, followed by an itchy, prickly feeling that started at my toes, working its way upwards. I cannot describe what it felt like to be taken apart and put back together.

The weight in my head melted away as my knees buckled, sending me to the floor. I sat there, stupidly, with everything spinning as Master Quinn instructed me to put my head between my knees.

“You’ll be fine. Sorry. If I’d asked your permission, I wouldn’t have been able to establish a mindlink.”

The mental fog lifted and I stood unsteadily as he came into focus. “You were reading my mind?”

“I was linking to your mind. There’s a difference. I never read anyone’s mind without their explicit permission and complete trust.” He frowned. “You’ll need to relax before I finish the rest of it. I merely planted a central message center.”

I stared at him. “Excuse me if I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.”

Gray eyes took pity on me. “You aren’t ready for some of this, are you?” He murmured. “Never mind. First your placement test, then we’ll talk. Sit. Wait. Listen.” I opened my mouth and the gray eyes frosted over.

I shut my mouth and sat.

Quiet humming filled the air. I sniffed cautiously, expecting something other than the scent of fruit. “Uh, Master Quinn?”

“Just Quinn.” His voice came from somewhere on the ceiling. “I don’t know why they assign me fancy titles. It’s a formality I don’t care for.”

I squinted upward, my eyes at the mercy of the vicious light. “Okay, Quinn, what exactly is a placement test?”

His chuckle was distorted. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll ruin your fun if I answer. Just react. Don’t think or second-guess yourself. It’s a type of virtual reality… that’s all you need to know.”

Now the air smelled like almonds. I must be dreaming. The lights flickered and went dead.

I am officially insane.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Entry #1 Unique Character/Setting: Lady of the Light

Lady of the Light
by Jean Kinsey

Belle climbed the ladder she’d found leaning in the aisle, reached up with her right hand and braced herself. Dear God, Don't let Papa choose this moment to walk in the drugstore and catch me with my skirts hiked almost to my knees, she prayed, stretching high above her head for the Hostetter’s Bitters.

“Excuse me. Miss, did you drop your handkerchief?”

Surprised by the deep voice, Belle clung with both hands to the upper-most shelf, and looked down from the top rung of the ladder in the center of Marley Apothecary. Staring up at her, a young man with hair the same color as the sand behind the lighthouse stooped to retrieve a white linen square from the floor.

Belle spun around, causing the ladder to wobble and scoot. Her feet flailed in all directions as she held onto the shelf with her fingertips, dangled a few seconds, then dropped into the arms of the young gentleman. He stumbled, one foot sliding to the right, the other slipping backwards. She flung her arms, knocked a half dozen bottles, tins and jars off the shelves, as she wriggled out of his arms, trying to gain composure of her own two feet.

Slinging her hair off her face, she struggled to maintain an upright position. “No. I didn’t drop anything. It’s not mine.” She straightened her skirt and ducked her head, hiding her flaming cheeks, then squatted to pick up the rubble.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.” He knelt to help her pick up bottles of Castor Oil.

Belle found herself gazing into the greenest eyes she’d ever seen. Green as emeralds, she thought, even though she’d never seen a real emerald in all her seventeen-and-a-half-years. She tingled where his hands had held her waist to keep her from falling. Desperately thinking of something to say, she rubbed the nape of her neck, mussing the turned-up semi-circle of hair that framed her high cheekbones. Yet, she couldn't think of a thing. All she could think of was how handsome he was, but she dared not say that.

“I-I’m only here for my papa. Getting him these Bitters, I mean.” Suddenly a string of silly words just popped out of her mouth and she held up a bottle of Hostetters Bitters. “I couldn’t find anyone to help me and I saw the ladder…”

“Bitters huh?” If he thought her words were silly, he didn't show it. "My father swigs on the Bitters, too. Say, do I know you? You look familiar. I can’t believe you would live in the Cove without me knowing you. I thought I knew everybody.”

Belle felt the blood rushing to her cheeks again as she recognized the man in whose arms she had landed. “Well, I’m not sure if you know me, but I know you, Lawrence Rinehart.” She was glad he couldn’t see her knees wobbling beneath her hobble skirt. He had changed from a young boy to a young man, but the eyes remained unchanged. “We both went to Marley Cove Grade School.”

“We did? I wonder why I don’t remember.” The man folded the handkerchief and put it in his pocket.

“I suppose it’s because we didn’t exactly have the same circle of friends. Your kind didn’t hang around with the poorer kids in school.”

“Oh!” Lawrence placed his hands over his chest as if to protect himself from the pain. “My kind?” He arched his eyebrows and dipped his chin. “You make me sound like such a snob.”

Belle forced herself to stop staring into his mesmerizing eyes. “Anyway, you went away to school by the time I was fifteen.”

“There! That’s it. I’m sure it was the age difference and not the social difference that separated us.” An elfish smile played across his face. “Never the matter, I’m back now, and I think I remember you. I remember that big smile and the little dimples. You’re the girl with pig-tails that lived on the lighthouse island.”

“Yes, and I still live there although, without the pigtails.” She met his gaze with a broad smile and held out her gloved hand. “I’m Belle Montague.”

He took her hand and kissed it, glove and all. “Well, Belle Montague, I’m pleased to meet you again. Would you care to have a soda with me? I think Mr. Shelton’s around here somewhere.”

“Sounds like fun, but I have to meet my papa in a few minutes down at the docks, Mr. Rinehart.”

“Mr. Rinehart? The name’s Lawrence. Mister Rinehart‘s my dad.” His lips spread into the turned up grin that made Belle’s heart flutter. “Perhaps another time? What about tomorrow? What about a picture show?”

She quickly calculated in her head when Papa would be free to row her over in the dinghy. She crossed her fingers behind her back and answered. “Fine. I’m coming to the mainland for shopping anyway. I should be finished by one. Is that all right?” Belle attempted to sound as though she were accustomed to being asked out to moving picture shows every day of the week. In actuality, she felt like a fish in shallow water.

After Lawrence finished his purchase and left the drugstore, she couldn’t imagine why her head felt so light and she wanted to dance. Belle planted her feet solidly with each step in order to keep from skipping or floating out the front door instead of paying Mr. Shelton for the Tonic. She stopped by the sample barrel and picked up a free trial of Lydia Pinkham’s home-brewed herbal remedy for young ladies and a sample of Foleys Honey & Tar Compound for Papa. Belle stepped lightly like a gentle breeze blowing in from the sea, carrying her along Main Street and turning down Water Street to the docks to meet Papa.

Monday, June 23, 2008

New Contest Announcement - Are you R~E~V~V~E~D?

We're having a FUN new contest this week, and I'm so excited about it I can hardly sit down to write about it!

First, let me welcome and introduce our very special guest judge Debra Ullrick. I'm honored to call her dear friend!

Debra's first book recently released through Heartsong Presents. The Bride Wore Coveralls is a book unlike any other romance I've ever read - fresh, new, UNIQUE characters with an original storyline to match. If you are looking for entertainment and fun, get a copy of The Bride Wore Coveralls! You will not be disappointed!

To sum Deb up in few words: Debra Ullrick, Christian author, is a hot rod, figure-eight racing, classic car, mud-boggin', monster truck kinda gal, revved up for Jesus.

But that's only the tip of the iceberg. Not only is she a talented writer, with more ideas than she can get on paper, she's also a talented artist, and has a heart of gold. You can see some of her artwork on her Web site. Be sure to explore while you're there - it's a fun place to visit! There are links to some great interviews, too, that will give you more insight into the special lady.

Now, about the contest.

We want a scene, involving a unique character and/or setting. Debra's Camara Cole is very unlike any other character I've ever met in romance pages, in a setting I'll venture to say has never before visited in a romance either. Do you have a character or setting like that - unique, fresh, distinct? Share it with us.

Submit your scene - 1000 words or less - to me at tracyruckman[at]gmail[dot]com by Friday, June 27th for your chance to win an autographed copy of The Bride Wore Coveralls. The scene must be one of your own creations, original, and must not have been published previously.

I'll post the entries as they arrive.

The Poetry Contest Winner is...

Entry #5 - Prayer and Time by Vicki Buchhold

Congratulations, Vicki!!

Our special guest judge, Laura Evans, sent the following e-mail:

Dear Poets:

First I’d like to say I was delighted with the overall quality of the poems submitted for this contest. There were poems which reminded me of the beat of German protestant hymns, poems which had a strong ending, but needed to build a stronger foundation, and simply lovely poems with impeccable rhythms which are quite publishable. However, one of the criteria used in the literary world where poems are made art, is that a poem must stand up to re-reading. Upon each reading something new must catch the reader’s attention: sometimes it will be a surprise ending, or a play on words, or a surprising word choice, or a striking metaphor.

In entry #5, the playing with words begins in the title: “Prayer and Time.” People are used to hearing the words: prayer time. Yet, “prayer and time” made me sit up and take notice. When I read the first three lines of this poem, I thought it was just describing energy and prayer. Upon re-reading I realized at the ending that the entire poem was an actual prayer of the poet. Nice surprise! The poet created a striking image in: “leaves light waves coughing up dust” which will stick with me for a long time. In the fourth to the last line, the poet maximizes the definition of the word “miss.” The line reads: “Time and forgetting, I miss it sometimes.” In the first reading, it seemed like the poet literally misses “time and forgetting.” In a second reading, it can appear as a play on words in that “forgetting” is a kind of “missing.” Upon a third reading it occurred to me what if the poet has made a transition into heaven and misses, or longs for, the earthly process of “time and forgetting?” Such perceptiveness and the poet’s willingness to take such risks far outweigh the slightly out-of-place tone of line 5: “The aimless meandering of a millisecond split.” The juxtaposition of “millisecond split” with “meandering”--which necessitates at least a little bit of time--far more than a “millisecond split” would supply, lends a comedic tone to this line. This is incongruent with the general tone of the poem. However, overall, this poem not only stood up to multiple readings, but gifted me with something new upon each reading. For these reasons entry #5 is the winner. Congratulations!

Tracy here: Thanks, Laura, for the great observations and comments. You've helped us all learn more about poetry. We appreciate your willingness to judge, and invite you to come back for another contest any time! Poets, be sure to check out Laura's awesome Web site!

Now, about our winner - Vicki Buchhold.

Vicki tells us: "I started writing poetry when I was six. I published several pieces and won a couple of awards a few years ago. Then I set it aside to write a novel. Yes, the novel is finished. No, I don't have a publisher. If fiction is the love of my life, then poetry must be my childhood sweetheart."

Vicki entered two poems into the contest - the winning Entry #5 Prayer and Time, and Entry #6 Too Much Religion.

After I post this announcement, I plan to add all the names to the entries, so all you Pixels can see who wrote what. I'll also enable comments again, so feel free to leave your comments about the poems.

I enjoyed this contest a great deal - hope all of you did too!

Later today, I'll be announcing another very different contest for all you fiction lovers, and it's going to be R~E~V~V~E~D up, so come on back to check it out!!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Entry #11 Poetry: The Leaf is Innocent by Jonathan Bolton

The Leaf is Innocent
by Jonathan Bolton

The leaves see all, when the trees stand tall
The leaf was the first to see, the serpent, Adam, and Eve
Winter, Summer, Spring, and Fall
Fall is when the leaf falls, unless the tree falls
Then the leaves fall, free fall
Morning, Noon, Evening, and Dark
The leaves watched Noah build the Ark
Hands raised, as palm leaves wave
To give praise, to the truth, the life, and the way
The leaves were dead and lost, when they cut and drug the cross
His life was the ultimate cost, to give life to all who are lost
The leaves grew with the thorns, the same thorns that Christ had worn
Jesus Christ is whom God sent, and Christ went
To the extent, giving us life more abundantly if we repent.
The leaf has seen all.
From Creation, Temptation, to Salvation.
"And the leaves are the healing of the Nations."

Entry #10 Poetry: Storm by Debbie Roome

by Debbie Roome

Fiery heat scalds
Sedimented rivers.
Motionless creatures
Draped in dappled shade.

A slight breeze.
The fragrance of rain
Borne from hazy hills
Lying purple on the horizon.

Dark clouds tumbling
Grumbling as they amass.
Electricity, crackling, bright
Jagged darts from heaven.

Purified drops of life
Splattering on seared earth
Silvered splashes, accumulating,
Trickling and dampening.

Thirsty dry ground
Drinking greedily
Sucking moisture into its bosom
Life giving liquid

Torrents of water
Drenching the wilted land
Transformation of dust
Colours rejuvenated and washed

Entry #9 Poetry: Dawn of a Cobweb by Debbie Roome

by Debbie Roome

Silken threads bound to roughened bark
Thinly delicate
Crowned with golden rays of dawn
Translucent dew drops
Pearls on a strand
Jewels that gleam and shimmer
The artist, content, fulfilled
scurries to rest

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Blog Tour: The Hunted

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Hunted
(Realms - June 3, 2008)


Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mike now lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Jen, and their three daughters. He writes a monthly column for Writer . . .Interrupted. He was a newspaper correspondent/columnist for over three years and has published several articles for The Candle of Prayer inspirational booklets. Mike also has edited and contributed to numerous Christian-themed Web sites and e-newsletters.

Mike is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, the Relief Writer's Network, and International Thriller Writers. He received his BA degree in sports exercise and medicine from Messiah College and his MBS degree in theology from Master's Graduate School of Divinity.

You can read a great interview with Mike, over here on TitleTrakk.


A town's deadly secret will drive one man to the edge of his faith...

After learning of the disappearance of his nephew, Joe Saunders returns to his childhood home of Dark Hills to aid in the search effort. When Caleb is found, badly mauled and clinging to life, Joe embarks on a mission to find the beast responsible. But the more Joe delves into the fabric of his old hometown, the more he realizes Dark Hills has a dark secret, shrouded for three generations in a deadly code of silence.

As Joe unravels the truth behind a series of unexplained animal attacks, murder, and corruption at the highest level of law enforcement, he is led to a final showdown where he must entrust his very life into God's hands. Will his young faith be strong ehough to battle the demonic forces of The Hunted?

If you would like to read the first chapter, go HERE.

Mike Dellosso could very well be the next Frank Peretti-if you liked The Oath and Monster, you are going to love The Hunted. --C.J. Darlington, Cofounder and book editor,

A spine-tingling tale of hidden secrets, buried hopes, and second chances. A story best read with all the lights on and an extra flashlight--just in case! --Amy Wallace, author of Ransomed Dreams

Mike Dellosso's pins-and-needles thriller hurtles the reader down a dark and twisted path. I dare you to take this one home! --Jill Elizabeth Nelson, author of the To Catch a Thief suspense series

With hints of Frank Peretti and Stephen King, The Hunted is a chilling debut. --Creston Mapes, author of Nobody

A vicious enemy, a family secret, a thirst for revenge, and a need for reconciliation all drive The Hunted from intriguing beginning to thrilling conclusion. --Kathryn Mackel, author of Vanished

Read this someplace safe as you experience the incredibly descriptive world of The Hunted. And sleep with the lights on. --Austin Boyd, author of Mars Hill Classified trilogy

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Entry #8 Poetry: Soldier by B.J. Hamrick

by B.J. Hamrick

My child, you were never meant to bear
This burden on your shoulders
You're much too small, you lack the strength
You're such a tiny soldier
And all this time you've marched along
Crying, "I'm strong too"
When I was here just waiting
To carry this cross for you
I've seen your tears, I've heard your prayers
I've been here all along
So now just place your splintered cross
Against My back -- I'm strong
Now see My tears, now hear My prayers
My child, they're all for you
For I have come to do the work
That only I can do

Entry #7 Poetry: A Noble Proverb by Shirley Anne Leonard

A Noble Proverb
by Shirley Anne Leonard

“Iron sharpens iron,”
so they say.
But what if I
am only made of clay?
Obliteration —
if I get in the way!

Iron sharpens iron.
So does stone
if rough, and with a
hardness all its own
to grind the weapon’s
cutting edge, and hone.

Iron sharpens iron.
Make me so
the wheel will grind
deliberate and slow,
and sparks will not inflame
emotion’s glow.

Iron sharpens iron.
Let us talk
and mind the words we say,
lest they should walk
toward battlefields
and kill us on the way.

Entry #6 Poetry: Too Much Religion by Vicki Buchhold

Too Much Religion
by Vicki Buchhold

“Problem is they’re too religious.
Don’t need to get too much religion.”
I took the statement,
knowing from where it came,
and it painfully drew me back,
shut my mouth.
I wondered if he thought the same of me.
I’d be ashamed if he didn’t.
But it wasn’t as though he said,
they think too highly of Jesus
and follow Him too closely.
He simply said the problem is
they got too much.“Too much.”
I found my tongue.
“While some poor souls don’t get any.”
He nodded.
“Poor little heathen orphans living in poverty.
But that’s why we have missionaries.”
Heathen orphans.
Poverty begins at home.

Entry #5 Poetry: Prayer and Time by Vicki Buchhold

Prayer and Time
by Vicki Buchhold

My prayer moves without motion,
travels without speed,
cries out without sound,
leaves light waves coughing up dust.
The aimless meandering of a millisecond split
entertains this dimension
while my prayer is taken, His answer given.
He drops it carefully on the thin line—
the line of time where I receive.
He will not hold back until tomorrow,
or wait until next year.
He never fails to answer.
The answer arrives before the amen.
Resolution races down the line.
He sets it to rest at His pleasure.
I will catch up to it tomorrow.
Or maybe next year.
But never is not on this line.
That I can catch it at all is a miracle;
I’m slow and my days are numbered.
Time and forgetting, I miss it sometimes.
If I have, if I am, if I do,
please point it out to me
when I get there.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Entry #4 Poetry: To Know Him by Karri Compton

To Know Him
(based on Philippians 3)
by Karri Compton

I count the dreary days of life
All in vain, of loss
Compared to knowing Jesus--
His perfect life, the cross.
I hate the world, its wickedness;
All is done for gain.
I count gain loss for knowing Christ
In power and in pain.
I understand the sinful pride
Of people and their greed;
Forgetting and forsaking all,
To know Him is my need.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Entry #3 Poetry: Sand Dancing by Sally Chambers

Sand Dancing
by Sally Chambers

Feather light she whirls on tiptoe
Diaphanous gown swings fair and free
A lithesome figure in pale star-glow
Lost in joy beside the sea

Hemmed in by tidal pools and ocean
Weaving lines beneath the moon
Rapt in the never-ending motion
Her steps draw closer to the dune

Sandy shadows mirror grace
Footprints follow in her wake
Sea foam laughs creating lace
Atop the waves that toss and break

Sand-danced love lifts up to God
A yielded spirit filled with peace
Praiseful rhythm meant to laud
Designs a prayer that does not cease

Entry #2 Poetry: Persevere! by D.S. Mullis

by D.S. Mullis

Love, peace and joy! Our great God will employ,
For even in our trials, yes, all the devil's wiles
Are but a passing fad, soon sorrow will be glad,
And all our hue and cry will vanish by and by!

We serve the One who stills the gales of life at will,
He never will digress nor lose His sweet caress-
For those who know this One will stand when day is done,
And shout the victory for all the world to see!

Don't ever lose your hope for then in life you grope,
As one who's in the dark, and knows he can't embark,
Upon his ship of dreams, for yielding to the schemes
Has made his spirit sad, which once was free and glad!

Yes, trials come and go, and just to let you know,
That once you pass this test a glimmer of the best
Will shine within your world, as faith again unfurls
And brings you to a place with His so matchless grace!

Love, joy and peace, for sure these do not cease,
And while you persevere, know He is standing near
With answers on the way, yes, even for this day,
And in a little while, you'll walk the last long mile!

Entry #1 Poetry: His Plan by D.S. Mullis

His Plan
by D.S. Mullis

'You never seem to mind when trials come.'
She smiled and asked, 'Why should I be afraid?
The One who walks with me will keep me brave;'
He answered, 'Yes and lead you safely home.'

'You never turn your smiles into a frown.'
She spoke with softness, 'That's because of He
Who was so happy and yes, so carefree,
Took up a cross that I might wear a crown!'

'You always think beyond yourself each day,'
She nodded, 'Yes, He showed me how to live,
By His example I know how to give...
For servanthood is truly God's own way!'

'You seem to find such joy in daily life,'
'For sure, 'she answered, 'Joy comes from above,
And joy is evidence of His great love,
The love that conquers fear and doubt and strife!'

'You seem to know much more than mortal man,
Possessing attributes that do impart
A change has come deep down within your heart.'
'Oh yes, indeed, the purpose of His plan!'

New Contest: Calling All Poets!

Pix-N-Pens is very thrilled to welcome our special guest judge this week - she's truly an answer to prayer. I've had several requests for poetry contests, and am not qualified to judge poetry, so I began praying for the Lord to send us a poet. And He did!

This contest will be a bit different than any we've had before, so please make sure you read and understand all of the instructions before submitting.

First, please allow me to introduce our judge, Laura Evans.

Laura Evans grew up in the United States, adopted by American parents. She speaks only English. She hopes to remedy that situation some day. Meanwhile, she works at checking off more entries on her to-read booklist which seems to grow longer--not shorter.

She has more than 15 years of writing and teaching experience. She graduated summa cum laude with a BS in English literature. She completed a 12-week online poetry class through Writer's Digest taught by Prof. Stephen Perry from UCLA. She has also attended a poetry workshop at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival.

More than 56 poems have been published in various literary and popular journals including:

Canadian Writer’s Journal
Modern Haiku
High Five
Northwest Literary Forum
Piedmont Literary Review
Nebraska Life Magazine

She is a member of:

The Academy of American Poets
The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
Christian Writers Group International
The Writers View, an online group of professional Christian writers, editors, and agents.

You can learn more about Laura at her Web site:

The winner of our contest this week will receive this beautiful tatted bookmark, handmade by our guest judge. When I asked, Laura said it took 5-6 hours to make.

Tatting is an ancient form of lacemaking. Queen Victoria made it very popular when she took up tatting in the late 1800s. Women held tatting bees where gossip was prohibited. Only the Bible or poetry was read.

Here are the specifics for this contest:

Poetry Contest - any theme
Submit your poem(s) in the body of an email to tracyruckman [at] gmail [dot] com

Please limit your poems to 25 lines or fewer. You may submit up to two poems on any subject. When sending your poem by e-mail, make sure the formatting is the way you expect it to be. (i.e. are the line breaks correct, are the double spaces where they are supposed to be, are the line indentations correct, etc.) Be sure to include your full name, and a brief bio when you submit your entry. (the bio will be posted if you win)

The poems will be judged blindly, so before our guest judge reads them, all names and bios will be removed from the entries. I will post the entries anonymously online, so everyone can read them, but all comments will be turned off during the duration of the contest, so no one can identify the author. At the end of the contest, I will turn the comments back on, so everyone can comment on their favorites.

The deadline is this Friday, June 20th, so get writing!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Winner of our Narnia Mania New World Contest

Our special guest judge, Cheryl Dunlop, sent the following e-mail this morning:

This was difficult! But entry #1, "The Strangers" by Richard Leonard is a creative, well-developed look at our world through another's eyes. It makes me want to read more--and to learn more about the visitor and his own world and culture.

Congratulations, Richard!

About our winner:

Richard C. Leonard earned the Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Boston University (1972) and has taught at the college and graduate level. He also served pastorates in New England and Illinois. Dr. Leonard was Scripture Editor for The Complete Library of Christian Worship (Hendrickson, 1993). He was the ghost writer of A Theological Miscellany by the fictitious T. J. McTavish (Thomas Nelson, 2005), and co-compiler of A Glimpse of Heaven (Simon & Schuster, 2007). His fiction writings include Silence of the Drums (Xulon, 2005) and Heart of the Highriders, co-written with his daughter Charity Silkebakken (Word Association, 2006). Richard Leonard's Rail Archive is popular with railroad fans. Dr. Leonard also publishes WestWard Quarterly, edited by his wife Shirley Anne. The Leonards live in northern Illinois and have 11 grown children and 25 grandchildren.

Thanks to everyone for your participation - we had some creative stories this week.

A very special thank you to Cheryl for being our guest judge. Be sure to check out her book: The Complete Idiot's Guide to The World of Narnia.

I'll see everyone back here Monday morning - a very unique prize and very unique guest judge. Be sure to tell all the poets you know - they'll be interested in this contest!

Happy weekend!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Entry #3 New World: Maris Manor

Maris Manor
By Carolyn M. Kenney

The Present

Christine gazed out the window of her history class dreaming of Victorian England . She and her friend, Laura Harrington, were juniors at Cummings College thirty minutes from their hometown. The clouds grew steadily darker reflecting the grief within Christine.

“Christine, do you know the answer?” asked her teacher, Mrs. Andrews.

Christine slowly broke out of her reverie. Her thoughts stumbled over each other causing havoc in her mind. Mrs. Andrews wants an answer? But what was the question? Mrs. Andrews was an outstanding teacher on the history of the Victorian era in England, but was extremely demanding of her students.

At that moment, the bell blared with an unusual shrill. Chairs scraped the floor as students hurried toward the door. No one heard Mrs. Andrews give the assignment; many students did not care. It was Friday and the weekend was upon them.

Christine was glad she wore her white sweater and dark wool pants. The weather had turned unusually cool; winter would be here before they knew it. Christine’s auburn hair hung to her shoulders and enhanced her slim figure, which captured the eyes of many young men. Today her hair was pulled back with a stunning barrette she had received as a gift from Jim Bailey. Jim, who was in his third year of law school, was the only boy Christine was interested in. With the sudden death of her father, however, Christine devoted much time helping her mother instead of spending it with Jim. Rose was still devastated over the untimely heart attack of her husband, Patrick, who was looking forward to retirement in a few years. Her mother, Rose worked full-time, with a part-time job on weekends, to try and make ends meet. As the bell rang, Christine slowly got to her feet, picked up her books and headed for the door.

“Christine, can you come over for a while?” asked Laura. “I want to show you some new clothes my mother bought me for our cruise!” Laura, her parents and sister were leaving at the end of the school year for a two-week Caribbean cruise.

“I would love to!” said Christine. “Oh Laura, you’re going to have so much fun!” Actually, Christine could not see herself going anywhere for quite a while. Once she got through college, she would need to get a full-time job in order to help her mother pay some bills.

Together the two girls walked down the hall and started out of the building. The day had turned dark and dreary; the wind had picked up and rain was coming down in torrents. “I’m so glad my mother is here to pick us up,” said Laura. “My car needed an oil change.” She looked at her friend and said with concern, “Christine, do you feel all right? You look a little pale.”

At that moment, Christine turned to answer Laura but never got the words out. As they walked down the wet stone steps of the building, Christine slipped and lost her balance. Laura reached out to prevent her friend from falling, but it was too late. Christine’s head hit partly on the soft grass and partly on the cement walkway.

“Christine!” screamed Laura. “Somebody help!” Laura raced to her friend’s side and bent down. “Christine, are you all right?”

Christine slowly opened her eyes and stared at her friend. “L-Laura? W-What happened?” she stammered.

“Christine, don’t say anything. Just lie there. I’ll go and get help!” Laura raced inside and was back in minutes with Mr. Butler, one of the teachers, as Christine was trying to sit up. Gently they helped Christine to her feet and brought her back inside the school building to an empty classroom where they guided her to the first empty chair they saw.

Laura said, “I’ll be right back. I’m going outside to get my mother.” With that, she was out the door and down the steps. Mr. Butler spoke softy saying, “Christine, sit right here. Wouldn’t you know I don’t have my cell phone today. I’m going to the telephone down the hall to call the ambulance. You should go to the hospital and be examined.” With that, he hurried out of the room. Alone, Christine sat uncomfortably on the wooden chair staring into space. Her white sweater was covered with dirt and grass stains. She gripped the arms of the chair and started to rock from side to side. Her blue eyes shut slowly; she slipped off the chair and onto the floor.

Mr. Butler heard the noise and quickly raced to where Christine lay unconscious before him. “Christine!” he screamed, as the paramedics, Laura and her mother entered the room. Gently, Christine was placed onto a stretcher. Students silently stood along the sides of the hall whispering among themselves as Christine was carried outside.

Mrs. Harrington said to the harried teacher, “Laura and I will follow the ambulance. Here is her mother’s telephone number at work. Please call her for me.” With that, they were off.

The drive to the local hospital only took a matter of minutes; for Christine it was much longer. When she slipped off the chair, she had slipped into unconsciousness and into her own fantasy world. Christine never heard the noise from the racing ambulance or the cars screeching to the side of the road to let it pass. She was not living in the current year any longer. In her mind, the year was 1840.

The Past

The year was 1840 and the English countryside was alive - finally. Rich green trees and vibrant flowers linked heaven to earth in a striking display of colors. Christine walked leisurely down the path leading from Maris Manor to Colina Hill situated on the edge of the family property. The green grass beneath her feet looked like velvet. She took off her shoes and felt the soft earth stir with each step.

Five months ago, Christine Kelly graduated from a private girl’s school. Why did it seem like five years? Shortly after graduation, her father, Patrick passed away from an unexpected heart attack. Christine and her mother, Rose, were devastated and now lived alone in the beautiful mansion with their few servants. Christine’s uncle, Charles Kelly, had told them that her father had not left a will. Thinking about it now, Christine reflected sadly, “That is highly unlikely.” Now as the only surviving son, Charles said that Maris manor would fall to him.

Christine neared the top of the hill; on the other side, it abruptly descended to the sea below. The view from the top was breathtaking! A voice from behind startled her; she jumped and almost lost her footing.

“Christine, how are you?” Charles Kelly was standing beside her; she shivered despite the warmth of the summer day. “I was looking for your mother, but could not find her. You must watch out for her or something may happen to her.” There was a sneer on his face and his eyes had a sinister look to them. He continued saying, “I need to get into your father’s library, but the door is locked.”

Ignoring her uncle, Christine said, “It’s getting late, I must be getting back to the manor.”

“Let me help you,” said Charles. As he extended his hand to Christine, he gripped her shoulder firmly. They stood facing one another with Christine’s back to the raging sea below.

“Let me go!” she exclaimed. “Now!”

Charles released her and Christine stumbled forward. She quickly regained her balance and rushed away from her uncle. As she walked down the path, she heard Charles behind her laughing silently.

At the bottom of Colina Hill, Christine began the walk home deep in thought. Suddenly, she heard a warm familiar voice. “Christine!” James Bentley was walking towards her.

“James!” said Christine. “I’m glad to see you!” They had been friends since childhood; James was now studying law.

“When did you get home?” Christine inquired with joy.

“I arrived today,” said James. “How are you and your mother?” The tender look on James’s face made Christine relax and almost forget the conversation with her uncle.

“We’re fine, James. However, I was up on the Hill when Uncle Charles frightened me!” said Christine with a heavy heart.

James said, “What can I do to help?”

Christine blurted out, “Uncle Charles told my mother that father did not leave a will, so he will inherit Maris Manor. I know there is a will, but nobody seems to know where it is.”

“You haven’t been told what is in the will?” asked James in amazement.

“No,” said Christine sadly. “Mr. Abington, our lawyer, is coming tomorrow to see mother.”

James said, “I would be happy to come over when Mr. Abington visits you and your mother.”

Christine exclaimed, “That would be wonderful. He is coming at 11:00 tomorrow morning.”

“Good,” said James, “I will see you then. “Don’t worry about the will or Charles Kelly. I know things will work out.”

“Goodnight James,” said Christine with joy in her heart.

The next morning both men arrived promptly at 11:00 a.m. “Hello Thomas. Hello James,” greeted Rose Kelly warmly. “It is wonderful to see you both.”

Thomas Abington said, “A few years ago, I drew up the necessary paperwork for Patrick’s will. However, he wanted to keep it in his possession. He took the will and I never saw it again. Rose, did he tell you where he put it?”

Rose Kelly’s face was stricken with fear as she said, “No. Patrick told me about the will, but never said where he put it. I assumed that you would have it.”

Thomas Abington said with concern, “I believe the will is somewhere in this house.” He looked at Rose and Christine saying, “The sooner one of you is able to find it, the better. Otherwise, Charles will inherit everything. Look around the manor and I will be in touch with you. If you find anything, please let me know at once.”

“We will Thomas,” said Rose and walked him slowly to the door.

“Christine, what are we going to do?” asked Rose.

“Mother, please try not to worry. I know this isn’t easy, but father must have put the will somewhere safe. Why don’t you rest? James and I will look for it.”

Turning to James Christine said, “Let’s start in the library.”

They walked down the hall to the library where Christine unlocked the door. After searching the room thoroughly, Christine said, “James, I really don’t think it is here. Father would have left it someplace that few people would know about.”

“Do you have any idea?” asked James

Christine said, “Let me think about it. Can you stay for lunch?”

James said, “No, but I will return tomorrow and we can continue looking.”

“Thank you, James,” said Christine. “You are a wonderful friend.”

“I am glad to help you and your mother,” said James. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Christine closed the door gently. Suddenly she remembered an incident from her childhood and returned to the library. Walking to her father’s desk, she sat down in the plush leather chair and looked out the window as thoughts of her father came to mind.

As a child, she would spend hours here playing quietly or reading while he worked. One day she asked, “Daddy, what is that at the top of the manor?” Christine pointed out the window. The widow’s walk always fascinated her. The widow‘s walk! Why hadn’t she thought of that before? A little alcove was tucked away at the top of the stairs near it. Years ago, Patrick Kelly had given his daughter a key and told her to put it in her jewelry box. Christine did as she was told and forgot all about it - until now.

Christine hurried to her room, opened the box and with relief found the key. Silently, she headed for the stairs to the alcove. At the top, she removed the key from her pocket and slipped it into the lock. The door creaked open. She knelt down and felt around in the dark when suddenly her hand fell upon a large envelope. Carefully Christine picked it up and stepped outside into the light. Her heart raced as she saw the familiar handwriting on the outside with words “Final Will and Testament.” What a tremendous relief.

Christine straightened up, locked the alcove door and walked onto the landing. She glanced once more at the envelope in her hands when a voice startled her. “Christine,” said Charles. “What do you have?”

Christine turned and demanded, “What are you doing here?”

“I see you have the will,” he said. “Why don’t you let me have it?”

Christine shouted, “You will never get this house! Get out of here - now!” Slowly she started to walk around her uncle, but he stepped in front of her. She stumbled, grabbed onto the railing and steadied herself. All she could see was the drop two stories below to the rich green earth.

“Give me the will!” exclaimed Charles with a gleam in his eyes. She needed to get away from him and away from this precarious position.

Out of the corner of her eye, Christine saw James walk quietly through the door of the widow’s walk. He shouted, “Get away from her Charles!” Charles Kelly turned in amazement to face the younger man.

“J-James,” said Charles, “I did not expect to see you here!”

“I bet you didn’t,” said James glaring back. “Now leave!”

Charles exclaimed, “This is my property now.”

James said, “I heard that at the first opportunity you are going to sell the manor and the land. Now leave here once and for all.”

“Th-this is my l-land!” stammered Charles as the younger man started walking towards him. Charles turned back to face Christine who was standing against the railing. “Give me the will, Christine.”

“Never,” she said. Charles lunged forward to grab the will; Christine stepped to her left barely avoiding him and he crashed through the railing.

Christine screamed; James raced to her side where she buried her head in his strong chest. “Christine, are you all right?” asked James.

With tears she looked up into his deep blue eyes and said, “Yes, James. I don’t know what I would have done if you had not been here. Why did you come back?”

“I decided to have lunch with you and your mother. I thought you could both use a little company. As I came up to the front door, I saw you stumble onto the widow’s walk with Charles right behind you! I ran into the manor and up here!”

“James, will life ever be normal again?”

“Christine if I have anything to say from now on you will never worry again.” He put his arm around her waist and led her through the door.

Submitted by
Carolyn Kenney

Entry #2 New World: Jetta's Fire

Jetta’s Fire
By Sara Harricharan

I awoke to damp darkness. The sensation of pitch black, combined with an unidentifiable paste was nauseating from head to toe. Even the air seemed thick as I forced one hand up and to my face to be sure my eyes were open.

“It’s about time you’re up.” Footsteps shuffled closer, the odd gait carrying a strange rhythm. “Even I don’t sleep for five days and I have a fairly decent reason for doing so.”

Something hard poked my side as I tried to focus on the fuzzy figure towering over me. I opened my mouth, only to hear my stomach growl in reply. I hoped the darkness could hide the blush as the events came rushing back to me.

I shouldn’t be here…wherever here is…The thoughts mixed and jumbled together as I stared upwards. It was a woman, shrouded in the kind of hooded cloak that had gone out of style centuries ago. She was nibbling on the edge of a hunk of bread.

My stomach rumbled again as I forced myself to sit up, and painfully licked my lips. The bottom lip was split, that was certain. And my tongue felt thoroughly blistered.

There was a loud sigh, as she ripped a chunk from the other end and dropped it in my lap. “You’re welcome.” She muttered, turning away.

I mumbled my thanks through the first mouthful. It was rather dry, but tasty. It prompted more memories of my home on Cherry Tree Lane in Virginia. There was lovely Italian restaurant that always had homemade breads and cheese sauce.

By the time I’d polished off the bread, my eyes had adjusted enough to decipher my surroundings. I was in a cave.

There was no noticeable opening, but the air was warmer coming from the different paths at the other end.

“Are you done?”

Her voice made me jump, I hadn’t seen her approach. “Yeah.”

“Good, let’s go.”

“Go where?” I felt my face to assess any further injuries. Everything either hurt or burned in tandem with my confused brain.

“I can’t leave you here.” She started towards the pathways and stopped. “Are you coming?”

“Coming? I don’t even know where I am!” I tried to stand, relieved that my feet didn’t crumble beneath me. “Who are you, anyway? Is this some kind of sick joke? How did I get here?”

“That-” Purple eyes drilled slowly into me. “-is completely beyond me. I can’t leave you if you don’t know where you are, or how you got here, because it means you’re never going back to wherever that was. That, and once I get out of here, if things are as bad as I feel they are, you’d never survive the changeover. Can we go now?”

“Actually, I’m fine right where I am…you go on ahead.” I leaned back against the rock wall and jerked forward. “Ow!” The rock was scalding.

“As if I’m going to leave you to your own devices, you humans think you’re so self-sufficient.” She glided over, stopping a few feet away. “Let’s try this again-I’m Jetta, and we’re in a fire mountain. We shouldn’t be here, understand?” She shook her head slowly. “Good. Can we go now, Kacy?”

Goosebumps danced up my cold arms. “How did you know my name?”

“This conversation is pointless.” Jetta unclasped her cloak, whisking it from her shoulders to settle around mine. She snapped her fingers straight in front of my face. “Walk…follow me.”

My legs began to move of their own accord. “Hey! What’s going on-!”

“Shut your mouth.” Jetta murmured, starting down the path to her right.

A squeak escaped as my mouth clamped shut, my feet hurrying after this crazy woman. I tried to speak a few times, but couldn’t get my mouth to open.

The trip was rather uneventful. It was a lot of rock-climbing on walls with little or no places for one’s foot or hand. Surprisingly, the rocks there were cool to the touch.

I had no way to mark the passage of time, but plenty of silence allowed me to simmer in my private thoughts. I couldn’t remember anything but a street fight on the corner by the drugstore. Everything else was a big, confusing blank that I didn’t want to figure out.

When my stomach took to complaining again, Jetta stopped climbing long enough to look down at me. She muttered something I didn’t understand, then hiked herself up to the next narrow ledge.

“If I let you speak, will you promise to keep quiet?” She reached down to help me up next to her.

I shrugged.

“A yes or no would be fine.” She tugged a cloth from one pocket and proceeded to polish her scuffed boots. “I don’t want to hear any more silly questions and no, I don’t really want to help you. I’m just being polite, because I can’t help myself.”

I opened my mouth and stopped. “My voice…”

“Memorable first words.” Jetta slapped the cloth on the edge of the ridge to shake out the dust. “I need that back if you don’t mind.”

She reached for the cloak and it melted away from me, straight to her. From the shadowy folds, she drew another hunk of bread and split it in half as before. “You’re welcome.”

Fire exploded in my limbs, each one crying out for mercy. I couldn’t have said anything else at that point, everything hurt too much. Whatever Jetta’s cloak had done, it’d taken it back.

Jetta’s mouth twitched, something akin to a smile.

She pushed the folds back over her shoulders and unclasped a tiny blue gem on a gold chain.

The necklace shimmered as funny, rainbow-like shine glowed in the middle. Jetta unscrewed the gem, as if it were a cap and took a few ladylike sips before she handing it over.

I took it gingerly, but after the first mouthful, gulped the liquid as a fast as I could. Water had never tasted so good. Strength seeped back into my body and the pain subsided within seconds. I didn’t need any further encouragement to stuff my mouth as I watched her frown upwards. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” She held out her hand, wiggling her fingers. “Give me your hand.”

“Whaf?” I swallowed the mouthful, handing over the water necklace.

Jetta sighed, but took it, clasping it about her neck before extending her hand again. “I meant your hand. I can see the opening from here, so there’s no need to keep climbing.”

“What do you mean?”

Jetta snapped her fingers. “Hand?”

My hand shot straight up, jerking me with it. “Hey!” Her cold fingers gripped mine with a strength I hadn’t pegged her for.

The ground beneath our feet rumbled and then shot straight up-with us on it! I stumbled forward and into Jetta’s shoulder, a shock that made my teeth hurt. She was tougher than the rock, it seemed, and the shaking, or flying, didn’t seem to faze her at all.

My ears began to pop, at the precise moment we shot straight out of a blurry gray and red tube. Jetta had told the truth when she called it a fire mountain. It was a mountain-and it was on fire.

In fact, everywhere was on fire. As far as I could see, it looked as if a huge fire had sprayed its wrath upon the countryside below. Whatever wasn’t smoldering, flames feasted upon the remains.

The stench of death seized me in the first wave, followed by a wall of hopelessness and despair.

Jetta didn’t seem the least bit ruffled as the rock set us down at the base of the mountain. “Don’t.” She said quietly.

I blinked.

“Don’t ask.” She fell to her knees, fat tears rolling down her expressionless face.

The sight tugged at my heartstrings, enough for me to touch her shoulder.

“I should’ve been paying attention.” She smacked the tears away, reaching into her blouse.

Light glinted off the wicked curve of a knife blade. I swallowed, taking a step back as she scraped the blade along her arm. “Uh, Jetta?”

The knife suddenly flew from her fingers and slammed into a blackened tree trunk. Her eyes blazed white as she stood. “This was my home!” Her voice roared across the plains. “These were my people….how dare you destroy this!”

A sudden barrage of imaged flashed through my head in rapid succession. Pictures of people I’d never known, places I’d never been and a gruesome creature I couldn’t identify.

“Jetta…?” I started to say as the pressure mounted steadily, accompanied by a crushing pain in my neck and shoulders. Something scratched my arms as I stumbled backwards and tripped.

My common sense told me that I was dreaming and if I wasn’t, that I should be dead considering all that I’ve apparently managed to live through. Jetta stood over me, trickling droplets from her necklace into my mouth.

I stared dumbly up at her.

She offered a rare smile. “It’s not a good idea to touch an Empath when they’re absorbing.”

“Huh?” I whimpered as darts of pain shot through me for the effort of speaking.

She shrugged. “My powers…it was a temporary lapse of control, my apologies. Are you better?”

I tested each limb in turn, relieved to find that they worked.

“You’re welcome.” Jetta rolled to her feet and started off into a field of greenery.

I scrambled to my feet to stare in amazement. The fiery wreckage was gone, replaced with lush, rolling green hills. “Jetta…!” I scrambled after her.

“I am the guardian of this quadrant.” She pulled the hood up, slowing her pace for me. “Surely you did not expect me to leave the land as scarred and ravaged as it was? Limeris is a vile, despicable being, but it is my duty to help my people.”

“So…you’re like, a warrior?”

“You can call it whatever you wish, I have no objections, save for I do not grant wishes of any sort so don’t even think of asking.”

“So this Limeris guy is pretty bad, huh?”

“Bad doesn’t even begin to cover the darkness that’s come with him.” She sighed. “I was summoned to report, so I am headed to the Guardian Circle. It would appear you are along for the journey.” Her mouth twitched. “How old are you?”

“Sixteen.” I lifted my chin for height.


“My birthday’s two days away!” I whined.

“Never lie to a telepath, it’s rude.” Jetta yawned. “At least you’re small. I shouldn’t have to fuss over you much.”

“You don’t have to fuss over me at all.” A tiny bauble of hope blossomed into a smile. I could survive her sarcastic words if it meant staying safe.

“Uh-huh? I suppose the healing tonic I keep pouring down your throat, isn’t fussing?”

“Healing tonic?” I froze in mid-step.

“Keep walking, Kacy, keep walking.”

Submitted by
Sara Harricharan

Entry #1 New World: The Strangers

The Strangers
Richard C. Leonard

The strangers were back.

He mounted a fallen log and squinted through the bushes for a better look. There were several of them, coming up from the south, picking their way through the spongy ground. The morning sun cast their shadows eastward, to merge and then remerge from the shadows of the swamp trees.

Why they were back he knew not. Neither had he known why they had come before. He could not understand their words then, nor they his. They had done him no harm, and he was not afraid. But he would keep his eye on them. It would take them a while to reach where he was; the sun would have to rise further in the western sky before even his shout could be heard through the softness of the lush growth about them, dripping with runoff from the nightly rain.

So he still had time to do what he was here to do. He needed to eat, and so did his own. His spear was ready, its flinty point sharpened with stone that had come up the river with it from the tribes to the south where such stones were found. And his net of vine strands was set to bring up any swimming creature heedless enough to miss his soft tread along the bayou’s edge. As for yams and other roots, the child-bearers would be gathering them; that was not the task of a spearman.

He was wary, but not because of the strangers. There were monsters here. Those that sunned themselves on the bayou’s shores or snorted at their mating rites were easy enough to avoid.

The danger came from those that lurked in the shadows, their huge bodies sunk below the surface of the still water. That submerged log ahead—it could be a monster, but the small part above water had a branch. A monster’s snout would not have a branch.

There were monsters everywhere in this world, the wise ones had told him. Those who sailed from the islands to the north brought tales of great ones roaming the seas, rising from the depths to spew their froth and toss the canoes across the waves like driftwood.

The same sailors brought news from even further north of tiny monsters in a great river that could gather themselves together to devour a beast and its rider, so quickly that they were reduced to bone before they could swim halfway to the other side. Those who told that tale had heard of stranger lands, even further to the north, where black flying creatures flapped wings useless for flight and waddled over hard coldness made from sea water.

Surely that could not be true! Sea water could not be cold and hard. And flying creatures must be white, like those who swooped over the waves and, with a cry, dove for the swimmers that were their prey. Or they should be pink, like those that circled over the bayou and settled down at its edge, alert for their own prey.

Cold, hard sea water! The wise ones had even told him of lands far to the south where the sea was always cold and hard, where spearmen lived in huts made from the same cold hardness. Monsters were there, too—white, hairy monsters easily enraged. The world was a place of danger, whether from monsters or other causes like the enormous fire-hills far to the east, beyond that land where the lake of salt held no life and the parched ground itself sucked the life from those who passed over it. So the wise claimed, and who was he to question their word?

Dangers were everywhere, and monsters. But he hated only these monsters of the bayou; they were the ones he knew. Such a monster had dragged his young one off before his eyes, crushing her tender body in its toothy jaw before he could snatch her up and drive the monster away. Why had he turned away for an instant, drawn by some flying creature’s cry from the forest? He hated himself for it. But life must go on; there were mouths of his own to feed and keep safe from the slicing teeth of the monsters.

His watchful eye spied one of the pink fliers flapping along the shoreline ahead of him. Perhaps it would land and become his prey, a tasty morsel to add to the meal his child-bearer was making ready. He tightened his grip on the spear.

The flier landed at the water’s edge and stepped into the bayou, then paused upon one leg. He raised the spear.

Too late! Another stalker had found its mark. In a flurry of spray and feathers the hapless flier disappeared beneath the water, victim of a lurker’s cruel snap.

He was not worried about losing the flier; there would be others. This one had, perhaps, sacrificed itself to spare him from the jaws of the same hidden monster. He would need to be more wary.

The thought of the strangers returned. Where were they now? He mounted a tuft of swamp grass for a better look. Through the growth his keen eye spotted them, still some way off but drawing closer as they wove their way through the trees.

Strangers are often very strange, but these strangers had a strangeness all their own. When he had met them before he was struck by their special strangeness. They covered their bodies with some kind of leaves—not leaves, really, but something that hung over them like leaves so he could not tell whether any of them were child-bearers. And none were bearded. If they all had spoken he could have told, but only one had spoken and he was not a child-bearer.

It must be hard to be one of these strangers, not knowing right away who was a child-bearer and who was not. It was so much easier for him and those he belonged to. One could tell quickly with a glance at his body, or hers, and then one knew what was proper for each. There was no danger that he might do a wrong thing with the wrong child-bearer and bring on the wrath of the chiefs. How much harder it must be for the strangers to avoid wrongdoing if everyone’s body was covered with leaves.

And the strangers had another kind of leaf that puzzled him, thin and white and shaped—it was hard to say the shape, but it was like a large leaf that had been cut into a piece so that it had no round edges. The strangers’ chief—the one who spoke to him must be their chief—took it from a pouch, unfolded it and looked at it, then looked at the swampy country around him. It was as if that leaf were some kind of message from a wise one telling them which way to go.

The chief had showed him the leaf and pointed to what was scratched upon it. At the bottom was the sea—for the great sea monster was drawn upon it—and somehow he understood that meant the sea was to the south. At the top were the big lakes he knew were really to the south.

Between them was the great river that ran through the land where his spear stone came from. At least that’s what he thought the leaf meant. But their leaf was upside down, for the sea was really to the north.

He looked again for the strangers, but he could not see them. They must be closer, near the bayou, behind the tall growth at its edge.

His heart began to pound. The strangers had not come this far the last time. They would not know how to keep away from the monsters! He had to help them find a safe path.

With quick steps he made his way toward where the strangers must be. Years of treading these swamps had given him a sure foot over the solid ground, what there was of it in this spongy place.

He saw them. They had reached the shore. He quickened his stride.

He was almost upon them when he heard a sharp cry—not the cry of a flier, but that of a child-bearer! One of the strangers had fallen into the bayou, perhaps tripping over a log at its edge. And a monster was rising from the water, ready to lunge at her.

Instantly he was beside the fallen stranger, sending his spear flying with all the force he could muster into the monster’s gaping jaws. The same thrust that hurled the spear scooped up the stranger and lifted her into the grasp of another hurrying to her side.

A third stranger held out a big stick toward the monster, but it was too late. The wounded lurker thrashed helplessly, trying to shake off the spear stuck in its throat, then sank into the bloodied bayou. For a moment the shaft of the spear lingered above the surface and then it, too, was buried in the murky waters.

It is not usual to waste a spear on the monsters; good spears can be hard to get. But this one had not been wasted. He was not sorry for its loss.

In a moment he was aware of voices clamoring about him in a tongue he could not understand. The stranger into whose arms he had delivered the child-bearer took his hand and shook it up and down, as one shakes the shell of a clam to empty it of water before placing it on the fire to bake. It was an odd gesture but he thought of how his own young one had been taken, and he understood its meaning.

Another stranger was handing him one of the sticks they carried. He pointed to the spot where the spear had disappeared and pushed the stick toward him. He understood that the stranger wanted to replace the lost weapon, but what good was a stick? It had no sharp point to pierce, no long shaft for hurling. He waved off the gift, then wondered if he had done wrong. Perhaps that was a custom of these strangers, and he did not wish to hurt them.

It did not matter; the strangers seemed to understand. Perhaps they knew such a weapon was useless here.

He led them to a place higher up, pointing to a few lurking monsters at the shoreline as he did so. He wanted to teach them how to be more wary in the swamps.

They opened something like a net they carried, except he could not see through it, and brought out food. It was not food he had ever eaten, but when he saw the strangers eating he took what they offered him and ate gladly. They offered more, and he put it into his net to take back to his own.

The strangers’ chief pulled out the leaf he had seen before and looked at it, still upside down. He knew they would be going away soon. Perhaps they had learned today what they needed to know, and must go back to wherever they came from before the sun sank below the land’s eastern edge, drawing the light after it. The light goes quickly here, once the earth or the sea has swallowed the sun.

They said words. He said words of his own. Neither understood the other, but both understood that they were words of friendship.

He watched as the strangers made their way carefully along the path by which they came. As soon as his eye could see them no more he turned and started back toward his own. At least he had something to add to the food his child-bearer would put on the fire for their evening meal.

The strangers were gone but they would come back some day, he knew. And they would turn his world upside down.

Submitted by
Richard C. Leonard