The MacGregor Legacy - From Scotland to the Carolinas

(Book 1 - For Love or Loyalty) (Book 2 - For Love or Country) (Book 3 - For Love or Liberty)

Path of Freedom, Quilts of Love series

1858 North Carolina - When Quakers Flora Saferight and Bruce Millikan embark on the Underground Railroad, they agree to put their differences aside to save the lives of a pregnant slave couple..

Highland Sanctuary, (Highland series - Book 2)

1477 Scotland - A chieftain heir is hired to restore Briagh Castle and discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world.

Highland Blessings, (Book 1 - Highland series)

1473 Scotland - The story of a highland warrior who kidnaps the daughter of his greatest enemy and clan chief to honor a promise to his dying father.

Awakened Redemption (Inspirational Regency)

1815 England - A story that pierces the heart and captures the Regency era.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Good Still Prevails in this World

Many of you know the battles we've fought with my daughter's seizures at birth and through her toddler years. What you might not know is that she was healed and remained seizure-free and med-free for almost ten years. Then in April 2012, we received a call from the school. Celina was running track and had fallen from a convulsion. She was unconscious and an ambulance raced her to a nearby hospital. 

I can't begin to describe the myriad of emotions when my husband called me. Denial, panic, doubt, worry, then prayer. Prayer was the natural instinct that took over as I stepped onto the elevator. The Holy Spirit hit me and I prayed in the spirit, allowing the Lord to calm me until I could get to my car. From there I had a 40 minute drive. I needed to hear someone's voice. I called my mom. No answer. I called my sister. No answer. I called Angela Breidenbach. I needed a voice of reason. Angie answered and she talked me through positive thoughts and reassurances that I needed to hear.

When I arrived at the hospital, my husband was already there and my daughter had awakened. She was dazed and a little confused. She couldn't remember what happened, the ambulance ride, or her arrival to the hospital. The next three days proved to be similar with short term memory losses that annoyed her. Extreme fatigue took over body and she suffered from severe sore muscles, scrapes and bruises where she had fallen on the asphalt. 

Before her CT scan, my 14-year-old asked for prayer. I had prayed on the way there, but why hadn't I considered praying WITH her to help calm her fears and ease her pain? She had to ask for it and I'm glad she did. 

Over the next month, life changed for us. We bought a video monitor so we would know if she needed us at night. After an episode where my husband and I nearly killed each other trying to get upstairs to her, we bought her a new bed and set it in the dining room so she would be closer--on the same floor as us. Her neurologist took her out of gym and her school monitored her  carefully. She couldn't get stressed or overheated. She had an MRI and an EEG. Her doctors are still trying to determine the best treatment plan for Celina. 

In spite of all we've been through, God has blessed us with many prayers and support. People from all over--some we have never met in person--are praying for my daughter. I am humbled by God's grace and love through his prayer warriors. 

Celina was excited to receive a plaque from a group of prayer warriors. They had hand painted the flower in the first image and signed their name on the back as a commitment to keep praying for her. This meant a lot to her. She placed it on our mantle and it reminds her on those tough nights when she's pacing and needing a good night sleep that people are praying for her--that people care. Good still prevails in this world, because God's people are still carrying on. We thank you for your prayers. 

She was healed from her infancy seizures. What she is experiencing now is different. She will be undergoing a different treatment plan than before. I thank God for modern technology and medicine. I thank God for her doctors and the medical personnel working for her. I thank God for people who are surrounding her in prayer. And I thank God for a child who is open to the guidance of the Lord.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Word of Inspiration: It's All About God's Kingdom

“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;” Romans 12:10 

It isn't about you or me, or any of us. Life is about furthering God's kingdom and living to represent Him in a way that brings His glory to others who are lost in a dark world. If someone snaps at you today, respond in love. If someone cuts you off while driving, pray for them. Offer a kind word or compliment to someone who looks as if they need cheering and who needs to know they are beautiful in God's eyes. Take the time to be a friend to an acquaintance you don't know well. Be the light!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Goodreads Book Giveaway - "Quakers of New Garden" (giving away 2 books)

In honor of Memorial Day, I'll be giving away 2 copies of Quakers of New Garden. Four Quaker women face challenges of the heart. Ruth hesitates to give her bridegroom a third chance at love. Underground Railroad worker Deborah meets a bounty hunter. Leah tries to turn a marriage of convenience into a marriage of love. Christian Jaidon falls for Quaker Catherine. Will love endure in their hearts and lives?

This is a novella of four stories in one volume that follow the Wall family from 1808 through the generations to present day. 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Quakers of New Garden by Claire Sanders

The Quakers of New Garden

by Claire Sanders

Giveaway ends May 28, 2012.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

CFBA Blog Tour: "The Anniversary Waltz" by Darrel Nelson

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Anniversary Waltz
Darrel Nelson

#christianfiction, #christianromance

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A Word from the author:

I am a schoolteacher by profession and have taught school for (thir—ahem!) years. I grew up in Raymond, Alberta, and attended the University of Lethbridge after graduating from high school and serving a 2-year mission to Japan. During university, I met and married Marsha Smith, the parents of 4 children, including spouses and 10 grandchildren.

I started writing stories before I was old enough to realize I was writing stories. It seemed a natural to pick up a pencil and paper and create a world using words—worlds of adventure in steaming jungles (Tarzan was an early influence on me) or realms of adventure in outer space (Buck Rogers). But as I grew older, I discovered that my real inspiration is exploring the theme of love and how it can make a difference in the world.


At their sixtieth anniversary party, Adam Carlson asks his wife, Elizabeth, for their customary waltz. After the dance they gather the family and share their story—a story of love and courage overcoming adversity and thriving in the face of overwhelming odds.

It’s the summer of 1946, and Adam has just returned from the war to his home in Reunion, Montana. At a town festival he meets Elizabeth Baxter, a young woman going steady with his former high school rival and now influential banker, Nathan Roberts.

When Adam and Elizabeth share a waltz in a deserted pavilion one evening, their feelings begin to grow and they embark on a journey, and a dance, that will last a lifetime.

If you'd like to read the first chapter excerpt of The Anniversary Waltz, go HERE.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Word of Inspiration: Embrace Your Blessings

"Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well." (Proverbs 5:15)

Enjoy the blessings you have been given and avoid coveting what belongs to someone else. It will only stir up jealousy and envy as it begins to make you think less of what you have. Count your blessings. Look at the good times, the blessings you received, but never expected. Drink in joyous moments and cherish them for the journey of life will keep moving forward and these moments will soon be gone. Embrace your blessings!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Guest Post: Should You Enter Writing Contests? by Naomi Musch

While popping around the web and perusing writers' magazines, it doesn't take long to discover a myriad of writing contests out there. If you're like most authors, you may have mulled these contests over and wondered if they're worth your while to enter. Winning would be fantastic! But what do you have to gain for all your effort if you lose?  

Contests are a great way to stretch your writing wings. Of course, not every contest is for every author. To randomly select contests to enter would be as bad as submitting an article to just any-old-market without first studying its style and content requirements. If you haven't studied the writing craft for long, or if you haven't been through the experience of having your work critiqued, then entering a national contest would probably not be the best use of your time.

However, if you're looking at a smaller contest with a topic or style that really suits you, then entering a writing contest can have value in a several ways.  

First, you just might win. You might not, of course. Your odds are always 1 in however-many-entrants-you're-up-against. And you may be competing against some real whizz-bang writers. But even if you don't win or don't make an honorable mention, you will doubtless learn something through trial and error that will improve your skill. If the contest is small enough, you may get individual feedback from the judges. This is a HUGE deal. As long as you can handle helpful criticism, you stand to gain insight that most unpublished authors have to pay for. 

But even if you don't get feedback, you may learn to streamline a story, set parameters, follow guidelines, train your mind around a theme, work on a deadline, and so on. And then there is always the possibility of residual rewards.

Case in point: A couple years ago I entered a large contest with a national publisher for a contemporary romance novella. In this case, the contest word limit was 25,000 words. My story came in just under that. 

I'd never written a novella before. I'd also only written in the historical genre, never contemporary. But as I was working on a separate, much longer project involving tons of research, stepping back to enter the contest gave me a refreshing break. It taught me a different style. In writing a novella that didn't really require research, I knew I'd see closure on a story much sooner than in my long fiction. The contest also gave me very clear guidelines for writing this contemporary story. You could say those guidelines walked me through the process. I really didn't know how it would go, but when I finished, I felt I'd written a very sound piece. I also discovered that I actually enjoyed writing contemporary stuff -- much more than I ever thought I would.

So did I win? No. I don't even know if I came close. But...

I was so pleased with that story that I decided to modify it for a different publisher (so it wouldn't be seen as the same storyline as for that contest) and I submitted it elsewhere. Within weeks, I had a contract for publication of my novella, Heart Not Taken.

I am really glad I entered that contest!

Not every story you write might come to such a fine conclusion. But you will never know unless you try.

Naomi and husband Jeff enjoy the splendor of Wisconsin's northwoods along with their five young adults who live nearby or at home. She writes both historical and contemporary fiction in which her aim is to surprise and entertain readers by telling stories of imperfect people who are finding faith and hope to overcome their struggles. The Red Fury is book two in her Empire in Pine historical series from Desert Breeze Publishing. Book three, The Black Rose will release in July 2012. Naomi is also a staff writer for the Christian e-newspaper and has published numerous magazine articles for the encouragement of the homeschool community. She invites you to connect with her and investigate her series and other works at:  on Facebook: or follow her on Twitter:!/NMusch

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

CFBA Blog Tour: Chameleon by Jillian Kent

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Realms by
Jillian Kent

#christianfiction, #christianromance


Jillian Kent is a busy writer and the alter ego of Jill Nutter, a full-time counselor.

Jill spent the first semester of her senior year of college at Oxford studying British Literature, where she fell in love with England. During this season, she came to appreciate the written word, the rich imagery of romantic poetry like The Highwayman, and historical novels of many types, including Jane Austen and all things Regency.

Jill received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Bethany College in West Virginia, and her Masters Degree in Social Work from WVU, and she brings her fascination with different cultures and societies into her writing.

Jill has always been a romantic at heart, so readers will find a good dose of romance woven through each of her novels. Jill, her husband Randy, and children Katie and Meghan are animal lovers. They currently own two dogs, Boo-Boo and Bandit and a menagerie of cats, Lucky, Yuma, Snow, and Holden. Critters of all assortments make their appearance in her stories.


How much can you really know about someone?

Lady Victoria Grayson has always considered herself a keen observer of human behavior. After battling a chronic childhood illness that kept her homebound for years, she journeys to London determined to have the adventure of a lifetime.

Jaded by his wartime profession as a spy, Lord Witt understands, more than most, that everyone is not always who they pretend to be. He meets Victoria after the Regent requests an investigation into the activities of her physician brother, Lord Ravensmoore.

Witt and Victoria become increasingly entangled in a plot targeting the lords of Parliament. Victoria is forced to question how well she knows those close to her while challenging Witt’s cynical nature and doubts about God. Together they must confront their pasts in order to solve a mystery that could devastate their future.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Chameleon, go HERE.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Word of Inspiration: God's Path is Like the Shining Sun

"But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day." (Proverbs 4:18)

Isn't this inspiring? If we walk the path of God's righteousness, we will be walking witnesses to those mired in the shadows of darkness. God's light will shine through us and it will grow brighter until the perfect day of His return. We will be BLESSED and happy--joyful in the Lord--the happiness that is beyond what the world can give us. Shine bright!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Guest Post: "Conference Appointments Made Simple" by Patti Sheene

Please welcome Patti Sheene.
Patti’s passion is to mentor young writers. As Vice President of Written World Communications, she supervises the company’s YA division. She serves as Executive Editor to Starsongs Magazine, a general market publication for kids by kids ages 9-19.  A retired RN and “over 50 writer” herself, she also encourages and admires writers whose careers have commenced or blossomed later in life. Patti is published in Gary Chapman and James Stuart Bell’s Love is a Verb Devotional. She has had work accepted for their soon to be published anthology Angels, Miracles, and Heavenly Encounters: Real-Life Stories of Supernatural Events.

Conference Appointments Made Simple
The airline ticket has been purchased and the weight goal that makes you look smashing in that new outfit reached. Emails brimming with anticipation arrive from writer friends you haven’t seen for months. Conference season is in full swing and you’re caught up in the excitement and anticipation of realizing unfulfilled dreams.

Yet, your stomach churns and your hands tremble at the thought of those fifteen minutes with the one editor you’ve wanted to meet for months, maybe even years. Let me share a few tips to help calm the queasiness, put you in control, and simplify what can appear to be a daunting experience. 

Smile! Don’t approach your appointment as though you are headed to the dentist’s chair! Editors are human too. A smile exudes confidence and puts both of you at ease.
Introduce yourself. Even though a list is available to the editor, appointments are sometimes shifted. Be sure the editor knows who he is speaking with from the start of the meeting.
Make your intentions known. Explain why you chose to speak to that particular editor. Have questions prepared and easily accessible. Are you pitching a manuscript for a specific book imprint or simply seeking general information about the publishing house?
 Provide paper. Present the editor with something visual, such as a one-sheet that contains the maximum information attractively arranged in a minimum amount of space. Don’t expect her to keep it. Paper adds weight to luggage and can be cumbersome to manage. Email is more convenient.
Listen! Pay attention to what the editor tells you. Has he expressed an interest in your work or referred you to someone else who can better meet your needs? Have you been asked to provide further information? Make notes to ensure follow through. File business cards where they can be easily found after the conference.
Express your appreciation Thank the editor for her time, even if she is unable to use the work you presented. Recognition of her efforts builds a positive relationship for future contact.

These simple tips can serve to fix your name in your dream editor’s brain long after the meeting concludes.

Happy conferencing!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Word of Inspiration: Friendships are Blessed Through Private Discretion

“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15) 

This verse is referring to a brother or sister in Christ, not necessarily a sibling by blood, although it can be for both. By the time we're in grade school, we've probably already experienced a betrayal of a friend. For my daughter, it was in third grade when a friend asked to borrow her ring, but then refused to give it back. Half a year later we had to get the teacher involved and it was finally returned. As adults, we expect people to have achieved a certain level of maturity. When they lie, deceive, steal, or betray us, and we thought they were trustworthy, especially long-time friends, the pain can be even deeper and harder to overcome. It makes us question our own discernment and sometimes prohibits us from trusting others. 

The worst thing we can do is to complain about that person to other friends and people who know them and forage into the realm of gossiping and judging them behind their backs. Stewing on it and becoming angry and bitter isn't going to help matters. Confronting them in front of others and embarrassing them will cause further strife. If we subscribe to this verse and approach them about the problem in private, both of you will have a better chance at breaking down the walls of miscommunication and opening the channels of forgiveness. Don't accuse them and have an attitude of confrontation, but chose your words wisely in how you phrase them and be open-minded to hear your friend--and willing to forgive. Good friendships are worth keeping, especially when they have been there for you through the tough times and have forgiven you. None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes. Forgive and move on. 

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Guest Post - This Isn't Time to Gloat, But to Pray by Dwayne Taylor

As Christians, this is not a time to gloat over the Amendment One that just passed in North Carolina. It is time to pray!

We need to understand that many of the people who voted against the amendment are Christians who are just deceived. They have loved ones--homosexual friends, family and co-workers who have played a major influence on their thoughts and decisions.

"For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." (Mark 13:22 NKJV)

While these individuals do not intend to operate like false prophets and deceivers, they do based on their sphere of influence on those who love them. This is why we must pray. Many of the people who voted against the amendment are deceived because their love for their homosexual loved ones have blinded and deceived them. But our love for God MUST to be greater.

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." (Matthew 10:34-37 NKJV) 

Inadvertently, through blind love, these people are creating a path of separation from God for their loved ones, and in some cases, themselves. We need to pray that their hearts will be turned to the righteousness of God. That the voice and love of God will over take the deception that now resides within them. Pray that the lost will be saved and that the blind will see. Pray that tough love will win over fleshly love and pray that the heart of the deceived and of the sinner will be transformed by the Holy Spirit to receive and accept the true word of God.

"Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. " (James 5:19, 20 NKJV)

"As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live." (Ezekiel 33:11 NKJV)

So many opponents to Amendment One have used the term haters against the ones who are for the Amendment. This, for the most part, is a bullying manipulation tactic used by children to get their way. But there are cases where Christians have failed miserably in showing the love of God and are just as guilty, using bullying tactics to make their points. 

Additionally, those against Amendment One call people who are in favor of it uneducated, backward, and unable to adapt to today's changing standards. Here is the truth, God Himself and His Word is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8 NKJV)

God isn't interested in changing with the times. He is the Father of time. God isn't interested in changing to make people happy. He's interested in changing people to save them.  

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." (I Corinthians 6:9 NKJV).  

Does this mean that people who do any of these things are going to hell? Not if these people repent and ask for God's forgiveness. True repentance doesn't mean to repent, do it again, and keep repenting. That is taking advantage of God's goodness. True repentance means to turn away from it and do one's best not to keep repeating it. That is why a homosexual lifestyle is so hard. These people have to make a lifestyle change. True repentance means loving God and wanting to please God over the sin itself.

We are called to stand for God's word but this battle shouldn't be fought with anger but with love and prayer. Not with acceptance of the sin, but for repentance of the sinner. Not with pride and arrogance, and defamation of people's characters, but with prayer, prayer, prayer!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Guest Post: "Contests--We Love to Hate Them" by Sandra Orchard

Please welcome Author Sandra Orchard. She writes for Harlequin's Love Inspired Suspense and recently signed a three-book deal with Revell Publishing for a romantic suspense/mystery series that will debut in June 2013. Passionate about encouraging aspiring fiction writers, Sandra judges manuscripts for several writing contests, coordinates the historical category for the Touched By Love contest, and will be doing critiques for both the Write!Canada conference in June and the ACFW conference in September. 

Every year the writing contest season climaxes with a flurry of complaints on writers’ loops about conflicting judges’ comments and incongruent scores.

Been there. Done that. Totally empathize.

But...from my experience, entering contests is a worthwhile investment.

Let’s face facts. First manuscripts are rarely contracted, especially if the writer hasn’t invited editorial feedback from people other than friends and family. Entering contests is an economical way to get much needed feedback.

Not to say you’ll be happy with what you’re told. Everyone’s tastes are different. What one reader loves another will hate. It’s the nature of the business and you might as well get used to it.  

Although I already had an agent and three completed manuscripts, my first contest’s scores were merely average. Once I got over my surprise—after all, average was not in my vocabulary! Not only had I always gotten A's in school, I’d eradicated all those flowery adverbs from the entry, and there wasn’t a POV glitch to be found—I grew to deeply appreciate the advice I received.

The needed fixes were not huge, but they were hugely important. They were the difference between a “send me the full” and a “thanks, but no thanks.”

I made the suggested changes. I took a gazillion workshops. I found critique partners. And the following year I entered the revised manuscript in the Genesis. It finaled. I was over the moon!

Of course, the feedback from first round judges is pretty thin when your scores are great. But I didn’t mind, an agent and an editor would read my story. I was so excited my chest felt as if it might burst.

A few months later when I received the final round scores, reality hit. High 90s from the agent. Low 60s from the editor. Talk about divergent opinions. It’s not the bane of first round judges. It’s reality.

Undeterred, I revised yet again, transforming the romance into a romantic suspense. The following year I entered the revised manuscript in the Daphne DuMaurier contest, and it won. It won the inspirational category, and best in show! And scored me a new agent.

But here’s the irony of contests. That winning—and much revised—story still hasn’t sold. However, thanks to the win, Tina James, agreed to read the full even though a previous editor had rejected my proposal for the earlier version. Afterward Tina took the time to explain exactly why the story didn’t fit Love Iinspire’s line.

I immediately applied what I learned to a manuscript I’d been holding off submitting. And that’s the story that sold.

Now...entering contests may not score you an agent or a contract or even useful feedback, but if nothing else, it will help toughen your skin for editor revisions and readers’ criticisms. At least that’s what I kept telling myself…

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Word of Inspiration: You Need Courage to Seek Answers to Life

"Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; for I give you good doctrine: Do not forsake my law." (Proverbs 4:1-2) 

Think about your children, or nieces and nephews, or your friends' children. Have you ever had the desire to pick up a small child and hug them with delight or take them aside and give them a gift or the gift of advice--some wisdom that helped you? Throughout the Bible the Lord refers to Himself as our Father and we as His children--His "adopted" children. He didn't go through the trouble of having so many people write the Bible, sacrifice their lives to preserve it--for Himself. He already has this wisdom and knowledge. He did it for us. It's our instruction manual--our lifeline. It isn't a book of rules to make your life miserable. If you have the courage to seek it, the Bible, is the answer to many secrets in life. 

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Wild Card Book Tour: Ellie's Haven by Sharlene MacLaren

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Whitaker House
#christianfiction, #christian romance 


“Shar” grew up in western Michigan and graduated from Spring Arbor University. After college she traveled worldwide performing with a music group and then returned home to start teaching school. She married her childhood friend, Cecil MacLaren, with whom she raised two daughters (and now has three grandchildren). After over 30 years as a teacher, Shar asked God for a new mission that would fill her heart with the same kind of passion she’d felt for teaching and raising her family. She found her mission writing Christian romance, and since 2007 has released ten novels that have earned her numerous awards and an ever-increasing base of loyal readers who are comforted, inspired, and entertained by her books.

Visit the author's website.


Ellie Booth is on the run from her bootlegging stepfather whom she’d witnessed murder a man in their home state of Kentucky. Landing in Wabash, Indiana, she seeks a cover identity and hastily marries Gage Cooper, a widower with four children. Ellie quickly falls in love with the Cooper kids, and, not long after, with their father. But tensions mount when Ellie’s stepfather picks up her trail and Gage discovers his new bride hasn’t been entirely honest with him. Filled with colorful historic detail, emotional drama, and lighthearted humor, Ellie’s Haven is the action-packed follow up to Livvie’s Song in MacLaren’s River of Hope Series, set in 1920’s Wabash, Indiana.

Product Details:
List Price: $10.99

Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (March 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603742131
ISBN-13: 978-1603742139


Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight….
—Psalm 5:4–5
February 1928
Athens, Tennessee
Nothing wakes a body faster than a barking dog competing with the heated shouts of furious men. Eleanor Booth threw off her heavy quilt and leaped out of bed, pulled her flannel collar up tight around her throat, and raced across the gritty floor to the window. With her fingertips, she rubbed a circle of frost off the pane and peered out into the cold, dark morning, squinting to make out the shadowy figures that appeared to be facing off just feet away from the rotting front porch. An icy chill surged down her spine.
“I ain’t payin’ you one cent more, Sullivan. You done took me for every last penny.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Byron. Your pocket ain’t empty till I say it is, and as long as you keep producin’ hooch, the greenbacks’ll keep rollin’ in. You stop payin’, and I’ll shut you down quicker than a lizard on hot sand.”
They were at it again—Byron Pruitt, Ellie’s worthless stepfather, and Walter Sullivan, that crooked government agent. Byron’s dog, Curly, didn’t let up his fierce, frenzied barking, which ought to have deterred the dispute but seemed to fuel it instead.
“Byron,” Ellie’s mama, Rita, pleaded in a panicked tone. “Byron, pay the man so he’ll get off our property.”
“Shut up, woman, and git back inside! I ain’t payin’ ’im another dime!”
Ellie snatched her fraying robe from the foot of her bed, slipped it on, and rushed out of the room, toes gone numb from the frozen air wafting up through the floorboards. Tennessee winters didn’t generate much snow, but that didn’t stop the temperatures from plummeting into the single digits.
She entered the dark, tiny living room and found her mother standing in the open doorway, shoulders hunched, hands clutching the door frame. Her grayish-black hair was mussed every which way, and her tattered flannel nightgown hugged her narrow frame.
Ellie shot a hasty glance at the potbelly stove in the middle of the room, where nothing but a few embers glowing through the blackened glass. More shivers stampeded down her spine. “What’s goin’ on?” she asked, coming up behind her mama.
At the sound of her voice, Byron gave a half-turn, and that’s when Ellie spied the sawed-off shotgun in his arms. “Git back to bed, missy,” he groused. “You ain’t needed here.”
Walt Sullivan had a gun, too—a pistol—but he kept it holstered, one hand hovering over it.
“Byron, put that gun down before somebody gets hurt,” Ellie said firmly.
“Yeah, Pruitt. Listen to your purty li’l daughter.”
“Shut yer tater trap and git off my land, Sullivan.”
“Not till I get what’s due me.”
“I done paid you. Now, git!”
“’Fraid you paid me half.”
“You keep raisin’ the rates, you dumb ox. How you ’spect me to make any kind o’ livin’?”
Sullivan chortled. “That ain’t my concern, now, is it? I swear, if you don’t pay up, I’ll come back with my men, and we’ll turn your whole operation into mincemeat by midday.” He made the mistake of taking a step toward Byron, whether to intimidate or to show his authority, Ellie couldn’t say. She knew only that it was a mistake.
Byron raised his rifle and quickly fired off three shots, each one reaching its intended target. For a brief moment, his eyes glistened in the vanishing moonlight. Then, eyes bulging in an expression of shock, he dropped to the ground like a sack of wet cement.
Utter mayhem followed. Curly kept barking and ran circles around the fallen body, while her mama shrieked. “Byron! You—you—you’ve shot ’im. Is he dead? Oh, dear God, help us!” And Ellie, to suppress her own sobs, turned away from the body, where red fluid already oozed from mouth and nose. She clutched her stomach to keep from retching right there on the floor.
“Shut up, just shut up, both o’ you!” Byron roared. “I have to think.” With eyes flaming and nostrils flaring, he turned and started pacing.
The women kept quiet, save for the occasional gasp of air, and hugged each other. Ellie swallowed down some of the bitter juice churning in her stomach and chanced a peek over Mama’s shoulder.
Byron paused and crouched over Sullivan’s body, feeling for a pulse. He cut loose a curse. “He’s dead, all right.”
Ellie’s mama gasped and released her to cover her mouth with her hands. “Oh, mother of all things holy, Byron! What in the world have you done?”
“Shut up, I told you, ’fore I shoot you, too!” He raised his gun at her.
On impulse, Ellie leaped between them, her arms raised. “Put that gun down, you fool!” She had to tell herself to breathe.
The man’s beady eyes stared as if to bore holes through her, but he lowered his weapon. Still, she knew Byron Pruitt had no soul—she’d known since the day she’d met him—and she’d go to the grave wondering why her mama had married him after her father had died. Perhaps, she’d seen him as her only hope of surviving in the hills. Some protector he’d turned out to be, operating an illegal distillery that brought the scum of society straight to their door. If he ever turned a profit, her mama never saw it, for what he didn’t gamble away he paid in bribes to keep the authorities off his back.
“I gotta get rid o’ this body,” he muttered, sweeping five stubby fingers through his scraggly hair.
“No,” Ellie said quietly. “We have to call the sheriff.”
“Are you crazy?” he spat, stepping over the body and walking toward them, his eyes as wild as a rabid dog’s. “We ain’t callin’ no sheriff. I kilt a man, a government man, in cold blood. You think any court o’ law’s gonna let me off the hook?”
Ellie huddled close to her mama and wrapped a protective arm around her.
“W-we won’t tell,” Mama said, her whole body quivering. “We promise, Byron.”
Ellie couldn’t believe her ears. “Mama, how can you say that?”
Byron’s eyes bulged with madness as he climbed the rickety porch steps and entered the house. The worst kind of cold slithered in the door and tangled around Ellie’s ankles. “Because you two’re in this with me, that’s how she can say it. I’ll tell the cops you both played a part, that you talked me into doin’ it.” He raised the shotgun and poked the barrel into her mama’s chin, lifting it.
Ellie swallowed hard and stiffened. “Byron, don’t you dare hurt her.”
Her stepfather was a perpetual terror, always cocking a gun, sharpening a knife, or speaking not-so-veiled threats. It seemed that nothing satisfied him more than creating havoc in their little household. Byron Pruitt was a viperous lunatic, and if it hadn’t been for her beloved mama, Ellie would have left years ago.
Byron slid the muzzle up Mama’s face and held it at the center of her forehead. “I ain’t lyin’, Eleanor—if you don’t help me bury that body an’ promise to keep yer trap shut ’bout what you saw, I’ll kill yer ma.”
“You are plumb crazy,” Ellie whispered through her teeth.
“Don’t believe me?” He cocked the rifle and chortled. “I’ll blow ’er head off right now.”
Mama whimpered as a lone tear trickled down her trembling cheek.
Byron redirected the shotgun at the floor and pulled the trigger. A unison scream sounded as Ellie and her mama clutched each other and stepped away from the cloud of dust that rose from the splintered hole in the boards. Outside, Curly barked even louder, and Ellie could hear the chickens fussing in the coop.
But she heard nothing except the pounding of her own heartbeat when Byron stuck the barrel of his gun in her mama’s temple. “I’ll kill ’er, Eleanor, I swear it. You go to the cops, and she’s as good as dead. And here’s an interestin’ li’l tidbit: you workin’ alongside me at that liquor still makes you my partner in crime.” He laughed, the sound cold and hollow. “Them head beaters don’t look too kindly on us moonshiners, an’ with you bein’ one of us, well, they’re likely to lock you up tighter’n a pickle in a cannin’ jar. Just don’t forget that.”
She hated that he was right. “Fine. Just put that stupid gun down.”
He complied, but only after he’d held it in position for what seemed like another minute, an ugly sneer on his face. “Good. I’m glad we’re clear on that.” He pulled the gun strap over his shoulder. “Well, come on, then, both o’ you. We got a body to bury.”
Hours later, Ellie could barely believe she’d actually dug the grave of Walter Sullivan. Granted, she’d done it with Byron’s rifle aimed at her. Twice she’d emptied her stomach contents into the hole, only to hear the gun cock and Byron tell her to hurry up and finish before somebody came along.
Now, she watched her mama working at the stove to prepare lunch. In the living room, Byron sat in his rocker next to the fire and cleaned his gun, Ellie knew, to rid it of any traces of telltale gunpowder.
Ellie moved up beside her mama and touched her shoulder gently. “You’ve been stirrin’ this soup for fifteen minutes, Mama. Why don’t you go sit down a spell? You’re plain tuckered out.”
“What you two whisperin’ ’bout in there?” Byron barked.
“Nothin’,” Mama called back. Then, with lowered voice, she sputtered to Ellie, “You can’t stay here. You gotta leave today. I wouldn’t be able to bear it if anythin’ happened to you.”
“I can’t leave you with that maniac, Mama. He’s insane.”
“Of course you can, and you will. I’ll be fine. The minute he heads out to the barn, I want you to grab whatever you need and then skedaddle across the field to the Meyers’ house, you hear? Ask Burt to drive you down the mountain. He’ll do it.”
“What you two blabberin’ about?”
Byron’s brusque voice in the hallway had Ellie whirling on her heel. “Nothin’, just like Mama said. Go sit down. Your lunch is ready.”
“Humph. You best not be plannin’ to run off anywheres,” he grumbled before shuffling off to the table. Ellie caught the smell of his breath, and her stomach lurched, though she should have been accustomed to the stench of whiskey by now, considering the hours she’d worked at the still, where the air was saturated with mash. She would always associate the odor with Byron—and his shotgun, which was the only thing that had kept her working there.
The legs of his chair scraped against the sooty floor as he scooted in closer to the table, his back to them. With an icy chortle, he muttered, “You two don’t got nowheres to go, anyway.”
Three hours later, Ellie bumped along in the backseat of a Model T driven by Burt Meyer. Mildred, his wife of forty years, sat up front with him. Quiet tears dampened Ellie’s face as Burt maneuvered the automobile, its brakes squealing in protest, down a narrow pass.
She’d had no more than minutes to throw a few belongings into a little suitcase, hug her mama good-bye, and then sprint along the worn path across the cornfield. Mama had given her strict orders to locate her deceased husband’s aunt in Wabash, Indiana, and not to send word to her for at least a month, and then only through Burt and Mildred. “We can trust them,” she’d said as she’d helped her pack, Ellie crying all the while. “Don’t tell them where you’re goin’, though, and when you write to me, put the letter inside a small envelope and then tuck that inside a bigger one. Put your return address on the inside letter, never the outside one, you understand? The less information Burt ’n’ Mildred know, the better off they’ll be. They’re good people. I don’t want them gettin’ involved in this mess, other than to drive you to the train station.”
“You sure you want to leave your ma?” Mildred asked, bringing Ellie’s attention back to the present. The woman turned around and looked her in the eye. “You seem awful broke up ’bout leavin’, honey.”
Ellie wiped her cheeks and nodded. “I’m nineteen. High time I make my own way.”
“And get away from that fool stepfather o’ yours,” Burt muttered. “Too bad Rita didn’t leave with you.”
Mildred glared at her husband. “Now, Burt, that ain’t none of our concern,” she scolded him gruffly. When she was facing front again, Ellie heard her add, “Even if you’re right.” In a louder voice, she said, “We’re goin’ to miss you somethin’ fierce, Eleanor. Always did love it when you came across the field to visit us.”
“And brought them scrumptious pies with you,” Burt tacked on. “Won’t be the same up on West Peak with you gone.” He glanced back at her and winked. “Where you travelin’ to, if you don’t mind my askin’?”
“I…I plan to head north, look for a job. Not quite sure just where yet.” She could at least tell them that much.
Mildred turned around again, her brow wrinkled in concern. “You don’t got a plan, Eleanor? Why, we cain’t just drop you off if you don’t have no sort o’ arrangements.”
“Sure you can,” Ellie said, forcing brightness into her tone. She wiped away the last of her tears. “I need to break out o’ my cocoon.”
“Darlin’, if you want to break out, why don’t you go south? It’s so blamed cold up north.”
“Daddy has an aunt I’m plannin’ to stay with.” She regretted the disclosure immediately, but it did seem that they deserved an explanation of sorts. They’d always been so kind to Mama and her.
“Say no more,” Burt spoke up. “Long as you’ll be safe, that’s enough for Mildred and me.”
“He ain’t a good sort, that Byron Pruitt,” Mildred said, as if she knew that he had something to do with Ellie’s departure.

Ellie determined to purse her lips for the rest of the trip, lest some hint of the sordid murder slip past them. Best to keep it buried in the deepest parts of her soul.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Word of Inspiration: You Have an Inheritance of Glory Waiting

"The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the legacy of fools." (Proverbs 3:35) 

Notice that this verse says the wise will inherit glory not earn it. This means that glory will be given to us as a gift, and it isn't something we have to work for in order to obtain it. Too many people squander their inheritance and take it for granted. They don't cherish or invest it. Spend your inheritance wisely. Pray for God's wisdom and the ability to not only have wisdom, but to apply it in your life and share it with others--to invest it in future generations. 

Many people want to leave a legacy, but I'm sure it isn't a legacy of shame they have in mind. Rather, they want to leave a legacy of accomplishment, something for others to aspire to. We can only do this if we live for God. This is living wisely. The foolish man or woman departs from God's Word, paving a path of his or her own. Any path that isn't on God's path, leads to self-destruction and a legacy of shame. 

Remember, pray for wisdom and the ability to apply it in your life.