Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The 38th NAACP Image Awards Nomination Results

I'm so proud to announce that the book, "Check the Rhyme: An Anthology of Female Poets & Emcees" where my poem, Traipsing on Bantayan Shore got published, was recently nominated for an NAACP Image Award for "Outstanding Literary Work - Poetry." Other finalists in this category include notable authors: Maya Angelou, Pearl Cleage, Walter Mosely and Major Jackson. To learn more about the categories and other nominees, visit

Please help spread the word about the nomination among your friends and family. Don't forget to watch for the results - live! on March 2, 2007 at 8:00 PM on FOX.

posted by Rachelle
at 10:08 PM


Monday, February 26, 2007

Interview with John Aubrey Anderson

Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with John Aubrey Anderson, author of Abiding Darkness and Wedgewood Grey.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about you?
A “little bit” should cover it.
My wife and I live quiet lives. Before being propelled into writing, I spent thirty-five years flying airplanes—six years for the Air Force, twenty-nine for an airline. The pace of my life changed when I retired.
I’m a slow writer, so I spend most of my time working on “the next book”. Normally, I spend about eight to twelve hours a day—with gusts to twenty—writing or working on something book-related. My wife teaches an in-depth ladies Bible study, and that keeps her equally busy. We make time for social occasions a couple of times a week, and we spend time with out children and grandchildren. Very quiet lives.

2. How did you get started writing initially? Was Christian fiction your first attempt at publishing?
Christian fiction was my first and only attempt.
Twenty years ago, I read a book titled The Language of Love, by Gary Smalley. The author’s premise was: If you want someone to remember your point, tell them a story. Prompted by that book, I wrote our daughters a short story—a fictional illustration about the need to choose well.
Ten years ago I decided to modify that same little story and wrap it around the gospel. I started adding a little here and there . . . planning to give the finished product to a friend of ours (my one-person target audience).
Five years ago, I found myself surrounded by a few hundred thousand words and some thoughts of having them published.
Four years ago, I went to my first-ever writers’ conference (Mount Hermon) and met with my first-ever (and only-ever) editor.
The Black or White Chronicles were born out of my first meeting with that editor; he is now my good friend, and our wives think they’re sisters.

3. Do you write full-time, or do you have a full-time job outside of your writing?
Being fully retired diminishes my need for an appointment book, so unless a serious brushfire interrupts me, I write seven days a week. I can’t imagine getting this done while holding down a real job; I barely have time left over to brush my teeth.

4. Where do you get the inspiration for your stories?
I looked up “inspiration” and found synonyms like motivation, influence, originality, bright idea, and eureka moment; they didn’t help me with this answer.
I started writing Christian fiction because I wanted to wrap sleep-stealing suspense around a clear presentation of the gospel. My target audience expanded to become any self-confident type who would pass on a sermon but stop to read a riveting story. I broadened my target audience yet again to include Christians who like to read good suspense/thriller fiction but don’t want to dal with gratuitous profanity and steamy sex. God has given me readers from both sides of the line.

5. Who are your favorite authors?
I find it easier to name several my favorite books: A Time to Kill; The Client; The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe; Watchers, by Koontz; and To Kill A Mockingbird.
I haven’t read a “new” book in years. I don’t want another author’s ideas coloring my thought processes, so I just keep rereading my old favorites.

6. I have found that some authors listen to music while they write. Do you listen to music or is it something that is distracting to you?
As I write this, Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu is playing on my computer.
I have about a hundred selections in a mix that shuffles while I’m writing; it ranges from light classical to CCR, C&W to hymns, sixties R&R to Amy Grant. Every now and then—usually if I’m working with something that needs tenderness—it’ll distract me, and I’ll back off to hymns or soft classical.
And going back to the inspiration question . . . the title (which I’m not sharing yet) for my fourth book was inspired by one of the songs on my playlist.

7. What are some of your hobbies besides writing?
At this point, any hobbies would be invasive. As I said earlier, I write long hours, and if I’m not writing, I want to spend time with my wife.
Golf interests me, and I have a 5-string banjo I’d like to learn to play, but for right now . . . I get satisfaction and pleasure from writing fiction that stops the hearts of its readers.

8. What can you tell us about your current release "Wedgewood Grey"?
Abiding Darkness took its time moving chronologically from 1945 to 1959. It introduced special people to us and set the stage for the coming novels. Wedgewood Grey moves faster; the biggest part covers a two-year time span. It gives us more action, more tension, a closer look at evil, and a couple of new characters.

9. What gave you the inspiration for the Black or White Chronicles?
Don’t tell anyone I did this, but I backed into it. I started with that little story for our girls and started backing up, a few years at a time, adding decades of backstory. What happened in the formation of the series is the aviation equivalent of tossing a bunch of people out of an airplane before starting to manufacture their parachutes.

10. How much of your own experiences influenced the characters of Mose Washington, Missy and the FBI agent? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?
A reasonably significant part of what I write comes out of what I’ve lived—including the development of my characters. It makes sense that I’d know these people as well as I know myself . . . and it’s sometimes hard to tell where I stop and they start. In the past I’ve scoffed at comments by authors who said their characters took on lives of their own. I don’t scoff anymore. I’m not sure I can track the origin of their traits, but . . .
There are times when I just sit here and watch Missy be Missy . . . and smile.
And Mose has never been anything but a great man—a compilation of the old black gentlemen who lived near my early life. I feel as if I’ve known, admired, and respected the man all my life.
Every story needs a good, strong man. Jeff Wagner came on the scene to be that man for Wedgewood Grey, and he brought along everything but a purpose in life. I like him, and I think it shows.

11. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?
For me, all the parts are difficult.
I don’t want to waste a single word on the mundane . . . not a syllable. Getting my fiction to become my reader’s reality is a challenge—it ever will be. I told you earlier . . . I’m a slow writer . . . and I think slowly. I rewrite incessantly because I want the person who turns the pages of my books to rub shoulders with my characters. I want the story to sink its tentacles into my reader’s heart and refuse to turn him loose.
My favorite parts? All of them.
I like my stories. I like shaping them . . . crafting them to invade lives. I like knowing that I’m doing something that has the potential to make a difference for the cause of Christ. I thank God that He has let me be the one to tell people that He’s real . . . that He cares.

12. What themes exist in that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?
My answer may be confusing because I’m more of a storyteller than I am a writer—if that makes sense . . . and I know next to nothing about the vernacular of writing.
The obvious centerpiece in Wedgewood Grey is the price that was paid for our freedom. And the story shines sidelights on honor, courage, loyalty, and strength of character.
Going back to The Language of Love; it is my intent to showcase a doctrinal stance or defend an apologetic point in each book. The defense/showcase will be woven into the story in a way that fails to interrupt the suspense.
Lastly, and continually, I want my readers, regardless of which book they are reading, to be reminded that we are in the midst of a battle. Our lives are not about what happens to us . . . our lives are the product of our choices.

13. What can readers expect to see from you in the coming year?
And If I Die, Book Three of The Black or White Chronicles will publish in August of 2007. I haven’t figured out how to say much about any of the books without revealing things better kept concealed. Let me just say that our war with evil is ongoing . . . and someone has to take the point.
I’m finishing up the fourth book in the series (my wife’s favorite), but I don’t have a predicted release date for it.

14. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I’m confident that many of you pray on a regular basis. May I ask that you take a few short seconds and pray fervently for the effectiveness of my words?
And I would ask that you keep three all-important words about my writing at the forefront of your memory . . . God did this.

John, I cannot thank you enough for sharing time with us today, and I wish you success in your writing. We look forward to more of your remarkable works.

posted by Rachelle
at 12:16 PM


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wedgewood Grey by John Aubrey Anderson


John was born five miles north of the setting for Abiding Darkness, a cotton country town within a rifle shot of two rivers, a bayou, a double handful of lakes, and endless acres of woods.

After graduating from Mississippi State, he flew six years in the Air Force then twenty-nine years for a major airline. And now he gets to write.

He and his wife have been married for forty some-odd years and live in Texas—about twenty miles south of the Red River. He spends the biggest part of his time writing; she’s immersed in leading a comprehensive, women’s Bible study.

They like greasy hamburgers and Dr. Peppers, most species of warm-blooded creatures (the kind that don’t normally bite), and spending July in the mountains.


Wedgewood Grey is the second book in the Black and White Chronicles. The first was Abiding Darkness (August, 2006).

Mississippi cotton country . . . in the spring of 1960.

The War At Cat Lake is fifteen years in the fading past . . . but the demonic beings who launched that first battle, are alive and well at Cat Lake. Waiting.
Late on a Friday night, on a muddy little road a mile east of Cat Lake, a ten-year-old black child is forced to watch while a gang of white men beat his mother to death. Aided by Mose Washington, an old black man, the boy exacts a measure of his own revenge. When the sun comes up on Saturday morning, Mose and the boy are fugitives.

Missy Parker Patterson, who as a child stood at the epicenter of the first war, is married and living in Texas. In the aftermath that follows Mose Washington’s disappearance, she goes back to Cat Lake to discover that the demonic beings have been anticipating her return . . . and so begins the second battle of The War At Cat Lake.

In 1962, an old black man and his grandson move into the country near Pilot Hill, Texas. The people in the local area are told that the old gentleman’s name is Mose Mann—his grandson introduces himself as Bill.

However, the lives of the new arrivals are not as peaceful as they seem. The unassuming old black man and his grandson are being pursued by a triad of formidable and unrelenting adversaries . . . a ruthless political leader, an enduring lie, and an invisible army allied beneath the banner of a hatred for God.

Wedgewood Grey is a story about the impact of choices that real people—people like you and me—are sometimes forced to make.

The book link:

JOhn's website link:

win a free book

This month I'm giving away a hardcover copy of Wedgewood Grey by John Aubrey Anderson. Just comment anywhere on this blog and you're automatically entered! More comments mean more chances of winning. I'll pick a name and announce the winner at the end of this month. International readers are welcome to enter.

posted by Rachelle
at 11:27 PM


Thursday Thirteen #8

My Fave Animated Films

1. Happy Feet
2. Cars
3. Madagascar
4. Monsters, Inc
5. Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
6. The Lion King
7. Beauty And The Beast
8. Finding Nemo
9. Robots
10. The Incredibles
11. Antz
12. A Bug's Life
13. Shrek


posted by Rachelle
at 10:42 PM


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

CSFF Blog Tour: Where the Map Ends

This month, the CSFF blog tour features Jeff Gerke's

If you're a Christian who:

This is the place for you! attempts to showcase what other speculative fiction sites fail to mention/include. It has a good reading list for anyone wanting to acquaint themselves with Speculative Fiction and has a very comprehensive booklist for those trying to find rare titles! It even has "idea starters" and information on getting a speculative fiction novel published and even interviews of top Christian speculative novelists today!

Check it out here -->

posted by Rachelle
at 10:10 PM


Monday, February 19, 2007

Top 10 Reasons

All right, let's go through the Top Ten reasons people become Fiction Novelists.

10. Your brain is permanently hooked up to a word processing program.
9. Your last court appeal for community service was denied.
8. You were frightened by a rampaging keyboard at an impressionable age. [With most writers that can be any age from six months to thirty-five years.]
7. A shaman, medicine man, wizard or fairy godmother cursed you at birth.
6. Your doctor told you that your condition is serious, but there may be hope for a cure someday.
5. You tell people you're doing this until you win the lottery or can find a real job.
4. Marauding English literature commandoes captured you and forced you to write.
3. You have an extra masochistic sequence in your DNA.
2. You are part of the secret government program dedicated to corrupt the morals of your country.
1. You just can't help it.

If any one of these conditions apply to you, Gee, I'm sorry.

win a free book

This month I'm giving away a hardcover copy of Wedgewood Grey by John Aubrey Anderson. Just comment anywhere on this blog and you're automatically entered! More comments mean more chances of winning. I'll pick a name and announce the winner at the end of this month. International readers are welcome to enter.

posted by Rachelle
at 10:22 PM


Sunday, February 18, 2007

SearchWarp Hall of Fame

Just this morning, I got an email from the editor of informing me that I made it to the Top 100 Ranked Authors. So without shilly-shallying, I checked the site and dug through the pages...Then finally, I found my moniker, Jaderabbit (I almost forgot I even used this sobriquet) perched on the 72nd spot! Wohoo!

For one brief and shining moment I made it to SearchWarp's Hall of Fame. They have a very complicated ranking system that I'm not totally sure I understand, but yay me! Thanks to the readers who went over there to read and comment on my articles. I owe you one!

You can read about the rest of the authors here:

posted by Rachelle
at 8:10 PM


Friday, February 16, 2007

Next time, I wanna be a BEAR!

Wanna be a Bear

posted by Rachelle
at 7:57 PM


Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Secret

If you didn't catch 'The Secret' on Oprah last week, you have another chance tomorrow (Friday).

As you may know, 'The Secret' has changed the lives of hundreds and thousands and because of the overwhelming viewer response, Oprah has invited several of the teachers back to continue sharing how it can help other people. See a preview of last week's show and local listings in the US :

You CAN change your life starting today using 'The Secret' and experience the joy you were meant to.

I also ran across one of the best books on the law of attraction, which 'The Secret' is based on. It picks up where 'The Secret' leaves off and shows you step-by-step how you can 'have it all', the life, the job, the relationship, the health, the weight...anything you want. I'm offering a chance for my readers to grab a copy of this amazing ebook free of charge. All you have to do is subscribe to my blog (type your email on the textfield above the button "Subscribe Me" on the left side of this blog then go to your mail to confirm your subscription). If you don't get an email containing the ebook right after subscribing, email me directly HERE

Do yourself a favor and get a copy of this book and you will soon find out all that the universe has to offer. Subscribe today to get your FREE copy of:

If you'd like to get a print copy, you can purchase it directly from Amazon through this link:

posted by Rachelle
at 9:57 AM


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Some Valentine's Day Facts

posted by Rachelle
at 11:01 PM


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sally Stuart's Christian Writers' Market Guide

WaterBrook Press; Pap/Cdr edition (January 16, 2007)


For more than twenty years, the Christian Writers’ Market Guide has offered indispensable help to Christian writers. This year, for the first time, this valuable resource comes with a CD-ROM of the full text, so you can search with ease for topics, publishers, and other specific names.

The 2007 edition also includes up-to-date listings of more than 1,200 markets for books, articles, stories, poetry, and greeting cards, including information on forty new book publishers, eighty-three new periodicals, and thirty-four new literary agents. Perfect for writers in every phase, this is the resource to get noticed–and get published.

It contains listings for: 695 periodicals, 228 poetry markets, 355 book publishers, 133 online publications, 29 print-on-demand publishers, 1185 markets for the written word, 321 photography markets, 31 e-book publishers, 122 foreign markets, 112 literary agents,and 59 newspapers.

It also gives you comprehensive lists of contests, writers groups and conferences, search engines, pay rates and submission guidelines, editorial services and websites.

Christian Writers’ Market Guide is a "must have' for any serious Christian writer that is looking to get published!


Sally E. Stuart is the author of thirty-four books and has sold more than one thousand articles and columns. Her long-term involvement with the Christian Writers' Market Guide as well as her marketing columns for the Christian Communicator, Oregon Christian Writers, and The Advanced Christian Writer, make her a sought-after speaker and a leading authority on Christian markets and the business of writing. Stuart is the mother of three and grandmother of eight.

The book link is:

Sally's website is:

posted by Rachelle
at 10:37 AM


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Introducing: Gena Showalter and Jill Monroe

Two great friends - Two February books!

This is the first time Gena Showalter and Jill Monroe
have books out at the same time!

Nymph King Hitting The Mark

For your paranormal taste, we have Valerian. Females young and old, beautiful and plain crave Valerian's touch. None can resist his blatant sensuality and potent allure…until he steals Shaye Holling from a Florida beach and holds her prisoner in his underwater kingdom.

And when you're ready to read something contemporary, there is Hitting The Mark. Danni's a woman with a little revenge on her mind. Romantic Times says Hitting The Mark is, "impossible to put down."

Gena’s video URL:

Jill’s video URL:

posted by Rachelle
at 8:41 PM


Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Speaking Engagement..for me?

Yesterday, I was just puttering around the house when I heard the phone ring.

“Rachelle Arlin Credo?” a man with an accent asked.

"Yes?" I told him.

“This is Jose Sarsoza,” he began. “You might know who I am?"

"I guess not..." I said coldly.

"I'm the editor-in-chief of Health and Home Magazine and I have great news for you,” he said. “Your latest story submission was accepted for this month's magazine issue but that's not all, we've chosen you as one of our guest speakers for the coming Writer's Conference in October which will be held in Cagayan de Oro."

I yelped a TAZ DINGO (or words to that effect) and then fell silent.

“Are you sure you want me to speak in the conference? I've never tried that before.”

“Yes, we're certain!” he said with a chuckle in his voice.

“How much is the registration fee?” I asked, my mind ricocheting from digit to digit.

“No, no! There's no registration fee for guest speakers," he said reassuringly.
"You don't have to decide now, really. There's still a few months ahead to think it over. I'd just call you again sometime. I suppose we'd get your decision after 5-6 months?”

“I guess so. But why me?" I asked, curious to know.

“Your story was really good but more than that, there was something in the way you write...the way you describe events in detail. And of course we’ll want you there to talk about your writing and offer tips and advice."

“OK… And, my goodness, thank you!”

"I'll talk to you in a few months then," he said then hung up.

I’ve been very ambivalent about writing non-fiction, or stories in general in the last few months (i'm more of an essay/article writer and poet than a story writer). I suppose this sounds a little, well, obvious, but with this "guest speaker" invitation and an experienced editor saying that my story is great stuff, well, that’s astounding. It’s incredibly motivating and validating. And while I’m still not exactly sure and convinced how and why I got picked to be one of the lucky few to get invited as a guest speaker, I think that's enough reason for me to believe in myself and err..write another story?

Somebody must have nominated/suggested me from the staff or voting panel. If they’re reading this: thank you.

(Now, I'm feeling this sudden urge to email someone who told me a year ago that "i'm no writer and that my stories are lousy" and tell her the news. :P Thanks for that remark. I just wrote a good story worth $75 and reprinted it for $21 and another two for $21 and $5 with free contributor copies to boot!

Thoughts of the Day:

*Never look down on anyone unless you're reaching out a hand.

*People learn from mistakes and criticism and when they do, watch out.

*You are never always right. And sometimes, even if you are, you might just be wrong.

*Mimicry is the greatest form of envy.

I received an email a few months ago that someone copied my poetry. The concerned person also emailed the culprit but as expected, she denied it. Now, he emails me again and reports that the same culprit is copying my website's layout - header elements and all (she's building her own site now) Well, in that case, she must really be a fan..and she doesn't even know it! (or she just won't accept it) In any case, I guess I should be thankful it's not the other way around. Perhaps I need to thank her for adding hits to my visitor counter too?

posted by Rachelle
at 10:05 PM


Thursday, February 08, 2007

5 Things You Should Never Say to A Man

1) Yes, I'm Married. To a very jealous man!

2) I live with my mother...and her mother, too.

3) I've got three kids under the age of five. You like kids don't you?

4) This sore on my lip? Oh, it's just a mild case of herpes. Don't give it a second thought.

5) That's so sweet of you to get me another drink. Make mine a ginger ale, I just found out I'm pregnant.

And the book says if he doesn't run for the hills after hearing the above, then you should.

Source: Flirting at the Hip!

posted by Rachelle
at 10:41 PM


3 Details That Tell Him You're Turned On!

I came across this in a book on Flirting and thought of sharing...

Read my Hips: The Sexy Art of Flirtation by Eve Marx

posted by Rachelle
at 10:38 PM


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Longing Season by Christine Schaub


Christine Schaub is the author of the MUSIC OF THE HEART series, including Finding Anna, the “rest of the story” behind the writing of the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” (October 2005) and The Longing Season, the story behind “Amazing Grace” (July 2006) with Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Books.

In 2003, Christine won the “On the Page” screenwriting contest at Screenwriting Expo 2 in Los Angeles. Her one-page story, written on-site in 24 hours for Jacqueline Bisset, was selected by the actress as the best Oscar Wilde-type comedy for her persona.

While working in freelance corporate communications, Christine completed three feature-length screenplays, including a drama/comedy, romantic comedy, and sci-fi action/drama; developed four biopic teleplays for the stories behind the hymns; and published an online column for the MethodX website (Upper Room Ministries).

Christine honed her writing skills after more than 15 years in corporate communications for healthcare, pharmaceutical, and entertainment companies. She has also been a featured conference speaker on working with at-risk youth and changed lives in the classrooms with her creative presentation style.

Christine's love for the arts and creativity have taken her from church platforms to civic and professional stages, performing classics and dramas from her own pen.

Christine graduated from Anderson University with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications. She has served on numerous boards and committees, usually as Communications Chair, and has received both regional and national awards in writing and design.


All of the books in the MUSIC OF THE HEART series are based on a hymns and their histories. The Longing Season is about one of the greatest redemption stories of all time: John Newton and his song, Amazing Grace.

Nature conspires against him, tossing the ship like a toy. Directionless--just like his life. It seems his odyssey will end here, in the cold Atlantic. Grief and terror grip his heart, but he will not surrender...not yet. She reads the sentence again and again.
The first day I saw you I began to love you.
He'd written the words, sealed and posted them, then vanished.
She has a choice--turn toward the future, or wait, wating and hoping.

And so begins her season of longing.

The book link:

Christine's website link:

posted by Rachelle
at 10:24 PM


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Ficus Factor

A story on the front of Yahoo caught my attention this morning... Is
your home set up for romance?

Interesting question. Is it possible to set up a home for romance or
is that just a bunch of talk? After reading the article I realized
that it is indeed possible... and easier than you'd think.

I've noticed I do feel better when there isn't clutter about... and
when there's nothing lurking under my bed. One part of me mourns all
that storage space going to waste... but there is a small burden
lifted when there's nothing under the bed. Maybe I'm just weird.

In any case, V-day is around the corner. Perhaps a few adjustments to
your home will help you find a special someone, enjoy the holiday with
your SOS, or rekindle the romance. :) And if all else fails, clear
off the comfy chair and read a good romance novel.

Here's the article: http://cataurl. com/CPBLy

What do you think? Do you have any pairs in your bedroom?

posted by Rachelle
at 11:12 AM


Monday, February 05, 2007

Abiding Darkness by John Aubrey Anderson

It is February, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and their book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author is:

John Aubrey Anderson

and his book:

Abiding Darkness

John was born five miles north of the setting for Abiding Darkness, a cotton country town within a rifle shot of two rivers, a bayou, a double handful of lakes, and endless acres of woods.

After graduating from Mississippi State, he flew six years in the Air Force then twenty-nine years for a major airline. And now he gets to write.

He and his wife have been married for forty some-odd years and live in Texas—about twenty miles south of the Red River. He spends the biggest part of his time writing; she’s immersed in leading a comprehensive, women’s Bible study.

They like greasy hamburgers and Dr. Peppers, most species of warm-blooded creatures (the kind that don’t normally bite), and spending July in the mountains.


Abiding Darkness is the first book in the Black and White Chronicles.

It initially anchors itself in the relationship between two children.

Junior Washington is an eleven-year-old black child. He lives in a small cabin out on Cat Lake; his parents work for the Parker family. He’s loyal, he’s compliant beyond what would normally be expected of an eleven-year-old boy, and he’s a committed Christian.

Missy Parker, who lives on the other side of the lake, is the crown princess of the Parker family. At seven years of age she’s beautiful, wealthy, willful, and tough as a tractor tire. And—in the midst of the most defined segregation in our nation’s recent history—this little white girl and Junior Washington are best friends.

Only one thing stands between these two children and a storybook childhood . . . they are destined to encounter a faithful servant of the Author of Evil.

Abiding Darkness starts almost gently. The first sentence offers doubt, but readers may not see any real trouble surface until a few sentences later, and that’s mostly kid stuff, almost cute. From there through the second chapter readers are given a little more to think about . . . an opportunity to imagine what might happen to the children . . . especially the girl.

By the end of the second chapter intuitive readers will be taking a deep breath . . . they’re going to need the oxygen.


Summers were mostly reliable.

The always followed spring. They always got hot. And they always promised twelve weeks of pleasure to the three children at Cat Lake.

The summer of ’45 lied.

^ ^ ^

The whole thing started right there by the Cat Lake bridge.

They were playing their own version of three-man baseball when Bobby knocked the ball onto the road near the end of the bridge. Junior was taller and faster, but Missy was ahead in the race to get it. Bobby and Junior were older, but Missy was tough enough to almost keep up, and the boys usually held back some so they didn’t outdo her too much.

Missy was still a few yards from the ball when it rolled to a stop near the only car in sight. A boy taller than Junior stepped from behind the far end of the car and picked up the ball; he was followed by two more boys—one younger than Missy and another almost as tall as a man.

Missy slid to a stop in the gravel and yelled, “Hurry! Throw it!” Junior jogged up behind the girl and waited.

A heavyset man in a rumpled suit was standing in the road by the driver’s door; he allowed himself a long look at the girl and whispered something to the boy with the ball.

The boy nodded at what the man said and backed toward the car. The tallest boy moved up to stand by the man.

The fat man eyed Junior, then looked up and down the deserted road before beckoning to Missy. “Why don’t you come closer, and he’ll let you have it?”

Missy ignored the man and advanced on the boy with the ball. “Give it.”

When she walked past the taller boy, he fell to his hands and knees behind her and the one with the ball shoved her over his back. When Missy hit the ground, all three boys laughed. The man grinned.

In the near distance, a foursome of well-armed witnesses—tall, bright, and invisible—stood at a portal between time and eternity and watched Bobby Parker leave home plate and sprint for the bridge.

One of the group said, It begins.

Junior Washington’s guardian answered for the remainder of the small assembly, And so it does.

The three guardians conferred quietly about the events taking place before them; the archangel watched the unfolding drama in silence. The quartet—guarded by the wisdom of the ages against restlessness—waited patiently for a precise instant in time that had been ordained before the earth was formed.

The middle kid was plenty bigger than Missy, but she came off the ground ready to take him on. When she waded in, the tall kid grabbed at her. Junior got a hand on the strap of Missy’s overalls and yanked her out of the boys’ reach. He held her back with one hand and popped the tallest kid in the nose, hard enough to knock him down.

When the boy landed in the gravel, the man started swearing. He reached into the car, jerked a mean-looking billy club from under the front seat, and turned on Junior. “Okay, Black Sambo, let’s see h—”

Bobby was short steps from the trouble, running wide open, when the archangel broke his silence. The long-awaited time is come. He pointed his bright sword at a point between Bobby and the man with the club and said, In the Name of Him who sits on the throne, and for the Lamb—go there and turn the tide of evil.

Bobby—barely slowing when he got to the confrontation—tripped over thin air and rammed the business end of the bat hard into the man’s back. The man lurched forward, stumbled over the boy Junior had knocked to the ground, and sprawled on top of him.

Knocking the man down wasn’t what he’d planned, but Bobby knew better than to back off from a pack of bullies; he was talking before the man rolled over. “You keep your hands to yourself, mister.”

The red-faced man struggled to get up, cussing and pointing the club at Bobby. “Son, when a boy hits me, he steps over the line to manhood. That means you’ll get the same beatin’ I’ll be givin’ this nigger.”

On the Parker place, Negro folks were called black or colored. For the children, transgression of that rule meant someone was going to get his mouth washed out with soap. Missy and Junior froze when the man said the forbidden word; Bobby didn’t.

When Bobby squared his stance and drew the bat back, the man rethought his position. “You better put that down, boy.”

Bobby was only twelve, but he knew serious trouble when he saw it—and he was the one holding the bat. “I reckon not.” He and Junior and Missy had made a law about standing up for each other, and these strangers had chosen to be their enemies. If the man made a threatening move, Bobby was going to swing for his head and deal with the consequences later. “You’re on Parker land, mister, an’ you best be gettin’ off.”

The baseball bat had the man stymied. Exertion and frustration soaked his collar with the sweat. “This isn’t your land; it’s a public road.”

Bobby said, “That might be, but the land on both sides of the road belongs to the Parkers—an’ that’s us.” He looked the man up and down. “You ain’t from around here, are you?”

The man’s wide mouth and thick lips were not unlike those of a bullfrog; small, widely-spaced teeth and flesh-draped eyelids contributed to a reptilian appearance. “What if I’m not?”

Bobby cracked a hard smile. “’Cause if you was from around here, folks would’ve told you not to mess with the Parker kids—that’s us, ’specially the black ’un an’ the girl.” He pointed the bat at Junior and Missy. “That’s them two.”

From within the car a woman’s voice said, “Let it go, Halbert. Don’t be getting heated up over some white trash.”

When the woman called them white trash, Missy puffed up and started for the car. Junior grabbed the strap of her overalls again. “Stay quiet, Missy.”

The girl jerked loose and glared at Junior, but she stayed where she was.

The tallest boy got in the car, holding a hand to his bloody nose. The other two weren’t ready to leave.

The man looked at the car and back at Bobby; he didn’t want to leave either, but he wasn’t going to argue with the woman. “Git in the car, boys.” His tongue came out and made a circuit over the fat lips; he let his gaze rest too long on the girl, and he spoke to her last. “You’ll get yours, Little Miss Blue Eyes. Just you remember Hal Bainbridge said so.”

The woman in the car leaned across the seat. Facial features that had been cast to portray beauty were twisted into an angry mask. “Halbert!” she snapped, “I told you to shut up and get in the car.”

The two smallest boys were the last ones to climb. The one who had pushed Missy said, “I’ll be back.”

Missy made a face.

When the Bainbridge family withdrew, a creature that had been traveling with them stayed behind.

The being that remained on the Cat Lake bridge had been working his vile mischief in the Bainbridges’ lives for years. His brief observation of Missy Parker, however, ignited a hatred that far exceeded anything he had ever felt toward Estelle Bainbridge. He petitioned his leader, the high-ranking villain who was assigned to the Bainbridges, to let him stay at Cat Lake and work his evil on the girl and those around her. The one to whom he answered hated to grant any request that might strengthen the position of a subordinate, but he hated humans more. So it was that the malevolent being stayed behind while his former superior and dozens of their kind moved away with the Bainbridges.

The spirit-being assayed his intended victim and was encouraged by what he saw. The girl was self-willed, self-centered, and self-confident—all traits that made her more susceptible to his influence. Early pieces of his plan were arranging themselves before the Bainbridges’ car was out of sight. He would recruit his own team of underlings from the demonic realm. When he and his chosen confederates were in place, he would formulate a plan to destroy the girl’s life, maybe in bits and pieces over the coming years, maybe catastrophically in a single day. There might even be a way to use the Bainbridges to help bring her to ruin. And, if the opportunity presented itself, he would do the same to the two meddlesome boys.

When the car was down the road, Bobby turned on Missy. “You can’t be startin’ fights with boys bigger’n you.”

“I didn’t start it. He did.”

Bobby watched the car. “Well, don’t be messin’ with folks like that. That man had somethin’ wrong with him, like he was mean or evil or somethin’.”

“I ain’t scared of the boogeyman.”

“I don’t mean like that. I mean grown men who stare at little girls like that—stay away from ’em.” He watched the car disappear behind a curtain of dust. “An’ if that bunch comes around here again, you head for me or Junior, you hear me?”

The girl directed her wrath at her brother. “You’re not my boss, Mr. Bobby Parker, an’ I’ll have you know I ain’t a little girl.”

Bobby was still learning that he needed to tell Missy to do exactly the opposite of what he wanted done, but he knew who carried the most influence over her. “Tell ’er, Junior.”

Junior picked up the ball and offered it to the girl. “Do like he says, Missy. A growed man that’d speak bad to a lit—to somebody not big as him has got somethin’ wrong inside ’im. That man had the devil in ’im.”

She turned her back on the ball because she wouldn’t be bribed. “Well, if a’ evil man shows up again, an’ I can’t whip ’im by myself, y’all can help.”

The boys took that as a concession and followed her back to their baseball field.

^ ^ ^

Amanda Allen Parker was the first girl born into the Parker family since the Surrender. Maybe they had spoiled her or maybe she knew she was special. Whatever the cause, “Missy” Parker was a young lady who didn’t just give orders—she laid down the law for those who drew near.

When they didn’t call her Missy, everybody on the Parker place and most people in town just referred to her as the girl. The petite picture of brown-haired Southern charm endured the company of women when she had to, but she preferred the attention of the males of her domain.

The Old Parkers and the Young Parkers lived out south of town in two nice houses set back from the west side of Cat Lake. They got good shade from a stand of oaks planted by their ancestors and the cool of a lake breeze when the wind was right.

Bobby Lee Parker ran the Parker Gin; young Bobby looked as if he had been spit out of his daddy’s mouth. Young Mrs. Parker played bridge, went to the garden club and Missionary Society, and tended her yard. Old Mr. Parker farmed ten sections of cotton land, played dominoes, drank coffee, and visited with his friends. Old Mrs. Parker, the genetic source of the girl’s spitfire personality, stayed close to home and baked things.

The Washington family—Mose, his wife Pip, Mose Junior, and little Pearl—lived across the lake from the Parkers. Their home was set back in a stand of pecan trees planted by the same hands that put down the Parkers’ oaks. Mose had been born in the cabin and inherited the house and forty acres of good sandy land from Pap, his great-granddaddy. Back behind the cabin, a full section of Old Mr. Parker’s cotton land separated Mose’s place from the trees of Eagle Nest Brake. Pip, her brother Leon, and her momma Evalina “did for” the Parkers during the week. Mose was Mr. Bobby Lee’s overseer at the gin.

When she became old enough to walk, the girl went where Old Mr. Parker went. While he drove, she stood beside him, one arm on his shoulders, the other holding on to the seat back. When he played dominoes at the pool hall, she sat on his lap. It was the men at the pool hall who had named her Missy—she and those same men called her granddaddy R. D. Trips to that establishment dimished in frequency after Pip had to switch her for “cussin’ in my kitchen.”

Once she started to Mrs. Smith’s kindergarten, Missy’s day-to-day activities became even more curtailed. She countered by playing hooky when she’d had her fill of finger painting and stories about animals made of gingham and calico and velveteen.

After the second time she got called away from her Thursday morning bridge game to hunt for the girl, Young Mrs. Parker taught Pip how to drive. For the next two years, Pip was called into town about twice a week to retrieve the girl from the pool hall. When she was captured, Missy’s complaints were drawled in a little-girl bass voice.

On her first day in first grade, the girl and the staff at the elementary school encountered the first in a series of unique obstacles. The magnitude of the initial confrontation was probably connected with the fact that Missy was on a first-name basis with most of the men in Moores Point, including both bankers and both white preachers.

Missy finally came out of her chair when the first-grade teacher persisted in calling her Amanda.

Hoot Johnson, the school’s janitor, attracted by the mounting sounds of battle, abandoned his dust mop and intervened to contribute his unsolicited—and uninhibited—opinion. The girl’s reaction to what Mr. Johnson had to say didn’t help the situation.

The teacher made a strategic blunder when she decided she would enlist the aid of the principal. The principal made the mistake of showing up, and the tension multiplied geometrically.

Someone eventually called the pool hall and let Old Mr. Parker know about the conflict.

When he got to the school, the farmer didn’t have to guess where the girl was; the war in Europe could not have been heard over the commotion coming from the first-grade classroom.

The adults in the room—a scattering of teachers, the principal, and one vocal janitor—were all yelling at the girl or each other. The other first-day first-graders—joined by two brand-new teachers who had made the mistake of coming to see what on earth the noise was all about—were all cringing in the farthest corner of the room. The girl, who seldom found it necessary to yell at anyone, especially an adult, was keeping her voice down. She was, however, employing the teacher’s chair to be at eye level with the other combatants.

There was Missy, standing in the chair, her tiny fists at her waist, leaning into the principal’s face, her Dutch boy-cut brown hair popping back and forth as her miniature bass voice cataloged the things she didn’t like about his institution. She took passing note of her granddaddy’s presence but continued with her business. She reasoned that if R. D. needed to talk to some of these folks, he was gentleman enough to wait his turn; if he needed to see her, he’d wait ’til she was finished. And wait he did. Leaning on the door frame and giving himself a manicure with his favorite Case pocketknife, the cotton farmer stood by for a break in the storm.

When a majority of the folks finally stopped to catch their breath, Old Mr. Parker put away his knife. He got everyone settled down, borrowed the teacher’s chair from the girl, and presided over the formation of a multifaceted truce.

In the future, the school’s staff would call the girl Missy; she was old enough to decide what her name was. In return, Missy would address the Truitt Elementary School’s principal as Mr. Franklin, not Jimbo, for basically the same reason. Missy would address Mr. Johnson, the school’s janitor, as Hoot because he and the girl were good friends and both preferred it that way. And, one of the teachers crouching in the corner would be released from her contract before the girl moved up to her grade level.

The last point of the truce was a little vague and never resolved to the girl’s satisfaction. It had something to do with whether she could stand on the teacher’s chair, balanced against how many adults were “raisin’ sand for no good reason” when the girl needed to make herself heard.

In the pool hall that afternoon Jimbo Franklin said, “You know somethin’? That girl ain’t always pliable, but she’s almost always fair. I musta been about a bubble offa plumb to take that teacher’s side.” The sages in the pool hall, including Hoot and R. D., nodded. They agreed with every word he said.

During the next year, the second grade had tolerated her well enough; the reciprocal wasn’t always true.

She was three feet tall in the summer of ’45, on the slender side of a pound an inch, with what Scooter Hall called “about eight ounces of eyelashes” strategically situated around midnight blue eyes.

When the sun was out, the three older children at the lake—two Parkers and one Washington—were inseparable. Junior usually deferred to white folks of all ages, and both boys required themselves to yield to most adults. The girl’s deference, however, was never offered capriciously; people of all colors and ages were evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and any recipient of her respect had earned it.

For those times when they stepped away from the rest of the world, the children—like a tiny nation—followed an often-argued tangle of laws they had fashioned for themselves.

For three months every summer, and at any other time the children were together, their respective parents—who never knew what might be coming next—waited for the “other shoe to drop.” Or as Old Mr. Parker put it, “for the next shoe to crash through the floor and take most of the house with it.”

^ ^ ^

That spring, the three had used up practically a whole Saturday morning arguing about what to name the boat.

The year before, they had procured the building materials for the vessel by tearing the siding off a dilapidated cotton house. Pip’s brother Leon, who took care of things around the Parkers’ houses, was perfectly content to cater to the girl’s every whim. Missy traded him two of Old Mr. Parker’s cigars for his help with the boat. Leon sawed the boards, helped the children nail them together into something that would almost float, and showed them how to put tar in the cracks “so it don’t leak too bad.” The finished product looked like a pauper’s coffin: roughly seven feet long, two feet wide, with two-foot sides. They swamped it so often the first month that Pip told them, “Y’all could use it for one o’ those summarines.” Missy made a new law that only one person could stand up in it at a time, and they kept slopping on tar until they got so they could stay most of the day on the lake without sinking, unless somebody broke the rule. Pip complained, “When they git outta that confounded piece o’ junk, they’re so black I can’t tell which one’s Mose Junior.” It wasn’t the kind of craft a person would want to venture out in while wearing Sunday clothes.

The argument about the christening surfaced because Bobby wanted to name the boat after his hero. Mose Junior said he thought it might be good to name it something out of the Bible, but he cared more about getting started with the painting. When it came right down to it, Missy didn’t really care what they named the dadgummed boat; she was just tired of Bobby getting his way just because he was twelve and she was seven. Bobby countered her objections by claiming they were a democracy, then bought Mose Junior’s vote with the promise that Junior could do most of the painting.

They “happened across” a can of white house paint on the top shelf of the tool shed and made a paint brush by tying a wad of pine needles together. Unraveling the boat’s actual name called for the reader to do a little traveling. The lettering was white and bold; the spelling was close. Junior’s GENRALROB worked its way down the starboard side; around the corner, the bow showed Bobby’s neatly done ERT. The arrangement of the general’s middle initial and last name on the port side was Missy’s responsibility—they came out EEEL. The craft was one of their greatest accomplishments, and they were rarely near the water without it.

Young Mrs. Parker took some snapshots of the paint-splattered trio standing by their pride and joy and gave one to Pip. The two mothers kept the cherished photographs on their dressers until the day they died and occasionally laughed together at speculations of what kind of grandchildren they would see from the mischievous threesome.

They had no way of knowing that the three little figures in the picture were never going to have children.


posted by Rachelle
at 11:00 AM


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #7

Thirteen Books on my TBR List

1. Violet Dawn by Brandilyn Collins
2. Calm, Cool and Adjusted by Kristin Billerbeck
3. A Girl's Best Friend by Kristin Billerbeck
4. She's All That by Kristin Billerbeck
5. The Cubicle Next Door by Siri L. Mitchell
6. Kissing Adrien by Siri L. Mitchell
7. The Secret Life of Becky Miller by Sharon Hinck
8. Wedgewood Grey by John Aubrey Anderson
9. The Longing Season by Christine Schaub
10. The Reliance by M.L. Tyndall
11. A Valley of Betrayal by Tricia Goyer
12. Reluctant Burglar by Jill Elizabeth Nelson
13. Ransomed Dreams by Amy Wallace

The winner of a paperback copy of the book, Hell in a Briefcase: A Matt Cooper Novel by Phil Little, Brad Whittington is... (drumroll pls...) Archie... The publisher will be contacting you through the email you sent me.

Thanks to all those who joined in the contest. There will be another contest this February. Stay tuned!


posted by Rachelle
at 8:25 PM