Thursday, September 30, 2010

A new book from DeAnna Julie Dodson

About Letters in the Attic Up in her grandmother’s attic in Stony Point, Maine, Annie Dawson finds a stack of old letters from her childhood friend Susan Morris. Annie remembers Susan fondly and would like to get back in touch, but nobody seems to know what’s become of her. Her friends at The Hook and Needle Club aren’t much help either. All they remember is that Susan left town more than twenty years ago to marry a very wealthy man, but none of them is quite sure who he was. And Annie can find no record of any marriage. The more Annie searches, the more she begins to wonder if something has happened to Susan. Something bad.

About DeAnna Julie Dodson DeAnna Julie Dodson is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, and Letters in the Attic, a contemporary mystery in the Annie’s Attic series. She is currently working on The Drew Farthering Mysteries, a new series of books set in 1930s England. A graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, she currently lives in North Texas with four spoiled cats and, when not writing, enjoys quilting, cross stitch and NHL hockey.

Interview: Tell us about your latest book. I’m very excited about the release of Letters in the Attic, an Annie’s Attic Mystery. Letters is the fourth book in this new series about Annie Dawson, a widow from Texas who goes up to clean out and sell her late grandmother’s Victorian house in Maine only to find a whole attic full of intriguing and sometimes mysterious objects. The series particularly interested me because Annie and her friends are all needleworkers – knitters, crocheters, quilters, cross-stitchers – and I’ve been interested in needlework for as long as I can remember. Letters in the Attic came out this summer from DRG.

What's your favorite part of the story? I think I enjoyed writing Officer Roy Hamilton the most. I actually didn’t think much about him at first. He was meant to be a very minor character who was there just to take fingerprints. Soon, though, he let me know that that was not going to be enough for him. He put on his mirrored sunglasses and sauntered up to me and said he just knew I had something more important for him to do. And darned if he wasn’t right!

What do you hope your readers will get out of the story? I think the most important thing is that there is freedom in truth. Hiding from it only weighs you down and keeps you prisoner. Facing the truth breaks those chains and breaks the hold of those who would use the fear of that truth against you. Once it’s in the light of day, whatever it is you’re hiding from, it loses its power.

Tell us a little about your writing. Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book? Of course, the greatest reference tool these days is the internet. It’s made research so much easier, though you do have to be careful of which sources you trust. Still, I like to have some actual reference books handy when I’m writing. I especially like The Well-Tempered Sentence by Karen Elizabeth Gordon and Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss for solving those thorny grammar and usage questions. They’re both extremely practical while appealing to my sometimes-off-the-wall sense of humor. For Letters in the Attic, of course, my best friend was the packet of series information the publisher gave me so my book would mesh with the others in the series. Since writing this kind of book was new to me, this packet was really a life saver.

Who do you rely on for help when writing? Writing can be a very lonely and isolated job. And the worst part of it is that, once you’ve written something, you can never see it the way a new reader will see it. Obviously, you know what you meant to say when you wrote it, but does it really say that? Really? You just have to have a pre-reader look it over, someone who will speak the truth in love and tell you honestly what works and what doesn’t. I met author Robin Hardy (The Chataine’s Guardian and many, many more) when I took a “Writing Christian Fiction” class at the local community college. At that point, I didn’t imagine I would ever actually be published. She was so gracious and so kind to this very green wannabe writer. She actually read through my 250,000-word manuscript (the one that became In Honor Bound) and showed me how to improve it and, more importantly, how I could cut it down to a manageable length. Now, years later, she’s still my first and best pre-reader and a terrific friend. She catches inconsistencies and stupid mistakes and tells me when something just falls flat. I would so much rather hear it from her than from my editor or, worst of all, from my readers. I’m so blessed to know her!

Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time? I’m addicted to cross-stitch and quilting. I have just a ton of projects yet to be done because I want to do everything. That’s one of the reasons I have enjoyed working on this series so much. I can relate to the ladies in the Annie’s Attic Mysteries who love to make beautiful things by hand.

What advice would you give to an unpublished writer? I suppose there are writing prodigies out there, people who can just sit down and write perfection from word one, but I’ve never met anyone like that. The only way I know to succeed in writing is to write. And write. And write. And read a lot. And write more. I’ve heard it said that it takes about ten thousand hours to really master the craft of writing. Shortcuts don’t work. Put in your time. There’s really no other way to end up with a product that will make you proud. But while you’re putting in your time, don’t get discouraged. Really learning to write is a long, arduous process. It’s usually a thankless job. Lots of people say they want to write. Very few stick with it long enough to actually become writers. Writing is a lonely business. It can be a very discouraging one. But if it’s something God has called you to do, there is nothing else as satisfying. Stay the course. Learn your craft. Write the book that’s on your heart. God will use it where He sees fit. Website: Blog: Purchase Letters in the Attic:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Re'Generation Reunion Concert

Photo: my group (Re'Gen 7) performing at Disney World.

Some of you may know that I used to sing with the Re'Generation, back in 1977-78. Re'Gen was a premier vocal group that traveled the country for a full year--ten singers who loved God and country. We were directed by Derric Johnson and I can truly say it was one of the most formative years of my life.

We are about to have our third --and 40th year--Re'Gen reunion. It will be October 15-16 in Orlando, and I'm so excited. We've pulled out our music and we'll be practicing at home before we come together. If you're in the Orlando vicinity and you'd like to come to the concert, come on!

On Saturday evening, Oct. 16th, at 7:30 p.m., there'll be a reception and Sharing Concert in which several folks will share what they're currently singing. This will be at the First Baptist Orlando.

On Sunday morning, Oct. 17th, the Re'Gen group will sing a couple of songs in the morning service, but the big concert will be held that night, 6 p.m., at First Baptist Orlando. If you love Re'Gen, you have to be there if at all possible!

I wish I knew how to post an audio clip in my blog--if I could, I'd give you a taste of this glorious music (can you say ten-part a capella?) But I can at least leave you with a picture. :-)
If you can make it to Orlando, mark those days on your calendar now!


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A new release from Camy Tang!

Excerpt of FORMULA FOR DANGER by Camy Tang

Formula for Danger
Camy Tang


Someone wants dermatologist Rachel Grant's latest research, and they'll do anything to get it. Including trashing the plants needed for her breakthrough scar-reducing cream—and trying to run Rachel down. Desperate for help, she turns to Edward Villa, the only man she trusts. But the greenhouse owner knows too much about Rachel's research, and now he's a target, too. Break-ins, muggings, murder…the would-be thief is getting desperate—and getting closer. Edward vows to protect Rachel at all costs. Yet with time ticking away, Edward knows they have to uncover the madman shadowing Rachel before their chance for a future is destroyed.

Excerpt of chapter one:

Dr. Rachel Grant had walked only a few feet out the back door of her family's Sonoma day spa, Joy Luck Life, when the patter of running footsteps behind her made her turn.

She had only a glimpse of a dark hoodie and a tall, lanky figure before a shove sent her sprawling onto the sidewalk. Thwack! Her left cheekbone collided with the cement, sending pain lancing through her head.

Snow clouded her vision and she struggled to open her eyes. Her heart pounded in her throat, making it hard for her to breathe. Frantic, she opened her mouth wide but no sound came out.

She glanced up. The backsides of dirty sneakers filled her field of view as they trotted away from her. Then a hand scooped up the bag strap of her sister Naomi's laptop computer, which had flown from Rachel's grip to land on the edge of the pool of light from the parking lot streetlamp. The sneakers hustled away.

Breathe! Rachel forced her wooden lungs to fill and tried to scream, but only a harsh croak came out. Where were the security guards? They should have seen the attack thanks to the outside video cameras. How long would it take for them to run out here?

Even worse, Naomi would be devastated to lose that laptop, which she'd bought barely five hours ago.

She heard the creak of the spa's back door, then more footsteps. "Rachel! Rach, are you okay?" Naomi fell to her knees beside her, hands on Rachel's shoulders. "I was talking to Martin, and we saw it all on the security camera." Martin, one of the security guards, raced past them, pursuing the stranger and the laptop.

In the distance, a woman's voice screeched, "What are you doing? Don't leave me!" It sounded as if it had come from the front of the spa.

Who was that? What was going on?

Rachel pushed herself up, her cheekbone throbbing as she rose. She squeezed her eyes shut to the wave of pain and paused on her knees, her head bowed.

Naomi put her arm around her. "Where are you hurt?"

"Just my cheek."

Naomi pulled Rachel's hair away from her face to look at her. Rachel had a hard time opening her eyes again as the pain splashed across her forehead, trickling back inside her skull. "How bad is it?"

"You'll have a black eye, that's for sure. We need to get you to the hospital."

"No, I'll have Monica look at it first. If the family nurse says so, then I'll go to the hospital." Just the thought of all the people in a crowded emergency room made Rachel cringe. She only wanted a quiet place to lie down and recover. "I'm sorry about your laptop."

"Forget the laptop, I'm worried about you."

"I only took a fall, nothing worse. But that laptop was new—"

"I can buy a new one. Besides, I'm almost glad it was new because it didn't have anything on it, so the spa didn't lose any sensitive information. That would have been worse." Especially since Naomi still managed the spa while their father recovered from his stroke. Naomi had bought the computer to help her with the spa's accounting.

"We should call the police and report it stolen."

"We should call Dad and Aunt Becca first." Naomi dug her cell phone out of her pocket.

"Call Aunt Becca. Aren't she and Detective Carter out to dinner tonight?" The two of them were dating again after an argument that had kept them apart for a few months. It was almost 10:00 p.m., but they might still be together at a movie.

As Naomi talked to Aunt Becca—who indeed was with Detective Horatio Carter—Rachel managed to sit up, although the evening sky spun around her. She clutched her hands together, trying to stop their shaking. She'd been attacked in the spa parking lot!

Clicking heels made Rachel look up. Gloria Reynolds, one of Naomi's massage clients, tripped toward them. "Dr. Grant, are you all right? Did that man hurt you?"

"Ms. Reynolds, you're still here?" Not the most tactful thing to say, but her headache was making it hard for her to be polite.

"Ms. Reynolds was my last client for tonight," Naomi told Rachel as she ended her call with Aunt Becca.

Gloria flipped her highlighted hair with a manicured hand. "The security guard was walking me to my car when he saw that person running away. Miss Grant," Gloria said to Naomi, "you really should talk to that guard. He ran after the person and left me by myself. Even when I called to him. And it was obvious the other guard was after the man, too, so there was no need for him to give chase."

Naomi smiled politely and responded with amazing courtesy when Rachel knew she must be rolling her eyes inside.

A flash of car headlights made Rachel wince as a vehicle headed down the spa driveway.

Then alarm jolted through her. The spa was closed, and the security guards, running after the thief toward the drive way, would have stopped the car from entering. Were the guards okay?

The car maneuvered into the staff parking lot, then stopped right next to them. A door opened and slammed shut. "Rachel!"

Edward Villa's voice made her heart leap into her throat, then settle back down in her chest, racing. Edward was here. Suddenly everything seemed okay.

No, she had to stop reacting this way to him. He didn't think of her as anything other than a client.

"Are you all right?"

She smelled him—pine, a hint of the orchids he worked with at his greenhouses and earthy musk—before her eyes registered that he was crouched in front of her, edging out Ms. Reynolds.

"The guards told me what happened when I drove in."

She had been able to keep it together when talking to Naomi, but somehow, his concern for her undermined her control over her emotions, and she steeled her jaw against a sudden onslaught of wild sobbing. Casting herself into his arms would only solidify his cool opinion of her, which he had made abundantly clear a couple months ago.

"Rachel." He reached out for her.

She held up a hand to stop him.

He grasped her hand, engulfing her fingers. His callused fingers rubbed her knuckles. His touch made her head spin.

"I'm fine," she whispered, breathless. She pulled her hand away.

The security guards walked up to them. "I'm sorry, Miss Grant, he got away. He ran up the driveway, and there was a car waiting for him at the end of it. They took off."

"Dr. Grant, are you okay?" the other guard asked, peering at Rachel.

She felt like a bug on display. "I'm fine." She heaved herself to her feet, but it made the blood pound painfully in her head. She swayed.

Edward's arm wrapped around her, making the earth stand still again. It felt good to be held by him. It felt…

Too good. She pulled away from him.

Edward paused a moment, then he bent down and collected her purse, which had dropped and scattered its contents when she fell. As he handed it to her, his eyes were calm, but somehow she could sense a fire burning behind them. As if other emotions ran deeper.

She didn't understand. While they had been working together for the past year on Rachel's new product for the spa, they had gotten closer, and she had felt free to be herself with him. But then, in the past couple months, he had withdrawn from her, become distant and polite.

Maybe he had seen who she really was…and he hadn't liked what he saw.

The thought was like a punch to her gut, every time she thought it. Which had been often in the past two months.

No, maybe he had never been interested in her, and he'd suddenly become aware that he was leading her on. Regardless, recently he had been clear in showing that he had no interest in her beyond a good business relationship.

She was just imagining the emotion in his eyes was deeper than natural concern. "Thank you." She took her purse from him, avoiding touching his hand again.

The silence was thicker than cold cream.

"Rachel—" he began.

"Here you go, Miss Rachel." Martin, a security guard who had been with them for years, handed her an ice pack he must have gotten from inside the spa. "That'll keep the swelling down from that shiner."

His light words made her smile, made the situation not seem so horribly violating. "Thanks, Martin." She pressed the cold pack to her eye, and found that it enabled her to avoid looking at Edward.

"Ms. Reynolds," Naomi said, "let me escort you back inside. We can wait for the police in one of the lounge rooms."

Rachel stayed outside and watched them reenter the spa. She tried not to remember what had happened, but it came to her in flashes. She shivered. She'd been bullied in grade school because she'd been a geek and a bit odd, but no one had ever assaulted her. Even bickering with her sisters Naomi and Monica had never gone beyond a little hair-pulling.

But tonight, someone had deliberately hurt her. It made her feel weak and vulnerable. Not in control.

And she didn't like it.

She especially didn't like that it had happened here, at the spa.

She suddenly realized that Edward had no reason to visit her here. They usually talked on the phone about the basil plants he was growing for production of her new spa product and met at his greenhouses. Why was he at the spa this late at night? "Edward, what are you doing here?"

His eyes were deep obsidian pools as they studied her, then he surprised her by looking away.


He sighed. "I called your home and your sister Monica said you were still here."

"Did you try calling my cell phone? Did I not hear it ringing?" She fumbled in her purse and grasped the rubbery edge of her rugged waterproof cell phone—a necessity since she'd ruined two phones by using them while working in the lab with chemicals.

"No, I didn't call."

Avoidance wasn't Edward's style—neither was this vague evasiveness. "Then what…?"

He didn't answer immediately, and his face was grave. "I came to the spa to tell you something you're not going to like."

Her heart beat hard, once. But really, how could her day get any worse? "Lay it on me. I'm ready."

"Earlier tonight, someone broke into greenhouse four."

"Greenhouse four? My greenhouse?" Technically, it was his greenhouse, but the only things in it were her Malaysian basil plants. "Were you there? Are you okay?"

He paused, and his searching gaze made her stomach flip. But she lifted her head and tightened her muscles to keep her molten insides in place.

"I'm fine. I wasn't there when it happened."

"Oh. Good." She tried to slow her racing heart. "Did you call the police?"

"Yes. I left my brother, Alex, to meet with them while I came to talk to you. On the way, I called Horatio Carter, who said he was also headed here with your aunt, so that was fortunate. I'm hoping he'll come back to the greenhouse with me tonight."

"How did you find out about the break-in?"

"I left my cell phone in greenhouse six, so I went to get it. I noticed movement in the yard, and when I went to check the greenhouses, I found yours unlocked."

Her headache became a jackhammer against her skull. "Was everything okay?"

The lines deepened around his mouth. "No. Someone trashed it—all your plants."

She gasped.

"Don't panic too much. Alex is moving the plants to greenhouse seven right now, and I can salvage most of it."

"Most of it?" She needed Edward to cultivate a certain number of plants so she could make the extract for her scar-reduction cream, scheduled to launch in only five months. She couldn't be late. The spa depended on her new product launch. "Will you be able to grow more? I need…" She faltered at the shadow that crossed his eyes.

He replied evenly, "Your research will be fine, Rachel."

His distant tone confused her. What had she said? She switched tactics. "You left your cell phone in a greenhouse? You never do that. If you hadn't forgotten it…"

A half smile twitched at his mouth. "God was watching over your plants, I think."

The familiar way he said it made something squirm inside her. Edward had always had such a different relationship with God than she did, and it seemed to widen the gap between them. "Why didn't the alarm go off? I thought the greenhouses all had security alarms in place."

"They do—to monitor temperature and humidity, and also to alert when a window or door is opened. But the system in greenhouse four didn't go off. I checked it, and it looks like the thief tampered with it."

"Aren't those security alarms top-of-the-line? High-tech?"

He nodded. "Whoever did this was a professional, not your average thief."

The mild California fall breeze was suddenly frosty against her skin. "How about the other greenhouses?"

"I checked them all. Only yours was broken into."

"Only mine?" This was a blow she didn't know if she could bear, not on top of everything that had happened tonight. She bit her lip.

It almost looked as if he didn't know what to do with his hands, finally resting them on his slim hips. "I don't understand it. Some of the plants in my other greenhouses are extremely rare and valuable, but whoever came by didn't even touch them."

She'd seen those plants—exotic orchids and rare rain-forest species, mostly commissioned by wealthy clients because of Edward's reputation for cultivating delicate tropical plants. "None of them were taken?"

If the burglar could have dismantled the security alarm for one greenhouse, surely he could have dismantled the security alarms for the others. Or maybe he hadn't had time to because Edward had discovered the thief's activities. But why bother with destroying her plants when he could have more quickly gotten into the other greenhouses and stolen the rarer species?

Edward's eyes pinned her with concern and gravity. "The thief entered only greenhouse four, Rach—the thief was only after your plants."

Edward hated chaos, and it surrounded him in greenhouse four—broken pots, torn leaves and potting soil dusting everything. He stood in the midst of the destruction and sighed.

It wasn't actually that bad. He'd discovered the open door before the temperature had dropped too much, and now Rachel's plants were all in greenhouse seven. He was also planning on paying for an evening guard to walk the greenhouses—at least until the person responsible for this was caught.

Detective Carter glanced up from where he surveyed some toppled tables. "It would have been better for me if you'd left the scene as is, Edward."

"Sorry, Detective, but Malaysian basil is extremely sensitive to temperature and humidity. The plants could have died within the hour."

Detective Carter shrugged and went back to taking notes.

"Thanks for convincing Rachel not to come out here tonight, Horatio," Edward said.

The detective shook his head, his thinning red-gold hair glinting dully in the fluorescent light. "She didn't need to see this. She's had a bad night already. How many plants survived?"

"Almost all of them, actually."

Order from: here.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Scrivener for Windows is Coming!

When I speak at writers' conferences, people always ask what software program I use to write (not that any program will write the book for you, but some of them are a lot more fun than others.)

A couple of years ago I discovered Scrivener--I use it and I LOVE it--but it was only available for the Mac. Though I think it's good enough to motivate someone to toss their Windows computer and get a Mac, not everyone felt that way.

But now they can try Scrivener on Windows. And if it's as good as the Mac version, I think soon nearly everyone will be using it.

Here's a letter from one of the Scrivener guys, with news that may interest you:


I'm the developer of Scrivener for the Mac and you are receiving this e-mail because at some point over the past year or so you signed up to receive news about a potential Windows version of Scrivener.

I know, since you signed up there has been nothing but tumbleweed.

But: Thanks for signing up, and I hope you're still interested - because finally we have some news. And the news is this:

Scrivener for Windows is on its way.

If you have forgotten entirely what Scrivener even is, well, it's a writing program that allows you to split up a long text into lots of small chunks, to edit them independently or together as one long document, to rearrange them on a corkboard or in an outliner, to view other documents - such as images and PDF files - alongside your text, and then to compile your manuscript into one long document for exporting to a word processor such as Microsoft Word, or for printing. I designed it to help me with my own writing as a wannabe novelist and
someone who had to write a long dissertation. The Mac version is used by best-selling novelists, academics, lawyers, scriptwriters and many other writers. (You can read some of the testimonials of published writers at, but I'm not writing with the intention of giving you the hard sell.)

Enough preamble - onto the news:

• Scrivener for Windows has in fact been in development for the past two years.

• We hope to have it on sale early next year, in late January or February.

• We will be releasing a public beta late next month (around 25th October), so you will be able to download and try it very soon - in time for National Novel Writing Month ( ). (For those who have never used a beta before, a beta version is an early version that is mostly feature-complete but which hasn't been extensively tested yet. This means that there will be bugs we haven't found and it may crash occasionally. The idea of a public beta is that users who are intrepid and don't mind putting up with bugs can use it early to help us find the worst problems before it goes on sale to a wider user-base.
Obviously therefore you should only use the beta if you are happy to put up with problems and back up regularly, but we'll give free copies to those who spend significant time and effort helping us track down bugs.) We'll release more news about where and how to download next month.

• When Scrivener for Windows goes on sale early next year it will cost $40 for the regular licence and $35 for the education license.

• Scrivener for Windows will run on Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

• Anyone who participates in NaNoWriMo this year and achieves their 50,000 words (and has them validated) will get a 50% discount coupon which they will be able to use when Scrivener for Windows is released next year.

• To whet your appetite, we have put together a small teaser video, which you can view here, along with more information:

We are aware that in the past year or two several Scrivener clones have appeared on Windows, but we really hope that you will try out Scrivener for Windows and that, if you were one of the many who have been telling us you wished we produced a version for Windows, you will be as excited as I am about this. The chief Windows developer is an Australian guy called Lee and he has done an amazing job in turning the version of Scrivener I designed for the Mac into a fully-native Windows application.

Thanks again for your interest in Scrivener. If you have any questions, please drop David a line at and he'll be happy to answer them, and please feel free to drop by the user forums at too.

All the best,

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Study: Books in the New Testament

Week Four: How do we know which books should be in the New Testament?

Last week we talked about the books of the Old Testament and how they came to be collected in our modern Bibles. Now let’s take a look at the New Testament.

You probably know that the New Testament—which begins with the story of Jesus and ends with a prophetic message—is composed of four “gospels,” a book about what the disciples did right after Jesus returned to heaven, several letters to brand-new churches, and John’s “revelation” or “vision” of the last days. So who decided which books belonged in the New Testament?

Let’s back up a moment. You may remember that Jesus had twelve disciples. Judas committed suicide, but was replaced by Matthias, another eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry and resurrection. After Christ’s resurrection, the disciples were called “apostles” and the apostles were given a special ability to remember everything they had seen. (Paul, also called Saul, was also an apostle, for he saw Jesus at the time of his conversion.)

Jesus had promised and predicted this responsibility. “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26). Not only would the Spirit remind the disciples of what they had seen, He would teach them new truths and guide them into great understanding. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me” (John 16:13-14).

The apostles, who were inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote most of the books of the New Testament. That’s why we know we can trust the books of the New Testament as if God had written them with his own fingertip.

There are some books, however, who were written by other people—namely, Mark, Luke, Acts, and Jude. Mark was a young Jewish man who followed Christ, while Luke (who wrote Luke and Acts) was a Greek physician who also followed Christ. Jude was James’s brother. In these cases, members of the early church had to read these writings with an open heart and mind to see if anything in them contradicted what they knew to be true about the gospel of Christ. We also know that Paul, Mark, Jude, Luke, and James knew each other. If Luke had been writing something that was not true, Paul or one of the other apostles would have raised a ruckus.

Last week we learned that the Jewish rabbis believed that the Holy Spirit stopped inspiring prophets around the time the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. We learned that they believed that God was not inspiring writings during the time in which the Apocrypha was written.

But then Jesus came . . . the Son of God who was the fulfillment of so many prophecies. Jesus told his disciples, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled. Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ You are witnesses of all these things’” (Luke 24:44-48).

The author of Hebrews says it this way: “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son” (Heb. 1:1-2).

Jesus sent out his apostles to teach the world and to write the books that would teach generations to come. His Spirit guided those authors so they wrote the words of God for you and me to read. God gave special supernatural powers to the apostles, and they gave them to a few others who followed Jesus. These “powers” were like the supernatural signs demonstrated by many of the Old Testaments prophets. These signs and wonders proved that these people were really speaking for God.

All of the apostles had died by the end of the first century, but we still have their writings. Through the ages, Christians have preserved and protected their books, and we consider them the “New Testament,” or the second half of our Bible.

Many people have found old manuscripts and claimed that they, too, belong in the Bible, but these were not written by apostle and were not validated by the early church. They were also not validated by wonders from God. Furthermore, read what God told John to write at the end of his lifetime—and John was the last living apostle: “And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: if anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book” (Rev. 22:18-19).

Just as Genesis is the first book in the Bible, for it tells of creation, Revelation is the last book, for it tells of God’s re-creation of heaven and earth. We are right to assume that God meant that we are not to add anything to the entire Bible, for He has given it to us as a complete work. It contains all the information we need to understand that God is our creator, that He loves us, and that He wants to forgive us and free us from sin. The Bible tells us of our past, our present, and our future—whether we decide to accept God’s gift or reject it.

Memory verse: “Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created” (Psalm 119:89).

Discussion questions:

1. Many of the books of the New Testament are letters written by the apostles (Peter, Paul, John) to churches they had founded or were helping to support. The new Christians had many questions about how to live this new Christian life. In 2 Corinthians 12:12, Paul wrote the Christians at Corinth: “When I was with you, I certainly gave you proof that I am an apostle. For I patiently did many signs and wonders and miracles among you.” What sort of signs and miracles did these apostles do? How did this help “prove” that God had empowered them?

2. An ancient writing called the Didache was once found at a library.[1] Some scholars wondered if it should have been included among the books of the New Testament. Let’s say you are a Christian archeologist, so you begin to read the manuscript--and let’s say you can read Greek. As you read, you see that the author stipulates the following things:

· Christians must let their money sweat in their hands until they know where their financial gifts are going

· Food offered to idols is forbidden

· Baptism must be done in running water

· Christians must fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, but never on Mondays

· Christmas must pray the Lord’s prayer three times a day

· Missionaries are forbidden from remaining in a city more than two days.

After reading the manuscript, would you think this letter should be part of the Bible? Why or why not?

3. If you saw a preacher on television heal a sick man, would you assume that his writing should be part of the New Testament? Why or why not?

4. Jesus told the disciples the Holy Spirit would help them understand the Bible, but we’re not apostles. So how are we supposed to understand such an old book?

We’ll talk more about it next week.

[1] Wayne Grudem, p. 67.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Out of this World Photos

As a child of the Space Coast (my dad worked at Cape Kennedy for years), I've always loved pictures from outer space. This collection of photographs is beautiful and amazing . . . a collection of shots of sites both man-made and God-made. Enjoy!


Friday, September 24, 2010

A Job I Do Not Want . . .

I'm not afraid of heights, but I'm not exactly wild about them, either. I've been known to climb on my roof and peer under tar paper, and the attic and I are old friends. (My husband once fell through our attic, but that's another story. It does, however, explain why I'm usually the one who climbs up there).

I found this video about a man who works on top of a transmission tower, but you should probably sit down before you watch it. You might even want to wear a seat belt.

The most frightening part to me? When the announcer said, "There's no easy way down." Me, I'd want a parachute!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Passing Strangers Scene: meet Matthew

Photo: Williamburg's train station.

One more scene, then I need to stop or I'll have pre-printed the entire book! :-)

I'm not editing the second story yet, so I can't show you anything from Matt's point of view. I can, however, show you a scene where Tuesday (since we're still in the first book) sees Matt on the train.

And, BTW, I've already changed the name Tuesday to Andie. (See? I do listen to you!) I named her Tuesday (or rather, she named herself Tuesday) because it was the day her brother died, and she did it to honor him. But since it is an odd name, I might go with Andie because her brother's name was Cole Andrew. She can still honor him. (And yes, Mary Kay, I thought of Tuesday Weld, too!)

Anyway, here's the scene where Tuesday/Andie really gets to "see" Matthew, the protagonist of the second story. She has just boarded the train in Washington and is on her way to Williamsburg.

Though I’ve been trying to avoid the necessity of using a tiny public restroom on a crowded train, my pea-sized bladder won’t let me wait until we arrive at my destination. I realize I’m going to have to get up and make my way down the length of the aisle because the restrooms are located at the back of the car.

Walking on a train isn’t as easy as it looks. While on a plane you might encounter the occasional bump, on a train you have to deal with a steady side to side movement as well as the occasional bump.

Though I had hoped to leave my seat without calling any attention to myself, I find myself lurching along like a slap-happy drunk. More than once I have to grab the headrest on a nearby seat to keep from falling, and none of the passengers resting on said headrests take kindly to finding their necks bent and their chins suddenly jutting toward the ceiling. I murmur “Excuse me” at least a dozen times, trip on at least two straps dangling from backpacks or purses, and wake at least a half dozen dozing passengers.

And my reward for all this trouble? A long, narrow restroom with a smelly toilet, a push-button sink, damp toilet paper, and wadded up paper towels strewn around the bottom of the trash receptacle.

After returning to my seat, I look at the man riding next to me for the first time. He’s older, probably in his sixties or seventies, and sleeping like a baby, which leads me to believe that he must be a frequent train traveler. White whiskers on his upper lip vibrate softly as he breathes in and out, his arms are crossed, and his hands firmly tucked into his armpits.

Leaving him to his rest, I pull up the footrest beneath my seat and find that it’s not quite long enough for me to extend my legs. I can either bend my knees and ride like a gigged frog, or I can let my feet hang over the edge.

Since neither position is attractive or comfortable, I give up and lower the footrest. Maybe I shouldn’t sleep. Maybe I should pull that novel out of my purse, or boot up my computer and see if I can catch a wireless signal from some passing coffee shop . . .

I go for the book. I’m two paragraphs into chapter one when an ear-splitting scream pulls me from the story and yanks me back to reality. My eyes fly open, and for an instant I’m convinced that our train is being commandeered by terrorists, but after leaning sideways to peer down the aisle, I see a boy and girl, probably grade school age, running toward the front of the car as if the devil were giving chase. I glance behind them, expecting to see a stern-faced mother or maybe even a grandmother, but the aisle is empty.

Someone’s little darlings are running loose on this train. Great.

I lean back and close my eyes, warning myself not to look up again no matter how loud the scream. But it’s not a child I hear approaching from the rear, but the steady, heavy steps of an Amtrak employee. I look up as the steps slow, and for a moment my mouth goes dry—is he stopping at my seat?

No, not at my seat, but at the seat directly in front of mine, where a dark-haired man has been quietly murmuring into his cell phone ever since we boarded at Union Station.

“Sir,” the grim-faced conductor or attendant or whatever says, “May I speak to you for a moment?”

I know it’s rude, but I can’t resist the urge to eavesdrop. Did this guy board without paying? Did he use a counterfeit ticket? Or did someone inform security that we have a dangerous fugitive aboard?

I straighten in my seat and close my book, not wanting to miss any details.

The passenger holds up a finger, then tells whoever’s on the phone that he’ll call again later. “Someone here needs my attention,” he says, his voice calm and assuring, “so hold down the fort for me, okay? See you in a few days.”

I tilt my head, hoping to catch a glimpse of the man’s profile. He’s very smooth, far too polished to be an escaped convict or a terrorist. But he could be guilty of some white collar crime.

The man pockets his cell phone and stands, shifting his attention to the man from the train. He’s at least five inches taller than the man from Amtrak, and I smile when I realize that he stood for a reason: intimidation. “Can I help you?” he asks.

“Yes, sir.” The uniformed conductor lifts his chin. “I believe you boarded with two children, is that right?”


So he’s not a fugitive after all—he’s a parent. If he’s responsible for those two screaming hellions, he’s not a very good one.

The conductor shows his teeth in an expression that is not a smile. “Where are your children now?”

The man turns to look up and down the aisle, then reaches up to brace himself on the railing of the overhead baggage compartment. “Do you have a problem with my children?”

“Actually, sir, we have a problem with you. We require children to be supervised by a parent at all times.”

“But I am supervising them.” The man glances up and down the length of the train again, as if he could will his children into appearing. “They were just here, so they’re probably in the restroom.”

The conductor moves his hand to the radio hanging from his belt. “No, sir, they are not. The cafe car attendant has barricaded them into an area in the lounge. We are not going to release them until you take custody and remind your children that these cars are not playgrounds. It’s not safe for children to run amuck on a train.”

The conductor’s speech was polite enough, but at the word amuck, the dark-haired man straightens and narrows his gaze. Fascinated, I stare at his profile, which has morphed from handsome to unquestionably perturbed. This last expression strikes a chord in my memory—I know this man. I saw him and his kids at the Chinese restaurant a couple of nights ago.

“I beg your pardon,” he says, his tone icy, “but my children have never ‘run amuck’ in their lives. They are constantly supervised and exceptionally well-behaved.”

Remembering the flying dinner plate, I choke on a cough.

To his credit, the attendant does not argue, but takes a half-step back and extends his hand toward the front of the car. “If you please, sir. After you.”

As a current of whispering flows through the seats around me, I watch as the man straightens his suit coat, steps into the aisle, and walks toward the front of the train without once needing to balance himself on another passenger’s seat. After he passes, people lean into the aisle and comment to their neighbors—a couple of people smile, but at least six or seven scowl. One woman doesn’t even bother to lower her voice: “That’s the man with those two noisy brats. Have you seen them runnin’ down the aisle? Like unleashed terrors, both of ‘em.”

When the man and the conductor have disappeared into the next car, I recline my seat and stare at the ceiling overhead. My eyelids grow heavy, and I am just about to doze off when I feel a subtle change in the atmosphere. I open my eyes and peer toward the front of the car, where the man and his children are coming down the aisle.

The little girl—who looks like an angel with her brown eyes, round cheeks, and long hair—is skipping toward me, her arms inadvertently jostling people as she passes. The boy is stamping his feet, his steps heavy on the carpeted floor, his lower lip jutting forward in a pout. The father, who I expect to look embarrassed, wears an expression I’d have to call uncomfortable as he drives his offspring forward.

When he arrives at their seats—the row in front of me—he grips his children’s shoulders and points to the two empty seats across the aisle. “This is where you sit,” he says, his voice strong and resonant. “Roman, Emelia, into those chairs you go. Now, if you please.”

The kids obey, reluctantly settling into their places, and when they have obeyed the father pulls two packages of M&Ms from his pocket and tosses a bag to each child. The little girl purses her mouth when she gets the brown bag, and looks as if she might scream again.

“Emelia doesn’t like the chocolate ones,” the boy says, quickly exchanging his yellow bag for the bag in her lap. “She likes peanut, I like plain.”

The little girl smiles, her dimples winking as she rips off the top of the bag with her teeth.

I cover my mouth with my hand, smothering a snort of disbelief. What kind of father is this?

The dad sighs and looks around, undoubtedly aware that several people have turned and are watching the scene with undisguised interest. “Let those with perfect children,” he says, his stentorian voice carrying over the hum of the moving train, “cast the first stone.”

Then he drops into his seat and I find myself staring at the back of his head. Immediately he picks up a newspaper and opens it, and I have to wonder—is he truly interested in the fine print of the classifieds or is he copying my trick and using the paper as a shield from prying eyes?

I close my eyes and hug my book to my chest. In moments like these, I’m glad I don’t have children.

So? What do you think of Matt? LOL--he makes me laugh. (At this point, anyway). :-)


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Passing Strangers Chapter One, scene one

Thanks for your questions and comments yesterday. The housewife in the prologue is Janette. The character in book one is Tuesday, the middle book is Matthew, and the final book is Janette again.

The prologue is something like Nov. 7, Tuesday's scene picks up on Nov. 8 and runs through about the 10th, Matthew picks up on the 10th and runs through about the 15th, and Janette picks up on the 15th and runs until about the 18th. See how it works? And, of course, most of the story takes place when they are all on the train trip.

This morning, as I was reading final pages for THE FINE ART OF INSINCERITY, I realized that these books do have something in common: they are both books with three protagonists. The the protagonist POVs are mixed in INSINCERITY, and they're kept separate in the train story. I just wanted to experiment with differing forms, and when characters have a secret, it's fun to have the other characters misreading what that secret is.

Okay--chapter one, scene one. Feels like I have a clapper and am holding it before a camera: take one!

Chapter One

Providence, Rhode Island

Wednesday, November 7

When the phone on my desk rings, my assistant stares at it as if I’ve received a call from beyond the grave.

“Is that your cell phone ringing?” Jasmine’s eyes widen and meet mine. “In all the years I’ve worked for you, I don’t think I’ve ever heard that phone ring.”

I ignore her comment and pick up my phone, but the hair at the back of my neck rises. Only a handful of people have this number, and none of them would call during work hours unless they wanted to tell me about a bona fide emergency.

I glance at the number in the viewer, then tell Jasmine we can finish our reports later. After she tosses me another bewildered look, she backs out of my office and closes the door behind her.

Something inside me goes still as I press the receive button. “Tuesday Crystal. Is this Mr. Rueben?”

My lawyer’s baritone voice immediately puts me at ease. “Tuesday, how are you?”

“Fine, but I was surprised to see your number on my phone. Is everything okay?”

“I’m not sure how to answer that.” His sigh echoes over the airwaves between Rhode Island and Chicago. “I’m calling for two reasons. First, I wanted you to know that we’re putting your check into the mail today. It’s not the windfall I wish I could send, but it’ll be a nice addition to your retirement fund.”

I laugh and move to my window, which offers a view of a busy downtown street. “That’s okay—I’m amazed every time I get a check.”

“I’m not. TV Land loves the show, and in his cover letter Oliver mentioned that Nickelodeon just picked up the series. So it’s a fair bet that you’ll be in reruns and earning residuals for months to come.”

I grab a hank of hair and glance at the ends to be sure the color is holding. I’m a blonde in those reruns, and sometimes I suffer from nightmares in which my copper color has washed away, leaving me with the yellow blonde hair of my teenage years . . .

“I hate reruns.” I blurted out the thought without thinking, then realize that my lawyer must think I’m awfully ungrateful. Embarrassment burns my cheeks as my words hang in the silence like a belch at a formal dinner party.

Fortunately, Mr. Rueben knows me well. “I know you wish someone would lock all those episodes in a vault, but your mother depends on those residual checks. I would imagine that your siblings don’t complain about unexpected paychecks, either.”

“Don’t get me wrong—I’m not complaining.”

The lawyer chuckles. “After all these years, don’t think you can fool me. And that brings me to the second reason for my call—and I’m sorry as I can be about being the bearer of bad news.”

“Should I sit down?” I’m half-joking when I ask the question, so when he answers yes, I fall into my chair as if my knees have given way. What is going on? Thomas Rueben hardly ever calls me; he usually mails my checks with a cover letter and his best wishes. For him to feel compelled to pick up the phone—this must be spectacularly bad news. Could something have happened to one of my—

“It’s your mother,” he says, his voice flat and somber. “Oliver said she hadn’t been feeling well, so he finally got her to a doctor.”

“She’s . . . seriously sick?”

“Cervical cancer. The prognosis isn’t good.” Mr. Reuben’s voice is smooth and calm; my lawyer is an expert at delivering portentous announcements. His news whirls in my head, intelligible and specific and complex, yet my brain reduces this report to one conscious thought: my mother is too stubborn to die on a doctor’s schedule. She might be too stubborn to die at all.

The thought of my mother being terminally ill is so absurd that I almost begin to laugh. Mona Huggins, dying? I’ve seen my mother fly in the face of network executives; I’ve seen her bully her way into a bat mitzvah at the Beverly Hills Hotel so our band could play for a talent agent. The woman is half superhero and half politician. No way could she be dying.

But if by some chance she is, why should it matter to me? I can’t count the number of times I’ve reminded myself that I no longer care about what she does. Long ago I decided that I won’t cry when she dies, and I won’t go to her funeral. I am Tuesday Crystal now, and Mona Huggins has nothing to do with me—

But though our relationship has been severed and I haven’t seen Mom in years, this news drops me into a pool of confusion where I find myself swimming in a current of emotions and memories.

“How long?” My voice emerges in a rusty croak.

“The doctors give her four to six weeks. I’m so sorry, Tuesday.”

I shoehorn a note of gratitude into my voice; my lawyer might have been reluctant to make this call. “Thank you for telling me. I appreciate hearing about this before the tabloids get wind of the story.”

“Tuesday, there’s something else.”

His comment distracts me from thoughts of Internet rumors and gossip journalism. “What else could there be?”

“Your mother wants to get the family together. She wants one last reunion . . . with all of you.”

A cackle of protest rises from my throat. “Impossible.”

Mr. Rueben’s voice gentles. “Perhaps you should call—”

“I’m not calling her.”

“I was going to suggest that you call Oliver. I’m sure he’d love to hear from you.”

For about half a minute I consider calling my former agent, then I shake my head. “He’d tell her that we spoke. I’ve worked too hard at making a new life for myself. I’m not Christy Huggins any more.”

“But you’re still your mother’s daughter.”

His words echo in my head, and I am unable to argue.

I am my mother’s daughter. But I was also my father’s daughter, and Cole’s big sister.

And I can never forget that Mom is the reason Dad and Cole are dead.

Angie here again: Still with me? What do you think? What are your impressions of Tuesday? Do you like her? Why or why not? How old do you think she is? Do tell all! :-)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Passing Strangers Prologue

Hi, everybody!

Since some of you asked about POV (point of view) in yesterday's comments, I'll explain here.

I am structuring this book as a suite--three separate books, each with a first person protagonist. So the first book is all from Tuesday's POV, the second is all from the father's, and the third is all from the middle-aged mom's. So you will read what the characters think about the other characters when it's their turn to "speak." The books pick up right where the preceding book left off in the chronology of the story. The plot skeleton looked a bit odd with this structure (three heads, after all), but I think it works!

Oh--the prologue is actually from the middle-aged mother's POV, so the story will come full circle at the end.



Little Rock, Arkansas

Tuesday, November 6

Shielding my throbbing cheek and eye socket as discreetly as possible, I drop my credit card into the well beneath the attendant’s window. “One adult ticket, please.” My voice is far more unsteady than I would like. “Coach.”

The bored-looking woman behind the glass picks up my card and glances at me. “Where to, ma’am?”

How should I know? I take a step back and glance around, my gaze passing over several posters taped onto the window and others tacked to a utilitarian bulletin board. All of them feature silver and blue Amtrak trains set against dazzling scenery, but one headline catches my eye: Ten-day Southern Heritage Tour. I couldn't care less about southern heritage, mine or anyone else’s, but ten days away from home sounds like heaven.

I prop an elbow on the counter. “I’ll take the ten-day tour.”

“Excuse me?”

I point to the poster on the window. “That one—ten days in the south.”

The round-faced girl lifts both brows, leading me to assume that Amtrak doesn’t sell many package deals, but she types into her computer keyboard, then looks up at me. “And when did you want to take this trip?”

I glance at the double doors of the building, half-afraid someone I know will walk through them before I can complete this purchase. “As soon as possible, please.”

“That tour departs out of Union Station in Washington, D.C. You want to go directly to Washington from here?”

I prop both arms on the counter and nod.

“You’ll be traveling over thirty hours straight—you want a sleeper car or a roomette?”

“How much are they?”

She clicks at the keyboard again, then shakes her head. “The roomettes are sold out. But I can get you a bedroom for an additional $200.”

I swallow hard. I’m about to spend money we don’t have, so I ought to cut corners whenever possible.

“I’ll pass. I can sleep in my seat.”

“Most people do. They’re actually pretty comfortable.”

The girl types again, then reaches toward a shelf divided into cubbies, each compartment filled with a stack of brochures. She plucks one from a stack, then steps over to the noisy printer and rips an accordion of folded cards from the tray. “You’ll be takin’ the 22 Texas Eagle, departing at 11:39 p.m.,” she says, folding the accordion cards as she returns to her stool. “Be sure to sign each of these tickets. You’ll arrive at Union Station in two days, then you’ll go to your first hotel—the voucher is with your tickets. Throughout the tour, you’ll disembark at the stations marked on the schedule, spend two days in each city, then get on the train to travel to your next destination. Hotels and onboard meals are included in the tour package. Details are spelled out on the brochure.” She stuffs the tickets and brochure into a paper jacket, then slides it through the opening beneath her window. Finally, she rips a credit card slip from her machine and pushes it toward me. “Sign at the bottom, and you’ll be all set.”

I gulp when I see the total at the bottom of the receipt. I thought a train tour would be cheaper than a nervous breakdown, but now I’m not so sure.

But it’s too late to change my mind. I scribble my name at the bottom of the slip and slide it back through the window well. “Is that all?”

“You got any bags you want to check?”

I look at my hurriedly assembled collection of luggage. I can check the big suitcase, but if I’m going to spend more than thirty hours in these clothes, I’ll want to keep my toiletries bag with me. “Just one.”

“Take it over to baggage drop, then. And have a nice trip.”

I grip the handle of my rolling suitcase, then drag it over to a window where a uniformed man is leaning against the counter. He smiles and hefts my bag onto a scale, then touches two fingers to his forehead in a jaunty salute. “That’ll do it, ma’am.”

I thank him and extend the handle of my smaller bag, then look around the crowded reception area. If the train to Washington is on time, I’ll have to wait for more than three hours—long enough for Harry to come home from the neighborhood progressive dinner and notice my absence. He might assume I’ve made a quick run to the grocery store, but he’ll probably call to make sure I’m okay. If I’m not home by nine, he’ll call again. If I’m not home by nine-thirty, he’ll start phoning the neighbors to ask if anyone’s seen my car. By ten he’ll be in a full-fledged panic, and by eleven he’ll consider calling the police. I don’t think they’ll do anything, though, because in all the cop shows Harry and I watch on TV, the authorities don’t become truly concerned until a person has been missing for at least twenty-four hours . . .

By this time tomorrow night, I plan to be smack dab in the middle of nowhere, anywhere, as long as it’s miles away from Little Rock, Arkansas.

I don’t want my husband to worry, but neither do I want to give him an opportunity to talk me out of this. I simply have to get out of the house.

I have to run away.

I drop into an empty seat and set my small suitcase next to me, then park my purse on top. My limbs feel like jelly and my hands begin to tremble as soon as my thoughts veer toward home and what happened tonight. I feel as if there are hands on my heart, painfully squeezing the love from it, and for a moment I’m not sure I’ll be able to dredge up the courage to make an important call. But I need to tell Harry what I’m doing. Despite all the turmoil in our home and despite my throbbing cheek and eye, I love my husband. I just can’t live with him right now, not until I find an answer or . . . things change.

Realizing that Harry might answer if I call the house and certain that his cell phone is tucked away in his briefcase, I take my phone from my purse and dial his cell number. After the beep, words tumble out of me like drunken gymnasts: “Harry, I’m going away for a couple of weeks. Don’t worry if I don’t answer my phone, I might turn it off for a few days so I can think. Know that I love you. I’ll call you . . . sometime. When my head’s clear and I can talk.”

I want to say more, but my throat closes up and fresh tears threaten. So I click off the call, turn off the power, and drop the phone back into my purse. I can’t be distracted now; I can’t let mother guilt and marital obligations drag me back to the house. I’m going to sit and wait, and then I’m going to get on my train. I’m going to ride wherever it takes me, and in a week or two or three maybe I’ll be able to see our situation clearly.

Perhaps I’ll discover a few answers, find a little hope.

I prop one elbow on the chair’s armrest, then press my hand to my head. I wince as my fingers inadvertently brush the swollen area around my eye, so I drop my hand and try to arrange my face into a mask of calm contentment. I ought to be able to do this, but my chin keeps trembling and the emotions whirling inside me are prone to leaking through my eyes . . .

I close my eyes and direct my unspoken cries to heaven. I don’t think you want me to be a quitter, Lord, but you understand why I need time away, don’t you? I need a few days alone; I need time to think. I can’t go on living in that house, not any more.

I open my eyes, afraid I’ll find someone staring at my bruised face, but a train whistle whines in the distance, sending a current of expectation through the waiting area. The ticketed passengers stand and gather their belongings, then begin to move through the wide doors and walk toward the tracks. Most of the people here will soon be gone, and I will finally be able to enjoy solitude.

I must be invisible, because no one at all is looking at me.

I support my chin on my hand, my gaze running over the twenty or so people moving toward the arriving train. My fellow passengers represent every ethnic group in Little Rock, and I appear to be the only one traveling with a set of matched luggage. The copper-skinned woman nearest me is transporting her belongings in a plastic laundry basket; the Asian man across the aisle is carrying a suitcase seamed with duct tape. An older woman shuffles toward the double doors, one hand clinging to a little girl, the other carrying a paper shopping bag. A young man clutches a guitar case with two hands, a backpack hanging from his shoulders, his long hair tied back with a leather cord. Chirping like chickadees, a pair of bright-eyed young women stroll by, both wearing University of Arkansas sweatshirts, each traveling with only one small bag.

With a start, I realize that we are well into November. Two days to reach Washington, ten days for the trip—I won’t be home until the eighteenth, at least, which means I’ll probably encounter lots of travelers heading home for Thanksgiving.

The realization leaves me with an inexplicable feeling of emptiness. We ought to celebrate the holidays, but Harry and I have begun to ignore them as much as possible. For some reason, holidays result in more strife, more mayhem, and more disappointment. I can’t see any reason for this coming Thanksgiving and Christmas to be any different unless—

I don’t go home at all.

Until this moment, I had not considered the possibility of leaving forever. I don’t want to abandon my family, but if I can’t find answers on this trip, if I can’t unearth some reason to hope things can be different, that we can be a normal family—

I close my eyes, unwilling to consider the option that dangles before me like a shiny ornament. With my eyes closed, I hear an odd sound—beneath the noise of the announcer calling over the loudspeaker, beneath the shuffling steps of the crowd and the wails of tired children, beneath the dull roar of the approaching train, I hear an insistent tapping.

I open my eyes to see an elderly black man coming toward me, his white-tipped cane swinging left to right in a wide arc. He approaches steadily, a baseball cap on his head, dark sunglasses over his eyes, one hand gripping the cane, the other reaching forward, swaying gracefully in the empty air. His cane taps my suitcase and he adjusts his steps, moving slightly to the right, expertly avoiding the obstacle in his path. Then, as unerringly as any sighted man, he backs himself up to the empty seat at my left, then slides into it and telescopes his cane until it fits in the palm of his hand.

I’m sitting next to a blind man . . . and grateful that he, at least, won’t be tempted to say anything about my bruised face. But why is he sitting when nearly everyone else has gone outside? If he intends to catch this train, he’d better start walking out to the tracks.

“Hello?” He speaks to the empty air and smiles. “Anyone there?”

How did he know I was here? “Sir?” I lean toward him. “Are you traveling on the 8:15 train?”

Like a flower seeking the sun, his face turns toward me, a wide smile spreading across his lips. “I knew you was here. I could smell that honeysuckle perfume.”

“It’s shampoo, not perfume.” I look around and wonder if he is traveling alone. Maybe he has family nearby, or maybe—horrors!— he’s been overlooked and left behind.

“If you’re supposed to be on this train, sir, you’d better get aboard. I could ask someone to help you—”

“Lord have mercy, I’m not goin’ on no train. I came here to talk to you.”

I blink. “To me?”

He grins again. “I have a message for you. The Lord said I should go sit next to a pretty lady and tell her this: Speak truth to the others. They’ll help you find your answer.”

I stand, alarmed. This poor old man is confused or lost, but nobody in the waiting area seems to have noticed him. Nearly everyone is out by the tracks now, the train has stopped, and a tide of arriving passengers is just about to reach the doors—

I sit back down and place my hand on his arm. “Sir, are you with someone? Would you like me to call someone to help you?”

He laughs. “Honey, I’m blind, but I’m not helpless. Now—did you get the message?”

Staring at him, I struggle to remember what he said. “I can tell you one thing—if you’re looking for a pretty lady, that’s not me. If you’ll wait here, I’ll go ask at the desk and see if someone’s looking for you—”

“Honey, you’re the one he meant. So did you get the message?”

I lift my gaze as a flood of new people stream through the open rear doors. Dozens of detraining passengers—young, old, white, black, disheveled, well-kept—sweep into the reception area and file out the front doors, most lingering no longer than a minute or two to claim their bags. The train whistle wails again as the conductor announces that the Texas Eagle is pulling out, heading south toward Dallas and Fort Worth.

I squeeze the crazy old man’s arm. “I’m afraid you missed your train.”

He leans toward me and lowers his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “I have to be sure you didn’t miss your message: Speak truth to the others, the Lord says. They’ll help you find your answer.” He tilts his head and smiles. “I can’t leave until I know you got that.”

“I got it . . . but it doesn’t make any sense.”

“It’ll make sense in time.”

He straightens his spine, then braces his hands on his knees as if he’s preparing to stand. But before he does, he turns to me again, a hint of mischief playing around the corners of his mouth. “You may think I’m full on crazy,” he says, a smile gathering up the wrinkles by his ancient mouth, “but I’d like to know—are you black or white?”

I’m tempted to bark a laugh, but somehow I manage to repress the impulse. I want to ask why it matters, but he is a nice man and I’m not in the mood to engage in a debate about American race relations.

“I’m white.” I place my hand on his. “And thanks for coming over.”

He chuckles, extends his cane to its full length, and stands, then begins to tap his way toward the doorway. I watch him until he vanishes into the darkness outside the station. Should I chalk this up as a random encounter with a dotty old man or have I just been given a gift?

If he wasn’t senile, and if that message was meant for me, then I’ve rarely received such a prompt or confusing answer to prayer. Speak truth to the others? What others? And how am I supposed to help anyone in my condition? My world is falling apart, I’m leaving my family, by the tips of my fingernails I’m dangling at the end of my rope. In thirty years of marriage I’ve never been this upset, this desperate, or this broken-hearted, so how can I even think about helping anyone else?

As new tears spring to my eyes, I pick up my purse and search for a tissue. After I have blown my nose and gently dabbed at my cheeks, I look around the mostly empty waiting area. Now that the old man has gone, his message makes less sense than ever. I don’t see any “others” to speak to and this is the last place I’d go to find an answer for my family. This is a hub for cheap transportation, a place where transient people can toss their bags into a berth and ride away, usually without even making a reservation.

I came to the train because this is the last place my husband would ever expect me to be.

Angie here again: so? Whaddya think? What do you think of this woman? How old do you think she is? Why do you think she has to run? What do you think is going on in her life? Do you like her? Why or why not?