‘Everything’s Jake’ Preview — 2 Chapters

EVERYTHING'S JAKE AMAZON COVER - FRONTEVERYTHING’S JAKE
Inspirational Romance

 

CHAPTER ONE

Mariah Jacoby paced the tiny office, taking the confined distance from wall to wall in four agitated strides as she waited for her boss to join her. She was fairly certain what the outcome of this meeting would be. She’d be looking for another job. She shook her head from side to side now in frustration. If only she could convince her boss that she could probably sell more from this boutique in the long run if she were honest with her customers!

Well, that wasn’t going to happen. Convincing Patricia there was something to be gained by telling a woman she looked fat in one of her dresses was about as likely as going over Niagara Falls in a barrel without getting hurt … seriously hurt! Hadn’t somebody tried that once? She thought she’d remembered reading something about it, but … right now her mind was too muddled with the mess she’d made of her third job in two years. Of course, it’s not like this latest one was something in her field. With a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s in journalism, selling in a boutique was a little wide of the mark on both counts.

But her one year working at the Excel Learning Center had been enough to convince her that trying to teach students how to learn better was definitely not her forte. Her second job, the one with The Beacon, had been more in her line, but evidently news reporting was not what she really felt called to do either. Well, Mariah did feel a genuine interest in writing for a newspaper. It was actually her editor who had felt that she wasn’t right for the part. “You’ve got to quit editorializing, Mariah!” he said, through his gritted teeth. How many times had he said that? She couldn’t be sure, but it seemed to average about once a week, until finally, he had given her the bad news: She’d have to go. And he’d warned her one last time that if she thought she’d ever really want to get serious about a career in journalism, she’d better start working harder on her ability to remain objective when she covered the news.

She sighed now and finally dropped into one of the two chairs that sat in front of the desk, just settling into the seat when her boss opened the door and came in with a purposeful stride. Patricia wasn’t a time-waster; that was for sure. She marched around her desk and leaned over it toward Mariah. “I guess you know what this means?” Mariah opened her mouth to protest … or defend herself … or something … but nothing came out. She dipped her head and then nodded.

“I know,” she said on a resigned sigh. “I really do try to do what you want though, Patricia.”

Her boss shook her head as she sat down behind the desk. “Not hard enough, Mariah. I’ve told you repeatedly that we do not tell any of our customers that they don’t look terrific in whatever they choose.”

Mariah’s head came up, and she looked directly at her boss. “But that’s lying! I can’t believe that’s the best way to do business!”

“The point is that this is my business, Mariah. And the only one who needs to be satisfied with the way we do business here is me. Besides, I don’t really consider it lying. When our customers have chosen something that they like on themselves, it makes them feel good about themselves, and that does make them look good. Happy people always look better than those who are unhappy. And more importantly, happy customers keep coming back!”

“But Mrs. Jamison wasn’t unhappy when I told her that I thought she’d look better in something else.”

“No? Well, just what would you call that frown on her face, that furrowed brow, and her flustered attitude?”

“She was just trying to think about what I’d said while I was showing her the other possibilities.”

“All possibilities that she did not like herself! That’s just my point. She’s been a customer here for five years, and she had already disqualified the style of dress you kept trying to push off on her!” She leaned back with a sigh. “I’m sorry, Mariah, but I did warn you that you may not be cut out for this kind of work. I know you’ve tried, but you’re not going to be able to treat my customers differently. This is the fourth time I’ve had to deal with the situation and try to soothe the people you’ve upset. I’ll give you the rest of this week doing jobs that won’t require you to work with customers, and I’ll give you the two week’s severance pay that your contract specifies, but I’ll definitely have to replace you with someone who’s comfortable with my rules here.”

It didn’t take long for the end of the week to arrive, and Mariah found that she wasn’t all that emotional about having to say goodbye to Patricia and the two other women who worked at the boutique. She was very emotional, however, about not having a job. She had managed to save a little money while she’d worked on her masters because she’d decided to attend the university at home and stay at the house with her parents. They had been eager to have her there again, even for that period of time, and they just refused to let her pay for much of anything at all. She’d tried to make up for it by treating them to special dinners out and a weekend away a couple of times, but she had put most of her money from the job on campus into a savings account. Good thing! She’d already gone through half of it, and it looked like the second half would soon be in hot pursuit of the first.

She made her way back to the one-bedroom apartment in a very unfashionable, but comfortable part of town, dropped her purse and jacket on the table just inside the door, kicked off her shoes, and headed for the tiny kitchen to make tea. Her granny had always sworn by tea as the fix-it potion for any problem. Of course, Granny had always held faithful to all the little details that constituted a traditional English tea – the boiled water, the warmed teapot, the unrushed brewing time. Mariah filled the teapot and stuck it in the microwave. What Granny didn’t know wouldn’t cause her any unhappiness.

While she waited for the water to boil, she picked up the mail that lay on her kitchen counter. She hadn’t had time to go through it carefully for the last two days, and now she was surprised to see a card from a friend of hers in another state. Abigail Harland, who had gone through the first four years of college with Mariah, was now a happily married wife and the mother of two rambunctious little boys. She took to that lifestyle like a duck to water, Mariah thought, smiling now as she remembered the last time she’d visited Abby and Seth.

She scanned the lines eagerly, moving over to the microwave as it dinged to let her know the water was ready. A few minutes later, as she sipped the fragrant tea and began to relax, she came to the end of the note, which included another invitation to visit as soon as possible. “Come for a whole weekend if you can,” Abby had written. “Better yet, I wish you’d look for a job here so we could be close like we used to be.”

Mariah laid the note on the counter, deep in thought. Well, why not? Why not at least try? She certainly had nothing holding her here. Of course she was only an hour from her parents living here, but Abby’s home wasn’t more than three hours from them. She shrugged her shoulders. She was going to have to start somewhere, and she might as well try to find something close to her best friends. She’d made a couple of local friends since moving here to work, and of course, she was comfortable with most all of the people she’d met at church. But there wasn’t anyone she felt she could bare her soul to the way she could Abby and Seth. Maybe this was a good time to move on.

She got up and added more tea to her cup, then moved into the living room and snuggled into the corner of the sofa. She had an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach … almost a fear. Only she refused to let herself be afraid. It was just that … well … she had never figured herself for a failure. She had always done well in school. And she’d taken a variety of electives just to expand her mind and her horizons. Hadn’t she even taken those two auto-shop courses?

She grinned now as she remembered how surprised a couple of the guys in the class had been when they’d discovered how much she already knew. That was thanks to her big brother Mitch, of course. From the time she’d been a preteen, she had helped him work on his cars. And he’d had several over the years that he virtually rebuilt. Of course, it was just a hobby with him. He’d opted for a career in marketing, but he’d really had a gift for working on cars! And he’d told her she was a natural too, but of course, no other girls she knew were interested in becoming auto mechanics, so she dismissed that idea as less than good if she were going to have to compete with them for the guys out there that were worth having.

She snorted now as she thought about the fact that even though she was never in overalls or smudged with grease and oil these days, the guys weren’t exactly beating a path to her door. She thought about what she had to offer a man. Well … there was her open, friendly nature … her quick mind … her Christian lifestyle …. She sighed. Those things didn’t sound like attention grabbers to her.

She took mental stock of her physical assets: She had a clear complexion. Her hair was a rich brown, and the pixie cut she currently wore framed her face perfectly and drew attention to her eyes. And they were probably her most positive feature, weren’t they? She had always considered them plain old brown until one of the men she’d dated in college had told her they were the warm color of a glass of sherry. Her relationship with that man had taken a definite upswing from that moment, although they’d never gotten serious, and he’d graduated the following year. Still, he remained one of her favorite dating memories just because he’d given her a whole new confidence about her looks.

She sat her empty cup on the table beside the sofa and stretched out, thinking. What kind of job should she look for? She laughed lightly. She’d lain on the sofa in her home as a child and daydreamed just this way, asking herself, what she wanted to be when she grew up? But this wasn’t like those times. This was no daydream; this was reality. She was grown-up. She was 25, and it was time she made a career for herself.

The following Friday evening, she arrived at Seth and Abby’s door with a large suitcase, having told them of her plans to look for a job close to them. They had insisted she stay with them while she searched, but she had been adamant about not staying more than a week. If she hadn’t found something by then, she would either move into a motel or start looking in a different town.

But by the end of the week, she was no closer to having employment. She had checked with the area schools about possible openings for the next school year, which was right around the corner. She knew she wasn’t licensed to teach in the state, but she also knew there were ways to deal with that as long as she was working toward meeting the requirements within a certain time period. But there wasn’t anything in her field. Then she’d checked with a couple of local newspapers, but still nothing permanent. They had told her they’d consider some free-lance articles from her if she wanted to turn something in, and she had, in fact written one article and had it published. But she knew that she had managed that feat mainly because it was the kind of thing she didn’t have to be objective about.

Then she’d checked with a couple of department stores, but their waiting lists were long, and besides … she could tell by the manner of the women who’d talked to her that she would be right back in the same boat as she had been with Patricia. So she’d signed up with an employment agency, and had even gone to one interview that they’d set up, but to no avail. They’d been pleased with her credentials, but they were equally pleased with those of some of the other applicants, and two of those people had lived in the town all their lives. The company just considered them a better risk, all other things considered.

On the Friday evening a week after she’d arrived, Abby tried to convince her that she should stay at least another week. “You know we love having you here, Ry,” she said. “And you’ve been so much help with the boys. They really love you.”

Seth had reached over and patted Mariah’s hand. “We both want you to stay, Ry. Give it at least one more week.” He glanced over at his wife, a light in his eyes that made no secret of the fact that he was in love with her. “Besides,” he said, a teasing note in his voice, “my sweety would never forgive me if I didn’t do everything in my power to make sure you move here permanently.”

Mariah had laughed with them, but she felt sad too. Something was wrong with her. Why couldn’t she find a job? And a job that she liked? What did she really enjoy doing, anyway? She thought long and hard on that subject after she retired for the night. Lying there in bed, she tried to remember every time she’d ever felt happy at work, and she realized with a good deal of surprise that she had actually felt pretty good about all of her jobs. The problem was that her happiness had really been coming from her interaction with people, which she always enjoyed, and not from the work itself. In fact, the last time she remembered feeling really happy about the work she was doing was when she had been in the auto mechanics class, helping her project partner put an engine back together.

The following morning at breakfast, Abby’s four-year old climbed up on Mariah’s lap and put his arms around her neck. “You stay wif us,” he said. Then he reached up to pat her cheek. “ Me don’t want you to leave. You stay wif us, Ry.” She squeezed him tightly and kissed his cheek.

Abby sat down at the table with a cup of coffee. “See,” she said, grinning. “You can’t break his little heart by leaving yet.”

“Oh, all right. You’re all ganging up on me. I’ll take one more week, but … Abby … you know if I don’t find something by then, I need to try to get something in a larger city. There’s bound to be some kind of newspaper and teaching jobs both in a large enough city.”

“Well, just try one more week here then. I can’t bear to think you’ve come so close to living in the same town as us again and then not have it work out.”

Mariah chuckled and reached over and gripped her friends hand briefly. “Me too, Ab. I’ll really try this week, and I’ll spend more time praying about it too. Maybe I’ve been trying too hard on my own and not looking to the Lord for the guidance as I should have been.”

So after breakfast was cleaned up, Mariah went out to their back yard to sit on the patio in the shade and read her Bible and pray. She’d been a Christian most of her adult life, and she thought she had lived according to God’s will, but sometimes she had to admit that she didn’t spend nearly as much time listening to what the Lord might have to say to her as she did talking to Him. So for the next week, that was her primary goal, and her job search would have to be secondary.


CHAPTER TWO

The next Monday she was on her way to apply for a position she had heard about at church the previous day and began having trouble with her car. It kept dying at every stop sign, and then began jerking and trying to die in the middle of traffic. She remembered passing an auto repair center several times on that end of town, so she made her way there now, gritting her teeth and praying that she could make it there without getting stranded in the middle of the road somewhere.

As she pulled in, she realized that there were several cars ahead of her, but she hoped that since she had a sort of emergency situation, that might weigh heavily with the manager. If she’d had tools and parts, of course, she could have fixed it herself, but that was like wishing for the moon, since she didn’t even have a screwdriver with her this trip. And boy was that stupid, she told herself. At least she could have come better prepared to cope with car problems. But she had been pretty depressed by the time she’d set out for Abby’s, so that probably accounted for her lack of thought on the subject.

She got out and walked toward the open work bays. Even though the day was warm, she could feel the change in temperature as she entered the cool interior and adjusted her eyes to the darker atmosphere. She sniffed the air, recognizing the smells of a normal auto shop … smells she was comfortable with … and she smiled slightly. She could hear the sounds of someone working and finally managed to see a man half submerged beneath the hood of a luxury car leaning over the engine, totally absorbed. She needed to go into the office area. Turning half circle, she saw the office door and headed inside.

Even cooler air from the office air conditioner hit her as she stepped through the door. There was one man inside, leaning slightly on a high counter, writing something out by hand. He looked back at his computer screen, which was sitting on a desk behind the counter, then turned back and wrote some more. He looked a little taller than her, and slightly heavy set. It was obvious that he weighed in a little over normal. Probably most of it was muscle, but she doubted that all of it was. He had dark brown hair, liberally striped with gray. His face had a few lines that she could see around his mouth and eyes, but it was rather nice looking … at least what she could see of it with his head down a little. He looked back at his computer again, and spoke something in an exasperated voice, scratched his head, and turned back to the counter.

But before Mariah could get his attention, the front door to the office opened, and a man came in with a set of keys in his hand. “Here’s my keys, Neil. I’ll be back around closing time to pick it up.”

The man behind the counter slapped his palm against his forehead. “Oh, for crying out loud, Paul. I forgot all about you coming in today, or I’d have called you.”

“Somethin’ wrong?”

“Boy is that an understatement! Kurt’s off sick with the flu, and Bobby fell off a ladder at home yesterday and broke his arm … pretty bad break too.”

“Wow, that’s tough. Is he going to be all right?’

“Well, they seem to think so, but they’re saying at least six to eight weeks until he can come back to work.”

The customer let out a slow whistle. “So I guess that mean’s you’re too short-handed to service mine today, huh?”

Neil nodded from behind the counter and Paul continued. “No problem. It’s not really giving me any trouble. It was just past time, and I thought this week would work schedule-wise. I’ll give you a call next week and see if you’ve managed to get a temporary replacement.”

Neil shook his head in obvious exasperation. “I appreciate it, Paul. I can’t tell you how sorry I am … for Kurt and Bobby … for all my customers … for Bill out there who’s all by himself except for me … and not least of all for me personally.” He finished that statement with a sheepish grin that made him look like a self-conscious teenager instead of a man old enough to have gray hair. Mariah felt a pang of sympathy for him.

“Well, I’ll get on my way and let you take care of your other customer,” Paul said, looking toward Mariah and nodding briefly. For the first time, the man behind the desk … she assumed he was Neil … looked over to the side where she still stood close to the door. His eyes widened in surprise.

“Oh … sorry miss. I didn’t realize you were here.” He glanced back at Paul. “Thanks again, Paul. I’ll get to you as soon as possible; I promise.” His customer lifted his hand in a brief salute and headed out the door. Neil turned back to Mariah. “Can I help you?”

Mariah had been entertaining the wildest idea ever since she had heard the conversation between the two men. Rather than ask this man who was obviously the garage manager to help her, why not offer to help him? Her eyes twinkled as she stepped closer to the counter, and he looked at her more intently, a slight question in his eyes. Mariah had butterflies in her stomach, but she just knew in her heart that somehow this was right. She spoke with all the confidence and authority she could, so as to drown out her own doubts.

“Well, actually, I think it’s more a question of whether I can help you,” she said, smiling directly into his eyes. He got an even more harassed look in his eyes, brushed his hand through his already disheveled hair and answered her. “Look, ma’m, if you’re selling something, this isn’t the time to talk to me. I’m not going to try to make any decisions about buying anything at all this week!”

“Oh, but I’m —“

He held up his hand as he interrupted her. “Absolutely nothing at all!”

“But I’m not selling anything. Except … maybe … myself.”

His eyes grew even wider and his face flushed just a little as he looked her up and down, trying to consider what a basically decent woman was doing standing in his office offering to sell him sexual favors. He hadn’t figured out how to answer her without insulting her when it dawned on Mariah that what she had said could have been seriously misinterpreted. Then it was her turn to flush, but she did so with no half-way measures. She turned red and felt as hot as if she’d been standing in front of a 500 degree oven.

“Oh, I … I didn’t mean … I mean … I don’t mean what you think I mean!” She put her hands to her cheeks and felt the heat. She closed her eyes in misery at her foolish words.

“And … uh … just what is it that you think I think you mean?”

“Well … it’s obvious … at least from the look on your face … that you think I mean I’m hear to offer you … uh … well ….” It just kept getting worse with every word, so she stuttered to a stop.

By this time, Neil was starting to feel relieved to know that evidently he’d been mistaken about her words and breathed a sigh of relief. Now he was able to take a little pity on her and he chuckled. “Would you like to start again?”

“Please,” she said, finally beginning to return to normal color.

“But, miss, I have an unbelievably busy day, so could you make it kind of quick?”

“Well, that’s just it,” she said, coming all the way up to the counter now and standing just across from him … only the width of the counter separating them. “You see, I did come to have my car checked out, but when I heard you tell the other man that you were so short-handed, I knew that wasn’t a possibility. But … well, I’m a mechanic myself, and I can fix my own car if I have the tools and a way to order parts.” His jaw dropped open, but she hurried on. “But even more important for you … I can help you with your work here,” she finished, beaming her happiest smile at him.

Once again Neil’s eyes widened, but somehow he did manage to close his mouth. Was there no end of the surprises to come from this perky girl? At the same time he was considering this question, another part of his mind was taking in the fact that, although he wouldn’t have called her beautiful, she had a certain something that drew a man’s attention. She had the kind of face that made you feel good looking at her, especially her eyes. They were inviting somehow. Good grief, he needed to get his mind back on his work!

His eyes connected with hers again. “Your … uh … a mechanic, you say?” He didn’t have to say he didn’t believe her. It was too obvious.

“Yes,” she answered eagerly. “Well, not a professional one, you understand.” Neil didn’t think he was understanding much of anything that had happened since he’d looked up and spotted her, but he didn’t have a chance to say so before she added. “But I’ve taken a number of auto mechanics courses in college, and I used to help my brother all the time. I’ve done most of the things that your customers would need done.”

He ran his hand through his hair again. He couldn’t seem to get hold of a sensible response. She still stood there beaming at him. Finally he tried to say something. “Look … miss … I can’t hire just anyone off the street —“

“Oh, I understand,” she interrupted. “You may even feel you have to have someone with a degree. But couldn’t you take me on as an apprentice for right now, and at least you’d have two more hands to get your customer’s cars serviced and repaired.”

Her eyes sparkled at him, holding him entranced for a few seconds. Just enough time to make him waver in his reply again, and Mariah took advantage of his hesitation. “Tell you what. I have some time right now, so how about if I go to work on my own car, and you can watch me and see if I’m not telling you the truth about how good I am.”

By this time, she was leaning over the counter, close enough for him to see the tiniest sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of her nose, almost completely hidden by her modest make-up. He looked into her warm, sherry-colored eyes and was momentarily lost. “Well … uh … I … I don’t know …”

Her eyes grew more intense, and she pulled back from the counter and stamped her foot. “Well, what have you got to lose?”

He didn’t like being put on a spot like this and made to feel stupid. His voice was a little harsh as he replied out of his frustration: “My business?”

Mariah opened her mouth to answer him, but then closed it again. She had to admit that some strange girl coming into an auto repair shop asking to use the man’s tools and dig through his parts to fix her own car and then expecting to be hired on the spot did seem pretty unorthodox. And she had to admit to herself that most of the mechanics she’d known who owned their own shop had struggled like crazy and invested every last thing they had in it to try to make a go of it. Asking one of them to let some stranger go to work there out of the clear blue would put any of them in a tough spot.

Finally, she nodded her head with a resigned look on her face. “Of course,” she said, her voice considerably subdued now. “I understand. It’s asking a lot of you to take a chance like that with a business you’ve no doubt invested every single resource in. I’m sorry,” she added with a sigh. “I guess since you don’t have time to take on any more work, I’ll look for someone else to fix my car too.” She turned toward the door, and Neil’s heart turned over. He scratched his head again. He was probably going to regret this, but he just couldn’t stand to see her so disappointed. She had seemed so excited at the prospect of working here for a while. He supposed he ought to at least give her a chance. She seemed so sure of herself. But … a woman mechanic was something he didn’t have any experience with at all.

“Wait!” he heard himself saying before he had sorted through all those thoughts. She turned back to look at him, and he continued. “Uh … I’ll tell you what. Pull your car into the last bay down there, and I’ll show you where everything is and get you started.”

“Really?” Her eyes were brilliant again, and the smile on her face was worth the butterflies in his stomach as he asked himself silently whether his insurance would cover this if something went wrong. He took a deep breath.

“Yeah … really.” He said.

She stepped back to the counter and held her hand out toward him across the top. “You won’t be sorry. I promise you,” she said, as he took her hand in his. It was warm and strong, but just soft enough that it sent a little tingle along his arm. He had to remind himself to let go, but finally he turned to walk around the counter and lead her back into the work bays.

“By the way, I’m Mariah … Mariah Jacoby.”

Mariah pulled her car into the last bay, got out and raised the hood. Then she looked around to size up what she had to work with. She spotted a blue coverall hanging on a hook along the side wall and went over to get it. “Do you mind?” she asked Neil. “ I was dressed to go to an interview,” she added, looking down at her light colored skirt and short-sleeved knit top.

“Sure. Go ahead,” he answered, and she slipped into the uniform, rolling large cuffs on the sleeves and legs. She thought about her hair, but one look at the only greasy cap hanging there convinced her she was better off taking her chances without it. That done, she began looking around at the array of tools and collecting what she thought she’d need. She had a pretty good idea what was at the root of the problem, knowing there were only a couple of possibilities likely to cause just that set of symptoms, and she also knew the job could take quite a while.

She told Neil what had been happening with the car as she began to check some things out, and then she began to tell him exactly what she was looking for, figuring that should give him a good idea of whether she knew her stuff or not. Neil nodded and grunted his agreement, silently coming to the conclusion that maybe she really did know something about engines. She worked without talking for the majority of the time, and Neil excused himself after a while, saying he had to get back to his accounting for a few minutes.

As he passed the young man who was still leaning under the hood of the other car, he stopped momentarily. “How’s it going with this one, Bill?”

The blond-haired younger man raised up and wiped his hands on a cloth. “I think I’ve got this one licked. I’m about ready to give it a test drive.”

“Great,” Neil answered about the time Bill glanced over and saw Mariah. He raised a questioning brow at his boss.

Neil cleared his throat and motioned with his head for Bill to follow him into the office. Bill did so with a big grin on his face. He’d never seen his boss flustered any time in the last three years, but something was up with this woman. He couldn’t resist teasing Neil a little. “You hire a new mechanic?” he asked, grinning from ear to ear.

“Maybe,” Neil answered and looked Bill in the eye. The grin dried up immediately, and Bill’s mouth just sort of hung open. “Huh?”

“Well, it’s like this,” began Neil, and then proceeded to tell him how all of the last half hour had transpired.

Bill just shook his head and chuckled. “Well …” he said, looking back out through the window in the door, watching Mariah for a moment. “Well, she sure acts like she knows what she’s doing, doesn’t she?”

Neil sighed. “We’ll see,” he answered and then looked back at his computer. “I’ve got to get this finished and then go out there and watch her at work some more before I know for sure. Go ahead and take yours out for the test, and get back as soon as you can.”

“Sure thing,” Bill said and hurried back into the work area. When he brought the Continental back, he parked it outside, satisfied that it was fully repaired, and then he drove a gray and white truck into the bay he’d left empty. As he got out, he heard Mariah talking to Neil about how the repair to her own car was coming. Bill couldn’t resist walking over to where the other two were working, Neil mostly handing Mariah tools and making a suggestion here and there.

“So, how’s it goin’?” Bill asked.

“Great,” Mariah answered before Neil could decide what to say. “I should have this baby running right in another half hour or so.”

“So what was it, anyway?” Bill asked her, walking around to the other side of the car to be closer to her.

She told him and then began to talk about how the repair was going in a little more detail, Bill agreeing with her on all points that she made. Neil was beginning to feel like a fifth wheel, and he just slipped away and walked over to the truck. He remembered what the owner had told him about the problem with this particular truck, so there was no need to go back into the office to get the work order. He just started to gather his tools and get to work. He knew he should direct Bill to get to another vehicle in the third bay, but, surprisingly, the quiet conversation between Bill and Mariah in the bay beside him was soothing to him as he worked, and for the first time in the last 24 hours, he was actually beginning to relax.

By the time Neil had the truck running smoothly, Mariah was ready to take her car for a test spin. As she pulled it out of the bay, Bill walked over to Neil, who was just putting down the truck hood. “Boy, I think that little lady really does know her business, Boss? You gonna let her stay on and help us?”

Neil was wiping his hands on a rag. “Maybe,” he said, looking a little preoccupied.

Bill nodded. “Hard decision, huh?”

Neil grinned a little. “Toughest one I’ve made since deciding to go into business.” Bill nodded his understanding and Neil spoke again. “Take this one out for a test, will ya?”

“Sure thing,” he said, hopping into the cab and backing the truck out of the building.

Mariah was back in a few minutes, beaming. “It’s right as rain,” she announced. “Do you want to test it out yourself just to be sure I really did fix it?” she asked, looking at him so earnestly that his heart turned over again. For some reason this little gal really wanted to work at this garage. He made his final decision in a second.

“Nope,” he said, grinning back. “You’re hired.”


For the rest of the story, get your copy on Amazon. Paperback or Digital.

 

 


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More Than Hugs & Kisses

It’s February, the month of love. Wouldn’t you like to read some satisfying love stories that give you a whole lot more than just hugs and kisses? I’d like to introduce you to four men who want very much to love and be loved, but who are facing some serious challenges to love that only God and His Word can overcome.

Private Detective Maddison Holt, who is so bound by grief, guilt ,and self-incrimination that he feels he has no right to have real love in his life. Pastor Cameron McDaniels, who has finally found the woman who is the answer to his prayers for a helpmate but discovers that, since losing a fiance, she is now afraid of loving anyone else at all. Lionel Butler has caused many a girl’s heart to flutter, but he never even notices because he’s convinced he’s destined to be a bad husband and father. His future looks bleak and empty. And violinist, conductor Jonah McDaniels, now in his 40’s, finally recognizes the one woman who can fill his heart and life, but is fearful that the age difference between them makes his situation hopeless.

When these four leading men in the “Smoky Mountain Series” novels put their faith and the Word of God to the test, they find the God of miracles is a master in the subject of true romance. There are plenty of hugs and kisses, to be sure, but sooooo much more in the “Smoky Mountain Series.”

Paperback or Digital at Amazon.

Find this series and more inspirational reading at this link:

 

 

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Look Out for the Arrows!

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QUIVER COVER FOR AMAZON - front

YAY!!!!! Finally!
A QUIVER FULL OF ARROWS is finally available in paperback at Amazon.

An author is by her books the way a mother is by her children: she never really has favorites. However, if I were forced to choose only one of my 12 novels as a favorite, I think it would have to be A QUIVER FULL OF ARROWS. It isn’t the most important novel I’ve written, and it hasn’t sold as well as the “Smoky Mountain Series” books, but it has a charm that no other book has.

Even though I wrote the story — and have read it multiple times to edit, correct, and tweak it — I can honestly say I still enjoy it immensely every time I read it. I laugh; I cry; I feel happy; I feel poignant. And I always come to the words “The End” with a huge grin on my face. I hope all my readers do as well.

You can have that experience too. Check out the synopsis and purchase your copy of A QUIVER FULL OF ARROWS for $7.99 at Amazon now.

 

 

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‘Smoky Mountain Series’ has come to Amazon in Paperback

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SET FREE AMAZON FRONT COVERThis week Book 1 of the Smoky Mountain Series took it’s place in the Paperback Inspirational Novel section of the Amazon book store.  I’m really happy to report that this first book of the series —Set Free To Love —  is now available at a new lower price — only $8.99.

It’s only a story — but when Private Detective Maddison Holt, Uncle Matt, Beth Hanover, and her young brother Lex get hold of your heart, you won’t feel like it’s just a story —– and you won’t want to miss picking up Book 2 of the series as soon as possible. The Smoky Mountain Series brings you stories where strong, loving, courageous characters meet the challenges of life with the power of God’s Word, and where true romance wins out over all.

Set Free To Love

As his vision suddenly blurred, Maddison realized he’d let it happen again. He swiped at his eyes with a thumb and forefinger, trying at the same time to pinch back more tears. He’d have to pull off the highway if he didn’t get better control of himself. The next moment, he could feel the anger boiling up from deep inside, needing an outlet. He’d swung back and forth like this relentlessly, between tears and anger for … how many weeks had it been now? Way too many … but then not really enough … not enough to dull the pain or answer any of the questions.

This first book in the Smoky Mountain Series follows private detective Maddison Holt’s journey from grief, guilt, and self-incrimination to a place where he is released from all of those burdens and able to freely give himself to loving and being loved. Order it here.

 

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Book 1 of Smoky Mountain Series only $1.99 during June

SET FREE COVER - GREEN BKRD # 1Detective Maddison Holt is a man who loves God, but after facing a tragic loss, and accepting the guilt for causing that tragedy, he finds himself doubting both God and himself. Grief, guilt, and self-condemnation are keeping him from being free to love or even receive love from the woman the Lord wants to bless him with for the rest of his life. His journey into the truth that can set him free and give him another chance to love is the story you’ll find in SET FREE TO LOVE.

But Maddison’s story is just the beginning. Because once you get Maddison and Beth on their way to a happily-ever-after, you’ll find that several of the other characters in Book # 1 wanted a book of their own as well. And so the series grows. Four books currently make up the Smoky Mountain family of novels — each with its own hero who faces a challenge that only God’s love and power can overcome. There are more to come, and, hopefully, once you read Maddison’s story, you’ll want to read them all.

SET FREE TO LOVE went on sale yesterday at the Kindle store on Amazon.com. For the rest of June, you can purchase it for only $1.99. Check it out. And if you don’t have a Kindle, no problem. Amazon has a free Kindle app for any device you use. You can download it right from the page where you order SET FREE TO LOVE.

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Give Someone ‘A Quiver Full Of Arrows’ for Christmas

BOW & ARROW -- QUIVER COVER FOR KINDLE - beige - NARROWEDChristmas is a time for families. And what better gift to give than the story of one unusual, but heart-warming family that fills the pages of A Quiver Full of Arrows — by me, of course.

Take newspaper publisher Lawson Wainright, who has a gut feeling that two sleeping bags and a can full of peanuts under his front porch just might be connected with four run-away children who have been in the news.  If he’s correct, his life as a quiet, orderly, 40-year-old bachelor just might be on the verge of being turned upside down.

Now add those four children, and a handful of other characters who will make the reader’s heart melt. Throw in a miracle or two from the hand of a loving God. And there you have a story that’s just made for Christmas giving.

It’s available in e-book on Amazon’s Kindle Store, and the price is right for giving: only $2.99.

And don’t forget, Amazon offers a free Kindle app for any device. Downloadable right on the page where you order A Quiver Full of Arrows.

Give a copy to someone you love this Christmas.

 

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4 Books About 4 Men In Love Can Warm Someone’s Heart This Christmas

PIC FOR SM.MT. SERIES COVER - FB - smallerFour stories. Four strong men. Men who love the Lord and are determined to have the women they love beside them. Four men who face daunting obstacles – some of them life-threatening – as they pursue the hearts of those women. Struggles in their souls and in the physical world as well force them to dig deeply and draw on their faith in the Word of God in order to win the battles: fighting to stay alive after being shot by an assassin; seriously injured in a plane crash and left with little hope of complete recovery; attempting to rescue a loved one kidnapped in a foreign country; struggling to forgive a life-long enemy in order to find hope in the future.

Their stories come together in the midst of the beautiful, majestic Smoky Mountains. Nestled within that unique region where Tennessee and North Caroline meet and the ‘Smokies’ beckon to the soul of a man to come and lose himself and his troubles in the beauty and tapestry of these compelling mountains. In this delightful setting, these four men’s lives and loves come face to face with the power of God’s Word to overcome any and all obstacles when faith is applied to that Word. Read their stories in The Smoky Mountain Series – available now in digital format at the Amazon Kindle Store – where you’ll also find the FREE Kindle App available for download. Give the gift of love to someone you love this Christmas.

Book 1: Set Free To Love

Book 2: Cameron’s Rib

Book 3: Repaired By Love

Book 4: Jonah’s Song

(Books 1 and 4 of the series are currently on sale through Christmas for $1.99)

 

 

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Don’t Read This Book If …

JONAH COVER - DARKER BLUE - SMALLER USE FOR KINDLEDON’T READ THIS BOOK if you don’t want your heartbeat to pick up speed at the sight of someone walking through a door – or if you don’t want to find yourself holding your breath waiting for a kiss – or if you don’t want to find tears rolling down your cheeks when disappointment is unbearable – or if you don’t want to find yourself grinning widely and looking a little foolish if you happen to be reading in public – or if you don’t want to finish the last chapter with a deep sigh of satisfaction and longing all rolled into one. If those experiences are not what you’re looking for, then do not read this book.

Most of my novels include a romance, but often it is only a part of the story, and not always the main focus. But I have to tell you up front that Jonah’s Song is totally and completely an honest-to-goodness, no-questions-asked, out-and-out old-fashioned love story – from beginning to end. Now don’t misunderstand: no parts of it are rated “R”; it’s a perfectly clean read. But it is a story that digs deeply into the hearts of a man and a woman – and into the heart of what God intended true romance to be.

All right then, who should read this fourth book in The Smoky Mountain Series? Well, if you’re not one of those people who fits the description in the first paragraph of this article, here’s the book for you. IF you “love” a good love story, then make a bee-line to Amazon’s Kindle Store and order Jonah’s Song while it’s on sale. In digital format, it will be selling for the special price of $1.99 from now through Christmas and then revert to the same price as the other books in the series..

Want to know a little more about the story? Here’s a peek at the blurb from the back cover:
Professor Jonah McDaniels, handsome violinist/conductor, is used to girls in his college classes having a crush on him. But he has never felt anything in return until he meets Valentina Rosswell. Even then, he pushes his feelings aside, knowing there are too many barriers to a personal relationship between them. But when he meets her again seven years later and realizes that what he felt for a college girl has matured – just as the girl has matured into a beautiful, desirable woman – he still does his best to resist falling in love.
Valentina has always believed Jonah was out of her league, and even when they renew their acquaintance as adults on equal footing, she does her best to refrain from loving this man who has filled her dreams for years.
But true love doesn’t follow the rules, nor does it dissolve just because two people put up a fight against it. And when the Lord sets His heart on a romance, He can employ some pretty interesting ways and means to bring it to pass. However, when dealing with Jonah and Valentina, even the Lord seems to have His work cut out for Him.
Jonah’s Song: A love story you won’t easily forget.

So buy one for yourself – and another one for someone you love – this Christmas

(Also, if you do read it and you do finish the last chapter with a sigh of satisfaction and longing, please stop and say a few words about the book in the “Customer Review” section of its Amazon page. Thanks.)

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Get Ready! ‘Quiver’ Is Going On Sale — $.99

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A Quiver Full of Arrows, one of my most recent inspirational digital novels is going on sale. Beginning Saturday, August 29, you can buy ‘Quiver’ for only $.99.

The sale lasts for 72 hours (beginning 8:00 a.m. U.S. Pacific Time):
All day Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

On Tuesday, the price increases to $1.99 — which is still a pretty good deal.

Then on Friday, the book goes back to it’s regular price of $2.99

If you’re looking for a wholesome story with captivating characters that will melt your heart —  if you’re looking for a story that reminds you God cares about and has solutions for our everyday problems in our everyday lives — if you’re looking for a story that has a slightly surprising, but well-deserved happy ending — then this is the book for you.

You can read a description of the story and get more information by visiting the book’s page at Amazon’s Kindle Store.

And if you don’t have a Kindle or an iPad or iPhone, you can download a free app from Amazon that will let you use your desktop or laptop as an e-reader.

 

 

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‘Cameron’s Rib’ – Sneak a Peek …

CAM'S RIB FOR FB - LARGERAnyone trying to describe Suzanne Peterson would not have called her pretty. She stood five feet, six inches in her stockinged feet, and all of those inches were undeniably feminine.

Her sculptured cheekbones and her coal black hair, which she wore in layered curls to just below her shoulders, she had inherited from her Cherokee ancestors on her father’s side. Her emerald eyes and the light dusting of freckles across her cheeks (she could cover them completely with properly applied makeup, but usually preferred to let them peak through) had been passed to her from her mother’s Irish bloodline.

And the truth was that when one considered all of these parts together – from head to toe – Suzanne Peterson was simply, strikingly beautiful.

Of much more importance was the fact that she was so beautiful in spirit that she had no vanity about her looks and hardly gave them a thought. So her beauty wasn’t at all sophisticated. There was an innocence about her – in her eyes – in her smile – in her manner – that made her charming, and most everyone who knew her found her a delight to be around.

At the same time, she felt most things passionately, and when her sense of injustice had been aroused, her eyes would flash fire, and her lovely voice would take on a ring of authority that seemed incongruous with that innocence. So potent was this combination that when Suzanne Peterson took her stand on any issue, most people listened –  whether they wanted to or not.

That fact gave her an advantage as a newspaper reporter. She was an accurate and truthful reporter, but every time she had an opportunity to do an article or a story that didn’t require her to be unbiased, she invested every bit of her talent and passion into persuading people to embrace what was right and good, and to abandon what was not.

But tonight, she wasn’t thinking about newspaper articles, or even about injustice of any kind. Rather, she was happily weighing the merit of packing her rose pink silk robe against that of taking the navy blue flannel as she prepared her luggage for tomorrow’s trip to Tennessee. She hummed quietly as she worked, stopping every once in a while to admire and smooth her hand over the ruby velvet bridesmaid’s dress hanging on her closet door.

“Oh, Lord,” she stopped to pray now, “how good You are to bring Maddison and Beth together as You have. I can’t imagine any two people better suited to each other. I know it took a lot of miracles to make everything work out for them, but You’ve certainly shown Yourself strong on their behalf. … It just swells my heart to see Maddison so happy after all he’s been through as a result of Matt’s death.”

Her eyes filled with tears, but she blinked them away. Her grief had to give place to her stronger joy for the man who would have been her own brother-in-law if things had gone as planned. She sighed deeply and sat down on the end of her bed in thought. Six months ago it would have been her own wedding she was packing for. …

(Excerpt, Cameron’s Rib, Chapter Two)

Pastor Cameron McDaniels had never felt his heart stop beating before. … Was that what was happening … or was he just forgetting to breathe in and out normally? … He couldn’t have answered either one of those questions, because his usually quick and concise reasoning abilities had just deserted him.

All he knew for sure was that he was looking at the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in all of his thirty-eight years on earth. … And her laughter … He had heard it as he came down the hall. Now, standing in the same room with her, it seemed to radiate from her whole being … rich and warm. It reached out and embraced him and drew him in … like a magnet. …

Somewhere in the back of his mind was the vague thought that this must have been what Adam felt when he first saw Eve. A foolish comparison perhaps, but he was used to thinking in Biblical terms after all. He knew others were in the room, but he couldn’t seem to focus on anyone but her.

All of this experience had taken only a few seconds, but he had lost track of time. Finally, he shook his head to clear it, deliberately took a deep breath, just to prove that he still could, and reminded himself that men didn’t really fall in love at first sight – particularly men who were ministers of the Gospel.

He squared his shoulders, taking another deep breath, glad that the others were still gathered around his secretary’s desk, intent on what they had been talking about that had them all laughing. They hadn’t seen him enter the office, so he had a moment to collect his thoughts.

So this was the young woman who had been engaged to Maddison’s brother and was now becoming a partner with Beth. Suzanne Peterson. … The name suited her, he thought.

The laughter of the others stirred him out of his reverie again, and squaring his shoulders once more, he moved forward. “Hello everyone. I’m sorry I’m late. The meeting with the other pastors ran longer than usual.”

Beth hurried toward him, her arms outstretched. “It’s about time you got here; we’re starving!” she said as they hugged each other. By that time, Maddison had crossed the room, beaming from ear to ear. “Don’t pay any attention to her, Cameron,” he said. “She’s always ready to eat. And can she put away the hotdogs!” he added, sliding his arm around Beth and squeezing her shoulder. She responded by punching him gently in the stomach.

“Now, Honey,” he said shaking his finger at her, “if you don’t behave, I’m going to have to arrange some more counseling sessions with our Pastor here before the ceremony.”

“All right, enough of that, you two.” The words came from across the room, and Cameron looked beyond Maddison to see Suzanne approaching them.

“You must be Pastor McDaniels,” she said, extending her hand to him.

“That’s right,” he answered as he took her hand. The luxurious sound of her laughter already had him mesmerized; now the feel of her hand in his disrupted his concentration even more. He had to get his thoughts together; he was the pastor after all; he needed to act like one! “And you’re Suzanne, of course. It’s so finally to – I mean – It’s so good to finally meet you.” He almost never stumbled over his words. Why now, of all times?

Suzanne spoke again: “I’ve heard so many good things about you from these two, that I feel I already know you.”

Let go of her hand, Cameron, he told himself. “Good … I mean … I … uh … I feel the same way.” He shakily drew in a long overdue breath. No woman had ever made him almost speechless before!

(Excerpt, Cameron’s Rib, Chapter Three)

With Suzanne in Honduras to interview the pastors, Cameron felt lost and uptight. This being in love was a whole new experience, and he was only beginning to get used to its ups and downs. But by Monday, with only four more days to go before her return, he was able to focus on his regular schedule a little more earnestly.  He even congratulated himself because he felt like he was finally getting back into his stride. But it all came to a crashing halt on Tuesday night with a phone call from Juan Cordoba that began the worst nightmare Cameron would ever experience in his life.

When he first heard Juan’s voice speak his name, he assumed he had called to give an update on Suzanne’s visit, but when the only thing following the word “Cameron” was silence, he knew something was wrong. His heart started pounding, and he cried out silently … not Suzanne … not Suzanne!

“What is it, Juan?” he asked in a strangled voice.

“I don’t know how to tell you this in a way that will make it easy to hear, so I’ll just give you the bold facts. Suzanne went out with two of our medical team in the mobile clinic van. They were going pretty far into the more primitive areas, and she wanted to get some pictures and talk to the people that were receiving help. But the van never arrived at its destination.”

“You mean it’s just disappeared!”

“Nobody’s heard from any of the team since they left here very early this morning. They should have had time to visit both of the villages they were scheduled to work at and be headed back by now.”

There was silence on both ends of the line. Finally Juan Cordoba spoke again.

“You know what probably happened.”

Cameron let out a groan. He felt as if something were choking the breath out of him. Juan was again quiet on the other end of the line. He knew without words what kind of pain his friend was in, and he hurt for him, as well as for the family members of the other people on his medical team.

Finally Cameron was able to get enough breath to let out an agonizing sigh. “You think the van was hijacked for the drugs.”

“That seems most likely. I’ve called the authorities, but you know how hard it is to get things done very efficiently in these cases. They are on the job, but I think we’re going to have to keep our trust in the Lord for this one.”

Tears ran down Cameron’s cheeks and dripped from his jaw, but he wasn’t paying attention. He had picked up a pen, and started making notes. “Tell me everything you know at this point … and I mean every detail, Jaun. Don’t try to spare me any of it. I have to know.”

There wasn’t much more to add for the time being. Juan told him their own people were trying to track the van, and might be able to come up with some kind of lead before the authorities. He promised to call back as soon as he knew anything.

“Well, I’m going to call our congregation to a special prayer meeting right now, but I’ll be on the first plane out of here tomorrow morning,” Cameron said. “If I haven’t heard anything from you before I board the plane, I’ll give you one more call, so if you’re going to be away from the house or office, will you be sure somebody’s there who can give me the latest information?”

“Sure, Cameron. But I’ll be back in touch tonight yet; I promise.

“I’d appreciate that, if you don’t mind … even if you don’t have any more news.” Juan could here the tears choking his friend’s voice, and his heart broke for him.

“You can count on it, my brother.”

Cameron cleared his throat of the thickness caused by the tears. “Thank you, Juan. I’ll be waiting to hear from you, and you can be sure we’ll be praying with all the faith we’ve got for all of them.”

“We’ve notified all of our sister churches, and the congregations are going to prayer even as we speak. The Lord won’t fail us, Brother.”

“I believe that, Juan. Good bye, my friend.”

Cameron’s first call was to Maddison Holt and his wife Beth, knowing they would call others on the prayer chain for him. But even more to the point, Maddison had become Cameron’s closest friend and was so much like his own brother that he knew he could count on the solid comfort and support.

“Hi, Cameron,” Maddison said, “what are you up to this evening?”

Cameron cleared his throat again, and took just long enough to get his words out that Maddison knew there was a serious problem. “Cameron … ?”

“I … I just got a call from Juan Cordoba, Maddison. There’s a problem, and we need to get the church together for prayer.”

“What’s happened?”

“Suzanne went out in the medical van this morning with their team that visits the outlying villages, but the van never arrived at either village. They’re all missing.”

“Oh, man! Do they have any idea what’s happened to it?”

Cameron cleared his throat again. He just couldn’t seem to get beyond this choking feeling. “The most likely explanation is that some local gang has hijacked the van in order to get the drugs it carries.”

“That’s pretty common down there?”

“Yes, unfortunately. It’s so common that I’m positive that’s what’s happened.”

“Do you have any idea what their attitude is likely to be toward the people on the van? I mean … are they likely to let them go?”

Cameron’s sigh was so weary that it almost broke Maddison’s heart just to hear it, knowing how much this man loved Suzanne. “It just depends. If they’re focused enough on the drugs only, they may just throw the people off and leave them stranded. But only God knows what these guys are like … if that’s what’s happened. There’s always the possibility that they’ve kidnapped them to hold them for ransom, of course, but I don’t think that’s as likely.”

“So you want us to call some of the others?”

“Yes, if you will. Call Uncle Matt and have him call a bunch, and then get Hilary, and have her call another group. Let’s ask them to come down to the church if they can, so we can all pray together. But any who can’t come down can at least be praying at home. I need to stop and call Suzanne’s parents next, so I’m going to let you guys handle the congregation.”

“Consider it done, Buddy, and we’ll be down to the church just as soon as we can get there. As a matter of fact, I think Beth and I will go on down there, and we can keep making calls from there.”

“That’s great. I’ll see you there pretty soon … and … Maddison …” he made a choking sound that barely held back a sob.

“I know, Buddy … I know. … We’ll be with you soon.”

(Excerpt, Cameron’s Rib, Chapter Eighteen)

The three excerpts above are just to tempt you. They’re from CAMERON’S RIB, the second book in The Smoky Mountain Series, which is finally available for e-readers. You can find a copy at Amazon’s Kindle Store right now.  If you’ve read Book # 1 and liked it, you’re sure to like this one as well.  Only $3.99

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My Love Affair with the Smokies Conceived an Inspiratonal Novel Series

Exif JPEGMy love affair with the Smoky Mountains began when I was still a very young child. Except for a two-year stint in Fort Wayne, IN, my years between infancy and third grade were spent in Southern Illinois. And most of our family travels took us into the northeastern sections of the country. But when I was six, my family traveled south for the first time. On our way to South Carolina, we passed through Tennessee, and I came face to face with the homeland of my Cherokee ancestors: the Appalachian Mountains – and specifically the area known by that time as The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

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I remember two specific things about those mountains. In one sense they were a little frightening to a six-year old. Highways were not what they are now, and the less developed highways ran in among those mountains with a little more drama than they do today. The inclines were exceptionally steep in places, with warning signs everywhere about making sure autos were in lowest gear and with stories rampant about “runaway” semis barrelling down those inclines. I remember coming around curves more than once where the road looked as though it would literally lead straight into the mountain. It was a little overwhelming in one way, but it was tremendously exciting as well. The second thing that struck me was that within these mountains and their foothill regions dwelt people of a different culture and attitude toward life. It wasn’t just the Cherokee people who exhibited that difference. It was virtually all the people who called that place home.

That particular trip touched, not just me, but also my parents. They fell in love with Tennessee and decided that they wanted to live there. When an opportunity came along to do so – through a job opening in Nashville, TN – my parents jumped at it. Nashville wasn’t in the mountains, of course, but it was a lot closer. I can honestly say that I have never lived any place that was so special to me as Nashville, Tennessee. I fell in love again – with the city of Nashville and the whole state of Tennessee.

Exif JPEGIn the years following, my family and I made many trips into the Smoky Mountains. We saw the Park and the surrounding towns change considerably during that time, but the area never lost its unique culture. And having a strong Cherokee heritage in my own life, the older I got, the more I wanted to know and be known by the people who had given me my great grandmother. My immediate family eventually moved back to Illinois, but we have never stopped visiting the Smoky Mountains.

PAM'S 1808 EDITED
Photo courtesy of my step-mother Pam Pavloff

I’ve wondered sometimes if there’s something in my own blood that calls me home to the Smokies. I don’t recall ever visiting any other place – or even living in any other place – that kept pulling me to come back to it the way the Smokies do — or where I felt so much as if I were “home” each time I visited. Over more recent decades, I’ve tried to maneuver some things in my life and work out a way to have my work and my everyday life in the midst of that area of the country. But the Lord has kept opening doors to the ministry He wants me to do in other areas instead. So those other areas remain my world of everyday life. And, alas, I am still relegated to making visits to my mountains.

But those visits, over the years, have gleaned me an entire family of wonderful characters who do get to live and love and work and play right in the midst of the Smokies. So I’ll have to settle for that. When writing the books in The Smoky Mountain Series, I live there with them and enjoy being “home” for all those months. And I’m grateful that, through these books, I can truly live in two worlds at the same time.

SET FREE COVER - GREEN BKRD # 1 - tiny for blogThe Smoky Mountain Series began with the novel Set Free To Love, which was actually the first novel I had ever written — although it was not the first of my novels to be published. The second book nudged its way into my heart and mind just as I was writing the conclusion of Set Free, and by that time, I couldn’t shut off the flow. Two more novels later, I had a four-book series, but book number 5 is in progress even as I write this post.

Most of you, my readers, know that I have finally been catapulted into the digital age, and I can now offer Set Free To Love in digital format for all those lovely technologically advanced gadgets that make reading while on the go so easy.

You can find Set Free To Love — and a synopsis of the story, along with a rerun of this article — at the Kindle store by clicking on the book cover above, and you’ll find book number 2 (Cameron’s Rib) in the same store shortly. So many readers have shared with me about how they have been blessed by Set Free To Love. I hope all the new readers will be equally blessed as well.

Oh, and one more thing: Last fall, on my most recent trip to the Smokies, I picked up a little magnet for my refrigerator door that says, “Heaven’s a little closer in the mountains.” Ahhh, yes it is, my friends. YES IT IS!

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Behind the Scenes During the Writing of ‘Quenton’s Honor’

QUENTON GLOBE EXPERIMENT - TRQUS - w. keyboardPeople often ask me where I get ideas for my novels, and they also like to know the “behind-the-scenes” details of the actual writing. So periodically I share some of those details — especially the ones that I found personally enjoyable or that helped me grow as a writer. The writing of Quenton’s Honor taught me much about dedication and commitment to a project — the kind of commitment that refuses to throw in the towel because tracking down those miniscule details takes multiple phone conversations, some with foreign speaking individuals, and hours poring over dusty facts and figures and then double-checking to see if any of them have changed since I started the research. But it also taught me that even the drudgery work has its own rewards in the positive results of self-discipline.

Quenton’s Honor was actually my third novel, but it was the first of all my novels to be published, with the first printing coming out about 7 years ago. The basic story had been hanging around in my mind and my heart for months before it took enough shape to send me to the keyboard to write the first words. Once I was started, however, there was no stopping. I had to do a considerable amount of research where Pakistan was concerned, and I had to keep reminding myself that I was dealing with a huge time difference between St. Louis Missouri, and Karachi, Pakistan. That time difference didn’t cause me nearly as much trouble, though, as the loss of 12 whole days when I decided — after finishing the novel — to substitute Chapter 3 for Chapter 1.

As often happens in writing a work this long, once it’s done, the author can look back and see new possibilities for the beginning chapter — scenes that will better help grab the reader and get him involved with the story immediately. I realized that Quenton’s Honor would be a better story if I took Chapter 3 and gave it to the readers first. It was a beautiful trade, and I was very happy with it, except for the fact that I had lost 12 days of action. Not to be thwarted, however, I managed to squeeze in a little flashback to grab those 12 days. Of course, I’ll admit it took me 3 days to figure out how to make it all work. But in the end, all was well.

Another editing change came when I turned it over to a friend who reads all my novels critically. I like to have him read my works before anyone else, if possible, because he is very particular about the quality of books he reads and is eager and quick to speak up if a book is lacking in any area. When he read Quenton’s Honor, he loved the book overall and was genuinely touched by several parts, but he was not at all happy with one scene where Quenton’s life is about to be snuffed out by his terrorist guards, and the men sent to rescue him have not arrived. My friend insisted the scene needed more energy and physical action.

Now, this friend is a very shy, introverted, quiet-spoken person, and definitely not the physical confrontation type. However, when I asked him for his ideas about changes to that particular scene, he got up from his desk and began to act out all the parts of the physical confrontation for the scene. I sat and watched him with my mouth open. Here was an entirely different person from the one I’d known several years. He was so energized as he acted out all the parts that he made a believer out of me, and I went home and re-wrote that scene exactly the way he had acted it out. Of course, I acknowledged him gratefully in the front of the book.

So far, readers seem to find the changes I made very agreeable. Any of the rest of you who read the book are welcome to let me know what you think as well —  about the beginning, the short flashback, and the fight to save Quenton’s life — or just about the story in general.

The printed version of Quenton’s Honor is available from St. Ellen Press, and the digital version is available from Amazon’s Kindle Store. The publisher plans to make the print version available on Amazon this summer.

[Background globe photo by Prawny. Used by permission. Edited.]

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