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)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




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



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:





December 1



The usual winter blizzard blew into southern



Wisconsin.





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



walk.”





“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



office.





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



Christmas!”





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



neckline.





“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



that.”





“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



up.”





“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



hand.”





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



food.





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



perspective!”





“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



looker.





“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



nose.





“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



computers.





“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



silently.





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



Interstate.”





“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



something.”





“Clarify away, Ms. Collins.”





“Lucy.”





“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



him.





“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



contract.





“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



tonight.”





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.

1 comments:

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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