Friday, January 31, 2014
Paulette Harper is an award-winning and best-selling author. She is the owner of Write Now Literary Virtual Book Tours and is passionate about helping authors succeed in publishing and marketing their books. Paulette has been writing and publishing books since 2008. Paulette is the author of That Was Then, This is Now, Completely Whole and The Sanctuary. Her articles have appeared on-line and in print.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
A link that is customized looks more professional than one that isn't, and people are more likely to click on it than a link with weird combinations of letters and numbers. Check out this video on the link below for how to do it. It's very simple.
Friday, January 24, 2014
Publisher: Eliza Earsman
Date of Publication: 2011 updated 2013
Scottish author Eliza Earsman is a committed Christian who enjoys family, clean air, and fresh people. Her autobiographical—sometimes brutally honest—depictions have helped to raise international awareness about Freemasonry.
One Day at a Time
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds
blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
Looking, as some might say, as if I’ve just hopped in from a turnip field, it’s always best not to confuse decency with stupidity.
I used to live with my husband and two daughters in a pleasant and reasonably sized sandstone Victorian semi-detached house at 42 New Abbey Road, Dumfries, Scotland. Four bedrooms, lounge, dining room, fully fitted kitchen, and bathroom—it was clean, bright, cheerful, and comfortably lived in. The dwelling was furnished with bunks, books, cats, plants, and children. The door to our cosy home was seldom closed for long for it was a welcoming place.
At the back was the garden—an expanse of earth, grass, and flagstones, sixty feet by forty feet, and mature. Vegetables thrived there, and honeysuckle and roses bloomed in profusion, sharing their fragrance in decency, daintiness, and delicacy with anyone who passed by. Our daughters tended their own small patch. The garden swing took up one small corner, and the rope from the tree swung low. In earlier days we’d used the sandpit often, and the children scattered toys about the lush green grass.
All in all, it was a safe place for children to play.
We parked our car at the end of the garden next to the large shed that bordered the greenhouse. The parking facility was good; it allowed for easy access. The forests were nearby, and beyond them sandy beaches hosted seashell-festooned shores, alive with picnics, driftwood, and campfires.
It was home.
What more can I say?
It was a peaceful home and a garden of solitude, sunshine, shade, and quiet. Sheltered from the main road at the front of the house, we spent tranquil evenings working in the garden or sitting in a companionable quietude, accepting the warmth and silence outside the home walls. Many a winter’s night I stood beneath the stars as I brought in frostbitten clothes from the drying line. November air was crisp! Life was serene but not dull—two growing children made sure of that.
That was before.
Now, in this unadulterated story, I show how I necessarily went from being a peaceful wife and mother to an older, and wiser, (but still peaceful) writer and pro-activist.
In 2002, as that older, wiser, and reasonably good-looking fifty-four-year-old, I lived—easily, I may say—in a shoddy and shabby Salvation Army hostel for the homeless. Food was kept in the cupboard under the sink and—brightened by effort—the ten-by-six-foot bedroom-cum-washroom/cum-anything-else room was reasonable for anyone not wanting or needing a home or family life.
In common with many, I’m not one.
“Hope House”, or “Hopeless House”, as it is known by those of us who have stayed there, serves also as a busy annex for those in transit from the “Riddrie Hilton”, the Victorian and (by all accounts) barbaric, Barlinnie Jail in Glasgow. Decent folk live in Hope House, Clyde Street, Glasgow, and so do many others. None of them has caused me any problems … so far.
For several years I have followed a direct and Almighty calling to stand against and expose the delusionary and unsustainable criminal practices of Freemasonry, commonly known as the Masonic fraternity.
I have no option.
If I don’t, we—as a family—go under. If I do, we go on.
If ever anyone wants to know why Britain is in the mess it’s in—brimming with corrupt leaders and maxed out on grime and crime—look at the size of the nation, and then look at the concentration of the malpractices within that nation.
The church is at fault, yes, but don’t disturb them. Oh, no, their walk is in tandem with the word, and the work, of the world.
Swimming against the tide of deliberate Masonic maliciousness and oppression, I have been shackled and held, filled full of anti-psychotic drug cocktails, and forced to slum/sleep in central London’s mucky shop doorways. I’ve been illegally detained and imprisoned. I have traveled far and wide, faced British Law Societies toe-to-toe—where naivety was shoved out the window—and I continued to speak the truth.
The cost has been great, but the privilege is greater. Life savings, home, family life, pension rights, and a number of work and educational opportunities have been sucked dry, but despite the warring factions, I will press on. There is too much involved to stop now, as I firmly pronounce in Chapter 15—“No Surrender!” Subsistence living in this situation only means that God-given talents have been suppressed, but they are not extinguished.
My message will not be extinguished. History and records are proving why.
The more I have had to deal with, the more has been brought to light. In opposition to having the details dealt with privately, Freemasons—and church leaders who have shown strong Masonic affiliations—have hindered that approach.
With an ultimate aim of establishing a “new world order”/one-world government and—via World War Three—another attempt at “the final solution” (remember Hitler?), Freemasons have forced an urgent and heightened global awareness. Days of Elijah: A True Story is certainly going a long way to providing that awareness as I recount gritty details that spurred my pen to paper!
Why Elijah? The figure Elijah plays an essential role in several prominent religions. As revered by the monotheistic faiths, the work of the Old Testament prophet Elijah is identifiable by Christians worldwide and also by Jews and Muslims. Elijah is known as Ilyas in the Koran. In 1 Kings 18 of The Holy Bible, Elijah’s tussle with the priests of Baal is recorded, and it is in context that he can easily identify, clarify, and discredit man’s polytheistic strategies. By Christian witness, I can vouchsafe that he is right.
Eschatological and historical evidence shows that the “end age” days of Elijah are in context and on time! Freemasonry is the loosely disguised cult of the Canaanite god Baal and the female branch of Freemasonry, the Eastern Star, is identical to the cult of Jezebel, wife of the Old Testament’s King Ahab.
Freemasonry—as the institutions, rites, and practices of Scottish Ritual Freemasons is known—is an international fraternity of deists housed in Lodges. It maintains a smokescreen of misinformation and engages in extensive criminal and speculative interconnections. It contains ambiguities that feed on the need for social prestige, brotherhood, and self-importance. Freemasonry employs occultism and symbolic forms of idolatry, borrowed principally from the stone and cathedral mason’s trade.
The “Grand Lodge of Scotland of Ancient, Free and Accepted Freemasons” (criminals) has its headquarters at 96 George Street, Edinburgh http://www.grandlodgescotland.com. In this book I emphasise the word “Ritual” as an expansion of the word “Rite”—and of the devious practices of “Rite” Freemasons. The word will be used throughout this book as a point of easy reference.It is noteworthy that this same Grand Lodge is the one at the seat of Scottish Ritual Freemasonry, which has spread its tentacles throughout the world. Satan’s desire is for world domination. It is no wonder that Scottish Ritual Freemasonry’s satanic intentions regarding “New World DISorder/scripted World War III” are now evident and becoming increasing public. It is no wonder also that there is and will continue to be accruing international dissidence.
For too long, the British Masonic empirical stock exchange has been aiming to oust the good old Scots’ customs of honesty and integrity. My grandfather knew that very well, along with his immediate line … such as myself. So do many others.
However, dim-witted as British Freemasons (of the cult of Baal) may be when brain cells are arrayed in all their glory, and satiated in the snake venom (poison) that tries to give corruption a different face, the “fiddlers rally” (gathering of thieves) is really not adept enough to keep their “knocking shop” (occult practices, séances, den of thieves) criminal activities hidden.
Scottish Ritual Freemasonry’s roots burrow deep near my hometown of Moffat, Scotland. Freemasonry has been very active in that small tourist town and the surrounding sheep farming areas of Dumfries and Lockerbie in southern Scotland. Hence the reasons for this book—to set the record and to further protect the innocent from their influence.
And hence the reason my great-great-grandfather, John Gibb Campbell, who was a master stonemason and sculptor in Glasgow, left in stewardship a financial legacy—and God-given teaching—quite specifically to the fourth generation of his female line.
That trust was to come to fruition in the fortieth year of that person.
I am that person. See Appendix D—there is no other in that generational line—and this is the true story of why.
Note: this information is expanded upon later in this book, but it is right that readers be aware, from the outset, of:
- The concentrated 1987 (my fortieth year) Masonic movement/“reshuffling” of properties in the Moffat, Lockerbie, and Dumfries areas, of Scotland, and the reasons for that movement. Details/names/addresses can be checked via for example a consolidated local reference point—the Dumfries Solicitors Property Centre—and via local newspaper property pages/archives.
- How easily the Masonic fraternity is pandered and catered to by those within the British police and legal systems, who are paid to withhold law and order.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Friday, January 17, 2014
The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman
The Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas September 2013
The Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas September 2013
The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman
Twenty years earlier
The shadow creatures on the wall shook their wings and legs. Heads with horns nodded. Scary, dark faces watched.
The little girl clasped her floppy-eared rabbit against her chest and stared into the dark.
“Mmm …” Mommy’s murmur reached to her through the walls, and the giggles from her mother tiptoed in, shooing away the fear.
Whoosh. She blew out a breath and squeezed her rabbit tighter. “Mommy has a friend with her, Ramsey. She loves me just like I love you and will give me hugs in the morning after the man leaves.”
Ramsey said nothing. She ran her fingers over his face and could feel his black button eyes staring at her, trusting her to protect him.
“And she’ll read to us, and I’ll sit on her lap and we’ll snuggle—all of us together.” She nodded and tugged on Ramsey’s left ear.
She rolled over.
Real live whispers and laughter floated into the room.
Opening her mouth in a wide yawn, she patted Ramsey’s tummy and whispered again, “Don’t be afraid. I’m right here.”
“Please. That hurts.”
“Mommy?” The little girl frowned but her eyes wouldn’t open. Just like when she and Mommy put cucumbers slices on their eyes.
Rubbing at her eyes, the little girl sat up. Mommy had never sounded like this before, and neither had any of the men—the men who brought flowers and candy and money. What were they doing? Maybe Mommy was angry at the man and had sent him away.
She slid her feet to the floor and hesitated. Mommy didn’t like her to leave her room whenever any man visited.
“Come on, Ramsey. We have to go check on Mommy.” She tucked her rabbit under her arm then padded barefoot to her door and edged it open. Mommy’s room was the next one, and a second later she’d tiptoed to it and pressed an ear to the crack. Someone grunted and whispered in an angry voice.
“Serves you right, whore.”
Horse? The little girl frowned. That wasn’t Mommy’s name. Was the man calling Mommy a bad name? She touched the door, and it swung open wider.
The man was on top of mommy, leaning over, his hands wrapped around—her neck.
The big eye on his arm glared at her, scaring her, making her want to run back to bed. But she had to help Mommy. Tiptoeing closer—behind the man—she peeked around him at her mother.
Mommy’s mouth was open as if she was screaming, but she wasn’t. Mommy stared at the man, her eyes wide and blank. Every once in a while he jerked her and said words Mommy always told her not to say.
She whimpered. “Mommy?”
The man’s head turned, his eyes scary and mean, and not at all like Mommy’s laughing ones. His lips twisted into a snarl. “Who are you? Are you this—is she your mother?”
His hands released their grip on Mommy’s neck. He crawled out of the bed, grabbed for a pair of pants, and slid into them, turning his back to her. Then he straightened.
She backed away and raised a fist to her mouth.
“Come here, girl.” His voice had softened, but not his eyes.
She backed another two steps and whispered. “Mommy?”
“Your mommy can’t talk right now.” The man flipped a glance at the still figure in the bed. “You have a pretty barrette in your hair. Come let me see.”
She lifted a hand to the barrette. Mommy always let her wear it when she was with a man ’cause it was a special treat for a special girl. “No.” She shook her head. “Go away. I don’t like you.”
The man growled and sprang at her. Ramsey dropped to the floor as she sobbed and dodged the groping hands. “I want my mommy.”
The man said a bad word and stopped chasing her. “Come here and let’s talk about your mother.”
Her mother hadn’t moved, hadn’t spoken. “Did you hurt her?”
“Of course not.”
“What’s wrong with her?”
“Your mother’s sick.”
“You hurt Mommy.”
Bad words spilled from his mouth in a steady stream.
She wanted to clap both hands over her ears. Mommy told her over and over she shouldn’t say those kinds of words.
He folded his arms across his chest, the big eye rippling on his arm, never blinking, only staring. “You keep your mouth shut. Do you hear me?”
She closed her eyes and opened them—fast. The eye still stared.
“If you talk, your mommy will die. Do you want to kill her? Do you?” His lips spread into a clown’s grin.
Her stomach hurt. Her eyes burned.
Go away, you.
All she wanted was to climb on Mommy’s lap and have this bad man go away.
“Remember, it’ll be your fault if she dies, and everyone will know you killed your mother.”
No. She didn’t want to kill Mommy.
He eased forward, crept closer, capturing her, holding her tight with his eyes. Like the snake that’d almost bitten her last summer.
His hand shot out and touched her shoulder.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Making an audiobook is not as daunting as it sounds. All you need is a computer and an IC recorder. After installing the editing software onto your computer (that comes on a disc when you buy your hand-held IC recorder), you can narrate your own audiobook. Basically, the only expense involved was the purchase of the IC recorder from Best Buy, which also included the software to edit the audio-files. The total cost was about $39.
What is the advantage of you, the author, recording your own audiobook? You save the money of paying a narrator. However, it’s more than just financial. Recently I was talking about my YA Christian fantasy book Seventh Dimension – The Door to a friend. I asked him if he would read it and give me some feedback before I published it. He said, “If you give me the book as an audiobook, I will listen to it in the car when I drive to work.”
Did I want to narrate my own book? It’s time-consuming for one thing, and would anyone want to listen to me anyway? When I told him how I felt, he said, “I much prefer to listen to an author narrate his own book.” He continued, “In fact, almost all of the books I’ve listened to have been narrated by the author, including John MacArthur and Richard Stearns (Hole in the Gospel).”
I paused when he said those two names—suddenly the idea of narrating Seventh Dimension – The Door seemed more appealing. I didn’t have to have the voice of an actress to make an audiobook.
My friend continued, “The author is just sitting in a chair reading his book—nothing fancy.”
I went home and gave it some thought. I had narrated one chapter from my Children of Dreams book and posted it on my website, but I would cringe every time I listened to the recording. I’d pick it apart mercilessly—after all, I am not a trained narrator; but I had to agree with my friend, if I were to listen to an audiobook, I would rather listen to the author narrate his or her own book than even an excellent narrator.
I hunted around to find my long, lost IC recorder in my closet, eventually found the disc, and shoved it into my computer. Surprisingly, everything worked—even the IC recorder with the three-year-old batteries.
I had picked up a few tips about how to record an audiobook and I tried dictating the first chapter. Yuck—I sounded like I was dying—I was too nervous. The hardest part was getting used to hearing my own voice. After a few more false starts, I finished one chapter that didn’t seem too bad. I told myself, with a little more practice, I would get better at it
If you are willing to try, let me share with you how I did it. I now have an audiobook of Seventh Dimension – The Door listed at http://audible.com, http://amazon.com, http://itunes.com and https://www.acx.com/. My audiobook became available a couple of days ago and yesterday my first sale was posted. If you are ready to get started, here is what I did.
First, go to Best Buy or another similar store and buy a handheld recording device. I bought a Sony IC Recorder for $39.99 (that is now three years old). Then you will need to look at the instructions and learn how to turn it on and off. The hardest part is figuring out how to use the thing. At least it was for me. I get frustrated with technical gadgets that have more than one button to push.
Here are two important hints. First, find a set of earplugs similar to what you would use to listen to music on an iPhone. It doesn’t have to be one of those bulky ones. The earphones will allow you to hear your voice and the sound quality of the recording. You will be able to detect any outside noise that might be picked up as you are narrating. Turn off your computer, an overhead fan, or anything nearby that might make any noise (even a purring cat). The closet works quite well. Make sure you tell your kids what you are doing so they won’t disturb you. It’s not much fun to have to start over because your child’s voice has been included in your book narration.
Don’t narrate your book off a computer screen. The recorder will pick up the humming from the computer. Mine sounds like a jet engine sometimes, so I had to turn it off. I had my book printed and bound in a three-ring binder so I could easily turn the pages without making a sound. That cost me about $25. You can squeeze a lot of lines front and back on an 8-by-11 sheet of paper, thus reducing the number of page turns.
You want to split up your chapters by recording session. In other words, between each chapter, stop and make an audio “chapter break” or “file break.” Later, these chapters will be merged into one or two or three files, depending on the length, but you need to break down the book into chapters as you are narrating. At http://acx.com the site will ask you to upload each chapter individually. So to make it easier later, split up your files by chapter. You will also need to make a separate file for the opening credits and the closing credits. In the opening credits, you will say the name of your book, the ISBN number, and some other identifying information that ACX will ask that you provide. In the closing credits, you can say something like, “This is the end of my book and thank you for listening.”
Now, there is a wee bit of technical information I need to cover, but don’t let it deter you. If I can do this, anybody can. In order to meet the audio quality for ACX, you will need to make sure your audio recording meets professional standards. Here is a quote from the ACX website.
Audiobooks should be recorded in 16 bit / 44.1 kHz wav file format, which is considered CD quality and is best for archiving. Once you have fully produced your audio file it should be saved as a 192kbps mp3. This is the format that you will upload to ACX. Generally, audiobooks are recorded by one of two methods.
It’s not as bad as it sounds. First, if you have bought a new device for recording that is not the cheapest thing hanging on the Best Buy sales rack, chances are it will record at 16 bit / 44.1 kHz or better, so you won’t need to worry about what all that jargon means. How can you determine if yours does?
On the editor software that came with your IC recorder, you should be able to tell. Once you upload your audio-files (chapters) from the IC recorder to your computer via the cord included in the box (assuming you have inserted the disc into the computer and installed the editing software already), you should see your files listed similar to how mine are listed: file name, mode, user/artist, message name and recording date. You want to look under the mode, and it should tell you something that looks like this: SP (44.1kHz …) If you have that, you can keep going. Give yourself a pat on the back.
Unfortunately, I discovered that while I had no issue with the 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, I did have an issue with the 192 kbps (the number that follows the 44.1 kHz). 192 kbps is the minimum standard for CD sound quality. I exhaled deeply when I read this because Seventh Dimension – The Door was not recorded at 192 kbps. What could I do besides re-narrate my whole book? If this is an issue for you also, be patient. You can fix this, and I will tell you how.
First, though, in order to remedy this, you need to download your chapter narrations onto CDs. If your book is more than 70 minutes long, you will need multiple CDs. I needed six for Seventh Dimension – The Door. Do this now so you will be set up for the next step. (If your recording was done at 192 kbps, you can skip the next two paragraphs).
After your book is copied onto CDs (make sure you label the CDs in order), reinsert your first CD back into the computer.
Here’s how I found out how to do this. I went to YouTube and did a search for “How do I convert an audio file to 192 kbps?” I found a video recording by a knowledgeable DJ who showed me how to do this using iTunes. He had to repeat himself a few times because he forgot some steps, and on his third repeat, profusely apologized for his not-so-perfect video. By the third time, though, I actually “got it” and could do it myself.
Here is how you can convert an audio file to 192 kbps. Go to iTunes through your computer—everyone has iTunes loaded on their computer that I know of, but if you don’t, now is the time to download it off the Internet and install it. Once you are ready, click the iTunes icon on your computer and you will be taken to a screen that will have iTunes Library in the upper right-hand corner. In the left-hand corner, you will have an option in your library for music, podcasts, books, apps, and audio CD. You want to click on CD. You might need to use the up arrow or down arrow to get to the option for CD.
Now go back to the right-hand corner, and underneath iTunes Store will be a down arrow for import CD. Click on that. A small new screen will open up with some options. For import, choose MP 3 encoder. For the setting, use high quality, 192 kbps. Go ahead and check mark for “error correcting when reading audio CDs” and then click okay. iTunes will now convert and import your audio files from your CD for your book at 192kbps. You will need to do this for each disc.
Now you have all of your audio-files—opening credits, each chapter, and your closing credits—uploaded on your computer at 192 kbps at 44.1 kHz.
You are ready to go to http://acx.com and upload your audiobook one chapter at a time. Initially, of course, you will need to create an account with ACX and enter some other preliminary information, but you are well on your way to creating an audiobook you can sell.
After you upload your audiobook, ACX will review your audiobook and make sure everything is in order. Once ACX approves your recording, they will distribute it for you on several sites including Amazon.
One other minor detail I don’t want to forget to mention is that the cover of your audiobook needs to be square and not the traditional book size. ACX will reject any cover that is not sized correctly, so make sure you do that ahead of time. You don’t want to get “stuck” like I did. When my book cover designer does my next book cover, I will ask her to create a square cover also so I will have it when I narrate and upload my audiobook.
More and more people are listening to audiobooks, particularly those in the upper socioeconomic classes. You can listen to audiobooks through iPhones, iPads, Kindles, computers, and CDs. Audiobooks are another way to add to your passive income. As my friend told me after listening to my audiobook, “I feel like you have been with me all week in the car,” there is something intimate about hearing an author’s voice read his book. It’s another way for readers to connect with the author personally and feel like they “know” you through your story.
To get in audiobook format on Amazon, go to: Seventh Dimension - The Door in Audiobook
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Writing for the Soul Conference
February 13-16, 2014
The Broadmoor Hotel
Colorado Springs CO
The Broadmoor Hotel
Colorado Springs CO
A New Kind of Conference for a New Era in Publishing
The publishing world has changed, so it’s time for a new kind of writers conference. I’m pleased to announce a new format for Writing for the Soul.
We’ve tightened the focus. We’ll concentrate on classes for people writing books. You’ll benefit from deeper courses on crafting powerful fiction and nonfiction.
I’ve also invited experts in platform building who will guide you in promoting yourself and your books. You’ll learn not only about effective speaking and interviews, but also about using the latest techniques with blogs, websites, and social media.
Come prepared to learn. We’ll pack Friday and Saturday with six class times each day. Each hour you’ll have a choice of six courses in four professional tracks-totaling more than 70 individual sessions—taught by an all-star faculty.
Teaching faculty includes:
- James Scott Bell (fiction)
- Laura Christianson (promotion & marketing)
- Brandilyn Collins (fiction)
- Dennis E. Hensley (nonfiction, craft & career)
- Bob Hostetler (nonfiction, craft & career)
- Angela Hunt (fiction)
- Julie-Allyson Ieron (nonfiction, craft & career, promotion & marketing)
- Randy Ingermanson (fiction, promotion & marketing)
- Julie Neils (promotion & marketing)
- Karen O’Connor (nonfiction, craft & career)
- Andy Scheer (craft & career)
- Dave Sheets (promotion & marketing)
- McNair Wilson (promotion & marketing)
Renew your creativity as your learn new techniques, pursue your dreams, and network with other writers—from beginners to pros.
Come to Writing for the Soul at The Broadmoor! Supercharge your career and spend time with like-minded people. For fresh inspiration and the best writing instruction available, register online or call toll free at 866.495.5177.
For more information go to: https://www.christianwritersguild.com/conference/
Friday, January 10, 2014
(book III in the trilogy)
by Deborah Heal
“Did Doug say how long this is going to take?” Abby said, blowing her bangs out of her eyes. “And remind me. Why exactly are we using this antique instead of an electric one?”
“He said using an electric ice cream maker meant it didn’t count as homemade,” John said, wiping his forehead with first his left T-shirt sleeve and then his right.
“Really. And I’m supposed to crank until I can’t turn it anymore.”
The day was typical for southern Illinois in late August: hot and humid. At least she was sitting on an icy, albeit uncomfortable, seat in the shady pavilion. Doug Buchanan had to be sweltering out in the sun where he manned the deep-fat fryer along with three of his cousins. Wearing a Cardinals cap to keep the sun off his balding head and an apron that said, “Kiss the Cook,” Doug looked so friendly and benign that Abby wondered again how she had ever thought of him as The Hulk.
One of Doug’s cousins gestured their way and said something that she couldn’t make out. Whatever it was made the other men laugh.
A short distance away, under the shade of a maple tree, Jason and Jackson, Doug’s twin teenage sons were practicing their washer-throwing skills in preparation for the tournament to be held tomorrow. The washers clinked and clacked, depending upon how, or whether, they hit the sand-filled wooden boxes. Those sounds along with the rhythm of the turning crank and the hot afternoon made Abby drowsy, and she surveyed the activities going on around her through a sleepy haze.
Next to them, Doug’s wife Dora and a dozen other Buchanan women began unpacking coolers and setting out dish after dish onto the groaning picnic tables under Alton City Park Pavilion #1. Abby turned and smiled at the look on John’s face as cakes, pies, bowls of watermelon chunks, and dozens of other goodies made their appearance.
“Hey, Dora, is that potato salad?” he asked.
“Yep,” she said with a wide smile. “And I brought macaroni salad and deviled eggs.”
John sighed blissfully.
“This is nothing. Wait’ll tomorrow,” Doug called to them. “That’s when the ladies go all out. I heard Aunt Hil’s making her chocolate chip cake.”
Under the second pavilion reserved for the event, Eulah and Beulah played dominoes with several of the other elderly relatives. Fanning themselves with paper plates, they chattered happily while they waited their turns.
Abby smiled and a wave of contentment washed over her, knowing that she had been instrumental in getting the Old Dears in touch with their Buchanan relatives. And now the 85-year-old twins were at their first-ever family reunion.
Eleven-year-old Merri came over, panting and red-faced, but smiling. On each arm clung—as they had from the first half hour there—an adoring little girl. One little blonde looked about four, the other about six.
“What are you doing?” Abby asked.
“We’re taking a break from the kiddie games,” Merri said. “I’m hot.”
Merri was a different girl from the one Abby had met when she had arrived at the beginning of summer to be her tutor. Naturally, she still had her moments of sadness and snarky attitude. After all, her mother was hardly ever around and her father was serving time in Joliet Prison. But Eulah and Beulah had made her their pretend granddaughter and invited her to come along to the Buchanan reunion.
Abby pushed Merri’s hair away from her sweaty face and grinned. “It’s hard work being an honorary cousin, isn’t it?”
Merri frowned, but it was easy to see she loved the little girls’ attention. “Yeah, tell me about it,” she said. “Is the ice cream about done?”
“Not quite,” John said. “I can still turn the crank. Slowly, but still.”
“Come on, Mewwi,” the smaller girl lisped. “Let’s go swing on the swings.”
“Okay,” Merri said good-naturedly. She turned to look back as she was being dragged away. “But don’t forget, John. You’re on my team in the water balloon war.”
“I won’t forget, squirt.”
Abby lifted her hair and waited for a breeze to cool her own sweaty neck.
John blew gently and then leaned down to kiss it. “Watch out, girlie. That’s what led to the ice incident before.”
Earlier John had put a piece of ice down the back of her T-shirt, which had made her leap up from the ice cream churn with a squeal. He had chased her around the pavilion threatening her with more ice until she told him to behave or he’d have to get someone else to help.
John’s breath on her neck did anything but cool her off. Abby leaned back and kissed his cheek. “Just stick to your job, ice cream boy.”
Doug Buchanan brought a huge platter of fried fish over and handed it to his wife. “Is the ice cream about done, John?”
“I’m still cranking.”
Doug laughed and glanced back at his grinning cousins. “You can stop now. Anyone else would have quit a half hour ago. Anyone with normal-sized muscles, anyway.”
“Dang it, Doug!” John said. “I think my arm may fall off.”
Abby rose from her bumpy perch and rubbed her sore rear. “Yes, and a certain part of my anatomy.”
Doug packed the ice cream maker with more ice and covered it with thick blankets. Then, after conferring with the women about the readiness of the food, he put his fingers to his mouth and whistled for everyone to come and eat.
After Reverend Goodson, the Old Dears’ pastor, prayed an uncharacteristically short prayer, Merri and a gaggle of other kids converged on the food table. Dora shooed them back and invited the oldest members of the family, including Eulah and Beulah, to fill their plates first. John held Eulah’s plate while she made her selections, and Abby held Beulah’s, and then they helped the ladies onto the awkward picnic benches near their friends.
Then she and John filled their plates and went to sit by Merri.
“What’s that pinky fluffy stuff?” John said, pointing to Merri’s plate.
“Dora said it’s a salad, but it tastes good enough to be dessert.”
“Sounds good to me,” he said after he had swallowed what looked to Abby like a mountain-sized bite of potato salad. “I’m going to get some on my next trip.”
“This is going to take a while, isn’t it?” Abby said.
“Yep,” John said.
“Could you try to hurry?” Merri said. “Me and Abby have to—”
“Abby and I,” Abby said.
“Whatever,” Merri said. “Anyway, we have to get home and get ready for our girls’ night with Kate. We’re going to make snickerdoodles and—”
“You are?” he said. “Bless you, my child. You know how I love snickerdoodles.”
“Well, you’re not a girl, John,” Merri explained earnestly. “So you know you can’t come to our girls’ night, right?”
“Yeah, John,” Abby said, patting his bicep. “You’re definitely not a girl.”
“That’s okay, Merri,” he said. “I’ll survive.”
“Merri, you’re going to love Kate,” Abby said. “She’s a riot.”
“That doesn’t sound good.”
Abby laughed. “I mean, she’s a lot of fun. She always thinks of something crazy to do.”
After Abby’s disastrous roommate her freshman year at Ambassador College, Kate had been a Godsend. After only a few weeks as sophomores, they had become best friends. They didn’t share any classes together since Kate was majoring in art and Abby in elementary education. But together they had explored Chicago’s art museums to Kate’s delight, and bookstores and coffee shops to Abby’s.
While it was true that Kate’s personality was so different from her own, Abby knew they each brought balance to the friendship. As for herself, she needed to stop being so serious all the time, to lighten up and go with the flow once in a while. When Kate had decided to wear outdated and mismatched polyester clothes from the thrift store to the dining hall just to see people’s faces, Abby had gone along with the joke. Seeing the reactions had been educational, like one of the experiments in her sociology class. And it had been amazingly freeing to do something spontaneous and random.
But sometimes Kate needed Abby to be the voice of reason. When Kate got the idea to paint their dorm room purple suddenly after chapel one day, Abby had reminded her that she had a test to study for and that they’d have to pay a small fortune in primer and paint to convert the walls back to boring white for the next students to occupy 205b Whitaker Hall.
Kate’s visit today was another example of her spontaneity. Abby had been trying to get Kate to come visit for weeks, but she had been caught up in a project with her mother and unable to get away. Then, just two hours ago, she’d texted to say she was coming. Now. But instead of spending their time together at Merri’s house as they had planned all along, Kate had proposed a “friend-fest weekend in Equality,” which according to John was a tiny, Podunk town three hours southeast of Alton.
She would have to talk Kate down from that hare-brained idea when she got there.
“Look at the idiot,” John said, gesturing with a thumb.
An electric blue PT Cruiser roared down the gravel road toward them, slowing only minimally before skidding to a stop alongside the pavilions.
White dust coated the windshield, and Abby couldn’t see the car’s occupants. But she recognized the ARTCRZY license plate and began to disentangle herself from the picnic table. “That idiot would be Kate,” she said with a laugh.
“Oh. Sorry.” John wiped his hands and rose from the picnic table.
“Come on, both of you,” Abby said. “I want to introduce you.”
Merri wiggled out of her space at the picnic table and went to stand expectantly at Abby’s side. “I thought she wasn’t supposed to be here until tonight.”
“She wasn’t,” Abby said. “But that’s Kate for you.”
The car door opened, and Kate stepped out and rushed toward Abby. She was wearing a pristine white sundress and heeled sandals. Her hair was a shining mahogany mane that fell half way down her back.
Abby threw her arms around her friend. “You look fabulous. How did you find us?”
“We went to the house first, and Merri’s mom told us where you were.”
“It seems like ages since the beginning of summer break. Wait a minute,” Abby said, pulling back to look into Kate’s face. “We? We who?” Then, over her shoulder she saw Kate’s boyfriend unfolding his tall, lanky frame from the passenger seat. His polo shirt was the same brilliant white of Kate’s dress, and he wore charcoal gray tailored slacks.
Abby felt a quick burst of disappointment and shot a look at Kate, but she was looking at Ryan as if he were the best thing since the invention of air conditioning. She must have gone spontaneous again and decided to bring him along. So much for their girls-only weekend.
Abby pasted on a smile and said, “Ryan. You came too. Good. I want you to meet Merri and John. Guys, this is my infamous roommate Kate Greenfield and her boyfriend Ryan Turner.”
Ryan and John shook hands, but Kate thrust hers in Abby’s face. “Not boyfriend anymore—fiancé! I told you he was going to ask. Isn’t it gorgeous?”
The sun glinted off a huge diamond ring on Kate’s left hand. “You’re engaged? You didn’t tell me.” Abby shook her head to clear it. “I mean, yes, it’s gorgeous.”
“I wanted to surprise you. I’ve been dying to tell you ever since Ryan popped the question last weekend.”
Abby hugged her again. “Have you set a date?”
Ryan smiled contentedly. “Next June after Kathryn graduates,” he said with an indulgent smile. “One and a half carets of sparkle to hold her until then.” He put an arm around Kate’s neck and kissed her temple. “But don’t worry, Kathryn. I promise to upsize it as soon as I get my law practice.”
“Ryan just graduated from the pre-law program at the University of Illinois,” Abby explained to John.
“Really? I’ve never seen you around.”
“Chicago campus,” Ryan said. “I think Kate said you’re at Urbana?”
“That’s right. Where will you go to law school?”
“Loyola,” Ryan said. “It’s really the only choice.”
“Do you really think so?” John said. “I have my eye on Kent.”
Ryan pushed a strand of silky dark brown hair back from his face. It was similar in color and texture to John’s, only freakishly perfect in cut and style.
Kate pulled her to the side and said in what passed for her version of a whisper, “Why didn’t you tell me how hot John is? Wow! No wonder you’ve been going crazy for him. We could have a double wedding, Abby.”
Abby blinked in panic, but sneaking a look at the guys, she saw that they were still talking about law schools. Hopefully, John hadn’t heard Kate’s outrageous comment. “Kate! We’ve only known each other for a few weeks.”
Kate just smiled knowingly and then turned and held out a hand to Merri. “You must be Merri,” she said. “Abby’s told me so much about you.”
Merri shook her hand, her expression changing to uncertainty. “Uh, really?”
“Really,” Kate said. “About how smart you are, and nice.”
Merri’s face brightened. “Abby told me about you, too. We’re going to my house after this.”
“I’m looking forward to it.”
“Come on, let’s get you guys some food first,” Abby said. “Wait until you see the selection.”
“How about if John and I go get food so you two can get started gabbing?” Ryan said.
“You’re so thoughtful.” Kate patted his arm.
When the guys were lost in the crowd, Abby said, “Another imaginary star on Ryan’s imaginary chart?”
Kate grinned. “He just keeps on racking them up.”
“John, too,” Abby said. “I’ve lost track of how many stars he’s collected this week. But, hey, you’re the one with stars—in your eyes.” She put her arms around Kate and squeezed again. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
“Do you think I should tell Ryan about his chart—you know, since we’re engaged now?”
“No way! Well, at least not here with John around.” As far as Abby was concerned, the fact that they had been rating them as possible marriage material was something they never needed to know about.
Merri smiled slyly. “Hmmm. You’d better be nice to me.”
“Come on, brat,” Abby said, edging her way past a man carrying two heaping plates. “Let’s show Kate where we’re sitting.”
Abby was glad that she’d worn shorts. Hiking first one leg and then the other over the picnic table bench, she managed to sit down halfway gracefully and then glanced doubtfully at Kate’s skinny white dress.
Seeing her look, Kate said, “Don’t worry. I’m the queen of picnic table sitting. I did a lot of contortions wearing fancy dresses when I ran for Miss Sangamon County. I didn’t win the crown, but I did pick up this skill. Watch and learn.”
Kate pulled it off gracefully, quickly, and without once flashing her underwear.
“Amazing,” Abby said. “I can’t imagine why they didn’t pick you for queen. So quick, tell me all about it before the guys get back. Did Ryan get down on one knee when he proposed?”
“Yes, he did. Of course, he asked the waiter to bring an extra napkin to kneel on so he wouldn’t mess up his pants. He took me to Sixteen in the Trump Tower. It looks out over the lights of downtown Chicago. It was so romantic. I wish you could have been there. Well, not really. But you know what I mean.”
“Did they have waiters in tuxedos,” Merri asked. “I always thought that’d be cool.”
“They did,” Kate said, grinning at Merri. “And it was cool.”
“Did he hide the ring in your dessert,” Merri asked.
“No, I don’t think that’s Ryan’s style,” Kate said, laughing. “But it was wrapped in beautiful paper and ribbons. I nearly fainted when I opened the box and saw the size of the diamond.” She held her ring out for them to admire again.
“Kathryn, you’re going to ruin your Manuela sitting on that picnic bench.” Ryan was back with two plates. A small frown marred his handsome face for a moment and then was gone.
“It’ll be fine,” Kate said.
“Hey, Merri Christmas, move over,” John said.
When she had scooted over, Merri looked up at Ryan. “What’s a Manuela?”
John and Ryan set the plates they carried on the table and then squeezed in at the picnic table.
Kate smiled her thanks and answered the question for Ryan. “Manuela is a designer from New York,” she explained. “I’m wearing one of her dresses.”
“I bought that dress for Kathryn last weekend in Chicago. It set me back three hundred dollars.” He smiled down at Kate. “But she’s worth every penny.”
Abby concentrated on keeping a pleasant expression on her face. People who dropped price tags into a conversation never impressed her. It was a pretty dress but not Kate’s usual casual style. And she wasn’t wearing the bright, funky jewelry she usually did—jewelry she had designed, created, and made a small business of selling on campus.
Kate looked from John’s plate heaped high with fried fish and various side dishes to the plate of raw broccoli and carrot sticks Ryan had put in front of her. “Where’s the food, Ryan?”
“Oh, drat. Is all the good stuff gone?” Abby asked.
“I assumed you wouldn’t want any of it, Kathryn. It’s all loaded with carbs and fat.”
“Well, I do,” Merri declared and headed back to the food table with her plate.
Ryan watched Merri leave and muttered something that Abby didn’t quite catch. It sounded like, “I rest my case.”
Abby blinked. She waited for her roomie to say she loved carbs and fat. That she lived for carbs and fat. That her favorite entertainment was carbs and fat.
But Kate merely smoothed the front of her dress and smiled. “You’re right, Ryan.”
“We’ll get something later in the city.” Ryan took a meager bite of fruit salad from his plate. “I was reading online about St. Charles and the downtown St. Louis scene. Sounds like there are a few decent restaurants around.”
“Yeah,” John said drily, “they have a few.”
“We want you to come celebrate with us,” Kate said.
Ryan patted his lips with a napkin and took out his phone. “You, too, Roberts, of course. I’ll make reservations. Is seven o’clock all right?”
“And then, after dinner,” Kate said, “we can zip on down to Equality so that tomorrow we’ll have all day to—”
“About that. What made you choose Equality for our little friend-fest weekend,” Abby said, using air quotes. “John says it’s just a tiny town.”
“Tiny town, but a big help with my project. At least I hope so.”
“Kate says you have some kind of weird genealogy program.” Ryan’s voice rose at the end and Abby wasn’t sure if he was making a statement or asking a question.
“That’s not what Beautiful House is… not exactly.”
“It’s all your fault, Abby,” Kate said. “I made the mistake of telling Mom about your adventures with the Old Dears’ genealogy. Now she is obsessed with tracing our family tree. But we came to a dead end with the Greenfield side of the family. Since you got us hooked, it’s only fair you lend us your expertise.”
“Genealogy is kind of addictive,” Abby said. “And Eulah and Beulah are so happy we found their Buchanan relatives for them.”
“Mom wants me to paint a wall mural of our family tree in Dad’s den as a surprise. Here, let me show you what I had in mind.” Kate took a pen from her purse and began sketching a whimsical tree on a paper napkin. “I thought I’d draw faces on the leaves. And each person will have some sort of item symbolizing them. Like for me, I’ll put a paint brush to show my love for art.”
In mere seconds, Kate had drawn an amazingly detailed sketch, and as always Abby was astounded by her talent.
“That is so cool,” Merri said, returning with a plate of mostly potato chips and pink fluffy salad.
Kate smiled. “Thanks, sweetie. But it won’t look very cool if it’s all lopsided. And I’m running out of time. The only opportunity I’ll have to paint it is next month while Mom and Dad are gone to Colorado on vacation. So that’s why I thought if you went with us and we used the program…”
Abby shot a meaningful look at Kate, willing her to stop talking. Fortunately, she seemed to get the message.
“Let’s talk about it later,” Abby said, tipping her head toward Merri. Whether or not she agreed to go along with them to Equality, it sounded like the girls-only night was off the agenda, and she needed time to figure out how to tell Merri.
Abby glanced at John for his take. He didn’t look happy. It was flattering to think he was disappointed that she’d be gone for the weekend. But then he was probably only worried about losing control of the program.
Abby had been telling Kate about Beautiful House and all they’d uncovered with it for the past two and a half months. And for those two and a half months, Kate had steadfastly insisted Abby was joking about the program’s abilities. Eventually, she had decided it was just as well Kate didn’t believe her because they had begun to realize how dangerous it would be if the program fell into the wrong hands.
But now that Kate had finally come, she couldn’t resist setting her straight. “Listen to me,” she said, putting her face up to Kate’s. “Look at my face. Read my lips. Notice that I’m not kidding around. This is not ordinary genealogy software. It—”
“It no longer works,” John said, staring at Abby behind Kate’s back. “Not right anyway, not since the Fourth of July.”
“But it does still work a little?” Kate said hopefully.
“Yes, but—” John said.
“Great,” Ryan said. “Let’s go have a look at it.”
“Okay,” Abby said, shrugging her shoulders at the look John gave her. “But first I want you to meet the Old Dears. There they are at the far end of the pavilion.”
The twins, in their identical lavender pants and sequined tops, stood one on either side of Doug Buchanan, as he struggled with a karaoke microphone.
“Aren’t they cute,” Kate said, laughing. “How do you ever tell them apart?”
“Beaulah’s always cheerful and Eulah’s…not so much.”
The microphone squealed. “Test, test, test,” Doug said into it. “Can you hear me in the back?”
A woman behind them called out, “Louder, Dougie.”
A man two tables over called out, “Hey, if you’re taking requests, I want Proud Mary.”
The crowd laughed, and Ryan rolled his eyes. “If they’re going to start singing, I’m leaving.”
“No, wait,” Abby said. “Doug’s up to something.”
“By now,” Doug said, “you’ve all met these two sweet ladies. Now, it’s time to welcome them officially into the Buchanan clan.” One of Doug’s sons handed each beaming lady a yellow T-shirt.
Grinning happily, the Old Dears held up the shirts so the audience could see that printed on the fronts were the words, I Survived My First Buchanan Reunion. The crowd erupted in applause and whistles.
“And we put their names on the back so you can tell them apart,” Doug continued.
The cheers turned to laughter when the audience realized the twins had been handed the wrong shirts. After trading, Eulah and Beulah held the shirts up again for everyone to see their names in blue script. Doug went on to remind everyone to be back tomorrow for more great food, the water balloon war, the quilt auction, and the washer tournament.
“Can we leave now?” Kate asked. “I can’t wait to try out your program.”
“You sure you don’t want to stick around?” Ryan said in a fake southern accent. “I have a hankerin’ to play worshers. I bet you five dollars I can whup you, too.”
“Okay. I guess we can leave now,” Abby said. She had looked forward to Kate meeting the ladies, but Eulah and Beulah would have lots of questions that were bound to take more time than Kate—and especially Ryan—would want to spend.
On the way to their cars, John waited until Kate and Ryan were out of earshot. “I thought we agreed not to let anyone else in on this until we could figure out what to do with the program. You know how dangerous it could be if this gets out.”
“Yeah,” Merri said. “That’s the first rule. Besides, we’re the three musketeers. Whoever heard of the five musketeers?”
“I know, I know,” Abby said. “I don’t know what came over me. Kate’s always been so…so…annoying about it, an agnostic, you might say. I don’t know what made her change her mind, and I had no idea she had told Ryan about it.”
“Speaking of which, how well do you know Turner?”
“I’ve only met him a few times when he came to campus to visit Kate. He seemed nice enough. Then.”
“I think he’s a jackass,” Merri declared.
John snorted a laugh. “Yeah, you’re right about that, squirt. But don’t say that word, okay?”
“We just have to give it time,” Abby said. “Maybe he’ll grow on us.”
“Well, until he does,” John said, “I think we should stall on showing them the program.”
“Why?” Merri said. “Now that it’s not working right, all they’ll see is a bunch of houses from around the world.”
“It won’t hurt for them to see that,” Abby said, “We just won’t mention that the way we helped Eulah and Beulah fill out their family tree was by time-surfing back to meet their ancestors.
Deborah Heal is the author of the YA Time and Again virtual time travel trilogy, which has been described as “Back to the Future with a dash of Seventh Heaven.”