Tuesday’s Teaser with LoRee Peery

Hiding from Christmas

After her grandparents as forced to live apart through assisted living, and then die within nine days of each other, intrepid entrepreneur Calissa Ladd is devastated. She’s always wanted to experience the same lifelong love modeled by her grandparents, but her heart isn’t where it needs to be as she clings to the past for answers and then starts having vivid dreams of a long-ago time period.

Deferential banker Monte McQueen has loved Calissa since they were children, but he procrastinates making a commitment to her. He stands by as Calissa gets stuck in the past.

Calissa clings to the decrepit homestead that belonged to her family, searching and seeing visions into the past. Will she overcome her skewed beliefs and reclaim her relationship with the Lord as Monte pushes his love of Christmas on her? Or will she forfeit her happily-ever-after?


Read an excerpt from Chapter 3 of Hiding from Christmas

Chapter 3

The girls blew into Calissa’s apartment from the patio entrance, where they toed off their boots.

Hadley tossed a beige envelope on the table in front of Calissa. “Card for you, auntie. Stuck in the front door.”

She’d gone through the garage yesterday upon her return from the homestead, without a glance at the front entrance. Otherwise, she might have seen the envelope herself.

“Something about love, I’ll bet.” Brittany giggled and shrugged out of her hoodie.

Calissa slid off her thimble and accepted it. The paper was damp and cold to the touch. Flimsy. But she made out Monte’s handwriting. “I’ll set it next to the floor vent so it dries off. Then, I’ll open it.”

The girls looked at one another and burst out in song. “Monte and Calissa sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”

“Kids in your generation still say that?” She waited for their giggles to die down. “I need a good three hours’ production from you two today so let’s get crackin’.”

Brittany tossed their coats on the sofa. “Something on the floor, Aunt Calissa. Looks like another card.”

“Oh, it must have slipped out of my purse. It’s also from Monte. Set it on the coffee table, please.”

“Two cards from your man?” Brittany fanned her face with the envelope. “Why don’t you set them out?”

“Because I’m working.”

Hadley took her seat at the long work table Calissa had set up in the dining area, and selected a variety of blue beads with matching thread. “I’m glad you’re getting cards. Hope they’re Christmas. Mom said you need the holiday spirit in your life.”

Calissa scowled. Was Monte pushing Christmas on her by giving cards? She jolted at Hadley’s loud voice.

“Brit, get your butt over here.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re not the boss of me, little sis.”

“Any boss we had wouldn’t treat us the way our aunt does. She gives us something new and sparkly every month to embellish our clothes.”

Calissa smiled at their banter and bent her head over her needle.

Three crystal beads secured.

The girls spoke at once.

“How come Monte sent you two cards?”

“Why aren’t you together now? Even if he is old, he always looks good.”

Out of the mouths of babes. “Girls. We’ve been through this. I can’t tell you why Monte has given me two cards, or why we aren’t engaged. We’ve been friends forever. We’re comfortable together. The romantic side of the guy appears infrequently. He’s a good man. Respected with an admirable job.”

“But you love each other,” Hadley whined. “You’re supposed to get all gooey-eyed and blush when you talk about him.”

They shared a laugh.

“You don’t have to remind us that adult relationships can be complicated.” Brittany grinned at Calissa. “I’ll bet that second card is dry now.”

To settle the subject, Calissa stuck her needle in the denim pocket and retrieved the envelope. She drew out another old-fashioned card. The cover showed a hunched youth laden with gaily-wrapped packages wishing the recipient a Christmas filled with joy. She held it toward the girls then flipped it open.

I want to shower you with Christmas wishes. Just say the word, and I’ll come over to decorate. Love, Monte

“I don’t need help to decorate.” She went to the open galley kitchen and took the cups off the mug tree. Paused. What was wrong with her that kept him from proposing? Should she come right out and ask him if they had a future together? Could the problem be on both their sides? Calissa grabbed a paper punch and strung a narrow ribbon through the hole in the card. She extracted the first one from the envelope Monte gave her at the homestead, and did the same. Now the metal branches of the mug tree were adorned with two cards…they looked lopsided and bare, but too bad. A glance at the girls made her giggle. She shrugged and sat. “I have work to do. Close your mouth, Hadley. A bug could fly in.”

Brittany sputtered and bowed her head over her emerging peacock in varied greens. Her cheeks puffed out. “You may not want to say, but I have to know. Tell us why you don’t like Christmas.”

Calissa poked her needle from the bottom up through the denim fabric before answering. “It’s not that I don’t care for it, exactly. I don’t see a reason to take time for all the hoopla.” And I hate to relive the devastating disappointment of my teen years over and over.

“Tell us about Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa and where Grandma grew up.” Brittany made her statement with her needle poised in the air.

Both girls loved hearing the stories about their grandparents. Hadley had mentioned more than once that Calissa’s stories made the pictures of various people in old family photo albums more real to them.

Calissa chose a black bead to accent the purple peacock. “Yes, my mom, your grandmother, was the youngest of a large family. Due to the wide span of ages between the siblings, the oldest was married and living in the house with his wife, when your grandmother came along. Your great-grandfather built the house and added on a couple times to accommodate everyone.”

“All of them in the same house.” Hadley tossed her hair over her shoulder. “I hope they each had their own room. I wouldn’t want to share a room with Brittany.”

“And I’d never share a room with you,” Brittany said with mock sarcasm. “Ewwww.”

“Well, Grandpa farmed, so I’ll bet the only time you’d be in your rooms would be to sleep. Everyone helped back then. Kids worked on the farm, just as adults did. There were hard years and snowed-in times, but there was always love. And enough to eat, because they grew their own food, including meat. They canned everything themselves, vegetables and fruits too.”

“Sounds like hard work all the time to me.” Hadley grimaced. “And that house is nothing special. Mom’s driven by there a couple times.”

“Mom says you love the place.” Brittany stood to reach a spool of turquoise thread.

“Yes.” Calissa exhaled. “Somehow the building and the land settle me. Knowing who lived there once breathes a sense of belonging to my soul. Our ancestors thrived between the crumbling walls of that place. They fused their lives together as they shared warmth from the fireplace and whispered dreams beneath piled-on quilts in the beds above the parlor.” Calissa’s fancy imaginings had taken her right out of her own apartment.

“It sounds like something I could write about in my journal.” Brittany grinned. “There’s always a teacher who wants to know if we discovered new adventures or did anything exciting over Christmas break.”

“Would you drive us out there, auntie?” Hadley raised her head. “Maybe we could get our Christmas essays done early.”

“I’d be glad to drive you out. The place isn’t pretty. Don’t make fun of me, though. I look through the knot holes of the aged wood and glassless windows and feel love. I don’t see the rot. I see roots.”

*

Those roots called to her, even in her dreams, a longing that wouldn’t let Calissa go. Today, she drove the boxes of filled orders to the post office, and then headed over the familiar country roads. Cold weather allowed only glimpses of green grass now. Naked tree branches beckoned her nearer the abandoned house.

Calissa bypassed the front room window. She approached the original entrance, and propped open the door with a rock. She scanned the rectangular room, noting doorways and faint remnants of torn, floral wallpaper. The stone fireplace against the far wall drew her closer, and she walked into the house farther than she’d ever dared.

No glowing embers came to life. No fire sparked burning logs to glow. The vision of Grandma and Grandpa didn’t repeat itself the same as on her last visit.

Carissa blinked. A chill ran up her spine. Not a dangerous, scary kind, but one of intense yearning. She glanced over her shoulder. And froze.

In the corner before a raggedy branched cedar tree decorated in gold balls and dripping icicle trim, her grandparents appeared. They laughed with open smiles. Grandma’s eyes were squinted shut, and her hands were on Grandpa’s shoulders. Even seated in the chair, he seemed tall.

Happy. Their happiness rang from the rafters.

The deep desire for lasting love and a sense of belonging created an ache within, strong enough to stun Calissa. She swiped a gloved hand over her eyes, positive time travel was an incorrect assumption. They obviously couldn’t see her. The cedar scent of the Christmas tree filled the December air. The great love between the handsome man and joyful woman washed through Calissa’s heart. Her senses were more alive than they’d ever been.

The fairy-tale scene faded.

Monte would never believe her. Why did she think of him? Deep down, she wanted to be happy with him the same way she remembered the love of her grandparents. Did he balk at commitment due to his parents?

Calissa pivoted. Her toe struck a loose hearth stone. She bent to fix it back in place but it wouldn’t resettle. Hefting it for a better angle, she eyed a rusty tin rather than finely ground mortar. Trembling with anticipation, she shook the box to loosen the dirt, and withdrew it.

The lid was rusted shut.

*

Back in her apartment, Calissa ignored the cards from Monte. She cleared a collection of glass bottles from an antique gate leg table near the patio door and spread newspapers. Over it, and then positioned the tin on the pages. Using a hammer and screwdriver to loosen rust along the edges, she pried off the lid.

Christmas came at her from all sides. She put away her tools, brushed the powdered rust debris and dirt into the trash, and lifted out a vintage card. More lay beneath. Though holiday themed, the whimsical pictures and clever words drew a smile. Predominantly red and green on tan or white backgrounds, a Santa on one card, and a pretty girl with golden curls adorned the other. The models smiled their greetings of love and joy and goodwill. Why had the cards been stored under a loose hearth stone at the homestead?

As much as she longed to explore them one by one, orders awaited. She headed for the work table, but Monte’s cards caught her eye. She reached for her phone to text a thank-you.

The phone rang.

“Hi, Monte. I’ll put you on speaker and pick up my needle.”

“That’s fine. I’m looking at the empty lobby. How are you this sunny December day?”

“I hope you aren’t upset about this, but I’ve been back to the homestead twice since our picnic.”

“You’re too smart to go inside, I hope. That house isn’t safe, Calissa.”

“I was careful. And as weird as this sounds, I’ve had some sort of visions or something unexplainable.” She relayed both to him.

Monte went silent. She wanted to see his face.

“I know that it’s a little girl’s dream to imagine them dying together.” She drew in a quivery breath. “True love is so hard to find these days.”

“Marriages don’t last. If they do, one tolerates the other. Love becomes a figment of the other’s imagination.”

She hated the bitterness that colored Monte’s tone. “I’m sorry you have such a jaded attitude toward marriage.”

“We’ve talked about it enough over the years.”

Calissa pictured Monte running his hand down his tie.

“I’ve seen my share of financial messes between divorced couples,” he ground out.

“I get that. Let’s talk about this later. We both have work to do. And I want to show you what I found at the house.” If she didn’t have a needle in her hand, she’d slap her forehead. “Thanks for calling. And thanks for the cards.”

“Will the girls be there to work tonight, or can I bring food so we can talk?”

“They have a church youth gathering tonight so supper sounds good. If you make that a Reuben sandwich, we can dig into my discovery together.”

“I hope you’re about done going out there. It isn’t healthy for you, or safe, at the homestead, especially after dark. And it certainly doesn’t do you any good to continually dwell on your grandparents as much as you do. High school was over ten years ago.”

“It’s not unhealthy to search for the meaning of love.”

“You’ll find it if you renew your relationship with God and change your attitude toward Christmas.”

He repeated that topic as much as she talked about Grandma and Grandpa.


About Loree

Christian romance author LoRee Peery writes to feel alive, as a way of contributing, and to pass forward the hope of rescue from sin. She writes of redeeming grace with a sense of place. LoRee clings to 1 John 5:4 and prays her family sees that faith. She has authored the Frivolities Series and other e-books. Her desire for readers, the same as for her characters, is to discover where they fit in this life journey to best work out the Lord’s life plan. She is who she is by the grace of God: Christian, country girl, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend, and author. She’s been a reader since before kindergarten. Connect with LoRee through these links:

www.loreepeery.com

Twitter

Facebook

Find her publications at Pelican Book Group And Amazon

Friday’s Feature with Mary Felkins

Mary Felkins

Today I have Mary Felkins talking about her new book, Call to Love and answering a few questions. Welcome, Mary. Let’s get started.

Tell us about your favorite character in your new book.

Oh, my! This is as difficult as choosing from among my own children, but I admit to having had the most fun writing Stephen, Tom’s athletic, rascally, and witty 14-year old son. The inspiration for Stephen came from own son who was about the same age when I first started writing Call to Love. My son also had a close friend his age who was overly prideful at times. On occasion, Mrs. Felkins felt the need to bring him down a peg or two so I created “The Humility Score” mentioned in the book. I still keep in touch with my son’s friend and I still assign him a low score (on a scale of 1 – 10) if I think he’s getting a big head. Lots of fun and smiles with it!

Do you read the reviews and comments of your readers? How important are reviews to authors?

Yes, I do read them but wearing a mighty thick skin, realizing reviews are opinions as vast and unique as the people who write them. Most authors refuse to read reviews for fear of negative ones, but this being my debut, I think it’s important to get a feel for how my work has impacted readers so I can consider this for future books.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?

I could easily see a little of myself in every character, even the grumpy barista, Agnes Blumenshein of Co-Zee’s Coffee Shop. At the start, I spend a good bit of time creating my heroine and hero’s dark moment story from which they develop a wound, lie, and fear. While I may not have experienced the same event, I can often relate to the emotional impact it might have. As I write, the Spirit of God whispers through me, formulating thoughts that develop the character’s dialogue and emotion. My hero, Tom, is a divorced law enforcement officer left to raise his adolescent son on his own. Nothing of that is relatable to me personally, but the unforgiveness he bears toward his ex for leaving him high and dry is very relatable in other circumstances I’ve experienced.

Some people believe that being a published author is glamorous, is that true?

Ha. Glamorous is getting all gussied up and being whisked off to a big gala in a stretch limo, greeted by red carpet, doormen… cameras flashing. Not to say there aren’t glamorous moments associated with success, such as receiving an award on stage, but most of writing is a hard and, sometimes, lonely journey. In the quietness and obscurity associated with the call to write, all glory goes to God. There’s great sweetness in being obedient to it, knowing He is sovereign over where our words will go and to whom they will have impact.

Who are some of your favorite authors? Have you met any of them and found yourself having a fan-girl moment?

I’m a fan of Rachel Hauck and Susan May Warren’s writing. I’ve coached with these inspirational romance authors on several occasions during 5-day intensive writing retreats, Destin, Florida. In fact, the initial framework for Call to Love was created during brainstorming sessions with them.


    Call to Love

What if saying yes to love means trusting the kind of man you said you’d never marry?

What if pursuing a woman’s heart means restoring a painful past?

Tracy Cassidy, a fiercely independent ED nurse, must choose between her dream job or staying in her hometown to help support her mother’s faltering ministry. Even if it means risking her heart in love with the kind of man she said she’d never marry.

Why sign up to be Laurelton’s next cop widow?

Tom DeLaney, a hyper-vigilant cop and new hire from Texas, is wearied by years of failed rescue attempts to save his marriage to his ex. A free man, he moves to the foothills of North Carolina. Thing is, he hadn’t expected to fall for Tracy, his supervisor’s sister. But when his adolescent son is diagnosed with a chronic illness, he faces the risk of loving another woman with keep-out issues.

Fears related to the death of Tracy’s cop father and Tom’s inability to forgive the past threaten to sabotage any chance at love.

To trust again means surrender. Will they risk their hearts and answer the call?


Get your copy at any of these places

Amazon E-book https://amzn.to/2mZcLAb

Barnes&Noble https://bit.ly/2nm0TJ8

Apple Books https://apple.co/2mIzhNW

Google Play https://bit.ly/2nvoOWu

Pelican Book Store www.pelicanbookgroup.com


About Mary

Mary A. Felkins is an inspirational romance author, devotional writer, and contributor to an on-line Bible study magazine. Her debut, inspirational romance novel, Call To Love, (www.pelicanbookgroup) releases November 15th, 2019.

Raised in Houston, Texas–and forever a Lone Star girl-she and her husband Bruce moved to the foothills of North Carolina in 1997. They have four adolescent to young adult-ish children. She can be lured from her writing cave if presented with a large, unopened bag of Pnut M&Ms or to watch an episode of Fixer Upper. A surprise appearance by her teen idol, Donny Osmond, would also do the trick, although she’d likely pass out.

If, upon introduction, she likes your first or last name, expect to see it show up in one of her novels.

To receive Mary’s weekly story-style devotions and quarterly book news via email, subscribe on her website, www.maryfelkins.com

Friday’s Feature with Barbara Britton


Today I have Barbara Britton talking about her new book, Lioness. Barbara writes phenomenal Biblical fiction. She’s here today talking about the characters in her book and has even given us an excerpt to read.

Welcome, Barbara. Thank you for being here today.

Thank you for having me on the blog today, Theresa.

Tell us about your favorite character in your new book?

Mahlah is the main character in “Lioness,” and she has a lot on her shoulders as the eldest daughter of Zelophehad. When Mahlah and her sisters are orphaned, they make a bold “ask” for their father’s land (Numbers 27:1-11). Moses seeks God’s wisdom and God says the daughters are right. If a man dies without a son, his daughters inherit the family’s land. This was a huge change to the culture in Biblical times.

While Mahlah is steadfast and brave, I enjoyed writing the character of a mute shepherd named Jeremiah. I have a deaf family member and creating Jeremiah was a challenge but rewarding.

Do you read the reviews and comments of your readers?

Many authors have told me to avoid looking at reviews, but I always read reviews. Both the good reviews and the bad reviews tell me something about my writing. I find out what works and what doesn’t. Reviews are a window into my readership.

That being said, you have to be careful about reacting to reviews. I always say that not every book is for every reader. We all have our unique preferences in books. Some reviews can get personal and leap from not liking my story to questioning my walk with God. I remember the firm foundation that I stand on as a Christian and forget the personal attacks.

Reviews are very important to an author, especially on Amazon where they have algorithms to track the number of reviews a book has received. If you like a story, please leave a review. You can leave a review if you don’t like a story, but please stick to the facts and don’t get personal.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?

I think my character are much more interesting than I am. I don’t have to fight for rights to own land, or fight to rebuild a city, or go to war to conquer land. The Israelites in the Old Testament stories encountered many challenges. God was using them to be a light to the nations. That is a big undertaking with flawed people.

I have been a Christian for over four decades and my faith has grown through grief and battling cancer. My characters have a strong faith in God, and I hope I can add some of my

faith story to their story. Some of my characters encourage my own faith. I am in awe of the daughters of Zelophehad and their certainty that God would support their inheritance.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered this amazing story. I couldn’t imagine it had gone unnoticed in my Bible readings for so many years.

The daughters of Zelophehad will have a growing fan base with the release of “Lioness: Mahlah’s Journey.” Their bravery has been hidden in the book of Numbers for too long.


 

Lioness

While the Israelites struggle to occupy the Promised Land of God, Mahlah bat Zelophehad is orphaned and left to care for her four sisters. But daughters of the dead are unable to inherit land, and it will take a miracle for Mahlah to obtain the means to care for her sisters and uphold the vow she made to her dying mother.

Mahlah must seek Moses, the leader of her people, and request something extraordinary—the right for a daughter to inherit her deceased father’s land. A right that will upset the ox-cart of male inheritance and cast her in the role of a rebel.

But, God is the protector of the orphan and the widow, and five orphaned daughters need His help. With God, anything is possible. Even changing man’s tradition.


 

Excerpt:

Her future and that of her sisters, overflowed with uncertainty. Being the firstborn of Zelophehad left her with little standing in her clan. The elders of her tribe were set to scatter her sisters into different tents. Some as wives, and others as servants.

Mahlah tipped her chin toward a bright blue sky. Her chest tightened, making breaths difficult. “I don’t have a mother or a father, God? But you know that. You know the truth.”

Tears seeped from her eyes and streaked down her cheeks. She didn’t bother to brush them away.

“How can I honor the vow I made to my mother when no one will let me? I am nothing in the elders’ eyes now that my father is dead.”

A wisp of a cloud drifted overhead.

“Are You listening, Lord? I’ve seen Your cloud over the Tent of Meeting. Your pillar of fire leading our people.” She swallowed, her throat thick and raw. “I saw Moses lifting a serpent on a stick so Your people would be saved. Or could be saved.” She shook the images of her father’s bloated body from her vision. “I know You care.”

She glanced around to make sure no one witnessed this spectacle of a girl talking to a cloud. Hadn’t she already stirred the curiosity of the fighting men waiting outside the camp?

“I am not a son, but I swear I love You more than some who wear a loincloth.” She hiccupped as the tears flowed. “Help me, Lord. I am pushed aside while my family is forgotten.”

Did the sky brighten? A ray of light broke free from the small cloud and illuminated the ground at her feet. Were her eyes playing tricks on her? She blinked.

Another ray of light burst from the cloud.

“God? Is that You?”

Dropping to her knees, she flung her father’s cloak over the rock and lifted her arms toward the blinding light. She closed her eyes and allowed the warmth to heat her flesh.

“O God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, hear my prayer. I am a woman without husband, or standing, or means. My mother and father are gone.” Her chest heaved, choking her petition. “Who is going to take care of me and my sisters?”

I Am.

Mahlah’s eyes flew open. Someone had spoken. Had Reuben followed her?

She whipped around, but no man stood anywhere near her.

It couldn’t have been? Could it?

The cloud hovered overhead in an expanse of endless sky. Her soul emptied of sorrow and soared like a skylark breaking free from the white mass and darting toward the heavens.

“What am I to do, Lord? I love my sisters. They can be brash and silly, but I love them with all my heart. We’re a family.” She licked her lips, warmed by the sun’s rays. “God are You truly listening?”

I Am.

Again. She heard it.

That voice.

Forehead to dirt, she bowed. Heart racing. “Toda raba, Lord. Give me Your wisdom.”

She stayed low to the ground until her back cooled and her limbs stopped trembling. She glanced at the blue hues above her. The cloud had vanished.


About Barbara

Barbara M. Britton lives in Southeast Wisconsin and loves the snow—when it accumulates under three inches. Barb writes romantic adventures for teens and adults in the Christian fiction and Mainstream markets. She is published in Biblical fiction and enjoys bringing little known Bible characters to light in her stories. Barb is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Romance Writers of America and Wisconsin Romance Writers of America. She has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate. Find out more about Barb’s books at http://www.barbarambritton.com/books.html

 

Barb is on Twitter, Facebook, and BookBub

You can find her books on Amazon, B&N, and wherever books are sold.