Tuesday, December 20, 2011

with Darlene Franklin

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

I read lots of mystery and suspense and also historical romance. I keep a running commentary on my blog, DarleneFranklinWrites.blogspot.com of what I’m reading and when a book is especially good.

As far as suspense goes, Steven James is one of the best, Christian or secular. I also read my first “Triple Threat” novel by Lisa Wiehl and was favorably impressed. I also recently read the winner of last year’s Carol award for historical romance, Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa, and felt it was very deserving of the honor!

If you were a style of music, what style would you be?
Great question! Which should be a snap, since I’m a musician. Let’s see. Make me a country music song, where simple pleasures are best and every trouble in life gets turned into a work of art.

What is your strangest habit?
Something that suggests I have OCD at some level – I’m forever doing math. I used to pass the time waiting for a bus by reviewing times tables (up to 20 x 20). I count in song: Instead of the nursery rhyme, “Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been,” I sing “one two three, four five six, seven eight nine.” It’s so habitual that as soon as I start singing, my cat jumps up because she knows I’m about to move.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
Maple Notch Brides, the repack of my three Vermont historical romances, has just been released. I’m originally from New England, so I had a lot of fun writing about my back yard. I wanted my stories to have a real Vermont feel. Pamela Griffin used the maple sugar industry as a backdrop for her contemporary set, Vermont Weddings. So I used a covered bridge that plays a role in each story. In the first book, it’s still a tree. . .the first covered bridge wasn’t built for another thirty years.

Climb into adventure in the Green Mountain State where party politics, parental pressure, and personal misperceptions challenge three couples. Sally Reid and her family of Patriots are in hiding. Can she trust Josiah Tuttle, a man whose father is loyal to King George? (Prodigal Patriot, a Revolutionary War story) Beatrice Bailey’s wealthy father wants his daughter to marry up—not down. Does farmer Calvin Tuttle have any chance of winning Beatrice’s heart and her father’s blessing? (Bridge to Love, a Year of No Summer story) Clara Farley has accepted the role of spinster. Can Daniel Tuttle get her to change her mind? (Love’s Raid, a Civil War story) Will God show these couples a way above the fray?



You can purchase Maple Notch Brides from Amazon.

Darlene is giving away a copy of Maple Notch Brides. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Darlene Franklin's Maple Notch Brides

Award-winning author and speaker Darlene Franklin lives in cowboy country—Oklahoma—near her son’s family.

She recently signed the contract for her twentieth novel. She is also a prolific devotional author with over 200 devotions in print.

Visit Darlene’s blog, Darlene Franklin Writes.

Maple Notch Brides

Climb into adventure in the Green Mountain State where party politics, parental pressure, and personal misperceptions challenge three couples.

Sally Reid and her family of Patriots are in hiding. Can she trust Josiah Tuttle, a man whose father is loyal to King George? (Prodigal Patriot, a Revolutionary War story)

Beatrice Bailey’s wealthy father wants his daughter to marry up—not down. Does farmer Calvin Tuttle have any chance of winning Beatrice’s heart and her father’s blessing? (Bridge to Love, a Year of No Summer story)

Clara Farley has accepted the role of spinster. Can Daniel Tuttle get her to change her mind? (Love’s Raid, a Civil War story) Will God show these couples a way above the fray?

Here's an excerpt from Maple Notch Brides:

Maple Notch, Vermont
May 1777


Today was a glorious day to be outside, Sally Reid decided as she went about her morning chores. Cool air flowed down from the mountains, scented with pine, the evergreen trees that gave the “Verts Monts,” or the Green Mountains, their name. The sun overhead promised sunshine and warmth, and green shoots pushed up through the ground. She loved the rhythms of farm life, the cycles of sowing, growing, reaping, and resting. A song of praise burst from her lips.

“Good morning, Miss Reid! You sound cheerful this fine morning,” a deep voice called out.

Sally stopped in mid-verse. Her singing called for no audience beyond the chickens who clucked along with her. Pa teased that she had the voice of a crow. Of all people, who should catch her in her morning serenade but Josiah Tuttle.

“Morning to you, Mr. Tuttle.”

He smiled at her, the same grin that had infuriated her since childhood. It always put her in mind of the day he pulled the mobcap off her head after she’d had the measles. Clumps of her straight, oak-colored hair came off with the mobcap, and she had run home and refused to come out again. Remembering, she put a hand to the top of her head, making sure its covering was in place.

Josiah’s hair was as black now as it had been then, the same red highlights created by the sun. But the years had transformed him from a skinny lad to a stalwart man, tall and well built. Not that she would ever make mention of the fact.

“Is Nathaniel about yet?” His voice had changed as well, into a marvelous baritone. He could sing far better than she could.

“I haven’t seen him.” Sally wondered if they required a chaperone for this conversation. Anyone could see them in the open dooryard. In fact, she saw a flicker in the opening in the cabin wall—probably her little sister, Nellie. Next thing Sally knew, Nellie would start announcing that Josiah was calling on her to everyone who stopped by.



You can purchase Maple Notch Brides from Amazon.

Darlene is giving away a copy of Maple Notch Brides. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Friday, December 16, 2011

with Diane and David Munson

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

Yes! Our faith in God in troubled times and His protection over David in his cases has a huge place in The Joshua Covenant. Also we have both been more alert to events in Israel, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon since 9/11, to which readers of our first novel, Facing Justice can relate. We have been studying what the Bible says about Israel and have begun to better understand the prophetic books in the Bible. So as we finished our last novel, Redeeming Liberty with CIA agent Bo Rider being sent to Israel, we researched the region where people have been fighting for thousands of years.

Through much prayer and discussion, we believe we have crafted another spy thriller that readers will find gives them a glimpse of tomorrow’s headlines. The more we wrote about Bo’s struggles to stop an enemy spy in America’s embassy in Tel Aviv, the more we realized this is a story of God’s promises to His people. Bo comes face-to-face with what that means for today and not just thousands of years ago when Joshua brought the Israelites across the Jordan River. The Bible tells us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, which takes on new meaning with all that is happening in Egypt, Libya and Iran.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
For secular suspense, David reads Scott Turow, another former Federal prosecutor, who has six novels and doesn’t write them often enough. He also reads some of the Theones’ books and is an avid researcher for all our technical themes.

For The Joshua Covenant, Diane consumed a myriad of books on prophecy, including one by David Jeremiah. She enjoys Joel Rosenberg, Robert Whitlow, Terri Blackstock, recently adding Colleen Coble. Also high on her list are George MacDonald’s novels, which blend mystery with a strong spiritual emphasis. For nonfiction, the last book Diane read was by Jim Samra, The Gift of Church, with Radical on her to-read list.

David was an NCIS agent. Are your books at all like the popular TV show?
Those who watch the show with the highest ratings on TV know NCIS has a large cast. So do our books. Like the TV show, our major characters, i.e., federal agents Eva Montanna, Griff Topping, and Bo Rider, return in our subsequent thrillers. However, as NCIS can be watched in any order, so it is with our books. Each of our novels begins and ends an episode. David worked in foreign counter intelligence, so some of our thrillers have international spying themes. His criminal law enforcement and Diane’s Federal prosecutions/legal work provide for the exciting suspense themes at home here in the U.S. Click here to see a trailer comparing David to the show’s star Mark Harmon.
On our blog, TwoExFeds News Wrap, we comment on news events and critique each week’s episode of NCIS.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
“Oh David, can we tell about that strange day in Kazakhstan when we were surrounded by KGB agents?” Diane’s heart started pounding even asking the question.

“Yeah, that was incredible, Diane. All we were doing was trying to defend a mission organization when a murder occurred right outside their gate. How could we know that we’d incur the wrath of the KGB?”

Sweat beaded on David’s forehead as he remembered the close call he had in the former Soviet Union country.

Diane reached over and squeezed his hand. “Our time there gave me insights into the dangers you faced in your work. I’m so thankful you were there supporting me. And to think we negotiated with the KGB, the mayor, and the Police Chief, all in the span of two days. I was never so glad as when our airplane finally landed back in the States.”

“Me too! I guess it was all in God’s timing,” David said, flashing a grand smile. “We almost didn’t go on that trip.”

(Read our third novel, The Camelot Conspiracy, for more intrigues about Kazakhstan)

Are there things you put off doing because you dread them?
Diane would much rather write, photograph nature, create scrapbook pages, watch NCIS or almost anything besides going after dust bunnies. They’re no fun at all. LOL

David eats what he detests first (broccoli anyone?) so he can enjoy the rest. That’s how he lives life.

What's your favorite meal with family and friends?
We both love to celebrate Thanksgiving, with all the fixings such as creamy mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and loads of tasty vegetables. David had never seen a family that eats as many vegetables as Diane’s. One summer, David cooked a turkey outside on the gas grill for our extended family, and we called it Thanksgiving in July. The November holiday is also a wonderful day to share with family and to thank God for all our blessings.
Here’s a recipe for apple stuffing Diane has made over the years:

Apple Stuffing
Cut into cubes a loaf of wheat bread, with the crusts.
Sauté a small diced onion and three diced celery stalks in olive oil, enough to coat the pan, adding a couple pats of butter.
Toss in a half-cup of crumbled pecans and warm through.
Dice two apples with the peeling and sauté separately in butter for 2-3 minutes, until softened.
Combine with the bread mixture in a large bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper.
Add enough chicken broth and apple juice to thoroughly moisten.
Bake for one hour in a 325 degree oven, adding more broth if dry.
Serve with roasted turkey or chicken and enjoy.

Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you.
So many verses in the book of John show us the truth of Jesus Christ. John 1:1 reveals Jesus is the Word from the beginning of time, He is part of the Godhead, and Jesus created all things. How fantastic is that? John 3:16 shares the gift of Jesus sent by God the Father. In John 14:6, Jesus shares how He is “the Way, the Truth, the Life. No one comes through the Father except through Me.” The Love of Jesus is pure, it never leaves us when we seek Him, and lasts for eternity. Jesus is the hope for all the world.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
Night Flight will be released in the fall of 2012. Bo and Julia Rider adopt a Golden Retriever for their kids, Glenna and Gregg, without telling them that Blaze was a working dog. When Glenna and Gregg discover Blaze has special powers they put him to work and become crime-busters. While our next thriller is aimed at teens, we think adults will also enjoy the family friendly excitement and intrigue.



You can purchase The Joshua Covenant from Amazon.

David and Diane are giving away a copy of The Joshua Covenant. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Diane and David Munson's The Joshua Covenant

It’s been said of best-selling authors Diane and David Munson, that “he nailed ‘em…and she jailed ‘em.” David was an NCIS Special Agent, and an undercover DEA Special Agent and Diane a Federal prosecutor.

Now these Ex-Feds write high velocity suspense novels that combine their exciting cases into factional fiction by changing the names and places. Their books, compared favorably by reviewing critics to John Grisham and Tom Clancy, and by readers to Terry Blackstock, Randy Singer and Joel Rosenberg, are realistic, fast-paced, and popular with men, women, and young adults.

Learn more about their six thrillers and watch book trailers for Facing Justice, Confirming Justice, The Camelot Conspiracy, Hero’s Ransom, Redeeming Liberty and the newest exciting release, The Joshua Covenant, at www.DianeAndDavidMunson.com.

You can find them online at
Author Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pP20D0BOMg,
Website: www.DianeAndDavidMunson.com,
TwoExFeds News Wrap Blog: www.DianeAndDavidMunson.com/blog,
Author FaceBook Page,
Twitter: twitter.com/TwoExFeds.

The Joshua Covenant

ExFeds Diane and David Munson (former Federal Prosecutor and NCIS Agent) reveal what happens when CIA agent Bo Rider moves his family to Israel after years of clandestine spying around the world.

Bo serves in America’s Embassy using his real name only to discover a menacing plot jeopardizing Bo. When his family faces danger while exploring Israel’s treasures, a famous Bible scholar helps Bo in ways he never thought possible. Bo must battle sinister forces that challenge his loyalty and true identity. Will he survive the greatest threat ever to his career, his family, and his life? Glimpse tomorrow’s startling headlines as Bo risks it all to stop an enemy spy.

Here's the excerpt for The Joshua Covenant:

Julia Rider bounced onto the cable car with a smile, her dream of journeying to this old-new land finally coming true. She marveled at the aqua sea rolling against Israel’s northern coast. Suddenly the steepest cable car in the world lurched and she rocketed down the sharp cliffs.

Panic erupted, crawling up her throat. How could she remain calm in front of her children? Though Gregg and Glenna giggled at the fast approaching water, Julia tried to steel herself. Strong winds jolting the cable car roiled her stomach. She squeezed her eyes shut.

“At the bottom, I’m searching for gold coins,” Gregg shouted over roaring winds.

Julia gripped the middle railing, wishing she hadn’t listened to Clara Cohen. The Ambassador’s wife had coaxed her and the kids to join the last-second tour with other embassy wives to the towering Rosh ha-Nikra and the grottos. Her husband, Bo, toiled at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, completing an urgent project for his new boss, Ambassador Hal Cohen.

Someone shook Julia’s arm and she popped open an eye.

“Mom, look! You’re missing the best part.” Gregg pointed at rugged cliffs zooming by.

Julia blinked. In her eleven-year-old son’s shining gray eyes she glimpsed a much younger version of Bo. Would he follow his father’s footsteps into the CIA? A shudder ripped through her. Bo lived to take risks and she didn’t want Gregg living in constant jeopardy. At least Bo’s new assignment in the State Department kept him close to home. Well, on most days.

“Cool! Watch those jets diving,” Gregg chirped, his nose plastered against the window.

Julia’s daring glance upwards was rewarded by the sight of a jet swooping dangerously low. She reached for Glenna, and her thirteen-year-old daughter hurtled toward her just as two more fighter jets roared overhead. A moment later a huge explosion and fireball erupted in the sky.

Here's the book trailer for The Joshua Covenant:




You can purchase The Joshua Covenant from Amazon.

David and Diane are giving away a copy of The Joshua Covenant. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

with Roseanna White

Welcome back to the Book Loft, Roseanna. It's always fun having you visit!
People talk about life before children—what was your life before writing?
Elementary. ;-) I began writing stories in primary school in my spare time and completed my first novel at age 13. So, um, there wasn’t much life before writing. =)

What book have you recently enjoyed reading?
Right now I’m thoroughly engaged in A Necessary Deception by Laurie Alice Eakes. It’s Regency historical romance with strong suspense—in other words, perfection! =)

If you were a dessert, what would you be? 
Hmm . . . this time of year I think I’d be pumpkin-cream-cheese gobs. This is one of the few recipes I developed myself, and I’m happy to share it!


Pumpkin Gobs with Orange Cream Cheese Icing

Gobs

2 cups sugar
½ cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 15-oz can pumpkin
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 cups flour
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425. Cream together sugar and butter. Add egss. Beat in pumpkin, water, and vanilla.

In separate bowl combine dry ingredients. Add to pumpkin mixture slowly. Beat at medium high speed 2 minutes or until batter is smooth.

Drop by tablespoon-full onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes or until top is dry to the touch. Cool completely.

Filling

½ cup butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon orange juice
½ teaspoon orange extract

Cream butter and cream cheese. Add sugar, beating until smooth. Add orange juice and extract.

Spread generously onto bottom of cake, sandwich with a second one.

Makes 24 gobs.


Here's an excerpt of Annapolis:

Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland

by
ROSEANNA M. WHITE

Chapter One

Endover Plantation, outside Williamsburg, Virginia
25 November 1783

Perhaps if Lark recited the pirate’s code it would steal his attention. She could try standing on her head. Or if those options failed—as surely they would—she could throw herself to the floor before him.

Except Emerson Fielding was as likely to mistake her for a rug as to realize he ought to help her up. Lark indulged in a long sigh and cast her gaze out the window. The plantation lay dormant and brown. Most days saw Papa and Wiley in Williamsburg, swapping stories at R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse. Emerson usually met them there, which was why this was the first she’d seen him in a month. Heaven knew he wanted only to see them, never her.

She wished her heart hadn’t fluttered when he entered the room. Wished the disappointment hadn’t followed so quickly when he barely glanced her way. Wished she had the courage to command his attention…and he the sense to give it without her command.

Life would be so much easier if she weren’t in love with Emerson Fielding. But what young lady wouldn’t be captivated by those dark eyes, the strong features, the height that left him towering above other men?

Today his hair was unpowdered and gleamed sable. He was in undress, his coat the common one he wore every day, unlike what he was sure to don for her birthday dinner that evening. His smile lit up his eyes, his laugh lit up the room.

Neither one did he direct toward her.

Lark’s gaze flicked down to the emerald on her finger. Two years. Twenty-four months. Seven hundred thirty interminable days. Not that she was keeping account.

“Hendricks ought to be at the coffeehouse about now,” her brother said, standing. He tugged his waistcoat into place and tightened the band around his hair. “We have just enough time for a cup of chocolate with him.”

She would not sigh again, it would be redundant. Why protest the usual, even if today was supposed to be distinctive?

As if reading her mind, Wiley flashed a twinkling gaze her way and grinned. “Of course, you will want to wish my dear sister happy returns before we head out, Emerson. I shall go fetch my overcoat and hat while you do so.”

For the first time in the two hours he had been there, Emerson looked her way. And like every time he looked her way, she wished she had more to offer his gaze. Perhaps if she shared the golden-haired beauty of her mother and sister, his eyes mightn’t go empty upon spotting her.

He smiled the practiced smile gentlemen were taught to wear in company, not the earnest one he shared with her brother. “Are you having a pleasant birthday, darling?”

An unexpected wave of anger crashed over her. “Do you never tire of using endearments you don’t mean?”

Well, that earned a spark in his eyes. Not exactly one of delight or affection, though. “I take it you are not having a pleasant day. Well, perhaps I can brighten it.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out a box covered in a scrap of printed calico.

She could manage no enthusiasm for what was sure to be another gift of jewels. He never seemed to grasp that she wanted no more things. She wanted his love—something he was either unwilling or incapable of giving. “What is it?”

His smile was right, teasing. But no secret knowledge nested in his expression. “Open it and see.”

“You haven’t any idea, have you?” She shook her head and looked out the window again as he strode toward her chair. His mother had undoubtedly foisted it upon him as he left, otherwise he wouldn’t have remembered what the date signified.

She often wondered if his mother had also foisted that first gift of jewels upon him two years before.

His breath hissed out. “Of course I know what it is, but you shan’t cajole it out of me. You will have to open it yourself to see.”

The wrapped box appeared under her nose. She took it, careful to avoid brushing his outstretched palm with her fingers. It would only make awareness shiver up her arm, an unnecessary reminder of her unrequited attachment. Once she held it, though, she made no move to untie the ribbon.

Emerson shifted, impatience coming off him in waves. “Open it, Lark.”

She shook herself. “But of course. I am certain you wish to hasten to your coffee and conversation. What will the topic be today? Congresses, constitutions, or crop rotations?”

Wiley would have appreciated the alliteration. Emerson greeted it with a rudely arched brow. Tempted to return the insult and roll her eyes, she tugged at the bow. Unfolded the cloth. Lifted the lid of the small wooden box.

Lessons in propriety had never covered how to handle a surprise like this. Lark gasped.

Emerson muttered a curse that proved he not only knew not what present lay inside, he disapproved of his mother’s selection.

She leapt to her feet and shoved the glittering diamond necklace into his stomach. “Absolutely not. I cannot accept that.”

His hand caught the box, but a war to rival the Revolution charged across his face. He wanted to take the jewels back, without question. But pride would not allow him. He held out the box. “Don’t be ridiculous. I want you to have it.”

An unladylike snort nearly slipped out. “Yes, that was apparent from your reaction. I will not, Emerson. Your sisters have told me of this necklace, and I shan’t accept the most valuable possession in the Fielding family—especially when it becomes increasingly clear I will never be a member of said family.”

Thunder darkened his complexion. “What madness is this? You are my betrothed, and you will accept the gifts I give you.”

The emerald on her left hand felt heavy. “Perhaps what I ought to do is return the ones you have already given. They are naught but mockery.”

She reached for the clasp of the bracelet that matched the ring. Her breath caught when his fingers closed around her wrist. He all but growled. “You will do no such thing.”

“Prithee, why not?” Though she struggled to pull free, he held tight to her arm. “ ’Tis obvious you’ve no desire to make me your wife. For two years you have dodged every mention of nuptials, making a fool of me in front of our families and friends. For the life of me, I know not why you ever proposed. Release me.”

He shook his head. “Calm yourself, Lark. Is that what this is about? The blasted wedding date? Deuces, I would agree to any date you want, if you would just be reasonable!”

“I have had my fill of reason. I want a morsel of your regard, and I will not marry you without it.” She gave one more vain tug against his fingers. “I tire of being alone at your side, Emerson. I cannot subject myself to a lifetime of it.”

Through the tears burning her eyes, she saw his face harden, then relax. His grip eased, but he did not release her wrist. Simply pulled it down and then held her hand. The warmth that seeped into her palm belied the cool words she had spoken.

Yet his smile was no more than it had ever been. “I have been remiss, darling, and I apologize. I assure you, you are my chosen bride. It has simply been a struggle to readjust to social life. After Yorktown…”

Anger snapped at her heels again, largely because of the compassion he called up with the mere mention of Yorktown. How could anyone—man, woman, or child—argue with one who had been at the dreadful battle? The moment a soldier uttered that word, all arguments necessarily ceased.

In this particular case she could not help but think he used it for that very purpose. “Emerson—”

“I shall make it up to you. Let us set a date this moment, and I will be the figure of devotion.” The idea seemed to pain him—his smile turned to a grimace. For a man with a reputation as a charmer, he did a remarkable job of dashing her heart to pieces.

She sucked in a long breath. “I shan’t hold you to the engagement. If you—”

“Not another word of such nonsense. Let us say the first Sunday in March, shall we? The worst of the winter weather ought to be over by then. We can announce it to our parents this evening.”

It should have brought joy instead of defeat. It should have lit hope instead of despair.

He pressed the necklace back into her hands. “Take it, my darling. Wear it on our wedding day.”

Before she could decide whether to relent or argue, he pressed a kiss to her fingers and fled the room as if the hounds of Hades nipped at his heels. Lark sank back into her chair and flipped open the box so she could stare at the large, perfect gems resting within.

Why did the thought of marrying her light such fires of panic under him? Lark rested her cheek against her palm and let her tears come.

She should have tried the pirate’s code.

* * * * *

Emerson scraped the tavern chair across the wooden floor, fell onto its hard seat, and, for the first time in his memory, wished Wiley Benton would hold his tongue for five blasted minutes. He barely saw the familiar whitewashed walls, the wainscoting, the multitude of friendly faces. His mind still reeled, wrestling with images of those blinding diamonds—and the equally blinding tears in Lark’s eyes.

What had Mother been thinking, blithely handing off the most valuable Fielding possessions? The diamonds—to Lark. It was beyond fathoming. They would overwhelm her. Eclipse rather than complement. And to have them abiding outside Fielding Hall for the next several months…

Still, he should not have lost his head. Then she wouldn’t have lost hers, and he wouldn’t have talked himself straight into a trap.

“What can I bring you gentlemen today?”

He looked up at the tavern’s owner but couldn’t dredge up a smile. No matter—Wiley would smile enough for the both of them. “Chocolate,” his friend said.

“Make mine coffee, if you please, sir.”

“That I will. And I shall direct Hendricks your way. He and the governor are chatting in the back corner.”

“In a few moments,” Emerson answered before Wiley could supply what was sure to be thankful acceptance.

As the proprietor stalked off, Wiley lifted his brows in that particular way that bespoke both humor and confusion. “What plagues you, man? You have been playing the dunderhead ever since we left Endover.”

“I played it while there too.” Indulging in a mild oath, he swept his tricorn off his head and plopped it onto the table between them. “I upset your sister.”

“Lark?”

“Well, your other sister was hardly there to be upset.”

Wiley took his hat off as well, his confusion plain on his face. “But Lark is so rarely in an ill temper. She especially shouldn’t have been, given the good news of our cousin’s delayed arrival.”

Under normal circumstances, Emerson would have been amused at his friend’s perpetual dislike of the family soon arriving from Philadelphia. At this moment he gave not a fig who was coming or when. “Apparently all it takes is overreacting when one sees one’s mother wrapped up the family diamonds for her.”

Wiley looked near to choking. “The ones your father goes ever on about? That had belonged to the countess?”

“The very ones.”

Wiley let out a muted whistle. “I cannot conceive she accepted them. Especially if you seemed opposed.”

“I had already insisted I knew what the gift was, though I did not. Then rather than returning just the diamonds, she grew angry and made to return all the Fielding jewels.”

Wiley’s eyes widened, and he leaned over the table. “What did you say to her?”

Emerson waved him off. “It hardly matters. I smoothed matters over, and we decided on a wedding date. The first Sunday of March.”

Instead of seeming satisfied, Wiley’s gaze went probing, and then accusing. “So simply? After shifting the topic away from the wedding each time my parents mentioned it the past two years? Frankly, Emerson, we have all doubted your intentions of making good on your promise.”

“Of course I intend to make good on it.” It was an advantageous match all round. The Bentons were a wealthy, respected family, perfectly equal to the Fieldings. Lark herself would make an excellent wife. She was well bred, well taught, not homely—if not as lovely as her sister, who was now Mrs. Hendricks. Sweet of temperament—today aside. He liked her well enough and expected he would come to love her in a decade or so, once they had a brood of children between them.

And she loved him, as his own sisters had pointed out two years ago.

Wiley narrowed his eyes. “Emerson, you know I would welcome you eagerly into our family, but I confess the longer this drags out, the more misgivings I have. You treat my sister no differently now than you did when she was a child, dogging your heels and sending us up a tree to escape her.”

Perhaps that was the problem. She still seemed twelve to him, as she had been when he’d returned from England to fight for freedom from it. She still looked at him with the same blind adoration, still sat silently by whenever he was near.

That would change once they were wed though, surely.

“Emerson.” Wiley’s tone had turned hard, though barely more than a murmur. “I will see my sister happy. If you still dream of Elizabeth, if you cannot love Lark, then release her from the betrothal and let her find someone who can.”

The name snapped his spine straight. Fight as he might against it, the image nonetheless surfaced of a woman as opposite Lark as one could find. Did he dream of her? Only in his worst nightmares. “Rest assured your sister is loved.”

His friend’s eyes narrowed. “If I did not know better, I would call that a cunning evasion. Loved she is. But I would have her loved by you.”

As would he. He could manage it, assuredly. He simply must put his mind to it, as he had to Newton’s Principia Mathematica back at King William’s School. “You have no reason to fear for your sister’s heart, Wiley. I will be a good husband.”

In three short months.

“You look more frightened than when we saw our first Redcoats advancing, muskets at the ready.” Amusement laced its way through the frustration in Wiley’s tone. “I would have many a laugh over this were it not my favorite sister that made you wince so.”

“I am not wincing.” Much.

“Benton, Fielding! There you are.” Hendricks’s voice came from the corner of the room, where the man had stood and waved a greeting to them. “I shall join you in a moment.”

“We await you eagerly,” Wiley replied with his usual grin. When he turned back around, it shifted and hardened into the expression few knew. But Emerson did, from the field of battle. It was the look that had always appeared on his friend’s face moments before he let out a war cry and charged into the thick of things. “If you hurt Lark,” he murmured so quietly Emerson could barely hear him, “I will kill you—or make you wish I had.”

“I know you would. ’Tis not at issue.” Twenty-five years of friendship had not been threatened by competition, an ocean’s distance, or the ravages of war. He would not allow it to be distressed by one small, unassuming woman.



You can purchase Annapolis from Amazon.

Roseanna is giving away a copy of Love Finds You in Annapolis. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post. For US addresses only.




Monday, December 12, 2011

Roseanna White's LFY in Annapolis

Roseanna M. White grew up in the mountains of West Virginia, the beauty of which inspired her to begin writing as soon as she learned to pair subjects with verbs. She spent her middle and high school days penning novels in class, and her love of books took her to a school renowned for them.

After graduating from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, she and her husband moved back to the Maryland side of the same mountains they equate with home.
Roseanna is the author of two biblical novels, A Stray Drop of Blood and Jewel of Persia, and the upcoming historical romance, Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland. She is also the senior reviewer at the Christian Review of Books, which she and her husband founded, the senior editor at WhiteFire Publishing, and a member of ACFW, HisWriters, HEWN Marketing, and Colonial Christian Fiction Writers.

You can find Roseanna online at: http://roseannamwhite.com/wordpress
http://roseannamwhite.blogspot.com
http://www.facebook.com/roseanna.white

Love Finds You in Annapolis

In 1784 peace has been declared, but war still rages in the heart of Lark Benton.

Never did Lark think she’d want to escape Emerson Fielding, the man she’s loved all her life. But when he betrays her, she flees to Annapolis, Maryland, the country’s capital. There Lark throws herself into a new circle of friends who force her to examine all she believes.

Emerson follows, determined to reclaim his betrothed. Surprised when she refuses to return with him, he realizes that in this new country he has come to call his own, duty is no longer enough. He must learn to open his heart and soul to something greater … before he loses all he should have been fighting to hold.


You can purchase Annapolis from Amazon.

Roseanna is giving away a copy of Love Finds You in Annapolis. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post. For US addresses only.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

with April Gardener

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

I’ve always created, so before writing, there was knitting, crocheting, quilting, scrapbooking, photography. All of those were forced to give way when writing hit the scene. I haven’t looked back yet!

What book have you recently enjoyed reading?
The one that impacted me the recently was Francine River’s And the Shofar Blew. I thought I’d read all of hers until a friend mentioned this one. It was a powerful read and hit close to home.

If you were a dessert, what would you be?
I’d be anything with a chocolate-coffee mix. Let’s just be real and admit that I’d be a mocha. Mocha is a dessert isn’t it?? Well, it should be.

If you were to find a purple polka-dotted monster in your kitchen one morning, how would you respond?
I’d run for my husband’s Glock and, knowing me, trip over my own feet before getting there.

Tell us about one of your favorite memories or moments in your life.
The births of my children are my most treasured memories. Both were born in Germany. Far from family, it was just me, Hubby, and the Lord working through that trying yet joyful time. And the reward? Two beautiful children. My son is now ten and my daughter eight. My little jewels.

What's one of your dreaded things to do?
Fold laundry!! Working on kid-training. Problem with the kids folding is that my perfectionism doesn’t have much wiggle room for uneven towel edges. Bad combo.

What is the Lord teaching you, or recently taught you?
Never judge a book OR a person by its/her cover. The woman who might seem least likely person you’d enjoy spending time with just might be that special friend God’s been trying to introduce you to.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
My Lizzie and the Guernsey Gang book is already out in e-book format, but because it’s for children, I’m anxiously awaiting the delayed paperback release sometime early 2012. Lizzie’s story is based on actual events and is one of adventure and faith intended for children 8+. Here’s a bit about it:

Lizzie Browning loves nothing more than her tiny, island-home of Guernsey, but when German bombs drop on her crystal beach, her peaceful world explodes. For months, the big war in Europe has been nothing more than stories in the paper, but as the enemy takes over Guernsey, the war rushes to her doorstep. For Lizzie, younger brother Andre, and cousin James, the time to escape is now, and they know just how to do it.

Phillip Seifert, the odd boy from down the street, has all the markings of a genuine Nazi-lover. Lizzie knows better than to trust him, but he somehow manages to weasel his way into James’ good graces. Phillip joins the gang in their audacious escape plan, and Lizzie can do little more than pray he doesn’t get them all shot. But Lizzie soon learns that God doesn’t always answer prayers in the way she expects. He might actually plan for them to live under Nazi rule…forever.




You can purchase Warring Spirits from Amazon.

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

Saturday, December 10, 2011

April Gardener's Warring Spirits

April W Gardner resides in Georgia with her USAF husband and two sweet kiddos. She is the author of the historical romance series, the Creek Country Saga, as well as the children’s adventure series, the Channel Islands Resistance. She is the founder and senior editor of the fun literary website, Clash of the Titles.

In her free time, April enjoys reading, organizing, and DIY. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, visiting all the national parks, and speaking Italian.

You can find April online at
Twitter, Facebook,
www.clashofthetitles.com,
www.AprilWGardner.com.

Warring Spirits

In 1816 Georgia, escaped slaves control the land just beyond the American border in Las Floridas. Lost somewhere between white and black worlds, Milly follows hope to the only place that can offer her refuge—the place Georgians are calling Negro Fort. The first, sweet taste of freedom convinces Milly that surrender is not an option. Death would be more welcome.

Major Phillip Bailey has orders to subdue the uprising and return the runaways to their masters. Forced to fight alongside Creek warriors—the same who etched the scars into his mind and flesh—Phillip primes himself for battle. But inside, a war already rages—return for the woman he thought lost to him or concede her to the enemy she loves; follow orders or follow his heart.

Here's an excerpt of Warring Spirits:

Chapter 1

Phillip knew it was a dream. He told himself again, though it did little good. The children’s shrieks grew louder. The flaming pickets roared with new life, as though fueled by his denial of their existence.

His legs churned, but he couldn’t free his mind of the constant nightmare. At least this time, he reasoned, he wasn’t awake. Small blessings.

And then, he saw her.

Adela.

Arms dangling at her sides and skirt undulating in the waves of heat, she stood across the compound. Her lips were motionless, but her voice echoed through his mind. “Phillip.”

He rushed toward the vision, and she reached for him. “Phillip, love, you must wake up.”

With a cry, he bolted upright.

The silhouette of a woman hovered over him. He stared at her, unblinking, afraid to move and frighten her away.

Sweat poured down his chest—sweat as real as the shadow seemed.

“That’s better,” she whispered. “You’ll be alright.”

He disagreed, but if he spoke, he might shatter her. He’d done it before.

Her loose hair swayed as she moved so near, he should feel her heat.

Taking in the comfort of her presence, he held his breath until his lungs burned with need. Refusing to be contained any longer, air exploded from his mouth. The sound ripped through the cabin, and in one blink, Adela vanished.

A moan built in Phillip’s throat, and he buried his head in his trembling palms. When his fingers collided with the jagged flesh on his face, he recalled again why Adela was no more to him than a mocking shadow, a figment of his deluded, half-crazed mind.

She had turned him down.

Familiar nausea haunted his gut. With a growl, he threw his damp pillow across the room. The sound of splintering glass sent him scrambling for the musket by his bed. He had the unsteady barrel aimed toward the source before he realized he’d been the cause of the commotion.

He dropped the weapon and backed away from it as though it were a copperhead. Blood pounded in his throat. He swallowed hard, terrified of his own mind.

It had been nearly two years. One more night of this and he would prove the gossip correct. He would go mad.

There had to be a better way.

“Help me.” His voice shivered, and for once, he was thankful to be alone. “Sweet Jesus, show me a better way.”

***

Sitting as poised as possible in the bouncing buckboard, Milly rearranged her skirt then tugged her bonnet over her ears. Another rut in the road sent her stomach flying.

“You look fine, Miss Milly.” Isum transferred the reins to one hand then wiped a palm against his dingy, knee-length trousers. A sideways glance topped his crooked smile. “As fine as any white lady in stole clothes.”

Milly squirmed inside her stuffy petticoats. “Borrowed clothes, and don’t call me that. Milly will do.”

“No, miss. It won’t. Best make a habit of it now, before we’re needin’ it.”

“I hate admitting when you’re right.”

Isum chuckled, but Milly pressed her lips and snatched a peek over her shoulder.

“We’ll hear somebody comin’ before we see ‘em.” Isum’s voice remained steady, his demeanor casual, and his shoulders relaxed. His death-grip on the reigns told another story.

Three years ago, he had been as short and wiry as a plucked cotton bush. Now, his muscular, mahogany frame left little room to spare on the wagon seat. According to plantation gossip, the field girls took to nervous giggles whenever he came around. The master had perked up as well and taken to accepting bids.

There was only one thing Master Landcastle needed more than strong field workers. Cash.

The moment whispers in the big house revealed that Isum had been sold and would leave by dawn, Milly took action. There was no way she would let them take the only true friend she had, so ignoring the consequences, she loaded the buggy with vegetables. And one lady’s day gown.

As was their weekly custom, she and Isum set off toward town. Only this time, instead of stopping at the market, they went straight through.

Six miles of red, Georgia clay stretched behind them. Seventeen more before they ran into Spanish Florida. Sixty beyond that, Negro Fort, and safety.

It had been done many times before. It could be done again. But in broad daylight?

Escape stories ran through Milly’s twenty-four years of memory. Had there been a single one where a slave had taken to the road while the sun was at its highest? She shook her head.

But I have an advantage…so long as I’m not recognized.

The July sun beat down on her with mocking strength. She pressed a palm across the back of her stinging neck.

Isum reached to the floorboard then passed her the borrowed parasol. “You’ll be burnin’ if you don’t.”

Since he first came to the plantation as a skinny tyke five years her younger, Isum had been her responsibility. She had cared for him as meticulously as she did her own flesh. About the time his gaze tilted downward in order to look her in the eye, they swapped roles, and his protectiveness had grown in proportion to his towering height.

She frowned, opened the frilly contraption, and settled it against her shoulder. Immediately, her neck cooled. It did nothing for the bile rising in her throat.

Gripping the side of the bench, she failed to tamp down the regret that swelled within her.

The timing was wrong. They would be caught, and he would be sold. She dare not consider her own fate.

They should turn back. It wasn’t too late.

She swiveled and squinted at the road behind them. What options did she have? Mr. Grayson’s features, twisting with his customary, terrifying rage, flashed before her mind’s eye. It’s too late. We can’t turn around.

They should be moving faster.

Isum pulled on the reins.

“Why are you slowing?” Milly sat forward, resisting the urge to yank the whip from its holder and spur the mare to a gallop.

He swiped the floppy hat from his head and mopped his brow with his sleeve. “We ain’t alone. Best we not seem in too much of a hurry.” He indicated with his hat then settled it back in place before taking up a deliberate, relaxed posture.

A horseman topped the next slope.

“Oh God, help us.”

“What you worried about, Miss Milly? You’s armed with the most beautiful smile this side of the Chattahoochee. Ain’t no gentleman gonna see past it to doubt your word.”

But what if he wasn’t a gentleman? Milly forced a wobbly smile then swept her hand under her bonnet, securing any strays.

Within minutes, Isum pulled the buggy to a halt as the gentleman came alongside them. The creaking brake nearly sent Milly scrambling for the trees lining the road. Instead, she angled the parasol to shield her face, presumably, from the sun.

“Good afternoon.” The man’s unfamiliar voice released her pent-up breath.

Easing back the shade, she peered through the lace edging. Long seconds passed before Isum shifted beside her and nudged her back.

Milly lowered the parasol and forced her gaze to the stranger’s eyes. She found them friendly and unsuspecting. “Good afternoon to you, sir.” Tucking her trembling hands into the folds of the closed parasol, she tried for that beautiful smile but feared she fell short of Isum’s expectations.

The man studied her, never once glancing at Isum.

A cold sweat broke out on her upper lip. Like venom, fear coursed through her, poisoning her confidence. Her gaze slipped to the dirt where it belonged.

“You’re a might far from civilization. It’s not exactly safe out here, even with a strapping young buck such as yours.”

Milly’s line of sight skittered to the man’s chest, then, weighted by years of training, fell back to the ground. “I plan to trade with Creek in the next village. I hear they’ll give anything for a little food.”

“So they will, poor devils.” The man laughed, making Milly’s skin crawl. He sidled his horse close to the buggy, and the smell of his cologne wafted down. “I appreciate a woman with a tender heart.”

“If you don’t mind, we best be moving along. I wouldn’t want to be caught out after dark.”

The man’s silence lured Milly’s hesitant gaze. A smile crept up his face. “There they are, those pretty brown eyes.” He tipped his hat, bowing slightly at the waist. “It would be my pleasure to escort you, miss.”

“No.” The discourteous refusal popped out of its own volition. “Thank you, but that’s not necessary. We’re accustomed to the road.”

Eyes darkening, the gentleman reined his horse around, pointing its nose toward the road behind them. “As you wish. Good day.”

Milly nodded but doubted he noticed. “Let’s move, Isum,” she whispered, anxious to leave the man’s dust behind.

A brisk mile later, Milly’s gloved hand still clutched the parasol in her lap. Tears burned her eyes at the thought of what might have happened. She blinked them away to find Isum grinning from ear to ear.

“We done it. We fooled that dandy.”

A strangled chuckle escaped her. “Yes. I supposed we did. He never suspected a thing.” Milly laughed, full and long. It unwound the knotted cord in her gut, and suddenly, the road opened before them and filled with possibilities.

Possibilities of a future. With Isum? He had offered as much, and she hadn’t exactly rejected him. Neither had she accepted. She found it difficult to move past the years of near-mothering to feel something more toward him. And yet, she couldn’t imagine another man on earth who would willingly wed her. And from all indications, he was more than willing.

Taking in a deep, cleansing breath, she turned and found his steady brown eyes on her. All joviality had fled. “Isum? What is it?”

“For half a minute, I thought I was gonna have to kill me a white man, the way he was lookin’ at you. Like you’s a Sunday pastry.”

It was always the same with men. Many women longed for beauty, but for Milly, it was the key to her shackles. Perhaps today would commence the end of her nightmares. Even if it did, it certainly wouldn’t erase what had already been done to her. She tucked her chin against the nagging shame.

Isum grunted and slapped the reins across the mare’s rump. “Ain’t nothin’ you can help.”

At the sound of thundering hooves, she felt the blood drain from her face. A glance behind them revealed four riders closing in fast.

She gripped Isum’s arm, words lodging in her throat.

Jaw clenched, he focused on the horse as he pulled them to a stop. Running was futile. With quivering resignation, she removed her gloves and folded them neatly, just as the mistress had taught her. She couldn’t bring herself to look at Isum, to see hope shattered across his face.

“It ain’t ova,” he mumbled, as Master Landcastle’s men surrounded them.

Milly coughed in the horses’ dust, and probed her mind for a reasonable excuse.

“I thought you were smarter than this, Milly.” Grayson, the overseer, laid one hand across his legs, loosely aiming a pistol in their direction. “A shame what’ll become of you now.” His false sympathy grated on her ears.

Two of the others dismounted and dragged Isum from his seat. He struggled against their attempt to shackle him and was rewarded with a swift kick to the gut.

Milly jumped from the buggy and scrambled to the side of Grayson’s horse. Her nails dug into the leather of his riding boot. “Please, it was my fault. I didn’t tell him I planned to run.”

He guffawed and kicked her hand away. “He doesn’t answer to you, girl. And he’ll pay for his own foolishness. Just as you will.” He jerked the pistol. “You’re riding with me.”

The thought of being pressed against the man for seven miles of rough roads sent Milly back a step. He lunged forward, grappling for the fabric at the front of her gown, but he missed and scratched her neck instead.

She barely registered the burn.

His nostrils flared. “Get over here.”

Milly shied away from his curses then risked a glance over her shoulder.

The other three struggled against a willful Isum. “Hold him down,” one bellowed.

“I’m tryin’!” Metal clinked and rattled as Isum kicked, sending the shackles skidding across the road.

One of the men swore and went after them.

Too late, Milly noticed Grayson’s hand as he swiped for her again. She swayed back and away, but he compensated, stretching farther away from his horse. Fisting her blouse, he yanked her toward himself.

With a cry, Milly locked her knees, sending her lower half sliding under the horse’s belly. She clung to Grayson’s arm, her weight tugging him down with her.

“Let me loose.” His breath puffed hot in her ear.

The horse skittered, its hooves striking the ground so close she felt the vibration through the dirt. It bolted away from them, sending Grayson tumbling from his perch.

Just in time, Milly flipped to the side, avoiding his descending bulk.

He landed beside her with a grunt, his pistol coming to rest inches from her hand.

“Merciful, Lord,” she whispered through dusty lips.

“Grab it!” Isum screamed. Two held him belly-down, while the third locked one cuff on his ankle. His eyes bore into her, begging her to take action.

Grayson’s gaze darted to the pistol the instant her fingers wrapped around the handle. Before he could pull himself to a sitting position, she had the barrel pointed at his head. “Make them stop.” Her voice trembled in time with her hands.

He snorted. “You wouldn’t kill me.”

No, she wouldn’t, but she could cripple him. In a way he’d never hurt another woman again. Without a word, she redirected her aim.

Steady. Keep it steady. She scooted back, further of his reach. “You heard me.”

Grayson glared at her, his jaw working circles.

From the corner of her eye, she noted the stillness that had settled on the opposite side of the road. Isum flailed once more and managed to dislodge himself from under his captors.

“Unshackle him,” Milly called, her eyes never leaving Grayson’s.

“I’ll find you, and you know it.” His voice was gritty with hate.

“Maybe. But not today.”

“Grayson, what do you want us to do?”

“Let him go.”

The manacles clinked to the ground.

Isum pushed up and trotted to her side, lip bleeding and jaw swollen, but looking better than such a struggle should afford. “I got this here.” He took the weapon from her. “Think you can get the buggy into them trees?”

She nodded. If required to get them out of there, she could sprout wings and fly.

The sun had barely moved by the time Isum had all four men bound, gagged, and lashed to the wagon, which Milly had taken as far into the undergrowth as she could.

While he secured the men’s bonds, Milly changed back into her comfortable, plain brown frock then scattered all the horses but two. Leading one to Isum, she smiled. On horseback, they could cut through the forest and make better time. At least until the ground grew too swampy.

He gave her a boost then adjusted the stirrups with a swiftness that spoke of a lifetime in the master’s stables. Giving her foot a pat, he winked. “Now who’s the mastah of himself?”

She fingered the bonnet’s ribbon tied beneath her chin and shook her head. “It’s a bit soon to be so confident. We have a long trail ahead of us.”

Mounted, Isum directed his horse alongside hers. With a quick yank, he loosened her bonnet’s ribbons. “You don’t need that no more. From here on, we’ll be exactly like the Almighty created us to be.”

One hand pressed to the top of her bonnet, Milly leaned out of his reach.

He clucked his tongue. “Your feet can run, but your heart, it gotta stop chasin’ after lies. It’s time you be who you’s meant to be.”

Who I’m meant to be? “And what exactly am I?”

“A child of the King. And my girl. Nothin’ else mattuh.”

Milly snorted, as he took her mare by the bridle. “We ain’t leavin’ ‘til you know it.”

“I know it.”

“Then take it off.”

She fingered the edge of her bonnet, while Grayson’s gaze gouged her back. She was more terrified to remove it than to turn the mare toward Florida. Heart running wild, she lifted the bonnet until a breeze tickled the hair on her forehead.

With a smile born of unending patience, Isum released her horse.

She set the cap in her lap and ran a hand over the braid worked in a circle around her head, its coarse, frizzy texture accusing her of her tainted heritage.

Her line of sight traveled to Grayson. From where he sat tied to the wagon wheel, the hatred emanating from his eyes scorched Milly’s weak resolve.

“I can’t.” With a jerk to the reins, she twisted the horse’s bit out of Isum’s reach. Gripping the saddle with her thighs, she settled the bonnet back in place. A swift kick of her heel set the mare on the backwoods trail to Spanish Florida.

Isum might be doomed every day to face their reality, but Milly had been blessed with the option to hide.

What slave in her right mind would choose otherwise?

***

For the third time in an hour, Major Phillip Bailey checked that his musket was properly primed and loaded. The Apalachicola River wound along on his right, and Creek warriors fanned out on the left. He was trapped. It had only been two years since many of these same warriors had surrendered to General Jackson at the conclusion of the Red Stick War.

The sight of them now, wild in their feathers, piercings, and tattoos, set the hairs on the back of his neck on end. For every one of the hundred and sixteen, blue-coated regulars on the march to Prospect Bluff, there were two—supposedly ally—Creek warriors who slogged across the boggy ground next to him.

The odds were far from comforting. Sweat pasted his silk neck-stock to his throat.

He scanned the surrounding pines for any sign of danger, whether from runaway slaves or friendly Creeks turned hostile. Downriver a ways and set back into the forest, the outline of a dwelling took shape. Like the many other slave-owned shacks they’d come across, the place appeared abandoned, but that didn’t mean the owners weren’t lurking in the shadows, waiting to ambush them.

Silent as ghosts, a group of warriors split off and swarmed the farmstead. Within minutes, they rejoined Phillip’s column empty-handed.

If what was said about the runaway’s leader proved true, Chief Garcon wouldn’t allow Phillip and his men to waltz into the area without a dandy of a fight. It was no secret the Americans intended to neutralize the fort on Prospect Bluff, the stronghold they called Negro Fort. Its name alone struck fear in the hearts of southern Georgians.

General Jackson had jumped at Spain’s approval of his crossing the Spanish-American border to defuse the tension and reclaim American property—the slaves. With its swamps, alligators, and prowling Seminoles, Las Floridas was wild country. Toss in three hundred armed and desperate runaways, and the place became hell on earth.

Phillip had been the first to volunteer to invade that hell. Alligators and runaways, he could handle. Creek warriors were a different matter altogether. Running into them on the southerly trail had been a surprise to both parties. It just so happened that, this time, Creek and American objectives ran parallel. Or so the Indians said…

Without warning, a regular stepped out from behind a tree blocking Phillip’s path. His rifle arm jerked. “In the name of all that’s holy, Corporal Higgins, get back in line.” Phillip spoke from between clenched teeth.

“Yes, sir. Just taking care of business, sir.”

Phillip noted a smirk on the nearest warrior. He scowled back.

The natives might see him and his men as a bunch of untrained idiots, but Phillip knew better. When not attacked on the sly and when properly prepared, there was no equal to Phillip’s army anywhere in the Americas. Hadn’t they proved it two years earlier by crippling the Creek Confederacy?

He passed Higgins’ scrawny frame as he busily fastened his broadfalls. “Didn’t mean to scare you, sir.” A poorly contained leer plucked at the man’s freckled cheeks.

Phillip opened his mouth to refute the charge and put the private in his place, but the gravelly voice of Sergeant Garrigus beat him to it. “Idiot. You can’t rattle the major. He’s got nerves of iron.”

“Is that right?”

“After what he’s seen? You bet.”

Garrigus’s praise sounded sincere enough, but Phillip knew the truth and prayed every day no one else would discover it. “Enough chatter back there. Keep your mouths shut and your eyes peeled.” He cast a sideways glance at longtime friend and surgeon, Captain Marcus Buck.

Marcus returned it with a faint smile that raised his flawless cheeks. Eyes, nose, mouth—each feature lined up perfectly. He might be a favorite with the ladies, if he took his nose out of medical books long enough to notice.

Involuntarily, Phillip’s jaw twitched, tugging the taut skin around his scar.

“Where’s Enoch?” Marcus’s gaze skimmed the area.

“Are you enjoying the quiet too?” Phillip subdued a grin and jerked his head toward the end of the loosely formed column. “I put him to work keeping Cook company.”

“Indians making him nervous?”

“Him and me both.” It wasn’t the only thing Phillip and his young slave had in common.

Moisture sucked into his boot as he stepped into another pocket of muck. Swamp water soaked his half-gaiters and spattered his dirty white breeches. He shook his foot, longing for a pair of clean, dry stockings. An arduous, two-day trek behind them, Camp Crawford might have been nothing more than tents and pickets, but right now, it seemed pretty near to heaven.

An Indian, head shaved on the sides, loped from the front of the line toward Phillip. His black hair, collected into a long tail, flipped through the air behind him. His face was a solemn, purposeful mask, and he clutched a tomahawk, as if ready for battle.

A drumbeat sounded from nearby. Or was that the blood pounding Phillip’s eardrum?

He strengthened his stance and gripped the musket barrel, ready at any instant to swing it into position. Sweat dripped into his eye, but he refused to blink and miss even one of this warrior’s breaths.

The Indians had caught him unawares before. Never again.

As the man neared, the path cleared before him. Ahead, a commotion scattered the column.

This was it. The moment Phillip had been anticipating. One swing of this warrior’s blade would be the signal for the rest to attack. By sundown, every last American scalp would dangle from a pole.

Unless Phillip did something to stop it.

The drum increased its tempo. In his mind, he was back at Fort Mims, the fires licking at his heels. The world narrowed to the warrior streaking toward him. Phillip had known better than to trust these savages, but Colonel Clinch hadn’t listened.

Phillip should give some sort of call to battle, but his brain went numb. Breath ragged, he raised his weapon to his shoulder and pointed the muzzle at the warrior’s chest. His stiff collar dug into the base of his head and his sweaty finger trembled against the cool trigger as he waited for the red man to raise his tomahawk.

Instead, ten paces away, he came to a halt, his brown eyes boring into Phillip. The warrior lowered his weapon and slipped it into a loop on his waistband. Arms limp, his lean body visibly relaxed as he stood before Phillip.

Except for the drum in his ear, silence surrounded them,

Why didn’t he attack? Indians never surrendered. Surely, it was a trick.

“Major?”

Phillip blinked, then allowed his gaze to flick to the side.

Marcus laid a hand on Phillip’s arm, and he flinched.

“Easy, now,” Marcus sounded as though he were calming a terrified child instead of addressing a superior officer. His voice rose barely above a whisper. “The men are watching. There’s no call for this. Not this time.”

A massive vulture soared above them, pulling Phillip’s focus back to the man before him. As much as Phillip searched, he found not a hint of malice in the warrior’s steady gaze.

He dropped the tip of his musket and sensed two dozen warriors lowering their bows in response.

As realization of his error took hold, heat crawled up Phillip’s neck, burning his scar. He focused on the black ostrich plume trembling in the air above Marcus’ bicorned hat as he turned to the warrior.

“It’s nothing personal, you see. Major Bailey fought at Mim’s place. Next time you’re careless enough to run up on him that way, I’ll let him have at you,” Marcus stated with a half-grin.

The Indian stared at Phillip, long and probing, until his eyes softened and mystified Phillip with their sudden depth.

“No, best stop me, Captain Buck. No sense creating more work for yourself.” Phillip’s attempt at humor fell flat. He cleared his throat and turned to the Indian. “You have a message for me?”

The warrior nodded. “A white man. We found there.” He gestured toward a sandbar in the middle of the river.

Phillip’s pulse slowed. He swallowed and willed his voice not to tremble. “One of ours?”

“A seaman. Wounded here.” He tapped his shoulder.

“One of Sailing Master Loomis’ men?” Marcus asked, his voice rising with disbelief.

Phillip resumed walking at a quick pace. “My thoughts exactly, although it was my understanding that no vessel from the naval convoy was to enter the river until we’d arrived.”

“They weren’t,” Marcus confirmed.

The warrior took up a limping step beside them. “There is more,” he said, halting Phillip in his tracks. “Two dead. This side of river.”

“Sailors, as well?” Phillip asked, hoping the dead were runaways.

“Perhaps. Their white bodies lie naked.”

Marcus hissed a curse, while Corporal Higgins’ face lit with anticipation. “We gonna see action?”

“Never mind that,” Phillip said. “Did you hear the Indian’s report?”

“Yes, sir. I heard.”

Phillip pointed two fingers downriver. “Take it to Colonel Clinch, on the double.” At the sound of Higgins’ scurrying footfalls, Phillip turned to Marcus. “Surgeon, you’re with me.”

A silent crowd gathered ahead—around the wounded sailor, Phillip surmised. “Clear out,” he called as he shouldered his way through the throng. “Give the man space to breathe.”

Marcus followed, bumping into Phillip’s back when he stopped short. His breath caught in his lungs. Scalped and brutally stabbed, two stripped men lay in a puddle of blood, their features frozen in twists of agony.

Soldiers shifted, allowing the doctor room to press his fingers to each neck. He stood, retrieved a kerchief from his pocket, and wiped his hands, staining the cloth red. “Give me someone I can help, for heaven’s sake.”

As Marcus stepped over the bodies, a tremble began deep inside Phillip. The quiver grew, moving into his stomach with a painful shudder. “We camp here. Private Davidson, inform Major Collins. Garrigus, set up a perimeter.” He tore his eyes from the grisly scene, stepped back, and then turned to Marcus. “Captain Buck, see to the wounded sailor, wherever he is. I’ll find you shortly. I’m going to look for tracks before we lose daylight.”

Night was falling fast and with it, his composure. The skirts of his coatee slapped the backs of his legs as he quick-stepped toward the shelter of the woods.

He pressed his lips tight and willed his stomach to cease its rebellion. Eyes riveted to a massive cypress twenty yards in, he forced certain images from his mind. Images of Fort Mims, of the dead and dying, of the corpses he had trampled in his fight for life.

Satisfied the cypress hid him, he rested his hands on his knees. His head swam, and the world tipped. Closing his eyes, he focused on keeping his breath even and his army rations where they belonged.

At last, he regained a measure of control—enough to be presentable to his men.

These memories should not hold such power over him. And yet, they did. With more ferocity each passing month.

Furious at himself, he ripped the bicorn from his head and hurled it into the shadows.

A soft cry followed, emanating from the darkness beyond.

Every muscle in Phillip’s body froze, as he strained to pierce the obscurity of dusk. He saw nothing, heard nothing—besides voices carrying from the riverbed. Had he imagined the sound? If he had, the fact wouldn’t astound him. Not anymore.

The cry had possessed a human quality. Would he go so far as to say feminine? His mind replayed the sound. Yes, he would. Had there been a female with the sailors? Phillip knew of no situation where that might be permitted.

Unwilling to believe he was hearing voices in his head, he set out in the direction his chapeau bra had landed. Musket going before him, he proceeded with carefully placed steps and peered into the ever-darkening forest beyond. This could be a trap, but it was worth the risk if it squelched the notion he was indeed mentally disordered.

Ears finely tuned, he crept toward his cap which lay before a scanty shrub.

The bush shook violently. Phillip jerked his musket up then back down as a woman sprang from concealment.

Her skirt snagged, abruptly halting her flight. As her hands battled to extricate the fabric, she lifted her bonneted head, exposing large, fearful eyes and a face which glowed pale in the waning daylight.

Unless the encroaching night was playing tricks on him, this woman was white. Not the midnight skin of a runaway or the smooth olive of a Spaniard, but white. Nearly as white as Phillip.

He settled the butt of his musket at his feet. “Ma’am? What are you doing out here?”

Her struggle grew more desperate until the sound of ripping preceded her tumble. Mostly hidden by palmettos, she scooted backward on the ground.

Still many yards distant, Phillip reached a hand to her, unable to imagine why she might be afraid of him. “I won’t hurt—”

A black man, large as a bear, darted from behind a thick pine to Phillip’s right. His sprint carried him across Phillip’s path and directly toward the woman.

“No! Get away.” Her words came out a garbled croak.

“Halt!” Phillip flipped the weapon back into position and aimed it at the slave’s chest.

Unfazed, he kept moving and would have intercepted the woman except for the stone she hurled. It thudded off his shoulder and stopped him dead in his tracks.

He swiveled to face Phillip, who had shortened the distance between them, his eye never leaving the musket’s sites. “One more step, and before the night's out, I’ll bury you where you stand.”

The man’s shoulders rose and fell with each rapid breath, but his stony face showed no fear. “Then you bettah do it. Otherwise, it’ll be you what's buried. See, I plan to make it to that fort, and losin’ my life to do it is no mattuh to me.”

Phillip’s brother, Dixon, had often said that a man who didn’t value his own life made the most dangerous of enemies. This one wouldn’t live long enough to become that. Phillip leveled his musket’s barrel at the big man’s heart.

In response, he took a single step forward.

“Don’t shoot!” The woman stumbled forward, placing herself between the runaway and the iron-tipped muzzle.

Reflexively, he skipped to the side to maintain his aim on the man. “Step away, ma’am. Don’t want you hurt.” What was she thinking?

She mirrored his movements, keeping herself between them. “No one needs to get hurt.”

“Move away from him, and let me handle this.”

She faced Phillip, her large brown eyes pleading. “Let him go. Please.”

“Woman, are you crazy?” The black man voiced Phillip’s own thoughts.

She was either insane or suffering from over-exposure.

Weapon still trained on the runaway, Phillip took a quick step forward and flailed at her, trying to grab her by the arm.

She skittered to the side, and he swiped nothing but air.

“Get out of the way,” he snapped. Not one of his men would have dared defy his command, yet this woman stood her ground.

She backed further away from him and dangerously close to the black man. “He didn’t run a hundred miles just to be shot down defenseless in the woods a day away from the only chance at freedom he’ll ever have.” Her voice shook, but her rigid back told Phillip she wouldn’t give in any time soon.

With his mind concocting a way to move the woman and save both their necks, Phillip was only half-listening. “What are you talking about?”

Although shadows fell across her face, Phillip didn’t miss the softening of her eyes or the quiver of her lips. Her passion for this slave’s freedom furrowed Phillip’s brow.

“If you were fighting for your life, wouldn’t you want a fair shot at it?” she asked.

Like a Red Stick’s arrow, her soft-spoken question pierced him, immobilizing his thoughts to anything beyond one image—his brother’s doom-stricken features and the blood-thirsty warriors that swarmed him.

“Yes,” he rasped.

Surprise widened her eyes and parted her lips—a lovely image to return to after his disturbing trip to the past.

For one instant, Phillip would have done anything she asked. He lowered his musket and stretched a hand toward her, but before he could even shift his stance, the slave lurched forward.

He encased the woman in his arms, lifting her and covering the lower half of her face with a massive hand. “Hush, now, or you’ll call ‘em all down on us.” Her startled cry preceded the man’s swift backward steps. He hurled a steely glare at Phillip. “You ain’t seen nothin’. Ain’t talked to nobody. You hear, soldier?” The ferocity in his voice chilled Phillip’s blood.

One quick twist of the man’s hand was all it would take to snap the woman’s neck. Berating himself, Phillip released the barrel of his weapon and let it drop to the ground with a soft thud then splayed his hands in front of him. “No need to hurt her. Let her go, and I’ll never breathe a word I saw you. You can go right—”

The slave flipped the woman’s legs into the air and caught them under his arm in the same instant that he took flight.

Three seconds into Phillip's pursuit, common sense won out, and he came to a quick stop. If he were going into the wilds after an unpredictable giant, he had better have a squad backing him.

Within moments, the only evidence left of the woman’s presence was the dread constricting Phillip’s chest that no one would believe she’d even been there.



You can purchase Warring Spirits from Amazon.

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

Friday, December 9, 2011

November's Winners!

The winner of:
  •  K. Dawn Byrd's This Time for Keeps is Privies and Prims
  • Susan Page Davis's The Lady's Maid is LadyDragonKeeper
  •  Roxanne Rustand'sThe Loner's Thanksgiving Wish is Judy
  •  Ryan Grabow's Caffeine is Anne Payne
  •  Chila Woychik's Christmas Campfire Companion is apple blossom
  •  Rose McCauley's Christmas Belles of Georgia is Courtney
  •  Lynda Lee Schab's Mind Over Madi is Michelle Sutton
  •  Suzanne Hartmann's Peril is Rev. Kim Justice
  •  Amanda Deed's Ellenvale Gold is Suzanne
  •  Laura Davis' Come to Me is Yvonne Blake
  •  Melanie Dickerson's The Merchant's Daughter is Joy Hannabass


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. ;-)

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