It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
The Wild Rose Press (November 21, 2008)
In Robin's words:
I am the Special Education Coordinator for Denton County Juvenile Justice Alternative Program. I work with at risk teens from fifth grade through high school. My husband and I have been married for thirty-one years and we have two grown children. The first two years of marriage, Rick and I traveled overseas as missionaries. Afterwards we served as pastors of a church in Illinois. Presently we live near Dallas, Texas. He is in business and I work for the school system. (My husband still makes yearly mission trips to India.)
To date, my literary works include approximately two hundred articles in magazines such as: Guideposts, Live, Lookout, Mennonite, Christian Reader, Decision, Breakthrough and Christianity Today. Other short stories appear in the books: A Match Made in Heaven, Stories from the Heart, The Evolving Woman, and the New York Times bestseller, In The Arms of Angels by Joan Wester-Anderson. Ann Spangler also used one of my stories in her book, Help! I Can’t Stop Laughing. Another two-dozen stories have been published in the Chicken Soup books. One story, Mom’s Last Laugh, was re-enacted for a PAX-TV program: It’s a Miracle. I co-authored a thriller, The Chase, for Revell. My second book, The Replacement, was released in June 2006. The Candidate was released July, 2007. I continue to publish short stories in magazines. Wildcard, a mystery, will be a spring 2009 release. The Christmas Edition releases Nov. 20. The Valentine Edition releases in January 2009.
Visit the author's shoutlife and website.
Read my book review and interview here.
List Price: $ 11.99
Paperback: 236 pages
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press (November 21, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
The usual winter blizzard blew into southern
Lucy Collins carefully maneuvered her car
through the snow that grew deeper with every gust
of wind. She parked directly in front of her family
owned business, The Turtle Creek Newspaper, just
as her brother, Mike, was making his second pass at
clearing away the snow from the drive with the
“Hey, Mike! Help me carry these inside, will
you?” Lucy called to him as she got out of her heated
car. A sharp wind sucked up her words and nearly
knocked her off balance.
Mike turned off the blower and cupped his hand
around his ear. “What did you say?” His breath
circled around his face in the frigid air.
“Help!” Lucy hollered. She popped the trunk and
pivoted her body in an exaggerated fashion-the way
models do when showcasing prizes on a game show.
She stepped to the other side and waved her hands,
palms up, along the food trays and her mother’s
crystal punch bowl set. Then she flashed her
younger brother her biggest smile.
Mike galloped up to the car just as another gust
of wind, hammered snow at them. “It’s freezing out
here! Even my nose hairs are frozen solid. You go on
in. I’ll get these as soon as I’m finished shoveling the
“Thanks.” Lucy gave him a kiss on the cheek. To
keep her balance, she gingerly walked across the
crunchy ice crystals and into the warm building.
Once inside, she tugged off one boot and then the
other, dropping them under her desk. She hung her
coat and scarf on the back of her swivel chair as she
looked around at the decorations of wreaths and
holly. A sprig of mistletoe hung over the empty desk
at the back. That would surely go to waste. Music
played loudly from her dad’s old stereo inside his
Christmas used to be her favorite holiday, but
after a disastrous end to her engagement, a couple of
years ago, this particular holiday now only served as
a dark reminder of broken promises. With prayer
and a loving family, Lucy was ready to start her life
again, which meant buying her own place right after
the first of the year. Working and living with the
same people was often stifling, especially when
they’re her parents.
Lucy’s mom was the cheerleader as well as the
gopher, making sure everyone had what they
needed, whereas Lucy’s father focused persistently
on getting the next edition out and on time.
Each year at Christmastime, however, Harold
Collins took off his publisher hat and donned
something completely different. The weeks wedged
between Thanksgiving and Christmas became about
assisting others. She loved it all and nothing could
ever take her away from this life.
The employees had finished packing up the last
of the boxes from the food drive which were now
stacked neatly, ready to be dropped off at area
shelters. Lucy wanted to acknowledge all the work
they’d done. “For a small cluster of people, we sure
accomplish a truckload of work, fast! These
donations will help many people down and out this
holiday season. Like all the other years we’ve
worked closely together and done a great job.”
Christmas was about unbridled joy but today, try as
she may, she still wasn’t feeling it. Maybe she could
fake it for everyone’s sake. Lucy lowered her head in
modesty and stated, “This is going to be a Christmas
As if releasing faith into the air, everyone began
to punctuate her words with applause. Right on cue,
Harold Collins stepped out of his office wearing a hat
something like one of the elves might wear. He even
bobbed his head up and down to show off the cluster
of bells that dangled at the tip of the loopy crown.
Lucy couldn’t help but have her first laugh of the
day, along with the other employees.
“I know it’s still over a month until Christmas
but I thought you could use this now,” Harold said as
he produced a fan of festive red and green envelopes.
Squeals of delight resonated as they opened the
envelopes and saw the amount written on the checks
but none was as loud as Ulilla Langston. Lucy’s dad
had inherited her along with the paper when her
grandpa died. Ulilla was a beautiful, black woman
with hair swept close to her head in a French twist.
She carried weight around the place both literally
“Harold and Margaret Collins,” she crowed, as
her hand fluttered to her chest. “No way can you
afford to give us this.”
“Nonsense!” Harold blustered, and politely
dismissed her words of protest with a wave. “It
should be three times this and you know it! You all
have worked effortlessly and clocked in many
overtime hours in order to get the newspaper out
each week. I am the one who is grateful. Merry
The bell above the front door jingled as Mike
walked in balancing the punch bowl along with the
holiday trays. “Where do you want these, sis?”
“Let me help with that.” Lucy took the top two
trays. “Take the rest into the break room. I’ll follow
Margaret touched the sleeve of Lucy’s cardigan.
“Have you finished our Christmas cards yet?”
“I started a month ago and finally finished them
last night. Not only did I hand write each one, but
the envelopes are addressed and stamped.”
“Which of the photographs did you decide on?”
“I thought I told you that all ready. Never mind,
there’s one in my desk I’ll show you.” Lucy set down
the trays. From the desk drawer, she took a single
envelope and handed it to her mother. “Here, I was
looking for something that would embody a perfect
form of truth when it comes to Christianity.”
Margaret stared at the card. A country church
was nestled into a hillside surrounded on all sides by
fresh snowfall. Above, the sky was brilliant blue.
Lucy looked over her mother’s shoulder. She
scrunched her face, second-guessing her
photographic choice. “Does it look okay?”
“It’s a whole lot more than okay. This is simply
breathtaking and looks professionally done. Lucy,
you should have put your logo somewhere on this
card so people would be aware that you are the one
who took this photograph of our church.” Margaret’s
“Not this time. I want people to focus on the
birth of our Savior and the hope He gives for our
lives. Mom, in the past year, I have become more
appreciative of the upbringing you and Dad gave
Mike and me and how you shared your faith which
has now become mine.” Lucy choked back her tears
and touched the silver cross she always wore at her
“Those words are the best gift you could ever
give to me.” Margaret hugged her daughter. “I want
nothing more this season than to see you happy.”
Lucy hugged back tightly. “I’m working hard on
“Lucy!” Mike called from the break room. “I
thought you said you were following me in. I’m
making a mess of things trying to get the food set
“Ah, I better go rescue the food from Mike and
start the punch.” Lucy picked up the trays. “By the
way, it’s getting worse outside so could you suggest
to Dad that we better let everyone go home early.”
“I will, but right now, I want to lend you a
Lucy and Mike uncovered the trays of fruit,
cheese, and crackers. Margaret took her home baked
pastries from the refrigerator and arranged them on
top of doilies set on antique dessert plates. Mike
dumped plastic forks from the box into a basket and
then tore open the plates while Lucy poured the
punch into the bowl and added scoops of sherbet. “I
think we’re ready.”
Once everyone had gathered in the break room,
Harold asked one and all to join hands. Together
they asked for the Lord’s blessing. Then they dug in;
plates were quickly filled with condiments, the
routine appetizers, rolled pieces of meat, decorated
sugar cookies, and cinnamon rolls. That was just for
starters. Margaret kept laying out more and more
Lucy sat at the edge of her chair and sipped her
cup of punch. It was fun watching everyone enjoy
themselves. She closed her eyes and drank in their
laughter. This is what she needed, to be surrounded
by such love and acceptance.
The employees had all worked for her father for
years, so she not only knew their names but their
spouses and children. This is what she loved about
the business. It wasn’t work. It was family. At times
they even squabbled like it, too.
When there were only a few squares of
cantaloupe and crumbs of her mother’s cake left,
Lucy suggested, “Before we go home for the
weekend, let’s go around the room and name one gift
we want for Christmas. No limitations on the gift.
Miss Ulilla, would you like to start?”
The society column woman was clearly pleased
to go first. In her world, this was the correct order of
the universe and she didn’t even try to suppress her
smile. Instead she brushed crumbs from her bosom,
cleared her throat and stood to her feet. “Since Lucy
removed the limitations, what I really want for
Christmas are tickets for a Caribbean cruise under
my tree this year.”
“That’s sounds exciting. I feel pretty confident
you can talk Abe here into going along with you.”
Lucy gave the elderly custodian a wink. It was no
secret Abe had been after Ulilla for as long as she
could remember, but Ulilla always put him off.
Abe stepped right in without being asked, “The
gift I am wishing for is that I can buy those tickets
for Ulilla. One for her and one for me. Separate
cabins, of course.” He turned beet red.
After the laughter died down, Lucy went on to
ask her best friend, “What about you, Monica?”
“I’m hoping for money. Lots and lots of money.”
“Here I thought you’d ask for perfume. The
French kind,” Mike said. His lips curled into a
slow smile. For the first time, Lucy caught
something in the air between her best friend and her
brother and it wasn’t perfume. French or otherwise.
Harold set down his plastic plate with a hollow
thump. “The gift I want this year cannot be found
under my tree.”
“Harold.” Margaret touched his arm. “This isn’t
“I think it is, Maggie. After being a family
owned business for the last fifty years, first with my
Papa and now on my own, it’s no secret I want to
keep that other newspaper from coming here. Living
in a small town like Turtle Creek, we can’t
withstand the extra competition. Heck, we can
barely make it as it is. We need to come up with
some ideas of how we’re going to generate more
sales, increase our advertisers and get more
subscribers.” He pulled off his elf hat and lowered
his eyes. His thumb rubbed a finger as he spoke “Or
this might just be the last time we stand together
like this for Christmas.” To everyone’s dismay,
Harold had spit out his worrying words. They spread
across the room.
Lucy frowned. Everything her dad said was the
truth. They all knew it.
“My turn!” Lucy picked up her father’s hat and
pulled it down over her ears. Everyone laughed. “My
Christmas gift is to hire a new editor who will knock
the socks off our readers with his fresh ideas and
“And how will you know this editor when he
comes through the front door?” Carol from
“Because…” Lucy tapped her chin in thought.
“The man I have prayed for will write with heart.”
Unexpected tears gathered along the edges of her
eyes. The end of her nose tingled. “Anyone who can
move an audience with words is going to increase
circulation which will attract businesses to grab ad
space and make readers buy our paper.” She touched
her cross. I have my faith in you, Lord.
The front door jingled. Monica looked out into
the office. “Hey, guys, there’s an awesome looking
guy standing at the front counter. I believe Lucy’s
gift just arrived. Quick Lucy, say another prayer
while you have God’s attention.”
Lucy walked out of the break room with
shoulders squared, back straight. There he stood.
Tall, with sandy brown hair and wickedly wonderful
eyes. Cherry cheeks, too, thanks to the frosty
weather. His gray eyes were unsettling. He stood on
one foot and tapped one shoe against the other to
knock off the snow. Then he repeated the process
with the other shoe. Monica was right. He was a
“How may I help you?” Lucy folded her hands
together and placed them on the counter.
“I’m looking for Lucy Collins.” He stared her in
“You’ve found her.” Lucy heard laughter. She
turned around to see the doorway to the break room
was crowded with faces. All eyes were pinned on
them. Of course, she had to put on a good show for
them. Lucy turned back around and faced him.
Feeling cocky, she said, “I know why you’re here.”
“You do?” he seemed startled.
“Yes, you’re here about the ad I placed in this
week’s paper for an editor.”
His chin dropped and he was speechless for a
moment. “You’re…absolutely right. I did see it
advertised.” The man set his briefcase down and
popped it open. He started shuffling around the
inside of it. Papers rustled. Finally, he looked up
sheepishly. He had worried eyes. “I seem to have
forgotten my resume. Not a good way to start a job
interview. By the way, I’m Joe McNamara.”
Lucy shook his hand and then reached under
the counter for an application. She clamped it down
on a clipboard, slipped a pen underneath and
handed it to him. “I don’t need your resume but I do
need to know if you can write. When you’re done
filling this out, I want you to write an editorial for
me.” She slid a blank piece of paper toward him.
“On what subject?” he scratched the end of his
“You’re the editor so you get to decide.” She
slapped her hand down on the paper.
Joe nodded and then looked around for a place
to sit. He chose a chair from the waiting area. Lucy
watched him as he read the application and then
thoughtfully filled in the blanks. Every now and
then he looked up and caught her staring at him. He
smiled but she quickly looked away.
The Turtle Creek Newspaper employees began
to quickly leave. “Don’t stay too long, Lucy, or you’ll
be trapped in here for the weekend,” Abe warned her
on the way out. For the first time ever, Ulilla was on
“I won’t be much longer. I am dreaming of a cozy
fire with hot chocolate.”
“That’s only one of the things I’m dreaming of!”
Ulilla gushed as she plunged through the doorway.
Shocked over Ulilla’s sudden change of heart, Lucy
couldn’t help but stare.
Finally Joe stood to his feet and handed the
clipboard back to her, the pen returned to the same
position as when she had handed it to him. Now it
was Joe’s turn to slide the paper across the counter
to her. Lucy looked at it. Maybe she missed
something. She flipped it over. Both sides were
blank. She looked at Joe quizzically.
“May I?” he asked nodding toward one of the
“Be my guest.” Lucy granted permission and
then caught her reflection in a window. She quickly
pulled off the Santa hat. Static electricity popped
around her head like a lightening rod. She knew she
was blushing and really hoped he wouldn’t notice.
Lucy watched as his long fingers flew across the
keyboard. Her keyboard. The tips of the fingers hit
the center of the keys with great accuracy. Tap-tap tap
the keys sank and rose again. She was close
enough to see the words without her glasses and
didn’t see any red squiggly lines. At least the fella
“Psst!” Monica called from the break room.
Lucy turned around. “What?” she mouthed
With frantic movements, Monica motioned for
Lucy to come talk to her. When Lucy walked into the
room, everyone huddled around. “We need details.”
Lucy gave a deep sigh happy to oblige. “His
name is Joe McNamara. According to his
application, he’s from Chicago, so I guess he must be
relocating. He’s trying out for our paper by writing
an editorial for me.”
“Good idea,” Harold said while cramming the
last sugar cookie into his mouth.
“Why would he want to apply for a job with us?”
Mike asked suspiciously as he tied the top of a
plastic garbage bag closed.
“That’s easy to answer. We are the best
newspaper in the entire southern lakes region,”
Harold answered shooting bits of cookie from his
mouth like falling stars.
“Yea, right,” Mike panned as he tossed the bag
on top of the other bags.
“You have to start at a small paper and work
your way up to get into a big city paper,” Monica
explained as she slipped on her winter coat. Then
she winked at Mike. “He’s getting his start right
here with us.”
“Whoa, first I have to hire him, and once he
hears what the pay is, he may just hop back on the
“Finished,” a male voice spoke.
Everyone turned to look. Joe stood just feet
away, holding his paper out.
Lucy hoped he hadn’t heard everything. She
snatched the paper from him and furrowed her brow.
“That was fast.”
“Not when you have something burning inside
that you feel passionately about.”
She held it between her fingers and read aloud.
by Joseph McNamara
What will I ever do without Cafe Books?
Ever since the announcement that the
independent bookseller was going out of business,
I've been a mess. The big chain stores serve a
purpose, sure, but they don't contain the atmosphere
and warmth that emulates from the owners of Cafe
Books. When I walk into their shop, it's like visiting
family. Mr. and Mrs. Myers always greet me and
everyone, with a genuine smile, and when are they
not armed with a recommendation for a new title
they know I'll enjoy? Just for me. They notice me. Me.
Cafe Books is where I first went whale hunting
with Melville and frog collecting with Steinbeck. How
can I forget all the murderous adventures I shared
with my good friend, Mike Hammer, or faced a scary,
yet Brave New World with Huxley? I’ve read more
than books on the leather sofa at Cafe Books. I've
made friends. Lived a million different lives. Cried
countless tears. And have laughed out loud so often,
and so hard, that my stomach still aches from the
How does one say good bye to such a place?
I started patronizing Café Books just off Kenzie
Avenue in Chicago about two years ago. And so when
the owners announced suddenly it would be going out
of business and closing its door yesterday, I made it a
point to stop by.
The room was busy with faithful shoppers who
felt this place was a stabilizing source in their
community. Lexie Jacobson, a 28-year-old hairstylist
scooped up discount novels and a couple of CDs. “I’m
sure going to miss this place,” she said with a shake
of her head. She was not alone with this feeling.
“It’s hard to find bookstores that are not part of a
national chain,” 35-year-old school teacher
Samantha Jones said with a sigh.
The sentiment was expressed again and again by
dozens of patrons.
In the never ending search for bigger and better,
give me the small and unique. Meet me at Café
Books. Help me say goodbye.
No one spoke. Lucy couldn’t take her eyes from
the page. The words evoked warmth and sentiment.
It was more than she had hoped for. He was it. This
was her Christmas gift.
It wasn’t the first sight of him that did it. It
wasn’t the endearing way he drummed his thigh
with the pen when he was nervously trying to figure
out what to write down on his application that
formed her opinion. Nor even his calm manner as he
slid his fingers across her keyboard that made the
difference. It was his words. These words. They were
simple and brilliant. Words that had taken the
breath from her soul. She looked up at him with new
eyes. He got her—yet how could that happen when
they only met minutes ago.
“Wow,” she gulped.
“Well, it was spontaneous.” Joe uneasily tugged
at his collar. “If I had more time, I could have done
They smiled at each other as if there was more
to the words that hung in the air. Her mind was
wandering where it shouldn’t. “I need to clarify
“Clarify away, Ms. Collins.”
“Lucy,” he repeated in a sweet tone.
“Um, we can’t afford to pay you much. It’s
obvious you’re quite gifted so I’m not sure we’re what
you’re looking for in a newspaper.”
“The experience is what is valuable here.”
“How much notice do you need to give your old
place?” Harold stepped forward to ask. “The sooner
you can start the better.”
“Dad!” Lucy cut in as blood rushed to her face.
“Ah, my schedule is pretty well wide open, Sir. I
can start as soon as I’m needed, that is if I am hired.
I really don’t need much—a roof over my head
and...a new start.”
Lucy saw it in his eyes. He wasn’t kidding.
“You know, Harold, there is the small apartment
above our garage. Mr. McNamara could stay there
until he finds another place,” Margaret reminded
“I’ll take it,” Joe was quick to accept.
A gust of wind whipped through the building
when Monica opened the door. “Better get a move
on, people. I just heard on the radio that the
Interstate is closed down. The town is pretty well
socked in. It’s time for us to lock up and head for our
homes. I love you all but no way do I want to be
stuck in here with you.”
Everyone went for their coats.
“I better take you home, so I know you made it
safely,” Mike told Monica.
“If you shovel my walk too, there might be a
reward in it for you,” Monica winked as she nudged
his side with her elbow.
“I love rewards.”
“Mike, don’t be long. There are Christmas boxes
in the attic I need for you to get down for me,”
Margaret said following her son out to the parking
lot. “We’re decorating the tree tonight and you can’t
miss it.” She shut the door behind them.
“Ah, is there something you want me to sign? A
contract or something?” Joe asked, quickly looking
from Harold to Lucy.
“I never thought about a contract,” Lucy said,
wondering if they had anything the resembled a
“We don’t do contracts here. A shake of my hand
is how I operate.” Harold slid his arm down through
his winter jacket and out the opening. “You better
come along with us. You’ll never get back to the city
With a simple handshake, Lucy Collins’ day took
a new direction.