Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Christmas Edition by Robin Shope

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The Christmas Edition – first book in The Turtle Creek Edition series

The Wild Rose Press (November 21, 2008)


In Robin's words:

I am the Special Education Coordinator for Denton County Juvenile Justice Alternative Program. I work with at risk teens from fifth grade through high school. My husband and I have been married for thirty-one years and we have two grown children. The first two years of marriage, Rick and I traveled overseas as missionaries. Afterwards we served as pastors of a church in Illinois. Presently we live near Dallas, Texas. He is in business and I work for the school system. (My husband still makes yearly mission trips to India.)

To date, my literary works include approximately two hundred articles in magazines such as: Guideposts, Live, Lookout, Mennonite, Christian Reader, Decision, Breakthrough and Christianity Today. Other short stories appear in the books: A Match Made in Heaven, Stories from the Heart, The Evolving Woman, and the New York Times bestseller, In The Arms of Angels by Joan Wester-Anderson. Ann Spangler also used one of my stories in her book, Help! I Can’t Stop Laughing. Another two-dozen stories have been published in the Chicken Soup books. One story, Mom’s Last Laugh, was re-enacted for a PAX-TV program: It’s a Miracle. I co-authored a thriller, The Chase, for Revell. My second book, The Replacement, was released in June 2006. The Candidate was released July, 2007. I continue to publish short stories in magazines. Wildcard, a mystery, will be a spring 2009 release. The Christmas Edition releases Nov. 20. The Valentine Edition releases in January 2009.

Visit the author's shoutlife and website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 11.99

Paperback: 236 pages

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press (November 21, 2008)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1601543301

ISBN-13: 978-1601543301


December 1

The usual winter blizzard blew into southern


Lucy Collins carefully maneuvered her car

through the snow that grew deeper with every gust

of wind. She parked directly in front of her family

owned business, The Turtle Creek Newspaper, just

as her brother, Mike, was making his second pass at

clearing away the snow from the drive with the

snow blower.

“Hey, Mike! Help me carry these inside, will

you?” Lucy called to him as she got out of her heated

car. A sharp wind sucked up her words and nearly

knocked her off balance.

Mike turned off the blower and cupped his hand

around his ear. “What did you say?” His breath

circled around his face in the frigid air.

“Help!” Lucy hollered. She popped the trunk and

pivoted her body in an exaggerated fashion-the way

models do when showcasing prizes on a game show.

She stepped to the other side and waved her hands,

palms up, along the food trays and her mother’s

crystal punch bowl set. Then she flashed her

younger brother her biggest smile.

Mike galloped up to the car just as another gust

of wind, hammered snow at them. “It’s freezing out

here! Even my nose hairs are frozen solid. You go on

in. I’ll get these as soon as I’m finished shoveling the


“Thanks.” Lucy gave him a kiss on the cheek. To

keep her balance, she gingerly walked across the

crunchy ice crystals and into the warm building.

Once inside, she tugged off one boot and then the

other, dropping them under her desk. She hung her

coat and scarf on the back of her swivel chair as she

looked around at the decorations of wreaths and

holly. A sprig of mistletoe hung over the empty desk

at the back. That would surely go to waste. Music

played loudly from her dad’s old stereo inside his


Christmas used to be her favorite holiday, but

after a disastrous end to her engagement, a couple of

years ago, this particular holiday now only served as

a dark reminder of broken promises. With prayer

and a loving family, Lucy was ready to start her life

again, which meant buying her own place right after

the first of the year. Working and living with the

same people was often stifling, especially when

they’re her parents.

Lucy’s mom was the cheerleader as well as the

gopher, making sure everyone had what they

needed, whereas Lucy’s father focused persistently

on getting the next edition out and on time.

Each year at Christmastime, however, Harold

Collins took off his publisher hat and donned

something completely different. The weeks wedged

between Thanksgiving and Christmas became about

assisting others. She loved it all and nothing could

ever take her away from this life.

The employees had finished packing up the last

of the boxes from the food drive which were now

stacked neatly, ready to be dropped off at area

shelters. Lucy wanted to acknowledge all the work

they’d done. “For a small cluster of people, we sure

accomplish a truckload of work, fast! These

donations will help many people down and out this

holiday season. Like all the other years we’ve

worked closely together and done a great job.”

Christmas was about unbridled joy but today, try as

she may, she still wasn’t feeling it. Maybe she could

fake it for everyone’s sake. Lucy lowered her head in

modesty and stated, “This is going to be a Christmas

of miracles.”

As if releasing faith into the air, everyone began

to punctuate her words with applause. Right on cue,

Harold Collins stepped out of his office wearing a hat

something like one of the elves might wear. He even

bobbed his head up and down to show off the cluster

of bells that dangled at the tip of the loopy crown.

Lucy couldn’t help but have her first laugh of the

day, along with the other employees.

“I know it’s still over a month until Christmas

but I thought you could use this now,” Harold said as

he produced a fan of festive red and green envelopes.

Squeals of delight resonated as they opened the

envelopes and saw the amount written on the checks

but none was as loud as Ulilla Langston. Lucy’s dad

had inherited her along with the paper when her

grandpa died. Ulilla was a beautiful, black woman

with hair swept close to her head in a French twist.

She carried weight around the place both literally

and figuratively.

“Harold and Margaret Collins,” she crowed, as

her hand fluttered to her chest. “No way can you

afford to give us this.”

“Nonsense!” Harold blustered, and politely

dismissed her words of protest with a wave. “It

should be three times this and you know it! You all

have worked effortlessly and clocked in many

overtime hours in order to get the newspaper out

each week. I am the one who is grateful. Merry


The bell above the front door jingled as Mike

walked in balancing the punch bowl along with the

holiday trays. “Where do you want these, sis?”

“Let me help with that.” Lucy took the top two

trays. “Take the rest into the break room. I’ll follow

you in.”

Margaret touched the sleeve of Lucy’s cardigan.

“Have you finished our Christmas cards yet?”

“I started a month ago and finally finished them

last night. Not only did I hand write each one, but

the envelopes are addressed and stamped.”

“Which of the photographs did you decide on?”

“I thought I told you that all ready. Never mind,

there’s one in my desk I’ll show you.” Lucy set down

the trays. From the desk drawer, she took a single

envelope and handed it to her mother. “Here, I was

looking for something that would embody a perfect

form of truth when it comes to Christianity.”

Margaret stared at the card. A country church

was nestled into a hillside surrounded on all sides by

fresh snowfall. Above, the sky was brilliant blue.

Lucy looked over her mother’s shoulder. She

scrunched her face, second-guessing her

photographic choice. “Does it look okay?”

“It’s a whole lot more than okay. This is simply

breathtaking and looks professionally done. Lucy,

you should have put your logo somewhere on this

card so people would be aware that you are the one

who took this photograph of our church.” Margaret’s

eyes glistened.

“Not this time. I want people to focus on the

birth of our Savior and the hope He gives for our

lives. Mom, in the past year, I have become more

appreciative of the upbringing you and Dad gave

Mike and me and how you shared your faith which

has now become mine.” Lucy choked back her tears

and touched the silver cross she always wore at her


“Those words are the best gift you could ever

give to me.” Margaret hugged her daughter. “I want

nothing more this season than to see you happy.”

Lucy hugged back tightly. “I’m working hard on


“Lucy!” Mike called from the break room. “I

thought you said you were following me in. I’m

making a mess of things trying to get the food set


“Ah, I better go rescue the food from Mike and

start the punch.” Lucy picked up the trays. “By the

way, it’s getting worse outside so could you suggest

to Dad that we better let everyone go home early.”

“I will, but right now, I want to lend you a


Lucy and Mike uncovered the trays of fruit,

cheese, and crackers. Margaret took her home baked

pastries from the refrigerator and arranged them on

top of doilies set on antique dessert plates. Mike

dumped plastic forks from the box into a basket and

then tore open the plates while Lucy poured the

punch into the bowl and added scoops of sherbet. “I

think we’re ready.”

Once everyone had gathered in the break room,

Harold asked one and all to join hands. Together

they asked for the Lord’s blessing. Then they dug in;

plates were quickly filled with condiments, the

routine appetizers, rolled pieces of meat, decorated

sugar cookies, and cinnamon rolls. That was just for

starters. Margaret kept laying out more and more


Lucy sat at the edge of her chair and sipped her

cup of punch. It was fun watching everyone enjoy

themselves. She closed her eyes and drank in their

laughter. This is what she needed, to be surrounded

by such love and acceptance.

The employees had all worked for her father for

years, so she not only knew their names but their

spouses and children. This is what she loved about

the business. It wasn’t work. It was family. At times

they even squabbled like it, too.

When there were only a few squares of

cantaloupe and crumbs of her mother’s cake left,

Lucy suggested, “Before we go home for the

weekend, let’s go around the room and name one gift

we want for Christmas. No limitations on the gift.

Miss Ulilla, would you like to start?”

The society column woman was clearly pleased

to go first. In her world, this was the correct order of

the universe and she didn’t even try to suppress her

smile. Instead she brushed crumbs from her bosom,

cleared her throat and stood to her feet. “Since Lucy

removed the limitations, what I really want for

Christmas are tickets for a Caribbean cruise under

my tree this year.”

“That’s sounds exciting. I feel pretty confident

you can talk Abe here into going along with you.”

Lucy gave the elderly custodian a wink. It was no

secret Abe had been after Ulilla for as long as she

could remember, but Ulilla always put him off.

Abe stepped right in without being asked, “The

gift I am wishing for is that I can buy those tickets

for Ulilla. One for her and one for me. Separate

cabins, of course.” He turned beet red.

After the laughter died down, Lucy went on to

ask her best friend, “What about you, Monica?”

“I’m hoping for money. Lots and lots of money.”

“Here I thought you’d ask for perfume. The

French kind,” Mike said. His lips curled into a

slow smile. For the first time, Lucy caught

something in the air between her best friend and her

brother and it wasn’t perfume. French or otherwise.

Harold set down his plastic plate with a hollow

thump. “The gift I want this year cannot be found

under my tree.”

“Harold.” Margaret touched his arm. “This isn’t

the time.”

“I think it is, Maggie. After being a family

owned business for the last fifty years, first with my

Papa and now on my own, it’s no secret I want to

keep that other newspaper from coming here. Living

in a small town like Turtle Creek, we can’t

withstand the extra competition. Heck, we can

barely make it as it is. We need to come up with

some ideas of how we’re going to generate more

sales, increase our advertisers and get more

subscribers.” He pulled off his elf hat and lowered

his eyes. His thumb rubbed a finger as he spoke “Or

this might just be the last time we stand together

like this for Christmas.” To everyone’s dismay,

Harold had spit out his worrying words. They spread

across the room.

Lucy frowned. Everything her dad said was the

truth. They all knew it.

“My turn!” Lucy picked up her father’s hat and

pulled it down over her ears. Everyone laughed. “My

Christmas gift is to hire a new editor who will knock

the socks off our readers with his fresh ideas and


“And how will you know this editor when he

comes through the front door?” Carol from

advertising asked.

“Because…” Lucy tapped her chin in thought.

“The man I have prayed for will write with heart.”

Unexpected tears gathered along the edges of her

eyes. The end of her nose tingled. “Anyone who can

move an audience with words is going to increase

circulation which will attract businesses to grab ad

space and make readers buy our paper.” She touched

her cross. I have my faith in you, Lord.

The front door jingled. Monica looked out into

the office. “Hey, guys, there’s an awesome looking

guy standing at the front counter. I believe Lucy’s

gift just arrived. Quick Lucy, say another prayer

while you have God’s attention.”

Lucy walked out of the break room with

shoulders squared, back straight. There he stood.

Tall, with sandy brown hair and wickedly wonderful

eyes. Cherry cheeks, too, thanks to the frosty

weather. His gray eyes were unsettling. He stood on

one foot and tapped one shoe against the other to

knock off the snow. Then he repeated the process

with the other shoe. Monica was right. He was a


“How may I help you?” Lucy folded her hands

together and placed them on the counter.

“I’m looking for Lucy Collins.” He stared her in

the eyes.

“You’ve found her.” Lucy heard laughter. She

turned around to see the doorway to the break room

was crowded with faces. All eyes were pinned on

them. Of course, she had to put on a good show for

them. Lucy turned back around and faced him.

Feeling cocky, she said, “I know why you’re here.”

“You do?” he seemed startled.

“Yes, you’re here about the ad I placed in this

week’s paper for an editor.”

His chin dropped and he was speechless for a

moment. “You’re…absolutely right. I did see it

advertised.” The man set his briefcase down and

popped it open. He started shuffling around the

inside of it. Papers rustled. Finally, he looked up

sheepishly. He had worried eyes. “I seem to have

forgotten my resume. Not a good way to start a job

interview. By the way, I’m Joe McNamara.”

Lucy shook his hand and then reached under

the counter for an application. She clamped it down

on a clipboard, slipped a pen underneath and

handed it to him. “I don’t need your resume but I do

need to know if you can write. When you’re done

filling this out, I want you to write an editorial for

me.” She slid a blank piece of paper toward him.

“On what subject?” he scratched the end of his


“You’re the editor so you get to decide.” She

slapped her hand down on the paper.

Joe nodded and then looked around for a place

to sit. He chose a chair from the waiting area. Lucy

watched him as he read the application and then

thoughtfully filled in the blanks. Every now and

then he looked up and caught her staring at him. He

smiled but she quickly looked away.

The Turtle Creek Newspaper employees began

to quickly leave. “Don’t stay too long, Lucy, or you’ll

be trapped in here for the weekend,” Abe warned her

on the way out. For the first time ever, Ulilla was on

his arm.

“I won’t be much longer. I am dreaming of a cozy

fire with hot chocolate.”

“That’s only one of the things I’m dreaming of!”

Ulilla gushed as she plunged through the doorway.

Shocked over Ulilla’s sudden change of heart, Lucy

couldn’t help but stare.

Finally Joe stood to his feet and handed the

clipboard back to her, the pen returned to the same

position as when she had handed it to him. Now it

was Joe’s turn to slide the paper across the counter

to her. Lucy looked at it. Maybe she missed

something. She flipped it over. Both sides were

blank. She looked at Joe quizzically.

“May I?” he asked nodding toward one of the


“Be my guest.” Lucy granted permission and

then caught her reflection in a window. She quickly

pulled off the Santa hat. Static electricity popped

around her head like a lightening rod. She knew she

was blushing and really hoped he wouldn’t notice.

Lucy watched as his long fingers flew across the

keyboard. Her keyboard. The tips of the fingers hit

the center of the keys with great accuracy. Tap-tap tap

the keys sank and rose again. She was close

enough to see the words without her glasses and

didn’t see any red squiggly lines. At least the fella

could spell.

“Psst!” Monica called from the break room.

Lucy turned around. “What?” she mouthed


With frantic movements, Monica motioned for

Lucy to come talk to her. When Lucy walked into the

room, everyone huddled around. “We need details.”

Lucy gave a deep sigh happy to oblige. “His

name is Joe McNamara. According to his

application, he’s from Chicago, so I guess he must be

relocating. He’s trying out for our paper by writing

an editorial for me.”

“Good idea,” Harold said while cramming the

last sugar cookie into his mouth.

“Why would he want to apply for a job with us?”

Mike asked suspiciously as he tied the top of a

plastic garbage bag closed.

“That’s easy to answer. We are the best

newspaper in the entire southern lakes region,”

Harold answered shooting bits of cookie from his

mouth like falling stars.

“Yea, right,” Mike panned as he tossed the bag

on top of the other bags.

“You have to start at a small paper and work

your way up to get into a big city paper,” Monica

explained as she slipped on her winter coat. Then

she winked at Mike. “He’s getting his start right

here with us.”

“Whoa, first I have to hire him, and once he

hears what the pay is, he may just hop back on the


“Finished,” a male voice spoke.

Everyone turned to look. Joe stood just feet

away, holding his paper out.

Lucy hoped he hadn’t heard everything. She

snatched the paper from him and furrowed her brow.

“That was fast.”

“Not when you have something burning inside

that you feel passionately about.”

She held it between her fingers and read aloud.

Saying Goodbye

by Joseph McNamara

What will I ever do without Cafe Books?

Ever since the announcement that the

independent bookseller was going out of business,

I've been a mess. The big chain stores serve a

purpose, sure, but they don't contain the atmosphere

and warmth that emulates from the owners of Cafe

Books. When I walk into their shop, it's like visiting

family. Mr. and Mrs. Myers always greet me and

everyone, with a genuine smile, and when are they

not armed with a recommendation for a new title

they know I'll enjoy? Just for me. They notice me. Me.

Cafe Books is where I first went whale hunting

with Melville and frog collecting with Steinbeck. How

can I forget all the murderous adventures I shared

with my good friend, Mike Hammer, or faced a scary,

yet Brave New World with Huxley? I’ve read more

than books on the leather sofa at Cafe Books. I've

made friends. Lived a million different lives. Cried

countless tears. And have laughed out loud so often,

and so hard, that my stomach still aches from the

memories alone.

How does one say good bye to such a place?

I started patronizing Café Books just off Kenzie

Avenue in Chicago about two years ago. And so when

the owners announced suddenly it would be going out

of business and closing its door yesterday, I made it a

point to stop by.

The room was busy with faithful shoppers who

felt this place was a stabilizing source in their

community. Lexie Jacobson, a 28-year-old hairstylist

scooped up discount novels and a couple of CDs. “I’m

sure going to miss this place,” she said with a shake

of her head. She was not alone with this feeling.

“It’s hard to find bookstores that are not part of a

national chain,” 35-year-old school teacher

Samantha Jones said with a sigh.

The sentiment was expressed again and again by

dozens of patrons.

In the never ending search for bigger and better,

give me the small and unique. Meet me at Café

Books. Help me say goodbye.

No one spoke. Lucy couldn’t take her eyes from

the page. The words evoked warmth and sentiment.

It was more than she had hoped for. He was it. This

was her Christmas gift.

It wasn’t the first sight of him that did it. It

wasn’t the endearing way he drummed his thigh

with the pen when he was nervously trying to figure

out what to write down on his application that

formed her opinion. Nor even his calm manner as he

slid his fingers across her keyboard that made the

difference. It was his words. These words. They were

simple and brilliant. Words that had taken the

breath from her soul. She looked up at him with new

eyes. He got her—yet how could that happen when

they only met minutes ago.

“Wow,” she gulped.

“Well, it was spontaneous.” Joe uneasily tugged

at his collar. “If I had more time, I could have done

much better.”

They smiled at each other as if there was more

to the words that hung in the air. Her mind was

wandering where it shouldn’t. “I need to clarify


“Clarify away, Ms. Collins.”


“Lucy,” he repeated in a sweet tone.

“Um, we can’t afford to pay you much. It’s

obvious you’re quite gifted so I’m not sure we’re what

you’re looking for in a newspaper.”

“The experience is what is valuable here.”

“How much notice do you need to give your old

place?” Harold stepped forward to ask. “The sooner

you can start the better.”

“Dad!” Lucy cut in as blood rushed to her face.

“Ah, my schedule is pretty well wide open, Sir. I

can start as soon as I’m needed, that is if I am hired.

I really don’t need much—a roof over my head

and...a new start.”

Lucy saw it in his eyes. He wasn’t kidding.

“You know, Harold, there is the small apartment

above our garage. Mr. McNamara could stay there

until he finds another place,” Margaret reminded


“I’ll take it,” Joe was quick to accept.

A gust of wind whipped through the building

when Monica opened the door. “Better get a move

on, people. I just heard on the radio that the

Interstate is closed down. The town is pretty well

socked in. It’s time for us to lock up and head for our

homes. I love you all but no way do I want to be

stuck in here with you.”

Everyone went for their coats.

“I better take you home, so I know you made it

safely,” Mike told Monica.

“If you shovel my walk too, there might be a

reward in it for you,” Monica winked as she nudged

his side with her elbow.

“I love rewards.”

“Mike, don’t be long. There are Christmas boxes

in the attic I need for you to get down for me,”

Margaret said following her son out to the parking

lot. “We’re decorating the tree tonight and you can’t

miss it.” She shut the door behind them.

“Ah, is there something you want me to sign? A

contract or something?” Joe asked, quickly looking

from Harold to Lucy.

“I never thought about a contract,” Lucy said,

wondering if they had anything the resembled a


“We don’t do contracts here. A shake of my hand

is how I operate.” Harold slid his arm down through

his winter jacket and out the opening. “You better

come along with us. You’ll never get back to the city


With a simple handshake, Lucy Collins’ day took

a new direction.

Unfortunately, I haven't gotten to read anything more than the beginning of this book. The last couple of weeks with my girlfriend has been tough. Then we got one of our computer's fixed that we haven't had since last spring and we hooked that up to the computer. All the while I kept meaning to switch back to the old computer with this story in it. What I've read so far I have loved and enjoyed!

As soon as I finish the book, I will post a more thorough review. My copy is .pdf and I've never tried one of those before in a full length novel! One negative I can say about the format is "out of sight out of mind". When there's not a novel sitting on my nightstand or on my bed, I don't think about it.

Please check out the other reviers through FIRST to learn what they thought of Robin's book.


Pamela J said...

I know what you mean by out of sight, out of mind. With the .pdf version you can't hardly take it with you unless it is contained in a lap top. It would be easier for me to sit on my computer than for it to sit on my lap.
Pam W

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Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.