Thursday, February 28, 2008

Entry: Sister Moments

A Sister’s Laugh
By Patty Wysong



The sound of my sister's voice on the phone was like water in the midst of the desert.

“So, what's new at your house?” she asked, like she always did.

I looked around my messy living room. “Nuthin'.”

She paused a moment before saying, “It's awful quiet over there.”

“Mmm. Nice isn't it?” With five active kids, I treasured my temporarily quiet house.

“Did you finally duct tape them?” Laughter simmered in her voice.

“Nope. Something even better,” I hedged. “Remember that magic wand I mentioned in my blog?”

She snickered. “Yeah. Did you try it?”

I leaned back in my chair and twirled my hair, wondering how long I could pull this off. “I now have two hermit crabs and three goldfish. It's wonderful. They're silent and contained.”

“Oooooh. I want that magic wand!”

Finally I let myself laugh, feeling weightless as the tension drained out of me. Talking with my sister is another thing I treasure. She's one of the few people who truly knows me, understands and accepts me, and I'm able to relax and be myself with her.

“So, what's new with you?” I finally got around to asking her.

She groaned dramatically. “I'm moving.”

“Sounds fun. Where to? I might move with you.”

“Bring cookies if you come. I've got a palm tree on the beach that has my name on it. It's reserved especially for me.”

“Let me guess...there's a handicapped parking sign nailed to the palm tree?” I wandered into the kitchen and pulled out my secret stash of cookies.

“Yup. That's the one. My boys are driving me crazy. Absolutely insane! Don't they see what their stupidity does to a hormonal woman? Yesterday I locked them out of the house because I couldn't handle there wrestling and fighting any more.” Even though she's serious, she's laughing, just as she taught me to see the funny side of life, and to laugh at myself.

“They must have a death wish, but they'll figure it out... eventually... maybe in 20 years,” I mumbled with a full mouth, thinking of her four teen sons.

She stopped laughing, suddenly suspicious. “What are you eating?”

“You said to bring cookies, so I am.”

“I'm dying for cookies but I can't even look at them without gaining weight!”

“I'm sorry. I'll eat some for you; will that help?” I shoved another cookie in my mouth, whole, hoping it would smother my laughter.

The back door slammed as my daughter wailed, “Mooooooom!”

My sister's musical laugh soothed my instantly inflamed nerves. “I thought she was a hermit crab.”

“I'll try again,” I assured her as I hastily hid my cookies just as my daughter rounded the kitchen corner.

“She's driving me crazy, Mom! Can't you make her stop?”

Laughter on the phone stifled my retort. I took a deep breath as I eyed my daughter and spoke to my sister. “Will my girls ever learn?”

She laughed, again. “We did.”


Submitted by
Patty Wysong

Entry: Sister Moment

Keeping Her Word
by B.J. Hamrick


I've always told my sister, Molly, that I would write about her. She's always told me that if I do, I'll be the one who ends up being written about – on the obituary page of the local newspaper. At least the police will know who to look for when my bloated, lifeless body floats to the top of the local river tomorrow. It will. Because Molly always keeps her word.

She kept her word when she promised to teach me how to play softball. I was 9 years old – the type of kid they put warning labels on athletic equipment for. Skinny and unbalanced, I had the hand-eye coordination of a toddler on Benadryl.

"It's not that hard," 11-year-old Molly said as she balanced the ball in her right hand. "I'm just going to throw it to you. All you have to do is catch it."

"I'm not sure this is such a great idea," my voice trembled…

To my surprise, I caught the ball. With my nose. It's been crooked ever since.


I guess that's a little like our friendship, Molly's and mine. Crooked. Molly's the sane, balanced one. I'm the one who's not quite right in the head. Yet her patience with me seems endless.

Like the time I sat on her bouquet of flowers. On her wedding day. Just before she walked down the aisle. There was a certain look of panic in her eyes as I whooshed right down on the bouquet and heard the dreadful noise. Crunch. Molly sighed. "Are you OK?" she asked. Not a word about the flowers. Only worried about me.

That's how it was all throughout high school. Molly watched as I struggled day after day with an illness that ravaged my immune system. During college when my seizures were so frequent I couldn't drive, Molly promised to drive me to school. There and back. Every day. She kept her word.

Molly's been there for me through everything – thick and thin. When I say "thick" and "thin", I am, of course, referring to my various physical sizes. When I went on steroids and ballooned like a blow-fish and grew a beard like an Olympic swimmer, Molly told me I was beautiful. She was, of course, lying through her teeth. But that's what good sisters do. They lie to each other when necessary.

I only hope that's what she was doing when she threatened to put me in the obituaries.

Submitted by
B.J. Hamrick

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Stuck in the Middle

As promised, more about Ginny's latest release, Stuck in the Middle, a truly heart-warming story filled with memorable characters who fast become your friends. Some parts of the story are side-splitting hilarious, other parts, well, you'll just need to grab a hanky. I loved this book, and know you will, too. It's also the perfect book to give as a gift to your sister or friend.





This week, the
is introducing

Revell (February 1, 2008)

by


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Virginia Smith left her job as a corporate director to become a full time writer and speaker with the release of her first novel Just As I Am.

Since then she has contracted eight novels and published numerous articles and short stories. She writes contemporary humorous novels for the Christian market, including Murder by Mushroom (Steeple Hill, August 2007) and her newest release, Stuck in the Middle (Revell, February 2008), book 1 in the Sister-to-Sister Series.

Her short fiction has been anthologized, and her articles have been published in a variety of Christian magazines. An energetic speaker, she loves to exemplify God’s truth by comparing real-life situations to well-known works of fiction, such as her popular talk, “Biblical Truths in Star Trek.”

Virginia is a speaker, and an avid Scuba diver. She and her husband Ted, divide their times between Kentucky and Utah, and escape as often as they can for diving trips to the Caribbean!

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Joan Sanderson's life is stuck. Her older sister, Allie, is starting a family and her younger sister, Tori, has a budding career. Meanwhile, Joan is living at home with Mom and looking after her aging grandmother. Not exactly a recipe for excitement-or romance.

That is, until a hunky young doctor moves in next door. Suddenly Joan has a goal--to catch his eye and get a date. But it won't be easy. Pretty Tori flirts relentlessly with him and Joan is sure that she can't compete. But with a little help from God, Allie, and an enormous mutt with bad manners, maybe Joan can find her way out of this rut and into the life she's been hiding from.

Book 1 of the Sister-to-Sister series, Stuck in the Middle combines budding romance, spiritual searching, and a healthy dose of sibling rivalry that is sure to make you smile.


"A gentle story of one young woman's season of growth, deftly blending the tangle of family relationships with gifts of whimsey and revelation. A joy to read."~SHARON HINCK, author of Renovating Becky Miller and Symphony of Secrets~


"Virginia Smith has created a charming and humerous novel that celebrates small-town life, generations of women caring for each other, and the value of finding a deeper, more active faith."~SHARON DUNN, author of the Bargain Hunters mysteries~

To celebrate, Ginny's giving away a $500 SHOPPING SPREE! Visit her website to get all the details! She's also recently announced other giveaways, and she always has fun pictures of her latest travel adventures, so be sure to stop by - and tell her I sent you!

Don't forget - we're giving away one autographed copy of the book THIS WEEK, so send us your SISTER MOMENT for a chance to win. See contest details in the Theme Post below.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Entry: Sister Moments

You Wouldn’t Say we were Sisters
By Debbie Roome


You wouldn’t say we were sisters. While I am average height, she is noticeably shorter. My hair and skin are dark but hers are blonde and fair. I am an introvert but she is full of bounce and life. My health is excellent while she deals with many health issues.

We have never whispered secrets, laughed about boys, double-dated or coached each other in sport. We have never taken long walks together or giggled on the phone. We live thousands of miles apart in different countries, yet she is my sister; raised in the same home, born from the same parents.

In spite of our differences, Leanne is my biggest fan. She has all our important dates memorized: birthdays, anniversaries, the ages of my five children and she calls my husband her “dear brother-in-law”. In earlier years the attention used to annoy me, but age and distance have wrought a softening and a new understanding in my heart.

Leanne will never marry, never have children and will never live on her own. She will never drive a car or catch a bus unaided. She will never cook a meal, wash her clothes or iron a shirt. She cannot because she was born with a condition called Rubenstein-Taybi Syndrome. This rare genetic disorder causes mental and physical disabilities and she will always be dependant on others.


I last saw her in August 2006 while on a brief visit to South Africa. She still lives with my parents there and during the day works at a sheltered workshop. Her friends are very important to her and she talks about them incessantly. At work, so I am told, the talk is all about us.

While in South Africa, I offered to go to her workshop to photograph her with her friends. She was very excited and for two days, it was all we (and they) heard about. Finally, the hour arrived and with my Dad, I walked through the gates. Leanne was exuberant and called all her friends. “My sister is here! My sister is here!” We got them into a group and I took several shots, none of them too successful as their attention wandered very quickly. No matter. They were all very pleased and it was probably the highlight of their day.

That moment has remained imprinted on my heart and from it I have found fresh hope and new inspiration in my writing. Jealousy, anger and resentment towards Leanne littered my younger years but now I’m seeing something new. God is turning those experiences into compassion and understanding and an ability to see past the exterior.

Leanne and I may not communicate well in this world, but in the next, she will be perfect. I look forward to catching up and taking long walks with her.

Submitted by
Debbie Roome

New Contest Theme: Sister Moments

When I discussed this week's theme with our guest judge, I told her SHE had to come up with the theme - and she came up with a FANTASTIC one!! I'm so very excited about this contest, and think you will be, too.



We welcome VIRGINIA SMITH as our special guest judge these next two weeks, in celebration of her latest release, Stuck in the Middle. This tremendous story is the first in a series about three sisters, but that's all I'm going to share for now. We'll be talking more about the book later on in the contest.



For now, here's the theme, direct from Ginny:



Contestants can submit a 500-word essay describing their most memorable Sister moment. If they have no sister, that’s okay – they can describe a moment with a dear friend, a sister of the heart. No sister of the heart? They can submit a prayer request, and I’ll pray that the Lord will send them one! Selecting the winner will be completely based on my subjective opinion. I might not select the most well-written essay. I might just pick one that touches me in a personal way.

And we can encourage them to send pictures of their ‘sister’ along with their essay! Not required, but welcome. I've attached an old snapshot of me with my sister Susie.



So, send in your 500-word essays, with a photo if you wish, and I'll post them as they arrive. Send them to tracyruckman [at] gmail.com.

The winner will receive an autographed copy of Stuck in the Middle - a book you don't want to miss! If you like family stories with heart and humor, this will become one of your favorites! And if you haven't heard - Ginny's giving away a $500 shopping spree!!! So check out her website for all the details!

Deadline for this two week contest is Friday, February 29th. Winner will be announced on Monday, March 3rd.

Thrilling! Chilling!

I'll interrupt our contest briefly for another book recommendation. ADAM by Ted Dekker is a page-turner that you can't put down! I was hooked from page 1!





This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
ADAM
(Thomas Nelson April 1, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Ted is the son of missionaries John and Helen Dekker, whose incredible story of life among headhunters in Indonesia has been told in several books. Surrounded by the vivid colors of the jungle and a myriad of cultures, each steeped in their own interpretation of life and faith, Dekker received a first-class education on human nature and behavior. This, he believes, is the foundation of his writing.

After graduating from a multi-cultural high school, he took up permanent residence in the United States to study Religion and Philosophy. After earning his Bachelor's Degree, Dekker entered the corporate world in management for a large healthcare company in California. Dekker was quickly recognized as a talent in the field of marketing and was soon promoted to Director of Marketing. This experience gave him a background which enabled him to eventually form his own company and steadily climb the corporate ladder.

Since 1997, Dekker has written full-time. He states that each time he writes, he finds his understanding of life and love just a little clearer and his expression of that understanding a little more vivid. Dekker's body of work encompassing seven mysteries, three thrillers and ten fantasies includes Heaven's Wager, When Heaven Weeps, Thunder of Heaven, Blessed Child, A Man Called Blessed, Blink, Thr3e, The Circle Trilogy (Black, Red, White), and Obsessed, with two more...Renegade, and Chaos to be released later this year.


ABOUT THE BOOK:


He died once to stop the killer...now he's dying again to save his wife.

FBI behavioral psychologist Daniel Clark has become famous for his well-articulated arguments that religion is one of society’s greatest antagonists. What Daniel doesn’t know is that his obsessive pursuit of a serial killer known only as “Eve” is about to end abruptly with an unexpected death-his own.

Twenty minutes later Daniel is resuscitated, only to be haunted by the loss of memory of the events immediately preceding his death.


Daniel becomes convinced that the only way to stop Eve is to recover those missing minutes during which he alone saw the killer’s face. And the only way to access them is to trigger his brain’s memory dump that occurs at the time of death by simulating his death again…and again. So begins a carefully researched psychological thriller which delves deep into the haunting realities of near-death experiences, demon possession, and the human psche."
As always with a Ted Dekker thriller, the details of ADAM are stunning, pointing to meticulous research in a raft of areas: police and FBI methods, forensic medicine, psychological profiling-in short, all that accompanies a Federal hunt for a serial killer. But Dekker fully reveals his magic in the latter part of the book, when he subtly introduces his darker and more frightening theme. It's all too creepily convincing. We have to keep telling ourselves that this is fiction. At the same time, we can't help thinking that not only could it happen, but that it will happen if we're not careful."

New York Times best-selling author Ted Dekker unleashes his most riveting novel yet...an elusive serial killer whose victims die of unknown causes and the psychologist obsessed with catching him.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Winner Announcement!

Our special guest judge this week, Maureen Lang, sent the following letter:

Hi, Tracy,

Wow, what a fun contest! I'm so grateful for theopportunity to be involved.

I read the stories that were submitted with interest,and it was a tough decision to choose who should win. :-) Obviously a lot of thought went into each story.

But I will have to choose "Skirting The Truth" [by Patty Wysong.] I thought the writing was fresh and inventive, with alot of action showing the story with an immediate sense of "being there." And I loved the title and how it ties in, too!

I also enjoyed the other two stories, Maris Manor [by Carolyn Kenney] with its intrigue and romance. That story had great pacing,which is difficult in short pieces. She was able to build the tension very nicely.

I also loved the visit to the past with Battle Casualty [by Richard C. Leonard.] I found myself wondering if the letters were only part of this wonderful short story or authentic to the author's forebear. Well done! I'm always intrigued by letters written generations before, sinceI have a number of letters from my own grandparents. [ED NOTE: Dr. Leonard submitted a paragraph of explanation with his story, but with the limited word count it was removed. He wrote: This story draws on the authentic life story and Civil War memoirs of my great-grandfather, John H. Leonard. However, I have changed the names because the first part of the story is fiction. I never had the conversation with my paternal grandmother because she was gone before I was two years old. The photograph mentioned, however, exists.]

Congratulations, Patty! You'll be receiving an autographed copy of On Sparrow Hill for your winning entry.

About our winner:

Patty Wysong says: "I'm a wife, a home school mom of five, book-keeper for our remodeling business, an active member of Faithwriters.com, and I'm a teacher in the children's ministry at our church--and I love all the hats I wear."

A special thanks to Maureen Lang for being our guest judge this week and to the other entrants - great job to all of you!!!!

I'll be announcing the next contest later today, so come check it out! It's going to be a bit different, touching, and great fun, with a very special guest judge!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Entry: Historical Short Story

Skirting the Truth
By Patty Wysong


Reggie jammed his hat back on his head and glared at the girls who were bunched around him. Dumb girls; shows how much they know! Tellin' me I can kiss 'em! Blech. Ain't no way I'd kiss a girl! He grabbed his bucket and stormed to the wagon, the girls trailing behind him, lugging their own water.

Martha smiled as Reggie stomped up. “Those girls pesterin' you again?”

“Yes'm, they're a nuisance.”

Earl's eyes twinkled. “Least they recognize a prime man when they see one.”

“I ain't a man,” Reggie muttered, his face burning even though he knew Earl was teasing. “Is there anything else I kin do fer ya'?”

“I told ya' before, son, we hired ya' to help me, not do everythin' fer us. Go have some fun before we git movin' again.”

Martha watched Reggie join the group of boys shooting marbles. “Mebbe he'd let us adopt him. It's shore nice havin' a youngin' aroun'.”

Earl stretched out on the ground, favoring his broken arm. “He's worth his weight in gold, thet's fer shore, an' he's nice ta have around. I'm glad ta see he's friends with those boys there instead of thet group of hooligans thet's always causing a ruckus.”

Reggie hunkered down with his friends, letting them do all the talking.

“'Bout time ya' got here. Ya' gonna play or not?”

“Yer jist hopin' fer a chance to git yer lucky marble back.”

“Won't be a problem 'cuz ol' Reggie here ain't got no real skill an' I do.”

The boys laughed while Reggie grinned at the friendly ribbing and knuckled back his hat as he lined up for his shot.

“Kin I play?” Lizzie's voice came from right behind Reggie, making him jump and spoil a perfect shot.

“Nah, yer a girl.”

Reggie ducked his head while tugging his hat down to his eyebrows.

Lizzie planted her feet, her scowl settling on Reggie even though he hadn't said a word. “Oh, is thet so?”

Jist calm down, Reg. He scrutinized the marbles and ignored Lizzie.

“Git outta here, Lizzie. We don't want no gossipin' girls 'round here.”

Turning, she narrowed her eyes. “I do not gossip.”

“Yah, right. Yer with them gossipin' girls all the time.”

“They're the only girls on this wagon train 'cept fer the little girls.”

“So?”

Lizzie blew out an exasperated breath. “I wouldn't spend time with them if I had someone else to be with.” She looked pointedly at Reggie.

Reggie drew his dusty sleeve across his face, refusing to look at her. How kin she know?

When Lizzie stalked away Reggie released the breath he'd been holding. “Ollie, s'yer turn. Hurry it up, will ya'?”

“She likes ya', Reggie, but don' ask me why.” The boys guffawed, and jabbed each other.

“Ya' don't know what yer talkin' 'bout,” Reggie said, his face flaming. She better not!

The game was ruined for Reggie and he quickly lost two marbles, making the boys tease him for letting a silly girl get to him. He laughed and teased them right back, “Yer jist jealous.” They have no idea... “I'm goin' ta the river.”

Reggie ducked around the wagon and went into the scrub trees that lined the river. I only talked to Lizzie thet one time when she tol' me about Earl needin' ta hire a boy ta help him. Surely she don't...

Shrieks jerked him back to where he was. “You dirty boy! Thought ya' could spy on us, huh?”

“Git outta here!”

Reggie stood with his mouth gaping before he turned and ran. Dumb girls! They shoulda had look-outs posted! He vaulted over a rock and stopped to catch his breath. They know better than to swim in their chemises without...

“Ooow!” Reggie jumped, swiping at his pant legs. “Git offa me!” Frantically he swatted and mindlessly ran. When he reached the wagon he was still hollering and swiping his pants.

“Haul his drawers down, he's got bees up his pants,” Earl called as he carefully rolled to his feet.

With a quick yank Martha had his pants part way down before Reggie jerked them back up.

All three stood in stunned silence.

“Yer a girl!”

Reggie's fingers clenched her waistband, her face flooding with color. Oh, no. In her panic she didn't even notice when a bee found its mark inside her pants.

Earl and Martha stood frozen, staring at each other until Martha's lips twitched and then tilted into a smile. She turned and looked at Reggie, seeing the long lashes and face of a girl.

“Well, I'll be,” Earl said softly, also looking at Reggie. “Thet shore does explain a lot.”

Martha put her arm around Reggie. “C'mon. Let's git ya' into the wagon so we kin take care of those stings.”

“Hold on a minute.” Earl held out his hand to stop them.

Reggie flinched, bracing herself. Here it comes.

Earl's eyes narrowed and he slowly lowered his hand. “What's yer real name?”

“Regina,” she whispered, her eyes wide, haunted.

“It's ok, Regina. Yer safe here with us.” His gentle voice and eyes reassured her as much as his words. “You ladies go on an' take care of those stings an' I'll get us ready ta roll.”

Regina's pants had been shaken out and the stingers scraped when Martha pulled a jar of salve from a small chest. “This here's the salve my granny used on me whenever I got stung; it should help take the bite out them.”

Martha's kindness and gentleness made tears well in Regina's eyes. I wish she were my ma. “I didn't mean ta deceive ya'.”

Martha smiled sadly. “Didn't ya', though?”

Regina dropped her chin, hiding her tears from Martha. “I'm sorry,” she whispered.

“We understand there was a reason fer it but we need ya' ta tell us the truth now, kin ya' do thet fer us?”

“Yes'm, I kin.”

“Good girl.” Martha wrapped an arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze, dropping a light kiss on the top of her head. She ruffled the ragged ends of Regina's hair. “I'll trim these up later so it'll look nice as it grows out. How long was it before ya' cut it?”

“Down ta my waist, but it's been kinda nice havin' it short.”

“I don't doubt it fer a minute,” Martha chuckled. “You'll probably miss yer pants, too.”

Regina grimaced. “I didn't bring my dress with me; I was afraid it'd be found.”

“Don't worry, we'll find one fer ya' sooner or later,” Martha smiled. “Now let's get out there an' help Earl. Noonin's bound ta be over soon an' I know he's anxious ta hear yer story.” Martha raised the wagon flap and carefully crawled out, Regina following right behind.

“Well, Martha, do ya' think Regina's as much a help as Reggie was?” Earl called out as Regina's feet landed outside the wagon.

Regina reached out and took her battered hat from his hand and slapped it on her head. “Of course I am.”

Working together they soon had the wagon rolling and were walking alongside the oxen, just as they often did.

“Are ya' runnin' away?” Earl asked.

“No, sir,” Regina quickly replied. “Well, not really,” she amended.

Earl's eyebrows rose. “Why don't ya' tell it to us straight, an' don't leave nothin' out.” His voice was gentle but firm, the same as it had been many other times.

Please don't let 'em send me back. “Ma married a man named Dennis five years ago, not knowin' he was a drinker. He drank away most of the money we made doin' laundry and such. My older sister, Beth, married and moved ta Oregon last year.” Regina looked up at Earl, measuring his response.

“So she's not jist a few trains ahead of us, like ya told us?”

“No sir. She's a year ahead of us.” Regina swallowed nervously.

“Do you even know where she is in Oregon?” Earl asked.

“Willamette Valley.”

“Where in Willamette Valley?”

“Um, I don't know,” Regina hesitantly admitted.

Blowing out his breath, Earl flicked his whip on the flank of his lead ox. “Ok. Go on.”

“Ma died a couple months ago an' Dennis was drunk all the time then. I left a month after she died an' he never once looked fer me. Lizzie told me ya' needed ta hire a boy ta help ya', an' well, ya' know the rest from there.” I don't wanna hafta leave.

“So Dennis isn't lookin' fer ya'?” Earl questioned.

“No sir. I was able ta work fer the hotel some an' they let me sleep in the lean-to off the back of the kitchen. They was real kind, but...well, I couldn't stay much longer.” Regina unconsciously grimaced.

“Was Dennis a mean drunk?” Martha asked after a moment.

Regina shivered. “Yeah. Real mean.”

Earl looked at Martha, his jaw tight.

“Why don'cha go gather some chips fer the fire an' give me an' Earl a chance to talk,” Martha said with a small smile.

“Yes'm.” Regina went to get the gunny sack from the wagon, but turned back. “Thank ya' fer lettin' me explain.” Then she snatched up the sack and trotted off to gather chips as she had many other times.

Earl rubbed the whiskers on his jaw. “You believer her?”

“Yes, I do. Every word of it,” Martha said emphatically.

“Yeah, me too,” Earl breathed. His hand tightened on his whip. “Makes me wish I could git my hands on thet man.”

“She's safe with us now,” Martha reminded him.

“Yeah, she is. It shore does explain a lot, don't it?” Earl chuckled. “Like not wantin' ta go swimmin' with us men. I guess it's a good thing I didn't throw 'er in like I threatened ta do iffen she didn't bathe.” His laughter suddenly died. “I wasn't workin' 'er too hard was I?”

“No, I don't think so. There was no sign of it at least,” Martha assured him.

Earl smiled at Martha. “Yer really wantin' ta adopt 'er now, aren't ya'?”

Martha could only nod. “Do ya' think God's givin' us a girl after losin' the babies?”

“I don't know, but I shore hope so. I guess we'll hafta wait an' see.”

Later that evening Regina was playing marbles with the boys again, feeling guilty for the first time. Lizzie flounced up, holding something behind her back.

The boys elbowed each other, groaning. “Git outta here, Lizzie.”

“We told ya', Lizzie, no gossipin' girls.”

“An' I told ya' at the noonin' thet I don't gossip. Iffen I did I woulda told on Reggie a long time ago.”

“Huh? What's she talkin' 'bout, Reggie?”

Aw, not now, Lizzie. I'm not ready yet.

Lizzie thrust a handful of fabric at Reggie. “Here, Ma said I could share one of my dresses with ya' 'till ya' kin git one of yer own.”

“Reggie don't need no dress!”

“Yer crazy, girl.”

Regina ignored the boys and reached out to take the dress. “How long have ya' known?” she croaked.

“I knew thet first week but I didn't say anythin' 'till it was too late fer them ta send ya' back.” Lizzie looked triumphantly at the boys. “See! I told ya' I don't gossip.”

The boys looked at Regina, thunderstruck. “Yer a girl?”


Submitted by
Patty Wysong

Entry: Historical Short Story

Maris Manor
by Carolyn Kenney


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 two weeks after the funeral 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, the hill 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?” Suddenly, 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. My attorney would like to review some papers. However, the door is locked and the servants do not seem to have a key.”

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

“Here, 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.

“James, I was on Colina Hill trying to sort things out regarding my father‘s estate. Uncle Charles followed me!” said Christine with a heavy heart. “He frightens me!”

James said, “Christine, 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. However, I know there is a will! However, 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 more than happy to come over when Mr. Abington comes to visit 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. Please sit down everyone.”

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 he never said where he put it. I assumed that you would have it. Charles wants this manor and now I’m afraid that he may get his wish.”

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 again. 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 safe, but also 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 in other rooms.”

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

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

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

As a child, she would spend hours here in her father‘s library 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 jewelry box and with relief found the key. Silently, she headed for the stairs to the alcove. Eyeing the door 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 of her father on the outside with his name and underneath written “Final Will and Testament.” What a tremendous relief. Now, her uncle would have no part of Maris Manor.

Christine straightened up and locked the alcove door. She slowly walked onto the landing where she could see the land she had grown to love. She glanced once more at the envelope in her hands when a voice startled her. “Christine, my dear,” said Charles. “What do you have?”

Christine turned to see her uncle. She 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 that revealed a side of him Christine had never seen before. 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. “I suggest you leave this property for good.”

“What!” exclaimed Charles. “This is my property now. Two women cannot care for this land.”

“That’s funny,” said James. “I heard that at the first opportunity you are going to sell this manor and the land surrounding it. 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 to his death.

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. Is Uncle Charles dead?”

“Yes, he is.” said James hesitantly. “Oh Christine, I am so sorry.”

“James, I don’t know what I would have done if you had not been here. Why did you come back?”

“I decided to come back and 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, I had the will in my hand, but it slipped when Charles went to grab it,” said Christine with a heavy heart. “I’m afraid that I may have lost it. Will life ever be normal again?”

“The will fell to the ground, but I can see it. 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: Historical Short Story

Battle Casualty
by Richard C. Leonard


Some kids are lucky. They get to have grandparents—both grandmas and grandpas. And some even get to know a great-grandparent or two.

All I ever knew were my two grandmothers. Mostly I remember my mom’s mother, Grandma Chandler, because she lived the longest. I was in high school when she died. I remember sitting on her lap when I was little and thinking how fat she was. In fact my brother and I had a saying about heavyset people, “A little bit fat, but not as fat as Grandma.” She was sort of crabby, too.

So I wish I had known my other Grandma better, Grandma Whitcomb, my dad’s mother. I only saw her a few times, because she lived in Vermont and we lived in the Midwest. The last time was when I was ten, but I remember it well. We were staying at her house while on a trip, and my parents had to go somewhere so she was trying to “entertain” me while my brother was taking a nap.

I don’t know why she thought I would be interested in them, but she brought out a box of old photographs. The ones I liked best were pictures of trains my grandfather had taken, because he worked for a railroad. But there was one more that made me curious. It was a picture of my dad and my uncle sitting on the steps of the old Whitcomb place with Grandma. She was a lot younger, then, but it was easy to tell that it was she in the photo. My grandpa wasn’t in the picture, because I guess he took it.

But there was another lady in the picture, an older one.

“Who’s that other lady?” I asked Grandma.

“That’s your great-grandmother Whitcomb, your dad’s grandma. She lived with us while your dad was growing up.”

I got the feeling that Grandma hadn’t been too happy about that. I asked another question.

“Why did she have to live with you? Was Great-Grandpa Whitcomb dead?”

Grandma paused and looked out the window, then turned to me. “No, Larry. He wasn’t dead. He just didn’t live with your great-grandma.”

I couldn’t understand that, so I blundered ahead. “Why not? Didn’t he like her?”

I thought for a minute that Grandma wasn’t going to answer me, but finally she did.

“I don’t think he disliked her. But he went off and left her alone with your grandpa and his brother, your dad’s uncle Will. And he never came back to her.”

“Why not?” At age ten a boy doesn’t know that some questions can have embarrassing answers.

“Larry, let’s just say he wanted to live somewhere else but your great-grandma didn’t want to go there.”

I persisted. “Where did he want to go?”

“He wanted to go to Oklahoma. It used to be Indian Territory but they were opening it up to settlers from the East.”

“Why did he want to go there?”

“I guess he was just tired of milking cows in Vermont. He thought he could get rich if he went someplace else. So he went by himself, because your great-grandma wouldn’t go with him. He left her all alone with her two boys and never even sent her any money.”

“That wasn’t nice.”

“No, Larry, it wasn’t very nice. I’m afraid Great-Grandpa Whitcomb wasn’t a very nice man. So that’s why your dad’s grandma had to live with us.”

I studied the photograph again. “Didn’t he ever come back to her? What happened to him?”

Grandma sighed. “No, he didn’t come back to Vermont till after Great-Grandma has passed away. When he was an old man he came back and lived in the old soldiers’ home in Bennington.”

“Was Great-Grandpa a soldier?”

“He was in the Civil War, with the Fourteenth Vermont Regiment.”

“Did my dad ever see him?”

“He saw him once. He was in Bennington with his cousin who knew him. They saw him sitting in a rocking chair on the porch at the soldiers’ home. But they didn’t cross the street to talk to him.”

“What was his name?”

Grandma closed her eyes, as though she didn’t want to say it. “His name was . . . John L. Whitcomb. But look, Larry, your parents are back. Please don’t say anything to your dad about what I’ve told you about his grandfather.”

That was my last talk with Grandma Whitcomb, because she died soon afterward. Later on I did ask my dad about his grandfather. He wasn’t upset, but he didn’t have much to add to what I had learned from Grandma.

Time passes quickly, doesn’t it? All too quickly. Before I knew, it seems, I was married with children of my own and my parents were grandparents. Then my father died, and eventually my wife and I had to move my mother out of her house into a retirement home.

That’s when I found the box.

It was a box of old letters my dad had saved, letters between his grandparents—my Grandma Whitcomb’s parents, not my grandpa’s. They were interesting, and that’s a story in itself. But there was another document that caught my eye. It was written in fading ink with crude spellings and missing punctuation. At the top was written “The Battle of Gettysburg, by John L. Whitcomb.” It wasn’t a letter. It was more like a talk my great-grandfather had given to some fellow veterans of the Civil War, and it bore no date. It began like this:

On or about the 25th or 26th of June 1863 the 2nd Vt Brigade were encamped in the vicinity of Occoquam River in Virginia.

Great-Grandfather went on to tell how his brigade had to march toward Gettysburg to meet the Confederate army. He told of an incident along the way. As they marched along his company heard cheering from the ranks ahead of them.

And soon our Co came up of course the mystery was explained. It was this. In the door of a small Cotage house stood a young Girl. She had on an apron. Now comrades you must think that a young lady with an apron on was small cause for so much Cheering. From the waist to the bottom of the dress skirt stripes of red and white alternate. From the waist up to the throat and joints of the sholder something in the shape of a triangle was blue and over this were spread the Stars. The Stars and Strips, Emblem of Liberty. Could any one help but Cheer. No. And up went three cheers from Co G and a rousing Tiger, and so on until all had passed by.

Fascinated, I read on through the account of the march, which included mention of the capture, trial and execution of a “Rebel Spy.” Finally the brigade reached the scene of the battle about to unfold.

Soon now we began to hear musketry mingled with the louder and heavier reports of Cannon, and the wounded were coming back. I never shall forget the first one of them. His face was all covered with blood, he was wounded about the head, his cap in his hand, and as we passed him he swung his Cap and shouted, Boys, we have had a hard one to-day, but now we’ll lick them. A little ways further and we are on the battle field of Gettysburgh. Night is near at hand. The fighting soon stops and all is quiet but an occasional gun from some picket post.

But the day had been a fearfull one for the First and Eleventh Corps. Gen Reynolds of the 1st Corps was killed, shot through the neck. He was at the time riding forward with a few members of his Staff to inspect the field, with view of bringing the rest of his troops into favorable position, when the enemy opened a full volley of musketry, a ball striking him in the neck. Feeling wounded he turned to his soldiers and shouted, Forward men: for Gods sake forward, and fell dying into the arms of one of his companions. Hundreds from the ranks of the 1st corps lay beyond the village stretched in death. Of those who went into the fight in the morning but one half remained.

John went on to relate the awful drama of the battlefield.

Just at day light the next morning, July 3rd, the enemy opened with a few Guns on our position. The second shot that came over went into the Cassion of Gun which close to my Company, blue the whole thing to pieces killing two horses and wounding several of the men and some of my Company did not escape unhurt. In the smoke and confusion we charged right down to the front about 30 or 40 rods and lay down.

For two hours this storm of shot & shell raged in all its fury. We were the first line of battle, and during these few hours there was 125 cannon concentrated on this point, the left centre. At length came the expected Charge of Infantry. Longstreets Corps, massed with Pickets division in front, came down on us with a rush. Our men waited untill they got most to us, and jumped up and began firing, which brought them to a stand still, the ground strewed with their dead and dying. Again with the fierceness of desperation they rushed forward and again were met with the same deadly reception. At about this time they undertook a flank movement. Col Rose of the 14th with part of the Regt head them off, and at the same time, the 16th Regt Col Veasey mad a charge and broke them all up, Hundreds of them throwing down their arms and coming into our lines as prisoners. The tide of the Battle lulled for a time, And again the Artillery did its work alone, untill about 4 oclock when the last desperate Charge was made, the Grand effort which was to sweep the Union lines, or result in the total defeat of the rebel army.

I continued reading through Great-Grandfather’s account of “Pickett’s Charge.”

Nearly the whole of Pickets division, finding itself unable to retreat, was captured, and the remaining divisions reeled back in confusion leaving the ground literally covered with dead. This decided the fate of the Battle. The enemy had staked all upon this last desperate Charge and had been hurled back in confusion and enormous losses.

At dark our Brigade was relieved and sent to the rear for rest and to support a Battery. The roll was called in Company G and of the 36 or 8 that went in, in the morning, only about 14 answered to their names, some killed, some wounded and some missing. The 14th Regt suffered the most of any of the Brigade beaing in the most Exposed position. Myself and a Comrade were detailed to pick up the dead. That I must say, Comrades, was the hardest duty I had to perform while in the service.

I laid the yellowed pages down, not trying to stifle the tears that ought not to well up in the eyes of a grown man.

War, wherever it breaks out, is a scourge upon the human race. The Civil War tore the fabric of our nation and scarred the lives of those who were exposed to its horrors, whether of South or North. The dead and maimed paid their awful price, and those who survived the battlefield paid a price of their own in memories that beset them the rest of their lives.

Did the trauma of Gettysburg have something to do with why John L. Whitcomb later deserted his young Vermont family and struck out upon a new venture in a then-remote part of our country? I will never know the answer. And I do not excuse what my great-grandfather did to his loved ones.

But I will never be ashamed of him.

Submitted by
Richard C. Leonard

Monday, February 11, 2008

Contest Reminder and Recommendation

Happy Monday Morning, Pixels. Just a reminder to get your Historical Short Stories to me by Friday for this week's contest. See the contest details in the post below.



Now for a personal recommendation.


This weekend I devoured a new book - Healing Stones by Nancy Rue and Stephen Arterburn. The authors tackled a difficult subject, and my review wouldn't do it justice. Words to describe this book are realistic, beautiful, painful, loving, life-changing. You just have to read it to see for yourself. A definite must-read.





This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Healing Stones
(Thomas Nelson January 1, 2008)
by
Stephen Arterburn & Nancy Rue


ABOUT THE AUTHORS:


Stephen Arterburn is the founder and chairman of New Life Ministries—the nation’s largest faith-based broadcast, counseling and treatment ministry—and is the host of the nationally syndicated “New Life Live!” daily radio...






By 1996 Nancy was a full-time writer. The Christian Heritage Series made that possible. She was writing those books from the early 1990's until 2000.And then a new opportunity came along--the Lily series. If she ever doubted that she was going to make it as a writer, man, that little red-head put those fears to rest! And, of course, Sophie followed Lily, with some teen and grown-up books in between -- plus the non-fiction books designed just for you.Nancy and her husband live in Tennessee now, overlooking a beautiful lake, lots of sycamore trees, and the rocky Tennessee hills. They have a bright yellow power boat named BANANA SPLIT which you can find us on no matter what the weather. Marijean and her husband live nearby with my three grand-dogs and three grand-cats (and two grand-snakes . . .)


ABOUT THE BOOK


With one flash of a camera, Demi's private life becomes public news. She doesn't know it yet, but her healing has just begun.


Christian college professor Demitria Costanas had vowed to end her affair with a colleague. But she gives into temptation one last time...and a lurking photographer captures her weakness for all to see. Quite literally, she's the woman caught in adultery. And almost everyone--herself included--has a stone to throw.

Enter Sullivan Crisp, a decidedly unorthodox psychologist with his own baggage. He's well-known for his quirky sense of humor and incorporation of "game show" theology into his counseling sessions. And yet there's something more he offers...hope for a fresh start.

Reluctantly the two of them begin an uplifting, uneven journey filled with healing and grace. By turns funny and touching, this story explores the ways humans hurt each other and deceive themselves. And it shows the endlessly creative means God uses to turn stones of accusation and shame into works of beauty that lead us onto the path of healing.


An auspicious debut for a candid yet tender series about pain, healing, and God's invitation for second chances.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008




This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Sister's Ink
Broadman & Holman Books (February 1, 2008)
by
Rebeca Seitz




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rebeca Seitz is Founder and President of Glass Road Public Relations. An author for several years, PRINTS CHARMING was her first novel.Rebeca cut her publicity teeth as the first dedicated publicist for the fiction division of Thomas Nelson Publishers. In 2005, Rebeca resigned from WestBow and opened the doors of GRPR, the only publicity firm of its kind in the country dedicated solely to representing novelists writing from a Christian worldview.Rebeca makes her home in Kentucky with her husband, Charles, and their son, Anderson.




ABOUT THE BOOK:


Sisters, Ink marks the first in a series of novels written by, for, and about scrapbookers. At the center of the creativity and humor are four unlikely young adult sisters, each separately adopted during early childhood into the loving home of Marilyn and Jack Sinclair.Ten years after their mother Marilyn has died, the multi-racial Sinclair sisters (Meg, Kendra, Tandy, and Joy) still return to her converted attic scrapping studio in the small town of Stars Hill, Tennessee, to encourage each other through life’s highs and lows.Book one spotlights headstrong Tandy, a successful yet haunted attorney now living back in Orlando where she spent the first eight years of her life on the streets as a junkie’s kid. When a suddenly enforced leave of absence at work leads her to an extended visit with her sisters in Stars Hill, a business oppor­tunity, rekindled romance, and fresh understanding of God’s will soon follow.


Endorsements:

"What more can any woman want? Sisters, Ink weaves the love of sisters, the fun of scrapbooking, and a romance as sugary and tingling as Sweet Home Alabama. A must read for those who love southern fiction."--DiAnn Mills, author of Leather and Lace and When the Nile Runs Red


"Fun . . . funny . . . fantastic! Rebeca Seitz has brought together scrapbooking and sisterhood in a lively romp, with a love for going home again."--Eva Marie Everson, coauthor of The Potluck Club series.

Monday, February 4, 2008

New Contest Theme: Historical Short Story

Happy Monday, Pixels!

This week's contest is inspired by our guest judge, Maureen Lang. Her latest release, On Sparrow Hill, is a romance set in two time periods - Victorian Ireland and contemporary England.

This week, submit your historical (doesn't have to be a romance, although it can be) short story - 2,000 words or less - for your chance to win an autographed copy of Maureen's book. Submit your entry to tracyruckman [at] gmail.com by Friday, February 15th. The winner of this contest will be announced on Monday, February 18th. Other events will be taking place on the blog in the coming days, but I'll post the story entries as they come in, and try to keep them all grouped together.

Meet our guest judge:

Maureen Lang has always had a passion for writing. She wrote her first novel longhand around the age of ten, put the pages into a notebook she had covered with soft deerskin (nothing but the best!), then passed it around the neighborhood to rave reviews. It was so much fun that she's been writing ever since.

Eventually Maureen became the recipient of a Golden Heart Award from Romance Writers of America, followed by the publication of three secular romance novels. Life took some turns after that, and she gave up writing for fifteen years, until the Lord claimed her to write for Him. Soon she won a Noble Theme Award from American Christian Fiction Writers, and a contract followed a year or so later for Pieces of Silver (a 2007 Christy Award finalist), followed by its sequel, Remember Me.

Maureen lives in the Midwest with her husband, her two sons, and their new puppy, Susie.