Sunday, October 30, 2011

Winners!

The winner of:
  • Shellie Neumeier and Lisa Lickel's Shellie Neumeier and Lisa Lickel's is lgm52
  • Vannetta Chapman's Falling to Pieces is Apple Blossom
  •  Jody Hedlund's The Doctor’s Lady is Marianne
  •  Susan Page Davis' Christmas at Barncastle Inn is Trinity Rose
  • Elaine Marie Cooper's The Promise of Deer Run is Teresa Mathews
  • Lena Nelson Dooley's Maggie's Journey is Diana Flowers
  •  JoAnn Durgin's Second Time Around is Patsy
  •  Lyn Cote's Building A Family is marybelle


Winners, it's your responsibility to contact me (Patty {at}BarnDoorBookLoft {dot}net) with your address so the author can send you a book.

Subscribing by email will ensure you don't miss the winners list. ;-)

Friday, October 21, 2011

with Susan Page Davis

Welcome back to the Barn Door Book Loft, Susan!
What kind of books do you enjoy reading?

I just received Margaret Daley’s From This Day Forward in the mail—it looks great! Historicals are high on my list, but I read lots of different kinds of books. Mystery and suspense are always fun.

If you were a style of music, what style would you be?
Probably folk music.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Probably skulking around the parking garage near the state office building in Augusta, Maine, looking for a sniper’s best vantage point (for a book, of course—this was used in Hearts in the Crosshairs).

Are there things you put off doing because you dread them?
Can you say “vacuuming”?

Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you.
Hebrews 3:13 “But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”

We all need to exhort and encourage one another daily.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
The sequel to The Lady’s Maid is Lady Anne’s Quest, and it will come out next spring—April, I think. As the title implies, it follows Lady Anne Stone, Elise’s mistress, as she goes on with her search. Between now and then, I have an anthology coming out—The Bride’s Prerogative. It will contain all three books of The Ladies’ Shooting Club series. And two of my mysteries will appear (in November and February) in Guideposts’ Patchwork Mysteries series.



You can purchase The Lady's Maid from Amazon.

Susan is giving away a copy of The Lady's Maid. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Susan Page Davis' The Lady's Maid

Susan Page Davis is the author of thirty-seven published novels. Prairie Dreams is her new series from Barbour Publishing. In January, 2011, she was named Favorite Author of the Year among readers of Heartsong Presents books. She’s a member of Women Writing the West and American Christian Fiction Writers and a past winner of the Carol Award (ACFW’s Book of the Year) and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award.

Susan has six children and eight grandchildren and loves to spend time with them. She loves animals, puzzles, reading, and genealogy. A Maine native, Susan now lives in Kentucky with her husband, Jim.

You can find Susan online at
www.susanpagedavis.com,
www.texastrailfiction.com,
www.facebook.com/pages/Susan-Page-Davis.



The Lady's Maid

Elise Finster accompanies her young British mistress, Lady Anne Stone, on a voyage to America in 1855. Lady Anne’s father has died, and her Uncle David is the new Earl of Stoneford—if he steps forward and claims the title. But David disappeared into the American West when Anne was a baby. Now it’s up to her and Elise to find him. They join a wagon train in Independence, Missouri, not realizing they’re leading a killer straight to David.



Here's an excerpt of The Lady's Maid:

Chapter one

January, 1855

Stoneford, near London


“Come with me, Elise. I can’t face him alone.”

Lady Anne gripped her hand so hard that Elise Finster winced. She would do anything to make this day easier for her young mistress.

“Of course, my lady, if they’ll let me.”

The two walked down the sweeping staircase together, their silk skirts swishing and the hems of their crinolines nudging each other. Lady Anne kept her hold on Elise’s hand until they reached the high-ceilinged hall below.

Elise paused at the doorway to the morning room and looked at her mistress. Lady Anne said nothing, but straightened her shoulders. A pang of sympathy lanced Elise’s heart, but she couldn’t bear this burden in the young woman’s place. Anne Stone had to face the future herself.

“Good day, ladies.” Andrew Conrad, the Stone family’s aging solicitor, leaped to his feet from the velvet-upholstered sofa and bowed. “Lady Anne, you look charming. Miss Finster.”

Elise murmured, “Hello, sir,” while Lady Anne allowed Conrad to take her hand and bow over it.

From near the window, a tall, angular man walked forward—Anne’s second cousin, Randolph Stone. Ten years older than Anne, the studious man lived in a modest country home with his wife and two young children and eked out a living on the interest of his father’s meager fortune. Elise gritted her teeth, a reaction he always induced in her. With great effort, she had managed to keep Lady Anne from guessing how much she loathed Randolph.

“Anne.” Stone took his cousin’s hand and kissed it perfunctorily. He nodded in Elise’s direction but didn’t greet her.

“Randolph. I didn’t expect to see you here.” Lady Anne arched her delicate eyebrows at the solicitor.

“Mr. Stone had some questions, and I thought that if he came with me today, I could explain the situation to both of you at once.”

Lady Anne said nothing for a long moment, then nodded.

“Er, if it pleases you, my lady, this is confidential business.” Conrad shot a meaningful glance Elise’s way.

Elise felt her face flush, but held her ground. She wouldn’t leave until Lady Anne told her plainly to do so. Besides, he’d brought along an extra person. Why shouldn’t Lady Anne have that right as well?

“I would like Elise to stay.” The lady smiled, but with a firmness to her jaw befitting the daughter of an earl.

Conrad nodded. “As you wish. Shall we begin, then?”

Lady Anne sat on the upholstered Hepplewhite settee and signaled for Elise to sit beside her. Elise arranged her voluminous skirt and lowered herself, avoiding the direct gaze of Randolph Stone. He didn’t care for her, either, and Elise knew exactly why, but she didn’t believe in letting past discord interfere with the future.

“You must have news,” Lady Anne said. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t have come.”

“That is astute of you, my lady.” Conrad reached inside his coat and brought out an envelope. “I’ve had news that is not really news at all from America.”

“America?” Lady Anne’s tone changed, and she tensed. “Is it my uncle David?”

Conrad sighed and carefully extracted a sheet of coarse rag paper from the envelope. “You are aware, dear lady, that I sent letters the week after your father died, hoping to locate your uncle—that is, David Stone.”

“Earl of Stoneford,” Lady Anne said gently.

“Yes, well, that’s the point, isn’t it?” Conrad sounded tired and the tiniest bit cross, as though he hated being beaten by the Atlantic Ocean and the American postal system. “If your uncle were alive, and if he were here, he would inherit your father’s estate and be acknowledged as Earl of Stoneford, it’s true. But after three months of dilly-dallying, all we have is a letter from the postmaster in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. of A., declaring that while a Mr. David Stone did reside in the city some ten to fifteen years ago and apparently ran a business at that time, no one by the name of David Stone has been found living there now.”

Anne’s shoulders sagged. “Surely they’re mistaken. The last word we had from him came from there.”

Conrad shook his head. “I’m afraid we’ve reached the end of our resources, my lady. I had that letter a couple of weeks ago stating that the city had no death record for your uncle.”

“That was a relief,” Lady Anne said.

“Yes, but all it tells us is that he did not die in St. Louis. Now, the courts agree on the procedure. The trustees will continue managing your father’s estate, but the peerage will remain dormant until your uncle is either found or proven to be deceased.”

Lady Anne stirred. “And why is Randolph here?”

Conrad sighed. “You cousin is next in the line of succession, provided David Stone is proven dead and does not have a male heir. However, it is my duty to tell you both that those things may be impossible to prove.”

“And the title will stay dormant and the estate unclaimed for how long?”

“As long as it takes.” Conrad brought out a handkerchief and patted at his dewy brow. “There are titles that have been dormant for decades—one for more than a hundred years. It will probably never be claimed.”

“But the estate, the property—”

“The crown may decide to dispose of it in time.”

“Surely not, if Uncle David is still out there.”

“The trustees will not spend your father’s fortune in an attempt to find his heir. If you or Mr. Randolph Stone wants to spend your own money trying, that is your affair.”

Here's the book trailer for Lady's Maid:




You can purchase The Lady's Maid from Amazon.

Susan is giving away a copy of The Lady's Maid. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

with K. Dawn Byrd

Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, K. Dawn!
People talk about life before children—what was your life before writing?

Before I started riding I rode a Harley. Once I became truly serious about my writing, I sold it to have more time to write.

What book have you recently enjoyed reading?
I recently enjoyed Simone Elkeles, "Return to Paradise." It's a young adult book. I will caution you though that it does have some language that I didn't appreciate.

If you were a dessert, what would you be?
If I were a dessert, I'd be vanilla ice-cream. I'm the wall flower in a group and don't enjoy being the main attraction.

If you were to find a purple polka-dotted monster in your kitchen one morning, how would you respond?
I'd write him into a book. Isn't that what writers do?

What's one of your dreaded things to do?
I absolutely hate to unload the dishwasher, so my hubby usually does it for me.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
My release schedule is as follows:
January 15- Zoe Mack & The Secret of the Love Letters (college-age romance/mystery)
April 15- Shattered Identity (the sequel to Mistaken Identity)
June 15- Zoe Mack & A Case of Fatal Attraction (college-age romance/mystery)
December 15- Zoe Mack (book 3, as of yet untitled; college-age romance/mystery)

Here's the book trailer for This Time For Keeps:



You can purchase This Time For Keeps from Amazon.

K. Dawn is giving away an e-book copy of This Time For Keeps. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Monday, October 17, 2011

K. Dawn Byrd's This Time For Keeps

**E-book giveaway**
K. Dawn Byrd is an author of inspirational romance and romantic suspense. This Time for Keeps is her fourth release in two years with four more books to follow in 2012. Mistaken Identity, her first young adult romance released on June 15 from Desert Breeze Publishing. She enjoyed writing it so much that she'll have four more young adult releases in 2012. The sequel to Mistaken Identity, Shattered Identity, will release in June and a college-age romance/mystery series, The Zoe Mack Mystery Series, will release in January with others to follow in June and December.

K. Dawn is an avid blogger and gives away several books per week on her blog at www.kdawnbyrd.blogspot.com, most of which are signed by the authors. She's also the moderator of the popular facebook Christian Fiction Gathering group.

When not reading or writing, K. Dawn enjoys spending time with her husband of 16 years while walking their dogs beside a gorgeous lake near her home and plotting the next story waiting to be told.

You can find K. Dawn online at
Desert Breeze Publishing,
www.kdawnbyrd.com,
www.kdawnbyrd.blogspot.com,
and her young adult blog, www.zoe-mack.blogspot.com.

I'm also on Twitter (kdawnbyrd) and facebook (K Dawn Byrd.) I am the moderator of the Christian Fiction Gathering facebook group

This Time For Keeps

India McGuire's peaceful life is shattered when on the night of her engagement to David Richards, she comes face to face with Chase Porter, a long lost love. India must come to terms with her overpowering feelings for Chase and choose between David, the neighbor who says he loves her, and Chase, the man who broke her heart.

Chase's plans of leaving quietly turn to disaster when he finds that it's impossible to disappear without seeing India one last time. Feelings begin to surface that he believed buried forever and he finds himself fighting to win her back even as David struggles to hold onto her.

India longs to follow her heart, but she's been hurt too deeply. Who will she choose? The neighbor who can provide stability or the man she vowed to love forever who may once again heed to the call of the open road?

Here's an excerpt of This Time For Keeps:

As David Richards slid the pear-shaped engagement ring down India McGuire's finger, her thoughts transported her to a day when an eighteen-year-old boy had given her a diamond ring with a tiny stone and a big promise that they'd soon have a life together. Twelve years later, a different man, a different ring, and a different emotional response. Why was she not bursting with joy? Wasn't this what she wanted? What she'd longed for?

Why couldn't she just let Chase go? He'd had no problem walking out on her all those years ago. The happiest day of her life should have been this moment in her small country kitchen. Instead, it was a day overshadowed with memories from the past of her first love.

With tears in her eyes, she thrust her hand out, palm forward, and inspected the ring, a myriad of emotions surging through her and rendering her speechless. As the most eligible bachelor in town, David could provide security, companionship, and even love. She just had to find a way to fill the dark recess of her heart Chase had occupied full-to-bursting with David.

"A penny for your thoughts." David leaned forward, concern furrowing his brow.

India pulled her gaze from the colorful, barnyard chicken wallpaper borders that circled the room and raised her head as his words brought her back to the present. Her eyes met his searching ones. She'd never reveal that her thoughts had taken her back to Chase, the boy who'd left town without so much as a goodbye. Today, the memory caused as much pain as it had when her grandmother had told her he'd left town headed for the Army.

She plastered on what she hoped was her brightest smile and grasped David's hand across the red and white checked tablecloth. "I'm sorry. What were you saying?"

"What are you thinking?"

"It's nothing."

David's gray-blue eyes bored into hers as if she was a puzzle he couldn't quite solve. "Isn't this what you wanted?"

"Sure. I'm just kind of surprised. That's all." She really should let Chase go. After all, he'd not come home once in twelve years. He'd preferred to fly his mother to some ranch out west to visit him. Maybe he couldn't face her. Coward.

David shifted uneasily in his chair, a disappointed look on his face. "I just thought you'd be dancing around the room. Did I read you wrong? I thought you were ready to settle down. With me."

India jumped when lightning flashed outside, sending a momentary flicker of intense light into the room. Her pulse accelerated and she took a deep breath. Now wasn't the time for a panic attack. She'd thought she was making progress when it came to her fear of storms, but now she wondered. How could she answer without telling a lie? Her mind raced to come up with a response. "Storms make me jittery, you know that."

She'd begged God for years to send her a Christian man. David attended church, even went with her. Why did something feel so wrong?

David brushed a stray lock of his brown hair upward, drawing attention to high cheekbones and a chiseled jaw line. The five o'clock shadow he wore so well blended with his gray eyes. He was a man of many facets, able to change with the ease of a chameleon. He was as comfortable in blue jeans on the farm as he was in a business suit in his law office, as comfortable playing politics as she was mucking a horse stall.

It was still hard to believe that a man who looked like he'd stepped from the cover of a fashion magazine had just proposed to her, the woman with splotches of freckles and an oddly upturned nose.

"Slow down and take a breath, honey." David stood, taking India's hands and gently pulling her to her feet.

She returned his embrace, holding on longer than necessary, hoping to dispel the feelings of doubt still gnawing at her gut. India returned his kiss, giving in to the passion, hoping to convince him that she was pleased he'd proposed.

The antique brass knocker on the front door reverberated throughout the downstairs of the cozy A-frame cabin and she pulled away. "I'll be right back. Who'd be out in a storm like this anyway?"

"Get rid of them," David called after her. "We still have wedding plans to make."

A smile tugged at her lips in response as India moved through the living room, her heels clicking in time with her heartbeat as she crossed the honey-colored hardwood floors. She straightened a pillow on the couch and smoothed the throw blanket draped across the back of a rocking chair, hoping to calm her nerves before opening the door. There was probably a lonely, elderly church lady on the other side.

A gasp rattled in her throat as her heartbeat whooshed in her ears like the sound of angry waves crashing into the seashore. The glass of iced tea she held crashed to the floor. India gripped the doorframe, no longer trusting her legs to support her. The boy from the meadow of yellow flowers had returned. Only now, he was a man.

The lopsided grin she'd always loved pulled at Chase's lips. Even after a decade, he could still get to her, could still make her forget that a world existed apart from him, could still make her heart beat like a runner's in a long-distance race.

India studied his face, unashamed. He was more handsome than even she remembered. He'd gained some weight, mainly muscle. The seasoned good looks of a man in his prime, a man exuding confidence and sensuality, had replaced the boyish face she remembered. He was every bit as handsome as David, just in a different way.

A fresh burst of longing captured her breath. The years may have stolen him from her, but they'd not overshadowed the fierce love still surging through her being. At that moment, she realized there was only Chase, had only been Chase, and would only be Chase. No one else could ever abide in his place in her heart.

A gust of wind blew rain onto the porch, spaying past him and tickling her cheeks. She yearned to embrace him, but held back, remembering all too well the pain she'd experienced at his leaving. She was cautious, afraid that one touch might produce a heartache from which she would never recover.

Chase took a step toward her. "You look like you've seen a ghost." He chuckled, his eyes dancing. "I expected a little livelier greeting."

He stooped and picked up the tea glass that lay at his feet. "It's a little wet out here. Can I come in?"

"Of course." India pulled the door open and stepped aside.

Chase's gaze swept her from head to toe. "You've not changed a bit." He reached out and caressed her cheek. "You're even more beautiful than I remembered."



You can purchase This Time For Keeps from Amazon.

K. Dawn is giving away an e-book copy of This Time For Keeps. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Friday, October 14, 2011

with Amanda Stephan

Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, Amanda!
Is there a story behind this book?

Yes, there’s a story behind every book I write. I was being contemplative for a season, and found that way too many people take things for granted. Including their children. Since the birth of our kids, I’ve always tried to stop and remember that one day they’re going to be gone and I’m going to miss them. Horribly! In fact, I’ve already told my husband to get ready to be pampered, because I’m going to need to do it!

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
This is a tough question. Since being published, I’ve had quite a few opportunities to read and review other author’s works, thus pushing me out of my normal genre. I love classics like Jane Eyre and Pride & Prejudice, to cozy mysteries like The Witch Tree by Karin Kaufman and to memoirs that have touched my heart like Children of Dreams by Lorilyn Roberts. If I had to choose my favorite? Mysteries, hands down. But, with that said, those mysteries MUST have a little romance in them…that makes it so much better!

If you were a style of music, what style would you be?
That depends on how many cups of coffee I’ve had! One or two cups, classical. Three to four cups ~ country or Gospel. Five and more… anything with a quick beat and fast tempo and no screaming!! ;)

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I was playing the piano for a wedding, and I played Rocky Top for the announcement of the new Mr. & Mrs. ___ instead of the Wedding March. It was so funny and well received, that his brother got married within the next few months and asked for the same ending.

What is your strangest habit?
My strangest habit is also my biggest curse. I talk to people. It doesn’t matter who it is, or where we’re at, I can strike up a conversation with just about anyone nearby. Which shouldn’t be a bad thing, right? Unless you’re me. One morning at an event, I walked over to a Senior Citizen’s Center and bought some coffee. There were a couple of youngish men helping out, and I thought it was nice of them to volunteer, so I said as much to them. They proceeded to tell me they were “volunteering” because they were on work-release from the prison. I’m sure you can imagine that the first question that jumped into my brain was “What’d you do?!” Of course, being polite, I never asked that question, but at the same time, I couldn’t stop talking to them, right? How terribly rude! So I tried to find trivial things to chat about until my coffee was ready, and to this day, I still have no idea what it was we talked about afterwards. That’s my strangest habit. ALWAYS saying the wrong thing!! No joke. I can be in a group of one hundred people, find the one that just lost their cocker spaniel, and just in passing, mention how horrible it would be to lose my dog.

Are there things you put off doing because you dread them?
Um, yes. Unfortunately it seems to be dinner…

What's your favorite meal with family and friends?
Dinner! Although I often forget or put making it off, I do so enjoy it when we all relax a little and chat at the dinner table. A coming together again. The meal that is most often requested is Hillbilly Casserole. This dish is scrumptious and can be tweaked to fit your particular tastes.

Hillbilly Casserole ~ Family Size
3 cups macaroni cooked according to package directions
1 lb. hamburger, browned and drained
1 can mushroom soup
½ can water
1 pkg frozen corn
2 cups mozzarella cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 13x9 baking pan with cooking spray. (Want it tastier? Melt a glop of butter in the pan while your oven is preheating instead of using cooking spray. Swirl around until bottom is covered.)

In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix together macaroni, cooked hamburger, mushroom soup, water, corn, and half the cheese. Spread into 13x9 baking pan or casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Take foil off and bake 15 more minutes or until cheese is melted and golden brown. Serve with Texas Toast or crusty French Bread.

Don’t have frozen corn? Use your imagination! I’ve used quite a few different vegetables in this casserole and it still gets rave reviews from my picky family!

Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you.
John 14:27 – ”Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

This verse is special to me because it holds so much promise. I’m one of those faint-hearted people that don’t like to step out of their comfort zones, but after the publication of my first novel and practically being thrust out of my C.Z., I have turned to this verse time and time again when things get a little scary or difficult. It’s nice to know I have a Savior that loves me and will give me the comfort I need exactly when I need it!

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
I’m so glad you asked! ;) My next book, Lonely Hearts, is due for release October 30th. We’re planning on having a fun book launch party with lots of free eGifts and prizes. You can find more details on my website, www.booksbyamanda.com

Also, I’m happy to announce that my publisher just picked up my romantic suspense series. We’re hashing out the details, but we’re super excited about it! The first book in the series, Choosing to Love, is about a young woman that is tricked into marrying the wrong man. Book Two continues the saga in – Intent to Harm, and Book Three – Death by Obituary wraps up the story.




Amanda is giving away a copy of Lonely Hearts. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Amanda Stephan's Lonely Hearts

Amanda Stephan is just a normal, everyday country girl. She resides near Columbia, TN with her husband and children, three cats, one dog, and multiple roosters that love to roost under their bedroom windows. She loves to laugh and have a good time, and loves to read a good book. 
   
Out of love for her family and love for God, she finds writing to be an opportunity to share God's love for others in a fun and entertaining way. Her first novel, The Price of Trust, was published in May of 2010, her second novel, Lonely Hearts, is due for release at the end of October, 2011, and her Slade series was just picked up by TreasureLine Publishing.

If you were to ask her to share one thing about herself that most people don't know, she'd have so many to choose from that she'd probably hesitate for a moment. Not quite a recluse, she's rather camera shy, doesn't like to be in the spotlight, and absolutely LOVES to have her feet tickled. But she would say her most interesting accomplishment is that she laughs like Scooby Doo.

You can usually find Amanda lurking in several online places at once like her
Facebook fan page, www.facebook.com/ThePriceOfTrust,
her Facebook author page, www.facebook.com/CreativeHomeMomma,
Twitter, www.twitter.com/AmandaStephan,
her website, www.booksbyamanda.com or www.ThePriceOfTrust.com,
or her personal blog, www.AuthorAmanda.blogspot.com

Lonely Hearts

One lonely mother. Two matchmaking kids. Three eligible bachelors, and some very yummy apple pie!

When widow Becky Callis moves to a new town, she thought it would be easier to start over in a place where she's not reminded of her dead husband. Her kids on the other hand, take it as a chance to help their mother start over romantically. The only problem is, there seems to be quite a few eligible bachelors they can choose from! They soon realize it's easier to find someone to like their mother than it is to figure out which man is best for her.

Even though this handsome cowboy is younger than Becky, Scott makes his interest plain and starts courting her almost immediately to the delight of both kids.

Jack and Becky have been friends since childhood. When they're reunited years after their lives have taken very different paths, this lonely preacher begins to wonder if God has brought her back into his life for a reason.

Pearce Morgan is a single parent raising his young daughter after his wife deserts them soon after Emily's birth. Divorced and disillusioned, an unlikely friendship arises between him and Becky when his shy daughter decides she loves Becky and her kids.
True love is harder than it looks!

Lonely Hearts, a story of second chances, choices, and yummy apple pie will be released in October through TreasureLine Publishing. Exclusive Apple Pie recipe included!

Here's an excerpt of Lonely Hearts:

Chapter 1

Becky Callis was new in town, and she felt her intrusion.

A bearded man outside the hardware store stopped sweeping with broom in mid-air, narrowly watching them as they drove past, perhaps wondering if she were the type to plunder and loot his shop. A couple of older women that had been chatting outside a tiny florist shop suddenly turned to stone, their mouths gaping open, possibly wondering what kind of woman would be caught dead in such an old pick-up truck. Becky even imagined one of their tongues hung out. She repressed a giggle and waved, receiving a incredulous half-wave from one of the women, and no acknowledgment from anyone else. She hated being stared at, and tried to keep a somewhat pleasant smile pasted on her freckled face as she drove through. She could feel her fair skin literally burning with embarrassment.

Her thirteen year old daughter, Jen, gave her a twisted frown. “Mom, what is wrong with these people?” She asked, her pixie face turning dark red as a teenage boy waved at her. “They act like they’ve never seen strangers before!”

Becky’s grin grew larger and more realistic as she gave a two-finger salute to the policeman leaning on his squad car with arms crossed as if daring her to go faster than the posted thirty mile an hour sign. Obediently, she stopped at the one red light the town could boast of and waited for it to turn green.

“I guess,” she said with a shrug, watching an old man sitting outside a diner pretend to read a newspaper. He spit tobacco juice into a jar and set it down next to his chair, his bushy eyebrows making it very clear what he was looking at. “They don’t get too many newcomers here.”

Her face nearly as red as her mother’s, Jen grimaced and pushed her sleeping brother’s head off her shoulder onto the vinyl headrest instead. “Well that’s fine, but they don’t have to stare. Makes me feel like we’re pets in a pet shop!”

“Or beef at a cattle auction.” Becky laughed at her discomfort, noticing that the green light flickered faintly before going completely out. She drove on at the urging of the honking car behind her before she spoke. Jen grunted. “Oh don’t worry, they’ll get used to us and I’m pretty sure you’re going to like it here. Just think,” she said brightly, turning onto a dirt road the ratty map indicated. “We’re celebrities!”

Jen laughed and looked out the window, taking in the country scene before her, the nosy townsfolk left behind. Large open fields of tall grass, trees lining the road, and mountains off in the distance made it a lovely scene she couldn’t find fault with.

Becky smiled a sad, wistful smile, thankful she had her kids.

In the nine lonely years following Frank’s death, she often found herself wondering how she was supposed to cope and go on as she desperately missed her ‘better half.’

Well, I’ll never forget what Frank looked like, she thought a little morosely to herself as she glanced over at Jeff. Tall for his eleven years, his cherubic face hid a wealth of mischievousness and humor that always brightened her day, especially when he looked at her with his guilty dark brown eyes as if to say he were extremely sorry for some prank he was about to pull or had pulled. Just like his father. Her heart wrenched with sadness, and she quickly turned her thoughts to another source of comfort.

Jen. When she looked at her daughter, it was like she was looking into a mirror. Petite, sassy copper hair that loved being just a tad on the unmanageable side, her hazel eyes full of compassion and loyalty, quick to laugh and quick to cry, she promised to be a beauty when she got older. Like her mother.

At least that’s what Frank had always said, Becky fought against the lump that insisted on forming in her throat as more memories of her dead husband flooded in.

Just in time to stop a tirade of reminiscent thoughts that would push her into a melancholy spirit, Jeff let out a terrific snore and wetly smacked his lips, making them erupt into giggles as his head lolled once again onto his sister’s shoulder. She rolled her eyes, but didn’t move him.

A few minutes later, Becky pulled into what looked like a tractor path instead of a driveway and stopped abruptly when a home came into view. “Jen, would you please check the address and see if this is the right place.” She asked solemnly, studying the old, dilapidated farm house, complete with thigh-high weeds for a lawn.

Brittle shutters hung on by sheer will-power next to dusty, grimy windows, a huge, antique antenna clutched a thin wire as if for dear life and tapped against the side of the house, knocking off peeling paint with every slight breeze, while a rustic lean-to that served as a shed as well as termite dessert, stood dejectedly off to one side of the drive. She tried to stifle a laugh and ended up snorting instead.

“Mom,” Jen answered doubtfully, looking at the paper in her hand. “This is the right place,” she wrinkled her nose, “but I don’t think the guy you’re renting it from told you the truth. Didn’t he say it was nice?”

They looked over at each other and burst out laughing, waking Jeffrey out of a terrific snore storm.

He bolted upright and rubbed his eyes and looked out the window. “Huh? What? What are you guys laughing at? Why are we stopped here?” He asked suspiciously.

“Welcome home kids,” Becky said, grinning as she pulled up alongside the drooping porch and turned off the truck.

Jen opened her door and glanced down at the weeds. Becky could almost see her thinking about ticks and bugs getting on her. “Oh my word,” she muttered as she looked around, a dismal frown on her face. “How are we supposed to get in? Is he going to meet us here or something?”

Jeff, always ready for an adventure, hopped out of the truck and ran to the porch. “He said he would leave the key under the mat by the front door. Come on,” he said as he ran, wanting to be there before his more precautious sister.

Unthinking, he yanked on the handle of the screen door, causing the whole thing to fall right off the frame on top of him. “Uh, mom?” He hung his head in shame, embarrassed that he’d already broken something. “I think we’re going to need a new screen door!”

“I’m pretty sure that’s not the only thing we’re going to have to work on.” Jen laughed, thankful that it had happened to him, and not her.

“Noted!” Becky answered good-naturedly, giving him a thumbs-up. She unlatched the tailgate, smacking her hands across her jeans in an effort to erase the dust she’d accrued during their long hours of driving with the windows down.

“Hey mom!” Jeff called, putting an end to her depressing musings. “You should see the beehive up here!” He pointed to a gigantic paper wasp hive in the corner of the porch ceiling.

Jen jumped off the porch, squealing as Jeff picked up a stick to poke at the hive. “Jeffrey Allen! Don’t you dare!”

“Did you find the key?” Becky called, trying to distract Jeff from the beehive.

“You don’t need it,” he said, innocently trying to hide the stick behind his back. “The door’s open.”

“Leave it alone,” warned Becky just as he was about to give the hive a good whack as she turned to go back to the truck.

“Aww,” mumbled Jeff, dropping the stick and shuffling to the car with his hands in his pockets. “Do you have eyes in the back of your head or something?” He grumbled, stepping up next to her as she pulled some boxes toward the edge of the tailgate of her old beat-up Chevy.

“Here,” she said, handing him a smaller box. “Why don’t you two help me and take some of these boxes in the house. And no. I don’t have eyes in the back of my head, I just know you awfully well.” She smiled indulgently at him, ruffling his thick hair.

Jen grabbed a box and started hauling it to the porch. “Too bad we sold our mower. Maybe we should get a cow!” She looked hopefully back at her mother.

“What’s the matter? Don’t you like the grass?” Becky laughed as she pushed more boxes near the end of the truck making it easier for the kids to grab them.

“Grass?” Jeff asked dubiously, struggling with his load. “If it were any taller, it would be over my head!”

Sensing her opportunity to pick on her brother, Jen blurted, “What do you mean, ‘would be’? It already is!”

Somewhat sensitive about his size, he glared ferociously at her, making her stifle any more comments she might have had.

“Come on now,” Becky said repressing a grin as she slapped him on the back. “Let’s all get along now. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and I’m going to need lots of help. Here,” she handed a box of cleaning supplies to Jen, and a broom and mop to Jeff. “Please take these into the kitchen.”

They did as they were told, quietly quarreling amongst themselves as they left her to stack things on the porch. Becky was just setting down another load when she heard a loud crash and screams coming from the kitchen. Immediately dropping everything, her heart in her throat, she raced into the house expecting something terrible.

Looking wildly around the kitchen, she was surprised to see both kids standing on the chipped white Formica counter, their faces white with terror. “What is it?” A large box of pots and pans lay ominously in the middle of the tiny kitchen and several lids had rolled over toward the antique refrigerator. This had obviously been the loud crash she had heard outside. Nudging the upset box with her toe, she wondered momentarily if a large poisonous spider had hitched a ride from their previous home and had scared the kids.

Jen pointed to the small utility closet at the end of the room while she clutched Jeff’s arm with the other. “There’s an animal in there!” She said, shuddering with horror. “I think it’s a huge rat!”

“Of all the things we have to have in the house, it’s got to be a rat!” Becky said shuddering convulsively, her lips stretched in a thin line. She hated rats and mice more than anything, and was always disgusted whenever she had to deal with them for some reason or other.

Cautiously, she grabbed a broom and tiptoed to the door, listening intently for any sound inside. Jeff shrugged off his sister’s hand and lightly jumped down off the counter, interested in seeing for himself what was in the closet. “Do you hear anything?” he whispered.

Becky shook her head and gently twisted the knob, ready to use the broom as a weapon and squash whatever it was. Slowly, she pulled the creaky door open. Taking a deep breath, she peeped inside and caught sight of two brown eyes looking back at her. Opening the door all the way, she found to her surprise and immense relief, a pair of baby raccoons.

“Oh look,” she said, motioning for Jen to come down from her perch and look.

“They’re so cute,” Jeff said, poking his head inside the door so he wouldn’t miss a chance to see what had caused all the fuss. “Can we keep them?” he asked, looking up hopefully.

“No way,” Jen said, finally getting up the nerve to climb down. “That thing scared me to death.”

“I wonder how they got in here,” Becky mumbled, looking around the closet.

“Maybe it got in through there,” Jeff said, pointing to the broken floor register. When he stepped in to get a closer look, one of the raccoons backed up to the wall and hissed menacingly at him.

“I think we’re not going to get to keep either of these little critters,” Becky said, pulling him back out of the closet by the back of his shirt. “Go open the front door and I’ll try to sweep them out. Jen, get the mop and head them off if they try to escape.” Obediently, Jen grabbed the mop as Becky started sweeping both hissing and angry raccoons out the door. Finally, after three mishaps with one of the raccoons almost getting away and Jen re-climbing the counter screaming, they managed to sweep them both to freedom. Laughing, they hurriedly shut the door before they could change their minds and come back in.

“Jeff,” Becky said, turning to him. “Get the tool box out of the front of the truck and see if you can try to fix that register so they can’t get back in that way.” Jeff’s face lit up, happy to have a ‘man’s job’ to do.

“We don’t have much more to do,” Becky sighed, as she and Jen went outside to finish unpacking the truck.

Her face red with exertion, Jen swept a few strands of hair back and stood erect, trying to unkink her back after lugging a large box into the front room. “I sure am glad that we decided to have those yard sales before we moved.”

Becky puffed and tried to navigate around the room with her vision blocked by the load of boxes in her arms. “Oh come on, don’t you think it would have been interesting for you, Jeff, and I to carry in a couch?” She laughed as she and Jen slid down the wall and finally slumped to the floor, relaxing.

With an air of delight and pride, Jeff came in and joined them, his grin splitting his face in half. “I tried to fix that register the best I could. I don’t think he’ll be back. Duct tape fixes everything!”

Becky clapped him on the back. “Thanks. And thank you too Jen. I appreciate both of your help.” She leaned back and closed her eyes, drained.

Contentedly, they sat for a few minutes, hoping this could be the last move.

Mom,” Jen said, her alarmed voice breaking the silence. “Someone’s here.”

Groaning, Becky stood up and arched her back just in time to see an old flat bed farm truck coming up the rutted drive.
“It could be the guy we’re renting from,” she said, unsure of herself. Quickly, she tucked a few stray hairs behind her ears and dusted off her jeans, trying to look presentable to whoever it was.

As it neared the house, the truck turned off the driveway to park in the long grass right in front of their door. A bent over old man in greasy overalls managed to get out and limp up the steps, chewing on a weed. He spat it out and knocked before he entered the room uninvited.

Alarmed, Becky stood with her hands on her hips, ready to push the fragile looking man out the door if necessary.

“Howdy,” he drawled, eyeing her and the two kids. “Name’s Pickles.” He stuck out a grubby, calloused hand her way, obviously intending to shake.

Becky took his hand and gave it a light squeeze and a gentle shake, afraid she would hurt him. “You’re the landlord?” She asked, looking over his shoulder at her open-mouthed kids.

He ran his hands up and down his overalls straps, amused. “Yup,” he said, glancing around at all the boxes. “This all ya got?”

“Yup,” Jeff mimicked humorously before Becky could answer. She shot him a warning look, her scowl deepening as he shrugged his shoulders and smiled like a Cheshire cat.

“That’s my kind of boy,” the old man grinned, scratching his bald head. “Ya got a year lease and yer rent is due the first of the month,” he said, getting right to the point. “I live right down the road to the left if ya be needin’ anything, just give me a holler. Glad ya made it,” he stuck his hand out again.

Liking his simple, country ways, Becky found herself pumping his hand up and down a little more enthusiastically this time. “There is one thing we need, if you wouldn’t mind. I don’t have a lawnmower.” She raised her eyebrows as she tried to give him the hint as she walked him out to the porch.

A look of pure astonishment passed across his weathered features as he scratched his head again. He thought a moment before answering. “Well ya ain’t got to worry about the grass. It’ll die in a few weeks when it gets colder out.”

Becky followed him to his truck, not quite ready to give up. “You don’t have one? We’d really like to cut the grass.”

Jen snorted, close at her mother’s heels. She hated being left out of conversations. “Yeah, we can’t find Jeff if he steps off the path.” Becky nudged her in the ribs, making her squeak.

“Sure I got one,” he said, climbing into his truck. “Bye.” He waved as he put the old truck in gear and drove off, another long weed clutched between his teeth.

Stunned, they watched him leave, a trail of dust clouds hanging in the air. “I think that means he’ll bring it tomorrow,” Jeff said after a moment, joining them on the porch. Amused, they burst into laughter at their neighbor’s odd ways.

Becky ran a hand over her face, her eyes twinkling merrily. “Who’s hungry?”

Always anxious to eat, Jeff gave a loud whoop as he jumped in the air. “I’m starving! What’re we going to have?”

She shrugged, looking from one happy child to the other. “I thought we’d just go out for something tonight, what do you think?” Grinning at their exuberant ‘yes’, she clapped Jeff on his shoulder and grabbed her purse. “Let’s go!”




Amanda is giving away a copy of Lonely Hearts. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

with Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, Shannon!
Is there a story behind this book?

Several years ago, my husband I took our son to the Arkansas State Fair. I saw a girl dressed in a pin-striped business suit and black suede boots holding hands with a cowboy wearing Wranglers, Stetson, and boots. I wondered where they met and what they could possibly have in common. I wrote a short story about a city girl and a bull rider, but it soon became a book.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
I always read inspirational. Usually contemporary romance, sometimes I delve into women's fiction, and on rare occasions, I read romantic suspense. I love happily-ever-afters, so that's why I enjoy romance the most.

I don't read very often because I don't want to do anything else when I've got a good book. I recently read Mary Connealy's Buffalo Gal. It's an older book, but I just got around to it. It was a hoot and the conflict was great. She really had me wondering how she would get the hero and heroine together.

If you were a style of music, what style would you be?
Traditional hymns

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
When I was at the Romance Waterfalls for my book launch party for my debut novel, I realized that all of my heroes and heroines in that series had romantic moments at the falls. I grabbed my husband and made him kiss me while my friend took pictures. He was really uncomfortable kissing for the camera, but I love those pictures.

Are there things you put off doing because you dread them?
Putting the laundry away. If it doesn't matter if it wrinkles, it gets stalled in the laundry basket.

What's your favorite meal with family and friends?
Lasagna
Noodles (The kind you don’t have to cook first)
2 lbs. Hamburger
32 oz. Spaghetti Sauce (I use Prego Traditional)
1 ½ cups water
3 cups Mozzarella Cheese
2 cups Cottage Cheese (hubby doesn’t like curds, so I put in the blender with eggs)
2 Eggs

Cook hamburger and drain. Mix hamburger, spaghetti sauce, and water, let simmer. Mix cheeses and eggs in separate dish. Layer sauce mix, uncooked noodles, sauce mix, cheese mixture, noodles, etc. ending with sauce mix in deep 10 x 13 pan. Cover with foil and bake 1 hour at 350.

Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you.
Colossians 3:23: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” It's my life verse and try to follow it in everything I do.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
Rodeo Dust should be available any time at http://www.heartsongpresents.com/books. The next book in the series is about a youth director/bull fighter (formerly known as rodeo clown) and a formerly promiscuous photographer. It's set in Aubrey and the Fort Worth/Dallas, Texas area. My family and I went to the Fort Worth Stockyards last spring so I could get the details right. I don't have an official release date, but I think next spring.




Shannon is giving away a copy of Rodeo Dust. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

with Fred Warren

Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, Fred!
People talk about life before children—what was your life before writing?

As with my life before children, it was dull and considerably less stressful. Seriously, I spent many years walking around with all these ideas in my head, fragments of stories I intended to write someday when I got around to it. Now that I’ve finally gotten around to it, I’m having a wonderful time and wish I’d begun sooner.

What book have you recently enjoyed reading?
I’m revisiting Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which I haven’t read since high school and am enjoying much more now. I’m also reading Winter, a supernatural thriller by a fellow writer at Splashdown Books, Keven Newsome, that tells the story of a reluctant teenage prophetess battling the forces of evil.

If you were a dessert, what would you be?
Tiramisu--the perfect blending of vanilla custard, cookies, and coffee.

If you were to find a purple polka-dotted monster in your kitchen one morning, how would you respond?
I’d probably invite him to share a donut and a cup of coffee, so I could grill him for story ideas. It’s easier with the purple ones—they love to talk. The green ones won’t stop eating long enough to begin a conversation. They eat all the donuts, and when they’re done, the wipe their mouth on the tablecloth.

Tell us about one of your favorite memories or moments in your life.
It’s hard to pick one. There’s the day I proposed to my wife—I took her to a Japanese garden in Fresno, California, where she was attending college. The garden was an odd thing to find in Fresno, which is known more for fields of corn and raisins, but it was very pretty and romantic, with decorative rock sculptures, flowers, waterfalls, and wooden bridges. We sat under a tree, and I asked her to marry me. She said she’d have to think about it. Fortunately for me, she didn’t have to think very long.

What's one of your dreaded things to do?
It’s a dead heat between lawn care and tax returns.

What is the Lord teaching you, or recently taught you?
When things start piling up on me, I need to stop and pray. It’s nothing new or earth-shattering, but I always get so wrapped up in trying to solve problems myself, I forget that God wants to help me, and without His help, I’ll probably make a mess of it anyhow.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
The Seer, a sequel to my novel, The Muse, will be published by Splashdown Books very soon--in the next week or two. It’s a modern fantasy in which the world of dreams and imagination intrudes into real life. Disturbing visions foretell danger for a father and daughter wrestling with a heartbreaking tragedy, and they discover that the greatest threat to their future lurks in their past.




Fred is giving away a copy of The Seer. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Shannon Taylor Vannatter's Rodeo Dust

Shannon is a stay-at-home mom and pastor’s wife in central Arkansas. Her debut novel, White Roses, won the 2011 Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category. The Eighteenth Annual Heartsong Awards named her Third Favorite New Author, and White Roses #1 and White Doves #8 in the contemporary category. The Arkansas Democrat Three Rivers Edition voted her "One of Twenty to Watch in 2011."

You can find Shannon online at
www.shannonvannatter.com,
www.shannonvannatter.com/blog,
www.inkspirationalmessages.com,
www.facebook.com,
twitter.com/#!/stvauthor.

Rodeo Dust

Ad exec, Rayna Landers meets bull rider, Clay Warren at the State Fair of Texas. While Rayna thinks she’s content solo, Clay longs for marriage and family. Though poised to win his third world championship, his ranch is in a slump. Clay convinces his publicist to hire her advertising firm in a last-ditch effort to keep his employees and lasso her heart.

Soon the city girl is on the ride of her life, until the rodeo unearths buried memories from her past. Clay sees her through the trauma, but an injury and his stubborn determination to get back in the hypothetical saddle threatens their budding relationship. Can they rely on God to find their common ground or will they draw a line in the rodeo dust that neither will cross?

Here's an excerpt of Rodeo Dust:

“Ew!” Rayna Landers’ spike-heeled boot skidded in a huge pile of manure. Double doors, a hundred feet away, beckoned. At last, the final barn, lined with bored-looking Longhorns, on the endless, roller-coaster-rideless evening at the State Fair of Texas.

Captivated cowboys, cowgirls, and mini versions of both surveyed the cattle. The only place she wanted to see beef was in the form of filet mignon topped with mushroom sauce at Morton’s The Steakhouse.

A huge russet-colored bull glared at her through a rail barrier that surely couldn’t contain the monster. Unmoving. Unblinking. Maybe he’d read her mind. He pawed at the sawdust under an enormous hoof with clear intentions of pulverizing her.

Despite the warmth of the late September evening, a chill seeped into her bones. She turned away from the massive beast and lunged for the safety of the nearby exit.

She looked back, certain the creature would surge through the fence and run her under. Something solid stopped her flight. She yelped and muscled arms caught her.

“Sorry ma’am. Didn’t see you coming.” He stood well over six feet with eyes so green they almost glowed. Even with her at five feet nine and wearing heels, he still had a few inches on her. The requisite black hat, sitting at the perfect angle, couldn’t quite restrain his raven curls. The cleft in his chin deepened with each heart-stopping smile.

While his looks gave her heart an erratic rhythm, his hands on her forearms felt safe, steady.

Step away from the cowboy.

Her feet took the mental hint, and she tried to wipe the muck off her heel in a patch of grass. She gulped for fresh air, but the smell of the stockyards persisted.

“Are you all right?”




Shannon is giving away a copy of Rodeo Dust. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Fred Warren's The Seer

Fred works as a government contractor in eastern Kansas, providing computer simulation support for Army training. He has been married for 25 years to the girl who should have been his high school sweetheart, and has three kids, three dogs, and a mortgage.

He’s written more than twenty short stories that have been published in a variety of print and online magazines, and many of these are collected in an anthology, Odd Little Miracles, that was published in July 2011. His novel, The Muse, debuted in November 2009 from Splashdown Books, and was a finalist for the 2010 American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award for book of the year in the speculative genre. The Seer, a sequel to The Muse, will be published by Splashdown Books later this year.

Fred is a weekly columnist at Speculative Faith, an online journal for readers and authors exploring Christian visionary fiction. He blogs his writing experiences and provides book and media reviews at frederation.wordpress.com.

You can find Fred online at
frederation.wordpress.com,
Twitter: @frederation
www.speculativefaith.com,
www.splashdownbooks.com.






The Seer

Disturbing visions foretell danger for a father and daughter
wrestling with a heartbreaking tragedy, and they discover that the
greatest threat to their future lurks in their past.





Here's an excerpt of The Seer:

Chapter 1

Siri's hair swirled in the frigid wind as she staggered backward, salt tears mingling with the tiny needles of ice stinging her cheeks. She pulled her sword from the twisted corpse at her feet. Black blood dripped from the silver blade—once, twice. She didn't bother to wipe it. Instead, with a scream powered by months of sorrow and rage, she sent it spinning through the air, over the precipice. Steel clashed on stone somewhere far below as the sword found its final resting place, lost forever.

That was her hope, at least. Siri stared at the body of her adversary, the dark sorceress who had destroyed her kingdom, enslaved her people, and slain Taron.

Taron, her love. The only love Siri had ever known.

Teardrops pattered into the snow.

Wrapping her cloak around her shoulders and over her head, she turned away and trudged down the mountain, toward what home remained to her.

“Goodbye, my sister,” she murmured. “May the All-Father have mercy on you, as I could not.”


A hand gently touched Stan's shoulder, and he spun his chair around, a thrill of joy surging in his heart that subsided as he saw his daughter’s worried face.

“Oh...Hannah.”

“Who else would it be? C'mon, Dad. It's time.”

“Right. Let me save this, and we'll go. Are the breakfast dishes finished?”

“Mm-hmm. Dried and put away, table wiped. Yes, Squick's fed, walked, and snoozing.” Hannah squinted at the computer screen. “How's the story coming?”

Stan switched off the monitor and closed the desk's roll-top. “Almost finished. It's not ending at all like I expected.”

“As if you ever have a plan.” She held out a key ring. “You’re driving.”

“Oh, thank you, your Highness. To what do I owe this great privilege, besides the fact you’re not old enough for a license?”

“Eleven months until I get my permit. Enjoy your time behind the wheel while you can. Even if I had it, I’d probably let you drive. My mind's wandering.”

“Fair enough. Make sure it leaves a trail of bread crumbs, so it can find its way home.”

“You are so funny.”

“Thank you. I'll be here all year. Grab a broom on the way out. We'll need to sweep snow from the stone.”

***

The Real Goodbye. That’s what Hannah called it, in her private thoughts. There weren’t many real goodbyes left in the world. She had friends who moved halfway across the world who still sent her texts or e-mails, maybe posted a funny picture on her Facebook page. They might well have moved into an adjoining room, for all the impact their absence had on her. Distant relatives had died, an uncle here, a cousin there. They had a funeral, people she hardly knew enveloped her in crushing, watery hugs, promising to stay in better touch, and that was that. Life went on, and memory faded.

This was different. This was the goodbye that never ended, the memorial they reenacted every year, the ache that never quite faded away. She wished her memories were as durable as the pain. More and more, she found herself grasping for the sound of her mother’s voice, the feeling of a moment they’d shared, the warmth of her embrace, the scent of her perfume. Going, going, gone.

She pulled a broom from the closet. Not the big one with the long handle that wouldn’t fit in the trunk, or the short whisk that got snow all over their hands, but the middle-sized one they ended up using for everything anyway. Hannah wondered why they hadn’t bought three of them and been done with brooms forever. She held the broom near the bristles, waving it in a circular motion, like a rapier, then lunging forward to skewer an imaginary opponent. The stupid thing even made a passable sword.

The Goldilocks Broom. Just right, but today, so wrong. She was going to a place she should never have to see, doing something she should never have to do—not now, not at fourteen years old, brushing away another layer of memories along with the snow.




Fred is giving away a copy of The Seer. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

with Lyn Cote

Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, Lyn!
Is there a story behind this book?

I like to set books in my home state of WI and I've used many familiar locales in the three books in my "New Friends Street" series for Love Inspired. I also like featured one of my favorite charities/missions, Habitat for Humanity, in this series. Each house is being built for a special family and by special people, special because of God's love for them.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
I love reading inspirational romance, especially Roxanne Rustand, Lenora Worth, Marta Perry, Val Hansen, Irene Brand and Gail Martin. I also like to read mysteries. Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers are my faves there.

What's your favorite meal with family and friends?
I love to cook! I love to make comfort food like roast beef and gravy with mashed potatoes. (I always leave lumps so people don't ask-"Are these real?" :-)

Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you.
My life verse is Psalm 37: 4-5 ”Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. ”

I like this verse because it places the LORD first. If we put him first in our lives, our lives will flow toward him and bring with it blessings we can't imagine. And carry us through difficult times.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
Building a Family, out this month, is the final book in my "New Friends Street" series for Love Inspired. I've come up with a mix of characters of all ages and backgrounds that make me smile. And plenty of strong women carry the story along. My books always match my brand, "Strong Women, Brave Stories." My blog follows my brand also, featuring strong women and the stories they have lived and write. Earlier this year, I posted a complete book on my blog, 3 scenes a week Jan-July to get reader-feedback. I'll be bringing out that book, La Belle Christiane, later this month myself as a print and ebook. I may do this again. Check my blog in January 2012 and see if I find time!



You can purchase Building a Family from Amazon.

Lyn is giving away a copy of Building a Family. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Lyn Cote's Building a Family

When Lyn Cote became a mother, she gave up teaching, and while raising a son and a daughter, she began working on her first novel. Rejection followed. Finally in 1997, Lyn got "the call." Her first book, Never Alone, was chosen for the brand new Love Inspired romance line. Since then, Lyn has had over thirty-five novels published. In 2006 Lyn's book, Chloe, was a finalist for the RITA, and her book Her Patchwork Family and Her Healing Ways were finalists for the Carol Award in 2010 & 2011, two of the highest awards in romance.

Lyn’s brand “Strong Women, Brave Stories,” always includes three elements: a strong heroine who is a passionate participant in her times, authentic historical detail and a multicultural cast of characters. Lyn also features stories of strong women both from real life and true to life fiction on her blog www.BooksbyLynCote.com.

Writing books at her lake cottage in northern Wisconsin, Lyn hopes her books show the power of divine and human love.

You can find Lyn online at
www.LynCote.net,
twitter.com/#!/LynCote,
www.facebook.com/lyn.cote,
www.goodreads.com/author/show/101121.Lyn_Cote.



Building a Family

Lawyer Eleanor Washburn defends wayward teenagers and supervises volunteers for Habitat for Humanity without missing a beat. But she is unnerved by fascinating single dad Pete Beck—especially since his chaotic life includes a little girl wishing for a mother. Sweet Cassie has Eleanor yearning for what's been missing from her lonely existence. Soon, both dad and daughter are chipping away at Eleanor's defenses. Can she find the courage to risk losing her heart to this ready-made family?


Here's an excerpt of Building a Family:

Under the intense June sun, Pete Beck parked his new blue pickup under a shady maple on New Friends Street in Hope, Wisconsin. "Here we are," he announced to his two teenaged passengers. Ignoring the negative vibes rippling from them, he slid out and folded his seat forward to help his exuberant four-year-old daughter Cassie out of her booster seat.

Under a blue, blue sky, he swung little Cassie up into his arms and kissed her cheek with a loud raspberry. She shrieked, "Daddy!" and giggled. The two teens climbed down from the truck and trailed after him, their hands shoved into their pockets. Pete experienced a flash of sympathy for the two teens. Maturing from a boy to a man wasn't ever easy.

Before he could stop her, Cassie squirmed and broke out of his arms, running ahead. "Cassie!" he called. "Wait!" He raced after her. He caught up to her just as she halted in front of a tall African-American man holding a little girl about the same age as Cassie.

"Hi." Cassie waved up at the little girl. "Pretty. In your hair." Cassie pointed to the bright beads braided into the dark hair.

"You need to say thank you," the man said, letting his daughter down to join Cassie.

"Thank you," his little girl parroted, pointing at Cassie. "You got sunshine in your hair."

"I do?" Cassie looked upward at her own hair.

"Some people call her hair strawberry-blond," a soft woman's voice said from behind Pete.

He turned and saw Eleanor Washburn approaching him. She looked different than she had that bleak day back in March when they'd met. More relaxed. Even kind of pretty.

"I'm Kevan Paxton," the African-American man said, offering Pete his hand.

Pete shook it. "You're the family that's getting this Habitat house, right?"

Kevan grinned. "Yes, we're the lucky family—"

"I'm Cassie," Pete's daughter said to Kevan's little girl. "What's your name?"

"I'm Tiesha. My mama's gonna have a baby." The little girl rested her head on her mother's rounded abdomen.

"I gotta big brother. He's at Little League with my grandma."

The adults, who'd paused to listen to this exchange, chuckled.

"I'm happy you came," Eleanor said, holding her hand out to Pete. "Kevan, this is Pete Beck, the building-trades teacher at the local high school. And I see he's brought along two of his students."

Pete took Eleanor's hand, surprised to feel calluses on her palm. That shouldn't surprise me. This is the third Habitat house project she's directed.

The two teens, one on either side of him, nodded, then mumbled something. Both refused to make eye contact. Kids. They thought they knew it all, yet they had so much to learn.

Eleanor glanced at her watch. "It's time for me to get the dedication started. Kevan, will you bring your family forward so I can introduce you?" She smiled at Pete and patted Cassie's head, then turned and walked toward an area already excavated for the foundation.

Pete couldn't help watching her go, assessing her.

"She's why we didn't want to come," Luis, one of the teens, said under his breath, near Pete's ear. "We been in trouble, you know? She defended us in juvenile court so she knows what we did. I mean, it was just stupid stuff, but we got in trouble for it." Luis lowered his voice more, as if not wanting Cassie to hear. "That lady's down on us, man."

"All in your imagination." Pete reached down to take Cassie's hand. But she was running again. He hurried after her. How could little legs move that fast?



Eleanor took her place at the front of the crowd. A bee buzzed past her nose. She began her welcome. "Good morning!" she called out, holding up her hands.

The crowd quieted and turned toward her.

"I'm so glad you've come to the dedication of the final Habitat house to be built here on New Friends Street." She smiled with all her might, hoping her zeal would prove contagious. "I'd like you to meet our Habitat family." She motioned with her hand. "Kevan, will you please come forward and bring your family with you?"

Kevan grasped his wife's hand and led his family to Eleanor, Cassie tagging along. "My pleasure, Ms. Washburn." He faced the crowd, exuding happiness. "I'm

Kevan Paxton. This little sweetheart is our four-year-old daughter." His little girl favored Kevan. "And this is my wife, my strength." With hair neatly beaded into corn rows, his wife looked happy, healthy—and very round. "As you might notice, another little Paxton is due to arrive in August."

Laughter punctuated the well-wishes called out.

Eleanor noted that the two little girls were holding hands. The sight of such innocent sweetness touched her deeply. "Thank you, Kevan," Eleanor said. "And thank you for your service in Iraq—"

Spontaneous applause and whistling broke out. When the applause ebbed, she started to speak about Habitat for Humanity. Kevan and his family moved away to stand beside Pete.

Then someone yanked her pant leg.

Eleanor glanced down to see Pete Beck's pretty little girl with her strawberry-blond hair. Cassie lifted her arms to Eleanor. The gesture was unmistakable; Eleanor's response was automatic. She swung the child into her arms—and felt herself swept up in brand-new sensations. She couldn't recall ever holding a child. The desire to have a child of her own coursed through her with startling force.

The little girl wrapped her arms around Eleanor's neck and hugged her. Then she leaned back and, nose to nose with Eleanor, said, "You're pretty."

More chuckles bubbled up from the crowd.

Eleanor couldn't speak. The child's innocent, impulsive gesture had wrapped around her vocal cords. And she loved the child's soft weight and chubbiness and strawberry-shampoo-scented hair. I want a little girl of my own, Lord.

Pete hurried forward, his arms outstretched. "I'm sorry. Cassie, you're interrupting Ms Washburn."

Cassie clung to her as Eleanor studied Pete's face. He looked chagrined. This loosened Eleanor's throat. "No harm done, Mr. Beck. She's no trouble." She looked at Cassie. "You can stay if you'll be quiet. You see, I need to talk to these people."

"I'll be quiet," Cassie vowed, her teeth denting her lower lip.

"You're sure?" Pete asked.

After both Eleanor and Cassie nodded, he returned to where he'd been standing with the two teens. Cassie's presence added a new zest to Eleanor's mood as she put her enthusiasm about the two previous Habitat houses into words.

The recipient of the first of these houses, Rosa Chambers, hurried over from Eleanor's yard a bit tardy and waved at her from the back of the crowd. All the while Eleanor talked, Pete's gaze never strayed from her face. Her face warmed not with the sun but from his attention. Could he be afraid that his daughter might say or do something embarrassing? She smiled at him, hoping he'd relax.

At the end of her talk, she urged, "Now, I need everyone who's interested in volunteering to give their contact info to our volunteer, Rosa Chambers, the recipient of our first Habitat house built last year."

She motioned to Rosa who—as planned—had gone over to a lawn chair in the shade of an oak tree and now sat with an open laptop. The crowd broke up. Some volunteers proceeded directly to Rosa; others stopped to chat. Pete and the two teens gravitated toward Eleanor. They hung back till the few people who'd stopped to exchange words with her moved away.

Cassie hugged Eleanor's neck again and then laid her head on her shoulder. The feel of the little girl in her arms broadened Eleanor's smile. And filled an ache within. How precious, this little girl. How lucky Pete Beck was.

She turned her attention to Pete, who must be in his mid-thirties, just a little older than she. Pete was good-looking, medium height, brawny build, with dark hair and eyes. The two teens, Luis, dark-haired and wiry, and Colby, blond and tall, flanked him. Her mind zipped back to more than one scene where these two teens had been her pro bono clients, defendants in juvenile court when she'd been their lawyer. Cassie babbled happily and quietly about the people she saw, waving to everybody from Eleanor's arms. A bee flew past Eleanor's ear.

Cassie squirmed to get down. "I want to go to Tiesha."

After Eleanor released her, Pete intercepted Cassie before she ran away. "Just a minute, Cassie. I need to talk to Ms. Washburn. Then we'll go see the little girl again."

Cassie frowned but didn't pout. Tethered by his hand, she twisted and turned, keeping track of the other little girl through the milling crowd of adults.

"I'm going to sign up, and I brought Luis and Colby to volunteer, too," Pete said, sounding as if he were measuring each word. "They just graduated and will probably only be working part-time this summer."

"Luis, Colby," Eleanor said, "you may go over to Rosa Chambers and give her your information. We'll be happy to use your muscle power for a good cause."

Luis and Colby looked to him. He nodded toward the young woman under the oak tree. The two of them loped away, grimacing.

Eleanor frowned as they walked off. Working here, helping others would be good for the teens, but these two might not be up to the challenge.

"I'll keep them in line."

His words were meant to reassure her. Yet he must be aware both teens had been designated "at risk." How could she handle this? While she appreciated his concern for these two young men, her goal was to build this house without delays. Two troubled teens could cause delays by misbehavior or carelessness on-site.

"I'll keep them in line," he repeated in a lowered voice.

"I'll hold you to that," Eleanor said quietly, but in her "courtroom" tone. Then she made the mistake of looking into Pete's eyes. They were a very deep brown. She caught herself staring into them a fraction of a second too long. She switched her gaze to Cassie, and her heart softened.

"I'll go sign up then, Ms. Washburn." Pete turned to go.

"If we're going to be working together, you should call me Eleanor, Pete."

He nodded and looked down at his daughter. "Okay, Cassie, we'll go see that little girl."

Cassie grinned up at him and then grabbed Eleanor's hand. "You come, too."

Pete's gaze met hers. "Please join us," he said, his tone somehow negating the invitation.

She flashed him a hesitant smile, wondering why and thinking she should really be mingling. But..

"Okay."

As they walked, Cassie grasped her hand, connecting the three of them.

Eleanor noted people glancing at the trio they made and—speculating. She loved this small town, but life here could be suffocating at times. Eyes were always watching. She kept her chin up and hoped she wasn't blushing. Cassie broke away from both of them and ran to Tiesha. "Hi again!"

"Thanks for volunteering to help out," Kevan said to Luis and Colby, his daughter clinging to his good leg. "It's great to see you young guys reaching out and volunteering. Appreciate it."

Luis and Colby grinned and shrugged, obviously out of their depths.

"It's our pleasure to be of help. We're grateful for your service to our country," Pete said.

Kevan ignored Pete's comment on his military career but smiled down at the two girls.

Cassie pulled Eleanor closer to Tiesha. "This is Ella—Ella—"

"Why don't you girls call her Miss Ellie?" Tiesha's mom spoke up.

"Okay," Cassie and Tiesha said slightly out of unison.

The new title made Eleanor smile, feel wanted in a new and special way. She touched each girl's hair and smiled.

"You haven't given me your contact information," Rosa said to Pete with a smile.

"I'm pleased to meet you, Rosa," Pete said, quickly giving Rosa what she needed. She handed him the schedule which showed that work started toward the end of the week.

"It's time we were off," he said. Both Cassie and Tiesha had squatted to observe a busy anthill nearby. "Come on, Cassie."

"But I don't want to leave Tiesha," Cassie objected.

"Cassie, you'll see Tiesha again sometime soon—promise. We've got to take Luis and Colby to apply for summer jobs today." He motioned to Cassie to come to him.

Cassie looked unhappy but obeyed. She halted beside Eleanor. "Will you come and see me, Miss Ellie? I live on my grandpa's farm—"

The last of her words were obliterated by a motorcycle roaring up New Friends Street. Pete recognized that motor. He turned to watch his brother rock to a halt at the curb. A sideways glance told him that Eleanor, "Miss Ellie," looked uncertain. Did she equate "biker" with "trouble" like a lot of people?

Like mindless moths to a flame, the two teens broke into a run, heading for the bike.

His brother Mike climbed off the cycle and shed his gloves and helmet. The two teens flocked around him. He greeted them but, arm upraised, headed toward Pete.

Pete sent another glance Eleanor's way. He found himself gazing at three little freckles on the bridge of her nose. And the way her long hair moved with a breath of breeze.

"Hey! Pete!" Mike called out, unzipping his leather jacket, which sported a Harley Davidson patch. Six-foot-six with shoulders nearly as broad, Mike towered over his brother. He had a voice like a grizzly bear.

"You like to make an entrance, don't you?" Pete replied in a wry tone.

Mike just shrugged. "Such a sunny day! Couldn't waste it driving my pickup. Where do I sign up?"

A shrill scream shattered the peace. Pete swung around, his heart lodged in his throat. He recognized that voice. Cassie! Where was she? Why had she screamed?



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