“Gatehaven” by Molly Noble Bull

Molly Noble BullToday I am featuring the final excerpt from a Christian novel, as part of a special promotion by the John 3;16 Marketing Network, of which I am a member. The book is “Gatehaven,” and it is by Molly Noble Bull.

Here is a short blurb:

Gatehaven by Molly Noble Bull is a Christian Gothic historical novel set in a haunting mansion in the north of England where Ian Colquhoun and Shannon Aimee battle a Frenchman with dark secrets—spiritual warfare vs. the occult.  Will they learn enough about God’s words to defend themselves and others or will evil overcome them?

PartNine

Shannon went out the door and turned toward the massive stairway she noticed when they came in.

“No,” Millie said, “not that way.” She smiled. “Follow me. I’ll show ya where to go.”

Shannon forced a smile. “Thank you. You are very kind. But what about my boxes and other belongings?”

“Someone will be bringin’ them down to ya later.”

Down? Down where?

Doubts had been building since she entered the huge double doors of the mansion. Now a lump lodged in her throat, and she found it difficult to breathe. She would have screamed if she’d thought it would do any good.

Millie led her through a maze of long halls to a huge kitchen. Servants were preparing a meal. Still, they took the time to smile when she came in.

Gatehaven“Everybody be busy right now, miss, preparing for Tea Time,” Millie explained. “I’ll introduce you later.” She pointed to a corner of the room near a brick wall. “The stairs be right over there.”

The stairwell looked dark. Shannon had always hated the unknown—now more than ever. She hesitated at the head of the stairs before going down. Obviously, it led to the basement of the mansion. This might be a good time to let out that scream she’d been holding in.

“Have ya been working as a maid long?” Millie asked.

Shannon stood at the top of the stairs, trembling internally and unable to move physically. Clearly, a terrible mistake was made. The earl would set things right. She merely needed to try to relax until he did. Nevertheless, she was beginning to wish she’d never left Scotland.

“Well, have ya?” Millie said again in a friendly tone.

“Have I what?”

“Been working as a maid long.”

“No. No, I have not. I—I came from Scotland, and I have never worked as a maid.”

“Well, don’t let it worry ya none.” Millie motioned toward the dark stairwell as if she expected Shannon to go on down. “Maude and I be helping ya all we can. You can be sure of that, and I am so glad to hear ya came from Scotland. My family came from Scotland, too.”

Shannon forced a smile and descended the stairs.

Millie moved ahead and opened a door at the end of the long hall. “This room belongs to you now, Miss Aimee.” Millie motioned for Shannon to go in. “Your key, I believe.” Smiling, she handed her the key.

The room looked extremely small—bare white walls, a narrow bed, and a chest of drawers. In one corner, she saw a table with a candle on it. Besides the candle, a high window over the bed gave the room its only light.

Shannon went over and sat down on the edge of the bed. Then she looked away to keep from allowing her disappointment to show in her face.

“Sure and I would like to stay and visit with ya for a while.” Millie leaned forward and ran the palm of her hand over the stiff quilt that covered the bed. “But I must be going now. Like I said, someone will bring your bags to your room soon.” She closed the door.

“No, wait!”

Shannon got up, opened the door, and peered down the hall. But Millie had disappeared—probably down one of the other long halls.

She went back inside, slamming the door behind her. She’d wanted to tell Millie not to send her boxes and bags because she would be moving to another room. And she had so many questions she wanted answered. It would seem that it was too late to have Millie answer them —at least for now.

Well, her belongings would simply have to be moved a second time.

She sat back down on the small bed, crossing her arms across her chest.

Where was the earl? He should have come to her rescue by now. She reached down with nervous fingers and smoothed the wrinkles from her skirt, pulling the pale gold material tight against her knees.

Maybe the earl couldn’t find her. She was in the basement. Shannon had no choice but to wait until he finally came for her no matter how long it took.

#

Ian shifted his weight from one leg to the other as a middle-aged gentleman with a limp made his way to the door of the mansion. Since they arrived, Ian had been standing behind the carriage that Shannon and the earl had traveled in, waiting to be told where to go. He still didn’t know a thing.

He’d expected to stay in the vicar’s cottage. But where was it located? The earl had said that someone on his staff would direct him there. A tall and thin footman in a dark blue uniform stood a short distance away. Ian went over to speak to him.

“I am a guest here and in need of a place to stay the night. Can you direct me to the vicar’s cottage? I was told that I would be staying there.”

“I can direct you, all right, but Pastor Steen—he is gone.”

“Gone? Where?”

The footman shrugged his shoulders. “He got some bad news, I wager, and left the next day. I don’t expect him to return for at least a fortnight.”

Now what should Ian do? Where should he go?

The vicar wasn’t home, and Ian had never even met the man. To stay in the vicarage under those circumstances was unacceptable—at least as far as Ian was concerned.

He’d promised his pastor before he left Scotland that he would try to solve the murder of his cousin, Magdalena Petit. But how could he keep that promise now? The vicar was away from the village of Fairs, and Ian had given his word that he would not discuss the murder with anyone but Pastor Steen.

The footman cleared his throat, interrupting Ian’s thoughts. “I suppose it would be all right for you to stay in the guardhouse with the other guards.” Then he walked off before Ian learned the location of the guardhouse.

He was beginning to wonder why he agreed to come to England in the first place. And where was Shannon’s brother? Shortly before they left Rosslyn, Peter had informed him that he planned to do a little investigating before leaving that village. He was especially interested in learning more about the chapel. But Ian had expected him to catch up with the caravan before they reached the earl’s estate. So far, he hadn’t.

#

Leon Picard was led into the library instead of the drawing room as he’d expected.

“The earl and his family are having a private conversation at the moment,” the butler had explained. “Please, wait here.”

“Wait?” Leon’s jaw tightened.

“Yes, sir. But the Earl of Northon should be with you shortly.”

Outrageous! The earl owed him money, and Leon was in no mood to be put off.

“Would you care for some tea, sir?” the butler asked.

“No. That will not be necessary.”

Leon glared at the butler as he turned and left the room.

He settled into the earl’s favorite chair with its cushioned back and brown leather arms. The earl could sit in the chair facing him. He knew from experience that it wasn’t as comfortable. He grinned internally. It served him right.

#

Peter Aimee guided his brown gelding to a slow trot and then to a full stop, exhausted physically and emotionally. If what he’d been told at the fork in the road was true, the earl’s estate was beyond the rise just ahead, and he’d pushed his horse hard to get there. He was eager to reach his destination, but he would never require an animal to go beyond its normal capabilities—a human either, for that matter.

Peter had traveled a long way since leaving Rosslyn, Scotland, and he’d learned a lot while he was there—information that he still didn’t want to believe. If true, some from Rosslyn were devil worshippers, and he’d seen the earl enter their meeting place with his own eyes.

Still, the earl could have gone in by mistake. Peter almost went inside as well in order to see what went on there. But if his suspicions were true, Shannon could be in peril. He would have to tell Ian before it was too late.

#

Leon had been reading from a book of poems for half an hour when the earl was finally announced. He put the book back on the shelf by his chair without looking up.

“Sorry to have kept you waiting.”

Leon sent the younger man a cold glance. “You should be.”

The earl sat down. “It could not be avoided.”

“So, what have you done to deserve the money I have been sending you for your journey to Scotland? The package I requested is in good condition, I presume.”

“Excellent.” The earl reached for the snuffbox by his chair. “The young woman is in good spirits—and quite beautiful, I might add.” He opened the gold box and dabbed a bit of the white powder under his nose. “She thinks I love her and plan to marry her.”

“She is certainly beautiful. But I would never call her young.”

“She is nineteen, sir.”

Leon froze. “What?” A sudden chest pain made it difficult for Leon to breathe. He covered the pain with his left hand, gripping the arm of the chair with his right.

The earl shot out of his chair, reaching him in two steps. “Are you all right, Monsieur?”

Leon swallowed. “I will be.”

“Let me ring for my butler.”

“That will not be necessary. I have had this previously.” Leon licked his dry lips. “If you would be so good as to hand me a glass of water.”

“Of course.” He glanced around. “Oh, my. The water pitcher is empty. The butler will—”

“Please retrieve the small box of pills in my vest pocket.”

“At once.” The earl reached in Leon’s vest pocket, retrieved the box, and opened it. “How foolish of me. I should have rang for the butler—with the water.”

“Are you an idiot? Forget the water! Just put the pill on my tongue.”

The earl did as he was told. Then he pulled the gold-colored cord that hung from the ceiling by Leon’s chair. “The butler should be here shortly. Now, let me help you to the settee.” The earl reached out and tried to take Leon’s arm. “In this instance, it might be wise if you lie down and put your feet up.”

Leon pushed his hand away. “Stop treating me like an old man. I will be as good as new long before the water arrives. Besides, I fear you brought the wrong woman from Scotland. Where is she?”

“In her room, of course.”

“I must go and see her for myself.”

“Are you sure you are feeling well enough?

“Would I have suggested it, if I thought otherwise? Besides, I am already feeling better. I wish to meet the woman you brought at once.”

The earl hesitated. “That might not be possible, sir. She is tired from her long journey and went to her room. Until she is feeling more rested, why not investigate our gardens? We have some new plants, and the fresh air will do you good. I will invite my mother and grandmother to go with us. I am sure they would enjoy an outing, and they always delight in visiting with you.”

“I am very displeased.” Leon glared at the earl. “Have one of your servants tell the woman to join us as soon as she is able.”

#

Still standing near where the carriages were parked, Ian watched an attractive young woman in a white maid’s cap as she stepped out a side door of the mansion. She poured water from a bucket—probably dishwater—onto the grass by the small porch.

Ian moved toward her. Maybe she could provide him with information.

A footman started across the grass straight for her as well. He wore a gray uniform that was nothing like the blue ones worn by the earl’s footmen, and he was quite plump. In fact, he looked as if he might pop out of his jacket at any moment. Ian waited a moment before moving forward as the maid and the rotund footman talked in whispers. Then they started toward a group of men in blue uniforms.

“Wait!” Ian hurried to catch up with them. “I need directions.”

The couple stopped and turned.

“Might I help you?” the young maid asked.

“Yes. I need for someone to direct me to the guardhouse.”

“I’ll help you if you’ll first help me.” The portly footman had a heavy Scottish accent. “One of the earl’s guards is sick and cannot deliver boxes to the servant’s quarters below stairs. I promised to do it.” He motioned toward Shannon’s belongings on top of the second carriage.

“Are you sure those bags and boxes go to the servants’ quarters?” Ian asked.

“Yes, sir,” the woman said. “I took the pretty lady to her room meself.”

“What does the pretty lady look like?”

The woman shrugged. “She is not tall—about my size—but a wee bit thinner. She has auburn hair and green eyes.”

“And her name?”

“Miss Aimee.”

What was Shannon doing in the servants’ quarters? Ian planned to find out.

“I will be glad to help you with the boxes.” Ian smiled at the attractive young maid. “And on the way, one of you can direct me to the guardhouse.”

#

Shannon heard a knock at the door. Had the earl come to her rescue? Or had someone arrived with her bags? She hoped it was the earl. She produced her prettiest smile and opened the door.

Ian stood in the hallway outside beside the large box where most of her belongings were stored. A plump man she didn’t know in a gray uniform stood beside him.

Her smile fell away. “Ian, what are you doing here?”

“Helping deliver your box from home. May we come in?”

“Of course.” She motioned for them to come inside.

“Where should we put this?” Ian asked.

Shannon looked around. “Against the wall next to the bed will do. It will have to be moved anyway.”

“Why must it be moved?” Ian asked as he and the Scot dragged the heavy box inside.

“Look around you,” Shannon said. “Obviously, I was assigned the wrong room.”

“I see.” Ian motioned toward the box. “So is this where you want it?”

“For now, yes. But you could have put it anywhere because as I said, I will not be staying here long.” She tossed back her curls. “This is the servant’s quarters, and I am the earl’s future wife. He will have me in a better room upstairs soon enough.”

“I will go and get the other bags, sir.” The portly footman headed for the door.

“Yes, that is a good decision. Thank you.”

“No, wait!” Shannon shouted.

She’d wanted to tell the footman not to bring in the rest of her bags. But the door was already closed.

“Why were you given a room in the servants’ quarters, lass?”

She tossed her head with all the indignation she could muster. “The earl’s mother and grandmother made a mistake. They must have thought I was hired as a maid. But I am sure the earl will clear it all up.”

“Either that or they plan to make you their servant,” he said under his breath.

Shannon heard what Ian said but didn’t want to start an argument.

Ian glanced around the room. “It is a little stuffy in here, and I know how much you like flowers. Would you like to go outside and take a turn around the garden?”

“I would love to. But I have to be here in case the earl comes.”

“Well, if you’re looking for the earl, I can tell you where he is.”

“Where?”

“Strolling in the garden with a distinguished-looking gentleman with a cane and two arrogant-looking women. I noticed them just before I came inside.”

Shannon laughed. “The women are the earl’s mother and grandmother. And we cannot know for sure that they are arrogant. Can we?”

“Maybe not. But considering what I have seen and heard so far, they are not two sweet little ladies. I can tell you that. In fact, the older one is anything but little. She is quite large.”

Shannon laughed again. “Shame on you. You should never say such things.”

“Then why are you laughing?”

“It was wrong of me to laugh.” She felt her cheeks warm with embarrassment. “Let us go outdoors. I want to talk to the earl.”

#

Despite the foreboding tone of the rock mansion with its shadowy exterior and dark inner walls, Shannon thought the manicured garden in the front of the house looked green and lush. Lined with trimmed hedges and flowers in a variety of colors, the cobblestone walkway comforted her as well.

Papa put down walkways like this around our house at the farm.

Shannon heard a rustling in the trees nearby. She whirled around. Was someone watching them? She saw a black flash. A man in dark clothing went behind a tree.

The warmth she’d felt an instant before evaporated. “Who was that man?”

“What man?” Ian asked. “I see no one.”

“Neither do I. Now. But someone was hiding behind that tree. I saw him.”

“I agree that this mansion is rather morbid, lass. But please refrain from telling me you saw a ghost. I see no such thing.”

“The man I saw was no ghost. Besides, he is gone now. Still, I know what I saw. Furthermore, I dislike it out here. I want to go back inside.”

“We cannot go back.” He motion toward three people standing on the opposite side of the yard. “I just saw the earl and the two women standing beyond those hedges. I think they might have seen us.”

The earl stood with his mother and grandmother amidst a riot of pink and red flowers. As soon as Shannon saw him, all interest in going back inside disappeared.

“There he is. There is my beloved.” She started toward the earl, sensing that Ian was right behind her. The earl looked right at them. But instead of rushing toward her as Shannon so wanted, he simply stood there—watching them.

“My lord.” She waved.

He glanced back at the two women for a moment as if asking their permission, and then he strolled slowly toward her. When she hastened her steps, he moved a little faster.

“Miss Aimee.” The earl stood in front of Shannon as if he was trying to keep his mother and grandmother from seeing her. “What are you doing here?”

“Looking for you. What else?”

“I thought you would be unpacking or something.” He glanced at Ian. “Mr. Colquhoun, I hope you are settling in.”

“Not yet, I am afraid.”

“Really?”

Shannon thought the earl looked mildly surprised.

“You might not have heard but the vicar is on holiday,” Ian said. “I have no place to stay.”

“Sorry. I was unaware of your problem. But you need not worry. I am sure a bed can be found for you in the guardhouse until the vicar returns.”

“That is exactly where I hope to stay.”

The earl looked back at Shannon. “And you, Miss Aimee. Are you all settled in as well?”

“I am afraid not. My room is unsuitable.”

“Your room does not meet your needs? I am sorry to hear that.”

“My room, as you call it, is down in the basement, my lord, and it is miles from my chaperone. My parents will be very displeased should they learn that I am not situated near my chaperone.”

Shannon didn’t like the earl’s attitude. He seemed cold and distant again. Where was the man she fell in love with back in Scotland?

She managed a weak smile. “You will find me a new room as soon as possible. Will you not, my lord?”

“Of course.” The earl glanced toward the two women waiting near the maze of hedges. “But first, I must get back to my family. My mother and grandmother are discussing something important, and we have a guest.” He glanced around. “I do not see him now, but he is here—somewhere in the garden. I must go at once.”

Are not my needs important? Shannon wanted to say. Somehow, she knew that they weren’t important—at least, not today.

“You and Mr. Colquhoun should take a long walk, Miss Aimee. Explore the grounds. And if you get hungry, there is food in the kitchen. Just tell Cook, and she will fill your plates.

“Later,” the earl went on, “perhaps I will take you to your new room or have one of the servants do it.”

The earl smiled. Shannon didn’t.

“Until then, I hope you both will enjoy your walk.” The earl turned back to his family and hurried away.

“Gatehaven” is selling at Amazon. Go here to learn how you can win a $100 Amazon voucher or other prizes when you purchase the book. Learn more about Barbara at her website.

 

“Shadow Stalker” by Barbara Ann Derksen

Barbara Ann DerksenI am still hosting Christian authors authors as part of a special promotion by the John 3:16 Marketing Network, of which I am a member. Today I feature an excerpt from “Shadow Stalker” by Barbara Ann Derksen.

Here is a short blurb for the book:

An ominous shadow hangs over her, as Christine Finder,  alias Melissa Rompart, visits the brutal slaying of her parents most nights in a dream.  The threat of discovery propels her to search for the whereabouts of the killer to see the man brought to justice. In the meantime, the killer stalks her mind while she operates Finder’s Keepers, an agency that searches for the people her clients hire her to find. Nathan Brent is only four years old and missing. Will she find him in time or will the killer find her first?

And here is my own Amazon review of the book:

I have now read several novels by this author, and as a thriller fan I have enjoyed them all. She has the ability to draw you in right from the start with an explosive prologue, and the tension seldom lets up. Her characters are strong and believable. I am happy to recommend this book to other thriller fans.

Shadow Stalker 

Chapter Three

Christine pulled into the vacant spot, the only one, at Larson Canines, a local dog training facility. They trained service dogs but she and Chief had been using them to stay in shape. She unlocked the back door and took out the harness that Chief wore when they went through their paces. “Come on, boy. Let’s go play.”

Shadow StalkerShe walked around to the large open door of the big barn-like structure. Inside, several dogs, a variety of breeds, were attending to the commands of their trainers. A couple of animals were learning how to open doors at the structures designed to look like front doors or inside doors. “Hey, Christine.” The sound of her name brought her face to face with Denny Larson, the owner of the facility.

“Hey Denny. How’s it goin’?” Christine grinned, her friendly smile an open invitation for a long conversation. “You look a little tired. Out partyin’ last night ?” She punched him on the arm. In the short time she’d been in this part of the country, she’d become friends with the large Norwegian.

“Aw. Ya know I’m not the partyin’ sort. Here to put Chief through his paces?” He reached down to scratch the dog behind his ear. “You ready to work, Chief?” Denny led the way toward the far end of the building where he had an obstacle course set up. “I’ll go get the kid scent pack. You can get started,” He walked away, leaving Christine the freedom to choose which end she’d start from.

“Come on, Chief. Let’s do er.” For the next two hours, Christine and Chief worked hard stretching their skills. Chief thrived on the exercises and Christine worked alongside him as if they were one mind. She used subtle hand signals part of the time and at others, she spoke a single word to get the dog to do what she wanted him to do. Chief was very cognizant of his mistress’ needs and wishes.

Before long, and a little too soon for Christine and Chief, the training was over. Chief was panting by then and if Christine could have, she would have been panting too. “Good work out, boy.” She patted his head and then took one of his favorite treats out of her pocket. This was the one reserved for the end of the training, for a job well done. Chief chomped on the bacon flavored biscuit. She turned toward Denny, as he walked in her direction.

“All done?” The oversized teddy bear grinned at her.

Christine smiled back. “It was good. Thanks Denny. See you next week.”

“Hey. When you gonna let me take ya dancin’?  Pretty girl like you should have some fun. All work and no play … well, you know.” Denny chuckled, his flirtatious mannerisms meant to tease and nothing more.

Or so Christine thought. “Well, you know, Denny. With those large size thirteen feet of yours, I may be taking my feet’s life in my hands if I accepted that invitation. Besides, all your other girlfriends may object.” Their verbal sparring worked to keep a distance between them, a distance Christine fostered. Just before she turned to leave, she lifted her hand in a casual wave and then strode toward the door and her car. She missed the look of disappointment on the man she left behind.

Christine ushered Chief into the back seat, closed the door and stowed his harness in the trunk of her car. She slipped into the front seat and turned on the ignition. “That man is a big flirt, isn’t he Chief?” She smiled to herself as she turned onto the gravel road that led back to the city. “Now let’s go see what the office has for us.”

A short trek on the gravel road led to pavement and then the highway that took them into the downtown area of the city. Once they’d encountered heavier traffic, Christine slowed to the appropriate speed limit, and traveled the familiar route to the building that housed the office of Finders Keepers, her agency for locating missing children. She hoped the sign company would be there today.

Soon the large gray edifice appeared on her right. She maneuvered into the appropriate parking space and turned off her engine. Chief stood on the backseat, waiting to be released from his moving cage. Christine unlocked the back door as soon as she closed hers and grabbed Chief’s collar to add a leash. The owner frowned on dogs let loose in his building, even service dogs. “Come on, Chief. Let’s go see if we can get the office into some semblance of order. Can’t have clients coming into the mess it is now.”

They strode side by side through the front door, waved a greeting to the security guard on their right, and walked through the door in the glass wall in front of them. Chief walked as if at attention, his footsteps matching Christine’s. “Good dog,” she praised her partner. Another door separated Finder’s Keepers from the rest of the tenants in the building. She pulled on the handle and walked down the hallway to her office.

Christine unlocked the door and then looked around. The lone desk looked as if a mountain of paperwork had been dumped on it. Christine glanced toward the filing cabinet to make sure she could access it easily to complete the task she’d left the day before. Just as she was about to sit down, the phone rang. She jumped and then laughed a little nervously. “I guess the phone’s been hooked up.” She picked up the handset. “Hello. Finders Keepers.”

Christine listened, her smile quickly turning to a frown. “When did you notice him missing,” she asked the person on the other end of the call. Chief stood nearby but then sat on his haunches. His eyes never left Christine. “I just got in but you’re welcome to come over. Bring something with the boy’s scent on it.” Christine looked toward her partner. “Yes, I use a dog.” She listened some more. “Okay, see you in fifteen.”

She replaced the handset and then turned toward Chief. “I guess we have some work to do. Already.” She looked around. “I need to get this mess cleaned up before she gets here. Can’t instill confidence if I look disorganized, now can I?” Christine began to sort through the papers she’d left from the day before. She soon had them ready for filing.

Chief walked over toward his water bowl, lapped up some of the refreshing liquid, and then stood facing the door. His low growl told Christine someone was entering the hallway. She straightened her desk a little more and then stood in preparation to answer the knock when it came.

The fur on the back of Chief’s neck stood up and then a soft knocking sound could be heard through the office. “You’re better than a doorbell, boy.” Christine walked to the door and pulled it open. “Hello, Mrs. …?”

For the promotional period “Shadow Stalker” is  selling at Amazon for $0.99, down from $4.99. Go here to learn how you can win a $100 Amazon voucher or other prizes when you purchase the book. Learn more about Barbara at her website.

“The Proof” by Cheryl Colwell

Cheryl ColwellI’m featuring excerpts from some fine Christian novels, as part of a promotion by the John 3:16 Network, of which I’m a member. Today it’s “The Proof” by Cheryl Colwell. Here’s a short blurb:

Shrouded in mystery, a precious relic known as Il Testamento, or The Proof, circulated among the early Christians for centuries. Before their deaths, its guardians hid it from their adversaries, leaving only a crude map of its location. For centuries, it lay in darkness. Until now. Reports of its existence have resurfaced, inciting an ancient rivalry between a ruthless group that seeks to destroy it, and a secret association that lusts for its power. Summoned to Siena by a grandfather he has never met, Gabriel Dolcini is thrust into a dark maze of danger. And into his divine destiny.

Now, read on -  

Chapter 2

Rome, Italy

Abbot Porta sat in his cubicle, far away from the pomp and power associated with Rome. He rubbed his clammy hands together. It was all too extraordinary. He possessed the key—the power to escape the mundane, barren existence of a mere abbot. Pungent odors and depressingly dim overhead lights conspired to drive him mad.

The Proof by Cheryl ColwellHe flung his wrist across the chessboard. The pieces clattered against the stone floor and echoed down the hall, mimicking the rest of the underlings that scurried about. He scoffed. After centuries of fruitless searching by the Soci, the “Associates,” a resilient group known only to each other, he had been the one to locate the prize. Now, they were the pawns and he the bishop. Soon, they would understand that. He dialed his superior.

A male secretary answered his call. “Buon giorno.”

Buon giorno, this is Abbot Porta. I need to speak to His Excellency at once.” Porta stood and paced the length of his office as he listened to the powerful man barking orders on the other end of the call. Porta calmed his ecstasy. He was the one who would deliver the astounding news.

An annoying draft permeated the crumbling walls of the abbey, chilling his neck and ankles. He shivered. Summer would soon give way to winter. With the missives he had discovered, he savored his likely advancement, following the Primo Consul’s footsteps from a Tribunus to become a Prefect.

From there, his contributions would assure the votes he needed to rule as one of the two Consuls within the Soci. As soon as there is a vacancy. He smiled. Perhaps he would even rise above the man on the other end of the line and become the Primo Consul.

At last, the Primo Consul’s voice boomed through the tiny speaker. “Porta, what is so urgent that you demand my time?”

Waiting for effect, Porta said, “I have uncovered the thread that will lead us to theobject you instructed us to seek.” He was careful. Someone was always listening.

“And where did you find this thread?”

“I was invited to the Abbey of St. John in Argentella in Palombara. While there, I took the opportunity to continue my search and examine the old vaults that were used to house documents from the previous abbots.”

Impatience and disappointment resounded through the speaker. “Those vaults were emptied ages ago.”

Si. After inspecting a suspicious area, however, I discovered a hidden niche.”

“What did you find?”

Porta smiled at the instant jump in the Primo Consul’s interest. “Letters. A detailed account of an attempt to prevent the object from traveling to Seborga.”

“Seborga?”

Si.”

“So you believe it rests there?”

“Possibly.” Porta proceeded with caution. It would not due to overstate his hopes and later disappoint this powerful man.

“Send me the letters by courier, and then send someone to investigate.” The line went dead.

Porta exhaled his disappointment. Not a word of appreciation. He dialed the number of a particular member of the Soci. One skilled in building trust.

For the promotional period “The Proof” is  selling at Amazon for $0.99, down from $4.99. Go here to learn how you can win a $100 Amazon voucher or other prizes when you purchase the book. Learn more about Cheryl at her website. Go to www.kimpayne.wordpress.com to read the next excerpt.

Adam’s Animals – A Bible Bestiary

Kimberley Payne, authorI am happy today to feature Kimberley Payne and her new book “Adam’s Animals.” This is a children’s activity book that features over 40 animals mentioned in the Bible and little-known facts about each. It’s ideal for 6 to 9 year olds, for home or school use and classroom sharing in grades 1-3 to supplement the Life Sciences Curriculum on Animal Life.

It is the second book in the Science and Faith Matters series. The first book, “Trees of the Book – Learning from God’s Creation”, is a colourful introduction to trees, leaves and their corresponding Bible stories.

Kimberley is an award-winning writer and a member of The Word Guild, Inscribe Christian Writer’s Fellowship, and John 3:16 Marketing Network. She has volunteered as a teacher with many children’s programs at her church, as a teacher’s aid for student’s reading, and within the library at her children’s school. She combines her teaching experience and love of writing to create educational materials for children about family, fitness, science and faith.

Kimberley answered some questions:

What was your inspiration for this book?

Years ago, my daughter wrote a little book called, “Did you know…fascinating and fun facts about animals around the world” as a fundraiser to go to camp. I helped her with it and loved discovering new things about God’s creation.

Do you have a favorite animal and why that one?

I loved learning about the leopard. This big cat can climb trees, run fast, and swim. He’s powerful and smart. My kind of creature!

Sample artwork - antDid you find anything particularly difficult in writing this book?

There was a ton of research. Not only did I have to dig through the Bible to discover the animals mentioned, but then I had to research each individually to uncover five unusual facts.

What do you hope this book accomplishes?

I hope that “Adam’s Animals” will fuel the desire for children to read the Bible and to also learn more about the animals that God created.

Where can we find you?

Website: www.kimberleypayne.com

Blog: www.scienceandfaithmatters.wordpress.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/KimberleyPayne.Author

Twitter: twitter.com/FitForFaith

Where can we find the book?

This is the exciting part! The book is still in manuscript form. I am hoping to bring the project to life with the direct support of friends, colleagues and family.

As the book creator, I have set a funding goal of $3500, with a deadline of February 28th, 2014. If you like my book idea, you can pledge any amount of money to make it happen.

As the book backer, you choose from a number of rewards based on the amount of financial support you pledge. For example, backers who pledge a minimum of $5, will receive a choice of one of two of my e-books: 1) Fit for Faith – 7 weeks to improved spiritual and physical health, OR 2) Women of Strength – a devotional to improve spiritual and physical health. Backers who pledge a minium of $15 will receive an autographed copy of “Adam’s Animals”. Backers who pledge a minimum of $175 will be listed on the “Dedication” page at the back of the book PLUS will receive an autographed copy of “Adam’s Animals”.

Backing “Adam’s Animals” is more than just giving money. Writers need encouragement and you would be supporting my dream of creating a valuable resource for children and parents.

To support the creation of “Adam’s Animals” please visit: www.kickstarter.com/projects/adamsanimals/adams-animals-a-childrens-activity-book

Investor Video at ASX Website

Thank you to the ASX for featuring me in their investment video series, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary edition of Top Stocks. You can see the video here.

I can get a little nervous when I’m asked (it doesn’t happen often) if I’ll do an on-camera interview. But this went extremely smoothly, certainly in part because of a lot of pre-interview preparation by the interviewer, Tony Featherstone (whom I was meeting for the first time, although we had frequent phone and email contact when he was editor of Shares magazine and I was a regular contributor).

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I can’t say I like the photo they use of me, but, well, I guess that’s what I look like. It doesn’t seem to matter. An email from the ASX informed me that in its first week the video had nearly 7,000 downloads, a new record.

“The Donkey and the King” by Lorilyn Roberts

Donkey and the King_LorilynRobertsWelcome back to Lorilyn Roberts, who featured on this blog back in August with an excerpt from her book “Children of Dreams,” the story of how she adopted two Asian girls. Now she is part of a special promotion for her children’s storybook “The Donkey and the King” – just $0.99 until December 16th

Read on to learn more about this enchanting tale:

A donkey longs for an easier life with no heavy burdens and no one to tell him what to do. He runs away and becomes lost, but “good” finds him in the most unlikely of places.

The reader will find “good” hidden in the artwork, and children will delight in searching for the word on each page. If you have fond memories of looking for the mouse in “Goodnight Moon” you will want to share this book with your child.

A link and QR code is provided to assist parents in finding the hidden word if needed. The moral in this story: There is “good” in the world if you look (and listen) for it.

Lorilyn RobertsHere is my own review that I wrote for Amazon:

Baruch is a donkey with a mind of his own. He runs away from home, seeking a comfortable life. Of course he is soon in trouble, lost and lonely and in danger from the wild animals. What he doesn’t realize is that the King has been looking for him, and has sent a messenger, to lead him to the King’s garden, and a meeting with the King Himself. Baruch, once lost, has now been found.

This simple and delightful story is intended to teach an important Biblical truth to young children. It contains a series of beautiful illustrations, each with the word “good” hidden somewhere (and not always easy to find). Highly recommended. 

Details:

* “The Donkey and the King” (A Story of Redemption)

* 99 cents December 1 through December 16 at Amazon

* 25 reviews, 4.8 stars

* Ages 2-6

* Book Trailer:  http://bit.ly/Donkey_Video

From December 1 through December 16, the John 3:16 Marketing Network is hosting a Christmas Book Launch and “The Donkey and the King” is a featured book.

As part of the event, the Network is offering a $200 Amazon gift e-card to one lucky winner. For a chance to win, go first to http://bit.ly/Christian_Books and enter the Rafflecopter (toward the bottom of the page). After December 16 go straight to Amazon to buy the book.

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First Page Example: of the hidden word “good.”

Lorilyn Roberts is an award-winning author who writes family-friendly books for the young, the young at heart, and all those in between. Visit http://LorilynRoberts.com to learn more.

“Warning Signs” – Latest Romantic Mystery from Katy Lee

Warning Signs CoverI’m pleased to welcome Katy Lee to the site today. As an Inspirational Romantic Suspense author, Katy writes higher-purpose stories in high-speed worlds. Through her writing, ministries, and teaching she dedicates her life to sharing tales of love, from the “greatest love story ever told” to those sweet romantic stories of falling in love.

Katy and her husband are born New Englanders and love to travel with their three adventuresome home-schooled children. You can connect with Katy at her website, Katy Lee Books. There you will find links to Facebook and Twitter. Please look her up!

Her latest romantic-suspense story is “Warning Signs.” Here is some information about the book:

Katy LeeWhen a drug-smuggling ring rocks a small coastal town, the DEA sends Agent Owen Matthews to shut it down. A single father with a deaf son, Owen senses that the town’s number one suspect—the high school’s new principal—doesn’t fit the profile.

Miriam Hunter hoped to shrug off the stigma of her hearing impairment when she returned to Stepping Stones, Maine. But her recurring nightmares dredge up old memories that could prove her innocence—and uncover the truth behind a decades-old murder.

Yet Owen’s help may not be enough when someone decides to keep Miriam silenced—permanently.

Miriam is a strong character who is not held back by what others may perceive as a weakness. Acceptance is a key theme as Lee dispels some misconceptions regarding people with hearing impairments.” ~ RT Magazine

To purchase the “Warning Signs” Kindle version, go to http://tinyurl.com/o446oqw.

B.O.G.O. Sale: If you purchase WARNING SIGNS between 12/1/13 -12/16/13 from any retailer, contact Katy at her website for directions to claim your FREE ecopy of an earlier book “Real Virtue.” (Go here to learn more about “Real Virtue.”) But remember to contact Katy directly at her website to claim your ecopy!

Bonus Giveaway: For a chance to win a $200 Amazon gift card, between December 1 and December 16, 2013, enter the John 3:16 Marketing Network Rafflecopter drawing at: http://bit.ly/Christian_Books. You get a free entry just for stopping by!

Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World

Hobbits, You and the Spiritual WorldJill Richardson is author of “Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World.” She answered some questions about the book and about herself. Scroll down to learn about a special promotion for the book, and how you can win a $200 Amazon gift voucher.

Why The Hobbit? What sparked your interest in Tolkien?

Hah. Years ago,my brother tried to get me to read the books. He said they were the greatest things ever. I tried first with The Silmarillion and said, “Yeah, right. Don’t think so.” Fast forward to years later when my husband started to read them to our girls when they were elementary school aged. I listened, saw the first movie, then picked the books up myself and devoured them. There is something magic about Tolkien’s skill mixed with real, unforgettable, and deep characters, and a story of epic good and evil fought by everyday heroes. Who else would get away with such unlikely heroes? He manages to show both the greatness and depth of evil in humankind in this small world of his.

Why would teenagers want to read this book?

It might seem that fictional fantasy characters don’t have much in common with real teenagers. But that is so not true. They feel inadequate, afraid, angry, proud, exhausted, hopeful—all the things we all feel. Teens are looking for their adventure in life—how do they fit in this world and what is their task? In Tolkien’s world, it’s all about tasks and unique callings; it’s about normal, average people finding their place and doing great things. How do they do it? How does that matter to God? How do we learn from both of those things

Describe what the book is about, how it’s organized, and what a reader can expect.

It’s about twenty Tolkien characters, who they are, what makes them do what they do, good or bad, and how that relates to both God and the reader. As far as organization, each character is introduced, quoted, and discussed. Add a relevant Bible passage, discussion/journal questions, and action steps for each person to take going forward. Choose to memorize the short Scripture at the end. A reader can expect to be  both entertained and challenged. I try to have a lot of fun with it, but I don’t shy away from tough questions and applications. Teenagers are capable of asking tough questions. They are more than able to recognize things that need changing. I refuse to talk down to a teenager or make it easy for them. They are intelligent, fun, and up for a challenge, and that’s what I make the book as well.

Jill RichardsonDescribe the process of writing each chapter.

Fun? A lot of fun. But other than that . . . I figured out what really stood out as far as a character trait or lesson for each person. Some were easy—some difficult. Then, where do you see that in the book? It was tough using only one quote! Where do you see that in Scripture? How can a person apply that Scripture to daily life? I tried to be very, very practical and fun while working with serious stuff. I think it worked.

How could this book help youth leaders disciple kids?

The book takes twenty  character traits everyone can relate to. It pulls that trait out of a Tolkien character and then relates it to the Bible. Can a teen learn about dealing with pride, frustration, or fear from Thorin, Eowyn, or Aragorn? Can she learn to find hope in hopelessness from Arwen? Can he understand how to channel his crazy whims from Pippin? Absolutely—and I have a few national youth leaders, college professors, and authors backing me on that claim!

What’s here they won’t get in the book or the movie?

A relationship between the fandom and the Bible. What is the unique Christian perspective Tolkien wrote with that may not have translated into film? Also, teens can see themselves in these characters when they study them individually. They have take home value.

How do you see teens, parents, and churches using this book?

Of course, it’s a devotional, so I see teens using it for their daily (or sort of daily–I know what it’s like) reading and praying time. Parents and grandparents play a huge role in finding resources for their kids and giving them to them. Parents, youth leaders, grandparents, any caring adults in a kid’s life (and let’s face it, some have so few)–should be seeking out resources to help kids build character. That’s really the point. That it entertains as well—bonus! I can easily see youth leaders using it in a group setting, and I actually have lesson plans for that. Best of all—kids can give it to their friends. The ones who love these movies/books but may not necessarily think about God too much.

Why do you think Tolkien is of such enduring interest to people?

The reasons I mention in my answers to the first question. People can completely relate to his characters. They are not larger than life—they are us. (Except maybe a wizard or two. They’re a bit larger than we are.) They don’t start out amazing—they grow into it with hard work and love. That’s who we are, or who we should be. And we know that. We feel it. It’s very real. Also, everyone feels intrinsically called to something important. We are constantly seeking that. Some find it—some don”t. But we’re pulled toward stories that speak to that.

Tell me something about yourself.

I used to teach high schoolers, and I loved it. Odd enough for you? I truly think they are a great age. I’ve spent ten years working in community theater, performing and directing. I have pictures of me doing so that will never see the light of Facebook. Pink hair, purple tights, giant false eyelashes? Yep, I’ve done it on stage. But—I’m a flaming introvert. Hugely so. I am also a pastor, which is a fun bit of mold breaking as well as serious stuff. I love my three daughters and one husband, manage our three cats, garden on an acre in the western suburbs of Chicago, and love planning our next vacation as soon as we get home form the last one. In fact, my last book before this one was about taking your family on short term mission trips.

For a chance to win a $200 Amazon gift card, between December 1 and December 16, 2013, enter the John 3:16 Marketing Network Rafflecopter drawing at http://bit.ly/Christian_Books

Otherwise you can buy “Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World” at http://amzn.to/16y2p6b. Learn more about Jill at her website and her blog. Connect with her at https://www.facebook.com/jillwrites.