The heroes and heroines in all my novels love coffee. It’s a given because intelligent, fascinating, delightful people always do. 🙂
photo courtesy of Fernando Zhiminalcela @ pixabay.com
The heroes and heroines in all my novels love coffee. It’s a given because intelligent, fascinating, delightful people always do. 🙂
photo courtesy of Fernando Zhiminalcela @ pixabay.com
I have taken considerable liberty this week in responding to the prompt at “A Dash of Sunny.” It calls us to look at light and darkness and to write about them in any way we feel led. I have written an entire novel that focuses on the battle between light and darkness, looking in depth at the root sources of both.
As with all my inspirational novels, the theme of Racing Toward The Light is based in the Christian faith, and this particular book allows the reader to delve into the earthly lives of the characters of the story, but also into the spirit realm, where those forces of light and darkness dwell in all their fullness, and from which they influence and control earthly beings.
Since Racing Toward The Light fits this prompt so perfectly — and since it also fits the season of Halloween, when the world focuses on those forces from the dark side of the spirit realm — and since the E-Book version of the novel goes on sale at the Amazon Kindle store today — I thought I’d give you a peek at the official book trailer, in which I personally read an excerpt from the first few pages.
Maybe I can whet your appetite enough that you’ll hop over to Amazon and purchase a copy. And even if you don’t, it’s fun to share this much of it with you. The printed version came out about 5 years ago, but I’m excited about the digital version because so many people from around the world can download and read it now without dealing with exorbitant shipping costs.
So if you’re ready for a fresh, enlightening Halloween experience, come walk through this journey with Noah, as he struggles to find a way to overcome his own fear and weakness in order to commit himself to fighting a new battle with forces from beyond this world. Experience the power of God as angels and demons engage on the spiritual plane while believers discover the truth about their position of authority and their victory in the name of Jesus Christ and His blood.
Just thought I’d tease some of you a little with an excerpt from the first chapter of my novel Quenton’s Honor. Go ahead. Take a chance. Read it. Maybe you’ll decide that one chapter just isn’t enough. If so, you’ll find it for sale on Amazon’s Kindle Store, for only $3.99. And if you don’t have a Kindle, a Nook, an iPad, or an iPhone – no problem. Amazon has an app that you can download for free to turn your computer into a digital reader for any book you buy. Enjoy ..….
QUENTON’S HONOR: Chapter One
“I hope you duly appreciate your cook, Mr. Ahmed,” Quenton said, addressing his Pakistani host as they walked from the dining room with the two other men who were also guests for the business dinner they had just finished. “That was one of the most delicious meals I’ve had in a long time.”
“Indeed, I do appreciate his talent, Mr. Sutherland,” he answered laughing. “Especially since he serves me meals just as delicious even when I am alone.”
“You’re a lucky man.”
Ranjit Ahmed turned toward a closed door and opened it into a cozy library, inviting his guests inside. “Please join me in here for some relaxing conversation now that our more serious business is taken care of.”
“If you wouldn’t be offended, gentlemen,” Quenton said, taking in all three men in his glance, “I’d like to be excused to check on my personal e-mail and perhaps answer some of the most pressing communications.”
“Certainly, Mr. Sutherland. This has been a very pressing trip for you, and I imagine you’re feeling the strain of it about now, and probably long for your bed and sleep as much as more conversation.”
“There’s some truth in that,” Quenton answered, laughing. He turned to shake the hands of the two other men. “Thank you so much gentlemen, for taking the time to meet with me this evening and answer my questions. Your information has been very useful in deciding what kind of help is most needed by the people here in your country.”
“It was our pleasure,” one of the men answered him.
“Indeed,” the other added. “We’re very glad to know that our information has been of benefit. We appreciate your generosity in orchestrating such humanitarian efforts, Mr. Sutherland.”
Quenton turned back to his host. “I’m hoping your offer of the use of the computer in your office is still open. It shouldn’t take long to access my e-mail and print out anything I really need.”
“Feel free to make use of it, Mr. Sutherland. I’ll not be using it again until morning myself. And if you find that there isn’t much that needs your immediate attention, please join us here when you’re through. Otherwise . . . I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Thank you. Goodnight.” Quenton turned and walked down the hall to the office he’d seen as Ranjit Ahmed had shown him around his beautiful home that morning. He entered the office and closed the door, going immediately to the desk and computer terminal.
As he moved the mouse, he was surprised to see a letter replace the screen saver. Hmm . . . must have been something Ahmed had been working on, and he had forgotten to close it out before he left the office. Quenton was a natural born reader, and he often found himself scanning any written material in front of him without even thinking about it, regardless of what it was. By the time he realized he was reading a letter that was none of his business, his eyes had scanned over a couple of lines where the mention of three specific time zones caught his attention, and he automatically started reading again from the top of the page.
“The main components will be in place by midnight in the Pacific Time Zone, which will make it 2:00 AM Central, and 3:00 AM Eastern. The product should have saturated the market within a few hours of the initial entry. Response should be almost immediate, so departure should be as early as possible after the business has been transacted. The last communication from here will take place twenty-four hours before the appointment time. After that, there will be no way for you to access this information or communicate with this site.”
Quenton shook his head slightly. “This is one odd letter,” he said, not even realizing he was talking to himself out loud. He leaned back in the desk chair, thinking and still mumbling out loud. “I had no idea Ahmed did business with anyone on both coasts too. I was sure he told me we were the only American company he’s been connected with for the past three years.” He shook his head again and re-read the words. For some reason he was unable to dispel a faint sense of something shady here. The terminology seemed almost purposely vague.
He shrugged his shoulders. Oh, well, it really had nothing to do with him if Ahmed wanted to do business with somebody else too. “It’s not like I’m trying to corner the market in his line,” Quenton said now, and started to open a new window in the browser to access his own mail.
But something just kept nagging at his mind so much that, instead of opening a new window, he found himself pulling up the information that would tell him who the letters had been sent to. He didn’t recognize any of the e-mail addresses, but he just couldn’t keep himself from pulling his notebook from his coat pocket and jotting them down.
Then he laughed quietly to himself. “This is stupid. I act like I’m in a spy movie,” he said, shoving his notebook back into his pocket and getting down to his own business. He found only one item he needed to print out, so within thirty minutes, he was back in his bedroom preparing to get some sleep.
He must have lain there for at least another hour before he finally dozed off, but it felt as if he were instantly awakened by the slamming of car doors close by. He rolled over in the bed and looked at the clock: midnight. Well, evidently, he’d been asleep longer than he thought. He supposed the car doors indicated the other guests finally leaving. But as he lay there, he heard voices in the courtyard below his room, and after several minutes, he realized he hadn’t heard any car engines running, or the sounds of any cars driving away.
He got up and looked out the window. He could see the courtyard easily, and he was surprised to see Ranjit shaking hands with a man who hadn’t been with them at dinner. The next thing he knew, Ranjit was turning and speaking to someone else who was already out of site in the doorway of a room that opened right onto the courtyard and driveway. Instinctively, Quenton stayed back far enough to be sure he was out of sight, which wasn’t too difficult, since he hadn’t turned on a light. He saw Ranjit and the first man enter the room off the courtyard also and close the door.
Well, he was wide awake now. He might as well put on his robe and go back down to the library and find something to read. Ranjit had told him to help himself to any of the books during his two-day visit. He didn’t encounter anyone else in the hallways, but for some reason, he walked especially quietly. He wasn’t sure why, but he didn’t feel exactly comfortable wondering around someone else’s house after midnight. It seemed a little creepy.
He shook his head at his own feelings and mumbled to himself. “I must be letting Steve’s warnings about the dangers of this trip get to me.” His vice-president had done everything in his power to change Quenton’s mind about making the trip, citing a number of possible scenarios that could end unhappily. He shook his head again and kept walking, determined to find himself something enthralling to read and get his mind off this foolishness. He opened the door to the library and turned on the light, crossing the carpeted floor to peruse the shelves. As he moved to the shelves on the back wall, he realized he could hear voices again, and glancing around, he realized the library was situated right next door to the room he’d seen the men enter a few minutes ago.
Well, he didn’t want to listen and get his mind bogged down with something that wasn’t any of his business, so he’d tune them out and get his book and leave. But the fact that they were speaking English worked against him. He couldn’t seem to not hear what they were saying … at least some of the time. One of the men had a softer voice, and Quenton missed his words, but he could hear Ranjit and one of his visitors pretty clearly.
Quenton pulled himself up short again with a mental lecture about minding his own business, but about that time he heard the words, “The system in San Francisco is more difficult to get into than the others. Do you think we should try a different avenue there?”
“There’s no other avenue that will reach nearly as many people,” Ranjit answered. “Tell them to keep trying.”
“But they’ve tried everything they can think of already, and time’s running out.”
“There has to be a way! A water system that large has to have a weak spot somewhere.”
WATER? Quenton’s hearing sharpened instantly. His heartbeat picked up speed, but he deliberately tried to settle it with deep breaths, because he was determined to listen now. Why would they be interested in San Francisco’s water system? He began to wonder if he had spent too much time the past year listening to talk about possible terrorist plots.
At that thought, his heart started pounding again so loudly that he had to walk right up to the wall and lean against it to hear any more words.
The soft-voiced man was saying something now, but he couldn’t make out any of it except the word Chicago.
“That’s right,” Ranjit said now. “If they can figure out a way to access the system in Orlando and Chicago, there is a way to take care of it out there too.”
CHICAGO!! ORLANDO!! Quenton’s mind jumped back to the letter he’d seen earlier in the evening referring to the three specific time zones. He’d wondered about the letter being in English, but he knew that was a common language for businessmen in this part of the world to use, and it hadn’t made him particularly suspicious. But now he realized that the letter must have been going to people in all three of those cities, and would draw less suspicion if it were in plain English, just in case it ended up in the wrong hands at some point.
He was having a hard time shutting down his own racing thoughts enough to listen to the rest of the conversation. But he could hardly hear anything clearly now. They must have moved to the opposite side of the room. He pressed his ear to the wall, but still couldn’t make out any of the words. But suddenly he noticed that the drapes at the library window that faced the courtyard were still open, and anyone walking toward the drive could see him in the room, leaning against the wall. He’d better grab a book and get back to his room. He’d find a way to get back to the computer after everyone else was in bed. He could surely find some answers there.
He quickly reached up and grabbed a book on the history of Pakistan and slipped out of the library silently. Once back in his room, he changed into jeans and a knit shirt. He couldn’t seem to stop pacing, waiting to hear the midnight visitors leave. When he finally heard car doors slamming again, about an hour later, he eased up to the window and looked out. Sure enough, both men were leaving, and Ranjit turned toward the house.
One of his servants came up to him and spoke in a rather secretive manner Quenton thought, but Ranjit’s only response for several seconds was just to nod his head as if he understood. Finally he glanced up toward Quenton’s window, but Quenton forced himself not to jump back. He didn’t believe Ranjit could see him through the lightweight drapes anyway, but even if he could, it shouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary for someone awakened by the cars to glance out of the window. Ranjit’s glance lasted only a couple of seconds; then he again moved toward the house, along with his servant.
Quenton sat down to wait. He’d have to give all of them time to get to bed and, hopefully, to sleep, before he ventured out again. He closed his eyes, weariness from the trip . . . and from his own troubling thoughts . . . weighing him down. He sighed heavily. He really didn’t want any part of this at all. Could he just ignore everything he’d heard and go on and finish his own trip and get back home? All he wanted to do was help some of the people in these countries, hoping to bring just a little bit of peace to some of them … even in the midst of almost unceasing conflict and turmoil.
His father had been diligent to teach him that a man blessed with much wealth had the responsibility to use that wealth to benefit mankind as much as he possibly could. James Sutherland had lived by the rule that if you give some of what you’ve been blessed with to others in need, you will continue to be blessed even more – and then can be an even greater blessing – and the cycle will continue. And to the best of Quenton’s memory, that policy had never failed his father at any time. So he had continued to live his own life the same way.
He smiled to himself now, his head resting on the back of the chair. He’d wanted to be just like his dad ever since he could remember – always following him around – begging to go with him to the office or to visit clients – to “help” carry his golf clubs around the green or to sit beside him on the boat with his own cane fishing pole hanging over the side, waiting for a nibble. And, of course, when his dad had become a believer, Quenton had always been ready to accompany him to church – at least as a very young boy.
But by the time he was out of high school and on his way to college, he didn’t figure he had time for God and church. He knew his parents were disappointed – as was his grandmother, who’d told him stories of faith from the time he was a toddler – but he had to start living his own life sometime, and the day he left for college seemed as good a time as any. Those feelings only intensified when he began to listen to the questioning ideas and attitudes that were so plentiful in his classrooms and among the people who became his friends.
He sighed again. Oh, well, religion just wasn’t for him, but he had to admit that it hadn’t done too badly by his dad. He had been an extraordinarily successful man, and Quenton was honored to have had him for a father. He would continue to live by the principles his dad had instilled into him – at least as far as business was concerned – to the best of his ability.
He glanced at his watch now. He’d waited long enough. It was time to slip down to the office.
As he stepped into the hallway thirty minutes later, the house was silent as a stone. He slipped easily down the corridor and turned to the left, heading quickly for the office. He had planned to use the excuse that he had forgotten to access his business computer’s e-mail, should he get caught at the terminal at such an unusual hour. But he hoped that wouldn’t be necessary.
He closed the door silently and eased his way around the desk to the chair in front of the terminal. He was thankful for an almost full moon, because it gave just enough light to avoid stumbling over something. He turned on the screen and found that it gave enough light to see the keyboard clearly. Now to discover the right password.
He was more grateful than ever that he had expanded the family company into the manufacturing of computer hardware and that he’d forced himself, in the process, to learn a great deal about how all of the various systems functioned. He’d learned more than one way to scour those systems for the information he needed. He worked quickly and as silently as the computer itself would accommodate, holding his breath almost the whole time. … Bingo! He had it. Now to get into the rest of the e-mails and possibly some related files. He checked the time, knowing he needed to hurry, but wanting to take the time to assimilate what he read so that he didn’t have to write it all down.
As he worked his way back through letters preceding the one he’d discovered tonight, he found more details. By now he felt sure he wasn’t imagining things. All these details had the makings of a thoroughly organized plan to infiltrate city water systems with a deadly substance. But what he couldn’t find were dates. His neck was rigid from the tension, and he reached back to massage it, closing his eyes for just a moment. He had to find the dates.
He opened his eyes again and pulled up another document. The wording was extremely odd, and just as he was concentrating on trying to decipher what must have been some kind of coded instructions, the office door swept open and the overhead light flashed on. Quenton jumped … just enough that his hand hit the mouse, and it slid off the desk to the floor. With that motion, his tiny window of opportunity for closing down what he had been reading dissolved into thin air.
(© 2004 Sandra Conner)
Well, it all started one night when I was bored with every story/novel/poem I’d been working on over the past several months. I wasn’t suffering from that somewhat vague malady known as “writer’s block.” No – I was just bored. I couldn’t seem to make myself work on any one piece that was currently under construction, yet I didn’t want to give up and walk away from the keyboard in a funk. Now, I did walk away from the keyboard, but it was mainly for the purpose of walking around in order to think better.
Suddenly, it hit me! “Sandra,” I said to myself out loud, “you are constantly telling your students that if they find themselves struggling to write on a current project, then that’s an excellent time to pull out one of those writing exercises and throw themselves into it with abandon. So practice what you preach, girl. Just clear your head of everything you’ve been struggling with, sit down at the keyboard, and write down the first two words that pop into your mind. After that you know the rules keep writing until you feel like you’re done.”
Now, this particular exercise is one that I enjoy using in my creative writing classes because I am always amazed at what my students come up with in the end. Of course, there are a few students who hold themselves back and don’t give their imagination totally free rein, but most of them throw themselves into the exercise whole-heartedly to get all the fun out of it that they can. I’ve made myself do such exercises a number of times and have had some really good results and some not so good, but each time, I at least felt refreshed after having done the work-out. And, in all honesty, a work-out is exactly what we’re talking about. These kinds of exercises do the same for a writer’s mind, imagination, and creativity as a physical work-out does for his body. And I keep reminding my students that sometimes the simplest, “silliest” writing exercise can end up netting them one of the best books they will ever write.
So I did it! Now, I do keep lists of words, phrases, and short sentences that I can go to and use as prompts for such exercises, but that particular night, I felt that if I took time to hunt for one of my lists (and at my house, I have to hunt for anything that hasn’t been used in the last three days), I might give up before I got started. So, trying to keep my mind in neutral, I sat down, and instantly grabbed the first two words that popped up when my bottom hit the seat. And – wouldn’t you know – the first two words that popped into my mind came at me out of nowhere: “peanut shells.”
Don’t anyone ask me why. I haven’t a clue. I hadn’t been eating peanuts, nor had I been craving them. In fact, I would have said they were the farthest thing from my mind. But, all of a sudden, out of the clear blue, here I was – faced with those two stupid words to write about. Well, I’m not a wimp, and I hate to accept defeat without even fighting, so I opened a new document, sat up straighter in my chair, took a deep breath, and wrote – literally not pausing to think about what I was writing – but just tapping out one word after another as it rushed out.
Within ten minutes, I realized that I had the kernel of a whole story, but it wasn’t until I had written for about 30 minutes that I realized I had the makings of a complete novel in front of me. The story unfolded, one part after another, in my mind, and by the time I’d finished typing the first chapter, I was captivated with it.
To be honest, I felt slightly guilty for putting aside all the other things I had been working on, but that guilt didn’t last long. I tell my students that they need to go with the flow of their own creativity. No matter how many pieces they are working to complete, if, suddenly, something new rises up out of their soul, and it is truly alive and growing, then they need to give themselves to it and see where it takes them.
Now, that is not to say that I don’t teach them discipline as well. There are times when we do have to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and just make ourselves complete a task we’ve started. However, we have to recognize, as well, that every single thing we begin to write may not be a piece that has enough life in it to keep growing and come to maturity. There’s also a time and place to say, “This piece is not what I thought it was, and I don’t want to devote any more of my time and creativity to trying to make it into something it can’t become.”
However, in my case, I knew I would return to all the projects that I had set aside. They were stories that I believed in and actually wanted to finish – but not right then – because this new story – the “Peanut Shell” story, had captured my heart, and I wasn’t about to throw away such a jewel or let it lie on the shelf to collect dust.
For several weeks, I wrote on the story, using the working title “Peanut Shells.” I knew, of course, that the final title would be something different, and before too long, I knew exactly what it would be. I won’t give away the reason for choosing that title, because I want the readers to discover it for themselves as they move through the story. But, needless to say, it has something to do with God’s Word and His promises. Yes, A Quiver Full of Arrows is another of my inspirational novels that lets us see God at work in our every-day lives, caring about all the little things that matter to us, and giving us help and deliverance through the power of His Word when we need it.
I tell my students that when they give themselves to a writing exercise such as the one I’ve described and make themselves keep writing without stopping to plan or make decisions – and without stopping to make corrections – they are allowing things from deep inside of them to come to the surface and come out in what they write. When they abandon themselves, with no restraints and no rules except to keep writing, ideas and images pop up inside and come rushing out while no one is standing guard with the normal rules of “good writing.”
Because I pray regularly for the Lord to give me the stories He wants me to write – and to help me create the works that will fulfill His will and His desire to help people – and that will give Him glory – I believe that when I end up with a story like A Quiver Full Of Arrows, I have the Lord Himself to thank for it. I may have been engaging in a writing exercise, but as I freed myself from all the self-imposed restraints of “good writing,” I allowed His Spirit to pour through me all the ideas that He wanted to include in that story.
So, there you have it, dear readers. That’s exactly how it happened. I can’t take credit for a whole lot of it. Of course, in the weeks that followed day one, I did have to start thinking and planning and checking on facts — especially for a couple of events that needed to take place. And, once the story was finished, I had to do the normal pruning and polishing. But none of that activity would have been possible if I had not sat down and played around with that simple exercise. I started with peanuts; somewhere before the end of chapter two, I had a quiver; and by the time I got to the words “The End,” my quiver was full of arrows.
I do hope my readers enjoy the book. Personally, I think it’s one of the best novels I’ve ever written. And it’s the kind of book that almost anyone will enjoy – unless your appetite is for horror or moral degeneration. But I have to warn you: as you read it, you just might find yourself getting hungry for some peanuts, so better stock up when you buy the book.
St. Ellen Press has just recently published it in digital format as well, and you can find it at the Kindle Store on Amazon for only $2.99. If you purchase a copy and read it, please go on the site and write a brief review for me. Buy one for a friend as well. And don’t forget to get your friend a bag of peanuts.
P. S. By the way, if you do not have an e-reader, but would like to read digital books, you can download a free app from Amazon that will let you read any and all e-books on your own personal computer.
When witchcraft invades a small town, threatening the lives of the children and the future of the whole community, how will the citizens learn to overcome that evil with a Higher Power?
There’s one man who can lead them … but will he?
Exhausted from a battle with supernatural forces, Sheriff Noah Bennett, with his white stallion Moondancer, travels to a small coastal community seeking rest and healing for his battered soul. There he befriends David, a 6-year-old boy with a love for horses, and David’s aunt, beautiful Serenity Lawrence. Recuperation and a possible romance are delayed, however, when the still weary Noah has to find a way to overcome his own fear and weakness in order to commit himself to fighting a new battle against forces from beyond this world.
Read Chapter One Here Free:
RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT
by Sandra Conner
Published by St. Ellen Press
He was forcing his way through bushes and tree limbs that pulled at his sleeves and scratched his face. Moving as quickly as he could, he wasn’t even trying to be quiet. There wasn’t time to be quiet. Please, God, let us be in time! Please let us be in time! But it was so dark. Was it usually this dark? He’d camped in these woods, but he didn’t remember the feeling of being smothered in thick darkness like he was experiencing now.
Three deputies flanked Noah Bennett on either side, each of them sweeping the wooded terrain with the same kind of high-powered flashlight that he was carrying himself. I should have tried harder! I should have made myself stay focused on this! His breathing was ragged and his chest so tight; he wondered if he might actually be having a heart attack.
“Over here,” one of the deputies called out, and Noah turned abruptly toward the clearing on the right, crushing a portion of a bush beneath his boot to get past it in a hurry. All the light beams converged on the spot the deputy was looking at on the ground. There was the pentagram. And close to it a recently dowsed fire.
“This has to be the place,” Noah heard himself say, and as he began to sweep the beam of his light around, one of the other deputies pointed out a silver flash with his own light. The steel of the ritualistic knife glittered tauntingly at all of the men, as one of them reached down to pick it up with a gloved hand.
And then … they saw her.
Noah felt the agonizing groan begin in the deepest part of his abdomen. He felt the full force of it as it raged all the way through him. He felt his knees hit the ground with a painful thud as the groan finally escaped in a tormented cry ….
Sheriff Noah Bennett woke up sobbing like a child … again. He was wringing wet with sweat, and his sobs shook his whole body. He finally sat upright and grabbed his head. By sheer willpower, he managed to swallow the bile working its way up from his stomach. Gradually, after he managed to take enough deep breaths, the sobbing subsided.. When he was under control enough to be able to move, he shoved himself off the bed and onto his knees beside it. Burying his head in the damp sheets, he tried to pray … again. This had to end. … Sometime … this had to end!
A mile out from shore, the ocean was a vast, undulating, lead-gray blanket. But as the currents approached the beach that held them in check by the decree of God, the waves became gentle, but persistent swirls of iridescent silver. As they washed against the land, their substance danced high into the air as if a huge bottle of champagne had been poured out into a giant punch bowl.
The dramatic change in the water’s color resulted from the fact that a lighthouse stood atop a modest knoll whose base stretched across the beach almost to the very edge of the water at high tide. The arm of light rushed out to meet the darkness, which was made more intense because of heavy clouds that almost rested on the surface of the water a couple of miles out and covered most of the sky over the coast. The only opening in the cloud cover was just to the right of the lighthouse itself, but it wasn’t letting any moonlight through. So the only radiance came from the beam that swept its ruling arc across its vast domain every fifteen seconds.
But the darkness was no match for that penetrating light. The beacon was so intense that it forced, not only the ocean, but even the heavy clouds, to reflect that light into the atmosphere. It was in the brilliance of that light that the caps of the waves became like silver lace, and the hundreds of water droplets like sparkling diamonds.
The wind had picked up. But it was often stronger on this part of the beach than it was farther inland, and the combined sound of wind and waves usually served more as a lullaby to the inhabitants of the lighthouse than it did a disturbance. At least that used to be the case . . . until the last couple of weeks. The light itself had been automated several years ago, but the house was still a quaint, but quite livable place. That being the case, the old man who had operated the light during the last decade had opted to lease the house for his home, with the understanding that he would service and repair the equipment that carried on most of the operations now.
His six-year-old great-grandson David had come to live with him almost a year ago, along with his aunt Serenity, the old man’s elder granddaughter. David’s mother was Serenity’s younger sister, and she and her husband had died in an accident while traveling abroad, leaving their son in the guardianship of his aunt.
The boy was sitting now in the window seat of his bedroom, looking out at the beach, the light beam sweeping enough light through the window periodically to bring a glow to his room and turn his blond head into a bright halo. He had his chin propped in his hand, his elbow propped on the windowsill, and he was deep in conversation with the Lord.
“And if I did have a horse, You know I’d take really good care of him, so Gramps and Aunt Sere wouldn’t have to do anything at all. I’d feed him and brush him and clean out his stall . . . well . . . when he had a stall.” That point was where he always got stuck in his well-rehearsed plan. He had his eye on an old shed that stood in back of the lighthouse and even had a rather wobbly fence part of the way around it. But he hadn’t figured out a way to convince his grandfather and aunt that he was old enough to help fix both the fence and the shed so as to allow for the housing of a horse.
“Well, Lord, I bet Trent’s dad would help fix it all up,” he finally said now. Trent was the seven-year-old boy whose parents had moved to Hamsted the week after school had let out for the summer. The boys had become almost inseparable friends over the next two weeks, and now they shared their dreams and plans with each other. Naturally, Trent thought the idea of David’s having a horse of his very own was “super,” and he had assured David that he would help all he could to figure out a way to make it happen.
Happily involved in those daydreams, David paid little attention to the broad expanse of sand that stretched away from the lighthouse, eventually spreading out in front of the summer cottages that dotted that area for about two miles along the coast. He couldn’t see the first cottage from his room, but up in the top of the lighthouse, he could see almost all of them. They were spread out far enough to allow each family to feel as if they had their own private part of the beach, but were within easy walking distance of each other.
As his blue-gray eyes automatically scanned the wave-swept coast, seeing only dim outlines except when the rhythmic arc of light swept around, David suddenly came to attention. Was he seeing things? Had he fallen asleep and started dreaming, he wondered. He sat up straighter and squinted his eyes to try to see better, but he had to wait for the light to pass over the beach again to be sure.
“Yes!” he said out loud, jumping to his knees on the window seat and pushing out the lightweight, temporary screen so that he could lean out of the window. “A horse . . . a real horse!” Right before his eyes a large, solid white stallion came galloping straight toward the lighthouse. A short distance away, the horse stopped and seemed to turn in circles and prance around for a while, almost as if he were frolicking in the surf. Then he ran toward the lighthouse again, stopping again every several yards to dance at the water’s edge.
David was enthralled. He’d never seen such a beautiful animal. He’d often imagined what his own horse would look like, but he’d never imagined anything like this. He laughed softly as he watched, enjoying the horse’s antics almost as much as the stallion himself seemed to do. Suddenly, the horse stopped and arched his neck, whinnying softly. He looked right at David and started to trot toward the house.
By this time, David was leaning way out of the window, reaching his arm out to encourage the horse to come closer. He was aware that he needed to be quiet if he didn’t want to wake his aunt, but he just couldn’t resist calling softly to the horse. “Come on, Boy,” he said, trying to keep his voice down, but finding it very hard to do since he didn’t want to miss a chance to pet this horse. “Come on, Boy,” he said again, motioning the horse toward him from where it had stopped a few feet away from the house. Slowly, the stallion sidled up to the window, snorting and blowing softly, and David was finally able to touch his nose and pet him.
“You’re the best horse I’ve ever seen in my whole life!” he said now, and was rewarded with the horse’s moving close enough to nuzzle David’s shoulder as he hung way past the window ledge. Finally, David couldn’t resist any longer. He climbed swiftly out of the window, thankful that it was only a couple of feet from the ground, and stood beside the stallion. He hadn’t realized quite how big the horse was until he was standing in his bare feet beside the animal. But he wasn’t afraid. This horse must be an answer to his prayers.
Of course, his very next thought was that he probably belonged to somebody living in one of the cottages, but . . . well . . . he could pretend for a little while, couldn’t he? “Would you let me ride you?” he asked the horse now, and his only answer was the same soft blowing sound the animal had made before. So David figured it was worth a try and began looking around for a way to get up on the white stallion’s back. Finally he spotted the small boat that was turned upside down on a sand dune off to the side of the lighthouse, and he slowly moved toward it, never letting his hand slide from the horse’s neck.
“Come this way, Boy,” he said, and the horse moved with him as if he had been obeying the boy his whole life. As soon as David had himself and the horse in position, he climbed up on to the highest part of the boat and reached up to grab the horse around the neck. He threw his strong young body into one giant jump and managed to land on the stallion’s back, holding onto his mane in a vice grip so as not to slide off. He had no idea it would feel this way to be so high off of the ground. But as he felt the horse shift its stance slightly, moving beneath him, he felt as if they were one, and he knew he was right where he’d always wanted to be.
“Okay, Boy,” he said, leaning over the horse’s neck to talk as close to his ear as possible. “Take me for a ride.” He pulled very gently on the mane to try to turn the animal’s head in the direction of the beach, and then he nudged his heels . . . also very gently . . . against the stallion’s sides to encourage him to get started. “Giddy up,” he said, not knowing what else to say to a horse to get him moving, and to his great delight, the stallion began to trot across the lighthouse yard and move along the beach, back the way he had come. Once he was several feet away from the house, he began to run along the surf’s edge, and David, holding on for dear life, was laughing with delight. By this time, he was far enough away from the house to feel pretty sure he wouldn’t wake his aunt or Gramps.
They raced along the beach, boy and horse, free as the wind and the waves, flying past the first cottage and then the second, but still within the protective arc of light that swept over their path in its appointed intervals. But the wind was picking up even more, and thunder started to roll through the clouds that had continued to thicken during the past hour. After another minute, lightening began to flash in jagged arrows out over the ocean as the brewing storm began to move inland.
Those warning signals, which would have meant a great deal to any adult considering going out at that time, were lost on the six-year-old boy, who was finally realizing the power of a dream come true. And besides, he’d lived on the ocean long enough to see a number of storms there, especially recently, and he didn’t have any fear of them. Why should he? As far as he was concerned, they were all just part of the water, the sky, and the earth that he’d come to appreciate with a new passion since he’d come here to live. So he felt free to abandon himself to the ride as only a child can do.
About a mile down the beach, in the fourth cottage, Noah Bennett was wakened from his sleep for the second time. As he turned over, he heard the heavy roll of thunder and noticed that the lightening looked pretty intense. Exhausted by the earlier sobbing prayer, he had finally managed to get back to sleep only an hour ago. There was just no rest tonight. But since he was wide awake again, he decided to get up and step outside to see what was going on with the weather. It wouldn’t hurt to check on Moondancer either. This was the stallion’s first night in the makeshift corral on the beach, and he wasn’t sure how the animal would take to it in rough weather.
He slipped a pair of blue jeans over the underwear he usually slept in, and since he knew the wind over the ocean was usually chilly, he grabbed up his lightweight jacket and put it on over his tee shirt. When he stepped out the door, he sniffed the air, aware that there was something about the atmosphere that made him feel edgy. It was nothing he could put his finger on, but . . . he just stood on his porch, looking out over the water at the fast approaching storm, trying to figure out what it was he felt.
Storms didn’t frighten him. He’d worked right through some of the worst of them in his years in law-enforcement. When he’d been a cop in a midwestern city, he’d had his share of experience with weather catastrophes. Then when he’d made the switch to a deputy sheriff position in the Southwest, and had eventually been elected sheriff himself, it was torrential rainstorms and the dangerous flash floods that he’d had to concentrate on in order to protect his people. He shook his head now, in thought.
No, it wasn’t the fact that there was a heavy storm approaching that made him feel this way. But it was something in the air. Almost as if the whole atmosphere were boiling with a menacing attitude, and as if the storm were just the outward manifestation of whatever it was that was at the root of the situation. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders. He’d come here to get some rest and recuperation. He’d better stop letting his gut feelings have so much effect on him if he expected to be successful at getting that much needed rest.
But he knew the Lord had given His followers spiritual authority over the elements of nature, and since he’d become a believer, it was his habit to take that authority over storms. He did so now. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I take authority over all of you elements of weather right now. I command you to submit to your Creator, and I bind you from becoming destructive in any form anywhere along this beach, or in the town connected to it.” Then he spoke to the Lord personally. “Father, I thank you for that authority, and for Your protection in the name of Jesus. Amen.” He stepped off the porch then and started for the corral and shed where he had installed Moondancer.
But what he saw when he rounded the cottage stopped him in his tracks and struck him dumb. The corral gate was open and Moondancer was gone. He shook his head. That horse! There wasn’t even a moon out tonight, he thought, looking up at the sky and around the beach. Of course, there was the lighthouse, and that arc of light was brilliant. It just might have been enough of a calling card for a horse that seemed to have been born to frolic at night when the moon was bright. He’d never seen a horse so fond of racing around and just plain having a good time in the middle of the night.
That’s how he’d come by his name, of course. Noah had bought the stallion when he was just a year old, and from the first time he’d taken him home, he’d recognized that he had a horse with a unique personality. But it had suited Noah most of the time, because some nights when he’d come home, burdened down by some of the crime he’d had to deal with, Moondancer was literally champing at the bit to get out in the moonlight and run. They’d raced across many a field and country road at night, and even in the wee hours of the morning, letting the crisp night air and the star-studded sky wash Noah clean from the crud that seemed to cling to some parts of his job.
But tonight was different. Moondancer wasn’t at home. He was in a strange place. Noah decided he’d better walk along the beach and see if he could find him before the storm really broke. He didn’t have to guess which way to head. That horse always ran toward the light. Noah chuckled softly to himself at that thought. Well . . . that was a good plan for a man as well as for a horse. Wasn’t that what the Word of God said? Jesus came to bring light . . . and He was the light of men. So no matter what was going on in a person’s life, his best plan was to always turn toward the light and head for it as straight as he could go.
Noah had been walking along with his head down, thinking, but now suddenly he jerked it up. He thought he’d heard a horse whinny. Sure enough, here came that beautiful white stallion, flying like the wind, the ocean spray splashing around his ankles.
But then Noah looked closer. “What on earth!” he said aloud. There was someone on Moondancer’s back. That horse never let anyone ride him unless Noah got on his back with the new rider and let Moondancer get used to him gradually. And then he still refused most riders. How in the world did that boy get Moondancer to take him up and allow him to stay there?
As they came within a few feet of Noah, the horse slowed to a trot and gradually sidled up to his owner. Noah could see now that the boy was the great-grandson of the lighthouse manager. He’d met the family last season when he’d been here visiting his sister and brother-in-law for a week. He’d really liked Clint, the grandfather, and they had swapped some good fishing stories. Then he’d spoken momentarily to David and his aunt on the beach two days ago. He looked up at the boy whose face was wreathed in an enormous grin. As he did so, he reached out and placed an authoritative hand on Moondancer’s neck. The horse knew to stand still and wait for instructions.
“Well, well,” Noah spoke to the boy in a friendly voice, “what have we here? Are you playing cowboy in the middle of the night?”
“Is this your horse, Mister Bennett?” David asked, excitement still filling his voice as a result of the ride.
“Yep. He’s mine. His name’s Moondancer. And my first name’s Noah, by the way. Why don’t you call me that?”
“Okay. Do you remember my name?”
“It’s David, right?”
David nodded his head. “Right.”
“Well, David, I’m just wondering . . . do your aunt and grandpa know you’re out riding at this time of night?”
David looked a little sheepish, dropping his eyes and letting his tongue slip out between his lips and slide back and forth slowly . . . a habit he had when he was nervous or unsure of himself. Noah almost grinned, but he knew he’d blow his whole image as a disciplinarian if he did, so he fought the urge. “It looks like you’re in your PJ’s to me. Aren’t you cold?”
David looked up then and just shrugged his shoulders. Noah figured the boy was probably just now discovering how chilly it was out in this damp wind and that he wasn’t going to admit it for any reason. “I’ll tell you what, why don’t you come on in and have something warm to drink, and then I’ll see about getting you back home, okay?”
David nodded, and Noah began to lead Moondancer toward the cottage, David still on his back. “Why do you call him Moondancer?” the boy asked as they sauntered along.
“Well, from the time he was barely more than a colt, he’s loved to go out at night and race in the moonlight. Sometimes, when I don’t have time to ride him myself, I’ll look out and see him trotting and prancing around almost like he’s putting on a show. So the name just seemed to fit him. What do you think?”
David nodded again. “That’s what he was doing over by my house. And then he just came right up to my window and let me pet him.”
“How did you get on his back?”
“I climbed up on an old boat that was turned upside down and then I jumped the best I could, and there I was!”
“And Moondancer didn’t seem to mind?”
“Huhnuh! He stood real still.”
Noah just shook his head. It was certainly a first. But by that time, he had the boy and horse back to his cottage, so he reached up and took David off Moondancer’s back and stood him on the porch. It was beginning to rain steadily, so he said, “You step on inside where it’s dry, and I’ll be right in . . . as soon as I make sure old Moondancer here can’t do any more running around on his own.”
When the horse had been secured to Noah’s satisfaction, he returned to the cottage and put some milk in the microwave for some cocoa. He got a towel and dried David off the best he could and then dried himself. He slipped off his wet jacket and went into the bedroom for a shirt to put around David to help get him warm quicker. “You know, Dave, I think I should call your aunt and let her know you’re safe, because it’s raining so hard now that we may have to sit here a while before I can take you home. We don’t want her to worry if she checks on you and finds you gone, do we?”
David shook his head, but he was holding it down, knowing there was bound to be some trouble when his aunt found out what he’d been doing. But after a brief moment, he looked up at Noah, his eyes shining, and declared, “It was worth it!” He didn’t have to say anything else, because Noah knew exactly what he meant.
In fact, Noah was a little envious right at that moment. It had been a long time since he’d done something just because it fulfilled a dream or a great desire of his heart, not stopping to count the cost, but just throwing himself into living the moment and savoring it. He reached out and tousled David’s blond hair. “I’ll ask her to go easy on you,” he said, and then added, “but . . . I want you to promise me that you won’t take off in the middle of the night for any reason at all without telling your aunt first . . . not for any reason.” David looked at him out of very solemn eyes, and Noah continued. “If you’ll promise me that, I’ll think about letting you ride Moondancer sometimes in the daytime, when it’s safer. What do you say?”
David’s eyes grew bigger and brighter, and then his little face took on a serious demeanor. “I promise,” he said, nodding his head for emphasis. “I promise.”
“Good,” Noah said, and reached into the microwave to get the cocoa. He set the mug in front of David and turned to the phone.
© 2009 Sandra Conner
The entire novel is available from St. Ellen Press
When I think of the sea, I think of my novel Racing Toward the Light, primarily because it was a painting of the sea by internationally renowned artist Steven Sundram that inspired the story. A print of his painting was a gift to me from some friends, and the very day I received it, I was so drawn into the aura and mystery of that painting that I couldn’t resist putting my feelings into words. Those words became the setting for the novel, and I virtually lived in that painting for the whole three months that it took to write the book.
Steven’s painting is the focus of both the front and back covers of the book. You can find many more examples of his excellent and inspiring work on his website.
You can find the book at the publisher’s website: St. Ellen Press.
Take part in the fun. Get directions HERE.
You know, you don’t have to live a weird life — or even a particularly exciting life — to be a great author. In fact you can live a very ordinary, chicken-frying, auto-repairing, laundry-washing, diaper-changing kind of life and still write books that will lift people OUT OF the ordinary and into a place where imaginations rise to peak places, where new dreams are ignited, and where hope and faith bring victory into life’s struggles.
So pick up that pen, sit down to that computer keyboard, or start dictating into that recorder — whatever method works for you. If you’re sure you WANT to write, START WRITING. Your life will never be the same.
I was browsing this week through some old newspaper columns I had written and came across one that focused on Winnie the Pooh, By A. A. Milne. In the column, I had mentioned that, had he still been with us, Milne would have turned 125 that year. But as I perused the article, I began to think more and more about how long-lasting books and their effects on us can be. I still remember so many things that I read in books as a child. And I am constantly amazed when I look at the authors that I have loved best over the years and realize that, since those books were written (some even hundreds of years ago), every single generation has discovered them anew and chosen them as favorites.
I was especially blessed to learn that one of my little nephews, Josiah, at the age of two, had come to love one of my favorite poets almost as much as I do. There’s no question that Robert Frost has been one of the most quoted, most loved, and most written about poets to grace American literature. And several succeeding generations have read his works with great pleasure. But I did not suspect that a 2-year-old boy would find him so appealing, until I realized that amid the scores and scores of books Josiah has in his ownership, his very favorite is a book devoted entirely to the poem “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening.” Now, this book is not a children’s version, paraphrased for young minds. Not at all. It is the entire poem in the author’s original text, along with a few photos that are applicable. His love for this poem caused me to realize anew just how powerful and almost eternal great writing can be. In an age when all kinds of multi-dimensional media are vying for kids’ attention, this quiet, unpretentious poem — this great piece of literature — is a 2-year-olds’ favorite “story.” How blessed Robert Frost would feel to know that. Hopefully he does.
Naturally, all of this thinking led to my going over in my mind the list of my personal favorites. Now, I won’t try to write out that list in this article, because it would make this piece way too long — and inevitably I’d forget one and feel compelled to come back and edit. Then the next day, I’d have to edit again to add another, and so on. But I’m sure most of you who love to read know exactly what I mean. And it gives me a warm, comforting feeling to know that, no matter how “modern” or “technologically advanced” we get, people keep looking for and finding something valuable, lasting, and often life-changing in books that have been around a long time.
As an author myself, I hope I too can write books that will touch people at the core places of their hearts and lives so that what I write will be considered valuable enough to be chosen by generation after generation. I will never forget the thrill of realizing for the first time that something I had written really did have the power to capture people’s attention to the point of making them forget everything else and to move them to great depths of emotion. A couple years ago, a woman who was reading one of my inspirational novels, Quenton’s Honor, said to me one day, “Boy, I’m not happy with you! I started reading that book last night, and I couldn’t put it down. It was 2:00 in the morning before I was able to make myself put it down and get some sleep.”
She has absolutely no idea how thrilled I was at her words. But it got better. A couple days later, I walked into the office where she worked. She was in tears — almost sobbing. I hurried over to her and said, “Barbara, what’s wrong?” She mopped her face and blew her nose, trying to stem the tears enough to answer. In the meantime, I saw that she had the book in front of her on the desk. She then looked up at me with tears still streaming down her face and slobbered out the words, “I’m just now reading where …” (and proceeded to tell me the scene she was reading from the book) ” … and I just can’t stop crying!”
I remember thinking, “Yes! That’s exactly where I wanted you to cry!” I decided maybe she’d feel better if she knew that, so I said, “Wow, Barbara, that’s great! That’s exactly what I want the reader to feel from that scene. Thank you! You couldn’t put it down to go to sleep, and you cried in all the right places! That’s terrific!”
Of course, I’d like to have the same powerful effect on readers all the time, the way a couple of other current authors do. For example, I’m a Vince Flynn fan. In my opinion, he literally “wrote the book” on high-concept political intrigue. Every sentence is packed, and for that reason, I find it almost impossible to put his books down once I start reading. And since he has kept me up past 3:00 a. m. on a number of occasions, one of my goals in life is to write a novel that will keep Vince Flynn up until 3:00 a. m. as well. Wish me success.